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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

WAITING AND WALKING

THIRTY-TWO YEARS AGO MY FIRST DAUGHTER entered the world. Her arrival changed everything and each of the next three kids changed everything, AGAIN! I guess that’s the way it is when you have kids; your world is never the same. You are forced to see things differently, hear things differently, do things differently, and yes, even say things differently. It’s not bad…just different, and I am pleased to say, most of the “different” has been good.  I have been blessed with great kids! (And no, Trinity, we shouldn’t have stopped with you!)
     Raising children has its ups and downs. It has its times of moving at light-speed, and times when things are moving slower than molasses in the wintertime. It is really not so different than the way we are called to live as God’s children. Sometimes we are moving forward with reckless abandon and at times it seems like all things have come to a stop.
     In our reading-through-the-Bible program we have found ourselves in Psalm 119 (it’s a long one, that’s for sure.) I was drawn to Psalm 119:166, and it’s seemingly contradictory phrases. The psalmist wrote,
I wait for your salvation, LORD,
and I follow Your commands.
Waiting and following, or as I wrote in the title of this piece, “waiting & walking.” Both are part of our life as a child of God. Not unlike the raising of children, we wait nine long months, and then all of a sudden they are here. We wonder if they will ever utter an intelligible word and then they never stop talking. We are sure they will never walk on their own and before you know it you’re chasing them through the supermarket. Life is waiting and walking.
     Our Christian life is much the same, and it’s normal. Sometimes we are waiting and sometimes we are walking, and I suppose sometimes we are doing both simultaneously. I guess all I am trying to say is, it may be your time to wait. Then wait with patient hope. It may be your time walk. Then walk in humble obedience. Wherever you are and in whatever you are doing, waiting or walking, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) Oh yeah, by the way, happy birthday, kid!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BREATHLESS


THERE WERE A FEW THINGS that took my breath away this past week. First, there was my run through Henry Cowell State Park that led me up what I dubiously call, “God’s Stairmaster.” When I got to the top I was literally gasping for air.
     Then there were the 300+ kids and the 140+ staff that were in attendance at Vacation Bible School this week. Witnessing all those kids, young and old, singing, jumping and praising the Lord, definitely took my breath away. Add to that the responsibility to share the Gospel with little ones who might not even be able to write their names to those old enough to cop the attitude that they were “too cool for school.” Trying to creatively communicate the Gospel message to such a variance of age and experience sucked the air right out of me.
     But what really left me breathless was being able to pray a prayer of salvation with the 65 who came forward on Wednesday to personally say they wanted to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Now THAT truly took my breath away! Once again, our gracious God entrusted to us the lives of those He loves. He gave us the awesome responsibility of sharing the Good News about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and allowed us to partake in seeing kids respond to the love and grace of the Lord.
    Yes, this past week has left me breathless, but ever so thankful for the Holy Spirit who fills us up with the very breath of God. So, with a slightly hoarse voice, I declare to all who will hear, “To God be the Glory! Great things He has done!
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

LOST!


BEING LOST MANIFESTS ITSELF in various forms. There is the feeling of being lost in the midst of your senior year history final. There is the sense of being lost when you begin a new job or attend a new school. There is the frightful sense of being lost when you realize that you’re in a new city all by yourself. You can be lost when you lose contact with mom and dad in the midst of Disneyland. You can feel lost when you’re all alone in the dark and you can feel lost in the midst of the largest crowd. All in all, being lost is not an experience we seek, nor is it one that we tend to enjoy, but it is all one we have experienced. Being lost is well…being lost.
     Over the past few days we celebrated those who have met the academic rigors of their level of education and are moving on to new beginnings. For some these new beginnings can mean leaving the comforts of family, friends and familiar surroundings and moving to a place where they might feel a little lost. For others there may come the feeling of being lost because they don’t know what the future holds for them. Our prayer for all of these is that they will soon find a place to call home, and a place in which they are found and loved.
     This week we celebrate the 2012 edition of Vacation Bible School. There is the possibility that in the midst of 300 kids and over 100 staff a person could feel lost. Of course, here too, our prayer is that each attendee and each servant-leader will quickly find their place and feel welcomed, loved and at home.
     This year’s theme is, The Lost and Found Detective Agency. Each day we will be discovering the truths of God power, provision, plan, purpose and peace that He desires each one to find. It is our prayer that each child will know that they don’t have to be lost, but rather that God has on gone a search for each one of them. It is His deepest desire that no one is lost, but that all can come to know the peace and joy of being found.
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Sunday, June 03, 2012

DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE!


THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, I COVENANTED, in the presence of God Almighty, my family, scores of friends, my commitment to love and cherish, to honor and protect the young woman that stood before me, Linda Joann Caswell. It is a decision that I have never regretted.
     Our thirty-five years has seen many turns in the road, some bumps, and unexpected surprises, yet for the most part it has been a pretty smooth journey. I have been one very blessed man. God has shared His manifold grace with me, not only to redeem, reconcile and restore me to Himself through Jesus’ death and resurrection, but in the giving of Linda to me as a faithful friend, a partner in parenting and ministry and the tangible expression of His love and leading in my life.
     The Holy Scriptures remind us that we are able to love because God loved us first. (1 John 4:19) I believe that love was expressed in the beginning when He made man and woman in His Image and brought them to each other. His love was manifested in His ongoing care and compassion even when we failed to appreciate and respect the love He continued to pour out upon us. His love was most greatly expressed in the giving of His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 2:2)
     So, as I dedicate this edition of the Shepherd’s Staff and The Pondering Pastor to my lovely wife, I must, in greater measure dedicate it to the One who made the love I know and experience possible, the God who is love. (1 John 4:7-8) To say that my life has been greatly and undeservedly blessed would be of the greatest understatement. Today, I stand humbly once again before God Almighty, my family and friends to declare my covenant commitment to love God and to love the one He has graciously given to me as friend, partner, and  lover. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

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Friday, June 01, 2012

BFF


THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO I was blessed to marry my best friend, Linda Joann Caswell. I am happy to say, that after thirty-five years she is still my best friend forever or in the parlance of today’s youth, my BFF.
     I realize that not everyone gets to marry their best friend. Some marry out of duty, some out of need, many marry because of love, which is a good thing mind you. I married Linda, not just because she was my best friend, but because I loved her and thought that living a life together would be down-right exciting. These past thirty-five years have been exciting, to say the least. We have experienced things, gone places, enjoyed time of great rejoicing (like welcoming our four children enter the world), and there have been times of loss, confusion, unwise decisions, and yes, even sometimes of unkind actions and hurt feelings. But looking back over it all, it has been a great ride. And just like riding the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk, I don’t want the ride to end.  I am always yelling, “Let’s keep going!!!”
     Sadly, some marriages are not that “fun”. You may have found yourself in one that left you yelling, “Let me off this blasted ride…I can’t take it anymore.”  Maybe it has not been that terrible for you, but looking at your marriage you just know it could be better, in fact you want it to be better. You just do not know where to begin.
     You may not even be married but you hope to someday. However the marriages you have seen have raised the question in your mind, “Is it all really worth it?” Or maybe you’re asking, “How do I find that best friend to marry?” Well, I wish I had all the answers for you, but I don’t. I do know there are some critically important foundation blocks that a strong marriage must be built upon, without which, we build upon that sandy land that quickly erodes when the storms of life beat down upon us. (Matthew 7:24-27)
     Besides this month being my thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, there is another important reason I am spending time musing over marriage in this Pastor’s Pondering, and it is because lately I have encountered some marriages that are in some serious hurt. Another reason is because as a state and as a nation the traditional definitions and understanding of marriage are being attacked at their very core.
     With this in mind, I am taking a three-week hiatus from our study in the book of Acts (“Acting Out: Becoming the Church God Desires Us to Be”), and will be turning our hearts to what God’s Word has to say about marriage. This new series, “It’s Called HOLY Matrimony for a Reason”, will be part of what we would call in college, a lecture and lab class. I will be leading us through God’s design for marriage the first three weeks of June (the lecture) during the morning worship time and then Pastor Ron will be offering a “lab class” during the Bible class hour.
     These lab classes are design for those in all the various times and spaces of marriage. This will be a great opportunity for those contemplating marriage in the future or for those whose marriage pretty runs smooth but could use a 10,000 check-up, and yes, it will be a good place to be if you find your marriage in a rocky place. Let me assure you; my sermon series and Pastor Ron’s class are not designed to fix it all, but rather to encourage you along the good path, wherever you find yourself in the journey of marriage.
     My prayer is that as a church family we will come away with a better understanding of the God-designed foundations of marriage so that we can have strong marriages that are able to stand the storms of life and so that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we can offer a good word on God’s blessed design to our world that is desperately seeking for the truth.
    When it’s said and done will you be BFF with your spouse? For this I can hope and pray! Because I have personally found it to be the best way to enjoy the gift God has given me in Linda and the relationship we share in this relationship we call marriage.