December 20, 2020
Graciela, a 27-year-old architect from Manhattan, received a marriage proposal while floating in zero gravity over 20,000 feet above the earth. She and her fiancée Alex, had boarded the special flight to celebrate her birthday. By flying nearly perpendicular to the earth, the plane briefly creates zero-G effects. In planning the stunt, Alex's one worry was that the ring might float away, mid-flight. It didn't. Graciela said yes.
At a 4th of July family picnic, Malissa looked on as her fiancée, Todd, launched himself off a platform above a swimming pool. He was completely engulfed in flames at the time, having had a friend set his gasoline-soaked clothing on fire. Don't worry -- everything turned out fine. Todd's friend, Eric Barkley, is a well-known professional stunt man who has done this sort of thing many times for movie roles. He let Todd borrow a hooded, flame-retardant suit of clothing and carefully supervised the whole procedure. Emerging from the pool, Todd knelt at Malissa's feet and said, "Malissa, you make me hot. I want to get the point across that I'm on fire for you." Okay, maybe that's not the best reason for marriage, but it got Malissa's attention. She said yes. (By the way, do NOT try this at home.)
Sean enlisted more than a dozen friends to assist with his proposal to Betsy. He gave each friend a black umbrella. On each of them he had painted a single, large letter in white paint. After inviting Betsy to join him for a walk in the park, the two looked on as a crowd began to assemble, all carrying umbrellas – even though it was a sunny day. They formed themselves into a line, and on a signal, all went down on one knee, laying their open umbrellas on the ground in front of them. The letters spelled out, "Will you marry me?" Betsy turned to Sean: "Oh, look, somebody's getting married!" It was then she noticed he, too, was down on one knee, holding out a ring to her. She said yes.
This week is the final week in our Advent series based in the lessons from the Psalms titled with the biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God”. This week we will explore love in the light of the Psalm 89. How we receive it and how it can be restored in us through the power of the One born in Christmas.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we rediscover and reclaim love through the restorer of our souls.
Grace and Peace,
Receive the Joy
December 13, 2020
Joy is more elusive, more subtle and more nuanced than happiness, a predisposition to cheerfulness, persevering with emotional extra effort, or the luck of good fortune. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes joy as "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. . . I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world."
Whereas we can manipulate circumstances to our own advantage to obtain what we think will bring happiness, or expend great efforts in pleasure-seeking, joy is entirely gratuitous. You cannot earn it, buy it or deserve it. It is a divine gift to receive rather than a selfish goal to pursue.
Daniel Clendenin reminds us in Journey with Jesus that the opposite of joy is not sadness or sorrow but anxiety. Jesus encouraged his followers, "do not worry about your life. . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Consider the joy of the birds in their morning songs, or the flowers in their springtime glory, he said. If the Lord of the universe clothes creation with such extravagance, then we can rejoice in his love regardless of our circumstances. Jesus says that we rest in God's love "so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete"
This third week in our Advent series is based in the lessons from the Psalms. I have titled it with the Biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God” which is repeated many times throughout various psalms. This week we will explore joy in the light of the Psalm 126. How do we receive it and how do we distinguish it from mere happiness.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we encounter joy in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,
Get Out of the Pit
December 6, 2020
"There is a story about a band of inexperienced mountain climbers. Without guides, they struck recklessly into the wilderness. Suddenly a rocky ledge gave way beneath their feet and they were tumbled headlong into a dismal pit. In the darkness of the pit, they recovered from their shock, only to find themselves set upon by a swarm of angry snakes. Every crevice became alive with fanged, hissing things. For each snake the desperate men slew, ten more seemed to lash out in its place. Strangely enough, one man seemed to stand aside from the fight. When the indignant voices of his struggling companions reproached him for not fighting, he called back: "If we remain here, we shall be dead before the snakes. I am searching for a way of escape from the pit for all of us."
Our world sometimes seems like a pit of snakes. We did not sink into the pit in 1939, or even in 1943. We had descended into it generations ago, and the snakes have sent their venom into the bloodstream of humanity, gradually paralyzing us, numbing nerve after nerve, dulling our minds, darkening our vision. Good and evil, which were once as real as day and night, have become a blurred mist. In our everyday life we worshipped force, despised compassion, and obeyed no law but our unappeasable appetite. The vision of the sacred has all but died in the soul of man. And when greed, envy and the reckless will to power, the serpents that were cherished in the bosom of our civilization, came to maturity, they broke out of their dens to fall upon the helpless nations....
Tanks and planes cannot redeem humanity. A man with a gun is like a beast without a gun. The killing of snakes will save us for the moment but not forever. The war will outlast the victory of arms if we fail to conquer the infamy of the soul: the indifference to crime, when committed against others. For evil is indivisible. It is the same in thought and in speech, in private and in social life.
The greatest task of our time is to take the souls of men out of the pit."
Abraham Joseph Heschel penned these powerful words in "The Meaning of This War”. The war of which he is speaking is World War II.
This week is the second week in our Advent series based in the lessons from the Psalms titled with the biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God”. This week we will explore peace in the light of the Psalm 85. How we receive it and how we share it with others caught in the pits of life.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we look for peace in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,
November 29, 2020
Eugene Peterson (Living the Message: Daily Help for Living the God-Centered Life) points out that what a lot of people call hope is in reality something different. It's wishing, not hoping: and wishing and hoping are not the same thing.
"Wishing," Peterson says, "is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope. It does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing."
Peterson goes on to say that we can picture wishing as though it were a line coming out from us with an arrow on the end, pointing into the future, pointing toward that thing we most want to possess. Hope is just the opposite. It's a line that comes from God out of the future, with its arrow pointing toward us.
"Hope," he continues, "means being surprised, because we don't know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing -- to refuse to fantasize about what we want, but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next."
This week we begin our Advent series based in the lessons from the Psalms titled with the biblical plea, “Restore Us, O God”. Our first week we will explore hope in the light of the Psalm 80.
I look forward to being with you on Sunday as we hope in the restorer of our souls.
Grace & Peace,