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A Few of My Favorites 
Monday, March 27, 2006, 06:43 AM
After last week's mailing, one of you gentle readers asked me what my favorite Strickland's flavor was. What a hard choice! So many good ones, to choose one seems disloyal! Do I choose a familiar one? Or a challenging sharp flavor? Perhaps a rare offering?

How much more so for Bible verses. There are several I like, some are familiar, some are challenging, some are unique. Here's one that helps me leave at night and take some time away during the day:
In vain you get up earlier, and put off going to bed, sweating to make a living, since he provides for his beloved as they sleep. - Psalm 127:2 Jerusalem

I used to write "Acts 2:12" on my exam papers at college.
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" - Acts 2:12 NRSV

But if I had to choose just one flavor, er, verse, it would be from the prophet Micah:
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8b NRSV

Doesn't that just cover it all? Simple instructions that take a lifetime to fulfill. Justice, Kindness, and a humble walk with the Lord. Mmmm. That's my favorite.

Our confirmation class is memorizing some Bible verses as part of their journey to confirming the promises made for them at their baptism and becoming active church members. Both they and I could use some suggestions. What parts of the Bible do you savor? Email your favorite verse or call the church at 330-784-7633 with a tasty quote. I'll put the list up on the web and link it from a future mailing.

Mortal, eat this scroll,--and I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey. - Ezekiel 3:3 NRSV

May the Bible taste Good to you every day.

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Same Difference 
Monday, March 20, 2006, 05:07 AM - Extra Christy
Strickland's Frozen Custard Stand opened a new season Friday and I was there. For 70 years, the outdoor stand has been serving frozen custard in 3 flavors; Vanilla, Chocolate and the "Flavor of the Day". One nod to the modern era is that there are now two flavors of the day and they are revealed on the web as well as the traditional wooden sign displayed on the side of the building.

Change is often unwelcome in religious matters! A flavor of the day is viewed with suspicion by most religious types who come expecting vanilla or chocolate; (well, maybe strawberry on holidays.)

One of our church documents talks about change and God

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.- Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 4.
So God doesn't change, God is always wise, just, holy and good, just like the basic unflavored custard mixture is always made well at Strickland's.

Yet we experience the unchanging God in different flavors. The birth of a child, sickness or accident, a job change, sunshine, rain, marriage, divorce, death; all involve the same unchanging God, but the taste is different. Folks respond differently to each flavor of the day.

I wonder if all the wrangling about different views of God and understandings of faith in our world today is anything more than arguing about which flavor of God is hanging on the wooden sign for us today.

Maybe tasting someone else's flavor and sharing with one another our flavor of the day would be good for all Christians and help us taste more fully the basic goodness of God.

May God taste Good to you every day.

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Names Have Been Changed 
Monday, March 13, 2006, 11:10 AM - Extra Christy
The Firestone Blimp? Let me explain, a new blimp is being built here. We love looking up at the lighter than air ship floating above Akron during its test flights. It is yet unnamed so the local newspaper is printing suggestions. One of the least favorite was putting the name of historic archrival Firestone on the Goodyear Blimp. (You can read the rest in a series of columns about the blimp at Ohio.com)

Names that are chosen rather than given at birth are interesting. Usually nicknames grow from memorable event, usually unfavorable, or a physical attribute, usually unflattering. So to not offend any humans, an example of both kinds of nicknames is an unfortunate dog I knew whose name was abruptly changed to “Tripod”.

But did you know that God changes names? If your church follows the lectionary scripture readings you heard yesterday that Abram became Abraham, changing from “exalted Father” to “father of a multitude” and Sarai became Sarah, moving from “quarrelsome” to “princess”. Both got upgrades, a rarity in the nickname world. (Genesis 17)

Not only upgrades, but since Abram and Sarai were neither royalty nor parents at the time, God's name changes called them upward into promise, instead of holding them down with a reminder of a past misadventure or an unwanted physical condition.

