Category: Learning Lessons

Livin’ La Vida Leviticus

Alright, let’s put it right out there… When reading your way through the Bible, there are some parts you just aren’t looking forward to. It’s ok – you can say it. I did, and no lightning ensued. No chasm opened up, swallowing me, Edward G. Robinson, or any golden cow. Nor did Charlton Heston lob any stone tablets my way.
The word “begat” can instantly make us want to check our email. Major prophets can leave us in a minor fog. Revelation sometimes isn’t revealing.
Sorry for that last one. I’m feeling a little punny this morning.
And then there’s the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament. There’s action, drama, brave deeds, inexplicable redemption…
And Leviticus. Not to mention Numbers.
Oi vey.
Now as you may know, or as you may not know, since obviously the doings of my little life are scarcely worth a blip on the radar of the grand scheme of all things considered in the world as a whole, um… where was I?
Oh yeah.
I listen to the Daily Audio Bible each day. It keeps me centered in the Word, it makes me mindful of God’s place in my day, and at the very least, it keeps me obedient to show up every day. Listening for me works better than trying to navigate and read the word, since I can keep my hands busy (with crochet or loom knitting) which keeps my head engaged.
Except… for… Leviticus. (And, not to mention, Numbers.)
Woof.
Now, for anyone who lives an orthodox faith life that includes following the laws and commands in Leviticus, please don’t interpret anything I might say in any way slamming, insulting, disparaging or otherwise casting nastiness on the things written therein. The foundation of my own faith life comes from there, and the whole Bible is God’s word to me.
That being said, I repeat:
Woof.
It’s taking some major effort to stay engaged. Or to not fast forward to the New Testament reading. I mean, we’re in Mark. I can get a handle on Mark. I can engage with Mark. The depth of the wisdom of Jesus eludes my thick head, but still – I can engage with it. But when phrases like “This is the law for he who has a sore or rash of the skin” come up, I want to run screaming from the room.
And don’t even get me started about when the word “emission” comes around. *shudder*
Thankfully, Brian Hardin has been taking some level of pity on us, reading from translations that at least give us some modern language to wade through. I can’t imagine listening through this in the King James Version.
Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with the KJV. Just to be clear. Really. I mean that. Look – the KJV is one of the translations in my PocketBible App. Look – right there. See?
(did I cover enough of my hiney on that one?)
Today, I think the Lord had mercy upon me, when He prompted Steve the Mental Hamster to spin up a little something that I can wrap the ol’ noodle around to help me put some of what I’m listening to in perspective. Thanks Steve – as always, you fling and I’ll catch.
There are exceptions to that rule, by the way.
Anyway, what I’m finally getting out of Leviticus is just how much I take God for granted. How much I try to reduce Him or try to pare Him down to fit into my little world. The way I try to take my walk as a follower of Jesus, and turn it into a stroll, a shuffle, a meander, a wander – anything but a walk. To make every day Casual Friday, or spin off a new movement – Casual Christianity. (I’m certain someone already thought of that…) In other words –
To make God into “my Big Buddy upstairs.”
And that He should never be. Not in word, not in thought, and certainly not by my deeds. And if there was any doubt about that, a trip through Leviticus will clear it up.
God is holy. His people approach a holy God, and in order to come to Him, they must be clean. Nothing unclean can come to Him, and to try and approach Him thus leads to death. Trying to come to Him directly is impossible – it requires the consecrated priests to go between us and offer the sacrifices. The sacrifices must be without flaws or blemishes, or He will not accept them. His festivals and sacrifices must be observed. His sabbath must be obeyed.
All because He gets great entertainment seeing just how many hoops He can make people jump through just to contact Him, right? To get His kicks seeing just what lengths these flawed human beans will go to so some guilt will be lifted off their backs?
Because He’s so detached from all creation that He can’t relate to us at all unless we perform all sorts of snitty little things to even have Him notice us at all, let alone hear us or, dare we imagine it, respond to us?
Um, no. Nope. Nada.
Get this into your basic view of everything around you: The world is broken. We are fallen, broken creatures in need of redemption. Sad, but there it is. No matter how much optimism we try and pour into it, regardless of how much we’d “like to teach the world to sing,” or how we’re encouraged to “coexist,” it’s like putting a bandaid over an amputation. There’s a deeper, severe issue at the root of it – it’s all broken.
That’s not pessimism, that’s not bein’ an old poop, and that’s not refusing to make lemonade when the world hands me lemons – it’s the basic premise that in my little limited world forms the key to trying to understand any of the chaos.
So how does one approach a perfect, holy God when one is a flawed, broken creature in need of redemption?
Livin’ La Vida Leviticus.
Now, forward on to my time and my A.D. world… The Lamb of God was sacrificed to redeem this broken creature. And all broken creatures. But is the one sacrifice any less than all the countless ones that went before? Or is it so much greater than everything before or after that the ordinances and rules and forms of Leviticus seem simple in comparison?
And how should I respond to such mercy and grace? If the Hebrews couldn’t come near to God without the intervention of the priests, how can I just roll out a hearty “OMG!” with nary a guilty twinge? If the implements of service in the Tabernacle were so holy that they required a whole list of rules to just get them from place to place, how do I act and interact at our church?
Just because God’s gift in Jesus is free, we can’t ever see it as “cheap.”
One final observation, lest the ship get so overbalanced in one direction that we capsize… We live under grace, not the Law. Christ came to grant true and absolute freedom, and I am thankful for that. Believe me, saddlepals, in my second life and new physique, I understand a bit more of overwhelming grace than I ever have.
But the attitude of my heart, and the actions that spring from it, needs to reflect the weight of that mercy and grace. Not to bear it, since I can’t; Not to add to it or take away from it, since my puny humanity could never accomplish such a thing; and not to discount or cheapen it by my attitude or behavior. To strive for and hopefully achieve the balance between amazing intimacy with Jesus, and proper awe and reverence for the Father. To worship the Triune God both as a fallen creature in need of redemption, and as an adopted son redeemed by faith in Christ Jesus.
And to remember the lesson of Leviticus – God’s gift of life is free, but it is never ever cheap.

