#changetheconversation

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

I’ve been digging potatoes.

I can’t do the whole crop at one time the way I once could.

Now it is a few feet a day.

But I still get a thrill out of it out of all proportion to what you’d think.

There is just something about the mystery of what is down there.

Hidden.

Hoped for.

Even expected.

But you just don’t know until you dig.

Sort of like our faith.

There are reservoirs of experience, intelligence, and even resistance that have grown a beautiful plant.

It has flowered and shown some verdant results from all the watering and weeding and wishing.

Then comes the dog days.

Or maybe the nouveau coronavirus.

Perhaps a bit of stress in relationships or distress in the news.

It’s time to dig.

Find out what we’ve got down deep.

Hidden.

Hoped for.

Even expected.

My potato crop this year is exceptional.

Those yellow tubers are rolling out of the ground well shaped, blemish free, and plentiful.

Sort of like what I’m seeing in you.

And I’m feasting on the harvest of strength you are discovering.

As our Friend and I were walking along in the early hours we were chatting about how amazing you folks are and how you didn’t know how strong you are until you got to digging deeper.  He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“Digging makes you strong.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 8 hours ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Sometimes your inadequacy hits you pretty hard.

Or maybe it is just outright failure.

I had a Report this morning.

“All Brother Pat preaches about is never ending love. It can’t be that easy.”

Easy?

Easy?!

EASY??!!

I have screwed up.

Love is easy?

It is the riskiest, most difficult, challenging way of life conceivable.

It’s tough to leave for unknown places to do unimaginable things because you love the people behind and the people in front.

It hurts like hell when people you love walk away.

It is excruciating when someone you love dies.

It is devastating when a heart breaks.

It means you put your hands in vomit.

And your life in other hands.

It has to do with a Cross.

Love is so very overwhelming that we will invest centuries developing doctrines and rule books to avoid it.

We will kill millions and starve tens of millions to get away from its mandate.

If I have led anyone, ever, to think that love and easy can rationally go in the same sentence I am the most abject failure of a leader that ever stepped before a people.

You know what’s easy?

Condemning is easy.

Fearing is easy.

Hoarding goods and emotions is easy.

Love is hard.

And we will all die as fools without it.

As our Friend and I were walking a steamy Friday walk I told him how shocked I was at the awareness of how upside down I seem to have communicated his essence. He was a bit solemn so I knew it was serious before he said…

You got schooled.“

My move.

Brother Pat

I’m down for maintenance for a few days.

I need to see if I can redeem my remaining time.

Peace be with you.

Posted 3 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.


My devotions led me to this.


It was a fairly traumatic thing.


In seminary there came the day to preach your “senior sermon.”


After you preached the class, and the professor, would critique you.


The only comment that stuck was not on content.


It was not on “style.”


It was when I was told that I couldn’t be heard.


To quote the professor, “Driskell, you are mush mouthed.”


I guess the reason it stuck is that I have heard this consistently for 40+ years.


I have a “weak” voice.


I seldom shout.


The most frustrated people are the sound techs who work so hard to elevate the volume.


Seldom to any avail.


And The Cutie who spends her days asking “what?”


Speak up may well be the single most offered advice extended to me all these years.


The only close contender has been the counsel to shut up.


That is the counsel I give myself.


Speak up.


Shut up.


Either way there is a still, small voice that just won’t give up.


If you keep trying to hear you won’t screw up.


Eh?


As our Friend and I were striking out on a humid hike he was saying something that was important to me. When I asked for more volume he smiled at me the way he does and said…


“It’s not what I say, it’s how you listen.”


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 4 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Several years ago a couple of our local institutions were undergoing some changes.

The only auto parts store in town had been sold to another bank.

 (I frequently described our town as having five banks and one stoplight. Alas, one of the banks was bought up and then closed so we have but four now!))

Anyway, before the demolition of the auto parts store and the construction of the new bank had commenced the incoming financial institution had their offices in a small strip mall.  One day I was in there for something and the bank president came through the cramped lobby.

Maybe that’s why he stopped to greet me.

Or maybe that’s what bank presidents do.

