Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mark 10: 35-45...Shotgun!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Day of Significant Contrast

I was invited to two meals today; an early breakfast downtown and a formal lunch at Westmont College. The lunch was honoring Ambassador James Moriarty, Ambassador to both Bangladesh and Nepal. He and his wife have both been ambassadors in Southeast Asia. Their presentation revealed how their values influenced the lives of millions of people from the highest level of government. Educated, urbane, dignified, classy, articulate...wow!They were impressive! It was cool to have the opportunity to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
Breakfast was a different matter. I met "E" in jail last year. He had accepted Christ before I met him, but was an eager participant in every Bible study I taught. He got out of jail this summer while we were in France. One Saturday he walked the two miles up hill from the lower village on the hopes I'd be there (I was). He was living in the Rescue Mission, without a job and a convicted felon (in this jobless economy that's a deep hole). But "E" was wholly devoted to Jesus Christ and whatever God's will was was OK by him. We have met several times since summer for coffee. This morning he wanted to meet for breakfast (which I hate doing because it disrupts my devotional pattern). We met at Cajun Kitchen. He has a great job that he bikes to from the Rescue Mission. He's paying off his court fines, child support, what he owes his parents and one friend. He's not sure he'll ever see his wife and kids again. But there was a radiant joy in him that was unmistakable. He was content knowing that God had full hold of his life and that was enough. When I asked him how I could pray, he asked me to pray that he could be a godly example to is parole officer and to me! Then, after praying, he said "I'm paying this morning! It's time for me to treat you!"
That's kingdom living!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This is Vitality

Martha and I went on a picnic Saturday for lunch. We like to try parks we've never been to before, to acquaint us with more of our area. So Saturday we tried a nearby park called "Parma Park." It was land once owned by the parma family (several hundred acres) and now given to Santa Barbara to stay wild and open to horses (and their riders!).
We hiked up a gentle grade through a canopy of woods and out into open grassland. We found a shaded spot under a big oak tree on which to spread our picnic blanket and have lunch. We could see both the ocean and the hills behind us. And we chatted about our kids, our granddaughter, life, our parents. It was one of those wonderfully free-floating conversations that went everywhere and nowhere. Then we packed up to head home for chores and a quiet evening.
On the way down the path, I noticed how black the trees were. I mean really, really black. And these are oak trees. Martha noticed it too and then we realized...the Tea Fire. The Tea Fire four years ago ravaged Parma Park (along with 200 homes!) when it roared through in superheated 70 mph winds. We noticed some of the trees were dead and denuded of leaves and branches. The fire did indeed kill them. But the one above, like a number of others was totally scorched yet full of bright green leaves. It is scarred and marked by great suffering, yet productive and life-bearing. It was not only surviving but thriving. It endured.
That's what I want to look like. That's what healthy, mature, vital pastors look like. They have been scorched and scarred over the years. They show the signs of stress, age, long meetings and short nights. They have weathered blistering critics and dry seasons. Yet, like Psalm 1 says "their leaf does not wither." Keep growing tree! You are inspiring!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just One Thing

Letting go is such an easy thing to say...and so hard to do. The rich young rule who came to Jesus was a complete package of spiritual leadership and potential. Jesus looked at him and "loved him." He had everything Jesus needed in a disciple...except one thing. He had to let go of his stuff, his wealth, his riches, his accomplishments, his.......

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Hard Heart?

         On Friday, September 21, I was in Los Angeles with Martha at the Los Angles County Museum of Art. Midway through the day, we saw a crowd gathered on the balcony of one of the stairways looking out. When we joined them, we were able to witness the NASA space shuttle making its final flyby before landing at LAX.
         I was surprised by the surge of emotions I felt as I watched that graceful space vehicle that has capture my adult life fly slowly overhead. It represented excellence and achievement. It reminded me of sacrifice and loss. It was uniting and community building. During those minutes, we talked with each other and celebrated its beauty as it passed in front of the Hollywood sign.
         When was the last time that your heart was “grabbed”? An infant’s giggle? A friend’s tear? A certain piece of music? A beach sunset? A hovering humming bird? If you are like me, it’s too seldom and too little. We fly at such a rapid pace, we miss a lot and feel even less. Our hearts are always playing catch-up with the rest of our lives and we have (or take) too little time to reflect, ponder or feel.
         In the text for Sunday, Mark 10:2-16, Jesus talks to the religious leaders of his day about a deep concern he has: hard hearts. So as you prepare for worship on Sunday, take a personal heart inventory. Where is your heart most tender? Where does your heart feel hard?

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