Snow White, a Parable

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”                                             Ecclesiastes 3: 11

When our daughter Kelly was two, we were given the DVD of Disney’s “Snow White.” She loved it, and so did I. Whenever Kelly was watching her favorite story unfold, I could get things done that didn’t require a toddler’s help. I could do the housework guilt-free as I heard her singing along with the dwarves and saw her out of the corner of my eye dancing to the music. But I hadn’t realized the “teachable moment” that was under my nose until one day I was coming through the den with a laundry basket of clothes.

The video was almost over. Prince Charming had awakened Snow White from her death-like coma with a kiss and, after a warm embrace, had whisked her away on his horse to his castle …

… in the sky.

Wha—?! I nearly dropped the basket of clean laundry as I took a second look.

Sure enough, there was Charming’s home – up in the sky! Why I had never noticed that before, I have no idea, but I was suddenly struck with the romantic thought that someday my own Prince – the “Prince of Peace” would whisk His bride away and take her to His home in the sky, and I wondered if this had been what the original Disney producers had had in mind all those years ago. – Why else would they have presented such an obvious picture?

As I sat down to fold the clothes, my mind retraced the story and the events that had led up to that final moment. Snow White had been in what looked like death. At least, it was a deep sleep from which she was not expected to awaken. But her Prince – her bridegroom – had awakened her – resurrected her to be joined with him in marriage.

Just like our Bridegroom will.

But how did she get into that death-like state? You will recall that the wicked queen had disguised herself as a sweet little old woman and had given Snow White a beautiful apple. One bite from that fruit, and Snow was out.

Just like Eve.

In the beginning, the devil, disguising himself as a serpent, had tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. The moment she ate from it, the curse had come over her, her husband, and all of Mankind, and we have been spiritually dead ever since. At least, until the Bridegroom revives us. We are revived to life the first time when open our eyes to Christ and embrace Him by faith, and later we enter into eternal life at the resurrection.

Did the original writers of fairy tales have Christian theology in mind when they wrote these stories? (More than one fairy tale has the Prince waking up the Princess from a deep sleep.) Or is it just the longing for such a powerful love that fills the hearts of people instinctively – that longing for Someone to rescue us from the spiritual death we have gotten ourselves into?

Prayer: Lord, everywhere we look we see Your fingerprints – from the endless skies, to Your creation on earth, to a children’s fairy tale. Continue to fill our minds with what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. [Philippians 4:8] Continue to remind us of Your love wherever we look, in Jesus’ precious name. Amen

 

Assume You’ll Get Caught

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12: 2-3

When I taught English literature, there were two Shakespeare plays that were regulars: Macbeth, which I taught in October, and Romeo and Juliet, which I taught in February. That way the classroom decorations were both seasonal and in keeping with the lessons. (I like to multitask whenever possible.)

In discussing the plots of these two plays, I tried to integrate some life lessons as well. With Macbeth one of the morals of the story was “Assume you’ll get caught,” which frequently became a sort of class mantra for the rest of the school year.

Early on in the play, as we read the scene where Lady Macbeth tries to persuade her reluctant husband to murder the king, Macbeth asks, in essence, “What if we fail?” And Lady Macbeth says, in essence, “We won’t fail.”

I then would ask the class how many crime shows they’ve seen where the sidekick asks, “What if we get caught?” and the leader says confidently, “We won’t get caught!” (The answer is: Pretty much all of them.)

“And what inevitably happens?” I would ask, and the class would reply in unison, “THEY GET CAUGHT.”

Bingo. And of course, as we read the story of Macbeth’s one murder turning into two more to cover it up, then another, then the slaughter of a whole family, we see what is meant by “getting caught,” even if no arrest takes place. Soon the conspirators are drowning in the darkness of their guilt, and the belief that their souls are damned for eternity causes them to lose their minds. Macbeth, having seen the ghost of the friend he murdered, is ruling the kingdom through sheer paranoia, and Lady Macbeth’s tortured conscience has her sleepwalking every night, trying desperately to wash the blood from her hands. By the end of the play, both are as dead as their victims.

