Serious Sunday

My maternal grandparents were humbly devoted to God. They lived it out every.single.day. They lived it in their love for their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren and for strangers. They also lived in out in their love for each other. 

I have sweet memories of my grandma wearing dresses, with full front aprons and hose, and I don’t mean panty hose, out to work in her flower garden. And she sang. She sang about Jesus. And she laughed. Man, did she laugh. She had this great gold tooth that gleamed as brilliantly as her laughter.

I need to check with the family historian, my cousin, MJ, but I believe it was the late 1970s that we started a tradition of celebrating Grandma’s birthday, which was June 10. We had a family reunion/picnic in the park. Of course Grandma and Grandpa awakened in Glory years ago but we have continued the tradition to this day. 

And this day was that day. The crowd waxes and wanes from year to year but there is always a group that sets aside the day to come together to eat wonderful food, including myriad desserts that would make Grandma smile. We talk and we laugh and we take photos and we remember how important is the bloodline. 

It is rich and red and strong and runs through us with vigor and persistence. We know it is bigger than us as individuals. When we are together, it is fierce and fearless. We never forget from where we came. And we are grateful.

The prayers of my grandparents, the love of my grandparents, and the faithfulness of my grandparents are the shoulders on which the rest of us stand. 

Our legs may get wobbly, our eyes may occasionally fall away from the prize, our hearts my wander, but we are never far from Grandma. Her voice is the tether that keeps us close. She never lets us go.

I pray that we continue on the journey and that those who come behind us know that their ease in walking it is only possible because our grandparents forged that path.

The two in the photo are my mama, Evelyn and her younger brother, Jay. They are the last of their generation. They are listening for the voice of my grandma as she sings about Jesus. And that voice is getting clearer. 

Something in my Eye

Speaking of Walmart, I stopped by there last week on the search for a specific item. I walked through the men’s department and discovered some interesting pieces of clothing in the graphic T-shirts section. On one tank was a silk screen print of a creepy-looking cat riding a surf board on bad design waves.

Alrighty, then.

Another tee I ran across stated “Of course your opinion matters, just not to me. I feel that way at times.

But this one pictured above, caused me to stop and ponder. It brought a pause. 

First, we all need Jesus. The way I see Jesus is God incarnate. I find comfort in visualizing the concept of God sending a boy/man-God to live on this earth and literally show people how to live a better life; how to make good choices and treat others with an unselfish love. Yes, we all need that kind of example.

I have certainly had moments when that statement ran through my head. I just feel like it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually to walk around with this shirt on your body.

It brings to mind a little story J-man told in the book of John in the bible. He clearly was addressing the issue of judging others. Here is a direct quote: “How can you say ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will clearly see to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Bam!

As my dear daughter-in-law says “Who are we kidding?”

I suggest that anyone audacious enough to wear this T-shirt, may also want to purchase a guide dog. That plank in your eye could make walking a bit difficult. 

Serious Sunday

And what a serious Sunday it was. This morning we attended a service at the Yale University Church, held at the Battell Chapel. In 1757, Yale founded its own Congregational church, making it the first college church in America. Today’s service was called Service for Word and Table for Pentecost, Yale Commencement Weekend. It was truly meaningful and lovely. 

This afternoon we attended commencement worship at the Yale Divinity School. I have been delighted with the sacredness of these events. I have also been delighted at the honoring of these students. The faculty appears to be authentically saddened by their departure, yet enthusiastically anticipant about their futures. 

Invocation:

Come, Holy Spirit, move among us.

Kindle in us the fire of your love.

Come, Holy Spirit, breathe upon us.

Kindle in us  the fire of your love.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people.

Kindle in us the fire of your love. 

Tomorrow morning, my Andrew will walk the steps from the Yale Divinity School atop the hill on Prospect Street and descend to Olde Campus where he will receive his M.A.R., Masters of Arts in Religion. He works harder than anyone I know and has received a monumental education during his time at Yale. And, I must note, has given a monumental chunk of time, energy and blood, sweat and tears to this endeavor. I am extremely proud of him for this success. Far beyond that, I have been proud of him his entire life. He is truly a fine gentleman and an exceptional human.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Dominus Deus Sabbath

Osanna in excelsis

Hosanna in the highest, indeed. 

Serious Sunday

Powerhouse. That is the name of the current sermon series. The idea is how to make your family, your home, a powerhouse. 

The dictionary defines powerhouse this way:

   ~  a source of influence or inspiration

   ~  one having great drive, energy, or ability 

   ~  an athletic team characterized by strong, aggressive play

The message was clear. Whatever your family ‘looks’ like, it is YOUR family, whether that is you, your spouse and your 2.5 kids or that is you and your mama, or you and your six adopted children, or you and your siblings, or just you and your child. 

The definition of powerhouse applies to every home. We all want our homes to be a source of influence and inspiration. We want to have great drive and energy and ability. And, just like an athletic team, we want to be known by our strong, aggressive play.

That last one may need to be unpacked a bit. First, one of the key words here is team. A family is indeed a team. Everyone has a role and when each ‘player’ does their best in that role, the team works and wins. We are stronger together. 

The pastor stated that one of the ways to begin building your powerhouse family is to have a mission statement; a list of known aims and values. Most companies have mission statements. A family needs one, too. It is a roadmap to begin to see where you want to go and how to get there.

My family is definitely my team. We are a mix of personalities. And though we do not always see things exactly the same way, we have each others backs. We would go to war together. 

Mother Teresa said: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” 

That about sums it up. There are many things in this world that we cannot control. But…we can control the values we teach our children. We can control the love, kindness and unselfishness that we model in front of our families.

The generational ramifications of the choices we make can indeed change the world. 

Serious Sunday

The late (and great) Billy Graham had many wonderful, poignant quotes. Most are serious but this one is witty and brought a smile. 

A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

Christians often get a bad rap because they (we) have been known to talk out of both sides of their mushy mouths. Meaning, they are syrupy stickily rehearsed at talking the talk but walking the walk often requires a crutch or a wheelchair. 

How quickly we are critical of anyone who doesn’t do things our way. What evil is satisfied within us when we hear a juicy little nugget about someone and can barely contain our joy to tell a friend. Our minds easily slip into that dangerous phrase “I’m not perfect, but at least I wouldn’t do THAT.”

The clucking of our tongues at a fellow human’s poor choice and ensuing destruction is not love. It is not how we are meant to care for each other. 

We so want to be helpful to brush the sawdust out of “a weaker one’s” eye. Jesus said “First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will be able to see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Burn…

As my Andrew says “Oh, how the mighty fall.” 

We are all one gnat’s eyelash away from being among the fallen. 

Perhaps we should think about that before we give our parrot to the town gossip. 

Serious Sunday

Easter Sunday in all its glory.

I remember many things about childhood Easters. There was always egg coloring, which involved little plastic bottles of food coloring mixed with vinegar. We would then put the eggs back into the cardboard egg box and into the refrigerator. On Easter morning, our special one would show up in our basket, along with jelly bean, Peeps, foil wrapped marshmallow eggs and chocolate drops. How fun it was to awaken and find those six baskets, oldest child to youngest child, full and lined up on our dining room bench.

My oldest son, a student at Yale Divinity School (about to graduate!), sent me a text message yesterday. He was in the midst of writing a paper entitled “Hellenistic Cultural Influence on Imagery Used in Early Christian History and Worship”. Wait, huh? Yes, he is warmly brilliant. I told him he needed to modify/simplify that title for me, which he patiently did and it was totally fascinating.

At the end of his text he said “Being the night before Easter, I’ve been thinking about this quote from Søren Kierkegaard, ‘There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is.’ 

Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He had a passionate commitment to God in the face of uncertainty.

In connection to Kierkegaard’s quote, how apropos that this year, Easter, a sacred Christian holiday, fell on April Fools’ Day.

I do not want to be a fool and I do not want to be fooled. I want to believe what has always been and will always be, the beautiful truth.

Happy Easter.

Being Watchful

“On familiar landscapes we are less likely than elsewhere to notice the widening of fissures along fault lines. While we ought to act to avoid them, we often may ignore the signals or find ourselves unmotivated to discern when to take them seriously enough to move around and beyond them.”

I first learned the word fissure about 35 years ago when I was worked in the surgery department at a large local hospital.

The definition of fissure is this:

  1. A narrow opening or crack of considerable length and depth usually occurring from some breaking or parting; a fissure in the earth’s crust.
  2. A natural cleft between body parts or in the substance of an organ; a break in tissue at the junction of skin and mucous membrane.
  3. A separation or disagreement in thought or viewpoint.

As we move through our days occasionally things occur that motivate us to discern or act. Often, the most difficult of these will not have to do with unrecognized danger in the external world but with what is going on around the fault lines of the soul.

In my daily devotional reading, this line stood out: “It is much easier to stay away from the crumbling edge of an abyss than to find a way out of it.”

The alcoholic and workaholic and chocoholic and shopaholic and social mediaholic exist at the edge of the abyss.

The addicted learn, as do all who are brave enough to self-exam, that everyone has to deal with from where we came and our life experiences that have brought us to where we are at this moment.

Thus, the AA serenity prayer:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

My desire is to continue to be aware of the “widening fissures along the fault lines and to discern when to take them seriously enough to move around and beyond them. “

Serious Sunday.

King of the Hill

Golf season is underway. Though, if you live with a golfer, as I do, golf does not have a season. It has a lifestyle.

This weekend is the Bay Hill Classic, a favorite on the PGA tour, due to its honoree; course developer, (and sentimental home of) Arnold Palmer.

Arnold Palmer was born on September 10, 1929, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His father was a country club groundskeeper, which brought the game of golf to Arnold from birth. He had a simple start, working at that humble golf club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to superstardom as one of the most beloved golfers, and men, around the globe.

Palmer was a highly successful business executive, skilled aviator and author. Besides his golf performance record, his magnetic personality and unfailing sense of kindness and thoughtfulness to everybody with whom he came in contact endeared him to millions throughout the world. This led to the informal formation of the largest non-uniformed “military” organization in existence – Arnie’s Army.

Palmer was a “stay-at-home” guy when he wasn’t on the road traveling. He would awaken each day at 5 a.m. at Bay Hill, go for a jog or a walk with his dog and then get in a workout before having breakfast. At his desk by 8 a.m., Palmer would attend to a business empire eventually worth around $700 million, featuring golf course design and ownership, a clothing line and the iced tea and lemonade concoction bearing his name.

“Business first, golf second,” longtime friend and Bay Hill resident, Howdy Giles said while describing Palmer’s routine.

Rarely did a day go by when a member of Arnie’s Army did not approach him for an autograph or photo.

“People would come up and say, ‘Mr. Palmer, I hate to bother you…,’ while he was eating lunch,” pal, Giles, recalled. “He would always stand up and shake their hand; if it was a lady he would hug her. Most of these pros would blow you off.”

“That’s why he was The King; he did things other people don’t do.” People were attracted to Arnold Palmer because of the kind of person he was.

He never lost his common touch. He was a man of the people. He looked people in the eye and had a handshake that was genuine and passionate. He had strong hands. A fellow golfer stated: “He had some mitts.”

Palmer spent countless hours in his workshop grinding soles, re-gripping clubs and even building them from scratch. He certainly could afford to have those things done but that was not his personality. He loved to discover and build and create. He loved to tinker.

Palmer died on September 25, 2016 (shortly after his 87th birthday) while awaiting heart surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Arnold Palmer had some great quotes. One of my favorites is this: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

Success did not come easy for Arnold Palmer. He did not even have the prettiest of golf swings. However, he worked hard. He never forgot his commonality. He made every person he met feel special.

It’s Serious Sunday. On this day, let’s take a lesson from The King. Kindness and respect can dissipate tension, end arguments, prevent fights and even stop war. They can make you a hero, even a king.

What a mighty power for something that is completely within our grasp.

 

Serious Sunday

Today the pastor was making reference to another pastor on staff who had endured a fractured wrist during a motorcycle accident. The accident occurred when this pastor was riding and tried to avoid hitting a squirrel. Admirable.

The pastor was poking fun at him a bit, calling him a “novice” and saying it was a “rookie mistake.” He stated that seasoned riders know how to avoid the majority of accidents. An important lesson that is taught in “motorcycle riding school” is this: Do not focus on what is straight ahead of you. Huh?

The safe way to ride is to look to the place you WANT to go. Aha.

He said that many motorcycle accidents happen when the rider is so focused on the guardrail as he turns a bend, that he actually hits it because he is not looking past the guardrail.

That idea immediately took me back to when I was learning to drive. I was out one evening with my dad. I was moving along slowly and he noticed my gaze was down toward the front of the car. He asked what I was looking at. I told him I was watching the yellow lines on the road so I would be sure to not get too close to them. He quickly informed me that I need to look straight ahead and not focus on the lines. It was nearly verbatim to what the pastor said this morning. My dad’s words were: “You have to look ahead of you. You have to look where you are going, not where you are at the moment.”

It’s funny how hearing something 44 years later makes so much sense.

How often we see the bumps in the road, the distractions, and focus so anxiously on them that we cannot look ahead. We forget to keep our eyes on where we want to go.

I want to see the big picture. I want to notice the bumps and be aware of them, but keep my gaze always on the horizon.

Thanks Dad.

 

Serious Sunday

The fisher who draws in his net too soon,
Wont have any fish to sell;
The child who shuts up his book too soon,
Won’t learn any lessons well.

If you would have your learning to stay,
Be patient – don’t learn too fast;
The man who travels a mile each day,
May get round the world at last.

This little poem called Persevere appeared in the Children’s Book of Virtues by William Bennett. It is a children’s version of the original anthology, The Book of Virtues. These books aim specifically at the time-honored task of moral education of the young. Moral education meaning the training of the heart and mind toward the good. It involves many things; rules and precepts and the do’s and don’ts of life with others. It also involves the example of adults, who through their daily behavior, show children they take morality seriously.

There is much talk going around about how important it is to “have values,” as if they were pretty stones you collect and put into a pouch. Bennett stresses the importance of morality and virtues not as something to possess but as the core of human nature, not as something to have but as something to be.

The above poem, Persevere, is all about stick-to-it-iveness. Sticking to something makes all of the difference, whether that is math, history, English or life.

The years go by so quickly, which certainly seems to speed up exponentially when you are over 50 or 60 years old. Oh, how well I know.

If time is going to continue moving swiftly on, we may as well travel a mile a day; do something to head in the direction in which we want to go. Pretty soon we may actually get round the world at last.

Whatever world that is.