Friday, October 31, 2014

"My How Time Flies"

Every fall, a few folks show up an hour early for worship because they forgot to set their clocks back one hour when daylight savings time ended.  Yesterday was no exception as we officially reached that turning point.

For me, there is always some inner body confusion when we start changing clocks and rearranging time.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me a week to adjust to the time change.  It is only an hour difference, but it still plays havoc with my waking up and going to bed routine.

I sometimes chuckle that we so casually turn the clock back in the fall and say we have gained an hour.  We know we haven’t gained or lost anything, but it is nice to think we have some control over time.

The Bible has a lot to say about time.   Many like the quote from Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.”   The passage was immortalized for those of us of a certain age in the pop tune written by Pete Seeger and covered in the 1960’s by an American Rock group from Los Angeles knows as The Byrds (click on the video).

One of my favorite Bible passages about time is from Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, so we might apply our hearts unto wisdom.”   I remember hearing former Davidson College President, Thomas W. Ross, say that for years he disciplined himself to actually number and count each day and record what he learned on that day.  I not so disciplined.  Many of my days are like a blur and some come and go without any reflection.     I’d like to be more like the psalmist and Thomas Ross and take time to reflect on my life at the end of day.   I think they are on to something, and it’s called wisdom.

So we have two lessons about time from the Bible.  One is that everything has its proper time and the other is that our time is limited.  What do those lessons mean for us today?  I think the meaning is that time as a gift from God is only partly ours.  If we see God’s gift as having proper uses, we need to use it in ways that are to His glory.  And, if we see God’s gift as having limits, we need not to let it slip through our fingers.

What about you and that “extra” hour from the daylight savings time change?  Can you use it in a way that demonstrates your faith and God’s love?  Can you keep it from going to waste?  What about our ordinary time every day?  What ideas do you have to use God’s gift of time appropriately? 


Monday, October 27, 2014

"How is Your Reformation?"

Most Presbyterians greet Reformation Sunday with a yawn. It wasn’t always that way, but times change. And that, when you come to think about it, is what the day is all about, making changes and reforming the church. While many individuals had a hand in rattling the rafters of the church, Martin Luther is considered the father of the Protestant Reformation. 

The winds of reform were blowing all across Europe when Martin Luther was born at Eisleben, in Saxon of Germany in 1483. His parents were simple folks; his dad was a poor peasant miner. And like all parents, they wanted their son to have a better life.  In spite of being poor, his parents insisted that Martin get a good education and study law.

Luther did his best to accommodate his parents’ wishes, but after almost getting stuck by lightening during a severe thunderstorm, Martin got serious about religion and entered a monastery.
 For most of his life, Luther was scared to death of God. Fortunately for him, he met a sensitive mentor at the monastery who helped point Luther “from cringing before a vengeful Deity to a joyous response to the loving forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.”

 I have to believe that was the most powerful reformation of all, moving from believing in a vengeful God to a loving God. I wonder if most people see God as loving, or do some still fear God? I want to believe everyone knows exactly what the Bibles says, “God is love” (I John 4: 16)

A motto of the reformed church is “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.” We might best understand the meaning as “the church reformed, always being reformed". In the early days, as now, the source of the reforming was “"sola scriptura" (Scripture alone). I like that, always being reformed based on the word of God.  Our church as a whole and we as members of it can seek and enjoy the possibility of God-given progress.

Are there changes you think we might make at Sardis to show even more that “God is love”? More important, are there changes you think we might make in our daily lives to show others that no matter what else you might say about God, you have to say, “God is love”? Who knows, if we are always being reformed, then I am sure each of us has a wonderful part to play in that ongoing reformation.

  • Dr Kort wishes to acknowledge William P. Barker, Who’s Who in Church History, for much of the material in this blog

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Bonbons at Cracker Barrel"

Every now and again, I stop at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant on Independence.   Most of us have frequented a Cracker Barrel at one time or another.  The Company was started by Dan Evins in 1969 as he tried to re-create the country store he remembered as a child.   He wanted to offer travelers a taste of Southern cuisine, like biscuits, grits, country ham, and turnip greens.   I skip all of those and head straight to the display of bonbons.

The first report of bonbons comes from the 17th century, when they were made at the French royal court. The name arose from an infantile reduplication of the word “bon”, which means “good”.    A bonbon simply refers to several types of sweets, especially small candies enrobed in chocolate or colored icing.

Why the fascination with bonbons? Well, my mom is 99 and will turn 100 this April.  She loves bonbons.  As a child I remember bonbons were her favorite candy.  My dad loved chocolate covered cherries, but it was all bonbons for my mom. The only place I can find those identical bonbons is at Cracker Barrel.

So every month or so, I stop into Cracker Barrel, get a supply of them, and send them to her.  It is a small thing, but it gives her great delight and me even more.   Funny how sometimes little things mean a lot.  And sometimes I wonder if it isn’t really the sweet taste of the bonbon that she enjoys, but the fact that she knows I was thinking of her.

Is there someone you have been meaning to call, or visit, or send a note but have just been too busy to get around to doing it?   Is there someone who would love to know that you were thinking of them?  Is there someone you know who could use a few bonbons?   Jesus said that doing little things can mean a lot, and offering someone a simple cup of cold water in His name can be a blessing to them.  I think the same holds true for bonbons. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

"Do You Have a Hard Time Accepting Praise?"

The other day, a colleague of mine casually mentioned that she meets regularly with a spiritual mentor. That was not surprising to me; many individuals have that special someone who helps them along in their spiritual journey. What did surprise me is the advice her spiritual advisor offered her, which of all things was to learn how to accept praise. Most of us struggle with criticism, but this is the first time I thought about the struggle to accept praise as related to one’s spiritual growth and maturity. It tossed for me a loop. 
Do you think most of us struggle with accepting praise? I don’t mean the shallow kind of praise that borders on being insincere and even hypocritical, but the real, pure, and genuine words of praise.

Why do we have such a difficult time accepting praise? Is it a cover-up so everyone will think we are humble? Do we think people are just being nice and don’t really mean it? Or does it go deeper? Do we have a hard time accepting praise because we have a hard time accepting ourselves and the imperfections in our lives? Do we feel we just aren’t good enough? Do we feel that regardless of what we do, we could have done better? Do we think we have to be perfect before we are worthy of praise?    

The Bible says, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything thing worthy of praise, think about these things.”  (Philippians 4:8)    

Perhaps that is the point: spiritual growth isn’t about perfection but is found whenever we do something that is truthful or honorable, promotes justice, brings joy to others, and is done with the purest of motives. When that happens it is worthy of praise! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

“Give A Shout-out!”

There are a many phrases that slide into everyday conversation and instantly take hold. One such phrase is, “I’d like to give a shout-out….” Did you ever wonder how and when it first started and who brought it into being?

Some think it first hit the air waves when an athlete was interviewed after winning a game and wanted to give a shout-out to all those who made the win possible. Others think it caught on when DJ Ralph McDaniels had a radio show out of New York City and used the phrase as his signature way to say hello to certain people over the air waves. Truth is, no one knows.

Everyone agrees that it is a slang expression and that it is a public expression of thanks and gratitude.  I like that, an expression of thanks and gratitude. I don’t know about you, but at times I assume everyone knows how thankful and grateful I am. Maybe I need to give out more shouts!

I think about all the kind and good and wonderful people that cross my path each day and each one deserve a shout. I think about my family, so much to be thankful for that the shouts would rattle the rafters. I think about friends and neighbors who need a shout-out. I think about all the amazing Sardis members who bless this world and me, and as the old song goes, “You make me wanna shout!” (Isley Brothers, 1959.  Am I giving some hints about my past?)

Some proper Presbyterians might blush at the thought of giving a shout-out to the Lord, but the Bible says, “Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”  (Psalm 47)   We all might do well to do a little more shouting to the Lord.  As we have sometimes sung at the early worship: “Shout to the Lord”.

Is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to today? I hope so. And maybe a “Shout to the Lord” as well will make your day whole. This old world needs a few more shouters!