The Unsavory Art of “Blackmail”

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Can I use the church basement to babysit?”

It was a prospect. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was, “No!” I didn’t respond that way, though. I asked for time to think about it. Realized I really didn’t have a good reason to say no, as long as no one else was using the space and they followed some rules. So I texted back, “I’ll need to lay down some rules. We can talk tonight at church.”

I won’t be at church.”

OK. Any reason?”

I’m mad at you and I’m never coming to church again.” (more…)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Llama

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Don’t send the police to my house.”

And so began the slide today. For once it didn’t strike at the hand of a member. For once it didn’t come from a leader of the church displeased with something God is blessing, or displeased that God isn’t blessing the way they want, or some such nonsense. Instead, it came from a prospect that, well, if you read this blog this past Monday, you can probably already guess at.

We had texted through the week, though I’d not seen anyone from the family. And then this text today.

And the slide began.

We texted back and forth, and it wasn’t… it wasn’t what I wanted. I asked to meet face to face. They refused. Only texting.

Sometimes texting is a real blessing, and other times it is a mask to hide behind.

And it got to the point that… sigh.

Sometimes depression just plain sucks. Actually, most of the time depression just plain sucks. There aren’t many times I can imagine it being awesome.

So as the afternoon edged into this evening and I got ready for evening church, I was thinking about a church I’d heard of just today that would soon be calling a new pastor. Boy, it would be nice to start over, wouldn’t it? To take all the lessons I’ve learned the hard way the last five years and chuck all the bad and start over?

My daughter dogged me as I set up the room for evening worship. She was happy, and her joy kept me from sliding perilously over the edge into pure glum.

But the texting conversation continued. And kept pulling down, down down. Family is angry. And apparently the dam let loose today. It’s my fault. I embarrassed them. I alerted the whole world to all their problems. They never want to see me again and refuse to ever talk to another church.

And then it was time for worship.

Well… it helped. It gave voice to my sorrow. We got to talk some about depression, and how God comes to us in our depression. And I got to say something I often need to hear:

When we face depression, our emotions tell us that it will never, ever get better. Those emotions are wrong. Because there will be a last tear. There will be a last bullet. There will be a last time a family is shattered, a last time there is shame. And after that… there is joy. Because Jesus faced all our pain for us. Our darkness will end, because he faced darkness for us. And what comes after is only light.”

So by the time worship ended… I was ok. Not great, but ok.

But we had two guests in worship tonight. Two teen girls I’d arranged (along with other teens of both genders, but these are the two that came tonight) – two teen girls I’d arranged to come, participate in worship and then evaluate afterward over ice cream – my treat. And so we went out to DQ after everyone else had departed from the church.

And they chattered away. And told me about things they liked, things that didn’t work, suggestions…

…and it was fun. Just to listen to them talk. These are two young women I know and serve through our teen center. They laughed and giggled and told secrets as I ate my mini Blizzard. And they talked about seeing llamas today at a petting zoo.

On the way home, I played them a song by one of my favorite bands: “Let Me Be Your Llama.” And by the time I dropped them off, both of them were belting it out at the top of their lungs.

And by the time I got home… yeah. Happy.

So in my ministry, I pissed a family off. For doing the right thing. And I have suffered for it – if not “in fact,” then in my heart. I may never see them again. I pray more opportunity to serve them with the Gospel, but… well, that’s not up to me.

And then God does this. He finds two young women that delighted in tonight’s service. “I like that you asked for opinions, so we didn’t have to worry about being wrong. And then you used that to teach us about God. I like that you joke around, but then you use it to tell us about Jesus.”

And then singing about llamas at the top of their lungs.

He allows me to feel pain. He allows me to feel the cross. He allows me to suffer for serving him. And then he brings me joy from another source entirely.

Father, keep going. You told me that I must bear the cross. Teach it to me. But Lord, please, bring me your joy as well. Teach me to love those you give me, even in pain. Show me how much you love me, and grow me in trusting you. Because you know what you’re doing, even and especially as you teach me to bear the cross. Make more and ever more your servant.

All Things New

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I will not sob on the way home.

I will not sob on the way home.

I’ve done it again. And I can’t go into details here, which is why you won’t hear much of the story as to why this is happening, but the end result is the same:

I’ve destroyed another family.

No.

No, that is not true. That family has destroyed itself. I only reported it.

I told. (more…)

To Wear the Faces of the Dead

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His mother died.

He’s not a member yet, but he’s been taking membership classes. He’s a young but eager Christian. I’m supposed to officiate at his wedding, and would have, except… he got caught violating parole. I believe him when he says he didn’t realize he was doing it. I withhold judgment on whether or not he should have known what he was doing was violating.

He’s been held in jail, and his courtdate is set. And then… last night, his mother died.

I know this man. I know his heart. This will rip him apart. It’s going to break him that this happened while he was on the inside. That he can’t be with his family. That he can’t mourn with them, but is stuck in a cell.

I got the news last night not long before bed. I started planning what I had to do to see him today.

And then I went to his mom’s funeral. (more…)

A Sea Brighter than the Sky

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The waters were restless this morning. Breakers roared in, and I felt their spray even fifteen feet above as I ran along the cliffs over the Lake. Out on the horizon and over the Lake, dark blue clouds blotted out the sky. And yet, here and there, you could see the sun poking through.

And the Lake responded.

If I looked up to the sky, I saw a dark, foreboding scene. But as I looked down, I observed a bright, shining lake that left me dazzled. The sight took my breath away: the waters reflected an unseen sun under a dark sky.

Christian, this is you.

You have been called to be light. You have been called to reflect your Savior, the one who redeemed you, the one who bought you out of darkness at the price of his own life. The skies are dark here. Oh, they are so, so dark. I know. Trust me. They overwhelm so easily, and we give in to despair.

Look up. Do you see? The Son has not abandoned you. Look down. Do you see the proclamation in Word? He knew the deeps you keep secret from the world around you. He knew the secrets you have not told, for fear that those around you would reject you. And do you see? He has loved you anyway. He has purchased and won you, not with silver or gold, but with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.

Oh, even under the dark sky, Christian, reflect him. Be brighter than those around you. Surprise and delight. Don’t fade into the darkness. This is not who your Savior made you to be.

But you cannot do it, dear one. It is impossible for you – unless.

Unless you are reflecting him. Unless you see the Son and focus on him and his love for you. Unless you grow to gasp at his goodness and revel in his brightness. Unless you grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ.

You have been called to be a sea brighter than the sky, but never brighter than the sun. Oh, that can never be. But Christian: reflect that light you have been shown. Shine bright.

A Weekend with the Family

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Usually not a happy sight.

Of course I’ll take you.

Grandpa had open heart surgery. He’s a church member; I’d already been planing to take the one hour one-way trip to the hospital to see him. His daughter and grandchildren don’t have a car; they want to see grandpa, too. So up we went.

And on the way, not only did I get to spend time with my members… I got to know them better, and minister to them in their need. And then minister to grandpa in his need. And then minister to a sad and shaken family on the way back. Stepdad in the family was taught growing up that “Real men don’t cry.” I got to teach him otherwise. If it’s ok for Jesus to cry, it’s ok for you.

It is good to be the family of God. (more…)

Ah, Vacation!

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Arizona. Vacation. At last. A chance to sleep in with nothing telling us to hurry up.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” FWOMP!

There’s a child in our bed, and he’s not ours. “EEEEEEEeeeeEEEEeeeeEEEEEEE!” He’s excited to see us. Oh, look. He’s in our bags now. He found some sunscreen. SPURT! Now there’s sunscreen all over the carpet. And the bed. And him.

Our hostess appears, apologizing, grabs her son and vamooses from the room.

And this is how I met their youngest. Through our week of vacation, I got to see him at his best. Oh, such a kid. I don’t envy his parents. This child is incredibly lovable and loving. I got more hugs out of him in one week than I do out of my kids for a month. He loves being held. He loves making noise. He trusts. If I took his hand, he had no questions. He would grab mine and ask for whatever he desired at that moment in that incredible way of his. He loves exploring and emptying everything and, well, being naked.

Their youngest child has autism.