When the thought of doing something wrong occurs to us, we have an inner voice telling us, Don’t do it! I would submit to you that this is the still, small voice of God. Even in an unbeliever there is at least the inner voice of fear, asking, What if I get caught? If another inner voice is saying You won’t get caught, that is the voice of the enemy – the father of lies, the same one who told Eve, “You shall not surely die,” and persuaded her to blatantly disobey God. (Genesis 3:4)

Instead of trying to convince yourself that you won’t get caught, assume you’ll get caught. Instead of fantasizing what it would be like to enjoy the ill-gotten gain, picture prison, and what it would be like to lose your family, your reputation, and your freedom. Instead of dreaming of an affair with that person you find so attractive, imagine what it would be like to wake up the next day in the wrong bed, explaining to your spouse where you’ve been, explaining to the kids, the church … You get the idea.

If it’s worth the price you’ll end up paying, go ahead and carry out the plan. But I’m guessing once you’ve assumed you’ll get caught and mentally taken it to its logical conclusion, you’ll decide that the sin is not worth it.

Prayer: Father, You see all and know all. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, to guide us into the lives You want for us. Help us to shut out the voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to listen to You only, in Jesus’ name, Amen

Gotcha!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”                                                           Hebrews 10:24

Michael was an unhappy child. Every time I entered the third grade classroom for French class, as the other children were bouncing with excitement, Michael was sitting silently at his desk with a scowl on his face. He rarely made eye contact, and when he did, I couldn’t help wondering what I had done to make him so angry. It seemed impossible to engage him in the lesson, and since French was considered an “extra” class anyway, I had given up on Michael and tried to focus my attention on the students who wanted to learn. Still, there were days when just seeing him sitting there sulking would frustrate me, no matter how engaged the others were.

One day I was a few minutes early, and as I waited in the hall I read the papers the children had written that had been posted outside the classroom. The holidays were approaching, and each child had written a wish list. Most of them were the usual things – a puppy, a video game, a bike …

But then I saw Michael’s paper, and it brought tears to my eyes. He had just one wish: “I wish I knew where my dad is.” Before I could take in the full significance of it, I was called in to teach.

That night I was awakened from a deep sleep with that piece of paper in my mind’s eye. I tried to pray for Michael, but all I could do was sob. I didn’t know how to pray for him, and as I asked the Lord to help me, the thought occurred to me: “If only he would do something good – just one thing – anything – I’d make a big deal of it and encourage him, instead of just scolding and nagging him.” So, I prayed that I  could catch Michael being good, even though I couldn’t even picture what that might look like.

The next day as I came into the third grade classroom, Michael was sitting sulkily at his desk, as usual, while every other child was running around the room. As soon as they saw “Madame,” they scurried back to their seats and waited to see what fun thing we were going to do that day.

“Today we’re going bowling,” I announced, and all but one child squealed with excitement. I held up a bag of plastic bowling pins. “I’m going to need a helper today…” Immediately hands shot up with little cries of “Oo! Me! Me!

Suddenly the lightbulb came on.

“… and since Michael was the only one who was where he was supposed to be when I came in today, he’s going to be my helper.”

Michael’s head snapped up, a look of utter astonishment on his face. I smiled and held out the bag. He jumped out of his seat and started setting up the bowling pins as I explained to the class that I would say the name of an animal in English. If they could tell me the word in French, they could roll the ball once, and if they could tell me in French what that animal says (For example, a French cow doesn’t say “Moo!’ It says “Meu!”), they would get two rolls.

For the next thirty minutes the students reviewed their farm animals, rolled the ball, and knocked over pins, and my trusty helper set the pins back up with lightning speed.

When we had just a few minutes left, Michael shyly asked if he could give it a try. I said, “Of course!” He got both the animal name and the sound right, and he knocked over all ten pins, as the class cheered. That may have been the first time I ever saw him smile.

I don’t know whether Michael ever got his Christmas wish, but I do know that, at least for this teacher, he was “Teacher’s Pet” for the rest of the year. (I’m pretty sure he learned quite a bit of French, too.)

Prayer: Father, open our eyes to what is admirable and praiseworthy in others, and to acknowledge it openly. Help us to encourage more than criticize. And while we know there are times we must confront what’s wrong, may it be where we have already laid a foundation of respect and appreciation, so that the voice of correction will be heard as the voice of love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Follow Friday!

Sharing some of the “light” I’ve been getting from fellow bloggers. 🙂

David Fischer

Hey peeps! Over on Twitter we call this Follow Friday so in that Spirit I offer this chance for you to leave your blog link in the comments below so others can visit you too!

Only thing I ask is that you reblog this post so we can keep spreading the love! Tomorrow we get back to the business at hand! His Business!! Removing That Veil!!

Love you all,

David

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Not a Trained Monkey

“When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.”                       – Luke 23:8

I was raised in a Christian home, but like anyone else, I needed to come to a point where I made my parents’ faith my own. For me that happened late one night as I lay awake fretting.

For perhaps the first time in my life I was wondering, What if all this about God isn’t true? What if there is no God? Or what if there is, and He’s mean? Or He doesn’t care?

For the first time in my life I said a prayer that was not someone else’s words that I had memorized. It was, simply, God, if You’re there, give me a sign.

Something happened in that moment, though my memory isn’t clear as to what exactly it was. It may have been something randomly falling off a shelf. I do know that it made a sudden noise, and I was impressed! He answered me! I prayed again, and this time it was not the prayer of a seeker, but that of a spoiled brat: That was cool! Do it again!

Nothing happened.

You might imagine that I was disappointed, but on the contrary, I think God spoke to me more clearly in the “nothing” than in the noise. Though not an audible voice, the message was loud and clear, even to a very young child: You don’t need Me to do it again. You know I’m here. And I did know.

One thing was clear: God was there, and He cared about me enough to reveal Himself to me when I asked. But once I knew He was there, He also made it very clear that He was not there to entertain me. This was not some trained monkey, this was the God of the universe. And what He had for me was way more exciting than a few magic tricks.

Prayer: Lord, we know that we are here to do Your will, not the other way around. Help us to have a divine perspective of Who You are and to live accordingly – totally yielded to You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

What I Really Want

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”                                                                                           Psalm 37:4

This verse from Psalms is possibly the most misunderstood verse of Scripture. I have heard many believers using this verse as a kind of magic formula to get whatever they want, be it health, wealth, a new car, a nicer house, whatever. But note that it doesn’t say, “He will give you what you desire,” it says, that “he will give you the desires of your heart.” From my understanding, based on both other scriptures and my own experience as a believer, if I delight in the Lord, – if He is my focus, my source, my life, my everything – then he changes my desires. If I am focused on Him, I no longer crave the temporary things that I chased after before. As I delight myself in Jesus, He gives me a divine perspective. (See how everything keeps coming back to that?) I begin to desire things like more intimacy with Him, to know His will and to do it. To walk with Him – to run with Him, to make Him smile, to make Him laugh with sheer pleasure. I find I want to be the child He delights in, not a child that tries His patience or grieves His heart.

This became very clear to me one day as I was sitting by the lake at our house in Port Huron. It was a beautiful morning, and I was enjoying the sunshine, the water, and the light breeze that caressed my cheek. I was praying through the “Temple Prayer,” that is, the system of approaching God as His people did in Old Testament times. I had recognized the sacrifice at the “brazen altar” that was required in order for me to enter God’s presence – the sacrifice that Jesus provided when He died on the cross. I had stopped at the “laver” to “wash” – confessed my sins and accepted the cleansing from His blood. I had taken in the light from the candelabra – the Holy Spirit – and asked Him to fill me. I had eaten the “shewbread,” that is, read the Scriptures and taken in their spiritual nourishment. And finally, I was coming to the “altar of incense” and offering my sacrifice, via playing my harp and singing His praises from the depths of my heart – offering the worship that is like incense to Him.

As I finished one of the most passionate, intimate love songs to the Lord, I closed my eyes and visualized stepping into the Holy of Holies – the most sacred place. As I did so, something happened that I will never forget.

The wind picked up, and as I felt it blowing through my hair, I heard all the strings of my harp vibrating at the same time, some louder than others, then fading as other notes were highlighted. This music was more than beautiful. It had an other-worldly quality that I can’t describe. I thought, I really am in the Holy of Holies!

I was afraid to open my eyes, partly because I wasn’t sure what I would see, but mostly because whatever was happening, I didn’t want it to stop. As the strange melodies continued, I could easily imagine them to be the fluttering of angels’ wings.

Then the thought occurred to me: If I’m really in the Holy of Holies, I can ask God anything I want, and He will give it to me! What an opportunity! I could pull out my prayer list (my wish list) and start asking.

