Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Remembered

It dawned on me yesterday that I had failed to make mention of Memorial Day during worship on Sunday. My focus was on Pentecost - the birthday of the church and the miracle of the how the disciples preached in languages they never learned before. It is a celebration of how Jesus breaks down of barriers and that separate and divide people. Divisions that cause war and hate. We have a bi-lingual worship service with our Spanish speaking church members. My attention was very much focused on having a meaningful, glitch-free, bi-lingual service and I forgot the other very important holiday were celebrated last weekend.

Monday, after working in the garden and trying to find some parts for my car - typical Memorial Day activities, I thought I should do something to remember those who gave their lives in the armed services. I happened to find a DVD on the bookshelf called We Were Soldiers.

We Were Soldiers is a 2002 war film that dramatized the Battle of Ia Drang, which took place in November 1965, the first major engagement of American troops in the Vietnam War. The power of the film is in how the characters are portrayed as more than one-dimensional tin soldiers. They were also fathers, sons, husbands and brothers. This film also gives you the same feeling for the North Vietnamese troops - They were also fathers, sons, husbands, brothers and soldiers. It was an awful bloody day. The film ends with a shot of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. They remind us of the 58,000 US lives that were lost. How many others could be added to that number? It brings tears to my eyes and takes my breath away.

Yesterday I was reminded of the terror, horror and ugliness of war. I was reminded that the Scriptures call us to be peacemakers. I feel so for the men and women that have pledge their lives and are willing to go into harm's way to protect of our country. I grieve for those who lost sons, fathers, husbands, brothers and friends in war. They were all so young. I was reminded how the draft ended the year I turn 18 and the war was finally winding down. I think of the war we are fighting today as I write this - so far away and so very real. I think of Jesus crying over Jerusalem, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, If only you knew what makes for peace."

There is a haunting song, originally written for a different war that plays through out the film. The lament, "Sgt MacKenzie", is written and sung by Joe Kilna Mackenzie. Joe wrote the song in memory of his Grandfather, one of the Seaforth Highlanders from the Elgin/Rothes area who fought in WWII. Sgt Charles Stuart MacKenzie was bayoneted to death at, the age of 35, while defending one of his badly injured colleagues in the hand-to-hand fighting of the trenches. If the song didn't play as you read this click on the title of this blog entry and it will take you to a web page where you can hear it.

Here are the lyrics in memory of those who lost their lives protecting their country:

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

When they come I will stand my ground
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid

Thoughts of home take away my fear
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me

Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a Germans gun

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Where before many more have gone

Friday, May 25, 2007

Adaptive Change

I just read an interesting book called 90 Minutes in Heaven. It is by a man named Don Piper who claims to have been clinically dead for 90 minutes and then came back to life after having a vision of heaven. I must confess that I'm not sure what to think about his vision of heaven and that is not the part of the story that really grabbed me. What caught my attention was the story of his recovery. He had been crushed under a truck and had broken many bones. Some bones had been shattered and others were actually missing. Most of his recovery involved having his legs in a painful device designed to encourage bone growth.

Don was lucky to be alive, but his life would never be the same. He spoke of this as learning to live in a new normal. He said he could keep remembering and dwelling on what he could never do again or he could start to learn and appreciated what he could now do. His decided to discover his new normal. I was very interested in how he adapted to the changes in his life and found contentment even though his life was forever changed in ways he would not have wished on anyone.

Don's injuries could not be reversed. There was no quick fix or new technique that could restore him to his former health and life style. Don had to change from the inside out to find a new normal - a new type of health. He had to adapt to things that he could not change.

Sometimes we all face things that we can't change: death, divorce, disability and more. There is a time to mourn and no one can tell you how long or how short that will be. There is also a time to find the new normal and no one can decide that time for you either. Some one once put it this way- the journey of grief is discovering what was lost, discovering what is left and discovering what is possible. This is what I am calling "adaptive change". I think that also describes the road to finding a new normal. Jesus does not promise to take all our pain away in this life. He does invite us to allow God to make all things new.

Here's a question to dwell and ponder. How is becoming a Christian like finding a new normal?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Transforming church

I'm at a Transforming Church conference in Menlo Park. It is a very full schedule, but I thought I'd blog a bit. We spent a lot of time on the Myers-Briggs and leadership styles - very good and helpful. I thought this was a local conference, but there are folks here from all over the US.

The other day I had a talk with someone about the difference between a "technical fix" and "adaptive change". I plan on writing more on this later, but it really helps me understand some of the struggles and successes at Westminster.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And Even Yet Another Poem!

Poem: "The Gardeners" by Jack Ridl, from Broken Symmetry. © Wayne State University Press.

The Gardeners

In the spring she
drops the seeds, he
covers them. He
digs up the weeds.
She cuts the flowers.
She takes the blooms
and puts them in
every room. They soar
red from the tables, sprout
yellow from the shelves,
hang purple from
the ceiling, blue
from the edges of
lampshades. Clusters
of flowers sit in
tiny pots on every
windowsill, in open
cupboards, behind
the sink. He stands
beside her as she tosses
all the wilted leaves
into a rusty bucket.
This house is heaven's
door, the air gathering
the bashful smells of
blossoms, roots, cut
stems, wet dirt, new
and rotting leaves.