Nov 14 2013
And, Sometimes, Things Work Out Beautifully (A Short Story in Pictures)

Angeliz is almost four years old, and she doesn't know anything about radio contests, certainly not "pledge drives", and probably doesn't think much about miracles.

And yet...

Victoria and Isaiah won a contest. They couldn't believe it - literally. They thought it was a time-share deal, or something, when someone from Air1 called to tell them they'd won a trip with Compassion International. They didn't really know what Compassion was. They'd just given during an Air1 pledge drive, and didn't know about the random drawing.

After getting answers to a few questions, like, say, "Where are we going?", they found babysitting for their two little girls, and headed off to Peru with us.

They learned that Compassion develops children, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually, and they do it in the name of Christ. They love children, through local churches, and meet their needs through child sponsorship. 

They heard children talk about their sponsors, and how having a sponsor changes everything. They heard a grown woman, now graduating college, talk about poverty, and hopelessness... and how God used her Compassion sponsor to save her life.

And so they went through a list of names, and picked a child. They chose a little girl, the age of their own oldest, and - you guessed it - that girl was named Angeliz.

Angeliz, as you'll remember, is a little girl who probably doesn't think much about miracles.

But she is one.

And the Air1 listeners, Victoria and Isaiah, who happened to win a trip to Peru, her country, and happened to visit her project, a project with 230 children... picked her.

They picked Angeliz.

 

They met her, and hugged her, and she kissed them, and walked with them. But the hills are steep, and the walk is long from the project to her home, especially for tiny legs. Isaiah, though, is strong. Strong enough to care not only for his family, his little girls, but for at least one more.

 

Angeliz lives in a tiny, dark structure on the side of a steep hill, with her great-grandmother. She does not live with her daddy, because he left her and her mommy. And she does not live with her mommy, because her mommy soon left her, too. 

In other words, Angeliz, a forgotten little sparrow, high up in a dark nest in a sprawling hillside... is exactly the kind of girl God has His eye on.

 

Victoria and Isaiah know this God, and they now have their eyes on her, too. 

 

Jul 01 2013
Chicken Soup for the Unresolved Soul

There's a story about Bach -- or maybe it was Mozart -- and how, even as a little kid, he had to hear resolution.  He was in bed, upstairs, and someone was playing the piano, and that someone got distracted and stopped, just before the last chord.

J.S. - or W.A.? - couldn't stand it.  He tromped downstairs, pounded out the resolving chord, and then went back up to bed again, without a word.  He just had to hear it.

We're all like that.  I think about all the stories I've heard, and then all the ones I've lived, and there's the big difference:  We get resolution in the former, but the other just...lay...out there, somewhere, and, much as we pretend, there are no finish lines, no final chords, no official victories, no ends-of-story.  Not yet, anyway. 


I took the yellow bus home from our country school in St. Berniece, Indiana.  One day, I sat with my best friend's brother, Eric.  He was in second grade, I was in third.  We talked and joked about my lunchbox and a puppet I played with.  Then we got off at the bus stop in front of his house.

I stepped to the right.  But Eric ran alongside the bus, slipped, and fell under the wheel. 

Two weeks later, my mom suggested I go over to my friend's house, to visit him and his little sister.  She told me they probably hadn't had any visitors since Eric was killed, and may be lonely.  So I got on my bike.

Mark, my friend, and his little sister met me at the door, excited to see me - or anyone, for that matter, I gathered.  We laughed and played with a top on their hardwood floor.  It was one of those that spins and makes noise and lights.  I could see their mom in the back room, smoking a cigarette.  Staring at me.

We played for an hour, until she came in the room, and started screaming at me.  She said something about how all I was doing was reminding them of what happened to Eric, and I should get out, like, now.  Her kids were stunned, and started crying, and so did I, and I ran out the door and got on my bike bawling with guilt. 

I never went back.  And we moved away.  I don't know what happened to them.  When I think about that day - this is more than thirty years ago - I still get a knot in my stomach.  There's no ending to the story.  So it's a story I've almost never told.


Most examples aren't this painful, but almost all the "great stories" of my life are this way.  When I speak to people, try to motivate them, try to teach them, I pull a bit of a sleight-of-hand, presenting stories that are edited just-so.  They're not "untrue", they're just dishonest, in a pedestrian way, I suppose, presenting real-life stories like Aesop's Fables, with certain resolution, as though the story were over. 

(Maybe  -- I don't know, I'm musing here -- this is a reason why Jesus's stories aren't specific "victory" testimonies, they're metaphors of the Kingdom.  Maybe he didn't want a specific "Look-at-what-happened" story to ultimately get mis-used, or give the wrong impression.)

I tell about a smashing, eye-opening missions trip for some high schoolers, but I don't include the boring stories, or the stories where some kids just really weren't impacted, how that one inspiring kid wound up getting some girl pregnant two months later. 

I tell -- and hear --  "and then he became a believer!"-type stories, but don't include, " -- and yeah, okay, he's still battling addictions."


I read "look what our church is doing" accounts in newsletters, but don't hear the invariably messy follow-ups.  We get the "victory" stories over sin and depravity, but no one publishes books called, Wups, I'm Totally Messed Again.  Yet, that's where the stories of my actual life are.  We don't like our stories open-ended.  So we clean up our stories, and act like they're finished.

They're not.

