Faith Journey

Nudges and Stumbles

Lately I have been writing (when I write at all) about DeMolay and not much about faith. If you’ve started following me recently then you may be surprised at today’s subject matter. This was a blog about faith before it was about anything else.

To be more accurate… it is a blog about me 🙂 – in the sense that it is about things I have discovered along the way. Some of these things are factual (I love mysteries and puzzles – answering questions and resolving unknowns). Some are truths I have learned or discovered.

This morning I woke at 3:21 AM. More accurately my insulin pump woke me with an alarm. Because I have struggled the last few days to keep that pump in its automatic mode, I woke to attend to it. And couldn’t find sleep again. So I glanced at my phone and the first thing that I saw was a post on Facebook about following God’s nudges by Marlena Graves. She is a writer and Christian leader for whom I have developed a deep respect and whose writing I find a continuing source of both spiritual nourishment and challenge.

Lately I have been struggling with some mistakes I’ve made… the nature of them is unimportant. But her words helped me disentangle mistakes made about certain things from the broader response of my life to what was clearly a nudge from God to take a fork in the road that led in a different direction. While I’ve doubted the choice from time to time, I have always come back to the reality that God pulled me down a path that I would have never pursued on my own. The path on which I walked was filled with certainty and comfort. This one – despite appearances to the contrary – is marked by doubt and risk in contrast.

I can’t give you a formula for knowing when God is nudging you. This is more than following your dreams. Nor is it taking control of your life. It is, rather, allowing God’s dream to take hold of you. It is surrendering to a journey you do not control and is risky and may not end well.

Abram (as he was then called) was on a journey with his father but then received the call to continue that journey. He made mistakes in answering that call – you and I will, too. But he went because he knew who had called and who had promised. The nudge was enough.

 

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DeMolay Centennial – Degree of Chevalier

Today Dana and I drove to Columbus to witness one of our son’s DeMolay Brothers receive the Degree of Chevalier. Because of a last minute illness I was also privileged to participate in the ceremony. As you know if you read my Facebook posts, later this year our son will experience the same ceremony and honor.  The Degree of Chevalier is the highest honor an active DeMolay may receive. Senior DeMolays are also eligible for nomination.

The honor as DeMolay now confers it began in 1936. The word “chevalier” at its simplest means “knight” and was intended always to not only recognize DeMolay service but also to be a consecration to further service. A knighthood conferred upon young men who would then engage in battle for right and good in their lives and careers and public lives.

Dad Frank Land wrote the words to this moving ceremony himself. If you listen to it you will find it has a different cadence, a special feel that distinguishes it from the other DeMolay ceremonies both public and private.  The ceremony rededicates its recipients to the core values of DeMolay – love of God, love of home, and love of country.

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DeMolay Centennial – Sunday, July 1, 2018

Last Saturday night began the DeMolay Centennial – a year of celebration and remembering.  One hundred years of changed lives. One hundred years of life-long friendships. One hundred years of fraternity.

DeMolay certainly changed the course of my life. I met my wife because of DeMolay. Freemasonry came into my life because of it.  I have friends who are more like family because of the bonds we formed in DeMolay over the years since 1980 that it has been my privilege to be connected to DeMolay.

My goal is to post something each Sunday related to DeMolay for an entire year. There is more than enough history and experience to fill those Sundays.

If you don’t know about DeMolay and its history, take a look here:

https://demolay.org/history/

And as things are added you see information on the centennial as well:

https://demolay.org/centennial-home/

 

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In the midst of life we are in death

In the midst of life we are in death

 

I have spoken these words at every funeral at which I have officiated over 25+ years.  The words are likely from a hymn originating in France around 750 AD.  As long as I can remember they have been part of the suggested graveside service in The United Methodist Book of Worship 

They came to mind over the weekend. Late Saturday evening I had a series of text messages telling me that a Masonic Brother died suddenly at age 43. I did not know him well but had come to know him over the last few years. He had become a Scottish Rite officer only a few months ago and I looked forward to years more of friendship and service. Some stories do not end where we imagined they would.

At first hearing these beautiful words are quite sobering. We are in life and then confronted, sometimes as here suddenly and tragically, by death. It comes we know not when. It seems, at times, to come with neither rhyme nor reason. If human biology is the sum of our existence – if the last beat of our hearts is the last of us – this may be a cry of despair.  It is an observation of the universality and finality of death.

But these words are in truth an affirmation, even words of praise. Death is in truth an episode in life and not its end.  It comes in the mist of life – if you will in the middle. There is more on the other side of it. Much more.

In his marvelous reflection on the resurrection, Paul writes:

 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:55-57  NIV)

Paul is actually quoting the prophet Hosea in the first bit where God promises to deliver from the power of the grave. If the grave is the end its power to overshadow life is immeasurable. If it is a door to more life on the side? Its power is real but temporary, its shadow dark but only for a passing moment.

I need to hear these words today when a 43-year old man with young sons and a grieving wife finds himself in the midst of death. In Christ there is a victory even in a moment of tragic death. And not just for Larry… but for us who remain to bear its grief and puzzle over its meaning.

 

“For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure
but a doorway from a wold where dreams and adventures shrink,
to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.”

― Randy Alcorn, Heaven

 

 

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Easter 2018

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Matthew 28:6-7 NIV

 

We who celebrate today (and next week in the Eastern Church) celebrate not that Jesus is alive but that he is risen.  That the tomb is empty – not that Jesus lives eternally. That Jesus appeared several times and in several ways including, of all the odd facts, eating fish with his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

In the years I have followed Christ I have had many doubts. I have wondered about many things. Curiously the physical, real resurrection of Jesus from the dead has remained one of the things that I haven’t doubted or questioned much if at all.

