Franks Sinatra and Monopoly, Part 2: “Get Out of Jail Free”

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Handy to have ONLY IF you’re playing Monopoly

“I did it myyyy waaaay……”

I think my family first got a Monopoly board game when I was five or six, so I wasn’t very astute when I started playing with my brother seven years older than me. Still, it didn’t take more than one game for me to realize that it was VERY desirable to land on the square marked Community Chest when the next card in the stack was a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card. Even my cool brother couldn’t talk me or schmooze me or buy me out of that card! I was no six-year-old dummy!

Okay, sixty years later, what have I learned? Most things I think I know, but I’ve learned a couple of things for sure:

  1. Life is NOT a game
  2. My life choices DO have consequences, both here and in eternity
  3. When the “board gets folded up” you can’t just walk away into eternity as though life wasn’t real
  4. There are only two places in which to spend eternity: Heaven or Hell
  5.  We all start out with an internal issue: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…. there is no one who does good, not even one…. There  is no fear of God before their eyes.” Psalms 14: 1-3, Psalms 36:1 NIV
  6. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” Romans 3:23 NIV
  7. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV
  8.  But to all who did ·accept [receive] him and believe ·in him [L in his name; C the name indicating the character of the person] he gave the ·right [power; authority] to become children of God.” John 1:12 EXB
  9. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
  10. BUT, and this is one BIG BUT, Jesus is NOT a “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” card, to be grabbed once and held onto in your stack while you live like hell and “Do it myyyy waaaay….” and then pop out of your stack when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Almighty God and the verdict is rendered.

“But hey,” you protest, “isn’t God a loving God of forgiveness and mercy? Isn’t he a big teddy bear of a spiritual Grandpa who will let bygones be bygones, as long as I more or less tried to be good and at the end of my life I whip out my ‘Yes, I went up to the altar and said the secret words so Jesus has to accept me in Heaven’ card?” Isn’t Jesus my  “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” guarantee?

Is that who Jesus said he was and why he came?  He very pointedly told anyone who would truly listen exactly who he was and why he came:

I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 NIV

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14: 6 NIV

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:30-35 NIV

Jesus said to her (Martha), I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27 NIV

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14: 9-10 NIV

 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10: 11-17 NIV

 Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10-14 NIV

Now THAT is a purpose, a person, a Savior worth living for!

Does Jesus, all he IS as much as all he does, sound like nothing more than  a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card to save and whip out then for there, or is Jesus the living Presence of God meant to be in your life as Lord, in every life that receives him, for here and now? John did not write, “For God sent His son into the world to excuse the world from sin.” Sin is too destructive for God to sweep it under the rug; He must deal with it, and He did, in sending Jesus to be the payment, the offering, for my sin and your sin, IF/WHEN we acknowledge that we did nothing to deserve it and gratefully receive the gift Jesus extends to us.

This is not what I say, subject to my own personal interpretation. This is what God’s Word says, period, what God Himself spoke through Jesus and through Holy Spirit to people who loved Him and were listening for His voice:

I (Jesus) tell you, everyone who confesses Me (Jesus) before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God. But whoever denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.    Luke 12:8-10 NIV

Anyone who ·continues to sin [or sins] belongs to the devil [John 8:44], because the devil has been sinning since the beginning. The Son of God ·came [was revealed; appeared] for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s work [Matt. 4:1–11; 12:25–29; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Rev. 12:7–12; 20:1–3]. 1 John 3:8 EXB

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people,don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4: 3-10 NIV

I can hear the protests again, “That isn’t fair! Only one way, Jesus,  to eternal life, and I can’t gain it for myself by the good things I do? That isn’t tolerance, and God ought to know that down here we’re all about tolerance, and  everybody has their own truth! That’s democracy!”

Well, sure, you are completely free to exercise your own free will throughout your life. God did give you free will, and for good reason: puppets can’t truly love or choose to obey. Puppets can’t live in passionate, loving, familial, relationship, as a child with her/his father.  BUT…   choosing to willfully, intentionally live outside of the standards God set down for humanity to live by is choosing self above God. That is called sin, and it separates us from the HOLY, Pure, Righteous, Immutable, Creator, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who cannot look on evil and smile and say, “Aw, that’s okay. Forget about it!”

What we’ve forgotten about in focusing on God’s mercy is God’s Holiness:

At the center of the universe is a God about whom the angels repeatedly cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty. Heaven and Earth are filled with Your Glory.” 

” Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:12-16 NIV

“Holiness is not found in strict rule keeping alone; it is found in our desire of the Holy One. Holiness is not new behaviors. Holiness is new affections…. Holiness is something of God, not something we gain through the way we live. Holinessis new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If I don’t see my  sin as forgiven, then my affections, desires,and motives will be wrong. I will just aim to prove myself. Tyler Braun, Why Holiness Matters, copyright 2012 Tyler Braun.

God is without sin, totally pure, totally holy, and nothing of impurity or sin can dwell near him. That’s why sin matters! Sin is destructive and brings eternal death. That’s why Jesus came to DIE for our sins!

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires… but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life,and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God … You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6: 11-18

Who preaches that nasty word “sin”  anymore? That’s an anachronism for people with feeble minds! Doesn’t everyone have their own truth to live by, what’s right for them? Besides, I’m a pretty good person…. Then my question to you is, whose standards are you using to measure your goodness by?

Do not merely listen to the word (God’s Word), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens the the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:22-25 NIV

“Throughout the Bible almost every sin reaches for things with some intrinsic value, such as security, knowledge, peace, pleasure, or a good name. But behind the appeal to something good, sin ultimately involves a raw confrontation between obedience and rebellion. Will Adam and Eve heed their impressions or God’s instructions? Will they listen to a creature or the Creator? Will they serve God or themselves? Who will judge what is right, God or humans? Who will see to the results? Ultimately, by taking the position of arbiter between the conflicting counsel of God and the serpent, Eve and Adam have already elevated themselves over God and rebelled against him. Here too the first sins disclose the essence of later sins. Sin involves the refusal of humankind to accept its God-given position between the Creator and lower creation. It flows from decisions to reject God’s way, and to steal, curse, and lie simply because that seems more attractive or reasonable. Here we approach the mystery of sin. Why would the first couple, sinless and without inclination toward sin, choose to rebel? Why would any creature presume to know more or know better than its creator?”  http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sin/

I remember more than the game Monopoly from my childhood. I remember the paint stirring stick and its place in the junk drawer, and its one calmly, not angrily, calculated pop on my well-cushioned behind when I engaged in outright rebellion against my parents’ standards of speech or conduct for their children. Was that abuse? By no means; it was LOVE! How do I know that? Because 1) I have absolutely no remembrance of the infractions I committed, so thoroughly was I convicted of my wrongdoing and thoroughly hugged after each one, and 2) I did NOT grow up to be an abuser.

I also know that because, after disciplining my own sons that way, reserving the wooden spoon for outright rebellion, talking with them about what they did and why they received one pop on the popo, I let them know I loved them. The results? Two amazing men of good character, compassion, honesty, integrity, faith and love.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,”so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12: 9-14 NIV

The scariest words I’ve ever read in the Bible are words I heard again in church a couple of weeks ago. This particular pastor doesn’t waltz  around  God’s Word, but delivers it in purity and power. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7: 21-19 NIV

My two boys may or may not remember Mom saying often to them when we went about daily life, finishing their homework, cleaning their rooms, or just in general doing what I asked them to do, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13: 17 ESV) My next-door neighbor once remarked that she had initially though I spanked my older son a lot, but when she became the stepmother of a boy about my son’s age and she saw the contrast in behavior between the two boys, she decided maybe I was on to something. All I was on to was disciplining my sons carefully,  not spanking at the drop of a hat for every childish thing they did, but saving corporal punishment for outright rebellion,so they didn’t fall into worse, more seriously destructive behavior as they grew up.

“Discipline your children while there is hope; otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18 NLT

I painfully remember, and have repented flat on my face before God for, an incident, not with my children, where I did listen to someone’s crying  and  withheld the strong action that, I now regret, might have changed that mind about the consequences of continuing on to “do it my waay….”And boy, have I paid a price for not doing it God’s “tough love” way.

Let no one think whipping out the “Jesus card” at the end of life, after living according to the world’s/contemporary culture’s iffy standards, will be a “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” pass into eternal life with God. Reiterating Jesus’ words,  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” I can’t think of any more horrifying words to hear than those.  DC Comics notwithstanding, there is no such thing  as this:

So what are we to do if we don’t want to earn eternity  forever apart from God, and yes, in a literal hell?  Can we know for sure we will spend eternity with God in Heaven? Absolutely! This one thing is certain, sure, and worth placing all my hope and eternal security in: The Blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross for me, for my forgiveness and fellowship with God.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

So what can you do?

1. “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:8-10 NIV

AND

2. In Jesus’ own words: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14: 21 NIV

Let’s do it HIS way, in the here and now!

Isaiah 57:15-19New International Version (NIV)

15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16 I will not accuse them forever,
    nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of me—
    the very people I have created.
17 I was enraged by their sinful greed;
    I punished them, and hid my face in anger,
    yet they kept on in their willful ways.
18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
19     creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

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Frank Sinatra and Monopoly, Part 1: “I did it my way…”

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If you’re as far over the hill as people might think I am, you vividly remember and can sing along with the passionate strains of Frank Sinatra in what we then saw as a profound statement of personal validation (remember, this was 1969 and the full bloom of Flower Power, the Feminist Movement, anti-war protests, “ban the bra,” and other  anti-establishment movements). Decades and lots of water under the bridge later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall but facing even greater threats in our world, I now see this as a proud statement of self-interest, self-promotion,  standing on top of anyone who gets in your way, and what could be the theme song of the expanding membership of the Narcissists ‘R” Us Club. For the fun of it – and these aren’t all the verses of the song – count how many times you see the words “I” and “my” in the verses below:

“Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way.”

Songwriters: DUPRI, JERMAINE/SEAL, MANUEL LONNIE/RAYMOND, USHER
My Way lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, S U I S A, COOPERATIVE SOC. OF MUSIC AUTHORS & PUBLISHERS
How many “I’s”? Nine. How many “my’s”? Four; “me” shows up too, (him)self, “all that,” (the British version would add “and a bag of chips…”) and going back to sophomore literature class, what would you say the author’s thesis statement might be? ___________________________________
Just for comparison.  Lets’ look  at the writings of some other authors, and write after each passage what you think the writer’s thesis statement might be:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8 NIV  Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) _______________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
Proverbs 29: 23 King Solomon __________________________________
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor…Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you …Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.   
 James 4: 6, 9-10 NIV James the Apostle_______________________________
They are blessed who are ·humble [meek; gentle],
    for ·the whole earth will be theirs [they shall inherit the earth;Ps. 37:11].
They are blessed who hunger and thirst after ·justice[righteousness],
    for they will be ·satisfied [filled].
They are blessed who show mercy to others,
    for ·God will show mercy to them [they will be shown mercy;the passive verb implies God as subject].
Matthew 5: 5-7 EXB  Jesus of Nazareth, (also known  as Redeemer, Son of God, Lord of Lords) _____________________________________
IF  My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV God Almighty (also known as Adonai, Everlasting God, Creator)
_____________________________________________
Hmmm…. Comparison?
And a BIG caution here to myself to avoid this easy-to-slip-into trap: I can’t ever think I can be proud of my humility, because then my humility is really thinly disguised pride. A better theme song for me to sing is the one that goes:
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ, my God. All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31 Therefore,as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV 
…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV
Sigh, what a fine line I/we need to walk, remembering Whose we are first and Who gave us that position, knowing that nothing I’ve/we’ve ever done can make me/us righteous before a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. I freely admit here that I’ve fallen into the trap of “Maybe I can help you, God ….” My motives going in were right, but some of the dumb things I’ve done certainly did nothing to advance “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  I don’t adhere to those who lash their own backs to show repentance, because to me, that’s just more making it about ME, about what I can do to atone for myself.  I’m simply saying that God forgives when we truly repent, wipes the slate clean, and gives us chance after chance to let Him be God and us simply reflect Him. THAT is our business, not “I did it my way,” but “I did it HIS way.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV

Oh, ouch, that means lifting my paddle out of the water and letting Jesus steer the canoe, because He knows the better way to go. A complete stranger, Don,  gave me a powerful word from God several years ago that included these words:

                                                 I’m trying to bless you; you have to let me!

Stumble and fumble a paddle furiously as I’m often tempted, I get along much better when I sit down, shut up, hold on and LET GOD.  The song I’d like played at my funeral is this one by Robin Mark, one of my favorite Christian singers, with the caveat that it’s the way I WANT to live my life,  not the way I unfailingly did, and I pray Holy Spirit always leads me to and in God’s way, even if I trip and stumble and pull hard on His hand in the wrong direction. Count the number of you’s and your’s, you’ve and you’re’s  in the lyrics:

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
Finding purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For you’ve showed me Heaven’s  my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone.

If I could re-write Sinatra’s song,

For what is a (wo)man, what has (s)he got?
If not Jesus, then (s)he has naught.
To say the things (s)he truly feels;
And lift God’s praise as one who kneels.
The record shows Christ took the blows –
I’ll do it HIS way!

No “BUT’s” about it, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  And may I say, when all is said and done, in a humble way, I hope I did it HIS way.

A Smidge of Midge

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This would likely be a Midge-ism too

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I’ve probably known Midge since 1992 or so, when she almost certainly  became the favorite “Aunt” figure of every woman at the Joy women’s retreats. Midge worked for a Christian publishing company as a representative, and boy, did she have the stories to tell when she spoke on Friday nights or Saturdays, giving a short devotional talk before our sessions that moved us every time. Midge’s voice was and is warm with a twinkle, gathering you into what you knew must be a great secret she was about to share with you. I still remember, though the details are sketchy so many years later, Midge talking about walking one day up on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona and the eagle she suddenly saw flying high above her, a sign from the Lord she loves that He was with her.

I don’t know how long Midge has been a widow, nor do I know how many grown men look to her as a truly loving Mother/Grandmother figure who very likely touched and turned their lives around while they were incarcerated in the city jail. That’s no doubt where Midge’s humor, common sense, and deeply faith-filled light shone the most brightly, as light does in the midst of darkness.

I thought of tiny Midge going into the jail, sharing her faith with criminals, and I was amazed. She went where we suburbia-chained girls feared to tread. Oh, we’d make up food baskets for the needy, sew clothing for orphans in other countries, but GO THERE? Go to the homeless, the hungry, the dirty, the war-torn, the drug addict, the time-serving burglar or grand theft auto thief? No, no, no, that was for trained seminarians and counselors, not for us clean-living ladies. But hmmm…….

…. Where did Jesus go?  I honestly admit it took tragedy in my own life to help me accurately answer that question by driving me into the arms of Abba God when nothing I could do could change my circumstances. The ocean of love I found there, passionate, fiery, giving, relentlessly forgiving, gave me new eyes to see others, I hope,  as Jesus sees them, and the weird thing is, that takes away your fear of the “differences” between you and them and closes the distance between you.

Midge, you inspired me! You are one fearless lady, powered by the love of God, and you showed me that age is no definer of purpose; God’s purposes throw off the “be sensible” constraints of “age.”

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;

Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you….

Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ Isaiah 46: 3-4, 8-10 NIV

So gray hair doesn’t mean sidelined, benched when you’re on God’s team?  MAYBE it also doesn’t mean I’m “entitled” to simply sit on my lawn chair on the beach at Club Med and watch the waves roll in or play Bocce with buddies  in my comfortable 55+ retirement community in while people whose lives matter to God sit discouraged, angry or filled with shame in the city jail, while shoeless children have to stay home from school in my own town, while the hungry homeless sit on park benches and wonder if they matter to anyone, while kids in the neighborhood of my church flounder in school because their family can’t afford a reading tutor?

Maybe my life can still have great meaning and purpose even after I qualify for the senior coffee at McDonald’s? Maybe my life can have great meaning and purpose BECAUSE I qualify for discounts at the movie theater. I think I know where Midge would NOT want to end up

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green ( full of sap and very green {NAS}, healthy and flourishing {KJV 2000}) , proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” Psalm 92:12-15 NIV

I didn’t notice that punctuation until this morning. Not “like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the LORD,” but “like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish ….” That sounds pretty doggone intentional to me, like maybe God meant for us to be vigorous, green, bending like young saplings when we need to, standing for God’s Truth when we need to, knowing the difference and speaking the truth always out of and in love, getting over ourselves to see others through YOUR eyes and rub shoulders and love them like YOU would. Sigh, even senior-coffee-qualifying I have been planted by the Heavenly Gardener in God’s garden in order to flourish and bear fruit even in (ugh to youth-conscious Americans) my old age.

When I interviewed for a night job at the zoo that was filled mostly by college students, I honestly offered, “I know I’m older than anyone applying for this job, but if it doesn’t bother you, it sure doesn’t bother me.” Oddly, I got along just fine with those men and women 40 years my junior, and we had fun together!

Oh, Midge, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as vibrant as you, unless it’s your buddy and mine, Sharon, who treks off to Guatemala with those cute pillowcase dresses for girls that the suburban ladies DO make out of love and plants herself into the dust of their villages with an infectious smile on her face. Midge, you rubbed off on us!  If I call you “sappy,” I know you’d giggle your giggle and get it and be proud to be “sappy” for Jesus!  Midge, Sharon, can I join your club? And hey you out there, the one with the cheap cup of coffee in your hand while you’re reading this, ask God if it’s time for you to be “sappy” for Him somewhere you didn’t imagine.  And hey you out there, young person, can you take a new look at those “sappy” old people you’ve been praying it will take you a LOOONG time to look like, and commit to God’s “sappy” purpose for your life right now?

I want a smidge of Midge in me forever! (And yes, I held snakes,cockroaches, skinks, and nice bunnies …. who’d a thunk?)

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will be full of sap and very green ), proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him…. For I am (HE is!) God, and there is no other; I am (HE is!)God, and there is no one like Me (HIM!), declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My (GOD’s!) purpose will be established (in YOU), and I will accomplish all My good pleasure (IN  AND THROUGH YOU!)’ the Rose Paraphrased Version

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know I’m __________________________ years old and not getting any younger, BUT that doesn’t mean my life is pointless. Right now put a “smidge of Midge” in me and point me to Your purposes for me, wherever and with whomever you plan to plant me, maybe ________________________________ to be “sappy” for Your Kingdom reasons! In Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _____________________________________________