I once took a university class entitled, “Reading the Bible as Literature.” Our textbook was a Bible that had no chapter numbers or enumerated verses. Some of the books of the Bible had been edited to eliminate repetitious material. Over all, though, the point was to read and study the various books of the Bible just as if these were novels or short stories found in an advanced English Literature course. It was an English course, not a course in Religion. Our professor was Dr. Joseph King, a man who was well into his 70’s at the time. His enthusiasm and keen wit kept me awake and fascinated with his insight into the styles, structures, images and metaphors of the diverse book we honor as The Bible.
Dr. King cautioned the ministerial students in the class to be careful when handling the biblical material. He believed a sin of the “religious” was to just “study the words as a duty,” but never truly experience the stories as masterful art and beauty. None of the books of the Bible were originally written with chapter numbers or verses. These were added as aides to corporate worship and personal reference. All of the letters of Paul were just that, letters. They were read out loud in their entirety before the congregations that received them. I tried that in church one Sunday. Some people were kind in their comments.
Psalms and Proverbs are one kind of literature, the Kings and the Chronicles another. The Gospels tell the stories of Jesus while Daniel and The Revelation tell of the last times. Jeremiah and Amos call God’s people to repent while Isaiah and Hosea demonstrate God’s faithfulness and mercy. Each of the books of the Bible can stand alone as expressions of God’s story and our story. Sin and sorrow, pain and death are hard taskmasters. Anger and revenge, pride and power destroy us from within. But redemption and love is a tender path worth taking.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Take pleasure in your Bible. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
While scientists were focused on Asteroid 2012 DA14 about to fly by earth in the afternoon, the Siberian sky exploded with a ball of fire that blazed across city of Chelyabinsk (pop. 1,000,000) injuring about a 1,500 people and damaging over 5,000 buildings. Estimates are that a bus-sized meteor traveling at 35,000 mph exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs. The asteroid flew past Earth over Indonesia not bothering anyone. It was the “invisible” rock that caused all of the excitement.
I grew up loving the stars and gazing at the Milky Way. I could point out the North Star, the Dippers and Orion. The big thrill was seeing a shooting star. Shooting stars happen most nights as meteors burn up entering our atmosphere. We just cannot see them much anymore. Too much light at night in our big city world. But one night I saw a different view of the whole starry sky. I was on mission in a remote village in southeast India. We held a service in the only large building with electricity. Lights had been strung across the ceiling reminiscent of an old-fashioned tent revival. As the villagers were leaving, someone turned off the electricity. Stepping into the outside, I experienced the big Wow.
I stepped out into the full glory of the Milky Way on a crystal-clear November night. More stars than I remembered as a boy. More stars than I have ever seen since that time. More awesomeness than I could ever express. The whole universe stretched out before us in all of its glory. There was a time when shepherds and wise men studied the sky to discern the times, to dream big dreams and to look for God. What do you see when you gaze upon the heavens?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep looking up. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
If I had to change one financial decision from my past I think it would be to have bought stock in the company that makes orange traffic barrels. The value of our vast Beanie Babies Collection is just not holding up to expectations, but those barrels are everywhere. I wonder if there is a formula to determine how many barrels are needed in any city. My guess is something like five barrels for every man, woman, and child plus two more for each car a person owns. There are hundreds of orange barrels in the neighborhood around our church. You may have noticed.
I have a confession to make—it’s partly my fault. At the dawn of this century a proposal from the city was born. It was called Vision 2025. That seemed like such a long way away. I was asked to serve on a neighborhood urban planning committee to dream about improvements for Yale Avenue and 11th Street. Ours is an historic neighborhood. It is listed on the National Registry. In the 1920’s and 30’s Yale Avenue was the eastern most boundary of the city bus line. Eleventh Street was part of the original Route 66, but the area was really showing its age. Our group spent months talking with neighbors and business owners, listening to police, learning about building codes and even meeting with Fair Grounds officials. Yale Avenue was once so far east the county located the fairgrounds here. Our group accomplished a number of things including the organization of a Route 66 Business Association and items to be placed on a bond issue in 2008 that would be implemented for 2012.
Implementation of our vision included rehabilitation of all of the neighborhood streets, replacing the 70-year-old water lines and sewer system, improving the sidewalks and installing a Route 66 Medallion in the center of the intersection. There is a large amount of very deep digging involved. Everything seems under construction. There are road blocks and detours all around. For a vision to come to pass, someone has to dream a new future, pay the cost, follow the plan and work around the obstacles. That includes you and me. We are, after all, Christians under construction.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Watch the orange barrels. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Have you ever stumbled in public and then quickly turned around hoping to see no one watching? This was worse. I was in the third grade. I was dropped off at school that morning as usual. As usual no one was allowed into the building until the bell rang. As usual we all stood around in little groups telling stories, or picking bark off of the trees or fending off the bigger kids. It had rained in the night but there was no water in the big, slick puddles of mud. I had encountered these before. Leather shoes do not go well with mud slicks.
I was near the back of the crowd passing the time doing nothing. Suddenly the bell rang and everyone rushed forward. I started across the dirt, tiptoeing between the mud slicks, when I found myself sliding on by back across the school yard. I looked around, no one had noticed. Everyone, teachers and all, were inside. I made an executive decision to leave as fast as possible so that no one would see me. I raced home, hiding myself from the traffic by cutting through yards and stopping behind trees. I went for the back porch. That was where the washing machine was kept, and where I slept and kept all of my clothes. The door was locked.
As I crept around to the front of the house, I noticed a couple of unfamiliar cars. I looked in through the screen door and saw my mother entertaining some ladies. They all had cups of coffee. Church ladies! I do not remember who spotted me first. This is when I thought the phrase ‘dying with embarrassment’ was about to come true. My red-faced, mud-slickened body was marched through the ladies group to the bathroom to start the day over. I did not die but I did have to go back to school and tell the principal why I was late. Humans, they say, are the only creatures on earth that visibly display embarrassment. It is an involuntary physical response to feelings of public shame, guilt or ridicule. The antidote to embarrassment is to come clean. Admit it. Laugh or cry about it. Straighten things out. Try not to do it again. I once took Dorothy and our girls to see my elementary school. The mud slicks were still there.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Come clean. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.