Pastoral Prayer 09/25/2022

O Holy Father, we come before you 
	by the authority of your Son, Jesus, and 
		in the power of your Spirit.

We come because we are creatures, 
	but you made us and understand us;
We come because we are weak, 
	but you can do more than we can imagine;
We come because we are sick, 
	but you can heal our diseases;
We come because we are ashamed, 
	but you took away all our shame through the sacrifice of Jesus;
We come because we are frightened, 
	but you can hold back whatever might harm us; 
We come because we are lonely,
	but you will never leave us;
We come because we are fearful, 
	but your love casts out all fear;
We come because we are injured, 
	but you can repair whatever has been damaged;
We come because we are uncertain, 
	but you hold every single strand of our futures;
We come because we are tempted, 
	but in you offer us a way of escape;
We come because we are sinful,
	but you give us grace and forgiveness.

In your presence we ask these things:

For those who are sick of body, 
we ask health, knowing that you understand perfectly the bodies you have made, and can heal—with or without medicine; with or without doctors; in this life or in the next.

For those who are mired in sin, whether of anxiety, or lust, or gluttony, or pride, or anger:
we ask that each would see the sin, and hate it and call out to you for mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance.

For those who are embarking on new paths:
we ask for wisdom and insight and blessing, and we ask for strength, perseverance and faithfulness.

For those who are dealing with difficult relationships:
we ask for patient obedience, wise words, and a willingness to let you work.  

For those who are wearied by the world:
we ask for grace to continue, renewed endurance, and confidence in your leading.  

We come to you Father, 
because of the love which you have for us, 
	the power you display in creation
		and the peace which you offer. 
Teach us to sing your praise and follow your Son.
Teach us to be one in your Spirit.

AMEN.

Pray for Haiti

From a pastor friend in Haiti (slightly edited):


We are experiencing one of the worst moments in Haiti right now as widespread protests have now turned violent.  In the capital, politicians' homes and some businesses are being attacked and looted.   Everything is on hold and we do not know for how long. . . . The past Saturday night someone paid $175.00 for 5 gallons of gasoline from a vendor on the street and the vendor told him it was a favor.  Roadblocks are everywhere and as of this Wednesday morning, September 14th, no one knows what the next day will look like. Schools have yet to open and businesses are closed. . . .
Frustration, uncertainty, despair, poverty, anger, depression are the sentiments being expressed. To make things worse, the government has just announced a 65% increase on fuel prices.  We are moving towards a dark part of the history that will be written for Haiti as banks, gas stations and individual's homes are being destroyed. The banks in the metropolitan area have announced their closures and the different ones in the provinces are following suit as everything in this country is centralized. Stores are closed, streets are empty, restaurants are closed and no one knows for how long?  
We are still holding church services and I'm glad to report they are packed! . . . As I woke up this morning I prayed for protection for God's children:
  • I prayed for protection of the innocent ones that are being manipulated by the schemes and tactics of the evildoers. 
  • I prayed for God’s justice to be executed towards those who have brought the country to the dump into which it has fallen.
  • I prayed for God’s provision for those in greater needs who can’t even afford the basic necessities of life. 
  • I prayed for God to strike the unconscionable politicians who continue year after year to keep the country in bondage. 
. . . please pray for the people of Haiti, that God will spare lives and draw them to Himself.  

Amen.



“Something to write home about”

Amanda Ann Platt, “Diamond in the Rough” (2017):

You see the way he smiles
I bet he's never been alone
I bet he's got the sweetest little thing
Waiting for him at home

I don't care what people say
Nobody escapes
If you have a heart
Now and then you're gonna have a little heartache
A little heartbreak

{Chorus}
    'Cause everybody wants to be
    Something to write home about
    A little more than what you see
    A diamond in the rough
    Everybody wants to be somеbody
           Somebody could love

That woman in the chеckout line
Ruining everybody's day
You know nobody's born that angry
So how you think she got to be that way

So when a stranger meets your eye
Be the one that smiles first
Nobody ever died from a little kindness
No matter what you heard
No matter what you heard

{Chorus}

When it comes to promises
I might write some I can't cash
It's only 'cause I want you to be happy baby
Tell me what's so wrong with that

{Chorus}

Uncollected Psalms

Pastoral Prayer — August 14, 2022

If you read through the Psalms, you will see that there are 150 of them, ranging from the very short (Psalm 117) to the very long (Psalm 119).

They are generally prayers, songs of praise, expressions of sorrow, or requests for God to intervene, but there are other types as well.

Psalm 117 simply says:

     Praise the Lord, all nations!
                 Extol him, all peoples!
 
     For great is his steadfast love toward us,
                 and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
 
     Praise the Lord!

It is an exhortation that all people should praise him, especially those who are part of his covenant.

There are 150 Psalms, but if you are on a reading program that has you read through the books of the Bible, you will notice that there are many more uncollected Psalms.

As I was reading through the books of Chronicles this last two weeks, I came across this, which was a prayer of David’s at the end of his life when he is reflecting on what he has accomplished in his life and the fact that Solomon will reign after him.

It is as though he were responding to the exhortation expressed in Psalm 117.

Listen to 1 Chronicles 29:10-13:

     Blessed are you, O Lord, 
                 the God of Israel our father, 
                                  forever and ever. 
 
     Yours, O Lord, is the greatness 
                 and the power and the glory 
                                  and the victory and the majesty, 
     for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. 
 
     Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, 
                 and you are exalted as head above all. 
 
     Both riches and honor come from you, 
                 and you rule over all. 
 
     In your hand are power and might, 
                 and in your hand it is to make great 
                                  and to give strength to all. 
 
     And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

Sometimes we don’t need to be asking for things for ourselves or even interceding, we simply need to thank God and praise him.

Let’s pray.

Holy Father, like David, we have lived long, and we have done things that we are proud of and things that we are ashamed of.
But as we have come here to this year, to this place, to this moment, we come in praise and thanksgiving.
 
You have done so much for us.
 
You have been our perfect father when our own fathers were imperfect,
You have been our protector when we were in anxiety and danger,
You have been our healer when we were sick and injured,
You have been our counselor when we were in deep sorrow.

     “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness 
                 and the power and the glory 
                                  and the victory and the majesty, 
     for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.”
 
The moon and the stars are yours, you fashioned them with your power;
The earth is yours, you made it with your wisdom;
All peoples are yours, though they may rebel against you;
We are yours, for you saved us out of our rebellion.
 
     “Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, 
                 and you are exalted as head above all. 
     Both riches and honor come from you, 
                 and you rule over all.”
 
We know you are the source of all that is good;
We admit that to be valued by you is the greatest honor; 
We see you are rightful king of the world;
We recognize you as our daily sovereign.
 
     “In your hand are power and might, 
                 and in your hand it is to make great 
                                  and to give strength to all.” 
 
You, Lord can accomplish whatever you choose;
Nothing is too difficult for you;
No one is beyond redemption;
You can strengthen even the weakest soul.
 
     “And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.”
 
Please accept from us
                 Our worship in song,
                 Our attention to your word,
                 Our obedience in this coming week,
And when our time on earth is over, our praise throughout eternity.

Amen.

Reading

Sarah Willard, “Come Ye Sinners,” Blind Mule Blog (Aug. 11, 2022) [link]:

What is endlessly comforting to me as a Christian is that the first step in God’s provision is emptiness. What qualifies you for Christ? Need, lack, want. These are things I have, so this is good news. A lack of love and strength is exactly what I can bring to Christ.

In her winsome, humble way, Sarah writes about on why feeling tired and empty is not necessarily bad place to be. A wise young woman.


Freddie DeBoer, “Hard Work is Only Sometimes Necessary and Never Sufficient, But What Else Can You Do? (yes, the system is rigged, but you’re in it all the same),” FdB (Aug. 15, 2022) [link]:

Life’s not fair. But that doesn’t mean that you get to just opt out of it. And you know what? Congrats to that guy who doesn’t work hard and enjoys more success, seriously. Te salut. Bottom line: hard work can’t ensure your success but a lack of hard work can ensure your failure. 
                             * * * 
[B]eing a socialist never entailed a belief that nothing we do matters or that we were exempt from the need to work. The fact that so many people have come to believe that the only options before us are a witless rise-and-grind work fetishism or an utterly fatalistic belief that nothing we do matters… it doesn’t say good things about our culture. Personally, I blame capitalism. 

That last bit is tongue-in-cheek, if the post title didn’t give it away.


Alan Jacobs, “Tolerance,” Snakes and Ladders (Aug. 15, 2022) [link]:

[Washington is saying] I . . . do not offer “toleration” to you and people like you, because it is not in the power of some Americans merely to tolerate the exercise of other Americans’ rights. To be an American is to be on the same footing with every other American. This is the view that Yenor rejects: he’s explicitly pursuing an America in which Protestant Christians have the power to tolerate of others, and the liberties of those others depend upon the sufferance of their Protestant rulers.

If I may take this one more (theological) step, those who believe in the Imago Dei should not view others with toleration (as those who are permitted to be wrong) but almost with reverence (as those who are called to choose). C.S. Lewis has something to say about this, too. [link]

And finally, one more from ayjay if you are at all interested in the technical aspects of music recording: Alan Jacobs, “untitled,” Snakes and Ladders (Aug. 12, 2022). [link]

CWT 1951-2022

God was merciful to Warren.

Warren knew he was dying. I mean, you and I know we’re dying, too, but maybe we don’t let ourselves think much about it. I think Warren was a little different.

Not many of you know me, but I was one of Warren’s law partners for more than 20 years. When I first arrived at the firm in 1993 he had already been there for 17 years.

He had gone to the University of Florida as an undergraduate and as a law student and he received honors like Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif. I know Order of the Coif sounds like an award for hair — and most of you are skeptical that Warren could ever have won an award for his hair — but of course the reference is to the wigs worn by lawyers in England, and the Order of the Coif is the honor society for U.S. law school graduates.

So you can see that he was intelligent.

After law school he came to the venerable Jacksonville law firm of Bedell, Bedell, Dittmar & Zehmer, where he worked (through many name changes) for 46 years. (I dare say very few of you have worked in one place for 46 years.) He learned at the feet of some great lawyers, but Cay can tell you it was no picnic.

In the first year or two of his career he was in a trial with Earle Zehmer in Daytona Beach. Some time into the trial Mr. Zehmer had a heart attack and Warren had to continue the trial without him. Other lawyers from the firm came from time to time, but knowing nothing of the case they were only able to give moral support to the young associate. The trial continued for fourteen months before the case settled.

So you can see that Warren was not a flighty person, he stuck with things.

Warren thought a lot about what it meant to be a lawyer — the attention to detail, the need for honesty and professional courtesy — but what he told me early in my career was that lawyers were basically writers who had to explain complicated issues so that they could be understood. Sometimes, though, he would ask me to write something and I would agonize over what exactly he wanted.

Over his career, most of his practice was in the area of construction law — usually litigation in the aftermath of a building project — so he knew a lot about how buildings were built and the roles of contractors and subcontractors, and architects and developers and owners. By their nature these cases are highly technical in nature, and Warren burrowed into the details. He was good at it and he was in the first group of Florida lawyers who became Board-Certified in Construction Law in 2005. He was highly respected as a litigator, and arbitrator and a writer and many of his last cases were arbitrations in which he was one of the arbitrators. He was a very good lawyer.

Being a good lawyer is no guarantee of being a good person, of course, but Warren was both.

In the last few days the Firm has received many emails from people who practiced with or against him, and uniformly they have said things like a “good guy, a smart guy, and always a gentleman.” The staff in the office have reminded me of “Warren stories” including

  • his love of cherry lifesavers (which he would filch from the variety bag before they ever got into the candy jar);
  • his concern for a stray cat hanging by the Bedell Building  —  he would make sure Andrea gave it food and water every day; and
  • his willingness to talk one-on-one until they would say “Mr. Tripp, I’ve got to get back to work.”

One secretary told me:

I have something that I will never forget about him. Years ago, a family friend was going through a tough time with cancer. . . . I wanted to help and so I . . . sent an e-mail here at the firm to see if anyone would be willing to give. Many people did. I did not know Mr. Tripp very well at all, and when I received a routing envelope from him containing a check for a large amount (the biggest donation, in fact), I was shocked. I knew in that moment that he must be an extremely generous and caring person; just a little quiet and introverted. . . . Someone I didn’t know well gave a huge donation to help a person he didn’t know at all. It just meant a lot and I think it shows the type of person he was.

You can see that he was kind.

Smart, persistent, kind.

But he suffered many hardships and in his seventy years Warren learned something that many people never learn. He learned that it wasn’t enough.

