|What's in Your Box?
|Thursday, September 20, 2018|
When you’re at the same house or the same office for thirty years, you collect stuff. A lot of stuff.
That’s my situation at Moody Radio where, after more than three decades in a building called Crowell Hall, I’m moving to our brand new Chapman Center, which houses Moody Radio and Moody Publishing.
The new “Smart Studio” which will also double as my office is about a third smaller than my current space. So instead of two full-size bookcases, I’ll cram everything on to just one. The round table and two chairs I’ve known for three-plus decades have almost become like friends, but they will not make the trip to the new building. Nor will the large media cabinet housing everything from CDs to old reel-to-reel recordings. So I’m in the process of digitizing as much of the audio as I can—and getting rid of the rest.
Still, I’ve had to give away and throw away an uncomfortable amount of books, CDs and other materials. It’s not like I’m a candidate for A&E’s Hoarders program, but the number of get-rid-of-this-or-not decisions has wearied me to the point of numbness.
But here’s the ironic truth. If I was only allowed to take one small box of stuff, I know precisely what I’d take. It would be easy!
In it would be the Polaroid photo of our two toddlers (from nearly 30 years ago) standing on the fireplace hearth. There’s a hand-painted “Dad’s Keys” wooden plaque that our boy, Tim, made—it would certainly make it into the box. As would the Bible, still holding two bulletin inserts from when Diana and I attended Moody Church as a dating couple. Diana’s pre-wedding paper creation of a bride and groom (Liquid Paper bottles forming the legs for the groom and tissue paper for the bride’s veil) would certainly earn a spot in the box.
If you’ve analyzed the curious catalogue of stuff I’ve listed, you’ll note that very little of it has any street value, and almost none of it has to do with “work.” They are just symbols. Visual metaphors. Reminders of people that matter most. So what’s in your box?
Someone much wiser than me observed the only things that will last into eternity are people—and the Word of God. What holds your fascination, and mine? Is this what we’re mostly about—people and the Word of God? What’s in your box?
|Thursday, September 13, 2018|
Found any spiritual messages in your food, lately? It will come as no surprise that the web is filled with them.
There’s Jesus as supposedly seen in an orange, Jesus on a pie crust, Jesus on a piece of toast—even Jesus on a French fry. How many of the visuals are the product of skilled Photoshop-equipped imagination versus authentic edibles, I know not. But I do have a story that is verifiably true.
Caleb is six and full of questions he asks with abandon. When it comes to family devotions, don’t think you’re going to simply read from a Bible or book, say a prayer and call it done. Not with curious Caleb around.
He’d recently encountered the story of Joseph and his brothers—the ones who sold him into slavery after throwing him into a pit. Here’s a snapshot from lunch the other day:
Caleb is munching away, deep in thought. He finally speaks: “How deep was that pit they threw Joseph into?” Now would you know the answer? If not, would you put the effort into finding out?
Mom immediately Googles some images of Middle Eastern cisterns and pits from Bible times. Showing Caleb the photos and illustrations she asks, “What made you think of that?”
“Well,” he replies, “I was sitting here eating my yogurt, and I thought, ‘this (pointing to a hole in the partially eaten snack) is kind of like a pit.’ Then that made me think of the Bible and Joseph.”
Mom comments in a text to me, “So now yogurt = Bible study. Opportunities in everything.”
Opportunities. Strange how frequently they come cleverly disguised. But wise parents will seize them—even when presented in a cup of yogurt.
|Thursday, September 06, 2018|
Somewhere after the 30th floor, our ears popped riding the elevator up to the observation deck of Chicago’s Hancock building. Traveling vertically at 20 miles an hour, the 1,030 foot trip took a mere 45 seconds. But if our ears popped a little, our eyes popped all the more once reaching the 94th floor. Peering out, it’s impossible not to take dozens and dozens of photos.
To the east, Lake Michigan is equal parts turquoise and tranquility. To the north, a curving shoreline invites imagination and envy (who are these people who can afford to live on the lake?). Staring west, the gray grid of urban life—bursting with self-importance at ground level—loses any sense of bombast from the heights of the Hancock.
Only until you are standing on the 94h floor do you finally see what we saw that hot afternoon: empty pools. The roof of many a Chicago high rise is graced with a swimming pool (imagine the cost!). And there are more than you might think. They are beautiful. They were also empty of any swimmers.
Puzzled, I zoomed in on several of the photos I snapped—no swimmers. It was a hot day—a perfect day—to be in the pool with the kids or by yourself. What could be nicer on a Saturday afternoon? Alas, there were pools—but no swimmers. Why?
Might this be a metaphor of how you and I take advantage—or fail to take advantage—of grace? Like those rooftop pools, grace is expensive, costing Jesus His life. And—like the pools captured in my pictures—though plentiful, grace is often under utilized.
The grace of forgiveness, the grace of release, the grace of freedom, the grace of a fresh start, the grace to fail and try again—amazingly, these pools are often left untouched.
The result of all that graceless living is cranky Christians. Christians reluctant to forgive or be forgiven. Christians content to measure themselves and others by a weary, works-oriented scale that condemns but never consoles.
How long has it been since you took a swim in the pools of grace? It's time to plunge in! Time to go deep in the waves of God’s infinite lovingkindness.
|Destinations--the Eternal Kind
|Thursday, August 30, 2018|
It’s a busy day at O’hare. I’m headed for the glorious city of Cincinnati, tourist capital of the world. (Okay , not quite). Hey—it is what it is. One lady on my flight really is flying to a fabulous destination: the Bahamas. She started in Minnesota and flew to Chicago. From Chicago, she will fly to Cincinnati (my flight). Then it’s Cincinnati to Miami. From Miami she takes off and finally reaches the Bahamas. Hate to guess what her total travel time is!
Out the window I spot the usual logos plastered on planes large and small. United, Delta, American, Alaska and SkyWest are here. As are four inordinately yellow Spirit jets. There are international flights lining up this morning, too: Air India, ANA Airlines and Etihad to name a few.
Conclusion: There’s a whole lot of people going somewhere today. And if you were to ask them, you’d discover these travelers are absolutely certain of their destination.
Nobody gets on a plane not knowing where it’s going, right? Every passenger has a boarding pass and every boarding pass has a destination.
Yet it’s amazing how many of us are so casual about our eternal destination, the place where we’ll be after we die. I’ve asked many people, “Are you going to heaven?” The most common response is a smile, a shrug, and something like: “Well I want to go to heaven. I hope I get there.”
You hope? You don’t know? Hokey shmokes! How could you possibly live that way? I feel like shouting (which I don’t). “Don’t you want to know—for sure—where your eternal destination is? And don’t you want that destination to be heaven?” The other option—hell—is horrific!
“But how can you really know for sure?” Some have asked. Here’s how I know. The Bible says in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (go to heaven). No fine print there. No quid pro quo. In 1 John 5:13 we are told, “These are written to you who believe in the name of Jesus so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13).
Just like every traveler at the airport, every human being has a boarding pass to eternity. And you can know right now what yours says. Revelation 20:15 reveals your destination:
Why leave things to chance? Why let your destination be hell? Choose to let Christ forgive you. Heaven—or hell? What does your boarding pass say?
|Stories on the Walls
|Thursday, August 23, 2018|
Good thing you didn't drop by our house for a visit last month. Or the previous month. Or the month before that. The place has been a wreck—literally.
We managed to drag out the installation of a new bathroom from March until mid-July. And rather than enjoy it, we immediately (as in the very same day the toilet and faucets were finally connected) emptied our master bedroom to begin a major overhaul there as well.
The joints where the ceiling meets the walls were cracked. So we had to rip out most of the paper seams, replace them, and then mud and sand the whole area. Working on the skylight was a particular joy (it’s a 14 foot-tall cathedral ceiling, so that meant many hours on a scaffold).
Next, it was time to paint. And did I mention we decided to replace plastic floor trim and cheaper lauan door trim with real oak? In tearing off some of the old trim, I chuckled at the discovery of two love notes I’d written to my wife on the back of the boards. “Jon loves Diana” declared one of them in a red ink that was hardly faded even after 30 years. Which reminds me that in previous remodeling projects, I’ve been known to paint messages to her right on the walls.
When it was time to roll up the old carpet I discovered another memory on the plywood floor: a distinctive splotch of dried blood—mine. Three decades ago, in the process of cutting a small piece of drywall to screw into the ceiling, I ended up slicing off the very tip of my thumb. Ouch. What a memory.
Love notes. Messages. Memories. There are stories on our walls—quite literally. Those careful enough to look will likely find them at some future date.
The same is true with the walls of our souls. They, too, bear messages, notes, and memories. The question is, what do they say about us? About our faith? About the way we have loved God and others?
When we are dead and gone, what will people encounter when they read the stories on the walls? We’re writing them now, you know.
What will yours say about you?
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