Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stormy Weather

There are people who chase storms.  I am not one of those people, nor do I have any desire to become such a person.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a healthy respect for and fear of storms.  After living through the tornado that ripped through Louisville, Kentucky, on April 3, 1974, my feelings about storms has only intensified.

Storms cannot always be avoided, and they often come with little warning.  Even with today’s much more sophisticated weather computers, they can still “pop up.”  April 3, 1974, was a calm and rainy day.  Late in the afternoon, I sat in the library at Southern Seminary.  Donna was working in the administration building as Dr. Morgan Patterson’s secretary.  It was about 4:30 p.m. when I noticed the rain had stopped.  I decided it was a good time to head to the car.  I figured I could read there until Donna got off at 5:00 p.m.  Half way across the quadrangle, I heard, and then saw, the storm.  I never made it to the car.  A few minutes later, Donna and I found each other in the darkened basement of the main classroom wing of Norton Hall.
When storm clouds form, I watch.  When tornado warnings are issued or blizzard-like conditions are forecast, I pay attention.  On all occasions, I seek to do what is necessary either to avoid the storm or to alleviate the risk of injury and/or damage. 

The story of Jesus stilling wind and the waves has always been one of my favorites.  To be honest, it became my favorite before I understood storms.  What I liked was the image of that strong Jesus calmly sleeping through what others feared.  When their fears awoke him, I liked the image of that strong Jesus standing up, pointing his finger at the wind and the sea, and shouting, “Peace! Be still!”  Thinking back, I’ve wondered if perhaps I had an image of my being that kind of strong man.
There certainly are those who expect their pastors to be such men and women.  In the throes of crisis, they long for us to rush in and make all things well.  I’ve tried to be that pastor.  After decades of facing crises, mine and others, I have learned a couple of things.  I cannot still storms.  There are times when, through God’s grace, I am able to bring some calm in the midst of a crisis.  I have also learned that not even Jesus can still all the storms.  Some storms, once begun, must run their course.

Oh, I’ve learned something else: Peace does not require the absence of storms/crises.  Often the peace that passes understanding comes in the midst of the storm—comes because Jesus is there, holding fast to the sides of the boat, reminding us that together we will ride this out.
I long for others to know this Jesus who can still storms and who can still us in the midst of storms.  Alas, I cannot by words or even actions convince them that he is the stiller of storms; but were they to come alongside him, they might discover as I have that he is.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I’ve already taken a glance at Facebook this morning.  Folks are posting Father’s Day greetings and remembrances.  Some are expressing their sorrow for fathers who are no longer living.

It doesn’t take a special holiday to make me remember my dad or to know that I miss him.  Dad died December 14, 2006.  Remembering him on this day does not bring sadness.  Oh, it brings a lump to my throat, but it is more a lump of joy than of sorrow. 

Dad was not perfect, but he was my dad.  At his funeral, I used the words spoken of King David—“he was a man after God’s own heart.”  Dad’s heart was tender, sometimes too tender.  It led him to great heights and to great depths.  Yet, somehow through the heights and depths, he maintained a love for those of us who were at the core of his being; and he maintained a love of God.  It was, I think, the combination of those two that, toward the end of his life made, him even more attentive to us and receptive of us than he sometimes had been.

On this Father’s Day, I have a many memories, a few of which I will share. I recall:

·    Fun times playing monopoly at the kitchen table on a rainy day.

·    His helping me refinish a desk my grandmother gave me and his helping me to build a bookcase I would take to college and which I still use.

·    Sitting on a tractor with him before I was old enough to operate it alone.

·    Seeing him climb on the John Deere combine I was operating and hearing him say, “I’m sure you’ve got a date tonight.  I’ll take over.  You go home and get cleaned up.”

·    Feeling his big arms across my shoulders as he lay across my bed, comforting me as my heart ached from a broken teenage love relationship.

·    Watching him repair a broken bicycle chain.

·    Hearing him tell me that I could replace the universal joint on my 1955 Pontiac.

·    Watching him (and Mom) watch me driving off to college.

·    Seeing him weep with joy as he listened to his son preach.

·    Having our last, long conversation—one about things that mattered.

Above all else, I will remember one of the most important lessons he taught me—the power of forgiveness. 

Dad was the victim of shooting in 1998 that left him partially paralyzed for the remainder of his life.  Terrell Patterson, man who shot him, is serving a life sentence.  On the day of Terrell’s final appeal, Dad decided he wanted to speak to Terrell.  This was arranged at the Dunklin County Sheriff’s Office, where Terrell was being temporarily held.  The sheriff ushered Terrell into his office where he had a few moments earlier left us.  As Terrell entered the office, Dad pushed himself up from the chair in which he was seated.  To steady himself, he placed his left hand on the desktop.  With his right hand, he reached out to Terrell, who after a moment’s hesitation took it in his right hand.  Dad, gripping the hand that had held the gun that fired the bullet that left him paralyzed, said to Terrell, “Terrell, I hate what you have done to me, but I don’t hate you.  I forgive you and wish for you only the best.”

Like King David, my dad made some serious mistakes which altered his life and our family’s life; but he was also like King David in that he was a man after God’s own heart.  He understood the need for forgiveness—both received and given. 

