Live Present

The True Meaning of Living in the Present Moment

During the past week, several things have come together to have me thinking about some deeper things of life. I have spent most of the last week alone…Allyson has been in the east, visiting our daughters and their families. Last Sunday I preached on the book of Revelation…”The End is Near!” On top of that, in my community and in my state there have been two horriffic and unexpected tragedies. 

All of those circumstances have intersected to have me thinking about the life have been given and how we live that life each day.

You see, I am a firm believer that each of our lives is a gift from God. We are created in God’s image and a reflection of God’s creative grace. What we do with these lives God gives us is an act of worship and thanksgiving that we return to him. However, the event of the past week have reminded me of how transient and brief these lives often are. We have no guarantee of our next breath, let alone next week, next month, or next year. 

Now, I am not meaning to sound or become maudlin or gloomy. You see the awareness of the transience of our earthly existence should motivate us to live life differently. To treasure the experiences wee have in this life. If we lived as if this moment was the only ting of which we are guaranteed, the moment and the people in it become a treasure and a gift of God’s grace. If we really were not sure that we would be here tomorrow, so many things that we take for granted, we would no longer take for granted; and some things that, in the moment we deem of ultimate importance, suddenly seem insignificant. 

I wonder how differently we would live our lives if we made a commitment to live present in each moment, to cherish each interpersonal encounter as something of eternal significance, and each person someone of inestimable value. I wonder what things we might decide NOT to do or say and what kinds of things we might joyfully embrace and cherish.

I invite you to make a commitment today to live mindfully and be totally present in each experience, in every conversation and each moment. After all, this breath, this moment, this day is a gift from the creator savior God who lives in each moment with us. 

Anyway, that is just my meanderings today.

An Interesting Confluence of Events

This week I had two completely unrelated events converge to get me thinking about some things. The first of those events happened in Phoenix. On Tuesday evening, Allyson and I, Kyle, Sara, and the Kids, and a family from the Church went to a Diamondbacks Game at Chase Field (D-backs playing my Pittsburgh Pirates). While I was waiting for the couple from my church, just outside the ticket office, there was a “street preacher” shouting his message into a megaphone the message of sin, judgment, and how much God hates sin…as well as how hot hell will be, and that they had better get ready for the heat. He had other choice things to say about Covid, politics, and so forth. But the message was pretty clear…and aimed (literally) right at people as they entered the stadium.

5 Weird Ways to Do Evangelism | The Christian Post
Megaphone evangelism…

On Wednesday, I came across a tweet from an author who I value greatly, who speaks to the mission of the Church and difficulties the western church has in reaching the current culture with the message of the gospel. Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, and 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, offered this observation in a tweet:

All factors point to signs that Christianity is in decline in the West. We must own the fact that the way we live out our faith is culpable, at least in some part. A domesticated, tamed version of Christianity that is mired in the same wants, desires, and traps of the watching world yields no appeal. Missional movements flourish because a group of people have been changed by Jesus, and the change is made abundantly clear through living in an alternative Jesus-like society of love, grace, and generosity. For most of us, this means we must simply begin to step out beyond our self-imposed barriers of safety and security and risk, joining the Holy Spirit in what God is doing in our neighborhoods and cities.

As I juxtaposed these two experiences, I can’t help but think how the “Church” relates to the culture and society in which we live. We are great at telling people what we are against, what is evil, how sinful they are and how much God hates what they are doing. We are great at separating ourselves from the lost, the derelict, the lonely, the underclass, the addict, the immigrant, those opposed to us… We create a greater and greater gap telling them how much God hates what they are doing.

We are HORRIBLE at practicing incarnational witness…the very practice of Jesus. Jesus came seeking out the lost. Jesus entered into the lives of the lost, the hurting, the untouchable, the marginalized. With love in his eyes, and no hint of condemnation, Jesus entered into their journey and spoke the healing words of the gospel that “God is Love” and has provided the means for wholeness in Jesus.

As I sat on the hot slab of concrete outside Chase Field, I watched the people’s reactions to the “Preacher.” Some shook their heads. Some laughed. Some blew him off. Others looked pained. I wondered what Jesus they might be meeting in that moment. I wondered who would share the Jesus of the Gospels with them. I wondered what barrier that experience might create for those people to encounter the loving, healing, restoring embrace of the Savior.

I wonder if we might not take a lesson from Jesus. I challenge those who call themselves followers to leave their padded pews and holy huddles…and go into the world. Enter into the lives of the people around you. Love them with Jesus love…share the Savior who embraces sinners, who loves, who has compassion. Introduce them to the Savior.

Maybe, just maybe…we can stop being the barrier to Jesus…

Anyway, just my ruminations this week.

Smoke

Breathing wildfire smoke may raise risk of cardiac arrest | American Heart  Association
Smoke can cloud our vision and confuse our sense of direction

Recently, the Verde Valley, where I live, has been filled with smoke. There have been a number of wildfires in the surrounding area that have burned over 100,000 acres. Due to the topography of our area and the direction of the wind, smoke from those fires will literally fill our valley. At one and the same time, it has been terrifying and impressive.

As I was driving into my study one morning, I became aware that I could not see the Red Rocks of Sedona, just 18 miles away because of the heavy smoke. Now, understand, each day this is a treasured part of my journey, admiring the beauty and the grandeur of the area in which I live and thanking God for God’s creative handiwork. Not being able to see the Rocks was mildly disorienting.

As I drove northeast on Route 89A, I meditated on not being able to see my destination. I was reminded, that although I could not SEE where I was going, my destination lie on the route provided for me. The smoke that obscured my vision did not change the objective fact that the Red Rocks were there. While my vision was blocked, the objective reality of where I was going remained the same.

So many times circumstances of our life obscure our vision, disorient our senses and cause us consternation. We may even wonder if God is there. The reality is that even thought the circumstances would confuse us, the reality of God’s presence does not change. During those times when our vision is clouded, our task is to remain on the course charted for us. We must not deviate either left or right. Stay the course.

I don’t know what challenges you are facing today. Let me assure you that God cares, God is there, and God will guide your paths. Stay the course!

Ashes

As I write this post, today is Ash Wednesday. All over the world, Christians (or better yet followers of Jesus) are coming together some in the morning, some in the afternoon, some in the evening to mark the beginning of Lent.

For many followers, Ash Wednesday has never been celebrated. In my own life, our more than legalistic, rabidly free-church tradition, looked with great suspicion on anything that smacked of liturgy, ritual, and formal expression of faith. High church traditions were spurned in favor of more ecstatic expressions of the faith. As such, I missed out on some powerful experiences with God.

I am rediscovering these traditions in my adult years.

Today, I have been preparing the Ash Wednesday service for my parish, Christ Center Wesleyan Church. As such, I have been reading the scripture from the prophet Joel, “Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (Joel 2.12-13 NRSV) I will be delivering a homily on those words this evening and immediately following, as celebrant, I will be imposing ashes on the foreheads or the hands of those who will received them. As I trace the cross on my congregants, I will say these words, “Remember, from dust you have come, and to dust you will return.”

As I have been meditating on the practice, I am reminded that Ash Wednesday brings sharply into focus my standing before God. All too often, as I journey through this life, things conspire to cloud that standing and relationship. It is all too easy to focus on me, on my priorities, my plans, my wants and needs. The philosophy and priority of this fallen world creep in and tempt me to view this world as my accomplishment, my priority, and my work a product of my strength.

By hearing the words, deep in my soul, and feeling the abrasion of the ashes on my forehead, I am reminded that I only have life in relationship to the God who formed me from ashes (dust). It was God, in mercy and love, who breathed the breath into my lungs…and into my spirit. It is God who orders my days. One day this earthly form will return to its requisite elements (to dust) all that will remain in the life God gives me.

When I realize my proper standing before God, I am moved to penitence, to repentance, and to return to right standing before God.

My prayer for each person who reads this is that this Lenten Season will be a time of renewal, of refocus, of returning to God with all our hearts. Remember, from ashes you have come, and to ashes you will return.

Anyway, that is just my meanderings for today…

Grandsons and Other Gifts from God

I hope you’ll forgive me if I pause, from my ordinary content to share some personal blessings.

On January 8th, my daughter Caitlin, and her husband Brandon, gifted us with a brand new little bundle of joy. Our first grandson came into the world at 7 pounds 12 ounces and 19.5 inches long. He has a beautiful head of hair, a strong cry and is growing too fast. He joins our other precious grandchildren, cousins Maddie and Evie.

Since that wonderful Friday morning, I have been thinking of all three of my grandkids and am amazed at how full my heart is. I love to hear their laughter. I take or download countless pictures of each one of them. I talk to them on the phone. I can’t wait to take them camping, fishing, hunting, or to their first races. I buy them books, read them books, dote on them like a grandfather should. They are, quite literally, the apple of PopPop’s eye.

Even more so, I stop and thank God for such precious gifts. Each child has his or her own unique and distinct personality. Each is growing and healthy. Each is testament to the creative power and love of God.

James 1.17 affirms for us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (NASB)

There are times for me when it is easy to thank God for God’s perfect gifts. Each time I look at my grandchildren, marvel over the miracle of a baby’s hand, and see a new milestone achieved, I thank God for God’s good gifts and blessings in my life.

What good gifts can you thank God for today?

Anyway,

Just my meanderings…

Interruptions

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

–Exodus 3.4

I am, at heart, a fairly driven person. My life is frequently lived out with “to do” lists written in my daily journal and on my computer or my cell phone. I have a regular routine and a rigid schedule. I like my days to go according to a routine that I set, schedule, and plan. I feel like I am at my best when I can accomplish my list of tasks for the day and get done what needs to get done.

Interruptions and distractions are often the window where God can do something significant in us and through us.

The problem is I get interrupted. When I am in my study, the phone will ring, someone will drop by and want to chat, or my cell phone will play its loon notification note to tell me I have a text, an instant message, or an alert. Emergencies will arise. Oftentimes I will be engaged in something that I feel is terribly important and I will get a call to go and try to help someone that may or may not want or need my help.

That was the case recently. I was preparing for special services and had a rather tight deadline. I was working furiously to accomplish my “To Do” when the phone rang. I answered and found that a need was being presented to me. I left the office and spent a couple of hours with the person. When that time was over, I felt as though I had wasted my time. It was in the middle of my inner tantrum that God reminded me of a powerful lesson he had taught me a long time ago.

In Exodus 3, Moses is going about the duties he had as a shepherd. He was caring for his sheep and goats, leading them to water, protecting them, leading ot shelter and the best grass when something new and different caught his attention. Of course, you know what he saw was a bush burning, but not being burned up. Verse 4 of chapter three says that Moses turned aside to see this thing. In other words, Moses day was interrupted and there in his interruption, Moses had an encounter with God.  

God reminded me that frequently God is encountered in the interruptions of our day and the most significant ministry often occurs on God’s time rather than ours. Interruptions become sacred spaces where the Holy Spirit can move, can speak, and can lead us into areas of God’s choosing. Interruptions are oftentimes the REAL opportunity for ministry.

Now, please understand, I still have to watch my own spirit and heart when I am interrupted. But when I stop to consider what God is doing, the margins where my agenda is intersected with God’s agenda become the most fruitful times in life.

I would encourage you, the next time you are interrupted and find yourself irritated because of the distraction, ask the question, “Where is God in this time? What is God trying to teach me? Or What does God want me to do here?”

You may just find your own “burning bush” experience. Anyway, that’s just my meanderings!

Perfect Timing

Timing is everything. Unless you are waiting…

Recently I preached a message that poked fun at the delivery difficulties the various parcel services have been experiencing this Christmas. Since that time, aided by a good friend’s prodding, I have been thinking about the sensitive issue of timing. Being an inherently impatient person, waiting is hard for me. Yet, all too often in life, I have found myself anxiously waiting for many different things.

As I write this blog post, we, in the Roxby family are awaiting the birth of grandchild #3 (Our first grandson!)

People all over the world are awaiting, none too patiently, the end of the Covid-19 pandemic world wide.

Reflecting on my own life, I have become more aware of those times when I have been awaiting God’s leadership, direction, and the revelation of his will, to me and to those around me.

Since my last post, there have been many changes in my life. Most of those the product of impatiently waiting for God to make God’s face known. Catching you up, in August of 2020, Allyson and I relocated to Sedona, Arizona to assume pastoral duties of Christ Center Wesleyan Church.

