Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Procastination, family, Brian McLaren

Haven't posted in almost three weeks; the days go by too fast! My procrastination almost got me into trouble last week. I looked at my calendar on Thursday and realized Friday was Jamie's birthday. I stopped at Carrabba's after work (Jamie's favorite restaurant) and got a gift card, then went to CVS and got a bunch of stuff for a gift bag (including a prepared gift bag). All that tells me I need to slow down!

Saturday we held the annual meeting for NorthStar, our local network of Baptist churches, and one of my employers. (I work part-time for the church, and part-time for the network.)

Brian McLaren was the guest speaker; he gave a fantastic message about worship. I have met Brian several times over the years, heard him speak, read many of his books, and know many people who are close to him. I have seen the fruit of his ministry in so many ways. I see his love for Jesus and for people. I have been blessed by him. So it breaks my heart to see the vicious criticism directed toward him, especially by several "watchdog" organizations that label him a heretic.

I don't agree with Brian on everything--but I probably don't agree with anyone on everything. Yet much of what he says resonates with the questions and wonderings I've had about God and life, especially as I move toward middle age. I am so grateful for the ways Brian challenges me to be real and honest with God and myself as I seek to know Him better and live in His ways.

Finally, a Brady update. My 5 1/2 month old son is now sitting up. He is growing like crazy, and developing such a beautiful personality. He has a wonderful smile and a contagious laugh. It is so fun watching him and his sister!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

holy discontent

Last year I heard Bill Hybels give a great talk on vision. He said that there is a prerequisite to getting a vision.

"What happens in a leader is that they have this thing called holy discontent. There's something in their spirit that they're unsettled about, something that really bothers them," explained Hybels. “The discontent forces the leader to act.”

Years ago I worked in a residential treatment facility for children; caring for kids who had been abused, neglected, and abandoned. It was exhausting, heartbreaking, yet rewarding work. I never felt that working with children was my calling, even though I taught middle and high school English for six years and loved it.

But over the last couple years I've had a growing "holy discontent" that Hybels talked about. It has intensified since Brady was born. One day I was holding him, loving him; and it hit me, hard, that there are millions of children, babies, who don't have parents who love them and feed them and care for them.

I've always known this, but it took having a baby of my own for it to really hit me. It hurts me to hear Brady cry; and there is no greater joy than picking him up and seeing him smile as I love on him. It breaks my heart to think of all the babies, as beautiful and precious as my Brady, who cry and cry with no one to pick them up and comfort them. That thought brings tears to my eyes.

I thought my calling was to pastor, mostly with people like me. But I'm afraid that God is growing this discontent about children in me, and that eventually it's going to be too strong to ignore, and then I'm going to have to do something about it. I'm praying--curiously, reluctantly...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life and death

What looked like a not-too-busy week is getting crazy. Fred, one of the long-time members at church died yesterday. He had been in the hospital for a week and a half. We will have the funeral at church Friday.

Saturday I have a wedding with some friends at my old church. They're getting married in a park, next to a creek; should be fun!

Saturday night is Andy's annual Oktoburkefest (he lives in Burke, hence the goofy spelling). Andy brags that it is Burke's largest Oktoberfest celebration. Should be fun!

Sunday is church. Lisa will be gone so I am speaking.

I've spent a lot of time at Alexandria Hospital the last few weeks. Mom was there having surgery and recovering, the daughter of a church member was there, then Fred, the gentleman who died was in.

Watching Fred reminded me so much of when Dad died, and the hours I spent next to his bed, watching his body shut down, feeling so helpless.

Twice last week I left Fred feeling completely drained; empty. I walked through the maze of halls toward the exit, got my parking ticket stamped, then walked out. Both days I came out to see young couples leaving the hospital with new babies. I felt swirling emotions--sadness about the death of loved ones, mixed with the joy of new life. It was strange to feel such joy for total strangers, but I felt connected to them. I wanted to go up to them and say, "Isn't it great!" (It was only 5 months ago that we brought Brady home from the hospital, and I can hardly remember or imagine life without him!)

Life and death. An old man dying behind me and new life coming out into the world in front of me. Each gives more meaning to the other. Life is more precious because of its shortness. At 41 I realize my life is probably more than half over. That is scary, but also challenges me to make the most of each day. To love my family. To try to accomplish something for God. To enjoy all the blessings I have.

And as scary as death seems, it is not meaningless. It is a part of life. The focus of the people who knew Fred is not on his death, but his life. All he did. The legacy he left, the stories, the history. And on the life he now lives.

I love my life. My family. And I trust there are even better things to come, as my kids grow, as we have more kids (exciting and scary!).

I realize this post is all about me...God is also really dealing with me on some other things, challenging things, outside myself. More about that soon...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A good Sunday

Overall, a pretty good day. Church was great; I love having April and Nuc there to play music; we are so blessed! Worship was good, our friend Elise preached about unity and did a great job. We had two visiting couples--one that came on purpose; and one that was lost and just came to the first church they found! It was a reminder to me that God will bring people to us, and us to people.

I was impressed with the dedication of our friend Jay. Jay plays in a band, Middle Distance Runner, and was out till after 3 am; yet he got up and made it to church! He is always there; even though he rarely gets much sleep on Saturdays. I'm grateful for guys like Jay!

Not such a great sports day--the Redskins lost to the Giants. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading the race on the last lap, and got wrecked. I was mad. But I won fantasy football, so that helped.

Great time with family tonight. We watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I admit it was one of my favorites as a kid. It's great watching it with Ashley, seeing her love something I loved. I'm so blessed by my kids!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Things are looking up!

This past Sunday we had our Commitment Sunday--announcing the name change, beginning the next phase of our re-start. We are now Convergence: A Creative Community of Faith at Fair-Park Baptist Church. What a mouthful! You can just say Convergence.

Our focus for the next six months is building relationships with our existing community, preparing to begin outreach and publicity in April.

Sunday was the most enjoyable and meaningful worship I've had in a while. It was the first time in months I didn't feel heavy because of the pessimism of a few folks. I focused on what God is doing, and on the people who are excited and supportive of where we are going (and most people are). Even those who aren't happy didn't express it with grumbling and dirty looks as they have in the past.

Lisa and I spent the last couple weeks visiting with many of the older folks in the church; all the visits were wonderful, and went a long way toward helping us all get on the same page.

Family life is good--the highlight of my day is greeting Brady when he wakes up. I walk into his room, he looks around, and when he sees me his whole face lights up in a big smile. I love my daughter just as much, but when I greet her in the morning she makes mean faces and grumbles, "Five more minutes."

I am still overwhelmed with stuff to do--I need to close here and make about a dozen phone calls--but I am so grateful for my family, and my church, and my friends. Even though this is an extremely stressful time, God continues to bless me every day, in ways big and small.