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Love isn’t a loophole

May 29, 2015

Sometime over the past couple of years I began hearing a churchy catch-phrase that was new to me. The first time I heard it I was puzzled.  Same response the second time I heard it, and the third.

In fact, it’s consistently been my response.

The phrase is “sloppy agape”.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with the word agape, it will help you to know it’s usually pronounced in a way that rhymes with sloppy.  Ah-gop-ee.  And it describes the type of love that is unconditional and not romantic or sexual.  It’s the kind of love God has for mankind, and the kind we’re urged to have for Him.

That’s where my puzzlement sets in.  God is perfect.  He loves perfectly, and according to scripture (1 John 4), He is love.  It is the essence of His nature.

And there’s nothing sloppy about Him.

When I’ve heard the phrase used, it has been disdainfully employed to imply that we expect grace and love to cover too much, and that we expect to be free to continue in sinful behaviors and habits because God won’t hold us accountable.

That sounds kind of right, doesn’t it?  And yet…it also sounds kind of wrong.

Leave it to religion to attempt to water down the good news so that it become mediocre news.  Way to turn prime rib into a bowl of oatmeal, folks.

See, here’s the deal.

Jesus died for us.  Not only that, but Jesus died as us.  Galatians 2:20 makes this statement clearly:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

What this means is that Jesus volunteered to be accountable for our sin—both the sin debt we inherited from our human ancestors, and our ongoing entangling sins that distort and pervert our original design as ones formed in the very image of God.  God poured out all His wrath over sin on Jesus when He was hanging on the cross.

Which means He doesn’t have any left for those who have been crucified with Him.

He’s not operating according to our messed-up sense of justice.  Jesus was punished fully, and as a result God is now free to pour out His pure, unfiltered, limitless, unconditional love on us.

It’s not sloppy.  It’s the passionate, outrageous nature of agape.  It’s His furious love for us.

You are loved like that, you know.  So am I.  And I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to stand a little taller, speak a little more kindly, be a little more gracious.  We’re not working our way towards being clean enough to be good with Him.  He already sees us as clean because He credits us with the payment Jesus made on our behalf.  And He’s not put off or intimidated by the areas in our lives where we don’t quite get it yet and we keep messing up.  He fully intends to hang with us and work with us until we are transformed and manifest the reality of who we are:  gloriously loved children who are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.

That’s a far cry from being a bunch of folks looking for loopholes to continue being the worst versions of themselves.  Agape isn’t a loophole; it’s a wide open gate to being clean and right with God, permanently.

Agape love will probably always look sloppy to those who haven’t fully felt the impact of it in their own lives and who haven’t understood the level of mercy and grace extended to them.

I sure wish that didn’t include so many believers.

He’s so much better than we realize.


Learning electro-tricks

May 28, 2015

So I got spurred by some bit of wildness today and decided I would attempt to learn some basic graphic design at

I am well aware that there is a sizable population of the Sparky Nation doubled over in laughter right about now.  And for good reason.  Every time I turn on my computer and it doesn’t blow up, I’m amazed.

Computer stuff doesn’t come easily to me.  There are things I can do, things I’ve learned, but for the most part I am easily confused and intimidated.  And you can show me how to do something eight times and I still won’t understand or remember how to do it.  But I can remember random facts I read in obscure places 30 years ago, easy.

You know, 30 BC.  Before computers.

I’ve been wanting to know how to do some simple graphic design projects.  This was driven home even more deeply after my recent and still unresolved search for business contact cards.  And this blog…holy smokes, I haven’t touched the layout for probably five years.  And why?  Because I don’t know how to make another header.  How pathetic is that?

So a friend told me about Canva and I made note and even signed up but didn’t touch it for about three weeks.  But today I decided to poke around a little

Lo and behold, they have beginner’s tutorials.

Now…it’s safe to assume that their idea of a beginner and my reality probably don’t match.  But I still hoped that I’d be able to navigate the tutorials.

By the time I was four lessons in, I’d only been on the verge of tears twice.  I figured that was probably pretty good, considering the raw material I was working with.  Namely, me.

I’ve now completed 9 out of 30 tutorials.  They’re short and simple, at least thus far.  One had me getting all worked up until I realized that the YouTube video they were using to show me what to do had to have been based on a different version of the program, because I simply didn’t have the button they used in the tutorial.  But I got around it, so I suppose either way I learned something.

Let me tell you…it is hard to be a creative and possess limited skills and proficiencies.  I can see possibilities but have no idea how to bring them to fruition.  I don’t know if learning this design program will help, but I’m going to give it a shot.

If you show up here to Hey Sparky one day and someone’s rearranged the furniture and hung new curtains, you’ll know I’m making progress.


Level Four Upgrade, please

May 27, 2015

I recently realized that I need to have some business cards made.

Problem #1:  I have no idea how to define my business.

Problem #2:  If I knew how to define my business, I’m not sure I’d put it on a card.

It’s more fun (and usually more fruitful) to let people figure out my business on their own.  The reality is that I am sent into the lives of others for varying reasons, and often not for the ones most obvious.  So defining my business could actually appear to be false advertising to someone who thinks they’re just going to lunch or just getting coffee.

So…that means what I really need is a contact card.  And I believe the design should be reflective of me. Nothing dull or boring.  Something with some color and quirk.

Ok, a lot of color and quirk.

Problem #3:  I can’t find a design that really feels like me.

Problem #4:  I have no graphic design skills to create one on my own.

I’ve looked at lots of nice designs.  Hundreds of them by now.  Pretty ones, professional ones, ones that do the job.  But nothing I want to represent me.  And I don’t think I want to settle until I find a YES! design.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years is that problems come with upgrades attached.  Every obstacle we face, large or small, is also an opportunity for growth and advancement.  So I’m asking Him about that, because I have this thing I need and I’m not able to make it happen without settling.  And He is not a settling kind of Person.  So I need some help up in here.

I’m not sure how that works with business contact cards, but when they finally arrive, I expect them to be all that and a bag of chips drowned in awesome sauce.


Non-words with Friends

May 26, 2015

I like to play Words with Friends on my phone.  It requires a few brain cells to play, which I like, but not so many that I begin to wheeze the moment I open the app.  Games are for fun and should not cause stress hives.  Just sayin’.

That said, I am dreadfully prone to tile collections that are nearly impossible to play.  Seriously…one I is good, but five?  How am I supposed to use that with the a and the u that complete my hand?  Or what about those hands that consist of J,L,K,B,V,X,Y?

Fortunately, I’m not too put off by losing.  For that matter, I usually forget to look at the score when I’m playing.  I just like to make words and get lots of points for it.  I tend to overlook that my opponents are doing the same and may be beating the pants off me.

Words with Friends has given my vocabulary quite a stretch.  I’m always shocked to find words that I didn’t know were actual words.

Rabbit trail:  I’m still disgruntled that the game doesn’t recognize shart.  Seriously…I can spell it, I can define it, I can use it in a sentence.  Everyone knows what it is, and everyone dreads that it might ever happen to them. How is this not a real word? Especially when the game does recognize shat? Ok, BANG! That rabbit’s dead, moving on.

One of the fun things the app does is provide a Word of the Day to help expand the vocab of those who play the game.  But today “fun” became weird.  When I opened the app, I saw this:

Word of the Day:  Tragis.

“Hmm,” I thought.  “I don’t know that word.  I’ve never even heard it before.”

So I clicked on it to get the definition and pronunciation.

Here is what it said.  You ready for this?

“This word is not recognized in Words with Friends.”


Seriously…why in tarnation would they put a fake word in the Word of the Day spot only to have you click on it to be told it’s a fake word?  Am I missing something here?

Tragis is not a word.  It does exist as an acronym (Transportation Routing Analysis Geographic Information System, TRAGIS), but that’s not something so commonly used that it would enter mainstream vocabulary.  Well, maybe if you were trying to sleep you might repeat it over and over like counting sheep.  Sounds like it would have the same effect.  So maybe it would be mainstream vocabulary for insomniacs and desperate parents of colicky infants.  But not the rest of us.

As far as I’m concerned this was just plain rude.  It was the word game equivalent to eating chocolate in front of a friend and not offering them any.

I’m sure there’s a word for that, and when I think of it I better get a good forty-five points for it.



The brush off

May 25, 2015

I watched as the colors began to spread,

shifting and changing across the neutral white

until they formed an opinion.

I did not realize it at the time

but the colors were on a journey

and neither they nor their opinion would be tamed

until the day of their final word,

which may not happen until they have been choked and consumed

by ashes or dust.

For now they proudly tell us who they are

and what it means to be burnt umber or phthalo blue

and about the nature of relentless blending,

knowing full well that we will ignore them

and write books about purpose and intent

that completely miss the point.


Look at it this way…

May 24, 2015

Earlier this week Mr. Sparky and I were visiting the Far-Away Sparkette and her family, and we decided to do a little bit of sight-seeing.

Just to make things interesting we took a two-year old along.  In many ways this is the equivalent of taking your cat along.  Both will refuse a carrier and do whatever the heck they feel like doing, raising a ruckus if you dare be unreasonable and insist they not run out into the street or bite strangers.

Kendall the Magnificent.

Kendall the Magnificent.

That’s Kendall, aka Keno.  He’s everything you’ve ever heard about two-year olds, and then some.

But let me tell you…I love that kid.  He is cute, boisterous, exuberant, temperamental, sensitive, independent, curious, sweet, opinionated, and determined.  Most of all he is passionate.  He is passionate about everything. He does nothing half-way.

Thanks to Keno I learned something about sight-seeing: if you want to know what’s really interesting about a place, take a two-year ing old along.

Two-year olds aren’t overly concerned with facts.  They are, however, very concerned with interesting bugs and rocks.  They are also interested in birds, even if the feeling is not mutual.  Water is always interesting, especially if you can potentially get wet.  Motorcycles and sports cars are of great interest, and if you see one you should make sure everyone around you knows.  It would be terrible if they missed the good stuff while they were busy staring at plaques and signs.

Wonder and joy can be found anywhere.  Even a teeny-tiny elevator module that only seats five when squeezed and lurches you to the top of the St. Louis arch.

Not so sure about this...

Not so sure about this… feels weird...

…it feels weird…


...actually, it's really fun!

…actually, it’s really fun!












There are little windows at the top of the arch.  You can see many interesting things from those windows.


The world is a wonderful place when you look with proper eyes.

We were a long way up.  630 feet, to be exact.

Sometimes you need a little help from your PopPop. And it's nice to have your mom and your little brother nearby, too.

Sometimes you need a little help from your PopPop. And it’s nice to have your mom and your little brother nearby, too.

We didn’t stay at the top for all that long.  I bet you can guess why.  But it was long enough.

On the way out the Far-Away Sparkette let Keno pick out two rock candy swizzle sticks from the gift shop.  One was for him; the other was for his older brother who had to stay home with a fever.  Keno carried them out in a little bag as if they were the world’s greatest treasure.

Of course, to a two-year old it doesn’t get much better than candy.

Thanks to construction, we’d walked a sizable distance from our parking spot to the arch.  Two-year olds are very particular about when they walk and when they get rides.  Keno mostly walked there, but on the way back he decided that maybe “uppies” wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Riding in style.  Not that he's tired or anything, of course.

Riding in style. Not that he’s tired or anything, of course.

His Nana wouldn’t have minded uppies, either, but nobody offered.  Then again, the other grown-ups were already carrying someone, so I guess I can understand.  We wore out the toddler that day.  Rumor has it he slept like a rock that night.  His PopPop and Nana surely did.

I think about scripture and how it says that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven we have to come like little children.  I look at Kendall and see clearly that in spite of his unfiltered human nature, his heart is open to wonder and astonishment.  He is not afraid to believe amazing things because to him, everything is amazing.

It’s good to be mature, but I don’t ever want to be so grown up that I lose the capacity for wonder and amazement.



This is war

May 14, 2015

I know said I wasn’t going to try to raise any more tomato plants.  After all, it’s been an expensive disaster every year, and I’m tired of sinking time, money, energy, and hope into what has come to be a first class lost cause.

But when I was in Walmart a month ago and I saw some pre-potted tomato plants with a little cage attached, I reasoned that maybe this was a way to have one last shot at having a few tasty homegrown tomatoes.  I’d only be investing $12.98 in this venture, and I didn’t even need to buy more potting soil.

So I bought one Better Boy pre-planted tomato.

Every day I’ve checked on the thing, watering and fussing and suckering it and dusting it with Dipel to keep any chewing bugs away.  My reward was watching a pretty little tomato develop low on the plant.

I was admiring that little tomato this morning as I gave Better Boy a drink and a dusting.  It was all cute and green, and getting pretty sizable.  Exciting!

But this evening when Mr. Sparky went out onto deck to grill us some chicken for dinner, he found my pretty little tomato no longer attached to the plant, but loose on the deck floor.  And it looked like this:

To whomever or whatever did this:  die, you gravy-sucking pig.

To whomever or whatever did this: die, you gravy-sucking pig.

It’s got little gnaw marks.  It’s almost certainly the work of the frizzy-tailed rats.  I don’t know of anything else that would do such a cold-hearted dastardly deed.

And the Sparkette wonders why I don’t even slow down when the squirrels play chicken in the road with my van.

She should be happy I don’t gun it.



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