The motion-sensing doorbell smoothly merged with his ambling thoughts . . .
Perhaps the mail coupon from Spencer Gifts wasn’t such a great idea. To be fair, the ad did read that the unit would sound just like the theme from the Adam West-Burt Ward 1960s hit series. Especially the BAM!!! POW!!! BIFF!!! Always liked that BIFF. Even named a couple of my dogs afterNUHNUH-NUHNUH—– Fortunately, the $19.95 included a nifty wireless desk cutoff switch. Cool beans.
The shadow outside his new door rippled across its dappled green glass as the knob turned. It swung inward. The door, not the shadow.
“Hi. Are you Granger? I was given this card with your name and address on it. I was told if I ever needed to talk to somebody to come see you, and I’d be welcome.”
“I am and–(smiling)–you are.”
The young woman carried herself and spoke as a professional. She looked at the coffee maker, pointing with her chin. “Oh, that smells good. May I?”
“Please do. Sharing makes it taste that much better.”
Seated with the fragrant scent of Sumatran robust roast having followed her like a lost, hopeful puppy, she rested her gaze on her cup for a moment. She’d been around a coffee cup or two before; she savored both the taste and aroma before breaking the companionable silence.
“Why no cell number or email? Website? It is a bit difficult to reach you.” She held the card between her first two fingers and slightly waved it.
“Technology has impersonalized communications beyond the speed of sense. I know it’s quicker and sometimes simpler to text or instant message someone. That doesn’t allow me to meet others, to see what’s in their eyes and assess what’s there.”
Her eyes unfocused for a moment as she considered my statement. I went on.
“Then, too, I believe anyone coming through that door means to do so. It automatically culls the casually-interested from being here at all.”
An amused expression flitted across her intelligent features. Mature enough in age and esteem, the makeup was artfully suggested as to highlight natural tone and shape. Her gaze was direct without challenge, her mien open without naivete. She’d be amicable but tough to fool.
I did my imitation ‘rueful’. I’ve never seen too many of those that looked anything but significantly south of contrived. “For some reason dimly in the past I actually liked that hokey show. Perhaps it was the blatant display of Good v. Evil and the good guys always ultimately winning. Maybe not greatly realistic in light of contemporary attempts to ‘grey-out’ any semblance of black and white, but appealing nevertheless.”
She seemed to muse for a few seconds. I waited. Now was a dandy time for a refill. Ever the gentleman, I poured for her first. She watched me do it with an odd look on her face.
With a forward-and-sideways duck of her chin she said, “Thank you; I’ve gotten used to being around thoughtless males.” I think I had the odd look on my face next.
“And, sadly, I’ve become accustomed to their female counterparts. I am grateful as well.” Carafe back in its usual spot and again reseated, I ventured from the pleasant conversational inertia.
“I’m, ah, sure you didn’t make the trip here simply to sample my coffee, although that in itself is an admirable quest . . .”
“Hmp-mm. Actually, you more or less touched on it when you were talking about Good versus Evil and all that.” She hesitated, marshalling her thoughts.
“I have been bothered for years at what seems to be an organized assault on decency. At first my impression was that Christian people, or even non-Christians holding to a Judeo-Christian ethic, were the targets.” Her eyes swung toward mine. “Like shooting at pesky crows or something.” Her eyes shifted off-center again, unfocused in middle distance Somewhere Out There. “It seemed like every TV show or best-selling book featured a token character or two who were clearly over-identified as strait-laced Bible-thumpers whose horrible personalities and hideous private lives were just as overbaked. Definite agenda, right?”
She paused, glancing my way. I nodded, watching and quietly listening.
“Wow. He was right; you do a mean listen.” I smiled a little; otherwise, silence seemed to work.
“My thinking was that the agenda was simply to help create an awareness that not everyone’s a Christian, that American life has always included persons of all races and all beliefs, and that they were all equally welcome among us.”
“I see. And your thinking now?”
“Now there is a militant, in-your-face bite to it. It looks like all pretense at civility and the desire for mutual appreciation for honest differences has intentionally been tossed in the dumpster. Any other religious figure or leader’s name and philosophy is held sacred and their adherents given every favorable consideration and protection. But bring up Jesus Christ or The Bible? You’re a joke, a collector of nasty names, the brunt of crude and often dirty jokes and definite discrimination in every imaginable way.”
