July 20, 2015

Last week a group from our church went on a short term mission trip to West Virginia. I point that out only to say that I am TOO TIRED to write any serious, thoughtful, challenging schlock. Can we reminisce just a bit then? I have no idea if any of the things I am about to mention will connect with you. No doubt you have your own thoughts and memories. I recall years ago a dear friend who was actively involved in theater (Hi, Chris F.!!) said something like this to me, “I wish we could hang on to some of our childhood qualities. In particular the ability to go from one extreme emotion to another in a matter of seconds… i.e. laughter to crying… crying to laughter.” I have maintained that quality, I’m afraid, as documented in a previous rumination but there are other things from childhood that I would like to recapture. Maybe the most significant: imagination. A few examples.

My grandparents had one of those big honking couches with the large rounded arms on the ends. It was green, held together with a million brass tacks and was made of some sort of fuzzy material. I vividly recall putting a pillow (saddle) over the end of the couch and riding my “horse” like a mad man. Don’t misunderstand… I was not a little boy sitting on the end of a sofa imagining that I was riding a great steed. I WAS riding a great steed! I was Roy Rogers and John Wayne and Cheyenne Bodie (remember him?) all mixed into one. I could shoot, rope, ride, and fight with the best of them. It’s interesting to note that it only worked with a pillow. No pillow (saddle), meant no horse.

I was also a super hero. Most of the time I was mild mannered Bill Little. Slow, not athletic, not aggressive, not much of anything that would distinguish me from anyone else. BUT… give me a towel and a safety pin and I was transformed into Batman or Superman or any other comic book hero with a cape that I wanted to be. I had super strength, super speed, invincibility, and of course, I could fly. I conquered the worst of the worst villains along with rescuing damsels in distress. Again, this was not about “imagining” I was a super hero… I WAS ONE.

Occasionally my mom would take me to get new tennis shoes. Although I have no data to substantiate the following claim, I know it to be true. New tennis shoes meant one thing – I could run faster than before. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t fast, but it was faster than with my old shoes. Or so I imagined.

My long time friend Tom S. will remember vividly what I am about to describe. Near where we lived there was an isolated, never used, dirt road/path that ran across the top of a wooded hill. The road ended with a small loop. We just called it “the turn around.” In retrospect it was likely from the days when the property was a farm and this was where they deposited all of the junk because there was a pile of debris and tires at the loop. In the center of the circle was… well… nothing really, mostly small trees and weeds, but it could be a club house. Let me say that differently. IT WAS A CLUB HOUSE. Many important world shattering decisions were made in that place! If we had known about the Cuban Missile Crisis it would have been solved at the “turn around” along with the rest of the “Cold War.” But when you’re only 5 years old, well… there are some limitations.

One more thing. When I was little I don’t recall “imagining” Jesus. Jesus was real just like anyone or anything else in my world. He wasn’t a “theology.” He didn’t have to be “demystified.” (Look it up) The Bible didn’t have to be “redacted.” (Look it up) There was no such thing as “doubt.” (You don’t have to look that up do you?) Jesus was just real. How I long for that vivid part of childhood.
Honestly? There are things about adulthood that just plain old stink.

Matthew 18
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.




July 9, 2015

There have been times in our country’s history when we have actually been fairly united. Certainly the years following Pearl Harbor come to mind. And the weeks and maybe months following 9/11. And we were united in our grief and sadness after November 22, 1963 and January 28, 1986. But outside of the years leading up to and including the Civil War, and maybe the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam “Conflict” in the 1960’s, I wonder if our country has ever been as divided as it is now? Seriously, my history isn’t that strong so maybe I need to be corrected. And frankly it could be that you just don’t agree with me. But it looks like serious, spiraling-out-of-control, division to me.

I know many of us have different “friends” on face book and other types of social media. I would say my “friends” are probably as diverse as anyone’s. It only takes a cursory look at the computer to see the division… angry, bitter, hateful, division. There are those who are proudly flying the Confederate Flag. And there are those proudly displaying their rainbow colors… And there is little concern by anyone for whom they may be hurting or offending, or hating.

I have “friends” who are eager to say disparaging things about the current and past President or about those in a different political party from them. Let me say that a little differently… I have “friends” who are eager to say “hateful” things about our current and past Presidents and those in different parties. I’m going to guess that they might deny their “hateful” feelings, but frankly I question their sincerity in that.
Well, the truth is this blog is not really intended to speak to non believers. So I have little to say to them. But to those claiming Christ as their Lord… well…

Years ago there was a man in my life who made things miserable for me. I struggled and struggled to know how to deal with him. Then one day… DUH… the light came on. Pray for him. Not prayers like, “God would you change him.” But prayers like, “God would you bless him in ways that he does not deserve or foresee.” Those were very hard words to pray! Guess what? His behavior changed completely. NOT! He didn’t change at all. But I did. My heart softened and I had a personal stake in his life since he was a subject of prayer for me.

I don’t know where the line is, but sometimes our attitudes spill over from dismay and disagreement… to… well…. Hatred. I think that’s a problem. A serious problem.

Then there’s this sticky verse in Matthew:
Matthew 5:“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The difficult question before us is, how do we love others with whom we disagree and think their behavior is ungodly? Especially when we live in a culture that teaches that if you disagree with someone’s opinions or lifestyle, you must hate them. Why is that, by the way? Simply because it suits an agenda where we can dismiss another’s opinions by simply calling them hateful. The world does not understand how we can love and disagree all at the same time. Truth is, we don’t understand it very well either. Straightforward example: our own children. I do not agree with my kids on a variety of issues, but I love the heck out of them and I’m pretty sure they know that.

So Christian people… what to do, what to do? First of all, let’s be clear. We no longer live in a predominately “Christian country,” if we ever did. What many of us might think of as “Christian values” are on the wane, and rapidly so. If you are one who thinks there is revival around the corner, I have some property to sell you in the Everglades. That being said, I do believe, like in the Old Testament, there will always be a remnant of God’s people as a witness. But we are moving into uncharted, secular territory.

I suspect that the role we will have to play and the reputation that we must foster in the not too distant future (if not now) will be as “lovers of others,” even those with whom we disagree. Not, naysayers who foment hatred and division. So, the next time you want to say something hateful toward someone who doesn’t agree with you… well… read Matthew 5 again. Then ask yourself if your thoughts are the thoughts of Jesus.