If you were a child during the last part of the 20th century or you had children, then you are more than familiar with the name Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, the star of the PBS television show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” With his cardigan sweater and his comfortable sneakers, Mr. Rogers regaled us children and adults with his puppets and music and excursions into the Land of Make Believe. But most of all, Mr. Rogers drew us into his neighborhood by receiving us “just the way we are.”
In the concluding verses of each New Testament epistle penned by the Apostle Paul he states his desire to revisit the churches he helped establish so that they might be inspired by his presence and encouraged by his teaching. Some churches Paul was able to get back to; others he did not. But the letters remind us of how much those churches meant to Paul, especially during his latter years when he found himself imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel.
Part of the heritage of Mountain Brook Baptist Church is the privilege God has given us to have been a training ground for some of the finest young ministers in Baptist life. Because our church is an example of strong faithfulness and spiritual health we have groomed many a young minister for effective ministry in congregations near and far. Without a doubt, creating a “culture of call” not only refers to those young persons who have grown up in MBBC; it also encompasses those whom we have invited to join us for a season, who having fulfilled God’s call to our church have moved on to other places to advance God’s Kingdom purposes in our world.
One of the best indications of emotional and spiritual health is our desire to make a difference in life. Regardless of one’s state or occupation, a life of significance is a most worthy ambition. Unfortunately, living in such fashion requires a person to take some risks. No one can achieve anything without moving out of his comfort zone or stretching herself in uncomfortable ways.
I wore flip flops and shorts to church last Sunday, something I haven’t done since leading youth retreats back in college. Judy and I attended church at the beach, a small, enthusiastic congregation formed some 20 years ago to offer a witness to the beach crowd that descends on Navarre every vacation season.
My sabbatical leave begins this coming Sunday. As I’ve written earlier, I see this opportunity as a “time out, time off, and time away.” My hope is that I’ll return more revigorated for the work that we have before us at MBBC. But while I’m away there are some things I’d ask you to do.
You may have seen the news this past week regarding the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that a lawsuit filed against Apple can proceed in which IPhone users may seek remedy for what they consider to be inflated prices charged them for apps they download. I haven’t followed the arguments that carefully, because I can’t think of any apps I have downloaded on my smartphone that have cost me anything. All of the apps on my phone are free ones. Call me a cheapskate, but I think it would be silly for me to purchase anything that I can get for free.
My sabbatical begins in a couple of weeks and I make no apologies for looking forward to the “time out, time off, and time away.” It’s almost as if my soul senses the approaching leave and I realize how I am more spiritually spent than I ever knew.
Back in the 1980’s Larry Walters was a security guard for a Hollywood animation studio that produced children’s television series. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but had been turned down because of poor eyesight. His dream, however, would not go away. So, one day in the summer of 1982, Larry decided to take matters into his own hands. He went down to a military surplus store and bought 45 eight-foot weather balloons, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and had friends strap him and the balloons to a lawn chair in his backyard in Southern California. His intent was to float over the Mojave Desert at a relatively safe altitude, using a pellet gun he would take along with him to burst some of the balloons in order to land.
Have you ever set your hopes on something only to see them crumble into a bazillion pieces? Of course, you have. There’s not a soul among us who hasn’t found himself or herself in such a pitiable condition at one time or another.