Tuesday, May 29, 2012


An Inkling
Not long ago a friend said that they had lain out of church for quite a while, never quite finding the right place, but that when they had come here it clicked for them.  He wished they had come sooner, and he sensed that they had wasted some valuable years.
Maybe so.  We can waste time in life.  The biblical life span of threescore and ten passes oh so quickly.  So we do want to seize every opportunity that the moment affords.
But it is also true that the time has to be right for us to take certain steps.  There are particular steps of growth that we simply cannot take any sooner than we do. 
Our Christian life is more like the world of agriculture than that of manufacturing.  Factory production is on a schedule and efficiency is at a premium.  But how can one schedule things of the spirit?  And as for growth, it is anything but efficient.  Spiritual growth is more like agricultural production:  the time has to be right before a seed can germinate, a shoot can sprout, and fruit be borne. 
The Divine Gardener has an eye for such seasons in our lives.  In what season do you sense that he has you now?  What growth is sprouting?  Is it time for you to act? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Respecting My Elders

An Inkling
The old preacher’s joke is:  “I’d preach for free.  They pay me the big bucks to work with the elders.”  Often humor arises from pain, of which the pairing of pastors and elders frequently generates more of the latter than the former.
But I’m happy to report that it ain’t so here.  The elders at St. Giles are a joy to work with.  Over three decades and four churches, I’ve worked with about 200 elders in over 400 Session meetings.  Many a Session night I’ve arrived home after the meeting depressed and depleted.  But here at St. Giles I’m almost always arriving at home with a spring in my step.
Why?  It’s not that we haven’t had to face some hard issues.  It’s that the elders here are amazing.  They bring a depth of biblical wisdom to our conversations.  They are earnest in prayer for each other and for the church.  They are willing to tackle tough issues, and are bold to act once the Lord has made his guidance clear.  They are some of the most loving people I’ve ever known.  And when they get into a discussion there is often an unmistakable Holy Spirit synergy at work.  It’s fun to see.  By the Spirit’s power the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.  But the parts ain’t too bad either!
Pray for your elders.  They may look like the proverbial duck (calm on the surface), but beneath the surface they are paddling like crazy.  It’s hard work.  And they do it marvelously well.  But they definitely need your prayer support.
Blessings, Keith

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too Excited? No Way

An Inkling
A friend posted this recently, and I found it to be great fun – and instructive.
When it comes to the stars of the celebrity constellations, I am definitely out of it.  So I had to look up Steve Harvey.  In case you are out of it too, he is a comedian, a radio talk show host, and the host for the TV show Family Feud.  And he has a wonderful capacity for expressing his excitement about Jesus.
Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly the language you want to use at every point in writing an orthodox creed.  But it’s language native to Steve, and it was communicating with his audience.  It’s also language that clearly carries his excitement about Jesus.  And Steve is VERY excited about Jesus.
As I watched him I got to thinking:  Jesus is the only one that it is impossible to get too excited about.  Our excitement about anyone else can go over the top – be it candidate, hero, sports star, or even a loved one.  We really can, and sometimes do, speak too highly of someone, a person complete with limitations and flaws akin to our own. 
But not so with Jesus.  We simply cannot speak too highly of him.  We cannot be too excited about him.  Whenever we honor him we understate the reality, because it’s a reality greater in magnitude and goodness than we can fully take in.
Have you found your own voice to speak excitement about Jesus?  Your can’t borrow Steve Harvey’s voice, but you have your own.  And it’s time to find it and then to find the places where you can let it sound.
Speak up,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


An Inkling
One of the blessings of being a pastor is that I get a couple of weeks each year for study leave.  It’s the church’s way of trying to keep the pastor’s blade sharpened.  In the last two weeks I split a week of that leave in two very different places, but in both I found community. 
Two weeks ago I spent three days at St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington.  It’s a Benedictine house, and as part of their mission they receive guests.  So I stayed in one of their guest rooms, and joined them for their mid-day prayers and meals.  (The picture is of some monks beginning to gather for mid-day prayer.) 
One of my goals was to study John, through which I’m preaching this year.  The quiet of the Abbey made for some wonderful study time.
But I also got to learn about community simply through observation.  I wasn’t there long enough to become a part of their community in any meaningful way.  But I could see many facets of their community life as they gathered for prayer four times a day, gathered for meals, etc.  Father Christopher, the guest-master who greeted me, has been at St. Anselm’s for 52 years – almost his entire adult life.  The other brothers have similar stories.  Theirs is a community of stability and structure, with Jesus at the center.
The next week I was in Louisville for three days for the annual gathering of my “covenant group.”  This is a group of about 25 Presbyterian pastors, who have adopted a discipline of mutual support, accountability, and encouragement.  Within the 25 I have been part of a smaller circle of five, with whom we checked in at length. 
There was all the usual foolishness that comes with 25 guys getting together anywhere.  For example, since we were in Kentucky, we took an afternoon to tour a bourbon distillery.  Such foolishness has its own value for community life. 
But in addition to the foolishness, there was also a deep sharing.  Just to hear the stories of what God has been doing in these brothers’ lives was deeply moving – especially since we’ve prayed each other through some of the challenging passages of the last year in our monthly calls.  The stories were both painful and joyful, and they were all deeply instructive in God’s goodness.  In contrast to St. Anselm’s, this is a community that is free flowing and scattered, but again, with Jesus at the center.
Where is your community?  It can have many shapes.  But if Jesus is central, it will be life giving.  Where might you find one?  Or start one?!