Thursday, 28 February 2008

The Wake Up Call

For a few seconds I thought that the deafening, high pitched screech was part of a dream; by the time I realized that I was definitely awake, I was wishing that the alarm had been a figment of my imagination.

After weighing my options (facing the wintery darkness outside or staying inside with the heat no matter how hot it got) I grumbled internally and made my way to the kitchen. My roommates and I worked our way around the apartment collecting jackets, boots and scarves, mumbling mildly profane curses at the still-screaming alarm on the wall. “Fire” becomes an equally resentful curse to any other four-letter-word you could think of at 12:43am. As we followed a few other students outside and did our best to zip out the cold, we could just barely hear the sirens over conversation and chattering teeth.

A few minutes later, a fleet of fire trucks could be seen flying up College Drive. After speeding into the parking lot (and clearing the huddling mass of students a little further away from the doors), uniform-clad firefighters slid out of their seats and sauntered casually into the building.

Admittedly, we could spy no smoke and we didn’t feel like there was an impending doom, but a little get-up-and-go would have been nice. We waited. Sooner or later one of two things was bound to happen; either the building would burst into uncontrollable flame and all of our possessions would be scorched, or they would let us go back inside. Either would have been fine with me... both options would be warmer than shivering ourselves into mild hypothermia, and I’m sure I could have used the excuse “the fire ate my homework” at some point. Finally, after each of the four fire trucks had stood vacant for a while and the police SUV had lapped the parking lot, we were called inside. We waved a sarcastic farewell to each vehicle as it passed the double doors and rode off into the distance.

If the fire had been a real one, I’m sure the spin of this particular entry would be incredibly different. I am thankful for people who are willing to do what I am not always ready to. There are few things that could drag my butt out of bed and across town at 12:43am, and a false alarm is not one of them. But what am I willing to react like that for? A friend in need would get me up. I would run across town for anyone in my family... but what about a stranger?

People will ask “Where’s the fire?” if they catch you in a hurry. Most of the time it’s not a fire that has you on the move, but something did get you motivated. God used to make me move like that. I used to talk about Him to people as though I could be saving their lives... like the Fire was real. Somewhere along the road I started believing that people were calling in false alarms. If firefighters stopped responding whenever they thought they were unnecessary, people would burn and die. I have become a lazy firefighter. Am I responsible for the fires that are set? No, they are not my fault; however, I can be held responsible if I don’t take action to stop them from growing, and try to stomp them out.

In Ephesians 6:13-18, we are given spiritual battle equipment in the armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness and peace, the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit and the helmet of salvation. In today’s world, I think we need to add a few more elements to our God gear: the hydrant and hose of love. God made love to be under pressure within us, and also to have an explosive reaction to our world! When we tap into the love of God and aim our lives at people, they will get blown away. There is no way I’m going to sit on that truck anymore. Fire or no fire, this world is about to get soaked.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Let’s Talk About “Soap”

What makes a really good soap? Is it the texture, the smell, the colour, the fresh feeling of being clean again? I think it is the unique combination of all of these elements that attracts people towards a certain brand of soap, and makes favourites out of a select few.

Personally, I’ve always fancied mint scented soaps. I know, mint isn’t a common sudsy smell, but for some reason mint is my kind of bar. But it’s hard to find a good mint-scented soap, so when I find one that suits me, I tend to get pretty attached... as long as I’m the only one using it.

I’d like to think it’s a respect thing, but if you boil it down it’s probably pride. Whatever the core motivation, I can’t use exactly the same kind of soap as anyone else. I like my scent to be somewhat exclusive, and I’m a little possessive about my soaps, with one exception.

I have a friend. She’s amazing and beautiful, and I look up to her in many ways. We have a similar taste in soaps, both oddly attracted to mint. I’ve always thought she made good soap selections; similar to mine, but the brand was different. Recently I discovered she had switched brands. You can always tell when someone starts using your soap, and (though I’m not proud of it) I often find myself wafting the air to make sure no one around me smells quite the same. She started to. Unfortunately, it smelled pretty good on her.

