The Reality Behind the Obvious

I’ve opted for the “winter village” theme on my Google welcome page—a beautiful mountain village, buried in snow, begins to relax under the last rays of the setting sun. Or is it the rising sun, or maybe the rising moon? I can’t really tell but it’s pretty.

It makes you think of warm fireplaces, hot chocolate, and laughing kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen.

Looking at pictures is easier than dealing with reality, though. If our village was snowed under like that, I wouldn’t be happy. I’d complain because I couldn’t go anywhere in my car. I wouldn’t be able to get to the grocery store or church services.

I’d be a prisoner in an incredibly beautiful picture. I don’t need snow to drink hot chocolate and our fireplace is out of order. Besides snow is cold and dangerous, and your feet freeze and germs sneak into your respiratory passages to give you a cold, or worse.

Snow gives you a great reason to gripe, though, so it isn’t a complete loss.

Seeing What’s Real

Have you noticed how many things seem beautiful— but only after they are gone? Or at least after we’ve taken the time to reflect on their significance.

We humans have a tremendous gift from our Creator. We can look at people or a situation and see the beauty beyond. Actually, it’s usually easier to see it later than when it’s happening. That’s why Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic and then rehabilitated to sainthood. (Of course that had more to do with politics, than with a sudden revelation of deep meaning).

British, American, Canadian, and French soldiers (plus others!) pushed through a gale of bullets, explosions, horror and death at Normandy. The beach was a monster’s gallery of dead, mutilated bodies.

Young men embraced the sand, probably more concerned about staying alive and doing their job than by any high-minded ideals at that moment. But the result of their terror and courage was freedom for millions. Ugliness … beauty.

And you, in your situation? Not very glorious, huh?

You may be that Sunday School teacher who spent most of  Sunday morning wiping runny little noses … I was at a concert Saturday evening. A young man in the singing group told how he had grown up in church to a certain point in life. His parents, seemingly committed to the Lord, divorced. He lost his moorings and got into all sorts of things, finally ending up hooked on drugs.

Then he remembered those days in Sunday School and a desire was born in him to come back to the Lord. Now he is part of the group musical group, Eden. A good dozen people responded to the altar call that night.

Makes wiping noses a bit more noble, huh?

We paint pictures of martyrs and go to art museums to admire the glory of their acts. But, it wasn’t pretty at the time. Huge emotions, blood, horror, fear … followed by anonymous Christians who just “pulled up their socks” and got on with serving the Lord and spreading the gospel, even under the threat of the same death they had seen.

But later you hear the powerful preacher, Paul reminisce:

“And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” (Acts 22:20, NIV).

He never forgot.

Ugly … beautiful.

How about that worker who testifies and lives the gospel at work? People call him, “Preacher.” Or that pastor who works quietly, faithfully, doing his best to serve his people and reach the lost, while next door another pastor is “setting the world on fire?”

That’s the story of the Cross, isn’t it? No one wore a little chain with a Cross upon it before that day. Would you wear a gold chain with a guillotine, or a hangman’s noose, or a needle for a lethal injection dangling from it? That’s all the cross used to be. A death instrument.

Ugly … Beautiful

If you had seen the Cross you might have turned you head from the horror. The Son of God hung, his back beaten to hamburger, head swelled from a crown of thorns, body exposed, face swelled from slaps and blows, tongue parched. Horrible … but oh, so beautiful; oh, so beautiful!

Has a scene ever been so often painted, so often sculpted, so often remembered? From something as ugly as death for sin, grew the gift of eternal life. Now we see it, now we sing it, and preach it. But at the moment, it seemed the death of our hopes. Now, He’s alive forevermore and because of what He did on Calvary, those who put their faith in Him live, too.

Are you in an ugly situation, today? Don’t be too quick to proclaim it a disaster. Look to the Lord in prayer and faith, keep on trusting, keep on going forward, doing what you know is right. It may be awhile but God has a way of taking what we thought was a hideous background and painting a triumphant outcome over it.

