Friday, May 20, 2011

A Meaningful Week

   It seems Spring has finally arrived ... for awhile, at least.  As I'm tapping away on my computer to you, I'm on the patio of a Peet's coffee place, enjoying a warm breeze and a moment to reflect on a week of diverse experiences.  Tuesday was full of Community Connections (which you can read about here).  On Wednesday I went to visit a dear older woman, Elaine, who had fallen and been badly injured.  I heard that she had some broken bones and was pretty bruised.  It turned out to be much worse.  X-rays revealed fractures in both shoulders, a wrist, and her ankle.  They didn't even mention her nose, because all of the other injuries were so serious.  The amazing woman who tended our roses at church until she moved into a senior facility; who cared for all her brothers and sisters when they were sick; and who faithfully folded our church bulletins for more than 12 years - this dynamo of strength and attitude now lay physically quite broken in an air-fillied hospital bed.  Though she never had any biological kids of her own, loving nephews and a niece stood watch at her bedside.  Swollen and bruised, Elaine's unconscious body rested under white sheets and a light blanket.  
   I don't like this part of being a pastor.  Don't misunderstand - I actually enjoy hospital visits very much.  People are more real and open to talk than at almost any other time, and so meaningful conversations are easy and plentiful.  What sucks is witnessing the merciless advance of time as it consumes the joy and vigor of people you love.  Sometimes in a church like ours, there are too many of these visits too close together.  Yet it's also a rich and good time as it was this day.  I listened to Elaine's family tell, with great love, story after story about her.  They were careful not to let go of her just yet, using the present tense each time her name was mentioned.  "Remember that time she scolded you for cutting back that wisteria?  Aunt Elaine is so funny." 
   Soon the surgeon arrived.  He brought news of possible surgeries and spoke of possible recovery.  The mood brightened, but tough decisions remained.  We prayed for wisdom and for Jesus to give insight about what's truly best for Elaine.  Later that night I was informed that surgery would take place the next morning.  
  On my way out of the hospital, I decided to take the long way near the exit where new families take their fresh bundles to waiting cars.  Sure enough, as if God knew I needed some hopeful sign of life, there was a dad guiding his wife in a wheelchair as she cradled a tightly wrapped new baby in a blue blanket.  I walked slowly.  As he went through the automatic doors, dad ran to the car and opened the door, exposing a tightly secured car seat.  Mom didn't look up from her bundle.  Dad ran back to her, and began to usher them out into the light exclaiming, "Welcome to the outside world!"  
Welcome indeed, little man.  
   I saw Elaine just before surgery the next morning.  Surprisingly, she opened her eyes when I said her name.  A big, welcoming smile spread across her face.  “Hi Elaine.  It’s me, pastor Curt.”  
“I know who you are.  How are you?”
“I’m fine Elaine.  How are you doing?”  
We talked for a good long time.  A good dose of that old spark is still present.  We talked about all sorts of things that aren’t really mine to share here.  But it was a beautiful time.
I like this part of being a pastor.

   Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m taking my own mom to a San Francisco Giants game for her 87th birthday.  She told me that her favorite, Tim Lincecum, will be the starting pitcher, and that she wants to get there early to get a free Giants hat they give to the first 20,000 fans.  How great is my mom?  My oldest daughter, Amanda, will be there too, along with my brother Chris and his girlfriend, and my brother-in-law Mario.  
It will be a terrific day.  
Thanks be to God for this gift of life. 
- Curtis

