#changetheconversation

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

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Guess what?

Not everyone on earth experienced an election yesterday. As a matter of fact, the overwhelming majority of folks on the planet did not stay up late last night to follow the minutiae of vote counting. It is even safe to say that only the tiniest sliver of the people now alive will ever know the name of your congressman. Hard to believe isn’t it?

That is not to belittle the significance of the election, or your perspective, or your passion. Rather to point out what I believe is a significant truth. There are bigger things going on.

One man once wrote “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Truth be told (and I hope to be telling the truth) we are always just an election away from abject terror. A part of this truth is that folks from the most diverse parts of the political spectrum agree with this. They are crazily convinced that if their side doesn’t hold sway we will suffer fascist genocide, or communist oppression.

All the more reason, for me and you, to remember a bigger thing.

Doing so might even help us avoid the terror our neighbors expect to suffer.

That writer I referenced earlier also wrote “we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.”

An ambassador represents the interests of her homeland.

Our homeland is a place where the values include forgiveness. We know that this is the only way forward, the only way to shed the resentments and burdens.

Our homeland is a place of humility. It is really, really difficult to overstate this. We are a bit less harsh when we understand our limitations.

Our homeland is a place of welcome. Anyone who comes here “I will in no wise cast out.”

Our homeland is a place of hope. On this we stand today. That election we just experienced? The best that can happen is gridlock. But in our homeland we are ever nearer the realization of our hope. Every second of every minute.

In a world of harsh rhetoric and action we stand out as ambassadors who show kindness and encouragement.

This, you see, is the bigger thing that is going on. It has to go on. It transcends every border and every election.

I want in on it today as never before.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

Those of us who follow after God in the Way of Jesus just have to get used to it.

Our God is “unconventional.” Our God doesn’t do things “right.” If God did things “right” he would have come as Caesar, not as some vagabond preacher who practiced an odd religion in an obscure place in a backward time. If our God did things “right” there would be none of this “do you love me?”, then “feed my sheep” stuff. Instead it would be “I am King and your freedom and choices about love don’t matter.”

And there would be no storms.

And there would be no disease.

And there would be no poverty.

And there would be no death.

And….there would be no faith.

Everyone would “believe.” There would be no choice.

But wait a minute!

Isn’t the conventional what the Kings of the earth practice? Aren’t they into power and pomp and prestige? Don’t they promise, in sometimes convoluted ways, to end poverty, disease, death, and even storms (or at least build us all a storm shelter)?

That’s the conventional and please allow me an observation.

It could hardly be more screwed up.

Our unconventional God is into humility. Our God who doesn’t do things “right” desires reconciliation, “the sea shall be no more.” Our strange God offers forgiveness as the way forward. The only way forward. And our humble, forgiving, ever faithful to God’s self, God makes these things possible by love. Through love. In Love.

And the most unconventional thing of all?

That you and I are God’s allies. We are “co-conspirators” in plotting goodness. We are the vessels through whom our unconventional God, and God’s “platform”, are made known!

And we are growing to be ok with that.

Right?

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 1 week ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this.

I heard the voice of the Master:

“Whom shall I send?

Who will go for us?”

I spoke up,

“I’ll go.

Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8 The Message

This verse is from a story in the Bible that the translation I am using this morning handily titled “The Commissioning of Isaiah.”

I think I am pondering on it this morning out of a bit of guilt.

You see, I am the one who signed up.

I am guilty of saying “if people would just do right” (usually meaning, do what I want them to do.)

I am guilty of saying “if they would just do their job.”

I am guilty of saying “if your heart is in the right place.”

And a bunch of other tomfoolery.

But “they” aren’t the ones who answered the call. I am. I am the one who signed up.

And I need to get right.

It’s not the doctor, not the lawyer, but it’s me, O Lord. Standing in the need of prayer.

Looking to others, waiting for others, and accusing others is not the path I was called to. You weren’t either.

They didn’t sign up for my work. I did. They didn’t sign up for your work. You did.

And if you and I are from time to time uneasy it might be that we are not minding our business.

My business is to love the Lord my God with all that I am and to love my neighbor as myself.

If anything stops me from that, or distracts me from that, or tempts me to do other than that I am forgetting what I signed up to do.

I can’t control the actions, thoughts, or emotions of any living being. But i can be faithful to my work.

So today, the only day I have, this preacher will not be weary about anyone. He will be about what he was asked to be about. Job satisfaction in our calling is not about results that we project. I need my peace today and I will have it by faithfullness to the One who is singing that Deep Purple song,

“Come hell or highwater, I’ll be here waiting for you.”

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this…

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”

1 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

It is fairly common to see someone who has been battered, and sometimes bludgeoned, by some bully wielding a Bible. I will quite likely be the next victim for having said so.

Another understatement coming.


That’s a shame.


I honor the Bible. I read it every single day. I think about its lessons pretty much constantly.

And I also know its dangers.

But this morning I am reflecting upon a different truth. Guess what? Paul of Tarsus and Peter of Galilee, and Martha of Bethany didn’t have the Bible, as we know it. Not at all. They had the Hebrew Bible but not what we call the New Testament. It would be three centuries before that blessed document came to be. It is not coincidental, in my judgment, that those three centuries were the most profoundly dynamic the church has known.

So when Paul, who could be a bit vain, said “imitate me” he was not being about himself. He was speaking one of the most vital truths we can hear. And it is a truth that needs to come to life wherever there are people who follow after God in the Way of Jesus.


That truth?


If you want to know about our faith don’t learn a bunch of lessons in a class somewhere. Instead, keep an eye on someone who has traveled far along the road to being Christlike.

Several decades ago I read a pretty profound essay. The writer said that children should not be in catechism or confirmation classes. That tends to enhance their chances of becoming scholars of the law but not dispensers of grace.

They should be shown a loving and humble soul whose faith is grace filled and merciful and be told “follow her around” and “do what he does.”

Last week I and two friends went to Haiti. A part of our mission involved taking Bibles in Creole. Seemed like a good thing to do.

But not so much.

Turns out a high percentage of the adults can’t read.

But they can see. And so can their children. And so can our children. And so can adults who most likely aren’t going to read a Bible - in any language.

Last night I was hugged and encouraged by two men who won’t ever see the redemptive ways of Jesus unless they see them in me.

I just pray, from the depths of my being, that they saw some glimmer of the love I have known. I pray, with all that I am, that they will come around you so that I can say “do what they do.”

When that time comes, and it will,…


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this…


“…God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.”

Matthew 13:45-46 The Message


I have a conundrum. I use Facebook and Instagram a lot. Facebook, I actively engage. The other, Instagram, I passively peruse. Now that’s my limit on social media. I sure as heck ain’t gonna tweet!

I enjoy Instagram. Among those I follow I see beautiful landscapes, incredible food, gorgeous children… you get the idea.

Facebook? Some of the same. But also lots of rants. Tirades that are terrible. Propaganda that is pervasive. And a few useful tidbits.

It is sort of like being a miner. Karen and I were once up in the mountains above the Panamint Valley in the Mojave Desert of California. We hiked up to an abandoned mine. There were mountains of dirt and rock the miners had sifted through in the hope of finding gold. I hope some of them had success because it was a forsaken, forbidding place. Kind of like Facebook sometimes.

But when you find that jewel it is worth the work, and the wait, and the mind withering stuff you have to go through.

Just the other day, in the reply to a comment that I didn’t make, on a picture that was otherwise innocuous, I found this…

“Thank you for encouraging me as I make this spiritual journey. I wish I had known much sooner how much I needed God in my life. But what a comfort it is now! Love you and the good folks I worship with.”

The comment wasn’t directed to me but to a friend who is obviously very helpful. The person who wrote this has been locked in mortal combat with cancer for several years. This person is tough, very strong, and immensely intelligent. In the fullness of time they chose the spiritual component of life that is making them complete.

That jewel of a person found a jewel. Then she left a jewel for me to find. The Gospel is like that. Surpassing worth in surprising places with supreme results. It made me forget the conundrum.

What a joy.

I am going to go mining some more. I am going to mine Facebook and I am going to mine life. It is worth every energy to find this stuff!


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this…

“…since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

Romans 12:3-5 The Message

I was telling my friend Larry Weathers about this just the other day. It is amazing what those chickens teach me. Probably because I am a bird brain but it is fun nevertheless.

My chickens have a very spacious henhouse and they have access to a goodly yard for foraging. There is plenty of room in both. No bird is crowded. Do you get the point?


There is plenty of room for more.


But Lordy, you should see the commotion when you try to introduce a couple of new members to the flock. Chaos ensues. You can’t imagine the jockeying, excluding, and sometimes active attempts to run off that happens!

Some of the old hens are jealous of their places, refusing to give up their perch, having sat there for their entire lives.

The old rooster won’t rest until he has asserted his authority over the newcomers.

The chicks just run along as if nothing has changed.


Now the following doesn’t apply to my congregation of course, but perhaps it will be helpful to the rest of you😳.


Sometimes it is like that in the Body of Christ. Things are smooth. We all know our place. We just rock along with the good things that Jesus has made available to us.

Then one day a couple of new folks show up. They have ideas! They tackle new projects. They sing a little differently or pray a little differently or even have a different way of seeing things. Can you believe it?!

A couple of the hens will act up. The authoritarian rooster will act out. And the chicks will go about their business as if nothing but the good has come.


Be like the chicks.


For of such as these is the kingdom of God.


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.


It is right breezy out there. My devotions led me to this…

“Don’t hit back: discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Romans 12:17-19 The Message

I have seen some bitter times. I was in the middle of my secondary education during the days of school integration in Alabama. There were many violent things done and said.

I was a high school student during the hottest years of the Vietnam War. There were many wounds and scars and hurts - enough unpleasantness to profoundly affect my generation for the entirety of our lives.

I have lived through 16 presidential elections. You don’t need much imagination to grasp how unpleasant much of that has been.


I have never seen anything like we are seeing now. Not even close.


And something has got to give. Someone, somewhere, somehow has to find a way out of this mess, end this polarization, overcome this incessant strife.

Many of us are looking to next week’s election for an answer. Not to burst your bubble but I am absolutely convinced that the election is going to widen the gulf. We hope a great author, or a unifying moment (even if it is a natural or social disaster) will move us from the hostility. Perhaps it will. But I’m not holding my breath.

It is well known that I have only the most rudimentary intellect and only the most simple of approaches. I happen to think that is a good thing because it keeps me from looking to the grand and sweeping and keeps me alert to the simple and applicable.


For God has always used the small and gentle to get it done.


I am not the least bit pessimistic about the outcome.

I happen to believe that the answer lies within us. I am convinced that it is a gift from God that those of us who follow him in the ways of Jesus can readily see and apply.

So what if it is up to me - and you? What if we have to forgive? What if we have to show mercy? What if we have to love our enemy? What if the answer isn’t “out there” but “in here?”

What if being kind is not just a cool thing but the very call of God on our lives right now?

I happen to think that the way out of this spiral of death travels right through you. Over the next week the bitterness and rancor and pervasive pessimism is going to ratchet up. I can feel the tension growing by the nanosecond.

What will you and I do to be different?

Because we’ve seen enough of the other crap.


Your move.


Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks ago

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this…

Sometimes your plans get derailed. Sometimes that is a very good thing.

We were looking at a hectic morning at home. Three adults coordinating trips and duties for themselves and two children. That part worked out ok.

The livestock had to be tended. That went well enough.

I had to stop by the post office and parts store. No problems. Even got a bigger refund for that alternator core than I expected.

Coffee and conversation with friends. Hey, first things first. Right?

By now it was 8:15. There were several things that needed to be done and plans were coming together. I needed to make a quick run to the hospital. I usually call ahead to get a room number. One of my quirks. The information desk at the hospital took a little longer than usual. When the cordial lady came back on the telephone she said “the patient has just been moved to ICU.” That changes things.

My hospitalized friend, who is also very much your friend, suffered a debilitating stroke several years ago. The most evident enduring impact is that she can’t talk. She thinks well. She is amazingly active. She can see, and hear, and smell. But she can’t talk.

Except for this one thing.

I went back to the ICU to visit her along with her husband of 50 years and her brother whom they had helped raise, literally. I did the best I could to inquire and encourage. She noticed, and smiled broadly, at my tie dye “be kind” shirt. I took her hand and we prayed. And then this one thing.

She looked me in the eye and said, “I love you.”

I can’t tell you, I can’t write to you, the depth of joyful emotion that washed over me. I told her of my love for her and what those words meant to me and turned to leave. She made an inarticulate sound and I turned back to see her arms stretched out for a hug. And a kiss. And another “I love you.”

It didn’t take much to derail my plans. Sometimes that’s a good thing. For at that time everything that I could have hoped to accomplish came into focus. That one thing.

And the only plan that matters became crystal clear.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 2 weeks 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