Finally Finished with Phineas

O, to be finally finished with Phineas! Phineas who? O, you know him, alright. You've been over to his place. And likely more than once. In fact, you've walked in his shoes! And I'm pretty sure his words have been on your lips! Phineas is the little kid who got up before the sun, packed his bag and climbed into the family RV.  He could barely wait. It was his day. Today: at last off to Ivy Island, the land his grandpa had deeded him on the very day of his birth. But he never got to see it. 'Not until he came of age. Oh, in his dreams he'd farmed it, raised cattle on it, ruled it as the fairest realm in the state of Connecticut! Now… at last, on his way, young Phineas, to see his inheritance. Like any 12 year old in such straights, he constantly asked, once the day dawned, "Are we there yet?" Well, hallelujah, atop the last hill, papa pointed across the meadow and said, "There it is, the most valuable land in the state, just past the trees!" Off like a shot, Phineas bolted for a better look. What he saw changed everything for him. IVY ISLAND! Five acres of snake-infested marshland. A monumental, intergenerational joke ginned-up on-a-child by pa and grandpa alike. Papa roared with laughter. Phineas deflated in disappointment. Made the fool, he made a living ever after fooling people. He became a promoter-provocateur. He eventually took a partner, Mr. Bailey. Phineas Barnum, you know him better as P.T., coined the phrase, "There's a sucker born every minute!" He spent his days trying to prove it at the Barnum & Bailey Circus we still troop to see. Disillusion and disappointment don't belong to Phineas alone, but to all of us who have been pointed to the Promised Land, only to find ourselves taken to a swamp! (Lucado.) The question is: how do we deal with disappointment? How can we live beyond a broken heart? How do we stand on faith with a crest-fallen soul?

O, to be finally finished with Phineas!

It's what every kid home with a so-so report card wants to know. And every parent who's read it. And every worker wantin' a raise. Or spouse who's wondering what happened to the partner I picked. It's what every believer who's prayed hard and is ill anyway, or lived right and been life-wronged wants to know. How do we deal with disappointment? We need a new 'tude for a new time. A different beginning, maybe, for a different ending… Finally, faith over Phineas!

Let's a take a walk. (Dig/dive a little deeper, say/sing our youth.) Here's Cleopas and that other disciple (We don't really know who they are. Some say they were an early Christian couple). They're heading the 7 miles to Emmaus. It might as well have been 70! Heads down, shoulders slumped. Not steppin' lively but shufflin' along. It's Easter evening, only they think it's just 3 days after the cross. The risen Jesus comes up right beside them. But they can't see him for who he is, much less right by their side. He asks, "Why so woeful?" "Are you the only one who doesn't know?" they ask. (Isn't that like us? Don't we think our distresses are enough to weigh the whole world down with us?) They tell him the crisis of the cross and end with these telling words, "We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. But it's been three days! NOW, some of our women… at the tomb …didn't find his body. So get this!  They came back saying they'd seen a vision of angels, who said he's alive." Wanna know the signal of the deepest disappointment. Here it is, "We HAD hoped. I had hoped!" 'Have you said that? 'Felt that? Is it where you are right now about something or someone, even Jesus, even God? Well, don't miss this! When your vision gets clouded, so often, your heart gets hardened! (ML)Yet, the answer to your question(s), the solution to your problem(s), the very Savior of your Soul can be walkin' right there beside you… and you just can't see! When disappointment turns our heads, sours our stomachs or seduces us with cynicism, even Redemption Day just looks like a little more than grave robbery. Such are the consequences of disillusion. It's a story of Biblical proportion, preying on our souls.

What we don't see is that so often we are participants in our own distress. 'Architects of our own agonies. Here's the tell-tale sign. Cleopas and confidant would recognize it. "We WERE hoping!" We substitute our wants, our dreams, our visions of Kingdom-Come for God's! We get disappointed in the face of our own unmet expectations! "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" Unmet expectations! We wanted a Roman-Wrecker, a tax-reliever, a bail-out-bringer, a sensible-savior, a social-securer. God: wants more. 'Not to save a nation, but to save humanity. 'Not to satisfy Cleopas but to save your Uncle Clive, and you and me. Whatever disappointments you bring today, ask yourself this about them. Could I be glad, grateful, relieved, that God does not simply settle to answer puny prayers, timid prayers like mine, sometimes? God wants and does more. 'Not based on what we want, but what we need! Honestly, how do we respond? What happens when we ask God for more? And God says, "Do with what I gave you?" 'When we say I want a new situation (home/work), and God says, "Honor the one I offer you?" We're like the fella who bought a parakeet, took it home, loved its voice, but noted it had only one leg. Back to the store he went to complain. The merchant replied, "You said you wanted a companion who could sing. Now you're telling me you want one who can dance! Make up your mind." Get your heart right. Open it. …It had been 28 years since I talked to Linda. But I called her husband Tony Thursday. She answered. We talked. I was just grateful she remembered me. She did more. She reminded me, "Do you recall when we had David? And I told you all I prayed for was a healthy baby. And that day we found out he had Down Syndrome. And you sat at my kitchen table and said he'd bring unexpected joy. 'Special needs kids bring very special blessings,' you said. For years I've wanted to tell you when I got right, I saw that was right." (Boy, was I relieved. God kept me from goofing up that day! Yea, God!) Well, dealing with disappointment means letting Jesus deal with our priorities! 'Letting Jesus expand our expectations, 'give us a heart for heaven instead of a heavy heart! He does it now, just as he did back then.

Jesus' cure for disappointment is to tell us the story of God. 'The plan of salvation! "Was it not necessary the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" he asks. "And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted scripture to them in the things concerning himself." 'All the way back to Moses! He didn't just explain Holy Week, any more than he lets us wallow in our own woes! He unfolds the whole drama to show us God is in control. 'STILL IS! It's not over 'til God says so. HE STILL HASN'T SAID YET. Your unmet expectations are not that big! AND GOD'S NOT DONE YET! 'Wanna cure for your distress and disillusion? Do what they did. Listen to Jesus tell you the story of Scripture. Go back to it over and over. Let God's story, their story, be our story, your story! Be finished with Phineas! 'Not bitter but better! Not faithless but believing. And your eyes will be opened, too!

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