Thursday, September 22, 2005

So What -- er, So WATCH, you don't know when the Son of Man Comes

I was teaching a Sunday School class during seminary. It was one of the requirements for the Master of Divinity -- a class in Christian Education that included hands on work as a teacher.

We had to write our own curriculum and one day I had the children memorize a Bible verse: Matthew 24:44: "So watch, you don't know when the Son of Man comes."

The kids memorized perfectly.


One kid memorized, "So what, you don't know when the Son of Man comes."

Jesus tells us to WATCH and be prepared for His return, but we also need to always be alert for ANYTHING. There are always unexpected dangers, opportunities and challenges in our lives.

I saw the new television show INVASION last night. Good fiction. Enjoyable. But watching the people get ready for the hurricane was a joke. Nobody prepares for a hurricane when the wind is blowing or the rain is falling. Do TV producers really think that is the way it is?


You prepare for the hurricane in the most beautiful weather you can imagine.

The sky is a deep blue.

The wind is calm.

And only space technology reveals the danger that is coming.

After Katrina people asked, "Why didn't the people evacuate?"

Watching the people evacuate from Rita, I fear that people will soon understand why you don't always evacuate. Try moving millions on an interstate system. What you need are Star Trek transporters.

I worry that people will be stranded in the path of the storm.

I worry about the people running out of gas and panicking.

I worry about those who think they have selected a good route, only to see the storm change directions and head for them.

The hours ahead are times for prayers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Talk Like A Pirate Day comes to church

(Note: I shared this with a buddy in Georgia, and he passed it onto his church -- his son called the church office from Florida and was disappointed the staff didn't take my buddy seriously -- probably a good thing for my buddy!)

Memo to all church staff:

While yet another hurricane is a bearing down on those of us in South Florida, we still celebrated today's holiday -- September 19th, is TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY -- for proof click ">here..

If you need help with your vocabulary, try these.

Aye aye! - A good response to any question asked of the Senior Pastor, especially on a Monday.

Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that movie and it was no good at all." and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

Avast -- Stop! As in "When is that preacher going to avast this sermonizing?"

Beauty -- The best possible pirate address for a woman. Always preceded by "me" as in "C'mere, me beauty." However, please be advised that Presbytery's rules and our congregation's sexual misconduct policies recommend that one uses this term only with one's spouse.

Bilge rat – The bilge is the lowest level of the ship. It’s loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water. A bilge rat, then, is a rat that lives in the worst place on the ship. Please do not refer to anyone in the church as a bilge rat -- however, when hearing noises in the ceiling tiles above the youth lounge, you may rest assured that those probably are bilge rats. Feel free to say, "Arrrr, it's them bilge rats again."

Booty -- treasure, AKA the offering.

Grog – An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water, but as our church staff celebrates Talk Like A Pirate Day, please limit your use of this term during office hours as a reference to the soft drink machine, as in, "Arrr, I think I'll fetch me some diet, caffine free grog from the grog machine."

Lubber – (or land lubber) This is the seaman’s version of land lover, mangled by typical pirate disregard for such people. A lubber is someone who does not go to sea, who stays on the land. On Talk Like A Pirate Day, feel free to refer to Southern Baptists as Land Lubbers.

Me Hearty -- Friend. Today all staff members will address one another by this term. As in "Ahoy me hearty! Can I fetch you some diet grog?"

Shiver me timbers -- A pastoral response, which replaces phrases like, "You feel confused by this?"

Swashbuckling -- adventurous. If anyone asks, we had a swashbuckling time in the budget committee meeting yesterday.

Walk the plank -- What Presbyteries do to ministers who git caught drinkin' too much grog with a group of Land Lubbers.

Yo ho! - If you sense a time of silence, please feel free to yell this out.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Short Video on Presbyterians -- What a Riot!

Do you have bad taste?

Then you may be like me and will enjoy this wonderful video about the Presbyterian Church.

It's very short, but it's a riot!

I've had a very busy time of it this week. Not the stressful, everything is falling apart, sort of busy week -- but the wow, everthing is coming together so well and so fast sort of busy week.

At any rate, it's been so busy I needed this comic relief.

