Dec 7 2013

Christmas Eve

gcxmaseveflyer


Oct 20 2013

A Sermon – Bad People Are Sometimes Good. How Much Better Is God!


Aug 27 2013

Life Beyond the Short Grass

Life Beyond the Short Grass

The scene could not have been scripted better. I am playing golf at Callaway with forty-five of my fraternity brothers in the 23rd Annual Divot Masters Tournament. It was a best ball scramble and that format makes a hacker like me feel useful for at least one or two shots in a round. My smoking hot wife Kristen and my four children (those still at home) had just arrived and were following not far behind in a Callaway provided gratis cart. To everyone’s surprise, the boys, all five and under, Dow, Whit and Graham, were on their best behavior (read quiet or didn’t cough during backswings like the Brothers). Life is good.

The Team stepped on to the 18th tee thinking birdie. We wanted to believe we were still in the game. Four groups were ahead of us and waiting on the last green. They were not there for encouragement. Heckling is the norm, always aided by a number of cold adult beverages that remove

Neal Smith Says My Game is Brutal!

Neal Smith
Says My Game is Brutal!

all remaining inhibition. Hats off to those who reined in the profanities for the sake of my family! Fast Eddie sat the drive out. Consequently, I, the D player, was the first to tee off on this 18th hole of golf. Having “brutalized” (hat tip to Neal Smith) the game of golf for first 17 holes, I had no inkling of what would follow.

Boom! My drive was straight down the right tree line of this dogleg right. Sweet! We had one in play. So the others, Himmy, Neal and Reggie, all far better golfers, could let it rip. All hit well, as expected, but mine, yes mine, remained the long drive.

The approach shot was 110 yards. I had been over swinging so I opted for more club and less swing.  I said out loud, “Let this one count.” It did.

That Left for Birdie!

That Left for Birdie!

My boys ran on to the course with high fives. Suddenly daughter Madison was my cart chauffer. It doesn’t get any better than this. At three inches from the pin, my approach stood up and it remained my turn, MY turn. Honors on a golf course are rarely associated with John Richardson. I tapped in for birdie. Even the normally raucous and X-rated heckling turned to delight. I was basking in the light of life in the short grass!

An hour later, as I drove home, I recalled the conversations over the last 48 hours. My mind was easily drawn away from the thrill and to life in the tall grass, even weeds, where we mortals do most of our living and dying. We spoke of and with brothers who were once on the edge of death and survived. We spoke of and grieved those who didn’t. Evidence of the Great Recession was apparent in some listless eyes. The pain of divorce was etched in some faces. There were a number of us with children who had chronic illnesses and others who whispered of enduring youthful rebellion (with the attendant unspoken pain of realizing history often repeats itself). One dear soul said he was blessed that parenting challenges came one at a time, grateful they didn’t come in fours which for him was always a possibility. One of us buried his father two weeks ago. Another is making similar arrangements for the days just ahead. Some, if not many, have self-medicated somewhere along the way. The unspoken pain is great, the grass tall.

There was a lot of tall grass in our stories. Weeds too. Some like kudzu, the kind that chokes out life.

The tall grass is not there because we ATOs were or are reprobates more than most (though some of us, including this Tau, exceled in debauchery for quite the stint). No, the noteworthy existence of tall grass was precisely because we are ordinary, very ordinary. At the end of the day most of life is lived in the tall grass.

Soon I was calling to mind beloved elsewhere beyond Divot Masters. One just suffered through significant surgery to remove cancer. Another lives a tortured life (a quiet and hidden one of desperation) constantly wondering his worth in spite of all the love around him. Three little girls have had their lives shattered by circumstances beyond their control. A father begs for his daughter’s life after she attempted to throw it out. I myself have an ache in my chest that is 14 years old and I wonder if it will ever go away. There is plenty of short grass but always someone nearby is living in the tall grass and some are being snuffed out by weeds.

Before becoming morose, let this word be encouraging. Where is the consolation that makes life in the tall grass bearable? Is it in a life in the ever so fleeting short grass? No. The consolation is found in delight. What I experienced on the 18th green was delight, delight from my family, delight from my Brothers. I experienced delight when Dow said he had a hole in his heart while I was away. He delights in me. As I typed this I grabbed another cup of coffee and Graham made me come back and hug him three times. “Wait daddy.” Graham delights in me. And this seemingly incomparable wonderful animating delight that at once brings smiles to my face and tears to my eyes pales, yes pales, in comparison to the one meant to sustain me. “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” (Psalm 149:4).

The consolation is not found in the tap in for birdie. It is found in the delight. When stuck in the tall grass, it is easy to forget that we were created by and saved by and are transformed and sustained by the Almighty maker of heaven and earth and He delights in us.

dmfamilypic

My Delight!

What does delight look like? You can see it on my face when almost two Graham crawls into his brother Whit’s bed at 7:00 am and says, “I love you, Wheet, Wheet.” Thank God for video monitors. You see it in my eyes when Dow and Whit are snuggled up together watching an episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates. It was only five minutes ago they were pummeling each other. My daughters and grandson delight me in the very same way. Kristen sees delight on my face with every passing sunset on the Gulf.

We know best what delights us. But do you know what delights God? You! You warm His heart. You make it soar. Not because you’re perfect. No. He delights in you in spite of your imperfections. You’re his handiwork. He numbered every hair on your head. He aches at your pain whether you created it yourself or if someone else heaped it upon you. He just loves. His love does not measure. It just delights.

No, this in not permission for licentiousness. Don’t get me started on the consequences of sin. Devastating! It breaks us. It breaks our relationships. It breaks that in which He delights. No one knows it better or aches from it more than the Father. So He says “no” to sin but screams “yes” to us. I wonder if for Him relating to us sinners is not like those moments when I have to hide the smile on my face just before I discipline my children. In spite of their willfulness, I love them. I delight in them. The stern and somber face is hiding a smiling heart. They are, after all, the fruit of my loins, well at least my parenting. They are my handiwork for better or worse.

Delight! I enjoyed a moment of it after I tapped in the birdie putt. Life in the short grass is good. But for 17 holes I was in the tall grass and that is where the average bear does most of his living and dying. It is the delight of God that makes the tall grass bearable. For His delight is unparalleled. It can’t be captured by comparing filet to ground beef. His delight is a category of its own. It’s incomparable.

For those in tall grass, recall this. Find consolation in His delight. We worship a high fiving fist pumping God who forever delights in us!


Aug 5 2013

Gleanings – Leaven Gives Rise to an Increasingly Smaller World

Proper 13, Monday, August 05, 2013

Mark 8:11-21

“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Apparently leaven is not yeast. But leaven is the part of the old bread that makes the new dough rise. A pinch makes a loaf so to speak.

The disciples did not get it. “We have no bread.”

Do we get it any better? Is it really all that difficult?

It is a warning. The old teaching of the Pharisees could adversely permeate the new teachings given in Jesus. The law blunts grace. The self-righteousness of man blurs the gift of righteousness given in the God-man. The traditions of men and teaching of the elders are not equal  to the Word of God.

Phariseeism to this day is often found in Christianity. The myriad of ways are too many to cover here. Here is how you will know. Phariseeism binds and robs one of life in spite of who we are. Christianity liberates and gives life in spite of who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve done. No wonder the teachings of Jesus spread.

 


Jul 31 2013

Gleanings – Misplaced Priorities

Proper 12, Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Acts 16:16-24

“But Paul was annoyed.”

Who could blame Paul? I’m sure it is annoying to have a possessed slave girl following you around. Then again she was like a walking billboard. She proclaimed truth, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

What is really annoying is being rejected for delivering someone from possession. Or more to the point how annoying is it to have others place profit over liberation. The most annoying is to be tempted personally in that way.

Years ago I was part of a not for profit that struggled with this issue. The principal player was being called to a direction (both moral and noble) in life that would cost the organization much of its annual support. The temptation was to bind the man when the right word was “freedom in Christ.” In the end freedom was pursued and God replaced any giving that was lost.

How great would the world be if gain never trumped anything!


Jul 30 2013

Gleanings – When Leading is Following

Proper 12, Tuesday July 30, 2013

Acts 16:6-15

“And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

We tread where He has trod. We are always following. It takes humility to bring up the rear.

