Monday, March 10, 2014

Our Ride Home

That 5x7 card taped in the ticket booth window told us all we needed to know. The time was written boldly with a black marker, easily read by passing parents dropping off their kids for a night of movie magic. My dad was always quick to declare the time written on the card out loud, for all to hear.

“10:35, okay, I’ll be here to pick you up at 10:35!”

With that, I’d hop out of the car, joining my friends, who were acting out similar scenarios in their own family sedans and station wagons. We’d all fall in line for our tickets, making one last mental note of the time posted in the window. Up close, you could see the card completely, with the words “Show Ends” written in small letters just above the large time filling up the majority of the card.

You see, that card served as our insurance of keeping in good graces with our folks. My dad was going to be lined up with other parents on Main Street, between Second and First Streets, to pick me up at the time announced on that card...and I’d better be standing outside that Fox Theater.

Now, it really wouldn’t have been a problem at all, and it wasn’t, on the nights we actually stayed for the movies. But those nights that we got adventurous and took off for, say, the roller rink four blocks over and two blocks up, or down to Boone’s for some curly fries and a Cherry Coke...those were the nights that the time written on that card was so vital to our well being.

The Bible isn’t as clear as that little card in the window of my hometown theater was...there’s no posted time when Christ shall return for His church. But in Luke’s Gospel we are warned:

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” (Luke 21:34, NKJV)

I suppose if there were a time and date posted for the Lord’s return, the human nature of many would simply put off living a Godly life for Christ until such time came to pass. But I don’t think that’s why God hasn’t revealed more on the subject.

I believe the Father wants in us a constant abidance, a steady readiness, simply out of love for Him. In the Bible, expressions of love on God’s part are usually followed by an action. For instance, John 3:16 tells us that because God so loved the world, He gave. We are to follow God’s example. For instance, after His resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him. After Peter states adamantly his love for Christ, Jesus tells him to feed His sheep. Love, followed by action.

Our lives are to be lived out in reflection of the great love God has shone down upon us. We can’t possibly repay the amount of love that we’ve received. But, we can stay in God’s walk for our lives, better than I stayed in that movie theater of my youth, and stay ready for the Savior to come pick us up.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Short End of the Stick

"Oh, man, here he goes again, with that cockamamie pleading he does every Sunday,” Greg leaned over and whispered to his wife. Carla’s brow creased with concerned annoyance as she shot a glance at her husband of 29 years.

Pastor Burns continued with his urgent plea of invitation. Greg’s eyes rolled upward, as his lips moved with the Pastor’s familiar lines...

“Repent of your sin.”

“Ask Jesus into your heart!”

“Don’t wait! Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Today is the day of Salvation!”

There was a day when that last song was a real struggle for Greg. Oftentimes, he’d slipped out of the sanctuary, excusing himself to use the restroom, or something, anything, to avoid the unexplainable pressure he’d felt. But, over the years, he’d learned to overcome the Pastor’s coercing, using the same resistance he would apply to annoying salesmen.

Oh, he was no atheist, mind you. But he’d always tried to keep God in perspective. Carla and his now grown children had all succumbed to the convincing of the Pastor, and he never interfered with their spirituality, as long as it didn’t cause conflicts with his life. He’d regularly brought the family to church. Heck, he even helped take up the offering and such, whenever called upon.

Greg’s mind drifted toward his new fiery red convertible sitting out the church parking lot. Man, did he love that thing. Stick shift in hand, Greg felt a power surge his middle-aged life had been lacking...and the attention it brought from the female population was an option the salesman hadn’t mentioned. Maybe that brunette in accounting would finally turn her pretty head his way when he passed by...

“We’ll sing one more verse, one last chance to give your heart to Christ.

 Won’t you surrender to Him today?”

Pastor Burns’ final plea jerked Greg back out his bucket seat. His knuckles had whitened, gripping the back of the pew, mentally shifting from second to third gear. Just then, he noticed Bernard Myers, slowly heading up the aisle, tears streaming down his face.
"Oh, geez. This’ll slow the procedure," Greg grimaced
 to himself. "Myers has always been a little
 weak in the knees."

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Martha Myers weeping uncontrollably as her husband embraced Pastor Burns.   Greg’s feet shuffled back and forth. An old familiar twinge bit into his chest.                                      
Turning away from the proceedings, he gazed out into the parking lot. He thought he’d heard some rumbling earlier in the service. Probably from that old pipe organ the church had treasured for
 years, but maybe it was thunder...

“I need to go check and make sure the top’s up,” Greg blurted out to Carla. “Meet you in the car.”

Carla's eyes followed as her husband scurried to get out of the pew, practically knocking over dear, old Opal Whitney sitting in her customary seat at the end. He nearly bolted out the back of the sanctuary, almost as if the place was on fire.

Carla took her place in line to congratulate her new brother in Christ, Bernard Myers. The line inched along slowly. While she knew Greg would be impatiently waiting, this was such a precious moment for Bernard and her good friend and coworker, Martha. She'd prayed with Martha many times in the nurse’s lounge for this moment. It would be worth whatever squawk Greg would put up...

“See you next Sunday,” Carla shouted joyously at Millie Carpenter as she lifted the handle on the passenger side door. But Greg hadn’t unlocked the door, so she pecked on the window a couple of times to get his attention.

Getting no response, Carla leaned over and started to rap on the window again. She stopped and screeched out loud.

“What is it, Carla??” Millie called out.

Staring into the car, Carla saw her husband of 29 years slumped over the wheel of his pride and joy. Those piercing blue eyes that once had captured her heart, were now transfixed in a stare - a lifeless stare that she’d seen all too often at work.

People began racing all about, shouting, screaming for help, but Carla stood frozen, hypnotized by the situation. Her eyes darted, capturing mental images...the tinge of gray at Greg’s temples that she’d previously somehow looked past, a slight paunch that she’d never really seen, and several brown age spots on the back of his right hand...a hand still firmly gripping the stick shift of his fiery red convertible.