Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Modern Day Parable - "3900 Saturdays" by Mac Anderson.

“3900 Saturdays” by Mac Anderson

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say …

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It’s too bad you missed your daughter’s ‘dance recital’ he continued. Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a ‘thousand marbles.’

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.

“It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,” he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.

“Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

“There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I signoff with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to met you again here on the band. This is a 75-year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.

“Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

QUOTE OF TODAY: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” ~ Winnie-the-Pooh

Have a wonderful, joy-filled, family-centered blessed Saturdays as well as one of the most tremendous Easters you have ever celebrated. And may God grant you a jar filled with marbles … lots and lots and lots of marbles! Pastor Jim

Friday, March 29, 2013

A place called Mount Calvary, a Cross, a Galilean, death comes and the world is transformed.

If you go to Israel they will show you two different … very different … hills called Mount Calvary or Golgotha. One is seen near a very noisy bus station – actually the visitors stand at a fence to look at the hill and thus, overlooking the busy bus station. It has the “feel” of the hill what with the holes that could represent the eye socks and nose cavity of a skull.

The other is within the very ornate Church of the Holy Sepulcher. As you enter this large church the visitor’s line snakes in front of a piece of marble with a hole into which you are invited to place your hand. It is believed to be the place where Jesus’ cross was placed during the crucifixion. Then, just a few steps away, you enter a small shrine that is built over the place of the tomb.

Two very different locations. Two very different experiences. One ornate and governed, or protected as they are fond of sharing, by several different religious orders. One very dirty, very noisy, and in the middle of the hustle of live. Most Holy Land pilgrims prefer the church setting – after all it is special, has a feeling of some place special, is recognized by the church as important and makes for some very beautiful pictures ... the other place not so much.

And yet, I lean towards the hustle and bustle place. Oh, it doesn’t make for good picture taking. It is drab and boring. It is hard to focus what with all of the noise and the honking of horns and the fumes from the buses and the shouting of the crowds waiting for their buses … and yet, isn’t this the very place Jesus’ death on the cross was meant to impact?

If Calvary doesn’t impinge itself on the reality of our daily existence it has no power … no importance … no meaning but, most of us want to religiously purify the cross and the crucifixion. Some how it becomes more acceptable if we place around it the trappings of the church and religious observances. If we place enough gold, silver and tapestry … and always an over abundance of candles … it becomes something that we can handle … and in the long run do not need to change much about our living. But the other one – too real, too raw, too me and you, too much about reality and living.

What did he die for? Just to get us into heaven? Or was there more happening on this Friday so many years ago?

Quote for today: The message of Good Friday is that the dictum of "an eye for an eye" cannot work. The way to conquer evil is through good. Similarly, violence can be overcome only by non-violence and hatred by love. ~Source unknown

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Remembering a visit to a place called the Upper Room, with a reflective quote by J.B. Phillips on Maundy Thursday.

The busload of tourists stood in the middle of the unbelievable small empty room. It wasn’t what I expected. It was rather small which surprised me. Every other religious site, that we had visited so far, had been over seen by some religious group or order, but not this one. There wasn’t a charge to walk up the steps and enter this “holy” site. It still was just the upper chamber of a house. People lived downstairs. There was no altar, no candles, no bookstore filled with trinkets … just an empty, bare upper room.

First impressions can be a little misleading especially when they come loaded with anticipation. Actually the room was quite dirty. The windows were just openings in the wall. Through these windows birds would come and go, making nests in the corners of the room and leaving a few deposits on the floor, as well as the walls. Dirt, leaves, and some loose papers were spread throughout the room. And, yet, there we stood in what our Arab-Christian tour host was calling the Upper Room.

The skeptic in me began to create a hoax theory, but I’ve been to the Holy Land three times and on each of these visits have been shown the same room. And so there I stood this time thinking that this would have been an ideal place for the bus to celebrate Holy Communion, but that was on our schedule for later in the day at another site. So we stood shoulder to shoulder – I said it was small – and listened to the tour host’s speech. I’ve heard it all before … so, this time I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the noise around me.

