Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Son of a Preacher Man

My grandfather LeRoy Mason earned the money to raise his large family in the Great Depression as a coal miner in the Pennsylvania hills.He was a natural athlete, nicknamed "Cy" after the great Cy Young, but he gave up sports to raise his family well. The speed that gave him great advantage in baseball saved his life and made him legendary in his community as he outran a mine cave-in that crushed the men just behind him. But what made his heart beat fastest and gave him the greatest satisfaction was sharing the Word. He did it through teaching, leading Sunday School, leading Bible studies, and his favorite---preaching. Though he was always a lay preacher, assisting his pastors and speaking in countless nursing home services, he was well-known as that little community's "preacher man".

A son of that preacher man was, according to his little sister, "the baddest kid Dad ever had". Jim loved and respected his father and his father's way of life, but had no interest in it himself. No interest, that is, until after he miraculously escaped with his life from two of World War II's hottest spots. Back home, he bowed his knee and surrendered his life to the Sovereign Lord. Soon he was in the middle of an anointed calling--the "baddest kid Dad ever had" was now a preacher man. Pastor J.L. Mason.

Pastor Jim was an amazing father, and always took any of his children who would go with him to serve wherever he was serving. I was the daughter of that "preacher man", and nothing thrilled me more. I "preached" with the piano bench as my altar, and my brothers as reluctant and often misbehaving congregants. I tooled around in his office, read his books, tried to help him however he would allow. Together we visited countless nursing home residents, sharing scriptures and songs. Dad believed in me so much that I didn't know girls "weren't supposed to be preachers for real" until much later. Gradually I got the message from others that aspiring to be a preacher's wife was most appropriate for me, but it never felt right.

I did find a preacher man to marry anyway. Charlie was headed for dentistry when we first met, so I knew we could only be friends. To my amazement and delight, God put his hand on this Hoosier (another great "hick from French Lick"), and called him to preach. Like my father, Charlie Young believed in me, and threw the doors wide open for me to walk into my calling.

Two preachers under one roof. Quite a one-two punch for our 3 children. They were repeatedly told they had a lot to live up to, or to live down, depending on the pundit's perspective. We never felt that way. We only desired that they would each be who God created them to be, his unique fully devoted, faithfully following child. Gratefully, all 3 are that. We couldn't be prouder or more grateful that each one is exactly where God has called them, using their gifts to build the Kingdom of God.

And one of the sons of the preacher man (and woman) is himself a preacher. J.L. , or Jacob as he is also known, is a humble servant who powerfully declares the Word of God with the strength that only those can who know God has called them and they can do nothing else. This weekend his calling by God will be affirmed and confirmed by the Church as he is ordained an elder in the Free Methodist Church. I feel sure his Great Grandpa Mason will be in the great cloud of witnesses cheering him on from the stands of heaven. By the grace and mercy of God, his 93 year old grandfather James Mason will be with his father Charles Young and I and the other elders of the conference, joining the Bishop to lay hands on him in prayer to officially launch his lifelong calling as a preacher man.

Praise be to God.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good...No, INCREDIBLE, Friday

Friday started on Thursday. Jesus showed his disciples the depth of his love by humbly serving their distracted, self-centered souls, giving them strength for the future they didn't even know they would need. He forgave his betrayer and their cowardice before it even happened, and then went to the Garden to agonize with his Father. After tears and pain beyond my power to comprehend, he surrendered everything. "Not my will, Yours be done", and then walked knowingly, willingly into
the hands of his captors. Handed himself over while ten thousand powerful warrior angels were restrained from wreaking fury on these insolent and arrogant humans--humans for whom he was going to the cross to pay a sin debt so large they could never imagine, let alone relieve.

Through the night he was mocked, abused, beaten, skin ripped and torn, stripped and humiliated. He never lost his composure, never traded love for hate, never backed away from his commitment to absorb the wrath of a holy God against sin for the very people who were sinning against him at the moment.

Daybreak slowly crept over the horizon, and with it the mock trials ended with, "Crucify him!"
"Justice" would be served for the heinous crimes of loving, healing, restoring, pointing the path to wholeness. Friday's first order of business was to find a cross for the criminal, lay it on his back, and begin the trek to Golgotha, the skull-shaped craggy hill outside Jerusalem.

Slowly, tortuously the Messiah carried my cross...your cross...our cross. The Via Dolorosa was packed on this Friday, people in Jerusalem for the Passover getting an unexpected carnival show--a man on his way to public death. He stumbled, fell, bled his way to the pinnacle where around 9 a.m. on that incredible Friday, Jesus Christ spread his arms on the cross beam, lowered his feet to the upright bar, and was nailed to the cross.

That incredible Friday, the day we call Good Friday, he was separated from his Father, bearing the weight of my sin, and died. That Good Friday, that INCREDIBLE Friday, is the reason that anything truly good has ever happened to me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Using a Grenade When a B-B Will Do

Back in the day we had a neighbor who would use a b-b gun to rid his property of crows. I didn't like him doing that, but I would have to say I am glad his weapon of choice was the small little pellet of a B-B gun. It was clean, precise, and didn't do any collateral damage. The only one affected by the B-B was the crow it hit. Can you imagine what the carnage would have been had he lobbed a grenade at the annoying crow? Death and debris everywhere. And all unnecessary.

I think of that every day when I read my face book news feed. People are launching deadly word grenades generally at an unnamed person or persons, though many/most associates can figure it out. The words are critical, angry, condescending, accusatory, humiliating---you pick the adjective as long as it is bad. What does it accomplish? Death and destruction. Death of relationships, harsh and sad days for the targets...and here's an unintended result. Whenever a person posts something like that, they don't look large and in charge. They look petty and foolish. They appear mean-spirited, and small enough to not have a big enough life or full enough heart to overlook an offense. "It is to one's glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 9:11

A bit of advice. If you have an issue that really needs addressed with someone/several, have the courage to do it face to face, or at least a person to person message. If it has to be addressed for health and you  can't overlook it, at least have the character to do it personally, just between you and the offending party. Your words grenades are making a mess you may never clean up.

Oh, yeah. In case you wondered,  I am talking personally to a few friends about this.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Going for the Jugular

The season 4 finale of The Walking Dead , AMC's hit show about an apocalypse of "walkers" and survivors, set a new record with 15.7 million viewers.  The episode was a doozy of a cliffhanger, and had me on the edge of my seat. Central character Rick in the prior world was an integrity-driven sheriff, and struggles with what is required to survive in the new world. Most of the people the group of survivors meet are ruthlessly evil, more to be feared than the zombies. When some of those depraved marauders surprise Rick and company in the still of the night, one holds a gun to Rick's head while the others attempt to 1) beat Rick's sidekick Daryl to death, 2) have their way with Rick's young son Carl and the lone woman in the group, Michonne, before they kill Rick. In the inevitable ensuing struggle, Joe (the incredibly bad guy) believes that he has Rick not just beaten up, but beaten. “What you gonna do now, sport?”, he taunts, inches from Rick's face.  With a nanosecond's  "whatever it takes" decision, Rick lunges forward and rips out Joe’s throat with his teeth! He severed the man's jugular vein, and Joe was powerless instantly, dead in less than a minute.

That made me think about a term I've used many times,  without truly and fully appreciating it. The jugular vein is a large and vulnerable artery in the throat which if ruptured will lead to swift death. When we say figuratively that someone "goes for the jugular" in an argument, we mean they attack ruthlessly, going straight and forcefully for someone's weak point, something they know will really hurt the other. We might attack a vital and vulnerable trait, a feature, a past failure--whatever is a sensitive area. And what's the reason we would do that? The same as Rick's motive--it's an attempt to overcome another person swiftly and totally. Maybe we're feeling attacked ourselves. Maybe we are just annoyed. Perhaps we just want to shut them down so we don't have to hear their opinions. Or it could just be that we want our own way.

So we go for the jugular. We say the thing we know will wound, hurt, shut them down. But the problem is, going for the the jugular doesn't create a minor flesh wound. Going for the jugular kills. Swiftly kills memories, relationships, possibilities. Oh, the people with the gaping wounds may still stick around, but they are the walking dead. The relationship has lost precious life.

You can make a case for going for the jugular if an enemy is actually threatening your life or that of a loved one, as in Rick's case. But to go for the jugular, you have to be in close contact. Figuratively speaking, the people with whom we are in close enough contact to know and hit their weak spot are not enemies--they are friends, family, brothers, sisters, spouses, children, parents. In a moment we have a desire to win so strong, we go for the jugular. We say the words that humiliate, hurt, horrify...we win.

But something dies. Something precious drains away.

I've been thinking. Rick's brutal bite was justified. But it was fictional. My bites are all too real, all too deadly. There's a better way. "For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:14-15