Friday, July 29, 2011

Adopted into the family

The doctor was being inquisitive in the manner that doctors are. He asked me if anyone in my family has a history of heart problems. Assuming he meant physical problems and not problems of compassion or caring, I said what I always say, "I'm adopted. I have no idea." For (lots more) more than a half-century I've answered that way. Don't know. Can't tell you. No clue.

I have no memory of my first years. I know that I was adopted. I know a tiny bit of history without a name about my mother and nothing about my father. I know I had medical problems that required I come to the Oschner Hospital down in New Orleans. But that's it. That's the whole thing.

I don't know how I got to be me, as it were.

There have been few times I've actually thought about what might be my family out there somewhere. I believe I could have younger brothers or sisters, and sometimes that draws me to imagination. I believe some of what and who I am could be clarified if I knew something about them. I believe some of the, uh, nuttiness of who I am and how I act might be explained if I knew these things.

But I've never tried to find out. That's the weirdness of, I guess, me.

And it's the greatness of God's love.

I've been damaged by the fact I was let go by someone out there. That's the truth. But the damage is repaired daily by the fact that the creator of us all, particularly the Creator of ME, loves me so much. The bible says, "If I flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon, you'd find me in a minute -- you're already there waiting. ... Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's worm."

Seriously, what is more wonderful a thought than that? I can't go back and BE that someone for those someones who gave up on me before they knew me. I can't. Finding out who they were would not help any of that. Though I've been way, way too prone to trying to gain approval from those unknown persons by everything I've done in my life, still I understand that they made their decision without knowing me, without seeing who I was or who I could become. Therefore they didn't reject me, they rejected a version of me that had barely been formed.

Somehow that helps.

However, God loves me, simply me, for who I am not for what I can do or have done. That gets me up each day and lets me plow forward.

"You know me inside and out; you know every bone in my body. You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit; how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you. The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day."

And he still loves me. Ironically, Paul tells me I've been adopted by the Father. Seems I can't keep from that happening.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Long living

With doctors all over ganging up on me about exercising, I went to the stationary bike and rode 20 minutes today. My legs feel like warm jello. My torso simply feels warm, all over, and tingly at that. It's all about living longer, I'm told. My heart doctor wants me to drink less liquids so that I can control my blood pressure through less fluids. Something about air in the tire and something or other that I stopped listening to about three minutes in. My primary doctor said I should be drinking more liquids.  I give.

So I rode like Lance Armstrong, or is it Stretch Armstrong, this morning, with sweat pouring out of me like I was on a fluid pill or something.

I read the other day that the first 150-year-old person has already been born. That someone who is an infant today will live that long. My only advice is get a job that allows you to work at 125 my friend.

The Bible talks of a tree in a garden, actually a couple of trees. One of them, the tree of knowledge of good and evil (interestingly enough when there was no evil in the garden of perfection), was a problem to man apparently. Adam and Eve took a snack from it. The other was the tree of life. The Bible says of it:  "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

I love life. I'm happy with mine. But forever? On a bike?

I'll take forever with Jesus instead, in a resurrection body. Seems much less painful.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another day, another year

I was eight in the pictures, I believe, when we had the great birthday party in West Virginia. I was, uh, hesitant to eat things I wasn't sure I liked, and my mother was quite the one to allow me my strangeness so the photo shows a cake half covered in icing and half plain. I didn't, you see, like icing for some very weird reason that I've clearly overcome.

I was 14, I believe, when we had the great birthday party at our home in Lizelia, Miss. I don't remember cake, though we might have had it. I remember baseball with my friends all afternoon in the front yard with a makeshift wall (barbed-wire fence) that was too short to have troubled us but did.

I remember when we had the great 30th birthday party in Reno, Nev. We worked then adjourned to a hotel room I had won in a business card lottery and we had cake. I definitely remember cake. Lots of cake.

That's it. Those are my memories of birthdays. I'm sure there must have been a party or two more, but I have no memory of them. It could just be that I've never been, as some are, that happy about being one year older. Don't know why particularly, but it's true. It's like that old song about being "another day older and deeper and debt."

There simply has to be more.

I've lived what would have been an insufferably long time in earlier centuries. I rise and check calendars for which doctor I will see today, which body part will hurt most today, and I wonder how long these hurts will go on.

But like scriptures tell me, it is about growing old, not getting old, about becoming not about having become.

First Peter says, "So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books."

Birthdays, it seems, should be about one more notice in the belt of spiritual growth, not about growing older. Getting better should be the goal, not cake.

Although icing would appeal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

True compassion international

In the Message, the wonderful Bible interpretation by Eugene Peterson, we read from the ninth chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Rome, "God told Moses, 'I'm in charge of mercy. I'm in charge of compassion.' Compassion doesn't originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God's mercy."

Compassion is an interesting project. I'm going this morning to meet with some wonderful men about our next prison ministry event. We do this not because we are attempting to graft our good deeds onto the vine of Jesus but because somewhere in our lives Jesus grafted us onto the vine even while we were yet prisoners, sinners, mistake-filled beings who couldn't clean ourselves up properly.

It's an important distinction. We do not DO compassion. We are FILLED with compassion. Very much a verb form of mercy.

In Deuteronomy 4, we read, "But even there, if you seek God, your God, you'll be able to find him if you're serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul. When troubles come and all these awful things happen to you, in future days you will come back to God, your God, and listen obediently to what he says. God, your God, is above all a compassionate God. In the end he will not abandon you, he won't bring you to ruin, he won't forget the covenant with your ancestors which he swore to them."

I read this the other day: Jesus doesn’t look to rub shoulders with the high and mighty, doesn’t seek to gain popularity among the rich and famous, and doesn’t care about his approval rating among the American Idol crowd. He watches for the needy and bends low to pick up the humble child who reaches for Him.   

We have a compassionate God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, when we allow it, we are a compassionate people. Every good thing we do, if we admit it to ourselves, comes from the mercy that we've been given.

Now, you might ask what about those unchurched persons like Ted Turner and Bill Gates who give millions?

The most compassionate thing we can do for others is not give them a computer or a buffalo. Even Turner and Gates can do so. The most compassionate thing we can do for anyone is to point out how much God loves them through Christ who gave so much he bled and died for them.

As we kindly, compassionately, humbly love and serve others, they'll find themselves being drawn to the Christ they see in us. That's the epitome of compassion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little things matter

We discovered this weekend (as if we didn't now this already), that I am somewhere between a geek and a nerd, or rather a comic book geek/nerd. A gerd, I guess. Or a neek. I grew up reading comics. I was there at the beginning when Marvel began putting out its mighty marching marvel bunch. I had the first Spider-Man, the first Fantastic Four, the first Avengers even the first X-Men with the "real" first class.

I read then. I kept them. I'd be rich if they hadn't been throw away at some point (not by me, of course).

This summer has been a revelation for me. Movies with Thor and especially Captain America. I was there when the Avengers in their fourth issue discovered a frozen Cap and he would be revived for my reading (and years later viewing) pleasure.

Always a Marvel guy, I am salivating for next summer's Avengers movie as are several million folks.

I say all that to say, once again, that as I grow older, as I grow no less wiser despite the creeping creepiness of age and pain, some things always draw me back to a simpler time.

I remember walking the 1/4 mile down the winding driveway of home to the mailbox day after day after day waiting so impatiently for the Merry Marvel Marching Society stuff to come. I had sent off, from the back of a comic of course, my application. I was about nine when I did that. I was on top of the world when it came, though it really was a bunch of nothing. But I was a FAN, in a fan club. The only fan club I was ever part of.

Memories fade. My children mostly never picked up the love of holding a fresh, new Marvel book, though one of them became a mis-guided DC comics fan (Batman, schmatman).

