I was reminded this past weekend of the power of simple moments. Because of the all the busyness that unfortunately surrounded the days leading up to Easter, I figured I owed my children a serious block of uninterrupted time, doing the things that are special to them. So, it began leaving work a little early Friday afternoon and taking David biking in the dirt and “off the main path.” We climbed hills, scaled rocks, made skid marks in the dirt and raced around the track where David proudly declared “the Cowboys play, even in Tennessee” (the Franklin Cowboys, of course, but all he sees is the star). It was one of those Spring days when the air literally tastes good—which for me is a symbol in the lungs of what times like this do for my soul.
Later that evening, I took Christine on a daddy-daughter “date night” to see one of her favorite stories—The Miracle Worker performed at the Boiler Room in Franklin. We munched popcorn, met some new friends waiting in line, played games on my iPhone at intermission, and laughed over the silliest things. I caught myself fighting back nostalgia even before the moment was over because I realized as I watched one little girl on stage discover a new world of language and hope, I was watching the one next to me grow up before my eyes.
In the morning, it was Luke’s turn for one-on-one time and we discovered a trail near our house we’d never seen before. As we hiked through woods, “climbed trees,” and jumped over creek-water, a longing arose in me to see the world again through his eyes—to remember what it was like to be content with nothing more than a truck in one hand and dad’s palm in the other. To remember a time when going around the block was like Louis and Clark mapping new territory. And, just for a moment, I think I did.
Then as Luke settled down for a nap, there was still time left in the day for Christine, David and I to hike Radnor Lake—a proper finale to the best twenty-four hours I’ve spent in months.
I sat down later to reflect with my beautiful bride, sharing with her the images of these delightful excursions. We committed ourselves again to the wisdom we’ve known for years, but so often forget—life is made up of these priceless moments that exist only now, and soon will be gone. Or, as God himself said more beautifully in Scripture: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for people to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives people wealth and possessions, [and time] and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart" (Ecclesiasties 5:18-20). Thank you so very much, my God in Heaven, for the gift of these moments with my loved ones. Please enable us to treasure the gift of time we have while we have it.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Well, once again this past Sunday, we members of the Jesus community got to vocalize the greatest announcement in history: “Christ the Lord is risen today!” Yes, the story has been told before—but it never gets old to me: we get to worship a man who wouldn’t stay dead! This is vividly personal for me as it means that whatever is dead in my life doesn’t have to remain lifeless and empty: the darkness in my heart; the failures in my past and present; my father’s grave; my friends’ marriage; our world’s future… The list of places that cry out for resurrection’s hope is endless.
But I thought I’d focus this week on the challenge a friend of mine, Jesse Baker, presented recently: can the reality of Easter actually make a difference, actually be made visible, in the gathering of the people of God? His challenge is much richer than that line actually, so I invite you to read it on his blog of April 5, titled “Easter”: http://1ostinacloud.blogspot.com. The lines that continue to work on me are these: “I would argue that the congregation, not the preacher, bears the burden of stepping up to the plate on Easter Sunday. This is the time of year when the people on the ‘outside’ will come to us... the people who are disenfranchised by the machine that the church has become are walking through its doors, maybe for the only time this year, maybe for the only time in their lives. So what are we going to do? Leave the cheesy small-talk and your penny-loafers at home... be authentic. The church should look different on Easter Sunday... there should be a Joy and a thankfulness among the people that spills over the aisles from pew to pew, heart to heart.”
Now, these words resonate with me, not because it “lets me off the hook” as a preacher-type. Quite the opposite: it places the challenge on me (and the rest of us), simply by being members of a congregation of Christ-followers. So, it’s a simple question I will carry with me: will we proclaim the Easter message with our lives, in our gatherings, and in our going-about-in-the-world and not just with our mouths? That said, I certainly don’t want to diminish this simple but life-changing proclamation either. But for that, let me direct you again to Jesse’s blog entry “risen” on Monday, April 13.
Blessings in your life and journey this week!
“He is risen indeed!”
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I have always enjoyed sports, games and other avenues of friendly competition. I must admit, though, that these can be places that reveal just how far short from God’s character I still am. I can think of far too many times in the past when the “friendly” part of the competition all but disappeared and my attitude stole the joy of the game. I recently came across a section in Basil Pennington’s book Centering Prayer that reveals what is at the heart of this battle:
Most of us have to struggle with a very poor self-image—sometimes more, sometimes less. Negative attitudes toward ourselves have been programmed into us by negative feedback from parents, teachers, and others all along the course of our lives. In many cases, we have tried to hide this even from ourselves by the false self-image we have constructed—that fragile thing that calls for much defensive care. In other cases we let the negativity dominate much of our sense of self.
When we can realize that all such judgments are being made in the light of false norms, false evaluations of what truly constitutes our worth as human persons, we can let those negative judgments and feelings go. When we experience our true beauty and worth in God’s creative and adoptive love, the negativity we are tempted to feel about ourselves melts away and gives place to joy and freedom. Secure in our own true worth, we no longer need to be competitive or jealous or stand on the head of the other to bolster our slumping ego. We can stand in the crowed and not be lost, because we know we are uniquely the object of a divine Love (126-27).
This makes sense. In the barrage of our performance-driven culture, we grasp the most fragile foundations on which to ground some sense of self-worth. Pennington reveals a more secure footing—the immeasurable Love of the Father, Son and Spirit. So I long for this God to reveal himself in such a way that I increasingly find my worth simply in being the object of His delight. As he himself has said, “God’s pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the speed of a runner; but the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:10-11).