Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Learning The Way of Love

Perched on my daughter’s finger, that’s Jesse. Sarah and I saw past our parental reservations (upkeep, cost, what-if-it-dies, etc.) and gave it to her for Christmas. Our daughter had no idea she was receiving a year-long desire, so she went bananas when she realized it was to be.

Tragically, Jesse died three weeks later. Ellen’s hopes and affections were brutally broken, but that’s nowhere near the end of the story.

The real story is that my daughter loved, and she was beautiful.

Long before she met Jesse, she was preparing to love. She read books about parakeets, poured over articles she found on the web, trial-ballooned owning a parakeet while at dinner (“They’re really good pets and don’t need much care, you know.”) watched and got acquainted with one at a friend’s house, and more. So, when we brought it to her at Christmas, her affection found a place to go.

And Ellen was stunning. She read aloud to Jesse for hours and hours, with great inflection and feeling. She made sure we all held him at various times during the day in order to ensure we all got along together. She built a tree perch for him, patiently weaned him off an inferior food and onto a superior one, provided a perfect sleeping environment, and spoke calmly and soothingly to him throughout the day. She even made a web page about him. But all the while she was about Jesse, the story was really about Ellen and what love did for her. Really, my daughter lived in a way she had not before, and she was a beauty to behold.

And then came Jesse’s end.

Aside from the immediate trauma, my daughter’s flowering love suddenly had nowhere to go. We cried and grieved together, and had a funeral for Jesse a few days later. And we thanked God for the best part about Jesse—Ellen loved.

To love was worth it.

I have seen boys and men, girls and women, mourn the loss of a pet, including guppies and goldfish, cats and dogs, horses and ducks, birds and ferrets, rabbits and rats. I knew some of those pets, and sometimes I wondered how the owner could have loved it in the first place. In my view, it was a nasty demand on their life.

Yet in each case the beauty wasn’t in the pet, but in the person loving. And what Paul wrote is proven true again—it’s great to love. Without it we don’t live; we have nothing. (1 Cor 13:2,3; 14:1)

Learning the way of love is tough—Ellen would tell you. Love won’t take you anywhere and there is no place for it to arrive and it won’t make a house payment. But it sure lets a person be beautiful.

And that’s worth it.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:13 NIV)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beware Delusion

I had no idea.

Sarah and I are two of the twenty three people on the planet who have never seen the television show, “American Idol.” And since neither of my daughters have either, we’ve got about a fifth of the world’s Idol-starved population in our home. Tragic.

Well, we watched about fifteen minutes of this season’s second show last night, and, boy, did we see what we’ve been missing. 17,000 Seattle-ites showed up to compete for this year’s top spot, and we saw four of them, who, it was suggested, represent the talent pool in Seattle. Whether or not that’s true (and, dear God, I hope it’s not), there was something worse represented—people think too highly of themselves.

Before singing, each Idol wannabe described to a co-host how good he or she was and that the world was just waiting to see them before bowing in admiration. Once they got going we could not believe the contestants actually thought they had singing ability and enough pizzazz to wow the judges and secure a spot. They were each stunningly bad.

Even after the judges described what they thought of their performance in varying degrees of candor (Simon was rude, Paula was nice), the contestants paid little attention to their assessment. Worse, they argued with the judges, begging them for another chance.

One performer, self-dubbed “The Hotness,” told the panel they had no musical taste at all after giving her a much-needed thumbs down. There wasn’t one performer who quit after an initial rejection, but each of them went on to another song over the protests of the panelists. It was as if the contestants were saying to the well-qualified judges, “You simply don’t know how good I am—you’re slow, so I’ll give you another chance.” Another chance?! What were those people doing there in the first place?!

And we thought, “How can they not know how bad they are? Hasn’t someone told them before now? Who told them they were good at singing and performing?” I came away thinking, “Sheesh. Is this the result of empty or misguided self-esteem pumping our society has been doing over the past twenty years? Hasn’t anyone been fairly guiding these people? What about honesty?”

