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10 Things I Learned from Mr Rogers November 23, 2016

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I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Which means I was at least 3 or so in 1968, when it first came on the air.  Or, um, I was three or so when I was able to watch, whenever I started, sometime between 1968 and 2001, when Mr. Rogers went off the air.  At that young an age, I could at least listen and comprehend, in my 3 or so years old way, that something interesting was on the television.  I laughed when Mr. Robinson (Eddie Murphy) came on and kind of mocked the show with a take of his own, envisioned somehow through his own neighborhood’s eyes.  But looking back now, that was kind of a sad social commentary.

Today I was reminded of the life-lessons I took from Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, when a facebook friend said, in a sad political and social commentary, that “Mr. Rogers didn’t adequately prepare me for the people in my neighborhood.”

The sad side of this is the true side.

The true side of this coin she tossed is that Mr Rogers met neighbors who were neighborly and friendly and rational.  His neighborhood had nice people:  the mailman, the delivery man, the repairman, the policeman, the chef, the neighbor.  And many other regular neighbors and guests  He didn’t meet the selfish, the judgmental, the hateful, the angry, the bitter, the unpatriotic, the terrorist.  Well, not always.  Whenever he did meet someone who wasn’t on their best behavior (I might have seen one or two puppet characters behaving badly, or he might have read a letter about how to handle someone like that), there were gentle, loving life lessons to correct the behavior, like one might have seen in Mayberry:

I think sidewalk bike riders and other law-breakers are all  the same.  It’s just the degree of offense.  When caught early, and corrected, anti-social behavior grows up to become law-abiding, society contributing, helpful behavior.  When allowed to continue, anti-social behaviors grow up to be bigger anti-social behaviors.  Sometimes it’s not a parent’s fault.  Sometimes the kid is just that sneaky, they get away with it once and then do it again, the second time, bigger.  Sometimes it is a parent’s fault.  Sometimes the parent doesn’t offer any corrective words when appropriate, or other measures, when they may be appropriate.  A kid sometimes picks the wrong people to be friends with.  And sometimes, it’s just the kid growing up to be a worse version of their parent(s).

This is about to be a gentle, political, rant.  There’s a little x on the top left of your screen, you can click it now if you don’t want to hear it.  If you didn’t like my comment about parenting, or about your innocent, sweet little hoodlum, you probably won’t like the next sections, fair as they may be.  [x].  Before I upset you.  I’ve thought this out and so any responses will be appreciated, but not necessary.  If you like it, fine, if you don’t, also fine, but critical remarks will not be acknowledged.

Clinton said a lot of good things about her plans for America.  She has experience in the political arena and is used to brokering deals with foreign authorities.  The deals haven’t always been great for America, but she did what she did in the service of her country, and even Trump acknowledged her contributions and labors for America.  She also has a history of involvement in several scandals, from Watergate to Benghazi-gate to email-gate to the illegal trade of $400M for four out of 8 hostages being held by Iran.  The trade, though illegal wasn’t as bad as the trade of 5 Afghani Taliban terrorist prisoners for one deserter who shall be nameless because his name isn’t worth mentioning.  All these scandals were known to Democrats and they still couldn’t offer us a candidate  worth voting for.   Those who voted for her felt the scandals could be overlooked in the interest of promoting a candidate who had experience and could continue the mode and policies of the present President.  Like the bike riding kid, she got away with a lot of things, from way back in the 70s, and possibly earlier, through to recent history, earning reputation, power, and fame, and it only grew until she was the Democrats’ pick for President.

Trump said a lot of good things about his plans for America.  While not particularly politically savvy, he has experience in the business arena and is apparently a good deal broker.  The deals haven’t always been great for the other side, but Trump seemed to come out all right, so if he’s dealing for America, for all of America, maybe he’ll make us come out on top.  He also has a history of difficulty controlling his mouth.  He’s brutally honest, he talks $#!+, he thinks he’s THE $#!+, as the saying goes.  If he doesn’t like you, you know it.  If he likes you, either you’ll know it right away, or the tape will be released after it’s too late to choose a better Republican candidate.  He’s a little bit of a primate.  If he thinks you’re hot, he’ll let you know.  And apparently, some well hidden women, at least hidden or kept quiet until it was too late to choose a better Republican candidate, finally told America that Trump liked them a LOT more than they liked him, and took it upon himself to demonstrate those feelings physically.  We hope they were just a political ploy to divert votes to Clinton.  It would be disappointing, but not surprising.  Those who voted for him felt the stupidity could be overlooked in the interest of promoting a candidate who promised to NOT continue the mode and policies of the present President.  Like the bike-riding kid, he talked a lot of sass and got away with it from real estate to Miss America to Trump University, earning reputation, wealth, power and fame until he became the Republican President Elect.

You may have guessed, rightly, that neither one of these two were, in my opinion, the best candidate for President.  But the Electoral College has spoken, presumably, and Donald is headed for the White House.  Neither of these two candidates would have fared well if people had paid attention to some lessons I learned from Mr Rogers.

10)  There’s a yellow flashing light right at the beginning.  If you paid attention, when you grew up you might remember it.  And flashing yellow lights mean to be cautious, and pay attention.  In my opinion, voters threw caution to the wind when voting for either of these two.  We Americans should have exercised more wisdom, greater caution, in selecting our candidates from both parties.
9) The next thing you see is a sign that says “Hi.”  Even though you’re cautious, be friendly.  In the theme song at the very beginning, Mr Rogers reaches out in an offer of friendship.  Even though he’s asking if the listener will be his neighbor, the song conveys an unspoken offer, that the singer will be a neighbor, if the invitation is accepted.  Our candidates traded volleys of insults, verbal jabs, rude interruptions, and if we were looking for a person offering friendship, these two don’t measure up.
8) “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s clear and bright or rainy and cloudy or grey and snowy.  The rain provides drinking water, never a bad thing.  The rain also helps plants grow, to provide food.  The snow also provides water for the earth, and the cold makes the best bread flour, and otherwise gives the earth a season of rest.  The clouds protect us from solar radiation.  And bright sunny days help our emotions, and provide vitamins, and are catalytic for plant growth during warm seasons. And we’re alive, and if we’re neighbors, we have each other for support and encouragement.  That’s how it’s supposed to be, anyway.  Our candidates and our media were all overly critical of what was bad about the candidates, instead of talking about whatever good things there were to say about them.  Even at the local level, the campaigns were so negative it was difficult to choose because every ad for every candidate I watched only talked about how bad the other guy was, and not about the good things they stood for.  I strongly disliked the negative campaigns.  I want to hear what you stand for, not what you stand against, and I want to hear what makes you a good candidate, not what makes the other person bad.
7) Mr. Rogers puts away his jacket in the closet.  We’d all do well to put away our things when not in use.  I lose things all the time, when I don’t put them where they belong.  He also takes off his shoes, or his rain boots, and puts on house shoes, to avoid tracking in mud or dirt from outside.  These habits minimize cleanup.  Not putting away now, when it takes a second, leads to a mountain of cleanup that takes a long time to process later.  Same with correcting behavior- earlier is much easier than later.  We voters need to see the dirt early and choose clean candidates, like clean shoes, and discourage the muckraking that always seems to shade the last stage of the campaigns.  Disclosure and not coverup would give us the cleanest possible candidates.  If you did something bad, unless it’s habitual and you have no intention of changing course, you should confess it, change course, and then do your best.
6) After hanging up his clothes in the closet, he gently closes the door.  He doesn’t leave it open, to be in the way, or slam it in anger.  There was so much anger from both sides of this campaign, if those two lived in the same house there would be nothing but doors slamming.  Hillary wanted to slam the door on anyone who wanted to know what she had really done, which was all of us, and Donald wanted to slam the door on anyone who didn’t believe his campaign promises were realistically possible, which was all of us.
5) While changing shoes, one shoe is playfully tossed into the air from one hand, and then caught in the other hand, with a slight smile near the end of the song.  Ordinary things are what we have, and there’s no reason not to enjoy the ordinary things in life.  If you don’t enjoy your ordinary things, and you don’t enjoy your ordinary life, and do the best you can with the ordinary, you’ll never experience happiness, the surprise of success with simplicity, of honor with humility, even if life gives you more.  I struggle with this lesson.  But I see people who don’t get what they want and they throw a fit in protest, like the kid who lost his bike.  Sometimes in life we hope for better, we hope for more, and life gives us the ordinary to see if we’ll still celebrate.  Trump said he expected to win, and wouldn’t say how he would react if he lost the election.  Clinton was far more gracious in loss than I expected Trump to be. But I hear Clinton supporters being far less gracious than their leader. I also hear about Trump supporters being less interested in building a team, and more interested in gloating. If we’d paid closer attention to the way the candidates spoke, about themselves and about their opponents, we might have done things differently. We voters should look and listen, carefully.

4) When Mr Rogers had a guest, his guest was special.  Did you see what happened, starting at 12:27, and up to 12:33?  Even the fish were special.  “And very beautiful.”  Not just the fish, but the people too.  Mr. Rogers loved the arts, and music of all kinds, and wanted us to know that behind the beauty of the music, were beautiful musicians.  Starting at 14:25, he met the quartet of talented musicians, lovely ladies.  He spoke to them respectfully, and treated them honorably.  This, Donald Trump, is how you speak to, and about, ladies, whether you’re on the record or not.  This, Hillary Clinton, is how to win elections, and how to broker better deals.  No scandal is necessary from a political official.  Only gentleness.  Occasionally firm gentleness when it’s called for, but gentleness.  This, fair candidates, is how you act, and react, when in a position of power.  Did you see Mike Pence’s reaction to being called out for standing for what he believes in?  He was gentle. He took no offense.  Mr. Trump:  do it like that.  Did you even hear one word from Clinton’s running mate during the campaign?

3) Mr. Rogers taught love for everyone.  It was love infused with truth though.  When someone acted improperly, the puppets, usually, Mr. Rogers let them know how what they were doing affected other people’s feelings, and asked them to think about how that would look and feel if it were someone affecting them.    I wish politicians did that.  I wish military leaders, and other people in power, would do that.  I wish criminals would do that.  I wish vandals would do that.  People hurt other people because they are selfish and they don’t care about anyone but themselves.  They want what they want and aren’t thinking about anyone except themselves.  We all need to think about how what we do will affect someone else.  But more than think about it, we need to let those thoughts shape what we say, and what we do.  We have a responsibility to do what we can with what we have to make the world a better place, not just for us, but for everyone.  That is the very essence of truth and love together.

2) Your feelings are OK.  As I said before, people who voted for Trump were worried about Clinton.  People who voted for Clinton were worried about Trump.  It’s OK to feel your feelings, but it’s not OK to let your feelings  motivate reprehensible actions.  It’s OK to voice your concerns calmly and rationally.  Maybe someone else hasn’t thought things through well enough to realize how something might hurt another person.  If we understand other people’s feelings, and we care about other people, we will try to act in such a way as to not deliberately hurt others.

1)  We shouldn’t live for the big moments in life, because they might never come.  Clinton, devastated by losing, is now regrouping and demanding a recount of the votes to make sure she’s fairly treated by the electoral college.  She’s living to be the President, still.  But look at her running mate.  He’s gone back to work.  He’s doing it right.  It’s the little things that add up to the big things.  If you wait until something big happens, you will not be in the right place because you didn’t work at the little things and get yourself moving in the stream toward the big things.  You’ll be left on the riverbank, because you waited and didn’t get in the stream and start swimming.

