This morning I was talking with someone about the lack of follow through in certain disciplines which accompany our religious faith. The basic question was; “I try to pray and read the Bible but sometimes I’m not as focused as I should be. My mind wanders, I become distracted by the day’s worries. Have I disappointed God?”
I shared the story of my friend Mary who passed away a couple years ago. She’s what many would call a; “Prayer Warrior.” However, toward the end of her life, when praying at night, she would often fall asleep. This brought her intense guilt and she confessed it to me one day. I smiled and told her not to feel ashamed; “What better way to end your day then being held by the Father as you whisper your cares and love into His ear?”
One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors, Thomas Merton, says in part; “I may not know always how to please you my Lord, but let my wanting to please you, please you.”
Earlier today I watched a documentary about the man who discovered and excavated King Tut’s tomb. Howard Carter, after many years and many failures made this “most famous of all discoveries” in 1922.
He wasn’t the most pleasurable person to be around, he was rude, condescending and had a short fuse but his passion was uncovering an undisturbed burial chamber of an Egyptian Pharaoh and he succeeded. It was said that when he died there were few people who attended his funeral. In his latter years someone asked him if it was worth all the effort with precious little to show for it and he answered; “it was.”
I want to have the passion and purpose to give all my life, my strength, my courage my everything in pursuit of a deep, inner longing. Not for fame, riches or other meager treasure but simply because I know who I am, whose I am and what I am made for. At the end of my days I want to be able to answer the question; “was it worth it?” with a smile, a nod and a confident; “it was.”
If 2014 was the longest year of my life, and it seemed to be, then 2015 was one of the shortest. Trying to wrap my brain around it being the last day of the year is proving to be a difficult task.
I spent most of the year out of my comfort zone trying to forge new relationships, learning a new job, accepting the reality of the diagnosis of an illness and adjusting my life accordingly.
It was not a year of stillness and balance but rather of uncertainty and finding my footing. It wasn’t a bad year by any means but for someone who likes stability and predictability it was a challenge! Now, here I am, only a few hours of this quick moving year left and no sense of what the new one will bring.
Today has been a day of rest and reflection. A respite to catch my breath. Whatever 2016 holds it will be experienced, accepted and not too much to bear.
to look at him isn’t to know him. he’s big, really big, broad and tall with scars on his face. his life has been one of violence and rage, drugs and jail and it shows. however, seeing isn’t believing. to listen to him talk, to get past his appearance and know the scared boy beneath is worth the apparent risk of sitting in a small room with him, alone.
his smile is genuine, his heart and spirit opening more each day as folks extend their circle of life to include him. he’s made mistakes. he regrets most of them. he doesn’t want you to ignore his past he just doesn’t want it to dictate his future. he’s no where close to perfection but his progression speaks to the power of loving those many would deem unlovable and extending grace to the ones who truly understand they aren’t worthy.
Earlier this week a neighbor invited my wife and I to, “friends day” at their small, rural church close to our home. We have a regular place of worship but, as former campus pastors, we also have a special place in our hearts for spiritual families of diminutive sizes whose leaders, usually of the older generation, are trying desperately to identify and anoint new, younger members, who’ll run with ball after they’re gone.
Small congregations have the difficult task of not losing sight of the past and finding a vision for the future. They don’t have the budgets, staff or volunteers to compete with the large (and want to be larger) churches. The entertainment, programs, and culturally defined approach to ministry doesn’t usually work for churches living Sunday to Sunday, offering to offering.
We entered into the brown paneled sanctuary with a ten by ten stage up front complete with podium and a bouquet of flowers. We were welcomed graciously, found our seat and soon the service began. We sang; “gasp!” out of hymnals. “It is Well with my Soul’ and ‘How Great Thou Art,” were some of the known ones with others I’ve never heard before sprinkled in. The pastor preached a short and to the point message, communion was given and received, a benediction song, prayer was said and that was the end.
Overall a nice service and a loving and welcoming people. I’d never been to a church of this denomination before but was struck with the thought; “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”
I also reflected on the words; “friend‘ and ‘friendly.” I hope and pray every church who dares to open it’s doors will never forget that unless the known one and the stranger are loved equally we aren’t living our purpose or obeying our Master’s greatest command.