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The Temple (Part 4)

1 Kings 8:14,  20-21, 25-26 “14 Then the king {Solomon} turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Isra...

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Gift Full of Miracles

 Years ago, I found an article written by a man who used to receive letters from a man who was in prison for life and would never get out.   

This was his last letter that he received:

“I deserve to be here.  All I ask is the chance after I die to apologize to God face to face for wasting and ignoring His gifts.  

But maybe I would never have seen those gifs so clear if I wasn’t here.  

I now know now that God’s gifts are not necessarily the big things but the small things that I took for granted.   It’s those small things that I miss the most.

I miss gifts like a good rainy day, and being out in it and getting soaked to the bone.

I miss crawdads in streams and woodpeckers in trees.

I miss dragonflies over ponds, and fish jumping and making that sound on a hot summer day.

I miss fried trout with butter and sandwiches made by someone who cares about you.

I miss toast made in a toaster, and the smell of it when you walk into the kitchen.

I miss church bells and the lonely sound they make on Sunday morning.

I miss church choirs and people singing hymns in a church that really carries the sound.

I miss dirt with a point to it, like in gardens or farms.

I miss the smell of the fresh morning in the mountains or at the beach and the feel of the air.

I used to think the thing I missed most were dogs.  I sure have missed my dogs.   They love you no matter what you have done or what you don’t do.   

But now the thing I really miss the most is having kids around, underfoot, laughing and yelling and arguing and falling asleep in half a second right wherever they landed last.  If I ever do get to see God face to face and can ask one favor, I’d ask for kids around again.

All these small things, I took them for granted, I was in such a hurry I hardly noticed them, but when you add them all up, they are what heaven is, it seems to me.  They are heaven.  All these small things.

And what this really means then is that there are no small things, are there?  Nothing is little or insignificant.  Everything is huge and holy and so stuffed with miracles that the miracles leak out and give us hope for this world.

So, my friend, please remember each day is a gift, full of miracles, if you will take time to see them.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

My Father Comes Back to Me

 My father died in the fall of 1996.  But every year, in early spring, with the chill still in the air, my father comes back to me.  

He comes back whenever there is the smell of new mown grass.  

He comes back whenever I hear the crack of a bat or the smack of a baseball into a glove; 

whenever I hear the low murmur of a crowd of people gathered to watch baseball, he is there.

Whenever I wander upon a baseball field with the dusty infield and the green outfield, and a pitcher winding up to throw to a batter poised at the plate, with the loud dugout chatter, he is there.

Baseball was his religion.  He would talk endlessly of Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Dizzy Dean, Pee Wee Reese and on and on.

He would take me to the nearest field on Saturdays and hit hundreds of balls to me in the infield and outfield.  Then he would pitch to me, correcting my stance and once in a while showing me his "real stuff" as a pitcher which included a curve ball that looked as if it was thrown right at me but would curve away and across the plate for a strike. He also had a knuckle ball that would not spin but would dance in and away then down.

In spring, with new mown grass, and the sounds of baseball my father comes to me. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Storm

Mark 4: 35-41

“35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Storms can be scary.   Even though I have lived through a tornado, hurricanes, and terrific thunder and lightning storms, I am still awed and occasionally terrified by the forces of nature.  They make me feel small and not in control.

The Disciples, even though they were seasoned fishermen and had encountered storms before, were still awed and terrified of the forces of nature that sent waves crashing over their boat, nearly sinking it.

Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat.  The sea was churning, the waves were swamping the boat, the wind was blowing, the Disciples were in a panic, and Jesus was sleeping.  It is just human nature that, when you are afraid and someone with you is sleeping through the scary event, you get a little irritated.

The Disciples woke Jesus up, and they asked him if he did not care that they were about to drown.  When a boat is in trouble on a violent sea, it is all hands on deck.  No one is exempt from trying to save the boat and the lives of the crew.  No one gets to sleep through the storm.

Jesus calmed the storm.  And this terrified the Disciples as much as the storm itself.  It was as if they had discovered that Jesus really was who he said he was.

When we encounter the living Christ, when we first realize who He is, it is frightening. It is not until we experience His eternal, unconditional love that we realize the sea that he has calmed is in our hearts.

And we know His peace.

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Things That Matter

Matthew 11: 20-21

“20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

I used to work at a University in an office with a window that looked out at the University library.  Each day a great number of students, professors, and other people walked by on the sidewalk in front of the library.  

