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To quote a tune, “I’m finding myself at a loss for words...”

As this Mercy Me song played over the airwaves earlier today, the funny thing was, it didn’t feel OK.

You see, around bedtime last night, the last thing I needed to be heard, and to hear, was the surround sound system coming from a neighbor’s house. It was surreal. I felt it first. Was it an earthquake? Was it thunder? It almost sounded like music. But, how could that be? The house was dark, and all of my (homebound) kids were going to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, one of those kids came into the room. “Do you hear that?”, they asked. “What is it?”. As it continued past the 10:00 PM hour, the same kid headed out into the front yard “to go ask them to turn it down”. That certainly wouldn’t do.

You see, there is protocol for these type of things, I suppose. Memory of decades gone by took me back to the 70’s, and hearing our neighbor in Texas bang on the door and tell my dad to “shut that dog up or he was going to shoot it”. We never really forged a relationship with those people over the 4 years we lived there. Go figure.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been in this house for over 5 years. We know most of my neighbors, and have a mild but modest first name basis relationship with almost all, save one. That one and I have waved a time or two, and engaged in a one sentence conversation a year or so back regarding a sprinkler system question. He probably thinks I should better tend to my yard. I might think he waters too much. Living downhill, I might have half a really green yard to prove out both assumed presumptions.

But, we don’t talk. We don’t have a relationship. And yet, we are right here together. That made the necessitated late night phone conversation all the more awkward. I didn’t want to spoil his fun. I like a good stereo experience almost as much as the next guy, or at least I thought so. But as we lay in our beds, we could feel the earth move under our feet…and our knees, and our elbows, and our pillows…

So, I made the call. Things got quiet. But, will we ever be truly “neighborly”? What can I do to be a better “neighbor”? What does that mean, anyway. And it got me to thinking. We both know, that is not always fun:

Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

…even if it means a little more work in the yard, and a lot more tolerance for the surround sound, among other more significant things…like learning how to be a more engaged neighbor.

I’m finding myself at a loss for words. Maybe it will all turn out OK.

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“He’s like the brother I never had”. (AB)

An interesting thing happened after we moved into this neighborhood a few years back.   We met J, and now he is practically a part of the family.

J not only met us, he has come to meet the other J, that being Jesus, and we now experience the walk of faith together.

Philemon 1:7 says: Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

And the pic?   Well, these two guys  are so much alike, they could be brothers.   Come to think of it, they are.

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I don’t either.   That is what I love about early mornings: stillness, silence, a clear mind, and an opportunity to consider it all.

Be still, and know that I am God!       I will be honored by every nation.       I will be honored throughout the world.”

Psalm 46:10

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Have you ever heard of the Japanese production management term “Just In Time”. It seems appropriately fitting, ironic even, on this Sunday afternoon. The Bing family just spent most of last week with Miyu, our new Japanese exchange student friend/”adopted daughter”, and saw her leave to return home on Friday. That evening, we gathered around the Tele to watch “In Time“, the suspense/action/treatise on society movie starring Justin BSB Timberlake. In the storyline, ordinary people only have finite amounts of time to live, and must make choices each day as if there was no more time to be had. People “with all of the time in the world”, in contrast, seemed to walk around in a trance, afraid to live for fear of dying and “wasting all of that time”.

As discussed earlier, yours truly turned 46 last week. One of the small gifts from family was an iTunes gift card, and thanks to memories of a weekend concert spent with two buddies last summer, I was inspired to purchase Styx Greatest Hits. Due to a little home improvement project Saturday, I spent several hours listening to the album while gripping a paint roller. In so doing, I was reminded of the ballad written by them over two decades ago that had a surprisingly spiritual message to share:

Every night I say a prayer in the hope that there’s a heaven
And every day I’m more confused as the saints turn into sinners
All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that I’ve lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way

And as I slowly drift to sleep, for a moment dreams are sacred
I close my eyes and know there’s peace in a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news to find we’ve so far to go
And I keep on hoping for a sign, so afraid that I just won’t know

Show me the way, Show me the way
Take me tonight to the mountain
And wash my confusion away

And if I feel light, should I believe
Tell me how will I know

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven…

Reportedly (according to Wikipedia) “Lead vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, a devout Roman Catholic, originally wrote the song for his son, Matthew, as a pseudo-hymn about the struggle to keep the faith in a “world so filled with hatred”.”

So, why is it that we seem to wander around, questioning “why” and living as if we are afraid “to enjoy life“?

Then, this morning’s lesson at church came around. The first of a series of messages over the next few weeks, ” How To Enjoy Your Life” resonated with me today in a good way. Speaker Jeff McMillon did a great job of reminding us of two key things:

1) We need to choose to live each hour in the Spirit, and
2) We should live each day confident that God made a masterpiece when he made us, and each has a place and a role to fill.

Amen.

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way.


Just In Time, indeed.

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Red letters, red ties, red sweaters…

There was quite a bit of red on display at our church on Sunday.

You see, Sunday was Christmas Day. Fitting that Christmas Day this year, and the celebration of His birth, fell on the day we celebrate His victory over death. People were out in force for the combined morning worship, new red sweaters, ties, scarves from “Santa”, and such on display.

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The red tie shown here is from my eldest, a Christmas gift hand procured from a street market in China. It is but a small token representing the joy of having a child.

We sang later this Sunday morning with our church about the expression of Mary’s joy over the coming birth of her son Jesus:

My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my savior
My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God.

Glory be to God the Father
Glory be to God the Son
Glory be to God the Spirit
Glory be to God.

He has been mindful of his servant
He has been mindful of me
I will be blessed forever, forever
I will be blessed by the Lord.

God alone is mighty, mighty
Our God alone has done great things
God alone is worthy, worthy
Holy is his name.
*

Joy is a universal emotion. So is sadness, especially at separation. Not the sadness of Mary, per se, at knowing that Jesus could not stay, but maybe more a sense of melancholy.

You see, Christmas is about tradition, and for the Bings, tradition has included full days of family time and not leaving the company of the nest on the magical day.

But the times, they are a changin’, and change brings new traditions, and new people, into our lives. And new can be good, even if it takes red tie giving sweeties away on Christmas day, to spend time with sweeties of their own.

Red ties, red eyes, red sweaters, red letters. Amen. Change can be a good thing.

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*Magnificat – by Randy Gill

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We had a great message tonight from an expert in Bible translations. He commented on how the Bible remains a best seller every year, and then said something ironic and thought provoking: “I’m glad someone is buying them, but I wonder what they are doing with all of them, because they’re not reading them”.

And it got me to thinking (STSTF). I wrote back in October about accumulations in my closet ( https://jbinghamoc.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/too-much-is-not-enough/ ), but what about the accumulation on my bookshelf? Too much is not enough, that is for sure.

You see, if I read the Bible enough to utilize the accumulated copies on the family shelf, I would feel even better about my Walk.

I don’t buy a lot of Bibles, the most recent being a small copy of the NLT in a soft red leather cover about two years ago. If it were not for the freedom of YouVersion and my iDevice, I might fall victim to much more of too much.

I love the Bible section at Mardel, much like a good Barnes and Noble. So why do we buy so many Bible in this country, much less around the world?

Why do we buy anything, whether it be sportcoats, suits, shirts, shoes, leather computer bags, etc? Is it because some of us have a fabric, leather, consumer products fettish? Maybe, but I digress.

I think we buy new things because they make us feel good. A new suit of clothes, or something as simple as a new tie can make you feel good leaving for work one day.

Is that how it is with a new Bible? If I don’t read it as much as my soul longs to do, like exercising or eating right, maybe a new copy will help me want to read it more. The same probably goes for treadmills, running shoes, warm up suits, and the like.

If you will excuse me now, I’m going to go out and exercise. Relax, the treadmill is in a fitness center at work and my shoes are about a year old, with two 5k’s and a half marathon to their credit. Maybe I can pull up You Version and do a little time in the Word while I’m at it.

If only it came in a red leather cover…

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“Outlive Your Life”.   The latest and greatest book by Max Lucado bears just that title.   As we look around Vienna this week, I can’t help but think that being remembered into perpetuity was at the heart of those with money and power over the ages.

One of the largest “tourist spots” in Vienna, ironically, is the Cathederal in the city center named after Saint Stephan, Stephansdom.   The Holy Roman Emporer Frederick, who died in 1494 shortly after the time Columbus discovered “the new world”, is entombed inside the cathederal.   The following is what Wikipedia has to share about his burial site: The construction of Emperor Frederick’s tomb spanned over 45 years, starting 25 years before his death. This impressive sarcophagus is made of the unusually dense red marble-like stone found at the Adnet quarry. Carved by Niclaes Gerhaert van Leyden, the tomb lid shows Emperor Frederick in his coronation regalia surrounded by the coats of arms of all of his dominions. The body of the tomb has 240 statues and is a glory of medieval sculptural art.

Interestingly enough, I’ve been inside Stephansdom several times over the past few years, but I’ve never been motivated to make a pilgrimage over to Frederick’s tomb, nor did I even truly realize who he was or that he was buried there until reading about the history of the building on the web last night.   I wonder how many visitors to Stephansplatz can say the same thing?   Whatever his intentions, which seem fairly obvious by the devotion to constructing his tomb, I’m not sure Frederick is outliving his life, in the truest sense of the phrase.

While I have yet to read Lucado’s book in its entirety, I have been through the first chapter, and understand the spirit of the message to be that by making a difference in the lives of others today, specifically with the example of trying to stamp out world hunger, we are changing the world, and thereby we are outliving our life.

Gutenberg is another great example.   Here is someone who created the ability to print and place copies of the Bible into the hands of the common man and woman.    Dare I say that Gutenberg has made a huge difference in the world and in the lives of countless millions?   Certainly more that Emporer Frederick.    And yet, how many even realize who Gutenberg was?   We don’t have his picture, although we have painted portraits.   The Europeans have been kind enough to erect statues.   But when you open your Bible in Oklahoma, or Vienna, Austria, or Xian, China, you don’t see his picture and a link to his blog or other writings.    All the same, he truly did outlive his life.

What about us today?   We blog.   We take pictures.   We leave mementos for others.   But, may I argue, that is not what outliving our life is all about.   On the plane over the other night, my neighbor in 38E talked about his view of Heaven, and that it is the memories we leave behind with our friends and family, but that when those people are gone, so are we.   No real Heaven exists, essentially, in his view.   How sad.    In recent years I have collected pieces from the homes of my now deceased grandmothers.   I have black and white portraits from generations of family, some whom I remember, some whom I never met.   But they all tell a story.   I have a few tangible mementos, from furniture to small decorative pieces, from both homes in my office.   I have my grandfather’s New Testament that he carried with him into the Pacific Theater in the 1940’s.   I have a few of my other grandfather’s engineering guides, even though I’m not an engineer, and I unfortunately never saw enough of his life to develop a relationship.     And yet, they continue to outlive their life, not through these tangible “hand me downs”, but through the impact they made in the lives of their children and others.    I continue to encounter people in my walk who knew my grandparents, and who say great things about the difference the relationship made in their lives.   And, these people are changed for the better, and they will hand that down, and those people will hand that down, and so on, and so on.

So, to my point?   How do we outlive our life?   We can try to make a difference in stamping out world hunger, as Mr. Lucado suggests.   That is good.   But, each of us can’t do that alone.   May I suggest we take it one moment at a time, one person at a time, and do our best to make a lasting impression for the good, and not for bad.   There is, and has been, enough of that in this world.   Which leads me to and leaves us with the greatest person to walk this earth in human form and outlive their life.   Amen.

Hebrews 9:23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

I will now go about trying to outlive my life this day.   Along the way, I’ll have to succeed in outliving yesterday’s Wienerschnitzel…

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