Posted in Life

Behind locked doors

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

I had to go to a lawyer’s office yesterday to sign a piece of paper. It wasn’t out of my way. I went there while running some other errands in the area.

The office was located in a large suite of offices. At least six buildings surrounded a large parking lot, each housing twelve professional offices.

I found the right one without any trouble. As I walked in the door, I expected to see a nice entrance to a law office. Once inside, though, I found two white doors and a stairway leading up the stairs. The firm’s name was etched on a simple black plastic sign on one of the doors. At least I was in the right place.

When I tried the door, it was locked. I had called ahead of time and they told me when they would be open. Puzzle, I read the very small sign over the doorknob, “Ring for entrance.” I pushed the button, expecting an electronic lock to open for me. When I tried the door again – nothing.

I heard someone talking from inside. They must have been on the phone. They said, “Can you hold on a minute?” About fifteen seconds later, the bolt turned and the door opened. A friendly face greeted me. “How can I help you?”

I explained who I was and followed her in. The office was nice but simple. Not nearly as fancy as I expected. It wasn’t a rough part of town, but I suppose you have to be careful. You don’t want just anyone walking in the door unless you’re expecting them. More and more places keep their doors locked.

I’ve encountered locked doors when I’ve stopped by doctor’s offices, churches during the week, certain floors of a hospital, hotel fitness rooms, and some public bathrooms. I wish so many good things didn’t have to be secured behind locked doors.

Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Cover me

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 28, 2022. Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ (Luke 23:30)

This is Jesus talking to all those who were mourning and lamenting for him as he walked the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha and his crucifixion. “Just wait,” he warns them. The day will soon come when they will flee Jerusalem, run for their lives, and look for safety in the hills. God’s judgment on Jerusalem was imminent and unavoidable. Yes, the rejection and execution of Jesus is bad. But you haven’t seen anything yet!

When wildfires have threatened our community or hurricanes have approached, many “head for the hills,” that is, they evacuate and seek refuge. In the wake of storms, houses along the shore are rebuilt on stilts, their own private “higher ground,” where they will be safe. The psalmist seeks similar security: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”

He answers his own question, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2). That makes sense. Isaiah talked about this. “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills” (Isaiah 2:2). Get it? The Lord himself is that hill where you will find security when everything is unraveling. “Under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4).

Don’t feel sorry for Jesus. Instead, come to him for rest for your soul. Flee to him for mercy. In his suffering and death you will find the love you’re looking for. At the cross you find the perfect love that casts out fear. You’ll find all that in him, and nowhere else.

Everyone has those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and stay in bed, reluctant to face the world out there. The tragedies are too real, the temptations are too strong, and our resolve too quickly dissolves. Then we remember. We remember the promise that love, his love, covers a multitude of sins. We can take his covering – atonement – with us as we step into our day.

How wonderful to hear our Lord say to us, “I’ve got you covered!”

Cover me, Lord.

Posted in security

My safe place

We’ll be hearing about and getting ready for a hurricane to hit Florida for the next four or five days. It’s the kind of event that has many wondering how to be safe in the path of a storm.

Hit the road and get out of town? Shutter the windows and stay inside? Seek out a shelter made to withstand a storm like this?

We too often hear about mass shootings in public places, from movie theaters to outdoor concerts to schools and church gatherings. How can we be safe in a world where violence could walk in the door at any moment? Hire security? Keep the doors locked? Carry a weapon to protect yourself?

It’s dangerous to drive on an interstate highway. There are constant warnings about traveling abroad. Those who call or email may not be who they claim to be, trying to take advantage of us.

We will never find a truly safe place in this world. But we can find security in someone. Lest we forget that truth, the psalmist reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). He is our safe place.

It takes a little faith to grasp this truth, doesn’t it? My mind doesn’t think of God as a place. He’s more like a person. But those words remind me of Jesus’ teaching, “Abide in me” (John 15:6). He calls himself a place where we can hang out. Or how about Paul’s words from Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Of course, those words speak of faith. But they also create a faith I can picture, where some of those threats I mentioned can’t really hurt me. Physically, sure. Life has all kinds of aches and pains and eventually death. But in him, nothing can really rob me of life. So he is a very safe place.

I try to keep that in mind when people or the news try to make me install a security system or arm myself. I have nothing against any of those things. But ultimately, he is my safe place.

Posted in laughter

“You better put a piece of tape over it.”

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

We got into a pretty interesting discussion at men’s bible class last Thursday morning. We are in the last few chapters of 1 Samuel and were impressed at how King Saul was often able to find out where David was. With no satellites, drones, electronic listening devices, GPS — just a few spies, probably on foot — Saul repeated tracked him down. In like manner, David knew where Saul was and stayed a step ahead of him.

In the course of this conversation, someone mentioned that we should put tape over the cameras on our computers. A new story reported that without us knowing it, someone can use it to watch us. I asked, “Why would someone want to watch us? What do they think they’ll see?”

Someone else said, “It’s not like we’re taking it into the shower with us or anything like that.”

I said, “If we did, they’d want to cover their screen with tape!”

Best laugh at the table in a long time. Thank God for humor, laughter and great conversation!

Posted in church, Ministry

Catch and release

tv news van.JPG

My office assistant stuck her head in my door last Thursday to let me know that someone from a nearby by TV newsroom wanted to interview us on site for a story. Earlier in the week, we had invited a couple of deputies from our county sheriff’s department to stop by and just give us a few tips about how to keep our congregation safe when we gather for worship. We’re not a high risk target, but if we can reassure our folks that we’re safe, they can focus on worship rather than wondering about what might happen.

The next day, the sheriff’s department issued a press release, offering to come and talk to any congregation about security and safety. They mentioned our church by name, a reporter picked up on it, and called to come by and talk to me.

I knew the reporter, since she had both anchored and reported in our area for many years. We had a great conversation, a good interview, and her one-minute piece the evening news gave me my ten seconds of fame and had some nice shots of our campus.

The next day, another news channel contacted us and wanted to come by on Sunday to get a few pictures as we are honoring and thanking our veterans and also local heroes, the first responders of our sheriff and fire departments. I thought it was a great idea. We are very proud of our vets and local heroes, and am glad to give them recognition.

But then another phone call came from a reporter who wanted to come out the next day, having heard that we were having extra security at our church on Sunday morning. I was amazed at how quickly the story had morphed into a media event. I had to assure her that we weren’t doing anything extra or out of the ordinary. She replied, “But won’t the sheriff will be there?”

“Yes,” I replied, “he is going say a few words, along with the deputy fire marshal. But they are only there to thank and honor those who serve, not to provide any kind of extra security.”

She went on, “Are you having any kind of drills, any active shooter drills?”

“No, just a Sunday morning worship service.”

“Thank you, pastor.” And she hung up.

It’s fascinating how quickly we got drawn into a media frenzy, and how quickly we were tossed back, not big enough to keep. I know they’re jut doing their jobs. They need a story. They need ratings. They need a story people will watch. Yes, the mass killing in the church in Sutherland Springs, TX, is upsetting and a reality check. It could happen anywhere. But the story is already losing momentum replaced by other stories and scandals.

One of the deputies asked me, “What would you do? What would you do if someone walked in firing a weapon? Where would you go?” I only really have two choices: duck behind the altar or head out a side door. But as I thought about that, I don’t know that my first response would be to get me out of there. I would want to make sure everyone else was OK. My immediate concern would be them, not me. What else would a shepherd do?