Category Archives: Musings

Fresh and seasoned thoughts about the practice of Sabbath.

Silence

Silence: A Book Review


Each year in the weeks leading up to Easter I try to get myself psyched up for the biggest day on the Christian calendar by reading some good books. I’ve read Silence for the past few years in a row, and I’m reading it again this year. It’s not a “pump-you-up” kind of book. It’s a tear you down, break your heart, and make you want to be a better Christian kind of book.

Silence is a historical fiction that takes place in 17th century Japan. Christianity came under server persecution in Japan in the 1600′s. The persecution of the church provides the setting against which Shusaku Endo writes his tale about the search for an apostate missionary. The main character in Silence, Rodrigues, enters into the suffering of the few remaining Christians in Japan as he searches for Ferreira, his teacher and mentor.

Rodrigues’ search is not just for his friend for also for Jesus. He’s longs to see Christ’s face and hear his words. Endo weaves into the story the theme of God’s apparent absence and silence. Chapter after chapter, Rodrigues continues his search for Ferreira and for Christ. I won’t give the exact details away, but he finds everything he’s looking for.

If you must have a happy ending, don’t get this book. But if you are willing to be moved emotionally by what you read, you’ll love Silence. I liken it to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It’s beautifully written. It may break your heart but it will be worth it.

Click Silence to check it out.

 

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To My Little Star

Today is the last day for my daughter Hallie to be 12 years old  Our family is changing.  We will have a teenage girl in the house TOMORROW!

I’ve written a letter to her.

To My Little Star, From Your Father….

Hallie, turning 13 is not only a big thing for you, it’s been seen as a “big thing” by people all around the world, throughout time.

It’s the age where who you will be starts to be seen.  You’re still a kid, but you’re not as much of a child as you used to be.  You’re not grown up, but you are more of an adult than you once were.

I know you want to be a star!  Congratulations, you ARE a star.  You share your brightness with your family, your friends, and anyone you meet.  Now that you are starting to direct more and more of your own life, you have to answer the question: What Kind Of Star Are You Going To Be?

Here’s kind of star I see in you…

You are a guiding star.  Like the North Star, you are constant.  You are who you are.  I love you the way you are.  The North Star is always in the same place.  You’ve been you since the first day we brought you home.  You are independent.  You have inner strength.  You are brilliant.  We love who you are.  Don’t change.  By being who you are, you guide other people to where they need to be.  Be secure in being YOU.

Every star is part of a constellation, a fellowship, or a community of other stars.  Even the North Star is part of something bigger.  The North Star is part of the Little Dipper.  God has already given you some people for your constellation.  He’s given you family.  You have a church who loves you.  You have some close friends.  When you look up into the sky and see the Little Dipper, remember to thank God for the people he has put in your life.  I know all of those people are thanking him for You today.

I’ve loved watching you become the star you are today AND I can’t wait to see how you shine in the years to come.

No matter what, Daddy loves his little star, even though she’s not so little anymore!

The 5 Love Languages: A Book Review


I’ve talked to countless people about Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages over the years, but I never picked up a copy until recently. What a mistake that was. This book is full of excellent advice on how to express love for your husband or wife.

The premise behind The 5 Love Languages is that we each have ways we best receive love. Dr. Chapman calls these “Love Languages.” In our marriage, when we learn the love language of our spouse, and express our love to them through their primary love language, our relationship prospers. He calls this “Filling the Love Tank.” When the love tank gets empty, the relationship suffers. But as we are mindful to keep the love tank filled up, the relationship caries on in good health.

Dr. Chapman identifies 5 primary love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. He explains how we can identify the love language of our spouse, and also how to discover our own love language.

One of the strongest statements in the book, one Dr. Chapman makes again and again, is that “love is a choice.” We choose to speak or serve or act for our loved one’s benefit. Feelings, even the emotional feeling we so often describe as love, rise and fall. The love that holds a marriage together, and makes it work, is about choosing to love your spouse.

As I was reading The 5 Love Languages, I found myself making notes for myself and Kristi. She’s definitely a Quality Time person. She enjoys spending time with those she cares about. I want to be mindful of her love language by dedicating time to her and by creating opportunities for meaningful time together.

