Doris and I spent a few days on my uncle’s river farm in Northern Kentucky a couple of weeks ago. During our early morning walks I started picking up turkey feathers and buckeyes. By the end of the week I had twenty or so large turkey feathers and a dozen buckeyes. Last night we went out to eat for Sammy’s birthday with Josh and Jennifer, and of course, Jon-Mical and Jakson. I gave them the turkey feathers for “show and tell” at school.
I take full responsibility for all that followed. Jon-Mical gravely informed me that he is in the 4th grade and 4th graders do not do show and tell. Jakson, on the other hand, was delighted with his feathers. He used them as a huge fan to cool off his steaming hot, iced chocolate milk. He tickled everybody at the table a couple of times, including goosing the waitress when she brought the food. He used some of the feathers to adorn his pasta and marinara sauce, and then practiced writing his name on the table with the quill and marinara ink. At one point, I looked over and he had a long, beautiful turkey feather sticking in each nostril, looking a little bit like a miniature walrus with brown and black tusks. Jakson is a trip. Most meals out with him consist of an hour of “Jakson, get your feet off the table.” “Jakson, eat your spaghetti with a fork.” “Jakson, quit blowing bubbles in the ketchup.” “Jakson, get the turkey feathers out of your nose.”
For a lot of us, we have that image of God, not the turkey feathers, the constant chiding, correcting, fussing at us. We have a picture of a God that nit-picks at our every fault and takes some perverse delight in catching us in our mistakes. Sometimes I even imagine a “Whack-a-Mole” God who stands over me with a mallet, just hoping I’ll raise my little head so He can WHACK me back down into submission. Let’s face it, we have heard, more often than not, of an absent, angry God. He usually is not even around when we need Him, but if He is around He is just generally ticked at us and constantly expressing His displeasure at our behavior.
Now here’s the thing, many, maybe the majority of us, have replaced that perturbed, personal God with a loving Jesus. (Thank God for Him.) He intercedes for us. (We use that word.) He stands by the Father all day long and says, “Don’t hit him again Father. He will do better. He will get the turkey feathers out of his nose.” God is angry, but Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. But what does Jesus say about the Father?
Well, first He says that He is just like the Father and the Father is just like Him. John 14:9-11, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” In John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are One.“ And then He says that the Father God, the One we see as “Whack-a-Mole” God is all about love and drawing us to Himself. In maybe His most well-known line Jesus says, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16) Richard Rohr says, “Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about humanity but to change humanities mind about God.”
In other words, Jesus is not the arbitrator between us and a really angry God. He is instead the representative, in fact the very loving God who has always “loved us with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) Jesus says, “God is not out to get you. He is out to GET you, to love you so much that you are drawn to Him.” And this is not the new and improved God, different from the mean, vindictive God of the Old Testament. No, God has always been this way. Our image of Him has been skewed and Jesus came to fix that. My friend Dick Strickland wrote a book. The title is, “They Preached It Straight But I Heard It Crooked.” That has been our story coming out of the Old Testament. We have “heard” that God is mean, mad and massive, and we’d better mind our P’s and Q’s. Jesus says, “You got it all wrong. God is good, ALL THE TIME, and all the time, God is good.”
Okay, nice little devotion Mike. But what does that have to do with me, today?
Here’s three things. (You knew there would be three things, didn’t you?)
First, I see God differently for me. I quit living this anxious, neurotic, paranoid Christian life and begin reveling in the joy that Jesus has in mind when He said, “I’ve come that you might have ABUNDANT life.” It says something about us that most “non-believers” when asked about Christians, just recite a long list of what we are against. Jesus said, “They will know you are Christians by your love.” Instead, they know we are Christians by our strong stances against, well, almost everything.
Second, I see God differently for them. If all the above is true for us, (and it is) then it is true for them. I just don’t believe that God wants us to hold up placards of this exclusive, narrow-minded God who loves our little clan and nobody else. “God bless me and Ma and our two boys. We four and no more.” God is not an us against them God. He is and us and them together, trying to figure this thing out God. Listen, INCLUSIVE is not a four-letter word. We Christians should be owning that word rather than railing against it. Of course I believe the Bible is true. Of course there is sin and it breaks the heart of God. But if He really does “love the world,” then shouldn’t we? Rather than judging, and attacking, and accusing, shouldn’t we be finding ways to talk through, and love through the things that currently divide us? I am coming to believe that God is far more interested in us modeling the God that Jesus modeled when He ate with the sinners and tax collectors than in preaching the white, male, American God that we have created to keep us firmly entrenched in our places of privilege and power. (Oh me, did I say that out loud?)
Listen, God loves you. He is not mad at you. He is crazy about you. And, as much as I might not like it, He loves THEM. He is not mad at them. He is crazy about them. Which leads me to the third thing, I think you look terrific with turkey feathers in your nose. Keep up the good work.
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Mike, I love your words; as I know they are God inspired! God is using you and Doris in such a powerful way, and I thank Him for you! Well said!
Thank you. Very thought provoking about God’s love for us. Thank you for sharing.