Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Little Peace and Quiet

The storm clouds settled low over route 34 in the Shawnee National Forest. I was headed to a 2 day retreat of solitude and silence, nothing but me and God. But somewhere between the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the promise of some spiritual disciplines, I ran into some rather puzzling places.

Rudement, for one. Rudement, IL. Someone will have to explain to me the historical significance of that town name. It's not much to be sure. I would say barely large enough to merit a town sign. Yet, as I was driving through, another sign caught my attention: Rudement Church. Hmmm. Sweeping past the place at 47 miles per hour, I wondered how many other churches in sleepy southern Illinois might be marked by the community as being rude. It was something to consider in the days ahead.

Another town caught my attention. Herod, IL. Again, the town map was the size of a postage stamp. But I wondered how anyone could name a town after that "fox" of the gospel stories. There is no less irony for me that Herod is located in Pope County. It seems that ancient enemies (dictatorial government and sacrificial church) cannot rest in peace, even in southern Illinois.

All told, I enjoyed my time along the Ohio River. I could not have asked for a better place to practice solitude and silence. The only sounds I experienced were waves lapping the banks, hawks chatting along the bluffs, and deer snorting when I walked too closely to their part of the trail.

But I think, I think, even amidst the strange small towns and vocal animal population, that I heard the voice of God. And his voice was love. Gloria Deo!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Fourth

Had Jesus possessed fireworks, I think he would have used them as teaching tools.

On Sunday night, I sat with my 3 boys and my parents at the park in Robinson, IL. A lack luster all-star baseball game was finishing up (12-4 was the final). We sat on some hard, wooden bleachers. Then the lights went out.

What followed was 30 minutes of part light, part sound, part sparkle and part magic. Lit fuses began a journey that ended in reds and greens, blues and purples. Sonic booms brought "ooh's" and "ah's" from the crowd. I craned my neck to watch each and every one.

One toddler sitting below us on the bleachers began with scared sobs. Then she managed to dare watching over her dad's shoulder. By the end, she was watching with wonder and calling out the colors with all the energy of a life just begun (Gween! Wed! Pawple!).

The finale came, lighting up the sky and scaring birds in every direction. We got up, stretched our aching backsides and followed the crowds to our parked car. My boys hopped along my side, skipping and talking excitedly about their favorite one.

And as we walked, my mind turned to something Jesus once said. "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." I think I see his point. Some things have to die for other things - far greater things - to live. A wheat kernel is fairly unimpressive. A wheat stalk swaying in a field of gold - wow! A tightly wrapped bundle of explosives with a fuse - yawn. A green and blue explosion that fades to buzzing "bees" swarming in the sky - I'll make an appointment to watch that every year.

Unless a firecracker is set aflame and burned, it remains only a single novelty. But if it dies, it produces more wow's than you can imagine.

Yeah, I think Jesus would have used fireworks for teaching tools. Don't you?

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Today, I awoke early to the persistent, beeping reminder that Jody's phone had text messages waiting. Three of them. Having gone on a walk, Jody wasn't around to respond. So, I lumbered out of bed, silenced the inconsiderate phone, and decided to study in the quietness before my kids arose.

For 3 hours, I grappled through Romans 7 and 8, reading commentaries, Greek phrases, and chapter summaries. I took some notes on my computer in between my newly awakened children asking for breakfast or telling a pressing story. I meditated on "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" while Spongebob blared in the background. As I thought about sin, both as an action as as a personal force in our broken world, Noah declared that the Cleveland Cavaliers might possibly hire Byron Scott as their coach - a move that may entice LeBron James to stay.

I decided to finish my morning musing with the 11th verse of chapter 8: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." I stopped at that majestic verse because I found my mind wandering to a weird sound coming from our new refrigerator. If I can't stay focused on that verse, it's time to hang it up.

The dog barked, apparently at phantoms (or possibly the fridge). My email inbox pinged to alert me to a message from a friend wondering how I was doing. My stomach growled. I noticed that I was still wearing my pajamas well after 10 a.m.

I got cleaned up. I fed the kids pizza for lunch. I made a lunch date next week with a pastor friend to pick his brain about church leadership. I asked Noah to feed the dog. I cleaned up the kitchen and threw in a load of laundry.

Then I tried to persuade my boys to go watch Toy Story 3 during the afternoon. One flatly said that it would be over his dead body before he would see that kiddie movie. Apparently he felt himself too old and mature for such things. One other son said, "Nah, I'd rather play my video game this afternoon. Maybe some other time." I shrugged and gave up my plans. My final son (of course) was then disappointed because he really wanted to go and "didn't ever get to do anything because of his brothers." Where, I wondered, is that "life" Romans 8 kept talking about?

Tonight - supper, vacation bible school and a baseball game (the final one I hope). I have a Netflix disc to mail, a book I would like to pick up at Lifeway, and a poorly judged, home improvement purchase to return to Menards. I need to fold a bunch of laundry and mow the yard, but the weather outside is begging me to procrastinate all of that and just soak up the sun. Maybe I'll pull the plug on my "video-game-crazy-kids" and shove them outdoors for some basketball or bike riding. Maybe I'll take them for a walk.

Sounds like quite a day, doesn't it?

I can't help but think that maybe, if I open my eyes wide enough (even on this mundane and monotonous day called today), I will see afresh that our "spirit is alive" because Christ is in us.

I believe that. So, today, as long as it is today, I will keep watching and living.