Archive for August 2009

August 31, 2009

“Gracing Forgetfulness”

I’ve had a number of people ask me how and where I get my ideas for what to write about. Quite frankly, they come from things people say, things people do, or thoughts that occur to me.

When one of these ideas occurs to me I write it down. For example, the title of this article is written down at the bottom of a Wednesday night prayer gathering prayer list. In the midst of the prayer time the thought hit me and I wrote down the two words on the piece of paper. (Actually, that night two thoughts hit me that I wrote down. And for those who are already thinking this question…Yes, I also spent time in prayer that night!)

BUT…if I don’t write the thought down there is a very great possibility that I won’t remember it. If I hadn’t written down “Gracing Forgetfulness” at that moment you probably would not be reading an article about it right now.

I find that more and more of my conversation includes sentences like, “What was it I was going to tell you?” and “I was thinking about something the other day…now what was it?” and “Did you say something to me about this the other day?”

There are people reading these words right now that have told me things or asked me to do something that they now think I just blew off. In reality, I just forgot. I was going through e-mails this week and found one from a person who had requested a special letter from me. I had forgotten about it!

E-mail, text messaging, and voice mail are all good things, but there have been some indications that a ripple effect of high tech is low memory.

Now…what was I saying? Oh…right! Last week something crossed my desk that had been forgotten about almost a year ago. It had fallen between the cracks of my mind. I was left to write a letter of apology.

I think it may be easier to extend grace to someone asking forgiveness than extending it to someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness, but maybe they just forgot to ask for forgiveness. How do you differentiate between someone who could care less and someone who’s missing part of their memory?

Not remembering things, not hearing things, not seeing things as clearly, and slower reflexes—getting older needs extra helpings of grace and patience.

Okay, there’s something I’m supposed to do right now. Carol says I agreed to cook dinner, do the dishes, and scrub the bathtub. I don’t remember agreeing to do it, but I must have. And after I do those things, she says there are some other things that I forgot that I committed to do!

August 24, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. August 23, 2009
“Cleaning Off The Layers”

A few years ago I went on a road trip with my friend, Dave Volitis, to San Antonio. It was about a fifteen hour car ride through the heart of Texas. We took our Honda Accord that we had actually bought from the Volitis’s about a year before that. When we got back to Colorado Springs I noticed that I had brought a part of Texas home with me that I had not planned on.
Bugs layered on top of bugs! The grill on the front of the Accord was more crowded than teenage girls jammed against the platform of a concert of the Beetles (Another bug type!) back in the 60’s.
I commenced to washing. The interesting thing, however, was that the first time I washed it the latest arrivals of bugs to the grill got cleaned off, but the deeper “bugs” remained attached. They were shinier, but they were still “grilled”!
I had to wash the grill of the car several times to finally get back to the silver core. Texas bugs are tough…and plentiful!
I got back this afternoon from our church retreat that took place at a camp about 45 minutes outside of town. It was a quick 24 hours that included times of worship, personal time, reflection, fellowship, food, and a heart-quickening zip-line experience.
And I experienced some “cleaning off of some layers” to get back to the core.
Sometimes we add the crud of life to our “spiritual exterior” to the point that our personal experience with the Almighty deteriorates to “acquaintance status.” It’s not that I stopped knowing God. It’s that I had allowed layers of life’s stresses to create distance.
In our retreat I had a happy face on to begin with, but there was some cleaning off that needed to happen.
I could sense it. My resistance was there as well.
The and cleaning of my spirit went through a few more wash cycles. Interestingly enough getting back to the core was much more about observing others than a wet, soapy personal moment of “God-sponging” (Not a word, but I like it!).
The hidden emotions inside me started welling up as I watched people of my congregation going through four hands-on stations that dealt with repentance, cleansing, re-creation, and joy. I was over-whelmed at the pictures that were drawn and clay objects created, the thoughts of young and old alike.
Clean off more bugs! Deeper layers of bugs!
The thing is the deeper you get- or should I say the closer to the core you- the riskier it becomes.
The welling up in my soul continued as I watched a dear couple helping one of our elderly members get around the whole weekend. They got her to the campfire at the end of the evening. They made sure she was safe. They ministered to her in their servanthood and compassion…and in turn unbeknowingly were cleaning off another of my layers.
And then this same elderly woman put the finishing touches on the deepest layers when she sang “He Touched Me” at our closing worship gathering.
Sometimes it takes a lot of cleaning off to get us back to the relationship that God desires with us. Quite honestly, there’s still some bugs on the grill, but you can see patches of the silver shining through.
Pastors are too often viewed as spotless, where in reality we learn over time how to hide. We’ve seen too many examples of genuineness coming back to bite us. So we polish the outside to look nice and bright, but they can simply become nicely polished bugs.
Praise the Lord! Some of the silver is showing!

August 14, 2009

August 13, 2009
“First Things First”

I’ve never been really that talented in following directions. Cookbooks are like literary minefields that confound me. Happy meal toys that needed to be assembled caused me to cry. Taking tests that required that I read the directions first caused irreparable damage to my GPA…well, okay, it was ONE of the things that caused my GPA to plummet. (My reasoning was if you were close to 0.00 you didn’t have as far to fall! My mom and dad didn’t agree with that reasoning.)
The past few weeks I’ve been speaking on different Psalms, trying to show the different emphases and themes that come through that amazing book in the Bible. This week I’m focusing on Psalm 63. The way it begins makes me think of my lack of following directions.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you…”
It is thought that Psalm 63 was a meditation song/prayer for early morning.
First things first!
Would it change our perspective on the day ahead of us if we began each morning by saying the first ten words from Psalm 63? Perhaps it could be in rhythm with the movement of your toothbrush. As you scrub your pearly whites you say those words and meditate on them. Or as soon as your feet hit the floor the words become as automatic as hitting the alarm clock with your fist.
The point is not to establish a ritual as much as it is to commit to the focus of a new day. I find myself rushing through a day like it’s a 24 hour sprint- a sort of “Le Mans 24 hour race”! The day begins at a quick pace and it ends in a quick pace. Sometimes my attitude is more along the lines, “If God can stay up with me, that’s okay! But I’m not slowing down my pace just for him!”
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you…”
What if we began the day with God in front of us and allowed him to set the agenda and the pace? It would be much easier, and the words that we mouth would echo in their heart, if our seeking of God would involve more foresight than hindsight. Earnestly seeking something seldom involves my backside. I’m seeking what is in front of me.
Tomorrow morning don’t just say the first two words with a moan as you get out of bed: “O God!” Take a deep breath, brace yourself, and finish the declaration.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you…”
It’s a good beginning! It may even erase the usual scowl on your face as you’re eating your oatmeal!