We take it for granted that God is at work all around us, and even in us. Let me tell you a little story about this. You see, the random, chaotic, and uncertain world we live appears to meet us with coldness most of the time. Life is not fair. That is a fact. There are some who are disadvantaged while others have fortune smiling on them. All the while, it is not their fault for the circumstances they are born into. Indeed, we can also crash and descend with our own efforts as well. But, we can pull ourselves up and even more so we can pull up those around us. In between saving the world and just making it through the day are stories like these.
Memories flood at times when a scent arises–catching you off guard. Bacon does this for me. The sacramental experience of our dad’s Saturday breakfast event unfolds for me. With five boys eager as chicks in a nest to feed, our dad would make from scratch his waffles or pancakes, mountain-piled plates of bacon, and potatoes. At times, he even made his own recipe of brown-sugar syrup. The bacon-fat haze in the house was a welcome sight after delivering the local San Jose Mercury newspapers earlier that morning.
As a church communications director, I have learned over the years that people respond to stories better than information. As a speaker, I know this is true. In fact, the Bible is almost three-fourths narrative. Jesus used stories as his teaching, almost exclusively. Why is it then that we look at announcements as just announcements? My proposition is that announcements are invitations to join in the larger story of God’s work in our church and the world. Are we thinking too small of our announcements in worship?
There are times when we can feel invisible. People pass us by and we are but furniture–our words ambient noise masked by the busy cacophony of our own industry. In my work, I have produced, led, and created experiences for crowds of thousands. I have done this since I was young. Being in front of people would rattle me, but that feeling wore off long ago. The grandeur of even a well-produced church Easter celebration where people are in wonder can be deafened by the inoculation of years of such effort. It is not cynicism where belief sours. It is being lost. It is feeling unseen.
When I looked down at Elias, his newborn body molded to my arm, I couldn’t help but question his life. He wasn’t the story I planned for. He wasn’t what I dreamed of or even wanted. I cried and felt an overwhelming amount of guilt as these thoughts saturated my mind.
The day I found out my son had Down syndrome, was the day I became a different person. I questioned God. I was angry with God.
I want to tell you a little story about what God does when you invest in people. Truly, when we believe in someone and give them courage to take a step it seems that step leads to more than we initially imagine. My life would not be the same if it were not for my parents, mentors, friends and others who encouraged me along the way.
Last week in middle Pennsylvania, I spent a day with my nephew Kyle, a college music student. It was an honor, since its not often I get time with my family out on the other coast. Part of our day included a drive to Gettysburg, a 30 minute jaunt from where were at the time. I am a sucker for history, so this addition on the itinerary was a no-brainer. We could have watched a movie like “Hangover Part 3” but wiser thinking ruled the day. The perfect weather also proved an outside activity a logical choice. (Yes, I did see Star Trek twice on this very trip.).
One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) Neil Armstrong’s passing surely brings up childhood memories of space shuttles launching, and astronaut heroes. In the animated Pixar movie Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear even as a toy represents the best of an era that is no more. Space travel was cool at one time. It has fallen out of favor and is relegated to the very rich paying to be tourists who are now propelled to an international space station on Russian rockets. Save enough millions and you can learn what it is like to pee in zero gravity. Our giant leap lacks a stride. There is something about a man who dedicated his life in service, then ended up walking on the moon and into every child’s history books. We all want the right stuff. But, we all don’t have that. And, there is the other Armstrong–that biking guy–who is being stripped of his title because he allegedly doped and cheated his way to the top. Our heroes surely do not look like they did before. Black and white cowboy hats let us know who was good and who was not. Role models surely stood tall like the amazing man John Wayne was on and off screen. Flawed men we are, though. This perhaps is the lesson. None…
Right out of high school, I was awarded a full-scholarship to an innovative and emerging music school in the Pacific Northwest. Hours of lessons, personal tutoring in music theory, and inspiration from my music teachers all paid off. I was simply stunned to learn about earning a scholarship. The last couple years of high school were not easy after losing dad to cancer and the financial shock that resulted. Our family of six, with two young adults, one teen, and two small children all suddenly were under the care of a single parent. We were a family of seven. I regretfully pushed God away my last year of high school. With my dad’s death, the marriages of friends falling apart, and the slimy politics at church ending my youth pastor’s job all added up. Yes, I was jaded. So, going to music school seemed like an amazing opportunity. If anything, I could escape the painful and confusing surroundings. And, I could live a dream of being a professional musician. But, I was surely unready to be on my own at barely 18 years old. The short story is that I was the after-hours school janitor, getting high grades, and crushed by the intense competition that sometimes got more personal than middle school girls get when spreading rumors. From a conservative Christian home in a humble…
(The above picture is a favorite one of our two kids. Ethan was newborn and Emilie 4 in this photo.) This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17 The Message) As I entered the world, my mother went through pregnancy without my birth dad. I have a name other than my birth name. One father helped in the procreation process. Another chose to raise and love me as well as my brothers. This weekend is Fathers Day, so many of us have on our minds not only what it is to be a dad but what our dads were to us. I’m happy that my stepdad insisted I be raised with his name. His motivation was not only pride in passing on his lineage to us, it was to display his joy and commitment in raising us as wholly…