Loving One Another

Archive for the ‘Living in Christ’s Family’ Category

What Do You Believe?


happy-easter-religious-cross-banner

Terminal or Eternal?

T ime on
E arth is not
R evolving.
M inutes spent
I n mortality
N ever repeat.
A lways spend each one
L ovingly and joyfully.

Time on earth is terminal.

Some believe in a revolving door called reincarnation, believing they’ll return as another person if the good deeds they do in this lifetime do not raise their karma above the 50% mark. Reincarnation becomes a chance to try it again. Be better, kinder, more loving and more wise the next time around, and eventually the Karmic Board will judge you worthy. Your life will tip the Karmic Scale and you’ll earn the right to resurrection and life in Eternity.

Others believe when this terminal life as a human being is over, they’ll return as a creature. They talk about what it might be like to come back as a family pet or as a bee, a bird, or a lion.

Acknowledging that life on earth is terminal, some think that this is all there is. When we die, that’s it. From dust we come; to dust we will return. No reincarnation. No resurrection. No nothing. What a bleak, meaningless existence that must be!

As for me, I believe life on earth is terminal. I don’t believe I’ll return as another person. I don’t see myself coming back in the form of another earthly creature. But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this brief earthly life is not all there is. I want to live in love and peace, to spread joy and hope, and to serve my Maker and others. But, I don’t live giving out blessings because I think I’m earning the right to live eternally. I don’t serve to rack up points and move a notch closer to God in Heaven in the “After-Life.” My place already has been secured. I serve out of gratitude, hopefully with an attitude of generosity – grateful for the fact that the price was paid. Paid by God’s Son.

That’s what Easter is all about. It’s not bunnies and colored eggs, frilly new dresses, fancy hats, and patent leather shoes. It’s about a Man named Jesus, a span of three years of ministry on earth, teaching us how to live and how to treat one another, and a forty day period we call Lent. Lent is the time when Jesus was accused, tried, convicted for our sins, beaten, crucified on a cross, and buried in a tomb. Because He died with, “Father, forgive them,” on His lips, I am assured of my forgiveness. I know because He rose again, and because He lives, and because He promised, “I go to prepare a place for you,” when my terminal life on earth is over, I will take that place in Eternity reserved for me. My soul will live on. This is not the end.

This is what I believe. Easter assures me. This life is only the beginning.

Hallelujah! Happy Easter!

What Do We Know?


Blind_Man_JPEG_1024

What Do We Know?

One thing I do know:
I was blind and now I see.
First sight – a new life –
Could such as this happen to me?

I claim to be sighted,
But can I really see?
What ideas or things
Are blinded to me?

Am I aware of my blindness?
Do I know what I can’t see?
The more I think I know,
The more ignorant I seem to be.

I thought I knew –
So smart, so clever and true.
But I was blind – unaware.
Might that be true, too, of you?

Jesus looked on the blind man.
He made mud with His spit.
He rubbed it on the blind eyes,
And told the man to get rid of it.

Wash it off in a river nearby.
Go and do today what I say.
What does Jesus ask us to wash,
To get rid of in our lives today?

Believe and follow!
Seeing Light is self-authenticating.
See Light through the eyes of faith.
To do less will be self-humiliating.

Obedience is the key
To seeing what God can show.
Then “I was blind, but now I see,”
Will be my song. This I know!

Amen?
Amen!

First Sunday in Advent


advent-coming

Only God knows when
The Son of Man will come.
When we least expect Him,
He will overwhelm some.

But, as Christians, we
Won’t be surprised at all.
God already is with us,
So we live expecting His call.

We can’t solve our mortality.
We can’t achieve eternal life.
We know our days are limited
As we live in both joy and strife.

Our lives are vulnerable;
We find security in routine.
But with God, no day is mundane.
We are at risk. Know what I mean?

When God is revealed in you,
You live expecting the end,
And you understand intrusion
With continuation around the bend.

God will come, so be prepared.
He’ll come to you and lift you
To life in His Kingdom.
In anticipation, know He’ll shift you.

Divine Advent; Be ready!
God will break in like a thief in the night.
He will just show up!
So, better live in His Light.

Amen?
Amen!

Outsiders


Jesus on the Cross

Jesus – simple, yet complex

Outsiders

A prophet is known
by the company he keeps.
If Jesus were a true prophet,
the right people would be His sheep.

But baaaaad people hung out
with Jesus – sinners of the worst sort.
Jesus scandalously kept company
with tax collectors, folks report.

His circle included prostitutes.
He dined with people of ill repute.
How did He respond to complainers?
Did He have a good word of refute?

No, He told the story of the lost –
Lost coins, lost sheep, lost kids.
Find the coin, search for lambs,
Be relentless finding others, Jesus bids.

But, though we’re concerned,
We have our limits, right?
Do we seek unending until we find?
No, it’s not about us and our plight.

It’s about God who searches.
It’s about our Lord who actively calls.
He needs us all …  you and me.
Invite the outsiders. Break down walls.

Amen?

Chris Armstrong’s Challenge


What’s the most important thing

   In your life?

If you’re like me, you’ll answer

   It is Christ!

How do you teach that message

   To your kids?

Let your light shine through the darkness – 

   Take off the lids. 

Lift the top off your overflowing cup;

   Let it flow!

In a big step of faith, step out and

   Let yourself go!

Go to follow God’s decrees and

   Let the Scriptures talk. 

Stay connected to the vine as you

   Imitate Christ’s walk. 

What’s the most prized possession

   That you own?

Are you willing to sell it and strip

   Down to the bone?

Are you willing to give away

   All you have to give?

Are you willing to follow Jesus

   Every day you live?

Are you willing to go where

   God asks you to go?

Are you willing to share God’s love

   With people you don’t know?

If God is calling you to 

   Do something for Him,

Obey the Word of God and feel

   His love; Go out on a limb!

Trust God to guide you – and know 

   He will lead your way. 

Let the Holy Spirit speak through you. 

   Hear what He has to say. 

Amen?

Amen!

Easter Sadness


???????????????????????????????????????

I have heard holidays are sad times for some people. There are more suicides near the various holidays each year than at other times of the year. Have you heard that? Have you ever related to such sadness? I’m not THAT sad, but this was not a typical Happy Easter day.

I grew up in a typical American family in the center of California. At least I thought we were typical. Since then I have begun to question what is “normal” – is there such a thing as “typical”? In my world, I Love Lucy and Bugs Bunny made me laugh, Sundays were church and family time, gatherings at our house or at relatives’ homes were the norm for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, when I found myself in a funk this year as Easter approached and no family was coming to gather, I should not have been surprised, right? Wrong! I was caught off guard! Where is the laughing, carefree Bugs Bunny when you need him?

il_570xN.126230542

Our church hosted a potluck after church today –  Easter Sunday; designed just for folks like Bob and me whose family is a thousand or more miles away. Ham would be provided. Last night I created my favorite comfort food for the occasion- scalloped potatoes Andre’ style. I put them in the garage refrigerator for safe-keeping. I spent an hour this morning up in my sanctuary, as usual, in prayer and Bible Study, in meditation as I listened to the robins singing outside the the window. “He is risen indeed!” Shake it off, Jan! ReJOYce! It’s Easter!! Pick up your music. Pick up your Easter lily. Pick up your spirits. Get to your house of worship!

We arrived at church 45 minutes early to practice with the choir. Surely potatoes au gratin and “Up From the Grave He Arose” would lift my sagging spirits. Oh no! I forgot the potatoes where I had safely stored them in the garage refrigerator last night! A dear friend, Susan, who arrived early to work on the potluck volunteered to drive back to our house to get them. Only five minutes away, thank God! Christian friend to the rescue! God bless her. She put them in the church oven and returned to her seat in the pew just as the service started.

I perused the church bulletin. The songs were not “He Lives!” or “Hallelujah, He is Risen.” Instead, “Low in the Grave He Lay” and “In His Time” with a sermon topic, “Failure.” What? Here I am feeling low, missing family, beating myself up for forgetting to bring the potatoes, and the sermon topic is about FAILURE? I drew a sad face next to it! I was not prepared for a downer message from the pulpit! But then as the service began, we all sang, “He Has Made Me Glad!” and the choir sang, “In Christ Alone/Solid Rock.” My spirits were lifting and I paid particular attention to the words of the next song, “Hymn of Promise,” by Natalie Sleethe. The second verse especially spoke to me:

   “There’s a song in every silence, speaking word and melody;
   There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
   From the past will come the future; what it holds a mystery,
   Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

What a wonderful segue into the sermon. Listen carefully, Jan. Take your sermon notes in poetry – as you usually do – and see what “Failure,” as spoken by Reverend Jean Johnson, says to you:

Silence is in Failure.
Shouts in Victory.
Resilience lies in Failure –
Lessons there for you and me.

Moral Victory or Losing?
Which lesson do you see?
Is the score the truest measure
Of a win for you and me?

Defeat: Success is gone.
Rationalization: Better now.
Reality: Acknowledgement –
There’s a future – somehow!

Failure feels miserable.
Hope seems surely gone.
But the loss is temporary.
New beginnings greet the dawn.

God doesn’t call it quits.
He fills our loss with LOVE.
His peace is ours eternal;
Ours is Victory from above.

Christ defeated death and darkness.
Shouts of VICTORY ring ever true.
His resurrection is our promise.
Hope rings eternal for me and you.

Amen? Amen!

I drew a cross next to that sad face – and on the other side of the cross, a happy face.

No need to stay in a funk! Listen to the last verse of Natalie Seethe’s “Hymn of Promise.”

“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.”

Thank You, God. Thank You for Jesus… for His life, His death, and His resurrection. Thank You for the promise of Eternity. Thank you for helping me see You, the source of all life and hope, all joy and peace, all compassion and justice – alive and victorious this day and always. May my life be a witness to the new life You offer. You are new every morning. So am I! Happy Easter!

happy-easter-religious-cross-banner

From the Pastor’s Study


My former pastor, Brent Mitchell, is a wordsmith. He writes as well as he speaks – and he speaks with eloquence and conviction, love and compassion. You can hear those qualities in his written words. Below is a post of his message to his congregation that was in this month’s church newsletter. I want you, my blog readers (most of whom also are writers) to have the opportunity to read it. I asked him for permission to post it. He agreed. Here it is:

VOLUME 42 NO. 8 2013,  THE BEACON
Third Presbyterian Church, Springfiled, Illinois

From the Pastor’s Study
It seems to me that all writers have a voice. With rare exceptions I have never heard them speak. Many of the authors I read have died before I could get to them, but I know what they sound like. And I would bet you do, too. Of course we don’t hear their vocal timber and tonal qualities, but they each have a voice and the voice we hear as we turn page after silent page is as distinct and unique to each author as are their fingerprints. We hear it in the words they choose to open their books, the way they stack up phrases, the rhythm of their sentences, their stylistic preferences for using words as assault weapons or bandages, as a healing balm or more like razor wire—intent on drawing blood. And my guess is that we know whether we like their voice within the first few paragraphs.

Some authors sound instantly pompous to me. They write as though they don’t care if anybody understands them, because they love the sound of their own voice, and if writing affords them the opportunity to impress themselves, that’s all that really mattered. Some are to saccharine, some are just smart alecks who don’t impress me any more than they did in seventh grade, some are just vulgar as though they have never gotten over the thrill of being naughty or saying bad words. Some are moralizing prigs who were born to correct someone somewhere, and some are just boring because they never learned to distinguish the incidental from the pertinent and write as though there is not a difference. They want to say something in the worst possible way, and they do.

I think the type of authors I most enjoy are the ones I would like to sit down with over a long quiet dinner in a free ranging conversation till the candles burn low. Their voices are tinged with self-effacing humor, a compassion born of suffering, elegant enough to be precise, but wanting more to communicate than to impress. Sobered by their own imperfectionsthey keep their egos in check. They  admire honesty, common people and courage in all its forms. And without exception, they understand grace. They might not use that word in any paragraph, but most of what they write is a confession of their need for it, and a sustained act of advocacy in the slender hope we will receive it for ourselves and extend it to others, and thus find our humanity.

One of the authors whose voice I like is Herman Wouk. Jim Marshall put me on to him years ago. In 1952 Wouk was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his fictional World War II novel, “The Caine Mutiny.” I had seen  and loved the movie (starring a superb Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and Robert Francis) but the book, as you might guess was even better—as per typical, much more nuanced and textured with material that told an even fuller tale. Toward the start of the book the newly commissioned Ensign Willie Keith (the chief protagonist through whom the story is told) receives a letter—a final letter—from his father who (unbeknownst to Willie) was dying of cancer. The letter is a father’s last-ditch attempt to rescue his son from a life of pampered shallowness. He writes, “Remember this, if you can— there is nothing, nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you haven’t. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end—only in the end it becomes more obvious. Use your time while you have it, Willie, in making something of yourself…Think of me and what I might have been, Willie, at the times in your life when you come to crossroads. For my sake, for the sake of the father who took the wrong turns, take the right ones, and carry my blessing and my justification with you.”

It is a mark of Wouk’s gift that we can read as the failed father and the shallow son. Perhaps we are both/and. The older we get we rue the wrong turns, the wasted hours. The part of us that senses the
adolescent that still walks inside us, can still catch embarrassed glimpses of our own shallowness and wonder what it will take to sober our senses and save our souls. Listen for the voice before it’s too late. It may be His.

~ Pastor Brent

Tag Cloud