Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ

25
Jan
22

Clarifying

I remember the first time I got glasses.

I was in my mid-teens… maybe 14 or 15.

Up until that moment, I was pretty satisfied with my view of the world. I mean, sure, there were times when I mistook a “Q” on a street sign for an “O” or a “D.” Or when I had to really squint to see the names of the flavors at the Helen Hutchley’s ice cream store. 

Otherwise, I felt as if I saw the world around me with enough clarity to navigate the tasks of a typical teen’s day.

And so, when mom piped up one day and said, “Rusty, I think we need to go get your eyes checked,” I was mildly miffed.

“Why?” I asked, barely concealing my annoyance. “My eyes are fine.”

And if you are a glasses-wearer yourself, you know how the rest of this story goes. After enduring all the tests at the optometrist’s office and finally being fitted with my first pair of dorky glasses, I was absolutelyDUMBSTRUCK! I believe the first words out of my mouth when I put them on were, “Holy CRAP!” earning me an instant reprimand from both of my folks.

I simply could not believe how much clearer the world around me was. It was a true night and day difference! Several times I pulled the glasses off, put them back on, and pulled them off again, just to experience the astonishing before-and-after contrast. 

I was similarly amazed at how accustomed – and accepting – I had become to my prior, blurred view of life. 

And today, as I count off yet another trip around the sun, I am reflecting on how many times since then I have had that exact, same experience. 

Not with my VISION, but with my PERCEPTION

How many times – I wondered – have I gradually accommodated one way of seeing the world? How easy has it been for me to say over the years, “The way I am seeing the world right now is FINE! I don’t need to test it! Go away!”

And then how many times have I met a loving – or maybe just a persistent and forceful – voice saying, “No. You need some correction. Come. Let’s get you some help.” [Except later, that loving/persistent voice called me “Russell” instead of “Rusty.”]

You would be correct to say, “That’s what spouses are for!” You would also be correct to say, “That is what a connection to the Living God is for!”

The truth is, every one of us can fall prey to one of these four, common vision-distorting syndromes in our lives.

  • MYOPIA. Or near-sightedness. That is, seeing only the things that are closest to us and ignoring anything beyond our immediate environment.
  • HYPEROPIA. Or far-sightedness. This is the polar opposite of myopia. It means seeing everything except that which is right there in front of your nose. 
  • PRESBYOPIA. No. This does not refer to the eyesight of Presbyterians. It is the age-related diminishing of clear eyesight. You will know that presbyopia is involved when you hear the phrase, “Well, we’ve always done it that way, and it’s been fine.”
  • ASTIGMATISM. My optical guide defines astigmatism as, “… a condition marked by an irregularly shaped cornea. This irregularity impacts the way light is focused on the retina, causing distorted, blurred vision across all distances.” As you well know, the cornea is the outermost layer of the eye. In that sense, it is the gatekeeper of all light that you encounter. And when your gatekeeper is out of whack, everything else is, too.

As it turns out, the Bible has a couple of great things to say about the importance of good optical health. The writer of Proverbs said, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:12, NRSV). Sort of speaks to that whole “fallibility of perception” thing, doesn’t it?

Later, Jesus said this: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34, NRSV). 

As I scan the calendar, I see that it is just about time for my annual eye exam. While I’m at it, do you think I could also find a place to schedule a perception check-up? 

Abundant blessings;

06
Jan
22

It’s An Outrage!

The other day I heard someone say (or perhaps they posted it on a social media platform), “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

The implication here is that the goal of awake, alert people should be to ascend to a state of perpetual outrage as we observe events unfolding around us.  

And personally, I am outraged at that suggestion.

I mean, yes, there are very important and noteworthy things going on in the world. Yes, there are bad actors perpetrating grief and misery upon innocent victims every day. Yes, there are catastrophic weather events taking place here, there, and everywhere. Yes, there is disease, famine, poverty, addiction, greed, war, and environmental degradation sweeping across the face of our planet. 

And yes, I am concerned about every one of those things. 

But I really, truly resent the efforts of you Controllers of the Public Discourse who seek to whip me up into a never-ending state of outraged frenzy about it. 

For example, is it really necessary to begin EVERY SINGLE nightly national news broadcast with the breathless incantation, “Breaking news tonight…”, followed by an overly dramatized report of something I found out about six hours ago?

Of course, news is a business. Social media is ALSO a business. As such, these businesses succeed or fail based on how many eyeballs are watching and how many ears are listening. And the Head Honchos of these businesses know that eyes and ears aren’t drawn to them by calm, matter-of-fact descriptions of important events. 

Oh no. 

They know that eyes and ears are only drawn in by LOUD, BOMBASTIC declarations of DIRE EMERGENCY!!

And when you and I fall for this trick by choosing to walk around in an uninterrupted state of OUTRAGE, we only ensure a future of LOUDER and MORE BOMBASTIC declarations of dire emergency from the people holding the megaphones. 

And perish the thought of ever leading with a story about the overflowing milk of human kindness, decency, and compassion. No, those are the stories reserved for the last 45 seconds of the Nightly News. 

So, what are we to do? How do we straddle the divide between the call to be INFORMED while resisting the call to become OUTRAGED?

Let me say first that I don’t believe OUTRAGE is always misplaced. Outrage is the appropriate response to an outrageous event. Outrage is also the thing that spurs us to get up off our tooshies and ACT! 

Ginned-up outrage, however, only serves to hike up our blood pressure and feed the click counters of the Media Masters. 

First, we must figure out how to be thoughtful about our outrage. And before you say it, I will confess I recognize the fact that this advice is much easier SPOKEN than ACTED. Most of the time my outrage is quick… emotion-based… explosive. I get outraged because I have NOT been thoughtful or reflective. In those times I make myself an easy target for the click-bait headlines that start with phrases like, “You Won’t Believe What ___________ Just Did!” 

When we digest the events of the day, it might be good to ask questions like, “What is really at stake here?” or “Who benefits most by my outrage?” or “What good does it do for me to blow my top about this?”

Next, if we have a hard time moderating our reactions to the world around us, it might be great to declare a News Fast. You might decide to make it for 24 hours, a week, a month, or an undetermined period. Make it just like the time you swore of chocolate, booze, or red meat, only better. 

Ultimately, the lesson we should all learn is the lesson of the exiled Israelites from 586 (or so) BCE. Faced with an endless stream of failure, frustration, fiasco, flood, fire, and famine, they were at the end of their collective rope. They had perhaps greater reason to be outraged than any group of people before or since. They were supposed to be God’s Chosen People and yet, here they sat… exiled in a foreign land. 

Just when their fists were weary from being shaken so vigorously at the sky, God spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah and said, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV).

Yes. Things fall apart. Plans backfire. People do stupid stuff. Outrageous events happen all around us. But in the middle of it all, God reminds us to hold out for a better day ahead.

Abundant blessings;

31
Dec
21

Winter Wonderland

It finally snowed here in Fort Collins. 

The falling right now is the first snow this season… and the latest first snow in the town’s history. 

And so naturally, as Patrick the dog and I set out on our morning walk – wet flakes descending rapidly on our heads – I began singing, Walking in a Winter Wonderland. 

You know the song, don’t you? [And no, Christopher… it’s not about you.]

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

In the lane, snow is glistening.

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight,

Walking in a winter wonderland.

I’m sure in my life, I have sung it over 100 times with no thought at all to what I was singing.

But for some reason today, as I walked along singing, I was suddenly snagged by these words in the second verse:

“To face unafraid, the plans that we made…”

My first thought was, “What a great mindset to have as you make the transition from one year to the next! Maybe this is really more a New Year’s song than a Christmas song.”

But then I stopped to ponder a little further. I asked myself; Is that the way I am approaching 2022? Am I facing my/our plans for this coming year fearlessly… confidently… in a positive, hopeful state of mind? Or am I shaking in my shoes a little bit?

Because, honestly, peering at the road ahead shows me a lot of potholes, hairpin turns, mudslides, and washed-out bridges. Facing that mess “unafraid” (in the words of the song) seems like it might prove to be a daunting task.

As I stand here and gaze down the road, I see that the YUCK has already started. A beloved family member just tested positive for the COVID virus. Thick smoke from the wildfires west of Boulder, Colorado enveloped us as we drove home yesterday from Kansas City. Reports say that over 500 homes have been destroyed. John Madden died last week, and Betty White died today!

Thank God (literally) I am not facing all this alone.

Thank God there is someone who has been there, who has seen the worst of it, and is still there to reach out, take my hand, and say to me, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, that exact phrase is repeated more than 70 times in the Bible… spoken by God to the numerous “feet of clay” heroes scattered throughout its pages. 

Think of it… Abram was afraid. Hagar was afraid. Isaac was afraid. Moses was afraid. The entire nation of Israel was afraid. Joshua, Deborah, Jacob, Gideon, Samson, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, and a bushel basket full of other big names in the Bible all had reason to quake in their shoes as they looked at the road ahead of them. 

And to each of them, God said in a loud, strong voice, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13, NRSV). 

In my mind’s eye, I see each of those biblical “heroes” jotting that phrase down on a piece of papyrus, taping it to their bathroom mirrors (like I did in 2011, during a time of great trepidation), and reading it to themselves every morning. 

And then – much as I did back then – I see them each marching out into the day saying, “OK, world… Bring it on.” 

Looking out my window, I see that the snow is getting deeper. It is a much-needed dose of moisture in a dry, parched land. It quiets things down and creates a uniformly white blanket of silence on everything it touches.

And so when you combine that very “Currier and Ives” visual with the reminder of God’s enduring presence in each of our lives, it truly does look like a Winter Wonderland. 

– Abundant blessings and a Joy-filled 2022 to you and yours.

24
Dec
21

Why Give?

It’s Christmas… the season of giving.

But why? 

I mean, why do we give? I am not ONLY talking about Christmas giving. I’m talking about any kind of giving.

I puzzled on this one for a while and came up with a few answers. To wit:

  • Sometimes we give because it’s a tradition. It’s expected.
  • Sometimes we give because someone needs something, and we have the means to provide it.
  • Sometimes we give because we feel the need to TANGIBLY express our love and affection to someone.
  • Sometimes we give because we feel insecure about the status of a relationship and believe that giving will help strengthen and shore it up with “stuff.”
  • Sometimes we give because we just have too damned much money and we don’t know what to do with it. [I cannot personally relate to this one].
  • Sometimes we give because we want another person to feel they are in our debt.

And so on.

It didn’t take a lot of sweat to come up with this list because every one of these reasons (except for the “too much money” one) has motivated my own giving in the past.

But what if I asked you to look through this list – including any others you might add to it – and choose which Giving Motivator best describes the true spirit of CHRISTMAS giving?

Honestly, I think every gift you’ll find under your tree might well be wrapped in one of these motivators. But I am not sure anything listed here actually lines up with the motivation that was behind the Original Christmas Gift

And by Original Christmas Gift (OCG), of course I mean JESUS!

And so, the two questions I am wrestling with here at Christmas Eve Eve 2021 are: #1 – What was God’s motivation in giving us God’s Own Self, in the flesh, as the OCG? And #2 – How might MY giving (Christmas and otherwise) more closely reflect that same motivation?

What do you think?

Right off the bat I am going to have to rule against “To show us God’s love” as a possible answer to the first question. Regular readers of the Bible will know that God was in the business of showing love to humans from page 1 onward. 

Heck, the very act of creation was an act of love. 

Similarly, I am going to go ahead and pre-emptively rule against the answer, “Because God was bored and needed something to do.”

I believe that “the Word became flesh and lived among us…” (John 1:14, NRSV) for one basic reason; to demonstrate the life-and-world changing power of self-giving, sacrificial love

It didn’t just cost God something to stoop down and pitch a tent here with you and me. It cost God EVERYTHING! It was a gift of epic proportions… given with no expectation of receiving anything in return. 

The OCG was a gift that was supposed to say to us, “Hey! THIS is what giving is all about. This giving is willful self-emptying. This giving lies at the very heart of Who I Am and who I call YOU to be also.” 

“Oh, and by the way… THIS giving is what changes the world.”

And it did, too.

As far as any kind of answer to the second question I posed (I.e., “How might MY giving (Christmas and otherwise) more closely reflect that same motivation?”), I am still chewing on that one. But I think it has something to do with trying to make sure that any giving I do in the future is an authentic GIVING OF MYSELF rather than any of those other reasons. 

That’s all for now. I am not sure I have even come close to the right answers to those questions, but I would LOVE to hear what you think. 

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you and yours. This year, give someone the gift of YOU!

Abundant blessings;

21
Dec
21

Slow Down, Cowboy

Time passes.

Things change.

The fresh, new, and exciting slowly becomes the stale, old, and predictable. 

Energy that once sprang from a bottomless reservoir now trickles sparingly, as if dripping from a clogged waterspout.

Possibilities begin winking out one by one… like the lights of a remote fishing village moving from midnight to pre-dawn.

The same applies to me. Early in my career as a human, I used to walk fast. Stride, stride, stride, stride. Vigorous. Purposeful. Always in a hurry. Never quite enough time to get from Point A to Point B. Checking my watch and multitasking as I went.

I’m sure you’ve heard footsteps of the kind of person I used to be. Whenever I heard those staccato, purposeful steps approaching me from behind, I always had to turn my head. My first thought was usually, “I wonder if I am about to be mugged.” But then I relaxed, realizing it’s just someone on their way to somewhere.

Lately, though, I have slowed down.

Considerably.

I first throttled down from FULL to ¾ speed when I retired. Though I no longer had any place I needed to be RIGHT NOW, I wanted to continue living with a sense of urgency… taking nothing for granted… drinking deeply from each day’s bubbling fountain.

But then came the excruciating lower back pain in early May, slowing me – LITERALLY some days – to a crawl.

Today my back is a bit better, thanks. Treatments, injections, massages, adjustments, exercise, and even some wacky stuff have all helped. But despite that improvement, I continue to be a slow walker. 

Now I take my time getting from here to there. 

I breathe deeply along the way. I look around. I study the trees, yards, houses, dogs, and people I pass. I let them speak to me. I treat them the way a trained sommelier treats that first mouthful of wine from a newly opened bottle of 1949 Domaine Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru. (Not that we have that vintage on the shelf here at Chez Brown. I just Googled, “What is the name of a really expensive wine,” et VOILA!)

Since I just celebrated a significant birthday yesterday (one that ends in a “0”), I have declared to myself that I am absolutely permitted to slow down a bit. 

I am still – hopefully – a long way away from adopting the Old Man Shuffle step. But fair warning! If you are a young, busy career person dashing through the aisles of the grocery store to pick up a few things on the way home, you DON’T want to be stuck behind me.

As I pause and think about it, I must admit; I am coming to like this new, slower, more deliberate me. But it does seem odd in a way. Younger me… the one with a whole lifetime ahead of him… was always in a hurry to get somewhere. Whereas older me… the one whose days here in this vail of tears are MUCH more numbered… is very OK with taking it slow and easy. 

NEWS FLASH: In case you haven’t guessed, NONE of these reflections are at all new or earth-shattering in their significance.

Jesus – the guy whose mission was to save Creation – regularly carved himself out times of quiet, stillness and solitude. Long before Jesus’ time the psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NRSV). And let’s not forget the story about Elijah’s flight from the wrath of Queen Jezebel when he met God in the middle of the “sheer silence.” (1 Kings 19:12, NRSV) in the desert. 

No… while the notion of slowing down and smelling the coffee may not be new or revolutionary, it is somewhat noteworthy that I have finally stumbled upon it. 

And if I REALLY want to complete the “old guy trifecta,” I will next take up whittling and golf. 

Abundant blessings;

07
Dec
21

An Undistorted Reality

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19, NRSV)

Have you ever noticed the way anticipation tends to distort reality… both positively and negatively?

If you’re not sure what I am talking about, think back to the last time you sat by your phone as you waited for a call from your doctor, bringing news about the results of a test. Or recall one of those times when you waited for the back door to fly open, followed by the words, “I’m home!” when your child was already 30 minutes past his/her curfew.

On the other end of the distortion spectrum, I can vividly recall the feeling as the days (Hours? Moments?) ticked by until it was time to head out on that long-anticipated vacation. But thinking back, the reality of that trip never seemed to quite live up to the way my imagination had painted it.

If any of that rings a bell for you, you can easily imagine some of the visions and dreams that danced around in the heads of most Israelites as they anticipated the arrival of the One described by the prophet Isaiah as, “… Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NRSV). 

I mean, SERIOUSLY! How could anything on earth be as glorious as THAT!??

I wonder if their imagination got as fevered as mine? For me, as the heat of anticipation builds and builds for that joyous moment to arrive, my brain goes into overdrive. I tend to concoct a distorted, unrealistic picture of the IT I am waiting for… paving the way for heart-wrenching disappointment when IT finally appears. 

In the case of the birth of Jesus (“Immanuel… God With Us”), the experience was exactly the opposite. The REALITY of the appearance of God Incarnate out-stripped even the wildest imaginations of the people of his time.

When Jesus landed in that manger in Bethlehem, he brought with him:

  • LIBERATION… for all people, for all time.
  • FORGIVENESS… for anyone who asks.
  • RECONCILIATION… with God, with others, with the world.
  • NEW LIFE
  • HEALING… for the afflicted – in body, mind, or spirit.
  • HOPE… for the hopeless

… and so much more. 

As Joan can (and will) readily tell you, I tend to have a wild and vivid imagination. But when it comes to Jesus, we ALL come face to face with the God who, “… is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20, NRSV). 

And that’s a WHOLE LOT!

Abundant blessings;

30
Nov
21

The Unbreakable Bubble

Check this out…

(Sorry for the poor quality photography)

Shortly after moving to Fort Collins, CO, Joan and I were walking the dogs in nearby Fossil Creek Park. It was early December, but snow had yet to make an appearance.

As we approached the base of a hill, I saw all these trees with straw bales shrink-wrapped to them. I stared at this bizarre sight, scratched my head in puzzlement, turned to Joan and said, “What the heck is that all about? Why are straw bales shrink-wrapped to the base of these trees?”

Being the far brighter, more observant, and astuter (???) one of us, Joan immediately replied, “Silly… those straw bales are there to protect sledders.” Being the kind, compassionate person she is, Joan refrained from capping her statement with, “DUH!!”

Sure enough, as we circled the hill, I noticed that just about every tree and light post had its own straw bale attached… ALL on the uphill side where sledders, skiers, or snowboarders would come from.

It made me wonder: where were those when I was a young sledder? For us – back in the Sledding Stone Age– it was a case of “Dodge or Die.” When I was young, stories were legion about kids who sledded into a tree/rock/lamppost/car/etc. and “…cracked his skull wide open.” 

All of which coaxed me into thoughts about the notion of PROTECTION in general. 

We certainly go to great lengths to PROTECT these days, don’t we? Especially now in the time of The Great Global Pandemic. We wash. We hand-sanitize. We mask (some of us double-mask even). We vaccinate. We boost. We shield. We sterilize. We germ-fog. 

Heck, last year, Joan and I even saw an Asian couple and their children dressed in hazmat suits at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. 

And still – with all those protection measures in place – people still get sick and die. 

I can’t say this with complete certainty, but I’ll even bet there are young sledders at Fossil Creek Park who still crash and hurt themselves… despite all the straw-bales and shrink-wrap.

So, I wonder… where does the concept of PROTECTION fit into God’s Grand Scheme of Things? 

Interestingly, I discovered that whereas there are 45 verses in the Old Testament that use the word “Protect” or “Protection,” there are only SEVEN of those verses in the New Testament. 

In the OT, you have verses like, “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you…” (Psalm 20:1, NRSV), and “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7, NRSV), and, “But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me…” (Psalm 69:29, NRSV). 

Here, God is clearly understood as the Great Protector From All Harm

But somewhere, somehow, something takes a real turn in the New Testament. Not only does it only contain 1/6 the number of verses about protection as the Old Testament, but the whole FLAVOR of the way it is talked about takes a dramatic turn.

Here are two examples of what I am talking about. In this first one, Jesus is sitting with the disciples in the Garden of Gesthemane. He has told them what is about to happen to him and is now praying. He petitions God and says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15, NRSV). 

Then there is this verse in 2 Thessalonians that echoes a similar theme: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3, NRSV).

“Protect you/them from the evil one.” 

No longer is God (apparently) the God who keeps you from cracking your skull open, or getting COVID, or (nearly) breaking your big toe, or losing your house in a fire, or going broke. 

God – in the New Testament – seems to be the God whose main project is protecting your soul.

I don’t know… maybe it was because of the seemingly endless stream of heartbreak, woe, exile, injury, and misfortune that befell the Israelites that led them to rethink the whole idea of what “God’s protection” meant.

Jesus spoke to this directly when he told the disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NRSV). 

Now THAT’S what I call PROTECTION

Each of us is going to have hard times in the days ahead. As much as we’d like to have one, there is no impermeable bubble that will shield us from all insult and/or injury. 

But there IS available – for ALL of us – an unshakable source of peace when we face those times. 

His name is Jesus.

Abundant blessings;

05
Nov
21

EST-CE QUE TU PARLES FRANCAIS?

Joan and I have been in the south of France for the past week.

And when I say, “the south of France,” I mean THE SOUTH. As in, imagining we hear banjos and guitars having a pick-off duel as we round every turn in the road. 

In French, of course.

Don’t get me wrong… this is a beautiful place. Full of vineyards, ancient stone castles, quaint villages, winding roads and craggy hillsides. It is breathtakingly romantic and serene.

Except that NOBODY here speaks a word of English. As a matter of fact, I am not sure they know any language besides French even exists.

And so, as we have navigated our way through the amazing little towns of Boutenac, Carcassone, Minerve, Lezignan, and Coulliere, we learned to get by with some quick, seat-of-the-pants translating. When ordering lunch, for example, we had to figure out that it would not kill us to choose something off the Poisson section of the menu. It just meant we would get a nice piece of grilled fish. 

We also learned that adding a dash of cannelle to our morning coffee would give it a flavorful little kick.

Waitresses and hotel clerks and retailers regularly took pity on us and used their back-pocket English when we appeared to struggle. But for the most part, we were a couple of odd ducks wherever we went. Which – I have to admit – was kind of a new experience for both of us. 

Because, you see, most of the time, I am alert, aware, comfortable with my surroundings, and on top of my game. In my native habitat, stuff doesn’t fluster me… unless, of course, we are talking about finding ANYTHING in the grocery store! And so, the experience of being in a place where I am different… where I am lost and unsure… where I am The Other… was unsettling and frankly disorienting.

It also made me realize that it is not necessary to travel in France with a limited-to-nonexistent French vocabulary to feel out of place. Often all it takes to feel like un poisson hors de l’eau is to be a member of any non-advantaged group. 

Those of us who – because of our race, gender, ableness, or economic class – begin life on second base, are told (and believe) the story that we hit a double. We inherited the FastPass at Disneyland and can’t, for the life of us, figure out why everyone else is still standing in that silly line. We get the grades, we get the help, we get the jobs, and we get the dream… in many cases all because of factors we have zero control over. 

And so, it comes as a very unwelcome shock any time we find ourselves standing on the outside – of ANYTHING! – looking in. 

Most of the time when this kind of disquieting, uncomfortable moment happens to us, we moan and wail and kvetch. “This totally sucks!” is one of our more popular refrains.

But what if we used these pinch-point moments for a different purpose? What if we used them instead as a moment of awakening? What if we recognized them as a time when SEEDS are being sown? 

Seeds of insight… seeds of compassion… seeds of understanding.

What if – when the time comes when the cards all seem to be stacked against us, we cocked our heads, opened our ears, and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28, NRSV) and paid special attention in that verse to the word ALL?

What if?

That would sure be tres bon, wouldn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

01
Nov
21

My Saints

He was a slick-fielding, light hitting second baseman for the church softball team.

He sold microscopes for the E. Leitz Company.

Later, he heard a call that changed not only his life, but the lives of everyone in his family.

He taught me how to tie a tie, shine my shoes, throw a spiral, dry the dishes, and dig a hole.

He wielded The Paddle.

He whistled duotone harmonies.

He struggled. He persevered. He dreamed. He played. He sang. He laughed. He cried.

He served his family, his church, his community, and his God.

He taught me how to see the unseen, seek justice, speak for the voiceless, advocate for those on the margins.

He was my dad.

She saw the world at an early age.

She was the darling pet of her three brothers.

She wrote prolifically and well.

She always made sure her children knew they were safe and loved.

She threw a baseball “just like a boy.”

She baked the best, most fragrant bread in the world.

She loved her God and her neighbor as herself.

She loved, supported, encouraged, and followed her husband through thick and thin.

She was beautiful.

She was my mom.

These are the first saints I think of today, on this “All Saints Day.” 

They are the most important ones who shaped my life in profound, lasting ways… but far from the only ones.

They both taught me that as they lived, they also stood on the shoulders of others… paying forward the blessings conferred on them.

Today, in some small way, I hope I have followed their example. 

I love you mom and dad… and all the other saints I’ve been privileged to meet along the way.

Abundant blessings;

23
Oct
21

The Inexhaustible Supply Chain

Our new couch is finally HERE! 

Hip Hip HOORAY!

Last week Joan and I were finally able to get rid of that old couch – the one that was meant for a MUCH larger living room – so that we could engage in a little “furniture right-sizing.” 

And it only took EIGHT MONTHS. 

That’s right. We originally ordered our couch in early February 2021. And it finally arrived earlier this month… you know, the month named “October.”

First there was the infamous world-wide FOAM shortage. You remember that one, right? It was when workers in the foam rubber industry all decided to bounce at the same time. (Get it? Bounce?)

After the foam crisis, the world was suddenly gripped by the sky-rocketing price of lumber. I’m sure they could have gone ahead and produced our couch as planned, but they would have had to triple the asking price and then listen to our wretched hue and cry.

Once the rubber and lumber crises settled down, of course, the world’s supply of everything was stuck 20-deep on container ships in the Port of Los Angeles harbor, waiting to unload. First there weren’t enough longshoremen (longshorepersons?). Then all truck drivers decided to leave the profession on the same day. 

After that, I’m not sure what happened. But whatever it was, it was serious enough to keep the new Brown family couch jammed up in Delivery Limbo until just last week.

Please understand… I am not trying to trivialize the global supply-chain constipation problem the world is currently facing. Waiting eight months for a couch was an inconvenience, but incredibly minor in the grand scheme of things. Lots of people are dealing with much worse difficulties than living with a couch that is too big for their living room. 

In the midst of it all, I discovered that our trifling encounter with the Supply Chain Soap Opera of 2021 DID provide several teachable moments.

First, it was yet another reminder of the incredible interconnectedness of human life on Planet Earth. We often – particularly those of us living in the U.S. of A. – like to think of ourselves as independent, autonomous, utterly self-sufficient organisms, needing no one and no thing to thrive. And yet, the reality is that LIFE is connected to LIFE. I depend on YOU, and YOU depend on me for a whole host of things. 

Actually, it is the way God drew it up. Back there at the Beginning of All Things, God created all of us and said, “Relationship! Hey, y’all! It’s all about RELATIONSHIP! You humans – created in my image, after all – will not be full, complete beings unless you find ways to regularly, compassionately, and deeply CONNECT with one another. In fact, when you depend on ME and EACH OTHER, you will live life as I intend you to.”

Did it take a complete meltdown of the U.S. supply chain to wake us up to the reality of our interconnectedness? Maybe not. Maybe we can just call it an unforeseen byproduct.

This eight-month delivery time also helped me realize that while couches, semi-conductors, soccer balls, food processors, lawn mowers, and playing cards might all be in short supply these days, there is one vital commodity the world will never run out of: 

We will never, CAN never exhaust God’s supply of love and grace. That’s because the “supply chain” that produces it never runs dry, never clogs up, never constricts, never contracts. In the history of the world, there has never been a strike in God’s grace factory.

You might say, in fact, that the more grace we “consume,” the greater the supply. 

And the price – unlike that of our new couch – is always right. The bill has been marked “Paid in Full by Jesus.”

HALLELUJAH!

Abundant blessings;




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