Monday Morning Musings for 04.03.17

  1. "So, why do you guys do Lent? I thought that was a Catholic thing." I am asked that question a lot this time of year. Actually, the season of Lent is not just a Catholic thing, but is part of a larger liturgical calendar in which churches can remember the significant, foundational events that ground our theology and doctrine. Lent, for example, mirrors what happens in the gospels. Each gospel slows and elongates during the last week of Jesus' life with those six days making up one third of the gospel's content. Thus, our church spends the six weeks before Easter (Lent) talking about what took place in that one week. Why? Unless you grasp what happened during Lent, Easter will never be more than a nice day to dress up with your family and have brunch. It will never change you. It will never stir joy, because you have not seen the darkness before it. You have not witnessed the suffering and sacrifice nor your cupability in it. However, when you walk through the darkness of Lent and fathom its reality, the innocent man who is tried and falsely accused, the One who takes what we deserved, then the dawning of Easter morning will fill your heart and nourish your soul forever. As I will share this Sunday, we have to know the darkness of Holy Saturday before the glory of Easter morning transforms our hearts, our minds, and our world.
  2. POWER OF MUSIC: Christian band MercyMe has a current hit called Dear Younger Me in which the singer considers what he might tell himself when he was younger. Many times, we don't pay attention to song lyrics. If we like the tune and it fits our mood, we roll along driving our car or running or whatever it is we are doing. For whatever reason last week, that song made me stop and think: What would I tell my younger self if I could? There would be many things, but I would tell Younger Me to not be in such a hurry to get where I thought I was going – to stay present – to enjoy the moment – to not miss the joy of what is the unknown of what will be. Yes, I would even be so cliche as to tell Younger Me the joy is in the journey, not the destination. I would tell Younger Me to quickly lose the expectation that an obedient Christian life means one where God protects you from challenge or pain. His promise is to be present and to form us into Christ's image. By definition, that will mean some hard things - some painful things – for it is only in those crucibles that we learn and grow. I would tell Younger Me to lean into those moments and embrace them - not to fight them and wish them gone so soon. I would tell Younger Me that the things I used to define myself by were actually things that don't matter. I would tell Younger Me to start investing in things that did. And I would tell Younger Me that God is absolutely faithful in all things, that He is trustworthy, and to give up depending on myself for answers or strength or security. #somethingsIwishilearnedsooner
  3. ONLY GOD COULD WRITE THIS STORY: Two days ago, I officiated at the wedding of Scarlett Stewart and Scott M. Broughton. Theirs is a story only God could write. Scarlett lost her Dad to a brain tumor when she was little. However, her Mom found love again and Scarlett was blessed by "a second Dad." Fast foward a few decades. Scott and Amanda Broughton marry and have three wonderful children, but Scott loses Amanda to cancer. Fast forward. Scott meets Scarlett. Scarlett and Scott fall in love, and God gives each to the other a person with a unique understanding of what the other has been through – and now the Broughton kids have "a second Mom" who knows deeply what they have been through – and one who will love them well. The joy in that sanctuary on Saturday was as thick as any I have ever felt. #celebroughton
  4. ONLY GOD COULD WRITE THIS STORY 2: Last Tuesday, our Session (board of church elders and pastors) received the great blessing of hearing the testimony of Cheryl Mendes-Ellis. Cheryl was approved and endorsed to become the first black female candidate for ordination to pastoral ministry in the history of First Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of Florida. As our church seeks greater diversity, it was a truly historic moment. I can't do her story justice here, but after college and a career in the Navy as a navigator, a time that also included losing her husband, the only thing she wanted to do was serve God. She found RTS and our church _ and now her journey continues. I cannot wait to see what God will do through this amazing woman of faith!
  5. WEIRD LIFE: I had a rare Sunday off yesterday in which I was NOT out of town. Leigh and I thought, "OK. This is going to be great. What do normal people do on Sundays?" Answer: we went out to brunch. It was fascinating. I had no idea. Brunch is a thing. I wanted to survey all the people and ask them why they weren't at church, but I refrained.
  6. HISTORIC 2: Last week was also a time of celebration for our elders and our church as we became the planting church – or mother church – for the first Hispanic (Spanish-speaking) EPC Church in Florida! Planting Pastor Rev. Luis Quinones has a strong group of 120 forming Nacion Santa in Haines City, Florida – about 30 miles south of Orlando. They worship at 2 pm Sunday afternoons out of First Presbyterian Church, Haines City (ECO). Please pray for this new faith community and if you live near there, we are searching for a space to use on Sunday MORNING. Please keep your eyes open for any such locations!
  7. PERSONAL VICTORY: I normally would not share this sort of thing, but as many of you know, I am the least handy person on the planet. Leigh does all maintenance and repairs on our house, or she hires someone to do it. I struggle to change lightbulbs. My ultimate humiliation was being asked, while working on a Habitat House, to stop working and hand out water. Yes, that happened. So, when I actually fixed my sink last week, it was truly one of my great personal achievements. My sink had quit draining, so I called my favorite plumber, Joe Alexander, and Joe told me what to do. And by an act of God, I actually did it!! The satisfaction I have taken in this achievement is actually quite sad. 
  8. SPIDERS MAY EAT US ALL: If you have a fear of spiders, don't read this. A recent study by UNC researchers showed there are actually far more spiders present in our day to day lives than originally assumed. In data taken from a collection of southern-tier states, spiders were found in 100% of homes. Every single one. There is probably one looking at me right now as I type this. Further, spiders have voracious appetites. They consume 400 to 800 million pounds of prey each year, well more than the combined weight of all 7 billion people on the planet. If all the spiders got together…well…just saying.
  9. I really need UNC to win tonight. It would make next Sunday's offering better. I'll just say that. A lot better.