Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Words of God

Years ago I began this ministry that is in its 12th year. At the beginning, my mentor gave me opportunity to be in front of persons. He called it speaking, not preaching. I wasn't sure what the difference was at the time. I saw him on Sunday morning doing essentially what I was doing at a contemporary service on Sunday evening.

What makes preachers and those sent to do ministry but not necessarily from the pulpit successful? What, then, is success, I wondered?

I think these words explain some of it. Second Samuel records David's last words as these, in part: "The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue."

What a wonderful description of a spiritual success.

Moses said this:  "At the mountain the Lord spoke to you face to face from the heart of the fire. 5 I stood as an intermediary between you and the Lord, for you were afraid of the fire and did not want to approach the mountain. He spoke to me, and I passed his words on to you."

Job said: "I have not departed from his commands,but have treasured his words more than daily food."

See, it is clear that what we do, who we are, why we're here should be dictated by the very word of God, through the Word of God, Jesus. Spiritual success is about doing what God has dictated through his Spirit, who gives us the Word of God, still.

The difference between speaking and preaching? God's words given to the person who has submitted his or her will to God. You'll know it when you see it and hear it, I believe.

I only hope I've learned over the years what the difference truly is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Foolishness at its best

I'm not sure that anyone would argue this world has more intelligence than perhaps ever before. We're doing things that even the great minds of the past would have struggled to understand. Me? I'm not sure how a telephone works, cell or otherwise. But I know who saves me. I know.

The Bible says: 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

You get that?

The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.

All our intelligence (including those who would argue against intelligent design) is useless against that which God gives us. When we get to Christ crucified, and the subsequent resurrection, with those whom the spiritual switch hasn't been flipped, you get stares or you get denials or sometimes you even get smiles.

But it happened. It did. Christ was crucified, was dead, was buried and was raised.

The Message puts it this way: The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense."

You don't have to look far from your realm of existence to find someone who thinks this is silliness. Driving between churches Sunday I saw people cutting grass, I saw people riding bikes, I saw people at a bar. I saw on Facebook a person who said, "Happy Easter. The water is boiling for the crawfish." Certainly that is the reason we celebrate Easter, huh? A crawfish boil.

The Message continues, "So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation."

That's where we find Jesus on Sundays, in the Word proclaimed.

Not at the crawfish boil.


Monday, April 25, 2011

What about Monday?

What did he do on Monday? You know, the day after the resurrection? Or maybe Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday? Did he teach some Bible studies? Did he do some board meetings? Did he go to the sing-a-longs at the local synagogue? Did he heal, raise, help? What did he do?

We don't know. Forty days of something from the man resurrected from the dead and nobody wrote about it for the most part. Many days and nights without a record.

Here's what we know, sort of: He appeared in Jerusalem first, or perhaps Galilee. He appeared to the disciples later on that incredible Sunday and breathed on them and told them not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit appeared. He appeared in the upper room the week after the resurrection with wounds still visible on his wrists (or hands), feet and side so that Thomas could be made a believer. But when he appeared to them on the shores of Galilee, which for some reason they did go back to fishing, they didn't recognize him. He appeared to Peter. He appeared to James, his brother, and changed that man's life completely. He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Paul says he appeared to more than 500 at one time at one point, which is a wonder that 500 would get together for anything they were so scared of the Romans.

But as near as I can tell, we know nothing about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of the week that followed the resurrection.

I would love to think that he appeared in Pilate's bedroom and woke up the sleeping governor and his wife and said, "nana nana nana, or something to that effect," but if he did, he never told anyone about it. I would like to think he appeared to his mother and said he was alright, but she isn't listed among those whom he appeared personally. Of course, none of the women he appeared to on the fateful morning at the tomb are listed either by Paul in the official record, and one knows that the Gospel writers included them.

My point is this: He did something, I believe, that furthered the cause of what would become Christianity every day for 40 days. That we don't know what it was is meaningless any more so than what someone does today in China or someone does today in Honduras or someone does today in Mandeville, La, USofA. We don't need records to understand that someone is helping someone today in the name of Jesus. Jesus did so, as well.

That he rose from the dead is undeniable. That he allowed others to see him is equally undeniable.

What did he do on Monday?

Maybe what he's doing for me as I type. He changed lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The rooster still crows

What reminds you of your sin? Do you have guilt still? Do you ever wonder how God could possibly forgive you for what you've done, and sometimes continue to do?

The good news is you are Peter material.

I want you, this Good Friday, to think of the man who was possibly closer to Jesus than anyone, with the exception perhaps of John.

The Bible says: "Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.  A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly."

Do you imagine, as I do, that the rest of his life (even filled with the Holy Spirit, even crucified upside down) every morning when the rooster crowed that he remembered that night?

Plenty of us are the same way. But that's why Jesus died. Someone wrote me the other day that Jesus died because of politics.

Good grief. Politics, right or left, didn't hold those hands on the cross. No. Love did. Jesus stayed up there and died for all the Peters who fall short, who can't make it on their own, whose righteousness is counted daily, perhaps hourly, but who slip and miss and weep bitterly.

He died because he loved.

All we can do is acknowledge and move on, guilt or not.

He would have us do no less; he understands we can do no more.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Judas and forgiveness

What wondrous love is this?

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Ever wonder about Judas? Ever wonder how much of his mistakes, how much of his betrayal, was his own? The old "did he have a choice," question.

The Bible says of him, "That's why Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot. he was one of the Twelve. Leaving the others, he conferred with the high priests and the Temple guards about how he might betray Jesus to them."

Now, this man has the worst of all reputations. This man betrayed. This man led Jesus to, at the least, his trials if not his crucifixion. This man. Judas.

So why do I have a drop of sympathy for him?

Maybe it's because he is no different than I. I betrayed my Jesus. I still do. I'm not perfect and every sin goes right onto the shoulders of my Lord on the cross. Like Judas, all of us are guilty. Like Judas, all of us at some time thought we were doing the right thing. Like Judas, we all thought we would be better. Like Judas, we all need a savior.

Perhaps one of the saddest of events was Judas coming to his senses, or Satan leaving Judas a broken man, or whatever the case might be. He realized what he had done to his friend, his Rabbi, his Lord. And he was infinitely broken.

And all he had to do was ask for forgiveness.

Those of us who have experimented in brokenness, who have delved into bottoms, who had fallen like Judas, know that turning to Jesus and asking forgiveness isn't easy, but it is all worth it.

Oh, but that Judas had realized.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Watch and stand

Did you see this story: A sophomore at a local private high school thinks an effort to make Easter politically correct is ridiculous. Jessica, 16, told KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show that a week before spring break, the students commit to a week-long community service project. She decided to volunteer in a third grade class at a public school, which she would like to remain nameless. "At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."  "I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat 'spring spheres.' I couldn't call them Easter eggs." The Seattle elementary school isn't the only government organization using spring over Easter. The city's parks department has removed Easter from all of its advertised egg hunts.

I almost can't think through the idea that someone would feel the need to get rid of Easter, but if the effort to get rid of Christmas can be there, so can Easter.

Now, I don't actually see what on earth egg hunting has to do with our risen Savior, but it is tradition so I go along with the kids having fun as long as we stuff those eggs with something to do with Jesus.

We've done that at our church for Saturday's hunt.

But in the Northwest?

We must all, as Christians, continue to watch and stand, watch and stand. The world isn't getting better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

God's favor in my life

Today, 26 years ago, I worked at the Jackson Daily News. I put out the paper, got it ready with headlines and such for pring, then I went to get married.

My darling Mary and I tied the knot, as it were, at the Justice of the Peace. We had no money for a large (or a small) wedding, so we didn't have one. That should have shown her my insensititivy right there.

But my life was changed at that moment. It still is being changed.

Mary has been my anchor. She helped lead me to the risen Christ. She helped me get through addictions and pains and sorrow. She has been everything to me.

Now, in my ministry, people often notice when I'm around. But they always, always ask how Mary is or where Mary is. She is sweet, and she is caring, and she is sacrificing. She always has been. Jesus changed her significantly, but she was always loving, always kind, always willing to help.

How and why God gave her to me is a mystery, but clearly my ministry isn't my ministry. It is our ministry, and through the teamwork we display, we get some little things done.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, she basically saved my life. But then she's been doing that for 26 years.

Proverbs says of a wonderful wife, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD."

Proverbs also says, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value."

Today, for any male readers who are married, give a hug to that wife of noble character you have. You are blessed. God has seen your need and met it.

Oh, thank you Lord, for all you've done in my life. You certainly gave me favor.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stay to the end

I'm thinking about the weather today. I read that 45 persons were killed by the weather this past weekend, Friday-Saturday. By the weather.

You're sitting in your home, you hear that famed trail and your time has come.

My son, Jason, who was planning on beginning to record his next album at Malaco Records in Jackson, Miss., learned some of how life treats you when that Malaco building was destroyed by a tornado.

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Tsunamis.

It all is part of the nature of the world that God created. We all are a part of it as well.

Jesus spoke of things along these lines in his last week on this earth in human form. He said, "Watch out for doomsday deceivers. ... Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Huge earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. You'll thank at times that the very sky is falling."

He concluded this look into the future with these words: "Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry, you'll be saved."

The pain of what those affected by the storms are going through can't be explained or understood except for those who are going through it. It is their suffering. It is their loss. Our condolences are not good enough. Except, except, we know this person, this man named Jesus, who suffered and died for that death itself could be defeated. Those who believe in him, who "stay with it to the end," will be saved.

Even in bad weather. Maybe especially in bad weather.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Five year downer

Remember when they used to interview you and they would ask, "Where do you think you'll be in five years?" I was wrong about mine. David wrote: No doubt about it! God is good -- good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top..."

Five years ago this month, my wife and I moved to the northshore above New Orleans, across the Lake Ponchartrain. We did so because the newspaper I was writing for, The Times-Picayune, made me. We had to find a house quickly. Hurricane Katrina, that devil, was the reason our lives changed. I had been an associate pastor of a church we built that was a beautiful new facility near our house. Life had been perfect, or something close to it. But the hurricane changed everything.

We found a house, and thought things were going to be okay. But the next five years have been littered with tragedy and pain.

My mother died that December. I was hit by a drunk driver that February and my back has never been the same. My son-in-law was killed the next May. We've lost three long-time pets in the interim.

I think of all this as we're about to sell our house that we fought so hard to find. I don't know that we will ever own another. I don't know that we will have a place to live when this ministry ends. Heck, the ministry nearly ended last week with my illness. I know I take too many pills just to get to normal nowadays and one day the pills will run out, the money will run out and there is no real backup plan.

It's all my fault. All of it, well, that and a hurricane. But I go on. I must.

But this I know: Years ago I nearly missed God because I was certain I could handle everything placed in front of me. Five years later, I'm not sure I can handle anything. Anything. I know tomorrow will be better, but today, well, today is a challenge.

"When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful." David wrote those words. I wonder how his five-year period was.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The love of one

Today I read while I prepare to go to the doctor ... again ...

From the AP: The case is among hundreds documented on video and kept by Syquia, who heads the Manila Archdiocese's Office of Exorcism -- the only one that exists in the Catholic nation of 94 million people. "She would have levitated had she not been restrained," Syquia said of the woman in the video, portions of which were shown to AFP during a rare interview at his office in the basement of a seminary in Manila. Syquia believes he is in the frontline of the battle between good and evil on earth. "There is a great dramatic increase of possessions right now," said the 44-year-old priest. "More and more the demons are gaining a foothold into this society."

In a non-related item, I promise: "Charlie Sheen says he may be reunited with "Two and a Half Men." In an interview with a Boston radio station Tuesday, Sheen said there have been discussions about bringing him back to the hit CBS sitcom he was fired from last month."

I'm not sure how anyone can argue that with the way this country is going, the way this world is going, that we are (to answer that politicial question asked long ago) better off than we were four years ago. How about 40 years ago?

I'm not one to throw down on technology, on women's rights, civil rights, heck even gender rights whatever that might mean. I'm not one to even shine a bad light on Twilight or Lost or any cultural phenom. Whatever a Lady Gaga is, my kids can go and emit crazy sounds at her concerts.

