Jack and Jill on the Farm, as Retold by Dr. Phil

Unhappy child

Mr. Leroy was the smartest and creative person I have ever known.  He had a huge farm right out in the middle of nowhere and it was the most productive farm I have ever seen.  If there was a plant that could be grown, Mr. Leroy grew it.  If there was an animal that could be raised, Mr. Leroy had experience taking care of it.  He was a wonderful veterinarian, farmer and father all rolled up in one.

That brings us to the children Mr. Leroy raised. There never was a Mrs. Leroy in the family which has caused some to question this story.   The children were called Jack and Jill.  Jack and Jill had the most beautiful childhood ever.  They had the freedom of roaming over the entire farm, swimming in the beautiful lake and enjoying the fresh fruit that perfectly dropped off the trees at the supreme moment of ripeness.  You never saw such intelligent children, but of course with a father like Mr. Leroy one couldn’t expect less.  Mr. Leroy loved them greatly and made sure they had regular chores to help occupy them, however some say that Mr. Leroy went a little overboard in the responsibility experience.  Every evening Mr. Leroy would spend hours with Jack and Jill lovingly talking with them about their day and about their experiences. Some would even say Mr. Leroy didn’t give his children enough “space”.

Mr. Leroy’s children were given only one rule.  This was called the One Rule and Mr. Leroy said, “Please Jack and Jill, remember that you shouldn’t eat of that tree, okay?”.  Mr. Leroy always asked his children permission before he gave them a rule;  afterall, he believed in democracy. In the middle of the farm was a huge tree named the Gee Tree.  There were hundreds of different plants and fruit trees on that farm but Mr. Leroy made sure that they knew they were not to eat from the Gee Tree because it would be fatal.  Now Jack and Jill didn’t quite understand what “fatal” meant because they had never seen anything die, and every day they questioned why in the world Mr. Leroy wouldn’t let them eat from that one tree.  They thought he was treating them like little kids and they just didn’t appreciate it at all.

Things were going okay on the farm until around noon on that memorable Tuesday.  Mr. Leroy was out doing chores and Jack was in the barn.  Now anyone knows that a really good parent should always be there, making sure there are no bad influences on their children, so why in the world was Mr. Leroy out of the picture?  Jill already had her chores done so she was playing near the Gee Tree.  She looked around when she heard a rustling in the grass and there was the stranger.  Why in the world didn’t Mr. Leroy teach her ‘Stranger, danger!  Stranger, danger!”?  Mr. Ser didn’t look like anyone that Jill had ever seen before.  He had clear blue eyes and spoke with the most beautiful voice Jill had ever heard.  He introduced himself as Mr. Ser and right away started asking her about the Gee Tree which was only a few feet away from where they were standing.

Mr. Ser in a smooth smoky voice asked Jill, “Did Mr. Leroy really say to you that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

After slowly pondering it she said, “Oh, Mr. Leroy lets us eat the fruit from trees all over the farm except for the Gee Tree. He said that we are not to touch it or we will die.  Now I’m not quite sure what “die” means, but that’s how Mr. Leroy put it.”  Jill had some “issues” with Mr. Leroy and why he had to keep showing his authority.  One would think that Mr. Leroy didn’t want to be her best friend and who made him boss after all?.

Mr. Ser looked quite surprised and laughed a little at Jill’s answer.  In his silky voice he said “Don’t worry about it, you certainly won’t die!  Mr. Leroy just wanted to make you a little scared about the tree.  There is a secret that Mr. Leroy never told you about that big old tree.”  Mr. Ser got a little closer to Jill and whispered, “If you eat it, you will be just as smart as Mr. Leroy and instantly know things you never would have imagined.”

“Aha!”  thought Jill.  “That is the real reason why Mr. Leroy has kept me away from the tree. Mr. Leroy just isn’t fair!.  I deserve everything on the farm, including the fruit from the Gee Tree.” There was probably some truth to what Mr. Ser was talking about.  Possibly, Mr. Leroy had a secret he was keeping to just to himself.  Maybe Mr. Leroy didn’t care for them as much as Jill thought.  After all, Jill had just seen her favorite TV show “Dallas” the night before and she knew that fathers don’t always have their children’s best interests at heart. Jill looked at the Gee Tree and it was certainly beautiful.  Just about a foot above her head dangled the biggest piece of Gee fruit she had ever seen.  It was bright red and glistened in the sun.  It even smelled wonderful.  Jill thought she could probably easily reach it.  After all, she had been going to gymnastics classes and meets since she was three years old and she could beat the daylights out of any of her competitors.  Last week at Sunday School Class she had tripped little Sally after Sally told Jill that she thought she could jump higher than Jill.

