It was never about the whale…

by DanWolgemuth on December 3, 2021

I think I’ve gotten the story wrong for years. You know, the story of Jonah. The story about a lead actor with a sea creature in a supporting role. The following two verses of scripture sum up the distilled version of nearly every Jonah account.

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (1:17)

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (2:10)

Who of us doesn’t love a good story about a swallowing and a vomiting?

Yet… I can’t help but believe that I have picked the wrong two verses as hooks to hang my Jonah lesson on. Certainly, these verses are less suitable for animation and presentation, but they are deeply revealing, and frankly, profoundly relevant.

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: Didnt I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. (Jonah 4:1-2)

It is highly unlikely that I will ever experience aquatic consumption, and even less likely that I will encounter the regurgitation aligned with that event. But make no mistake, the two verses from the 4th chapter hit me squarely between the eyes, and on a daily basis.

Selective compassion. That’s the diagnosis for Jonah, and for me as well.

I love to talk about, preach, write and proclaim the profound virtue of God’s compassion and mercy. I speak words of gratitude for the evidence in my own life. But… my personal compassion has boundaries. Lines that mark the limits of my love and grace.

Love me. But don’t love them.

Be gracious to me. But save your breath on them.

Extend abundant mercy and grace on those that are a part of my tribe. But, whatever you do, don’t be gracious to that crew.

God is compassionate. He is slow to anger and overflowing in resilient and durable love.

To prostitutes and celibates. To rich and poor. To scholars and fools. To Jews and Gentiles. To students of the Law, and to the demon possessed. To zealots and tax collectors. To conservatives and liberals. In Jerusalem and in Nineveh.

What about me? Am I as compassionate? Is selective compassion the diagnosis of my life and living?

Do my prayers for good, and not for evil bump into the boundary of my own prejudice? Does anger and resentment stir inside of me when I see God extend grace to those to whom I won’t?

It was never about a whale. It was always about the unfathomable depths of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. And that is even more incomprehensible than a man-eating fish. Compassion. Wrapped in strips of cloth. Jesus… compassion in the flesh.  On it’s way to Nineveh, whether I like it or not.

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Fourth

by DanWolgemuth on November 19, 2021

“The greatest of these is love.” Then, and now… and for eternity.

Lisa Johnson.

That was the name that quickened the pulse of nearly every 8th grade boy that walked the halls at Edison Junior High. She was poised, mature and lovely.

I didn’t know very much about her… just that she lived with her Aunt and Uncle, and that she had a cousin who was also in our 8th grade class. Although I never asked her directly, the story was that her parents had been killed in an accident and consequently, she had moved to Wheaton to live with extended family. Enough pain and loss to make her more serious and settled than any of the rest of us.

Lisa was in my “home room” class which afforded me the opportunity of seeing her every school day. The counterbalance to Lisa’s posture and appearance was… well, me. I was undersized, reserved, and seemingly invisible, at least to the likes of Lisa.

One day, a wave of courage swept over my 75-pound frame and I scratched a note on a small piece of paper. It simply read,

Lisa, I like you. Do you like me?

Danny

I folded it and somehow slipped it to her at the conclusion of a class session. And then I waited.

Within a day, Lisa dutifully and punctually slipped me a reply note.

Danny,

Here is a list of all of the boys that I like.

Ten names completed the note. Ten.

My eyes scoured the list, like I had done as a 7th grader in a locker room, straining to see my name on the list of players who would be dawning the Panther black as basketball players.

I feared the same disappointing, absent name result. But alas, there I was. Nestled neatly into the middle of the pack, my name. Fourth, actually. A tick above average. Oddly, I felt a surge of comfort. I had made Lisa’s list. Fourth. I could live with that…

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

This was not the anxious question of an awkward 14-year-old. This was the final exam at the conclusion of a three-year internship. Jesus to Peter.

Do you love me?

Not, “Are you ready for what’s ahead?”

Not, “Can you remember everything I taught you?”

Not even, “Will you promise to tell other people about me?”

