Friday, June 29, 2012

Between Anointed and Abandoned (2 Samuel 1:17-27)

[This week Logan Kruck is preaching at our church.  He has graciously allowed me to share his sermon here.]

Superman Dies!  How can it be?  Superman can’t ever die!  Don’t you read the stories?!
Those who know me know that I love comics.  I read them all the time.  And Superman is the comic hero of heroes, the standard of what it means to be virtuous and good.  But, when I was 8 years old, I read this comic and was shocked.  Superman was dead.  It’s hard to separate fiction from reality when you are 8.  All of your favorite characters are very real to you.  So, when Superman died, a real hero died.  What could I say?  What should I feel?  As a child, when your hero dies, you feel very alone, as if all the good in the world died with him.  What do I do from here?
Listen now, to the words of David
Your glory, oh Israel, lies slain upon your high places!  How the mighty have fallen!
This isn't the song of Israel on opposite side of the Red sea watching Egypt drown.  It is not, "Horse and chariot are cast into the sea!  How the mighty God triumphs!"
It is a different song.  It is a song of shock and lament.  It is a song out of the midst of the horror of battle.  And our king, our representative to God, is dead.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Retro Poem #5: Gentle Permeation

My dear, I am thinking about you.
It seems to happen every day.
I wonder off to my private world
Of imagination and possibility.
The secret chamber is not challenged
By the old violent pounds
Of a heart denied.
I do not wince at its quaking
Or fear that someone will discover
The rumble and tumble of agony within.
The inner walls are not challenged
By violent raging force.
Now, rather, it is a gentle caress,
A soft push welling up
With every thought of you.
This now threatens to breach my secret walls
And to spill my soul for the world to see.
It is the gentle force,
The fragrant pondering,
Of a life spent in love with you
That reveal my inner contents
As they spill helplessly into my days.
I fear I am more equipped
To handle a brutal, pungent attack,
Than a sweet, romantic brooding.
That I have a growing passion for a woman
Cannot be hidden from those around me.
This seeps its way through my pores
So that it pervades my person.
Though others cannot discern the object of my passion,
They clearly sense what burns within me
Even if it is as yet unidentified to them.
You have been my secret.
Not that I am ashamed,
But afraid and uncertain.
I have not felt it necessary,
Or them necessarily worthy,
To gaze upon you in my secret chamber,
To peruse the pouring possibilities within my soul,
To look at you through the lens of my feeble words.
I have not felt it necessary,
Or them necessarily worthy.
These are inner things for now,
Only to be shared with inner friends.
When I know - if I know -
The will of God is one with my inner chamber,
I will pour out my love for you in a fragrant display
That all will see,
In which all will rejoice.
Until that time, I am content
To keep my secret
As shabbily as I can.

Korea Tip 132: English Speaking Psychiatrist

You don't have to go to Seoul to get your psych meds.  There are several English speaking psychiatrists in Cheonan.  Ask your regular doctor for a recommendation, or try out Dr. Yu at the Y & K Well-Being Clinic (행복 주는 의원) near the Cheonan Bus Terminal.  It's between Starbucks and Krispe Kreme, on the third floor of the building next to Starbucks.
They are confidential, and they give you the medicine right there in the office, so everything is very discrete.  (For anyone who knows Dr. Ko at SsangYong Medical, Dr. Yu is her husband.)  As usual for Korean clinics, there is no appointment necessary.  Just walk in.  However, be warned that the nurses don't speak much English.
Depression and anxiety are common among foreigners living in Korea.  Don't be ashamed or afraid.  Get help if you need it.  No one will know, but you will feel much better.  (And you can always get a original glazed donut while you're at it.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Caution and Challenge (1 Samuel 17)

“David and Goliath” is one of the world’s best known Bible stories.  It is the classic story of victory for the “underdog.”  David and Goliath are now part of the global vocabulary.  When a small company enters a new market, reporters call it a “David and Goliath” situation.  This is a “feel good” story that we all love to love.
But this very familiarity creates a problem.  We are so likely to hear this story wrong.  We are so likely to apply it incorrectly to our lives.  If we take the simple childlike version of this story and apply it to our grown-up lives, we could get a gross distortion of the Christian message.  This story has an important message for us, but we have to be careful how we get there.  Today, as we talk about David and Goliath, I want to offer us four cautions and one challenge.  
First the cautions.
Caution #1: Don’t assume using God’s name leads to victory.
History is littered with people and nations who got this wrong.  Even the Bible tells one story after another of people who misused God’s name in battle.  
In the book of Numbers, when Israel finally got to the borderland of Canaan, they chickened out and decided to go back to Egypt.  God told them to go into the desert for more lessons in faith, but the people changed their minds again and decided that they would try to fight the Canaanites after all.  “‘Let’s go,’ they said. ‘We realized that we have sinned, but we are ready to enter the land the LORD has promised us’” (Numbers 14:40).  They marched forward in God’s name as God’s people to the land God had promised, and they were soundly defeated.  They used God’s name, but they were still not faithful to God.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seeing with your Heart (1 Samuel 16)

