A Message from Pastor Craig

I’m not into post medieval writers. Really. I know that I have introduced this guy John Bunyan to y’all, and I’m about to talk about another person from the 17th Century. But I am not well versed in these things—I just like to know a little about the greats in our faith, great saints who have gone before us who contributed to who we are today as Christians. Brother Lawrence is one of those.

Brother Lawrence was a Catholic monk, born in 1614, who led a peasant life as a boy, and gave himself to an ascetic monastic life as an adult. He had a reputation of truly loving God and walking with God continuously.  He never wrote a book (wasn’t particularly educated enough for one thing), never preached, and spent his life working in the kitchen and mending people’s sandals (he himself was left lame in the war). He was known for walking with God continuously, or as he put it, Practicing the Presence of God.

In a letter to a friend, he once wrote:

“We must always work at it (walking with God continuously-that’s my note), because not to persevere in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the Lord who reposes in it. He will quickly calm the sea.”

“If the vessel of our soul is still tossed” not only is a picturesque way of describing how many of us have felt spiritually, it connects us to that wonderful story of Jesus calming a storm (Mark 4). Ever since I went to Israel and saw a 2000-year-old boat from the Sea of Galilee (it was a real big row boat), I have marveled at how Jesus could have been asleep in such a little boat in such rough seas. Brother Lawrence reminds us that the Jesus who slept completely unfettered by the storm that night so long ago, remains unrattled by the storms in our lives today. That Lord is in us, and while the “vessel of our souls” often is disquieted by the things of life, Jesus isn’t. And if we turn to Him, He is still the Word through whom all things were created (John 1:3), and will speak to Nature itself to quiet the storms of our lives.

The question Brother Lawrence would ask us is, “are you Practicing the Presence of God (I capitalize that because his writings and teachings were compiled into a book by that name) enough to where you can ask Jesus to do so?”

A boat is a great illustration of being in the world but not of the world (ref. John 17:14-16 or John 15:19).  A boat is in the water but can’t be of the water.  Too much water in the boat means it won’t be a boat anymore.  We know the world serves up storms.  We can’t avoid that.  We are not satellites that hover over the Earth and get to watch it from afar.  Sometimes we are more like the Hurricane Hunter planes that have to fly into the storms.  Sometimes we’re the boats that get caught by the storms.  But in either case, with Jesus in the boat, we can awaken Him “who reposes in it.”  And He will “quickly calm the sea.”  I love that language.  And the idea.

God is good. And is with us. Hallelujah!

Checking the back of the boat,

Craig

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose. 
Philippians 2:12,13

A Message from Pastor Craig

Walking the other day in Nashville brought me, quite serendipitously, to a recreation of the Parthenon. Seeing that sight brought back memories of taking church folk to Greece and Italy as recently as a couple of years ago. I remembered fun times traveling with friends and discovering new things.

It also reminded me of some of the quirks of the original building. It was designed to look like a massively solid, perfectly square, structure. Massive it is but square it’s not. The floor of the building slopes down towards the corners.  Why?  To make the massive columns look straight when viewed from a distance. The columns themselves don’t stand perfectly straight. They are ever so slightly tilted to, again, give the appearance of a perfectly linear building when looked at from a distance. Even the columns themselves were given a little bulge in the middle because pillars can appear to get skinny in the middle when viewed all together.

Crazy, isn’t it? Architects and historians have speculated about why they did this. Did they do it to give the temple a sense of breathing, of being alive?  Or was it about the optical illusions? The more commonly agreed on reason is that they were “striving to achieve… true perfection; a quality of perfection worthy of the gods.” (ref.: greece-is.com).

All Christian cathedrals have been built with that idea – that you offer to God the best that the architect, and the builders, and the people financing it, have to offer. I get that. I want to present myself as perfectly before God as I can. After all, Jesus called us to be “perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). But do I alter the outward
appearances, hiding the appearances of imperfection, to give the appearance of perfection? Is perception more important than reality?

