Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Traffic

I eased up just a little to get a better view. There didn't seem to be a break as far as I could see. Pam thought she saw an opening and urged me to surge ahead. I stayed put. I wasn't going to risk it. "Why didn't you take that opening?" she protested. "It would have required that lady to slow down and brake and I had no way of knowing if she would or could. She could have hit us and this holiday shopping can be enough of a hassle without a crash." Traffic was brutal. There seemed to be no openings. No room to maneuver. People driving crazily. So we just waited our turn. Finally, an older gentleman slowed way down and waved me out. Whew! "Thank-you," I mouthed to the kindly old fellow and I meant it. It must have taken a least three minutes to get off the drug aisle at Wal-Mart and into the main aisle. There the traffic was buggy-to-buggy. I really was in a chipper mood despite the shopping traffic, although one of my fellow church members saw me and said I was looking a bit "Grinchey." The truth is I always look that way so all was normal, relatively speaking. But the experience showed me a few things that I think will really help with this Christmas spirit thing. My contribution would be a few simple traffic rules to use in stores. Rule 1: Understand that the aisles are like streets. Keep to the right, unless you're from England or Australia. In those cases please shop in England or Australia. Don't go down the aisle on the left side, this is America. Rule 2. Do not park your shopping cart in the middle of the aisle\road and then go over to the shelves. Keep the cart parked parallel with the shelves , not at an angle. Pull over to the right as far as possible and walk across the 4.7 feet of the aisle to the item in which you are interested. With all that figgy pudding you probably need the exercise anyway. Rule 3. Side aisle and minor aisles must yield the right-of-way to the major aisles. Inevitably, some heck-bent for CocoPuffs driver pulls right out into the main aisle from the toilet paper aisle with no regard for the overall flow of traffic. I've seen these rude, non-thinking people disrupt store traffic so that even the restroom lines are out the door. Rule 4. Visiting in the aisle with another driver\customer is strictly prohibited. Neighborly chats can back up things so badly, especially at Christmas, that the milk expires before you can get to the register to pay for it. A smile and a quick "I'll call you later," while you pass by on the right is all that is needed. Rule 5. This is not so much a rule as suggestion---the major stores should provide passing lanes and rest areas to pull off to the side for a rest. I realize this would be expensive but the mood of shoppers would probably be so enhanced that they would actually spend more money while there. At least the rest of us could get to the shelves with a good set of passing lanes. Rule 6. Electric dog collars that shock should be placed on all shoppers when they enter the store. Then, if they get in an express line for 20 items or less, and they have 22 items....zzittzzz! This could also be used on folks who write checks and wait until everything is scanned and in the buggy and then they begin to pull out their checkbook and pen. Come on, you know you are writing a check, you know the name of the store you are in, get busy writing or zzziittzz is coming. Well, I've got some other ideas about assigned parking, cashier-to-customer ratios, required driver's ed for how to handle those handicapped scooters, and spending limits based on church attendance but I'll save those for later. Just please know that this pastor has plenty of Christmas spirit about him,(zzittzz! ouch!) chief of which is the thankfulness that there is no waiting in line at the manger of Bethlehem. In fact, if you are still looking for the perfect gift, it's still there. Still learning what the real saving place is .... Cos

Monday, November 15, 2010

Firsts That Last

In some ways, life is a series of firsts. Someway, under the miraculous hand of God, an embryo begins to grow and soon flutters and the first heartbeat begins at about 21 days after conception. And the "firsts" just keep on coming, day after day, year after year. Upon arrival a new baby takes her first breath and fills her lungs with air. Soon she asks for her first trip to the mall. Parents and grandparents marvel at the "firsts" at first. The first smile; the first word; the first steps. There are few things in life that bring more joy than some of the first "firsts" as little ones grow on these initial experiences. Children gingerly take those first wobbly steps to outstretched arms and all too soon run away from those arms. First tastes of chocolate and ice cream are topped with first days of school, first touchdowns, and first "A's." First drives lead to first kisses and first loves. In all these come another kind of firsts--the first skinned knee, the first accident and the first broken heart. These are ominous signs of something amiss in the world, first noticed in a garden long ago. I still recall one of my first "firsts." It was the time my dad let me drive the tractor by myself. I don't know the exact age, somewhere around the age of 8 or 9. We had an old John Deere "50" which was controlled by a hand clutch which meant I didn't have to reach a foot clutch or brake with my little legs. The trip without him actually being with me on the tractor was a short one, from the gas tank to the tractor shed, maybe thirty feet, but I felt huge. I was big enough, trusted enough, skilled enough to drive the tractor myself! I should have known it was a trap. Within a year or two it meant driving the tractor as a part of work, real work in a hot field all by myself. Well, no use going over plowed ground. Who knows, I may have driven a tractor for the last time. For as we grow older we bring into play another truth: one of these days we will do some of the things that were once "firsts" in our lives for the last time. There will be a time that will be a last time for everything. Some of them are youthful endeavors only possible because of youth's physical strengths like dunking a basketball, hitting a baseball 400 ft or a golf ball 332 yards. It appears that the "firsts" and the "lasts" do a great battle for many years. As some things fall away with time's chiseling the "firsts" still get in a few licks. There is that first steak you could afford to pay $35 for when just a few years ago it was all kid's Happy Meals. If you're lucky there is that first trip to Hawaii or New York or Luckenback or wherever you really wanted to go but never had the time or money to do so. But there are also the first trips to the cardiologist, the first joint replacement, and the death of the first classmate from high school. All too soon, the "lasts" begin to pile up, some not so bad, some horrible. There will be the last time you host Thanksgiving or Christmas for the daughter or granddaughter do that now--but please bring the 'nanner' pudding and the pecan pie because no one does it like you. And you never know when you will receive the last embrace or tender kiss from someone you love. You can know it's coming, but its doubtful you'll know when it was the last one. That is a grace in itself. These last things come on with relentless speed, explained unknowingly by Mike in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, who is asked how he ended up bankrupt, ''Gradually, then suddenly." It seems that the "lasts" win out and we are right back where we started and we take in that last shallow breath and the heart flutters it's last uninspired beat. Somber thoughts which could be depressing but there's an ointment around this fly of last things. Let God speak who is Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Let God be the first to determine what lasts and what doesn't. Let God put His eternal cents worth in. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26) In His grace He brings the marvel of first things into our lives. In His grace He insures that the last things of a fallen and broken world that mount up in life will not have the last word. By His grace He has determined that last things won't last. Death, decay, broken dreams, broken bodies and broken relationships will not last in His kingdom. He has worked it so that the last breath here gives way to the first breath of heaven's atmosphere. When slow, feeble steps cease on earth, kingdom feet will find themselves running on golden gravel. The last heartbeat here pounds a new rhythm called eternity there in His Heavenly Kingdom. The last embrace and brush of lips on lips in home or hospice melts away and the next conscience thought is the brush of angels wings ushering us into the arm of Jesus. Somehow, this is one of my views of heaven where the "firsts" are the only thing that lasts. Enjoy it all, first to last for His grace will redeem it all. And the last shall be first, Cos

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pastor's Mental Health Condition Questioned

In a not too astonishing development, sources inside the White Bluff Chapel pastor's home are calling into question the mental stability of the pastor, Terry Cosby. These reports stem from a series of lapses, though seemingly innocuous individually that have led to suspicions from a family member that the pastor is "losing it" and may be "off his rocker," to quote the source. In addition to the usual leaving the refrigerator door open, failing to zip up his pants, and constantly forgetting his cell phone the latest incident has one family member requesting an evaluation from a qualified physician. On a recent trip to Hillsboro, the Cosbys reportedly stopped by Braums where the pastor was instructed to go into the store and purchase eggs. He was given the additional task of checking out the bacon as he had forgotten to do so at Wal Mart. Upon returning to the car he carefully positioned the package to insure its cargo a safe passage. When home and placing the items in the 'fridge, the accusing family member saw that the pastor had purchased milk and bacon. When questioned about this the pastor only said that he had looked oddly at the clerk at Braums when she asked if he needed eggs, too. His reply was that 'I just bought eggs...." The anonymous family member noted that the pastor himself seemed perplexed about his memory but soon seemed his jolly self again probably due to the fact that he had forgotten what he had done. Later, another incident oocurred in the early morning. When getting his allergy medicine ready, he also pulled his dog's allergy medicine off the shelf. He then proceded to pop all three pills, including the dog's medicine and swallow. His nose was reportedly very clear that day, of which he mostly slept. His leg also twitched a lot as he slept. When later questioned at length about these dysfunctions the pastor could only surmise that he only forgot trivial matters of relative unimportance and noted that he had yet to forget to show up to preach, do a funeral, or perform a wedding when required. He also noted he had not forgotten his spouse's birthday or anniversary. The spouse noted that last year he had bought her a toaster for their anniversary. The pastor at this point was said to have stormed out of the home and muttered something about going to play golf. Upon his return four hours later the very somber pastor slumped in a chair and confessed to the wife that there must be something to her accusations. He allowed that he evidently has also forgotten how to play golf and can't remember a time he has shot below 88. The pastor immediately made an appointment with a local professional for an evaluation. This has brought some relief to the pastor's wife. It is reported that upon leaving for his appointment the pastor's wife yelled out to him to zip his pants. The pastor was later seen at the Old Course driving range for evaluation and instruction from the local professional. Hebrews 8:12 (Jer. 31:31-34) For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Just trying to be like Jesus............ Cos

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weeeping and Gnashing of Teeth

It's Wednesday, November 3 and the sounds of lament cry from the land. There is fear, anger, astonishment, second guesses and broken dreams. But enough about the Cowboys and the Rangers, there was a big election yesterday that promises change. Oh,where have I heard that before.......... Yes, I have become a political skeptic and cynic. Good guys like John Bass and Glenna Bodeker remind me properly that I just can't give up but must keep hoping and working for good things. I read a recent article from Chuck Colson that was helpful about hanging in and being faithful as that is what the church is called to do. Colson reminded me of Augustine's City of God wherein he argues that a Christian makes the best citizen because of his love for God and neighbor. I try to rightly judge my attitude toward all things spiritual, personal, political and governmental. The lines often get blurred and twisted. I don't want anyone questioning my patriotism but I also understand mine may not look like yours. I fight to try and stay positive and informed in policies and politics but the more informed I become the more I have to fight skepticism and negativity. I think I understand the call of a Christian to be a good citizen but increasingly it is harder, for me at least, to blend the two callings in a way that pleases God and benefits the nation. So what's a one time almost political junkie and Christian to do? I don't have all the answers and will probably end up with more questions but here are some thoughts I am trying on for size to see if they will fit better by the next wave of elections. *Check my default loyalties: Is my first and primary loyalty to the King of the Universe and His Kingdom? I do believe that one of the Adversary's tricks is to get me to subtly shift my loyalty from the greatest One Who gives grace and life and truth to lessor but good loyalties that advertise a more immediate response than that which the Kingdom of God may offer. I can quietly, stealthily begin to listen to the important voices calling to me rather than the eternal One which often speaks in a still, quiet voice. *Remind myself that "success" in the Kingdom is defined by faithfulness to the Savior as seen in loving obedience rather than the win-loss record of elections and bill passages. But a part of this faithfulness must manifest itself in the involvement of the church in the political process because the government wields much power and this power can be used for good or evil. When used properly this earthly power can bring freedom and justice, which certainly have spiritual roots, to many who would otherwise struggle in many kinds of tyranny. Slavery to a plantation owner in the 1860's was deplorable. Slavery to an enablement system that keeps people enslaved to the government is despicable and lessened only to the degree that freedom can be exercised to rise above circumstances with responsibility. To absence the voice of the church from politics would withhold those truths without which no nation can long survive. These Kingdom voices must speak truth to power which may not always meet with victory on this side of glory but will always be noted by the Kingdom of God. And truthfully victories are won this side of heaven: slavery is gone; women can vote; blacks can vote; education is public; we have a bill of rights-largely because of Christians (google John Leland and James Madison); * Remind myself again of the true calling of the church in all walks of life, be they political, social, or personal: to declare the salvation of Christ and be His hands, feet, and voice in the world. Our business is not limited to the business of political parties but extends to all mankind. Our Kingdom business in the church is to do what Jesus did and still desires to do through His church. He came to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). In this salvation He grants to those who trust Him His righteousness( 2 Corinthians 5:21). In this righteousness is justice and freedom (Galatians 5). We thus become the feet of Jesus to take the gospel to the lost, the hands to serve the needs of humanity and the voice of Jesus to cry out for justice for the marginalized, impoverished, forgotten, and neglected. If the church has lost influence in the Western world, quite possibly it is because we cried out more for our tax exempt status and our economic well being than we did for kids with aids in Africa, rape victims in Somalia, human trafficking in America, orphans anywhere, tortured Christians in China, or any group needing a voice in a world filled with the noise of self-interest. *Remind myself to always do things just because they are the right things to do. And in the meantime, and the times are always mean somewhere, keep learning more about what things are simply right. *Remind myself to always preach first to myself. I need to hear truth and I need a nap. Surely even my preaching can get at least one accomplished. Cos