Wednesday, January 19, 2011


When I was a kid I went wandering with a friend of mine. I was very young; probably only five or six, at the time when “wandering” was not as unsafe as it is today. Still, given my youth, it was probably one of my first Bad Ideas. My memory of the incident is somewhat hazy, so I don’t remember exactly what possessed us to go anywhere, but we did. Probably the monotony of being safe and well fed every day of our lives was getting to us.
My friend Carol lived across the street from us, and we were friends all the years that I lived in that neighborhood. We probably just told our parents we were going out to play and took off without a second thought. We started walking up our street and eventually, as one always does, we reached the corner. We had never been this far before so the view was different. We had been past it in our respective family cars of course, but the view from your feet is always different than behind the car window. It’s always been a wonderful experience for me when I wind up someplace new. The air is different, the sights are new, and everything has a refreshing look.
We chose a right turn at that corner, and as we came to the next corner turned right again. We walked about halfway down the street, and stopped in front of a house we did not know. The house was owned by an older couple who were enjoying the day in their front yard. They recognized that we did not live on their street, and that we were much too young to be off on our own as we were, so they invited us into their home and started gently pumping us for information. I vaguely remember being asked if we knew our phone numbers, and addresses. They were suitably impressed with our knowledge, and put it to good use. While one of them made a discreet phone call the other kept us occupied by showing us their television remote, which was quite a gadget back then.
To understand the impact of the remote control I should tell you the state of television technology of the times. Anyone under 30 probably takes the current technology for granted so I must give some background. I should also say here that I know those who are older than me (like all of my siblings since I am the youngest of six) will be quick to remind me that all they had were radios (just kidding!). Rest assured: I know.
It was around 1965 and most people still had to get up and actually touch the TV in order to change anything on it at all. If you wanted color and you couldn’t afford a color TV you got a glass screen that was strategically tinted. The top third was blue for the sky, the middle was clear, and the bottom was green for the grass. This worked well if everything you watched were panoramic outdoor scenes, but if you were watching anything with close-ups of people you thought they were either aliens or very, very ill. We didn’t have one, and I don’t recall missing it. Today it’s possible to get a system which receives 47,892 channels. Back then we had 7, maybe 8 if you were lucky and had a rooftop antenna. So you can understand that when the remote control made its debut people thought it was the biggest thing since Bisquick. I had never seen one before and was quite fascinated by it.
It consisted of a small box with two buttons. One button changed the channels forward and the other backward. There was a long wire connecting this box to another box fitted over the channel knob on the TV. That was the other thing about TV’s then: everything was controlled by a knob. It was called Knob Technology. The box over the knob had a small motor in it that was activated by the button on the remote box. I could not get enough of this technological wonder. Why is it that anything with a button seems to be irresistible to a child? If you want a child to do something that he or she doesn’t want to do, all you have to do is glue a fake button on it and that child will do whatever you want them to do as long as you tell them they have to press that button to do it. I really don’t know why the child psychologists haven’t caught on to this yet. They were probably remote control deprived as children. I pressed the button and the channel changed! I pressed it again and it changed again! When I held the button down it changed over and over again! I’m sure this gentleman must have been getting a little irritated with me because I’m pretty sure I remember seeing a football game on the screen when I first looked at it.
At any rate, this adventure eventually came to its inevitable end. I walked out of their house (apparently I got bored with the remote), and I looked up to see my sister Diane standing a few houses down with her hands on her hips and a very stern look on her face. Now everyone has had some experience with "The Look". "The Look" is a genetic code that is imprinted on every persons DNA. As children we have receptors in our brains that allow us to recognize and interpret the threat level related to "The Look" that we are getting. As we grow these receptors convert to what are probably best described as “generators” that give us the ability to actually perform "The Look" for our own children or any children under our care. I was obviously still in the receptor stage of development; because when I saw my sister with The Look on her face my immediate reaction was to run in the other direction. I didn’t get very far though. She easily caught up to me, and I was soon being walked back home along with Carol. I don’t remember the punishment I received for my wanderlust, but I suspect I was probably grounded for a while. Such was the end of my adventure that day. I have rarely thought of it since then, and as is usually the case I don’t know what made me think of it now.
But one thing that I never thought about before now was what everyone else went through when they realized I was gone. My family was looking for me, but I was oblivious to their concern.
One thing I know for sure is that I was missed. I was marked by my absence from someone else’s life. Each of us has a place, a spot that only each of us individually can fill in someone else’s life. God knows my place, and He’ll put me there if I allow Him to. I often try to determine my own fate, go my own way, but my feet are rarely pointed in a satisfying direction. I am never satisfied for very long, and I become again that child with the remote just watching the picture change and never settling on one channel.
Do you know what God’s first concern for you is? It is not that you become famous or rich or influential. It is not that you become an advisor to kings or presidents. It is not that you be a hero. God’s first concern for you is that you allow Him to show you how important you are to Him. It is that you let Him show you the mansion He has prepared for you. The place you are meant to be. The thing you are created to do; the “calling with which you have been called.” (Eph.4:1) Your worth is not in your work, nor in your looks. Your worth is wholly determined by God Himself. When the world ignores you, when you go missing, God is calling your name to the farthest reaches of heaven! He knows where you are, but He longs to hear you answer.
When I wandered off I never asked why I was doing it or why I wanted to. I never once thought about the impact my absence would have on someone else. When I walked away my whole family mobilized to find me, and when I wander spiritually all of heaven is moving to intercede for me. But the impact of the action of God on my life is determined by how, or if, I acknowledge His action on my behalf.
Do I acknowledge that He knows my needs better that I do? Do I make myself ready and willing to act on His desires before my own? Have I done what I can to make my need of Him match His desire for fellowship with me?
I will never know all of the people I have influenced for the good or bad. Not everyone tells me what they think of me, or what I’m worth to them. This is probably just as well because I’m sure there are many to whom I mean very little, but God has said, and I must believe Him that I am worth more than all of creation to Him. It is His devotion to me that needs to find my corresponding devotion to Him. I need to allow His presence in me to become so complete that I can love Him in myself.
The path I need to choose is one that most have long since abandoned. The path of faith is often overgrown and clogged by the weeds of my self indulgence. He finds me anyway, trapped in the thicket needing Him to free me once again. Hoisted onto His shoulders He carries me so I can replenish my strength to walk again. And later, when I am again distracted by something off the path, He once again comes in search of me, calling my name.
And I can tell you from personal experience that the sweetest sound the ears of this constant prodigal have ever heard is my own name on the lips of God!
©Dan Bode 2005

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Looking back on the last year I have come to understand something about myself.
It is this:

God has made me into a patient man.

On the inside at least.
There are those who would disagree.

I know this because the year before I was a person who could have made very rash and stupid decisions. This last year I wasn’t that kind of man.
Patience is something I’m pretty sure I have never consciously asked for. Mainly because in asking for it I know that I will be faced with something that will cause me to have to be patient.
It is a very painful process.
And God made me a very patient man.

I know that I am patient because I did not make a lot of decisions that I wanted to. Decisions that would have changed my life, and maybe the lives of others, in a less than positive way. There were so many times when in the midst of my fear or anger I was so tempted to do something, and God would whisper, “Hush. I have given you another day to live. Tomorrow will be different from today, and better than it looks right now. You have another day to see the difference. Wait, and I will show you a better way.”
So I waited. And He did.
And God made me a very patient man.

I used up a lot of Grace. Boatloads, as a matter of fact. Supertankers even.
It is my abundant good fortune that God does not put a quota on it.
It was in making me patient that He allowed me to see that I was, in fact, extending His Grace to others through me. Because Grace is all about Christ bearing the consequences of our sin, is it not? And I am not in a position to extend the consequences of someone’s sin on to their shoulders am I?
Many things did not go according to my plans or expectations. Maybe someone didn’t do something the way I wanted, or circumstances turned against me. So, I made other plans to make up for it, and once again found that my ability to control anything is insufficient. So things went differently, and wound up being just as good, or better, in the end.
And He said, “Hush. I have given you another day to live…"
So I just moved forward and did what God needed me to do instead.
And God made me a very patient man.

I discovered that the only real things of any value I have to offer anyone, and that I have any control over, are my love and my own integrity. I realized this year that my patience kept these things intact.
Years ago a friend once told me, “The things God calls us to do are very often those things that are the exact opposite of what we are naturally inclined to do.”
Patience has never been an automatic, or natural, response for me. It is something I learn on a continuous basis. I think the difference now is that I expect to learn it. I already know that I will be “naturally inclined” to do something differently, and so I will wait and look at the opposite response.

In the coming year on those occasions when I find myself sitting in that room of unfulfilled desires and failed expectations, and I spread my tears upon the dusty floor, God will whisper once again that ever present refrain, “Hush. I have given you another day to live. Tomorrow will be different from today, and better than it looks right now. You have another day to see the difference. Wait, and I will show you a better way.”
And I will continue to be the very patient man God made me to be.
©Dan Bode 2011