I really got stuck on this in Greece. And it turns out that in Nashville the architect charged with making the Parthenon a permanent structure replicated all these visual tricks as well. He did a great job. So is it perfect?

At the end of the day, what I want in my life is for God to measure not the appearances, but the truth of my standing before Him. Are my decisions and thoughts right? Are they straight at right angles, or do they just appear so from a
distance? Upon closer inspection do they tilt off in one direction or another?

I marvel at the architecture in Greece and in Nashville. In Nashville they built the thing on a slope! In Athens it lies on the flat top of a knoll. In both places it’s really cool to look at. Both of them made me think of my relationship with the Lord. Is that not the purpose of a temple in the first place?

Our church is a little more modest. But its purpose today is the same. Will it be a place where we can encounter God, a place where we entertain grander thoughts, a place where we understand ourselves small in relation to the God we
worship, but immensely privileged to be provided for, and loved by that amazing one true God?

That’s what brings us together. Let us worship Him. In Spirit and in Truth, and with a little wonder.

Still working on that perfection thing,

Craig

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:46-48

A Message from Pastor Craig

I woke up this morning laughing.  Seriously.  I was laughing hysterically; it was the laughter that woke me up.  Fortunately, I didn’t wake Janice up, but I was really laughing.  Has this happened to you?

In my dream a person, who couldn’t jump any higher than a steamroller could, was trying to hook a banner up by taking a running jump up at the hook on a wall.  The person was laughing as they attempted the feat, onlookers laughed too, and being a person who can’t jump much either, so was I.  To the point where it woke me up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we woke up to laughter every morning?  The world would be a better place!  Sadly, I can’t say that happens to me much.  As a matter of fact, I rarely remember what I dreamt about in the first place.  I wish I did.  At least most of the time I wish I did.  Sometimes you don’t want to remember your dreams!

I read somewhere that the Bible records 21 dreams.  In the course of thousands of years of recorded history in the Bible, that only 21 are recorded seems pretty sparse.  Half of those come from Genesis, and six from Matthew.

The Bible teaches about dreams too.  In Numbers 12:6 it says, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.”  So God speaks through dreams.  Both in Joel and in Acts it says: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;”  Now, it doesn’t say what kind of dreams the old men will have, so I guess last night proved the Scriptures true!

Humans have long been fascinated with dreams.  They are mysterious to us, and I have no new insight to add.  I will say that I have always understood Biblical dreams to be serious, to be directives that God gives to His people.  Having said that, the imagery in Judges 7:13,14 is pretty hilarious – look it up!  The interpretation was quite a leap!

So what if the dreams the old men have turn out to be just funny?  What if God provided dreams not just to instruct, but also to reassure, to comfort, to entertain?  What if we looked for God in our dreams, all of them?  Maybe, once in a while, we would actually hear/see/remember something of significance.  I really want to remember more of my dreams – how about you?

Still smiling,

Craig

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  Proverbs 3:24

A Message from Pastor Craig

The hill is called Chilhowie and it starts at the Ocoee River and goes up, and up and up. The ascent tests your car’s strength on the hairpin turn-filled road up, and tests your brakes on the way down. On both sides of the road little turnoffs invite you to see out to the four cardinal points, miles upon hundreds of miles of mountains, hills and valleys and rivers and lakes below. I love that road. And every time I get to Cleveland, TN I go up there.

For the view. And for a walk up at the top. Once you get to the top, or close to, there is a little lake and beachfront, created by a dam with a drop inlet (I think that’s what they’re called) feeding a creek below. Long ago folks carved out a path down the mountain along that creek, and where the creek is at its deepest point from the path, a stairway down to the bottom of a beautiful waterfall. Benton Falls they call it.

Being in Nashville for pret’ near two weeks, I had to go back to Chilhowie. And Saturday I did. Halfway down the trail (it’s about two miles down) I came upon 5 people walking together. Two ladies brought up the rear. They struck me because, out there in the woods, they wore long flowing dresses and nice shoes. Two guys walked ahead of them; they too were dressed kind of like they had been to church.  The guys were talking church. I smiled and greeted them as I passed but did not enter the conversation – I had these visions of Pilgrim’s Progress somehow. Of Christian and Faithful talking to each other.

And leading the pack was a boy of about 7 years, dragging a stick intentionally making a deep mark in the dirt. I had seen his markings. So I smiled and told him that I had been following his trail for a long time.

That made him look at me, and smile, and instead of letting me pass, he picked up his pace, carefully watching that I follow his lead. I played along until I got a little worried that our game was distancing him from his parents. So I stopped, and said “Don’t get too far ahead of your parents,” pointing back at them. Right then the dad said “Thank you!” and beckoned for his son to rejoin them. Which he did.

I smiled, waved, and kept going down the hill. As I walked away, I thought about how many kids don’t get to hear those words of wisdom – “don’t get too far ahead of your parents.” Oh, that little boy didn’t understand the deeper meaning of that. That kids get into trouble when they get too far ahead of their parents. Physically like on a mountain path, as well as socially and spiritually. Problems happen when we lose sight of our children – literally and figuratively.

I wanted to go back and underscore the thought for that little boy, but I decided to just take the advice personally, and heed the word as it relates to me and my Heavenly Father. If I get too far ahead of Him, I get in trouble. Mine is to follow Jesus, not try to get ahead of Him.

And come to think of it, the line the young man was leaving in the sand had a lesson in it too. Everything we do leaves some kind of marking in the pathway of life. History is lined with your story and mine.  What have we left for others to follow, or, if not to follow, at least to see?  The witness of our lives is made up of every little increment we have advanced on the path of life. What are we leaving behind as evidence of our faith, our character, our love? The young man in Chilhowie was surprised to learn that someone was paying attention. So might we.

Back from the mountaintop,

Craig.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6

A Message from Pastor Craig

Staying in this part of Nashville means that Methodism secretly surrounds you. To the north of my room here at the Scarritt-Bennet Center is the center of finance for the United Methodist Church—the General Council on Finance and Administration. Across the street to the west—all the Discipleship programs have their central command, as does the support for Higher Education and Ministry. There also is the Upper Room with their famous Last Supper carving. The biggest of all these is where I am staying, the Scarritt-Bennet Center. I won’t tell you all it’s history—it looks like a Medieval English boarding school—its architecture lending to its original educational purposes. Who knows the servants that prepared for ministry that lived in this little dorm room I’m staying in!

All of this, however, lies in the large shadow of Vanderbilt University. Founded by a Methodist bishop, and aligned with the Methodist church till the early 1900s, it still has a seminary, but is simply a large and prestigious research university that looms even larger than its 330 acre campus would indicate. Into this milieu walks this simple Methodist preacher from Boca Raton.

The place is beautiful. Lots of trees and old buildings (many filled with antiques) line the quad of the school, and many of its streets.  Walking towards the west end of campus, a ‘fer piece’ away, I saw a large tower. It looked like a church steeple only bigger. In Chicago and in Oklahoma City I have seen churches built into towers, so I wondered if this was one of them. As I got closer, porticos and walkways gave the feel of an old English city street. Looking at the corner sign, which simply said “Vanderbilt University” I figured this must have been the original building of VU. Really, I thought that to myself. After all, I’ve been to the Biltmore Estate, and this was at that scale and appeared from the same vintage.

Content to stand in amazement no more, I stopped a young man and asked him what this place was. He said it was the newest dorm on campus. “What?” I asked with an incredulous chuckle. “Yeah. Finished last December. We are the first residents.” I shook my head in disbelief at how wrong my call was. “Look, the twin building is still under construction” he said before walking off.

Wow!  How does the old saying go? “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” The oldest looking building was in fact the newest. Blew my mind! And let me tell you, they are going to hate, hate, the maintenance costs on those buildings in the decades to come. A dream to look at today, a nightmare for tomorrow. (That’s something I’m learning about in the facilities discussions this week). And completely irrelevant to where I’m headed.

God sent the amazing prophet Samuel to find a new king for Israel. He told him to find one of Jesse’s sons. Great choice, but God kept saying no. God said – “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

If I had looked at the inside of the building, I would have seen the modern accoutrements and design. I would have seen the green (eco-friendly) touches. I would have talked to a kid in the dorm and found out more. Samuel hadn’t looked on the inside of Jesse’s sons.  Just the outside. And God had to correct that.

I think we should do the same with everybody we meet, not assuming anything till we visit with them, get to know them, and them us. The sociologists call this “proximity.” When we get closer to people, we get to know them, and our attitude changes towards them.  Maybe it’s your next-door neighbor – our physical proximity doesn’t always mean social proximity! Maybe it’s somebody an aisle over in church. Say hi to them. You never know who they might turn out to be!

Saying hi to folks,

   Craig

Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.  John 7:24 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig

Do you remember the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral? How long ago was that? COVID has messed up my sense of time – so it’s hard for me to intuit how long ago things like that were.

Last April marked the two-year anniversary of that fire. The other night Janice and I watched a couple of documentary presentations on where things stand today. It’s taking a long time to fix. Archeologists sift through every bagful of debris collected. They find 15th Century nails, for instance, and preserve them. That takes time. Off-site carpenters construct replacement beams, and the beams to support other beams. It all takes time. One of the most time-consuming tasks involve the removal of damaged structure. You can’t just go up there and start tearing things down. You will fall through undetected damaged walls or ceilings just trying to get at the visually damaged structure. It’s a huge task.

The process of dismantling the charred ruins from the fire fascinated me. They have to start at the top if they are to preserve as much as possible. So, they decided to build scaffolding all around the building including all the way around the top. (That structure in and of itself has its own beauty.) Carpenters, precariously hanging a hundred feet up, hang down like cave divers to access the charred material.

So… hanging from scaffolding on a rope more than a hundred feet up, secured by a harness around their waist, they are expected to yank out big pieces of wood, sometimes charred, sometimes not. But what do they brace against to pull on these things? They can’t hold on or plant their feet on the actual building. It might all come crashing down. When you rope down a cave, the cave wall serves as an
anchoring point. But not for the spidermen of Notre Dame! It’s nearly impossible work.

Which led me to think about our lives. Sometimes we feel like we are hanging from a thread. And the struggles of life make us feel like we are hanging way above a terrifying precipice. Now, God has gifted us with skills and gifts to “hang in there.” Those gifts and graces enable us to get through all of life, not just the scary parts.

But with all that equipment, with all those skills and resources, it’s really hard to navigate without anchor points. What’s going through my head is the image of launching a boat. If you’re on the dock and you put one foot in the boat and then push off with the other foot, the boat will drift away from the dock. Why? Because the dock is anchored in the ground and you can push away from it. However, try to launch the same boat while you’re floating in the water—how well is that going to go? You can’t push it because you have no solid point from which to push.

So it is with life. It’s hard to launch without an anchoring point. There has to be some solid reference point for leverage. We live in a fluid ever-changing world where things that we thought grounded us shift all the time. But God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). God is immovable (Psalm 144:1). In our lives, when we need an anchoring point or when we need an immovable reference point—God is that.

And that’s what church is for. It’s so that children can learn where the reference points of life are. Knowing where the ground is allows you to fly with confidence. Knowing what is immovable allows you to press against it and move the things that need to move. Not having those strongholds to stand on makes life hard, like pulling remnants of a fire while dangling on a rope way up in the cupulas of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Scriptures only serve as reference points for us when we know them. Singing the Psalms and reading the Gospels, and hearing the Word proclaimed will offer us those handles to hang on to when confronted with the realities of this life we know as the present.

Leaning on the anchor points, Craig

Bless the Lord who is my immovable Rock. He gives me strength and skill in battle.  He is always kind and loving to me; he is my fortress, my tower of strength and safety, my deliverer. He stands before me as a shield.  Psalm 144:1,2

A Message from Pastor Craig

So, it was Labor Day and we drove down to Lake Boca Raton. It’s funny how people buy boats to get away from it all, and then end up all bunched together on one sand bar. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great seeing hundreds of boats, and jet skis, and paddle boarders and kayaks, and… well, something I had never seen before.

Have you seen kids being pulled behind a boat sitting in some kind of inflatable tube? They buzz right along, flying at the speed of the boat, bouncing with the waves or the wake of the boat, holding on tight as the driver tries to knock them off with vertical or lateral g-forces. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the ultimate defeat as you fly off into the water. It’s fun.

Well, I saw someone, it appeared to be a larger adult, following behind a boat, but on his stomach. He wasn’t sitting on an inflatable—he was head-first, skimming his tummy on the water. That seemed either one, uncomfortable, or two, a great challenge (or both). But as I watched him, I didn’t see a rope behind the boat he was following. And then, he took a left turn, and just started wandering around the big blob of boats and people on the sand bar.

What?!? His speed did not decrease. He was just skimming along, he looked like he was swimming at some outlandish speed, except that his arms weren’t moving and neither were his legs. He kept going, and going, till he disappeared from sight. Again, what?!?

Earlier I had seen two guys on electric hydrofoils. Have you seen those? They look like they are walking on water. Standing on a board, an engine and propeller below the water elevates the board above the water surface, and off they go. That looked like fun!

It also made me think that if you took that apparatus to the Sea of Galilee, some might think that you were walking on water like Jesus did.  The thought almost sounded sacrilegious, but I started thinking about how technology nowadays can make routine of what seemed miraculous years ago. Advances in medicine for instance. Or the speed of travel. Or talking to someone on another continent while sitting up in a tree.  Or…. technology has certainly changed our perspective on things.

I think that we have grown accustomed to taking our needs to technology instead of to the Lord. Blame can fly all over but technology has not solved the COVID problem. Technology has not solved the hunger issues of our country and the world. And technology helps us mitigate the power of nature, but not solve its disasters. And technology has not solved the condition of my soul. My body can hover over the water while on my feet or on my belly, but without the miracle of Grace, I cannot remedy the hurts, hang-ups and habits of my life. I can appear in front of a group of kids in Sunday School class in Florida while I am standing on a rural street in Kenya, but I can’t fix the mistrust created by a broken relationship. Through technology we can do amazing things (like read any translation of the Bible on my phone, or watch a streamed worship service), but only God can solve the true condition of our humanity.

Jesus walked unaided by technology on the water one night out on the Sea of Galilee. He calmed the storms of the waters and calmed the fears in His disciples’ hearts. He can do the same today. Jesus is still in the healing business today. Ours is to reach out to Him, and not the latest technological advances (cool as they may be!). Test your faith. Pray. And see what God can do. Not the hydrofoil.

Preaching to myself,

Craig

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6

A Message from Pastor Craig

Have you thought about sacred spaces? Is there a sacred place in your life? By a sacred space I mean a place that because of an experience, its architecture, or the activity in it, you are drawn to a conversation or experience with God.

I walked into somebody else’s sacred space the other day. I was down in Dania Beach, and went to check out the old First United Methodist Church of Dania. Years ago a group of us worked hard at keeping a United Methodist presence there on US-1, but a few years ago they sold the church. I wanted to see what has happened to it.

The building has big gold domes on it. There are crosses on those domes, indicating that some version of Orthodox church has taken over.  As I walked around the building, an older lady shuffled towards the church from the parking lot. As I looked her way, she immediately started shaking her head.  “Do you speak English?” I asked her. She shook her head with more vigor. But she motioned me to follow her. We went to the front door which was unlocked, and I, mistakenly, held the door for her. She shook her head. I insisted. The AC felt great—why wouldn’t she go in?

When the woman saw my stubbornness, she raised her eyebrows a little, and then—out there on US1—she began a whole ritual of genuflecting, crossing herself, and kissing the ground, and… I saw why she wanted to spare me holding the door for her. When she was done, she looked at me, smiled, and walked in. I smiled too, but looked down, and put my hand on my forehead in apology and reverence.

What we would call the Narthex—the gathering space inside the building before you enter the Sanctuary proper—was a store. You could buy any number of icons and iconography. You could stock up on thin prayer candles. I don’t know what else they had, it was all in Russian. The storekeeper welcomed me and answered my questions.

Then I walked into the Sanctuary. I had worshiped there with an African American church—the lively music still resonating in my head.  But…

Now.. The front 2/3’s of the pews had been removed. They had covered the chancel with tall curtains covering the whole front, providing the backdrop for large icons, life-sized icons of Jesus, Mary and angels, and an altar full of flowers with candles burning all over. I had walked into Russia, right there on US1 in Dania Beach.

As you looked around the Sanctuary, the icons got smaller but more prevalent. In that open area left by the pews, way to the left, was a prayer station where my older Russian guide prepared herself for prayer.

I sat away from her very aware that she had invited me into her sacred space. It wasn’t as sacred to me—too many memories of the church past flooded my heart. But I could tell I was in a sacred space, and I could see whose, right there in front of me. So it became sacred to me too.  And I prayed. Too cheap to buy a candle though.

I hope this place today is sacred for you. I hope that church this morning provides a physical space to connect with the transcendent, that the space we carve out with brick and mortar, but also the space we carve out in the course of this day, will allow for us to meet God here—to find His comfort, to find His will, to find fellowship in our worship.

If I knew how to genuflect and cross myself, I would have done so on my way out of that most amazing space. A Russian lady had invited me to encounter God that afternoon, and I did. I was grateful.

Back home,

Craig

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. For the LORD is good, and His loving devotion endures forever; His faithfulness continues to all generations.   Psalm 100:4,5

A Message from Pastor Craig

Often when people see my car they ask “why in the world does a pastor drive a Corvette?” Since it’s showing up at church now, I thought I would share the story with you.

On Good Friday in 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. On that day the oncologist told me that I had 6 months to a year to live, a hard diagnosis to receive at age 50, particularly when I had never smoked or been exposed to asbestos, the more common explanations for the illness.

There were long nights following that diagnosis. I never lost my faith, I never doubted God, but the prospect of leaving my wife behind, of not standing to cheer my younger son’s high school graduation, made me truly sad, and desirous to live. I prayed for healing—thought about treatments. And being a car guy, decided that if God saw me through this, I would celebrate by buying a Corvette. Notice I wasn’t bargaining with God, I just would celebrate.

Shopping for Corvettes on the Internet was comforting; it was a distraction from the diagnosis and the rounds of chemo that I did. I looked at cars while I did treatment, while I continued to work, and before I knew it, two years had gone by. That second Easter time I decided that I would go back to my primary care doctor, somebody I hadn’t visited with for two years (if you’re going to die in six months, who cares about the
condition of your prostate or cholesterol!). My doctor was an atheist Jew whom I had enjoyed as a thinker and as a doctor, a person with whom I shared openly my faith, and he his lack of it. Visiting with him he told me, pointing out something that I had noticed already, that the oncologists would never tell me that I was in remission, never mind cured, because when you’re diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of any type, the best they will say is that they can’t see it. Not that it’s gone, or that there’s been a cure—never that.

God hadn’t, and still hasn’t, told me that I’ve been healed. He can, and He has spoken to me on other occasions, but He hasn’t (and it’s His prerogative – God has been more than fair to me and owes me nothing!). It turns out the doctors will never tell me that I’m cured. And yet, talking with my primary care doctor I was very aware that I was, and am, healthy. So right then and there, in Dr. Zimmerman’s office, I decided I was buying a Corvette!

I had seen this yellow Corvette for sale for about a month. It was bright, and beautiful, and while six years old only had 1,200 miles on it. And, it was half the price of the ones that were that nice with that many miles.

What’s up with that?! The ad said that it had a rebuilt title (a rebuilt title means that the State has branded the car as having been in such a bad accident that the car was totaled), but went on to say that you don’t drive the title, you drive the car. Indeed! And it said that Ravenswood Body Shop fixed it. It was odd that a shop like that would be mentioned, but their shop was behind one of the Methodist churches I was responsible for, and I knew them. They only did high end stuff. So I visited with them, and they raved about the car, that the damage really wasn’t that bad, told me about the owner, and how he had fixed it and upgraded it and then put it in his private collection, etc. So I called.

Turns out this was a Hertz Rental Car (it actually is a designated model – ZHZ) from California. Some guy rented it, took out all the insurances on it, and went jumping with it. On his last jump, going too fast over the railroad tracks, he ripped the front end off, and then on the way down, ripped the back end off. And the car was totaled, bestowing upon it the rebuilt title, and hence the very low price. I bought the car for a song. And in this crazy market, it’s worth about that same today, seven years later.

And here’s the thing. The car was built perfectly in 2008. A couple of months later it was marred by sin. And then it was purchased by a wealthy car collector in Ft. Lauderdale who had Ravenswood restore it to its original state and then some. I’ve named the car “Redemption.”

You and I were created in the image of God. We were created perfectly. But sin, both by nature and nurture, has marred our perfection, and our relationship to that Creator. But on an Easter long ago, Jesus purchased our marred souls with the blood of His sacrifice, and we have been
redeemed. There’s a bright yellow Corvette out in the parking lot that tells me that story every day. If you’d like a ride, or want to talk about
redemption, just let me know.

Yakking away, Craig

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.  Ephesians 1:7,8a

A Message from Pastor Craig

I hurt myself playing a video game. That sounds really dumb, doesn’t it? Or clumsy, or something? How can you physically hurt yourself in a simulated world? Oh, let me count the ways!

My younger son loves car racing. He’s involved in a team that builds cars and enters them into collegiate level competitions. He even has a driving simulator. He took an abandoned car frame from the team’s graveyard, put a seat into it, replaced the windshield with three concave monitors, added a computer where the engine went, and replaced the game controller with hydraulic gas and brake pedals, and—this is where the rub comes—a force feedback steering wheel. In the right mode, the realism of what you experience with those monitors can make a weak stomach seasick. It’s really amazing what the graphics can do!

My problem was with the steering wheel. I was scooting around the Sebring racetrack in a supped up yellow Corvette. The gas pedal requires the same amount of pressure that a real race car does. So do the brakes which is actually quite a lot. And the steering wheel, that fancy piece of machinery, fights you when you steer. It literally has its own motor that counters your input, getting easier to turn the faster you go (like a real car).

But around the last corner, I decided to try a burnout, or at least make the rear end break loose. Well, it worked, and too much, because I crashed the car into the wall. In a simulation game that should just end the race, or mess up the performance of the car, but in this case, it also simulated the rotation of steering wheel, which went crazy in the collision with the wall. And my thumb wasn’t ready for that jolt. Ouch!

This may all sound quite technical…and it is, really. But the bottom line is that the equipment may simulate car driving, but it physically hurt me. The notion that a simulator should not hurt you is kind of like that lie of a dictum – “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Did you ever hear that irreversible binomial before? (Sorry – look that up).

It’s not true! While you can understand why a kid would say that to the jerk that is insulting him or her and the premise seems accurate that it takes physical objects to inflict physical harm, the conclusion that words can’t hurt you is about as sound logic as expecting not to get hurt in a car simulator. In Proverbs 12:18 the writer of wisdom says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The connection between the physical pain of a sword cut and words is direct here. And the converse carries as well – a kind word can heal the body. Pretty amazing.

Jesus took this truth and gave it a deeper spiritual meaning when he said “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt 15:10,11). Now, obviously Jesus had not been introduced to Watermelon Hard Mountain Dew. But he suggests that what words are what get us into trouble, and hurt us not just, say, in childhood, but hurt us eternally.

We live in a world where a machine asks us (I’m thinking Facebook here) “What’s on your mind” encouraging us to test Jesus’ dictum every time we log on. Job wisely said (in Job 13:5) “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” This is good social media advice.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can ruin me” should be how the irreversible binomial children’s rhyme goes. As adults we should pay attention.

Yakking away,

Craig

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14