Saturday, August 1, 2015

LEGACY OF A MATRIARCH


Reflecting Sunshine, Jamestown, NC

It’s been said that some folks light up a room by simply entering and others by exiting. Mary was unquestionably one of those who lit up every room she entered and that light has been dimmed now that one of the long-time stalwarts of our church has passed on to her life triumphant. When anyone came into contact with her it was impossible not to respond to her infectious smile and demeanor. And she was very active in brightening the lives of all those she perceived to be in need along with acknowledging the lives of folks of all ages from toddlers to seniors. Her nephew characterized her as the unquestionable family matriarch who was always available for guidance and support. Her parent’s choice of a name was fortuitous. The prime question asked at her celebration of a life this week was “What do we do now that she is gone”?

The movie “Beyond Narnia” is a short account of the extraordinarily creative life of C. S. Lewis. His classic “Chronicles of Narnia” tales have earned him worldwide recognition for his Christian thinking and writing. He was set on a bachelor’s life until Joy, a divorced American woman with two boys who had read and admired all of his writings, entered his life. They eventually married and their love for one another grew until cancer took her life much too early. Lewis was ultimately able to begin his return to daily life and the lives of his two young step sons. When the youngest was finally able to approach him and ask, “Jack, what we gonna do?” Lewis simply replied, “We carry on.” And that was what they set out to do.

And that is what our church is challenged to do. Our leaders reminded us at Mary’s celebration service that we best honor the life of one of our dedicated sisters with the same optimistic faith that she instilled in everyone she met. When we have no control of these events in our lives, we need to remind ourselves that we always have one alternative---how we positively respond. We rally our emotions and rise to meet the new sun with a new resolve. God works with his people to bring good out of every life situation.

Loved ones who go before us are forever woven into the fabric of our being and forever influence who we are for the rest of our lives. Of course we never forget and we are forever changed. We rebuild and are whole again but never the same. We wouldn’t expect nor want to be the same. And we honor their lives by filling the void and “carrying on” with their positive example.

ROSE BUD RAIN DROPS


Rain Drops, Jamestown, NC

Rain drops arrive in a variety of sizes, but all are welcome when the earth is parched.

And this rose bud has captured just enough to fulfill its destiny.

Monday, July 27, 2015

WALKING THE PATH


Mansion of Many Rooms, Biltmore,NC

Walking the Path to Eternal Truth and Life

As a Christian, one of the more troubling verses in the Bible for me over the years has been John 14:6 in which Jesus states that “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Context is always in play and Jesus proclaims this just hours before he dies on a horrific Roman cross. And I have witnessed many of those dubious media evangelists who work folks into a frenzy of hope and guilt as they “close the deal” by goading them up to center stage or their television set to recite the infamous magical incantation. But I’ve read that soon after morning's reality arrives, many of these folks will drift away from the path to salvation because they haven’t developed a personal commitment to sustain them. One thief on a cross next to Jesus did find immediate salvation, but that’s not exactly like talking to Jim Baker on the television for a couple of minutes.

So what’s to become of all the billions of human beings that were raised in other religions or were never exposed to this verse such as everyone born B.C.? I’ve always admired the spirituality of the Native American Indians who believed in a Great Spirit and were good stewards of the earth. I’ve often wondered what religion I might be practicing today if I hadn’t been born in America to Christian parents. For many of us, I believe religion is more a fateful matter of timing and geography than ultimate truth. If I had been born in India of Hindu parents, I’d likely be a practicing Hindu today.

And what about the fate of all those truly evil people who have caused so much human suffering in the world? Here’s where I believe the concept of free will enters the conversation. God knows our heart which is pertinent. He created this existence and He makes the rules regarding the saved and the damned. One of His main attributes we know about is His righteousness. A human who does the right thing can achieve a heavenly reward by God’s grace. An evil man who causes all manner of human suffering has earned eternal damnation. He is not condemned to be there, rather he chooses to be there. A loving God doesn’t choose to condemn anybody, but wants eternal life in his presence for all his creation.

Jesus used many visual images of the times to make his message clear to the people. A mansion of many rooms is certainly heaven for those living marginal nomadic and subsistence lives. He described it as a place with no need for a sun or moon, as God’s glory would bathe it in His eternal light. Jesus used the always rotting, burning city dump outside Jerusalem as a vile image for those condemned. The beginning of 2 Thessalonians describes their destiny as eternally separated from the love of God. This would also imply a place of eternal darkness. That sounds awfully dire to me.

Adam Hamilton offers another way to view the disturbing verse in John 14:6 in his book on Making Sense of the Bible. He offers a reading of “No one comes to my Father except through my saving work”. And if that’s the case, Hamilton asks “Why would we even want to tell our neighbors about Christ?” I love his response:

“I share Christ with others not because I believe all who don’t know him will be eternally tormented in hell. I share him with others because I believe that in Christ we see the clearest picture of who God is and what God longs for from humanity. I share Christ because I believe it is in knowing, loving, and serving him that we find the fullest and most authentic life possible. I share Christ with others because I believe God wants all people to know the good news of Jesus Christ. I share Christ because I believe he is the way, the truth, and the life.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A GOD OF FORGIVENESS


War, KC, MO

It’s been said that America is not at war. Our military is at war; America is at the mall. Unless folks have someone directly involved in the military that is fighting our wars offshore, most of the rest of us muddle on dealing with our own realities of life. But like the homeless poor that walk among us, we cannot ignore our young men and women in harm’s way and our returning vets. Wounded Warriors is one organization that seems to have enough funding and motivation to carry on the banner for these military heroes who have been fighting our wars and then almost instantaneously are dropped back into the surreal reality of life at the mall. The adjustment can be overwhelming.

I recently listened to a soft spoken senior that had a long phone conversation with a close relative. The young man had recently served in uniform. He had obviously experienced the horrors of war that most of us will never fully understand. He’d been involved in a combat situation that had scarred his life. Someone had recently confronted him about the incident which was obviously very troubling. The horrific memory was eating away at the young man.

The elder man had apparently listened to the angst in the young man’s voice for some time on the phone. Then, knowing that this was one of those matters in life that cannot be undone, he spoke from the heart and simply told him that he believes in “a God of forgiveness”. When life overwhelms us with issues that are well beyond our human control, we have the hope and trust in a loving and forgiving God. We can turn these matters over to Him with the assurance that He knows our heart and He still has a good plan for our life. His understanding and forgiveness trumps all other human opinion.

After the two men hung up, the older man received a call back a few hours later thanking this man of faith for settling the troubled young vet’s life that night. And I've no doubt that our God of forgiveness spoke through the man to give this vet “the peace of God which transcends all understanding to guard his heart and mind” going forward.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ACKWARD MOMENTS


Organic Liquid Grapes, Wrightsville Beach, NC

I just experienced another one of those awkward moments in life where even spell check has no idea what word I was trying to type. And of course the simple solution in order to move on with my life is to choose a synonym—a word you can spell that sort of means the same thing as a word you will never be able to spell! For instance, I always seem to have trouble with restrant, so I frequently eat at a diner. There's hope on the internet though for all of our bass-ackward spelling attempts at a site called:

http://www.dumbtionary.com/word/ackward.shtml.

Actually, it’s very liberating to open up about my shortcummings and your what you eat with the exception of bananas which I now suspect I only buy so that I can watch them die a slow death in my kitchen. So I’ve decideded to eat more organic food and plant a garden as soon as I can locate some of those elusive bacon seeds. And I’ve resolved to eat more fresh salads like fruit salads. Mostly grapes, fermented grapes. OK, I’m having wine for dinner tonight since we're being transparent.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

OLDER & WISER


Sunrise Jogger, Kiawah Island, SC

As I get a little older and wiser there are some things in my life that I will just never do again like saying too much about something and running with scissors..........
Actually, those last two words weren't necessary.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

BLOSSOMING NATURE



Blossoming Summer Storm, Jamestown, NC
Blossoming Summer Magnolia, Jamestown, NC


Isn't it interesting how all of nature reaches to the heavens in praise and most of these spiritual experiences all around us go unnoticed every day of our lives?