The words battered at me.

“No. You need to focus on our own members, not on reaching out.”

“We won’t risk anything for outreach.”

“We need to keep the church open long enough to bury the little old ladies. Then we can close.”

“We’ve tried outreach. Nothing works.”

“That doesn’t count because they don’t give any money.”

For about a week straight, my church leadership effectively told me my job here was to babysit the members until we closed the church. I was to risk nothing – not even time – on outreach, unless it was a sure thing. And as long as it didn’t mean I wasn’t babysitting our members. I was told that our purpose here was to stay open until we buried a requisite number of people, and then close the doors.

And I seethed. I chewed on the comments. I gnawed on them. As I awoke, I dwelled on them and thought of what I should have said, what I could have said, how I wanted to blow up at them, how I wanted to remove them from leadership, how it was time to give up, how it was time to go to war.

To the point that Thursday I met with my pastor, a man who shepherds a nearby congregation. My plan was to request another congregation. If my leadership’s plan was to just stay open long enough to close, they don’t need me for that. If all they want is a babysitter, let’s get them a babysitter.

I said it to some of my friends: “I’m done.” (more…)

Not for Free

The rain drizzles down as I make my way there. I pray, “Lord, you love me, and I don’t deserve it. Let me love him the way you love him.”

I’ve visited this man nearly monthly since I met him this summer. He has not endeared himself to me. He rambles. His political ideas are all he seems to have, and they seem rather askew to me. He keeps pushing me to see 90 Minutes in Heaven, which I have zero interest in viewing. He smokes. A lot.

This is a man that Jesus died for.

And so I go, yet again, to invite him to our Christmas Eve service. I have a little postcard with the time of our service, as well as an invitation to join us for cookies before the service. An easy invite. It’s Christmas!

He talks a little bit about The Passion of the Christ. He can’t believe how much Jesus suffered. Oh, a softball. Now I get to talk about why Jesus suffered! And I share Law: This is what Jesus suffered, because this is what you deserve. I share the Gospel: This is what Jesus suffered, because he loves you.

By the time I got home, I seethed with anger. I don’t remember the exact flow of the conversation. I remember snippets, though. (more…)

Father Tim of Mitford, Spider-man, and Me

The two clearly have a lot to do with each other.

The Mitford books by Jan Karon are a delight to read; they focus on Father Tim, a priest in a small town, as he goes about his daily business. Yeah, I know, sounds terribly boring, but Karon writes with such charm and wit that not only did I laugh through most of the series, but it has the first book I can remember literally bringing me to tears.

In one of the books (forgive me; I remember not which one) Father Tim suffers a time of “deflating.” He just has a hard time getting things done. And several times during that portion of the book, he feels better. Life moves on! And then he deflates again. I remember being very frustrated as I read that portion. I wanted him to get better. Something to happen to force him to wake up. Dude, snap out of it!

Really, it’s a lot like my Spider-Man comics from the 90’s. Something terrible would happen to Peter Parker, he’d get mopey, and by the end of the story arc he’d be better and ready to face the day again — until the next issue. Dude! Snap out of it!

In my last post, I said I was feeling better.

Well, today was Monday. Guess what? I guess I’m like Father Tim. Or like Spider-Man. I logged onto my congregation’s Facebook account to post, and saw there on my screen a post from a congregation member announcing involvement and joy in sin.


Now I have to deal with this.

I’d been looking forward to starting a new week fresh. Ready to study for the sermon, meet several congregation members in need, and bring God’s Word to his people. But this derailed that nice beginning. And my thoughts went there.

It went better than it would have a few weeks ago. I’m learning to set matters aside until it’s time to deal with them. I’m also learning what I’ve told people in the past: It’s my job to share God’s Word; it’s not my job to make sure it sticks. If this person refuses to listen to the Law, that’s on them, not on me.

But that doesn’t mean I’m exactly cheery. So, I’m now like my mopey protagonists: I thought it was good, but now it’s not.

Stupid sin. Just as soon as God comes in and fixes things, sinful nature comes in and knocks it down.

It’s not as bad as it was for me. But it’s also not as good, either.

So, back to learning. Back to the forge. And the forge is never comfortable for the blade… but in the end, the blade is stronger for it. Forge me, O Father. Forge me, and teach me to trust.