37 million people will watch each weekly installment of the show, and I wonder how it will affect us. My concern is that we’ll just laugh at the loons and cheer the winners, without giving much thought as to what we’re really seeing. What’s that? It’s that we’re easily deluded. And from delusion come false expectations, inaccurate goals and pursuits, and lives wasted along a delusional path. Only Satan, the deceiver, is happy with that.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom 12:3)

This doesn’t mean we’re to think lowly of ourselves, but accurately. Christians are not of this world, are not measured by the standards of this world (good singer = good person), and will not live well by conforming to it. That’s delusional.

I have to remember who I have become in Christ by being renewed in my mind about it. Only then will I be able to pick-off the conforming pressures of this world, which attempt to make the outside appearance more authentic and important than the inside reality. That’s delusional, and that’s a breeding ground for idolatry.

This morning I desperately want to live as I am. I want transformation, I want what’s inside and invisible to come to the outside. That’s real, and I can live from there.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Want to have Ralph's Blog sent to you every time we update it? Think having to check everyday is a hassle?

We can send it to you!

Simply click on the "Subscribe in a reader" link found in the right column, and we'll help you get set up.

Not sure if RSS is for you? Have other questions? Email us...

Monday, January 08, 2007

On Thin Ice

A friend of mine is on thin ice. Perhaps she’s already wet, I don’t know.

Our friendship began with a bang in that she was like a sister I never had. Through laughter, theological discussion, and background similarities we found we had a lot in common. She has a bang-up husband and family, too, making the whole deal sweet.

We’ve eaten together, prayed and watched movies together, put on seminars together, and done all kinds of great friendship things. We love them, they love us.

All at once, she jumped ship and left her husband and family, saying she had been living a lie all along and needed to be who she really was, live life on her own terms. Everyone was devastated and left grasping air.

Months have gone by and it hasn’t gotten any better. But here’s what I’ve done—I’ve emailed her maybe a dozen times, called her about the same, spoken with her perhaps three or four times (she doesn’t answer my calls anymore), and prayed for her so many times. You can imagine that she doesn’t actually want to talk with me, since my counsel is contrary to the way she’s headed. And I’ve talked and grieved and loved with everyone in her family, drawing close in the ugly fight. And everybody’s love is taking a beating.

But I don’t just tell her to quit what she’s doing, I remind her who she is from the most-true perspective; that she’s a daughter of God, and, having been chosen before the creation of the world, she’s been made a blameless and holy vessel of God. My hope is that by telling her who she is and by telling her the great news of her hope in Christ, she will come to her senses and embrace anew the Lord Jesus.

So far, nothing seems to have happened toward that end. In fact, she seems worse. And the news I get about her is saddening. Our friendship is lost, at least for now, but it feels worse, like my friend is rejecting a readily had cure, preferring to die instead.

What rescues me (and, I hope, her) is the knowledge of how unrelenting her Father is, how sure His plan is, and how much He loves her. This isn’t the first time one of His own has been caught in a terrible situation—ask King David, and just about anyone else chosen by God. Although she is resisting Him now, He will not be denied.

If even she falls through the ice, He will be there with her.

My hope is with Him.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Wrestful Night

During a sleepless hour last night it dawned on me that I was working really hard at getting life right – praying enough, walking in the Spirit enough, supporting people enough, making enough money--you know, enough. After all, once you know what to do (and that should certainly be me), shouldn’t you simply do it? Isn’t how you do the ultimate estimate?

No, it isn’t. Oops. How Jesus did when He lived as a man is the ultimate measure of me.

I forget that the ongoing measurement of my life, the way I am seen, the way I am estimated and the way I am judged is not singularly dependent upon me—Jesus became all of that for me. Everyday and all day I am living with His righteousness, His holiness, and His redemption. All that He accomplished has been given to me as my own.

Sheesh--that’s overwhelming. Shouldn’t it be?

I don’t regularly count on Jesus’ righteousness and holiness to do anything for me, other than secure my standing and destination. How dumb! When I remember what He did and gave me, my faith rises and my strength grows. All that ugly judgment I sometimes endure from the evil one and from my flesh vanishes. I can live again. And I’m reminded that faith isn’t just a bunch of important stuff I believe (make sure my file is up-to-date and complete), but a way by which life and strength and the Spirit work in me, a son of God.

That’s my day and that’s my night. Jesus for me and Jesus in me – my hope of great things (Col 1:27).