… swallow your pride…

A week ago, a team of masked professionals leaned over my prone form and asked, “Are you ready?”

I was as ready for my first surgical procedure as I was ever going to be, and my first surgery was a doozy — cracked chest, open heart. I was born with a defective aortic valve and finally hit the time when my own valve was, to quote one medical professional, “crumbly.”

Just under 24 hours later, my new valve and I got our first workout together, strolling the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. I thanked God then, and I thank God now, for professional health techniques, technology, facilities, and, most of all, PEOPLE, from the surgical team to the cleaning staff.

Like most folks,I am less enthusiastic about those expose-you-to-the-world, open-in-the-back hospital gowns, however.

Out of critical care and onto a “regular care” floor of the hospital the next day, a walk down the hall still required help and left me breathless. And feeling exposed, even with an extra gown to cover my backside.

IMG-20130626-00084

My wife took one arm and nursing assistant Dorothy took the other as I wheezed and shuffled along. Suddenly, Dorothy burst into song: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.”

“Help me remember the rest,” she insisted, so the three of us moved further along and serenaded staff and patients with more of that Bill Withers’ staple: “For, it won’t be long, ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

We paused to recall the next verse. “Please swallow your pride…” my wife suddenly burst out, chuckling as she flipped the back of my too-short, too-open gown.

The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth of God’s counter-intuitive truth: My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me… for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Feeling humbled, weak, vulnerable, foolish, or dependent is part of the human condition and comes to all at times. But those who cannot swallow their pride, ask for help, and lean on God and God’s saints, are at greatest risk of falling.

I am thankful for the support and care of everyone in my time of weakness and recuperation. And I am really thankful to be out of that humbling hospital gown, too.

Advertisements

Called Out

NikWallendaI’ve spoken with many of you who watched with bated breath on Sunday night as Nik Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon, 1500 feet above the ground without harness or safety net to catch him.  It was an incredible feat, one that took years, and debatably generations, to accomplish.  A man of faith, Nik believes that God has called him to walk the wire- a call he struggled with for years.

“Be sensible, I told myself. Become a doctor and have a good life like Mom and Dad want for you, like [wife] Erendira deserves. Yet I knew my family had a special gift, a talent they had stayed true to for years. I didn’t know why God had given us this gift, but I knew in my heart that the only way to honor it was to use it. Even if it was difficult, even if it was dangerous. Danger was real, but fear was a choice. I would choose faith instead — after all, that was a part of my family legacy too. Everything we did was for the glory of God.” (Click here for full interview/article with Mr. Wallenda.)

Accepting God’s call on our lives and our future isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, as it did for Wallenda, the call can look different than those who love us would like.  Our families, our friends, our spouses- want the best for us: for our lives to be good, happy, even easy.  But there are times when God calls us to do great things in his name and for his glory.

Jesus’s disciples, in Luke 5, were called away from the family business to serve God.  They were asked to leave everything that was familiar and to follow him- with no idea where they were going, and where they’d end up.  Can you imagine doing that?  We, too, are called by God to follow, and often following God comes with a sacrifice.  It also comes with the promise that God will be with us.

Are we willing, really, to listen for God’s call?  To go where God calls?

We’ll explore the call of the disciples further at worship this week.  Join us.  Until then, I’d love to hear of times when you know that you did follow the call, and times when you know that you didn’t.  Comment below.

fishing_net_sm

Sticktoitivity

“Gumption” popped into my head.

Kicking off our church’s summer study, “There IS a Way: Spiritual Disciplines,” our master teacher began with the practice/gift/discipline of perseverance.

He asked the 80 or so adults in the room to share any synonyms for “perseverance” that came to mind. Fueled by doughnut holes, coffee, and juice, we did pretty well with our list: resilience, determination, faithfulness, steadfastness, endurance, keeping on, holding fast, stubbornness (!), and so on.

I like “gumption,” or “stick-to-it-ivity,” a trait I have always admired.

I serve among Presbyterians, a tradition steeped in John Calvin’s teachings on perseverance of the saints.

Perseverance is an essential gift, practice, and discipline of all Jesus followers, because the Way of Jesus is not a smooth, easy, wide, or simple path. — if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:25).

The Way is not a fad, nor for the faint-hearted or fickle. But God’s steadfast love in Jesus Christ makes our perseverance possible, even heroic at times.

Our age is an anxious one, beset with social upheaval and unprecedented change.
People and churches can “feel threatened as the novelty of the new obscures distinctions between apparent and real values” (Fred Craddock, As One Without Authority)

So, the task for people of faith becomes: Holding fast and staying true to our tradition, Scripture, and core beliefs while adapting to be the people God requires in a new time of confusion, conflict, and overwhelming confluence.

glue

With baptized believers everywhere, I thank God for the free gift of grace in Jesus Christ… and for the gumption “super-glued” to that grace.

Creeping Things

Ants have been crawling on my keyboard.

“Ants on my keyboard” is not some euphemism — recent rains have driven these little black ants indoors and onto my computer keyboard and who knows where else.

Ants in the house is a sign of Summer in our little corner of creation. Along with conversations about the weather (Too hot, too rainy, too muggy!) and summer gardens (When is the squash coming in?), there is the seasonal emergence of the creeping, crawling things outdoors, of course, and sometimes indoors.

Just now, I am brushing (and crushing, I must admit) the ants creeping closer.

ants

Ants in the house is a common complaint around here these days. Especially during summer, we are likely to overhear or voice complaints daily about all manner of creepies, crawlies, and buzzies — gnats, no-see-um’s (a particularly pesky biting midge), and mosquitos among them.

I recently read a quote from Douglas Hofstadter, who said that he has no qualms about putting a mosquito out of its misery, since mosquitoes are mostly evil. He added that he is more respectful of ants.

He obviously never met a fire ant, a Southern specialty and summer torment.

And then there are those creatures that slither, but let’s stick with the “creeping things” of summer — bugs, lizards, and those poor frogs caught out on the road at night.

After all, God’s Word extols the “creeping things” as participants in the world’s witness to God the Creator in Psalm 148:

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created… wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds.

The Psalmist reminds us that not just people but the entire Animal Kingdom (fish get mentioned elsewhere) point to the Giver of Life.

In truth, I will probably swat, repel, and fend off creeping things this summer and every season. But, mindful of God’s Word, I may seek to redirect and be more respectful of the creeping black ants.

After all, we are members of the same ‘praise team.’