There is nothing obscene here, but if you don't like laughing at Presbyterians, you won't enjoy the video. If you do enjoy laughing at us, you'll love it!

Click here!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina and the Presbyterian Congregations in Mississippi, South Louisiana and South Alabama

What has happened to the Presbyterian congregations in the areas hit by Katrina?

I have wanted to see a listing of the churches, along with the type of damage suffered. Not finding one, I made one, using several different sources -- I thought I'd share this with you.

Here's what I know... (send me updates if you have them)

From the Synod of the Sun: South Alabama Presbytery fared better than its Mississippi counterpart, suffering little damage, according to the Rev. Samford Turner, executive presbyter."There's no damage to any of our churches," Turner said. "There's a few shingles missing on some of our coastal churches, but nothing to speak of, as far as damage."Turner acknowledged that some individual Presbyterians had personal property damaged or destroyed."

Government Street Presbyterian Church
300 Government St.,
Mobile AL 36602
From their web page: "Government Street Presbyterian Church’s 175 year old landmark building, located in the center city of Mobile, less than one-quarter mile from the water’s edge came thru unscathed. Every member’s household was affected. All lost electricity, most had downed trees with scattered property damage, while some along Dog River and the Bay had extensive damages due to flooding. Among members, there were no injuries or loss of life."


Canal Street Presbyterian Church
4302 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70119
From their web page: "Our building still stands on Canal St., our people still stand united in cities like Houston, Dallas, Jackson and Birmingham. We are a church without walls, and you are welcome to come journey with us. To God be glory both now and forever! Amen!"

Chinese Presbyterian Church
2901 W Esplanade Ave
Kenner, LA 70065
The church building remains. There is some roof damage. The church's web page,, has some photos. The web page also had a membership roll and where they can be reached. The members are spread all over the nation.
From the Synod of the Sun web page: Fellowship hall badly damaged. Sanctuary fared better.

First Presbyterian Church - Baton Rouge
763 North Blvd
Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Apparently there is no damage to this church, and worship continues. The church is very active in hurricane relief efforts -- see the web page for more details:

First Presbyterian Church - Lake Charles
1801 2nd Ave
Lake Charles, LA 70601
Their web page had a copy of the bulletin for worship on September 11th, so the church must be OK.

First Presbyterian Church - New Orleans
5401 S Claiborne Ave
New Orleans, LA 70125
Their web page says, "The church has been flooded by hurricane Katrina and the members are in exile. Contact Cliff Nunn at cwnunn@gmail or call 972/838-2556 to talk to him. Email us if you want to help clean up after the storm. You may also contact him about CDP matters. Pray for us as we seek to continue to do Gods ministry while in exile."

John Knox Presbyterian Church
4201 Transcontinental Dr
Metairie, LA 70006
From their web page: "Temporary Numbers to communicate with Pastor Harry who is in Houston, Texas and to relay information to JCPC friends are: 832-474-0240 and 281-492-0961 For confidential communication you may send email messages to: September 10, 2005 -- Good News! The church now has electricity and phone service. There is no water service yet. Once water service is restored we will make every effort to get the JCPC campus up and running. Please let us know if you are able to help in the clean-up process and when you may be available. For example: as soon as we are allowed back in or another time. Whatever time you can give, would be appreciated. Respond to this email address to let us know when you can help:"
From the Synod of the Sun: Sunday morning September 4th, less than a week after the fallout from Hurricane Katrina claimed their property - John Calvin Presbyterian Church of Metairie, LA, will worship in another church in another city. About 100 members of the 300-member congregation relocated in Baton Rouge. They found their pastor and their pastor (Harry Brown) found them. So, instead of attending another church's service, they will have their own service and their pastor will continue his work."

