Pilgrim’s Rest is a one-bedroom cabin nestled in a wood, at the end of a long gravel drive that turns off a two-lane country road just outside the wee mountain-top town of Pisgah, Alabama. There is a single grocery store here, Lucky’s Supermarket, a gas station, town hall and a school. A few yards west of the cabin, a little brook tumbles down the mountain and eventually empties into a larger stream.
You can elude consequences for only so long. Eventually, like a cheetah chasing a gazelle, they catch up, swat you down and grab you by the throat. Moses told the tribesmen of Gad and Reuben in Numbers 32, “. . . be sure your sins will find you out.” Paul cautioned the Galatians, “you reap what you sow.
Last Sunday, in response to the Burnette Chapel Church shooting, we began our service with Mercy Me’s video, Even If. Then we prayed this prayer:
We come to you in the name of your Son, the Worthy One, the One who was slain and by whose blood we have been purchased – not by a righteousness we have earned, but in the name of Jesus Christ.
Someone near Houston, TX is wondering. So, too, someone along the Florida coast or on one of the Caribbean islands. Is God punishing me? Us? Is that why Harvey poured 14 trillion gallons of water on Houston? Did Irma wreak her havoc to punish south Florida sins?
But it’s not just violent weather victims who wonder.
We had plenty of time to say goodbye to my father. And he to us. Like a roller coaster reaching the apex of its climb, his life began to slow up some years ago. Then, in the last twelve months, he spiraled down, the decline accelerating with each passing day, hour, even minute.
For centuries, Christians have pondered the words of Jesus, and none more so than the seven sayings he spoke from the cross. John includes three of the seven.
To his mother: “Dear woman, here is your son.” And to John, “Here is your mother.”
The second saying is one everyone can identify with: “I am thirsty”.
Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. That’s how Matthew (15:29) begins the story of Jesus feeding the 4,000. It happened on a mountain. And immediately we remember how significant that setting is.
A mountain provided a safe landing for Noah’s ark.
The 10 Commandments were dictated on a mountain.
More years than not, my mom has been a caregiver to someone. She began caring for children at the age of 26. I was the first, but there were four others and one of them was developmentally disabled. Though I never heard her complain about it, caring for our sister Jean was like having a baby in the house for forty-three years.
A friend once stopped by my office and handed me a bumper sticker that promoted a local Christian organization with which he was affiliated. “Here,” he said, “put one of these on your car.” I’m not a big bumper sticker kind of guy. Never have been. If you want to wallpaper the rear end of your car with a bunch of plucky witticisms that over simplify complex issues, who am I to judge? But it is a profoundly bad idea to plaster the name of your Christian organization on the bumpers of cars that are going to be piloted by people who drive like the Devil.
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also,” (Mt. 6:21). In the Bible, the heart is the control center for the emotions, the will, the intellect of a human being. Your heart is the place where you feel joy, sorrow, fear, courage and every other emotion. It is the place where we decide, where our choices are made.
Everybody knows that Jesus has something to say about how we treat other people. Same with forgiveness, honesty and authenticity. Everybody knows that how we live morally is a part of our commitment as disciples. We don’t always succeed in submitting to his authority in those areas, but we know we should.
When we lived in Atlanta, a part of our church was made up of folks from Korea. They had their own worship service, their own culturally appropriate ways of being the Church, even their own minister. The parents of our Korean minister were quite old and spoke zero English. Yet, they maintained as many of their cultural routines as possible and one of those was coming to the church building early every morning to pray.
You never really know how many people you do not like or wish to forget until you try to come up with a name for a baby. Old flames are immediately eliminated even if they had really cool names like Dash or Blaire. You find a name you adore but when you run it by your spouse, he/she frowns; “Yeah, no.
Everywhere we ever lived, my father planted a garden. And when he had the acreage for it, it was more like a G-a-r-d – BY GUM – e-m! He sowed rows and rows of corn, peas, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and tomatoes. Early on, he plowed behind a horse named Mollie. She was as enthusiastic about his passion as were his children.
In the last two weeks, Manchester, Portland, London and Tehran have all witnessed deadly terrorist attacks. I have a friend, years younger than I, who is enduring chemotherapy, highly invasive surgery and a severely limited quality of life. I sat with a new couple at church last Wednesday night who told me about their developmentally disabled daughter.
Last week, I shared three ways to kiss regret goodbye. You can read about confession, restitution and taking God’s promises of forgiveness seriously here. But the Bible has much more to say about how to evict a past that is living rent free in your head. I hate it when authors tell me to do this, but read that last sentence again.
If you never lie in bed wide awake at 3:00 in the morning being emotionally water-boarded by should-haves, if-onlys and what-might-have-beens, please feel free to click on the Archives and read another post. But if you have a past that likes to hang around and remind you of how dumb or awful or gullible or sinful or reckless or destructive you were, this is for you.
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church from a prison cell. He had no idea whether he was going to be exonerated or executed. He was writing to a group of people who were divided among themselves, confused by false teachers and surrounded by a culture that was hostile to their faith.
“Don’t get anywhere near that street! Do you hear me?”
“Yes, ma’am,” my brother and I called back in unison to our mother as we bolted out the door to play. After a week of rain the sun was finally back and we were ready to romp. Of course, we headed straight for the street.
If you’re a graduating senior, your parents are probably going to seem a little – clingy — for the next few weeks. Over the last 18 years, they have pretty much organized their lives around you. Your schedule was their schedule. And now you are leaving. Even if you aren’t moving away, the relationship is going to change.