What to Wear?

purple tieWhat to Wear?

    If I were an interior decorator we would starve!

    “I don’t do color,” I have heard myself say.  It’s not that I don’t like color.  I love color!  I just don’t have any sense of what looks good.   When I am out and about I sometimes see that I am not alone.  Now this morning I briefly toyed with the idea of wearing a purple tie.  I left it in my closet, not because it would not be right for today, but because I have no sense of style.

   Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.  Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras and the day when tradition dictates all fat should be consumed in the house in preparation for the season of Lent.  While I am a Methodist I have not always been one and so I realize that for many the word ‘Lent’ is simply a misspelling of that stuff that gets on your sweater.  However, in many churches Lent is the solemn season for fasting and introspection lasting about six weeks on the liturgical calendar.   I am comfortable with observing this season and also with not observing it.  The ‘liturgical color’ of the season is purple (hence the idea for my tie).

   We live in a day when communication seems to have broken down all over the world.  From Kiev to Moscow, from the board room to the ball room, from the state capital to the nation’s capital we are divided.  Much of this division has to do not with what we want but with HOW we want it.  Democrats and Republicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, Russians and Ukrainians, all want the same things.  We want to live in peace in this world and in the next.  What we differ on is HOW to get there.

  So while I will be observing an Ash Wednesday service this evening as the traditional beginning of the season of Lent I recognize that what matters is not so much HOW or even WHEN we in humility ask God to search our hearts but that we do.     The Scripture says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts:  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-4).  If you have not asked this of God, no matter what your tradition, this might be a good time to begin.



After a morning of chopping, sawing, digging, and prying it is still unmoved!

At first I thought it would be an hour long project. That was before I dug down and looked at what was below the surface.

Let me back up. I cut that tree down over a year ago to make way for planting grapes, blackberries and blueberries. Since then I have repeatedly cut away new growth emerging from an ugly stump barely six inches across. So I decided I would get rid of the thing. How hard could that be?

Before I cut it down this tree did not stand out as different from the others. But on the morning I decided to get rid of its stump I discovered a real difference in this tree just below the surface where no eye had seen. Beneath the surface there were huge roots, nearly as big in diameter as the stump itself stretching in every direction. After cutting each one (with considerable effort) it still would not budge! Obviously, deeper still there are roots holding it in place, tenaciously to the ground in which it once emerged as a tender, young sapling.

This week we learned of yet another mass shooting at a Naval yard in Washington. Other weeks we are faced with healthcare problems or the threat of government shutdowns and war, or a recessionary economy. We struggle with broken homes, wayward children, or a shocking diagnosis from the doctor. The list goes on. How can we be prepared for such a world as this? These problems seem intractable because there is more to them than meets the eye.

I believe the answer is in that tree stump. The word “stumped”, meaning there seems to be no easy solution to a problem, emerged during the days of building our national rail system. As the tracks expanded great trees were encountered. There was no way around removing the stumps but that was easier said than done. The setting of the sun on many days left the workers “stumped” with how to remove them.

Jesus came not as a general, a president or a philanthropist because God knew the solution to a troubled world could not be found in war, politics or finances. Our world is “stumped” because we have not learned to look beneath the surface. When we allow God to probe our hearts and reveal to us our broken human nature which is beneath all our problems we are taking the first steps. Only the God who made us, and who loves us can root out all that keeps our lives and our world broken.

Life in the Slower Lane




40 years of cell phones.  Last week the cell phone celbrated its 40th birthday.  That first phone was 10 inches long and weighed 2 1/2 pounds!  How far they have come since that time. Today with over 6 billion people having cell phones it is difficult to imagine living without one available.
     We feel ‘naked’ walking out the door without it.  We text, face-book, twitter, read books, keep organized and keep our calendars. If our car sputters or we are late, we call or text. We send email, watch our favorite episodes, check the weather, news and even talk with someone! 
   Talking is central to any relationship. “Enoch enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life.  Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)  With all our dependence upon two way communication the wonder of talking with God becomes lost, replaced by the wonder of modern smart phones.
     The batteries run down, they get dropped, wet, lost, stolen, misplaced, or outdated. Besides all that they are expensive!
    It is still true that the best things in life are free.  Free!
     We recently asked people to sign up for 30 minute slots from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm for prayer in our sanctuary.   We left a book for people to record their ‘texts’ to God (prayers in old tehnological terminology). Reading these prayers which were meant to be shared, I found them filled with wonder, praise, and joy and trust.
    When did we last feel lost in wonder or joy as we spent time with our phone?  When did our phone promise us a full, rich life?  When did our phone leave us with a peace that transcended all our circumstances?
    I have a cell phone.  Like you I feel ‘naked’ when I leave it behind.  I am writing this article with it now.
    But I also put it aside, turn it off or put it on ‘stun’.   I choose not to answer it when I am talking with someone or with Someone.  I choose to not look at email or texts when I am spending time off.  If we don’t choose sometimes to be un-wired, or unplugged from from our fast lane world we will miss something – Someone greater.