Providing Comfort

Life Notes—June 28, 2012

“Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.  And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.”  1 Samuel 16: 14, 23 

King Saul was a temperamental man.  Those around him said he had an ‘evil spirit from the Lord (that) tormented him.’  He was given to fits of rage and the resulting unpredictable and unpleasant behaviors that can accompany one in ill humor.  Saul was convinced, in a calmer moment, to send his servants to find someone who could play music for him to calm him down.  His servants found David.  And, as recorded in the passage above, when David played his lyre, ‘Saul would be relieved and feel better.’ 

One of the first songs I ever wrote was titled, “My Friend.”  It was about my guitar and how music helped me through some of the most tumultuous years of my teenage life.  Many days I would feel as if I were teetering on the brink until I could pick up my guitar and release my pent-up frustrations through song.  “And so I come to you, again, my friend,” is one of the lines I still remember from the song. 

Where do we turn when an ‘evil spirit’ comes upon us?  I felt my gift of music was a divine outlet.  Others use gardening or reading or spending time with friends or exercise or meditation.  But one thing is certain when life turns sour: we must find a way to put some distance—physical or mental or emotional—between us and our unpleasant situation.  I used my guitar.  Saul used David.  But we not only need to find an outlet for ourselves, we are also called to provide a lifeline to others. 

The example of David providing comfort to Saul is a precursor to our call to provide comfort as Christians.  In passages we call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  We are called to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  We are called to intervene in unfortunate situations.  And we are called to be calming spirits to help other find relief and feel better.  And we are all gifted in many ways to do so, be it writing letters, making phone calls, providing transportation, fixing a meal or a host of other kindnesses, large or small.  The needs are tremendous and they are all around us.  But God does not call us to solve every one of the world’s problems, only to positively impact a few of them. 

Both Tom and Mitch continue their seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “David and Saul,” based on 1 Samuel 16:14-23.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Worship at the west campus begins at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Where in the world are you being called to serve?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

The Divine Pyramid Scheme

Life Notes—June 21, 2012

“The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”  Mark 4:28 

Like a number of things in life, pyramid schemes have been given a bad name by a handful of less-than-ethical people.  Pyramid schemes most often refer to business people who recruit people to sell a product, keeping some of the profits from those sales for themselves.  Those secondary salespeople recruit others to sell for them and a part of those profits accrue both to the secondary sales folks as well as the original salesperson.  As more people are recruited to sell—as the lower part of the pyramid grows—those at the top reap greater and greater profits.  Where a pyramid scheme becomes illegal and/or unethical is when there is no worthy product actually being sold.  The pyramid collapses once the truth is revealed that nothing of value is being bought and sold. 

But a pyramid scheme is not inherently flawed.  In fact, it is a divine design.  Perhaps the oldest, man-made structures still standing are the Great Pyramids, built thousands of years ago.  Of course, those pyramids can also be seen as symbols of tyranny, where the back-breaking labor of the masses was used to build structures to exalt the few.  But they are amazingly designed structures that have withstood the ravages of time. 

The scripture above describes a type of pyramid scheme—a scheme designed by God for the propagation of life on earth.  A single seed falls to the earth, grows, matures and produces more seeds.  Those seeds fall to the ground and produce more seeds so that in a few generations the good fruit of that single seed has multiplied in exponential fashion.  When we look a genealogical record of our ancestors, we see an inverted pyramid with us at the bottom.  We see our two parents, their four parents, their eight parents, their sixteen parents and so on into the past.  When we look at the generations after us we see our children, the children of our children and so on into the future.  Perhaps the divine pyramid design is actually more like an hourglass. An inverted pyramid pours the sands of ancestral influences onto and through us in the middle, and then passes to those who follow us.  In this image our lives are the product of the gifts and influences of the parents, teachers and mentors before us, and we pass those good gifts along to those we parent, teach and mentor.  However we look at it, a pyramid scheme is only as good and effective as that which passes through it.  When we nurture and grow the good gifts we’ve received, they multiply for future generations as the base of our pyramid grows. 

Both Tom and Mitch begin a seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “David and Samuel,” based on Matthew 1:1-17.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Worship at the west campus begins at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  What is passing through your pyramid?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Quirky Love

Life Notes—June 14, 2012

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘Honor your father and mother’—this is the first commandment with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’  And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”   Ephesians 6:1-4

I was fortunate to have two good parents.  Both were faithful, hard-working adults, and both cherished their role as parents of their four children.  Unfortunately, many people have or had one or both parents with such severe issues that they experienced all manner of nightmarish abuses as children.  My heart breaks for those kids.  As I have mentioned before, my father died suddenly when I was 14.  My youngest brother, Todd, was not quite five.  One time, as adults, we were reminiscing and he was sad that he only had two ‘Dad’ memories.  One was of Dad walking us to the nearest football field to (try to) kick field goals.  Dad loved doing things like that with us kids, and I think that was a great memory to retain—one that recalled a loving and involved father.  (Dads, take note of the types of experiences our children remember…) 

I probably started romanticizing my dad, embellishing the memories and the person, shortly after his death.  Ditto for my mother.  It is not that my parents were perfect people.  They were flawed human beings, just like the rest of us, but I believe they did the best they could with the physical and emotional resources they had available at the time.  With them gone it is easier to remember their good character and intentions, and forget and forgive their human frailties.  And that is the point of today’s Life Note—that sometimes we need to see beyond our limited physical experience to the soulful reality.  My parents loved me very much.  Most fathers, depending on the ages of their children, evolve from super-heroes to dorks to ATMs to, at some point, wise counselors.  But I believe God’s intent in families is for children to know the love of an earthly father, even if that love is often expressed in quirky, imperfect ways. 

For those who did not have that earthly experience, for those whose fathers have or had physical, mental or emotional challenges that rendered them unable to love their children freely and appropriately, we turn to our true Father—God the Father.  The Original.  The Real Deal.  The One whose love for us is, has been and always will be perfect, complete and sufficient.  This Sunday is Father’s Day.  May memories of your earthly father be fond, and your relationship with your heavenly Father, honorable and reverent. 

Tom’s downtown sermon will be “What Seeds Have You Sown,” based on Mark 4:26-34.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Robilea Swindell is preaching at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  Her sermon title is “Disaster Response and Preparedness,” based on Luke 10:29-37. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  …so that it may be well with you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Seeing the Unseen

Life Notes—June 7, 2012

“So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Today, on my drive home from work, I noticed wheat fields being harvested.  These fields were large spans of lush green carpet a few weeks ago, but have now matured to a rich, golden brown.  Many of you know thatKansaswheat is a biennial, meaning it requires two growing seasons to mature.  Normally that means planting in the spring of one year and harvesting in the summer of the next, effectively tying up the field for two years for a single crop.  But someone smarter than me figured out you could “trick” the wheat by planting it in the late fall, just early enough for the seeds to sprout before going dormant for the winter.  To winter wheat, that counts as the first of its two years of life, so the next spring it matures and can be harvested—all in a single year. 

But I digress.  This Life Note is not about wheat, but about what is seen and unseen; or more accurately, seeing the unseen.  If the farmer had not “seen” this summer’s harvest last fall, months before he could actually see mature wheat plants, the farmer would never have planted.  If someone had not envisioned the possibility of planting a biennial one fall to harvest the next spring, wheat farmers would only harvest a crop every other year. 

I have a tendency to put more faith in what I can see than in what I cannot.  Yet the computer I am writing on is powered by electricity I cannot see and connected to the world by a wireless, thus invisible, internet connection.  My thoughts, the wind, spoken words and love are all unseen, yet very real and powerful.  All good things on earth today are the product of something far different from the past.  Babies become adults.  Seeds grow into trees.  Romantic love, often so visual and flighty in its early stages, matures into something more stable, beautiful and less worldly over time.  Physical life is born, grows, matures, declines and dies.  But our spirits use the cycles of life as training sessions, conditioning us for rebirth in this life and the greater life beyond.  As the scripture above says, “…what cannot be seen is eternal.”  Our hope lies not in what we see today, but in what we envision for tomorrow.  If you cannot see beyond this moment, perhaps you should close your eyes… 

This Sunday Tom will be preaching downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title is “God does not care what color your thumb is,” based on Mark 4:26-29. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  What are you not seeing these days?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator