Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ABCs of Thankfulness

Angel - Our first child, who has proven over and over that we picked the perfect name for her
Bounty - What I've been blessed with, just by virtue of being born in the USA. Compared to over 75% of the world, I am rich.
Curtis - Our only son, who fell in love with Jesus all over again after a few years in the wilderness
Dogs - Shining examples of unconditional love and loyalty
Evangelism - Throughout history, one person telling another led to me finding out about God's love for me
Forgiveness - God's initiative, my benefit
Grace - Getting what I don't deserve (See Mercy)
Holiness - I've got none of my own, but all of God's.
Incarnation - The strange miracle of God becoming flesh, experiencing temptation as we do (yet without sin)
Jesus - The name above all names, because He is the person above all persons
Kelly Jo - Our youngest child, full of beauty, grace, and creativity
Love - The greatest of these
Mercy - Not getting what I deserve (See Grace)
Nails - Instruments of death that led to my Life

Order - One piece of evidence in favor of the existence of God
Parents - When church was happening, we were there ("Seven people jammed into a car that seated five"). And no, that didn't turn me off...it taught me how important it is.
Quiet - I don't enjoy it nearly often enough, but it serves to facilitate both relaxation and rejuvenation.
Rich Mullins - The source of the quote (above) about too many people in a car, and the ragamuffin singer-songwriter closest to my heart.
Shonda - Our second child, whose heart is more tender than the rest of us combined. Her picture is next to "empathy" in the dictionary.
Thanksgiving - A yearly reminder to count my many blessings
Unemployment, The End of My - Last year at this time, I was in Month Two of a 10-month job search.
Victory - In Jesus, my savior forever; He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood
Wife - I could have listed her as Debbie or Beloved, but I could never find enough words to describe her influence on me and how much of my heart she absolutely owns.
X-rays - Seriously, this is the outcome of God giving us brains and expecting us to use them. What an excellent healthcare tool.
Yesterday - The part of my life that doesn't matter when it comes to how God feels about me; "Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future."
Zebras - God could have just made more horses or mules, but no...He refused to hold back His creative artistry.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...26 words on one day out of the year is only scratching the surface. I am indeed a blessed man.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Good Is God?

This phrase sounds so much like it's coming from an atheist, when I was reading this book in the office lunchroom, I didn't want people to see the cover.

But the truth is, this book by Philip Yancey is full of anecdotal 
evidence for the existence of God. Not that it's going to change the minds of any unbelievers who happen to read it, but it certainly bolstered my faith and cultivated a sense of wonder and awe at what God does...even in the midst of horrible circumstances.

What kind of circumstances, you ask? How about the campus massacre at Virginia Tech? How about the professional sex trade in Green Lake, Michigan? Or the post-Apartheid uncertainty of South Africa? Or dodging terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India? Or any one of six other situations in which Yancey has spoken during the last decade or so?

This book's ten sections consist of a chapter introducing the circumstances leading up to the author's involvement in these different settings, followed by an almost-transcript of the speech he gave at the time. (Yancey is a journalist, and would never characterize his public addresses as sermons...and rightly so.)

Let me give you a taste of what impressed me about God's work in the hearts of people as I read each chapter.

From the chapter on the underground church in China:

China was the pearl of the missionary movement, with 7,000 foreign missionaries overseeing seminaries and publishing houses as well as 900 hospitals and 6,000 schools. Almost overnight Chairman Mao forced them all to leave. Members of the largest agency, the China Inland Mission, met in Australia to consider their fate. Should they disband? Or relocate to other Asian countries? And what about the Christian community left in China? Four hundred years of missionary work had produced a million Protestant and several million Catholic converts, a tiny minority in a country already exceeding a half billion in population. Who would teach them, print their literature, nurse their sick?

For several decades no one knew how the Chinese church was faring, especially in light of the leaked reports of social turmoil. Had Madame Mao succeeded in her vow to destroy Christianity? When China finally began to crack open its borders, some of these same missionaries returned to visit, astonished to find that the church had exploded in size. [Former Time magazine reporter, David] Aikman estimates the number of Christians in China today may exceed eighty million; others suggest a total of more than a hundred million. No one knows for sure because many of them meet in unregistered (and illegal) house churches of twenty or thirty members. This, the largest religious revival in history by far, took place with little direction and no foreign influence.

And consider this quote from Pastor Allen Yuan, one of the four patriarchs of the underground church, who spent twenty-two years in prison for his faith:

We live in a time like the apostles. Christians here are persecuted, yes. But look at Hong Kong and Taiwan - they have prosperity, but they don't seek God. I tell you, I came out of that prison with faith stronger than I went in. Like Joseph, we don't know why we go through hard times until later, looking back. Think of it: we in China may soon have the largest Christian community in the world, and in an atheistic state that tried to stamp us out!

Truth is...God's love and grace are not bound by political ideologies nor hindered by oppression. God's ability to bring about good from the midst of injustice and suffering cannot be squashed. So whatever dire circumstance you find yourself in, rest assured that the Lord of the Universe knows what's happening and has not forgotten you. God is good...all the time. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Letterman Live...Almost

A long, long time ago...

...I can still remember how I accompanied our only son, fresh out of high school, to New York City. He was entering a two-year course of study at Circle in the Square Theatre, and I was spending four days with him; helping him learn the subway system and trying my best to let go.

Just for kicks, we had arranged to attend a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. (Yes, even though it appears to be a live show, it [and all the other late-night talk shows] are taped the afternoon prior to broadcast.)

Prior to picking up your tickets and entering the theater, a couple staff members walk along the line of waiting audience members...just chatting with people, getting a feel for the personality of the people attending that day...but also looking for possible participants in any audience-participation game that might be played in that particular episode.

Curtis and I were thrilled to be picked as possible players in that night's game. We were instructed to leave the line we were in and go around to the stage entrance (right next to the Hello Deli, for those of you familiar with the show) where we would be ushered in (along with others) at the appropriate time to take seats along one of the aisles, making ourselves available for David Letterman's merriment.

The door opened, an assistant waved our anxious little group in, and within 10 steps, we found ourselves walking across the stage where people like Tom Hanks and Paul McCartney come out to the sound of thunderous applause.

My first thought was, "Wow, this is a lot smaller than how it looks on TV." My second thought was, "Hey we better book it off stage into those aisle seats, because the rest of the madding crowd is coming in and starting to fill the place."

As it turned out, Curtis and I weren't picked to actually interact with Mr. Letterman, but we enjoyed watching the show...on the large monitors at the front of the seating area.

That's right. There we sat...not 20 yards from where Letterman was interviewing Jennifer Lopez, and instead of watching them, we were experiencing the show like we always did...on a television screen.

Truth is...it's really easy to go through our whole lives like that; business-as-usual, ho-hum, it-is-what-it-is. But Jesus came so we "may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Let's not be guilty of "playing GameBoy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon" (Steven Curtis Chapman). Or as Rich Mullins put it: "So go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up real bad. But, in a little while after you're dead, you'll be rotted away anyway. It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are YOU My Neighbor?

Last weekend's message by Pastor Dave included a quick reference to Luke 10:25-37, commonly referred to as The Parable of the Good Samaritan. It reminded me that I had written a humor-infused version of the story for my other blog, Almost the Truth.

And then I got to thinking...that little trifle wouldn't be so terribly out of place in THIS blog.

And so, I invite you to follow the following link to revisit my retelling.

Truth is...funny or not, Jesus makes His point very well. The question should not be "Who is my neighbor?" but rather "Who am I being a neighbor to?" And if the answer isn't "Whoever God places in my path," then I'm missing the point.