Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What I Learned by Painting Myself Blue


I've been looking through old posts in my humor blog, Almost the Truth, and found this little gem that turned down the humor and turned up the Truth, originally published June 24, 2008.


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I just finished the first of two weekends full of performances with Giant Step Theatre. (Current production: Aladdin's Lamp, in which I appear as the Genie.) It's always an interesting experience taking the stage surrounded by 70-90 3rd-10th graders, especially when your head is shaved and you've painted yourself blue, but I've actually been led into a slightly deeper mode of thought than normal because of something that happens fairly frequently with Giant Step. . .




It's not unusual (Tom Jones, anyone?) to enter the auditorium and be instantly confronted by a 2 foot, 10 inch, cherub-faced pixie sadly proclaiming, "Dewey? I can't find my prop. I'm supposed to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, and I can't find it." Translation: Dewey? I just remembered that I need to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, but when I stood still and looked around at my feet, I couldn't see it.


The solution is normally to encourage the treasure hunter to actually go to the backstage tables that hold all of the props (physical PROPerties that actors use as part of their onstage roles: a purse, a cane, a golden lamp full of genies, etc.) and look at the spot that has been outlined and labeled "rubber chicken" or "Persian gold" or "Shabeeb's whip." 99.44% of the time, the hopelessly lost prop is found right where it belongs.


This is what got me thinking about Real Truth and not just almost.


It strikes me as odd when people go off in search of themselves. Um...aren't you right there? Isn't it true that, "Wherever you go in life...that's where you are?"


Okay...settle down...I get it. Searching for oneself is actually searching for meaning and trying to find one's place in this gobbledy-gook mess we call life. And the serious point here is that to stare at your own navel and attempt to find purpose and meaning is like looking for a rubber chicken in the dressing room instead of the prop table.



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Truth is...there is a Creator, and it only makes sense that the Creator would have a better handle on what we've been created for than we do.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Hot Is Your Relationship?


Don't worry. This isn't one of those Cosmopolitan quizzes that promises to out you as a hopeless fuddy-duddy.


In fact, it's not a survey at all. It's a quote from an older gentleman named Vernon, whose short piece, "By the Fire", is in Philip Yancey's book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

     We shouldn't expect a relationship with God to remain on a constant plane all the time. Not long ago I celebrated my sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. Believe me, when you've been married that long, you don't stay on a plane of ecstasy all the time. Romance starts as a blazing bonfire  -  you know, "You light up my life." After a few decades it settles into something more like a heap of glowing coals. Sure, some of the heat dissipates, but coals are good, too: you can roast marshmallows, or warm your feet. A different level of companionship opens up.

     For as long as I can remember I've spent at least a half-hour daily in prayer. There have been experiences when, as the old hymn puts it, "heaven came down and glory filled my soul." Those are rare. Most of the time I persist because I value the relationship with God, just as I value my marriage relationship. I gratefully warm my feet by the fire.

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Truth is...the comparison of a marriage and a relationship with God is apt. In both, what matters is not the intensity but the integrity.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Bull-headed Belief: Jesus Quote #7


It's a great, big "Can't we all just get along?" world.

It's a culture where "what's true for me may not be true for you."

It's a society where we "agree to disagree" and "celebrate diversity of thought" with no thought of absolute truth or undeniable reality.

Cartoon credit: Judy Horacek

And then along comes a quote from one of the most well-known preachers of all time that dares to suggest otherwise:

Depend on it, my hearer, you never will go to heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God. ~ Charles Spurgeon

How dare he say such a thing?

Well...maybe because Jesus said the same thing?

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. ~ Jesus of Nazareth (John 14:6)

Truth is...Jesus didn't stop there. He also made it clear that the "worship Jesus Christ as God" part of Spurgeon's statement was totally appropriate:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”


Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me." (John 14:8-10 NLT)


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What I Learned from Penguin-Watching


Consider, for a moment, the lowly penguin...


The penguins' farcical walk is quite deceptive. Those stiff feet, so ill at ease on land, act as a rudder underwater, allowing penguins to make hairpin turns at speeds of over thirty miles per hour. They are the fastest maneuverers and deepest divers of any bird; emperor penguins can reach depths of over sixteen hundred feet. These seabirds spend 80 percent of their lives as slick predators, but we only get to see the 20 percent spent staggering around on land like Charlie Chaplin.
     "Our perception of animals is based on where we are able to ob­serve them," Dr. Rory Wilson explained. "Seeing penguins stumble around being failures on land is like seeing the world's greatest athletes stumble around in the dark and never re­alizing what they are capable of. It's impossible to swim like a penguin and run like a cheetah on land." (From The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke ©2018)

Take your pick as to what lesson you want to waddle away with from this:

  • You can't judge a book by its cover.
  • Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their moccasins.
  • Never compare your best moment to someone else's worst day.


