Love, Like, Dislike, Hate

I never thought of myself as a hater.  Now I am not so sure.

There is a “feelings scale” in my head that has been there since I was a kid.  It stemmed from those ridiculous fourth and fifth grade conversations when a girl would send out her pawn to find out a boy’s feelings.  “A.J.? Becky likes you a lot. Do you like her?”

“I don’t know.” I would mumble,  “I guess.”

“Do you like her a lot or a little?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you love her?”  The Queen’s pawn would ask.

Then, during the next class, Becky would pass me a note written in eleven different colors of ink proclaiming that she loves, loves, loves, loves, loves…  me.  I would spend three whole dollars on a ring that wouldn’t fit her and we would become boyfriend and girlfriend which meant absolutely nothing because we never saw each other outside of school and at school we were too scared to actually speak to each other.  There were a lot of notes passed, though.

I believe that is where my scale came from.  “Don’t care” was in the middle, then on the positive side it went from “like a little”, up to “like”, up to “like a lot”, up to “love”, on the other end it would go from “dislike a little”, to”dislike”, to “dislike a lot”, to “hate”.  Simple as that was, they felt the need to draw it up for me once or twice so I didn’t have to think too hard, all I had to do was circle the appropriate depth of feeling on the scale to declare my “love”–or declare my “like a little”.  Anyway, that “feelings scale” has remained in my head ever since.

Now, though there are some people I have disliked a lot, I don’t feel like I have ever hated anyone in my life.  Lately I have been thinking, though, God might not use my scale.  What do you think?

Did you know that it appears the words “like” or “dislike” are not in the Bible, not to describe someone’s fondness for someone or something anyway?  It does use the word to say this is “like” that, or some way of thinking is “like” this.  It never says Jesus liked Peter, or John liked flowers, or Paul liked to read.  Only love is used, or hate.

By my scale, even though I like a lot of people from a little to a lot, the people I can put on my love list make up a pretty small percentage of all the people I know.  Now, if I am right, and God does not use my grade school “feelings scale”, it appears He may consider everything that isn’t love hate?  If this is true, I AM a hater.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Love or hate–with no in between–is a monster change of mindset for me.

“As I have loved you…”   That sets the bar sky high.  I am gonna need a boost… or maybe a rocket.DSC_0166

A.J.

 

 

 

Original Thought

I like to think I am one of a kind, that no one else thinks like me.  But, when I make some joke that I feel is totally original or I go off on what I feel is an original line of thought, my wife will often say,  “I’ll bet somebody thought of that before.”  She is my best friend, but Ouch!

That’s okay… cause I have got her this time.  Ready?

The gift of life is like an old Richard Pryor movie.  Tell me someone else has ever had that thought, or uttered those words.

Probably sounds ridiculous, maybe even irreverent, right?  He was a funny man but I doubt Richard Pryor ever put two sentences together without the F word, that is until he costarred with John Candy in Brewster’s Millions, a PG movie.

Brewster’s Millions is about a minor league baseball pitcher who is informed that a rich uncle he never knew has died and given him 30 million dollars.  Sounds great, right?  The twist and the challenge is this: if he can spend all 30 million in thirty days without gaining a single dime in assets, he will earn his true inheritance of 300 million.  He can’t give the 30 million away; he has to spend it, yet without becoming the owner of anything, even a pack of gum.  You can imagine the comedy of it as he throws lavish party after lavish party and throws millions at the worst imaginable investment ideas.  It’s no classic, but it’s a fun movie nonetheless, and clean enough to let the kids watch, if I recall.

Here’s my original (some might say weird) thinking:  This life here on Earth is like that 30 million dollar gift, so BIG that no one had ever heard of a gift that generous.  It is incredible, gigantic, wonderful.  But, as HUGE as it is, it is nothing compared to an unfathomable 300 million.

Some of us see that 30 million gift as pretty awesome–others see it as relatively nothing considering everyone else received the exact same amount.  Some are incredibly thankful for the gift and wish to know the Giver–while others view it as something that was owed to them and resent the giver for not giving them more.  Not wanting to feel indebted, they may pretend there is nothing great about the gift, or even deny that there is a giver in the first place.