Jesus has gone where we must all go. Jesus has experienced what every human I know has and will know – the end of life. His death is as real as that of every person I have loved who has gone. His resurrection is just as real – he has been raised from the grave. Not some spirit who ascended to heaven leaving earth behind. Not a ghost who appears to comfort his grieving friends. He rose – his tomb was empty. Some days later this same Jesus ascends in his new body.

To say Jesus is risen is to place the locus of our faith in the present and not the future only. I am not just waiting for the sweet by-and-by. I live in the world, the reality where Jesus rose from his grave. A world where something changed. There is no going back to the shadows. There is no undoing of the undoing of his death.

A bit of the future has leaked into the present if you will. The resurrection of the dead that we proclaim in the creeds has started. Only one so far. But not the end or only one ever. Not a solitary resurrection but a prologue of what is to come. A promise of what will break forth. A new heaven and a new earth John saw (Revelation 21:1). Not just heaven.

This all matters because the reality of the resurrection is not only for the graveside. It is for the breakfast table and the office chair and the checkout line at the grocery. To live in a world where Jesus rose is to live a risen life in that world. Jesus is risen. Now he invites us to go and do likewise. I am not always sure what that means. But I am sure it is so.

 

 

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Good Friday 2018

Gasping out his last breath. Calling out for help. Alone. In pain. Suffering at the last instead of peace.

Not the kind of death we want for ourselves or those whom we love.  Over the decades that I was a pastor I was with many people in their last days, hours, even moments. Almost to a person they died peacefully. Beautifully even. Surrounded by friends and family in many cases they breathed their last breath of earth.

Good Friday is a day that will not let us sanitize either death or suffering. It will not let us think that every death is like the ones I witnessed over those years. Jesus’ death was not so.

Those opening words above were not just about Jesus – they were about my dad. I had never thought until I woke this morning about my dad’s death in the shadow of Good Friday. But he died alone. And his death was unpleasant and unthinkable from all we can tell. It still haunts me. As does – and should – the death of Jesus on that long ago Friday.

Today is a day to be uncomfortable. To remember there is pain in the world. To remember that not all deaths are peaceful transitions. Not all passings are easy. Not everyone’s earthly journey ends as it should or might.

Jesus’ death changed everything. But it changed nothing. Something to ponder today.

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Masonic Quote of the Week – 3/19/2018

Yesterday was the 99th anniversary of the founding of the Order of DeMolay and the 704th anniversary of the death of Jacques DeMolay. Rather than post a quote I share this video of an interview with Dad Frank S. Land and President Harry S. Truman:

 

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St. John’s Day Reflections 2017

st__john_the_evangelist_icon_by_theophilia-dat6azkToday is the annual observance of the feast of St. John the Evangelist (sometimes called St. John the Apostle as well). One of the lodges to which I belong traditionally installed its officers on this day – as do some Grand Lodges.  As some have noted, neither St. John revered by Freemasons has anything to do with building or architecture. What makes the Evangelist worth our devotion as men and Masons?

John is the only apostle who (according to tradition) lived to old age. While modern biblical scholarship tells a different tale, the early Freemasons grew up in a culture that taught he wrote one of the four gospels that tell of the life and ministry of Jesus. One of the notable features of that story is that John never refers to himself by name but as the one whom Jesus loved.

At 51 I appreciate that John’s great revelation (the book of Revelation) comes in that latter part of life. The one whom Jesus loved had lived almost his entire life before that revelation came to him. Like a medieval cathedral that took generations of planning and execution to complete, John’s life laid the foundation for that moment of profound vision.

Our building is not complete until life nears its end. We make our plans (often unaware about how the Grand Architect of the Universe plans in parallel and sometimes contrast) and place our stones. The work of a lifetime is just that – a work unfinished until we lay the last stone with our last strength.

May we build faithfully in the year to come. May we reflect with satisfaction and gratitude on what God has allowed us to build – even if partially. Even in the moments when we think we are finished… or may be  frustrated at our lack of understanding of what our building will be… may we remain faithful to our calling and profession.

 

 

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Masonic Thought for Week of 12/4/2017

“The importance of improvement, setting an example, and shouldering responsibility for the future are our Masonic goals. And where will it all end? In brotherhood. What we build today will endure. That is our hope and our faith.”

– Stanley F. Maxwell

 

Stanley F. Maxwell was the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ. 1975-1985.  Among his most notable achievements was, during his time as Executive Secretary of the Supreme Council, overseeing the construction of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. 

 

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Masonic Thought – Week of 11/20/2017

The purpose of Freemasonry?

362065_1Its purpose is the same as it has been since the day when the stones for King Solomon’s Temple were hewn, squared and numbered in the quarries where they were raised. It is to take an individual – just one man at a time, mind you, and as good a man as possible – and try to make a better man out of him. That is all. How desperately the world needs just that! And if that technique is outmoded, then the experience of two thousand years is all wrong; the Parable of the Mustard Seed is horse-and-buggy philosophy; the Leaven in the Loaf is a cruel hoax.

The mere fact that men do not comprehend its purpose does not mean that Freemasonry has no purpose, nor that its purpose is outmoded – it only means that the stones are not being well hewn and squared in the quarries where they are raised.

Freemasonry has not been tried in the balance and found wanting: it has been found difficult and not tried.

Dwight L. Smith

Brother Smith was a Past Grand Master and long-time Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. He wrote a number of Masonic books. Among his best known writings is “Whither Are We Traveling?’ from which this excerpt comes. 

 

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