Wednesday, February 29, 2012
We often lament that there is not enough time in a day. "If only a day had more than 24 hours, I might get it all done," is something we have heard, or maybe even said. Well, suppose for a moment we had an extra day! Maybe you are like me wondering if an extra day would really make any difference. Would it be used differently than any other "Un-extra" day? Would it be like a make-up day, enabling us to finally do something impossible like catching up?
Well, since today is February 29, it could be viewed as an extra day. Instead of the usual 365 days, 2012 gives us 366 days. We can simply call it a leap year which keeps the calendar in order, or we could view it as the gift of an extra day. I have been wondering all day how life might be different if we had gotten up this morning thinking that this Wednesday was extra, a bonus, something not given as a part of the ordinary.
Ephesians 5:16 calls us to live, "...making the most of the time..." Surely, such a word would apply to extra days. Maybe you haven't thought about it. Maybe as you read this, Feb. 29 has come and gone. Still, it is not too late to live as if God has given an extra day to live purposefully. Is there anything extra we might do to show appreciation to the Creator? Maybe it could be a note to a not often contacted friend, or a kind act that is unexpected, or a few more minutes with the Word in our hands, or some extra time on our knees. There is a lot of ordinary stuff we could do to make this a really extraordinary day!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Sane folks are not found in the WalMart parking lot on Saturday morning; yet, such was where I found myself a few days ago. Not only was I in the parking lot, as I was walking toward the door of the store, I found myself between two guys who seemed ready to come to blows over a parking spot. Brown Car Guy waited and waited and waited on Gray Car Guy to back out of his spot. By the time Gray Car Guy moved, Brown Car Guy had taken another spot which came open next to one for which he had been waiting at least five minutes. When Brown Car Guy got parked, Gray Car Guy started moving and Brown Car Guy started hollering profanities at him for taking so long. Gray Car Guy jumps out of his car and charges Brown Car Guy.
Me? I am in the middle wondering about the location of the nearest law enforcement official. Instead of thinking, "Blessed are the peacemakers," I was thinking about getting out of the way. Actually, no blows were exchanged. When Brown Car Guy, who was a scrawny 5'10" saw Gray Car Guy who was at least 6'4" and looked like a trainer from the gym, he suddenly found a handle on his temper!
I have laughed more than once at the way a scary moment ended. But, to be honest is to confess a judgmental spirit. You know, I would never jump out of a car, scream profanities, and charge someone in anger. No, not me. I would just sit there and wait on someone like Gray Car Guy as I have many times and think ugly unkind thoughts. It it too bad God does not just look at our actions. It is too bad He looks at our heart. When He does, I must look just like those two guys in the parking lot at WalMart.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The ashes of Ash Wednesday do remind us of our own mortality. It is impossible to miss this as we hear the words, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." It is definitely not one of those feel good moments folks want to experience when they show up at church. At least for a moment it tends to take some of the wind out of the sails filled with human arrogance and human energy.
One of the things which makes the message important for us to hear is found in something Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus. In the 16th verse of the 5th chapter, we hear the Word saying, "Be careful then how you live, not as an unwise person, but as wise, making the most of the time..." As the ashes cause us to consider our own mortality, so do they call us to understand how important it is to make right choices and to embrace good priorities. Too often our choices and priorities are related to climbing whatever ladder is in front of us, or making sure that the world around us is geared toward stroking our hungry ego.
Making the most of our limited time is not about getting to the top of some social or economic ladder, but investing our life in the pursuit of God and His ways. While it sounds strange to secular ears, anything less will leave us at the end filled only with emptiness. What satisfies is not more of the world's stuff, but more of what it means to be rightly related to the One we know as Creator and the other ones we know as the people who truly care about us.
The television hucksters are constantly trying to sell vitamins and creams which have anti-aging properties. Magazine covers often tempt those standing at the check out to buy and read the inside the pages article on a newly discovered fountain of youth. Not only are we told we can look better (which usually translate to younger), but we are also told we can live longer. The one thing left out of the sales pitch is the reality that death still comes after we buy it all.
Ash Wednesday has come once again and with it the ashes and the message, "You are going to die." Even the church softens the blow a bit by saying, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return," but the hard sobering message still has a way of penetrating the facade of impenetrability causing us to swallow a dose of reality. It may be true that the average life expectancy goes up with each decade and that people are living longer better, but there still comes that moment when it is all said and done. We shall all die. Each one of us.
The message is proclaimed no where else in our culture. Perhaps, the church with its message of faith in resurrection power is the only one which has the ability to speak it. The gray ashes of our mortality touch us at the beginning of a season that takes us to the glorious message of resurrection. So, we receive the ashes, we hear the words about our mortality, and we, in faith, say somewhere deep in our spirit, "Yes, but..." Reality is that we shall die and reality is also found in the Resurrected One.
Monday, February 20, 2012
It is interesting the way life has a way of going full circle. When I started out preaching back in 1971, I was appointed to the three churches on the Stapleton Charge. The Stapleton Church was the smallest of the three averaging 15-20 folks on most Sunday mornings. After three years on this charge, I moved to a church with a little larger congregation and so it seemed to go with each move. At my last two appointments there were usually around 400 or so folks sitting in the pews on an average Sunday.
In this retirement season of my life, I am serving the Rocky Ford Church which is only about ten miles up the road from our home. Like the Stapleton Church, it is a small membership church with 12-15 people present most Sunday mornings. This month marks a year for us as pastor and congregation. Of course, there are obvious differences in the large and the small church, but one thing is the same. When we depart on Sunday morning, it is always with a sense that an important moment has been shared together. Big crowds are not required for good worship. God makes His presence known midst our small gathering as surely as He does in the larger ones. He shows no partiality.
Like every other appointed place, I have sensed God's hand in where I serve in the present moment. I am grateful for such assurance. Being where God has put us is always a good place to be.
Friday, February 10, 2012
While mending pasture fences, I found myself with a choice. I could stop and look for the unseen wild turkey walking on dried leaves in the branch, or I could see how close I could get to a brown owl perched on a pecan tree limb hanging over the fence line. I chose the owl. He has become a God-symbol here on the farm and since he was facing away from me, I decided to try sneaking up on him.
The first time I encountered him was in the Spring of 2010. I was sitting next to the branch on a five gallon bucket trying my hand at a turkey call. Just as the sun was about to disappear this owl cut loose with a heart stopping hoot from a tree behind me scaring me so I nearly fell off my bucket. I never saw him that day, but I knew he was there! Some two years later after retirement I saw him as he flew majestically and effortlessly in the morning fog just above the fence line. For me it was like an announcement that God was in this space as surely as I had always thought of him being present in man-made sanctuaries. And then there are those nights when I listen to him as he makes his distinctive sound in one place after another. As I listen in the darkness, I know he is out there. It is as if he is declaring, "This is my domain. This is where I dwell."
I am blessed and privileged to share his dwelling place. This old bird has allowed me to encounter him in ways that remind me of God. Sometimes He frightens me with His surprising nearness. He is full of majesty. Though unseen, He makes Himself known. And, where I am is always His domain to rule. So, maybe this explains why I tried to sneak up on the owl. As I moved closer to him, I was aware he was watching me. For a moment I imagined our eyes met and then he stretched those wings and disappeared in the woods. I stood still a moment for it seemed filled with the holy.