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Essential

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Psalm 122:1

Now that we are, for better or worse, temporarily but intentionally shuttering certain businesses, activities, and institutions, and I have my fingers crossed that the civil liberties taken from the American citizenry will be handed back to us as freely and quickly as they were taken, we find ourselves categorizing certain kinds of activity as “essential” and others as “non-essential.”

The concept of essential is simple enough: In this particular pandemic, the value of certain activities continuing outweighs the progress made against the coronavirus if they were stopped. The societal value of getting your hair cut and colored is less than the value of spreading COVID-19 to everyone at the salon, so let’s just all suck it up and deal with being and looking at uglier people for a while. In our purest moments, we admit that good looks are a luxury, not a necessity. On the other hand, if we, in the name of public health, quarantine the guys who feed the gerbils running the wheels at the electric company, we’ll quickly discover the tragedy of thousands dead from COVID-19 is a picnic compared to the catastrophe of world in blackout. You think life is hard now.

A hierarchy of essential is emerging. Doctors – essential. Theaters – not essential. Grocery delivery trucks – essential. Elective surgery – not essential. Dismembering the inconvenient unborn – essential. Liquor stores – essential. Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast, served with a smile every Wednesday morning by Lois, my favorite waitress, who hasn’t bothered to take my order for a year because she already knows what I want – not essential. Lois and I, not to mention the café owner, might disagree.

Churches are now wrestling to find their place in this hierarchy – how essential are they? This is the question I want to explore for a little bit.

Continue reading “Essential”

Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ

But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:15

We’re living through a bit of a national nightmare right now. Maybe I should call it a bad dream, leaving room for it to get worse and then call it a nightmare. And it’s rather unsurprising that in this particular rough patch, when the pressures are mounting, some pretty deep fractures are beginning to appear in our society.

The sides being drawn up, and look roughly something like this:

Continue reading “Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ”

All that God Intended

The glory of young men is their strength
Prov. 20:29

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong
1 John 2:14b

Ηusbands, [show] honor to the woman as the weaker vessel
1 Pet. 3:7a

Having encouraged the young women to resist the temptation to be more than God intended, I now want to exhort the young men to resist the equally destructive temptation to be less than God intended.

I’m going to assume something, then proceed merrily along without apology:

God created men strong, and on purpose.

As per usual, the devil and a handful of minions are in the details, such as “strong compared to what?” “in what way?” and “for what purpose?” My plan is to tackle the “for what purpose?” and hopefully the other things will sort themselves out.

Continue reading “All that God Intended”

It’s Going to Be Okay!

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
– David, Psalm 27:1

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

– Jesus, Matthew 10:28

I want to offer up a few words of encouragement in light of the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The ranks of the fearful are swelling, and they want to know that it’s going to be okay. So let me begin by saying I’m not qualified to offer that kind of comfort just yet, because what do I know about tomorrow except that, in the words of our Lord, it has enough trouble of its own?

Continue reading “It’s Going to Be Okay!”

More than God Intended

On the spectrum of male personalities, I fancy myself resting far more comfortably and happily on the “medieval Norseman devouring mutton off a rusty knife” side of things than the “Ken in the passenger seat of a pink Corvette” end. So it’s a sign of God’s good sense of humor that of the six children he has chosen to give me, five of them are lovely, very girly girls, meaning I live, move, and have my being in a world of dolls, dresses, and emotional roller coasters.

I have probably witnessed (and unwittingly caused) more female tears in my life than the Average Joe (zing!), but I tell you this: I wouldn’t trade any one of my daughters for a pack of sons. And I’ve found that nothing stirs up this old crustaceous soul like the love and affection I feel for my girls, not even a pallet of beef jerky, and that’s saying something. I don’t feel the least guilt about entering the door of my little tumble-down farmhouse-castle, taking my seat at the head of our rough wooden table lined on both sides by lovely ladies, diving into a meal fit for a king, prepared by my faithful wife. These women are my greatest treasures, and I’d die for any of them in a heartbeat. Burying one of them was, as you know, the worst. Alice used to show me her broken toys and say “Daddy fix it?” and as often as possible, Daddy did. So it nearly killed me when she was broken, and Daddy couldn’t fix it.

Continue reading “More than God Intended”

Surprise!

The children of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.’
Then you will say in your heart:
‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone;
from where have these come?’”
Isaiah 49:20-21

We experience plenty of various and sundry heartaches in this world, and while I wouldn’t say hearts were made to be broken (because the opposite is almost certainly true), it’s hardly a risky proposition to say given enough time (usually not very much is needed), every heart gets broken. Continue reading “Surprise!”

Tell Me A Story

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.”

Deuteronomy 6:20-23

“When I was a little boy of about six I used to drive the horses and rake hay, and a couple of times we hit a ground hornet’s nest and those horses would take off like a shot straight ahead, running as fast as they could until they couldn’t run anymore, and there I was just holding on for dear life trying not to fall off.”

My wife’s Grampa is eighty-eight years old, going on sixty. Tomorrow if it doesn’t rain like it’s supposed to he plans to put up some sixteen foot 1×12” shiplap on the roof deck of a pole barn he’s building. “Gotta get all my scaffolding under a roof,” he says.
Continue reading “Tell Me A Story”

Mock On!

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

preface: I felt like writing something tonight, but wasn’t sure what to write. So I opened my embarrassingly large folder of unfinished articles and random thoughts and came across this one begun (and abandoned) on November 17, 2017, when Alice was in her fourth or fifth week of radiation. It seemed like a project worth finishing, so hopefully two years late is still better than never. Oh, and Dad, you worked really hard for a lot of years teaching me not to mock stuff, and I promise I’m getting better in general. Hope you’ll be okay with this one.
-jr

Because of our current family situation with Alice, I spend a lot of time these days pondering life, but to be honest, a lot more time pondering death. For the last 20 years I’ve never steered my mind away from thinking about death; it is coming to a boy named me at some point, and I’d just as soon make my peace with that, and understand the best way to manage whatever time I have until that day comes. And now, facing what feels like the inevitable departure of my dear daughter, death at least feels like it’s standing at our doorstep. I hope it turns around and goes away – but even if it does, it’ll be back. Maybe not for decades, but it’ll be back, and for all of us at some point. It is, after all, appointed unto us once to die. Continue reading “Mock On!”

Suck It Up

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you…
Ephesians 4:1 ESV

Once, while reading through the book of Ephesians, it struck me as a bit odd that here smack dab in the center of his letter, Paul mentions the fact that he’s in prison. I’d expect maybe that he’d do that at the beginning, perhaps at the end, but to stick it here seems out of place. Continue reading “Suck It Up”

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