A postmodern journey of faith...


Pray the Lord of the Harvest

Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus traveled through all the cities and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever he went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields."
What does it mean to be a laborer in the harvest field? Has the evangelical church misconstrued it to mean something that it does not? I truly wonder this...I mean, it's painfully apparent to me that the "conversion" mode of salvation wasn't an option at this time. Instead, it was a kind of revelation...a kind of opening-up to the reality of God. It was a jettisoning of the old and dead and embracing new life, hope, and dreams. It was deliverance from dead religion and dead reality and an entrance into life.

So, what?

What does this mean to me? I must be an imparter of life...one who brings life and encouragement to others, rather than sucks it away. People must be able to trust me. My children must trust me. My wife must trust me. My congregation must trust me. My friends must trust me.

I must trust me.

What can I do to be an imparter of life?


Tools of the Trade

"Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God's kingdom and heal the sick. He said, "Don't load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment." (Luke 9:1-4a, The Message)

Wow. That really resonates with me today. In ministry, so often we hide behind stuff and circumstances. For me, it seems more and more that a building and "stuff" may be nothing more than a hinderance to the Gospel--depending on the context. The problem comes when we get so focused on our stuff, using it and maintaining it, that we forget to "keep it simple." Ultimately, it's not my building or my "stuff" that Jesus wants to use to touch somebody. It's me. I am the equipment.


What are you reading?

When is the last time you read something that really challenged you? I mean, seriously challenged you?

We tend to read things that resonate with us, don't we? We tend to appreciate input that backs up our own point of view. But when was the last time you read something--by choice--that wasn't like that? When was the last time you took in something that left you feeling sick in the pit of your stomach...because it disagreed with you...and you realized it was probably right?

Just food for thought. Get challenged. You may want to start here.

See them as they are...

I meant to make this entry last night. But I got distracted. Pehaps that's the story of my life...

My beautiful daughter was one of the crownbearers at our local homecoming last night. I have to tell you, she's gorgeous. I think she's one of the most beautiful little girls around...of course, I'm very unbiased.

But I realized something. Too often I get focused on my kids' behavior, and not who they are. My little girl has a personality that matches her beauty. She's very vibrant and outgoing. Along with that come the occasional hassles on the homefront. Too often, I feel, I allow her behavior to overshadow who she is.

A person is not defined by what they do. If they were, I'd have been in a lot of trouble over the years, because I've done some pretty dumb stuff.

And so, I must remember to see her--and my other kids--and people in general as they are, not as what they're doing. I think that's what Jesus did. When he saw the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or even wee-little Zaccheus, he saw who they were, not what they did.

God would that I do the same.


Am I working too hard?

When I was 14 or so, I marched into my youth pastor's office and told him, "God has called me to be a pastor!"

He replied, "Really? That's good. But you've gotta go with your gifts." He knew I was a computer geek.

There was a comment posted for my "Mission Drift" entry (except it ended up under "People are jerks"--both before I migrated back to blogger) where I had the following thought posed to me:
If you feel that you have to work hard at what you do could be a sign that this particular shoe isn't for you to fit yourself in. A more useful tip is to consult with God about this, he can guide you in the direction you seek.
It's a really good point. I've often said that myself...to others. I feel like I need to give some history. Why? Because I feel an overwhelming need to spill my guts all over the computer screen. No, not really. But I think that I could give some insight into the struggle I'm having now. Maybe I can help someone else. Maybe someone else can help me.

I used to enjoy ministry...a lot. More times than I can count, I said, "I can't believe I'm getting paid for this! Life is great." Then, something happened. I'm not sure if it was simply a focus shift within our church, or if it also had to do with a focus shift within me, but something changed. What's frustrating is that I can't even put my finger on it. I'd like to, but I can't. Because I couldn't put my finger on it, there's even a chance that I overstayed my welcome at my last church. I'm just not sure. But what was once my life's greatest passion became my greatest source of pain. Now, I can't say that it is my greatest source of pain nowadays, but sometimes it is a great source of frustration. I've often asked myself the question that was posed to me above...about whether I'm trying to shoehorn myself into something that's not me. But I have to tell you that "seek God" is a pretty trite suggestion, even though it's all I've got.

