Upon receiving a nude photo from Mark Twain on Facebook

Mark_Twain_2

This is a public domain photo of Mark Twain with his shirt back on.

Apparently reports of Mr. Twain’s death have been greatly exaggerated for just last week I received a nude photo of him on Facebook.  I put him down as one of my “likes” but it would seem I did not define the nature of the relationship adequately, for there he was in all his understated glory staring expectantly at me (from the waist up, of course. Decorum, please, madame.) I tried to let him down gently, but….

I have enjoyed Facebook. It has expanded my circle of friends from those who I really intended to phone, to those to whom I really intended to send Christmas cards, to those with witty online personalities, to friends of friends with interesting online personalities to a couple of people I can’t for the life of me remember, but I don’t want to admit the possibility of early senility, so there they are.

But lately I realize that I need to dislike some things. Hey guys, when I said I liked your book, or film or cause I didn’t mean we should move in together. I don’t need updates on your latest whereabouts and definitely not on your reactions to spicy food.

And Twitter? Thus far I have avoided Twitter (because I know I would probably add another addiction and lose even more time on there.) I know everybody with influence tweets and I realize the benefits of learning to write succinctly, and I think there’s a verse in the Bible somewhere that says something like, “Where many words are spoken transgression is unavoidable,” but I think there ought to be one somewhere there that says, “When quoting oneself out of context beware of cynics, heresy hunters and fans.”

Fans may be the most dangerous. For a brief time, long, long ago, I had a taste of knowing what it was like to live in a world where more people knew me than I knew back. Big fish in little pond stuff mostly, but enough to realize that anything one does or one does not do can and will be reported by people who specialize in knocking the stuffin’s out of one and replacing it with straw.

I have read articles about myself that prompted me to say, “This sounds like someone completely different from anyone I have ever known. I would like to meet this person.” (Never, never  read your own P.R.) I’ve also read articles that credited me with statements I swear never passed my lips.

What upset me about my few fans is that they assumed they knew me, and oddly enough, that I knew them. They knew a few stage personas and thought that spending time reading about me was as good as spending time with me.

The preacher in a church I visited today pointed out that the difference between being a follower of someone on social media and knowing them personally was like the difference between reading about Jesus Christ and getting to know him by actually spending one-on-one time with him.

If Jesus tweeted, “Fed fish burgers to 5000 guys today” he’d get a thousand “way-to-go-dudes,” but how many would sit down with him after the crowds had gone and ask, “So what did you mean when you told us to feed those guys ourselves? How on earth are we supposed to do that? You can really baffle me sometimes. I’m tempted to go back to my day job, but I mean, wow, I just saw it happen my  with my own eyes –in my own basket. Who are you?”

Sometimes on Facebook, because we are reminded of people’s activities and comment on their statuses, and they on ours, we think we know them. We don’t. We know their grandchildren are perfect and they baked 12 dozen buns, 6 dozen muffins and changed the oil in the Mazda before starting their 7 a.m. shift, or that politician’s names flame out of their keyboards like cuss words, or that the trunk full of cases of beer is intended, not for a party of 36, but a party of four guys and a labradoodle, but we don’t really know them.

I was reminded recently that I can miss it by a mile. I congratulated a couple on the birth of a child only to discover, when the photos came out, that the mother was not the wife my friend had last time I saw him. In fact she looks about 20 years younger. Awkward.

Nothing substitutes for real relationship. So read the Book, read books about the Book, talk to friends of Jesus, but don’t think that anything but real relationship is real.

Matthew 7:21 “It is not everyone who keeps saying to me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the man who actually does my Heavenly Father’s will.

22-23 “In ‘that day’ many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we preach in your name, didn’t we cast out devils in your name, and do many great things in your name?’ Then I shall tell them plainly, ‘I have never known you. Go away from me, you have worked on the side of evil!’”

Feast in the Valley

Photo: A visual feast in the valley on the way to my daughter’s house

EXPRESSIONS Look without! Behold the beauty of the day, The shout of color to glad color, rocks and trees, and sun and seas, and wind and sky: All these are God’s expression, art work of His hand, which men must love ere they can understand. ~ Richard Hovey

Go Left

Photo: Highway 3

Lots of young people have asked me, “How do I find God’s direction for my life? How do I know God’s perfect will for me?”

My standard answer now is, “Put yourself in gear and get out of the driveway.”

I learned to drive on my Dad’s old Merc. It did not have power steering and sometimes it was ridiculously hard to turn the wheels on that thing when it was at a standstill. Sometimes I thought, in the process of learning to park that land-locked boat, it would have taken less effort to get out and push it sideways into a parking spot. Getting it back out of a tight spot was just as hard. It’s tough to steer a stationary vehicle. Just start moving. Sometimes God’s directions are simply, “Go. Move already.”

Like many people I have wanted to understand the eternal ramifications of every decision before I made it. What if I went to College A and the person I was supposed to marry went to College B -or Q or U. What if I missed God’s perfect will for my life because I took a job in Moose Jaw and destiny awaited in Tuktoyuktuk? What if it was God’s will for me to study Hebrew and I studied Greek? What if I missed my calling while I was on the phone talking to my friend about paint colours for the bathroom? To be honest I even hated not knowing which lane I needed to be in 200 km.s down the road.

Even after I learned to give God credit for being a little more flexible than I was. I stewed over things like travel plans, wanting to have a carefully thought out printed itinerary and reservations in place months before I packed far too much just-in-case stuff in my suitcase.

It may be a sign of how much work God has done on me that my idea of a vacation now is a blank calendar and an open road. This is what I have learned: God is creative and not reactive. He is relentlessly kind and seeks to communicate with us and show us how to become the people he created us to be. He is the God of endless possibilities. Destiny is not fate; you can mess it up and cause delay if you don’t pay attention, but neither is destiny a one-shot thing.

Was it God’s will for David to dally around with Bathsheba? Was adultery part of Plan A? No. Was God stymied by a horrible situation? No. In fact after David expressed his deep remorse and repented his and Bathsheba’s son became the next king, and God blessed him. God not only has a plan B but many more letters of the alphabet at his disposal.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track. (The Message paraphrase)

The more time we spend with God, the easier it is to hear his voice. Sometimes an inconvenient detour is exactly the direction he is leading us in. We may have everything planned out and can see our goal ahead when He says, “Chasm ahead. Now would be a good time to turn left.”

It’s never too late to change direction and follow Jesus Christ. Brilliant opportunities await.

For those willing to surrender their own agendas, it just gets better. It can be a wild ride sometimes, but I know who is crowned the winner at the end of this race. (I read the ending.)

Isaiah 30:20-22:

Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”

Return to your rest, my soul

Photo: fireweed reflection

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
 Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

 The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
 Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
 The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
 Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

(Psalm 116)