Posts Categorized as: god
Prologue: Guest Writer
I am writing on behalf of my Dad, Clarence Maupin. He was born in Southwestern Nebraska in 1933. He wrote out this manuscript longhand and asked me to write it up for other people. I asked him permission to put this on my website and he reluctantly agreed—he was hoping just to give it to some family I think…. I have edited his grammar unless otherwise noted. All the mistakes are mine… all the good stuff is his. Few people in this era can say they had a wonderful Dad (and I am well aware of that), but I do. I will add some commentary at the end.
Love Tanks: Because Love is Energy
I think that Love is the most misused word in the English language. This happens when people misuse “love” in church down to saying that we love root beer or something even more mundane. I would like to concentrate these brief thoughts on the Agape love that comes from God and God alone.
It permeates our lives all the time—both for the Christian and the non-Christian. In the fourth chapter of 1 John, as I read it, all of the good love in this world originates with God. People cannot obtain it from any other source. This is significant because it relates to the concept of energy. All of the world (even the universe) moves from place to place in a regular fashion. It takes energy to accomplish this. In my experience as a farmer, this is a common experience for me.
In the history of man, there are times where sticks need to be gathered to prepare food and keep warm. This is common in the past as well as in many parts of the world today. The earth used the ashes and gases/smoke to regenerate new sources of energy. The human body uses energy in the way of food. From birth to death, the process of energy works in a cycle for the sustaining of life for the next generation.
As societies progressed technologically, they became more efficient in using energy from the earth. Coal turned out to be better than sticks; oil and natural gas were better than coal. Electricity was invented and harnessed and everything from hydroelectric power and nuclear energy were used as well. A singular feature of energy is that there must be a way to distribute it to where it is ultimately used.
As a case in point, the form of energy I am most familiar with is petroleum. The earth has a lot of oil deep underground. Thus it must be extracted and moved to refineries where it is then processed into the many products we use. The gasoline that comes from these refineries must be moved to filling stations where we fill up our gas tanks then go our merry way. This is just one example of the physical kinds of energy that we use every day. All of it comes from the earth that God made. Tides, storms, earthquakes, drought, flood and famine also all use or release energy. I could go on with examples of how energy is used, stored, distributed, mined and raised (by farmers/ranchers/fishermen etc.).
When energy reaches it’s final form (when it is ready to be used) it cannot retain its full strength or potency for extended periods of time. In the pioneer days of the West, cow (or buffalo) chips had a very short storage time. As you go up the chain [sic] to corn cobs and firewood you get a little longer storage time. While fossil fuels last a long time underground, once they are refined, they do not last as long at full strength.
Now then, compare this with the pure source of love: God. I think of love as a spiritual energy because it is what makes us move toward action. Agape love starts out in the person of God and can only be obtained from that one source. However, as it spreads out through the earth, it seems to become diluted by people and their mistakes. In my imagination I think that God’s love (energy) is distributed much like physical energy and the results are similar.
In my mind’s eye, I think that every baby is born with an empty love tank. His mother and father immediately start taking from their own love tank
and start filling their new arrival a little at a time. Grandparents and extended family and close friends also add to the baby’s love tank. While humans share some physical characteristics with animals, this intention to fill another with love is unique to humans. Animals will often protect their young, but as the young become mature, they often become competitors for food and territory. Humans are family for life if they have love.
Since the source of Agape (my version of high octane) love is God, I want to think about his distribution system. Devoted Christians are always able to fill up their love tanks through prayer and time with God. They can do this as often as needed* and then go out into the world and freely share that love. When they do, they put a little bit of love into another person’s love tank. While they consume a little of that energy while doing so, but most of that goes into others. When they are nearing empty, all they need to do is go back to the source for a refill and then repeat the cycle gain. This is the distribution system God designed.
The make up of this system is a combination of preachers, teachers, missionaries, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts, husbands, wives, friends and co-workers. Those who have been served share some of this energy while they also consume some of it to survive and work. The real difficulty begins when many do not start from the source. Love becomes diluted and of a lesser quality as it gets passed on, barely shared and sometimes stolen. While all of mankind gets love from God, many do not acknowledge it and even deny it.
As I mentioned earlier, when energy is not used at the proper time, it disintegrates—love is the same way. You cannot store it for a long time. If you try, it will not perform like it should. If you are restoring an old engine, you need to get any old fuel out and start with fresh fuel, otherwise it actually does damage to that engine. Spiritual energy is the same way. You cannot let it remain unused and expect it to be effective. So, the moral of my story is to get love, use love, share love and replace love. Keep this cycle up and you will see the results of God’s Agape love over and over.
*cf John 5-6 for more support for this thought.
In his introductory page, Dad mentioned that my two grandmothers and my Mom had the best love tanks of anyone he’d ever known. I agree. I was fascinated as I read through this essay. Dad’s thinking mirrors some of the main thought of Dallas Willard’s book “The Spirit of the Disciplines.” My Dad didn’t go to college but he’s one of the smartest guys I know. Part of the allure of my Dad’s life and thought is that it takes a long time to get him to teach. He thinks over things for a long time (often alone on the tractor) and tests and re-tests them in the furnace of daily church life. Dad has been a leader at my home church for over 50 years. I have inherited that desire for effectiveness in my life and I have long searched for compelling ways to get people involved in missions, ministry and justice-related issues. Yet, as all long-term leaders learn over time, the issue of good leadership is the leader. Someone with a full and constantly renewed love-tank will always be effective at most levels. I am overjoyed with the unknown congruence of my own journey that has gone along with Dad’s. I love and owe him so much. I hope this has blessed you as a reader.
As I write this post, it is a day when the undergrad students of LCU are either on a short-term trip, a service experience, a break from school or an educational moment. LCU’s title for this pre-easter week is “Restoration Week.” We have students who are going all over the USA and abroad. Some have already taken their trip and some are going far from home for the first time. When I was at Ozark we had a similar thing and I found it a great source of encouragement and joy. Since most of the students are gone, I have been using today to catch up on the mountain of grading and the overflowing inbox (email and literal) that has confronted me. As my family travels to see family for Easter, I want to have as much done as possible before I leave (we’ll see…).
After grading my umpteenth paper on the same topic, I needed a break. I got up and took a relaxed walk on this perfect Illinois spring day. The tulips are already blooming, tractors are in the fields and a male cardinal sat on a budding tree and sang to me for five minutes. It was renewing and full of hope. Truth be told, days of quiet on campus are wonderful.
As I came back to my office to do some final clean up and filing, my eyes lighted on a file I had not thought of in many years. It is the typed version of a speech that my mother gave as a report to her home church after going on her first mission “tour” back in the late 40’s or early 50’s. I thought the timing to be quite touching as so many of my own students are on some kind of tour right now. All of the other work was eased off the desk and I read my teen-age mother’s report of an experience that changed her forever. The simple title, “Mission Tour Speech” is at the top.
My Mom grew up as a faithful member of the Methodist Church in Morrill, NE. The young people in the church joined a group that left Nebraska and toured 20 different missionary stations in the Southwest of the USA (and one in Juarez, Mexico). Mom chose one mission from seven different categories and reported to the church what she experienced.
As I read this report from the stance of a professor getting a paper from a student, I was struck by the things Mom included in her speech. She noticed the societal problems of the Navajo mission and was deeply concerned by the tuberculosis rate. She was frustrated by the lack of clothes and shoes the children endured. Details like the number of students enrolled in the mission school and the dimensions of the hogans she visited were interesting. But she noted most carefully that it was difficult for the people there to have a deep relationship with Christ because of their situation. She asked (on the second page) for more workers to go. As the speech progressed, she detailed how a Spanish-American mission in Dallas was bringing physical healing to kids with Polio. She mentioned a young man named Mariano who had been helped by the mission there and was now one of the leaders of the outreach.
As her report went on, I could imagine my fiery Mom’s spirit fighting with her calm and cool exterior as she spoke about an group promoting racial reconciliation in the name of Christ, a migrant worker’s camp and specific churches doing outreach. As she finished each story she spoke about their needs and how effective they were at bringing life change to a few of the people they served.
As she drew to a conclusion she told her audience that it was a privilege to get to go on this trip. She mentioned that, “we slept in churches, dormitories, and missions—wherever we happened to be.” She mentioned the other sightseeing events they were able to have, but she ended with this:
“Of course, the outstanding thing was to be able to see the great work that our Methodist Church is doing on the Home Mission field. Even though they are handicapped as to the lack of building, money, supplies, and workers in every mission, they are doing a great work. It is certainly a great challenge to our youth of today who are interested in Social Work. Truly this is a trip I will never forget.”
Over the years that my Mom lived and worked in Western Nebraska, she and Dad involved themselves in ministry in everyday life. They took in family when they were in hard times. They supported missionaries for decades. They traveled when they were able (e.g. Mexico and Indonesia). Mom used her influence at the hospital to help immigrant women, homeless people and was on the board of a number of civic organizations that do good for those who are less fortunate. She spearheaded efforts to get vaccinations for single moms and to get basic health care for those who had none. The things she saw on that mission tour became template of how she gave her life to others for half a century.
