Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Musings on the Mystery.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." - Albert Einstein

I guess we are all a little bit skeptical of anyone who claims to have all the answers. Somebody knows exactly what's wrong with my computer or my Honda or my leaky refrigerator, and of course, they haven't even taken a look for themselves.

And what about the ultimate questions of life and faith? Some bold souls claim to have them all figured out. I'm not so sure. Beware of religious types who trumpet their answers and have never really heard the questions. Life for us is a journey of discovery and yet for every answer we uncover, a deeper mystery remains hidden.

Einstein's problem with the church was that preachers were talking about a god who was far too small and simplistic, a little god who could not be the God who created this magnificent universe in all its wondrous complexity.

"Then Job replied to the Lord: 'I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.'" (Job 42:2-3)

Take time to ponder the possibilities. Leave a little space in your life for the realities that you can't see under a microscope and are beyond the reach of the strongest telescope. Make room in your finite world for the infinite. There is a "big G" God still out there, a God who is revealed and hidden, a God who speaks with words and deeds and sometimes with frustrating silence. There is a God who remains a fathomless mystery and yet maybe, just maybe, knows your name.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Looking Good Enough to Bury.

I walked into the funeral home on a Christmas Eve morning in a small town about twenty miles from my home. An elderly man in our church had died and his wife of more than fifty years was taking her husband back to his hometown for the funeral and burial. I was asked to conduct the service. When I walked in, I met the funeral director who sized me up and seemed to chuckle to himself. I discreetly checked my fly, straightened my tie, and wondered what was so funny to him. Soon the woman whose husband had died greeted me with a warm smile and a hug. "Come see Harold." I walked with her to the side of her husband's casket with my arm around her shoulder. And there was Harold headed for his eternal rest and reward and dressed exactly like me. I'm not kidding. I'm not exaggerating. Same suit, same shirt, same tie. "Doesn't he look nice, Brother Drew?" "Yes," I stammered, "Harold looks fine."

Too late for any wardrobe change. Soon the service began, and I did my best to make it a comforting and joyous celebration of a godly man's life. Then, at the conclusion of the service, I closed my Bible and stepped to the head of the casket as people filed past for a final viewing. It was then I noticed some people doing a double take, looking at Harold, then me, then back to Harold, some folks just shaking their heads. They were probably wondering if Harold and I were in the same singing group or with the same company or bowling team or something.

After the service was over and we returned from the cemetery, the funeral director and I shared a few laughs over this remarkable coincidence. But on the drive back home on that Christmas Eve a sobering thought struck me. I had dressed to conduct a funeral, but it could just as easily have been my funeral. Apparently, I was dressed for the part. And one day it will be my turn to take that ride in a long black car, and no wardrobe change can change that fact.

Do you ever ponder your own mortality? When was the last time you were reminded of the limits of your life?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Big Blessing from Belarus.

Tonight the world seems very small to me and the Kingdom seems very great. The National Christian Choir of Belarus was in concert tonight at the church where I serve as pastor. This 30 voice choir, featuring a string ensemble and trumpet was very professional and yet obviously passionate about the Gospel message in their music. It was beautiful to hear and beautiful to see. Our church was filled with a wonderful variety of local people, including Anglos, Ukrainians, Russians, Moldavians, and a large number of Hispanics. It was the genuine worship of God crossing language and cultural barriers and giving us all a wonderful reminder of our common bond in Christ. During their next to last number, the choir shifted to crystal clear English, singing the words, "Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

I take heart and find great encouragement in our shared affirmation of those powerful words. The scripture promises that one day men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation will be gathered before the throne of God, singing our highest praise to the glory of God. Tonight was a little morsel, just a taste of what is to come. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hang On To Your Shorts.

One morning awhile back, I was hustling to get out the door to work and I scooped up the pile of clothes that needed to go to the cleaners, so that I could drop them off that afternoon. A few days later I stopped by the cleaners to pick up our clothes, and the two ladies that worked there seemed really glad to see me, really friendly, all smiles. One of the ladies tracked down our stuff and hung it up on a hook near the cash register. While I was making out a check, she said, "Rev. Hill, did you mean to bring in the pair of boxers with your other things?" I wilted. "No, I didn't intend to bring in my boxers." She laughed and said, "Well, no one's ever brought in boxers before as long as I have worked here." And I looked over at our clothes on the hook and sure enough, there under the plastic were my green paisley boxers, all cleaned and pressed and on a hanger. She said, "That'll be $23.60 . . . and we didn't charge you for the boxers." Now I was laughing, too. "Well, if you're not going to charge me, I'll bring 'em in all the time!" They probably still laugh about dry cleaning the pastor's shorts.

It was one of those occasional moments when a big hand reaches down from above and pops my balloon and deflates my ego back down to a manageable size. You listening? Don't take yourself too seriously or someone may run your shorts up the flagpole. It can happen.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"It's Only Today That Counts"

I love these words to an old song by the same title written by Larry Norman. It seems like many of us are stuck in rewind or fast forward, replaying a painful past or worried sick about the future. Larry helps me find my way back to today, the present, where you and I actually live our lives.

It ain't no good to lay in bed at night
And think about the past
About how you could have done things differently
But things just happened way too fast.

Go on close your eyes, go to sleep
Let the angels guide your dreams.
Let that pain unwind behind you
And float away on silent streams.

You gotta live your life the best you can
Though you sometimes do your worst.
And learn to laugh when you fail, it's not the end of the world
Your life's a play you can't rehearse.

Don't make big plans for tomorrow,
You can't control what lies ahead.
You must try to live each moment
As it comes instead.

There is no use dreaming of a perfect future
Or regretting a troubled past.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.

It never helps to worry, it never hurts to pray,
Tomorrow will come soon enough; try to take care of today.
Just relax, trust your life to God,
The future is in his hands,
Only faith will help you face your life's demands.

Ain't no use worrying, life goes so fast.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Lonesome Drive Back Home

It's a strange mix of emotions, a mingling of pride and satisfaction with equal parts of anxiety and grief. Our son, our oldest is off to college, pretty much on his own, other than the bills and books of course. It's not that we're worried he won't make it. Sam's been ready to go since about sixth grade, independent, motivated, and determined almost from the start. We both know it's a good thing, a natural thing, even a great thing for him and for us. Less laundry, less mess, less groceries, did I mention less mess? It's a good thing. It's what we hoped for, prayed for, and saved for. So, why is it so painful to drive away from that dorm with our son in the rear view mirror?

And what about the moms and dads we know who have to send off their son turned soldier?

I don't know if God has hands like ours, but I hope He does. And I pray His hands are big enough for my grown up boy. Hang on to him, Lord. He's beyond my reach now, but not beyond Yours.

Who Is This Guy?

"This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ." (Ephesians 3:7-8, The Message)

Guys like me are often accused of practicing strictly one-way communication - way too much talking, and not much listening to anybody. And I guess I've been guilty at times of taking that approach. But not today. I'm beginning to understand that listening and learning must go together, and that none of us has much to say, until someone speaks a little life to us.

So, for what it's worth, I'm here and I'm listening. Feel free to share your thoughts and insights, your questions and doubts, whatever just doesn't add up in your life, in your spiritual journey. Maybe we can make sense of it together, maybe not. But it helps to know that others have puzzled over some of the same mysteries and found their way through. I'll bet we can too.