Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homeward Bound

T.J. Cantrelle died this weekend. Before that, however, he really lived. He packed a lot into 17 years.
“Everybody is getting to see what a special person he was. He was a good looking kid, but he was just as good looking on the inside as he was on the outside,” said T.J.’s father, Jimmy Cantrelle.

“The program has him at 140. That’s giving him at least 10 pounds,” Jimmy said. “He never ran out of bounds. He never ran around anybody. He didn’t care how big you were. He was going to show you that he was going to run over you instead of around you. He played the game for the game, for the competition.”

Last Friday night, T.J. Cantrelle played the game of his life, leading Vandebilt Catholic to a 34-12 victory against district rival South Lafourche.

“Best game of his career,” Jimmy said. “His passing was right on.”

It was a game T.J. wasn't expected to play in because of an injury, but one in which he prayed all week to be a part of.

“Maybe God had a plan. Maybe God let him have his best game because it was going to be his last game,” Jimmy said. T.J. died in an automobile accident coming home from the LSU football game on Saturday night, taking three friends with him when the truck they were in lost control and flipped.

God once told the Israelites, who had been taken from their land given by God, "My people, do not be afraid; people of Israel, do not be terrified. I will rescue you from that faraway land, from the land where you are prisoners. You will come back home and live in peace; you will be secure, and no one will make you afraid. I will come to you and save you."

God was talking about the persons who had been removed by force from Judah, the southern kingdom, by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia.

But the passage could be talking about us, as well.

We are prisoners in a life we didn't create and can barely get by in. But one day, a day only God knows, He will come for us to take us to a home where we will live in peace, in security, and no one will ever make us afraid again.

The Bible is clear here. John 14: 1-3 (from the Message) tells us "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live."

There is a room for us, in a large home for us. But we must wait for God to come get us. That's the plan, and that's what God executes.

"On that great day," God says, "I will round up all the hurt and homeless, everyone I have bruised or banished. I will transform the battered into a company of the elite. I will make a strong nation out of the long lost, A showcase exhibit of God's rule in action, as I rule from Mount Zion, from here to eternity."

Our prayers go out to the families who lost children. There is no greater pain, I would think. Nothing I say, or do, or even pray will take that pain away. They will live with it for a long time.

But Paul tells us that our suffering on this earth is but a short, short time compared to the wonderful blessing of eternal life with God in our Father's House.

We're all in the process of going home, even as I write this. Some will go more quickly than others. Some will be home even before nightfall. The key is what home we'll be going to.

Till then, "My mouth is filled with God's praise. Let everything living bless him, bless his holy name from now to eternity!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Be still, again

What is your busy-ness quota looking like lately?

I took a moment yesterday to simply crash. It was a fine, fine afternoon. It wasn't hot, the humidity was sane and the wind was blowing mildly. I sat in the swing we have under the big oak in the front yard and read. Then I put the Nook down and sat and thought. Two cats that have adopted us played and frolicked and eventually jumpted into the swing with me.

I was still before God, and I liked it.

The Bible tells us to do this, you know? Be still, and know...? You get that, right.

From time to time the world will allow us to do so. We are not so important, frankly, that the world won't keep going with out us. I like to think that's not true, but it is.

So sit. Be. Absorb. Allow.

God will smile upon us if we are able to stop and let him.

The Bible says: "How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, 'We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.'

We have settled for being busy when God wants us to settle down.

Take some time; heck, make some time to stop and be still and listen and quit worrying, quit working, quit grieving, quit doing.

The weather is fine. The worry will still be there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't quit

Psalm 17, from the Message, reads:
3 Go ahead, examine me from inside out,surprise me in the middle of the night— You'll find I'm just what I say I am. My words don't run loose.
4-5 I'm not trying to get my way in the world's way. 'm trying to get your way, your Word's way. I'm staying on your trail; I'm putting one foot in front of the other.I'm not giving up.

This morning I'm particularly interested in the sentence, "I'm putting one foot in front of the other."

In time we all begin to understand the seriousness of the walk we take with the Lord. It is not all enthusiasm and happy, happy times. It isn't. Sometimes it's a struggle. Sometimes we have to say to the wind, "I'm not giving up." And we rejoice in that conviction.

Some out there have not said that because they're having a difficult time getting to that feeling. There is still the very real idea that they might give up.

I know that when I look up and folks who were new to the church and completely enthused and happy and ready for the next assignment who turn up missing one day, they had those thoughts and they were bent low till they just gave up.

Why keep coming? Why keep trying? Has anything changed? Has their marriages improved? Has their parenting skills gotten better? Why isn't that pastor helping me?

The fact is the pastor doesn't help. God does. And God only becomes a stronghold when we enter the stronghold. We can't dance outside the thing and expect that somehow things will be better.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep trying. Keep praying. Keep screaming if that will help.

But don't quit.

Sometimes it is the only thing we have left. The only thing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hope walks with us

In the letter someone wrote to the group known as the Hebrews, we read:
5-6Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you," we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I'm fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?

He will never walk off an leave us.
He is there, ready to help.
THEREFORE, I'm fearless.

I'm finishing a six-part series on how to live a fearless life this week, and what we've all learned is there is plenty to be fearful of. Things are not getting better; in fact, they are getting worse.

It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you lean toward politically, no one seems to have answers any longer.

All we get is some nonsense about how the recession is over, the country is headed in the right direction and for some reason we need to keep fighting in a county that no one has ever entered and become the victor.



But the notion that God is with us is also an indisputable fact that grows more meaningful as things get worse.

He is our stronghold, when things are darkest.
He is our rock, when the tides are rising against us.
He is our fortress, when we are surrounded at work by "pagans."
He is our shelter, when we can't seem to get our head above water.

Oh, how I wished I could tell you that things will be okay now that you've found God in your life. I can't. Evidence is widespread that things will continue to be difficult. You can't look at some of the writing in Daniel, Ezekiel or even Revelation and not notice that even when the good things are on the way, one must travel through horrendous happenings to get there.

But I can tell you with absolute assurance that as you go through these things, God will walk with you. That is the hope you must cling to.

When our kids aren't well,
when our own health is faltering,
when our parents are troubled and getting old,
when our bank accounts get up and leave us,
when our bills overcome us and threaten our sanity,
when our jobs go away like wisps of fog

He is with us. He will shelter us. He will walk with us through that dang, ol' valley of death.

That is the constant. That is the promise. That is the hope.

Buy into it today, for your own sake.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The field is ready

The question is, how do we do the great commission?

It should not be, what is the great commission or what did Jesus really want us to do. See, he really wanted us to make disciples. That is not in question. But, oh, he could have made it much simplier by simply telling us how to do it. There are no instructions, not that I ever look at instructions anyway. But my wife does and she could have explained it to me.

I think the reason he left it open-ended is he wanted us to be led by the Spirit into inspiration. He knew time would change and we would have to do things differently as time passed.

But the desire, the command remains. Make disciples. Go and tell the Good News to everyone.

We're at a seminar about that this weekend, 12 of us (ironic number, huh?), and I must admit that i long to bring people to Christ more than I long to feed them, or clothe them or serve them. That's just who I am at the DNA level. I want to say the right thing at the right time in the right manner that will change their life.

The irony is, I don't know what that is. I truly don't. I'm praying that it comes to me, and that hundreds of folks begin to come to our church. But that's in God's hands, I feel and I fear.

Bottom line is the effort must be made. The changes must come. The field is ready to be harvested, but there are so few workers.

I'm ready, Lord. Are there helpers out there?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Parting gifts

Ah, the humidity is slowly crawling away from us, the temperatures are dipping below unbearable, and the moon is full and shining like a waxed car.

Must be fall, huh?

Fall is one of my four favorite seasons. No, really, it is. I love fall for at least two reasons, one of which is football and the other of which is the World Series. Other reasons I might favor fall is the colors that God gives us, though he's a bit light on color in Louisiana, and the temps that seem to moderate very quickly before winter comes.

I have a sense of peace when this occurs, a sense that what I'm doing has greater meaning, a sense that I can sit outside and ponder deeply the gentle breezes that come.

I have a sense that we're all going to make it, that we're all going to have our gentleness, that even those who disagree with us might find common ground when the heat isn't severe and the humidity isn't cuttable with unsharp knives.

Really, I do.

Of course, the Bible talks about peace. It doesn't mention peace as an absence of conflict, but rather peace is a gentle breath of God.

Listen to John's Gospel from Eugene Patterson's The Message paraphrase: "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking. ... I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught."

His parting gift to us is peace.

Now, he doesn't mention the weather. He doesn't mention sitting in rocking chairs. He doesn't mention pondering at all. But he mentions being well and whole, and to me, that means sitting in rocking chairs pondering John's Gospel.

This morning, as the sun rises amidst a clear sky, and the temperatures respond to the calling of Fall, let us remember our Lord. Let us talk to him. Let us cherish our time with him. Let us remember his parting gift.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Being humbled

Recently I have had the opportunity of a lifetime. I've been humbled by the Lord. I do not brag about it because I did not choose it, want it, request it or desire it in any way. It happened, and I'm better for it. But it came with blood (a blister), sweat and tears.

I'm not the first, however, to face this malady.

Look at Matthew 20: 20-23 today:
20It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request.

21"What do you want?" Jesus asked.

She said, "Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand."

22Jesus responded, "You have no idea what you're asking." And he said to James and John, "Are you capable of drinking the cup that I'm about to drink?"

They said, "Sure, why not?"

23Jesus said, "Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. My Father is taking care of that."

As I continue my walk toward Zion, I have noticed that the more I volunteer to do things that are not in my comfort zone, volunteer to do things that don't fit what I perceive to be my skill set, the more I am humbled and broken in the right places. That's what I need, and I think we all need, to be able to continually submit to Christ as Lord.

To pick up my cross, I have to allow Him to humble me.

I have to drink from the same cup as our Lord in order to do any good. The plain truth is I struggle to make home visits, I struggle more to be with a group of people I don't know, I struggle on hospital visits. I do not struggle when I'm up front, when I'm in the lead, when I'm the one whom the spotlight is on. So my volunteering lately has been to do those things I struggle with, to have God chip away at my outside and humble me on the inside.

It is the way of the journey in which the journey is the main thing, not the destination of the journey.