0) People sometimes make mistakes.  Well, I sometimes make mistakes.  Like ending up with 11 items on a top 10 list.  When people make one mistake, after making it right, at least after apologizing and making it clear the mistake won’t be repeated, maybe the person who was wronged can forgive.  And when I make a mistake, I want to be allowed to learn from it and continue, after making course corrections.  But anyone who doesn’t learn from their mistakes needs natural consequences and friends who will tell them they’re on a bad path.  And needs to be restricted until they learn from their mistakes.  Like the boy in Mayberry whose smart dad sold his bike.  Otherwise he’d have sold out his own father, so who else wouldn’t he hurt as collateral damage in his quest for chaos and power?  Clinton has one scandal after another.  Trump has scandals too.  Those patterns of behavior make neither one my choice.  But in the spirit of the other lessons, and this one,  I’ll do what I’ve done for each president since I learned to do it:  Pray.  I will pray, because our elected leaders need protection, wisdom, and servant hearts, to do their jobs well for all Americans.

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It’s Not the End of the World June 26, 2014

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I talk to smart people.  I read stuff that smart people say.  And then I get the comments from my ordinary friends, from the news spin doctors, from the internet.  And then I have to make up my own mind what to think, if I haven’t already made a choice.  And what I hear the smart people saying is that it’s the end of the world.  It’s been the end of the world since 1947, according to the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  I’ve heard that one before. Tick.  If people were panic stricken and prayerful when that clock was established, I only heard about the panic when I read about it in school.

If people were panic stricken and prayerful when Obama took office, they were even more panic stricken when he won reelection.  I heard from a few of them, both ordinary and smart people, all offering their thoughts on what Obama might do.  And I continue to hear from them, about what he’s done, and the track that America is on based on what he’s done.  Tick.  I heard more about the panic than the prayer back in 2008, and even less about the prayer in 2012.  I’ll admit, the lack of a prayer response from people I once respected left me wanting, and not a little disappointed.

We’ve got global warming warnings.  We’ve got earthquakes in diverse places.  The latest earthquake I was told about was a big one just off the Alaska mainland.  From 2011, we’ve got a nuclear meltdown and polluted oceans after an earthquake and tidal wave, and when the next one will be is anybody’s guess but the scientists warn it is coming.  We’ve got economic crises looming.  Those are brought up in the news whenever it’s convenient for a politician to sidestep another scandal.  And we’ve got political scandals.  We’ve got bank fraud, on a global scale.  We’ve got identity theft.  We’ve got whatever the latest version of typhoid fever, or malaria, or bubonic plague or severe flu virus.  Swine flu, avian flu, shark populations exploding, We’ve got STDs and immuno-deficiency disorders.  We’ve got gas prices soaring amid speculator investments bubbling up, and food prices going up because of weather phenomenon and supply rumors.  We’ve got fast food vendors who are in trouble for selling their food-related products, because we don’t know about all the processing that goes on to make those delicious burgers and someone took a few pictures so now we’re all supposed to become vegetarians and give up all of our delicious meat.  And in regard to that, we’ve got rumors of related diseases and a looming healthcare crisis.  And yesterday, the big news was that in America’s heartland, right here in Indiana, there are people who don’t wish to adhere to Judeo-Christian norms, and they’ve gotten a judicial foothold.  Tick.

Am I supposed to be surprised?  Am I supposed to be alarmed?  Am I supposed to be fearful?  Am I supposed to suspect, and propose, with other observers, that it’s the end of the world?  Am I supposed to jump up on a bully pulpit somewhere and tell the world how wrong it is?

I’m afraid I gave away my opinion in my title.  Sorry for the plot spoiler. I’ve made my mind up on lots of things, but lots I still ponder, and I bet you do too.  But amid the worry of the world, why am I so calm?  Am I independently wealthy?  Not yet, but keep those dollars rolling in and someday I will be.

