I have always loved to read. I was given books by my mother, and these books were like gold. I had been a avid patron of the library, but terrible at returning books. I had pretty much been branded as “persona non grata” by the librarians of my hometown library at the ripe old age of 12.
I have fond memories of some fine books. But perhaps the most influential of them all was a title called, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni. It won the ’68 Caldecott ‘back in the olden days.’ It very well could be one of best children’s books ever written. ( I realize now that many of these books that shaped me were prophetic in their own way.)
We see Frederick, who is a young field mouse, off on excursion to find food with his four brothers. They must fill their pantry for the cold winter that’s coming. They are quite successful (it appears) and all seems well.
However, there is a bit of a problem with Frederick. While the other mice are ‘busting their mouse-butts’ he sits quietly thinking. They question him repeatedly, trying to motivate him (or shame him perhaps?) There seems to be a general consensus against him, which is verging on open warfare.
But Frederick insists that he is needed to do this. He says that he is ‘working’. He is collecting sunlight, absorbing it until it’s needed. He takes in colors, and then words. He just seems soak up these really wonderful experiences, and he seems a bit “clueless” (that’s not the right word), maybe a bit “preoccupied.”
Finally in the dead of winter, sheltered deep underground, their supplies are running low. One of the mice turns to Frederick, and asks him to share what he has collected. And he does precisely that. They sit in a circle and Frederick shares the sunlight, and the rich colors and the beautiful words he has stored up for them. Their little ‘mouse-hearts’ are deeply touched by Frederick’s contribution.
In so many ways, this has become a parable, or metaphor of my life. As a eight year old, I could hardly have foreseen how my life would unfold. I do however had a deep sense of being different, even then. My mental illness, mixed with being “gifted”, and then combined with being isolated and dirt-poor, worked in me.
Essentially, we all are products of our personal history. What we have experienced good or bad develops us. It did me. I think what “Frederick” wants to do for us is to process uniqueness, gifting and steadfastness. One of the things that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me for the last few years is this, “Bryan, can you receive from the giftedness of other believers?”
We really must make room for “Fredericks” and what they can bring to us. We will be drastically weakened if we won’t– or can’t. Jesus faced a ton of resistance as He began to minister. There is nothing new about that. But it didn’t touch His spirit.
“Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”
‘Who gathered this flower?’ The gardener answered, ‘The Master.’ And his fellow servant held his peace.”
It was November 13th, in the year of our Lord 1999, was unlike any day I have ever experienced. A beating with a baseball bat would seem more preferable. On this cold afternoon, hell was unleashed on my wife and myself. What we encountered was soul-wrenching and profoundly tragic.
Perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. On this day we lost Elizabeth Grace. She was stillborn, which is rare these days– or so I have been told. She entered this world fully formed, a beautiful baby girl. Today, she would of been 16 years old, and thinking about the prom.
“But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23, (When David’s newborn son died.)
Our loss was grievous, but we are not unique. Plenty of families have suddenly lost a child. I can truly commiserate with them. Somehow we are connected in a perverse way. It seems like an exclusive club, that requires a secret handshake, or something. Suddenly without warning, you are thrown into personal chaos, and very little is remotely decipherable, even to a believer.
The book of Ecclesiastes that there is a definite “time to mourn.” Matthew tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn.” He does go on to say. “for they shall be comforted.”This comfort is available for any who choose to take it, but you can refuse it, if you really want to.
Grief unites us, but Jesus liberates us. Seriously. I can’t imagine meeting life without his care and comfort. He has been outstandingly gracious to this family. Sure there was pain, but there was also tenderness and a kind grace. Still, sometimes it felt like a “kick in the head.” (But I assure you– it was grace.)
What I still can’t understand is simply this. What would it have cost God to allow Elisabeth to live? I mean, what ‘skin off His nose’ would’ve it taken to let her live? I still to this day have questions, but I have decided to trust. (I trust Him after all, to save my soul.)
