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Rich, and Enriching

Clara Hobson never had a lot of money, but she wasn’t poor, either. I’m not sure it mattered, because Clara had very little desire for the things most people esteem—the expensive car, a cavernous home, a wardrobe bursting at the seams, bling. Simple was enough. Tangible treasures to her were books with their mind-expanding capacity and photographs through which she re-lived her travels and embraced her family yet one more time.

And people. Clara never had much extra money to invest in financial markets, but she poured herself into a marketplace of people. Quick to listen and patient to speak, she honored their value and earned their trust. Exceedingly wise, yet humble in demeanor, she was grounded guidance in the bustling bazaar that is this world. Confident and joyful in the faithfulness of God, she exuded stability amid turbulence and certainty amid confusion. No wonder people sought her counsel and calm.

Clara Hobson was my grandmother. Her final days were lived out in a nursing home, where she could receive the quality of care she needed. Confined to her bed and her body failing, her world receded and narrowed as it does in our final, waning months. Looking around her room one day, I was struck by the paucity of possessions—a few family pictures, her Bible (and perhaps another book, I’m not sure), and a dress in her wardrobe, maybe two. That was it, she possessed nothing more. And I thought, there’s something beautiful about this, something pure. We come in with nothing, and we take nothing with us when we leave. In the end, it’s just us and God.

If there were any possessions, other than keepsakes, that made their way to my brother, my sister and me, I’m unaware of it. But Grandma gave us plenty; she gave to us what she gave to everyone else—a living example of what it means to entrust one’s life entirely to God, to fully invest one’s life into others, and to build our treasures in heaven. In truth, she was very rich, and she greatly enriched her world. May we live in such a way that the same can be said of us.

Father, lead me in wisdom and in love, so that, putting behind me the pursuits of this world, I am free to bless the people of this world. I ask this through Christ Jesus, your Son, my Lord. Amen.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Christ in me is humility.

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Without Warning

Peggy and I loved our first house, and like most first-time home buyers we eagerly got to work on making the place feel like “us.” Several coats of paint covered the baseboards and window frames, for instance, so we bought a heat gun to peel back to the natural woodwork. As I opened the package and scanned the instructions, what do you think was the very first rule on the list? “Do not use as a hair dryer.” I’m not kidding. Now, a paint-stripping heat gun can reach 1000 degrees, so I understand the manufacturer’s sense of responsibility, but what does this warning tell us but that someone, somewhere, had tried to use the tool for this very purpose?

Recalling this episode from 30 years ago, I recently snooped around a bit to see what other outrageous rules I could find. There were plenty; here are a few. Dashboard sun shade: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” Dremel rotary tool: “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.” Clothes iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” And this one from a small-tractor manufacturer couldn’t have been more straight-forward: “Avoid death.” (Noted!) Why does the most brilliant species on the planet need such rudimentary rules to protect us from the obvious? Simple. It’s because common sense eludes us at times, doesn’t it?

We could look at God’s law the same way, couldn’t we? Think about it: Do not murder people. Do not steal other people’s stuff. Do not steal other people’s spouses, either. And don’t even think about making up other gods. I mean, why do we need warning labels for the basics of morality? Simple. It’s because, despite our best intentions, living in love can elude us, too. So, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brought the matter home a little bit more. Don’t murder people … and don’t even hold a grudge against them. Don’t steal other people’s stuff … in fact, give to those who ask. Don’t steal other people’s spouses, either … in fact, don’t even entertain the thought, but just move on. Jesus’ point? True love is selfless, no matter the cost, regardless of outcome.

Concluding the best sermon ever told, Jesus told the people this: “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” (Matthew 7:24, 25). He thus counseled all humankind to build our life on God’s love and truth, for real love needs no warning labels.

Jesus, your words are life. Fill us with your Spirit, that we would recall your counsel, internalize your truth, and live in the love that can only come from you. Amen.

Christ in me is wisdom.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Matthew 7:24-29.]