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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

a bug’s life

I was not here this past Sunday, so I do not have a Tuesday Morning Quarterback story for you.  But I have been chewing on something.

I have once again been thinking about bugs.  Not just any old bug, but butterflies and caterpillars.  Today as I was making a PB & J (that’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for you civilians) and I was cutting that sandwich into the shape of a butterfly for Sydney (because I am the most awesome of dads) I was thinking how weird it is that I am making a butterfly shaped sandwich which my lovely little 2 year old will shortly decapitate with her tiny incisors.  I also began thinking about the maligned life of the Danaus plexippus (caterpillar).  Caterpillars and Swan ducklings, in my opinion are sadly overlooked compared to what they become.  Oh, we think we appreciate them, but actually we only like them because of whom they become.

Think about it for a moment… the moral tales we tell of the caterpillar have more to do with encouraging people to wait it out, because one day they will be special even if in the meantime they are not.  We may make a spin on this for those who must sacrifice to be around such creatures at the ugly duckling or the caterpillar.  Think about Beauty and the Beast.  The reason the prince gets turned into a beast is because he is unkind to the hag who comes to the door.  The moral is, always be nice to whoever comes to you because they might “one day become beautiful” or “they might not be as ugly as they seem” and won’t you be sorry if you missed out.

But what of the actual  beauty of the moment.  The person that is already wonderful  before our eyes.  Take the caterpillar.  It is the same genus name as the monarch (at least the monarch caterpillar).  It is already who it is even before it is complete.  Its very wonderfulness is found in its very existence.  The butterfly at its larva stage (the caterpillar) is just as valuable as when it is found at its completed stage.  You see, the caterpillar doesn’t earn its wings through some magic spell or even good deeds.  It simply becomes what it was destined for by living out who it was called to be each day.  In order for the caterpillar to become a butterfly it had to live fully out of its caterpillarness. (my blog, I can make up words if I want to).  It would die if it were to live any other way.

God created us and called us and loves us.  He calls us to be perfect as he is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Uh oh, there ain’t know way I’m livin’ that one up.  Ah, but there is something we should look at here.  I have a book of prayers called “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  The Editors included a brief writing of C.S. Lewis on this passage of perfection.  Lewis brings to light that the 2 words for perfection in the Greek are slightly different.  The one referring to God is limitless and the other is limited in its ability.  He writes: “What this means is that Jesus’ command to be perfect is attainable (at least on a good day!).  We are asked to be as perfect as we can be, even like He is as perfect as He can be.  We are being asked to eat our dinner like our Daddy, not to eat our Daddy’s dinner.  As we grow, so does our capacity for such food.” (pg. 525-526).

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up because we are not who we want to be one day.  We set out on a mission to be like Jesus, but when Judas comes around we don’t want to forgive, we want to poke him in the eye.  Then we think, “oh no, I’m doooooned”.  We wonder why we don’t have the drive or passion to serve like Mother Teresa and then think, maybe I’m not Christian enough.  We then feel inadequate before God and other Christians.  We go to church sometimes and think, “I bet nobody else sinned this past week.  They probably volunteered their last paycheck to a homeless man too.”  Forget God and others judging us, we’ve judged ourselves and then think, I don’t belong in church.

So what, then, do we do?  Here is the good news;  God did not come to condemn the world.  He said we do that to ourselves.  But he does call us to be as perfect as we can be considering where we are at the moment.  Is this an excuse to sin?  No.  It is an excuse to live.  He looks at us and our caterpillar self and declares his love of us, reminds us of whose image we are created in and called to live, and gives us a choice.  Live out of brokeness or healing.

One day we will be transformed fully in our resurrection.  But the Kingdom of Heaven begins now, and we can begin living that resurrection life now.  It is hard to live out of the love of God when we constantly despise ourselves.  Ask God to help you love your caterpillar self so that you might live out of his love.  If you do, you might even begin to see the wonder that is you today.  Imagine what you life would look like then.

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I spent my Monday “day off” under the burden of what I call “hot wing hang over”.  No alcohol was in involved but the same amount of lack of thinking was.  The result; headache, dehydration, regret (only a little).  It all began Sunday evening or perhaps last summer.  Philip, a senior in high school and one of our guitar players, participated in the Hurricane Grill and Wings category 5 hot wing challenge.  If you can eat 10 of their hot wings without any dipping sauce and only water, you get a free t-shirt.

