Civility Is Alive & Well

GETTING MY COFFEE

This morning I saw a teenager exhibit some lovely behavior. She was at least 16 because we pulled into the Starbucks parking lot at the same time. I parked, gathered my things, and was headed for the door when I saw her standing there and smiling at me. She was holding the door open. I asked her,

 “Are you holding the door open for me?” She said, “Yes Sir I am.”

I thanked her, put my bag on a table and went to order my coffee. By then, another person had come in and the young lady invited us both to go ahead of her in line. I tried to resist, suggesting that she had already been courteous by holding the door for me. But, she politely insisted! I got my coffee, sat down, and then noticed her again. 

When she got her drink she saw another coffee that hadn’t been picked up. So, in a loud but sweet voice she asked, “Is this somebody’s coffee?” A hand went up and she walked it over to him. Then she looked to see if anyone else needed anything, flashed her pretty smile, and left. Wow.

Some Thoughts I Had:

1. She’s had fabulous parenting.

2. She was actively practicing her manners.

3. She was a naturally helpful person.

4. She was part of a group committed to demonstrating kindness.

5. She was filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Could be that it was all the above, who knows? But she made a lasting impression on me. In fact, she became the topic of this blog. My other thing got bumped.

In a fast paced world where most of us are focused on our going and getting, she stood out like a shining star.

Kindness and goodness are fruit of the Spirit. Loving our neighbor means treating them at least as well as we would treat ourselves. And didn’t Jesus command his disciples to love each other as he loved them?

TO CLOSE 

Young lady, whoever you are, you are a beautiful beacon of Christ-like courtesy and kindness. Thank you for blessing my life.

Civility isn’t dead, it’s alive and well and offered by a teenage girl at a Starbucks .

Shalom 

I Love Pets!

AN UPDATE

This is an important update, almost a retraction, but not quite.

Yesterday morning in 2nd service I was in the middle of my message, just droning on and on as is my way, when I commented about pet ownership. It wasn’t favorable.

Now I’m under siege from those who love their pets and are wondering how they ended in a church with a Minister who hates pets. They will probably call for my resignation or a show of no confidence. Pet owners are serious people. 

FOR THE RECORD

I don’t dislike pets, I’m not a hater. Over the years the following hairy little critters have shared our space:

  • a Golden Retriever named Mitzi 
  • a Dachshund named Spot
  • Shatera the cat
  • Peaches the cat
  • Newman the cat
  • Merlin the Cat 
  • Various unnamed fish in a bowl
  • Fritz the parakeet (that may not have been his name)
  • a hamster named Fluff Ball or something 

Our years of pet ownership spans 1979 to 2017 or 38 happy, wonderful, fun filled years.

Happy Wonderful and Fun

But now, we are pet free. My wife would like another dog, and maybe another cat. We had a cat named Merlin (see picture below) who we donated to our son when we were selling our home.

Merlin and I struggled. Ours was not a peaceful, happy relationship. He chose to urinate on every horizontal surface that I usually sit or sleep on, multiple times. 

 

fullsizer
Merlin wearing a tie, it’s Office Merlin. He belongs to our son now. I don’t believe in dressing pets. 

LET ME BE CLEAR

In general, I have nothing against pets or anyone who has them. In fact, I love animals and enjoy watching Animal Planet. I like those shows about the cute, adorable puppies and the super-cute playful kitties. So sweet. 

But after 38 years I called it quits. Here are just a few of things I miss the most:

  1. every corner of the house being confused with a litter box
  2. puppies who required months to house train, if lucky
  3. the bird that tormented the cat (some epic battles between the species) 
  4. a cat bringing dead birds, lizards, mice and a few snakes into the house
  5. an 85 pound dog that ate more than I did
  6. a squeaky hamster wheel that no safe and harmless lubricants could silence
  7. visits to the vet, followed by follow up visits to the vet, and then more visits
  8. cats with snarky, snooty attitudes who got more attention than I did 
  9. cleaning up the back yard even though I was promised I would never have to. 

That’s probably enough of what I miss most. 

TO CLOSE

The Golden Retriever was my daughter’s dog and the two of them were best friends. Actually, I was really glad about that. My son likes cats, he finds them cool and interesting. His cat Newman terrorized animals and humans alike, but he sure was entertaining. Frankly, I’ve never found fish easy to connect with emotionally, or hamsters or parakeets. But we had them. 

I don’t hate animals or despise pets, I’ve simply retired. It was time.

Throwing Out/Bringing In

INTRODUCTION

We moved a lot when I was in school and as the new kid the others would exclude or treat me different. It was always hard being the new kid.

In high school there was a girl with braces on her legs and used canes to walk. She was often treated mean and cruel, not by everyone, but by too many.

Kids can be mean and cruel. Where do they learn to be like that? 

FIRST CENTURY ISRAEL

The dominant Jewish spiritual leaders were known as Pharisees. They were typically devout and dedicated men of God. But there were Pharisees who were not good men, not all of them but too many.  Some were so extreme in their views they flirted with fanaticism. They could be thought of as radical extremists, and mean. 

They were known, “To throw people out of the synagogue.” It was breaking fellowship by casting out being cast out anyone they didn’t deem suitable. Who would they throw out? Anyone who disagreed with their interpretation of Torah. The sick, diseased and defiled. Those who they pronounced as unclean and unwanted. 

Religious leaders can be mean and cruel. Where do they learn to be like that? 

AND JESUS?

Well, he was altogether different. He was passionate, devout and dedicated too. But his devotion to his message and ministry wasn’t about exclusion, but inclusion. Read this:

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

While some were busy throwing people out Jesus was busy bringing them in. He came for those who were lost, he came for the sinners: defile and rejected. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

Jesus wasn’t “soft” on sin, just soft on sinners. He taught righteous living and keeping the covenant with Yahweh. He practiced love, mercy and forgiveness. 

jesus-and-the-little-children
Not the real Jesus, but close, really very close. He practiced love, mercy and forgiveness.

IN CLOSING

Some are expert in shunning sinners and throwing them out. That’s a shame, because Jesus was expert in accepting sinners and bringing them in. 

He had compassionate towards the lost, for they were sheep without a shepherd. 

Sinners are often treated mean and cruel, not by everyone, but by too many.

Shalom

You Never Know!

SAD, LONELY & DISCONNECTED

The first time I ever felt alone and disconnected happened the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I was fourteen. I had been “hired” to work at a camp in the New Mexico Mountains for eight weeks as part of the kitchen staff, not the cooking part, but the cleaning. I washed the pots and pans. I was, “The Pot Washer.” 

The lonely part happened when dad dropped me off. He stayed long enough to see me settled in my log cabin room, a space about 10′ x 10′ with no windows. There was a saggy bed, a rickety dresser that came over with Noah, and a wooden chair. Welcome home!

Dad gave me a hug, said to work hard and behave myself, then he drove off. I stood watching until I couldn’t see his car, then went into my room and started crying. It was an emotion I was unprepared to have.

The tears ran down my face for a few minutes when suddenly I heard a knock. I dried my eyes, opened the door and to my great surprise there were two girls, college girls. They were there to be counselors, and like me, for the whole summer. They were friendly, fun and super cute. There were more counselors too, for the boys and girls cabins.

I was the only high school kid on the staff. For eight glorious weeks I hung out with a dozen college students, it was the best summer ever. 

On the last day my brother arrived to take me home and the tears streamed again. Not because I felt sad, alone and disconnected but because I didn’t want to leave!

images

A FEW THOUGHTS

  1. If I knew how sad I was going to be when dropped off I wouldn’t have gone. 
  2. If I knew how small, sparse, and lonely my room was I wouldn’t have gone. 
  3. If I knew how grimy and greasy those pots would be, I wouldn’t have gone.
  4. If I knew how much fun I was going have I would have hitched hiked to go.

IN CLOSING

We never know what’s around the corner, it’s because we can’t see it. From the worst situations can come the best experiences. From that which we suffer can come surprising blessings of happiness. Keep the faith because, you never know! 

Hey, I think I hear someone knocking on the door!

 

 

 

When Cats and Pharaohs Go Bad

A fox, badger, peacock, swan, squirrel, cat, and a seagull. 

In Common?

Yes, according to news reports those animal have all been reported as:

“Animals that have gone bad” 

In fact, there is a series called, “When Animals Go Bad.” I can feel the pain. There aren’t many things worse than a snarky squirrel, a raunchy raccoon, or a cranky cat. 

mean cat

Others? 

Sure, how about when people go bad? History is replete with dastardly dictators and noisy neighbors. What about pesky pastors? They are the worst aren’t they? There should be a TV show called, “When Pastors Go Bad.” Here’s another:

“When Pharaohs Go Bad” 

Pharaohs?

Sure, like the Pharaoh of Egypt who clamped down on the descendants of Jospeh and his brothers. As the Hebrews multiplied the god of Egypt decided to fear them. His worry was that the Hebrews would form an alliance with Egypt’s enemies. 

Pharaohs

What happened? Pharaoh orchestrated slavery to control them. Slavery was framed by brutality, abuse, and ruthless and bitter treatment. All of which was birthed in fear.

Fear

Fear will cause us to:

  • withdraw and separate from people
  • cower in the corners of our lives
  • attack others because we despise them
  • subjugate, diminish, or enslave them

Pharaoh feared the Hebrews due to their massive numbers. It wasn’t like they had a fortified army or weapons of mass destruction. They were sheep herders and farmers. At some point, prejudice and racism become foundational to hatred and discrimination. 

Pharaoh did it and so did the Nazis. As did a bible class teacher who didn’t like having a Vietnamese child in her class, and the kids who beat me up because I was new. 

To Close

We fear what threatens us. I guess its a normal response. But what did Jesus do? Did he attack those who feared him? How did he treat those who were different? Did he castigate and cast them out? Can you imagine this show on TV?

“When The Messiah Goes Bad”

Shalom 

The Wookii Effect

There are places for men with really hairy backs who wear tank tops?

Sure, Such As?

  • the beach
  • the internet
  • carnivals 

Places They Shouldn’t Be?

  • fashion shows
  • bill boards
  • church

Did that last one surprise you? It did me too but then I was there in 1997. 

Where?

In church when a man with Wookii like body hair walked in and sat down wearing a tank top. I noticed him right away, he was hard to miss.

Wookii
Not the gentleman from 1997 but close, really very close.

Then It Was Monday Morning

 I began getting phone calls, letters and not a few drop by conversations from members. 

Even in 1997 tank tops were considered, by some, to be an undershirt. To go out in a tank top was to go out in your underwear. There were complaints and demands. There was a call for action, for a dress code, and that I should speak up for modesty and good taste. 

It was a long and difficult week. 

What Did I Do?

I took it to heart and the next Sunday I spoke against inappropriate clothing in church.

I said,

  • “You wouldn’t wear your swim suit to church.”
  • “You wouldn’t want your family coming in their underwear.”  
  • “You need to be sensitive to those around you and set a good example.” 

 I was thorough, clear, and effective. I was proud of myself. Good job Rick!

Then It Was Monday Morning, Again

I began getting phone calls, letters, and not a few drop by conversations from members.

They said it was inappropriate to set a dress code. They asked, “Where do you get the authority?”  People were mad, and they were mad at me. 

Well?

There was no pleasing them. I was either to soft or to hard. The younger people, my peers, were furious. 

They said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is a dress code that makes them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

The others said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is inappropriately dressed members who make them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

Two sides of the same coin and I was getting flattened by both sides.

Something Interesting

  • Neither was willing to see the other’s point of view.
  • The two sides were generationally divided. 
  • Both used church growth as the basis for their objections.
  • Truthfully, it had little to do with growth and everything to do with preference. 

To Close

Ultimately, I gave a sermon appealing to everyone to see everybody’s point of view. I asked us to do what leads to peace and mutual edification, and to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. I appealed on the basis of love.

I quit being the moderator of modesty and good taste.  

It worked.

Shalom 

 

A Battle: Colored Corn Starch

It’s not so much the heat, but the humidity. It’s more of a moist heat. 

Where?

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended our church’s Family Camp. It’s nice there, with a beautiful lake and all kinds of fun things to do. We had 30 families with a total of a 140 grandparents, parents, and kids. It was great.

What?

We had our annual “color war.” Teams are organized and given a Dixie cup used to fill and refill with colored powder. The whistle blows and we throw the powder on the other teams. It quickly descended into a free-for-all melee. That means all of them got a free shot at all of me. I left the field covered in blue, orange, yellow, and red. 

It was an epic beatdown. 

IMG_9486
Last year’s epic beatdown. This year was worse!

Result?

It was 90+ degrees with humidity around 114%. I was weak, dizzy, and confused. Then after the color war I was even worse! I ran and chased little kids because I could keep up with them. They chased me back and we laughed. When it was over I limped off in ignominious defeat. 

It was hot and sticky. I was a mess and I was done. 

Dignified?

Forget about it. There is no dignity in being a walking tie-dye shirt. But dignity wasn’t required. It was a time for silliness, for fun, and for interacting with kids and their parents in ways that never happen anywhere else. 

And Jesus?

Well, please don’t be bothered for I mean no disrespect. But I imagine Jesus being out there tossing the powder. I imagine the children running after him with wide eyes and big smiles. I can easily see him having fun, being silly, and making the children laugh. 

To Close

Perhaps I care too much about dignity and what others people think. Decorum and appropriateness are foundational to good character. It’s true. 

But don’t forget to laugh, to play, and be silly. There is an inner child in all of us, there is in me, and every now and then it’s a good thing to let him out to play.

Ours is more of a moist heat.

Shalom