Lakeview Presbyterian Church
5914 Canal Blvd
New Orleans, LA 70124
From their web page: "On Monday, August 29, Hurricane Katrina came through New Orleans and changed our lives forever. We pray for the safety and healing of our community. Over the next few weeks and months we will use our website as a means to communicate with others news of our members. We thank those who have called and emailed us offering prayers and assistance and will be in touch when we know the extent of our need. Our need will be great but our faith in God and the love of our brothers and sisters around the world will see us through. God bless you all and may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you each day."
From their Senior Pastor's web page: "Though these are unprecedented times for us, not so with God, for the times are in his hands. I am convinced that the faith I have seen so visibly expressed at LPC during the course of my ministry will sustain us all until we are privileged to gather once again. Linda and I will be in Milwaukee with my sister and brother-in-law until we are given permission to return. I encourage anyone who may wish to speak with me to call my cell (504)390-6035 or residence (262)691-8935. Know that you are all in my prayers. Please, friends, do call. I would like to hear from you. Neale L. Miller "

Parkway Presbyterian Church
6200 Camphor St
Metairie, LA 70003
Nothing on the web, but I heard from a friend in Atlanta that one of Parkway's members is an evacuee now living in a small town north of Atlanta. The word from him is that the church is closed.

Saint Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church
1545 State Street
New Orleans, Louisiana
Their web page indicates they are trying to locate all church members. The pastor also says on that page, "Presently we are doing our work out of the offices of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (MDPC) in Houston, Texas."


Diamondhead Presbyterian Church
5301 Diamondhead Circle
Diamondhead, MS 39525
Major structural damage, electricity on (Source: Synod of the Living Waters)

First Presbyterian Church -- Bay Saint Louis
114 Ulman Ave
Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520
Destroyed, along with the pastor's home.

First Presbyterian Church -- Pascagoula
1819 Pascagoula St
Pascagoula, MS 39567
228-762-0296 FAX
4 feet of water in all of their buildings (source - Presbytery of South Alabama)
flooded, roof damage, structurally OK (source - Synod of Living Waters)

First Presbyterian Church - Ocean Springs
921 Ocean Ave
Ocean Springs, MS 39564
228-872-0401 FAX
Amazingly OK - but the rubble of everything from their building south to the water is piled up in their yard - manse flooded (source - Presbytery of South Alabama)
Manse flooded, some damage to sanctuary, major damage to fellowship hall, everything between church and coast is gone (source - Synod of Living Waters)

Gautier Presbyterian Church
PO Box 340
Gautier, MS 39553
4 feet of water in all of their buildings (source -- Presbytery of South Alabama)
six feet of water in church; no flood insurance, pastor's home OK (source - Synod of Living Waters)

steeple gone, damage to members' homes (source - Synod of Living Waters)

Long Beach
some destruction, flooding, church still standing (source - Synod of Living Waters)

Orange Grove
16148 Robinson Rd
Gulfport, MS 39503
some damage, no flood insurance (source - Synod of Living Waters)

Pineview Presbyterian Church
Hattiesburg, MS
No major building damage (Source: Presbytery of Mississippi Stated Clerk, John Dudley)

Pineville Presbyterian Church
Pass Christian MS
Water damage, trees down, roof damaged.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
5005 Lawson Ave
Gulfport, MS 39507
228-864-3247 FAX
church OK - again amazing - pastor's home flooded out - probably have to be torn down (source - Presbytery of South Alabama)
No major damage, being used as drop-off point for supplies (source - Synod of Living Waters)

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
No major building damage (Source: Presbytery of Mississippi's Stated Clerk, John Dudley)

Ahhh-- Sunday. The Sabbath. Day of Rest. What a Crock!

I find myself in an Oasis.

It's the calm that comes after one storm and right before the next storm.

It's a typical Sunday.

I started with breakfast in the Fellowship Hall. Pancakes and bacon! Maybe not the healthiest meal, but I love every bite.

Then there is the first service and the weekly Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Sunday School follows -- and I am in the middle of teaching one of the classes, so I had to rush to the room. As soon as that was over, it's a rush back to the Sanctuary for the 11:00 worship. We had a baptism! I love baptisms.

After the worship, the Associate Pastor and I posed for pictures with the family around the baptismal font.

I had lunch with elders -- Presbytery meeting is coming up on the 27th, and like all Presbyterian Churches, we send the pastors and a certain number of elders based on the size of the congregation. Presbytery covers a geographic area of several counties and meets a handful of times each year. With the elders, I review the agenda for the coming meeting and highlight the parts of the packet that need their closest attention. I also explain for them some of the backgound for different things that will be happening at the meeting. This is probably something I should do via email, but I've been doing it this way for years, and it follows the time-tested motto in our church, "This is the way we've always done it."

After lunch, I ran into the Associate Pastor who was coming in from serving the Sacrament of Communion in the hospitals and nursing homes. He mentioned one fellow who is in serious condition, so I ran to Jackson Hospital to see him.

Now I'm in the office, enjoying the calm.

Not enough time for a nap.

Too much time to start the next thing on the calendar.

So I sit and piddle with this blog.

And while I do, I consider how pastors mistreat the Fourth Commandment. "Remember the Sabbath day." Day of rest?

It's 3:42 now. At 4:00 there is a committee meeting. Perhaps I'll get a nap then.

At 5:00 Confirmation Class begins. I don't attend every session, but I'm scheduled to teach this particular one.

At 6:00 there's Pizza in the Youth Lounge. I'll hang out with them until 7:00, when there is another committee meeting. That's an interesting meeting, and one that will be sure to keep me awake. I often get frustrated with that committee, so when I leave that meeting I'll probably go home and click on Then I'll click "Ministry and Vocations." From there I'll scroll down to Church Leadership Connection and click "Opportunities."

(This is how pastors get therapy).

I'll enter "$100,000" as a minimum salary and see what comes up among vacant churches looking for pastors.

I'll go to sleep and go to the office on Monday. Unlike what I do on Sunday, that will be work :)

So what about the Sabbath?

The Ten Commandments were written in stone -- or was in the beginning -- so it must be important.

So what is the fourth Commandment?

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work..."


Years ago there was a short-lived television series about priests and nuns working in a Roman Catholic parish -- "Nothing Sacred." I loved that series and apparently was the only one in the nation that watched it.

In one scene two priests are in the vestry room. It is between services, and they are busy getting ready for the next one. It's not yet Noon and it has been a full day. The elderly priest puts on his robe and says, "Ah Sunday. The Sabbath. Day of rest. What a crock."

That's the moment I fell in love with that series.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism is one of several Presbyterian statements of faith. In a question and answer format it deals with the Fourth Commandment and asks, "Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?"

The answer: "From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath. (Footnotes point to Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1, 2; John 20:19-26)

Then the Catechism asks my question -- HOW? "How is the Sabbath to be kept holy?"

The answer: "By resting all that day."

It throws in public and private worship in the answer -- but that's no problem.

It's the "resting all that day" that gives me trouble.

I like to work, so it is hard to stop.

I think my work has value, so it is hard to stop.

In my perverted thinking, I feel that work gives my life value, so it is hard to stop.

I take Friday and Saturdays as "days off" but they are not Sabbaths.

A Sabbath is a stillness. "Be still, and know that I am God."

A Sabbath is a quietness. "Let all the earth keep silent before him."

A Sabbath is a rest from work. "You have six days to do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord."

There are some sins that do not tempt me. I don't struggle with them at all.

I've never killed. Not literally. A little hate in my heart, which Jesus counted as being as good as murder, but give me credit for never appearing on Court TV.

I've never stolen -- well, not since that fountain pen I stole from the drug store in high school. You know teenagers and their dares and double dare ya's.

But Sabbath rest? I've never actually obeyed that one.

Well, it's 3:56. Gotta get back to work. It's Sunday you know.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

My Collection of Strange Katrina-Related Quotations

It's Saturday. Sermon is done. It's my day off. I'm in the mood to goof off -- so I decided to compile a list of my favorite Katrina-related quotations.

1) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring Hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source - actually, I suspect Brown is a nice guy, but he is way out of his league or area of training)

2) "FEMA is not going to hesitate at all in this storm. We are not going to sit back and make this a bureaucratic process. We are going to move fast, we are going to move quick, and we are going to do whatever it takes to help disaster victims." --FEMA Director Michael Brown, Aug. 28, 2005 (Source)

3) "I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." --GOP strategist Jack Burkman, on MSNBC's "Connected"

4)"I also want to encourage anybody who was affected by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are in school." –First Lady Laura Bush, twice referring to a "Hurricane Corina" while speaking to children and parents in South Haven, Mississippi, Sept. 8, 2005 (Source)

5)"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." –President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina (Source -- also, someone should have given him a gift subscription of the National Geographic. October 2004 gave a prophetic and accurate account of what happens when a Cat 4 or 5 hits New Orleans)

6)"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the Hurricane flood evacuees in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5, 2005 (Source)

7) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

8) "Louisiana is a city that is largely under water." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, news conference, Sept. 3, 2005 (Source -- hmm, if Louisiana is just a city, why do they get two senators?)

9) "We just learned of the convention center – we being the federal government – today." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, to ABC's Ted Koppel, Sept. 1, 2005, to which Koppel responded "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today." (Source)

10)"My Cheney, go have sexual intercourse with yourself." OK, actually the speaker used a less polite term. Oddly, Cheney directed such comments to others many times on the floor of the Senate. (Source) At least this man was polite and said "MISTER Cheney." I don't agree that this is a very appropriate way to address the Vice President, but we do live in a free country. What bothers me is what happened next. The man who spoke up turned and calmly left the area. He was a doctor and he went to his former home to spend his free time between hospital shifts to sort through his wrecked home to salvage what he could. When two MPs arrived with M-16s, they arrested the cooperative doctor, handcuffed him, and after detaining him released him with the admission that he had broken no laws. (Source) It bothers me that a doctor who has a newborn child, loses his home, is working in a disaster area, has bad taste speaks his mind in a free country to a leader of the free world -- and he loses his freedom.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dedicated to my friend RG -- Another Post On SEX!

At the risk of confirming yet again RG's belief that I'm fixated on sex, I want to reflect on sex in the ministry. Reverend Mommy led me to a new blog -- new for me at least. SoMa Review had a post "Got MILF?" I was relieved, by the way, to see that blog define the F as FRISK. I thought the F stood for something else.

It is a disturbing review of sexual misconduct among clergy. It says, in part...

Berry cites another survey of 300 Protestant clergy in which 38 percent admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with parishioners, and 12 percent admitted to sexual intercourse with them. Similarly, a survey sponsored by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth in 1991 revealed that 37 percent of pastors confessed to having been involved in “inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.”

I will confess that I've had sex with a member of my church on many occasions. I should point out, however, that that particular church member and I have been married for 30 years.

OK, this is no laughing matter. It really is serious.

I remember a funeral I did several years ago. After the grave side service, I followed the tradition of shaking hands with those seated on the front chairs under the tent. The woman whose father had died took my hand and put it on her breast and said, "If there is ever anything I can do for you, please let me know."

Half way through her statement, she squeezed her hand so that my fingers sank deeper into her breast -- well, at least that is how I remember it.

Without taking the time to savor the moment, I yanked my hand away and stuttered, "Just doing my job, Miss."

I've never been tempted to have sex with anyone other than my wife.

But I also know that given the right timing, anything is possible.

I'm feeling lonely. Or insecure. Or lost and angry. Or just plain horny.

It could happen.

I remember what Billy Graham did in his ministry. He decided the world was full of people with feet of clay, and he was one of them. Therefore he set up rules to live by. Never be alone with a woman was one of them -- not even in an elevator. His staff helped him with this. The temptation might be there, but the opportunities were reduced.

I do the same with ice cream. Being diabetic, I set up certain rules. No trips to Baskin Robbin Ice Cream Parlors that are in the town in which I live -- I can only go to them when I'm out of town.

I have rules for movies. No popcorn. I take a box of raisons or nuts, but none of that good tasting, unhealthy movie popcorn. It's a rule. I'm weak and I know it.

When I visit Atlanta and go to the Varsity -- there is a limit. It's a rule. No more than 2 hot dogs and one order of Fries. The proper way to order it there is to call for 2 naked dogs and strings. OK, that one I break. I can't leave without ordering one more naked dog for the road -- or as they would say at the Varsity -- "I want to take a naked dog for a walk." Those of you who have been to the Varsity will understand. Oh, just the thought makes me want to find an excuse for some continuing education at Columbia Seminary.

But I digress.

What were we talking about?


Sex. Hot dogs from Varsity. Baskin Robins ice cream. They are all so tempting.

These are all wonderful gifts. To enjoy them as God intended requires moderation. Control. Rules that will keep us within our limits.

If I ate those hot dogs the way I wanted to, I'd be dead in a weak.

Ice Cream -- I hate to think what my blood glucose readings would be.

Sex with someone besides my wife? It would mess up the great thing I've got going with my wife. It could destroy my ministry. It would change everything, and none of it for the better.

Jesus said, "Go and make disciples."



I think the missing element in our spiritual discipline is not just resisting temptation, it's limiting our exposure to temptation's opportunities.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I Do Not Feel Obligated To Understand God

I love RG -- whoever he is. From time to time he likes to leave comments about my blog that I occasionally find challenging. I don't think he liked my post, "Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Algebra." He thinks it is an indication that I am fixated on nudity and sex. Very perceptive! I'm not sure what that particular post had to do with sex or nudity, but I'm not sure I can argue with RG. Nor would I want to. A previous post admits it -- "Sex -- It's One Of My Favorite Hobbies."

But let's move onto something else RG said: "I find it extremely difficult to hear you call yourself a minister when you admitted on this blog you have no idea what awaits us after deat." He goes onto say, "Many millions of people are hurting every day. Young people to old. Some looking desperately for answers." He worries about such people coming to my blog for those answers.

RG, I don't have answers for everything, and I'm very comfortable with that.

But RG, I don't need to know all the answers. I feel a need to trust God, but I do not feel any obligation to understand God.

Heck, there are times when I can't understand my wife. I rarely understand my teenage son. Why would I think I could possibly understand God?

People do look for answers, but I don't have all of them.

I feel very much like St. Paul, who said in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Someday, I'll have all the answers. But for now, I need to be content to simply know "in part."

This is one of those verses that I like better in the King James Version. It speaks of "seeing through a glass darkly." I imagine one of those restroom windows. The big, thick block glass windows. You look through one of those windows and you may sense people walking on the street outside. You see shadows and movement, but you can't discern any detail.

I think about the writer of Ecclesiastes 7:23-24, who said, "I am determined to be wise"-- but this was beyond me. Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound-- who can discover it? Later, the writer talks about how we cannot comprehend God, adding, Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. (Ecclesiastes 8:17)

You are right when you say that I don't know what happens at death.

I know that when I die, I will be with God.

I know I will be in Heaven.

But I have more questions than answers. What happens to me between death and the Resurrection? What happens at Resurrection? Will the new me look like my body will look at death, or do I get my 18 year old body back? Do I get to play the harp? I can't play it now. If I don't play the harp, will I get to play the drums? Or can I just play baseball instead? Will I be able to fly like Superman? Will I be able to sit down and have a cup of coffee with my Great Great Grandfather? Is there coffee in heaven? If so is it decaf? Will we take naps? What about art, music and literature. Do they have libraries in heaven? Movies? Do dogs go to Heaven? What about cats? Butterflies? House flies?

I don't have answers for any of this stuff, but that's OK. I don't need to understand God. I just need to trust Him.

I do know that there will be no sex in Heaven (Matthew 28:30). It may surprise RG to know that this does not bother me at all. Jesus said that at the resurrection there would be no marriage relationships -- I take that to mean that Heaven is going to be very much different from Earth.

I also know that there will be a lot of worshipping going on in Heaven, and I suspect RG and I will sit side by side. I also suspect he and I will get along just fine.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Everything I Ever Needed To Know, I Learned In Algebra!

Once in a while, everyone screws up.

Stacey wrote in Thoughts From A First Year Minister about something funny that happened during Communion service. You can read what happens by going to her blog and reading the September 4th post on "Playing Pastor." Stacey -- you are right -- spitting the Communion bread out would not have been a good idea!

A few days ago Behind the Pulpit asked a few good questions on his post, "You Know..."

I wonder how other pastors feel about failure? Have there been places in your ministries as pastors, leaders, and volunteers where you've felt like you've let the church down? How do you not take the issues within the life of the church personally? How do you deal with those issues in a way that allows others to know that you truly care about their desires, hopes, and dreams for their ideal church without compromising your own heart for what you feel like God has called you to do and be as a pastor? How do you keep from running away and completely giving up?

I read this and thought about so many things.

The organ fund that almost died because a single elder convinced the rest of the Session it was too difficult.

The mission trip the church decided not to take.

The time Presbytery put me on a committee to create a new conference center -- and we never made any progress with it.

I think about a couple of humiliating mistakes I've made that are best left unshared.

Most of all, I think of Algebra back in 1969.

Algebra was the most valuable class I took during high school.

I was a lousy student, and paying attention to the teacher never seemed to be a good use of my time. Algebra was no different. It fell on me to find productive work to do during the class time.

I wrote notes to Patti, until she broke up with me on Valentine’s Day (Damn you dastardly Patti!). So then I started writing notes to Eve.

Sometimes I’d read favorite works of literature. You know – the classics: Spiderman, Daredevil, Fantastic Four.

Occasionally I would try my hand at art – you should have seen the masterpiece I produced of the Principal.

One day, John pounded me on the back and pointed at the teacher.

There was Mrs. J, standing at the class droning on and on about something being greater or less than something else.

Holy cow, her skirt was coming loose.

Mrs. J was big woman. I knew there was no way that skit would make it beyond those massive hips.

Still, ever so slowly, the whole class began to pay attention.

Mrs. J should have known something was up. After all, she had never had our undivided attention until now.

It was when she was erasing something on the board that it happened. Mrs. J would put her whole body into the erasing process. It was like watching some old and senile person do the Twist. Her right hand would move the eraser back and forth. The flabby part of her arms would move back and forth like – well, the only thing I can think of is a bowl of Jell-O shaking in slow motion. Her left arm seemed to be needed for some sort of balancing process. And the hips. My Lord those hips! It was as if moving those hips generated the energy necessary to erase the equation from the board.

The skirt fell to her ankles and I thanked the Lord for the invention of slips! When the skirt fell, I felt a wave of sorrow for this woman.

I was laughing hysterically with everyone else, so the wave of sorrow couldn’t have been that much.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

Mrs. J bent over (Oh Mrs. J, why didn’t you turn and face the class before bending over). She picked up her skirt. She wiggled into it and fashioned it.

And then…

She continued to teach as if nothing had happened.

Over the years I have found this moment in my life to have been a great teaching moment.

I don’t know much about algebra, but I do know Mrs. J taught me a great lesson for life. As I look back, she was one of my best teachers. She was a wonderful lady who had the strength not to be overcome by humiliation, and the dignity to continue in her calling in the face of adversities that only 9th graders can provide.

Sometimes you screw up – whether it is by your own fault or another’s fault. Sometimes you find yourself humiliated. Sometimes things are so bad, you think, “It can’t get any worse than this” – and you’re right. It’s really that bad.

What can you do?

You just pick up your skirt -- or your life -- wiggle into it, secure it, and move on to the next problem.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I'm Angry

I'm in a lousy mood.

The Iraq War continues, and the current status of their constitution says: "Article (2): 1st — Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation: (a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." I'm concerned that what we have done in Iraq is replace one oppressive dictatorship with another oppressive fundamentalist religious state. Is that why we went to war?

No, we went to war because we were told there were weapons of mass destruction. We heard politicians talk about the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud over our cities. We heard implications that Saddam was responsible for 9-11. None of it true, of course.

But we are at war, and today about 1/5th of the National Guard of Mississippi and Louisiana are in Iraq. Days after Katrina, Americans are trapped and issolated, needing medicine, food and water.

Where is the help? Why is it taking so long?

I'm angry, but aren't we all?

It is not just that the National Guard are in Iraq -- so is the money that could have prevented this disater from becoming a tragedy. "In 1995, the Army Corps of Engineers began a project to shore up the New Orleans levees. But in 2003, Bush grabbed the money from that project to pay for his invasion and occupation." (from Another Day In The Empire). Sydney Blumenthal writes "In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war."
But forseen or not -- I'm angry that the response to the disaster in Mississippi and Louisiana is so agonizingly slow.

I live with hurricanes, and I know you have to always be prepared. New Orleans is below sea level and for years that city's newspaper has repeatedly warned of this coming crisis, expressing concern about federal spending -- or the lack of it.

We could have done better.

We should have.