Saturday, May 18, 2013

Love 'Em All ... (day 2) A Prayer Of Faith

Today I got to love someone in a most unexpected way.  Those are the best moments in life.  You feel the passion rise up in you and you can't help but give your all to a person in need.

Today's moment of "loving 'em all" took place on the telephone.  No face contact ... just the raw voice of a mom hurting for her young daughter.  A daughter who had made bad choices and was paying a steep price.  She finds herself incarcerated ... held against her will.  But it is ultimately for her own good and the good of those around her.  Unless you have had the awful experience of watching one of your own children pay difficult and painful consequences for their actions you will not understand.  This mother's pain ran deep.  Her tears flowed freely.  Her sobs came in uncontrolled rolls.

My job was a job of encouragement.  I had the honor of walking with her as we reviewed the possibilities of how her child's actions COULD have ended.  Compared to some of those, the reality she was experiencing was tame.  For thirty minutes we talked, she cried, we both bled.  And then came the sacred moment.  I had the honor of praying for this mother, her daughter, and their family.  I made it a prayer of asking and a prayer of faith.  I held mom up.  I held dad up.  I held the young lady up.  I held up those who were trying to get her to see truth.  And then we worshipped ... simply thanking God for not dropping us when things get difficult.  When the prayers ended, so did the tears.  There was momentary peace.

I hope it lasts.

You don't need to know my friend to pray.  Please do.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

L.E.A. (Love 'Em All) --- Day One ... A Celebration of Joy

Today was a celebration of Joy.  Quite literally.  Joy Darden was a deacon at Towerview, the church God has called me to pastor.  I never got to serve with Joy.  He was in failing health by the time I got here.  I got to know him during his occasional appearances at church when he was well enough to come and my visits to his home to check up on him.  He was a delightful man with a great sense of humor and a love for God.

And today I conducted his funeral service.

"Doing a funeral" is one of those things that pastors usually find intimidating at first.  What do you say?  How do you comfort the deeply grieving?  Honestly, I never had that problem.  My first funeral was in 1981.  Our suburban Chicago church was without a pastor and I, the lowly youth minister, was asked to bury a church leaders father.  Sadly, the deceased did not know Christ.  Those funerals are the worst.  There truly isn't any good news to give.  You do your best, tell the truth about Jesus, and pray that God works in a desperate situation.

The key to doing a funeral is quite simple.  Love the family enough to hurt with them.  Taste the salt in their tears when they cry.  And then tell them that while crying is appropriate for now, God is going to turn their mourning into laughter.  You may get an immediate grin but don't be fooled ... the tears will be right back.  The grief is to new ... to thick.

And so today I got to "love 'em all" by loving Joy's family.  I got to stand before a couple of hundred people and tell them the very best news that has ever been told.  God loves us!  He sent Jesus to fix the problem between us!  It's all going to be alright!  We sang.  We read scripture.  Joy's son told us about the amazing man his father was.  I spoke for about 15 minutes and told them what God says about death.  And then we went to a cemetery and left our friend there.

When I finish a funeral service, I have to tell you, I feel like I have done something that matters.  I feel like God's Hand rested on my shoulder and directed me throughout the ordeal.  I feel that the words of gratitude from the family for simply being there with them and for sharing the Great Hope are words that they really do mean.  And that changes my day.

It's odd but doing a funeral is part of dumping my slump.  I don't suppose it is because somebody died.  It is because I got to tell his family that he actually still lives.  I got to give "the Lazarus news."  I got to play the role of the angel outside the tomb of Christ after the stone was rolled away when he uttered those amazing, history changing, world shaking words ... "He is not here!  He has RISEN!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dump The Slump

You ever been in a slump?  One of those major league just can't shake it kind of funks where no matter what you do or what you try when you come out the other end your are still "slumped."  Well, I'm in one.  And I've been wrestling with it for a couple of months now.  Or maybe for a lot of months.  It isn't a lack of love for God or a disdain for people.  Nobody has wronged me, neglected me, or called me names.  I've just done what we all do at occasional points in our life ... I've wandered in to a  bit of a barren place.

And I'm tired of it.

So I am going to take responsibility to get out of it.

I've tried listening to more encouraging sermons and reading books of joy and inspiration.  They just gave me a head ache or made my eyes tired.  God did not work there.  I tried holding myself to a more rigid schedule of responsibility and righteousness.  And now I'm tired of being rigid and responsible.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am tired of being responsible.  My dad use to take me out in one of his cars (dad knew how to tell a classic when they first came off the line and that was the car he bought.  57 Chevy.  64 Impala SS.  Those were the earliest I remember.)  And sometimes on a hilly highway outside of our suburban enclave he would press the pedal down really hard because ... "son, sometimes you have to burn the carbon out."  I always thought that was true.  Now I know dad was just fighting off a slump in the way he knew how.  My dad was not a spiritual giant but I think maybe he was on to something here.

So I'm going to blow the carbon out.

And I'm going to make myself accountable to myself by posting it right here.  For the next thirty days starting today I am going go on a "Love 'Em All" bender.  Each day I'm going to find a way to love somebody in a way they don't expect or I am going to treat every person I come across as though I have an opportunity to restore and encourage them.  Then I am going to write about it (keeping them anonymous) right here.  NOT for bragging purposes or to inflate my own sense or importance, righteousness, or worth.  I am already worth the life of Jesus to my Heavenly Father so there is no need to do that.  I'm doing it because a slump is a lot like a grave and I don't want to be in one yet.  And I"m writing about it here because if I fail I will do it publicly ... and that thought will force me to go at this full-throttle.  And who knows ... maybe you need to join me on this 30 day journey.  Consider this your invitation to come along.  Let's see what God has planned and how much damage we can do our enemy while illuminating the Kingdom of God on earth.

I'm 57 and someday I'm going to reverse that and be 75.  But I think I want to do some more living first ...