STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD – CHAPTER FIVE
DEAL GOD A HAND
In any given casino the images are generally the same. Punters place their luckless bets, and dealers, with their oversized rakes, pull it in. I’ve often thought that if there is anything that ought to speak clearly to a gambler about his chances it’s that the dealer is the only one who ever needs a rake. Anything the punter may win… hands will do.
Whether it is Craps, Blackjack, Roulette or whatever, the same old picture is painted upon a canvas of sadness and broken homes: the punters toss it out and the dealers rake it in.
But poker? Well, that’s a horse of different suit. It looks like luck, but it’s not. It has all the earmarks of being luck, but nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why the same few players always end up in the finals of the greatest poker tournaments.
Not too many years ago I had the opportunity for an overnight stay in Vegas. Loved it. What’s not to “love”? Lights, music, excitement and people as far as the eye could see. With a brief stroll through Caesar’s Palace I at least got to see what Rome might have been like, had it been designed and built by 20th century Americans.
All that I witnessed took me back. Before the Father grabbed the reigns of this pitiful life gambling played a minor part in it. Nothing big, for sure. If nothing else, I kept the local bookie in cigars (cheap ones). But this time things were different.
As well as having a good laugh with my namesake brother, Billy (McGuiggan), while driving down the Vegas Strip, I got a good look. A good, long look. Of all the things I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed in this life, little beats the blessing of being in Vegas in the morning. Morning always sheds a whole new light on life and exposes it for what it is. Vegas wasn’t spared.
“You’ll fall asleep to lights and music in your head.
You’ll wake to dusty roads and lies that you’ve been fed
You’ll see too clearly all the signs you should have seen last night.
Oh, you bought the lie.” I was moved to write in a song following my observations of the gambling capital of the world.
My life has changed (I like to think) now that my Father has a grip of the reigns, though sometimes I could swear it hasn’t. It just doesn’t seem like it now and then. Sometimes it looks as though there’s no guidance at all, no direction, and this horse is running free. Then, thank God, I feel the tug on the bit, and this mare is reminded that he’s been bought with a price, that he’s not his own, and that he has a Rider dictating the route.
But what do I do during the times it seems like, feels like, and looks like God’s not in control? When everything around me would seem to suggest I’m running free again? Simple. I open His word, find the passage and read again, Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this, that He who began a good WORK in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Then I take the time to remind myself that He who promised is faithful.
And so I get to thinking, God’s working on me? God? On me? The One who made everything there is out of nothing that was? Him? He’s working on me? The One who SPOKE(?) into the darkness and produced all that we see, with WORDS? The One who painted the pattern on the back of the butterfly’s wing? Him?! The One who took time to place hair on blades of grass? The One who coloured the world and filled our skies with flying musicians? Him? He’s working on me? YES!!!
Isn’t that good? Isn’t that warm? Isn’t it comforting, strengthening? Isn’t that, “Well thank God someone is!”? Sure it is.
We are the only clay ever formed that argues with the potter. We are the only canvas ever stretched that claims to know better than the artist where the paint should go. And yet, in spite of our protests, in spite of our cowardly shrinking from the Potter’s hand, there He is, shaping and moulding. Diligently working to produce something quite beautiful our Potter is busy working a masterpiece so wonderful that when called to comment upon it He says, “They’ll look just like Jesus when I’m finished.”
In “Confessions of a winning poker player”, Jack King said, “Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it may seem. But every player can remember, with remarkable accuracy, the outstanding tough beats of his career.” How true is this of the Christian life?
I’m one of those individuals tempted to dwell on mistakes. So much so, I often lose today because of yesterday’s failures. I’m inclined to write off the good because of the weight of the bad. And I know many feel the same. The evil just seems so prevalent at times. The wickedness becomes so dark that it threatens to extinguish the light. But if this is all we see, we’re not looking hard enough.
Perhaps we should spend a little time thinking about the other side of this coin. Perhaps we should spend more time thinking about the big pots we have won, and forbid our vision to be so clouded. Perhaps, instead of grinding ourselves into whining minnies we should be taking a look at how altogether Christlike we are when we turn at the pull of the bit. Even though sometimes we only turn under duress. And maybe we should do nothing short of basking in the joy that accompanies our Father’s words, “What I began in you I will finish. You have my word on it.”
I used to work in a little recording studio, among other things. For those unfamiliar with recording I have to explain what a “final mix” (FM) is. The FM of a song is when you have all the EQ (bass, treble, middle) and all the faders set to the desired levels. Then you run the song one final time – that’s the final mix. Now, before you reach the FM it’s enough to have all the instruments in their place, even though they’re not sounding particularly well blended. But they serve adequately as a guide.
Every now and then, while I was working away on something, someone would come in and say, “The piano’s a bit loud.”, or “The drums are too quiet”, or whatever. My response was always the same. I’d impatiently look at them and grunt, “I’m not finished yet!” And it’s senseless to think it should sound like the finished article when I’m not finished. Right?
Rolf Harris was a man who captivated the hearts of children everywhere. I remember watching him as a child working with a huge canvas, openly spraying paint all over the place in what seemed like a display of lunacy. Nothing made sense and the canvas was void of anything even resembling art. Then, with a few seconds to spare he took a large brush, and, humming as he went, dabbed a few finishing touches. And to my utter amazement, what looked like chaos only a second or two ago turned out to be a mountain, and a cottage, and a river and more. But if I could have taken him back a single minute I could have said, and quite correctly said, “Rolf. That’s garbage!” And what would he have said?
It is ABSURD to think that we should look and sound like the finished article when God’s not finished. And it’s absurd to expect others to look and sound like the finished article WHEN HE’S NOT FINISHED!!!
Good card players are usually identified by knowing when to release a bad hand. Thank goodness our Father is the worst card player in the world. I mean, He can’t play a lick. Stubbornly refusing to believe that what He holds is useless to win anything He just continues on playing. Thank God.
Christianity, like poker, is not about luck. People who are far from perfect, yet perfected. People who are sinners, yet forgiven. Sick, made healthy. Seven high’s with all the potential of a royal flush. People, who in spite of how it looked, and how it felt, believed their Father’s words and persevered.
Listen, Christian, all good poker players know you’re never down and out until all your chips are gone. So take what you have and play. PLAY!
It’s true, you can’t lose what you don’t put in… but you can’t win much either. So take your life, bravely, and throw it into the pot. Because in the poker game of life your Father has the rake. Stay the course.
Hang in. Rumour has it He’s going for a full house. “No room at the Inn” is a phrase that shall never be uttered from the mouth of our God. He who promised to complete His work in us is faithful, and He will do it. He WILL do it. We’re dealing with a God who doesn’t know how to break a promise.
I love that about God!