The Five, er, Three People You Meet in Heaven

I’m getting a cold. I can feel it. It’s sneaking up on me the way the “Macarena” song does: it gets in when you least expect and just won’t get out. So it seems like the perfect time to talk about Heaven. Although I don’t plan to die from this (I’m not that dramatic), it may be fun to think about who I would talk to first when I’m no longer here.

For argument’s sake, I’ve dismissed the obvious Biblical figures (Jesus, Moses, David and the like) because I can get a glimpse of their thoughts and character right now. I suspect I’ll see them in the hereafter as well and therefore don’t have to wonder too much about what they’ll say. The list I’ve prepared may or may not join me when I go, but it’s worth a short think.

So in no particular order, here are my top three:

#1 Socrates – Dante said he was a virtuous pagan and wrote him as his guide through a literary Hell. I assume if the two are in Heaven they have made up by now and are close poker buddies. This basically assures me of a two-for-one meeting.

#2 Da Vinci – What do you get if you put Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles together? Da Vinci’s understudy. The guy thought up a helicopter, painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and inspired my first epic poem, “The Battle of Anghiari,” as a sophomore in high school. (The last accomplishment may pale in comparison to the others, but it was a pretty big deal to me.)

#3 Chuck Norris – The Boogeyman checks his closet for this guy. (Oh, he’s still alive? I still want to talk to him. But in that case…)

#4 William Shakespeare – C’mon? Did you really write all that? Be honest.

The list is obviously incomplete, but it’s a start. I figure I’ll have plenty of time to get around to the rest, you know, with there being eternity and all.

Have any favorites on your list? Share.

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Kids These Days – Modesty Part II

I’m not complaining. I’m not. The world doesn’t need more people whining about how “Youth these days have no respect” or “The things they wear, bla, bla, bla…” Every generation has said the same thing about the generations to follow. Most of the time, the complaints can be traced to a generational gap, one often based more on cultural norms than true codes of human decency.

But what seems to be lost in the rush to place blame on “kids these days” is the personal responsibility of adults to teach the next generation. Not about what’s right and wrong with fashion, but about how to live out modesty through fashion. Or language. Or attitude. Or any other aspect of life.

Although I’m not a parent (I have another six months before that!), I know the job is tough. It’s hard enough being with teens 8 hours a day as a teacher, let alone trying to raise one. I do believe, however, that standards are set first in the home. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This verse tells me that parents have a duty to protect the honor and integrity of their offspring, not through guilt and repression, but through careful demonstration of the value of modesty and loving admonition when it’s not followed.

We all know that kids will be kids. But the kind of kids they will be depends largely on the kind of kids we require them to be.

Unfortunately, our culture often sees self-control as self-repression. It responds to our carefully drawn moral lines of modesty by saying we’re “old fashioned,” as if it is endowed with a better sense of social progress or morality. It tries to sell us Life version 2.0. Or it says we’re “shy,” as if it’s a character flaw that should be changed instead of a guideline of conscience. Too often modest people are treated as socially inept, instead of applauded for possessing a social attribute.

This is the fight of the Godly parent: promoting His values in a world that distorts them. But it’s a fight parents don’t face alone. Check out “Shaping Your Teen’s Convictions About Appearance” at http://http://www.familylife.com/ site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=dnJHKLNnFoG&b=3598061&ct=4639899&notoc=1 for some insights on this.

As a soon-to-be dad, my eight years in the classroom have given me a unique but limited perspective. I’d also like to add yours. Let me know how you feel about this issue.

In His name

A Modest Proposal – Part I of a Two-Part Blog

Stop me if you’ve heard the story: A young, attractive woman is fired from her job for refusing to wear the standard uniform because it is too immodest. Sound like the start of a huge lawsuit? Now imagine the young, attractive woman is a 61-year old man and the standard issue uniform is a Speedo. That’s what happened in New Jersey in 2007 to a lifeguard with 40 years of experience. The story contains a few more twists, but I think this premise does it justice.

So the question is, what’s happened to modesty in our country? Why is the term almost a four-letter word? And would more people use it if it were?

Romans 12:1-2 beckons, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Offering our bodies as living sacrifices is not solely a physical act, although the physical is part of the package deal. Instead, all that you are is to be used in His service. Ladies, if there’s a likelihood your clothing may cause a man to stray from right thought, why not choose a less revealing garment out of love and respect for him? And guys, if your sarcastic or overbearing attitude makes others feel lower or less than loved, why not find a different approach to communicate? The passage from Romans seems to say that if you would act with the reserve and humility God calls you to, His will will be opened to you.

Understand, I am not encouraging a kind of repressed, controlled society a la 1984 (the novel, not the year – oh to be 2 again). I am not espousing female oppression or Puritanical style. What I am encouraging is a return to Christian values of decency and love, for oneself and for others.

One article about the 61-year old lifeguard ended with these words: “Should Lester have caved in and just donned the skimpy Speedo? After all, those with a far less becoming physique have done so before, and shamelessly.” As a purveyor of modesty, I want to ask instead, “Since when has the physique of a person determined the standard of modesty? And is the fact that some act shamelessly about their immodesty a sign that we all should?” Ech!

Check out my blog next week when I really open up on the topic. If you’re a parent, plan to be a parent, or know a parent, the message is for you. No holds barred… modestly, of course.

Avoiding the Nerf Message

The following is a short devotional I delivered for Week Two of a Sports Ministry:

I wanted to talk today about sharing God’s love and about the most famous football sign ever: “John 3:16”. With the start of football season it seems appropriate.

If you’re not familiar, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Using this football as an illustration of that message, I want to talk about how people choose to share it.

Now sometimes we think of it as our ball. We become like little children and don’t want to share. People come by and say, “What do you have there? Can I play?” and we hide it behind our backs. We want to keep it for ourselves. But once they go away, we’re left holding a ball that no one is using. It does no good to anyone.

Other times when we do share it and pass it around, we hold on so tightly, worrying about how it will look when we let go and if we’re doing it right, that it comes out all wrong. It doesn’t spiral. We give the deliverer too much credit. We forget that the ball is the important thing. Just deliver the ball.

Still other people say it’s too hard. It doesn’t work for everyone. It’s not all-inclusive. It hurts their hands. It’s too slick or hard to grip. They want to change the ball. They want to use something softer. So they go through life playing with the Nerf message. It’s a version of football, but it’s not the real thing.

What I think is that everyone can use this ball. It doesn’t matter who. The only thing that changes is the delivery. I might do a standard pass to some, or I might hand it off to another who needs a more hands-on delivery. And if I know a very capable player, I might draw up an intricate pattern and send him deep, let him run under it with his arms wide open ready to cradle it in.

The thing is, it depends on who’s using the ball and who’s receiving it. I could give it to a child and he would know what to with it. Kick it, throw it, run with it. He knows what it’s for, but put him next to a mature athlete and there’s a big difference. We would see it. The things professionals do with it in their hands is amazing. They enthrall people with their talented use of it. They fill buildings and stadiums. I never expect to do that, but I also believe there’s something just as powerful about a father alone in a backyard sharing it with his son and daughter, taking the time and showing them how to use it.

In the end, I think the best way to use it is just as we see here. In community. So that when you drop the ball, there’s someone to pick it up and run with it.

So I invite you to pass it around. Share the message of God’s love until there’s only one team and we all win.

In His name