Sunday, November 30, 2008

Signs of Abundance

The table was full at our place this past Thanksgiving. Family sat around it and an abundance of food was before us. On the table was turkey and ham, cranberry sauce, butter beans, sweet potatoes, fruit salad, green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese brought by one daughter, rice and broccoli brought by my Mother, cranberry bread baked by one of my grandsons, lemon squares and my favorite, Italian Creme Cake. It was a feast. I did my best to eat as much as I could and still there was so much left for other meals. When I think about that table gathering, I realize how abundantly I am blessed.
A few days later I encountered another moment when I had the same realization. Instead of being at the table, I was at the garbage can. It is always full by the time the man makes his weekly pickup, but this week it was so full the lid would not shut and there were still two days to make additional trips. As I stood there by the can trying to pack it down to put in more, I was in a different way reminded of my abundance. Most of the world’s people would have no need for a trash can the size of mine. Most of the people of the world would not be throwing away so much stuff. Most of the world’s people would not throw away leftover food because it had gotten too old to eat.
I left the trash can aware of how blessed I am. But, this moment of blessing was a different one, a strange one. I would have been embarrassed and ashamed even more if some of those who have nothing were watching me throwing old food away. Actually, I think the real problem had to do with the awareness that Jesus was watching and speaking words in my heart that were then and are now painful to hear.

The Interview

He came into the office a few days ago for the interview. It was a part of the requirements for a Boy Scout Merit Badge. He needed to interview his Pastor and since the Associate Pastor was the one mentoring him through the process, I got the nod. It was interesting to sit down with a young person and respond to the questions he asked. Frankly, I was impressed by the ones he asked and was impressed even more that he was taking some notes! The questions became more than just ordinary in a hurry. Some of them were: "How did God call you? What doubts did you have? What help did God provide for the calling? How do you continue to know God's will? What special challenges do you face?" I was more than a little surprised at the way this young person's question challenged me to be real and honest instead of taking the easy way out which would have been offering stereotypical answers.
It set me to thinking. How would it be for us if we were questioned every six months about our faith walk with Jesus? What would it be like if we were actually accountable to someone else who was given the freedom to ask us the hard questions about our faith journey? Most of us would probably want to shy away from such an experience. But, imagine for a moment what it could mean for us if we gave someone permission to ask us things like the early Methodists were asked in their society meetings: "Have you committed any known sins?" What have you done to stand against temptation?" What would it be like if we had to report with honesty to someone else about the way we read the Bible or the time we spend in prayer?
Some of the questions in my interview made me uncomfortable. Some made me stop and think. The deeper I got into the interview with him, the more real I wanted to be in my responses. It was as if Someone else was listening as well, Someone who already knew the answers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This past Tuesday Marvin Leggett died. Like me, he was known mostly by his family and the people who were members of the churches he served. As boys Marvin and I attended the same church. It was much later in our adult years that we ran into each other again, but this time as pastors of the United Methodist Church. Marvin was always the kind of guy who made you glad you ran into him. He had a quick smile and made us feel like we had value and worth. His was a special gift given not just to me, but to the many whom God put in his path.
I remember the last time I saw Marvin. We were both at a preacher function. I saw him across the room, thought about going over to speak, but did not. At the time it seemed important to leave as quickly as I could and get somewhere. I wish I had not been in such a hurry. I wish I had taken the moment to walk over and speak to someone who has been a friend all these years. At the time I had no idea it would be the last time. I wish I had used it differently. I hope this trip to the learning tree is not a wasted one.
Marvin will no doubt bring light and a smile to heaven. He surely brought it to some of the dark places on his journey here. I mourn his death. I grieve for my loss. I rejoice in his gain. I am grateful our paths ran close together and sometimes touched.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The 1-20 Fast Check Out Lane

There I was at the grocery store with my 18 items in the 1-20 Fast Check Out Lane. I know because the folks ahead of me had a buggy full of stuff. As they were unloading I counted mine. By the time I finished the counting an elderly woman (well, she looked older than me!) pulled in behind me, got my attention, and muttered, "Don't they know this is supposed to be a fast lane!" My stuff was already on the counter so the lady behind pushed it up a bit, placed a rubber divider down, and started unloading her 6 items. Maybe she thought getting her stuff on the counter would hurry up the folks who were ahead of me.
But, they were really in no hurry. They had they look of being beaten down a bit by life. Some of the heavier stuff required some help to get in and out of the shopping cart. Their clothing was not as nice as the lady behind. Most of the food put on the counter was the cheaper store brand. Even the cokes bore some generic name. As I watched them I became aware that two of them couldn't read which explained the presence of the third person who took over the check writing duties. I was observing and being pulled into what was happening in front of me while the lady behind continued her fidgeting and deep sighing which was a clear annoucement that those folks in front of me were really making life difficult for her.
I can't really be too judgmental of the lady behind me. It was the impatient and judgmental part of me which made me count the number of items in my shopping cart. Fortunately, my wife was able to see things more clearly and more quickly and enabled me to be a helper instead of becoming like the lady behind me. I wonder why we are made the way we are. I had no emergency ahead of me. The lady behind me probably was just being delayed five minutes from whatever important thing was waiting on her. Someone ahead of us simply needed a little more time and maybe it took a little bit of mine and hers. But, none of the time belonged to us anyway. It all belonged to God. He put us all together for a moment. I wonder what He thought about the way we each used it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Better Thing

He met me as I was going into worship. He looked the part of one who was on the road. Beard stubble was on his face and a backpack was hanging from his shoulder. His demeanor was screaming, "I want something from you." Instead he asked if he could speak to a pastor. Since worship was only a moment away from beginning I replied, "Yes, but you will need to wait an hour until worship is over. You are welcome to come in and worship with us. Then, I will have time to talk." His response was a frown. "Well," he said, "could you just give me a few dollars?" "I can't give you cash , but if you want to stay and worship, I will be glad to see if there is any way I can help you." He turned, opened the door, and left. I could not help but think, "The best thing I had to offer, you would not take. The best thing you would trade for a few dollars."
It made me sad to see him go. I went on to worship wishing he could have seen his way to stay. "Lord, I don't know who this man was, but you do. I pray for him. I ask you to keep him away from harm. I ask you to bring him to that moment in his life when he will choose the better thing. In Jesus' name. Amen."