What Happens in Vegas

Pray for Los Vegas

What happens in Vegas affects us all. As our nation grieves, may we turn our eyes towards God. Let us also unite in prayer for the victims, their families, the first responders, and the people of Las Vegas.

As of last night, 21 names of the 59 people killed have been released. They include:

Heavenly Father, comfort your sons and daughters. Bring peace that passes all understanding. Send Your Spirit of consolation. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

It’s a Dog’s Life, Part 4

Sam Glasses(Bill decided to take a break from his writing duties. The family’s Yorkshire Terrier, Sam, volunteered to serve as today’s guest columnist. Views expressed by the canine in no way reflect the blogger’s opinions.)

Bill’s introduction failed to mention that I am a RETURNING guest columnist. Today’s post marks the fourth in a series of blogs by yours truly. He also conveniently forgot to note that my posts always inspire record hits on his site

Jealousy is so unbecoming in a human.

My humans have been talking all week about a special service this Sunday, October 1, at Northside United Methodist Church. The tallest member of my pack works at the church in order to buy me kibble, treats, and squeeze toys.

The congregation is sponsoring a Blessing of the Pets’ service in honor of some saint guy named Thomas. The only saint I ever met was named Bernard, and he slobbered everywhere. I don’t THINK they’re related.

At any rate, everyone is gathering at Northside Church this Sunday at 4:00 to bless the animals. However, I DID overhear the short-haired member of the pack say he wasn’t blessing anything without shoulders that slithers on the ground.

GRRRRRR.

Color me confused. What’s the big deal? ALL animals are already blessed by God, and we bless our adopted families. I’m not sure why anyone needs a service to remember this, but humans do tend to be forgetful.

My humans plan to attend, but I have not yet determined whether to grace the congregation with my presence. Like many non-church-goers, crowds make me nervous.

I’ll say it again: it’s a dog’s life, and I’m not complaining. The Great Master in the Sky has blessed my family richly. Between you and me, I believe the Hound of Heaven has a soft spot for canines.

Think about it—“dog” is “God” spelled backwards.

Coincidence? I don’t think so!

Kudzu Sin

kidzuPhiladelphia hosted the United States Centennial Exposition in 1876. Countries from around the world sponsored exhibits.

Japan’s site featured a beautiful garden with native plants from the island nation. A green vine with large leaves and sweet smelling blossoms entranced guests.

Soon gardeners across the United States were planting KUDZU as an ornamental plant!

Two nursery operators in Florida discovered that animals could eat kudzu as forage. They shipped the plant across North America. In fact, a sign in Chipley, Florida proudly declares: Kudzu developed here!

During the Great Depression, the Soil Conservation Service promoted the use of kudzu to prevent soil erosion. It surpassed ALL expectations. Kudzu controlled soil erosion like General Sherman controlled urban sprawl during the Civil War!

Although attractive and fragrant, the invasive plant can overwhelm buildings and fields. The “Green Flame” chokes out other vegetation and trees, providing shelter for rats and snakes.

Sin is the kudzu of the spiritual life.

It begins small but quickly spreads. Sin is always deadly and destructive. It takes hold in our lives and overwhelms us. Then it chokes out our spiritual lives. Paul understood this reality when he wrote: The wages of sin is death.

The best way to control kudzu is to never allow it to take root. Turns out the same principle applies to sin.

Under Construction

The Northside Drive construction project recently celebrated its third anniversary. Crews continue to install new water and sewer lines along with reengineered lanes and expanded sidewalks.

At times, Northside has resembled a washed-out, third-world road. Other times, it hasn’t looked that good.

NS DriveBuckhead residents have learned to dodge potholes, traffic cones, manhole covers, dump trucks, and flagmen. Patience, time, and religion have all been lost during demolition, delays, and detours.

There have been both figurative and literal bumps in the road. Crews demolished the same concrete median they had poured a few weeks beforehand. Workers jack-hammered fresh cement to install a forgotten drain. A group of engineers stopped traffic and used an old-fashioned level to see if the road really sloped from crown to shoulder.

Northside Drive provides a metaphor for our spiritual lives. Each Christian is a construction project in various stages of demolition and construction. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. Other times, it’s downright ugly. Slowly, sometimes unsurely, however, imperceptible progress occurs.

A few weeks ago paving crews laid fresh asphalt on Northside Drive. Some proclaimed the end was near, but veteran residents remain unconvinced.

The church houses a people under construction, and sometimes we’re a hot mess. But just wait—you won’t believe how good we look when God gets done.

Lifetime Guarantee

TimexTimex made the first real wristwatch I ever owned. For over twenty years, John Cameron Swayze made the brand famous with his personal assurance: It takes a licking and keeps on ticking! According to TV commercials, Timex watches easily survived water skiing, skydiving, earthquakes, volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, and supernovas.

Back in the day, each watch came with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. However, I have never quite understood the meaning of this phrase. What does a lifetime guarantee really mean? And the “limited” modifier always sounded ominous; One could interpret the words several different ways. No doubt the company’s lawyers had just such an eventuality in mind.

Is the lifetime in question my own? If so, then I could confidently expect my original Timex to last all my mortal days. The last sound I would hear on earth would be its reassuring TICK, TICK, TICK.  However, I find it troubling that the Timex Company might have designed my life expectancy into the watch’s workings. I mean, how could they KNOW?

Or maybe the guarantee refers to the product’s lifetime. I find this less than helpful. After all, how long is a watch SUPPOSED to live? How many human years does one wristwatch year equal? I can imagine a conversation with a company representative: “It stopped after three months? Isn’t that amazing—that’s the average lifetime of that particular model!” When a Timex dies after ten years, perhaps mourners say things like, “Well, it’s a blessing. It lived a long and full life.”

In my case, I never had the opportunity to put the Timex Company’s guarantee to the test. No warranty covers a boy’s carelessness. Somewhere between home, school, and church, the watch lost itself. For all I know, the wristwatch is still tick-tocking away in some secret hiding place.

Other than death and taxes, life comes with few guarantees. Life does not even promise us tomorrow. Each day is a precious gift of time.

Yesterday is the past, and tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift, and that’s why it’s called “the present.”

Imagine someone deposited $86,400 in your bank account each morning. You could spend the money in any way. The daily gift came with only two stipulations: it must be spent by midnight and in ways pleasing to the Giver.

On any given day, we receive 86,400 seconds to be spent in service to God and others. The Lord calls us to be wise stewards of each moment. Like a misplaced watch, wasted time can never be regained.

This is the day the Lord has made. Don’t waste time: rejoice and be glad in it! You’ll be happy that you did—I personally guarantee it.

IKEA and the Large Church, Part 5: Assembly Required

During the past weeks, I have chronicled the details of my first—and by the grace of God, LAST—visit to IKEA. The Swedish home good stores left an indelible mark upon my psyche.

However, preachers notoriously use all of life’s experience as fodder for sermons. So I have written a series of blogs comparing and contrasting IKEA and the Large Church.

IKEA’s first floor contains acres of warehouse space called the Self-Serve Furniture Area. Swedish elves magically pack furniture into “flat-pack” boxes. In-house chiropractors treat foolish consumers who attempt to lift any container alone.

Signs proclaim the Scandinavian furniture is Ready to Assemble. This prevarication falls under the heading of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. The assembly of IKEA furniture has reduced Georgia Tech engineers and MIT post-grads to frustrated tears.

First, there are no words to describe IKEA’s instructions. Literally—there are no words. IKEA InstructionsInstead, the company uses pictograms to depict the step-by-step-by-step-by-step-by-step directions. For parents who have screamed profanities while assembling LEGO toys with their children, it’s like that—only worse.

IKEA gnomes have developed proprietary hardware for furniture reconstruction. Doodads, thingamabobs, gizmos, and doohickeys join infinite pieces in incomprehensible ways. The end result either resembles the picture on the box or an ACE Hardware Store that threw up on the floor.

The Large Church also comes from God Read to Assemble. With Christ Jesus as the cornerstone, the Spirit builds us block by block and life by life into a holy temple.

At times, the assembly process can be messy and frustrating. Some parts must be deconstructed and then reconstructed. Over time, however, the Lord works in, through, and despite us to create something greater than ourselves.

The Church is both gift and goal. We ARE the body of Christ . . . and we are BECOMING the body of Christ.

Perhaps the church sign out front should read: Assembly Required.

IKEA and the Large Church, Part 4: Not Actual Size

Until my first visit to IKEA, I never equated shopping and dining. Well, I usually eat a $1.50 hot dog and soda at Costco, but it hardly qualifies as haute cuisine. The Swedish home good store, however, features multiple epicurean opportunities .

The entrance features a full-service restaurant with Scandinavian-inspired dishes, including Swedish meatballs and salmon. A indiscriminate gourmand could consume a full breakfast, lunch, and supper for under $10.

The Swedish Food Market offers take-home options for those who just cannot get enough of roe sauce, sill dill, lax kallrokt, and sprat rolls. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

The dining experience continues with an exit café called the Bistro which features warm cinnamon rolls originally invented by—who-would-have-guessed-it—the Swedes!

IKEA Cinammon RollDuring my escape from IKEA, a large sign over the checkout counters caught my eye. The ten-foot-wide poster pictured a tantalizing breakfast roll oozing with sugar, cinnamon, and frosting. A disclaimer at the bottom read: “Not actual size.”

In my IKEA induced delirium, I giggled at the image of a customer ordering a one ton bun. However, some legal eagle must have felt a need for the proviso in our litigious society.

Perhaps the Large Church also needs a sign disclosing: “Not actual size.” With the exception of a single-cell, family chapel, every church contains multiple congregations. Natural divisions occur along worship services along with small group options and mission opportunities.

People misunderstand the concept of unity in church life. Christians disagree about traditional versus contemporary worship, Sunday School versus small groups, and local versus foreign missions.  Disciples debate theology, doctrine, polity, and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

What unites the church, however, is so much greater than any worldly distinction that might divide us. Paul reminded the New Testament church that Christians share in one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

The Large Church: Not Actual Size.

The body of Christ is actually MUCH larger, comprising the saints of God throughout space and time.