For three years we had the sense that our time leading our previous congregation was coming to a close. We went through the process pastors go through to find a new assignment. We sent out resumes. We talked to District Superintendents. We even interviewed at several churches. Each of those “opportunities” ended up coming to nothing.

Needless to say, my ego took a huge hit. One can only hear “We decided to go a different direction.” so many times before the dark cloud begins to settle into your mind. A person can easily begin to question their worth, their fitness, even question their calling and ability to continue.

Have I previously stated, I hate waiting?

The thing is, as I reflect back on those times in my life, I find that God, during my waiting, is trying to teach me something… to do something… to form me in new ways… to challenge me to grow in ways that old habits, old perspectives, and old comfort zones make difficult. Those in between times, if I allow them become seminal times when God deepens and transforms me.

But then, the thing is, God always answers prayer, provides, reveals, and directs, in perfect time. I read once that God is rarely early, never late, and always right on time. I have found this to be true in my life.

So as you read this, I invite you to consider for what you are waiting, however impatiently, and to silently breathe a prayer and listen. God is longing to teach you something about God’s character, love, and provision that you may never have thought of before.

Oh, Thanks Linda! for the kick-in-the-pants, and the idea for this rumination.

Anyway, that is my meanderings at 1 am!

God bless, keep, and transform your hearts and mind today!

Moments of Silence

I took this image last month while on a hunting vacation in Colorado. I spent an entire week hunting with my son, my brother, and a dear friend in ministry. We spent the week together spending a significant amount of time out on the wide open prairie at sunrise and at sunset. The house we stayed in had no television, nor did we have access to a stereo or internet other than on our phones.

In a word, I spent a week in quiet, still, huge, screaming quiet.

The only things that broke the quietness were our conversations, our laughter, the sounds of grasshoppers, antelope talking, birds, the wind in our ears, and the volume of our own thoughts.

It was amazing, refreshing, and intimidating all at the same time. When you are quiet, there is nothing that interrupts you own stream of consciousness. Nothing drowns out your own thinking. You become aware of exactly where your mind is, where it goes, and where it is taking you. Even more, in the stillness you become acutely aware, if you are attentive, to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God in your soul. In the stillness of a sunset, God speaks to your harried spirit reminding you that you are God’s own…you are a beloved child of God. God’s voice comforts, corrects, leads, reminds, and communicates God’s character to our souls.

Too many people do not hear God’s voice to any significant degree. The rampant noise in our culture drowns out God’s leading and God’s comfort. The frenetic pace of our life chokes out the life of the Spirit that God longs to create in us. From the moment we rise in the morning until long after we close our eyes in sleep, our worlds are filled with noise as well as mental and spiritual clutter.

Perhaps the Psalmist really understood and knew what he was talking about when he penned those words in the 46th Psalm, “Be still and know that I am God…” Something profound and powerful happens when we cultivate moments of silence. When we de-clutter our minds and our souls, the voice of God has opportunity to reorient and to reform our lives.

I invite you to find moments of silence in your day. Breathe deeply the voice of the Holy Spirit. Turn moments into hours, hours into days and days into a week of restful reorienting quiet before God. See if God doesn’t do something powerful in your soul…

Anyway, that’s just my pondering…

Time

time aI have been thinking a great deal this morning about time. Events of the past several days have reminded me of the precious nature of the gift of time.

You see, time is more than just a measure of the passage of the hours of the day, waiting until we can punch the clock and go home. Time is more than just the countdown of the days until we go on vacation, or go to see the grandchildren. Time is a much more precious commodity than the tics of the second-hand on a clock, or the beeping of the alarm on a cell phone.

Last night, as I sat in my chair, watching a documentary on the Oklahoma City Bombing, I heard the first hand story of one of the victims, who worked in the Murrah Federal Building. She was trapped in the rubble for six long hours while the first responders sought to free her. It struck me, as she talked about those six horrifying hours, she didn’t think about anything other than how she should have lived her life differently. She bargained with God for more time…and if she was granted that time, she would make the most of each new hour God gave her. Time became precious for this lady who was rescued from a horrific disaster.

This morning, I awakened to news that a childhood friend passed away entirely too soon. In a matter of eight days, he went from healthy husband, father, churchman, and all-around good guy to a victim of cancer. This morning, I am saddened, shaken, and grieved that a beautiful person had their time on earth snuffed out…entirely too soon. He was too young.

As I process all of this, I am working with congregants who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have celebrated homegoings eight times over the past eleven months for dear and loved people…each of whom died, in my estimation, entirely too young. I have wept at caskets. I have held the hands of dear saints who were graduating from this life. I have prayed over grieving family members. I have had dear friends pray over my own grief. I frequently shed tears as precious memories of family members overwhelm me.

If scripture bears out anything, it is that we are not guaranteed timtimee beyond the moment in which we now live. In the scheme of life, old or young have no real bearing. What has bearing is how we live our life in this moment. What counts, in Kingdom time, is how we use the hours, the minutes, the days that we have right now. How we steward the time we have been given is the measure of the quality of a life.

We live life now with an end. Lives that are well-lived  are the ones that are given away. You see, we don’t earn more time by hanging tightly to the time we have. We earn quality of life by giving that over which we have little control to bless others.

Time is a gift from God. Use the time you have well. Love others with God’s reckless love. Give yourself to others, pour your gifts and passions into them. Use your words to build other up, to bless them, to speak grace into their lives. Hug your wife, your husband, your children, your grandchildren, your parents. Hug strangers that they may know the love that Christ has so freely given them.

The best time is the time spent loving…

Anyway, that is my meanderings this morning…

My Brother’s Keeper

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Genesis 4.9 (ESV)

The news from the past few weeks has been giving me the unfortunate opportunity to reflect on this powerful verse in scripture. The questioning from God to Cain comes when God discovers that Cain, in a fit of jealousy, has murdered Abel. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God while, for whatever reason, Cain’s was not. In a fit of violence, Cain beat Abel to death.

Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior has continued throughout human history. Anger and jealousy lead to bitterness and malice; which when cultivated and nurtured give birth to rage and ultimately to violence.

The news has been filled with violence and with it’s after effects for weeks. Mass shootings, suicides, mass stabbings, domestic violence as well as the consequences have been prominently featured on the news. Lives are being snuffed out at an alarming pace.

My greater concern is the response that I have seen. The wagons are circled. Political pundits begin their spin. We are given a litany of whys, wherefores and causes. People cry for change. Yet no change comes.

The argument against change often boils down to a staunch argument for personal rights. It is MY right… You fill in the blanks as to which rights are cited. Meaningful change is gridlocked in the pretext of guaranteeing MY INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

I would be less than genuine if I didn’t come clean and tell you that I used to be one of those. I am not so sure that I am any more. Each innocent that dies convicts me that much more.

my brother's keeper

I am reminded by scripture that I am my brother’s keeper. As a resident alien, that is a citizen of the Kingdom of God, (where my first allegiance lies) I AM MY Brother’s Keeper. My rights are of less value than serving others. It seems to me, when John applies Jesus’s words (quoting the Great Commandment) that he is reminding us of our first responsibility to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and to surrender my rights for the good of others. As a refresher, John says, Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for one’s friends (John 15.19).

John further amplifies this teaching of Jesus, saying: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or in talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3.16-18 ESV). As I reflect on each new incidence of violence, this verse convicts me more and more.

The operative word I hear in the rhetoric on both sides of the equation is the word MY and PERSONAL. The older I get, the more I wince when I hear those words proclaimed loudly. So much hurt is perpetrated in the defense of MY ideas, MY rights, MY needs, MY tastes, and MY will. In a culture where ME and MY are lord, community is destroyed. People are destroyed and the Kingdom suffers.

I think it might be time for the Church, for those who comprise the Church, and for those who consider themselves to be members of the eternal Kingdom of God to lay aside MY in favor of the more scriptural WE. WE are all members of one Body…the Body of Christ. I wonder how the world would change if we began to look at ALL issues through the lens of the Body of Christ.

Perhaps it is time that we who are followers of Jesus Christ are willing to surrender our right to our personal rights to see peace come to earth, or at least a little more peace come to the earth.

Anyway…that’s my recent pondering…