Some have disdain for the gift and spend it recklessly and gamble with it regularly as if it meant nothing.  Some invest their 30 million unwisely, hoping for returns from things that cannot replenish the gift.  Others hoard their 30 million, burying it where no one can get to it, where it will not see the light of day, not realizing the gift will rot in the ground.  Those that have come to love and appreciate the Giver understand that the gift is meant to be respected, not by saving it, but by using it, spending it in a way that honors the Giver.

Regardless, though, of how we feel about the Giver, we all come to the end of our 30 million, every last dollar spent.  Some come trusting their assets will pay their way.  Others come with empty pockets, trusting the Giver for 300 million more.

A.J.

 

 

 

One Question

You, yes YOU, have been given the greatest gift ever given… or received.  How would I know?  My knowledge of your gift is elementary.  You are reading this, therefore, you must be alive.  You have life.  It has been given to you.  You Exist.

What that life looks like, its advantages or disadvantages, whether it is laid back or stressful, whether it is joyful or packed with pain, whether you are lifted up or beaten down, all these possible variations of life have no bearing on the unfathomable greatness of the gift.  Your life may not feel like a gift, but I can tell you with absolute certainty–IT IS.

You may say I have no right to speak for you.  I have not walked in your shoes.  I don’t know what it’s like to be in constant pain from a medical condition or injury.  I have not been hated and ridiculed my whole life, or assaulted every day, or experienced the loss of a child or spouse or both.  You would be right.  The lives we live on this planet vary humongously and I have been blessed with one of the better ones.  I have had my share of trials, though, not nearly as bad as some, but worse than others.  I can tell you, though, in my very toughest moments, the gift was no less great.  I may have appreciated it less during those times but that never changed the magnitude of the gift.

You see, that one gargantuan gift, life, leads to an opportunity for another that puts all our various lives on level ground.  The Gift Giver wants to take each of us, with our differing circumstances, to a place where no one will be ridiculed or assaulted… ever.  A place where the miseries of this life will dissipate in the single beat of a heart, a place where there will be no more pain or grief from injuries or loss, a place where hate and tears do not exist, only love–and joy.

He would ask you just one question:  What do you make of Jesus?

 

A.J.

My Imminent Death

I’ve been on my deathbed for the last several days but I managed to summon enough strength to write this post and punctuate correctly, I think.

The doc says it’s just a cold.  But, a cold wouldn’t kill me like this is doing.  What do doctors know, anyway?  A man knows when he is dying, doesn’t he?

Sympathy is hard to come by in a household where our youngest child is still recovering from her second open-heart surgery.  I tell everyone I am dying and they roll their eyes at me.  “Puhlease,” they say.  “It’s just a cold.  Man up!”  They all think they are keeping things in perspective, but they will understand when I die tonight.  This is a killer cold, the worst ever endured by a human, and I put up a valiant fight.

Okay, I jest, sort of.  I still think I might die.  Don’t call me a drama queen!

My family has actually been very sympathetic and helpful, especially the one who just had her chest cracked open after fighting the flu for a month, then dealt with some of those flu symptoms coming back after the surgery, all without undue complaint.  That girl– is worried about her dad’s cold.  Amazing!

She is a humble and private person and would not want me to go into any details.  All I will say is that she is way stronger than she knows, and she is an inspiration to any who understand what she has gone through in her life.  She is an inspiration to me.

Her surgery went well, recovery is going equally well, and her prognosis to have a long, active, and healthy life looks very good.  That is up to God.  Thanks so much, once again, to all who were praying for her.  Those prayers were answered in a big way.  We are grateful to the excellent medical team, of course.  But, thanks and praise to Our God, the one who gifts men and women with the knowledge, skill, strength, and courage to repair broken bodies.  All glory to Him!

A.J.

