The dandelions and sparrows…

May 7, 2015

Grace and peace to you!

A rooster pheasant was in our front yard this morning.  Beautifully reflecting the sunrise, his red, gold and tan feathers were brilliant.  The background music was this spring’s flock of meadowlarks, distinctively calling back and forth across the empty lots of our development.  A pair of robins were busy on our back deck, building a nest just feet away from our family room window.  A pair of bluebirds were perched on our vineyard wires checking out the house that brought forth a small brood of the iridescent birds last year.  Such a beautiful time is spring.

Lisa and I began to plant our garden last weekend.  We have been working on it off and on throughout the week.  We work and amend our soil quite a bit so that it is rich and full.  The seeds go in the ground easily and it usually doesn’t take too long for them to pop above the surface (when the weather is warm enough!), reaching into the atmosphere to soak up the sunlight and nitrogen with the hope of a bountiful harvest of more seeds in the fall.

The flowers too, have come to life.  Purple and pink phlox, prairie smoke, tulips and blooming almond shrubs are out fully now and the apple trees in the small orchard have just started.  The season of spring shouts the beauty and richness and diversity of creation!  It makes me want to sing the Doxology on our back deck as the sun rises giving me another day of life.

Of course the dandelions came out in full force yesterday.  A carpet of yellow covers our back yard and is quickly encroaching on the front.  I know there roots go deep and that they are impossible to remove.  They are so annoying.  And the sparrows…they are building a nest next to the robins and anywhere else they can get a foothold…bluebird houses, clothesline poles, flower pots, garage rafters.  And they are so noisy.  And annoying.  It makes we want to put up signs in our yard that say “Keep Out!  Not Wanted Here!”

And then I remember that the dandelions and sparrows are part of the Creation as well.  Not as beautiful maybe, or as interesting, or colorful.  But alive.  And growing.  And reproducing.  And adding their part to the mosaic that is Eden at the address where Lisa and I get to live.

And that gets me thinking about those human beings that I might want to Keep Out! of my life and that I may Not Want! to spend time with or with whom I might share my corner of creation, or theirs.  I would guess we all do that one way or another.  Cross the street to avoid someone.  Or turn our back.  Or not return a call.  Or shut down our mind.  Or close our heart.  Or not travel in that neighborhood.  Or sit at that table.  Or go visit that person.

And yet I know the Truth.  Everyone Matters.  All are created in the image of God.  All have a right to live in this beautiful world.  I can only pray that I would live my life in such a way that makes room for all and witnesses to the goodness and grace of God.  I encourage you to seek the same.

As you walk the good way, be thankful for the dandelions and sparrows!

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Hype and Relevance

Grace and peace to you today!

A few months ago my wife and I stopped the regular reading of the daily newspaper.  It was a cost saving measure at first, but I now realize it has decluttered my life a bit of a whole lot of unnecessary information.  Quite a few months ago I decided that I wasn’t too interested in most of my “friends” updates on facebook and pretty much stopped checking in regularly.  I had been listening regularly to KFAN, sports talk radio in the Twin Cities, but decided that the dj’s pretty much hash and rehash the current sports story to death, day after day.  Classical radio is much more relaxing as I am driving about the Twin Cities.  At this point it probably goes without writing that all the chatter (hype) about Twitter drives me crazy.

Last Sunday was the day of the nation’s biggest sport event.  I am a football fan.  I watched both NFC and AFC title games.  I was interested in the Super Bowl.  I was not interested in the two weeks of hype leading up to it.  I turned it off and tuned it out.  Paid absolutely no attention to it.  I was on a retreat last weekend that went from Thursday to Sunday evening.  I had the game recorded.  By the time I started watching from the beginning the game in real time was essentially over.  As I watched the first play of the game and then a few series later, it was clear to me that Denver was not going to get untracked.  The game really was over before it started.  I didn’t have to suffer through Bruno Mars’ hit, “your sex takes me to paradise” as I was able to triple fast forward through the half time show.  I thought, “two weeks of hype and gazillions of words in the newspapers and talk radio summed up in a headline…Seahawks crush Broncos.”  That’s it.  Life goes on.  I am glad I didn’t spend any more time on the game than necessary.

I am aware that ignoring the hype makes me irrelevant in a lot of conversations.  It makes my preaching a bit irrelevant as well as I don’t have the daily news on the table with my scripture.  But I know that I feel less anxious about living.  I know that I feel more alive and in tune with the present as it occurs around me.  I know that the scripture continues to come alive to me as I read it.  I know that I am growing to be more graceful to the people around me.

I guess I am willing to pay the price of irrelevance if it means I don’t have to put up with the hype of daily living and what the editors, anchors and dj’s think are important.  There is too much noise in the world.  I am trying to quiet it in my own life.

I realize that this blog could be construed as noise in your life.  Feel free to delete the message when you get it.  I won’t be offended.  But if it encourages you to “be still” and turn some things off and pay attention to your surroundings and your inner self…it might be worth it.  There are fewer and fewer ways to turn off, turn down and enjoy life.

God bless you richly in these days.

d.

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Something Inside

1-21-14

I was at a meeting last night where some people were talking about how busy the health club was since the first of the year.  Being regular, year around participants, the crowded facilities and locker rooms were an annoyance.  They knew that it was the “new year resolution” rush and that by this time next month the club would be back to normal.

A number of years ago I was a victim of this.  I regularly signed up for a new membership at the New Hope YMCA with the good intentions that I would work out and stay in shape.  It never happened.  I still make an attempt almost every year to be a disciplined writer.  There is something inside of me that wants to write.  I try journaling for a few weeks and then stop.  I try blog writing for a few weeks (or one, if you scroll through my record) and then stop.  The “things of the world” you know, “life”.

What I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks though, is that there is “something” inside all of us that compels us, that motivates us, that challenges us to be the person that we were created to be…or, for you religious folks, that God made us to be.  I do believe that there is that something for each one of us.  One area, one passion, one desire, when nurtured and encouraged and fed…produces fulfillment and joy in living.

I have an artist friend who is also a wife and mother.  She struggles to give herself enough time to “let the art come out.”  It burns within her, but she knows that it takes hours a day of devotion for it to become what she knows it can.  And those hours are often hard to come by.

I have been meditating on Luke 4:1-14 the past couple of weeks.  After his baptism, Jesus is “full” of the Holy Spirit and led into the wilderness where he is tempted for 40 days.  After the temptations, Jesus returns to Galilee in the “power”of the Spirit.  There was something inside Jesus.  Look closely at the temptations, we can see that “something” included not only the Spirit but also a knowledge of the Word of God and a loving relationship with Abba (Father God).  This knowledge and relationship and power enabled Jesus to begin his radical ministry and essentially change the world.

My meditation led me to think that whatever that special something is inside of me (and you), I (we) can have the same elements that Jesus had…a knowledge of the Word of God, a loving relationship with Abba and a fullness of the Holy Spirit that gives me servant power to be in radical ministry to a needy world.

I want to encourage you to read the Word, seek the Loving God revealed in Jesus and pray for a filling of the Holy Spirit so that special “something inside” of you can be released and be a blessing to others.

God bless you richly in these days.

d.

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Whiskey Plates

I usually drive about 100 miles a day when I am out and about.  I like to drive.  I often drive in silence, thinking about a variety of things.  Sometimes I play mind games while driving…math problems, the ABC game with road signs, word games with license plate letters.  Yesterday on my journeys to Inver Grove Heights and then south Minneapolis I saw 3 cars that had “whiskey plates”.  These are special plates in MN that are very recognizable.  They are plain white with black letters/numbers, always starting with WH.  I don’t know all the specifics, but generally these cars are driven by people who have been charged with DUI.  I believe that any officer can stop any of these marked cars for no reason and do a check.  I would imagine having that identification on the vehicle is a strong deterrent to bad driving behavior.

A lot of Christians put a variety of identification marks on their cars.  Fish symbols, bumper stickers, crosses…I remember when I was growing up in a very Roman Catholic town, I always wondered about those little plastic statues that only the catholics seemed to have had in their cars.  Sometimes I see these “Christian cars” break basic traffic laws and also not have very good driving etiquette.  For the first time the other day, I saw a license plate encased in an “Atheist” plate holder. 

I have never been one to “advertise” my beliefs by external means.  Tatoos, bumper stickers, yard signs, facebook posts and reposts, ribbons, flags, this and that…( I do wear my Packers shirts intentionally when I know Vikings fans will be around ).  It seems to me that when we do “advertise” it is putting our identity in a box and whether we like it or not, others will make judgements about us that go something like this…”That person is on ‘our side'” or “That person is against us.”  I think all of us are a whole lot more complex than a slogan or a sign.

For example, I know a person who has whiskey plates that has gotten his life together and is not a threat at all to society.

While I am a Christian, I am sure “the Atheist” is a fine person and I would love to engage him in a spiritual (or aspiritual, as the case may be) conversation.

It seems to me that Jesus said something about the fact that it is not what is on the outside of a person that identifies them…it is what is on the inside…what is in the heart and soul.  I have been thinking a lot about that lately.  While I work on my own soul and heart, and while I help others do the same, I am trying hard to look beyond the outside appearance and see what is deeper…I want to help the grace and beauty to come out…and the ugliness to be excised.  It is a small way of making our world a better place.

I want to encourage you this day to do the same.  Don’t be satisfied with judging others by their outside appearances.  Get to know them.  Bless them.  Bring out the good you see.  And if you develop a healthy relationship, maybe you will get a chance to talk about the unhealthy things you see as well.  And don’t forget to look deep into your own heart and soul to see what needs affirmation…or change.

God bless you richly in these days!

d.

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The Smell of August

8-7-13
Grace and peace to you, friends!
I am not ready for my calendar to say it is the month August. I have many reasons.
# The garden got a late start and now I am worried it would come to its fullness before the first cold winds of fall.
# Preparations for STORM Camp took a bit more out of me this summer moving to a new location.
# I have a new congregation to serve at Mt Bethel UMC…so this month will be spent getting to know them better.
# An extended time of rest and renewal didn’t happen, again, this summer.
# The summer “to do” list that Lisa and I make every spring (and continue items to the next year) looks like it will have more items put off til next year.

