Monday, May 17, 2010

School Daze

Pick a grade. It doesn't matter which one. Third grade? Yep. Seventh grade? Ah-huh. Eleventh grade? That one, too. You can even count my four years of college and six years of seminary. My feelings never changed. It was always the same: I COULDN'T WAIT FOR THE BELL TO RING!

The coolest thing about school was the bell. Kids today are cheated if they don't get a real bell. Don't give them a wimpy electronic ding. Don't shortchange them with a beep or a buzz. The bell is the best! It inspires the fireman in all of us. It shoots kids out of the cannon of semi-consciousness.

When I was younger, the bell was a wonderful daily surprise. I was ADD before they had the initials, so I was lost in my own little world the first few years of first grade. But when that bell rang -- hot dog -- I sprang to action! Slam the book shut. Grab the Big Chief tablet (google it, kids) and the Green Hornet lunchbox. The bell has sounded! It's time to go home!

As I got older, I gradually learned to expect the bell. Somewhere along the way, I became a clock watcher. I knew the bell was coming. I knew WHEN it was going to ring. I'll be honest. I liked it better when I didn't know. Even the smug satisfaction of counting down the final ten seconds and synchronizing my "NOW" whisper-shout perfectly with the ringing of the bell was not as exhilerating as the former days of being surprised by the bell.

But still, the anticipation was there, even in seminary. The knowing. The waiting. Stealthily watching the clock like a professional spy without anyone knowing that I knew time was about to run out. Slowly, methodically, unnoticed, I would gather my books and my Green Hornet lunchbox (the seminary bookstore didn't sell Big Chief tablets) and lunge for the door when the bell sounded. The thrill of the bell never left. It never let me down, unless it was a fire drill. But even that had it's own adrenalyn rush.

What could be more awesome than a bell to end school? A trumpet and a high-volume shout from the sky to end the world. Oh yes. It's coming. Just as I knew the bell was coming in school, I know the trumpet will one day blast and the angel in charge of shouting will let her rip. The only thing I don't know is...when. No one knows.

A few morons guess. Jesus predicted they would. But Jesus said, "No one knows" (Matthew 24:36-37). No one knows when it will but happen. But the Bible assures us that it most definitely will happen.*

When the bell in school rang, I was always ready to go. School was not my home. School had moments of pleasure. Thank God for recess, lunch, good friends, and nice teachers. But as good as the good in school was, it couldn't compare to home.

This world is the same. It has great moments. I'm thankful for the blessings of God in this life. But this isn't home. Heaven is. I don't watch the clock because there's no clock to watch. But every once in a while, I see signs that make me think the angel in charge of trumpet blowing is about to pucker!

I'm ready. Are you?

*"The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God's trumpet blast! He'll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise --- they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we'll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words" (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18, The Message).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home is Where the Hard Is

Where do you go when your life's been changed? According to Jesus, you go to the hardest place there is to live a changed life --- home.

Jesus and His disciples hopped in a boat and went across the Sea of Galilee to Gadara. They were met by an unwelcoming committee of demons who had taken up residence in a man's life. They didn't want Jesus near their man-hotel. They liked living inside him and enjoyed torturing him. But he didn't like it so much, so he ran toward Jesus for help.

He got what he hoped for. Jesus evicted the unwelcome gang of demonic thugs from the man's life and sent them into a more fitting host --- a herd of pigs.

The man who had terrorized nearby villages with his screams of demonic torture was released of that evil, and the Bible described him as "sitting and clothed and in his right mind" (Mark 5:15).

The people of the village saw the man sitting there like a normal man and it scared them. It seemed they were more afraid of him now than when he acted like a raving lunatic. People untouched by God's grace don't understand it. They don't trust it. They don't know where to put it or what to do with it. They will "amen" a sermon on grace, forgiveness, and restoration, but they will "oh me" someone they know who used to be a hellion and now claims to be permanently altered by that grace.

Some will even pretend to accept such a person with a hug, a handshake, or a wink. Yet, the wink stays permanent and becomes an attitude of --- "I'm keeping my eye on you." Which is another way of saying, "I believe God can change people, but I'm not sure God can change YOU."

The former host of the demonic tormentors knew this. He took one look at the fear and scowls on the faces of his homies and ran to Jesus a second time. This time he was hoping for a ticket on Jesus' boat so he could get far away from his hometown.

"Jesus, can I please go with you? I'm not welcome here. They won't believe that I've changed. I'll always be the ex-maniac here. They'll never trust me or accept me."

Jesus' answer is hard: "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you" (verse 19).

The hardest place to live a changed life is at home. Friends and family are the hardest people to convince that you are a new person. No one knows the old you like they do.

But Jesus knows this... If your family and friends can see a difference in you, then everyone else will, too. If it's real, it can pass even the hardest test.

My friend, the world might forever label you as a former this or that. Take heart. The world doesn't have the last word. God does. His wink is genuine. His embrace is everlasting. His home is yours forever.

He will even give you a job: "Tell them what I've done for you and how I love you."

That's change you can truly believe in!

Perry Crisp

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hi Mom!

Four days from now, the land of the free and the home of the brave will turn the gratitude spotlight on the ones who make it all happen: Mom!

Seriously, moms DO make it all happen. That kid who stands at home plate swinging at and completely missing the ball on the t-ball stand today, yet hits a grand-slam tomorrow for a MLB team owes a lot to the mom who rarely missed a game, always cheered him on, and taught him to believe in himself. He becomes the hero who hears the roar of thousands cheering his name, yet when the dugout camera gets in his face, he says, "Hi mom."

The eleven-year-old girl who hears insults and name-calling from her peers today, yet walks the stage to receive an Oscar for Best Actress tomorrow didn't make the journey without a mom who was always her biggest fan and took time out of her busy schedule to attend her daughter's every play and theatrical performance. The actress begins a list of thank-you's to all the important people who made it possible. First on the list is the mom who worked two jobs to make her daughter's dreams come true.

Worthy of honor. Yes. Mom, you are worthy of honor. Search the Bible and you will find at least a dozen commands to honor, respect, and obey your mom. I find that especially significant in light of the fact that the societal and cultural times in which the Bible was written were heavily male-dominated. These were Patriarchial times with a capital P. Women simply were not honored in those days. Yet, God made it one of the Big Ten (no, not the athletic conference, the Ten Commandments). "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).

Here is my dilemma. Mom went to heaven sixteen years ago. How do I honor her? Is there a statute of limitations on this command when our mother has gone to heaven ahead of us?

I think I have figured it out. It wasn't that hard. Whether your mom is alive on this planet or alive on God's porch, you can and should honor her by honoring and living up to the truths she taught you to live by. Make her proud whether she's numbered among the earthly crowd or gathered with the saints in the clouds.

I've done enough funerals for moms who were saints to see sons and daughters weeping uncontrollably over the casket because their lives didn't honor the truths their mom tried to instill in them. It's a sad thing. You want to honor your mom while she's still alive? Live so that when the day of her funeral comes, you will be crushed with grief over her loss, but not crushed with guilt over your life.

You want to honor her after she's gone? I do. So what do we do? Live so that when you get to heaven, she wants to hug your neck instead of grab you by the ear.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.
Perry Crisp
Yes...that's a picture of Mom, Me, and Dad circa 1979