Wednesday, March 24, 2010

He Had to Go

God looked. He looked into humanity's past. He looked into humanity's future. It was all the same to Him... Timeless present of the Eternally Timeless. There once was a farmer. Three dozen years had yielded thirty-two crops--some good, some bad, some horrible, some great, and some not at all. The last two failed and he was finished. Worn out, ground down, and hard up...he was too tired, too broke, and too sad to farm anymore. The droughts, floods, freezes, heat waves, insects, government programs, and clueless bankers would have to find someone else to persecute. He was done. That winter seemed especially cold and long. It seemed to go nowhere and have no purpose. Gradually, the winter chill gave way to the warming earth of spring. A breeze blew the smell of newly turned earth from the next farm over to his nose and he knew. He knew the call of the earth. He felt it in his bones more than heard it in his ears, but he knew. He had to go..... Everyone called him "Coach." Some of the younger kids didn't even know his name. For a score minus two he had "coached 'em up." There were more wins than losses, a few more anyway. There were even a couple of deep runs into the playoffs. Some years ago, he wasn't exactly sure when, he relaxed. He worked just as hard, screamed just as loudly, and drew x's and o's incessantly looking for the perfect play, but he relaxed. It happened as he gradually saw a bigger picture no scoreboard could tally. This picture was painted with the colors of values, discipline, teamwork, and sacrifice. He finally saw the kids and he loved them. Most of the time it was a winning picture, but even if it wasn't it was still a good season. The kids in the program knew this, especially after graduation. But the booster club president and two board members had kids coming into the program next year. They were used to winning Period. And so the the coach who saw beyond the W's, well, he had to go...... All she ever wanted to be was wife and mother, until she became one. Those slow, wet, deep kisses and eager hands that sought her had also awakened such longings in her a year ago were either a memory or a menace now. The thoughts of giving life and sustaining life with children now seemed to steal all the life right out of her. The boss demanded her time and creativity. The husband seemed to demand her body and her paycheck. The church wanted their piece of her and the kids wanted everything. She felt like a commodity being traded on the floor of some human stock exchange. She wanted peace, she needed peace, she craved respect, she longed for love. Lately, she thought she saw something kind in the way one of her co-workers looked at her. He suggested a couple of glasses of wine after work one day. All she knew was she had to go...... He knew when he signed that other piece of paper that this one would show up one day. It could have come even sooner. How long has it been now, ten months? When he signed on he was restless, curious, a little angry at life, somewhat confused and needing direction. Now he has a career, now he has a speciality; he has responsibility and discipline; he even has a title to go with this new piece of paper: his orders. The only word that registers with him is "Afghanistan." He knew it was coming, halfway hoping it would come. Now it has. He's ready. He's trained. He is part of a team. He's going to do the right thing for his country, his momma, his sister and freedom lovers everywhere. He whistles in the dark. Each war has its rights and wrongs, its justices and injustices. He will discover in time his own opinions on his war. All he knows now is that he has the papers and they tell him, he has to go...... His passion and fire is what drew them to him in the first place. He probably should have been with a younger congregation. He was young himself, not yet 35 years old. He had a lot to learn about the way things ran, especially at such a prestigious, old, and large church. But he was gifted in the pulpit, maybe too gifted. The problem came when the church fathers discovered he meant what he preached. He preached hard truths that needed to be heard. He loved Christ passionately and that made the lovers of lessor idols uncomfortable. The pastor was humble in the presence of Christ and bold in the face of sin, especially the so-called respectable ones. The elders tried to bring him along with the comforts they could afford to give him. The sonofagun just kept giving more money to the church and more of his stuff to the poor. The elders agreed when they met how much they admired him in some ways. But the bottom line was, he had to go....... The Son looked. He saw the garden and He saw the gate--locked. He saw the temple and the big curtain--closed. He saw the farmer, the wife, the coach, the soldier, the pastor and everyone else. He saw their rebellion and brokenness; He saw their hopes and dreams, their darkness and futility; he saw pain and aloneness. He saw all they had and all they had lost. He looked around the splendors of heaven and saw an emptiness only He could see. Mostly He saw the cross and He knew, He knew what it meant, more than anyone ever would or could know. But mostly He knew this.....He had to go. And so He did. He who was timeless, enters time that we who weren't guiltless, might enter eternity. Now we can go, Cos

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God and My Golf Game

God and golf should not be spoken of by me in the same sentence. If you watched me play you would swear there is no God. With me, it is not that there is no God, there just is no golf---game that is. Following is how my walk with God and golfing go together: Tee Time: What a great day! God your creation is magnificent! Can you believe the beauty? And we get to be out in it. It's going to be a great day to tool around the course and enjoy all this.... First Shot: Well, it's a little off but I think I can find it, and maybe even play it. I'm just glad to be out here with you guys. God just wants me to stay focused... First Par Three: Well that's not too bad, just off the green ten yards... a good chip and put and I've got a par, at worst a two put for a bogey..... Three chips and two puts later... "Six!" God is just testing me to see if I'll stay sweet and in control... Par Five: Great drive... I might as well go for it in two, especially after that triple bogey. "Whack... Cut! Cut! Cut! Splash!. Oh well, two in, four out. That's okay. I'll hit up on the green and one put for a par. ..Three chips and two puts later...Eight! I hate this game and a Christian didn't invent it and no real Christian can play it! Twelfth Hole: Job couldn't have felt this bad. God has sent his buzzards to harass me. My pitching wedge is demon possessed. It needs to be exorcised. Rob Tennison says it is getting plenty of exercise. God, save Rob. Fifteenth Hole: I'm not sure God exists. The wind is too high and always blows in my face. It's too cold on the front nine and it feels like hell on this side. Why would anyone subject himself to this torture? I need a psychiatrist. My hand is cramping and the muscles in my back are as tight as Bob Kruse's purse strings. If I believed any longer in God I'd pray for the rapture right now. Yes, I got another triple! Eighteenth Hole: Just get me out of this. God if you exist and you can hear me, just let me get out of here with no more embarrassment, I promise I'll never try this hell-spawned game again...This drive wasn't too bad...I'm just going to close my eyes and swing easy...''whack"... wow look at that ball go....look, it's on the green... I don't have to chip... I can two put for a par, three put for a bogey! Great shot! Yeah thanks, ok. What? Sunday after church? Sure, I'll be here......... Hope springs eternal and hell is persistent and the rise and fall of my Christianity begins again....... Cos

But His Name is On My License

Two pastors I know died within about three weeks of each other. One was expected in a way. Bill Wright had been fighting cancer for a while. He was a larger than life character but not larger than cancer. I had heard his days were numbered but I actually didn't hear of his passing for about ten days after the fact. Bill was known for his huge love of Jesus expressed to people and through missions. If you heard him speak to people on the street or in the hall at a conference, "preacher" is the last thing you'd think of. That's one reason I loved the guy. You really weren't special until Bill called you "Dummy" or "Moron." I know that sounds bad but you loved him for it. If I called someone Moron they would want to hit me. If Bill did, you wanted to hug him. Literally thousands were impacted by his ministry of missions, especially to Mexico, on the Texas border, and through disaster relief trucks that he led his church and the state Baptist convention to man and expand. Not surprised but saddened was my reaction when I heard of his death. Another mold was broken... Wayne Oglesby's death was a shock. He was the pastor I had for the last year and a half of my high school days. He was only seven years older than I was. We hung out a lot my last year of high school and the Lord used him to help gentle me toward ministry. He was a good preacher. He was fun. He was thoughtful. He and Lynn took me to my first broadway play. They put up with my dropping by too often. He took me on excursions to the bible bookstore and to my first evangelism conference. When the call came to ministry after graduation from high school, I was ready to hear it largely because of Wayne. When the call came that he had hung himself in the garage I was not prepared to hear that at all. Surpised and saddened and un-nerved was my reaction when I heard he had ended his own life. Wayne had suffered with depression for some time I was told. I would have been too young to notice at 17 or 18 if he had those troubles then. I do know he'd get really down when he considered his own dad's death as a relatively young man. Wayne's last churches before he went to work as a hospice\funeral home chaplain didn't go very well. I don't know all the stories, I just know it was tough. Did the tough churches lead to deeper depression? Did depression make it hard to pastor these churches? I don't know. But his name is on the bottom of my license to the ministry and I was only one of thousands he impacted positively with his life even as depression was eating his life away like an acid. Could I get that depressed seven years from now when I'm 62? I hurt for the two widows, the kids and grandkids. One family hurting for all the right reasons we hurt when someone we love dies. Another family hurts way too soon with way too many questions. I hope and pray God brings peace to both and look forward to the time when cancer and depression take their rightful place-- in the darkest corner of hell. Lord, will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 62? I'll need You. Cos

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Mess of the Story

Defend him all you want, say what you will, but wherever Jesus went he seems to have made a mess of things. So you disagree? Then kindly explain these things declared in the Bible which show how Jesus left a mess in his wake. I suppose one might find ground for argument that he messed up the stable in which he was born but look at it from the animal's point of few. Jesus turned their nice cave-barn into a nursery. Who really knows if it was fit to be used as a stable after that? But there are better examples of Jesus littering the grounds upon which he walked. He calls disciples Peter and Andrew, James and John (Mark 1) and immediately there is a problem to be cleaned up involving abandoned boats and rotting fishing nets. Who's going to take care of that mess? Jesus doesn't take too many more steps and he calls a tax collector named Levi to follow him as well. And guess what? Now there is a tax booth, (precursor to the toll booth?) table, chair, ledgers, stylus and other office supplies left just blowing in the wind. Another mess. He was just getting started. He takes his motley crew to a wedding and turns about 150 gallons of water into wine (John 2). What are you suppose to do with that much wine at the end of a party? Just another mess Jesus leaves among the dozens recorded. There were old, leprous clothes that were discarded and had to be burned after Jesus passed by their former owners. There were broken chains and ripped garments of a man who used to provide the home for many demons (Mark 5) now littering the Garesean hillsides. Crutches thrown aside and mats where the blind and lame used to sit now gather dust. And again, what were the people to do with the coffin and death shroud of the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7) when Jesus raised him from the dead? Just keep following this guy: cages get overturned, money scattered, tables broken and knocked over at the courtyard of women in the temple when he ran the business men out from the women's place of prayer; an empty perfume flask that held expensive perfume from Mary when she poured it on Jesus' feet; and who was going to fix the roof when those friends of the lame guy tore up the roof tiles to let him down from the roof for Jesus to heal? And you can't tell me that only12 guys could clean up properly after Jesus fed 5000 one time and 4000 another time, I don't care how many basketfulls of food they picked up! The list just keeps growing---used palm branches, a crown of thorns, death clothes left in the tomb--everywhere Jesus went you could see the result of his having been there. He truly made a mess of things! Follow him and you will find a debris field of old lives, old ways, former hurts, former ailments, lost days, lost hopes, and death's rags scattered to kingdom come. Would to God that He would make a mess of my life! Cos