Perhaps that's part of the problem. For western evangelicals, so much of faith is conceptual. We lack in the "actual" component. The thing is, the "actual" is what God has led me toward over the last couple of years. I spent too many years giving people the conceptual instead of helping them to find the "actual" for themselves. And I watched most of those people fail...miserably. This, in turn, made me feel like a failure as I had taken their spiritual development to be my responsibility.

It's not.

It never was.

Each person is to work out their own salvation. Should they get help? Yes. Absolutely. Can I be there to help? Yes. I should. So should you. But it's not my job to make sure that somebody else lives according to my "divinely inspired" western evangelical values, especially when I'm seeing more and more that my "divinely inspired" western evangelical values are pretty messed-up and non-biblical.

And there's the other side of the problem. I'm tired of the church machine, the organization, the big "spiritual beast." My heart is to simply be with people...to help lead them closer to God...to shepherd them, if you will. But I end up being so bogged down with "pastoral" stuff that I don't get the time I need to do the "pastoring" without making my family pay the price. And that's something I just won't do--make my family pay the price. They are my first responsibilty, right after my personal relationship with God.

But I'm not looking for a way out. And I'm certainly not released from my church--I just don't feel that it's time to go. I'll say this: I'm keeping myself more tuned in to know when it's time to go this time.

I told my District Superintendent recently that I probably would not be pursuing vocational pastoring after my time here is through. I'm rather looking forward to that time. Maybe then I can get on with helping people, and not worry about the "stuff."


Joy in the Journey

You know, I think there is hope.

My thanks go out to Geoff Elliott and Eric Mack for their compassion and concern for me. These are great guys. Geoff's blog isn't much unless you're a geek (like me), but Eric's blog is a great all-purpose read. He's kind of like me, except more...gathered. ;)

Speaking of being a geek, I'm sitting here trying to convert b0se's Codename: Opus 3.0 visual style to a WindowBlinds theme. Not gonna do it. I don't know what the deal is, but it's not going to work. I've tried it on two PCs now, and it just gets all buggy and wierd. Hopefully either he or Snidely Whiplash will get around to converting it eventually. I don't have time to troubleshoot stuff like this...although it's a great theme. If you're into msstyles (e.g. a patched Uxtheme.dll), then I'd recommend it highly.

Anyway, this has absolutely no relevance to my stated title. But the good news is that I'm not whining. Yes, it's true. I'm actually not depressed. Really, I haven't been for a couple of weeks now. I knew I needed to get this blog updated when both Geoff and Eric contacted me to encourage me. They're good guys. It's good to know people care.

I'm not sure exactly what brought the change about. When Geoff and I were talking on IRC, he brought up the idea of learning to be happy in the wilderness. I think that's probably been a big part of it for me...just learning to be content. One of my biggest frustrations comes from my desire to mold my children into good people. But it occurred to me that my efforts to mold them (at least by being a disciplinarian) will only cause the opposite. People need to be who they are, even when they're kids. I always resented it when I felt like my mother did that to me, and I'm sure they'll grow to resent me as well if I continue. So, I "chilled out." It made all the difference in the world. That's not to say that all the questions are answered or that I don't still have bad days--but things are really getting better. And I'm grateful, both to God and man for their intervention.

Another great thing that's helped immensely is being able to get my computer consulting business off the ground. I've been able to do about $200 worth of business in the last two weeks, which is a really good start for Smalltown USA. It feels good to be able to pay the bills, you know?

I think the other thing that really made the difference has been a renewed focus on journaling and prayer...concurrently. I'm not one of those who does well verbally "talking to God" for long periods of time. But if I get behind a computer keyboard, everything changes. If you're the kind who has trouble praying, I'd recommend it highly. I usually start at Sacred Space and use it as my guide through a time of Lectio Divina.

Anyway...I'm finding some joy in the journey. Where am I at with being a pastor? Fine for now. Where will I be long-term, like years down the road? I don't know. Only God knows. He only gives me enough light for my feet. If He gave me more, I'd run away, I know it.

Gratia vobis et pax.