A True Hope

From Isaiah 50-60

For you are aware of our many rebellious deeds,
and our sins testify against us;
indeed, we are aware of our rebellious deeds;
we know our sins all too well.

The Lord watches and is displeased,
for there is no justice.
The Lord Intervenes
He sees there is no advocate;

he is shocked that no one intervenes.

Foreigners will rebuild your walls;
their kings will serve you.
Even though I struck you down in my anger,
I will restore my favor and have compassion on you
.

The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has chosen me.
He has commissioned me to encourage the poor,
to help the brokenhearted,
to decree the release of captives,
and the freeing of prisoners,

You will be called by a new name
that the Lord himself will give you.
You will be a majestic crown in the hand of the Lord,
a royal turban in the hand of your God.
You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,”
and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.”
Indeed, you will be called “My Delight is in Her,”
and your land “Married.”

The face of a suffering child

“To look into the face of a suffering child is to see the depth of humanity and the heart of God.”

This is a timely quote as I read through the book Fields of the Fatherless. The world is full of children, families, and men and women with no hope… without even a hope for hope.

I heard the words above in a video I saw today. It’s graphically realistic.

My Jericho

This weekend I head off to Indiana Outpost Boot Camp. This will be my second trip to this men’s retreat; I think the last time I went was two years ago. I was in the middle of discovering a lot of new things about myself as a man, husband, and child of God. I filled a journal with thoughts, words cried out to God, and words I heard back from Him (a very new experience for me – listening doesn’t come easy). My eyes were opened to passions on my heart I didn’t know existed, and that I couldn’t even talk about the first time they really hit me. Since that time, life has been different. I won’t say I’ve chosen the “red pill” (or was it blue?) every day, but my eyes have been opened. I know there’s more out there than I can see. I know I have a purpose, a battle to be part of, and brothers to grow with. I know that my relationship with my wife is more than just a partnership, more than just 2 people living in the same house who are occasionally in love, and more than a hopeful mess of emotions, hurt feelings, and highs and lows.

As I drove towards the retreat last time, I was considering this concept of “advance words” going into the weekend. Looking for a theme that God might have for me, something he wanted be on the back of my heart the whole time. I found it as I was about to leave Morgan County. As I drove into the little town of Morgantown, I saw this sign… “Welcome to Morgantown, home of the Braves.” That was it. BRAVE. I was venturing into something brand new. I was nervous, frightened, and totally in the dark as to what I was going into. I had very little expectations, and I liked that. But my nature is to maintain control and keep myself containable, if not fully contained. I had to let that go. I had to be BRAVE. And so it went. I pulled in, met the guys of my little platoon, and immersed myself in the experience. It was a blast.

This year as I go into this, God’s been opening my eyes to some walls I’ve built up in my life (or that have been built up around me with the help of others). Things like that “maintaining control” thing, having a managable sphere of influence (also known as my little bubble), and more or less, maintaining a comfort level with my life. I live in the country, but still maintain most of my life in the town I grew up in. I know a few people out here, but have very little opportunity to reach out to them or even know how to because my life is still so “under control.” The same things pop up in my life related to food, related to exercise, related to work. I like that comfortable medium between healthy and “easy.” That comfort level between “able to endure” and truly strong. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. It’s all over the map, and as I go into this weekend, I think that wall is the one to keep on my heart.

I want to see it fall. I want to see the city inside become vulnerable. I want to see God’s life flood into the places I’ve held back.

And so… Jericho. Jericho was not defeated through strength or might, intelligence or cunning. It was defeated by obedience, faith, and the power of God. Obedience to some rather simple things, actually… but also rather mundane, to be honest. Walk around the wall every day for a week? Yeah, right. I’d rather bust down the gate or die trying… or maybe just find a way around the city.

