Weddings and Funerals

Generally I have  not been a fan of weddings and funerals. I don’t like getting dressed up. I don’t like pretending to know people. I do enjoy avoiding getting people off the hook by saying who I am and how I am related to the guests of honor. Let ’em guess. I mean generally these events are not about me and so are no big deal. I enjoyed my wedding, the best I can remember. I’ll likely miss my own funeral.

I had to attend a wedding and a funeral this weekend and I was determined to make the best of it. With the proper attitude the funeral turned out to be a blessing. I didn’t really know the deceased, but she obviously was a loving person who knew and served the Lord. The event helped me refocus on what’s important: service and family. The length of the race is unknown; got to just keep on running.

The wedding turned out to be fun.  It was great to see an old family friend so happy. The service was nice and the food was great. There are truly beautiful women in my family who are a joy and blessing to me. It was great to see them all dressed up, dancing and having fun. Weddings remind us of how the Lord has blessed us in our own lives. They give us hope that there are still good things in a world that kind of sucks.

There were a lot of old people at both the wedding and the funeral. By old, I mean older than mean me, so really old. I hope I’m not turning into one of those old people whose only fun is going to weddings and funerals. That would be horribly ironic.

Excuses

Watching the news this week, I found myself commenting how terrible it is that some have used a tragic death as an excuse to riot and loot. This got me thinking about excuses and how easy it is to fall back on them.

If the Saints or Cajuns or Florida Gators lose on the weekend, I can make that an excuse to have a bad attitude to start the week. When my wife cooks a great meal, the excuse to overeat comes very easily. I felt very justified in getting angry when a woman in front of me in the check out line at Wal-Mart had way too many items to be in the 20 item line. I even counted her items under my breath as she checked out . Turned out she had 19. Our excuses are usually not valid or even factually accurate.

There are way too many excuses floating around. A lack of good choices is no reason not to vote. A tough day is no reason to be unkind when we get home. A few bad eggs is no excuse to condemn everyone of the same color, faith, or philosophy.

Probably most important of all there is no valid excuse not to share the love of Jesus, lifting a hand to those who are down, hugging those who are distressed, feeding those who are hungry, loving those who seem unlovable.

Thanks to the rioters for reminding me for so many important things, there is just not excuse.

 

Waiting or Procrastinating

All of us have times when things aren’t happening. We usually say we are “waiting” for something to happen. Sometimes, we are just covering up our procrastination.

Waiting is an honorable thing. We are waiting when we have done everything we can and the next move has to come from someone else. When that someone else is God, we are in a good place. Scripture often proclaims the appropriateness of waiting on the Lord.  When waiting our eyes are on God. Our strength is renewed. Peace reigns.

Waiting often means that something has started. Things have been done. There is movement toward a goal. Waiting implies that we know the next thing that needs to happen and we are prepared to act when it does. When we wait we are prepared, ready and faithful that God knows best about timing.

Procrastination occurs when the ball is in our court and we search for reasons not to take the next step. It focuses on our lack of preparation, readiness or faith. We doubt that anything is really in process. We consider that maybe we have taken a wrong turn or misinterpreted a word from God.  We spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.

Procrastination is a place of anxiety, worry and doubt. Waiting is a place of peace, confidence and hope.

If you are in a quiet time of life, consider are you waiting or procrastinating? That’s what I’m asking these days.

 

Please Don’t Call Me a Christian

Please don’t call me a Christian. I have many reasons for this plea.

“Christian” has no meaning. People are called “Christian” because they once said a prayer or because they go to church or because they live in a “Christian” nation. Maybe they just claim the title. There are no standards for being a Christian.

Christians have been embarrassing.  Some of these people who are called Christians have done embarrassing, sometimes hateful things that I don’t want to be associated with. Some of these things are mass sins like persecutions or enslavements. Others are personal like individual hateful words or hurtful acts.

Jesus didn’t call me that.  Jesus didn’t call us “Christians.” He called us disciples or followers. He described us as salt and light. These terms describe our ability to grow to be like him through his power and grace and to reflect his goodness and glory.  Disciples are identifiable by what He has done and not what we accomplish. “Christian” has come to mean “holier than thou” or hateful. Jesus said we would be identified by our love. That’s based on how we reflect his light and love, not on what we say we believe.

It’s risky to abandon the “Christian” label. There is some comfort and security in its vagueness. When we claim the mantle of discipleship, salt and light, there are objective signs that confirm or deny our claim. Our status can be proved or disproved. There’s a need to continually seek his face and, thereby, reflect his glory.

Masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

I am God’s masterpiece. He planned good things for me to do long ago, before I was born. That means since I am still alive there are still things that He planned for me to do.  I haven’t completed all that He planned for me to do and there is still opportunity to do those things.

I notice that this verse is written in the plural. I suppose that means I am not intended to do these good things alone. There are others that I must work and serve with to get these things accomplished.

So what are these good things that God created me to do? I guess I could look at my natural talents and abilities for clues; but I was created “anew” so that I can do those things. Whatever I am to do is only possible since I am a new creature in Christ. I believe, therefore, that the tasks I am called to are things I am unlikely to be able to do on my own. Success in them is possible only in Christ Jesus.

