Month: September 2014

A Psalm for the Frazzled

Every morning, in addition to other devotional and Bible reading, I make sure to soak in a Psalm. It’s the dessert to my reading, a moment to simply bask in what God says. I love the Psalms; they speak with such honesty, with no makeup or masks. It’s a great way to end the time “filling up” before I have to start pouring out.

But not this morning.

This morning was a little nuts. We were hosting a women’s missionary society rally, and we were more than a touch busy. I set the kids up with breakfast and ran nextdoor to practice my devotion at the church. Then change the church sign to welcome the visitors. Then set up the sanctuary. Are the doors unlocked? No? Why in heaven’s name not?!

On a normal Sunday morning, all the wheels are greased. Everything gets done. We have people that take care of “little things” like unlocking doors. This morning none of that happened.

Nothing exploded, no one burst into flames, and the sky didn’t turn to licorice as a result of our controlled chaos. Yet, by a half-hour before rally start time, I was exhausted from all the running around.

And I never read my Psalm.

I went home to double-check on the kids (my Bride had stationed herself in the church kitchen). Yes, they were in fact still breathing. Miracles do happen!

And I took the moment to pick up my Psalm.

Psalm 134
A song of ascents.
1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.
3 May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

God just has that wicked sense of humor. “Yes, I know you’re busy. I know you’re busy serving my people. I know you’re flustered and winded trying to do your best for my chosen nation. but you know what? … you praise, too. You ministered by night last night. Yes, I saw as you got the text about the emergency room visit from one of your members. And I heard your prayers. And answered them. Now, praise. Take a moment in your office, right there, and praise. Look, you can’t even use the excuse it’s a long Psalm. I made sure it was short and to the point, because that’s what you needed this morning. I timed your devotions so this Psalm would land on this day for you. Now, my son… simply take a moment and praise.”

And I did. How could I not? How could I not praise the God who has carried me through the impossible week, through a year of depression, through a congregation on the end of closure, through all my sin… when I bring nothing to the table but failure, and he carries me anyway? Forgives me anyway?

And then he lines up that i get this Psalm on this day?

Yeah. I spent some time right there, eyes closed, in praise of the God who gives such good gifts to servants who don’t deserve them.

Have I mentioned that I love the Psalms?

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And then he told me to leave.

And that’s when my member told me that he thought I should leave this congregation.

Wait. That’s not where we start this. Let me back up.

A member of my congregation runs most of our evangelism events. We’ve just wrapped up two fairly large efforts, and we were debriefing. I asked what went well, and among other things he mentioned, “There were plenty of prospects there, and our members made sure to talk with all of them. My son,” who is not a member, “said that he really enjoyed talking to the people of the church, and that’s really important.”

I agreed. “Yeah. That’s one of the purposes of the church – not just to connect to Jesus, but to be encouraged by other people here on earth. If you’re only connected to the pastor, that’s a bad thing. After all, someday I’m leaving. I don’t know when – it might be six months, it might be sixty years, but eventually I’m leaving!”

And he nodded. “Yeah, pastor. You’re too good a preacher to be at this small church. You need to be someplace bigger.” (more…)

So Much Depends

It started when she told me she was planning to live in sin. I chose a lighter touch. “Before you make a choice, ask, ‘What does God have to say about relationships?’” It wasn’t the time to dig deep and pronounce all the fullness of God’s Law. She also knew what God said, even if she had to be reminded. This wasn’t a choice made out of ignorance.

But by that evening… I was done. It began: that slip into… into what? It’s hard to describe. That darkness that says, “It’s all going to hell.” That silent malevolence that creeps into the heart and insists that the end has already come; I should just recognize it and give up.

That gloom settled on me the next morning. I wasn’t in tears; why should I bother? I set to work on my sermon with a mechanical blah.

I considered: a long week ahead of me. Every day, I needed to be with people. There was very little time of aloneness. I know me; I need solitude. I don’t recharge by being with people. I cover up that fact well. In fact, I do enjoy being around people… but it’s draining. I recharge alone.

And this week presented no recharge time. Last week presented no recharge time. That’s what was wrong: I lacked solitude.

That knowledge slackened the darkness that brooded over me. It certainly didn’t hold it at bay, but knowing the black for what it is certainly lessens its menace.

With a heavy heart I set out for my afternoon visits. I steeled myself, knowing that I would be pouring out of an empty well. Yes, I would share God’s Word as appropriate. Yes, I would listen and love, but I knew that as the week went on the strain would become so great. (more…)

Dance.

There’s a different version of Footprints. You know the poem, often sitting in a dusty frame in well-meaning homes. Man looks over his life, sees that there was only one set of footprints in the sand in his roughest moments, and Jesus answers, “That is when I carried you.”

But there’s another version, and it ends like this:

Again, this goes on for a long time. But then something awful happens. The second set of footprints is back. And this time it seems even worse. Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Deep gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints. You’re amazed and shocked.

The Lord smiles, then laughs. “You didn’t know?”

He says. “That was when we danced.”

I want to dance. (more…)