The Last Straw

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It totally sucks.

A straw, I mean.  That’s what it does.

How many do you think you’ve used in your life?  How many have a waiter or waitress dropped onto your table, only to throw them out twenty minutes later?

I’ve never much thought about straws, until a couple weeks ago when I read an article about straw pollution.  Straw pollution? Yep. Blew my mind.

 

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In the U.S., we use 500 million straws a day! That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year! Now imagine that magnified by global consumption!

That quote and graphic are from a site called Thelastplasticstraw.org.  How could something so little ever amount to so much pollution?  It’s hard for me to even picture, but just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean the problem goes away.

In fact, it never goes away.  Plastics like straws don’t biodegrade.  They just break down into littler and littler pieces.  They end up inside animals, and in us! Straws seem like such a handy, innocuous invention.  But they literally suck the life right out of our ecosystem.

It makes me wonder what other environmental catastrophes I contribute to and just don’t pay attention to them.  Relying on too many fossil fuels.  Forgetting to recycle.  Throwing used batteries into the trash.  Consuming way more than the rest of the world does.  I wonder if, when I’m not paying attention, one of those behaviors will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for our planet.

In Genesis, God puts us in charge, giving us dominion over all creatures.  That’s quite a responsibility.  And here is what God says to the Israelites in Numbers:

‘Do not pollute the land where you are… Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.’  Numbers 35:33-34

We made this mess.  Can we clean it up?  Making even a dent in our accumulated mistreatment of Mother Earth seems impossible to achieve.  I don’t have any perfect solutions either, although thelastplastricstraw.org has some good suggestions.

Remember, God doesn’t want a messy planet any more than you or I do.  The Holy Spirit is here to guide us as we learn to be better stewards.  We just need to get started.

Here’s my new motto for tackling pollution:

“Start with the things that totally suck.”

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Seeing, and Nazi-ing.

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Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.  –Luke 11:34

I have sympathy for Nazis. But by no means does that make me a Nazi sympathizer!  In fact, there are few groups in the world that disgust me as much as they do.

With their marching, and swastika waving, and saluting, not to mention their racist, fascist words and actions, I might be persuaded to punch one in the face, and I’m a man of peace!

Remember that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Nazis open up the Ark of the Covenant, and the Spirit comes out and basically smites all the Nazis?  Well, I don’t really think that’s something the Holy Spirit would do, but I can’t help but cheer. 

I try not to hate, and it makes especially little sense when that hate is directed towards a “hate group”, but groups like the Nazis, and the KKK, and ISIS make me want to scream in rage.

Oh, you too?  Alright, let’s leave a little space here for some primal screaming.  Ready?  Go!

(scream)

Okay.  I feel a little better.  I, for one, angry as these hate groups may make me, have to be sure not to just stuff down my emotions and ignore them. I think it’s okay to let it out, but as a controlled burn, not a wildfire.  I think we have a right to be angry, but not give in to hate.

So how is it that I can feel sorry for these jerks?  These walking, talking time bombs of intolerance?  Isn’t that like having sympathy for the devil?  (Rolling Stones reference, by the way).

No, it’s having sympathy for people who don’t see the light.  Who don’t see light at all.  As Jesus mentions in the passage above, people whose eyes are unhealthy, and all they can see is darkness.

What damaged their eyes?  What caused these folks to see such hate?

Maybe it was their parents.  Racism is often a passed-down trait.  They were raised to hate and fear types of people, and so they do.

Maybe it was their situation.  Maybe they need somebody to blame for their social status, or their poverty, or their unemployment.  Or course, that makes it sound like Nazis and other racists come from the lower class alone.  Racism, so to say, does not discriminate.  It can be found in all levels of society.

Maybe they never heard of God.  Or never learned to see the good in others.  Maybe they willfully stared at the wrong things, dark things.  Or saw hatred as a way to get ahead.

I don’t know why Nazi’s choose Nazi-ing (“Not Seeing”) the light of God in all God’s people, but I can attest, that light is there.  Even a Nazi is not immune from the power and love of God’s light.  There is hope.

So, although I find myself tensing up in frustration at the sight of a swastika, I just keep praying for a little of God’s light to break through.

Maybe, instead of a full-on smite, the Spirit can give those Nazis

a painful, yet eye-opening sunburn.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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After Labor Day

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Here’s what I’m facing:

I sat down at my desk today and took a good long look at the fall ahead of me.  Yikes!  There’s a lot going on.  Do I have the energy?…
I checked the news and see one of the most contentious political races turning nastier by the day…
I fear that this broken world may yet get the best of me…

Thus begins a long, hard fall.

But I’m a rebel.  A maverick.

Let me tell you why.

Today it is officially post-Labor Day.

And when I got dressed this morning, I deliberately picked out something white to wear.

I’ve been wearing this white shirt everywhere I’ve gone today, and nobody has had the courage to tell me of my fashion faux pas to my face, but I know they’re thinking it.

That pastor is wearing white after labor day!

What can I tell you? I was born to break the rules.

Okay, okay, that’s not much of a “rule” to break.  That fashion advice went by the wayside years ago.

Which is good.  Because I think you and I should wear white all autumn long.

Why?

White is known as the color of innocence and purity.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. –Psalm 51:7

The Bible also points to white as symbolic of holiness:

 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. –Mark 16:5

Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.  –Ecclesiastes 9:8

 

And so I pray:

Instill in me, Jesus, a renewed innocence, that I may view the world through the eyes of a child, and the eyes of faith.
Grant me, Oh God, forgiveness and protection, that I may live in the purity of your Word.
Fill me, Spirit, with your holiness, that every step I take is a step closer to you.

