Friday, April 29, 2011

Excited

Well, the Royal Wedding has come and gone. Life has returned to normal. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the event rivaled the pageantry from other royal wedding events.

I was shocked to see the major coverage from around the world and to see the continual follow up coverage.

Not everyone was excited and thrilled by the happenings.

I love this picture of one of the youngest members of the bridal party. She was excited at the beginning of the festivities, but by the time the kiss took place on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, she had experienced enough excitement for one day.

Life is sorta like that.....to much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I am not sure how I feel about all of the events of today, but one thing for sure, I can identify with the little girls perspective

It all makes sense when you see the big picture....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Help

I recognized both the number and voice on my voice mail yesterday afternoon. I have heard and seen both before. Every time I see them I cringe and think about the reason for the call. 

The call was from Steve who for several years has been a friend and colleague.

I first met him in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Although we never met, he and I became immediate friends. 

Since that time we have worked in Disaster Response in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Galveston, and Iowa. We have waded through mud, debris and devastation that defies description. We have listened to stories from those who have lost everything and God has allowed us to be a part of helping people find ways to begin to put their lives back together.

Back to the phone call. Steve called yesterday.

Bridgeton, Missouri faced a devastating tornado on Friday evening that destroyed a community. 

Last evening I spoke with a person who is trying to coordinate the recovery efforts in Bridgeton and she described the devastation and sense of despair from those who have lost everything. "People don't know what to do, and they are just waiting for someone to come and help." 

I listened with a heavy heart. I have heard these stories before. It never gets easier, it just seems the needs get greater.

So...

I am planning to take a team to Bridgeton, Missouri to do what we have done in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Galveston and Iowa. We will cut trees, remove debris, and tarp houses to minimize further damage.I am not sure of all of the details yet, but I will know more later this morning.

There is more to this effort than what I have described. I always go with the intention of being a help and ministering to those who have lost everything, but I walk away helped and ministered to by those I meet.

Bridgeton, Missouri....you are in our prayers. 

As I am writing this, there are additional reports coming in from other parts of the country that have faced tornadoes and the loss of life and property. We are also on the edge of "hurricane season" and the projections are that this is going to be a very "active" season.

His resources are adequate...my prayer is that mine will be as well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Instruments

A couple of weeks ago while in Nashville, Tennessee we took a tour of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown. It is an incredible facility beautifully adorned with architectural details gleaned from many of the finest concert halls from across Europe.

While on the tour, the guide told us about the "petting zoo" that was a part of the Schermerhorn. I was interested by her description and immediately my mind began to think about animals. My thoughts were interrupted by the guides words, "the petting zoo was on the lower floor of the symphony hall and was destroyed by the most recent flooding in Nashville."

I was having difficulty reconciling the idea of animals on the lower level of a concert hall. I was trying to figure out why a beautiful facility like this would need animals.

My mind was jolted back to the tour. The guide went on to describe the "petting zoo." She was referring to a large group of  musical instruments that are taken to public schools so children can be introduced to them. They refer to these instruments as the "petting zoo." Kids can actually touch, hold, play and experiment with the sounds of each instrument. The hope is that children will take an interest in music and eventually end up on the stage of the Schermerhorn.

Imagine the instruments in the hands of little children. Imagine when the teacher says "we are going to be having a petting zoo on Thursday of next week," and instead of animals, instruments show up. I guess I wasn't to far off in my expectations when I heard the tour guides description.

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote a Latin phrase that has my attention this morning....instrumentum conjunctum cum Deo. Translated it means..."an instrument shaped to the contours of the hand of God."

I want to be an "instrument" that is formed and fashioned by the shape of His hands. To many times I try to shape God's hand into an instrument that I can use to find and get my way in this world.

A "petting zoo."  What would happen if the world saw me and you today as "an instrument shaped to the contours of the hand of God?" 

Do you think that peace would have a better chance?  Could it be that those who are hungry might be fed? What is the possibility that angst in our communities would subside?" I am just wondering...

By the way the Nashville floods destroyed a "petting zoo" of about thirty musical instruments. Since the flood, the community has responded and now the Schermerhorn has over a thousand in their "petting zoo." Think of it...instruments waiting to be used to bring music and harmony to the world. That's what I want to be about today...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection

The band was rockin'...
The voices were raised...
The celebration was on...
It was Easter Celebration at our house of worship.

The words we sang together were powerful. Matt Maher wrote..

O death!  Where is your sting?
O hell!  Where is your victory?
O church!  Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

This morning our church came and stood in the light!  It was incredible!  Voices were raised, hands were raised, and we celebrated the empty tomb.

In the middle of the message this morning, I shared the story of West Covina church in California. In the early 1990's it was coming into its own and making a significant impact on the community. I was interested in what God was doing in that church so on a trip to the west coast I made my way to the church.

It was a very simple building, but a very powerful place of worship and service. After studying the church, I fell in love with the motto that described the church.

West Covina Church
"....where the flock comes to rock!"

Today the "flock came to rock"

Today the flock left the shadows and stood in the light of His Resurrection

Today the flock learned that "looking for the living among the dead" will always lead you to the darkness.

I am still a little out of breath from this morning...but you know I am learning to live "breathless" in His Presence! Happy Resurrection Day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stations

Today is Good Friday.

From 11 am to 8 pm the Stations of the Cross have been available to the families of our community. There has been a steady stream of people come through and walk the pathway Jesus walked on the way to the cross.


I have been able to observe the comings and goings of pilgrims as they have reflected on the Journey to the Cross. 


For the last several years we have dimmed the lights, lit candles, offered communion and encouraged pilgrims to walk the Stations.


Today was different. The Stations of the Cross were the same, the music, communion and the moments were the same, but today was different. 


Working in the balcony overlooking the sanctuary, I was able to see people slowly walk through the Stations of the Cross. There were people of all ages and families of every description.


The most beautiful sight was to watched parents with young children use this time worn practice as a way of teaching their children about the suffering and death of Jesus. Although I couldn't hear the conversations, I watch as parents read the scripture, pointed to the pictures and led their children through the events of Good Friday.


My guess is that today will be indelibly etched on the memories of young pilgrims who will day by day increase in their understanding of the significance of this day.


It made me want to be a child again and have the meaning and significance explained to me like parents did with their children today. And then it hit me...the only way to learn is to have the "faith of a child."


Although today is dark....there is a Light in the distance....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slurping

The sound of a water fountain was interrupted by a slurping noise. Not just once but over and over again. Slurping noises emanated from the person bent over drinking water from the fountain in Borders bookstore.


I thought one or two slurps would be adequate, but no! I lost count at nine slurps in rapid succession in the middle of the bookstore. Aren't cups and glasses supposed to prevent this primeval slurping in public?

By now I was fascinated to see what the "slurper" looked like after he had in "camel-like" fashion watered at the Border's oasis. 

Imagine my surprise when I saw him. He was a short scrawny guy who looked like he needed to gain more nourishment than could be derived from slurping, but who am I to judge?

I was corrected as a child anytime I slurped even though I often did it to to attract attention. You know the type of person I am describing...they are the people who chase the last bit of milk shake around the bottom of an empty cup with a straw and a huge sucking sound.

Needless to say, I was distracted by the person hunched over the water fountain and his annoying sounds.

Then it hit me...

Slurping is a part of slowly savoring what you are drinking. The alternative is gulping. You can't slurp fast, it takes time. Slurping allows you enjoy the taste and the moments.

I wonder how often I "gulp" life in my hurried pace? I wonder how often I slake my thirst for life and fail to taste the moments? 

Maybe I ought to learn to "slurp" life and slow down to experience the aroma and flavor of every moment. Perhaps the reason so many of us experience indigestion over life is because of how rapidly we take life in. 

The man at Borders stood over the water fountain for nearly two minutes. And by the way, the water continued to flow while he was "slurping." There's a lesson somewhere in there. God says, "taste and see that the Lord is good..." Psalms 34:8

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elevators

Years ago department stores, skyscrapers and downtown office buildings had elevator operators. Today we ride elevators and push the floor buttons ourselves, but years ago there was a person seated on a stool in the corner with the responsibility of "running" the elevator.

You would enter the elevator and the attendant would ask for the floor number. After announcing your floor the attendant would press that button and announce your arrival by opening the door.

What would it be like to work as an elevator operator? I am sure you would meet a lot of interesting people, have short conversations, and then head to the next floor. 

Eugene Peterson writing in The Pastor: A Memoir, describes his early days in ministry. He says, "it seemed like being put in charge of one of those old fashioned elevators, spending all day with people in their ups and downs but with no view."

It would be easy to say that this description is limited to clergy, but anybody who tries to help people can easily identify with Peterson's description. Parents of teenagers can feel this, teachers in the classroom can identify with this, counselors, caregivers and "people" people are not exempt.

Helping others in their "ups and downs" even though we can't see the full picture shouldn't prevent us from helping.

What would happen if we made a commitment to assist those in their "ups and downs" even though we may not be able to see the full view? What would happen if our commitment extended to those who most needed help even though we may not know all of the reasons for why they are in their situation?

Helping people will always have its "ups and downs" but we are still called to help. When we face this reality, we may be tempted to wish we were elevator operators. "Floor number, please?"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hospitality

Hospitality is a lost art.

Few seem to have the desire or ability to be hospitable in ways that sweep people into moments of connection.

It may be even harder to define or describe, but one certainly knows when they are participating in hospitable moments.  I have experienced people's hospitality in the simplest of ways and in some of the most unexpected places, both have been refreshing.

I have been reading Eugene Peterson's book entitled, The Pastor, A Memoir, over the last couple of days. In his writings he describes his wife and her hospitable ways. Even though he is a prolific writer who pens his ideas with precision, he seems to struggle to define "hospitality."


If Jan (his wife) had to give a name to what she was doing, it would probably be something on the order of "hanging around this intersection between and earth and seeing what there is to be done." p. 194.

Reading those words last night reminded me that his wife's words are not a bad way to live. 

Flannery O'Connor writes similar words. "The writer operates at a similar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location." At the risk of scandalizing Flannery O'Connor's thoughts, I wonder if you can insert the word "hospitable person" in the place of "writer?" I wonder if you can insert the word, "pilgrim" into her phrase.

My assignment for the day is to explore this "intersection" between "heaven and earth." My task is to keep my eyes open for opportunities for "hospitality" and the place where "time and place and eternity" meet.

That shouldn't be difficult, because everywhere I go today and every person I meet will be at the vortex of his grace. I get to be another "extender of his grace" in an un-hospitable world.

I love how Eugene Peterson translates, 3 John 1:5..."Dear friends, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible."

Here is the bottom line...when we are "hospitable" we are "making the faith visible." Who knew it could be fun to make the faith visible by simply being hospitable?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cheers

The jingle was familiar...you recognized it when it came on television.


Making your way in the world today takes everything you got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your namee,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

For eleven seasons, Cheers entertained America with a story set in a Boston tavern. There were the normal brand of everyday people who came through the doors of the bar bearing an untold story. The more familiar ones were greeted as they walked in while others were tolerated.

Last evening I was reading Eugene Peterson's new book entitled, The Pastor. In the book he traces his journey from his fathers' butcher shop through his days as a pastor and eventually his days back in his childhood home of Montana. It is a refreshing read.

He describes his understanding of "congregational" atmosphere and what it should feel like.

Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name them or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where people are labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus' name. A place where dignity is conferred. p.40

Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo wrote the words to the Cheers intro song. Every time I hear them, I wonder if they should be played as people walk through the doors of churches everywhere.

Eugene Peterson is right...a church can never be  reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must be a place where, "everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."

Today is Palm Sunday and I am headed out to worship the One who "knows my name!" See you at the House!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dancin'

On Sunday April 3rd my wife and I were in Houston, Texas for the wedding reception of our nephew and his new wife.It was a great weekend to be with family and to enjoy their joy of a new life together. We celebrated and did all of the things that you do at a wedding reception.


Sunday morning we had the incredible opportunity to attend their church as a family. They attend the North Campus of Second Baptist Church in Houston.  It is a great church making a powerful impact on greater Houston.


Reading the bulletin, there was an advertisement for an event called "Dance Your Shoes Off" to be held on Sunday, April 10th at Discovery Green at 3 pm.


I read with great interest the following..."hundreds of participants will dance to celebrate Christ's resurrection in downtown Houston. It's not to late to sign up and learn the routine on line." The pastor also encouraged people to stay after the morning service for more information if you were interested.


A person from the church had written the "dance music" for those who would participate.


Think of it....a church that wants to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by holding a dance party on the square in Houston. And they were going to "dance their shoes off" literally.


Well it happened...

video

2,000 people danced and donated  their shoes....they literally "danced their shoes off."

Makes me feel like dancin' as I prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy Week...Thanks Second Baptist for telling the message of the season through dancin'!"

Do you think those who experienced the Resurrection news first hand "danced their shoes off?"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Suffixes

I love the English language...It is not an easy language to learn and even more difficult to master. I am learning it daily and will never master it.

Consider the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy tried to teach her husband the different pronunciations to the following words;


Tough
Dough
Through

This language lesson nearly cost them their television marriage and provided laughs for those that have struggled with syntax, pronunciation and parts of speech.

This morning I was thinking about two simple suffixes that make a huge difference.

The first suffix is "-ed" and the second suffix is "-ing"

Here are some examples of the same word with each of the suffixes.

Lived or Living...there is a big difference between the two of these...One is on a gravestone the other isn't. We have a choice...Enough said.

Loved or Loving....there is a big difference between the two of these...Our families, friends and colleagues know which is which in our lives even though we may not. Ouch!

Served or Serving...there is a big difference between the two of these...watch the next time people get together for conversation and a meal. I like to be served, but that is upside down when I consider His call.

Saved or Saving....there is a big difference between the two of these...I know a lot of the first and I am seeing a lot of the second who authentically live out their faith commitments. I used to say, "I am saved,""saved." more and more I am convinced that I am being

There a  thousand other words whose meanings change when different suffixes are added. 

"-ed" indicates past tense and "-ing" means progressive or continuous action.

What would happen if our lives were "progressive" and lives of "continuous action" rather than lived in the "-ed" of past tense?

Consider words that describe your life and ask if they have a "-ed" or "-ing" suffix. It is never to late to make your life an "-ing" life in a world that values and treasures "-ed." 

I am head-"ing" out to face the world...I am keeping my eyes open for "-ing" experiences!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Attention

Recently someone said to me, "I think God is trying to get my attention. I think he wants me to do something specific, I just don't know what it is."

Admittedly, I have felt that frustrating feeling before. 

All of this has made me think. I really believe God is trying to get our attention, however, I don't think he is always trying to get our attention to "do" something. I think sometimes he is trying to get our attention for the sake of having our attention.

Often times we think He is calling us for some specific task, so we labor over trying to discover what it is when maybe all He is trying to do is to call us and get our attention. Maybe he wants us to have "seeking hearts" and "be fully present" in his Presence.

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending graduation ceremonies for a young Marine at Parris Island, South Carolina. Young men marched onto the parade grounds and a tough drill instructor barked orders and called the Marines to attention. It was interesting to watch. The order was given...."Attention" and every Marine stood poised, facing forward, fully attentive awaiting the next order. It was obvious he had their attention.

I am not suggesting that God is a Marine Drill Instructor, although many people perceive God that way. I am offering that God wants our attention. Sometimes in the midst of trying to discern what God is saying or trying to figure out what God wants us to do, we can miss the simple fact that all He wants is our attention.

So today, I am going to give Him my full attention. I am not going to try to figure out what He wants me to "do" at the expense of failing to be attentive.

Marines know the opposite of "Attention" is "At Ease." That is what happens when He has our attention. We can be "At Ease."  Try it today, you will be pleasantly surprised!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lazy

I just returned from the annual gathering of fellow pilgrims...pastors...saints...apprentices and seekers. In our tribe we call this event District Assembly. It is a two day gathering to rehearse the activity of God in our communities of faith, it is a time to explore the terrain of God's grace in our fields of service, and it is a time to think about the whisperings of God as we look to the future.

I have been attending these meetings for over twenty five years. They have had a similar rhythm for as long as I can remember and yet this year was different. Like bookends, the gathering opened with a challenging reminder to extend the borders of the Kingdom through planting house churches and congregations and concluded with a stirring concert of prayer to seek the face of God for the task that lies ahead of us.

In between there were reports, videos, reports, offerings, reports, voting, reports, financial appeals and reports. Did I mention "reports?"

One of the saddest reports from the whole gathering was made by a fellow pastor who had failed to meet the requirements of submitting a written report for his local vineyard. It seemed like we were nearing the end of the reporting and a final appeal was made for anyone who had not reported. 

Someone pointed out the fact that "he" had not reported. So his name was called. Sheepishly he stumbled from his seat and mumbled under his breath, "I know, I know...I didn't turn a report in, I'm just a lazy pastor."

Say what?  

It is one thing to be a "lazy pastor" and another thing to admit it under your breath to colleagues. I was saddened by his words and wonder about the circumstances surrounding his failure to submit a written report. The temptation is to judge and make sweeping generalizations about why he had not met his obligation. 

Then I stopped.

Behind every sigh and idle word is a story. Could it be that there was a legitimate reason for his appeared negligence and the only way he knew how to diffuse his embarrassment was to make a humorous comment? Could it be that he allowed other things to get in the way? I don't know.

Here is what I learned in between the challenging opening message and the concert of prayer...if I am going to quickly judge another person without knowing the whole story, I may minimize my effectiveness to live out the Story that I am called to proclaim. 

He gave his report and it seemed a little depressing. It probably wasn't, but I had difficulty hearing what he said, because of his opening comments under his breath. I pray that this year will be filled with the "applause of heaven" over his ministry efforts so he can report next year on time and with gusto.  What I pray for him, I pray for myself and my fellow shepherds. See you next year at the Assembly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Planning

Most days I start out with a plan and a "to do list." I learned this strategy early and yet there are days when I don't even come close to completing the list.

Recently I was reading and ran across a Latin phrase that has been instructive and liberating.


"hominum confusione et dei providential"


Roughly translated it means, "according to man's confusion and God's providence." The modern expression is more familiar, "man plans and God laughs."


I am not against planning and preparing for the day, but I am wondering if our rigid plans sometimes crowd out His plan. I wonder if there are times when we plan and God looks over the edge of heaven and says, "go for it" knowing that our feeble plans pale in significance to His plans.


Today I head off to a gathering of fellow pilgrims on the journey. The plan for today is well laid out and all of the players are ready. I wonder if God's providence will break through our confusion. I sure hope so.


I am not praying about my fellow pilgrims as much as I am praying that "my confusion" will be replaced with "God's providence." 


What would happen if we laid our plans at His feet and embraced His Providence and Plans? It's my plan to find out throughout the hours of this day. Why not look for His fingerprints today and resist the temptation to make an imprint on the lives of people we will meet today?

"hominum confusione et dei providential"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beginners

We live in an age of professionals, masters and experts. Little value is given to being a "beginner." More attention is given to those who have demonstrated proficiency in an area of study. I wonder why that is?

Watch television and you will find "talking heads" droning on about some area of their expertise. Whether they contribute to the conversation is often of little value, but more importantly they are the expert and so they opine on the issue.

It makes me wonder if there still room for beginners or do we place more value on those who have arrived and mastered the subject?

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and Catholic writer said, "We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life."

Being a "beginner" frees us from the tyranny of having to know everything. It rids us of the oppressive notion that we must always have all the answers for the questions we face. It allows us to be "fully present" in the moment and to realize that each moment is an opportunity to learn.

It would be tempting to think that a "beginner" always remains at a starting level and that is often what makes people so fearful to admit that they are a "beginner."   The reality is we are always learning and yet never arriving in our journey. Sure we learn some lessons and can move on to other lessons, but as soon as we learn a lesson we realize that there are others to learn. That is the at the heart of every learner.

I think Merton is right when he says, "we don't want to be beginners." Why? Because it requires us to admit that we don't know some things, and when you do, people often will move on to others who do. Admitting we are "beginners" is to fully recognize our vulnerability and dependence on others.

The Scriptures open with these words, "In the beginning...." and that is not a bad place to start for "beginners." Are you ready to begin?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thinking

Culture is changing and expectations are changing with it.

Years ago, pastors, insurance salesmen, and doctors made "house calls." It was an easier time and life seemed to moved at a slower pace.

Fast forward to today and "house calls" are a thing of the past. Today's version of "house calls" are "mouse calls" as the computer provides an avenue into the homes of people.

All of this has caused me to wonder about how we impact the lives of people. Admittedly, I get a lot more "mouse calls" than "house calls" and that is OK for the most part. But every once in a while it is nice to meet with people face to face and to move from the exchange of information to the interchange of conversation.

I am thinking about ways to close the gap between "house calls" and "mouse calls." I recognize that most people do not want their privacy invaded by knocking on their front door, but I also realize that if people have a choice between a computer message or a face to face conversation, I think I know their choice.

Some messages have to be conveyed by email or text, but there are some messages that can only be conveyed personally whether it is in somebody's house or over a table in a coffee shop.

So, let me encourage you to resist the temptation to "shoot a quick text" and talk "face to face" with someone today.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Both

We live in the world of "either-or." 
Either you are on the right side of the argument or you are wrong. Either you know someone or you don't. Either you are living "complex-ly" or simply.

Rarely do we entertain the world of "both." Occasionally we can tolerate a bit of paradox or ambiguity, but mostly we live in the world of "either-or."

It shows up in our conversations with glib frequency.

Recently I was reading and ran across a very provocative scripture that pushes me into the world of "both" when the culture sees things on an"either-or" fashion.
Hear these words of Isaiah..."God is both sanctuary and stumbling stone, Yahweh (God) is a rock that brings Israel down, the Lord is a trap and snare for the people." Isaiah 8:14.

I think I get the "sanctuary" part, but the "stumbling stone" part trips me up. Isaiah writes that God is "both". I have read this before and yet have never experienced it like that.

Think about it for a moment...when you have an "either" and an "or" you have "both." The more I think about it, the more I realize that my life is characterized by the recognition that God is a "sanctuary" to me when I face the turbulence of everyday existence and He is a "stumbling stone"  I constantly trip over in an effort to be god of my own life.

Practically, I feel the tension between people trying to convince me that I am either "in" or "out" when it comes to thinking about theological issues, personal decisions, or perspectives about life. More and more I am learning to live with ambiguities, paradoxes and discontinuity. 

Cyril Connolly, a frustrated English writer and literary critic of the 20th century understood this tension when he wrote, "god the either, god the or and God the Holy Both."  His reflection causes me to think.

Either I am right or I am wrong...maybe both...?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

South

Here were the directions....

"Go down this road three curves, take a right....go across the bayou...take a right on the gravel road and follow that road for a ways...then you are there."

Those are not very definitive directions, but eventually we found our way to Griffin Hills Cemetery in Lone Pine, Louisiana.The reason for the journey was to locate the grave markers for members from my extended family. 

Winding our way down a little path through a chain link fence gate, the cemetery opened before us.

We walked around looking for evidence of lives lived in the early part of the twentieth century. We found the markers. Walking among the tombstones I thought about the lady who had given me directions to get the cemetery. 

Standing in the cemetery my mind was transformed to all of the stories of those who were laid to rest in Griffin Hills Cemetery. 

Finally, I thought about the directions to the cemetery. The lady who pointed me in the direction of Griffin Hills was a prophetess...She described the journey of every serious pilgrim.


"Go down this road three curves, take a right....go across the bayou...take a right on the gravel road and follow that road for a ways...then you are there." 


Do those directions sound familiar to you? Has your journey had some curves? Have you ever crossed muddy water? Any gravel roads on your journey? Ever feel like you have been on the road for a long ways...


Hang in there...


Her words were confusing to me when I stood on her porch and received directions. They were abundantly clear when I arrived at my destination...


"You are there..."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday

God be in my head, and in my understanding
God be in my eyes, and in my looking
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking
God be in my heart, and in my thinking
God be at my end, and in my departing.
From a 15th Century French Book of Hours

Praying a prayer like this requires honesty at every level. It encompasses the things we understand, the things we look at, the words we speak and the thoughts that come into our mind.

Frankly, it easy for me to pray for some of these things and think I have prayed. Rarely, do I pray prayers that ask God to direct my understanding, looking, speaking and thinking.

I want my life to be shaped by my prayer life. 

Richard Rohr, writing in Everything Belongs, says..."Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance, a way of being present. It's a way of living in the Presence, living in awareness of the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence."

Prayer is what it means to be "fully present" in every moment.

So, I am praying that God will increase my understanding...open my eyes to see...guide the words I say today and assist my thinking.

What will shape your life today?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Simplicity

Thomas a Kempis writing in The Imitation of Christ, wrote..."Simplicity...it is better to practice it, than to know how to define it." 


Simplicity is in vogue these days. Books are being written and published at a pace making it difficult to keep up with the subject. Considering the voluminous rate of publication, it has become a complex task staying current on the topic.  Seems paradoxical that simplicity could become complex-ical.


I have difficulty defining simplicity, but have no problem identifying it when I see it.  Thomas a Kempis, a Christian author from the early 1400's had the same problem.


Here are some basic rules to help you recognize simplicity....


If a person has to explain it to you, it probably isn't simplicity
If it takes a handbook to help you understand it, 
it probably isn't simplicity
and, If it is packaged with slick advertisements and publicity,
it probably isn't simplicity.

Today, I am going to enjoy the simplicity of life.  I am not going to make it more difficult than it really is.I am going to relish the moments as they unfold.

If I do these things, I will not need to define simplicity in my life, people will see it.  It works the same for you as well. Try it, you will enjoy it.

Simplicity...

Yesterday

1350 miles....6 states...23 hours equals an incredible road trip.


The purpose of the trip is to be with family and enjoy the celebration of my nephew and his new bride's marriage. Several weeks ago they had a destination wedding in Jamaica and this weekend we will enjoy their reception with family and friends.

Every mile will be worth it, every meal on the road will provide necessary nourishment and every laugh will be its own reward for the journey.

There are startling contrasts...when we left the temperature was in the mid thirties, when we arrived the temperature was in the low eighties.  People were bundled up when we left and people are wearing sandals when we arrived. Going out to eat when we left meant eating inside, when we arrived, "going out to eat" meant just that. There are many more contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

Family times are always worth the effort. Being with others who share your DNA always gives you a better picture of who you are and where you came from. 


I am looking forward to taking family pictures during the wedding reception. I am going to try to get in an as many as I can, because...we are family. 


As you can probably tell, we don't get a lot of opportunities to be with extended family, so when we do we take advantage of every opportunity.


I am headed out the door to begin the pre-reception activities.  Stay tuned....