Saturday, May 13, 2006


I've been kicking around some questions lately. Questions that I have not found the answer to. Those are the worst kind of questions.

I read a book recently by a guy who is the senior pastor of a church that averages greater than 20,000 each weekend in attendance. That's a lot of human livestock. His father is a famous pastor as well and they both serve deep in the bible belt. The younger pastor, the son, started his church within the last ten years. I suspect that some, perhaps many, of his congregation came from his father's church. They had a bit of a falling-out. They've mended the fences now and they minister if in radically different ways. This son is younger than I am by at least a decade I think. I'm really not sure. Anyway, as I read this book I found myself hearing him make some claims that I do not agree with. I mean, I do not even come close to agreeing with him. We are on totally different pages. Our disagreements are not on the major elements of the faith. We both believe in salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and all of the basic trimmings that go along with traditional Christian doctrine. Yet there are some finer points of the faith that we do not see eye to eye on. Some thoughts on how the scriptures indicate we should "do church." We disagree on church management and basically the way it should all be put together. Here's where I get worried. He's pastoring a church of 20,000 and saying things that I consider dumb. I am a youth pastor of maybe 75 kids and totally agree with myself. (Of course.) Is it not obvious that HE is right and I am wrong? Does success equal correctness in methods and motivations? I do not know what to do about that.

I keep asking God for permission to do something and He keeps telling me "no." He tells me "no" repeatedly and clearly. And yet I am miserable not doing what I am asking Him for permission to do. Not just a little miserable. Major league miserable. I am not one of those that believes the way to tell if you are in God's will is by whether or not you have peace. Jesus did not seem to have much peace in the Garden of Gethsemane. I mean, He sweat blood. Yet it was His Father's will that He continue on in a very difficult path. A path that was about to prove extremely costly. I thought that God was telling me to do this thing. Everything within me said that He was and my passion for doing it was increasing. And then He told me to stop trying to do it. Just stop. Why would He do that? Again ... I do not know what to do about that.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I keep dreaming about my dad. It is pretty much a nightly occurance. They are not ugly dreams. They are just dreams. He has been gone for nearly 6 years now. It took me 5 1/2 years to start dreaming about him and now I cannot stop. Tomorrow is mother's day. My mom died about 1 1/2 years ago. I doubt that I will dream about her tonight. I just know that dad is going to show up again. I hope I remember to tell him in my dream that I would like him to wish mom a happy mother's day for me. i have a young friend. She is 17 years old. 2 years ago she found out that the man she always thought was her father is not. Her father is a man who impregnated her mother, married her, and left after just a couple of months. So not only has she never met her real dad but now her pretend dad has walked out on the family. My friend feels like she lost her real dad and her pretend dad all at the same time. She is asking me if I understand what she feels. She is asking me what to do because she wants to find her real dad and ask him some hard questions. I will help her in every way that I can. I will be there for her. But these dreams ... I do not know what to do about that.

Sometimes there are just too many questions and too few answers. When that happens I begin to feel driven to go away. I want to find a quiet place. I want to turn the world off and sit very quietly looking for God to come and give me some direction or speak some words of wisdom. Or at least to sit with me and, in so doing, remind me that He is the only answer that I really need. I find myself listening easily to my phone ringing without any inclination to pick it up. I find myself smiling at people who expect more of me than anyone has a right to expect. I find myself thinking about how they have no idea how silly and self-serving they are. I find myself watching murder mysteries on television and wishing life's real issues could, just this once, be resolved in sixty minutes. I find myself looking at my young adult children, loving them passionately, being amazed at how they really believe that I am rather slow of thought, backward in method, and totally without comprehension of that which makes life delicious. And I try to keep my smile on the inside because there is absolutely no way I can explain to them what it is that life is going to do to them in the next few decades and how they will one day find themselves sitting off in a corner, exactly as I am now, and realizing that with so many questions bombarding them from every conceivable direction, there is only one answer. The answer is a person. How can a person also be an answer? I do not know how. He just is. And I know that if I try to tell them what that answer is they will smile condescendingly and be totally convinced in their hearts and minds that they totally "get it" so quickly after attaining puberty. They think they know the answers ... and they have yet to even hear the questions. And I will not have enough energy or heart to laugh at them. Much less argue. It would not do them or I any good.

At the end of the day, after over 3 years of constant intense spiritual warfare, the suffering of more emotional and spiritual woundings that I can even begin to remember, and a total lack of desire to record any more of it in my most private of journals because I just become physically nauseaus every time I think about it all ... at the end of the day I am simply shocked that there are so many, many questions. And only one Jesus. And He often does not tell me the answers. He just comes and sits. Sometimes He speaks and sometimes He does not. But when He comes ... the questions ... the questions do not matter anymore. And I think that makes Him the answer. I have no idea how that works.

But I cannot say I wasn't given fair warning.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Coolest Day Of The Week ... So Far

Yes indeed, today was the coolest day of the week so far. Grant it, it is only Sunday. Day one. But it will be tough to beat this one.

My day began with an accidental suicide attempt that fortunately I botched. I was taking a shower. It was, ohhh, around 8AM. I do not know if most men do this or not but I have a habit of shaving in the shower. The water is hot and the air is humid and that makes skin soft and pliable. Hair seems to nearly volunteer to jump off of my cheeks and chin when faced with my triple bladed, super sharp, razor of doom. The truth is that I barely have any whiskers. My dad said he was 25% Indian and that makes me 12.5% Indian. He told me that was why I am not a hairy guy. I do not know if that is all true or not. I hope it is because I do not want to think I am just a hormoneless stud wannabe. (Or, perhaps Tony Campolo is right when he says, "Every man only gets so many hormones and if you want to waste yours growing hair, you go right ahead.") Anyway, I do not have much to shave. Maybe that is why my hand decided to shave my lip. Literally. I felt the razor slice into my upper lip and before I could stop I had managed to effectively remove part of myself. Not a lot. You probably will not even notice it by the end of the week. But you sure could notice it this morning. I bled. Ok, I didn't just bleed, I let loose of this torrent of blood. I knew I was in trouble immediately. I finished showering and dried off, managed to dress in a coat and tie without turning anything red, and got myself off to church. I walked in a back door and made my way to my office unnoticed. I looked in the mirror. My lip looked like Bailey the Killer Beagle had taken a chunk out of me. I had already gone through several dozen paper towels and the bleeding was not even slowing down. Realizing that I could not hide forever I sucked it up and went downstairs to meet with the youth group. I felt like the elephant man or something as I walked down the halls with people gasping in semi-mock horror. My wife was near the kitchen and she kind of screamed in that way that wives do when they think they might be collecting on your life insurance policy. It was a half hearted scream which makes me wonder if perhaps she was already mentally cashing the check. Several friends gathered around and gave their best advice. This amounted to "gosh that looks really bad and I bet you'll lose consciousness from lack of blood soon." Great. I lisped through the youth announcement time and retreated to the safety of my office. On the way there I came across a friend who is a Vietnam vet. I asked him what he would have done had he found himself in battle with a cut lip like this and needed it to stop so that he could continue popping the bad guys. That was probably an insensitive thing to ask but I figured a soldier might have a quick cure for something like this. I was wrong. I will forego relaying what he suggested I do with my wound. Debbie showed up in my office and we tried everything. Nothing worked. I even let her pour salt into the cut in hopes of stemming the tide. Great idea. No go. Finally she went home to get a wonder product called "Liquid Band-Aid." Whoever invented this stuff ... thank you. I had been applying pressure to my own face while she made the trip. The Liquid Band-Aid whipped me right into shape. I had been bleeding for ninety minutes. Had this stuff not worked my next attempt would have been tying a tournequet around my own neck. Tonight I threw away my razor and tomorrow I'm retreating to my previously stored away electric shaver. I figure with a long enough extension cord I can still shave in the shower...

None of the above is what made today great. Here, in chronological order, is what did the trick.

A) I got to interview our graduates and I only screwed up one. Unfortunately, that one is a good friend and he did not stay mad at me. I managed to forget his name and then, in front of hundreds of people, said that I simply mistook his name for his brother. He used my microphone to let everybody know that he does not have a brother. I pleaded loss of blood and dizziness. I moved on to the next graduate.

B) I got to stand in the pulpit and tell everybody how to "be with Jesus." That was a pretty cool half hour for me. I get off on talking about Jesus.

C) One of my favorite couples re-joined our church. It will be temporary because God will most certainly assign them to a new ministry location but I am going to enjoy them while they are here.

D) I got to meet a 17 year old young woman at the altar. She and I had shared lunch last week. (I took her home on my motorcycle. She did not like this but she didn't cry. I was glad because crying females make me feel horrible.) We talked about her spiritual condition over salads. She came to realize that she was baptized AFTER she was saved. She wanted to fix that. She accepted Jesus as her Lord last summer and now she wanted to make that public before her church family and soon she will be baptized. How cool is that?

E) On the way out of the auditorium I came across a young lady who is about 14. You will see her picture at the top of this blog. What an adorable person! I knew that she had never asked Christ into her heart. I asked her if she had a couple of minutes and she did. So we went to my office and got honest with each other. After about 10 minutes she prayed and asked Jesus to forgive her of her sins and to be her Savior! Then I prayed for her and mentioned to God about how all of the angels are partying right now while the demons are gnashing their teeth and moaning over having lost their grip on another one. She laughed! I love it when kids have Jesus in their hearts and they laugh! I have also noticed that adults seldom laugh over cheating the devil out of their eternity by trusting Christ. This is one reason why I love teenagers so much. They are totally refreshing to my increasingly jaded soul. I really DO want to be the first 80 year old youth pastor!

F) I got to celebrate with a portion of our high schools senior class by leading a special worship service for them in the high school auditorium. It was amazing. Their life and their energy is simply overwhelming.

G) My kids, my son-in-law, my oldest son's very significant other, my wife, and a few assorted friends came over and I bought them all supper. We sat for hours, told stories, jokes, and enjoyed the moments. (Q: What do you call a dog who has no legs? A: It does not matter. He is not coming anyway...) The people, the pizza, the evening ... all were perfect. I sat quietly in a corner for a few minutes and simply stared at my daughter. She is just a few weeks from not being pregnant anymore. And so I am just a few weeks from being a grandfather. As I watched her I saw the expectancy and joy in her eyes. Next to leading that young lady to Jesus this moment was the highlight of my day.

H) And now I am propped up in my own bed, pounding on the keys of Tess the Laptop. My wife is breathing deeply and quietly next to me. One of my sons (who will be moving out of our home in one month) is asleep by now in his own room. My other son is at his girlfriends and will be in eventually. When he gets home he will turn off the single light I left on in the living room as a signal that he has returned safely. This son too will be leaving in two weeks and will be gone until August. Then he will make his way back to live in our home on a part time basis as he continues his college education. In the meantime my nest will be empty and I plan on enjoying the life my bride and I abandoned on September 9, 1980. We are going to play with our granddaughter, take a couple of youth trips, and then go all by ourselves to Seattle for 10 days. (I went to and looked to find out what place is the farthest we can get from breathing Bethalto air without leaving the continental 48 states. Seattle won. So I bought the tickets and reserved the hotel. We are going to climb a mountain, stare down a volcano, wade in the pacific ocean, eat whatever they serve locally, visit Canada and maybe catch a Mariners game. All while not thinking about B-town over 2,000 miles away.)

So what could be better? Today I ignored the annoying people and I spent my time with those that I think Jesus would have spent His time with had He been here in the flesh.

And it was good.