Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, April 29, 2022

For Love Nor Money



Full disclosure. I did not know that tipping your gas bar attendant was even a thing until recently when my husband began pumping gas for a local filling station. The first time he brought home tips, we were like, “Really?”

Once we thought about it, the idea made so much sense. We tip restaurant wait staff who, though they work for minimum wage, can at least do so in the comfort of a heated or air-conditioned building. Why wouldn’t we also tip gas attendants working for the same wage but freezing their hands and faces while they do? Why had we never thought of this before? We wish we could go back in time and tip all the people who’ve pumped our gas over the past forty years. Alas, on a gas attendant’s wages, we can’t afford retroactive tipping. But you can bet we’ll tip going forward. More income to claim on your tax return!

Is yours done yet? Did your charitable receipts reduce what you owe?

Last fall, the Liberal party won another election. Page 4 of their platform promised, among other things, that they would, “…no longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centers) that provide dishonest counseling to women about their rights and about the options available to them at all stages of the pregnancy.”

I can’t think of anyone who would support an organization that provides “dishonest counseling,” can you? I’m happy our local pregnancy support center supplies accurate, scientific information about how a fetus develops in addition to outlining a woman’s legal options. I’m thankful they offer practical, emotional, and spiritual support to each client, whatever choice she makes. I’m grateful they provide a safe place for the hurting and afraid. I’m glad women don’t need to be alone at this vulnerable time.

So if your organization always tells the truth, you need not fear. Right?

I know. That may be the most na├»ve statement I’ve ever made.

I’m not here to argue which point of view has science on its side or to speculate how government officials might interpret these new rules, should they pass. I’d rather pose different questions. When it comes to charitable giving, how big a factor is your tax receipt? Where did we get the idea that charitable tax receipts are a God-given right? Why do organizations assume their supporters would stop giving if they couldn’t receive that magic receipt?

I suppose some might. But if the main reason you give is for the tax deduction, my friend, your heart is not in the right place. When God instructed us to tithe, to support the work of those “in the trenches,” so to speak, charitable tax receipts did not exist—though the government of the day certainly collected taxes.

What if this turns out to be better for everyone? What if those who believe in the sanctity of human life from conception rise to the challenge? What if more people volunteer? What if the rule forces churches to declare where they stand? If God cares about this issue, is he limited by whether or not you and I receive a tax receipt? If he’s that limited, are you sure he’s a god worth following?

A few things to ponder as we wind up another tax season.

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:7-8 (ESV)

 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Give My Regrets to Broadway

A few months ago, someone asked a question for which I had no answer. “What do you do to play?”

Excuse me. Play?

I mean, I have hobbies. I like reading. Watching movies. Going for walks when the weather’s nice. I enjoy writing, of course. You already know about my Wordle habit. But I wouldn’t call any of those things “play.” I don’t do sports. Most board games bore me. I don’t see my grandkids often enough to be pulled into their play much.

“Oh my gosh,” I thought. “I have no idea how to play!”

Then I received an email. The Glesby Centre was hosting a “Broadway Bootcamp” for youth over spring break, led by StudioWorks Academy in Winnipeg. They generously offered an evening session to Prairie Players members, free of charge. Was I interested? Sure, why not? Sign me up. Maybe I’ll get a blog post out of it.

As almost always happens, I began dragging my heels as the evening approached. Why did I say I’d attend this thing? Freezing rain was falling. My couch was calling. Now I had to go because I’d coerced my friend Vicki into joining me and I couldn’t risk ticking her off by not showing up.

In the first thirty seconds, though, I felt glad I’d gone. If nothing else, I got to see some faces I had not seen—or seen only in passing—for over two years. We gathered on the stage in our socks to protect the floor from slush and mud. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I last felt that painted platform under my feet. Twenty minutes in, I realized something else.

I was playing!

Our two young leaders taught us some fun warm-up games that involved concentration, coordination, and tons of laughter. Silliness reigned as they forced us to make split-second, life-altering decisions, such as whether to “whiz” or “whoosh” one another, whether to hop over an imaginary bowling ball or yell “MINE!” and pick it up. We practiced rhythm and attentiveness in a game called “Big Booty.” We called each other out while chanting “IN. THE. SOUP.”

