Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The beauty and the least

      Questions are the beginning of each good story, interestingly enough. Broken, battered we are, but from the brokenness we bounce toward the wonderful lap of our Father.
      The weariness actually strengthens us in some round-about way. Extreme promises are there for us because God is there for us in our weakness, waiting lovingly for us like parent waiting for child.
      So, as the windows fog, and doubt comes pouring like dirty rain on a summer's evening, warm but persistent, the kind you get when you are stuck in a place where spirituality is less than prominent, where less is more and least is better still.
      I pondered all this morning while on the lovely complicate path, home to lost, lost to home. I was not concerned that I didn’t know the final destination, for I assumed it not to be the, well, “final” destination at all. I believe my church, my friends to be hungry enough to make things happen and they are hungry enough to reach toward the great chef and impactful physician, our Lord Jesus Christ.
      Still, questions pour like invitations to the solace’s dance. The questions want to know the basics of what, when, where and how, like all good stories and writers do. The tales told by their keeper woo and they swing hither and yon, which is a fancy way of saying right and left … just out of reach, just out of touch. When finally I get there, barging in to the throne room, I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross, gingerly walking away knowing I could do no more than this, and that worry is futile.
       The burdens are awful occurrences, simple mistakes and terrible happenings that create questions whose answers can only exist in great peace in the land where the sun sends out streaks of sentries. That’s the place the unknown prospers.
      The unknown prospers where the evening is a shade of deep blue. The unknown prospers where night beckons, and its siren call is ashes to beauty, where forgiveness is worn like a crown and chunks of thick pink dot the sky surrounded by shades of white only found in William Faulkner’s short stories and in North Carolina blue cotton candy.
      It is spring in the Kingdom, and though we seek Him, we know we will find him. It is summer in the Kingdom, and though unpleasantly warm, it is worth the seeking.
      When we seek the Lord, He is available, promises tell us. It’s that simple and that complicated.
      He is here, there, everywhere. Dotting t’s and crossing I’s. He’s waiting, and he’s running -- towards us.

      That’s the God we serve, love, and seek. Unknown and known well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why are we here?

            These are fairly easy questions to take, incredibly difficult things  for some to answer.
     Why are we here? What is our purpose in our lives? How do we accomplish that purpose?
     I believe, for example, that I am here to help others.
    The purpose of my life is to do for others what they can't do for themselves. I accomplish this, in part, by telling what has happened in my life and how God has helped me through it. All that I am for all that He is, that's purpose. 
            The most basic question everyone faces in life is Why am I here? What is my purpose? Self-help books suggest that people should look within, at their own desires and dreams, but Rick Warren says the starting place must be with God and his eternal purposes for each life. Real meaning and significance comes from understanding and fulfilling God's purposes for putting us on earth.
            The Purpose-Driven Life takes the groundbreaking message of the award-winning Purpose-Driven Church and goes deeper, applying it to the lifestyle of individual Christians.
            This book helps readers understand God's incredible plan for their lives. Warren enables them to see the big picture of what life is all about and begin to live the life God created them to live.
            The Purpose-Driven Life is a manifesto for Christian living in the 21st century...a lifestyle based on eternal purposes, not cultural values. Using biblical stories and letting the Bible speak for itself, Warren clearly explains God's five purposes for each of us:
            We were planned for God's pleasure
  so your first purpose is to offer real worship.
            We were formed for God's family
so your second purpose is to enjoy real fellowship.
            We were created to become like Christ,
so your third purpose is to learn real discipleship.
            We were shaped for serving God
so your fourth purpose is to practice real ministry.
            We were made for a mission
so your fifth purpose is to live out real evangelism.

                               This is purpose. This is design. This is life.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Getting mad about it

When I was something that passed for being an athlete, we had one guy, just one guy, on our rival opponent that drove me wild. He I, uh, well, hated though I did not know him. Again hated, did not know. Never met. Didn't greet. To my memory have never spoken a word to him.

But when he was pitching, he was infuriating. Don't know why. Again, never met him.

Today, as I will Sunday from the pulpit, want to explore anger. We, in this country today, are an angry bunch. Many are saying the anger of one sect -- in this case caucasian men and to a small amount caucasian women -- is fueling the candidacy of Donald Trump. 

What are they mad about. Ask them. They might not even know. But I believe it all boils down to them (er, us) feeling an injustice has been done to them (er, us). 

What injustice? I'm sorry to say the problem is caucasian men who are not Democrats believe their rights are being trampled. What right? The right to own guns (Lord, help us all), the right to run things because we always have and we did it right gosh darn it, the right to be in the majority, the right to intentionally or unintentionally keep minorities of all kinds out of leadership roles that we've designed ourselves to be run by ourselves, and the right to allow Christians to run things because we always have and we are good people gosh darn it.

Never mind the injustice that has been done to very small minority groups in the name of whatever the opposite of keeping things the way they have always been.

Without question, this country is different than it was even 20 years ago when Bill Clinton took office. Whether better or worse I'll let others decide, but clearly it is different.

For those who were in control but have not been for at least the eight years of the Obama administration, that's enough to produce a slow boil.

What makes you mad, folks, is normally when you see injustice being done to someone. Most of the time that someone is you. Notice that being mad is used for anger and for being nutty as a Christmas fruitcake.

Let me ask it this way: Have you ever been stuck in traffic and you see a vehicle come roaring past you on the right of way. Just blowing past you. I'm mad, thus, has dual meaning.

Have you ever been in a long line of traffic because you have to merge and you see a vehicle come roaring past you and you see it force its way into traffic?

Have you ever been in a long line of people at a movie theater and just as you get to the front of the line, the guy two people ahead of you lets six people into line?

Have you had people take credit for work you did?
Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do?
Have you ever had the people in front or the people in back of you at a movie theater talk the whole film?

Have you ever gone through the self checkout line only to discover that about ever third item it freezes and you have to get someone to help. Or do the words unexpected item in bagging area drive you up the wall?

We are an angry bunch, controlled by our feelings, and sometimes they are the trigger to the atom bomb ticking in our minds and emotions.

Here's some quick solutions. When you feel the anger about to burst out of you like that dang alien out of the man's stomach in Alien, slow everything down. Take it ssssssllllllooooowwwww. 

Find your Bible, and do a word search on anger. The Bible has lots to say about anger. Even God gets mad, apparently.

Finally, wait on the Lord. Just stop what you're doing and focus on Him. Focus on heaven. Focus on anything spiritual that isn't what your anger is about.

Slow. Locate. Wait.

It's better than counting to 10. Now if I could just open the passenger door as than maniac roars by me on the right of way.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Strength renewed

"...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary."

This is the time of year when United Methodist preachers are on the move, like cattle to the market.

Four years ago this week we arrived in Eunice for a new appointment. 

Two years ago we arrived in Jefferson for the opening of a church start. We moved things into a house near the church.

Last year this week we arrived in Coushatta for our new appointment. 

This year, thank God, we're not moving anywhere.

Still, it's June, and the heat is on. It's the week of Vacation Bible School, and I feel like a dump truck has run over me. I am tired, for no real reason, so I must renew my strength in hope of the Lord. It's just that time of the year when the heat and the mundane tend to gang up on someone.

I read a poem by Langston Hughes that sums it all up, I think.

"Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead."

I need to have my strength renewed... clearly