Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cubbies Never Win: A Sad Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a man named Cubby who had a wonderful outlook on life. Every day he would awaken like it was a National holiday and grin like he just received straight A’s on a report card. He’d take a deep breath, pretending to be in the Rockies, as he listened to the birds singing their morning songs. The Cardinals, Orioles and Blue Jays’ squawks and tweets were like music in his ears. Even better, he planned to marry his little Philly, a girl named “Angel” in a seaside wedding. The honeymoon was to be on a Mariner’s boat where they had hopes of great adventures and catching a Giant Marlin or a Tiger shark and then living happily ever after.

  “Even if I was from a Royal family my life could not be more splendid. To be any happier, I’d have to be Twins!” he thought to himself.

The wedding day finally arrived and the warm Rays of the sun were breaking through the clouds. Like every other day, Cubby thought all was wonderful. But in his excitement and unbeknownst to him, he put on one White Sox and one Red Sox. Wearing his mismatched footwear, he made his way to the beach whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy the whole way.

Immediately, when Angel saw her potential groom and his multicolored stocking feet, her face turned Red and she stormed off the beach as if Astro particles were falling from the sky.

Padre,” Cubby said to the minister, “Arrgg! What happened? Even though I said, 'Arrgg!' I’m no Pirate. And even though I am wearing mismatched socks, I have not been frequenting the various Brewers in my town. I'm just an unlucky guy― maybe I'm cursed."

“Be Brave as an Indian,” the minister encouraged, “I can get your Diamondback.”

“I don’t care about the stinking ring. I'm no Lone Ranger—I need Angel,” Cubby shouted as he chased after her.

After a long race, Cubby finally Met up with Angel and said, “Why did you run away?”

“Oh Cubby,” she answered, “When I saw your mismatched socks I realized how cold my feet were and I fled. I’m not sure I’m ready to be married.”

“I’ll wait for you,” said Cubby with a smile. “Even if it takes 104 years or even longer I will wait and when you are ready we’ll get married and go on a boat and catch a big fish on our honey moon.”

“Roger Dodger!” Angel said and she gave him a hug and walked away.

Cubby never saw Angel again.

The moral of the story is either:
The Cubbies always lose in the end, or
Don't get married if you have cold feet, or
Don’t wear mismatched or matching socks on the beach, or
A pastor should never attempt to write a story using all 30 Major League baseball teams― or he will end with a very goofy fairy tale with no spiritual point whatsoever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Father and Son Father's Day Sermon

I’m a little nervous about this Sunday’s sermon. The jitters are not because of an outlandish preaching experiment that could possibly offend someone. The problem is not an extremely difficult to explain Biblical passage (It’s Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child…”). As far as I know there is not going to be a celebrity in the crowd that would make me antsy (Both Barry Manilow and Alice Cooper will be in Kansas City this weekend. While it is unlikely, I suppose one of them could slip into the early service. But even if they do, I don’t think Pastor Kevin will do a tribute of either Alice Cooper’s “School’s out” or Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.”). So those guys are not why I’m jumpy. I’m nervous because this Sunday my son, Ben, will help me preach the Father’s Day sermon. This will be his first ever sermon. Ever. I remember my first sermon. It was on a Sunday night in Alanson, Michigan following my sophomore year of college. I hand wrote the sermon manuscript in a blue spiral notebook. My text was from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. In that passage Paul encouraged the believers to run in such a way to win the prize. I think I chose that passage because I knew more about sports than the Bible and that was the only sports reference that I could find in the Bible (not counting the classic biblical baseball text of Genesis 1:1, “in the big inning…”). My sermon on that night will not go in the annals of Christian history as one of the greatest sermons of all time. I preached that sermon in the summer of 1983. 29 years ago this month. And I still remember it. The good, bad and ugly—I remember it all (there was more bad and ugly than good, in case there was any doubt). Ben will always remember this Sunday. I don’t think I will forget it either. My concern is not that he perfectly articulates each point. I won't be worried if he happens to stumble through a few words (my goodness I have preached over 2,000 sermons now and if you've sat through any of those 2,000 "gems" then you know I can butcher the English language with the worst of them). Here's my prayer-- that Ben will faithfully proclaim the Word of God. I don’t care if he botches the pronunciation of “Nebuchadnezzar,” but I do care that he always is faithful. I hope that he preaches 'full of grace and truth" in a manner worthy of Christ. For our family, this Father's Day will be one we won't forget. My prayer is that God uses both Ben and I and that those listening will long remember the morning not because of what was said by a preacher and his son-- but because of what God does deep in their heart. See you Sunday-- but please leave your rotten vegetables at home-- just in case it doesn't go well I don't want to have to dodge a flying tomato.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Hosptials and Me

This week I’ve been at a different hospital each day visiting folks. Here are some hospital observations and memories:

I like hospitals with clergy parking. Kansas City’s Children’s Hospital has the best clergy parking. If it was any closer to the hospital, it would be in the operating room.

In Michigan, several hospitals have fast food franchises located inside the hospital. I’ve eaten at Wendy’s, Mr. Pita, Schlotzsky’s Deli and Little Caesars― all while never leaving the hospital. I am not sure, but I think those hospitals’ cath labs get a percentage of the profits from the fast food joints.

I know a couple of people who like the food at Shawnee Mission Medical Center so much that they will go there for lunch—even when they don’t have any family or friends in the hospital. Who needs a Wendy’s if you can have tuna casserole over rice?

I like hospitals with good, free coffee. Shawnee Mission Medical Center has several options with Keurig Coffee makers located throughout the hospital. Hot. Fresh. Nice.

Maternity wards generally have the nicest rooms in the hospital. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with the fact that after nine months of pregnancy, morning sickness, swollen ankles, maternity clothes, contractions, and giving birth, new moms deserve to feel like they are a queen at the Grand Plaza Hotel.

I was nearly attacked by a mother goose entering a hospital. It was at Menorah a few years ago—either I got too close to her eggs or one of her relatives honked about the goose liver pate I once consumed.

I was involved in an accident while praying for someone in a hospital carport. At Overland Park Regional Hospital, while I was standing on the outside of a parishioner’s car and praying with the passengers on the inside of the car, a somewhat dazed driver rear ended their car. Jesus said we could move mountains in our prayers—apparently my prayers move Chevy Tahoes.

In a Detroit hospital emergency room, I sat next to a guy handcuffed to his chair. I wasn’t quite sure how to start that conversation. “Hey, I guess this isn’t where you expected to be today…” didn’t seem quite right.

I’ve been stuck in an elevator at a hospital. Thankfully I’ve never been stuck on an escalator in a hospital.

I’ve been mistaken several times for a doctor. Unfortunately, not once in my basketball playing days was I ever mistaken for Dr. J.

One time I had a person visiting the hospital with me, and when the recently operated upon patient decided to show us his new scar (that happens a lot by the way), my guest passed out. Kerplunk!

I’ve seen more body parts, more disgusting fluids, and sniffed more unholy smells while in a hospital than OSHA requirements allow. Chalk this up to –some things they don’t prepare you for in seminary.

Some of the most needed and meaningful times of sharing God’s grace throughout my years of pastoring have taken place in hospitals. Praying, counseling, reading scripture, crying, laughing, hoping, expecting, and leading a few people to Christ—have all happened on hospital visits.

I think Jesus would be at hospitals. Matthew 4:23-24 says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and He healed them.” Seems to me if we want to be like Jesus—we’ll be where sick people are too.

All this to say: I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and I love seeing God’s healing work and loving presence in the midst of the challenging moments of life. And of course―the added bonus when at Shawnee Mission Medical Center—you can get all of that grace, a good cup of coffee, and a tasty lunch too!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Confessions

It’s Monday morning and these are a few of my confessions:

I confess that the jeans I wore at Sidedoor last night felt too short.
I confess that I don’t like it when my jeans feel too short.
I confess that these feelings probably stem from the days when my mom would buy me Sears and Roebuck Tough Skin Jeans two sizes too big (so I could grow into them); and since those jeans were made to withstand a nuclear blast, I would be expected to wear them until they were two sizes too small.
I confess that whenever I see short jean wearers I have flashbacks.
I confess this whole ordeal has probably scarred me for life.

I also confess that we don’t seem to make real confessions in church very often. Maybe it’s because people are afraid of what others might think. Or maybe it’s because of a misrepresentation of our holiness message. Or maybe it’s because of a sinful obsession with self.

I also also confess that we need to be more confessional. That is, we need to be more open and forgiving and prayerful and honest and loving and redemptive and holy than we sometimes are.

Boom. I’m done.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Opulent Offspring

The Opulent Offspring
Once a man had two offspring--the younger one demanded to obtain his share of the organization so the man obliged the obnoxious offspring by offering him half of his oasis.

The offspring immediately went to an obscure, out of the way place and ogled obscene objects and obsessively overspending on opulent and ornate outfits.

Almost overnight, the money was obliterated and the offspring had the onerous occupation of feeding oinkers and eating their oats.
Overwrought, one day, he observed his objectionable ordeal and thought, “My old man’s ordinary officials are better off than I am. I will go back to him with this oration, “Father I have been ornery to you. I am no longer allowed to be called your offspring make me like one of your ordinary office officials.”

So he got up and started off for his old-man’s orchard.

When he was on the outskirts of his father’s orchard—the old man saw him and was overjoyed. He ran to his offspring and overwhelmed him with affection!

The offspring said, “I have been ornery to you and am no longer worthy to be called your offspring.”

But the father said to his ordinary officials, “Quick bring an ornate overcoat and put it on him, and outfit him with a ring and sandals. Bring the oversized calf and kill it. Let’s organize an out-of-this-world occasion—for the offspring of mine was obituary material and is alive again. He ousted himself but is now on our orchard again!

Meanwhile, the older offspring was obediently in the field and overheard the orchestra’s overtures and the ovations. So he called one of the ordinary officials and asked him what the occasion was. The servant opined, “Your only brother has come and your old man has killed the oversized calf because he is on the grounds.”

The older brother was obnoxiously offended and odiously objected to going in. So his father went out and pleaded with the onerous older offspring. But he orally objurgated, “Look you old orangutan, all these years I’ve overworked for you, never disobeying your orders. You have never outpoured on me an outlandish odyssey so I could overwhelm my friends with overt opulence, but when this outlaw oaf offspring of yours who has outrageously, overindulged your oodles with obscene offerings comes home you organize an optimal occasion.

“My obedient but obstinate offspring,” the old-timer said, “you were never omitted, and my oodles are your oodles, but we had to organize this high octane, optimal occurrence and be outlandishly overjoyed, because this brother of yours was obituary material and is alive again; he ousted himself but is now on our orchard again!”