Wednesday, September 20, 2006

break time

Bev and I will be gone September 22-October 2. It is a time we look forward to, getting away from our work and enjoying one another exclusively.

Break times are essential in life. I know for Bev and me these times can be more discretionary than for others and that helps us stay resilient in our work. Our church family looks out for our well-being and this is one of the privileges of their watchful care.

Sometimes we must take a break so we won't break--the pressures of life can be potentially overwhelming and we all need time to step away from our normal routine to be refreshed and encouraged.

I have learned, as well, that a break time is not a break from God. In fact, this is a time for us to draw close to Him, to reflect upon His Word, and to literally rest in the hope of His promises.

I will let you know how it went when we return as I take a break from my blogsite as well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

9-11, five years later

The events of 9-11, now five years ago, have dominated the news and television media for the last few weeks. The human interest stories of courage and heroism are inspiring. The tragedy of lives lost and families torn apart are painful reminders of what happens when terror strikes.

We all can remember where we were and what we were doing on that fateful day. 9-11 is Bev's birthday so I got up early and wrote a "happy birthday" message in toothpaste on our bathroom mirror so she could it when she got ready for the day. I heard her laughing in the bathroom as I watched the early morning news and in moment we would both be sitting solemnly before the television screen in our bedroom, mesmerized by the pictures of devastation we saw.

There was a particularly poignant mement when Bev would break the silence by wondering frantically aloud about her son, Chad, who often traveled in his business to that area. We would later learn that a meeting he was to attend near the Twin towers had been cancelled for that morning.

I remember preaching a sermon on that Sunday that followed about how we cope with our fears and finding a highly-responsive audience grappling with its own heightened sense of mortality and anxiety. Almost everyone knew someone who was in one way or another touched by this tragedy.

Here's the deal for me. Are we different because of 9-11? Some people--though few--don't fly any more. All of us who air travel walk through more intensive machine screening and related delays when we take a trip. Now we have to leave our drinking water and hair gel behind, given the nature of terrorism's machinations.

But in the end, we are not all that different. Did 9-11 make us a more godly nation. I don't think so. Did 9-11 result in a long-term solid increase in church attendance? I know for a fact it did not. Are husbands and wives suddenly more attentive to one another knowing that the unforeseen events of the day could forever change their lives? No; in fact, I am seeing an escalation of family hostility and unresolved marital crises.

So, what it it about us that seems resistent to the terror and catastrophes of life? We have an almost "unhealthy" resiliency that allows us to forget the events of the past that could/should forever shape and mold us. I am certain that those who were immediately impacted by 9-11 carry forever the scars of that fateful day. But it almost seems as if it does not happen to us personally, we can segue to the next week or month without any long-term changes.

The catastrophic moments of life that I have experienced--divorce, loss of my father, battles with depression--have forever shaped me and, hopefully, for the better. I have said to God, "Help me not to go through anything as painful as this and not learn something that will make me a better person".

But all of my learning does not have to be from personal tragedy. I think I can learn from the tragedy of others. When I remember 9-11 I contemplate the shortness of life, the insecurity of the world, the importance of not leaving relationships unresolved, etc.

I think I am different because of 9-11. It is my wife's birthday so that day will always be meaningful. But now when I thinkof 9-11 I think of what we experienced together as a nation and what I, personally, hopefully, learned.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


As we move through our study of the Gospel of John, I have found meaningful help for the daily challenges of my life, which have accelerated in recent months. I am not proud of my wanderings into doubt and disillusionment but they are only momentary detours. I seem to always find my way back--thank God--to my unshakeable faith in God.

John 12:1-19 begins with the story of Mary's anointing of Jesus and then proceeds to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Her sacrifical offering of pure nard--a very costly perfume--is the expression of her love offering and devotion to Christ. In the succeeding verses we see the crowds welcoming Jesus shouting, "Hosanna", or "Save us now!" They are honoring Him with their palm branches and emotional accolades based on their expectation that He will be their poltical deliverer. Thus, they welcome Him as a triumphant king returning from battle.

Sadly, their "hosannas" will turn into "Crucify Him!" when the realization hits that an earthly kingdom is not what He is about. Their offering is a conditional one.

I want my daily offering to Jesus to be sacrificial and unconditional. Paul's admonition is Romans 12:1 is that in view of God's mercy and grace towards us it only makes good sense for us to offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice" unto Him (Barrett Paraphrase).

So for me, in the midst of some bad times and discouraging circumstances, I don't want to withdraw from God, or hold Him hostage for unmet expectations.

I choose to offer my life to Him again--without reservation--because I am confident He is here, present with me, and that He is more than enough for any challenge I will face today, and tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

processing grief

A young friend from out of town called this week to talk about how he was handling the untimely death of his father. A mother and I shared together about the frightening news of the possible relapse of her daughter and the troubling forecast of days to come.

Personally, I have been dealing with the unsettling news of a potentially-life threatening decision someone has made who I care deeply about.

How do we grieve? How do we process the information of life that breaks our hearts, touching the very emotional center of our being? How do we "get on with our lives" when the people we love are hurting?

I have wrestled with this through most of my ministrial years, getting "up close and personal" with people going through a divorce, facing death, responding to a drug-addicted son or daughter, etc. There is often nothing to say--no real comfort to offer--because the truth is that these are most often siutaitons that are out of our control. The choices that are being made--we can't alter. The dissolution of a relationship--we can't fix for someone else. The doctor's pronouncemnet--we can't wave a magic wand and make it go away.

What we do is grieve. And grieve we must.

The comfort of God is what sustains me. The words of II Corinthians 1:3ff have been my help. "...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles..." His comfort enables us to persevere in the hurtful situations of life...even as we grieve.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

home, sweet home

I love seeing my family in Dallas. I love playing with my grandchildren. I love getting away from the regular routine.

But there is no place like home!

I came home yesterday to a pile of mail, a lawn to mow, a suitcase of dirty clothes to unpack, 536 e-mails, some disappointing news, and a cluttered desk with all kinds of exciting challenges.

But I love my bed. I love my neighborhood. I just love being at home.