John’s 3 Letters: Love and Hatred

Johns 3 Letters Love and Hatred

When I was a college student, I had an RA- Resident Assistant. If you don’t know, RA’s are responsible for a portion of a college dorm- usually one floor. They are kind of a blend between the “University police” and a parental figure- watching over their flock. This particular RA? We’ll call him “Ron”. (Sometimes the “we’ll call him…” is code for “that is his REAL name” and sometimes it’s not. Today, it’s NOT.) Ron was a perfect decent human and…a fairly terrible RA.

One day, at dinner in The Commons, a couple of guys at my table starting talking smack about Ron. I, unfortunately, joined in and soon, I was regaling the table with stories of Ron’s ineptitude as an RA. (Not even a LITTLE proud of it, looking back.) I had been riffing, holding the table right in the palm of my hand and, metaphorically, holding Ron at the same time…by the throat.

Then, it happened. I was right in the middle of my free-form rant when I happened to look over. Ron was sitting at the NEXT table over and clearly heard the whole thing. The look on his face was devastating. I tried to recover by pretending that I was joking and he wasn’t even paying attention…but he wasn’t buying what I was selling. In the end, back in the dorm, I apologized but it was really too little, too late. My interaction with him was never the same for the rest of the year. There is a fine line between love and hatred- finer than we would care to admit.

Our new sermon series- John’s 3 Letters- focuses on the 3 letters of John (Makes sense!) found near the tail end of the New Testament. They’re rarely read, rarely referenced, but have a lot packed into their short length. Three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people- yet they’re all tied together by the same ideas. Here is today’s Scripture:

1John 2 :7-11 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

As I said, we have three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people. Yet they’re all loosely tied together by the same ideas. Oh, and written by the same author: a guy who only calls himself “the elder.”

In this first letter, the elder encourages the Christians in his community to stay together. See, there are some naysayers who’ve been spreading lies about Jesus, and the elder really wants to set things straight.

First, Christians need to believe that Jesus was a for real a human being, not just some divine deity walking around on water. Second, Christians have to love each other. God IS love- it’s His favorite thing- and He really wants us believers to love our little hearts out.

Agape is a word that John will use in various forms many times as this letter continues, and he will define its meaning by the way he makes use of the word. The use of this word is extremely rare in classical Greek. Its extensive use in the New Testament is the result of the fact that the Septuagint translators of the Old Testament employed it consistently to express the love vocabulary of the Old Testament. It is with a form of that word- agape- that John addresses his readers. He acknowledges that they are loved. The question is- is John expressing HIS love for them or the larger truth of God’s love for them? I would like to think both.

Did you notice what Jesus says in the quote we heard? The commandment he’s writes is not new and yet it is new. How can it be old and new at the same time? It becomes clear what he means from what he writes next. The will of God has remained steady and unchanging. He is from the beginning and doesn’t change in that respect. The will of God is permanent.

Then what’s new, Pussycat? The new part has to do with us and the fulfillment of God’s will.  Because of Jesus, there’s a radical newness, not in GOD’S character, but in OURS- new because we’ve been forgiven and therefore should obey God’s commandments with a fresh perspective. Look at it this way- we love out of fullness. We follow God’s will because of His prior acts- His prevenient grace as United Methodist founder John Wesley would call it- on our behalf. Evil is powerful, but its power is bounded by a greater authority. God’s love is more permanent, more powerful than the power of hatred.

So, what do you hate? Better still WHOM do you hate? What person or group of people do you have genuine hatred for? Now, sitting here in church, all scrubbed clean and sitting properly, it’s EASY to say, “I don’t hate ANYBODY!!” But I’m not asking about NOW. I’m asking about when you are at Wal-Mart. When you are at the grocery store, or restaurant or a movie theater. Whom do you hate? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that, even though you are trying to say, No One”, you HAVE someone or a group of someones who keeps creeping, uninvited, into the back of your consciousness. That person or group that makes yo honestly stop and assess whether or not you hate.

I can’t tell you what to do. Well, I COULD tell you until I’m blue in the face what to do. But I can’t actually make you do it. I can only give you some advice. Take it for what it’s worth. (At McDonalds, my advice and one dollar will buy you any size drink!) When you insist on hating someone or a group of someones, you aren’t hurting them at all. (If you ACT upon that hatred, that’s a different story!) Instead, they probably…ready for a shocking truth?…don’t care. They could care less. They probably don’t even know.

So, you are fuming and stewing over them and they sleeping like babies at night. You are letting them live rent-free in your head. You are wasting valuable “brain space” and a LOT of time and energy that only hurts YOU! Yep, offering forgiveness is as much, or more, about you than about the other person.

So, again- whom do you hate? My advice? Stop it! “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Don’t be blinded by the darkness. Instead, be blinded by the light- not the light of hatred. Not the light of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. No, be blinded by the light of Jesus Christ. The Light that never dims. The light that is SO bright, Heaven needs no sun or moon- Jesus is the light 24/7/365.

I said a few minutes ago- there is a fine line between love and hatred. I think that’s why married couples get in trouble. The love that they had sours and turns to hatred. I think that’s why parents and adult children have problems. I think that’s why the world has problems. But deep in your heart, you know two things: 1. You know what love is. It was that great theologian Forrest Gump who said, “I may not be a smart man, but I KNOW what love is.” And 2. You also know that hatred is the wide and easy path while love can be the difficult, narrow road. Love takes work- especially that sacrificial agape love we talked about earlier. But we are called to love each other with a agape love- not expecting anything in return but to simply love our neighbor as we walk in the Light of Jesus Christ. Everything old is new again.

What Can One Person Do?

tree down

The winds came without warning. Later, The National Weather Service said they were “straight line” winds, but THEY didn’t come out and inspect the damage at my parent’s house. We all claim “tornado” as the event that occurred that day. We were serving a church near St. Louis, which put us about a 45-minute drive from the “ancestral manse” (Google it) as it were. A severe storm hit the area, causing a great deal of damage across a wide swath of Southern Illinois, including the area where my parents lived. We called to see if they were OK, only to find that, while they AND their house were unharmed, some 24 trees were down in their yard and barn lot alone, along with dozens of trees and power line poles up and down the road on which they lived. They were in NO position to tackle the mess by themselves, and we were all worried about the cost of hiring a service to come in and do the clearing. Then…God stepped in. Someone at the church we were serving, who had heard about what happened, said, “why don’t we just put together a work crew from here and go take care of it?!” Gee…what a GREAT idea. Wish I’D thought of it! So we asked for volunteers. 36 people later, we were ready to head out!
We loaded chainsaws and hand saws up and caravaned to their house. When we turned onto their road, the devastation became apparent. Their house sat 1/2 mile from the end of the lane, and we could only make it a few hundred feet in, blocked from driving any further by trees and poles across the road. So…we unloaded and walked the rest of the way, lugging all the equipment with us. When we arrived at their house, it truly looked like a war zone. Miraculously, not one tree hit the house, although several came REALLY close! My folks were delighted to see all the help. and people jumped right in. The sound of chainsaws and the smell of burning gasoline/oil mix filled the air as we worked. At one point, we found a man in his late 70’s (the SAME man mentioned in previous blogs about Outhouse Evangelism and a preacher with his microphone on in the restroom) standing on a limb, 20 feet off the ground, cutting branches off with a chainsaw! From that day forth, Chainsaw became his nickname! By 2PM that afternoon, ALL the trees were cut up and piled for burning. all the workers were fed, all the equipment was loaded, and we were saying our goodbyes. An amazing amount of work got done by a relatively small group of people in a relatively brief period of time. As I reflected on what had happened that day, I remembered a quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How often do we think, “Why bother? I’m just one person- I can’t make a difference!” But imagine if we all took Margaret Mead’s philosophy to heart. Or if we truly BELIEVED what Helen Keller said, “I’m only one…but I’m still one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something, and I won’t refuse to do the something I CAN do.” We are often so quick to dismiss the possibility of getting involved. We either are too cynical to care or too unsure of ourselves to feel we matter. Know what? None of us is SO awesome as to not care and none of us is so unworthy as to not be able to make a difference. In this current economic climate, there are many things that have been bedrock for us forever that we can no longer cling to: our jobs, our pensions, our 401K’s, Social Security, etc., etc., etc! So to where do we turn? You KNOW what my answer is- God. We turn to God, we ask for guidance, strength, discernment. And then we roll up our sleeves and get involved. We seek out the least, the lost, the hurting in our communities (believe me, when you look, they are NOT hard to find!), and we…get…involved! How awesome would it be if that happened? If people once again acted like…well…PEOPLE, and cared for, and about each other? Who can you help this week? What difference can YOU make in the lives of others? 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Funny…Yet Awkward!

awkward

I saw maybe the funniest thing I have seen in a LONG time a few years ago! I was at my son’s high school, waiting to pick him up. School had JUST let out and teens were streaming from every door! (And a few windows!) I am a people watcher, so I like to watch the kids coming out. As I watched them, I noticed a girl wearing a dress. It was a long dress and she was a pretty girl. What stood out, for me, was simply the fact that she was wearing a dress. I don’t see a ton of dresses at the high school. (I don’t EXPECT to see them, either.) 

This girl was heading out to the parking lot and was maybe 30’ in front of my car, walking across my field of vision. Then I turned my head to the right and noticed a young man walking toward me. He was MUCH closer to me and was walking directly toward the front, passenger side of my car. 

Now, remember- I am watching dozens and dozens of high school kids come out of the school. And out of all of these kids, two stand out. One girl and one boy. The girl stands out because she is wearing a dress and the boy stands out because…he is staring intently at the girl! 

So picture this- this pretty high school girl in a dress is walking along, minding her own business, unaware that any of this is going on. Meanwhile, this guy is walking straight toward the right front corner of my car…but is looking in a totally different direction than he is walking. And that direction would be…the pretty girl in the dress! 

And then- the perfect storm of circumstances happened. She kept walking (and unintentionally distracting him), he kept walking (and not looking where he was going) and it was time for him to turn left and cut between my car and the car next to me. (You can smell this one coming from a mile away, can’t you?!) He didn’t turn nearly soon enough. In fact…he didn’t turn at all! Instead, he ran directly into the front right fender of my car! 

Now, I want to be clear here- had I been able to stop him somehow…I would have. Also, if he had hurt himself in any way, I wouldn’t have found this funny. In fact, I wouldn’t have written about it all. BUT…I couldn’t stop him and he didn’t hurt himself at all- unless you count his pride, which DID get scuffed a bit! 

He ran into my car, came to a screeching halt, looked up, caught my eye, turned nine shades of red, flashed the most embarrassed grin ever, turned and was gone. And I’m not gonna lie- I laughed so hard that I was still wiping the tears from my eyes when my son got to the car! 

Life is simply TOO short to take everything so seriously. We HAVE to be able to laugh at ourselves…and each other. We shouldn’t be mean or hurtful about it. But we should be comfortable enough to be able to find the humor, the joy in life and appreciate it! So, to that young man, thanks for a GREAT laugh! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The FedEx Truck Conundrum

fedex-towing

Two days ago, we had my new lift chair delivered. (I wrote about it yesterday! The top half of it is upstairs in the bedroom while the base currently remains on the main floor!) It’s delivery, anticipated by us, ended up causing quite the unexpected upheaval. The FedEx truck that brought it had a lift built into the back. (Maybe they all do- I don’t know.) He needed the lift AND a dolly to get the box out of the truck and across the street. (It was very heavy.) The original information said “curbside” delivery. They weren’t kidding. I was rather unceremoniously dumped at the foot of the steps that lead up to our enclosed porch. 

But we had anticipated that, so we had a dolly (from the church) ready. My wife and got out there, got that behemoth on the dolly and wheeled it around our side yard to the handicapped ramp. It cleared the door onto the porch and the front door of the house. Yeah!

Meanwhile, the Fedex driver, who had parked across the street along the curb, was trying to leave. Turns out, that didn’t go so well. We thought at first that he forgot to bring the lift all the way up and it caught on the curb, because we heard a loud “BANG” kind of sound. Looking out, the lift seemed to be jammed on the curb and the rear driver’s side wheel was OFF the ground. He was stuck!

But it turns out that was NOT what happened. Instead, he happened to pick the spot where an undetected water main leak had undermined the ground. The weight of the truck was too much for the pavement, which was, in that spot, unsupported from beneath, to give way! The rear right side of the truck was in the subsequent hole, lifting the aforementioned wheel off the ground. Still, he was STUCK!

Almost immediately, there were three police cars and two city trucks there, assessing the situation. Following soon after them was a tow truck. The FedEx truck was extracted fairly quickly and he drove off. (I guess the truck was not damaged.) Then, the real work began.

A backhoe showed up. Pumps and huge hoses got pulled out. Before you knew it, there was a huge hole where the sidewalk used to be and there were guys down in said hole, working. I wondered if we still had water-we did…and we do! (“So, I got THAT goin’ for me!” What movie is that a quote from?)

I couldn’t help but think about the Fedex driver, the police, the city workers and the tow truck driver. You are going about your day, doing your job, not bothering a soul. Then suddenly, everything changes. You are suddenly neck deep (literally for some of them) in something you couldn’t even have imagined when the day began. What do you do? Do you throw up your and wail, “Why does everything happen to me?” OR, do you simply re-calibrate and deal with the situation at hand? So many people seem to think that the BOTH Ptolemy and Copernicus got it wrong- the sun does NOT revolve around the Earth nor does the Earth revolve around the Sun. Instead, EVERYTHING revolves around them!

You and I are simply NOT so important. Everything doesn’t revolve around us. If life suddenly changes- in little ways OR big ways- you have to re-calibrate and figure out a way to move forward. Quit whining about what IS and starting working ahead to what COULD be!

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Be Prepared

be-prepared-not-just-for-scouts

I was never a Boy Scout. (I WAS an Indian Guide! I was Rising Sun and my Dad was Setting Sun! But that’s a story for a different day!) But I DO believe in being prepared. And that fact leads to today’s health update! In recent days, we received not two but THREE separate things that I don’t necessarily need NOW but probably WILL as things continue to unfold.  

First- last Friday, we received my permanent Handicapped Parking placard…the kind you hang from your mirror. We haven’t used it yet. And most of the time, I wouldn’t even think of needing it. But occasionally now, we have to park far away from something and it will be nice to have. (Took about 2 months here in the beautiful but often pitiful state of Illinois, FYI.) So, that is in place. 

Second- we got a wheelchair. I family in the church had one they weren’t using. They saw my blog recently about deciding to take one to Parent’s Day at our younger son’s University and offered us theirs for as long as we might need it. Again, don’t need it muxch these days, bu there IS the occasional time when we wish we had one and we will definitely take it with is to Parent’s Day! 

Third- yesterday FedEx delivered an electric lift chair to us. I sleep in a recliner for sometimes a month or two at a stretch, depending on where I am in the treatment and how I’m feeling. The chair comes in two separate pieces- the back and the base. You might imagine that, while the back is pretty lightweight, the base is heavy enough that it’s a challenge to move.  

