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What a difference a year makes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you are wondering about the genisys of the inspiration for this post, you need look no farther than Arnold’s cheesy mug.   No farther, but much deeper. 

Little Frau and I went to see the latest, and greatest, of the Terminator saga last evening.   It was a good yarn.   It brought back dozens of references to those stories of yesterday, but a few core themes reigned supreme.

Good versus evil.

Mankind’s fear of the apocalypse, of “judgement day”.

Man’s quest for immortality.

The insatiable desire to do things over: to tell a better story the second time around, and to ultimately change the outcome.

Somewhere in the dark of the pre-dawn hours one year ago today, my earthly father breathed his last.    To twist the famously oft-quoted line of our Austrian movie star friend, “he won’t be back”, and I am coming to peace with that.

What a difference a year makes?

No, my father has gone to a better place.   It is a place prepared for eternity.   To quote another Arnoldism, this from the latest tale, “he has been upgraded”.

Over 2,000 years ago, we had a visitor walk among us who transcends time and space, and His status indeed was upgraded as he told us “I will be back”.   This visitor didn’t arrive from Hollywood, but from Heaven.

When he comes back, it will be real,  and he is going to take us to be with him.

His name is not Arnold, but Jesus.

It will be to a place without pain.

It will be a place without pretense, or fear of a coming apocalypse.   

As you watch a suspenseful movie, you often know the true outcome before you see the full details of the story played out.   The same is true for us today.

Hebrews 9:26-28 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. 

My earthly father is gone from this life, much like I will be some day, but our journey continues, as does the promise.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Double Jeopardy

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Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  (Psalm 90:12)

Today’s category is words that begin with the letter “D”.    Words like “days”, and “dollars” are at the root of finding ourselves in double jeopardy.

It was garage sale weekend at the house of Bing, or more appropriately, “the Bings”, in plural.    To say this weekend was years in the making would be an understatement.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.  (Ps. 90, v 1-4)

My word for this weekend has been “Detritus“.    Our friends at Merriam-Webster have a couple of definitions for this seldom used part of our English language:

1) loose material (as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

2) a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away
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What better word could be used to describe the by-products of life’s accumulations?    I have Little Frau to thank for the inspiration of using the word to describe our weekend, and I have Little Frau to apologize to for subsequently over using said word.
I couldn’t help myself, once I knew its root meaning.   It spoke to me.   More importantly, it spoke to the heart of what we were working through at our homeplace the past few days.
In what I will define as the first third of my life, I didn’t have a lot of “stuff”.    Moving, whether around the world for a few weeks or around the state of Texas and beyond, was easier than it is today.   There was less accumulation.   There was less baggage.    The baggage, and the stuff, we did have was linked to fewer memories of days, and people, gone by.
Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  (Ps. 90, v 10)
The same cannot be said for today.    The first third has expanded into what I will define as the first two thirds, or hopefully less, depending on what God has in store for my hopefully remaining 30-40%.    He has numbered my days, and is teaching me to do the same.   While I will not know that I am at the end of the equation until I am indeed told to “put down my pencil and stop working”, He knows when that time will be, and it is incumbent on me to keep working and to do a little less “shuffling” in those remaining days.
Which brings me back to “detritus”, and to Double Jeopardy.    You see, the loose material that has called our garage home for the past several years contains meaning.
There are trinkets.
There are treasures.
There was some trash.   There still is, as the before and after pictures show.
But, we accomplished some things this weekend.
We generated some dollars, which we prayerfully plan to use to spend some days together as a family, making memories.
We exorcised (and exercised, in the process) some demons of our past, mostly regretful fashion decisions, as my son so wisely pointed out while loading the van for Goodwill last night.
Through it all, I was reminded how fast life goes by, from generation to generation, and how I want to spend less time in my remaining days accumulating and shuffling and more time giving and sharing.    There are memories, good memories, in touching relics of the past and tearing up over pictures from days gone by, but you can only do so much of that.
As the before and after pictures suggest, I need to make a “deeper dive” in my effort to put the future before me and the past behind me, and I look forward to doing just that.   I was impressed during a conversation with a friend last night how very few things occupied their garage.    There is clearly an intentional effort there to both continually purge the non essentials and to preserve a few things held most precious, even if they may not be used again.    A little detritus can be a good thing, even at the risk of our hearts being in double jeopardy.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

1May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.  (Psalm 90:14-17)

The Joy Bus

  

A long time ago, in this land not so very far away, two school buses rolled off the assembly line.   Not the seemingly different buses pictured above, mind you, for they are in fact one in the same vehicle.   There is more on the second bus yet to mention.

You see, the bus above, in its pure yellow 42 seat configuration form had outlived its effectiveness.   Originally acquired by its most recent former owner at an auction, it was a bit unwieldy to work with.  Let’s just say it was no longer salty, and was sitting on the back 40 waiting to be trampled under foot by both Father Time and Mother Nature.   It was time for a change of venue, even at the cost of a change in purpose.

Back in the 70’s, JOY buses were all the rage in churches.   Repurposed from old school buses, they would drive around neighborhoods picking up kids and transporting them to church and back.   They were filled with singing, lots of singing.

The newly painted bus shown above, despite its colorful shell, is no “JOY bus”.   While it will bring both joy and entertainment to its future constituents, it has been stripped of its ability to carry very many people anywhere.

  
The second bus refered to earlier had  also likely outlived its intended purpose, and was probably also acquired at auction.  It then boarded a ship for the far country.  

While it may not look much different today than on the date of its manufacture, it has found new life, indeed.   It also helps to bring new life, and healing, and even joy.    It is regularly filled with singing, lots of singing.

These two sibling buses were born almost twins, and now they reside worlds apart.   I said often this past week that “old school buses never die, they just go to Honduras“.   I guess I could now add, “or they quit truly serving as buses”.

I read Richard Stearns’ book The Hole In Our Gospel on this recent trip to Central America, and found it a bit painful and convicting.   Let’s just say there are some analogies between Christian churches and buses that satisfy our needs versus buses that carry large groups of people to a destination, and leave it at that.   I’d suggest you pick up a copy of the book and ask for yourself.

Religion that is pure and good before God the Father is to help children who have no parents and to care for women whose husbands have died who have troubles. Pure religion is also to keep yourself clean from the sinful things of the world.  James 1:27

In the interim, I’m happy for both of these buses and the joy they may continue to bring.

Amen

A Yellow Streak

  

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, life was, simpler.   Simple?  No.  Simpler.

At least, it seemed so to me, but likely not so much to those who raised me.   Or, maybe it did.   Sometimes joy is found, or even focused, in and on the simpler things.

One of my strongest early memories is sitting in a pasture with my dad, and him passing me pieces of yellow Laffy Taffy while he hunted for dove and quail.

An equally strong memory is of Saturday mornings spent in greasy spoon diners in east Texas, watching my dad cut his eggs, prepped “sunny side up”, and watching the yellow yolk run across his plate.

Yes, a yellow streak runs through the river of memories I have of time spent with my dad.   However, this yellow streak is not of fear, but of fellowship.

Even the most casual observers of social media could tell this has been a big weekend for our brood, and it showed.   For that, I am eternally grateful.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
 

Our youngest graduated from high school this weekend, and friends and family have blessed us with their presence, both physically and in messages via the social media realm.

While one person has been missing for us in particular this weekend, his personality and his influence have not.   As I was blessed to hand our son his diploma Friday night, a piece of the famed Laffy Taffy might have been slipped into the above pictured handshake.   The following morning, just before her graduation, my daughter and I shared some private moments over breakfast, a breakfast where she requested “some eggs with runny yellow centers”.

Yes, a yellow streak has run through our weekend, and our lives.   I hope to prayerfully and joyfully play my part to keep it moving.

   
       

Move the shuttle

  

“As you let God’s design be worked out in you, you will see its impact in others and for generations.   Let the tapestry show its beauty.   Shun the threadbare existence.   God holds the threads, you hold the shuttle.   Move it at God’s behest, and watch the making of something spectacular.”

I just finished Ravi Zacharias’s book The Grand Weaver.   Reading
it has been a humbling balm as I walk within a hurting world.  I recommend it.

  
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

The Commune

Once upon a time, there was a group of young people.   They selected a place of meeting.   It was a place where some lived, and a place where others only gathered.   It was a place where they shared their minutes, their meals, their joys, and their sorrows.   It  had an air and aura all its own, both literally and figuratively.   They called it “the commune”.   How fitting.

Time passed.   The callings of life mandated that the commune was no more.  And yet, the callings of true community draw those young people back, together, to a time where place is irrelevant, and relationship is preeminent.   May such love of relationship, and community, never die.

My mind and body called me into words, and The Word, very early this day.   I’ve been reading the words of Ravi Zacharias, and subsequently of the Appstle John.

In understanding the “Godhead three” there is an acknowledgement that God is relationship.   God is love.   And we, being created in God’s image, are stamped out to be just so.   We are called to relationship.   We are called to love.   We are called to be in community.

In reading Zacharias’s words from a chapter entitled “Your Worship Matters”, it all becomes more clear, crystal clear, and Communion, Holy Communion” begins to take on a new level of meaning.

In reading John’s words from a book we call “Revelation”, the same is true: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…” (Rev. 22:1)

Amen, and amen.

   
         

  

The words came from the trail behind me.   They were words based on innocent observation, but lacked complete and full insight.   And yet, she meant me well.

  I was grateful.   You see, just a mere two or three hours prior, I laid in the land of limited oxygen and fading energy, mustering my reserves for the long journey remaining ahead.   As I continued on the trail, my young companion, my progeny, had gone on before me, leaving me alone.   My water supply was now gone, leaving me parched, if not feeling drained.

Then came her question: “Sir, are you OK?”    She walked beside me for a short while.   Her questions soon revealed that she was a nurse, and my condition was likely being assessed.   I thanked her, revealed little information, and told her I would be fine.   If she had stayed with me a bit longer, or had even thought to offer me water, she might have come to understand just how hard a time I was indeed having.   And yet, I offered the fateful phrase “I am fine” and off she went.

  
I love the analogies and metaphors life has to offer.    One of the best is that life is a journey, a sojourn spent climbing a trail, sometimes difficult and painful, but always filled with abject beauty.

And here, we find ourselves today.  We are tired.   We are parched.   The air is thin.   There are those on the trail with us who are suffering more deeply in the moment than are we.

Sometimes, all you can do is come alongside them and ask “Are you OK”. Other times, perhaps we should save our breath and theirs, and simply walk alongside them and share our resources on the trail that lies ahead.

  
Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with musicand song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

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