Trash Talk 
Monday, April 24, 2006, 02:39 PM - Extra Christy
I "got to" help my wife with Highway Cleanup last Saturday. (I didn't "have to" she said.) As I contemplated the massive amounts of cigarette butts along the road (do they grow there from seeds!?) I thought, "Maybe someday everyone will stop smoking and then there won't be this trash to pick up!"

I was imagining this happy day when I came upon the first of FIVE empty boxes of the Nicotine patch! It seems quitting smoking doesn't mean quitting littering. Highway Cleanup will be needed even when we are all smoke free.

The mixture of good and bad is very much what the church and Christianity is about. Author Philip Yancey says the story of the universe is "The world is good. The world is fallen. The world can be redeemed." Beautiful creation is trashed, but the beauty of creation is still there; trash can be removed, redeeming the green.

There are a few people that will tell you the first part of the story, the world is good. There are plenty of people who will shout from the rooftops the second part of the story, the world is fallen. But it is the Christian task to pick up the rest of the story, that takes seriously both blessing and sin and works toward a future restored to goodness.

Early Christians were called, "People of the Way" and Christ himself told the disciples that he was the way:

"I am the way and the truth and the life."- John 14:6
Christ as Highway Cleanup worker, picking up the trash in our lives and world, restoring beauty to both, and we get to join him on the way.

Hoping your orange vest flatters you

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The Last Laugh 
Monday, April 17, 2006, 02:36 PM - Extra Christy
Easter Monday doesn't get much attention anymore. People go back to work sleepy from Easter Sunrise service or buzzed with an Easter candy sugar hangover, or both. Yet for centuries Easter Monday was a “day of joy and laughter” (along with “Bright Sunday” the Sunday after Easter) It was a holy April Fool's day, the joke being on the devil, who thought Jesus was dead for good (or for evil, I guess) The Latin name was “Risus paschalis” the Easter Laugh! Church members and pastors played jokes on one another, and hundreds of years before football sideline celebrations, drenched each other with water. It was a day for picnics and parties, of jokes and joy.

The Fellowship of Merry Christians who publish The Joyful Noiseletter and promote Christians being merry more than once a year and are great believers in the Easter Laugh on the devil. I would tell you that my humor has made their front page and the book “The Joyful Christ”, but my humility prevents me. I think they have the right idea. Christians too often looks like they lost on Easter Sunday. We should have joyous T-shirts, buttons, flags and hats that surpass any championship won merely on an earthly level.

I saw part of the movie Constantine this week. Keanu Reeves uses all sorts of holy tricks and trinkets to battle the devil and demons. Even though I could translate some of the Latin used against the devil, I couldn't keep track of all the twists and turns using sacred relics, church traditions, and mystic phrases! I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on entertainment, but I believe that laughter is a greater weapon against the devil than all the cross tattoos, somber Latin phrases, and complicated pseudo-religious rules some people pay so much attention to. I hope folks in real life don't spend that much time and energy figuring out how to beat an opponent that is already defeated.

Easter proves that the evil is no match for God. The resurrection made the devil a laughingstock. Maybe the best Alleluia is to laugh with God in a glorious relief of cosmic tension at the turn of events that left Jesus alive forever when the death thought he had the last laugh.

The One whose Throne is in Heaven, sits laughing.- Psalm 2:4
Hoping You Get the Joke this Easter Monday,

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Acting Like A King 
Monday, April 10, 2006, 02:33 PM - Extra Christy
I don't act like a minister. At least that is what I'm told. The tone is sometimes tinged with admiration, sometimes with accusation. TV preachers, movie ministers, childhood memories, scraps of scripture all go into the honor and horror of someone's idea of how a minister acts.

My smart-alec response, (I'm famous for them!) is that if they want someone to act like a minister they should hire an actor, I'm the real thing!

Jesus had little patience for role playing, he compared folks who want him to act a certain way to children playing at the sorrowful and joyful rituals of life,

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."
- Matthew 11:16- 19

Yesterday's Palm Sunday scripture had Jesus acting like a King, coming into Jerusalem riding a donkey, the traditional entrance of a King coming to a city in peace. But this King was different, as Holy Week unfolds this King is betrayed, rejected, unjustly condemned, abandoned and cruelly killed.

Even the disciples couldn't understand such a King, but after rising from the dead Easter morning, they knew this wasn't someone who just acted like a king, but was the King of Kings. The King who reigned over all, a King that even the power of Death could not dethrone.

May Christ the King be real to you this Holy Week

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Opening the Door 
Monday, April 3, 2006, 11:15 AM - Extra Christy
Getting out of the door at a nursing home has become a puzzle in recent years. To keep residents from leaving, most have a keypad that requires you to enter a code that opens the door. (One creative institution had the elevator buttons hidden by a decorative wall hanging.)

I paused at one such door recently searching for the code which is almost always posted in small text near the keypad. Before I could find the tiny numbers, I heard a shout that reminded me of a football cheer: "ONE FIVE OH SIX ENTER". I looked in a nearby office and there was an employee smiling helpfully from behind her desk. I said thanks and commented she must say that a lot. "I don't mind" she cheerily replied. I thought that person has a lot of patience.

The gospel of John has several "I AM" statements made by Jesus. Normally this one is "gate" but the Contemporary English version translates Jesus' self- description this way:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved- John 10:9a
I wonder how many folks are outside that door looking for the code, key, or handle knowing they want to go through the door, but not knowing how. I think of my own entrance and those who were standing by me at threshold cheering me on with helpful guidance.

Finally, I think about the patient worker at the nursing home, nudging one after another through the threshold, and I hope that I can help someone else get through the door of Christ.

May Doors Be Opened For You Today

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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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