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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Monday, March 25, 2013

Something Holy This Way Comes

Thirty years ago, Walt Disney Pictures released “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, based on story by Sci-Fi author, Ray Bradbury.  I never saw the movie, but I watched the trailer online this morning and might want to see if I can track it down for fun.  For some reason, I have a knack for remembering movie titles whether I have seen the movie or not and the title popped into my consciousness this morning as I was preparing to write this week’s blog.

This week is known throughout the Christian world as Holy Week, commemorating the final week of the earthly ministry of Jesus and culminating with His crucifixion on Friday and resurrection on Sunday morning.  It is because of what happened on that Sunday morning that Christ-followers began worshiping on Sunday, rather than the Sabbath Day (Saturday) worship which had been the custom of those whose heritage was Judaism.  What Christians now celebrate as Easter Sunday is in commemoration of that Resurrection Sunday.

For the 24 years I served as a church music minister and then pastor, preparation for Easter Sunday was a process that pretty much began on January 2 each year.  There is a joke among preachers about the different kinds of church attendees that exist.  One group is known as the “Chreasters” (those who attend only on Christmas and Easter).  We also sometimes refer to them as the “Flower Children” (those who attend only when the church is decorated with poinsettias or lilies).  As a result, we tend to want to make the most of the opportunity in preparing for those people with whom we interact so infrequently.

Now that I am in a different ministry, I am not involved in preparations for what will happen in any church this coming Sunday.  I haven’t preached on Easter Sunday in years and am not likely to do so in the foreseeable future.  I will attend and worship. So my preparation is more personal.  What can I do to prepare myself to commemorate the most significant event in the history of the world? 

These are my ponderings for Holy Week. 

The fact of the matter is that much wickedness has come our way.  We read about it, watch it on TV, hear about it on the radio, and are bombarded by it on social media. And it seems, in my opinion, that the more we focus on what is wicked, the less we focus on what is right.

Here’s a great, enduring, life-transforming truth:  something (or Someone) holy has come our way.  1 John 4:9-10 says, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

Something Holy this way comes, and that is ultimately what makes our lives matter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tale of the Broken Spring

For some, Spring Break brings to mind crowded beaches or ski slopes, sleeping in for a week, or thinking unprintable thoughts about that teacher that assigned a term paper due on the following Monday.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea of Spring Break, but I’m pretty sure it was a person who knew that students needed a break from teachers and teachers needed a break from students.

Since it has been over a quarter century since I was a full-time student, my Spring Break memories are more connected to my family.  Spring Break, for me, brings to mind camping trips, Cowboys and Indians in the woods, hiking trails, marshmallows and hotdogs on the end of a straightened-out wire coat hanger roasting over a campfire, green pancakes on St. Patrick’s Day.  In other words, Spring Break means making memories with my kids.

Of course, as they got older, other activities interrupted and we didn’t always have everyone together for the entire week.  But for the past twenty-four Spring Breaks, we always had at least one of them home for a day or two.  Until this year.

On Friday of last week it hit me.  This was our first Spring Break since 1988 with just Mrs. Sweetie and me.  The spring string has been broken.  I am tempted to ask, “Who Broke My Spring?”

Except it didn’t feel broken.  Mrs. Sweetie was still off for the week.  I took a couple of vacation days to spend some extra time with her and do some work around the house.  We worked on a project together, enjoyed each other’s company, slept in a few days, and even got to talk on the phone to those kids who couldn’t make it home for green pancakes this year.

Life is full of firsts and lasts.  Sometimes they show up as first lasts and last firsts, but the circle and cycle of life rolls on.  Just when we think we have it figured out and we’ve found our rhythm, a seismic shift occurs and life is out of kilter again.  So what do we do with that?

Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our lives matter so much to God that there is always a reason to rejoice.  I can rejoice in what my kids were doing this week even though they weren’t doing it with me.  I can rejoice in the wife the Lord gave me.  I can rejoice that God loves me and sent His Son to die for me.  I can rejoice that I know a God who specializes in redeeming what life breaks.

How about you?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Do You Spell Love?

Grandpa Lewis passed away in 1986. Yesterday I got a birthday card from him in the mail.  No, it wasn’t my birthday and the return address was not 777 Pearly Gates. 

My dad has been going through boxes that have been stored in his garage. A few days ago, he opened a box of things that had been packed up after Grandpa died.  In that box he found a birthday card that Grandpa had prepared for my birthday in December, 1985.  He had it ready to go and then he got sick and didn’t get it mailed.  Dad filled in the address information around my name in Grandpa’s handwriting on the original envelope and mailed it to me. 

Grandpa was one of my heroes and it was a special thing to get that card 27 years later and know that he had been thinking of me.  When he died in the summer of ’86, I wrote a song about him called “Love Is Sometimes Spelled Grandpa”.  The refrain says, “Love is sometimes spelled Grandpa; with arms that chase away the dark when they’re wrapped around you.  And a knee that was a perfect fit to bounce little boy.  The years could never take away the things that brought him joy.”

When I wrote that song, my dad was not yet a grandpa.  That would come a couple of years later with the birth of my daughter.  All these years later, I know my kids feel the same way about their Grandpa (and their Granddaddy and their Papaw) as I did about mine. And those grandfathers (by whatever name) are just as crazy about their grandkids.

Grandpa showed me a special kind of love.  My kids have also experienced Grandpa love.  And I suspect that it won’t be too many years before I get to show some Grandpa love myself.  It is a unique love, though it is human and limited. But there is another love that is perfect because it comes from the One who not only shows love, but who IS love.

The last refrain of the songs says, “Love is always spelled Jesus; His arms enfolded Grandpa and gently took him home.  And one day He will come for me and I won’t be surprised when I step inside the gate to see my Grandpa’s loving eyes.”

Love is SOMETIMES spelled Grandpa.  Love is ALWAYS spelled Jesus.  And our lives matter so much to Him that He was thinking of us when He died on a cross.  I opened a letter from Him today and read these words:  “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:8-11)

How do you spell love?  Might I make a suggestion?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

He Chose Wisely

Perhaps you’ve seen those commercials where 14 year-olds use phrases like “back in my day”.  I think I’m offended.  They are making fun of those of us who are old enough to have had a day.  But, I’ll get over it.  There.  I’m over it.

Back in my day, when Harrison Ford was rugged Indiana Jones, instead of the geriatric version from the last movie, Lucasfilm released Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  It was 1989.  I was 27, had a baby girl just learning to walk, and had been a pastor for just about 6 months.  There is a scene toward the end of the movie that became the source of quite a few sermon illustrations.  The movie’s evil madman drinks from a cup that he believes to be the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ, believing it will give him immortality.  In a matter of seconds, the aging process goes into overdrive and he shrivels up, dies, and turns to dust on the spot.  In a classic understatement, the ancient knight who has been guarding the chalice says, “He chose poorly.”  Ya think?

I’ve made some poor choices in my life.  Thankfully, none of them has resulted in my face melting off.  I’ve also made some wise choices.  Certainly, responding to the offer of salvation through Christ was the wisest choice ever.  Marrying Mrs. Sweetie runs right up there near the top.  I could go on, but since I didn’t go on with the poor ones, I’ll end the listing here.

There is, however, one more wise choice I want to mention.  In 2009, I chose to accept an invitation to serve as the emcee for the fundraiser gala for the Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center in Decatur.  It is a choice I have not regretted and an opportunity for which I am humbled and blessed.  Just last week, I served in that capacity for the 5th consecutive year.  It is one of the highlights of my year and has connected me with a ministry that responds with love and grace to one of the great moral issues of our day.  With a commitment to be the “kind, calm, nonjudgmental face of the pro-life movement”, pregnancy centers are helping people make wise choices about the lives of their unborn babies and about their own lives as well.  In a few weeks, I will serve as the gala emcee for the Bowie PRC for the 2nd consecutive year.  Seems like I have found a new niche.

So, how do we make wise choices in all of life?  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”  Our lives matter so much to God that He has given us the ability to choose.  He has also given us His guidance so we can choose wisely.

What choice will you make today?