TIMELESS

timeless-ian-barber

Want to hear something weird?

The next “Weekly Devotion” you get from me will originate from a new location.

Yep, I’m moving to a new church.

This Sunday is my last one here.

*sigh*

Here’s what happens to me every time I have to say goodbye:

I lapse into an unsettled, melancholy awareness of time’s slow destruction of the present.

Let me translate that for you:  I fear change.

I fear change because you can’t go back.

Because it seems so final.

The idea of somehow dis-connecting and moving on seems really painful.

And as excited as I am about the future, I’ve been feeling some of that “melancholy” this week.

. . .

But then yesterday, this happened:

Somebody had the idea that, at my farewell reception next Sunday, we should have a reunion of sorts.

A reunion of the founding members of our contemporary worship service, from back in the 90’s.

The 5 of us have not been all together in the same room for about 15 years.

Those were great days back then.

We were creative and passionate and generated a lot of energy for the church.

And while I’ve stayed in touch with them all (heck I’m married to one of them), we’ve never tried to all reconnect musically.

That is, until yesterday, when we got together to practice.

We’d picked out some of our favorite old songs, and set up on the stage to practice.

We kicked off the first song.

Instinctively, we reverted to our old parts.

And there they were:  The same tight harmonies and chord changes.

It was nearly flawless.

We all just stared at each other, grinning.

It was as if the intervening 15 years had never happened!

. . .

No, that wasn’t it.

The passage of time was clearly present.

There were more lines on our faces.

We’d all been through big life changes since we’d last been together,

but we shared something yesterday that I hope to never forget:

Things are always changing,

but the Love of God,

and the connection of true friends,

and the harmony between kindred spirits,

is TIMELESS.

 

Thank you, First Church Lawrence, for your love and support!

 

Mitch

harmony

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Time

God’s Time…..by Mitch

God are you impatient with me?  I know you’ve got every reason to be.
All those things that I swore I would do.  All those things I never got around to.

And all the while I was shirking my share, all the world was in need of repair.
All I’m asking is a brand new start, I’ll follow the beat of my heart

To God’s time now. God’s time now.
Follow the leader, pick up the beat or fall behind.
In a moment things can change unless you rearrange
your priorities and put them all in line

In line with God’s time.

Now I’m hearing something different.  I could swear you said be patient
When temptation swallows me whole, and when I neglect my soul.

All the dreams that I’ve tried to juggle, all I needed was to give up the struggle.
Before the harvest you plant the seed, the waiting is hard unless you believe in

God’s time now.  God’s time now
What’s in the hurry?  The joy is the journey, so take it slow.
A life fulfilled is found by making every moment count
So count your blessings now and you will find yourself

In God’s time.

So are you patient or impatient, I wish I could understand.
Sometimes it feels like you’re saying hurry up, slow down as fast as you can.

But when I think about it, yes I see some truth in this paradox.
The world would be a marvelous place, if we felt God’s grace,and set our clocks to

God’s time now. God’s time now.
Life unfolds slowly, so we must live boldly what we believe.
And when life on earth is through, time goes on for me and you.
For eternity is waiting right behind
God’s time.

________________________________________

You can listen and download here: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/536931

Have a great week,

Mitch

Duel-istic


It started last week.

I was standing in the produce aisle, inspecting peaches.   An employee standing next to me was humming along with the music from the speakers.  Absent-mindedly she said, “I just love Kenny G”.   I chuckled and said, “To be honest, I’ve never liked him.”

Almost immediately, she turned and glared at me.   She took off one of her latex gloves, and slapped me across the face with it.

“Choose your weapon,” she growled at me.   I sized her up briefly, looked at the pricing gun in her hand, and then bolted for the exit.

Two days later I was talking with somebody at the ballgame.   He said he hated the designated hitter rule.   I told him I thought it made the game more exciting.   Wham!  He slapped me across the face, whispered “Pistols at dawn”, and turned and left.  I’ve decided to start rooting for a different team.  Just to be safe.

What is going on?  I’ve been invited to four duels in the past three days!   I told someone I voted for Obama, and she pulled a sword!  I mentioned to someone else that I was against Capital Punishment and before I knew it we were arm wrestling.

Has the world gone mad?  It’s as if anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours is suddenly an enemy!  This sort of all or nothing thinking is dangerous…and contagious.

I’m worried.  This morning a parishioner told me they hated the Harry Potter books.  It took three people to hold me down!

It’s been shown time and again that dualism can lead to duel-ism.   Remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?  They took their political frustrations out with firearms! While I don’t see that kind of violence on C-SPAN, who could deny the divisive, violent undertones in modern political rhetoric and legislative debate?

Come to think of it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter came to “magical” blows during a dueling lesson at Hogwarts.  It’s true, the Slytherins and the Griffindors seem to be at odds much of the time.

What about you?  How do you respond if someone picks the other side of an issue you’re passionate about?  Do you rush in to argue? Do you challenge your “opponent” to a battle of who is superior?  Do you feel compelled to fight for what you think is right?  Hmm. But what if the fighting part is what’s wrong?

Here’s some advice from the writer of Timothy:

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  –2 Timothy 2:23-25

This doesn’t mean you’re can’t choose to like (or not like ) Kenny G.   It doesn’t mean you can’t choose to approve (or disapprove) of some elected official.   It doesn’t even mean you can’t state your opinion, make your case, and try to share some of your accumulated wisdom in conversation with somebody who disagrees.

But the next time you feel like it’s time to take the gloves off…

Think twice before getting Slap Happy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch  

Have a Church and a Smile

Our Communications Team is looking for a new slogan for our church.  Something we can put on t-shirts and hats, something that gives people a glimpse of why church is important.   Here are a few I dug up.  See what you think:

  • “The Closest Thing To Home”
  • “Enjoy Life”
  • Church “is your kind of place”
  • “Where there’s <church> there’s hospitality”
  • “I’m lovin’ it”

You might not have recognized the first four, but I bet that last one rang a bell.   These are all slogans from McDonalds or Coca Cola from the past 100 years!

As I sat around the table at the Communications meeting last night, it dawned on me that McDonalds and Coke have stolen all the good church slogans.  “We Love To See You Smile”, “Coke adds life”,  “You deserve a break today”, “It’s the Real Thing”.   I could go on and on. So what’s the deal?  When Christians come up with slogans for their churches, are they “selling out” and acting like advertising companies?

I don’t think so.  Not at all.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Remember that great song “I’d like to Teach the World To Sing?” The first time I heard that was in church.  It wasn’t until years later that I found out it was a jingle for Coke.   What Coca Cola had done was to take all the feelings, importance, and meaning of a world in perfect harmony, and then attach them to a product — Coke!  When you see a car commercial on TV with the slogan “DRIVE = LOVE”, that’s somebody’s attempt to make you think that an automobile can make you feel love.

But that’s not true!  God is the source of Love.  We’ve been telling people that for millennia! God is the reason for hospitality and why the whole world will one day sing in harmony.  The reason churches do marketing is because we want to help people connect with the real “Real Thing”.  It’s not a misrepresentation, and it’s not a manipulation.  After all, “God” really does = “Love”.  

So we’ll keep working, looking for a few choice words that speak to what it feels like to be part of our church.   In the meantime, allow the words of this devotion to invite you to visit us for church this Sunday.

An added bonus?  This week we’re having communion!  Or as I like to call it…

Happy Meal.

Have a great week,

Mitch 

God Has A Big Nose

They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and fragrant incense  — 2 Corinthians 13; 11a

Hearing.  Seeing.  Tasting.  Smelling.  Touching.

If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would it be?   I’ve thought about this before, and for me the answer is always the same.  I’d say goodbye to my nose.

I wouldn’t want to give up my eyesight.   I couldn’t watch movies, or enjoy a sunset.   Likewise, I couldn’t give up my hearing because I wouldn’t be able to listen to music.

Tasting?  Hey-I love watermelon and nachos way too much for that.   Touching?  It’s a more subtle sense, but it would effect everything I did.  Every embrace, every gentle breeze.  I don’t think I could give that up.

It comes down to my sense of smell.    Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of popcorn, or a campfire, or a flower, and I understand that smell effects how things taste, but if I had to give one up, that’s the one I’d have to choose.

Do you agree with my choice?  (You can vote down below)  I get the feeling God might not.

In Old Testament times the Priests thought God had a big nose.   A lot of what they would do to please God had to do with smell.   First, there were the sacrifices.   Twice or more a day they’d offer burnt sacrifices–like meat on a barbecue grill–because they believed the delicious smell would float up to God, and make God happy.  (I can certainly relate!)

And then they’d light incense, there in the temple.  The delicate fragrance would lift up to God, to delight God’s sense of smell. Apparently conventional wisdom had it that the way to God’s heart was through God’s proboscis!

Hmm.  Maybe I’ve short changed the power of smell.   I’ve read that smell is the most powerful trigger of memory.   And it’s true–the smell of the ocean breeze or a hot parking lot or the skin of a baby can evoke the most powerful responses in me.   Now I’m not so sure I’d be willing to cut off my nose to spite my face after all.

Actually, as time went on, God made it clear that the quickest way to God’s heart wasn’t just through the nose, but through faithful living.   You can only bring home a bunch of fragrant flowers to apologize so many times.  Eventually, you have to change the way you live. So, in the New Testament, the focus isn’t on pleasing God’s senses, but pleasing God’s sensibilities.

Hey, it may be true.  God may have a big nose.  But the size of God’s heart is what matters most.   The same is true with us.   These marvelous senses God gave us make life rich and enjoyable, but it’s only the connection between our heart and God’s heart that can ever truly satisfy.   I think Love might just be the 6th sense, and all the others are simply supporting players.

I wouldn’t want to do without any of them, but I do know this.

A life without love…

Positively stinks.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch 

Spiritual Air Conditioning

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. —Psalm 32:4

What was the greatest invention of the 20th century?

The car?  Antibiotics?  Microwave Popcorn?  (Vote down below)

I know it’s gonna sound petty, but I’m gonna go with air conditioning.   The first modern air conditioner was built in 1902, according to Wikipedia, and I LOVE IT!   That feeling of walking in from the hot sun and feeling that blast of cool air — there’s nothing better.

It’s HOT out there, and summer is just beginning.  I’ve never been good in the heat.  I’m just like that Psalmist, above.   I spend too much time outside, and my strength seems to just dry up.

You know what?  Psalm 32 is short — why not pull out a bible and read it?  What you discover upon reading it is that it isn’t really summer heat that’s making this guy’s life miserable.   It’s his unrepentant ways.   He hasn’t been honest with God.

Oh…it’s that kind of feeling the heat!  Yeah, I’ve been there too.  I have this nasty habit of messing up.   I’ll say something hurtful, or fail to act, or turn my back on the mission God has put me on.   I’ll go against the way of Love and somehow convince myself that I was justified.  Could be a big thing, or a minor thing, but in “the business” we have a term for it:  sinning.

Yep, I’ve done my share.  When I’m unwilling to acknowledge my own sins, they percolate under the surface like a hot pot of coffee.   As much as I try to deny them, the sweat starts to roll off of me.  Every lie I tell myself (and God) raises the temperature around me a couple of degrees.  Before I know it I’ve used all my strength to run away from the simple truth:  That I made a mistake, or a whole series of mistakes, and I need help to get back on track.   I need forgiveness.

Forgiveness is spiritual air conditioning, and God stands ready to provide it.   It must be the greatest invention OF ALL TIME!  God stands ready to help you acknowledge your sins and know that you are forgiven.

How cool is that?

Have a great week,

Mitch