It frustrates some of my people that I am calm, because they know why.  I don’t care.  Truth.  I don’t care that people are afraid it’s the end of the world.  I don’t care that people are facing global plagues.  Well that’s not entirely true.  I do care about incurable  and curable diseases.  I think the curable ones should be eradicated, and the incurable ones should be researched to prove they aren’t curable.  I do care about famine.  I think hungry people should be fed and not subjected to the greed and incompetence of world leaders, despots and wanna-be’s.  I do care about war-torn peoples and innocent people, children especially, who have to face the consequences of the decisions and choices of adults in the world.  I am in favor of peace and safety, but then I don’t live on that planet.  And I do care that the price of things has gotten so out of hand that it’s difficult for me and my family to survive on my income, much the more for homeless and even lower income people.  I think we should all have a safe place to live and care for one another.  If you want to help me get closer to finding my utopia, once again, keep those dollars rolling in, because there’s hope (for me and mine if you do).  And if you ask me what my standards are, or have any other questions about what I think, feel free to ask, and I’ll decide whether I care enough to answer, or if your question isn’t relevant to me.  

Here is why:

The scientists and researchers and war-mongers and child abusers and politicians and other criminals and news media people and special interest groups are yanking everybody’s chains.  They want you to buy something.  It could be a new product.  It could be their new book(s).  It could just be their theory.  Some take their theory and drive it around and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until others just surrender and accept it and let other people tell other people as if that theory is a fact, when it’s still just a theory.  Social theory.  Evolution theory.  Big Bang Theory.  Creation theory. Grand Unification Theory. Trinification, Flipped, or Left-Right theories. String Theory. Conspiracy Theory.  It could be that they just want you to accept whatever they’re peddling as if it’s good for you, or that it’s harmless to you.  They could be selling an idea or an ideology.  Even in America there are religious groups that peddle nothing but hatred for everyone who isn’t like them, and who do things of which they disapprove.  And there are groups that say that what they are doing is okay and should be socially acceptable and normative, although other groups don’t agree with them, and historically their behavior choices haven’t proven to have the best of consequences for them or their victims.  I mean, participants.

I’m saying there are lawyer groups who represent bankers who say it should be okay for bankers to misappropriate funds and get bonuses for doing that.  I’m saying there are lawyers who represent the people who overspent the Social Security fund that taxpayers still pay into, who say it’s okay for them to “borrow” from that fund and not pay it back.  I’m saying there are special interest groups for pedophiles, who lurk in wait to abuse children, and they want their behavior normalized, though thankfully so far society is not ready to accept that.  I’m saying there’s probably a special interest group for kidnappers and rapists who want their behavior kept hidden, or if in the light, brushed under the judicial carpets.  Thank God it’s not popular in the era of social media to talk about those abuses and tendencies without getting your head bitten off.  There’s a pro-gun lobby and an anti-gun lobby, a pro choice and a pro life lobby. All sorts of stuff to distract people with, including whatever’s on the nightly news tonight. But adulterers are so commonplace, nobody bats an eye until it’s the conservative pastor who’s now some kind of worse sinner because he did what the world has been doing since almost “in the beginning.”  

Why does the world want to hold a Christ-follower to a higher standard?  It’s only fair.  “Do not judge, or you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)  And I may be throwing a pearl or two at a pig (Matthew 7:6) in this article.  I await your responses to see.  But Christ Followers, or those who claim to be Christ Followers, are some of the most judgemental people I know, and I’m one of them sometimes.  Just not today.  The pendulum may swing back; we’ll see.  But for now, let me be the first to say that offering Christ’s pearls of wisdom and holy things to pigs and dogs will backfire.  So, officially, I don’t care what the world does.  You may be headed for hell in a handbasket, but until you’re ready to receive holy things and Biblical wisdom, or until I’m a paid preacher targeting my audience carefully, I’m holding my tongue.