I can’t deny it. Not only the calendar, but the smell of August is here. Present realities not withstanding the smell of August always makes me nostalgic.

# The fresh dill, 3 feet high and growing in the garden reminds me of my grandmother working in her huge garden, harvesting and canning fruit and vegetables…getting me an ice cold lemonade to drink in the shade of their huge trees at the old farmhouse.

# The sweet smell of milkweed in bloom reminds me of the vacant lots next to our house on Payne Street where I would run as a child and catch Monarch butterflies, put them in a jar, and hope they would make a chrysallis…and all the other bugs there were to discover in that wonderful, backyard, open air insect world.

# Fresh mown grass in August always reminds me of football. Pads and helmets crashing. Sweat. Blood. Aches and pains. Exhausted but alive. So alive. The sweet smell of the fresh cut bringing renewal.

It’s funny how the calendar reminds me of all I haven’t gotten done this summer, but the smell of August reminds me of joy and freedom and life. It must be one of those downsides of getting older.

I think I will change, today. I am going to enjoy this August. I am not going to think about the impending winter. I am not going to lament the lack of time to get everything done. I am going to find rest in each day. I am going to enjoy each new person I meet and I am going to find life and hope in the relationships I have already. I am going to live.

I want to encourage you to do the same! Choose to live each day. And see what God’s grace might bring your way.

God bless you richly this week!

d.

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Wed Encouragement: 1.9.13 CAN GOD “DVU” THE WORLD?

Grace and peace, friends!
I am a subscriber the Keith Giles blog. He copied this from an issue of Wycliffe inFocus magazine. It is a great story of Bible translation and how the Love of God can be communicated in another language. Enjoy.

And, I want to encourage you to be one who reflects the dvu love of God!

d.

Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people? What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know who He is and how He wants to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”

“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” Lee asked.

“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?” Lee asked. Everyone laughed.

“Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded.

“Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel, and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you based on who I am. I love you because of Me and not because of you.”

God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, and not a mean and scary spirit, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.

The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and twenty-nine thousand speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, ‘dvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘dvu’-d the church.…” I invite you to pray for them as they absorb and seek to model the amazing, unconditional love they have received.

As God’s Word is translated around the world, people are gaining access to this great love story about how God ‘dvu’-d us enough to sacrifice his unique Son for us, so that our relationship with Him can be ordered and oriented correctly. The cross changes everything! Someday, the last word of the last bit of Scripture for the last community will be done, and everyone will be able to understand the story of God’s unconditional love.

Article by Bob Creson.
Reprinted from Wycliffe inFocus

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Thursday Encouragement: 1.3.2013

Obese in mind, body and spirit.

The annual call for exercise has been issued. The new year sales flyers feature equipment of all kinds that will reduce our middle and tone our muscles. The “Y”, Snap Fitness and other workout businesses are offering their “first month free” deals. News shows are featuring the latest home workout gadgets and dietitians galore are encouraging us to eat properly along with that healthy exercise regimen.

I am left to wonder why this has become an annual rite of post-holiday indulgence. It has been going on for years. Obesity in our nation continues to increase. Workout shops can be found in every small community. People must be buying the equipment. But things don’t seem to be getting better.

Lisa suggested to me that we live in a culture of obesity. Not only in body, but also in mind and spirit.

So I succumbed this week to the smart phone. I have argued that I am dumb enough already, I don’t need a smart phone to point out even more of my ignorance! But my “basic” 2005 model is on its last microchip and an i-phone 4 was free. I think about the times in the last month where I have been hanging out with people with smart phones and when a question has come up, we had an answer in seconds. The world truly is at our fingertips. The world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. But are we any smarter? Are we any wiser? Is anyone any closer to solving the major problems that face us…making our culture of violence more peaceful, growing out of debt and into prosperity, learning satisfaction and sharing in a culture of plenty? I would suggest that we are so obese in mind that we miss the simple answers and solutions to the complexities of our lives. It seems to me that common sense has been lost in the fat cells of too much information.

And spiritually, of course, anything goes. All religions are equal (even though adherents don’t believe that!). All religions have value (how can child sacrifice not be condemned by a thinking person?). Christians flock to the mega churches with their famous author-pastors and highly polished worship bands and learn so much about the Bible, attending course after course and taking notes on those great sermons-soon-to-be-another-book…but won’t leave the NRA to follow the Prince of Peace, or contribute sacrificially to Christian causes that actually save lives, or even more simply, forgive those who have trespassed against them. We are so obese in spirit that we cannot “blow with the Wind of the Spirit”. The fruit of the Spirit fails to grow in our lives because the basic nutrients of grace and faith are minimized by our prideful trust in our selves and not God.

We are obese, not only in body but also in mind and spirit.

I want to encourage us this new year to “strip down” and look at ourselves honestly. Look not only at our bodies but also our God-given minds and spirits to see what needs to be “lost”…that we might gain a more productive and healthy Life.

God bless you richly in 2013 as you seek to follow Jesus.

d.

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