What Would You Take To Heaven?

If you could take one thing with you to heaven, what would it be?  That was the culminating question during the message at my church this weekend.  It was asked a few times.   Once during the intro, in the middle and finally at the end.  So, I had most of the 35-minute sermon to carefully consider my response.  What would I take?  The initial rendering sent my mind searching for the best item I could think of.  I had gotten distracted from my quest a couple of times but each time the question was re-posed it jump started my delving again.

I own more things than I need and have a lot of really great stuff to choose from making this a hard question to answer.  Of course I thought of my immediate family but knowing their spiritual condition took them off of the option list pretty quickly.  I have a great dog too, Jazzy.  But because I know that there will be animals in heaven maybe she’ll be there anyway.  I guess I’ll keep her on the list – for now, just in case.

Because I love music, I also thought of an acoustic guitar.  I even rationalized that an acoustic would be better than any electric guitar because to get the most out of an electric guitar you need an amplifier.  And, I was being asked to consider bringing only one item.  I have a great Seagull guitar that I wouldn’t mind taking but there’s probably better guitars in heaven anyway.  I hear there’s a lot of music up there and maybe even a Super Guitar that plays itself.

I thought of my iPod.  Not for the more obvious reason of music but because it stores pictures.  I could literally load it up with hundreds, even thousands, of pictures of my family and have them for eternity.  But an iPod is dependent on electricity to charge its battery.  Would I be able to charge it in heaven?  Man, this was getting tough.  Are we going to need anything in heaven anyway?

Near the end of the service I watched a three-minute video of a ten-year-old boy being interviewed about his thoughts regarding heaven.  I laughed and was impressed with the young lads wit and candor.  I actually know him quite well so I wasn’t surprised at his well expressed views about heaven until he was asked the same question I was asked.  ‘If you could take one thing with you to heaven, what would it be?’

If the audience had a collective jaw, it slammed to the floor.  And, stayed there for a long time.  I suddenly felt small.  His answer was a solar system away from my selfish considerations.  I had spent the last 35 minutes thinking about everything except the most important thing.  Caleb, the 10-year-old boy, possessed more maturity and view of heaven that I’m embarrassed to say hadn’t even crossed my mind.  His answer was given without even a moment of deliberation, “I would bring the person I love most that hasn’t given their heart to Jesus.”  Profound and appropriate.  What a great lesson…

Ok, It’s Not Opera

“Dad, you should listen to track #10.”  I agreed and even turned up the volume.  First a piano (nice so far), then crescendoing drums (I can handle that), followed by driving guitars perfectly accentuating the intro to the track only known as track #10.  The vocals were clean and pleasant and almost had an angelic resonance.  I actually liked track #10.  A challenge was issued from the back of the van to guess who the band was.  I already knew or surmised that it was the band that I heard the boys talking about a couple days ago who just released a new project (the band will remain nameless).  After correctly identifying the band we explored more tracks.  Did I mention that I liked track #10?

As it turns out, that was the only track I could stomach.  Imagine someone trying to sing (or scream in this case) after gargling glass or razor blades.  Why stop there?  Throw in a meat cleaver, some drill bits and a hand full of sheetrock screws and you’re just getting close to what the vocals sounded like on the other tracks during my choral expedition.  These forty-two year old ears could only think one thing:  Hideous.  Before you cringe under the weight of such a word consider it’s meaning.  Hideous:  horrible or frightful to the senses.  Does it fit now?  For you, maybe not.  You were not there.  As for me, it was an all out assault on my senses that only pause, stop or a hard left on the dial would terminate.  Eject was another option worth consideration when I was asked why I didn’t like the music.

This was not a new question.  We have had many family discussions regarding music and I’d made myself previously clear; I simply don’t like the “sound” of “that” music.  My youngest pressed me further, “why don’t you like the sound?”  “Well”, I said, “I can’t understand what they’re singing.”  “But, you like opera?”, he quipped.  “Yes, I love it”!  “So, I guess you know Italian?”  He had me.  Not only did I not know Italian, I had fallen into his carefully contrived trap.

