Wednesday, July 20, 2011
It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that God has the eternal appetite of infancy.
One of the things I fight about growing older is the tendency to grow bored with the miracle of life. Every day we take about 20,000 breaths and every single one is a gift. Our eyes, one of the most intricately designed parts of our body, do the amazing work of recognizing, translating, and communicating what's in front of us. Our ears discriminate music from the background noise. Our nose picks up the molecular traces that we call smells. We're able to grip a baseball bat and hold a newborn.
We live in a miracle, AS a miracle.
As tired, as cynical, as bored as we get with it all, I am convinced that God never does. For all the fuss about our needing to get in touch with our inner child, God simply never forgot what it means to love something for what it is. Not for what it does for Him, or what it could be if He changed it - like we so often love - but for God, a daisy brings joy because it simply is.
Newsflash - He loves you the same way.
I am dead serious here.
There is nothing you can do to earn His love. Nothing you could do to make Him love you more. Sure there are things you and I both do that don't please God - some which may even make Him angry at the sheer foolishness of our rebellious ways.
But friend, He'd do it all again.
And He does.
For you. For me.
Let yourself remember what it's like to be loved for who you are.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
So I was exploring the latest and greatest social network today, trying to figure out whether it was going to be a blessing or a curse, and when I got back over to Facebook, I had a "poke" to return. I did it immediately, because the person who "poked" me is someone Bunny and I care for a great deal. They've not been as regular at New Hope as we'd love for them to be this summer. Stuff with family; stuff with friends; teen age stuff; stuff stuff.
But if we want to "connect" with them, there's Facebook. We can return "pokes."
I realize that I'm in danger of trowing the grumpy old man card on the pile here, but a "poke" is just not enough for me. Now this is coming from someone who can be almost anti-social at times when I'm harried and hammered by events and responsibilities. I'm also someone whose idea of a perfect day could simply be me and Bunny at the beach. (Now remember we live 15 minutes away, so going to the beach is part of a normal week for us. For you, sorry. :) )
But could I be forgiven for saying that what I love about New Hope is seeing the people that make it up living together as brothers and sisters in Christ? Being there when someone is laughing so hard they are crying simultaneously. Hearing what's happening in one another's life. Helping someone through a rough place, or with a stubborn doubt. Celebrating God's goodness and sharing life's pain.
There are people that I have spent almost 12 years praying for every day. People who I have seen grow up. People I have seen grow older.
They are my church family, and when any of them aren't there, well... it just isn't the same.
So let's enjoy the technology. Let's string connections across every device and every platform we can think of. But I just wanted you to realize that if you are relying on those to grow your relationships deeper, it ain't happening. People need more than just a "poke."
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I'm an early adopter. I admit it. I like the idea of helping a company do something do - so much so that I've been a beta tester several times. In fact this is being typed on a Google CR-48 prototype Chromebook. So when I saw the news about Google+ I wanted in. Got the invite from my daughter-in-love (thanks Shonda!) and immediately was struck by how different it was from Facebook - and potentially how much better it could be.
I LOVE circles. Think that's an awesome idea that can really help a lot of people. I've already created ministry and teaching circles to hopefully connect with some folks in those areas. (If you're reading this and aren't already in - hit me up for an invite)
I like Sparks - cool way to explore some interests.
I think the Hangouts will be fun too.
But where's the integration, Google? Why can't my Blogger post to plus directly? Why can't I share a Google Reader feed or turn it into a Spark? Why isn't Picasa or YouTube hard wired in right now?
In short, I am hopeful that + takes off in a big way, but it's very early.
I passed the K-6 certification test yesterday!
It was "high-stakes" testing yesterday for me. Not just due to the $200 price of admission, but since the door to the classroom was padlocked until I passed the test, there was some pressure. Yes I had just completed a teacher education program with straight "A's." Yes I had purchased two study guides and reviewed them for the last month.
But after substitute teaching this spring, and the experiences I had in student teaching, I am very aware - more than ever before of the stakes involved. If "Johnny and Jennie" don't learn, everything starts to unravel. Their lives and the lives they will touch, certainly. But beyond that, our society as a whole. We need educated citizens who understand what their role in this "grand experiment" is. Those who teach them ought to be highly motivated and highly skilled.
The test definitely spanned a wide range of topics and information. There were a lot of thoughtful questions about strategies you might use with students presenting with different needs. I liked that, because it was the reality in every classroom I taught in this year. There were some good questions about civics and government, about real world use of math and science - overall I thought it was harder than I thought it would be going in. And that's a good thing.
There are more tests to come. The General Knowledge test, the Professional Educator's Test, and possibly the Social Studies or English subject test. But since I want to teach in Elementary, the K-6 was the ONE I needed NOW to be "hireable." I expect to receive certification in Business Education and Social Studies 6-12 based on transcript review, but my heart is in the lower grades. We'll see.
The last six months of work, school, substitute and student teaching combined to really stress me, Bunny, and our relationship. We made it through thanks to an enduring love and the grace of God. Bunny was so supportive and encouraging even when it was really rough. We hope to be able to squeeze a quick get-away in before school starts so we can stand in a vacation-location and just be a couple again. We LOVE those times when we remember just how deep and intense our love for one another is. There has been no prayer I've prayed more over the years than one of thanks to God for sending me her.
So dear reader, one more hurdle has been overcome. Now lets pray there's a principal out there in Okaloosa County that wants to hire me. Thank you for all your help (I'm looking at you Amy Anderson and Diane Weech) and prayers.
There really isn't a "third world" today. The term comes from when people characterized the world as developed nations, nations behind the "Iron Curtain" and the undeveloped "third world." It's more like the "two-thirds" world. THAT world doesn't worry about Wii remotes; it worries about clean water, where their next meal will come from, and diseases. THAT world CAN CHANGE if we here have the will to make it happen. Already global severe poverty has been cut in half, and organizations like World Vision, Amazima, Compassion, and the like are working to give people in THAT WORLD a chance at a better life.
Bunny and I sponsor a child in Rwanda. Sean sponsors a little girl in Ethiopia. Several others at New Hope also do individually as well as classes also sponsoring children. We've sold bags made by women in Malawi to help families climb up out of poverty. We've purchased the Universal Nut Sheller to help raise production of peanuts - again so people can climb up. There are others we've done, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what a small group of people in THIS WORLD can do.
What are YOU doing?
Friends, we may not be able to fix the world, but we can DO SOMETHING! - and we ought to. That "least of these" comment Jesus made? He meant it.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So this morning dawns bright and sunny after yesterday's monsoon, and while I'm lacing my shoes I'm thinking about how great it's going to be to walk along Bayshore. It was a bit cooler as I stepped outside, and since it's downhill from my house, I got a great start. Played Frogger with the cars heading into Eglin as I crossed the 4 lane, and reached Bayshore. Walking pretty briskly, I looked out over the water, sunlight reflecting off the slight waves, and saw an early rising water skier enjoying their ride. A little farther and I saw an osprey shopping for breakfast. All was right with the world. But then...
What is that smell? My stomach almost turned over, as did my breakfast. The suddenness and the intensity gripped me. I'll press on, I thought, and get past this. But I didn't get past it. I walked another quarter of a mile and it would not let up. I rounded a corner and discovered the source. I had been following the garbage truck. And on a warm and muggy Florida morning, it was ripe.
So I waved to them and changed direction. It took a slight detour through the neighborhood, but I was able to come out ahead of them, back on Bayshore, and enjoyed the rest of my time.
What is it that stinks in your life today?
Maybe it's time to change direction.
'Do people fall down and not get up? Or take the wrong road and then just keep going? 5 So why does this people go backwards, and just keep on going—backwards! They stubbornly hold on to their illusions, refuse to change direction.
Jer 8:4-5 (MSG)
If God has shown you that where you are is not where He wants you to be - decide to change direction and follow His path today. Living out of God's will stinks.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I'm not a fan. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not fooled by the antics of both sides in the current budget debate/circus. But... this is powerful and filled with truth. Take away the comments he makes about the president. They're political and this is above politics. There's a narrative here that he's tracing out that deserves to be heard. It's the one drilled into a group of little girls every week at New Hope. "If you have done it to the least of these, MY people, you have done it unto Me."
We've lost something meaningful in America. There's a balance we've lost, maybe forever, between empowering people through freedom to go as far as their abilities and talents can take them - the nexus of
My parents both were dirt poor. It was a match made in Macon. Sharecropper marries mill village lint head. They pulled themselves up through a combination of grit, determination, help from others
How have we gotten to the point where it's okay to cut what some people live on while others pay no taxes at all?
How have we developed groups of people who think they are entitled to more than what our ancestors were - opportunity, a fair shake, and the right to pursue their own happiness?
How is it that we can have people having to choose between their heart medicine and eating tonight?
I guess I'm on shaky ground here with some who will read this, but I might as well go all in.
This friends, to me, is not a Republican or Democratic issue.
This is a decision we make that determines what we really believe about America.
And Keith Olbermann gets that.
Monday, July 11, 2011
It's Monday evening in Valparaiso and dinner was cooking in the Wilson home. The weather was terrible - had been for a while, and the forecast was bad. A severe thunderstorm with heavy lightning and wind gusts up to 35 mph. Not a night for a walk, right? But it was Monday, and that's Allan's day, so neither rain nor...
About 5:15, I got in the Honda and prepared for the short trip to Allan's house. Our friend Allan eats with us almost every Monday night at 5:30. Sometimes he walks here, but most of the time, I drive to his house and pick him up. I hadn't driven three houses down and there was Allan with a yellow towel over his head and shoulders, coming down the street. It was FLOODING.
I got him in the car and back home. We had a typical dinner with him, full of laughs and punctuated by several "I so happy" statements from our guest. We heard about all his favorite topics - work with Mallory at Pizza Hut, his talks with Mark Knowles at the Valparaiso Fire Department, and what the latest Nascar and Atlanta Braves news was. About 30 minutes later, he said "David, I'm ready to go home" and I drove him there.
We gave Allan 30 minutes of our undivided attention and a meal.
And he walked through the pouring rain to get it.
Saturday I was delivering meals here in Valparaiso, and was struck by how much the people we delivered to wanted more than just a meal. They wanted contact. Community. To know they weren't forgotten. To know that someone cared. So we asked about their health, and we talked about the weather, and we listened.
Friend, YOU CAN DO THAT.
You do NOT need a seminary degree. You do not need to be ordained. You do not need anything but a heart that's willing to open to the needs of others around you. The Holy Spirit will provide everything you might possibly need, if you are willing to be available to be used as a conduit of God's love.
Are you willing?
Think about Allan, walking through that thunderstorm. There are many many more living near you who need a touch of God's grace. Will you let them know they are loved? That they matter? Maybe if we were to focus on finding the unloved and loving them like Jesus did we'd change the communities where we live. I'm not talking about another church program that meets on Monday nights. I'm talking about living to love.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
|From It's Like Herding Cats|
The Bible tells us to "bear one another's burdens, for in this way we fulfill the law of Christ."
But it breaks my heart.
And the thing is, I'm not wired for this. In the family I grew up in, we keep everything private. If you are hurt, you're supposed to suck it up and keep going. You're supposed to handle it. Well, over the past 12 years, I've talked with several dying people. I've seen marriages implode. I've preached too many funerals. People have shared so many hurts...sometimes you just ache for them.
Tonight, I had a little girl who has already lost her Mom come and tell me her dog died last night. Her Dad woke her up at three in the morning to see her dog in the throes of seizures. She was almost expressionless when she told me about her step-mom sitting in bed with all the dogs toys around her grieving. She said it with no emotion visible. But her hurt was tangible.
It's just too much...
So Father... Abba...
I know some people who are overdue for some joy.
They've been hurt. Some grievously.
Some are still hurting.
Please mend. Please heal. Please make things right.
Saturday, July 02, 2011
My beloved just asked me a while ago if we were going to have an uplifting day at New Hope tomorrow. She wanted to know if we'd leave full of joy. I've been preaching through Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, a biography of sorts for the apostle, who lived a rather... adventurous life.
Looking back through his dayrunner we see that he has to classify just how he was beaten - rods, stones, or fists. He has to remember which shipwreck, and which group was out to kill him and where. There were some things that were constant - pressure, hunger, a sense of weakness. When you look at what the people in Corinth were saying about him - not much to look at, poor communicator, somewhat of a failure - you'd have the tendency to close this biography and go find one of someone more successful.
And yet, Paul was a winner.
Oh sure there were people better suited to the job.
Jesus Christ passed over all of them.
Because Paul was totally willing to be used to accomplish God's purpose.
He all but admitted he wasn't much.
Ah, but Jesus?
Jesus was the treasure Paul carried around with him in his plain and uninteresting "jar of clay" and before you get to thinking about Aunt Martha's china vase, the word there is for a vessel used for a specific purpose. Could have been anything.
But then it wasn't about Paul at all.
It was about the power of Almighty God released through Paul's willing spirit.
THE SAME SPIRIT THAT EVERY BELIEVER IN CHRIST HAS RIGHT NOW.
Think about it. Annie Dillard has.
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake some day and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return. (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982)
So yes, I will be bringing the joy tomorrow. Like diamonds on black velvet. Grace just shines.
Friday, July 01, 2011
Wednesday's at New Hope are a blur usually. Cooking, practicing, teaching - starts at 2:30 and ends at 8:00. All good things, but it's a lot.
But this Wednesday just past is one of those moments I'll remember.
The fellowship as we did all those things together as family - as New Hope...
Was incredible. It was like Thanksgivings I knew growing up, where you knew each other so well that you laughed about the differences - celebrated them - and were enveloped in warmth - in love.
I would not take anything for being a part of that.
If you miss intimacy like that, may I recommend a place called New Hope?