Mr. Ron’s Message, Easter Saturday 2012-04-07

We are here this afternoon to celebrate and remember Ron Vernon. He’s been a friend for many years, family in the best sense of the word. We share grief in his passing even as we share in the joy of having him in our lives together.

In John 11:
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:25-26 NLT)

It’s no coincidence that this is also Easter weekend. It’s the Saturday between Friday’s death on the cross and Sunday’s triumphant resurrection. Where most gatherings like this would focus on the cycle of life to death, would bring focus to the examples of our own mortality – today we have the unique perspective of seeing death head towards life. The cycle is turned on its head. Jesus lived life here with His disciples, here with us. And in dying and then overcoming death and all its power, He lives with us still. He offers life abundant here and to come.

The reality of our memories and the warmth of Ron’s life with us brings hope in the midst of broken hearts, brings comfort to our hurt. Today, we smile through tears and heavy hearts. We remember Ron, and we feel the life well-lived and well-shared all over again.

Father, Lord God – we thank you today for Ron and for his life shared here with us. We thank you for giving life to all of us, for enhancing that life by giving us time together. Even now, we thank you for Jesus, lovingly giving Himself that we may share in life fully and beautifully with each other. Forgive us where we’ve chosen less that that shared fullness of life. Embrace us as we move forward together from here with memories of our wonderful friend. Heal the broken places and fill the voids as You have shown you can. Comfort and encourage us on toward adventure and our own life lived together. And thank you for Ron Vernon – may we continue to live out the joy and friendship that’s been shared with us. In Jesus’ name – Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER, Jeff & Kim

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

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The Voices In Your Head

I think back over my own processes and wonder why I made certain choices. Or I watch others and wonder why in the world they chose certain paths.

We have those moments of inspired clarity when we see who we are and want to be, and the life we desire to live. And then real life starts happening again! What if those visions you see about yourself and your life in those flashes of lucidity were your real life?

via Jim Palmer » Blog Archive » That conversation in your head is stealing your life..

Read the whole article. I especially like Jim’s take on “because you’re human” feelings, which should have an amount of negativity from the human experience; contrasting those with “life-sabotaging” feelings, where the negativity goes so far off course as to really look inhumanly off-kilter. We all make decisions based on the baggage we bring to the table: mistakes, successes, experiences good and bad. And sometimes we let some of those things throw us over the cliff of reality with nary a whimper… Jim goes on to write:

How do you change this? You have to transform that conversation in your head about yourself, others, life, and God.

Are you changing the conversation today? Are you asking better questions, seeking better answers, living out better actions today?

Warning: Don’t Read This…

My life has taken some weird, cool, controversial turns religiously, philosophically, theologically…

As I explained in A New Kind of Christianity, and as I explain even more energetically in my upcoming book (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?), I don’t think the way forward is taking out or throwing away deeply held Christian beliefs. Rather, I think we need better understandings of those beliefs.

via Q & R: Sin? – Brian McLaren.

… and when I saw this note and promise of a new book from Brian McLaren, I was juiced to kick all that up a tad.

Faith and belief are so much bigger than I think we give credit for in our lives and in the lives of others. Over the past twenty years or so now, folks like McLaren, Rob Bell, John Piper, Louie Giglio, Phylis Tickle, Tony Jones, and so on and so on have challenged me and my beliefs. They’ve questioned me while giving me foundations to build on. They’ve encouraged me while ripping out chunks of hardened-heart.

We’ve got it too easy in lots of respects. Church doctrine tells us what to believe as men and women before us have done their own wrestling – so now do and believe the way we’ve nailed it down. Don’t ask questions – doubt and uncertainty are hard, but our beliefs are rock solid. Stand for this so you won’t fall for anything different.

That’s a generality, and I hate going there. But it’s true – in the midst of church life there’s very little room for question or disagreement. There’s no time for thinking things out and making them our own. The faith passed down is already good enough, and it’s a slap against the establishment to attempt to go our own narrow way.

All of that to say that I’m looking forward to the new book to come, and I look forward to wrestling with angels in order to lay hold of real and meaningful blessing.

Life as a Stick Shift…

It feels like I’m constantly needing to shift into the I-don’t-give-a-damn gear! I’m finding that living my life often involves risking the approval and acceptance of others, choosing a path that challenges “the way it’s supposed to be,” or just facing the plain and simple fear of screwing up. Oh, how I wish I could do life without dealing with any of that! It would be great if I could live life AND everyone be happy with me, live life AND fall into line, live life AND be guaranteed that everything I fear could happen won’t happen. Sign me up!

But it doesn’t seem to be that way. My life is like driving a stick in Chicago bumper-to-bumper traffic. You can’t just coast along; there’s a lot of shifting going on.

via Jim Palmer » Blog Archive » The I-Don’t-Give-A-Damn-Gear.

Happy Birthday, Sweet

Today is Vicki’s birthday – and honestly, I cannot think of her any differently today than when we were both younger, both falling in love, both looking forward to a life together.

With so much to look back on, I still look forward to her youthfulness, to continued falling in love, and to much more life to be lived together.

Happy birthday, Sweet.

Music Fans and Grief

A friend of mine passed away a few years ago. I never met RN in real life, but the interaction through years of email and the beginnings of Facebook were pretty solid. Twitter wasn’t necessarily his favorite. Not sure, but I think once he could’ve warmed up to Google+ he might have enjoyed that. Anyway, he was older than me, pastoring churches in TX over the time we knew each other, playing guitar in services and in jam bands. He was instrumental in helping me to dig through “my faith”, to read some instrumental and controversial books, and to figure out things for myself, still providing a foundation for me to stand on confidently today.

One Thursday, I sent him an invite to a new book-reading/sharing site online. He joined that night, added a couple of books. On Friday, he died. Just like that. Too young, not done, unfinished – but after making a deep impact on my life and, I’m sure, the lives of many others.

One of the things that comes back from time to time is his appreciation for the band O.A.R. I had never heard of them, had completely off my radar. But that Friday, based on some Facebook interaction we’d had shortly before, I bought my first O.A.R. album on iTunes. I liked it. And I’ve been at least a distant fan since.

Their new album, KING (deluxe, only way to go – not an affiliate link), is the best of theirs that I’ve yet discovered, and it floods me with “wow, this is really really good” and “wonder what R would’ve thought about this” – and that mix of emotion and musical growth has me reminiscing and sentimentalizing this morning…

Thanks for that, R. Hope you’re able to find the chord charts.

What’s Pain Got To Do With It?

Clouds to the south

I’m not a big fan of generalizations and broad brush strokes. But the statement made in the blogpost quoted below really struck me this morning: “don’t waste your pain.”

The question we need to ask ourselves when God allows us to go through hard times is not why but who? In the mind of God, pain always has two intended recipients: us and someone else. If we choose not to take what we’ve experienced and find some way of using it to help other people, we miss a large part of why God allowed us to suffer in the first place.

via Brian Jones – The Official Website > Blog > Don’t Waste Your Pain.

We look at pain as a bad thing most times, and honestly that’s probably the best way to start out anyway. Pain comes from stuff we’ve done, from stuff other folks have done, from random crap that falls from the sky. Placing blame for pain isn’t always an option, and often isn’t the best option either. But taking pain and using it for something real, something positive, something helpful and healing – that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

In the post above, Brian Jones writes his own thoughts and pastoral insights on pain. You have yours, too, for better or for worse, for good or for ill. What I want to impress upon folks is that pain is real, it really sucks, but if we somehow “let it win”, then we lose. Taking ownership of the outcome, taking some responsibility for my own response and my own growth through the painful experiences of life – that’s a positive that only I can grab on to.

Don’t hear me say/write that, “all pain is good” – because that’s a lie. Rather, hear/read this: “pain sucks, but I choose to win over this mess today”. And then, do it.