Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas, the Day After

Christmas Eve our church was able to have our worship gathering though the weather remained challenging. About a third of our normal number was able to manage driving over our snow and ice covered roads. Afterward my family went out to a late dinner as is our custom. Christmas day we entertained about 14 guests for dinner and had a very good time together.

Now it is the day after. I went to the gym for a workout and all the guys were talking about having something of a hangover from too much food, too much company and too many gifts. What’s the day after like for you?

I closed my Christmas Eve talk with a story that several commented about and deserves repeating. I got the story from Charles Lowery, a regular writer for SBC Today.

Years ago, a young boy learned that the circus was coming to town. He had never seen a circus but had heard about how wonderful they were. He eagerly asked his dad if he could go. Reluctantly, his father informed him that he didn’t think they could afford the one dollar admission. However, he told his son that since the circus was still a few weeks away, if the boy worked hard and earned fifty cents, he would provide the remaining funds.

When the day arrived, the boy had enough money to buy a ticket. With great excitement, he arrived on Main Street to see the lions, tigers, performers, and the clowns march down the street. He had never seen anything so thrilling and was mesmerized by all the wonderful things. As the last clown danced by, the boy handed him his ticket, then headed back home. Later, when his dad arrived home from work, he remarked, “Son, you’re home from the circus a lot earlier than I expected. How was it?” His son described all of the clowns, lions, tigers, and performers that danced by him. He then told his dad about giving his ticket to a clown. All of a sudden a look of sadness fell across the dad’s face and, said, “Son, I have some bad news for you. Today, you missed the circus. You only saw the parade.”

Sadly, Christmas comes and goes and there are many people who miss the main event. It doesn’t have to be so because Christmas is not limited to December 25.

Christmas is Jesus. Christmas is receiving the gift of a Savior who reconciles us with a holy God. Christmas is an experience of worship where we open up the treasure that is our life and we give ourselves to God as gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Christmas is every day. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

It is Christmas Eve morning. Without looking out the window I got up this morning, showered and dressed and prepared to go to my office early. I’ve got a lot of work to do today so that I can take off Thursday and Friday. When I got downstairs and glanced out my living room window I was struck with the reality that my day was not going to go as planned.

Yes, it is snowing…again. On top of the 10 or so inches around the Redmond area the forecast is for another 6 inches. Will we have our Christmas Eve worship gathering tonight? Will family and friends be able to travel and eat Christmas dinner with us Thursday?

I can only remember having one white Christmas in my life. Growing up in Memphis we had a snow storm when I was about 7 or 8 years old.

My reflections--
1. It is beautiful.
2. It is disruptive.
3. What do I do with this?

Is it possible that my task-oriented somewhat driven temperament can sit back a bit and slowly savor the beauty? At the moment I’m choosing to sit in front of my fireplace and look out my living room window while drinking a cup of coffee. Sweet moment.

This afternoon I’ll have to make a decision about our worship gathering. I’m supposed to meet the clean-up crew that is still working to dry out our building from last week’s flood. I was hoping to do a workout during the lunch hour.

I guess I’ll just have to take it as it comes. Kind of like the rest of life, huh?

Have a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Time to Refresh

What a week. Last Sunday we concluded one of our bigger friendship events of the year. A winter storm had us scrambling a bit but we still had a very successful event. Meanwhile a few friends had challenging crises so I spent the first part of the week trying to support and encourage them. At home we put a finish on our wood floors which necessitated moving out of our house for two days. While out of our house the worst snow storm in the past 20 years hit the Seattle area and we had difficulty just getting back home.

Our brand new heat system at our church facility stopped working and when I took the service person into the auditorium I stepped into a pool of water. Yes, the cold temperatures caused a water pipe to burst and half of our auditorium was under a couple of inches of water. Much of our sound equipment also got soaked.

After professional plumbers and clean-up crews got the mess under control, I worked with a handful of volunteers to put our auditorium back together so that we might worship on Sunday, just in case anyone could drive to church as we continued to have snowfall for three days in a row.

Sunday morning the weather was so challenging that the musicians couldn’t come nor could our children’s workers. We held an unplugged worship gathering with me leading the acapella singing of Christmas carols and worship songs and then preaching a sermon to about one-third of our normal Sunday attendance.

Sunday night I reflected on the previous seven days and took note that the “personal tank” was pretty low. I already canceled all my Monday activities and took the day off. I spent about an hour shoveling snow out of my drive and just marveling at the beauty of the snow that had complicated so many things over the past few days.

Over these days I experienced grace, favor with people, guidance and provision. Still, those blessings don’t put an “S” under my shirt. With the insight of input from my wife I could see that I was emotionally getting into the “red zone”. Now I’m looking to lean into God and do some slowing in my pace in order to refresh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It was a surprise to me

Life has been very busy lately and I've not been able to write new posts. Here's a glimpse of what's been going on...;)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's that like?

Within the past few months I have become a member of a different Rotary Club that is closer to where I live. I work in Redmond but live in Sammamish. Though neighboring cities and my commute is only 10 minutes I virtually have no involvement in the community in which I live so I decided to get involved in the Sammamish Rotary Club.

I’m still getting to know people in this club and so a good bit of my conversation still revolves around finding out what people do for work and what kind of family life they have, etc. This morning after breakfast someone said to me, “So you’re a minister. What’s that like?”

I smiled because the question struck me as if I were asked, “So you’re married. What’s that like?” “So you’re a father. What’s that like?” How do you answer such a question? It is basically the same as asking “So about your life, what’s it like being you?”

Being a minister is not really a vocation though the IRS and virtually everyone else treat it that way. It is who I am. It is my life. I never have a moment where I’m not a minister just as I’m never, not a husband or not a father.

Before I share the answer that I gave reflect on the question. “So about your life, what’s it like being you?”

Is it good or bad? Are you glad or sad? Do you long to have anyone else’s life?

If there’s a down side to being you what will you do about that since this is the one and only life that you’ll get to live? Book stores are loaded with self improvement titles. At best those can only “tweak” a life. God promises to “transform” a life. I’ve bet my life on God.

What was my response to “what’s that like?” Truly I was not prepared for the question and so in a split second I dug down deep for an authentic response and up came these words—

“It’s great. It truly has been an adventure. I love getting to do what I do.”

I surprised myself a little with my response because I’ve recently been preoccupied with several difficult circumstances going on in the lives of people that I love and care about. I’ve sought to walk with these friends in helpful ways and so I’ve been a bit burdened lately. As I later got into my car and drove away I reflected more on my spontaneous answer and was grateful that at the core of my being there was a clear realization that I really like the life that I live.

For that I give thanks to my Lord.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

What if you knew the future?

Last night my wife rented the DVD, “Stranger than Fiction”. The 2006 release starring Will Farrell is based upon a fascinating premise. Farrell’s character, Harold Crick, one day wakes up and while brushing his teeth begins hearing inside his head an author narrating his life. Eventually Harold discovers who the famed author is and that all of her best-sellers end with the hero of the story dying.

Harold sets out to find the author and to kindly ask her if she would not kill him in the end of his story. She lets him see the rough draft of the ending where he does in fact die. But, she is so moved by actually meeting one of her characters in real life she indicates that she could be persuaded to rewrite the ending so that Harold doesn’t die.

Harold reads the rough draft, sees how he is going to die, and affirms the author that she has in fact written a very good story. He agrees that he must go ahead and die as written.

In a similar way God is the Author of our lives and our stories. Sometimes we don’t like the way certain chapters are played out and we’re not always sure of where the plot is going. But what if we had the opportunity to meet and talk with the Author? What if He gave us a glimpse of how the story finishes? Would we come to a similar conclusion with Harold that the Author has written a very good story? Would we agree that it is in the best interest of everyone that we proceed as written?

In Harold’s story he discovered that one day while waiting for his bus a child rides by on his bicycle and bumps the curb and falls over into the street into the path of the bus. The author wrote that Harold moved quickly to pick up the child and push him to safety but could not get out of the way of the bus himself. The bus ran Harold over and killed him. Harold agreed that it was best for him to go out of this life and into the next having given himself for the life of another.

In God’s story of our lives we “die daily” so that life is at work in others (2 Corinthians 4:11-12). I agree that the Author has written a good story and I want my life to proceed as written. How about you?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Questions God Asks, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes God asks people questions, not because God doesn’t know something but because we need to know or acknowledge something that’s not clear to us in the moment.

The Book of Genesis tells us that God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” God knew that Cain’s heart was very sick and that he had killed his brother Abel. God wanted Cain to see the state of his own heart.

Does God sometimes ask you questions? He does me. Tuesday I was having a conversation with a friend. My friend shared that he had recently had a moment of prayer, during which God asked him, “In one word what is it all about with you and Me?”

My friend kept talking and sharing what God had said to him during that moment. However, in my mind the moment I heard the question it was as if God had just asked it of me. Do you know the feeling? Is God asking you right now…

“In one word what is it all about with you and Me?”

I hesitate to share more at this point because if God is asking you this question I want you to pause and answer.

In the conversation I was able to recover from my own prayerful exchange with God and hear more of what my friend wanted to share with me. It blessed me to hear the one word my friend used to describe what it was all about with him and God. He believed that God had given him that word.

Likewise, I knew in that moment that God had given me the one word that popped into my thoughts. It was the word “abide”. And like a faucet that had been turned on, that one word led to a pouring out of the Scriptures found in John 15 where Jesus calls us to simply abide in Him.

I walked away from the conversation with my friend knowing that God had gently but profoundly called me into greater closeness with Himself, that I might abide/remain/live in Him.

If you have a different word I’d love to hear it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Questions God Asks, Part 1

Sometime read through the Bible and take note of the questions that God asks people. For example, when Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit and were hiding from God, the Lord approached and called out, “Where are you?”

Because the rest of the Bible reveals to us that God is all-knowing we have to conclude that when God asks us a question it is not so that He can get some information that He doesn’t currently have. Rather, when God asks us a question it is for the purpose of our coming to grips with the answer. In other words, Adam and Eve needed to know and understand that they were hiding from God. The Lord not only knew they were hiding but He also knew where.

A couple of weeks ago I was struggling a bit on a personal level. I had been working hard and wasn’t having the results to show for it. I was a little confused and a lot frustrated. One evening while reading it seemed that God interrupted me. A question popped into my head and it seemed to me that God was in fact asking, “What have I asked you to do?”

With that question I stopped reading and pushed back from my desk. I repeated the question in my thoughts, “What has God asked me to do?” I instantly knew that God was asking me this question because I needed clarification and it was connected to my recent frustrations. I prayed and answered God and it seemed that I got it right and that He affirmed, “Yes, that is what I’ve asked you to do. Your frustrations are about something I haven’t asked of you.”

Wow. In a flash of a moment I had revelation and clarity. My recent focus that wasn’t yielding what I was looking for was not bad. In fact it was/is very good. But it was not exactly what God was looking for from me. In the next second God seemed to finish the thought with, “You’re doing what I’ve asked and I’m pleased.”

In less than a minute I went from troubled to triumphant and none of my circumstances had changed. The only thing that had changed was that I could better see my circumstances from God’s perspective. His question brought that new and correct perspective.

Today God gave me another question. I’m going to share it with you tomorrow. Meanwhile, let God ask you right now, “What have I asked you to do?”

Spend a few minutes prayerfully ruminating and see if God brings a little clarity your way.