Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Love Does

Sunday, Nancy and I attended the Dyer United Methodist Church.  Pastor Jim Clark had a wonderful message as Dyer UMC kicked off their 4th Annual Labor of Love.  The message focused on what makes us a follower of Jesus.  It isn’t a title, or a tattoo, or the cross around your neck --- what makes one a follower of Jesus is the willingness to love unconditionally.

That has been my message for years --- Jesus calls us to love ALL unconditionally.  The one place I would disagree with Pastor Jim was when he said that Christian love does not have a social agenda.  Of course it does.  The agenda of Jesus was to teach us how to love unconditionally and he wanted us to break down the barriers that keep that from happening.

What Pastor Jim encouraged everybody to do was stop talking about loving and DO some loving.  His passion kicked me in the rear and has encouraged me to write these words.

A group of concerned citizens began reaching out to the Town Council of Munster, Indiana asking them to adopt a human rights ordinance.  The ordinance would be one that is modeled on a number of other ordinances that have been adopted in Indiana since the adoption of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act).  A bill that seems to have basically one purpose --- to allow individuals the freedom to discriminate based on “religious,” particularly Christian, convictions.  The one problem with this wildly radical legislation is it is not based on anything related to Jesus --- the “church” maybe, but not Jesus.  Jesus never encouraged discrimination.  And that message was re-affirmed by Paul when he reminds us that all are one in Christ.

When I hear that a Town Council member in Munster (yes, they are all white males) say that he takes “a conservative approach to most new requests.  This one should be passed on the National Level.” I am saddened.  The conservative approach should be to not discriminate and to not allow it to happen to anyone.

I am saddened and disheartened that our elected officials are too afraid to say NO to the bigots and racists of our day.  That they turn issues into political footballs and fail to do the right thing.

Munster bills itself as the town of integrity.  It is time for it to start to live up to its motto!

To all of my Christian friends, it is time we stop condemning people we disagree with, it is time to stop pointing fingers and wagging our tongues.  It is time we start doing what Jesus called us to do: Love one another.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Jeff Aten

It has been an interesting weekend.  Saturday, Jim White and I drove down to Highland Illinois to attend the memorial service for Jeff Aten.  Jeff and I were extremely close in High School.  The truth is Jeff and I had very different world views.  He was enthralled with Ann Rand's book Atlas Shrugged.  I always would laugh at the piece of junk car he drove while we were in college with Reagan bumper stickers all over it.

In his school we did many crazy things together, but many others that will always stay with me.  We got heavy into movie making, and made movies everywhere.  We actually had an award winning one for a class at High School that stared Steve Harr as a scorned girl.  It was set to the sound track of Rich Girl by Hall and Oates.  Recently my father found a film canister and it was a classic we made in United Methodist Youth in Glenview probably around 1977.  It was a silent movie mystery called "The Finger", I will try to get it uploaded to YouTube.

But probably the most important thing we did was bike together.  Our first trip took place when we were 16 or 17 and we rode from Kenosha Wisc. to Wildcat Mountain Wisc. and then to Belvidere, IL.  I still can't my parents let us do it.  There were no adults, just three teenage boys!  The next summer we rode from Warsaw, Indiana to Cincinnati and then to Crown Point where we were picked up.  Remember, this is pre-cell phones.  We literally would ride into a town, find a phone booth and call churches until we convinced one to let us camp on their lawn.  A few years ago, I found a diary of the trip to Cincinnati, if I find it again, I will post some of the entries.

Jeff headed off to the University of Illinois, and I realized it was not best for my studies to follow him there, so I headed to Northern Illinois.  But, there was many a road trip between the two schools!  Every Christmas, Jeff and I organized a reunion of the church group.  We did that until he got the opportunity to move to Virginia with work.  He was the glue that made those reunions happen.  After he moved, they slowly stopped happening.

We would talk sporadically over the years.  We visited him in Washington when Jessica was a baby and he visited us in Warsaw.  But time has a way of letting things drift apart, and for that I am very sad.

So many of my friends from that era i have let the relationships wane --- and for that I am sorry.  My youth group was central to my life.  The molded me, they loved me.  My first love was there, my first heartbreak was there.  But we always were a group!  It was there that I found my voice and calling to ministry.

As Jim and I drove home from the service, we talked about a lot of friends from the past.  We talked of renewing friendships and rebuilding brides that are long neglected.  My prayer is that I have the conviction to follow through.

Jeff, I am sorry we drifted over the years.  I see your smile in my minds eye as I type --- and I see your smirk! 

I had my first beer float with you, and my first smoke.  We shared laughs and sorrows, our failures and successes.  May you rest in peace, and I look forward to renewing our friendship in the next chapter.

I love you my friend!