Eclipse

ring_of_fireEveryone is pretty excited about the solar eclipse across the United States tomorrow. I really hope we get a chance to see it. Many of our Florida afternoons have been defined by clouds or thunderstorms. Weatherman says fifty percent chance of storms. Thanks, buddy –I guess we’ll just flip a coin.

Anyway, one of the unique features of a total solar eclipse is the chance to see the sun’s corona as the moon blocks most of the star. This got me thinking: what big things get in the way but also help us see other things more clearly?

Sometimes a disability may help us see another ability more clearly. Someone who’s blind may have an enhanced sense of smell or hearing. A power outage may interfere with your wifi connection, forcing you to discover the value of talking to the people you are with. An injury may force you to get the rest your body desperately needs. The class you wanted was filled, so you enrolled in one that you really enjoyed but never would have otherwise considered. A detour made you take a scenic route. You got fired, but found a job in a different field that you really liked. You got cut from one team, but tried another sport that you were really good at.

When something gets in your way, you may have the chance to see something you never noticed before. Be grateful for the darkness in your life that lets you see some light.

 

 

Tough and tender

rare steakAfter working with people for so many years you would think I would have learned this a long time ago: beneath people’s tough exterior is a tender soul.

I’ve too often taken my cues from the rugged, independent, self-sufficient persona both men and women display in the context of church life. We excel in projecting the image that everything is OK and we handling life well. But like a steak that has been seared on the outside for just the right amount of time, we’re still tender and easily cut on the inside.

Forgetting that, I go about my day, not worrying about those who seem to be doing just fine, focusing more on those whose hurts are outward and visible (those who have been burnt, left on the grill too long?) Continue reading

Looking forward to annihilation?

duck-and-cover-drillI’m not quite old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. By the time I began school there were no more civil defense drills when you had to find the closest fallout shelter or hide under your desk.

But with the recent addition of North Korea to the list of countries with nuclear weapons, the potential of war, catastrophic loss of life and even global annihilation are once on the table. But the specter of worldwide destruction and death are nothing new, at least for those who have spent a little time in the Bible.

When creation is quite young, the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience were felt throughout the world. It’s amazing and chilling to read that early on the Lord regretted he had made people. It didn’t take long till “every intention of the thoughts of [peoples] hearts were only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Ponder that for a moment. Every good and decent thought and intent had been replaced by that which was evil and destructive.

The treatment plan is severs. God resolves to wipe out life from the face of the earth with a flood, and begin again. By grace, he saved eight people — Noah, his three sons and their wives — in an ark filled with animals.

It doesn’t really solve the problem, though, and Jesus spoke of a future time one heaven and earth would pass away (Mark 13:31). Complete annihilation. Once again, God would begin again with a new heaven and a new earth, populated by those whose lives were saved, this time by a Savior’s death and resurrection.

Now here’s the fascinating part. Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). While the world runs for the hills, the church knows that the new can only arrive when the old is gone. Our ears perk up when we hear predictions of disaster, death and destruction. Like coastal communities gathering for hurricane parties before the storm approaches, we gather for worship to anticipate the old giving way to the new in our baptism, in the church and finally in the whole of creation.

It’s going to happen one day. But it hasn’t happened yet. So we’ve got today, an opportunity to live, to be grateful, and to share the hope we have in Christ, our Savior through whatever happens next.

When the pastor came to visit me

empty apartmentIn 1979, I had just moved to New Jersey into my first apartment to begin my first job out of college at Bell Labs. After a few visits, I found the congregation who would be my church family for the next three years, Luther Memorial in Tinton Falls. Gorgeous location just a stone’s throw away from the horse farms in Colts Neck. The congregation immediately welcomed me, got me involved in the choir, youth ministry and teaching on Sundays. I got to play a lot of trumpet for worship, too. In fact, they gave me a key so I could come and practice there, since the paper thin walls of my apartment prevented me from playing at home.

Before long, the pastor called and asked to come and visit. “Sure. Anytime.” Continue reading

“We don’t have any shakes.”

McDonald's Same Store Sales Up 7.1 Percent In JanuaryA few weeks ago I went to visit one of our members (and my friend) David, who has been homebound for a while dealing with aches and pains and cancer and some tough decisions. Before I headed out the door, someone said, “Take him a milkshake.” He hadn’t been eating well, liked shakes and could use the calories. Works for me. I like shakes, too!

There was a McDonald’s on the way to David’s house. Perfect. The drive-thru lines looked short, so I pulled in. One car ahead of me. Five minutes passed. No movement. One car. Patience is a virtue, I’m not in a hurry, no problem. Finally they move ahead and I pull up to the speaker. Continue reading

A shrinking world

andrew-neel-182861

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

As the calendar fills up with fall activity, our church tries very hard to communicate and publicize worship, events, meetings, classes and community events. Despite our best efforts, though, there are some we just can’t seem to connect with. They do not notice a poster on the wall, read an item in the weekly newsletter, hear an announcement, check their email or open an invitation. It is as if their peripheral vision is impaired, and they are only attentive to that which they are personally involved in or working on.

It happens everywhere. Shoppers bump into me or block the aisles as they scan the shelves, unaware of the presence of the people around them. Drivers are seem oblivious to the cars around them in traffic as they pull out right in front of me or cut me off as if I were invisible. Too many are unfamiliar with current events, are disengaged from pop culture, and completely miss the hurricane warning.

A few years ago, my dad began to require more and more care, which came primarily from my brother. When I began to visit more often, to spend time and to help with care, my brother explained that the size of my dad’s world had shrunk. Continue reading

“What will the church do?” (in the aftermath of Charlottesville, VA)

aaron-burden-58730.jpg

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In the past few days we have witnessed just how much hatred and anger have been simmering below the surface of America as the still present reality of racism came to a head in Charlottesville, Virginia. It did not take long before questions began to fly. “What will the president (or the governor or the congress) do?” “What will the police do?” And even “What will the church do?”

I find it fascinating that though the church has been marginalized in our culture, it is now called upon to do it’s thing, to do something about what is going on, to appeal to a high authority for reconciliation, justice and peace. Relegated to the margins of community life, we are suddenly needed. A majority of Americans may identify as Christian, yet fewer than a quarter of us actually engage in any kind of worship or other Christian activity in a typical week. Now we are suddenly spoken of as a necessary voice, one that must speak, and one that people ought to listen to.

It’s a good question. What will the church do? Since we are the church, the question easily translates to, “What will we do?” Continue reading

“Do I have to go to church?”

Oct 19 churchWhile the whole idea of Christians going to church should be a given, it’s an ongoing subject of discussion and debate. According to the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:24,25), there were some in the early church in the habit of neglecting to attend their gatherings. You would think we’d have this figured out by now! Continue reading

The Last Graduation

IMG_5792A vibrant five-year old voice filled the room, announcing, “It’s showtiiiiiiime!” the cue for another dozen small voices to join in singing the opening song for the twenty-fourth — and last — graduation ceremony for our Open Arms Preschool. I’ve only missed one commencement in my twenty-one years here in Palm Coast. As we close the doors on this ministry, I am already missing the songs, stories, prayers, laughter and screams that are a part of early childhood education.  Continue reading