Heaven on Earth

I call to you, God, because I’m sure of an answer.
    So—answer! bend your ear! listen sharp!
Paint grace-graffiti on the fences;
    take in your frightened children who
Are running from the neighborhood bullies
    straight to you. (Psalm 17:6-7)

David often found himself under attack. Rather than comfortably lifting up prayers in a plush temple sanctuary, he called on God from the trenches on behalf of troops faithful but frightened. The only One to whom they could run for protection was God. And God was just the one to save them. Still, they longed for assurance.

Keep your eye on me;
    hide me under your cool wing feathers
From the wicked who are out to get me,
    from mortal enemies closing in.

Their hearts are hard as nails,
    their mouths blast hot air.
They are after me, nipping my heels,
    determined to bring me down,
Lions ready to rip me apart,
    young lions poised to pounce.
Up, God: beard them! break them!
    By your sword, free me from their clutches;
Barehanded, God, break these mortals,
    these flat-earth people who can’t think beyond today. (Psalm 17:8-13)

David and his troops size up their enemies and find them to be cruel and determined to destroy, like lions poised to pounce. It is not a fair fight. On their own, Israel would be obliterated. But they are not alone. With just a word, God can break these enemies barehanded. Indeed, it is not a fair fight.

After taking a moment to daydream about his enemies’ fate (“their bellies swollen with famine food”), David gets to the heart of his desire.

And me? I plan on looking
    you full in the face. When I get up,
I’ll see your full stature
    and live heaven on earth. (Psalm 17:15)

This is our best aim when we are under attack and call out to God in prayer.  Not that we would be protected so we can become self-absorbed in our own desires and comfort, but so we can pour out our lives as Christ did. God rescues us not for a life of leisure but a life of service. Heaven on earth is not a state of getting everything we want, but being all we can be for the glory of God.

Winter Glory.

“Winter Glory.” from Debbie Yearsley Davidson

(Bible quotations taken from The Message)

Higher Education (from Delight in Disorder)

Photo is loading
 
 

College was a time for experiments.

Mixing songs with sex, ideas with drugs.

The God I had come to know went up in smoke.

I replaced the living Word with words from lives

That thirsted for truths to absorb the Truth

And hungered for rights without Righteousness.

 

I wrote a book my senior year called,

Life (in obvious places)

Filled with family stories and ones I’d conceived.

At the end, a coquettish Claudia Matson asks the narrator –

“Why don’t you write any love stories?”

“I don’t know any,” he replies.

 

I took a job at a plastics factory.

And started going to a country church.

Grammar Presbyterian.

Filled with farmers and grandmothers

Who made room for me in my stained Salvation Army clothes.

Smelling of smoke, looking for a God of substance.

 

Easter Sunday, on my way to church.

I saw a grey-haired woman in a tattered coat wandering.

I pulled over and tried to help.

She didn’t know where she was and I didn’t know where to take her.

We were both lost.

 

I drove her to a downtown church.

Dressed in his Easter best, a usher gave her a donut and some coffee.

He sat with her and helped her find her way home.

I left the church in tears.

Finding strength to be weak in a community of grace.

 

I went to seminary to serve God with my mind,

Hoping my body and soul would follow.

In class we looked at the language of Scripture

And discussed how not to talk about God.

 

In my pastoral work, I found God…

… in the joy of boy who would never speak.

… in the songs of prisoners longing for freedom.

… in the tears of a man praying beside his dying wife’s bed.

 

I say I found God, but really God found me, and I didn’t run away.

 

I met Alice in the office of a friend.

She was arguing with the phone company about a deposit.

She won.

I said to myself, “I want her on my side.”

Within 6 months, we were engaged.

 

We moved to a 3-room row house in South St. Louis.

The heat was unbearable,

Steam rising from the asphalt.

We passionately loved and more passionately fought.

From this conjugal clash, a child was conceived.

 

We moved to the countryside,

And I became a pastor,

A shepherd of a frozen flock.

I preached sermons on Sunday,

And took out the trash on Tuesdays.

 

Sarah was born in early Spring.

There was a chill in the air and ice on the roads,

But we barely noticed.

