Sunday, June 22, 2008
I just want to share a thought that I jotted down in my journal yesterday. It's something I thought about while mowing the yard yesterday. Hope it gives you something to chew on for eight days. I feel certain it will show up in a sermon some time soon.
Thought: How ironic is that we begin to understand what life's priorities need to be about the time we are old enough to start having to pay for all the misplaced priorities of our past?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Just another critter in our back yard. We are covered up with birds who are all waiting for the cherries on our cherry tree to ripen. When they do - they will be eaten up in one or two days.
It's hard to tell from this picture, but the limbs are actually bending over from the weight of the cherries. We have picked some in the past, but because we haven't sprayed them for bugs and worms a lot of them have "indwelling spirits" - if you know what I mean.
Unfortunately, they will turn ripe while we are out of town and unable to pick any even if we wanted to. This morning, after I mowed the yard, I was just amazed at how beautiful the whole tree was with the cherries sparking in the morning sunshine.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I've spent the last year seriously praying and studying about Being Real in my spiritual journey. I've tried to verbalize it in 21 sermons, 13 adult class outlines, and numerous articles and blogs. I don't know if I've helped anyone else "get it" but I truly feel that after 43 years of being a Christian - I get it. In fact, I have to change that last sentence, because it hasn't been 43 years of "being" a Christian as much as it's been 43 years of "doing" Christianity. "Being" was there sometimes, but the "doing" was certainly more important, more visible, more affirmable, and more self-serving. I'm not trying to be hyper-critical of myself as much as I'm realizing how essential to our spiritual journey our desire to truly "BE" like Jesus really is. We've got the "doing" part down. We know what we're supposed to "do" and how the "doing" declares us faithful to others. And we judge our church families by what they are "doing" and how we can get them to "do" more, and then we feel like failures because we have to keep "doing" more to get everyone else to "do" more. And we have to repeat it year after year!
Maybe it's time to start "Being". What would happen if every member would commit to honestly "being" like Jesus? Would the "doing" stop or would it increase, and maybe have more passion? Would that force us to redefine what constitutes a "successful church"? After all, what is a successful church to God? Does He even care about the "doing" if there is no "being"? At some point we are going to have to own up to our failures and the biggest failure is our insistence on "doing" without caring whether our church family is "being" like Jesus.
Like learning the principles of playing basketball, what good is practice if it doesn't help us "get it"?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The other day I received an email from one of the first policemen I met the very first day that I began as a Police Chaplain for the Fairfax County Police Department. Sergeant Jay was probably the most excited cop at the station to find out they had a Chaplain. They weren't all that excited to have a chaplain at first. I still remember walking down the stairs with the Captain of the station as he took me to meet the guys at my first roll call meeting. Coming down the stairs I remember hearing one of them say, "Who the ________ needs a chaplain?" Jay was (and is) a devout Christian, and he was thrilled to get any spiritual emphasis at the Chantilly station that he could. I remember riding with him on many occasions and being impressed with how much he cared about God and the men in his squad. He was a good man and a source of a lot of good memories.
The job of being a Police Chaplain was a volunteer position and totally up to me to make it what I wanted it to be. The officers had no obligation to call on me or use me to help with anything. They didn't even have to let me ride with them. So the first order of the day was to prove myself and make myself valuable to them. I rode with everyone I could and made a lot of friends quickly, but it took my first "Chaplain" call over the radio to give me a chance to prove myself. AND, it was Sergeant Jay who called for me. I was riding with Pete, a young go-get-em officer who actually was raised in the church of Christ. We heard the call of a traffic accident w/ possible fatalities. It clearly turned into a madhouse as it was discovered that a sixteen year old boy riding a bike on the side of the highway was struck and killed by a guy who was drag racing his car, left the road, hit the boy, and flew his car off into the trees way off the road. The boy's parents and friends showed up quickly, and the scene was getting very tense as they demanded to see if it was their son who was killed. And then the call came over the police radio, "See if Chaplain 8 can respond to this location." I was scared to death. It's a long story, but the end result was that I truly helped the police and the family and greatly increased the officers' appreciation for Chaplains. I'll always remember one of the gruff old veterans saying, "Well Chaplain, you were worth you're weight in gold tonight."
That was 1980 and I served as a Police Chaplain until the middle of 1988. By then I simply had no time to ride or even be called to help. The church had been growing, we had three services on Sunday morning, our children where getting bigger and I needed all my extra time to be with family. It was a wild ride. Especially those first two years when I did so many death notifications and got to help so many people. The Detective department chaplain, when they finally got one, as well as the homicide detectives themselves, took over almost all the notifications during my second year especially since all traffic fatalities started being under their department too. My first book, Rev, was based on those first two years of being a Chaplain.
I am thankful for the experiences, though sometimes memories pop into my head that I'd like to forget - especially ones involving children. God was preparing me to be a better servant. I learned crisis intervention and I learned how to deal with tragedy. Mostly, I learned that I never want to deal with this life without having a loving heavenly Father to see me through it. And I'm thankful for memories of good people - like Sergeant Jay. He really did see his job as protecting and serving, but his serving also included serving God.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I've heard for years that when it comes to getting older, the mind is the first thing to go. I never believed that for a minute. I would say the knees, or maybe the hair, or even the eyes before I'd say the brain. That is, until last week. I got my first traffic ticket in thirty years last week. When the officer pulled me over, I literally had no idea why. He said I ran a stop sign. Frankly, I can't image that I did. It was an intersection that I regularly travel through and I am very - did I say very loud enough? - scrupulous about obeying traffic laws. Yes, I accept a little grace by going a couple miles over the speed limit sometimes, but I'm fanatic about turn signals, stop signs, and any other legal requirement. However, I truly had no recollection of whether I had stopped or was guilty. I resisted the urge to argue - knowing that never works anyway, but it was very disturbing to me to think I might have done it or even worse, that I was falsely accused. Oh well, I'm sure I deserve it for something sometime that I got away with.
And then there was the two times last week that I saw someone in the foyer of the church building, after the performance, and couldn't for the life of me remember who they were. I knew their face and I knew I knew them, but I couldn't remember where I knew them from. It was one of those "out of place" sightings where you know someone but you're seeing them at a different place. Wow! Does that ever make you feel dumb. Sorry folks. I don't know if the memory is going or if I'm in a rut when it comes to where and when I see people.
And then there's the picture above. Our old small group from TN surprised us by showing up Saturday evening for the play. Someone told me there was a bus from Antioch out front and I literally thought, Antioch Baptist? It was all our good friends! What a wonderful surprise! They are so special to us and we love them all dearly. What a sweet surprise. I think we have a bond that truly will transcend years and miles. So - one thing I haven't forgotten, and never will, is the love of good friends. It's okay to get older - especially when you do it with lots of loved ones.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Here are all the creatures in the belly of the Big Fish. Lot's of color and lots of fun. And even a powerful lesson about ignoring God.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
I tried to focus on the bigger issues of our journey. The issues that determine how we look at life, deal with our problems, and face its conclusion. I decided that the mind of Jesus was guided by essentially three factors (and no, I didn't have to have a three point sermon). The mind of Jesus was spiritual; the mind of Jesus was selfless; and (this may sound strange) the mind of Jesus was homesick.
By homesick I mean that he was longing to return to his Father - to be back in heaven. I closed the lesson with a look at Acts 1 where Jesus is taken up to heaven in a cloud and the apostles where just frozen in place watching him disappear into the atmosphere. The angel asked them, "Why are you standing there staring into the sky?" He told them to get on with it! I noticed something very profound about this event. Jesus never said "Good-bye". He didn't need to because he KNEW it was not a good-bye moment, but a see ya later moment. I was surprised by the people who commented to me after the lesson about how they've struggled with guilt and pain because they didn't get to say "Good-bye" to someone they loved who died. Isn't that simply an indication of how much we are focused on the world rather than eternity? He was ready to be home! He "loved his own" on earth, but the separation was short - was nothing compared to being together for eternity! Maybe the true test of having the mind of Jesus is seen in our ability to "let go" of this world - whether it's accepting our own temporary nature, or accepting the inevitability of having loved ones go before us. Forget the "good byes"! Let go of this world and get excited about the better one our Father has for us. Just as we can and should be thankful for every moment of every day of life He gives us, we must be thankful that to really be with Jesus, we have to let go of it - and we can.