Monday, September 10, 2007

Four Quick Things I Think I Think

1) Well, it's 9:30pm on Monday night, I've been tied up all day in meetings, a funeral, and a physical, and I need to be in Warsaw, Virginia by 4pm tomorrow. Why? I am on my way to do the fourth case study church for my dissertation. The Downtown Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia did a very unique and successful pastoral succession ten years ago. I am traveling to Warsaw, Virginia because that is where Don Bowen, the former senior pastor now lives. I will meet with him tomorrow evening, then drive to Alexandria to meet with the current senior pastor, Dale Seley, and a number of lay-people and staff who went through the transition. The purpose in this approach is that hopefully, after visiting twelve churches that brought on an associate pastor before a senior pastor left with the idea that eventually the associate would replace the senior, that I will find commonalities between the churches that might inform future transitions of this kind.

But it's late, and I want to get three hours on the road done tonight to give myself some breathing room in my schedule tomorrow. Thus, I can only think about four things (as opposed to the customary ten) this week. Hope that's OK.

2) Attended the funeral today for Jeff and Jeremy Hutchison, and was greatly moved. A good many important truths were very well spoken by the pastoral staff at Gardendale Church of God, and by John Hutchison, Jeff's brother. But the most profound thought for me today came out of the revelation that Joel (age 7), the younger brother who survived the plane crash, not only lost a brother (Jeremy - age 9), but his best friend.
These are my three sons. Eli is the youngest. The boy in the middle is Xavier, who is currently the middle child (until our fourth child, due in March, is born), and the boy on the far right is Max. Max and Xavier are best friends. They spend a ton of time together, have similar likes and dislikes, and have invented more games to play together I'll never understand than you could shake a stick at. But the relationship is different for Xavier than it is Max. Max, being the older brother, enjoys playing with kids his own age and in his own grade. Often, he thinks his younger brothers are pests, and needs a little space sometimes to keep his sanity. He's the leader and grand pubah of the pack.

Xavier, on the other hand, pretty much adores his brother. He'd be around him all of the time if Max would allow it. If a friend his age came over to play, he'd choose Max over the friend as a playmate every single time. Nobody, in his mind, is cooler or better than his big brother.

And I can't imagine what it would be like for Xavie, if all of a sudden, Max were gone. The depth of loneliness and pain I just simply can't, or won't, imagine. The trampoline in our back yard wouldn't be nearly as fun to jump on alone. Pokemon TV shows wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if you had to watch them alone. What would be the point of dressing up as a superhero and running around the yard if your brother wasn't there to chase, or be chased by you?

It's like the pastor said... Joel lost his dad, his brother, and best buddy. I'm crying now thinking about it. I just ache for the little guy, because I know how devastated Xavier would be...

Keep praying for the family.... and particularly for a little boy who will wake up tomorrow ready to play in the barn with his brother, and not get to do so.

3) If you haven't heard, after much prayer and discussion with Marty Hutchison, Jeff's mother and Jeremy's grandmother, a number of her children, and through Marty with Joyce, we at Shawnee took up a collection this past Sunday to create the "Jeremy Hutchison Memorial Scholarship". To the delight of the family, the church will be inviting the community to join together in raising enough funds so that a scholarship dedicated in Jeremy's honor, will be awarded to a graduating Senior from Shawnee High School. This past Sunday, over $3500 was raised toward this endeavor, and more money has been coming in throughout the week. We will continue to let people know about this most worthy endeavor, and if you'd like to make a donation toward the cause, you can either stop by here at the church (this contribution can be tax deductible if you so desire) or if you are out there in blogland and want to mail us donation send it to:

Hutchison Scholarship Fund
Shawnee United Methodist Church
2600 Zurmehly Rd.
Lima OH. 45806

Or you can stop by Superior Federal Credit Union and simply let them know that you want to contribute to the Jeremy Hutchison Scholarship Fund. I guarantee you that every single penny will go to toward the development of this fund. It is my hope and prayer that the first award be made this coming May.

4) Thanks so much for all the people who took a moment to say something about the prayer I posted for the Hutchison family. I hope that you were able to use it to generate your own time of prayer, or to encounter the loving grace of the living God. And I hope you know that while it was my own creative ability that enabled the prayer to come into being, that any beauty or healing that might have been derived from it came only from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From God who has been so good to our family. If I am becoming a better person, a better Christian, a better husband, a better father, or a better pastor, it is only because the Lord is stripping away my pretensions, challenging me to give Him my sin, and lead me further into His Kingdom. Without Jesus, my whole life would have begun and ended solely with my wants and needs. I praise God that he led to share the pain and suffering of those who are poor and oppressed, chances to articulate in prayer what people long to hear from their God when they are sick or grieving, opportunities to listen those who are bitter or confused, and just generally awaken me to the idea that other people are really just brothers and sisters.

God is so good, and my life is so much richer following Jesus, because he's taught me how to love, and been patient with me when I have failed. No other teacher or mentor (and I've had some mighty fine ones) has been as gracious, or helped me grow more. No other person has directed more good and kind people into my life. And in no other book given to me have I learned more about human nature, spiritual potential, and what could be, than the book God gave to me.

He is humbling, and humbled.
A master who serves.
A king who gives away his kingdom.
A man who'd rather save others than himself.
The first in the universe, who will let you put him last if it be your choice
but will teach the beauty of being last if you put him first.
A friend to those who mess up.
And a visionary who inspires men and women to see visions and dream dreams
about what could be, so that it might become.

To God be honor and the glory, now and forever. A better friend and savior than Jesus, a person could not have.

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