Except to say this:  What you are hearing is not necessarily the truth.  What you are thinking, if it’s what you’ve been told, is not necessarily the truth.  It’s just possible that it’s someone’s agenda, and motive, and spin, and sales spiel, and not rational, and not right, and not unbiased.  Do you know what you’re falling for?  Do you know what you believe? Is it rational or does it fall apart under close scrutiny?  And do you know why you believe that?  Was it something someone told you, or showed you until you figured it was right because it looked normal to you?  Are there consequences to you if you go along quietly, or actively participate?

And now I’m yanking too.  There are many theories about the end of the world, but most of the doom-sayers are proven wrong.  At least the ones who’ve jumped the gun on the date.  They draw large crowds of idiots with their fine speeches and their calculations, who throw vast sums of money at them.  Send me yours and I’ll tell you it’s NOT the end of the world.  Yet.

I’m not sure if it’s a pearl or a holy thing, but my Bible tells me the end of the world isn’t for at least another 1000 years, give or take. So “un-tick.”   As with everything else, it depends how you read it.  If you read Revelation 20 literally, it says the earth has to last for another thousand years after Satan gets locked in the Abyss, and then he gets out for a while to lead people astray, and then it’s the end of the world.  That clock isn’t ticking yet because Satan isn’t locked up right now and my headlines say Christ is not reigning in everyone’s hearts.  If Christ were reigning in everyone’s hearts, would he allow the poverty, broken hearts, captivity, darkness, sickness, mayhem and destruction, or would he allow good news, healing, freedom and light? (see Isaiah 61:1)

You don’t have to choose to read the Bible, although I’d encourage you to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, and read it for yourself.  When you read your Bible, if you read it, I encourage you to read what it says, considering each message and its’ primary target audience before you start getting mad or trying to redact the text to fit your choices.  When you read your Bible, ask why the message was offered to the target audience.  Was there an undisclosed medical or social reason for the instruction, that we should know about?  

Like slavery.  It was just as wrong in Exodus as it is today, but back then they had instructions in their society that said to take care of each other, whether slave or free, and the Jewish culture had a tradition of setting slaves free on a given year. Before you label me pro-slavery, I’m only reading the text, and I’m against it. It had bad consequences for Egypt in Exodus, and when we started enslaving people in America it was bad before and after 1865. I think America is still paying for it, though not the way some feel it should be paid. The Jewish people were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, growing worse and worse in treatment every year, so they wrote about it, fresh on their minds, as a socially accepted practice of the day to say they didn’t want people abusing other people, as God doesn’t want people abusing other people. Same with in the New Testament. If someone works for you, or is your slave, you shouldn’t mistreat them. If you work for someone, or are their slave, you shouldn’t be lazy.  It wasn’t known back in Bible times, but there are bacteria that infest raw meat, and if you choose to eat it raw, you can get sick and die.  Hand washing.  That’s just a good practice.  Does whatever instruction you’re reading apply to you?  Ask if there’s a more hopeful choice you could make, than the ones you’ve already been predisposed or taught to choose.  Ask what logical consequences and observable outcomes are still apparent in the modern world, if one should decide not to do the things we’re told to do, or do the things we’re told not to do?

Just like avian, bovine, equine and swine flu, the stuff you do has rippling effects spreading out from you and touching the world.  (Cough, Cough)  So think for yourself about it.  Are you just another goat following the herd, accepting what people have told you is right or are you exploring it for yourself?  Are you, or those who think like you and maybe taught you, making the world full of more poverty, broken hearts, captivity, darkness, sickness, mayhem, and destruction?  Or are you, or they, a messenger with good news, healing, freedom and light?  And before you throw stones of judgement, or ill fitting labels at me, remember, I don’t care what you choose to do, and in the aftermath of whatever your choice is, if I live through the natural consequences of your actions (and mine) I’m stuck on the same planet and have to help clean up the mess because Christ Followers are supposed to help (Galatians 6:10).  So although I don’t care what you choose, I’m stuck caring for whatever’s left when you’re done.  I’d prefer you keep it clean and safe and nice, and when you’re messy and dangerous and mean, please just stay away from me and my family and friends.

Thanks for your cooperation.  

The end of the world is coming, it’s true.  But not like you think.  It’s just possible that you could die without ever figuring out what the truth is and what the lies are.  If you believe the lies, you just might be headed down the broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14), and that’d just be sad.  A lot of people think they have it right, but according to Jesus as told by Matthew, they don’t.  And that’s something that was in the Old Testament (Proverbs 14:12) that was repeated in the New Testament.  I figure, if it’s in the Old Testament taught to the Israelites, AND in the New Testament to Christ Followers, maybe I ought to pay close attention and figure out if there’s a way I fit into that context.  Like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  I need to listen to things that threaten my life, and listen intently to things that threaten my soul. (Matthew 10:28)  It’s not Elizabeth, it’s God holding the proverbial gun, and he doesn’t have to negotiate.  It’s not Lord Cutler Beckett, it’s I, who must decide whether to accept God’s terms or not.  If I died before accepting His terms of surrender, it would be an eternal tragedy for me.  How about you?

One of my encouragers popped in my email to remind me and his group of this text, and I think I said the above with the right tone. It’s my intention to encourage you to find out for yourselves, not to point out errors I might think I see in your life.  If I point out your errors, who’s going to help me with the plank in my eye before I try to help with the speck in yours?  (Matthew 7:3-5)   “Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.” (Romans 14:19, The Message)

I’ll just encourage you to search out the true truth, not the spun messages spinning all around us.  And I’ll encourage you to pray.  If there is a God and He hears and answers prayer, then it couldn’t hurt to pray.  And if there isn’t, you’ve done no harm by praying and then getting up from kneeling to do what you know is right.  Maybe the panic should remind all of us to pray.  But I don’t hear a lot of people in America doing that.  Maybe because it’s more fun to panic, or more comfortable, or more socially acceptable.  If you need me, I’ll be over here, praying.  

Intently.

My Mite, His Might May 14, 2014

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On Saturday I witnessed the first communion of my niece and nephew.  As a Protestant I was surprised to feel so very welcomed and included.  And I was pleased with the encouragements being offered to parents and young, new communicants.  The clothes were elegant.  The language in the pew before and behind our family was unmistakeably Polish.  The grandparents and parents beamed with pride, and hope, and love.  The singing was scattered, but led well and played and sung loudly enough one didn’t have to notice if their neighbor didn’t sing.

My Mother-In-Law declined to partake in communion, saying her knees were unfaithful and she was afraid of the trip from pew to altar.  I stayed by her, mercifully pardoned the lonely embarassment of being Protestant in a crowd of Catholics.  Their worship books in the pew have provisions for non-Catholic participation in communion.  It’s done by special written permissions from the higher church authorities.  Or, it’s done by presumptuous people who don’t know you’re supposed to get permission if you haven’t been through their instruction programs.  I know too much to participate with a clear conscience.  But they were so welcoming!  From what the priest said, all were to be included in the special occasion.  I felt that I could have gone right up and received the elements.  It would have been very awkward for me though.

After the celebratory parade of new communicants and the faithful participated in the communion rite, what the priest had to say reduced me to tears.  Not because of what he said.  But because of what it meant to me.  I kind of simultaneously love and hate when God says stuff and seems to aim it directly at my hard, faithless, doubting heart. 

The text was John 6.  When Jesus tried to get away with his disciples just for a chance to break away from healings and other ministries, a crowd followed them and just when they sat down, the crowds were coming in a swarm, almost upon them.  Jesus knew they were coming and knew what he wanted to do all along.  He asked the disciples to figure out how to feed everyone.  They counted the cost, about a half a year’s wages or more, and knew they didn’t have that kind of cash. 

A little boy offered them his lunch.  5 small barley bread loaves and two fish.  The priest asked what the kids thought the disciples were thinking.  They gave various responses.  “It’s not enough.”  “What will the boy eat?”  And the priest only told about the disciple’s response of how much it would cost to feed the crowd. 

I read the text and they joked, I think with not a little sarcasm, amongst themselves, “oh, great.  That’ll go really far!”  But the kid offered it.  It was an offering far too small to meet the need, and it was offered because the innocent boy had faith.

Ever read the story of “the widow’s mite?”  See Mark 12, Luke 21.  That lady gave, down to her last lepton.  I don’t spend a lot of money.  What I earn mostly goes into the checking and out to bills.  But if I ever get any extra, and it isn’t spent on my wife or kids, I think it’s hilarious to empty my wallet (usually a buck or five is all I have) into the offering box.  My son saw me do that once and he was worried.  “DON’T!!  What if you need that?!”  I said “God and I have an arrangement.  I won’t need that.”  And since I don’t go out to eat normally, and rarely need anything for myself, if it makes it into my wallet, chances are, I won’t. Besides, it’s only a tiny mite, and I don’t want anyone to make a big deal about it, because it’s no big deal. No one is blowing trumpets to announce my giving (please).  I once went the whole week with a $20 in my wallet while my wife and kids were away from home.  My gas tank was filled before they left, I cooked my own meals and brought them with me to work and cooked at home, and when they came back I still had the $20.  So I have times when I live like a miser.  But there are other times when money goes like water and I can liquidate a hundred or two.

Like at the gas station, for instance.

The priest never specifically mentioned the faith of the little boy. He never mentioned the sarcasm of the faithless adult disciples, who obviously didn’t know Who they were hanging around with. But to silence their faithless sarcasm, not only did Jesus feed the crowd of 5000 men, not including women and children, he had the disciples go around and collect the leftovers. Not just one basket, but twelve. Not 13, He’s not wasteful. So that meant there was enough for one more meal of fish and bread for the disciples to enjoy.

About eating your words? In your face, faithless sarcasm. God can do anything He wants, even if the offering is far too small. I thought through this. And at that point in my thought process, I wept, right in the middle of my in-law’s first communion, in the Catholic church. My heart is broken, my wallet and my checkbook always only has an offering far too small. Lately, it’s been a harsh, brutal, difficult journey of getting into debt, with creditors now calling several times a day. Where do they get the money to keep up the attacks? We got call tracing on our phone and we don’t answer any more. The debts started accruing when I got a job that doesn’t pay enough and we tried to preserve the value of one of our cars and it ended up needing to be replaced in spite of our repair efforts and our investments toward it. It’s only gotten deeper from there. The interest rate is too high and we’re hardly able to make that, not to mention the principle we borrowed to start with.

So, Jesus, I have what I have, and I earn what I earn, and think in my sarcastic, bitter heart, “Oh great. That’ll cover a lot of the debt. Good luck with that, vultures. I mean bankers.” I don’t have enough. But like the widow and the boy with the single lunch, I need You to feed these vultures at my door and on my phone, and could You leave a few baskets behind for me and the family? I’ll cheerfully eat my sarcasm and bitter faithlessness if You’ll multiply the tiny offerings I have. From my perspective, there are too many details for which money is the answer, and not enough to cover the costs. But from God’s perspective and plan, perhaps the proverbial “lunch” I have to offer can be blessed and multiplied somehow.

Readers, I’ll let you know when He answers. And I’ll let you know what He says, too. Right now He’s pretty quiet. Maybe He’s waiting for them to sit down. Maybe there’s still something I’m supposed to learn. But He can do anything. This I know. My mite is still going to go into the offering, because it’s still ridiculously hilarious. I just pray He covers me, and multiplies my mite with His Might.