Gauntlet

Gauntlet

These days of the final darkness I call the gauntlet. Days where loss takes hold of my soul like a wrestler having me in a Full Nelson. An anniversary of pain and the waning days of darkness. The dreaded business of the season is made brighter by the Advent and Christmas decorations and lights. People of goodwill are cheerful and thinking of others more than themselves. What I look forward to most is the point at which the days begin to lengthen. Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 10:28 am CST marks winter solstice and then the hold is broken on darkness and we begin to move toward light.

We are not sure why why December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus; it nonetheless became a date of celebration for his birth. December 25 was the date when Romans marked as the winter solstice. Early on in the Church Jesus was identified with the Sun based on prophesies of the Old Testament. The Messiah – the light that enlightens us. December 25 is nine months after the crucifixion – a pregnant thought. Time itself is wrapped up for us in birth and death. A stark reminder of that became clear two years ago. More than time, salvation, is bound up in birth and death – cross and resurrection. Early Christians chose to overcome the pagan Roman festivals with the New Covenant. The pagan replaced with a new pristine festival of the light shattering the darkness like the sun piercing our days in the heart of mid-west winter.

I run the gauntlet of work too. The various festivities of December punctuated with egg nog and congregational events. When the twenty-fifth rolls around the clamor quiets, the last end-of-the-year stewardship appeal goes out, and I count the successes and failures of the year. Then I ask if there is one more in me. I’m always refreshed as I make one more pass through the Christmas cards and notes that I received. I wish I had it in me to still write my Christmas letter and tell of all the exploits of the year. Alas, I have not been able to bring myself to restart that tradition. Perhaps next year when the last of the turkey and dressing is put away, I will sit and write of the exploits of 2018 – Lord willing. I’ll reminisce and make it a thank you note to all who have thought of me and prayed for me and loved me through another year.

Being a pastor seems a bit like the prophets of old. We get cranky and weird over time. I would not have chosen this life. It was a call – a necessity – unavoidable. I could not pretend otherwise. Who would willingly give up all their weekends? God called me – calls me. It is obedience and love that keeps me going. So I will run the gauntlet and ask you to pray for me once again. And you will and I will feel it deep in the well of my soul.

Be Well

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The Politics of Power

The Politics of Power

Tonight I was thinking about the idea Jesus states recorded in Scripture about being in but not of the world: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:14) I have had this feeling about withdrawing from the political game – the politics of power, personal destruction, fake faith, and general assumption by politicians that they can solve the world’s problems. As a Christian it seems that my witness needs to be more about how we can influence people toward changed lives – more thankful generous lives – lives of hope that act in love toward their neighbor. If we do that we have accomplished more than one thousand laws passed by congress.

I read the news but it depresses me. I discuss politics but we end up talking in circles. Jesus grasped the idea when he told us to render to Caesar what is Ceasar’s and to God what is God’s. Our life belongs to God – period. The hateful demeaning speech, the predatory sexual behavior, and the plethora of other abuses of power are all corrupting our country. How can  irreligious, unethical, narcissistic, politicians govern a nation that is also becoming unmoored from a faith that informs our ethics? I don’t mean to suggest that we should retreat but that we should engage the world at a different level. Letting our faith guide us not towards ruling but being more like the leaven in the loaf. We can and should live out the principals of our faith – which should include more than a voting booth.

Be Well…

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Thanks in a Time of Plenty

Thanks in a Time of Plenty

It seems that we take so much of life as entitlement. We want clean air, clean water, a roof over our head, meals to eat, health care, a free turkey, and yes – Christmas presents. As though these are rights like life, liberty, and happiness. Who provides these things? Has the government taken the place of God? Perhaps we have taken the place of God. There are places where water is so precious that people walk blocks or kilometers to get a bucket. I walk to my kitchen, turn on the tap, and voila. It comes in two ways, hot and cold. Pause a moment and give thanks for the simple things today. Do you have a warm coat? Did your heat come on in a house or apartment you live in? Is something to eat. God wants to provide all good things for you but also wants us to be cognizant of people around us who may need these things. We are not entitled – we have received grace upon grace – not to horde but to share. Think about what Jesus said,

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”  Matthew 6:31-32

Be Well – Do Good Work

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The Gift

The Gift

Today when I came home to let Pete, my thirteen year old lab, out for an afternoon break, I admired the work of Brett my carpenter/contractor who was installing a few windows before the northwest winds blow in that chilly air of late fall. My shop class back in Falls City, Nebraska never taught me much and I suppose I did not want to learn much either about carpentry. My attempt at a cutting board eventually ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. I think my mother kept it for some time to ease my disappointment at my work. Brett is a craftsman – a real talent at making things look great. I wished for a few moments that I had that talent. Jesus did. I often wonder what he made. A house, a table, a cutting board for his mother?

His humanity seems a mystery to us after the centuries have passed into millennia. He was real – a man – just like us but sinless as we confess in our creeds and it seems from all the reports he was. My craft is a calling and my hammer and nails appear as fonts and paragraphs that try to convey the power of love and forgiveness that the carpenter from Nazareth told us about and then showed us every day of his life.

The Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels reports that people had a hard time understanding how this uneducated carpenter could teach the way he did – or heal – or turn a the religious world on its nose. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas (different Judas) and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Mark 6:3 He didn’t come as a king or conquerer – he made things. He spoke into existence the universe but humbled himself and came to love on us and show us a new way of non-violent way of living. The world still needs to know this carpenter turned Rabbi.

So I offer up my feeble cutting board and simple words and hope that you too can know that kind of love too.

Be Well…

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HORROR

HORROR

What is the response to what happened in Las Vegas? Initially it was horror. Some will choose recrimination, blame, and then some kind of reaction. I would urge the reaction is to do good, show love, and work for peace. People of faith as well as unbelievers can be united on actions that enhance life and build a more peaceful society. We observe far too much anger and animosity every day on roadways, in school yards, and often the workplace. These are the building blocks of violence. Jesus reminded us, “But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is not for the secular of religious people – this is for all the human race.

Be Well and Do Good…

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SHRINKING

SHRINKING

Jesus once told a parable about the Kingdom of God and concluded by saying, “That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Many get invited; only a few make it.’” Matt. 22:14 (MSG) Over thirty-five years ago a good friend of mine told me, “In the future the Church in the USA will be much smaller but will have more dedicated disciples of Jesus.” At the time the Mega-Church movement was just really booming and I questioned his sense of things. I now know he was right. There is a shrinking number of people dedicated to following Christ in the USA. The number is growing rapidly. A Pew Research Study indicated that “there are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) and mainline Protestants (15 percent).” Striking isn’t it?

What would you do to become a disciple of Jesus? I mean what would it take for you to really want to follow the path Jesus laid out for people? What is missing in the American Church today that needs to be there or what is there that is driving people away? Are we better off without Christianity – would a truly secular society be better? And if it would be better, where would we find common ground for ethics and standards? These are questions I have.

I would like to see more people among the laity willing to dedicate some real consequential quality time to becoming stronger disciples in the home, workplace, school, and their personal sphere of influence.

Time is a big issue – people are spread so thin – so this is another factor we face. Yet, we find the time for things we love to do. Help me out here. I am looking for your feedback and thoughts. Message me – reply – share your thoughts and…

Be Well…

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SHIFTS

SHIFTS

Swing shifts, shifting sands, the shift in the wind direction all come to mind with this word but there are shifts in life that can be as hard to navigate as gale force winds in a sailboat. Jesus spoke these words in John 3, The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” The way we tack into the wind depends a lot on the lessons we’ve had sailing. Some of Jesus disciples were experienced sailors and some were not but all of them were overwhelmed when storms came up on the open sea. Once when Jesus was asleep in the boat and once when he cam walking on the water to them.

Being grounded in the Word is the key part of navigating the storms of life and shifting winds of change. Yet, we are quickly losing the knowledge base and experience of sailors who have really set sail into deep waters. People have come to think that when the time comes they can turn to the Lord and things will all fall into place. Trust me, it is better to be prepared. A gentle breeze is nothing but when the gales of November come early you want to know something about what God does and can do in your life. So one of the shifts to make is to get with others who are sailors in training. Learners navigating the waters of change. Truth merchants that want to trade in knowledge. Try the ship of worship this weekend

Be Well…

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