Archive for November, 2013


November 26, 2013 4 comments

I once read about a successful young business professional and his wife who were house shopping.  They looked at many homes.  Once they had thoroughly worn out their realtor and settled on what they wanted to purchase, they called and asked their pastor and his wife to come and see the home before they put a contract on the house.  The pastor and his wife came and viewed the house with them.

After a complete walk-thru of the property, the pastor gathered them all together (including the realtor) in the den and prayed over the potential purchase of the property.  Even though this particular house was 3 times the size of the parsonage, the pastor and his wife were extremely excited for the young couple’s choice of residence.  He asked God to bestow wisdom and favor to the young couple in the coming transaction.  It was a good time in prayer.

A couple of weeks later, the young couple dropped by the parsonage to visit the pastor and his wife.  After the hugs and hellos, the young man handed the pastor a large envelope.  Inside were the keys and a filed deed to the newly purchased property.  The young couple had bought the property and signed it over to the pastor and his wife.  It was theirs—free and clear!

It was a staggering announcement!  The pastor and his wife were accustomed to giving—receiving something like this wasn’t going to be easy for them.

The young woman explained,

We didn’t think we could truly enjoy all we’ve been blessed with, knowing that our pastor who has fed, loved, and cared for us all these years, didn’t even own a home.  We felt it was time for us to serve you as you have served us.”

This story is so preposterous that it’s not easy to tell.  Stuff like this does happen, but it’s not normal.  Not even close.  It might even be borderline ridiculous.  Why in the world would anyone do such a thing?  They weren’t related to the pastor, and there wasn’t anything funky going on in the relationship.   It was an authentic gesture.  Yeah, it’s weird.

I’m also aware of another strange but true story.  It so happens that there was a young wife and mother who put her diamond wedding ring into an offering plate one Sunday in order to contribute to a growing church’s building campaign.  Yes, it was a ridiculous thing to do, but what might be more ridiculous was the fact that a friend in the same church found out about it, wrote a huge check to the church in order to purchase the ring back, and then proceeded to have a leader return the ring to the young woman, telling her, “Don’t ever do that again.”  Yeah, crazy shit.

So what is that?  Genuine faith or false religion?  Love or vanity?  Some kind of sick brainwashing or just an honest expression of gratitude and thankfulness?  If the truth were to be known, it might not be totally possible to decipher only by looking at the externals.  You’d have to know more about the minds and hearts of the people involved.

In the case of the latter of these two stories, I know the persons involved.  There could have been some performance involved, but overall, that isn’t how these people groove.  Maybe it was impulsive (do it quick before I change my mind), but I believe all of it had been bathed in prayer beforehand, and the heart motives involved were predisposed to give and give lavishly.

There are stories in the gospels that prime this kind of thinking.  There was the single leper who returned to give thanks in person when the majority didn’t even bother to say thanks from afar (Luke 17:12-19).  Then there was the woman with the alabaster jar (Matthew 26:6-13).  I love that story because the guys were freaking over what it cost them for her to pour out her thankfulness.  And what about that other soiled woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:37-39)?  Talk about awkward!

When was the last time you lost your composure because of how good God has been to you?  Or are you always mired in the thought that He’s not doing enough because of all the crap you got floatin’ in your river?

All of those little stories are amazing and spot on.  But the one that currently has my full attention is the one we affectionately call the widow’s mite.

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (John 21:1-4, NLT).

Chilling. But she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”  Oh man!  It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?  This woman was at the end of her sustenance and did it anyway.  Those two copper coins (the lĕptŏn, pronounced lep-ton´, means small coin:—mite) together were worth about a fourth of a penny in today’s economy.  Frik!  It’s either terrible, or awesome, or maybe it was both.  I can’t see her doing this knowing that Jesus was watching.   But He was watching.

Unlike all the other offerings, those two tiny coins didn’t even make a sound when they landed in the bottom of that box.  Just like her very existence, she was in and out of there like a vapor.  In the world of faith (and I realize we have a love/hate relationship with faith), she rang Jesus’ bell.  This was a woman He had to talk about.  So, He acknowledges her in front of all those who were hanging on His words.  It was a simple salute that we’re still talking about 2000 years later.

Grace by EnstromWe began this piece with a story about absurd generosity, and we finish with lavish giving out of poverty.  Laced in both is simple gratitude and thankfulness.  Both stories have the main players returning to something more solid, bigger, supposedly more important than themselves to offer their heart and their “thing” that says, Thanks.  No really, thank you!  It should give us hope that thankfulness can be real and genuine in a wide variety of formats and settings.

So as we sit down at the table this year for, no doubt, a grand Thanksgiving feast, can we bow our hearts in honest reverence for the things we’re most thankful for in our lives?  God has been good to us.  Most of us have it better than we deserve, and possess more than we actually need.

Can we honestly do the u-turn and open ourselves in revealing gratitude that remembers just how blessed we genuinely are?

We should, don’t you think?  Be Thankful!



Categories: Uncategorized

the peace of God

November 21, 2013 10 comments

Watch this 3 minute video first and then let’s talk about it.

I guess a case could be made that sometimes the church house is nothing more than a festering cesspool of hypocrisy and shenanigans of pretense.  Or it can be the place where everyone (and I do mean every person) can come and partake of the mystery we know as the body and blood of Jesus.

This particular scene in the video is the final 3 minutes of the movie:  Places in the Heart.   The setting is Waxahachie, Texas during The Depression.  Sally Fields’ character (Edna) is a young widow because her husband (Sheriff Royce Spalding) was killed in a freak accidental shooting by a black kid (Wylie) who was highly intoxicated.  The very last frames of the video show Sherriff Royce and Wylie sitting beside each other in church.

The Klan executes immediate punishment on Wylie and drags him to death.  From that point on, we see the hardship that Edna must face as she attempts to keep the farm, raise two kids, get the crops to market, and face a future without her husband.

The entire movie brutally deals with racism, unforgiveness, and the chauvinistic elitism of that time period.   Any young white widow, who was receiving the only help that was really offered, from a blind guy and a black handyman drifter, was asking for a lot of trouble.  The movie tells a hard story well.

I’m not going Ebert on you… just setting the stage.

I love this video mainly because of the people on the pews (villains and saints) and how the sacraments were being served (passed from person to person).   Regardless of what you think is actually happening theologically as they ingest the bread and the wine, the common-union in that moment sews each one of them together into one single organism.   It’s quite beautiful.

Laced into those sacraments is the explosive component of forgiveness.  It is only right that it be passed among ourselves.  As HE forgave us, we in turn forgive others (Col 3:13).  As we receive the sacraments, we in turn give the sacraments.  It’s a continuum of grace and forgiveness that heals and sets us free.  That is the true purpose of a sacrament:  a heavenly transaction that becomes a genuine expression among mankind.

The gospel is only a story until we mediate grace and forgiveness to each other.  That is what makes it credible… real… immediate… alive.  The perfect opportunity to pass along what we already possess.

Shelve the bullhorn.  Forgive.

“The Peace of God”

Mike  xo

Categories: Uncategorized