Saturday, May 25, 2013

You Can Reach Me Here

Thirty three years. Whoa.  That seems incredible, even to me and I lived those years.  (Yes, that’s right, I’m 33 years old this week... No sorry.  No one is buying that.) This past Friday was my 33rd wedding anniversary.  OK, our 33rd wedding anniversary.  Since La Donna was there too.  Wasn't she?  Yes, I remember her being there.  All thirty three years.

What’s that old joke?  I’ve been married twenty seven wonderful years.  Of course we were married 33 years... rim shot.  I would never say that, of course.  All thirty three years have been wonderful years.  Some pretty difficult hours scattered throughout, some dark days here and there, perhaps as long as a week.  But I can’t point to a bad year.  And no, I won’t ask her opinion on that one.  We’ll just move along here.

I’m still amazed however.  Thirty three years is an accomplishment, a milestone, to say the least.  But who could have foreseen all that would transpire in our lives in those years?  How could we have been prepared for all the places we would go and all the changes that we would see?  

Well, the short answer is that we couldn't have been prepared.  No one knows the future.  No one has enough wisdom, enough truth to get us through every contingency, every happenstance in thirty three years.  Or more.  Or less.  Right?  Right!

But maybe not right.  Maybe we should have known more, been prepared for more.  At least that is what it seems like Jesus is telling his followers in this little passage in the middle of the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John.

John 16:12-15   "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 

“He will declare to you the things that are to come.”  Maybe we just haven’t been in tune with the Holy Spirit all these years.  Maybe we haven’t prayed enough or listened enough.  Maybe the gift of knowing was right there and we just didn’t avail ourselves of it and were therefore doomed to stumble around in the darkness constantly being surprised by the turn of events that constitute our lives.

But is that really what Jesus is saying here?  I’m sending your own personal oracle to let you in on the secrets of your own life.  Just pay attention and there will be no more surprises.  Really?  Don’t think so.  Let’s look again.

This passage is, as I said, a small part of the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John.  The final instructions of Jesus to his chosen followers.  I have called it cramming for the final exam.  But now I’m not sure that’s it.  It is more like the parent passing on instructions to the adolescent going off on a date.  (But then maybe it sounds like that because Maddie just left on an honest to goodness date this afternoon (“Not a date, Dad, we’re just hanging out.” To which I say, quoting my wife (of 33 years) “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...”)) Or to go a little further back, this speech in John sounds like parents giving instructions to the babysitter before leaving their precious treasures with some near stranger and wanting to make sure they have all the information to cover whatever contingency might arise.  

Only in this case the worried parent is Jesus, the precious treasure is the world that God so loved that He sent this Son into.  And the sitters are this motley crew of incompetent bumblers bringing to mind those guys from the Hangover movies or some such.  No wonder he seems nervous, no wonder he goes on for three chapters, no wonder he tries to leave and then launches into even more instruction (look at the end of chapter 14, for example).  But before you smirk too much at the incompetent bumblers of the gospels, it isn’t too long until they morph into the incompetent bumblers we lovingly call the church – charged with the same task of caring for the baby that is the world sorely in need of changing!

But here in these verses the speech seems to shift a little bit, from instruction to promise.  Oh, there is more instruction needed.  Witness verse twelve - there is more I need to tell you, but your eyes are already starting to glaze over.  So, instead of giving them more things to put on the list ( you know “when he cries, try this” or “her favorite toys are over here” or “give them this to eat, but not too much as it gives them gas”- that kind of stuff) Jesus says  “Here’s how you can reach me.”

Uh, wait, you’re saying, that isn't what it says there, is it?  Well, no.  But then cell phones wouldn't come on the scene for a millennium or two.  So, he does the next best thing.  A spokesperson.  A spokes-presence, maybe, spokes-spirit.  When the Spirit of Truth comes... Truth, and not too long ago ( chapter fourteen to be precise) Jesus says “I Am the Truth.”  The Spirit that is me, that is of me, that speaks for me and speaks what I have spoken and would speak/will speak in the future.  

Here’s how you can reach me, he says.  I am in touch, I am within reach.  Can you hear me now?  That’s the question of the era, the question to the church today, can you hear him, hear the truth, hear his voice and know that we are not alone.

But more than that, more than just a comforting presence, this Spirit, this connection, this Christ within reach (or Christ in our Contacts for the cell phone users) is a Spirit of Truth.  Tell us what is and what will be.  “Declare to you the things that are to come.”  Wow, does that mean we can make our lottery picks based on hints from this Spirit?  We can make our Super Bowl picks?  Or, more realistically, we can avoid those potholes on the road of life?  Well, in a word, no.

This isn’t a promise of prophetic powers.  Or a glimpse into the details of a worldly future.  This truth that is shared is the truth about the Kingdom of God.  It is the truth about living in community.  The truth about reconciliation and about forgiveness, about grace and judgement.  Far more important than lottery numbers or winners of Super Bowls yet to come.  And while it may not give advance warning of circumstantial potholes on your individual and corporate roads of life, it can give you tools to climbing your way out of whatever holes you might find yourselves in, it can give you guidance to help you stop digging your own potholes to sabotage yourself and those you love. The Spirit that declares to you the things that are to come is a Spirit that tells you the truth about yourself in such a way that you can, if you so choose, course correct to reduce the chances that you’ll lose control.  

The fact that there have some difficult days in the thirty three years of our marriage is not a sign that we haven’t been listening to the Spirit of Truth.  But the fact that we made it through those days are now into our thirty fourth year just might be.  


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wind and Words

Not windy words, notice.  But Wind and Words.  Pentecost and Confirmation.  That is what is on our table this Sunday feast day.  Quite a menu, to say the least.  And I intend to.

Say the least that is.  See, I’m not preaching this week.  Our Associate Pastor Chris is.  And I’m glad.  Mostly because he is a thoughtful preacher and it is good to hear him.  But partly at least because I’m not always sure how to communicate this Pentecost thing in a way that helps folks understand.  Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve done balloons and butterflies, I’ve done kites in the sanctuary, and long red streamers flowing across the whole congregation, I’ve done fans blowing confetti and long strands of red yarn connecting each member of the community.  I’ve had fun, gotten some laughs and few gasps of awe (or offense), but I’ve never been sure that any of it really captured the experience of that first Pentecost.

Tongues as of fire and sound like the rush of a violent wind.  And then those words.  Lots of words.  Different languages spoken or heard, I've never been quite sure how that worked exactly.  Did those upcountry apostles suddenly learn a different language and speak it clearly and intelligibly, or was it the hearing of the passers-by who caught the meaning.  Was it like the babel fish of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy, which lived in the ear of hearer translating any spoken language.  Or like the Rosetta Stone software that makes anyway a polyglot with a little computer work?  

Pentecost has been difficult to explain from the very beginning.  The description of the event here in our reading for this week takes three verses, or even two depending on how you read it.  And the explanation or the discussion of the effect takes the rest of the chapter.  And in this year of long chunks of scripture, Chris took the whole chapter as the passage for this week. I’ll be interested to hear whether he reads it all in worship.  But here it is:

Acts 2:1-47  When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  11 Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."  12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"  13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."  
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.  16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  17 'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.  19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.  20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.  21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'  22 "You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know--  23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.  24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  25 For David says concerning him, 'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;  26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.  27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.  28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'  29 "Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.  31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, 'He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.'  32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.  33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.  34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand,  35 until I make your enemies your footstool."'  36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." 
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?"  38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."  40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."  41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.  42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;  45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,  47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. 

Whew.  I’m exhausted just cutting and pasting all of that.  Just kidding.  But it is impressive.  Especially that last bit where Luke tells us that “day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  Something was working, something was moving.  And whether the words explain it all adequately or not, seems beside the point.

