Thursday, September 19, 2013

Away from the pulpit

It has been eight months since I last preached, following my departure from Grace Fellowship.  I have been asked to preach in November at the new church I attend..  I am trying to decide. I am deciding what I want my new life to look like. (Of course, God's opinion here is most important)

It has been good to listen.  It has been instructive to pray for other preachers.  It has been less stressful to not prepare a sermon.

Being away from the pulpit has compelled me to look to other avenues for ministry and to identify other focuses.  And it has been a healthy pursuit.

I've been able to fellowship with others without feeling responsible for them.  I have been able to go to church without worrying what others will think about worship.  I have been able to go to church without worrying about who's missing.

*I'm attending a men's book study I don't have to lead and getting acquainted with other men.
*I attended a SS class my stepson taught, and and a church service where my other stepson preached--on the same Sunday.
*I sit in church surrounded by some of my grandchildren.
*I am mentoring someone who needs a pastoral mentor.
*I am practicing road biking so I can join a fellow retired pastor who has ridden over 7,000 miles the last few years.
*I am clients this week.
*I am spending more time with Beverly,a special unplanned blessing. (Maybe you should check with her)
*I am looking for people in my sphere of influence to encourage.
*I am studying the Word for personal help and guidance...not sermon preparation.
*I am getting ready to return to Haiti for the ninth time in November to help teach and train pastors.

I am away from the pulpit...but ministry continues...because life is ministry.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The "Muddled East"

The Middle East seems more like the "Muddled East" as our political system ponders what to do about the burgeoning crisis in Syria.  This has gripped me personally with greater intensity as my son, who works for the United Nations, heads for a new assignment in Beirut, Lebanon the first of October.  The anniversary of 9-11 coupled with our government's wrangling-wrestling with how to confront the apparent usage of chemical weapons by Assad against his own people make this part of the world an inescapable part of our focus.

And not surprisingly for us as believers.

The apocalyptic content of biblical prophecy points to the Middle East being at the very cynosure of events that will ultimately shape the course of human history.  Skeptics may scoff but the challenge to examine scripture and to see how poignantly the prophets warned about God's dealing with the nation of Israel from her re-emergence from relative obscurity in 1948 to a place of world prominence today is undeniable. Recent books like THE HARBINGER have caught the attention of the secular press because there are elements of truth presented that are hard to fabricate and to ignore.

I am advocating a careful read of scripture.  Prophecy is not always easy to read or obvious to interpret but books like Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Revelation are particularly valuable in piecing together an eschatological framework for what we are seeing as history unfolding before us.

In any case, the "Muddled East"--a region of daily-evolving crisis and change--is ours to observe, if not in the pages of scripture, certainly in the news media, in spite of its tainted perspectives.  What we decide to do--or not do--in Syria--will continue to fan the flames of the escalating crisis in North Africa and the Middle East.

My prayer is that we will find in the pages of scripture the gospel of hope that invites us to a personal relationship with the God of the universe who's "got the whole world in his hands".  It may be "muddled" to us, but it is not to Him.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The perils of road-biking and life in general

I was gifted a road bike a few weeks after I arrived...complete with clip-ons.  If you are one of the uninitiated (as I was) these are replacement pedals that require a special shoe (the pair I have cost $280 but were gifted to me as well) and enable you to stay connected to the pedal and to proportionately apply your weight and energy with greater efficiency.  When I bought these pedals (they were $85) I asked the man selling them to me if they were hard to use and adapt to...and he chuckled.

With that in mind, I set up shop in my garage and attached them, put on my new shoes and, then, "clipped in".  Except I was unsure how to get out of them (twist your heal to the side I discovered later), and so as I ventured out of the garage and tried to stop--shoes firmly and efficiently connected to new pedals--I fell.

The fall was minor; thankfully;  no one was looking to see me sprawled on my driveway looking foolish. The biggest takeaway from this painful experience was/is a lightly-sprained wrist and a new appropriate (perhaps, over-compensatory) caution as I prepare to take to the road.

Much of life seems to reverberate with a similar rhythm.  We tackle something with less than adequate preparation and the result is that we end up sidelined with newly-discovered humility and/or pain that reminds us of the foolishness of the thing we jumped into too quickly.  All too often this generates a reluctance to venture into new venues, rather then challenging us to prepare more intentionally.

Here's to getting back into the saddle (mine's a small Italian seat made for someone much smaller, I think, and requiring special much-needed riding shorts--$50) and riding--living--with new wisdom and a new appreciation for preparation.

I've not been back on my bike...yet.  I am waiting for my wrist to heal!