Posted tagged ‘Egypt’

The Chaos of Life’s Delays

November 17, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       November 17, 2014

                                

     I love snow days…and I hate snow days!

I love the unexpected freedom, the sudden opening up of my day’s schedule, and the surprise of a snow day.

But I hate the loss of rhythm that a snow day brings.

I have discovered that I am a person of routines and consistent behavior. I’m at Starbucks right now as I write this. It’s Monday morning about 9:00 and my day off. If you were to come to Starbucks next Monday at 9:00 you’d stand a very good chance of finding me sitting on one of the stools facing the windows drinking coffee and pecking on my laptop. I feel comfortable integrating certain routines in my life.

If it’s 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon I’ll be napping.

If it’s Wednesday night I’m at church.

If it’s Friday morning at 8:00 there’s a fifty percent chance I’m at a different Starbucks having coffee with Roger and Steve. The chances are only half as good because we meet every other Friday morning.

If it’s 10 P.M. I’m thinking about bed if I’m not already in bed.

I think you get the picture. Life has its patterns and order…and then the thermometer plunges to 0 and chaos blows into the day. Events get canceled, meetings get postponed, there’s a breath of fresh air in the uncluttered day…and I feel lost!

I find myself trying to figure out what day it is, what’s on the schedule, and what I’m about. We are creatures of habit whether we want to admit it or not. If given a choice the Hebrew nation would have chosen to return to Egypt. Egypt offered steady work…yes, also enslaved work, but a person knew when he woke up in the morning what he was going to do that day!

It also makes me wonder about those who become followers of Christ during their adult years, and slip away within months of their conversion. Spiritual transformation for many people is a tremendous change, leaving the old and accepting the new. We use terms like lost and found, “the old has passed away and the new person has been born.”

And yet such terminology, freeing on one hand, is difficult on the other hand. It’s like the ratty blanket that I sleep with each night, and have slept with for about 35 years. It doesn’t really offer that much warmth, but it feels like home.

Conversion, though it offers freedom and forgiveness, a new start, a fresh beginning…is out of rhythm for us.

On the other side, I’ve been a Christ-follower since I was 12. I’ve always gone to church on Sunday. In fact, growing up I was in church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. I thought Sunday night services were mandated by the Bible. I remember asking Dr. James Payson Martin, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois why the church didn’t have Sunday night services. I was serving there as a youth director while i was in seminary. I’ll always remember what he said to me. “Well Bill, what it takes you Baptists two services to do we can do in one service!” A few years later when I was pastoring at First Baptist Church of Mason, Michigan, I brought Sunday night services to a close.

I’ve always gone to church, been involved in ministries, participated in leadership as a member and pastor. My Sunday morning seems to have gone haywire if I’m not in worship. I don’t quite understand Saturday night services. If I went to one I’d be lost on Sunday morning!

The longer I pastor the more obvious it is that there aren’t many people left who see things like I do. The church is populated with an increasing number of people whose life rhythm is not centered on Sunday morning worship as a consistent part of their lives.

Understand that I’m not whining about that. I’m just coming to grips with what is the reality. My understanding of having a conversion experience is a different picture than most people now have. Being aware of that has given me more of an open mind and listening ear to those who are still trying to find that spiritually healthy rhythm of life.

 

Caught Between What Is and What I Hope

June 21, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        June 21, 2013

As I stand in line at Wendy’s Hamburgers I’m having a “caught in the middle” moment. I’m caught between wanting to be healthier and wanting a Double Stack with Cheese. What I hope for is in a battle with “what is”, and “what is” is hungry for what my tummy says I urgently need.

Which one will win? More often than not it’s the “what is.” What I hope for seldom gets a grip on reality.

How often are our lives in similar tug-of-wars?

I want to become more knowledgeable about scripture, but I can’t seem to fit the reading of the Word into my life as a spiritual discipline.

I want to walk three miles a day, but the couch always seems to become more comfortable about the time I’m suppose to put the pedometer on.

I want to surrender myself to worship, but I’m always afraid of what people might think.

I want to get my taxes done early this year, but April 15 always seems to be the day that I finally file.

I want to start saving money to have when it is time to buy a new car, but Kohl’s is having a once-in-a-lifetime sale this week…and Target is giving $10 off for every $100 spent next week.

But here’s the “caught” that I’m seeing more and more in churches, and that my denomination, the American Baptist Churches, seems to be struggling with. It’s the “caught” that leaves us conflicted.

It’s the hope of new life without leaving the old life.

It’s “the Abraham moment”, where he took the step of faith. Hebrews 11:8 describes it this way: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to as place that he would later received as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (NIV)

God promised him that he would inherit a place that he had never seen. For many of us we would not be able to go any further until the realtor’s review of the place had been secured, complete with pictures. We know how the “what is” looks already. The “what is hoped for” has to look as good.

If it had been brought up for a vote, the Hebrew people would always have voted for Egypt and slavery over the unknown and freedom.

I’ve pondered what it was that drove Abraham to get up and leave what he knew to go to a place he did not know? What took him from being a settler to being a pioneer?

Briefly put, Abraham received a call and he had a vision.

The call was from God to go, and he showed Abraham where it was he was to head to after he actually started moving. Carol knows that is a picture of my dream vacation. Get in the car and then decide which direction to head in. (Hasn’t happened yet! I guess you can say that I haven’t received the call from Carol to do that!)

What is God calling me to? What is he calling you to? Truth be told, few of us are aware or even looking to receive a call.

The vision that Abraham had was of a city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God. He had a picture of what could be. That must have been very difficult to stay on course with that vision when night after night he was sleeping in a tent with no buildings in sight.

Call and vision for people who are caught. What determines our decision?

Health vs. Double Stack with Cheese.

What determines whether our denomination, that this weekend is meeting in Overland Park, Kansas, and will talk about new hope, new possibilities, and new directions…and then face the reality of congregations content with the “what is”…what determines if the ABC actually moves?

Call and vision to something that isn’t yet, but more and more people can see.

That is the “caught moment!” Double stacks with cheese are always the easy way out!