1.   A Nervous Breakdown Is A Good Place To Start

I like the phrase “nervous breakdown.”   God help me, but I like the way it sounds more than I like depression and more than I like bi-polar disorder and more than I like psychotic episode.   Nervous breakdown conveys, I think, the sense of a being razed to the ground.   And, you see, if a person, like some ancient building, has been reduced to rubble, there is always the possibility of being re-built, of somehow starting over.  

 

James Loder describes the clinical case of a woman known as Willa.   After years of family abuse and trauma the shell of a person had to be institutionalized.   Most days Willa sat alone in a room, staring into space and saying nothing at all.   Then, according to Loder’s book, The Transforming Moment, this middle-aged woman heard a voice.   The voice didn’t tell her to harm herself or anyone else, but simply this:   “The silence is not empty” and “There is purpose to your life.”   Then, gradually, amazingly, Willa began to speak.   She spoke lucidly, coherently, purposefully.   She spoke to doctors, to nurses, to therapists.   She made friends, began to cope and to hope, and eventually became well enough to be released, whereupon she joined a church community and perhaps heard these passages that we’ve read aloud this morning:

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is in him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5–6).

 

“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke and the crowds were amazed…” (Luke 11:14).

 

2.   Building Trust In God

So, let me ask you a question.   Where do you start?   Where do you start building trust in God after hitting rock bottom, after your life has been torn down, after your view of the world has been blown into a million little fragments?   My suggestion, based upon the context of Luke 11:14, is that trust comes amid the debris.   Or maybe trust comes with the acknowledgement that we’ve tried to build our lives, using materials that cannot bear the load.   Or maybe trust comes when we stop using our skill to perpetuate the false image that we want everyone to see.

 

Think about this.   Preceding the mute person’s exorcism in Luke 11, Jesus teaches about prayer.   But following the exorcism, in verses 24—26, we read this curious story about an “unclean spirit” who returns to a house which has been “swept and put in order.”  Isn’t that ironic?   The unclean spirit finds rest in a house that, by all appearances, looks clean.   And yet, within those walls there arrive “seven other spirits more evil” than the first one.   And, you see, that image of the house begs the question:   Are we really trusting God if we merely straighten things?  Or does building trust in God have to start with a complete over-haul?

 

This week I had two conversations with two men who told me almost the same thing.   One of them said, “It all comes down to your sense of right and wrong.”   The other one said, “What you call ‘God,’ I call doing the right thing.”   And, you see, I push back on that stuff.

3.   De-construct The World As We Know It

I push back, and I feel called to develop a church that pushes back because “God is a refuge for us… 

Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.”

 

In the view of Psalm 62:9, we already have too many religious people who settle for something less than God; they settle on certain roles—the dutiful son, the loving daughter; they settle on the pursuit of personal fulfillment; they settle on a system of right and wrong.   But all those things put together are “lighter than a breath.”  

 

George Bailey, in the Frank Capra classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, doesn’t always think his life is so wonderful.   After Uncle Billy loses $8,000, the Bailey Building and Loan may go bankrupt, and George may go to jail.   So, after a nervous breakdown in front of his children, he sits at Martini’s Bar and prays this quivering prayer:  “Dear God, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please help me…  I’m at the end of my rope.”  Now, if you recall the film, it’s the reckless answer to that ad-hoc prayer that we find so compelling.  George will discover what it means to trust God, but only as he experiences his view of the world being utterly de-constructed.  

 

In the U2 song, Elevation, it’s the same deal:

 

A mole, living in a hole,

digging up my soul,

Going down, excavation;

I and I in the sky

you make me feel like I can fly so high, elevation…

4.   The One Stronger Takes Away The Armor

Now, if you’re sitting there, wondering why—why the scary de-construction of our world view might after all be a good thing—you may want to re-visit what Jesus says to those who test him in Luke 11.   At one point he says,

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe.   But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder” (v. 21,22).

 

And, you see, I find myself wondering about the “armor.”    I find myself fixating on the armor in which you and I trust, armor like David initially wore as he prepared to fight Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.   Verse 39 says that as he strapped on the armor he walked in vain.   And that’s what I think happens to us.   We try to wear the armor that isn’t intended for people who trust God.  We try to wear the armor of defensiveness, or the armor of certainty, or the armor of success.   But we can’t walk in that armor.   It’s too stiff.

 

In his book, Searching For God Knows What, Donald Miller offers this stunning observation:  

“I presented a gospel to Christian Bible college students and left out Jesus.  Nobody noticed…” (p. 159).

 

And probably the reason nobody noticed is that the message Miller delivered included all kinds of hot-button, religious issues, certain topics that get church people all frothed up.   Miller laid out the right answers and the orthodox opinion, but didn’t mention Jesus once.    And nobody noticed.  The armor, apparently, was just too thick. 

5.   Latah Valley’s Share of The Plunder

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe…”

 

And could that be us?   Could men and women like us be the property of a strong power that’s eager to keep us under wraps?   And if that’s a true picture of what’s going on, what happens “when one stronger than he”—what happens when Jesus Christ—“attacks him and overpowers him” and “takes away his armor”?   I’ll tell you what happens.   Not only does Jesus take away the armor—not only does Jesus de-construct the safe world we knew—Luke 11:22 says that he “divides his plunder.”   And let’s talk about that.

 

In Exodus 12:36, as the Israelites are making their way out of slavery in Egypt, the text says, “And so they plundered the Egyptians.”   I read that, and thought this is what happens when we try to start new churches.   Churches, literally, the called out ones, are called out of the world’s slavery by Jesus Christ.   But as we leave, we plunder.   We plunder things that have seemed to us fragmented and incomplete.  We plunder books.   We plunder movies.  We plunder the arts and sciences.   We plunder politics.  We plunder our own broken-down experience.  In other words, we take from the very world that’s been de-constructed those things we may need to worship God in the wilderness.   We take them on the journey with us as a sign that we are no longer bound to them.  In Christ, God has de-constructed the place where we’ve been enslaved and then allowed us to hold on to certain shards of it.   Amen.

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1.   The Danger of Remaining Anonymous

 

Anonymous.   If you Google the word anonymous—meaning without a name—you will find over 219 million websites.   You will also discover that eighty-five percent of all quotations in the world have been attributed to an anonymous speaker or writer, and that ninety-one percent of all Internet truth has been claimed by anonymous sources.   There are in fact benefits to remaining anonymous, and I think you know what they are.  

 

Once upon a time, at Princeton Theological Seminary, we were taking a mid-term examination in Old Testament theology.   Everyone had just received their test booklets.   A palpable and nervous silence filled the room.   And then, all of a sudden, someone passed gas.   The sound of indiscretion echoed off the floor boards and arched ceilings.   Among the 200 students in the hall no one had to claim responsibility.   The fart could have just floated there above our bowed heads, an anonymous odor, wafting away into nothingness.   But instead, to his credit, Jerry Snyder spoke up.   “Excuse me,” he said to our collective laughter.   And so, of course, we knew.   And perhaps, more importantly, Jerry had become known, and no longer anonymous.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.   You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways…”

 

I am sure everyone here will acknowledge the benefits of remaining anonymous.   But, given this passage, isn’t there also a danger to it?

2.  God Knows You Best—So Don’t Give Up

 

Let’s review.   When it comes to the life of the church, the benefits to being cloaked and clumped together in anonymity go like this:  

You will never be chosen, by virtue of your last name, to make Jello-jelatin casserole.

It will never be your turn to help teach when you don’t feel like it. 

You will never be volunteered to pray or to pass out bulletins.

No one will ever gossip about you or make nasty comments about your hair.

You will never be embarrassed, harassed or harangued by religious fanatics.

No one will send you a letter or an e-mail with a quote from the Bible.

No one will visit you at home or in the hospital.

No one will check in on you.

 

And I guess all those are benefits.  But I have my doubts.   I doubt, for example, that either you or I know what’s best for us.   I doubt whether or not we will ever fully comprehend our own actions.   In his book, Lost In The Cosmos, Walker Percy poses this curious question:  “How is it possible for the man who designed Voyager 19, which arrived at Titania, a satellite of Uranus, three seconds off schedule and a hundred yards off course after a flight of six years, to be one of the most screwed up creatures in California or the Cosmos?”   And the answer is that there is no answer.   The answer is that we can know all kinds of subjects; we can manipulate all kinds of people, we can harness the power of the sun; we can clone the DNA of the wooly mammoth…  But we can’t know for certain what we’ll do tomorrow.   Or rather what decisions will turn us into what people tomorrow.   We can’t know that without a reasonable doubt.

 

And yet, there may be something that we can know about ourselves:

“Nathanael asked Jesus, ‘Where did you get to know me?’  Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’”

3.   Sometimes You Gotta Go…

 

You see, we can know that we are known.   And that’s not just cronyism with Jesus.   That’s not just hob-knobbing with the right religious crowd.   We can know that the God of All Creation knows our place and purpose within that Creation, and therefore that we are known best of all by Someone Other than ourselves.   Ouch!  Think about that the next time you worry about making a mortgage payment or getting sick or having an argument with your spouse or your kids.   You are known.

 

“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came…”

 

Years ago, while experiencing the final season of a television program, known as Cheers!  I imagined the possibility of a church community that lived according to that theme song.   A relaxed place where no one would want to remain anonymous because of the way people are accepted and even loved by one another.   That was my vision for ministry.  I wanted a church that resembled that scene at the bar, when Norm walks through the door and the bartender says, “Norm!”  And all the other patrons and waitresses respond in unison, saying “Norm!”  

 

But, you see, re-reading today’s passages I’d like to tweak some of the lyrics from Cheers!   I’d like to suggest, for instance, that sometimes you gotta go—and that church doesn’t always look like a gathering place, but a scattering place.  

4.   Believe In Body Language

 

In fact, if it’s the Lord God who searches out my path and my lying down… if it’s the Lord God who hems me in, behind and before… then the point of being known isn’t that we remain in place perpetually, but that we move into those relationships and circumstances which God has prepared for us.  

 

During our trip to St. Petersburg, Florida this week Sheryl and I gathered with various other New Church Development pastors from around the Presbyterian Church, and one of the most compelling things we did was divide up in teams and as a team visit a specified area of the city.   Our particular team traveled to Haslem’s Bookstore, where we spoke with a few customers and retailers.   From there we moved on to an Italian restaurant, where we sipped coffee and observed the huge pictures of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.   We had a Bible Study.   And after offering prayer for the place, I went up and asked the owner of the restaurant about the any recent changes in the neighborhood.   Standing next to me at that moment was a woman, making a purchase.   She answered the question too, and then cheerfully told me that she worked at Pandora’s Box down the street.   When I asked about Pandora’s Box she said that she read palms, tarot cards and tea leaves.  She said she had been led there to St. Petersburg, but that she didn’t want to freak me out.   And then she asked about me, and I told her.  I said, I belong to a team of pastors who are thinking about starting a new church here.

“Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.”

 

Now, believe it or not, as I peruse verse four of Psalm 139, it is this stranger from Pandora’s Box  that I’d like to recognize.   That is, she represents to me the kind of body language that I’d like us to be.   I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that as I uttered the word, church, this woman physically backed away from me.    She literally turned pale.  It was as if I had conferred upon her some contagious disease.   And maybe, in some strange, cosmic way, the church—the ekklesiathe called out ones are contagious.   I don’t know.  God knows.   God knows my path—57th to Hatch, down Hatch, north on Route 195 to Meadow Lane Road.   God knows my path and everybody behind every doorway along that path.   And God knows your path and everybody behind every doorway along your path.   And what if we had one word that we could say to one person whom we might meet?   Might that be a word that God sends you to speak?

 

5.   Cheers! Latah Valley!

 

I started off this message, emphasizing how pleasant it is to remain anonymous.   I then suggested the possibility of a church where everybody wants to be there primarily because they’re known by name.  But finally my point is that Latah Valley will become a better version of Cheers!   We won’t just be a group of people who love and appreciate one another on the surface.   We will be known by God and one another as we are—with all the faults and foibles—and it will still be a pleasure.

Commenting on whether or not he’ll have a second date with a girl that he likes very much, Will Hunting tells his therapist the following:

“She’s perfect right now; you think I want to ruin that?”  The therapist then responds, “Maybe you’re perfect right now and you don’t want to ruin that.”

 

I heard that exchange in the film, Good Will Hunting, and thought again about why God has sent us as the church into the world.   It’s not because we’re perfect.  It’s because we courageous enough to be known.   And, in the end, it’s a pleasure to be known.  

