Tag Archives: suffering

In the News

The events of Wednesday in Washington, DC were deeply disturbing.  As the joint session of Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty to certify the vote of the electoral college, the Capitol was breached by rioters (a term which I use definitively: “a group of people who meet in a public place and behave in a noisy, violent, and uncontrolled way, often as a protest.”)  The lawful machinations of the federal government were halted by the acts of a disgruntled few.  What are we to think of these developments?  What are we to say to our children?  What do these distressing behaviors indicate about our overall societal condition?

The words that I preached upon last Sunday came back to me as I watched the special reports:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

As Jesus began his earthly ministry in the countryside synagogues of Galilee, he started by drawing the attention of those who gathered toward the words of the prophet Isaiah, declaring that, under the Spirit’s influence, he had been commissioned to share the good news with the oppressed, as well as several other dismissed and discounted groups.  This term, oppressed, is used only once in the original languages of the Bible, and, as a perfect passive participle, truly means “the ones who have been broken or shattered.” 

The good news of Jesus Christ, the historical ‘evangel’, is that the day of the Lord has come which will bring about the restoration of the broken.  The sad news of our present-day, displayed earlier this week, is that many are seeking wholeness and repair through human might or mental gymnastics.  The startling reality is that we all are, to some degree, broken people: sin has caused its damage, fracturing relationships and corrupting worldviews; society has wrought havoc, deepening divisions and disenfranchising the marginalized; selfish ambition has severed many conduits for compassion and care.  Therefore, we all, in our brokenness, need someone to share the ‘evangel’, the good news of the Lord’s favor through Jesus, in ways that we can understand.

Join me in grieving the human condition that motivates a vocal and violent minority to take the measures that were broadcast earlier this week.  Join me in grieving the despairing brokenness that leads some to seek personal restoration through raucous and reckless behavior.  Join me in praying that those who know the truth would proclaim the truth to those desperate to hear it.

Your plight – your poverty, pain, and penitence – is not imperceptible to the one who is in power.  The one who governs all of creation cares about your brokenness and has brought you a cure.  The salve for your shattered self is the Son of God, who came to announce God’s grace for the captive, the blind, and the oppressed.  Jesus came to make you whole again.

As I think of the broken glass that fell upon the floor of the House chamber, I assume it will be replaced.  That is what we do; we replace what has been broken and make it all better.  That is not what God does.  God repairs the shattered panes that litter our lives.  He reassembles every piece, perfectly fitting each shard and sliver together until we are whole.  That is good news indeed for all those who are watching the daily news with dread.

We Win…We Have Reached 21

Considering all we have been through over the last 12 months, I have come to the conclusion that New Year’s resolutions are, at best, aspirational or, at worst, futile.  Perhaps you thought, on December 31, 2019, that this next year was the year you would get a gym membership and exercise more consistently but after 80 days all the fitness clubs closed, and you were left a little less resolute.  Or perhaps you thought you would adjust that unhealthy lifestyle and [fill in the blank] less, only to discover that it was all you had to do during the quarantine.  It is painfully apparent that there is no certainty to the future.

Yet, our human nature, or perhaps our spark of divinity imbued through the Imago Dei, longs for our improvement.  Therefore, the Apostle Peter writes the following to the Church:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  2 Peter 1:5-7

Whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or in the center of God’s will (N.B.: these two places are not mutually exclusive), there are areas of our lives where we could be doing better.  Honestly, I have learned a great deal about myself in the months of quarantine, and I recognize that there are things I desire to improve.  I suppose January 1st is just as good a day to begin as any other.   

Above all else, I desire this year to increase my perseverance, which Merriam-Webster defines as, “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.  I long to be more patient, more forbearing, more tenacious.  My trouble is that perseverance is not something that a gym or a grocery store can supply.  Perseverance comes through faith in the promises and providence of God over the long haul.  It means, for me, delighting in the delays as part of God’s design and rejoicing in the roadblocks as they work toward my refinement.  For me, I will know that I am developing perseverance when I no longer experience opposition with annoyance but with amazement. 

