Friday, February 22, 2013

Prepared for Sno-megeddon 2013

I went to the grocery store to grab a quick salad from their salad bar at lunchtime on Wednesday, and the store was crowded.


Really crowded.  


Like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day crowded.


Usually when I show up at lunchtime at my local Hy-Vee, it’s me and two 84-year-olds examining the tomatoes. But this past Wednesday there were so many people gathered at the grocery store, I thought that they were giving out free boxes of Cap’n Crunch. Of course, you will recall that lunchtime on Wednesday was just hours before this year’s version of “Sno-megeddon” was to strike. And the good Kansans with visions of “Sno-pocalypse 2013” were stocking up on milk and bread as if the Y2K predictions were finally about to come true. In fact, judging by the amount of food in their shopping carts, I think the good shoppers believed the snow would not melt until Independence Day.


I know I’m a Michigander. As such, I am obligated to write about my growing up days in the giant Mitten with absolute zero temperatures and schools only cancelled unless the snowfall reached Sputnik. None of that is true– except the “my being from Michigan” part. Still, with risk of sounding snow-snobberish, the brouhaha over this latest snowfall seemed a little silly to me. (Honesty alert: Upon seeing the crowds at the grocery store, I called Karla to see if we needed anything before we “hunkered down for the long winter’s night.” She said we needed bananas and apples. Let it be noted that the Princes would not face the piles of snow and ice without fruit salad!)


If your house is like mine, you would be able to survive a night with the groceries that are already in the cupboard. Even if the roads were unsafe and no one could venture out for a day or two, I doubt that many of us would have trouble finding something to eat. There’s always an extra can of pork and beans somewhere—isn’t there?


And yet, my neighbors headed for the grocery store to make sure their shelves were stuffed just in case. They wanted to be prepared for a two day (at most) inconvenience. It sounds almost unbiblical that our homes (because of our inability to traverse icy roads) would become a land where there is no milk or honey. So we stocked up on the essentials. Mind you−I’m not throwing stones (or snowballs)− remember I bought apples and bananas “just in case.” If I could have found the manna aisle, I would have bought a pack of that too.


Here’s my point: A lot of people were making sure they were prepared for a two day “snow in.”


Here’s the truth: We are going to spend a whole lot more than two days time in eternity. 


Here’s the question: Are we equally determined to be prepared for eternity as we were for “Snowquake 2013”? 


Unlike the local TV weathermen, I don’t think the world is going to end tomorrow.  And I’m not trying to be Chicken Little. The sky is not falling− that’s snow. (I told you, I’m from Michigan. We know these things.) I also know this— all of us one day will have a face to face encounter with God Almighty. The question on that Day will not be, “Is there coffee and marmalade in the cupboard?” but rather, “Is Jesus living in your heart?” Paul said it this way: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)


Forget our latest “Snow-Tsunami,” are you prepared for that Day?  


Friday, February 08, 2013

Four Churches in Cuba

Last Sunday I was in Cuba and went to four different churches in the morning. (I’m not implying that you are a slacker for only attending one church last Sunday morning, I’m just reporting that I happened to be in four). In fact, I’ve known people (nice people) who don’t make it to four church services in a month. Since all the churches were wesleyan in theirleanings, one could say on Sunday I experienced a Wesleyan quadrilateral of worship. (That was a little theological humor for the two Wesleyan theologians who still happen to read these musings. Don't sweat it− they didn't think it was funny either.) And don't be too impressed by my worship-times-four morning− according to our Sunday School counter extraordinaire, Ruth Vail, I only get credit for one Sunday attendance in my permanent record in heaven. Ruth knows these things.


The first church wasn’t technically having a service when I was there— but I was still there with the pastor and the folks on our Cuban Partnership Vision Team− and we prayed together. Haven’t you ever read the verse about if two or three are gathered in Jesus name? I say that counts. 


The second church was meeting in a shed. A small shed. Behind a small house that most of us would say also looked like a shed. I’m not sure which was bigger the worship house shed or the house that looked like a shed− or exactly what differentiated the shed from the house. But I know this—the people were praising the Lord as if they were in the biggest church in the world. They didn't seem to mind that they were worshipping the Creator of the universe in a shed.


The third church we referred to as the “bouncing church” because they were bouncing as they praised the Lord. They were singing loud, waving their arms like they were trying to run down a city bus in New York City, and, of course, bouncing like their shoes were equipped with springs. We could use a little more bounce in our church. Bouncing is good.

The last church allowed me to preach. No one bounced when I was done—but they didn’t throw rotten tomatoes or, more probable, rotten mangoes either. So I’d say it went well.


Here’s what I observed in the four churches I visited last Sunday:


No one seemed to care that the music was loud.

No one complained that the pews weren’t padded (maybe if our pews weren't padded we'd bounce more).

No one seemed to care that the conditions were not pristine.

No one seemed to notice that the preacher didn’t have a tie on. (Well, I preached in a tie, but the guy in the shed didn’t have one.)

No one fussed that the sanctuary was too cold (with 70 people jammed into the shed on a tropical island, I don't think that is ever a problem).

No one seemed bothered with the expectation that every member tithe. (In all four churches, even the shed, there was a tithing billboard next to the door with an envelope for each member to contribute. They all did.)

No one seemed to look at their watch to see if it was time to leave or checked for the latest news on their iPhone− they simply worshipped God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength until they were done (OK− truth be told, I don't think any of the folks even owned a watch and I doubt they had ever seen an iPhone).


The people gathered with one purpose: they were there to praise the Lord and praising the Lord is exactly what they did. I kind of wish we were more like that.


I wish all the external things that occupy our time and thoughts on a Sunday morning were put away, and we just determined to worship God when we gather. I hope we could be like my new found Cuban friends. Not worry so much about many of the things we worry about, and just gather in Jesus name, ready to be fully engaged in worshipping and praising our God.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cirque du Soleil and the Gospel

Karla and I were able to attend a cirque du soleil dinner event recently. There were jugglers, magicians, feats of strength and agility. The performers were quite amazing.
One lady balanced a cello with her feet above her head−juggling it and turning it all with her feet. Another lady changed her clothes over and over again in a manner of seconds. (I've asked Karla if she could work on obtaining that skill.) There was one guy, whose physique was absolutely nothing like mine, flexing his muscles and displaying his strength. (I asked Karla if that guy reminded her of me. She said an emphatic, “No!” a little too quickly for my liking.) All this to say each performer was quite amazing.

 The show began with a woman in a huge champagne glass twisting and turning. She was quite "bendy." I think she scratched her shoulder with her opposite foot after taking said foot first around her head. It hurt me just watching her. I don't even know how you get that skill (or quite frankly why you would want it−unless you had very itchy ears).

While I'm not ready to be twisting around in a big glass on a stage in front of hundreds of people, I do want to be flexible. I don't care if my foot can scratch my ear, but I do want to be able to be able to evaluate my environment and do the most good in it.

Here’s the deal: If we are serious about reaching people for Christ (our mission from Jesus is to make "more and better disciples"), then I think being flexible and willing to change in a changing world is part of it. As our world changes, we need to be "bendy" too. Not changing our message−the message of Christ is timeless−but changing our methods when necessary. Paul had this “bendy” attitude toward the methods of reaching people when he wrote to the Corinthians:To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:21-23)

I wish one of our core values would be "everything is an experiment." The stakes (eternal life and eternal death) are too high to not try. I have too many neighbors and too many friends and acquaintances that desperately need us to keep trying, keep experimenting, and continuing to be willing to be flexible with our methods so that we might proclaim the message of Christ. 

I'm not ready to hop into a big champagne glass (and no one would want to see that fiasco) but I do want to be flexible. The message is too important.