Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Pedro Conejo

A friend reminded me of Jim’s sleight-of-hand trick with the yellow foam bunnies today.  He always had jokes and tricks ready to go, and kept them in his pocket! In fact, I cannot remember a time since I met him in 1977 that he was not always at the ready.  He wore out several sets of those bunnies and I accidentally washed them many times over the years, along with toothpicks, chapstick and guitar picks. 

That bunny trick was always one of my favorites.  I remember how he learned to speak some Spanish so he could do the story with kids in Mexico.  It is his own version of the classic Peter Rabbit story. And every once in awhile he would moralize it!  He would remind kids to eat their veggies and not to overeat.  He would encourage his audience to always listen and obey their mom.  And his version of the story was primarily about putting your family first – especially your spouse!

I got another photo of an encouragement he wrote to a student years ago which I have included.

Palm Sunday Parade

I had the privilege of teaching in the BYKOTA adult fellowship on Sunday.  Here is a brief synopsis of what I shared about the Triumphal Entry of Christ:

I love a parade.  The Rose Parade is spectacular and so is the Main Street Electrical parade.  Parades are always fun events.  Even though they are different each year, they are nothing more than an entertaining event, with people who make it happen, people who watch it happen and those who clean it up.  After it is all over, we just “repeat” it the following year, but it doesn’t change us. Sometimes we let other celebrations and traditions become events as well.  Even coming to church can be that way.  We come and study, worship and fellowship, then we pack it all up and do it all again the next week.

Jesus, however, decides to use the event of passover as a catalyst, a stimulus that increases the rate of reaction that actually changes the landscape of the future! Catalysts are the unsung heroes of the chemical reactions that make human society tick. A catalyst is some material that speeds up chemical reactions. And Jesus starts a revolution! This concept might raise some questions for you, such as: revolution? Really?! What exactly are we revolting against? What’s the plan? What does God expect?

This catalytic parade, recorded in all 4 gospels, is shaped by the idea that Jesus launched a revolution and expects us to join in – that is, that God left heaven to do something and we have been recruited to play a part. It is not an event that we are to remember once a year.  It is meant to spur us on as a catalyst! We are given assignment to focus while keeping the fact that God wins in the end always before us. There are a variety of ways to talk about this assignment. For the most part, all of them are too small. From time to time I’ll hear people say something like, “God wants us to be nice to others. God doesn’t want us to tell lies.” OK, right. “God doesn’t want us to swear.” OK. Ditto. Check. But that is hardly the point! Those are just minor “rules of the road.” They do not represent the big plan. Companies often have HR manuals that explain policies, but the policies are not the goal, the mission. It’s far bigger than anyone being nice. There are a variety of ways to describe what Jesus left Heaven to do: He came to reveal the Father; He came to teach; He came to be an example; He came to fulfill the Law; He came to die in our place. But the headline used in the Bible – the umbrella statement all of these fall under – is to bring “the Kingdom of God.”

It started when he calls the first followers and then sent out disciples to announce the kingdom: that a new way of living – based on love and grace – was here; that a new King was taking over – with values that were upside down, where the great served and the goal is to be last not first. There is a proclamation piece that pivots around Jesus and who He is and what He does and what He wants; additionally there is a practical piece to care for the real, practical, physical needs of those who are hurting. So the assignment has 2 parts – the great commandment and the great commission. A plane needs two wings to fly. We do not get to edit the assignment. It’s both / and. It’s communicating and caring. It’s Proclaiming the Good News AND Engaging in Good Works.

Jesus has just told the Parable of the Talents among other last teachings where He had challenged people to take some risks. To use their gifts. After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem, where the Passover will take place. This is the celebration of the Jews’ being freed by God from Egypt through a series of plagues. And Jesus is timing his arrival to perfectly line up with the arrival of the Passover lamb – which by this point is all pretty scripted. After 1,000 years they have protocol – you bring the lamb into the city six days before you slaughter it. You kill it at 3PM on the day before the Passover. Jesus enters Jerusalem six days before he will be killed at 3 PM because he is the perfect, innocent, male lamb sent by God to sacrifice his life for their freedom. And like the instructions on how the lamb is to be killed, none of Jesus’ bones will be broken. This claim might be lost on you initially, but it wasn’t really lost on them. In a variety of ways all kinds of events – Abraham tying up Isaac, the sacrificial system, the Temple itself – has all been pointing to this. Jesus is arriving now as the lamb.

As he approached Bethpage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” A. This fulfills a prophecy made in Zechariah 9:9, which reads: 1. Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

  • Jesus makes a grand entrance. He didn’t have to. This was not the 21st century with 24 hour news channels. Jesus did not have a Facebook page with lots of pictures of he and the disciples hanging out. He paraded into Jerusalem during the Passover. He made a bold entry – which he didn’t need to do! Very few people knew what Jesus looked like. The Romans do not know what he looks like. He could have slipped into town quietly. But he doesn’t. He rides in on a donkey – which sounds humble, but was actually a bold claim to be the king. Solomon had ridden in on a donkey. This is now a reversal of all the Lord had done to this point. Up until now He kept his identity as Messiah veiled.
  • When a demon proclaimed him to be son of God he told it to be quiet
  • When He healed people he told them not to tell anyone
  • Jairus’ daughter – no one should know about this
  • Even disciples were told not to tell. Only exception is the Samaritan woman at the Well.

But now Jesus stages a public declaration of Himself as Messiah. They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. Jesus is getting the red carpet treatment. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  This is a quote from Psalm 118, which is what the Jews expected to say when their Messiah showed up. It is the last of the Hallel psalms of ascent! It shows they know what is going on. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Shalom is the term here: God’s peace. (Not just an absence of war but a well-being with God and others.) By the way, this is what the angels were singing back in Luke 2 when Jesus was born.

Passover, the big national holiday and patriotic party where everyone flooded back into Jerusalem to celebrate and remember that God chose them (the Jews) as his people and that against crushing odds he had lifted them out of slavery and made them a great nation. Finally, the Palm branches that were being waved were – in essence – the Jewish flag. Rev. 7:9-10 is the only other time Palm branches are mentioned in the NT – the ultimate triumph of the Lamb

So this was basically their independence day. Two hundred years before JC the Syrians were driven out of Israel and Judas and Simon Maccabaeus’ victory was celebrated with music and the waving of palm branches. The branches were part of the rededication of the Temple.   They shouted hosanna (Save NOW) which was part of Ps 118:25-26. This shows that they understood and referenced the Messiah as King! Those who watch that day will make a choice.  They will either serve the god of this world, might and power; or they will choose to serve the king of a very different kind of kingdom, the kingdom of God.

So, Jesus has another problem.  Of course, his followers and others who get caught up in his entry into Jerusalem think they are choosing to follow Jesus.  But by the end of the week, Jesus will have disappointed the crowd at a rate faster than they can stand.  They will turn on him.  Even those closest to Jesus, the 12 disciples, will either betray him outright, or abandon him in confusion and fear. John 12: 16 says that even the disciples didn’t “get it” until Jesus explained it to them after the resurrection. It is interesting to note that the crowd on that Sunday, proclaimed, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  In other words, they were placing their faith in Jesus that he would restore the glory of the nation to its splendor when David and his son, Solomon, ruled a united kingdom. But by the end of the week they were shouting “Crucify”.  A take away here is to make sure we are following Jesus because of who He is and not what he might do for you.  Heb. 11:29 ff talks about this so that our faith is not shaken or destroyed when when you contract an illness or suffer loss or your children don’t follow the Lord or your marriage falls apart.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” They understand what the crowd is implying, thinking everything is getting out of control, and that Jesus is committing a form of blasphemy. He is accepting worship. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” In other words: He is not hiding who He is; and even the rocks can figure this out by now. This pushes (as a catalyst) the religious leaders to change their plan to wait to kill him after the feast.  They were waiting for the Messiah to come as a political savior and Jesus was not who they expected; they were waiting to be ruled by a man like David, a man so committed to God that the Old Testament prophets had proclaimed that the coming Messiah would sit on the throne of his father, David.  The Messiah would bring back the glory of Israel, would rid the nation of oppressors, would rule benevolently, and would be kind to the common people.

Jesus had challenged the rulers of Judea already.  Not the Roman rulers, but the local rulers.  He had said to them that the Temple was not the only way to find God’s forgiveness; and further, that the Temple would be destroyed, with not one stone left on another. Of course, those who made their living from the Temple like the scribes; the chief priest and his priests; the ruling council of the Sanhedrin; and, the religious parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, would all lose their power and prestige if there was no Temple.  Or, even if the Temple was no longer the only place where one could be forgiven by God. So, when Jesus miraculously saves the lame man by first saying, “Your sins are forgiven” and then healing him, he challenged the authority of the Temple system. And when Jesus drove the money-changers from the Temple, proclaiming that the Temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations, but that the religious leaders had made it a den of thieves, Jesus exposed the corruption of the Temple tax, the scandalous monetary exchange rate, and the dishonesty of those who sold animals for sacrifice. Jesus had disappointed and alienated powerful people.  He did so because the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the chief priest, the scribes, most of the Levitical priests, and others who ruled on Rome’s behalf, were part of the same system of oppression and domination that Pilate was part of.

The Romans are looking for him. Everyone is. The city is on high alert for the holidays – the Passover is their independence day. Except they are not independent anymore. God delivered them from the Egyptians but now they are subject to the Romans and they are waiting for someone to lead the revolt. The word around town was that Jesus was the guy. He was the one who could pull it off. And he was coming to Jerusalem. Everyone is waiting for his arrival. But in a move that sets Pilate and the Romans on edge, He engineers his own parade. And he accepts the adoration of the people. He gets the red carpet treatment. He allows them to call him King. And they are waving Palm Branches – their flag of independence. This is everything Rome fears. It looks like he will give orders to pick up weapons and fight. Except once he gets into the city he pivots and goes after the Jewish leaders. The Romans allowed this strange little celebration of Passover but they were always scared that this annual party would get out of hand.  There was a bit of irony in having a celebration about gaining your freedom from foreign overlords while being subject to foreign overlords. They are especially fearful this year because of the popularity of Jesus. Jerusalem is a powder keg and Jesus could be the match that sets it off – which is why Pilate, the Roman authority in the area, the one to whom the troops answered was in town – had come into town.

You might not know that Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was not the only procession the city saw that day.  In the year 30 AD, Roman historians record that the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, led a procession of Roman cavalry and centurions into the city of Jerusalem. Pilate had traveled with a contingent of Rome’s finest from his preferred headquarters in Caesarea-by-the-Sea, to the stuffy, crowded, provincial capital of the Jews, Jerusalem. The Temple would be the center of Passover activity.  Antonia’s Fortress, the Roman garrison built adjacent to the Temple compound, would serve as a good vantage point from which to keep an eye on the Jews.  Pilate’s entry into Jerusalem was meant to send a message to the Jews, and to those who might be plotting against the empire of Rome.  The spectacle was meant to remind the Jews of what had happened the last time of a wide-scale uprising.  And, it was meant to intimidate the citizens of Jerusalem themselves, who might think twice about joining such a rebellion if it was slated to fail. Imagine the spectacle of that entry.  From the western side of the city, the opposite side from which Jesus enters, Pontius Pilate leads Roman soldiers on horseback and on foot. Each soldier was clad in leather armor polished to a high gloss.  On each centurion’s head, hammered helmets gleamed in the bright sunlight.  At their sides, sheathed in their scabbards, were swords crafted from the hardest steel; and, in their hands, each centurion carried a spear; or if he was an archer, a bow with a sling of arrows across his back. Drummers beat out the cadence of march for this was no ordinary entry into Jerusalem.  Pilate, as governor of the region knew it was standard practice for the Roman governor of a foreign territory to be in its capital for religious celebrations.  So, Pilate had to be in Jerusalem. Uprisings were always in the air, but he last major uprising, long before Pilate’s time, had started in a village near Nazareth!

If Pilate’s procession was meant as a show of military might and strength, Jesus’ procession was meant to show the opposite.  Jesus quotes from Zechariah 9, where the prophet reassures the people of Judah, called Judea on the New Testament, that God has not forgotten them. And, the king they seek will come to them humbly, not on a steed of war, but on a slow-moving donkey, the symbol of a king who comes in peace, according to Zechariah.  The two processions could not be more different in the messages they convey.  Pilate, leading Roman centurions, asserts the power and might of the empire of Rome which crushes all who oppose it. Jesus, riding on a young donkey, embodies the peace and tranquility that the shalom that God brings to His people.

SO… Jesus starts a revolution, and before launching his movement – before inaugurating the kingdom of God in order to reconcile all things, right all wrongs – Jesus assembles a team of misfits and malcontents. They were not wise and affluent. They were not powerful or influential. To make matters worse, they did not share the same values, background or politics. They had no earthly reason to be together. But they found a common cause in Jesus and his kingdom. Lots of people promise change and Jesus does as well.  He launches something different: a revolution of love grace and peace – not violence!

It’s bigger and better than every other revolution. We as a church have often failed on our assignment – we have not incarnated what Jesus taught and modeled. In spite of this However – Jesus’ revolutionary movement is now the largest oldest and most geographically diverse transformational organization in the world, He spread a revolution bigger than Steven Jobs and Henry Ford! It has spread and done good and continues to. What Jesus started 2000 yrs ago is still going and growing! A parade as a catalyst! What does it mean to be part of a revolution? Gave them a task to push back the night, proclaim the good news and engage in good works. They went out to announce the kingdom a new way of living based on love and grace with upside down values where the great serve and the goal is to be last not first. They went out to announce a new king.  Now we have that assignment – and it’s not small. It’s not a Sunday assignment. It’s actually much bigger and grander than most Christian’s think. We are to be part of rolling out God’s kingdom. It affects everything and everyone. But this much is clear,we work on it now – and take whatever ground we can.

There is an aspect of the coming of the kingdom that is gradual – which should motivate us to push ahead.And it’s also clear that we wait for the king to return and when he does lots of things happen then. We wait for that. We pray for that. However, we are to be sitting back and waiting. We are not passive. We are to live today in light of tomorrow. We are to do all we can to attend to the things that matter to God – to care for those who are oppressed – and to invite others to join us.We do this together – as a church. We are called to be a group of people who do our best to live our lives as acts of worship, and in response to Jesus – to be his disciples in community and for the sake of the world. The church is not the end point. It’s a means to an end. The church doesn’t have a mission, God’s mission has a church.

Unlike the religious leaders we have behaved as though it was an event. We are called to serve. We are called to humility. We are to march to a different set of values. Finally, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus. We have to keep reading and rereading the Gospels or we will get this revolution wrong.Everyone and everything matters to God and his kingdom will restore it all.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem may or may not have been planned to occur on the same day as Pilate’s procession through the western gate of the city.  Whether it was planned or not, the two processions provided a contrast that was unmistakable. A contrast between kings and kingdoms was on display that day in Rome. We do not look for ways to serve God or advance his kingdom so that we can gain eternal life, we serve out of the joy that we have been granted eternal life. But for one moment, ask yourself, “If I had been in Jerusalem that day, and had seen both processions passing by, which would I have chosen to follow?” Because that is the choice we make each day.  To choose power and might over love.  To choose “the way things are done” over “they way God intends them to be.”   Two processions.  Two theologies. Two choices.  Which would you choose?  What kind of king do you expect?

Happy 2nd Anniversary!

Dear Connor and Emily,

 

The Lord intended for us to remember! He set up holidays and celebrations to become traditions because he knows how forgetful we are. Even the 5th commandment to remember the Sabbath is an opportunity, not for us to amuse (which literally means to not ponder) ourselves but to refresh and restore and realign our lives with the purposes of the Lord. Anniversaries are an important part of life. They too remind us of important events, both personal and cultural. Whether we’re marking a birthday, a wedding, or a momentous event, an anniversary puts a pin on the calendar to remind us of something that matters to us. It’s a chance reflect on a relationship and to celebrate a joyous event.

Whatever the anniversary, it gives us a chance to look back over the years since the event we’re marking, and reflect on how it has shaped us. Remembering the past (but without letting it rule us) can be an important part of understanding who we are.

There can be pressure to do something amazing to mark the date of a wedding anniversary, but it can be a wonderful way of regrouping your relationship. Doing something as simple as having a meal together and remembering the day you met, got engaged, married, can be a way of reminding yourself why you fell in love in the first place. It’s important to make time for each other in a relationship, but it’s inevitable that life just gets in the way sometimes. Work, chores, the school run – life conspires against us, and all too often our relationship is the thing that takes a back seat. So an anniversary is a good excuse to focus on your relationship, and perhaps set some goals for the year ahead. And of course it’s great to enjoy the memories or establish some traditions in an a-musing way!

Silence

The decade syndrome.  Jim used to joke that he did everything by decades: 10.5 years on staff in Downey. 10 years in Scottsdale. 10 in Illinois at Trinity.  Then when we moved back to CA and he got sick and died after 4.5 years so I thought that the syndrome only applied to him!  Yet now at 10.5 years I am moving back to Downey.  There is probably no significance but it is an interesting phenomenon.

The move to Downey has been a very long move. Longer than I had planned.  I made the decision and told my landlord back in the fall.  I started packing and purging instead of celebrating the holidays. Then after Israel, I began in earnest to be ready to move in Feb.  And then it didn’t happen.  All my stuff packed up and the new place not ready.  I waited. I tried to be patient since I really had enough to do with teaching for Trinity. I had to get out by the end of February but still the next place was not ready.  There were setbacks.  So, I moved my stuff and then lived without it for almost another month, finally sleeping there on March 21.

Slowly, life is uprighting itself from sideways. I found my tea and my shampoo.  I got the internet hooked up.  I purged some more. There is still a lot to do, and I am anxious to get everything back to “normal”,  but it feels like I am on that road finally. It takes longer to get to work and I am still trying to find a “secret” route that will be less trafficked.  The cat is happy again.  I feel like I can come up for air without being so overwhelmed. The TIU class is graded.  The taxes are paid. I am no longer sick.  We finally have a pastoral candidate!

Sometimes life is very self absorbed and intra-focused.  I am now just coming out of the fog and can look around a little bit. I can think about something else.  There is still plenty of visual noise but as that quiets down my writer’s black will be less silent!

 

Discipline of Sacrifice

Encouragement Inc. is studying the disciplines:  scripture, solitude, supplication, stewardship, singing, silence, serving, sabbath, sacrifice. All the study really needs to be applied!  I need to just do it! Anyway, last Sunday Jeff talked about sacrifice.  For me this is one of the hardest concepts to wrap my mind and my muscle around. So here are some of my thoughts.

By way of definition: when you decide to give up something valuable in order to get something more important.

By way of summary: 5 attitudes develop as a result of sacrifice.

  1. Freedom – sacrifice is the ultimate means to liberation. Giving up “my way”
  2. Surrender – happiness is not based on getting my way. Giving up “my rights”
  3. Identity – is found in Jesus, not in the sacrifice “giving up – yielding”
  4. Attention – If the greatest sin is forgetting God, then sacrifice makes us remember “giving allegiance”
  5. Imagination – renewing my mind includes new paradigms and perspectives.

The scene in National Treasure where Ben has to choose between saving the Declaration of Independence and Abigail Chase meant that one had to be sacrificed.  The scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has Elsa dangling over the abyss with one hand on the holy grail and the other held by Indy. She thinks she can have her “cake and eat it too”, that she can have the grail and walk away with her life too, so she refuses to choose and ends up losing everything. Indy almost makes the same mistake until his dad gives him some advice.  He sacrifices the artifact for his life and the chance for another adventure. (Now that we saw the last adventure of the crystal skull, we might want to rethink the advantage of another adventure – that is Hollywood.)  The point is that without sacrifice, there is a life of regret; without giving up one good thing for something better, you end up with nothing but unhappiness.  When you think that you can have whatever you want, without giving up something in return, you can never really embrace and enjoy your choices.  For example, hypothetically, if you move across town to Downey for a cheaper rent and a new adventure, but you spend all your time complaining about the inconvenience of the drive, the lack of storage and the amount of stuff you had to let go of, the loneliness, etc, then you will never be able to recognize what God has provided and what new experiences He has for you there.  There are always tradeoffs.  At the end of the day, the question is not, “what am I willing to do to reach my goal?” but is, “what am I willing to sacrifice?”

Heb. 13:15 says that we are to continually offer a sacrifice of praise.  For me this means more than just an easy response for God’s blessings, protection and help.  That is not a sacrifice.  The times that God does not come through when or how we thought he would, and He seems very far away or silent, when I cannot see His goodness or I feel forgotten, praise is the last thing on my mind or in my heart. That is when I think it takes a sacrifice to lay down everything on the altar and thank a God I do not understand. That is when I make a choice to believe that God is still good and can be trusted. Real praise that continues regardless of my circumstances. God is honored. My faith grows.

 

Today I am 48 in the faith.  Boy I have a long way to go!

 

 

 

Clayton at 21~

the-walk

Dear Clayton,

You are officially an adult in the eyes of the law. I think about what I hope for you as you finish college and become a independent and godly man. You are more amazing than you know. That is partly due to your own choices, partly due to your heritage and all a result of God’s grace and favor. You are more and more like your dad all the time. I am so proud of you. I hope you have the happiest of birthdays! Here is a list of some of things that made your dad the man he was. It is not exhaustive but I pray you become like him as he was a reflection of the Lord.

21 lessons from your father’s example on how to be a Man:

  1. Be a Safe Harbor – Be known as the one others can turn to in stormy seas. Be courageous and brave; conquering your fears is euphoric. Defend others fiercely.
  2. Be a leader/a mentor/a hero – Earn the adoration of others who look up to you by having character. Have goals. (Goals are our friends)
  3. Have integrity – A man is his reputation. Loyalty and humility are defining qualities. Be committed and trustworthy; try your best and never give up. Tough it out.
  4. Be joyful – even in the direst of days there is humor to be found. Be silly. Light up a room with a contagious smile and infectious personality. Gratitude and Joy are a choice so be thankful always. Never learn the language of Whinese.  It will only make the journey longer.
  5. Be a man after God’s own heart – In all your ways acknowledge Him (Prov. 3:5.6)
  6. Celebrate life – it is meant to be embraced. Contribute. Get involved.
  7. Be a friend – cultivate real relationships that are deep and meaningful.
  8. Be a Barnabas – bring out the best in others and put them first. Compassion builds bridges.
  9. Be a family man – Your legacy is the most cherished inheritance. Never let your wife and kids doubt their importance. Honor  your heritage. Embrace the wisdom of all generations.
  10. Be flexible – not everything will go as planned. Adapt.
  11. Demonstrate generosity – even the smallest gesture has a huge impact. Pay it forward. Blessings are communal.
  12. Be prompt – time is our most valuable asset. Respect everyone and everything around you. Consider another person’s time as important as yours.
  13. Make your words count. (Col. 4:6 Eph. 4:15)
  14. Keep your word – Throw away the key and maintain a confidence. Always!
  15. Choose your battles wisely. This will result in more victories. Demonstrate tenacity with quiet confidence.
  16. Take the bull by the horns – show initiative and if something doesn’t work, fix it. Keep a strong work ethic. Persevere. (Mt. 24:13)
  17. Love – let it be your compass. (Gal. 5:6)
  18. Grieve hopefully. Tragedies will come.  Allow yourself to mourn.
  19. Own your mistakes.  Credit where credit is due/ Excuses are for cowards.
  20. Be a lifelong learner. Stay in the loop. Observe and pay attention.
  21. Be a firefighter.  Advance the kingdom (Jude 22)

Most importantly, call your mom — often!  Your dad never called his while I knew him only because his mom was already in heaven.  He did, however, call his dad regularly!  I love you!  Mom

Today as I write this I am in the middle of a move, which I feel like I have been in the middle of for 3 or more months. Every 10 years or so in our married life we have moved. This is 10.5 but it still fits in the rhythm. For me, I think it is a time of reflecting because I am also downsizing and purging. It is interesting that we spend our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s accumulating stuff and now I am spending the second half of life getting rid of it so that it will not burden my children! Everything I have is a memory of another time, or a special event, or a friend, or the history of our family. And yet, as I watch American Pickers I am shocked at the mounds of decaying treasures that weigh down a space and overwhelm a life.

Today though I am thinking most about something I cannot get rid of, a treasure I can never live without and that is my friends. During this season, I have been reminded of the blessing of friends as I have been fed, housed, prayed over, helped to pack, nudged to let go, given time and muscle. I cannot figure out how to begin to express the depth of gratitude I have. I do not deserve such love and kindness. I have been cared for in many meaningful and powerful ways; these are friendships that are not just “collected” as followers on social media. Rather, they are blessing me and reflecting God’s favor in practical ways. I am humbled by the amount of amazing people God has put into my life as friends. And I am more importantly I hope to find myself worthy of my friends.

 

I think of Frank Dempster Sherman’s prayer entitled Worthy of My Friends:

It is my joy in life to find
At every turning of the road
The strong arm of a comrade kind
To help me onward with my load.

And since I have no gold to give,
And love alone must make amends,
My only prayer is, while I live-
God make me worthy of my friends.

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.    Philemon 1:20

Can you imagine this holiday during Bible times? It definitely would have a different impression to see a wad of intestines on a card. Scripture refers to the bowels when it talks about tenderness and compassion. It is the word used to describe the seat of emotions. Somewhere along the line the heart became associated with love. It is probably a good thing too. Think about it: Titanic’s song would become “My bowels Will go on”, and Tony Bennett would have an entirely different song if he left his bowels in San Francisco! Elton John would sing, “Don’t go breaking my bowels!” Billy Ray would sing about his achy breaky bowels – TMI!!!!  The idioms would include: eat your bowels out, follow your bowels, die from a broken bowel, etc.  And I really don’t care to have a bowels to bowels conversation with anyone, do you?

 

I am not saying that the heart is not used in the Bible to express emotions; it is! We are to love the Lord with all of our heart. We know the heart is essential to life and it has become the metaphorical picture for pure devotion as the center of emotion. It sure would be different if we read let not your bowels be troubled!

So Happy Heart Day!   – it sounds so much better than happy bowels day, doesn’t it?!

 

JCM

My best friend has said goodbye to both of her parents.  They are part of the great cloud of witnesses.  They have shaped my life as well as their 5 children, 15 grandchildren, 25 great grandkids and 2 great-great grandkids.  I cannot remember many childhood memories without this family.  They went to my church, gave me my first job, taught me to like chili rellenos, prayed and played with me.  For better or worse, I am who I am because of Jay and Pat.

 

Ground Hog Day! Candlemas Day!

The prestigious prognosticator, Punxatawny Phil, saw his shadow today, which means we have 6 more weeks of Winter!  Even though I am certain that the weather and the seasons (especially in the calendarically challenged state of California) have nothing to do with a rodent and his shadow, I am so glad that this winter has brought enough rain to subside the California drought.

And the day somehow begs the question, what would I like 6 more weeks of, if I could have anything for longer!  People probably think I would want 6 more weeks of Jim.  Absolutely. 6 more weeks of my kids being mine?!  For Sure. And then I would say, 6 more weeks of soccer – yes! 6 weeks of summer? 6 more weeks of vacation? of pay? of life? Maybe!  I can think of the “obvious” answers, and I can think of what I would love to have less of for 6 weeks, including rent, work and football.  I think if I could have 6 more weeks to serve the King, like Simeon and Anna, that would be awesome!

Why bring them up? Because it is also Candlemas Day.  40 days after giving birth Joseph and Mary went to the Temple for purification and they brought forth their newborn son, Jesus, to the Temple. Mary was cleansed on this day. Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple on this day. During this time, an elderly holy man named Simeon was staying in Jerusalem. Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that his death would not come until he saw the Messiah. When Simeon held the baby Jesus, he knew that Jesus had come for the salvation of all. Simeon stated that Jesus was “A light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of thy people of Israel.”

Now that I have been to the land, I can picture the scene so much differently!  I can see the walk from Bethlehem to the Temple Mount, the area where they would have gotten 2 doves for sacrifice and a mikvah, a ceremonial bath.  I can imagine where Simeon was standing and what part of the temple Anna, an older widow, would have been relegated to. They served the Lord faithfully for all their lives. If I could have 6 more weeks to serve the King with joy, would I?

And although the dedication of Jesus would have been different from our child dedications today, even without a burnt offering, the sentiment is still there for those of us parents want to dedicate ourselves to nurturing children in the faith. One similarity, although theirs was probably unplanned, is the inclusion of elderly people (grandparents). 2 older folks coming out of the shadows and going on about how wonderful this new baby is, after Joseph and Mary come into the Temple to have a quiet moment to offer Jesus to God, was an added blessing for the new parents. Immediately they are again reminded that nothing will ever be the same again. And especially Mary had been learning to let go of any control of her life, and allow God to lead her. (As most new moms also realize!)

But think about the lesson of patience for both Anna and Simeon. They demonstrate how the most significant thing that had ever happened to them was right towards the end of their lives. Our society devalues older people and especially older women. We live in a culture that discourages us from growing old. But the example of Simeon and Anna contrasts for us, that in terms of our own ministry and discipleship, the best is always yet to come.

The older I get I hear more people say that they used to do “such and such”, but now they are too old; As if the real work of the church is doing things, planning events, being active. But praying for church is just as important as running it. And picking up the phone to have a chat with a friend from church who hasn’t been for a while is as much pastoral care as when the professional clergy visit someone in hospital. And I quite frankly cannot stand the whining and reminding me of what can’t be changed rather than celebrating the blessings of time and long life. In church there is no retirement age. While it’s true, we don’t actually value our elderly people enough, the story of Simeon and Anna challenges us about what ministry really is and who can do it. Most people would have disregarded Anna as an elderly woman who didn’t have much to offer the world because she was a bit religious, always in church praying. But because she was in church she was in the right place at the right time, and her wisdom and spirituality spilled out into those prophetic words said to Mary and Joseph.

The story of Simeon and Anna inspires me that whatever age I am, what is my calling from God for today, and for tomorrow? How am I serving him and his people, right now? Is there anything else I could offer? For Simeon and Anna the best was yet to come! That gives me hope!

Luke 2

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

 

Older Posts »