Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Bill, a bright graduate student, decided to go to church. He had missed worshipping the past year or so because of his studies, and had grown careless about his appearance, letting his hair and beard grow.
One spring Sunday morning Bill walked to a large conservative church a few blocks from his dorm dressed in his usual jeans, t-shirt and flip-flops. The service was packed and had already begun, so he tried finding a seat. Some of the people scowled as he came in, his hair wildly askew from the windy morning. But no one spoke to him.
The sermon was about to begin as Bill walked clear to the front. Realizing there were no seats, he sat down cross-legged on the carpet right in front of the pulpit. Someone then offered him a place, but he shook his head, quite content to sit on the floor, something clearly not done in that church.
As the pastor prepared to speak, an elderly Deacon arose and began walking towards Bill. The old man was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, and tension arose as the people wondered what he would do. So did the pastor, who took his time beginning his sermon.
When the silver-haired Deacon reached the young man, he looked down at him, then slowly lowered himself to the carpet next to him. The two men smiled, shook hands and then looked up expectantly for the pastor to begin his sermon.
The pastor's first words were, "What I am about to preach you will never remember, but what you have just seen, you will probably never forget."
One never knows these days what people will wear to church. I have at times wished some would dress more thoughtfully, but I've decided to speak by example rather than with words. But I do wonder if I would have sat down on the floor next to Bill in my Van Heusen shirt, Brooks Brothers coat and Florscheims.
Would you? Do you think the people remembered pastor's sermon? What is the best sermon you've ever heard? Or seen?
"You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)
Monday, August 20, 2012
During a phone call from a friend back in Minnesota I told him how bad our mosquitoes have been here in Colorado this summer. Normally our summer has few if any of those pesky little bugs. My friend said something surprising for a Minnesotan: "Be thankful you have mosquitoes!"
I thought I'd heard it all, but I guess not. I've tried to give God thanks for all kinds of blessings in life, but thankful for mosquitoes? I believe I'll pass on that one, and I told him my so.
He responded, "If you've had mosquitoes, it means you've had rain. It's been so dry here we haven't had mosquitoes all summer. Right now I'd give anything if we'd have had mosquitoes like in a normal summer. There is almost no crop at all, and with grain prices being so high, it's doubly hard. So be grateful you have mosquitoes."
I couldn't argue with him on that. If they come along with rain for the crops, even mosquitoes can be a blessing.
Last winter our chorus at Palm Creek, Arizona, sang a Monty Python song with the chorus line, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." Its lyrics mocked all kinds of things, but that line had a good thought. If we look for the good things in life rather than the bad, we stand a better chance of being content.
With ugly national politics, a shaky economy, family problems and growing world tensions, it is tempting only to look on the dark side of life. But St. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." He wrote those words from prison - not the brightest place in life to be! Yet that was where he found contentment through trusting in Jesus.
Christian contentment is never a constant thing, nor does it mean we must ignore the consequences of evil. Problems need not control us if we look for the good things God has given us. Even mosquitoes can be a blessing.
Our Lord Jesus came to this earth to give us eternal life. Until we experience His precious gift fully in heaven, He has given us an earthly life of blessings. Here even problems can be a blessing if we look at the bigger picture. Like St. Paul, we also can learn the secret of being content.
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The 2012 London Olympic Games are over, but memories may linger, especially if you were surprised by them. Women's gymnast Gabby Douglas, the sixteen year old dynamo who won two Gold Medals, gave praise to God for her achievements. "I send my praises up to Him, and He sprinkles blessings back down on me. It's a dream come true! Thank you everyone for praying for me!"
Some pundits took issue with her hairdo and others praised her achievement as an African-American, but Gabby brushed it all off saying, "Oh yes, that too. But gotta give God the glory."
Gabby wasn't the only American athlete who shared her faith at the games. Swimming medalist Missy Franklin (our girl from Aurora, CO) said, "God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions." Aries Merritt, Gold Medalist in the 110m hurdles said, "Words can't even explain how I feel right now! Giving God all the glory,"
There were other champion athletes to voice their Christian faith and give God credit for their achievements. Lauren Cheney (Soccer), Vincent Hancock (Shooting), Jacob Wukie (archery), David Boudia (Diving), Lolo Jones and Sanya Richards-Ross (Track & Field), and Marlen Esparza (Boxing) all gave God public praise. Even Jamaican world record sprinter Usain Bolt said, "Nothing possible without God."
Interestingly, each time the Christian faith was shared in some way, the interviewer overlooked it. God evidently was not a factor in their winning. All references to God were purposely ignored, treated as just some kind of personality quirk.
All kinds of other stories were shared, including one that said Team USA should have won more medals, considering our size and wealth. Some writers just can't be pleased!
But I think God was pleased He got at least some recognition. I know Christians were pleased to hear it. After all, He is the Creator God who gives the abilities, resources, time and opportunities to all of us, whether we're competitor, spectator or critic.
As the Jamaican lightening Bolt said, "Nothing possible without God."
Monday, August 6, 2012
Over the weekend at the 2012 London Olympics, Oscar Pistorius, a 400m sprinter from South African placed last in his semi-final heat with a time of 46.54 seconds, far below his personal best of 45.07. While he did not win a medal, Oscar had achieved his goal - to qualify for the Olympics. He ran fast enough in the quarter finals to qualify for the semis.
In the elimination race, World Champion Kerani James of Grenada honored Oscar by exchanging name bibs with him. Other runners in the heat embraced him for his effort. It was evident Oscar Pistorius was first in the hearts of his fellow athletes as well as the people in the stands. He will complete again Thursday, representing his country in the 4x400 relay.
All this would not be so surprising, except that Oscar, age 26, is a double amputee. He was born with a congenital condition that resulted in the amputation of both legs midway between ankle and knee at age eleven months. Despite his disability, he played several sports before settling on track. Oscar now holds his country's national records in 100m, 200m, and 400m events. He also won Gold Medals in 2008 Paralympics in those races, setting world records.
This is not Oscar at the Paralympics. That will happen after the London Games are over. In the 2012 Olympics, Oscar has competed against the world's best athletes as the first disabled runner ever to qualify. His nickname, "Blade Runner," comes from the carbon fiber metal feet on which he runs. His family members, including his 89 year-old grandmother, will again be in the stands cheering him on.
"I praise you, O God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:14)
Oscar's story makes this Bible verse take on a slightly different meaning, doesn't it?