Friday, September 25, 2009

A Sort of Poem - Happy to Be a Presbyterian

In our humility, we find greatness.

Greatness of spirit and impertinent hope.

Though our battles have been fierce and even final.

There is no rest for those who weary themselves in the Lord's work.

In the spirit of Calvin, we excel in vilifying one another:

Oh, the names we hurl, like silly children playing war, as if our words were killing grenades, and if we throw 'em hard enough, and often enough, we'll win ... and stand one day on top of some imagined hill, victorious ... such is our vanity.

Doubting intelligence and sneering at the other's faith.

Today, I'm happy to be a Presbyterian.

We have guts ... we tackle big ideas and dangerous concerns.

Like Calvin's sewer system in Geneva, we see needs and strive for remedies, to heal the broken bones left in the wake of human pride and the ceaseless tides of power, ebbing and flowing, as if we could control anything - making idols of our theology to provide some mask of comfort to a soul too afraid to see itself ... making enemies to despise and defeat, in our stilted imaginations ... to small in spirit to love the "enemy" - which is the test supreme of our true metal.

Yes, we're a tough and sturdy bunch. And we believe in God with a curious ferocity that demands a legacy of love from us. We believe that we can make a difference, and that's good to believe. For what else should we believe about this Christ of ours who dies for this bunch called humanity, because even God has to believe that God can make a difference.

We've taken our licks lately ... thousands have left our fold; ten-thousands have disappeared into the flood of time - some have gone elsewhere to seek a more perfect union ... huge, flourishing churches, once landmarks in great cities, mostly are uncertain now, about roofs unrepaired, and great organs that need tuning.

Like Gideon's army - 300 is enough. God's way surely isn't our way.

With God, all things are possible.

I am happy to be a part of this rowdy, striving, bunch of hard-heads and great hearts, name-callers and lovers, coffee-drinkers and booze-swillers, preachers and powerpoint, seminaries and missionaries, traditions and dreams, tears and turmoil, pushing and shoving, sinners all, forgiven all ... lovers of God, each in our own strange way ...

I am happy to be a Presbyterian.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Greater and the Lesser

One can be born into the church, and that’s a good thing, in and of itself.

But becoming a Christian is another matter, all together.

Being born in the church doesn’t make you or me a Christian any more than sitting in garage makes us a car!

I’m not sure we’ve always made this clear for one another.

We wonder, sometimes, why churches have more than their fair share of troubles, but part of the issue is simply this: lots of church members are a little foggy on the spiritual realities of following Jesus Christ, and, thus, we’re tempted by lesser concerns, like the color of the carpet and the kind of music we sing. Sure, carpet and choruses are important, but NOT that important. But if that’s all we have, then we make the penultimate ultimate, and that’s when church-folk are likely to squabble.

We’ve tended to accept, as good enough, involvement and service in the church, and plenty of good and decent folks have served the church well, but in so doing, we’ve substituted the bowl for the cereal and milk, and no wonder so many good, church-going, folk seem to be spiritually uncertain, and sometimes, even hostile to spiritual things.

To follow Jesus Christ brings us into the fellowship of faith, of course – the closer God draws us to Jesus, the closer we move toward one another, and that means the church.

But simply being a church member, and even serving the church in big ways does not make one a Christian, and, in fact, may even be counter-productive to our walk with Christ, as we substitute the lesser for the greater.

In so doing, we do our LORD a disservice, and we hurt one another, too, as we fail to help each other grow into Jesus Christ.

I know, I know – some of this sounds almost like a fundamentalist, because they’re always harping about following Jesus. But, ya’ know what, even a clock that has stopped is right twice a day.

I don’t know about the fundamentalist, but I do know about me, and the thousands of folks I’ve known over the years and the congregations I’ve served.

There is more to this thing called church, and it’s the more that only God can provide, and it’s God whom we have ignored some of the time – even as we do godly things.

But to use another metaphor – it’s one thing to hang an artist’s work, and it’s another thing to personally know the artist and the what and the why of the created image hanging in our living room. A great painting in our home might bring us prestige, but to know the artist brings us joy.

In these strange times of vast cultural change, it’s ever-more important for us to have the greater and not the lesser, to have the significant more of faith rather than the trappings of the church, even as the carpet fads and the music dies … because it’s the LORD who lives and reigns forever!

I think it’s tough to get a handle on this, and just because it’s tough, we might well nod our heads and then get back to doing our church thing.

But let’s see if we can push a little deeper into our faith even as we loosen our grip on the artifacts – buildings and pews and liturgies and styles and sounds and all the old and the comfortable things.

Let’s see if we can reach a little higher into the heart of God rather than settling for mere church work, as good as that is, and remembering that if we settle only for church work, we’re cheating ourselves and cheating others as well.

Sure, none of us are perfect in any of this. Yet as Paul writes so humbly and clearly, “I haven’t attained this as of yet, but I press on, forgetting what lies behind and stretching forward to the high calling of Jesus Christ.” The greater for the lesser; the future for the past; the living Christ for the artifacts of faith.

You see, Paul is going somewhere, and that’s the point.

A lot of good folks are sort glued into their pews; they’ve been in the same pew literally, and figuratively, too, for a long time, going nowhere fast. But that only means the world is changing around them, and that’s a mighty uncomfortable feeling.

They haven’t gone anywhere, but the world has, and that’s why they feel as strangers in their own land.

So, let’s push on, let’s reach higher and deeper. Even as we rejoice in the work of the church, let us strive, with all our might, to see the face of God!

To be faithful is one thing … to be full of faith is another.

Let’s strive for the latter, and the former will take on a fresh beauty and a delightful vigor.
Nothing better than church work done with the glory and the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life Is Too Short

Friend sent this to me ... a good read with a valuable lesson.

Life is too short

One day I had a date with friends for lunch. Mae, a little old "blue hair" about 80 years old, came along with them---all in all, a pleasant bunch.

When the menus were presented, we ordered salads, sandwiches, and soups, except for Mae who said, "Ice Cream, please. Two scoops, chocolate."

I wasn't sure my ears heard right, and the others were aghast. "Along with heated apple pie," Mae added, completely unabashed.

We tried to act quite nonchalant, as if people did this all the time. But when our orders were brought out, I didn't enjoy mine.

I couldn't take my eyes off Mae as her pie a-la-mode went down. The other ladies showed dismay. They ate their lunches silently and frowned.

The next time I went out to eat, I called and invited Mae. I lunched on white meat tuna. She ordered a parfait.
I smiled. She asked if she amused me.
I answered, "Yes, you do, but also you confuse me.

How come you order rich desserts, while I feel I must be sensible? She laughed and said, with wanton mirth, "I'm tasting all that is Possible.

I try to eat the food I need, and do the things I should.... But life's so short, my friend, I hate
missing out on something good.

This year I realized how old I was. (She grinned) I haven't been this old before."

"So, before I die, I've got to try those things that for years I had ignored.

I haven't smelled all the flowers yet.. There are too many books I haven't read. There's more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead.

There are many malls I haven't shopped. I've not laughed at all the jokes. I've missed a lot of Broadway hits and potato chips and cokes.

I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face. I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for His grace.

I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast. I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most.

I haven't cried at all the movies yet, or walked in the morning rain. I need to feel wind in my hair. I want to fall in love again.

So, if I choose to have dessert, instead of having dinner, then should I die before night fall, I'd say I died a winner, because I missed out on nothing. I filled my heart's desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired."

With that, I called the waitress over.. "I've changed my mind, " I said. "I want what she is having, only add some more whipped cream!"

This is my gift to you - We need an annual Friends Day! If you get this twice, then you have more than one friend. Live well, love much & laugh often - Be happy.

SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS including me if I'm lucky enough to be counted among them.

Be mindful that happiness isn't based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people we love and respect. Remember that while money talks,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Little Tea Cup????

Friend of mine sent this fable to me:

I'm a Little Tea Cup

Love this story or not, you will not be able to have tea in a tea cup again without thinking of this.

There was a couple who took a trip to England to shop in a beautiful antique store to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially teacups.

Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked "May we see that? We've never seen a cup quite so beauthiful."

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke, "You don't understand. I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over and I yelled out, "Don't do that. I don't like it! Let me alone," but he only smiled, and gently said, "Not yet."

Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was made to suit himself and then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. "Help! Get me out of here!" I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, "Not yet."

When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on he shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! "Ah, this is much better," I thought.

But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. "Oh, please, stop it, stop, I cried." He only shook his head and said, "Not yet."

Then suddenly he puts me back in to the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited and waited, wondering, "What's he going to do to me next?"

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said, "Look at yourself." And I did. I said, "That's not me. That couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful!"

Quietly he spoke: "I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you'd have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you."

The moral of this story is this: God knows what He's doing for each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect.

So when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life seems to "stink", try this.

Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest tea cup, sit down and think on this story and then, have a little talk with the Potter.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rainbow Run

I started the copy machine, walked away and promptly forgot. Two days later, I asked Michelle, “Did you see some copies I made? Forty-Days of Prayer forms?”

“Yes, she said, “I put them on the folding machine,” so I looked, and there they were, in bright orange, brighter yellow and a few stray purples. “Color,” I thought. Why not? Why always black and white?

I’ve been thinking about it – not that it’s so all-fired important, few things are, but maybe life, on the grand scale, consists of a million little moments, many of which are serendipity, which could well be the hand of God, for what do we know about such things? And when stuck in the rut of black and white, lo and behold an errant copy machine does a rainbow run.

From now on, I’ll do it in color!