Sunday, April 27, 2014
"You tolerate Jezebel."
Lord, I know my failures of commission and omission.
I know I have thought, said, and done much too often the dishonorable and disrespectful blurtings and behaviors that have insulted Your holiness and injured Your people.
I know I have not done much too often the thoughts, words, and actions that honor You and esteem all of Your children who are my sisters and brothers by adoption through faith in Jesus.
I know I have tolerated and enabled dishonorable and disrespectful commissions and omissions; offering accommodation and showing indifference betraying insincerity.
Called to be salt and light, I have tolerated Jezebel; professing Christianity while practicing a Thyatiran spirit.
I am sorry.
I receive Your forgiveness as I ask Your help to be more faithful in gratitude for all You have done for me here and now and forever through Jesus in whose name I pray.
Blessings and Love!
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
A friend has been selected by the Presbyterian Writers Guild to receive its 2014 publishing "First Book Award" for his novel set in the Civil War called Nathaniel's Call.
Bob Andrews, a year behind me in seminary and light years ahead of me as an author, is one of the few clergykinds who has captured my esteem generated by his uncommon authenticity, humility, and Romans 1:16-17 kinda courage.
Anyway, I read about his award in the 4/21/14 edition of www.churchandworld.com which is the best summary of news impacting modern ministry. The announcement was at the top with the other important links while my column on "Pauline Envy" was on the bottom with...
While I'm praising the Lord for Bob being recognized for the charismata entrusted to him and feeling nothing pejoratively egotistical aka envy concomitant to Romans 12:3, I was also a tad amused by the PWG's continuing ignoring of my pawn-on-the-chessboard-of-publishing efforts punctuated by six notoriously non-best-selling books along with a plethora of articles, columns, opines, vents, rages, and so on in professional to anal markets without even an invitation to one of their gigs, a gift card to Starbucks, or recommendation to that foundation in Indy that provides sabbatical relief for me to ride around the nation's perimeter on my iron pony to, uh, get, uh, more information/inspiration for another non-best-seller.
O.K., they did cooperate with Cokesbury on those two GA book-signings.
Really, I know my place.
It was reinforced just yesterday when I got my most recent royalties check for my last book: $3.94.
That was preceded by a Holy Week of glorious proportions; as we set some attendance records despite a few distractions from the pit of...
Actually, it all fell into clarity on Easter Day at 5:03 a.m. when I turned on a light to go downstairs into our Fellowship Hall to get some stuff for our first service, the bulb exploded, and I fell about 10' or so head first down the steps.
Lying on my side, I thought, "I really don't need this...I don't have time to go home to change if I'm bleeding...Hope no bones are sticking out...What the..."
I prayed, "Lord, are you trying to catch my attention or something? Is this related to my last column on Pauline Envy? Am I praying or having an OBE or what?"
I got up, got the stuff, and did what I'm called to do.
I'm a little sore.
Nothing to do with PWG.
Later that day, I prayed, "I guess I could have died today, Lord. I wasn't wearing a helmet. You just keep me keepin' on so I can try to be faithful to Your call upon my life. I have no doubts about it/You. I've still got Pauline envy; but You keep me falling into clarity."
That's why that award and check didn't bother me.
I praise God for how He works in the lives of others like Bob and how He works in mine.
For no better or no worse.
It's all the same for Christ's sake.
Contextually, it's a Romans 12 thing.
Blessings and Love!
Friday, April 18, 2014
While I'm a Yankees fan by birth and formative NYC years with Grandma Helen and Grandpa Jacob Kopp on Grove Street in Queens, I wish they'd never named the disease after Lou Gehrig.
My first introduction to it was many years ago with a brave man named Keith in Kansas City.
The mind stays sharp...as everything else goes to...
While I think I've matured in Him since then, I recall ALS tempted me to Deism.
I've often said I go through life without a helmet because it's nobody else's business, encourages my enemies, and witnesses to my trust in eternal life through Jesus,
Buuuuuuut if I were diagnosed with it, I just don't know...
So when Jim's wife called me, said he had it, and asked if I would come to visit him, I hesitated because...
They're not members of our family of faith at First.
They heard me at a funeral years before; and Donna said, "Jim liked what you had to say and how you said it. I think he would listen to you. I think you can help him...now."
Well, I didn't get into this business for the inane clergy/denominational meetings or satiating hyper-selfish-sensitivities or enabling idolatries or wasting time on...
You know what I mean; and if you don't, ain't no way for me to...
I was called to undershepherding under the Good Shepherd to announce the permanent peace that comes in paradise through Jesus and how that knowledge/belief/experience enables confident living or "strong calm sanity" (Oswald Chambers) in the meantimes.
I was called to urge people who get that/Him to show some gratitude for it all by loving Him back by loving like Jesus by the book.
So despite my personal aversions and previous disconcertings to/about it, I went to see Jim.
I've been visiting him every Thursday for the past six months or so; and I will keep visiting him until he goes home to Jesus.
Last Thursday (Maundy Thursday) was seminal.
As I arrived, Donna told me that Jim was slipping, weakening, and that the nurse said...
As Donna sat and listened and Jim could hardly talk, I reminded them of what we shared at the table of Holy Communion the previous Thursday.
Then after telling him how much I've thanked God for the privilege of getting to know and love him, I made a confession to Jim in front of Donna that I've never made before and kept in the privacy of my heart.
Our eyes locked without blinking throughout the confession.
His presence was thick and heavy and...calming.
I shared my deepest confession with him.
We bathed in belief.
I love you, Jim.
I've wanted to tell something to you for a long time now; and only now, as I know you're getting close to traveling home, do I feel...
Jim, I'm not a bullshitter. That has attracted many people to Jesus through me; and, yes, it has caused a lot of bullshitting religious people to leave churches that I've served. I just let my yes be yes and no be no and believe you're gonna catch it anyway; so you may as well catch it for Christ's sake.
So here goes.
Jim, I know you've loved this life. I do too. I know you'd like more time. Me too.
But I want you to know I kinda envy you. I mean I'm tired of the bullshit in our world, country, and churches. I'm tired of people who live to make life so miserable for everybody. I'm tired of babysitting people who can't differentiate the important from the incidental. I'm tired, as Margery Williams wrote, of people who break easily or who have sharp edges or who have to be sooooooo carefully kept. I'm tired of the bullshit. Even in my...
You're going home to be with Jesus...paradise...the pure and perfect place of personal peace where there is no more crying or pain or disease or...
You're going to see Him and know everything and know everything turns out well and smile at our silliness, stupidities, and...
I'm ready to join you; but I guess, because of moments like these, I can't join you just yet.
I'm like Paul.
I'd rather be with Jesus; but I guess He won't call me back home because I've gotta help folks cut through the bullshit to get it/Him.
But I want you to know, Jim, I really, really, really wish I could join you.
I really, really, really believe in Jesus and what He's got for you...real soon.
I'm kinda envious.
Do you understand what I'm trying to say to you?
His eyes are fixed in my hard drive; and I will click it/him/Him on as...
Oh, how I wish everyone knew what Jim and Donna and I experienced last Maundy Thursday as the bullshit was washed away by the gospel rivers of living water...
I guess that's why, for people like me who'd rather be with Jesus, the roll up yonder hasn't been...
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, April 17, 2014
While I've had lots of Damascus Road kinda spiritual evolutions since - October 2011 with Eugene and brothers in Montana being among the most notable - I've been blessed since physical birth in a 2 Timothy 1:5 kinda way.
Aunt Ruby comes to mind.
She died on April 4 at 94.
Obit excerpt: "Jesus, her friends and her family were the loves of her life. She always prayed, hoped and loved. She had a quiet and gentle spirit and was a great example of Jesus' steadfast love and sacrifices."
I could not be in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for her memorial/resurrection service because I am an undershepherd because of gospel seeds planted in my life from as early as I can remember by family members like Aunt Ruby.
Kathy, who privileged me with being her undershepherd, went home to Jesus on April 5 at 61.
Kathy loved Jesus and her family like Aunt Ruby.
She and husband David exemplified His best in marriage like I rarely see anymore.
On the day that Kathy traveled home, I kissed her on the forehead and whispered, "You'll be fine. See you later."
She whispered back, "Alright!"
I could not be in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania because I was in Belvidere, Illinois connecting the dots to eternity through Jesus for Aunt Ruby and Kathy.
Both are alright.
I will be thinking about Aunt Ruby, Kathy, and Jesus on Easter Day.
I will be connecting the dots to eternity; for whoever believes in Jesus, as He promised, never dies.
They just go home and wait for the rest of the family.
Or as Grandpa Hayden said to me not long before he went home to Jesus so many years ago, "See you later, Bobby!"
A pastor who I counsel because of clergy killers came to see me on April 11 before Kathy's memorial/resurrection service.
He was troubled: "Is Christianity as complicated as we are making it? Did Jesus really have all of these theologies and denominations and ...in mind?"
"I may be wrong," I offered, especially informed since October 2011 which resulted in the cleaning out of my library and closet (wink), "it's quite simple. Love Jesus and you go to heaven after you die. In the meantime, you love Jesus by loving like Jesus because you're going to heaven after you die. That's Christianity - that's Jesus - by the book."
Then remembering the clergy killers in his life, I said to him as I said to Kathy as Aunt Ruby said along the way, "The present sufferings are not worth comparing to what's coming in heaven!"
On that first resurrection day that we call Easter, the folks who got it/Him didn't run through the streets celebrating theologies and denominations and liturgies and architecture and vestments and...other temporal idolatries.
Come to think of it, I don't think any of that stuff is mentioned in the book...anywhere by anybody that knew Him in an enfleshed kinda way.
All they said was something like this: "He has risen from the dead! That means we will live forever with Him through Him! So let's act like it/Him!"
Or something like that.
That's what connects Aunt Ruby and Kathy and anyone else who chooses Him.
Really, I think that's what Easter/Christianity is all about.
It's not that complicated when you know Jesus by the book.
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Scratching the Surface
Every Sunday is Easter Day!
People who really know and love Jesus have always considered every Sunday to be “a little Easter Day” compelling people who really know and love Jesus to honor Him through worship, work, and witness.
People who really know and love Jesus are more eager to worship Him, work for Him, and witness to Him as a privileged expression of gratitude for His favor here and hereafter than as some kinda religious duty that makes fidelity look like a bad case of hemorrhoids.
People who really know and love Jesus smile a lot!
People who don’t, don’t!
Jesus is written all over the faces of people who really get it/Him!
Jesus is seen in people who really know and love Him because they serve Him by serving like Him a lot!
People who don’t, don’t!
It all started over two thousand years ago on that first Easter Day.
People weren’t excited about religious stuff like the funny church clothes that too many clergy wear in defiance of Matthew 23 or any of those distracting idolatries and vanities that obsess pulpiteers and pewsitters that are rarely more than coincidental to following Him by His example as attested in Holy Scripture.
People didn’t run around on that first Easter Day celebrating fabrics, furniture, architecture, liturgies, litanies, rubrics, rituals, ceremonies, polity, sects, denominations, or anything else religious that are rarely more than coincidental to following Him by His example as attested in Holy Scripture.
They ran through the streets of Jerusalem and then throughout the world with the best news ever: “He is risen!”
Those first witnesses knew His resurrection meant resurrection for anyone who trusts Him as Lord and Savior along with the wherewithal to live triumphantly in the meantime of worldly meanness, madness, and misery.
His resurrection elevated the hope that emboldened the faith to love Him by loving like Him in the certainty of “paradise” with Him in heaven after the last breath.
Praise Him for the irrepressible smiles and service since that first Easter Day!
We know Jesus rose from the dead because:
1. The Church has consistently focused on and referred to the resurrection of
Jesus as the keystone of its praise and practice since A.D. 32;
2. The worship calendar shifted for Christians from the Jewish Sabbath (7th
day of the week) to Sunday (1st day of the week) because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (see Mark 16);
3. The New Testament consists of 27 testimonies to our Lord’s resurrection;
4. The disciples were transformed from cowards into bravehearted Gospelers
willing to face the tests of torture and martyrdom because of Jesus’ resurrection; and
5. Jesus is alive in/through all who believe in Him; or as the old song goes,
“You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!’
Because Jesus rose from the dead, people who really know and love Him worship regularly, work for Him according to the gifts/resources entrusted to them by Him, and witness to His invitational, welcoming, including, and eternally unconditional love.
Every day is Easter Day!
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I wasn't thinking about retiring until one of my two favorite diggers who will take care of my "arrangements" when the role is called up yonder - Bill and Ric already have the music disk - said last Sunday afternoon while eating burgers in Janesville, Wisconsin half-way through a trot with our chrome ponies, "You know, brother, people will be making all of the decisions for us in about 10 years."
Order those Depends!
It was almost as bad as PackMan interrupting me on Main Street in Deadwood as I mocked a trike parade in 2010, "Don't look now but that's our future!"
Actually, while this will come as a disappointment to those who hate me in a Christian kinda way who would salivate over news that Grandpa Jacob's cancer has passed on to me or somebody shot me for Allah's sake because I keep siding with members, presbyters, and anybody else who still loves Jesus by the book, I ain't goin' nowhere now or ever but the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois to gospel unless Grandpa Jacob's cancer has passed on to me, somebody shoots me for Allah's sake, or the minority that thinks I'm no longer hip enough to be moderator, undershepherd, and head of staff becomes the majority.
Borrowing a line from Gump, "And that's all I gotta say about that."
Parenthetically, as an abridgement of Numbers 6, I'm not trimming/cutting another hair from my grays until every pew in the sanctuary has occupants in the second service.
Call Duck Dynasty for a cameo!
If the chapel can be increasingly packed at 7:30 a.m. for worship...
Yep, I've still got enough vinegar and that other stuff to last me for another two decades at least.
Really, why would I retire?
Sit in McD's all day with the other gossipers/geezers?
Stand in line for flu shots at Walgreen's?
Change diapers for grandkids?
Borrowing a line from Arthur's butler, "I live for it!"
O.K., I can think of a few things that I'd like to do and few things that I'd like to give up right now.
Buuuuuuut aside from riding around the nation's perimeter for two months on Return2 with a retirement gift that I forfeited in WSNC and being liberated from compulsory clergy meetings, really, why would I retire?
How does anyone retire from gospeling, Matthew 25 ministries, and other kerygmatic stuff?
Besides, ever since my denomination joined you know who in messing up medical care...
Sooooooo I'm gonna hang in until I'm hung up by someone about something.
Moretheless, the Lord keeps filling me with new wine and I'm increasingly intoxicated in/through/for Him.
I've never heard Him say, "Behold, I make all things old."
He never talked about becoming rigidly inflexible; to the contrary, He talked about stretching and making room for His new and improved ways of living.
The apostle echoed Him in saying we can be newed creations rather than reclining geezers.
Maybe it's my dad.
He's in his upper 80s and still practices or plays golf almost every day, sings in the choir, banters and moans about politics with an acuity that dwarfs me, drives on 80 like he's at Darlington, and buys new sticks more often than I trim/cut my grays that I ain't trimmin' or cuttin' again until...
In fact, my mom was bantering and moaning to me about a new driver and irons that he just bought the other day.
I said, "Well, just let me know when he stops buying 'em; then I'll clear up my calendar, come to make his arrangements, and preside at his..."
"Ooooooookkkkkkkay, Bobby, I get your point!"
I'm not demeaning those who retire for all of the right reasons; especially those who've been captive to jobs for purely financial considerations.
Buuuuuuut if you're doing something that God really wants you to do and you really like what you're doing for Him, what are you going to do when you retire?
Maybe it's Grandpa Jacob.
He retired from a job that he really liked, immediately got cancer, and died.
Coming from a denomination known for its connections, I think there was a...
Think and pray about it before...
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, April 6, 2014
If you don't write it down, you can deny ever saying it.
Just ask any politician - civil, ecclesiastical, educational, economic, or...
"You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. Not bad odds!"
In other words, be a weasel.
Is it any wonder why people don't trust our politicians, clergy, school districts, or...?
Too many of 'em don't have the courage of their conviction to be held accountable for what they like to say in darkness.
Read John 3:19-21.
BTW, in a world where even 2nd graders have cellulars and smartypants phones, why do you think there's still a need for those pay phones at your local gas station?
Again, read John 3:19-21.
Guy says, "Everything was going just fine...until I hit reply all."
I don't do Facebook because of what I've read on Facebook; besides I don't need to know when Auntie Em is going potty or how potty turned out or...
While we should be careful about what we say and write, especially when it comes to naming names, there's no integrity in denying what we know and He knows and others suspect.
While a little common sense helps in knowing when to hold and fold, integrity demands clarity in communication and sticking to our communications unless proven incorrect/otherwise.
Anyone who says and writes a lot will want to write/record it for anyone to read/hear lest somebody with suspicious motives invents/quotes what was never said/written.
I remember Dr. McCord telling me many years ago, "While you don't have to tell everybody everything that you're thinking, never lie! Yes. No. None of your business. I'll get back to you. Maybe later. But never lie!"
Catch the drift?
Nobody trusts anybody who changes their stories depending upon the audience; because people who agree with the last person they've talked to are like sentences ending in prepositions. Something's missing and most can sniff that out.
I learned a valuable lesson as a young pastor in New Jersey.
A bunch of Christian clergy and rabbis got together to debate the manger scene in front of the local library.
Being Bob Seger's little bit younger and lot bolder, I got up and said, "Let's face it. We have an irreconcilable theological difference. Some of us believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and some of us don't."
An old rabbi got up and responded, "My young Christian friend is right; and I'll be damned if he's right. But I'm betting my soul that he's wrong just as much as he's betting his soul that he's right."
Then we were able to trust each other and debate the issue with respect for each other while maintaining personal integrity.
If we hide what we really believe so we can deny what we believe, we may get along with people who hide what they really believe so they can deny what they believe.
If we do that, we'll just add to the increasing distrust in our civil, ecclesiastical, educational, and economic cultures.
Not to mention Luke 6:26.
Blessings and Love!