Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Our paper had titled his column "Some Christians ignore Jesus' teachings". Whoa, that jumped off the page for me. Thinks I, "Someone's been following me around, and wrote about me!" I confess. I don't always do what Jesus would do or say what Jesus would say.
If you stop to read his column, please understand that I'm not taking the side of anyone mentioned in the column. I have problems with what both clergymen quoted have to say.
But here's what got my wheels turning. Pitts and the Rev. Lawson (read that name carefully - he's not me) apparently believe in a Jesus whose Gospel was one of a modern cultural buzzword: tolerance. And, we're told, tolerance, of course is necessary to being a proponent of human rights. And Jesus was the ultimate human rights defender and icon of tolerance. And so on.
Tolerance, in the mind of pop culture, means "different strokes for different folks". It means there are no moral absolutes. If you take "the gospel of tolerance" to its logical end "anything goes". Live and let live.
I've been reading about, talking about Jesus for a long time. I think I know Him fairly well. But I don't think He fits in the modern mold of being a guru of tolerance as it is defined today. He was however the most compassionate and forgiving man who ever lived.
For example, when He found men practicing capitolism but violating the spirit of God's law by ripping off the poor in the Temple, he made a whip out of cords, overturned their tables and ran them out of the house. Sounds pretty intolerant to me. But they were taking advantage of the oppressed, right? Right. But what if the story was about the poor stealing from honest, but wealthy businessmen? Wouldn't Jesus have been equally passionate about defending them?
Another example is the woman who was brought to Him after being snatched from bed with a man who wasn't her husband. Those who brought her to Him wanted Him to order her put to death, which was their law. Now, according to the gospel of intolerance espoused by some, Jesus would have said, "Hey, leave her alone. That's the lifestyle she's chosen. And God loves you, sister." But if you read the story, that's not how Jesus reacted.
Instead He challenged the accusers that whoever among them was sinless had the right to cast the first stone at her. His point: we're all sinners and it's not up to us to condemn. When the crowd dissapated without a stone thrown her way Jesus then had a compassionate, forgiving and intolerant conversation with her.
He didn't condemn her. He didn't have to, even thought He of all people had the right to do so. She already knew she was a mess. She was already beaten down by choices and life. He didn't have to say to her, "You're a sinner". Guilt was written all over her face. That's His compassion and forgiveness.
But what about His intolerance? Had He been like so many want to paint Him, He might have said, "Now go back to whatever you were doing and have a nice day." But He looked into her eyes and clearly said, "Now go and sin no more." His point: God has given you grace today. He is forgiving. Don't take that grace and forgiveness for granted. You've got the chance now to start a new kind of life.
Jesus doesn't tolerate evil from us, whether we're advantaged, disadvantaged or being taken advantage of. He loved to hang with the outcasts of His day - the sinners - not because He accepted what they did or what they were, but because He knew He could free them from their chains.
"I'm OK - You're OK" wasn't Jesus mantra. He didn't come to tolerate us as we are. He came to change us into what we were created to be. We're not OK until we have that same kind of confrontation with Him as did the adulterous woman.
So let's not make Jesus into someone He is not. Compassionate. Forgiving. Patient. Yes to all. But a man who said, "I am the way, the truth, the life" was not tolerant of whatever floats your boat. If He was so tolerant, why did He die, believing His death would make it possible for us to change?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The same thing can and does apply to "Christ follower" or "follwer of Jesus" or whatever title you choose. I read an editorial column in today's paper where the writer happened to choose "follwer of Jesus" for himself. Problem is, the Jesus he represented in his column looks mighty different from the Jesus of the Bible. More on that at a later date.
But is it enough to say "I'm a Christ follower"? And is that phrase deeper than on the surface it may seem? Let's let Jesus answer that.
Consider this. When Jesus approached those He was about to select to be His disciples (learners), what verbage did He use? To Matthew the tax collector He simply said, "Follow me". When brothers Peter and Andrew were fishing He called out to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men". And they followed Him. Two other fishermen bros, James and John also followed Him.
He considered Himself a shepherd and said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.
To His disciples He equated "following" Him with denial of self and taking up the cross; losing your life for His sake. Sounds pretty heavy. That's no insigificant commitment.
In what may have been His last instructions to Peter He said, "You follow me".
As I use "Christ-follower" I use it to describe a level of commitment beyond belief. While I believe firmly that it is simple belief (faith) that gives one a relationship with the Savior, I also believe that Savior calls believers to follow Him into a life of devotion and service. That's anything but easy or simplistic.
"Christ-follower" gives a picture of what that means, even to those who don't believe. It says, "I don't just talk the talk, I'm striving to walk the walk". And the walk is accomplished by going where Jesus leads.
Is it enough? I would say it's all we can handle and then some. But what a journey it is!
Monday, April 28, 2008
I have seen you use "christian" as well. Just out of curiosity, do you have something against the term christian? Some people these days seem to shy away from the word and I am confused by that.
One way we communicate is through words. Words have meaning. And a word's meaning can be changed by time, culture or simply in the understanding of the person using the word or hearing the word. For example, when I was a boy, the word "gay" meant "happy". Now it means "homosexual". So if I use it in it's historical sense today and walked into a room of strangers and pronounced, "I'm so gay today" I would get a very different response than if I said, "I'm so happy today." The latter would probably get me some smiles. The former might get me ostracized or worse, depending on who was listening and interpreting what I said.
When the word "Christian" was created by non-believers in the Syrian city of Antioch, it was meant as a derogatory term. They heard believers of "the way" speaking of their Lord and Savior "Christ" and attached the tag "Christians" - adherants or followers of Christ.
Yet throughout history the word has been applied to many groups that, can I say, have been less than "Christian". And in many parts of the world, the word is synonymous with "Westerners", the assumption being that if you're of European descent, you're likely not Hindu, Bhuddist, Muslim, etc., therefore you must be "Christian".
But since it was my use of the term that sparked Bill's question, let me give you my definition. Simply put, I consider a Christian someone who has put their faith in Christ. They are believers that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed One of God) and that His life and death and resurrection provide the only way to God. That's where I'm coming from when I use "Christian". And I believe it to be a biblical understanding of the word.
So, I personally have nothing against using the term Christian as long as those who are hearing (or reading in this case) me understand how I define the word. The problem is, in our current American culture and certainly in other cultures, "Christian" means something different, maybe even something evil. I speak and write with them (non-Christians) in mind. First and foremost my calling in life is to communicate. And to be an effective communicator you have to understand your "audience", whether it's one or a crowd. It's not so much what I'm saying, but what are they hearing?
I'm not a "Christian" because I'm an American residing in the Bible belt. I'm not a "Christian" because I have European ancestry and speak English. I'm not a "Christian" because I attend a church! If I'm a Christian, it is because I have accepted Jesus as the Christ. But all that doesn't come out simply in the word "Christian".
And because I am a Christian my life should be characterized by "following" Him and His example. More on that later.
...but you doesn't have to call me Johnson.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
It's 10PM and I just got home. It's been a long but very good day. This evening was our CREST meeting at church, which we do once a quarter. It accomplishes five things for us and serves as a vehicle for vision casting and cheering what God is doing among us. Good (but long - 90 minutes) meeting tonight. Lots of God things are happening and we got to hear about them.
After the meeting my friend Sam and I went out for a cup of coffee. He's new to our church but a great encourager.
This morning started off a little stressful for Burnie. Both of our experienced video techs were out of town, and we needed to load a couple of things on the Mac at church. So Burnie was on the phone with Rox and she was guiding him through the steps to get 'er done. All the while the band was delayed in getting their practice session started (Burnie was on bass today). But it all came together and worked out great!
One more installment to go on this current series on the spiritual armor God gives believers.
After the second gathering I met with a group of guests and new attenders. "What did we do today that you liked?" A young man quickly raised his hand. "I liked how you got the band back up during the sermon and did a song right in the middle of it. You need to do that, Dad." His dad, a pastor, was sitting behind him! Ha!
Don't know what's caused the transformation but the last two Sundays the 9 o'clockers were full of life! Must be the coffee?
Awesome choice of songs. The band was sooo good.
Great day! Long day! Good night!! Got to be back at church for First Appointment with our men at 6AM.
Christ-followers are by commission from Christ people on a mission. In its simplest form that means that we represent Him to the world in which God has placed us. Our words and likely more importantly our actions and the attitudes we display send signals to those around us about the reality of our faith. It's not something we should take lightly, especially since being light in the world is a major reason we were called to follow Him.
With that in mind, it stands to reason that God has given each of us opportunities, unique to our location and relationships to send those signals. Call it your platform. Your life, no matter how insignificant you may deem it to be, has the potential to influence others. And sometimes God will greatly expand that platform.
The image on this post is just one example of how God widens a circle of influence. Having your story picked up by media guarantees more people than normally typical will be exposed to yur values, faith and message. How you use that widening influence is up to you.
You and I who are His followers, Jesus said, are a city set on a hill.
Shine the light.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I posed four different television shows:
Survivor - a "reality" show about doing whatever it takes; betrayal; backroom deals; teamwork; looking out for #1.
American Idol - where the most popular, not necessarily the most gifted or talented wins.
American Chopper - A dysfunctional family's business deals with the stresses of building custom motorcycles and a weekly deadline. You wonder how they get a bike built without killing each other.
My Name is Earl - Stupid, crude rednecks trying to do good. Can people really be this dumb?
With 263 votes cast, 39% chose My Name is Earl as best typifiying what's happening right now in American politics. I don't have any idea what percentage of those voting are Americans, but I'll guess it is a majority.
So the answer is (according to those who voted) those who would lead our nation appear to be dumb as they come. Close behind was Survivor, at 34%, indicating a lot of you see our politicians as back stabbing self-promoters who will say/do anything to get a win.
At least the Teutuls always end up with a great product and smiles.
Except when Vinnie quit.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I've been holding back on coming out with this, but after watching this video, it seems like the right time.
The people at Duke are amazing. We're so blessed to be close enough to a research medical facility of the highest quality.
Are they perfect? Heck, no. Only One person gets that status. But what's so cool is that He uses people - doctors, nurses, social workers (Hi Bill) and others in the health care profession to "over achieve" and to be willing to take risks that lesser mortals might not attempt.
I love to hear docs use terms like "amazing" and "miraculous". My guess is that the best of them realize they have an unseen partner.
Thanks to all of you at Duke. You are the best.
I'll even start cheering for the Blue Devils now.
As I look at my first grandchild I see some strong family resemblance. So I went searching and found a remarkably similar photo of me and my first daughter taken 24 years ago. (Sarah has really changed a lot since then.)
I might someday also show you a picture of me as a baby. No, it's not a tin-type, but it is black and white. And you'll know where Gwyneth got those cheeks everyone is raving about.
But genetics aren't the only thing, and certainly not the most valued things we get from our ancestors. There's nothing you can do about what has been physically passed down to you. It's also easy and very PC, I might add, to blame all our shortcomings and failures on how we were raised and our environment.
But no matter what genetic or socio-economic cards you been dealt, what you do with your life ultimately comes down to the choices you make. Things like faith and attitude trump the gene pool every time.
Tricia is a glowing example of that.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
So I would go, protesting to no avail, to my room to lay upon my bed for what seemed like hours, wide awake. Eventually my "Can I get up now" whines would take her to the end of her patience and she would relent. I took plenty of "naps" but rarely, if ever, went to sleep. What was I thinking when I was four?
Now at 52 I'd like to redeem some of those lost naps and put them to good use. Where's Mom when you need her?
From a story broadcast by ABC 11 in Raleigh.
When a layman like myself looks at Tricia's story and says, "Amazing!", that's one thing. Scientifically what do I know? But when the main TX dude says "Amazing!" it escalates the meaning of the word.
More media coverage of Tricia's discharge from Duke yesterday can be found here in the Raleigh News and Observer. (Gotta run out and buy a copy!)
Here's another quote from Dr. Lin, who performed the surgery: "This in itself is a miraculous outcome."
Not to be repetitive, but when a scientist of Dr. Lin's caliber says "miraculous", it kind of gives it a little more luster.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
This photo was taken last night at one of our ladies Connection Groups. Looks like they were having fun - they're all smiling! Wearing goofy hats...it must be a girl thing!
Guys prefer to make noises.
And because our mantra is "What's said in a group stays in a group" I won't repeat some of what I've heard went on during a game of Guesstures.
I'm so glad fellowship can be fun. Rock on, girls.
What's scary is that 3 of our pastors' wives are in this picture.
Monday, April 21, 2008
(Please don't let this dancing thing leak out. But if you want to see a bunch of us Baptists dancing, look here. Viewer Discretion advised. Content my not be suitable for some IFBers!)
A year ago today our youngest daughter married. Her husband Ramon is quite the romantic, proposing to her in between worship gatherings by taking her up on Jockey's Ridge (next door to our church) where he had spelled out his proposal in the sand. Their's was the first wedding in our new church facility, too.
I also had the joy of leading Ramon to faith in Christ when he stopped by our house one day to ask my permission to date Rachel. Yes, you read that right. So, not only is he my son-in-law, he's my son in the faith as well.
Both are actively involved in ministry in our church. She is a member of the Milepost 13 Band, leading worship at our gatherings. He is a member of our youth ministry team and leads a small group, too. I'm proud of you both!
Enjoy your special day! Too bad you already ate the top of the cake!!
You can read the story of both of our daughters' weddings in the The Outer Banks Wedding Guide, where their stories were a feature article.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I've lived in Dare County (or for 2 years just across the bridge in Harbinger) since 1986. Lots of things have changed here in the name of progress, most of which have actually made life here on our island paradise (actually we're on a peninsula) more comfy. It is nice to be able to not have to venture to Elizabeth City or to Tidewater (that's VA) to shop in a department or discount store. Sure makes December more palatable.
But the true sign that we've become civilized is almost upon us. Starbucks is about to open here.
They won't get any of my hard earned cash, however.
First, they're locating in a direction opposite of where I typically find myself when in need of a cup of jo. Second, I'm totally happy with the local establishment where I do make the occasional coffee purchase. And I pass by both of their shops daily. Third, Starbucks is way overpriced. And usually when a chain opens here their prices are higher than anywhere else in the country because we're in a resort area and the rent ain't cheap. Fourth, Starbucks is a passe trend, and I'm totally with it. Ask my kids.
And on top of that news, Dunkin' Donuts is preparing to open multiple outlets here soon as well.
It all started when they added two lanes to the Wright Memorial Bridge. What's next? Here's the inside scoop: IHOP. Oh, yeah.
In the first gathering when we turned around to greet someone new, I saw a familiar face a couple rows behind me. Richard said it was his first time to visit our church. He was alone, so I moved back to sit with him. I hope he makes it back again. He's one of our local firefighters.
Andy brought the teaching today. I asked him to piggyback on my current series on the armor of God and zero in on the leaders of families - especially the men - and talk about our role as family protector. He did a great job. Someone told me, "I was disappointed when I heard you weren't teaching today, but Andy was great!" Her husband said, "Like father, like son". Said I, "He's my brother, not my son." That's getting old...
Speaking of my son, Nathan surprised everyone by leading our worship today for the first time since right before Christmas. How cool was it to have him back today? He adds more horsepower to our worship which today was fabulous. Here's a fresh look into what goes on at NHC from someone who recently discovered us and has begun to regularly attend.
It was good to see one of our families who are off at seminary back today. We don't get to see them often.
After lunch with us and Rachel and Ramon, he and Meka headed back to Duke. Hopefully this week Tricia will be released from the hospital, where she's been since December 27.
I didn't get to meet them, but I know there was a group of folks from MA down for vacation who frequent Nate's blog. Yesterday they called the church and I happened to be there to pick up the phone. Nate said he got to meet them.
It's so cool to see people at church walk in smiling and expecting something great to happen. Because I was off today, I spent time before the gatherings outside greeting folks as they pulled into the parking lot. I really like doing that.
Chuck Girard had a song back in the 70's called "The Full Immersion Ocean Water Baptism By the Sea". That's what we did today under the threat of bad weather. In fact, just as Steve began baptizing the 5 brave souls who got into the 50something degree water, it started to rain. So he baptized them rapid fire! Steve, Stephanie and Chad were wearing wetsuits, but the 3 Carson girls weren't! BRRRRRR!!! Now walk in newness of life! But warm up first.
This afternoon 120 parents are at NHC for parenting seminar called "Understanding Your Teenager". It's sponsored by the OBX Youth Ministry Network, a group of local church youth ministers. We're glad to host events like this that will make families stronger.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
For whatever reason there's this hesitation in some people's minds when speaking to me as to how they should address me. And it's only because I'm a "man of the cloth". (Don't ask me what that phrase means. I don't have a clue. What cloth? I guess I'll have to Google that phrase.)
So, people think I appreciate being called a number of different things (at least the ones I can repeat here). I get the following:
Padre - sorry, you're not my child! Heck, you're not even hispanic.
Preacher - preaching encompasses about 80 minutes of my week. I spend more time driving my truck. So why not "Trucker"? Come on. And not to offend anyone from more rural and southern cultures, we're not there. Close maybe. But not there.
Pastor - not "Pastor Rick", but just "Pastor". Pastor is my role; maybe even my gift. But it's not my name. I don't call you "Woman", or "Mechanic". And I sure don't call my beloved "Wife", or worse "Mom". Don't misunderstand. I am not downplaying either respect or that I love what I do. In fact, I appreciate it when children address me as "Pastor Rick". Now, if it makes you feel better to call me "Pastor Rick", I can live with that. But really, you don't have to.
Reverend - my least favorite. That goes for it's nickname, "Rev" as well. Jesus said "holy and reverend" is God's name, not mine. I'm of the ecclesiastical tradition (and a biblical one, I believe) that there is no legitimate division between "clergy" and "laity". Insisting on a title like "Rev." or even "Doctor" says there's a higher class in the church. I don't think so.
If you really want to show me respect, the best way to do that is to live like Christ. That says to me, "Your teaching and leadership means something."
My friends call me "Rick". You can, too.
Actually, my legal name is "Richard". But if you call me that, I'll assume you work for the IRS or are a phone solicitor.
Today hundreds of churches in our state are participating in a one day focus on mission and outreach called "Operation In as Much". The name comes from a quote from Jesus (Matthew 25) who said that if we visit those in prison and the sick, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, take in strangers, feed the hungry, it's like doing those things for Him. Or something like that.
It was fun to drive around and find groups dropping off food baskets, pizza, cleaning up a neighbor's yard and giving out water, gatorade and snacks to bikers raising money for diabetes research. One group sewed holders to go on the walkers of residents at our nursing home so they could carry things with them.
Those who participated get it. Someone said the world won't care how much the church knows until it knows the church cares. When we in the church venture out of our holy huddles and go into the world with a heart of service then the doors open for us to dialogue with those we contact about our faith. Then those hungry to know the truth, those spiritually naked, those diseased by their sin, imprisoned by their hopelessness can meet and know our Christ.
And while I understand why the efforts of this day were organized across our state, I hope it serves as a catalyst for more of the same. This kind of endeavor should be happening repeatedly, almost spontaneously without provocation other than the Spirit inside us. It should be part of our DNA.
Let's hope today reinforces that.
For some great ideas on things your church group or family can do, visit this site. Get out there. Be on mission. Just do it.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Now, I'm speaking about the church I serve. Our worship gatherings don't "just happen". There is a lot of intentional thought, planning and work to get to that hour and fifteen minutes (that we do twice a Sunday morning). I also know that isn't so in many churches because I've had the experience of sitting through some "worship" services that were obviously put together at 10:55. And it showed.
And before someone asks "Where's the Holy Spirit in all this", let me say that being guided by the Holy Spirit doesn't have to happen on the fly. He can be just as involved weeks and months prior to the gathering as He hopefully will be during the worship.
Ministry at NHC is done by teams. It's our understanding of God's design of the church that ministry happens when the people are equipped to serve and empowered to make it happen. I can count at least 7 volunteer teams who work to make a worship gathering come together. And that doesn't include paid staff.
Their efforts cover everything from cleaning the facility, setting up the auditorium, printing publications, staffing our nursery, kids church check in teachers and staff, our hospitality team that puts out coffee and pastries, our first impressions team who greets and mans our welcome center, tellers who count and deposit the offerings, musicians and techs who lead our worship make sure it can be seen and heard... And that's off the top of my head. There are probably more. Hey, somebody has to stay until everyone leaves and lock up!
A rough guesstimate would show that on any given Sunday some 50 volunteers are involved every week. And keep in mind our church membership is about 160 right now. Those 50 are right now serving about 300 worshippers each Sunday. So, if you have a larger church, the numbers of those involved should grow as well. But even if our numbers were smaller, we couldn't pull it off with much of a smaller volunteer staff.
Many of those 50 have preparation work to do. So there is planning, scheduling, and work done in advance of Sunday. For example, our worship arts team meets every Thursday night for an average of 2 hours to rehearse the music for Sunday, then they come in an hour and a half early on Sunday to again go over the songs. On top of that, they're listening throughout the week to new music and practicing on their own.
And for us, this happens every Sunday, much of it totally behind the scenes. In addition, who knows how much time is spent praying for God to use their efforts to communicate His love?
I've said nothing about the weekly work in getting a sermon ready, or the planning done weeks or months in advance to plan a series, or search for the right songs or videos to illustrate a point in the message.
So if you're one of those who just shows up on Sunday and never considers what goes into "producing" a worship gathering from the human standpoint, I hope you'll have a greater appreciation of those who work hard to serve the Lord and you. It doesn't "just happen". Better yet, I hope you'll realize that, if you're a part of a local body of believers, that there's probably a hole that you could fill in making Sundays an even better experience for the worshippers who attend your church.
Get involved! It's not just for the "pros". Most of what is done at NHC is done by volunteers. There's a place for you.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It's too bad Pennsylvania's Fred Rogers is no longer with us.
Because we were traveling last night home from Duke, I missed the Democrats' version of Smackdown err the debate from Philadelphia. From what I'm reading and seeing this AM on the news shows, it wasn't a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Was this what you and your buds were thinking, Ben Franklin? Is there another crack in the bell today?
Some Democratic leaders are saying Obama did himself major damage. I think Sen. McCain has to be chuckling.
So, what do you think? Take my poll at the top right of the blog page.
We miss you, Fred. I think had you been in the audience with your zip up sweater on, the tone might have been more about issues than zingers.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
This afternoon Gail, Agnes and I traveled to Durham. For Gail and I it's just a 24 hour trip. Agnes will stay and continue to tag team with Nathan, meaning one of the two of them is with Tricia 24/7.
When we got to her room, she wasn't there. But momentarily we found them walking up the hall. She looks great! There's still pain and a few tubes left to be removed, but she's sleeping well and growing stronger every day.
