Monday, April 27, 2009

Flu and You

Like one of my favorite theologians, Rosanne Rosanna Dana, used to say "its always something." Truer words were never spoken. Today's something is swine flu. A few years ago there was an avian flu crises. Every year we have to worry about regular flu. When the mosquitoes are bad, like they may be after these recent rains, we have to be aware of equine encephalitis and west Nile virus . ( How do the mosquitoes on the east side of the Nile know not to carry the virus?)Today's pandemic strain of flu virus apparently has some aspects of swine, avian, and human flu. That's why I like dogs, they never give you the flu. When today's "something" hits you, what do you think about God? Is He to blame? Is He punishing society or you in particular for past sins? Is He unaware or just unconcerned about your pain or hurt? It seems that way at times. How can God remain so silent when your hurtful circumstances scream so loudly? Yet, His silence can be deafening. How do you reconcile your beliefs about a loving God with the horror of wars, the seeming arbitrary nature of disease, and the often seen cruelty of man, supposedly made in God's image, to other men? Forget all that big stuff-- where is God when my wife, my kid, my grandchildren, my job, my bills, and my life are squashed by life? I have no easy answer. Allow me to share some mental gymnastics I do to get me through when times I wonder, question God or get down right cussing mad at Him. When going through a tough time I remind myself of these things: His purpose for my life-Jesus' desire is to make me holy, wholly righteous and totally His. My purposes for me are most often less or at least tainted with self-serving thoughts. I must admit that ofttimes I prefer health, wealth, and comfort. If God thinks I need those for Him to make my character to conform to His and have me available to always do His will, then so be it. If He chooses to use something else not as pleasant then I need to learn to trust the Master teacher in His classroom and submit. All those scriptures about being "a living sacrifice," "take up your cross and follow me," "we are counted as sheep for the slaughter," be holy even as I am holy," " He saved us and called us to a holy life," "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the day of completion," "walk in a manner worthy of your calling," well, guess what? He meant them and will not stop working on, in, and through us until His character and will are formed in us. Remember where you are- you and I live in a fallen world. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, life has been broken. That doesn't mean it is totally rotten. There is love, joy, laughter, and companionship. There are also spouses, children, grandchildren, ice cream, basketball, Danny's barbecue, and Pam's pie. Slices of heaven for sure. But in this broken world are hatred, fear, loneliness, disease, and pieces of hell all over. We tend to wonder if there is a God since there are these evil things. Couldn't we just as easily say there must be a God or we wouldn't have these wonderful things in life? The fact that the good things from God's grace show up at all is a testament of His love for this world and it's people. Do the math--A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day to the Lord. I checked with Bill McKee an Sara Edwards, a couple of people very much smarter than me on this one for the math. I don't do math. It has numbers in it. (see pieces of hell above) In heaven's time then, twenty minutes is about 13. 8 years. (there are 24 hours in a day---which translates to 1440 minutes in a day. Twenty minutes is 1\72 of a day or 20 divided into 1440. Using the same formula of 1\72, dividing 1000 years by 72 you get 13.88) So I might have to endure something 14 years, maybe even 20 years, it's only 20-30 minutes in heaven time. Surely, you can hang on and hang in for half an hour or so. I seriously don't mean this to be trite and I know that the bible numbers aren't always literal. Our problems can wear us down eventually but I do this heavenly math as a way of gaining perspective. The problems will not persist into eternity, but in Christ you will. Listen to the saints- the truth that we need to hear has probably been addressed by the church in some way or form in history. You are not alone in your struggles. I whine because I've had to bury 300 or so people from my churches. No, none died during my sermons-yet. John Donne ("ask not for whom the bell tolls") buried them by the thousands because of plague. It hurts to lose those you've gotten close to and it messes with the attendance figures. But the truth is that our worst day of saying good-bye to those we love is their best day, the day they were brought to salvation for in Christ. Hear what John Calvin wrote in "Institutes of the Christian Religion" in 1536: "God's sovereign rule cannot be separated from His saving purpose. The providence of God watches for our salvation, even when it most seems to sleep. Just as we find God in the "low places" of this world--a dirty feeding trough in Bethlehem, weary on the road to Jerusalem, and crying in dereliction on the cross-- we trust that He is most present in our lives precisely where He seems most hidden. It makes a tremendous difference in our lives when we trust that the same God who wounds, also heals." Amen, John. Watch Him- When you want to know what God is like and what He is about keep your eyes on Jesus. Don't look at the circumstances of your life to see where God is and what He is up to, look to your Saviour. It is not primarily by your circumstances, but in spite of them that we see God's love and grace. Look always to the cross, there above all our worldly circumstances, good or bad, we see that God loves us. I don't know what might bite you this week- viruses from a pig, a bird or a mosquito (but not a dog), or something more sinister, but this I know, God will never leave you nor forsake you in this world or beyond. And when I forget this myself, would you kindly remind me? Cos

Friday, April 24, 2009

Odds and Ends

Local intellectual and author Jim Browder stopped by for a visit the other day. As we briefly discussed writing, Jim mentioned how much harder it is to write a monthly column than a weekly or daily. I concurred. I'll try to get into a better groove. I miss it when I lay off too long and ideas pile up and its hard to sort them out and remember the inspiration if I wait too long. We also had computer trouble at the church so today's offerings are just odds and ends to get me typing again and catch up a bit. --Do you remember A Man Called Steve from Jaunary's blog. His name is Larry. I ran into him at Wal Mart not too long ago. He is content but physically he didn't seem to be doing too well. I'd appreciate it if you would pray for him. He probably more so. --If you have the Sheerluck Holmes Veggie Tales dvd. be sure and watch the "Gated Community" song. It's also on YouTube but its in German. I think our church's music director, Cynthia, should get the choir to do it. Good message. White Bluff folks would get a kick out of it. You can always use the excuse that you're buying the dvd for your grandkids if you feel awkward buying a children's dvd. --Speaking of church staff, our Associate Pastor, Ann, dropped in the office one afternoon. She looked like she had been on the golf course. I asked, "what did you shoot?" She didn't want to respond. I said at least I didn't ask her her age or weight. Later, as she was leaving, she called out "107". I'm still wondering if she meant her weight, age, or golf score. --On a recent visit to the nursing home I passed a resident sitting in a wheelchair in the doorway to her room. She had a beautiful, almost angelic face and very smooth skin. She had obviously been to the beauty shop as her hair was nicely coiffured. On my way back from visiting my church member I thought I'd speak a "hello" to this lovely lady. As I approached her I slowed down and went over to speak and with a voice out of The Exorcist I heard an emphatic "Keep Moving!" Oops, I'd found the nursing home's self-appointed hall monitor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can't See the Forest for the Golfballs

I am cheap.

This comes as no surprise to those who know me even moderately well. Part of this thrift comes from growing up in rural Texas the son of depression era parents trying to make a living on rented farm land. Another component of my cheapness comes from the necessity of being so due to the relatively modest salaries of pastor's of small churches and mission churches, especially in my younger days. Another part is I think I'm just stubborn and won't easily admit defeat--I take it as a personal defeat that I can't get one more glob of toothpaste out of the tube or wear that tee-shirt from 1977's summer camp at least one more time before it shreds in the washer.

 It's not that I don't have areas where great improvement might be made in stewardship of earthly goods but I'm for the most part just cheap. This serves me well most of the time, is an irritant or an embarrassment (see their reaction to my $9.95 sunglasses) to the family or others, and a spiritual weight around the neck at times. As it is, I've missed some wonderful blessings looking for golf balls.
I walk some, not as far or as fast as I used to but as the winds die and the temperatures heat up I am getting out there a little more. I walk about 2.5 miles and look to move that up to 3.5 - 4 miles by June. I use the golf courses to walk, mostly the New course but a couple of times the Old. While walking I'll edge over to the rough where hooks and slices go and keep an eye out for balls left by golfers as bad as me. I usually find at least a couple of balls if I'm diligent. I don't pick up Top Flight balls. I know I'm not good enough to be picky but I am. My favorite are Srixon balls but few people play with them yet so they are harder to find and cost $40 a dozen. I like a challenge and playing with a ball no one can pronounce. I, for some strange reason, hit them straighter. I've actually finished a whole round of golf on the New Course with the same Srixion ball. I lost it the next round. I also like Bridgestone really well. I find quite a few Titleist Pro-VI's. That's a good ball too and more folks play that one so they are easier to find. I scuff them up pretty badly.

 So what's wrong with finding a few free golf balls while walking? Nothing except I miss something worth more that a $3.50 golf ball. With my eyes on the ground to the right or the left I can easily miss the beauty of the golf course, the sights and sounds of God's wonders around me or even people who might need a wave and a walking prayer. There are wider vistas to see, bigger pictures to take in, beauty happening all around me and I'm flirting with rattlesnakes and cottonmouths trying to save a few bucks by cashing in on others' waywardness. It makes me wonder if I do that in other areas of life. Am I so bogged down in the details of living that I'm missing it's beauty and wonder. If the goal is to find golf balls then playing in the rough is ok. If the goal in walking is to pump the blood, get the heart rate up and finish the course then I need to keep my eyes up and forward.

If the goal in life is to just pay the bills and to keep myself entertained, then I guess wandering around is just fine. If the goal is a higher, more nobler call, then I best keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 Where are you walking this day? On course or roughing it?