Well, I guess you had to be there.

We participated in some relaxation and exploration exercises. We moved our bodies. Breathed deeply. Made weird noises. Practiced our improv skills. Activities that would feel like torture to others, the way playing basketball or sitting through a football game feels to me.

Most of all, we laughed and enjoyed each other. I really don’t know how tough the last two years have been on these friends—what hardships or losses they’ve faced, what personal struggles they may have overcome. But I do know my own, and it’s fair to assume our challenges are universal. Hearing their laughter and seeing their smiles, even though some remained behind masks, brought healing in and of itself.

I had forgotten how much fun theater games can be. Turns out I do know how to play, and children are not the only ones who need to.

At my age, it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic to think I will ever get to SEE a Broadway play, let alone perform in one. I can live with that. I just hope I’m never too old to gather with like-minded people who truly enjoy this avenue of expression, personal growth, and fun.

How do YOU play?

“A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” (Proverbs 17:22 The Message)

 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Why God’s Grace is More Amazing than Yours

You may have seen the story circulated on social media. An elderly woman accidentally breaks some dishes in a store. Embarrassed and ashamed, she begins gathering the broken pieces. While other customers observe, she frets over how she’ll pay for the merchandise. The store manager comes along and tells her not to worry. Insurance will cover the loss. He orders his staff to clean the mess. The woman goes free, filled with gratitude.

The story is intended to give us a picture of God’s grace toward us when we blow it. It warms our hearts, but as an illustration of grace, something is lacking.

John 8 tells about the woman famously caught in adultery. Religious leaders catch her in the act (although her partner in crime somehow escapes their grasp). They throw her at Jesus’s feet, reminding him the law stated such a woman should be stoned to death. Jesus shows her mercy, advising the accuser without fault to throw the first stone. You’re probably familiar with the passage. I heard a sermon on this where the speaker invented a backstory for this woman in which she was sexually abused as a child. This may have been accurate; we can’t possibly know.

This version immediately incites our compassion for her. It places us on the woman’s side, but as an illustration of grace, something is lacking.

In the Old Testament, God instructs the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and to cherish and pursue her no matter how often she returns to her former ways. God intended Hosea’s marriage as an illustration of his love for his people, Israel, despite their unfaithfulness to Him. In a popular Christian novel based on Hosea (also recently released as a movie), the prostitute is a sex-trafficking victim since childhood. This premise makes her a sympathetic character, a smart move for an author to make—any author who understands human nature and how a good story works. (It also doesn’t hurt that she made the character beautiful.)

This assertion causes us to root for the character and cheer when she finally submits to love, but as an illustration of grace, something is lacking.

What if the old woman in the store was a rebellious teen who deliberately broke the dishes and defiantly spat in the manager’s face, but he still let her off the hook? We wouldn’t love the story nearly so much, but it would be a more accurate illustration of God’s grace.

What if the woman caught in adultery had been a man who chose an affair out of boredom—but Jesus still let him off the hook? We probably wouldn’t tell the story much, but it would be a more accurate illustration of God’s grace.

What if Hosea’s wife came from a place of privilege? What if her character in the novel was a pimp instead? We’d hate that story, but it would be a more accurate illustration of God’s grace.

Before we mortals can root for those who receive mercy, we want to understand why they did what they did. It was an accident. They were victims. They were trying to fill the empty hole in their heart. Those scenarios make God’s grace so much more palatable to us. Our sense of justice is too strong to cheer for a defiant scoundrel.

Until, of course, that defiant scoundrel is us.

That sense of justice we all share exists because we were made in the image of God. He is a God of justice. He demanded it.

And then he provided it. That’s what Good Friday is all about: Jesus, taking the blow for the thief, for the adulterer, for the pimp, for you, for me. Though each of us is free to reject it, God’s grace came first. In case you’ve forgotten what we’re celebrating this weekend.

Happy Easter.