Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Opposite Means Opposite

An Inkling
We describe members of that incomprehensible other gender as “the opposite sex” for good reason.  It’s funny how that works out in church events.  Witness recent events for the two.
Bob Ruthazer and his Men’s Ministry partners staged a marvelous men’s event Sunday evening.  The pieces were:  a 20 minute hot dog and chip dinner served on paper plates, followed by a trip to a place by the raceway where we played laser tag and raced go carts.  We had a blast.  (At this point you women can say, “Really?”)
Last month the women had a Christmas brunch.  Their tables were exquisitely set with all manner of matching Christmas themed plates, cups, and napkins.  They had a spread of sweet breads, quiches, dainties, and several kinds of hot drinks, all presented with a style fitting for high tea at the Jefferson Hotel.  Then they had a program on how Mary pondered on the events of Christmas.  They clearly had a wonderful time.  (At this point you men can say, “Really?”)
All of you who plan men’s and women’s events take note:  this is how it works.  Just try and break these patterns and see how far you get.
And keep saying it guys and gals:  “Not better; just different,” even if you don’t believe it!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Relishing Silver and Gold

An Inkling
Make new friends, and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.  We sang that as a round when I was a child, and already at that age the silver of the song was available.  But now I’m discovering first hand the gold, and what a great gift it is! 
Most people delight in the silver of new friendships.  It’s an adventure to get to know new people, learning why they are the way they are, being stretched by their new ways of seeing life, etc.  That is a true gift of God from our youngest years, and one that continues on into later years.  Even at 59, it is still thrilling to make new friends.
But the pleasures of long-term friendships are new.  This week I’ve discovered more of just how golden such friendships are.  Friends in Richmond offered us the use of a house in Hot Springs for a few days, so we invited some old friends to join us – Ray, Diane, Rob, and Sharon. 
We met the Cobbs and Sherrards initially when we all showed up together at Union Seminary, preparing for pastoral ministry.  Our common evangelical commitments drew us close, as we weathered some hard seasons at a school which often looked askance at us.  So we had that in common.
And actually much more.  We were also with each other for births and first birthdays.  Sharon gave a baby shower for our first child (who by God’s surprising way is now her daughter-in-law), and Diane made the cake for Rob & Sharon’s daughter’s first birthday, etc.  Maternity and baby clothes were shared, along with parental woes and wows.
Then we all headed off to serve churches, hundreds of miles apart.  So we would see each other only periodically.  But our children added to the family intersections.  As teens they served at camps together, and some went to college with each other.  Ray pastored Rob and Sharon’s son and our daughter (who were married by then), etc.  Every few years we would get to gather for reunions, and would talk and pray our way through family, church, and denominational challenges.
So to the silver of forming friendships, the Lord has added the gold of decades-long friendships.  Both offer a foretaste of his gifts in heaven, where such golden friendships will stretch unto forever, and where we’ll be hard-pressed ever to exhaust the silver of new friendships.  Think of all the faithful from across the globe and the generations.  That’s a lot of silver!  The silver and gold of friendships now is but a bare glimpse of what the Lord has in store for us all.
Who but the Lord can give such gifts?!  To honor such a Friend, to whom might you be a friend today?


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

12 Steps to Total Insanity

An Inkling
Many of us have been helped along the way by a “12 Step group.”  The 12 Steps originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, but their usefulness for recovery in general has led many groups to adapt and use them, from Narcotics Anonymous to Sex Addicts Anonymous. 
Just as the 12 Steps can guide us toward wholeness, so their antitheses can jolt us with a vision of our crazy-making habits.  These negative 12 Steps are borrowed from Steps, a magazine for 12 Step groups.  Enjoy a laugh with the “12 Steps to Total Insanity”:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over nothing.  We could manage our lives perfectly and we could manage those of anyone else that would allow it.
  2. Came to believe that there was no power greater than our­selves, and the rest of the world was insane.
  3. Made a decision to have our loved ones and friends turn their wills and their lives over to our care.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of everyone we knew.
  5. Admitted to the whole world at large the exact nature of their wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to make others straighten up and do right.
  7. Demanded others either “shape up or ship out.”
  8. Made a list of anyone who had ever harmed us and became willing to go to any lengths to get even with them all.
  9. Got direct revenge on such people whenever possible except when to do so would cost us our own lives, or at the very least, a jail sentence.
  10. Continued to take inventory of others, and when they were wrong promptly and repeatedly told them about it.
  11. Sought through nagging to improve our relations with others as we couldn’t understand them at all, asking only that they knuckle under and do things our way.
  12. Having had a complete physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown as a result of these steps, we tried to blame it on others and to get sympathy and pity in all our affairs.

As they say:  one step forward....
And 12 steps backward!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Uncommon Common Denominator

An Inkling
I just got back from a quarterly pastors meeting, sponsored by Bless Richmond.  While there we broke into small groups.  Here’s who was in my group:

  • William, who pastors a black Pentecostal storefront church
  • Janie, an African American Baptist who pastors a south-side church focused on those coming out of addictions, and who is also Co-Pastor of Richmond Hill, a mostly Episcopal retreat center
  • Mark, who pastors Grove Avenue Baptist, a mega-church with a TV ministry
  • And me, a pastor at St. Giles, and as markedly Presbyterian as my partners were markedly Pentecostal, Baptist, etc.
I also go to pastors meetings where I have denomination, training, theology, and experience in common with my colleagues.  Both kinds of meetings are of value, and I learn a lot in both. 
But in a meeting like today’s, where we have little in common but Christ and a pastoral calling, I see more clearly the power of Christ’s gift of unity.  In our small group we shared about our sense of calling and about the challenges we face.  We hardly know each other, and yet our sharing and prayer displayed a unity that we can’t manufacture and don’t own. 
It’s how the Lord Jesus’ unity works.  We need not match each other in order to have his unity, so long as he is in our midst.  In fact, all the more honor comes to him when we don’t match.  And all the more joy comes to us!