Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Eight Things I Think I Think, and Two Things I Hope

1) I think that I need to apologize to all of you for taking an extra day to get this posted. I took Monday off to have lunch with an old friend, and get the leaves off of my lawn. We have 21 Shagbark Hickory trees scattered around our lawn. Last night I was out until 8:30, in the dark, blowing leaves out to the street. Tomorrow I get to rake up hickory nuts. Good times, all around.

2) Thanks to everyone who supported Harvest for the Hungry. With the money raised yesterday, more than 1.6 million pounds of food (that's over 40 tractor-trailor loads) will be shipped to Lima for hungry people over the next year. And the best part... all the commercials quit running yesterday, so I no longer will be horrified at the sight of my ugly mug popping up in the middle of watching the late news. Now, we can all rest a little easier.

3) I think this week is going to be a tough one as Aimee was diagnosed with Strep Throat this morning. Max and Xavie both tested negative, but have redness in the throat, so it's probably just a matter of time. Fortunately, according to the doctor, little babies like Eli don't tend to get strep because of the immunity received through breast milk, so we'll count our blessings. Looks like I'll be home much more than usual this week, as Aimee sinks miserably into a state of yuckiness.

4) I think tonight's presentation by Neil Winget (director of the Better Business Buereau) at our Koinania Bible Study was a good one. The topic was the eighth commandment (Don't Steal), and he gave a presentation on what stealing is doing to our economy. He talked about a lot of things, but the most amazing stats that he had were on identity theft, which cost Americans more than 50 billion dollars last year. The problem is now so pervasive, that 3 people every minute in the US are suffering from having their identity stolen. One lady tonight talked about how she received a call from Sears in light of a scam where someone had tried to steal the identity of her late husband, who passed this past July. Goes to show that God chose ten pretty good rules for us to follow, and the cost to society financially and morally when we fail to do so.

5) I think that Shawnee elected two pretty good new school board members in Clay Balyeat and Ellen Rovner.... and for those of you keeping up on my ongoing Ellen Rovner thread in this blog, and I want to point out that since my embarrassing "Who's Ellen Rovner?" story was published on this blog a month ago, that over 93 new people accessed my profile from the day of that post, until the election. Guess how many votes she won by? Ellen, I'll be calling in my political favors in due time (who can say, "Free Snow Cones for Associate Pastors at Basketball Games?").

6) I think that it's interesting that the last wide receiver to be suspended for the remainder of the season in the NFL by his team for being a pain in the butt in the locker, Keyshawn Johnson, had only one thing to say about this Terrell Owens situation in Philadelphia. In short, he called TO's agent, Drew Rosenhouse a bunch of names I won't repeat on this blog, and warned his fellow bad-boy receiver that he was only out to make a name for himself in terms of signing new clients next year. Guess who Keyshawn Johnson's agent when he got suspended?

7) I think that a number of people commented, in light of last week's blog, that they were worried about my "what if I had become a lawyer.." and "mid-life crisis" comments. Many thanked me for going into the ministry instead of the law, and for that I thank you. Worry not loyal readers... I'm not buying a new sports car or getting a hair-weave anytime soon.

Working in the church is a joy and blessing, most of the time (although, quite frankly, some friends of mine working in other churches, really can't say this.... embroiled in controversy and bickering, they're pretty much miserable all of the time, and for them, you should say a prayer). The only really bad days are the ones that you "lose" the people who you care for and serve as a pastor.

"Lose", as in they die. "Lose", as in they move away. "Lose", as in they decide, for whatever reason that you no longer are fit to be their pastor, which happens all the time but really hurts when it's someone you know and love.

I just worry that I might not have what it takes to survive the accumulation of these days (and other ones, which occur for a variety of reasons) over the long haul: A deep enough spirituality that anchors you in the midst of leading other disciples of Jesus. Being concerned about this is a whole lot better than thinking that I've got this whole spirituality thing beaten, because it's forcing me to do more reading, more praying, more reflection, and more soul searching, which can only be good for a congregation. It forces you to re-evaluate why you do this for a living, which always kicks you ego down another notch, and makes you cling to God just a little bit tighter, and that's good.

You don't want a pastor who fails to think about these things. Trust me. So don't worry. I'll be fine. Thanks for asking.

8) I hope you benefit from this excerpt from Eugene Peterson's new book "Christ Plays In A Thousand Places" dealing with "the sacrificial life".

I don't know of any part (living a life built on sacrifice for God and others) of the Christian gospel that is more difficult to move from the pages of sacred Scripture and our honored volumes of theology into the assumptions and practices of our everyday Christian lives. Very few among us would dissent from what Jesus said, what Paul wrote, what Calvin preached, and yet - and yet when it comes down to actual assent, we more often than not find another way. We begin our morning prayers with Jesus, "Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet..." (Mark 14:36). And our "yet..." trails off; instead of completing Jesus' prayer ("not what I want but what you want") we begin to entertaining other possibilities. If all things are possible for the Father, perhaps there is another way to do something about what is wrong with the world, a way by which I can help out and make things better other than through a sacrificial life. In the jargon of the day, we pray: "sacrifice is not one of my gifts - I want to serve God with my strength, with my giftedness." It's a strange thing, but sacrifice never seems to show up on anyone's Myers-Briggs profile.

For a people like us, trained in a culture of getting things done (pragmatism) and taking care of ourselves (individualism), sacrifice doesn't seem at all obvious; neither does is seem attractive. There is nothing about a life of sacrifice appeals to our well-intentioned desire to make a difference in the wrongdoing in the world and to make things better for our neighbors and ourselves.

But the self-promotion and self-help ways of salvation, so popular among us, do nothing but spiral us further into the abyss. There is no other way but sacrifice. Annie Dillard, one of our unconventional but most passionate theologians, is blunt in her verdice: "a life without sacrifice is an abomination".

Nonparticipation in Jesus' sacrifice as the means of salvation is damning. The failure of our substituted good intentions in the work of salvation could not be more conspicuous. There is only one Gospel way to participate in Jesus' work - live a sacrificial life in Jesus' name.

9) Word from the family in Utah, via my grandmother, is that my Aunt Beth's husband, Dennis, is attempting to give up smoking. This can't be any easier than starting an sustained, on-going exercise regimine, or eating healthy (both of which, I have failed miserably in doing, repeatedly). Dennis is a great guy. Last summer he came with Beth and his grandson, Cade, for a visit here in Ohio, and one of the things we did with him while he was here was go to the Cabella's store (a store that specializes in equipment for those who love outdoor living and outdoor sports) up in Dundee, Michigan. Dennis has spent the better part of his life hunting, fishing, and learning about the delicate ecology that helps maintain this planet, and we got to experience the product of that knowledge as we walked through the store. It was a great experience because instead of just looking at stuff that was for sale, we could actually find out what it did, and how and why it worked. We learned a lot about all kinds of wildlife, and as we asked questions, you feel the love he had for the varying subjects in the patience he showed as he explained to both of us "greenhorns" the mysteries of the forest, the sky, the water, and in the telling of some pretty good stories (like the time he got lost doing some hunting in rural Idaho, and spent the night in the snowy wilderness, using his survival skills). I know that there are a lot of "anti-hunting" or "anti-fishing" people out there, and I can't say I've really done much (or for that matter, any hunting, at all) of either in my life, but he world would be much better shape if each of us took "stewardship of God's creation" as seriously as Dennis.

Here's to hoping he can kick the habit so he can increase the chances of passing all this knowledge to his grandchildren.

10) I think I've got a 7am breakfast meeting tomorrow, so off to bed I go. Hope you have a good week, and I'll try and do another post by Friday (I've been getting a little bit lax). Thanks for reading!

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