So where must I obey? Where must I step up, do what I know I’m to do, and trust God to do the rest? Well, for starters, I’ve got to show up. I was really hoping to go with at least one close friend I’ve developed in the past year, but that wound up not working out. For completely legit reasons, it just can’t hapen. And so I begin to doubt. “Maybe I should wait until next spring when we can go?” “Maybe I should have tried harder to bring someone with me?” “Maybe I should just take the weekend and go camping for a night by myself.”… “NO,” I hear. “GO.” And so I will – and this time, I won’t drive past the entrance and have to come back out of fear. 🙂

What else… find comfort. That’s a big one. It’s time to find the balance between being comfortable with where I am and where I feel God is leading us in the future, but also being comfortable with not knowing where those things are… to just be comfortable being me. Living in my own skin.

Another… build strength. I’ve never been much for commitment when it comes to strength, or even losing excess baggage. I can do it on a plan, but I’ve never found the reason for me that is going to take me from where I am to where I need to be. Not a plan. Not a diet. Not even a fear of something I might have to face if I didn’t change. I want a reason to eat right, exercise right, and, in general I guess, just live for something. A way to fit the day to day parts of life into that bigger picture. To be in the Matrix but not part of the Matrix. To be in the world, but not of it.

So that’s my Jericho. That’s the wall I choose to march around, around, and around this week, expecting God to show up.

I can’t wait for the command to SHOUT.

Afterthought… I went for a run between the cornfields tonight and found a creek with a big tree that had fallen across it. I decided to cross it. Then I decided to try a different way. Then I thought about giving up. Then I made up my mind that I was going to do it, in my strength and skill or not. So I walked, shimmied, and crawled across… and as I now think about Jericho, I wonder if that was my Jordan River crossing, and this blog post is my pile of rocks to look back on and See What God Does.

A dog tale

Yesterday we loaded up the kiddo and were headed to Plainfield to drop Colton off at Grandma’s so that Erin and I could go to the Kenny Chesney concert downtown, which we didn’t expect to get out of until 11 or 12PM, so Colton was going to have his first “overnighter” at Grandma’s house. Not 1/2 mile down the road, however, the day goes very sour. A small dog, what breed I’m not sure, darts out of a ditch right in front of our car. Erin yells, but it’s already too late. Thump… maybe even Thump Thump, I’m not sure. But it was a definate hit. Oh no. Oh no.

So we turn around and go back to check on him. He’s gone. There’s a pool of blood around his back end, eyes are open, no movement… Oh no. At least he didn’t suffer. So I move him off to the side of the road, and then we decide to go to the nearest house and see if it’s their dog. They’re not home. So we go to the next house, which was on the same driveway, and it’s actually the mother of the owner. She completely understanding… sad, but understanding. I ask her if she’d like me to leave it there or move it, and she says let’s put it in the barn so the owner family doesn’t have to find it laying on the side of the road. So she goes and gets the golf cart, and I go and get the dog. She takes him back to the barn, and we head off back into our world. I don’t think Colton even had a clue what happened, and that was good. Living on a state road ourselves, you know you need to be prepared for these occurances, but you really just can’t.

So we go on to see Kenny, another guy, Miranda, Sugarland, and Montgomery Gentry. Good concert – definately the longest I’ve ever been to, though! Started at 4 and got out at 11, and home around 1, thanks to traffic. I head out to take care of the horses for the night, and when I come in, Erin says, “Chet, you need to listen to the answering machine.”

“Why, what’s wrong?”

“Just listen.”

Ok… I can take it. It’s the guy who’s dog we hit. My heart sinks as the memory comes back:

“Yeah my name is Jeff B___, had the little accident with the dog today, I was just calling to thank you for helping out; a lot of people wouldn’t have done that. If you want to give me a call, he is uh, he’s still alive. We took him to the animal hospital. He’s got a pretty good chance of surviving; no broken bones or anything. My mom said you were kind of concerned, and I appreicate you helping out, and looks like he’s going to be ok, if he makes it through the next day or two. Thanks again for helping out.”

Wow. Still alive? No broken bones? Wow. Was I thinking of just leaving on the side of the road a few hours ago? How glad I am that we didn’t (Thanks Erin). The dog is alive. The dog doesn’t even have a stinkin’ broken bone!

So I called the people back today and spoke to the wife. She’s all thankful and everything and fills me in a little more on the dog. He must have gone into shocked or been knocked out, because according to the animal hospital, all he had was a bloody nose and a laceration on his hind end. No broken bones. No internal injuries. If you’d have seen the blood you’d have thought that alone would have killed him. But no. And then she tells me how they found out he was still alive.

The woman comes home after work, around noon (maybe 1/2 to 1 hour after the accident). She goes to the barn to see the dog, which the man’s mother left on the golf cart in the barn. She walks in, and there’s Franky, sitting on the cart, looking at her. What kind of reaction would that cuase? Laughter? Freaked out? A little of both? Wow. I just don’t know. I’m just so glad we stepped in and did what was right. It was a little awkward. A little painful. Even if it doesn’t “work out” this way next time, it’s one of those reminders. Doing the right thing is not based on circumstances. It’s not based on whether or not someone saw what happened, or if you can even do anything about it.

Anyways, that’s my story… another rock thrown on the pile.

Playing with Fonts

I’m developing some online signs for a client of mine, and playing around with fonts. Kinda cool, though I’d blog it here. If you’d like your own sign, visit www.enoveltysigns.com!

 

Andalus
Angsana New
AngsanaUPC
Arabic Typesetting
Arial
Arial Black
Batang
BatangChe
Browallia New
BrowalliaUPC
Bulldozer
Calibri
Cambria
Cambria Math
Candara
Cheboygan
Comic Sans MS
Consolas
Constantia
Corbel
Cordia New
CordiaUPC
Courier New
DaunPenh
David
DFKai-SB
DilleniaUPC
DokChampa
Dotum
DotumChe
Estrangelo Edessa
EucrosiaUPC
Euphemia
FangSong
Franklin Gothic Medium
FrankRuehl
FreesiaUPC
Gautami
Georgia
Gisha
Gulim
GulimChe
Gungsuh
GungsuhChe
Impact
IrisUPC
Iskoola Pota
JasmineUPC
Jellyka – Estrya’s Handwriting
KaiTi
Kalinga
Kartika
KodchiangUPC
Latha
Leelawadee
Levenim MT
LilyUPC
Lucida Console
Lucida Sans Unicode
Malgun Gothic
Mangal
Marlett
Meiryo
Microsoft Himalaya
Microsoft JhengHei
Microsoft Sans Serif
Microsoft Uighur
Microsoft YaHei
Microsoft Yi Baiti
MingLiU
MingLiU-ExtB
MingLiU_HKSCS
MingLiU_HKSCS-ExtB
Miriam
Miriam Fixed
Mongolian Baiti
MoolBoran
MS Gothic
MS Mincho
MS PGothic
MS PMincho
MS UI Gothic
MT Extra
MV Boli
Narkisim
NSimSun
Nyala
Palatino Linotype
Plantagenet Cherokee
PMingLiU
PMingLiU-ExtB
Raavi
Rod
Segoe Print
Segoe Script
Segoe UI
Shruti
SimHei
Simplified Arabic
Simplified Arabic Fixed
SimSun
SimSun-ExtB
Sylfaen
Symbol
Tahoma
Times New Ro
man
Traditional Arabic
Trebuchet MS
Tunga
Verdana
Vrinda
Webdings
Wingdings

There is ALWAYS Hope

I’m reading through the book of Isaiah right now with the Daily Audio Bible. One of the longest books of the Bible, and often, it seems, one of the driest. So much cursing. So much prophesy. But what I’m hearing today… there is always hope. Not a hope that everything will get better. Not a hope that one day our circumstances will get better. Not even a hope that the people around us will change. A hope, a promise, that God Will Intervene. That He Will Step In. In the midst of the deepest darkness, where there is no way out, even by scratching, crawling, or sacrificing our very lives to escape, He will show up for His children.

Like this passage in Isaiah 27, in the midst of curses, curses, curses, and sin, sin, sin:

For the fortified city will be deserted,
pastures abandoned and forsaken like a wilderness.
Calves will graze there,
and there they will spread out and strip its branches.

When its branches dry out, they will be broken off.
Women will come and make fires with them,
for they are not a people with understanding.
Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them,
and their Creator will not be gracious to them.

On that day
the LORD will thresh grain from the Euphrates River
as far as the Wadi of Egypt,
and you Israelites will be gathered one by one.

On that day
a great trumpet will be blown,
and those lost in the land of Assyria will come,
as well as those dispersed in the land of Egypt;
and they will worship the LORD
at Jerusalem on the holy mountain.

On That Day. When things are at their worst. When cities are deserted, when the pastures have become wilderness, at the very time the people are not being treated with compassion or grace by their Maker… On That Day, The Lord will step in. He will gather his people together, one, by, one. He picks me up from the mud. He drags you out of the pit. He holds the hand of that man/woman over there and walks her home.

This passage went well with what I read in Galatians today as well:

Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly be by the law.

and

[The Law] was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

Were it not for the Law, for God setting some standards that no man could ever achieve, we would be without hope. Because we’d know God’s standard, but could never live up to it. But God, in his infinite plan, already had a plan to give us the life He knows we need, long for, and desire. The law was added… until the Seed… would come. Jesus.

Father, I thank you so much for your infinite plan. For your foreknowledge, compassion, and even judgement. For without those things we would truly be without hope. We’d be lost in our own resourcefulness, in our own failures, and in our own guilt. I‘d be lost. I’d have nowhere to turn. These feelings of uselessness, inadequacy, bitterness, and failure would rule me. But they do not have to. The only rule they have is what I give them. You have paid the price for me to be pure. While the New Testamant and the New Covenant and the new Way actually raise the standard of purity (Ephesians 5, for example), the point is finally brought home that we can’t do anything about it on our own. We need a mediator. We need someone to stand in the gap for us, to stand before us, to take our charges upon Him, and to say, “I’ve got this.” I’ve bought you. I’ve ransomed you.

And then, and this is the sweetest part, Jesus steps aside, after standing in our place of judgement. The father looks down on me. I see the warm smile curving on his lips. He looks at me as his eyes gleam. “I know you,” He says. “I love you.  You are my child. Welcome home.”

Father, let me live like that. Let me live in the reality that I am bought with a price, that my sins do not hold me captive, and that I am free to become the man you’ve made me to be. Mature my faith and cause growth in my life, in my family, in my church, in my circle of influence… wherever I go, may I carry the banner of the Kingdom proudly. Not hiding behind it as a shield, but raising it high as a standard. As a sign to those around me – in front of, behind, or beside – that we are on the move. That we are fighting together, a worthy battle, and every soul we “capture” is welcomed home, just as we were.

Thank you, Jesus…

I heard a song last night at a church service that hit home with me. In the midst of doubts about myself and uncertainties, even compounded by knowing several of my friends are facing similar and even more perilous fights, even in the midst of that, where it’s easy to lose hope. I heard these words. And they reminded me…. There is ALWAYS hope.

I stand accused, there’s a list a mile long
Of all my sins, of everything that I’ve done wrong
I’m so ashamed, there’s nowhere left for me to hidethis is the day,
I must answer for my life
My fate is in the Judges hands,
But then he turns to me and say’s

I know you, I love you
I gave my life, to save you
Love paid the price for mercy
My verdict, Not guilty

The Glare of Christ

I was walking out to my barn last night with a small lighter, as I was going to burn some trash. Now that it’s getting dark earlier, it was dark out already (or maybe it was dark because it was already 11:00 PM?), and I decided to see how much “light” I could get from that little lighter. So I flicked it on, and what do I see? NOTHING. In fact, the dim object I COULD make out before are suddently pitch black, as the glare of that little lighter overpowers any other source of light that my eyes are trying to pick up. All I can see is the fire. I can’t even see my hand holding it.

