Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking on a Look

An Inkling

We can’t resist.  Whenever we see a newborn we scan the features to see whom the baby favors.  Never mind that the head is still misshapen and it’s hard to get a good look at the eyes.  The speculation begins.
But really you can’t tell about such things until the baby is becoming a toddler.  As the fat cheeks slim and a neck emerges, as hair fills in and eyes take on a steady color, then we can really see what the little one looks like.
With a week of joint Vacation Bible School, I believe we’re getting to that toddler stage in our relationship with Westwood Baptist Church.  We had done a couple of Thanksgiving services together, and our women had gotten together.  But with the VBS week we’ve begun to see what this “baby” will really look like.
This year, rather than doing our own VBS, we joined in Westwood’s.  They have VBS in the evenings, and all ages join in.  They have worship, dinner, classes, and recreation (like learning to play drums, play soccer, or praise dance).  So it was great fun for us St. Giles folks.  Hopefully we added to the joy for the Westwood saints.  They said we did.  And the traits of these common life endeavors began to show their look. 
And there’s more to come.  Church on the Avenue, the new church meeting in Mary Munford School, also joined us in the VBS week.  The three of us are investigating how we can bless Thomas Jefferson High School next year.  It’s the closest high school, and it has some real challenges.  Our service there will take on a different look through our combined efforts.  We’re not sure where that will lead, but we believe God is calling forth new looks in this corner of his Kingdom.
He does that, you know.  There is endless fascination in discovering the look of his latest creation.  And there’s even more fun in being a part.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Starker Beauties

An Inkling
In February of 1987 Sarah and I visited Wichita Falls, Texas, to be considered for a pastoral post.  North Texas is not exactly lush any time of year, but in February it is particularly bleak.  As we left town and reviewed our experience we each wondered aloud what it might be like to live in such an austere place (actually I think word we used was “ugly”).
I was discussing this soon after with one of my mentors, and he said, “You know, God spreads his beauty everywhere.  There are just some places where you have to slow down and get up close to see it.”  Then he went on to describe his own experiences in north Texas, relishing tiny flowers that can be seen only by stooping down, noting how life can take root even in the harshest settings, observing the endless contour and texture variations of the topography, etc.
I thought of that this week as I traversed some stark scriptural terrain.  This summer I’ve been preaching in Isaiah.  While there are starker scriptural landscapes (think Leviticus or Nahum), compared to the recent year spent preaching from John, beauty in Isaiah is found by moving slowly and stooping down.  But there is certainly beauty there.  
God spreads his beauty everywhere.  There are just some places where you have to slow down and get up close to see it.
We greatly relished our years in north Texas.  We discovered its beauty, which in turn has given me a better eye for the more verdant beauties of places like Richmond.  So, too, with Isaiah and John.  So, too, with various seasons of life.  So, too, with the variety of people I meet. 
God spreads his beauty everywhere.  And one of his many ongoing projects with us is to develop our eye for full variety of his beauty.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Babbling Bytes

An Inkling
He said, “I suggest that you not go to Las Vegas anytime soon.”  I was at the Apple store, and he had just explained to me that yes, in addition to my usual hard drive going bad, so had my back up hard drive.  Two gone bad in one week!  How could that be?  He attributed it to bad luck – thus his Las Vegas advice.
I find a more helpful paradigm in the Genesis 11 story of the Tower of Babel.  You remember the story.  Each of those early Genesis chapters shows how life continued to unravel after our forebears chose to live apart from the One in whose image they were made.  In Genesis 11 that unraveling manifested as confusion, which arose as they sought fame through building a tower that reached the heavens.
I have a picture of that tower in my office.  Why?  Because it explains so much of what I see in the world and in my own life:  apart from God we can only build so high before confusion breaks out – sooner or later, every time.
As computers have improved we have forgotten just how high we are stacking the byte bricks in our tower.  I had about 300 gigabytes of information on my hard drive.  As a reminder: a byte stores a character of text; a kilobyte – 1000 bytes – stores about 20 lines of text; a megabyte – 1000 kilobytes – stores about 400 pages of text, which comprises a long book; and a gigabyte – 1000 megabytes – stores about 1000 long books.  So do the math – on my little hard drive I had stacked the equivalent of 300,000 long books.  And we won’t even bother with terabytes, petabytes, etc.
If it hadn’t been bad sectors on the hard drives, it would have been a power surge or a virus or…  you name it.  Sooner or later, every time, confusion finds its way into towering human achievements.  It’s how life works in a broken world.
When we talk about our need for a Savior usually we have in mind some bottom dwelling behavior.  But in this world even our towering achievements need a Savior – be they cyber, spiritual, relational, political, or something solid enough to hold in your hand.
We have such a Savior!  Thanks be to God.