Dealing with New Realities

Today is my day to deal with new realities, for there are two things new today around here. First of all, today is the day that the City has chosen to work on the sewer lines, so no running water or flushing. Second is a more long term situation; my wife, over my consistent objections, has procured a New Dog.

I don’t know why that would surprise me; I’ve surely never been called “He Who Must Be Obeyed”!12249575_10208066124999250_7096005697460658006_n

Thus, on Friday last, She Who Must Be Obeyed arrived home with a New Dog. According to the story I heard, New Dog is an orphan, since his original owner sadly passed away a few months back, and since then he’s been in “foster care” with various family members, in need of a “permanent home”. Guess where that is?

Great.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like dogs, dogs usually like me, believe it or not; I’ve even been called a “dog person” and as best I can tell, they meant I get along with dogs… yet I didn’t really want to do this again, but as I have been informed, I am wrong about that… I really do want to do it again, I just don’t know it.

So then, here we are on this wonderful and cold Monday; sewer work and New Dog.

New Dog doesn’t seem to care much for sewer work; they make lots of racket out there; New Dog is kind of freaked out about that. Now I can understand that, new house with new sounds and smells and very strange new people; it’s a lot to get used to. I can also understand that it must be getting very tiresome for the dog to keep having new people to train. I can even recognize that as new people trainees go, I am a handful, with my stupid notions about who is really in charge around here. Yes, I can sympathize with our little friend, but it’s just that so far today, he’s taught me two new rules that I don’t much care for: The first one is that when Cathy isn’t here, it’s OK to poop in the hallway. I was so surprised about that one, that I got it up with paper towels, tossed the whole thing in the commode, and forgot about the poor sewer workers until right after I flushed it… Sorry Guys!

Somehow, I suspect that this new rule doesn’t apply to the rest of us.

The second new rule is that when freaked out by the noise of the sewer work, I am required to have New Dog in my lap at all times.

As for that new rule, I suppose there is an advantage; it’s a cold day, and New Dog is warm… but it sure is hard to type like this!

You may think that New Dog is a stupid name, but in truth it really isn’t his name at all; he actually came with one already, it’s “Taz”. Now I don’t much care for that name, and lobbied with She Who Must Be Obeyed to give him a new one; I’m sure I could do better than “Taz”! Why I give great names to dogs, for instance, last time I got to name a dog, it was “Bill” in honor of my high esteem for our 42nd president. No, I really can’t understand why she suddenly is so fond of the name “Taz”…

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“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel”

Matthew 9:27-34

In this passage, Jesus encounters a blind man and a man who was demon possessed. I need not tell you that He handled the situation in both cases, restoring sight to the one, and driving out the impure spirit in the other. By this time, we have seen these kinds of things before, and yet the people of that day were not reading about His miracles in a book, they were seeing them for the first time, and Jesus was getting their attention.

If you read the verses, you will see that the blind man called Jesus “Son of David” in recognition of His Messianic position. I point this out to you because it would be entirely too easy to read the story of the life of Christ, and when the people reject Him, to simply conclude that nobody recognized who He was. Yet in Matthew chapter nine, verse 27, a blind man recognized Him.

People with sight had no excuse.

Jesus healed the blind man “according to your faith”. We might read this and just conclude that the man believed, but we should notice that there is more than just believing, for this man acted upon his belief, and placed himself in Jesus’ hands, with the result that his sight, already significantly more keen than most, was restored. Today, many “believe” but few are willing to put themselves in His hands, and their sight is not restored.

After this, Jesus came upon a man who was demon possessed and mute. Jesus drove out the demon and the man’s speech was restored; the witnesses were amazed. Naturally, both men told the world what had taken place, even though the once blind man had been told to keep his mouth shut, and the news of the Kingdom spread like wildfire throughout the land. Sadly, however, the story ends on a sour note, for when they heard the news, some Pharisees, always the Pharisees, weren’t pleased at what Jesus was doing, saying that He was able to drive out demons by the power of the “prince of demons”.

So begins the plots to kill Jesus that would ultimately backfire on the “prince of demons” and his little friends.

I can’t help thinking about people I know today, people who are excited about spreading the news of the Kingdom in our time, and people who see healing all around them. Yet as I reflect on such people, I also can’t help thinking about the modern day Pharisees that I know. To be honest, I know many more of these “Pharisees” than the others, and I never cease to be amazed at the creative ways in which they criticize those who are enthusiastic about the Kingdom in our time, for it would seem that tradition and kingdom don’t really mix all that well, even now.

God Knows

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I don’t know how many people there are in the world these days, but the number is in the billions.  They all have their stories, their hopes, dreams, fears and joys; who can know them all?

God does!

It is hard to get one’s mind around, but it’s true; God knows everything about each one of us.  He knows your thoughts, your habits, your little secrets, your hopes and your motives.  He hears your prayers and your cries and your joy; you are never alone.

So many people feel all alone, so many people feel like nobody cares… it is really a sad state because it is not necessary.  God cares about, knows, loves… YOU!

He desires to have a relationship with all of us.  What keeps that from happening?  We do. We need to seek Him out, to let Him in and to give ourselves over to His love; we need to run back to His loving arms. There is hope, there is safety, there is love…

O Lord, you have searched me
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you know it completely, O Lord.

