The Chop-O-Matic was the star. It was, after all, an innovation. It represented a different way of dicing onions and chopping liver: it required consumers to rethink the way they went about their business in the kitchen. Like most great innovations, it was disruptive. And how do you persuade people to disrupt their lives? Not merely by ingratiation or sincerity, and not by being famous or beautiful. You have to explain the invention to customers — not once or twice but three or four times, with a different twist each time. You have to show them exactly how it works and why it works, and make them follow your hands as you chop liver with it, and then tell them precisely how it fits into their routine, and, finally, sell them on the paradoxical fact that, revolutionary as the gadget is, it’s not at all hard to use. – Malcolm Gladwell explaining the advent of the RonCo Chop-O-Matic in his book What the Dog Saw
The gospel is an innovation. It shows a different way of being human that requires us to rethink the way we go about all of life. It is disruptive. It needs explanation and demonstration. And it really is not all that hard to use.
A member of our community played a new piece of music for us this week. In beginning he picked the strings in familiar chords to a Latino rhythm, but soon something went wrong. Notes stuck out here and there against the flow of the music. It seemed they would bring the instrumental to a uneasy halt, but they didn’t. The music went on. It was beautiful and then, more of those notes. Dissonant notes. Dissonant notes have a purpose too. They break us out of the familiar and point to something urgent. they aren’t what we expect to happen, but they aren’t unexpected to the musician. He can use dissonance. The earth sometime shakes with dissonant chords but these are not beyond the reach of our God. He can weave them into the music. He can make all things beautiful in their time.
My mother calls me Ronnie, my son and daughter call me Dad, my wife calls me Bubba. You can call me whatever you want (mostly it’s just Ron). If someone calls me by a different name it has no effect on who I am, but if someone starts describing me and says I am short with green eyes and my primary language is Italian THEY DO NOT KNOW ME.
To know me is to know me. I am who I am.
When someone tells you they know God, ask them to describe him. What is he like? How did they get to know him? What pleases him? What allows them to stay in a good relationship with him? You can find out what God they know by asking. Maybe they know the Great I AM, or maybe they only met a lesser god.
A story from China: a workman carried two pots down to the river to fetch water each day. One was a fine pot, well made and sturdy, the other pot was old and full of cracks. After many years of use the cracked pot cried out to its master. “Master, please crush me and throw me onto the trash heap! I am no good to you. Every day you carry me to the river and fill me with water, and by the time we get back home I am empty. I am a truly useless pot!”
The master smiled and said to the pot, “But you are my favorite pot. You are most useful to me. Look along the pathway to the river and see all of the beautiful flowers. I planted those flowers and I love them. They make my walk pleasant. Each time we walk to the river to get water, you water my flowers as we come home. I chose you because of your cracks!”
Don’t despise the way you were made. The gospel assures us there is nothing about us beyond the reach of God’s redemption…even our cracks.
If you want to learn to pray the first thing you should do is pray. The Christian story of the world is clear: God is fully invested in knowing us and talking to us before we ever think about talking to him. The gospel shows us how far God is willing to go to have a relationship with us. Conversations with God are not, cannot, be happening because we get in the right posture or say the perfect words or perform enough deeds. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, wrote one of the best books on prayer: Answering God. The premise of the book is that God always speaks first and we are always answering him. Peterson uses the metaphor of teaching babies to talk. Parents lean over the crib and speak incomprehensible words to an infant and this is how the infant learns to make sounds and eventually words. The best thing we can do in prayer is remember we are infants. Stop trying to make prayers that seem “well done.” Make sounds to God. Cry out. Ask for needs to be met. Laugh upwards in joy. Reach for Help.
Have I seen a lot of a little or a little of a lot? The breadth of our experiences doesn’t mean a breadth of living. In the navy I traveled the world with some people who never saw anything. I also know some people who never left the state of Virginia who see more clearly and further than I ever will. It takes more than eyes to see and more than ears to hear. It takes will, and it takes courage. The wide world is scary and it doesn’t always conform to our wishes. Living in it doesn’t come from being born. It comes from being born again.
I get songs caught in my head. When I was a kid it was the theme song from Gilligan’s Island, as a teenager, In The Air Tonight, by Phil Collins. But sometimes I couldn’t get the lyrics right. I know this is shocking nowadays when every song is available any time, but there was a time when you got it on the first run on the radio or view on TV and had to wait until you caught it again, or actually went to a store and bought a whole album even if you only liked one song. In The AIr particularly stumped me. “I can feel it comin’ in the ed-doo-nite???” I’m embarrassed to say I made up nonsense words for years. The obvious clue never got my attention (the title of the song…yeah I’m not swift). Gilligan was the same. At the send off theme played after an episode a stanza says “They’ll have to make the best of things…its enough to cry???” At least I made up real words for that one.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard those songs before I got the words. Many, many times. Then one time I heard them differently somehow. “I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight, oh Lord.” Yes!!!! That’s it! “They’ll have to make the best of things, its an uphill climb.” Yeah! And once I got it I got it. I sang differently. I sang the songs with my whole voice and even with my whole heart. This is how revelation works. We hear and hear and hear and then one day we Hear. We get it. The words didn’t change, we did. And once we change the words make sense. We enter into them in new ways with new enthusiasm. We can even share them with others because now they belong to us wholly. Keep listening and keep asking for revelation. In the meantime, sing and share what you have. We can be sure of this; the gospel story proves that God is not holding back lyrics that we need right now to sing full songs, and he is willing to share all his lyrics with us.
Humility and confidence are the hallmarks of someone who knows both their limitations and their gifts thoroughly. It is unusual to find these characteristics evenly present in a person. Either we feel the weight of our limits too much or exalt in our gifts too much. The person who understands the gospel of Christ correctly, however, knows both the the true depth of humility and the height of confidence. Broken and accepted. Unworthy and loved. Jesus and us. Odd couple.