It has been a little over a year and a half since my last post . . . I honestly haven’t missed writing much. This past week, something finally broke loose for me. At the Exponential Conference, I was reminded of the incredible privilege and responsibility I have as a pastor. The past eighteen months, really the past two years, have been about healing. I’m ready to get back in the game. Anyone else up for storming the gates of hell? Armor up!
Inspired by my children who exemplify what it is to live in a love relationship with our Heavenly Father.
To know your grace
To experience your love
Is like warm water cascading through my soul
I am clean
I am forgiven
I am free
No longer do the burdens of days past consume me
No longer is my path obstructed or cast in shadow
For You prepare the way and light the path
Your glory hems me in on all sides
I am your servant, your child
About six weeks ago I finished laying out topics for the coming year of Sundays. It is so cool to just sit, listen to God and watch him put the calendar together. I believe that God truly put it all together but I would love confirmation. If you attend the Quarry, please let me know where you see us needing to grow. I’m not looking for things that you think would be really neat to know about. Rather I am wondering what you believe God needs to teach us so we can better fulfill the mission he has collectively called us to. What topics would effectively attract your searching friends?
Take a minute and leave a comment. I’ll give a free iPod to the best suggestion. Just kidding – there is no way I’d do that but I will personally thank you!
I had to cut a very inspirational story from Sunday’s message. There just isn’t enough time. I could save it for another day but it blessed me so much that I want to share it with you. I realize this is extremely long for a blog but don’t let that stop you. Just sit up close to your monitor and allow the Spirit of God to touch your heart. This story was taken out of John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” (pg. 22-25). Enjoy!
“The state-run convalescent hospital is not a pleasant place. It is large, understaffed, and overfilled with senile and helpless and lonely people who are waiting to die. On the brightest of days it seems dark inside and it smell of sickness and stale urine. I went there once or twice a week for four years, but never wanted to go there, and I always left with a sense of relief. It is not the kind of place one gets used to.
On this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.
As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped up in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I was told later that when new nurses arrived, the supervisor would send them to feed this woman, thinking that if they could stand this sight they could stand anything in the building. I also learned later that this woman was eighty-nine years old and that she had been here, bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.
I don’t know why I spoke to her-she looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, ‘Here is a flower for you. Happy Mother’s Day.’ She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, ‘Thank you. It’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see it, you know, I’m blind.’
I said, ‘Of course,’ and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, ‘Here, this is from Jesus.’
That was when it began to dawn on me that his was not an ordinary human being. Later I wheeled her back to her room and learned more about her history. She had grown up on a small farm that she managed with only her mother until her mother died. Then she ran the farm alone until 1950 when her blindness and sickness sent her to the convalescent hospital. For twenty-five years she got weaker and sicker, with constant headaches, backaches, and stomachaches, and then the cancer came too. Her three roommates were all human vegetables who screamed occasionally but never talked. They often soiled their bedclothes, and because the hospital was understaffed, especially on Sundays when I usually visited, the stench was often overpowering.
Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years. Her first words to me were usually an offer of hard candy from a tissue box near her bed. Some days I would read to her from the Bible, and often when I would pause she would continue reciting the passage from memory, word-for-word. On other days I would take a book of hymns and sing with her, and she would know all the words of the old songs. For Mabel, these were not merely exercises in memory. She would often stop in mid-hymn and make a brief comment about lyrics she considered particularly relevant to her own situation. I never heard her speak of loneliness or pain except in the stress she placed on certain lines in certain hymns.
It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful to a sense of wonder, and I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say …
During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me “What does Mabel have to think about – hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it’s day or night? So I went to her and asked, ‘Mabel, what do you think about when you lay here?’
And she said, ‘I think about my Jesus.’
I sat there, and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked, ‘What do you think about Jesus?’ She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote …:
‘I think about how good he’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know.… I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied. … Lots of folks wouldn’t care much for what I think. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.’
And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn:
Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all.
He is my strength from day to day,
Without him I would fall.
When I am sad, to him I go,
No other one can cheer me so.
When I am sad He makes me glad.
He’s my friend.
This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know. I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening – and she lay there and sang hymns. How could she do it?
The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in the bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power.”
You and I can have that power – if we will only die to ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us to over-flowing.
The list of parenting tips really could go on and on. I just want to give you one more that makes my top 5. Remember, these tips don’t do you any good without the solid foundation of Jesus. He really is all in all!
Serve and serve alongside
Jesus gives us the great example of being a servant leader. He loved his disciples, washed their feet and ultimately died for them. I believe we need to do the same with our children. Serve your children out of genuine love and I believe they will become a true servant. The challenge for many parents is that this is really all they do with their kids. They love their children into a self-serving pile of goo! This tool is only useful when it is used along with other parenting tools like follow through (discipling and promises), reading your child and protecting. Balance really is key in parenting.
To give your kids a bigger picture make it a priority to serve alongside them. If you don’t serve somewhere on a regular basis (food shelf, meals on wheels, the local church, a needy neighbor, prison ministry, homeless shelter . . .), start today! As follower’s of Jesus this is at the core of who we are. We were created to love God and love people – especially the least of these. How cool would it be to take your kids with you and teach them how truly purposeful their life can be from the very beginning.
Serve your children and serve alongside them. Open their eyes to the joy of glorifying God by using their gifts to love others. Life can be so rich!
Sunday was a blast – a bit stressful at times but what’s fun without a little stress? The message went by so fast on Sunday that I didn’t have a chance to finish up the “practical tips” for parenting. Here goes:
Protect and Expose – As we seek to teach our kids about God it is crucial that we protect them – their mind, body, emotion, and spirit. We are the gatekeepers and need to take that seriously. Pretty basic stuff. Just as we wouldn’t allow our children to swim in a sewage treatment plant we need to monitor what our children swim in mentally and spiritually. Enough said.
In the midst of protecting our kids I believe it is critical to expose them to the “real world” we live in. At some point, we are charged to release our kids. They will not be under our protection forever. Why not prepare them a head of time. Steve Irwin, the late Crocodile Hunter, though heavily criticized, had this philosophy when he carried his six month old baby into a crocodile exhibit. In response to being blasted he said, “I would be a terrible father if I didn’t teach my kids about the dangers of their environment.” In his world, crocodiles are a significant danger. Exemplifying how to safely interact with a croc makes sense. What are the dangers that you should be exposing your kids to – things they will come into contact with or without your wisdom. Protect and expose your kids.
Alright, so we had a break last week with a wonderful Kidstuf Sunday. Way to go to everyone involved! You never cease to amaze me with you passion and talent. God is using you for his glory! Time to get back on track. Your reading for this week:
- Deuteronomy 17:14-20
- 1 Kings 3; 9:1-9; 10:14-29; 11:1-13
Enjoy! Be thinking about the origin of Solomon’s downfall.