The Rabbit Problem

RabbitsI grew up with my sister in Southern California; bonafide city kids.  We visited our extended family in Minnesota several times where we learned about farm life.  We liked to go fishing and were aware the meat on our table came from animals such as the fish we caught or from meat farms like the cattle and poultry operations in the counties east of us.  We didn’t have to raise our own meat so we never experienced the killing and cleaning part of anything larger or messier than our caught fish.  In our minds, the cows went straight from the fields to the burger joint.

When the recession of the mid-seventies hit, prices on just about everything went up dramatically and quickly; food prices were not immune.  I had a good friend with whom I spent a lot of time and our families became close friends as well.  We did lots of things together; traveled together, ate together, celebrated together.  My friend’s family was minimally employed so they learned to live very frugally.  As the recession deepened, we sought to learn that life style from them.

My friend’s dad raised meat rabbits and suggested my dad might want to do the same to save money on grocery bills.  To help our family, our dad enthusiastically dove into this new endeavor and – BAM!  Just like that – we were into raising meat rabbits.  We built hutches in the back yard of our suburban home and began making regular trips to the pet food store for bags of rabbit food.  Half of the family wasn’t sure the fuel along with mileage on the car and the cost of the feed was cheaper than buying meat from the store, but we continued to tend to, and become attached to, the rabbits.

The rabbits did what rabbits are supposed to do and soon we had to harvest some of them or give up our bedrooms to them.  My friend’s dad came over and helped my dad prepare to slaughter and dress out the biggest bunnies.  They tied little ropes to our swing-set and tied rabbits up by their hind feet.  My dad emerged from the garage with a large hammer; all of this while we watched from the dining room window as the bad scene unfolded before our eyes.  That’s when it happened.  My sister was far more horrified than I was.  However, I would have preferred to continue thinking the rabbits just disappeared and magically turned into supper.  These beneficial bunnies had suddenly become a big problem.

Our mom sprang into action, devising a plan than still has ramifications today.  One afternoon, as soon as our dad had left for work, we collected all the remaining rabbits and packed them into the family car.  We drove to-and-fro, crisscrossing the county dropping off rabbits the way Fed-Ex drops off packages.  When we ran out of adoptive friends, we took the last few furry fugitives and shoved them under a fence setting them free in a tree farm that ran for a mile under some large electrical transmission towers.  Those rabbits did what rabbits do and we saw generations of their kin every time we drove past that tree farm.  At least they weren’t proliferating in our back yard anymore. Those rabbits were just like any kind of trouble in life; you have to handle it or it will just keep multiplying.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Satisfaction Resurrected

Satisfaction ResurrectedWhat makes you feel satisfied?  In the 1960’s the word “righteous” was used to describe something we would refer to today as cool or awesome.  If you were in possession of something you thought was “righteous”, you were satisfied with what you had.  I remember I had a pretty righteous bike when I was in the 7th grade.

What about when you’re hungry or thirsty?  The Mars Candy Company launched an ad campaign a few years ago replacing the word “Snickers” with the word “Satisfying” on Snickers candy bar wrappers.  I eat a lot of Snickers bars.  On hot, summer days, I prefer to drink only water.  Sugary drinks taste great, but they’re full of stuff that just makes me thirstier instead of satisfying my thirst.

Sometimes, we try to remedy dissatisfaction with what some call “retail therapy”.  Online shopping is my preferred method.  I can send gifts that bless others, download uplifting music, order edifying and spiritually instructive books and even get my hands on some cool “man toys”.  Unfortunately, even after an extended therapy session, the good feelings wear off when I look in my mailbox and find that envelope containing a demand for satisfaction of the debt I ran up buying all that stuff.  What if I can’t satisfy that debt and have to give back all my righteous stuff?  Did I put my hope and faith in the wrong things?

The Bible tells us only God is truly righteous.  Because of this, God requires that we be righteous to be in His presence.  The Bible also tells us none of us are righteous; that we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God creating a separation between us and Him.  That’s a bummer.  So, what are we to do?  We need to get hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”.  That’s from Matthew chapter 5, verse 6.

