Thursday, Sara and I were driving up Fairfax. A line of people, many in camping chairs, ran down an entire block and around the corner. I didn’t see a movie marquee or an Apple logo, so I asked Sara what she made of the line. She pointed to a storefront: “It’s Supreme.” She explained Supreme is a clothing line, featuring expensive sweatshirts, jackets, and skateboards. Thursday was a “drop day,” when new merchandise becomes available for the first time. People were lined up around the block for $150 jackets.
Wednesday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the devoted man of God who founded the Franciscan Order. He is also remembered for his love of all of God’s creation, particularly animals, and for the prayer he wrote, asking that God make him an instrument of His peace.
This was a hectic week. So many sectors of my life, personal and professional, pulled me in so many different directions that I felt scattered, strained, and unable to meet any of my obligations on the level I desired. As I tried to impose calm and order on myself, I realized I was making a fundamental error.
We have always sat near the front of the church, on the left, because from the time she was a pre-schooler, Sara wanted to be near the praise band. We all love being close enough to see the expressions of love and joy on the faces of the vocalists and musicians. They use their talents to move and lift us all, and they do it purely to give glory to God. I told Tom Gerhold recently, “Watching the praise team is seeing the Gospel in motion.”
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about Thelma Simmons this week. While Heaven is certainly happier (and probably better run) now, her absence from our congregation is palpable.
At the end of a week when the world has literally been rocked by disaster, as fire and storm continue to wreak their havoc, what a privilege it is to come together in peace, united and reassured by our love for the Lord and for each other, and to remember the mission of our congregation.
I had a different insert for Labor Day.
Then Hurricane Harvey came.
As I watched the reports, I gave thanks for the police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, and National Guardsmen who literally came to the rescue. I marveled at the civilians who did everything they could to help their neighbors – using boats, rafts, even paddle and boogie boards to get strangers to safety.
This Sunday, I am worshiping at Azusa Pacific University, attending a service to commission Sean and his fellow freshmen. This is that time of year when so many of our young people go off to new adventures or return to their universities or – like Sara – begin their post-graduation careers.
Tomorrow, our world will experience a total solar eclipse. Even though Los Angeles is not in the path of the totality, it is sure to be a dynamic and memorable event, a thrilling reminder of the intricacy of God’s creation.
We’re still cleaning at our house. I continue to be pleased by the calming order that exists in our kitchen cupboards, but I’ve been studying them from a different angle. After last week’s insert, several of you shared with me your craving for spiritual order. I was surprised to realize how many of us work to make sure our cupboard doors sparkle, rather than putting that work into cleaning up the chaotic souls within. And because we present a sparkling door to the world, everyone assumes there is harmony and order inside.
Sara and I tackled the kitchen cupboards this week and did a deep cleaning – pulling everything out, scrubbing everything down, and doing a lot of sorting and rearranging. As Sara threw away several jars of stale herbs, she smiled at me and announced, “This is really cathartic.” I agreed. When we were done, it felt wonderful to reassemble the now clean and tidy shelves.
A friend recently posted on Facebook about Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles’ critical need for blood. Sean saw the post and said he wanted to donate. Sara agreed. I can’t donate because of a previous illness, but I was delighted to take them to CHLA. On the way home, I told them, “Bless you. You just saved someone’s life.”
A friend and I were discussing parenting woes. She asked, only semi-rhetorically, if there was anything more painful than having your child lie to you. I understood exactly what she meant – that sharp blend of anger, betrayal, and disappointment when someone you love so unconditionally chooses to lie rather than face the consequences of their actions. It’s a hard lesson to teach and a tough one to experience.
I had a doctor’s appointment this week, to get some test results. I tried not to be nervous as I waited, but it was tough. He came in with a smile – which helped – and then told me he had “weird news” for me. “Good weird news,” he hastily elaborated. A condition for which he has been monitoring me for many years, one of the driving forces behind the latest round of tests, had disappeared. He explained this is a condition that does not reverse itself; we’ve been working over the years just to halt its progress. But now, it’s gone. He’s not sure how, he’s not sure why, but he’s sure it’s gone.
I thought a lot about heroes this week. On the Fourth, I thought of my grandmother’s ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War – and my other three grandparents who bravely arrived as immigrants in the early 1900s. I also went downtown with Sara and Sean for Anime Expo; I was delighted and intrigued by the attendees dressed as superheroes from anime, comics, and film. By Friday, as I sat in the theatre, awaiting Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was wondering how hard it is to be a superhero.
Stuck in traffic on Friday, as so many people sought an early beginning to the Fourth of July weekend, I was listening to the radio. One of the commentators mentioned that this is an ideal weekend to consider all the work that still remains, two hundred and forty-one years after the first Independence Day, “in order to form a more perfect union” (as stated in the preamble of the Constitution).
This week, a number of friends posted concerns on social media, ranging from quotidian frustrations to grave challenges. In each case, someone replied, “God’s got this.”
If, in preparation for today, you’ve been in a card store, you might be persuaded that being a father is about either drinking beer or playing golf. It’s a challenge to find a humorous Father’s Day card that doesn’t refer to one of those activities. But even among the serious cards, there is little mention of the greatest gift a father can give his children – a strong relationship with the Lord.