“I am going whether anyone else goes or not!”

img_1208.JPGMonday the meteorological prognosticators noted yesterday would be a December day to remember. Larry called and said, “I am going to play golf tomorrow whether anyone else goes or not!” I told him I had a doctor’s appointment and could get loose in the afternoon.

Larry, a retired pilot, is here seen “on approach.” My doctor noted how he wished he like to play golf. He said he just could not ever, “get into it.” I told him I enjoyed it more for the company. We did have an enjoyable day. We are hoping another day like this comes sooner than later.

My New Friend Jim Palmer to be Interviewed

jimpalmer.jpgLance Ford will interview my new friend Jim Palmer tomorrow evening at Shapevine online. The videocast is free. The interview begins at 8:00 p.m. (EST) I read Jim’s Divine Nobodies on the plane home from Soularize and am currently reading his new book, Wide Open Spaces. It would be worth your time.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Who knows when it comes? Who knows how it will come? Suddenly. Slowly. Death comes. Fear it? Face it? Fret about it? I listened as Nan expressed frustration and fatigue. She recently noted, “My legs just don’t work,” as she gave an accompanying motion as though trying to nudge someone forward. There is little doubt she moves between determination and giving in. Ninety-two years old. 92.

Death is not a fascination as much as it is a human experience that goes along with “pastor.” Slowly he speaks. Faint is his voice. Arms and legs that once rebuilt cars, assisted in building a building and served him well in his profession rest with little control once enjoyed. We sat for a bit together. I recalled the time he took me to breakfast. He shared with me where he once worked – even took me by to see the place. He was proud. He worked hard. There is little doubt he thinks about those times. I am certain he did not expect “retirement” to be like this.

The UPS delivery person opened the door. “He’s here all the time,” the faint voice informed. Noticing the UPS man left, he softly noted, “He probably forgot something.” There is little doubt he has seen this before from his wheelchair perch. He may not be able to move much, but he does not miss much either.

The news came like a weight. Hopes propped up by possibilities fell when the word came. Death lurks. Sooner than later? Only time will tell. Our hopes drive us to look for later, much later. Her family congealed. Once uncertain, now resolved. “Whatever it takes.”

These three flesh and blood stories could be filled in with greater detail.

Reflecting on these beautiful lives left me thinking of Psalm 23. Not the sterile Psalm intended to offer consolation as it is read from the back of a “Funeral Folder.” Rather, the Psalm as described by Dr. Garland during a Hebrew class in the mid 1980’s while in seminary. Pressing home the understanding of “intensives” it was noted the impending “valley of the shadow of death” was not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Knowing the day would come when the journey turns dark the songwriter wrote confidently of the absence of fear in the presence of the Shepherd.

Just how is that “shepherding” expressed? For the very mystical among us it comes in the “felt” presence of Jesus. For years I have heard people express the appreciation for the presence of God for without it they speak of feelings of loneliness. What about the less mystical among us? What about those who look around the waiting room and see no bright lights and feel no warm glow? How would they know of the “shepherding” of which the Psalmist directs our singing?

More and more, I am convinced in the reality of the presence of the Spirit of God in the company of people. Some of us need others around in whom we see the face of Jesus, feel his touch and find security in his embrace. For some of us it is not enough to consider the abstractions brought on by words intending to bring comfort. Some need the very tactile presence of God experienced in the “other.”

Many came to hug. Others came to stand and not say much. Still others offered to run errands or get dinner. Each of these dear ones came expressing the presence of God – the Triune God.

Would that the church, the Church, would take on the expression of the presence of God – the Triune God – in the world. In so doing we may find many who need companions for that long dark walk that surely comes. Embracing our kinship in shepherding with God may give us greater occasion to celebrate the love of God in Christ Jesus mediated by the Spirit for the blessing of the world.

My New Friend Jim Palmer

jimpalmer.jpgMark Scandrette, poet, pastor, catalyst, and friend , coined a phrase this past week – “My new friend Jim Palmer.” We spent the week as “condo” mates while working at Soularize in Nassau, Bahamas. One of our “condo” mates was Jim Palmer.

On Wednesday as we were making rounds and taking care of details I shared a seat in the van with Jim. He told me some of his story. I distinctly remember him telling me of his work at International Justice Mission. Jim shared the horrors of what I would refer to as the slave trade of young girls into prostitution in Asia. He was involved in something of an undercover meeting that eventually led to the freedom of many young girls. The experience took an emotional tole. Jim writes about the experience in his first book, Divine Nobodies.

During Soularize Jim served as interviewer extraordinaire.

Jim gave me a copy of Divine Nobodies. I read it on the plane home as we narrowly escaped the effects of tropical storm Noel. My plans were to read a chapter or two from Miami to Dallas. Early trips to the airport on consecutive days left me tired from staying up way to late to get up that early – 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

After the first introduction, yes Jim noted he broke a writing rule or two, I was gripped. I read the entire flight and forgot about my fatigue. By the time we landed at Will Rogers I only needed another thirty minutes to finish. Wednesday morning I got up early and finished. I laughed. I cried. I shouted for joy. I shared pain.

One endorsement suggested Jim may be the next Donald Miller. No disrespect to Donald, but I liked Jim’s book a bit more. It may be Jim’s experience as pastor and the oft disillusioning effects of working toward a practical theology. It may be feeling the pain of working through our own dark sides and coming out learning not only much about ourselves but about God. It may be the recognition we have too often ignored the mystical aspects of our spirituality ignoring the visible intersections of God in our world. Maybe it was connecting my own experiences with “divine nobodies” that kept “ringing the bell” for me.

I found a new friend. My new friend Jim Palmer is not just worth reading, he is worth getting to know. Despite his own misgivings about what he may be able to contribute to the Church and the Kingdom of God, Jim has been for me a refreshing “Divine Somebody.”

Order Divine Nobodies. Read it. Cry with it. Laugh with it. When you get up from reading keep your eyes open and your heart sensitive and see who God crosses your path with – these divine nobodies.

P.S. – I am looking forward to Jim’s next book, Wide Open Spaces.

Think. Laugh. Weep. Worship.

I enjoy reading. There was a day I needed to read in order to ratify my convictions and attending presuppositions. Those days have long since passed. I like diversity. My blogroll provides an illustration. I should also note many in my blogroll share my convictions and position. The discerning reader will have to make his or her determinations. Should any reader have a question about a particular subject or issue, I would be happy to entertain an e-mail exchange. You may use the contact form to do so.

Yesterday the SBC Outpost offered Emily Hunter McGowin to write a guest piece. She did not disappoint. In typical Outpost fashion it stirred quite the conversation. After reading her post I added her to my blogroll. Thoughtful. Articulate. Charitable. Honest. You, dear reader, should take some time with her writing. She offered a “Prayer for the Christian Scholar” on her own blog – Think, Laugh, Weep, Worship. – yesterday. I reproduce it here in hopes you will see the value of reading her blog.

Prayer for the Christian Scholar
Rescue me, Jesus.
Rescue me from the insatiable need to be right.
…from the anger, bitterness, frustration, harshness, and sarcasm that arise from the compulsion to be right.
…from blocked ears, a closed mind, and a cold heart.
…from a spirit that is slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become enraged.
…from hatred, resentment, and loathing of my critics.
…from the spirit of superiority that seeks to dominate and control those with whom I disagree.
…from self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, and self-worship.
…from jumping to conclusions and leaping to condemnations.
…from intellectual snobbery, denominational arrogance, and spiritual conceit.
Rescue me, Jesus.
Rescue me from me. (Emily Hunter McGowin)