Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Honor Flight, Washington, DC
So thankful on this Thanksgiving week that I paused my busyness long enough to wait on an elderly man wearing a navy hat and using a walker. As I approached the heavy door of our local Jamestown Post Office, I noticed him slowly making his way to the entrance. I waited and held the door open for him as he approached. He looked up under the military insignia on his hat and with a wry smile said, “I walked across Europe and into Germany but now I can’t even get into the Post Office.” Wow. I returned the smile and told him I was thankful for his service.
On the drive home, I was reminded of a time when I was waiting on a connecting flight at Washington Dulles International airport. A noisy crowd was gathering close by so I got up and walked over to witness a plane load of military veterans coming off an Honor Flight to see the WWII Memorial on the Mall. Some were gamely walking with canes and walkers, while some were attended in wheel chairs. Some had tears in their eyes. Every hassled passenger in the crowd paused and began clapping as a men’s chorale sang fight songs.
I paused once more to thank God that I am among the very fortunate to be born in a land of freedom and to have known the greatest generation that sacrificed so much for it.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Jordan River Headwaters, Banias, Northern Israel
I admire the no-nonsense attitude exhibited by Pope Francis who is now the spokesperson for the world-wide Catholic Church. This week he went on record in a sermon stating that “Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes. It’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path…We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it. God weeps, Jesus weeps.”
Over 2,000 years ago God came into this world wrapped in the flesh and blood of a human being. Mary delivered the young baby who was sent to deliver her and all mankind. The people of the time were looking for a warrior king to save them from the occupying Roman army, but his mission was to save us from ourselves. Or as the prophet Isaiah writes, he came as the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Our God never seems to select humans for incredible tasks that we humans would choose. And He never seems to act in ways that would seem logical to us humans. He impregnates an aging Elizabeth who is well past child rearing with John the Baptist and a teenage Mary with His only Son. That leaves no doubt concerning the source of the power behind the human.
Thirty years later, the Son Jesus was walking through the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria. The chosen people had been defeated by the Assyrians after they had turned their backs on God and He withdrew his protection. The remaining Jewish Samaritans had intermarried with the invaders and were shunned by the southern Jews, but Jesus didn’t acknowledge such cultural bias. He met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that legend says was named Photina. She was even shunned by the Samaritans because her life had spiraled off the tracks. But Jesus knew her heart and crossed all barriers to speak to Photina, offering her “Living Water” so that she would never thirst again.
The Old Testament has many passages which Jesus knew that speak of thirsting after God as one thirsts after water. God came into this world on Christmas as living water to satisfy the soul’s thirst to be connected to the one true universal power that is grounded in love and relationship. He came to reveal Himself to us and what he desires for us—to structure our lives so that we could all ultimately love one another and our Creator. And he demonstrated His loving grace through the Prince of Peace who has the power to accomplish it through us. This was no charade but an act of unconditional love for all mankind that the world needs more than ever this Christmas.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Burst of Glory, Jamestown, NC
Fall is vanishing,
As nature braces itself.
Betray the ominous storm.
The last rose of fall,
Unfurls with a burst of life.
Defiant and proud,
Beaming glorious splendor.
This tender fragrance,
Fills the cold air with sweetness.
Of brighter days in the sun.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Different Perspective, Internet Domain
“The first day or so we were all pointing to our countries.
The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents.
By the fifth day, we were only aware of the earth.”
--Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud
I ran across this quote from one of the International Space Station astronauts recently. It’s always interesting to view any situation from a different perspective. I remember confronting the term “alien” years ago on one of our first trips to colorful Colorado. We were returning to our car that was parked in a remote lot at beautiful Maroon Bells National Park outside Aspen. A nearby jeep had a green bumper sticker with jagged mountain outlines and the bold word “NATIVE” overprinted on it. Parked right next to it was a van with the exact sticker design on the back window that proclaimed “ALIEN”. And here we were in the midst of one of the most outstanding natural places on the planet with two families proclaiming their differing right to be here.
Another one of my favorite Internet meme’s consists of a portrait of a “Native American” Indian proclaiming “So you don’t like aliens. When are you packing?” And then one of my most mind cringing quotes from some History Channel episodes on the origins of modern man always begins with the phrase “according to ancient alien theorists”. According to some “revered theorists” human beings evolved from biological experiments that may have possibly originated from another race in another universe.
One of my favorite quotes on our environment is that “we don’t inherit the earth from our parents. Rather we borrow it from our children.” This world doesn’t belong to any of us. All of us are simply stewards of this planet that we use for just a short span of time. And all of us have been wired with this underlying low level of anxiety that unconsciously reminds us that we are all just aliens here, since our real home lies beyond this life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow we all could understand this eternal truth from the perspective of our international space station--or better yet, from the perspective of the One who created it all in the first place?
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Church Steeple, Strong City, KS
Brene Brown notes in her book Rising Strong that a critical component of resilience and over-coming struggle is spiritual practice. All of us experience the storms of life. She defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to one another by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and belonging. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” We find support and celebrate our spirituality inside our houses of worship and we exercise our spirituality outside the walls of those houses.
Adam Hamilton offers a path to spirituality in his book on Making Sense of the Bible. He professes that “I share Christ with others because I believe that in Christ we see the clearest picture of who God is and what God longs for from humanity. I share Christ because I believe it is in knowing, loving, and serving him that we find the fullest and most authentic life possible. I share Christ with others because I believe God wants all people to know the good news of Jesus Christ. I share Christ because I believe he is the way, the truth, and the life.”
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Monday, November 2, 2015
Slip Slidin' Away, Internet Domain
Growing up in central Kansas with a father that had a passion and talent for the game of baseball imbued me with a life-long loyalty for Kansas City baseball. Unfortunately, my dad suffered through the long seasons of the KC Athletics, but I had the pleasure of being in Royals Stadium (now The K) during the George Brett glory days and the 1985 World Series. Brett is still with the Royals organization and his gritty style of play is stamped all over these young players I just watched win the 2015 World Series. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting George and his wife when they hosted a Las Vegas charity event at their home. His three silver bats on display in the study represented offensive excellence in three separate decades.
This Royals baseball team whose motto is “keep the line moving!”, puts the never in “never say die”. They not only trailed in all five games of the World Series but were still behind into the eighth inning in three games which they won. That has never happened in 110 years of World Series history. They seldom strike out because they feed on two strike counts and love fast balls. They keep the petal to the metal on the base paths. Eric Hosmer personified this grit as he made a dash for home plate on a routine throw to first base to tie the final game. They live the NY Yogism that “it ain’t over till it’s over!”
In retrospect, I couldn’t help but think about the 1969 movie True Grit where John Wayne received his first and only Oscar as a tough old U.S.Marshal who had a reputation for getting the job done. Grit is plain old rough granules of stone and folks associate it with a strength of mind and the conviction to see things through in the face of strong adversity. Persistence and practice with a purpose are great equalizers over superior talent. The Royals have a team attitude and connection with overflowing self-confidence. Add in a lot of talent and you have a recipe that’s becoming more legendary than KC BBQ!
And the irony of George Brett’s quote at the beginning of the ninth inning of the last game wasn’t lost on me. As Lorenzo Cain gritted through seven pitches to lead off with a walk against the Met’s ace pitcher Harvey, Brett was overheard to say, “I’ve seen this movie before.”