Maybe we need to not worry so much about explaining.  Maybe we need to just live the story.  Just live out the evidence of the Spirit at work within us.  Maybe we need to just go with the flow.  Jesus told us that “the wind blows where it chooses, ... you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.”  Maybe we need to worry less about the words was say, and focus more on the experience we live, the story we are.  Maybe folks joined up not because of answers but because of passion, because of relationship.  Maybe they came because they knew that this was a safe place, a safe community to join while you were still in process.  It wasn’t just for perfect people.  You notice it says those who were being saved, not the saved.  We are on a journey and we want - whether we admit it or not - companions.  We want folks to walk with us.  To accept us and to love us.

My hope is that whatever knowledge and understanding and explanations the confirmands who stand in front of us this weekend received, what they really found was a living hope, a family, a circle of friends who will help them walk wherever their journeys might take them in the days ahead.  I hope they lean into the wind as they stand before the congregation.  Even when they and we run out of words.

Happy Pentecost.


Saturday, May 11, 2013


Our small group has been reading a wonderful book by Barbara Brown Taylor, titled An Altar in the World.  It was a book about paying attention to world around us, about recognizing that God was present in the most unlikely of situations, in small things and big ones too.  Taylor took a spiritual disciplines approach and each chapter was titled “The Practice of ...” and included such items “Waking up to God” and  “Wearing Skin” and “Saying No” and “Feeling Pain” and many more.  Things that aren't really considered spiritual practices by most of us, suddenly were doorways into the experience of the presence of God.  It was a great book and I think our small group really enjoyed it.

I say “was” because we finished it.  The last chapter was this week’s session and it was entitled “The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings.”  A great way to end the study and the book, with a benediction.  It surprised me a little bit during Aldersgate’s recent Followership Retreat (that’s what we called it, instead of a Leadership Retreat) when I asked the attenders what they like about our worship experience someone actually said that they liked the benedictions.  There was a feeling of being gathered up and sent off, made complete somehow by the word that provided an amen to the hymn that is worship week by week.

A blessing, on the one hand, is casual comment recognizing the presence of another.  Sneeze in public and a total stranger will bless you.  Spending time around Southerners blessing someone is a way of empathizing, even when the person being blessed isn’t present.  Tell of a difficult time in someone’s life and you will get a heart-felt “bless their heart” when you are in the South.  

Blessings are prayers of support as well.  Even “good-bye” is short hand for “God be with you.”  We invoke that presence when we wish one another well, when we part from those we know and love.  And when that parting is going to be for a long time, the words almost choke in our throats.  Not because we are reluctant to confer the blessing, but because we know that our words are inadequate to convey such power and presence and hope.  And for a moment we wish we had a better way of blessing those we love.

One wonders about the tone in Jesus’ voice as he conveyed yet another blessing on those he called and now will leave behind.  It is Ascension Sunday this week, when Jesus said his goodbyes and was taken up to his place alongside the Father in heaven.  Here is Luke’s version.  Or his first version, because he retells the story in part two, the Acts of the Apostles.  But this is the ending of the Gospel bearing Luke’s name.

Luke 24:44-53  Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled."  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,  46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,  47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.  49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."  50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God. 

“While he was blessing them.”  It sounds like something he was used to doing.  A habit, a way of being.  There are some people that are just like that.  When you are with them, it feels like you are being blessed.  Even if there are no formal words to that effect, no pronouncement or prayer, just being with them feels like God is smiling on you.  Maybe that is what was remembered here.  

They were talking together about a lot of things.  Jesus wanted them to finally understand.  They spent most his earthly ministry with mouths hanging open and heads being scratched.  The most common response to most of Jesus’ teaching, even from those closest to him, had to have been “huh?”  

