Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pomposity Punctured

An Inkling
The Lord is never without a means of puncturing our pomposity.  Pomposity comes easily when wearing a black robe and playing a central role in a couple’s life defining moment.  I was garbed in such a robe when I conducted a wedding on Memorial Day on a dock at a beautiful lakeside venue.
The ceremony was due to start at 3:00 PM, but the couple, both Ensigns in the Navy, realized that 3:00 PM was the time when people across the nation, whether at ball games or barbecues, would pause for a moment of silence to remember what Memorial Day is really about.  So our plan was for me to have the people stand at the hour, before the wedding party entered, and observe that moment of silence. Then we would proceed with the ceremony.
So at the stroke of three I walked toward the front, and almost tripped on a step there on the dock.  That was the Lord’s first poke at my pomposity.  
Then came his second.  Just as I was having the people stand for the moment of silence, a fishing boat about 100 yards up the shore, started blaring Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.  You know how sound carries over the water.  We heard it as loud as they played it.  We could have done worse – at least the song's chorus sounds patriotic.  But it was hardly a solemn moment.  And actually what was intended to be a moment became five moments, because there was no way to proceed with the wedding until Bruce was done singing.  
With my pomposity poked, and with the Lord still laughing, I then did my little part for the One who actually joined the couple in marriage.
Whether you ever wear a black robe or not, I bet you have discovered what I have: the Lord is never without a means to puncture our pomposity!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Lord's Five-Year Plan

An Inkling
Years ago someone shared with me a bit of wisdom:  you can never accomplish as much as you plan to in a year, but you can accomplish much more than you knew to plan in five years.  That has certainly proven to be true in the church.
I was reminded of this Monday evening when some of our Elders gave their “Last Will and Testament” as they retired from their term of service.  As they spoke we were amazed to hear what all the Lord had done in us and through us, only not in five years, but in just the last three years.
Three years ago when these Elders began their service, we were only halfway through our two year process of exiting our previous denomination.  We still had the hardest part ahead of us – negotiating an exit payment, and then figuring out how to pay for it.  When we were finally released in June, 2013, we all collapsed in fatigue for two or three months.  But then we began in earnest the transition into our new denomination, figuring out the best ways to fit our congregational contours into those of our new denominational wineskin – and really that is still in process.  Along with that challenge came some staff changes, the implementation of a complex new worship strategy, a capital campaign to pay for our exit and other big projects, and several other endeavors.  When we thought back to how far we had come in just three years, we were all amazed. 
The Good Shepherd knows how to pace his sheep.  Of course, those completing their three years may sleep for the next month – and deservedly so!
But then they will start thinking about what they might accomplish in the next year.  It won’t be as much as they plan.  But in another few years they will look back again and see that the Lord has brought them farther than they even knew how to plan.
Sound familiar?  May the Lord be praised for the course he chooses and the pace he sets.  And I am thanking him for such good Elder companions.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Art of Fun-Raising

An Inkling
I wrote a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of our Wednesday night food truck event. Now that we’ve had one, here is a report and a few observations.
In case you missed it, our plan is that on every Wednesday evening until the end of August, from 5:30 to 8:30, we are hosting food trucks and our neighbors in our south parking lot.  The Food Truck Association, which is sending half a dozen trucks each week, told us to expect about 150 people on the first week.  Though it’s hard to count a moving crowd, we believe we had more than triple that!  And considering that we didn’t know what we were doing, it went very smoothly.  We’ll make a few tweaks this week, and see what happens – hopefully something similar.  Because it looked like a good time was had by all.
After my vast experience of a single week (!), I offer these observations:
  • Although “foodie” tastes are increasingly prevalent, people are interested in more than fine food.  If there is good company and a setting of fun and relaxation, then even the food truck offerings of fast food are fine.  It need not be fine food.
  • People are conditioned to look for hidden motives.  We had a number of folks asking if this were a fund-raiser.  Nope.  It’s just a fun-raiser.  Jesus knew about that, and we’re learning.
  • Simple pleasures satisfy simply.  Heather thought to bring out some sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and hula-hoops for the children to play with as their families dined.  Given the surprising numbers of people, we would have been overwhelmed if we had tried complex games.  But simple worked, simply.
  • And finally, nothing smells better floating in the air than cholesterol!

Come on out, meet your old friends, and make some new ones.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Gift of Quip

An Inkling
Have you ever seen a spiritual gifts tests?  The New Testament offers lists of spiritual gifts – about 25 gifts in all.  These are the abilities the Lord gives to enable us to do a ministry he calls us to do.  The tests are supposed to identify our gifts so that we can focus on the ministries for which we are best gifted.  Sounds sensible, and I know such tests can give some direction.  But I would offer two caveats as they are used.
First, spiritual gifts are often not so much the known abilities of the person ministering as they are abilities provided in the midst of a ministry situation.  For example, I’ve known people who don’t ordinarily join in praying for the sick, who have seen the Lord heal someone through their prayers, and experienced his guidance as they prayed.  Those are gifts of healing and knowledge, which may not have even shown up on a gift survey, but which the Lord provided as needed in a ministry setting.  The Lord who provides ordinary patterns of gifting is certainly not restricted to them!
A second caveat to the gifts tests is this: the New Testament gift lists were never intended to be exhaustive.  For example, I’ve seen a spiritual gifting for leading worship, which you’ll find on no New Testament list.  This gift goes beyond musical ability or theological acumen.  It’s a supernatural gift for leading people into the presence of God.  The Lord provides this gifting here in our worship at points, and it is a great treasure.
I got to thinking about all of this because I’ve recently observed another spiritual gift that’s not on the lists: the gift of quip.  Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, has an extraordinary gifting for this.  Every day, sometimes twice a day, he offers up quips with amazing biblical insight.  And he does so via Twitter, which limits him to 140 characters.  Here are some samples of his recent “tweets”:
  • Religion says earn your life. Secular society says create your life. Jesus says, “My life for your life.”
  • The way we view the not yet will inevitably impact the way we respond in the here and now.
  • To insist doctrine doesn’t matter is really a doctrine itself.
  • Self-deception is not the worst thing that we do, but it is the reason we do the worst things.

And he offers these every day, with 201,000 followers and counting.  I think the Spirit is at work!  May he continue to gift us for ministry in the very ways he knows matter most.