Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Catherine.

My daughter Catherine was born today, 20 years ago. I cannot begin to describe, as I am sure no parent truly can, how much I love my children, but especially Catherine. Catherine was my first. She has taught me as much about myself as I have attempted to teach her about life. It has not always been easy. At first, I did not understand that, but now I do. Difficult can be good.

Today, I can say that I love my daughter more today than the day she was born. That is bitter sweet. In so many ways I look back with regret on what I didn't do - performances I didn't see, the graduation picture I don't have, the fuss I made over which college she chose. Now, I simply miss her. What I wouldn't give to get some of the moments, some of those opportunities back. But I can't. I can only be the dad I need to be for her future, which I might ad, is rosy.

I am very, very proud of Catherine. She has done well in college and is managing her life well. I don't know how much of that is my influence, but it really doesn't matter. I am still proud of her. She will always have my love as her dad. Indeed, when my time is over in this life, all that will be left to remember about Jay Smith, will be Catherine and Hannah.

Catherine, I love you, I am proud of you and I am grateful to be your father.

Happy 20th Birthday!

Lenten Reflection #2 It really is about love...

Lent is an interesting time for me. It tends to either be a regimented denial of my own cravings, where I can't wait for it to be over, and resolve into an 'Easter basket' of indulgence or, it is simply a liturgical season, like any other, where I pay homage to it's intent, yet go about my life in all of its regular patterns. This year is different.

As a pastor of a church out of the 'free church' tradition - a church formed out of the protestant reformation, intentionally disconnected from government - liturgical seasons take a back seat to 'the preaching of the Word'. Yet, the liturgical seasons to some degree still inform our practice. This is obvious when we talk about Christmas and Easter, but not so much Advent and Lent, and in my tradition, definitely not Pentecost. (Which, by the way, is too bad!) Nevertheless, Lent now has a hold on me, unlike ever before. Why is this happening? Maybe because I'm getting older; maybe because I'm paying more attention to my own spiritual formation; or, maybe because I continue to examine what exactly 'love' is in my life; maybe all of the above. Either way, Lent has got me thinking. Not just about self-denial or about my own failures (read 'sin'), but about love.

My chosen text for this Sunday (March 18, 2012) is Romans 13:8-14.

8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

In light of this singular text - not a normal text for Lent - I find a pretext for Lent being theologically rooted in love. We enter into self-denial, not driven by unwarranted or coerced obedience, but driven by love. To be driven by love is not an overbearing, burdensome denial, but a desire to honor and return the love from lover to beloved. Theologians from Walter Kasper to Stanley Grenz understand the Holy Spirit as the absolute, personal and reciprocal love between God the Father and God the Son.

In the season of Lent, our self-denial is driven by the desire to participate in the love between The Father and The Son. We enter into self-denial, driven not by some sort of ascetic principle, but out of the desire to please "the one who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). In this fashion, our self-denial helps us understand the nature of love and God's desire to enter into a love relationship with us. Good Friday-Easter then becomes the great act of love and Pentecost becomes the eruption of love into our world.

Don't allow Lent to pass you by this year. Learn more about love. Learn more about God. God loves us and desires to draw all of creation into the love relation that marks God's very being. Don't give up chocolate, sugar, coffee or fill-in-the-blank consumerist addiction for 40 days just because the priest/pastor/minister told you to do that action. Do it as an act of love for the God that loved you so much that He gave us his Son and Spirit…forever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Poetry of Life (for Lauri)


Hot summers in Bethany
Bicycles to Ripper Park
Hearing the Ice Cream Truck miles away…
The trip to Verden
Anxious twisting
to see my cousins
The hot summers under the pecan trees
hot bread, fried okra
fascinated by the burning trash barrel…
Aunt Bea
Shay and Karen…
grain silos and railroad tracks

A trip to Tulare!
Adam, Becky, Dad and Mom…
I-40, Route 66
Albuquerque, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon
Bakersfield, Tulare
white houses, HOT streets…
trips to the small corner store
lots of swimming at the local pool
31 flavors with Shel
Pismo beach
Lauri's laugh alone
made me laugh then
and still does today.


Three children three marriages
We've lost parents
Our children are beautiful
life didn't turn out
like we thought
Whitley and Smith always
we are halfway through now
regret behind us, wisdom ahead…
Driven one way from the beginning
we can choose now
the direction of the last lap.

true life
is just beginning.