Jill thought a little bit more and realized that basically Mr. Leroy just didn’t respect her at all.  She then reached out her hand and grabbed that piece of fruit.  Before you can even blink an eye she took a huge bite of it. A rush came over her like she had never felt before and she ran away, fruit in hand, looking for Jack.  She realized she was finally going to be free of Mr. Leroy and all his stupid, stupid rules.

As soon as Jill saw Jack she told him what Mr. Ser had said, how wonderful the fruit looked and tasted, and Jack didn’t even think before he tried a big bite of it himself.  Jack always wanted whatever Jill had and he made sure he took a bite even bigger than Jill had.  At first Jack felt that same rush that Jill had felt, but then he really looked at Jill for the first time and thought she appeared differently. Whoa baby, Jill was naked!!!  Those pictures looked like all those ones he had been watching on the internet the night before.

Jack did start wondering what he was going to tell Mr. Leroy that evening when Mr. Leroy came around.  He didn’t understand why Mr. Leroy had to know everything that Jack was doing.  He wanted to tell Mr. Leroy to “get a life”.  Everything was now different in Jack’s eyes and for the first time Jack thought he knew the real truth.

A few hours went by and Jack and Jill began to get a little worried about Mr. Leroy’s daily visit.  They heard Mr. Leroy coming from a distance and for the first time, Jack and Jill hid from Mr. Leroy.  Mr. Leroy called and called for them and finally Jack stood up from the bushes where he had been hiding and said, “Mr. Leroy something is wrong.  I heard you coming and I was afraid.  I never realized before that we looked this way and so we hid in the bushes.”

Mr. Leroy said, “Who told you son what you looked like?  Have you eaten from the Gee Tree, the only tree in the whole farm that I told you not to eat from?”

Jack piped up right away and said, “It’s Jill’s fault.  She put that piece of fruit right in my hand and I ate it.  Why in the world did you put me on this farm with this moron?”

Mr. Leroy blamed himself entirely.  He had made a huge mistake in putting Jack and Jill on the farm together.  Mr. Leroy then asked Jill what had happened.

Jill said, “There was a stranger on the farm today by the name of Mr. Ser.  He fed me a whole pack of lies about the Gee Tree and I took a little bite.”

Jack and Jill had not noticed that Mr. Ser had silently snuck up behind them.  Mr. Ser didn’t look so friendly now and Mr. Leroy was mighty mad at Mr. Ser.  Up to this point, they had never seen Mr. Leroy get angry at anyone or anything.  It sounded like thunder in the sky when Mr. Leroy looked at Mr. Ser.  Mr. Leroy said, “Mr. Ser I have told you so many times not to be around the children.  Would you please go away, okay?  I told you three times today to knock it off and here you are with them again!  What did your counselor tell you last week about working through your childhood issues?”

Jack and Jill rolled their eyes at Mr. Leroy.  “Good grief, here comes another lecture from the old man!”.  Mr. Leroy spoke to Jill.  He said “I blame myself for this entirely.  I should have posted extra signs around the tree.  I won’t let this happen again, your darling child.”

Mr. Leroy said to Jack, “You listened to Jill and hurried to break The One Rule I gave you. You have just been running with the wrong crowd.  I’m going to pull you out of the public school you have been going to and send you to Christian School.  I’m sure those teachers there can figure out what is going on with your life.”

There was something new in the air, a coldness they had never known and Jack and Jill were shivering.  Mr. Leroy then did something Jack and Jill had never seen him do before.  Mr. Leroy knew his charge cards were about maxed out, but he drove Jack and Jill to Park City and said, “Kids, you deserve this.  Pick out any clothes you want, the sky is the limit.  I saw some really cool clothes on a commercial this morning – Jill, I think a couple of those outfits will help make you the most popular kid in school.  As for you Jack, look at those clothes over there – those are like the ones that Robin Thicke wore on his latest video.”

Mr. Leroy then did the most difficult thing of all.  He made Jack and Jill go to bed without their cell phones that night and he limited their time on the internet to just four hours that night.  Because of Jack and Jill’s issue with the tree, Mr. Leroy chopped down the tree.  Mr. Leroy had another tree that Jack and Jill didn’t even know of, the Tree of Life, and Mr. Leroy said he would put a larger sign around that one just to make sure that Jack and Jill were okay.  After all, he knew his children always made wise choices.

Mr. Leroy then drove Jack and Jill to Dairy Queen and they celebrated what a great family they were.  After all, any child of Mr. Leroy would always be a winner.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

  1. If you read my earlier version of this, it was much truer to the Genesis version with Mr. Leroy representing God, the perfect parent.  In this version, Mr. Leroy represents us, the imperfect parents.  What mistakes did he make?
  2. What effects does sin make in this story even from the beginning?
  3. What attitudes did Jack and Jill exhibit?
  4. What is neglected in this version?
  5. What basic truths about families are ignored?
  6. Why aren’t they really a great, winning, and happy family as described in the last paragraph?

The Story of Jack and Jill and What Really Happened on the Farm

FARM

Mr. Leroy was the smartest and creative person I have ever known.  He had a huge farm right out in the middle of nowhere and it was the most productive farm I have ever seen.  If there was a plant that could be grown, Mr. Leroy grew it.  If there was an animal that could be raised, Mr. Leroy had experience taking care of it.  He was a wonderful veterinarian, farmer and father all rolled up in one.

That brings us to the children Mr. Leroy raised. (There never was a Mrs. Leroy in the family which has caused some to question this story).   The children were called Jack and Jill.  Jack and Jill had the most beautiful childhood ever.  They had the freedom of roaming over the entire farm, swimming in the beautiful lake and enjoying the fresh fruit that perfectly dropped off the trees at the supreme moment of ripeness.  You never saw such intelligent children, but of course with a father like Mr. Leroy one couldn’t expect less.  Mr. Leroy loved them greatly and he gave Jack and Jill the privilege of naming every creature on that farm.  He also gave them regular chores, to care for the animals and grow and bring in the harvest.  Every evening Mr. Leroy would spend hours with Jack and Jill lovingly talking with them about their day and about their experiences.  The end of the day was the high point for this loving family.

Mr. Leroy’s children were well behaved and so obedient that he only gave them one rule.  This was called the One Rule and they were told that under no circumstances were they allowed to break the One Rule.  In the middle of the farm was a huge tree named the Gee Tree.  There were hundreds of different plants and fruit trees on that farm but Mr. Leroy made sure that they knew they were not to eat from the Gee Tree because it would be fatal.  Now Jack and Jill didn’t quite understand what “fatal” meant because they had never seen anything die, but they took Mr. Leroy at his word and they obeyed their dear father.

Things went well on the farm until around noon on that memorable Tuesday.  Mr. Leroy was out doing chores and Jack was in the barn.  Jill already had her chores done so she was playing near the Gee Tree.  She looked around when she heard a rustling in the grass and there was the stranger.  He didn’t look like anyone that Jill had ever seen before.  He had clear blue eyes and spoke with the most beautiful voice Jill had ever heard.  He introduced himself as Mr. Ser and right away started asking her about the Gee Tree which was only a few feet away from where they were standing.

Mr. Ser in a smooth smoky voice asked Jill, “Did Mr. Leroy really say to you that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

Jill had never thought a whole lot about the One Rule before, but after slowly pondering it she said, “Oh, Mr. Leroy lets us eat the fruit from trees all over the farm except for the Gee Tree. He said that we are not to touch it or we will die.  Now I’m not quite sure what “die” means, but that’s how Mr. Leroy put it.”

Mr. Ser looked quite surprised and laughed a little at Jill’s answer.  In his silky voice he  said “Don’t worry about it, you certainly won’t die!  Mr. Leroy just wanted to make you a little scared about the tree.  There is a secret that Mr. Leroy never told you about that big old tree.”  Mr. Ser got a little closer to Jill and whispered, “If you eat it, you will be just as smart as Mr. Leroy and instantly know things you never would have imagined.”

Now before all this had happened, Jill was positive Mr. Leroy always had her best interests at heart but she started wondering.  Maybe there was some truth to what Mr. Ser was talking about.  Possibly, Mr. Leroy had a secret he was keeping to just to himself.  Maybe Mr. Leroy didn’t care for them as much as Jill thought.  Jill then started to look at the Gee Tree.  It was certainly beautiful and just about a foot above her head dangled the biggest piece of Gee fruit she had ever seen.  It was bright red and glistened in the sun.  It even smelled wonderful.  Jill thought a little bit more and then reached out her hand and grabbed that piece of fruit.  Before you can even blink an eye she took a huge bite of it.  A rush came over her like she had never felt before and she ran away, fruit in hand, looking for Jack.

As soon as Jill saw Jack she told him what Mr. Ser had said, how wonderful the fruit looked and tasted, and Jack didn’t even think before he tried a big bite of it himself.  At first Jack felt that same rush that Jill had felt, but then he really looked at Jill for the first time and thought she appeared differently.  Jach was also wondering what in the world he was going to tell Mr. Leroy that evening when Mr. Leroy came around.  Everything was now different in Jack’s eyes and for the first time, something was definitely wrong on the farm.

A few hours went by and Jack and Jill began to feel even worse about their plight and and before they knew it, it was about the time that Mr. Leroy would come by to visit at the end of the day.  They heard Mr. Leroy coming from a distance and for the first time, Jack and Jill hid from Mr. Leroy.  Mr. Leroy called and called for them and finally Jack stood up from the bushes where he had been hiding and said, “Mr. Leroy something is wrong.  I heard you coming and I was afraid.  I never realized before that we looked this way and so we hid in the bushes.”

Mr. Leroy said, “Who told you son what you looked like?  Have you eaten from the Gee Tree, the only tree in the whole farm that I told you not to eat from?”

Jack piped up right away and said, “It’s Jill’s fault.  She put that piece of fruit right in my hand and I ate it.”

Mr. Leroy looked with his penetrating eyes at Jill and asked what she had done.

Jill said, “There was a stranger on the farm today by the name of Mr. Ser.  He fed me a whole pack of lies about the Gee Tree and I took a little bite.”

Jack and Jill had not noticed that Mr. Ser had silently snuck up behind them.  Mr. Ser didn’t look so friendly now and Mr. Leroy was mighty mad at Mr. Ser.  Up to this point, they had never seen Mr. Leroy get angry at anyone or anything.  I sounded like thunder in the sky when Mr. Leroy looked with blazing eyes at Mr. Ser.  Mr. Leroy said, “Mr. Ser you are now cursed above all livestock and all wild animals!  Your legs aren’t going to work anymore and you will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.  There will be a hatred between you and Jill and between Jill’s children and yours.  Her child will crush your head and you will strike her son’s heel.”

Jack and Jill’s eyes darted in fear and then Mr. Leroy aimed his laser vision at them.  First he spoke to Jill.  He said “I will make your pains in childbearing a tortuous experience and you are going to have lots of pain in having children.  Before you and Jack were equal partners, but now he is going to rule over you.”  Jill’s heart filled with dread.  She didn’t understand half of what Mr. Leroy was talking about, but she knew life was going to be bleak for her.

Mr. Leroy looked so sad about when he was talking to Jack and Jill.  He looked even sadder when he turned his eyes on Jack.  He said, “You were such a fool.  You listened to Jill and hurried to break The One Rule I gave you.  From now on, all the ground you walk on will be cursed and all those harvests that were so easy before are going to be exhausting.  You will have weeds and thorns and thistles choking the life out of your plants and every day is going to be a painful day for you farming day in and day out.  Also, you will work so hard and your body is now so different that you are going to die.  You were created from dust and to dust you will return.

