Good morning everyone,
I am always interested in cultural phenomena (yes I used spell-check on that one). Well let me go back a number of years when a new show came on Television, it was called Dancing with the Stars. Now for the life of me I could not imagine that this show would ever survive let alone become the cultural icon that it has become. Because I was always away from the T.V. all I had to imagine from was the title so in my mind out would come this parade of old stars dancing. I could not fathom that this was a competition or that anyone would be interested, but of course I was completely wrong. Yes I will admit that I too have watched a few episodes though not a single one all the way through, it still doesn’t do much for me.
I also have to say that Jodi enjoys it a lot, I think that this may be because down deep she wants to be a dancer or at least go dancing once in a while. It is funny many years ago when we were younger and country line dancing was the rage, Jodi and I with another couple took some lessons in Marshalltown and then went dancing on Saturday nights quite often, but that all went by the wayside sometime and I really don’t know when or why.
Well that really isn’t quite true I think I know why and I am responsible; this may sound a little strange but I am quite self-conscious and I am pretty sure everyone on the dance floor and in the surrounding area was looking at me and thinking, “That is what he calls dancing, pretty strange moves.” So with this in mind I kind of just decided that I didn’t want to go anymore so poor Jodi’s dancing days ended there as well.
Isn’t it strange how our mental image of ourselves changes our behavior, when we think we look good doing something then we continue to do it even if we are doing it wrong, and the opposite is true, when we think everyone is looking and thinking that we look silly of foolish we stop even if no one is looking or thinking that! Somewhere buried deep in our psyche is this desire not to look silly or to stand out for negative reasons. As I think about it is not only with dancing for me, I was the same way with my grades, papers that I wrote, clothes I wore, what I did and said. I just wanted to blend into the crowd so that no one would see me as different or strange. I am pretty sure that this is a defense mechanism, protecting ourselves from self-perceived and self constructed criticism. I can only imagine the opportunities to have fun, to dance with Jodi, to share in something new and exciting that I have missed because of what I thought others might think. This is truly sad on my part.
I would like to say that as I age I have gotten better but the truth is I think I have gotten worse.
I think this same principle is often true of or spiritual lives as well, we hide behind the one line of scripture that tells us to pray in solitude to define our whole life of ministry. That line is in contrast to the bombastic (I have always wanted to use the word bombastic in a sermon or writing) religious folks who put on a show for self glorification, and not to be a model of how to live a spiritual and called life.
To serve others with a generous heart and a humble attitude is often ridiculed in the modern world and pious and self-righteous but if it is done with love for those we are serving then let them talk. Unfortunately we too often settle for the safe and the accepted instead of going out on a limb for Jesus and our neighbor just so others will not look strangely at us. I wish I were saying this more clearly but let me quote from Joan Chittister in her book “The Rule of Benedict” to say it a little more clearly.
The spiritual life is not a collection of asceticism; it is a way of being in the world that is open to Go and open to others…It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending the needs of God. It is so easy to go to church instead of going to a friend whose depression depresses us. It is so easy to want silence rather than the demands of children. It is much easier to read a book about religion than it is to listen to a husband talk about his job or a wife talk about her loneliness. It is so much easier to practice the privatized religion of prayer and penances that it is to make fools out of ourselves for the Christian religion of globalism and peace. Deep, deep spiritual traditions everywhere, however, rejected those rationalizations: “Is there life after death?” a disciple once asked a Holy One. And the Holy One answered, “The great spiritual question of life is not ‘is there life after death?’ The great spiritual question is, ‘ Is there life before death?’
Lord, may I have live life before death in a way that brings glory to you and if I be a fool let me be a fool for you. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
Well first things first, today is my oldest Son Greg’s 31st birthday; so Happy Birthday Greg.
Wow I have a hard time believing that I have a son who is 31 years old, I don’t know where the time went but I guess it is gone. I know I do not feel 31 years older. It seems just like yesterday that Jodi was in the hospital in Minnesota where she was giving birth to Greg and I was hoping I would be a good Dad. There are so many good times and hard times wrapped up in these past 31 years; I remember the dreams I had for my Son so well as I looked down into that small face and hoped for all that he could be. It is funny I still have dreams for each of my children and even for myself at my age; some are silly and others are more profound.
I find myself looking forward so much more than I look backwards; I guess that might be because I have always, well most always, believed that the past is gone and that what ever happened there God has used to make me who I am today and will be tomorrow.
So what are some of my dreams, well for my sons they are pretty simple; that they will be good men and husbands, that they too will know the joy of family and all that, that means, that they will make a difference in the lives of the people around them and most of all that they will discover and follow the plan God has laid out for their lives.
As for my dreams well they are simpler and yet strangely similar; I want to be a good man, to continue to enjoy all that my family is, to make a difference in my community, church, and in the lives that surround me, and to become all that God intended for me to be. Some of my more silly ones are to learn to scuba dive, to drive 200 mph on the autobahn in Germany, to write a book that matters and maybe to parasail in the Caribbean, and oh yes there are some others as well but they really are silly.
Though having said this I have also modified my dreams as well, I no longer believe that I can be the best at anything, but I dream of being the best I can be at what I do. This is important so if you didn’t understand that last sentence reread it again. (Don’t mean to get to bossy but I want you to understand that I do not need to be the best in the world but to do the best I can is really an important distinction.)
At the end of the movie “Hidalgo” when the old west cowboy and his horse are supposedly down for the count and the Arab prince looks like he will win the great race across the desert, the Prince turns to the Cowboy and says, “You and your horse were lost before the race began, I am from a people of the horse” or something close to this. While the Prince is speaking the horse miraculously recovers and stands with the cowboy standing up and saying, “So am I.” At this moment he realizes who he really is and what moves him.
This whole seen is important for me and I hope might become inspiration for you because I think we all need to realize who we are. When we realize who we are not what we do it is then we discover the strength and purpose of our lives. We not only discover this but that we have the tools within us to become all we are supposed to be. We need to realize whose we are and from where our strength comes from.
I am a product of my family with all of its strengths and weaknesses; I am a product of my church, school, community, history and most importantly of my God. I am not perfect, nor am I the product of the images people have of me. It is not necessary for me to live into the perceptions people have of me but it is necessary for me to grow into the life God has for me.
All of this said, I guess what I am trying to say is this, we are not created to be what others want us to be but instead God created us to be the best we can be through his grace.
Whether great or small each of us matters and each of has a purpose because God loves us.
Lord, I may never be the best in the world but help me to be the best I can be. Help me to be satisfied with your plan for my life and grateful for the places you have planted me. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
I was asked the other day why so much of what I write in these pages is personal? This was by a new reader who didn’t know the story behind Food for Heart and Life. This is always an interesting question for me to think about and it does deserve the time to think about especially in this day and age. I will admit that often times it would be easier to write about objective things or to write a theological think piece; yet that is not the purpose of these pages. The short answer to my friend’s questions that these pages are personal and I know no other story than my own so what else could I write.
Another friend explained to me the other day his perception of Food for Heart and Life which really surprised me he said, “They are about my trying to figure out what it means to be Christian and to be the church.” The more I thought about this he was right, but not completely they are also about what it means to be me and what God is calling me to be; so all of this means that these pages by necessity have to be personal yet they are not private.
This may make some of us uncomfortable as we live in a world where privacy is valued and yet it is shrinking day by day. We are more guarded about our private lives, separating into compartments the various areas of our lives so that they may never touch or intersect. I know that this is a terrible analogy but too often I see our lives as the school lunches that I ate as a student at Garwin Community Schools. We had these trays, with compartments. They were either round with three compartments or rectangular with five compartments. Each compartment had its own item; in the large compartment went the main dish, in the smaller ones were our vegetable, and desert. The trays were designed so that the food didn’t touch and thus the analogy of our lives. However I struggle with this and this is why I write, I do not believe that this is how we are meant to be; one part of or life shut off from another.
Bishop Jordan once said to me and some others as we were having lunch and discussing our Ordination Vows; when the disciplinary question is asked, “Will you visit from house to house?” “What the question is really asking is will you be where the people are?” Will we mix it up and overlap our life compartments? Will we open up our lives into a wholeness model where we share who we are everywhere we are? I know that this is a scary and hard thing to do because we are afraid what others will do with the information and possibly the knowledge of our vulnerabilities. Yet I would contend as long as we keep people at arms length we will never be able to fulfill our Christian commission. After all how do you teach of the love of Christ when we are afraid to get close enough to our neighbor to love them?
What I mean is if all we ever do is keep our distance we cannot share life only the perception of others. We can never know a heart if all we see is the skin. We can never know the struggles if all we here is Hi and Ok. This is my struggle and part of my purpose in Food for Heart and Life to do two things: 1st to open up myself so that others may get to know me. This is important not because I am anything special or impressive but because I am ordinary and average or maybe a little below. I also am not perfect as anyone who has read these pieces knows I struggle with so many things including how to be a pastor, father, husband, and Christian. I haven’t answered why this is important yet so here is the answer I am hoping the truth of my imperfections and struggles will open the door others to recognize that they are not alone in their struggles. I have found that it is much easier to open up and share our struggles with the imperfect rather than feel inferior to one who seems to have all the answer. I think that this is why the cross and the nails are so easy to relate too; after all Jesus understood a bad day, being sought for doing what is right, and denounced not for what he had done but for not toe the party line then it makes him a little more personable. By opening up about my struggles and foibles I think it may break through the stereotype of what a pastor is and may open the door so that others may feel comfortable with the pastor and with Christians we try to minister to all of God’s children.
The second reason that I am willing to open up as much of my life and feelings as I do is to help others find hope. I know that this sounds a little strange but the hope I am speaking of is the hope of God’s grace. Now I should explain that when I talk of “hope” I am not talking in terms of maybe or I hope something comes true, no instead I am speaking of hope as a sure thing promised and which will be delivered. It is a looking forward in time to a sure and certain reality promised by God. What I am attempting to do is to help others see that God does not require perfection but is perfecting. Too often too many of us think that we cannot go to God unless we are perfect or sin free. Then what happens is the same thing that happens when we put off anything for any length of time; we become more and more depressed and unable to cure ourselves. By showing others my imperfections and sharing my hope in God and what he has done and continues to do in my imperfect life that God can and will do the same thing each other one who seeks God out. Do not make the mistake of thinking that God will not love you if you are broken, or that he will not hear you if you speak with and hurting heart; just the opposite is true. How do I know this well it is what he has done fore me over and over.
You see I still make so many mistake and commit so many sins in a days time that I do not deserve to be heard but I know in my heart that God is healing me and if he heals me then he will heal you as well.
I guess in short what I am trying to day today is pretty simple; perfection is not who we are, but we are loved perfectly by the one who give life and heals hearts.
Lord, the error of my ways continues to call my name and way too often I answer. I pray that you use the healing of my imperfect life and my own imperfections to touch the lives of those around me. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
A phrase that I learned in seminary was this “Now and not yet.” It was always in the context of what God is doing and how to read and understand the Holy Scriptures. I guess it makes sense especially when you are trying to explain what seems to be unexplainable such as how one passage can mean different things in different times and places.
I guess I should explain it a little or at least as I understand it, what it means is that scripture can speak to and impact today and tomorrow but not always in the same way. It really is more complicated than that but suffice it to say it is a paradox or maybe a conundrum.
Any way it really isn’t important for this writing except to be an example of how one thing can be two things who occupy the same emotional and spiritual space only at different times.
I should also say that I write this today for no one but myself because I have to; so read on at your own peril.
For those of you who do not know, Jodi will be having her hip replacement replaced in a few days, now this surgery in itself is not life threatening, but it is surgery and Jodi’s second major one in 9 months so I am a little concerned. All of this has made me a little on the introspective side as well.
Anyway to my conundrum, why do people love who they love? You see I see no reason why Jodi should love me, after all I am not rich or handsome; I do not own property or have the prospects of being a land owner in the near future; we travel and move as the church tells us to; so she often has to leave close friends behind to go to a new place where she knows no one. She often has to leave a job that is what she loves to do (work with preschoolers) with no guarantee that she will find another opportunity to do the same thing. Our moving takes her a way from our Sons, the ones they love and someday grandchildren. She has to listen to and let the things that the church says and does to and about me the pastor roll off her back and smile all the way through it. She takes in stride the unspoken expectations of what it means to be the pastor’s wife; teaching Sunday School, women’s group, be in the choir, serve on committees and fill in where ever anyone needs a person. She has to put up with my crazy hours never knowing if I will have a call during dinner, on a holiday or some other time. She knows that too often the church comes before family time so I may just up and leave, leaving her to finish up, clean up and head to bed by herself.
She often lives on the promises of tomorrow just hoping to get through today. If you wrote a job description that included these things no one would apply yet here is Jodi strong and solid simply because she fell in love with me. You see I can find no explanation except for the eternal answer to the “why” question which is simply “because.”
The truth of the matter is that it is a mystery to me and through it all she says she is the lucky one, I will never understand it. Maybe it is as St. Paul says “The greatest of these is love.”
The other side of the coin is that I need her to be there, as my earthly rock and the one I can count on in all the storms that are a part of this life.
The scriptures tell us to be imitators of Christ and in its purest form it is not about rules and regulations; do this and you will be saved, say this and others will know that you are a follower of Jesus, it is about the question of “Why!” Why do we love the lost and the least when there is so little in it for us on this earth? Why should we go where Jesus calls when it is not safe? How come it cannot be more convenient for us to minister when and where we are comfortable instead of where sinners are?
We do it because of love; that little four letter word that calls us and moves us to do things for another that make no sense to anyone else except those whose hearts are as our hearts.
I am sitting here typing and looking at John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” There is no explanation why God would do this except for love; that strange and over-powering force of the heart that says I will put you before me.
I guess what I have been driving at is a bit of confession, like with Jodi I can see no reason for God to love me. I have and continue to be broken and unfaithful to God. I am called a pastor and I preach on Sunday trying to help others understand God’s love and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and yet if I am honest with myself and God I am just like everyone else or maybe worse. I struggle to love, to feed, to care, to share, and to be a good example of what a Christian should be; why does God love me; why did he send Jesus to die for me; why did he call me to minister when so many are better Christians that myself? I don’t know except that God loves me in spite of my faults. St Paul says it again, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. So all I can say is thank you Lord for loving me and thank you Jodi for hanging in there through it all. I Love you both so much.
P.S. My hope for all is that you too will love and be loved by God and by those near you.
Lord, Watch over Jodi please. Thank you for love as hard as it is to explain let it always be the way of my heart. Thank you for loving me in spite of my imperfections and failures. Thank you for helping me to love as well so that in love others may know you. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
We received word the other day that a man that I considered a friend had passed away. Now knowing that as a United Methodist pastor who is subject to the itinerant system (this means that I am appointed by the Bishop and the Administrative Cabinet and can be told when and where to move.) not being aware first hand of a person’s death until later comes as no great shock. Yet I was surprised by how much this man’s death meant to me, actually it would be more accurate to say not his death but his life. It was not like he and I hung out together or even kept in contact much after we were out of the area yet here I am filled with so much sorrow in my heart for this man. Now I also do not want to give the opinion that he and I did nothing; he and his wife were always at church gatherings, community ice cream socials, the Christmas open house at the parsonage and out and about in our community. We saw each other regularly in social settings as well as at church and church meetings.
I remember one particular conversation we had when we had just moved to Corning; sitting in the park eating ice cream and listening to music I mentioned that my great uncle had been an attorney for many years in that community. My friend said he knew him so I asked, “What sort of attorney was he?” The response made me laugh and also raised a little pride in my heart, he said, “That depends upon which side of the table you were sitting on!” Now I never did ask him which side he was on or what exactly his statement meant, we both sort of chuckled and moved on to other topics.
It just seems that there was a connection and I can say with great joy that each time we spoke it was both important on a personal level and joyful on a soulful level.
I also want to be careful here to say something really important here as well; He was not alone, in my travels and ministry I have met so many people who have and continue to touch my heart; it would be more truthful to say that, that list should say most of the people I have met. I count myself lucky and rich in the things that really matter. I suppose what I am about to say might seem a little silly or impractical but here it goes anyway. Don’t forget those who are important to you!
What I mean is; my friend’s death started me thinking about those people who have made a difference in my life and the lives of my family. It didn’t matter if the difference was physical, spiritual, or social, each one is important. From Jim who always had a joke, to Leann who seemed to be the voice of reason, to Betty who was the calming force of spiritual peace in my turbulent life and so many others with their gifts and presence helped me become more faithful, a better man, person, husband, father, son and pastor,. Each brought joy in to my heart and life helping me become more joyful; what I am trying to say is that each made a difference in me.
I also am trying to say that I need to remember them for who they are in my life and in the life of their community. It does not matter if we are separated by distance, time or even death to remember them is the point, giving thanks to God for the gift of these folks. That is one thing about a gift like this it is not mine to hoard or hide it needs to be shared becoming a part of the legacy of friendship and love. What legacy you might ask and I will explain; each of them gave me something that is precious and valuable; very rarely is it something that the world might see as valuable but it is. Each one gave me hope, courage, laughter, knowledge, support, wisdom and peace. These gifts need to be passed on and down to those that I meet and teach. Each one showed me the love of Christ in their own special and unique way.
I am going to switch gears for a moment but stay with me and I will tie this all together in a moment.
Last Saturday I attended a seminar lead by a Rabbi who touched on the topic of remembrance and how important it is to be remembered and for others to remember. According to him their eternal future in Biblical Judaism is dependent upon remembrance. This brings a whole new level of understanding to me of why genealogy within scripture is both important and listed; in Christ’s command to do this in remembrance of Him, and in the thief on the crosses request of Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Now we can discuss the issue of heaven, hell, and sheol, but that discussion is for another day and time. From this point of view remembrance is not only nice but vital to those who are both remembered and being remembered. But what is remembering is more than just memory, what if it is living the lessons which we have received and passing them on those we meet, becoming a living remembrance. Then in its own way remembering becomes the path forward and the foundation of the past at the same time.
If we look at remembrance and legacy of those in our lives shouldn’t we remember them and their impact on our lives? But more than just remembrance but gratefulness and maybe just maybe make an effort to tell them if we get the chance and not wait until that notice comes that another important friend has passed away.
I know we are all busy with the present, work, kids, activities and so many other things that occupy our day but maybe a little prayer for thanks and a walk down memory lane hand in hand with your friends will open the door to say thank you as best we can.
Lord, Thank you for the many people whose lives you have shared with me. May I not squander the gifts they have given me and may I share those gifts with those who I meet. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone, (Sorry everyone I started this on the 5th and am finishing it on the 8th )
The other day I had the opportunity to stop and visit a minute with my nephew and meet his baby daughter. It was kind of strange because I am still having a hard time realizing that he is a grown man with a wife and child. One of the other thing that was a little unnerving was that he is now living in the town that I grew up in; not only the town but in a house that I delivered newspapers to, shoveled her walk when it snowed and mowed her lawn once in a while.
As we visited I asked him about his neighbors; I found myself thinking about those folks who had lived in the houses when I was young. Also it was interesting to me that of the family who lived across the road when I was young two of their sons now live on the same street but in different houses.
I also found myself telling “old man stories” about those who used to live in the places around him. It didn’t take me long to realize that he didn’t care though he was polite and pretended to listen to the “Old guy” ramble on.
As I was driving a way I thought of those days growing up around the corner (actually I lived in two different houses around the corner in opposite directions for where my nephew lives.) I remember the summer days when my friends and I would spend doing the things that make childhood great. I thought about the lawn back behind the “Yellow” house where Dad had built a teeter totter and a swing. There was a lard tree, a sand-pile inside a tractor tire, (no one had a sand box made out of wood.) There was a rhubarb patch that was always a treat. One of my fondest memories was sitting on the ditch by the street waiting for a car to go by. (There wasn’t much traffic in Garwin) As we waited we would eat raw rhubarb, watch the clouds and dream of afternoons at the lake or the pool.
I know that much of my memory is clouded by nostalgia and I am sure there were tough times but as I think about my growing up it was a happy time. It is strange that many of the people I grew up with that I considered friends are still in my life either closely or electronically.
I would like to share something important about all of this remembering, and that is the joy we felt in just being together and experiencing life.
The experiencing life may not have been the stuff that books and legends are made of but the simple things that a boy enjoys and brings happiness into his life. Little things like riding bikes, going fishing at the creek, playing ball, hiking in the woods, swimming in the lake, watching Mertle Rider try to back her old car out of the garage and most importantly just hanging out. All of these memories still brings a smile to my face; put a song in my heart and paint a wonderful picture in my mind remember those days.
It is funny how in the years since there have been many wonderful things that have happened and I can recall a few, but no other period in my life brings so much joy to my heart. I don’t know maybe it is just me but it seems that as I grow older much of the joy at just being which I experienced as a child slowly was pushed out with worry, responsibility, and maybes.
As an adult I rarely sit on a ditch just to watch a car go by, I don’t look at the clouds unless they are spectacular, eating raw rhubarb is certainly out, dreaming of just hanging out without a plan or activity in mind just doesn’t happen and quite frankly I think maybe I am poorer in life for it.
Now I have several friends who would call what I am about to say bad theology but I don’t think so,
Over and over in scripture Jesus tells us that in order to inherit the Kingdom of heaven we must become like a little child. I will admit that I have wrestled with this for long periods of time, trying to understand what Jesus is saying to us about children, and maybe my memories hold a piece of the key; as I have thought about my memories of being a child the way we let life come to us; making do with what we had, enjoying the moment, taking pleasure in the simple things, taking care of and making friends and being grateful for the simple pleasures I discovered what it is that I have lost; it is the openness to life, love and friendship that is grace.
Here is what I mean, to be open to life is to let it come to you not to be anxious about what tomorrow will bring and that yesterday is just a memory. As hard as we adults try we cannot stop what comes in tomorrow and we cannot change what happened yesterday; so unlike a child we fret and worry about the consequences of past and future. For a child yesterday is gone the fights, the anger they disappear with sun as it goes down. As for tomorrow it is a long time off with much yet to experience in the moment.
A child finds the simple and enjoys it to the fullest and adult looks as the simple and says, “I want more.” This leads me to making do with what we had, we didn’t need the latest gadget, to have a good time, much like scripture when two or more were gathered we found stuff to do, it wasn’t so much about what we did as who we did it with. Making friends and caring for them not is a healing sort of way but being open to playing together, and sitting together. Now I will not lie to you and tell you we were perfect it does seem that there was always someone who we could have been nicer too or not teased quite so much and sometimes that person was me, but I never felt unloved or unwanted by my community and my friends. Being thankful for the simple things, maybe the best way to explain this was that we were all most all in the same boat, none of us were rich and some of us were poor but we didn’t know the difference, we all shared what we had from baseball gloves to root beer. If one went to the lake then many of us went together.
So what does this have to do with becoming like a child theologically; well I think it helps explain what Jesus meant, don’t get to wrapped up in the what ifs of tomorrow, planning every detail while forgetting today. It also means letting go of yesterday, forgiving and moving on. It also explains loving one another as Jesus loves us, the desire to spend time together not for what we can get but simply to be together. In other words living the life we had as a child in love and hope for the moment trusting God and loving one another.
Lord, may my heart never grow up if it means losing the joy of being a child of God and friend of man. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
I have found myself adding a line to many of my mails and in my conversations with people lately. Well I don’t know if I have added it lately or I have just noticed it more of late but anyway it is there.
The line is, “Have a great day!” It sounds pretty simple and is a wish for us all I think but you all know me, I am about to over-think it again; or to be more accurate I have already started to over-think what it means to “have a great day!”
What is the difference between a great day and an okay day or between an okay day and an ordinary day not to mention the really cruddy ones that come up every once in a while.
Also those of you who know me know that I try really hard to make everyday a great day no matter what comes. I am fond of saying, “Worse things could happen.”
Anyway back to my original thinking, what makes a day a great one? I guess the list could go on and on like some that I have seen. Let me give you an example to maybe help make my point; many years ago I had a job and with this job came expectations. Now this should not be a surprise because all employees and yes even pastors have expectations; some of these are written down and others are implied. What I learned is that it really doesn’t matter which it is they are real, but I digress; the expectations that I am talking about for this particular job covered one and a half sheets of paper; I do not remember exactly how many there were but suffice it to say there were a lot. Well with that many expectations it is impossible to do many of them well and only be adequate at most of them. During one evaluation time on these expectations a wise person said, “With my job I only have three expectations and it takes everything I have to try and accomplish them.”
You might wonder what these two things; expectations and have a great day have in common but just wait I am going to connect them.
I sat down the other day wondering what makes a day great for me, it is to be happy, yes; is it to accomplish something, yes, is it to make a difference, yes; is it to fulfill the Great Commands and Commission, yes, and probably a few other things, but how do I do this became my question. So I sat out to discover what I needed to do to fulfill my expectation to have a “Great Day.” As I thought about it I came up with four expectations for myself here they are: (1) Tell someone I love that I love them. This starts with God, each morning getting up and thanking God for a day filled with possibilities and letting Him know that he is the love of my heart. From this love comes grace for me and the desire to offer grace and hope to others. Also to tell Jodi, Greg, Jenn, Matt, Sarah, Andrew Dad, Lea or others that I love them and mean it. This is important first of all sometimes it is tough to do this because, especially as a man, we are not real comfortable saying those three little words “I love you” It is not that we don’t love but somehow we have come to the conclusion that to say it makes us less manly. Yet it is not my lack of words that I want to talk about but the actual act of loving that underscores our words. To say the words without action means nothing but to live that love, placing another above yourself and their needs above yours simply because they are human is what love does. It is above pain, above scorecards, above knowledge, and filled with hope; so to let another know that they are that special is the greatest gift they can receive. It need not be big actions but often the simple little things that make a difference. Actions with out request and actions that show we really do care say love in so many ways
(2) To make someone feel special; this is pretty ambiguous and open ended, but throughout every day to help a stranger have a good moment or to make someone smile is a great gift and lifts your heart as well.
One of the ways I like to do this is to make someone smile or laugh; sometimes I go into my local Casey’s store and sing or kind of dance my way in with joy in my heart. This is not a show but a way of expressing my joy in life. At other times I simply help someone who is in need without them asking. I don’t know how else I will help someone feel special until God provides the opportunity and then we will see what it takes to bring a smile to their face. Who knows it could be a phone call, an e-mail, a card, a shout across the road just to say “hi.” It is up to you to answer the question how will I make someone else feel special.
(3) Show the love of Christ to a Child; This one is often the most fun because children are so open to Jesus and his love. This is also the hardest because it means that we have to share Jesus with them in a way that they can understand. I guess here is where faith comes in because I trust the Holy Sprit to get the message across so I just try to find a way to make a child’s life easier, more fun, bring a smile to their face, play with them and love them as Jesus loves them. It is amazing when you reach down to help a child God reaches into your soul and brings out the child in you. The love of Jesus comes forth; hope and love light up the eyes of both the child you are loving on and in yourself.
(4) Care for a friend; this one simply means to love the friend and serve them as they have a need. This is not for profit, or as a sacrifice but simply to share the love of Jesus with them as well. To many of us are oblivious to our neighbors and those we meet. We often assume that their life is going on okay, because we do not know any different. To care for a friend is to be there, really being there for them; caring their burdens, or just walking along the path with them. This can be in person, electronically, on the streets of or community or in our churches.
I will be the first to admit that I do not always accomplish all four but I do try, sometimes it happens in simple ways and sometimes it takes more work but it happens and the day is great.
I do not pretend to know that these will be yours but I do challenge you to have a “Great Day” on your terms and in God’s way. Blessings to you all and may this note make a difference in your day; knowing that you are loved by God and by me.
Lord, May I by loving you more completely love others as well. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
Well I decided that I needed to sit down and try to write about some of the things that I have been pondering over the past couple of weeks. Actually I may be about the only commentator or whatever that has not commented on the Replacement Referees in the NFL yet and now we are in the 1st day of a new contract for the so called “Real Refs” so I guess like usual I am behind the fad.
Now I am not huge NFL fan, I watch parts of games sometime; I do love the game of football but it is not an all consuming passion as it is for many others.
I do have to admit that the way I keep up with what is going on in the world of sports is to listen to ESPN radio, the Dan Patrick show, and the local sports talk radio station. I will also admit that I was not taken aback by the backlash at the replacement refs mostly because as I have observed life it is much easier to complain and obsess over others failings rather than focus on ourselves and those things we can change but choose not to; that and the old saying misery loves company seems to be ever so true in this situation.
The announcers and players made it was almost as if those men who were working the football games as officials planned to go out and make mistakes just to make the game more interesting. Just like kids on the playground claiming that it was someone else’s fault that they lost a teams inability to do what is right never was in question.
I wonder though did any of the commentators, players or fans ever think that maybe they are doing the best they can to be fair and do a good job? Okay I will get to what is really driving me crazy about all of this and it is a word. Yes I said a word and that word is “integrity.” I cannot tell you how many times in the past 4-6 weeks have I heard a commentator or player say they are hurting the integrity of the game.
First a game cannot have integrity, that is a human trait that speaks of honesty doing your best in spite of imperfections, owning your mistakes and failures striving to always do better and doing what is right in spite of the cost or outcome. Second integrity is not what football is about. I want to paraphrase Mike Gollick from Mike and Mike in the Morning; Mr. Gollick is a retired defensive lineman who now has a radio and television sports talk show with Mike Greenberg, he said that at the bottom of the pile people are hitting, kicking, biting and doing anything else they can to overcome their opponent, it may not be right or legal but that is what happens. So all of a sudden the word integrity comes to mind, “integrity of the game” the willingness of players to do what is necessary just as long as they don’t get caught is just fine; where is the personal integrity in this. Or what about the defensive back or offensive lineman who argues vehemently about a holding or interference call when they know they did it where is the personal honesty in this. Actually come to think about it if the game and its players are to have integrity referees and officials would not be necessary at all, the players and coaches would own up to their mistakes seeking to do what is right without being forced to by men and women in striped shirts with little yellow flags.
The reason we have referees at all is to try and enforce fairness but I have to ask why is that necessary at all. If all we want is integrity in the game then we must have honesty and a willingness to do what is right from players, coaches, and fans. Yet doing what is right is not the order of the day winning at any cost is. Why do we make this choice or trade well it really is pretty simple it is because of our nature we all want to win and celebrate the victory no matter what the cost and especially if the cost is paid by someone else.
The problem is that the truly important hidden cost is that we become what we do; if we cheat to win, if we lie to obtain a superior position, if we believe that the ends justify the means then we have already lost as a people and as a society. Don’t believe me, well take a look at the political ads that we are in the midst of; half truths, inflated claims, demonizing another human being because we disagree all for the sake of power; how sad that not only have some come to believe that this is the way to do things, but also that it apparently works, integrity is again lost.
You see this is what makes Christianity different or at least it is meant to be from my humble perspective.
You see the church is no different, we want to be seen as the light and yet so often we lambaste another denomination, chide a sister or brother with a different perspective, point a condemning finger at those we disagree with all the time proclaiming we do it in the name of a loving God; when in fact we just want to win our point proving that we are the better Christian.
I have to admit that my heart breaks over all of this and my eyes mist up as I think of the way that my sisters and brothers treat one another with intimidation and condemnation instead of listening and caring.
As I sit here and write to my left is shelf after shelf filled with books from a large variety of theologians and historians; they do not all hold the same opinions or ideals but they are all important. It doesn’t matter if I am reading Donald Bloesch, Stanley Hauerwas, Hal Knight, Kris Kvam, Rosemary Radford Ruether, John Howard Yoder, Frank Chikane, Dorothee Solle or one of a hundred others that populate my bookshelves I believe each has something important to say about who God is, what God is calling us to be, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. I do not have to agree with them but I do have to listen with an open mind and open heart. Just as I have to listen to my neighbors no matter who they are for in their life God has been at work teaching and saving. Each person is a vessel of God’s word no matter if they are starters, bench warmers, fans, rich, poor, black, white, yellow, red, green or polka-dot; in each the God who created the universe can speak. It is far to easy to listen to those we like or agree with but if we are honest then we also must listen for a truth that is bigger than our opinion and humble ourselves to admit that we are not perfect and always right; the person who can do this understands integrity and that it has to do with being honest about what we do and who we are; broken children of a loving God who is working toward perfection with warped wood and bent nails; building the perfect house through grace.
Integrity is not being right always but being honest in what I know and what I do not know. It is not about being the best but being willing to do my best. It is not about stature or winning but about humbling myself before Jesus and my neighbor.
I guess I am really struggling to understand why we so often would want to be winners in the moment sacrificing our future and our souls. I do not believe Jesus called us to win but to have enough integrity and honor to realize that he is the king the bringer of grace and the one who calls us to pick up our cross and die to pride daily sacrificing the whole world so that we may gain our soul. (paraphrase Luke 9:23-26)
Lord, in my imperfection I want to kneel before you. I will make mistakes I know but please use me anyway so that I may become all you need me to be. Amen.
Grace and Peace
Good morning everyone,
As I start to write these words this morning, it is the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attack. In many ways it seems like it was just yesterday when I was standing in the living room of our parsonage at Sweetland watching “Good Morning America” and the reports of the attacks came on. You know it wasn’t until that moment that I understood what some of my elders meant when they said, “They remember exactly where they were whey JFK was shot.”
I do have to admit that what I am writing about today is a subject that I struggle with; so I have to set some background before I try to figure it all out. First I have never considered myself a pacifist in any way, shape or form. I believe that the military serves a vital purpose and that without them we would not enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy. There is a place to stand and fight, but I also believe that those places are limited and extremely uncommon. The military option or threat should not be a plaything used for the power grabs of the powerful and the rich.
Second and this may sound simplistic, but “two wrongs don’t make a right!” This statement is related to the use of the military for personal and corporate gain. Too often those in power or with power will seek to play on our national pride and fear to manipulate the system. I am not saying that our response to the terrorist should not have been swift and just. (I really am not sure what I am saying and this is part of what I am trying to work through in these words.)
Third I am the proud parent of a veteran who served in Afghanistan for a year. I have great reverence and pride in those men and women who put on the uniform of our country. I am not one of those people who look at the military and think the worst but one who believes that service to country is of the highest calling.
So here we are 11 years later and still at war. The debate rages is it worth it, is it just, and is it the right thing to do. I have had conversations with so many veterans who are asking the same questions and not always liking the answers that they give and get. Yet here is my problem, I want to be a follower of Jesus, and so the great doctrine that I have to live into is to love; God, and neighbor, to love my enemies, and to do what is right. I guess this is the question, “What is right?”
As I look at history and the present, I wonder where is the peace? I am told that at any given time there are at least 28 wars going on in the world somewhere. Some are being fought with sticks and stones while others have a more efficient way of killing. Some wars are to protect a way of life while others are to protect those who are in power. I cannot see how a war ever won the peace, it only provided a small window of calm between the violence; in fact I want to say that violence is in our very nature.
This is a very pessimistic statement and one that doesn’t hold much hope for us and our survival, but then I do have hope.
So as I look into my heart, I have to believe that violence is not who I am and I have to ask why; the only answer I can give is Jesus, no not the church because it too can be as violent as any nation. It is Jesus who teaches me to look beyond the differences and to see the soul of a man. You know maybe that is the answer right there; not to see a flag, or a nation, or a stereo-type but to see a soul created by God, one that Jesus died for; when we can do this then maybe we can become a part of the transformation of the world from violent war torn, to Kingdom of God.
I know that some including myself may say that we cannot love those who attack us into peace; that all that our enemies understand is violence. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean that we should not try. Maybe we cannot change a whole culture over night (theirs and ours) but we have to start before we can finish, I think peace, real peace, not the absence of war, is worth the effort even on the local level. So one of my favorite little phrases is again my call to action, “If it is to be it is up to me!”
You see here is the point, peace begins with me and you, and spreads from there. When we learn to love one another then maybe we can begin to change the world. This is my September 11th dream.
Lord, Help me to see beyond my fear and prejudice to see a soul worth loving. Make me an instrument of your peace. Amen.
Grace and Peace
P.S. I waited a day to send this because I am still not sure I like it or understand it, but with prayer and God I believe peace is possible; right will win the hearts and minds of humanity and that Jesus is the one who brings the peace I long for.
Good morning everyone,
I have always loved Christmas, I know this is a strange way to start off one of these little pages, but I am not really sure I knew why until the other day. In fact Mom used to tell me that when I was younger right after Christmas I would get depressed and mope around the house. I always thought this was strange because as I remember Christmas at our house it was always a joyous time with lots to eat, plenty of presents and family around. I really don’t remember my moping about, but that is just my memory. Anyway I haven’t changed much over the years, in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas I still get really excited. I love the decorating, the songs, the celebrations, children’s Christmas pageants, Christmas Cantatas and concerts and most of all the Christmas Eve Worship services. I guess you could say that I love the anticipation of the miracle that is Christmas.
It wasn’t until I wrote the previous sentence in my head did I understand why I get depressed following Christmas. I am looking forward to the miracle of Christmas. You might ask what miracle, well it is more than just the miracle of the Virgin birth of Jesus, it is really the miracle of the Spirit of Christmas.
I love the anticipation of joy and good will we seem to find at Christmas time. I love the spirit of giving, and helping that we seem to have during the holidays.
You know it really does seem like a miracle to me; in a world where the news is filled with violence against one another, the attitude of our political system is get what I can for me and my side, we meet one another on the street and barely speak, the miracle of Christmas takes all of that away. The gift of Jesus reminds us that we can be better than we are. So when the holiday is over all of a sudden it is back to reality and that is depressing. Yet this is not a sad column, no instead it is about a different sort of miracle; this one is much simpler and isn’t always culture wide instead it is more personal.
I guess I should explain that last Saturday or maybe it was Friday I turned on a movie channel and there was one of my favorite Christmas movies; “The Miracle on 34th Street?” As I watched the ending of this movie I noticed something that had escaped me all these years; “the miracle” it wasn’t about the verdict it was how one person believing in another changed the both of them. As the mother wrote “I believe:” she was changed, I know it is just a story, but there is something there that is so important and it is a miracle.
So here is the miracle, we each have the ability to make someone happy or to feel loved. Yup that is it; a smile in a crowed place where everyone seems to busy to notice, a hug for a friend who just needs to know that they are important to you, a kind letter or e-mail to someone you have not talked to for a while, a call to a brother or sister just to say “hi,” or any one of a thousand kind gestures’ that we can offer another human being.
Now some of us may be saying now that is silly, and on the surface it may seem that way, but what harm is there in offering another child of God a kindness? If this is silly then so be it because I know it has changed me.
When I think of the miracle of kindness I think of the children of our church hear, they don’t know that they are not supposed to hug or hold a hand, smile and laugh, they do it because there is joy in their hearts. Yesterday we had a little baby in church and in the line to shake hands following the service she grabbed my finger, smiled and wouldn’t let go. My heart melted and I had to smile as well. Or when the little boy runs up and shows me his Sunday School project and tells me the story of the week I smile and know joy.
I really don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone else but I do know that this little discovery has changed the way I do things and I think changed those I meet as well. It doesn’t matter if it is the Wal-Mart greeter or my best friend, when they say “Good morning,” I stop and respond to them with a smile and the time to ask how they are, meaning it. I try to smile and wave to each person I meet when I am walking down the street or riding my bike around town, and I hold a hand when ever I get the chance just so some may have human contact when there is none so often.
I would like to tell you that I do this always so that other will feel better, but often , I have learned, I am the one who is changed and whose heart is strangely warmed (sorry Hal I just couldn’t resist).
Yes you see small miracles don’t need a season or a holiday only two people willing to offer and receive a kindness. So I challenge each of you to go and make a miracle in someone else’s life.
Lord, make me a miracle to those I meet; may I smile more, be interested more, loving more and joyous more so that your joy may be seen. Amen.
Grace and Peace