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Cleaning Up the Mess

We used to have a cocker spaniel named Duffy. She was one happy mess. Every time a guest would come over to our house, she would lick them to death and then wet the floor. Duffy’s bladder was unable to control her joy.

We were always cleaning up after her. She slobbered horribly. When she would run or shake her head, slobber flew everywhere, and we’d clean it up.

But we loved her anyway. She was incredibly loving, loyal, and fun. And messy.

One day, due to a back problem that is common among Cockers, Duffy became paralyzed. She couldn’t walk or get to her food dish. We spent a king’s ransom on her back surgery, knowing it may not be successful. Then we just had to wait and see. We fed her by hand and carried her outside where she could at least enjoy the view.

One day, she began to move again, and she eventually recovered fully. But Duffy remained a mess. That was okay, because she was our mess. We loved that dog. We didn’t like the messes, but we were willing to clean them up because we loved Duffy more than we hated the mess.

The truth is, we are all a mess. You are a mess. But God loves you more than he hates your mess.

And as you enter the New Year, know this. God loves you enough to clean up after you.

Taste of Power

A first-grade boy was told by his mother to return home directly after school was dismissed, but he got home as much as 20 minutes late almost every day. His mother asked him, “You get out of school the same time every day. Why can’t you get home at the same time?”

He said, “It depends on the cars.”

“What do cars have to do with it?” his mother asked him.

The youngster explained, “The patrol boy who takes us across the street makes us wait until some cars come along so he can stop them.”

When I was in elementary school, I was a crossing guard for both of my fourth grade years. I loved the power. The whole universe would stop on my command. I felt in charge. I had the pole, the orange vest, and a whistle. And I knew how to use it.

It was a real rush, controlling when others could walk, drive, or stand still. But there was one problem. At the end of the day, I put my whistle back in the box and returned my snappy vest and pole. Then I had to walk home. And there was no one to help me.

I learned a hard lesson. It’s a lot easier to tell others how to walk than it is to get it right yourself. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37).

Little Jack Horner

Do you remember this old nursery rhyme? It goes like this. “Little Jack Horner sat in the corner eating a Christmas pie; he put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, ‘What a good boy am I!'”

Now, I never met Jack Horner personally, but I grew up with a lot of boys that were like him. You see, we have no evidence that Jack Horner planted the plum or pruned it on a regular basis. There is no evidence that he picked the plums when they were ripe. Nor is there evidence that he cooked or even served the pie. All Jack Horner did was eat it and take credit for it. He stuck his thumb in the pie, pulled out a plum, and pronounced, “What a good boy am I!”

There is a little Jack Horner in all of us. We are good at receiving the blessings of God. We enjoy his benefits. But we fall short in the area of giving credit.

God blesses us bountifully in so many ways. Then we pull out a plum, lick our thumb, and tell everyone how great we are.

Read your Bible. It was God who gave the Promised Land, his only son, and the gift of life. Remember that the next time you are tempted to say, “What a good boy am I.”

Huddles

I was insecure as a child. I think it goes back to my infant years. When Mom used to rock me, she used those big rocks. My insecurities carried over to my teen years. When I watched football games on television and the teams went into their huddles, I thought they were talking about me.

Actually, there was a day when they didn’t huddle up at all. The quarterback would tell each player what to do. Then it all changed at the powerhouse of college football: Gallaudet University. Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet is a school for the deaf. The quarterback calls the plays by sign language.

In the old days, one of their quarterbacks noticed that the defense was watching him call the plays. So he asked the players to “huddle up,” so he could call the plays without being seen by the opposition.

The custom continues today, on the football field and in the church. Yes, in the church! In most churches, we are more concerned with “holy huddles” (meetings, gatherings in our buildings) than we are with putting points on the board (ministry, service).

Church, it’s time to break the huddle and run some plays!

First Football Game

A man took his blonde girlfriend to her first football game. After the game, he asked her how she liked it.

“I loved the game,” she said. “But I can’t understand why everyone was killing each other over 25 cents.”

“Over 25 cents?” asked her boyfriend. “What do you mean – 25 cents?”

She explained, “All the fans kept screaming, every time they hiked the ball, ‘Get the quarter back! Get the quarter back!'”