Clearing the Mental Plumbing (“Steve, get the PLUNGER!”)

A good old-fashioned but new-fangled head clearing – that’s the ticket. That’s what’s required here. The ol’ mental plunger, to clear up the cerebral backup. Psychic laxative to unblock the brain…
Um…
blockage?
Anyway…
That’s where I is at today. Right here, right now. The normal flow of thought and feelings, the usual accumulation of crap and waste, the unrecognizable, the unmentionable, the decayed and decomposing, it’s all mushed up into a clog and resists all attempts to get things moving along.
Or, maybe this picture will induce less squirming – consider the Neti Pot.
(yeah, like that’s gonna reduce the squirm factor…)
The Neti Pot, in case you didn’t recognize the name and already ran screaming from the room, is the cute little pot that one fills with warm (but not hot, body temperature is best) water infused with salt (using their specially mixed and prepared salt – trust me, it’s better that way)…
And then pour it through your head. In one nostril and out the other. Use about half of it, then repeat on the other side.
Mmmmm. Lasting freshness.
My Beloved won’t even remain in the same part of the house if I’m rocking the Neti Pot. And she takes Ezzie with her, lest the dog investigate the goings on.
But the dumb thing works. Really well.
I’m such an addict, I’ve progressed to the next level. (kind of like moving up from a gateway drug into the hard stuff – from fluffy Starbucks drinks to REAL coffee at Biggby. Sorry – my bias is showing…)
I use the Sinus Rinse, baby. What’s the difference? Two words – squeeze bottle.
No, you really don’t want to know. Really. But my sinuses are so clean, you could eat off…
(That didn’t come off quite as awesomely as I imagined it. Forget you heard that. I blame video games, Hollywood, and reality TV. And politicians. And oil companies. And unemployed web designers.)
(Not the latter, actually. There aren’t any unemployed web designers. Not that I’ve heard of. And of course, I’ve heard of everything. )
(Ha ha. It is to chuckle. It is to laugh. It is to snort, if you’re Niecelet #1 and the timing is right.)
So, the head cleansing seems to be going well thus far, eh? Look at all the sludge I’ve already shoveled, in only 388 words and climbing.
The reason for this backlog was a major shift in routine for a week. Getting in a little employment for a few days, making for a nice addition to the OlsonEconomy, but totally changing my routine and going from zero to sixty in way too little time for this fifty-three year old dude.
Yet I pulled it off. I got where I was supposed to be, on time, did the work along with the long hours, kept most other things from crashing to the ground, and came out the other end not needing an oxygen tank and physical therapy. I came out just dandy, thanks.
Not to say that some things didn’t get neglected – the kitchen suffered. Cooking became “grab what isn’t fuzzy or can be consumed with little or no prep and have at it.” Ezri was asked to contribute to the general upheaval, and she, in her patient canine way, did. She put up with a shifted schedule, irregular mealtimes and the time change to boot, and still wags her tail mightily when we come home. I love that doggie.
And we survived. One car, one trike, two schedules, and one fast week. And I’m gonna do it again next week, not getting killed in the process.
But the area that needs the most repair is my head – my mental healing and recovery. A crazy week can lead to mental shutdown for me, and that’s never good. I lose track of the mindfulness I have to bring to each day, each hour, each moment. The awareness I must maintain to live, not just survive. When my head shuts down, all the progress I’ve made in the last two years shuts down too.
I don’t mean that I revert to EvilCal, pre-weight loss and pre-psychointervention. I don’t go ape crazy, diving into despair and decadent dishes in unequal measure. I don’t do carb therapy, grabbing whatever snacks and sugars my heart desires. Because honestly, although I did snack on some contraband here and there, I didn’t desire unlimited quantities of it, nor did I use it to self-medicate.
(Actually, my #1 craving these days seems to be chicken from Cousin’s Tasty Chicken. I blame video games, Hollywood, and reality TV. And I suspect that the gang at Cousin’s adds something to the frying oil that creates a chemical dependency – you must have more or you perish. Oh, and the CIA uses that to control your mind. Yup. The truth is out.)
So it seems that in a high pressure week, the things I’ve tried to convert into habits have taken root and are growing. I stick (mostly) to my new life and avoid my “normal” stress reactions.
Yay me!
But the mental logjam is harder to navigate and eliminate. It takes time – long moments, stress and pressure absent, where my slow, mindful approach to each day allows the things below the surface to come up, be recognized, and be swept away.
I’m tempted to say “normal” people make this sort of shift much easier than I do. They take the changes in stride, accommodating them into the structure of life, and keep everything moving forward in fine shape.
But I suspect that this picture of how “normal” people handle the stresses and changes of a busy life is not accurate. I’ve never been “normal,” so I don’t have any first hand information to compare it to, but in thinking about the frail, flawed creatures we are, I would imagine that we all find ways to roll and dodge and move in unusual weeks that are decidedly un-“normal.” We each find ways to keep our balance – some good, some not so good, some that others would look at and think, “Man, I had no idea they were so messed up!” And some that work for nobody else but us.
I’d guess that some things get dropped in everyone’s high-stress weeks, and that the lives of those we see around us aren’t nearly as perfect as we would imagine them to be. Dirty dishes are left, clothes are unhung, underwear resides on the floor, dust gathers, science experiments create themselves in ‘fridges, laundry becomes self-ambulatory, and we look around at our less-than-perfect surroundings and wonder how others do this, keep up this pace while their world stays pretty, pristine, perfect…
And “normal.”
Mental logjams come up, stresses get shelved because “I just can’t deal with this right now,” personal time is a joke, and relationships are strained for a bit.
I guess what matters most is what happens when the pressure is released. What we do in “recovery mode” – when we have a moment to catch up on the dishes, set the laundry free from its grimy bonds, throw out the pizza boxes or chicken bones, and get something out of the freezer with a good chance that it’ll actually get made into something lovely before it turns into a science experiment.
And to clear the mental logjam. To reconnect the strained relationships. To find the balance again. To listen, to think, to feel and to imagine, instead of just respond, respond, respond.
Maybe the key to moving gracefully in and out of “crunch time” is remembering “recovery time” – that we have to make the time to come back from the edge, and know that if we don’t mindfully plan that time, our minds and bodies will find a way to TAKE that time, in appropriate or inappropriate ways.
Sabbath – it’s not just for Sunday anymore.
We need to remember that nobody is “normal.” We all find our way in and out of action packed weeks in ways that are unique to ourselves. Nobody does it the same, nobody does it perfectly, and most everybody imagines that others do it better than they do. And most of us leave underwear on the floor from time to time.
The key is, after the pressure lifts, pick it back up. Put it in the hamper or the chute. Smile, bless the Lord for the ability to rise to a challenge, and eagerly anticipate that we’ll handle the next one a little more gracefully.
And maybe pick up some new underwear, just for emergencies. And a Neti Pot. Trust me – you’ll love it.
Thanks Lord, for helping to clear the way. Thanks that every time I step into a busy week, You’re already at the week’s end, waiting for me. I simply have to look for You when things settle. Help me to gracefully, mindfully shift from busy to calm, from stress to peace, from movement to stillness. And help me to look ahead enough to remember that for every fast-moving week, there needs to be a calm harbor for a rest afterward.

Thanks for the adventure – looking forward to the next one!

Wasted Potential?

Potential. We like that word.
We like to affirm it in children – they have serious potential. We love to see it in a business prospect – those with great potential of lucrative results. We screen our relationships sometimes on it – does this have potential, or is this a dead-end street?
I’ve been clubbed over the head with potential for many years – told that I have SO much potential, but that I just waste it, I don’t apply myself, I don’t put in the effort to make something from it.
Somewhere along the way, I started believing it. That I am lazy, have no drive, waste my time on unimportant things and just generally toss all that potential down the biffy on a minute by minute basis. I never get stuff done, I start well but never finish things, I put things off to the last moment, so nothing ever gets my best efforts, and I spend so much time dreaming what I might do that I never actually do anything.
As with most everything I observe, there is both truth and lies mixed up in that mess. But this is not the place to work through ’em, because that’s not really what I’m here to think about.
“Wha’?”
You heard me.
What I’m thinking about is the process of moving potential into reality. Regardless of how many self-help books you read, or blogs that tell you that you can totally remake your life and follow your dreams, the bitter truth is that most of us will never crawl out of the ruts we live in, nor are we necessarily supposed to. God has led us to settled lives – families, congregations, friends, careers or jobs, pursuits or education, just starting up and getting going, or winding down and looking toward the finish line – and if we’re where He leads us, then we’re good, perceived potential realized or not.
But what about all that potential?
My mom was going to write a book and tell the story of her and my dad – how they came together, how things fell apart and the amazing things God did in those years when it was just her and her two sons, as she headed back to college to become a teacher. And how things felt when after many, many years of silence, the man who she’d never stopped loving came back into our lives.
Did I ever tell you that my first real memories of my dad began when I turned 21? Or what it’s like to get to know your parent when you’re on the doorstep of being a young adult yourself? What it’s like to see your dad (who you’ve just gotten to barely know) turn around and follow Jesus?
Or that I sang at my parent’s wedding? And my brother was my dad’s best man?
But my mom’s potential, of telling all of her story, of writing and speaking more, and of traveling and ministering never came to be. After she retired, she (and my dear aunt) cared for my ailing grandmother. And after grams passed, it wasn’t too long until we were the ones caring for my ailing mother, as she fought cancer.
So, do we look back and just see potential wasted, or do we simply see potential diverted in ways no one but God ever expected? Lives were touched, both in her career as a teacher and even in the throes of cancer as she remained a humble, faithful follower of Jesus. Speaking and writing became instead a gracious spirit in the midst of a terrible disease, and showing us all that God remains faithful, even when it looks like one is just marking time, waiting for the end.
Lots of potential – just worked out in unexpected ways.
Speaking of wasted potential…

