Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sometimes the last are first

It used to be that pastors were the spiritual guides in the important transition points in life. They did what southerners call "marrying and burying," meaning that they incarnated the presence of God--that they became a means of grace--at births and baptisms and marriages and especially, always, deaths.

This is now a quaint, old-fashioned way of doing pastoral ministry. Pastors who spend a lot of time on pastoral care--especially with the elderly--are dismissed as "chaplains." Sitting by bedsides isn't considered "strategic leadership." Praying with old people isn't "high-leverage." Comforting the grieving isn't "missional."

C came home from a midweek joint worship service tonight only to be greeted with the news that Mrs. So-and-so was dying and the family was hoping he would come. You need to understand that Mrs. So-and-so and her family are not important members of our church. They don't have much to give, either financially or in terms of service. They aren't well-known. But they are a sweet Christian family and they wanted C to come pray.

When he walked back in the door two hours later, he told me briefly about his visit. Mrs. So-and-so had died while he was there and he had helped each family member begin their own unique journey of grief, offering to do the funeral even though it involved a trip out of town (way out of town) on his day off. He described their deep gratitude for his pastoral presence as they faced one more grief in a long string of family griefs.

We both know how this kind of ministry is perceived by those who are more visionary about pastoral leadership. Maybe that's why C said reflectively, with a little laugh, "You know, tonight was high-leverage in the Kingdom; if it really is all about love, this matters." I think he's right.

Being a leader is a hard job. Being a leader in the Kingdom of God is really a hard job. I don't even pretend to know how a pastor is supposed to do it all, including providing strategic, high-leverage, missional leadership (which is all important, even if I'm not exactly sure what it all means.) But I'm grateful for the many, many pastors who remember that in this Kingdom, everything is upside down and what seems unimportant is often most important and what seems insignificant changes everything.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Adventures in missing the point

C and I were at the mall yesterday and picked up a new mixer (after the one we got for our wedding finally bit the dust, 24 years later.) When we got it home and opened it, we found a Christian tract inserted into the packaging.

So, first, we learned that there are people who think it is an effective use of their time to go around poking these tracts into boxes of appliances at major department stores. I assume these are the same people who give out tracts in lieu of candy on Halloween or leave them on the table at restaurants in place of a tip.

Second, upon examining the tract itself, we learned that 1) evolution isn't true and that 2) if we can just be persuaded that evolution is a false, liberal lie, we will immediately want to give our hearts to Jesus. Seriously. 11 of the pages of the little booklet were about evolution. The last page offered a prayer one can pray to become a Christian.

So, here's what gets me: I know the kind of person who thinks that Christian tracts can change people's lives. They tend to be very sincere people who really want other people to have eternal life. Do they really believe that disproving evolution is the path to spiritual transformation? Really? If you're going to spend a little money and who knows how much time to spread the message of the Christian faith via little booklets left anonymously in the home appliance department, why would you not use literature that was actually about Jesus? Maybe something about forgiveness and grace or the remarkable life of the Son of God? I can even understand something scary about hell and eternal damnation and ways to avoid it, if that's your thing. But evolution? Seriously?

It reminds me a lot of when I was working in a nursing home and realized that many of the residents were looking confused about the religious tract they had been handed by a visiting preacher. I asked one lady to show me her booklet and found that it was entitled "The Sin of Licentiousness." I laughed out loud and then offered to dispose of it for her. She told me that the print was too small anyway and she couldn't read it. I assured her that she wasn't missing anything.

Anyway, we trashed the tract and are enjoying the mixer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Today's prayer

My spiritual director gave me this prayer today after a hard session. It was customized for me but I'll share it with you:

Bless us with a strengthening of our wills that we may pass beyond resolve to doing, and beyond intention to action, and beyond action to being in JOY with Jesus. Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We were driving to the gym in the rain when we passed a man walking to work. By the time we both saw him, it was too late to stop and the street was too busy to easily turn around. This was the conversation:

T: We should have picked up that man.
C: I know . . . I didn't see him in time.
T: I feel bad.
C: Well, technically, we don't have to pick him up until two religious leaders have passed him by first.
T: Um . . . I think that's us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sick or tired

This morning, when Boo came down for breakfast, she was pale and a little listless. We talked a little bit about how she didn't feel so good but thought she should go to school. I was about to ask, "So what do you need to do to take care of yourself?" but then didn't because I had the thought: "She's not sick, she's just tired."

Fast forward two hours when it finally hits me: why is it important to encourage her to take care of herself when she is sick but not when she is tired? Why is it okay to take care of ourselves when we're sick but not okay when we're "just" tired? I have some learning to do here, I think.

By the way, she texted from school at lunch and (eventually) said she needed to come home so I went and got her. I don't know if she's sick or tired but she's up in her room asleep, listening to music. Which is exactly where she belongs.