#changetheconversation

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

We got back from our most recent trip to Haiti about eight hours ago. I, and three very humble, gifted, generous, funny, faithful friends had a full day of travel and retrospection. As is true after pretty much every trip the conversations kept steering to what could we do to “fix Haiti.” We didn’t use those words but that is the bottom line.

There are many responses rolling in your mind right now.

“Heal thyself” might well be one of them.

I digress.

By “fix” we are pretty much skipping over some of the greater truth to chase an economic solution.

Economic change is greatly needed there.

That’s exactly the thing we cannot fix.

To dwell on that is to come to a level of frustration that leads to spiritual stagnation that leads to defeat.

There is a line in a Book I read fairly regularly that says “the One who began a good work in you will see it to completion…”

We aren’t called to finish the job. We don’t even have a good grasp of what the beautiful result should look like. We are simply called to be participants in the project.

If we lose sight of this we also lose sight of something very sweet.

The good work is exactly that.

We can’t fix Haiti (or Anderson for that matter) but there are over 600 children going to school through the work that was begun in us. That means something.

We can’t fix Haiti (or Washington for that matter) but there is a young woman with new clothes going to college. New clothes and college weren’t even an option, not even a dream. That means something.

We can’t fix Haiti (or even change one hair on my head) but there is a very bright young man who is back in classical (secondary) school who’d dropped out because he didn’t have the $250 for the annual tuition. That means something.

We can’t fix Haiti but I also can’t get the image out of my head of several people leaving our outdoor woodworking area with chairs, tables, stools, and HUGE smiles. That means something.

We can’t fix Haiti but there is a freshly painted building with new pews to sit on where people gather to praise and draw strength and find hope in a place where these things are as essential as air and food. That means something.

I can’t fix Haiti but I can believe in a Friend who is in the process of doing that very thing - and fixing me in the process.

I got to the church building here in Rogersville about 11 last night. I checked my messages and mail. There was a note from a sweet lady who had a serious injury and several surgeries last year. She had no money for food - or for Christmas gifts for her children. You gave generously to her. The note she sent included the words “you have no idea how much that meant to us.”

She’s right.

As our Friend and I were winding up a fairly brief stroll this morning I felt compelled to confess the part of my life that wants to see everything fixed. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“I prefer to look at the fixers.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

#changetheconversation

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

All stories happen with context.

I don’t know yours.

I seldom know all mine.

Sunday I was near the bottom.

When I walked Sunday morning I knew I was walking into a dwindling reservoir of whatever it is that has passed for a ministry which, for a pastor, is also a life.

I miss my friends that have gone.

I want desperately to honor the faithfulness and love of those who haven’t.

I don’t know what to say or do.

In that context my stories happened.

There is a couple who live in Foley.

They come to the lake once a month or so.

When they come they always, always, drop by MSLB for worship.

He, most every visit, offers a kind word before departing.

She normally doesn’t say much.

They were among us Sunday last.

He offered a kind word before departing.

I noticed she was hanging around.

In the quiet that came she approached.

She told me that she teaches community Bible Study down there in Foley and wanted to use my sermon as ground for an upcoming lesson,

I told her there must be a dearth of resources but sure.

Then she told me her husband doesn’t believe in a God and didn’t go to worship services.

Except when he comes to the lake.

She told me he leaves with some peace that is often lacking.

And some questions he doesn’t always ask.

“Pastor Pat, don’t quit.”

So there’s that.

Then I got a message from a young friend.

He thanked me for the sermon I preached Sunday.

He said “Hello Pat, Just wanted to send a message to tell you how much we all enjoyed your sermon yesterday. I woke up this morning feeling like I am less likely of having a major breakdown and more optimistic of having a major breakthrough. Thank you.”

So there’s that.

Then I talked with Uncle Dowe five minutes or so.

He has excellent long range radar and had sensed (from Lubbock) I wasn’t having my best days.

He reminded me that God doesn’t get active until he reduces things to the point they are useful.

That’s right.

God reduces things to be sure the fellowship is up to the fight.

Then he rings the bell.

This isn’t tinnitus.

That’s my context.

What’s yours?

As our Friend and I walked toward a sunrise that is slowly dawning I thanked him for the stories that change the context. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“The Light is about to shine. Fight.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

I think we stumbled on to a solution.

Or maybe it is a confusion.

It was a busy day at morning worship.

We ordained and installed three elders to the class of 2024.

2024!

It was the first Sunday of the month so we celebrated Holy Communion.

The choir sang one of my top five as a prayer we needed. But it was 42 seconds longer than the average.

The preacher had to decide whether or not to edit.

He brought the whole load.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

We have fancy thermostats that are programmed to come on, and shut off, at optimal times.

The service went well past the optimal time.

Suddenly I noticed that I was getting hot!

I didn’t think about the fancy thermostats.

I thought about COVID-19.

That raised my temperature even more!

Someone overheard me say I was hot.

Before I got home the word reached the Cutie.

Her first action was to feel my forehead.

All that to say that a little something lurking in the background can take you down an interesting path.

I don’t have that virus.

All it took was a moment of reflection to get from the tension to the humor.

The crisis wasn’t one.

But it offered an insight about me that made me laugh.

And consider editing as a weightier option.

Eh.

As our Friend listened to my tale about yesterday’s events he took it all in stride. We were, after all, walking. Then he smiled at me the way he does and said…

“That was a good sermon.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

There are countless ways of knowing when I need a break from this blog.

Sometimes I get even more banal than usual.

Sometimes my normal incoherence becomes unintelligible.

Here’s the thing.

Those things don’t bother me that much.

It is the drift that raises the red flag.

I long ago resolved that my calling is to encourage rather than deflate.

It is to reconcile rather than antagonize.

Be positive rather than negative.

The put downs are readily available.

If I can’t lift up I need to shut up.

It was your mama’s and daddy’s job to teach you right from wrong.

If you didn’t listen to those good folks it is highly unlikely you will tune in to my frequency.

So every now and then the drift takes hold - and becomes obvious.

I will feel myself trending to the critical.

The condescending.

The judgmental.

The harsh.

Maybe it is just me, but my life has more of that than can be quantified already.

Don’t go there is my prayer, my reminder, my need.

The only folks my best buddy consistently opposed were folks just like me who didn’t just go there.

They resided there.

Maybe forever.

I will try to do better.

Because you are beautiful.

You are faithful.

You labor in love beyond any reasonable expectation.

So, if it ain’t uplifting it ain’t uploaded.

Perhaps that would be a witness worthy of the name.

Eh?

As our Friend and I walked into a fresh, cool, sweet day I was telling him how I drift and what a load it is when I do. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“I never cared for folks criticizing my kids.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

The well is dry.

I suspect you noticed.

I need to let the pump rest a bit.

Peace be with you.

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Christine, aka Piglet, and Alex are building a house.

I have had a fair amount of contact with craftsmen.

It seems that almost all have an opinion about the last guy’s work.

It is almost guaranteed that the words “I would have done it differently” will be spoken in the first 37 seconds of a conversation.

The same applies to almost all visitors, well wishers, and busybodies who happen by.

Who knew there are so many experts in other people’s crafts?

The homebuilder’s desires can get lost in all that.

There is a line in the Book I read a fair amount that says “God’s ways are not our ways.”

We venture into God’s domain and seem quite unabashed in offering advice.

It is small wonder that the homebuilder’s desires get lost in all that.

Bless him.

I wonder if he knew how many experts he was creating.

Eh?

As our Friend and I walked by the construction site we were talking about how easy it is to assume any thought we have is his thought. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“Children don’t do that.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

I am a real fount of knowledge this morning.

You can thank me later.

It wasn’t getting old that brought this wisdom.

It was getting clumsy because I have gotten old.

I have also gotten stiff, especially when I first awaken.

Anyway, here it is.

You can put your pants on two legs at a time.

You just have to be sitting down when you do it.

What a trade off.

Sometimes life makes it possible, not required mind you, to see things differently.

When you get there it ain’t what you expected.

In my experience this has been especially true with people.

Some relationships you thought were thick and sound turn out to be ephemeral.

Others you never expected to have evolve into the deepest and kindest.

Perhaps you brought a bias that evaporated when you had the encounter.

Somethings you thought valuable became destructive.

Other things you once failed to acknowledge become the pinnacle of your experience.

All that from just sitting down to put on my pants.

Instead of breaking my neck and, much worse, waking the Cutie.

There is a line in the Book I read from a fellow who thought he’d climbed the mountain of wisdom and faith. Then he said “all that turned out to be skubala“ (look it up. Or google it.)

I wonder if he learned to put his pants on sitting down as well.

As our Friend ambulated along I was telling him about my amazing insight and accomplishment. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“That fellow didn’t wear pants.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

September.

The seventh month.

Only it is not.

It is my understanding that this results from confusion.

Not deception.

If “they” are trying to deceive I saw right through it.

Not all deception is that easy to penetrate.

Especially if you aren’t inclined to seek truth anyway.

If your notion is to find a source that affirms what you want to believe anyway, and accept that you were correct because of this, you might be subject to the worst sort of deception.

Self deception.

Is it not possible that we all get wound into a web of lies for this very reason?

And if we are right then others have to be wrong.

That leads to some problems.

There is a line in the Book I read a fair amount that says “we are deceiving ourselves” and then goes to another level by adding “and calling God a liar” for clinging to the deception.

Then it adds the kicker.

“The truth is not in us.”

It has to do with frailties and sin and humility.

All that to say that a short glance at the mirror tells me the answers aren’t to be found there.

September seems like a good time to admit that.

Eh?

As our Friend and I hiked toward another Autumn we were talking about how easy it is to impose and suppose. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“Try repose.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

It was not abrupt.

Indeed, it was so gradual as to go unnoticed.

Until, of course, it is noticed.

There was a phase when every time something wonderful happened, or even might happen, you started looking forward to the next time.

Then, you become aware that those wonderful experiences make you wonder if it’s the last time.

Sort of like the difference between visits from your grandchildren as toddlers and your grandchildren as adults.

Or your first wedding anniversary and your 47th.

Birthdays?

Same.

All that to say that if we “get right” with things it is neither the next time or the last time.

It is the right time.

You dare not waste it.

So to lose yourself to the wind and rain, and be humbled and cleansed,

To listen to the birds sing and the friends chatter, and be inspired and amused,

And to let the memories flood in and the future get lost in faith - to recognize, celebrate, exalt something that defines you - something that could have only been born of great love and amazing grace - is to be exactly where you need to be. In exactly the way you need to be there.

Happy anniversary Cutie.

It’s the right time for us.

As our Friend walked beside me I was telling him of the elation I feel and how I hope my thoughts won’t be too self indulgent this morning. He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“Some things are meant to be shared.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Have you ever seen a train wreck coming?

You know the collision is imminent.

You know it will likely be very destructive.

And you know there is nothing you can do to stop it.

You despair.

But here’s the remarkable thing.

You pray that you are wrong.

A disproportionate part of my prayers are exactly this.

Here’s what happens.

The trains, for the most part, don’t collide.

Or, the impact isn’t as violent as you expected.

And, even if the colossal collision happens as you prophesied, the outcomes are altered by acts of courage and love and faith that surfaced in ways you would never have imagined or thought possible.

If your worst dreams are realized….the trains keep running.

Then it comes to you.

Your prayers weren’t disproportionate at all.

Eh?

As our Friend and I walked and talked we didn’t look over the horizon as much as I frequently attempt to do. All that sound from down by the tracks was still there but he didn’t seem concerned at all. Instead he smiled at me the way he does and said…

“When the crossing barriers drop stop.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Last Sunday my friend Joab taught his congregation about earthquakes.

His neck of the woods had just come through a devastating earthquake, and flood, and the pestilence of disease, in the midst of immense political and social insecurity.

The people, as people tend to do, were reading these things like theological tea leaves.

Who was guilty?

Why did this happen?

What are we to do?

Finding a scapegoat is evidently an urge that isn’t confined to national boundaries. That nonsense happens where we fail to see our universal shortcomings and are blind to a Mercy and Grace that knows no boundaries in seeking to redeem those shortcomings. To propose that God would punish the innocent to torture a few with whom we disagree is to demean the Divine too drastically to define.

Good people like you have a tendency to look at those kinds of things through a different lens.

When we come up against these things we are humbled.

Not so much by the powers they exhibit though that too is quite beyond us.

I am humbled by the goodness that rises up.

The praying.

The giving.

The compassion.

The Presence.

It happens after earthquakes and after heart breaks.

It happens after floods and after surgeries.

It happens as surely as these “signs of the times” happen that folks of the Spirit rise up.

Because the Love they live generates a Hope they give.

Just like the Love that gives us Hope.

Eh?

As our Friend and I walked into the last Sunday of August I got to telling him about this shower coming called Ida. And the virus called pan. Before I could get a proper cyclone circulating He smiled at me the way he does and said…

“Peace! Be still.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago