Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Singing on Pitch

An Inkling
Over the years I’ve sung in choirs from time to time.  When I do, I try to sit next to someone in the bass section who is good at staying on pitch.  Even with my eyes on the music, my voice wanders at points, and it’s wonderfully helpful to have someone who is pitch perfect nearby to pull me back on.
Have you noticed that in the Christian chorus there is only One who is pitch perfect?  Even with the biblical score right under our noses, and even with practice and diligent effort, we all wander off pitch at points.  So we need to make sure we’re seated right next to the Savior whose pitch is unfailingly perfect.
I was led to these ponderings this week by the visit of the Pope to our shores.  He’ll be singing the faith on the grandest of American stages.  And he’s good – really good.  I love the ways this Pope sings the faith.
Even so, only the Savior is pitch perfect.  So all of us who love the Savior, and who have been graciously pulled back on tone ourselves, can pray for the Pope as he boldly sings the faith on those big stages.  May he find himself at every moment seated right next to that One with perfect pitch!
And I for one am sure that that will be in the bass section!  Ha!
God bless Pope Francis,


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Monarchist in a Democracy

An Inkling
There’s nothing quite like a presidential campaign for making one happy to live in a monarchy – the Kingdom of God! 
The One who reigns need not campaign.  He seeks us, not our votes.  His promises, far from pandering, come with a bracing call to lay down our lives for others, and thereby to follow where he has already led.
The One who reigns needs no polls to inform him before he declares his platform, which comes from his heart, and intends goodness for us beyond what we know for ourselves.  Yet he welcomes us to speak our hearts to him, and takes our heartfelt passions seriously as he acts, even as he reshapes our passions along the way.
There’s nothing quite like a presidential campaign for making one happy to live in a monarchy!  Even so, that Monarch has seen fit to put us in a nation with presidential and other campaigns, and has called us to choose as those he has chosen – no small challenge that!
May the Monarch bless this would be democracy with more and more of those who are subject first to him.
His, and thus yours,


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An A Message

An Inkling
Sarah and I kept hearing good things about the new movie War Room, so we went to see it, and are glad we did.  I don’t see many movies, and I am certainly not cinema-astute enough to write a legit review.  But here are a few thoughts about it…
  • I was surprised by the previews.  Most of the movies I see are uplifting and thoughtful, but follow previews that are degrading and mindless.  Not so with War Room.  Its previews were obviously selected to appeal to the War Room audience, featuring coming attractions with positive and/or Christian values.  And there are a lot coming soon to a theater near you!  Obviously Hollywood has discovered a new paying audience, and gratefully more and more Christians are taking up the cinematic arts.
  • War Room is a B movie with an A message.  Here I venture a review with my limited understanding:  the acting and cinematography were good, but not good enough entirely to overcome a predictable and at times cheesy plot.  Don’t expect an Oscar.  Even so, I’ve seen worse Christian movies, and over-all the genre is clearly improving.  It was plenty good enough to move me to tears at points.
  • Seeing this movie felt like going to a black church.  We were among just a handful of Anglos in a theater full of African-Americans, who brought their worship habits with them – i.e., the theater regularly sounded with  “Amen,” “Uh huh,” and “That’s right” – even without a preacher!  That certainly added to the joy of the movie, and made it a communal rather than a private experience.
  • And finally, I was deeply moved by the message.  Without spoiling the plot for you, I can say that War Room filled me with a renewed zeal for prayer, and that’s a blessing by whatever means it comes.

So now my voice is joined with others saying, “You gotta see War Room.”  And may God bless all those who seek to bring the good news by all means possible.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's Not What You Know...

An Inkling
It’s not what you know, but who you know…
Usually I hear that offered as a cynical take on “why he got the job instead of me.”  But it’s also a crucial insight for spiritual life.
David Brooks is a recent example of one who is very wise in the ways life actually works.  Despite the fact that he is not a Christian, much of what he writes in his books and for the New York Times resonates with biblical insights.  He is clearly informed by his Jewish roots, and he is well studied in Christian thinkers, from Augustine to Dorothy Day, making him a favorite writer among many Christians.  But as I read him I can’t help but feeling that something is still missing.  It’s not what you know, but who you know…
I saw the same dynamic some years ago with Scott Peck.  He was a psychiatrist, whose best seller, The Road Less Traveled, resonated with wisdom, much of it aligned with scriptural insights, though he himself was not a Christian.  As it turned out, soon after he wrote The Road Less Traveled he became a Christian – and the crucial missing piece was provided.  So he said himself.  It’s not what you know, but who you know…
That’s what Jesus claimed – about himself!  Knowing all manner of wisdom is not enough.  Knowing him is.  It’s not what you know, but who you know…
May it become so for David Brooks and many like him. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Goodness by Surprise

An Inkling
Thank you for your kind wishes and prayers for our anniversary trip.  It was a great joy, and we’re still processing all that we saw and experienced.
Here’s where we went:  we flew to Rome; boarded a cruise ship from there to the Eastern Mediterranean, where we stopped in Santorini, Istanbul, Ephesus, Mykonos, Athens, and Naples.  It was a trip of both natural beauty and historical wonder, the full account of which would take hours, and would surely remind you why you try to avoid travelogues!
An immense amount of planning goes into such a trip.  Moving 3000+ passengers and 1000+ crew members across that much territory, feeding them and keeping them healthy, doesn’t just happen.  And our place in it didn’t just happen either.  Ron Sleeth’s expert help was a great gift as we planned the trip and its excursions.
But some of the greatest gifts of the trip were of the kind that only the Lord can plan.  For example, we flew to Rome on an overnight flight, arriving at our hotel at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, and the clerk told us that the Pope would be preaching at noon in the great Vatican Square, less than a mile away.  So we walked over, and joined tens of thousands from around the globe – quite a preview of heaven – to hear Pope Francis preach in Italian.  I could pick out only a couple of words, but the presence of the Spirit and the joy of that gathering were clear enough.  I snapped the attached picture as he preached.  And so one of the greatest gifts of the trip came to us with no planning of our own.
Then there were other unplanned blessings.  We met a lovely Christian couple from San Diego, Richard and Nancy, and greatly enjoyed hearing how the Lord was at work in their lives.  On the Island of Mykonos we happened upon a little Orthodox chapel, filled with icons, and offering a lovely place apart from the crowds of beach goers and shoppers.  Then each night at dinner we were waited upon by Pedro, a Honduran who leaves his family as he sails for seven months a year, and who served up not only fine food, but also great kindness.  And then, to top it off, when we got home we had dozens of anniversary cards from family and friends – amazing!
God is good, and his goodness is sweetest when it comes by surprise.