December 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound… Isaiah 61:1
I nearly subtitled this, ‘the post I hoped to offer before Christmas.’ Yesterday, a young man – a Marine – who was unjustly imprisoned since August of this year, Jonny Hammar, was released from a Mexican jail. Words fail to express the relief and joy that fills our hearts, and the hearts of many who are counted among the Hammars’ family and friends. With Jon, Olivia, Katie, and of course, Jonny, we rejoice.
As we celebrated yesterday, following an early-morning text of the good news, and since, I have been taken afresh to that stable where Jesus was born. Amazing. God was born. Divinity wrapped in humanity.
Jesus came and laid aside His divine prerogative, subjecting Himself to human limitation. Restrained in flesh. The Eternal One bound in time and space. Confined and imprisoned by geography, seconds, minutes, hours, years – a human lifespan. Omnipotence reduced to complete dependence.
Who would have thought this – that a little newborn would be mankind’s Liberator? Who could have guessed that a vulnerable and needy baby would one day ‘deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery’ (Hebrews 2:15)?
With our joy over Jonny’s release comes a continuing sorrow over those parents in Newtown, CT, whose sons and daughters will not be home for Christmas, and with others who continue to suffer the effects of violence and natural disaster. This sobering reality will never leave us, and our joy is always tempered by the harsh realities of life in a fallen world.
But with Jesus tragedy isn’t the last word. Don’t let the vulnerability of this baby be confused with timidity. That tender one is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He came to wreck the broken order of a fallen world. Be comforted by a reality that transcends tragedy, lifespans and sorrow.
Friends, in Jesus God has come to liberate unfinished and desperately bound-up prisoners from their enslavement to sin, fear and death. His resurrection insures that even the ugliest expressions of the fall are no match for Him. And He has done this in the most personal of ways – not as a distant, indifferent deity, nor as an imposing and terrifying brute, but as a newborn who was destined to willingly shed His own blood in the violent sacrifice of His life, to bring Redemption, even for our tears.
Such good news.
Welcome home, young man.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
December 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!
This morning Katherine and I left for Pensacola, Florida to attend our daughter Emily’s college graduation, to be held tomorrow. Within hours we will be reunited with all of our children, including our daughter-in-law, and Katherine’s sister and brother-in-law, so you can imagine the joy that filled our hearts in anticipation of the weekend together when our jet took off. However by the time it touched down, 27 people, including 20 children under the age of 10, had been senselessly and violently murdered by a gunman who then took his own life, in Newtown, Connecticut.
I have no answers, only anguish and devastation. My heart is heavy. Before I am a pastor I am a husband and dad, as well as an often-confused Christ-follower. This shouldn’t happen – but in a fallen world it does, and will again. Even as I write, our dear friends in Miami await their unjustly imprisoned son’s release from a Mexican jail. And this on the heels of a mall shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon that left two victims dead and one critically wounded, along with the shooter, earlier this week.
After the initial sense of horror, we were filled with profound thankfulness for our children’s wellbeing, but also an even deeper sorrow, realizing that we will celebrate something with our daughter that these parents never will with their babies. Throughout their entire lives we have prayed for our children and their safety. We prayed when they would fall asleep in their cribs, when they began to walk and put everything in their mouths, while baby sitters were watching them, when they first learned to drive, and every time they were on the road after and since. We prayed for them when working late, walking in parking lots, in classrooms, on flights, and while in college. All along knowing that ultimately we are not in control and have absolutely no way of protecting them – that their world is just as fallen as ours – that their lives are just as fragile.
And now young dads and moms will have to identify their precious ones who will not be able to respond to their expressions of love and tenderness, nor dry their tears. Somehow these dear folks will have to figure out how to make sense out of the rest of their lives.
It is Advent. We long. We wait for violence and death and rage and illness and sadness to be gone forever, when Jesus comes to heal our damaged world and make all things new, where everything that is wrong is transformed into what it was created to be.
Our consolation is Jesus. We don’t hold on to something – we cling to someone, and only a Father, whose Son died so violently and publicly – for us – can both comprehend our deep longing, and understand our profound sadness.
And while we wait, the One who entered into our brokenness, has given us one another – to celebrate, to love, and yes, to weep, comfort and be devastated – together. He has also put us in this world, and permits and desires for us to mourn with those we don’t know – To love those we haven’t met – And embrace those we can’t touch.
So today, and every day, no answers. Tomorrow, with great joy we will celebrate our precious Emily. When she walks across the stage and receives her diploma, we will look at her in the context of what transpired today. We will weep with a deep joy for every memory and this mixed with a profound sadness for others who may never know such gladness.
Until Jesus comes, I think this is the way it is supposed to be…
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
Currently there is a nationally televised Home Depot commercial that has caught my attention. It features people being helped, in every department – by Santa Claus, of all people! If you pay attention to the ad, you will see that at least one of the Santas is named ‘Noel.’ It is written in that black Sharpie kind of way on the apron that adorns every local Home Depot employee. (Chevrolet has a similar ad, but Santa’s nametag is ‘Nick’).
I love this TV spot, not only because of its creativity, though I am shallow enough for that to be sufficient, but also because one of the Santas is a personal friend. In fact, he is a fellow pastor and church planter in South Florida.
Steve Lantz is an amazing guy. He and Lynda, his wife of nearly two years, are expecting their first child in April. Because Lynda was the Campus Crusade for Christ Director for the West Chester University in the Greater Philadelphia area I had the privilege of meeting her soon before they married when she and Steve drove through Maryland. This past year they worshiped with us as well.
Steve has lived with the kind of longing that Advent focuses on. It is the hope of Jesus, and a vision for something that will one day be – something good – that in His coming, what has been empty will once again be to overflowing, and what has been broken will eventually be mended.
Part of how Steve raises funds is through acting. Early in his ministry he took classes in order to supplement his income while he mapped out his dream. For eight years he has served as the Chaplain for the Booker T. Washington High School Football team in Miami (and recently the State Champions), a job that pays little in spite of its own rewards. And he has worked as a short order cook in Downtown Miami.
He is driven by a vision for working among the poor and watching the gospel cause the Overtown neighborhood and community to flourish as a result of the justice, presence and power of Jesus in Miami.
I have found that it isn’t until I am willing to go ‘there,’ that is, to enter into the pain, whether in relationships, personal tragedies, or seasons of sorrow and doubt, that I really begin to connect as an agent of consolation and renewal.
There is something in all of us that is natively resistant to pain and suffering, but the gospel always draws us to enter into our world’s brokenness as Christ did in His Incarnation, so that we may be as tender with its pathos as Jesus is and has been to ours.
His willingness to do so is our Good News.
And that goes for Santa Claus too…
PS Here is a letter Steve put out last month, that describes all he is doing.
November 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning at breakfast Katherine and I talked about what we were thankful for. It wasn’t our Thanksgiving pre-season exercise. It just flowed from a conversation that wound us around and through the world we’ve known together for over 30 years. Something Katherine said resonated – that it isn’t so much the details, but just the fact that God has filled us with thankfulness.
It set my mind into gear. So I wanted to pause and simply give thanks.
Somewhere last year it dawned on me that everything I had hoped for over 30 years ago, with Katherine and the future, God has brought about and much more. It is so cool that God has allowed for us to experience all this together. I could not be more grateful for this extraordinary woman. As the Beach Boys sang a million years ago, I don’t know where, but she takes me there, and I love going with her. But I am amazed at what we have been able to watch unfold through years, life and fulfilled, and yet-to-be realized dreams. How I thank you for Katherine, Father.
This Christmas all of our children will be home. On Thanksgiving our daughters will be with us. We are thrilled. In each of them is a story that testifies to the unfailing grace of God. We remember their infancies, their childhoods, their teen years, and their important moments. They live in the continuing narrative of God’s goodness, and we get the privilege and joy of praying for them daily, and then watching them grow, fall, get back up, and mature – we are amazed. Thank you, Lord for our precious ones.
Both of us are the products of parents who love Jesus. Two of our parents have made it home. All of them have helped to weave faith, hope and love into our fabric. None of them have been perfect, and even this has contributed to understanding the big story of God’s grace. The ones who are gone, we miss terribly, and the ones who remain we love deeply. Thank you God, for parents who gave us glimpses of you until we met you.
We are in ministry. It has always been challenging and sometimes exhausting – and He has rewarded us beyond the very real rigors of the pastorate and in spite of our even more real inadequacies. With each challenge He has poured out grace. And now He has set us in the midst of a beautiful congregation. He was more patient than my homesickness in the early years, and has brought more blessing than our imperfections. He has surrounded us with an amazing Staff, Leaders and Flock. I guess this is the right place to say that He has given me a Starbucks to write and reflect, because it is here (where I write even at this moment), that many from our church family, including our Young People, knock on the window, stop to say hello, and wave as they graciously pass their hermit pastor. This Sunday we ordain a young man who will start a new work in the City of Baltimore. How groovy! O God, thank you for the Chapelgate community (and my Starbucks!).
He has graced us with friendships – enduring friendships – amazing friendships – friendships that stretch all the way back to childhood, friendships from each congregation, old and new friends. It has occurred to us that many of the Young People who were in our youth group when we first entered into ministry have become dear friends in adulthood – how good is that. Our friends are treasures. Each has been placed in our lives by the Father who knows our needs. Through shared trials, love-shaping conflicts, love-affirming apologies, and in spite of time and distance, we have been the beneficiaries of a vast network of affection. Thank you Father for giving us these meaningful friends.
He has given us Jesus. A long time ago Jesus entered into our lives – our worlds. He has shaped, shaken, disrupted, comforted, convicted, confronted and contended with us. He has shown up in moments when we thought we were desperately alone – and without Him we were. He has been our life and for us, He gave His life. Thank you Father for giving us your Son.
The truth is that I could go on and on. God has been good to us and has blessed us with immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I hope this and more for you.
All Thanks and Praise be to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
PS I’ll begin posting again two weeks from today.
November 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last night Katherine and I saw the latest 007 movie, Skyfall. It lived up to expectations and was one of, if not the finest James Bond movie we have seen (of course I’ve seen them all). The action was over-the-top, the story was riveting and it was perfectly cast. And it didn’t end too soon, which was nice – it was longer than most – you know, one of those movies that you wish could keep going – well it did, and we were glad.
Part of what made the experience ‘work’ was that Katherine pre-purchased the tickets and I got there early enough to get us the best seats in the house. For us, the best seats are the ones in the second row of the second tier of the theater. The front tier has those seats that are right under the screen and undoubtedly are the cause of most of America’s neck problems. But in the second row of the second tier, there are rails that you can rest your legs on during the show. They are perfect – and I got them (yes, those are my shoes in the pic).
It got me to thinking, even as I sat waiting for Katherine (I won’t tell you how early I got there because it would provide evidence as to how desperately I need a life). But I got to thinking that this is who we are. We want an edge. We will come early and stand in line for the best seats in all of life. Already the ads are out, and will only intensify – Black Friday is coming and the name of the game is to get to the stores early enough to be close enough to the front of the line to get the best deals before anyone else.
This used to be our tradition. I would waken our son and daughters, and whichever of them could come out of their slumbers would stand in line with me at our Best Buy some time around 4 AM on Black Friday. A few years ago, when we visited our son and his wife in Florida for Thanksgiving, he repaid the favor and dragged me into sitting in line all night!
Here is the thing: Everything about following Jesus is the polar opposite of this – It is about taking the back seat and offering up the front of the line to someone else. It is about serving those one desires to lead and becoming great by making oneself the least.
I know it’s crazy and utterly counterintuitive, but when you think about it, there is no other way for change to occur, in marriages, in friendships, in love, in work and at play. The one who serves sets the agenda for putting the things into motion that we most desire – in life and with one another. The one who says, ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong,’ is the agent through which reconciliation breaks through where there had been cold hostility. The one that steps aside so others may shine counteracts the law of the jungle with law of love.
Yes, it is counterintuitive, but there is no other alternative, because our native instinct is to put self first. And in that scenario there is no room for anyone else.
It is also impossible, and only God can enable us to do what we so naturally resist. But I have come to realize that in every relationship, every conflict and every seeming impasse in love and friendship, there comes a moment when someone can change the physics of hostility simply by taking the path of humility rather than power.
God has to give grace for this, but He does, and He has. In Jesus we have One who demonstrated such selflessness from the time of His birth all the way to the Cross. His was a life of reserving the best seat in the house for someone other than Himself.
Friends, this is good news.
November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
We may joyfully believe that there was, that there is, one to whom no human suffering and no human sin is strange, and who in the profoundest love has achieved our redemption. It is such joy in Christ, the Redeemer, that alone protects us from the dulling of our senses by the constant experience of human suffering and also from accepting as inevitable the suffering in the spirit of resignation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letter to the Brethren at Finkenwalde, 1942
This week, sitting in Starbucks was more than about burrowing in my preferred writing spot. It was also due to the fact that our office was closed and without electricity since Monday, when Hurricane Sandy hit Maryland. Only late yesterday power restored. Fortunately our Staff found creative ways to meet, study and work in spite of the circumstances.
We got off easy. The devastating consequences of Sandy’s wrath in states like New Jersey and New York will yield decades of aftereffects and sorrow. Loss of life has been high, and is climbing. Homes were demolished and entire communities obliterated by water, wind and fire. The sorrow that comes through in news stories and interviews is almost too much for Katherine and I to bear.
Having lived through hurricanes, and having experienced two historic floods in Mississippi during college and grad-school years, I can tell you that there is nothing romantic about going through something like this. Jobs will be lost. Lives will be altered. Families will walk away from their homes, never to return. Relationships will be tested to the brink. Opportunists will exploit desperate people. The world many know will never be the same.
When Hurricane Andrew demolished much of the southern hemisphere of Miami in 1991, a friend (and one of my models for leadership), Ray Goode, the one-time City Manager, along with another city leader, decided to launch a campaign called, ‘We Will Rebuild.’ They rightly resolved that the city was worth restoring, and so as he dealt with the devastation on his own block, Ray led Miami in an effort that was nothing short of Herculean.
Relief is more than a physical dynamic. It is a resolve. And it is something that doesn’t happen effectively in a vacuum and without a larger community of people committed to something greater than themselves. The most enduring and effective relief efforts happen when broken people recognize their own condition in the lives and events of others, and then act on them – together.
A long time ago I discovered something about Jesus that I might not have guessed in my ‘neat’ and ‘responsible’ universe. As you follow Him, and observe how He is constantly confronted by the pathos of people who bear the effects of a fallen world, you discover that He only ever offers relief. What I mean is that He doesn’t ask how something happened, never ascribes blame, and makes no demands – He simply relieves burdens. His response to brokenness is never conditional.
Because the crazy thing is that Brokenness is Jesus’ point of connection with humanity – it is the singular reason for His entrance into our world.
And He wasn’t merely exhibiting His saving power, which would be enough. He was also demonstrating what the Church is called to, and how effective she could be by merely entering into and serving the very broken world Jesus came to save.
Here is the thing: We are connected. All of us. When one person is cut, we all bleed. When one suffers, we grieve together. When a city lies in ruins, we are reacquainted with the reality of our shared condition.
And when there is renewal, as one, we all have cause to celebrate. So we find connection in our shared brokenness. And in relief, together we taste of and share in the good mission of the One who is making all things new.
This is our good news.
If you are looking to help, you can do so directly. Here are two sister church communities that will bring relief where they serve:
1. Brooklyn Presbyterian Church (a community of several congregations):
Brooklyn Presbyterian Church – Mercy Team (make your check payable to this line as well)
174 Prospect Park West
#1L Brooklyn, NY 11215
2. Redeemer Presbyterian Church – Hope for New York
August 25, 2012 § 4 Comments
And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
Mumford & Sons, After the Storm
This post was inspired by a sister blogger (barbcollinsbooks) after several of us conversed online this morning about Hurricane Isaac as it barrels down a corridor in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately any intersection with the state of Florida will impact family and friends. So we pray…
When it comes to hurricanes, preparation begins with determining where you are in the ‘cone of possibility’ (as opposed to the ‘cone of silence’), that rarely-accurate imaginary, studied, hypothesized passage of potential landfall. If there is a relative probability that the hurricane will strike, then it is a matter of stocking up on imperishable foods, filling cars, gas tanks and generators with gasoline, checking batteries and flashlights, charging chargeable devices, cutting down coconuts (aka projectiles), sealing important documents, putting dry clothes in protective containers, and installing storm shutters. Then you just go through the storm (the picture in this post is from our church property in Miami after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 – yes, that is a single fallen tree!).
When a storm closes in on a community, at that point all we can do is ride it out and wait.
Last week our community, Ellicott City, experienced a horrendously tragic event where two college girls were instantly killed after a train derailed beside the very bridge they sat on – probably one they had sat on dozens of times when many trains had passed before.
It is as though a horrible storm blew in for an evening and there was nothing we could do. The storm is still raging – there is great pain. Answers are insufficient, even insulting. There is no substitute for grief… or time. Our Comforter is God (John 14:16) and He alone heals.
Unanticipated tragedies and events have a way of deceiving us into thinking that they are exceptions in an otherwise perfect world. But they aren’t. They represent this broken world’s true identity.
I hate that so much. I hate that it is all so screwed up – but it is. I hate the suffering that family and friends endure, along with the rest of a world that was created to be so beautiful.
And we are called to wait. Waiting goes against every instinct in my being. But deep within I know that I am far less prepared for the storms I face than I would like to admit.
I don’t know how this waiting thing works (Isaiah 40:28-31), but we are promised something we can’t produce when we do. We are promised endurance and hope, none of which we feel during the storm – but somehow and mysteriously it comes. No answers. Just God.
And then the storm passes. By then all power is out and a few hours seems like the entire night. The day after is a surreal experience both in marveling at the damage and debris, and in celebrating survival. It also marks the onset of entering into one’s community to share in the collective effort of healing in the neighborhood.
I think this is who we are: Unfinished sons and daughters of God who find their mission in the healing work of the gospel in a storm-wrecked world. I will tell you that I don’t like the storms, and anyone that tells you they do is probably lying. They wreak havoc with my comforts, and sometimes bring to pass my deepest fears. But I’m glad that God doesn’t keep His children immune to them. Through us Jesus enters into the world’s debris, even as He did into our lives when He redeemed us.
I have no other answers – and need none. We have Jesus. And this enables us to ride out the storm – because He did.
I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but it really is good news…
July 13, 2012 § 5 Comments
While we’re on the topic of God’s grace I want to address my hands. Actually it is my skin. At 48 years of age I developed a condition that arrests my pigment-producing cells, mainly on my hands. It is an autoimmune ‘thing,’ and is somehow related to arthritis, though I have no pain, and the condition is non-life threatening. At the end of the day it is just a discoloration and nothing more.
The condition is called Vitiligo, a name nearly as ugly as the actual condition itself. I would have preferred something to the effect of ‘Surfer Skin,’ or ‘Sniper Hands’ – some studly title that would have every other guy desperately attempting to mimic the condition for himself.
I have been to skin docs, had ultra light treatments and even regularly take vitamins that are supposed to help what could conceivably be a reversible condition – to no avail.
Sometimes, as Christ-followers, we get the grace ‘thing’ wrong. As much as we would like to turn back the clock on decisions, sins and events that have left us wounded or regretful, to live in God’s grace is to believe that He accepts us in spite of the fact that we can’t alter our histories. In fact, if we could turn the clock back and change our worst decisions, reverse our most embarrassing moments, and un-sin all our sins, then God’s grace would be irrelevant.
Here’s what I’m trying to say:
God’s grace won’t grow a leg back from someone who got high and lost it in a car wreck. It will give them relief from thinking that they need that leg to be a whole person in God’s eyes.
God’s grace won’t turn back the clock to make someone undivorced. It will cause a divorced person to understand that in God’s eyes they are no less human.
God’s grace won’t remove the history that causes our shame. It removes our shame in spite of our histories.
This is really the point of Hebrews 11:21, where the writer offers, By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
Jacob never could shake what Brennan Manning aptly calls, that ‘victorious limp.’ He always needed that blasted staff. God crippled Jacob when he finally came to terms with his deep and damaging dishonesty. And He left him a lame man – for life.
And that was okay for Jacob.
Then God gave him a testimony.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we really don’t want God’s grace. Maybe a more accurate way of putting it is that we don’t want to have to need it. We want our records unblemished because of our own merits.
I get that – really I do. We want our former selves when we deluded ourselves into thinking that we were without problems or sins or blemishes. In a sense, we buy into the lie that says we never needed God’s grace until we blew it! Kind of like my saying that until I got Vitiligo my skin was perfect. Like I never had a zit!
What this means is that there is something in all of us that is desperately afraid to place our value in someone else’s hands (ironically), even when they are God’s. But that is exactly what we do when we live in His grace. It doesn’t make us perfect. It does one better. It relieves us of the need to be.
The truth is that the Vitiligo bothers me more than anyone else, though from time to time I catch someone looking at it, and then pretending to not look at it because they realized that I caught them looking at it. And sometimes it bothers me so much that my frustration is no longer merely an internal struggle, but an actual rejection of those who love me regardless.
Friend, you will never change your history, and you will never be able to undo what you most regret. But this is not the prerequisite for God’s grace in your life. Your brokenness is.
So live in that reality.
Take it from old ‘Surfer Skin,’ this is really good news…
June 5, 2012 § 6 Comments
Five for Fighting
It is hard to put into words what it means to get to the 30-year mark with a spouse, especially when our life together started in our twenties! But here we are – Katherine and me – 30 years married. Frankly, I’m blown away.
But first, about my girlfriend and wife. We met in college. Belhaven is a small liberal arts school in Jackson, Mississippi. It is now a university, but when we attended it was a small institution of less than 1000 students, tucked in a beautiful Jackson neighborhood. I was in my fifth year, and through a set of cool circumstances, we sat near one another at a Christmas party, where I was able to hear and see Katherine sing – up close. We began dating. Katherine was a brilliant student, and had a promising singing career before her, had she chosen so. And I – well I was in my fifth year of college – what more do I need to say?
She rocked my world then, and she does today. Between her remarkable musical gifts accompanied by stunning inner and outer beauty and strength, I was hooked – immediately – and have been since. It seems every day I see new manifestations of that beauty.
Two-and-a-half years later we married in Nashville, where Katherine’s family lived, and where she grew up from Junior High, on. This has translated into a lifetime together that has yielded the fruit of enduring love. From before and since the time of our wedding, I was involved in ministry, with Katherine by my side, who somehow was able to teach music and lead churches in worship, all while instilling her strength and beauty into our three children. When my seminary studies were complete, we were off to three magnificent years of youth work, and then three churches I have been privileged to pastor. With each stop Katherine made every house into a home. I am most blessed.
The preacher in me wants to write a few points on relationships, but that would inadequately shift the storyline. Katherine and I are two people that God brought together, and held together because of Jesus. Somehow He took these two immature, flawed and insecure people, and made them into a couple. He protected them on a journey of love, pain, mistakes, ministry, friendships, fun, laughter, trials, troubles, triumphs, tears and joy. He graced us with three amazing children whom we continue to enjoy and adore in mutual love, a precious daughter-in-law and three congregations, along with lifelong friends, all of whom have added lovely chapters to our already-blessed lives. Each person and every experience, along the way – our children, the congregations, the seasons of our lives, and our beautiful friendships, like photographs taken throughout decades, have contributed ‘pieces’ in the shaping of the tapestry that is our marriage – we are humbled and thankful.
I don’t mind admitting that I write with the sweetest of tears…
And to reduce our marriage to a list of ‘how-tos’ would be to miss the point. This is God’s story –Thirty years ago He invited us to enter into it as husband and wife – in spite of ourselves.
Happy Anniversary Katherine – I loved you then, and I love you now.
March 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
I owe you a ‘Part 2’ to last week’s post, and it will come, but this week I am compelled to speak into the moment. Katherine’s Mom, Millie Snider, passed away yesterday. Together, as a family we share the assurance of the Gospel – that she is home and awaits our great reunion at the Feast of Christ.
A flood of thoughts and emotions will continue to stream through our hearts as we think on and remember our sweet ‘Hen.’ We have already begun to reflect, weep, laugh, smile and grieve. But one thought that keeps coming back to us is the weekend we enjoyed with her last month. Deep down we knew this would likely be the last time we could enjoy her in this life. But now that she has left us, the significance of that moment is all the more meaningful.
The picture in this post is of a quick note that I gave to a young man in Starbucks last week. We were both at the bar that abuts the glass that separates the coffee shop from the rest of the mall. He was upset and deeply engrossed in what seemed to be a troubling phone call regarding faith and love. Though I normally pretend to not hear what is going on around me, in the moment I felt compelled to scratch this note and slide it over to him as he conversed on the phone.
Immediately he told the person on the other end of the phone line that he was with a preacher and needed to go. From there we engaged in an hour-long discussion about his life, and the crisis he faced. We exchanged contact information, prayed and have since kept in touch.
All because of a Moment.
Just the other day our Worship and Music Director informed me that he and the band will enter the studio and begin to record. Regardless of the outcome (and I suspect it will be stunningly good), he has captured a moment he will never regret.
It is a Moment he has stepped into.
In his sermon entitled, The Preciousness of Time, the puritan pastor Jonathan Edwards offers that we consider “how time is sometimes valued by those who are come near to the end of it.” Let’s face it, our time is short, and every moment is a gift that often slips our notice.
When Jesus was ready to die, He used the language of the immediate, employing a Greek word that described a moment of significance, “…My time is at hand” (Matthew 26:18). His cry from the Cross, ‘It is finished!’ proved this out – Everything God promised for redemption was fulfilled in Jesus’ sacrifice.
All in that Moment.
Because we are unfinished we can get so wrapped up in details that steal the power and beauty of all these seemingly insignificant opportunities God brings our way. We lose them because they are often wrapped in the ‘ordinary,’ when in fact they are far more: A moment to reflect – A moment to encourage – A moment to sacrifice – A moment to give – A moment to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘I love you,’ or ‘I need you’ – You get the point – It’s a long list, and if we are honest we all have our regrets.
But here is the thing – If you are reading this, then the moment remains, and every relationship you enjoy, and each lovely reality you know, is there before you.
What will you do with this moment?