Thursday, July 30, 2009

Parking Lot Encouragement

That's what Wednesdays feel like for Bunny and me.

It is the day when (insert cliche like "the rubber meets the road" here) and we have to have everything prepared not only for Wednesday, but roughed in for Sunday worship too. We make sure the powerpoint and music are ready, gather the materials for that night's excitement with the girls, and finish prep for Bible study. Oh and Bunny teaches piano that afternoon too.

Most weeks we come home after and collapse since it is past 8PM and eat a late supper (provided by the great folks at New Hope), and do mindless TV, facebook farming or read until bed. It's a draining day, but a good day.

Last night right before we left New Hope, I was walking around the parking lot saying hi to people who had come to pick up their kids. Wednesday nights are tough for some parents to make it to, or aren't their sort of thing. So it's great to connect with them when I can. And last night there was such a great Spirit at work among the folks as they left that the parking lot was the place to be.

One child came over and had me walk across the parking lot talk to her mom about a Korean variation on pizza.

Another came by and gave me a fist bump.

Then one gave me a sideways hug and said "I love you brother David."

And then people wonder why we love this place so much?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So Where ARE You?

Does God seem to be hiding from you? Would you respond "yes" immediately if someone asked you if your faith was growing?

Every now and then, we all need to stop and take an inventory of what we have become. One of the best classes I have ever taken was a Spiritual Formation class with Dr. Robin Jumper at the New Orleans Seminary extension in Graceville. He helped us, probed and prodded us,and really kind of got in our face about what we, pastors and future pastors were doing to measure how we were growing in our faith.

We read several books on Spiritual Formation that semester, and my least favorite is actually the one I'm posting an excerpt from today. Donald Whitney is so dry (IMO) that I have trouble staying focused on his work. That's a shame because he really has solid content. Problem could very well be on my end.:)

Donald Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, provides ten questions to help evaluate spiritual health:

1. Do you thirst for God?
2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
3. Are you more loving?
4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6. Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

Might be worth spending some time over, friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Is Catch It All Up Day

No, my home office does not look like this, thank you very much. Though the expression on the guy's face does seem familiar in a Monday sort of way. Considering I lost two days on the up and back to Macon, I'm really in good shape for this week. Especially considering Bunny and I will be away on a church-mandated :) vacation next weekend. :) Wonder if we will just decide to stay on vacation....

Nah. I love this job!

Working on upcoming events - Beach Baptism celebration, Sunday Night @ the Movies, National Night Out Blockparty(s), Fall Small Group materials, Children's Sunday School restructure.

Reading Tim Keller's "The Reason For God" today. Need some good fiction to balance the heavy reading coming.

Good day yesterday. Worship was great, some other things not so great but because we have some amazingly giving people, holes got filled with love.

Even had one of the best deacon's meetings I've ever been in.

Glory be to God for all He is doing at New Hope.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Home and away

Bunny and I made the trip up to Macon Friday and came back late this evening. Since last September we have driven over 20,000 miles. Given we have not gone on vacation, and typically a tank of gas lasts us 3 weeks, I'm going to say that trips to Macon make up the bulk of that.

When Bunny's Mom came down with the illness that eventually claimed her, we started making the trips. Sometimes they were emergency got to get there right now whatever day it is dashes. Most were go up Thursday evening, get there before 1AM Friday, then hit the ground running later that morning. I lost track of how many times we went, but toward the end it went to every other week, and then every week. Since Bunny teaches piano during the week, she can't phone it in - she has to be there. And since I'm a pastor, my Sunday's are tied up. So I switched my off day to Friday, and Bunny cleared hers too. And we went - all through the fall, into the winter, and to the cusp of Spring. We were totally focused on Dot and willing to do whatever it took to help her get well and help Curtis cope. She was THE priority.

But we lost her.

And the aftershocks in Bunny's heart continue. Bunny slept almost all the way back home tonight. I think she was just emotionally spent. The trip was almost as tough as the one we took to be at the funeral.

This weekend was at her father's request - to clean out Dot's closet. To give you an idea of how hard this is for Curtis (Bunny's Dad) - he changed closets rather than be faced with Dot's clothes every day - without Dot. My mother in love was a beautiful woman with the taste to match. Bunny carefully gathered, then separated and placed the clothes in black plastic bags - crying as she did so, because over and over and over again she remembered what her mother looked like in those clothes.

On Dot, they were beautiful.

But now they are just clothes. Nice clothes. Certainly still can be used. They will look good on the right person.

Yet Bunny and her dad KNOW what those clothes could look like.

