Tuesday, August 26, 2014

E.C.O. Beauty

An Inkling
Having lived in Richmond for seven years now, many sights are now familiar to the eye.  Even so I try to keep my eyes open to the beauty of this place – trees flowering in the spring and brightly colored in the fall, flowers of every hue, a varied terrain, and the diverse forms of four seasons.  I still shake my head at times in amazement.
Last week Sarah Marsh, Larry Moffett, Sarah Hill, and I attended the annual gathering of our new denomination, the E.C.O.  It’s still so new that my eyes are not at all accustomed to its sights.  The whole of the gathering took place in a standard issue conference center in Dallas – no sight worth noting there.  But the beauty of the gathering itself was eye-popping.  Here’s how:
  • In a two and a half day meeting, only four hours were spent doing business in the Synod and Presbytery meetings.  The rest was all worship, teaching, networking, and fellowship.  I found that striking because I was so used to the reverse portions for denominational gatherings.
  • Our worship had passion, diverse artistic and musical forms, and an unapologetic, singular focus – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That seems like a no-brainer, but for years I’ve been at denominational gatherings where Trinitarian language was carefully minimized or avoided.  What a simple and profound beauty!
  • Our speakers addressed such matters as:  how to foster deep community by pursuing mission together, how grace can be central in relationships with sexually broken people, pointers on how to make covenant groups and church partnerships work, how a church culture can be changed from an inward to an outward focus, the messiness of engaging with people in need, how to partner with International Justice Mission for local and global engagement, and how to plan worship.  Again, such topics seem like no brainers, but their beauty stood out to me in part because I had not seen such at this kind of gathering.

I have been a Presbyterian pastor for 33 years.  But in this new ecclesiastical terrain I am finding beauty like I’ve never seen before.  My eyes are popping.
Obviously not everyone gets to enjoy the beauty of life in Virginia.  And truth be told, every place has its own kind of beauty.  But I’m very grateful for the beauty of this place, where God has planted me.  And I can say the same for our church’s new home in E.C.O. – it’s beautiful.  Thank you Lord!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


An Inkling
Last week one morning about 9:30 I got a FaceTime call, apparently from my daughter, Dorothy.  But when I answered, I saw two year old Caroline instead.  She said, “Hi Pop.”  Even as she did the phone was in motion, and I saw her face, then her tummy, then the ceiling, etc.  Gratefully I’m not prone to motion sickness.  
I had a hunch that Caroline had called me on her own, and sure enough when I asked where mommy was, she told me she was in the other room.  So we had a nice little talk – about half of which I could understand.  It ended abruptly when she hit the End Call button.  It was great fun.  I had never had a call from a two year old before!
I felt honored that she would want to call me, and even more honored when I later learned how it happened.  Her mom had let her play on the phone with a couple of FaceTime apps – FaceTime with Elmo and FaceTime with Cookie Monster.  These apps make it look like you’re conversing with Elmo or Cookie, complete with your own face in the corner, etc.  So for Caroline to pause those conversations to find me – well that felt like a special honor.
I’ve always heard that a two year old moves seamlessly between real and pretend worlds.  Did she recognize any difference between Elmo, Cookie, and me?  Hmmm.
For that matter, a lot of us wonder about how real our cyber encounters are.  Maybe fifty-nine year old Pop and two year old Caroline can be partners in sorting such things out.  That will surely be done best with an in the flesh FaceTime.
But in between such moments, I’m happy to have a FaceTime with a two year old!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Get Real!

An Inkling
“Get real!”  So we say when someone’s not taking full account of reality. 
It’s good advice.  Life doesn’t work so well when our eyes are closed to large parts of its reality.  If we’re to live well and wisely, we must know what we’re facing.  Thus the counsel:  “Get real!”
So how do we do that?  Usually we mean recognizing the cold, hard facts, and double-knot tying our wishes for what could be to the actuality of what is.  Those who fail to deal with the facts of life we tag as hopeless dreamers – not because they lack hope, but because their dreams are so detached from actuality that they’re silly.
All of which brings us to the Sanctuary.  What?!  Isn’t that where we go to get away from the cold, hard facts?  That’s how we tend to think.  We think of the Sanctuary as a safe place, apart from life’s harshness.  And in a way it is.  The Sanctuary, as the primary place for us to gather and celebrate God’s goodness, is a safe place.  There the Spirit does comfort, and we are met by the Prince of Peace.  Thus we think of our Sanctuary time as a preparation for facing the real world again.
But really that’s backwards!  If we’re to “get real,” the most important factor to include in our assessment of things is God himself!  We’re not being realistic until we factor in the One dominant reality in every situation.  How real can we be if we’re not recognizing him?  Not very.  Yet that’s what tends to happen through the days of the week – we lose sight of God. 
Not so in the Sanctuary.  There we are tangibly reminded of God’s presence, and reawakened to his dominant reality.  Eyes glazed over with mere facts are opened to the One who transforms the sum of such facts by his very presence.  And that’s no dream.  That’s reality.
So, “get real!”  See you in worship.