Truth is...Yahweh is able to avoid all these cliches. "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

And the really good news is, even though God knows us so clearly, He still loves us so dearly. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Gospel According to You


I was cleaning out the inbox of one of my email accounts and found a poem I had sent to myself back in 2006. There was no author named, so I went searching on the poem's main phrase to see if I could find out who wrote it.

I found a couple different versions, one credited to Paul Gilbert, one to Arthur McPhee...neither an exact match for what was in my email, which I happen to prefer:


Men read and admire the Gospel of Christ
With its love so unfailing and true.
But what do they say and what do they think
Of the Gospel according to you?
You are writing each day a letter to men -
Take care that the writing is true;
‘Tis the only Gospel that some men will read,
That Gospel according to you.



It immediately brings to mind a song my wife has been singing for years as she presents talks and concerts around the country. It's on her fourth album, living letters of HOPE, written by Gordon Jensen and titled "You're the Only Jesus".


If not in you, I wonder where
Will they ever see the One who really cares?
If not from you, how will they find
There's One who heals the broken heart
And gives sight to the blind?

You're the only Jesus some will ever see
And you're the only words of life
Some will ever read
So let them see in you the One in whom
Is all they'll ever need
'Cause you're the only Jesus
Some will ever see

And if not you, I wonder who
Will show them love
And love alone can make things new?
If not from you, how will they learn
There's One who'll trade their hopelessness
And give joy in return?

You're the only Jesus some will ever see
And you're the only words of life
Some will ever read
So let them see in you the One in whom
Is all they'll ever need
'Cause you're the only Jesus
Some will ever see

So let Him shine, let Him show
Let them see Him in you
You've gotta let them know

'Cause you're the only Jesus
(You're the only Jesus)
You're the only Jesus some will ever see



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Truth is...we are Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). And people pay far more attention to how we live than what we say. So let's get out there and live our lives so full of the Spirit that when someone bumps up against us, they can't help but get sloshed on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Loving Like Jesus...Yikes: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #8


I'm not sure what I expected when I started writing about the top 25 quotes about Jesus as listed at azquotes.com, but I certainly didn't expect to be challenged to the extent that these words of Ravi Zacharias challenge me.


"Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us."

You might read that and think that Jesus has an easy job of loving us. He doesn't HAVE any lust or greed or pride that he has to deal with.

Think again.

He has to deal with OUR lust and greed and pride and, and, and....

And that can be a pretty tough row to hoe.

Let's put it in terms you can relate to: What if your special someone came and admitted that they have been cheating on you? How easy would it be for you to forgive? How easy would it be for you to swallow your pride and your sense of being betrayed? How easily could you die to all those feelings of hurt and keep on loving them?



Not easy...but worth it.

Worth it because the alternative would be to continue living in a stagnate pool of low self-esteem and high expectations; wallowing in the muddy sludge of holding a grudge; drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

Truth is...Jesus loves us in spite of how we treat him. His commitment to desiring what's best for us never wavers. And we are called to love each other the same way. Paul wrote Ephesians 5:25 to husbands, but it can certainly apply to wives as well:
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Surprising Darkness of Peter Rabbit and Friends


If you remember the literary work of Beatrix Potter as cozy little children's books, you may want to rethink your memories.

From The Heroine of Hill Top Farm by John Lanchester:


"Potter's work was always tinged with a bleak realism about death, right from the opening of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in which we learn that Peter's father has had 'an accident' and ended up in one of Mrs. McGregor's pies. ...

"Even in the lighter stories, such as Two Bad Mice, the main characters experience 'no end of rage and disappointment,' and that is before we encounter the outright evil of the fox in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, who encourages Jemima to pick the flavorings and seasonings in which she is to be cooked — a gesture of macabre cruelty which would give pause to Hannibal Lecter.


"This darkness and violence is a central reason to why children like Beatrix Potter. Her bright, brisk, no-nonsense sentences, her sharply observed and beautifully tinted images, and her strong feeling of coziness and domesticity are all underpinned and made real by underlying intimations of darkness, cruelty, and sudden death."

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Truth is...Something similar can be said about the Bible. It's not just a collection of interesting stories about talking donkeys and floating menageries. If we were to make an accurate movie with Scripture as the script, it would certainly be rated R.

In the words of Rich Mullins, "The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask."