Archive for the ‘My Favorites’ Category

In any romantic you will find an obsessive fool one poem away from a restraining order.  The odd thing of the romantic is that the advances are only considered romantic if the object of desire reciprocates in kind.  If the heart felt flood gate of emotion is not desired then the word Romance suddenly turns into the word “Creepy”.

Pre-ritlin/pre-divorce I was an eternal romantic. I once wrote a poem to a girl for the promise of a kiss! She didn’t think I’d write it.  She was wrong.  I was kissed.  Love is temporary insanity. Think about Shakespeare for a moment; if there was romance in his plays it was either a tragedy or a comedy.  We think people do wild stuff for a klondike, but if you throw love into the equation, look out!

But there is that word “love”.  Is the romantic poet really in love with the person or the idea of love.  I determined later in life after several foolish relationship choices that I was in love with romance, and like missing the forrest for the trees I missed the person for all the wooing.  Was the depth of love involved at all?  Maybe.  At least shadows of love.

There is a place for romance but it ceases to be love when it distorts the true image of the other person.

I have read Keats, Shelly, Wordworth, and Byron.  Their poetry is fun to read and moving.  They were my “go to” poets when I wanted to impress or be inspired.  Never on my list was Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He was too practical.  Wise? Yes.  Deep? Yes. Romantic?  His three major essays are entitled; Compensation, Self Reliance, and Manners.

The other day I was going through a big box of books that someone in our church had dropped off.  Inside was a little brownish navy blue book filled with Emerson’s poems.  I love books. (have ever since I discovered in college that chicks dig dudes who read or were very manly.  I had long hair and pierced ears and I knew I wasn’t pulling one of those images off.) This book was published in the 1920’s and that fascinated me too.  I opened it up to the middle and saw a poem entitled, “Forbearance”.  Emerson really knew how to make the ladies swoon.

Naturally, I read it. Here it is.

Forbearance. by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?

Loved the wood-rose, and let it on its stock?

At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse?

Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?

And loved so well a high behavior,

In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,

Nobility more nobly to repay?

O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!


Mr. Practical.  Mr. Prudent.  Mr. Self Reliance, Compensation, and Manners. Mr., you sir give light to love.

What is Forbearance?  It simply means self control, patience, and tolerance.  Most romantics who desire with intensity to know love, spout words of lost control, impatience with waiting, and intolerance of the misunderstood.  This kind of romantic is no romantic at all.  This kind of romantic is a consumer of love, but not a connoisseur of love. Not one who will ever know love. Emerson, here in a few short stanzas, describes a love that Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians.  Love is patient and self control and understanding.

Emerson questions the one who says they love the beauty of birds and always shoots it down.  He questions the one who delights in flora and fauna only to snip off the head of a rose to place on ones shirt.  He questions the one who devours the object of their desire and the one who only sees the object of beauty for what it does for them and not the beauty of its self.  Emerson seeks the friend who seeks to partner with the life of the other in a spirit of learning and discovery not in a spirit of objectification and consumption.

When reading this poem, I immediately thought of the opposite kind of love.  I thought of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”.  Lenny was mentally disabled, very large and unaware of his strength and the impact his attention had on others.  Lenny loved rabbits, but in his affection would accidentally kill them.  The same thing happened with his love of a woman.

True love does not stifle and destroy the other person.  True love uplifts and encourages.  Love truly does show patience and self-control.  It is wonderful to compare her to a summers day, just make sure you “see” her and not just the highlights in her hair.  In love, the truth is opposite the rules of the sun.  In order to truly embrace the reality of affections and love, a person must be looked at directly and not distracted by the things we use to protect ourselves from true romance.  To experience the greatness of another person truly does take forbearance.  Forbearance, quite possibly may be the most romantic way to the soul of another.  Imagine the consuming fire of love built upon the embrace and respect of another person.

It doesn’t stop with lovers either.  In other forms it is the true way of friendship, and christian respect for others.  Jesus said to love one another as he has loved us.  We often leap here, once again, to the extreme of romantic acts of sacrifice, but what of the other ways that Jesus loves us.  He never disrespected the “person” of another.  Even in confrontation an act of love, an act of forbearance was used.  He saw a person of value, not an object.  What do you see when you see another?

Is this all to say that acts of emotion and expression are bad?  Far from it! Romanticism is wonderful.  A heart beats truly when expressed dramatically. Acts of poetry, music, and art are blessed ways to express oneself. Is a poem for a kiss a bad thing? No.  Just make sure you both really want a kiss and not a cheap limerick.


Read Full Post »

Walmart.  Walmart is a strange place.  I have decided that there is really only one Walmart in in the US and whenever we walk through the doors of our respective Walmart, we are transported to one located on the island where the TV show Lost is located.  It appears to be the same people.  I am not casting judgement, I am there as well.  I simply find it fascinating.

I do not go often, but today I needed my weekly supply of  40 pounds of dog food (don’t judge me), a plastic pool, hot dog buns,  bread, lighter, and “opsicles” as Sydney calls them. Come one, that’s a fascinating shopping list.  Once Syd and I loaded up the dog food (I have 3 dogs ok, leave me alone) we passed the dog toy section.  Sydney, who knows the difference between dog toys and baby toys as I do (not much) camps out here for a few minutes before grabbing 2 squeaky fish and a squeaky star fish.  Armed and squeaky, we pass by the live fish tank.  Little splashes of blue, silver, red, and orange darted back in forth while Sydney laughed. An oasis of kid entertainment in the middle of a world of stuff we only think we need because it’s cheap.

We stayed there just long enough for me to actually start thinking that we needed fish.  While I was contemplating this, two little girls, probably 4, came by.  One felt the need to tell me the name of all the fish.  There was a goldfish, a beta fish, a sucker fish, Bob, a mini shark tail fish.  I was personally fascinated by the Bob fish.  It was new to me.  Another little girl came by (is this where women learn to just gather and talk) and said matter of factly, “My fish died” to which the other 4 year old replied sincerely, “aww, that’s too bad”.  It’s like a mini women’s auxiliary. The only difference is that it’s not, “hey did you hear? Maude died last week, she was 84”. And likewise, the girls went on to talk about other fish.

After the kibitzing among the 4 year olds, they turn to Syd, my 2 year old who is holding one of the squeaky fish, minding her own business and sitting in her cart.  The other girl reaches in our cart to “borrow” the fish (again, squeaky not real).  This does not bode well with Sydney, so she gathers all her toys into her arms.  The other girl (I’m wondering where her mother is at this point) looks to me and asks, “why won’t she share?”   Now, I know adults are perplexed why their kids are reluctant to share a toy.  After all, it’s only plastic and they’ll return it right?  My cousin told me once to imagine a bunch of adults who don’t know each other, sitting in a circle, then asked to place their wallets in the middle.  Now imagine everyone grabbing other peoples wallets and telling each other, you’ll get it back.  Anxiety attacks! To the child, that is what it is like.  So I don’t feel bad not encouraging my 2 year old whose reasoning skills are minimal to give a child who reached into her safety zone her toy.I told the little girl that I didn’t know.  I thought to myself, the reason is that Sydney is 2 and neither she nor I know you and seriously, where’s your mom.

This got me to thinking about what we hold tightly too and why we don’t share with God.  I wonder how often we feel like Sydney when God is working in our lives.  We feel like he is taking something away from us, that he wants to diminish us in some way.  Diminished, isn’t that really why we don’t like letting things out of our control?  We feel like something is being taken from us.  Think about that times that you have known that God was asking you to do something or directing you in a direction you really didn’t want to go.  Why was their resistance?

I think one of the reasons we resist is that we do not trust the voice we hear, or we do trust but me misunderstand the motives.  In either case it means that we don’t know the God we say we believe as well as we think.  Could it be that our resistance to hear is a lack of trust in Christ?  Could it be our resistance to share our life with God is our lack of knowledge of who he is?  If I told you that the better you knew God, the easier it would be to hear, follow, and trust, would you actually take the time to get to know Him?  This weekend I will be preaching from John 10 where Jesus tells the disciples that the sheep know the shepherds voice and follow.  We will be reflecting upon how experience is a great way for us to learn to hear and trust.  This means we have to put in some kind of effort.  The Ball is now in your court, or the squeaky toy is in your cart.  What will you do?

Read Full Post »

The night is black.  The night is cold.  The night is windy.  One enclosed tent houses two of the men.  A rain fly and ground tarp shelter two others.  The fifth member of the group is weakened by the cold and chooses a hiking shelter with strangers rather than his brave friends. The two men under the rain fly swap stories quietly while they wait or sleep to come.  It is late and we are tired from hiking to their destination at… Slaughter Gap.  We need rest before the next days ascent to… Blood Mountain.  A voice is heard from the enclosed tent.

“Hey Guys?  You going to do something about that?” Mike asked with concern.

“About what?” I respond.

“You didn’t hear that?” Mike and Kenny ask with incredulity.

“Hear what?”

“That noise! could you check it out?”

I sarcastically respond, “Wait.  You want me to get out of my warm pack, find my flashlight, boots, and jacket to check out a noise that makes your voice all girlish”

Mike, “Well, yea”.

Because Owen and I are not zipped into a tent, we are able to see around the camping area fairly well for a pitch black night.  We bravely scan the dark with our head lamps and notice Kenny’s pack has been dragged about 12 feet.

Owen, “Kenny, it looks like it got into your pack”.  We debate  for a little while if it was a bear or a raccoon.  I think it is a raccoon.  Later,after the mauling, I am proved wrong.

Kenny, after unzipping 400 zippers to get out of his sleeping bag, tent, and rain fly, decides that moving his pack would be a good idea.  After he is back in his tent and the snores begin, I start to fall asleep.  I am then startled awake by Owen’s voice.

“There’s the bear” he whispers.

“Where?” Me, still doubtful.

“About 25 feet away from us between those trees”

“I don’t see…”

Owen, “See his eyes?”

Cory, “No…holy crap that’s a big bear”  This is perhaps the biggest black bear I have seen in my life.  I know black bears.  I have been to Disney.  I have seen the Country Bear Jambaree.  This bear is NOT carrying musical jugs.  He is not wearing a hillbilly hat. He is not singing bluegrass. He is beginning to walk toward our tent.

Cory, “Hey Kenny, if you have your pots, now would be a good time to bang them”  No response. “Ken, bang your pots… Kenny, there’s a bear”  I’m thinking “whose voice sounds a little girly now”.  Finally, Ken bangs the pot.  The Bear just looks at us.  Walks a little further away then gives us that over the shoulder stare that essentially says, “This ain’t over”.  And it wasn’t.

Mike, the big baby that he is, stays in his tent and asks Owen I, while we are moving our packs to a higher tree as well as a tree that is further away than it was before, if we can move his.  We do, because we are more like Jesus than Mike is… humble too.  I even put Mike’s pack higher than my own, because that’s the kind of guy I am.

The bear came back two more times that night.  He was determined and obviously in charge.  Kenny, Mike and I had place our pack high in a tree.  Owen, without permission from his tent buddy, brought his pack into our shelter.  I cannot tell you how many times that night I jumped awake as the rain fly drifted passed my legs making me think a bear was grabbing for Sir Owen’s stupid pack.

Although my appendages remained undamaged, the same cannot be said for Mike.  Mike suffered damages to his pack.  It was the third time the Bear came around.  He had already pulled Kenny’s pack down, again.  But after chewing on his wiffle ball bat, and seeing that Kenny was out of candy cigarettes (don’t ask and he is over 40) He attempted to pull the top of my pack off and apparently could not figure out how to use the Iphone, for he left that about 30 yards away from my pack.  Mike’s pack, however, was pulled out of the tree and dragged about 100 yards to where it was mauled.  Paw prints, slashes, plastic carnage everywhere.  I heard the snap of the branch and the dragging sounds of a pack rendered mute in its screams as it was dragged into the deep.

“Mike?” I say.


“He got your pack.”

‘What do you mean “he got my pack”

“Mike.  Your pack is gone”

There are simply those days when you just have to ask God, “why! Why do bad things happen to good people”

Perhaps, Mike, if you had taken the easy cheese, chocolate, tortilla shells, and other general snacks out of your pack and hung them 25 feet in the air like the rest of the campers, perhaps, and I may be going out on a limb here, but just maybe your pack may have been left alone.

After going through the crime scene, we notice Kenny’s face drain of all color.  He reaches down and picks up a piece of paper with Mike’s home address and phone number.

“Mike.” Kenny says with concern. ” He has your information.  He knows where you live.  You need to call Allison and warn her”.  Sometimes your worst fears are realized.  We just new that when we finally found a signal, that the Bear was going to answer when Allison was called.”

The fifth member of our crew, we’ll call him Scott, claims that the Bear came by his shelter and stuck his nose in.  But those claims are unsubstantiated and could possibly be the ramblings of an old mad man.  We will never really know the truth.  But I can say this for Scott, he is a tall man.

Over the weekend, as each of us laughed and shared about the nights events, we would have other hikers come to us with empathetic voices as they attempted to console us for the bear assault on our equipment.  We would just laugh and say, “are you kidding?!  A Bear just attacked our campsite.  This is the greatest day ever!”  You see we are a group of men who have a tradition of making an ordinary day legendary.  Each moment has the potential to be monumental.  Who are these men?

Kenny F. is a man who I first came to know when he was in college and I an 8 year old boy who loved kick ball.  Kenny is not a man who has ever been identified by his job, but by his relationship to his friends and family.  As a matter of fact, no one really knows what Kenny does, not even Kenny.  At the law firm he works for, he is known as “The Guy”.  It is possible he is like Matlock’s investigator.  I don’t know.  I do know that he is the eternal athlete, quick with a joke, and is all in for a laugh.  He is a man who, in the days of minimalist hiking, carries a novelty sleeping bag, a wiffle ball bat, and a pitching wedge. You ask why and he responds why not.  As funny as he is, he is kind of quiet.  He was one of my youth group counselors, but I couldn’t quote him.  The lessons he has taught are the lessons he lived.  He was the only non minister in the group, but his life is a sermon of following Christ.  His life says, love God by loving your family, loving your friends, looking out for the little guy, the stranger, and giving it all you’ve got.

Owen F. (no relationship to the F. in Kenny’s name)  is one of the reasons I am a pastor.  So blame him or thank him.  Owen was my first youth minister. Before that he would lead the children in goofy singing for our Wednesday night programming.  He taught me how to imitate Kermit the Frog.  He introduced me to Paul Simon and Amy Grant.  He had a crush on one of them, though I don’t remember which ; ).  It was under his term as youth pastor that I won the award, “Everybody’s Kid Brother”.  That award was thrown in my face several times when I asked girls out over the next few years.  But it was in eighth grade that I came to Christ because of an invitation Owen extended.  I don’t remember what was said, I just know that because he had a relationship with me and he had one with Christ, I could trust his invitation and discovered the joy Owen had for myself.  For that I will be eternally grateful.  As for the award… we’ll see.  Later when I was 15, Owen and his Friend Billy D. (not williams) had a band and came back from seminary to put on a concert for his former youth group.  He and Billy extended a different invitation, this one to ministry.  I accepted, although I thought it would be a little more rock-n-roll than it turned out.

Scott A.  My second and last youth minister.  He followed Owen and introduced me into a weird world of strange eateries, sayings, games, and spirituality.  He is the story teller, the perfect poker face in the shadow of difficulty.  It was through his tutelage that I learned the lesson, “if you can make them laugh, you can get out of trouble”  He opened his home up to youth and college counselors regardless as to whether or not they were clueless to the bedtime of his family.  I learned when and when not to be competitive.  I learned that fun and sport can be made out of anything, and I learned the great lesson that it is always better to look the fool than to make a fool.  It was through my relationship with Scott that  I discovered the humor of Jesus.  More precisely, the joy of Jesus.  Scott wasn’t/isn’t about religion, but about relationship.  What’s the point of knowing Jesus if you can’t live life with him and others.  I learned not to see tasks, but opportunities.  Scott is the king of underdog development.  He sees people like he see life.  Potential for joy.

Mike H.  is the Dick Clark of ministry.  His look has not ever changed.  It is his normality that makes him unique.  Mike is several years older than me and was one of a group of guys in our youth group that embraced the role of big brother to my “everybody’s kid brother” when I first came to the youth group.  Not the Wally to Beaver kind of big brother.  It was more of the Bart to Lisa… not that I am a girl.  The nature of our friendship over the years has been good natured teasing, faith challenging, and an honest lesson in friendship.  Mike, as much as I hate to admit it, was the “popular guy” in school and at church.  But he wasn’t one to let that go to his head.  (Mike, this is killing me to say these things).  You see, Mike, for the most part, has never tried to be anything than who he is.  This should not be confused with complacency.  He is one that recognizes his flaws even before I point them out! He embraces them, but not to settle but to be transformed.  As much as Mike’s style has never changed and his weird seemingly agelessness, he surprises me constantly in the depth of his faith and his willingness to wrestle with God and submit.  That character has been in him since I have known him and it was that character that I noticed first about him when he was beating me silly with brotherly love throughout our youth group days.

