Pastor Henry's Memo

May 2018

Oh, to be a bit less famous!

"Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous."  So said Roman poet and literary scholar Lucius Accius (170BC-86BC).  I can think of no more profoundly appropriate words for three news makers.  First, Rosanne Barr.  Her notoriety makes her grossly offensive tweet about Valerie Jarrett impossible to ignore and her future in show business impossible to consider.  To say she will be avoided like "the plague" is an understatement.  She joins the ranks of Harvey Weinstein and Brad Garrett and Mel Gibson,  And that comedienne who held aloft the severed head of President Trump.  Oh, wait.  Even after the most vulgar of statements about race, both Garrett and Gibson are still making a living in Hollywood.  Go figure.  Apparently, some racism is permissible in some circles of the entertainment industry.  Second, The Reverend Kirbyjon Cardwell has been indicted in an alleged $3.5 million bank fraud scheme.  He has yet to be tried and is innocent until proven guilty.  I guess he would rather be more anonymous than the pastor of a 15,000 member United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. To be fully transparent, Kirbyjon and I were classmates at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, back between 1979-83.  And the same could be said for New Orleans, Louisiana, based evangelist, The Reverend Jesse Duplantis, who has requested his congregation raise $54 million to buy a jet airplane so he can travel around the world without the inconvenient need to use public facilities.  Oh, to be a bit less famous.  Oh, for a bit of anonymity.  It appears Lucius Accius had his finger on the truth over 22 centuries ago. 

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Spring Books

The current edition of The Christian Century is open on my desk.  It's the Spring Books edition.  I'm only a couple of pages into it and already I'm in trouble.  I simply don't have enough money to buy the books that look intriguing enough to read.  And as I just wrote, I'm only on page 14.  Only 49 more pages and more agony as I try to discipline my spending.  One particular category of books caught my attention: daily devotionals.  There seem to be several good selections from which to choose.  And all at once my spending discipline went into high gear.  A quick perusal of my office shelves and I counted seven daily devotionals.  On my desk I saw 11 more volumes of prayers and prayer guides and devotional studies.  And upon taking inventory, I realized I haven't used any of these 18 books as a regular guide to my daily devotions.  It occurred to me, and not really out-of-the- blue, I don't need another daily devotional.  I don't need 365 days of prayer with Billy Graham or 365 days with Bonhoeffer or Merton  (may they all rest in peace) or the Dalai Lama or anyone else.  My particular and, at times, eccentric morning prayer occurs at night.  As I contemplate the day and make peace with my comings and goings, I offer up my gratitude for the day just ended.  The light is out and I dare not read in the dark.  So I pray and give thanks and seek strength for the morrow and before you know it, the new day as arrived and for restful sleep I say thanks and the new day begins.  Another devotional book for the shelf is not how I will spend more dollars.  We all have our patterns and habits with regard to prayer and I will not disparage any of them.  If they fit and work and make us mindful of the one to whom we owe our lives, well, you have my blessing.  Now I can make choices between theology and biography and ethics and Hebrew and...Wish me luck.

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I watch Antiques Roadshow off and on.  It's interesting to see what people bring for appraisals.  Jewelry and books and paintings and vases and furniture and toys and...well, all sorts of things.  While awaiting the appraisal, an expert identifies the object and a bit of a history lesson is offered and finally the value.  Sometimes it's quite a shock.  Other times one wonders what will befall so inconsequential an object.  I've wondered what I would take to the show if it ever came to my home town.  I have some first edition books signed by the author, an old daguerreotype of my Great, great, great, grandfather, some old Masonic items from a great uncle, some old coins...  My earthly treasures are few and of very little monetary value, I think.  I can't imagine any of them being so valuable I would ever consider selling them.  They are absolutely keepsake in nature and I would love to be 80 or 90 years old telling great, great grand kids all about them.  It would be my hope the items would become dear in their hearts and worth more for the story they told than the cash they would bring at auction.  History has no real price.  Good stories are always worth telling.  Sharing those stories and being a part of history, well, that's just priceless.

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I love words.  I use them all the time.  That's not a secret and I know full well others of my fellow human creatures love and use words all the time.  Language is one of the great gifts humans received from God.  After all, "In the beginning was the WORD."  I came upon a rather unusual word last week in a bit of odd reading I was doing.  When I saw it I had to pause.  Just trying to sound it out was a bit more challenging than I'm used to.  I had no idea what it meant and my curiosity was aroused because, even in context, I had no clue to its meaning.  I looked it up.  Oh, the word is OMPHALOSKEPSIS.  Right now, my spell check is having a heart attack.  This behavior is also known as "navel-gazing."   It comes from the Greek words for NAVEL and VIEWING or EXAMINATION.  I thought "navel gazing" was an expression for wasting time.  However, the word is found in ancient writings of the Greek Orthodox Church to describe the meditation practices of monks.  I'm not sure they were actually looking at their belly buttons but I can understand how a focused contemplative examination of any topic can be worthwhile.  Perhaps if that kind of energy and purpose were put into voting or child rearing or peace making the world would be a better place.  Just saying.

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Thanks be to God for May!

Thanks be to God!  May has arrived; finally!  Spring is truly upon us and we celebrate the warmth and the lengthening days and the blossoming of our planet.  May Day has been the starting point for all those celebrations which leave Winter behind. 

     Though May Day has obscure pagan origins, it has become a traditional semi- Christian occasion for rejoicing and dancing and welcoming early blooming flowers.  It is celebrated mostly in Germanic rooted cultures and is more about having fun than anything else.

     Any excuse to dance and eat and parade on Main Street suits me just fine.  I'm delighted to open windows, be outside in shirt sleeves, and play baseball. 

     There is a deeply ingrained longing in human hearts for this refreshing season of the year.  New life is welcomed; even cheered.  The crops and the flocks and the flowers are hope-filled signs of God's Providence. They rise up and announce creation's perennial quest for renewal.

     Easter is drawing to a close.  Pentecost will soon mark the Church's birthday.  The Holy Spirit will ignite fiery tongues to announce God's continuing witness in creation.  We have much for which to be thankful.  

     Again, thanks be to God for May!

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