Archive for May, 2013

Over Your Shoulder

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The other day I was working on Sunday’s message, as I had lunch, at the counter of Puckett’s Grocery in Leipers Fork. The place was quite crowded with few available seats. One of the interesting things about Puckett’s is you never know whom you might see there. I’ve sighted movie stars, famous singers, professional football players, coaches, television people, but mostly regular people. At Puckett’s everybody pretty much looks the same. A banker friend told me that the rich folks who live in Leipers Fork dress down so they will blend in at Puckett’s. I don’t know if he is right about that. However, I hardly recognized Nicole Kidman the time I saw her there.

As I sat there working on my message and finishing up the last of my sweet potato fries, a voice from behind made a comment to me that indicated he had been reading my notes over my shoulder for some time. As we were talking the stranger told me that he knew quite well one of the people mentioned in my message. He then gave me his personal opinion of the guy and it wasn’t very high. I had used his infamous friend as an illustration of someone who had recently experienced public humiliation.

There are a couple of takeaways from this seemly innocuous encounter.  First, some people are pretty dang nosey. The fact that this guy stood reading over my shoulder bears this out. I was blown away when he unabashedly tipped his hand by offering his personal opinion of the guy whose name he saw in the notes.  Few things surprise me; that was one that did. It was akin to eavesdropping on a conversation then offering an unsolicited opinion.

Secondly, and much more importantly, this incident points out a certain fact of life — a fact we should all bear in mind. People  are always watching us, perhaps more closely than we ever realize. What will they see?

Something to think about

Looking Up

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

It is 6:30 am; I’m stretched out on a park bench along the Harpeth Greenway listening to a symphony of song birds. I’m looking up at patches of deep blue sky filtering through the towering oaks. Below I can hear the sound of the river. Apparently there is nobody else around. Until this particular moment of solitude, I don’t recall previously thinking about trees as in the context of “trees for trees sake”. But as I look up through the soaring green canopy, in this moment of time, perhaps I’m seeing them for what they really are —- majestic creations of an almighty God – testaments of his power, love and provision for mankind.

Peering upward it just occurred to me that these trees will keep on reaching up to the sun despite the Moore Tornado, the IRS scandal, or what happens to me. Should I die today on the bench or live to be a hundred, those trees will continue to testify of the love of our Creator. That is a humbling thought! I’ve never exactly thought of trees in that context before. For some reason I don’t feel quiet as important as I did driving over here. I do, however, feel a bit closer to God.

Time to Wonder

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

A while ago I was having breakfast in the dining room of the retreat house at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky. You learn a lot about people whenever you eat with them for five days, especially when you are eating in total silence.  When nobody speaks you have time to notice people. You can study them. You have time to wonder. What is going on in their lives? Who are these people? Where are they from and where are they going? Are they hurting? Are they happy? Are they lonely? Are they grieving? Are they ill? Why are they here? What is going on in their worlds? Why does she look so sad? Why does he wear that same shirt every day? Why does he eat so slowly? Why aren’t any younger people here?  Will this place run out of monks as this generation dies off? I don’t think normal people come here.  I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

I’m now in the library and there is a guy across the way; I have concluded that is a priest. When I signed in I noticed that there are two “Fathers” here. I think he is one of them. He looks like a priest in incognito.  He wears no rings.  His light cream colored pants look brand new and are a little too long.  They are like pants I would suppose a priest would wear when he is not  in black. His shoes are black leather, priest-like shoes. They don’t go with his pants. He walks like a priest.  He looks like a priest. If he was allowed to talk I could tell for sure.  Priests talk like priests.

I see a guy who is wearing a huge cross on a big gold chain that hangs way down and lays on his stomach when he sits. He is not a priest. I know because he is wearing a diamond pinky ring. I always wear in small wooden cross but nobody can see it. Wonder if the big cross guy wears it in the real world? Honestly, it looks a bit over the top to me.

I am sure everybody else is wondering about me too.  Over the years, I have thought a lot about why I like coming here.  I think one of the reasons is I have time to wonder about people and things big and small. I believe that God designed us to wonder.  I love this place. I wonder why more people do not come here so that they can have time to wonder too.

Something to think about

In the Dark

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

It is 10:20 PM.  I just walked into the pitch black emptiness of a cavernous 150 year old church which was full of life a few hours ago.  I’m on retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani Monastery (www.monks.org) . There is no light, save one flickering candle 200 or so feet from my perch in the balcony.  Actually, I had to feel my way to this pew. As far as I know, I’m alone. The monks have gone to bed, but they will be back at 3:15 AM.  I love to be in in the pitch black. I’m sitting with my back against the end of the pew, with my legs spread out on the seat. I am quite comfortable, as I take in this precious moment of solitude. Watching the tiny flame flicker, I realize that I am not alone at all. I feel the presence of our majestic Creator God, the One who allows me this moment of time with Him.  I’m praying for Him to guide me to what he wants me to hear in this darkness. Hopefully, He will make me a bit more like Him and a lot less like me.

Right now, I am realizing that the blackness is lifting. As my eyes adjust, I can make out the massive wooden trusses high above me that support the roof. There are twelve. I now can see the eighteen stained glass windows, nine on each side. They are beautiful in the light of day, when the filtering sun paints glowing mosaics on the ancient, white brick walls.   Down below, I am able to make out the far away altar.  Even in the dark, it is still the central focal point in this house dedicated to God.

My experience is a metaphor of how God speaks to us when we make a sacrifice to Him of our time. When I entered a while ago, the only visual experience was the candle flickering in the darkness.  Out of the veil of blackness, God is now showing me what I formally could not see.  Likewise, God is faithful to speak to us when we slow down long enough to give Him our ear. If you are not hearing anything, most likely you are not spending enough time listening.

Something to Think About