Archive for July 2011

When We Just Get Out of the Way

July 21, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. July 20, 2011
I’m writing this in the midst of a week where I am serving as pastor for middle school church camp. Call me crazy! Just don’t call me Shirley!
Last night at campfire I was asking the campers what it was that God might do in each of their lives that could only be explained as being of God? I was using the story of Gideon, and how God reduced his army from 32,000 to 300, in God’s words, so that “Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her” (Judges 7:2). The campers weren’t quite getting what I was saying, despite my careful exegesis of the scripture passage, good Biblical terminology, and pastor-ly voice with deep feeling and awe whenever I said “GOD!!!!!”
Then one of our counselors felt led to share a personal story from her life that “put feet” on what I was trying to say.
Then one of the campers shared an experience of pain from her life in which she felt the love of God…then another camper shared about the recent death of her mother…then another camper shared about the struggles his dad was having…and another about the deployment of her mom…and another about a dreadful accident his brother had recently, and had just gotten the word that day that his sibling was going to make it.
It went on…and on…and on, but whereas, some adults might have been uncomfortable with all the sharing that these eleven to fourteen year olds were in the midst of, God took the point I had so futilely try to make, and he made it! In his way! In the language of twelve year olds!
He used the bond of shared pain to break down some walls of guarded emotions. The campers recognized that. They left that campfire with a deeper level of love for one another, and trust in the ways of God.
Sometimes our multitude of words inhibit the moving of the Spirit of the Lord. What we hope for, what I hoped for, is able to occur if we just get out of the way.
That’s a hard lesson for a preacher to learn because if we don’t use our voice we’re afraid we’ll lose our voice. Sometimes we need another Zechariah experience!

“Somewhat Committed”

July 5, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. July 5, 2011
I’ve been reading James McPherson’s extensive history of the Civil war, entitled Battle Cry For Freedom. It’s about a 900 page lap-buster that I gladly paid $7.99 to have downloaded to my e-reader.
I’ve learned an enormous amount of information about the events that led up to the Civil War. One of the issues that McPherson goes into detail about is the number of bordering states that could have gone one way or the other. They could have just as easily supported the Confederate, as they did the Union…or vice-versa. In those states there were a multitude of people who also could have gone one way or the other in terms of their allegiance. For instance, Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Confederacy, was troubled by the thought of having to choose for the South, because he had spent his entire military career in the U.S. Army, graduating second in his class from West Point in 1829, and serving in the army in the Mexican War. Lee spoke against secession from the Union. But when his home state of Virginia voted to secede from the Union, he had to make a decision, and he decided, through much agony that he had to stay with his family’s roots.
His story was played out in thousands of other people’s lives as well. The further away you got from the Mason-Dixon Line, the more committed the people were to one side or the other. Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were like fighters in the corner of the ring pointing their fingers at New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
But the citizens of Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland were divided in terms of their loyalties. Thirty-five counties in Virginia voted against secession.
Whereas, numerous people’s passions were evident in support of their side, North or South, just as many people were grieved by having to choose a side.
(A side note, it is amazing to read of the number of preachers during that time that would use the Scriptures to justify their commitment to slavery.)
The tragedies of our nation’s history has made me contemplate a great deal about the struggles of our choices in today’s living. Most of life, it seems, is not lived in the “Upper North” or the “Lower South”, but rather in the borderlines in which we could go either direction.
For me it seems that much of my life emerges out of the compromises I make. Some of them I’m pulled, not with great enthusiasm mind you, towards the decisions of God; but, on the other hand, many of them take me slowly in a drift towards the convenient choices of our culture.
It may be in the borderlines of my life that I most appreciate a God who is gracious and forgiving. It’s the struggle with decisions and choices that Paul talked about in the last half of Romans 7. (“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans 7:21) It’s the decision points where I am somewhat committed, but not totally committed. To use another Biblical story, it’s the Israelites bowing down to a golden calf because they didn’t sense that the Lord God Almighty was around. They were nudged to go with the naysayers.
How often are we nudged to move away from the things of God? How much are we moved by the extending of his grace?