Thursday, March 25, 2010

Old words ring true

Well as they say the more things change the more they stay the same. So sometimes you read from history and what was said fits the immediate moment. You probably know that I am really bothered by the hatred, anger and lack of civility in America - especially as it surrounds politics. Maybe its my age but I think a lot of people's reactions are... well a civilized person won't even tell you what they think. I was raised to repect even those I might be in disagreement with.

However, a wonderful lady in my church gave me a book I just started to read. It is titled, Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's. Only thirty pages in and it has my attention. What jumped at me is this quote by Alexis de Tocquerville way back then... I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. Wow! What insight and as if written today.

Now I believe clearly in keeping politics and religion separate. But I think that we as Congregationalist should be reminded that in our faith we have a heritage of independence of mind and a freedom of diverse thought. No position no matter how true I feel it to be can give me the right to be uncivil to others. Think on these things....

Never look back

Times are ruff. So much has or is changing in life. There is a cloud of despair over the heads of so many. I heard someone pose a question this week after setting up that picture of current life. In many ways I agree with that assessment. What do we do?

This past week I also read a small book and enjoyed it a great deal. It is called The Once & Future Church by Loren Mead. It was written almost 20 years ago but it is very accurate in assessing the state of transition in the church. The book is a product of the Alban Institute. The current changes and challenges in the church started before my time and have escalated as time has gone on. I've been tracking the changes and staying attune to them over the years. Change produces lots of tension in all our lives and organizations.

In the book he talks at one point about the issue of resistance to change. He talks about anger & bitterness because of the sense of loss that comes during change. He talks about bargaining in terms of thinking that a new program or idea will fix things and enable us to turn the clock back to some golden age. He talks about depression where we hope for a miracle but do not really expect one as we go down a slow spiral. What struck me especially was how we live in denial. How we continue to operate like nothing has changed. As if we could ignore change and it might just go away.

Now all of that is contained on just page 62 - its all a good read. In terms of church life I continue to live and work in the midst of these circumstances and challenges. But don't just think in terms of church. Think in terms of life itself. How do we react to a changing culture, changing society, changing political systems, changing economics and the like? Do we not use some of these same approaches: anger, bargaining, depression, denial. Think about it.

Nothing in life stays the same. Here in America life has changed, mainly due to changing world economics and we are going to all have to adjust to the new realities.

Now, I really am leading to something. This week Vicki and I also attended the Grande Dames Tea where three ladies (each 80 years old) where honored here in Lee County. Honored were Jeanne Bochette (from our church), Helen Hendry and Veronica Showmaker. Each lady has her own unique and outstanding personal history. It was certainly a insightful afternoon. The format from which these ladies shared their wisdom was a Q&A format.

While they shared many great thoughts I saw one major theme from these ladies who have lived long lives and are still active in the community and working. They said "never look back" - change comes, things happen - accept it - just never look back. If you stay positive and forward looking you can live life without regret. Once again they said, "never look back, tomorrow will be a better day." That's how you make it through difficult and changing times.

That is an important message for all of us. Don't live in the past. Don't try to go back to the past. Don't hold on to the past. "Never look back" - I hope I can do that with my personal life and I hope I can lead my church to do the same.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Understanding God

Yesterday after I wrote my blog Vicki had a CD playing and one of the songs I like really struck me. Most will remember "Ol' Blue Eyes" singing this song though many others have also recorded it. The song is All the Way.

What struck me is that the song pictures how I understand God loving me. Life is not prewritten details or something I arrive at but a journey. God is the one who loves me all the way from here to home. What's important in life is that relationship, forget the details. It's not what happens in your life its who loves you through both the good and bad times.

Read the words to the song and see how they impress you in light of God loving you.

When somebody loves you
It's no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way

Taller than the tallest tree is
That's how it's got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue sea is
That's how deep it goes if it is real

When somebody needs you
It's no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all those in between years, come what may

Who knows where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say, but if you let me love you
It's for sure I'm gonna love you all the way

(c) Maraville Music Corporation

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No one knows tomorrow...

First, a word to those in my church new to blogs. I won't be writing something everyday. In fact, I haven't written anything for awhile. That's why, depending on your interest, you should consider subscribing to the blog. In this way whenever I post something it will come to you without you having to come to the site. Now on to my thoughts.

It is impossible to know what lies ahead in any of our lives. Sounds like a simple statement but have you stopped to realize why. Many Christians tend to think it is because we cannot see tomorrow but if we could see it is already laid out for us. But consider another possibility that in human terms there is nothing to see. The future has not happened yet and there is no way to know what will be. There are the decisions I will make, the decisions others will make and the impact of the laws of nature. Tomorrow is a mix of far to many things to ever number and none of them have collided into each other yet. Life happens and it happens to us all equally.

I could expound on that issue forever but in terms of my belief system I have resolved how I view that part of the life we live here on earth. For me there is some comfort in that. It teaches me the futility of always trying to figure out my tomorrows. Also since the future is just that, the "future," then the details are so "up in the air" that I can not really plan for it with the certainty that if I do "a" then I will get an "a" result not a "b" result. The point being that if there are no guarantees as to what the events will be then there are no guarantees as to the results we will get. (in this blog I'm not saying we do not plan and use common sense for the future - but the best plans can be gone in a second - my point will be clear in a moment)

Think about that. People in my generation were raised to believe that we'd never see a Great Depression. No matter how you label it our current meltdown has changed so much in all our lives, even emotionally. It has put an uncertainty into our lifestyle that we really didn't think was possible. Think about the recent earthquakes. While they didn't impact me personally think of all the people that have been impacted. Regardless of all the planning, saving, caution and whatever word one might use nothing could prepare anyone of them for the impact of the earthquake and for how their life would be forever changed.

When I was younger I was "certain" about so many things. Now I'm not certain about much of anything. Now this has not lead me to some weak faith or some smaller view of God. What it has lead me to is a different view of what is important. The only think I can impact or work on in life is the person I am going to be. I have no control over what will happen in my tomorrows. My future on this globe is uncertain. But, I do have a choice in terms of my character, in terms of how I will treat others and in terms of how I will react to what life brings.

When you die it will not matter about your wealth (or lack of), your achievements (or lack of), or certainly how far you believed you could see into and plan for the future. The only issue will be the kind of person you really were. You can only work on you and you only have this life in which to do so. So I have plenty of work to do, I just need to put my mind to work on the right thing.

All this fits into tomorrows sermon theme of how life is a direction not a destination. It is also more than sermon related. It is the mindset from which I operate as a person and a pastor.