Those little “O My Goodness!” moments

The Homefront #2: And so it begins….

Two messages have arrived in the last few hours, telling of friends diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.  We’re kicking them to the top of our prayer list.

The headline in this morning’s Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger reads: “Unprecedented, uncharted waters.”  True enough.  But many who read those words are doubtless remembering a promise that has never been more precious:  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you (Isaiah 43:2).

The full verse(and part of the next) reads: When you pass through the waters I will be with you.  And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fires, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I type those words–and posted them earlier on Facebook–and think to myself: I am not doing this to minister to anyone; I’m writing this to myself.

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The homefront: Life in the Coronavirus world

I have no advice. But lots of thoughts.

One.  I appreciate how we can laugh at ourselves and with one another while the world rapidly changes around us.  

….when everything not nailed down is comin’ loose.  As someone said about something, one time.

In 1940, when Hitler’s bombs were pummeling London, the British were suffering, frightened, and dealing with death, but they remembered to laugh.  A bombed out restaurant or store would post a sign out front the next day saying, “Yes, we’re open.”  Google “World War Two jokes” and you’ll find a thousand.

My favorite funny of this week was the guy who said, “I have washed my hands so much I’ve now uncovered the answers to the ninth grade math quiz.”

A friend sent a photo of the bathroom tissue holder, showing each segment of paper labeled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday….  The caption read: “Problem Solved.”  The background to this, of course, is the way people were stocking up on toilet paper, an odd happening but no one has ever been able to figure out why people do what they do.  A friend in South Louisiana said they’re cleaning the groceries out of bottled water.  “Even if we all get the virus,” he said, “our water should be fine. So, what’s with everyone buying water?”  I suspect it’s because that’s what they do when a hurricane is threatening.

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How to tell you have arrived as a big-shot preacher

What we are attempting to do here is walk a fine line between the fun of humor and exaggeration and the conviction of truth and righteousness.  They do intersect, although it’s difficult not to veer too much to one side or the other.  I’ll try not to drive like a drunk….

The Lord called you to preach the gospel and you answered. You went off to a Bible college or theological seminary of one kind or the other, and you got yourself some degrees which you now display prominently on your wall. You finally got past those tiny churches which many consider boot camp for the pastoral ministry and now you are uptown in a fine facility with your name boldly plastered on the sign out front as the (ahem) senior pastor.

Have you “arrived” in the ministry?  Well sir, here’s some of the ways you can tell….

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What we learned after Katrina that might help now

A friend texted late last night to say he’d just left a video conference with his area pastors.  “They are trying to navigate in a world where the church is encouraged not to meet for a period of time.”  Strange, indeed.  He asked, “How did the New Orleans churches deal with Katrina?  When so many had fled the city or were otherwise unable to meet with their church family.  Were there lessons that might apply today?”

I lay awake in the night with that laying heavy on my heart.  For this, the first week of COV-19 Captivity I have refrained from doing exactly this–trying to sound like a know-it-all who has been there/done that because we survived a hurricane fifteen years before.  But perhaps there are a few things to be said from our experience.  I’m willing to give it a try…

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Riding in cars with preachers. Uh oh.

In my experience, most preachers drive aggressively.

I’m a preacher and I drive a lot.  My little Toyota, 30 months old, has 67,000 miles on the odometer.

I work hard at driving well, but sometimes I wish someone riding with me would point out something I’m doing wrong or a bad habit I’ve fallen into, if they spot such.

So, applying the Golden Rule, I do unto other preachers what I wish they would do to me.

I tell them what they’re doing wrong.  (Smile please.  I’m being facetious.)

I recall three occasions where I found myself riding with pastors as we drove to their churches, when I decided to “help” the pastor with his driving.

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Contagion: Things we catch from one another

Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.  –Mark 5:19

I suspect this piece will be weeks in the writing.  I plan to return to it from time to time.

In Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis has a disaffected preacher of some sort giving reasons he is leaving the ministry and turning away from God.  “If there is a God of love, why didn’t He make good health contagious instead of disease?”

An interesting question.

It is certainly true that diseases–many of them at any rate–are contagious, meaning they are spread by human proximity or physical contact, direct or indirect.

In his book None of These Diseases, missionary doctor S. I. McMillen tells how the Black Plague was eventually ended in Europe.   After exhausting all the known remedies and researching everything they knew, medical people asked the priests if the Holy Scriptures had anything on the subject of the transmission of disease.  “Quarantine,” they answered.  And they showed scriptures such as…

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Not every celebrity gets religion right. Be forewarned.

We’re told Thomas Jefferson scissored out the portions of the New Testament he found objectionable.  Not long ago I noticed an ad where someone was peddling copies of “The Thomas Jefferson Bible.”  None for me, thanks.

He’s had nearly 200 years to regret that bit of presumptive foolishness.

Just  because Jefferson said it does not make it right; just because he did it does not mean we should follow suit.

Best not to get our religion from someone who is an expert in one field–science perhaps? or math, biology, or novel-writing–but who is out of his territory when he speaks of God.

Once in a while a celebrity admits he has nothing to say on this subject.  Benjamin Franklin, for instance.

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The power of humility is amazing. Or so I hear.

In New Orleans, a local preacher of unknown (to me) background made a name for himself for his public protests against the gay-and-lesbian community. He would use a bullhorn–yep, you read that right–and blare out his preachings and condemnations upon the paraders and onlookers.

Not a very effective witness for the wonderful Lord Jesus Christ, if you ask me.

Then one day,  that preacher was arrested in a park where children go to play, and charged with a public act of indecency.

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Three difficult church situations and what to do about them

I am not a professional counselor, not an official adviser of churches or denominations or pastors as such, and not acclaimed as an expert on problem-solving or conflict management. What I am is a veteran  preacher–now retired– and a writer who sometimes gets asked, “What is your take on this? What do you recommend we do about that?”

Out of that experience, and spurred on by two recent situations–one by phone last night and the other from an email this morning–here are three “case studies” or problem scenarios that occur with alarming frequency in our churches. And my suggestions on what the leadership should do in handling them.

As always, I do not claim to have the last word on any of this. But if it turns out this is the first word, something that gets readers to thinking deeply and acting courageously, it will have been worth the effort.

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