Finish Well

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning of a World Series game, and from the bullpen comes “The Closer,” the flame-throwing pitcher whose job it is to shut down the other team’s bats and secure the win. 40,000 fans hope he finishes well.

Under Friday night lights across the United States, teenage boys buried under shoulder pads and helmets hold up four fingers as the clock resets to 12:00 signaling the start of the final quarter of play. For them, no matter what has happened up to this point on the gridiron, they must finish well.

Long distance runners battle their minds as much as their bodies as they push through mile after mile. Most are not in the chase to win the prize. Most just long to finish well. They want to run across the finish line hands held high. They have survived the cramps, the foot pain, the hunger and thirst, and the thoughts encouraging quitting.

Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).” Now at the end of his life, his estimation of self is “I finished well.”

Some might find Paul’s words intimidating, and they wonder how they could ever make such a claim, let alone arrive at such a point. As the saying goes, to accomplish big things accomplish little things.

An eighty-year-old lives more than 29,000 days, but he only lives one day at a time. A person who finishes today well is on track to finish life well.

  • The semester is long, so finish well today the tasks of a student.
  • Raising children takes a lot of years, so finish well today the leading of those children toward our Lord.
  • Retirement, promotion, and the next pay raise are on the distant horizon, so finish well today “whatever it is your hand finds to do” in the workplace God has for you.
  • Overcoming a stubborn and sinful habit feels like a fight to the death with great victories one moment and devastating failures the next, so finish well today by fleeing the next temptation to return to a rotten place.
  • Growing old together as a married couple is the fancy of every young bride and groom, so finish well today your vows made to each other before God.

There are only a handful of hours left in today. How will the day end for you? I hope you finish today well and hear from our Lord today what you long to hear from him when you see him in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

First Lesson From the Empty Nest

The empty nest life is nice. For the nearly 30 years of our marriage, Brenda and I have shared a house with another human being. From our sisters, to a brother by another mother, and our children, we’ve lived our married life for all but a handful of months with other people. While I can’t tell you all the crazy fun things about the early days of living together all alone, here’s one thing we’ve discovered: call your mother.

She Doesn’t Want to Bother You

Since August, we’ve thought it and I’ve heard more than one mother of adult sons or daughters say about their kids, “They’re so busy.” What that means is she doesn’t want to bother you. She knows you have a lot going on with your own kids, with work responsibilities, taking care of your house or pets, or getting school work done. She knows your time is limited. Now that you’re gone, she’s learning to fill the time she used to spend on you. But filling that time doesn’t make up for the lack of day-to-day contact with you. Help a girl out, and give her call. She doesn’t want to bother you.

She Wants to Know about Your Life

When you call, she’s more interested in knowing about you than telling you what’s happening in her life. Think about it, for years who knew more about your life than mom? That may not be true for everybody, but for most of us it is. She knew what you ate for breakfast and dinner. She knew what time you left the house and if you snuck out at night. She listened when you told her the good things about the day and the hard things too. For a long time she sang the same songs with you during worship and listened to the same text from the Word of God as your family’s pastor preached to you. She knew when you had a cold, when you needed new shoes, and if you had a crush on girl. She’d still like to know those things.

If she’s a godly mom, she’s been praying about many matters concerning you since before you were born. She hasn’t stopped since you left home. During the day if she’s home alone or if there’s a quiet moment at work, she’s probably thinking about you and likely talking to God about you. When she hears from you, she knows better how to pray for you, and she rejoices at God’s answers to her prayers for you.

Not My Kids

If you’re one of my kids, this isn’t some passive-aggressive way to get you to call your mom. If you’re not one of my kids, please don’t think my kids are cold-hearted freeloaders who don’t care anymore about their mom. We’ve got great kids who continue to make us important. Life is different now, however, and your mom is not as likely to initiate with you because life circumstances have changed. So, give her a call. Respond to her weird-to-you texts. Facetime with her. Send her an email. Drop a card in the mail. You will make her day, you’ll be glad you made the effort, and you will please the Lord by giving honor to your mom (Eph. 6:2).

If you think about it, call your dad too.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Shots Fired

Like you, I awoke Monday morning to the news out of Las Vegas. You know the details, nearly 60 dead and more than 500 hundred injured when a 64-year-old gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert goers. We weep with those who weep.

Predictably, some will make the tragedy political. Others will address psychological concerns. A few will draw outrageous conclusions that should be immediately dismissed for what they are.

As Christians, we recognize the base problem here is the depravity of man. While shocked by what happened, is any of us really surprised that a human being is capable of such an act? Page after page of human history tell the stories of how cruel one human being can be to another.

How it must cause our creator to sorrow at what his creation does to each other. He didn’t create us for this. The intent in the beginning was a planet populated with beautiful, image-bearing creatures who loved their creator and loved each other. The brokenness of the creation is most evident in the creation’s hate for its creator and its evil directed toward other image-bearers.

In response to the attack, famous people and everyday nobodies say, tweet, or post a similar phrase, “This must stop!” I can agree with that, and it is what I pray for. But I know how this story plays out. There won’t be a full stop until King Jesus sets up his throne. Then he will bring peace to the nations and to every individual heart. There will be no more mass shootings; no truck bombs on Paris or London streets; no IEDs in Boston or Madrid; no stabbings in Manilla; no beheadings on the African continent; and no shootings in the streets of Chicago. Jesus will end this.

We can respond like any human being with a conscience, but as Christians we can respond beyond what any person can respond. In the midst of our sorrow for those ravaged by a devilish human being, we offer any aid we can. As Christians, we do more; we pray and labor in the gospel. We pray for our Lord’s soon return (Rev. 22:20), and we work to make ready all around us for his return (1 Thess. 5:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15). This is how we Christians respond.

May God’s grace be with the men and women, boys and girls impacted by the harm in Las Vegas.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

No, I Won't Watch It

Content comment: before reading further, I’d like you to know today’s Musing covers a current R-rated movie without using R-rated words. If you’d prefer not to read, I understand.

The runaway success It is no Abbott and Costello Meet the MummyVariety magazine describes It as “the blockbuster adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a child-eating clown.”

Movie goers like It…a lot. In less than three weeks, the two hour fifteen minute film about a clown who eats kids brought in almost a half-billion dollars worldwide, making it the highest grossing horror film of all time. You read that correctly, and here at home, Americans shelled out almost $266,000,000 to watch, in part, children being eaten.

In an age of child worship and an age of the illusion of protecting the kids, It makes no sense to me. Further, I no more understand Christians finding amusement in It than I find Christians finding amusement in Game of Thrones.

A Little Background

From Variety: "It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his 22nd book and 18th novel written under his own name. The story follows the experiences of seven children as they are terrorized by a being that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. 'It' primarily appears in the form of a clown to attract its preferred prey of young children."

But “It” doesn’t merely “attract” its prey; “It,” as IMDb describes, hunts children. Am I the only one who has a problem with this? This isn’t Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers (dumb horror fillms of the 80s); the killer in It stalks children.

Disgusting, Graphic Violence

In the opening scene “It” entices a small boy to reach into the sewer drain to retrieve his boat and then graphically bites off his arm, leaving the boy to bleed to death in the gutter. Later in the movie, “It” takes the form of flying leeches that swarm a boy sucking blood from his body. When the child collapses, “It” drags the child away and feeds on him.

From the New York Daily News official review: “It’s a lot more uncomfortable to see children die off on screen than it is to read in the pages of a book — particularly the visual of watching a six-year-old's arm being devoured.”

There’s more, but that’s enough description to make my point – what is entertaining about the cannibalism of children?

Fictional horror remains debatable ground for the Christian. Does it matter if we watch or read stories where imaginary characters both harm and are harmed? That is the subject for another time. The purpose of this Musing is not to address the morality of Hitchcock or Poe or King. The purpose of this post is to call out the theme of this specific movie, to help your growing discernment in your entertainment choices, and to alert your mind to the point of grieving for the fallen condition of our fellow human beings.

The movie critic from the Chicago Sun-Times completely ignores the obvious when he writes, “I’m bloody pleased to report director Andy Muschietti’s R-rated interpretation of the source material is a bold, intense, beautifully paced, wickedly hilarious, seriously scary and gorgeously terrifying period-piece work that instantly takes its place among the most impressively twisted horror movies of our time.”

Well, I’m bloody pleased to report this movie and the book that vomited “It” up is a bold offense to the God of heaven who created children in his image. He never intended for the pinnacle of his creation to find enjoyment in the bloody murders of young image bearers.

Frankly, It is not a movie for the Christian. I hope you will avoid It, and I hope you will instruct your teenage daughters and sons who lack the maturity to discern and are intrigued by It’s popularity or are pressured by their friends.

Antagonists will argue, “Well, the Bible tells about child sacrifices and other horrible actions done to children, so…" but not for entertainment! The biblical accounts of these behaviors portray the depravity, villainy, and wickedness of man apart from God. We cringe when we read these accounts unlike those who leave the theatre and tell social media friends, “You have got to see ItIt’s great!”

No, It isn’t.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Speak Kindly to Her

You probably don’t read the Song of Solomon very much, the Old Testament poem that flows with love and romance. While authors express different opinions on the meaning of the text, this much is certain: the man in the story speaks kindly to his wife.

As the years pass, the tone and vocabulary of young love often changes. Not too long ago, compliments and courtesy were predictable communication to her. Now the bride of some years rarely hears thanks for her actions, gentle instruction when she assists with a household task or garage job, thoughtful engagement in a conversation she initiates, or sweet words complimenting her eyes, her hair, her dress, or her character.

Too often the man she loves speaks to her like she is his mom, his sister, or his daughter. He speaks to her with disrespect like he spoke to his mother when he was a teenage boy. He speaks to her with disdain like so many brothers when disgusted with their sisters. He speaks to her with anger like a father speaks to his daughter when irritated by her clothes, her friends, her spending, her driving, or simply for being female.

A man’s words carry the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).
A man’s words can turn away his own wrath or stir it up (Proverbs 15:1).
A man’s words can infuse health or suck the breath out of the lungs (Proverbs 12:18).

She’s your wife not your mom. Speak kindly to her.
She’s your wife not your sister. Speak kindly to her.
She’s your wife not your daughter. Speak kindly to her.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.