So this brings me back to what really brought me joy today. I enjoy the quiet spring days here but I am well aware that without the wonderful students that make up our campus, this place has very little meaning. LCU students today are going all over the place to have a similar kind of experience. It’s true that the methodologies have changed in short-term missions. It’s clear that we have made some mistakes. But the attempt to live out faith imprints on people things that, if tended, blossom into a lifetime of fruitful ministry. The small steps we take in faith lead to a legacy of Christian efforts that are seldom seen in the limelight. But they are no less foundational to the work that God is doing. Very few people will ever know about Alyce’s trip across the southwest, but thousands of people were blessed because of it—especially me. I am praying that the trips that are being taken this week plant seeds that will result in many lifetimes being given for quiet, obscure, unpublished but deeply effective work.
So to you folks who take the time and the money to go or send people on trips like this, I give you great thanks. I believe in this work. God’s hand is evident to me today and it gives me joy. I pray that in some sense, you see His hand on your life’s story and I hope that gives you joy.
Its amazing to me how much I tend to avoid pain. Motivational sayings, biographies, historical studies and THE BIBLE all point to the idea that pain is not always just a simple result of the fall—pain is often a gift and a tool in God’s hands (Hebrews 12, James 1 etc ad nauseum). It can be something used to purify our faith (I Peter 1) or something that produces perseverance (Romans 5). While I don’t ever want to be masochistic (we know that’s pathological) and get to the point where I enjoy all pain like I enjoy the feeling of really hot salsa, I DO want to get to the point where I stop whining to God about it and learn to endure.
One of the ways I’m growing in this is walking with my parents, from a distance, in the twilight of their days here on earth. I absolutely love every conversation and every minute I get with them, but it’s just part of God’s plan that our lives on this earth will sometime come to an end. I have grown to respect my Dad even more as he is making preparations for his transition from temporary to eternal. One of the things he’s done is try to make all the arrangements for his and Mom’s passings ahead of time. So, during his long stay in the hospital last fall, he took the time to write out his life’s history and his and Mom’s obituaries. Here’s the problem: He wants me (as the family academic) to type them out and put them in proper English. So, I took the two steno books full of Mom and Dad’s achievements and started working on them—that was very hard to do. It seems so final yet they are both still here… it’s been weird.
Inside one of the steno notebooks I found a note dad had written during his hospital stay. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”— Albert Einstein.
I was really taken back by that. Dad was lying in a hospital or nursing home bed for 5 months and that’s the kind of thing he’s thinking about! At that point I decided that I would stop praying for God to stop Mom and Dad’s pain (and mine too) and ask God to continue to reveal himself to Mom and Dad in spite of it—to use it to draw all of us closer to him.
Think of what God asked Abraham to do with Isaac. Or what Joseph went through. Think of that poor lady who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment or the man born blind just so God’s glory could be revealed. God’s use of pain in our lives helps us. I hate that because I want to be comfortable and (when I’m dead honest) kinda rich. But as I’m watching my folks invest in eternity what I am seeing is that although I’m tempted to avoid pain, there is something I absolutely want more.
I want to love God with all that I am, and I recognize that to do so means I have to pick up my cross. It means I have to follow regardless of what that costs me; to go wherever he leads me. At this point it is tempting to say that, in the end, it will all be given back (like Job), or turn out for my good (like Joseph), but it’s possible that pain will endure all the way to the very end (like my Mom). There’s no guaranteed pain-free ending on this earth but that’s ok. What I am seeing in my Dad is that an absence of pain is not the indicator of things being right—it is the presence of God, despite the pain, that shows us what life really is and where it comes from. It is a life that transcends the loss of pregnancies, the loss of loved ones, horrible meetings with doctors, irrevocable diagnoses, long nights (and months) in the hospital, lonely seasons at work, frustrating colleagues, difficult financial situations, hurtful family situations and, thanks be to God, aging parents.
God’s good use of pain allows us to die to ourselves to the point that our sinful, mewling selves learn to approach the light of God’s presence that begins to burn away the selfishness. And in doing so it leaves a well of love. I resonate with the words of Madeline L’Engle when she says
We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.
Before, when I have preached or spoken about pain, someone inevitably comes to me and suggests that I’m perhaps missing the point of the gospel. Jesus did indeed come to set us free! And, truth be told, when people speak of the cross, sometimes they forget to discuss the joy that is given. What I really believe is that it is our fear, sin and brokenness that keeps us from the most abundant, life-giving and soul-satisfying life that can be had on this earth. And sometimes, God uses pain to get us there. And sometimes it lasts all the way until the end. But He is still worth it…in every way, for all time. I keep going to God and one day I’ll finally learn to stop dodging the pain. When that day comes, my life will be full of a light that is lovely enough to draw others.
God, have mercy on Mom, but in your way, in your time and with your design—however that turns out for all of us. May God’s mercy be on you too. Thanks for reading.