Later, when she was done with her walk we spent an hour or so with her in the room. And we got to hear her talk with her real voice for the first time in over 3 months. She sounds a little weak, but what a beautiful sound!
Then the three of us grandparents went down to visit Gwyneth in her new digs. She looks super. Still tiny, but looking more and more like she's ready to go home. Grandmommy Gail tried holding her, but she wanted none of that.
Thanks again to all the superb staff and caregivers here at Duke. It won't be much longer that these girls will be leaving.
Monday, April 14, 2008
There it was, front page of the Hampton Roads section!
Last spring I had been on the same radio station -Beach 104 - to talk about the Great Strides Walk for CF, so I called them and offered to come in and talk about the story. So at 9:35AM I'll be doing that, helping to get the word out here about CF, organ donation and premature birth. Who knows, I might even mention God's role in this. (Do you think?)
This was all a surprise to us!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Fred Robison is our Berean (see Acts 17:11). If there's a typo in my notes of a Scripture reference, Fred finds it. Thanks Fred! It was Ephesians not 2 Corinthians like the notes said.
Thanisha was back leading worship today after taking a couple of Sundays away tending to her new little boy. Great songs today. They fit with the message on the way salvation gives us a new way of thinking. And the band sounded super. Don't forget Michelle's part in that from the sound board.
We went back to a semi-circle chair set up. I like the way it works better than some of the other things we do.
I had a fun conversation after the 2nd gathering with a number of first time guests. That's a great way to get input on what we're doing.
As great as Sundays can be (and usually are) at NHC, it doesn't begin on Sunday. Lots of preparation and work precedes what happens from around 8:30 to 12:30 on Sunday. Behind the scenes volunteers are getting the building clean; printing outlines and lessons for adults and children; picking up donuts and making coffee; practicing songs; setting up tables and chairs; popping popcorn... To pull off a worship gathering like ours at NHC requires a lot of effort, much that goes "unnoticed" by most. I hope that if you and your family enjoy our worship gatherings at NHC that you take a moment on occasion and just say so to the volunteers. They're the heartbeat of ministry.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
We're finishing up Reggie McNeal's book on leadership "A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders". An excellent book, by the way.
Today's chapter was about leaders being cognizant of the fact that God wants to be seen and found 24/7 in our lives. Everywhere we go; in everything we do. Even in the painful things, God can be found. Not that everything has some sense of the divine - that's pantheism. But that the omnipresent God wants to use the commonplace events in our lives - trips to the store - the walk around the park - to give us opportunities to make Him known by living as His representatives.
Those of us in American evangelicalism have to move way beyond the shallow, comfortable fallacy that our "God time" is an hour on Sunday morning. But that's comfy and non-threatening to us.
When we who are leaders of the church catch on to the commonplace opportunities to reflect Christ, the church will follow. And when the church catches on it will be once again "turned upside down" ala the first century.
"When". I guess I should have said "if". Let's hope it's "when".
What's interesting is that later this morning one of those "commonplace" encounters with one of my neighbors. We talked about some spiritual things as he sat in his truck in my driveway.
Where's your "commonplace" going to be tomorrow?
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday morning, April 2 my son called from Duke Hospital with the news that a pair of lungs had been located that might be the answer to our prayers. You see, his wife Tricia has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that attacks (among other things) the lungs. It is a terminal disease – there is no cure – yet. And Tricia’s health had declined to the point where she has been in the hospital at Duke since just after Christmas and on a ventilator since the second week of January.
All day Wednesday we prayed and waited. Someone from Duke flew to another state to examine the lungs and determine if they would work for Tricia. In the mean time, Nathan’s blog overtook the internet. In a 24 hour period he had 100,000 hits. And just before 6PM he called me. “Dad, it’s a go!” As Gail and I were coming into Durham at 9:25 he called to say she the surgery had begun.
All night, five of us, including Tricia’s parents, waited in the waiting room of the NICU, where our granddaughter is thriving. Being there allowed us to drop in and see her during the night. It seemed like an eternity, but nine hours later at 6:30AM we received a call that Tricia was now in the ICU and that the surgery was complete. She has new lungs.
Her life will be forever changed. She has never been able to breathe deeply like the rest of us, and when she has tried, she always coughed. The doctors said that without the transplant she would have died within a year. Now, her life is extended, enabling her to watch her daughter grow. She’s literally received new life.
But that new life came at a great price, and I’m not talking about the cost of being hospitalized for months and major surgeries. That’s a whole ‘nuther story.
For Tricia to receive her new lungs someone had to die.
We don’t know who (that won’t be shared with us unless the donor’s family chooses to do so in a year or so) but someone died on Wednesday and had either made the choice ahead of time, or his/her loved ones made the choice to give someone else a chance at survival by donating organs. In fact, up to eight other people can be given new life from one person’s organs. Over 50 people’s lives can be enhanced by donated tissues. Can there be any greater gift?
A couple of timing things were pretty amazing. First, Wednesday was Nathan’s birthday. He’ll never receive a greater gift than being given more years with the wife he loves. The second is that April is National Organ Donation Awareness Month. The list of people waiting for organs is so great only because the list of available donors is so small. And to make it easier for us to become donors, our state has created an online organ donation registry. In NC you don’t have to wait until you get your next driver’s license anymore. You can sign up today to give someone else life. Go online to www.donatelifenc.org.
I’m a donor, have been since my college days. How about you?
I can’t pass up the spiritual application here. On a hill outside the ancient city of Jerusalem one Person willingly gave up His life and died, paying the penalty for the sin and disobedience of the human race and made life possible for anyone willing to receive it by faith.
Even though Jesus and I were strangers at one time, when He died for me and you, He did so that we might be called His friends. And He is quoted as saying that there is no greater love than when someone would die for His friends. New life is possible, but not without someone paying the price. The good news is that the price has been paid.