We got the whole box, intact, in the house with a dolly. We unpacked the chair and carried the back upstairs to its final destination, easy peasy. But the base proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Even with the dolly, the base was simply too heavy for me weakened legs to power up the stairs. (Would have been just as easy, peasy two years ago!) So, for now it aits in a largely unused room on our main floor, waiting for me to get a couple of strapping…younger…guys to help us!  

None opf them are absolutely needed right now. All of them will be used at some level now and will become more valuable as the cancer continues to do its stuff. But either way…we continue to prepare for as many eventualities as we can! We remain Hopeful Pragmatists! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Huge Inheritance

inheritance

My dad passed away more than 7½ years ago. And my mom passed away more than 14 years ago. So when my dad died, my siblings and I had the unenviable task of “breaking up house” for our parents. Most of my mom’s personal things had been taken care of, but of course all of the furniture, along with “family things” were still there and needed to be dealt with. 

I was the Trustee of their estate, so I was responsible for that disposition. Along with calling all of the people he did business with (electric company, water company, telephone, cable, etc.) to stop service and make arrangements for the final bills, I also had his mail permanently forwarded to my house. Because of that fact, HIS name coupled with MY address has made its way onto SEVERAL mailing lists. So the bottom line is this- I STILL get mail, in his name, at my house…this many years later! (Even though he never lived here- never even HEARD of “here”!) 

All of those facts play into something funny that happened to me a few years ago. I got a piece of mail- first class mail in a business-sized envelope- at the house…addressed to him. Often, when those things come in, I will joke, “I don’t think my dad is going to want a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens” or whatever the mail was…and then pitch it. But this particular envelope caught my attention. 

The return address was from a settlement group and I thought I remembered the name. And if I remembered right, it was regarding a class-action lawsuit filed against one of the big cell phone companies (who shall remain nameless but whose initials are A, T and T!). And since my dad was a customer of theirs, he was automatically a member of that lawsuit. 

About 6 years ago, I got paperwork regarding his involvement. It stated that I should fill it out and return it on his behalf if I wanted to keep his name in the suit. So…I did. And then I gave it not ONE more thought! That is, until about 2 years later. So, I’m holding this envelope, remembering all of this and thinking that the contents looked like it may be a check. Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck this morning, so I wasn’t naive enough to think it would be any REAL money, but I was interested in how much it was. So…I opened it! 

It was an 8½X11 sheet- the top ⅔ was a letter and the bottom third was a check, microperfed to the letter. I figured I had all the time in the world to read the letter, so I unfolded the paper to see the check. And the amount? The number of dollars sent to me on my dad’s behalf? A check that took A. labor to produce, B. paper on which to print, C. a printer on which to print, D. an envelope in which to mail and E. postage to get into my hot little hands? Ready? 18 cents. 18 CENTS! It took them AT LEAST 10 times that just to get it to me! 18 CENTS!! 

So my wife and I figured that this should be split 4 ways- between me and my three siblings. Therefore, I contacted my brother and sister in Southern Illinois and my sister in the panhandle of Florida to see just how they would each like to receive their 4½ cents! I just pray that all that unexpected inheritance didn’t go to their heads and ruin them!! I then went on Amazon.com to see what nice thing I could find for myself that cost…4½ cents! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Shortest Blog Ever

short-posts

Today will be the shortest blog I have ever written in 9 years of day-to-day posting. Long day? Too tired? Nothing to say? Answers, in order- yes, no and no. Was it a long day? Yep! Am I too tired? Nope. (In fact, it’s only 7:15PM as I write this. I have LOTS of time.) Do I have nothing to say? Come on- really? Do you know me at ALL?!!      

No, as I write this, 9 YEARS into a daily blog I wasn’t at all sure I could sustain, I have posted around 3,285 blogs, or 2 MILLION words! And all along the way, people have asked me, “why do you continue to write?” There are lots of reasons, but the main one popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday. A reader commented on yesterday’s 9:15AM worship service. The last thing she said was, “I attended worship yesterday at your church…because of your blog.” Any other questions?! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!