Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Church, Behaving Like Church

It started with a text message:

"I have very limited phone service. We are OK. NO power. This area would make a great partnership ministry between Westmont and 1st Pelham. We are feeding all we can, but resources are limited."

I received that message at 4:53pm yesterday, from C.B. Scott. He's pastor at Westmont, my best friend, and we'd left messages on his cell phone and landline, asking if they were OK. They live, and the church itself is situated, immediately adjacent to McDonald Chapel, an area devasted by this week's tornado.

In fact, if you draw a line through all the communities devastated by the tornado .. Tuscaloosa, Concord, Pratt City, etc, the church and parsonage are right on the fringe of that line!

Now, I can't do a lot myself, owing to arthritis, age, etc, but I can sure make phone calls. So I called my pastor, Mike Shaw, and read him the messages, and also gave him CB's cell phone number.

A few minutes later, the following message from Brother Mike appeared on Facebook:

"Westmont Baptist Church is in need of Styrofoam bowls,plates,cups,as well as napkins and plastic utensils. Pastor C. B. Scott and his congregation are feeding hot food to people in a community where there is no electricity and many of the people are elderly or poor. Robert Heard will leave at 9AM in the church van Saturday morning to deliver these supplies. Bring them to the church between 8 and 9. Thanks"

A host of folks showed up by 8 and brought the stuff Bro. Mike mentioned. And then, a guy stopped by and asked us if we could use some bread .. we think he runs the "Second-Day" Bakery store across from the church. We said sure, and he brought a pickup truck with the bed full of trays, 6' high, loaded with all sorts of breads, bagels, muffins, rolls .. an absolute mountain. We unloaded it all into vans and cars and had a caravan to Westmont at 9am this morning. Less than 18 hours from the text message!

That's the bread, unloaded and sorted, in the Westmont Fellowship Hall, in the picture. Off-camera is all the cups, plates, napkins, and other similar stuff we took there.

Westmont's a small church; a good ol' Southern Baptist Church if ever there was one. Hymns, piano & organ playing happy stuff when we walk in, just a really neat place to be. But these days, they're reaching out to feed the folks from the adjacent communities, who've lost most .. and sometimes all .. of what they have.

One of our guys, John Spann, is a retired firefighter. He had a generator, which he brought to church this morning, which was great news in light of Westmont's lack of power. As it turned out, their power had come back on by the time we got there .. albeit not across the road or in McDonald's Chapel .. but John said that didn't make any difference. He was going to see the generator was used by someone that needed it. And he fueled it up and left it there!

That's the nice part about doing something. Something. When we do something (like make a phone call), then God can get hold of it and do something with it Himself.

I sure love it when the church acts like the church. I got to see two of them doing just that, today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Who I Am

I've never pictured myself as a "Macho Man", which (of course) means that I've always tried to look like one. I'm not sure I was ever successful. But, if there's one thing age is good at doing, it's demolishing any such unreal self-images.

By way of information, My left knee has been replaced, owing to degenerative arthritis. My right knee is now "shot" (that's what the doctor said), along with my shoulders and my right ankle.

There's not a lot I can do about the shoulders, but I do wear a brace on my right knee .. it's called an "Unloader" brace and it keeps the knee properly aligned and prevents any sideways motion. That would further the wear on the knee.

I can walk OK, but not for very long. I think the real icing on that cake was the walking we did on the trip last summer, added to, now, another year of arthritis. SOOO ... I tend to save my walking for times when I really need to walk, like around church, etc. When I go someplace like Wal-Mart or Home Depot, and they have these little electric carts there, I use them.

I usually tell the employee hovering around where the carts are .. I suppose in an attempt to feel better about my lack of macho being so obvious .. that "We guys really have to have it all together to use one of these things, you know..". What I'm really saying is that I'm an old man with some age- and arthritis-related limitations, which are now on display for all to see.

In other words, it's now an obvious part of who I am.

When I used to teach Sunday School, and now when I'm meeting with my Wednesday night small group, I stress the same thing about our lives in general. We're Christians. We should live like it, happy to be who we are.

A couple months ago, I brought the devotional at the monthly Deacon Meeting at church. I started by asking various of the deacons to tell me about their wife, their kids, their job, their home, etc. After a few minutes of that, I asked them how many classes they had to take, to be able to tell me that? How many times did they go out to somebody's house with a "trainer" who'd lead them through an outline of how to explain how they met their wife. Who printed the outline they were trying to follow in explaining that to me.

The answer, of course, is obvious. No program, no outline, no classes; just someone happy to be what they were, for whom it was quite natural to tell me those things.

If it smells a lot like the Primrose Path, that's exactly what it was!

I then told them they should be happy to be followers of Jesus, live like it, and be as happy to be identified with Him as we are to wear a wedding ring identifying us as married. For me, it's wearing Witness Wear or Jesus pins when I'm out in public. For someone else, it could be carrying a Bible, leaving a Bible on one's desk, or handing out tracts. "Jesus" license plate on the front of their car, emblems, bumperstickers, just something to say "I'm a believer".

Hey! Maybe I need to invent the "Jesus ring". Wear it on the ring finger of my other hand.

That's all. I need to go now. Time to Google "Manufacturing Jewelers".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Neatest Weekend Ever

The one we're going to celebrate in a few days. The time when Jesus was in the tomb.

Now, I need to acknowledge that I cannot fathom how it would have been for followers of Jesus, at the time, as they did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. So they were people who'd chosen to follow Him, and IMO in their natural state. But in any event, I cannot identify how it'd be without His indwelling presence in us.

But pause for a minute, and think. Jesus had made some pretty fantastic claims about dying and coming back, and all the other things He'd said about His relationship with His Father, and in fact, Who He was.

But now, He was dead. And dead means dead. Unable to function, to move, to do anything .. much less raise Himself. Not "idling" over in the corner, waiting for Sunday morning to roll around.


Now .. one of two things happens. He rises from the dead, or He doesn't. Pure "go-no go" moment. If He doesn't rise and live again, then He's proven a liar. Thus, everything else He said would be suspect. BUT ...if He DOES come out of the tomb, alive, then two things are immediately obvious:

  • He didn't do it Himself, as He was dead. Like the turtle perched on the fencepost, you know He didn't do it Himself. The only other Person with power to do that would be, of course, God.
  • God would have, Personally, validated what Jesus had said and done on earth. Including all the OT prophecies about Him, and everything He said and did while He was here.

It's obvious His followers weren't sitting around marking off the hours until Sunday morning, else they'd all have shown up at the tomb. I'm guessing that's attributable to the lack of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I'm the sort of guy (the natural me, that is) that wants proof. And in Spiritual matters, I don't want external proof .. that is .. I want proof from the Bible. So, given the nature of the Bible as all truth, does it testify that He really was raised, and that it was obvious that He was?

YES! From Matthew 28, NIV:

"11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day."

Two things strike me about that. First, telling the boss you were sleeping while on duty would hardly have "kept them safe". I hear that was punished rather severely. But more importantly, you don't have to bribe people to tell the truth! You bribe them to lie!

My conclusion: the guards knew He'd risen, the chief priests knew it, and their bribery of the guards puts Satan in the unenviable position as testifying to the truth of God's word, and Jesus' resurrection.

So that was, indeed, The Weekend That Was.

Thank God.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Off-The-Wall Thoughts

Since you don't see them on the wall, they must be off the wall, right?

I've been thinking about the crucifixion, now and then, for a couple years. Ever since I read The Shack and figured I needed to think for myself about a lot of things.

The first thought is connected to something Paul Young said in the book .. that God does not forsake His people, ever. Not even Jesus .. "Poppa" said He knew what Jesus felt on the cross, but He never left Jesus alone there. That had a ring of truth to it, and made me wonder why, with what all Jesus knew about His Father, He would have cried what He did, from the cross. And that's the first off-the-wall thought: He cried that out when the sin itself fell on Him. That's the moment He took it all on. And, filled with every sin that you and I and everyone else ever committed, how could He see, or feel, or sense God's presence?

Wow. It wasn't the "penalty He paid"; it wasn't the "weight of our sin" ... it was the sin itself that overcame Him. He actually became a sinner .. the biggest ever.

No wonder He could not see His Father!

You and I struggle to sense God's presence when we are in the middle of intentional sin, so how unable to see God would Jesus have been, with all that sin all over Him? And, remember, His assumption of that sin was intentional!

Second, it got dark for a few hours. I've always wondered why; I didn't really buy the sermons' and lessons' explanation that God could not bear to look on Him, as He cannot look upon sin. Well, God surely looked upon me and my sorry state as a lost sinner .. and besides, God doesn't need light to see, anyway. I think there was another reason.

There was no one on earth, at the point, worthy to look upon God's Son, there on the cross! It's not that God didn't want to see Jesus .. He didn't want US to see Him in that state.

Maybe that's one reason God said not to make any "graven images" ... carved images .. images of heavenly things, like Jesus on the cross. Those are man-centered attempts to make "physical representations" of what we must accept by faith alone.

Perhaps I'm trying to understand the unknowable, but I have a feeling .. with these thoughts in mind .. that this coming Easter is going to be something pretty special.

Wow again. What a God, and what a Savior!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Peace .. and Joy .. in the Storm

The video clip up there was taken from our screened-in deck. You can see in the background the little shop building, and our Prius, amid all the downpour and the wind. Peg and I sat on the deck for about 15 minutes, just watching the storm raging outside, with us all safe and dry on the deck.

I really, personally, owe my enjoyment of that to my Mom, who stood before our front windows when I was just an infant, holding me in her arms, and showing me the "pretty lights in the sky" ... despite the fact that she was scared silly. She didn't want me or my brother to grow up with the same fear.

We didn't. Thanks, Mom.

Anyway, a couple of dominant thoughts echoed around my brain, during the storm. One thought was a remembrance of a Mission Trip to Winfield Missouri, during which we went, one evening, to a boys' prison, our youth choir performing for the young men and the guards. I was out on the front porch while a huge thunderstorm was raging, as there was not a lot of room inside the hall. During the storm, another of our men went inside and came back out a few minutes later, thunderstruck (pardon the pun); he was awed that the storm was raging so strongly outside, but when he went inside, there was such peace there, as our kids ministered.

The presence of the Spirit, he reckoned.

The other thought that hit me was Jesus' episode of calming the storm while the Apostles were scared silly in the boat. When I thought of that, I said to Peg "Can you imagine Someone in sandals and a robe, walking out here on the porch, saying "Peace ... be still!", and the storm stopping just like that!?!?

I then said "What a Savior we serve", and no sooner were the words out of my mouth, than an indescribable wave of joy swept over me. I got this huge grin I just couldn't shake, and I sat there and reveled in it for 5 minutes or so.

He said He'd give us peace "that passes understanding", and joy "indescribable". And those words mean what they say; no watered-down alternate meanings involved. Since I don't think He forces us to be peaceful and joyful, I'm guessing we have to decide that's what we want to be.

Now, I'm reluctant to attach any "cause & effect" relationship to what God has done for us .. how He has blessed us .. as I just want to attribute His blessings to His love for us. But if I had to guess at something in our lives that God has smiled on so generously, it's that we have simply believed God. We believe Him. If He says it, that settles it. And there's nothing mysterious about that .. it's simply a decision that we will believe and trust Him, and act accordingly. And, as we want an abundant life, we'll act in accordance with Jesus' commands and teachings, too (to the extent that our sinful old flesh will allow).

So. What storms are facing you? What's interrupting your peace and joy? Don't settle for less than He offers us .. if you do, chances are you'll get even less than you settled for.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

SO ... What Have YOU Got To Lose?

Peg and I were having lunch at Ruby Tuesday's this afternoon, when I noticed one particular lady walking by. She was noticable for two reasons: for one, she walked with great difficulty, using a 4-wheeled walker .. the kind with big wheels and a basket in which you can carry stuff in the middle; for another, she had this unforgettable smile.

It was pretty much her default expression.

She was unlucky enough to sit between me and the Salad Bar, so when I went there, I stopped by her table. Now I am really a shy sort, which makes it a double thrill when I actually overcome my natural state and speak to someone, in public, that I don't know. Nonetheless, I stopped at her table .. she was alone at the time .. and told her the specific reason I stopped there was that, despite her obvious difficulty in walking, she had this wonderful smile on her face. She thanked me and I asked her the nature of her disability.

She told me it was MS. And her, with this wonderful and genuine smile. When I commented on that, she told me that she'd decided long ago that, if God wanted her to have it, then He must have His reasons. I showed her the Jesus pin I was wearing (it just occurred to me I should have given it to her .. guess I was just too captivated to think of that at the time), and that I sure understood that.

I went to the Salad Bar, then, and Peg and I had lunch. After the meal, she'd been joined by someone with a little girl in tow; I'm guessing it was a daughter and granddaughter. I told the younger lady that I was guessing they were related; she confirmed it. I then commented that the lady in the picture must be a Spiritual person, and the daughter said "Oh, she's a Spiritual person, all right!".

The lady in the picture showed me something in (A) a wonderful smile, and (B) saying that if God wanted her to have MS, it was OK with her.

She seems to have bought lunch, as I saw her signing the charge slip, and that got me to thinking a lot of things. Among other things:

  • First, joy in the midst of adversity, when it would be easy to be otherwise..
  • Second, a willingness to accept God's will, even when the results cause us pain, discomfort, and/or difficulty.
  • Third, a refusal to let a handicap interfere with life.

I asked if I could put her picture here, and I told her why; she said sure, that was fine. And for that, I thanked her, and then took this picture with my Camera-Phone. But, then, I got to thinking two additional thoughts.

For one, I see so many instances of believers who don't always act like it. And I see Sunday School Lessons on how to live a Christian life in a non-believing world, as if it's soooo hard to be a believer. So, I wonder, what have we got to lose if we live our faith every day, without compromise? If every blog post, every discussion where we don't see eye-to-eye with someone else, were conducted along the same friendly lines as when we agree? If we had the same sacrificial attitude about things, and particularly toward our families, as Jesus showed?

What are we afraid of?

Second thought: we're all going to die one day. We're going to leave some earthly treasures behind, and also some earthly woes. For the lady in the picture, she's going to leave MS behind. And I hope that thought is of some encouragement to her, as she battles that illness, and the difficulties that it brings, here on earth. But the good we do will go on ahead of us, and I hope that is of more lasting eternal consequence than all the bad things I leave behind.

I get the feeling that's how it'll be, with Smiling Lady.