I decided to ask her about the soap. I was sure I already knew, but then sometimes your senses can mislead you. Well, she was indeed using the same soap. At first I got a little territorial over the scent... after all, it was a good mint and not easy to come by... but after a time of listening to her talk about this soap, how it had kind of grown on her, how clean it made her feel, how much she liked the texture, aroma, colour, packaging... almost everything about the soap, and some things I had not even noticed about it myself, something inside of my sudsy soul told be to back off. She liked the soap in a way I couldn’t, and it was actually a much better soap for her than it was for me.

So, the soap I’ve been using isn’t one I really want to use anymore, partly because a shared smell loses some of the lustre and appeal a special soap has... but mostly because her friendship is far more important than any kind of soap. Now I’m keeping my eyes and my nostrils open for a different lathering agent. I still like my mints, but I’m going to have to find another brand... or maybe it’s time to try out something completely different, like orange or vanilla scented soap. For the time being I’m going back to the standard Ivory, the soap-scented-soap. It may be a while before I can find a satisfactory replacement for that last mint one; or maybe I’ll find the perfect kind in Wal-Mart tomorrow, who knows? Right now I’m trying to be satisfied with just being clean.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

My Smile

I can’t stop smiling.

I don’t know if it’s because of who he is or who He is.

I see Him in him. In the way he speaks, in the pattern of his words, in the passions of his heart. Through his life I see His life. It’s in the way he starts the conversation when both our heads are bowed. It’s the way he continues it when we open our eyes and return to time and its reality.

And the smiling goes on.

Somehow everything he says comes back to what He says. It’s amazing how often he talks about Him! He’s so obviously at the core of his life. It’s inspiring. It’s contagious. It’s convicting, in a wonderful way.

And I just can’t stop smiling.

The Hypocrite’s Tear

Do your homework. Get more sleep. Love thy neighbour. Simple phrases of pass-along advice that cycle though our lives, through our lips and into the world. Again and again we collect and repeat, like well-meaning parrots that hear but cannot truly listen to the words. Good advice becomes conversational formality and meaning is lost.

If you do not do your homework and you do not get your sleep you will suffer the consequences. If you do not love thy neighbour... If you do not love... You will suffer and I will suffer. Hypocrites are not born of a malicious intent to deceive... Liars are. Hypocrisy is born from other forms of death: idleness, carelessness, hopelessness, laze and abandon: afflictions and infections of the spirit that move into our habits and patterns. We mean what we say, but we do what we like and so often those are not the same.

I am like you. I say “forgive” and cling to a grudge. I say “don’t judge” and categorize, stereotype, underestimate and jump to conclusions. I pray and I condemn. I hug and hit. I am a fallible, pathetic, vengeful hypocrite. The tears of a hypocrite are unbearably bitter and full of sorrow, when the point of realization finally comes and the deep, internal understanding of life can no longer be ignored. The overwhelming shame and grief of this position… it makes you feel naked, worthless and hollow. All you can do is cry. All you can do is cry the lonely, mournful, empty hypocrite’s tear.

Thank God for the irrational love of God.

Thank God for Christ. Thank God for an infallible friend and companion who understands what it feels like to be publicly exposed, openly mocked, spiritually burdened and ultimately betrayed. Thank God for knowing what it feels like to sit alone in the pit of despair… and for sharing what comes next.

The hypocrite’s tear falls onto the shoulder of an incredible man. He collects our tears of pain, fear, discouragement, shame, spite, doubt, brokenness and depression as they fall, and trades for the hope and joy and love of God. That is what comes next for the hypocrite… Joy! Love! Peace!

Well, that’s what can come next.

The tears are yours, and you decide how to spend them. You can suffer alone forever, if you would prefer. You can chose to stay wrapped up in despair and shame, if you’re more comfortable in the cold and in the dark… but the next time that this hypocrite’s tear falls, it’s going to be one of burden-less joy.