There was something new in the air, a coldness they had never known and Jack and Jill were shivering.  Mr. Leroy then did something Jack and Jill had never seen him do before.  He killed some of the animals and made clothing for them.  Mr. Leroy then did the most difficult thing of all.  Because of Jack and Jill’s disobedience, Mr. Leroy banished them from the farm.  Mr. Leroy had a tree that Jack and Jill didn’t even know of, the Tree of Life, and Mr. Leroy said that because Jack and Jill now knew good and evil that they couldn’t be allowed to eat of the Tree of Life because they would be eternally dying since they had sinned.  Mr. Leroy then drove Jack and Jill out of the farm and posted a high electric fence around it that glowed and flashed to keep them from eating from the Tree of Life.

Epilogue

After the incident at the farm, Jack and Jill went on to marry (they relocated to a state that would allow them to marry, despite their close blood ties).  The trauma of the farm effected them but despite all of this they became the parents of two strong young men:  Sugar and Humble.  For some reasons, Sugar and Humble had issues to the point that they could just not get along.  One of their worst fights was over religion concerning something to do with Mr. Leroy.  Their parents actually sent them for counseling from Mr. Leroy, but Sugar just didn’t want to change.  Things escalated and one day Sugar committed a first in the new society: he killed his brother.

Mr. Leroy confronted Sugar about his actions and at first Sugar denied all the facts but Mr. Leroy didn’t let up.  No one has ever been successful in arguing with Mr. Leroy.  Mr. Leroy already knew the sad outcome of Sugar’s actions.    Sugar ended up joining a motorcycle gang that roamed the earth always looking for work, but never succeeding.  The other inhabitants of the area were angered over Sugar’s actions and for Sugar’s own safety, Mr. Leroy personally gave Sugar get a huge tattoo on his forehead.  The tattoo was a representation of Mr. Leroy and that scared the dickens out of people so they wouldn’t annihilate Sugar in revenge for killing Humble.

In case you haven’t noticed this, the story is a very very loose retelling of the Garden of Eden.  If you are a parent and as you think about the story as a parent, contemplate:

  1. With Mr. Leroy representing God, the perfect parent, why did things go so wrong?
  2. What does this tell us about our own children?
  3. How does this story give us hope?

LIVING WITHOUT BREATHING ROOM

scribble page

During the past several years a painting of my life would look like a margin-less page. Sadly, there have often been no margins and no empty space. There has been little breathing room. It took me quite a while to come to the realization that empty space is not necessarily negative space.  The pages of my life looked like the picture in this post – no room to hold the book comfortably; the type disappeared into the middle gutter; and there was no place for page numbers.  No one living or reading a life like that enjoys the experience.  It is margin-less living; living without air; suffocation. 

“Just one more thing” thrown on the stack of things I had to get done always stretched my margin even thinner.  Even the normal easy things in life become stressful and the pain of the workload was off the scale.  I had an ongoing hum in the back of my head telling me there was just nothing left to give. One slip at any point could spell disaster, whether it was emotional, spiritual, financial, or physical.  My life became a prison of responsibilities.

 Last Christmas season was what I fondly call the “Mother of all Christmas Nightmares”.  For years I have had one reoccurring dream:  I get up one morning and realize that I am scheduled for a concert that morning but I can’t locate the music or the venue for the concert.  Frantically I am running late on the clock and when I arrive at the destination, the concert has already begun.  In part, that dream was last Christmas. I was running multiple concerts with my acappella choir while at the same time directing a big event with a children’s’ choir, an adult choir, and multiple solo musicians.  For the grand event I made the unwelcome discovery that the support staff I had anticipated (and thought was promised) did not exist.  The night before the large concert my husband and I were setting up platforms, chairs, and microphones, and I found that all my emails indicating our sound equipment needs had gone into someone’s circular file.  This was death’s door for a person like me who usually plans months ahead down to the last detail.  Though the final concert ended up going extremely well, I was totally spent in mental and physical energy.  I rediscovered how limited my strength is.

 This year I am trying to bring into my life the margin of contentment versus living in chaos.  In God’s sense of humor, I am presently teaching a class that deals with the entire subject of stress.  I think the angels have chuckled over that one! 

