Friday, May 31, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Topics We Avoid: Religion

I was never one to talk much about religion. Religion was a private thing that happened on Sunday mornings between 10:30 and 11:30. We had a professional to talk about Jesus and being good and the forgiveness of sins when we weren’t so good. He was an older man who wore a funny robe. He was well educated, kind, and a little aloof. And he loved to talk. But for the rest of us—religion was personal and private.

One hundred and fifty miles to the southwest and a world away—people talked a little more about religion. But not much. We were all 18 to 22 year old kids trying to figure out what we believed and didn’t believe. Scholars tried to get us talking. I remember an astronomy professor telling us that some kind of god had to exist and a religion professor telling us there was no way a god existed. But us students—the atheists, the Jews, the Catholics, the Protestants, the Muslims, the agnostics, the ambivalent, and those who just didn’t really care—were mostly mindful that talks about religion were best kept as polite and infrequent.

And then one day a girl invited me to church. It was a different kind of talk. Not about who was right and who was wrong. Not about believing four things and going to heaven or at least staying out of hell. Not condescending, but compassionate. Not alienating, but authentic. She simply told me she loved to go to this church, she always got a lot out of it, and she invited me to join her. I took her up on the offer am beyond grateful that somebody talked to me about religion.

I remember when Benjamin was born. Telling others was as natural as it gets. I told others with excitement: my siblings, my co-workers at the church, the woman in the gift shop, and the stranger on the elevator. It was good news!

Jesus invites us to talk about religion. To share our faith. To invite others to experience the Gospel, the Good News, in natural, loving, authentic, and compassionate ways. 

Some of my favorite stories at The Water’s Edge are stories of how our people have invited their friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and classmates to worship, serve, and grow with us. God is changing lives, new friendships are being formed, and people are being served because people are inviting: talking about religion in the best possible way. 

This summer, I want to encourage you to invite somebody to worship, serve, and grow with us. Think of a friend, family, co-worker, neighbor, or classmate who doesn’t have a church. Pray for them. Invite them to worship with us on a Sunday morning, join your small group, or even join us as we serve our community. The worst they can do is say, “No thanks.” And who knows, you may be part of somebody’s testimony! 

The best is yet to come… 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memorial Day

Memorial Day means different things to different people. It usually falls around the time of graduation and the ending of school. For some it is the beginning of summer. Picnics, BBQs, family reunions, and sporting events are all associated with Memorial Day. For some it is simply a welcomed day off from work.

For others Memorial Day is a sacred time. Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates United States men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. 

A few years ago I visited two parents who lost their son in Afghanistan. The son was like a little brother to me—he was a youth in a church I served. We laughed about days past. I told them stories about their son and listened to many of theirs. We ate burgers and mashed potatoes together. They shared dreams that would never be fulfilled. Hopes that would never be realized. Even though the son died a few years prior to my visit, it was like the pain was as deep and real for them as if I was the person who was breaking the news to them for the very first time. 

Then she looked at me with a tear flowing down her cheek like a sprinkle of rain dripping down a rock. I’ll never forget what she said: “One thing we are learning is that God knows what it’s like to lose a son for the freedom of many. In our darkest moments, He has always been our shining light.” 

Freedom isn’t free. Attorneys don’t provide freedom of speech. Soldiers do. Preachers don’t give freedom of religion. Military families do. We are grateful for soldiers, sailors, and their families. 

As Americans we are blessed with political, economic, and religious freedom as no other group of people in the history of the world has ever been blessed before. This did not come without a high price. Many of us have known somebody who has lost their life defending the things that make the United States so great. As Christians we are blessed with spiritual freedom as well. Things like hope, forgiveness, and grace give us both an abundant and eternal life. This did not come without a high price either. Jesus lost his life so we can experience a full life that will last forever. 

To all those who have served, who are serving, and their families—thank you!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Things Graduates (and other adults) Can Learn from Kindergarteners

This morning I helped walk about sixty kindergarteners from Willowdale Elementary to a park on the north side of Lake Zorinsky. It is one of those parks with colorful, plastic equipment and ground that is covered with the fine sand. The sky was blue. A cool breeze softened the warm sun. The kids were excited. The teachers were relieved to be out of the classroom.

David ordering Mac and Cheese with a side of Mac and Cheese

I know many of the children. They don’t call me Craig or pastor or Pastor Craig. I’m simply David’s dad—which is quite a splendid title. I have lunch with them occasionally. They like sitting next to the guy who gives out French fries. Many of them like to come up to me after school and give me a report on David’s day. I get more information, and better information, out of them than I do from David. They are an energetic group of adrenaline junkies who have cost the tooth fairy a lot of money this year. They are more covered in more optimism than they are in sunscreen and they are drenched in sunscreen. Theirs is a life of freedom—void of attachments.

Fast-forward twelve years. The innocent girls will be young women. The boys will care more about pecking order than they do French fries. The young adults will spend the morning getting fitted for a graduation robe and pass on the playing in the park. They won’t worry about what they are having for lunch. Their anxiety will be about where they are going to college, summer jobs, money, and saying goodbye to friends they have had for the last thirteen years.

In a dozen years, I’ll see some of the other parents at the grocery store or in church. I already know the conversation we’ll be having: “Do you remember the morning we walked the kids down to the park? Can you believe that was twelve years ago?” Life goes on at a predictable and relentless pace. I hang out with children a lot – mine and others. We adults can learn a lot from them, you know, especially the little ones.
  • Explore and ask lots of questions. Learning is the beginning of living.
  • Forgive quickly. Life is too short to bear grudges and carry resentment.
  • Don’t worry about tomorrow. It steals joy and abundance from today.
  • Embrace play. It makes life more sustainable and more pleasurable.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
  • Dream big. The size of your life will not exceed the size of your dreams.
  • Love unconditionally. Don’t worry about skin color, social background, gender, or age. Just do your best to love like God loves.

 The best is yet to come…


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Things We Love About Our Mom

I have two guest columnists this week: Benjamin and David. I asked them what they love about their mom.

  • I love that she loves me no matter what I do. (Benjamin) 
  • I love that she helps with stuff. (David) 
  • I love that she is so soft. (David) 
  • I love that she comes to all my games and events. (Benjamin) 
  • I love that she picks me up from school and takes me to YoYo Berri. (David) 
  • I love when she picks me up from school because she is on time, unlike daddy. (Benjamin) 
  • I love that she takes off work and volunteers at my school. (David) 
  • I love that she works hard for us. (Benjamin) 
  • I love that she reads to me. (Benjamin) 
  • I love that she reads to me. (David) 
  • I love that we do lots of fun things together. (Benjamin and David) 
  • I love when she makes dinner for us. (Benjamin) 
  • I love when she gives me hugs and kisses. (David) 
  • I love that she tells me when I do a good job. (Benjamin) 
  • We love laughing with her. (Benjamin and David) 
  • I love going to get pie at Village Inn on Wednesdays and talking to her. (Benjamin) 
  • This is the last one I am doing: I love when she scratches my back. (David) 
  • I love that she is patient with me. (Benjamin) 

Lots of other kids could come up with similar lists about their mom. This is ours. 

Happy Mother’s Day to mom and all moms, 

Benjamin – Sixth Grade 
David - Kindergarten

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Winter's Last Stand, Again

It is late at night. I’ve always been a night person. The date is May 1st. It will be May 2nd by the time I finish. A few minutes ago, ice was pelting against the window. Now, the snow is gently falling from the sky. If it were October or November the pure white snow covering the ground would be beautiful. Since it’s May, few are able to see the beauty.

May is supposed to be the month of tulips and colorful flowers on fruit trees and green grass and warm afternoons. But winter is making her last stand, again. The golfers and soccer players and gardeners have had a rough spring. Or maybe it should just be called a very long winter. The snow is coming down harder. I just saw lightning and heard thunder. It’s surreal. 

But life goes on. The cars still are travelling on Harrison Street. I just got an email. The boys will go to school in the morning. Not in shorts and a t-shirt. But pants and a winter coat. A roofer will stop by at least once tomorrow and tell me he can give me the best roof at the lowest price. And the snow will melt one last time for the season, again. 

You have probably guessed this week’s column isn’t about weather. It’s about life. Weather is a lot like life. Unpredictable. Beautiful. Challenging. Harsh. Enjoyable. Sustaining. Constantly changing. And we can’t do a darn thing about external forces. All we can do is change our reaction to the things and people which we have no control over. 

Just like winter isn’t ending—some of us seem to be in a perpetual season of winter. If we didn’t have bad luck—we wouldn’t have any luck at all. Our life has recently been defined by defeat, disease, depression, death, dysfunction, debt, and dependence. And the snow and the ice and the winds and the cold never seems to end. A few days of warmth and sunshine here and there. And then comes another blast of snow. 

My daffodils. I’m betting they will still be there in the morning. A few inches of snow isn’t going to do anything but make them a little hardier. And you are much stronger than a daffodil. And spring is coming. And summer too. Like in a few weeks. So as I go to sleep I’m grateful. For a roof over my head and a warm house. For the beauty of creation. For His grace that holds me in pain and His love that brings community, joy, and strength. And for the promise of spring – better days are ahead. Soon. 

The best is yet to come…