Thursday, April 27, 2006
It is hard to help two parties estranged from each other come to a place of agreement and potential reconciliation. This week I have been involved in that pursuit through the counseling of hurting marriages, the correction of business misunderstandings, and the clarification of working relationships.
I wish I could report "success". I can only hope and pray that God brings healing and restoration in these relationships characterized by broken trust and deep personal hurt.
Jesus is the GREAT mediator. He brings men and women separated from God back into fellowship with Him through His death. It is a costly process with incredible benefits. All we have to do is avail ourselves of His provision for us.
Meidation in the secular world is costly as well. People must be willing to pay theprice of humbling themselves, acknowledging their own failures and taking time to truly listen to the offenses cited by the other party--husband, wife, parent, employer, fellow worker, neighbor, church member, etc.
Sometimes it is not a matter of "right and wrong" but a matter of "give and take". In any case, stepping back for a more honest look, or, for a less defensive posture, may help to mediate the crisis you are facing.
The Word of God encourages us by exhorting us to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification..." Romans 14:19. It may cost us something, but the potential benefits will make the sacrifice worth the effort!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Bev and I have agreed to garden special areas of our yard--she does the front and I do the back. Bev' s area is beautiful--color-coordinated flowers, contoured lawn and carefully-landscaped beds. The back is all on a slope and much more wild. But I love it!
I have added areas each year of flowers, shrubs and, now, fourteen trees. My original small plot has grown into a massive area of some burgeoning responsibility. My time is limited but when I have a moment I love to get on my hands and knees and pull weeds, redistribute dirt, repair my watering system, and plant new things. I often catch myself smiling when I am doing it, and wondering "why?" I guess it is because I love being in those moments.
This year, in anticipation of Counsin's Camp (we get the grandchildren together and plan a thematic week of activities--"Growing God's Way", this year), I planted a vegetable garden area, complete with peppers, carrots, beans, tomatoes, artichokes and squash. I know...what a combination! It should give the grandkids an object lesson of how things grow when planted, fertilized and watered.
As I was weeding the area, turning the soil over, raking it smooth...and then planting...I found myself smiling once again.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Easter is a big church weekend...probably, the biggest of the year. It usually makes me tired. It is complete with Good Friday service and communion, Sunrise service, Easter Brunch and Easter worship, at Grace Fellowship. This year we had only one combined worship service (other than Sunrise service) and rented the high school fine arts building because our facilities are already too small. This added the load of setting up and taking down--all of that in the middle of a day-long rainstorm.
With all of the extended work and preparation, it is easy to go through the accelerated activity of this significant weekend for every believer--and miss the whole point!
I didn't do that this year.
From Friday morning as Beverly and I had our morning devotions I sought to focus on Jesus' death and commented on it throughout the day in every contact I had. By the time Good Frfday service rolled around, I was primed for worship and communion and left exhilarated.
Saturday was a day of preparing my mind for Sunday's services. I prayed we wouldn't have rain--God had other designs--and looked forward to the unparalleled privilege of declaring the good news of the gospel on Resurrection Sunday.
We awakened to torrential rains Sunday morning (I was up at 4:00 a.m.) and a meager crowd for our indoors sunrise service (I don't think I saw the sun all morning).
I arrived at the worship site early--someone had an emergency trip to the hospital from the setup crew--so I arrived to fill in. Unfortunately, 150 chairs were missing and we scrambled to find additional seating to accommodate the crowd we expected. I confess to a few moments of frustration and despair that the devil seemed intent on ruining a potentially wonderful day.
It poured rain all morning but all the volunteer cooks showed up with their egg quiches and fruit bowls and pastries intact, and everyone else showed up with their appetites and Easter Sunday smiles. It made for a great time of fellowship.
When the service began, every seat was filled (thank God for the extra chairs we found) and the opening song resonated with excitement in the acoustically-live gymlike setting. A progam of wonderful music, drama and congregational singing was a fitting agenda for a worship experience focused on Christ's resurrection. I truly worshipped.
And then it was my turn to stand and proclaim the good news of the gospel from Romans 5:1-11 with special attention to the incredble truth--"God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!"-- and people responded that morning to the invitation to embrace that truth in repentance and new life!
It was truly a happy Easter on a big church weekend. But I will remember it with thanksgiving for its breathing new life into mine, at a time I needed to be spirituall refreshed.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
I just spent a day and two nights in San Francisco with my wife. While there we visited my son, Greg, who is working in the city and preparing to get ready for his pre-med training. It wa mostly cold and wet but a brief interlude of sunshine and spotty blue sky entertained us Monday afternoon.
And then we awakened to torrential rain...and returned home to the "safety" of Amador County, where it was raining, too.
Trips to San Francisco are good for me. I like San Francisco I like its cultural diversity, its congested downtown, its variety of eating fares, its street commerce, its night life and lights, its beautiful parks and neighboring ocean shorelines.
I like coming home to Amador County. I like its quietness, its meandering streams and velvety green hillsides, its antique towns and unplanned streets, its friendly people and slow pace.
Amador County is home.
San Francisco is the rest of the world.
Friday, April 07, 2006
On Wednesday I met for prayer with 5-6 special people from our church family. Dick and Joyce were a part of that group and I realized how blessed I am to have them in our church family. In their seventies--but looking and acting much younger--they are a vital part of our ministry team at Grace and Dick is our oldest elder and I welcome his words of wisdom.
Yesterday I ate lunch with someone about twenty years older than me. Jim is a veteran Christian and and metal building contractor andI found myself hanging on his words of advice and counsel offered in the flow of a normal conversation. His gentle spirit was a comfort to me.
Today I purposely sat with our minister of senior citizens. He does much more than that but this is his primary area of service. He was a pastor for more than fifty years and I have the utmost respect and regard for him as a fellow pastor and a friend. Ward helps put things into perspective for me. His steadiness and grace are a remidner to me about how to appropriately respond to the challenges of ministry each day. He is a living example to me of what I desire my life to look like.
I was thinking that over the years God has led into my life men older than me--wise and mature veterans of the faith--who have supported me, prayed for me, and kept me going when I felt like quitting. Thank God for the wisdom of elders in my life.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Jesus' introduction of Himself as the "bread of life" in John 6:35 is significant to me. The promise that to partake of Him is to never hunger again is especially intriguing.
Barretts love to eat; in fact, we live to eat. Our conversations historically have been about the new restaurant most recently visited, the quantity (and occasionally, quality) of food served, etc.
In recent years that has changed for me due to health concerns and my determination to keep my weight under control. I relished the Adkins diet for over a year because it allowed me to do what most diets don't--eat! I think I have discovered that eating is my therapy for stress and boredom, and to some extent, it is how I subconsicously reward myself. Anyway, I am learning to "eat to live", not live to eat".
My eating is symptomatic, I know, of deeper concerns, and my quest to be satisfied. In earlier days my motivation to be happy and content was tied up with getting more stuff, having others' approval, and living from one fun-filled occasion to another, even though those events were infrequent. Subsequently, I suffered through periods of deep depression because I was ultimately not satisfied by any of these things.
I am learning that only Jesus satisfies the deepest longings of my heart. He is the "bread of life" and when I feed on Him--meditate on his Word, live to please Him, spend my life for others--I am content in the truest sense of the word.
My diet has changed as I have grown older and, hopefully wiser. I eat less and focus on other places of interest than the local restaurants.
And I allow myself to be satisfied daily by the "bread of life".