My friend and Pastor, Vern Streeter, draws a pretty hard line between preferences and choices made from moral convictions.  Simply, my preference does not allow me to like what my children affectionately call, Screamo.  I have no moral convictions to speak of preventing me from listening to the music.  I just don’t like it.

My son taught me something that day.  I’m judgmental of the things I don’t prefer and in this case had written off some very musically talented guys singing in a style that they prefer.  I guess the world would be a pretty dull place for everyone else if only my preferences were enacted.  Honestly, I have no intentions of adding this “hideous” music to my iTunes library.  But, I sure like track #10.

If You Want Help Dad…

I recently spent a couple days trying to get the best deal on a cell phone package for my family.  It was an exhausting three days searching the internet and driving from cell store to cell store talking to sales people.  Having an acquaintance who owns a cell store proved fruitful in us getting a pretty good deal that perfectly matched our needs and the wants of my children.

After the transaction, it was time to mow the lawn.  Unfortunately, I had fertilized the week before.  That accompanied with a barrage of rain had produced a virtual jungle that resembled the deep rough at Yellowstone Country Club.  There was no putting off the task any more.   I didn’t really need help but thought new cell phones might just be the catalyst to soften some hardened hearts bent against coming within 20 feet of anything resembling lawn equipment.  So, I shot the question into the open air, “you guys want to help?”  I wasn’t asking for a limb or even an appendage.  I was asking for 45 minutes on a cool spring day behind the roar of a Toro or the whirl of a Snapper.  The look on their faces told me everything.  Actually, I knew the answer to the question before even posing it.  Their reluctant answer was, “if you want help, dad”.

Not exactly the answer I had hoped for.  After all they were holding infant cell phones less than an hour old and I fantasized that mowing the lawn, just once without disagreement, would be better than any “thank you” I had received.  “If you want help, dad”?  What I wanted was for them to “want to” help.  It’s the hope of any parent, I think.

Moments later, as I was mowing the lawn, the thought struck me that we treat our Heavenly Father the same way.  Matthew 7 reminds us that God desires to give good gifts to His children.  We receive these gifts daily; expectantly and taken for granted.  It’s a shame.  God, the Giver of gifts, doesn’t expect anything in return.  He just enjoys giving.  But shouldn’t our response be to give back?  If for nothing else out of gratitude just because “we” want to?

Matthew 25 tells us how to give back – by serving the ‘least of these’ we are actually serving Him.  Read the text for yourself:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Next time you feel prompted to do something for God, do it – because you want to!

Where we headed here?

Maybe it’s just that I never really noticed before.  Last week I was conversing with friends about how the church has historically responded to cultural shifts and enjoying a cold beverage, like the one pictured in this article when I suddenly realized the label.  Obviously, it’s retro.  Actually, I never gave it a second thought until I was perusing an aisle at the local Wal-Mart.  I noticed racks of Ocean Pacific clothes – just like the ones that I wore in high school.  Purple Cord-a-Roy shorts?  The stuff of kings or at least wannabe kings.

It got me thinking about how much we, as a culture have one hand straining for the future while the other is lagging behind hoping to snag anything in it’s grasp.  My sixteen-year-old son was wearing a Mario t-shirt on Sunday that displays the logo from the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  As we were leaving a local city park having finished our Frisbee Golf game, a guy entering the park, probably in his late teens, said ‘cool shirt man’.  And it is cool.  With an affirming nod my son received his compliment.

A dichotomy really…retro furniture, retro party favors, collectible metal lunch boxes, food and beverage labels, TV merchandise from the 70’s and 80’s and retro style vehicles from Chevy and Dodge.

While there’s definitely an attempt to reclaim what is perceived as beautiful from the 70’s and 80’s while leaving the problems behind, there’s seems to be no desire to relive the past.  There are many things about that past not worth reliving.  Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and the Iran-Contra affair are just a few things in my recent memory not worth going back to.

Do I fully understand where we’re headed?  Honestly, no.  But, I’m still intrigued.