The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Drinking in a Drought

SPRING-TIME IN THE REDWOODS is a glorious time. The wild flowers seem to explode overnight. The greens of the grasses are somehow brighter, and each flowering tree is pushing forth its blossoms. The air turns warm and the fragrances of the oak, bay, and redwood waft upon the breeze. Truly one of the best times of year here on the Central Coast.

On such a beautiful day as this it is hard to imagine that we are still living under drought conditions, but the present beauty on the surface conceals a deeper reality below the surface. Without more rain over the coming months and without a generous rainy season next yea, the greater affects of this drought will be felt.

As I consider the possible looming physical drought, I am led to ponder the implications of when we face a spiritual drought. (Hey, I’m a pastor…it’s my job to ponder such things.) The first thing that grabs me is that the drought we are in is not of our making. Now, I realize that some would take issue with this, saying that global warming is the cause of shifting weather patterns, but for all intents and purposes, the changing patterns are out of my influence and control. Those of us who have lived in this area for any length of time know, we have had times of drought and flood. It just comes with the territory. We must remember this as we face spiritual droughts from time to time; the causes may truly be outside of our control. But that does not mean we are without hope.

So, what can we do? First, we can pray! We can ask God to send the gentle rain of His Spirit to quench the dry and parched ground of our spirit.

Second, we can conserve the water we do have. In the physical realm that means using only what we need. Watering only what needs to be watered. It may even mean leaving some things to die so we can focus on others. In the realm of the Sirit it means that we focus on that which is of vital importance, namely our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It may mean laying some things aside, even the things we enjoy doing, even those things that may be “religious,” in order to water that which is vital. Laying down a good book and picking up The Good Book may be a good place to start. Turning from a hobby or a project around the house and walking quietly with the Spirit might also help us conserve the water that our thirsty souls require.

Lastly, it may mean digging new and deeper wells. Often those wells of prayer and study and worship which we relied upon run dry during times of spiritual drought and we need to dig new and deeper wells. This may require contemplating the writings of our spiritual forbearers who have also lived in and through times of drought. It may mean reading portions of Scripture often “off-limits” to you in your wetter times. Reading the “harder” books of Job, Numbers, and the Minor Prophets is often a good place to start in digging deeper.

Drinking in times of drought is possible, it just demands a little more thought and sometimes a lot more work. Sadly, we settle for complaining, worrying, and licking the dry, cracked, parched dirt rather than returning to the One who said, “If anyone is thirsty let Him come to me and drink.” When our times of drought come, and they will come, let us seek the One who can once again bring the refreshing rain, let us refocus upon those things which can help us retain the fluid of the Spirit, and let us dig deep to discover wells of life-giving water.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fully Hydrated

ONE OF THE LESSONS you learn, sometimes the hard way, when running a longer race like a half-marathon, is that once you realize your body’s fluid stores are depleted it is too late. It is imperative that you drink lots of water before a race, actually beginning a couple of days before, and then when you are running it is equally imperative to drink at each water stop, whether you think you need it or not. Because you do!

It’s not always easy to drink that much water days before a race, especially when you may not feel thirsty, but it is part of the discipline of running. In running, as in sports in general, discipline is of utmost importance. To run well in a race means learning to stretch, getting out for regular runs, pushing yourself to sometimes go faster or longer than usual, and of course correct nutrition, of which fluids are a vital part. When you are disciplined in your practice you will run your best in the race, and when things get tough you will have resources and reserves from which you can draw in order to finish strong.

The Christian life has been described as a race. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) One in which we are all called to run our best, but if we have not disciplined ourselves in practice we shall not run well in the heat of the race. As in a race, if we wait until we think we are thirsty it will be too late. We will suffer greatly from our lack of preparation. Exercise and proper nutrition is something we must do prior so we can run well during the crisis of life.

The Christian life has many disciplines which we are to maintain so we can run well. The disciplines of Bible study and prayer are just two that we need to focus upon daily, not just when we find ourselves in the midst of the heat of the race. We can add to those disciplines of fasting and giving, of solitude and service, as well as others that have served God’s people well over the ages.

I encourage you to ready yourself to run well, to be fully hydrated, so that when the race gets tough, and it will believe me, you will have a deep storehouse from which you can draw, so that you can run well the race set before you. (Hebrews 12:1-13)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gracias! Merci! Barka! Thanks!

OVERWHELMED. I guess that is one word which describes my feelings as I locked up the church last Sunday afternoon. Allow me to explain why.
Two weeks ago we had David Delarosa here to tell us of the work of the Gideon’s in our community and around the world. At the end of the service an offering was received, and this faithful church family gave over $900.00 for Bibles that will be distributed throughout Santa Cruz County. Overwhelmed, I am.
Last Sunday I shared with you the need of a young man who lives in Burkina Faso by the name of Didier. He was having serious problems with his eyesight which was affecting his teaching position in the village of Bilamperga. Once again this generous church family gave over $900.00, which has already been received by Didier (see his thank-you note in the bulletin) and is moving him toward health. Overwhelmed, I am.
Your faithful stewardship of the Lord’s resources, even in the midst of this economic crisis which we are going through, speaks powerfully of God’s work in and through you. Even our General Fund for the church ministry holds enough reserve to do the needed repairs and retrofitting of our gym, all because of your faithful stewardship. Overwhelmed, I am.
Now, I know, that money is not everything, but the Word of God tells us that how we handle our money is one of the greatest indicators of our spiritual health. If the last couple of weeks are any indicator, many of you are exhibiting a healthy, God-honoring, spirit. Overwhelmed, I am.
Gracias, Merci, Barka, Thank-you! And may God bless you!

Making a Difference

THOSE STARBUCKS COFFEE cups can really get you thinking. Take for example “The Way I See It #299 On the side of the cup is a quote by Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO of Susan G Komen for the Cure, which promotes breast cancer awareness and raises money to fight for a cure. Moddelmog writes,

There is a subtle difference between a mission and a promise. A mission is something you strive to accomplish – a promise is something you are compelled to keep. One is individual, the other is shared. When a mission and a promise are one and the same … that’s when mountains are moved and races are won.”

I contemplated this quote while enjoying a Vente Earl Grey tea and thought this is why the church can make such a huge difference in our world. We have both the mission and the promise. We have the mission to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and we have the mission to feed the hungry and clothe the naked (Matthew 25:31-46). Yet, the power to accomplish these missions comes not from ourselves, but from the One who is the Promise of God, and the One who promises never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Herein is our power to make a difference in our world; that we have been given the mission by Jesus Himself, who has promised to be with us and empower us to accomplish that which He has given us to do, and this power will be ours in and by the Holy Spirit. (John 14:21-21) Such a wonderful gift is this that we are given the opportunity of joining Jesus in making all the difference in our world.

Won’t you join Him today?

Under the Sea

I SPENT MANY OF MY HIGH SCHOOL summers body surfing the mild waves at places like Huntington Beach and the “Wedge” at Newport. Those were great days of hot sand, cool water, and “over-the-falls wipe-outs.” Wonderful as those beaches were, they were not without their inherent dangers. Underneath those foamy waves lurked rocks, crabs, and no lack of broken glass and rusty cans. Needless to say, the bottom of my feet would sometime become a war-zone of cuts and gashes.

Yet, one of the worse undersea elements was the eerily unseen seaweed. It always brought me one of those bump-in-the-night feelings. There I would be, bobbing beyond the break, waiting for the next set, when I would feel something brush my leg, and then again, and all of a sudden I would find myself being enwrapped in a slimly length of unseen seaweed. Of course I knew what it was, but it never seems to fail that I would find myself flailing around in the water trying to get away from my unseen attacker.

Fear of the unknown is like that, we may “understand” in our minds what is going on, and yet those things in life that sneak up on us, and seek to entangle us, cause us the most fear. We are in over our heads and something is grabbing at us, endeavoring to drag us into the deep, and we find ourselves in gulfed in fear, thrashing around, imagining the worse. The truth is that is when things can really get dangerous. All that thrashing can cause bigger and deeper problems. So what are we to do?

Well, when I found myself in those situations, and when I was able to gather my wits, I would simply, calmly, swim to shore, sometimes even dragging miles of the slimly stuff with me. Once on shore I would easily unloose myself, plop down on my towel and soak in the California sun. Safe again from the menacing deep.

The spiritual lesson? When fear engulfs amidst the waves of life, swim for the shore. Get yourself to that place of safety, the church, the Word of God, to God Himself. Take a moment to lay down and rest with Him and let the warmth of the Son of God soak deep into your soul.