Sunday, May 30, 2010

OK, so I messed up. Admitted. But it seemed harmless enough at first.

My garage doors were open. Some springtime birds were flying and flitting around. I was caught somewhere between mild amusement and complete oblivion at their presence and activity. And besides, they weren't ramming their heads into my sliding glass door. So what was the harm?

The harm was that they nested in the eaves of my garage - not one loving Purple Martin couple but two. Sigh.

One day, a passing thought occured to me (among kid's ballgames, meetings and worship services): Shoo them away. I neglected the thought. Another day, I heard the dreaded sounds of tiny chicks screeching for food. Sigh (loudly). Now, what to do? I couldn't bring myself to upset the nest(s) of little ones. Surely, a pastor with creational concern can't kill chicks, right? Right?

So, Spring has worn on with flocks of birds flying in and out of my garage. It seems the Purple Martins are inviting their friends over. Seriously, come on! Of course, my garage floor, cars, bikes, lawn mower, paint cans, garbages cans, and generally everything is covered in a layer of bird "evidence." I'm ready to turn against my creational concern.

Tonight, it seems the chicks have flown the coop. I don't hear their pitiful calls anymore. I'm considering shutting the garage doors. Do you think the parents will get the hint and find new lodging? Or will they begin attacking my sliding glass door?

If I just keep the doors shut long enough - make those outsider birds uncomfortable enough - then maybe they (and their droppings) will stay away for good. Then, my garage will be clean, quiet and only open for me and those I want in there. Sounds pleasant. Sounds good.

Then again, am I talking about my garage or the church?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I attended a pentecostal church on this Pentecost Sunday morning.

As always, it is a little different to step out of the safe confines of my churchgoing experience to slip into another environment. People were friendly enough. The music was loud and lively. There was a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit and a "Pentecost for me" and a "fresh filling."

My mind went to those who are new to the Christian faith. What must they think as they hear all of this language? Are they intrigued or insulted by the insider talk? Does it speak of a mysterious God to pursue or a magical deity to shun?

I was dismayed by the talk of the Holy Spirit as an "it." It seemed that he was mostly referred to by what he does - miracles, words of knowledge, rewarding those who give financially. I didn't hear any talk about relationship - drawing close to God, to Jesus. I left the service wishing to have more of the Spirit in my life and wondering what that even means.

Mostly what I experienced this morning was the unending struggle of the professionally religious - the reflex to critique instead of the impulse to connect.

If "calling for flame" means anything to me this summer, it surely means to engage my mind in foreign worship experiences (yes!), but it also means engaging my heart, soul and strength as well. May my Father, the Creator of Pentecost, move me from mere evaluation into deeper adoration.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, it's day 3 of my sabbatical journey and I've already succumbed. I've made a list. I know, I know. I shouldn't. I think it's against the point of a sabbatical. Of course, right at the top of my list - my first entry - was the line: "Do not make a list." I guess I won't be checking that one off anytime soon.

For most of my adult life I've made lists. Monday mornings wouldn't be complete without one. How else can you categorize the tasks to be done? I don't think I could function without one. They tell me what to do.

And maybe therein lies the problem. Do. For a personality type like mine, "doing" can become the "end-all-be-all" of existence. Life revolves around checking stuff off a list ("Git r done" as the southern Illinoisians say). Days are evaluated based on how much got checked off a list - great days have crossed out tasks but frustration sets in if lists go untouched.

Of course, that doesn't mean I don't value people and relationships. I put them on the list. Sigh.

Perhaps, today I'll put away the list. Nah, that's probably not enough. Today I'll burn the list. And maybe just maybe, when I call for the flame, I'll glimpse the God who loves me for who I am and not just what I do.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fire fell at his calling. Twelve sacred stones, a sliced and soggy bull carcass, and water running everywhere. I'm not sure any story could capture my attention more than that one. First Kings, chapter 18. Elijah propositions the prophets of Baal with a simple question: "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."

But the people said nothing.

The essence of my life is answering that question. Of course, I jump at the chance to shout, "The Lord is God!" As a pastor, I get that chance every day. But I have found that too often my actions and attitudes reveal a wavering heart. A financial pinch, a brewing conflict, uncertainty - they all give me pause to waver. And Baals in the form of money, power, comfort and pride all vie for my attention.

So for the coming summer days, I am taking a sabbatical from my daily routines of ministry. For several weeks, I too will say nothing - not because I doubt the sovereignty of God, but because I doubt my voice in proclaiming it. Like Elijah of old, I need a day to listen to the other prophets' voices, see the shallowness their fervor, and pray for God's response. My hope is that I will come to the point where I can tease and dismiss the voices in my life which say, "Shout louder, strain harder, cut deeper and then maybe your God will do what you want." Such voices have gained way too much influence in my life lately.

So, for the next few months, I will join this prayer: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Fire fell at his calling. May it fall afresh on me.