 The Apostle Paul wrote from a jail cell most of his letters which are included as books in the New Testament.  I like The Message paraphrase of a portion of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4: Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.   With a philosophy like this, I think that Paul found balance, even when circumstances didn’t appear that way.  I don’t think he would have found himself perpetually running late, short tempered, and blowing a gasket as I frequently found myself doing.  I remember the time I was late getting out the door for work because I had been frantically looking for a Tupperware lid for my lunch.  My dear husband had decided to be helpful and relocate them to a different location and neglected to inform me.  I should have looked for the stuff the night before, but I was way too tired from the rat race I had placed myself in.  The words out of my mouth that morning weren’t happy and relaxed and they definitely weren’t the words out of Paul’s mouth when he found himself stretched beyond his limits.  I don’t think Paul would have stressed over expectations of people that were simply beyond their abilities.  Paul wouldn’t have become overwhelmed and erratic. Paul would have sat down with Jesus and “chilled”.  Paul would have made sure he had that open time in his margin and made it Jesus time.

 So what have I learned from all of this?  There is the saying that “The minute a person goes into debt, he loses a portion of his freedom”.  My paraphrase is that “The minute I make a commitment which I do not have time to effectively do, I will be imprisoned by that commitment”.  I’m exhausted from living in this type of slavery.  Changes are necessary.  This Christmas there will be no large extravaganza concert.  There will be small venues, but they will be manageable venues.  There will be no screaming in my house when I can’t find the Tupperware lids and no frustration over expectations of people who don’t have the capabilities of meeting those expectations. There will be peace and contentment.  I may have a smaller list of responsibilities in my hands, but the only way that list will land in my hands is because God directly put it there (after I thought and prayed about it a great deal).  The items won’t end up there due to a sense of guilt, other peoples’ expectations, or my own problem with expecting too much from my own small hands.

Paul couldn’t have said it better:  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  The life truly given to Christ produces a life supplied with margin, oxygen, and peace. That’s the kind of life I want to live, a life with Spirit-filled breathing room.BABY SLEEP

 

SLIDING WITHOUT DECIDING

Sliding

I watched an episode of NY Med last week in which the son had pledged one of his kidneys to his mom.  Without the new kidney his mom would die, so this was a life altering and permanent decision.  The son couldn’t get the surgery done, change his mind the next day, and take back his kidney.  It was a commitment.

According Websters, “commitment” means “something pledged” and “pledged” means a “serious promise or agreement”.  Years ago Life Cereal had an ad campaign, “Try it, you’ll like it”.  We live in a trial society. We do the trial bit with food & money-back guaranteed purchases.  If you have ever been in the return line at Costco, you realize a great many people have taken this philosophy to heart because the return line often exceeds the cash register line.  We consumers want to make sure we are comfortable with what we have purchased and if there is not immediate gratification, then it is back to the store we go.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.”  The sad thing is that this kind of thinking can transfer over to the way we live with God.   Meg Jay writes: “You might think that with more couples road-testing their cohabitation compatibility that divorce rates would fall? After all, there are no surprises — you’ve shared a bathroom and you know just how many cups of coffee your beloved needs in the morning. However, numerous researchers are finding that couples who live together have a higher rate of divorce than couples who don’t cohabit before marrying. And prior to the divorce, these couples have lower rates of marital satisfaction. Meg Jay calls this the “cohabitation effect”.  She writes that “As cohabitation has become a norm, research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself. It is called, “sliding, not deciding”.  Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

Have you ever considered that maybe you went into your relationship with God in order to “give God a try”? Maybe you “slid” into your whole relationship with God rather than making a decision? Possibly it seemed the right kind of thing to do at the time for a variety of reasons:

  • You might have been going through difficulties
  • Church was where your friends and/or family were
  • You liked the quietness of church
  • It was more comfortable to kind of believe in something rather than nothing

Rather than sliding into homeplate determined to make a homerun, you found yourself sliding around the outfield, not anywhere near homeplate, or any plate for that matter. You slid into a relationship with a God you didn’t really know. You missed the deciding about having a relationship with Jesus and a commitment/pledge by which you really decided that He was the One you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. You didn’t count the cost before shaking your head “yes”. Jesus said it so well in Luke 14: 28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’ 31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce? 33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”  Jesus encourages us to research it, realize the cost, and then make a conscious decision which does require a leap of faith. Jesus doesn’t want aimless “sliders”; He wants decision makers.

I love 2 Chronicles 16: 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. “ (NIV)  So where is your heart?  Are you “sliding and not deciding”?  Hopefully you didn’t pick up God at a church thinking you can return Him if He doesn’t work out.

 

FRONT STEP LIVING

front porch

I had a lovely experience of reviving that tradition this past Sunday evening.  I was hyper over some recent events and I just needed to breathe.  My husband invited me to join him on our front steps.  We spent time just quietly talking, reassessing some things that had currently happened, and it was an utterly calming experience for me (until it began to rain).

So how is your front porch doing?  Whether or not you have a physical front porch, do you have somewhere you can take a quiet break, a time-out, or what some would call a “Sabbath Rest”?  This is a place that is not set up for the work of worry, the work of anger or the work of sadness.  It is not the place where you fret over your most recent project or your recent short-comings.  It is a place where you don’t have the TV on, your cell phone on, and there is no timer set to go off.

In your achieved goals, have you consciously created a real place of rest, where your soul can unwind, your body can unkink, and your emotions can calm down?  Do you visit this place daily (or sometimes if needed, hourly)?

I have a friend who finds herself  perpetually in the panic mode, whether it is with her children, her church, her work, or her parents.  She seems to travel from one drama to another.  Life is pulling at her so hard that I fear she will tear apart.  She is unhappy and frustrated at life.  Her life situation is tough, however her solution is just to struggle harder.  The words of Jesus are “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NLT).  His words aren’t, “Those of you who are weighted down, come to me and I will give you even heavier burdens that will break your back.”

Maybe to some of you, the concept of taking a Sabbath Rest for the sake of your physical, emotional and spiritual health, is a new concept.  I found these excellent suggestions to kick-start your rest from “Why God Wants You to Rest” by Barbara Brown Taylor:

  1. Decide that you will get up an hour before everyone else in the house and dedicate that time to doing nothing but being in the divine presence.
  2.  Decide that you will turn off the television an hour before you go to bed and spend that time outside looking at the sky.
  3. You could resolve not to add anything more to your calendar without subtracting something from it.
  4. You could practice saying no as lavishly as you do when you say yes when God tells you too much is too much
  5. At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage.
  6. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer.
  7. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well.
  8. Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch.
  9. Test the premise that you are worth more than what you can produce—that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight.  This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working.

So, how are you going to take a Sabbath Rest, today, this week and this month?  Please write and let me know.

THE EMPTINESS OF BUSYNESS

BUSYNESS

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day”.  This is an apt observation from Tim Kreider’s article, “The ‘Busy’ Trap”. 

 When was the last time you asked one of your friends how they were doing and they replied:

  • “I absolutely have nothing to do”
  • “I wish I had more things to put in my schedule”
  • “I think one more hour of idleness is going to push me over the edge”. 

Probably at that point you would want to take their pulse and see if they are still breathing.  The most frequent response I get from my retired friends is “I’m now busier than when I was working.”

 Why are we so proud of being busy?  Do we get extra brownie points from God because our calendars are overflowing?  Does God smile when we are so tired from overwhelming schedules that we begin forgetting things and making mistakes?  Is God’s picture of the ideal life the commercial in which the mother speeds off with the present to the birthday party having forgotten that her child who was the invited one is not in the car?

 We live in a society where people wear their busyness.  Have you ever seen a businessman with multiple cell phones strapped to his belt?  Walk down a city street and notice how many people are talking on their cell phones, because that call just couldn’t wait.    I have been in restrooms in which the woman in the next stall is having a loud conversation/argument via the phone with her beloved. 

How did we get to this point in our lives?  When I was a kid Sunday afternoons were for visiting family and sitting on the porch.  Sunday was a slow day.  Often for parents of today Sunday means having to taxi their children around so they can participate in making a win for the team (and sometimes for multiple teams).  Whatever happened to neighborhoods in which the kids just played outside in impromptu games till the sun went down? 

 Whatever has happened to leisurely conversations, without “Let’s make this quick, I have to be somewhere in five minutes.”?  Whatever happened to “Be still and know that I am God”?  I know you probably want to reflect on this, but you might be too busy right now…