Snow really is beautiful.

 Hmmm …
“Forty years of experience and observation of leaders has taught me one profound fact in this regard: A married leader will eventually, and inevitably, treat Jesus’ bride the way he treats his own. Likewise, a parent will teach and lead the family of God the same way they lead their own children.” Jack Hayford

The Revenge of the Yip Yip Dogs

A little story that I told on a recent Sunday morning provoked a reaction among some dog owners, and for that I want to redeem myself by saying some nice things about said dogs.

The story spoke of one time when I was distributing invitations for our church in Esch sur Alzette, Luxembourg. There it’s legal to put things in mailboxes so I was inviting people in this way. Some of the houses didn’t have letter boxes but letter slots in the bottom of the door and here’s where the adventure came in.

At one particular house, I bent down to slide an invitation through the slot. I was thinking about, I don’t know what, when suddenly a little dog on the other side of the door exploded with a high-pitched, “Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! etc.!”

I nearly jumped over the roof of the apartment house! Afterwards, I imagined a little Yip Yip dog on the other side of the door, rubbing his paws together and giggling. “Chalk up another one,” he thought.

“Grrr…” I thought.

So, I was a little disparaging in my comments about Yip Yip dogs in my message and I had some good-natured responses afterward. For that reason I’ve decided to pontificate about the value of Yip Yip dogs.

First of all, for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s those little dogs who must weigh about eight pounds. The weight is distributed like this: three pounds—hair; four pounds–vocal cords (tuned to a very high pitch); and one pound–dog.

Some people think that bulldogs and Dobermans (Dobermen?) are the best watchdogs, but give me a Yip Yip dog every time. First of all there is the obvious advantage of upkeep—they don’t eat nearly as much.

Bandit effrayé

But their value goes far beyond this. Let me illustrate. You’re soundly sleeping one night when an intruder sneaks through your kitchen. Suddenly he’s confronted by your bulldog, who growls ferociously and attacks. If the bandit is armed he starts firing, and it could end up like the shoot-out at the OK corral.

Imagine though, that our thief is sneaking through your kitchen when suddenly he steps on the tail of your Yip Yip dog in the dark. “Aeee! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! (times 1,000).”

You leap from the bed, run downstairs and turn on the light. The intruder lies on the floor, grasping his chest, wheezing. Your Yip Yip dog stands two feet away, barking furiously at the stranger. “Call the ambulance!” the miscreant croaks painfully.

Your possessions are safe, you are safe, and your Yip Yip dog is safe. You only have to pray for the thief.

There’s a little caveat here, though. Some dog owners allow their Yip Yip dogs to sleep on their bed. This is not good because if he’s on your bed when he goes off, you may be the one who suffers the heart attack instead of the intruder. And these little guys have sensitive triggers. It’s not always bad guys who make them explode. Sometimes it’s flies, mosquitoes, or who knows what?

Put the dog in the kitchen.

Though I’ve disparaged these cute (?) critters at times by my remarks, I suspect that if we were all changed into a breed of dogs, there would be more Yip Yip dogs among us than Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Collies, or other noble breeds.

You see, these small fellows get the job done. They don’t cut a fantastic figure like some of their more flashy counterparts, they just quietly go about their job (no, cross the quietly out); they just do their job.

In the Bible, Paul sometimes felt like a Yip Yip dog. He had some sort of weakness that should have limited his effectiveness. But the apostle just saw it as an opportunity for God to show up and help him do a job that he should have been too weak to do.

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’”

Paul even came to rejoice in the small stature and squeaky voice of a Yip Yip person.

“Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Cor. 12:7-12, The Message)

Truth of the matter is, when people see our inability, then consider what we’re able to accomplish, they often say, “That’s got to be God! He could never do that.” And so the glory goes right where it belongs—to the Lord.

So, if you feel like your just a Yip Yip dog in this life, don’t despair. Rejoice, that God can use little things.

And take advantage of your gifts to scare the socks off of someone every once in awhile. “Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!” (Hee, hee, hee!)