Sunday, August 21, 2011

"All You Need is Love! Really?!"

What does it mean to love someone? No, seriously, what does love really look like? What does it mean to love as Christ loved us? Is that even possible?
Too often, I think we are grossly confused about love. We mistake human appetite for love, whether it's for chocolate, a medium-rare rib eye, or sex, we focus on how something or someone makes us feel and then evaluate whether or not that is love. In that aspect, love is a purely human and purely selfish reaction to the stimulus of the world around us. Surely love means more than just the reaction of our appetite or our libido?
Sometimes, I think we feel like love means we have to accept, overlook, even endorse harmful and dangerous behavior from others.  I don't know how many times I have heard, "Well, we have to love them anyway."  What does that mean? If someone we know is caught up in self-destructive behavior to stand aside with some anemic spiritual shrug, regurgitating some well worn platitude can't be all there is to love.
Seriously, there must be more - please there has to be more!
When I look at Jesus I see love and it is so intricate and faceted that it is almost beyond description. Here are just a few examples:
  • He turns water into wine to please his mother and avert an embarrassing situation for a bride's parents.
  • He made children the center of so many of his examples of how to follow him with simple joy and childlike whimsy.
  • He put himself between selfish, bigoted religious folk and a broken woman, so that she knew that, at last, someone cared for her.
  • He harshly, caustically criticized Peter for his petulance when He just told them He was going to die for them.
  • And, most importantly he crawled onto a cross and let love pierce his hands and feet and side and died as the ultimate example of love.
Somehow I think you and I need to re-evaluate what love means. It is more than just fulfilling our desires. It is more than finding affinity with those most like us. It is more than just ignoring the pain of others and the pain their pain inflicts on others.
Love is a radical thing! It is a dangerous thing! It is a simple thing! But it is a thing that will change everything!

Ah, so you see, "All You Need Is Love!"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"A (not so) Long Strange Trip It's Been!

Pam and I took a rather interesting vacation a few days ago. Interesting because we were going somewhere new in places in which things were very familiar. First, we went to Eureka Springs for a quiet couple of days to celebrate our 29th Anniversary. Shhh, don't tell Pam Eureka Springs is a mecca for all things culturally liberal - it'll just mess up the experience for her!

Then, we went to visit my parents in their NEW home. Have your parents moved since you moved out of the house?  Am I the only one who found it really weird! When Kaitlyn heard that her Grandparents were moving she exclaimed, "They can't move that's Grandpa and Grandma's house!" However, in spite of my disquiet, mom and dad are more relaxed and at ease then they have been in years.  My sister is very nearby and she is having a ball 'playing' with our folks!

Next, we spent a few days hanging out with Pam's folks and helping them paint their new house -  what's with these 70 and 80 something's and new houses? My father in law and I have had our disagreements over the years, but we had a great time working, sweating, painting, sweating, eating, oh and did I say sweating?

Then, we went to my 30th High School Reunion (Ok, quit laughing at me!).  I was not sure what to expect and Pam confessed later that she was afraid she would be left out, but we had an absolute blast. There was a reason High School was so much fun.  It was the people!  Our class was loud, gregarious, mischievous, rebellious, and protective.  I would have never thought some would have grown to be the men and women they are today. And I think many of them were surprised that I am quite normal these days.

On Sunday of the week away, we had a great opportunity to worship together with my oldest (well she is!) sister.  Her church is trying to reach their culture there in the Tulsa area in a different way and seems to be having some real impact.  I have never been able to worship with my sister at her church in all of my 48 years. It was a true joy to stand beside her, sing with her, praise God together with her and celebrate our Lord together - thanks Sis!

Then, we made the trip back home. Home - hmmm, while the time away was great, returning home was even better. For the first time in a long time, I really looked forward to getting back home, back to work, back to the fellowship of fellow strange ones at The Harbor! 

And all this reminded me of Jerry's words, "What a long strange trip it's been!"  Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Humbling Opportunity

A few days ago, I received a reply from Gateway Church in Austin, TX to a request I had made about some small group materials they were offering, for free by the way!  The reply asked how we had heard about Gateway and the book by their pastor John Burke, "No Perfect People Allowed."  As a result of a very simple conversation, our story is now a part of their church planting network's blog.

Iam posting the link here to give you an opportunity to read our story from a different perspective.

In His Grace


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Living in the tension

     For the past couple of weeks I have been sharing with my friends at The Harbor Community Church that following Christ is like living between the tension, on one hand, of God's Truth and Justice, and on the other hand, his Grace and Mercy.

     When I was a kid I used to love to play on the train tracks near our church (I really hope my mother doesn't see this post!).  I learned that if you squat down between the tracks and look as far towards the horizon as you could, those two parallel tracks seemed to meet on the horizon.  OK! I know that two parallel train tracks will never meet, even at the horizon. And I know that there really is no such thing as a point on the horizon.  However, the idea still makes sense when you focus on the big picture - there are some things about God that seem to be running side by side but will never seem to come together.

      God's justice and his mercy seem to be aspects of his character that never come together. Yet, Christ said of himself, "When you've seen me, you've seen the Father", and it was said of Jesus that he was full of "grace and truth". So is it possible that the justice and truth of God do actually meet and intersect with his mercy and grace - YES.  They meet in the person and work of Christ who came to show us the Father.  Whenever I struggle with the Truth of God as it confronts some screwy aspect of my flawed character I am thankful for the Grace and Mercy of God that holds me to him at the same time.

     It is the living in the tension between that gives life reality.  Following Jesus is never simple, and it is far more than just about getting my fanny into heaven rather than hell.  It is all about the tension. The tension of the now and the not yet, the come as you are, and the don't stay that way. The tension of knowing Christ intimately and then realizing you really know so very little - all at the same time.

     I love my family at THCC! I love them for their honesty. I love them for their desire to know God and make him known. I love them for desiring to meet people where they are and lovingly, humbly, by God's grace. helping them not stay that way. May God increase your tribe.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day?!

      In all honesty I have to admit that holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day are holidays that I have approached with angst as a pastor. Most churches I have pastored have acknowledged these holidays in some way or another.  Mother's day was always the diciest because of the way we acknowledged those in attendance.  First, we would recognize the youngest mom which on many occasions was a teenage, unmarried young lady - that was certainly scandalous in rural Oklahoma. Second, we acknowledged the oldest mom present which meant we were asking ladies who typically did not want to even be asked their age to stand up in front of all their peers and celebrate that they were older than everyone else - this made me sick to my stomach most of the time.  And, thirdly we recognized the woman who had given birth the most number of times. Man this was fraught with all kinds of danger.

     So, we recognized youth in relationship to birth, we recognized age, and then we recognized fertility!  Kind of weird, wouldn't you say? Given all the family means and all that it may not mean for some, perhaps we should recognize Mother's Day and Father's Day differently.

     Today, in worship we welcomed our friends by recognizing that it was Mother's Day but then, during our prayer time, we invited people to a time of prayer.  Prayer of thanksgiving for a mom who loved them and cared for them.  Prayer for those for whom mom is a painful word. Prayer for those whose womb has never been able to bring life into this world. And prayer for those for whom this day is a reminder that someone is not with them today.

     Mother's Day and Father's Day for Pam and I have been  holidays that remind us of the physical distance between us and our parents.  And now standing on the verge of being empty nesters we were both feeling somewhat down as we approached Mother's Day. So, instead of just feeling sorry for ourselves, we decided to invite a friend to lunch with us today.  Our friend is a mom who recently lost her husband and has been a model of struggling towards maturity through pain.  While at worship, Pam was approached by a new friend who shared with her that his mother passed away recently and this was his first Mother's Day without her, so Pam invited him to lunch with us as well.

     So there we were, two middle aged empty nesters missing their moms, a widow, and a young man who lost his mom too soon.  We had to introduce our friends to each other at lunch! We ate, we shared, we got to know one another better, we ate some more, and we learned a great deal about how God holds us together through loss and pain.

     At the end of the day Pam and me had one of the best Mother's Days we have had in a long time. And all of this was made possible by a great God who brought us all together through the fellowship of The Harbor.  All I can say to that is a humble, "Wow!"

Have a Happy Mother's Day wherever you are and going through whatever you are facing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I had the privilege today to be a part of THCC's first Blessing of the Bikes.  I freely admit I am not a biker, nor do I look like a biker, and neither do I speak biker. Needless to say I was in way over my head. So I had some options in front of me. One, I could have said this is not for me, after all I am not a biker so it would be something foreign to me. Two, I could have opposed the idea altogether. That seems to be something we have a tendency to do with things we do not understand and cannot relate to. Three, I could have acted the part. I could have rented a bike, borrowed a doo-rag, got a tattoo, not shaved all week, etc, etc. Or, I could have stumbled along trying to emulate Paul's admonition to become all thing to all people and try to learn, to bless and be blessed.

The opportunity was a great chance to intersect with many friends who love bikes and riding. I may start going on rides with them - from the comfort of our mini-van! At the conclusion of the afternoon a young man I do not know who came all the way from St. Clair asked me if I would bless his bike. No, stop reading and go back and read that sentence again. Yep, he came all the way from St. Clair to Barnhart to have his bike blessed. He asked me to pray for him! Do you get that! No, really think about it for a minute! Yep, you got it!

While I may have felt a bit awkward I did have a wonderful time.  It was cool to witness the three really really non-bikers in our fellowship (Bill Smith, David Crosby and myself) walking among the bikers, pausing and praying with them. I t was great to meet some new folks and see some folks I've know for awhile in their own comfort zone.

This was an example of our fellowship trying to be a part of our culture rather than asking our culture to adapt to us. It was an opportunity to fellowship together in our new location and it seemed that things went off without a hitch. And it was a great time to make some noise as the bikers tried to out do one another with their 'pipes' and This Side Up got to play loud - oh OK really loud!

I am constantly amazed at this journey called faith. It has been a long strange trip but it has been one that has taken my breath away, put tears in my eyes and made me smile all at the same time it seems.  I am blessed to travel this journey with some quirky strangers in a strange land. 

By the way, I am now the proud owner of my very own biker vest, little bell thingy, and a doo-rag. No, their are no pictures and if I have anything to do with there will not be any.  Thanks to all of those who made this event such a great opportunity. You know who you are and I love you deeply.

Along for the ride


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ok, Who Stepped In It?!

Nah, it's not what you're thinking at all!  The last few weeks have been an incredible odyssey of various kinds of work to get our new meeting location ready for The Harbor Community Church. We've torn walls down, built new walls, re-wired an old, underpowered and overloaded electrical system, repaired the roof, patched drywall, finished drywall, and most recently painted.

While painting today, one of our compadres was applying a floor leveling compound in some areas where, well the floor was not level - duh?!  We all watched Kevin put the material on the floor, the color of the compound - white contrasted with the beige color floor, and yet an assortment of us kept stepping in the wet flooring compound - yours truly included.  Instead of getting angry or criticizing the stepper for not paying better attention to where he/she was going, Kevin just patiently fixed the mess. We all ended up with a good laugh with each other in the midst of trying to getting the task finished.

When a fellowship is built on honesty, trust, and compassion for each other's weaknesses the little things remain just that - little. You can laugh at honest missteps (literally) and see yourself in the 'offending' persons shoes and learn not to take things so horribly serious.

I have said for many years we need to make sure we take God very serious and ourselves not nearly so . I am thankful for a ragtag bunch of people known as The Harbor Community Church.  Thanks for keeping it real and messy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where Your Treasure is their Your Heart Will Be....

First, let me say that I am a big Albert Pujols fan.  I admire how hard the man works to be the best baseball player since maybe Stan Musial.  I also, admire is public expression of his faith not just with his words and his gestures to heaven when he gets a hit, but the work he does through his foundation to make a real difference in lives in our communities.

Second, let me say that I am an even bigger St. Louis Cardinals fan.  Growing up in OK I used to sneak my little transistor  radio (for those of you from the MP3 world, it was a little radio with an antenna and dials..... uh never mind, you'd never understand) in bed with me so I could listen to the Cards game after it was time for me to go to bed.  One of the great blessings of moving to St. Louis is being able to attend Cards games at both old (hand over my heart) and new Busch stadium.

Now, on to my point here. I think Mr. Pujols stands at a real crossroads in his own life and as an ambassador for Christ.  Is it more important to having the largest financial contract in the history of baseball or is it more important to be known for being a person of character above the fray, or is it possible to do both at the same time.  Currently Mr. Pujols earns $14,000,000.00 per year.  That makes him one of the top ten earning baseball players in MLB.  Also, it makes him one of the highest earning workers in all of STL.  Keep in mind the average teacher earns somewhere around $40,000.00 per year.  I don't think Mr. Pujols can argue this is about putting a roof over his children's head and money in the bank for those same kids college fund.  If he invests even modestly he will live a long and very comfortable life.  Don't forget MLB players receive health insurance for life and a nice pension from the league on top of their salaries.

Mr. Pujols has the opportunity to demonstrate that life is more than money or being first in some obscene category like who makes the most money. He can demonstrate that his heart belongs to a God who supplies all our needs and continue to be a great example of Christian character and charity.  I am not saying he shouldn't try to get all the compensation he can, but in the process he runs the risk of becoming just another high priced bat whom we as fans applaud but do not respect or care about.

I thought it ironic that Mr. Stanley Musial received the Medal of Honor on the same day the news was all lathered up about Mr. Pujols stalled contract negotiations.  Yes, Mr. Musial was the highest paid player in baseball in his day and he also gave back a portion of his salary when he believed he did not live up to his abilities.  That is why we call him Stan the Man and his statue is more iconic to St. Louisan's than the Arch.

I am praying for Mr. Pujols that he will be lead by God to continue being an ambassador for Christ first and a great example of what baseball is really all about.  He has entered a torturous path which could lead to the destruction of his reputation or forever place him in the category of a man with great talent who used that talent to honor his God.

We shall see!  See you at the ball park!