Thursday, March 27, 2008

Looking back and longing for the freedom of my chains . . (.Dobie Gray, 1972; Israelites , from the wilderness; and us pretty much all the time).

I love songs. One I've enjoyed singing lately is Amazing Grace (my chains are gone). For those unfamilar with the song, it is basically the traditional hymn, converted to 4/4 rather tnan 3/4 time (something I didn't realize until the first time I tried to lead it on the fly) with a bridge that proclaims, "My chains are gone, I've been set free . . "

Those of us who find God through the person of Jesus are familiar with this notion. We have always sung about it. "Glory, glory, hallelujah, since I lay my burden down." Apparently we are not convinced. It is like we are in a spiritual airport and some heavenly security officer is constantly announcing in a voice that sounds like Greg Bass, "Do not leave your burdens unattended"

It seems that we followers of the way have become infatuated with sin. We sing about it, study it, define it. We complain if our preachers don't mention it. We worry about how to tell a brother or sister that we think they are sinning. We worry if we don't tell them. You would think that the answer to the question, "What would Jesus do" would obviously be, "He would talk a lot about sin."

But He didn't talk about it all that much. At least not the way we do. He talked about love, service, freedom, and no condemnation. Most of the sin He talked about was when we fail to love or serve, when we restrict freedom, or when we condemn. He said come follow. He said go. He knew that for us to come follow and go we didn't need the heavy burden of our sin. That's why He got rid of it. As far as the east is from the west. Now that's some lost baggage. Or at least that's what Jesus thought. He wanted us to be travelling light so we could keep up with Him. But amazingly we find it and pick it back up.

Dobie Gray sang about an earthly relationship when he sang "looking back and longing for the freedom of my chains, and lying in your loving arms again." I love that song. The Hebrew children wandering in the desert were constantly looking back to the chains offered by the Egyptians as somehow preferable to their new freedom and the uncertainty it brought, having to eat the same old manna every day. And we, well we just can't seem to let go of our sin, or let anyone else let go of theirs.

But the comfortable thing about sin, it allows us to feel guilt. Jesus would probably be perplexed by all this guilt. I mean, the east is a mighty long way from the west. He thought He had taken care of this once and for all. But guilt is handy for us. It allows us to punish ourselves for the wrongs that Jesus has already handled. It allows us to convince ourselves that we are not worthy to go, to follow, to be Jesus to the world. We wouldn't want to mess up His ministry with our unworthy sinful, guilty selves. Who would want that?

Apparently Jesus wanted that. So you sinned. Who hasn't? Only the one who invites you to come and follow. Remember when He said, "Take up your old baggage and follow me?" Neither do I. Perhaps that is why we hold on. As long as we hold onto the old bags, it's hard to truly pick up our cross.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beach, airbrush t=shirts, doughnuts: retirement plan

I'm tired of being serious. I think I am just tired. As a lawyer, I spend my days talking and thinking about problems. Other people's problems. For some reason years ago I thought it was a good idea to spend my life this way. I long to simplify my life.

So on days like this I make my retirement plans. What I have decided on is a simple business at the beach (probably Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, but I'm open to other locations). I was thinking of opening up a small combination airbrush t-shirt/doughnut shop . . . not one of those that you go into, but one that you walk up to. I wanted to start simply, you know, hot glazed doughnuts in the morning. There would also be coffee . . . mostly because I would want some coffee and I could deduct the cost of every drop I drank. Then there would be airbrush t-shirts. Now I have no idea how to produce an airbrush shirt, but, I am willing to be trained. I would do several standard designs and have them hanging on the eave of the walk-up doughnut stand. While people ate their doughnuts and drank their coffee they would see the t-shirts, and since they felt so good from the tasty pastry and coffee, they would buy a shirt as well. I would probably have to expand my business to include yogurt, juice, water, and maybe some granola bars for the health addict. People would begin to stand at my stand for so long that I would have to add a few more things. Tables and chairs would be necessary. Then a line of sunscreen products, visors and caps to handle my customers' added exposure to the sun. The whole atmosphere screams "family" so I would have to expand a little to have something for the kids. Maybe a complete line of beach equipment: buckets, shovels, rafts, boogie-boards. Since I'l l have stuff for the children, I might as well have something for the ones that hold the pocketbook, the mother and the father. Bathing suits, beach outfits, casual wear, beach hats, beach towels, fishing tackle, golf stuff, and souvenirs for everybody, like little shot glasses with Orange Beach painted on the side and plastic cubes with hermit crabs inside. I would have to build additions to my stand. Now it would be a place that you walk into, and hopefully stay. I would have to hire several more people, probably college students off for the summer, to make smoothies and lattes, to run the goofy golf course/bungiedrop/water park/ go-kart track, to handle the bicycle and jet-ski rentals, and to run the on-line service. I would have to hire and train the workers, schedule their shifts, set their salaries, listen to their excuses and complaints, settle arguments, and try to create an atmosphere where customers would be happy to stay. Day after day and into the night I would keep my employees happy, listen to the complaints of customers and their whiny children, consult with my lawyers and insurance carriers for the lawsuits from claims of exaggerated injuries from the rental division and the natural diet supplement we exclusively carry . . .

