Saturday, October 20, 2007

Picture Perfect Imperfect Faith

Standing on the curb, I watched my kids wave at parade floats while I spoke with old friends. They were enjoying the new experiences of Homecoming, while we adults were reminiscing about our college lives gone by. Homecoming at ACU is always fun because the Alumni community is strong and our graduating class size was small. So, it is more likely that you see people you know. However, being at a "Christian" college in a town full of three Christian colleges means that there is a. . . well, a surplus of Christians. It is great to raise a family, but not necessarily a realistic world for the greater portion of America.

As I stood with friends and current students, we watched carloads full of "the homecoming court." These pretty girls with straight teeth and combed and conditioned to perfection waved to the crowds. I overheard the student next to me say to his girlfriend, "Yep, I bet she loves Jesus." I looked and he was nodding at a pretty young girl waving from a sports car, one of the many chosen beautiful girls.

The truth of the offhanded comment stuck to the back of my brain - "she must love Jesus." Of course, the obvious curse of blessings. Who wouldn't love Jesus if their teeth were white, face beautiful, hair held perfectly by a crown, and figure worthy of a Queen's title. With everything going for them, why not thank and bless and honor God?

But what about the rest of us? What about those who stand sneering on the sideline of life longing for the perks of life that pass us by? Many of us live in the "if only's" of faith. If only God would give me X, then I would believe. If only God answered my prayer about X, then I could follow. If only God . . ., then I could.

So we look in the mirror, recount inadequacies, list unfulfilled dreams and scoff. All that is missing in our lives becomes reason enough to let following God go, too. What has God done for me?

As his words about loving Jesus echoed in my head, it was clear that some people love Jesus for what he can give them. Jesus is easy to follow when he is leaving big blessings for us to pick up behind him. It is more difficult to follow when the road is marked by suffering, tragedy and death. I wonder which faith is more valuable: faith in a Jesus who makes life perfect or faith in a Jesus despite an imperfect life? Probably the more noble is the imperfect life that mirrors Jesus way of the cross.

Come to think of it what is the difference between a faith that follows Jesus when blessed and a faith that rejects Jesus when life is less blessed? Not much.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blanket Rolled Into the Sky

Yesterday Nathan and I were again walking to school. There were hundreds, likely thousands, of birds eating in massive groups across the intramural track and field. So we sprinted right through the middle of this huge mass of blackness. Running as fast as we could the birds took to the air all around us. We were laughing and somewhat in awe of all these birds flapping the wind all around us. After we ran through them for the first time, Nathan said that it looked like a black blanket being rolled up into the sky. Now that description sounds poetic to me.

We have made a habit of running through the birds and sending them upward and away in flight. We've only done it maybe three times. Today, Nathan associated two experiences (the one were birds were in church and the other where birds fly) and said, “I think they are in church.” So there we were sprinting hand in hand as the sun was just beginning to peak through the pink sky with hundreds or thousands of black birds flying around us. Indeed, it is church - a sacred moment of worship. God's creation of animal and light and life is present powerfully in a moment shared between father and son.

Jesus spoke about birds and invited us to consider them. It is funny how we will consider scripture or meditate on a commentary or reflect upon a great new book, but not a bird. When Jesus watched the birds he explained the wisdom they reveal about life. These birds do not have barns nor seed planting strategies nor cookbooks full of recipes. Yet, God does not let them go hungry. We worry and fret and wring hands about much that we are not even in control of. God is in charge. So, enjoy life. Stop worrying about what you cannot control. Live in the church of life and let God care for you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

No Name Tag Needed

The ZOE Conference has been a delightful experience this weekend. I wondered who I would see. . . there were name tags everywhere Like any conference there are people you know, people you think you recognize, people you know of, people there you never see, people you have heard of, and people you meet for the first time. Name tags are a beautiful thing. For the people you recognize or know of you can remember their names. Name tags help emblazon the name of someone just met into memory.

And then there are people for whom you don’t need a name tag. Regardless of how long it has been, you just know them. Tonight I ran into my childhood friend Tim. He lived a few doors down when I lived in Oklahoma. We played Star Wars, Lego, football, basketball, tether ball, and camped out. I have no idea when the last time was that we saw each other, but I moved away from Tim twenty some years ago.

Tonight we went to dinner and swapped stories of the events of life good and bad that have come upon us. For the last two years we have been praying for time and Kristi. Their two year old daughter has serious health issues. She was not expected to live through pregnancy nor childbirth nor many months. Now, she is two, which is a miracle in itself, but it is a miracle that has come with costs. Life experiences give us much and take much out of us. Twenty four seven care of a child is tough, but when two other children are in the home it is tougher.

I asked Tim how he made it through knowing his unborn child might die. He said that the night they went to the hospital he had a ZOE CD in the car and it was playing “Blessed Be Your Name.” He had never really paid attention to the words, but that night "the road marked with suffering" became a reality for them. The song gave him the words to return thanks to God through good and bad. Sometimes all we have left is the opportunity to say "Blessed are you God" and that is enough to show that God is at work.

Amazing. Life comes with questions, doubts, and difficulties. There are not cute answers that heal or solve it. But there is a God who walks with us through it.