Tuesday, August 31, 2010
"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel -
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze."
- John Updike, September
Sunday, August 29, 2010
(another classic from the pen of rich mullins...)
There are those skies - skies stretched so tight you just know they're about to pop - skies in whose seamless blue reaches down to you like sails full of wind, sails moving ships like these skies move you, like these skies move oceans, worlds, time ... skies stretched tight like balloons at birthday parties, full of breath, light like helium, so light you have to tie them down.
There are skies like that. Skies so light they look like they could easily be lifted away, so light they seem almost to lift you, to suck you out of the grip of gravity.
But it is the sun they lift, these skies - skies into whose perfectly arched and balanced heads any sun would rise and find room therein to shine. These skies stay poised, enormously gentle, like giants across whom children and crawl and play - giants who are strong enough to feel the touch of these little ones and not move one muscle to risk unbalancing or frightening them.
There are skies like that. You have to look up to see them. You cannot find them beneath you or within you. They are "out" there...they are "up" there.
There are these skies.
Skies stretched so tight you just know you're about to pop standing beneath them. Your lungs may burst from breathing their sizable air - air from their cool heights so tall they scrape the footings of heaven - skies so pure and strong that God built His New Jerusalem on their back. And they reach up toward that Holy City like Romeo scaling the forbidden wall beneath Juliet - skies that go endlessly, nearly forever with the beauty of her face, the quiet, unshaken gaze of her eyes, skies alive with all the virility and tenderness of young love - skies as ancient as time, as innocent as babies held in the Hands of Eternity.
And I was trying to think of how I could encourage you - of what I could say to spur you on, just trying to come up with something. And then I was overcome.
And you might say, "but it's just a sky" - but you could say that only if you'd never seen it. And you might say, "Oh, the sky is just a metaphor and he's really overcome by something spiritual, like, say, the love of God." But if the sky is only a metaphor, it is God's metaphor, and if you'd look up - if you'd just look up...well, I haven't the words, but...
There are those skies - skies stretched so tight you just know they're about to pop...
(Rich Mullins, Release Magazine, 1995)
Friday, August 27, 2010
It's a simple fact of life that some things just plain go together. Things like salt and pepper, bread and butter, bees and honey, love and marriage, husband and wife. Things like milk and cookies, bacon and eggs, soup and crackers, burgers and fries, and of course, peanut butter and jelly.
Some things just go together. And this is not just limited to earthly things -
there are things like that in our spiritual lives as well.
Things like saints and sinners, water and word, bread and wine, body and blood, word and sacrament.
People in the Bible like Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Peter and Paul, James and John, Mary and Martha.
There are some people and things that were just meant to go together. Even things previously far apart.
For although we were once separated from God by sin and death, because of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, now even God and Man go well together.
Monday, August 23, 2010
This photo taken by the Nasa Messenger deep space probe shows an image of the earth and moon from a distance of 114 million miles away. For some reason Psalm 8 comes to mind....
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise,
because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
"If Timothy McVeigh had been a Christian"
by Jack Cashill
In fact, Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was a self-proclaimed atheist, whose mantra was "Science is my religion." That, of course, did not stop the media and the self-appointed liberal "watchdogs" from blaming the bombing of the Murrah Building on the Christian right.
Chief among the watchdogs in the Midwest, perhaps nationwide, is one Leonard Zeskind, an unrepentant Marxist-Leninist and author of the paranoid classic, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream.
Zeskind had learned the arts of ritual defamation from his Marxist mentors well and deeply. For the last two decades at least, he and others of his ilk have traveled the land warning how the "the God, guts and guns crowd" was intent on turning America into "a white Christian nation." If these faux Cassandras ever had a poster boy, of course, it was Timothy McVeigh.
Let us suppose they were right. Let us suppose that McVeigh was a member of some particularly wrathful Christian sect, one with worldwide tentacles. Let us say that church members believed in polygamy, genital mutilation, the suppression of women's rights, capital punishment for homosexuals, and the violent imposition of their own law upon the land.
Let us say, too, that the less overtly hostile members of that sect chose to build a 13-story church and cultural center overshadowing the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum at the site where the Murrah Building once stood. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, let us say that they too pretended that their project was something other than an end-zone dance on the memories of the dead.
Given these circumstances, would any liberal anywhere in America, let alone President Obama, make self-righteous noises about this sect's right to religious freedom? Would any liberal anywhere impute bigotry to those who challenged the Church of McVeigh's towering thumb in America's eye?
No, of course not. Our progressive friends would be leading the assault against the center. Hell's bells, they are inevitably the one leading the assault when the local Presbyterian Church wants to expand its parking lot.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
At the end of most everything I ever saw my my dad write (letters, articles, sermons, etc.) were the words, "Soli Deo Gloria". It's Latin for "To God Alone be the Glory". And as he retires this weekend after 47 years in the pastoral ministry and 30 years of service at Faith Lutheran Church in Jefferson City, I'm sure he will once again be saying - Soli Deo Gloria - To God Alone be the Glory. Blessings Dad - We love you !
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A British man named Ed Stafford just completed a 4,200 mile journey to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. It took him him two and a half years, and cost nearly $100,000 dollars.
Stafford is a former captain in the British army who decided to walk the length of the Amazon "because no one has done it before." Along the way, Stafford has seen huge anaconda snakes, endured leafcutter ants, and suffered several illnesses. He even caught and ate piranha during his jungle adventure!
This story got me thinking about our pilgrimage here on earth. Whether we traverse the length of the Amazon River, or just travel to the next county, the fact still remains that we are all on a long and arduous journey - the great adventure we call life.
Pilgrim's Progress, the classic work by John Bunyan, is a wonderful example of this earthly pilgrimage we are on. The main character, Christian, is on a journey to the Celestial City. But before he gets there, he must deal with many different people - like Obstinate and Pliable, Mistrust and Hypocrisy, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and the Giant Despair. He also must endure all kinds of trials and tribulations - like the Slough of Despond, the Country of Conceit, Vanity Fair, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This allegory aptly illustrates the highs and lows we will go through in this life as we toil and struggle onward, always looking forward to the City of God, our heavenly home.
While traveling in this foreign land (or "enemy territory" as some would say), it is easy to forget who we are and why we are here. We must take time to remind ourselves and our fellow travelers what we are doing here and what the goal is.
The story is told of a man who went to visit his longtime friend, a British military officer stationed in an African jungle. When the friend entered the officer’s hut, he was startled to see him dressed in formal attire and seated at a table set with silverware and fine china. The visitor asked why he was all dressed up and seated at a table so sumptuously arrayed in the jungle. The officer explained, "Once a week I follow this routine to remind myself of who I am--a British citizen. I want to maintain the customs of my real home and live according to the codes of British conduct, no matter how those around me live."
(a good reminder for christian pilgrims living in a foreign land!)
Sunday, August 8, 2010
(these are some things i wrote down before starting seminary in the summer of 2003)
Life is a journey, so don't forget to open the window and stick your head out once in awhile.
Hometowns will come and go, but my citizenship in heaven never changes.
If life is essentially the sharing of stories, then I have an important story to share.
They say that life is more of a marathon than a sprint - unfortunately I never was much of a long distance runner.
God's call includes both blessing and burden. Thankfully, burdens can be left at the foot of the cross.
God is always full of surprises. I think it's His way of "winking" at us.
If God has a plan for two people to be together, then 'love at first sight", "a match made in heaven", and "happily ever after" all of a sudden become very real possibilities.
No matter how much money I make for the rest of my life, I'll never be richer than I am right now.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first
job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. - C.S. Lewis
Monday, August 2, 2010
Did I tell you that He loved lilies? It is a well-known and much overlooked fact of His life - as known and overlooked as the lilies He loved. And it's a puzzling fact, too. Why lilies? Why especially lilies?
Maybe He loved them because of their beautiful white petals. Maybe it was because of the brilliant green of their long slender stalks, or the glorious dark green of their leaves. Maybe He loved them because their blooms looked like trumpets and their leaves resembled swords. It could have been their simplicity, it might have been their commonness. It may have been because of all of that, or because of none of that at all. But He sure seems to have loved them.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed to lilies as examples of a splendor superior to that of King Solomon's.
He considered them to be better dressed than kings. He did not apparently blush or stutter when He commanded His followers to consider them. He gave that command with the same authority that He gave the command to "let your light so shine" and the command to "turn the other cheek." It is an astonishing command - maybe given because lilies are astonishing flowers or maybe given because Jesus was an astonishing man.
After all, He had a certain fondness for sparrows and did not consider their care and feeding beneath the dignity of God - though God's care and dignity is beyond the comprehension of men. It was God's Spirit that led Him into the wilderness where He fasted and spent forty days "with the wild animals." It is easy, considering this attitude about lilies and sparrows, to imagine (and yes, this is imagination and certainly not revelation) that He spent that time romping with those creatures, not cowering from them and thus in His person, partially fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy about a "peaceable Kingdom."
If this was the whole picture of Christ, we could easily write Him off as a nature lover with a heavy Hebrew orientation. But this is where the lover of lilies throws us a curve - He loved men. It was to the end that they might be saved that He came. This man who looked at flowers and loved them, also looked at an arrogant young human and loved him. He who romped forty days with the wild animals, spent and worked three years with yet a more savage and brutal species - man. He who rejoiced in God's providence for sparrows miraculously fed a crowd of 5,000 people on one occasion and 4,000 on another. His attention and affection was not won by the attractive and the beautiful - His glance and His love made things and people attractive and beautiful. The touch of His hand would give sight to the blind and from the hem of His garment flowed healing.
And even if someone would doubt the accounts of His miracles, I can testify myself I had never seen a lily until He showed me one. I had never heard a sparrow until His voice unplugged my ears. I had never known love until I met Him... and He is love.
So, all those things He did that we call "miracles" became believable to us because Christ, who performed them, operated out of love - and His love has a height and depth and breadth and length that reaches beyond the dimensions of mere reason. And while reasons may be found within His love, no reason would be able to contain His love. It is possible that He loved lilies because He is love and that He feeds sparrows for the same reason. It is possibly that the evidence of His divinity lies in that love - that in light of love, miracles seem sort of unremarkable. If God can love me, the rest will follow. And Jesus Christ is, for me, the evidence of God's unreasonable and unsolicited attentiveness, His unearned favor, His incomprehensible love.
Did I tell you that He loved lilies?
(Rich Mullins, Release Magazine, 1991)