Old Dog Learns New Trick

My mother’s humor could paint smiles on the saddest of faces. If it’s true that a good sense of humor is a sign of intelligence, then Mama was a genius. Conversely, her insight into people and situations often amazed me. Though she would have never considered it a “ministry”, the wisdom she shared with young women going through hard times often helped flatten their highest mountains. Her own struggles matured her reliance on God, and she didn’t mind sharing what she learned along the way.

Yet, one skill she lacked drove us both a little crazy. Technology was her nemesis. She held a job for years that required basic computer skills which she mastered. However, DVD players, Smart TV’s, and phones got the best of her – often! When they did, she called me – often!

Whenever I walked through her door to fix the same issue for the umpteenth time, she’d hand me a remote, laugh, and say, “I guess you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” She would much rather have me read all the manuals and then give her the Cliffs Notes version. If the truth be known, it was a win-win for us. She enjoyed me coming over so we could share a laugh, and she always made me feel needed.

For much too long, I approached my “religious” life the same way my mother approached technology. I trusted Sunday school teachers and preachers to do the hard reading. I wanted them to read the Bible and simply tell me what it said; I wanted the Cliffs Notes version.

Though I wasn’t much of a reader back then, I always THOUGHT I had a somewhat decent understanding of the Bible. I filled my memory verse chart with gold stars as a child. I knew where to find most of the go-to Scriptures my church tribe tightly embraced. I taught children’s classes for years, so I knew all about Creation, good old Noah, Father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. I read about prophets, priests, and kings. I paid attention to the life of Jesus and His disciples. The Crucifixion made me sad, but the Resurrection gave me hope. I read passages from Paul, Peter, and John. Like any good teacher, I thought I knew the whole scope and sequence of the Bible. In reality, I merely knew snippets of what my faith was supposed to be based upon. I never read from COVER TO COVER the most important book on my shelf. I thought reading the entire Bible would take too long. It would be boring. I wouldn’t understand it all, and besides, it would be hard to apply it to this day and time. It hurts my heart to admit all that, but sadly, it’s true.

It’s been four years now since Mama went to be with Jesus. Several years prior to that, I made it a point to read through the Bible every year. I’m glad I did because my life got a little squirrely after her passing. I needed my darkness dispelled by its light. I learned to see the entire book as a love letter from God that points us to the grace of Jesus. I saw how it teaches us to love God in return, rejoice in the grace of Jesus, and revel in our relationship with Him. I see how all of it was written for our good – not to condemn us, but to give us life! I see how love for God should motivate our good deeds, rather than the fear of losing our salvation. I can testify to the sound solutions it offers for every issue under the sun. After all, as Solomon said, “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV) But, in order to apply those solutions properly, it helps to read the entire book. It’s hard to walk in Jesus’ steps when we haven’t followed His every breadcrumb from start to finish.

It was easy for me to criticize, make fun of, or argue vehemently with someone when I only had snippets of truth. Now, I have no excuse. I’ve read the whole book, and even though I still have much to learn, I’ve learned enough to know that God loves you and me immeasurably.  He wants each of us to experience His love so we can love others. He remains patient with us as we continue to learn because He wants all of us to live with Him forever. What if we tried listening to each other and seeing things from another’s perspective? We don’t have to agree, but we can listen. Mama taught me that a good sense of humor helps sweeten the air. That sweet air might also help us find common ground on which to build a better relationship. 

Sunday, our pastor said something that went straight through my heart and landed heavily on my toes. He said, “I want my life to be so attractive that people who know me but don’t know God want to know God because they know me.” Read that one more time. “I want my life to be so attractive that people who know me but don’t know God want to know God because they know me.” 

I saw another toe-squishing quote yesterday that gave me cause to pause. It said, “The test of Christianity is not loving Jesus, it’s loving Judas.” Ouch! Jesus is easy, but Judas? Not so much. Yet, Jesus called him “Friend”.

The passage of time may change our world, but the world cannot change the timeless Word of God. God can and will forgive our mistakes and put us back on the right path for the umpteenth time when we ask. I no longer want only the Cliffs Notes version of the Bible handed to me. I want it all – every sentence, every word – because this old dog learned a new trick in her darkness: 

“JOYFUL are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. JOYFUL are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.” 

“You have charged us to keep Your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with Your commands. As I learn Your righteous regulations, I will thank You by living as I should! I will obey Your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!” (Psalm 119:1-8 NLT, emphasis mine)

And all the church said …?

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