Thursday, July 31, 2008
We are working with one of our wonderful mission partners, Mission Arlington, under the leadership of Tillie Burgin. Many of you may be familiar with this remarkable ministry. I have often said that if the Book of Acts were taking place today, it would look like Mission Arlington. I have never seen a better model. If you have not heard of Mission Arlington, you might check it out at www.missionarlington.org.
So pray for us. We spent today working on an outdoor construction project and the temperature was 104. We're thinking we are on the mission trip to hell. But God is already blessing in great ways. Think cool thoughts. More later on.
Friday, July 25, 2008
A friend I call The Flounder reminded me of the sorrowful fact that in the last nine months three television icons dear to me have, as we say in my line of work, passed to life eternal. They are James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek, Bob Denver who played Gilligan on Gilligan's
Scotty represents all of us who are constantly asked to do the impossible and to meet unreasonable deadlines by bosses who just don't understand that you can't run engines at warp speed after Klingons have blasted the engine room. I think mainly of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan now and of how every day they are asked by well-meaning bosses to go out there and do a job that everyone knows is impossibly hard but most people know must still be done if Iraq is to be stabilized, so that the Middle East can be stabilized, so that the war on terror can be won. If that example is too politically incendiary for you, then perhaps you might think of the linemen who repair power lines in the winter during a storm, or think of single mothers raising kids with not enough money or help, or think of clergy folk trying to get people out of the malls and off the golf courses on the weekends and into church or synagogue on the Sabbath. So many people I know feel like Scotty and so few like Captain Kirk. So many of us say, “I canno give ya more power captain. The engines are already overloaded!” And then…we do.
Gilligan represents all of us who are congenitally happy despite our circumstances. The Howells (and occasionally Ginger) were the first to complain, but Gilligan was always happy. Even though they were marooned on an island which nevertheless seemed to provide them with new clothes and new sets every week, Gilligan's choice was always to see things in a positive and hopeful light. He was helpful without being obsequious, brave without being foolhardy, and courteous without being slavish. He was also self-deprecating. His humor was always directed inward, and his optimism was the reason you knew that some day, when the network gods willed that it be so, they would be saved. Yes he was a buffoon (actually more a schlemiel than a buffoon) but aren't we all? There are just so many times when we can cavil against the fates, and list the reasons for our victimhood, but in the end, being a fool for hope is far preferable than being a cynic for reality. Gilligan had no desire for promotion and this makes sense to me now. A truly happy person is already at the highest rung.
Don Knotts as Deputy Fife personified the klutz who is convinced that despite everything he is destined for bigger things. Deputy Fife was all bluster with just one bullet, and that is just like many of us. The bullet is self-confidence. Do you remember when geeks were ridiculed? Now they run the world and the reason is that they are clueless about criticism and focused only on the road ahead. Many of us feel or have felt an absolute identity with Deputy Fife, who was clearly in over his head, but in time he and we have come to learn that those who are not prepared to fail and be laughed at, can never prepare to succeed (I read that in a self-help book). Anyway, when I came to my synagogue I only had one bullet in my gun. If I could not serve God through them, I would leave and maybe sell something for a nickel more than I paid for it. I never had to fire the bullet, because the Psalmist was right when he said that God protects children and fools.
Dear God, please protect the souls of James, John, and Donald, and please protect the Scottys, Gilligans and Fifes down here who are all just trying to do their best with what they have for you.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Anyway, as we boarded I found Rebecca's seat and I plopped down next to a guy about my age. He was sitting next to the window with his overhead light on, reading a book. I buckled up and settled in, looking back a few rows to make sure my family had found their seats. That's when I noticed that this man was trying to read a brown hardback Bible opened to Leviticus. I say he was trying to read because every minute or two he would pause and shake his head, struggling to make sense of what he was reading. I couldn't help but think of Phillip and the Ethiopian trying to make sense of scripture on their chariot ride. I waited a few moments not wanting to seem abrupt or pushy.
"Hey, uh, are you reading some Leviticus? That's a pretty tough book."
"Tell me about it. You know this stuff? I've been trying to read this all week. I decided last month that I would read the Bible and see what it was all about, but this is killing me. Like could this be any more repetitive?"
"Well, if you really want to make sense of the Bible, maybe I can help you."
"Really? This is my fourth flight this week, and you're the first person to say anything about me reading the Bible. Have you read this before?"
"Sure have. I'm a pastor, so I'm more familiar with it. I've learned some background that makes it easier to understand."
"You're a pastor? Yeah, that would be great. I need some help."
So began my conversation with my new friend, Jesse. As we talked about the Bible, his thoughts soon took a more personal turn. Jesse told me about some of the ugliness and hurt that he had experienced as a child. Soon his story segued to more recent times and his painful losses to death and divorce. Now he is a part-time father of three, 14, 13, and 10, and trying to do right by his children.
Jesse told me how just a few months before he had a strong sense that he needed to find a church and read the Bible and find out what faith was all about. He started attending a Four Square Gospel Church and his kids were going with him. He said the worship was so real and relevant and moving that sometimes the tears would flow and he couldn't help it. But this reading the Bible thing was tougher than he imagined.
So, for another hour or so, Jesse and I opened the Bible together and I walked him through a little background and helped him find a plan to read that would help open his heart instead of cloud his mind. He had lots of questions. I marked some special things for him, some scripture that might speak to his situation. I told Jesse how obvious it seemed to me that God was doing a wonderful new thing in his life, that it was God who put that spiritual hunger and desire in his heart, and that God would help him become the kind of man and the kind of dad that he wanted to be.
Jesse said thoughtfully, "You know, I believe that. And God sent me a pastor today."
"I guess He did."
After we landed I gave him my card and said, "This has my email on it. It comes straight to my desk. If you have any questions or anything you want to talk about, you just call or shoot me a line. I'll be glad to hear from you, and I'll help you anyway I can."
"Thanks, Drew. You know, I don't believe in coincidences. Thank you for helping me out. I won't forget you."
"God bless you, Jesse. I know He will."
On the way to the baggage claim, I caught up with my family. "Rebecca, did you have a good flight?"
"Yes, Daddy. Thanks for letting me have your seat."
"That's okay, Sweetie. I was in the right seat. I was right where I was supposed to be."
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
Somebody asked Charles Barkley what he was going to do now that his daughter was growing up and boys were going to be coming around wanting to date his daughter. His reply was classic. "I figure if I kill the first one, word will get around." Now I am not usually prone to violence, and angry threats don't come naturally to me. But this is my daughter, my princess.
Rebecca has a special ring tone on my cell phone. When she calls me it sounds like a royal trumpet fanfare, so that I know immediately the princess is calling. I'm okay with that, but I did have to remind her that there is only one way a little girl gets to be a princess - her dad has to be the king!
So, lately I've been collecting things to say, questions to ask, in my "fear of God" talk I am preparing. Here's what I have so far:
- First, I want you to know, I got no problem going back to prison.
- Do you understand that 11:00 is my daughter's curfew and your deadline?
- Feel how sharp my old hunting knife is.
- Did you hear about that other boy about your age who turned up missing and has never been found?
- Are you familiar with the phrase "drawn and quartered"?
- What bone in your body would you least want to have broken?
- Did you know God watches everything you do wherever you go? And, since I'm a pastor, God tells me whatever He sees.
- If you were to die a sudden, violent death, is there anything special you would like for me to say at your funeral?
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I'm not sure we have done as well preserving and maintaining our country, the nation the old ship defended so bravely. How close do we come today to the original, the specifications of our founders and builders? Are we still fitted out with the same ideals and dreams, or have we replaced the costly old values with cheaper, easier substitutes? I wonder. And as I take an honest look, I am fearful for the future of America. Outwardly powerful, inwardly decaying. Somebody better do something. Somebody should write a poem. Somebody needs to rebuild her.