Friday, March 18, 2005

Bunnies, Kris Kristofferson, and Me

It is traditional at this time of year to rail against the way Easter has been reduced to a greeting card holiday, replete with bunnies, baskets of plastic grass, hidden candy, new clothes and dinner at a nice restaurant. I have engaged in such self righteous fist waving myself, truth be known. I remember the first (and last) time my family tuned in to watch the Disney Easter Parade on television. I had just returned to live in America from Scotland and my four year old daughter, Kara, was a big fan of the giant rodent, so we plopped down in our 'put it together yourself' furniture and watched. Yech. Perhaps we should have known, but there was no mention of Jesus, the cross, or anything deeper than Goofy's mental abilities in the whole parade. Let's face it -- Jesus has been fairly well edited out of Easter.

But before I gather a posse and go out hunting specks in the eyes of my neighbors (and Disney execs) perhaps I should sing the words of an old Kris Kristofferson song. There are probably only a few of you who remember who he was (is) and the influence he exerted on ballad rock in the sixties and seventies. His song, "Why Me, Lord?" was a thoughful counterbalance to the New Age yodeling of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." As I was thinking about Jesus' sacrifice for people as unworthy as me, the words to Kristofferson's song came to mind. "Why me, Lord? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I've known? Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do that was worth loving you, or the kindness you've shown? Tell me, Lord, if there is a way I can try to repay all I've taken from you. Maybe, Lord, I can show someone else what I've been through myself on my way back to you. Lord help me, Jesus, I've wasted it. So help me, Jesus, I know what I am. Now that I know that I've needed you, so help me, Jesus, my soul's in your hand."

On this Palm Sunday, as on every day, our souls are in the hands of Jesus, the Son of God. What will He do with them? What He has always done with them! Let His love and sacrifice humble us, turn us from judging others to examining ourselves, and drive us to commit to Him even more in the days and years ahead.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"Nothing" Is "Out"

Our world is a religious smorgasbord. If you don't have a religion you like very much there are tons of them out there just waiting to hear from you. Some of them are trendy and tend to rise and fall with their celebrity endorsers. Others are so esoteric that even celebrities can't make them popular (see: Madonna, Kabbala or Travolta/Scientology). Religions tend to be clumped in together, like we arrange buffets and smorgasbords by salads, vegetables, meats, breads, desserts, we see the world's religions as Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Pagan, and Other/Schzoid/Bizarre (see Madonna and Travolta, above).

At the end of the day, as the worker bees at the Country Buffet or Golden Corral are cleaning out the bins of food, I imagine there are always one or two foods left over; foods so unpopular that, although they must be offered, they don't appeal to very many people. In the world of religions, it seems that the leftover food that no one really wants anymore is atheism. I never thought I would see it in my lifetime, but atheism is in a serious tailspin. When I was a teenager in Scotland I ran across more atheists than kilts but even in "we're too sophisticated for religion" Europe, atheism is so rare that one sociologist recently said there weren't enough of them for a viable study. See the article at

It seems that belief in "nothing" is "out." A stampede of scientists are leaving Darwinism just as National Geographic and the usual suspects are hilariously proclaiming its vindication. Philosophers who railed against the existence of God are now saying "It" is there. Scientists are forming groups to teach Intelligent Design (but our academics -- always the last to realize when they've backed the wrong horse [see: communisim/socialism/anarchism] will be decades catching up).

None of this means that people are fighting their way through the crowds to get to the baptistry, of course. Many are replacing belief in nothing with a "something" that is so vague as to be, well, functionally, nothing. God has given us this window of opportunity to tell people the story of Jesus. Christianity stands in stark contrast with Islam and Judaism in its character and teachings. It also stands in starker contrast with paganism and nothing-ism. We cannot sit idly by and watch people replace one "just so" story with another "just so" story. We need to give them, at this moment of receptivity, the rest of the story -- the truth: there is a God. He is Creator of all, Judge of all, and Savior of those who come to Him through Christ.

This is not a time to pitch our tents. Pull up the pegs and get moving. The fields are white unto harvest....

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

IN but not OF...

You'll have to read all of this to really get what I want to say. Sorry about that. My son's first car is a '74 Gran Torino in electric blue with a white vinyl roof. It is in great shape and only has 38000 miles on it. Sometimes I go and pick him up in his own car and we go places and do things. I drove it a few days ago and picked him up to go to the shooting range (odd hobby for a minister, but there you are...), get our parrot's nails and wings clipped, and maybe check out a music store.

As a long time shooter I am licensed to carry concealed in quite a few States. It is easier to transport a pistol in its holster so it was under my jacket that day. The parrot? His name is Scooby and he thinks he's a dog. Really. We take in birds and make them healthy and happy and then find them homes. This one is ours, though. He's a weird little guy, but he's a keeper.

One more piece needs to be added here. I own lots of guitars and love each of them. However, recently we heard IZ singing a solo version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" accompanied only by a ukulele. Duncan -- my son -- and I were entranced by the wonderful voice and the sweet sound of the ukulele so we both rushed out and bought a couple ukes and IZ's CD so we could learn the song. It has been a real hoot and a half to learn the new chords and voicings.

Okay, the picture is complete. I found myself sitting in an electric blue '74 Gran Torino, strumming a ukulele with a parrot on my shoulder singing along and a Glock under my jacket. And I wondered: is this it? Have I become this eccentric? I fear I know the answer before I even ask the question. The bizarre situation felt normal. Should I be troubled?

I don't think so. We have been told by God to be in the world, but not of it. My dad used to tell me, "Patrick, I didn't raise you to get along with everybody." Short, sweet and profound. We aren't supposed to look like, sound like, or live like the world. We are supposed to be so full of the Spirit that we seem as odd to the world as drunks do to us ('be no longer filled with wine, but filled with the Spirit"). If I seem somewhat odd to you, that is fine. I won't be here long. I'm just passing through. Hear that? I think another tentpeg gave way.... and I'm another step along the road from here to home...