Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Deo Fisus Labora"

Friday evening I was sitting in historic Gano Chapel on the campus of my alma mater, waiting for the honors convocation to begin. The evening sun gave a golden glow to the old stained glass. I noticed once again the college's Latin motto on the seal, "Deo Fisus Labora," or, "Trusting God, Work." I remember Dr. Kingsley explaining those words to us in a freshman orientation more than thirty years ago. I thought I knew what he was talking about on that distant Fall morning, but now I know better, much better.

"Trusting God, Work." Not a bad approach to life, is it? Work hard, doing everything you can do, and trust God for the rest. Live and labor as if everything depended on you. Love and laugh as if everything depended on God. It's life as a partnership, for we are "laborers together with God."

And so sitting in the chapel as a parent now rather than a student, I hope my son and his fellow students take note. The words on the window light the way.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seven Stanzas of Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

--John Updike (1932- )

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Me and Amos

There is just something about a guy's first car, that first sweet taste of freedom. Mine was a 1970 Dodge Polara just like the one in the picture above, except mine was ten years older with 102,000 miles on it. What a ride! I named my car Amos Sherman Hill - Amos because I like Bible names, and Sherman because it was a tank. It was huge, just two doors, but they were about six feet long. I could lay down in the trunk and not touch either side.

I drove that old car another 90,000 miles. Off to college with all my stuff and back home every few weeks with a load of dirty laundry. Back and forth all summer long to the grocery warehouse where I worked to pay for college. And on the weekends Amos and I would head north from the campus to the little country church where folks first called me "pastor." I have lots of memories of hauling kids to camps and retreats, a youth trip to Colorado Springs, and summer weekends at the lake. Still our journeys continued.

I vacuumed him out and hosed him off before I picked up Suzanne for our first date. And Amos was absolutely spotless, waxed by hand and shining like a dime, complete with new seat covers, on our wedding day.

My dad, also a pastor, was concerned before we got married that Suz might not be aware of the financial realities of a minister's life. "Does she know that you are never going to make a lot of money? Does she understand that you are never going to live in the biggest house or drive the biggest car?" I had to take exception to that. "Dad, I already drive the biggest car."

That first car is like a long lost friend, but we'll never be together again. I loved ol' Amos. I wish I had him still. Have you got a story to tell, that first car, that first set of keys? Let's hear it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Today Is the Day

I started my day as I often do with a few lines from Frederick Buechner. Perhaps you need his words as much as I did.

"You are seeing everything for the last time, and everything you see is gilded with goodbyes. . . . For the last time you are hearing this house come alive because you who are part of its life have come alive. All the unkept promises if they are ever to be kept have to be kept today. All the unspoken words if you do not speak them today will never be spoken. The people, the ones you love and the ones who bore you to death, all the life you have in you to live with them, if you do not live it with them today will never be lived.

It is the first day because it has never been before and the last day because it will never be again. Be alive if you can all through this day, today of your life. What's to be done? What's to be done?

Follow your feet. Put on the coffee. Start the orange juice, the bacon, the toast. Then go wake up the children and your wife. Think about the work of your hands. . . . Live in the needs of the day."