 

Thus begins a long, hard fall.

And every day will be a labor day.

And I will endeavor

to wear white.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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Some new Church Words

I’ve coined a few new Church Words.

(Who knows, some of them may already exist…)

Use them freely!

Catholic church in New York“PEWNY”:  The state or condition of having
fewer people than usual in the pews on Sunday morning.

.

.

corneliaumc_1_1“TRADIGITAL WORSHIP”: Old-time hymns
projected on new-fangled screens.

.

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159235441_eccumenical-desk-wax-seal-stamp-of-william-temple-“ECCUMANIACAL”:  A community worship service
planned by severely dysfunctional churches/pastors.

.

.

simpsons-in-church_thumb[10]“MARGE”:  Designation for a church too big
to be medium-sized and too small to be large.

.

.

tithe“LITHE”: 1/3 less giving than a regular Tithe.

.

.

Evangelism-oh-no-300x233“EVANGERATISM”:  Spreading the Good News, but only to people you like.

.

.

A free flying white dove isolated on a black background

“LENTECOST”:  When you feel the Holy Spirit before Easter.

.

.

Pasteurized-Milk-Processing-Line-From-Jouyu-Group“PASTORIZED”: When the preacher’s sermon is
good enough to last you a whole week.

.

.

Adam Hamilton Photo and Book 03062014“HAMILTONNE”: The collected weight of all of a church’s
Adam Hamilton books and video series.

.

.

eggs benedict“EGGS BENEDICTION”:  When you want the pastor to hurry up
so you can go get brunch.

.

It took a while to come up with ten!   Vote for your favorites in the comments.

And if you’ve created some of your own church words, add those too!

In the meantime…Have a great week,

(and a non-pewny Sunday)

Mitch

The Winter Stream

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I took this picture on my recent flight from Kansas to North Carolina.

Look at all those tiny boxes.  Each of them a mile-wide pasture.

From the air, you can clearly see the structure and order that humanity superimposes onto creation.  And it’s beautiful in of itself.

But what is truly breathtaking to me is the river.

* * *

When I was 10, we lived in the country, outside a little town called Saline, Michigan.

Winters there were pretty heavy duty.  We’d pull on our snowmobile suits, build snow forts, go cross-country skiing.

Snow was everywhere.  White like the surface of the moon.

One year, out in front of the yard, in the large ditch by the dirt road, the snow began to melt.  There were still big piles of the stuff everywhere else, but as the sun passed overhead on that late winter day, a single stream of water began to form.

How can I describe the magic of this next part?

There in the ditch, the tiny stream pushed back the snow, and wound its way back and forth around tiny trees. stones, and discarded brush.  My friend and I watched it work, and nudged the dirt here and there to help it expand and stretch.

There in that desolate-white landscape, we were staring down at something that was Alive.

It was revelatory for us.  Almost incarnational.

We were caretakers of that stream up until darkness came, and we were called in for dinner.

* * *

Back in the airplane.

Take another look out of my window seat, above.

See that S-like line weaving its way across the middle of the picture?

When I saw it, some 10,000 feet overhead, I instantly remembered looking down at that winter stream, some 35 years ago.

I love how it winds its way across the landscape, charting its own course, crossing all boundaries.

It is clearly Alive.

Streams of living waters, Jesus said. Yes.  A living Spirit of God that nurtures and refreshes.

I wonder.  Is this how God views God’s self at work?  Staring down from on high?

Is this the perspective of Creation?

Lord knows I’m still just an ant,

but I have seen the winding snake, and the living water.

I have drunk deeply from the winter stream,

and I have believed.

* * *

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Will we ever be free of evil?

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You’ll never get to read the devotion I just wrote about evil.

Because I erased it.

I called out Isis.

I lamented the 939 hate groups in the U.S.

And the 747,000 registered sex offenders.

I listed all the evil I could think of, and then thought of more.

I made such a convincing case for the prevalence of evil in this world, that my insides turned cold.

I seized up, recognizing that there is evil, too, in my own heart.

And I held all of that evil in the palm of one hand,

and in the other hand, I held the Lord’s prayer.

Remember, the prayer Jesus taught us to say?

Phrases like, “Deliver us from evil”

and “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”

and then I stopped writing.

3 questions entered my mind, at that point:

1.  Are we humans powerless over evil?
2.  Will this world ever truly be free from evil?
3.  What is God waiting for?

And I had a moment of doubt.

* * *

But not anymore.

That devotion you’ll never read?  It was missing something entirely crucial in a devotion.

Namely:  DEVOTION!

Once I realized that, everything inside me changed.

My devotion to Christ points to all the ways I have been “delivered from evil”.
My devotion to God reveals the promise of God’s Kingdom come, and God’s will being done.
My devotion to the Holy Spirit helps me respond to God’s invitation to put Love into action.

Devotion is not just a heady spiritual response.

It is a lived, passionate response.

And so, here’s my mine:

I do not doubt the presence of evil in this world, but I am a child of God.
I am tapped into a power greater than any evil could ever touch.
And I testify to that power, and rejoice over it, and strive to wield it on behalf of the God of Love who is coming into this world.

There. Yes.

That’s much better.

Now, my writing for this week is concluded…

but my devotion continues on.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

 

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