T.M.I.

T.M.I.

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I don’t know if you listen to WTOP news radio or not. I know we do, because we are news junkies. And it seems as if the station is trying to turn us into traffic and weather junkies as well, by offering those bits of information every ten minutes, on the eights. I think you know about that, but I’ve noticed some things about this that give me pause. For one thing, it seems every time I turn the radio on, the traffic report begins. This is eerie—how do they know I’ll turn the radio on at the exact moment they give the traffic report? Have they hacked into my wi-fi? Do they have spies? What about reconnaissance satellites? All these are possibilities, so watch out!

What makes if worse is that I try not to drive in the areas I hear about on the radio. I don’t have to go far to get what I need, or I can order almost everything on line. So why do I listen to the traffic? Is it to feel sorry for the drivers stuck in horrid traffic jams? Is it a compulsion I can’t escape? Or do I want to avoid the worst routes when I am forced to go there? I tell you, I don’t know.

Then there’s news of the weather, and it makes sense to listen to that. However, I find that, with my limited attention span, I can’t remember what the meteorologists say about the forecast, particularly when they favor us with a four-day forecast. I tell myself I only have to wait ten minutes for another forecast, but the same thing happens. I’ve found all I have to do is to listen to people talk about the weather. (And I know, they don’t do anything about it.) I can remember the repeated forecast for a short time, but if I’m by myself, I just told you what happens. I can’t seem to win.

The point of all this is that anxiety drives our obsession with traffic and weather, as well as many other things. Jesus clearly told us not to be anxious, but that’s difficult when we try it by ourselves. However, we can rely on God for patience and protection under all circumstances. I’m sure you’re heard the stories of believers who overcame tremendous trials and used their suffering to point to faith in the Father. Praise God for God’s protection and comfort and for his sacrifice of his Son on the cross. Thanks to this, we don’t need to worry about anything, and that’s some of the best news I can think of. Amen.

 

Driving Mr. Dan

Driving Mr. Dan

Colossians 1: 17: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

I don’t know exactly how you feel about driving in this area, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us tolerate the jams and messes at best and dislike them with a passion at worst. Put me in the “never want to drive again” column. I find this ironic because, like most teenage boys, I couldn’t wait to get my license. Driving represented independence, mobility, power and a sure-fire way to attract women, even while driving a 1956 black Chevy sedan.

Somewhere alone the way, driving lost some of its luster. Crowded roadways, increasing expenses for gas, insurance and maintenance, angry drivers and increasing taxes all conspired to make driving a chore rather than a pleasure.

I still drive, of course. It’s a necessity in today’s suburban world. And it’s about four times faster than taking the bus. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

However, I found the solution to my problem right at home. Her name is Becky, and in the past few years, she has done the heavy lifting with driving, taking all of the long trips and most of the shorter ones. She’s an excellent driver, and her parallel parking—well, it’s unparalleled. She almost invariably ends up six inches from the curb, even when accomplishing the feat left-handed. As a result of this, I doubt that I go much past ten miles from home with my errands, and that sounds like a plan to me.

The point of all of this is that when we feel upset or beleaguered about some of the many things that beset us, God is there for us, either directly or through the efforts of others. Praise God for being the solution to any problem, for being there for us, and for using others to make things right. Amen.

 

 

Only a Shred

Only a Shred

Acts 3:19  (CEV): So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.

I don’t know exactly how many of  you have used a shredder, although I suspect that most of us have at one time or another. We’ve burned through several shredders because we generate a lot of paper we need to destroy

I was shredding something the other day, and when I finished I decided to look at the little warning icons that lie beneath the shredder’s slot where all the bad paper goes to die. This was the first time I had looked closely at the warnings, and I found these:

  1. An exclamation point, which meant either “danger” or “I’m excited about shredding.” Don’t laugh too much at that. Kathi Crowder says she enjoys “shredder therapy” and looks forward to tearing paper up. It is cathartic, I must admit.
  2. An icon of what I take to be a book which must mean, “Only shred the pages and not the hard covers, dummy.”
  3. An icon of what look like fingers. This must be a warning to not put your fingers into the slot, to which I say, “Duh!” The only fingers fitting into that eighth inch slot would be the legendary ribbon fingers. Or a baby’s fingers, although anyone who would let a baby near a shredder is seriously lacking. If you’ve wanted to do this, I have these words for you: “Don’t! And call your mental health professional yesterday!”
  4. A representation of a screwdriver. ‘Nuff said, except “Don’t!”
  5. A picture of a necktie. Don’t put that in unless you’d like to have a real necktie party.
  6. What seems to be an aerosol can. Don’t even try to shred that unless you’ve been aching for a new shredder. What I think they mean is, “Don’t try to spray the contents of the can into the slot.” But why would you want to?
  7. What I take to be a representation of a woman’s hair. No. Don’t unless you want a really funky hairdo.

The point of all this, besides advocating safety at home and office, is that all of us have things we’d done or thought that need to be shredded. We can try to be our own shredders and try to do something about the many ways that we fall short. But we can’t. Only God can change our ways for the better, and the ultimate example of that was Christ’s death on Calvary. And it wasn’t paper that God destroyed but rather the grip of sin and death upon our souls. Praise God for his love, grace and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that we don’t have to worry about shredding our lives. God had already done it before we were born. Amen.

Repair or Replace

Repair or Replace

Revelation 21:5 (NIV): He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’

I don’t know if you think much about the issue of repairing something as opposed to replacing it, but I bet you’ve had to contend with it. In most cases, if something is low-cost, it might cost more to repair than to replace. If the cost is higher, the same dilemma applies, although if you have an older car, the cost of repairs might be more than the car is worth, in which case you would replace it.

You might recognize the title of this as a reference to the Safe-Lite auto class replacement company as in “Safe-Lite repair, Safe-Lite replace.” Other than using the wrong form of the verb in the slogan (it should be, “Safe-Lite Repairs, Safe-Lite Replaces), but who’s counting except some anonymous grammar enthusiasts? I had occasion to use them two times, one when my wagon was fully loaded and I pulled into the driveway apron. The glass shattered, and it wasn’t me, honest. My mechanic told me the car had torqued and that flexed the rear window beyond its limits. The other time I did break the rear glass by sticking our mailbox through it. Don’t ask.

The point of all of this is that we are all broken, and although we try to fix ourselves, we can’t do it. God can, however and works with us through his grace and mercy to make us whole. Now, we don’t become totally whole in this life, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are joined with him in resurrection, and it is then that we are made fully whole. Praise God for God’s grace, mercy and love which makes whole what we cannot fix. Amen.

On Pens and Ink

On Pens and Ink

Psalm 139: 23-4: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

I don’t know how you feel about pens. I think they’re great. I even started a pen collection years ago. At its zenith, I had a Mont Blanc ballpoint which someone gave to me and a Parker cartridge pen I used in college. I had gone on to look at Waterman models from the 1930’s but gave up on my collection when I figured out pens, like weddings and boats, could be a money pit.

I didn’t always have such a good relationship with pens. We were exposed to writing using the Zaner-Bloser method, which used the ugliest pen on record. The business end was supposedly designed to fit young fingers while the other tapered to a point which had what looked like a small onion dome on it. Whoever designed this instrument of potential mayhem had never been around an elementary aged boy. When it came time for penmanship, we boys tried to stab our compadres with the sharp end. The pain served to keep our minds on how terribly awful our efforts at writing were. I was an “A” student otherwise, but for five years, my practice papers came back with “C’s” on them and the admonition, “Work on legibility, Danny. I know you can do it.”

It’s a good thing we didn’t have much access to the ballpoint pens of the era. A friend took one of his fathers and showed it to me at recess. Somehow we got the pen to leak all over us, ruining our shirts and incurring the wrath of our mothers.

I couldn’t write the way my elementary school wanted me to. I suffered through it and was happy to go to intermediate school where there was no talk of penmanship. I promptly abandoned cursive and resorted to printing, like every boy I knew. There was no talk of our doing this beforehand: we just did it.

About this time my father came home with a typewriter and I hunted and pecked my way through high school and college. In graduate school, I found I had to hand write my masters essay. We had a practice test, and I got the test back with this on it: “Nice work, Mr. Verner, but please work on legibility.”

I learned to type when my school acquired computers and we were required to take a course in programming using Basic, which couldn’t program enough to get anyone out of bed. But I could type.

About this time, I figured out the ballpoints had improved greatly. And ever better, businesses gave them away for publicity. My favorite pen is one given out by our mechanic, which seems to last forever and has a little squishy doughnut looking thing on the end that can be used for texting. With it, I could send messages at half the speed of a ten-year-old.

I generally have two pens on my person. Someone asked me why, and I said, “In case one fails?”

“Has that ever happened?” they asked.

“No, but it could.”

It seems to me that we are like the ballpoint pens in my experience. We start out messing up all over the place, but the God comes into our lives, and everything we do is improved if we follow God’s will. Because of his love and goodness to us, we grow in our spiritual qualities and are able to better to what God wants us to. Praise God for taking us as we are, loving us and making us into creatures that are even better than a 1936 Waterman. Amen.

 

Me, My, Mine

Me, My, Mine

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I don’t know if you think about yourself. I know I do, and I do that too much. If my mind were a house, the décor would be about thirty years out of date. It’s a place that even I don’t want to spend much time.

The cure for thinking about ourselves too much is, not surprisingly, to think about something else. It’s a matter of the old saying from the early computer age, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If we fix out minds on junk, we will soon be addicted to junk. If we fix our minds on the good around us, we will be filled with goodness.

Paul wrote about this truth to the church at Philippi. He knew that, if the church were to grow, it would be through the grace of God and the thoughts and actions of the believers. They had to think about admirable and loving qualities— and then put those qualities into action.

We must be about the same business. If we are outwardly directed, we won’t be paying attention to ourselves, but will be concerned for others and our world. And as we do, we will have a spirit of humility. The writer of Micah describes such a state in the sixth chapter and the eighth verse of the book: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. I believe that if we act justly and love mercy, then we will walk humbly with God. God has created us to live together with the Spirit among us. And this will keep us from being held captive in a house that is thirty years out of date. Amen.

A Wide Open Space

A Wide Open Space

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 : For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.

I don’t know how you felt about our one-month choir vacation. I looked forward to it and then enjoyed it for a week. While having the time off was nice, it did pose some problems.

For one thing, I didn’t know what day it was. I have an infirm grip on this anyhow, but take away rehearsals for bells, Ensemble, Chorale and ESOL classes, and I also didn’t know where I was as well.

There were other problems as well. Without our special “choir seats” to sit in, we were thrown on the mercies of the nine o’clock congregation. I chose my seat carefully, trying to avoid those I knew who believed that sitting in any particular place enabled them to claim it in perpetuity. So, each Sunday, I chose a seat and cowered down, half-expecting to be swooped upon. My prayers worked, because no one accosted me. The experience did improve my prayer life.

Another problem is that we were more starved for friendship than we would have been otherwise. Our rehearsal time allows us to talk with each other (briefly as we learn anthems, to be sure) share the terror of going over a new anthem, indulge in inside jokes (as in “Does anyone have a problem with this passage or maybe your neighbor does?). And then we learn to depend on each other for direction and accuracy as we move from our places in the front of the sanctuary, scattering to places unknown and hoping that we chose a place to sit that is unclaimed.

I think that God has created experience so that we may have a time to learn music and a time to take a break from that, that we have guaranteed seats and we may have to find a safe place to sit and that we immerse ourselves in routine and we may give up our choir routines for a while.

“For a while” is a critical phrase. It’s good to have a break, as long as it doesn’t last too long. In a sense our life here on earth is “for a while.” We know that it will be over one day and then we may experience the life that lasts forever because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Praise God for routine and that lack of it, for an improved prayer life and for the community that nurtures us, wherever we go. Amen.