#changetheconversation

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

“…in him everything holds together.”

“We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.”

A couple of passages from the first chapter of Colossians reminding me not to clutter things up.

Several decades ago my offspring were children. We worshipped God all the time (weren’t always aware that’s what we were doing) but we gathered with sisters and brothers, usually on Sunday mornings, for what many call corporate worship. I never got to sit with them for the sermon.

After worship I would occasionally ask if they knew what the sermon was about that morning. Their response lives on in our family lore…

“Jesus and God and stuff.”

I used to consider that response the ultimate in evasion. (It was!)

But now I consider that answer to be the only acceptable outcome.

We can preach our sermons, all of us, on deep matters of doctrinal division. We can preach our sermons, all of us, on the current trends in political persuasion. We can wax eloquent, all of us, on the minutiae of Biblical interpretation.

Or we can let it be about Jesus who was confronted by those very sermons.

Yes, Jesus was confronted by those very sermons.

They were trying to convince him and convert him and correct him into proper belief.

They were even trying to preach him into keeping the rules.

That’s what the church folk were doing. They were trying to convert Jesus.

He just kept in being Jesus. He just kept on healing and saving - even on the Sabbath!

He just kept on feeding and forgiving - without plans or prognostications.

He loved us and lived as himself. He was genuine and genuinely enough.

There is a lot of clutter out there. I do my share of muddling the Message.

Maybe you do too.

Let’s just quit it with needing to be right, needing to win, needing to correct everyone about everything.

And be okay with Jesus. I mean, isn’t that good enough?

The rest is just stuff.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 23 hours ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Isaiah 55 is my “go to” reading. It starts with grace, moves through mercy and mystery, and ends with joy!

I get chills just writing those words.

This morning I am into this proclamation…


….my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


I have my doubts that Isaiah had any clue that I would be reading that on an iPad several millennia later.

But here I sit.

Sometimes we miss the mystery that is so essential to our lives of faith.

There have been many occasions that I preached a sermon and at the conclusion thought “that turkey will never fly”. Later someone came to me and said “that sermon really touched me where I needed to be touched.”

Weird

Conversely, I will preach with what I think is my best thought, the greatest eloquence available to a limited person, and the most profound theology I can muster. Then someone will walk by, warmly embrace me, and say “well preach, that was a real yawner.”

Or I will write a devotional. After I am finished and hit “post” I sigh and say “what a lemon”. A couple of hours later (when the rest of the world gets out of bed) I will get a text or email saying “I am sending this to my friends and anyone else I care about!”

Other times I write in ways that I suspect would make Hemingway jealous. The result? A lot of good naps.

Mr. Rogers (yes that Mr. Rogers) was a minister. He once said that “Holy ground is the space between the preacher’s mouth and the people’s ears.”

Truth.

There, in the Holy Ground, that passage from Isaiah 55 happens. It may happen instantly or maybe 2,500 years later a country preacher will be quickened by the truth, learn to relax, and know the joy!

Ok. Now the real point of all of this.

A year ago I started (really God started me) on a conversation. At first, the other party was a bit reluctant. I almost gave up. Slowly things thawed, then warmed. Then blossomed into one of the most beautiful friendships and bold statements of what wondrous things God does in our lives!

I can’t imagine what a loss I would have experienced if I hadn’t come to trust that the Word of the Lord would not achieve its purpose.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 day ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

One morning I pulled up at the bar next to Bebop. I had a new iPad with me that the church had purchased to help me stay in touch. The coffee shop had wifi, a rarity in those days, and I needed to do a small job.

Bebop was a technology fan. He asked to see the iPad. After fumbling around a few minutes he took a selfie. As he handed over my device he said “I can tell if it has a good camera by how good I look.”

You can imagine the fun I had with THAT!

But this morning I am running with that conversation.

Do you remember “glamour shots”? For a few years (or was it months?) folks were hustling to glamour shots. They got made up, dressed up, lighted up, and they came out looking, well, dare I say it?

Like someone else.

To everyone I just offended, please don’t shoot the messenger.

You didn’t have to do that to be beautiful.

One of the most effective lies of The Great Deceiver is that you aren’t good enough the way you are.

And one of the most transforming realities you can experience from The Truth is that you are incredible, absolutely incredible. Uniquely created. Astoundingly gifted. And beautiful.

On your worst day.

But here’s a curious thing.

You begin to realize your own beauty when you begin to see the beauty in others.

Like the friend with the cancer wracked body who keeps on going and encouraging others.

Like the little children, and their adult companions, who deliver thanksgiving baskets.

Like the fellow who messages you in the night to ask if there is a place for him in the new worship service.

Like the saint and the reprobate who happen to be the same person.

I have a new habit. It grew from our church theme this year. The theme is from 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage one Another.”

I quickly added a tag.

“Start with the person in the mirror.”

In the selfie.

On your best day.

And at your worst moment.

Say it out loud. I do.

“Jesus thinks you lookgood enough to die for.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Damp cold is colder than dry cold.

Now that I’ve displayed that mountain of wisdom I want to tell you a story.

But first, this…

I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:14 The Message

Now the story.

Seven or eight years ago I was bellied up to the bar with my friend Bebop. If you are a recent arrived reader of these walks remind me to catch you up on Bebop sometime.

He was absolutely exhausted when I got there. I was quick to note that he looked pretty rumpled. Bebop was pretty consistent in telling me “if I had known then what I know now..” He told me he’d spent several hours wishing he could change the past.

I said “How did that work out for you Bop?” Bebop said “don’t be a smart ass Padre.”

(Those of you who witnessed our countless conversations are smiling right now.)

And ain’t that the way?

I suspect that pretty much all of us have something, maybe a lot of somethings, we would change if we could. And many of us, maybe all of us, exhaust ourselves attempting what can’t be done.

Our faith says to us, quite emphatically, LET IT GO!

Paul told the Philippians some horror stories about his prideful, hurtful, past. Then he pivots to his freedom. He says “forgetting what lies behind I press on!” In The Message it reads “I’m off and running.” Running the good race is difficult, indeed impossible, if we are weighted down by the past. The Good News we followers after God in the Way of Jesus celebrate is that we can LET IT GO!

Every week in our family worship time I ask the people I love a critical question. “Who is in a position to condemn you?”

They know the answer. They enthusiastically respond “only Christ.”

They can respond enthusiastically because they know what comes next. “He doesn’t.”

Every bit of weight you and I carry from the past is a disservice to the gentle Jesus who calls us forward. Every bit of energy we expend on trying to change what God has forgotten about us is energy we can’t use to spread the Good News about the banquet. And every regret we dwell on about something we can’t change robs us of the joy and kindness that our neighbors so desperately need to see in us.

My worst days are days when I try to do what God has already accomplished. My best days are the days when I am filled with anticipation for what Jesus is going to accomplish.

This is going to be one of my best days.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 3 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

It is hard to dodge raindrops.

A part of understanding our Holy Book is numerology. The ancients were much more adept than we are, or can be, at living into the truth through symbolism. Numbers like 7, 12, and 40 are so important to understanding the Bible that you simply miss truth if your literalism won’t let you go there.

And three.

For me these days the three is the key.

So many threes are so very, very destructive.

I don’t care.

You’re not welcome.

Not that way.

I am troubled.

You are lost.

Dead to me.

I am scared.

I hate you.

You get the idea.

And the tragedy is that these destructive threes are so clearly, and easily, converted for those who follow after God in the Way of Jesus. Every last one.

I am here.

Come to me.

I’m the way.

Be at peace.

My dear child.

A precious jewel.

Don’t be afraid.

I love you.

(Encourage one another. Just be kind) 🤗

You get the idea.

And the victory is that those beautiful threes are so clearly, and joyfully, lived by those who follow after God in the Way of Jesus. Every last one.

If you were looking for something profound this morning I rejoice that you came here. This is simple and simply profound.

Perhaps the greatest proof of our frailty and sin is that we have obscured how profoundly simple the Good Way is.

Perhaps the greatest affirmation of the Risen Lord and the Life we are offered is just converting the threes.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 5 days ago

It is raining again. It fit my mood. Because sometimes I am just pitiful.

2018 is the most amazing, transformative, encouraging, and uplifting year of my life. It started out pretty bleak but that is a faint memory for me now. God has been powerful in my life, in the incredible church I am honored to pastor, and in my family. Every kind of growth worthy of the name has gone on. And apparently the goodness is only now beginning. Sort of like the first inspiring rays of light before a cloudless day. So much good. So much joy. So many people doing such incredible work for the Reign of God.

And yesterday was all of that in microcosm. My family is doing goodness every which way. Our church just astounded me with a powerful surprise as they clothed themselves in Christ for worship. The snowball of righteousness that results from people seeking and serving in the love of Jesus gained even more speed. I am in the middle of a veritable ocean of sweetness riding a wave of Spirit that I’ve been promised will never end.

It is good.

But sometimes I am just pitiful.

Before I went to sleep last night I got the word of a complaint, a tiny little bit of criticism. It wasn’t much of a complaint and the person deserves to be heard and their concern needs to be prayerfully considered.

But it brought me down. It kind of took my joy away.

One little thing in the midst of all of that glory.

This morning God rather forcefully grabbed me by the shoulder and kicked my butt - again.

I have been telling people for several weeks that if they need to overcome an obstacle they should go in their room, close the door, play the video I linked, sing these words, and dance with this little girl. I strongly recommend that you do this too.

Seriously. Try it.

I am pitiful because a small thing can get me down.

God is powerful because he uses little things to lift me up.

I sang.

I danced.

All good.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 6 days ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

It seems that a lot of us do a lot of fretting about folks “not believing the Bible”.

A couple of things…

We pretty much make the Bible unbelievable. And not in the fantastically good sense!

We try to make the Bible a history book, or a geology book, or a political science book, or almost any other kind of book except for what it is. When we do this the Bible loses its authentic joy - in a hurry.

There are many wonderful ways to describe and experience the Bible but I have settled on “diary”.

It is the diary of a people living by faith and describing their journey of discovery and growth and joyful celebration as they are set free. For those of us who follow after God in the Way of Jesus the Bible is experienced, not interpreted. It is formative, not dictatorial.

It is living.

And the Bible becomes much more unbelievable - in the fantastically good sense - when it is lived.

Which brings me to the second reason folks have a difficult time with this dynamic document. We in the community of faith don’t seem to believe it either.

The Bible is authoritative for us, not for “them”. Jesus’ harshest light was brought to bear on the “insiders”, the religious folks, especially the religious leaders.

When we ignore the Bible it is disingenuous to expect others to buy into it.

This morning I am especially convicted of this. In just a few hours I will be preaching from a lesson Jesus taught about “those who devour widows’ houses.” He wasn’t talking about bankers or politicians. He knew that it is their business to prey on the weak and helpless.

He was talking about preachers.

Like me.

With flowing robes. And places of honor near the seats of power. And building funds. And opulent homes. And private jets. And…oh my!

He was talking about folks whose business it is to seek and save and serve.

Is it any wonder “they” don’t believe the Bible?

My move.

Then your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

First let me affirm that the first freeze is happening!

I find that I am easily amused. One thing that makes me smile, and I smile a lot, is to hear things like “millennials”, “generation X”, and even “Pepsi generation.”

“You’ve got a life to live, and Pepsi’s got a lot to give.” Oh yeah. I smile a lot.

We just can’t help it with the labels can we?

Something else that makes me smile, my kids call it “the Dad smirk”, is when I hear someone say “the children are the future of the church” (or community/lifestyle/nation/whatever). That’s a heckuva load to put on the kids!

I understand the sentiment.

I think.

But I sure don’t accept the proposition.

As a person of faith I feel compelled to affirm that the children are not the hope of the future.

God is.

If you and I, by some miracle that defies all belief, got everything just right guess what?

The next generation would face the struggle to keep it that way.

If you and I leave things a mess or an orderly reality guess what?

The next generation will have to confront their own time and deal with it without us.

I prefer that things be good for future generations. Duh.

But I don’t control it.

So that brings me to the truth God and I were just talking about. “It isn’t about some future generation Pat” the big fella was saying. “It is about you being faithful in your time, in your place, in your way. And its about having faith in Me, not Pepsi, or politics, or the countless other things that divert your attention and steal your peace.”

At age 65 I think a bit about that whole “three score and ten” thing. I realize that I am in a precious place. I know that every moment is an opportunity to acknowledge grace and live with mercy and be insanely in love with my wife and treat others with kindness.

And dance.

And smile.

A lot.

And every ounce of energy that goes to something negative or hurtful or resentful is an ounce of energy that won’t be available to the God who has set me free.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

It is raining. I will have to walk later.

But I am sitting here screwing up my courage because my devotions led me to this…

Someone finally asked me this week. I guess they burden themselves with reading this blog and they noticed the words “follow after God in the Way of Jesus.” They asked why I use this expression.

I don’t like to be called a Christian. And I like it less all the time.

For a couple of reasons.

The first is because the label has become, very rapidly, a political identifier. I have noted with great alarm how folks wield “Christian” like a brutal club. Folks from polar opposite positions on almost every topic claim exclusive rights to the tribe. The Body is rent and torn and beaten and battered. It has probably always been so but with “our” (not God’s!) modern ease of communication the whole snowball effect of destruction is rapidly reaching the tipping point. We simply can’t be Christlike if we are going to be “Christian.”

And the Head of the Body has got to be distressed. The institutionalization of “Christian” has led to a horrible dehumanization of “Christians.” It is no coincidence that it has also led to a tragic distaste among people out there with tender hearts who observe this train wreck.

(You could probably say the same for Muslims, Jews, Hindus….but my concern is much nearer and much more personal.)

So my second concern flows from the first. When I say “Christian” I am lost. I am telling what I am. I am focusing the conversation on me. “I am a Christian.”

Talk about fraught with peril!

My focus darn well better be on something other than me.

I am convinced that we must change the conversation to be able to #changetheconversation.

So I settled on “follow after God in the Way of Jesus”.

Really awkward isn’t it?

Kind of forces me to slow down.

It moves my focus to God. It asks me to see how Jesus did it. And it includes “follow” because I sure as hell haven’t arrived.

And you know what? The folks I see around me who are inspiring me are on that journey. They are not “being”. They are “becoming”. They are not “believing”. They are “doing.” They heard someone gentle and sweet and loving and wanting say “I am the Way.” And they just had to go!

So now you know.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Not too many things keep me awake. This photo did. And it woke me up this morning, or at least it was my first thought.

This little guy’s Mom, who was herself a part of my life when she was this age, (his grandmother and his great grandmother are also vital, dynamic, loving members of our church) came to me last night to show me the photo and tell me the story. He wanted one of the #changetheconversation shirts. And he wanted to put it on. And he wanted to be “doing like Brother Pat”. I am honored beyond words. And trembling with terror.

Let me tell you a joke.

This lady was the third car back as the traffic signal turned yellow. To her aggravation the car in front of her didn’t accelerate but instead slowed to a stop. The woman honked her horn, shouted her displeasure, and even gave an insulting “salute.” There was a policeman a couple of cars back observing all of this.

When the traffic signal turned green the lady rushed through the intersection but didn’t get far before the blue lights came on and she braked to a halt on the road shoulder.

The officer approached and asked for her identification and auto registration. As she handed them over she said “officer, I wasn’t speeding.” He replied, “I know. But I saw the way you acted back there. And I saw the ‘meet you in Sunday School’ bumper sticker. I thought perhaps this car had been stolen.”

People are watching.

Important people are watching.

Like this little boy.

In the Bible, in Deuteronomy 6, we are told to “teach it to our children.”

Don’t be fooled.

We are teaching it to our children.

The only question is “what.” What are we teaching our children?

In a little while I will put on a shirt that says “Just be Kind.” I will go out in the world where I am known as a follower after God in the Way of Jesus. When I greet children today, of all ages, I will somehow need that reminder. Because the life we live is the lesson we teach.

It needs to be worthy. Eh?

Now let me give you an ear worm.

Teach your children well

Your father’s hell did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick

The one you’ll know by

Don’t you ever ask them why

If they told you, you would cry

So just look at them and sigh

And know they love you 🎶

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