Compassion

I awoke this morning in awe at how the Lord is changing things in my heart.

A few decades ago, I had to ask the Lord for compassion. If He wanted me to be a pastor, then there was no way I could function with the hardness of heart I exhibited toward people. I operated from the standpoint of, “You made your bed. Now you have to lie in it.”

It broke my heart that my heart was in such condition.

Over the years that followed, I have seen the Lord’s work of grace in my heart, as compassion has been developed. It is not something that I have done, but a work of grace within me.

This past decade, He has been teaching me the difference between human and divine compassion–a lesson not easily learned. (I’ll not discuss the distinctions of each here. Maybe later.)

I’ve grown to have compassion on those whom I love, and those with whom I am related in business or socially.

But, this morning, I awoke with a burden on my heart for those I only know through the blogosphere. I’ve never met them. I do not know the sound of their voice.

I only know that they are hurting–and I was hurt by their pain.

For that I am grateful.

One is caught in the aftermath of an ice storm and has no power.

One has had his income severely curtailed and has to relocate.

One has a new job that changes the way things were done at home, and mutual support is now challenging.

One is dealing with marital betrayal.

One is dealing with a son who is having tremendous difficulty.

I awoke praying intensely for each of these–my friends whom I have never met–in a way that I’ve never prayed even for those oft-repeated ‘prayer requests’ for sickness and pain within the local assembly.

It is a new day for me. And I am thankful for the new work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Gracie’s Quest

When I first began this blog, I had Gracie sign on as an author. I knew that she had things to say that would be a blessing to the Body of Christ.

Her first article, “Learning to Speak the Word” is still the most viewed post on this blog. It is read by someone almost everyday, according to my stats page.

When we share in the mornings after our individual time in  the Word, her insights into a passage are always an inspiration to me. I just don’t see the way she sees. I love hearing what she gets from the Lord.

She often sees what is not written, and that helps my understanding of a particular passage, adding color for this otherwise “Dr. Dry-As-Dust” teacher.

However, her contributions were too few and far between.

As she has been going through her healing from a traumatic past, I have encouraged her to write publicly about her process, with no success. Then the Noreaster put out a call for Storm Stories. I pressured Gracie to join in, and, thankfully she gave in.

Writing her story gave her the impetus to write even more.

I had hinted more than once that she should have her own blog so that she could post at any time the mood struck. (I didn’t like her being under my shadow. She has her own light that needs to shine for all to see.)

I must be getting better at being an encourager, because she has given in to this request also. (Might be ’cause she loves me 🙂 )

Gracie has started her own blog called Gracie’s Quest.

I look forward to how the Lord will use this new addition to the blogosphere.

Our virtual community is growing.

Give her a visit and share the love.

Chained, but NOT Bound

Philippians 1:12-14

Phl 1:12  

I want you to know, brothers,[fn4] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

Phl 1:13  

so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[fn5] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Phl 1:14  

And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[fn6] without fear.

 

What happened to Paul had to be terrifying to the natural man; but, apparently, Paul had learned how to rise above the dictates of his flesh.

This holds for me a powerful example of what it means to keep my eyes on Jesus, not looking at nor considering the circumstances.

“Hey! How ya doin’,” the pastor greeted his friend.
“Fine…under the circumstances,” the friend replied.
The pastor retorted, “What are you doing under there?”

The humor in that setup continually reminds me to maintain my focus. Sometimes, the situation becomes heavier than others, and I falter. But, what I have discovered as I pray about my failure, is that the situation became heavier when I began to consider it. Therefore, I am still looking for the secret to not give in to the temptation to consider, worry, fret, question, or whatever my circumstances.

I am learning to commit my way to the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to commit my thoughts. I am still learning what all that means and how it is carried out on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

Paul found himself chained, his freedom to move about openly hindered. Yet, it in no way took away from his commission to preach the gospel.

Rather than be frustrated about his plans to travel, he just relaxed in the Lord and continued to do what he had always done–preach Jesus.

It is when I begin to focus on my plans for the kingdom and then see how they are not working out that I become frustrated. A lack of money can do it. A lack of a place to meet can do it. A cross word from a loved one can do it.

