Thoughts and Beliefs

The Land of Me

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As we came out of the restaurant last night, we happened upon an all too familiar scene.  Someone had pulled their car right beside our van, and thus had blocked the stripes on the ground that are meant to signal that this is not a place to park your car.  Fortunately, the driver was in the car and had her window rolled down.  My wife and I approached the driver and explained that she was in the stripes and we could not get my wheelchair into my van.  We were calm, and smiled at her…trying to make this as peaceful a confrontation as possible.

“I’m checking to see if my order was correct.” she replied.  She had just been through the drive through.  She turned away from us to continue checking her food order.

“Ma’am, you are parked illegally, and we need you to move.”  I said a little more forcefully.

“I was only here for a second.  I just pulled in.”  She retorted.

“Ma’am, it was illegal the moment you drove your car into the stripes and parked.  It does not matter how long you were here.”  We responded.  After several seconds of what I can only describe as an angry stare, she slammed her car into reverse saying that she hoped we had a wonderful evening.  Her tone suggested otherwise, but I still smiled and replied that I hoped she had the same.

I wish I could tell you that this situation isn’t a regular occurrence, but I’d be lying.  It is so common, that I no longer get angry, but am just disappointed in careless thinking.  Most of the time, we are able to work around the carelessly parked car, but sometimes, we have to seek help as there is only so much room for my ramp.

I’m not suggesting that people who do these kinds of things are evil or stupid.  Rather, these actions are a symptom of a much larger problem.  We are so wrapped up in our own lives that our first thoughts do not go towards what others may need but rather what we need…or want for that matter.

Sure, doors are held open, and no one calls me names to my face anymore, but if you want to see where our thoughts and actions lie, just watch what happens when no one is looking.  When societal members think they can get away with something wrong, a significant number of them will attempt it.  What really blew me away with this interaction was the tone the driver took with us.  If she had apologized and moved as soon as she realized what she had done, then she wouldn’t have driven away feeling angry.  But, how dare we tell her she was in the wrong and how dare we ask her to move.  After all, her dinner was very important to her.  So important, in fact, that she had failed to see a dozen open parking spaces in front of the restaurant where she could have legally parked and checked her order.

I struggle with writing this as I think of my own behavior.  I, too, elevate myself to a position of importance, and have to be reminded often to think of others, first.  Fortunately, we have an example in Jesus, who was and is the ultimate servant.  In Mark 10, we find Jesus’ disciples having a little argument of sorts over who shall sit in a more prominent position at God’s table in glory.  After Jesus tells James and John that they don’t really know what they are asking for, the other disciples get upset.  Jesus takes the teachable moment to set the record straight:

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

This must have blown their minds.  In a society that depended totally on social class and roles, Jesus tells his disciples to throw that all out the window.  Become a slave of all…they must have thought he was crazy.  I know some movies depicting Biblical times often show the disciples as nodding their heads in agreement while stroking their beards when Jesus drops a truth bomb.  I don’t see that happening this time.  I’m thinking many of them were giving a great “deer in the headlights” impression with their jaws wide open.  Become a slave?  But you’re the son of God…

As Jesus’ statements were backwards from the way the world worked back then, we are just as backwards from Jeus today in America, The Land of Me.  Our comfort, our wealth, and the lack of any real persecution allows us to think of ourselves as kings simply serving a King that is a bit higher than we.  Even when evil strikes our nation as it did ten years ago today, we soon forget our position in God’s kingdom.  We return to our “me” lives, and think to ourselves, “It’s good to be sons/daughters of the King.”  And it is…but, this King, this Lord, expects us to act as his hands and feet in the world.  His expectation of us is not for us to lord over everyone around us, but rather, to show the world His love and His compassion through how we serve others.

That driver that was so inconsiderate…I wonder what she was going through that day…

A Lesson in Self-Worth from the Top of Mt. Ginches

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Our 6 month old has become enthralled with Bob and Larry from VeggieTales.  Joni and I think VeggieTales is much better than a good deal of the kids programming currently running on television, so we are glad she is so taken by the tomato and cucumber.  One episode that was recorded on our DVR has been playing over and over again in our living room over the past several weeks.  I love the message in the story, and wanted to relay it to you because of how profound the lesson is.

In the episode, “A Snoodle’s Tale,” Bob the Tomato tells a Dr. Seuss-like story of a little creature known as a Snoodle.  Now, most Snoodles are of average size, however, the young Snoodle playing the main role in the story (pictured right) is smaller than the others.  He tries his hand at art, music and even flying, but his talents are not as developed as the other Snoodles in town.  The Snoodles around him ridicule his efforts and make him feel terrible for even trying.  Every time the young Snoodle fails at something, the other Snoodles paint him a picture to commemorate the failure, and they place each painting in his backpack.  He eventually decides to leave town and head toward Mt. Ginches where he has seen the local “finches” flying and soaring through the sky. 

Once he reaches the top of Mt. Ginches, he finds a cave which is located “high above the clouds.”  Inside the cave, we meet a Stranger, the Creator of the Snoodles (which is a representation of God himself).  The Stranger sees the young Snoodle is very depressed, and he asks to see the paintings in his backpack.  The young Snoodle reluctantly complies, and is surprised when the Stranger announces that these paintings look nothing like the young Snoodle.  The Stranger tosses the terrible memories of the failures into the fire, and tells the Snoodle that He will paint a true image for him to carry in his pack.  Here are the words from the poem as it is told just as the Stranger has revealed His painting of the young Snoodle:

The boy in the portrait looked older and strong,
With wings on his back that were sturdy and long,
And a look in his eye, both courageous and free.
“Sir,” asked the boy, “Are you saying that’s–me?
I
‘d like to believe it, but, sir, I’m afraid to.” 

“I know who you are,” the man said, “for I made you.
I built the tower and set it in motion.
I planted the meadow–put fish in the ocean.
And I feed the finches, though most Snoodles doubt it,
Not one of them falls that I don’t know about it.”

 

I’ve seen you fall down in the mud and the goo.
I’ve seen all you’ve done and all you will do.
I gave you your pack and your paints and your wings.
I chose them for you. They’re your special things.”

 

“The Snoodle-kazoo is so you can sing
About colors in autumn or flowers in spring.
I gave you your brushes in hopes that you’d see
How using them, you can make pictures for me.”

“Most of the Snoodles,” the old one said sadly,
“Just use their paints to make others feel badly.”
The young Snoodle pondered the things he’d been told.
Then wondering something, grew suddenly bold.

But sir, if you made this incredible land,
Can’t you make Snoodles obey your command?”
The big one smiled warmly, then said to the small,
“A that’s demanded is no gift at all.” 

So often, I have tried to use my God-given talents much like the Snoodle did in the beginning.  He was all about impressing the other Snoodles.  At the first sign of ridicule, he decided it was not worth it, and he ran away.  He seemed to bury his talents since no one showed appreciation.  I LOVE the VeggieTale portrayal of God in this story.  We need to be reminded constantly that our talents and abilities were given to us to please God.  So, if you can paint, paint for God.  If you can sing or play an instrument, make music for God.  It is best put as a command in Colossians 3:17 (MSG):

Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

The Stranger finishes:

“Here’s what you look like; Here’s how I see you.
Keep this in your pack, and you’ll find it will free you
From all of the pictures and all of the lies
That others make up just to cut down your size.”


“And lastly, your wings. You know what they’re for!
But not just to fly, son, I want you to soar!

 

Praise be to God for the talents he has given all of us.  Are you using your talents to “soar?”