One fall day, a woman and her child were walking by, and the child was following behind her mother, looking up at the colorful leaves on the trees, kicking the leaves that had fallen, shouting with joy.  The mother looked back at her and yelled for her to catch up.   She was late for whatever appointment she was marching to.  

The mother was so intent on the things of life, that she missed the miracle of her daughter, and the miracle of life that her daughter was witnessing.  She missed an opportunity of great love and  joy.

The people of Chorazin and Bethsaida did not understand the miracles that Jesus had performed and that they had witnessed.  They missed an opportunity of knowing the great love and joy of Christ.

One of our great tasks in life is to pay attention to the things that really matter, like  the miracle of life in Christ, and the miracles of love and joy.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Extraordinary Purpose

Luke 6: 12-19

“12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

Jesus chose the Twelve from among his disciples.  He needed an inner circle, a group who knew him intimately, who could tell his story and spread his message.  Jesus knew that his time on earth was nearing its end.  He chose these twelve so that he could write the gospel message on their hearts.

The Greek word for disciple means pupil or learner.  These twelve were to be learners chosen to become teachers and leaders.  The Greek word for Apostle means a person who is sent out.  They were to be sent out as envoys and ambassadors to the faith.

John Wesley once wrote “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”

Christ chose ordinary people for an extraordinary purpose.  They were fisherman and tax collectors, people of ordinary education and social status.  People like you and like me.

With twelve ordinary people empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christ changed the world.

Today, all Christians are called to be examples of Christ’s life and teachings in this world; to offer love where there is hate, peace where there is chaos, and forgiveness where there is retribution and anger.

And that is truly an extraordinary purpose.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Gardener

Luke 13:6-9

“6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

I have often wondered if the gardener resolved the problem or cut the fig tree down.  All gardeners love their plants and cutting one down is very hard.  We have all had plants or shrubs in our yards that will not grow or flower or bear fruit, no matter how much we baby them. 

Our plants are precious to us, and when we finally realize that this plant is never going to be what it is supposed to be, we still hesitate before we cut it down.  We hesitate because we have this picture in our heads of this plant with beautiful blooms and green leaves, and limbs filled with fruit.

This is how God sees us, and this is why he forgives us time after time for our shortcomings.  This is why he gives us his Holy Spirit, why he speaks to us through his word, and why he leads us into the lives of others and leads others into our lives at just the right moment.  

God wants us to bloom and bear fruit.  And, during our lifetime, God will never give up on us.  

We are all precious in his sight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Good Deed

 Mark 3: 1-6

“Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

In this passage Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus’ presence there attracted the attention of the Pharisees and they watched him closely to see if he broke the Sabbath law.

Jesus had the power to help the man with the withered hand, to improve his quality of life, to make him whole.  Not to do so, to turn his back on him even though he could help him, would have been evil.  Jesus had the choice of performing either a good deed or an evil deed.  The good deed would clearly violate the law.  The evil deed would comply with the law.  

So, which of these would the Pharisees prefer that he do on the Sabbath?  Their silence implied that they preferred the evil deed.  Christ chose the good deed. And because of this the Pharisees plotted to kill him.

Choosing the path of love, mercy and forgiveness is the spiritual way, the way of light, the way of Christ.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

Saturday, January 16, 2021

My Granddaughter

 My granddaughter was born this week on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, just four days ago.  I held her when she was two days old.  I had forgotten how small a two day old child feels against you as you hold her close.  To be honest, I was a little nervous.

My granddaughter looked at me and wrinkled her eyes and stared, trying to figure me out.  I guess the whole world is a strange place to her, especially the people.   She cries when she has her diaper changed.  Being exposed to the light and the air is strange to her.  She loves to snuggle and be swaddled in blankets, things that make her feel like she is back in the familiar safety of the womb.

She also loves to eat and she does so with great enthusiasm until all of the bottle is sucked dry.  It is funny that she was born knowing how to do this, especially since she was fed through her navel for her whole life in the womb.  But just as surprising is that my daughter became a mother overnight.  She knows what to do and how to do it and holds her child like an old pro.  I watch her go about the business of caring for her daughter and I am amazed.  

Isn’t this the little girl who made her younger brother climb the stairs ahead of her, using him for monster bait?  Isn’t this the little girl who would come down the stairs after a hard night’s sleep with chewing gum stuck in her hair?  Isn’t this the little girl that stood on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror watching me shampoo her hair and laughing as I turned her soapy hair into crazy sculptures?

She is a mother now.  And I have a wonderful granddaughter, whose hair I will one day sculpt as she laughs in the mirror.

And all is well in this world.