But, as we work our way through this study, I will eventually see why Paul was able to say, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

Maybe I will be further along in my journey by then, and will have a more encouraging note to write.

NOTE: There is an ongoing study of the epistle to the Philippians. It is a verse-by-verse study by all who participate.
Won’t you join us?

The Socialization of Loneliness

NOTE: This post was lifted from a comment posted under “Church Repair.” I have known this writer for more than 40 years; before I was a Christian. I think her statements reflect the feelings and experiences of many of our readers.
By Charlotte McCann
I would also like to comment on loneliness, but don’t see a category to put it in. 🙂 However, I feel it is a direct result of the church not being what it should be, so will put it here.
I struggled with loneliness most of my growing up years. Then I met Jesus. And for the next 17 years loneliness simply was not a part of my life. We always had believers as friends and meaningful involvement in each others lives, even if we were only in a given geographical location for a short time.

And then, 20 years ago, we returned to the Bible Belt and moved into a small town, knowing no one.

I have struggled with guilt over the tremendous loneliness I have experienced over these past 20 years, though I guess I finally accepted it as part of life around 6 or 7 years ago. However, just lately I have heard of 3 instances that just about cover the gamut of experiences and all my guilt has finally left me. I finally truly see that I am not the problem; rather our modern church/culture is.

The 3 instances:

A 30’ish married couple with young children who have been part of a church for over a year in a new community they moved into. Lonely. Are wanting to move somewhere where they might have friends. Great people. Not weird or strange or shallow. Fun loving and interesting fellow believers. Lonely.

A 24 year old son on the edges of our culture who has never even pretended to attend church or have a serious relationship with our Lord since getting out of school and out on his own. Just admitted to not having a single friend (though he “socializes” a lot). But he sees the shallowness of his social life and realizes how lonely he is.

A very sweet 80 year old woman who has been widowed many years and been a part of an established church for probably over 20 years, going about doing good. Not self-righteous or pious or full of pity. But lonely.

And so I realize truly I am not alone. And how sad it is. And cry out, “Church, where are you???!!!) It is certainly not what is out there now.

I am interested to see what Mr. Viola and his friend have to say as to what the church truly should be. I understand that first we must lift up our Lord and that our goal is a relationship with Him — not friendships. I am on board with this. Yet He walked this earth and died for us — for others. Can we do less?

 

Editor’s Note: I remember reading of an exercise a researcher did. He visited many churches over the course of a year paying close attention to whether he was noticed or not. More often than not, he got out without anyone having ever spoken to him. Today, that is not the case. We have plenty of people designated to interact with anyone and everyone who comes through the doors of the church building. Sadly, though, the continuing testimony that I hear is either “I don’t feel welcome,” or “I’m lonely.”

 

 

 

 

Who Am I?

I was invited to play this by a friend on FaceBook. I usually do not participate in these things, but decided to give this one a try.

Turned out to be kind of fun.

I was supposed to come up with 25 random things about me so that the people who read would know a little more about me.

I decided to also post this on my blog, because many of my readers here do not mess with FaceBook.

So, if you want to know a little more about me, read on. If not…….why not?

 

1.  I was born at a very early age. I couldn’t feed, clean or clothe myself.

2.  I grew up physically. There is still doubt that I grew up mentally or emotionally.

3.  I love learning. Problem is I can’t remember what I’ve learned.

4.  For me, fishing is the art of removing trash from the bottom of the stream or lake.

5.  I took a year’s vacation while in the Navy. The authorities didn’t like that, so I did some jail time.

6.  I’m way too serious for most folks, but I’ve failed to learn how to lighten up.

7.  Quit smoking in 1970 when I was doing 2 ½ packs/day. Cold turkey.

8.  Actually, cold turkey makes a great sandwich.

9.  I could survive on peanut butter and water. Don’t know how long, though.

10. A child’s giggle is one of the sweetest sounds on earth.

11. I worked as an inspector of tombstones in Shippensburg, PA in 1969.

12. Looking at my high school transcript the other day, I found that I made all A’s in my freshman year, B’s as a sophomore, C’s as a junior, and D’s in my senior year. Like I said, I have a problem with learning.

13. I’ve only bought one bad car in my life. The rest were given to me.

14. I learned to spell antidisestablishmentarianism in the fourth grade. We had to.

15. Never did learn how to spell that big fancy word from Mary Poppins—super fragile cow expelled from school—or something like that.

16. Did a stand-up comedy routine in college. Found out I’m not a comedian. They were only laughing ‘cause my zipper was down.

17. Photography is my favorite spectator sport.

18. Eating is my favorite way to pass time—except when I’m sleeping, reading, driving, gardening, making love, watching TV, going to the movies, or picking on someone.

19. I always wanted to be a wordsmith. Thought writing for a living would be fun. Found out nobody reads anymore. So, I went back to eating, breathing, and sleeping to live.

20. I graduated in the top 5% of the lower 10% of my class.

21. Blue is not necessarily my favorite color, but all my clothes are blue.

22. I’m supposed to come up with 25 random things about my short life, and it is proving to be rather challenging. I’m so predictable that my friends finish my sentences for me.

23. My biggest failure in life is that I never made it up Mt. Everest.

24. The smartest thing I ever did was not to try (making it up Mt. Everest)

25. This is the first time I’ve ever participated in one of these games.

 

Rain

NOTE: the following poem is part of Gracie’s Storm Story.

This rain is falling so perfectly. It comes in gentle showers so it permits the ground to soak rather than just run off.

Rain softly falls
Earth opens her mouth to drink
Green returns to cover the brown
Leaves turn upward
Giving thanks
Blue skies
turn grey
brown grass
turns green
Wash the dust
from my feet
Fill the air
with fragrance sweet
As flowers lift
pretty faces fair
Insect, birds, return
their song
They fill the air
with praises strong
Glory to our God
who formed us from this sod
who gave us breath
and life sublime
a wondrous gift
to last all time

Hot sun:
leaves turn down
grass turns brown

Cool rain:
leaves lift up
grass greens up

Moving swiftly through the air
lifting faces fair
scurrying cross the wire
hiding from the sun’s fire
The birds, flowers, squirrels
and insects respond to sun and rain.

Posted in GQ. 2 Comments »

Church Repair

I have just completed reading Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola & George Barna, and have begun Frank’s sequel book, Reimagining Church.

Without specifically stating it, I believe their basic premise is that the church as we know it today is fundamentally flawed and therefore beyond repair.

In my 40+ years of being involved with the Church, I have seen, participated in, and even attempted to resurrect that which was dead. A particular problem of the existing church would be addressed and efforts made to repair the problem.

I have seen pews replaced with chairs (and vice versa). I have seen the seating arrangement changed from rows to circles. I have witnessed a multitude of change in singing–hymn books, mimeographed chrous printouts, overhead projector, PowerPoint, and Bible only. Preaching by a one-man show change to an open pulpit. Open pulpit change to just a few. And the list goes on ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Why? Why do we continue to tamper with the existing format and structure? Why not leave well enough alone? Thankfully, Martin Luther did not have that attitude.

We continue to tamper with it for the same reason a new church is formed almost every week in our country–because someone, somewhere, believes that somehow things can be better.

Better than what? Better than what is, because what is does not satisfy. And so we continue to fidget, manipulate, organize and disorganize in an attempt to get it right.

And, that, my friend, is at the basis of most of the changes–we want to get it right. Therefore, the attempts themselves are not wrong. They usually originate with good motives, noble intentions. But, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

According to how I understand Viola/Barna, the foundation of the Church has been destroyed–at least by the modern expression of the church. I am coming to grips with this, and am beginning to agree with their premise.

Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church, and while He certainly cannot be destroyed, the foundation of the modern church is destroyed, because it is not founded on Christ and Him alone. It is founded on such things as doctrinal purity, or worship style, or preacher personality, or denominational dignity. None of these has much to do with Jesus.

And so, I have about finished with the critique of the modern church and am about to launch into their understanding of what the church should look like.

So far, I am enjoying the ride.