But the waiting had to be over.  So, he taught them. About himself.  He told them plainly, he looked back at everything that was written about him and he pointed it out with painstaking detail.  Luke says “he opened their minds.”  For some of them it took a crowbar or the mental equivalent, I am sure.  Maybe it was mystical powers, maybe it was divine patience, maybe it was drawing pictures, or maybe it was the ability to move them beyond themselves long enough to see something significant in front of them.  It is kind of curious that Luke messes up the Greek in this passage.  We cleaned it up for him in translation, but what he wrote was that Jesus opened their mind, not their minds.  I know, the grammar instructor would have pointed out the need for the plural word there, to match the plural object - they, their needs minds, so we supplied it.  

But what if it wasn’t an accident?  What if he meant it?  That part of what Jesus showed them was that they needed each other to figure this stuff out.  He was telling them that on their own they would be hopelessly inadequate to the task of understanding, but that together - one heart and one mind - they just might make it.  Maybe a part of what he opened in them was the recognition of how much they needed each other.

Then he gave them a task.  To be witnesses to the world, and proclaimers of repentance - getting people back on track, and forgiveness of sins - doing it without judgement or division, but with love and with compassion.  And then because that would be beyond the capabilities of all of them - and all of us - he promised them help.  In fact he gave them a task and then told them to wait until they received the help they needed to do that task.  Wait until they were clothed with power.  Which means that this power won’t come from within, it isn’t something they could generate for themselves.  It has to be given, it has an outside origin.  It was like a blessing.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew and was carried up.  As if the task of blessing was incomplete, at least for now.  There was more to come.  More they needed.  A further blessing.

When I told you about my small group finishing the study, I should have pointed out that they finished it.  I wasn’t there this week.  I was with my brother and sister while we cared for mom and dad.  It has been a difficult time with far too many unanswered questions.  Mom had a particularly bad day this week, and told my sister that she wasn’t sure how much longer she could do this.  “This” is rehab from the broken hip, but also the struggles with her mind and who she is and who she was, not to mention all the worries about what might be next.  After many tears and few words my sister and my mom sat in the darkening room and held hands, while dad expressed his grief by going for a walk.

Alerted by my sister, I arrived a little later and came and sat with mom, while she and dad went out for some air.  By the time I got there, the tears were gone and instead there was a peace.  She smiled as she took my hand and said “I love you” about a hundred times in the hour or so we sat together, interspersed with “I am so proud of you.”  I told her that it was her love that made me who I am, and that I couldn’t be more proud to have her as my mother.  And then, out of nowhere it seemed, she said “I’ll always be there.  Right behind you.”

It sounded like goodbye.  At least to us, and it broke our hearts.  But maybe we were wrong.  Maybe it was blessing.  Not an ending, not a parting, but something new.  Physically she is improving and could be with us a lot longer, who knows.  Something is changing, slipping away into something new, and we don’t quite know how to handle it yet.  She doesn’t and we don’t.  But as I held her hand in that room that seemed to close in on us, she began to glow. Like her love for me became visible for a moment.  And I pray that mine for her was just as evident.  It was a benediction, a good word in the silence of that moment, and in that love we were both clothed with power.  


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Two Roads

I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence: /
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by, /
And that has made all the difference.

That’s the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.”  It begins, as you know, with “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”  It is, in part, about a choice.  As is much of life, it seems.  And it is those choices that provide the content of our character.  Even Dumbledore tells young Harry Potter that it isn’t our abilities that define us, it is our choices. 

Knowing all of that, we still wonder whether we really do have choices.  I don’t mean the normal day to day stuff, what will we eat and what will we wear.  We aren’t worrying about that stuff anymore - thank you Jesus!  But I mean the big picture stuff.  The what is going to happen to us stuff.  The ‘is life going to difficult or easy’ stuff.  Are bad things going to happen to good people stuff.  That’s the kind of thing I mean.  It seems like we don’t have choices too often.  Or that we get to pick the little stuff, but the big stuff, the hurricane and earthquake stuff, thief in the night stuff, the ‘why me, Lord’ stuff, just happens.

Or maybe I’m just having a week of feeling swept away by the stuff that happens through no fault of my own.  Maybe I’m just seeing a lack of choices.  Maybe one too many person has said to me “You’ve got to do something” and I can’t figure out anything to do to address the circumstance.  Maybe choices have run out, or have not worked out, or are played out. 

Matthew 7:13-29   "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.  21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?'  23 Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'  24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.  26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-- and great was its fall!"  28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching,  29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Is it that there are just so dang many gates that we are overwhelmed into inactivity?  Or is it that we just can’t seem to find that gate - narrow or wide?  We just stumble along and suddenly begin to wonder how we got down this road, how we got into this circumstance.  Plus, if you notice, it isn’t just a gate, it isn’t just a one time choice.  There is a gate and a road, it is a lifetime of choices.  And not easy ones - the gate is narrow and the road is hard. 

Sigh.  So, what do we do when we can’t figure something out?  Move on.  After the whole gate/road choice thing, Jesus talks about fruit.  And here is where it seems to get messy.  The gate is a choice, the fruit is an inevitable outcome.  Some are just thorny, others are grape-y.  There are good folks and bad folks, it is just the way it is.  So, these verses are just a word of comfort saying that the bad folks will get theirs one day, harvest day, tree cutting day.  Timber-r-r-r.  Well, we’ll say, they deserved it.  Just a bad tree all along.  No choice.

Really?  From fruit we move on to facial recognition.  As in Jesus says to some - I don’t know you.  Again, it seems arbitrary.  These folks are in worship, or worshiping in some form.  “Lord, Lord!”  They are doing deeds of power, they are proclaiming truth, they are chasing demons.  Wow, and Jesus says “Sorry, not making the connection, not ringing a bell,” as the door to heaven swings shut.  Whew.  Hard stuff. 

Finally, he says build your house.  Live your life, make your choices, walk the path, the narrow path of obedience to the Word.  But why?  Maybe I’m just a bad tree.  Maybe I’m just one of those unrecognizable ones upon whom Jesus draws a blank.  Why bother?  Maybe we are just out of luck.

Jesus rarely, if ever, wants to talk to us about luck.  Or about the raw deal life handed us.  Instead it seems to be about choosing.  But not as a simple, one off, flip the switch and everything will go well with you from here on out.  Rather he wants to talk to us about following.  In the big things and the small ones.  In the automatic, just do it things and the gut wrenching, agonizing over for days at a time things as well. 

He wants us to choose to follow in the ways that reroute our root system so that whatever kind of tree we have been, we can now become one that produces the fruit that gives sustenance and sweetness to any and all we encounter.

And he wants us to choose to grow in faith, by exercising not deeds of power, but acts of service and sacrifice.  That’s who he will recognize, the ones who act like him.   The ones who look like him, bent down to help one who has fallen, offering words of comfort and healing, always ready to give God praise for everything.

So, we’re in the building business, which is the choosing business, and there is a storm coming.  Because there is always a storm coming. And we can hear these words as a warning, build right or there is trouble ahead.  Or we can hear them as a word of comfort, you can survive the storm.  Even the ones that never seem to end, even the ones that beat on the walls, even the ones where the wind pounds and the floods rise.  You can stand in the storm.  The storm still raging right now, or the one just beyond even the doppler radar.  You can stand.

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, or in your neighborhood, or in the darkness of your sitting room.  And one is well traveled, the one of getting back or getting even, the one of clinging to rights, the one that makes you feel good for the moment.

But there is one less traveled by, a road of grace and hope, a road of sacrifice and service, a road that embraces the life giver and the light of the world, a road of a deeper contentment and a more profound joy, even as it wounds the heart on a regular basis because of such indiscriminate loving.  And yet, the promise remains, both now and Somewhere ages and ages hence: /
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by, /
And that has made all the difference.