But at that moment I couldn’t remember a single thing on the list! I began to pray, but all I found myself saying was, Lord, please … please, make me what You want me to be! That’s all I want. And that really was all I wanted at that moment!

Now I’ve thought of a lot of things since then that I could have asked for, and many of them are really good things. But I know that at that moment, when I was unmistakably in His presence, I was praying the ultimate prayer. He had given me the desire of my heart, and I have been asking Him for that ever since.

Prayer: Lord, as I delight in You, give me the desires of my heart – the desires You want me to have. Help me to stop wasting my time and my prayers on lesser things. I want to be all that You created me to be, and I want my life to be lived for You, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Perspective on Alzheimer’s

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

The above verse is one I had known for a long time, and at one point I had even considered myself to be a patient, gentle person. But when my father began to show signs of dementia, I began to suspect that I was possibly not the nice person I had believed myself to be.

When Dad first started showing signs of short-term memory loss, it was something neither of us was ready to accept. He reacted with his own form of denial. When asking me to repeat myself, instead of saying, “I forgot what you just said,” he would say,  “I guess I wasn’t paying attention.” Having frequently just come from a day of teaching and dealing with seemingly inattentive high school students, I found myself getting irritated. Why should I bother to tell him things if he’s not paying attention? I would wonder, being in my own state of denial. Deep down I knew there was another problem, over which he had no control and which was only going to get worse with time. I would repeat the statement with a little more intensity (Pay attention this time!) feeling my own level of stress beginning to rise.

Bible verses about patience and kindness and compassion only added guilt to my emotional state, which was already being stretched to limits I was not used to. There were starting to be times when my sweet father could sense my frustration with him, and I’d see tears in his eyes. Knowing I had hurt him broke my heart, but try as I might, I couldn’t get a handle on my own emotions.

One day as I cried out to God, “I can’t do this!” I found myself having returned to Square One, as the basic truth of the Gospel came back like a long-lost friend.

Of course you can’t do this, the still, small Voice whispered. That’s why I‘m here. 

Oh yeah, I thought. Duh. I confessed the sin of trying to deal with the situation in my own strength and asked the Lord to please help me.

The first answer to that prayer came in the form of an official medical diagnosis: my father was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This revelation confirmed that it wasn’t that Dad wasn’t paying attention to what we were saying, he genuinely couldn’t retain it. Still, there were days that even knowing this fact, I felt the impatience, like lava churning underground, disturbingly close to the surface. I continued to ask the Lord for help in behaving appropriately, even if my feelings were being irrational. The fact was, my dad was still one of the sweetest, kindest people on the planet, and he deserved my respect as much as ever, and my compassion even more.

Then one day, in a seemingly unrelated moment, I heard something said that resembled a line in a play I had worked on in college many years ago, triggering a mental recitation of the entire scene. It occurred to me that, had I continued in theater, I would be repeating the same script night after night for as long as the play ran – twice a day if there were matinees. I felt the creativity of the Holy Spirit nudge me with an idea:

Treat Dad as if you’re in a play. I chuckled at the thought.

The next time we were together, Dad began asking me the usual questions, and instead of getting irritated I thought, I know this scene! OK … and playing the actress, I would say my line, wait for his line, and continue the predictable dialogue to its predictable conclusion. Then, when a few minutes later Dad asked the same questions again, I’d treat the conversation like a rehearsal, sometimes experimenting with different inflexions and deciding which one was best.

As the disease progressed and Dad was no longer fighting it, he allowed himself to revert to the level of a little boy – a sweet, adorable little boy that delighted everyone and that everyone wanted to take care of. He was fun-loving in the most child-like ways, and whenever he told his corny jokes that we’d all heard multiple times, we would all laugh together, not necessarily because the jokes were new (far from it) or all that hilarious, but because the warmth of divine love filled the room.

As long as I have been a believer in Jesus, there are still times I need reminding – I can’t do this Christian life by myself. Sometimes I can’t even pinpoint when I let go of the Lord’s hand and started to try going it alone, but the important thing is the coming back. He is more than ready to help, in ways we could never have dreamed up on our own.

Prayer: Lord, how often we need reminding that we can’t do the Christian life in our own strength! Thank You for being more ready to help us than we are to ask for help. Thank you for interrupting our attempts at self-sufficiency. Thank You for being willing to make Your home in our hearts and live Your life through us. We give You free rein, in Jesus’ name. Amen.