Psalm 139:1-4

Well…?

Now that most of the overnight guests are headed home and I have a few minutes, I guess I need to file my final report on our Thanksgiving adventure; so here it is…12249896_10208092246332267_7530185532961238303_n

The dinner was a success, but then we knew it would be. Actually, it was a cakewalk, as expected. Come on cooks of America; be honest… as the big family dinners go, Thanksgiving is the easiest and cheapest by far. It’s not easy to mess it up, and come on, let’s be honest; the only way you can make a turkey dry is by overcooking it.

Everything was on the table and ready to eat at 4 pm, which was exactly when I planned it, and it was gone about 15 minutes later. Is it worth it to fuss for several days and then have it all gone in 15 minutes?

Well, you can be the judge.

Did anyone care about tradition when the dinner they had been smelling for several hours was ready to eat?

No, of course not, they were hungry.12294657_850390251726271_6475870446804277039_n

Will anybody remember the dinner? No. (As long as there is turkey around somewhere and they got enough to eat.)

Thus, in the final analysis, is Thanksgiving about traditions and form and perfection of execution?

No, not in the slightest; it is about people, love, community and being thankful.

So, why do we knock ourselves out in getting it ready?

People, love, community and being thankful.

Is it a big job? Yes, it is, but it isn’t a burden if you remember why you are doing it. Rather, it is a joy. Yet, with that said, you can make it into a burden if you want to; all you need to do to make it a burden, is to be all about form, ceremony, tradition and “doing it right”. You see, when you come to my house, I’m going to “do it different” and you are going to have fun instead of form.12301552_10208092245612249_4456582888556960494_n

Incidentally, I believe in “doing” church the same way.

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The Day is Here…

…and with all that has gone on the last few days, the big dinner will be like a Sunday stroll in the park; easy money!

Of course the arrival of Chef Brian assures that; he has half and I have half, and I will say this is a luxury I haven’t had before.

I’ve also thought a bit more about what I posted yesterday; yep, I think there is a metaphor in all of this… and a lesson to be learned… but alas, I must be getting off to the real business of cooking a 20 pound beast right about now. I’ll be starting the fun by running outside and getting a bunch of fresh sage from the back yard, now that enough snow has melted to get at it. I was amazed several years ago to discover that fresh sage is at its tastiest after it has been buried in snow… as long as the temperature hasn’t dropped below 20 degrees, so this should be perfect. If you’re wondering why 20 degrees… that is about the point where the leaves die, at least in my yard. It hasn’t gotten quite that cold yet, and yesterday the bush looked very healthy, so that snow is working out to be a good thing after all. Yet, another storm is at hand, so I’m getting out there before it starts… see you later today, and good luck to all of you cooks out there!

Reflections from Tuesday

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Tuesday in Thanksgiving week is all about house cleaning; I’m sorry, but I don’t have any tales to tell about that, nothing to chuckle about, nothing to report other than mission accomplished. I can assure you that there is nothing humorous about yours truly stuck with the job of cleaning a 4,000 square foot house… at least not from the perspective of this particular author. Now, from my wife’s point of view, it might be a different story, but she has her own blog for that!

It did give me time to think, because I guarantee you that if I think too much about how much I hate house cleaning, the job would never get done. Two things keep coming to my mind about Thanksgiving in the year 2015: First, is the way the markets look now versus the way they looked years ago, and the second is the role that tradition plays in all of this Thanksgiving business.

You see, when I was a boy and my Mom dragged me to the grocery store before Thanksgiving, the store was decorated lavishly for the holiday. No, not for Christmas; for Thanksgiving. There were pilgrims, Indians, turkeys, pumpkins, Indian corn, “Happy Thanksgiving” signs, and big displays of stuffing mixes, canned pumpkin for pies, bags of flour for pie crust… Thanksgiving was big deal in those days.  Now? To look at the stores, you’d think this was the end of December as you listen to Paul McCartney singing about “simply having a wonderful Christmas time…”

The other thing of course is the role tradition plays in Thanksgiving for so many. Everything must be done a certain way, with certain dishes and certain arrangements, as though we were re-enacting that first Thanksgiving from 1621. Yep, I’ll bet it was the Indians who contributed the canned cranberry jelly stuff, or maybe the green bean casserole.

I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with holiday traditions, nor am I suggesting there is anything wrong with family traditions; no, they are all good. What I beginning to think about is whether or not the traditions themselves might have become the “end” instead of the “means to the end.” Back when I did my “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner that I posted about the other day, I didn’t mention how many recipes I had to write out that day for people who said the food was amazing… “but NOT for Thanksgiving”.  And what had I really done? I made the same dishes they had always eaten for Thanksgiving, only I made them from scratch, instead of from a box or a can. (Like any self-respecting food snob would do 🙂 )

As I scrubbed the last commode, the thought hit me; more of a question really… could it be that the decline of Thanksgiving in our culture tell us something about the decline of the church in our culture? Hmm… is there a metaphor in all of this?

I’ve got to get back to work now, but I’ll be pondering, and I’ll check back later this morning and see if you’ve had any thoughts. If you aren’t American (or Canadian) please don’t be put off by all of this. I know you may not have “Thanksgiving” but our churches face many of the same challenges, and I’d bet there is something comparable where you are; please feel free to share your thoughts as well.