Punk kids

Some punk kid flicked a lit cigarette at my windshield as I slowly & carefully drove around his group of friends standing in the middle of a neighborhood street in the dark. I dropped my kids off at home and then drove back to the block where he was. He and another kid had started walking down the street, so I rolled down my window and told him that I didn’t appreciate him throwing things at my car.

He snapped back, “I didn’t throw nothing at your car.” I resisted the urge to correct his grammar and said I knew he did, and he needed to act his age. He said, “Dude, I’m more mature than you are.”

I was thiiiiis close to coming back with, “That’s DR. Dude to you, punk,” but I told him to cool it off unless he wanted me to find out who his parents were and go talk to them. He shut up, and I drove back home.

Our neighborhood is a pretty peaceful area, which is perhaps why tonight’s episode rattled me like it did. I’d like to think I scared him straight and hopefully didn’t just make him more mad. It gave me flashbacks to a kid named Vernon in my childhood neighborhood. Looking back from a grown-up perspective, I can see that Vernon must have been a very troubled boy in desperate need of mental health services, but back in the day, I only saw him as a menace. He used to throw mayonnaise jars at people’s front doors and even went on a Christmas light cutting spree one year. It’s a wonder he didn’t get electrocuted. The last I heard of him, he was allegedly scheduled to go to juvenile, but his family moved seemingly overnight and left town. I hope he got some help.

It’s the Heart that Counts (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 30, 2014)

Many years ago, I memorized Micah 6:8 as a song. The version I learned went like this: “He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I had that song in my head this morning, so I looked up the verse again to read it in context.

Micah is considered one of the “minor prophets” of the Old Testament, and the book is tucked between Jonah and Nahum. They may be called “minor,” but there are some major insights within those writings. For example, Micah foretold that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (see Ch. 5). Micah also called out the people of Judah for being dishonest and worshipping idols. In fact, the heading for the passage quoted above is “The Lord’s Case Against Israel” in the NIV translation. God had a bone to pick with his people.

In the first five verses of Micah 6, the Lord reminds the reader of his many righteous acts. He dares the Israelites to backtalk him with complaints about life’s burdens, after all that God has done for them. Then, in verse 6, Micah poses the question of what gifts would be worthy to bring to the Lord as an apology for our sins. He mentions a variety of offerings before he hits the nail on the head in verse 8: God doesn’t want our sacrifices as much as he wants our hearts.

I like the way The Message paraphrases verse 8 (the same verse from the song that I mentioned up above): “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”

The greatest gift that we can offer to the Lord during this season (or anytime) is ourselves. Romans 12:1 calls this “a living sacrifice” – our everyday lives, devoted to bringing him honor.