Tuesday, April 28, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

An unlikely star has risen out of a village in Scotland. Her name is Susan Boyle, and she is a forty-seven year old, unemployed woman who lived with and cared for her ailing mother until the woman’s death, a couple of years ago. She’s never been married. Never been kissed.

She recently walked onto a stage in Glasgow as a contestant in “Britain’s Got Talent.” The winner of the show, which is similar to our own “American Idol,” will perform for the queen.

The packed audience mocked Susan, laughing and pointing at her unruly hair and her less-than-svelte appearance. Even the judges rolled their eyes when she revealed her age. When asked who she would like to be as famous as, she replied, “Elaine Paige,” a British actress and performer. The audience roared with laughter.

Ready for Flight

When asked why she hasn’t become famous before now, she smiled and said, “I’ve never been given the chance before. But here’s hoping that’ll change.”

The music began, and the three judges tried to look sympathetic. But their cynicism clearly reflected the mood of the entire audience. They were expecting to sit through several minutes of torturous, off-key singing. Everyone was.

And then, Susan opened her mouth to reveal the voice of a trained professional. Her performance was stellar. Within seconds, she had turned the audience in her favor. The judges, too. By mid-song, everyone was on their feet, whooping and hollering and cheering. Honestly, I don’t know how she stayed on key – she must have had trouble hearing the music with all the cheers. But with a smile on her face, with every note exactly on pitch, she finished the song and brought the house down.

Then, the unassuming little woman brought more laughter as she blew a kiss and began to exit the stage – even before the judges had their say. Only this time, the laughter wasn’t mocking. It was delighted laughter at a beloved, adorable woman who had, in one fell swoop, captured the hearts of millions. She was shooed back onstage to receive the best reviews in the history of the show, and was given the thumbs up from all three judges to proceed to the next round of the competition.

Along with the delight of the judges and the audience, however, was a bit of shame. They – we – had judged her too quickly. We had mocked her.

She showed us, didn’t she?

She silenced our mocking, jeering sneers with her pure, sweet voice. And like one of the judges said, “No one is laughing now.”

Sometimes, we’re a little too quick to judge, aren’t we?

Susan’s story reminds me of another story I’ve heard. It’s the story of One who has been mocked. His words have been scorned. His ways have been called “outdated.”

He doesn’t look like the world wants Him to look. He doesn’t try to be fashionable, or cover up who He really is. He doesn’t change His appearance or His standards to please the crowd. He’s very up-front about His identity. What you see is what you get.

Yet, we often don’t give Him the credit He deserves. We laugh and accuse Him of being weak, when He is all-powerful. We accuse Him of being a relic, when He is timeless. We assume He is cruel and judgemental, when He is actually loving, compassionate and merciful.

We have been known to laugh at Him and thumb our noses at His wisdom.

But rest assured, my friends. God will not be mocked.

One day, He will show us.

One day, the King of Kings will make His presence known to all the world, and we will be stunned. Many of us, I’m afraid, will be shamed.

On that day, our eyes will be opened, and we will see once and for all just how awesome, how brilliant, how incredibly amazing God is.

Only then, instead of bringing us to our feet, He will bring us all to our knees as every tongue confesses that He is Lord.

Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love Letters

My family is into racing. No, not the Nascar kind of racing. Actual running. Every single day.

Well, except for Sundays.

Aren't you impressed? I'll bet you had no idea we were such a fit family.

We would probably be more fit if the race were a little longer. But our racetrack is only the distance between our front door and our mailbox.

Every day, when the mail truck comes, every person in my household - who happens to be present - races to the mailbox to retrieve the mail. Sometimes, out of gracious generosity, I let the kids win. But most days, I don't have to let them. They just beat me.

That is why I have, on occasion, resorted to cheating. If I spy the mail truck coming up the road, I have been known to send the kids to their rooms with some command. "Clean your room!" "Read a book!"

The truth is, I just want to get the mail.

I have no idea why we have such a fascination with those little envelopes that land in our mailbox. Ninety percent of the time, it is just bills or advertisements. Every once in a while, we'll get a catalogue, which is worth about ten minutes of entertainment. Sometimes, there will be a check, which always brings a smile.

But once in a blue moon, there will be a treasure of great price. A pearl.

An actual, honest-to-goodness letter.

On those days, there is dancing and great rejoicing in the Brumbaugh household. "Who is it for?" We all ask. "Is it for me?"

Usually, it's a card from Nana, addressed to one of the kids. Sometimes, it's a thank-you note or a family newsletter from some distant relative. And rarely - Oh Happy Day! - rarely it is a personal letter from a friend.

It's funny, really. I don't know why we get so excited about the mail. After all, it comes six days a week. And usually it's nothing to get excited about.

Yet, we all hope and pray for that moment when there will be an actual card or letter with our name on it. That small rectangular envelope is a reminder that, to someone, somewhere, we matter. We are important. Someone sees us, knows us, and cares enough to spend a stamp on us.

We all want to be noticed, don't we? We all want to be important to someone. And a simple letter in the mailbox assures us that no, we are not invisible. Someone knows we exist. Someone cares.

But whether or not we ever get an actual letter in our mailbox, there is One who notices us. We are important to Him. He sees us, and He cares.

Though He has been known, on occasion, to use the U.S. Postal System, He usually sends His love notes in the forms of blooming flowers and singing birds and unexpected smiles from our friends and loved ones. He gives us reminders, every single day, of how much He loves us.

