All posts by tunemyheart

Mark Browning lives on 60 wooded acres in the Greater Bates City, Missouri metropolitan area. For over a quarter of a century he has been wed to the lovely Penny with whom he shares four children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, he teaches English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

Carry the Burden–1 John 5:2-3

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,–1 John 5:2-3

Last week, a young man in Independence–a young man with problems I can only begin to imagine–called his estranged girlfriend, the mother of his four-month-old child, over to his home where he shot her. With her lying dead in his home, he called her father to report his deed and to announce that now he would shoot himself, which he did.

In the course of moments, two people were dead and an innocent was left orphaned. However, this story did not really develop in just moments. This story was, in fact, years, even generations in the making.

I know enough about the young lady’s life to recognize the obstacles life had placed in front of her. Her mother abandoned her and her three siblings when they were quite young. Her father was a less than terrific role-model. Mom and Dad met at Mom’s work, as an “exotic” dancer. Great stuff, eh?

But then Mom can’t be completely blamed. Her father was in prison during her childhood and she was raised by grandparents who were, apparently, not quite up to the task. And who’s to say that the generation before them didn’t drop the ball in some way?

I don’t offer all these observations in order to beat up on a family that is already reeling from a tragedy. Nobody, no matter what their failings, deserves what happened in Independence last week, and Lord knows I have plenty of failings of my own. Instead, I offer these facts to remind myself, and you as well, that the wages of sin is death. That applies not only in the eternal sense, but in the short term as well. Death, whether dramatic and violent death or a slower, less obvious sort, follows inevitably when people do not follow the commands of God.

Those commands are not burdensome, John assures us. He’s not asking us to climb Mount Everest each morning before breakfast. He’s not asking us to learn multiplication tables up to the 100s or memorize all the former cabinet officers of the U.S.

For this generation and for the next, for those close to us and those we scarcely know, for those who died by violence last week and those whose lives were scarred forever, for the glory of God and the increase of his kingdom, let us put our shoulders into bearing that light burden.

Family Love–1 John 5:1

<blockquote><em>Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.</em>–1 John 5:1</blockquote>

Think about the people with whom you go to church or perhaps the people in your family. Somewhere among that cast of characters there is somebody who just drives you buggy, right? I can think of a couple such people. One person is simply too blunt, saying whatever comes into her mind regardless of how rude it might be. Another has this issue with doing laundry often enough. A last person simply never shuts up, yammering on as my eyes glaze over.

We also have our favorites, the people we enjoy spending time with. I have a good group whose company I greatly enjoy, people I admire and look forward to seeing. This entry is not about them. It’s about the people in the first paragraph.

It’s so easy to love the paragraph two people, but not so easy to love the ones in paragraph one. In our family, we almost have to make a good show of getting along with everyone, but in church we can get away with less civility. That’s not how it ought to be, however. We are–you and I–brothers and sisters. John makes that clear today. And when you’re a member of the family, even when your brother or sister drives you nuts, you make nice for the sake of the family, for the good name and happiness of mom and dad.

Those annoying folks in paragraph one are my brothers and sisters, born of the same heavenly father as me. If I truly love that father, then I have to love his other children. Once again, John pulls aside the phony Christianity that I might like to cover myself with, exposing me for what I truly am. How about you? If you can’t love your Father’s kids, do you really love your Father?

