Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday – VII

We are like the snake that ate itself; the consumers are being consumed by their consumption.

Black Friday – VI

Retail stores are where we now gather to worship, brought together in a common religion. For those who choose to worship in the privacy of their own homes there is internet shopping. Let us burn the incense of money on the altar.

Black Friday – V

“Liftoff” is a determining factor in the trajectory of a space mission; if our liftoff for Advent is Black Friday what does that say about our trajectory?

Black Friday – IV

We convince ourselves that our families can’t do without Black Friday items, but are we convinced that they need Jesus? If our answer is “yes”, then are we putting more passion and energy into sharing the Gospel – the greatest gift of all – than we are putting into seeking material items on Black Friday?

Black Friday – III

Are we as eager to read the Bible as we are to read the Black Friday sales inserts in the paper?

Black Friday - II

Black Friday casts its materialistic shadow across the Advent Season and we don’t even notice, so enculturated have we become.

Black Friday

Do we seek the Kingdom of God the way we seek sales on Black Friday?

Do we anticipate His coming the way we anticipate Black Friday?

Do we awaken to worship Him the way we head out early on Black Friday?

Do we stay up late at night in prayer the way we head out on Thanksgiving night to Black Friday sales?

Are we more excited about Black Friday than Good Friday?

Will we talk to our neighbors and coworkers and families about Black Friday but not Good Friday?

Are our hearts passionate about Black Friday or Good Friday?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Matthew 6:21.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Buffet

Two friends met for lunch at a buffet. They both got in line with their plates. When they met back at their table one friend noticed that he got ham and his friend got roast beef, then he noticed that he got mashed potatoes and his friend got sweet potatoes, then he saw that he got peas and his friend got corn; he was relieved when he saw that they both chose spaghetti, that is he was relieved until he saw that he got red sauce and his friend got white sauce.

After thinking about it briefly the friend who was making these critical observations asked why his friend didn’t choose ham or mashed potatoes or peas; and he especially wanted to know why his friend chose white sauce since everyone knows that red sauce is better. His friend responded that he really just wanted roast beef and not ham, sweet potatoes and not mashed potatoes, corn and not peas; he also shared that while there are many days that he enjoys red sauce that he had a taste for white sauce on this particular day.

The first friend insisted that his friend at least try the red sauce. When the friend refused, saying he really wasn’t in the mood for red sauce, the first friend got angry.

Now it would have been one thing if the first friend had seen someone put rat poison in the white sauce, but that wasn’t the case – there was no poison in the white sauce.

Funny how we can think and act when people don’t do what we want them to do or think the way we want them to think, as I recall it was Paul who wrote that we are not to judge another man’s servant for to his own master he stands or falls; some like red sauce, some white sauce – as long as there is no rat poison in the sauce (whatever its color) we can afford to be charitable, we need not insist that all our plates look the same. An element of friendship, it seems to me, is to appreciate our different appetites and not to elevate appetite to dogma, I think it was also Paul who somewhere wrote about the Body of Christ having many members, and needing many members…yes, I think it was Paul.

Well, maybe we’re better off just blending the sauces the next time we go through the buffet line, but is that really a solution?  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Transcendent Friendships – III

When our sister-in-law Janet was visiting us a few weeks ago and we were talking about her husband Rod (Vickie’s brother) going to be with Jesus she shared a facet of Rod’s homecoming we weren’t aware of, Rod raised his arms when he shouldn’t have been able to raise them.

We knew Rod raised his arms, but we didn’t know he shouldn’t have able to raise them. Vickie and I knew that as he was lying unconscious in his bed at home, blankets wrapped around him, friends and family at his side, that he suddenly opened his eyes, pushed the covers back, looked upward with his eyes fixed on someone or something, lifted his arms in the air…and passed from this life into the next.

What we didn’t know is that Rod had not been able to lift and stretch his arms for his entire adult life due to multiple breaks sustained as a child. Rod and Janet had consulted physicians for a remedy but the surgical options were so radical that Rod chose to live within his physical limitations rather than undergo extensive surgeries.

The people in Rod’s bedroom that morning saw Rod’s eyes open, his face light up, his eyes gaze on the unseen, and his hands and arms push back the covers; they saw him raise his arms and hands in the direction of his fixed gaze, and they saw him lay his body down and go to be with Jesus. The doctors told Rod and Janet that Rod’s death would be painful – it was not. Rod should not have awaken from his coma, he should not have opened his eyes, and he most certainly should not have raised arms which had not been raised in decades…but he did.

I hope I’ll never take for granted my ability to raise my hands and arms in praise and worship, and I hope I’ll never miss an opportunity to do so – after all, worship here is but a foretaste of worship in eternity, it is heaven invading earth, beginning with my clay vessel.

I wonder if Rod is known in heaven as “The guy who never puts his arms down.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Transcendent Friendships – II

We’ve had a feast of friendship the past few weeks. Vickie’s stepmom, stepsister, and sister-in-law visited us for a week (Vickie had not seen them for three years and I hadn’t seen them for seven years); then we few to Cincinnati to see friends whom we had not seen in fourteen years; then a friend from Massachusetts whom we had not seen for four or five years came to see us for a long weekend – it was a kaleidoscope of joy and beauty.

Each of these friends brought joy as they refracted the light of our mutual friendship with Jesus Christ, each brought memories, each brought trust, each brought things both old and new. For me it was as if I had seen each one only yesterday – even the son of our Cincinnati friends who had been born since we last saw them seemed familiar…perhaps because from his birth he has been in our prayers?

Our Cincinnati friends remarked that they wondered how seeing us after all these years would be…and for them it was as if we just picked up a conversation from last week. Perhaps we can also attribute a measure of this to the fact that we have been mutually praying for one another through the years.

Seeing our Iowa family was sweet; Vickie’s Dad died in 2006 and her brother Rod died some fourteen years ago. I imagine that often step relations lose track of each other after the unifying family member dies, but this hasn’t been the case with Bonnie (Vickie’s stepmom) and Marsha (Vickie’s stepsister); we’ve kept in touch and looked forward to seeing them – we really had a great time! Their visit was made even nicer by Janet (Rod’s wife) coming with them – it’s great being with people who like each other.

During their visit Janet shared something about Rod that we didn’t know…it made the events surrounding his going to be with Jesus even more poignant…


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Transcendent Friendships - I

There are annuals and then there are perennials – they both have their joy, their beauty, their glory. Unlike flora which can be readily identified as either perennial or annual, it usually takes time to know the nature of a relationship, and even then we may have a surprise or two as the years unfold.

I have a t-shirt from a business trip to San Francisco in the early 1980s; I associate the t-shirt with a man whom I met at the educational course I attended that week, I don’t remember his name but I do joyfully remember his hospitality; he was a native of San Francisco and he took me to places I would not have experienced without his hospitality. There was a favorite restaurant of his in Chinatown in which he ordered for me and another course participant dishes which were not on the menu; then there was Lefty O’Doul’s, a restaurant and bar where he purchased the green t-shirt for me as a memento. While we also saw the Golden Gate Bridge and the crooked street and rode a cable car and ate at a famous hotel, I appreciated my acquaintance’s hospitality more than anything.

I don’t wear the t-shirt for a couple of reasons; the first is that it is a memento evoking memories of a gracious and thoughtful host, the second is that the t-shirt says, “We cheat drunks and tourists”, kind of edgy and not representative of a message I care to send to the readers of attire I wear; but the main reason I have only worn it once or twice during the past 30 years is that it is a memento to me and not a piece of clothing. (I just checked Lefty’s on the web and while they still sell t-shirts they no longer appear to sell shirts advertising that they cheat drunks and tourists – I think I prefer the old and bold rather than the new and mundane).

My San Francisco host was an annual flower, annuals have their place of beauty in life and even though he bloomed for only a week in 1984 it was a bloom that gives me joy to this day.

To be continued…