Seeking a Stronger Witness

A Common Foundation

When we took our youngest son to visit Southwestern University during his Sr. year in High School, I was not sure what to expect.  You see, we graduated from Southwestern in 1983 and I had been on campus only once since that time, and that was 25 years earlier.  As I walked the campus with Sam and his tour-mates, I noticed several things, some of which I had heard about but not ever seen.  The campus had changed from a driving campus to a walking campus and the streets we had driven were now closed to all but foot and bicycle traffic.  The Fraternity house I spent so much time in had been demolished and replaced.  The commons where I ate many awful meals was gone and the cafeteria had been moved to another building that, when I was a student, had served a completely different purpose.  As the tour guide regaled us with stories and traditions, I realized that many of the traditions that made my college years so rich with meaning had faded away and new “traditions” had taken their place.  In general, the campus looked the same, but really was not.

But its purpose remains steadfast.  Southwestern is a fine school with high academic standards and a close-knit atmosphere that prepares young college kids for the rigors of life in the adult world.  And the truth?  Where I saw what was no longer, and wistfully remembered things that would not be experienced by my youngest son, Sam saw something else.  He saw the future.  Where I remembered what was, he anticipated what would be.  And both of us had that experience from a common foundation that is the excellence of the school!

In Ezra, chapter 3, the people of Judah who were returning from exile in Babylon had a similar experience.  They were preparing to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed when Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon.  Here is part of that story:

“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:

‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.”  (Ezra 3:10-12)

All of these people; young and old, long-timers and newcomers, were excited to be back in Jerusalem.  They were happy they could worship again as they wished and they were anticipating restoring the house of the Lord.  But some of them remembered the old times and knew that what was ahead of them was not going to be what had been behind them.  Still others had no appreciation of things gone by since they had not experienced them, and anticipated with joy what God had in store for the future.  Neither group was right.  Neither was wrong.  Both were building on the same foundation – “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

How about us?  Many of us, thinking about past friends and triumphs will inevitably mourn the passing of what was.  Still others among us will embrace the future with joy and anticipation.  Just remember – the past never truly dies…it simply strengthens our stance on the foundation.   And the future cannot happen without the witness of the past…for we cannot be going TO somewhere if we are not first FROM somewhere.  Together we bear witness to the foundation we share in Christ Jesus.

The very next verse from what I quoted above says,

No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.” (Ezra 3:13)

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?  We celebrate our past and jump without reservation into an unknown future.  We weep, we laugh…we mourn and we wait expectantly to see what God has in store.  All of us.  With a sure foundation in Christ Jesus.

“He is good; his love towards us endures forever.”

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Seeking a Stronger Witness

Ice Cream Foot

I saw a video this past week.  As I saw it posted a number of times, you might have seen it, too.

In this video is a baby (I’m guessing boy, because I can’t see a baby girl doing this) sitting in his car seat.  He appears to be a year or so old and is barefoot.  In his left hand is an ice cream that has been licked down to almost the lip of the cone.  The baby is enjoying the ice cream, but in an unusual way.  That is the funny part of the video.

He takes his right foot into his right hand (remember, the feet are bare!), rubs it across the surface of the ice cream and then pulls his foot to his lips, licking the ice cream off, then repeating the repast.  At one point it appears he gets some between his little toes, and proceeds to suck them into his mouth to enjoy the sweet treat.

Now, watching this video I had several thoughts.  First, I wondered about the kid’s neurosensory ability, as it seems the cold ice cream would not be comfortable on the tender skin of a baby’s foot.

Second, I thought like a dad.  Who would allow their child to do such a thing?  After all, heaven only knows where that foot has been.  Further, if we don’t nip this thing in the bud right now, the time might come when he is sitting at the first meeting of his future in-laws when they serve ice cream for dessert.  You can imagine what might happen then!

Finally, I wondered what strange and alien thought process led this young innocent to the notion that his foot was either the easiest or most efficient way to eat an ice cream cone.  But after a few moments of that thought I shifted back into dad mode and remembered that there is no understanding why kids do many of the things they do.

I shared the video and my thoughts with a friend and he said something that stunned me.  He suggested a reason for this incomprehensible behavior that never occurred to me.  He said, “Maybe he doesn’t like how cold the ice cream feels in his mouth, so he uses his foot because by the time the treat gets to his mouth it is warmed enough to enjoy.”  Then he told me that his grandson eats ice cream with his fingers for the same reason.  Wow.  In a weird and twisted way, that makes perfect sense.

Here is the thing.  I know people and I am sure you do too, who do and say things we find strange, distasteful and, in our opinion, just plain wrong.  What do we normally do when we encounter such individuals?  Do we seek to understand them?  Do we give them the benefit of the doubt and look past the differences to forge deeper and more lasting relationships?  Sadly, we usually do not.  When people are different from us, especially if they do something we don’t like, we usually distance ourselves from them, preferring to seek out the company of people more like us…people with whom we agree…people who don’t offend us with their actions or words.

In the 14th chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, the apostle writes these words:

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  (Romans 14:10-13)

You see, it is not for us to judge others.  We have our own issues and should focus on what we will have to account for rather than what we think of others.  We cannot fully know why people think or act the way they do until we know them better.  And maybe, with seeking to know them, we might find that they make more sense than we originally thought, and our understanding of them can unite us on a deeper level…a level of common faith in Christ that can and should unite us all. 

After all, if we let ice cream on a foot keep us apart, we might miss the rich intimacy that comes from sharing together in the love of Christ that is for us all.  So…let us love one another, seek to understand and serve one another, bringing honor and glory to God who has redeemed each of us by His love.