Their child is someone you quickly either love or want to run away from. (Sometimes both, his parents assure me.)

I saw so much of me in this young boy.

On the ride back from Tombstone, he melted down. Too much stimulus. Get out of the car. Now. “OOOOOOOOOOO!” he wailed from the back of the van.

His mother reassured him verbally. Not much longer Ten miles. It’s ok. Not much longer.

OOOOOOOOOOOO!” he mourned.

His mother reached back a hand. It’s ok. The end is coming. We’re almost there.

OOOOOOOOOOOO!” he insisted.

And as he broke down, his mother unbuckled, shuffled to the back, and held him. And he calmed down.

And look. There I am.

Father, I’m done. I can’t take this anymore. Take it away from me.

And God is good. He’s taking me somewhere.

Oh, but I can’t take it anymore. It hurts. There’s too much going on all around. Please. Make it stop. My people don’t get it. I have to work so hard. I’m always depressed. I want it all to end. Just stop, please. Make it stop. And I wail. And I mourn.

But it’s not time to stop yet. We’re not to where God has chosen in his goodness for me to be yet.

But God comforts this child who calls out and can take no more. He reminds me of his love. He doesn’t end the ride… but he points me to how he’s taken care of me in the past. How he loved me in my shame. How he died for me, while I was yet a sinner. And though I have farther to go… it is better, because he is here.

This child that hosted us… he would run from one thing to another to another so fast. And he’d get into trouble – say, spraying sunscreen all over – and move on, no shame, no connection in what he’d done.

And look at me. I move from sin to “be busy” to sin to praising God so quickly. Look! I praise in church, glorying in Jesus loving me! And look! SPURT! Sunscreen all over! That’s me.

I’m God’s autist?

No. I’m pretty neuro-typical, from all I can tell. But that little boy and I have some things very much in common.

We are sinners.

Saved by grace.

Rescued by Jesus.

Still having sinful natures.

But now we have put on Christ.

I don’t envy his parents. This boy is lovable. Yes, after just a week of knowing him, I can say I love him. I can also say I don’t mind not being around the noise or that style of wake-ups. But… he helped me see me, maybe a little bit, as God sees me.

Someone he loves, despite the many times I prove I shouldn’t get that love.

This child didn’t “do” anything for me. He didn’t let me sleep in. He demanded attention. Demanded love. Demanded I let him outside.

And yet… and yet, I could not say no to loving him. And yes, I’m convinced he loved me in return.

God loved me. I have done nothing but demand from him. What could I possibly give him that he didn’t give me first?

And yet… he loves. He has not stopped himself from loving.

Thank you, Father.

Oh, look! Sunscreen! SPURT!

When the Preacher Sleeps Through His Own Sermon…

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This is what everyone loves seeing! 

Canceled.

The flight home was canceled.

Gracious and generous friends had provided for my family to go visit them in Arizona. My only condition: I couldn’t take an additional Sunday away from worship. So, leave on Monday, fly back Friday night on a redeye, so even if it’s late, I would be back in time for worship. I arranged a pulpit swap so that I could repeat a sermon. (And now putting those two thoughts so close together, I realize that I wanted to be home for worship… and then wasn’t home for worship. I’m a genius.) Part of the pulpit swap was preaching at 5:30 Saturday evening, but we were due to get back at eight in the morning. Even getting in late, I should be able to get in a nap before preaching, right?

And then they canceled the flight.

About a hundred passengers crowded around the service desk on Friday night, staring in disbelief. This woman was a maid of honor flying to the wedding. This couple was going on their first vacation in a decade, to an all-expense-included resort. Five days.

And then they told us: Busy holiday weekend. Every other plane is booked solid. Soonest we can get you out is Monday.

Yes, they had to call airport security. Yes, I was nearly witness to/ involved in/ willing to start a riot.

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Molotov cocktails weren’t served on ANY airline, surprisingly enough.

I’m going to name names: Spirit. Spirit canceled two flights on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and sent notices out five minutes before they recommend that you be at the airport. We had no problem with them on the way down (several annoyances, but no problems). And then, as they start dealing with the mob… well, maybe it was the employee fed up with someone canceling a flight and her having to deal with it, but she was not gracious to anyone. “I found a flight for you on Monday. It’s that or we refund your ticket. Those are your choices. No, I won’t try to find anything else.” No understanding given, just… well, I wasn’t pleased.

They tackled each passenger individually. International fliers were given priority (and this is a thing I understand and support). An hour and a half after we were supposed to take off, I got tired of waiting and went up to the counter and found a woman. I explained, “I’m a pastor. I need to get home for worship. I’m supposed to be there at 5:30 tomorrow.”

And this woman, oh, God bless her. Her face broke. “I understand. I’m a Christian. I’m going to get you home.”

And she did. About a half-hour later she called me. Flying home on a different airline later that morning – takeoff at seven, home by one. Her airline lost more than two grand on the swap.

By that time, it wasn’t worth driving back to our hosts and then back to the airport. We said goodbye, and my Bride and children bedded down. I stayed awake to watch over them (and also, I couldn’t sleep on the airport floor). Made it to the airplane on time. And… I passed out at last.

For two hours.

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My neck isn’t designed for this.

Plane touched down. We got home by four. No time for a nap – time to change, review sermon (probably a good idea, huh?) and get to the church.

By then I’d slept two hours over the previous thirty-eight. If this were college, I’d have no problem. But now… oh, exhaustion. I got dizzy simply standing. Every time I sat down, I blacked out briefly. How could I possibly have enough energy to preach a sermon? How could I stay conscious? I honestly feared passing out in the middle.

And God’s Word was preached. He fed his people.

And I’m not the one who did it. Or, rather, I can take no credit. None. I had no energy. How could I? My mind was gone. And yet, God used me. He gets all the credit, and I get none. He took this sorry, exhausted shell of a man and used him to encourage his people.

This morning: three church services. And, man, did I not want to wake up. And once again, God carried me through. Once again, I can take no credit. I got an email from a person I don’t usually hear from thanking me for the sermon, calling out one specific part. Somehow God took me at my most exhausted and blessed his people.

Because it’s not about the messenger. It’s about the message. It’s about law and gospel, sin and grace. It’s about God’s love for us at our weakest, at our most evil, at our most shameful… and being broken on our behalf, taking the wrath of God, and giving us his righteousness. And that message, whether spoken from lips wide awake or lips heavy with sleep, that message gives life.

I got home and fell onto the bed. My Bride, oh, how good she is! She brought lunch up to me because I didn’t have the strength to go down the stairs. I slept… and then, it was time for our evening service here.

I had prepared this before leaving and had reviewed. I knew I could teach it, but man. Sleep sounded so good.

There are not many weeks when I am happy that no one shows up. (I don’t think it’s ever happened to me, but low attendance can be an instant depressive episode.) But today… no one showed. And the computer broke, meaning we couldn’t stream. I had only my family there.

We did a family devotion – deeper than I would usually go with just us, sure, but…

…I am content. God has given me rest. I’m not happy about the decisions others have made. I’m not pleased that others are sick or have chosen to say that other things are more important than praising God.

But I’m not upset that I now have the opportunity to rest.

Over the next week or so, I hope to type up some observations from my vacation. God used it well to encourage me and give me rest… even if the ending was exhausting! For now, I am content. God has used me, even as a shell, to bless his people. It is good to be used by an expert craftsman.

And now, I’m going to go sleep some.

Now you know, Lee.

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As pastors have for millenia, we gathered around coffee and sugared sweets and gabbed. It was almost time for the pastor’s conference to start, and we all wanted to catch up with old friends.

My phone rang. Not out of the question for 8:30 in the morning, but when I glanced at the caller ID I stepped away from my conversation quickly. These people wouldn’t be calling me at this time unless it was serious.

Hello, this is Pastor,” I answered.

I expected to hear the shaky voice of an older woman or the raspy voice of an old man. Instead, a young man greeted me. “Is this pastor?” Strong voice. Sure voice. Not a voice that belonged in that house.

This is,” I answered.

I’m officer –” I don’t remember his name. When I heard the younger voice, I expected it to be one of their sons or grandsons. Not an officer. I tuned back in: “– wanted to call you, but she couldn’t get her fingers to dial. Here she is.”

And the phone transferred and I heard that dear woman’s voice. “Pastor. Lee’s, um. Lee’s dead.”

I left the conference. I gathered my things and headed out to the car. It would take at least a half hour of driving to get back to their home.

It’s not safe driving through the rain when you’re weeping.

Oh, Lee. Oh, Lee!

This man, even as his body betrayed him, even as his physical form withered, was more of a man than any five others combined I’ve known. His scratchy, raspy voice always smiled, though. I’d come to see him, and he’d always be in his chair, oxygen in, waiting with a smile and a question. “Pastor, how is Gideon?” or “Pastor, where is this in the Bible?” or “Pastor, when will Jesus come?”

And every time I visited, he told me: “Pastor, I always pray, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ And I always do it in two ways. First, I want more people to know him. The children, Pastor. The children. They need to know Jesus. I hurt for them so much.” And he’d stop and wheeze for breath, near tears. “And second, I pray that he comes for me soon. I want to. Can you imagine it, Pastor? Can you imagine feeling Jesus’s arms around you?” And his eyes shone with unspilled tears.

Oh, this man. He knew Jesus’s love so well, and he longed for others to know it. He shared that love. He prayed for others so vigilantly. He asked after others. And yes. He loved.

As I left his home, he would wave me over to his recliner and embrace me. “I love you, Pastor,” he’d wheeze.

I love you, Lee,” I answered.

I told him that last week.

He told me that last week.

And now.

Finally. Finally, I’ve reached their home. I run up the driveway and pass the medical tech on her way out. And there, there is his wife.

His widow.

And we move toward each other and embrace. And we sob. We weep.

This is the family of God. It is not drinking coffee and gabbing on Sunday morning – at least, not that alone. It is not smiles and nods and pats on the back. It is weeping and mourning and sobbing together.

Because death stings. Oh, the sting of death will be removed, yes, it will, but today we are broken together by the curse. Oh, we hurt so much. We miss him.

We hold each other for a long time.

And then we step back and sit and talk. And talk.

I ask, “How did it happen?”

He went last night,” she tells me. “I didn’t call anyone until this morning. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to leave him.”

Oh. Oh, my sister. Oh, how I grieve for you and with you. Oh.

And we talk. I ask her to tell stories she’s told a thousand times before, but needs to tell again in her grief. I tell her stories of how Lee longed to know the feel of Jesus’s arms around him. Of how Lee struggled with guilt but clung to Christ. Of how yes, Christ took his guilt and there is no question: Lee knows what it is to breathe again without oxygen. He knows what it is to dance again, though it has been years. He knows what it is to feast again, though he’d not eaten anything in so long.

We talk for hours. And we weep together. And we laugh together. I hold her hand. We pray.

And Lee. Now you know.

Now you know your Savior’s love fully. Now you feel his embrace. Now you can touch the nail-scarred hands and weep together with the God who loved you even in those sins that haunted you.

I miss you, Lee. I love you.

Lee, you wanted to experience His love. You wanted to know those arms.

And now you know, Lee.

Now you know.

The Long Sunday

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It begins in a peaceful sanctuary. Gotta be the start of a good day, right? 

6:30am

I’m in the sanctuary, practicing a devotion for a council meeting and then the sermon for the day. Both go well, but long. It’ll have to do. I finish with enough time to practice playing the hymn for our evening service and even print out the music for it.

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It starts with Jesus. It’s all simple after this, right? 

7:30am

Council meeting. It begins with a devotion.

Yesterday I went to an evangelism seminar, and the keynote speaker said something that was really cool. I want to share it with you.

Men, especially, need a purpose. We need a project of some kind. Rebuilding a car. Building a deck. Writing a novel. We need a purpose, or we just fall to pieces. And Jesus gave us that purpose.

Easter night. The tomb has been empty all day, but the disciples are still terrified. They’re hiding in their room. And then Jesus shows up, even though the doors are locked. And he showed them his hands. Look! They look like they’ve been staked to a cross! And then he gives them – and us – a mission: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” And I look at the men in the room. One of the councilmen is missing. Not surprising, unfortunately. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Jesus’s mission is now our mission. What did the Father send Jesus to do?”

And one of the councilmen says it, word for word, exactly what I was looking for: “He came to save the world.”

Exactly.” I smile. “Exactly! The Father sent Jesus to save the world. And now that’s our mission. Jesus sends us to save the world. It’s not a little thing. It’s not a hobby. This is major.”

And we go on to explore Jesus accomplished his mission: He left his comfortable home in heaven to come to those who needed saving, he served, he shared his Father’s Word, he was all about what his Father said and not about what he wanted, he suffered, he died. And we will follow that same method.

Oh, I am excited. This is such awesome stuff, and I’m thrilled to share it. Not because I’m awesome, but because Jesus is awesome.

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My face at council. 

8:00am

Council meeting continues.

We’ve covered some good basic things. We need to set up guidelines for building usage so I can just say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to those who want to use the space. We’re going to support a VBS put on by some sister congregations, in large part because we simply can’t do our own.

A councilman voices an idea about how to use one of our rooms. Not a bad idea in itself, but there are practical matters to consider. It would require a fairly large outlay of money, and given the nature of the idea, a new monthly budget item that would be fairly major. Councilman’s willing to foot the bill for it.

I ask, “How does this connect people to Jesus?”

We’ll figure it out later,” he says.

No. Does not work. Our mission is to share Jesus. Our mission is to save the world. You don’t have an idea to commit the church to something and say, “We’ll figure out the Jesus part out later.”

He is not pleased.

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Sorry, dude. Not gonna change some things. Actually, no. Not sorry. 

8:30am

The last council member shows up an hour late.

We’re talking about evangelism. He asks about a certain visitor who had expressed interest in joining. He asks for her by name – by a name that I don’t recognize. I thought she had a different name. I tell about how she had been very interested in coming to a Bible study, and we’d just started a new membership class. She didn’t show up, but she had been excited. She wasn’t in worship last week.

We shouldn’t make people take a class. It scares people away,” he scowls. “If you told me that, I’d go to another church that didn’t make me take a class.”

I take a breathe. “We love God’s Word enough to teach it to others.”

He sulks.

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Despite my frustration with some, others eagerly await the Gospel. 

9:00am

Out of council.

Seriously. These are the men that lead our congregation? A man who wants us to get people in instead of teaching the Bible? A man who doesn’t care if we connect people with Jesus, as long as we get them in the building? Really?

Is this my people? Am I wasting my time here? Is this a waste of service?

Stow it. I need to focus.

Time to greet people at worship. Finally. Of course, fifteen minutes before worship, and not a lot of people are here yet. Most people come five minutes before worship.

The woman that the councilman asked about? That he thinks shouldn’t take a class? She’s here. I grab her. We talk. I double-check her name. Lo and behold, I had her name right.

(In other words – I cared enough about her to learn her name. The councilman didn’t care enough to get her name right. Looks like [surprise! ] he was only interested in getting another body in church.)

She asks me, “Can I be baptized? I was never baptized.”

Oh.

Oh, yes.

We arrange to get together this week so we can talk about baptism, what it is, and prepare. Because yes. I will baptize you.

Love is not getting butts in the seats. Love is sharing Jesus.

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It’s not me that’s awesome. It’s Jesus. 

9:18am

Worship starts a few minutes late because I don’t get away from the woman who wants to be baptized. Because, really, you don’t want to walk away from a moment like that.

And worship.

Oh, to stand in the grace of God. To pronounce the simple truth that we are broken. That we are sinners. That we are evil. That we are dead.

And Jesus loves us.

That he died for us. That he took on our evil. He took on our sin. He took on our brokenness.

I told the congregation I was excited today. I think it came through. The council meeting is out of my head. I don’t care about it now. The concern will come back later, after most of the day is done. But for now, ti simply stand in the presence of God and share it… oh!

To give the body and blood in with and under the bread and wine, to give the people forgiveness they can taste and see… oh, there is nothing like it. To lead others to exclaim praise that yes, I am forgiven, that yes, I am God’s child!

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I love our members, but they’re really not as photogenic as stock photography people. 

10:35am

Worship went a little long. That pastor, he just doesn’t shut up about Jesus, does he?

And I come downstairs to our fellowship area and discover… God’s people greeting visitors and loving each other. Oh, it is good. This is not the group that I saw even two months ago who ignored visitors.

I spend time talking to a few people. Asking if I can call this week, if I can visit. I long to be with my people. I stop by visitors. Arrange to meet. Talk.

Oh. It is so good.

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There was no math in Bible study, thankfully. 

11:05am

We start Bible study almost a half hour late.

Silly pastor doesn’t shut up when he’s conversing with God’s people. It’s almost like he enjoys this.

And for Bible study, my Bride and I share what we learned at the evangelism seminar. And we’re excited. I’m not sure how much got through to others, but we’re excited.

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You’ll never guess where I devoured cowmeat. Well, something kinda close to it, anyway. Kinda.

11:45am

Driving a regular visitor home after Bible study. Grabbing fast food with my family for lunch. Because I have an appointment to get to.

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I’m the worst pastor ever. I don’t like coffee. I just order lots of chai lattes.

1:00pm

I’m in a coffee shop with four other adults gathered around a table. They belong to a sister congregation, but have been visiting weekly for just over a month. They want to transfer membership. I want to get to know them better. The coffee shop is a good place to meet.

We talk for two and a half hours.

These four brothers and sisters share their lives with me. I get to know where they work. How they met each other. Their life stories. And I delight. One of them is in tears, sharing herself in ways she never has outside of her family.

And I love these brothers and sisters. I’m not saying that in a jock way, but in the way that happens when you know someone, when you learn some of their darkness, and share God’s grace with them. And they bond as I share God’s grace. We talk about what membership in this family means.

The time flies by. And in the end… three of them want to transfer membership.

Oh. One of them isn’t a member anywhere. She was baptized a couple years ago, but never went through instruction.

She’s going to come tomorrow to the membership class. She’s excited. She wants to know if there’s a women’s Bible study she can come to. We don’t have one now, but there’s a few women interested. We start brainstorming right there different ways to set something up and get it going.

God is so, so good.

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No one named Glinda has ever done this to me.

3:45pm

Home!

Just in time to start prepping for the evening service!

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“I have a dad?!”

5:00pm

Supper with the family. I get to spend some time with family.

I have kids! Who knew?

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On the road again… just can’t wait to get on the road again…

5:30pm

I leave to pick up people for our evening service.

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6:10pm

Five minutes before worship starts, I discover that for some reason the speakers have stopped working.

Wonderful.

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There is no joke here. Simple truth.

6:15pm

Evening worship. It’s… it’s so empty. For some reason, a lot of the regulars aren’t there tonight.

God’s Word is still preached.

God’s people are shown their sin. God’s people are shown their Savior. God’s people rejoice in forgiveness. And even with so few… it’s good.

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Is it sleep time yet?

8:00pm

I’m home from dropping everyone off. Time to put things away. Time to write down what needs to be recorded.

I’m so tired.

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8:30pm

Nearly fourteen hours straight of ministry time. Most of it people time. I am drained.

It is so good.

Parts of today were terrible. I hate that the worst parts of my day had to do with my council simply not getting that it’s about sharing Jesus. I hate that immaturity. I hate that my day began with that. And it hurts that they don’t value the one who gave his life for them.

God knew that would happen this morning. He knew that one councilmember wouldn’t care about connecting people to Jesus, and that another would rather get butts in the seats, even to the detriment of the people there. And he knew how much I would gnash my teeth.

And so he sent the others.

He sent the lamb who wants to be baptized.

He sent the family that wants to serve.

He sent the members who encouraged me.

This day has been long and so good, and it had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with Jesus. He gets all the credit.

He comforts a sinner like me. Not just with forgiveness, but with love.

Lord, thank you for this long, long day. Forgive me my anger, and direct me with a fierce love of both you and those who don’t acknowledge you. Make it my passion more and more to reach out. And Lord… thank you. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for the blessing of sharing your good, good Word.

And Lord… if it’s your will… please make tomorrow shorter, but no less good!