What satisfies God’s requirement for righteousness; what removes the debt of sin that separates us from a righteous God?  The blood of Christ shed for our sins.  Jesus Christ paid our sin price, which was death, by willingly taking our place on our cross.  Colossians chapter 2, verses 13-14 says when we were dead in our sins and the impurity of our flesh, God made a way for us to be alive and to be together with Him.  He made a way for our sins to be forgiven.  God made it possible to have our sin debt, the charges of broken Biblical laws against us which would have been fatal for us, cancelled and taken out the way, removing the separation between us and God, by nailing that debt to the cross in the body of Jesus Christ His Son.

But, if Jesus only died for us, then the demands of death upon our lives would not be satisfied.  Hope in him would be the same as the satisfaction of owning a really nice car.  Both the hope and satisfaction would vanish when we die.  This is not the case with Christ who not only died to pay our sin debt, but also rose back to life to satisfy and defeat death forever for those who would confess and believe (Romans 10:9).  In Jesus Christ there is satisfaction resurrected for eternity and that satisfaction is yours to accept.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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The “Abundant” Life

Abundant LifeWhat does the word “abundant” mean to you?  I got thinking about the word “abundant” while talking with a friend.  She said she was waiting to find her “abundant life”.  This was in reference to the passage in the Bible where Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).  That made me question “What is this abundant life?”  Is it about having an abundance of things, great wealth or worldwide celebrity status?  Is it about getting everything you want?  I used to work with a guy who always said “I want everything that’s coming to me.” I told him “No you don’t.”

The abundant life might be having a clear understanding of your life’s purpose and mission; self-actualization; an elusive accomplishment for most people.  The Rolling Stones sing you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you might get what you need.  Maybe that’s the abundant life; getting everything we need.  Unfortunately, basic needs of safety, shelter and food are also a form of an “abundant life” that eludes many people.  A lot of people feel like they’ve realized the “abundant life” if they can, by their own efforts and abilities, maintain a “comfortable” life; a life suspended comfortably between having everything and having nothing.

If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge just about everyone wants it – the stuff, the purpose, the comfort.  We really do seem to want everything we think we’ve got coming to us.  Our focus in pursuing the abundant life seems to be fixed on what’s in it for us; how can we make OUR lives better.  This approach to “the abundant life” gets turned on its head when we consider something called “Servant Leadership”.

I’ve studied the life and work of Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) who coined the term “servant leader” and founded the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.  Servant Leaders strive to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served.  The hope in serving others in this way is that those served will “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants.” ~ Robert Greenleaf.

One of the marks of a servant leader is that they reproduce themselves.  Is that the definition of the “abundant life”; to exponentially multiply lifegiving life?  That is exactly what Jesus was speaking of when he said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  Having nice stuff, being comfortable and happy and realizing self-actualization are all great human accomplishments, but they’re all finite in nature.  They all “lose their shine” so-to-speak and end when you do.  The thief spoken of in John Chapter 10, verse 10 steals joy, kills the human spirit and destroys hope. God created, gifted and equipped us to be His abundance everywhere we walk with Him, sharing the abundant joy, Spirit and hope of His presence with others.  A life spent in that service is infinitely more abundant than anything else we can ever have or do.

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Predators and Prey

Predators and PreyI’m trying to deny awareness of commentary concerning the February 14, 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting, but – alas, I have succumbed to being drawn into that commentary mostly due to the inane and insensitive rhetoric I’m reading.

17 people lost their lives.  That much is clear to most commentators.  From there, the reasons, methods, those responsible and “what action needs to be taken” spins just like a centrifuge in a lab separating us from the victims, from each other, from reason, from compassion and from reality.   Accusations and pointing fingers won’t protect or heal or bring back anyone.

It really doesn’t matter if the killer was a (     )  and used a (     ) – please don’t fill in the blanks.  Anyone can do anything, good or bad, to anyone else using anything they choose to use.   The loss of 17 lives is tragic.  So is the loss of 1 life.  The point here is we need to stop thinking we can completely “protect” ourselves with barriers or bans or laws or protocols.  We can’t.  No one is telling those victims right now “There were laws and protocols in place so that should make you feel better.”

Something, or someone, gets into the head of a person and turns that person into a predator.  What if we got into that person’s head first with awareness, understanding and loving intervention so we could offer counseling and, if necessary, treatment or even institutionalization?  Maybe then, that potential predator would never become a bundle of rage in the first place and they wouldn’t listen to rage inducing music, draw destructive images and take up fetishes for destructive devices whatever those devices might be; the tongue, the graffiti marker, the bludgeoning stone, the knife, the torch, the truck, the plane, the gun or the bomb…..or the hateful and hurtful rhetoric.  If one still becomes a predator, society must be willing and able to swiftly take the necessary action.  Ranchers understand this.

Predators know how to divide and attack the flock.  Shepherds know how to gather and protect the flock.  The only way to protect ourselves and those we love (that should include everyone), is to show respect and compassion for one another – NOT separation and isolation over bankrupt forensic rhetoric.

Can we stop being so repulsive in our opinions and instead work on becoming attractive, attracting those around us into dialogue and a true sense of community?   Can we stop being so divisive and instead be cooperative, dare I say even communal in our concern for one another?  Can we put off our insatiable appetites for destructive sensationalism offered to us by the media and instead take up as our only desire the pursuit of reasonable truth as it leads to the common good?  If we can do these things, we will not scatter when the predator comes, but will instead stand together in defense against whatever weapon the predator bears.

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How’s Your Love Life?

Love TankValentine’s Day; that ancient holiday responsible for creating knot’s in a 6th grader’s stomach.   There we sat; just back from lunch where we mentally digested morning geography images of half-naked tribal Africans drumming and dancing during their version of a Bar Mitzvah.   Now we prepared to endure California mandated coed sex education classes.   But first – we shared the contents of our Valentine’s bags classmates “filled” earlier that morning.   This was supposed to show us how much we were loved.   Some were more filled than others.  None of us had any idea what love was.

Fast forward 6 years to 12th grade.   Thankfully (except for that one girl who passed me that note saying she wanted to hold hands, and we never got to) we moved to other side of LA County and I escaped the embarrassing stigma of pubescent sexual awkwardness.   I healed from the eroticism of those mandated classes and figured the important parts out on my own.   Now I was learning something better; Romanticism; behavioral AND literary.   My English Teacher introduced me to Charles Dickens and I fell in love with Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.   Romantic, morbid, morose and fantastic; just what a 17-year-old love-crazy boy needed!   I still had no idea what love was, but Dickens’ character Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities showed me a new example of love; sacrifice for the good of another.

Carton’s love was unrequited, yet he gave everything to express his love in a way that eternally benefited his beloved.  That was completely counter to my teenage, hormone induced way of thinking.   We learned about hedonism and narcissism in Psychology class, but we never learned about asceticism.   I’m not saying Carton didn’t have desire for Lucie Mannette.   But, he knew he couldn’t be the man she needed or deserved.   To express his love for Lucie, Sydney pledged to give his life to save the lives of those he loved.   My mind was blown.   You’ll have to read the book.

A few years later I studied psychology in college.   I joined a Bible study with some students and learned bout phileo and agape love.   Now I understood Sydney Carton more fully.   Carton knew more about love than I did.   I had always been motivated by “what’s in it for me” and was afraid of finding nothing in it for me.   There was my “ah ha” moment.   Fear is selfish.  Love – real love – is selfless.   Perfect love casts out fear.  Perfect love is unconditional; a gift that may not give back.   The thing is, that kind of love IS attractive.   Why?   Because sometimes we fear showing love because we’re afraid showing love will demand something of us.

But, what if we find a kind of love that demands nothing from us except to accept and embrace it?  Love like that of a missionary; expecting to get nothing; living to give everything for the good of another?   Love like that of Sydney Carton.   Love like that Saint Teresa?   Love like that of Jesus?   “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).   Like the 1984 Foreigner song, I want to know what love is – that perfect life of love.   Do you?   Check your love tank.   How’s your love life?

© 2018 Curt Savage Media                                                                          curtsavagemedia.com

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Oil for Your Lamp

Oil for Your Lamp 12-19-2017Do you have a favorite oil lamp; maybe a glass or metal hurricane lamp or railroad lantern?  My wife has the glass oil lamp that provided the light her mother and her aunts read by when they were children.  I like railroad lanterns, but they’re difficult to find and kind of expensive.  We made a trip to Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio many years ago and I bought an American made Dietz #8 Air Pilot Lantern.  Sometimes I like to leave the lights off and write or practice guitar with that lantern providing the only light.

Oil lamps can burn a variety of fuels including kerosene.  I’ve heard of lamps using whale oil and even olive oil, but I’ve never owned either type.  I prefer pure paraffin oil because it’s nearly smokeless and odorless.  With its large oil tank, the Air Pilot can be depended upon to provide light through the stormiest nights, provided I remember to keep the tank full.  I often get busy with other things and forget lamp oil evaporates over time.  An empty tank is an unpleasant surprise when you need a lamp during a power outage.

No matter what kind of lamp you have, the time you need the lamp the most is the worst time to run out of oil.  Growing up in Los Angeles, I went to school with, and befriended many Jewish kids.  I spent a lot of time with the Pessah family and they taught me many things about their culture and faith.  I loved their food and traditions.  I learned about a group of soldiers who ran out of oil at a critical time in their mission.  Judah Maccabee and his brothers helped retake the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  According to the Talmud, the wicks of the sacred Temple lamps miraculously burned for the eight days required for purification, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day.  This miracle is what is celebrated during Chanukah.

Alongside our Advent Wreath and candles, we also have a Menorah we light each night during Chanukah before we recite the blessings.  We do this to remember our Jewish friends and to honor the miracle they celebrate.  While watching the candles burn, I saw their reflection in my daughter’s eyes and I thought of the Scripture in chapter 6 of the Bible’s Book of Matthew which states “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.”

If our eyes are indeed the “Lamp of the Body” then what would constitute the oil for those lamps?  I would suggest the “oil” is what we see and how we see it.  The eyes allow in what illumines the very heart, or soul, of the person.  There have been many dark things set before our eyes this year.  Hopelessness is associated with a darkened spirit.  However, hope relights the “Lamp of the Body” and casts out hopelessness.  If you’ve suffered loss this year and you’ve been struggling with trying to find that “oil” of hope, then this Christmas, I want to direct your focus at Jesus; God’s gift we remember with Luminaria during this darkest time of the year; the gift known as “The Light of the World”; the lamp whose oil never runs out.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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Light Hearted

IMG_20171210_181616Do you remember the old Christmas lights from back before there were “Mini-lights” and LED lights?  I think they were called C7 bulbs?  The way they were wired, if one bulb failed, the whole string of lights went dark.  With modern lights, if one goes out the rest stay lighted.  The burned-out bulb is easy to spot amongst the other lights.  I Tweeted the other day “A candle is barely noticeable in daylight.  However, its light is undeniable in darkness.”  The only thing more noticeable in darkness is the absence of light.

Because darkness is so scary for many people, it is widely used to represent evil.  I find it troubling that in popular culture, evil or darkness is portrayed as the color black.  This is not only insulting to dark skinned peoples, it is also misleading.  Scriptures teach that Satan can disguise himself as an “Angel of Light”.   Furthermore, darkness has no color.  Albert Einstein has been quoted as having said “There is no such thing as darkness.  Darkness is simply the absence of light”.  I guess that’s why it’s said, “The darkness hates the light”.  It’s because the light uncovers and exposes the darkness.  Darkness also hates the light because in the light, darkness will cease to exist.

With Advent and Chanukah just around the corner, we ordered more candles, so we’ll be ready to light our Advent wreath and Menorah.  The lighting of these two faith symbols is a significant statement against darkness.  The Advent wreath symbolizes our preparation to celebrate the entrance into our world of the Light of the World in human form; that is Jesus.  The Menorah is a remembrance of God miraculously sustaining the Menorah light in the Temple in Jerusalem for eight days when Judah the Maccabee found only enough oil for one day.  In both cases, light cast out darkness and that light illuminated human hearts.

Besides shorter daylight hours and the subsequent shortage of visible light as winter aproaches, a spiritual darkness exists in the world.  Darkness in human hearts can lead to dark actions.  Like human lamps, we must shine our lovelights to overcome that darkness.  Let’s join hands to form a string of lights and light up the dark!    “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  Hide it under a bushel – NO!  I’m gonna let it shine.  Hide it under a bushel – NO!  I’m gonna let it shine.  Hide it under a bushel – NO!  I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  Won’t let evil blow it out.  I’m gonna let it shine.  Won’t let evil blow it out.  I’m gonna let it shine.  Won’t let evil blow it out.  I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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