Three guys walk into a fire

Three guys walk into a fire.

No, it’s not the beginning of some bad joke. It’s the beginning of one of my favorite Bible stories.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three good, faithful boys who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar.

And because of that? They burned.

Well, wait. They were supposed to burn, but they didn’t. Wow!

Now cut to this week.

This week, Colorado is on fire. Hundreds of homes destroyed. Thousands of people evacuated. The pain and destruction has been devastating, and the fires aren’t out yet.

I cringe to watch the news or check the internet. I can feel the heat from here. And I wonder, where is God during all of this?

Where is the angel?

In the Shadrach story there is a fourth figure there in the flames, protecting the three boys. It is an angel from God, sent to protect them.

Just as importantly, that angel was sent to be with them. To go through the fire with them.

The moral of that Bible story? God is in the fire, taking the heat with you. Loving you through anything.

I believe the same moral can be said today.

Please keep the firefighters in your prayers. They come from surrounding states and different backgrounds. They face the fire head on because of their strength, their training, and for many, their faith.

These men and women may be too busy to recognize it, but I believe there are angels with them, there in the blaze, fighting right along side them.

As we watch, from a distance, let’s remember.

God is with us always, and

it’s no joke when…

Three guys walk into a fire.

Keep praying,

Mitch

images from Forbes.com and AP

Lord, make me an instrument.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” — The Prayer of Saint Francis.

“Lord, make me an instrument.”  — Me.

Guess what:

For the next hour, you have the ability to play (beautifully, I might add) any musical instrument you can get your hands on.

Go!

Let’s all go to the High School band/orchestra room and see what kind of music we can make!

What would you pick up first?

First, I’d pick up the trombone. My dad plays, and I could never produce an actual musical note on that thing. I’d puff and blow and the best I could ever produce was a sort of “pbbbbbbttttt” sound.

But not today. Today I break into a little “When the Saints Go Marching In”, complete with all kinds of slides and slurs. Fun!

Next, I pick up an electric guitar, propped up in a corner by the jazz band instruments. I can already play a little guitar. I know the basic chords. But I never learned to really strum, or finesse, let alone play a solo.

Today is different. Today I play Hendrix’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”.

I play so loudly people are leaning their heads into the room and “shushing” me.  Today, I ignore them. I’m not interested in that kind of feedback.  I’m interested in this kind:  *Squeeeaal*

Then I switch gears. I pick up an oboe and let loose a gentle haunting melody. I rush over to the cello and improvise some brooding vigorous rhythm.

I pick up the piccolo. Hardly the instrument of choice for a big guy like me, but I play a little of the descant for “Stars and Stripes” just for the fun of it.

What instruments would you like to play?

Maybe you stopped piano lessons in 3rd grade. Today you can play like Liberace.

Maybe you only sing in the shower. Today you’re a diva.

Maybe you struggled with “Mary had a little lamb” on the viola. Today you’re first chair!

It’s a wonderful fantasy, isn’t it? To be a virtuoso on all things musical.

Well, as you and I are rushing around the band room, trying out instruments, God is leaning against the wall, smiling. This is the sound of life, after all. The music  of co-creation. You, and I, and God, collaborating. God loves this.

You see, to God, we are the instruments.

God is the creative spirit. Our lives make the music. We are the instruments.

Don’t worry about hitting every note. Don’t worry about staying in tune.

Sure, it would be fun to be that musically proficient, but God finds joy in all kinds of noise.

So buy a $1 harmonica. Pound on your steering wheel. Dig that high school flute out of the closet. Strum your guitar that’s missing 2 strings. Put your lips together and whistle.

Whatever comes out, comes out of you. That’s good enough.

Whatever comes from your heart…

is music to God’s ears.

Have a great week,

Mitch

P.S. What instrument have you always wanted to play? Leave a comment.

4 lies I’ve told from the pulpit

When it comes to lying from the pulpit, I’ve heard some doozies.

I’m happy to say I’ve avoided most of the big ones, but I must confess I’ve told a few of my own.

Here are the four I could think of (or am willing to own up to):

Lie #1: “THIS is what it’s all about!”

This has to be my most common lie from the pulpit. Whatever I’m preaching on that Sunday, that becomes the most important aspect of Christianity.

“Stewardship is what it’s all about!”

“Small groups are what it’s all about!”

“Worship is what it’s all about!”

The Truth: I don’t know what’s most important. Love? Jesus? The Kingdom of God? Discipleship? It all seems really important to me.

The Verdict: It’s all connected, all related, and all… important. So I’ll probably keep telling this weekly white lie.

Lie #2. “So-and-so from the Bible was just like us.”

An easy way to make a sermon come alive is to point out how much we have in common with the characters in the Bible story.

”Moses was on a journey to the promised land, just like us.”

”Paul saw the light, just like us.”

”Martha learned to not be so busy all the time, just like us.”

The Truth: Moses had a difficult life filled with more conflict than we’ll ever see. Paul wrestled with his faith far more vigorously than most of us ever will. And Martha? She’s gotten 2000 years of grief because she lost her cool at a dinner party!

The Verdict: Yes, there’s a bunch we have in common with Bible folks. We can learn a lot from that. But their world was not just like ours. It was very different. We can learn a lot from acknowledging that, too.

Lie #3. “I’m really happy to be here today.”

I just have to come clean on this one.

On Sundays I’ll stand up front, flash a great big smile and welcome everyone to worship. And say “I’m glad to be here with you today.”

The Truth: Sometimes, I’m not. I know! Sacrilege! The truth is, some Sundays I have a headache, or 3 baptisms, or a sermon that doesn’t ha

ve an ending yet. Remember, I’m not just worshipping, I’m working.

The Verdict: I’m almost always happy to be at church. But on those rare days when I’d rather be at home in my pajamas, my hope is that you’ll never know. I’m gonna lie. It’s my job.

Lie #4. “Together, we can change the world.”

This one’s tough, because when I say it, I’m not just lying to the congregation. I’m lying to myself.

”If you invite your neighbors and co-workers, together we’ll change the world”

”We are the Church. You and me. Let’s go out there and change the world.”

You get the idea.

The Truth: We probably won’t. Didn’t Jesus say, “The poor you will have with you always”? It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight poverty and injustice. It means real, lasting change in this world is a rare thing.

The Verdict: The world has already changed because of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we make big changes, sometimes we just get by. Always we’re asked to be faitfhul. It doesn’t sound as glamorous, perhaps, but it’s more truthful.

Whew. It feels good to get those off my chest.

I’ll keep them in mind the next time I preach from the pulpit.

Okay, The Truth?


I haven’t preached from a pulpit in years.

Have a great week,

Mitch