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The Glory of the Lord Shone Round

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I'm watching the sunset tonight from a particularly good vantage point on the back patio.  The air feels soft and remarkably free from humidity.   Just opposite me are a group of trees where some birds have decided to roost for the night, and I can hear them chirping and calling to one another.  And there are some cicadas really tuning up for the evening just outside the patio screen door.   I'm trying to take this all in as best I can.  I want to close my eyes and listen to the sounds of the early evening, but the blast of orange-yellow-rose-colored sky streaked by purplish-grey clouds is just too alluring.   My prayer right this second...  "You didn't have to make it so beautiful... but you did.  You didn't have to make it so musical... but you did.  You didn't have to show so much grace and glory... but you did.  Thank you..."   It's been a hard couple of weeks... tacked on to a bunch of other hard weeks in a particularly hard year.   So, it's n

On Connections, Shared Humanity & Lizards

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There is a lizard sitting opposite me on my back patio. It's a screened-in porch, to be precise, and the lizard appears to have made it her home.  I'm assuming the lizard is a "she" because she seems to lack the pompous bit of skin under her jaw that the male of her species tends to inflate to reveal a startling pink flash of color.   The fact that she seems devoid of the pretension of lizard machismo is also something I'm imagining is present in her demeanor.  At present, she is placidly watching me as she moves back and forth behind a potted plant.   It's not a bad world---the one she's occupied.  There aren't any lizard predators, and it must seem pretty vast to her as she moves from plant to plant, hunting bugs and the like.  It doesn't compare at all to the world outside the screens, but it's safe, secure, and comfortable.   And devoid of other lizards.   Honestly, I can't believe I'm actually thinking theologically about a lizard,

The Choices We Make During Lent

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It's hard to believe that just a few days ago, I was staring out into the frozen world around me, snow piled high, with more coming down.  I'd just received the notice that we were going to have to boil our water, only to moments later have the water shut off.   We were trying to conserve energy and the house was dark except for the flickering of the fireplace, and I was bundled up because I turned our heat down to 67 degrees, which was cozy compared to the single-digit temperatures outside.  Right this second, I am sitting outside on a screened-in porch in Florida.  I'm wearing shorts.  The sky is blue and the sun is shining warmly on the flowers that are blooming on a tree just outside.  I've taken like four showers in the last two days to make up for the days I went without one last week.  The whole experience kind of shook me, though.   I wrote a bit about it last week--reflections on loss, grief, and even death to a certain extent.  Winter can do that to you--bend

But I'm A Good Person!

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The other night I heard someone describe a friend of theirs who had experienced a traumatic event as being "mad at God" over it.  I understand that feeling.  I think that most of us do.  But how many of us actually admit to feeling that way when things don't go well for us?   I've had arguments with God in the past about these kinds of things.  I will ask God if there is any way God might see the way clear to make things better for me considering all of the work I do on God's behalf.   I know that being a pastor doesn't afford me some sort of privileged status when it comes to hardship, trials, and tribulations.  Just because I talk about faith, God, and church-y stuff for a living, doesn't mean that I get a pass on the hard things in life.   But sometimes... I sure wish it did.   In my experience, this is a common response that I've heard from people who have come to me for counsel when they've experienced something hard, a challenge in life, fami

The Right Direction of Love and Light

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For those of us living in Texas, this past week has been absolutely exhausting.  Even as I sit here now, I feel as though I could sleep a week.  The winter storm that crippled the state, left many of us without power, and in my house, we were without water for five days.  One of the many things that I was struck by during the entire ordeal was how so many neighbors and communities came together to help one another.  My church had a long list of people who were willing to take in people who were without power.   Others checked on our most vulnerable members repeatedly to ensure they were okay.  We even had a roster of folks who were willing to drive their 4x4 vehicles on the icy roads to retrieve people, deliver groceries or respond to emergencies.   I heard from more than one member about how their neighbors checked on them and even took them into their homes.  Groups of neighbors pooled their resources when they were running out of water, and some of them organized neighborhood cookou

Winter Storms & Resurrection Hope

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  The winter storm that has crippled Texas left most of my church members without power for days and now has rendered the water here in Austin non-potable and subject to boiling before drinking.  Those that have water, that is.   We're entering Day Three of no water in the part of the city where I live.  Yesterday I boiled snow to make spaghetti, and we're using the water from the pool to wash dishes and flush toilets.  Still, in the midst of what amounts to a minor hardship considering what so many people without resources are facing, I had an epiphany yesterday that was still with me this morning.  I was standing outside yesterday looking at a tree in my yard that was covered in ice, branches bending low under the weight of it.   I also looked around at the rose bushes in my flower beds, and the two large Sago palms that were covered in ice and snow.  I remembered a hard freeze we'd had several years ago that decimated all of them.   And then I remembered what the landsca

The Best Way To Keep Lent This Year

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Lent is a time when many of us consider what we will give up during the forty days until Easter---a way that we can identify with Jesus' time in the wilderness, and as a means to focus on what matters most.   But yesterday someone on my Facebook Live broadcast (which happens at 9AM most weekdays if you want to join me) mentioned that maybe we've given up enough stuff already.   He had a point.  We've given up a lot during this past year since we last commemorated the beginning of Lent.  Back then we had no idea what was about to happen, and that in just a few short weeks our lives would change forever.  We didn't know that a global pandemic would grind the world to a halt.  We didn't know that not even a year later nearly half a million people would be dead from a virus we'd never heard of before.  We didn't know that we'd spend most of the year seeing friends and family through computer screens.  And for those of us in Texas right now---we didn't kn