Why Bother with Jesus?

Eating lunch in a French cafe last week, Sam and I were playing a game called: You just won the lottery, what will you do with the money?

It’s a useful exercise because the question really asks: Without limitations, perceived or actual, what would you do with your life?

IMG_8737“Well, I’d have a nice ranch with cattle,” he said.

“You already have that.” I reminded him.

“I’d travel more.”

“What are you talking about, we just ordered lunch in French.”

“Ok, I’d buy a new truck.”

“Come on, you’re going to do that anyway.”

What we think we want is money. What we really want is joy.

It’s tempting to believe we could have better lives if we only had more money. Obviously in some cases that’s true, but in France I caught myself wishing I too could drink wine on my sparkly, white yacht before sailing to Villefranche or Monaco. Unfortunately, that craving threatened to eclipse the simple joy of watching the boats from my balcony in Nice.

Even though I know better, I still behave like money guarantees happiness. Please everybody, raise your hand if you know a wealthy person who is a howling, insufferable mess.

In my mind, that is best answer to the question: Why bother with Jesus?

When you get everything you want and it’s still not enough, crushing despair is often the bonus in the box. What do you do then? Go get more boxes? Buddha said that wouldn’t work. Jesus did too. He said over and over, don’t strive, don’t hoard, and he followed up with this advice:

“While you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need,’ you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is refined in the furnace so that you may be rich… All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent.” Rev. 3:17-19

IMG_8430Before I was following Jesus I wasn’t greedy, I was complacent, which is a different and hard animal to break. So, how do you buy this gold from Jesus? What does that look like in practical terms? Here’s my hunch:

  • What matters to Jesus is usually opposite of what matters to us. So plan on that.
  • It’s going to involve doing things for people who won’t say thank you. Rinse, repeat.
  • It will cost something, probably a lot, maybe everything.

Wow, that sounds awesome sign me up!

But what if the return was joy? What if by buying this gold, rather than coveting and hoarding ours, we could live with unspeakable joy? What if  your joy bank was so full, overflowing so lavishly on other people, that they followed you asking your secret?

Would you do it?

Advertisements

Welcome to Nice.

To be a writer, it’s fairly important to write daily. But trapped as I am in a whirlwind romance with the unforgivably sexy South of France, my writing disciplines have slipped off like bikini tops on the beach.

So, why not just run the highlight reel. Thank God a picture is worth a thousand words. Welcome to Nice everybody.

IMG_8657

I know I can’t believe it either and I took the picture.

What’s that? You’d like to putter about on that lovely turquoise water? Pas de probleme… you can rent this little sloop – The Excellence V for 360,000 euro per week. At the current exchange, that’s about a half million dollars, but it sleeps twelve, so you know, you can split it with your friends.

IMG_8491

It is excellent!

Ninety minutes by train up the steep and piney Var Valley, is the fort city of Entrevaux. Nobody wants a history lesson right now, but this town was designed to keep Europe (Rome) from invading Provence. Hence the drawbridges, stone walls and the 17th century citadel perched at about 5,000 feet above sea level.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

And here’s the Entrevaux cathedral inside. Check Mary out having a little party in the lower left corner. Maybe that’s a sacrilegious thing to say, but Mary is the one who told Jesus to hurry up and make some more wine at Cana, which we all know he did. Although my French is loose and unreliable, I’m told Mary was actually ascending here, not whooping it up like me.

IMG_8589

I just read a New York Times article about the value of taking a short walk after you’ve stuffed yourself with steak tartare, frites, creme brulee, vin rouge and cafe creme. We did just that after dinner tonight at Castel Plage. We ate yet another off-the-hook French meal, while the waves shoved millions of pebbles up the shore and then hustled them back out to sea. That’s why the beach pebbles are smooth here, incessant tumbling.

IMG_8667

See pebbles, not sand.

On the walk home, we admired the city, all lit up and shimmering. At nine or so, everybody finally showed up dressed for dinner – the men in tailored jackets, women in summer dresses and Chanel No. 5. Seriously people, the French get this so right. Let’s get dressed for dinner again, shall we America?

IMG_8696

And once again, this is Villefranche Sur Mer. We’re headed back there in the morning because I literally cannot get enough of it. Bill Gates, Sean Connery and Mick Jaggar have homes here. Can you blame them?

IMG_8517

Sometimes, I feel a little guilty about what a ripping good time I get to have in France, but then I remember something Jesus said and I get over it.

I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, have it in abundance, to the full until it overflows. John 10:10

So I’m doing that because I’d be crazy not to. I spend a lot of time at home, praying and studying and mowing my lawn, but here I’m laughing and drinking wine and letting my life overflow. One is not holier than another, Jesus loves me both ways.

But Jesus also said:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48.

And do you know what? I’m fine with that bargain. Exactly one month after standing on the dock next to the Excellence V, I’m going to Africa to work in a bush orphanage where kids don’t have shoes. Who lives their life like this? Me, because I’ve decided that living a big, exuberant life and helping other people isn’t an either or proposition. I think it can be both and… It’s crazy but it’s interesting and ultimately that’s what I want.

If Jesus is the foundation and the master architect of our lives, I don’t think it matters what we build, just that we do it with gusto and create something beautiful, not just for ourselves but other people too.

Are You Mad at God?

One of my favorite passages in The Bible comes from of the book of Job. I love it because it is a poetic and beautiful rejoinder to a man complaining to God.

Job had reason to complain. He was an uber-wealthy guy who served God well. For reasons he didn’t know, he lost everything: His family, his home, his vast wealth and was left sifting through the ashes of his life, his body covered in weeping sores. His friends came over and tried to help, probing the scriptures, trying to sort out what Job had done wrong.

Job never cursed God, but for 36 chapters, he and his friends speculated.

Finally, out of a whirlwind, God spoke to Job.

English: Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me. 

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? …Have you entered the treasuries of the snow, or have you seen the treasuries of the hail…Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the signs of the zodiac in their season? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule upon the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds so that an abundance of waters may cover you? Can you send lightnings, that they may go and say to you, Here we are? (excerpted from Job 38)

Then Job replied to the Lord: Behold I am of small account and vile! What shall I answer You? I lay my hand upon my mouth. Job 40:3-4

Whoa!

IMG_0018Ummmm frankly, I expect a little more coddling than that when I have a problem. But why should I? We’re talking about the creator of hoar frost, the aurora borealis and lightning. I hurled insult at Him all the years I refused to serve Him, taking credit for the success in my life, and blaming Him for the suffering.

Either God is sovereign over all of it or he isn’t. Gird up your loins little girl, and choose!

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Proverbs 9:10 says and that’s the message I get from Job. If we plan to cultivate a life of faith that radiates love, kindness, courage, justice, peace and confidence, we must get comfortable with the mystery and respect it, accepting joy and suffering as parts of the human equation. Clinging to God through both is the key.

Happily, the Bible is littered with promises to encourage us.

  • For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
  • Come to me all you who are heavy laden and weary and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
  • But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Job did that and his story ends like this:

And the Lord turned the captivity of Job and restored his fortunes, when he prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10