Shaquile O’Neil felt like an outsider and a freak for most of his childhood.
Thomas Edison daydreamed so much in school that his first teacher called him addled (or air-headed) and said he could never learn.
Benjamin Franklin failed math twice.  After that his father took him out of school and put him to work in the family candle shop at age 10.
Albert Einstein was so slow in learning to speak that his parents went to a doctor to see if his brain was OK.  As a teenager, he was so rebellious that one of his teachers said he would never amount to much.  Then, Einstein failed his university entrance exam and had to go to trade school instead.
The small become great.  The fool becomes the genius.  The ugly duckling becomes the swan.  Cinderella becomes the princess.  Even though we have heard these stories a thousand times in a thousand ways, we still hear each story with awe and wonder.  Even though we know from history that people surprise us, we are still surprised.  Even though we know from experience that outward appearances can be deceiving, we are still deceived.  
Again and again, we return to one profound truth which is so easy to forget: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them” (1 Samuel 16:7).  Reality is different from what we see.  Let’s go now to the story that explains this life-shaping truth: 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Baptized - Lenny Kravitz

Don't let the picture scare you.  This is a pretty awesome Christian song - by a 4 time Grammy winner. I want to sing this in church!

Retro Poem #4: Flash Forwards

Pregnant moments
push my mind 
forward in time
dreams take over while I drive
scenes of life - life yet to be lived -
leap into near reality:
   we are the aging couple on the dance floor
   the proud parents pushing a stroller
   the people kissing in the airport
   the regal recipients of tossed rice
how lovely are the dreamings
of a hopeful romantic.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Utterly Devoted - 1 Samuel 15

About a year and a half ago, a revolution started in Syria.  It began with peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of King Al-Assad.  These protests were met with increasing cruelty and repression by Assad and his supporters.  Eventually the protests transitioned to armed rebellion, and now a civil war has begun.
Assad grows more and more violent every week.  Recently he defended his actions as necessary for the health of the nation: “When a surgeon in an operating room ... cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood?  ... Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”
On May 25, soldiers and pro-government forces attacked the city of Houla just after nightfall.
  For about five hours they looted homes and killed whole families.  A total of 108 people were killed, including 49 children and 34 women.
  This was an open attempt to terrorize Syria’s people into giving up the revolution.  The photos of children stabbed, shot, and beaten to death have outraged the world into near unanimous condemnation and disgust.  
Hold this disgust and horror in mind as we turn to our Biblical text today.  Only these real events can set the proper frame for what we are about to read.
1 Samuel 15:1-23
One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! 2 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012


A settler in a land of nomads
Is a nomad all the same.
Friends come and friends go,
Always learning a new name.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bad Bargains (1 Samuel 8)

A few years ago, my family vacationed in Orlando, Florida.  We were all excited to visit Disney World.  Emma was desperate to see Mickey!  
Then, we noticed that our hotel lobby had a special booth selling tickets - how convenient.  And they were at a 50% discount - brilliant.  All we had to do was visit a local resort and listen to a “one hour presentation.”  That’s not so bad.  One hour and then we could be on our way.  
We started right after breakfast, but when we got to the resort, it was packed.  We had to wait about an hour before we even got started.  Then, our “one hour presentation” took about two hours.  
  I don’t know if they have “time shares” in Korea, but these are basically institutions where you buy “two weeks” worth of a vacation condo and “share” it with others throughout the year.  It sounds like a great deal when they explain it.  But financial experts say it’s one of the worst consumer bargains - ever.  
But when we walked around the lush condo grounds, I began to imagine our family there.  When I listened to the sales pitch, I kind of forgot all the bad stuff.  In a moment of great stupidity, we started to consider saying yes. 
Then, in a moment of even greater stupidity, we actually decided to buy.  There are two reasons that was a bad call.  First, it was just stupid financially.  Second, that turned the “one hour presentation” on our way to Disney World into a 4-5 hour affair.  We didn’t leave the “time share” office until we had “shared” half of our day with them.  
Later, when we got home to Texas, we called to cancel.  We got voice mail.  We got “the wrong person.”  They promised that “the right person” would call us back.  When we finally reached “the right person,” our one week optional cancelation period had expired.  Legally, we were stuck with our bad bargain.