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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Where's the Spring in Spring?

 Dear Christa—

Maxine posted pictures of her beautiful Tennessee yard on Facebook—daffodils, tulips, etc. Spring is really the only time I miss Tennessee. I have exactly two daffodils, slumped over in the below freezing temperatures, and tulips that are, at most, two inches above ground.

Colorado winters seem to linger on and on. The cold wind is like a bad April Fool’s joke that lasts all month. I get weary in spring because it seems that spring never comes. It’s true the sun is shining, but even that’s deceptive. I keep my winter coat in reach until the middle of May; and even then, it’s not far away.

I always feel a little cheated in spring.

Life can be like that. Things don’t turn out the way we think they should. We desire the comfort of a warmth that is just not there. We look longingly at someone else’s yard.

But, after living in Colorado for 30 years, I know in my head that this winter’s chill doesn’t last forever. It’s like knowing what reality is but wishing something a little bit different. It’s like acknowledging God has a plan, but scowling at it. It’s just not the warmth we desire. It just feels cold out there.

Cold Colorado spring days force us to trust what we know. We know that somewhere around June 8th we’ll wake up and it will be summer, just like we know that God reveals His plan at His set time.

And, there are hints that good is on the horizon: It’s daylight when we leave for work, and little birds are singing a happy song in the mornings. The Bible tells us God is good, and we know that to be true.

Regardless of how cold it is outside, two-year-old Samuel pops up each morning with hands lifted high and states, “I wake up!” as if giving the world permission to begin the day.

The blank bulletin board in my classroom is waiting for me to staple the words “Spring into Poetry” on it. I suppose I should shake off this chill and go in there and do that.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Dear Christa—

Today is Good Friday, and I have just read the story in Luke 7 about the woman who, because her sin was great, sat at the feet of Jesus, anointing and kissing his feet. What was is about Jesus that compelled her to go there? She was not sick. She had nothing to be healed of as so many who clamored to Him.
But Jesus had been about doing things other than healing the sick and raising the dead. He’d told the lame man that his sins were forgiven. This as much as anything else had drawn the attention of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. It apparently had drawn this woman as well.
So, Jesus inquires of Simon the Pharisee the logical question of who loves more—the one who is forgiven little or the one who is forgiven much? Then, he relates the comparison to Simon and the sinful woman. He ends by telling the woman her sins are forgiven and that her faith has saved her. Simon, apparently, had no such faith.
To forgive sins was no simple task. It demanded God’s greatest sacrifice, His death on the cross.
Today we commemorate that act, when God Himself completed the deed He’d come to do.
And, we as the woman can do little other than to love the One Who has forgiven much.
We should all see ourselves in this woman.
On Sunday we will celebrate the glorious resurrection by the power of the most high God, the power that we beseech to fight the strongholds of Satan. But today, I ponder the question: Who do I identify with most, the Pharisee or the woman?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Watching and Waiting

Dear Christa—
Thoughts on Luke 2:41-52
Some people think Jesus didn’t know who he was at a young age. It seems to me that he did know—or otherwise, he would seem too much like the crazy people who’ve convinced themselves they’re God or Jesus. But, I guess it doesn’t matter since the Bible doesn’t make that clear.
All the rest of the world—the little part of the world who knew Jesus—assumed he was the natural born child of Joseph and Mary. It seems that even his parents became caught up in day-to-day life, forgetting for the most part that God was living with them.
Isn’t it easy to move from one day to the next consumed by our routine of work and family, to not consciously consider that God is with us? Isn’t it when things go awry that we remember God is there and active, even when we don’t understand His plan?
So it was with Mary when she sees him at the temple conversing with the teachers, when he remarks about being in his father’s house. Then, Mary recalled the things concerning this child that few knew: the angel, the pregnancy, the birth, the shepherds, the wise men, the flight to Egypt
What was this Messiah who conversed with the teachers in Jerusalem? Who rebuked her, yet submitted to her? Who grew in favor with God and man?
Often we know that God is at work, but we don’t always know what that means. We see His hand, but we must wait to see what it all means because just as with Mary the whole story wasn’t known to her at the time
So for us, too, little messages come at times to remind us that things are not always as they appear. There is a bigger and greater plan going on. We’re a part of it somehow, but we don’t always know how. In the end we watch and wait; we wait to see what will be revealed through all the little intimations of a spiritual work that lies beyond us. 
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, February 26, 2016

Coming Home

Dear Christa—
Coming Home
Shortly, Joy, Shane, and his mom will load up the cars, pick up the dog, and set their direction toward Colorado. After two years in the Northwest, they are coming home. In many ways, it seems to me, it has been a difficult time. They’ve moved 5 times. One house caught fire once and flooded twice, all within a few months’ time.
When they left, my mom was here, and she was downcast, feeling that she would never see them again. It wasn’t so. She came to Colorado the last 2 summers when they were visiting. Their leaving and coming were both quick opportunities, which shows that circumstances, good and bad, can change in a moment—when we least look for them. 
Many good things happened too, and I think they will look on their days in Seattle with many fond memories. Yet, there are good expectations about coming home: a new job, living near family and old friends, waking to sunny skies—
Since they will stay with us until they find a house, we’ve been preparing. The bedrooms are ready. A shiny new, sturdy gate is installed. By tomorrow the cleaning supplies under the sink will have found a new storage home. Even the geriatric Molly dog is going to the groomers for a bath.
I am reminded that life can change for us on a pivot—a mere bending of God’s design. It should cause us to take heart when we find ourselves under cloudy skies as tears of rain wash over and through us. In a twinkling—in a phone call or text, in the smile of a friend—a whole new (or somewhat old) door can open before us. And sometimes, it’s like coming home.
One day, 
too, the door will open to a spiritual entrance—into the very throne of God. There we will put aside the good and the bad of the past. We will walk to a place that has been especially prepared for us. 
We will turn around and take in all the wonder. 
And we will know—
We’re home.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything