Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sometimes, the small things mean a lot.

Recently, at our church “Treasures in the Basement Sale,” I spent $2 on a very small hardback book. I had heard about it over the past few years, and had wondered if I should buy it.

But sometimes the way people talked about it made me not want to buy. Other times I felt just the opposite. So I just never did.

But here it was, $2, and in mint condition. Without even looking at it, I swooped it up, along with a few other items (all of which I could probably do without), paid my bill, and took it home.

The next day, I began reading its 92 pages. It is a little book and a fast read, so I found myself sailing through it. But then I realized that it is one of those books that is deceptively simple–and that to get the most from it, I need to take it in more slowly. It took me more than a week to get through it the first time (I’m now on round two).

It took that long because I found phrases that challenged me to go deeper, and to seek more in prayer.

I will probably write more in the days and weeks to come about its four themes, but for now I can say it is entirely focused on two rather obscure (until this book was published) biblical verses, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

Check them out. I hope they help you as much as they are helping me.

Jonathan and I are doing some celebrating–dinner out last night (and not at Joe’s or Panera) and a day off tomorrow (originally planned as a beach day, but now it seems we will do VMFA and a movie and dinner and maybe a little for-fun shopping).

Why? We marked 14 years of marriage on September 21.

I know 14 years is  not your usual big deal anniversary, and we’ll probably do a lot more at 20 or 25 and 35 or 40–and maybe even next year at 15.

But I have discovered over the years that when you feel like celebrating a birthday or anniversary that’s the time to do it. I remember I avoided my 50th birthday, but then had a big party at 51. That felt like the big year for me.

So what about 14? All I can say is that they have been, and continue to be, the best years of my life. For some reason, this seems abundantly clear to me now.

So what’s  not to celebrate?

I made an appointment today for my annual physical examination.

I’ll see my doctor in early December, and he will poke and prod (ugh!) and shine a light in my ears and tap my knees and  have some blood work done, etc..

It got me to thinking about the need for an annual spiritual examination. Early December would be a good time for that, too, during Advent as we begin a new church liturgical year (and get ready for Christmas).

What will I check on, and who will help me so that I am honest?

I meet with a spiritual director about once each month, and I think I will ask her, in advance, if we can plan either our November or December time for this purpose. She knows me pretty well, and will help me take sound measurements and accurately read the x-ray of my soul.

Knowing how we are doing is key to maintaining and improving health–physical, mental, and spiritual. Like my doctor, God will share all the information I need.

Of course, my doctor will help me with any physical health problems, prescribing actions and treatments I need. God will do all that, too, to help me improve my spiritual health.

There are differences, however. Appointments with God are easy. I don’t have to wait, and God still makes house calls.

I enjoyed success yesterday.  I wore my favorite red socks all day.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but to me it is a big deal. One of the socks had developed a hole in the toe, and I had been unable to wear them. But I kept them, with the idea I would darn the hole. I bought a darning egg a month ago.

Tuesday evening, as Jonathan and I sat and talked about our respective days, I did my first darning.

Yesterday, I wore the socks. And my darning, while not beautiful, held (don’t you like the purple thread?).

I see much of my work as pastor as offering support so people can access God’s healing. More than once it has occurred to me that healing is often like darning: the hurt or pain doesn’t entirely disappear (at least in our memory) but it no longer holds us back. Sometimes I get to help God darn a hole in someone’s heart.

Of course, healing is not the end. It is intended to make it possible for us to get to our real God work–to live full lives and to heal others.

That’s why wearing my socks all day was such a big deal. My sock was healed–and now it is being the sock it was created to be.

The latest poverty numbers are in. They are not good.

The picture they paint is of low income Americans slipping farther and farther behind, and the middle class not far behind.

The percentage of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest level since 1993, as another 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, meaning 46.2 million people now live in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it.

That means that 15.1 percent of the population–up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and 11.7 percent at the beginning of the decade in 2001–live below the 2010 poverty level for a family of four. That number is $22,113.

If you divide that number by 12, it means that four people have $1,843 to live on each month. That may seem like a lot, until we remember that housing for four is not cheap, nor is food, and transportation. It is unlikely such a family has any sort of comprehensive health insurance. All it takes is one large medical bill–and it is very easy to create those–for them to be wiped out.

And in new signs of economic distress among the middle class, median household incomes adjusted for inflation declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak of $53,252 in 1999.

I write about this because I am alarmed. We are on a downward spiral. It has been coming on for the past decade or so, and perhaps longer. There are enough people to blame.

But blame isn’t going to fix things.

Prayer will help. Remembering the biblical injunctions against mistreating the poor will help. Leaders sitting down in a room without the press and agreeing to stay put until they get something worked out will help.

YHWH said to Moses, here are the rules you are to establish for the people: “Do not take advantage of widows or orphans” (this is Hebrew way of speaking of the vulnerable).  See Exodus 22:22.

Jonathan and recently saw a couple of reminders of hard times from long ago.

At Bear Creek Lake State Park there is a CCC museum–if you remember your Depression-era history, you know that stands for Civilian Conservation Corps. Then, just the other day, we passed by Camp Roosevelt, near Woodstock, VA, which was the first CCC camp to open in 1933.

Do you know that President Roosevelt introduced the legislation to establish the CCC on March 27 and four days later it had passed both houses of Congress. Camp Roosevelt opened on April 17, 1933.

Can you imagine that happening today? Can you imagine bold leadership like that, from the President and the Congress?

That’s what we need. We need not only tax cuts and tax cut extensions, and tax hikes in some cases, we need to spend significant money to get some people working on projects to benefit our nation–road and bridge building and repair, electronic infrastructure to connect everyone, and more. Our national parks are sagging under benign neglect. Let’s fix them up.

If we wait much longer to get people working there won’t be much of anybody left to buy anything that workers can produce. There will be only millionaires, and then billionaires, and by themselves they can’t save us–even if they wanted to.

Let’s stop running scared and start believing in ourselves, and God’s desire for us to be all we are created to be.