Thursday, July 31, 2008

Planting Seeds

Yesterday, during the lunch hour a gentleman stopped by to take a look at the church. He said that he'd attended Liberty for about a year back in the mid 80's. As we walked around the old Chapel, which had been reconfigured since he was here back to its original plan, he shared a bit of his story. He said that while he didn't exactly come to faith at Liberty, it was an integral part of his path and five years later, once he'd moved - he came to faith after years of searching. Seeds had been planted, or cultivated, during his short time at Liberty and he'd stopped back to say how those seeds had blossomed.

As he relayed this story to me, I was struck by the fact that we, as Christians, are not always sure of our impact. You can't necessarily measure things like spiritual growth in the same way you can measure height or health. When you teach a Sunday School lesson and spend most of your time trying to corral the kids, you never know whether they actually got it. And the same can be said for a lot of what we do. It's easy to see the growth of attendance and buildings, things that we can measure, but it's so much harder to know whether people are really growing in their faith.

So, we end up doing one of two things. The first is to stress and be anxious and try every possible way to determine whether we're being successful or not. And the second option is to continue to be faithful to what we've been called to do - and trust that God will grow the seeds that we plant. That doesn't get us off the hook, because I do believe we'll be held accountable for what we did. What it means is that we should work hard and work well without thought to results - because if we do, those results will come...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quick hitting quotes

Here are a few quotes/thoughts I've come across lately that I find interesting/enlightening/amusing:

"I dance like I golf - very seldom and more for my partner's entertainment and comic relief than anything else." - Brian McLaren, More Ready Than You Realize

"It's the struggle that gives us our identity"
- Rev. Phil Ferguson, Limping Away From the Struggle (Sunday 7/27 sermon @ Liberty)

"Love is the answer at least for most of the questions in my heart." Jack Johnson, Better Together (from In Between Dreams)

"Grief shared is half grief; Joy shared is double joy." – Honduran proverb

"We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." Samaritan towns people from Sychar in John 4:42

"A little less consumption is always connected with a little more connection." - Rob Bell (Sermon, God is Green - Towers & Tomatoes)

Hope you enjoy these quotes that are bouncing around inside my head...

Monday, July 28, 2008

"More Ready Than You Realize"

I recently finished this book by Brian McLaren. I've been on a bit of an "evangelism" binge in reading - partly because our Presbytery has recognized that we've got a lot of dying churches and we need to somehow be intentional. I've also started realizing that while Liberty continues to "grow" (over 100 New Members joined from Sept '07 - June '08) - we are not particularly intentional about this either. We just happen to have a wonderful & unique building (Amish barn), a relaxed atmosphere where you can feel comfortable in jeans & a t-shirt, an amazing music program and wonderful children's education. These are great aspects, but there's not really a push (that I get any sense of) that the church is about reaching out and developing relationships with the world. I guess that's where I come in, as a pastor and all.

Anyway, I got reading this book partly because of that. And I loved it. It's easy to read - it follows a real conversation that Brian had with a young woman, mostly via e-mail, and how a "spiritual friendship" was created, fostered and where it lead for this woman. It also includes a Bible Study on Disciple-Making at the end. I'm hoping that I can find a group to re-read this with and possibly even do that study. One of the things I appreciate most about Brian, is that he makes me uncomfortable, makes me think - it's not all me agreeing with him (although there's a lot of that) - there's also times that makes me go "uhh..." and I think that's good. So, if you're up for a quick read (less than 200pgs, book is about as big as my hand) - I'd highly recommend this book...

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm a little...

busy. There are a ton of things I want to say, and yet I don't want to say anything. It's been an interesting adjustment, bringing home Aidan 2 days ago. I'm in the 3rd of 4 weeks with our co-pastors on vacation, so while I've got "paternity leave" - I still have to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks here. Luckily, I don't have to preach Sunday - our wonderful Pastor of visitation was already scheduled to do that. So, Aidan's birth couldn't have come at a better time. Although, heading to the hospital at 4am wasn't ideal.

The biggest thing right now, is my need to make sure that I'm available to Bridgette to be a real help during this time. I'm not exactly good at that. I'm also not good at being sensitive - or at least not sensitive enough. I'm working on that too. I guess I've got a lot to be working on right now...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oops...

Yes, 8lbs 5oz - that's the correct weight. I was a little sleepy...

Aidan's here!

Aidan William Donal, born 7/21/08, 10:19am, 8lbs 5 oz, 20.5 inches. Here are his first pictures, enjoy!




Sunday, July 20, 2008

Recognizing God

One final post on my sermon text for today. And the question is, do we recognize God?

The text begins with Abraham -in order to escape the heat of the day, he’s pitched his tent under these enormous trees and there he is, lounging around… when GOD shows up. Let’s freeze the frame here for a moment. The LORD appeared to Abraham. This isn’t particularly uncommon. It’s the 4th time so far in the book of Genesis that this phrase is used. But, if we adjust our eyes, and read carefully, we might be surprised by what we see. There’s not some bright light or burning bush or ominous cloud – instead, as Abraham is relaxing in the shade there are “three men standing nearby.” This is an interesting situation. Our narrator has explained that the LORD appeared to Abraham. And yet when we look around, we see 3 men – none of whom seem to stand out from the other. It sure doesn’t seem like the LORD is here. In this first scene we come face to face with the ambiguity of God’s presence. Sometimes, encountering God isn’t all bells and whistles. It isn’t all flashing lights and sirens. In fact, sometimes we might not even recognize God, without someone else there to tell us – or without the benefit of hindsight.

Is it any different for us today? Sometimes we might recognize God – and sometimes it takes someone else to show us – or hindsight to reveal to us that we just experienced God. But just like Sarah's lack of faith not being a barrier to God, I think not recognizing a God-encounter right away, isn't necessarily a barrier either. We can gain a ton when we reflect on an encounter too. In hindsight, when do you think was the last time God showed up with you...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Faith or no faith, God's reaching out

I'm continuing to wrestle with Genesis 18:1-15 and the implications that it has for us and our faith. What I notice, especially as I look back at the chapters before, is the fact that a lack of faith in God is not something new. While the book of Hebrews raises Abraham up as a paragon of faith, there's certainly enough evidence throughout the book of Genesis to see that Abraham was human. Yeah, he left everything he knew to wander where "God" told him, but he also lied in Egypt to protect himself and tried to get around God's promise of a son by substituting his wife's servant girl. And then, when God reminds Abraham that it'll be Sarah that bears the child of promise, Abraham, much like Sarah in this later passage, laughs. If Abraham is an example of great faith, then we can learn something pretty neat here - great faith doesn't preclude moments of doubt.

So, when we get to this God encounter, where the LORD shows up to see Abraham & Sarah - where 3 men appear to Abraham - and God reminds them he'll show up next year - same bat time, same bat channel, and Sarah will be pregnant - is it any surprise that it's now her turn to laugh? She doesn't believe it'll happen. She's skeptical. Yeah, that makes sense. But, as I said in the earlier post, Sarah is actually drawn into the conversation, drawn into the encounter with God, through her unbelief, through her lack of faith. What we see in this story is the fact that God is reaching out, faith or no faith, to enact a blessing. God's purposes will come to pass, which is the big question, isn't it?

God's going to do what God's going to do. Our faith, or lack of faith, are both opportunities for God to draw us into a life changing encounter, so we can be part of God's mission...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hard at work

So, Friday I posted about waiting and how it reminded me of waiting for Christ's return. Well, Aidan isn't here yet, and so taking a page out of Paul's second letter to the church in Thessalonica, yesterday I participated in a work day on a habitat home. A dozen or so churches in the Delaware area have put in funds and donated time in order to build a habitat home. It's pretty cool. The truth is, waiting can't get us so bogged down that we become worthless. Yeah, I'm waiting for Aidan to arrive, but there's also a bunch of stuff out there to do and a bunch of ways I can be faithful to God, out there. While we wait for Christ, we too, can't sit around and be worthless. We've been given a mission, and opportunity to be ambassadors of Christ. It's probably a good idea we live out our calling instead of simply waiting at the gate for his eventual arrival...

Monday, July 14, 2008

First Encounters of the...trinity

I've decided to preach Genesis 18:1-15 this Sunday, as part of a 3 week series I'm titling "Encounters with God." Next week our Pastor of Visitation will preach on Gen 32:22-32, Jacob wrestling with God. He'd planned on preaching that for awhile and after talking with him about what he was going to be preaching, I figured I could dove-tail two sermons on encounters with God that might be good. I'm still looking at how I want to finish up on Aug 3, maybe the woman at the well - or some other encounter with Jesus. 'Cause that's what I'm really feeling drawn to.

Anyway, a couple of rambling thoughts on Abraham's encounter with these 3 visitors:
-You've probably got to mention people seeing the Trinity here, but it's very ambiguous
- God appeared to Abraham while he was sitting there, doing nothing - having his siesta, essentially. But the text is also ambiguous - The first sentence says the Lord appeared, and sets the stage, and the second sentence begins with Abraham looking up and seeing 3 men.
- Abraham immediately springs into action with great hospitality, even though it's questionable whether Abraham recognizes immediately that this as an encounter with God or not.
- Sarah overhears the Lord's pronouncement of a child, and is drawn in to the conversation by her response. She actually moves into the circle by her unbelief and not through any great faith.
- this pericope is left open-ended, ending with God's "Yes, you did laugh" - to Sarah. It's slightly uncomfortable and it's REALLY tough to read well in worship and end with that. But there's also some beauty in ending with something very uncomfortable...

Friday, July 11, 2008

You will preach what you practice

I just finished officiating a wedding at Liberty. This time last year I'd never officiated a wedding - in fact, this time last year I still wasn't ordained yet. But since that time, actually since Labor Day weekend of last year, I've officiated twelve weddings. I felt like I'd gotten the hang of these and have been enjoying them for the most part. This, like nearly half of them that I've officiated at Liberty, included a guest minister. While it was only his 2nd wedding, he was great. I, on the other hand, officiating number twelve here... was a little off...

During the rehearsal, both times we ran through it, I talked about the "Declaration of Intent" - the I Do vows, saying something to the effect of "after hearing all this about marriage, are you sure you want to get married?" - that is, of course, nothing close to what I normally say. But it's the rehearsal, and I'm trying to be light-hearted. However, when we got to that point in the ceremony, instead of saying "...I now ask you to affirm your desire to enter into this covenant:" - I rambled on and included a question, something to the effect of "are you able...?" - I was mortified. In fact, it even confused the groom into saying I do early. Yikes.

For me, it's another reminder that preparation is key - but not just any preparation, it has to be the RIGHT preparation. Because what you practice is what you'll end up... well, practicing when it comes right down to it. So, I'm off to practice a bit for Sunday's worship service...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Waiting

The question many of you are asking is whether Bridgette has given birth to Aidan yet. As of today, Bridgette remains with child. With Brennan coming 3 ½ weeks early, we never expected Aidan to make it this far into July – with his due date being July 22. We just figured since Brennan had come early, Aidan would too. And so these last couple weeks have been an odd type of expectancy. We’ve prepared his room, prepared the rest of the house, prepared our hearts and minds (at least, as much as you can for 4 months of no sleep). And now we wait. Because that is all we can do. This waiting has caused me to reflect on another kind of expectation and another kind of waiting.

Two thousand years ago, when Jesus left his disciples, he promised he’d be coming back. When Paul wrote his letters to churches in Thessalonica and Corinth and Ephesus, he believed that Jesus was coming back soon – maybe in his own lifetime. And as the years rolled on, we’ve seen an ebb and flow in this. Some people have contrived a method for calculating the exact date of Jesus return. And yet, like the due dates of babies, these dates have come and gone. The rest of us do our best to be faithful to Christ, preparing ourselves for his arrival and yet preparing for the future, knowing we are to be about his mission in the world. After all, what good are we as Christ’s ambassadors if we only sit on our hands and wait? So instead, we are caught in the tension between expecting and protecting – ourselves for the future. And sometimes, when we’re honest, we wonder if he actually will come…

Well, for a week or two, I’m living this tension in my own home. I’m excited and scared at the same time. It’s not a bad place to be, swimming in that tension. I think, being excited and scared about Jesus isn’t a bad place to be either…

Good Reminder

I love to be reminded of Good things by good people. My friend Lars just finished up elaborating on my top 11 current pieces of advice for youth leaders. And reading it over was a good reminder to continue to engage. What is awesome about technology and being a Christian, is that we can remain part of a "community" - even a community that is dispersed throughout the world and remain encouraged, enlightened and strengthened by other members - and we can still engage the world because we don't have to be huddled up in a cave somewhere. So, I'm stepping out of my office for a few minutes to go for a walk. Thanks for the good words Lars...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fast and Loose

A couple of recent observations:

1) Facebook is like school when the teacher steps out of the classroom for a moment - yeah, you can get some work done, but often times the obnoxious kids in the back of the room ruin it for everyone. I don't use it much at all because I hate all the junk that people send out - invitations to stupid things. Yeah, it was funny the first time, but seriously - be discriminate about who you invite to be on your "let's make the biggest tinfoil ball" group. Don't randomly hit "reply-all" to e-mails and don't invite all of your "friends" to join you in whatever new gadget you found on facebook.

2) Just when you think you've got something figured out...God throws you a curve ball. Bridgette remains "with child" - and if his movements last night as we lay in bed were any indication, she'll remain that way for a little while yet. Brennan came 3 and a half weeks early - Aidan is taking his sweet time. Which means our house has got to be Mr. Cleaned every night - good ol' nesting kickin' in!

3) Police are people like you & I... with badges. As I drove into the office today I was passed by a female Ohio State trooper (does it matter she was female? I dunno, but she was) - she was talking... on her cell phone! Now, unless you're in Brooklyn, Ohio, there's no laws here about driving under the influence of a telephone, but as a police officer? What happens if you see a felony in progress? Better yet, what happens when you miss seeing a felony in progress because you're distracted?

4) Sometimes you've just got to do it. And this goes for nearly everything in life, including, but not limited to blogging. Just throw crap up there to get the juices flowing. So, that's partly what this is about. That, and I didn't feel like digging deeply yet into the things I've been pondering lately - but I will, rest assured, I will...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Word Picture

I just wordled my blog. It's a cool way to take something you've written and make a word-picture (or word cloud as they say) out of it. I'm curious to see what it would look like a month from now? I think it's funny that Canadian was the biggest word and US was right behind it. The size of the words is based on the use & prominence...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Estranged States to live in... Happy 4th

As a Canadian, living in the US for the past 10 years now, I experience a very odd feeling of not belonging. Now, I can't speak for every ex-pat out there, but particularly as a Canadian, in the face of the rampant patriotism that often doesn't allow you to question, let alone critique your country, I have quite a hard time. It's been even more the case in the last 4 years as I've gone from feeling like the US military presence abroad was actually doing something positive, to discovering some of the seedy details, and wondering if this wasn't just another case of power corrupting good intentions. Anyway, on this day, where the US celebrates it's independence (by way of a bloody war...), I'm going to kick back like everyone else and pretend that everything here is A-OK...
Free
Clipart or Photos: www.ace-clipart.com

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Going Blue...

I thought it was time for a little change. Just minor. And maybe a little change in font upcoming, we'll see. Once in awhile my creative juices need an outlet. Now, if I could only put them to use for Sunday's sermon at our partner church - an Episcopal church in downtown Columbus...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm a proud papa

I came home to find Brennan had been singing the national anthem - how awesome is that! video

Happy Canada Day!

Just in case you didn't know, today, July 1, is Canada Day. It's a little ironic that we had originally thought of taking a Canadian Vacation this summer, which would have included our first trip to Quebec City during it's 400th Anniversary Celebration. Instead, we are at home, waiting for the arrival of our 2nd little boy - a poor Canadian in exile. I think one day we'll have to take the boys on a cross-Canada vacation - maybe some kind of summer deal where we go coast-to-coast, hitting a CFL game in every province. Now THAT sounds pretty cool...