Monday, March 30, 2009

Land of the Dying

When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed, his secretary wrote in his name to a friend, “I am still in the land of the living.”
“Stop,” said Owen. “Change that and say, ‘I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living.”

What a thought as we come running into Holy Week! We are in the land of the dying. It is true for everyone of us who takes breathe. It is with this great reality that we came to Ash Wednesday several weeks ago, "From the dust you have come and to the dust you shall return." We watch over the next few days how even Jesus when faced with the reality of mortality breaks down in tears in the garden.

Still, ours is not the land of the dying. Our future and our hope lies in the land of the living that waits on the other side of the viel. With that in mind, what do we have to fear? Why do we continue to be held by fear? Do we not believe? Have we not faith? Have we not hope?

If we be Christian, if we truly believe that ours lies in the land and time God will make home among mortals, and God wipe away every tear and death will be no more and the covenant will be fulfilled, "I will be their God and they will be my people," then let us no more live as people who are going to grave, but live as people prepared to enter the land of the living.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trusting in Tough Times

Ok, so maybe life is not so bad. The DJIA went up 300+ points yesterday. But still the question hangs out there, "Do we trust that God will help us in our time of need?"

Through the scriptures God regularly hears the cries of the people. Consider the call of Moses. The LORD says, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their suffering, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians." (Exodus 3:7-8a)

The LORD God does deliver them from the Egyptians. God does bring them into a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This is the good part of this incredible story of our faith; they are delivered. The tough part is trusting God enough to hold on until the promise becomes the blessing. It took ten plagues, crossing a sea, and forty years in the wilderness before the promise was fulfilled, and even then the people doubted.

Trusting God in hard times is, well, hard. God does hear our cries. It may still take time to deliver on the promise.

Watch for "Do we trust God enough to share" coming soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Yes, it is bad. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is valued at 55% of what it was worth one year ago. According to the news this morning about $50 trillion dollars of net worth have disappear in the last year. Scary, huh?

But what is it that we really fear? Losing a job or a home? Not being able to retire "on time"? Finding out we are not as independent as we once thought?

God can hear our cries. Just like the LORD God heard the cries of God's people in Egypt and promised to deliver them, God hears our cries today. The question I find myself asking as a person still living well in the upper-middle class, "Am I the Hebrew in distress, or am I more like the Egyptian taskmaster?"

We have become so wealthy and powerful as individuals and as communities that we forget how much we really have. Yes, we might have fear and worry concerning our wealth and status. But ask yourself, "What do I really fear?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


A little girl, 4 years old, stopped me this morning as I was coming into the church. "My doggy died," she said. I knelt down and she came over for a hug.

Death is a harsh taskmaster. We are all caught up in its clutch from the moment we are born. We participate in it. We are affected by it. As much as we do not like death, it is always there. The ultimate pink elephant in the room.

Lent, these 40 days before Easter, are a season of self-reflection. Many Christians begin the season with a smear of ashes on their face and the words are said, "From dust you have come. To the dust you will return." A morbid moment really.

Yeah, death. Cold. Harsh. Real.

And there behind death is Christ. Laughing at the vain attempts to keep us in submission.

"Daddy said, 'Our doggy has gone to heaven,'" she said.

"Yes. And someday you will get to see him again," I said. And I thought of my favorite dog, Danny Boy. And how someday, after I have become dust, I will sit in a swing under a live oak tree, watching the late summer sun set with Tammy by my side, Danny boy at my feet, and a baseball game playing on the radio.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Today I stepped in at the last minute to help lead a discussion for the United Methodist Women at University Church. The topic they are currently studying is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With little time to prepare I began with the questions, "Why do we care? Why are we emotionally hooked by this conflict? What natural resources are they really fighting for?"
In terms of wealth, we have no reason to care. It is arid, resource poor, rocky ground. But we get hooked because as Christians we call it "Holy."



It is the "Holy" Land. We get hooked because we want to defend, hold, touch, have what our faith has called, "holy." But, if we take the "holy" off the table and look at the land itself, it is just a junk piece of property. When will we be able to step back and be rational about the fact that God is holy and the rest is just rocks and dirt and water?

Tell me what you think. Can we be non-emotional about Jerusalem and the "Holy" Land?