A Message from Pastor Craig: 11-27-2022

This will come as a shock to you I’m sure, but I have never been a fan of the Sistine Chapel.  Many of you know Janice and I recently had the opportunity to go to Italy, and even though the chapel doesn’t do anything for me, I had to take Janice there – it’s the place of legend, of history, of great significance for the Catholic Church.

It’s not that I am not a fan of the Catholic Church.  Or not a fan of chapels.  Or art for that matter.  I think it’s really Michelangelo.  I couldn’t get over the over-the-top nature of the decoration of the chapel; I couldn’t get over the fact that pagan Sibyls figured as prominently on the walls as did the Prophets; and yes, the prude in me couldn’t get over all the nakedness of adults and children alike.  He was sure fixated on certain anatomical parts.  And that he put a wonderful portrait of one of his critics in the hell section of his huge Last Judgement inserts some pettiness unbefitting a place of prayer and a place where Popes are chosen.

Michelangelo had a contemporary, and art rival, by the name of Raphael.  Raphael also painted and sculpted in magnificent ways.  He served as the architect for St. Peter’s Cathedral.  He created the cartoons for the tapestries that adorn a different section of the Vatican and he painted a series of works in another room that are a marvel to ponder.  In that particular room, the story, found in Acts 12, shows Peter being freed from prison by an angel.  Not a particularly well-lit room, light seems to emanate from his painting.  The reflection of light in the painting itself is artistic genius, and preaches about the power that liberated Peter.  It enhances the story as he portrays his imagination into the text.

I guess my struggle lies in there somewhere. Michelangelo seems to have come up with biblically-related themes to guide his desire to paint people, as where Raphael used the painting of his characters to communicate and better explain the Biblical text.  People looked at Michelangelo’s work and called him “the divine Michelangelo.”  Raphael’s works pointed me to the divine in his tapestries and frescoes.

I know, this is a little esoteric,  but here’s my point:  when we read Scripture, we need to bring our imagination into it, not unlike Raphael.  When we bring our imagination into the reading, we actually insert ourselves into the text in ways that a purely intellectual pursuit wouldn’t accomplish.  Also, we need to bring our talent into it, whether that is analysis or music or relationships or visual arts, no matter. God personalizes our reading when we insert imagination and talent into the reading.  This can’t happen without study.

Finding all the information you can about a text matters tremendously;  It can guide or correct our imagination.  Some have called this “informed imagination.”  It’s the way to approach God’s word if you ask me.  It invites us to bring all our talent and imagination into the reading of the Bible.  Kind of like the way Raphael did.

Striving to give glory to God,

Craig

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  Colossians 3:23,24

A Message from Pastor Craig: 11-20-2022

Should you walk through a museum with a guide or go discover things on your own? Now, if you’re talking about a museum of science set up with interactive displays largely targeting children, that’s one thing. But if you’re going through an art museum, say the Salvador Dali museum in St Petersburg, that’s something else.

That dilemma came the other day as I played guide for Janice at the Vatican Museum. I have had the privilege of taking a couple of groups to Italy (as part of a larger tour of retracing the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys), and in those settings I have taken a back seat and just let the local guide take us through the museum even though you sometimes feel like a lemming, following the trinket held up on a stick by the guide to keep the little flock of tourists together. But there are things that you just don’t notice unless someone points them out.  And on that score a guided tour is better.

Before I go on, let me plug the solo thing. With Janice I got to see a lot more of the museum than I had seen with the rushed guides. We saw, and this is very important, all the past “pope mobiles.” Starting with the personal compartment that got carried on the shoulders of four people, to the carriages pulled by six horses, to the cars and SUV’s with hundreds of horse-power, the museum assembled them all for the public to see. How could these guides have skipped THIS part of the museum!?!