But here we are, 50 years later and those still exist.

In a spiritual blog, where does this fit (I hear you asking)? Just this. My devotion to reading never stopped. It has helped me through a career in journalism, through the writing of four books (two of which were published with minimal success). But mostly it has helped me through a love of reading the Word of God.

I read and understand because of those books I bought so long ago, often against my mother's wishes. God takes the smallest of things and applies God-strength to them. Do everything you do for the glory of God, friends, even reading to your kids or helping them master the love of reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In it for the long haul

I'm think about loyalty this morning. Who is loyal to the church any more? People don't really want to join the thing because, well, they're not joiners. People don't want to have their names on things. They want to come when they want to come.

It's not about the church itself. It's about joining. People don't want to register as one political party person or another. They want to vote for the person, in some ways like some want to "vote" for the pastor. If they like them, so be it. The vote is in. In the church the vote comes with the feet in the door.

In the 11th chapter of Romans, Paul asks this (in the Message): "Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer? God, they murdered your prophets; they trashed your altars; I'm the only one left and now they're after me?

"And do you remember God's answer? "I still have seven thousand who haven't quit. Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish."

For some loyalty is still the greatest of issues. For some, it's about doing the next right thing every time to the best of their ability. For some it's about being in "it" for the long-haul.

And for some it's not.Where are you on loyalty? Where are you on joining? How do you feel about professing your faith?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Called by name

Have you wondered why God has such use for you? I certainly have. Why would an all-powerful being need someone as worthless as myself?

The Bible describes this miracle thusly:
" Hosea put it well:  I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!"
they're calling you "God's living children."
Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled "chosen of God,"
They'd be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn't count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus."

He calls nobodies and makes them somebodies, and he knows our names.

The creator of the universe knows us by NAME.

When we are at our worst, when circumstances are at their lowest, we can be assured of what comes next. God is for us, who can be against us? He knows us by name and he has called us by name.

Worthless? Not in God's eyes. That means everything to me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The truth

When I was in the seventh grade, I played junior high football, or rather, I was on a team. I didn't play. I made up for my lack of size with my lack of speed. I was a running back by choice, not talent. One time, the coach put me at wing back (a position out on the flanks of the offensive line, a step off that line) and ran a reverse in which the quarterback handed the ball to the running back who went right and then handed it to me as I ran left.

They said later you could have timed that play with a sun dial. Fast? I wasn't.

I was skinny, short, everything a football player, even a seventh-grader, should not necessarily be. I loved the game, what I knew of it, from recess in the fifth and sixth grade where my heart and my head were my biggest assets. I would take the ball and run fearlessly into a pile and push my way for yards. So everyone said that when we went out for junior high football, I would make a good running back. I believed everyone. Everyone was wrong with a capital W that didn't stand for wins.

At one game, one of the few my parents attended, I was sitting on the bench, looking particularly forlorn. My mother picked up on that, as she would every mood I was ever in, and crept down to the sideline to ask me what was wrong. Frozen, with my mother talking to me on the bench as teammates played the game ahead of me, I mumbled that my shoes had been stolen and I had borrowed a pair that were too small. I couldn't run in them, I told her.

It was, as I might call it now, a lie. A non-truth. A white lie. A little bitty one.

I had left my shoes at home and I had, er, borrowed the pair closest to my feet of someone on the ninth grade team, someone with small dang feet I might ad. I had told the same lie to my coach, who felt sorry for me, but wouldn't play me even the little I usually got to play because I ran like some sort of large river beast on land.

One of the lines of scripture I love most (I write that a lot, I've noticed) is when Jesus and Pilate are having a conversation it goes like this: 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

Truth is what the whole idea of Jesus is about, it seems to me. I have trouble with people wanting to pick apart the Gospels, pointing out what they perceive to be errors or mistakes or inconsistencies. There is a whole cottage industry of publishing for those folks. I am not smart enough to be a debater of such.

What I know is this: If one pulls layer upon layer of truth away from the Gospels, at the end one does to find a lie, one finds Jesus, the Jesus, the truth, the way, the life. I believe that enough to die for it. With my shoes on or

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unique being

We are unique beings, are we not? I thought of this as I dressed for church yesterday. It came to me that I always begin (after underwear of course) with my shirt, then my pants. I don't know why, but that's the order.

It reminded me of that age-old question I first heard on All in the Family. When dressing, do you put on a sock and a sock then a shoe and a shoe or do you put on a sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe?

All of us approach problems differently. We are tied together by nation, state, community or by family, or by likes and dislikes but all of us, even families, are different.

But there is someone whom we are to try to emulate who is more than unique, if there be such a thing, because truly he was the one and only of the one and only. That person was Jesus.

If we want to get a picture of what humanity is meant to be like (and can become) we can't do better than read through the Gospel stories to get a picture of the sort of person Jesus was. Philip Toynbee wrote this in Part of a Journey:

I call myself a Christian because I discern in the New Testament a man whose life, death and central teaching penetrates more deeply into the mysterious reality of our condition that anyone or anything else has ever done. In the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles, I find a total view of what man is, or what he could be and ought to be, which evokes a response in me such as no other writings have ever done.

In the New Testament, Jesus is presented to us not only as God, the Second Person within the divine Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit, but also as perfect humanity, the one who shed the outer manifestation of his divine glory in the womb of Mary, to be fully clothed with our humanity. You could say that he was still as much God as if he had never been human, but had become as much human as if he had never been God.

No one was ever like Jesus. No human being claimed to be God. No God certainly ever claimed to be man. Jesus was the uniqueness we all would love to claim.

I don't know how he put his shoes and socks on, by the way.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Living through it all

I've spent time thinking, a hazard at best, about all that I have and all that's been given me. I heard a song on a country radio station somewhere in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama in the past week that pointed out that everything that has ever happened in our past has led us to this moment.

And when I've arrived at that moment, it seems to me that God is there ahead of me. Mary and I, like all Methodist clergy and spouses, are homeless now. We've sold our home of our years and set out on the great path towards, uh, the unknown. Don't know where. Don't know when. Don't even know how. That unsettles me some, but I see that as the ultimate trust I can muster of this great being called God. Wherever we land next year, here or there, we will be in His hands. Because we've always been there.

The Bible is a long, long book about people coming to that decision through pain and suffering or not coming to that decision at all.

The book speaks of those who praise Him for what they have and those who long for more. It's the way of life, actually. No peace can be found for those who want more than they have. No, peace is found in wanting what you have and accepting that God has given it to you.

In the 8th chapter of Romans, Paul is writing some of the most wonderful of words, then out of the blue comes this: "They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one."

Uh, excuse me?

But then he finishes ... "None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing -- nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable -- absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love, because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraces us."

It comes down to this: can we exist with nothing if we have God's love as our everything? Many have. Some haven't.

That's part of our decision. Abundant living is included, by the way, in eternal living.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another summer gone

I went to a place I had not been since I was a child, Dauphin Island, and nothing came back to me. I know this was a place that I had great times, but I have only two memories and they are sketchy at best. I remember riding down a dirt road by the camp house my aunt had, the first time she had driven since brain surgery for a tumor. I remember clearing a lot by the same camp. I remember going swimming with deep and strong waves and hurting my knee on a rock.

None of that was evident on this trip. For some reason I am extremely melancholy as I return. I don't have that many of these trips left and it was too short or to tame or something. I actually expected one of the dogs to have passed when  I got home. Crazy? Sure. But it's what I felt.

I wonder where all this is coming from, but I doubt I'll find answers soon. Another summer is almost gone, and memories are fading. Maybe I need to concentrate on new memories, but I find it hard.

I miss so many people, so many times, so many places. I've dreamed about sports writer three times in the past week. I feel like I'm slipping into failure, but the last really big failure I had led me straight to the woman of my dreams, my Mary. So what God has for us is just around the corner.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The love that lifts

I preached about this yesterday, but it hangs on, and will continue to hang on. Trying the translation that I use here most of the time makes it even more interesting. It is, I believe, the most important series of writings in the Bible. It is the close of the 7th chapter of Romans and the entirety of the 8th.

Paul writes of his struggle, after becoming Christian, with sin. We read, "24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. 1-2With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death."

I sin, not because I want to, but because it is how I was born. But the element that lifts me out of that quagmire of hopelessness is the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, who solved my problem.

Now, some choose to stay in the quagmire. Some keep falling back into the quagmire. But many millions have lived the life of the Spirit.

Does not mean that don't sin. They do. All fall short, Paul tells us, but there is a way to get constantly better, to improve on the current model as it were.

It is Jesus. He saves. That's a done work. But he also changes. We live to not only pursue his eternal life, but to serve and to mold and to love until we come as close as humans can get to the love that is his.

I can't get enough of this. I really can't. Hope it interests you all as well.

I'll try to write this week on vacation, but that depends on the wifi capability of Dauphin Island's RV Park. Till then, praise God and love you all.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fighting boredom

There's a television show on HBO right now called "Bored To Death," my research shows. I submit that without ever having seen the show or perhaps ever seeing the show in the future, it is boring.

Boredom is something that is worse than terrible disease for some of us. We just don't want to be bored. I remember a time when my friend, Kenny, and I took perfectly okay bikes and painted them black so that they could be "stunt" bicycles. Don't know what sense that made, but it was boredom that made us do them.

I remember summers where the biggest thing that could happen to us was the bookmobile coming around a couple of times a month so that we could check out books. I loaded down on the things and read every one. Wasn't much to do in the summers when I was growing up except baseball and reading. I did both as much as I could. Of course, baseball needed additional players, so I was left to play it in my head most of the time.

Boredom is, according to Webster, to weary by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions, etc.. Heck, even the definition is boring.

I get bored too easily, I'll admit, but it is my seeking of something and different that keeps me going. The Bible says, "So seek God and life! You don't want to end up with nothing to show for your life but a pile of ashes..."

No. I don't. So I'm seeking and seeking. What about you?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A changing universe

The book of the prophet Amos' writings tells us this in the fifth chapter: "Woe to you who turn justice to vinegar and stomp righteousness into the mud. Do you realize where you are? You're in a cosmos star-flung with constellations by God. A world God wakes up each morning and puts to bed each night. God dips water from the ocean and gives the land a drink. God, God-revealed, does all this. And he can destroy it as easily as make it. He can turns this vast wonder into total-waste.

The obvious question to me, then, is what universe are you living in?

I live in a universe, apparently, where it is inevitable that gay marriage will become law in this country. I live in a universe
I live in a universe where much of religious talk today is about rejecting certain types of Christianity and embracing a more welcoming, radically loving God and a faith in which it is OK to have doubts and fears.
I live in a universe where Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins,” is a best-seller and people have long conversations about words like “progressive” and “postmodern.” They talked a lot about not taking hell or Scripture literally, and whether or not people of different races, cultures or sexuality are welcome in all of our churches.
I live in  universe when kids like Caylee don't get justice.

I live in a universe that is all messed up, and apparently is getting more messed up as the days go by. I live in a universe where God isn't remembered and honored and given glory as much as he is whispered about on Sundays and forgotten the rest of the week.

I live in a changing universe where God isn't thought of as being the on who hung the stars any longer.

Where and when did it all change?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why and why not?

When it comes to how much of a flop is a certain movie, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or even a mathematician to understand it). It merely takes a couple of bits of subtraction. So and so is taken away from so and so, giving you so and so. Simple.

That total leaves you with several "flops" this summer. Several. I use one for a an example, Mars Needs Moms. This company spent at least $150 million on the production of the movie (which does not include monies spent on advertising). It has earned $21.4 million at the box office. That revenue stream does not split 3-D and We don't believe Shia hurt himself because he didn't get the 3-D revenues. Many people like myself, do not go to the 3-D version because we see no need. My wife, Mary, and I went to see the actors in Transformers in 3-D because we had heard and read the extra monies spent on filming completely in 3-D was worth it. I wished everyone felt the same way we did, so that the 2-D version wasn't even made or that all versions were 3-D. But several of the 3-D movies this summer clearly had no reason to be 3-D. Companies are very reluctant to give anyone real figures at this point.
This is a religion blog, however, so let's get back to things spiritual.God said at the end of the third chapter of Malachi, the final book of the New Testament, "You ask, 'But how do we return (from captivity in Babylon)? Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. You ask, 'How have we robbed you?' The tithe and the offering -- that's how. And now you're under a curse -- the whole lot of you -- because you're robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers. The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. You will be voted Happiest Nation.  You'll experience what it's like to be a country of grace. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.' "

In other words, if you're not tithing -- physically the 10 percent of all that you make before or after you are paid by your employer, 10 percent of spiritual gifts you're given by God, 10 percent of the time you're given in life by God -- then God has little for you. If you do tithe money, time, abilities, then you will experience the blessings of God as a country of grace -- a magnificant title at worst.

God closes his message to Malachi by saying, "God will give special treatment to the descendants of Jacob because those people need to be treated with the "same consideration and kindness that parents give a child who honors them. "Once more you will see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and one who doesn't, between serving God and not serving him."

The final words given to Malachi are these: "...look ahead. I'm sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God -- the decisive Judment Day. He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I'll come and put the land under a nose."

Last words, those.

Today one needs to look at what the final words of the Old Testament say, and what they mean. The "Elijah" is John the Baptist, who comes to clear the way for the Judgment Day by clearing the way for Jesus. Jesus is sent to convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. Period. End of story, much less end of our children if they don't cling to the one who made them. Jesus had the much-harder role, that of convincing parents to look after their children and children of God to look up to their parents. What did he have to work with? Us. In our pre-reborn state.

A book was opened and read periodically. We  now know this material as the Old Testament. And in that periodical reading, Jesus was supposed to be announced, mentioned, and the Good News was supposed to be their Good news. But the fact is it's nearly impossible to "get" Jesus in a few minutes time as you "get" on or off the bus, the train, the plane or even the car pool. John mentions the Christ, and we're supposed to be TRANSFORMED into God's children. Quickly. Without a thundering moment among them.

So then how? How do we reset the alarm clock without alarm?

No one says, in the reading of Malachi, that this is going to be easy. No one. Jason, our son, wants things to be easy. He talks to his child and wants things to be changed immediately. Carrie, one of our daughters. wants it to be changed even easier. She wants the words to flow out of the children of God's moments. Easy, breesy. I don't blame her. I want to BE her, at times.

But in the end, all of us have to be the children and grand-children of the Living God who we are. No one gets to rename anyone without Jesus. No one. None. We all must dance on down the yellow-brick road ... together. Sorry. Together without the blame game, it is. Wow...I feel like Yoda all of a sudden.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Stirring the pot

My doctors have ganged up on me, insisting that I walk five times a week. While not exactly twisting my arm behind my back to make me, they have insisted insisted that if I want to eat ice cream at  night, I must also walk that day. My solution: A treadmill that I affectionately call a Transformer, a killer Transformer at that.

Today the killer transformer was an answer to a prayer. The killer transformer didnt' work right much of the 15 to 20 minutes allotted to it, as my prayers had been.. First, the time ticked higher instead of lower, an ineffective way to keep track of time since it had me do math while I was dying for breath. I'm not good at doing math under ideal conditions, but doing my goes-intos as Jetro Bodine called them while my hips are doing goes-outas isn't a workable solution. So I stopped, redid the clock and journeyed onward. Then the red button went caplouie, falling all the way a minute into the 100 mile walk it seemed I was on. This time the solution was simple: call my wife Mary to fix it. MARYYYYYYY. She blitzed into the room and popped the reb button into the machine in half a second and away we went again, er, I went. This time the solution was really a solution. I began and I went for another eight minutes... or rather, I blitzed and the solutions didn't present themselves until the the time to stop was evident, about 14 and a half minutes later it really was time to stop.

We really were done, this time with it all.It's time that's outawack.

The Bible tells us in simple terms, there is a difference between serving God and not serving him. Maybe you're read Malachi. In the third of a short four chapters, Malachi writes, 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’" Truthfully I have wondered just how we have done so.
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty."

Again, I wonder what in the world God is talking about, though truthfully I've not tithed the whole 10 percent of my paycheck. One tenth? Who in the heck does that. Anyway, as far as I'm aware, I have done no allegating of pests for crops and vine. Wadn't me, I want to holler into the sky. You got your, er, death-dealing prophets justttttt a bit confused, er your KILLER TRANSFORMERS mised up." I smiled a little, smerked a bit more. I read more though.

I raead the rest of the chapter, glowing ... 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. 13“You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the LORD.“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ 14“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty"'

15But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it. Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. 16A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name 17"On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him." 18And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."

Well, it seems easy to me. Obey God Almighty and be blessed. We're supposed to have a special relationship, a personal relationship with God. In order to have that, one must know him. Can't serve him if as far as we know, he's the Great Pumpkin. Just won't work.

In order to have that, one must  know something about (at least) the prophets including the one called Isaiah. In order to do THAT, one must open Isaiah. There you go. That's the big ol' plan. Open the Bible and read, preferably slowly.

Count on it. Watch for it. Find time for it. He's coming, He's for real. The clock is turning forward, not backward but front ward. Once that's seen and known, watch the time. And when it hits 0:00 Jesus will be returning to his flock, unless of course you've set the clock on your transformer thingee that way. Then all bets are marching forward at, say, a second per second. then seconds are seconds, but forward seconds.

But that Jesus thingee. That's the big one. If it's marching backward, well, there. I've stirred the pot again.I can't help things by stirring the pot, my Mama used to say.

If Jesus' seconds, true seconds, are piling off the clock onto the floor next to the escalater, or whatever the true name for that gadget is, then and only then are they real, and if they are real, they don't come back. If they don't come back, whehee Jesus is coming. Then they are true Jesus minutes, and they don't count even on an ATT-Bill because true time is gonna stop because Jesus is coming back in glory and the whole thing is going to start over. New Jerusalem and a 1,000-year reign and such. That's not the point of this blog, though. This blog is about our relationship with God.

Those whose lives honored God, the Bible says, got together and talked it over. God said that those who honored God by getting together to talk about him in a profound way, did so by opening in God's presence a book and they were taken care of and listened in. A book "was opened in God's presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of that who honored God's name. God of the Angel-Armies said, 'They're mine, all mine. They'll all get special treatment when I go into action. I treat them with the same consideration and kindess that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you'll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right then and one who doesn't, between serving God and not serving him."

No pot stirring here, just the elimation of dis-unity and the servitued of God. Friends, it will be special, wonderful, greaat I assure you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In danger of being cursed

Down the road a ways (I'm feeling 'country' this morning) from us is a large pond, or the remnants of a large pond. It is mostly small spots of marsh now, with but a bit of water remaining. The 'covenant' with the pond has been broken because of the minuscule amount of water that fell from the sky in June and the heat, which has been as you all know uncommon for this early in summer.
The 'water' came down, I believe, three times in a devastatingly dry month. God put it this way in the book of Zechariah: 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."

The grieving for the "one they have pierced" goes on today, does it not? We long to see the one who means so very much to us. We long to be with him, to sing to him, to 'worship' him and his Father.

And what does all this have to do with the dry land? I believe it is quite metaphorically speaking of a time when the spiritual dryness of the land is rampant, and the people are searching, slowly I admit but searching in any case, for the "one who has been pierced."

The writer of Hebrews gives us this: "To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." 

The message is this ... God loves us; God sent help; we, dry as we could possibly be, missed the help that was sent but still have chances; today is one of those chances.

It's almost like we have an automobile that has no water in it on a brutally hot afternoon. It's sitting in terrible heat and we're not able to run the air conditioner. Sweat rolls down our face onto our shoulders. We're getting weaker and weaker. What we wouldn't do for a cup of cold, pure water.

God loves us; God sent help in Jesus the Christ who has come with a cup of cold, pure water; we, dry as we could possibly be, reach out for the cup and oh, no, no, no ... it spills. Are we out of chances? Are we without possibility? Will we die? 


Friday, July 1, 2011

What a glorious day

Oh, how glorious this day is, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Earlier, as I opened the newspaper, coffee dripped majestically into the pot, and the wonderful fragrance crawled down the hallway to my office, I could see the pinks and purples of the morning sky drifting past and somehow through the fluffy, distinguished early clouds.

Today the forecast is for high heat and stuffy humidity to soar into a horrific display of hemorrhaging sun. Heck, it's gonna be hellacious by mid-afternoon with only a hint of a breeze and a minuscule chance of a shower to douse the tearful strands of grass in the parsonage's backyard.

Today we have another opportunity to make a difference in lives.
Today we have another chance to be gracious even to those ungracious humans around us.
Today the prairies again are singing God's name, melodious letter by letter. The hills are dancing with balance and beauty, with the remnant of yesterday's minor rain pitter-pattering like a leaky faucet into a drain then flowing out into the dry, dry land that soaks it up like a cloth mop.

Today the whole area is lying low, waiting, watching for us to rock and roll in the knife-wound-like slices of  valleys nearby. As starved pets, we're thankful for even the bit of rain in a summer of drought.

Today, oh, today. Today our afternoon energy will be drained by the heat, the habitual humidity will pounce on us like a gargantuan WWE wrestler, and five-hour energy tonics will play out in only thirty minutes.

But today is a day that God has carefully and consistently made, a day that God has invested in, a day that God has claimed as honorable and best of all a day that is filled with the dawn of hope.

Today we sing into being a message of love offered by a Messiah and stamped as approved by the creator Father. Today we speak into being the Word of God that offers tales of courage and honesty.

Today will not be easy, as if any day is ever. God says to Malachi the prophet, "I am God -- yes, I am. I haven't changed. And because I haven't changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven't been destroyed. You have a long history of ignoring my commands. You haven't done a thing I've told you. Return to me so I can return to you," says God.

Today we linger in God's massive muscled arms, savoring His sweet touch before we venture into a cruel and cantankerous world.

Today we master notes of beauty and chords of joy, bringing the whole of creation to one pure and simple moment when we cry out for mercy, desirous of grace. The mountains in our lives seem so big, our faith seems so shrinkingly small, and we're beating hard heads against rock-hard, crumbling walls.

Today is a God-given glorious day, as the sun rises to tickle the highest leaves of parched pines and dreadfully thirsty oaks and browning elms. Today is a day God will watch over us, a day He will not leave us alone, a day that God dips an amazingly powerful finger into the pool of human life and swishes the water playfully.

Today will be a dance day, a Spirit song day, an old-fashioned Psalm day, a glorious Gospel day with the good news pouring from the throne room into lives that hunger for truth.

Today will be for Him, with Him, by Him and most importantly through Him as we small delicate creatures look for the heavenly street signs that will guide us, as he told Malachi, back to him..

Today Let grace gallop and mercy mingle.

Glory be to God. Today. Today of all days.