Good Friday

God transforms our hardest days, our “Good Fridays,” into the glorious victories of Easter. But He does so in His time and way, and we must trust Him.

“How was your day?” Nancy asked as I trudged in the door from work.

“Good,” I replied, with drawn face, slumped shoulders, and a shuffling gait.

Nancy frowned, “You look like it was awful.”

“No,” I said, “Every day above ground is a good day.”

“Mark, I am your wife. You need to tell me the truth – not just lies that you think that I want to hear.”

“Today was good, in the same way that Good Friday was good. Jesus died a horrific death, but God worked wondrous acts and eternal salvation from it,” I answered.

Nancy gave up the questions and followed me to the bedroom. I changed my clothes and laid on the bed where she gave me a back rub. Finally in a safe place with people who cared, the tension rolled out of my muscles. The gates to my heart, shut tight at work since I had to be, or at least appear to be, the perfect doctor and leader, cracked open. Soon Nancy brought love into my dark castle, and we began to heal.

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In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

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The Purpose of Prayer

When prayers don’t seem to work, and we doubt God, what do we do?

A few days ago, our family dog, Serena, found wrapped chocolates that my sons had left in their bedroom. Within minutes, truffles, peppermint patties, and a host of other delectables were gone. The same day, close friends visited from northern Virginia. The chocolate and excitement were too much for Serena, and she couldn’t go to sleep. Instead of sleeping, she barked and barked and barked.

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The Christian Community in Society

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.

Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.

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Rethinking Parties

Americans in 2019 seem to “just want to have fun.” Americans in 1819 wanted fun too, but perhaps had a different idea of how to get there.

My family and I do not watch television. A couple of times per week, however, we break out the old DVDs and watch an episode of Hogan’s Heroes, F Troop, Andy Griffith, or some other old and silly sitcom. My mother bought us two seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies last Christmas and they are a special favorite with the kids. Watching the old shows, and the old advertisements, reveals many of the ways that we have changed as a nation, a culture, and a people.

In the episode entitled The Garden Party, Jed and Granny discover that their next-door neighbor, Margaret Drysdale, is hosting a garden party for her high society friends. “What’s a garden party?” Granny asks Jed. He replies that at a barn raising, neighbors get together and build a barn for the host. At a quilting bee, ladies get together and make a quilt. So a garden party must be to build a garden. Pleased with his reasoning, Jed tells his nephew Jethro to get the tools.

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Never Enough

Why is nothing in this life ever enough?

James Bond tells us that the world is not enough. Billionaire John D. Rockefeller is reputed to have said “Just a little bit more” when asked how much money was enough. While King of England, Henry VIII created a new church, the Anglicans, and made himself the supreme religious leader. Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire chronicles an endless line of men and women from Europe, Africa, and Asia who stopped at nothing to grab the Imperial purple.

The past is no different from the present. Bashar al Assad in Syria has butchered thousands of his own people to retain the reins of power. Chief executives from Beijing to Ankara deceive and destroy in the name of virtue but ultimately to exalt themselves. The world of work can resemble gladiators in the Forum, with managers and employees at every level whispering, gossiping, flattering, threatening, shaming, and accusing subordinates, peers, and superiors to try to look good and get ahead.

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As We Think

Directing our emotions, our thoughts, our words, and our actions…to be who we were created to be.

The Economist is no fan of Donald Trump. The October 27 to November 2, 2018 issue featured a column by the editor Lexington describing the foreign policy failures and successes of the President. It was accompanied by the picture noted here, which shows Trump as an archer rejoicing over a single bulls-eye while quivers of arrows are far off the mark. He seems to be ignoring his many failures and raising his arms in triumph over one, perhaps random, success. Maybe Lexington sees Trump as an incompetent egomaniac who sometimes gets lucky. Certainly, other people do. While catchy, this illustration is a snowflake in an avalanche of political cartoons criticizing the US leader.

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Normal Times in Life?

An examination of the dangers of trying to identify the “normal”, which often means “the best”, time in life

Imagine a conversation between a middle-aged husband and wife:

“Our family hasn’t been normal since our oldest daughter left for college in the fall of 2012.”

“No, things stopped being normal when our son developed epilepsy in November 2011.”

“That’s not right. What about when my father died in June 2009?”

“Or when mine died in August 2008?”

“I guess you’re right…things haven’t been normal for nearly 11 years.”

“But they certainly weren’t normal before our youngest child was born in September 2006.”

“Yes, except we thought that they were normal because we didn’t know that she was coming, and then we didn’t know how life would be with her.”

“But things weren’t really normal when I worked in DC and we lived in that rental house.”

“Nothing about DC is normal.”

“Perhaps the only normal time in our lives was from the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2008, about six months.”

Too strange to be true? No. Nearly everyone has some variation of this conversation, some when they are young and almost all as they grow old. In our reminiscent moments, we evaluate the times, people, and events in our lives. We pine to relive some days past and thrill that others are behind us. Calling a time “normal” really ends up meaning that it was “the best”. If the past is the best, nothing that follows can be as good.

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