Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pains That Preach

Don't know how I got here
Was it the weight or my will
A wrinkle or a stain
Something more, something darker
Something deeper that needs exposure
That needs light
Or even new sight
Oh...find me

Hating the view
Hiding from the hope
That once brought my freedom
It's not blessed here, it's not even sweet
This ride; not anymore
Show me a signpost
Or send me The Ghost
Oh...find me

Find me.....lost in the corner
Of my own design
Find me......lost in the tension
Of where I am and where I wanna go
Find me.....lost in the wrestle
Between flesh and soul
Won't you find me here
Oh...find me
Please...... find me

There you are
Behind my turned face
As I close the door
Still knocking, still speaking
An echo; a song in my ears
That familiar voice
Refrain of choice
Oh...find me

Release me from myself
This prison, this hole
This cursed hamartia
Stone of the grave
Can't keep me here
These pains that preach
That I'm beyond your reach
Oh...find me

Find me.....lost in the corner
Of my own design
Find me ....lost in the tension
Of where I am and where I wanna go
Find me.....lost in the wrestle
Between flesh and soul
Won't you find me here
Oh...find me
Please.... find me




Thursday, June 18, 2020

Three Steps Behind

It feels like he was always three steps ahead
or maybe that I was three steps behind.
I know that sounds like it's saying the same thing twice.
But there's a difference.

One thought is more about him knowing where he was going, and the other,
has to do with my sense of lagging, or dawdling, or distraction.

I can see him on the trail to the barn, between the corral and the chicken coup.
His face away from mine, shoulders bent slightly forward, surveying the world before him;
silent most of the time.
Or on the way out into the field...
Carrying a bucket of grain...or
With a rope over his shoulder...or
A saddle and blanket slung over his back...or
Pushing a wheelbarrow with a fence-stretcher,
        a sledge-hammer, a post-hole digger,
               a roll of barbed-wire, or bale of alfalfa in it.

Usually, I was carrying something too, and periodically I would adjust my pace to try and catch up.
But his strides for so many years were just enough longer,
that I would drift back to that familiar place
 ...three steps behind.

Then we arrived, at wherever he had meant for us to go,
and he would lay out the plan for whatever we needed to do while we were there.
Quietly he would explain the roles that each of us would need to fill
to finish the task that was before us.
Sometimes I would grimace because I knew that it was going to take hours to lay out, repair, or build
what he had in mind, and I was certain there were
                                more important things to do with my time.

Today,
I would offer much,
for an hour,
or as long as I'm in the place of wishing,
a whole day,
to just follow and listen and learn....
                            and laugh with you...Dad.
I know that I could pay more attention today.
Distractions would not win.
My heart and mind longs to borrow your ability to plan;
to see past the moment towards the end.
...and these moments today are so full of challenge, headache and heartache.

But you are long beyond those three steps ahead of me now.
Even so, every once in a great while, I think that I catch your vision somewhere,
pausing as you walk,
turning your shoulder to face me.
        I see your smile, beckoning me forward.
                            ...And I'm reminded that one day,
I'll catch your stride again,
              the space between us will disappear
And we'll have all the time we need
                                          ...all the time I want.







Thursday, June 4, 2020

Until The Weeping Is Done

A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more...(Jeremiah 31:15)
And I will kneel with you and weep.
My sisters
And my brothers
Until you say to me
Until you say to me
Until you say to me
"The time for weeping is done."
And when we rise from that place...
There is an old crop
that must be uprooted and cast away.
It was bitter fruit, that for many years,
You have endured and I have not.
And when we rise from that place...
There is a new crop
that must be planted that we can all eat from;
rejoice in its taste.
Be satisfied in it.
Be nourished in it.
Until not only our stomachs, but our hearts are full.
And when we rise from that place...
Let us stay in step;
arms together,
purposes clear,
even as we walk away from that weeping.
Not as those who are united by pledge, or contract,
But as family.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

I'm Not Playin'




I wish you would have told me...

- That it was cold outside ....so I could have worn a coat and gloves
- That it was raining outside...so I could have worn a hat or grabbed an umbrella
- That there was a lot of chili sauce in the ramen....so I wouldn't have taken such a big spoonful
- That everyone in the room had the flu...so I would have kept a distance
- That the water was low in the radiator....so I would have filled it
- That the invitation said "formal wear"...so I didn't look like an idiot in my shorts
- That there was tax on top of the list price...so I wouldn't have had to leave the store without buying what I wanted

Jesus said...
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
(John 14:2)

It's like he's saying, "I'm not playin'! This is truth.  You can count on it.  I don't make promises that I don't follow through with, or keep secrets from you in order to surprise you later."

His character is completely authentic.
He is worthy of trust.



Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Way Back

Years ago, our oldest daughter was a runner. She was in first grade. She ran everywhere. 
After school she was in a pretty loosely developed track program. The kids circled the school grounds on the sidewalk after the final bell while the teacher put marks on their hand every time they passed her on the playground. They did it every day for about an hour. One day when we picked her up, the teacher told us that our daughter circled the school more times than the other children.
"Okay," we said.
"A lot more times," said the teacher.
"Okay," we said.
Then there was a race scheduled with other area grade schools. 
We met in a city park for a one mile run.
Our daughter had been walking around the park with us and a friend of hers from her class. They were aflutter about everything happening around them.
They were holding hands and talking excitedly.
A bit later, the two of them were standing at a starting line with a mob of two or three dozen other kids. 
They looked at each other with smiles and then the gun sounded.
Our daughter bolted out in front of the the group and after about 75 yards was in front of the pack by a significant distance. 
Then she stopped. 
Froze. 
Turned around and searched through the others until she found her little friend, raced back against the onrushing tide of runners, grabbed her friend by the hand and then the two ran on together, somewhere in the middle-rear of the pack, but together.
It was incongruent when measured against the concept of "a race".
We knew that and were confused, but at the same time, there was something very right about her
actions.
In another context of course, we were really proud of her choice.
We have to remember that the pathway to healing in racial and cultural divides involves words like
reconciliation and restoration; it is a return path. 
All the way back to the beginning, there was a force at work to divide and separate us.
From God.
From each other.
From family.
Selfishness, pride and fear will separate; always.
That theme of broken-ness cuts across all of the history of humanity.
There was a complete Shalom and then there was not. All we have known since the garden in respect to race, culture and family is lesser representations of it. A hint of how it ought to be at times, but only a hint.
We know there to be a way back, but mostly we are bent by our own will to continue forward instead
of turning around. 
As though we will find some kind of new formula, fresh understanding or enlightened thought on the horizon; but it's not there.
The answer is in going back, not forward.
Even the word repentance is a return word. 
Making space in my mind for a coming home experience. 
At the Eastern Gate.
At the foot of the cross.
We were meant to be one. 
All of us. 
One blood. 
One creation. 
One humanity. 
The answer is in the return. 
I believe that if we would just find our brother and sister and join hands, exercise forgiveness and grace, ignore the race going on around us, we will discover it.
The path is overgrown and thorny, but it's there. 
He's calling us towards it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Whispered Awareness

I have always enjoyed the relative chaos of our services on Sunday...

We are privileged to have a church family with many nations represented.
So, conversations are taking place in multiple languages.
We have children racing in and out of every space in the foyer, the hallways and bathrooms.
(And six babies that have already arrived, or should arrive in the next 8-9 months!)
Young adults and seniors, smiling and laughing.
Shaking hands and hugging one another.
Music is usually playing through the sound system.
It is a joyous celebration.

However, for awhile now, I have begun to be attracted to another form of joy.

 My cell phone was orphaned on my desk in the office.
Laptop; the same.
I was alone, in the church sanctuary, enjoying the quiet after leading a memorial service on
a Thursday afternoon a couple weeks ago.
A small choir of lighted Christmas trees brought luminescence to the platform.
The manger scene also sparkled in the same light.
But there was no sound at all...from without.
Only from within.

(You can confirm this one day with Elijah, but...) I believe, He whispers in order that we might become more attuned to listening.  I am fairly convinced of this.  In fact it's at the point where we are listening so closely, that our actions are in conjunction with thoughts we cannot completely identify as ours, or His that we are the most effective as representatives of our faith in Christ.

It's me somewhere in the background, instead of me in the way.
My ego fades.  I don't need attention.
I just need to have done what He's explained needs to be done...in that whispered awareness.

As I was returning items to their original places on the platform, two people entered the space.  They ventured in, one at a time, so I had personal conversations with each, without the other present.  Both of them were a bit younger than I, a man and a woman, and they were related to the individual who had passed on.  Neither were really sure I think, exactly why they had come to talk with me.  So, when we met at the altar, their words stumbled out of their mouths, like the ideas behind them were arriving as packages that had to be opened one at a time...
"Hello...um...can I talk to you a minute?"
"Sure."
"I just wanted to say..."
Long pause.
"Thank you... I guess."
"Sure.  For what?"
"For the service...for your words..."
"You're welcome.  I was really happy that we had the opportunity to host the service."
"Also," and at this point the man averted my eyes and looked to the carpeted floor.  "I think I want to try and get back to church."
I nodded.
I listened not just to what was said, but what wasn't; following his hand gestures and body language.
"I've tried a couple places," he continued, "but haven't found anything yet that really seems to fit."
"You'd be welcome here, " I said, as brightly as I could, without sounding like I was trying to sell something.
He told me where he lived and acknowledged that if it were closer he would definitely come back.
I shook his hand, thinking that was all there was to be said and he would turn and leave.
But he didn't leave.  He just stood there, the wooden altars between us like a fence-line.
"Can I pray for you?"
"Please," he sighed.
And so I did, and then he brushed a tear from his eye, shook my hand and walked away.

Maybe ten seconds later, a woman appeared coming down the left aisle.  In essence, it was the same conversation, and it ended the same way.
There was the revelation of a hunger for God that wasn't being addressed fully in her life.
Followed by a confession as to what was getting in the way.
Then a prayer and a teary-eyed departure.

It wasn't a prepared dialogue.
I'm not even sure that they knew why they came to me.  What I do know is that it wasn't so much about the answers I gave to their questions.
It was more about the listening, and the availability.
Being available to them, and being available to Him.

I want more than anything, to sense that I am part of the purposes of Christ.  I guess that what I am learning is that most of those moments do not come when I plan for them.
Even though I am a pastor.  

We have all these good words to describe it...
Submitted.
Surrendered.
Sanctified.
Yielded.

Let's let those who are worried about the semantics sift out the proper phrasing, but most of all can we just get there!?

The world is waiting...watching...hoping...needing.

Oswald Chambers wrote, "When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God."

Dependent is a big word.  It's not altogether a word I like to use about myself.
However, I am getting more comfortable with the quiet.  
More compatible with being still.  
More able to tell myself, "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."  


Merry Christmas  :)





Monday, November 4, 2019

Awake

A friend of mine just went home.
At the beginning of the week, Rhonda and I drove to Swedish Hospital to celebrate the birth of a lad whose parents I was privileged to marry a short while ago. His eyes opened to this world for the very first time on Tuesday morning. He is beautiful and sweet and tiny. And his parents shine almost as much as he does.  🙂
In contrast, I just left the house where another closed his eyes to this world for the last time. When he opens them again it will be to a different world. 
He was in church last Sunday.
Tired.
Waiting for release. 
I have seen him at least once or twice a week for the past several weeks as he wanted to talk to me about many things.
Sometimes we just read the bible together.
Sometimes we discussed what it said.
Sometimes we talked about his antique cars.
Or roller skating.
Or his travels.
Or his cancer.
A couple weeks ago, as I sat down, I asked him how we was, and he said, "I'm doing about as good as I can. I think. I just want to get back to church. But my legs are so wobbly I can't even get to the wheel-chair by myself. Can you help with that?"
I said we would figure out something. And we did. (Thank you, Brian and Stanley). 🙂
Then I said, "How are you with Jesus?"
And he said, "He's closer than ever. Sometimes I can see him right there!" And his voice rose a bit in decibel, and he lifted his shaky right arm, emphatically gesturing to a space maybe two feet in front of him.
"I'm ready to go." he said. 
And it wasn't morbid.
It wasn't even depressing.
It was just true.
He was ready to enter into the future that his faith had promised. He had been assured of it's reality by the one he was counting on, and had in fact seen more clearly now as that day grew near. He is home.
Eyes closed.
Eyes opened.