Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter 2006

"God is closer than you think"

I am a big baseball fan. I follow baseball with a passion that is perhaps just shy of being obsessive. When I lived in Dallas Texas I would go to four or five Texas Ranger Baseball games a year. When the Mariners where in town I would go to as many games as I could. One time we were at the Ballpark and as the sun was setting I realized that I was having trouble seeing the ball. I looked up and the lights were on. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see so well. So explained to Kendra I was having trouble seeing and she looked at me with loving amusement and said, “Bruce, you still have your sunglasses on.”

God is always there with us but there are times when we aren’t able to see as well as we normally do. Sometimes we are blind to the holy activity taking place in our midst. If we are lucky there will be someone who can lovingly look at us and remind us to take our blinders off.

Did you notice in the Gospel reading, that even after the Disciples had run to the tomb and Mary had been talking with Angels, she couldn’t see Jesus for who he was, it took the gentle word of saying her name for her eyes to be opened? Here she was in the midst of a miracle and she almost missed it. Wrapped up in her grief and her own expectations of the way things should be she almost missed God’s activity.

I find it remarkable when a scientist who studies the cosmos is unable to be filled with awe and wonder of God’s activity. There are some who get so wrapped up into the math and the theories and the questions about the nature of the physical universe they miss the miracles in their work. When you look at the stars aren’t you filled with awe and wonder? When you look at the cosmos don’t you begin to feel small in the midst of God’s wonderful creation?

Equally I find it remarkable that some who study genetics and micro biology, that they aren’t greatly humbled by God’s gift of life. Life is a gift that begins the simplicity of a cell. We can study cells, we can help them multiply and we can kill them, but we can’t create them. Life is a wonderful miracle.

As we have moved from an agricultural and rural society to an industrial and urban one, one of the miracles we have lost as a common experience is the miracle of birth in its many forms. One spring when I was a child our Cat was expecting a litter of Kittens. My sister must have been about five years old at the time and this Cat was her cat. She named it Mog after a cat in one of her story books. She fed Mog and Mog seemed to go wherever my sister went. One morning my sister awoke to a surprise in her bed, Mog had given birth to her kittens right there next to my sister as she slept. Mog seemed to have wanted my sister to be a part of the miracle of birth.

As a pastor I am occasionally asked to be present when people are near death. Like birth sometimes death can be a time of God’s grace being revealed to us. One occasion I was asked to come as the family had prayerfully made the decision to remove dad from the machines, which would likely end his life. We gathered together and prayed as we listened as his body took its final breathes. When the last breathe left his body we mourned but we also anticipated the miracle of new life, of resurrection. God’s grace was revealed as we considered the suffering that was over and the eternal joy that was beginning.

Are you ready for the truth? As John Ortberg has stated in his book, “God is closer than you think.” One of our failings as human people is that we believe so much in ourselves that we forget to notice the miracles God is performing around us all the time. Are you ready to notice the miracle of the immense size of God’s creation. God has created billions of galaxies and billions of stars in each galaxy and here we are on this one planet able to admire it all. Our life is dependent upon billions of cells working in harmony with each other. Skin cells, blood cells, tissue cells, nerve cells and many more all working so that we can enjoy life. We are able to witness the miracle of birth if we only open our eyes. We can witness the birth of new plants, or of new pets or of new members in our family.

We can even come to death with awe and wonder at God’s grace, because Jesus faced death, died on a cross, and miracle of miracles he rose again!

God is close if you are ready to notice. This is not a promise that things will always go the way we want them too. We are fragile creatures prone to disease and aging. I find it ironic that sometimes those who are most alive are those who are dying. My wife Kendra often talks fondly of her grandfather who she called “Pop.” When Kendra was about 10 years old Pop was dying of cancer. One summer he knew it would be his last and they had a great summer. They saw movies, they ate ice cream, Pop spent as much time with his granddaughter as he could. He was one who was faced with the reality that life is short and he wasn’t going to waste a moment. That time they shared together was a gift of Grace, a tangible sign of God’s love.

God is close if you are ready to notice. Take notice of the miracle of life and treasure it!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Joy of Laughter

When we arrived at Disneyland we immediately headed for Space Mountain the newly remodeled Disneyland roller coaster. I was a bit nervous as but I practiced letting go of those nervous feelings as we quickly moved through the line. The experience of the ride was fantastic. This coaster is unique in that it is so dark you cannot see the track so you have no idea what will happen next as you climb, dive and turn. I laughed, I screamed, I had a great time. I felt so good to laugh!

Then it started to rain. Normally this is no big deal but part of the purpose of leaving the Pacific Northwest for vacation is so that you can get some sunshine! And not only that but the last time we were in Disneyland it rained for four days! I began to get depressed with the rain. We took a break for lunch and went back to our Hotel room and I looked up the forecast and became more depressed when the "Weather Channel" predicted rain all day and more showers the next day. Finally on the ride back to the park I began telling myself this is silly, relax. I bought an umbrella and that cheered me up quite a bit. At least the rain would be off of my head. Then as we began walking around the park it became evident that we were on of the few crazy people who remained at the Park. THERE WERE NO LINES. What a wonderful opportunity, Disneyland withouth the wait. Want to ride the latest attraction, no problem, walk on in. We were even offered another go on Splash Mountain. How often do you get the offer for a second ride without getting back in line?

There was one point while we were at the California Adventure park that I realized that my face hurt from smiling so much. What a joy to have been smiling so much that my face hurts!

Easter season should be a joy and it has been great to have a short vacation to prepare for this Holy Week

Monday, April 03, 2006


We are in Anaheim!

The whole adventure started Saturday evening when I became ill. Sunday morning I looked at Kendra and said, "I don't think I can make it to church." If there was a good time to be ill this was it. Kendra was home with a vacation day and she was able to lead worship for me at LUMC. I really missed worshiping at the church but I was glad Kendra could fill in for me. Now I owe Kendra a Sunday off.

Our vacation plan for the past several weeks had been to leave Sunday after church and drive to LA for a few days at Disneyland. We were taking 7 people, Kendra Brianna and I along with my sister, her two girls who are about Brianna's age and my mom.

I decided that I was well enough to travel when the girls came back from church. So we loaded up the rented mini-van and began driving for LA. At 1:30 P.M. we crossed the border into Oregon and the girls declared "were bored." Wow, it took them a whole hour! It was then when I understood my sister's desire to drive as much as we could through the night as the girls were sleeping. A book on CD kept the girls quietly listening for an hour and we managed to keep them relatively happy as I tried to rest and recover from my illness.

Kendra announced our crossing into California around 8:30 P.M. Soon after that the girls were asleep in the back seat and we settled down for a big drive. Kendra continued driving until about 11:00 and then my sister took over. A 2:00 A.M. Gas stop woke up everyone. I took over the driving and made it to a rest stop at about 4:00 A.M. I took a 45 minute nap while the girls decided that it must be time to be awake. I woke up and decided to start driving again and see if the girls would fall back asleep. They did. We stopped for breakfast at a truck stop about 120 miles North of L.A. around 6:00. We were hoping that would allow enough time for the traffic to lighten up.

To our great Joy traffic in L.A. was rather light (we never stopped to a standstill) and we arrived at Disneyland at 9:30! Longview to Disneyland in 21 hours!Having made such great time we enquired about extending our three day passes for an extra day. For a mere $80 per person we could have. Instead we are recovering from our drive at that hotel. The girls are swimming in the pool, and the adults are taking turns napping.

Grace and Peace,Bruce