There are lots of things I can’t do on my own. So there’s no direction there. God would not put all this work into his masterpiece and not give his direction. Time to listen for guidance, alone and in group.

 

Yield

There is a traffic sign in our neighborhood that I’ve learned to ignore. It suggests I yield to a street that has almost no traffic. At best I slow a bit to make sure no one is coming. I certainly don’t stop. I guess one day I will get caught, but it hasn’t happened in nearly thirty years. I’m feeling pretty confident in my civil disobedience.

We daily face a spiritual “yield” sign as well. I often blow by it with as much indifference as I ignore the sign in my neighborhood. I often take God’s instruction to yield as a “suggestion” not a command. Sometimes I ignore it because it’s not specific enough. “Yield what?” I ask. I know the answer is “everything.” I don’t know why I even ask. I know I could at least start by yielding something.

Our failures to yield, I believe, are the reasons we have floods, economic downturns, personal tragedies,  and political chaos. They are God’s attempt to get us to pay attention to the”yield” sign. It’s like posting a motorcycle cop on the corner where the “yield” sign has sat all these years.

Why don’t I understand that the command to “yield” isn’t arbitrary. It’s to keep me from the danger I get in when I try to run things myself. It’s to alert me as to just how unimportant are the gifts I’ve been given and how essential the Giver is.

Yielding is not the doorway to slavery; it’s the gateway to freedom. True freedom lives where we yield control of all to the only one who can see the road ahead, manage any roadblocks and arrange any necessary detours.

Maybe now when I see that neighborhood traffic sign, it will remind me of the importance of spiritual yielding. I sure hope so.

A Season of Discouragement

I can’t help but think that we are moving into a Season of Discouragement.

We had some significant rain Wednesday night so the water is back up a bit. It’s like a plug in the bayou is preventing any more draining. Still no threat to the house, just more delay before I can get out there and start to clean things up. Still so much better off than many others. I took a ride to check out friends in Crowley and Kaplan then back to Broussard. There are miles of streets with piles of personal belongings and damp carpet at the roadside. Actually putting out the ruined items is the quick and easy part.

I decided to file an insurance claim on my Honda truck yesterday. The air conditioning isn’t working and the electronics are acting wacky since it sat in flood waters for a couple of days. I really didn’t think the water had gotten deep enough to hurt anything. It started right up, but hasn’t been acting right since. We have moved the truck and our car out of the water and onto the dry end of our driveway to prevent any further damage.

We found out this morning that our church preschool will be delayed in reopening due to water in the walls. Another inconvenience and the removal of a big help and a needed break for many.

I believe there are discouraging days ahead. In the first few days after a disaster like this there is a feeling of shock and community as friends and neighbors ban together to help each other. As time passes, everyone gets back into dealing with their own problems, reality sinks in,  and those with big damage issues are left pretty much alone to take care of themselves.

It is then that we need a closer walk with Jesus. We need daily reminders of what’s really important and where our real strength and refuge lie. Yes, I see a season of discouragement ahead. We will need more than ever the sense of purpose and togetherness that binds a Jesus community. We will need to keep loving each other when the first excitement wears off and the drudgery of day-to-day dealing with the mess looms large.

When discouragement starts, do what I did, take a ride around and see how much we really have to be thankful for. The good thing about a season of discouragement is that it puts us just where we need to be: leaning on the everlasting arms and giving thanks.

The Great Flood of 2016

My plans for last weekend were to spend some time with my grandson working in our yard and catching up on the weed eating. That didn’t happen. Instead I now am eligible to wear a tee-shirt which reads, “I survived the Great Flood of 2016.”

It is somewhat miraculous that I survived the Great Flood of 2016. Our home is the lowest in our neighborhood. It is 15 to 20 feet below the level of most of our neighbors. The lot floods for every “rain event” although water has never gotten into the home, which is on piers. Once again, although the water got higher than we have ever experienced, the house remained dry inside. I hope I have learned some lessons from the survival of the Great Flood of 2016.

If I have to be marooned with anyone, I just as soon that it be Rosemary, my wife of 46 years. We are used to quietly enjoying each other’s presence even in silence while winds blow, waters rise and sometimes power ceases. Love you babe.

Tragic circumstances illuminate character. I have seen very impressive responses to the flood from many people: relatives and strangers I watched on TV. Many set aside their own problems to assist neighbors, family, friends and even folks they didn’t know. That was great.

There was also a group that sat around whining and demanding that somebody come help them. This is the group that is always looking for government or society to take care of them. I saw way too many of them. Proportionally I believe that this group was still a minority, but larger than I have seen in past events. That was very sad.

I saw many folks lose nice property or have it severely damaged. I think most of them realize that property is not the most important things in their lives even if it’s their most valuable asset and sucks away the biggest part of their income. I know that even if I had “lost everything” it wouldn’t be everything that really matters.

In the days ahead we will be cleaning up and helping others do the same. Let’s try to stay in the heroic group and not join the whining chorus. Let’s try to be more focused than ever on what and who is really important. Maybe we can be salt and light to those who are whining.