God, Please Forgive Me

Blog Number Seven

I took a quick trip to Staples to pick up six small items. I found them rather quickly and began to wait on line. The line was rather long with only one cashier opened. This cashier, in between customers, called on the intercom for another cashier. He was calling out a male name but no man ever came. I hate lines but felt forced to put up the wait. I was getting aggravated.

Finally a woman came to open a second register and I was her first costumer. She scanned in the church rewards card, church credit card and the tax-exempt card. I was ready to sign when she realized that tax still had been charged. She explained that it was too late to void the order but she would scan the items as returns and start over. I sighed but went along with it.

She began for the second time and the tax-exempt card did not scan once again. She called a corporate number and explained the situation. Corporate told her that the tax-exempt network was down. We would have to pay tax now and come back in two days to get our tax payment refunded. I sighed twice as loud and said, “fine.”

The cashier finished the order but the computer would not authorize the charge that this order put on the Staples credit card. She had to call corporate again but a different number this time. Soon she was speaking to a lady and then handed the phone to me. Now I was speaking with a lady who explained to me that our credit limit was low and we had just exceeded it with this last purchase.

“This purchase had been authorized. We then did a return and re-purchased. If it was authorized once it can be authorized again.”

“Returns are not processed as fast as purchases. Until the return clears you are over your credit limit by $ 80.00.”

“This order couldn’t have reached our credit limit.”

“No but the check for your warehouse order hasn’t cleared yet so you are over the limit. If you are authorized you can ask for a higher credit limit.”

“How do I do that?”

“Ask me.”

“Now? On the phone?”

“Yes.”

“Please raise my credit limit.”

“Ok.”

“OK? It’s done?”

“Yes. Please put the cashier back on.”

And so I waited twenty minutes to do one six item transaction and have to return in two days to get our five-dollar rebate from sales tax. I was a bit steamed up.

Forty-eight hours ago I attended my wife’s presentation of her trip to Nicaragua with Global Health Outreach (GHO) of Christian Medical and Dental Associates. She described people living in poverty waiting out in the sun, and 90 degrees to see a doctor. Most of these folks had not seen a doctor since the last GHO mission six months before. Ten hours in the sun they waited for a doctor and I was griping about waiting twenty minutes for a sales transaction! What a sin.

God, I am arrogant, entitled and prideful. Please forgive me.

Not Being Good and Being Good

“Need a coffee?” I asked a friend. “No,” he replied, I’m good.”

Good, really? A person is “good?” I recall a gospel story in which a man approaches Jesus and addresses him as “good teacher.” Jesus corrects him and tells him that only the Father is good. If Jesus himself will not take on the title “good” who are we to call ourselves good?

People often mistake the word “well” for “good” as well. I get eye rolls at my local bank. I ask the tellers how they are and if they tell me that they are “good” I ask them if they are also “well.” Why do we confuse the words “good” and “well” and why do we go around thinking that we are “good” when only God the Father is good?

When someone tells me that they are “good” I remind them that only God is good but I contradict myself as I often tell people to “be good.” That is a silly way I have of saying “goodbye” or “farewell.” It is a vestige from my college days when a friend of mine and I were reminding one another not to do stupid or destructive things. We had to remind ourselves to “be good.” I got into the habit of saying “be good” quite often.

Recently our Consistory Vice-President, Elder Phil Melius, and also a ministerial colleague from a nearby town, have been informing me that I should not be telling people to “be good” when I also instruct them that only God is good. I hate to admit it, but they are right. Why should I set people up to fail? Why tell people to be good when none of us can possibly be good?

I’m need a new way to bid people farewell and I need you help in coming up with a new way of doing this. Please comment on this blog and let me know your preference for my farewell greetings. Here are my greetings that I am considering:

Be Faithful

Be Blessed

Walk with God

Be Better

Blessing

Peace To You

What do you think? How should I give farewell greetings? I solicit your comments.

After Death, Then What?

I spent last evening at the wake for a beloved elder and teaching confirmation class we talked about dying and funerals. Bruce Van Tassel owner of Riewerts Memorial Home, who is also a church elder, gave the class a tour of the funeral home and explained the process of what happens when we die. It was an impressive presentation, but only part of the story.

What happens next? When we die will we be welcomed into heaven? How do we know where we will go? Jesus answered this question when a rich young man asked him about going to heaven. His response? Jesus told the man to obey the commandments and share of our possessions with the poor.

How well do we follow the commandments? Do we even know the commandments? How can we follow Jesus’ advice if we don’t know and follow these ten rules? Need to learn them? Come to the church. You can learn the commandments and a whole congregation will support you in obeying them.

What Do You Want?

I enjoyed a wonderful evening at Tommy Fox’s Pub Friday evening and ate my traditional Chicken Pot Pie. The waitress asks me “what do you want?” every time I’m there but knows that when I am there I eat Chicken Pot Pie. I don’t blame the wait staff for asking me even though the answer is always the same. I go to Tommy Fox when I wish to eat Chicken Pot Pie. I’m never disappointed.

When we go to church, “what do we want?” If we go to see a crowd the size of a Yankee crowd we will be disappointed. If we go to hear music as good as a broad way show we will be disappointed. If we go to see a miracle where a man born blind is instantly healed we will be disappointed. What do we want when we go to church?

If we go to Church to hear from God, we will get what we want. If we go to church to learn how to honor God, we will get what we want. If we go to church to become better Christians, we will get what we want. Is it about us or is it about honoring God and working with God in improving us?

What do we want? To better imitate God in our lives? Then get to church. You will get what you want.

Peace In Dying

It was almost one year ago that I sat and comforted my mother as she went through the process of dying. I am now reliving that time again as I care for a beloved elder of the congregation who is ill and moving toward meeting Jesus face to face.

It is emotionally draining to be a comfort to elderly women at this stage of life but it is also awe-inspiring. In both cases these women are unafraid of death. They have been friends of Jesus for their entire lives. They look forward to death as it ends the pains of this world and brings them to the peace of the Lord Jesus. They know that to paraphrase Paul, “the sufferings of this world cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.”

This is a lesson for all of us. We can face death if we are friends of Jesus the Lord and live to serve him in this life. May we all live such faithful lives that when our time for dying comes we shall not fear. We shall look forward to seeing Jesus.

Fear

A policeman in the nearby town of Paramus, NJ interrupted a burglary this morning at a store. In the process a suspect tried to run the cop over. The officer defended himself and in the process shot the suspect who had a car accident, escaped for a while but ultimately died. It was a scary time for the police officer and many motorists.

This was also scary for one of our church members who was picking up her grandchildren close enough to the scene to hear the gun shots. Soon afterward she watched as police helicopters combed the skies overhead looking for the suspect.

Since Cain killed his brother Abel we live in a fallen, sometimes scary world. Bad things at times happen to us, usually they don’t. The bad news makes the news but most of our days don’t have such horrible occurrences. Thank God! Let us each day rejoice in how few horrible events truly effect us. We walk with the grace of God.

What Would You Rather Be Doing?

This is the first of what will be a (close to) daily Blog of the Clinton Avenue Reformed Church.

What would we rather be doing?

I have had a difficult two days dealing with a myriad of pastoral care issues. Several of them are rather intense in nature and deal with very needy people. Needless to say, such work can be draining. I was describing my days to an old trusted friend. Perhaps I was whining a bit. My friend asked me, “What would you rather be doing?”

When I thought about it I realized that there is nothing that I would rather be doing. Caring for Christ’s people is what I want to do even when it is stressful. I am very blessed that I am able to do this full time.

All of you who read this, who strive to be Disciples of Christ, engage in care of Christ’s people. As Christians is there anything that we would rather be doing? What is a better endeavor to engage in? Let us do it well!

The Friendly Church