Now Jesus' most famous naming, naming Peter, (“Rock”), seems unquestionably to be a calling Simon (“one who hears”) upward into promise after Simon proclaims Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God:

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:17-18
But I wonder if that is the whole story of the “Rock” name. I know how guys can be, sadly we haven't changed that much in 2,000 years. You see, even though Matthew calls him “Peter”, two chapters earlier we read about the yet to be renamed Simon:
Then (Simon) got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Matthew 14:29-30
Now, I can imagine the reaction of a bunch of fishermen to that showoff Simon who tries to walk on water but then sinks like a ROCK! “Rocky” he would be for the rest of his life, and not in a good way.

Now this part isn't Bible, but I like to imagine that Jesus had just about enough of the teasing and found a way to turn a reminder of a faith that can't hold water into a promise of a faith that builds up others. Yes, Simon is a Rock, not because he sinks in water, but because he is the solid foundation of the church that is to rise. Take that teasers!

Christ is like that. He is our redeemer. He takes us from our past sins that clings to us like our very name, weighing us down. and changes us, lifting us up as if we were lighter than air.

May Christ make your name something to rise up to,

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Going Up? 
Monday, March 6, 2006, 11:35 AM - Extra Christy
I park on the roof. When I go to a parking garage, I start the spiral to the roof and try to park at the highest spot. Someday I might write a guide to the top parking spots. (Preview: The elevator for the garage next to the Akron Main library has a glass side so you can see out. If you enter the elevator at the library level you're underground facing concrete block; push the button and rise up out of the ground! I confess to sometimes singing, "Up from the Grave He Arose!" when I'm alone.)

But why the roof level? While there are always spaces open and it is easier to remember where I left my car the main reason is the view. It is a nice break in the day to look out over the town or city, try to find landmarks, enjoy the weather and the seasonal displays. It brings me out of the immediate and the up close and gives me some perspective beyond my own place and schedule. Especially before and after visiting in the hospital where concerns are compressed to encompass just a body or shrunken further to focus on just one body part, it is good for my spirit to pause and consider the big picture.

Jesus also went off alone to high places. The most intriguing time is when he left the crowds after feeding the five thousand with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The crowd wanted to make him their fast food king!

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. - John 6:15
While Jesus may not have needed to leave to get some perspective the crowd certainly did! They were caught up in the miracle of having their bellies filled with bread for the day and missed the biggest miracle, God with us, the bread of life. Their pressing daily concerns crowded out eternal ones. They need to get some perspective; to look beyond their bellies and see God's salvation stretched out before them into eternity.

Hoping you go up to the roof soon

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The Appearance of Belief 
Monday, February 27, 2006, 09:28 AM - Extra Christy
Our choir put on their special stoles yesterday. It was Transfiguration Sunday, where we celebrate the glory of God in Christ. The name comes from Jesus' appearance changing during the event. While it has never caught on in the society at large (too long a name?) it is a big deal in some church traditions. It is the last Sunday before Lent, so you can think of it as a sort of a mardi gras for the robe and stole crowd before the somber time of Lent.

<p>The gospel writer Mark has a story right after the spiritual high of the transfiguration recorded in first nine verses of chapter nine. It seems while Jesus and the inner circle of disciples were on the mountain with Moses and Elijah in presence of God, the rest of the disciple team were unable to heal a boy.

It seems Jesus takes this as evidence that there isn't enough belief. Hearing doubts from the afflicted boy's father he asks him if the father believes that his son can be healed. The boy's father says words that may be true for all of us:
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" -Mark 9:34
The tension of holding both belief and unbelief at the same time is a theme in one of my favorite movies, Secondhand Lions. Trying to help him be a man, Hub tells his young great-nephew:

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love; true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.
I don't know if I completely agree with Hub, but I do know (and believe!) in the power of belief. As Jesus tells the boy's father just before he heals his son, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Hoping that believing changes what appears in your life,

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