This week’s matchstick suggestion: “Think of someone you appreciate, then call or write to say thanks.” What a long list I have to choose from. But when being grateful who always comes to mind first is our Lord Jesus. He unselfishly lived his life, died and was resurrected so we could be reconciled to God and share with him eternal life. That’s a biggie! Especially I’ve been thinking of that greatest gift during this Lenten season, which ends this weekend with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Can we even begin to comprehend the depths of Jesus’ love and what his sacrifice means for us? We were dead in our sins, but now it’s as if we never sinned! Because of Jesus’ sacrifice that’s how God looks at us. As the apostle Paul wrote, our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God.” It’s a done deal, folks! As we take the communion symbols this Sunday, let’s keep the immense significance of that sacrifice in mind, realizing that Christ’s body and blood is the bridge between our old decaying, dead life in this world and our new eternal life in his kingdom. And, let’s say, thank you, Lord!
“No, I’m not qualified,” I said. A group of arts and crafts people from Dallas needed judges for their art work—everything from quilts to crocheted and knitted pieces to photography and oil paintings. My artist friend Ginger added, “But haven’t you crocheted or knitted? Can’t you tell what’s good handwork and what isn’t?” “Yes,” I said, “I have seen some beautiful work my mom and my daughter and others have done, but it’s been years since I’ve done anything like that myself. I’m not qualified to be a judge.” “Do you know any other artist who paints and knits and crochets?” “No,” I said. “Then, it’s you and Kay and me,” Ginger said. We drove together to the church where the art was displayed. Kay is the experienced quilter so she knew to bring gloves to handle the quilts. It was easier with the three of us, but I was glad when it was over. I don’t enjoy being a judge. The apostle Paul wrote that someday we will judge angels. That somewhat reassures me. Surely by then I’ll be qualified.
“What happened?” we asked. Our friend’s nose was damaged and various colored bruises from reddish brown to greenish gray surrounded her left eye. Several had heard about her accident, but we wanted to hear the whole story from her. She said when she saw feral hogs in her pasture, she got her late husband’s deer rifle and went after them. Wild hogs are a big problem in Texas. They cause a lot of damage to yards and pastures. She raised the scope of the heavy gun to her eye and got one of the hogs. But when she fired, the gun kicked back and the scope hit her nose and face. She’s not a big woman. She went down. Immediately blood covered her face. She was hundreds of yards from her house, but she picked herself up and started back home, hoping she didn’t pass out on the way. I noticed she had an Apple watch on her wrist. “Why didn’t you call for help?” I asked. “Oh, I didn’t want all those volunteer firemen to have to leave their jobs and come out there,” she said. Then she proudly added, “But I did get that hog!” They raise ‘em tough in Texas!
Another fun and easy matchstick suggestion this week: “Make a dinner date with someone who makes you laugh.” I’ve got several very good choices. I believe laughter is a gift from God. It’s part of what makes us human. As hard as they are trying, artificial intelligence (AI) guys haven’t been able to make robots catch on to what makes people laugh. And, of course, we don’t all think the same things are funny. I love the puns newspaper headline writers come up with while others may read right over them. Jokes that make me cringe can send others into fits of laughter. Even professional comedians can’t always predict what will make people laugh. God created us as unique individuals. Each one of us is a totally different human being. There’s only one of us. So if something I write that I think is funny doesn’t bring a smile to your face, that’s OK. I understand. Now I’ve got to get ready for that dinner date!
We had dinner together Wednesday evening. By next Monday he was gone. Bud and his wife are one of the couples I get together with regularly for dinner. Bud had cancer but was still working part time while under treatment. His friends and I were shocked to see him go so quickly. Jesus called death sleep and when I looked at my friend, that’s how he looked. Death of a friend or family member makes you think. I don’t look forward to death, as long as I’m still relatively healthy and active. But it also helps to know that I have already died. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3). And not only have I already died, the apostle Paul tells me, you and the Colossians, I have already been resurrected. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (verse 1). As Christians we don’t have to fear death or what comes after death. We have already died and been resurrected and are now living a resurrected life. It’s a done deal. Nobody or anything in this world can ever undo that.
“Sit quietly, breathe deeply, and recall a time when you felt great joy.” Nice! The matchstick suggestion for the week is something I need to do regularly. Clear away all the anxiety and concern life brings and remember who is in control. I usually wake up in a positive frame of mind, that is, until I read the headlines on my morning paper. Then I have to remind myself. Breathe, hand it up to God. Be patient; he’ll take care of it at the proper time and in the most beneficial way for all concerned. I can’t take on God-sized problems and expect to solve them. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some responsibility. I can bring comfort and encouragement to the lives of others. I can pray about the big issues. I can spread the love and hope of Christ wherever I go. And, doing that is what brings me the greatest joy anyway.
“I don’t know what I want,” Jerry said. Jerry is my friend Paula’s husband. His sister-in-law, Mary Jean, said she thought she would have the shrimp. “No, the last time I had it, it wasn’t that good,” Jerry said. “Maybe I’ll have the chicken livers or the chicken-fried steak. What are you having,” he asked me. “I’m having the trout,” I said. “Maybe I’ll have that, or maybe I’ll have the shrimp.” Mary Jean smiled. I said, “Jerry, you’re doing your thinking out loud.” With a grin he asked, “Do you want me to shut up?” “No,” I said. So he continued through the menu. Actually, Mary Jean and I were enjoying hearing him going in circles trying to make up his mind. Eight of us were around the table, but the others were concentrating on what they wanted to order and not paying attention to Jerry. The waitress came. Mary Jean and I ordered trout and then waited to hear from Jerry. With no hesitation, he said, “I’ll have the chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy along with pinto beans and fried okra.” Mary Jean and I smiled. Jerry had made up his mind. I love living in Texas!