Thinking of Dad this morning, I give thanks for who he was and for all he gave me. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Haiti Mission Team Commissioning

June 10, 2012

Team Members: Lynn Wilson, Emily Coomes, Travis Bell, Crystal Ernst, Eddie Higdon, Megan Lucas, and Jo Brewer (Franklinton Baptist Church)

We look at you and cannot help experiencing a mixture of emotions--best expressed by the questions we ask ourselves and sometimes ask each other.

  Will they be safe?
  Should our sons and daughters, particularly our younger son and daughters, be heading off on this kind of trip?
  Are they really prepared for the kind of experience that awaits them?
  How will this effect them?

Are there good answers to these questions?  If we seek to answer the questions as anxious family members and concerned church members, there are no good answers; but we do not look for answers based on our own fears and thoughts.  We seek answers as a people of God who believe that God has, from the beginning of human history, called out people to become his presence--his hands, feet, eyes, ears, and heart--to others.

  Will they be safe?  There is no place of safety.  To live is to incur risk.  The question is not safety, but obedience.  In this sense, "safety" is redefined as being in the place where one understands God calling him/her to be. 
  Should our sons and daughters be heading off to Haiti?  That question has already been answered.  Each one of these is committed to going for one reason and one reason only--they understand it to be a call from God.
  Are they prepared for the kind of experience that awaits them?  As much as one can be. When one follows the call of God, there are always surprises.  Some of these will be cultural . . . some will be the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in each of their lives.  Faithfulness to God's call is the bedrock of preparation.
  How will this effect them?  This they will discover in part as they live out the mission.  The full extent of the mission's impact on their lives will not be known until later.  It will alter their lives . . . and ours.

Team members, as the Body of Christ gathered in this place, we commission you to go in his name, remembering that you are first and last his ambassadors.  We commission you to go as members of Eminence Baptist Church/Franklinton Baptist Church, knowing that through our love of you, our prayers for you, and our financial support we will be with you. 

Whatever lies before you, remember always Who walks beside you.  Listen for and depend upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Do what you can, but be less concerned about what you do and more concerned about Whose you are.  Be Christ's presence in Haiti, and he will accomplish his purpose whether you ever see or know that purpose.

Our Prayer

Almighty God, from your instruction to Adam and Eve to your call of Abraham to leave his home and follow you to Moses to the prophets to the apostles to calls to those of our own day, you have been calling your people to leave their comfort zones and follow you into new lands and new experiences.  Today that call comes to our own.  Lynn, Emily, Travis, Crystal, Eddie, Megan, and Jo have heard your call.  We have heard their response and have linked our hearts and dollars too support them in their obedience to your call.

In spite of acknowledged anxiety, we release these our brothers and sisters to your call and to your grace and care.  Grant them soft hearts, strong and healthy bodies, and faithful spirits that they may be from this moment forward your people reaching out to others of your children in Haiti.  Give to them strength to work hard and patience to allow you to work even when they see their own efforts as too small to meet the needs of the Haitian people.

We plead that you will prepare the way for them--giving those who will help transport them and guide them wisdom to do so wisely.  Prepare their hearts and the hearts of those with whom they will share the mission so that they may all be one in Christ.  Prepare those who will receive benefit of their mission that the time spent together will be fruitful for the kingdom.

Above all, O God, may your will be done in each of their lives, among them as a group, and in the lives of those to whom they render service.

In the name of Jesus who gave all that we may live, we pray.  Amen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Crusade that out-Crusades the Church

It is Crusade Weekend in Kentuckiana.  For those of you who live outside our immediate area, “Crusade” is a fundraiser more properly known as the WHAS Crusade for Children.  It is an effort of literally thousands of people, with local fire departments serving as the local collection centers.  The money raised is distributed throughout our area to benefit children in a variety of settings and who live with a variety of challenges.  Because of the money raised, thousands of children receive the chance for life, and wholeness of life. 

This year is the 59th Crusade.  Over the years, the Crusade has raised 143 million dollars for children with special needs.  Last year’s total was 5.3 million dollars!  As of 7:00 p.m. Saturday night, the Eminence Fire and Rescue Department had already raised $26,000.00 from our small community.  By noon tomorrow when the collections cease, the total will near $30,000.00.

For the past few days, strangers passing through the towns and cities of Kentuckiana must have found it strange to see fire trucks, with lights flashing, sitting at most major intersections.  Behind or in front of the trucks, they saw firefighters and volunteers holding out firefighter’s boots to collect donations from passing motorists.  By late Sunday night or early Monday morning, those boots will have yielded up to 5 million dollars or more.

All that money is not collected in one week of concerted effort.  All through the year, fire departments, local clubs and businesses, and individuals and small groups work to raise funds.  Crusade Weekend is merely the collection time for a year’s work.  Many hands and many hours lead to life and wholeness for children in all 120 counties of Kentucky and in 50 counties in Southern Indiana.

As we gathered at Eminence Baptist on Crusade Sunday for a service focused on Communion, this pastor was praying that we who have received so much because of the One whose Body was broken and whose Blood was shed will grow to be a people most thankful—a people who are willing daily to take up our crosses and to so live that children and adults who have too little may have enough, that children and adults may come to know and experience a salvation that is both Whole and Holy.

Five to six million dollars will be raised for the Crusade and most of it will have been given without sacrifice on the part of the donors.  Most of us will have given from our abundance.  What might be the outcome were the people called Christian to give sacrificially of both their resources and their lives?

What indeed!