FEELING NOSTALGIC AND MELANCHOLY (A REFLECTION)

Jan and I went to a Beach Boys concert last Friday and we really enjoyed hearing again many of their songs from years ago. There were ten musicians on the stage, but only two of them were with the Beach Boys when they began in 1961.

I was only 10 when they launched their band but I have always appreciated them and their songs and music. Their concert this past Friday was the third time through the years Jan and I have seen them in concert and we appreciated all three of them.

Listening to them again in concert left me feeling nostalgic. The definition of feeling nostalgic is “thinking fondly of a past time or condition.” I’m 71 and often feel nostalgic when I am reminded about things in the past and remember them fondly.

Having lived in Southern California for 30 years I was especially taken by the two songs “California Dreaming” and “I Wish they all could be California Girls.” As a pastor for many years the song “God Only Knows” was also an important reminder.

It’s not just the music of the Beach Boys that make me feel nostalgic, but also a lot of music by other groups and individuals from years ago. Nor is music the only remembering that makes me feel nostalgic. Sometimes talking with longtime friends and/or family I also end up feeling nostalgic.

Another word to reinforce nostalgic is melancholy.  As an adjective melancholy is about being sad and pensive about a longed-for past time or condition. It’s not just music from the past that gets my attention, but also people, places, and vacations from the past.

I don’t think I’m the only one who sometimes thinks about music, vacations, places, and people from years ago. I don’t squelch those times when I am sad and pensive thinking about my past. Nor do I squelch my feelings when I think fondly about my past.

Being reminded of things in our past and remembering what they meant to us and still mean to us is something that happens to me quite often. Even though we cannot return to those times in our past that we cherish, we can remind ourselves and remember times in our lives that were enjoyable and exciting.

Most readers of these thoughts of mine have probably heard the classic song/hymn “Precious Memories.” Some artists who covered the song include George Jones, Johnny Case, Emmylou Harris, Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and others.

Hopefully all of us have precious memories that mean much to us. On the other hand, we also have memories that remind us of mistakes, loss, and pain. At the age of seventy-one I have both precious as well as painful memories.

I tag this blog a reflection and one of the definitions of reflection is serious thought or consideration. I hope what I have written prompts some of your own reflection.

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WHO ARE YOU BECOMING?

Most of us probably remember at least one thing we wanted to become when we were moving into young adulthood. Many of us became what we wanted to become and others realized there was something else we wanted to become.

Earlier today I read the manuscript of a sermon by Ken Shigematsu. This preacher’s sermon was five full typed pages and one of the best, most challenging, thoughtful, encouraging, and attention getting sermons I have read the last several months.

Shigematsu used Romans 8:28 for his text and not only delivered the goods on Romans 8:28, he also included a variety of observations that got my attention and provoked some honest thinking about my own life and what lies ahead.

Shigematsu shared with those who heard the sermon or read the manuscript that “through COVID-19, I have been reminded that I do not control my life.” He continued “COVID-19 has shown me that I am utterly and completely dependent on the living God. If I think I am in control of things that is merely a pleasant illusion.”

Shigematsu’s sermon conclusion takes an entire page and gives to both listeners as well as readers a refreshing and instructive wrap to his sermon.

As much as I appreciated Shigematsu’s sermon, one brief affirmation in the last paragraph before his conclusion challenged me. His most powerful observation got my attention and has given me lots to think about when he reminds us “the central drama of our life is who we are becoming.”

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and have had my ups and downs when it comes to who I am becoming. Hopefully I will keep on becoming more and more the Christian God wants me to be.

Shigematsu’s sermon title is Hope in a Time of Anxiety. If you can find it I think you will be blessed by it.

THE LORD’S SUPPER

The Lord’s Supper is an act of worship that Jesus himself established and encourages us to regularly participate.

It is often called “Communion” (or Holy Communion) and emphasizes that we are in fellowship with God and our fellow worshippers. Connecting with and speaking with God is primary–but in communion we are reminded we are all part of the body of Christ.

In the Lord’s Supper we are not merely eating–we are eating together. We are in fellowship with Christ, and we have fellowship with one another.

