UNDERVALUED

The United Press International carried a story recently (June 8, 2017) about a man in the UK who purchased a costume jewelry ring (an imitation diamond ring) for $13 back in the 1980s, only to find out it wasn’t what he thought it was. Three months ago the unnamed owner had the ring appraised at Sotheby’s Fine Jewels. After a close examination, Sotheby’s made several determinations about the ring. First, it was not costume jewelry, but a real diamond. Second, it was very old and dated from the 1800s, probably once owned by royalty. Third, the diamond had a total weight of 26 carats and was probably worth over $400,000. When Sotheby’s auctioned it off for the owner, an organization purchased the ring for $850,000. Not only was this a stunning return for a $13 investment. It is also an example of how grossly wrong people can be in their estimation of something’s value.

Our world frequently underestimates the value of many things – revolutionary ideas, burgeoning businesses, new technologies. But its worst underestimation comes when it dismisses the value of people. This is especially true in our culture’s estimation of family relationships and the roles of a father and mother. People who have grown up without a supportive father and loving mother are among the most pain-ridden creatures on the planet. In fact, our culture has waged war on family roles and values and has sent the steady message to mothers and fathers that their children aren’t worth their investment of love, time, and energy. Career, educational goals, and accumulating material wealth are presented as the true signs of success, and nothing – not even one’s spouse or children – should get in the way of these pursuits. Consequently, we now have several generations of human beings who have gone un-nurtured, un-affirmed, un-validated, and unloved by the parents who set them aside for “more important things.”

Just look at the movies we make today, the TV sitcoms, and the entire basis of our entertainment. It’s all marked by a cruel humor that makes peoples’ pain and misfortune the butt of jokes and that fosters finding pleasure in shedding blood and mutilating human bodies. More and more, it seems, we are losing the capacity to be kind, tender, and respectful of each other. More and more, we are overwhelmed by our inner pain and cannot control the anger that keeps erupting from within.

But to help humanity with its pain, we need to first find healing for ourselves. And that healing can only be found in the warm and loving embrace of our Heavenly Father – our divine Parent who created us in His own likeness and made us according to His own specifications.

No matter what others think of you and no matter how badly they underestimate you, your Heavenly Father loves you supremely and His opinion is the only one that matters. Let Him love you. Flee into His loving arms – the only place of true peace, healing, and love.

“The LORD appeared to us from afar, saying, ‘Behold, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

PRAYER:

Dear Father in heaven, into Your loving embrace I flee. Accept me, O Lord, through You Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Wash me in His blood, cleanse me from every sin. Heal my wounded heart and fill me with Your love. Make me an instrument of Your peace in the lives of others I pray. Amen.

You do not need to face this challenge alone. Jesus has conquered this challenge so that you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.

 

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STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD – CHAPTER FIVE DEAL GOD A HAND

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!

Billy Wilson

STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER FOUR LIFE AND DEATH

STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER FOUR

LIFE AND DEATH

Life, like a military marksman, adjusts her sights, brings the intended target into view, places her finger gently on the trigger and says… “Not as chewy as roast beef, not as boring as chicken”. Bang! Target annihilated.

Two hours and forty-five minutes of cinematic genius, of flawless acting and of a story already told but begging to be again.

Anthony Hopkins and the disgustingly handsome Brad Pitt meet in “Meet Joe Black”. A cocktail of triumph from the word “go”. They combine to tell a tale of wonder and refreshment for the soul. The director of the movie (Martin Brest) had sat on the idea for 20 years, being originally inspired by its predecessor.

One fine, sunny day Death arrives on the scene, anxious after years of observation, to taste life. He takes the body of a young man (Pitt) and calls himself Joe. He needs a guide and selects Bill Parish (Hopkins), informing him that when the tour is over so also is Bill’s life. To make matters more intriguing Bill is to tell no one the true nature of their relationship.

Death is inquisitive to say the least, eager to sample this thing called life that he has thus far observed from a distance. He is a cold, callous and thoroughly removed individual; everything you might expect from Death.

Pondering his role in this adventure, Bill asks, “Why me?” Death numbly replies, “You’ve lived a first-rate life and I find it eminently usable.”

Death lives up to his name and reputation both. He meets a Caribbean lady in hospital and she accurately pegs him; “Oh, Mr. Bad News”, she calls him. But Life has a surprise in store, even for death. Doesn’t she always?

During the course of the movie Life opens her floodgates upon Death, illustrating through her human pawns, life’s wonderful adventure. She showers him with examples of nobility, courage, integrity, friendship, honour, and not least of all, love.

Quince (Bill’s son-in-law) is the first to fire. With no reason at all he welcomes Death into the Parish household – something Bill hadn’t even done, though hardly surprising. Quince is simply one of those genuinely open and honest individuals of whom Jesus would say in whom is no guile. The effect Quince has on Death is trifling in comparison to others, but quite genuine. “Do you like me, Joe?”, he asks toward the end of the movie. “Oh yes”, replies Death, “You are one of my favourites.”

Next up, the common courtesy of a butler, with a teaspoon of peanut butter, impregnates Death with a little taste of kindness. Insignificant? Well, only if you forget that this is Death’s final request before he exits the movie. This trickle of kindness begins to stream.

The movie continues to roll along this theme. Through many little incidents Life threatens to pierce the very soul of Death. Challenging him at every turn, throwing down gauntlets all over the place, convicting him with principle, provoking him with character, and confronting him with goodness, Life, with her many splendid things, searches for a weakness she might exploit. She is trying desperately to get him to betray who he is, to forsake his character and transform himself from the repulsive grub that he is into the resplendent butterfly she knows he can be.

Bill, always unhappy with Joe, teaches him some of the greatest lessons. And it is in conversation with Bill that Life takes her first serious foothold. Death is eating a cold lamb sandwich in Bill’s office and comments on how delicious it is. Upon hearing this Bill’s demeanour changes and he becomes somewhat melancholy. Not particularly focussing upon anything he stares into the space between himself and whatever is front of him. That place where memories dance, and the curtain never falls.

“Cold lamb sandwiches.” Bill finally says. “My wife turned me on to that. Not as chewy as roast beef – not as boring as chicken.”

Joe stops eating, leans his chin on his hand and listens, intently. His face also changes appearance, as though sharing the moment.

“She knew stuff like that.” Bill continues. “Everything reminds me of her. There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think of her. But I guess you’ve heard this a trillion times before.”

“More” replies Joe. But adds, “What was she like when you first met?”

“Thought you’d heard this a trillion times before?” asks Bill.

“This part I’m interested in.” And Bang! Life, like a python, now has Death in her embrace and all that is required is the slow, steady tightening of her power.

Life always finds a way, doesn’t she? Even through a cold lamb sandwich. The simple tale of an “ordinary” love shared between a man and his wife and Death is hooked. Life begins to coil, and Death, increasingly resembling trapped prey, comes closer to Life with every squeeze.

Bill is to be the teacher through which Death would learn many such lessons. However, it is Alison, his daughter, who completes the miracle of redemption within Death. In the early development of their relationship Joe remarks that he doesn’t have any friends. Alison responds by saying, “I can see why.” But all this was to change.

There’s the shyness of her smile and innocence of her language. There’s the charm of her spirit and the beauty of her form. There’s the strength of her character and the devotion of her heart. All of these, like water finding the weakness in a breached hull, begin to swamp Death like a flood.

As the story unfolds Life is beginning to take the upper hand over her archenemy. Death’s heart begins to crumble. Where there was only frost there is now the first signs of thaw. From a seemingly unchanging and bitter winter there breathes the first breath of spring. Where there was only intention of taking and experiencing there are now acts of benevolence and sharing.

Like a relentless tide persistently corroding a coastal rock Life is wearing him down. Death blesses an elderly lady with a dying wish, he honours a promise he earlier broke, he restores a business to the man he’s come to admire and from what was once a stone-faced callous appearance, finally, rolls a single solitary tear. LIFE HAS WON! What began as a trickle of kindness ended in a torrent of love, and death is exposed.

One fine sunny day Death arrived on the scene, anxious after years of observation, to taste life. Life took him and brought him to his knees, transformed and hardly recognisable. His character completely betrayed.

There are many paths down which one could travel with these thoughts. I’m sure you already have your own. Good. The movie deserves them. Bear with me now as I travel down mine.

One fine sunny day LIFE arrived on the scene, anxious after years of observation to taste death. He was called Jesus. Now, this was one fine, warm, compassionate, caring and benevolent individual; everything you might expect of Life. From the moment of His birth there was joy in the world, for the Lord had come and earth received her King.

The sun was smiling, finally realising the purpose of its creation, to warm the face of Heaven’s finest Son. The grass, begging the wind to blow it into position in order to be trampled under His feet. Trees desperately forcing themselves into leaf that He might shade Himself under them. Streams and rivers draining the nearby hillsides of every drop of moisture in order to make themselves more appealing to Him, in the hope he may stoop to drink. Well-trodden paths now thankful for the thousands of feet that shaped them, because HE now walks along them. Birds no longer singing through instinct but in the hope their songs may impress the ears of their Creator – all competing for a place on the branches that stretch to embrace Him. The stones snarling a glance at the birds, jealously longing for a mouth that they may accompany dawn’s daily symphony. Heaven was suffering post-natal depression while the earth was basking in His glory. LIFE!

This is all the story needed to be. This was how Life should have been received, and by all, and always. His entrance into Jerusalem should have been par for the course, an everyday occurrence. That would have been altogether fitting. However, this young man, had more serious matters in mind, and so did His archenemy, Death.

On the day of His birth hell and her captain were aroused into action and opened their floodgates against Him. They unleashed all the powers at their disposal; desperate to crush the wings of this young Admiral; desperate to find a chink in His armour, desperate to reduce Him, break Him, crush Him and ultimately destroy Him. Doing everything and anything, to tempt Him to betray His character.

They offered Him bread. He wasn’t hungry. They came with offers of kingdoms. He refused. He was met by an overly anxious mother. He responded with obliging obedience. They arrived with a storm and He left them with peaceful waters. They came with accusations of demon-possession and clever questions (taxes to Caesar, caught in adultery, work on the Sabbath). He answered with truth spoken in love. They came with every temptation, every lust, every human desire, every human weakness, every human emotion, every single day. Not for a second did He flinch. With His face set toward Jerusalem, Life, uncompromising and true, finished the work His Father had entrusted Him with.

In the movie, Life beat Death to a pulp and loved him into betraying his own character. 2000 years ago Death only proved Life to be the character we always knew was true. Eager to have Him betray His mission and His character, Death served Him a volley of abuse and scorn. Life stood up against it, braved its winter chills, walked patiently through its spring and delivered our eternal summer. With a triumphant cry that would pierce history, Life, seemingly broken proclaimed, “It is finished!”.

Thank God for “Mr. Good News”; The same yesterday, today and forever.

God is as unchanging and unchangeable now as He has always been, calling us from the winters of our discontent, toward our eternal summer.

I love that about God!

Billy Wilson