Difference – #LentPhotos (2016 #5)

15 02 2016

What if there were a single homeless person in our town?

What if only one little girl were going to bed hungry tonight?

What if a solitary elderly man couldn’t afford his insulin today?

What if just one young man didn’t have a set of clothes suitable for job interview?

What if one baby boy were an orphan?

What if there was just one widow who had sat alone in her home again today?

What if only one single mom needed the money to have her car repaired?

What if a lone released convict were to get off the bus with nowhere to go?

What if one teenager was struggling with depression?

What if there was only one addict, trying to get clean?

Could I, with my current resources, knowledge, and circumstances, make a difference in the life of just one person?

I wonder why, when there is more than one, we tend to stop trying to make a difference for the one?  

The one is still there, sitting amongst the many, hurting, hungry, thirsty, lonely, sick, broken, in need.

What if I made a difference for that one?

  





Injustice – #LentPhotos (2016#4)

14 02 2016

There is something wrong in this picture. The Bichon is my 12 year old, Louis, and the Shih Tzu is my parent’s 4 year old, Poohgee. We trade dog-sitting so Jylian and Jocelynn have been babysitting Poohgee while my parents were on vacation. The problem with this picture is the bed – it’s Poohgee’s. Louis has a bed – also memory foam, located right beside (actually touching) Poohgee’s, in the same spot its been for years. Poohgee doesn’t want to trade beds, but as long as she’s staying at Louis’ house, she’s either trading or sharing her bed, like it or not. If she had the vocabulary, I’m pretty sure that what she’d be saying in this picture would be something like, “My parents have abandoned me. The people in this house put dogfood, in a bowl, on the floor; never once boiling me a boneless chicken breast and hand-feeding me as is my preference. And there is a blind, half-deaf old man who insists on curling up in MY bed every night. What have I done to deserve this? This isn’t fair!!” And she’s right, it’s not really fair. She didn’t do anything different, but life is sure doing her different. It happens to all of us at some time or another. Life just is not fair. For some of us it’s minor things, and we can “be the bigger person” and just move past it. But for some people, some times, and in some places – its a level of injustice that goes so far beyond mere inconvenience. Not one of us had a single ounce of control when it came to our gender, our race, our nationality, our genetics, or our economic starting point. But, even in 2016, those things do in fact determine the level of opportunity that will be accessible to us. Of course, we are all responsible for our own choices, but not everyone has the same options from which to select in making those choices. So what do we do about the injustice that we see and experience? Should we do what Peter did in the garden? When the soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus on the basis of lies, he whipped out his concealed carry and whacked the ear right off one of their heads. This wasn’t going to happen without a fight if he was around. Or is it better to take the attitude that I have about the dog bed issue? As long as my ankle isn’t being bitten, or nothing in my house is being torn up, I’m ignoring it. I’ve got my own, bigger problems to deal with, thank you very much.  

Well, scripture tells us that Jesus wasn’t too thrilled with Peter’s action. He told Peter there was to be no more of that, and to put the sword away, and He immediately healed the guy’s ear. So, violence isn’t the solution. But neither can I go through life wearing blinders to everything but my needs.  

There is a simple, but powerful verse in Micah 6:8 “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.” Some things in scripture are a little ambiguous, but then there are other passages like this, which is basically a directive with instructions. Act justly. Its hard to come up with a clearer way to say this, and He then gives us the context in which we are to be taking these just actions – that of mercy and humility. Those three things don’t easily or effortlessly accompany each other. But if the one who experienced the injustice of rejection, betrayal, torture, and death says it is the pattern to follow, well He certainly knows better than I. I can’t even fix the dog bed issue.

  





Look – LentPhotos (2016 #3)

13 02 2016

One of my favorite vacation spots is The Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, and when I’m there, I spend as much time as I possibly can outside, in the forest. I don’t go there for the resort accommodations, or the shopping, or the restaurants. I’m there because because I love what it looks like, more than any place else I know. The fog hanging across the tops of the mountains, the glossy rhododendron leaves clustered in the shady undergrowth, the streams breaking through a crack in the rock face to cascade down into a breathtaking waterfall. It a beautiful place. 

 No matter what else you are seeing, the one thing that everyone is always looking for is the black bear. And so, regardless of what else I am doing; walking, driving, eating, fishing, talking, sitting, I am also looking for bears. This photo was taken on my most recent trip to the Smokies we spotted one, that black blob on the right side of the picture is a bear

My spiritual walk has a lot of parallels – my relationship with God isn’t an activity that I do on Sundays. It is woven throughout all the my life. When I am talking to someone, I am looking for God in them. When I am walking, driving, eating, sitting, reading, shopping…I am looking for God, and unlike the bear, He always reveals Himself to anyone who is looking for Him.

  





Reach – #LentPhotos (2016#2)

12 02 2016

This is my daughter Jaqulynn’s cat, Darla. She’s a bit of a diva. I’m visiting with Jaqulynn, Joel and my grandson Reese for a couple of weeks and part of that equation is an understanding that the queen size guest bed actually belongs to Darla and she permits me to utilize the bed for the length of my stay provided I don’t do anything crazy like roll over in bed at any point during the night once she has positioned herself for sleep. She is perhaps the world’s most fastidiously groomed cat. She spends the bulk of her life getting her fur to lay perfectly. She actually jumps into the bathtub to wash her feet following a trip to the litter pan. If Max (the younger cat in residence) fails to groom himself to her standards, she will wait for him to go to sleep, hold him down and do it for him. So, you can probably imagine how often she permits a one-year old baby to grab her with his sticky hands and plant a big, wet, cheerio-encrusted kiss onto her perfect self. It is not happening. But multiple times every day, Reese will see her sitting tantalizingly close, a grin will bloom as he toddles her direction, reaches out to grab a handful of fur, only to have her effortlessly move beyond his reach; again, and again, and again. And he’ll try again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. He doesn’t get discouraged. It doesn’t even occur to him that it might be a wasted effort, that he should just give up. And, what we all know, except perhaps HRH Darla, is that one day his balance will be good enough, he will move just quick enough, and his reach will finally be long enough to catch her and give her that squishy hug and wet kiss.  

Paul wrote about our spiritual reach and his desire to keep improving, to keep growing in his letter to the Philippian church. He says, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14). You know, if one of the guys that God chose to write the Bible is saying that he hasn’t reached the top of the mountain yet; that he has a deeper level of commitment, a higher level of maturity that he is reaching for then I should certainly never allow myself to stop reaching for all the grace, all the love, all the growth that God has promised to me. I’ll keep watching Reese reaching out to take hold of Darla, and be encouraged to keep reaching forward, to take hold of God’s promises in my life.

  





Fast – LentPhotos (2016 #1)

11 02 2016

The photo is of a small, clay bowl that I made in this evening’s Ash Wednesday service.  It is empty.

Living in the time and place in which we find ourselves, there is very little “emptiness” in most of our lives. Our cupboards are filled with enough dishes to make and serve an entire day’s worth of meals and snacks without ever needing to re-use a single item. Our pantries, refrigerators, and freezers often contain so much stuff that we are forced to squeeze, shove and stack to make room for this week’s purchases from the grocery store. I bought a new shoe-storage unit last month to better organize and corral all of my shoes, because I have too many of them to see them all easily when deciding which ones to wear today. We have an entire industry built around providing resources to manage our schedules down to the minute, so we can shoe-horn in just a little more work, or one more activity into an already full calendar.  

Our culture tells us that full is always better than empty. But what if that’s not true? What if living a life where every room, every cabinet, every device, every day is already and always filled to the brim is really keeping us from being able to receive something even better.  

My grandson Reese just turned one last month, and he is already figuring out that the only way to receive something new is to release what’s already in his hand. Lent is an opportunity for us to be reminded that this truth is applicable in our spiritual lives as well.

As we enter this Lenten season, I’d like to invite you to join me in identifying an area of your life that needs emptying – what do you need to fast in order to create the space into which you can receive something new, something fresh, something divine?

  





How Lovely is your Dwelling Place

2 02 2016

I hope your heart will be challenged as mine was.