When we share in the Lord’s Supper we need to be reminded that our host is Jesus. He invites and welcomes us to His table.

The Lord’s Supper is a reminder. We need to be reminded of what Jesus has done for us through his death on the cross. Perhaps the most important thing we need to remember is that God and Jesus forgive us.

Usually the Lord’s Supper takes place in a church building, but it is not limited to such a building. Some of the most meaningful times of communion for me have taken place in camps or on retreats outside in God’s creation.

Usually when I post a blog it also has a picture. I haven’t been able to figure out how to add a picture, but I am working on it. Be patient with me.

TIME TO RESTART WRITING MY BLOG

At the end of June in 2015 I starting writing weekly blogs. I appreciated those who signed up to receive the weekly blogs and the response of many to the blogs encouraged me. Not everyone who responded was positive, but I was both challenged and encouraged by the remarks of some of my readers who did not agree with everything I wrote.

I wrote weekly blogs for seven years and stopped writing April 21, 2022. Now as we near the end of summer 2022 I’m thinking ahead and planning to start writing weekly blogs again in the next few weeks.

If you were receiving the blogs before April 21 I hope you will receive this update and continue to read my blogs. If you have not received my blogs in the past you will be able to request receiving them as I begin writing again.

I hope readers will feel comfortable making observations and asking questions as I begin writing and sending blogs again.

Usually when I post a blog it also has a picture. I haven’t been able to figure out how to add a picture, but I am working on it. Be patient with me.

A FEW POWERFUL EASTER QUOTES

Here are some powerful quotes to help us continue to celebrate our Easter celebration from last Sunday. (They are borrowed from CHURCH LEADERS and Toni Ridgaway) I found them to be thoughtful and uplifting.

John Stott – We live and die; Christ died and lived!

Pope John Paul II – Do not abandon yourselves to despair: We are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.

Peter Marshall – The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.

I Corinthians 15:14 – If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

Rick Warren – Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny.

Martin Luther – Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.

Watchman Nee – Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.

Madeleine L’Engle – Easter is always the answer to “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!

Franklin Graham – We must not forget that it wasn’t the Jews that put him on the cross, and it wasn’t the Romans. It was my sins, it was your sins, the sins of this world.

Andrew Murray – A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.

Phillips Brooks – Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection.

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THE DISCERNING LIFE

Near the end of February I requested another book that would be sent to be at no cost if I would write a review of it. The title of the book got my attention and I knew I wanted to read it.

The main title is THE DISCERNING LIFE and the sub-title is An Invitation to Notice GOD IN EVERYTHING. My interest in and desire to review the book was satisfied and having read it I added the phrase to the book’s title “Getting More Engaged with God.”

The author of the book is Stephen A. Macchia, founder and president of Leadership Foundations, Inc., a ministry which focuses on the spiritual formation needs of leaders and the spiritual discernment processes of leadership teams.

In the book’s introduction Macchia notes, “Far too often, spiritual discernment has been pigeon-holed into the exclusive realm of decision-making, learning how to make good choices and know God’s will methodically and predictably.

In the first sentence of the second paragraph he tells us “spiritual discernment is so much more. It’s the choice of the bold and courageous to know God intimately. It’s an invitation to all who desire a lifestyle that continuously seeks God’s presence, power, peace, and purposes.” He concludes the paragraph with, “We embrace the discerning life by learning to tune out the many distractions demanding our attention and daily practice a preference for God.”

A few pages before he concludes his introduction Macchia warns and challenges readers that “the discerning life needs to be cultivated.” A couple of pages later he reminds us, “Just as our physical home needs daily care, so too does our discerning heart. God invites us to abide in him as he chooses to reside in us.”

After the book’s introduction there follows nine chapters giving insight and instruction for growing in discernment. Chapters include attentiveness, listening, presence, hospitality, empathy, focus, process, and lifestyle. These chapters are filled will advise and help for those wanting to “Notice God in Everything.”

Following the nine chapters of instruction the book is wrapped up with a brief, but helpful Epilog and three Appendixes with a wealth of suggestions, ideas, and examples that will prove helpful to readers who have walked through the instructive chapters to grow in “The Discerning Life and “NOTICE GOD IN EVERYTHING.”