©2008 Rick Lawrenson
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Friday night after the Maximum Man Conference (around 10:30PM) Nathan was able to join us at our motel just to hang for a while. It's the first time since December he's been able to be with a group of guys from NHC, so it was great for him and us to have some fellowship again.
He spent a lot of the time just answering questions about Tricia's transplant and how Gwyneth is doing. Lots of hugs and laughs, too, which I know was beneficial for him. He had planned to attend the conference with us, but the week's events changed his plans. So it was special that we could hook up, even if just for an hour or so.
Can't wait for their lives to get back to "normal" again.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Yo, Yo, check it out. (I know, too much American Idol.)
It was great to see Claire Drake back at church this morning at the 11:00 gathering after a 5 week absence. She beings her chemo soon, and I know that she would covet your prayers. The amazing thing about Claire is that she doesn't want to talk about her life crisis, but wants to know about my family. She's my hero. Tommy's a blessed man.
Again, more new people at our gatherings today. For me that's one of the best things about Sundays - getting to meet new people. I can't keep up with them. Time was at NHC when I could tell you every person who was there on Sunday. My mind was a tad bit sharper, no doubt, but it's a lot easier in a room that holds a max of 100. I've given up trying these days. And that's fun.
A lot of people were totally surprised when during my message (about peace and faith) I picked up Chad's guitar and we sang "It Is Well With My Soul". They didn't know I got kicked off the band when Nathan came. Glad it was only one song, though. My finger tip callouses that come with guitar playing are gone. I shared the story of Horatio Spafford, the author of the song's lyrics and how he came to pen those incredible words. I love that phrase, "Let this blessed assurance control". Who controls your life?
I so much appreciate our tech team at NHC. They do so much to add to the whole nuance of our worship gatherings, running the sound and manning the computer that controls our visuals. I'm sure we take you all for granted too often, yet if we didn't have you we'd miss you big time.
I could sing "The Revelation Song" every Sunday. How incredible are those words? And we learned a new song this morning, "Mighty to Save".
During the second gathering Judy Taylor became ill. Steve (who was at the sound booth) took her to the ER. Thanks Rich for jumping in to cover for Steve. Pray for her please.
Tonight was our Communion Fellowship. Pastor Steve's teaching was to the point about Christ's sacrifice. Good job! The MP13 Band did superb leading us in worship. Lots of great food and fellowship. Again, I saw lots of new folks there tonight. One thing I like about these Communion Fellowships is that it gives a lot of people the chance to serve in different ways - setting up the tables and chairs, getting the food ready, watching the kids, cleaning up, etc. Doing things together is what our Gatherings are all about.
Welcome to some new partners: Carole Edmonds, Kit Trotter and Matt (I can't spell his last name). Kitt's going to be baptized soon. Matt's story is special. Technically he's not officially a partner yet because even though he's trusted Christ, and he's 16, his mom objects to him being baptized, which is a requirement to be a partner in our fellowship. But he wants to help out. He also wants to honor his mother (which we encourage). So we're taking him in our care. He's really serious about his new found faith in Christ and is a great young man.
And thanks to Rich for the groovy new signage on my office door. Andy's looks good, too, but mine is better.
I have to confess that as we were singing tonight I was really wishing Nathan was back with us. It won't be long.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
I know about pastor’s kids. Growing up, I was often friends with my pastors’ kids and spent time in their homes. During my college years my own dad entered the pastorate, so while I’m not a pastor’s kid, my youngest two brothers went through adolescence in a pastor’s home. And of course my own children have for most of their lives been pastor’s children. So I am somewhat of an expert, for what it’s worth.
Pastors’ kids are kids. Like their moms, they didn’t receive a call from God to their lot in life growing up. So they have no choice in the matter. But, you might say, neither do any children. Kids don’t determine what their parents do career-wise. Yeah, but most careers don’t put their children in a fishbowl, either.
They don’t want to be looked at differently. They just want to be treated as normal kids like everyone else’s. That shouldn’t be too hard. But for some reason in many churches it is.
They aren’t perfect, so don’t expect them to be. Hey, they’re just like your kids. You’ve heard the joke. Why are preachers kids so bad? Because they play with the deacons’ kids.
Unless they are your children they’re not yours to discipline. And if you do see them truly misbehave, tell it to their parents, not to other church members or to “the board”. It’s not their business. Give them the same respect you expect. Take them out from under the microscope.
In many cases they likely carry some resentment toward the church because of a number of things. Typically…
- Dad can’t attend their ballgames/dance recitals/camping trips, etc. because he has to take care of the church. Yet other church members have no problem attending their kids functions. Kids aren’t stupid. They see the inconsistencies and unfairness.
- They have to attend church every time the doors are open. Sometimes because “we have to set the example”. But they don’t want to be the examples. They want to be normal. Remember, it’s not their “calling”.
- They hear the criticisms of their dad. This one really stinks. No kid should hear another adult or hear of another adult blasting their parents, even if the criticism is warranted. But it happens way too often in churches. Adults can handle that stuff. Kids shouldn’t have to.
- They see the stress at home that balancing ministry and family causes his parents and their relationship. Again, pastoring is a 24/7 job. See my previous posts on this subject.
In most cases (I say most because I talk to lots of pastors across this country) their father is overworked and underpaid. So they don’t have the income to take the nice vacation or buy the better clothes or get the latest gadgets for Christmas. Sorry, but it’s true.
That’s enough. You get the picture.
Just because dad’s a pastor doesn’t mean they want to be one. In fact, depending on how the church treats their dad will largely determine their relationship with the church as an adult.
Just because dad’s a pastor doesn’t mean they are believers. And if they aren’t, they have to put on the act. And that makes them dislike themselves because they know they’re pretending. Treat them like any other child who needs Christ – with love.
If you give them their space and privacy they’ll like you a whole lot more. And they’ll like the church, too. If they don’t feel like oddballs because dad’s a pastor, they could turn out normal.
Most pastors kids are genuinely caring children who want both to please their parents and their God. They’re not super-spiritual, but can be spiritually dynamic people if they get the same chances to just be kids like everyone else. There are some great success stories of pastor’s children who go on to accomplish wonderful things in life through whatever careers they choose. But because they are who they are, so much is made or broken by how dad’s church(es) treat them and their parents.
Having said all that I think my three children (and they’re free to respond here) have no regrets from being reared in a pastor’s home. They’re all three healthy and committed to their families and are all active in their churches. My son is a full-time worship leader working with me. My first daughter married a youth pastor and is in another state. My youngest daughter and her husband are nearby and are great volunteers in our church. I’m not bragging- just saying being a pastor’s kid doesn’t have to be negative or stressful. But I also give my church credit for allowing my family to just be a family, and for praying for us over the years.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Without going into all the details, I hope the outcome will be that in the future no family will go through a lengthy surgery (Tricia's was 9 hours) again without any updates from the OR or being told when the surgery is completed.
Duke Hospital is one of the finest in the US. But even with the finest, sometimes things fall through the cracks. I hope today that a crack was pointed out and will be forever filled!
As an aside, I spend a lot of time throughout the year in the Emergency Room of our local hospital as a Fire Dept. chaplain helping families through tragedies. So I know how important the accurate dissemination of information is to the families. That's part of my job as a chaplain in those situations, to act as a connector between the medical professionals and the family.
This morning we're again at Duke Hospital.
Gail got to briefly visit with Tricia - Nathan was already there. But they're going to do some things for her today, so the visit was short. So we all headed down to the NICU.
Gwyneth is at a little over 2lbs. 8oz and looks so good! I spent a few mintues with her, met her nurse and her speech pathologist (who works with her on the bottle feedings). Then left so Nathan and Gail could go back for her feeding.
I hope later today to see Tricia. She doesn't remember anything from yesterday. Nothing! Could I have some of that drug, please? There are times when it would sure be nice.
A group of men from our church will leave Nags Head this afternoon to meet me in Raleigh for the Maximum Man Conference. I'll hook up with them late this afternoon. The conference is tonight and tomorrow morning.
Thankfully I got my sermon stuff for Sunday done here at the hospital yesterday. Be warned: I was just about brain dead when I was working on it, so who knows how it will turn out Sunday!
I'm going to try to get my weekly e-letter update out to the church today and my column written for The Sentinel today from the hospital. Thank God for laptops and wireless in the hospital. I also have a call into someone about an appointment later today here at Duke for a friendly chat about some concerns that need to be addressed. I promise to be nice.
It's a big day today for Tricia. The procedures she will endure aren't the easiest for her, but will be helpful for her recovery and healing. Please keep up the prayers on her behalf. Right now the great concerns for her are that she would be infection free and that there would be no rejection of the new lungs.
Also, please continue to pray for the donor's family. We don't know anything about them other than the fact that someone is mourning and likely preparing for a funeral in the next day or so. Pray that their gift through organ donation and the realization that their loved one continues to breathe for someone like Tricia will ease their pain.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
What a day these last 24 hours have been! Lots of emotion. Lots of prayers and hope. Miracles.
When you get real tired your body kicks into overdrive and adrenaline and the help of caffeine keep you going. But eventually your brain starts to fry from lack of rest. (Not that mine gets overworked too often, mind you.) You're kinda numb.
But to see Tricia sitting in a chair this evening that she walked to from her bed, conscious, smiling, and able to communicate after what her body has been through was mind blowing. She's breathing without a ventilator for the first time since January 8. She's experiencing new sensations as well as a lot of pain. Think about what has to happen in a double lung transplant. The impact on the body is compared to being in a major car crash. We just spent a few minutes with her because you could see in her eyes that she was exhausted. She just said, "I'm tired".
There are lots of things the medical staff will be watching for, not the least of which is infection and rejection of her new lungs. Just because she has new lungs doesn't mean she's healed or cured of CF. It's still there. But she's a fighter.
I'm looking forward to everyone getting a good night's rest and tomorrow being a new day.
She's awake and after talking with Nate knows where she is and what happened. That's good! He's running out to a WalMart to pick up a fan for her room. Lung transplant patients get real hot for some reason. Don't ask me now. I can't think.
I met with someone at the hospital who has given us the right person to speak with about their communications malfunction. I'll do that tomorrow.
And Gwyneth's doing great!
Nate got a bit of a nap earlier today and will get a good night's sleep tonight.
Now I'm shutting down for about tres horas. (Gail's already asleep.)
Hasta la vista.
After some time with her I prayed both for her, as well as Nathan, Gwyneth and especially for the donor's family. That was the tough part of the prayer, but we're so thankful.
She has a long difficult day today, with a test to see how her lungs are doing and an epidural for pain. Before the day is over they will take her off the vent and Tricia will breathe on her own with her new lungs for the first time. Please continue in prayer.
We're going to go grab some breakfast and hopefully later some sleep. Everybody's prayers and encouragements mean so much.
I'll be arranging a meeting with a chaplain to arrange a meeting with higher ups in the hospital about the communications snafu.
Because of the extent of Tricia's illness the transplant wasn't the easiest we were told by the surgeon. She'll stay on the vent, likely for a couple of days since her body hasn't breathed on its own for nearly 3 months. So there's lots of healing and rehab ahead.
While we're certain the medical/surgical team here at Duke is top notch, the ball was dropped big time when it came to communicating with us during and after the surgery. It's been quite an emotional morning, especially for Nathan, but the primary goal was accomplished and for that we're grateful. But we do have some issues to discuss with hospital officials today. In Jesus' name, of course.
We're in the waiting room waiting again...More updates later when we have something new to share. Sometime today we'll try to find some time to sleep!
Since I last checked in I've eaten some trail mix, a cookie, watched bits and pieces of 4 old Law and Orders and done what little napping you can do while sitting in a waiting room chair.
Nurses and staff have no problem bursting through the door here and talking loudly. Can't they see this is our bedroom?
Before long I'm going to have to find another cup of Joe, but I'm slowly waking up.
Gail spent about an hour with Gwyneth, but started getting sleepy. She's reading a Readers Digest. Agnes is somewhere wandering. Don's asleep and Nate is on his Mac.
Soon the sun will rise and our hope and prayer is that nothing could be finer than this day in Carolina in the mornin'.
For you who have confessed to insomnia and to you who are yet to awake, thanks for the prayers.
For the next hour she slept while I held her watching her make faces. From the sounds I heard and rumbles I felt she also made some feces.
A few times she peeked at me, but really just wanted to sleep. After an hour I surrendered her. (She was getting a little cranky - probably needed that diaper changed.) And I knew Don was likely just arriving and would want to change it.
While he was coming in Don did hear from an anesthegiologist that Tricia was doing great.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
On the way up to the NICU waiting room (we're hanging out here so we can slip in and visit Gwyneth through the night) I stopped in the cafeteria for a cup of caffeine. Actually the cafeteria here at Duke has excellent coffee.
Gail has slipped back to visit Gwyneth. Agnes (Tricia's mom) is looking at today's pics on Nate's camera. Nate is trying to find something worth watching on the TV. Don, Tricia's dad is on his way from home.
When we get word from the OR or have something else to say I'll update. Check Nate's blog as well during the night if you're up or in another hemisphere!
Thanks for the prayers, Gail drove all the way (3.5 hours) without incident.
Their third child, Megan, (3rd out of 6, and the second 3 were adopted) gives a great glimpse in her blog into what it was like to grow up in their home - a home intentionally built upon solid values. . And the end result? Just read it here.
We're blessed to have Don and Agnes in our congregation. Whether they like it or not, they're role models for our rapidly growing church of young families. ou young parents would do well to pick their brains, but more importantly dissect their hearts.
Oh yeah, and Don's a PK, too. That makes it even more amazing.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Tomorrow, April 2 is Nathan's 27th birthday.
You never know looking at a little baby what God has in store. You just hope and pray that as a parent you don't screw things up. It's a good thing God picked out Gail for his mom!
The picture is of Nathan on a soccer missions trip to St. Lucia in 1997, sharing his faith with some local boys after a soccer clinic. Note he still sports the same hairdo.
Your 27th year has certainly not been boring! Wouldn't it be great if God gave you the biggest surprise birthday present ever tomorrow? It could happen! But even if it doesn't, I hope it's a great day in every way.
You and Gwyneth have a party together tomorrow celebrating birthdays.Love you!
(Your mom loves you, too. But this ain't her blog.)
(The 2nd in a series.)
I’m blessed to have been a pastor in a most excellent church now for over 17 years. One of the reasons Gail and I have (she’s not a pastor, but she is my partner) have been here so long is that the church has never put any unreal expectations on her as my wife. She’s not up on a pedestal here, and if someone tried to put her there, she’d be the first and loudest protestor. She’s gifted as a servant, so she prefers to stay “behind the scenes”, although she doesn’t have to be asked to roll up her sleeves and do whatever needs to be done.
But being a pastor’s wife has its own levels of stress and trial. Yesterday I wrote about some of the burdens shepherds face as they care for and lead a congregation. But what about his spouse? Here are some things to consider:
His was a calling from God. Her's was more likely a calling to him. Becoming a pastor might have been the desire of his heart, but chances are she would have preferred something a bit more normal. However, because she is his better half, she is a pastor’s wife. It might not have been her first choice in life, but it’s where God has placed her.
Her husband is in demand by lots of people, both in the community and in the church. It’s a fact of life that she has to share him with others much more so than husbands with other occupations. He's on call 24/7. Call him at home IF absolutely necessary. Otherwise, leave a message on his office phone. That also means that her children have to share him as well, and that’s not easy on a mother.
She better be good at biting her tongue, especially when others are criticizing her husband. It’s not easy seeing the one you love being attacked, especially by those who don’t know all the details or see the big picture that he sees and often can’t share publicly.
He often can’t share things with her. He’d like to, but sometimes he has to keep things within, not only to protect those he ministers to, but more often to protect her. And no marriage likes there to be secrets.
If he’s not Superman she’s not Wonder Woman. Yet, she’s expected to be a housewife, a mother, and too often to be at every church activity looking like she stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine and with a perpetual smile.
Guess what? She’s got her own life, too! So if you drop by the house, don’t be surprised if it looks “lived in”. And if you need to drop by, do her the favor of calling first! (That especially goes for those of you whose pastor lives in a parsonage. That’s their home, not yours.) And nobody wants to live in a fish bowl. Nor should they.
She struggles with the same life issues that face every woman in every stage of life. Often the biggest fear she has is for her husband’s job security and their family finances. (Churches don’t have the best reputations in those regards.) And because she’s the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean she has all the answers, either.
Just like you, she’s got a few special friends. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you if you’re not one of them. It means she’s normal. Be glad for that. It’s the abnormal ones that are scary. Chances are she has moved a lot during their marriage and ministry. It’s not easy saying goodbye to friends, so realize she might be afraid to build deep friendships just because of the heartbreak that comes when a move is necessary.
Let her be free to be who God created her to be. Let her first ministry be to her husband and family. Respect her time and her space. Just like you, her first priority in life is not the church.
Pray for her. Encourage her. Do something unexpected to bless her. Remember that behind a every good pastor is an amazing and strong spouse who is his greatest support.