We brought her home to balloons and signs

A Noah’s Ark nursery.

We made her first week a music video

with Sandy Patty singing –

You are a masterpiece
A new creation He has formed
And you’re as soft  and fresh as a snowy winter morn.
And I’m so glad that God has given you to me

After a week, I was spent (or so I thought).

I retreated to my office and didn’t come out

Even when I came home.

thumbnail image
Visit our mission site and help us reach our goal by 11/20!

Kay Redfield Jamison’s Beautiful, Brilliant Unquiet Mind

          When I first received my Bipolar diagnosis, the picture painted for me of my future was rather bleak.  The staff at the psychiatric hospital explained that I would likely not be able to continue in ministry.  I would probably go on disability, possibly work a part-time minimum wage job.  I would have repeated hospitalizations and the chances of remaining in my marriage were slim to none.
          My psychiatrist, however, wanted to offer a ray of hope.  He recommended I read a new memoir that had just been published by perhaps the most world-renowned expert on Bipolar disorder – Kay Redfield Jamison.  In Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Jamison beautifully describes her own life-long struggle and brilliantly depicts the love-hate relationship many folks with Bipolar have with their illness.  She defines what she prefers to call “Manic-depression” –
Kay Redfield Jamison, Author, Professor, Innovator, Genius
…a disease that both kills and gives life.  Fire, by its nature, both creates and destroys.  “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” wrote Dylan Thomas, “Drives my green age, that blasts the root of trees/ Is my destroyer.”  Mania is a strange and driving force, a destroyer, a fire in the blood.
          In other works, Jamison has extensively explores the relationship between Bipolar and creativity, citing examples in the lives of many artists past and present who displayed significant symptoms yet produced amazing expressions of life and the world around them.
           Recently, I re-read An Unquiet Mind (for the fourth time, I think).  One passage I was particularly drawn to, given my current separation from my wife was this –
“No amount of love can cure madness or unblacken one’s dark moods.  Love can help, it can make the pain more bearable, but always one is beholden to medication that may or may not always work and may or may not be bearable.  Madness, on the other hand, most certainly can, and often does kill love through its mistrustfulness, unrelenting pessimism, discontents, erratic behavior, and especially through its savage moods.”
            It’s sad, but often true that people with Bipolar seem incapable of sustaining intimate relationships.  Redfield herself has been married more than once, joining the ranks of the more than 90% of folks with Bipolar who get divorced.
             So is it worth it?  If given the opportunity, should we eradicate Bipolar through gene therapy?  For now (at least), Redfield would say, “No.”  As she poetically reflects on her own experience living with the illness –
‘I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply had more experiences. more intensely loved more and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs for all the winters; worn death “as close as dungarees,” appreciated it — and life, more; seen the finest and most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through…”
             Not many of us (only one, in fact) can be Kay Redfield Jamison.  I see my Bipolar more as a “thorn in my flesh” than something that has enhanced my life.  Still, I am grateful.  Through this thorn I have discovered that God’s grace is sufficient.  This realization has led me to a more abundant life in Christ and given me a greater appreciation for the struggles of others.
             How about you?  Those of you with Bipolar, how do you view your illness?  If you had the choice, would you seek out a cure?  How have you learned to make the most of it?
(image above “Kay Redfield Jamison, Author, Professor, Innovator, Genius”  from Susan Steadman in I AM WOMAN)

April is the Cruelest Month: Walking Through the Waste Land

Wyndham Lewis ~ T.S. Eliot, 1938

April is the cruelest month,

breeding lilacs out of the dead land,

mixing memory and desire,

stirring dull roots with spring rain.   ―     T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Yesterday, I felt like I was wandering in the waste land.  Though the sun was shining and there was a cool breeze blowing, I couldn’t see it or feel it huddled beneath my sheets, praying for sense out of suicide, light in the darkness, life after death.

I thought of the Warren family.  I don’t know Rick or Kay Warren personally.  But, like many people, I know of their ministry and the positive impact their words and work has had on so many lives.  I can’t say I embrace their theology wholesale, but I greatly respect the depth of their faith and would not question their profound relationship with Christ.