And we don't have to scramble or race for His attention, either. He sends individual, personalized messages to each and every one of us. Messages of love and comfort and encouragement, each one tailor-made and specially delivered just for you. Just for me.

So from now on, I think I'll make it a point to watch as diligently for the delivery of His blessings as I do for the mail truck. And I'll even encourage the kids to watch with me.

Gen. 16:13 “You are the God who sees me.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pick Me!

Do you remember that feeling, in third grade, when the teacher lined everyone up against the wall, appointed two team captains, and told them to choose teams? Man, I hated those times. My palms would get all sweaty, and I could barely breathe. Pick me, pick me, please pick me. If the teams were athletic, I was often the last picked. But I just loved it when they were choosing for the spelling bee, because then, I was the first choice!

It feels good to be chosen. It doesn’t matter if it is for a sports team, a spelling bee, or a job, we all want to be picked. We all want to feel wanted, needed, loved. And it doesn’t matter how old we get, or how successful we are, deep down, we all still get that sweaty-palm feeling any time we are thrust into a new situation. We all fear rejection. We all want to be chosen.

Today is Good Friday. Now, I know some of you who are reading this may not give any thought to this day, other than the fact that many of you get a day off. But whether you give any thought to the reason for this day or not, the fact remains. This day, nearly 2,000 years ago, is the day that changed the world.

This is the day that God chose us.

Now, I’m not a theologian. I don’t hold a fancy degree in biblical studies, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. But honestly, folks. The idea that God chose me just blows my mind.

Why would He do that?

I wouldn’t have done that. If I were God, and the very same people who had waved palm branches and shouted my praises just a few days earlier had suddenly turned on me, if they were spitting on me when I had done nothing wrong, if they were shouting my curses and calling for my death, even though they knew I was innocent – I would have zapped them all. Seriously, I would have. I guess that’s why I’m not God.

Today, we remember that He chose us. Instead of condemning us, He loved us. Instead of leaving us to our own godless ways, He chose to show us a better way.

He let us kill Him.

And then, to show that His love and His power were stronger than death, He rose again.

And it gets even better.

Now, the God of the Universe has put Himself on the wall, so to speak, and He wants us to choose Him. He sits on His throne in heaven, and says, pick Me, pick Me, please pick Me . . .

If He had wanted to, God could have created a bunch of robots who have no choice but to love Him. But He didn’t. He chose us, and now He stretches out His arm in a divine invitation to choose Him back. And when we do, when we accept His love, all of heaven rejoices! He lifts us up, cleans us off, and adopts us right into His family! Then, He begins His work in us, making us more like Him, creating in us a family resemblance so that all the world can see - we have been chosen.

Ephesians 1:4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April Fools!

I (drum roll please . . .) am the reigning April Fool’s Champion! Perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so proud of this accomplishment, but I am. It is a title I wear proudly, along with my crown, scepter and cape. I’ve even been known to hum, “We are the Champions” every year on April 1. For I, my friends, am the champion, and everyone in my family knows it.

I originally won the title several years ago. We were trying to sell our house, and you all know what that’s like. The idea of keeping one’s home spotless, twenty-four hours a day, just in case a potential buyer drops by is a noble one. The execution of that idea is a different story.

On that particular April 1, our house was a mess. Nothing unusual about that. But as I walked around the house, knowing that I was the one who was going to have to clean the mess, I had a momentary stroke of genius! I sneaked into the bedroom and made a stealth phone call to my mom.

“Mom!” I whispered.

“Renae, is that you?”

“Yes. Hang up and call me back!”

“Renae, are you okay?”

“Yes. Just call me back, please.”

After a moment, Mom laughed, and honored my request. There’s nothing more valuable than a good partner in crime. As far as crimes go. And April Fools’ pranks.

The phone rang. This time, I answered it in the living room, in front of everyone. “Very interested, you say? And you will be here in . . . 20 minutes? Oh, yes. Come on. We’ll be ready for you!”

I hung up the phone and feigned a look of terror. (I knew that semester of Speech and Drama would come in handy for something.) “The realtor will be here in 20 minutes. Move!”

(I was especially brilliant with the “Move!” It’s those extra touches that make an April Fools’ prank especially believable. Just in case you’re taking notes.)

Well, the speed with which my little family put away, threw away, and hid the mess in that house was unmatched. We looked like a fast-forward scene in a movie. Only it was real time.

After 23 minutes, the house was spit-polished and shiny. “We’d better get out of here. They were supposed to be here already,” Mark said.

Let me tell you, friends, I relished that moment. A slow, cat-ate-the-canary smile spread across my face, and I said softly, “April Fools!”

Since that day, each member of my family has tried to one-up me. Each year, on April 1, I am the recipient of every prank attempt in the book. But I am unmatched. I am, and always will be, the champion.

Oh, I’ve had my coffee creamer replaced with salt. I’ve had my car moved, so I’d think it had been stolen. There have been fake illnesses and fake insects and all sorts of other amateurish attempts. But no one has even come close to matching my skill.

It’s fun to pull pranks on April Fool’s Day, as long as no one gets hurt. But being a fool in real life isn’t fun at all. I’m so glad that God makes foolish people wise. He’s given us everything we need, right there in His Word, to make good choices and live prosperous, successful lives. And when we follow Him, we will all be champions!

No fooling.

Psalm 19:7 “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”