Then I tried something. I put my hand in between my eyes and the lighter to shield them from the intense glare of the flame. And in an instant, the ground lit up. For probably 20 feet all around me, I could see the ground, make out objects again, and easily make my way where I needed to go, and even find something dropped on the ground. But if I didn’t have that hand in the way of my eyes, the flame simply overpowered the light I actually “needed,” even though that flame was the single source OF that light.

So what’s to learn here, if anything? I’m thinking about the gospel, about Jesus, and about the Light we so often attribute to him. I did a quick lookup of the uses of the word in the New Testament, and here’s some of what I found (I found it here):

  • Matthew 4:16: The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
  • Matthew 5:14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
  • Matthew 5:15: Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
  • Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • Luke 8:16: No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
  • Luke 15:8: Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
  • John 1:8: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
  • John 8:12: Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
  • John 9:5: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
  • John 12:46: I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
  • Acts 22:6: And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:5: Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
  • 1 John 1:5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

So Jesus is The Light, we are lesser lights, and we have light to share. Some of those who experienced Jesus directly were physically blinded by His light. We, on the other hand, are instructed to set our light out there for others to see, and to be led by. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that while Jesus truly is that light that finally illuminates a life and brings one out of darkness, it often takes some lesser lights such as ourselves, and our reflection of Christ, to show the way. Otherwise those who need Christ might be overwhelmed by his direct presence, by the sheer magnitude of God’s Word and all that He’s done for us, and even the scope of His plan, and how it goes far beyond our understanding.

And perhaps there’s something to be said about kind of “shielding” our own eyes as we walk through this life. If we’re constantly staring at Jesus, will our eyes pick up the little objects along our path? Or, now that we have a relationship with Him and have had our lives set back in order and been given direction, do we find a way to “use” that light for what it’s intended (illumination) instead of just how fantastic it is to stare at?

Something to think about, and to let roll around in my heart.

Youth Lesson on Loneliness

Tonight we’re going to talk about loneliness at youth group, and how, in reality, we are never really alone. But at the same time, the feelings of loneliness are real in day to day life, and we should learn how to deal with them and be healed of them. We can also learn how to help others who are alone, and how to find them in the first place, because lonely people are everywhere, often right in front of us.

Dewey is going to share a short devotional he read the other day that he thinks is really good, and talks about how God is always there with us. I’ll probably come back and edit this post once I know what that’s about.

After that, we’re going to do a few activities centered around the theme. Not sure what order we’ll do these; maybe even go back and forth.

Movie Clips

There are countless movies that center around the theme of loneliness. Whether it’s someone living the self-empowered life of “if it is to be, it’s up to me” and “succeeding” in it while isolating themselves from all others, or someone who simply has no one else, it’s a common theme. I’ve found several clips on WingClips, and hope to share some of them right there with the youth, and talk about what we can get from them, and how they compare or relate to circumstances we find ourselves in, or others we are around.

Cars – Tickets for Friends

After receiving a call from his agent about free tickets, Lightening McQueen realizes that he has no friends to give them to. Themes: Loneliness, Friendship, Relationships, Self Realization, Priorities
I Am Legend – Not Alone

Despite there being no signs of life, Robert still sends out a signal to any possible remaining survivors, desperately seeking human interaction.
Gran Torino – Come Over

After Walt rescues both Sue and her brother Thao from street thugs, she invites him to her house for lunch.
 

Questions and Thoughts as clips are viewed…

  • Who are the “characters” involve here?
  • How did the lonely person come to be that way?
  • Is the lonely person “really” alone?
  • Do the people around the lonely person really understand him?
  • How does the story end? Is the hurt healed? Is the relationship mended?
  • What other stories / movies / books tell similar stories?
  • What part of your own life can you relate to this?

Game – Name that Lonely Movie / Story

For this part, I think we’ll divide them into “teams” of three to four people. Each time will review their story (movie, Bible Story, book plot, etc.) and then act it out for the rest of the group, trying to get them to guess the story without the use of words. Props would be encouraged, body language, moving around the room, etc…

Castaway – Trailer

A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island.
The Transfiguration
(Mark 14:32-42)

Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he told them, “Sit here while I pray.” Jesus took along Peter, James, and John. He was sad and troubled and 34told them, “I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Stay here and keep awake with me.” Jesus walked on a little way. Then he knelt down on the ground and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, don’t let this happen to me! Father, you can do anything. Don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want.” When Jesus came back and found the disciples sleeping, he said to Simon Peter, “Are you asleep? Can’t you stay awake for just one hour? Stay awake and pray that you won’t be tested. You want to do what is right, but you are weak.”Jesus went back and prayed the same prayer. But when he returned to the disciples, he found them sleeping again. They simply could not keep their eyes open, and they did not know what to say. When Jesus returned to the disciples the third time, he said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinners. Get up! Let’s go. The one who will betray me is already here.
Job and His Three Friends
(Job 2:3-13)

Then the LORD asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him–he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn’t changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.” Satan answered, “There’s no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive. Try striking Job’s own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face.” “All right!” the LORD replied. “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don’t kill him.” Satan left and caused painful sores to break out all over Job’s body–from head to toe.

Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, his wife asked, “Why do you still trust God? Why don’t you curse him and die?” Job replied, “Don’t talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.” In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.

Job’s Three Friends Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah were three of Job’s friends, and they heard about his troubles. So they agreed to visit Job and comfort him. When they came near enough to see Job, they could hardly recognize him. And in their great sorrow, they tore their clothes, then sprinkled dust on their heads and cried bitterly. For seven days and nights, they sat silently on the ground beside him, because they realized what terrible pain he was in.

 

Questions and thoughts to follow up each one:

  • How can we learn about someone’s loneliness? Body language, tone of voice, attitude, etc.
  • What can we do to reach out to someone in need like the people in this story?
  • How does this relate to your own life? Have you been on either side of the story here?

After all is said and done, wrap up with the reminder from the opening devotional that we never have to be truly alone. However, until we meet Jesus in a personal way, there will always be that “hole” that can only be filled by Him. What are some of the things we try to fill it with? Friends? Family? Drugs? Fun? How can we point out to ourselves, and to our friends, that none of these will really ever last or fill that hole?

Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 4: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

A Kitten Hunt

My family and I went on a walk this evening to visit our neighbors around the corner, about 1/2 mile from the house. Erin had some information to drop off, and it’s been a while since we were able to just stand around and talk. David was the only one home, so after about 10-15 minutes, it was time to head home (after Colton petted “one more” animal). As we’re walking down the driveway, one of their three kittens start to follow us. We try to scare them away, even throw wood chips at them, but nope, he’s set on following us. So we break into a run… me, my wife, and my son, all running away from this kitten that can’t weight more than a pound or two. We get a bit down the road, turn around, and… there are now THREE kittens following us, although they are a ways back now. So we hurry up and keep walking home, hoping they’ll get tired and turn around. We get around the corner so we can’t see them anymore, and of course Erin is a little concerned that we should make sure they get home “safe,” and then we see a black pickup slow down as if to avoid hitting them, and then… stop. Oh no. Did one of them get hit? Are they going to pick them up and steal them (although it’s much more common to see cats dumped out here, not picked up)? We go ahead and hurry home, with me promising to get in the truck and go over and take a look to see if (hopefully not) one of them got hit.

So I get in the truck, head over there, and notice the black truck is just pulling out of another nearby house’s driveway. Oh good, maybe they picked them up and took them over there, thinking that’s where they belong. So I go over and check, but no, there’s no kittens. So I hop back in the truck and decide to see if I can catch up and ask whoever’s in the truck if they saw and did anything with the kittens. I find the truck, about half a mile down the county road, and start to follow it, wondering if the lady (i can tell now) might stop. But no, she doesn’t. Do I flash my brights at her to ask her this silly question about kittens? Do I follow her till she stops? The road ends, and she turns, and I decide to give up. At least I’ve noticed it’s a black dodge with an “In God We Trust” license plate. Maybe I’ll put up a guilt-trip note at the local gas station to see if they might fess up to stealing my neighbor’s kittens. Oh well. I tried. But I sure feel sucky.

So I call my neighbors back, as the rest of the family just got home. No, the kittens have not come back. They are no where to be seen. I have nothing better to do, and am feeling bad, so I decide to go out looking for “The Black Dodge.” Mind you, it’s dark out now. And it’s been about 15 minutes. And country roads go many places. But it’s worth the effort, at least… I love these neighbors. So off we go, Rodney Atkins in the background… try one road until it turns back the way I came, and then try another road… and there it is, a house with a black dodge pickup in the driveway with an “In God We Trust” license plate. And the lights are on. So I do what most people would do… I drive past. But then I see someone on the porch so back up and yell at them, “Have you seen three white cats?”… Yeah… sounded dumb… but at least she couldn’t understand me over the truck’s diesel engine. So I park it, and head up to a house I’ve never seen, in the dark, to ask them if they might have just stolen three kittens.

The girl at the door says she wasn’t in the truck, let her go get her mom. So I wait, listening to people inside talk about soggy chips or something. And then this lady comes to the door, and I say something like, “I know this sounds kinda strange, but I’m looking for my neighbor’s cats. They live 2 miles from here but I saw a black dodge like yours stop near where they were last seen and I wondered if, by chance, you’d seen then or picked them up.”

And what do you know, I’ve got the right place! The lady had seen them walking down the road, didn’t want them to get killed, and picked them up. She went to one house to see if they belonged there, but no one was home. So she decided to try again after the sun came up. (Maybe that’s what I shoulda done?) So she sends her daughter to go get them (daughter didn’t know about them yet apparently), and then the daughter who didn’t know they were there proceeds to tell me the sex of each kitten. Go figure out how that works out… I don’t know. But I’ve got my treasure, I try to convince them I wasn’t assuming they’d stolen them to feed to their dogs (not exactly my words), and get back in the truck.

Call the neighbors, call my wife, thank the Lord, and head back home. Good old truck… thanks for another adventure.

Compassion

I’m reading a book called Fields of the Fatherless by C. Thomas Davis right now in my “spare” time. I picked it up for two reasons: First, it caught my eye with the “Fatherless” part of the title. Second, it was 75% off. The book is actually all about caring for those in need – orphans, widows, and strangers. Towards the beginning of the book, it asks the question, “what do the Fatherless look like today,” and gives these pictures:

  • A widower at church who always shares candy with the squirrely kids.
  • The girl who babysits your children and has no father at home.
  • The single mom next door who always seems to be harried – in and out of her car with kids, groceries, and work related paraphernalia.
  • The unruly little boy at your child’s class who keeps getting moved to another foster home
  • The only looking Asian college student waiting for the buss everyday as you pass by.
  • Even your own grandma who lost her husband 10 years ago and spends her days watching soap operas.

The book goes all through the Old and New Testaments, talking about God’s care and concern for these “strangers” in life, and how that concern was put into flesh by Jesus. It then goes on to talk about what we can do to make a difference in the lives of these people. I love this excerpt on the true meaning of compassion, which goes far beyond what we typically think of in our day to day lives:

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

There you have it. The definition of compassion is about involvement. To be compassionate means to get out of the boat of our current circumstances and get into the boats of those who are suffering. We are called to bear the burdens of those who are in need of our companionship – to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).”

I love that. Compassion is not just about caring. It is about involvement… about doing something when you find someone in need that you can impact.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book. It’s a good read. On their website, they have this little poem, which I think summarizes the book, and the mission, well:

In this world you are an orphan—

eagerly anticipating your adoption as God’s child.

In this world you are a widow—

longing for reunion with your Bridegroom.

In this world you are a stranger—

a pilgrim waiting to become a citizen of heaven.

And in this world, God has called you to care for the orphan,
the stranger, and the widow. Fields of the Fatherless is a journey
that brings you back to what Christianity is all about:

Giving yourself to others

  Being Christ to a hurting world

And living for the one that comes next.