Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oh goody, it's Sunday. Let's all go down to the Gothic Cathedral!

Hello fellow crazies,

I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter called the "Church Leaders Intelligence Report." It is a little tool that helps keep me up on trends in both the Christian and secular worlds and I recommend it highly. Today's edition included the following:

Church Buildings:
Unchurched Americans prefer churches that look more like a medieval cathedral over contemporary church buildings, finds a LifeWay Research study. Those aged 25 to 34 gave an average of 58.9 of their 100 preference points to the more Gothic church exterior, while those over age 70 gave that option only 32.9 points. 22% said the design of the church would strongly impact their enjoyment of a visit, and 32% indicated it would have some impact. More than a third said it would have no impact. (Christian Post 4/7/08)

After I read this I found myself growing increasingly frustrated. This says that of the people who never darken the door of any church, if they were for some odd reason to decide they wanted to attend a church service (like when pigs start flying), they would look for a building that looks like something from a Dracula movie.

What, for crying out loud, does the facade of the building have to do with what is on the inside? Most of the medieval style church buildings I know of around here are either Catholic, Episcopal, or mainline Presbyterian, most of which are shooting blanks and have little or nothing to offer a seeker after truth. The only Baptist church here in Portland, OR in that style is Hinson Church. The rest of us are just plumb out of luck, I guess.

In the light of these new findings maybe I should start pressuring our building committee to begin plans to put up a false stone exterior on our existing building. We could install some arched doors and windows with a bunch of stained glass. Then the people who never come here to church would be really happy with our new look as they drive by. We could even have some gargoyles made and put them up on each corner of the roof. Then the people who never come through our doors would be thrilled with our new Gothic style. Oh, and don't forget the flying buttresses... they will be a nice touch to make the neighborhood look better. People who never come here would then be proud to stand in front of our church to have their pictures taken.

Of course, it won't make any real difference because all this is theoretical. If they were to decide to visit a church (which they won't) they would certainly never choose to visit one that looks like ours. It resembles a blimp hanger way more than a medieval cathedral. It is built of brick, but we don't have a vaulted ceiling, crypts, nave, niches, narthex, flying buttresses, pointed arches, or most of the other things that people look for in a church, if they were ever to need one, which evidently they don't.

This kind of stuff makes me nuts!

Crazy as a loon,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Long on questions, short on answers...

Hello friends,

I just got back from making a hospital visit to a wonderful Christian lady who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I have known and loved Lucille for many years and it made me sad to see her lying there in that hospital bed. I teased her and we talked about old times and we discussed our families. Then I read several passages of Scripture and prayed with her while holding her hand. Before I left she asked me: "Michael, why is the Lord making me live so long? Is He punishing me? I just want to go home." She said, "People keep telling me that I need to eat but I have no appetite and no interest in food. They make me drink liquids with nasty tasting stuff in it because they say it will be good for me. I've lived for 90 years. Now I'm tired and just want to go home to Heaven."

I must confess that I had a hard time finding fault with her logic. All I could come up with is the fact that the Lord is both the Giver of life and also the One who determines when we have finished our course down here. It is not for us to shorten our life either actively (by suicide) or passively (i.e. by giving up mentally and emotionally, refusing to eat and drink, etc.). Our job is to keep on keeping on until the Lord calls us home in His own good time. Even though we don't always understand why He does what He does, we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing and His timing is perfect.

On the other hand, I can understand Lucille's frustration. When I was young life was exciting and I felt like I had everything to live for. Heaven seemed very far off and not the least bit interesting. Now that I'm a little older I'm beginning to see through different eyes, different values. Lucille knows more people in Heaven than she does down here. Her husband is there, and both of her parents. Most of her closest friends are already with the Lord. She lives in one room in an adult foster home where she seldom sees people she knows. She's lonely and she hurts all over. What does she have to live for here? Not much. I wasn't about to say that to her, but I can sure understand why she feels the way she does.

God has wired us up to cling tenaciously to life. He put into us the will to live. However, there finally comes a time when the sand shifts and Heaven seems very near and very desirable. I think that is His doing as well, to get us prepared for the "big move."

The greatest reality is not physical life on planet earth. The greatest reality is eternal life with God. He has made us eternal beings and has placed eternity in our hearts. Compared to the eons of time in eternity, the seventy or so years we spend here getting ready for Heaven is no more that a blip on the screen. James 4:14 describes our life this way: "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." Psalm 144:4 says, "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Breath, vapor, smoke, mist... all things that cannot be grabbed, cannot be held onto. So why do we get so exercised over the idea of death?

We had a dear lady in our church who lived to be 106. Alice died shortly before her 107th birthday. I used to go visit her and she would always ask me the same question Lucille asked today: "Why is the Lord making me live so long?" Except for some arthritis Alice was in great shape. But she was perplexed and somewhat put out that the Lord wouldn't let her go home. She felt that she was past her pull date but God wouldn't take her off the shelf, even though she thought she was of no further use to anyone.

It finally comes down to trust. When we can't understand or explain why God does what He does we have a choice. We can shake our fists at Him and get angry, or we can draw near to Him and trust that He has a plan, even though He hasn't shown it to us yet. Trusting Him is not always easy, but it is definitely the way to go.

Still crazy,

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gabriela chegou! (arrived)

Hello friends,

The Bible says, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD" (Psalm 127:3). I certainly felt that way about the arrival of my own three children, but I would respectfully like to emend that verse to say, "Behold, grandchildren are a gift of the LORD, too."
Every one of them is a miracle. To look at their perfectly formed little fingers and toes and to watch them start to develop into a little person... It is beyond me how anyone could doubt the existence of God. He has left His fingerprints all over these little ones. Each one is made in the image and likeness of God and reflects His glory and splendor. In Psalm 8 Israel's King David stands out on the porch of his palace under the night sky reflecting on the mysteries of God's Person and plans for man. He says, "O LORD, ourLord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens. From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength because of Thine adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth!" I say AMEN to that!
On April 21st at 7:56 AM our eighth grandchild came into this world. Her name is Gabriela Affini Wilson, born to our son, Chris, and his lovely Brazilian wife, Luciana. "Gabi" is their second child, making 4-year-old Lucas, the Big Brother.

Luciana, came through with flying colors and she and Chris are as proud as can be of their new little Brasileira.
Of course, Ramel and I are a little bit excited too. Luciana's mom, Marcia, is here visiting from Brazil to help take care of Lu and the baby. She is a dear person and we have come to love her and their whole family.
I must close for now and get busy, but I just wanted to brag a little bit about Gabi. She's a keeper, for sure.
May today be a wonderful day of blessings for you as you walk with the Savior.
Crazy about grandkids,