I’m a Word’s of Affirmation guy. I appreciate her kind words to me. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation are just part of the way we adore each other. The 5 Love Languages is an excellent book to help discover ways to bless your spouse and be blessed by them.

I recommend this to couples of all ages. It’s never too early or too late to learn how to be a better partner in marriage.

Check it out.  It’s good reading.  Click on the Book below to get your copy on Amazon.com.

1 Corinthians 13

Love, It’s a Verb Thing

I’m looking at the Love chapter from 1st Corinthians this week. We read it at weddings. We touch on it now and then in Sunday school lessons. Maybe we stumble on some of its verses as we thumb through Valentine’s Day cards in the “Religious” category.

1st Corinthians 13 is a great read. Check it out here before I show you something important:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Disclaimer: Important Information Ahead…

There’s something interesting going on in that section between “Love is Patient” and “Love Never Fails.” In the Greek, Paul uses 16 verbs to describe love. Not Adjectives. Verbs. He’s not telling us what Love Is. He’s showing us what Love Does!

In the Bible, love is active. It’s what we do. It’s going out of our way. It’s putting up with aggravation. It’s walking the pilgrim’s path with another. It’s in our acts of kindness and charity.

Love is only partly what we Feel. Most of what we hear about love or read about love has to do with feelings. In actuality, love is mostly about what we Do. Paul doesn’t mention anything about warm fuzzy feelings in this chapter.

Think about it this way: Jesus tells us to love our enemies. I struggle with that, just like anyone else would. I have a hard time mustering up pleasant feelings for people I don’t like. BUT, having “pleasant feelings” isn’t what Jesus is asking for. He is telling us, like Paul, to show love. The word Jesus uses, and the word Paul uses in this chapter over and over and over again is agape. Agape (a-ga-pe) is the kind of sacrificial love we receive from God. It’s a love that transcends feelings and comes to us in concrete actions. Look at what is says in another section of scripture: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The Greek work for love, agape, is used again. It’s God’s active love for us. When it comes to loving even our enemies, it’s agape love, not a feelings base sentiment, that we express to them. If everyone practiced agape love, even toward enemies, I think we would find that we would have fewer and fewer enemies.

Enough about enemies, let’s talk about the people we like. How much do you love your spouse? How well do you love your kids? Here again, love is not measured by affection in your heart; it’s all about deeds. Are you showing love? I’ve been reading in Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, about how we express and receive love. He reminds his reader that love is a choice. It’s a decision to serve the people we care about. It’s actions that communicate our commitment to them. Our relationships grow stronger when we actively show love to the people who are most important to us.

Consider This…

At the end of the day, love remains.

When we get to heaven, we won’t need faith. Faith will have become sight.

When we get to heaven, we won’t have hope. Hope will have become our new reality.

When we get to heaven, we will learn to love perfectly, just as we have been perfectly loved.

In Christ, we are going to spend all eternity “In Love.”

I think I just had a Warm Fuzzy Feeling at that thought!

brick wall

What’s Mortar Have To Do With It?

I’ve been getting ready for the next sermon on The Family all morning. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about the people within a family. Starting this week, I’m talking about building and maintaining quality relationships among the members of a family.

So for today, I made good Monday progress for a Sunday sermon. My text is established. My outline is coming together. My powers of alliteration are starting to kick in (just check out some of my sermon outlines and you’ll know what I mean). But the illustrations, those heartwarming and insightful stories that give the sermon texture, are nowhere to be found.

I’m preaching about LOVE. There are lots of things to be said about love, but nothing was clicking. There are many ways to illustrate love, but I couldn’t land on anything that felt right. Nothing was working for me. Nothing, that is, until I looked up from my computer and looked out the window.

I like the view from my office. It overlooks a flower garden courtyard. It’s well maintained and vibrant. But when I’m sitting at my desk, all I can see is the wall opposite my window. It’s a nice wall, but it’s never given me sermon ideas before. There is a row of glass windows over there, and above the windows, bricks and mortar; Bricks and Mortar maybe 30 feet high at their tallest point.

So what do Bricks and Mortar have to do with LOVE? Not much unless you are looking out your Pastor’s Study window pining for an illustration about how love works.

But while I have you here, let me share an insight that I had about Bricks and Mortar and Love.