Ok, it's still a work in progress. I'll keep you posted. But it is good to plan ahead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jeremiah was a bullfrog, but would you admit being his friend?

Some people worry about the Lord calling them to the nether regions of Africa as a missionary. My greatest fear is being called to stay at home and tell the truth. I'm not talking about simple blogging for my friends. I'm talking about the kind of stuff that lands one in a pit of mud up to your mouth, and that's on a good day. So was the life of Jeremiah.

Oddly, I have been reading Jeremiah lately. It is not odd for me to occasionally read my Bible. It is odd because the reason I have been re-reading Jeremiah is the emergence of another Jeremiah into the news the last few weeks . . . that's Wright, Obama's preacher got me to thinking. Gosh darn him.

It occurs to me that Rev. Wright at worst may be a good object lesson for us. At best, he may be a prophet. Don't get me wrong, I am not a voice crying in the wilderness preparing the way of the prophet Jeremiah Wright. I don't know much about him. I do know that his words are provoking a lot of folks who condemned him without even for a second considering any validity in what seems to be a most profane message. But have you read Jeremiah, the one in the Bible lately? Nobody was happy with Jeremiah. He said some harsh things. Downright mean and crazy according to the folks who he was sent to by God. I believe the different translations generally say that God was going to "curse" the nations in one way or other. He was asked by God to tell Kings that kingdoms would be destroyed because of their murderous killing, greed, and lack of care for the poor, oppressed, sick and widowed. Sound familiar? Getting a little uncomfortable?

Did you hear anyone shocked by the profane, perhaps obscene language used by Rev. Wright? I was. But which is more profane, the words of a man, or the senseless killing of thousands? Which is more obscene, rough language from the pulpit, or thousands of children dying daily for lack of food, water, or basic medical care, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? You get the idea.

So send me to Africa. But don't you dare, God, make me try to tell the truth to my friends, my countrymen. They would quickly become no friends of mine . . .just like they did Jeremiah.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jesus, Politics, and basketball

It is the day after Easter. What do you suppose Jesus' friends did on the day after Easter? For one thing, they didn't call it the day after Easter. I understand that name came a while later. There were a whole lot of other things they did not know yet either. Like, what else was Jesus going to do? Where was He going to appear? What were they supposed to do? Could what they think happened have actually happened? /Were the past three years a waste of time, or would that time define the rest of their lives? Was Jesus going to be hacked because they ran away? What were they going to have for supper? Were the fish biting? How was the weather at the Sea of Galilee?

What did I do on the day after Easter? Or even the afternoon of Easter? After the last of three wonderful worship services of the day which ended at noon, I ate lunch. Then I took a nap on the sofa while watching the NCAA basketball tournament (I can nap since Alabama didn't make the tournament). Not wanting to waste the rest of the holiday weekend, I went to the movie and saw the epic Drillbit Taylor.

Now it is Monday night, the day after Easter, and I am watching the third show in a row of political talking heads. I love this stuff.

It doesn't seem right. Shouldn't my life be changed? Shouldn't I be out serving and loving my neighbor? Shouldn't I be out being the body of the one whose body we all crucified?

But I'm remembering that a couple of the disciples went home to Emmaus. Eventually some went back to their fishing. That's what they were doing right before Jesus invited them to breakfast.

I just hope I recognize Him as He joins me on my walk away from Easter. I pray that I stay close enough to be in earshot when He calls me to come and dine.
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