May 31, Judgment Day?

It’s the last day of May. 

Month of May

  • My Dad’s birthday
  • My birthday
  • Some close friend’s birthdays
  • May showers
  • Cinco de Mayo

That doesn’t sound like much. But I guess it is. Every month has something that’s good for someone. Every month has birthdays, holidays, or days that are special. 

Last Day of May

  • No one in my family was born on May 31.
  • Are there any holidays happening today?
  • I have nothing exciting to do.
  • June has some things I’m excited about.
  • It’s Clint Eastwood’s birthday, but, that doesn’t do much for me.

It’s just the end of the month, nothing special.

However

It might be special, it could be, I might…

  • Win the lottery! (I have never bought a ticket)
  • Win a sweepstake (I think you have to enter or something)
  • Go someplace exciting! (Nope, it’s a regular work day)
  • Inherit a fortune. (none of my relatives have fortunes)
  • Jesus could come today. (What?)

Yep

Now Jesus our Messiah:

“No one knows about that day, or hour, not even the angels in heaven…”

Some believe that verse refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. Some believe it’s a reference to the coming of Christ. Some believe it’s a double prophecy and applies to both.

Either way, since no one knows, its possible that the final coming of the Lord could be today, May 31, 2017.

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Judgment Day didn’t happen on May 21, 2011. But it could today!

Do I think he will? No, probably not, it doesn’t seem like a day he would come. But he might, it could happen. It behooves us all to be ready. Am I? Are you?

To Close

Today is the last day of May. It doesn’t feel special, it’s just the end of the month. But wouldn’t it be something if Jesus came today! 

Wow, Jesus’ return on May 31! Who would have thought it?

Shalom

Kids and Summer

Across America children are celebrating.

The Children  

  1. Laughing hysterically
  2. Jumping for joy
  3. Smiling ear to ear
  4. Trashing their school stuff
  5. Excited about the summer

The Parents

  1. NOT

Last-Day-of-School

No Doubt

Not to oversell it, because there’s likely some parents who are glad to have their kids home for the summer. On the other hand, there are parents who have not been idle. They have been scheduling activities, events, and trips for their kids.

  1. Church camp
  2. Maybe a 2nd camp with another church
  3. A week with grandparents
  4. A week with the other grandparents
  5. Scouting events
  6. Cheer leading camps
  7. Band camps
  8. Sports camps
  9. Day trips

With careful planning, parents can reduce the number of weeks the kids are home from 13 to about 6. Who knows, the grandparents might be up for two weeks each! That would  bring it down to 4 weeks. You’ll take them on vacation for a week or two, so really, if you handle it right, you could get it down to just 2 weeks of kids as home.

Suddenly

Then BAM! It’s suddenly time for new back packs, school supplies, and clothes. And once again, they’re off for the next step towards becoming reasonably adjusted adults. Society will welcome them gladly. 

To Close

To all the parents I say, “Good luck and be careful and try to hang in there.” To all the kids I say, “Its summer! Go have fun. Be kids, be cool, and be smart. Adult life with its gut wrenching responsibilities will come soon enough.”

Right? 

“The Last Full Measure”

I didn’t serve in the military, or fight the enemy, or die in battle.

But Some Did

  1. Dad was career Air Force, serving in Korea and Viet Nam.
  2. My brother was Army, serving two tours in Viet Nam.
  3. My other brother was Navy, serving the U.S.S. Los Angeles.
  4. Had friends in wars, some returned alive, and some didn’t.

militarycoffins

The President

At Gettysburg, November 19, 1863, President Lincoln said this in his speech, but clearly, he was wrong.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

The world took great note, and has long remembered what he said, as well as what happened.

Lincoln’s address honored the dead and challenged the living. An excerpt: 

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

That war was fought with each other. Please Lord, let it be the only one.

Going to War

America has gone to war many times. Often, the cause was essential, just, and urgent. Sometimes, it was less clear, difficult to measure, and frustratingly long. Either way, troops were sent into harm’s way to defend freedom, our way of life, or to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. They are still being sent. 

Today is Memorial Day. Dad’s will fire up the grills. Moms will make something special. Kids will frolic in the pools. There will be parades and concerts in the parks.

To Close

We honor our dead. We remember those who served. And we say thank you to those who are far from home, and away from their loved ones. We remember.

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God bless you, come home safe, and soon.

Shalom

From The Womb

Are you more of a pack animal or a rugged individualist?

Pack Animals

  1. Like the group
  2. Feel at home with others
  3. Seek acceptance
  4. Function best in a team

Rugged Individualist

  1. Avoids groups
  2. Nervous around people
  3. Doesn’t need validation
  4. Functions best on their own

Which describes you? Or do you have characteristics of both?

Fitting & Blending

Society doesn’t care what you are, just obey the law and pay your taxes. If you don’t like the law and the taxes, then head for the Rockies and become a mountain man, or woman. Except, most of us would die the first winter.

So, it’s the city for us. Part of a community, one of the heard, a decent neighbor. We’ll need to fit in and blend a little. If you’re a pack animal, it’s not a problem. If you’re a rugged individualist, it’s going to chap a bit.

In Matters of Faith

Jesus our Messiah said:

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

Pack animal or individualist, both are born again for kingdom entrance. But the appeal is different. One is drawn to the sacred community. The other is drawn to the decision, choosing for himself to enter the kingdom. Both enter by mercy and grace.

A Spirit Thing

Pack or individual, both are reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit gives brith to spirit. Its divine, miraculous, and purposed in the Holy Trinity. 

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It’s the new birth, by the power of the Spirit.

To Close

My heart is nurtured by the sacred community. My soul is fed by the solitude of the mountains. I experience God in both, from inside his Kingdom.

It’s the new birth, from the womb of Christ, it’s a Spirit thing.

Shalom

“A Snake In The Grass”

Do you like snakes? Are you comfortable around them? I’m not.

Observations

  • Children like them, like to hold them.
  • Some people keep them as “pets.”
  • Zoos always have Serpentariums.
  • There are TV shows about snakes.
  • For some people, they’re just scary.

I’m with some people. Snakes give me the creeps.

Found One

I was relocating some slate pavers in my back yard. It was going fine, I had moved a dozen or so, then I lifted the next one; and there was a snake.

It was your average variety grass snake, maybe a foot long. It wasn’t venomous or threatening. It was just there, doing nothing, then it slowly slithered off.

snake
Not the snake I found, but close, really very close.

A Bad Rap

Snakes get a bad rap. Some say the only good snake is a dead snake. That seems harsh. The venomous ones are dangerous and the nonvenomous, though not dangerous, aren’t welcome to share our space, at least not mine. Like them or not, they have a place in the world. And they have a presence in Scripture:

  • Garden of Eden, the serpent.
  • Moses and his staff with Pharaoh’s snakes.
  • Israelites in the dessert, bitten by venomous snakes.
  • Was prophesied the Messiah would crush the snakes head.

You get the idea.

Our Messiah

Jesus knew about snakes:

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10)

Jesus knew about bread and fish:

Twice he multiplied them to feed the multitudes. Twice he filled Peter’s nets. The second time was after his resurrection, at the Sea of Galilee. When the disciples went ashore to see Jesus, fish and bread had been prepared for them.

To Close

‘If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11)

Dads don’t give hungry kids rocks or snakes. And neither does God.

Nevertheless, be careful lifting those pavers.

Shalom

Are People Inconvenient?

There’s no good way to say this, so here goes. People can be inconvenient.

My Thursday

Thursday is my day for sermon prep. I typically don’t schedule meetings, appointments, or lunches. It’s a day for studying and thinking.

What Happened?

  1. I was working early in a quiet coffee shop when a big group came in for a meeting. They were loud and proud.
  2. I was trying to ignore them when I heard my name. A friend came in for a meeting of his own, and engaged me while he waited for his companion.
  3. I left. Got settled at my desk when a call came in. One of our members was in serious trouble, I spent time on the phone and in prayer. It was difficult.
  4. Then, I went to the Worship Center to help with a video our Media Manager is producing. Back to the office.
  5. I was getting reinvested when someone dropped by to say hello. I said hello, we visited for a while. Back to work.
  6. Then a family stopped by and asked to see me. The kids were adorable, I’ve known them for years. Back to work.
  7. Then a need was brought to my attention that required the use of my MacBook for a while. I left the building.
  8. I returned, but several calls, texts, and emails needed my attention, as well as additional interruptions.
  9. It was a tough day for sermon prep and I’m not close to being ready.
stress-man-at-his-desk
Not me or my desk, but close, really very close!

Some Perspective

The friend at the coffee shop has been a blessing to my life for twenty years. The people in crisis had needs far more important than anything I was doing. The people stopping to see me were precious and mean a great deal to me. Not all the calls, texts, and emails were crucial, but still, they were important to others.

People and friendships. Interruptions and needs. Connection can be messy.

To Close

Thursday prep day? I got nothing accomplished. Or did I?

There’s a good way to say this, people are essential and worthy of our attention, support, and our love.

Shalom

Hankering for Haggis!

I had lunch yesterday in a restaurant I used to frequent a lot.  

Where?

It was in Stafford, the Southwest area of Houston. I had an office there when I worked for Hope For Haiti’s Children; the restaurant was around the corner.

While eating my sandwich, I overheard someone say, “Mmmm, I’ve got a hankering for some Haggis.” Okay. So, I googled it. 

Haggis: a savory dish made with a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, then encased inside a sheep’s stomach, and boiled in water.

Sure, sign me up. Make mine a double, with one to go. And hurry.

Haggis
This isn’t an authentic Scottish Haggis, but close, really very close.

Its Scottish

It’s the national dish of Scotland, and considered quite delicious. No, I haven’t tried it. Frankly, I think it would smell terrible and taste even worse.

But I don’t know and I don’t want to know. Just color me unadventurous.

My Roots

My ancestors are from Scotland. However, the national dish of my ancestral home churns my stomach. Maybe I’m Irish?

The Spiritual Side

Jesus our Messiah: To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31-32).

Many claim to know Jesus, to follow him. It’s often a claim of heritage, an extension of childhood. But to Jesus, discipleship was defined by obedience to his teaching; not to the law of Moses, but a heart devotion to his Word. Then let freedom ring!

To Close

The Word of Christ isn’t a bowl of Haggis. It isn’t optional. Not something I can reject because I don’t like the way it looks, smells, or tastes. Jesus would have me think better of his word.

“Mmmm, I’ve got a hankering for some Haggis.”

Uh Huh.

The Nourishing Green Things

I’m not typically a grower of green things, but I’m trying.

The Green Things

I have two large pots of Gelsemium Sempervirens, AKA Carolina Jessamine, or just Jasmine. They produce little yellow flowers that give off a wonderful scent and an aroma that fills the air, and they are beautiful to look at.

Benefits of Green Things

  1. The Environment: Plants improve air quality.
  2. Economic: Landscaping can add 15-20% to a home’s value.
  3. Health: Studies show that people who interact with plants live longer.

All true, but I didn’t plant the Jasmine for those reasons. I planted them to help create a tranquil and beautiful, sanctuary of peace.

Sanctuary?

My home has an atrium in the center of the house. There are 14 floor to ceiling windows. From almost any place you can see into the atrium.

When we bought the house, the atrium was wildly overgrown, had a smelly pond, and a broken water feature. It was trashy, muddy, and unusable. But I had a vision.

 I took out everything, lowered the floor by 8″ and put down 2800 pounds of sand and 150 pavers at 22 pounds a piece. I filled the open areas with 2500 pounds of rainbow gravel. Then added the table and chairs, a fire pit, a water feature, and hung candle lanterns. It took me six months. It’s beautiful. 

