Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thoughts on Isaiah

Dear Christa,

Thoughts on Isaiah

Thomas Paine, the Deist and great proponent of the Revolutionary War, used Hezekiah’s very words to rebuke and shame those who wanted to avoid war with England, the great world power of his day. He shames them for seeking only “peace and safety” in their day.

During Hezekiah’s reign, after envoys from Babylon sent flattering letters and gifts, Hezekiah shows them all of his treasures; he left nothing out.

When Isaiah the prophet tells him that all would be carried off to Babylon, including some of his own descendants, Hezekiah’s response was “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

How shortsighted and self-focused to only see our own fleeting life. We might expect more from a king, yet Jesus Himself is the only true righteous King. And that thought should make us realize that our concern for those we touch today—for those who will follow behind us tomorrow—is to leave a legacy of faithfulness, which they can follow and therein take hope regardless of their struggles.

Life brings individual pain to each of us. After Hezekiah’s recovery from grave illness, he states “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish” (Is. 38:17). Perhaps, after such an ordeal, Hezekiah is too spent to seek the Lord to bring about change once again. Sometimes age brings weariness. Yet, we must pursue to the end. In the strength of God’s great mercy, we carry on.

In the overshadowing of our own Babylon, we must walk upright in prayer to the only King who controls all things from creation to Hezekiah’s life to now and the days to come.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, October 7, 2016

When the Magic Blows Away

October 7, 2016
Dear Christa—

As Joy and Shane sit in a Disney hotel room, I think the magic has blown away with the hurricane. Last night Shane waited hours in line to purchase 4 food boxes that contained 3 meals to sustain them through today. As Shane waited in line, Joy wasn’t sure how much food the boxes would contain. Thinking it might just be supper last night, they had decided they’d ration out the food for the boys and fast for a day. As Joy said, “There are plenty of people around the world who go more than a day without food.”

Her comment reminded me of something a parent who’d been to Haiti (where a hundred people died in this storm) said to Jay. She told him that while there on a missions trip this summer, a little girl said to her, “You mean you get to eat every day?” It’s been a question that’s kind of haunted me since he told me about it at the beginning of the school year.

I don’t know what today will hold for our family in Orlando. (I think it will be long.) I don’t know why such a special vacation has turned out this way. But, even in the midst of the storm, there is magic all around. It’s seen in the frost on the pumpkin and snow on Pikes Peak. The strength of an omnipotent God is revealed both literally and metaphorically as He rages up a mighty sea, and calms it down again.

There is shelter; there is food; and they are together. It might turn in to a magical day after all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

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