Wendy and I enjoyed our Sunday afternoon visit with friends yesterday. Young Nathan and Aaron kept us quite entertained as we were reminded how God made boys to be boys, generous infusions of testosterone and all. Be sure to have your volume up around the :50 mark and listen to Aaron’s point-blank announcement: “I have big muscles!”
If you had to choose the color that describes you most accurately, what would it be?
I am navy blue.
Not flashy, but deep, solid, cool, faithful and resiliant. Blue like jazz. Able to pair well with, and compliment, a plethora of other colors while still being able to stand well on its own and improvise in need.
“These are those who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer. They weren’t able to prove their ancestry, whether they were true Israelites or not….” Ezra 2:59-60 (MSG)
Coming from a “good family” means a lot in many circles. As a child, I remember kids on the playground comparing notes about famous people in their family tree. My Great Aunt worked tirelessly to prove that she belonged in the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.). Even in the little Dutch-American community where I live I know that I’ve experienced a certain amount of acceptance moving in that other newcomers do not simply because I have a Dutch surname.
When reading the Old Testament, it’s important to remember that for Israelites in ancient times, the family of origin was huge. Your occupation and your position on the social pecking order was a all determined by family tree. To fully participate in the rites of the temple you had to prove your genetic connection.
When Jesus came and offered salvation to anyone who placed their faith in Him, Jew or non-Jew, it was a radical paradigm shift for the group of Jewish followers in His inner circle. Saul or Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, was a Jew of high standing and persecutor of the early Christians until he was personally confronted by the risen Jesus and immediately became a faithful follower. Paul often bragged about his Jewish pedigree when debating with his fellow Israelites about Jesus, but was the most rabid proponent of loving, reaching out to, and including non-Jewish Gentiles into the Christian faith. Paul was the first to fully embrace the truth that in Jesus there is no social pecking order based on your family tree or religious pedigree. Those who follow Jesus are spiritually the same:
So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Romans 3:9 (MSG)
I can only imagine the shame that “those who came from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer” felt at being the only ones among the 42,000 Israelites to return to Jerusalem who could not prove their pedigree. I have to believe they felt the condemning looks and subtle prejudice from the “blue blood” Israelites with whom they journied.
Today, I’m glad that my relationship with God has nothing to do with my genetic code or family tree. I’m grateful that God does not have a spiritual pecking order of “haves and have nots.” We are all, every one of us, “have nots” until Jesus, in His mercy, graciously forgives us, redeems us, and adopts us into His spiritual family as a joint heir of God’s rich spiritual inheritance.
If you could own one painting from any collection in the world but were not allowed to sell it, which work of art would you select?
So many great works to choose from. There are so many works by Degas, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer I would love to have, but my heart always comes back to Grant Wood. Like midwest America itself, Wood is underappreciated. I have always thought that he was able to capture the beauty of the Iowa landscape better than anyone else and I feel an emotional connection to his work because it reminds me of my own connection to this land. Not to mention, his paintings would look great hanging in our home. This particular painting, Fall Plowing, captures one of my favorite times of year when the landscape is alive with everchanging colors and textures.
As I ponder this question, there are a lot of cities that I think I would like to have a home, but I don’t know for sure because I’ve never been there: Rome, Paris, Tuscany, Vienna, Sydney, and Amsterdam to name a few. But, after visiting a few years ago, I know that I would love to have a home in London.
There’s the National Gallery, concerts at St. Martin in the Fields, along with shows at Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre and the West End. Not to mention a seemingly limitless supply of great pubs.
If you could have an elegant dinner along with anyone presently alive, whether you know them or not, who would you want it to be?
Of course, Wendy is on the top of my list for elegant dinners along with my close circle of family and friends, but what interests me about this question is the thought of those I don’t know with whom I would like to dine. The question also says “anyone” so I’m going to take liberty to name a few people with whom I would love to share an elegant dinner:
Queen Elizabeth – I think she’d be a fascinating conversation, and she’s the Queen
Pope Benedict – Would love the conversations of faith and life, seems a fascinating man
Sir Anthony Hopkins – great actor, would love the stories he could tell
Dame Judi Dench – ditto
Bono – love his rock star/world citizen/believer mystique
Leonardo diCaprio – great actor and I imagine an interesting person with heart
Tom Hanks – ditto
Simon Schama – Love his take on art and history, would love to pick his brain
Craig Ferguson – Would like to meet the man behind the curtain of jokes
Bill Hybels – Would love to ask him about his journey
Paul Johnson – My favorite historian, breadth of conversation would be amazing
Okay, so it’s a long list. But, there are a lot of people I would love to know and to learn from and to share a long, elegant dinner conversation.
How about you? Who is on your list? Feel free to share it in a comment to this post!
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. Ezra 1:1-3 (MSG)
As I write this post, the newspaper headlines and 30 second sound-bytes are all depressing. The economy refuses to recover. The government can’t get anything done. Europe is sinking under the weight of debt. The U.S. is not far behind. Young people can’t find jobs even as companies report a shortage of qualified, experienced workers. I just heard about another round of lay-offs locally. It is said that the standard of living of the average American has now fallen to what it was in the 1970s.
I grew up in the 70s. Watergate, Vietnam, Carter, oil embargo, 55 mph national speed limit, hostages, disco and leisure suits.
Amidst all of this depressing news, One is apt to wonder where God is in all of this. I imagine those in exile in Babylon felt much the same way. Torn from their homes, enslaved, and hauled off to live in a foreign land to work for a foreign tyrant. “God, where are you? What are you doing?”
Then I read that God, as prophesied by Jeremiah, moved Cyrus the King of Persia to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem and send people and materials for the task. A small gesture, maybe, but one that gave life and hope to a depressed and hopeless people.
Today, my heart is lightened by the reminder that God is not idle. Times and events, kings and kingdoms, leaders and movements, are still in His hand. This journey is continuing toward a destination of His grand design. He bids me not to be anxious about tomorrow, but to be content and faithful in this one day that I’m given.
He’ll take care of the rest.