Monday, October 26, 2009

Faith Like Potatoes?

OK, so maybe this post has nothing to do with the recent movie... but it has EVERYTHING to do with those oddly shaped tubers that taste so good mashed, baked, or cut into strips and fried.

This post is part of a series on my childhood experiences. As I reminisce (is 34 considered old enough to reminisce???) about growing up, I start to see so many Biblical lessons, that we could all stand to learn.

Take my friend Wes, who learned not only that it's a stupid idea to impulsively throw a rock at a classic car, but also that God's forgiveness (and sometimes that of grumpy neighbors) knows no bounds. Well, his story reminded me of the time I threw potatoes at a little old lady....

Betcha' didn't think me capable of such mischief. Intrigued? Well, read on, then! Don't just sit there gawking!

I spent my first decade (if you count from conception) in a 4th-floor apartment, in Bucharest, Romania. Yes, we occasionally got out, but that's where we lived. The rear of the apartment had a balcony with a tall, cement guard-rail. You can see a little bit of it in the picture above, which features my dad and me, several years before the incident in question. The balcony did not overlook a street, but rather a park-like area, bordered by other nondescript block-apartment buildings like ours.

When I was about 8, an older friend came over and proceeded to get bored. We went out to the balcony, and he noticed a sack of potatoes in the corner. I don't know if my friend did this often, but he showed me how much fun it was to throw a potato at a passerby and promptly duck behind the guard-rail. Now, I really knew better, but it seemed fun AND safe (at least for ME!), so I did it, too. For some reason, it did not occur to me what might've happened if a potato, hurtling through the air from 4 stories up, were to clonk a person in the head, face, or other sensitive areas. It also did not occur to me what would happen to MY sensitive areas, if my strict mom were to interrogate me on why some potatoes were missing! We had our laughs and giggles, he eventually went home, and no one was any the wiser, except, of course, for the handful of poor passersby, who got pelted by our starch bombs.

Some time later, when I was at home, with nothing better to do, it got into my head to play "potato". Betcha' didn't know I was the original Mr. Potato Head! Well, along came this little old lady, carrying some grocery bags from the store. I took aim and let one fly. It hit her bag and took her entirely by surprise. I was ducking behind my wall, but I could hear her yelling, up toward the building. She said something to the effect of, "Shame on you! Your parents should have raised you better!"

Growing up, I was a very obedient kid, who could not stand being scolded. But this was worse. This lady, whom I didn't even know, was passing judgment on my own parents, whom I loved and respected very much. They DID raise me (mostly) right; it was my own decision, and mine alone, that brought them dishonor.

That same connection binds our own words and actions to our Savior's perceived image. As children of God, we are commissioned not only to live according to the faith that we have in Him, but also to make the Way attractive, so that those we come in contact with may desire the same salvation that He bought for everyone. But if through our words and actions, we misrepresent Jesus Christ, we push people away from Him. How can we claim to love our neighbor, if we push him away from the One who loves him the most?

Needless to say, her words cut me to the core, and I put down the potato forever (at least, as a WMD). And my bottom was very thankful that my mom never found out about this incident (and even if she did read blogs, I think the statute of limitation expired long ago). But remember that Jesus is watching your every move, as are those around you, who are inwardly yearning to be reconciled unto God.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jesus and the Good Stuff

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, "They have no wine." Jesus saith unto her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." His mother saith unto the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, "Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast." And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now" (John 2:1-10, KJV).

I was reading these verses this week, and something about what the host said to the groom caught my attention: he said the wine that Jesus made was the good stuff. Not only was it good, but the implication was that it was better than any of the other wine that was served at that feast! And rightly so, for it was made by the same Hand that fashioned the grapes from which wine is traditionally derived.

If Jesus was so good at making wine, I wonder how His fish and bread tasted to the 5000, the 4000, and finally, the disciples, on the Tiberian shore. Man, that fish must have been Heavenly! He'd put Red Lobster (not to even mention Long John Silver's) out of business!

But that's beside the point. What I see in the miracle at Cana is the subtle reminder that anything God does is better than the best that we can do on our own.

But there's more....

Back to the wine again....

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). And He was true to His word. The various crucifixion accounts tell us that He refused any wine, when it was offered Him. Why? Because He wasn't thirsty? Because it was gross? Maybe. But I think it was to make a point: there's something far better waiting for us in God's Kingdom, something worth holding out for.

Perhaps this is why this world's pleasures never satisfy. Perhaps this is why alcohol, in particular, is so dangerous. Perhaps it is meant to remind us of what happened that day, in Galilee; that it is but a shadow of what awaits us in that Fair City. If there happens to be wine up there, I have a hunch it will not result in drunkenness or hangovers.

I won't look down upon you for responsibly enjoying an occasional drink, but as for me, I will refrain, until my first toast with Jesus.