Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Lesson of the Zucchini

September 24, 2016

Dear Christa—

As I hung out sheets this cool, clear fall day, I couldn’t help noticing the zucchini that just a month ago was decimated in the short minutes of a hail storm.

This morning I could see the plants have filled out new leaves and 3 small zucchinis are getting larger by the day, just the way zucchini does.

All of nature is designed to come back.
“Seed time and harvest,” the world renews itself.

And so does mankind.

Research shows that people have a built in ability to recover—sometimes quicker than what we’d expect—from the most devastating disasters.

Life has a way of throwing us hard balls, quick and relentless. One day this week at lunch duty, I sat with a student who’d been rear-ended on his way to a golf tournament. The car is a mess, but the guy—not so much so. We chatted about how life can change in a moment.

We anticipate a day going the same as the day before and the day before that.

In an instant, all changes. Sometimes, everything in perspective, it can be relatively small— missing a tournament, losing a car.

Then there are times it changes all things, everything we ever planned. In one moment life will never be the same. Yet, we walk on—one day and one step at a time. We trust God even when we can’t comprehend Him.

A day down the road, we realize we’ve turned a corner. We know we’ll walk on—differently, yes—but we walk on. We may walk in a new direction—often wiser and humbler than before—but we continue to grow. We push out new leaves. We bear new fruit.

It’s the lesson of the zucchini.

As I inspected the 3 little zucchinis at the base of new leaves, I said to myself:

Yep, there will be zucchini bread this winter after all.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, September 12, 2016

Serve in Joy

September 4, 2016

Dear Christa—

Last week at senior retreat in the mountains south of Buena Vista, David prayed one morning that we’d find “joy in our serving.”

Joy in serving—

Sometimes we serve because we must. Sometimes we serve because we should, and (on occasion) because we want to. But, always we should seek joy in our service. I think that comes from a perspective change.

In some ways joy is a choice. The choice isn’t something we muster up. It comes from an acknowledgment of who God is and His design.

We serve because we’re alive.

We serve because we are grateful.

Life—even the daily kind—should never be taken for granted. Life is precious. This day isn’t given to everyone, and if it is bestowed on us, we must respond in gratitude. We find joy in our labor when we notice the beauty, even amidst destruction.

While I was at retreat, a devastating hail storm struck our backyard. Yet, last evening after I’d put the last zucchini bread in the oven from zucchini I’d picked before I left, I inspected the bent and broken zucchini plants. New leaves were already opening from limp and battered stems. Even a single bloom lifts its yellow blossom to the sky. As I looked around, I noticed everything is pushing out new leaves.

Roses, petunias, everything.

If even the plants will bloom forth, shouldn’t we as well? Can we not find joy in our service this day?

Look for the beauty, no matter how small. Appreciate and give thanks that this day we have life to serve.

Find joy in your serving today.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything 

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Look Like You

 written July 27, 2016

Dear Christa—

While Mel was visiting last week, I heard Grandma say, “You’re so pretty.” Mel turned and lovingly replied, “Grandma, I look like you.”

It’s true. Young pictures of Grandma do look a lot like Melody. What a sweet thing to say to someone whose youth is long lost. Gone are the days of vitality—of raising five boys on a southwestern Colorado farm, of running a pet shop, of living in a world of outdoor facilities that many Americans had left behind.

Do we see ourselves in the youth who follow us? I, too, recall the gentleness she afforded me—a young mother and daughter-in-law, and her words of wisdom.

I haven’t always kept the advice of the women who’ve influenced me. I haven’t always kept my own advice for that matter. Yet, overall, there is a thread of consistency that runs through generation to generation. It binds us. It makes us family. It makes us friends. It makes us love, and it makes us hope.

It reminds me of the body of Christ, rejoicing with each other in the good and buoying each other up in the bad. People look at the world and wonder what it is coming to.

It is coming to be like us.

Do we impart kindness? Do we impart hatred? Do we reflect Jesus in all our thoughts and ways?

One day our children and grandchildren will turn to us and say—

I look like you.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Jesus, the Redeemer

August 8, 2016

Dear Christa—

Proverbs 1 expresses the divergent ways of the righteous and the wicked. The gospel opens up an added view beyond the Proverb writer.

Jesus is the Redeemer.

Although the natural way is for us to reap what we sow—particularly evil—Jesus can and does intervene. He spares us from our own selves. The prayers of the righteous are effectual. God in His sovereignty has chosen to use the prayers of people to effect change in the wayward.
Why is it that these things happen—that a child can be raised up how he or she should go and doesn’t do it?

Two reasons, I think:

1. Each of us needs to be tried in some measure to determine before God, man, and himself whether or not he believes. It must be settled one way or another which way he will pursue. Sometimes the choice for God doesn’t come right away. Sometimes, it doesn’t come at all. Yet, it’s a decision that must be made. It’s our purpose for being.

2. The second is like the first, but it is a matter of trust. Though the decision has been made to follow God and a life is lived so—perhaps for many years—the waywardness of others, the struggles of life, the common evil among us—all can put us to the test. When life goes south, where do we go? Are we drawn to Jesus? Or in despair do we flounder?

It, too, is a testing but it’s beyond the decision to follow Christ. That has been determined previously.

At the end of the road, at the end of agony beyond description, it comes to a matter of trust. In those times we learn much about ourselves. We recognize that much of what we thought doesn’t hold true. And, at the end of it all, we simply choose to trust—and carry on through a choice of acceptance of what we cannot understand and pressing forward in a mist that is difficult to navigate.

Proverbs 1 expresses the natural course of life. The gospel presents the redeemer—Jesus. And where there is a redeemer, there is hope—for ourselves and for the wayward among us.

So, we trust. And we pray.

As long as there is a Redeemer, there is hope.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, July 4, 2016

God's Goodness Considered

Dear Christa—

Summer—in many ways it seems like it has just arrived. June was a whirlwind of traveling: 2 weeks in D.C., a week in Illinois, and a week in Arkansas.
But, this morning, this July 4th, I sit on the porch, Bible on lap and read in Job—Job, a man who followed God and could not understand why God had turned against him.

So often we do not understand God. He is good, yet at times, He doesn’t seem so. Life is short and life is hard. Sometimes it seems that God is against us. We wrestle with the concept of a good God within our pain.

When we contemplate the pain, the suffering, the wrongs that we see and then consider our biblical view that God is good, I must come to the conclusion that I cannot grasp what God’s goodness means. It is something beyond me, something I cannot understand. That is the way Chris put it as we talked about such things in Arkansas.

It changed my perspective a little, like adjusting the position of the laptop screen to remove a reflection that’s marring what I need to see. Instead of hunkering down and insisting that God is good when evil seems—no, does—prevail on every turn, it makes more sense for me to recognize that what it means for God to be good, isn’t just that He has purpose, but that the understanding of God’s goodness is beyond me. I cannot fully understand goodness when it comes to God.

But, I do know that goodness is positive. It is not evil. And, I can trust, I can hope for this day. I can choose to follow God and not curse what has come into my life in times of trouble and confusion. In the despairing tone of Job’s words, I still hear the trust, the faith, and the hope in the God Job follows in the midst of his suffering.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, May 6, 2016

To Battle

Dear Christa—

Yesterday was the AP exam for my students. Next week are senior finals. They’re ready to take the next step into life, and frankly, I’m ready for summer.

They will soon find that life has a way of bringing twists and turns that we don’t expect. Some are good; some are sad. They can be the result of our own choices or the choices of another. Then, some things simply happen.

Already, here at the beginning of May, our family is experiencing good events, sad events, and some that are just a part of life. All require adjustments. All require preparation.

As I opened my bedroom door into the hall this morning, William’s Minecraft diamond sword leaned against the wall next to the boys’ closed bedroom door. A diamond sword can destroy any enemy—or so I’ve been told. Blade pointing down and handle upright, it looked ready for the grabbing—guarding the little warrior fast asleep.

Where is my sword? Where did I leave it last? Is it at the ready or hidden under a leap of papers—or a heap of trials and circumstances?

Hebrews 4:12 draws a comparison between the Word of God and our sword when it states that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thought and attitudes of the heart.”

Do I long for my sword as the little guy does who sleeps in the room next to mine? Do I carry it in my heart? Do I believe and trust it? Is it so precious that it is never far from me? 
 Does it rest just outside my door?

The Word of God—my sword—has the power to stand “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph.4:12).
Battles come, and—willing or not—we must fight them. We have a Sword, better than a Minecraft diamond sword—and that can destroy anything.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jesus Calls His Disciples

Dear Christa—

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus had started his ministry. He had driven out demons and healed the sick. He’d angered the people of Nazareth and had gone to Simon’s house.

Now, Simon and his partners, James and John, pulled their boats to the shore. The nets were so full of fish they nearly broke and the boats so full they had begun to sink. And, with these plain words from Jesus, “from now on you will catch men,” they left it all. They walked away from the financial gain and the notoriety of becoming hometown heroes with such a catch of fish.

“They left everything and followed him [Jesus].”

It’s easy to think they held this world’s accolades so loosely, but perhaps this world paled in comparison to the realization that this—this man—was far bigger than anything they’d ever seen. Perhaps, they got a glimpse of a world beyond what we see.

For Jesus to function in the spiritual realm was easy. He knew the other side. He was from the other side. He saw all things. We don’t.

It’s easy for us to forget the work of God that we have seen. Before we know it, we’re right back to our day-to-day life, head bent down looking at this earth. God sometimes uses pain to call us back, but we also see His hand in the good. Simon and the others saw a miraculous catch of fish. They knew this was none of their doing.

We, too, should look toward the blessing and follow Him.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything