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Writings and ramblings about life, God, faith.

Friday, August 2, 2019

success


 Image result for Greeting Card model

Seen on a greeting card:

What is success?

Setting goals, but not in concrete.

Staying focused, but turning aside to help someone.

Following a plan, but remaining flexible.

Moving ahead, but not too fast to smell the flowers.

Taking a bow, but applauding those who had a part in your success.

THAT is success.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

GREAT START

One never knows when or where God may put a person in your path that could impact the lives of both of you. Or at least make your day a bit brighter.

I didn't want to start my day with a re-check on a patient's prescription, especially one who had just walked in five minutes after I arrived at the office. But what a great start to my day it turned out to be. Thank you, God, for bringing that patient into my life.

She was such a happy, charming, funny person I would never have guessed that she had 26 surgeries in the past 30 years or so, mostly for colitis and other GI issues. But in the course of talking to her she mentioned that her troubles are for the glory of God, because she uses them to talk to others about God and his faithfulness to her in spite of her trials. She mentioned that she's ready to be with God any time because she loves him so much.

I said, "I say the same thing to people, too. I know where I'm going so I'm ready any time. Like Paul says—"To live is Christ; to die is even better." If God has more for me to do here, great, but I'm ready to be with him any time."

Her expression changed as I was talking, and tears formed in her eyes. I'm sure she wasn't expecting her eye doctor to say such a thing. She said, "Oh, I'm so glad God brought us together today. I needed this so much. I needed to hear that. Who would have thought I would have found such hope from my eye appointment?"

We talked more about her church experiences. She loves the Lord but has been essentially shut out of churches because of being gay. She was very involved in a church for four years, singing with their worship band. She mentioned that she is "an awesome musician and gifted songwriter", and she wanted to lead the worship band but the church leaders would not let her because of her lifestyle.

"I haven't dated in 10 years," she said, "but that didn't matter. Being gay goes against their teachings. So, I left the church. But I need to be part of a church. I need the support of others in my faith, and it helps me learn more about God."

I was able to tell her about the United Church of Christ, which welcomes all people, including gays. The slogan of the UCC is, "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here." Some of the UCC congregations are Open and Affirming, meaning they have gone through a two-year process to talk about homosexuality and spirituality and have voted as a congregation to welcome gays without judgment, even agreeing to marry them in the church. She said, "I'll have to check it out. Going to Reading may be worth the drive."

She again expressed how happy she was about our encounter. "I'm so glad I met you," she said.

"Well, this was a wonderful way to start my day," I replied.

She started to cry and said,"You've given me such hope." I reached out and gave her a hug.

Both of us had our faith strengthened and our joy renewed from a "chance" encounter that God knew all along would happen.

Thank you, God, for the people you put in our path, some of whom are the least expected to be part of your kingdom.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

LISTEN

When the rains of life beat upon you, when tragedies come, when trials get you down and you wonder where God is through it all, listen closely, and you may hear God's beating heart as he enfolds you in his arms and whispers to you, "I love you. And nothing will ever stop me from loving you."

"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

IN THE BEGINNING



William Self, in a book called Defining Moments, relates the story of a "Middle Eastern prince who fell in love with a beautiful peasant girl. Eventually he proposed marriage and she accepted. Such an event should be marked by a gift of rare beauty, so he searched the empire for the most beautiful diamond to give to her. Obviously, the most beautiful diamond demanded a specific box of rare beauty for the presentation of the precious gem. For this he commissioned the royal cabinetmakers to make the most beautiful box in the kingdom for the diamond.

"On the day the diamond was to be presented, appropriate servants, horsemen, and soldiers were summoned to march in the entourage to the peasant girl's cottage. The neighbors and family gathered as they approached. When the prince presented the kingdom's most beautiful diamond, nestled in the kingdom's most beautiful box, they were amazed and awed at the spectacle. The peasant girl studied the gift at length, and then startled the crowd by discarding the diamond and keeping the beautiful box."

William Self writes, "This is not unlike what we have done with the miraculous story of the creation given to us in our text [from Genesis]. We have spent our days debating the scientific inadequacies of the story. We have completely missed the beauty of the gift that God has given us in this great story." (William Self, Defining Moments: First Lesson Sermons for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, cycle B, c 1999, CSS Publishing Co., Lima, OH, p. 61)

The Biblical story of creation is a great story. And I am not here to debate the scientific inadequacies of the story or try to prove how God created the world or how long it took. I don't care if it took God six literal days or six billion years. The Bible is not a scientific text; it is a book of faith.