Home Maintenance–1 John 4:20-21

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.–1 John 4:20-21

Today, I enjoyed a harrowing experience. Back on Monday, I made a list of things I needed to accomplish in the week to come. Since today is Friday, I’m down to finishing off all those matters that I had put off ’til tomorrow. Two of them stood out. “Get the ladder” and “Clean out gutter.”
Most people do not look forward to cleaning out gutters, but my gutter, on the back of the house, is particularly unpleasant. A complete two stories up, this stretch of gutter resists all attempts by sane people to reach it. I can’t get to it from the deck. There’s no window access. I considered getting onto the roof from the front and crawling over the top, but I’m too big a chicken for that. Instead, I borrowed my mother’s extension ladder, a wobbling, wiggling affair, and clambered up to a nervous look over the gutter’s edge.
They say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” In the case of gutters, I think that absence makes the heart ignore. I’ve known that this particular stretch of our gutters was messed up for a couple of years, but with its rather out-of-the-way location, I could easily ignore it. I can’t ignore my grass when it gets too tall but I can ignore the miniature wilderness area between our house and the “vampires” next door. What you don’t see very often is easy to block out.
As he continues to harp on the necessity of loving our brothers, John seems determined to demolish all of our pretenses, our illusions of truly loving God when we don’t. Think about it. When you see some able-bodied person’s yard a total mess, don’t you expect that the less obvious matters of home maintenance, matters like gutters, might not be getting proper attention. So it is with our love for God. If we can’t love the people right in front of us, who are we fooling when we say we love God? We’re not fooling God. Perhaps we’re just fooling ourselves.

Man’s Best Friend–1 John 4:19

We love [him] because he first loved us. –1 John 4:19

This morning, Kate has been running about the yard, barking at the geese and checking out the haunts of the neighborhood ground squirrels. As you’ve probably guessed, Kate is our dog, a Brittany Spaniel, given to us several years ago by a neighbor.

For the most part, Kate does all the things you’d want a dog to do. She growls and barks at intruders. She comes when you call her. Most importantly, she does things that should be done outside outside.

She also, on occasion, does things that aren’t particularly desirable. A couple of times, left on her own in the basement, she has dug through the trash to get at some enticing smell or another. When I come down and find the mess, though, Kate will cower on the floor. She knows she’s done wrong, and she doesn’t want me angry with her. She also, from time to time, runs off when we let her outside. Perhaps she chases a bird or some outside smell. We’ll yell for her to no avail. Inevitably, though, she’ll show up an hour or so later, returning home, the place where she gets food and water, a dry bed, and access to our bedroom during thunderstorms. From these actions, I deduce that Kate loves us.

Why does Kate love us?  I’m not delusional enough to believe that there’s something particularly noble or lovable about us. And there’s nothing especially discerning about Kate. Kate loves us because we take care of her. It’s that simple.

Why do we love God? (The NIV leaves out the word “him,” although it is pretty clearly there in the Greek.) We don’t love God because we’re incredibly perceptive. We don’t love God because of his great qualities–at least not at first. We love him because he did something for us.

Let’s not be prideful in our love. We’re like Kate, barking at the door. We’ve run off or been in the trash, but God still loves us, feeds us, and shelters us. God is certainly man’s best friend.

Anniversary Song–1 John 4:17-18

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.–1 John 4:17-18

Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about my wonderful wife. As I write these words, I am celebrating my twenty-sixth anniversary of marriage to Penny. It’s far more than half of our lives that we’ve spent together now, as we were both still in our teens on May 28, 1982. And how are we marking this occasion? A cruise? A candlelit dinner? No. Penny is painting in the basement, and I am taking three kids to some event at Crown Center. Hopeless romantics, aren’t we?

In reality, though, we are romantics. We understand each other and our needs. Perhaps more importantly, our love is perfected, completed, made whole in each other. I am not concerned about not taking Penny to Paris for this auspicious day. I’m not concerned because I know that even when I mess up in our relationship, our love will endure. Had I not bought her a card yesterday and written a cheesy poem in it, all would still be well. Had she not bought one of those singing cards and stuck it into my closed laptop computer, my love would still be as great. We don’t have to worry about the other falling out of love.

What love is better than the love Penny and I share? Only the love that brought her into my life some twenty-eight years ago. When we are love-less, our hearts are questing, searching, but when we find enduring love, our hearts settle and cease to worry.

I praise God for the earthly love that he gave to me in my wife, but I praise him even more for the perfect, completing love that gives me the confidence to face each day.