The Update

I am usually the first one to …

The first one to update to the latest and greatest iPhone operating system. Geeky, I know.

A few weeks ago, I hit the update button and my phone wasn’t ready for it. It wasn’t ready for the latest and greatest and … it just stopped. Stopped working like the iPhone that I was so dependent upon.

It wouldn’t charge right. Sporadically received calls. Some of my apps didn’t work at all. Didn’t receive texts and kept telling me that I needed to update my phone carrier settings. And the battery was always running down and in the red.

After many trips to the store, where each trip usually ended with a sales pitch to buy the new phone, I found one tech who said, “maybe your phone wasn’t ready for the update.”

I replied, “Aren’t they all supposed to be ready for the update?”

“Some are and some aren’t. Some need to clear some space and make room so that the new and the old can blend. Let’s clear some space and do a reboot.”

Last two months, I have been doing the same. (That’s why I haven’t been writing on Facebook.) I’ve been working on clearing some space for I confess there were many things taking up way too much room. These things were pushing away God and making God’s voice harder to hear. I needed a reboot.

My reboot has led me to the word “mercy” and to an update in my souls’s operating system. What does it mean to say, “Lord, have mercy?” If I say “Christ have mercy” … am I asking for mercy to be showered on just myself or is there something more? If I type “Lord, have mercy” to the latest tragedy, what action comes next?

I don’t know what all of the features of this update will be yet … just like the new update of IOS 11! But I know that there’s bound to be something good and something of value in what lies ahead.

Mercy will never disappoint. I am sure of this!

PS- Phone is working now. No new phone in my future. I’m sticking with my trusted iPhone 6!!!



The Wounded Healer

Decades ago I read an important book that influenced my life and my pursuit of authentic Christianity. The book was titled the Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. This morning as I prepare to write Sunday’s sermon on “Doubting Thomas”, I am reminded of the message of the Wounded Healer.

Usually, I write something on Friday to tease or to hint at the upcoming Sunday message. I try to not be direct. I want you, those who read the prequel, to come to church! And to hear something that isn’t just a repeat of a blog post.

But today, I feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to be direct. So here goes everything …

The story of Thomas and the resurrected Jesus revealed that there is no such thing as a “perfect” Christian and that the scars and wounds of perfection are very real and visible.

Now, I know that by putting this out there someone will remember that Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Are we to understand this solely as a rebuke of Thomas? And in doing so, give ourselves a pat on the back for believing in the Jesus we have never laid eyes on? Are we then in danger of believing that we would do better in Thomas’ shoes?

Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus announces that the time has come to go to Bethany; a town about two miles from Jerusalem. All but one of the disciples pipe up that this is not a good idea for going towards the direction of Jerusalem could be fatal. The disciple who speaks up is Thomas. He says, “Let’s go too so that we may die with Jesus.” Does this not sound like belief in Jesus to you?

If commitment is a part of belief then, I think it does.

So now comes the finger pointing and the assigning of percentages right? Thomas didn’t understand … Thomas didn’t get it … Thomas this … Thomas that … on and on it goes until Thomas gets the label known as “doubting”.

I hate it when my eye specks are revealed as logs. I despise it when I am asked to consider my sins while I hold a jagged rock in my hand. Might it be that I move to the head of sin’s numbered line with just my thoughts and concealed actions?

Thomas said, “I won’t believe unless I see the nail marks and touch the wounds.” Thank God for these words because the Wounded Healer bears the scars and wounds of our sins that can be seen and touched. And He pursues those who aren’t perfect … even believers who say, “I won’t” or “I can’t”.

I wonder how many of us, who profess belief in Jesus Christ, still say, “I can’t believe unless …” or “I won’t believe unless …” We might say these words secretly or perhaps openly in criticism of the Church.

Thomas touched, verified the marks and wounds and said, “My Lord and my God!” These words are, in my opinion, as close to perfection as one can get. Words that I hope I will say when it is my turn to touch the wounds that I caused to my Lord and my God … walking not in Thomas’ shoes but my own.



Famous Last Words …

“I think it’s just down this road.”

Ever heard those words before? Famous last words for before you know it you’re lost and going down a road that leads to nowhere. 

I’ve taken some of the “lost” roads. Roads traveled by prodigals, ragamuffins, and the like. Roads with hills and valleys. Straight and crooked roads. Country roads without a soul on them. Highways with “companion” cars on either side ready to pass in the blink of the eye. 

I’ve learned that on most “lost” roads, you eventually find your way. And that even goes for the hardest of “lost” roads …

The road of grief is, in my experience, the hardest of the lost roads that I have ever traveled. How I wish it was the road least traveled!!! The truth is that it is the road that we all travel. 

Two of Jesus’ disciples traveled a road named for a town called Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified and these two disciples walked the Emmaus road lost in their grief. They had heard stories of a possible resurrection but … the road of grief is bumpy.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe that he suffered, died, and rose again on the third day. I believe that death has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ over the grave. But when my stepfather passed away from a sudden heart attack … I was lost and on the road. A road that I had no intentions of ever traveling.

I was in ninth grade at the time. My stepfather and I had argued over cutting the lawn. As the ambulance crew carried out my stepfather, he said, “I’ll see you for dinner.” We never broke bread.

Those last words are famous to perhaps only me now. But I share them with you … 

not only because I will be preaching this Sunday about how Jesus broke bread with the Emmaus road travelers;

not only because the RISEN Christ was revealed in the breaking of the bread;

I share these famous last words because I found out what the words really mean. 

The lost road of grief revealed over much time and many miles that death does not have the last and final word. Over the many years, I have met my stepfather for dinner and then some. He has been revealed in those who love and do so sacrificially. (He was an especially gracious and generous man of God.) And when I see this, I smile and feel my heart warmed. 

And “yes” my faith tells me that one day I really will see him for dinner. The famous last words … there will be no more crying, no more death, no more pain. The former things of the world no longer for the Lamb of God is on the throne. Thanks be to God!



To This Very Day …

Have you noticed? Ticker tape news is everywhere. In case you are bored with the newscasters story you can focus your eyes on the ticker tape scrolling below. Sports. Weather. Headlines.

Just this morning, I caught the ticker tape headline of one of our local officials recently indicted on charges of accepting bribes and I thought … wow, that’s biblical!

Bribery.

Have you ever?

Lent may be over but in reality confession is always good for the soul and so …

And so, I have bribed a few family members. “If you get an A on your report card, I will take you to Toys R Us.” Not proud of such bribery but it worked! Worked great though the elementary school years. I could pick up a Poly Pockets for $5.00 or a nerf football for $8.00. Then came middle school. “Dad we want an iPod or a new lacrosse stick.” That’s when bribery died in my house.

The High Council wanted Jesus dead. (Just a week ago in what we remembered as Good Friday.) But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead and the tomb was empty. Empty in spite of the Roman guards there to prevent such a thing.

Bribery.

The High Council bribed the Roman guards to say that, “Jesus’ disciples came in the middle of the night and stole the body.” And it took a large sum of money because we all know how stealthy Jesus’ disciples really were!

“So the soldiers took the money and did as they were told. And this report has spread throughout all Judea to this very day.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭28:15‬ ‭CEB)‬‬

I’m intrigued by Matthew’s words “to this very day.”

To this very day … we have two stories. One that Jesus’ body was stolen by his own disciples. And two, Jesus rose from the dead. One story begins with bribery and, if we are honest, would take even more bribery and large sums of coin to keep it going. We have another story in which 11 disciples become 30 and 30 becomes 300 and 300 becomes 5,000 and 5,000 becomes 200,000 and on and on and on …

To this very day, people encounter the risen Jesus Christ and believe. They believe without bribery of coins. They believe because of a true witness that comes from the heart and soul of faith. Currency will never be able to produce a true witness even to this very day.

So no bribery to go to church this weekend … whatever we do with our Saturday and/ or Sunday may we have the opportunity to give witness that the world is changed and that we believe that Christ has risen.

He has risen indeed!



What’s for Dinner, StrengthFinders and the Beauty of How You Are Created

 I love to cook, especially when I am not in a hurry and the kids aren’t sneaking around trying to eat junk food instead of what I am cooking.  Under time and kid pressure sometimes what I am making just doesn’t turn out.  Often it is because I have forgotten an ingredient or put way too much of something in.  Have you ever forgotten a key ingredient or doubled an ingredient, but not realized it until the dish didn’t turn out they way you expected? 

You tasted it and it was not what you were expecting.

Blog Image for April 27

Life can sometimes be like this too – we are working toward a goal but things do not fall into place exactly the way we need them to because of an obstacle that we cannot overcome.  Obstacles can come in a variety of packages from literal obstacles such as an object blocking our path, to a lack of skill in a specific area, to personality quirks.   Sometimes, not matter how hard we try we don’t make headway as we sit in place spinning our wheels.

A few years ago I was introduced to a concept that shifted how I understand people, relationships, and my work.  It is a simple idea that it takes far less energy, and we are far happier and more effective when we understand it. The idea is that we take what we are good at and strengthen those attributes instead of trying to improve the areas we are not good at.  It seems like a no-brainer, right?  Yet typically what we see in the world is the opposite – the focus is placed on improving the things we are not good at.  In the process we become drained, frustrated, and burned out…because we are working against the unique way that God created us.

 
As I have grown in my understanding of StrengthFinders, the way I see others has been transformed.  Qualities in others that I used to find challenging to work with I now appreciate as being qualities that compliment my abilities – and when they are brought together they potentiate each other so that together we can accomplish what God is calling us to do.  I now see quirks, both mine and others, as the way God has uniquely created us so that we can work together to accomplish God’s work in the here and now…the thy Kingdom come thy will be done that we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.
 
In our work together I have come to see the interdependency of creation.  I love how God created us and the world with interdependency built in.  We see this in nature in photosynthesis and we see it in our daily lives as we come together in our jobs, volunteer work, and faith communities….in order for us to survive and thrive we are interdependent on the unique qualities and quirks that God created as part of all of creation.  Funny too, that it is often the traits we lack that make us a bit crazy in others – introverts find extroverts loud, detail oriented folks find big picture thinkers disorganized, and then there are those people who are always late…..
 
I see this in day to day ministry too.  One of the places I have the most joy of seeing this play out in the kitchen when we gather together for What’s for Dinner.  We have people who thrive in chaos and those who embrace the structure of details – each being critical to our meals turning out successfully each difference inviting us to see each other as God sees us – uniquely and wonderfully made.


Manic Monday & The Power of Community

Pastors Blog

Since late last August, Manic Monday has taken on a whole new meaning in my life as I began weekly treks to Harrisonburg for my Clinical Pastoral Education class. Manic Mondays were sandwich between two equally demanding days – superb Sundays and tumultuous Tuesdays – three back-to-back packed days marked by long hours filled with work requiring me to be present, each being an important and life giving part of my work as a pastor.

But there is the other part of my life – my life as a wife and mother – that was challenged by Manic Mondays. As much as I tried to be efficient preparing freezer meals in advance, to communicate tasks and appointments using our color coded Google family calendar, and to video and text message my kids, none of these things replaced my presence. Presence that is needed in order for our family to function in our day to day life. In the gap of my presence my family experienced something beautiful like the waves the ocean filling in the sand holes on the beach. People showed up.

When Alan couldn’t be there because of his work or it was just too much for one person to handle friends watched our children, made dinner, and helped with homework. They were there to help get Frances and Colby to girl scout meetings, swim team, and soccer practices. We were extended grace for volunteer commitments and dropping the ball. Words of encouragement were shared in passing, in cards, and in conversations when I believed I was too exhausted to get through one more day. And then there was the gas money and Starbucks cards, and more gas money….and well you know how I feel about Starbucks. And some how day by day, week by week, my family made it through to last Monday, the end of our Manic Mondays for now.

In this sea of of support something else happened. My fear of not being good enough was washed away. I was able to let go once and for all of a fear I have had most of my life – that fear of accepting help. It was a fear grounded in a belief that I was failing on some level if I accepted help that I had no way of repaying; help that was being freely offered and given without expectation, without judgement.

 
Life in community is a precious and beautiful thing as we share our lives together, as we cheer each other on in our accomplishments, encourage each other in our struggles, and show up to lend a hand when two hands just won’t do the trick. Community also has the power to transform our lives as we experience the love and grace of Jesus in our relationships with one another. My hope and prayer for this week is that each of us is blessed and a blessing through each of the communities we are a part of.

 

 

 



My Glass Runneth Over …

Pastors BlogI’ve been thinking a lot lately about glassware. I know … an odd lead in but unfortunately true thanks to some broken glasses.

I need to purchase some new drinking glasses and I just don’t know what to do because I like what I have. Just wish I had more and not less. That’s my problem. I have four good glasses, one chipped glass and have a family of six in need of liquid refreshment! 

So there I stood, looking at glassware at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Of course, I couldn’t find a match. A couple of disgusted sighs and I drew the attention of the sales associate. 

“May I help you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m looking to replace some table glasses. What do you suggest?” 

The sales associate training kicked in. She started with the expensive stuff.

“Yes, yes, yes … The Waterford collection is very, very nice. But I need something more in the kids in college payment plan price range!” 

“Here’s a bargain set that most college kids use.” 

“My fault. I wasn’t being crystal clear.” (Get it … crystal clear.) Well, at least I thought it was funny. My sales associate didn’t laugh. So I continued, “I need something for me.” 

“Alright then, let’s see. Do you like a lot of beverage in your glass or not so much?”

I replied, “I get you. You’re asking if I am a half full or half empty kind of shopper.” 

“Not exactly but now that you mention it, how do you see the world?”

That’s why they call the store “Beyond” right? “Bed” and “Bath” are child’s play. “How do you see the world” is way beyond!  

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I see the world.  

The truth …

Some days the glass is half full! Other days the glass is half empty! Some days I appreciate the water in the glass and some days I want more. The human roller coaster of life. 

But the truth is that what I really yearn for is not a half full glass or a half empty glass. I yearn for the glass that runneth over. A Psalm 23 kind of glass.

As I picture a favorite beverage pouring out and over my glass, I see it going everywhere … going into the nooks and crannies; flowing over and around every life obstacle; drenching everything in its’ path …

And for some strange reason, I think of life and what life ought to look like …

a shepherd who loves his flock,

a host who sets a table even in the presence of enemies,

and a glass that isn’t limited to half at all!



Surprised By God Yet Again …

Pastors BlogA few days ago, my family and I went to the new Silver Hand Meadery in Williamsburg. ( Check it out here: http://silverhandmeadery.com/) We went at the perfect time … God’s time really. 
We were the first ones to enter on a warm Friday afternoon.
Thankfully, they still had some “apple pie in a glass”. Thank you Jennifer for the recommendation! We tasted three meads and 6 varieties of honey. The conversation was great … I’ll say more about that in a bit. We ended up buying 2 meads, a jar of honey, a honey wheel, and a cd of music.

Sound odd? A cd of Meadery music?

In the course of our conversation, I was asked what I did for a living. I don’t know why I get asked that question at wineries and meaderies! Then again … maybe I do! God loves surprising me.

“I’m a pastor.”

“Awesome! I was a worship leader and before that I was in a Christian band for about ten years.”

“Really? What band?”
“We were called  Downhere. A few of our cd’s are over there.”
Several years ago, Downhere had a great song that really touched my heart. The song is entitled “How Many Kings”.

So there I am … face to face … at a Meadery in Williamsburg with a member of Downhere who wrote and sang a song that when I heard it on the radio one afternoon I had to pull over to the side of the road and just thank God for giving Jesus to us. 

I guess the moral of the story and/ or the reason that I am telling this story … is one … check out the Silver Hand Meadery when you’re up in Williamsburg … tell Glen that pastor Tim sent you and two … God really is everywhere. Just in case you weren’t sure about that let me assure you that God is and God is full of wonderful surprises!

I bought a Christian music cd at a Meadery!!
PT