God laughs

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.

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It’s a Good Sort of “Oh Kill Me I’m So Tired”

We ran out of food. Twice.

Oh, this is good food…

Saturday my congregation hosted a “neighborhood cookout.” It’s been in the planning stages in one form or another since April. At the beginning, it was a block party. Then it morphed into a festival. We called it a Grand Re-Opening to celebrate that yes, this congregation is still here. Finally, we settled on “neighborhood cookout.”

We wanted to invite the neighborhood to an event on our grounds. We wanted something to show the community that yes, we are not only open, but we are welcoming and fun. We wanted to do something where we could meet the people around us. We wanted to do something that would generate names and addresses of people who have had some sort of positive interaction with the church. We wanted to do something big. (more…)

Things I Never Thought I’d Say:

“Tonight is a great night for evangelism!”

So, last night, I was returning from a visit, and it was just a great night. The temperature was comfortable, the sun at the right angle, and all I wanted to do was keep doing evangelism visits.

You know, I think I may have to rename the blog “God Laughs” if he keeps this up. He grows us all, doesn’t he?

God Still Laughs

–Written at 9:34 pm on May 12, 2012, after getting off the phone with the district president –

I received a one year call. That means that the church that I served was only guaranteed to have a pastor for one year. That means I was only guaranteed a parish (as much as any pastor can be guaranteed) for one year. That means that at the end of the year, given the circumstances, I may be asked to move to a different parish in a different city, state, time zone, or nation.

This decision to give a one-year call was based on a number of factors. The church is small; could it support a full-time pastor financially? The church has a history of problems; was it better to pull the plug? The church has a history of breaking called workers; would it do so again? Better to allow the new pastor – me – an out in case it appeared that history would repeat itself.

It’s been a year. I arrived in the heat of July. I survived the mild winter (constantly complaining about the lack of snow). I have forded my first Advent as well as my first Lent as a pastor.

And God laughed the entire way. (more…)

God Laughs

We passed out three thousand invitations, hoping to open our doors to the community. We used an event that media was already pushing as a springboard to bring people in. We prepared a service that used many of God’s people’s gifts, allowing many to praise in many ways. And in the end, did it work? Did visitors come?

Yes and no. (more…)