Sunday, February 23, 2020

"Confessions" Confessions

I just finished reading Augustine's Confessions. It took me 35 years to finish. No kidding. I bought the book at a used book store in 1985 at the recommendation of a mentor, Mark Corts. I may have started reading the book right away, but I'm sure it was over my head. Much of it is still over my head.

So I have some confessions to make about this book. A classic, it has endured for 1600 years, being called "The Greatest Spiritual Autobiography of All Time." Clearly a worthwhile read.

I confess, first of all, that it took me approximately forever to finish it.
There were many parts of it that I really liked and understood. He expresses his heart with all his doubts and questions. Some parts were repetitive and tedious.

I confess that I wonder how anybody had the time, centuries ago, to write so voluminously.

I confess that I must be lazy. I like to write, but can barely hack out a blog post occasionally--with electronic word processing. Augustine, sure he had fewer distractions, but he had primitive writing tools. Maybe he had a scribe, but even dictating his works would be a major feat.

I confess that finishing Confessions became more about checking it off my list than really gaining wisdom from it. I did gain some wisdom, but mainly I just wanted to get it off my partially-read list.

I confess that I remember very little of it, especially the parts that I read decades ago. But it still counts. I did read it, whether I remember it or not.

I confess great admiration for Augustine. He boldly expressed his struggles, doubts, ideas, and insights. He left a great legacy of Christian thought, and he has shaped Western thinking more than we realize.

I confess that I wish I were more dedicated to writing. Nothing endures like writing. Through writing we can communicate directly into the ages. I confess that I hope that I have something worth communicating to someone else, today or tomorrow.

But I doubt that I'll ever have a species of grass named after me.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Twenty Amazing Years

As our church celebrates its twentieth anniversary this Sunday, nostalgia pulls at my heart.
So much has changed in 20 years.

My heart is softer. I cry a lot more these days.
My children have grown and married, fully embracing adulthood.
Stokesdale is growing. There are many more homes and neighborhoods in our community.
While people are more digitally connected, many feel more relationally isolated.
The good news about Jesus still hits us right where we live, bringing us wholeness and well-being.
More people are more anxious. The good news is really good news for the anxious.
Anxiety plagues younger and younger people.
Technology has grown exponentially, and it is changing our lives more than we expected.
There are lots of new buildings, new roads, new businesses, new schools, new parks and trails.
Stokesdale has more than doubled its number of stoplights (from 2 to 5).
I count four new shopping centers in the NW Guilford area.
We moved to new house in Stokesdale.
Little pine trees along the road now tower over fields and highways.
Stokesdale now has a new town hall and town park.
Churches in the community work together more closely than ever.
Genuine love in the church lets people experience God's presence.
Worship music breaks through all the clutter of a hurried life, bringing us into Jesus' presence.
I really need reading glasses now.
I don't feel like I have to fix the world any more.
I believe that Jesus transforms us when we surrender to him.
I can trust him more now to use imperfect people (like me and you) for profound purposes.
I can now let go of a lot of attitudes and preferences that I thought defined me.
God is building his kingdom, and it's fun to step back and marvel at all he has done.