I'm sitting here thinking that when Bunny, Curtis and I read and think about heaven and its beauty, we're as limited as the folks who will receive those clothes.

Dot on the other hand, KNOWS what heaven looks like.

And my thanks to God for that will be the last thought before I fall asleep tonight.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good Grief

It's been 18 years now since my Mother passed from this life to the next. On most days, the only way you can tell that I ever knew her is by the lasting impressions her fierce love made on me. That love wasn't altogether perfect, BTW. Any Mother (and later Grandmother) that would taunt their child (and grandchild) when she absolutely destroyed them playing Checkers, has some issues. But I think I can speak for my family when I say that we know beyond a doubt that we were loved by her.

Today would have been her 89th birthday.

And I miss her.

It's not as bad as it was early on, when the sting of the immense loss was still so fresh. Those days of picking up the phone to call her and then realizing that it would be fruitless are long gone. Now my grief has a softer tone to it. Songs bring her immediately to memory. Bunny's piano recital last weekend was filled with songs from the 30's and 40's that my Mother used to sing at the drop of a hat. Every now and then we come across a picture of her, and I'm transported back in time. It's seldom I go to McDonalds, see a Milky Way candy bar, or refill a coffee cup I used before that I don't think of her little quirks and thank God that I had her as long as I did. Tears well up sometimes, like now, but far more often I feel a deep joy at having been loved by her, and having loved her.

And I do thank God upon every remembrance of her.

She'd like that a lot.

I think that's a good form of grief.

So Happy Birthday Mom. Save me a seat in the choir. I'm not in a hurry, though. :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where I Was Today

Days off are good.

A day off with the love of your life at the beach...


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I Can Has Cheeseburger?

Tonight in Bible Study I'm going to do the first of what I hope to be several "Table Talks". The idea is to be more interactive and help people learn to learn rather than imparting info.

The first?

Levitical Laws - In force over Christians today or not?

As you can tell by the picture I chose, there's a lot riding on this. :)

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Amazing! Incredible! Awesome Sunday! - next week

It's Monday, and this is when we internet savvy pastors get all reflective about yesterday's gathering. Typically you will see words like "amazing!" or "incredible" tossed out pretty liberally. And there are times when those words definitely apply.

But if I can be blunt, there are other times when the worship was "okay."

I should remind everyone that we see what's going on from a very limited perspective. We know that if God's Word is proclaimed and Christ is lifted up, that there is spiritual value to what happened. But again, from the human point of view there are times when it just doesn't click.

Yesterday seemed to be one of those days. Challenges in the congregational music (although the "special" from Bethany and Kira was sweet), mediocre sermon, smaller crowd.


And yet there was one moment I will remember the rest of my life.

It happened during the announcements.

Our Child2Child and Niara girls were telling the church about this month's effort - to provide clean water to kids who have none. They used a simple skit to illustrate. Each girl counted to 5. Three girls, 15 seconds. The point was that while they were counting out the fifteen seconds, a child died as a result of not having clean water.

Sarah Hickman was supposed to do the wrapup, explaining what the 15 seconds meant. She began well, and then as she read her information, it became real to her and she was overcome with grief. She left the stage in tears.

I will never forget seeing the Spirit of God work in Sarah's heart.

It was awesome.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

As We Celebrate 223 Years of Freedom

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, by certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – Declaration of Independence

Bunny and I just finished watching the excellent HBO mini-series on John Adams. His life spanned the very beginning of this nation - the run up to Revolution, the struggle for our freedom from tyranny, the young nation finding its place in this world. I highly recommend you watch the series.

It reminded us both again of the uniqueness of America.

Despite what some might have us believe, America is an exceptional nation. Those lines I quoted from the Declaration of Independence" should establish that fact once and for all. We were born in war, but we were established through faith - faith in the providence of Almighty God. Those brave men and women who made the decision to "pledge our lives, fortunes, and our sacred honor" knew that by doing so they made their lives forfeit should their cause fail.

But they believed in the rightness of their cause specifically because they believed it was a God given one. They had faith in God.

“Were my soul trembling on the wing of eternity, were this hand freezing to death, were my voice choking with the last struggle, I would still, with the last gasp of that voice, implore you to remember the truth: God has given America to be free.”
– Patrick Henry

So as we go out this weekend, flying our beautiful flag, enjoying fireworks and backyard BBQ, we should celebrate everything that God has given us then, and gather to give praise and honor to, as Thomas Jefferson wrote "the Author of Liberty."

May God continue to bless America.