What Others Say

Just a note to thank you for your wonderful weekly columns in the Galveston Paper.
To open a newspaper and see references to God, Scriptures, Kindness, Peace, Loving one another is what our whole world needs now more than ever. -John D. Galveston, Texas

Monday, April 28, 2014

VW Bug Misadventure

A few years ago I bought a 1977 VW Bug.  Every fender was dented. Peeling paint fluttered in the wind and it had no bumpers.  It was on its last legs.  It even had “salvage” stamped in red letters across its title.  Its next stop, if not with me, would probably be the junk yard.  It might have been melted down for scrap metal and recycled as a Porsche. Who knows?

But when I drove it, in spite of its rattles, it appealed to me. It was kind of like the Love Bug, Herby, begging for another chance.  So, I bought it on a nostalgic impulse and towed it home.

When I hooked it to my truck and pulled away from the house where I found it, the wife of its previous owner stood on the porch and applauded. She was happy to see it go, an eyesore removed from her driveway.  When I showed it to one of my friends, he asked if I found it at the bottom of a lake.  My wife is understanding and allows me these little follies, but made it clear I had to clean it up.

I took it to a body shop where they took one look at it and said, “We don’t do that kind of work.”  But they pointed me to someone who did body work in his backyard and had experience with old VWs.  He walked around my bug, examined it carefully and announced, “I’m not afraid of it.”  That sealed the deal.  Mark helped me with a cheap makeover. 

I now drive my VW bug to run errands.  Last week the gas gauge registered a quarter of a tank.  I left home without my billfold, but thought surely I had enough gas to return home.  But the bug was just kidding about the gas.  At a major intersection the electric fuel pump went wild gasping for gas.  The engine gave a few last chugs and then I was stuck, an old guy blocking traffic in an old bug.

Cars continued to whiz past.  Spying a Shell station a couple of blocks in the distance, I crawled out and started pushing.  These old bugs are light and, if it is an even or downhill slant, not too hard to get them rolling.  After I had pushed it for about a block, a car pulled up, a young man jumped out and started pushing, then another joined him. They insisted I get inside and steer.  Apparently my efforts were slowing them down. They shoved me across the street and up the drive where I rolled to a stop next to the gas pump.

A woman stopped and said she just wanted to say that the scene had restored her faith in humanity. I guess it helped mine as well.  Both the young men quickly disappeared before I could offer them anything, not that I could since I had forgotten my billfold.

It reminded me that sometimes life is just about being nice, and that there are a lot of nice people in the world willing to give a hand … or a push.  (Philippians 2:3-5).
 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Light Within - Reflecting on Boston and West

Last week the small town of West, Texas marked one year since the devastating chemical explosion leveled a large section of the town killing fifteen and injuring more than 200.  Those who were there, and those who witnessed the mushroom cloud rising on the horizon, will never forget.  

Today 35,755 runners participated in the first Boston Marathon since the horrendous bombing one year ago that killed and maimed spectators and participants near the finish line. 

One event was the result of a tragic accident, the other a hideous crime. But in both cases, the year past was remembered by remarkable stories of courage, faith and determination.

In West, a choir sang Amazing Grace while surrounded with ferns and flickering candles on which students wrote, “Rise Up West!”  CNN reported, “Residents say their faith has been instrumental in understanding and dealing with last April's tragedy. Montgomery Irwin says the anniversary falling so close to Easter -- with its message of resurrection and renewal -- is especially appropriate for the people of West.”

In Boston survivors and responders from last year's bombing participated in a one mile tribute-run on Saturday.  Mayor, Martin J. Walsh spoke to the crowd, “As I look out on the crowd, there is a lot of inspiration. I want to thank you for your courage and your resilience.”  At Old South Church, near the finish line, tribute runners were given blue and yellow scarves knitted by volunteers across the country.

Perhaps John had this kind of human resilience in mind when he wrote, “That was the light which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (John1:9).  Every human being is born with a reflection of that light that is at the source of creation.  In some way we are like the clouds that reflect the rising sun, streaked with crimson, purple and gold prior to the sun’s entrance. Often in our moments of greatest heartache and difficulty we reflect the greater glory.  But when the sun rises, its brilliance supersedes everything that has gone before.

This may be what Zecharias meant when he said, “The sunrise from on high has visited us!” (Luke 1:78).  Or John, when he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten Son of God.”  (John 1:14).  All of our expressions of courage, faith and determination, mixed as they are with our shortcomings and our sins, are but dim reflections of the perfect light that is found in God.

It seems fitting that between remembering these two tragic events, the world paused to celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Seeking comfort, consolation and inspiration, we turned our eyes toward that signal event in human history when God entered into our suffering through His Son and overcame death and the grave.

Our human resilience reflects not on our own glory, but on the glory of Him who made us in His image, Who sent His Son to forgive us our sins and transform us into children of light. He is the source of all comfort and all strength.

 

 

Monday, April 14, 2014

If A Man Die, Shall He Live Again?


I was twenty-nine years old when my father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.  He was fifty-three.  Only hours before his death, I spoke with him.  Our eyes met during that final visit, the same eye contact we had shared from my birth. I held his hand as he drew his last breath, and then, he was gone.  His body lay lifeless and unresponsive.

The morticians took his body from the hospital room where our family had waited through the night.  We visited the funeral home and chose a casket.  Shortly afterward other family and friends joined us to view his body lying still and quiet, dressed in his familiar suit, his hair combed.  I stood by the casket and stared at his face.  It was obvious another hand had combed his hair and another hand had tied his tie.  He seemed to be sleeping.  I almost imagined him drawing breath. Almost imagined him opening his eyes so that they sparkled once again with life, his lips parting in the familiar grin, the dimples reappearing in his cheeks.  But he didn’t move. We buried his body in the cemetery thirty-eight years ago surrounded by friends who came to comfort us, many of whom are now buried nearby. 

I asked myself the question Job asked centuries ago, the question every man and woman must ultimately ask when they stand where I stood on that day, “If a man die, shall he live again?”(Job 14:14).

Job’s struggle with the question was not about theology or philosophy.  His struggle was like mine.  It was personal.  It is the struggle we all must face sooner or later when those whom we love die.  “At least there is hope for a tree,” Job said, “If it is cut down it will sprout again. … Its’ roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.” (Job 14:7-10)

After having pondered the question, Job foresaw the Easter event we celebrate this weekend.  He wrote, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

The world will ponder Job’s question this weekend when we gather in Christian churches around the world. If Jesus was raised from the dead, the answer to life’s most important question is clear.  Luke wrote, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).  Paul wrote, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).


Monday, April 7, 2014

When He Comes

We pursue our educations, work at our careers, raise our families, worry about retirement and prepare for the inevitable: death and taxes. In the meantime, the lives of believers and non-believers show little marked difference other than church attendance. Beyond confessions of faith, hymns and sermons, the Second Coming of Christ appears to be irrelevant to daily life.

But what if He comes today? What if He comes tomorrow? What if He came yesterday? No, I am not suggesting you missed the “rapture.” But, He did, in fact, come yesterday and He will, in fact, come today. Jesus comes to us everyday if we are looking for Him. He comes in small, imperceptible and unexpected ways. He comes in the interruptions that beg for our attention and threaten to derail our pre-planned agendas.

This is exactly what Jesus taught His disciples before His ascension into Heaven. Jesus said when He returns, “the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-46)

He came to me in the person of a young Hispanic employee at Wal-Mart who needed words of encouragement. He came in the form of a Chinese woman named Chiu who was fishing on a pier with her mentally handicapped daughter. Once He came in the form of a teenage unwed mother who had given birth to a son who died a few days later. How many times have I missed Him and failed to recognize Him? I don't know. He comes every day in many ways and forms that we are likely to miss if we are too focused on our own agendas. We might even miss Him by being too focused on our opinions about eschatology.

If we live our lives alert and ready to receive Him each and every day in the small encounters with the “least of these” we will become salt and light, as Jesus described it. In the process, we will be ready to receive Him in that day, when He appears like lightning from east to west. We might even hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”