Pray we all are humbled, and that we all benefit from the humbling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Silence truly is golden

This morning I awoke and was silent, in mind and tongue. I listened for God braving the time without thought nor speech as best I could. I was attempting to slow down.

Ever get that way? Ever feel overwhelmed? Ever feel you have volunteered for too much, or feel guilty that you haven't volunteered for enough or simply feel stressed by life?

Jesus did that. One of the things that was almost a common occurence was those trips up the mountains to, to, well, do nothing but pray. Sometimes, I believe, those prayers consisted of being quiet and still before the Father.

That's so difficult for many of us, I know. We have put quite a bit on our plates and we don't know how to get the stuff off the plate. So we battle and we try and we grimace and eventually we die with all that extra stuff on our plate.

But Jesus kept it simple.

Psalm 46 tells us to be still and know He is God. Simple. Direct. Lovingly, wonderfully meaningful.

Be quiet. Listen. Listen to yourself breathe. Listen to God say nothing, but feel the presence in your life.

It's not a bunch of hokum that the religious types have cooked up to make us do nothing better. It's a simply formula: spend whatever time you can with the one who loves you most.

The Bible says this: Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, "Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God.

And this: In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

And this: ...a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

And this: But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

And this: Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near.

I think you get the tone and the message. We must silence our daily chatter, silence our routines, silence our wants and wishes, silence our sins.

Be still, and in that stillness, know He is God.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Open ears

Let's talk parables this bright morning.

As in Luke 16: 19-31:19-21"There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man's table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.
22-24"Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, 'Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I'm in agony in this fire.'

25-26"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It's not like that here. Here he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.'

27-28"The rich man said, 'Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won't end up here in this place of torment.'

29"Abraham answered, 'They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.'

30"'I know, Father Abraham,' he said, 'but they're not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.'

31"Abraham replied, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.'"

Couple points here:
1) The rich man isn't punished for being rich, but rather for not noticing the poor man.
2) To me the key line is, "...but they're not listening."

We Methodists have gotten all up in a wad because we're shrinking (obviously in numbers and not waistlines). We're not bringing in as many folk. We're not getting as many professions of faith. We're not what we were.

All that stuff is important, but the bigger question to me is how do we get them listening?

What is it that will change the way the world views us, Christians not Methodists? What is it that will change their hearts?

If a person won't believe a man came back from the dead and can do the same for them, what can I possibly say that will make a difference in their lives?

I have no answer. I am speechless. I hurt in my heart for them.

But I know not what to do.

How do we get them to listen? Pray today that someone in your life has their ears opened by God.

Monday, September 20, 2010

That's life ... and beyond

I saw the sun rise this morning.

My dear, 17-year-old shelty, Tweety, did not.

Oh, this year has been a roller-coaster, as I guess all of life is. I spent the past four days at a spiritual retreat, working my buns off, hurting my back something fierce. But when I got home, drained and sure I'm worthless about helping others see Jesus and I'm so woefully short of helping anyone do anything, Tweety was there.

She had been laboring to breathe, and the last thing I told her before I drove away on Wednesday was for her to hold on till I got back.

Last night when I got back, she was there, wheezing and struggling to walk outside but I still had no real idea of what was to come.

I went to the bathroom before going to bed, and as she always did, she followed me in. I petted her, told her I loved her and I thanked her for waiting for me. That was to be the last words I spoke to such a dear old lady.

She was a sheltie, but she was black and white. She put up with Logan, the terrier mix, for more than 10 years. Logan has been looking for Tweety all morning, because other than a trip we took Tweety on two summers ago when we thought she was near the end then, Logan and Tweety have been pretty much inseparable since Logan was born. She put up with Frankie, and Paris, and Sammie and the boys of Shanna and even the little girl of Carrie.

It's just hard to imagine. Carrie was seven when Tweety was born into our family.

When Tweety was born, I was a drunk who didn't know Jesus.

When Tweety was born, all I lived for was my career.

Now, we will enter into a new life. I had prayed hard about rescuing a dauschund from a shelter in Pearl River, Miss., and I believe I will. But not today.

I buried Tweety at our house, our home, next to Buttons, our cat of 17 years. We will never have pets like those two, and they flat out needed to be together. So before the sun came up, I wrapped her gently and took her to her resting place where we'll rejoin her someday. We've rented the place, but the new occupants don't come on until Oct. 1, so it seemed appropriate that she go now.

I don't see where Jesus had a dog or a cat in scripture. We picture him as the good shepherd, but I don't know that he had any pets. If not, I'm sorry because he could have used them to illustrate what can only be called unconditional love.

Tweety loved me. More than Frankie did, she loved me. Me. Me who has few friends and can't seem to get out of his own way and never treated her anywhere near where she should have been, she loved ME.

I must tell you that if there are typos, it's because I'm weeping openly. I won't corredct tem because Tweety deserved ever tear.

I told her as I pushed the dirt onto her body to say hello to Frankie and Scrappy for me, and dear God I pray that she can.And I pray I will be able to one day, also.

Goodbye Tweety.
God speed.

The sun rose today, but Tweety did not.
That's life,
and death.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The Bible says: The army officer saw what had happened and he praised God, saying, "Certainly he was a man of God."

Why do we need to go on spiritual retreats? Why do we need a shot of something in our spiritual lives? Why am I here, doing what I'm doing?

