The Good Stuff!

Posted February 11, 2014 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

“Ashes to Ashes, and Dust to Dust”  That’s what I’m used to hearing at funerals.  Well, that and the obligatory Baptist question, “Are you right with the Lord?!”  But at a recent funeral I was stunned to hear what I heard.  In fact, I was so stunned, that I almost stood up and walked out. 

I could forgive the family preacher for mentioning that his brother-in-law was a gunsmith like the deceased, and that he’d made his wife a – well, whatever kind of rifle for valentines day!  But, I could not forgive the flippant way he refered to the word of God as “Housekeeping.”  In the funeral, the Gospel was never shared.  There was no reading of resurrection.  What he said was this: “I have to do a little housekeeping, and then we’ll get to the good stuff.  I have to read some scripture…”  Have to?  Some scripture?   Housekeeping?  Seriously??  I cringed.
He proceeded to read Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season…” and he made a few vague comparisons about how the deceased had experienced many different seasons in his life.  Then he dismissed the scripture like a dirty rag, and got on to what he repeated was “the good stuff!”  “Okay, I told you I had to do some housekeeping,” he said.  I grabbed the pew, out of instinct, to keep from going all Sampson on his lion!
The deceased was a member of my flock, but no one else in the family was connected.  I would say I hope the entire family was engulfed by their grief enough to have missed the offense, but I doubt it.  “How could you?”  I sat there asking.  “How could you have such a weak esteem for the witness of the Gospel?”  My heart pounded as a considered what my seminary professors might say; those who helped me appreciate the sacredness of the word.  My blood boiled as I thought of my Episcopalian friends who walk the Gospel down the aisle to the center of the congregation to read it because it’s THAT important!    My lips worked, over and over again, and I clamped my mouth shut tight, as I tried to re-imagine what I would have done from that pulpit.  Never before had I heard such a universal dismissal of the resurrection at the exact point where people need to hear the resurrection.  Instead it was decided for them, that they needed the self-serving, ego friendly, fluff and convenience of dispensing with the “Housekeeping” of scripture so they could get to the good stuff…that wasn’t even very good!
“Where is the humanity?” I cried!  Where is the sacredness of life?  Where is the holiness of struggling with life and death itself?  Where is the proclamation that death has been defeated, and life is renewed day by day?  THAT is the good stuff!

Not the Numbers

Posted February 14, 2011 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

            Today I was thrilled, after 2 worship services, to step back and do a simple act of service, that almost everyone is capable of—I gave blood today after church.  I am so glad that we have several Sundays designated to give blood, and while I likely won’t do it every time, it’s really an awesome thing to do, especially with a friend!  Why?  Because you can have fun!
            As I was getting prepped and checked out, I was asked the question that I needed to hear- “Do you run a lot, or are you super athletic or something?”  That’s what she asked!  I couldn’t believe it!  “Why?” I asked.  “Because your vitals are great!” she volunteered. 
            Really?  104/68 BP, Pulse 52, is that good??  I admitted, “I’m a bike rider” which made my heart flutter just a bit!  Now I want to know what my cholesterol is!  We’ll see!  Why are the numbers cool?  Mostly because they spawned a conversation and a bit of laughter the entire time, but also because they remind me of the purpose of the whole bike anyway- TO PUT ME IN MOTION! 
          What’s putting you in motion these days?  What’s moving your body?  Heart?  Or Soul?  That may be why it is the most amazing machine ever invented!  I rode simple yesterday, but, I rode, and today it reminded me of why I ride.  Not the numbers, not the feel- but the mystery the motion provides for the soul!

Beyond the Memories

Posted February 2, 2011 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

         Our lives are spent balancing the tension of who we were, who we are right now and who we are becoming.  Last night we scrolled through our newest video addition, the 2009 Tour de France.  With slow-mo we scanned the crowd seeking to spot ourselves along the route.  I remembered every exhilaration of anticipation and release as the riders of the Tour swept towards us and beyond.  To the riders, I am certain, we were simply one more voice to the thousands, but to us it represented a dream come true.
          Memories are powerful reminders of who we were in a moment.  But those moments are past, and we reside on that quest to create new ones.  We are never the same as we were before, and yet, we yearn for that same-ness.  We long for the feelings, the faces, the smells, the accomplishments.  The real problem this presents though, is that we tend to measure ourselves by our yesterdays, and not our tomorrows.  I haven’t ridden enough.  I’m too fat.  My hair’s too grey.  My children don’t visit like they used to.  Our vacations just aren’t the same anymore.  These are the things we tell ourselves, and others.  The unfortunate thing is that those kinds of statements only remind us of what is behind, and rarely make room for joyful memories in our future.  In the same way, when you are riding a bike, it is wise not to spend too much time facing backwards!
          The truth is that we are the same us we were before.  I am the same person I was before.  Life is different, but I am still me, we are still we in the present, creating, planning and imagining a new future to come.

Points of Resistance

Posted January 24, 2011 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

          “Moses offers 5 points of resistance concerning his awesome new vocation.”  So starts that section from one of my commentaries on Exodus.  I love it precisely because it’s so real and so human!  We resist.  We fight to be younger and thinner as we age and expand.  We don’t want to put away the holiday decor because we don’t want the season to end.  Even our furniture arrangements at home can stay the same for years at a time because we are comfortable with the way they are!  I’ve even noticed that my wife and I squabble about our future renovations, I think just to resist the inevitable effort of actually renovating!  Moses offered 5 points of resistance.
          Weather, stress, time, scheduling and inspiration – these are the 5 points of resistance I have offered myself lately.  I have not ridden in a week and a half.  I have not worked out in a couple of weeks.  Winter is no excuse- I live in Texas!  However, I stand before the contemporary burning bush, in the form of a bathroom mirror, listening to the commanding voice within, wondering when I will get my act together, hoping that today will be the day. 
          I wonder what the real resistance is?  Today one of my children was asking about why we moved to Texas, (which I fully expect for another 6 months) and I voiced that this is where God has called us.  She responded- “I don’t think I was ready for God to call me to Texas.”  I giggled inside.  She went on to articulate that is just doesn’t feel the same.  Of course it doesn’t feel the same- the relationships take a while.  Even when Moses went back to the Pharoah and the Israelites he had a completely different relationship.  I have been so grateful for her honesty because it consistently opens up within me the true fragility with which we all live.  We only control the choices we make, not the entire breadth of God’s movement in our lives.  It is hard work to embrace the mystery of a new future, when so much of the past has been so fulfilling!  We resist, often because we don’t know what the future holds.  We can control the imagination of our past, but tomorrow is unknown.  Children, elders and even Biblical saints alike agree on that!
          What are you resisting today?  And whose hand will you hold, as you walk into the brave new future?

Stories

Posted January 10, 2011 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

          As my girls settle in for a bit of their new “Beauty and the Beast” DVD, I am reminded again of the importance of story.  A French girl in a provincial town, not fitting in, finds opportunity to redefine her world and her future in an enchanted castle.  In today’s message I shared the story about how a young lady from Indiana has found her home all over the world reshaping people’s lives in her work for peace.  Several church folk commented at what a great example that story was for helping us to see how we too can imagine and emerge!
          We value stories, I think, because they invite us to do just that- imagine and emerge.  Saturday I spent a couple of hours riding with a new friend on new roads, and of course, we were swapping stories the whole way.  It was so refreshing because, while it was a new friend and new roads, the stories were old and familiar.  We shared common tails of trips to France, crazy climbs and how much cycling has meant in our lives.  The human trait of storytelling is powerful.  It weaves us together, and reminds us that we too have a story worth sharing.  We too have a message, an experience, even an insight that speaks to someone.  We just need the opportunity to share it!
          Parker Palmer says that “storytelling has always been at the heart of being human, because it serves some of our most basic needs,” such things as “engendering hope.”  (A Hidden Wholeness)  Storytelling brings the opportunity to define ourselves beyond the framework of name, rank or serial number and creates a common space between us, inviting others to join us in that space, to share the meaning of our lives together.
          Who do you share your story with? 
          How does your story engender hope in others?
          If you’re riding to hard and fast in life to stop and share your story, then you’re riding without purpose.  Stop, catch your breath and find someone to share the journey, strengthen your sense of connectedness and reach out to engender hope.  Your story will do that.

A New Thing

Posted January 1, 2011 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

Isaiah 43:19
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

          This is the only scripture I would recommend reading today, and I would say this is the only thing we should dwell on today as well.  It is the call from God reminding us of the promise of faithfulness.  The heading in my study Bible calls it “A New Exodus from Babylon.”  It goes beyond the promises of a New Year’s Day to bring us a New Year’s Life!  Every day is a new day, every moment is an opportunity to receive the gift of grace from our loving God as we seek to stand up and turn away from darkness and despair.
          I’m certain that I am susceptible to a little nostalgic reflection today because this is my first New Year’s Day living in Texas.  It has been a big change, it is a very different world.  Yet, in so many ways it is exactly the same as my old world.  The wind seems like it’s always in my face, the warmth of the sun on my sleeves overwhelms the chill in the breeze, and the chocolate milk after a long and glorious ride is just as amazingly refreshing.  It is different, but, it is the same.
          Each of us, as we begin this new year will tend to proclaim that we too are doing a new thing, and truly, I hope that you are.  Whether or not you are a pledge or resolution type person, we each have so much that we can do to make our lives better, and indeed the world better for those who have so little in their lives.  We have abundance, and we know what we are called to do.  I look forward to a new year, full of ups and downs…hoping not to get too winded.  I look forward to riding, reading, learning and growing.  I’ll be looking for the way God promises in Isaiah’s words, and thirsting for the river.  Friends, I hope you will be too!
All the best for your new year!!

I will be returning to regular weekly updates of my blog, now that I have settled in…
Keep on rolling…

Living at the Apex

Posted October 18, 2010 by spiritualspokes
Categories: Uncategorized

          Pro cyclists work hard at perfecting their circular motion, applying that constant pressure on their pedals…round and round.  But because of the nature of the machine, there is always that one briefest of moments when there is no push and no pull, where the crank lies straight up, at the very top of its stroke- the Apex, if you will.  This one brief moment, where one foot seems to be riding the tide of the other foot’s down-stroke, is just a split second.  But have you ever considered the vastness of rest that moment provides?  It’s not exactly coasting, but it is the release of pressure before the next moment of momentum arrives.
          Now, imagine that pause in your life, magnified.  That moment between events or errands or even mountain top experiences, where everything comes to a pause and the only thing that you experience is the sound of your own breath, in…..out……in……out…..  Ahhhh, how perfect are those moments?  When so much has been achieved and accomplished and so much is yet anticipated to come.  These are truly moments of grace. 
          I find myself dwelling in the midst of the apex, where one world is pausing and the next is about to open up with all kinds of new possibilities and challenges.  Southport Christian has shared such a wonderfully fond farewell, and First Christian, Lufkin is just beginning to say such a welcoming hello!  It is a privilege to sit at the top of this very moment, soaking in the contentment of two such amazing communities of faith!  It feels like a momentary pause as we ride the genuine tide of love that was shared yesterday, resting briefly, before preparing to move forward into the fresh motion of a new tomorrow.  It is grace that can only be measured as the very presence of God.
          Before you pedal off to do another thing, I invite you to consider where you find this apex moment in your life, that moment where momentum is your friend and you can pause in its midst, between highs, to gather God’s grace.