That is what is known as a simple misunderstanding. Unfortunately, life is also full of huge misunderstandings. Such as good works get us into heaven. Or God only loves us when we “live right.” Or there are many roads to heaven.

Clear communication doesn’t matter so much when you are watching a football game. But when playing the game of life, it means everything.

The Remedy

A  man went to his doctor, who told him he had a bad illness, and had just one year to live. So the man decided to talk to his pastor. After he explained the situation, he asked what he should do.

His pastor had an answer. “What you need to do is to go out and buy a Dodge pick-up truck from the late 1970s. Then go marry the ugliest woman you can find and buy an old trailer house and put it halfway up a mountain.”

The man asked his pastor, “But I have a terminal illness. Will this help me live longer?”

His pastor replied, “No, but if you do the things I just said, it will be the longest year of your life?”

Life is about quality, not quantity. For some of us, this next year will actually be our last. Let’s treasure every moment, capture every memory, and take in every sunrise. In the process, may we lean on God more than ever; this is the great remedy for life.

Obvious Questions

A young family was touring the FBI Headquarters. They were shown pictures on the wall of the ten most wanted men. The family’s young lad asked, “Why don’t you just keep them when you take their pictures?”

Here’s another great question, asked by a little girl of her dad, who was a pastor. “What do John the Baptist and Kermit the Frog have in common?” Her dad was clueless. “I have no idea, honey. What do John the Baptist and Kermit the Frog have in common?”

“They have the same middle name!” she said.

Kids indeed ask some wonderful questions. That’s how they learn.

Questions must be a good thing, because there are a lot of them in the Bible. “What is your life?” “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” “If a man dies, shall he live again?” “What think ye of Jesus?” “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”

Kids are full of questions. The Bible is full of questions. Life is full of questions. But there is good news. For every problem there is a solution, and for every question there is a God.

The best way to get in trouble is to turn somewhere else for the answers to life’s most important questions.

 

Celebration of Joy

Pastor and author Bruce Larson writes, “The bottom line for you and me is simply this – grimness is not a Christian virtue. If God really is the center of one’s life and being, joy is inevitable. If we have no joy, we have missed the heart of the Good News.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, paleontologist, and philosopher, put it even more simply. “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.”

I have discovered two truths in my Christian journey. First, if you walk with God, you will always be in trouble with someone else. Second, you will experience outrageous joy. James, the brother of Jesus, said it like this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Joy is the result of walking with God. Joy is a mark of mature living. Joy is the nature of God. Joy is the promise of God. Joy can be yours today. You will meet a lot of somber saints along life’s path. Keep walking.

St. Teresa of Avila said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!”

Amen.

A Big Universe

Our solar system has a diameter of 7.5 billion miles. That means if you drove your space car 65 miles per hour around the clock, it would take you 13,172 years to get across it. And there are over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way (galaxy, not candy bar). That’s 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy. Astronomers estimate that there are 50 billion galaxies in the universe.

As I meet people I didn’t know I knew, I often comment, “It’s a small world.”

But as I look to the sky, I conclude, “It’s a big universe.”

And call me simple, but I figure that if a watch must have a watch maker, then a universe must have a universe maker. But the majesty of God is not that he is big. It is that he is small.

During World War II, Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl chronicled his experience and found something outside of himself. He wrote, “Being human always points, and is directed, to something, or Someone other than oneself.”

That was Frankl’s way of saying the God of the universe wants to be the God of your heart.

Banks

A farmer who had experienced several bad years went to see the manager of his bank. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news to tell you. Which would you like to hear first?” asked the farmer.

“Why don’t you tell me the bad news first, and get it over with?” the banker replied.

“Okay. With a bad drought and inflation and all, I won’t be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, either on the principal or the interest.”

“Well, that is pretty bad,” said the banker.

“It gets worse,” the farmer continued. “I also won’t be able to pay anything on the loan you gave me for that great machinery I bought.”

“Wow, is that ever bad!” said the banker.

“It’s worse than that. You remember I also borrowed money to buy seed and fertilizer and other supplies? Well, I can’t pay anything on those things, either.”

The banker said, “That’s enough! Tell me what the good news is.”

“The good news,” replied the farmer, “is that I intend to keep on doing business with you.”

You and I have the greatest Banker in the universe. Despite our defaults and faults, debts and moral bankruptcies, he still does business with us.