Bricks are the building blocks of our church’s wall. I just so happen to live in a brick house. I realize, for my house and my church, these bricks merely form a veneer. But let’s not go there yet. Let’s imagine a brick house being just that: A house made of bricks.

Just as a brick house is made of bricks, a home is made up of people. Brick masons put bricks together to make walls; God puts people together to make a home.

Brick Masons use mortar to keep the bricks together. Without mortar, a brick wall would be precarious. Houses made without mortar would be incomplete and always subject to falling apart. A reckless teenager or a strong wind could bring ruin upon an unmortared brick house!

The same is true for a home without love. When God puts people together, he binds them with love. Love keeps us together in families. Love makes us hold onto one another. Love keeps us in place when the winds blow and the storms beat against us. Love is like mortar.

But holding bricks together isn’t the only function of the mortar.

There is another, equally important function, the mortar plays. In that section of the wall, the one that reaches up over 30 feet from the ground, the mortar serves to cushion the bricks at the bottom from the weight of all of the other bricks stacked on top of them. Can you image the weight of all of those bricks? If there was no mortar to protect the bricks from each other, the bricks on the bottom would crack and crumble.

Love, like mortar, is a cushion between people. There are times we can hardly live with those that we should love if it were not for love. Love causes us to temper our words, think about our actions, seek the good of those we live with. Love allows us to forgive. Love teaches us patience. Love perseveres.

Read some of 1 Corinthians 13 about love. We call it the “Love Chapter” for a reason.

It’s the passage we’ll be looking at Sunday as well. Read it to be a better student of what love is. Use its wisdom to be closer, and stay closer, to the ones you love the most.

Light Fixture

A Sermon on Prayer

I was looking for something on the internet and stumbled across an old sermon of mine.  I forgot it floating around “out there.”  I remember preaching it, but I can’t remember everything I said.  It’s a sermon on prayer and repentance and renewal.  What I said back then still holds true for today.


 

Three New Events Announced For The Winter Olympics (Maybe)

In spite of my ignorance of snow and ice sports, I have a few suggestions for the Winter Olympic committee. There are three events they could include among the games to generate a greater interest among warm climate people like myself.

Polar Bear Wrestling

America has been won over by shows depicting crazy men, mostly Cajuns, wrestling with apex predators, namely alligators. Think of all the alligator shows that have sprung up over the last 5 years or so. Gator Boys. Swamp People. Alligator 911. Why not transfer that enthusiasm for alligator wrestling into wrestling with the apex predator of the extreme north?

I know, I know. It’s dangerous. It’s ridiculous. It’s cruel. I think all of those statements apply equally well to hockey.

For the animal lovers out there, there’s nothing to worry about. Polar bears are 9 feet tall and can kill a normal man with a flick of his paw. Any person stepping into the ring with this great beast would pose nothing more than an annoyance. Perhaps the goal for the human participants would be to make it out of the ring without being made into a meal

A number of side industries could spin off from a bona fide polar bear wrestling competition. There will have to be state sponsored polar bear sanctuaries where a healthy stock of polar bears can be maintained. Polar bear wranglers will be required to transport athletic polar bears from one region to another for the games. As I see it, adding this single event could dramatically increase the economy of well-meaning but cold natured countries like Greenland.

Extreme Snowball Fighting

I’m not sure why some form of this one is not included in the Winter Olympics already. The one thing I ever aspired to do with that frozen white stuff is to make Snowballs.

I think there were two times in my life that snow covered the ground for more than a day. It usually comes in flurries that melt as soon as it hits the ground. If you’re lucky, you can find a pile of snow blown up next to a fence or a building, with just enough mass to squish some together into a projectile. For us folks in the south whose highest winter sport ambition is to make a snowball and throw it at someone, it would be a great show of solidarity if the Olympic committee would come up with an Extreme Snowball Fighting contest.

I haven’t really thought through the rules of this event. Maybe it would be better for someone in Montana to come up with the sport’s specifics.

Ice Road Racing

This might be the best idea I’ve had for the Winter Olympic games. We’ve seen numerous traffic videos this winter of local drivers driving poorly on the frozen roads and bridges. Why not commercialize that kind of thing?

The host city could use existing roads and overpasses for the facilities. A few water trucks and some cold weather would provide for a sufficiently dangerous course. Millions would look forward to rooting on the Red, White and Blue participants as they slid and spun and skidded into victory. I might even be tempted to try my hand at such a sport.

Until the Winter Olympic committee formally responds to my requests, I’m going to continue to abstain from the Winter Olympic fervor.

Home Improvements

Home Improvement Series: A Biblical Study on Family Issues

Where has the time gone?

There was a post a few weeks back announcing the start of a life changing, eternity altering, earth shattering, era defining sermon series. I think it was going to have something to do with creating a better home. Feel free to go back and read it HERE. Just don’t rub it in that I’m starting this series a couple of weeks late. In case this new series does not live up to all the hyperbole above, don’t rub that in my face either.

I hate being late, but I think the Bible’s teachings are important enough that we present them in the best way possible. I had to take a couple of extra weeks to get my thoughts together.

So this post is one part apology from me, and one part encouragement to you.

Over the next several weeks, this blog, along with the Sunday sermons, will work together to cover as much of the topic concerning the family as time will allow. Family is a BIG topic. There are more issues to cover than what I will be able to communicate in 6-8 sermons and 12-16 blog posts. If you are curious about a matter that I fail to address, send me a message. We can visit online, on the phone, or in person if you feel that I can be of assistance to you.

My email address is: pastorburden@fbcnederland.com.

We’re going to start our series this coming Sunday, February 9th, by diving into the central relationship of any household: Husbands and Wives.

The Apostle Paul gives clear instructions to spouses. Men and Women have different roles and responsibilities within the organization of the home. When we honor those roles and fulfil our responsibilities, our homes becomes healthier. There are plenty of struggling families trying to make up the rules of the home as they go. Don’t be one of those. Let’s listen to the Bible’s instruction together and learn from it.

Go ahead and read the text for this Sunday, Ephesians 5:21-33. It will do you good.

In case you miss a sermon during this study, you can always go online and catch up. Just follow this link to the video archive: http://www.fbcnederland.com/about-us/sermons/.

I look forward to being with you in person, and online, for this study.

 

Finding a Point in Missing a Flight

I had a good plan this past week. I was to travel for some denominational business. I agreed to be on a committee that meets a couple of times a year in Dallas. Thursday was the day for my first meeting.

Dallas is actually one of the easier locations to reach from down here in the Golden Triangle. America Airlines runs 4 flights a day up there and back. It takes less time to get to a meeting in Dallas than it does to drive to Houston. I was actually looking forward to the trip and the airline peanuts.

My meeting was to begin at 10 am, Thursday morning. No problem. About a month ago I went online, bought a ticket for a 7:45 flight out of our neighborhood airport, secured a rental car, and had all of my plans in order. I would arrive in Dallas at 8:55. If traffic wasn’t too bad I would make my final destination on time, or be only fashionably late. After my meeting I could do some other business in Dallas, head back to the airport, and be home in time to tuck the kids into bed.

That was a good plan. It was a good plan until American Airlines called me on Wednesday afternoon.

“Your Flight Has Been Canceled.”

I cringed. It was a recording so I really couldn’t lash out at anyone. They were, as the recording said, able to get me on a later flight. In fact, they had taken the liberty of securing a seat for me on this later flight. I was not comfortable going from “Probably Going To Be Late” to “You Are Guaranteed To Be Insultingly Late.” I called and got a refund.

I can understand the uncertainty inherent in the airline industry. The previous two days had seen flight cancellations all over much of the country. It’s a fluid situation. Things change. I came to a place a of resignation pretty quickly.

With the last ounce of fight in me, I took a chance to see if there was a flight I could take on Wednesday evening that would spare me a drive to Dallas on Thursday morning. I found just such a flight but it contained two significant problems. First, it left within the hour. I was on the computer at 4:10 and the flight was scheduled for 4:50. I was temped to try it. Our airport is not large and it’s a mile away. If I didn’t stop to get a change of clothes I could make it. My fashion sense is just low enough to make a trip like this happen.

The temptation to jump on this flight lasted only until I found the second problem. The price for the seat was $2600. I guess if I needed to get to Dallas in order to pick up my Publisher’s Clearinghouse Grand Prize of $1 Million before the day was over, that would have been a good option. Because I was going to Dallas to volunteer my time to help make decisions, $2600 was more than I could bear.

I ended up driving to Dallas Thursday morning. It turned out to be a good adventure. I listened to a couple of books during my traveling hours. I thought about many things. I prayed for a lot of people.

What am I going to take away from this misadventure? Two things:

I’ve been reminded that no matter how solid my plans may be, they are still subject to change. I can’t foresee or control weather events any more than the airlines can. Rather than being frustrated by plans that crumble, it’s better to make peace with your fate and adapt amicably to the new reality. I really am thankful that I was able to adapt.

I’ve learned to appreciate, once again, a slower pace of life. I couldn’t have done the thinking or the listening or even the praying on a plane that I did in the car. Planes are noisy and usually packed. Airports in general, have never been good for my religion. A speedy crowd does not make for a good devotional life.

Changes in plans like this don’t often happen. I hope your plans turn out better than mine did this week. But when they don’t, rest assured that you aren’t traveling alone in your frustration. Send me a message for some good listening material. I’ll be glad to be a comfort.

 

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Chili, Panic and the Arctic Vortex

This has been a strange week. I can’t remember the last time, outside of Christmas, break, where there was a compulsory vacation in the middle of the week. I know the kids are enjoying it. They love getting out of going to school, for any reason.

I’m enjoying the change of pace. It’s too cold to get motivated to run around. There’s not much reason for running around anyway.

It was the strangest thing last night. Kristi and I stopped by Market Basket to get a few things to make chili. The parking lot was full. When we got inside, there was only one shopping basket left. All of the checkout lanes were manned and had considerable lines winding into the closest aisles.

I became overwhelmed with panic. We only dropped by to get a handful of groceries. If we had done a good look through our pantry I doubt that we even needed to stop at all. Nevertheless, since it was going to be cold, and we didn’t want to have to get out of the house the next day, we shopped.

As I looked around the store, a thought came into my mind: “If all of these people are here buying lots of stuff, maybe I need to buy lots of stuff too.”

I began thinking about all of the things I would need in order to survive the Arctic Vortex that was bearing down on us. After I thought for a moment, suddenly my basket was not nearly big enough to hold everything on my list.

I was going to need vast stores of nonperishable food products. I needed to pick up bottles of all manner of medicines. Toilet paper, lots of toilet paper. Matches, candles, charcoal, lighter fluid, flares. Dog food (in case things got really bad).

As we were going down the aisles picking up only the things on Kristi’s list, I had to resist the urge to shovel everything on the shelves indiscriminately into the basket.

There were certain staples already missing from the shelves; staples that we needed.

Eggs. There were NO Grade A Large eggs. I had to by a carton of medium eggs. I’ve never bought a medium egg carton on purpose before. This only heightened my panic.

Ground Meat. Well, I was in luck as long as I didn’t mind paying for the organically grown, humanly slaughtered, specialty packaged, gourmet ground meat. I wasn’t about to go there. My panic was not so great as to cause me to pay the premium price. I chose to go Survivorman. I grabbed a roast and ground it up myself. Sure, my kitchen is a mess after some flew out of the blender, and it looked more like meat paste than ground meat, but after Kristi saw that the chili meat was cooked this morning, she had a greater appreciation for my resourcefulness.

Chili Seasoning Packet. We like Wick’s chili seasoning. It’s not that they were none left. But I did have to reach really deep into the shelf to get at the packets they had left. I wouldn’t normally stoop so low, but I figured a little extra effort was necessary in the face of a grave weather event.

I can’t remember what else we grabbed, but I’m sure it was crucial to our survival. By the time we arrived at the checkout counter my panic had largely subsided.

We had our chili today. We avoided leaving the house. We conversed with each other. The panic I felt yesterday was long gone. The situation was, in reality, much better than what was running through my imagination yesterday evening.

Before the next Arctic Vortex hits South East Texas, I’ll be stocked up. I’ll have my supplies ready to go. But the most important thing I need is my family, safe and sound and at home with me. There’s nothing sweeter than knowing your loved ones are safe and sound and with you.

Hug those you love today. It’s good medicine to ward off the panic an Artic Vortex can inflict.