Saturday, August 29, 2009

To Tie the Knot

Well, I'm doing a wedding later today. That's an interesting expression come to think of it; "doing" a wedding. I wonder if we "do" marriage. After all marriage takes some doing.

I heard a couple at a marriage enrichment event say, "The reason we are still married after all these years is that we did not fall out of love with each other at the same time." Scott Peck wrote that weddings happen when two people "fall in love," but then asked, "If you fall, what happens when you get up?" I call that marriage...and it takes some "doing" to stay married.

The blurry eyed couple who will stand before me later today do not really know this. They never do. O, they think they know it but as my marriage counseling professor said the first day of class, "Let's get something straight, no one knows what they are doing when they get married."

We have to figure it out though don't we? What happens after you "get up?" Peck also said that real love takes two things: work and courage...Work is the overcoming of the selfish desire to get lazy in relationship building....and courage is the overcoming of the fear that I need to learn who I am as well as who the "other" I am married to really is.

One old saying is that when two people get married the "two become one." The trouble starts when they try to figure out "which one." Marriage takes a lot of figuring out. Statistics reveal that as a culture we often do not figure it out.

Everybody is hard to live with so why are we surprised? In the "old wisdom" of the Bible it clearly states that the only real hope of staying married in a healthy way is to discover something called "agape." The word is translated "love" but it means "dis-interested love." In other words you love the other person not for what they can do for you or for what they need to be for you...You love them for what they need and who they are.

God does not "love" us...God "agape-s" us. To say that "love" is from God is a bit too casual because we "love" cars, potato chips, and sitting on the beach. Loving another person is different and therein is the problem. We've confused love. I tell people most of what we do should be spelled "Luv." We "luv" all kinds of things. Luv is closer to lust and possession and contains a lot of co-dependence.

So today I'll "do" a wedding for two people who are definitely in "luv." I hope they will discover "agape" somewhere along the road. They will need you. If you are reading this and you are married you know what I mean.
(I'll be at a continuing education event next week so I may not be blogging..if not I'll return the next week...until then may you find some "luv" and even more "agape.")
Bless you,

Friday, August 28, 2009

The End is Near

When I was a child I was afraid that Jesus would "come back" and I would be in the bathtub. Then I got over it.

I never understood, even back then, how Jesus was supposed to "come back" and everybody see him at the same time all over the world. Then there was that time that a lady was cutting my hair and she rested the scissors on my ear and said, "Don't you want Jesus to come again and end it all so that your children will not have to grow up in this evil world?"

I had not thought about this since my bathtub days but her scissors rested on my ear so I was not sure whether to tell her the truth or simply say, "sure" and perhaps save my ear. This lady was adamant about Jesus needing to come and get us out of this mess. "Aren't you a minister....Don't you want Jesus to come again and save us?"

I took a chance in spite of the risk of ear slashing, "Well, no I guess I don't. I want my children to follow Jesus and grow up and help Jesus redeem this broken world." Well, I still have my ear and I still feel the same way.

I do not have much patience with those who are always talking about the end especially those who seem to be sure they are going to be taken out of this world and a whole lot of others are going to be "left behind." A good deal of the biblical interpretation that this "fiction" is based on is what I call the "Bible out of focus." After some study, this view called "dispensationalism" is found to be based on what is known as Darbyism. In my humble opinion Mr. Darby got it wrong but once you set your coordinates at the beginning of a journey your destination is "determined." A lot of folks just don't realize that the coordinates are wrong and end up talking about the "end" when the beginning is wrong...but don't confuse them with the facts.

Anyway, I think we have a lot of work to do "now" and ought to leave the "end" to God and the cosmic time clock that is beyond our horizon. I'll put my "chips" on the premise that God still has some healing to do with this broken world and we are to be part of that healing.

I'll close with a portion of my friend Ed Kilbourne's song, "I'd Rather be Used than Saved"...bless you

I'd Rather Be Used Than Saved
(Ed Kilbourne © 1971 Myown Music)

Did the Jesus Movement, move you?
Did you buy their plan?
Did you memorize lots of Bible verses but never meet the Man?
I'm always mad when I've been had but I could have done much worse
Like the gang that keeps humming 'bout the second coming
'Cause they probably missed the first

CHORUS: I know the Pope lost all hope
He won't even wave
And the Jehovah's Witness, question my fitness
They think I misbehave
And the Children Of God think that I'm a fraud
They're sure they got it made
And Billy Graham may not know who I am
But I'd rather be used than saved

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Face of Fear

Between the angry voices and faces on TV and some of the reflections from people who drop by my office of late it seems that fear is becoming more infectious than the "swine" flu. The symptoms of the "fear virus" are not new. This dis-ease causes blindness. All of a sudden people can no longer see other people's point of view.

Fear then seeps into the voice box where language seems to be created but the truth is that the symptoms run much deeper. Language is a reflection of what is in the "heart" so fear does unseen damage to the soul. The emotional temperature rises and then a process begins which can be termed "the demonetization of the other." The "other" not only becomes wrong but becomes "bad."

Next, the ears become infected and the channels of listening become narrow and constricted so that the only voices that get in are the "like me" phrases and words. Somehow the fear virus quickly spreads even to the extremities and fingers become clinched around causes creating a fist so full that nothing can be received from outside.

I wonder what can be done about the spread of this "virus?" Hand sanitizers are now being seen everywhere for fear of the new strain of flu. Can we supply some kind of preventive "salve" to help resist the proliferation of fear?

I share with you a poem that means a lot to me:

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

God save us from the fear virus. I think I'll go wash my hands now and also take a long deep breath.
bless you,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jesus Didn't Have a Phone Booth

When I was a child I suppose I thought of Jesus as a kind of Superman figure. Most of the time he was this really neat guy who seemed to like children, hang around women that he was not supposed to hang around, pick strange people to be his disciples, and tell really good stories about sheep, flowers, and lost people. Then when he need to, he would "change" and become a divine "superman."

Paul wrote, "When I was a child I spoke as a child...(and so on) but when I grew up I gave up childish things." So, did Jesus have a phone booth in which to "change" into Superman? Well, I've decided he did not need one. (O come on, I know they did not have phone booths back then...but hey check it out we don't have them now either cause with all those little devices hanging from our ears..we don't need them...Superman would have a hard time finding a changing room these days...back to my point...if there is one)

Jesus, according to something called "Process Theology," was divine because he was fully human. Our problem is that we keep from being fully human. Jesus was able to access all of the powers of being fully present, fully alive, and fully daring. He wasn't afraid to step into the storm, see what he could do with water when the wine ran out, reach into the blind darkness of another human being's need, and even step into the cavern of death to laugh at that old rascal.

Martin Luther once said, "You are a little Christ to your neighbor." We think that is just a nice saying because we know we sure are not "Christ-like" most of the time. Here's the deal...We can be more Christ-like that any of us imagine. Some say we only use a small portion of the intellect or brain that we have. The same is probably true of our human potential that is "God given."

I use the "I'm sure not Jesus" excuse as just excuse for not trying, risking, and living a fully human life that stands up to principalities and Jesus did...

Bless you,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cone Head

My father's first words when he looked down in the hospital nursery at my new born body was, "My God what's the matter with his head?" It seems that I entered this world after an extremely long and labored labor. After all my mother was told that she could never have children because of certain "conditions" that she managed to carry over from childhood illnesses.

So when I did show up I had this head that was as long as my body. This was mainly because of a long, pointed "knot" atop by head. Legend has it that my Aunt Hattie took me out on the front porch of my grandmother's house and rocked me while pressing down on my head with a warm towel. In other words my Aunt Hattie shaped my life.

How many hands shape our lives? Some of them we may not even remember. Those who study such things tell us that our "personalities" are shaped and formed by the time we are five years of age. The way we are touched or not touched, the words that tell us who we are, and the actions that frame our way of seeing life are given to us by parents, extended family, and whoever can get close enough to "shape" our lives of clay.

What's my point? Well, its atop my now balding head, thank you very much. But...its not nearly as pointed as it could have been if it were not for my Aunt Hattie. There are some parts of our lives that are shaped and we simply have to endure it. But we have the ability to shape that which has been shaped because we still have choices to make. It is not all determined.

I deal with people all the time who have decided to quit lamenting past shapings and decide to participate in some new shaping. People in the "recovery 12 step program" know this. The truth is that we are all "in recovery" because we are recovering a sense of what we shall do with the shape we are given.

Some of my favorite words of the Bible say, "Lord you have searched me and known was you who formed my inward the depths of the earth...I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (from Psalm 139) So though we are shaped we have choices about what "shape" we are now in...Thank you Aunt Hattie for helping God give shape to my life. Let me not waste your efforts.
Bless you,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Save the Date

Lately the phrase "save the date" has popped up in all kinds of ways. First there was the "save the date" refrigerator magnets that our daughter sent out urging people to set aside the day of her wedding. The picture on the magnet showed a small red devil starting to turn blue and it read, "They said it would freeze over before it happened but yes I'm getting save the date."

On my e mail this morning there are three different headings that read, "save the date." And I'm participating in this wave of urgency by sending something out next week in hopes that a group I'm in charge of will, you guessed it, "save the date" for an event that I want them to attend.

Wow, I wonder if there is any time left? How many dates can we save? Maybe I ought to send out an announcement allowing some folks to "free some dates."

Another phrase is sometimes used to lift up the need to live life "now." The phrase is "Carpe Diem," which is usually translated, "seize the day." The rest of that phrase reads," quam minimum credula postero." (Aren't you impressed. My High School Latin teacher Ida Gordner just turned over in her grave.) The end of the phrase that is usually left off not only because Latin is if not a dead language at least sleeps a lot, is "and place no trust in tomorrow."

So why then do I have those e mails and refrigerator magnets cluttering my life? Why save dates if you can't trust that even tomorrow will show up?

Maybe if we put it all together the wisdom surfaces. There's nothing wrong with penciling in dates on a calendar that you hope will happen, but the turth is that today is the only "day" we have to really save. In Hebrew there is another phrase, "L'Chaim" which means "to life." A rough translation of that may be something like, "Pencil in dates but live now."

In my book, "Lost but Making Excellent Time," I quote Mark Nepo who writes that in our busy filled up life we "know a lot," but there is a difference between knowing and knowing well. To know well means to internalize that which we know rather than just encounter it. We know a lot but we know well too little. We are a culture that is ADD...we act like we all have attention deficient disorder when it comes to knowing well. in hope that you and I are not wasting today by saving so many dates but Carpe Diem and L'Chaim. It all begins with making sure that the best day to "save" is today.
Bless you,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Needed: A Court Jester

After watching the goings on and screaming matches about the political situation including "health care reform" I've decided we need to re-institute the office of "Court Jester." The Court Jester was allowed to speak the truth no matter what the consequences. He was the only one who could kid the king, rib the king, tell the king that he did not really have any clothes on....and in so doing the Jester would not get his head chopped off. Others who might say the same things were banished or executed for shedding light on the subject, but the Jester was exempt because he dressed funny and wore a silly hat that made him the "fool" who could speak the truth.

Somebody needs a "free space" in bingo to be able to tell all the talking heads and all the pundits to put a sock in it while someone goes behind the curtain and comes out and tells us all "the truth" even if it hurts, makes us mad, or causes us to sacrifice. We need a "good fool" in the old tradition rather than the many faces that are presently making fools of themselves.

A wisdom teacher that I look up to and who was accused in more than one instance of being "foolish" once said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Another person who tried to follow in the footsteps of this "fool" later said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you miserable."

The real truth is often hard. Sometimes I don't like to hear the truth especially if it gets up close and personal. I've discovered the hard way that somewhere in my life I need a "Court Jester" who will pull back the curtain and tell me the truth. My wife finds that "silly hat" once in a while and takes on this role. I do everything I can do to hide the hat. No, there's not really a hat..but you know what I mean.

Whose head have you wanted to chop off lately? If you are like me you might want to think twice about what they are saying. Don't get me wrong, some of those voices are real foolish loud mouths, but somewhere in every life and in every nation we need a "real" fool to tell us the truth.

Bless you,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jumpin Jack Flash

On my morning run I listening to Don McLean's "American Pie," and remembered the "day the music died." Let's see, on this 40th anniversary of Woodstock as I page back through the memory files, what day was it that the music died for me?

As I turn one of those yellowed pages of my memory I see the faint picture of me hearing "Yellow Submarine" for the first time. The Beatles went from standing on the deck singing, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as they beheld the simple beauty of one to whom they sang, "I Saw You Standing There," to growing their hair really long (instead of perceived long) and telling all the world that no more hand holding and deck standing, it was time to "live in a yellow submarine."

I remember then thinking maybe I had taken too long a nap and the Rip Van Winkle syndrome was overtaking me as the guitar chords became shrill and electric. What happened to "my music." Of course back then to say such a thing was to be "left behind."

So it was only years later that one of our own wrote words about a "generation lost in space with no time left to start again...Jack be nimble Jack be quick, Jack lit out on a candlestick but fire is the devil's only friend...." The young sage then met a girl in the "sacred store where he'd heard the music years before but the man there said the music wouldn't play."

Okay, before I go too far with this, every generation has "their music" and some other generation often thinks its "the death of us." But having said that, I liked when you could mostly understand the words and I relished "stories" in songs, and I like....well some kind of there.

So as I listened to the "old sage" Don I remembered. I did not drive my Chevy to the levy to find that the levy was dry cause I have a VW and I did not catch the last train to the coast with "the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" cause I did not need to since I work for those three, but I did recall that, "Long, long time ago I remember how the music used to make me smile."

No, "we did not all live in a yellow submarine," but to be fair I think I can remember my dad saying something like, "What the heck is 'sitting in my la la waiting from my ya ya?" So on this 40th anniversary of Woostock, "Peace bro...and sis of course."
Bless you,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Wet Bar of Soap

Ever tried squeezing a wet bar of soap? You do not get what you try so to hold. That is what the present moment is like. If you grab it and try to force something you loose it. If you let it sit in your hand for a moment and then gently put your hand around it, you benefit from a renewing power.

I'm working this week with the subject of "time." I am one of those people, if I am not careful, will see the present moment as simply a crack between the past and the future. I miss the present moment because I'm squeezing it with ruminating on the past or worrying and thus trying to control the future. In so doing I miss the present.

"Hymn of Promise," offers these words:
In our end is our beginning, in our time infinity
In our doubt there is believing, in our life eternity
In our death a resurrection, at the last a victory
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see "

The most ancient form of prayer is the "breath" prayer because it begins and ends with watching one's breath. There is no magic here. In order to "watch" your breath you have to be in the present moment. Ancient spirituality states clearly that God can only be truly present to us in the present. God cannot be found in the reliving of the past or in the worry about the future. To be present to oneself is the beginning point where God can make contact with us.

It is no accident that the word for "spirit" in the Bible is the same word for "breath" and "wind." So...may we not squeeze the present moment so much this day that we miss the chance to take some very deep breaths and thus live life instead of simply passing through life.
Bless you,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cutting Grass

My first job in High School was cutting grass and digging graves with the Department of Parks and Cemeteries. Yes, when it comes to ministry, I worked my way from the ground up.

Monday mornings remind me of my cutting grass days. There were some cemeteries so big that by the time we finished cutting the grass at one end it was time to go back and start cutting the grass at the very place you started. On Monday morning I usually look over the text for next Sunday's sermon. With "yesterdays" theme just fading I look at what might be next week's direction.

"Wait a minute, I just finished and now it's time to start again." It does feel a bit like that grass cutting syndrome but when I start working on the new text I realize that though the process is the same and yes it does feel like I just got through doing this, that the "field of grass" is different.

Then I remember that I'm not cutting grass or digging graves. This sermon stuff is way beyond routine, although if one is not careful it could become that after doing it for 37 years. No, the "field" in which I work is that place where people live and die but it is no cemetery. It is the place where people come to discover what it means to be... Out there in the middle of that field people will come to find God. It's not like cutting grass.

As I finish a sermon and know as I go home that I'll wake up the next day to "start over" I often wonder what people will take with them. I've learned that you never really know what impact your words may have. Sometimes it seems there is an immediate reaction that is helpful for one who listens and then there are those times when someone years later tells me what "happened" when they planted those words in their own field.

Well, you'll have to excuse me. It's Monday and it's time to go "crank up the mower."
Bless you

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tangled Web We Weave

After my run this morning I passed by one of those amazing spider webs. It's always good to observe one of those intricate creations rather than to run through one. To run into one not only results in the inevitable quick wiping away of the evidence but also the panicky search for the creator of such a web.

As I listen to the shouts and screams and talking yet polarizing heads on TV "debate" the recent Health Care reform legislation it reminds me of the reaction of someone running into a spider web. There is panic and confusion and fear. Of course sometimes all of those reactions are justified and sometimes they are not.

The evidence points to a reality that we need to do something about health care in our nation. Every time someone "picks up" this issue it is like trying to pick up a spider web so we have thus far avoided it.

I appeal to reason and not panic. The angry faces seem to be saying "there's a spider in here somewhere." I will offer this from my perspective. Some of those who are tossing around the "thousand page" bill and shouting that no one has read it need to remember another thousand or so page document that one can find in motel beside tables or at certain bookstores. This document often has a black cover with gold letters. It too seems not to have been read very carefully by some who are screaming and accusing.

This document "clearly" states that to those whom much is given much will be expected. It also states that a nation shall be judged by the way it treats those who are the "least" and those who have no voice. It warns against always defending what is "mine" and offers the radical concept that all is God's and that creation is meant to be shared and suffering is meant to be addressed.

So it is a tangled web we have woven with all our health care systems, but we need to work at some untangling not in an atmosphere of anger and panic but in the midst of a civil debate where we disagree with honor and we remember all kinds of thousand page documents including one that I think is primary.

Bless you

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Shuffle

Our oldest daughter just gave me an I Pod Shuffle. It's my first venture into the world of I Pod.

This gizmo is the size of a postage stamp and contains 275 songs that she has loaded onto it. What?

She has not given me the attachment that fits into the computer so that I can download some more songs because she knows I have no idea what she means.
Now let's all just take a deep breath and at least acknowledge that if someone had come up to you 10 years ago and given you a little silver clip and whispered in your ear, "Hey, stick some earphones in this thing and you can listen to 275 different songs," that you would have smiled and said "thanks" and walked away thinking, "right."

But, hey I ran this morning with my postage stamp clipped to my shirt and listened to Buffet sing,
"I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man floating down Canal
It doesn't have numbers or moving hands, it always just says 'now.'
Now if you were thinking that I was had, well my watch is never wrong.
And if I have trouble the warranty says, 'breathe in, breathe out, move on.'
....the time on my watch is always 'now'
The past is dead and gone, don't try to shake, just bow your head
Breathe in breathe out, move on."

I used the words of that song in my last book. So...I'll not try to shake my I Pod Shuffle that has no moving parts, no little discs in it, no titles, no instructions...As I run and listen I'll just "breathe in, breathe out" and move on.

What a world...
Bless you

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Doing and Being

Wayne Dwyer once wrote, "When you are what you do when you don't you aren't." This tongue twisting proverb contains truth.

Betsy fears that when I finally retire that I will sort of disappear because so much of what I am and who I am is wrapped up in what I do. This seems especially true for men but women are catching up.

So what are we when we are not "doing" something? A moving stone gathers no moss. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. Yea, but there is a reason we are called human beings rather than human doings. So what's the deal?

As with all ancient wisdom the secret is balance. What is the balance in our lives between doing and being? Everything is moving faster now. And after all there is a lot to do but research shows that our spirits and even our bodies grow tired if there is not something "underneath" feeding the activity.

So I suppose on our daily buffet we need some offerings that give us a chance to "be." I remember a friend of mine asking me to do something on a particular day in the near future and I responded that I would be on a retreat that day. He looked and me and said, "Retreat heck, when are you going to charge?"

For everything there is a season...a time to laugh, a time to cry...a time live and and time to die... a time to charge and a time to retreat.
Bless you,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guilt by Association

I was reminded again today about how much religion can get in the way of authentic faith. Now you may say, "You better remember where your bread is buttered....You get paid by the church after all."

The truth is that it is because of that "work" that puts me in the place to see the damage that religion can do to a struggling soul. So many people I work with have been "teethed" on a religion of guilt and shame. To not "be sure" is to be "wrong" or not be on the path or whatever phrase you want to use to illicit guilt.

One of my joys as a pastor is to be with and to help people who are asking questions and who are not so sure of all that they have been told is essential to being a "true Christian." Alan Jones, one of my mentors, said it well when he said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt it is certainty." If you are so certain then you do not need faith.

Real faith is between the "yes" and the "no." A butterflies wings will never be strong unless it is allowed to struggle to be free from its cocoon.

There are many places in the Bible where people of faith struggle, doubt, scream at God, offer angry thoughts at God, and demand to know just "where the heck God is hiding." Yes, that's in the Bible because its supposed to be. The God I believe in does not demand faith but longs for us to be faithful in the willingness to journey.

I love Thomas Merton's prayer which deals with this. Merton was an icon of faith but it was him who prayed:
"My Lord God I have no idea where I am going, nor do I see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. (and here's the part I share with so many people) But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

A great prayer of faith and doubt at the same time. It is part of the journey. The God of "real" faith is always with us no matter if we are feeling that "blessed assurance" or that deep sense of wonder and doubt. God is bigger than some of our small religious concepts.
So be it...
Bless you,

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lepidoptera Laughs

Have you heard the butterfly laughs this year? The scientific name for these amazingly beautifully creatures is "lepidoptera," which means scaled wings. All I know is that these painted angels have always mystified we big creatures who observer them.

Why do they laugh at us big eyed creatures? Some butterflies only live four days. The average age of one of these lighter than air flower hoppers is one month. They laugh because they catch us worrying about tomorrow. We who have many more days than the lepidoteria spend so many of those days worrying.

A butterfly does not have "time" to worry. With their tiny legs...I guess you call them legs...they "taste" the flower below them. They help us pollinate our plants, they play with the wind, they view the world with the 6,000 lenses in their tiny eyes, and then they die.

They seem to take themselves "lightly." They weigh about the same as two rose petals. From the tiny egg that is planted on a remote leaf their almost unseen presence grows 27,000 times the size of that egg before we get to see them dance in front of us...and laugh.

The old wisdom says, "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Another observer of nature once looked at his worry filled buddies and said, "Look at the flowers of the field, do they worry?" I bet he said something about butterflies too but no one wrote it down.

So today...find some time and listen to the butterflies laugh at us for worrying so much. O how I need this lepidoptera lesson.
Bless you,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Have You Missed Me?

Well did ya? I took a few days off. Well, the truth is that I could not get my laptop to work at the Starbucks where I hang out sometimes when I am out of town.

I am in a long list of people who must have a love/hate relationship with technology. I find myself conflicted. I love the access of things like remote e mail and cell phones but then too much access and accessibility can be a dangerous even addictive kind of thing.

I wrote a book about this. Of course you have your copy don't you? What, you don't. "Lost but Making Excellent Time: Transforming the Rat Race into a Pilgrimage" was written out of my own experience. All the fast stuff we have that gives us such instant access can be a tool or a master.

All I know is that I find myself using all the new stuff and liking a lot of it. But I also believe that at the core of the human spirit is the need to "be still and know." It is hard to be still if we are always busy "responding" or thinking of the next thing we are going to I'm doing now. Hey, I'm chief among sinners. Confession is good for the soul...but there must be some soul left to tend.

How does one care for the soul? I have discovered that it takes a special kind of tending, this soul of ours. It needs some quiet. It needs some "nothing." One cannot see the face reflected upon the waters if the waters are not still.

I enjoyed some still waters for a few days. Now it's back to "work." But what is so interesting is that part of my work is to remind people like me to "be still" so that the work of healing the world can be done....interesting...
Bless you

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Always On

This is "vacation week" but I'm back in the office today for a funeral. When I do seminars for "young clergy" I tell them that if they signed up for a "job" they are in the wrong work. Being a pastor is a "life." You are always "on."

If you are going to complain about always being "on" then you've got problems. Pastors are "shepherds" to the sheep and sheep and thier needs do not take a vacation. Of course this can be "dangerous" because all of us need some time when we are not "on" but are "off."

One of my mentors, Eugene Peterson writes that the phrase "busy pastor" should have the same ring as "embezzeling banker." Peterson says that we pastors better find some time for our own renewal or we will get awfully thirsty giving other people water. I know what he means. I've lived it. I've even written a book about it called, "A Time for Healing: Overcoming the Perils of Ministry."

You've got to know about to write about it. I know about it.

What I've learned is that I have to take some time for fun and spiritual renewal. I handle "religious stuff" all the time but that is my "work." I found out by failing at it that preaching sermons, taking care of others, and praying for the flock is not the same as nurturing my own soul.

So yes, I interupted my "time off" to come back and I would not have done otherwise...but...I will also need to be mindful that even though there is not an "off" switch when it comes to being a pastor that does not mean I am not supposed to find a place by the well for me to drink the water.

No one can take "your journey" for you. Pastors have to learn that even as they tell others...
Bless you,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cash for Spiritual Clunkers

What if you could "cash in" on spiritual stuff. What if "I" declared a discount for coming in and setting up a new path for the spiritual journey. Cast away that "old life" and start with a new beginning. Your "old clunker" way of life that was not "getting good mileage" anyway can actually be an investment in the new journey.

Actually this is not so far fetched. There was once a man who offered an amazing stimulus package that included being able to bring in your old ways and start over with dividends. Trying out the new way might even give one a "born again" kind of feeling. On one of his "sales" pitches he even said boldly, "Behold I make all things new."

Ok I'm stretching all this. But you know the classic spiritual journey begins with an old word called "purgation." It means "stripping away" or "giving up the old." So maybe I'm not too far off. The next step is "illumination." But you do not get the "new insight" of illumination if you do not give up the "old model." Finally one is given "unity" or balance, which means you get something new to travel the road "in" or "with."

So you might not get cash for the old way of life but you do get the opportunity to travel lighter and without the burden of something that was holding you back. O well, maybe I ought to stick with my trusty biblical images and leave the news to the talking heads.
Bless you,

Monday, August 3, 2009

Apporval Ratings

Well surprise, surprise Obama's approval ratings have gone down. Do you know the worse thing you can do for a gasoline engine? That's right, put gasoline in it and run it. As soon as you do something the engine starts to deteriorate.

It was the same with George Bush. The man could sneeze funny and his approval ratings would drop. Now we have a President who is tackling some very hard issues and wow his approval rating drops. The best way to avoid criticism is do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

I can appreciate this situation. I deal with approval ratings. I smile when I get comments about how "good I am" or something like that but then there are those who simply leave because they did not like what I said or what I did.

Living by approval ratings is a dangerous thing. I try to avoid that trap. O, if you know me, I love being loved but it can be quick-sand...the approval thing. I've learned that if you deal with the radical message of Jesus sometimes approval is not the thing to be thinking of much. Jesus' approval ratings dropped quickly when he started tackling tough issues. Folks wanted easy answers that did not involve sacrifice.

O well...all I'm saying is that I'm tired of hearing so much about approval ratings. I'm not sure whose approval we are really talking about and even if you know that is not the right window through which to be looking at life...

So much for now


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Failure to Communicate

I am not much on fishing. It takes too much patience. I basically want to skip the "middle man" and have my fish on a plate with at little tartar sauce.

So when the folks in our little country church insisted that we go fishing with them on the Outer Banks we went...You know to be "part" of things...since at that rural church I was indeed a "fish out of water." It was there that I discovered that I am "not" a country boy although I did learn to bail hay, observed but did not participate in a early morning pig slaughter, nursed a calf until it was sent off only to return as hamburger, drilled a field (which for you city folks means drive a tractor behind which is this "drill" which planted the seeds in the field as you drove) and had my very own CB radio with the handle, 'Rabbi.'"

Anyway we went fishing and the fish were not biting so we drove around the sand dunes back in the days when they let you do such things. I remember Dot saying, "Look at the big tire." Betsy and I looked but could not see any big tire washed up on the beach or anything resembling a tire. "You mean you can't see that tire?" she insisted. "No..." Finally her husband Donnie pulled up, swung open the door on his four-wheel drive and pointed to a huge radio "tower."

"O, that big tire," we both said. We had a failure to communicate. In their language tower sounded like "tire." Betsy and I still point to those big "tires" as we ride along country roads.

The field in which I work has a good deal of missed communication in it. I hear people talking about Jesus all the time but I wonder just who it is they refer to. I hear about a lot of different Jesus-es. There is the one that will bless you if you follow the right formulas. There is the one that will toss you aside if you do not walk the straight and narrow. There is the one that seems to be always keeping score.

Then there is the one I encountered when I was 17 who reached out and touched my hands. Yea, I know it sounds....uh...strange. It felt strange too. I've told that story many times. I questioned the validity of it, ran from it, analyzed it to death and figured it was my "imagination" but here I am talking about that Jesus early one Sunday morning.

You say "tire" and I say "tower." You say "Jezzus" and I say "Jesus." In the "Quest for the Historical Jesus," Albert Switzer said it this way;
"He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake side, He came to those
men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word, 'Follow me' and sets us to the tasks
which He has to fulfill for out time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they
be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they
shall pass through in His fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall in their own
experience Who He is."

Well said...Even when we have a failure to communicate and see him in so many ways...he still comes...
Bless you

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is There Any Air Space Left?

I figure at any given time three fourths of the world is either talking on a cell phone, texting, on Facebook, or I am now...With all this wireless stuff going on I'm amazed we can still breathe. What are all those "waves" filling all that space doing to us?

Maybe it is one of the reasons we are so anxious. I mean I felt a little unsettled until I started filling this space. After all I had gone over 24 hours without Blogging. I'm hooked...sort of. Trust me though, yes, I have a Facebook page but I'm not sure what to do with it. Someone told me I just had to "play with it." I tried a while ago and now I think I erased something that I did not mean to erase. I already need a face-lift or something.

I just finished the book, "Three Cups of Tea." Read it. We need to do more of what this guy is doing if we want to really "combat terrorism." He is "fighting" terror with books rather than bombs. Greg, the "hero" of the book is trusted by Muslims because he is the kind of "Christian" that loves God and people more than religion. God is bigger than our small views of religion.

I'm tired of hearing all the misinformation about Islam. Radical Islam is based on ignorance of their own faith rather than faith. We need more people like Greg. We need more Christians like him too.

Tomorrow in church I'm offering a "Come to Jesus Meeting." I just preached the sermon in my head...sounds interesting huh...and I sound like me when I was 18. I was sort of a Billy Graham Jr kind of guy talking about "finding Jesus" all the time.

These days you might call me a "progressive Christian" with a lot of "out there" thoughts. By the way I do not share most of them on Sunday morning. That is not my task as a pastor and preacher. What I preach is not about "my thinking" or even my theology. It is about the powerful story of God trying to get through to us.

Anyway...this Sunday I'm offering a chance to "Come to Jesus." If you are not going to be there you can still use the song I'll have sung to help you..well..come to Jesus. This song haunted me for a few months..and then I found a version of it on Youtube...I mean have I gone over to the Dark Side of technology or what!!... This version has all kinds of pictures of Jesus popping up as the song is sung...I must say it "got to me." So we'll do that a Come to Jesus meeting. The song is by sung by Chris Rice and simply called, "Come to Jesus" it (there I go again) and pull up the song...then look up the Youtube version that has a picture of Jesus beside it....Click and then be still and watch and listen...

There is a picture of Jesus for everybody...old pictures...mushy-sweet pictures ...classic pictures...all kinds of Jesus-es....There's one for you. Sit quietly and "come to Jesus." Bless you.