Memorial Day 
Monday, May 29, 2006, 09:52 AM - Extra Christy
I was looking over activities for Memorial Day with my family. The paper listed memorial services and a parade, but also a pancake breakfast, a motorbike race, a fun run, blockbuster movies, and a "traditional" picnic.

One of the activities that was special to me as chaplain of the Ottawa Volunteer Fire Department was placing red flags with the fire fighters seal on grave markers of former firefighters. We put on our dress uniforms and drove the engines to the cemeteries to honor the memory of those who went before us. As the years and memorial services went by, the flags marked more than just a place in ground for me, but brought to mind the firefighters I knew.

Our communion table has a quotation from Jesus engraved across its front
This Do In Remembrance of Me — Luke 22:19b (King James Version)
The meaning of communion is broad and deep, but one image for me is like those red flags in the cemetery, it grounds a memory of a loved one.

Author Mitch Albon in The Five People You Meet in Heaven says it this way:
Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken,another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end—Love doesn't.
A fitting quote for both Memorial Day and Communion—everything else passes away, but love never ends.

Hoping you dance with love that never ends

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Cheat Codes 
Monday, May 22, 2006, 09:49 AM - Extra Christy
One of the neighborhood youth that comes to our free computer center was looking forward to getting "cheat codes" for his favorite computer game. Cheat Codes are joystick movements and button presses that gives one super powers in a computer game or allows one to skip the uninteresting levels of game play. "Cheat codes are the best! I wish there were Cheat Codes for Life!" he said.

The success of the fictional "Da Vinci Code" shows he is not alone in wanting "Cheat Codes for Life". We like to think there is secret knowledge that leads to powers over the challenges of life and let us escape from the tedium and seemingly meaningless times of existence.

The most successful are the Gnostics who in alternative gospels promised secret knowledge, "cheat codes", from Jesus which were supposedly revealed only to a select group. The Da Vinci Code premise is this centuries old marketing ploy bound in bright new colors and special effects.

There are no cheat codes in spiritual life, which is why the spiritual forebearers of the Da Vinci Code were rejected as unhelpful by the church. (The faith community had a lot more to do with the selection of the Bible books than Constantine. The rest are hardly secret, scholars, including many Catholics, have been studying and writing about the Gnostic gospels for decades! )

I'll be speaking more about The Da Vinci Code in the Media Morning programs starting June 4th, but for now, know that the best instructions for this adventure of life are not obscure, mythical, sexualized "secret" texts but ones like this one from the prophet:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.— Micah 6:8

Hoping the Bible directs your play
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Need a Crutch? 
Monday, May 15, 2006, 09:45 AM - Extra Christy
Do you have a handicapped parking badge to get one of the good spaces up front? If you don't have one, do you wonder just how handicapped one has to be to park there and catch yourself diagnosing those who do?

One would suppose that folks exiting vehicles in handicapped spaces would have the courtesy to use a crutch or walk with a limp, or at least have an "abnormal gait" as my physical therapist friends say, but not all disabilities are visible: Heart problems, breathing limitations, and energy sapping conditions are often not publicly displayed in the parking lot examination area.

I imagine some secular folks look at the church parking lot as a giant handicapped only zone. They wonder: "What is wrong with them that they get to park there? They look normal enough."

What can we say to those who wonder about our choice of parking?

A pastor friend of mine recently quoted the late William Sloan Coffin, former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City about his response to this attitude toward church goers:
It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it's a crutch. What makes you think you don't limp?

If you need a second opinion, here is a quote from "Doctor" Romans:
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.— Romans 3:22b-23

As far as God is concerned every space is reserved for the spiritually disabled, those injured by sin, and the ones suffering from the evil disease. We have all fallen and can't get up by ourselves, but the diagnosis is followed by the cure
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.— Romans 3:24

The only thing worse than needing a crutch, is needing one and not using it.

Glad that God saved me a space
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Worlds We Cannot See 
Monday, May 8, 2006, 06:53 AM - Extra Christy
World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Around the world, six million people are active in this game sharing a fantasy world of conquest, combat, and commerce (they have jobs and trade what they produce). Right now, whenever you read this, over a million people are currently playing in one part of the world or another. They gather in guilds and go on quests together, moving avatars (little computer animated figures) of chosen creatures, (you don't have to be human in the game) through a world created by the computer programmers and the other players.

"WoW" is only one of many such games that are actually alternative realities. You can buy (using real money!) items and real(?) estate in these games, put on shows and charge admission, even make a real- world living with your unreal-world dealings. Folks have lives in these games.

Didn't know all this was going on? The kingdom of God is like that. It is far-reaching, but largely hidden. It exists alongside and among us in all the countries of the world. Sometimes we are in it (on-line with God?) and other times we are far from it (power outage?). Just like the world Azeroth,( the name of the World of Warcraft,) it is hidden, you cant find it on a map, yet is it is everywhere.

Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."-- Luke 13:18-19,21
The Kingdom of God, the World of Peacemaking, is all around us, yet hidden much of the time. Millions of folks are involved in quests for the king of kings, for his mission of salvation for humanity. They gather in families, churches, and associations to build up the kingdom of God, recruiting others as they work out their salvation in ministry and mission to the real world.

Hope you get to play your part in the kingdom,

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Checking Your Air 
Monday, May 1, 2006, 02:35 PM - Extra Christy
Akron, Ohio has a legacy of rubber in general and tires in particular. I remember getting into fights in elementary school over which company made better tires. I was reminded of this reading a column in the local paper discussing the frequency of checking air pressure in tires. In other cities, I imagine a sentence would do: “Check tire pressure monthly to ensure it matches the auto maker's specifications.” In Akron, it took a full page newspaper column. We still like talking tires.

Keeping tires at the right air pressure decreases tread wear and increases gas mileage: you can go farther with less wear and tear. It is one of those simple things we should do, but don't. We let slow leaks and changing conditions build up until we have less air than we need, and both our tire tread and engine have to work harder to move us where we need to go.

In Greek and Hebrew the word for Spirit is the same word for breath and wind. I wish I had a gauge for the proper amount of Spirit in me, the manufacturer's recommended amount. I know at times I'm low because it takes more energy to get moving where God wants me to go, and I get worn out, “weary of well doing” a lot sooner than I should.

Prayer, fasting, worship, retreat are all good places to get some air, catch your breath, refill your spirit. As a preventative maintenance practice, church services, a regular Bible study, or prayer groups are good places to check a spirit level. Just like one of the first meetings of the faithful recorded in the Bible:

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
— Acts 4:31

A recommend spiritual maintenance schedule for those going on a long faith journey is 1 hour out of the day, 1 day out of a week, 1 week out of a year, and 1 year out of 7, (a sabbatical.) Like monthly tire pressure checks, not everyone, (okay, almost no one), follows this schedule strictly, but any attention to the matters of the spirit is much better than no attention and will help make your faith journey less tiring.

Hope you have many happy miles before you on the highway to heaven—

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