Mar 27, 2015

Relax...The End of the World only Comes Once

As we near Palm Sunday and we welcome others on the journey to the cross, I offer you a brief witticism that I hope will make you smile:

“If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills, if you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains, if you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, if you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, if you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time, if you can overlook when people take things out on you when (although no fault of yours) something goes wrong, if you can take criticism and blame without resentment, if you can face the world without lies and deceit, if you can conquer tension without medical help, if you can relax without liquor, if you can sleep without the aid of drugs . . . then you are probably the family dog” (My thanks to Brian Bauknight, from his electronic newsletter).

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Mar 20, 2015

Perhaps a Made-up Story...That May be True

[Please do not read this if you are easily shamed or made to feel guilty].

A young woman named Sally relates an experience she had in her seminary class one day. Her professor, Dr. Smith, provided the day’s lesson. She notes that the students knew beforehand that Dr. Smith offered his classes elaborate object lessons.

On this particular day, Sally walked into class and knew they were in for a fun time. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.

Sally’s friend drew a picture of a woman who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing blemishes on the face. Sally was pleased with the overall effect she had achieved. The class lined up and began throwing darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn, and her disappointed overflowed when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats.

Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn’t have a chance to throw any darts at her target. Dr. Smith then began removing the target from the wall. Beneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered his face and darts pierced his eyes. 

Dr. Smith said only these words “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

No other words were necessary; the tear filled eyes of the students focused only on the picture of Christ!

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Mar 13, 2015

Focus on Christ

My friend, retired pastor Kent Millard, shared with me part of an absorbing speech by Dr. Leonard Sweet. Sweet is an engaging speaker and told that hanging down in the center of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—where Israeli soldiers surround Palestinians—is a huge ostrich egg. In fact, many churches in the Middle East have an ostrich egg hanging in the sanctuary. 

Lamentations 4:3 refers to the ostrich as a desert creature. In order to protect its egg from predators, the ostrich buries the egg deep in the desert sand so it will be safe while the mother ostrich searches for food. However, sometimes the ostrich buries the egg so deep that the mother loses the location and can’t find it to continue sitting on it until the birth of the baby ostrich. Consequently, the ostrich develops an ability to keep one eye on the location of the ostrich egg and the other on looking for food. Middle Eastern churches established a tradition of hanging an ostrich egg in the center of their sanctuary to remind them to keep one eye on Christ while they were out caring for their own needs. 

It’s a good image and an apt one for our Lenten journey toward the cross. We always should keep one eye on Christ while we are out in the world looking after our own needs or else we may lose the most valuable thing in the world. Can we so live our lives that we always have one eye on Christ, asking what Jesus would do and what is Jesus doing while we are living our lives out in the world?

Without our continuous vigilance it is easy for us to lose focus on Christ and allow other concerns and commitments to take over our lives (Thanks to Kent Millard for this illustration).

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Mar 6, 2015

Timing is Everything

We are now in the season of Lent and it is a time of prayer, fasting, spiritual reading, and another handful of spiritual disciplines that Christians practice to prepare for the joy that will come after Holy Week—the celebration of Easter. Before we celebrate however there is a time of preparation—and that is the intention of Lent.

We might think about preparing to run a race and all the time, effort, and sweat we put into being ready on the great race day to not only to do our best, but to actually finish the race. Whether one is cooking a meal or playing a concert—vital preparation is key to the outcome and its celebration. A funny story I remember teaches us that it is only in very rare circumstances that we can let others can do our preparation for us.

A certain potato farmer was accused of not paying a large amount of back taxes that he owed. As a consequence, he was thrown into jail. His wife wrote to him: “Now, what am I supposed to do? You are in jail, and it’s time to plant the potatoes. There is no way I can plow the field.”

The husband wrote back from jail: “Don’t plow the field. That’s where I hid the money!”

His wife fired back a letter: “You dumb bunny. Don’t you know they read all letters from that jail? Yesterday, the FBI, the IRS, and the sheriff’s office were out here digging up our field. Now what am I supposed to do?”

Then came his quickly written response, “Now you can plant the potatoes!”

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

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