Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Partnership

The few peach trees here on the farm have done their thing now.  We have been partnering together now with hopes of some peaches to eat.  I did the pruning, fertilizing, and spraying and they responded with the fruit.  Of course, God was the one who did the watering.  He also provided the sunshine, wind, and pollinators.  There are no solo acts around here.  Everything done is  in partnership with the God who creates and sustains, the dirt which has the power to produce, and the trees which draw from the earth.

We often forget the partnership part of life.  And, the truth is that we are not equal partners with God, but junior partners at the very best.   Too often we live as if life truly is all about us.  We take credit for our successes, the good things that fill our lives, and even the future which is actually completely out of our control.  The only thing for which we do not take credit are the failures and the shortcomings.  They are seen as the fault of someone else.  While there is a part of us which wants to deny this tendency of ours to pat ourselves on the back too quickly, our creative design is for us to be partners with God in this life.

Where we end up going wrong is in thinking that God partners with us to do what we want to do.  Actually, the partnership enables us to live in a bigger and more significant world than the one created by the demands of a never really satisfied ego.  The bigger world is spoken of in the Sacred Word as the Kingdom.  When we choose to partner with God, we begin to understand that our life is best lived when what He wants to do with us is the driving force of our life.  As we live in this holy partnership, we find that we are always moving toward the reason for being here in the first place. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Evening Thoughts

Evenings around here come just before the sun ceases to light up the space around me.  Usually, I am walking back toward the house after finishing what I call "evening chores,"  things like putting up tools, housing equipment, setting the electric fence around the garden, and making sure the water trough is full in the pasture.  While it might seem like a busy moment, it has really turned into a time of quiet reflection.  There are never any lights from heaven illuminating a way for my feet as day turns into night, but often there is a sense of divine presence somewhere there alongside of me.
 
Today as I was walking I found myself remembering with thanksgiving similar evenings at Young Harris College.  Though a long time ago, the memories often seem as fresh as yesterday of those daily evening chapel gatherings for vespers.  As I remembered those student led end-of-the-day worship moments, I could hear songs like "Now the Day is Over" and "Day is Dying in the West" hanging out in the recesses of my memory.  For a brief moment there was a chapel bell ringing over the campus calling us to worship and the sound of voices singing.
 
I am not always sure how I got where I have been.  Some of those places I never anticipated being a place of such spiritual shaping.  I went to Young Harris College up in those North Georgia mountains for an education and got so much more.  It was place where my spiritual life started taking shape.  It was where the Holy Spirit led me into a time of figuring out what I did and not believe.  Important matters of faith were being worked out in those days and mostly I was not aware of how I was being blessed.  Those evenings with others there in the chapel were moments I sometimes fail to remember, but whenever they are, it is with gratitude to God that such a place was prepared and made ready for me and others like me who were starting out on the journey.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

EKT

When God finished with creation, He forgot to start the clock.  He also failed to put together a calendar.  Humanity would much later take care of His omission, but it was not something that happened overnight.   The truth is that God never has seemed to be concerned with counting time.  We are the ones obsessed with that task, not Him.  In one of his letters to the church, Peter wrote, "But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day."  (I Peter 3:8)

As we move past what is the longest day of the year on our way to reaching the shortest day of the year, we become mindful of the way we live in the midst of the unmarked time God has created for us.  Of course, there are numerous days which we mark as noteworthy on the calendar, but none are really any different from the one before it or after it when we start thinking about EKT (Eternal Kingdom Time)  To live by EKT is to live with the knowledge that each day is an important day in its own right.  It is important in its own right because it is a gift from God.

This gift from God we use mostly for our own purposes.  We use the gift God gives us each day to do things like earning money, accumulating more, creating security systems, and doing thousands of other ego supporting things.  What a waste!  What a misuse of the gift God has given us.  This precious gift which we have precisely defined as twenty four hours is to be used according to His purposes for us and those around us.  When we wake up and start planning what we are going to accomplish in those stretched out daylight hours, it is not enough to consult our daily planner.  We only prepare to live well each day as we consult with the Holy Spirit to see if there is anything He might have in His plans which would include us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The High Window View

For the past few days I have been viewing the world through a third story window.  In the beginning the things seen were the expected things.  When we are up high our first inclination is to look down toward the ground.  And, so I saw and watched the cars moving about on distance roads, the smaller looking people scurrying about as they hurried toward the thing which hurried them, and the details of the landscape carefully set in place on the earth.  What I found myself seeing was interesting, but not really surprising.
 
However, after more time than would be required by most, it seemed that my eyes were opened to see things not seen.  I suddenly realized I was looking at the world with a tree top view.  At home I had often wondered what it would be like to be a squirrel or a hawk roosting on top of one of our tall pecan trees.  "What could they see?" I often wondered.  Through the window I began to see some of the world they see.  I noticed, too, how the distant horizon is no longer defined by the place where ground meets sky, but where sky meets the distant green tree line.  Morning sunrises are different in the higher places.  Even approaching rain clouds are seen in a different way.
 
The more I saw, the more amazing was the view.  My new view from the high windows also made me think about how my looking for God's presence in my life and in the world is often tainted by what I expect to see instead of according to the new unfolding possibilities which are out there if only I would take the time to cast aside old ways of looking toward the Kingdom.  A seminary prof used to tell us take a different seat each day with hopes that we might be open to a new perspective.  Maybe we need a new place to sit and a new window through which to look as we go forward in our journey toward God.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Verbage

As I think about it, I have been writing a long time now.  When I was in high school, my English teacher got me involved in essay writing at literary events.  Later when I went to my first church as pastor, I started writing a religious column for the weekly county newspaper.  It was a practice I managed to continue throughout my ministry except for the years I was in my appointment at Columbus. A few years before retirement, I started this blog.  I noticed the other day, there are over 1100 blog postings like this one hanging out there behind me. 
 
Back then in 2008, I never imagined writing that many blog postings.  In much the same manner when I started writing sermons every week back in 1971, I could not have conceived of all the verbage I would produce.  No matter how you look at it, there are a lot of words strung out behind me.  I had no idea when I was writing those essays what I was starting.  Or, maybe it is more appropriate to say, I had no idea God was preparing me for a life time of putting words together.  As a carpenter uses a hammer, words have been my choice of tools.
 
While I am sure a lot of those words have failed to communicate, I also believe that what we do for God is never a wasted effort.  As I remember the Matthew passage about folks doing a lot of good things like giving water to the thirsty and caring for the sick, I am reminded good things can be done for the wrong reasons which gives no pleasure to Christ.  I know there have been times when I have read what I have written too many times for the sake of patting myself on the back, but my prayer is that some of those words which have been a part of my ministry have been useful to God for whatever purposes He had in mind.  Pleasing Him is what matters.  This is true of writing as well as anything else we set out to do in His name.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Out of Step

Not too long ago I heard a preacher preaching about the way the church was treated in the good old days.  As it was put, there was a time when the church had clout in the world, but no longer.  The example used to point out the loss of clout was the way the recreation department scheduled ballgames and practices on Sunday morning.  In the good old days, such would never be done.  But, this is not that day.  It is another day. 
 
I am not sure the preacher had it right.  The reason such things happens is because people in the church let it happen.  Whenever there is a schedule conflict between the recreation department's schedule and the church's schedule, it is a no- brainer for most folks.  No self respecting parent would ever consider not allowing their child to show up for a game.  If it is in conflict with something happening at the church, the church seldom wins.  Maybe seldom is too strong a word.  Maybe never is the better word. 
 
If the church has lost its clout, it has nothing to do with another community endeavor encroaching on its schedule, but the willingness of the folks in the church to acquiesce.  After a little grumbling such is what usually happens.  Maybe it is the fault of those of us who are preachers and spiritual leaders.  Maybe we have been preaching a gospel message that is compromised by a desire to tickle ears and entertain listeners.  Maybe we have forgotten to sound the message that Jesus calls us to make hard choices that cause us to be out of step with the community and the world. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Inheritance

Somewhere along the way, I came upon a way to extend my morning devotional throughout the day.  Actually, it is no big thing I learned from reading some great book.  Matter of fact, it is such an ordinary thing, I imagine it is something done by the millions and I am just now getting around to discovering it.  I have been called a slow learner from time to time.  So, what I have finally gotten around to doing is carrying some word, or verse, or idea into the day so that it becomes a daily mantra I go back to again and again.  Maybe another way of looking at it is to say that I take something with me from my devotional time to chew on as I go about my day.
 
Today I have been chewing on the word "inheritance."  The Word tells us we are joint heirs with Christ.  It tells us there is an inheritance into which we are born.  It is a word that has meaning for all of us as we have all inherited things from those who have gone before us.  But, my thoughts have not really gone to the physical things inherited, but to the way we inherit a genetic make-up which makes us like our fathers and mothers.  To some degree or another, we bear their image.  In different ways we often manifest some of their characteristics or traits.
 
So, here we are as children of God, heirs with Christ to the things of the Kingdom.  Today I have found myself wondering how it is that I bear markings that cause people to see Jesus.  I wonder if the traits and characteristics that define Him define me.  Does my spiritual DNA bear any resemblance to the One whom I seek to follow?  I wonder, too, if I have inherited more at my spiritual birth than I allow to be seen.  Am I making a secret out of the fact that I belong to Jesus?  I keep wondering if those who see me see the One who dwells within me and if they know I am His.