No, Jesus dropped Peter’s anchor on the bedrock of our hope. This was not the inquisition of an insecure leader, it was the calibration of a transformed, resilient and secure soul.

Do I love him?

Dear Jesus –

Here is a list of the ten things I love…

My list has good things. Important things. Noble things. And somewhere on the list… is Jesus. Sure, the list I would write and distribute would have Him in His rightful place, but my life would often position Him elsewhere. Maybe fourth.

But unlike me, Jesus wasn’t comforted to just make the list. Fourth is not why He came. Fourth is not why He endured humiliation and injustice. Fourth is not why He was crushed and ridiculed. Fourth is not why He hung on a cross. Fourth was not a part of His commissioning speech or His exit plan.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is not extra credit. It is our defining mark as followers of Christ.

And fourth is not good enough. But it’s often my reality.

Do I love Him more than these? More than the other nine things on my list? More. Not nestled safely in the pack with other good things… but more. First. Foremost.

This is the only anchor that holds. For Peter. For me. For you.

Jesus knew. He still does. If I don’t love Him, I can’t really love others. And if I do love Him, I will love others… and when I do, the world will know that He is who He said He was.

Confessing.  Repenting.  Embracing… love, in the only order that matters.

“Do you love me more than these?”

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We in a culture of Them

November 12, 2021

Hanging in my office is an artist’s rendition of an 80 year old Daniel and a collection of lions. The familiarity of the story often robs me of the consequential impact. Daniel. Courageous. Wise. Faithful. Loyal. Relevant. Brilliant. The stuff of flannel graph stories. The stuff of epic cinematography. While I love the diet managing, […]

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Casual Fridays

November 5, 2021

It was my first real job… a Systems Analyst for a small insurance company in Fort Wayne, Indiana. An annual salary of just north of $10,000 a year. But then, this was 1977. As an incentive to attract young college graduates, the company offered, Every Other Friday Off! I jumped at the opportunity. I bought […]

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3 Words

October 29, 2021

The Bible is a collection of over 783,000 words. 184,600 of them are in the New Testament, with 82,590 tucked in the four Gospels. Of these words, the Gospels record 31,426 spoken by Jesus. Each word measured and masterful. Every word a light. Yet, within the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks three words that anchor […]

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There are Falls, and then there are Falls

October 22, 2021

A snowless Fall has provided the perfect protection for a profound panorama of beauty. Splashes of color surround houses in our neighborhood. A full spectrum. An artist’s palette. It’s been stunning. The crescendo of this Fall experience erupted in a spontaneous prayer a couple of days ago while on a walk. “Lord”, I implored, “please […]

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Symptoms of The Sickness

October 15, 2021

COVID has propelled internet activity at intense levels. Many of the searches have to do with symptoms associated with the disease. Of all of the symptoms that seem focused and telling… the loss of smell and taste is high on the list. Over 50% of the individuals who contract COVID experience anosmia. Some say as […]

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Graybill and Cecelia

October 8, 2021

I stood at the gravesite. The place where a marble stone represents two lives that touched me deeply. At the very core, my grandparents, Graybill and Cecelia are the reason I am able to draw a breath, but in a very deep sense, their lives informed much of my earliest perspectives on what God was […]

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Sabbatical.

October 1, 2021

Three months. Rest. Renewal. Refreshment. Recommitment. Restoration. 6,000 miles of driving. Dirt roads in Western Colorado. The Beltway in Washington D.C. Downshifting. National Parks. Museums. Less Zoom. More introspection. Silence. Conversation. Music. More conversation.  Audio Books. Quiet. Laughter. Tears. Tenderness. Grit. Flashes of selfishness. A buffet of grace. Pioneering. Trips down memory lane. Reset. Re. […]

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An Invitation to a Spending Spree

September 24, 2021

*Dan is away for a summer sabbatical – a time of rest, rejuvenation and reverence.  Please enjoy one of our favorite Friday Fragments.  This Fragment was initially published on May 29, 2015. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John […]

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