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MatthewFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Monty Python, there’s a scene in The Life of Brian when the crowd is listening to Christ deliver the Sermon on the Mount.  Unfortunately, people are carrying on and what not. Everyone is having a hard time hearing, so they misunderstand a few key words.  “Peacemakers” becomes “cheese makers” and “meek” at least briefly becomes “Greek.”

I had a Cheese maker moment last week.  When Pastor Carol gives the children’s sermon, she moves among the children, often with her back to the choir.  Allergens abound this time of year and with my goofy ears, I could have sworn she was talking to the kids about the Opossum Paul.

Who?  What?

Fortunately, it only took me a moment to realize that she was not telling our younger set about a marsupial disciple.  Funny as it was, the whole situation has made me wonder – how often do we mishear God’s message?

We are, after all, flawed creatures.  We get things wrong. A lot.  Even where God’s concerned.  Don’t believe me?  Read the Old Testament when they were wandering in the wilderness. Or read the newspaper and see how many scandals involve people who claim to have God on speed dial.

Clearly we get things wrong on a regular basis even when we are insisting how righteous is our cause.

Fortunately God knows just how hard-of-hearing we can be.  Because of this, he reinforces his most important message to us by repeating himself again and again.  Yes, you have to listen carefully, past the noise of the opossum, but if you do, you will hear His most important message – a message of love.


My friend Maria, who grew up in Taiwan, tells the story of how she learned the complex process of writing in Chinese. Her mother, a woman who greatly valued education, stood behind her and, holding her daughter’s hand, directed each stroke of the pen, painstakingly forming each symbol in all its individual beauty. Her daughter learned through muscle memory, through the act of someone else directing her movement.

It is the same way, Maria says, that she learns from God. “All God wants us to do is submit to Him and He will take the ball and run with it.” It’s true. My friend’s writing lessons would never have succeeded if she had tried to form the letters on her own. She had to let go and allow her mother to do the work. It is the same way with God. The harder we try to direct our own spiritual path, the more we fall away from God.

As anyone who has tried — and failed — at a physical task knows, our bodies cannot be forced to do obey us. You may want, mightily, to return that tennis serve, to catch that soaring orb, to hurl your body backwards through space, and still be unable to do so. And doing a back flip is a cinch compared to controlling our destinies, spiritual or otherwise. It is when we admit that we are not in control, that we really shouldn’t be, that we can allow God to truly move us, to form the letters that spell out our spiritual journey.

Submission to God may be the hardest task we’re ever given. Oh, it’s easy enough to say, “I submit my will to God.” Then we instantly wreck it by going on our merry way, making deals, bartering, demanding, trying to make something of ourselves, when God could be doing all the work for us. And what’s more, God’s plan is infinitely better than our own.

I will admit it: I am a do-it-yourselfer. I am a trier. I believe in results garnered through great personal effort. I am uncomfortable with the idea of allowing transformation to happen in its own time. I’d much rather it happen in my time. So much for submission.

It sounds oxymoronic to try to let go, but that’s just what I need to do. My effort needs to go into relaxing into God’s guiding arms. No timetables. No expectations. Just a willing hand, holding a pen. And maybe, just maybe, through me, God will create a thing of beauty.

And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Samuel grew; the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

1 Samuel 3:10 and 3:19 AMP

Ah, adolescence. My son and I go round and round – with me constantly saying, “What did you say?  Would you please speak up?”

I think, he’s a teen-ager, and teen-agers notoriously do not enunciate!

He’s thinking, Mom’s gettin’ on in years, and old folks just don’t hear well!

I don’t know. Maybe we’re both right.

But really. Are we even speaking the same language?

This clip on YouTube, “Shoot Christians Say” made me laugh. It pokes fun at how we tend to over-use specific language for Christian concepts. We try to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world by using phrases such as “secular” for those who don’t believe as we do. But then again, even when you know the language, there are nuances and colloquialisms that elude us.

This clip of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman on the Mike Douglas Show from the 1970s is a great example of the disconnect between what the stars of “the Odd Couple” are saying and what the closed captioning transcriber is hearing. At one point, at about 2:13 on the clip, Jack Klugman was talking about “my barber” only to have it captioned as “Obama.”

Years ago, I dated a guy I’ll call “Guy.” 🙂 At a gathering one night, his brother told me he “used to beat people for money.” I was shocked by this and confronted Guy.  “Your brother told me you used to beat people? For money?” He laughed and shook his head.  “It’s a saying. It means I didn’t pay people back when I borrowed money from them!”  Just another colorful New Jersey phrase, causing confusion.

Luckily, when we talk to God, we don’t need to worry about being misunderstood. It’s what’s in your heart that really matters.  So if you’re a manicurist and you forget to specify when you say, “please help me to find a job,” He knows you don’t want a position as a forklift operator.  I’m so grateful that God speaks all languages and sees right through to the soul.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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