What if all my potential that others so remarked on all my young years never produced anything?

I never became a band teacher like some expected, or a college professor. I never wrote a symphony, never toured for adoring fans, never found a steady gig in the arts. What others perceived as my potential apparently has never seen the light of day…
“Oh, he showed some possibilities, but he never had the drive to really make it in music. He tried doing magic and stuff – even was a clown if you can believe that! – but never really got anyplace with it, except for wasting a lot of money on equipment. Then he had that long gig in radio, which seemed to be working out, but after he was laid off, he never got another full-time job.”
“He tried doing some stuff – recording a couple of CDs, playing some local gigs, messed around with making jewelry (but never had the skills to actually make anything sellable), and just kind of stalled instead of regrouping into a new career. Said they had decided that he wasn’t going to go back to full-time work, so he’d be free for ‘creative pursuits.’ Wow.”
He just faded away – all that potential wasted. Now he hangs on the fringes, doing a little radio, gigging here and there, but nothing really worth mentioning. I hear he had surgery, lost a whole bunch of weight, and looks really good, but he never got his head screwed back on straight, and so even though he’s healthier, he doesn’t do anything with it.”
“Scuttlebutt says he’s even had some mental issues, has to take meds, and sees a psychiatrist for treatment. Probably something snapped when he got launched (after all, he’d been there for almost 20 years), and he just lost it. I mean, it’s been since 2006, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
“Mostly he sits at the coffeehouse, writes stuff that nobody reads, and makes stuff out of yarn that nobody wants. Or he sits in his house while his wife is out making a living, doing nothing.”
“He has some ideas – recording more CDs, editing more audio books, gigging as a magician or storyteller, or even (if you can imagine this!) writing a book. (Yeah, right. Hope that works out for ya…) Maybe, he says, he’ll go back to school, finally finish that degree. Or he’s gonna focus on being the “domestic engineer” – keeping house for his wife, that sort of stuff. Or all of the above at the same time! (*chuckle*)”
“He talks about a lot of stuff, but nothing ever comes of it. He talks a great game, but never makes it happen. Lots of chatter, but no action. No drive, no working hard, no pushing ahead – he just sits there, dreaming crap that’ll never happen and hoping somebody drops something right in his lap so he doesn’t have to find it himself.”
“All that potential – what a waste.”
The question is, how much of that have I actually heard, how much of that is stuff I imagine has been said, and how much of it is just plain lies?
That’s the sort of stuff I need to sort through. And maybe we all need to sort through it, victims of perceived potential, wasted. Maybe potential puts a weight around our necks that we never really ever shrug off. Or maybe potential just provides fertile ground for the enemy to plant regret and get back a bumper crop every time.
After all, there’s got to be a reason “Glory Days” remains a popular song. (Besides the Boss’ righteous groove, of course.) Or why we all know the phrase, “I coulda been a contender.” Somewhere following perceived potential (by loving family and well-meaning friends) and before melancholy introspection on wasted possibilities, something went seriously awry, leaving us with an empty box, a deflated balloon and a sad heart.
If we never realize it, we jump right from “The world’s your oyster! Be all you can be! Live your dreams! Nothing’s gonna stop us now!” into “Where did the time go? I always wanted to learn to paint or play the piano. I wish I’d spent more time with him or her. I wish I’d known what’s really important back then.”
Do you see the missing piece?
Potential and possibility are fine, even good. Dreams (as I’ve previously written WAY too much about) are light for the eyes and breath for the soul.
But the lens that focuses it all is sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty – everything ultimately will be as He decides it will be. The steps are already laid out, the pieces are already in place, and the end is already written. Sovereignty can be a powerful tool to kill regret – if things are never out of His control, then there’s no point allowing regret to flourish. To do so denies He is the One who decides it all – His vote is the only one that counts.
I’m where I am today because He knows I need to be here today.
I’ve come along this path because there was no other path that would bring me to this place right here, right now, where I needed to be.
Or to randomly misquote the over-quoted line from “Love Story”: Sovereignty is never having to say… “oops.”
Do I really believe that? Yup. Just a few days ago, I said thank you to the person who had to give me the news on a cold January morning that my life as I knew it was at an end. I thanked him for laying me off. And I really meant it with my whole heart.
No layoff, no wandering time. No wandering time, no refocus. No refocus, no stepping into Weigh To Wellness. No Weigh To Wellness, no gentle nudge to surgery.
No surgery, no rebirth.
Connect the dots all the way back to when God’s wrecking ball made the first swing, and we get a direct path to today, looking back at a path that spells out Romans 8:28. I see it now, through eyes that God has refocused to His reality, and my heart is overwhelmed with His grace.
We are all born with almost unlimited potential, possibilities and dreams – after all, we bear the Image. Of course the road stretches out before us – we are creative because our Father is creative, we feel limitless at times because our Father is limitless, and we can imagine and dream vast landscapes, ideas and visions, because our Father imagined and spun worlds into existence by His word.
Then, He takes the wet clay of our lives, full of potential and possibility, and sculpts a masterpiece. Not one that we imagined for ourselves, not one that others would have predicted based on perceived potential, but the piece He had in mind before the clay was even created. No bits of clay wasted, no motion of His hands marring the piece, and all scars worked so beautifully into His vision that they don’t seem to exist at all.
If we’re to avoid the deep mud of regret at the end of the road, the journey from potential to completion must lead into His sovereign hands. Along the road, we release the “might have beens,” the “if I had onlys,” the “I wish I hads,” and all the other weights that potential can hang around our necks, to submit to the hands of the Creator, to be molded as He designs.
By the way – accepting and acknowledging His sovereignty doesn’t mean being fatalistic… “God’s already decided everything, so nothing really matters because He already planned everything so I don’t really have to even show up because He already knows what I’m going to do anyway, blah blah blah…” Nor is it an excuse for a sloppy and shoddy life, turning in less than our best efforts, or living with the words “it is what it is” tattooed on our foreheads…
Get this, kids – because I’ve never gotten it yet. But I’m starting to…
We get to be ACTIVE participants in God’s sovereignty! We get to go along for the ride, not sitting in the back seat of the SUV watching a movie and stuffing our faces, but rather on the back of the tandem bike (mine’s a trike, but I digress…), pedaling for all we’re worth!
We get to show up, to work and dream and love, to plan and try and fail and succeed. We get to make refrigerator art and hand it to our Daddy and tell Him, “see what I made for you!” And then see Him smile and put it on display for all to see. We get to sing Him songs, to do hard work because He made us able to do it, to bless and encourage each other because that’s the way it’s supposed to work, and to live every day as if He’s in control of the whole sheebang.
Because He IS in control of the whole sheebang.
We get to do, to be, to move and live and have our being in Him. Not mice in a maze, following the path and hopefully finding the cheese and not a trap. Not boxcars on a track, going where we’re pulled or pushed without any voice of our own. And not lost in the darkness, with no hope or guide. Not fumbling our way along, hoping we don’t screw it up. Not trying to precariously balance on the knife edge of God’s will, fearing that tiny misstep that will plummet us down to a foreverland of regret because we missed God’s best for our lives.
(And yes, I know that last sentence opens a 55 gallon drum of worms about God’s will and how we follow it. We’re not going to chase that bunny trail today, ‘k?)
We get to live, we get to do, to be, to make, to laugh, to love, and to shine. We get to do it all in freedom and joy, knowing that He is in it all, He controls it all, and He loves His kids. Especially when they make Him goofy stuff He can hang on the fridge.
At the end of the day, the only perceived potential that matters is the potential He perceives in us.

And as I said, His is the only vote that counts.

So Much Death – Lent, 2012

If you’ve read my series on dreams, (and if you haven’t, well you’re in good company with the rest of the known universe) you might know that one of them is to live a much smaller life, perhaps on a bit of land, having room to raise some of our own food and make at least part of our lives self-sustaining.
There’s a problem with that.
Reading magazines on urban farming or homesteading, often the subject of raising animals on the small farm comes up. Critters to provide a renewable stream of food (milk, eggs, etc.), to provide “output” to make for a greener garden, and to provide… um…
meat.
** My vegetarian friends are already loading their siege engines, calling for my head on a pike. I ask for restraint – this is not a philosophical or ethical discussion on one’s eating habits, but heading another direction. What you choose to eat – be it animals or the output of the silent screams of vegetables, that’s your gig. **
I’m notoriously tender-hearted when it comes to critters, especially dogs. If a movie includes a scene where the dog gets lost, displaced, harmed or killed, I simply can’t watch it. I’ve had commercials bring me to tears.
Insects, on the other hand, are fair game, at least in the house. I won’t go out of my way to stomp a spider outside, but when the multi-legged demon comes inside, it’s on… “Not on my turf, Charlotte!”
(“It’s on,” for Vicki, that is. I just sit mumbling in terror until she dispatches the arachnid. I’m a true card-carrying GirlyMan.)
So, although I like the idea of having chickens, and would enjoy a stream of fresh eggs, the idea that sooner or later the girls would need to be turned into tenders or nuggets kind of kills the notion. Same with a family cow – good with the idea of the milk, not so much if I’m the one who has to tell Bossie that it’s time for her to move on to the entrĂ©e portion of her existence.
** HYPOCRITE!! I hear them scream… Go tour a meat packing plant! Really understand the inhumanity of how meat gets to your table, and you’ll apply for that PETA membership before you get out the door!

I’ll admit – I couldn’t be a butcher – at least not one who has to dispatch the critter. But I’ll munch their tasty bits after they’re gone, understand the sacrifice of the animal and those that raised it, and appreciate what their life and death gave me. I hope the deed was done humanely, and I hope that they were cared for in a kind way before they became lunch, but most if not all of that is out of my control. Yes, I know I ought to be more concerned and proactive about where I get my meat and how it gets to me, but again, this isn’t an ethical discussion. So just roll with me, ok kids? **
So, in a recent issue of Mother Earth News…
What?
Yes, I do read Mother Earth News. I even read it in electronic form on my iPad so that I save a tree in the process.
Quit snickering at me – I never claimed to be consistent.
Anyway, in a recent issue of Mother Earth News, there was an article about the pros and cons of raising rabbits.
Awww! Cute fluffy bunnies!
And if you get the right kind, their fur can be spun into yarn and made into all sorts of great things.
(*page turn*)
Oh, and bunnies… are… a great source… of protein… and one humane way… to dispatch them… is…
DEAR FATHER IN HEAVEN ABOVE, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING????
The Rabbit Wringer.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Billed as a quick and humane way to dispatch… um… harvest… um… cause to shuffle off this mortal coil… um… kill… rabbits.
(I am SO fighting the urge right here to break into a chorus of “Kill the waa-bit! Kill the waa-bit!”)
(Hmmm… didn’t fight quite hard enough.)
There’s even a picture. How helpful. *gulp*
Put bunny’s neck into the wringer, give a forceful downward tug, snap the neck and the rabbit is humanely dispatched, ready to become meat and pelt.
I’m SO gonna have nightmares.
I don’t care how many times I see Gollum drop the “brace of coneys” into Frodo’s lap, tear into one with his bare teeth, and have them snatched away by Sam, telling him that there’s only one proper way to eat a brace of coneys, I’m not buying a Rabbit Wringer. *shudder*
Ok, let’s get off this rabbit trail and back on to the main path. (Ba-dum-DUMP!)
The reason these things are rolling around Steve’s hamster wheel today is in Exodus, where we happen to be reading in the Daily Audio Bible. God is establishing the culture of His chosen people, teaching them His law and how to come to Him. Also giving instruction for the construction and plan of the Tabernacle (the tent of meeting), and the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests.
And oh my goodness, all the laws and rules and sacrifices. A whole bunch of ’em just to consecrate Aaron and his sons, one morning and evening just as daily routine, others for special feasts, and so on. (And we’re just getting started – Leviticus is coming…) It was a tough time to be a cow. Or a sheep. Or other critters. PETA wouldn’t have been able to keep up with it all – so many protests, so little time…
All those animals, all that death, all that blood sprinkled here, there and everywhere. And for what?
For God, Himself – dwelling in the tent, right there, where they could see His glory, hear His thunder, and know His presence. All that death, for their new lives as God’s own people, His dearly loved chosen people.
I’d imagine that they would have told you and me that it was worth it. The sacrifice pales in comparison with having God in their midst, being His people, guided and protected by Him, led in to the land promised to them, to be His people and a witness of Him to all nations.
Yet, these are the folks that in just a few pages, are going to do that whole golden calf thing, who are going to grumble so loud that they’ll get put on hold for 40 years in the fabulous tour of the wilderness, and are going to have prophets write over and over again about their unfaithfulness to the Lord. God will lament over them, “You were to be my people, I would be Your God, but you turned away from me to gods made of wood and stone. You prostituted yourself in the arms of others right in front of me.”
God DWELT with them. The blood of countless animals ran to allow them to come to God, and for what? So they could throw it all over for a gold cow. Or a wood thingie. Or a stone thingie. Or some other thingie. So they could kill animals and offer them to a thingie. Or even kill their own children and offer them to a thingie.
This makes no sense to me.
But I am no different.
You see, the blood of the Lamb was shed. He was killed – not in a humane, kind way, but in one of the most horrific deaths twisted human minds could devise at that time. His blood flowed, His life ebbed, He died.
And here I am, getting a little creeped out over a Rabbit Wringer. Alright, a LOT creeped out over a Rabbit Wringer.
God Himself poured out His life as a sacrifice. My consecration cost His blood. What the death of innumerable animals could never secure was accomplished in His death. By His stripes, I am healed.
And just like a stupid sheep, I turn away and go wherever I want. I throw over His sacrifice for thingies. I take my thoughts, my passions, my time, my resources and I hand them over to thingies of wood, to thingies of precious stones or metal, to thingies that go buzz and whirr and have bright lights, to images on a screen, to words on a page, to tunes on a device.
And I feel the weight of a poor animal dying that I might have a burger more than the death of the most beautiful One who ever lived that I might have life.
In the same podcast, as we were reading about the construction of the Tabernacle, we also were in Matthew, hearing our Savior pray, “If it’s possible, let this cup pass from me. But if this cup can’t pass, and I must drink it, Thy will be done.”
The One who accepted His Father’s will is the One I will turn my back on…

for a thingie.
If the death of so many animals shocks and disturbs me, shouldn’t the death of God Himself plant me on my face in tears? Instead of being creeped out by how many creatures died as sacrifices, I should be shocked and disturbed at how little I think of His sacrifice. For by my unfaithful life, I show to all the world how little I care that He died for me.
Father, forgive me for my unfaithful heart. I am so easily snared and distracted by things, by images, by words and by anything that comes across my path. But Your blood was shed so that I could come to You. You made the way for me to be free. Remind me of the proper perspective – You died that I might have life, and You willingly paid that price to redeem me.

Thank you.

Wax On, Wax Off…

“Uuuuuuup! Doooooooooooowwwn!” … “Uuuuuuuuup! Dooooooooooowwwnn!” … “Uuuuuuuuuuup! Dooooooooooowwwnn!”
– Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid
Did you know it’s possible to actually change your brain? The real, physical, grey and grody pulpy mass thingie? Yup – so I’m told by persons who actually know stuff.
When you change a behavior, replacing an old habit or reaction with something new, you actually build a new path in the ol’ noggin.
Were you to install a skylight in your skull (which I don’t think is wise, just for the record), you’d see little road construction vehicles, driven by little guys in yellow vests, with other little guys in yellow vests drinking coffee and holding little STOP/SLOW signs, ticking off other little guys in little vehicles who are already 20 minutes late for that important meeting with Steve the Mental Hamster, and it’s the third time being late this month, and there are rumors of staff reductions, and nobody wants to be transferred “downstairs,” doing the kinds of work that make everyone cringe when watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe reruns.
Or am I the only one who imagines this sort of activity? Perhaps I watched Tron or Tron: Legacy one too many times?
** by the way, just kidding about the whole “yellow vests, standing around drinking coffee.” Just about anybody on a road construction crew could whip my tuckus with one Thermos tied behind their back. **
But it’s not easy, building those neural pathways. The old stuff doesn’t want to go away just because I see something new and shiny that I’d really like to do. Nope. This here groove is deep, this here groove is wide, it’s served us well for nigh unto 52 years, and we sees no reason that it ought to be changed. Nope. Nosir. Nope.
It’s only by showing up, doing the new, keeping after it, telling the Internal County Commission that we’re a’comin’ through, come heck or high water, and doing this day after day that we finally make something new.
And even then, if we don’t keep after it, the new doesn’t stick.
Take Tai Chi, for example…
I took my first Tai Chi class a year ago January, and immediately fell in love. I had wanted to pursue it for years, but never ever thought I’d be able to. It was a huge dream come true, and I found that I deeply love it. Tai Chi does amazing things for both body and mind – it teaches my new body how to move, increases my flexibility, keeps me balanced, and reminds me that some dreams do come true.
So why haven’t I been to class in a couple of months? Why haven’t I at least been watching my instruction DVD and practicing? Or doing the part of the form that I do remember?
Because the new habits, the new pathways are easily killed. It starts with something simple – entering December, holiday rush, no time to practice, so I’ll just lay Tai Chi aside and catch up with it in January. January comes, and I’m still recovering from the holidays. No time to practice, so I’ll go next week. Or the following week. Or the other following week. Maybe next month. If I had time to practice, then I’d feel ready to go back. Or a place to practice – there’s just not enough room anywhere in the house with all this crap… um, stuff. And after all, I’d just be wasting my teacher’s time, and holding back the rest of our class. No – I’ll get back to it when I’m ready…
The Internal County Commission laughs, pours another round of coffee, and gets back to paper shuffling. The “new guy” hangs his head and wanders out of town. The new desires die, the old wins. And change never happens.
Or riding my trike…
If you know me at all, you know that my recumbent trike, Big Blue (and my Rover before it), is an essential part of my world. Riding is my prime replacement behavior for food addiction, and much of the wondrous transformation I’ve been through has been accomplished on three wheels, by God’s grace. I ride bike trails, I ride city streets, I dream of doing the Dalmac ride from Lansing to Mackinaw, and of doing my first century. (100 miles in one ride) The Lakeshore trail in Chicago still awaits (36 miles of amazing – it was on last year’s list, but time and finances killed it, so it’s high on this year’s list), as does riding in Holland and Grand Haven. Yeah, I’m a little obsessed with riding my trike.
So why so often when it’s beautiful and sunny, do I find reasons not to be out? Even on some of those amazing sunny, snow-free and unseasonably warm days we’ve had in this bizarre winter of 2012, you can find me flattening my fanny on a chair in the living room instead of toning my fanny on the trike. (Yeah, it’s cold, but I like riding in the cold, so no excuse there. Take today for example – sunny, no snow, it’s February, and a nippy 34 degrees outside. Yet I’m out riding. Like I said, I do like riding in the cold. Cold AND sunny? Oh heavens, yes!)
