Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today Is Judgment Day

"We are all of us judged every day. We are judged by the face that looks back at us from the bathroom mirror. We are judged by the faces of the people we love and by the faces and lives of our children and by our dreams. Each day finds us at the junction of many roads, and we are judged as much by the roads we have not taken as by the roads we have.

"The New Testament proclaims that at some unforeseeable time in the future God will ring down the final curtain on history, and there will come a Day on which all our days and all the judgments upon us and all our judgments upon each other will themselves be judged. The judge will be Christ. In other words, the one who judges us most finally will be the one who loves us most fully." - Frederick Buechner

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Taking My Temperature

It's a warm afternoon in Sedalia and the thermometer in my car says it's 90 degrees. But two or three times a day, I drive by the bank where the sign tells a different story. At Third National, it has been 72 degrees for the last six or seven weeks. That's right, day or night, even on the few real scorchers we have endured, always 72 degrees.

I have pondered this problem from different perspectives. Is this a case of wishful thinking? Think positive, cool thoughts and maybe it will happen. Ignore the heat and maybe it will go away. Or, is this some kind of teaser? "In our beautiful lobby it is always 72 pleasant degrees, so come on in where it's nice and comfortable." Or, could this be a timely lesson on consistency, sort of like the mailman? "Rain, sleet, or snow . . . scorching heat or high humidity, we just keep going and keep cool, 72 degrees." Or, maybe, just maybe, the stupid sign is broken.

I tried to make a joke about it to the teller in the drive through. Apparently, I was not the first guy to mention the 72 degrees, maybe not in the first thousand people who pointed out the problem. My teller had lost her sense of humor about the sign several weeks before. Can't say I blame her.

What do you think? Maybe there is a helpful lesson here for us, something about life and faith. Someone suggested that many Christians today suffer from a form of spiritual malaria, going back and forth from fever to chills, red hot for God one day and cold as ice the next, up and down, hot and cold, with no consistent, steady commitment to keep them healthy and on track. Maybe the best thing we can do is seek to follow Christ, strong and steady, no matter our circumstances, with little or with much, in calm or in crisis, whether suffering or celebrating, just following Jesus no matter what each new day brings to us.

Spirit of God, set my heart upon you and set my thermostat to 72 degrees, no matter how hot it gets or how the wind blows.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two of a Kind

It struck me the other day as I reflected upon our mission adventure in Arlington, Texas. I am so impressed with two remarkable women. One, an amazingly energetic senior adult and the other, a young college student. These two women, Tillie and Kristen, have much in common. Both women are possessed of great, God-given dreams for the future. And, both are passionately driven to do whatever it takes, putting in long hours to see their hopes realized. Tillie and Kristen have similar hearts as well, with deep, sincere compassion for all kinds of people, never patronizing or judging, but consistently reaching out with the love of Christ. Neither of these wonderful women can imagine doing anything with their lives other than serving God by serving others.

Then, it occurred to me that Tillie and Kristen are really just two different stages of the same person. Kristen is a young Tillie just getting started with God's call reverberating in her soul. And Tillie is a more mature Kristen having invested her gifts and her years in fruitful Kingdom work.

Two of a kind. Isn't it just like the Lord to bring these two faithful women together for a summer to serve side by side?

Monday, July 6, 2009

We're Headin' to Texas

This week I'm headin' to Texas with a team of thirteen men to work at Mission Arlington. If you are not familiar with this amazing ministry, check it out at www.missionarlington.org. Tillie Burgin, founder and director of Mission Arlington, leads a remarkable army of dedicated staff and eager volunteers. I'm looking forward to a warm and wonderful week. We always come home exhausted and thoroughly inspired, ready to get to work in our own community. God bless Tillie Burgin and all the good people who serve by her side.

I appreciate your prayers as we travel and serve together.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Will the Real Patriots Please Stand Up?

The nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which. - Mark Twain

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it. - Edward R. Murrow

"My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying "My mother, drunk or sober." - G. K. Chesterton

In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell. - H. L. Mencken

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies. - Rabbi Sherwin Wine