Month: June 2013

Sin, Weakness, or Just Untalented?

“Would you say we’re good at being a family here?”

The church president nodded at my question.

“Families know each other, right?”

Again, the nod.

“How many of the confirmation students from about a month back can you name?”

Silence.

“If we want to retain teenagers, we need to build bridges. They need to know we care. That we’re family. It’s easy to give up a place as boring, but it’s harder to give up people. If we’re a Christian family, we have to be their Christian family, too.”

“Hey, it takes two! If they want friends, they need to come to me!”

I nodded. “I expect mature Christians to act with more maturity than teenagers.”

Well, he was unhappy with me.  (more…)

Advertisements

“Let’s change –”

I raised my hands to give the blessing at the end of the service. Then, as I looked out over my congregation to announce the closing hymn, I did something different. “I hope this doesn’t bother anyone, but I’m going to change the last hymn on the fly. Projector, could you please press ‘B’ to blank the screen so we don’t have conflicting words up there? Thank you. Deborah, what hymn number is Amazing Grace?”

I hear a sudden gasp from someone in the congregation — not a gasp of shock, but of sudden, unexpected joy.

The organist calls out from the balcony, “479!”

“All right,” I refocus on the congregation. “Let’s close with hymn 479.”

Oh, and they sang out. They sang out with joy and emotion.

I had chosen a different hymn to end — “Jesus Sinners Does Receive.” That hymn was printed in our bulletin, announced to those who call in to listen to our service, and up on the hymn board. It was typed up and ready to go on the projector. It’s a good hymn. One with a lot of meat. And it certainly conveyed the core thought of the service. All the readings, the sermon, all the other music pointed to that theme.

And yet, Amazing Grace also conveyed that main thought. And we needed to end an emotional service with a hymn that could carry the heart of the congregation. The other hymn? It would carry their minds, sure, but not their hearts. So, it was time for a sudden change.

I have been so blessed. To my knowledge, no one was bothered by that sudden shift. The organist played with gusto. The congregation sang out. And since I do most of the worship planning, I know I didn’t offend anyone on any worship team! So, huge bravo to my congregation, this group of Christians, for being able to swerve.

And not only swerve, but swerve with joy.  (more…)

Is being a pastor making me a worse husband, or a better one?

I come home. I walk past my children, to my Bride. She’s in the kitchen, finishing up supper. She sees the look on my face. I embrace her, and she holds me. I don’t sob, but it comes close. There are tears. From the dining room, the children call out, asking if we can come in so we can all pray and they can eat. My Bride answers, “Pray by yourselves!” She continues to hold me.

Finally, we separate. I whisper through tears, “Think on this. Tell me how I can love you better.”

My Bride hasn’t gotten back to me quite yet; that was a few hours ago. I suspect she will, though; she’s amazing about things like that.

Why was I so shaken? I just returned from some marital counseling that has not been going well. I see the wounds that are so very deep. I see obliviousness in the wounding partner. And though my focus is on them, when they leave, all I can think is, “Is this me?”

I see the filled plate on the empty table my Bride prepared for me… and I was late to supper. Again. I hear my children asking me to play, and me telling them, “I’m tired. I’m sorry. Not right now.” I smell the burned pizza, because I was on the phone with a member and didn’t get to the oven on time. I see all the times I’ve failed her because I’ve been pursuing ministry… or because I’ve been selfish.

This morning, she laid our youngest down in the crib. He began crying a few minutes later. She asked me to take care of him… and I didn’t. My sinful nature declares, “You tried but you were too tired!” The truth is I was simply selfish. I wanted sleep, and I believed the lie that I needed it more than her.

The truth is, I am a horrible, sinful, selfish husband. My Bride deserves so much better than what I am.  (more…)

“Pastor, are you OK?”

It’s hard to distribute Communion when you can’t see because of tears in your eyes.

She came up for Communion. She came to participate in the Lord’s Supper, the body and the blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine. She had lingered at the outskirts of the church. She had been away. She had been hurt. I spent a lot of time with her, comforting, listening, simply being with her. She had returned… but had not joined our family at the Lord’s Table. For months now she’s lingered, watching. I told her she was welcome. I invited her up.

Today. I turned around from retrieving the platter of bread. And there she was, in line with the other communicants. And I cried.

This wasn’t bawling. This wasn’t sudden unseemly behavior. This was simply sudden tears of joy.

A member of our Christian  family was finally coming back to feast with us.

I actually had a hard time getting the words out. “Take and eat. This is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same body he gave to death for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.” I heard my voice quiver. I don’t know if she knew how awesome it was giving her Communion.

My assistant asked if I was alright. I nodded with a smile.

How awesome it is to give forgiveness! How awesome it is to be used to show others — so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good!

I needed today. I needed to gather together with family around our Father. It’s been another hard week. I feared today; the sermon was very personal and not everyone enjoys that kind of sermon. After the service, as I hung up my robe, a woman came and said, “Pastor, you made me cry again today. And that’s not a bad thing!” And she burst into tears. We held each other for a long moment.

A man, after the service: “Pastor, you got me with that sermon.”

Another: “Pastor, that’s what I needed to hear today.”

I needed to hear this encouragement from my members. I needed to know that God was actually using me in their lives. And today, seeing a woman receive Communion for the first time in years… hearing that God was using me in others’ lives… and later on, visiting on a hospital call and sharing Jesus with a woman who’d never even heard of him…

Yeah. I’m not ok. I’m tearing up again.

I’m not ok. And that’s ok. I’m a broken man. I such a stupid, silly, useless man… and that God would use me? That he would do such amazing things through me? That I could accomplish his wonders as he works through his Word in my mouth, as he dwells in wafers my hands distribute, that he would create faith through something I would do?

If you’ve read here any amount of time, you’ve heard this sentiment from me before. And I apologize if it’s a repeat. But… it still just amazes me.

I’m not ok… and God uses me anyway.