And now, this.  The death of a child must be the greatest grief any parent must face.  Compounded with this grief is the threat to meaning and purpose, to hope and, yes, even faith, that strikes when a loved one chooses death over life.  Rick Warren expressed gratitude yesterday for the overwhelming support of people around the world expressed after Matthew’s death, but no amount of community support can alleviate the lonely journey Rick and Kay and their other children must now walk.

As I laid in the darkness, I thought of my own children and my wife.  Memories came flooding back – that night 5 years ago when I swallowed handfuls of psychotropic meds as a desperate measure to end my misery.  My family was little more than an afterthought in that moment.  I didn’t even compose a proper suicide note – just scribbled off a few perfunctory lines as if writing out a prescription.

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, the drugs that should have killed me didn’t.  Instead, they put me in an all-night stupor.  I kept stumbling to the bathroom, crashing into walls, unable to straighten up, leaving a mess my wife had to clean up.

Yesterday, I wandered through the waste land with mostly dead memories and only a hint of desire for something better.

Today, the sun came up (as it typically does).  It took me until noon to rise.  I ate lunch instead of breakfast.  I read some encouraging messages.  I reflected on God’s Word to “choose life, that you and your offspring might live.”  I felt grateful – not glad, exactly – but grateful to be alive.

They say rain is on its way.  Spring rain to enliven the dull roots dormant underground, hiding from the harsh winter.  Breeding lilacs will appear.

In May, I’ll travel home – to my children, and my wife (if only for the day).

It will be “a day that the Lord hath made”.  And we will “rejoice and be glad in it.”

(image above “Wyndham Lewis ~ T.S. Eliot, 1938” from Jude W. in art :: paintings I love)

Sent to Serve: My Life with (and without) God – Part II

Photo is loading

College was a time for experiments.

Mixing songs with sex, ideas with drugs.

The God I had come to know went up in smoke.

I replaced the living Word with words from lives

That thirsted for truths to absorb the Truth

And hungered for rights without Righteousness.

 

I wrote a book my senior year called,

Life (in obvious places)

Filled with family stories and ones I’d conceived.

At the end, a coquettish Claudia Matson asks the narrator –

“Why don’t you write any love stories?”

“I don’t know any,” he replies.

 

I took a job at a plastics factory.

And started going to a country church.

Grammar Presbyterian.

Filled with farmers and grandmothers

Who made room for me in my stained Salvation Army clothes.

Smelling of smoke, looking for a God of substance.

 

Easter Sunday, on my way to church.

I saw a grey-haired woman in a tattered coat wandering.

I pulled over and tried to help.

She didn’t know where she was and I didn’t know where to take her.

We were both lost.

 

I drove her to a downtown church.

Dressed in his Easter best, a usher gave her a donut and some coffee.

He sat with her and helped her find her way home.

I left the church in tears.

Finding strength to be weak in a community of grace.

 

I went to seminary to serve God with my mind,

Hoping my body and soul would follow.

In class we looked at the language of Scripture

And discussed how not to talk about God.

 

In my pastoral work, I found God…

… in the joy of boy who would never speak.

… in the songs of prisoners longing for freedom.

… in the tears of a man praying beside his dying wife’s bed.

 

I say I found God, but really God found me, and I didn’t run away.

 

I met Alice in the office of a friend.

She was arguing with the phone company about a deposit.

She won.

I said to myself, “I want her on my side.”

Within 6 months, we were engaged.

 

We moved to a 3-room row house in South St. Louis.

The heat was unbearable,

Steam rising from the asphalt.

We passionately loved and more passionately fought.

From this conjugal clash, a child was conceived.

 

We moved to the countryside,

And I became a pastor,

A shepherd of a frozen flock.

I preached sermons on Sunday,

And took out the trash on Tuesdays.

 

Sarah was born in early Spring.

There was a chill in the air and ice on the roads,

But we barely noticed.

We brought her home to balloons and signs

A Noah’s Ark nursery.

 

We made her first week a music video

with Sandy Patty singing –

You are a masterpiece
A new creation He has formed
And you’re as soft  and fresh as a snowy winter morn.
And I’m so glad that God has given you to me

 

After a week, I was spent (or so I thought).

I retreated to my office and didn’t come out

Even when I came home.

 

the story begins…

Out of Nineveh: My Life with (and without) God – Part I

the story continues….

Prayer, Parenting, Pits, and Pills: My Life with (and without) God – Part III

A Clarion Call: My Life with (and without) God – Part IV

Alone in a Fog: My Life with (and without) God – Part V

On a Teeter-Totter: My Life with (and without) God – Part VI

In the Heart of the Finger Lakes: My Life with (and without) God – Part VII

Chosen to Adopt: My Life with (and without) God – Part VIII

Lost on Long Island: My Life with (and without) God – Part IX

George Herbert’s Love

Love

by George Herbert

George Herbert

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,    

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack   

 From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning    

If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’    

Love said, ‘You shall be he.’

‘I, the unkind, ungrateful?

Ah, my dear,    

I cannot look on Thee.’

Love took my hand and smiling did reply,    

‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame    

Go where it doth deserve.’

‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’    

‘My dear, then I will serve.’

‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’    

So I did sit and eat.

(image of George Herbert from  Anne Rein in Favorite Poets)

The Companionable Ills of Sylvia Plath

sylvia plath

The nose that twitches, the old

imperfections —

tolerable now as the nose on the face

Put up with until chagrin gives place

To a wry complaisance —

Dug in first as God’s spurs

To start the spirit out of the mud

It stabled in, long-used, became well loved

Bedfellows of the spirit’s debauch, fond masters.

“The Companionable Ills” from The Colossus: And Other Poems by Sylvia Plath

The 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death has come and gone and I’ve done nothing to recognize it.  It’s probably just as well.  It’s rather morbid to celebrate the anniversary of a death, especially a suicide.  But I thought it would be good to reflect a little on Plath’s poetry, looking particularly at “The Companionable Ills” and what it might say to those of us who struggle with chronic illness.

First, the poem…

The Apostle Paul, who struggles with a mysterious “thorn in the flesh” throughout his life, wrote of how he prayed repeatedly to be relieved of this ailment.  Instead of being healed, he received the word from the Lord — “my grace is sufficient for you.”  He finds a measure of peace to continue pressing forward.

The poet here, however, does not find peace in “old imperfections”, but comes to find them “tolerable”, familiar as the nose of her face.  Over time, the distress of chagrin is replaced by a “wry complaisance”, or ironic acceptance.  In spite of herself, she learns to live with it.

When illness first strikes us, we may, like the poet here perceive it as a painful stab from “God’s spurs”.  While the Apostle Paul didn’t blame God for his “thorn in the flesh”, he did see it as a way to keep him spiritually humble.  In essence, his illness was redeemed by the grace of God.

“The Companionable Ills” suggests, however, that chronic illness leads the poet to impurity, being in bed with the wicked intent of “the spirit’s debauch”.  There is no peace or redemption to be found within the bounds of the poem.

So, what does this say to us?

On the one hand, “The Companionable Ills” is a very realistic perspective on chronic illness, particularly illness that effects the mind and the spirit as much as (or more than) the body.   People with serious mental disorders: clinical depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and the like can easily give up and give in to their illness.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  By the grace of God, we can embrace the faith (like Paul).  Faith may not produce physical healing.  But faith does bring spiritual peace, in Christ.  And Christ is a much better companion for us than our ills.

(photo of Sylvia Plath from Katherine Noble in books & people who write)

Give Your Life or Choose to Die: Eponine and Javier in Les Miserables

les miserables

I just got back from the movie Les Miserables – my first movie theater experience in about 20 years.  All I can say is – it was worth the wait.

But I will say more… probably several posts worth.  First, let me caution you that if you are planning to see the movie (and I recommend you do), see it before you read this review.  That said…

Today, I want to focus on the lives and deaths of two characters in the film – Eponine (the inn keeper’s daughter) and Javier (the policeman).

Eponine grows up in the household of unscrupulous parents who favor her over Colette (“I mean Cosette.” – as the inn keeper would say).  She sees their greed as they rob, cheat, and steal even a a randy Santa Claus from his goods (including his pants).  As they fall on harder times, as does most of France, they are still only looking out for themselves.  To the end of the movie, they sing out their selfish creed as they are carried away from crashing a wedding.

Yet, in spite of her skewed upbringing, Eponine manages to develop strong values.  Though she falls in love the handsome and brave Marius, she consents to show him the way to Cosette when she sees this is his heart’s desire.  Though she could have become embittered at only seeing love from a distance, she channels her rage to fight for the freedom of her people.  In the end, she gives Marius Cosette’s love note, making their union possible.  As her reward, she is able to die in his arms, as he declares love for her as well.

Eponine lives a virtuous, self-less life.   She gives her life for her love, and for people.

Javier, on the other hand, lives for vengeance.  We first see him overseeing prisoners as they are treated like slaves.  Though he hands Jean Valjean his parole papers, he tells Valjean that he will  never pay for his crime (of stealing bread to feed his sister’s son).  Javier represents the dark side of merciless law that favors the punishment of death-in-life rather than make room for forgiveness and grace.

Fast forward to the revolution.  Javier is a prisoner of the revolutionaries, being caught as a spy.  Jean Valjean is given the opportunity to kill him for his crime.  Instead, he cuts Javier loose and grants his pardon.  This confuses Javier.  In fact, it causes him to question his existence.  Not long later, when the tables are turned and Javier lets Jean Valjean escape, Javier can’t bear to live with his identity confusion.  The world can not contain both Valjean and Javier (mercy and vengeance), he sings.  He chooses to kill himself rather than to live by grace.

Death is something none of us can escape.  But we do have a choice.  We can live by grace, and do what is good and right and loving, as Eponine does.  Or we can die clinging to a perverted sense of human injustice that can never measure up, as Javier does.

Give your life or choose to die.  Which will you do?

(image “At the Movies – Les Miserables” from erjkprunczýk, some rights reserved)

I Wonder as I Wander

In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly give to you…

Image

I WONDER AS I WANDER

(Appalachia)

Words and Music collected by John Jacob Niles

1.   I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

2. When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

3.   If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

(from “The Hymns and Carols of Christmas“)

I chose to reflect on this Christmas carol today for a number of reasons.  First, I have received some messages asking me about my decision to leave pastoral ministry and some helpful and encouraging comments to further direct my efforts with this blog. (I think you will be seeing some beneficial changes in the coming weeks).

The song invites us to meditate on the meaning of Christ’s coming to earth and humbly reflect on God’s abundant grace to die for us (in the form of God’s Son) though we are “on’ry” and often ungrateful.  Christ’s selflessly to give up all he had (and could have obtained) in order to enter our broken lives and suffer death for our sake contrasts sharply with our selfish aims to grab all we can whenever we can get it.

The song title, however, moves me to consider more broadly what I am doing with my life.  On the surface, it can seem that by leaving pastoral ministry I am (like Jonah) running away from God’s call to preach.  I wonder about this as I wander in this in-between stage, not connected to a particular church or denomination, not serving in a full-time ministry or service.  I wonder as I wander the job postings and see one that would be more in the field of ministry if I am called to pursue that instead of a career in writing.

In a more worldly sense, I continue to wonder what field of writing I should pursue as I wander around the blogosphere and write posts that range from political commentary to satire, to spiritual reflections.  I wonder if I should follow the current trend of specialization “branding” and produce a blog that appeals to what particular potential employers might be looking for.

One helpful comment I received was maybe I should have two blogs.  I see some value in this.  I could develop one to promote my services as a writer of a particular brand, with postings that would serve as an attractive portfolio of what I’m capable of producing.  This blog (here) would then remain an outlet for creative endeavors, a potpourri of this-and-that, that might help me network with other bloggers and develop the craft of writing.

I’m still wondering (and wandering), so bear with me. In the meantime, I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions.  I think journeys only become adventures when you share them with others.

(the photo “Walking through life” from  rafaelsoaressome rights reserved)

*****

– Introduction – “The 12 Posts of Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Some of the Best Christmas Blogs for 2012

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress

Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake

In the second post of Christmas, I truly give to you….

 fruitcake hat

Next to the story of Christ’s birth in the Bible and the story of Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, my third favorite Christmas story is one my cousin Tim told at our Christmas gathering this year.  In order to do it justice, I’m going to write up the dialogue that transpired as he tried to tell what happened.

Grandma (to Tim): You feeling okay?

Tim: I’m feeling fine.  Why do you ask?

Grandma: I thought you went to the hospital.

Tim: I didn’t go to the hospital.  Who told you that?

Grandma: I heard they called an ambulance to your house.

Tim:  That was for the burglar.  They took him to the hospital.

Me:  You were burglarized?

Tim:  Yeah, some guy broke in and took off with my watch, my billfold, my cell phone, my truck keys and some other stuff.

Aunt Sue:  Well, actually, he didn’t break in.  The door was open.

Tim:  Yeah, the door was open.

Me:  The door was open?  That’s not burglary.  That’s Christmas hospitality.

Tim:  Well, he did take my stuff.

Me:  Okay, that’s burglary, I guess.  Did he get away?

Tim:  No, I came running out of the house just as he was about to get in the truck.  He was out there talking to one of my neighbors.  I said, “Is this the ‘gentleman’ who just robbed me?”  Only I didn’t say “gentleman”.

{I can’t quite remember the flow of the story at this point.  I do know that the burglar, who was wearing Tim’s coat and shoes threw them on the ground, along with his wallet, keys and cell phone.  Rather than appeasing him, it only seemed to make Tim angrier.  I guess he did it in a threatening way.  Anyway, they are standing by the truck and Tim notices something on the hood.  He thinks it’s a billy-club.  Rather than waiting to see if the burglar reaches for it, he grabs it and squeezes it tightly.  It crumbles.}

Tim: ” What is this?”

Burglar: “Fruitcake.”

Tim:  “Fruitcake?  You stole somebody’s fruitcake.”  (continuing his story)  So anyway, I’m standing there and we’re squared off and I’m thinking.  “This guy’s got an athletic build.”

Molly (Tim’s daughter):  So let me get this right.  You were checking out his body?

Tim: You got to understand. Before you can fight somebody, you’ve got to size them up.  I’m thinking the guy’s got some strength.

{Ultimately, the guy takes off running.  Tim tells his neighbors to call the cops.  Then, he chases him down.  This wasn’t difficult to do because the burglar had taken Tim’s shoes off by then and Tim had put them on.  Tim caught the shoe-less bandit by a dumpster and proceeded to pound him into the pavement until the police arrived.

My uncle Geoff then read the brief blurb about the incident  from the newspaper where it said the guy  was being held on 4 charges and a $13,000 bond.  Tim was surprised it was set so low.  I think they took pity on the guy.

So here’s my take on this story.  I truly hope the guy is okay. I have to believe he is. He clearly is not a seasoned criminal or I think he would have made some better criminal-like decisions.

What I like about  the story (as a story) is how it serves as a complete antethesis to the classic novel (and now popular movie) Les Miserables.  When ex-convict Jean Valjean steals Bishop Myriel’s silverware and is caught, Valjean lies and says it was given to him.  When called upon to press charges, Bishop confirms the lie and offers him even more – costly candlesticks.   It’s an illustration of God’s abundant grace.  This grace inspires Valjean later to receive redemption.

Clearly, my cousin Tim is no Bishop Myriel.  And maybe I shouldn’t celebrate his sense of vigilante justice.  It’s just strike a human chord in me (and reminds of just how far the distance is between us and God).  As Lyle Lovett puts it in the song “God Will” –

Who keeps on trusting you
When you’ve been cheating
And spending your nights on the town
And who keeps on saying that he still wants you
When you’re through running around
And who keeps on loving you
When you’ve been lying
Saying things ain’t what they seem
God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

So who says he’ll forgive you
And says that he’ll miss you
And dream of your sweet memory
God does
But I don’t
God will
But I won’t
And that’s the difference
Between God and me

(lyrics found at Cowboy Lyrics)

(image “Fruitcake hat” from Rochelle, just rochellesome rights reserved)

*****

– Introduction to – “The 12 Posts of Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Some of the Best Christmas Blogs for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress