21 April 2012

Finally Home

I travel extensively and it takes me more than an hour to get home from the Denver airport once I land there.
     When I drive up to my house I breathe a sigh of relief and say to myself, "Finally home." It's a small pleasure of life for me.
     My friend Jodi is "finally home" today, in a radically FULL way. Jodi died earlier this week after battling cancer for 3 years. Today is a memorial service at the church in Amsterdam where I used to pastor.
     There is nothing more bittersweet than celebrating the home-coming of a follower of Jesus. I ache to be in Amsterdam with many dear friends as they worship God, celebrate Jodi's life (on earth and in eternity) and grieve their loss. I would like to give Stefan (Jodi's husband) a big hug, even though I am not a hugger.
     My heart and mind often dull the brilliance of "being with Christ, which is better by far" as the Apostle Paul said. I get caught up in living in the moment that I am lulled into thinking that this earth is as good as it gets. My friend Jodi knows better! I am comforted, confronted, and challenged by how Jodi lived and by the reality that she is now fully alive with Jesus.

20 April 2012

Billy Graham ... Nearing Home

Billy Graham is 93 years old. He published a book last year entitled, "Nearing Home" which I have just begun.
     I love the way Graham begins the book:
"I never thought I would live to be this old.
     "All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die. I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy.
     "Whoever first said it was right: old age is not for sissies. Get any group of older people together, and I can almost guarantee what their favorite topic of conversation will be: their latest aches and pains."

18 April 2012

"Oh, you made us laugh at life!"

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. ~ Helen Keller

This post is primarily for our friends in Holland and at Crossroads Amsterdam. I want to tell you a funny little interaction I had with Jodi Holzhausen in 2003 or 2004.
       Call this, "Behind the scenes between a pastor and elders!"
       Every year I met with two elders to do a performance evaluation/development review on me, i.e. how I was doing as pastor, areas of strength, areas of weakness.
       One year I met with two of our elders who are more on the "business" side of things. That review went well but it was a bit hard on me personally because it felt kind of "black and white" about what I did well and where I needed to grow.
       The following year I asked if Jodi could be one of the elders doing the review, along with Nico or Yvonne or another elder. So we met in my office at the ministry centre. Jodi was 5 or 10 minutes early and came into my office. She was clearly nervous about the meeting, kind of pacing around my office.
       A few minutes before Nico (the other elder) came in Jodi says to me, "OK, I have to be serious now. We're doing a performance evaluation on you." And she tries as hard as she can to get the smile off her face! She puts her hand over her mouth to hide the smile. And then she starts giggling quietly, and then louder.
       I look at her and ask what she is giggling about. She yells out, "I just love you and Susy so much!" And I just smile and laugh with her! It was a classic "Jodi moment" as only Jodi could be.
       We eventually sat down and had the evaluation and it went really well. Jodi smiled throughout, gave some input, laughed a lot, and just made me feel at ease.
       I look back at that meeting and what lasts is two things - first, Jodi lived fully into life, she seized every moment. The second is how much Jodi loved God and was filled with Jesus. That's really what lasts.

08 April 2012

The Thread of Passover - Easter

Passover Seder at the barn in Lakewood with 50 or so friends.
Every year we do a Passover seder with friends just before Easter. I was reminded this week from friends on Facebook that I have facilitated seders for a long time and in a lot of places - from Geneva to Budapest to Pasadena to Amsterdam and now Denver.
       For many of us who follow Jesus this is the most important, poignant week of the year. Over time my understanding and "worldview" about "holy week" has filled out and hopefully matured.
       Most important is that I see the thread from the exodus from Egypt to an empty tomb as one story, rather than fragments to piece together. Here's why I say that:
       The Israelites were enslaved, in bondage and they sought an exodus from it. I believe deep in every human soul we are all seeking an exodus from the things that enslave us. We may look to a support group or a spouse or a counselor, but we all are seeking an exodus from our sin and brokenness.
       For many years I have understood that the exodus from Egypt was a foreshadowing of Jesus coming as the Lamb of God whose blood is shed for His people. None of that has changed for me. What has grown is that a PEOPLE was delivered from slavery, not just individuals. And so Jesus died for His PEOPLE, and that is both Jew and Gentile and the "ta ethene" (all nations) that he references in Matthew 28.
       Last year I finished writing a Passover Haggadah and we used it again this year. At the very end of the seder I recount how the father or grandfather proclaims to his family, "Next year in Jerusalem!" And with that statement is this deep pathos - yearning, ache for peace and rest and to be in God's presence.
       I wrote in the Haggadah that I have come to realize that such a yearning is God-implanted in us. And then I quote the book of Revelation in the New Testament which I believe is the fulfillment of that cry of the grandfather at the seder. Here is what I wrote:
"The tradition is for the head of the family (usually the grandfather) to proclaim to those gathered, “Next Year in Jerusalem!” with a hopeful and expectant voice. I have come to realize this is a prophetic voice, one that yearns to return to God and to fully be His people.
   Thus, in the book of Revelation the final glorious scene is of the NEW Jerusalem coming down from heaven. “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the thrown saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God!’” (Revelation 21:2-3)
   And so we declare: Next Year in the New Jerusalem!

04 April 2012

38 Congressmen with Cojones

A bipartisan budget bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. It offered something no Democrat or Republican is willing to do - dramatically cut spending and also raise taxes. It projected $4.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
       The bill was defeated 382 to 38. Yes, you read that correctly. Only 38 Congressmen had the cojones to seek a bipartisan solution to the absolute mess of this country's finances and debt.
       A total of 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats voted for the bill. Sources said that another 100 or so Congressmen wanted to vote for it but then they were met by fierce opposition from lobbyists from the political left and the political right.
       I would like to publicly acknowledge the 38 congressmen with the sense to do what is right, even if not popular. Here is a list of the 38 representatives voting in favor:

16 Republicans:
Charles Bass, N.H.
Ann Marie Buerkle, N.Y.
Charlie Dent, Pa.
Robert Dold, Ill.
Timothy Johnson, Ill.
Cynthia Lummis, Wyo.
Tom Petri, Wis.
Todd Platts, Pa.
Tom Reed, N.Y.
John Shimkus, Ill.
Mike Simpson, Idaho
Frank Wolf, Va.
Don Young, Alaska

22 Democrats:
Robert Andrews, N.J.
Dan Boren, Okla.
John Carney, Del.
Jim Cooper, Tenn.
Jim Costa, Calif.
Chaka Fattah, Pa.
Jim Himes, Conn.
Ron Kind, Wis.
Rick Larsen, Wash.
Jared Polis, Colo.
Kurt Schrader, Ore.
Pete Visclosky, Ind.
Mel Watt, N.C.