Friday, May 6, 2011

Knocking in the Rain

"Ugh! I don't have time for this!  WHAM!"
The door slammed in my face as the rain fell gently on my stack of crinkled fliers.
So ended my quickest exchange during about two hours of delivering handouts for Community Connections.   I didn't even get a word in before the door crashed shut!  Yet what's amazing about that all-too-brief exchange is that it was the only door that was not opened graciously.  In fact, when I explained why I was knocking - to invite people to a free dinner where they could get to know neighbors and find out about resources in our community - almost every person was thankful and interested.  Below I've summarized some interactions and how my stereotypes were often uprooted. Today's visits took place in a large, lower-income apartment complex nearby.
  • One older woman opened the door suspiciously, but when I told her the free meal was hosted by our church she said, "Oh, I've always wanted to see what that church looks like inside!"  I replied, "Well, now is your chance!"  She laughed saying, "I think I'll come."  
  • Two young men in their 20's who looked like they could be college athletes looked intently at the flier I gave them, and then said, "Cool.  This looks good.  Thanks for letting us know about this!" They warmly extended their hands to shake.  
  • There was a woman in her early 60's, perhaps, who said she attended our church a couple of times last summer, probably while I was on vacation.  "I've wanted to go back, but I've been taking care of my roommate for several months.  She had cancer." She paused. "I'm sorry" I told her.  "How is she now?"  As tears welled up in her eyes she said, "She died last week." 
  • One young man in his 20's answered the door and listened as I explained how the event would be an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other.  "Really?" he said.  "My roommate and I just moved here and we don't know anyone yet; this would be good."  We chatted some more and he lamented that since moving from Medford to attend PSU he hasn't gotten used to the rain.  Join the club, huh?
  • At another apartment a somewhat familiar looking woman answered.  As she took a long drag on the stub of a cigarette she said, "Hey. I know you.  My boyfriend and I came down to your church at Christmastime and you gave us food."  She was right, but I couldn't remember her name.  She wondered how receptive people were being to my visits.  "Well, it seems like people in apartments are sometimes more interested than people in houses" I told her.  She then asked, "Is that because we are all hungry and poor?"  I think she might have a point.  The economically poor are often more open to building relationships with neighbors because they simply need those connections for mutual support to survive. 
  • Several times I was surprised with how trusting people were.  At one apartment a dog barked manically when I knocked.  I heard a woman yell something.  I couldn't make it out until she yelled it a couple more times.  "Come in!"  This seemed odd.  Come in? I opened the door just a crack but couldn't see anyone yet.  So I said, "Hi. I'm dropping off a flier to invite you to a free meal at the church down the hill."  She called out,  "Okay.  I'm sorry I can't come to the door.  I just broke my leg and I'm laid up in bed."  And yet she was comfortable letting a stranger in her door. 
I confess that I really didn't want to distribute fliers today.  It seemed too dreary to face wary people.  But I was so glad I went out.  It was a good day to connect.  I can't help but wonder how God might use not only our meal, but also our efforts leading up to the May 17 event.  I'm praying that at least 100 people from the community attend.  What God does with it all is what's going to be truly remarkable. 
- Curtis

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lessons from a Waiting Room


     I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Center for Health and Wellness near the Portland waterfront by the spot where the OHSU tram starts.  Our youngest, Malia, is here for an MRI on her jaw to determine what the next step is for treating her TMJ trouble.  Though it’s a big deal for a sixteen year old, it’s an easy thing compared to most of what is happening for people in this room today.
     The sun is beaming in the window and it’s a beautiful morning outside.  Here in the waiting room, things aren't so beautiful, at least for many of those who wait.  There’s a man they just brought in on a stretcher, accompanied by paramedics.  He’s guided quickly into the back rooms.  Others linger in comfortable chairs, watching a large-screen TV that displays pictures of raindrops and butterflies while soothing piano music streams over speakers.  Some are here for blood tests, others for bone scans or MRIs.  A few people come in alone.  Many arrive with a husband or wife who waits while their spouse disappears into the back.  An attractive young woman with long brown hair pouring out from under a beige knit cap has come to the window by me to take a picture of the river with her cell phone camera.  Her tall husband with jet black hair has already been called in for his scan.  When he returns I see that he’s thinner than I first noticed, and his skin is a jaundiced, dark yellow color.   He moves slowly like an old man, though I doubt he’s past 30.  Nurses or techs come to check on people who have to drink foul liquids before their tests.  A grumpy woman tells a nurse that she fears she might vomit if they don't see her soon.  Wheelchairs and walkers are pushed by seniors who wear hats to keep their hairless, chemo-ridden heads warm and covered.
 Names are called.
“Nancy Kinnamon?” 
“Yes.”
“How are you this morning?”
“Fine” says Nancy, though she doesn’t look fine as she maneuvers her wheelchair through the door.
Another door opens.   “Charlie Olney?”  


The flow of people is constant but thins as lunch nears.
Life seems more urgent, more treasured here.  And much more fragile.  Smiles and eye contact come easier.  Snippets of stories and diagnoses are heard.
These are people who think about their lives just now.  
Most aren’t primarily concerned with what other people think; they don’t have time for that.  Their actions and interactions are measured, concise.  There is a different economy of relationships and energy in this place. 
Suddenly a small woman, perhaps in her early 60’s, plops down next to me as I’m typing away on my laptop, and speaks as if we’re old friends.
“Now tell me.  How do you type on that thing?  How does it work?”
“Well, it works just fine.” I reply, playing along in this different world.
“Can you get Facebook on that?”
“Yes.” Inside I chuckle, wondering what her Facebook page looks like.  I turn the screen towards her and show her the Shane Claiborne Facebook page I’ve been reading.
“Is that you?”
“No, he’s got a lot more hair and a much nicer face than mine.” 
She touches my arm and laughs.
“Can you watch TV on that?”
“No, but you can watch movies.”  
“That's what I want to do.  You’re so sweet to show me this.” 
We chat about computers for awhile.  She pulls out her dated cell phone and proclaims, "This is all I have right now."  Her finger hits a button and the battered phone makes a loud chime as she turns it on and shows me the screen.  "See, I still have 999 minutes!"  She laughs.   "Aren't you impressed?"
The door opens and she’s called in for blood work.
A few moments later she bounces out the door again, picking up our conversation as if only a sneeze had interrupted us.
“You see, I can’t afford much, but I want something simple enough for me to learn.  I had brain surgery and my short term memory is shit.”
I laugh.
“How are you now?”  
“Oh, I’m okay.  I come in to get checked every few months to see if everything is fine.  I had the surgery because of the seizures.  I have epilepsy.  They took part of my brain to stop the seizures and I haven’t had one since.  But my memory is shit.” 
I ask her her name as she gets up to go, and she smiles.
“Alison.”
“I'm Curt.  Nice to meet you Alison.  I will pray for you.” 
“Okay.  Thank you so much for talking with me.” 
And then she’s gone.

Bill Hybel's Easter sermon comes to mind as I look at the clouds and river flowing by.  "We live our lives in the dash” he said.  The dash between birth and death.  My “dash” started on November 13, 1960 when I was born.  The ending date hasn’t come yet for me, but it will. And when it does, what’s left in the middle is the dash of this life.
Curtis Buthe
November 13, 1960 - (Date of Death)
What do we do with the “ - ” in the middle that makes up life?  Do we flitter it away with cheap pursuits and distractions?  Do we spend our days like a foolish lottery winner who thinks his winnings can never run out?  Or do we invest what we’ve been given?  Hybels reminded his people that so much of life is determined by what takes place “in an instant.”  The instant when a nurse proclaims, "It's a girl!"  Or a doctor says, “Cancer.”  The instant an employer says, “The job is yours” or a spouse utters, "There's someone else."   All of these instants, and what we do with them, make up our lives.  They comprise our “dash.”
Thinking of these truths today and sitting here with people who know how to treasure each instant causes me to stop and thank God who gives these gifts.  It motivates me to do more with my dash, to make every instant as meaningful as possible.
 Teach us to number our days, 
   that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12
What are you doing with your dash?
- Curtis

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Patience of Job?

You know a Job.  Just about everyone does.  In fact, as you read this post, your Job is already coming to mind.  They experience an inordinate amount of misfortune.  Emergency contacts and insurance company phone numbers are posted on their fridge.  They know which phone buttons to poke to talk to a real person at those insurance companies.  Jobs are regulars on church prayer chains and in sharing times.  Sickness, accidents, financial crises are not occasional visitors, but residents in their homes.

No one knows why some people seem to live Job lives.  If ever you find yourself thinking, "They must have done something to be in that position" then take another look at the book of Job.  It's true that there are consequences to our actions, but suffering isn't, by any means, always a result of some hidden character defect or moral failure.   And yet how often do we fall into that judgment trap?

Job's "friends" (with friends like these...) quickly deduced that Job must have done something to deserve such a rotten turn of events.  Little did they know that it was the Accuser, the satan, who had been given permission by God to "afflict" Job with any terror he wished, short of death.  And that permission presents a whole assortment of problems and questions for those who want to follow a loving God.  What sort of a God does that?  The ending of Job, when health and wealth are restored and he gets a new family, is hardly satisfying either.  I can't imagine a father thinking, "Well this kid's better than the last one anyway.  No harm no foul."  So where does Job leave us?  As a friend recently posited to me, are we simply a part of "...a big experiment and God will decide when he's ready to intervene...?"  


This week's message is the final in our four part series, Where's God When Life is a Mess?  We will review Job's trials and what he learns from them about God, friends, life.  Come to get confused, frustrated, and just maybe, closer to God.  
- Curtis

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do You Matter?

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a good friend who had recently started a new relationship with God.  He grew up with some sporadic attendance in church, but had never embraced the idea that God was that important to his life.  I think that many people share that perspective.  God can be real and yet not that tied into what my life is about.  At least that's what many people think.  

Some rotten family events had happened for my friend - the kind that tempt you to lose faith in people, yourself, and God.   But instead, he started going to a long-forgotten church from his childhood.  I asked him, "Why did you start going to church?"  He told me, "I needed more texture in my life" and by that he meant that he sensed his life was not full of much meaning, only a matter of daily duties and less than worthwhile responsibilities.  And he had found new texture as he connected with God for the first time in his life.  He became connected to something larger than himself.

So I started talking about the "story" God is inviting us to be a part of.  "What does that mean?" he inquired.  He'd never considered the idea before.  I explained that in the bible, people are given the opportunity to join into the unfolding story of God in history - join with him in his plan to restore, recreate, and redeem the world.  We talked about how that's still true today - each person has a role to play in a much larger tale, even if it's a small part or one we don't understand at all in our lifetimes.
He thought about that concept for awhile, and then he said something that surprised me.

"That idea makes me feel insignificant." 


"Really?  Insignificant?  What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, the idea that we're just here to play some minuscule  little part in God's huge plan just seems ... small to me."

I have to confess that that very same idea is part of what's so compelling about following Christ for me.  I already feel small.  It comes naturally to me.  I don't need God for that In fact, the more I work and push and struggle to "make a difference," the more I feel like I'm not making much of a difference at all.  As I push past 50, I wonder if I'll ever achieve something that's really special. Or, even more, if I'll ever be a decent person deep, deep inside.

At just that point, though, there's a whisper from God who says, "Shhh.  Be still, foolish man.  Remember, you're not writing the Story.  I am.  Stick with it. Persevere. Trust.  Listen to my voice and you'll fit in the story.  You do matter, though you may not see how just now."

My sense of insignificance isn't a problem to God.  If there is a larger (redemption) story to tell, it isn't my job to become significant.  That's God's concern.  In fact, it's his promise: Though my part may be minuscule and apparently irrelevant, there is a hidden meaning to my life - and yours.

So perhaps my friend is right.  Finding our place in God's story might just make us feel less important. Maybe that's where God is at last able to plug us into something good.

Jeremiah, who we'll learn about in this week's message, doesn't deal directly with these issues.  But I have a feeling that he wondered if all his suffering and efforts amounted to anything.  We'll learn about his struggles with God this Sunday.
Check out the song by Andrew Peterson - Fool With A Fancy Guitar.



- Curtis

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where’s God When Life is a Mess?

Back in 1989-1990 I spent a year doing what's called a "residency" in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Sutter hospital in Sacramento California.  CPE is training not only for becoming a chaplain, but really for being a pastor and walking with people through all of the traumas and troubles that come with life.  One woman, whose husband had suffered a severe heart attack and was on the verge of death, sticks out in my mind for the way her faith was rocked by her husband's illness.  Mary was a kind woman, in her early 50's, who had always been a dedicated catholic.  One afternoon, we stood in a long hallway that connected hospital wings, and talked.  She spoke of her fear regarding her husband's condition.  I asked her where she thought God was in all that was happening, and she replied something like this:
Mary: I don't know.  I don't suppose I've really thought about God much.  I've prayed, but that's about it.  I think of God as being very distant from all of this.  He's God of course, and he's far beyond all of this.
Me:  Hmm. Do you have questions for God, or are you frustrated or angry with him?  (Though I knew better, I'd often stick my foot in my mouth and "suggest" to people how I thought they might be feeling...)
Mary:  Angry or frustrated with God?  No.  That wouldn't be right.  You should never be angry with God.   
Me:  How do you talk to God, then?  What do you say when you're going through a time like this?  
Mary:  Well, I pray at church.  And my church worships only in Latin, so our prayers are in Latin and everything we do is in Latin. 
Me:  So you understand or speak Latin?  That's wonderful.  
Mary:  Oh no, I don't understand it at all.  
Me:  You don't understand it?  Then how do you know what's going on in worship and what's being said?
Mary:  I don't.  But I think that's how it should be.  It's so different.  I don't think we're supposed to understand it all, do you?  There's just something about being there with the stained glass, the incense, and the chants and prayers all in Latin.  It's so mysterious and holy to me.  That's what worship is.  


We talked more over the coming days.  I shared with Mary how God might be a lot closer than she realized, and how reading the bible in English might be a good way to know God personally.  She was intrigued by the idea, as if she'd never considered it before.  A tiny hunger for something more from her relationship with God seemed to start.  But I don't know if that hunger ever deepened. Her husband went home after a few days, doing better, and that was the last I ever saw of them.

Mary has remained in my mind all of these years because she's stands at the extreme end of how some people view God as so "other," so distant that he is virtually uninvolved in what happens on this earth.  Such faith sees God as One who set the world spinning and then pulled away to attend to other matters while we humans fend for ourselves.  That brand of faith can be nice for those in religious power who broker knowledge of, and communication with, God.  But it has nothing to do with the picture of God we see in scripture.  What the bible reveals is a God who is shockingly involved, even when it seems he is not. A God who keeps the world spinning each day; who is kind and forgiving, but also angered at our destructive and selfish ways.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).  Perhaps strangest of all, God welcomes (or at least tolerates) our angst and aggravation towards him.  


During the next few Sundays, we're going to look at four stories of people in the bible who shared their heartfelt struggles in life with God. Some cried out to him in pain, others pointed a finger at him in frustration or anger.  Some questioned aloud if God had forgotten them altogether, or if he had renegged on his promises.  What they discovered about God in the process will surprise you.  This week we start with the questions of Habakkuk.  Buckle up, it's going to get bumpy.
- Curtis



Friday, January 28, 2011

Blessed Foolishness

2011 is starting off with a bang.  
In many locations around the world, that's a literal bang that's heard.  Earlier this month, dozens of Christians in Egypt were killed by bombings which seem to be part of an escalation of persecution around the world.  Today news from Egypt has been virtually cut off, as protests have escalated and the citizens of the African nation take to the streets in hopes that their government can be transformed.  The protests are spreading like wildfire into neighboring nations like Yemen as well.  (Read today's WSJ article on the spread of unrest) 

Though there's fear of a radical islamist takeover, most political experts believe there's a good chance that a democratic transformation could take place.  A month ago such protests seemed absurd, but with the overthrow of Tunisia's government following a popular uprising, it seems that the climate for change in northern Africa has arrived.  Of course, there's no way of knowing how all of this will play out or what it will mean for the millions of Coptic Christians in Egypt who long for an end to persecution and a day of greater religious freedom.

I'm not certain this has much to do with our passage this week (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) or what the sermon is about - "Blessed Foolishness"  (ie how the good news about Jesus is seen as foolishness in the world).   But at some level I think world events and this week's passage are connected.  There's an enduring human hope that things in this world can be different, that justice will arrive, that people and nations can be free.  With human systems alone, those hopes are surely foolishness.  All the "wisdom of the wise" (vs 19) is foolishness to God. And yet, with God all things are possible - which, ironically, seems like foolishness to "those who are perishing," as Paul says.

Does that mean that we should just sit back and gleefully hope the world goes down the tubes, cheering on the deterioration until at last, when there's no glimmer of hope left, we expect Christ to appear and rescue us all?


Hardly.

God's people, from the time of Abraham until now, have never been called to such fatalism - nor have we ever been "raptured" away from calamity (the Left Behind books were, after all, fiction).  Abraham prayed for his loved ones in Sodom, Jonah labored through the flood, Moses brought his people through slavery and through the Red Sea, Joshua lead people through battles into a new land, the prophets taught them how to endure in times of persecution, telling them that one day "these bones will live" (Ezekiel 37).  Early Christians suffered persecution but spread and grew because of it.  Jesus went to the cross - he endured its shameful death - the ultimate foolish sign of God's great love which redeems and rescues us.  In the wisdom of God, there has always been a day of resurrection and renewal - but it always comes after, or through, suffering and pain.

We would be foolish to believe that human systems will change, for the better,  through human wisdom alone.  The little-remembered fact of the sinful nature teaches us otherwise.  But we be even more foolish to think that God is not, somehow, working all things together for his good purposes - and that in his seemingly foolish wisdom he is at work in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, China - everywhere in our world, with us, to bring about his purposes - and eventually to redeem the world.  This is our foolish hope:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.Revelation 11:15
- Curtis

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Niche











nichenouna niche in the wallrecessalcovenookcrannyhollowbaycavity,cubbyholepigeonhole.2. he found his niche in lifeideal positionplacefunctionvocation,callingm├ętierjob.
One of the unique things about being a pastor is getting to know people well enough to realize how many people don't feel like they've found their calling in life - their niche.  Lots of people have found someplace to work, to serve, and spend their time . . . but most people aren't really sure they've found what they were born to do.  I see people all the time who just don't seem to have found something they can give them selves to passionately.  There's nothing more satisfying than steering someone in a direction that fits them well and where they come alive.What I've noticed is that, oddly, people don't always have a clear idea of what they are good at doing.  We don't recognize our own giftedness.  The person who's a gifted leader doesn't see it, so they stay in the background and become frustrated with disorganization.  The musician who inspires others with their gift and passion, uses that gift too rarely and wonders why they're not satisfied in their hum-drum job.  Perhaps it's a fear of failure or anxiety over being asked to do more than they feel capable of doing.  The result is, too many people end up doing what they're not called to do, and just about everyone feels misplaced.  In Romans 12, Paul reminds us of a concept that isn't well remembered in our individualistic culture: we are all a part of a much larger Body - the Body of Christ.  He writes, "... in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."  What's that?  Each member belongs to all the others?  You've got to be kidding.  I'm my own person!  As Invictus puts it, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul
Well, according to God, you're not. 
In fact, one reason that many of us go through life not sensing that we've found our purpose, our niche, might just be because we haven't stopped to ask God how we fit into his Body.  We're like toes without a foot or eyes without a socket; stumbling and rolling around wondering why we just don't belong.  This week's sermon will conclude our "Leave a Mark, Not a Stain" series, and we'll study how being a "living sacrifice" actually leads to greater meaning and fulfillment in life.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Leave a Mark, Not a Stain

Normally, I don't like to watch a movie more than once, but Ana has probably watched Sense and Sensibility at least ten times.  I'd rather de-lint my sweaters.  There are only a handful of flicks that I can sit through multiple times.  One such movie is  It's a Wonderful Life (watch it free here), with Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.  It ran on free TV around Christmas, as it often does, and the magic of the classic film hit me all over again.  One of my daughters, who happened to sit down with me while it was on, got caught up in in it too.











      What's so powerful about It's a Wonderful Life, of course, is that there's some of George Bailey in all of us.  You may have forgotten, but George is far from perfect.  He struggles with success; he is tempted by money and sexy women; he loses his temper.  In the face of evil Mr. Potter and George's own temptations, he valiantly tries to be a good man.  Yet he fails, or so he thinks. He becomes so distraught after a colossal failure that he wants to kill himself - an edgy proposition for a movie in 1946.  In one pivotal scene, George tells Clarence, a wingless angel sent to help, "I wish I'd never been born" - a very biblical response (see Jeremiah 20:14).

     George gets his wish.  Clarence tweaks time and space, and George re-enters a world that never knew him.  Clarence takes him on a tour through a George Bailey-less town, and all of the people and places that are deficient without his unique contribution.  The final scene is one of those moments which is so syrupy sweet that you can't believe it would work, but it does.  

     We all go through times when we don't see the point of our efforts.  We mistakenly think that our failures loom larger than any small contribution to the world.  But the very odd, virtually un-verifiable Truth we learn from scripture is this:  

You Matter.  
          I Matter. 
               We Matter.  

Our lives matter - to God; to the Story God is writing in HisStory.   It is, indeed, a wonderful life because God takes the trials and errors of our lives and spins them into a Story that is so much greater, larger, and Truer than we realize.  

So....if that's the case...how can we enter into the story in the best way possible?  That's what this little sermon series is all about.  Join us!
- Curtis