Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life is in the Details

Life is details -- phones that keep ringing, email that has to be returned, computers that crash, copy machines that jam, and children who are sick when we need to be at work. We struggle with the details of bodies that don’t work as they should, with doctors, specialists, medical tests and pills. Our children juggle homework, athletics, orthodontists and guitar lessons. Then we all go to church on Sunday, and what do we find but more details? Duties of the church has to be done, Sunday School roll, offering counted, bulletins folded, teaching children's Sunday school, and many more unseen details have to be done. Worship is filled with hymns and prayers, sacraments and readings, more details. How can we become more spiritual with attending to all these details?
Luke describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as full of details. We are given specific details, the exact location: the Jerusalem suburbs of Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives. Jesus then pulls two of his disciples aside, gives them specific detail instructions that fulfills the exact Old Testament prophesy. He knows exactly what type of colt he wants -- one that had never been ridden. He knows exactly where the colt is. He’s even worked out a response to the public relations problem of swiping a colt. "If anyone asks you . . . just say this, ‘The Lord needs it."’
During Lent we all feel the need to become more spiritual. We tend to think that spirituality means escaping the concern with detail. Spiritual people, we think, live simple lives. They don’t worry about mortgages and dentist appointments and going to church committee meetings. They wear sandals, meditate and feed the birds. But that is not the biblical understanding of spirituality. According to the Bible, the hindrance to our spirituality is not that we pay attention to the details of life, but that we pay too much attention to the wrong details.
There are a lot of details that Jesus ignored. He didn’t worry about the detail of urgency. He didn’t worry about the detail of effectiveness. Jesus didn’t worry about the detail of recognition. He didn’t worry about the detail of popularity. He didn’t worry about the detail of tomorrow. Details that consume us never crossed Jesus’ mind. And we easily overlook the details he was concerned about. Our souls are dried out because we have tried so hard to save ourselves by controlling the wrong details that we have no energy left for the detail of finding a savior.
We know the details of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday and Easter. We’ve gone through them year after year. Why do this again? For the same reason that we go through the details every Sunday. It’s the only way we can take our eyes off the things that do not matter and set them upon the arrival of the Savior. The best news is that once we’ve learned to look for Jesus, we’ll find him in every detail of our life.
May God Bless you during this time of self reflection and self examination known as Lent.
Do something nice for someone and take care of yourself and one another!
See ya at Wrestlemania- Tommy

Monday, March 8, 2010

“Love is a Very Powerful Thing.”

Over my life I have found that there is nothing more powerful than love. I have witnessed parents love their children through sickness, tragedies, celebration, disappointment, failures, and triumphs. I have watched couples overcome huge life obstacles because of the love they hold for each other. Sadly enough I have also observed individuals do tremendous harm, destruction, and damage under the name of love. Either for good or for evil, love is a very powerful thing. Love can cause us to continue on, when we normally would have given up. In Luke, Jesus tells us three parables about love. The first parable tells of how the seeking shepherd travels into the wilds to bring home the lost sheep because love is not gooey, otherworldly, and removed from reality but it's logical and practical, and, because of that, sometimes hard. In the second parable, the old woman and the lost coin we see another wonderful quality to love: Love is persistent: This woman in Luke 15 loses a coin and looks...and looks...and looks until she finds it. When she finds it she rejoices with her friends. The third parable tells of the loving father whose young wayward second son went off to a far country and whose life ended up in a downward spiral until he came to his senses in a pig pen and turned back towards home. It tells us that no matter how far we have traveled from God there is always a way back home because of God's love and the cross on which God's only begotten Son, Jesus, died in our place.In each we are reminded that love is persistent. Love does not give in or give up. Even when times are hard, God promises to love us not matter what.
In his novel, The Testament, John Grisham paints a powerful word portrait of one man's surrender to God's will. Nate O'Reilly, a disgraced corporate attorney, is plagued by alcoholism and drug abuse. After two marriages, four detox programs, and a serious health crisis, Nate acknowledges his need for God. Grisham describes the dramatic transformation in these words: With both hands, he clenched the back of the pew in front of him. He repeated his list, mumbling softly every weakness and flaw and affliction and evil that plagued him. He confessed them all. In one long glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough burdens to crush any three men, and when he finally finished Nate had tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered to God. "Please, help me." As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean. He breathed a massive sigh of relief, but his pulse was racing. Perhaps like Nate, you need to make a list of things to bring before the Lord. When you do, you will find Christ waiting and ready to hear and forgive. Take it from Jesus Himself, "There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents/changes."
See ya in church but until then love one another and take care of yourself and your neighbor.
Shalom, Tommy

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

“A Time to Produce”

Have you ever wondered when you examine your life, what you produce? I mean when you truly examine your daily words, thoughts, and actions, when the day is over, you lay down your head, what have you produced? Production is the key to anyone survival. Any society that does not produce anything will truly perish. In Luke the 13th chapter Jesus tells a parable about production. There was a fig tree that did not produce any fruit. After waiting patiently for three years the tree does not produce fruit. The land owner orders the gardener to cut down the tree. The one who tended the tree begged for one more year and pledged to take radical steps to tend to the tree’s needs. He begs for one more chance for the tree to produce.
Jesus told the parable of the fig tree to call his listeners to turn towards him and to change their minds and their hearts. The result for the fig tree and for the listeners is the same: to bear fruit. As Jesus tells the story, the hope for the changed fig tree is that it will bear fruit. He has the same hope for the human beings who would listen to his words, that they would bear fruit. The ultimate sign of our changing of the mind, our repentance, our turning in a new direction is the action of our life. It is not words. It is not opinions. It is not feelings. It is action, bearing fruit, doing some new things in our lives. The fulfillment of the call to change and repent is new action of faith in our living. As individuals, we are called to do actions of generosity, compassion, service, peace making, justice, witness and respect. These are the fruits of a life turned to God, of a mind and heart changed by the Spirit of God. As communities of faith, we are called to bear fruit as well. We are called to produce.
How do you produce you might ask?
This season of Lent is a time to take stock of our own hearts, souls and life in God. There are some steps that help us to do just that; here are some of them:
* First, acknowledge your need for God, in prayer and in your heart, acknowledge the reality of the living God and recognize your own yearning and hunger for that God in your life.
* Second, confess your sins. Tell God about the things that you do regret and want to leave behind as you turn to a new direction and embark on a new journey in your living.
* Third, accept God's forgiveness and lay claim to God's love. Truth is, God is much more ready to forgive than we are to receive that forgiveness and much more ready to love than we are to own that love.
* Fourth, change your mind, re-examine some things about your life, your priorities, and your patterns of activity. Let God renew your mind with God's grace and love.
* And finally, finally, bear fruit. Show some new actions, some new practices, patterns and behaviors that reflect the love that God has for you and the love that you have for God.
Bear fruit, produce, and take care of yourself and one another.