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The Lessons of Nostalgia….and Thinking/Being Home

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

1  Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2  Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 (NLT)

331      Rest in divine filiation (the love between father and son). God is a Father—your Father!—full of warmth and infinite love. Call him Father frequently and tell him, when you are alone, that you love him, that you love him very much!, and that you feel proud and strong because you are his son.  (1)

I have spent this fall in an interesting sermon series, one that has made me go back and look at part of my youth.  In the middle of the series, I went home, driving the same roads that I’ve talked about in the series, walking the same paths my Dad and I trod with my son.  Re-living those conversations when I was sitting in the backseat – a young child with his siblings.

It has been painful along the way, my dad passed away last year, and many of the journeys, to my old elementary school, to Lake Ossipee, to the beaches at Salisbury, even to the old candlepin bowling alley, brought back many memories, some good, some challenging.  Lots of tears, and the odd reversal – now I was the dad, now I had a son.

All of this – there sermon series recounting backseat conversations of childhood, the trip, it all coalesces into a huge lesson of nostalgia, and a realization about God’s presence.

I overlooked – to an extent – the verse above in Sunday’s sermon.  There is a lot there – He is our home, or as we heard a couple of weeks ago, our refuge. But to hear God is our home, the place we come to be nourished, to be sae, to come when we are sick and find healing and rest.  There is a blessing there that goes beyond explanation.  To realize we are the children of our Heavenly Father, that we are on this journey to our home, is overwhelming.

It even overwhelms the overwhelming challenges of this life.

He is our Dad, our Father, the one in whom we trust.

With Him, we are Home.

And He is here… with us.

Amen

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1312-1315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Walking with God…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:DSCF1421

22  They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23  Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24  The man looked up and said, “Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.” 25  Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25 (TEV)

212      Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things.  (1)

15 years ago this month, I was a young pastor, at my first church a little over a year.  I was starting to crumble when a query about a church conference turned into an opportunity that changed my ministry career.  I was offered the chance to replace a pastor that had dropped out of an exclusive preaching program at what was called the Fuqua School of Christian Communication.  The Basic course was supposed to have 25 students, and one backed out.  It was held at the Crystal Cathedral, in conjunction with other seminaries who made it part of their DMin program. 

It required me to be videotaped during a short sermon, 15 minutes or so. 

Most of the other pastors were from churches of 350-1500.  Some were on television, some pastored famous churches.  I was pastoring a church in the desert, one many have given up on.  We would work 5 to 1 with some of the most famous preachers and christian communicators in the USA.  My mentor was Juan Carlos Ortiz. If you’ve never heard him, in English or Spanish, you should.  He is one of the most dynamic, deep preachers you will ever hear.  He had the first megachurch in his home country of Argentina, came to the USA and started a church for people speaking Spanish at the Crystal Cathedral.

As I watched him shred the first four pastors in my group, I became more and more fearful.  I was very stiff, monotoned and tried to stuff 45 minutes into 15.  I could anticipate every comment he would make, and already feeling overwhelmed by my “peers”, I was wondering if his advice would be similar to what I had heard before.  That I wasn’t cut our (some said I didn’t have the gift ) to be a preacher.

That’s not what Juan Carlos did.  After shredding (very politely constructively and with the skill and elan of a world class fencer ) the more renowned and skilled preachers, he focused only on a 75-second portion of my message.

There, I told the story of the picture above, although thirty-five plus years in the past. Instead of my son and I, I was the son, my dad beside me, on the same road along the shore of Lake Ossipee in Salem New Hampshire.  Then and still, this is the relationship we are to have with God, walking hand in hand down the road together.  Sharing the problems of life, our doubts, our joys, our anxieties. We would ask questions about this life that puzzle us,  Asking for help in making life right. (confession)   And sometimes, it is simply walking in silence.

It is this communion that is what the life of a Christian is to be.  It is how Jesus ministered to the blind man as well, taking him by the hand, and walking with Him.  It is as St Josemarie talked of, where our problems, our anxieties, our fears, our sins are the very thing that drives us to God in the first place. There. everything becomes right.

What Juan Carlos told me was to tell this story, the same way.  To get people to know the God who walks with them, as a father walking with his son.  If I did that, everything else would fall into place.

Today I took that walk with my son…. today, I thought back on that lesson… today, perhaps you need to get back on that road you used to walk with your Father in heaven.

It’s time – let’s all go for that walk….

Amen.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 926-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

My Dad, Death and the reality of Semper Fi!

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United...

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United States Marine Corps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the day:

( Please note:  The feelings expressed herein are mine, not a reflection or way in which others should mourn)

19  When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?” “Yes, he is,” they answered. 20  David got up from the floor, took a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21  “We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!” 22  “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”   2 Samuel 12:19-23 (TEV) 

I probably will not be able to stop the tears tht will come today, and tomorrow and even as I write this, as I grieve at my father’s apssing this morning at 12:02.  I am not like David, save that I think that His words about worship resonate with me, and that is what we have in common.   But ministry will happen – people will find out of God’s love and peace.

But there is something very comforting in David’s words above – that in fact helps me to grieve in a way that I can only find as I encounter God and His Faithfulness.

There is nothing I can do to bring my dad back to life, and the more I think about it, these words mean something.  ” I will someday go to where he is….”

My dad was both proud of and yet very damaged by his military service.  THe PTSD he buried and dealt with for years – and my mom as well, was the result of serving in battle in Korea.  Of having the duty of tending to war-ravaged bodies.  He was a Navy Corpsman, attached to a Marine Division on the front lines.  He only shared with me a couple of hte nightmares – this from a man who shared most everything else in life that happened to him.  Yet, there was a sense of pride regarding the USMC and the men he served with – there were the funny stories ( and some of them were… well not necessarily “clean”. My favorites had to do with his wearing a USMC uniform with Navy rank insignia – which got him salutes from many who outranked him.   Yet there was always the motto Semper Fi.   Marines were the best, the most faithful of the services, the men sent it to do what the US Army just coulnd’t.  (“We’d take a hill, then get to stand downfor a week…. the Army taking our place… sort of… we’d come back and have to retake the damn hill again!)

Semper Fi – always faithful. always

This morning – my dad realizes in a way beyond stating the power of that phrase.  He knows how God was faithful to Him… through the War, through the deaths, through the struggles of adopting and raising 3 kids – each one different.  Of loving people immensely, yet being terrified to show them that love – the anxiety that subconsciously wracks so many veterans, and is so painful for spouses and kids to realize. Sixty years of marriage.  Hurts and pain and pride and health issues and all sorts of crap.  Yet know… he realizes God was faithful, God was there… God sustained Him and used His faith and his scars, as meager as he thought it was… to help people.  He now more than ever realizes the faithfulness of God…. Of that I am fully confident.

Maybe it’s because I’ve walked this horrid road with others, and I know my dad. Maybe its because I’ve seen what peace God gives – even amid tears and heartache.  I’ve seen the faces before Warren and CLyde and RIch and Dale and RIchard an – as we say “with angels and archangels and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN, even as I know I will see my dad’s face this Sunday… and King David’s words will echo in my mind….

“I will someday go to where he is” – with Him.  our Lord.

For God is always faithful – even as He brings us peace in the midst of tears….even as minsitry happens during lament – for there, I am absolutely convinced comes some of the deepest worship….

I pray that your confidence in God is strengthened – as we see God’s hand in the midst of our lives, the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our eternity… in a place without tears.

Thanks if you made it through this mashed up bunch of thoughts…

God really needs our help? Yes..

Devotional Thought of the Day

13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” 14 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! Romans 10:13-15 (MSG)

 

674      Our Lord wants to make us coredeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything… but he doesn’t! He looks for human cooperation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace.  (1)

A long time ago, in a place very far from where I am sitting in China, a young boy was asked by his dad to help him build the stone walls that would line their yard.  His head in a book, he was reluctant, until his father begged him to come help.  What he would do for his dad – was find the small stones – maybe 5 – 10 bounds that would fit the holes between the 20-60 pounds boulders that his dad would put in place.  He would occasionally stir the cemenet with a small trowel, so that it didn’t harden to fast.

As a child I always wondered why my dad “needed” my assistance.  Now as a dad, missing his son a lot while on a trip far away, I understand the need.  It’s not for the minor assistance, it is for the company, the fellowship, the ability to be engaged in something together.  It is what my friend Mike calls “that R word thingy”.  Relationship.

I have friends who will undoubtedly look at the title of this blog and react – God doesn’t “need” our help!  Our people don’t have to be evangelists within their vocation – at least not actively.  Doing a good job will be enough, we aren’t all called to make disciples.

They are wrong, but I think for the wrong reason.  God could make evangelists out of stone.  He could paint the sky with the revelation of His love.  But what if, He wants, He desires, He needs our “cooperation” in His work, for another reason… the same reason my dad would call upstairs and say, Dustin – I need you… come help me build.

Such is our call- a call to work besides the Creator of All, to see His work, up close and there.. as He builds His kingdom….

Such is our blessing today….

SO go – and tell the world of God’s mercy, and love and peace.

AMEN

 

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2480-2484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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