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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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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