The answer lies, I think, somewhere in that sentence. A Roman sees this man die, the same way one suspects he's seen so many die, and yet there is something different. Something special.

I think for those of us who are believers and have found that there is nothing else we can be, that's what we still crave. We still want to see, feel, experience those moments when our faith is made sight.

I've had a few. You've had a few, if you're a reader, or you want to have a few.

The answer is a simple one. Keep plowing the fields. Keep serving the lost and the least. Keep caring more for others than you do yourself. And someday that moment will indeed come, that moment when you look up into the eyes of a dead man and see eternity.

I pray I have another one this week. But if not. Jesus is still the answer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Your serve

Ah, this serving thing becomes real.

Today I head to a little place called Woodworth, which is not Wollworth's, which is the first place I learned any lessons about giving. I remember to this moment being dropped at the little store as an eight-year-old with money in my pocket.

I was there for Christmas shopping for my aunts (Blannie and Nita) and my parents. I had some ridiculously small sum of money and time on my hands. I began slowly, for all the things I saw were things I wanted and the temptation was so very real to spend it all on the person I loved most (even then) -- me.

But that wasn't the goal, and I figured (rightly) that someone would notice when I didn't come back with more than one package and none of my money.

But the day built, and before too very long, I was terribly involved with the notion of buying for others. It felt, strangely, GOOD. I enjoyed it, much to my surprise and a bit of my dismay.

I never forgot that. Never. It is still the thing I love most about Christmas, though I'm not particularly good at it as my wife and children will attest. But I love buying for others. I've discovered over time that it is the spending part that motivates me the most, but that's a lesson for another time.

But the trip to Woodworth is about something different. Without going into strange and surprising details that shall remain secret let I have to come through your computer and kill you all, suffice it to say I'm serving others. Intentionally. For long hours. Without pay or without benefit.

Let me remind you of how this is supposed to go in a way that I can discuss, from the 13th chapter of John's Gospel:

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The key line in there for me is the 15th verse: I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Mow, I have never washed feet, but I'm not at all sure that's the point. I have served, and that is the point. I have done so unwillingly, I have done so poorly, and I have done so so that I would be blessed.

But each time I, the spoiled only child that I am, serve, the chip of self is being knocked away from the good heart that God created.

I'm trying Lord. I'm trying.

For the next four or five days, I might be out of touch. But why not in the interim you practice your own serving.

If you can't find a spiritual retreat in which to help others, maybe, just maybe you can serve the neighbor who lives next door. Maybe, just maybe, you could ask if they needed anything when you went to the store. Maybe, just maybe, you could see if that person of need down the street would like to have a visitor who cares.

This notion that only the pastor can visit is hogwash, to use a theological term.


You truly will feel better about yourself, and I absolutely know others will feel better that you did.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Outliving your life

This is a bit different for me, but I'm going to do a book review per agreement with Max Lucado's publishing company.

It is a priviledge, actually. I've had a long history with Max's writings. Some even compliment me by saying I sound a lot like Max. If so it is because he writes in a pleasant every-man type of writing that encourages and lifts even those of us who still see the world as half-empty.

His latest, published just the other day, is called Out Live Your Life, and it is an excellent premise, to begin things. His idea is that the world has a gazillion problems, but if the body of Christ would simply be the body of Christ, as it was in the beginning when God took every-man types and changed the world, we too could make a huge difference.

It's a collection of what if's, really.

What if we took in the world's orphans?
What if we fed the world's hungry?
What if we cared, truly cared, for the lost, the least?

We could make that difference.

This book is a continuation of the more mature Max writing, thematically. The book before this, Fearless, was a complete theme, looking at how we get rid of all those fears we have to admit we have. Out live your life is complete thematically as well.

Each chapter is another look into the world we live and the world we could live in.

Being a United Methodist whose very motto is open minds, open hearts, open doors, I particularly like the chapter Open your door; open your heart. In that chapter, Max points out that the early disciples were so together, they ate in homes, shared in homes, worshipped in homes.

Today? Why we're so scattered we can't even agree on how to meet in homes. Because of our own inadequate behavior, Max resorts to a pont-by-point how to be hospitable. Oh, don't we need that today?

Bottom line is this book is another double, if not a home run. I like the endorsement that says Max's compassionate words have encouraged us in the past. This time he guides us toward compassion.

It's worth noting that the proceeds from this book, 100 percent of them, go to benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.

It is time we make that difference, friends. We've been given so very much, particularly in this country; we should acknowledge our God by giving to others. Pay it forward, as it were.

Max says: "it's a story of hillbillies and simple folk, net casters and tax collectors. A story of movement that exploded like a just-opened fire hydrant out of Jerusalem and spilled into the ends of the earth: into the streets of Paris, the districts of Rome, and the ports of Athens, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Buenos Aires. A story so mighty, controversial, head spinning, and life changing that two millenia later we wonder."

It can happen, again.

We can change the world, again.

We can quit our bickering and find peace not like the world offers but as the Christ, this Jesus of Nazareth offers. It can happen, again.

What we need is more writers, preachers, leaders, caring persons like Max Lucado to step forward and show us the compassionate needs of the world. The world needs to be loved into submission, rather than burning holy books or flying airplanes into towers.

Max closes by pointing out that one day the clutter will all fade away. We will recognize the fact that we never noticed the beauty in the midst of the business. "From the perspective of heaven, we'll look back on these days -- these busy, cluttered days -- and realize, That was Jesus playing the violin. That was Jesus wearing the ragged clothes. That was Jesus in the the jain .. in the cardboard shanty. The person needing my help was Jesus."

Max says thee are many reasons to help the people in need. "But for Christians, none is higher than this: when we love those in need, we are loving jesus. It is a mystery beyond science, a truth beyond statistics. But it is a message that Jesus made crystal clear: when we love them, we love him."

Buy a book. Help an orphan, or someone without clean water, or someone without proper food. Then read the book, and prepare yourself to be moved to help an orphan, or someone without clean water, or someone without proper food. When did we feed, visit, clothe or comfort Jesus? When we did so to the least of these.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SMELL Greatness

"The Lord is my shepherd," David wrote. "I shall not be in want."

What does a good shepherd do, actually? A good shepherd protects his sheep, feeds his sheep or makes sure they have access to good grazing territory, makes them lie down beside streams of water, helps them even when the going is dificult and they must pass through a valley that is the very shadow of death itself.

A good shepherd is that and so much more. A good shepherd lives with the sheep, watches the sheep, actually bathes with the sheep. A good shepherd SMELLS like the sheep. That's a good shepherd.

Conversly, a bad shepherd doesn't watch the sheep, actually lets some wander away to their death, doesn't care if they eat or drink properly and certainly would not want to SMELL like the sheep.

What's so amazing in a number of amazing tales about the birth of Christ is that the shepherds came into town to tell everyone about it and to see the baby. Shepherds were outcasts because they SMELLED like sheep, which is no eau de lysol. They were the worst choice God could have made to announce the birth of his son. No one wanted to see, much less SMELL, the shepherds. Yet God chose them. He always does, pick the outsider I mean. He doesn't call the annointed. He annoints those he has called, giving them all they need to accomplish the tasks he needs accomplished.

The point of all this?

I will fear no evil because you ae with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

"Your rod and your staff." The image is pastoral and exquisitely beautiful. There are few objects more picturesque than that of the shepherd and his crook.

The 'rod and the staff' are essential to the office of the shepherd as to the guidance and protection of the flock. The spiritual and practical significance of the symbol will be obvious to every reflective mind.

The first is that of designation. The first and primary use of the shepherd's rod is that of marking the sheep, by which they are distinguished from all others, and recognized as his own. This is the meaning of God's word- "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant."

And again, "In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the valley, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of Him that tells them, says the Lord." And yet once more, "Concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord."

How clear and precious the teaching! Christ's Church is a chosen flock, distinguished and separate from all others by an act of eternal, sovereign, and most free election. Hence our Lord said- "I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep."

If a member of Christ's Fold, you have 'passed under the rod' of electing love, and have upon you His own secret and distinguishing mark that you are His.

To that everlasting love- to this election of grace from where it sprang- to your having thus passed under the Shepherd's rod- you owe all that you are as a child of God, and all that you hope for as an heir of glory.

In other words, you are marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit as one of His flock. God knows that flock completely. He knows our hearts and our minds. He knows the way we think and the way we act and he knows what's next on our agenda.

Though Shepherd is an office no one would want to be elected to necessarily, it is the metaphor God chose.

He closes this metaphoric psalm by saying, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life."

Why? Aren't sheep lost every day?

Because we don't have just any shepherd watching over us. We have the good shepherd who will leave the 99 behind and go in search of the one lost sheep. Who will give everything to makes sure grace and mercy is extended to us all. Who will walk through that long, terrible valley with us, not just telling us about it, but actually walking along beside us.

He prepares the table, he annoints our heads with oil, he washes our dirty feet, he gives us so much our cups overflow. Surely goodnees...surely goodness...surely goodness will follow us because of that.

David was overcome with joy when he wrote this, probably sitting next to that quiet still water, a pastoral setting if ever there was one. He meditated on God's love and grace and this is what came out, like a song in our heads that plays its own tune when we awaken at 3 a.m. This psalm comes right after, amazingly, the 22nd in which David writes, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"

In essence, then, the psalms come together to form, for lack of a better term, life. From the bottom of the pit (or the top of the cross) to the still waters of a sheep herd, God is with us.

SMELLS like good times, doesn't it? SMELLS like greatness.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Seeing God face to face

We had this question the other night at a Bible Study: What are you looking forward to seeing first in heaven?

The normal answers pervaded: Jesus, God, family members, pets, etc.

But can you really imagine? Can you really think about what it will be like to see God, the Father, and Jesus the Son in person. Face to face.

Gideo did. In judges 6:20, the Bible says: 20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!" 23 But the LORD said to him, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die." 24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace.

Now, we've been taught that in the Old Testament, anytime you see the angel of the Lord (unless the angel is named), it is the pre-incarnate Jesus.

So imagine that Gideon sees Jesus. How does he know him? How does he recognize him? How does he "realize" it is the angel of the Lord?

Isn't it interesting that almost every time this happens, food is involved?

In the 18th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is visited by three "men." His first reaction, which in the culture of the land at the time meant to offer food is to offer fellowship, friendship, a place to stay even.

The Bible says, beginning in the sixth verse of that chapter: "So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread." 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9 "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "There, in the tent," he said. 10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master [d] is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh."

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus isn't recognized until he breaks bread.

And on and on.

The breaking of bread, the serving of a stew, the preparing of a meal constitutes coming together and a life together.

Angels, perhaps the trinity (three men?, one of whom is called the Lord?), the pre-incarnate Jesus, all are recognized and accepted when a meal is served.

It is that same way today when we have communion together. When we ingest the bread and drink the juice, we literally become the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.

I've given communion literally hundreds of times. At Lacombe UMC, we do it every week. But it excites me to this day. If I had no other reason to be in the ministry, this one act would be enough. It is goose-bump producing; a wonderful moment each week; something to look forward to even if the sermon hasn't gone well or the congregation is sleepy or the music has been flat. Hand out the body, offer the cup, and the face of Jesus is made visible for all to see. It is the person handing the body and offering the cup and like Gideon we cry out, "I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face" and like Sarah, we laugh. Unlike Sarah, though, we laugh out of joy. we smile out of revelation. We grin out of peace and satisfactin.

And we mean it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Removing the scales of life

Here's a story for you from the fifth chapter of the book of Daniel:

1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father [a] had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way."

The prop0het Daniel, a man of about 80 at the time who had spent most of his adult life serving the kings of Babylon, is called in. He interprets the message as this:

25 "This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin [e]

26 "This is what these words mean:
Mene [f] : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel [g] : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres [h] : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Now, this seems to indicate that the good that the king had done was placed on a scale and it was not counterbalanced by the bad. In other words, the bad the king had done out-weighed the good.

But does that mean, therefore, that if the good outweighed the bad, King Belshazzar would have been okay? His salvation would have been secured? If that's true, then wouldn't ours be as well? If that's true, then why did Jesus have to die?

The answers are no, no, no and because of all the above nos.

The problem with the scales of justice, if you will, is that one sin is equal to a million good deeds. Paul tells us point-blank in the book of Romans that "We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Notice the tense change there? It goes from past-tense "sinned" to present tense "fall." In other words, the falling keeps on keeping on. We all sin. We are saved from it by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. But we continue to fall short, making the sacrifice of Jesus all the more pertinent.

See the problem is what we're weighing the good against. We're weighing our good against, not our bad, but against God's good. The prophet Isaiah tells us, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Compared to a perfect God, we are incapable of doing any good at all. The only human who ever compared favorably was Jesus himself.

So the scales can never be equal, never be balanced.

What does this matter?

We're talking about living a life filled with guilt and remorse or a life filled with truth about ourselves and a love of this Jesus who died so that we could have the balance of those scales.

Even Paul admitted he understood the guilt that comes with trying to keep the law, every bit of the law, ever word and ever sentence of the law. "18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[d] I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin," Paul writes in the seventh chapter of his letter to the church in Rome.

What I want to do, I do not do.

That is the falling short Paul writes about.

If there is anyone out there that thinks they are not falling short, their pride won't let them admit it and consequently they are falling short.

See, the problem with King Belshazzar was that he knew all the things that had happened to his grandfather King Nebuchadnezzar and yet he continued arrogantly to sort of rub God's nose in his own ego. He had gold goblets that were stolent from the Temple of Soloman brought to his palace and the Babylonians drank wine out of them.

There comes a time, for all of us, when the falling short will end. That doesn't mean we won't stop falling short. We always will do that without Jesus. It simply means there comes a time when God stops waiting on us. It's called by many, death. For some in the future it will be called, the resurrection of the dead when Jesus comes again. In either case, there comes an end even to the glorious patience and amazing grace of our God.

The scales on Paul's eyes were removed.
The scales of justice are balanced.
We are given a gift we didn't earn, a prize we didn't pay for, a mercy we couldn't demand.

The night King Belshazzar called Daniel in to read the hand writing on the wall (see, that's where we get the phrase), the king died. We never know when our time will come. So why wouldn't we turn to the one who does?

I know it's a difficult thing to apply logic to the spiritual, reasoning to the supernatural, but surely that makes sense, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Don't forget, now

Well, I've come a long, long way. I've finally reached the stage where I forget things. Others have been there for a while. But all I had was a memory that let me juggle several things in place and do several tasks at once.

But apparently I forgot how to do that.

This morning, so far, I've forgotten where my keys were, wallet was and barely found my shoes. That's normal. Last night I forgot a meeting was at 6 p.m. and I was going early for a 7 p.m. meeting. I can't forget the plaintive, "Ohhhhhhh, Billy" at the end of the cell phone, as if I ever did that before. Then this morning I have a tele-conference class that starts in 45 minutes or so, and I can't locate the book that it is based upon. I have read it, but clearly I'm not nearly as sure I will remember what it said now than I might have two days ago.

I forgot.

I never accepted that as an adequate reason before, but now I see that sometimes it is the only thing left to you.

I forgot.

I forgot what last week's sermon was about. I forgot when I was supposed to meet with so-and-so at the office. I forgot ... did I put that deoderant on or did I not?

I forgot. I once forgot my wife, leaving her at the church one Sunday morning but I had a good excuse: I was hurrying home to see the Saints. When she called asking, "Did you forget something." The only thing I could think to say was, "Who is this?" I still didn't understand that I had forgotten her.

The Bible seems to indicate that all forgots are not punishable by OOOHHHHH Billy's. That most of them are forgiven forgots.


17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God—
gods they had not known,
gods that recently appeared,
gods your fathers did not fear.

18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.

19 The LORD saw this and rejected them
because he was angered by his sons and daughters.

We can forget our keys, our glasses, our cars, our clothes, our shoes, our jobs, our kids and our spouses, but we can not forget our God. God takes exception to that. The Bible speaks of anger, but it is the rejection of the Lord that frightens me. What if I forget him, forget to worship him, forget to love him, forget to talk to him, forget to have that relationship with him? What if I forget?

He can, and sometimes will, reject me.

I can never forget what life was like before God. That keeps me going, when the answers to prayer seem so far away. All I need to do is think of one day in my life, the day before I met him, and my inspiration to try is back. No dry day, no deep valley of remorse, no pain that I'm suffering is as terrible as that day, the day before He accepted me back.

I can never forget that.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heart versus head

The last time Brett Favre threw a pass in the heat of a real game it was intercepted by New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter to save the NFC championship game for the Saints, sending that game into overtime. Favre never got the ball in overtime as the Saints drove down the field, making a fourth-and-1 conversion at one point, before kicking a field goal that send the Saints to the Super Bowl.

I've watched the NFC Championship game two or three times since, and I have a hard time believing to this minute that the Saints won that game. If not for the turnovers, the Saints do lose it. I guess whether or not you believe they were indeed take-aways as opposed to turnovers makes you believe the Saints won that game versus the Vikings losing it.

It's heart versus head.

Religion is a lot like that.

Let me explain. I teach a couple of Bible studies, and in those studies (for a total of about 18 people at most), they all believe with their heads that Jesus was the Christ, that he was cruficied, dead and buried and on the third day he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

They believe that though they have never seen a risen from the dead person, much less Jesus the Christ. That's head believing. It's not easy, but it's easier than is heart believing.

Heart beliving is this: "But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Galatians 5: 5-7. OR ow about this passage found in Hebrews 11:1? "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

The key word that distinguishes head believing versus heart believing is SURE. If you are SURE, of what you hope for and CERTAIN of what you do not see, I suggest it is heart beliving. The kind of belief that does more than follow a logical path. In fact, the path is a bit illogical, but you believe it anyway.

It is not logical to believe in the Virgin Birth.
It is not logical to believe in shepherds coming to see the baby or tax collectors getting a seat at the table or 12-year-olds learning and lecturing the rabbis.
It is not logical for the Messiah to be crucified to death.
Nor is it logical for that same Messiah to be raised from the dead, to ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father.
It is not logical.

But it is our experience. It happened. I am SURE of what I believe and I am CERTAIN that belief will one day turn to sight.

The disciples all believed with their hearts, so much so that they died for their beliefs. If they were wrong, don't you think they would have surrendered that belief, or that lie as it were, before the Lions got an appetizer? I sure would have. But they didn't fall back one step. They believed with their hearts, which in Jewish life around the turn of the millenium was where the emotions were kept. In the heart.

So let's go all the way back to that long-ago football game. I believe with all my HEART that the Saints can beat the Vikings Thursday night. I believe with my HEAD that it can happen. Am I SURE? Nope. Let's see, it's 43 years of disappointment and losses versus one Super Bowl victory.

But in my HEART, I believe they can.

Sometimes that's all you're gonna get.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

God's sending it

What a week:

1) Gabe turned seven on Thursday. The birthday party is today. Joy and more joy.

2) Contemporary service Sunday night was lightly attended, but it was attended. Prayers continue that it will grow. I'm working on it to become more of a Vespers type of contemplative service. It is what it is. God will do what God will do. (Cliches to come).

3) We rented our house. We don't breakeven on the mortgage, but it's close enough. Mary and I met the tenants and we felt they were good risks to rent. They were nice. They were talkative. They seem to be the type of folks who will take care of your home as tenants. Yay. Joy and more joy.

4) I covered a football game last night. More money. Joy and joy.

5) I signed a book deal and worked more on finishing the thing so it can be shipped to publisher. Joy and more joy.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross; despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The finisher of our faith? Endured the cross so that he could enable the joy.

It took three plus months for us to rent our house. It took eight months for a book deal to be struck after the writing portion, the first draft as it were, was finished. I didn't cover any sort of game at all since the middle of November, 2009.

It takes time.

When the storm comes, it comes quickly. But when the avenue out of the storm comes, the opening is a small one and it takes forever (seemingly) for us to take advantage.

The solution?

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 1);17

Hang in there. That money you're owed? It's coming. That bill you need to pay? God will handle it. That joy you need? God's sending it.

"...If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Perseverance calling

20-22Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, "If I can just put a finger on his robe, I'll get well." Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you're well." The woman was well from then on." Matthew 9: 20-22

"...through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[a] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we[b] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5: 2-4

"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering."

The Bible is pretty straight-forward about some things, including today's them of perseverance, the keeping on attitude. Paul thought it to be one of the most important gifts one could have. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. Hope is simply the bargaining tool that produces a bit of faith, and faith produces salvation.

When the trials come, Paul says persevere.
When the trouble stacks up, persevere.
When the pain doubles, persevere.
When the waves lash at the side of the boat, persevere. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep hoping.

Peter wrote, "5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." The order might be random, or it might not be. If it's not, it is interesting that Peter puts perseverance next to godliness. Certainly God has persevered, having the patience to put up with all we've done since creation.

Finally, the writer of the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews tells us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

When the things are about to get bad, fix our eyes upon Jesus. When the struggle is too much to expect many to be able to take it, turn your eyes to Jesus and hang on. Run with perseverance, run with stick-to-it-ness. Run with pride, in all humility. Run with joy, in the heat of the moment. run with I'm never going to give up attitude, because we have the Spirit of God as our timer inside us.

Friends, Jesus walked that lonely highway by himself, right up to the cross. We, however, don't have to do that. Jesus is with us, all along the way. Hopefully that gives us the courage, the inspiration, the persevering attitude that we're going to get this done.

Keep going. Keep trying. Keep plugging. Keep holding on if that's all you can do.

After all, what else do we have to do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sleepless night

Ah, love it when things are so clearly going awry. For example, I woke this morning at 1:30. That's not terribly unusual. I wake during most nights for an, uh, pit stop on the road to dryness. But this was different. I'm STILL awake at 6:33 a.m.

The question is why? When this happens, my dear Mary almost always asks: "Is something bothering you? Are you worried about something?" You know, things along those lines.

I have a friend who told me that when he is awakened during the night, he always asks God, "What do you want from me this time, Lord?"

While it is true that bills are a problem, frustration always mounts when church attendance isn't where one's goals were and such as that, but it is equally true I didn't think of any of that during the sleepless night.

So, what was it?

It was a dog. I've found myself looking at shelters lately, looking at dogs that look like my dear departed Frankie. Ironically, in looking at the dachshund breed, I come across many, many others. All in cages. All with the eyes of pain, suffering, loneliness, desire. I can't help but think "how can people put so many of these dogs out?" I have no answers.

In a cruel world that kills fetuses, I guess it is only logical that dogs and cats and other animals are mere toys to be thrown away when it suits the person doing the throwing. But my goodness it tears up my heart.

I saw this dog, who I might claim today, named Sissy. She fairly recently had puppies, which is a perilous thing at shelters. For some reason they don't want birthing dogs there. She's a full-blooded dachshund, red and white not black as was Frankie (who died in January while we were in Israel of cancer that we knew nothing about before it was too late). But her ears are the dachshund alert looking, pointed to the heavens as if she knows something we do not, and she's got that fascinating dachshund smile.

And unless someone claims her in some unknown time period, I guess she faces the death chamber.

I was talking about this at a Bible Study last night and a wonderful friend named Josh said he would pay half the adoption fee if I would go pick up Sissy and bring her home. I said I would think about it. I didn't' know or realize that would constitute half my night.

What can we do about this insane problem of people giving up dogs for reasons that border on lunacy? They have to move. They have too many. The economy is belly up so there will be no more belly rubs. They got to old. They got sick.

You name it.

And their dogs wait for their master to return with longing, puzzled eyes.

I've always thought that dogs most represent or give evidence of God's mercy and grace more than anything. They forgive all evils. They never give up hope. They love completely unconditionally.

Oh, but that I could go to a local shelter and bring them all home. Oh, but that I could find homes for every dog (and cat and rabbit and ferret and on and on). I know I can't, but goodness that keeps my eyes open on a sultry September night.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cross bearing beams

I received an e-mail.

It was spam without a can. But what it advertised was priceless.

It said.
“It just doesn’t get any easier than this”
It said.
It said.

Seems that in Japan, they’ve sold 28 million bars of AOQILI formulated weight loss soap in a single year. Seems the Chinese believe that the extract from deep seaweed soap has special penetrating and emulsifying properties that allow it to penetrate the skin by osmosis and react with the fat deposits that are directly stored between the skin and make them blood soluble.

I am not making this up.

Apparently I can belly up to the food bar, eat my fill and then some, and wash that man right out of my hair (and stomach).

Sweet. For $17.95 a bar of soap, I can lose weight and essentially do nothing more than I do every Saturday anyway, whether I need the shower or not.

Sweet. According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s like liposuction but with no suffering. Sweet.

Isn’t that just like us? We want what we want with no suffering whatsoever. But Christ understood true spirituality to be far more involved, far more painful, far more ultimately rewarding.

Jesus told his disciples (them, you, me) to pick up our crosses and follow. There is an inherent difficulty there. It is not sweet, nice, without pain. It is often hard, difficult, sometimes even deadly.

It is discipline and hard work. It is study and deep, deep prayer. It is sometimes fasting and real supplication. It is getting out of the house and feeding someone. It is telling a complete stranger about someone you can’t see, touch or hear but who has made all the difference in the world and beyond for you.

It is walking to the cross, blood dripping down your shoulders and from your side, each step an exercise in agony.

Life doesn’t come easy. I’ve truly found that few things in life that have meaning do.