Loving Him Most

nhEmbarrassed by the ridiculousness of my incredible oversight, ready to phone the maker of my granddaughter’s gift, frustrated, grumbling, accusing… but then there it was, staring available all along. The necessary final component of her look-like-her-nanny-tractor was mounted to the tractor itself, in plain sight, but I was so ready to find fault, to thrust the manufacturer of this really cool gift under a rocketing steam engine of punishing verbal abuse. Some of us, it appears, may never learn to look before we react.

I can’t help but think it must have been similar on that day my Pastor speaks recently of, that familiar story when a lawyer, a scribe, tested Jesus to choose among the over six-hundred laws governing Israel as to which should take precedence over the others.

I must admit that while I cherish my Lord’s answer, some things never occurred to my overlooking mind, such as this was a Scribe, a suggested master of the Law, or that he would have spent his entire life copying, studying, and arguing the Law. This interrogator would have known the Law like the back of his hand. But what he didn’t know, was, “Which Law was the greatest?”

So Jesus, in exactness, told him, “You will love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:34-38

Quite frankly it is obvious how this scene ought to have made a lawyer blush. The scribe literally asked Jesus to quote what he was wearing on his forehead (Phylactery). Not what Jesus was wearing, by the way, but the scribe. He had worn these words on his forehead from a very young age. Before wearing them on his forehead, the very words Jesus quoted were stamped on the front porch posts of his parent’s home for all his childhood. Adding to the outrageous scenario here, these very words were an everyday familiar part of his life. Do you see the irony?

I love the thought that Jesus could have simply said, “Dude, take that thing off your forehead and read it for once!” But he didn’t. Instead, he offered grace as he always does.

Applicably, I would have to be blind myself to not recognize that I neglect these words no less than the scribe. The greatest commandment my God has given me is to love Him with my everything. Truth be known, as Jesus will conclude, until I resign my heart to that command, I’ll never inwardly care about keeping any of the others anyway. What difference will it make if one law is held greater than another if I fail greatest at the Greatest?

In a previous message, my Pastor exclaimed God’s love for me, but then he couldn’t fail to announce the fruit of that love is my love in return. I love Him because He first loved me.

So, where then, do we stand? Quite frankly, I hope you are seeing exactly what I’m seeing, a bunch of people, like me, consumed by exaggerating our pet laws, although in essence legitimate they may be, dismissing the paramount.

I wonder what will change should my first priority become loving my God? And you?

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Safely Camping Where They Aren’t

It is 2:30. No, not the 2:30 most of us find ourselves awake and participating in the normality of a structured and patterned lifestyle, but the other 2:30, and I really believe I am only three seconds away from being the next headline you will watch or read about in the soon approaching morning news broadcasts. There you’ll find me, my name forever logged in the tweets of notoriety, “Kids Camp Counselor Dispatched to Local Mental Institution.

I imagine me lurching from my bunk, and what’s next isn’t appropriate for my site’s rating.

Maybe I ought to take a step back, at least to a few moments prior to this first night nestled in a room full of camping children, if for no other reason, to halt the alert that the last paragraph probably sent out to listeners monitoring in governmental backrooms.

I am no novice to the world of Christian Camps, having logged as a younger me many weeks both as camper and counselor, but I am many years removed from actively taking part in them. My children being grown, I guess you might say I am gearing up and securing a spot to be in these camps when my grandchildren get their first opportunity to go.

Enough of that though. You are here to find out why the men in white suits with butterfly nets are chasing me around a central Florida campsite singing “Don’t it make you want to go home…”

“Give that back to him,” “Stop hitting him,” “Get back in your bed,” “Turn off your flashlight,” “Quit screaming,” “Get out of his bed,” “Don’t throw things at the ceiling fan,” “Put the toilet brush back in the bathroom,” “Leave the AC alone,” “QUIT SPRAYING AXE!!,” “Turn the room lights back off,” along with a gazillion other rip-the-hide-from-the-back-of-my-throat nice encouragements left me trembling to the thought of, “This is just the first night!”

Has anything through the years fundamentally changed about camp, or even kids for that matter? No, not really.

Something is different though. I am very thankful that only me and God will ever know all of the thoughts that strike my sanity at this wee hour of the morning.