Anyway, I hit him up with an idea.

I was Kramer all over and magnified.

I told him that I’d read that online and virtual banking was the future.

He agreed.

I told him that I’d read many bank employees would be losing jobs to computers.

He allowed that that was likely.

Then I hit him with the meat of the momentous mental conclusion I’d reached.

Why not elevate the drive thru at the new bank and include an oil change station?

You could cross train the tellers and preserve jobs.

You could expand services and enhance income.

You would stand alone amongst all the other banks.

Another local bank was giving Paula Dean cookware as an incentive to open an account.

I didn’t need any more pots and pans but I regularly need an oil change.

The icing on my proposal was that folks were accustomed to going to that very location to garner supplies for - oil changes!

There was no refuting my logic!

He sort of fidgeted and then allowed that he needed to make a phone call.

The Cutie says folks don’t get my humor.

I, for one, am still chuckling over that poor bank president trying hard to take my conversation seriously - and plot his escape.

They didn’t put in the oil change station.

But I am thinking about franchising.

As our Friend and I were delayed by storms and rain this morning we were talking about, well, not much of anything.  Somedays it is just the what it is.  He was as indulgent as ever before he smiled at me and said…

“The banker is still telling that story too.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 5 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.


My devotions led me to this.


For First Cumberland Presbyterian, Rogersville, it has been over 100 days since the church family we love so much has been together for corporate worship.


We’ve done the best we knew how to do to help everyone be safe over these 16 weeks while still taking a spin at doing “virtual worship.”


The hunger to be together was seen at MSLB when we launched anew there four weeks back.


We anticipate the same hunger being fed at FCP when we launch this Sunday.


We are doing all we know to do to help everyone feel comfortable.


We have done every commercial we can imagine asking all of us to be mindful of the rest of us in social distancing and facial barriers.


We have a radio transmitter so that you can sit in your car in the parking lot if you’d like.


We have a new, so far unused, and very effective sound system. We still won’t be using it but rejoice that Bob Ingram is loaning his portable system for outdoor use.


We have canopies for those who would like to sit on the lawn in discreet family groupings.


We will broadcast the service via Facebook Live for those who prefer to continue the worship experience online.


We have prayed, studied, talked, and organized for every eventuality we can imagine.


We have endured undue criticism and even greater undue praise.


So today we looked at the weather forecast for Sunday at 0830.


Rain.


Who could have guessed?! 😉


Of course it will rain!


And we will smile through the precipitation and praise the Lord for the SHOWERS OF BLESSING!


The closer the date comes the more I am convinced that the graces that will appear to us in the coming days will threaten to drown us with goodness.


There is a line in The Book that I will read this Sunday:


Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.


As our Friend and I were striking out for another hike with rain on the radar we continued planning, praying and anticipating. I was fretting about the if factor. He shrugged it off, smiled at me, and said….


“This one is going to float your boat.”


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 6 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.


Larry sang that John Prine song “People Putting People Down.”


When I left for worship yesterday I told the Cutie that I really didn’t want to go.


That has NEVER happened.


When I saw the song list that one jumped up and smacked me.


Right in the heart.


It got down in my guts.


I guess it always did but in these interesting days it seems downright prophetic.


Don’t you think?


John Prine has gone on to a remote stage now but if he were around maybe he could write a new tune for us.


“People Lifting People Up.”


John won’t be writing that song so I reckon it is up to us.


I saw the first verse with folks having some honest, and loving, discussions. That was a unique thing right there.


You wondered why someone hadn’t invented such a thing before.


Then the dang song got to be as long as “Bohemian Rhapsody” as encouraging things were said, and kind deeds were done, and forgiveness came that some of us have been denying.


Special nuances came to the lyrics in text messages that spoke of deep love.


The melody was so sweet as folks let their hurts drift away and their hopes erupt.


Then the harmonies soothed troubled hearts and inspired powerful dreams.


When the chorus came alive it was the dangdest thing.


Everybody was singing their own words to their own tunes at their own beat.


It came together like a miracle.


Like a miracle.


The ear worm of all ear worms.


