On Course

During last Sunday’s sermon, I recalled my first visit to Six Flags over Georgia in 1967. I still associate the smell of hot asphalt and popcorn with the amusement park.

Hanson CarOne of the featured rides was The Hanson Cars sponsored by Cotton State Insurance. Guests drove antique cars at low speeds around a meandering circuit.

At age nine, I was thrilled to get behind the wheel. My mother joined me as an unenthusiastic passenger. She did not realize the cars were on a fixed track. They could only veer a few feet before bumping back on course.

I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, swerving right and left to the limits of the course. Meanwhile, my mother held on white-knuckled, convinced the ride would end in a fiery crash.

Later, I read a book by Andrew Greeley in which the Roman Catholic priest wrote, “God draws straight with crooked lines.” When we zig, the Holy Spirit zags in order to accomplish God’s will.

I do not believe in a Calvinistic predetermination of life’s events. However, I claim that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. All of life takes place within the context of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

When life swerves, it is comforting to know that God is in control. May the Holy Spirit keep us safely on course until we arrive home.

Forever Home

My wife loves to watch HGTV. I am good for one or two programs before my eyes glaze over. The shows blur into a DIY jumble of FixerUpperLoveitorListItFliporFlopHomeTownPropertyBrothers GoodBonesHolmesonHomes.

Forever homeThe shows’ clients often express a heartfelt desire for their “Forever Home.” If I’m awake for this predictable portion of the episode, I always guffaw aloud. There is no such thing in this world.

Annelle O’Kelley was a faithful member of a church I served. She was born and raised in the family’s ancestral home. Shortly after getting married, Annelle and her husband moved back home with her parents. She continued to live in the same house until her death at 94 years of age.

Four generations of the family lived and died in the home. Annelle spent over nine decades at the same address on Langley Avenue. However, it was not her forever home.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1, Paul wrote:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,

we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven,

not built by human hands.

This world is not our home; we are pilgrims “marching through Emmanuel’s ground to fairer worlds on high.” Some day we will reach journey’s end and enjoy our forever home.

Zoom Fatigue

The world abruptly changed in mid-March. The COVID-19 pandemic ripped the fabric of our society. People elected to social distance and shelter in place. Cancelled activities and postponed events depopulated calendars.

ZoomForced to work from home, the church staff discovered Zoom Meetings. The nifty app creates a virtual meeting space for online participants. Thumbnail pictures populate the screen, resembling a 21st century “Brady Bunch” or “Hollywood Squares.”

One feature enables participants to change their screen names. In past meetings, I have assumed the alter egos of Captain Jean Luc Picard, Tony Stark, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Bruce Banner, Bilbo Baggins, and Peter Parker!

People learned that online meetings are exhausting. The inability to read social cues, body language, and facial expressions degrades communication. A new phrase has entered our lexicon: “Zoom Fatigue.” By the end of most days, I am Zoomed out.

According to Genesis, the first problem God found in creation was Adam’s loneliness. Therefore, the Lord created Eve to join him. We are individuals created for community. It’s not good for anyone to be alone.

I’m thankful for technology, but meeting online is like holding hands while wearing gloves. A line from an old hymn has gained new meaning during the present crisis: “God be with you till we meet again.”

America the Beautiful

In 1893, a young English professor at Wellesley College traveled cross-country to teach in Colorado. She viewed the “alabaster city” of Chicago’s World Fair and the “fruited plains” of the Midwest with awe and wonder. Inspired by the journey, Katherine Lee Bates wrote a poem later retitled, “America the Beautiful.”

Over the past months,  a stanza of the hymn has taken on additional meaning.

America! America!

May God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine.

In my lifetime, our nation has made progress towards racial equality, but we still have a long way to go. Join me in a prayer for our country:

God mend your every flaw.

Confirm you soul in self-control,

your liberty in law.

Amen.