2:30, a pivotal moment in my life that I hope will insist evolving. It has led me to consider something that I think goes radically against the very foundations that I’ve built my older adult life upon. 2:30? Yes, a mere moment in time that for the last decade or so I’ve spent sleeping through.

Is there anything easier to do, and less meaningful, than to erect a lifestyle that eliminates exposure to challenges, especially those that snatch us from our norm?

Something is unraveling in this children’s camp dorm. Is it me? Does it really take nothing more than a room of younger me’s to send my stability spiraling?

I think it is only fair, not in an arrogant way, but an honest one, to share with you that most people who know me identify me as calm, cool, and collective (for whatever those terms might mean). What people see though is obviously only a hedged front; makeup that dons well when there are no storms. 2:30, whether I like it or not, was the proving ground for some serious examination. At 2:30, calm, cool, and collective left the building… whyhello Elvis.

Seemingly, I am a man who has built a personal campground that accommodates those things that elevate my own interests, welfare, and serenity (Shucks, there aren’t even any mosquitoes in my tent). This environment I’ve created, so I surmise, provides ample immunity from unwanted intrusions. Intrusive? Is that really how I label the privilege of a gospel opportunity? It appears so.

Yet, the Bible knows nothing of authentic followers of Jesus who ran from challenging intrusions, but found their peace and purpose through them in Jesus Himself.

My reentry into the world of camp counseling has revealed something I most surely would have denied prior.

2:30 defined who I really am; at this moment in time. This wee-hour encounter concluded, “You’re not even in the same universe as Christ-likeness yet bub.” Maybe it is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, maybe it can be a very good thing to learn, because it instructs, beyond Elvis and butterfly nets, if I am desirous to “Thrive” in Christ, who I can be.

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Stop Being So Happy

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Speaking with a Perfect Accent

Following, is a tribute (and a stolen one I might add) to an amazing child of the King of kings. It is a precious privilege to call this tribute’d “friend.” These words were written, I will conjure by a near family member, but must make known, for everyone who knows Gayle, it is reemphasized ten-fold.

Gayle’s French is not the best in the world. And she would be the first to admit this. Her conjugations are often confused, her tenses frequently a bit off, and many times she can’t quite find the right word to say exactly what she wants to say.

Language learning does not come easy for Gayle. While life in rural Africa can at times be very challenging, she often says that the most difficult year of her life was spent in Canada at language school. After language school Africa is a piece of cake! Since Gayle’s primary ministry is to care for her family and keep all of us well, healthy, and happy, she does not get as many opportunities to put her language into practice.

And having difficulty with the language can be discouraging. Outside of our home, all of our conversations are in French or Diola with a smattering of Wolof. But as the ever courageous Gayle likes to say, “I give ’em what I got!” as she seeks to communicate with those around us.

But there is a language that Gayle speaks fluently. A language that she speaks with a perfect accent. And this language has a way of leaving a lasting impression within the heart that is even more profound than even the best French or Diola.

I see her speak it as she cleans off the dirty feet of a barefoot neighborhood child so that she can bandage a wound. I hear it as she sits with our neighbor and holds her baby as they smile and laugh together. The language is spoken without error as she cooks breakfast for and serves those who come to our morning Bible study. I hear perfect conjugations as she cares for her family in a place where life can sometimes be pretty tough. She speaks this language fluently through sweat soaked clothes, dirty feet, a loving smile, and a tender touch.

While my “good” French often clangs like a cymbal, Gayle fluently speaks a language that any heart, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or even language, can understand. She speaks the language of love. And she speaks it with a perfect accent. And when she speaks it, she sounds just like Jesus.

“If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
“Jesus said, ‘A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.'” John 13:34-35
Matt, Gayle, Ezra, Thea, and Hosanna serve our Savior among the Jola (Diola) people in Africa. To read more of their mission and how you can be a part of their ministry (even in replacing Matt’s Obama underwear… really, no, really), follow this link.
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Sleight of Hand

With intent, he bends his heart toward betrayal. The slithering one gleans the vile of his pawn as fangs aim for heel. Almost, not entirely, it brings about an elixir to remedy the emerging pain embracing his crown. He tends from below; a kiss… yesss… an agonizing thrum blurs his sight… intensifies as soldiers grasp his prey.

Unknowing, his house is being plundered.

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