I don't like the designated hitter, but that's another thing entirely.

But what I don't get and won't back away from is this notion that we are not under attack by forces that are less than physical. Call demons what they are: Divorce is up and will continue to go up; treatment for addiction is up and will grow; we're a broke nation; we cant' get along.

And most especially, the church is losing. The Christian church is losing. In the political arena. In the world.

What do we do?

Praise Him. Let Him work it out. Worship Him. Let Him work it out. Be with Him. Let Him work it out.

It's never too late, but it starts with the power and love of one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The gnormity of God

Focus is a wonderful thing, when one doesn't focus too much on any one thing.

Got that?

Recently ill and forced to spend way too much time thinking about things one doesn't want to think much about, I grew tired of the focus being on me and I turned it as best I could away from gnormous bills and toward a gnormous God, my friend, my companion.

David wrote of him this way, "You're all I ant in heaven! You're all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful!"

This past week, and it was a week ago when I lost myself in myself, I was forced to surrender physically. There was nothing I could do to help myself. I was beyond that, somewhere out among the helpless. But God was rock-firm.

That led me to think of all the times He has saved me. This one and done thing with Christ is wonderful. Jesus saved me from my sins. But God has done more. He has saved me from me, constantly. He is the nurse who wipes up my excesses. He is the doctor who sees in my heart. He is the chaplain who talked of Jesus with me when I was barely sure who I was, much less who this Jesus was. He is Jesus, who waited for my mind to return before taking the emotional burden away.

"I've made the Lord God my home," David wrote. "God, I'm telling the world what you do!"

That is the purpose of That's Life, I've come to understand. I'm not Max Lucado. I'm not anyone like that, capable of millions of readers. But if one person reads what Jesus has wanted me to write, so be it. That's a good day.

"I'm still in your presence," David wrote, "but you've taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me."

The end is nearer than it was, but maybe I get a new beginning as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Announcing love at daybreak

David sings to God in the 92nd Psalm (in the Message interpretation): "What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks, to sing an anthem to you, the High God! to announce your love each daybreak, sing your faithful presence all through the night ..."

My wife, Mary, and I prayed together last night before we drifted away into what for me was my first real night's sleep in almost a week. We gave thanks for all God had done for this family in the past week, bringing me through the fire of major illness while bringing us all closer together, showing me that my young ones are not children any longer but off-spring. They are adults, and I thank God for them.

David goes on to write, "You made me so happy, God. I saw your work and I shouted for joy. How magnificent your work, God! How profound your thoughts."

I use this Psalm for this reason, this notion of profound thoughts. I love the peace found in them, even when some of the writing isn't particularly peace-filled.

I am not a deep thinker, though I often do think deeply. In other words, I have plenty of good questions and a couple good answers. I love God and narrow my theology to Jesus' wonderful but difficult edict to love God with all me (my heart, mind, soul and strength) and my neighbor as myself. I had plenty of time to think much of this through last week as I lay isolated, alone, bare in every sense of the word, in ICU. Whatever strength you think you have is ripped away when the word bedpan is used.

Here's what I learned.

A) I don't love myself all that much because I'm never satisfied with my output, my successes, my work for God or myself or the family or whatever. What some see as spiritual successes, I often see as spiritual break-evens. I must learn more about surrender, always.
B) I love God, but it comes with self-imposed limits, as if to give myself totally would extinguish myself from the equation. I must learned more about surrender, always.

In other words, I love myself, I don't love myself; I love God, I don't totally surrender to God.
 It's up the down staircase in my existence. Last week we went down. This week? We'll see. Doctor's appointment today.

Most of these thoughts come with expiration dates. I think these thoughts on this date, April 12, but they might expire on April 13, thrown into the heap of stinking thinking that carried me for a couple decades.

I'm hopeful in the worst sort of way, I find. I might surrender more tomorrow. I might love more tomorrow. I might love less or surrender less. That does seem, by the way, the pattern: The more surrender, the more love. But hope isn't about delaying what must be inevitable. Jesus doesn't allow for "someday" surrender. Surrendering to him doesn't come with a monthly payment plan.

But David was able, though living the same sort of up-and-down life we all have, to constantly look upward instead of looking around. By doing that, David gives me (that word again) hope.

"God is King, robed and ruling," David screams to the heavens. "God is robed and surging with strength," David laughs into a bitter cave that his King, Saul, sent him into.

Then in the middle of the 93rd Psalm, David takes a moment to look around:  "Sea storms are up, God; Sea storms wild and roaring; Sea storms with thunderous breakers." But..."What you say goes -- it always has ..."

This much I have learned (again) in the past week. No matter how delirious I was, I remember constantly praying, almost a mantra. I prayed for help, though my mind was temporarily lost. I prayed for family, though I was completely paranoid that my wife was out to get me.  I prayed for me, over and over and over, completely helpless and completely without worth at one point.

That's what must be our lives.

Through it all, we sing. Through it all, God is ruling from High Heagven, even in, maybe especially in, our ICU rooms. Through it all we announce love at daybreak. What a wonderful start to a day that God created for us.

Anyone in their right mind would see that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Back from the dead

Ah, back on the horse that threw me, trampled me and dragged me for a couple miles.

Last week, about Tuesday I guess, I fell apart. It had been coming, apparently, but no one knew it. I had trouble with (in order as best i understand it), my blood sugar, my kidneys, my lungs, and all that led to me becoming delirious.

Though no one really knew it.

I carried on (though I didn't write last Tuesday or Wednesday for reasons I don't remember because I don't remember last Tuesday or Wednesday very much), even tried to teach a Bible Study on Wednesday night. But my body failed even as my mind did. I had spasms, slinging coffee everywhere, dropping cups, doing crazy physical stuff.

Then my mind went off the deep end.

Two days in ICU, two days in the regular part of the hospital, two days at home and I'm back almost conscious.

It was very scary, primarily because though I felt terrible, it was more about the fact that I was watching a very bad movie from the inside. I knew I was saying and seeing crazy things, but I thought others could, too.

Anyway, this is more about thanking everyone for their love, their prayers, their patience and most of all their understanding. I am nutty in general, but nothing compared to the recent lost week.

God is so good. If some folks who care, and my dear, dear wife Mary, hadn't MADE me go to the emergency room, I might be dead. My kidneys might have quit. I know I would have been senseless.

But here I am. Typing again (which was something that should have shown the beginning of the problem since I couldn't last Tuesday).

God bless you all. And if readers have wondered, there you are.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Passing it on

What a glorious day of worship was yesterday. The music, for the second consecutive Sunday, was exceptional. The singing was worthy, as we lifted Him on high, the praise portion of the praise and worship was terrific.

He is worthy.

He is exalted. He is worthy of our praise. He is worth the time and effort. He is God, and though it is quite obvious, we are not..

As we walk this glorious path together, we're reminded that God is great, God is good, and we must be thankful, always.

In Psalms 78, the Bible reads: "1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable;  I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done."

Pass it on. Tell the coming generations. Tell about the wonders he has done. Seems remarkably like my intentions here at this church, but if not this blog, then the next. If not that one, then the next. Pass it friends, pass it on.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

River songs and the day ahead

"Alongside Babylon's rivers we sat on the banks, we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion."

Today we come to bury Adrian Burst, the mother of my son-in-law. Just like that we remember Adrian's life in bits and pieces, in fits and starts, in bursts of color and pageantry and moments of dark grays and deep somber yellows.

It is time.

The Zionists ask this simple question: "Oh, how could ever sing God's song in this wasteland?" In other words, we've played into the depressive nature of this captivity. We're lost with out hope, a people without the good news of  freedom after 70 years.

The writer then makes a pledge..."If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves. Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you."

When this was written, the Israelites were in literally hung out to dry in Babylon. They were miserable for any number of reasons, including the fact that the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. No temple, no worship, they thought. Songs of old slumbered for lack of a place of worship, or so they taught. How can we (fill in the blanks). The psalmists were without a muse. No inspiration. No drive. They stole hope as well as people.

Seems to me, however, that over time they understood this necessary lesson: Worship happens every where. There are few dictates, fewer rules, fewest old remedies. God enters the holy ground and worship happens. That's what began to happen. Synagogues anyone?

God happens, and worship follows.  It's a simple rule, a simple accomplishment. It would happen in Babylon. It would happen on the long trip back. A cloud by day. A fire by night. All the way back it would happen. God led; people followed.

What's our accomplishment? What's our moment? What are our songs by the river?

Today we bury Adrian. Today we let go and let God be God once again.

Holy Ground.

God happens. By day and by night.

Praise Him today as we come to bury Adrian. Be the open book of Psalms 139. Understand we can never be away from Him.  Know Him. Remember the 71 years of her life as we prepare to worship Him and recall her.

Holy Ground.

Whew. I feel good about the day ahead.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Brittle moonwalking

I'm about to finish a book that I will base a six-part sermon series on in May, early June, called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In addition to having one of the all-time great titles, the book is well written by Mark Batterson, a church-planter/pastor from Washington, D.C. I can only hope the sermon series is close.

The book is about making the most of ouropportunities, even when those opportunities are disguised as difficulties. The book is about taking risks. It is about re-framing problems into chances, about taking care of our fears, about ignoring the odds against us, and it is about just how big our God is. I'm using these themes as sermon jumping off spots for the weeks after Easter as I try to motivate two churches as summer closes in with  its lazy lull of vacation and meandering.

The eighth chapter of the 2008 book begins with a quote from Madeline L'Engle that reads, "We try to be too reasonable about what we believe. What I believe is not reasonable at all. In fact, it's hilariously impossible. Possible things aren't worth much. These crazy impossible things keep us going."

I adore that.
Crazy impossible things keep us going. Not improbable. Impossible. The kind of thing that God specializes in, when only He could get us through that moment.

Sundials go backwards as the sun does the moonwalk in an Israeli sky.
A fearful man walks on choppy water.
Wishful water turns to wedding wine.
Wrapped dead men come back to life before the word Zombie is even contemplated.
A whole bunch o' bones stand up and look for moisturizing cream on a dry afternoon.

Above all else, on page after page of the very Word of God, those who are lost keep getting found, and grace like Easter chocolate kisses is thrown into a turquoise sky for all to catch, for all to keep, for all to give away.

In the 136th Psalm, there is this wonderful exchange of God praise, raising hope for those who were having a heck of a time finding it.

We all have plenty to do this Friday, but take a moment. Imagine you're perhaps on the banks of one of Babylon's rivers on a dry Friday, and you're crying out in pain and suffering, remembering the "good old days"  that have gone the way of the Temple.

You're stacking useless harps because you've been played out. You're wondering when or if you will ever feel like worshipping again...

Just when bleak is the special on today's menu, you look up and sweet goodness, a whole lotta church breaks out, soaking all in His Spirit right on down to those brittle bones ...

..."to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever. Who spread out the earth upon the waters? His love endures forever. Who made the great lights — His love endures forever. The sun to govern the day, His love endures forever. The moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever. To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever. And brought Israel out from among them, His love endures forever. With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever. To him who divided the Red Sea asunder, His love endures forever. ... ..Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

As the sun crawls sheepishly above a dull horizon this morning, I'm reminded that God's love truly endures forever. It runs downhill, like the Jordan at the top of Israel till it empties like a spent pitcher of liquid to the South.

Ponder this. That the Holy One of Israel, the creator of the freakishly improbable universe, so large we can't possibly fathom, would love little mischief-making humans, is so far beyond impossible to understand it's like a Smurf being appointed head of homeland security.

We are complicated beings in love with a complicated God. But complications can be made straight and simple. Give thanks ...His love endures forever, like a couple of Clintons in government. You just can't get rid of it (or them).

That being the case,  I mean God loving us forever, we can take those risks, take those chances, take those moments. The worst case imaginable is no problem if we fail. God has our back. Death? God beat it up. Suffering? God created the care-givers and the medical schools and, well, the meds. On and on it goes.

Give thanks, His love endures...forever. It's there for the taking, like a fruit tree near a fence. Stick a grateful hand forward. Feel his presence. Absorb the extravagance. Soak up the warmth.

It doesn't get better than that because there is no need for it to. Once you have the best, there's never a need to settle for the rest again.