Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Busy is as Busy Does (and Doesn't)

An Inkling
I’ve just finished Eugene Peterson’s memoir on being a pastor.  It’s wonderful.  I commend it, and not just for pastors.  It offers much wisdom for growth as a disciple in company with other disciples – i.e., the church. 
In it Peterson touches upon one of his favorite themes, namely how pastors (and others) are too busy.  For years I have felt guilty about being too busy.  But I’ve given up on that – not on being busy, but on feeling guilty!  I’m taking Peterson’s exhortation to heart, but I’m reframing it.  I don’t want to give up being busy with what matters, just on what doesn’t matter.  As for what matters most, I want to pursue that intensely for as long as I can.  And I’m happiest when I’m doing so.
Actually, it’s a bit more complex than that.  Unlike God, we live with finite time and energy, which means that we can’t pursue everything that matters.  Thus we must pursue the part of what matters that God gives to us for this season of life.  Getting specific about our part in what matters is what makes busyness faithful.  
That and having busyness paired with “unbusyness.”  For along with a calling to be about what matters, the Lord has given us another calling, the Sabbath – a day apart from busyness.  The Lord sets the pattern himself.  He creates the universe in six days (how’s that for busy?!), and then takes a day to be unbusy – to go slow and enjoy what he has made (Genesis 1:1 – 2:3).  Then he tells us to do the same, as one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11).
It looks to me like God was pretty busy for a while there.  Read on, and you’ll find that he has stayed busy guiding the universe he made, along with the jillions of people made in his own busy image.  But he pairs that busyness with unbusyness, as a pattern for joyful living.  The unbusy day stands as a shield against the megalomania that comes  with being all-busy all the time.  It’s easy to get an inflated sense of one’s importance in the Kingdom, especially if our busy pursuit of what matters is not punctuated by God-designed and God-modeled Sabbath unbusyness.
There’s more to be said about how we can be busy with the portion of what matters that God has specifically given to us.  But that will wait until next week’s blog…  I’m too busy with several other pursuits to take that on right now!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


An Inkling
Brennan Manning tells about a note found in the office of a young pastor in Zimbabwe soon after his martyrdom for his faith in Jesus.  He had written:
I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  I have the Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast.  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made—I’m a disciple of his.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.  I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed.  I will not flinch in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me.  And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me...my banner will be clear!
The old saying is that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.  If so, the blood of such martyrs will produce a vibrant strain indeed! 
May it be that we would find the Spirit moving in us such a vibrant fashion!  May we, too, be “part of the fellowship of the unashamed,” living the joyful adventure of service to Jesus with an abandon that reflects his own. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Maker of Great Moments

An Inkling
The greatest moments of my life have taken place in worship.  A lot of honorable mentions occurred in other contexts:  family vacation at the lake; graduations; the fellowship of small groups.  But far and away the best moments are eight which took place in worship:  when I exchanged mar­riage vows with my dear Sarah, the baptisms  and weddings of our three daughters, and recently the baptism of our grandson, Hilton.
I both anticipated and enjoyed each of those moments great­ly.  Oddly enough, the moments have not faded into nostalgia.  Rather, with the passage of time, their meaning has grown.  For it is only with time that the meaning of a mar­riage or a baptism comes to full flower.  And the buds are still opening.
Over the years framed reminders of those great moments appeared in our family room – a wedding, followed by baptisms, followed by weddings, and now again baptisms.  Cherished pictures of vacations and graduations may prompt nostalgia, but reminders of weddings and baptisms are the ones that prompt awe:  "See what God has done!"
My appreciation of those moments is dependent in part upon a moment I can't remember myself.  But I've been told.  And I've seen a picture of a fat cheeked baby boy on his way to the First Presbyterian Church of Baird, Texas, for his own baptism.  Even before my memory took hold, God was reaching out to me in love.  So, too, the bud that sprang forth that day is still coming to full flower.
Many are the memories of human making.  But the greatest moments of life are the work of God.  And he's still working.
With you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

God's Birthday Gifts

An Inkling
Today I’m completing year 56.  Here are my random observations as I try to gather enough breath to blow out a forest of candles…
Fifty-six sounds old to me.  I don’t feel that old.  I also don’t feel mature enough to be that old.  I would have thought that by now I would be bearing the fruit of the Spirit more abundantly, and that I would struggle less with the works of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-23).  So I’m most grateful that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning – even after a bunch of mornings!
On the other hand, I do feel that old – at least physically.  For the first time in my life I get winded by climbing stairs fast.  And with a changing metabolism I am also discovering what my heavy friends meant by not being able to lose weight.  I’ve always thought that they just didn’t try hard enough.  I’m starting to understand.  So the fantasies of forever young are fading – another of God’s gifts, since fantasies don’t serve well for long.
As those fantasies fade I’m also all the more amazed at God’s persistence with me.  Even after decades of mixed results working with me, he has not diminished his expectations.  He still intends to reshape me to be more like Jesus.  And that’s no fantasy (see Ephesians 4:13-15).  What a gift! 
Such growth, while tailored to who I am, is not private.  It comes only in partnership with others whom the Lord is forming.  I count you, my partners in Christ, as the best of God’s many birthday gifts.  Thanks for being you.