 

Cheers!  Latah Valley!   May you and I be known by God as God’s own people forever and ever, and wherever we’re sent.

 

Amen.

jesus_catacombframe2

Most historians will admit the existence of the Palestinian Jew of the first century, Jesus of Nazareth.  Most.  Not all.   For those few, of course, “Jesus” is easily written off as illusion, delusion or perhaps a convenient moralistic foil for western culture’s rise and eventual fall.   The majority view, by contrast, must contend with the confession of historic church–namely that Jesus is Lord and Savior, that he is fully human and fully divine, that he is not merely the messianic figure anticipated by certain apocalyptic Jews , but the Crucified and Resurrected Lamb, slain from the foundation of the cosmos…

 

I share this confession as well as the view of most historians; Jesus of Nazareth has been named the Christ, the Anointed, by a contigent of men, women and children who have believed in him.   With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge that his identity will always be contentious.   His identity (if true) will never be proven with carbon dating or with some sort of genetic finger print.   All that can be done and will be done to determine his personhood depends upon the words we use to speak about him and the deeds we do to embody those syllables.

 

Last week, I attended an NCD Coaches conference during which we prayed about New Church Developments in the United States of America.   Early on we were invited to consider this proposition:  in order for a new church to be successful, those who pioneer the fledging congregation must DEFINE JESUS.   That is, its founders must first define the “Jesus” they will be proclaiming and then stick with that definition throughout the church’s formative years.  The rationale for this exercise, undoubtably, is wise and prudent.   There are as many versions of “Jesus”–many more than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John depict–as there are people who use his name in vain.   And certainly, the postmodern mode will continue to accomodate a wild multiplicity of Jesus-testimony.   Nevertheless, I have to wonder, and at the conference I did aloud.

 

I do not think that we get to define Jesus.   Christians get to confess him and follow him and risk for him and pray to him.   We are even permitted the privilege of starting a new church in the name of Jesus.   Yet, if Jesus existed in human history and if he is raised again in glory, as the New Testament purports in so many, richly textured Greek letters, then Jesus will be who Jesus will be.   He in fact will DEFINE US.   And the stalling spelling bee contestant might say, “Can I have that in a complete sentence please?

stillness

“The poetic metaphor draws on a stock of common, immediate, and sometimes controversial images and events and transforms them into icons, in intimations of divine activity and reflections of human character.  Metaphor knits together the jumbled elements of experience into an intricate web of relationships whose center is the God who creates, redeems, sustains within the fray of human existence…”  

When I recently read these words from William P. Brown’s book, Seeing The Psalms (p. 213), I recalled that rude question that moved into my mind some time in adolescence.   CAN I TRUST THE WORDS?   That is, if words can be so easily manipulated, exploited, commercialized and reduced to mere propaganda–how might the biblical witness to Truth genuinely work?   What I’m searching for is a tether.   Some essential linkage between the words that we learn to read, write and speak with the experience of living that we perceive, ponder and pound out every day.   Like it or not, the Bible represents a vast repetoire of interpreted experience.   To call it divine relevation is great.  But the fact remains that its varied and disparately inspired writers had to decipher and collate what they had seen with their own eyes or what had been transmitted to them over years of oral traditioning.   So it is safe for me to assume that when God speaks through the Holy Scriptures God speaks through a hodge-podge of human cultures.   Moreover, each scribal agent crafted his verse based upon a grounded perspective.   To paraphrase Benjamin Button, he could not avoid looking at the world  “through his own eyes.”    So I return to the question–this plague of interrogation…

Is the Bible mere propaganda?   And consequently, are we (as Christians in post-modernity) really adrift amid a sea of insular poetry?   Is everyone who penned the sacred text and everyone who reads and rants on about it simply expressing some version of their latest and greatest opinion?   Could it be that we are floating without an anchor?   Has something utterly tragic happened as we’ve worried about the accommodations on the Titanic?   Have we taken refuge in the provincial lingo–that of  preaching and teaching and managing  the sub-culture of a fading  Christendom–all the while allowing ourselves to be detached from the true dialogue taking place on some ontological shore? 

OR… 

perk-pic_cr1

Or, perhaps, as William P. Brown and the Psalmist postulate, a metaphor is an invitation…   We don’t so much have to take God’s Word like syrupy medicine.   We aren’t so much flattened by its weight.   But we are coaxed by it like a coach.  We are wooed by it like a love-letter.   We are grasped by it like a vine.    All of these comparisons signal our passive position.   However, by offering our best efforts and actively naming what we experience–namely loss upon loss, absence upon absence–we detect a Presence.   Or at least the Possibility of Presence.   And the words of the biblical text actually summon us into conversation about that possibility.   You and I participate in a grand, sweeping story, the wholeness of which is concealed from each one of us.  Nonetheless, we are privileged with describing or making manifest  how far God’s Spirit has come to find us (ie., Psalm 139).   The resources we have to engage in this creative process are beyond calculation, yet (to be sure) they include the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek New Testament and all the meanings which they weave.   The tether, I believe, is unbroken.   We see it sink beneath the surface, and when we endeavor to lift up the end of the rope, when there is tension between what we believe and what we experience, only then we recognize the heavy glory at the end of the line.  

 

I am happy to join in this poetic-propaganda fest, but I’m also eager to take on the next question.   No one may close off the conversation, save Christ Jesus, who is all in all.

It all starts with Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman.   Or does it?   Without that 1943 film, starring Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi, we of course don’t have Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.   And we don’t have Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster.   Moreover, (I know it’s a stretch, but) without the cottage industry of Frankenstein meeting all these iconic figures of our tortured psyches, we probably don’t have Freddie Kruger Versus Jason and we don’t have Alien Versus Predator.   And so, at some deep, primal level, I suppose it’s important that we can pit these hideous creatures against one another on the screen.   But what happens when the confrontation’s over?   Is there another meeting out there, or in here, that all of us are dying to see in living color?  

“He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.  He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.  He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold?   He sends out his word and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.   He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel” (v. 15—19).

 

Where we need to start, I think, is with the simple word, word.   And what is a word except a meeting of minds, and perhaps a meeting of bodies?   Christmas, after all, celebrates the Word of God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.   We meet in and around that Word, and we do our best to interpret the written words of the Bible as the primary witness to that Word.   But, you see, in Psalm 147 there is another aspect to God’s Word that appears a little bit like Frankenstein.   God’s Word, as revealed in nature, seems harsh as well as beautiful.   In fact, you might even say that God’s Word is concealed in the snow and in the frost and in the hail and in the wind just as much as it is revealed in the sunshine.  Or, you might simply say, BRRRR!   God help us!

Not too long ago, I read a poem by Wendell Berry.   It was a poem about a certain rest area in Kentucky where the boxwoods had been planted to spell the word, LIVE.   These carefully landscaped bushes greeted visitors to the state and hopefully cheered them for their journey ahead.   But, according to Berry, when they flourished in the late spring and summer, no one could actually make out the script of the letters.  In full leaf and in full flower, the intended message would be concealed, concealed from anyone who wouldn’t get down on her hands and knees and examine the roots.   And yet, ironically, amid the decay and the dormant season of winter, the word LIVE would be revealed and read by nearly everyone who might offer a passing glance.  So, what do you think?

My contention is that the Word of God revealed in nature needs the Word of God uniquely revealed to Israel and now revealed to us in Jesus Christ.   In fact, reading the straight snow as a sign of divine love is impossible unless we also get down on our hands and knees with verse 16:   He gives the snow like wool…   And, you see, once that’s revealed, everything looks different.

I mentioned earlier that the physical word on the page and on our lips is really nothing more than a place to meet, and what drives that home is the way the Hebrew designation for word—dabar—is  also the term for thing; and in some cases it’s also the word for commandment.   In Exodus 20, for instance, Moses doesn’t merely receive the ten commandments; he receives the ten things or the ten words.   He receives, not just an instruction manual that we might operate life on our own, but a place to meet.   A place from which to see things differently.

For some reason I’ve found myself watching the Weather Channel recently, and in between predictions of the next snow fall, and consequently the next round of shoveling, I landed on a program called, “Weather That Changed History.”   The episode that I saw chronicled the 1925 Serum Run, which tells the story of a potential epidemic, which began with the misdiagnosis of a Inuit child from the small village of Holy Cross.  The child dies of diphtheria, which leads Dr. Curtis Welch to do the only thing he can do.   He sends out word, and in this case the only word that matters is that the children of Holy Cross require a fresh batch of anti-toxin.   That word then sets in motion a gathering of the best drivers and the best sled-dog teams in the area.   The dogs will have to travel a total of 670 miles from Nome to Nulato and back again—all while coping with temperatures as low as negative 85 degrees and with winds, gusting to 80 miles per hour.  They do it in five and one-half days.   A twenty-dog team, led by a Siberian Huskie, named Balto, does the final 53 miles in dark blizzard conditions.   And when his driver, Gunnar Kassen, pries the twenty pound package from the sled, not a single vile of medicine has been damaged.  

“He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.”

You see, what Psalm 147:15 implies about God’s Word runs parallel track.

First, natural revelation sends out an urgent need for healing.

 

Second, special revelation sets in motion connections, communities and circumstances so that nothing in the weather is without meaning or purpose.   Christ is all in all.

 

Everything not only looks different.  By the re-description of God—everything is different.   And every time we respond to some impediment, some adverse situation, we are in fact responding to God.  

When I was following my Frankenstein tangent earlier, I came upon a recent doctoral thesis, entitled, Frankenstein Meets Maslow.   Frankenstein Meets Maslow is a misguided English professor’s attempt to marry the famous story of Mary Shelley with the equally famous theory of psychoanalyst, Abraham Maslow.   Maslow says that people make decisions in life based upon a hierarchy of needs, so that once the simplest needs are met, we can then move on to higher needs.   The highest need for Maslow is the need for self-actualization.   And apparently that’s a need that Frankenstein, as the creation of a mad scientist, will never meet.

But, you see, look what happens to our decisions in life when we discover ourselves at the intersection of natural revelation and special revelation.   We don’t necessarily reach for our personal goals come hell or high water.   We don’t strive to grasp for them at the expense of the world.   We respond to the world.   We respond to the hell and high water.   We interpret the snow as something given like wool, and the frost as something scattered like ashes and the hail as something hurled down like crumbs of bread from a banquet table.   This is how Psalm 147 trains us to pray for the snow—not as a total inconvenience, but as the place around which we have been called to worship and serve.

This morning we offer a time of healing—both for those who want to be healed and for those who’d like to do some of the healing.   Keep in mind that as we ask for healing we may receive more than we bargained for.   We may receive, not only the natural revelation of God that allows us to ask, but also the special revelation that will give us the resources to receive.  

This week I met with a man over coffee and we talked about the weather.   I asked him if he had shuttled his employees to work because of the snow and he said that he had.   Then, he changed the subject to talk about his teenage daughter.   He said that he tried to reason with her about driving on New Year’s Eve because people who don’t normally drink and drive will probably be drinking and driving on that night.      

“So what happened?   Was she upset? ”

 

“Of course,” he said.   “But I tried to get her to think about it rationally.”

 

“So Carl,” I said, after sipping my coffee, “how many more years do you think you’ll be working for the corporation?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know.  I’ve been working since I’ve been twelve years old; that was a big year for me.   I’ve had a life insurance policy since I was fourteen…”

 

“Ah, excuse me for asking, but what happened when you were twelve?”

 

“My father died in a car accident.” 

 

“How?  Was he hit by another car?”

 

“No, he was drunk, and slid off the road during a snow storm; the car upended into a ditch and he drowned.”

 

“God, I’m sorry…”

 

“Anyway, he didn’t have any life insurance,” Carl said, “and that meant our entire family had to go to work.   We had to survive, you know?”

 

“And, forgive me for asking this… Did you ever wonder about God in that situation?”

 

“Yeah, I wondered.  But I never asked God for anything.  Figured I had to do it myself.”

 

“Did you ever ask for healing?”

 

“Healing for what?”

 

“I don’t know… healing for the fact that your father didn’t have insurance, that he got drunk…”

 

“Scott, you don’t heal from stuff like that… do ya?”  

 

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!

Praise your God, O Zion!

For he strengthen the bars of your gates;

he blesses your children within you.

He grants peace within your borders;

he fills you with the finest of wheat.

 

Amen.