I tried to imagine the events that took place in this holy place so many years ago. I tried to picture the disciples all reclining around the table spread with the foods and trappings of the traditional Jewish Seder meal. I thought of John Mark, of the Gospel According to Mark fame, nervous in the corner as Jesus and his followers used his upper room for this meaningful meal during Passover.

I also thought of Jesus speaking about the one who was about to betray him … and he wasn’t looking at Judas this time, but at me. The pain was almost greater than my soul could bear. Betray him? Me? How could he think such a thing? Why does his eyes penetrate my soul with such burning compassion? Does he really know? Dare I even admit it to myself? Betray him? How often have I been guilty of betrayal this past year … the past week … within the last couple of hours? Hadn’t it been just too easy? But the compassion, love and acceptance were almost more than I could handle. I am not deserving of the grace and forgiveness … but, actually no one is and isn’t that the point.

Forgiveness, if it really is deserved, is it actually forgiveness? Forgiveness offered when it isn’t asked for … forgiveness given when it isn’t deserved … forgiveness shared when the offender may not even be aware of what they did … this kind of forgiveness is so divinely sweet, so powerful, so healing … How can anyone escape those eyes and words of forgiveness? And it all begins with symbols of body and blood, broken and spilled out for all those of us who didn’t know that we really needed forgiveness in the first place, let alone knew that in our little betrayals we helped crucify him.

We had to get back on the bus and head to our next religious site, but a part of me wanted to linger a little bit longer in the Upper Room … the healing was just starting to take root within my spirit. I had some unfinished work to be done between Jesus and me. As I walked down the stairs, I was the last to leave the room, I looked back and longed for the freedom to simply stay there in the Upper Room, but alas, like the disciples of old, there was a Garden to visit, a hill to try to understand and an empty tomb to experience.

Isn’t that just like God, always saying, “Okay, it is time to move on to the next stop on our spiritual journey” … have to be careful that we don’t stagnate or get caught up in the way stations along the journey, but it is nice to re-visit them once every now and again like the Upper Room … and I do in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup … and I close my eyes and remember a small room above a dwelling in the land called Holy.

 Quote for today: “Maundy Thursday there is joy and strength, of course, in this holy food and drink, but it is also an inevitable joining forces with the vast Scheme of reconciliation and redemption. Now there is something in our natural selves that may well make us wary of such a contact. The man who in his heart intends to go on being selfish or proud, or who has already decided how far his Christian convictions should carry him, is probably obeying a sound instinct when he keeps away from this glorious but perilous Sacrament. For, if the truth be told, men are often willing to put their trust in a god who in the end must be triumphant, simply because they want to be on the winning side; but they are not nearly so ready to bear any part of the cost of that winning. Yet the fellowship of the broken bread and the poured-out wine can mean no less than that.” ~J. B. Phillips

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Becoming more than just a subliminal messaging type of Christian (Acts 4:4).

Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand.

STORY this report was made on February 13, 1984 in Spokesman Review:
The banter of the operating room may have to be toned down, if new research on unconscious awareness in patients under total anesthesia is borne out. Surgeons have taken their patients' oblivion as license for talking as though the patient were not there--even making remarks that patients would find frightening if they heard. But two research groups report that what anesthetized patients hear can affect them. "What the patient hears--say a remark like, 'He's a goner' --could conceivably have an adverse effect on his recovery," says Henry Bennett, one of the researchers. 
In one study, anesthetized patients heard a taped voice tell them during surgery they should signify having heard the message by touching their ears in a postoperative interview. Later, in the interview, the patients tugged at their ears, although none could recall having heard the message, nor were they particularly aware of touching their ears. Dr. Bennett, a psychologist now at the Univ. of California Medical School at Davis, reports that when patients were given the suggestion during surgery that one hand was becoming warmer and the other cooler, the hands' temperature did so. This suggests, says Bennett, inadvertent negative remarks--such as, "Holy Moses, this is a terrible bone graft" --could interfere with recovery. Under anesthesia, "Patients may be more vulnerable to upsetting remarks they might hear," Bennett says. "Their normal coping techniques aren't available, since they are drugged." 
Other research involving patients undergoing back surgery suggests possible beneficial applications. Because a common postoperative complication of back surgery is difficulty is urinating, most patients require a catheter. During surgery, the researchers suggested to the anesthetized patients that they would be able to relax their pelvic muscles afterward, and so need no catheter. None of the patients who received the suggestion subsequently needed a catheter. 

Are we relying on subliminal messaging as a key ingredient to our witness? That somehow, at an unconscious level, our witness will take root in their hearts. That through a process of spiritual osmosis the truth of Jesus Christ will be transferred from us to those who might come near to us in the market place.

I’ve always been taken with the words in verse 4 of the 4th chapter of Acts … “they heard the word and became believers.” Every time I stand up to preach I believe that in my heart-of-hearts. None of us will ever know just how many we are affecting with our message and witness, but one thing can be said, I’m certain it isn’t five thousand. I’m not sure that I’ve shared the Good News with a grand total of 5,000 over my lifetime. Who knows?

This one thing is completely clear – we need to be more excited about what we believe and more forthright with sharing it!

There is a lot of chatter in the stores, at the restaurants, at the offices, on the social media concerning the winning teams involved in March Madness. In fact, there is more open enthusiastic discussion concerning college basketball and who might or might not make it to the elite 8 or the final 4 … Go, Florida! … but are we as excited about sharing our faith … or is it subliminal time?

We want to be more enthusiastic about our faith without becoming one of those “in your face” kind of believers. Help us … please! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

From rock thrower to forgiven to a bearer of a witness (Acts 3:15).

SCRIPTURE: Acts 3:15 (TM)
You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead - and we're the witnesses.

One pastor tells of the time that he bought some small rubber rocks from DC Works and put them on the chairs before people came into the room. As he opened the message, he asked them if he said anything that was blasphemous if they would stone him. He told them not to be shy and to let him have it. He then introduced himself and told them he was God, he could raise the Dead and God is his witness to what he just claimed. Then they threw rocks at him. He told them he wanted them to feel what the Jewish leaders and audience felt when Jesus made these claims in chapter 5 of the Gospel According to John and to remind them of what Jesus is claiming here: He is one with God.

Let’s face reality, we too would have thrown the rocks … and we won’t have been shy about it either. And so we come into the last week of our Lenten journey. It is a humbling experience to place ourselves in the hosanna sing crowd on Sunday and then find ourselves in the “crucify him” shouting numbers near the end of the week. Why? Because his claims are just too unbelievable to be real and so we take rocks in hand to throw them.

Holy week is always an interesting turn of events … at least for me … full of drama and pageantry on the one hand and horribly humbling on the other. Oh, we would protest that surely we wouldn’t have turned with the crowd as they turned against the one they had just cheered into the city, but there we would be all the same. It’s the ouch-factor of Holy Week.

None of us want to go there – mentally, emotionally or spiritually, but there we must stand. Even today we remain silent when we should be sharing the Good News … allowing the lie to invade our existence that our witness is found in our lifestyle. We might as well call out “crucify him” with the others for all the good our “lifestyle” witness does to bring people to Christ.  

The ouch-factor is at work … and so we march ever onward towards the conclusion of this blessed week. Painfully observing the events in the garden. Standing in the shadows as the trial proceeds. Joining the march up to Calvary. Witnessing the nails being driven into flesh … and then silence. Life has been given and is no more … or is that the last chapter in his life? God has the last laugh in the face of death. Resurrection morning breaks forth and God stretches out with grace to forgive our foolishness in participating in causing Jesus’ judgment and death.

Tears come easily as the nail pierced Savior stands before us and we see the rocks, our rocks, our thrown rocks at his feet, his pierced feet. Love is shown and forgiveness is granted even before we ask for it.

And our journey continues … as our witness is made. 

Forgive us for participating, but thank you for your forgiving love in the face of our foolishness.