Thursday, August 29, 2013

The one-legged duck

We have a one-legged duck in the pond behind our house.

I can't tell if his leg was bitten off, lost in a fight, or if he was born with only one leg. Either way, it's sad because when he comes up on land he labors to get anywhere. He's straining with life. He hops and falls over, hops and falls over. When you see him in the water, he looks just fine. But when he's on shore, you ache for him.

I've been feeding the ducks so they have grown in number. But today the one-legged duck was all by himself. So I brought out some bread and took these photos. Finally the one-legged duck didn't have to compete with all the two-legged ducks to get some food. When they are around, it's really pitiful. He's slow. They grab the bread before he can get there.

I can relate to the one-legged duck. I am broken just like him. I hop and fall over, hop and fall over. I say the wrong thing, think the wrong thing, and do the wrong thing, many times a day. "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19).

The whole world is like this. Things are not as they are supposed to be. Everybody's missing a leg. You see this on the news, when you read about a death, or a rape, or a terrorist act, or a drug bust. On the outside most people seem to have it all together. But when you look more closely into their eyes, you ache for them.

You know this yourself. You think about this when you're all alone, late at night, when the house is quiet. You're not what you always thought you would be or should be. Either you're not happy, or married, or successful, or hip, or good looking. Something's always missing. You're just like the one-legged duck.

The good news is, one day everyone who trusts in Jesus will get their legs. 

Jesus died and rose again not just to save our souls and take us to heaven, but to make things right. All things. To rid the earth of injustice, and loneliness, and fear, and hate, and poverty, and death. One day we won't read about kids beating up another kid. One day we won't see a young starlet gyrating on stage and cheapening the gift of sex. One day we won't pack up a friend's truck and say goodbye. One day we won't need to bomb Syria. One day weeping wives won't talk about how lonely they are in their marriage. One day men won't get told they're worthless.

"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord" (Isaiah 65:17, 25).   

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The ordinary

My granddaughter Talitha with Dabo
I've told you before about my dog Dabo. He's a little 3-year old Bichon Frise. Not a yapper, thankfully, and lots of fun. He's never met a stranger, and he especially adores kids.

Everybody wants to know what his name means. Dabo Swinney is the head coach of the Clemson Tigers football team. So, since we're big Clemson fans, we named our dog Dabo. His full name is Dabo LeBlanc. The dog's, that is.

Dabo regularly teaches me lessons. One is not to be in a hurry. When I take him outside to go to the bathroom, he just kind of wanders around the yard aimlessly, taking his time, smelling everything, chasing lizards, looking around, and sniffing the air. Finally he gets down to business.

But another lesson Dabo teaches me is enjoyment of the ordinary. On sunny afternoons I'll go outside with Dabo and he'll find a spot in the backyard and just...sit. I'll say, "Let's go over here, Dabo." And he'll glance at me, turn away, and...lie down in the grass. It's like I can hear him say, "Umm, I don't think so. Why are you in a hurry? Don't you want to just stay here a few minutes and feel the sunshine?" I can't resist. So I'll walk over, plop myself down next to Dabo, stroke his back, and enjoy the ordinary.

I hate to confess this, but I apparently need a dog to teach me this lesson. Otherwise I don't know if I'd ever stop and feel the sunshine on my face.

I'm reading Zack Eswine's book for pastors, titled Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry As a Human Being. It's a wonderful but convicting book about enjoying the ordinary. He says we ministers are, generally speaking, driven people. We are always hankering after some "significant" work, chasing some "God-sized" dream, trying to change the world, thinking that we have to move on to some exotic place where we can "make a difference." Problem is, we are not God, though we secretly fancy ourselves to be. We are not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. We are actually pretty much...a mess. And anyway, God usually chooses to work through ordinary people in ordinary places.
He who called you to where you are declares that you needn't repent of being in one place at one time. You needn't repent of doing only a long, small work in an extraordinary but unknown place. Standing long in one place allows the roots to deepen.
I wish I'd read Eswine's book years ago when, as a young pastor, I felt "called" away from my small, rural church to a city I knew nothing about but where, I thought, I would really make a difference for the kingdom. I don't know, maybe I was called there. But looking back from Dabo's perspective, maybe I was in too much of a hurry.

The prophet Jeremiah told his friend and secretary Baruch, "Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5).

That's what I hear Dabo saying to me in the backyard on sunny afternoons. Standing long in one place allows the roots to deepen.