The old fights constantly, trying to keep the status quo. It resists change at all costs, even at the cost of harm to the whole body and mind. It rebels, it resists, it never willingly jumps in and participates, and it’s what the phrase “kicking and screaming” is all about.
Ok, that phrase is actually about a ticked toddler, but in many ways our ingrained nature is a toddler, and a dang spoiled one at that.
Now, these examples are physical pursuits. But don’t think the world of the mind is any easier…
How about the simple practice of spending time in God’s word every day? In my world, ‘simple’ means turning on the iPod, playing the Daily Audio Bible, mindfully listening, and allowing the Word to speak to me. No page turning, no deciding where to read next – just show up and listen.
So why is it a test of my resolve every day to get it done? To keep up with it, and go through the whole Bible in a year, setting aside time in my day every day to hear God’s Word and to allow it to penetrate my heart and mind? Why do I have to possess an iron-clad determination to just show up?
How about writing? I get to sit at Biggby (or another coffeehouse du jour, although my heart belongs to the East Beltline Biggby), ponder deep thoughts, and see where the words take me. It’s a blessing, a luxury, and although it is essential to my mental recovery, it’s still extravagant.
But to do it faithfully, I have to make it an iron-clad resolution. No excuses, no weaseling out of it, just make it happen.
Audio editing? I’ve got a backlog of projects that I need to have done weeks ago. Not hard, just time. I get to go sit somewhere, listening to audio books, editing, sipping a coffee or an iced tea. And yet, I drag my heels. Why?
Because the Internal County Commission doesn’t like change, doesn’t like anything outside of the comfortable, the small, the dumb. It likes the life of living in the recliner, immobile at 480 pounds, because then one has an excuse to not have to think, to not have to work, to not have to make things happen. Just sit here, make this chair your world, only do what you can reach from your pudgy perch, and don’t strain. After all, you don’t have the energy to do anything else. A deep, wide groove that has been my only choice for so many years, I don’t remember any other choices.
Oh yes, the Commission did indeed get the memo that there have been major changes. The pounds have dropped, new things are being learned, and the big blue recliner was tossed in the garbage. Doesn’t matter – as long as there’s a chair in the living room, and a table, and some yarn, and some snacks, and a DVD remote, and a game controller, and a semi-darkened house, and a dog to keep me company, well, things can stay just as they are – just as wonderful, just as safe, just as subversive, soul-robbing, mind-numbing, hope-crushing, body-wasting… just as they always were.
And as they have been for more years than I can remember.
How easy was it for Daniel to learn karate in “The Karate Kid?” Hours upon hours of one or two motions… “Wax on, wax off.” “Paint da fence – up! Down!” “Sand da floor.” “Side to side.” Hours and hours, one or two motions at a time, same motion, same angle, same breathing…
Until the day that Daniel loses it, blows a fuse, and discovers what Mr. Miyagi has been up to all along. When all the repetition and focus add up to what was really being learned.
I need to be learning the small motions – “iPod on! Ears open!” “Hiney at Biggby! iPad on! Type on keyboard!” “Trike out! Ride on!” “Chair bad! Moving good!” “Lazy brain off! Audio editing on!”
“Oh, and tell the Internal County Commission to go stuff it someplace. There’s been a coup, and the new regime is taking over.”
Ah, the continuing war of the old and the new. At least I’m not unique – it’s a struggle as old as the history of people, and well-documented in the Bible. The old nature doesn’t go without a fight, never gives in, and requires constant work to keep in check. The new, with all its wonders and freedom, is frail and fleeting, can vanish without notice, and is in constant danger of assault from the old. Unless we defend it, it will lose the war.
The hope is this – in Christ, we are given the strength, the hope and the tools we need to wage this war. Our armor is provided, the strength to swing the sword is promised, and we have a shield and refuge to run to and hide in. So we can get back in there, pick up where we left off, and continue the battle.
The end of the Book tells us that the outcome is already decided – we win. Now all we have to do is show up, fight, and keep going.
Thanks, Father, that you provide what is needed for this day, every day. Help me to put on the armor, to take up the sword and to fight. Give me the sight to see the darkness of the old nature, the strength to defy it and the hope of the new. Thanks for proving Yourself faithful again and again and again, all along this amazing journey. For this is a war, but it’s also an adventure. Help me see both the wonder and the warfare, keeping my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off…