the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Today I say goodbye to an old friend. They have been a part of my life since my childhood and for the most part they have been a blessing. They have shared mealtimes with me, they have even been there when I have needed to grit my teeth. But recently I have been fed up to the back teeth with them. Or, more precisely, with it.

Today I will have a troublesome back tooth extracted. It was damaged years ago by an impacted wisdom tooth and has been persevering since then, aided by dentists, until it has reached a point where it is no longer viable. In fact it is a liability. Cold food in particular sends an electric shock of pain shooting out of the tooth. It needs to come out.

As I wait for to go to the dentist it strikes me that all of us have habits, behaviour and (to use the Biblical word) sins that need to be extracted. We can leave them there but they will simply cause us problems and pain – and perhaps cause others around us pain too. Thankfully God’s Spirit is gentler than a dentist and doesn’t use sedatives. But we have to want him to help us, and we have to help him to help us.

If our problem is anger we can help by trying to take a long cleansing breath before responding to someone or something.

If our problem is gossip we can help by resolving to pause before we speak and ask whether what we are about to share really is ‘for prayer’.

If our problem is lust we can use the ‘off’ button on remote controls.

And so on. You know your own weaknesses. How can you help God to help you?dentist

As I say goodbye to this old friend that has become painful, I pray that God’s Spirit will also help me with extractions so I might become a better free sample of Jesus.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Yesterday we arrived back home after a lovely holiday in Lanzarote. Not too much sunburn and lots of relaxing. I highly recommend these holydays.

This morning I woke up in my post-holyday bliss and happily tucked into some toast and a cup of coffee.

Today I was due to have a tooth extracted under sedation.

After I had finished my toast I suddenly realised that I was supposed to have fasted for four hours before the extraction and my toast and coffee had been consumed well within that period. D’oh!!

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I realised I had blown it, that I would be stuck with the troublesome tooth for a lot longer and that I would have to eat a serious amount of humble pie (on the other side of my mouth) when I explained to the dental clinic what I had done.

I phoned the clinic that will be removing the tooth and explained what I had done, expecting a grumpy or begrudging response along with a complaint about how it was messing them around and how much rebooked appointments cost them.

Woe, woe and thrice woe!

Woe, woe and thrice woe!

Instead the lady on the other end of the phone was incredibly gracious and understanding. She immediately offered to rebook the appointment and wasn’t at all grumpy or complaining.

Bless her (and all receptionists who have a thankless task). No, literally, bless her!

It reminded me a little of God’s grace – when we mess things up and come back to him he does not complain about how many times we have come back to him before. He does not get grumpy. He does not begrudgingly forgive. He doesn’t even point out how much it cost him to be able to offer us forgiveness.

Instead he offers an open-armed, warm-hearted, generous-smiling embrace and immediately and graciously forgives. As he sees us making the mistake or committing the sin he already has forgiveness lined up for that. All we have to do is recognise our need of it and ask for it.

And he does not even limit it to that. His forgiveness is part of a package deal that includes full reconciliation with himself, a refilling with his Spirit, a clean slate and a party in heaven in our honour.

Now that’s grace with a capital GR! He offers it because he loves us. It’s as simple and as profound as that.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

One day, a man walks into a dentist’s office and asks how much it will cost to extract wisdom teeth.

“Eighty pounds,” the dentist says.

“That’s a ridiculous amount,” the man says. “Isn’t there a cheaper way?”

“Well,” the dentist says, “if you don’t use an anaesthetic, I can knock it down to £60.”

“That’s still too expensive,” the man says.

“Okay,” says the dentist. “If I save on anaesthesia and simply rip the teeth out with a pair of pliers, I could get away with charging £20.”

“Nope,” moans the man, “it’s still too much.”

“Hmm,” says the dentist, scratching his head. “If I let one of my students do it for the experience, I suppose I could charge you just £10.”

“Marvellous,” says the man, “book my son in for next Tuesday!”