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.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

CONNECTED?

TWITTER, FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, EMAIL, TEXTING, iPHONE APPS, SKYPE, the ways in which we can become connected seem to multiply before our eyes. With all the ways in which I can now connect with people I am more often driven to distraction than called to communion. By looking at my friends list on Facebook (507 at present count) one might think I am a popular guy, with lots of friends, truth is sometimes I even forget who some of these people are. (Not YOU, of course, I remember, you.)

The way I see it, I am so connected these days I don’t even have time to be connected. To put it another way, being part of a world-wide community leaves me very little time for community. The truth is that which passes for connection and community in reality robs us of the true community for which we were created, and for which I believe, we long. Add to these pseudo-communities such community stealing activities such as 100+ channels of television, video-games, and ear-plugging iPods, is it any wonder we find it increasingly difficult to find time for face-to-face conversations of any real depth?

Not to be on too much of a downer here, but the danger is heighten when we live in the delusion that all this connectedness is really community. I dare say that some may feel that responding to your spouse’s wall posting on Facebook, or returning multiple texts to your children, or even playing a couple of rousing games of Wii bowling really counts for community.

This grabbed me a few days ago when after seeing very little of my wife throughout the summer because of conflicting schedules, we were able to grab a few hours to ourselves. We enjoyed a nice dinner conversation, and then went to the movies, where though I was able to sit close to her and hold her hand, not much meaningful conversation took place (they kind of frown on that in the theater.) I can look back and say, “Hey, we went out,” but did we afford ourselves the needed opportunity to share our hearts and stories of the recent months?

Now I am not saying that you should disconnect and throw away all the popular social connection devices and programs, what I am saying is do not confuse these modes of connection with real connection. At the risk of sounding luddite and “old” do not confuse online communities with true community. True community demands, by its very nature, a thing called “presence.” Being physically, mentally and emotionally present for the people you care about. The items listed in the first sentence can help us keep connected, but only to a point. True connectedness, true community, comes as we get close enough to hear a whispered prayer, see the tear hidden in the corner of an eye, and feel the trembling of a hand in ours.

This community is what the Body of Christ was created to be. Not just for ourselves, but so that Christ Himself would be physically present continually among His followers, and to express His love, grace and mercy to the communities of this world. I invite you to be part of that community in a fuller sense this fall. Sure it will take some work (like unplugging), sure there is some risk (like seeing, hearing, and feeling things we would rather not), but with great risk comes the possibility of great reward. We can never know the exhilaration of standing on the top of Half-Dome by seeing someone’s Facebook posted pictures, it only comes by scaling it yourself.

With this is mind, I invite you to journey with us into this place called community. Come connect with God’s people. It’s worth the risk! (See ways to do so in this month’s Chatter)

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PRECEPTS & PROMISES

THERE ARE NO PROMISES WHEN RAISING KIDS. Sure, we can read the plethora of parenting books, we can attend all the seminars, we can even turn our kids over to the professionals (like youth pastors) but the truth is there are no promises that they will make all the right choices. Sorry, I for one, wish there were such promises.

Though there may not be promises, there are some precepts in God’s Word that can give us both direction and hope as we seek to encourage our children to become what God created them to be. A precept is a rule of conduct. It can be seen as a commandment, which when followed, can lead to a desired result. It is that which is the desired way to do something, but a percept is not a guarantee of a result because it used within the context of a relationship where not all parties (parents and children in this case) maybe on the same page. That being the case, precepts are still there to move us in the right direction.

Take for example Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The precept here is to know your child and to know the way in which they are to go (God’s way), and to continually, consistently and compassionately lead them in that direction.

We are not to “train” like oxen under a yoke responding to the crack of the whip. Rather we are to lead them along the path which leads to life. This leading assumes that we, too, are traveling that path. Sometimes we walk before our kids allowing them to follow. Sometimes we walk alongside them, holding the flashlight that illuminates the path. Sometimes we may even follow them, encouraging them in the steps they are taking. We are fellow-travelers in the journey of following Jesus.

Will they always choose to follow? That I cannot guarantee. But this I know, as we follow the Lord’s precepts there will be greater opportunity for our kids to know the promises of His grace.

Let’s walk together.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CASHING-IN

BUMPER STICKER ON THE HUGE MOTOR-HOME: “We’re spending our children’s inheritance.” At least the kids might be able to trade in the motor-home after their parents are “through” with it. So much for paying off their mortgage with the proceeds from their parent’s estate.

When my parents passed away I never really worried about how my brother and I would split the inheritance. Both of us knew there would not be very much, if anything, to cash in on. In fact, I think we were more concerned with any left-over debt they carried. Getting rich was not in our future. My parents just didn’t have anything to leave behind…or did they?

Truthfully, I am amazed about how often I cash-in on my parent’s inheritance. Sometimes it happens when I am in the garage standing in front of the washing machine when I cash-in on the skills my mother taught me, or maybe it’s when I am pounding away on some building project or painting the bedroom that I remember what wisdom my dad imparted during our days of working together. Sometimes when dealing with relationships with neighbors or church members I recall the teachings my parents gave me as I watched them interact with friends (and enemies.) Then there are the great lessons about forgiveness, mercy, grace and long-suffering that I learned watching my parents live their lives transparently before me. For these, and many other gifts, I am very grateful. They have gone to serve me better than stocks and bonds, or a used motor-home.

As we think about birthrights and inheritances in our studies in Genesis, let us ask ourselves that very important question, “What is the inheritance that we are leaving to future generations?” In light of what God has given us (Ephesians 1:18-19; 1 Peter 1:3-5) what are we passing on to those who follow?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

ON THE WALL IN OUR CHURCH FOYER are the names and faces of some of those who are associated with our church family who are serving in the Armed Forces around the world. We have their pictures and information listed there to be a constant reminder to pray for them, and to send them a word of encouragement.

Like many things in life, we can see things for so long that they actually lose impact in our lives. Sure we see their pictures out of the corner of our eyes as we walk past to grab our donuts but seldom do many of us really stop to consider their service and to lift up prayers for their protection. That is until we get that call that one of those in “harms-way” has, in fact, been harmed.

This past week the reality was brought home to us with the news that a son of members of our church was shot during battle. Thankfully, he is going to be OK, but I personally brought up short by this news. I found my eyes welling-up with the news. Why was I so touched by this and not for the thousands of other who have been wounded or worse? I can chalk it up to the phrase, “too close for comfort.” By this I mean that we are called to be so close to people around us, especially members of the Body of Christ, that when they are lacking comfort, however that might express itself, we too lack comfort.

The Word of God tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” (Romans 12:15). In order for us to really be able to do that we must get close to people. Without that closeness, that connectedness, people just remain pictures on a wall, whether church members or members of the military, or missionaries serving in far and distant lands.

Therefore, in light of the events of this past week, I call you to join me in getting close, even if at times if that closeness means a lack of our own personal comfort…so that we can bring a sense of comfort to others. It’s what our Lord did for us, so let us do for others.
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