First a little background. I fell in love with Sarah Chamblee when she was four years old. I was preaching a revival in the church where her dad was the minister of activities and each night, sat on the front pew beside little Sarah until time for me to walk to the pulpit and preach. She was every bit the little lady, quiet, studious, lovely, and sweetness personified. I would draw pictures for her, naturally. That week was the only time I saw her until she was grown. When she started to school, she would write asking me to draw her with her “big red dog.” She would send school photos. I have more than one from her teen years. (She told me much later she never did have a big red dog; she just wanted one.)
About five years ago, I called that church (the FBC of Denton, Texas) to ask if Bill Chamblee was still on staff. He was; I think he spent his entire career at that church before retiring in 2008 to begin a sports ministry. Anyway, Bill’s wife Marcia called Sarah, by then married to Jeremy Armstrong and teaching school at Frisco or somewhere, and said, “You’re not going to guess who called today — someone out of your past.” Sarah thought of three or four names, mine being one.
She and Jeremy drove over to visit us four or five years ago. Then, two and a half years ago, Ella was born. This child is a blessed replica of her mama. These days, the photos are either of the entire family or just Ella. She’s a winner.
Now, here’s the story….
The other day Sarah was instructing Ella how it was important that she learn to obey her parents without complaining or stalling. She said, “God tells us in the Bible that children are to honor their parents by obeying them.” With that, the two-and-a-half-year-old hopped up and ran into her room. She picked up her little pink Bible and returned to the living room, plopped it in Sarah’s lap, and said, “Show me!”
(I made Grandmother Marcia — who sent the story — promise that I am to receive all the tales of this wonderful grandchild. Any pastor can tell you, such little gems make terrific sermon illustrations. Ella’s “Show me!” reminds us of the Bereans in Acts 17 who “were more noble than the Thessalonians because they searched the scriptures to see if these things were so.”)
The headlines in Friday morning’s Times-Picayune announced that New Orleans’ inspector general, Robert Cerasoli, regarding whom everyone had so much hope and high expectations for cleaning up the politics and government of this city, has resigned for health reasons and is moving back to Boston. I was stunned and am so disappointed. Well aware that “health reasons” can mean a hundred things (from serious stuff like cancer to “this job is making me sick”) I read every word of the lengthy article. “Mr. C” has recently had non-cancerous growths removed from his neck and now the doctors have found more. In his early 60s, and with a pension from his years in Massachusetts government and separated from his family for the past two years, he understandably decided to move back close to his loved ones and take care of his medical situation.
Cerasoli has given the IG’s office a solid foundation and brought in a fine team of workers, we’re told. Since the city council is the biggest proponent of the inspector general — and the mayor his greatest opponent — we are confident a search will begin immediately to find his successor so the work can move forward. (The mayor and council are at odds on a number of issues these days, so this is only one.)
Pastors can learn a lot from the way Robert Cerasoli has guarded his personal life from scandal and innuendo during his work here. He refused to take a city-owned vehicle because he would be investigating that very policy of the city. According to what he told me, he brought his own car down from Boston (although the T-P says he is driving home today in a rental). When the city stonewalled about office space, Loyola University provided room for him and his staff. When a commission he was meeting with met at Harrah’s Casino, Cerasoli refused to walk through the gambling area without a companion. He did not want anyone thinking he was there to gamble.
The reporter said people are coming up to Mr. C and urging him to stay on, telling him how much we need him. At one point, he turned away in tears. “It’s just so lonely here,” he said.
God bless this good man in every way he needs blessing. And Father, send us his successor, one of Your choosing, please.
For years, I have quoted Ruth Bell Graham concerning the impossible expectations some women put on their husbands, dooming the man to failure and frustration and the woman to discouragement and depression: “Many women expect their husbands to be to them what only Jesus Christ can be.”
Now, “Decision” magazine (February 2009) has reprinted the article which contains that powerful quote. Here is the heart of it….
“Pity the married couple that expects too much from one another. I read my old premarriage love poems with a bit of amusement. I wrote them so earnestly — meaning every word — and lived to find them really unfair.”
“It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain.”
“The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”
She goes on to say about her own marriage to the famous evangelist, “We have often said we would not choose to go back to some of those early days of our marriage. Too often, early love is a mirage built on daydreams. Love deepens with understanding, and varying viewpoints expand and challenge one another. Those who abandon ship the first time it enters a storm miss the calm beyond. And the rougher the storms weathered together, the deeper and stronger real love grows.”
(This is an excerpt from Mrs. Graham’s book, “It’s My Turn,” available from www.alibris.com and other online used book sources.)
I love finding unexpected and clever lines in my Bible-reading. Here are two favorites….
This morning, I was laboring through Judges, an Old Testament book made up of both grand, inspiring stories and some of the most sordid stuff to be found anywhere, the kind that doubtless made the front of the National Inquirer of 1200 B.C. (Incidentally, that’s one more reason we can know this book is from God: the Bible gives the good, bad, and ugly about its people, spinning nothing, glossing nothing over.)
Once the people of God were settled into Canaan, their loosely organized federation was governed only by the occasional judge, the concept of a king still foreign to them. When the ruler of the Ammonites sent word to the community of Gilead that he wanted back all the land taken by the Israelites when they first arrived in the country, they panicked, then chose Jephthah to represent them. He promptly sent representatives across the Jordan to meet with the Ammonite king.
Jephthah begins by giving the king some historical background. He reminds him of the time Israel under Moses and Joshua was rebuffed by the various nations as they tried to negotiate a path into Canaan. The Israelites went far out of their way in order not to antagonize hostile nations. But when the king of the Amorites brought an army out against Moses, he had no recourse but to fight. The Israelis won the battle and took the territory now in dispute. “Thus Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites who inhabited that country.” (Judges 11:21)
That’s why we happen to own this land, Jephthah said. (We are ignoring here that it was the Amorites who lost that land, and the Ammonites who are trying to get it back. We’ll let the scholars hassle over that detail.)
At this point Jephthah delivers his punch, the line I love.
“Now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel; should you then possess it? Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? Whatever the Lord our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.” (11:23-24)
Brilliant, huh? Whatever your god gives you, you can have. We’ll take everything our God gives us.
The Ammonite king, not being into history or logic and with his heart set on a fight, ignored the diplomatic approach and sent his army out to do battle. Jephthah rallied the Israelis and defeated him (then no doubt took the rest of the land that king owned). Hey, that’s one king who shoulda left well enough alone!
And the other line, one I find amusing. I’ve even used it in idle discussions with friends. It’s found in I Kings 20:11, and is a lot easier to relate than the Jephthah story.
The king of Syria, always called Ben-hadad — it must have been a title like Caesar or Pharaoh — was about to do battle with Ahab, king of Israel. Ben-hadad is taunting him, telling all he’s going to do with the Jewish king when he gets him. Ahab has a great comeback.
“Let not him who puts on his armor boast like him who takes it off.” (I Kings 20:11)
I love the understatement of that. It’s an Old Testament variation of, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” and brings to mind Muhammad Ali’s comment: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
As Ella would say, “Show me.”