I used to be a youth minister, and the conventions would feature one impressive guy after another, with remarkable stories about what happened in their youth groups.  It was really amazing!  Why was my youth group kind of a mess?  Why wasn't I inspiring anyone like that?  It was impressive!...until I realized I could pick and choose stories, make believe they were final, and, presto -- I'm awesome. 

And that inspiring day when Big Joe the Football Lineman cried and prayed?  Well, that was the end of the story!  But in reality, it wasn't.


We like resolution.  But we don't live in resolution-time.  Forgive me for ever giving the impression otherwise, that I believe myself fully resolved, fully arrived, somehow finished.  The story isn't over.

Not everything makes sense, not everything gets explained, not every story is inspiring and ready for Tony Campolo to tell it.  Talk about "inconvenient truth":  We're living in the in-between. 

I think about Eric, his mom, or a thousand other people I've known, and I feel like I'm lying upstairs, and someone just left the piano bench, right before the C chord.  

I'd walk down and play it, if I could.

Mar 11 2013
If Jesus Had a Blog: Go and Sin No More!

What up!

Haven't blogged for awhile because Matthew ditched his Mac and got an iPad, which he says is great, but I can barely type on the thing.  (So NOT a replacement for a laptop.) I'm a carpenter. I build stuff. I'm not a super-typist.

Anyway: MAN, this planet is off-kilter. Seriously. 

For example, these religious leaders today. They decided to stone a woman to death, because they caught her in adultery.  (Where's the guy she was with? Don't ask. Double-standard.)

Anyway, they're all the "good", Bible-reading, law-keeping sort, and take "stands" against sin - other people's, anyway. So I pointed out that they could go ahead and do that, provided none of them have sinned. 

That ticked them off (surprise!) and they left.

And I told the lady that I didn't condemn her, and to go and sin no more.

This made her VERY happy.

Posted today at 4:32 p.m.

 

------------------

COMMENTS

 

Well, Jesus, I'm sure your well intended, but once again, your not really teaching her a lesson.  She DID sin, and sin is serious. Those were some of our top Bible teachers there today, and you certainly came off like you think its OK to do adultery.  

Again, I know you're well intended, but you can't let people think its OK to sin.

-- lizlovesjesus21

Ya, I agree with Liz up there. It's one thing to be for "grace", because we ALL are for that, of course, but its another thing to just let her walk away after what she did.  You probably had some kids watching, too, who now think God is just fine with sexual immorality.  

Grace is great, BUT... we can't be all "grace, grace, grace..."  

-- randy_g

Jesus, you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, again.  There's a whole movement of people like you who are just trying to be "cool", and aren't taking a stand against adultery. I'm sure it earns you friends, but at what cost?  You can take the grace thing TOO FAR.  

-- christie

I've been reading your blog for awhile, Jesus, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to switch blogs.

I know you're God and so forth, and I go to church multiple times a week to be on your good side, along with my kids.  But they read this blog, too, and they are going to get the idea that, when they grow up, it's okay to have adulterous sex.  That's not something I want them to be doing.  

I like the stuff you said about how we need to be a GOOD person.  Maybe stick to that.  I'm switching to a blog that's safer for my family.

-- concerned mom

Well, I like the "sin no more" part, but in our culture, so many people just ignore that.

-- Bill

Wait: Are you guys serious?

You honestly think this woman's life wasn't totally changed by this? You honestly think the law changes people, deep-down? 

You'd seriously RATHER they kept their law and killed her?  

You guys genuinely don't think you're just as guilty as she is?  

You think if people are afraid of the law, their hearts will be right with God, and they'll stop sinning?

UH... obvious question here, but... have YOU?

You actually say, "Grace, BUT..."?  Like you really, truly WANT a "but" when it comes to the grace God is showing YOU?

REALLY?

You're worried about the example for everyone ELSE, when you, yourselves have sinful hearts, and you're fully aware of the law?

You WANT to be under the law?

You'd RATHER have big-shot religious leaders pretend they've got their moral acts together, so your kids learn to be THAT way?

You think, "I don't condemn you, go and sin no more," doesn't take sin seriously enough?  Do you think what Jesus does on the cross takes sin "seriously enough" to cover this woman's sin?

Or, let's be honest here, you'd actually rather it didn't.  That way you can keep your, "Grace, BUT..."

You know what?  It's sad, really. Apparently, you haven't experienced grace at all, like this woman just did, or you'd never have this reaction. 

-- Paul of Tarsus

Yeah, Jesus, I'm with most of the people here.  Grace is great and all, but you can over-do it.

I *know* you've got a good heart, and love how you've healed some people, etc.

But just telling someone to "sin no more" after taking away the consequences isn't going to work.

She'll just go do it again, since now she doesn't have to worry about the consequences because you got involved.

-- Ed H.

Yeah, I'm confused, Jesus. I thought you came to teach us how to stop sinning. If that was your point, then why would you do this?

I mean, if you're whole point is "Stop sinning NOW!" it doesn't make any sense that you would do something like this. 

-- Ashlie23asdfasdf

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-- iworkfromhome

Well, Jesus, I happen to know several of the men you TRIED to embarrass today. And they are EXCELLENT men of God.  So for you to side with a KNOWN adulteress, in front of everyone, when THEY were just doing what God's law calls for, well, that's terrible.

I can see why they are really made at you.  And you claim to be a Christian!

-- Upset

jesus i am so glad u rescued me, to. 

-- horsegurl9