What does any of this have to do with Bears?  Everything and nothing.  All of these men are normal… alright, normal might be pushing it.  None of these men are extraordinary.  They do not lead fortune 500 (although Kenny’s work is still mysterious).  They do not lead mega churches or book speaking engagements that pay big bucks.  They do not have a best seller, their “friends number” on facebook is not more than a 1000, and the paparazzi could care less who any of them are.  What they do have is a very real faith in God that applies to every aspect of their life.  Their faith is lived out not just when teaching in a class or preaching from a pulpit, but in the way they bring life to whatever group they find themselves in.  God language does not dress every sentence they say, I’m not even sure proper sentence structure is used in every sentence they say, but the love of God overflows it all.

We carried the heaviest food, for some reason Kenny brought a 2 pound block of what looked like government cheese.  We had the heaviest packs.  I’m still not sure what Owen carried that was so heavy.  We hiked into the designated campsite along the Appalachian trail and were surrounded by experienced and very serious hikers.  No one had built a fire.  It was so cold we were wondering if maybe a fire wasn’t aloud where we were.  We decided to make one.  We lit a fire.  Chipped around a plastic golf ball.  Played a game of trail approved rock toss.  We then gathered around our fire while we ate dinner.  A hiker timidly came toward us.  We were very jovial, the rest of the hikers very docile.  Kenny and I thought they were coming to tell us to put the fire out, that we were breaking some environmental code.  The hiker spoke.  “Do you all mind if we put some of our paper trash in your fire… and maybe warm up to it as well?” We, surprised, said of course.  Later 3 or 4 of the hikers joined our fire and were grateful for the company and warmth.  Turns out that one of them was from Fleming Island!  I thought to myself, “I am glad I was behaving”.  We all shared a few stories of who we were.  We shared the community of Christ.

I reflected often over the weekend at how much our many conversations of the ridiculous and nothing had over the years formed each one of us into something.  God took nothing in the beginning and made something wonderful.  Jesus took bread and wine and summed up the Gospel.  Each one of these men took a little bit of the bread that Christ offered him and shared it with others and we all live lives that are abundant with its fruit.  I am grateful for these men and the many others friends in my life that have contributed to the Kingdom of God in such a way as these have.  I hope your lives have been impacted by Christ in similar ways.  We don’t have to be clever to share the love of God, we simply must be willing to live it.

Read Full Post »

a bug’s life

I was not here this past Sunday, so I do not have a Tuesday Morning Quarterback story for you.  But I have been chewing on something.

I have once again been thinking about bugs.  Not just any old bug, but butterflies and caterpillars.  Today as I was making a PB & J (that’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for you civilians) and I was cutting that sandwich into the shape of a butterfly for Sydney (because I am the most awesome of dads) I was thinking how weird it is that I am making a butterfly shaped sandwich which my lovely little 2 year old will shortly decapitate with her tiny incisors.  I also began thinking about the maligned life of the Danaus plexippus (caterpillar).  Caterpillars and Swan ducklings, in my opinion are sadly overlooked compared to what they become.  Oh, we think we appreciate them, but actually we only like them because of whom they become.

Think about it for a moment… the moral tales we tell of the caterpillar have more to do with encouraging people to wait it out, because one day they will be special even if in the meantime they are not.  We may make a spin on this for those who must sacrifice to be around such creatures at the ugly duckling or the caterpillar.  Think about Beauty and the Beast.  The reason the prince gets turned into a beast is because he is unkind to the hag who comes to the door.  The moral is, always be nice to whoever comes to you because they might “one day become beautiful” or “they might not be as ugly as they seem” and won’t you be sorry if you missed out.

But what of the actual  beauty of the moment.  The person that is already wonderful  before our eyes.  Take the caterpillar.  It is the same genus name as the monarch (at least the monarch caterpillar).  It is already who it is even before it is complete.  Its very wonderfulness is found in its very existence.  The butterfly at its larva stage (the caterpillar) is just as valuable as when it is found at its completed stage.  You see, the caterpillar doesn’t earn its wings through some magic spell or even good deeds.  It simply becomes what it was destined for by living out who it was called to be each day.  In order for the caterpillar to become a butterfly it had to live fully out of its caterpillarness. (my blog, I can make up words if I want to).  It would die if it were to live any other way.

God created us and called us and loves us.  He calls us to be perfect as he is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Uh oh, there ain’t know way I’m livin’ that one up.  Ah, but there is something we should look at here.  I have a book of prayers called “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  The Editors included a brief writing of C.S. Lewis on this passage of perfection.  Lewis brings to light that the 2 words for perfection in the Greek are slightly different.  The one referring to God is limitless and the other is limited in its ability.  He writes: “What this means is that Jesus’ command to be perfect is attainable (at least on a good day!).  We are asked to be as perfect as we can be, even like He is as perfect as He can be.  We are being asked to eat our dinner like our Daddy, not to eat our Daddy’s dinner.  As we grow, so does our capacity for such food.” (pg. 525-526).

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up because we are not who we want to be one day.  We set out on a mission to be like Jesus, but when Judas comes around we don’t want to forgive, we want to poke him in the eye.  Then we think, “oh no, I’m doooooned”.  We wonder why we don’t have the drive or passion to serve like Mother Teresa and then think, maybe I’m not Christian enough.  We then feel inadequate before God and other Christians.  We go to church sometimes and think, “I bet nobody else sinned this past week.  They probably volunteered their last paycheck to a homeless man too.”  Forget God and others judging us, we’ve judged ourselves and then think, I don’t belong in church.

So what, then, do we do?  Here is the good news;  God did not come to condemn the world.  He said we do that to ourselves.  But he does call us to be as perfect as we can be considering where we are at the moment.  Is this an excuse to sin?  No.  It is an excuse to live.  He looks at us and our caterpillar self and declares his love of us, reminds us of whose image we are created in and called to live, and gives us a choice.  Live out of brokeness or healing.

One day we will be transformed fully in our resurrection.  But the Kingdom of Heaven begins now, and we can begin living that resurrection life now.  It is hard to live out of the love of God when we constantly despise ourselves.  Ask God to help you love your caterpillar self so that you might live out of his love.  If you do, you might even begin to see the wonder that is you today.  Imagine what you life would look like then.

Read Full Post »

The women on my dad’s side of the family are by no means delicate.  Sugar and spice and everything nice?  They’ve not heard of it.  They were young adults during WWII.  Their men were at war and they were struggling to find jobs in Mississippi.  They did not grow up wealthy by any means.  My grandmother, who we call “Bubba” (you might be a redneck if you granma is called bubba), she was (is) a little woman.  Part of her story (which includes picking cotton) is telling a man that he WILL hire her and if he doesn’t like her after a week he can fire her and if she doesn’t like him, she’ll quit, but he will hire her.  She had that job for several years.  My great Aunt Ruth, Bubba’s sister, she outlived three husbands, had her hair done weekly at the “parlor”, and carried a hand gun (and as she told me, “it has hollow point bullets, make a small hole going in and one big enough to put your head in going out”) Sugar and Spice.  I found out about the hand gun when she (83 at the time) told me that someone broke into her house.  I asked her what she did.  My Great Aunt Ruth, with parkinson’s (she called the shakes) said she reached into her purse and pulled out her 45.  All I could think of was the man facing my Aunt Ruth with her shaky hands pointing that gun and listening to her tell him that she may be shaky but it only takes one hit.  Apparently Aunt Ruth was the mold for dirty harry.

Delicate, by no means.  But sickness and death are by no means impressed or impartial.  Bubba, is 91 but has no short term memory.  My Great Aunt Ruth passed away this week. Lent, normally a time when we reflect on mortality through means of some kind of fast, has unfortunately  hit closer to home for several in our congregation.  Grief and mourning is exhausting as we seek understanding, meaning, and the ever frustrating question of “why?”.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a little less grief for awhile.  I’m ready for Easter.

Yesterday I was setting up for our Good Friday Tenebrae service.  Generally when I am setting up for this service it is a very somber time, reflecting on what Jesus did for us.  As I was walking between the buildings I had the song, “were you there” in my head.  The line “were you there when the sun refused to shine” drifted by while I was outside.  Yesterday the sun was shining and not one cloud crossed its path.  That beautiful day made it very difficult to think of suffering.

The more I thought about it, it wasn’t just the blue sky that kept me from sorrow; it was the fact of Easter.  Easter is the story of life, of resurrection, of eternity, of possibilities, of HOPE.  That word hope is the key.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we are not to grieve as those with no hope.  Are we to mourn the loss of those we love? Of course, but we do not mourn in finality, we do not more in vain, but in the reality that death does not have the final say.

This Sunday we are going to celebrate life, real life, that exists because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why do I call it real life?  Because it is life that is not hindered by the fear of death.  Life that is propelled in the now, because of what God has done and promises to do.  It is real life because we can stop living with the strategy of existing by avoiding and fearing death and move to a life in which we truly lay down our burdens  and breath deep the vitality of beginning our eternal life today.

I envite you to read Luke 24: 1-10 in preparation for this week.  As you do ask yourself what you find when you look in the tombs of your life.  Is it desperation, heartache, and fear?  Do you find anger, control, and frustration?  Is it sickness and despair?  Or maybe, you are ready to open the tomb in your life and find the  sweet liberating resurrecting reality of Jesus Christ.


  1. For God to prepare your heart to meet him and for the life he desire to place in you.
  2. For others you know who need healing and hope.
  3. Ask God, how you might be a light of his resurrection in their presence.
  4. That God might help you see the areas you need to let go in order to be free
  5. That God might give you the courage to let them go.
  6. That  the Holy Spirit might fill you with the knowledge of his presence and resurrection.
  7. For me, as I continue to prepare to lead you in tomorrows worship.

Calling Jesus the Only Hope is not out of desperation, but out of pure joy of knowing I could ask for no one greater.  After meeting Christ, how could I want for more.   The Good News of Jesus Christ and his resurrection is that as debilitating as sickness and death are, they are no match for the grace and power of God.  Death is broken in the power of the cross.  Do I grieve for my family?  Yes, but not as one with no hope, for I know that my savior lives and one day, minds will be mended, hands will be steadied, and the zest for life those two women had will be renewed.  You see, God has the last say,

Read Full Post »

I have sent in the request, but I have my doubts that the Olympic committee will introduce diaper changing as a new sport.  I am constantly amazed at the advanced martial arts skill my 2-year-old has.  She doesn’t have the motor skills to draw a square, but can perry every move I make in an attempt to change a diaper.  Not strong enough to lift a toaster, but is able to keep me at bay with a little kick.  Sydney has 2 arms and legs just like most kids, yet somehow on that changing table, where it would appear I have the advantage, she grows extra appendages that move with speed that surpasses that of a teenage girl talking about who’s dating whom. Forget reasoning, she’s too young and what does she care if it takes a few minutes longer?  She’s been covered in “whatever” all night anyway and where does she have to go? So here I am, almost 40, and losing to a 2-year-old.  My intention is to clean her up and sometimes the only way that is going to happen is if I get a little dirty in the process.  Now, my precious heart is dressed and pristine as I move to the process of cleaning the wonderful aroma of A&D ointment and Poo off me and everything else, all the while Sydney grabs my hand and says, “Play?”

The beginning of the Gospel begins with the declaration to make our paths straight for the coming of our Lord and the beginning of Jesus’ last days give picture to many people preparing a path for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  On Palm Sunday we remember the story of the Passion of Christ rehearsing the scene of welcoming Jesus by throwing down coats and palms.  But we also have the advantage of rehearsing the palm processional on this side of history.  What we know is that the preparation for those in Jerusalem was incomplete.  As soon as they welcomed Jesus, they then fought him every step of the way.

If I ask my 2-year-old if she wants to be changed, she says, “ok”, leads me to the changing table, and that is where the cooperation sometimes stops.  I wonder how many times in our life we know we want to change, we know it takes Jesus to create that transformation, and we even go so far as to make a path straight for him to enter our world; yet, that is where our cooperation ends.  We want to be “changed”, yet we fight and even resent the intrusiveness of what is involved in that process.  To allow God to renew our lives, it means allowing God to get personal with us.  Our religious practices help us prepare the way, but it is our relationship with God that actually creates the transformation.  How close do we let Jesus get to us?

The other thing I thought about was the length that God has gone so that we might be “cleaned”, so that we might be given life to live today.  The only way for our lives to be cleansed of sin is for Jesus to get a little dirty himself.  I don’t mean to say that Jesus sinned for us but that he took responsibility for our sin upon the cross.  This is the other image we find on Palm Sunday, the image of Christ being crucified for sins he did not commit.  This is a theme I plan to explore in more detail next week, but for this weekend, as you find yourself thinking about Palm Sunday, reflect on what you really expect from Jesus in your relationship with him and what you expect from yourself.  Maybe you have gone so far as to “prepare a way” or embraced the idea of Jesus in your life, but have you gone so far as to trust him in a relationship and to trust him with all of your relationships? The goal of Palm Sunday is not so that we feel guilty about our lives but to see the opportunity God has created for us.  God’s goal in his passion is not to lord what he has done over us, but so when we get down off the changing table we can look at our Heavenly Father and, as my little girl does, grab his hand and say, “Play?”

Read Full Post »

I spent my Monday “day off” under the burden of what I call “hot wing hang over”.  No alcohol was in involved but the same amount of lack of thinking was.  The result; headache, dehydration, regret (only a little).  It all began Sunday evening or perhaps last summer.  Philip, a senior in high school and one of our guitar players, participated in the Hurricane Grill and Wings category 5 hot wing challenge.  If you can eat 10 of their hot wings without any dipping sauce and only water, you get a free t-shirt.

Philip was wearing his t-shirt at youth last night and from what I have gathered, it sparked a conversation that I am sure involved Jeremy, our youth minister, and Clayton, our drummer and one of the counselors, and their respected manhood being challenged.  I would not be surprised if my wife Amanda, also one of the youth counselors, helped in this challenge.  Where am I in all of this?  Unsuspecting and feeding my daughter her supper.  The phone rings.  Philip is delivering a message to me from Amanda.  Philip, ‘Pastor Cory, do you want to see 2 grown men cry?”  Me, “who wouldn’t”  Philip, “Amanda says to pack up Sydney and bring her to Hurricanes to watch Clayton and Jeremy see if they can eat these ridiculously hot wings”. Me, “alright”.  Philip, “Amanda says you can participate too.” Doubtfully I respond, “maybe”.  So, I do as I am told (I have a happy marriage after all) and as I pull into the parking lot I see Philip with a camera.  He proceeds to tell me that Amanda has already purchased my wings.  So, like many good marriages, my decisions are made for me.  As I walk the “green mile” into the restaurant I notice it is full with mostly youth and a few parents.  I am suddenly feeling like a Christian in a Roman Colosseum or Russel Crowe in Gladiator, “were you not entertained?”  So I found my seat ready to be filled to create the 3 musketeers? 3 stooges?  3 blind mice!

Perhaps my favorite moment of the night happened when the manager brought the wings over to us and said, “please, if you feel like you are going to vomit, try to make it to the bathroom or outside”.  Vomiting? I asked “seriously, people vomit?”  His reply, “oh yes”.  What has my wife gotten me into? (ok, my pride may have had something to do with this as well).  So the ship of fools set sail and we each took our first bite… There is hot, there is spicy, and then there is “why would anyone hate themselves enough to eat this foul fowl” inferno.  Now, a wise man may have put his wing down at this point, but, wise men have no pride.  By the way, dear reader, hiccups happen for several reasons, one is to dislodge food that does not belong.  Clayton and I both go the hiccups.  We kept going.

There were 2 types of winners (and 3 types of fools) that night.  One kind of winner was to simply finish.  The other kind of winner finished first.  I wanted to be done more than I wanted to win, but competing helped me accomplish my goal.  People were cheering on the guy ahead.  I thought it was Clayton, so I picked up the pace.  Turns out I was the guy that was ahead, I was trying to outpace myself (issues).

We all finished.  Our faces and mouths continued to burn for about 20 minutes after we were done. Our lips looked like punch bowls.  We consumed copious amounts of water.  We congratulated one another and sat very still.  None of us slept well.  None of us felt good today, but, by golly, we all got a free t-shirt.

What does this have to do with the rivers edge?  One might think I would talk about the foolishness of pride.  But lets face it, if you don’t know that lesson by now, reading this is not going to teach you anything.  One might say that we should lead our youth and not be egged on by them. Perhaps. What I really saw was a picture of God’s grace and community.

I don’t mean that God was gracious because none of us went to the ER.  Let’s face it, that was mercy.  Grace was the community within that room.  True, most went to see if we could do it, or to see grown men cry, but while there no one mocked us (out loud).  We were cheered on, even by strangers.  We were encouraged.  And even though we did a stupid thing (I’m not gonna lie), they embraced us with kind hospitality.  Stephanie McCrae made sure our water was filled, and even though she accidentally missed my glass and poured it on my leg, she was a picture of Jesus in that moment and believe me when I say, at that moment she could have dumped it over my head and I would not have cared.

What happens to many of us in this life is that we make poor choices for things we think will bring us good feelings.  We miss the mark many times and end up with a “hot wing hangover”.  Many times what we find is not a community that embraces us back without conditions, but communities that say “see I told you so, you got what you deserved”.  But Jesus is so different.  To the woman caught in adultery, he did not say “here’s a rock for your eye”.  He asked her where her accusers were.  He takes in the wayward and nourishes them back to life.  This is one image of the church.  A community called by Christ to cheer one another on, to encourage, and welcome back to community without judgment but with gentle healing guidance.

Last night was a picture of stupidity and testosterone for sure.  But it was also a great picture of the fellowship of Christ.

Read Full Post »