The Bible is not answering how—how the earth was created or how long it took; it is answering who—God.

In the beginning God…

God was in the beginning.

And the Bible is answering what.

What did God create? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Specifically, God created the universe.

But more generally, God created order out of chaos. The earth was formless and void. Peterson describes it this way in The Message: "Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss."

And then God took that nothingness, that emptiness, and created a world out of it. He dispelled the blackness by simply speaking, "Let there be light," and there was light.

I will put forth a little evidence, so to speak, in support of it being a creation and not just an accident.

Stephen Hawking, the eminent physicist, admits that if the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had varied by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed. If the nuclear force in certain atoms varied by only a few percentage points then the sun and stars would not exist.

Life on earth today depends on similarly delicate fine-tuning: a tiny change in gravity, a slight tilting of the earth's axis, or a small thickening in its crust would make conditions for life impossible.

Confronted with the staggering odds against random existence, Richard Dawkins, one of the world's most famous atheists, simply shrugs and says, "Well, we're here, aren't we?" (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace)

Yes, we are here. But why?
That is perhaps the most important question the Bible answers.  

Why? Why did God create?
Why did God go to all the trouble to create the world and everything, including us, in it?

Because of love.
Because God is love.  That is the whole reason for all of creation. Love cannot exist without somebody to receive it.
God needed somebody to love.

While I was writing this I kept thinking of that old Queen song, Somebody To Love. Some of you know that song and now that I mention it, it is probably going through your head, isn't it?

Somebody…somebody…Can anybody find me somebody to love?

Maybe that's what God was thinking when God was all alone in the beginning. God was thinking, "What am I going to do with all this love that I have? I need somebody to love. But there is nobody. So I will create somebody to love."

But God also knew that the somebody that God created would need a world to live in, so God had to first create the world for the objects of his love to live in.

All of creation came about because God needed somebody to love, and God wanted somebody to love God in return. We are not only part of the story of creation, we are the whole point of the story of creation.

Eugene Peterson, in The Message, paraphrases Ephesians 1: 4 this way: "Long before [God] laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love."

Long before God created the world, God was already thinking of us and loving us. We are, and always have been, the main reason for God's creation.

I took a look at the lyrics for that song, because I really know only the chorus part that has been buzzing in my head for the past three days as I was writing this. And I was surprised to find that it is really a prayer, or a conversation with God. But it is really a depressing song. They dress it up in a catchy, infectious, upbeat tempo, and the great harmonies that Queen is known for, but the words are sad.
Each mornin' I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry
Lord what you're doing to me
I have spent all my years believin' you
But I just can't get no relief, Lord
Somebody, somebody
Can anybody find me somebody to love?
I work hard every day of my life
I work till I ache my bones
At the end I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I get down on my knees
And I start to pray
Till the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody, ooh, somebody
Can anybody find me, somebody to love?

I thought, if you're looking for somebody to love, how about the One you are praying to, who loves you more than anything, and is also the One who wants your love in return more than anything?

Look around at this world. Look at the beauty, the artistry, the grandeur. It is all for you. God created all of this for you. God loved us so much that he literally gave us the world.

It always amazes me that the God who created this vast universe would love me.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 8, which includes these verses: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. (NRSV)

I have read that there are over 350 billion—BILLION—galaxies. A God that powerful loves me and loves you.

And think of the other end of the spectrum, the tiny, intricate workings of our bodies, with everything going along like clockwork. The atoms and molecules that we can't see but that are always there. Incredible!

"Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head? That's quite a few, for a bug. The average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it. And your own heart generates enough pressure as it pumps blood throughout your body that it could squirt blood up to 30 feet. (I've never tried this, and I don't recommend it.)" (Francis Chan, Crazy Love)

And the God that designed all that loves us. Amazing. Amazing love.

If God loves you so much that he thought of you before he even created anything, and if the main reason God created was to have somebody to love, do you think maybe God wants to be a part of your life?

And if God can create order out of chaos, what do you think God can do with your life?  

 If God can fill the bottomless emptiness at creation, don't you think God can create new life within you?

The Spirit that brooded over the waters at creation is the same Spirit that came down on Jesus at his baptism, and it's the same Spirit that comes to us at our baptism, and dwells within us throughout our lives.

That voice that spoke everything into being is the same voice that said to Jesus, "You are my beloved son."

And it's that same voice that says to us, "You are my beloved." God says to every one of us, "You are my beloved child."

That is amazing love. Don't ever think that you can't find somebody to love because there is one who loves you so much that he created the world for you. God loves you so much that he would give you the sun, the moon, the stars, and everything in between.

May you know the amazing, incredible, incomprehensible love of God. And may it create new life within you.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Head or Heart?



In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 13-35, two disciples are on the road to Emmaus. From the context of the passage we can infer that they are not in the inner circle of Jesus but they are devout followers. They can’t understand why the man they meet on the road does not know what happened in Jerusalem.
They tell this man (Jesus), "We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel. And some women of our number astonished us because they went to the tomb and did not find his body, and they had a vision of angels who said that he was alive."
And so when these two men later realized it was Jesus they had been talking with and walking with, they hurried back to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered and those with them and found that those gathered were saying “it is a fact that the Lord has risen, and he has appeared to Simon." And they told them all that had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The disciples said, "It was a fact that the Lord has risen. And he has appeared to Simon." Yet in the very next passage, when Jesus stands in the midst of them and says, “Peace to you” they are terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost or a spirit.
See, intellectually they knew it--it is a fact that he is risen. They knew it in their head. But because they had not experienced the presence of Jesus for themselves they could not wrap their heads around the fact that Jesus was alive. They had seen him die. They had seen him be beaten and tortured. They had seen the centurion thrust his spear into the side of Jesus. They had seen him be put into a tomb and a stone rolled across the opening. How could Jesus be alive after all of that?
Yet, they were told that he was, and he even appeared to Simon.
I think sometimes that is the way it is for many Christians, and for me. I know the facts. I know the Bible very well because I have read it for most of my life. The stories are in my head and many of them I know by heart. Intellectually I know the Bible and I know Jesus. I know God exists…in my head. I know Jesus is alive…in my head.
Sometimes, because I haven’t experienced the physical presence of Jesus for myself, I still find it hard to grasp. I still find it hard to be passionate about my faith.
Sometimes I still think of God as someone I do not want to disappoint. I haven’t experienced his grace for myself.
But I still have to rely on that grace. As much as I accept it intellectually I have to rely on the grace of God for salvation. There is no other way.
And even if I doubt, as long as I accept the grace of God, then God will accept that and accept me, and will welcome me in to his kingdom.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Life and Death



I visited the grave of a dear departed friend today. As I stood by his burial plot, I said to him, "You were a good friend. It was such a joy to know you. I will always remember your smile, and your laugh."

I said a prayer, thanking God for my friend's life and for his presence in my life. My life is so much richer because of our friendship. And I also gave thanks that my friend is now in God's eternal care.

Sometimes we strive so much in this life for fame, or just recognition that we have accomplished something important. But when you're gone, the ones that will remember you and still care that you lived, are the ones with whom you have formed relationships.

I looked at all the tombstones in the cemetery and I thought, the only ones who care about all the people buried here are their family and dear friends, the people who loved them in life and took time to form relationships with them in life. Nobody else knows who they are or what they accomplished in life.

The whole point of life is not recognition, but love.

Jesus said it best: Love God, love neighbor.

That is all that matters.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Simple Pleasures



"Be still, and know that I am God"  - Psalm 46:10


The little things in life always have a way of bringing me joy far out

of proportion to their size. Of course, in order to find these treasures I

must slow down, be observant, and forget about life's complexities. Not always

a simple task in today's hectic lifestyle, but the rewards are worth

it.

Below are some simple pleasures that warm my heart and calm my soul.

They bring peace and stillness to life's chaos, and help keep me close to God.

If you don't have your own list, begin today. Take time to slow down; look and

listen for the simple things in life. You'll find it makes a world of

difference, and you just might see a different world.

* The soothing pulse of a gentle rainfall

* A rainbow's arc of soft color after the rain

* A golden sunset's awesome splendor splashed across the sky

* The graceful, carefree flight of a butterfly

* Bright, shiny stars on a clear summer night

* Songs sung by a chorus of birds

* Curling up in a comfy chair with a good book

* Putting worshipful music on the stereo, slapping headphones on, and    
        shutting out the rest of the world while listening to glorious music praising God

* Taking a walk      

* Taking a walk with my spouse, hand-in-hand

* Taking a walk with a child, rediscovering the joy and wonder of God's

  creation through their eyes


Lord, open our eyes to the simple things in life.