That Christmas Spirit

December 11, 2014

I’m having a difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s not really a “bah-humbug” sort of funk. It doesn’t stem from an ungrateful heart. It doesn’t come from a place of self-focus. At least I don’t think it does. I will pray about that.

I feel quite heavy-hearted this Advent. Sure, the tree is up and I get to watch the lights twinkle in the eyes of my son. And yes, we are wrapping gifts and planning the big family meal. Yes, we are moving through all the plans and rituals of this season, but for me it feels other-worldly. I can drum up a strange sort of happy if I work hard, but this year, I am not humming carols in my quiet moments.

Instead it’s a heavy time for me. I realize sometimes that my throat feels so tight as I plod through a child’s recovery. I realize that hopes of my future are harder to hold when a life calling grows stronger with age, but the doors open and close and I have yet to walk through. That there are moments when prayer even seems too hard. When the anxiety that we so often pray away breaches the levees destructive and big. At night in the dark I realize the truth of the proverb when it somberly declares: hope deferred makes the heart sick. 

Heart sick.  Read the rest of this entry »

Back in late January, I had just returned from a conference for pastors that happens every winter. It had been an interested trip. I don’t experience many things the same way I used to, so each of these conferences, each of my meetings, each of my interactions are markedly different for me than they were years ago. They each require much more reflection for me to work through with God all that he is speaking to me in this new way of encountering things. This is good, but sometimes very hard.

All in all, this particular trip was good. I have learned to go to these things with low expectations and few plans. God has been good at guiding each step, each conversation, each interaction that happens often without any preparation or warning. They have truly become opportunities to walk close to Jesus among my peers and simply trust that he will have me bump into the people and spaces I need to see. It is not always easy as I want to have everything planned out and prepared for, but it is much more fulfilling when I let myself be weak to those desires and find his strength in them.

But one pattern I have noticed in my life, (and perhaps it is true for you too, dear reader) is that often when I have had these moments, these days, these encounters with walking along the side of my Jesus, immediately afterward I experience something that seeks to shove me off-center. Typically immediately after trying to be open to God’s leading, I find myself faced with the voice of the Liar, the Enemy, the one who tries to destroy any semblance of divine peace I have been gracious given by God along away.

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The Limp

April 25, 2014

I walk with a slight limp. Last year I snapped a major tendon in my calf, which then led to a second injury- this time to my knee- which will one day give me an ultimatum: “It’s surgery or walking- pick one!” Because of these injuries, I move with a slight limp. It’s not noticeable to everyone and some days it is worse than others. In fact, I can sometimes even disguise my limp for a period of time, working hard to not show a gait that is somewhat off. But eventually it shows, especially going up and down the stairs. Compensation only takes you so far. So I walk with a slight limp.

Recently I led a group discussion on the life of Jacob from the Scripture. This sneaky, stealing, deceiving person who before he was born held the blessing of God. Clearly God’s blessing is not attached to our behavior or Jacob would have been lost not so long after he was born. The word the group I was leading came up with was, “swarmy.” Jacob was swarmy. And he was. Kinda a class A jerk. It is ironic that for years this swarminess goes on, even as Jacob’s life is punctuated by God’s clear favor and blessing despite it all. Then near the end of his saga in Genesis, we find him at the river’s edge, alone, at night. He was preparing to meet his brother- one of the people he had cheated. One of the folks who wanted Jacob dead. It has been over 20 years since he had last seen his brother and the Scripture makes clear that Jacob’s a little nervous about the whole encounter.

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Bread for the Journey

March 8, 2014

When I was a little kid, our church had Sunday night worship as well as the morning service. It was fewer in number and we all sat in the strangely shaped sanctuary in the middle section singing hymns, praying prayers, and listening to someone preach. Occasionally we would also celebrate Communion (also called Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper), which made a rare appearance in that church when I was young. I have since grown up and would celebrate Communion daily if I found a faith community that did so.

On one such rare occasion of celebrating Communion, my mother had us sat next to her, the four of us off to her left, with my little brother two seats down from me on the pew. Far enough to be out of his mother’s reach should he decide to do something. The brass plates were held up in prayer and then, as was customary, passed from person to person down the pew to the end, each participant taking a pinch of bread to hold for the moment when we all ate together. The server came to our pew, his plate full of a fresh loaf, untouched, unpinched. He slid the plate to my older brother on the end, who pinched off a piece, and who then turned to my little brother with the loaf in front of it. My little brother’s eyes grew wide as he saw the large loaf of bread and with the quickness that only a child of that age has, scooped the entire bread up off the plate and prepared to dig into it with a luster I have never seen since. The server dove at him from one end and my mother dove from the other end to try to rescue the bread from his tiny hands before it was unfit for anyone else. My younger sister and I laughed hysterically. Read the rest of this entry »

Is This All There Is?

February 11, 2014

I sat at the round table having massive flashbacks to so many other meetings held around round tables, week after week after week, the same papers in front of me, the same running of a meeting, the same sorts of conversations. They weren’t unpleasant flashbacks; they were just… flashbacks. When pastoring, meetings are part of the game. It’s just how it is. We pastors shrug and accept it- some of us may even love it- and we sit around tables, looking at agendas, participating in the back and forth of what has been referred to as “the business of the church.”

Except that we are wrong on that label.

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