Those who have suffered like me will comprehend and grasp, the noxious environment of grief and loss. But we can only take what we are dealt. The sadness is there, but so is His comfort. Make no mistake, His love matches (or even exceeds) the pain and the loss of a child. Truly, God is a wonder and He is good.
I do know that He loves me, a weirdly rascalish, mentally ill epileptic. He holds me close to His precious heart, and I will have no other gods except Him. I will not take up umbrage with Him on this. But I must believe that someday soon, I will truly and completely understand this.
Regrets are a funny thing. You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m in my mid-50s now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of being middle-aged.
Why do we remember the bad things; surely they weren’t all mistakes?
God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some have been severely wounded when a regret goes off.
What bothers me is all the missed opportunities. I wonder what life could of been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away. I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of an 70 year old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”
13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Philippians 3:13-14, NLT
Paul had learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather to forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.
Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.
3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
1 Peter 4:3
There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) ,and while it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also a joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
One of the highlights in a child’s life is choosing a kitten, it will rank up there with many other memories. It’s often the first big decision they will make on their own.
The child will be introduced to a litter, and then be encouraged to choose. And typically there will be some hard picks, but often it comes down, not to the most playful and adorable, but the kitten in some way different from the rest.
Often the kitten chosen will not be the prettiest or liveliest of the bunch. It maybe lame or “weak” in some way. However once that child embraces that kitten, the bond is irrevocable. We could insist they make a better choice– thrusting another kitten at them, but ultimately it’s their choice. We shake our heads, acquiescent to our child’s choice.
The bonding is surprisingly quick and strong. They’ve made their pick, and they won’t be persuaded to take another. The parent must be content that things will work out somehow. They have decided.
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
! Thessalonians 1:4, ESV
To be chosen is the highest privilege and honor there is.We may not be the best or the brightest but God has selected us to be his very own.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:26, 28-29
We might be mangy, flea-bitten. Many are deeply dysfunctional and profoundly flawed. Often we are the misfits and the loser. Yet he has chosen us to be his very own. He loves us not because we are special; but he makes us special because he loves us.
Someone once said that if God had a refrigerator that your picture would be on it.
Beloved, this kind of love is good news for most of us. We are not chosen because we are pretty or talented, you see we are not vital to the kingdom. Rather we’re chosen because he wants us.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”
1 John 3:1, NLT
You are God’s choice. Now the trick is to learn about walking as it. Prayer, worship and fellowship with the many others who are also chosen will bring you understanding. The Holy Spirit will show you how.
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
King James Version
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
7 “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
9 “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.
New Living Translation
In recent years I have heard nothing relevant from Matthew 25. Zilch. Why? I honestly don’t know.
The language he uses in this chapter is not only important– but also quite evocative. Even winsome, like the resplendently gorgeous flowers you just have to pick from your neighbors flowerbed. They are the solar plexus kind of trouncingly beautiful.
Whichever version you like best must carry the authority of the original speaker– his imprimatur if you will– to be real, and valid and even significant. Now Jesus Christ is not speaking out some “weirdy nursery tale” to comfort us. This isn’t “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Not even close.
This group of parables, spoke from the mouth and mind of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Creator and Savior and Lord) is meant to connect with us. Try running out in a empty field, with a steel fence post in a the middle of a fierce, lightning storm– you’ll get connected with– real quick! Now back on the farm, you know that you take the needed shelter in a bad storm. One of my great-Aunties was electrocuted in a cast iron bed while sleeping (this led to the conversion of my Uncle Art, who became a prolific evangelist.)
The words of Jesus are not meant to be ignored, or even trifled with. Maybe minimized or entertained or even played with. His words are meant to sizzle, or “crisp us up.” Either way we dare not disregard, or demean them. If we even try, we will end up as very foolish virgins.
It must be duly noted that 50% missed it completely. But to their credit they really tried to make it work, having the awareness to try to “fix” things, and become available. But the painful part of these 13 verses was the stark-mad fear of not being able to “catch up.”
But run this through your “hopper.” MAYBE, I am missing something here? (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Let me know, ok?