Anyway. In the Tapestry Gallery, huge tapestries hang one after another, down both sides of a majestically long room. These tapestries are two stories high, and are remarkable in their detail. The great artist Raphael sketched the cartoons for these things, and then a tapestry maker (or a hundred) worked diligently on turning them into rugs (that term sounds so pedestrian – these works of art shouldn’t be called rugs).

Two of them, both with Jesus in them, are truly remarkable. One features Jesus walking out of the tomb. Most people, and I watched them, just glance at it and move on.  Some actually took pictures of it – it’s rather large even by the gallery’s standards. But nobody, in the time that I watched, looked into Jesus’ eyes as they walked by. You need to do that, because it doesn’t matter where you stand in relation to the tapestry, Jesus is always looking at you. If it wasn’t a smiling Jesus, it might be scary. But in this context, that Jesus is looking at you regardless of where you are just seems cool. Real cool. So cool that I had Janice experience it.  She couldn’t believe it. I loved it so much that I just went looking for other people to tell them about it. Seriously, I stopped, looked for someone with an approachable smile, and talked to them. The people that I talked to walked back to the beginning of the tapestry, fixed their eyes on Jesus (you can imagine where I’m going with this), and then just shook their heads in amazement. And thanked me. One lady stood around and became an evangelist after Janice and I left.

I firmly believe that blessings are found when you look for them. Experiencing God happens when we seek Him.  You certainly aren’t going to notice that Jesus has His eyes trained on you if you are looking down, if you are looking elsewhere, if you are not paying attention.  And yes, having someone serve as a guide occasionally is truly helpful.

One of my favorite songs is: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”  “Look full in His wonderful face” it goes on to say.  “And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” wrote Helen Lemmel so many years ago. What the tapestry at the Vatican reminded me of is that if I look for Him, as the song suggests, I will find that He is already looking at me. And always has been. His grace is such that it follows us not just through the incredibly ornate hallways of the Vatican, but in everyday life, in Boca, wherever. But just like thousands of people walk by the tapestry and don’t appreciate it, so there are tens of thousands in Boca who are walking through life not knowing that a loving God is just waiting for them to look up. Who will tell them?

Blessed to be back in Boca,

Craig

How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Hebrews 10:14,15

A Message from Pastor Craig: 10-30-2022

Romans 12:17 says: Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Last Saturday a group from the church had the privilege of going to Ft. Myers and helping a small family, who had no insurance, start cleaning up after the storm. The floods did not cover the house, but filled it with about 3 feet of water—the family’s possessions floated in all directions. We cleared the yard and we removed furniture from the home. We even helped them clear out a refrigerator that smelled to high heavens since we were there weeks after the storm came through.

It was great to see our church family work together to help a family over there. We did some work!  Everybody worked hard except me. I just wandered the yard with a bucket and cleaned up stuff. Mostly little stuff…a case full of CDs…a bunch of electronic knickknacks…a slew of credit cards…broken lawn ornaments…flowerpots and even clothes. All this and more out on the lawn in front of a house that experienced three feet of water. Like a clothes washing machine, first washing into it, then washing out of it, with an agitating cycle before the wash cycles.

As I sifted through the stuff, oddly dug into the dirt in places, I wondered what that little family, who had evacuated and weren’t coming back for a while, thought about strangers collecting all their goods.  I wondered what it would be like for me to have some random person, unknown to me, decide what was treasure and what was trash from all my life’s possessions.

It was a sober moment.  It gave me some pause.  I wondered what people would think of me if they cleared out my stuff and decided what went back and what went to the curb.  And then I thought, “you know, you need to live your life in a way that you can face the people that cleared out your stuff and thank them.”  Would you really want to be embarrassed by wondering if they found this, that or the other thing had floated out on the lawn, never mind inside the house?

A word to the wise is sufficient.  I think this applies to our stuff and the amount of it that we have.  But it applies to all our resources, whether monetary or physical, our thoughts, everything. It applies to our life and to our spiritual life, although God can see it all now, He doesn’t have to wait for a storm.

It was an honor to serve that family.  We will not be the ones to rebuild that house.  But I pray for them specifically, amongst all the people affected by the hurricane.  May God help them to rebuild their lives, their sense of wellbeing, their hope.  I hope we get to replicate the help we offered Saturday.  Come join us!

Grateful to be back,

Craig

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

A Message from Pastor Craig: 10-23-2022

So, true story.  We didn’t read it in our media outlets, but they did in Dublin.  It was a piece of just personal interest type stuff I suppose, but good news should be shared, so I will with you.

Back in 2013 a man hailed a taxi in New York City.  When he got to his destination, he didn’t have enough money to pay the cabbie.  He apologized to the cabbie, and told the cabbie that he owned a bar in Dublin (to which the cabbie is reported as saying “Yeah, who doesn’t”).  He said that if the cabbie was ever in Dublin, he would repay him with the equivalent amount of beer.  They actually took the time to make the conversion of dollars to euros, and agreed that the bartender owed the cabbie 2 pints of beer.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago.  On October 18th the cabbie actually was in Dublin.  And he went to the bar.  Now, apparently he had called ahead because when he showed up, they had hung a banner welcoming him, had a big party, and presented him with his two pints of beer.  Now, I think he should’ve gotten more than the two pints because the exchange rate has changed a lot since 2013.  But anyway, I would also say he got a lot more than the cab fare in return.  The IOU was paid in spades (or should we say clubs?).

The Bible is very clear about speaking the truth and honoring your word.  And if I take political debates as an example, we accuse one another of lying a lot these days.  Expecting the truth seems to be a dying expectation in our country.  But it should not, and cannot, be amongst us as Christians.  In Exodus, the ninth commandment says not to bear false witness.  In Numbers it says “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” (30:2).  In Matthew 5 Jesus said “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (v.37).

The Bible mandates things that are for our good.  The commands of God are for our benefit, not His – God knows the truth whether we speak it or not.  It is for the functioning of society that we must speak the truth.  We can only do business, relate to our neighbors, carry on as families if we can trust one another.  And trust goes out the window when lies are introduced.  Or in this case, when you don’t honor your word about the two pints of beer.

We shouldn’t live in a world where the international IOU being honored is noteworthy.  It should be that way all the time.  Let’s make sure we are contributing to the normalcy of truth telling.  The Truth, after all, is an attribute of our Lord (John 14:6).

Watching my words,

Craig

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven
and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.  Ecclesiastes 5:2

A Message from Pastor Craig: 10-16-2022

The other day I happened across this news item that reported that a “sparkplug” lighthouse had just sold for “six figures.”  Now, lighthouses have an undeniable allure.  I’ve written about them before.  They are beacons of hope, safety, and identity.  Not a few churches call themselves “The Lighthouse” because we see Jesus in the same light (pun intended).

But the story from October 2 doesn’t conjure that kind of enduring imagery.  No, this is about a stumpy little lighthouse built in the water (there’s no yard or seawall), derelict from years of rough weather with little or no maintenance.  The sales pitch goes on to say that it “has an outer ladder but no nearby dock for a boat to moor. A 2019 inspection also found lead-based paint, asbestos, benzene and other dangerous substances inside, where there is no water, electricity or other utilities.”

And somebody wants to buy this?  No, five people wanted to buy it.  When the GSA put it up for auction, the opening bid was $15,000.  Now, I’m not sure I would pay $15,000 for a hole in the water into which you would just pour money (wait, that’s a boat, right?).  But five people were willing to pay good money for it.  Regular house-type money for it.  Five people bid against each other on the online auction site, raising the ultimate purchase price to $192,000.  Almost $200K for a place that you were only allowed to inspect from afar, the Navy restricts access to, and must remain a navigational aid.  And, did I mention, no running water?  If you want to look it up, it’s called the Hooper Island Lighthouse.

I understand the romance of owning a lighthouse.  A secluded private oasis (so to speak) where you could bring friends and enjoy the ocean.  And the allure of a lighthouse just given to you by the government (yes, they actually give some away) sounds interesting.  But $192K for an inaccessible derelict eyesore?

A couple of things come to mind.  I find great solace in the thought that God finds me worth investing in.  Spiritually, I need as much work as Hooper Island, and physically, I probably need as much work, too.  And yet Jesus died to rescue me.  Pretty amazing.  God loves us even though we need a lot of work.  We can be inaccessible to Him much of the time, and we, like Hooper Island, come with strings attached.  And He loves us anyway!

Why?  Because, like the new owner of the little sparkplug lighthouse (this is conjecture on my part, the new owner is not known yet), God sees us for who we were originally intended to be and can see we already haven’t reached our full potential.  God sees us for who we can be, not just who we’ve been.

I found it crazy that you couldn’t inspect the place.  How do you invest close to $200K for something you don’t know how bad it is?  You know, it’s interesting.  God does this for us.  It matters not how derelict we are, God purchases us anyway (Galatians 3:13).  But on the other end of the deal, God does not demand that we just take Him.  “Taste and see” says the Psalmist, giving the impression that we can inspect, that we can experience the goodness of God before we buy into it.  “Come and see” Jesus said to Andrew, not demanding anything of him.

Now, following in God’s way ultimately demands more than a roughed-up lighthouse in Chesapeake Bay.  God wants all of us.  But we don’t go unadvisedly.  We can see and learn and feel God’s attributes before we commit.  And, well, God has a lot more to offer than a solitary “sparkplug” in the water.  God is good in every way.  His yoke is easy (Mt 11:30), and goodness and mercy follows (Ps 23:6) us when we give ourselves to Him.  It’s a pretty good deal.  Unlike the lighthouse in Maryland.

Grateful for grace and lighthouses,

Craig

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 10-09-2022

It started when I backed the car out, and the garage door clicker didn’t close the garage door. I pressed it again, and it closed, and I was on my way.  The next day I had to be just at the right spot for the door to close. Then it wouldn’t close at all, making this comical dance of me hitting the wired switch inside the garage, running towards the descending door, ducking so as not to be hit by the door, while exaggeratedly lifting my feet over the invisible security beam that stops the door if something is underneath it. Janice watched that indignity too many times.  She didn’t laugh, at least by the time I got in the car. Finally, the clicker stopped working in either direction.

So we went out, bought a new garage door opener, and decided to install it ourselves. There was one there before (only the electronics had gone bad), no broken pieces anywhere, and the dimensions of the new machine seemed identical to the old one— so, how hard could it be?  It would be an easy job for somebody who has skills in this area or experience with it. But I have neither of those (what does Proverbs 27:12 say? “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”).

Off we started anyway. We got it all installed, wired and what not, and then found that the bar that goes from the unit back to the door was too low at the motor end. The garage door, right at the end, was rubbing against the bar. Now what? Again, the person with skills, or experience, would know just what to do (actually they would have figured that out earlier). But whatever, we had a problem on our hands.

There’s nothing a Dremel tool won’t fix.  I tell you, next to duct tape and WD-40, there’s no more useful tool in the shed.  We cut, trimmed, adjusted the supports, and wouldn’t you know, we ended up with a functioning garage door opener!  It’s really quiet, but slow – I’m sure an expert would know what to do about that too.  But no matter, I’ll just apologize Sunday morning when I’m 10 minutes late because I had to wait for my garage door to close.

Sometimes my life is like the motor of the garage door.  Sometimes God needs to cut things out of it.  Sometimes He needs to trim some things from the edges.  Sometimes it’s just a screw loose (or two).  Sometimes God just needs to adjust minor things, sometimes He’s got to get a spiritual Dremel tool and cut things.  Those hurt sometimes.

When I think about the installation, the door didn’t fight back. The door opener didn’t fight back. Sometimes, on the other hand, we resist the adjustments God wants to make in our lives. Our lives are too pliable… willing to be tightened or shortened, sped up or raised, or whatever the change might be. The Bible is full of this imagery. From Proverbs (ex. Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another) to Jeremiah (9:7  thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, I will refine them and assay them) to Daniel (12:10 Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand) to John (15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit) the Bible recognizes the need humans have to be worked on, improved on, made more holy. This is what the theologians call Sanctification, and we are on that journey. May God find us willing and desiring to grow!

Enjoying the benefits,

Craig

“My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you.  For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives.” Hebrews 12:5,6

A Message from Pastor Craig: 10-02-2022

It’s been a while since we had to deal with a hurricane.  That’s a good thing, and getting almost through September this year, it seemed like we might not have to.  But alas, Ian kind of messed with all of us in some form or another.  Hurricanes have a way of doing that to us.

For Janice and I, the storm simply brought our granddaughter to our home.  That worked out great!  We are grateful to be able to have a place where they could come and escape the passing storm, if not its effects.

In my prayer time this morning I was reminded of an experience of hurricane preparedness from several years ago.  We had shuttered the church (which had accordion shutters – not a big deal), and we had shuttered the parsonage (which had big steel
panels – that was a bigger deal), and were now ready to help others.  The church’s sexton was an older gentleman who lived with his wife in a very modest home with no shutters.  Some guys from the church had managed to get plywood, which back then didn’t cost its weight in gold, and the hardware necessary to attach them to his house.

Generally, as a storm approaches, it starts to rain.  And then it doesn’t.  And then it pours.  And then it doesn’t.  And early in the morning as I drove to join the folks who had committed to put up shutters, I saw a rainbow in the clouds straight ahead of me. I thought it peculiar that a rainbow would show up before the storm.  Usually they come afterwards.

But, how delightful to see it there before the storm!  As you know, the rainbow was used by God to sign a covenant that he made with Noah.  After the flood, after the storm, God told Noah that the rainbow he saw was a symbol of the covenant God made with Noah to never completely flood the earth again.  It was a kind sign.  It was meant as a gentle reminder of God’s mercy.  It was meant to make us smile, and be reminded that God smiles on us.

And that happened that day.  When I got to the sexton’s house, I smiled and delighted in being there with brothers and sisters committed to helping others.  All under the eye of a God who smiles at His children.

I forget what the aftermath of that storm was.  I don’t remember how bad it was.  All I remember was that the shutters we put up actually made it through the storm and they were OK.  That was rather miraculous actually—you never know how volunteer work is going to go!

As I write this, Ian has not gone by yet.  I know it has already caused plenty of distress in Puerto Rico and in Cuba.  I don’t know what it holds for our children’s homes.  But I do know that regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the aftermath, God walks with us before the storm, during the storm and afterwards. And the promise of His mercy is there, evidenced throughout, coccasionally even before the storm in the form of a rainbow.

Grateful for the promises,

Craig

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you,
 a covenant for all generations to come: I have set My rainbow in the clouds,
and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  Genesis 9:12,13

A Message from Pastor Craig: 9-25-2022

 The Queen’s death has dominated the news this week.  And rightly so, she was not our queen, but was THE queen for the rest of us.  If WE think of her as the queen, was she not our queen too?  I thought it was cool that at the Southernmost Point of the US, down in Key West, just for a day they replaced the United States flag with the British flag.  It was kind of like them playing our National Anthem at Buckingham Palace after 9/11.  The queen’s passing rightfully dominated the news.

But other things happened of course.  And one that you probably missed is a news item sent to me by a couple of alert readers about some red heifers unloaded at the Ben Gurion airport in Israel.

Why would there be fanfare in the US about some red heifers being delivered in Israel?  Well, some Christians in Texas had read the writings of a Spanish Jew who lived in the 12th Century. That’s why.   Moses ben Maimon apparently was quite an accomplished physician and philosopher and rabbi.  You can read about him under Maimonides in Wikipedia.  He suggested that the Messiah would sacrifice a red bull when He returned.  So, these kind folks in Texas sent the cows so that Israel would be ready.  This captured the imagination of more than one Adventist.

I have two thoughts on this:

One, I suffer from a very simple theological disease called “waitandsee.”  I really don’t think that we as Christians will do any better at predicting Jesus’ return than people did when He came the first time.  And we can no better make the Messiah come back (like lining up cows in Israel) than we can predict when he’s coming (which Jesus told us nobody knows). “Waiting and seeing” does not mean that we get to sit around, however.  But the preparations that we are to make are in our hearts.  Are we ready for His return?  Are we excited about it?  (I’m thinking of a T-shirt I saw once: on the front it said “Jesus is coming soon,” and on the back it said “look busy”).  I’m guilty of not thinking about it a whole lot.  Preparing for my reunion with God is what my life should be all about.  And that has to do with my behavior, my thoughts, my “sanctification” as Wesley would have called it.

And two, I believe that Jesus abolished the need for animal sacrifice.  He was the final sacrificed lamb, an atonement once and for all.  Why would He come back to reinstitute an old, useless ritual?  We remember that ultimate gift to us, a gift of redemption, every time we have communion. We celebrate the end of sacrifices every month here.  The sacrifices ended because of the One sacrifice made two
thousand years ago.  And next week, we add the celebration that that gift is celebrated way beyond the country of Israel. It’s celebrated around the world, maybe with different breads and in different languages, but with the same words: This is my body which is broken for you…

We will get to celebrate World Communion Sunday with different breads and in different languages, all praising God that atonement was paid for once and for all by Jesus on a cross.

Praise God!

Looking forward to next week,

Craig

Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”  Revelation 5:11,12

A Message from Pastor Craig: 9-18-2022

Florida Southern College (FSC), a historically Methodist-related college, has a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  I have gravitated towards Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) since I saw one of his homes in Buffalo, NY, and found that as a person who knew nothing about architecture, I could actually identify FLW work. 

A while back, FSC found some blueprints of a house requested by the first president of the school to FLW.  They intended to build a faculty neighborhood and have the houses have a particular look.  FLW believed that the United States had a unique place in history.  He felt that his era (1930’s and 40’s) had a particular contribution to make to the advancement of civilization, and that the technologies being developed in the United States had particular advancements for humankind.  FLW found a word to describe this particularly unique “United States-ness.” He called it Usonia, or Usonian.  Look this up.

The blueprints found at FSC were for a “Usonian” house.  Meant for faculty, the house is rather small – two bedrooms – but has three flat roofs, at different levels to create clerestories (definition: An upper portion of a wall containing windows for supplying natural light to a building).  The flat roofs cantilever out to create shade where some walls are mostly glass.  Nestled in a tropically vegetated lot, they would have been really cool, if in my mind somewhat small.  The reason they didn’t build any of these things is because FLW designed the cinderblocks with all kinds of little colored glass inserts.  The construction costs would have been astronomical. 

The reason I can speak to all of this is that the other evening, after a conference I was attending, I went for a walk, and found this Usonian house built right across from campus.  I had never noticed it before.  Built in 2013, they built it as a memorial to FLW, and a celebration of his contributions to the school.  You should see it sometime.

It touched me on a whole different level though.  I thought the house was cool and all, but it was the word Usonian that caught my attention.  As you probably know, I grew up in Costa Rica.  Which is in Central America.  Every one that I knew there was born in America.  They were all “Americans” in that sense.  I never felt comfortable calling myself an “American” because, well, Canadians are Americans, and Mexicans are Americans.  But not finding a descriptive word (at least a kind one) exclusively for people from the US, I have occasionally resorted to describing myself as an American.  It is true after all!

But here is this word “Usonian,” a word coined in the 1800’s, which never took off.  I don’t know if I will ever use it.  But it’s there.  It’s kind of like using the term “Methodist” for myself.  Am I a United Methodist, or a Free Methodist, or an African Methodist or a Global Methodist, or Wesleyan, CME, AME Zion, etc., etc.?  Do I make a term up like “UMeth?”

Struggling with this does not mean I am embarrassed or hesitant to be recognized as, say, from the United States.  I am proud of my country, I am delighted to be a citizen, I choose this place not just because I was born here, but because I have seen many alternatives, even lived in them, and prefer here.  But maybe specifically because I have lived elsewhere, I am hesitant to think distinctive what isn’t. 

So, what names do we call ourselves?  How about Christians?  More important than American, or Usonian, and more important than Methodist (or some variation on that theme) I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  I am His disciple.  And more of me as an individual needs to be recognizable as Christian than my nationality, or denominational preference, or anything else.  At the end of my life I want people to remember me as a good follower of Jesus, THEN as a good husband, father, citizen, (oh, and grandpa, I’m still getting used to that one!).

Back from the Usonian house,

Craig

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.  Philippians 3:20,21

A Message from Pastor Craig: 9-11-2022

Last night I figured out how to make a slide show out of all the photos on my computer.  Now, this is more a confession than something I’m proud about.  With the amount of time I spend with my computer, I should have figured this out decades ago.  But who knew!?  In the Mac environment, you go to Photos, Select All, and then press Slideshow.  It’s that easy.

Now, you don’t get a curated show.  You get to see, at least in my case, the receipts of business trips past, photos taken for reimbursement purposes.  You see the bottom side of a rowing machine, taken to get the serial number off it so I could order parts, you see prices of washing machines at Home Depot from when our dryer died.  Some pictures are sideways, some blurry beyond recognition.

But along the way, wonderful memories of activities past flashed on the TV screen, making a TV show out of our lives that we ended up watching for a couple of hours (some of the videos I took were quite unnecessarily long).

My Mom’s side of the family used to gather every time my parents and I came back to the United States. One night of those gatherings was always spent watching slides on an old Kodak slide projector with family commenting on things over the loud hum of the fan trying to keep the bulb from blowing up.  (BTW- “Slideshow” doesn’t even make sense on a computer anymore!  It’s leftover language like “rolling” up your car window or “dialing” a phone number.)  It always took a couple of hours to go through those slides too, and we looked forward to being reminded of the old times and the additional slides that were added from our last visit. 

It’s important to look back.  Like in a car, you want to take the same proportion of time looking back as a mirror takes in your windshield.  You don’t get stuck there—it’s not the main focus.  But it’s a helpful check.

When you look back at your life, what do you see?  What are the memories?  Are they a jumble of un-curated thoughts?  Are they colored with rose-colored glasses? Are they majorly painful?  I think that when we look back and find the times when God has been good to us, when we look back at the blessings that we have received in the past, God helps us curate the memories for the benefit of our future.  Painful things are not forgotten.  But they can be put in the context of the Grace that saw us through.  Milestones can be seen as the consistent hand of God walking with us through our lifetimes.  Beautiful places that just by their existence, and our privilege to have seen them, remind us of the goodness of God.  That lunar eclipse that didn’t record as well as you thought it would still reminds us of the wonder of creation.  God’s goodness is revealed in many ways, and reviewing those ways, whether in a slideshow or not, is a unique privilege humans have.  I think we should take advantage of that.  Remembering God’s goodness is very important.  Communion is that – remembering the gift Jesus gave us.  That’s what the religious holidays are – remembering the milestones of the redemptive work of God. 
Recalling the saints of old is an album of God’s work in history.  And it’s all good, and for our benefit.  Praise God!

Mindful of God’s goodness in my life,

Craig

Remember the days of old; consider the years long past. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders,
and they will inform you. Deuteronomy 32:7