Thursday, September 26, 2013

Driving for Distance

A co-conspirator in enjoying life and laughing as often as possible send me an interesting email. Rob T sent a story about a man who owned the same car for 82 years. He received a graduation present from his dad in 1928 in the form of a Rolls Royce. He drove it until he died in 2010 and it had over a million miles on it. The article said it still ran great.

At this time my mother-in-law is getting ready to sell her last car, a 1995 Accord with about 38,000 miles on it. It still runs well...the car I mean. Well, the 92 year old mom-in-law runs well too but she knows her driving days are over. I applaud the fact that she sees this and has made this decision on her own without showdowns with family or insurance or police. It can't be easy, but she's doing it. Kudos to Nettie.

When my time comes to quit driving I will probably whine, gripe, and be a nuisance to the kids and police officers who followed me home after having hit three cars in the Wal Mart parking lot where I'll be working at age 88. In other words, I'll just be myself as they pry the keys out of my hand. Wait, by then it will be a computer chip in my arm used to start the car... I guess they will deactivate the chip. Oh well... But rather than think about that "end play" I choose to look back a moment to the beginning of my driving--auto driving anyway. I learned to drive a tractor before the pick-up or car, not much before thanks to Pop. My grandfather started letting me drive his Chevy pickup around the pasture and fields at about 11 or 12 years. He even let me drive on the gravel road from one farm back to the house way before I was "legal" to drive.  His Chevy pickup and the red, 1963 Ford Dad had was a three speed on the column. Pop's old pickup even had the starter on the floor as did my other granddad's pickup. Starting, clutching, shifting without grinding and downshifting to slow or enter a field or driveway taught coordination to the kid and patience to the elder. Let's don't even mention the choke knob. You had to be fully engaged to operate the machine. It's no wonder the cell phone wasn't invented until much later, no one had an extra hand to operate anything but the vehicle in the 50's and 60's. I still remember the fear, the thrill, the excitement, the wonder when Pop got in the passenger door of the pickup when we were out in his pasture and said "you drive a while."

I didn't know it then, I couldn't then,  but I crossed a line. A rite of passage was taking place on a cow-rut road in a remote pasture. A part of being a little kid was being left behind and I was moving on. Responsibility, work, dates, fun, expense, repair, travel, adventure and a dozen other things moved onto the near horizon of my life that day. I'd take a '68 Mercury Montclair to college and on my honeymoon. It was the size of small aircraft carrier. I'd buy a new '76 Volvo with college money not spent because of athletic scholarships (and a little help from Dad) and carry my children home from the hospital and take my family to far flung places like Big Spring and Bronte in that puke green machine.

One day soon we won't be driving our cars, they will drive us. And one day soon after that, to the degree that control over your vehicle is still in a human's hand, an official will deactivate my computer chip and I won't be allowed behind the wheel anymore. That is sad. But I take solace and am even thrilled a bit to know that my Heavenly Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And in His Kingdom there will always be new cow-rut roads awaiting one of His children coming of age, ready to take on an new adventure. I will fear, thrill, and enjoy the excitement and wonder as time and again in His eternity He speaks to me and says: "you drive a while." And it will be considerably longer than 82 years.

Still chugging,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When All is Sad and Done

                                            When All is Sad and Done

Some days carry more weight than others. Some days carry more guilt. Some days the weight is the guilt. I have carried some guilt as of late. For a freed Christian and pastoral leader I am suppose to be over all the guilt trips. Much progress has been made on that front but it's not complete yet. I feel guilty about that.

I feel sad on some days as of late. I am sad I can't fix my wife's chronic back problems. I feel guilty that I can't, adding to the sadness. I feel sad that the Middle East is on the brink again, but I am having trouble remembering when they weren't. I feel guilty at times for living in such a nice place with nice people and wonder if it wouldn't be "more Christian" to live in a poor place with meaner, tougher people. Maybe I could have a bigger impact for the Kingdom. See, guilt can lead to fantasy before you know it. And to be honest, except for wanting my wife to feel whole again, the other "guilts" are short, fleeting, wispy moments.

But one has lingered longer lately. It has backtracked into my conscience several times over the past few weeks. It usually comes after the guilt of no peace in the Middle East, the showdown with Syria, the serial rapist news in Dallas, the floods of Colorado, the drought, remembrance of 9-11's horrors, the economy, the marriages and families struggling, and the continuing moral and spiritual decay in the hearts of Americans. These are all bad news items any one of which could spark a round of depression followed by a round of Jack Daniels.  Yes, they cause a pause, a pain, a sorrow, and even a little guilt because I can't fix them but the real guilt shows up shortly after thoughts and prayers about these and other signs of brokenness in life show up.

It is, for lack of a better term, the guilt of joy.

Yes, joy. A settled disposition of the heart that senses, knows, believes that the best is yet to come and is in fact guaranteed by Jesus but is yet to come in completion. Joy takes on a real but temporal expression because of its future fulfillment. You see, that joy thing is the reason that ten minutes, half an hour, half a day after the meanness of this world has shaken out my heart again like a dirty rug,  I smile, I laugh, I find sheer joy in a person, a quirk, a miss-step, a misquote, a juxtaposition or an outrageous spotting of grace and life and love.  The smile of two year old grand-daughter sends waves of rapture through the heart. It is fleeting but real. The tales the grandson tells at five make me so alive I can't wait to see what he says at six. The exquisite delight of people laughing, telling a joke, enjoying a meal, sharing an embrace or a cup of coffee is more alive to me than the pain and the horrors abounding. Am I deluding myself? Maybe. I am ignoring the facts? Possibly. Am I whistling past the graveyard? Why not? What do you do as you walk past the graveyard? Or maybe the fact that in the eternal, spiritual terms of the kingdom of God I know I am going PAST the graveyard helps me whistle. There is something beyond the graveyard, beyond the wars, past the pains of life that both breaks in on us as more real than these and at the same time pulls us on to its ultimate reality. I believe that is JOY. The joy of the presence of Christ in the heart, in the church, and in the world.

To C S Lewis, joy was the stab of longing that unexpectedly wells up in us during unguarded moments of contemplation.  It was a desire, never a possession, a longing, often unexpected, and a reminding of what was yet to be. In the Weight of Glory C S Lewis wrote that the yearning he experienced during those moments, convinced him there was another existence beyond this world. "For they are not the thing itself, they are only the scent of a love we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited."

Yes, but that perfumed lover, that artistic musician, that herald of good news has visited us from that other country. And the lover's song and His good news announces Joy. It is the flag of the King flying over the castle that signifies even in bad weather, bad economies, and war that the King is on His throne.  So when all is sad and done, then what remains is joy. It makes me feel guilty some days. It's a guilt I can live with.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Of Glue and Grease (mice and men was taken)

We all have a theology whether known or not. It is there. We all live our theology whether good or bad. A theology being the study of the nature of God as revealed, discovered, understood. For some it is a systematic, disciplined, grounded study based on scripture, history, logic, and hermeneutic principles of interpretation and discernment. For others, their theology is derived from the Three-O's: Opinion, Oprah, and Osmosis.  So everyone believes something about the nature of God, whether immanent or transcendent, close or distant, engaged with humanity or indifferent.  And we all act on what we believe. If I believe God doesn't exist, I act as though He doesn't. If I believe He does and cares about what I think and do, then this, too, affects what I think and do.

Bad theology can kill you. You're not sure about that. Your theology doesn't have God that close to care about daily, living things. Your theology isn't sure God is that judgmental. Your theology has God meeting "spiritual" needs. He is a God of Sunday, not business. He is a God of niceness, not politics. He has a hell for Hitlers and serial killers and child molesters, not little white lie people, not minor tax cheats, and not people who had rather play golf than go to church, not people who spend more gaming than giving.  You like the God of grace and mercy and love. You are put off by some people's God of judgement and discipline. Never mind that the Bible puts love and discipline together. Never mind that the Bible recognizes evil whether big or small, in me or in dictators, and will judge that evil. You like a God who saves, but the One who calls to holiness, the One who wields justice, well, let's just wait and see about that One.

Bad theology can kill you. If you are not sure just check out America. Do you even recognize it's lack of morality? Can you believe what entertainers "get away with?" Can you believe what ballplayers of professional games make? Did you realize that 35% of internet use is porn? Why are 30 million Americans on antidepressants, many because of fear?  Did you notice the churches in an uproar over the pain of drug abuse, the scandal of sex slavery in our country, the pain of half of marriages ending in divorce, the struggle of young people looking for work, joy, purpose and trying to find it in bottles, violence, pills, and suicides? Why the silence? If not outcries why not tears? This is based on bad theology. America's theology didn't allow for God to create humanity, to create in humans a life of joy, freedom from guilt and sin. Their theology didn't see much of anything as sin. Our national theology hasn't seen God as caring enough to be involved with them to love and discipline them and lead them in a righteous path. And we are reaping what we have sown and hasn't yet even broken our hearts.

I found it interesting how our bad theology played out in the recent New Mexico supreme court case of some professional photographers, the Huguenins, who decline to photograph a same sex marriage because of their Christian views. They were sued. They lost in New Mexico's highest court. Said Justice Richard Bosson's in his majority opinion, " In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for the other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation; the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a is the price of citizenship."

The theology of the New Mexico supreme court says God and your beliefs about Him have no place in business decisions. The marketplace, commerce sets the rules not God or your beliefs about God. Christians are merely glue and lubricants, to use his terms, to hold the machinery of the marketplace together and grease the cogs of commerce. Why were those who held certain beliefs reduced to glue and grease? Why could not the gays be asked to accommodate the religious values of the Huguenins and simply find photographers who would shoot their wedding? (It's New Mexico, there would be many) No, their theology  subservient to politics, popular opinion, and relativistic morality held no place for the Huguenins. This is bad theology. It will kill America.

God of heaven and earth, who knows, loves, and judges, forgive us and help us. May we as individuals and as a nation come to realize that Christ is before all things and in Him all things hold together. May Your church be not silent but speak the truth in love of His grace, mercy and justice.  And if it be that we Christians must be squeezed out in our culture and out of our culture, may our dying breaths and last drops of blood point to the very words and blood of Jesus  who still calls mankind to righteousness found only in Him.