But that is my struggle.  Your struggle is likely different.  Why not make an effort this year to work on what is weighing you down?   If you need accountability, I am available to provide an occasional prod.  If you need prayer, feel free to reach out and we can bring these concerns to God together.  If you need motivation for change, simply replay the past year in your mind and marvel at how much you have adapted, adjusted, and altered because of this disease; is not your health as important?  You have shown yourself to be resilient.  Let the changes you make this year be on your terms. Let me encourage you to read the Bible a bit more this year, attend worship a bit more this year, practice kindness a bit more this year, and marvel at God’s goodness a bit more this year.  Clearly, COVID cannot constrict the construction of your Christ-like character; become what you believe you are this year.

Alex, What Is Grief?

I did not know him at all.  I had never met him in person.  And yet, I was deeply saddened by the passing of Alex Trebek on Sunday.  Like so many, I had invited Mr. Trebek into my home nightly to entertain and educate me through his engaging banter as the host of “Jeopardy” (which is, in my opinion, the very best gameshow ever created).  I had regularly appreciated the humor and the heart of a man I had known little about, and I am now mourning his death as if a dear friend had departed.

I have been asking myself since I heard the news if it is appropriate to be so deeply sorrowful at the loss of a stranger.  I suppose, with hindsight, that I have attended a few funerals for elderly family members that I knew only in stories.  I can also remember times that neighbors that I barely knew by sight have died and I have expressed remorse.  It is further true that I am given daily updates of the numbers affected by COVID-19 – which reported that 464 people also died last Sunday due to the virus – and I am grieved, even though I did not know anyone represented by this statistic.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is wholly appropriate to grieve the death of those who we know only in passing.  In fact, it is wholly appropriate, and indeed beneficial, to grieve the death of those who have passed regularly.  It is good to be reminded that life is short and remember that loss is real.  It is healthy to consider, on a consistent basis, that we are mortal and thus are sorrowful with those in the grips of despair.  There is benefit in acknowledging, as seen through the tributes that various networks broadcast for Alex Trebek, that the imposition of death and the confrontation of our own demise can lead to others seeking treatment.

It is when we are confronted with death, the final enemy of each human life, that we accept that we cannot escape the inevitable, and, in those moments, we turn back to our creator for comfort and cure.  Death is indeed an immovable object; however, Christ is indeed an unstoppable force.

His death and resurrection afford all those who trust in Him unto salvation, by faith through grace, a victory over death; it affords us a conquering of the ultimate foe.  Still, despite this gift of God in Jesus, the truth remains that many refuse to accept the reality of our own mortality.  Perhaps, then, it is part of God’s mercy to confront our blindness with the passing of celebrity strangers.  

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Trebek family and to all those who have suffered a loss in recent days.  May the reality of Christ – and His resurrection – bring comfort and peace to all those who are saddened today.

A Question of Where

As we all endure a seemly endless barrage of bad news, including hurricanes in the south, wildfires in the west, racial unrest throughout the country and a pandemic across the globe, some may be wondering where God might be found in all of this.   It may be tempting to think that the creator and designer of all we know and sense is somehow detached or disinterested in the travails besetting the inhabitants of our little planet.  It might be rationalized that God has bigger things to address than the challenges we are currently being forced to endure.  In the fog of uncertainty, it is only natural to wonder why God seems still and silent.

It is the same feeling that the first followers of Jesus experienced and are recorded in Mark 4:35-41.  After engaging with a crowd of people earlier in the day, as evening approached Jesus felt it was time for him and the twelve to cross the Sea of Galilee.  While they were sailing a furious squall develops and nearly swamps the boat.  Can you imagine being one of a dozen people in a fishing boat, at night, in the middle of a lake, at the height of a high-wind thunderstorm?  What would you shout to God, who is peacefully sleeping (and apparently oblivious) through this life-threatening ordeal?

‘Teacher, is it no concern to you that we are perishing?’ Mark 4:38

I have to wonder how many times, in the crucible of distress, I have thought the same thing.  It is a natural human reaction to the difficulties of life.  Is it, though, a reasoned reaction for a person of faith to express?

The disciple of Jesus refers to Jesus as ‘teacher’, which is an accurate title for him.  But, I wonder, what meaning or relationship the term ‘teacher’ conveys.  It is natural to see Jesus as a guide, an instructor, or as a trainer.  Certainly, the scriptures give ample examples of the teachings Jesus conveyed, including the lessons taught just prior to their departure on this sea cruise.  But the primary role of Jesus was not teacher, for he essentially restated the doctrines and commands of the Old Testament, albeit with uncommon authority and unexpected application.  Jesus’ primary role was to show humanity the love of the Father though the giving of his life as a ransom for many.  If we are unable to see our relationship with Jesus as anything more than instructional, we will be blinded to his divine salvation.

The disciple of Jesus then asks him if our destruction is of any concern to him.  If we are expecting our relationship with Christ to be essentially functional – telling us what we need to know and how we are to act – then it will come as no surprise that we question his unwillingness to offer support when our lives are not working as we think they ought.  However, as any parent knows, apparent inaction is not a lack of concern but an opportunity for maturity.  Is it no concern to you that your baby keeps falling over as it learns to walk?   Is it no concern to you that your child may make bad choices as they go out with their friends?  Jesus’ response to the men in the boat with him is telling – ‘Have you still no faith?’  Our life is a concern to Jesus, as is our growth.

Besides, that boat was never going to sink.  Jesus made his dwelling on earth so that he would save his people from their sins.  Dying in a boating accident was not part of the irrevocable plan of God.  Despite the howl of the winds or the height of the waves, the lives of the boaters were never truly in jeopardy.  We would be wise to remember the promises of God as we respond to the pains of the world.  Those who know Jesus as the beloved Messiah can rest in the promise relayed by someone who happened to be in the boat that night, for Peter wrote, ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

As I endure this season of suffering, I pray my response will be, ‘Lord, thank you for the opportunity to grow and fulfill your purposes for me.’

Time for Change

It is amazing how fast time flies!  This weekend, for half of my children, will mark the end of Summer and school vacation.  My daughter will begin her new school year (teaching remotely 443 miles from her 5th grade students) on Monday and my middle son will move into his on-campus apartment for the Fall semester on Wednesday.  Our youngest son has been blessed with an academic reprieve, for his remote learning classes will not resume for another three weeks.

In many ways it seems like forever since David came home – theoretically for his freshman year’s Spring break – on March 5th, since 6th grade classes moved on-line for Joshua beginning March 16th, and since Rebekah’s truncated senior year of college and student teaching moved to remote and she drove home from Washington on March 17th.  As an added blessing, throughout the Spring and Summer we have also seen our oldest son an average of twice a week.  I cannot imagine another season of life when we will have this much shared time together.  But now, the times, they are a-changing.  The passage from August to September, for me this year, will be bitter-sweet.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: […] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance….   Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (NIV)

As I contemplate the change of season – meteorological and metaphorical – it causes me to pause and posit what the coming days may bring.  What will be the activity of this new time and season: weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing?  Are the days to be filled with disaster or delight, or some combination of both?  My guess: as it has been over the first 240 days of 2020, it will be for its remaining 126.  There have been and there will be those whose days, like mine, are filled with more laughter than tears and there are those whose days are filled with just the opposite.

Each of us have differing experiences and unique contexts in which we navigate the challenges and charms this life has to offer.  Because of this reality, we must allow empathy, the ability to feel for another without feeling as another, to be our guide when interacting with one another.  We all have grieved a loss (of life, of livelihood or of liberty) at some point this year and we all have needed compassion.  We all have enjoyed a blessing (through nature, through new life, or through neighbors) during this pandemic and we all have appreciated companionship.  Each of us will also continue to shed tears of sorrow and tears of joy in September and beyond, and we all must allow others the space to express themselves, unrestrained, before us.

The coming days, for me, will be tough as we transition from life fully together toward life beginning to move us apart.  The coming days, for you, are likely to be different emotionally.  I am glad we have each other as we rejoice together and as we grieve together.  There is a time for everything, just like the weather in New England.  If you are unhappy with what is occurring around you, just wait a minute with a friend.

Defining Love

Like an estimated 102 million other people, I watched the Super Bowl a few week ago.  It was a great end to the NFL season.  However, what will remain with me for much longer than the play on the field was a particularly moving commercial that ran relatively early in the broadcast.  Paid for by New York Life, it began by stating that the ancient Greeks had four words for love.  According to the advertisement:

  • “Philia is affection that grows from friendship”;
  • “Storgé – the kind [of love] you have for a grandparent or a brother”;
  • “Eros – the uncontrollable urge to say ‘I love you’”; and
  • “Agapé, the most admirable – love as an action; it takes courage, sacrifice, and strength.”

Maybe it was the mention of ancient Greek, a language with which I wrestle for comprehension every week.  Maybe it was the powerful visuals of the varied aspects of love.  Whatever the reason, I was captivated by the commercial and its message: that love takes action.

Fast-forward twelve days to today, Valentine’s Day, the (inter)national holiday celebrating love.  I wonder, in light of this commercial, which love we are celebrating as we exchange cards?  Are we appreciating the love of our friends, or our family, or our ‘significant other’, or those who sacrifice to provide all that we require?  It is likely that today will be, to some degree, a recognition of the first three loves, but especially focused on our romantic loves.  Restaurants will be patronized, florists will be utilized and confectioners will be supported.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

At the same time, there will be many celebrating Valentine’s Day in other ways and in other places.  They will visit the nursing home and spoon-feed their mom supper.  They will drop by a cemetery and pull the weeds around their husband’s marker.  They will assist their daughter into a transport van and accompany her to physical therapy.  They will sit in the hospital with their 8-year old son as he undergoes treatment for leukemia.  These are the ones who will be demonstrating agapé love today, and tomorrow, not because it is Valentine’s Day, but because that is what ‘love as an action’ looks like.

I hope that everyone who is reading this has a Valentine, someone who will say to you today (with accoutrements or not), “I love you”.  I hope you will enjoy a Whitman Sampler or a Reese’s heart, a nice candle-lit prix-fixe dinner, or a bouquet of lilies.  I pray even more that everyone who is reading this today has someone who has shown them agapé – that sacrificial, surrendering, willful emptying of themselves for the sake of another.  I am blessed to know that kind of love.  I pray you are as well.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day (or in Greek, ευτυχισμένη ημέρα του Αγίου Βαλεντίνου)!

Any Given Sunday, on a Thursday

I had the great privilege last Thursday of joining my oldest son in celebrating his birthday by going to Gillette Stadium in order to watch the Patriots compete against the New York Giants.   Neither of us had ever seen the Patriots play anywhere other than on television.   It was, in many ways, an unforgettable experience.  We got to see Tom Brady’s completion to Sony Michel, making him the quarterback with the second-most passing yards in NFL history; we got to see a punt blocked and passes intercepted;  we got to see a win and the team we root for remain undefeated.  We got to see it all.  And it was glorious…mostly.

The traffic getting to the game was heavy.  We followed the back roads, knowing the highways would be crammed.  As we approached Foxboro, we were greeted with brake lights and orange cones.  We crept, along with hundreds of other cars, toward the parking lots.  Finally, we arrived in Lot 50, a quarter of a mile walk from the stadium.

The costs attributable to the game (tickets, parking and concessions) were substantial.  We paid $30 for parking and much more for second-market tickets.  We walked past the concession stands and decided to take a pass of a $10 malt beverage.  There was over-priced fare at other stands as well as team merchandise at the Pro Shop kiosks.  We could have easily dropped $1,000 during the night.

The comfort level of the seating was lacking.  We had to walk to our 3rd tier seats, zigzagging along the access ramps and climbing the stairs of our section.  After we adjusted to the perspective from being so high, we crammed our legs into the plastic formed seats.  Sitting in the elements (the weather was windy but dry that night), we were surrounded by every kind of fan – everyone from the loud and obnoxious to the quiet and casual.

The quality of what was presented was spotty.  The game itself was average.  There were an equal number of good and poor plays.  The Giants are not a team of great talent, and they played as expected.  It was a good game, but not much of it would be highlighted on SportsCenter.

The time involved in participating was excessive.  We left the hose at 4:30 and returned home at 2 in the morning.  While we didn’t tailgate, we could have (the parking lots open 4 hours before kickoff).  The game was a wonderful three hours or so.  The inching along in the parking lot to get onto route 1 was a frustrating 90 minutes.  It was a long and glorious night.

The experience was wonderful.  I got to spend time with someone I love doing something we love together.

… not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

Why is it that 65,000 people can withstand the traffic, the cost, the time and the discomfort of a mediocre football game, but cannot do the same for a worship service at a local church?  I understand that the two experiences are not the same for many – our NFL experience was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – but I am puzzled that so many (especially season ticket holders) would risk rain and snow and spend large amounts of money and time to watch men play a game instead of attending a worship service.  Why is it that some would relish the petty annoyances of traffic and parking lot gridlock while others will not tolerate a longer message and a service extended past 12:15?

Thanks for letting me rant.  If you ever choose to come to Calvary, I promise that the parking will be free.

“Right Here in River City”

As I mentioned in my previous post, we will be moving next weekend.  It has been a trying three years at our most-recent residence.  There have been sweet and wonderful times (three years of birthdays and Christmases, living under the same roof with a wide variety of pleasant co-renters and celebrating a graduation), but the preponderance of our memories will likely be less than stellar (terrible neighbors, ubiquitous ride-share vehicles blocking the driveway and  a year-long aroma of cannabis in the stairways).  Within the cookie-cutter walls of the cookie-cutter Dorchester triple-decker we had our fair share of joy and love, despite the near-constant attacks seeking to steal them.

All this is, I suppose, the facts of life.  As the ‘80’s television theme song told me each week: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.”  Those who have more cultured tastes may also know the words of a Longfellow poem: “Thy fate is the common fate of all, into each life some rain must fall….”  Life is a mix of pleasantries and unpleasantries, of dreams and nightmares; our only hope is that the good outweighs the bad and the sun outlasts the clouds.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Paul tells us that our light and momentary troubles (which in the previous sentence is connected to ‘wasting away’) are achieving, or more literally working out, an all-surpassing glory.  Paul is saying, in essence, that the difficulties of our earthly existence are preparing us to fully enjoy the abundant life given through Christ.  Honestly, this concept frustrates me, mainly because I do not see my troubles as light and/or momentary; I see them as the contrary.  Being accosted by neighbors is not a light affliction and being bombarded by the cacophony of weekend partiers is not a momentary problem.

I can only assume that Paul is speaking comparatively and not qualitatively.  I can only reason that when we focus on the glorious future the Lord has secured for us, our everyday difficulties will seem insignificant.  When I set my eyes on the place that Jesus has prepared for us in His Father’s house, the troubles I have with my earthly dwelling are meager and the troubles I have with my neighbors are fleeting.

I have no idea what we will find in our new habitation, so we may be jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.  While I hope that is not the case, for I know that this new house will not be my final home.  And while I hope that the good days far outnumber the bad, I know that some trouble will follow me, as if I had boxed them up and drove them to the new address myself.  But I also know that they will never be too heavy or too long that I will be overcome, and what awaits me over the horizon, many years from now, will one day outweigh them all.

The Way of Lament

In recent days I have been wondering what the appropriate response might be for a follower of Christ to have in addressing the pressing concerns reported through news outlets.  I have been asking myself what Jesus might do and say in the aftermath of mass shootings (and the correlated issues of gun-ownership and our cultural love of violence) or child detainment at the borders (and the correlated issues of asylum and systemic racism).  My response cannot be simply adding a hashtag to social media posts or offering “thoughts and prayers” – although thinking about these issues and praying for their rightful resolution is a good first step as long as other steps follow quick behind.  But where are my feet to fall?

There are two things I know:  that I cannot do nothing and that I cannot rely on political powers to legislate a solution.  If I have learned anything from expositing the “One Another” passages of the New Testament each Sunday this summer, it is that God commands us to care deeply for one another, so doing nothing in light of real suffering is not an option.  I have also learned that soundbites and speeches rarely foster compromise, so waiting for Washington is also not an option.  I have decided instead to turn to God and His word to find wisdom in this time of need.

Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.  Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.  Psalm 5:1-2 (NIV)

According to the Dictionary of Bible Themes, a lament is “a song of mourning or sorrow.”  The scriptures are rife with lamentation, typically taking a particular form: a crying out in sorrow, an acceptance of evil, an acknowledgement that things are not following God’s will and a trust that God will ultimately be glorified.  I reckon that the right response is to offer up to God a lament, just like David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos did in their day.  We, as the people of God, need to cry out in mourning, acknowledging that these acts of violence and exclusion are not part of God’s created order and accepting that God is our only hope of resolution.

“Lord, hear my cry.  Weapons of war have been amassed by individuals with the sole intent of bringing havoc and harm.  Small but vocal portions of Your creation are intent on dividing us through irrelevant distinctions and minimizing the intrinsic value of all those who bear Your image.  This is not what You desire; our hearts are broken because Your heart breaks over our sin.

“Lord, hear my cry.  I seek Your beauty and Your glory in these days.  I know that You are close to the widow and the orphan, and that You have regard for the plight of the sojourner.  I long for my spirit to reflect Yours.  I know that You desire that Your children repent and turn away from evil.  I know that we who are inhabitants of Your kingdom are aliens and strangers in this foreign land.  Enable us to turn from our sinful ways and honor Your purposes for us.

Lord, hear my cry.  You alone can change the human heart.  You alone can turn us from hostility to hospitality.  You alone are our hope.  Help me to no longer rely on human strength or invention to solve what only You can make right.  And while I wait for Your hand to make all things right, equip me to obediently carry out Your redemptive plan among those with whom You have blessed me.  In the name of the Lord, I pray.  Amen.”

Nail’d It!

Recently, I have been watching a captivating show on Netflix called “Nail’d It!”  According to the streaming service’s website, the program is described in this way: “Home bakers with a terrible track record take a crack at re-creating edible masterpieces for a $10,000 prize.  It’s part reality contest, part hot mess.”  Here is what happens during each 30-minute episode: three amateur home cooks, with limited time, resources and experience try to copy baked goods worthy of Pinterest created by professional bakers with unlimited time, resources and experience.  The facsimiles never quite match the originals, but that is what makes the show so delightful.  The home bakers work so hard and fail so often, incurring the good-natured ribbing of the diverse panel of judges.  Yes, the end-products are woefully awful in comparison, but they are also delightfully ambitious.

This show appeals to be because it turns a particular cultural fascination on its head – capturing perfection through a post on social media.  There are millions of selfies that go unposted because of some imperceptible flaw that the sole picture posted does not contain.  There are hours devoted to staging furniture and furnishings so that uploaded photos of real estate are displayed in the best light.  We rarely expose our sub-par efforts, let alone our failures, to the scrutiny of public opinion.  Unless it is perfect, we are left to assume it is without value.  Social media has created a cultural expectation of quality where ‘good’ is rarely good enough.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15

I think Paul would have a tough time adapting to our culture, replete with social media’s expectations of perfection.  When he wrote to Timothy, he encourages him to give his best effort and, therefore, never feel needless shame.  He did not say that Timothy should cover the façade of life’s messiness with a veneer of superficial perfection, pretending that he could master every aspect of life and ministry.  Perhaps there is a blessing in knowing that we cannot do everything perfectly, but that we can always do our best.  Life is not expected to look like a magazine photo-shoot.  Life is often troubling to look at and imprecise, and that should be okay.

One of the more redemptive aspects of “Nail’d It!” is that the judges place a value on presentation, but they also value taste.  If it doesn’t look pretty but is delicious, the judges may still declare that entry the winner.  Mastering the fundamentals of baking counts for something.   Mastering the fundamentals of life and living counts, too.  This is true when it comes to relationships, service, ministry, faith, communication, compassion and about a million other things.  There is something deeply biblical in that.  Life does not always look pretty but treating the ingredients of life and living properly will, at worst, make it palatable.  Handled properly, it may even be delicious.

The cake with the elevated teapot is not the norm.  The photo of the beachside sunset is not typical.  The brochure with all the smiling faces is probably not real.  But the simple cake, the salt air and the full spectrum of human emotions are what life is composed of…and often times it is delicious.