Thank the Turkey

Yesterday, as I worked at church, I roasted a turkey. Today, I will do a second one.

I am a vegetarian, so this is uncomfortable for me.

But I want people who come to church for Thanksgiving dinner to have enough to eat. I believe one of the primary responsibilities of any pastor is to offer feeding to the people who come to the church.

I take this quite literally.

I also offer spiritual food (Jesus is my resource). Thanksgiving is a day that combines both–which is why it is one of my favorite days to pastor.

But I do feel for the turkey. I give thanks to it for dying that others might eat, as I thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve.

It’s About Time

They’re legislating.

I am glad. I look forward to the Senate engaging in open debate about health care in the United States. I look forward to votes on the Senate floor. I look forward to them doing the hard work of talking, listening, compromising, seeking to craft the best law they can.

There is no assurance a bill will pass the Senate, let alone both houses of Congress. There are many obstacles to change–not the least of which is the pervasive influence of money (most, but not all, of which belongs to those who oppose change, at least as it affects them), not to mention the power of misinformation and just plain idiocy.

But at least we can continue this national conversation, and our legislators will do what we send them to Washington to do.

It’s about time.

New Tricks

Puppy training is teaching me some good lessons, too.

For example, instead of saying “No” every time he does something I don’t want him to do, I am learning to praise him (and give him a treat) every time he does something I want him to do.

Just think if went around giving praise constantly to others–what a difference that could make in their lives, our lives, the life of the world!

Also, just because Cocoa does something as a puppy doesn’t mean he will do it as a more mature dog. I remember this when he seems bent on repeating unwelcome behavior.

Stephen Covey said it well, “You can live outside your autobiography when that is needed.” I am not captive to my past. I have choices.

I can remember that about other people, too. Just because someone did something that displeased me one time doesn’t mean they will do it again (although they may!). I need to watch for how people are changing, and give them the space to do that.

Puppies need training, and it helps me, too. It’s never too late to teach a young pup, or an older one, new tricks.

Go Blue! And Go Jesus!

I rarely even glance at the newspaper sports section. But this morning, the headline read, “Maize and Blues.” It was about the injuries to a star running back at the University of Michigan, as the Wolverines prepare to battle arch-rival Ohio State this Saturday.

I stopped. Maize and Blue. That’s my alma mater, the university where I earned a C-average and once was on the dean’s list (not the good one).

I could feel the fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” rise in my throat. “Go BLUE, beat those @#$%^*&!& Buckeyes,” I muttered.

What is it about these team loyalties? Why do I care? It has been 40 years since I graduated from college.

 And do I have the same feeling when I read about the team that really matters, the Jesus team?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against sports loyalties, but I am reminded that my deeper commitment is to Jesus Christ. Do I have a favorite cheer for him?

I am not against people going to sporting events. I really enjoy a good football, basketball, hockey, or baseball game myself. But sometimes I wonder when people complain about church lasting 75-90 minutes, even though they don’t seem upset by 2-3 hour games.

Okay. Go Blue. Beat Ohio State.

And . . . . . Go Jesus! Let’s heal the world!

God Is Dark, Too

As I write, the barest hint of dawn rises.

Cocoa and I walked earlier, in the dark. Walking at that time is refreshing in a strange sort of way. Certain parts of the landscape, that are easy to miss in the daylight, stand out at night. Other things fade out in the darkness.

Rustlings that would be missed during the busy day now sound clearly in the night’s near silence.

It can be easy to feel joy and praise God when the sun is shining and the fall colors are vibrant. All seems right with the world when it looks like a impressionist painting or a shining photograph.

But God is in the darkness, too. The silhouettes of the trees are gently beautiful. Cocoa and I have a special closeness, bonding in the togetherness of the dark.

I find myself saying several times, “Thank you, God.” Thank you for this special time, this quiet time, this healing time.

God is not only light, but also dark.

Shining Today

The rain just keeps on coming down. Tropical Storm Ida may not have packed a big punch, but she is sharing plenty of wind and rain–at least across Central and Eastern Virginia.

sunshine outIt reminds me of our recent workshop, “Becoming the Person You Are Meant to Be: Writing Your Own Personal Mission Statement. Nine people joined me for a day of self-exploration, prayer, connection with God, discerning our passions, and then pulling it all together in a few words.

You may not get the connection between Ida’s rain and the workshop. Here’s what I see.

I have a mission statement that is somewhat long, but the short version is just three words: I am shining.shining sun

That’s what mission statements do: they remind you to shine even when its raining cats and dogs and the wind is howling and the forecast is for more of the same.

I am shining today. What’s your mission?

The 11th Hour

All the years he could speak, my father never failed to say on this date, “At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the killing stopped.”

WWI veteran
A WWI "Doughboy" (not my father)

He was a decorated veteran of the Great War, “the war to end all wars,” World War I, and the day we now call Veterans Day meant a great deal to him.

I now understand that he was carrying terrors from his service in France deep within himself. Unlike the wounds to his body (from which he spent the better part of a year after the Armistice in England recuperating), the wounds to his soul were never healed.

Ours is still a world at war. There is never a time war is not going on somewhere, and usually in several places at the same time.

I wish I could say I am a pacifist–that I truly follow my Lord Jesus in forsaking all killing. I cannot, at least yet, do that.

But I do mourn all those who have been killed, and those who did the killing–even people like John A. Muhammad who was executed last night, as well as his victims–because in some way I understand that in some way each killing–whether by individuals or by the state, whether legal or illegal–diminishes our common humanity.

May they all rest in peace.

Big Bird, Report to Ft. Hood — Please

Big Bird is on my mind these days. And Ernie and Cookie Monster and others. Today is the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Sesame Street.

Sesame StreetThat neighborhood, like Mr. Rogers’, is important to me even though I am not part of the Sesame Street generation. My daughters are, and I watched it with them. I feel like  like an uncle to Big Bird.

Did you notice that nobody ever killed anyone of Sesame Street? It may be the safest street in America. Characters had hurt feelings all the time, or misunderstood things, but nobody ever let anger, sadness, or depression, get so out of control that anyone died because of it.

I wish Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could have remembered Sesame Street. Maybe he could have talked to someone about his troubles and anger. Or maybe the military personnel who give Muslim colleagues a hard time could remember the Sesame Street lessons about accepting everyone. Or maybe the FBI could have paid more attention.

Somehow, the folks on “the street” would have found a way to help. They are still teaching children about peace, and acceptance, and helping each other.

Help us, God, each one of us, to do the same. No more Ft. Hoods.

Good Attitude

Attitude is so important–not plastering on a happy face, but something much deeper.

Spiritual attitude. If you go through life expecting the worst, it probably will come your way. If you go through life not caring, you probably will get what others leave behind.

apple treeBut, if you go through life knowing that God wants the best for you and has plenty of it ready for you, you will know peace (no matter what life dishes out). Martin Luther said it well long ago, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

At a moment of great difficulty some years ago, a wise friend told me to do the best I could and let go of the results. It is sound advice at all times, even when things are going well.

Let’s plant apple trees today, friends.

La luta continua (the struggle continues)

Despite professional polling and pundits, we never entirely know what goes through the minds of other voters.

I really thought Maine voters would reject intolerance. And I hoped Virginia voters would be more balanced, perhaps slimming the margin of the candidate for Attorney General who thinks LGBT folks behave against natural law.

But enough of the voters, at least among those who voted, are still scared, I guess. In Maine, the Roman Catholic Church still holds considerable influence and its theological rigidity resists change.

Stay The CourseI continue to believe, however, that these losses are simply rear-guard actions, fighting off, for a time, the change that will come, the change that is coming, the change that is already here. We see a form of Massive Resistance in these results.

Like that earlier time, the day is coming when legislatures will pass, and Governors will proclaim,  apologies for injustice done, when the silent ones will be silent no more, when justice will “roll down like the waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing steam.”

La luta continua. The struggle continues. Stay the course. God reigns.