Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Few Rough Edges...

Diamonds, without question among the most precious stones in the world, recently proved to be a source of personal fascination after I purchased a book by Matthew Hart simply titled, Diamond. The only reading I had previously done with regards to this subject was a Hardy Boy mystery that centered on such a stone.

I quickly discovered that a diamond found in its natural state is just called ‘rough’. Admittedly, I naively assumed that diamonds were bright, shiny and multi-faceted at the time of discovery and they were merely cut and polished to improve their already lustrous appearance. They do glitter in the rough, but that was the extent of my accurate assumptions.

A diamond in the rough is mixed potential and risk since it is impossible to know what will transpire when the stone is polished or sawn. A diamond may be either clear or colored (called a “fancy”) and is worth considerably more if colored deeply versus lightly. A profound worry for a diamond cutter is that his stone will lose its color during the faceting process. A widespread practice is to polish a ‘window’ into the stone to assess the interior before cutting.

I read about a South African named Brian Menell, who bought a valuable blue diamond. It was to be a 6-carat stone worth $260,000 a carat. It started as a strong blue but suddenly, as the cutter added a facet, the color changed to light blue, dropping the value to $40,000 a carat! He watched $1.3 million evaporate before his eyes! As it turned out, he was fortunate. When the next facet was added, the color flowed back in, restoring the value that he had thought lost forever!

It is unfortunate that most people finish life just as ‘rough’ as they began. This does not detract from their value or potential, it merely reflects the apprehension that we have about change. We know that small adjustments in life make a tremendous difference, yet we put it off. Tomorrow we’ll start walking, lose some weight, stop splurging, pay off some bills and give up smoking to save our lungs. We could even treat our spouse better to improve our marriage and attend church next Sunday to improve our quality of life.

But if we’re going to do what’s necessary to make life better, we have to endure having the ‘rough’ness removed. Many people quit coming to church when they find that God actually requires something of them, forgetting what was required of Him. They want to shine without having the ‘rough’ taken off.

Job, a man who lost everything, sat in sackcloth and ashes and made a statement that reflected his faith in God’s wisdom. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” His endurance was ultimately rewarded by a complete doubling of his fortunes.

In my life I’ve sometimes felt the cut God was making in my ‘rough’ was more than I could handle. With each added facet I felt more of my ‘color’ draining away! Sickness, family difficulties, job stress, disappointments and financial pressure leave us feeling drab and colorless. No longer a ‘fancy’, we feel overwhelmed. But this is not the end!

We must allow God to continue His work, making way for the color that will come rushing back in when He has completed his ‘perfect work’. He never stops cutting when you feel the color has fled forever. He keeps cutting until it returns!

I’ve known people who were bound to drugs and alcohol, others merely lost and lonely, each their own mix of risk and potential. I’ve watched in wonder as they reached for God and He reached for them in turn, beginning to cut and polish their lives, turning the ‘rough’ into a brilliantly undeniable reflection of His Love.

In a diamond, there are absolutely no accidental cuts. Every facet is precisely engineered to reflect the light, even the hidden angles you can’t see! So if you’re one who has questioned whether your life, with its rough edges, has value and meaning, the answer is YES! As a matter of fact, the Master Polisher agrees… and He died for the chance to work a miracle in you!

Not Too Happy About It

I was gone away for a few days and my oldest daughter was spending the week at her grandparents several hours away, an arrangement which left my wife at home alone with our youngest daughter, who was only four years old at the time. This episode of mother-daughter bonding was to be a week of one-on-one activity; planting flowers, reading books, snuggling in bed, sleeping late. This was the condition of her agreement to spend the week at home rather than accompanying her sister.
There were lots of other things to be done that week. Laundry, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, bed-making…the usual gamut of chores every housewife is so familiar with.
During these activities, she would follow her mother around the house, “helping” with the work. Every so often she would leave what she was doing and make her way to wherever her mother was and present her with a big hug, saying “Mommy, I love you.” Each time, my wife would respond, “I love you, too, baby.”
Day after day this pattern persisted. Finally, on the day prior to my return and with pressure on to get some chores tied up before the onset of winter, they began to work in the flowerbeds at the church and parsonage. Loading up the wagon with the necessary tools, they began to make the circuit of flower gardens. They hadn’t been at it long when, sure enough, here she comes again.
“Mommy, I love you.”
“I love you too, baby.”
Hopefully, my wife thought, this will be followed by a relatively long period of peace and quiet. But this child has an overwhelming habit of attempting to carry on adult-level conversation… CONSTANTLY! And before a half hour was passed, here she came again.
“Mommy, I love you.”
With a rain shower threatening and her patience beginning to wane, a new tone was introduced.
“Yes, baby, I love you too!”
Somehow, this little girl picked up a ‘if I change my mind I’ll let you know’ feeling from her mother. She stopped, put her hand on her hip and cocked her head before answering, “Well… you sure don’t sound very happy about it!”

As often as I think about this story, I am confronted with a sad truth about my relationship with God. There are many ways He demonstrates how much He loves me, yet my response tends to be one that says, “Yeah, yeah… I love you too.”
I love Him. I just sometimes don’t sound or act very happy about it.
Now, before you point fingers and say you’ve never felt that way, think carefully about how our actions (or lack thereof) convey our satisfaction with His love. Consider how long it’s been since you made yourself at home in a church service. Remember how many Sunday mornings have gone by when it was ‘necessary’ to sleep in and catch up from the busy week you just had.
Being a pastor, sleeping in on Sunday isn’t really an option. However, my prayer, study and devotion time can quickly fall victim to an overcrowded schedule and a self-serving agenda.
It’s important that I demonstrate my devotion and gratitude to God in tangible ways. It’s a certainty that He is unseen, and this being the case, He is mistakenly assumed by many to be unseeing as well. He made it clear when speaking to the woman at the well in John 4:24, that although “God is a Spirit” a tangible response is still required. He said, “…they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” This act of worship is the tangible expression of your love for God, seen not only by Him, but by those who share your pew in the church of your choosing.
So the next time you take a breath, remember, that’s one of the obvious ways He says, “I love you!” And make sure that you give an appropriate response. The Psalmist David says, “Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord!” He is my Father and I am happy about it!

An Interesting Quote from "The Doorbell Rang"

Nero Wolfe says, "I have decided that every man alive today is half idiot and half hero. Only heroes could survive in the maelstrom, and only idiots would want to."

In a response that I only wish were as true as it is simplistic, his sidekick Archie Goodwin concedes, "It's tough in spots but you'll feel better after you eat."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I Bargained for a Penny

In order to try out this blog, I have to post something. So, I will use this old poem that has been a personal favorite of mine for many years. Enjoy...

I bargained with Life for a penny
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at the evening
When I counted my scanty store.
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask.
But once you've set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life
Life would have willingly paid.
- Author Unknown