Before I conclude my thoughts on this book review I want to cite a few powerful statements from throughout the book that I hope creates interest. “Unless we learn how to discern God’s presence, his power, his protection, and his peace, we will not be able to discern the will of God” (pp. 7 and 8). “The Spirit himself dwells within us. And he longs for us to know him and perceive and discern his presence, his power, his piece, and his purpose” (pp. 17 and 18). “The lens for our life of discernment is not a rearview mirror focusing on the past, nor is it a telescope looking toward the future. Instead, it’s the mirror that forces us to look at the here and now” (p. 67). “Listening is skill number one for any healthy discernment process” (p. 180).

Christians who read and ponder THE DISCERNING LIFE will be challenged, instructed, convicted, and encouraged to cultivate his or her growing relationship generously offered by God. THE Discerning Life is a ZONDERVAN REFLECTIVE and was published by Zondervan in 2022.

SHEEP, SNAKES, AND DOVES

I’ve been reading the Bible, listening to and reading teachers of the Bible, and teaching the Bible for many years. I’ve been familiar with Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Matthew 10:16, but I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never really studied or thought much about what Jesus said.

Jesus’ instruction is crisp and to the point; but a lot of us aren’t totally sure what Jesus means. He tells them, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Note the two parts of his instruction. First, he tells them he’s sending them out. And then, based on part one, he tells them how to conduct themselves.

Calling God’s people and followers of Jesus sheep is a common designation in both the Old and New Testaments. A couple well known passages in the Old Testament are Psalm 23 and Psalm 100:3, “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (NLT). In the New Testament there are multiple usages of the image, but the best know is Jesus’ teaching in John 10:1-10.

Jesus’ words that he is sending out his followers like sheep among wolves suggests and warns of danger because sheep have very little defense against wolves. As Jesus fulfilled his ministry both before his death, burial, and resurrection, and after his resurrection, his followers and those who would become followers had to be aware and on guard against wolves who would ridicule them, persecute them, reject them, and more.

Christians being like sheep among wolves challenges them to be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. In that culture “snakes were symbolic of shrewdness and cunning.” Doves, on the other hand “were thought to be innocent and harmless.” One observer reminds us, “To this very day, doves are used as symbols of peace, and snakes are thought of as sneaky.”

It is true that snakes are associated with shrewdness, but one commentator suggests in his instruction Jesus was pointing to the positive aspect of wisdom (wise shrewdness) and how we should be insightful.

When Jesus told the twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, he laid down a general principle about how his followers should carry out their calling to share the good news. I like one author’s help, “We should strive to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of.”

As a Christian I want to be a good example to both believers and unbelievers. When I am a sheep among wolves I don’t want to vigorously argue or belittle the wolves who believe differently than I do. What I want is to be wise, faithful, gracious, and honest. And in answering questions I am willing to say “I don’t know” when I don’t know.

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A YEAR OLDER

Today marks the first day of the first year of my eighth decade. A few years ago I thought 71 was getting old, but today I don’t think or feel it’s as old as I once thought it was.

Each birthday the last few years has prompted a wide range of thoughts as I have reflected on my past. Not everyone who thinks back over their years can say they were blessed, but I certainly can. It isn’t that I have not had any problems and troubles, I have; but even in the difficult and challenging times I was blessed.

Emails and Facebook posts today wishing me Happy Birthday have been uplifting and encouraging. I am grateful for so many friends who took the time and made the effort to acknowledge the beginning of another year for me.

I heard today from friends from high school, friends from college, friends from my first church job as a youth minister, friends from the first church I served as minister, friends from a church I planted in California and stayed for 30 years, and friends from my current church where I am Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry.

As I noted the birthday wishes from so many, I could not help but remember and reminisce over so many great times I experienced and enjoyed with friends through the years. One definition of reminisce is “to talk or write about past experiences that you remember with pleasure.”

Today I have been reminded of many people and happenings I remember with pleasure. As much as some may want to, however, there is no going back. We do have our memories, and with God’s blessings we will continue to make more in the future.

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ON MAKING EXCUSES

A statement in a commercial I heard last week while watching TV grabbed my attention. The announcer declared GOLF IS FULL OF EXCUSES. Although I am not a fanatic, I do play golf quite a bit and can verify that the game of golf is full of excuses. While some golfers give more excuses than others, I don’t think I’ve ever played with someone who made no excuses.

Golfers of all levels make excuses including such things as the wind, the condition of the course (fairways and/or greens), the speed of play (the group in front – slow play – or the group behind – pushing), the rudeness of playing partners, their physical ailments, their golf ball or clubs, and more.

As I’ve thought about this matter of golfer’s excuses I have been reminded that golf is not the only game that evokes excuses. I know I use them when playing Jeopardy and Scrabble with family.

Making excuses, however, is not limited to competitive games most of us play. We all make excuses from time to time in a variety situations in which we have done or said something or not said or done something. Making such excuses can be a sign that we are underestimating ourselves, lacking in confidence, or blaming others.

Trying to find more about excuses, I typed Making Excuses on Google and came up with a link from 11/04/21 (https://www.developinggoodhabits.com – making excuses). The information is titled 13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses and Take Responsibility S.J. Scott.

If you are interested you can find more at the link above, but I want to give two lists that give a foundation for thinking and exploring more about this matter of making excuses.

Why Do We Make Excuses? Here are eight common reasons why people make excuses throughout their lives.

Reason #1: You’re experiencing fear

Reason #2: You don’t want to fail

Reason #3: You don’t know what to expect

Reason #4: You don’t have a specific goal

Reason #5: You’re scared of making a mistake

Reason #6: You compare yourself to others

Reason #7: You’re protecting your identity

Reason #8: You’re not motivated

Reason #9: You think you lack the resources

Reason #10: You’re set in your ways

Here are 13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses

13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses

#1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

#2. Stop Fearing the Unknown

#3. Stop Blaming Others

#4. Take Responsibility for ALL Your Actions

#5. Take Action Every Day

#6. Set Small, Attainable Goals

#7. Learn from Your Mistakes

#8. Don’t Focus on Your Weaknesses

#9. Change your Attitude

#10. Believe in Yourself

#11. Visualize Your Success

#12. Remember: It’s Okay to Not Be Perfect

#13. Know You Can Change Your “Excuses Habit”

There is much in these two lists that give us a lot to think about as well as some suggestions, challenges, and encouragement to make progress in our making excuses; especially if it is a habit we have fallen into.

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OVER MY HEAD

Several weeks ago I ordered a book that was sent to me at no cost if I would write a review of it. The book’s title is SEVEN DAYS THAT DIVIDE THE WORLD with the sub-title THE BEGINNING ACORDING TO GENESIS AND SCIENCE and written by John C. Lennox. Just reading the book’s title may explain why the title of this post is Over My Head. I looked up the phrase Over My Head and the definition read “beyond someone’s ability to understand.” That’s true for me, but let me share some things from the book.

Lennox gives readers his purpose in writing the book “I would like to say that if you imagine I will provide you with all the answers to all questions about the seven days, you will be disappointed. I still have many questions of my own. What I wish to do is more modest – namely, to stimulate readers to think about some possibilities and not certainties” (pp. 64 and 65).

A few pages earlier he suggests some practical challenges for Bible reading in general. “The first thing we should note is that there are different interpretations of the same text” (p.59). Two sentences later he reminds us of something we all need to keep in mind, “There is room for difference of opinion, and we need to show humility and grace when dealing with those who disagree with us” (p. 59). And finally some wisdom, “. . . we should pay attention to what the text says before trying to decide what it means” (p. 59).

My favorite quote from Lennox comes near the end of the book: “One cannot read Genesis 1 without noticing the constant refrain, ‘And God saw that it was good (verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), culminating in the final assessment on day 6: ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good’ (1:31)” (pp. 150 and 151).

Appendix B: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science

Appendix C: Two Accounts of Creation?

Appendix D: Theistic Evolution and the God of the Gaps

These Appendices may get your attention and they do add a great deal to the book.

The 10th Anniversary Edition of SEVEN DAYS THAT DIVIDE THE WORLD was published in 2021.

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