Wednesday, June 28, 2006

a good husband

I am driving home in the rain the other day and as I turn the corner I find myself behind an old, red Ford pick-up truck. You could tell this thing had some miles on it. And in the bed of the truck were all kinds of shovels, rakes and lawn mowing equipment. There was a rack that was old and rusty which supported two ladders of two different sizes. The ladders were worn and rested on top of the cab of the truck as they stretched from front to back. It was too rainy to discern anything else in the bed of the truck, but it was clear that the guy driving was a blue collar kind of guy.

I couldn't tell if this guy did lawn care or was a maintenance man. Either way, it was likely that his skin was as weathered as that old truck he drove. As I scanned my eyes down to the bumper of his truck, I saw something that surprised me. I expected a bumper sticker of some kind. But I didn't expect this.

Bumper stickers are usually used to say things we feel passionate about. They make a statement about big, important things. I usually see bumper stickers referencing the things we aren't supposed to talk about over dinner at the neighbor's house. Politics and Religion are usually good bumper sticker fodder. If its a small, beat-up civic I can expect stickers that are "pro-choice," want to save the environment and want to treat animals well. If its an expensive car, in Maryland, I can usually expect an anti-Bush sticker or a "my kid is smarter than yours" sticker. If its a mini-van then I might expect a Jesus-fish. And if its a pick-up truck, I usually expect some reference to the rebel flag, "Real men love Jesus," or a crude reference suggesting that I get off of their bumper.

But that isn't what this bumper sticker said. He only had one sticker on his bumper. One chance to say in a few words what was most important to him. One chance to stick it to "the man" or whomever might be behind him that day. One chance to save the world and all the creatures who live in it. One chance to share the gospel through the powerful advertising of bumper stickers. But he decided not to do any of that. Instead, this is what his bumper sticker said: "I love my wife."

That was it. I love my wife. And it struck me how powerful this statement really is. It sounds so mundane at first. But then I thought of how rare it is these days for a husband to love his wife. At first it was like he had a sticker that said, "I take out the trash." Of course you take out the trash. We all do. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he wasn't championing some minor chore. He was making a statement. He was setting out to do what many men do not. He had decided that one of the most important causes to be a part of was the cause of his family. And one of the most important missions that he had to take on was that of loving his wife.

And then I thought, here is a blue collar guy who could have put a lot of "manly" things on his truck. He could have put something about drinking or smoking or shooting deer. He could have put some crass statement on there that would have pissed off everyone behind him that day. He could have gotten in good with "the boys" and set himself up as "one of the guys." He could have put some sly comment about his ol' "ball n' chain." He could have told us, as so many bumper stickers do, where he would "rather be." But he decided against all of that. He decided to put on that old, Ford truck something a bit softer...something more loving and less "manly." He simply let us know that he is a husband who loves his wife. And while that doesn't get him points with the "fellas" at work, I know it must get him points at home with his family.

I don't know this for sure. But I imagine that at night, after work, that guy's friends are out at the bars complaining about their rebellious kids and nagging wives. And I bet he is at home posting good report cards on the 'fridge and making love to the wife he is so proud to tell the world about.

Monday, June 26, 2006

biting for food

Our cat is an interesting one. He's not like your average, independent, spiteful feline. His name is Toby. I have heard that male cats are easier to get along with but Toby takes the cake. He plays fetch like a dog. He will come when you call his name. He likes to snuggle. He is perfect for cuddling with because he is fluffy. Not overly fluffy like those white cats you see on cat food commercials. He is semi-long haired so the fluffiness is just right.

So why all the fuss about a cat? Well, for all of Toby's great qualities, sometimes he is a little too smart for his own good. There are times when my wife and I are sleeping that he knows just what to do to wake us up. And he doesn't wake us up for no reason. It is usually because we forgot to fill up his food bowl. So when Toby gets hungry at 3am and there isn't anything to snack on, he comes at us with his masterful waking tactics.

The first theater of operation is the window blinds. He knows that they are just within his reach. The metal blinds make just enough noise against the glass window and wooden frame to wake us up. Its not terribly loud, just annoying. Its the kind of annoying you can't sleep through. Well, what usually happens is that I get up and pull up the blinds to the point where Toby can't reach them. Then I hop back in bed and fall quickly back to sleep. Toby tries a few more times at this tactic but soon realizes he can't reach.

So he moves to his second theater of operation, the "sneak attack". Toby hops up on the bed and slowly walks his way up between me and Missy. He makes sure that he walks on both of us at some point so that we feel his presence. Then he does a few 360 degree turns as if he is some airplane coming in for a landing. This creates just enough movement to nudge us awake. As Toby lays down he chooses his victim. Its usually my wife. This might be because Toby knows I have less sympathy for him. He gently curls around my wife's head almost to the point of suffocation. Then he begins moving his two front paws in a "kneading" motion as if he is a master chief and my wife's neck is soft pastry dough.

If we still don't get the hint that he is hungry, he goes to his third theater of operations, the "frontal assault". Much like in the sneak attack, Toby finds a way to snuggle up in-between me and my wife. Then he gets his face really close to one of our faces. And at first he gives a few "kisses", as my wife calls them, by licking our nose. But then, just when you expect another cat kiss, he takes a bite. His fangs come out and he bites down on your nostril until it hurts. And if you don't take action, the biting continues.

Like I said earlier, Toby is one of the greatest cats that I have ever been around. He is playful and kind and has the personality of a dog. He is easy to take care of and his hair is perfect for petting. But when his bowl is empty, he gets like me when I am hungry. He gets mean. One such occurrence happened last night and it got me thinking.

I think this is the way people work when it comes to love. When our bowl is empty we start biting at people. Its not that we bite people because we don't like them. We bite at people because we need them to fill up our bowl. We need their love. I have heard it said that the people who are hurting the most, hurt others the most and are hurt by others the easiest. I think this is true. Without a bowl full of food or a heart full of love, our fangs come out. And much of the time, we probably don't even notice it happening. We just want to be loved. And we will do just about anything to feel loved. Even if it means biting a nostril or two.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

waves of grace

There are times in worship when you can feel the music. I don't mean "feel" in the emotional sense. I don't mean it in the sense that you can really relate to the lyrics. I mean you can physically feel the music.

This used to happen to me a lot when I was in Waco and The Dave Crowder Band was leading worship at UBC. There were times in that place when each sound from the band would come at me like a wave in the ocean. It would start out as a normal sunday worship. But somewhere along the way the sound waves became thick.

It was as if the base drum and base guitar became the heartbeat of God. Kind of like when parents hear through a sonogram their baby's heartbeat for the first time. Or how it must feel for an infant to place his head against his mothers chest and hear her beating heart. This heartbeat keeps everything else in time.

Then as all the other instruments join together, the waves started crashing. The snair, the electric guitar, the acoustic, the electric violin, and finally the vocals all blended together in harmony. Wave after wave of sound came at me and I couldn't seem to sing anymore.

Somewhere in the music, not just in the lyrics but in the sounds, was the presence of God. Wave after wave of sound would hit my chest and my face. It was consuming. I felt like a little kid at the beach waiting for the next wave to crash on him. Only these waves of sound didn't quite knock me over. They seemed to just envelop me.

I heard the heartbeat of God against my chest. I heard the cries of the angels piercing through. I got a glimpse of the eternal chorus. Pouring out from the stage through these waves of sound and onto the congregation was the Spirit of God. And for a moment we were all caught up in Him.

As the song ended I was brought back to reality. The tide went out again. But I knew something special had just happened. And God in that moment became present not just in the poetry of lyric but in the power of music.