For whatever reason, the Spirit did not want Paul and Timothy to go to Asia. He forbade it. When, later on, they came close to Bithynia in Asia Minor, they considered disregarding the admonition. I mean it was so close. But the “Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

We are called to bear witness to the ends of the earth but always in the footsteps of another. The Spirit must be ahead of us. Perhaps he is creating venues. Perhaps he is tilling that soil might be receptive to seed. Perhaps the work He has to do is in us because we are not yet ready. Our work is following His plan.

Sometimes the best leadership is follow-ship. That is always the case in the Kingdom.


Jul 26 2013

Gleanings – Miracle in Route to Miracle

Proper 10, Thursday, July 26, 2013

Mark 5:21-43

“And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.”

Duh! No surprise. He performs one miracle while in route to another. Is it any wonder masses thronged about him?

While in route to bring Jairus’ daughter back to life, power flows from Jesus and heals a women who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Not so consumed with one that he cannot do the other. Not so drained by one person’s need that he can’t meet the needs of another along the way.

Here is the thing. We think of these miracles as tales from the past rather possibilities in the present. Consequently, we leave healing and blessings on the table.

I’ve witnessed healings. I have been healed myself. I once had a hernia visible to the human eye. Some women, who were at times filled with the Holy Spirit, laid hands upon me and prayed for me. Hernia gone! My doc agreed. That was ten years ago. It is no guarantee of the future but a powerful reminder that God heals to this day.

No wonder people thronged about him and still do. Don’t leave miracles on the table.


Jul 25 2013

Gleanings – Do Less. Receive More!

Proper 11, Thursday, July 25, 2013

Acts 15:1-11

“But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Gentiles and Jews together, being saved by grace. What a beautiful image! A right relationship with God is available and the means comes from God himself.

Peter, a Jew, is defending Gentiles. Why place upon them religion, burdens they cannot keep? We have not been able to bear them. How will they?

Too often we try to bear the burden rather than receive the grace. We labor and strive and sometimes (often?) exhaust ourselves. Does God want us to be good and moral? Absolutely! But the power to be good and moral, transformed into the likeness of Jesus, comes only in acknowledging that we have no power to save ourselves. It comes in accepting the gift and what follows, the Holy Spirit.

Do less. Receive more!


Jul 15 2013

Gleanings – Freedom vs Bondage

Proper 10, Monday, July 15, 2013

Acts 11:19-30

“And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea.”

A man once told me that a luxury once enjoyed quickly becomes an entitlement. Thus those who gave are now compelled to give and give as assessed by others. The luxury must continue.

Each “according to his own ability” gave to the famine starved church in Jerusalem. The individual decides on giving or not. The individual decides on his ability to give.

One system promotes freedom. The other promotes bondage.

The choice seems so obvious.


Jul 11 2013

Gleanings – Your Life and Objective Truth

Proper 9, Thursday, July 11, 2013

Luke 24:36-53

“Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”

One of the things life should impress upon is that not everyone sees the world as we see it, not everyone experiences the same thing in the same event. We see life through our filter and our filter is unique. I have two siblings. There are only five and half years between the three of us. Yet, if you asked each one to describe family life in our home of origin, the answers would vary greatly and even be at odds with the others on some significant points. This would be especially true in a home that values independence above things communal.

But God says there a condition common to man (read mankind). No filter, however unique, will change it. It is objective. It is not subjective. What is this condition? We are people who need to come about and access real life through the forgiveness of sins.

Common to man? Yes, the message is to be preached to all nations.  It applies to us and applies equally regardless of who we are or where we live or whatever lens through which we see the world filters our data. All nations. To persons in every port!

Come about? Yes, we are to stop and do a 180.  We are not tacking as we beat against the wind. We are meant to come about and sail with the wind. Running over beating is preferred. We cannot live the intended life with our back to God. We must sail toward him. By design there is a lot less resistance in running with or before the wind.

Access real life through the forgiveness of sins? Yes, sin is an anchor. The weight of it will cause us to sink, as in from Smeagol to Gollum, over a long period of time. Gollum is living and breathing but not anything like the Smeagol created in God’s image. Gollum is not what the creator intended.

All life is a pale imitation of the intended life apart from repentance and forgiveness of sins. Subjectively we resist this but our resistance will never change that it is objectively true.