My Blooming Friends

My quiet time out on the porch this morning was extra sweet. There was a slow, gentle rain falling. I found myself distracted by the daisies that are in full bloom. I planted those daisies a few years ago. Every year they come back a little stronger with a few more blooms.

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As I was reflecting on the beauty of these simple flowers, my phone was buzzing every couple of minutes. The string of birthday greetings by Facebook and text message had cranked up and old friends, many I haven’t seen in some time as well as some that are everyday fixtures of my life right now, began to scroll before my mind in a cascade of blessing.

In the stillness of the morning it dawned on me that many of the relationships from the past, though not as close perhaps as once before, are much like those hearty little daisies that keep blooming year after year. They show up and brighten my day, even when I walk from the car to the front door with my head hanging under the weight of so many cares for so many loved ones. They remind me that moments invested in the lives of others are never wasted.

You see, when we walk through life and allow God’s grace to flow through our obvious brokenness, that grace drips like water on the relationships we make and that watering so often shows itself in moments here and there – moments of encouragement, of comfort, of celebration and sympathy, of joys multiplied and heartaches divided.

I have more than a reasonable share of friendships that, though perhaps not cultivated and even lying dormant for years, pop up with blooms of joy from time to time. I don’t have a great deal of material wealth in this world, but I count myself the very richest of men. For in whatever circumstance that may come about in my life, I shall never face a day without a friend.

As Paul said to his dear friends in his letter to the church at Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

Thank you for enriching my life.

To Spend And Be Spent

Some things are simply spent when you use them. Other things you can re-use. We would probably be wise to pay attention to the difference between the two.

Some things, when they are spent, are simply translated into other things, other resources, or other economies.

A couple of weeks ago, we took our huge family to Kansas City to see a play. In one sense, there was a lot of money spent that will not come back to us. But, in a much greater sense, those funds were translated into memories and priceless time together. Every dime was invested in relationships.

I have found myself on many occasions thinking about the example of Paul the Apostle as he wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” (2 Cor. 12.15)

I have known people that modeled that sentiment, who continually spend their resources and their very lives pouring into, caring for, and looking after others. And, though I have tried to follow suit, I am still wrestling to overcome my own self-centeredness. Continue reading To Spend And Be Spent

It’s Just Not That Simple

There are times when the railings on the various sides of the political square are all claiming the moral and ethical high ground. Once again the shouting matches between differing perspectives find me standing somewhere in the middle wanting simply to remind us all…it’s just not that simple.

I have been a pastor for more than 16 years now. As such, I am called to be an example to the people I serve and lead in all aspects of life and faith. Because I am the one whose office is in the church building, I am faced most often with people coming along looking for help.

I want to help them all – even the ones who I’m pretty sure are just making their living by manipulating the compassion of folks like me that take seriously the commands of Scripture to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and so on. But the reality is that I can’t help them all. I simply have no means to do so.

At the same time, the means that I do have that are not actually mine require, upon my own honor, that I be a wise and faithful steward of those means. That is a tension that I struggle to manage between the responsibility to give and serve and the responsibility to use well what has been placed in my care.

But I am also a husband and father. And in that role I also find a tension to manage. It’s easy to sit in my study and pray with and serve and teach a man who is trying to break free from the slavery to his sexual appetites. But it’s another thing to invite him to live in my home and share a room with my sons.

I have a responsibility to serve that man in whatever way I am able. But I also have my first responsibility to provide for the safety of my family. They are both biblical mandates. You see, it’s just not that simple.

I believe in the power of God’s grace lived out in the lives of God’s people. I believe in love and forgiveness. I also believe that, as a leader, as a pastor, as a husband and father, I have a duty to care for those for whom I am absolutely responsible.

There is grace in welcoming with open arms the man just released from prison after stealing from his employer. There is wisdom in not making him the church treasurer.

There is grace in loving and receiving the man who has molested children. There is wisdom in not allowing him to serve in the children’s ministry.

The Scriptures teach me, “But if anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

The Scriptures also teach me, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

You see…it’s just not that simple.

In all of the moralizing absolutes that are bouncing around today, I nod in partial agreement with most. But I don’t know how to find the right way. In my life and ministry I have learned how utterly crucial it is to prayerfully seek the direction from the Holy Spirit. And that, my friends, is the only way I see to find our way.

To those who say we have a moral and even biblical responsibility to take in those displaced by the ravages of war…you’re right.

And to those who say we have a moral and biblical responsibility to provide for the safety of our families…you’re right.

It’s just not that simple.

All I know to do is follow the mandate of the passage I have found myself coming back to time and time and time again for simple wisdom:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)