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January 19th- Ownership

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” -James 3:13

 

Years ago, a friend told me about a Christian author from Great Briton named Adrian Plass. His books are a much-needed breath of fresh air because they poke fun at the Christian sub-culture. The following is from his book The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass. It is the January 21st account from Adrian's “diary.” (You'll need to know that Anne is Adrian's wife.)

 

“Stopped on the way home this afternoon to chat with a man working in his garden just down the road from us. Thought I'd try out my new gift of witnessing. When I said I was a Christian, he said, “Well, in that case, why don't you cut your ******* hedge back a bit, so that we pagans don't have to step into the gutter every time we walk past your house?

 

Adrian Plass

Walked on with flaming cheeks. What a horrible man! Needn't think he can tell me what to do and when to do it! Coincidentally, I did decide to have a go at the hedge today, but NOT because of what he said. Borrowed an electric trimmer from Mr. Brain, our elderly neighbor, who comes to church sometimes, and did it in no time.

 

Didn't mention to Anne what the man said. She has gone on a bit about the hedge—since last summer in fact.”

 

Like Adrian, we need to share our faith. And, like Adrian, it might be helpful if we begin by taking a look at our own yard. Christianity doesn't look that appealing if our issues are growing out of control and effecting those around us. None of us are perfect, and God knows we are a work in progress. We aren't going to obtain perfection on this side of heaven. But the key is responsibility. Adrian's real mistake wasn't that he hadn't gotten to the hedge it was that he couldn't admit he was wrong.

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January 12th- Community

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:25

 

A few years back, I picked up a strange (and often amusing) book called The Best Worst & Most Unusual by Bruce Fenton and Mark Fowler. This bizarre story about the Duke of Portland has quite a lot to say about community.

 

William John Cavendish Bentinck Scott (1800-1879), the fifth Duke of (Portland), may have been the shyest person who ever lived. For a short while he occupied his inherited seat in the House of Lords, but soon found he was too timid to participate in the debates. So at a young age he retired to his estate and devoted all his energies to the cultivation of the most beautiful greenhouses in England. Unmarried and socially awkward, he withdrew further and further into himself.DukeofPortland

 

Eventually, the Duke shut himself off in one corner of his mansion, Welbeck Abbey. He refused to receive visitors and would not even face his own servants. All communications to and from the butler and maids passed through a message box outside his door. And when Sir William went for his evening walk in the garden, the servants were instructed to stay out of sight or to avert their eyes; those who failed to do so were punished by being forced to skate on the Duke's private skating rink until they were exhausted.

 

To further guarantee his seclusion, Sir William hired unemployed miners to bore a tunnel from Welbeck Abbey to the town of Worksop, one and a half miles away. On his rare trips to London, the Duke would go down to his basement, climb into his shuttered coach, and ride through the subterranean passageway to the Worksop train station, where his coach was mounted on a flatcar. When the train arrived in London, a coachman and a team of horses were waiting to drive him to his place of business. In this fashion he was able to travel from Welbeck Abbey to London and back without seeing a single human face.”

 

Often Christians ask me why they should go to church or be in a small group. I totally understand the question, for churches and small groups are made up of people, and people can and do hurt us. It seems like life would be a lot better without them, “I'll just stick to my family, thanks.” But there are two major problems with that philosophy. One, God made us for community. And, two, left to ourselves we will grow continually more isolated.

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December 15th- The Center Room

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2:44)

 

Today, allow me to start off with a story I shared to open Chapter Seven of my book The Lost Heart of Discipline.

 

Lost Heart

“While our special-needs campers drifted to sleep, we migrated to the center room. There we would sit together, and talk into the night. Ironically, after spending the day focused on kids, our conversations still revolved around them.

 

We would recount the funny stories, like Donald helping himself to the food scrapped off everyone's plate or Angie's latest tribute to the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic. But we would also share the hard stories, like Michael “the pincher” who had hurt others so many times that he had to be sent home or Jonathan whose parents brought him to camp with a communication device that we knew he was too severe to use.

Looking back, I think we talked about the campers for one simple reason, we had to.

 

Serving in a special needs cabin at a YMCA summer camp was hard work, and we needed to decompress. It was hard to help a twenty-year-old “child” take a shower. It was hard to be kind when a nine-year-old began cursing at you for no apparent reason. It was hard to be patient when another camper asked you to watch them jump off the diving board, for the twentieth time.

 

And, most of all, it was hard to see, and to consider, the pain of lives “born broken.” So we talked each night, and it renewed us, just enough to do it all again the next morning.”

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December 12th- Crayon Masterpieces

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."” (Luke 1:17)

 

My work bag is overflowing.

 

No, not with work, but with crayon-filled masterpieces.crayons

Some time back, I began taping up my children's artwork on the walls of my office. There are race cars from my oldest son, Picaso-esq villages from my middle son, and lots and lots of coloring pages from my four-year-old daughter.

 

They love to come to my office and see their pictures up on my walls. And while they all love it, my daughter is the most passionate.

 

Every time she colors a picture (and she colors lots of pictures), she asks me to take it to work and put it up on the wall. Hence, my work bag is overflowing.

 

There is an analogy there, I think.

Work is important. And, if we aren't careful, it can easily dictate (and dominate) the hours of our days. I know. Lately, I have “important” work to get finished and I have been working like a marathon runner, i.e. non-stop.

 

But, what work is really the most important?

 

Time goes so quickly. All too soon there will be no more coloring pages. In just the blink of an eye, the little-girl who wants my every attention will be more concerned with text-messages and boyfriends.

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December 2nd- The Great Fairy Tale

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” (Revelation 22:1-3)

 

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a masterpiece.Lord of the Rings

As you probably know, it is the story of Frodo Baggins, and his dear friend Samwise, placed in the center of a quest of epic proportions.

 

The entire fate of Middle-Earth depends upon them destroying the ring of power in the fires of Mordor. Of course, the fires of Mordor lie within the realm of the most dominant force of evil imaginable, Lord Sauron.

 

Obviously, the odds of their success are quite poor.

The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece not just of literary quality, but in my opinion, for another reason as well. It captures the essence of life and the spiritual battle of good verses evil better than any work I've ever read.

 

Recently, I found some remarks from Tolkien on the idea of the fairy tale, and it explains, I think, the particular insight which allowed him to create such an epic work.

 

“(The fairy tale) does not deny the existence of...sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat..., giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, as poignant as grief.

 

It is the mark of the good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art.”

 

There it is. The secret to the brilliance behind The Lord of the Rings. It is a fairy-tale that says, “in the end good wins,” without denying the existence of sorrow and failure.

 

Does this sound familiar? It should.

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