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IMG_0406 IMG_0528

The Spiritual Side

Jesus our Messiah said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5).

Jesus enjoyed green things: grape vineyards, olive orchards, fig trees, wheat fields, and told parables about plants and fruit. He often used agrarian references to describe his connection to his followers, like the grapevine.

To Close

My atrium is my sanctuary. Most of my blogs are written there. Much of the book I’m writing is written there. But mostly, I just enjoy the quiet, peaceful environment; the sound of the water, the flames at night, and the lovely sense of tranquility. 

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The green things give it life, and nourish my soul.  

Shalom

A Confession

“I’m twice as religious as I ought to be and only half as spiritual as I need to be.”

Catchy. Somebody said it, but what does it mean? 

The Meaning

Religious: “believing in a religion”

Spiritual: “relating to the soul as opposed to material things”

The Words

For some, the words are synonymous while for others, they are differentiated. For me, religion is defined by the blending of three elements:

  1. Holy Scripture
  2. Man-made doctrine
  3. Human traditions

Religion

Faith devolves into religion when scripture is replaced by tradition and truth by men’s doctrine. The amalgamation is complete when believers can longer separate God’s will from the will of men. When religion is held too high then religion falls, and it fails. Or is it man?

Spirituality

Here are five things that Spirituality isn’t:

  1. Moral perfection
  2. The right church
  3. Specified degree of bible knowledge
  4. Being moved emotionally
  5. An external stimulus

Spirituality is living in concert with the Spirit. It embraces belief, not just an acknowledgment of a divine existence, but a transformational faith. It’s a living faith on a journey to grow closer, and to become stronger, with God’s Spirit.

The Text

Jesus our Messiah said:

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit…” John 7:38-39

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come and make our home with him.” John 14:23

Some Perspective

Each of us must decide what these words mean and how to live them.

However, I fear that spirituality is being supplanted by religious fashion, experienced as emotion. It’s a form of Godliness that denies his purpose and will. It seeks his love and peace but is devoid of holiness, reverence, and the heart’s devotion.   

The Bible
Seeking his love and peace without reverence or devotion?

To Close

“I’m twice as religious as I ought to be and only half as spiritual as I need to be.”

I said that in a sermon ten years ago. It was a confession of sorts, the sharing of my own journey to find life in the Spirit and a deeper connection with God.

I’m glad to say, “I’m making some positive progress.”

Shalom

A Lovely Date

Saturday Night: the perfect date night.

What She Asked

Some weeks ago, my wife asked what I wanted for my birthday. I told her, “I want a leaf blower with a vacuum system.” Yep! I have lots of leaves and the leaf vac made good sense.

Then She Said

“You know Rick, you’re going to get that anyway, it’s something you’ll buy sooner or later.” True, I couldn’t argue with that logic.

And Then She Said

“Instead, would you like to attend the Celtic Woman concert? Its Saturday, May 20, just two days after your birthday?” She knew they are one of my favorites, so I said, “Sure!”

Suddenly, the concert seemed like a much better gift than the leaf vac.

Saturday Night

First, we went out to dinner, to a favorite restaurant, using a gift card given by some sweet friends. Dinner was fantastic, slow and relaxed, and quite delicious.

The concert was magnificent. I’m moved emotionally by good music performed by talented musicians. A few tears leaked out.

On the way home, we talked about the concert and what a lovely evening it had been.

Celtic Woman

Perfection?

Nothing is perfect, it’s just something we aim for. But last night was perfect. 

  • Had a marvelous meal
  • Attended a cool concert
  • Went out with a gorgeous girl

To Close

We don’t eat out and attend concerts every Saturday night, but we should. Or at least we should every month or so. A little romance now and then is a good thing, don’t you think?

Now, to Amazon and that leaf vac.

Later…