I was nearly run over by a careening car as I was crossing a street in Ft. Worth, Texas many years ago. The main thing I remember about the car was its bumper sticker theology proudly proclaiming: I’m Bound for the Promised Land. I thought that was fine for him, and that he would likely make it very soon. Bumper sticker theology is what I call all of those little signs and sayings people place on their cars, walls and Facebook. I’ve mentioned before about how these little quotes appear everywhere from cough drop and candy wrappers to company logos and mission statements. We seem to have a need to tell everyone our viewpoint through a clever sound bite. I see the good in that.
Walking near the church last week I came upon a very honest bit of bumper sticker theology. Here is a picture of what I saw.
That is materially, psychologically, relationally and spiritually very revealing. What can we learn from a life perspective such as this? My mind started to conjure all types of stories concerning this person as a spouse, as a child, as a parent, as an employee, as an employer or supervisor, or even as a church member or leader. I wonder if this person has ever met the “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand” person—they’re probably married to each other, of course.
There is a Raising Cane’s restaurant being built near our house. Their motto is One Love. The one love is fried chicken. They only serve fried chicken pieces and one set of sides. It has a biblical ring to it, One Love. One Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all…( see Ephesians 4:2-6.)
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Live what you believe. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I’ve asked Kevin Avery to share his reflections on Moore, Oklahoma.
I can still remember the EF5 tornado of May 3, 1999, in vivid detail. It was horrendous and surreal. Metal wrapped around tree trunks with plastic pieces wedged deep within the trunk. Some areas were full of debris; other areas were scraped empty, as if bulldozer drivers had completely lost control. It’s hard to imagine that a similar tornado–perhaps even larger and more destructive–would follow the same path 14 years later. It doesn’t seem right.
In 1999, I was 24, attending seminary and working as a children’s minister. Dayna and I lived in south Oklahoma City. This was prior to my days of chaplaincy and pastoring, so I wasn’t serving as a crisis counselor. Rather, I helped with physical labor. For several days, I worked from sunrise until sunset. I passed out water bottles. I helped clean and clear out debris. Since I weighed the least, I helped church members by inspecting their roofs. I wasn’t doing this for insurance purposes – there were enough insurance inspectors around to do that – but I did this to see if it were safe for the family to stay that night. They may not have had a door, and they certainty were without utilities, but they thought they’d still rather stay at home than have to go to a shelter.
Among those who died from the tornado, I knew one lady. She had died because she had gone back outside to try to save her two dogs. I knew her because she had been bringing her brother to ESL classes at our church. He had only planned to visit for a few months before returning to Mexico City, but red tape and inheritance difficulties changed everything. Prior to the tornado, the man was always cheerful; afterward, he was only solemn. I felt at loss of how to help him – how to comfort him. I wanted to fix things for him, but I couldn’t.
Since that time, I have learned that the best thing I can do for others in tragedy is just to be there–quietly, prayerfully, to be the presence of Christ … to share in their hope and pain, to stand together with them as a friend who loves and cares and prays. I don’t know why such tragedy happens, but I remember the words of rescuer workers of May 3, 1999, who kept telling residents of Moore: “Go to the cross! Go to the cross!” The large cross of First Baptist Moore stood strong and high, giving hope and direction for those in crisis.
I had a dream in the night. I dreamt that I had put together a wonderful sermon outline with six major points each containing three beautiful illustrations. (DISCLAIMER: Preacher dreams are not necessarily like real people’s dreams.) I was awake enough to know I was dreaming, but too asleep to move. The points appeared printed on large file cards, perfect for saving. I relished each point and smiled through the illustrations. This was so good I needed to save the dream.
I heard about a preacher who kept a special pad beside the bed for just such occasions. He had spent the money and was telling everyone he knew to buy this special pad. It was like a small box, where the lid could open and you could store papers and an extra pencil inside. But the magic feature of his pad was found in the pen holder on the top. The moment you slid out the pen, the pad gave off a soft glow so you could see enough to write down your bright idea in the night. Unfortunately I did not get one of those. How do you save a dream?
I decided in my sleep I should just create a mental folder called Dreams, save it as a word processing file, label it The Outline, and drag it into my Dreams folder so it would be waiting for me whenever I wanted to look it up. I looked it up the next morning, but for the life of me I do not know where in my head I placed that folder. I do not remember a single point, but trust me, it was an outstanding outline. Maybe I will find it during another dream and devise a more realistic way to save it.
A better way to save your dreams may be to turn them into goals. This is a good time of year to write down five or six goals for the next few months. Make them tangible, like: go fishing four times this summer; save $300 by October; or read a novel by July 1. Before long you will be ready to start another, even loftier list. You will be amazed at how satisfied you will feel as more of your dreams/goals are fulfilled. By the way, if you listen closely, God may share a dream with you.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Listen to your dreams. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
My earliest memory associated with Mother’s Day was the time an ambulance backed into our driveway. We came out of the house and I was told to stand out of the way while the attendants lifted my mother out of the vehicle on a stretcher and carried her into the house. She was holding a little baby, my sister Diane. Diane was born a few days earlier on Mother’s Day, May 12. This is one of those years when Diane’s birthday matches her actual birth day. Mother’s Day evokes memories of moms and babies, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. For me, Mother’s Day also points to some of the significant women who have shaped my life.
Mother’s Day is a very hard day for many people. As a pastor, I listen to some incredibly difficult stories of mother-child animosities and even abuse. I hear the heart cry of the couples who wanted children, but it did not/could not happen. I hear the pain of the “unwanted.” I see the broken hearts of little children who can barely remember their mothers, and the pain of grandmothers who have their grandchildren torn from them by divorce and court order.
Mother’s Day can be a very hard day on that first one after mother has died. I suggest that we broaden the definition of motherhood to celebrate and give thanks for those precious women who stepped into our lives to help us through.
The older sister, the Sunday School teacher, the safe neighbor down the street; the favorite aunt, the special cousin, the one who taught you how to live or work or love; the principal, the counselor, the life-long friend—how many can you name? Let’s celebrate the ladies of our lives whose tender words or stern admonitions still echo in our hearts. Sometimes the daughters become their parents’ mother to help them when they grow frail, to give them care and pray with them, and tell them God still loves them. Let’s celebrate all of the ladies in our lives this Mother’s Day.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Thank the ladies. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Teachers are a whole lot like people. One day I saw my first grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, at the grocery store. I thought it was strange. In the ninth grade I was shocked one night at church when my science teacher, Mr. Mashburn, turned out to be one of the guest soloists at the Christmas cantata. Right then I had this incredible insight—school teachers must be people too. Some of us take a little longer to discover the obvious. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Evans. She taught fourth grade.
Do you remember the rule about not chewing gum at school? Mrs. Evans explained it this way: “Do as I say, not as I do.” She always chewed bubblegum after lunch. Sometimes she forgot to throw it away before class. She told us that the real reason we could not chew gum at school was because some children did not throw away their gum properly. She made us look under our desks. Petrified gum and freshly chewed gum can be easily distinguished. Her solution was Lifesavers everyday after lunch for everyone. Mrs. Evans also taught us how to read with understanding. It was one thing to read the words, she said, it was quite something else to understand the “intent and content” of a book or story. She opened my world. Also, she could blow the biggest bubbles with her gum.
I liked some of my teachers more than others. I preferred the explainers, challengers and encouragers, but I have been shaped by each of my teachers. I have worked with school teachers and principals now all of my adult life, from homeroom parent to school board member. The teachers I know live for the moment of insight and understanding. Teachers prepare, plan and provide over-and-above all they can so their students will catch the joy of life and discover their own dreams for tomorrow. As the school year comes to an end, be mindful of the teachers who sacrifice so much so our world will be so much better.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Appreciate a teacher. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.