“At one time Christian people were grudgingly respected for their beliefs and clean living. Now it’s as if everything that’s good, decent, kind and morally upright is being turned upside-down and inside-out. Now it’s as if being clean-minded and clean-living is automatically suspect while the vilest, most disgusting and outrageous behavior imaginable is not only celebrated but encouraged.”
I didn’t sense anger so much as a profound unease, a puzzledness at how things could be so topsy-turvy. I also heard behind her words a powered determination and focus to find not just answers but an affirmative and positive action to put them to work.
She said other things, troubling things that to her ought not to be. She said there seemed to be no more social boundaries, no kindness, no manners. No work ethic. No niceness. Her observation was that even though it’s unreasonable to expect perfection from humanity, ours was a basically-Christian society, and it seemed that life for all, Christian or not, was good and worthwhile because of their influence. The seamier, ugly side was always present, but there was a good and decent side to counteract it, to give balance.
I respected her soliloquy, waiting until she was willing to receive feedback.
“What is it you wish from me?”
That little humorous grin showed itself. “He told me you’d say something like that. You’re not a psychologist or therapist. In fact, there’s nothing outside your door except a small cross and a number. Well, and you circulate these simple cards. But he says you’re a speaker and writer, and working on several books. How did you get to be who and what you are?”
My turn to smile. “That is an unusual story. Everybody has one, and this part of yours obviously troubles you. I’d like to respond to your comments and the questions within them if that would be helpful.”
“Oh, yes. Please.” My sometimes-weirdly-aural coffeemaker chuffed from across the room. She indicated it with her coffee mug. “May I?” I nodded.
Here is what I told her.
Recently I read a powerful statement: Your holy discontent is your calling. I sat and thought about that. We’ve all asked ourselves, “What’s my purpose? Why am I here?” usually thinking in terms of our entire lifetime, our chosen career. I found myself focusing within that broad orbit. I thought about how at times I’ve suddenly recognized something about which my holy passion, my internal settings are unsettled and discontent. It can be within my chosen career, but in this context generally differentiated from it while definitely affecting it.
I realized that holy discontent identifies itself when something deep within me asks, “How long do you intend to put up with this until you decide enough is enough?”
We’ve all read after individuals in history whose souls were so vexed by ongoing unrightness that they stood alone, saying and doing things that boomed a startling truth to all around: “ENOUGH!!! THIS HAS GONE ON TOO LONG! ENOUGH!!!”
Many have paid with their lives, for the playing, prattling crowd, even in the Church, doesn’t like having its games interrupted. Doesn’t like having its power wrested from it. The crowd doesn’t like being told it’s wrong. And it is overcome with white-hot fury at the mention of sin.
Sin, popularly defined, is the sum of all those things I myself never do. With you it’s a sin. With me it’s a character trait.
Where does one find the concept of sin? The Bible. Who was and is able to do anything about it? Jesus.
Ah. So all we do is trash God, the Bible and Jesus, make fun of the Holy Spirit and make anyone following Christ out to be any kind of -phobe imaginable. Stack the social, formal, legal, and even spiritual deck with ultraliberal, progressive thinkers who can and will demonize Christians and the Church. Draw the regulative, legal noose tighter and tighter until the Church as a whole and Christians as individuals are targeted as criminals and have all freedoms and rights removed. Voila! Upside-down and inside-out. Bad is good, and good is outlawed.
Yeah. Let’s all play like nothing Jesus says in the Bible matters any more. It’s been weighed in the balances and found irrelevant. Oh, wait. That’s a Biblical phrase, isn’t it? Strike that.
“But that sounds so pejorative, so blunt,” you say. Isn’t it funny how everyone says honesty is a virtue, yet nobody wants to hear the truth?
There is a mounting aggressive hostility to Christ and His Church; and an unconcealed contempt toward those who live according to what the Bible teaches. The antiChrist, antiChurch bias is openly apparent. It is pointless and feckless to try to deny it. It’s proponents love to quote Mark 7:1, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” They follow it with John 8:7, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the firt to throw a stone at her.” They always seem to forget to read the following verses of the very same conversation.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (vv. 10-11)
Here is the fine point of distinction. The charge is constantly leveled against Christians that we’re always being harsh, narrow-minded and judgmental. I won’t argue that on occasion that charge has been earned.
However, I urge you: look to Jesus Himself for the example of how to approach this entire matter of sin and sinning. The report says the woman was ‘caught in the act of adultery’. For such, the Jews demanded and expected death. It was a serious legal and social crime in their eyes.
Jesus never excused the sin itself, nor did He whitewash the possibility of consequences for the woman’s choices. But He did not condemn her. He showed her supreme love, perhaps the first she’d ever known. There is conjecture that this woman was known by more than one of the self-righteous Pharisees standing in aggressive positions, rocks threateningly raised. After all, they made all the rules. They all knew the ways around them.
Sure, some of them knew her. And the rest were hardly pristine examples of holiness. You have to love the way Jesus finessed this terrific deal that’s been so ridiculed and misunderstood: loving the sinner while dealing with the sin. Come on. Seriously? What parent hasn’t done it a thousand-and-one times: loving their child while dealing with the consequences of their wilfulness and disobedience? Really. Give that one a rest.
“So, guys. Nice robes, by the way. Dig your tailor. Hey, um–one of you has to be perfect, right? I mean squeaky-clean, nothing-on-the-ol’-police-blotter, absolutely SINless. Well, I’d sure like to meet ya, okay? So if you fit the bill, step right up and hurl. The rocks, I mean. Smack her down, dude. She deserves it . . . . Aw, come on, don’t be bashful. The media van’s right over there, and they’ll want an interview. I mean, Mr. Perfect, right here?”
You know how the rest of it played out. Jesus never ignored the wrongdoing, but He absolutely always confronted the wrongthinking. There was blatant hyprocrisy and one-sided judgmentalism on display right there in the dust that day.
We don’t know what the rest of the woman’s life was like. But I’m certain she never forgot that encounter with Jesus that day. It wouldn’t surprise me had she been one of the women witnessing his crucifixion and resurrection.
The point is also your challenge for this week: who is showing raw, unconcealed hatred and judgmentalism now? Think about it. Observe the actions of those aligned against God, His Word and His Christ, and His people. Listen to their shouts and read their signs and banners. Hear the way their spokespersons consistently try to shout down and overtalk anyone trying to reasonably point out the inconsistencies in their arguments. Watch the way those demanding freedom to do, act and live as they want (protected by unnecessary extra laws) openly act in public venues.
Then draw your own conclusions as to who is now showing bigotry and narrowminded intolerance.
Dislike what’s being done, but do not hate the doer. You may challenge assumptions and firmly stand against policies and issues with which you cannot in good conscience agree or allow. Yet it can be done with basic respect for the persons holding the opposing views. You can love them while disagreeing with their words and actions.
What you put up with you end up with.
“Well, where do I start?”
I can’t tell you that. I can suggest what I’ve begun doing in my personal life. I’ve started shaking the flour-sifter holding my ‘stuff,’ gradually getting rid of little things I thought at one point had value but do no longer. Ideas. Ways of thinking. Pet thoughts. Useless and timewasting habits. Anything getting between me and being the Godly man, husband, father, and friend I need to be for this time in my life. Each time I find something within me I can no longer put up with–or that the Holy Spirit gently puts a finger on, I see myself stepping down out of the stands, walking out into the middle of whatever that is, putting up my arms and shouting,
“ENOUGH! NO MORE!! I WILL PUT UP WITH THIS NO LONGER!!! I’VE HAD ENOUGH!!!“
“Don’t you feel a little funny?”
No. I’m too determined that these years during the second half of my wonderful life will so outshine the first half I won’t even miss the first 50.
“Well, won’t that make you lose some people in your life?”
May already have. That’s not my choice. I love everybody I’ve ever known, and those special to me need to know: nothing you ever do or say will cause me to love you any less. But God’s calling me forward. I feel His draw and His calling me through my own holy discontent. I love you and would love to have you coming along, but I must follow Him.
I must follow Him.
My holy discontent is my calling.
Dare to focus your thoughts on that statement. See where it begins taking you. You can try to ignore it, but I don’t think you can. Right now, your eyes are flicking back up and reading it again. Aren’t they?
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. You may make open comments, or you may email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who pay attention to such things, you’re right. She never told Granger her name. It’s my way of saying I do what I do because I care. If this is reaching you and I don’t know you, it’s okay if I never know you. I don’t have to. God does and that’s what’s important. If you wish to contact me privately, please feel free. But you don’t ever have to do that to share 2nd Cups with me. I want you to visit often, and I’m honored to have you here every week.
I love you and I believe in you,
Dan (c) 2013