Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Words for Living" part 4 (published January 2, 2008 in "The Coummunity Voice.")

[Please note the sermon for 1.20.08 is posted below.]

Somewhere, out there, is an elephant who remembers me.

I was just at teenager when we went to a local zoo. As a teen it held only one attraction for me, the elephants. Since the zoo was poor, it got visitors to feed the animals. It was a good system, but I always wondered how smart it was to put small children in contact with a creature that could pick up a bulldozer.

Such were my adventures with this elephant. I nagged my parents into buying the peanuts. Standing in line feeding this elephant a peanut at a time from my hand, I came up with the most brilliant idea a teenage boy ever had who had ever feed this elephant. The decision was made and I executed with the flawless hand eye coordination of a third string basketball guard. The extended trunk reached for my hand and found the entire bag offered to him.

You would think that an animal of that intelligence would realize that I was his best friend in the world. After all, no waiting for a measly single peanut. You would think. Trouble is animals, like politicians, have their own agenda. Call it training, call it nature, or call it human stupidity. The elephant knocked the bag out of my hand where it lay at his feet. I began to yell and point at the bag. Just a word of advice, I don’t think it’s smart to yell at a creature that could pick up a bulldozer. So when you get a chance to do it, don’t.

Remember the elephant can reach me. It pointed its trunk at me. I took a step back wondering if the chicken wire that doubled as its fence would hold it. The trunk scrunched up. The elephant inhaled and made a noise like it was clearing its throat. At that moment, I was euphoric that I was typical juvenile male. You see, at that moment any male knows what’s coming next.

I stepped aside and ducked. The guy behind me obviously wasn’t paying attention. Trust me on this one, a creature that could pick up a bulldozer also produces a profuse amount of “mucus.” You remember that old TV show that was popular with the kids a while ago, the one where they poured buckets of slim over some victim. They got the idea from looking at this guy.

I’m told an elephant never forgets. I went back many, many, many years later. There was the elephant, taking peanuts from people one at a time. Suddenly, on seeing me walk by, his head snapped up. He made a trumpeting sound. Thankfully, I could run faster than a bulldozer.

New Years is a time to forget the old and create the new, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” [Philippians 3:13b] God calls the forgiveness extended to us compassion. “They are new every morning.” [Lamentations 3:23a] “They” means more than once, thankfully.

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