Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Will it ever stop raining?

Yes, I know we need the rain.

But when will it ever stop!?!

I suppose most of us have wrestled with this intrusion on spring. We are waiting for the arrival of the beautiful northern California sunshine, the advent of multi-colored wildflowers and the aroma of spring in the air.

On a personal level, I want the rain to stop so our contractor can begin his work on our turn lane, something required for occupancy of our new facilities.

I want the rain to stop so I can weed my garden and begin the therapy of working in my yard and enjoying the beauty of God's creative work coupled with my limited gardening skills.

I want the rain to stop so I can move from the treadmill in my cold garage to the outdoor walking and exercise that I welcome this time of the year.

I want the rain to stop because the sunshine has a positive effect on my "fragile" psyche. I just feel better and more alive when there is blue sky and an un-obscured sun.

Sound like a whiner, don't I.

What I do realize is that when life is raining downs its recurrent challnges--the "rain falls on the just and the unjust"--I am generally wishing it would stop. ..stop so I can get on with life as I imagine it.

But I realize that the rain is good for me. Trials and tests make me lean more upon God, stretch my faith to examine His divine resources and not to selfishly indulge my finite and small reserves.

So I guess I will quit whining and thank God for the rain. The hills are greener, the sun appears occasionally-enough to give me hope for spring--and the building moves ahead, on a timetable that God knows about.

Even as I am writing, the rain has stopped...for the moment.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I have had several moments in the last few weeks where I was tearful...not a comfortable place for most men. I was thinking about some recent contexts in which I had felt such deep emotion that I could not hide my tears...
*the shared pain of someone I love
*the firsthand observation of unparalleled disaster
*the recognition of personal failure
*a sad movie chronicling life's heartache
*an experience of worship contemplating God's grace to me
As I recall the specific details of each of these experiences I remember the sense of cleansing and relief I felt when my tears were spent, even though I was embarassed at my public display of emotions.
I am learning as I get older that it is okay for me to cry. Even though I have secretly felt for me it was a sign of weakness--and obviously it cannot accompany the daily responsibilities of pastoral ministry (many of which make me want to cry)--I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of being authentic about my true feelings.
John 11:35 observes Jesus at Lazarus' house with the shortest verse of scripture, "Jesus wept". This reminds me that Jesus had a very human side to Him and when we are told by the writer of the book of Hebrews that He is "moved by our infirmities", I am encouraged that tears need not be shunned or stifled.
I shed some tears when I preached on Sunday. I was embarassed. But it was how I really felt about what I was sharing.
It is Wednesday...and I am okay about it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Little is Much...

"Little is much when God is in it..." are the familiar words of a song I heard as a child growing up (yes, it is an old song) but its message resonates within my heart after a week spent in New Orleans.

Mike Stromberg, Terry Throssel, Bob Swett, Steve Thomas, Bob Temple and Dan Simpson joined me for seven days on a work trip to Desire Street, the location of Sean and Emily Rorden's storm-battered home. For the last seven months as Desire Sreet Academy has relocated in Florida and Emily has continued her studies in Baton Rouge, Sean and Emily have spent most of the time separated from each other--and they are still newlyweds!--and away from the home they had lived in for only two months when Hurricane Katrina struck with a vengeance. Rain, winds and a faucet turned on by an errant tile from neighbor's roof, innundated their home with water and the resultant damage made the house unliveable.

Armed with tools, our work team arrived on Sunday evening, settled in at a hostel in downtown New Orleans and prepared for the job of ordering materials, redoing drwyall, taping and texturing the walls, painting the entire house, repairing the roof, restoring electrical fixtures, replacing all the door mouldings, installing new doors, "replacing" the kitchen sink and appliances, repairing some sub-floor, and generally preparing the house for Sean and Emily's happy re-entry on Friday evening, where they spent the night awaiting the arrival of carpet and flooring over the weekend.

Sean and Emily live in the upper ninth ward, a poverty-stricken area of the city hit hard by the hurricance, though not as dramatically as the lower ninth ward. Desire Street Academy, where Sean works as a teacher and coach, was devastaed by the flood and is currently undergoing rennovation and repair by numerous workt eams who have come to render aid. The academy is a beacon light in an impoverished area offering school, church, a medical clinic, sports programming and a variety of other resources in the name of Jesus. CURE is a group of 15-16 local churches that have banded together to suppport and enable this ministry. Due to the hurricane's devastation--the lower ninth ward looks like a war zone--the ministry has relocated to Flordia where it is housing and educating 80-90 boys from the academy.

Though a new location is planned in Baton Rouge in 2006-2007, the prayer is that Desire Street Academy will once again shed its light in this community as the plans for New Orleans continue to be hammered out. Decisions about viability, insurance and liability will be carefully evaluated as a final decision is made.

Until then, we can be praying for the staff and teachers of Desire Street and for God's direction for the ministry ahead. We can pray, too, for renewed strength and a sharpened vision about how their incarnational ministry can continue in this area so desparate for God's presence and power.

Sean and Emily's small house is a lighthouse as well in an area of broken-down houses and broken-up families. The return to their home will allow children once again to knock at their door and to find the love and attention they crave, all given in the name of Jesus.

I am basically unskilled when it comes to building things. For a week, however, I did what I could with the "little" I had to offer, and watched it--with six of my brothers--turn into something much larger...into literally a potential ministry center. I can't be there physically--Sean and Emily can--but I, along with the gracious members of our church family and all of our work team--helped make that happen. It is a week I will never forget!

"Little is much when God is in it..."

Thursday, March 09, 2006


On Sunday morning seven men--including me--leave for a work trip in New Orleans. Our church has a vested interest in a young lady from our congregation and her husband, Sean and Emily Rorden. Sean works at Desire Street Academy, a school for needy young men in New Orleans, now ravaged by the flood. The school has relocated for the time being in Florida, and Emily continues her training as a registered nurse in Baton Rouge.

Sean and Emily's house was also damaged by Hurricane Katrina and our crew is going in to make repairs to make the house once again livable. Needless to say, we are all excited about this trip and the opportunity to help a young couple in ministry whom we love very much.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Grace of Giving

On Sunday I spoke on the subject of giving, using the passage from II Corinthians 8:1-9 as my reference.

So much of giving is construed as a money issue--yet it is much more than that. Verses 8 and 9 tells us that for our sakes Jesus, who was rich, became poor--the Incarnation reveals this--and because of that, we who are poor, are allowed to become rich in Christ through His provision on the cross. The enormity of Christ's self-emptying (see Philippians 2) in coming to earth as a man, and the volitional laying down of His life for us that we might live, is the basis of our understanding of grace.

Here's what I see in this passage that recites the experience of the Macedonians who gave sacrifically to the needs of others--that our experiences of grace in Christ are what motivate our expressions of grace to others. The Corinthians, who excel in other gifts, are exhorted by Paul to "excel in the grace of giving" as well.

The Macedonians begged for the "privilege" to give in spite of their own "severe trial" and gave with "overflowing joy", and their extreme povery welled up in rich generosity."

Jesus modeled this "grace of giving" on the cross, and the Macedonians imitated this mindset in their own giving. We, as the Corinthians are, are challenged to do the same.

As we shared Communion Sunday and reflected upon Christ's work, our congregation had an opportunity to consider the experience of grace we have in our relationship with Christ, and, then, to offer ourselves to God and to others in the expression of the grace of giving.