Saturday, February 24, 2007

saturday nights

Tomorrow is Sunday, not a day of rest for a minister. I come to Sundays with a mixture of emotions often reflective of the week preceding. This week my seven year old grandson was sick and ended up in the hospital having surgery in Dallas (pretty scary!), my wife's mother had an incident that precipated conversations about assisted living, two families told me they were moving to another church (for various reasons), a young father with a big family had some tough chemotherapy, a good friend's mother died after a short bout with cancer, my wife's sister had knee replacement surgery...and it snowed.

But it's Saturday night. A time for reflection, a time for anticipation.

What do I have to say tomorrow that will matter to anyone who has been in any of the common situations I have described above? Why would anyone leave their world of confusion and crisis to come to church?

That's why I love Saturday nights because I know tomorrow IS Sunday.

And people will come--not everyone I wish would be there--but they will come. They will come to serve, to worship, to listen, to open their hearts to the Word of God.

And I will be there. Not alone, but with the Word of God which, midst all the events of the week, has been the steadying influence in my life. I humbly carry its truth into the pulpit, and even though there will be some who are skeptical--and probably a few naysayers--God's Word will go forth.

Maybe imperfectly, and, certainly, through a flawed mouth piece.

But Saturday night will have passed, Sunday morning will have come, and there will be new words of truth to embrace and new hope for another week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Chris Cooper plays a conflicted character in this newly-released movie about a real life American spy who sold huge security secrets to the Soviet Union. We are shown a man of highly-developed family values and fervent religious principles. At the same time, his fascination with lurid pornography as well as his deliberate betrayal of his countrymen leading to their execution is revealed to us.

We are left to wonder what made Richard Hanssen do what he did? No answers are forthcoming in this vivid portral of a man who breaches the most basic of human ethics in his pursuit of subliminal political goals as well as the money he decries as unimportant.

The breach apparent to me is with his own conscience. It is so savagely-seared that he can peacefully co-exist with the innocent love of his grandchildren and the open-affirmation of his faith in God while at the same time navigating a course of eventual self-destruction.

There is a potential breach in all of us of what is good and right and ethical. It is fed and nurtured by our sinful and self-destructive nature. We cannot avert its inevitable destruction unless we submit to the voice of God and the wooing of the Holy Spirit calling us to true faith in God, the One who made us for so much more than what we often settle.

Friday, February 16, 2007

the pluses and minuses of paint

The church has offices in a building constructed in the 1870's and moved to our church property fifteen years ago. It is an old victorian house, and even with the building of new facilities, we decided to preserve our "quaint" office space here.

Recently, we determined we needed more office space so we have been in the process of rennovating the upstairs, where we can locate at leats four new office areas. What our limited budget allows for, primarily, is paint. I just came down from surveying the work and made these mental observations.

1. Paint covers a multitude of sins.

2. Paint does not cover all the history.

3. Paint only a temporary "fix".

The first impression upon walking upstairs is "Wow! This looks great!" And it does. There is a cleanness and a freshness to the space that is obvious.

A closer look, however, reveals some history about the walls and the space that indicate there are some things deeply beneath the surface of the walls that cannot be hidden.

Fianlly, upon reflecting on the painting, I've noted that in time there is some more serious renonovation that will need to take place, when we are willing to spend the money and to do the work.

Dealing with outward appearances may appear to be a means to feelng beter. Inevitably, though, closer examination of ourselves reveals that there is work left to be done. In the end, the outward "recasting" only delays the inevitable--though it may give a momentary reprieve--but at best, is a temporary fix.

We can't "paint over" the deep issues that lie beneath the surface of our lives. Sooner or later, they will emerge to be dealt with.

Laying the paint brush aside may be costly in comparison to pursuing the alternatives of true healing and restoration, but in the end, the value will be more than that achieved by an inexpensive paint job.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A treadmill does not provide scenic accompaniment to exercise. Going up and down our local high school bleachers is also less than inspiring in terms of landscape and atmosphere.

Today I decided to drive a few short miles to a nearby river. I parked my car and then proceeded to walk three miles along the meandering Mokelumne River. The sun was shining--it was a cool crisp 55 degrees--and the water was racing, the beneficiary of a recent 2-3 inch downpour long overdue in our county. All in all, it was delightful and I came back to my office rejuvenated!

We often refer to life as a journey. We talk about our daily "walk" with God. All too often our walk can be treadmill-like, simply going through the motions because we have to. At other times it is overwhelmingly arduous, much like running up and down bleacher steps until we are breathless with exhaustion.

But there are times when our walk with Him is like sharing a stroll along a meandering river, with all of the beauty of His creation surrounding us, the stillness of the quiet blue sky enveloping us and the music of rushing water serenading us. It is as if the voice of God whispers to us, "Be still and know that I am God".

Walks like this are the wonderful part of the journey.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

a long look at a short life

Just recently I have been aware of the fact that people don't always live into their 70's and 80's.

*A friend of mine is 48, diagnosed with multiple myaloma and preparing for a stem cell transplant--five children under the age of thirteen

*His sister-in-law was recently diagnosed at age 37 with a severe form of breast cancer, five young children

*My stepson's friend's sister discovered her 37 year old husband dead from a heart attack in bed three weeks ago, four children

*Our daughter-in-law's sister has terminal liver cancer, 38 years old, three children under the age of eight

Enough already!

The topper is a nineteen year old from our church suffering with recurring acute mylocitic leukemia, just having undergone a bone marrow transplant three weeks ago.

What does all of this say to me--lamenting the fact that I have recently edged nearer to age sixty? (see previous blog)

It makes James 4:13-15 take on renewed meaning...

"Come now ye that say Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city and continue there a year and buy and sell and get grain; Whereas ye know not what shall be on the next day. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vaisheth away. For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that..."

I am persuaded that God knows the time available to us and it is ours to spend wisely or to waste foolishly.

Making every day count seems an appropriately trite reduction for each new day.

That's the long and short of it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I have reached fifty-nine
it isn't

I fear I'm out of time
to matter

I wish I were "sunshine"
by design
to enlighten

I'd give away what's mine
to serve

I know I'm "on the line"
at fifty-nine
I am