 

Lead Us Not

As you would expect from a guy whose first name is Average, I am not an exceptional man or an exceptional Christian.  Most who know me would likely say I am a nice guy, maybe even a good man.  But, there are two who know me best, myself and God, and we know better.

There are good signs here and there, but often it will be three steps forward and two steps back, or vice-versa.  I am still only average.  Like most of us, I am still trying to work it out.noah-basle-25979-unsplash

There is one thing this average joe is figuring out, though;  If I truly want to be a righteous man, I need to stay away from temptation.

It should be obvious but if you have a gambling problem… Don’t go to Vegas!  If you drink too much… Try staying out of the bars!  If bad websites are calling your name… Get off the internet!  If violent movies and violent video games are giving you violent ideas… Stop watching!  Stop playing!  And pray, pray, and pray some more.

Taking the step to not have our particular temptation sitting right in front of us all the time won’t be a cure, but it’s a start; a real good first step.  Prayer is an awesome second step, and third, and fourth…

I know it can be extremely hard when a sin has its hooks in us.  To use a fishing metaphor, if we are hooked in the lip, it will hurt but it shouldn’t take long to get it out.  But, if we have swallowed the hook of some particular sin, it will be a brutal process of retching, gagging, and choking before we can rid ourselves of it.  But, it absolutely has to be done because if we are stuck in some sin or sins, we are missing out.  I know it; I can feel it.  Sin and weak faith is keeping me from becoming who God knows I can be.  I want to stop playing in mud puddles and head for the beach, don’t you?

We never have to go it alone, though.  God is right there, wanting to give us the strength to throw off everything that hinders– so we can be who He designed us to be, right here, in this life.

A.J.

 

Tomorrow We Die

If we knew we would die tomorrow, what would we do today?

Would we spend the day thinking about the physical things we were leaving behind?  Our homes and money?  Doubtful.  Would we watch our favorite movies all day, or play video games?  Probably not.  Would we break out all our old vinyl and play music all day?  Maybe.  Would we eat gallons of ice cream because we knew we wouldn’t need to worry about putting on a few pounds?  Why not?  Would we get hammered because we knew our hangover wouldn’t last long?  Hmmm?

It seems likely we would want to spend the day with loved ones.  Who would make the list?  When they all come, would we still hold grudges against siblings or friends when we are seeing them for the last time?  What would we say to those we love?  It’s our last chance to give advice, what would it be?  It’s our last chance to say something meaningful, our last opportunity to make a difference in how they look at things for the rest of their lives.  What would we say?  What is the lasting impression we want to burn into their memories?

This is our very last chance to point them to the Truth.  What will we do with it?

This is not a hypothetical question, because we will die tomorrow… one of them, unless we die today.

A.J.

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My mom died two years ago and I don’t look at that as a bad day.  It was amazing actually and I will tell you about it…  another day.

Even though she would gripe about how much sports I watched on TV, my mom liked sports.  She grew up super close to Wrigley Field in Chicago.  So close in fact that her brothers used to park cars before the games.

Pretty much every American knows about the 108 year championship drought of the Cubs.  This is the way it went for my mom…    Picture these dots as her timeline with the first dot representing her birth and the last denoting her death.    Birth>…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….*. <Death      The star is when her Cubs won the World Series… and she watched it all.

The only other professional sports team my mom cared about was the Denver Broncos, and when she died they also were the reigning champs of their sport.  Wild, isn’t it?

I know, in the grand scheme of things the victor of this game or that championship doesn’t mean much, or anything at all.  But it meant something to my mom.

My mom and I shared a special connection over sports, though she didn’t live and die with every swing of momentum like I sometimes do.  She had her priorities straight.  My mom, while she walked this earth, was a sweet, yet fiery, unabashed lover of Jesus.  Nothing was more important to her than her love for Him, except His love for her.  Next in importance for her was making sure her kids knew that Jesus loved us.  

Jesus saved me, not my mom, but I don’t know where I would be without her.

Aw look, now I have gone and made myself cry… for the first time in a long time.  I love you, Mom.

A.J.