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Telephone Tag December 15, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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It’s Christmas.  I’m enjoying everyone else’s excitement and fun.  But I’m a bit lost in it all.  Sure, we’re setting up our kids, and I hope to write a Christmas poem/song and a nice note for my wife.  We quit doing the stupid Christmas letter years ago.  Those letters we receive, and those letters we’ve sent in the past, were all about feeling positive about the present and the future.  Why bother?  So I quit doing it.  And my wife, not being the writer, didn’t take it up.  If you’re fond of writing, or reading, the Christmas letter, and getting the photo of the family, I love to read yours and see your pictures, and I’m not as critical of your writing as I am when I write my own.  We didn’t take one of those happy smiling photos either, so I’m sorry.  My wife and kids are more beautiful/handsome than ever, thank you for asking.

My wife tries to encourage me.  “We’ll be ok.  Smile.” Or something like that.

“OK” (Faking smile for 3 seconds)  “I’m ‘depressed-happy.'”

My pastor keeps hitting me with these “Messages from God,” and it’s only his second or third Sunday as Senior Pastor.  Last week he asked what we’d answer if God asked us to do something.  I’d assert that my answer is yes.  His example was Zechariah, who was asked to name his kid John and raise him to a high standard of behavior, and Elizabeth, who was asked to have a kid when she was kind of elderly for child-bearing.  This week he asked if we were available.  Yes again.  His example was Mary, who had done the right things in her youth, and was available to God for His purposes.  Well, who in the modern era has done the right things?  Not I.  But available?  Sure.  Let me know what you want me to do, and then give me the energy, inspiration and time to get it done.  I’ve got a little time if I sneak it in, or delay some pressing project that’s less than urgent.

Why am I “depressed-happy?”  Well, I like that people are gearing up for Christmas.  It’s cool.  The God I want to serve gets to be a focal point for people.  I’m getting ready for the Christmas Eve presentation at Church, and in the Sunday School class I teach, good kids every one, we talked about the Christmas story, Christmas carols, and poetry.  I encouraged them to read through what we know about Christmas from the source Texts, (Matthew, Mark, Luke) so they can separate fact from myth or poetic license.  That’s a good thing.  And we’re not in dire dire straits.  And my wife and kids are beautiful and relatively happy.  And my wife is very good, like fantastic, about wanting to take care of me and the kids.  So that’s the happy part.

What’s the “depressed” part?  The message I strongly feel is being directed to me is only getting halfway across.  I mean, Mary and Joseph and Zecharias got angels, for heaven’s sake.  Color me jealous.  They delivered a complete message of instruction.  Where’s mine?  Sure, it’d scare the crap out of me.  But at the same time, it’d be clear.  It’s like that telephone game you played as a kid.  Someone would whisper a message to their neighbor.  They’d whisper to their neighbor, and so on until the message got to you, and it was distorted, garbled, or mischievously changed.  I get the first half.  Be available.  Fine, sign me up.

I’m signed up because I still believe God is the only God there is, because God is the only One Who can adequately step in here, and because in my past… well, there’s a novel or two for you. One is a story of survival, the other is a love story, miracles and all, that I still treasure and cling to, although, the only angel in that story is my wife.  It’s just been a while since I’ve had a really good, hopeful chapter.

So I’m signed up.  Now I just need the means, energy, inspiration and time.  I don’t feel that i have any of that.  And for what?  For what I’m already going through?  Where do I sign up to escape from the stupidity of it?  Stuff falls apart, and this trend is not met with the resources to fix things I feel need to be  fixed.  So it waits on the repair pile until it becomes a crisis and then it gets a patch.  And whenever I start to see what might be a flicker at the end of the tunnel, something comes along and snatches that away just as fast as I thought I saw it.  Or maybe I didn’t really see it.

The Sunday school kids and I focused on the shepherds this week.  Color me more jealous.  The shepherds got a whole anthem of angels.  OK I made that plural designation up, they’re sometimes called a “flight” or a “host” of angels.  But being as they busted out singing, an anthem seems fitting.  I just want one.  Not a misfit “Clarence,” like in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  But if Clarence appeared in the room, I’d even listen to him.

I watched a movie the other day, I won’t tell the title because I don’t think anyone else should endure it on purpose.  It was a typical starter story line for a movie, mystery builds, bad stuff happens, and you wait for the ending to be happy:  The victims are rescued, the bad guys are exterminated or arrested and carried off to justice, the hero says something witty and smiles and everything is ok.   Not this movie.  The victims are all just killed, including the lady you think will live, and the credits roll.  Real life, I guess.  But I thought it sucked!  I brought it up because I don’t want my real life to be like that.  It sucks, and you die.  The end.  Roll credits.  Please.  No.

If God/Jesus is the hero of the Bible (and He is), then I want Him to be my hero too.  And I can identify with the shepherds before the angelic chorus broke out.

Dear God,

It’s me.  I’m still here.  I feel like a shepherd, watching my sheep.  I’m getting old here on this cold hill.  My bones ache, my muscles are tired, my skin itches, my eyes are out of focus (old glasses), my teeth are failing, and the sheep are boring, doing what sheep do.  They’re born, we shear them, we feed and care for them, they live, they die.  Not exciting.  And I want to sleep, but if I slow down things will fall apart even faster, and they’re already faster than I can handle.  The sole came off of the heel of my shoe the other day, and I think there are holes in my covering.  (At least some of these are metaphors.) I feel breezy and cold, and my foot is damp.

I’m trying to do the right thing, but then my humanity creeps in and sometimes I do what humans do, which is to screw up.  Sorry for not being pure and blameless all the time.  Not sure how Zecharias and Mary managed that.  I’m trying to help out, but I really don’t feel empowered to do more or give more.  I’ve got a dream, but, the pay is crap and I’m stuck here on this hill without the means or time or energy or inspiration to pursue it.  And I’m trying to pursue the dream without the means, in whatever spare time I might have, and I progress little by little, but most days I’m not feeling like I’m making any progress at all.

I don’t even have the right that Mary or Zecharias and Elizabeth might have claimed, to be chosen.  I’m not pure and blameless.  I’ve got age spots on my sins.  But I still want Jesus to be my Hero.  If He’s not coming in person, I still want Him to send help.  The shepherds had a cool story to tell, after that night.  Mary, and Zecharias, and Elizabeth, and the rest, lived out a pretty cool story too.  I understand the stigma Mary had to endure.  But her kid was Jesus, for heaven’s sake.  How comforting would it be to be “overshadowed by the power of God” (v35) Himself?

Right now the villain has me in his evil clutches.  I don’t want it to end like that movie.  Can my story have a happy ending, please?  And can You intervene for those out there that I know have it even worse than me, first?


I’m ready for Christmas.  I hope there’s a present under the tree for me.  I hope there’s at least one for you too.  And for everyone else who is crying out, I hope you’ll find hope in this season, too.  Give a listen to the song below.  It’s one of my very favorite bands, with a song that is close to my heart, although maybe right now we’re on the wrong side of it.  And may “God bless us, every one!”



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