#changetheconversation

I just came in from my morning walk.

My devotions led me to this…

I have become strangely fascinated by chaos theory. Weird, huh?

But my life and faith, and your life and faith, are making my fascination more intense.

Chaos theory, while complex beyond my comprehension, essentially says that things have a sensitive dependence on initial conditions. The classic example of chaos theory holds that a butterfly flapping its delicate wings in Brazil might initiate a tornado in Tennessee.

Here’s the catch. The outcome of the initial condition is impossible to predict. Not every butterfly motion results in a tornado, or even a light breeze!

I think chaos theory is right Christian.

Try not to be too affected by the religion industry. Our friend Jesus was not a superstar. He was a homeless, wandering preacher who lived in a backward place in a backward time. He didn’t write books. He didn’t broadcast sermons. He didn’t publish research. He didn’t hang with influential people (though he did hang for them.) Talk about a butterfly flapping its wings! So much of the good, and the bad, that we know and will know began with a dependence on initial realities.

So much of what we are began with a “butterfly” somewhere that we can’t identify. But we are so very grateful for that butterfly.

My friend is a long tenured, very well respected, highly competent math teacher. Don’t panic! This isn’t about math. She has a table tent on her desk. It reads “Just be Kind” on one side. On the other side it reads “Encourage one Another.” She tells me that her students don’t just notice the table tent, they actively approach it. They don’t just read it, the are compelled to touch it. And get this, she tells me her classroom has become kinder and more encouraging. Her butterfly action in placing that tent is having an outcome that she might have wanted, but couldn’t have predicted.

Thursday evening I was in the Atlanta airport (where are all these people going!) I was wearing my #changetheconversation tshirt. I was ordering a coffee and the barista read the words on my shirt out loud. She told me thank you. I gave her a brief description of the movement of the Spirit behind the shirt.

And she asked me for a shirt.

I have her address on a napkin in my pocket.

I mailed the shirt yesterday.

Who knows. Right?

All of this blathering to say you are the butterfly that we need. Keep flapping your wings. As gently as a butterfly keep flapping your wings. As we do it together we are fanning a change that has to happen.

This is where chaos theory gets back to being Christian, for me. We don’t have to know the results. We don’t have to know the impact. We don’t have to know the when or the who. The butterfly is just faithful to what it is. You and I, followers after God in the way of Jesus, just have to be who we are.

Kind people. Encouraging people. Loving people. Brave people.

People with the faith that tells us the wind that makes all things new is going to blow and we are a part of breeze.

Your move.

Brother Pat

Posted 3 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