Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little Things

Around Christmas time each year my Mom liked to remind my brothers and me that "good things come in small packages." This was her not-so-subtle interjection into our debates over would have have the biggest (and obviously best) gift on Christmas morning. Over time I came to realize that "bigger (wasn't) always better-" that sometimes the gifts most treasured did indeed come in the smallest package.

That said, good things don't always come in small packages and conversely, not everything that comes in a small package is good.

Take this kidney stone that has had me in turmoil this week- please, take it! The stone is so small that is barely visable on a CT scan, yet has turned my world upside down- I've lost sleep, lost weight, lost time at work, and feel like I am about to lose my mind!

While this kidney stone takes its time deciding what to do (it has until tomorrow when I return to the doctor!) I have made a decision: I have decided that today I will be grateful for little things: like the crocus that is tentatively peeking its head up in our backyard, the finches darting about among the bird feeders and trees outside my office window, the gift of a smile and gentle hug, a word of encouragement from someone I was trying to help, God's still, small voice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feeling Old(er)

I felt old(er) when I went to bed last night. The birthday was a couple of weeks ago. Yes, Elizabeth just turned fifteen. It was a television show that made me feel old. Not just any show, but the fifty-third presentation of the Grammy Awards.

How could a music awards show have such an impact on my psyche? I didn't know anybody! Well, almost anybody. I recognized a couple of country music performers, several of the life-time achievement award winners (that's like hearing the bands/musicians of your youth on the oldies stations), and, of course, Justin Bieber (I haven't been living on Mars for the last year!). Oh, and there were those acts known more for their outrageous behavior than their "music."

After seeing and hearing some of these performers I was grateful for what I had missed! Then I remembered my Dad's evaluation of the music I listened to as a teen... and felt old! Maybe every generation has to find a musical style that offends its parents!

Earlier Sunday evening I had visited Campus Church. The music was louder than I might normally choose and the style different than what I might normally prefer. But the message was clear... and the music and the message led that group of college students- and one Old(er) Baptist Preacher- into an experience of worship with the Living God.

Maybe every generation has to find a musical style that leads it to worship...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Difficulties of Praying

Henri Nouwen was a popular preacher/teacher back during my seminary days. I found this prayer today and invite you to join me and Nouwen in this conversation with God.

Why, O Lord, is it so hard to keep my heart directed toward you? Why do the many little things I want to do, and the many people I know, keep crowding into my mind, even during the hours I am totally free to be with you and you alone? Why does my mind wander off in so many directions, and why does my heart desire the things that lead me astray? Are you not enough for me? Do I keep doubting your love and care, your mercy and grace? Do I keep wondering, in the center of my being, whether you will give me all I need if I just keep my eyes on you?

Please accept my distractions, my fatigue, my iritations, and my faithless wanderings. You know me more deeply and fully than I know myself. You love me with a greater love than I can love myself. You even offer more than I can desire. Look at me, see me in all my misery and inner confusion, and let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil. All I can do is show myself to you. Yet, I am afraid to do so. I am afraid that you will reject me. But I know-- with the knowledge of faith-- that you desire to give me your love. The only thing you ask of me is not to hide from you, not to run away in despair, not to act as if you were a relentless despot.

Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest, simple quiet rest. Do I ask too much too soon? I should not worry about that. You will let me know.

Come, Lord Jesus. come. Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

God With Skin-on

There's a much-used sermon illustration about a little boy who was frightened by a storm one night. Several times he cried out in fear and his mother would come to his room for comfort and to remind him that God was always with him. As she prepared to leave the third time her son grabbed her arm, held tight, and said, "I know Mommy, but I want God with skin-on!"

I have been blessed this week by appearance after appearance of "God with skin-on."

I have seen "God with skin-on" in hospital rooms as friends gathered for prayer and support.

"God with skin-on" has been in doctors offices for pre-op visits and provided transportation for follow-up care.

"God with skin-on" has been present in hugs and handshakes, laughter and tears, conversation and quiet.

Sometimes "God with skin-on" has delivered a meal and provided companionship for an afternoon.

The late Wayne Oates, a marvellous professor and practitioner of pastoral care for generations of students at Southern Seminary, called this idea of "God with skin-on" the ministry of presence. Dr. Oates reminded us that whenever we visit we share our lives with someone and when we go in the name of Christ and his church we become the powerful presence of God, as well.

We are all glad for "God with skin-on" in the dark, stormy, scarey times of life.