This is a series of musings from my big leather (really broken-in – to the point of broken-down) chair.
Excellence will make a place for itself. While there is much consternation about the direction things are going in today’s economy and employment situation, I believe that, in some ways, we are moving into the most pure form of a free market society we have ever experienced. I recently read about the bleak outlook for teachers as online learning began to broaden in frequency and scope. The article I was reading talked about a future where school students would watch a teacher, who was recognized for his or her excellence on a specific subject, teach a class on a video monitor or computer screen. This would lessen the demand for teachers by only requiring someone to monitor the classroom, not requiring any particular knowledge in the specific subject being taught. This is a frightening prospect for tenured teachers, who could suddenly find themselves out of work. On the other hand, it would be a marked improvement for the students who would now hear one of the best teachers in the nation in each subject being taught, on a daily basis. While the job pool is becoming smaller, due in part to technological advances and automation, the rewards for being transcendent are higher than ever because of the greater access to large audiences via internet and mass media. While an excellent teacher, musician, or artist that lived in a rural area had limited access to any measurable fan base or market share in the past, now any great performance has the potential to “go viral,” thereby reaching a massive audience. It makes the true artists in any field more accessible… and indispensable than ever before.
“Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you…”
You can almost hear the pride and defiance in Peter’s voice. In Matthew 26, Jesus had said that all of the disciples would bail out on him, but Peter knew he would never do that. So, how was it that just a few hours later, he found himself in this mess? Three times… three times he had just denied ever knowing Jesus. Peter seemed to have a thing about three times – so do I. When we are kids, we all become masters at the art of knowing how many times our parents tell us something before words change to action on their part. For my mom, it was three times. The first time, she would affectionately call me Dan; the second time, my name was changed to Danny; by the third time, the tone was menacing and the name was Daniel! I never found out what the fourth time would have been like, but I grew up under the impression that (much like the Hydrogen bomb) it might have knocked the earth off of its axis and sent us spinning wildly into space.
Up until this failure, Peter was cocky, so sure of himself – so full of himself. He made bold statements and grand predictions. Some were on the money (“you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God) and met with Jesus’ approval, others were out of line and followed by Jesus calling him Satan. However, the cockiness kept coming. Wow, he must have been annoying to be around! Wow, I must have been (still can be), too… However, Jesus needed someone to which to entrust His newborn church once He left the earth. He didn’t need a perfect leader, who wouldn’t accept anything less than perfection from those around him. Jesus needed a broken leader; one who would accept the shortcomings of others, one who would welcome and promote a major screw-up named Paul (all he had done was try to get as many Christians as he could arrested or killed), a leader who had experienced failure in such a profound way that it crushed the arrogance out of him the way an olive is crushed to produce its oil. This was the kind of leader God would trust to deliver the powerful message on Pentecost Sunday, in which 3000 people would accept Christ. This was the guy who would again deliver a message just a few days later that would see 5000 men, plus women and children come to a saving faith. So, just a few days after Peter’s epic failure, and in Peter’s native language of three, Jesus restores Peter three times, and commissions him to “feed my sheep,” threetimes on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21).
Just a few months later, Peter is on a housetop in Joppa and receives a vision from the Lord (Acts 10). In the vision, God shows Peter all kinds of different animals and tells Peter to “get up, kill and eat.” The old Peter rears his head at this point and begins to tell God that he has never eaten anything unclean (translation: I am perfect, you must be thinking of someone else). God says, “oh yeah, you’re the guy I have to tell everything three times;” so three times God shows Peter this vision and answers his objections by saying, “what God has made clean, you must not call unclean (translation: “shut up and go tell the gentiles about My love”). So, take heart if you’ve made a mess of things in your life, you are over halfway to spelling the message God has given you. Your failures – your struggles will form the platform on which to build your ministry. Remember the saying kids like to throw around, “it takes one to know one?” Well, it’s true. You can’t spell message without a mess… even if you have to be told three times.
A mother bird has built a nest in the flower box on our back deck… right in the middle of the new flowers my wife, Debbie recently planted – making it impossible to water said plants. I would find this wildly funny were it not for one ominous fact: these flowers will die from the hot and dry weather we are currently having (still funny to me at this point), the eggs will hatch, the mother bird will move on – abandoning the nest (chuckle, chuckle); and Debbie will BUY MORE! (gulp)
This morning I was getting ready to mow my back yard when I heard quite a lot of squawking and chirping. I looked at the back patio and saw two or three mockingbirds positioned on the guttering above and branches around, making all of the ruckus. The mystery was solved when I cranked the mower up and startled an unseen black cat which had been crouching behind the grill, dreaming of a bird-egg omelet. Just yesterday we had noticed a broken egg on the ground beneath the nest and I assume this might have been the cat burglar that was responsible.
After I finished mowing, I sat down on the patio to enjoy a little reading in the sun. The noise assault soon began on me. You see, mother bird (not to be confused with a mother board) and I have an uneasy truce worked out: as long as I don’t make eye contact or move very fast, she tolerates me. However, the mockingbird hitmen did not get the email and were quite threatening in their tone toward me.
I was sitting there reading from the book of Acts, thinking about the early church’s practice of breaking bread from house to house, taking care of widows, selling their goods to meet the needs of others, and “having all things in common.” As I pondered what this might look like in the twenty-first century, I realized that these birds were doing what we should do as church members. The mother had suffered a loss yesterday and her friends were there with her. Not only were they trying to protect her and her remaining egg, I also noticed that each of these noisy birds had a dead bug in its beak to bring to mom so she didn’t have to leave her nest to eat. I’m not suggesting that we bring dead bugs to all of our pals at church (might be cool, though), but what if we were there to support those who had suffered loss, protected those who were vulnerable, and provided for those who couldn’t provide for themselves? Just food for thought (oh, yes I did)… Think I’ll go tweet about it.