Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Drought in Your Yard?

            I don’t know how long our area has been in drought, but it’s a long time with no rain. Our reservoirs are at record lows. Our community has been told (not asked) to cut back all water use by 20%. Today’s newspaper says that we are still using more water than resources can deliver.
            The impact of the drought at church and our house (the parsonage) has been the shutting off of all irrigation. No lawns are watered and not drip lines water plants. Any watering has to be done by hand before 10:00 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. when the evaporation rate is lower.
            So Martha has a regular routine of taking care of her garden by hand watering each plant within the proscribed hours. We are fighting to keep our plants alive, but we have let the yard go brown. What was once lush, soft and green, is now brown, hard and cracking. It’s tough to walk on. The brown grass leaves crack off, exposing more and more hard soil. It’s becoming a brutal and embattled landscape…everywhere.
            How many hearts are like our drought-hardened yards? I know spiritual drought when I bump into it, because it’s hard and unyielding. I see anger-hardened hearts too often. The language is of cynicism and sarcasm. The focus is on the faults of everyone around them, especially those in leadership. I talked with a person the other day who is going through seriously tough times and asked him about his own practice of Bible reading. He looked up at me and said it’s been years and years since he read the Bible on his own, and his life showed it. Drought.
            Is the condition we face as pastors more about personal spiritual drought than anything else? We endless review and critique ministries, programs and personnel, but maybe miss the real issue; spiritual drought. Can our worshipers sustain a spiritual life nibbling on little bits of spiritual music, a Facebook quote, a once a month worship service. Don’t get me wrong. These are not bad people. These are good people who are very busy and very active and…not watering their hearts sufficiently.

            I know because I get there too often too quickly. I get busy reading the Bible to “produce” a sermon or a lesson. I neglect alone time with God for appointments with others. I allow days to stretch too long into nights and let the “to do” list grow too long. I neglect the quiet, still, “unproductive” time for agenda-driven tasks that yield quick results. A friend reminded me of the old hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” My heart needs the regular rain of God’s Word and Spirit into my dry heart to make it alive and fresh.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jesus In the Garden

         My parents did not love gardening. My mother loved having a few easy to grow flowers in the front window box and my dad dutifully mowed the yard (until he could put it on my chore-list). Dad painted; oh he loved to paint! He would scrape and sand, paint primers and then paint on final coats and stand back with admiration. But he did not like gardens, weeding or watering. The only family member who loved to garden was my paternal grandfather, E.R. Johnson. He loved all things about the soil. So much so, that he drove it out of my father and uncle!
It wasn't till I married Martha that I observed and appreciated a gardener. Martha has to have dirt around her to plant in, water, fertilize, weed and protect from gophers, snails and rabbits. Martha battles for her garden. There is no way when you are around Martha that you do not know who is in charge of her garden. And when people mess with her garden (or I forget to water) she will speak up!
That's the way gardens are. Gardens are planned spaces with a plan and a purpose. They are areas of dirt that are shaped in a particular way that fulfills the intentions of the gardener. The gardener controls what is or is not planted in the garden. (Just try slipping in a foreign plant to someone else's garden!!). 
This coming Palm Sunday, the text comes from John 18:1-14 and it paints a powerful picture of Jesus in charge of his garden!


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Jesus' prayer for the church

As I write this from the calm beauty of Santa Barbara, I am aware of the deep pain and loss at Fort Hood in Texas, where another angry man with a gun killed and wounded comrades. That shouldn't be. The fort should be where it's safe, not more dangerous. Soldiering is, inherently, a dangerous occupation. They go into battle and conflict prepared and trained to defend and attack. Not being a soldier, I cannot imagine the stress of being always alert to danger.
But when they return to their base and are shipped home to a place like Fort Hood, they should be safe. It should be a secure place for them to recover, regroup, train and wait for another deployment. Instead, a gunman brought violence onto the base.
Church should be safe too. I expect junk to happen in the world outside of here. I expect to be misunderstood and even attacked for believing what I do. But here, on Sunday, at the"base" it should be safe. We should be "one" in Christ and "one" with each other. May Jesus' prayer for the church work its power here and in all churches today!

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