We all know the story of how Peter walked on water with Jesus (Matt 14:22-31). This particular story has been on my mind the last couple of days. I thought about Peter and how much faith it took for him to step out of that boat onto those surging waves. I thought about what made him doubt. What made him take his eyes off of Jesus, and focus back on the waves around him? What made him doubt? Was it the waves lapping up on his legs? The spray of the sea on the wind? What? Then my mind leapt (as it is wont to do on occasion) to the men standing on the deck of that ship he left behind. What were they thinking? Did one of them say “He looked away! Look! Peter looked away from Jesus, now he is sinking!” As I thought about those men I placed myself there on that deck. I could see Peter step out, and I watched him cross the boisterous sea. I knew the exact moment when he failed. I saw the moment he took his eyes off of Christ and I knew his doubts as he started to sink. You see; it’s really easy to see the whole picture when you are not there among the waves. It’s easy to watch, when you’re not in the midst of the action, and to say “There! That is where he made his mistake!” We must refrain from doing that, though. We mustn’t persecute someone for their mistakes while we sit safely to the side without anything on the line. It was when I thought back through the story and realized I had pointed the accusing finger (“There! That is where he made his mistake!”), that I had to stop and tell myself to shut up. Who was I to criticize? After all at least Peter got out of the boat.
I am human. That means that I make mistakes. It also means I have a heck of a time admitting that I made a mistake. Why is that? Why do we insist that we are right all the time? Why do we blind ourselves to the fact even when it is plain as day? The funny thing is; stopping, admitting we’re wrong, and backing up to try something else would get everything straightened out a whole lot quicker. Instead we hem, haw, and offer excuses, while we stubbornly continue doing the wrong thing expecting things to magically get better. We keep going, hoping we can somehow work our way back to the right path without anyone noticing we took the wrong road. It doesn’t matter that we have to work three times as hard to get there. It doesn’t matter that we suffer all kinds of woes by continuing. Maybe it is all part of the curse we (as humans) have brought on ourselves by disobeying God. We can go our own way, and God will let us. He will also allow us to reap the benefits of the choices that we make.
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Gal 6:7 (KJV)
I have a not-so-well-kept secret. At times my mood tends to turn dark and everything I look at is pointless. For a while I thought I might be bipolar, but eventually I came to realize that I was just one of many people that feel that way I think they call themselves writers). I’m never really sure what triggers it. Everything is going along fine, and suddenly the good ship lollipop begins to sink into the mire and the rainclouds of doom and gloom move in. Over the years I have learned to recognize when I am descending into the ‘valley’ between the waves. If I actively look at all the positive things going on , I may not be able to stop it, but I can at least lessen the grip of despair that use to envelope me. I don’t always succeed, and I would like to give each one of my family a medal for putting up with me during those times. Times when they stand in front of the waves of despair bracing themselves behind shields of positive comments, and generous actions forcing a way through those storms to keep me from drowning. They really have no idea how much they bolster my confidence, how much they help me through the darkness. They are my best defense against the depressions of life. They are invaluable to me. If you know somebody that suffers these bouts, maybe you can remember this post and it will help you understand. Maybe you can be their invaluable friend or family member. Maybe you can be their best defense
I picked up one of the coffee cups my kids had supposedly washed the other day, and it looked clean on the outside. Upon further inspection I found a slight rim of discoloration in the bottom of the cup. After pointing it out to them I went on about my day, but the thought stayed with me. You see, it was the illusion of clean that fooled me into picking it up to begin with. Had I not inspected it further, it is possible that I would have had to suffer through a bout of food poisoning (extreme worst case maybe). Jesus warned the Pharisees about the illusion of clean in Matthew 23:25-28. It reads;
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Matt 23:25-28 (KJV)
Scrolling through the social networking on the internet, we are constantly bombarded with people and things that have that illusion of clean. People that appear innocent as angels, and righteous as Jesus himself according to their posts and their profiles, but if you know them personally, you can see the real person behind the mask. So if you are one of these people, keep this in mind; you may be able to fool all these people into thinking you are that mask of good cleanliness, but YOU have to look at yourself in the mirror. You may be able to fool everybody around you, for a little while, but the truth has a way of coming out. And in the end, the only thing that will really matter is between you and the one you can’t hide anything from. Think that over for a bit and check the inside of your own cup. Does it need another wash?
I pulled into the parking lot at work, counting myself lucky as I did because I spotted an empty parking spot close to the building. I usually back into my parking spots so that, when time comes to leave, I don’t have to take time turning around. Anyway, I backed in like normal, using my mirrors to gage how far I was from the vehicle in the spot directly across from it. I also kept as close to perpendicular as I could with the car parked on my left. I know from experience driving my car how close I can get using my mirrors. It was a breeze. I pulled in beautifully and got out to double check my parking job, all the while patting myself on the back for a job well done. That is until I realized I had made a common mistake. I assumed the person who had parked behind me knew how to park. I’m not sure what was going through this persons mind when they stopped their vehicle, but they were about five feet away from the line. Now, because I was judging where to stop by the car parked there, I was three feet across the line into their parking spot. I probably should have noticed I was off by the car parked next to me, but it was a compact and even though it looked about right, it took up less space. Let me note here that I work an odd shift, and I knew that this person was more than likely going to leave before I got off work. That would leave me parked three feet into an empty parking spot, just waiting for someone to try to park there, and end up bumping me because they were trying to squeeze in. Not wanting that to happen, I got back in and pulled up into my own spot. The more I thought about it the more I realized that what I did in that situation is what a lot of us do in everyday life. We usually judge our own accomplishments by what other people have done, when really there is no comparison. What we have done is according to our own gifts and abilities. We should never judge our own worth by what other people have done. It will skew your perceptions and you will overshoot, or stop short of your own goals. Judge you by you. You may not hit the mark every time, but I’ll guarantee you will be a whole lot more accurate that way.
When I was growing up I checked a book out of the public library called ‘The Wizard of Earth-Sea’ (they eventually made a movie of it. I wasn’t impressed). I always loved to read, and had read enough that almost all of the books that the library had that I liked to read, I had already read. I usually chose them at random. A lot of times it didn’t even matter what genre. I read everything from westerns to sci-fi. When I would pick out a book, I would choose by how cool the artwork was on the front, barring that an interesting synopsis on the back, but ‘The Wizard of Earth-Sea” had neither. It was a plain hardback book, with a hideous green cover, and the title in small flowing, black script on the front. The only reason I picked it up was because it was something I hadn’t read that was in one of my favorite genres. I read that book through in one night. It was a short, but well written book, and I loved it. The writer had a way with words that swept you along through his story, transporting you in all but body to his world where heroes and dragons faced off. I would have really missed out on an awesome story had I judged that particular book by its cover. People are like those books. You never can tell what is hiding behind those covers, and if you refuse to read the first chapter because you don’t like the way the dustcover looks, you could be missing out on the greatest adventure of a lifetime. I know we have all heard this particular piece of advice before, but I felt like we could all use a little reminder with all the hate-speak and political correctness going on today. So before dismissing that person standing next to you in line, read the first chapter. You might be glad you did.
I read a mime (I think that is what they are calling them now) the other day that said; A man asked a Christian what he had gained by praying to God. The man replied ‘nothing, but let me tell you what I’ve lost; anger, ego, greed, depression and fear of death.’ I like the thought behind it to an extent. It didn’t really completely convey what I thought it should. I think it should have read more like; The man replied ‘that is yet to be seen, but I know what I’ve lost…’ I’ve heard people say that a Christian is crazy because he/she believes life starts after death. Every time I see that I try to correct it. We do not believe life starts after death, only that it gets better. Can I tell you what I’ve gained? Eternal life I know, but what shape will that life take? I can only imagine, but I do know all happiness comes from him. If you don’t have Him, then what you have is a pale imitation of happiness.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Heb 1:9 (KJV)
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13 (KJV)
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalms 16:11 (KJV)
The cartoon character steps forward on to the end of the rake. His weight on the head of the rake causes the handle to catapult upward, smacking the character in the face. This in turn causes him to stumble backward onto the head of a hoe, resulting in a hoe-handle to the back of the head. Said character stumbles forward into the rake again. And so on and so on. We’ve all seen it. It’s a common gag used in slapstick comedy, and it’s funny. Except maybe for the character caught in the middle of it. Sometimes I feel like I am that character, bouncing from one catastrophe to the next. Or even worse; because I am focused on the last catastrophe, I cause the next one. Trust me, it’s not quite as funny after two or three whacks with that hoe handle. At those times, the only thing I’ve found that works is not to dwell on them. I just switch over to damage control and deal with what’s directly in front of me, and let God take care of the rest. I’ve found that if I do that, I have a lot better chance of spotting that rake lying hidden in the leaves.
I had a discussion with my eldest son the other day. Someone had asked me if I wanted to submit a story to one of their anthologies. Usually I am pretty open to submitting my work to all different kinds of publishers, but this particular genre was horror. “It is hard to convey a good message of faith in a horror story,” my son said. I have to disagree. People are placed in terrible situations every day, and usually it is these exact circumstances that make their moral fortitude shine through. It is really easy to put good people in bad situations in stories because the good guy is always trying to help in those situations. So yes, I think you can really convey good morals through the horror genre. That being said, I don’t think there are a lot of writers trying to. Most of them take you to a place you don’t want to be, make you consider things you probably rarely think about, and then LEAVE you there. I guess that’s why I have a little trepidation over writing in that particular genre. I don’t like leaving my readers like that. I want my readers to come away from my stories thinking, but I want them be thinking about how good a certain character acted or reacted. I grew up wanting to be those heroes in the stories, and that’s what I want my readers to want. I haven’t decided on whether or not I am going to submit yet. Only because I am not sure if I can pull off a horror story that leaves my reader in a place I don’t mind leaving them, but I will be sure and let you all know if I do. Then you can be the judge.
I was looking for inspiration for this week’s blog post, and so I was looking at some of my older entries when I came across one that seemed to fit the situations I have been dealing with lately. So I thought it would be appropriate for me to Re-Share it with you. So we go retro this week with an older post, but the wisdom still holds true.
O’ Malley The Alley Cat
My wife has a Tom-cat named O’Malley (yes, from Aristocats). This cat was gifted to us by persons unknown. I believe he must’ve been abused by a former owner, because the cat has always been very skittish around me, and I have never given it a reason to be. He had been getting better about not jumping away every time I moved and he would even come if I called him. Any way, recently he got into a…territorial dispute with another cat. The argument was rather heated, and I don’t know about the other cat, but O’Malley looked like he had gone ten rounds with a cougar. His right eye swelled almost shut, and looked to be getting infected, so my wife took him to the vet. Antibiotics were prescribed O’Malley was put into the hospital wing of our bathroom until his injuries have time to heal. Since his internment, he has become a lot more friendlier towards me. He hasn’t jumped a single time as I have visited him, and has even asked me to pet him on multiple occasions. My point in telling you this story is simply this: Sometimes God lets us go through battles and storms in this life in order to let us know who we can trust and who we need to move closer to. You never know who your friends truly are until the battle starts and there is more on the line than just words.