Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Winter of the Heart

Dear Christa—

I sit here on this first really cool autumn day, recovering from the first and, I hope, last head cold of the school year. The coolness reminds me—with the turning of leaves, the ripening of grapes and tomatoes, the jars of produce lined neatly in rows on basement shelves—that winter is not far behind.

Winter. Winter can seep into the heart.

I am no fan of winter. I dread the darkness of morning. I wince at the cold.

I am such a summer girl.

So, what is one to do when cold fingers reach for the heart?

One thing that seems to go hand-in-hand with canning season is that there is not time for canning and cleaning too. Boxes of mason jars line the dining room floor. Evidence of finished and unfinished canning is everywhere.

The carpets need vacuumed. The bathrooms just got a bare “once over.” Only the laundry is actually done. And, yet, something seems to take over me…the desire to neglect the immediate and prepare for winter. I find myself wondering what else can I put up.

Our daughter once said that we must prepare for our winters in the summer. I think she is right.

So, just as I set aside the immediate this autumn season of the year, I need to do the same in a spiritual sense. Is my relationship with God grounded enough to carry me through the winter of my heart? When the winter comes, the faith of another will be of little help. We must have the relationship ourselves. Although we live in community, we walk with God in a very single sense. If you haven’t realized that yet, the winters will prove it.

I love standing under the pergola when it smells all grapey. Yet, that smell also brings an urgency. They must be picked and processed. Soon these leaves will turn yellow and fall.
This cool autumn day is a reminder to me that ready or not, dreading or not—

Winter will come.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Endings and Beginnings

Dear Christa—

The recognitions are all given. The halls are all empty. The trash cans are all full. And, as I glue the last broken binding on a literature book to store away, it strikes me: What will it be like when I’m gluing the very last binding for the very last time?

I think it will feel strange.

I often joke about retiring, but that’s a blank page that the sovereign God has not written anything on yet that I can see. But, there is something wonderful about ending a school year. Kids and staff are ready to close the book. The Colorado summer sun is warm…finally. There’s always that feeling that I ought to be doing some “school” work that takes about two weeks to shake. Yet, I love the tempo of the school year where there is always an ending that leads to a beginning with new students, new clothes (in dress code, of course), and a new chance to do better than the year before.

But, there will come a year when instead of stuffing the closet in room 201 to the breaking point, I will close it mostly empty. Someday, I will close this book and open another. Is that not the way of life?

And endings and beginnings remind so.

Christa, you close a book with Hannah this week, and you will open another…more beautiful. All these books—I want to read them closely. I want to enjoy them fully. But, unlike this literature book I place on the shelf, our life books can never be reread no matter how desperately we wish we could. We close one. We open another.

When I do close my teaching book for the final time, I think I’ll look back on it tenderly. Such good friends to share life with. Such potential surging in young hearts and minds. But, no one should ever close the last page of a book without a new one to open. And, there are no new books yet for me.

Then one day—we don’t know when—all these endings and beginnings will lead to the grandest ending and beginning of all…when we close a temporal book for one eternal.

The pages of a good book should be splattered with tea stains and tear stains. Read each chapter closely. Embrace and squeeze out the closeness of the God who loves us—the God who has written a book with no broken bindings—a setting and plot we can’t possibly imagine.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Letters to the Churches: Ephesis

Dear Christa—
I tend to neglect the book of Revelation. We tend to think of it as a book regarding the future, and, frankly, I seem to think I need something to help get me through the here and now when I read the words of God. So, after much time, I decided to open the neglected book, if for no other reason, it seemed like a good thing to do. And right there in the second chapter, Jesus speaks to the churches. These were real churches in the time the Apostle John penned his vision. Also, some think they could be interpreted to a declining universal Church through the ages. Regardless, it seems to me that we can approach the letters with the attitude, “If the shoe fits…”
The first church Jesus addresses is the congregation at Ephesus:
Jesus praises them for their hard work, perseverance, and for evaluating and recognizing false teachers, the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans were a sect of false teachers in the very early church. They were known compromising with the pagan culture, proclaiming that their spiritual liberty gave them leeway to practice idolatry and immorality” (NIV Study Bible notes).
Similar to today, we see people who want to claim the name of Christ, yet not live a life prescribed in Scripture. I think it probably came about logically, as such things often do. There was the accusation of legalism. There was the recognition of freedom in Christ. Yet, people have a difficult time maintaining balance, and the tension between living in the world and not being of it is ever present for all of us.
Freedom became license and license became rejection of some of the basic tenants of the worship of the one True God in the presence and practice of all types of idolatry from Genesis right down to the here and now.
The Nicolaitans did not spring from without; the false perspective was bred right in the Church—perhaps from the church in Jerusalem itself.
Right here in Revelation 1, Jesus states not that He hates the Nicolaitans, but their practices; and the church at Ephesus was commended for their recognition and stand against the false teaching. It’s always a danger to interpret Scripture through the lens of culture instead of interpreting culture through the lens of Scripture.
If we believe the Bible to be the very Words of God—and we do—we must maintain a practice of the later, regardless of the difficulty. And difficult it really is because we also must be sure that we are correctly interpreting the Words of Truth. We naturally tend to interpret Scripture through our lens instead of God’s. Oh, to approach Scripture with the attitude of “teach me your ways, oh Lord.”
Jesus simply ends by stating, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Sprit (God) says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7).
Let us search the Bible to know God better and with the desire to follow Him, for He alone can redeem us. And, He alone can reveal the Words of Life.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Thoughts

Easter 2017

Dear Christa—
I don’t understand how God is three in one, but He is. And, I don’t understand how a part of God could die while the rest lived, but He did.
When Jesus died, the heavens grew dark; the earth trembled. The Temple veil ripped from top to bottom and the barrier between this world and the next seems to have given way as dead souls rose right out of their graves. It must have been a terrible sight to behold.
Nietzsche stated, “God is dead.”
He was wrong.
If God were dead, the stars would fall out of the sky; the earth would heave and the rocks would fall on us. For God alone knits the universes together. He is the Creator. He is the sustainer. He is God.
We can be sure that God is alive today as much as we anticipate the sun coming up.
What kind of God could die and rise up?
It is a power we cannot understand. It is the power of God.
Because God is alive, we can eat, breathe, and conduct our business.
We can love, pray, and know that He attends to the world and to us.
Jesus God is alive.
Therefore, we can be alive also.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Passion Week

Dear Christa—

God is the beginning and the end. He created time with creation and will end time when He so determines. It’s hard to wrap our minds around a concept without time. We live in such a time structured world. There is birth, growth, maturity, old age, and death—and yet always birth follows. I recall the great comfort of Joel and Kim arriving with baby Helen and toddler Breck at the funeral of my dad. I think Christina’s coming with 3 year-old Caleb had the same affect for Jay’s mom at such a time.

There is something about babies that ministers hope.

Within the continuum of time, birth images eternity—not in a cyclical way that is often portrayed today—but in the assurance that a step from this world is an entrance to one without end, where God resides in a way different from how the time continuum perceives Him.

The Bible reveals God to us. Not only is He the Creator of all things, and the Savior of all time, the Apostle John introduces Jesus as “him who is, who was, and who is to come” in Revelation 1.

The progressive order is interesting. Jesus who is—who has always been—both in and out of the time continuum.

He “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood? Rev. 1:5
To him be glory and power for ever and ever.” Rev. 1:6

We often come to Him with many requests—and that’s not bad—but when do we come to simply worship?

He is God.

There is no other.

See Him today for who He is as we contemplate His work and exit from our time laden world this Passion Week.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Welcome, Spring!

March 26, 2017

Dear Christa—

The rain has dissipated and I’ve cracked some windows to get some air exchange and outside humidity into this sick house. It seems we’ve had one cold after another since the New Year. But, this morning the birds are singing and the forsythia across the street is blooming in its bright yellow profusion. Spring is surely come, or at least on the way.

Some people think of new beginnings at the New Year, but for me it’s always spring that perks me up and helps me to anticipate the work of summer. Maybe it’s the literary symbolism of rebirth and new life, but it’s probably just the warmer weather and the anticipation of summer when I don’t work—at school that is.

Whatever it is, it’s an uplifting morning with freshness in the air and the songs of the little birds in the back yard, enjoying Jay’s feeders.

It’s a good day to look at the clouds breaking apart, revealing the Colorado blue sky behind them. It’s a good day to think about the future—spending time with our children and grandkids, wondering where we’ll go, pondering on our amazing world that God holds together and expecting He’ll work great things this year.

It’s a good morning to worship with our friends at church and hear Mark’s sermon—to see you in the worship team across the auditorium. And, hopefully, when I get home, Jay will feel better.

And—it looks like I better quit pondering the future and go get ready.

Happy Sunday! —this last one in March.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring Snow

Dear Christa—

All of March has been hot, and just when I was thinking of putting away the quilts on the bed, Colorado winter circled back around just in time for spring break.

Life has a way of moving between warm and comfortable, and cold and nasty—or cold and scary. I love the warm—not hot, just warm. I love when life is going smoothly, but seriously—it’s the winter that presses us into God, for comfort, for direction, for perseverance. Trouble and fear have purpose, so they always swing back around, placing our focus squarely where it needs to be.

Snow is predicted all week long, but I know that Colorado spring snows are heavy with water—to quill summer fires and make my tulips grow. So, as my students head for the peaks, skiing and boarding, I plan to curl up with a book, practice French, and leave the quilts right where they are.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, January 9, 2017


January 9, 2017
Dear Christa—
Over break we spent a few days in the Midwest visiting my mom and relatives. Small Midwestern towns tend to be sprinkled with old churches—churches whose cemeteries stretch out from the church yard like an extension of the building and its message within. Each entrance and exit is in the shadow of the eventual future of each individual.
Isaiah 53 is the great prophetic chapter of Jesus’ earthly life and end. It cannot be read without reflecting on the purpose of the incarnation—Jesus came to die as a propitiation for our sins. Now, there’s a word for us—one we don’t use much today.
God didn’t just come to be our friend. He didn’t come to reveal Himself as God. Though those things came to be, Jesus come to be a sacrifice—a sacrifice for all mankind—a propitiation for our sins.
The concept of sacrifice seems so archaic to us in the 21st Century. Ancient cultures practiced it in desire to appease—to propitiate—their gods. Israel, too, brought sacrifices to the temple. Even Joseph and Mary brought a small sacrifice to the temple after Jesus was born.
The great culmination of Jesus’ life was His sacrifice for us—for every sin from Adam right down to the very end of time. God Himself provided the lamb, and it was He.
Perhaps, that’s why peoples have long left the practice of sacrifice: It is no longer needed.
As Jesus proclaimed on the cross: “It is finished,” so every man, woman, and child can now approach God. From this moment, through death, to eternity in Heaven, nothing can separate us from God.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything