Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Language and Law

Watching the news early this morning (a 6:30 phone call will wake you up) I was struck by several stories that indicate the direction our cultural world is spinning.

Goldman Sachs big wigs listened to Senate interrogators repeatedly use a word that has become a standard verbal staple these days. The Senators were reading emails from the Wall Street firm that seemed to incriminate GS in shady and less than honest stock dealing practices. If you were watching the hearings live on CSPAN you probably heard it sans beep.

As I recall its usage "in my day" it referred to fecal material, and was at times used as an angry expletive. But you didn't dare say it in front of adults (even though you knew most of them used it frequently) or in public settings. The word (like several others) was deemed too offensive. Monday, while subbing in a high school, I heard it flowing liberally in the halls and classrooms. Apparently it is no longer offensive to the American ear.

Recently I've gone on notice on Facebook that I won't tolerate my friends dropping the f-bomb on the online social network. Their posts appear on my page, and frankly, I don't want to read it. Call me old-school, but it still offends me. If you want to be my FB friend (and I'm glad to have you on my list), keep it clean. BTW, the only offenders thus far have been teenagers. That's a whole 'nuther post.

I remember clearly when the word "retarded" was commonly used in adolescent conversation. If something was considered dumb, out of the norm or senseless it was called "retarded". It was another word that made the older generation cringe because of its offense to some very special people in our world. In a round-about way it made fun of people who deserved much better than to be lumped with all things undesirable.

That word seemed to diminish in recent years - at least in my hearing, indicating maybe we have become a more sensitive nation. But this week I've seen it peek its head back up a couple of times. Once was by a Facebook teen friend - which indicates it is on a comeback as a trendy term. The other was in this morning's paper and used by a NFL player. Again, atheletes set the trends, even in our language. (I'm so tired of the phrase "It is what it is" that I first began to hear in post-game interviews ten years ago.)

Heck, we don't even know what "is" means anymore. Remember? And that leads me to my next pondering this morning.

In addressing the issue of illegal immigration, a fire being stoked by the state of Arizona's hard line, our current president, Mr. Obama, said (in a speech yesterday) words to this effect: "We'll let [illegals already in this country] go to the back of the [immigration] line and legally gain citizenship. Then we can go back to being a nation of laws."

Wait a second. I'm no Constitutional lawyer, but aren't we already a "nation of laws"? We don't have to "go back" to what we are. Seems to me we just need to enforce (the job of the executive branch of our government) the laws we have on the books. It sounds like our president is calling for a suspension of law. I'm all for immigration. I'm here because of immigration, for Pete's sake. I'm also about secure borders. And the purpose of the law is to protect if nothing else.

But to do that we have to go back to the subject of language. What part of "illegal" do we not understand? (To cover up our bias against law we tend to change terminology. Hence, "illegal" is changed to "undocumented". Oops. They just forgot to pick up their papers as they slipped across the border under the cover of darkness.)

And just as I'm no lawyer, I'm not an economist either. But I wonder...if there were no illegal aliens in this country where our current unemployment rate would be? I suspect it would be much lower if only those in this country legally, who have the "right" to work, competed for jobs.

Just thinking out loud. I hope my words didn't offend.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Flashback

Some of what's brewing in my head this Sunday night...

I attended a worship service at a local church of another brand to hear an old friend preach. What I heard and witnessed helped me understand the differences between us. It's just too bad that the 2,000 years of Christianity haven't kept Christ-followers on the same page.

The early service at the other church allowed me to worship with NHC at our second gathering. There's no place like home. Pastor Steve Wise told his story today and how a faithful witness shared Christ with him during "the dark ages" of his early adult life, changing him forever. Great message. Great worship.

How blessed Gail and I are to be grandparents! Today we celebrated Evaine's first birthday. These two little girls have no idea how loved they are by all their family.

I've had to drop a second teenage Facebook friend. These are kids professing Christ, yet who are somehow not building Christ-like values into their communication skills. It makes me realize how important my upcoming series on FAMILY needs to be in the lives of parents and their chlidren. Biblical values are hard to find these days in the homes of Americans. I wonder if parents have just given up, or if they're totally naive as to the influences their kids face each day.

This is my last week of Sabbatical. I'm well-rested and stress free! But there are still a lot of things I had hoped to accomplish that will have to wait for another time. I'll be back in the saddle next Sunday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Makes You Wonder Why

The leading news story tonight is about a police chief killed in a single car accident. His pick up truck blew a tire, he lost control and was ejected from the vehicle. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Last June, in the same town, the mayor was killed in a traffic accident. He was a career firefighter. He was not wearing a seat belt.

The news is both sad and perplexing. Wearing a seat belt is the law in their state. Surely both knew that. In fact, the chief was sworn to enforce the law. The firefighter has no doubt seen way too many traffic fatalities not to know that wearing them saves lives. His department has a policy that when riding fire apparatus the truck doesn't roll until everyone has their seat belt buckled.

Would the seat belts have saved their lives. I guess we'll never know.

Makes you wonder why we do the very things we know are wrong and don't do the things we know are right, doesn't it? But we do.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday Flashback

On a beautiful Spring Sunday in Paradise we visited another local church in our community. Even still, Gail said what we both feel. "I really just want to go to our church". But we're taking advantage of the sabbatical to find out what other churches are doing to reach and teach our community.

What we found was a church gathering we both enjoyed very much. The Church of the OBX meets at the YMCA in the gym - which is a challenge - and has done just about everything they can to transform a gymnasium into a house of worship. It looked great.

The band played some mellow contemporary music and was super. I enjoyed singing the songs because they were familiar to me. Familiar means I can better relate to their message and consequently have a deeper worship experience than if I've never heard them before.

The pastor (a friend of mine) brought a message on the post-resurrection focus of the church; a timely message since last Sunday was Easter. He was easy to follow and well prepared. The challenge to his church was for them to do the same things that the first church did in Acts 1-2. It was great to see the congregation immediately start taking down their chairs at the service's conclusion - everybody was doing something.

Starting around 10:00 (( say "around" because like last week's church they didn't start as advertised) it was over at 11:15. Gail said, "Let's go to NHC (our second gathering begins at 11:00 and we were just 2 miles away) and here Tom tell his story". So we did. And it was a good story!

Our elders are teaching a series in which each of them takes a Sunday to tell his own personal faith story. Doing so is accomplishing several positive outcomes. First, it allows the church to get to know them better. These guys are not normally up front teaching Sunday to Sunday like me, and my Sabbatical has given them a couple Sundays each to teach. That also reinforces our belief and practice that our elders are pastors. Second, their stories relate to the congregation. We often learn more and better from our failures and tests. These guys are transparently sharing those experiences.

I'm not sure where we'll go next Sunday, but I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday Flashback

Sundays on Sabbatical still produce a feeling of "lostness" for me. When you're used to years of your whole week coming down to what happens on Sunday and then that's gone it takes some adjustment. Compound that with being gone on Easter, which is the biggest Sunday of our year, and it's kind of surreal.

Even though we're home now, I've resolved to visit other churches on these Sundays to gain some perspective as a guest and to pick up some good ideas when I can. So yesterday we visited a young local church trying to carve out their "niche" in our community. I'll say this much: it was different. And all the while we were both wishing we were at home at NHC because it is home.

Sometime after the Sabbatical is over and we have worshipped in 12 or so different churches from FL to CA to NC I'll write some of the lessons I learned.

Sunday afternoon we had a crowd over, including our grandchildren, their parents, my brother's family, Gail's mom, and our grandkids' other grandparents and an aunt, and some more friends. We've been working hard the past few days on our yard (it's been sadly neglected for too long) getting the deck ship-shape and the front yard ready for an Easter egg hunt.

This year's (and future years') hunt is different from the big hunts we hosted a few years ago when our kids were all college aged. We'd invite their friends; make them all wear bunny ears and sent them out into the yard and woods behind the house searching for eggs. One of the eggs always was loaded with cash, so they were pretty motivated. It was always a lot of fun watching grown up kids get excited about hunting Easter eggs. Lots of craziness.

Now we're hosting mostly toddlers. Cuteness reigns, but not as funny or crazy as before.

The food on the deck was awesome. God gave us a picture perfect day, too, with warm temps and a Carolina Blue sky. On special days like Easter, which speak so much of the faith we have in Christ that holds us together it is also like icing on the cake to have so much fun with family and friends. And we're grateful to be blessed with a home that makes it possible. The older I get the more I get it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming

Narration is by the late Pastor S. M. Lockridge of San Diego, CA. Video is from the film "The Passion of the Christ".

Note: I was privileged to hear Lockridge preach in person while a college student.

Happy Birthday Nathan!

The Seminary secretary interrupted the Synoptic Gospels class I was in to tell me I needed to go home. Within the hour your mom and I were at the hospital, but you took your time. By late afternoon I had to excuse myself to go down Rivermont Ave. to the Cavalier for a couple of chili dogs.

May this 29th year be the very best of all. Your mom and I are proud of who you've become.

One's death gives others life

I find it almost eerily coincidental that today, April 2, is Good Friday. This is the day that the Christian world recognizes as the day Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was nailed to a cross and executed for crimes He had not committed. It is it is the most intriguingly wonderful tragedy of history.

His sacrificial death was His mission. It was not mission suddenly aborted, but mission accomplished. At 33 years old this Jewish carpenter turned teacher died in His prime, not as a failure but as the victor. Three days after being entombed His comeback from death would stand as the ultimate evidence that He was Who He claimed to be.

The heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus' death was necessary to give life to any and all who will believe in Him as their Savior. As He had predicted, the seed must fall into the ground and die in order to bear fruit. It was His dying role as our substitute - taking our sin upon Himself and bearing God's judgment for our sin -that made it possible for sinners (like me) to have God's forgiveness and possess His everlasting life. He died that we might live.

But I said today's history changing event of 2 millenium ago was "coincidental". So if you've been hanging with me this far you might wonder, "With what?".

Two years ago today someone unknown to me died. Likely it was a tragic death. At the least it was untimely. But of those details I have no information. It seems I heard that the one who died was male. However, I'm not sure of that.

But his death on 4/2/08 was not in vain.

Unknown to him and his family my daughter-in-law was living under a death sentence called cystic fibrosis. Her lungs were so hardened by the disease that without a double lung transplant, and soon, she would likely not live to see her nearly three month old daughter reach her first birthday.

In their grief, whoever they are - parents - spouse - family - those who were next of kin to that young adult who died graciously and selflessly agreed to allow his lungs to be "harvested". A team from Duke Medical Center flew to their location, retrieved those lungs that were free of CF, and on the evening of April 2 began the nine plus hour surgery on Tricia that would give her new life. It was a transaction none of us who know her will ever forget.

Sure, there are plenty of differences in the stories. What you or I gain from trading in our diseased souls for His life is eternal. Jesus chose to suffer and die.

But in both instances death provides life and the giver of that life "lives" within the recipient.

So today is a day of celebration doubled for our family. And for both we give thanks to God, the Giver of all good things.

Perhaps you're reading this and have never recieved the life Jesus freely offers. I hope you'll consider that God loves you with such an immeasurable love that He would allow His one and only Son to be your Substitute so that you could find freedom, forgiveness and a relationship with God that you were created to possess.

To receive that life requires one thing - faith (belief) that Jesus died for you. It's the kind of faith that must be exlusively in Him. By that I mean that you don't add Jesus to a list of gods. It's a faith that only He can give you eternal life.

It's not about a church or a ritual or saying a prayer. It's about simply believing. It costs you nothing. It cost Him everything. And He's willing to share.