Philip was wearing his t-shirt at youth last night and from what I have gathered, it sparked a conversation that I am sure involved Jeremy, our youth minister, and Clayton, our drummer and one of the counselors, and their respected manhood being challenged.  I would not be surprised if my wife Amanda, also one of the youth counselors, helped in this challenge.  Where am I in all of this?  Unsuspecting and feeding my daughter her supper.  The phone rings.  Philip is delivering a message to me from Amanda.  Philip, ‘Pastor Cory, do you want to see 2 grown men cry?”  Me, “who wouldn’t”  Philip, “Amanda says to pack up Sydney and bring her to Hurricanes to watch Clayton and Jeremy see if they can eat these ridiculously hot wings”. Me, “alright”.  Philip, “Amanda says you can participate too.” Doubtfully I respond, “maybe”.  So, I do as I am told (I have a happy marriage after all) and as I pull into the parking lot I see Philip with a camera.  He proceeds to tell me that Amanda has already purchased my wings.  So, like many good marriages, my decisions are made for me.  As I walk the “green mile” into the restaurant I notice it is full with mostly youth and a few parents.  I am suddenly feeling like a Christian in a Roman Colosseum or Russel Crowe in Gladiator, “were you not entertained?”  So I found my seat ready to be filled to create the 3 musketeers? 3 stooges?  3 blind mice!

Perhaps my favorite moment of the night happened when the manager brought the wings over to us and said, “please, if you feel like you are going to vomit, try to make it to the bathroom or outside”.  Vomiting? I asked “seriously, people vomit?”  His reply, “oh yes”.  What has my wife gotten me into? (ok, my pride may have had something to do with this as well).  So the ship of fools set sail and we each took our first bite… There is hot, there is spicy, and then there is “why would anyone hate themselves enough to eat this foul fowl” inferno.  Now, a wise man may have put his wing down at this point, but, wise men have no pride.  By the way, dear reader, hiccups happen for several reasons, one is to dislodge food that does not belong.  Clayton and I both go the hiccups.  We kept going.

There were 2 types of winners (and 3 types of fools) that night.  One kind of winner was to simply finish.  The other kind of winner finished first.  I wanted to be done more than I wanted to win, but competing helped me accomplish my goal.  People were cheering on the guy ahead.  I thought it was Clayton, so I picked up the pace.  Turns out I was the guy that was ahead, I was trying to outpace myself (issues).

We all finished.  Our faces and mouths continued to burn for about 20 minutes after we were done. Our lips looked like punch bowls.  We consumed copious amounts of water.  We congratulated one another and sat very still.  None of us slept well.  None of us felt good today, but, by golly, we all got a free t-shirt.

What does this have to do with the rivers edge?  One might think I would talk about the foolishness of pride.  But lets face it, if you don’t know that lesson by now, reading this is not going to teach you anything.  One might say that we should lead our youth and not be egged on by them. Perhaps. What I really saw was a picture of God’s grace and community.

I don’t mean that God was gracious because none of us went to the ER.  Let’s face it, that was mercy.  Grace was the community within that room.  True, most went to see if we could do it, or to see grown men cry, but while there no one mocked us (out loud).  We were cheered on, even by strangers.  We were encouraged.  And even though we did a stupid thing (I’m not gonna lie), they embraced us with kind hospitality.  Stephanie McCrae made sure our water was filled, and even though she accidentally missed my glass and poured it on my leg, she was a picture of Jesus in that moment and believe me when I say, at that moment she could have dumped it over my head and I would not have cared.

What happens to many of us in this life is that we make poor choices for things we think will bring us good feelings.  We miss the mark many times and end up with a “hot wing hangover”.  Many times what we find is not a community that embraces us back without conditions, but communities that say “see I told you so, you got what you deserved”.  But Jesus is so different.  To the woman caught in adultery, he did not say “here’s a rock for your eye”.  He asked her where her accusers were.  He takes in the wayward and nourishes them back to life.  This is one image of the church.  A community called by Christ to cheer one another on, to encourage, and welcome back to community without judgment but with gentle healing guidance.

Last night was a picture of stupidity and testosterone for sure.  But it was also a great picture of the fellowship of Christ.

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