  • It wasn’t enough to rise out of poverty and family disorder to graduate from college and law school and become a well-respected professional who worked in an air-conditioned office.
  • It wasn’t enough to have a beautiful, graceful wife and three wonderful children (and later two daughters-in-law and a son-in-law and eventually five granddaughters he doted on).
  • It wasn’t enough to be known as a good man.

These things didn’t heal him from trauma or protect him from suffering and they certainly did not prevent him from becoming ill. If you have beauty, brains, courage, compassion, education, eloquence, wealth or wisdom, you will still come to this same place.

But God was merciful to Warren, in that he let Warren see that he was dying.

—-

Most of you know how important music was to Warren.

Many of the stories he would tell were about music and musicians. He had known some of the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and had seen many bands and concerts. (He told me the almost unbelievable story that he had seen Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees in the summer of 1967, and I looked it up and it was true.) He kept up with the music world all his life.

In his last weeks he made lists of songs and Scriptures he wanted to be part of this service. Almost none of them were “obvious” songs for a funeral — not “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art” or even “Shall We Gather at the River?” Warren drew on music that had touched him and he ruminated on the lyrics. (Warren was a world-class ruminator.)

As the family was talking about how to incorporate the list into this service, his son Tyler made an insightful observation that Warren was using these songs to build a narrative for us, to tell a story about his life. And so I realized that I had one last writing project from Warren.

The story is about dying, of course.

Listen to the lyrics:

     Everybody I talk to is ready to leave 
        With the light of the morning
     They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe
        They've heard their last warning
     Standing alone
        Each has his own ticket in his hand 1 

You can see your death coming, and it is a destination everyone travels to alone.

When my body won't hold me anymore
	And it finally lets me free
		Will I be ready? 2

We know it’s coming, but will we be prepared?

Warren was prepared (he was always prepared as a lawyer), he knew he was, but that did not take away the question. It doesn’t take away the question for us, either.

And Warren wanted us to be comforted today

When I go, don't cry for me
	In my Father's arms I'll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
	Will all be healed and I'll be whole 3

All the trauma and illness and suffering — all healed:

So weep not for me, my friend, 
	when my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him, 
	who will raise the dead again 3 

And with that healing, maybe what we do here today isn’t that critical:

It don't matter where you bury me
	I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter, anywhere I lay
	All my tears be washed away
		All my tears be washed away 3

Warren is home. Warren is free. And his tears — many shed in private — have been washed away — all of them.

One of the other songs 4 talks about what remains of our earthly suffering and says that the only remaining scars in heaven will be Jesus’ scars. You see, it is part of our faith to believe that the sufferings of Jesus have purpose. That purpose is to reconcile us to God.

You see, God has no reason to be drawn to us — we rebel against him and curse him and (worst of all) we turn our backs on him. God has every reason to condemn us.

But Jesus . . .

Jesus — the one through whom the universe was made — entered that universe as a mere human. He started as a baby, even, born in poverty in an unimportant country which was under the dictatorial rule of Rome. His life was a hard life and though he distinguished himself as a brilliant teacher and as one who was zealous for the one true God, his own people rejected him and turned him over to be killed by the Roman machine.

His death — as a willing victim — is what has the power to reconcile us to God. The apostle Paul wrote:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old [life] has passed away; behold, [a new life] has come. . . . [through] Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their [sins] against them . . . . We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 17-20.

And so back to Warren’s songs:

Gold and silver blind the eye
	Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from Heaven's store
	Come and drink and thirst no more 3

Warren is saying this in his song story — it is so easy to get lost in the things of this world, please, please, come and be reconciled to God through Jesus.

And listen to this

Jesus has overcome
	And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
	He is risen from the dead 5

Jesus was executed, and he died and was buried, but that was not the end for him! It is not the end for us either.

Jesus was raised from death and Jesus will raise his own as well:

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
	And rise, I will rise 5

Death is not just the end of tears, the end of pain. For the one in Jesus’ hands, it is the beginning of a new life, an eternal life of praise.

Warren wanted you to know that, so he gave us all a list of songs and he asked me to make a sermon out of it.

I hope I got it right, old friend.

NOTES:  1. Jackson Browne, “For Everyman.” 2. Robert William Crawford, Scott Yancey Avett and Timothy Seth Avett, “No Hard Feelings.” There is much in this song about being reconciled to other people and letting go of wrongs done against you. It is worth ruminating on. 3. Julie Miller, “All My Tears.” 4. John Mark Hall, Matthew West, "Scars in Heaven." 5. Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher, “I will rise.” The last song was Randy Houser and Craig Monday, "Lord, Lead Me Home," which fit the message, but not the time we had been allotted. [Youtube link] The lyrics are available below:

Essay questions from the Primer

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995):

  • “[He] began to develop an opinion that was to shape his political views in later years, namely, that while people were not genetically different, they were culturally as different as could be, and that some cultures were better than others. This was not a subjective value judgment, merely an observation that some cultures thrived and expanded while others failed. It was a view implicitly shared by nearly everyone but, in those days, never voiced.” pp. 16-17
  • “[A]s many first-time fathers had realized in the delivery room, there was something about the sight of an actual baby that focused the mind. In a world of abstractions, nothing was more concrete than a baby.” p. 150
  • “[T]he difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.” p. 256

Each of these is thought or voiced by one of the father figures in this novel. Discuss among yourselves.

Wasting, food

Great article by Nat Watkins in The New Atlantis — “The Secret Life of Leftovers” [link] for anyone who ever worried about throwing away food, anyone whose refrigerator is full of leftovers that will never be eaten, or anyone whose kitchen and backyard is full of compost bins.

A few interesting tidbits:

  • [We] live in a country where 30 to 40 percent of food produced is never eaten, where the average family throws out $1,500 worth of food every year, and where a typical restaurant discards about a half-pound of food per meal. This is an astonishing historical anomaly. In almost any other time and place in human history, someone would look at the very same waste and say, “Looks delicious!”
  • Like our mass-production pipelines, we are given the tempting option to choose efficiency over ethicality. Only that lingering guilt — that irksome cognitive dissonance — remains to remind us that our judgment isn’t entirely sound.
  • [S]ome regulations are terribly inefficient for distinguishing food from waste. Take expiration dates, which we might think are a self-evident and unmistakable boundary line between food and waste. Most Americans treat them with unquestioning credibility and will toss anything a day or two over the limit straight into the trash. But expiration dates are almost entirely superficial. With the exception of infant formula, they are voluntary, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency even encourages us to question expiration dates. On its landing page on food dating, we read that “in an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and not for safety.

Maybe you have older family members who will cheerfully carve off the mold and eat just about anything. It isn’t just a remnant of the Great Depression.

Seven from Six

It is perilous to abstract quotations from a novel since context is the key and otherwise all you have is epigrams. Nevertheless, I don’t want to give spoilers, so here goes with some excerpts from Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six (2019):

  • “You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end. You’ve taken a big, black, bold line and you’ve made it a little bit gray. And now every time you cross it again, it just gets grayer and grayer until one day you look around and you think, There was a line here once, I think.” (pp. 65-66)
  • “When you have everything, someone else getting a little something feels like they’re stealing from you.” (pp. 149-150)
  • “If I’ve given the impression that trust is easy—with your spouse, with your kids, with anybody you care about—if I’ve made it seem like it’s easy to do . . . then I’ve misspoken. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But you have nothing without it. Nothing meaningful at all. That’s why I chose to do it.” (p. 215).
  • “When [redacted] died, that was it. I’d decided there was no sense in getting sober. I rationalized it. You know, If the universe wanted me to get clean, it wouldn’t have killed [redacted]. You can justify anything. If you’re narcissistic enough to believe that the universe conspires for and against you—which we all are, deep down—then you can convince yourself you’re getting signs about anything and everything.” (pp. 295-296).
  • I was getting a lot of phone calls from [redacted] at all hours of the day. I’d say, “Let me come get you.” And [redacted]’d refuse. I thought about trying to force [redacted] into rehab. But you can’t do that. You can’t control another person. It doesn’t matter how much you love them. You can’t love someone back to health and you can’t hate someone back to health and no matter how right you are about something, it doesn’t mean they will change their mind.” (p. 299).
  • “She said, ‘Don’t count yourself out this early . . . . You’re all sorts of things you don’t even know yet.’ That really stuck with me. That who I was wasn’t entirely already determined.” (p. 320)
  • “But if you get to be my age and you can’t look back at your life and wonder about some of your choices . . . well, you have no imagination.” (p. 331).