It was almost like it was the song we were meant to sing all along.


And I was glad I went to that concert after all.


As our Friend and I were walking a Monday walk and preparing for an exceptional week we were tapping our toes and clapping our hands and swaying to the rhythm. He smiled at me the way he does and said…


“I told you they could sing. By the way, John approves.”


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

There is a guy in The Book who passed on a message from God.

“Be alert!  I am doing a new thing.  Do you see it?”

Oh, I see it all right.

Like a locomotive that flattened us.

Like a 2x4 whacking me in the face.

Like ice water poured over my head.

I see it.

I just don’t know what to do with it.

I’ve long known that the people of faith shouldn’t be defined by buildings, professional staff, and vanity.

Thing is, once you get those things they weigh on you like a millstone.

Then something much smaller than a paramecium comes along and SHAKES YOU UP.

It gives opportunity for the most bizarre conspiracy theories to erupt.

It infects people with distrust and disdain.

it drives up the price of toilet paper.

It causes friendships to rupture.

It isn’t the virus that is the new thing.

It is what we are doing with the virus that is the new thing.

It is surely distracting to see the skubala (look it up.)

But.

Here and there folks are rising up with responsible behavior.

Lights are shining in the places where hope has been kindled.

Humility has come home to roost for those who have talked it but been unacquainted with it on a personal level.

I, for one, am lost as can be.

I see it.

Even the blind can see it.

Only the willfully ignorant are missing it.

I just don’t know what to do with it.

Yet.

Maybe I never will.

But damned if I am going to quit now.

I’ve lived my whole life pressing on to the Promised Land.

I like milk and honey.

My craving is getting stronger.

It has been a rough, rough, week.

Still standing is sometimes the greatest sign of progress.

As our Friend and I were walking a humid Sunday walk we were talking about how difficult it can be to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.  He clearly understood when he smiled at me and said….

“Our buddy Moses walked 40 years and never did see the Promised Land.  But he got to a mountaintop and grabbed a good peek.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.


A few days ago my morning walk led me to examine a scar on my knee that mostly goes unnoticed.


I guess scars are on my mind.


They might as well be. They are everywhere else on my body.


I have them from bicycle wrecks, surgeries, parachute jumps, motorcycle collisions, horse incidents, cooking - and negligence (aka stupid.)


There is a big one on my head.


The Cutie gave me a haircut yesterday and it is even more noticeable.


It was, by my mundane standards, a noteworthy day.


One of my grandchildren was with me. He was only a couple of years old.


I was unloading some large round hay bales and, as I approached the trailer, I noticed that I hadn’t removed the load strap from the hay.


It was hot and I was going to be quick so I left Everett in the tractor cab with the a/c running.


Removing the strap took about 37 seconds.


But I didn’t want Everett in that cab alone for long. Kids sometimes forget to leave things alone.


I turned to hustle back into the cab and ran full on into the hay spear.


Split my head wide open..


It was a bloody mess.


It hurt like…well, it hurt.


It was that sudden nauseating pan.


I thought I was going to pass out.


To this day I don’t know how I kept from going unconscious.


As I fell to my knees and things got blurry I could only think about my grandson in that tractor cab by himself.


I also thought about how ticked The Cutie was going to be.


Whether it was intervention from the divine, concern for the kid or fear of his grandmother I don’t know but I rallied, found a greasy rag to stem the hemorrhage, and lifted the child out of the tractor cab.


He laughed at the whole thing.


All that to say that the scar reminds me that things happen.


Sometimes painful things happen.


When all is said and done what we have left is a scar, a memory or two, and a lesson learned.


And, if we listen closely enough, the echo of the laughter of a child!


You see, it never occurred to him that someone wouldn’t take care of him.


That’s the lesson from this ridiculous scar and ridiculous story.


“Humble yourself and see as a child sees then you will really see.” (Another of my tight paraphrases.)


No less a theologian than John Lennon said “In the end everything will be ok. If it isn’t ok it isn’t the end.”


As our Friend and I were taking a Saturday stroll I told him about my scar, my grandson, and my insight. He laughed the most freely outrageous laugh! Then he said…


“Did you get the hay unloaded?”


Your move..


Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.


I bake a little bread now and then.


The recipes vary and the processes can be quite different.


The ingredients also change a good bit.


The atmospheric conditions are constantly fluctuating.


The mood of the baker is always a question.


But one foundational thing will have the greatest influence on the outcome.


That would be the quality of the wheat flour.


(I don’t do gluten free so it is pretty much always a grain flour of some kind.)


There is a lot that goes into those grains but this morning I got to thinking about the winnowing process.


Winnow is from the Old English. It literally means “to fan.”


A secondary definition is to separate the good from the bad.


You’ve seen the illustrations, including one used by Jesus.


You repeatedly toss the harvested wheat into the air.


The breeze gradually, gently, effectively takes away the chaff, the dirt, the dead bugs.


If done persistently you come out with high quality flour.


The kind of flour that makes for the best bread.


Maybe that’s the process we are experiencing right now.


My life certainly feels a little tossed.


Some things, and some folks, have been blown away, hopefully to a better place but blown away nevertheless.


If we get tossed persistently enough maybe the breeze will blow away the conspiracy theories that are polluting our dialogue.


If the wind blows in the right direction perhaps we will find out what matters.


If patience seasons our desires for some pure grain perhaps this tossing and blowing and separating will get us to the point that we have some high quality flour to use.


I read something somewhere about the Bread of Life.


After the winnowing was done and the dirt and death and chaff were blown away we found what was left.


Forgiveness. Hope. Love. Life.


As our Friend and I were walking and debating recipes this morning we looked around at a lot of chaff. It was especially obvious in my basket. He just smiled at me the way he does and said….


“Notice that you are still in there.”


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.


Woeful, defined by my trusty old Webster’s, means “lamentably bad.”


My memory is woeful.


It wasn’t always this porous but it certainly is now.


I suppose it is partially a product of age.


The effects of a failing memory can be moderated with a few gimmicks, or so I hear.


Some folks take pills.


Some folks do crossword puzzles. (This is a complicating layer to the issue because I also once could spell.)


Some folks set alarms on their smart phones which are quickly becoming the repository of all memories.


I misplace my smart phone with alarming regularity.


Complicating all this is the fact that I was never trained, called, or inclined to do ministry in a lamentably bad environment.


I look in the mirror and just sigh and say “you, sir, are woeful.”


I find myself retreating into the memories that are sharp and that make me joyful.


I turn my back on the lamentably bad and deliriously devour the ecstaticly euphoric.


The Cutie said “I do” and she made a promise and she kept it overcoming all that is lamentable.


I see clearly, and feel deeply, when the children arrived and grew and played in the sun and wind while I watched and relaxed over something precious I’d been a part of creating.


I remember the first grandchild, who we feared would never walk, took his first step and then kept on walking fearlessly into a life that has blessed me beyond the ability of my trusty old Webster’s to articulate.


I remember I preached at my Grandmother’s funeral and when I lifted my Mom from her chair.


It is a joyful thing as I look at you and remember the weddings and funerals and Baptisms and encouragement and kindnesses and smile.


I recall the gentle love that has cushioned the memories I’d rather not have had.


Woeful can be topped you see.


Best I remember.


As our Friend and I were walking along and trying to figure out what on earth it was that we’d just discussed he smiled at me and said…


“Store the memories that are joyful in the cloud.”


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago


Friday morning, October 26

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

I have never been really comfortable with what folks call "faith healing." This for many reasons but first among them is the fact that many of my friends with the most profound faith are not healed of their physical afflictions.

I recognize as never before that we must step up the practice of faith healing. Not the faith healing practiced by the religious hucksters. I am referring to the church once again assuming the responsibility for health care. For all.

When I hear of friends paying $1,700 a month for health insurance that is inadequate I cringe at our failure. When I hear of the health care "industry" I instinctively know that the bottom line is the bottom line. I and my family couldn't do that. We would just die.

I was with my colleague and friend Joab St Louis on Tuesday. He lives near Miragoane and there is a hospital/clinic there. But no one uses it. He says they let the people die who can't pay in advance.

Instead the people take the long and difficult road to Fond-des-blancs. There they go to a hospital/clinic that asks them to pay $5 for treatment. But accepts them if they can't. Many can't. That hospital is run by a church in Boston. They have good doctors, good staffing, good facilities, good hearts and serve the community in multiple amazing ways. They practice faith healing.

You may have forgotten that not too long ago the church built pretty much all of the hospitals. They cared for the people with tenderness and mercy. The hospitals were named for saints. They practiced faith healing.

My friend Jesus never charged to give sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf. He saw to it that the lame jumped up to dance. So far as I can tell he never advanced a business model to profit from human suffering.

Too many of the saintly folks have surrendered our responsibility to bring faith healing as a vital witness to our faith in Jesus. It is time to rise up. It is time to heal folks because we have faith in the One who gives life.

Saint Vincent sounds good to me. So does Baptist Memorial. I could even get used to Presbyterian Central. Above all I want to hear of Mercy Station.

Otherwise we die.

How could the Lord of Life be served by that?

Your move.

Brother Pat



Thursday morning, October 25

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

I have been meditating this morning on an observation made by a new participant in our church family. She said "Brother Pat, I like this church. It is a "Cheers" church."

Some of you will get it. Some of you are too young.

Several decades ago their was a sitcom (do they still call them that?) called "Cheers." It was quite successful. It had a neat ensemble of actors and actresses. It was well written and entertaining. It won a lot of awards.

I don't recall a single episode.

But I remember very well the theme song and the key lyric which said "you want to go where everybody knows your name."

Some several of you are singing that little ditty right now.

It was about relationships. On every level. It was about knowing the time someone usually shows up, and the place they will sit, and pretty much the words they will say, and even the mood they are in.

And finding comfort in that. And acceptance in that. And hope in that.

It was about being with friends.

Our Jesus once said "I could have called you servant but instead I call you friend."

So in a "Cheers" Church we know the nitty gritty about each other.

But try this on...

We also know when Jesus is going to arrive. We know where he is going to sit. We know what he is going to say. And we even know what mood he is going to be in.

Don't we?

Answer that and live.

Cheers.

Your move.

Brother Pat



Wednesday morning, October 24

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

Be warned. This is a long one. And when it is finished it is just beginning.

I just took a shower. The water is cold. I felt kind of silly turning on the hot water valve because I knew it was only going to be cold. It comes from a well and is pumped to a cistern on the roof. Gravity is the only pressure on the flow.

Yesterday as we bounced along in the car I saw men and women and mothers with little children bathing in the creeks and rivers.

I shaved also. With cold water. There is a sink with running water. I can use it to wash my hands and shave. But I don't dare use it to brush my teeth. I would be at risk of illness and a lot of yuck. "Remember, Pat, to use the bottled water" is my conversation with myself.

My host proudly showed me his new well. It is 45 feet deep. Dug by hand. When he cranks the small generator it pumps water for the school. And for his three rooms house. And for a random assortment of neighbors. Before they were walking several hundred feet to a community well, with a hand pump, and waiting their turn in a long line, to fill five gallon buckets to then carry to their home. To use for everything needing water.

It is 90 plus degrees in the tropical heat. And no air conditioning. Anywhere. The children in the preschool, some as young as two, and the farmers in the fields, harvesting millet with hand scythes and the women doing laundry in the stream smile, and talk, and sweat. I played with the kids at the school yesterday, right after they had a plate of rice for lunch. They held my hand. They smiled the brightest smiles. We danced and kicked the deflated ball. And I was drenched with sweat.

I have a fan that will work while I sleep - if the charge from the solar battery holds out.

Even here I have great privilege. I lie awake at night quite a bit wondering why I have so much and others so little simply because I was born here but not here.

I can only conclude that I have more to be available to those who have less.

On the other hand...

Here the children walk hand in hand in the streets playing, quite literally, with sticks and stones. Very young children. They are constantly under the watchful eyes of adults. The adults are not locked into a house somewhere watching a television or a computer screen. The children are very safe.

And every hour of every day I hear voices in conversation. Everyone, seemingly, talks to everyone else. There is a lot of laughter. No one looks lonely or left out.

I talked a lot with my host yesterday. I asked him about economic conditions. Some simple questions such as "how often do people "manje", eat? He told me Haitians try to eat twice a day. Many only eat once a day. Prices are rising but the income of the people, averaging under $4 a say PER HOUSEHOLD, isn't rising. Folks are squeezed. A large number have no food at all. He then said "their neighbors share the food with them."

Last night I sat on the step and listened to the people singing in the church across the street. I got up and walked closer. To hear better. And to feel more. The harmonies were beautiful. The songs were touching. They sang for over an hour. People here gather in the churches a lot. It is as if faith sustains them.

And I remember.

There is more than one kind of poverty. There is more than one kind of wealth.

There is more. Much more.

Your move.

Brother Pat

October 22 at 2:56 AM

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.
John 14:12 The Message

This little ditty from Jesus is strong in me this morning. My bags are packed. I, and two companions, will depart for Haiti in an hour or so. Jesus never got more than a few tens of miles from home with the Good News that matters. A similar thought could well echo in our Haitian sisters and brothers whose joy and faith so radically transforms us.

Here I sit typing on my iPad. In a few minutes I will tap the "send" and "post" functions and my words, however limited, will be available to countless people. The only record we have of Jesus writing anything is an unknown scribbling in the dirt as his wisdom and love prevailed for the accused woman - and for us.

We "go live" with pieces of our worship services, hoping, dare I say trusting, that someone somewhere will be lifted from despair to hope. For Jesus, word of mouth was the means for spreading The Message.

Maybe more than any other, this "prophecy" of Jesus for his followers is evident.

I note that Jesus did not say that we are greater than him.

We could never be that lowly of heart, that humble, that merciful, that servant minded.

But as we share the work he did we are assured that "great things" will break out!

So as you check your messages and send your encouragement this morning, please note that Jesus said it would be so. As you crank your cars and make your calls please be assured that Jesus will ooze love to multitudes through you. The things we take for granted are quite literally miracles if you step back, pray up, and move forward, confident that, once again, you know that The Way is the way.

Bon Voyage!

Your move.

Brother Pat



October 21 at 5:05 AM

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

Many years ago I read a book by a fellow named Richard Foster. I don't remember a whole lot about the book but one line resonated with me in a profound way. He wrote that "change worthy of the name takes place on the level of habit."

In the morning you don't decide to brush your teeth (I hope). It is a habit that probably fits quite nicely into another set of habits. You do it because it has become a part of who you are. It is your habit.

Now I know that there are good habits and habits that aren't quite so good. I don't intend to quibble. So let's move on.

Those habits become our "default" actions. In computer lingo a default program is "a value that a program or operating system assumes, or a course of action thata program or operating system will take, when the user or programmer specifies no overriding value or action." If you don't change it, the habit is by default the action you will take.

My Mom and Dad were right adamant about me brushing my teeth. Their insistence led to a lifelong habit.

Our Heavenly Father is adamant that our lives be characterized by love. It is our habit, should we be in his family, to love. If we aren't loving we are overriding the habit he insists we cultivate.

My Mom and Dad knew that brushing my teeth is essential to my health and essential to the consolation, and comfort, of a growing circle of family members, friends, and even strangers.

My Heavenly Father knows the same thing, to an exponentially higher degree, about love.

My friend Martha Marshall was eager to share a message she'd received from her son Jason who lives in New York State. Jason's family has a message board. Each family member is tasked to write an encouraging message on the board on their designated day. Jason's six years old son, River, was responsible for the message yesterday. He wrote "go to love." Awesome. I'm guessing he has heard that idea enough that his habit came out in his actions. It is River's default.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35

Dad is teaching us something important here...

Your move.

Brother Pat


October 20 at 6:24 AM

It is raining on Anderson this morning. My walk is delayed which got my devotions turned to this...

Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either.
Acts 16:6b-7 The Message

Things change. Plans get altered. Outcomes are unpredictable.

From what I think I know about Paul I suspect he was pretty rigid. Pray about it. Discuss it. Decide it. Plan it. And then, come hell or high water (sometimes stoning and shipwrecks), go do it! Let nothing stop you.

Acts 16 leaps out as an exception.

Paul's life could be characterized as the ultimate "man on a mission." He had been saved from a life of cold legalism to a warm awareness of God's grace and mercy, revealed in his friend Jesus. He understood his life as a vehicle for the spreading of the Good News about that grace and mercy. I'm certainly down with that.

But then there are the specifics.

On this one journey there came a moment to make a critical decision. Go East or go West. Turn closer to home or pursue different realities. I am pretty sure that when Paul made his decisions he was convinced it was God's will. Sometimes we are wrong. In this story he found that God's will was different than the plans Paul had made.

He could have bulldozed his way ahead. He could have stuck with the plan. He could have pursued what he thought was the best direction. Paul was seldom deterred. But this time things changed.

I like to have a plan. I like to know specifics. I like to be in control. But the life of faith isn't that way. Every morning we wake up to new mercies. These new mercies, these new starts, these new opportunities are a chance to say "lead me Lord." I know what I think is best. I know which direction I think we should go. I like to walk before daylight. I like to see the stars. I like to enjoy the quiet. But sometimes it rains and plans have to change. I like to be in control but the life of faith isn't that way.

In a couple of hours the elders of our church will gather for a retreat. We will look back at where we have been and gauge our faithfulness to our mission. Then we will look ahead for God's direction for the coming year. We know the general will of God, that we be more like Jesus.

The specifics?

Not so much.

So we will proceed. May we be humble enough, and wise enough to say "lead us Lord." Please join us in that prayer. We need you.

Your move.

Brother Pat


October 19 at 5:17 AM

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow."
Matthew 6:34 The Message

Today is a sandwich day, the day "between."

Truth be told, and I am charged to tell you truth, every day is sandwich day. Every last one. I counted last night . I have had 23,820 sandwiches. That's a lot of hoagies!

Yesterday the church that I am so honored to pastor, that is so tolerant of me, that so honors Christ, rose up to be powerful, joyful, exuberantly faithful at the Haiti Gala. I could bask in the memories, replay the conversations, sing the songs, look through the photo albums, for a long time! And from time to time, I will. When the Second Shift Band wrapped up the evening with a very powerful "How Great Thou Art" we felt it.

Yes we did.

Tomorrow brings our annual Session (fancy Presbyterian word for servant leaders/elders) Retreat. There are many, many important things to discuss and decide. We are so excited about the next steps God has planned for us to help us become more like Jesus. We covet your prayers as discernment and discovery takes place. We feel an appropriate sense of expectation as we go into the next steps of this incredible journey.

Yes we do.

However, today is today. Today there will be sunshine and rain. Today there will be grief and relief. Today there will be opportunities to live the love we know by our faith in the one who is love. I don't want to miss any of it. And I will easily miss the best of it if I can't get past my yesterday or focus inappropriately on my tomorrow.

One of my friends died a couple of years ago. I remember her for many things. But my clearest and best memory of her is this. I would go visit her early of a morning. She would be sitting on her deck, sipping her coffee. She didn't greet me with "hello." She didn't say "good morning." She said "Pat Driskell, this is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." Every time.

There is nothing wrong with memories. They shape us. There is nothing wrong with plans. They shape us. But there is something tragic if our memories and our plans rob us of today.

So sort it out today children. Breathe deeply of the Spirit of joy that is your birthright. Dance the rhythm of the fearless life you have been given. Hug tightly those God has given you to love.

And enjoy your sandwich.

Your move.

Brother Pat



October 18 at 3:34 AM

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Colossians 3:12-14 The Message

Never be without your primary garment. I like that. My like, however, is irrelevant so let me restate the reason we should never be without love. Everything falls apart otherwise.

We had another interesting conversation last night in our Bible Study group. Having been influenced by several centuries of unfortunate teaching and preaching about "Greek words" and "Hebrew words" we start fragmenting what can't be sundered. That's when the problem starts.

When we think that sex, for example, as a different kind of love it gets severed from the Reality that gives sex its highest expression - and satisfaction. Same for "brotherly" love. Once we categorize love it becomes love for others like me, or who have my philosophy, or agree with my politics, or speak my language, or salute my flag, or have my skin color, or...ad nauseum.

Ad nauseum means "until you want to puke."

Look around please. #metoo had to happen because folks fragment love. Hate groups are the direct result of love that got fragmented. And the division and disastrous reality that now permeates every scintilla of our social setting (I like alliteration), well, I rest my case.

I have a tremendously busy and promising day before me. I have important work to do with the most amazing people. My mind is in a million places. I could have written about many things. Your reality is the same. But first on our priority list, always first, is to never divide or leave or fail to apply the all redeeming love that saves us. We can't fragment it. We can't selectively apply it.

This Jesus we follow will have none of this. We can't either.

#changetheconversation

Your move.

Brother Pat



October 17 at 4:29 AM

I just came in from my morning walk. My devotions led me to this...

These are the days of miracles and wonders. 🎶

Yes, I know. That isn't Scripture in the chapter and verse sense. Yes, I know. It is a line from a Paul Simon song. But faith breathes through many means and, for me at least, I have been singing this tune with its Gospel message a whole lot of late. My yesterday was a good example.

Yes, I know. Many of us had disappointments yesterday. I had a few. But "all things work together for good", right? The disappointing things made me stronger and wiser and more faithful to the One who doesn't disappoint. These are the days of miracles and wonders you see.

My Dad, one of my brothers, and I got to be together all day yesterday as we traveled to the funeral of a family member. We talked of things deep, and superficial. We visited places of abiding memories and saw cousins and friends we hadn't seen in decades. We celebrated life in the face of death. We ate sumptuously at the table of a church showing astonishing hospitality. These are the days of miracles and wonders.

While we drove I had an hour communication with a mother, a woman I knew two decades ago, who is crushed by her child's addiction, a child I helped nurture. Our prayers and broken hearts didn't fix anything - yet - but we felt better. These are the days of miracles and wonders you see.

I was in touch with a woman in Boston, MA about her Dad in Rogersville, AL. Who would have thought it could be that easy? These are the days of miracles and wonders.

A friend, or two, confessed publicly that being kind is sometimes tough. They made me smile because I knew they were becoming kinder by the minute. My wonderfully capable daughter made biscotti for the Haiti Gala coming up tomorrow night. I already placed bids on several items in the Silent Auction. Two different people asked ME about Haitian recipes! These are REALLY the days of miracles and wonders!!

An old friend who I haven't seen in decades wrote of ways his church is changing the conversation in Bedford, TX. Another friend joyfully shared the kindness blossoming in a middle school in Hartselle, AL. A minister colleague in Murfreesboro, TN sent the most glorious photo of wristbands that will remind hundreds, heck tens of thousands, to be kind and encouraging. And a guy I went to college with, and with whom I share friendship and ministry, a guy over in Huntsville, AL, filmed and shared to YouTube the most eloquent call to the #changetheconversation movement! When the two of us went to school we knew of computers in a vague way, but had no clue that he would one day reach multitudes on hand held phones! These are the days of miracles and wonders.

And then there was the big stuff. The folks sending cards of love and support. The phone calls to check on friends and neighbors. The gentle reminders of what is big in the Kingdom of God. These are the days of miracles and wonders you see.

And this. Turns out that a very good friend of mine has been sharing a lot about the work and wonder of our church on his company bulletin board. Through a web of communication that can only be called Divine it comes about that there is a Haitian native who lives five miles from our church building. He is being prayed for and encouraged to enter the New Life we enjoy every morning as we follow God in the Way of Jesus. It looks like I will get to meet him tomorrow. Maybe love on him a bit. Maybe find another brother. Maybe see another miracle and wonder unfold. That alone would be reason enough for the Gala!

So that was my yesterday. At least a small part of it. And because these are the days of miracles and wonders my today will surpass that.

Your move.

Brother Pat