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The Cutting Room Floor

For every sermon there are lots of notes, thoughts, ideas, and stories that are left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Stuff that there’s either not time  for or doesn’t fall within the sermon focus or function. But every now and then there’s something that is omitted during delivery of the sermon. Yesterday it was towards the sermon and I left it out intentionally (there were 2 stories intentionally omitted yesterday). The reason? As a listening/discerning community we had already arrived where we needed to go, therefore, we didn’t need anything else. 

I intended to end with the story of Carol Heath, that I read recently in Todays-Christian. If you recall, yesterday we were talking about God using our past for future glory. I think Carol’s story captures some of that. You can read it here.

To hear the entire sermon, entitled “Spin Machine,” click here.

A Powerful Footnote

Tomorrow night I continue a series I’ve been teaching called, The Sacred Way. For 8-weeks we are looking at some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. I call them “ancient” for two reasons: (1) They were all conceived a long time ago and (2) Most people in American Evangelical churches don’t practice them (out of ignorance or willing abandonment, I don’t know). At any rate, our community here in Northern California is attempting to recapture them. Were coming to better understand that knowledge and narrow readings of scripture alone do not produce the Life that Jesus promised. We’re also learning together that our brothers and sisters throughout the ages have something to teach us regarding drawing closer to God.

This week’s reflection is prayer. In particular we will be looking at The Jesus Prayer, Breath Prayer, and Centering Prayer. This is scratching the surface, but it is enought to get us started. While we will be exploring these ancient disciplines, our time will begin with C.S. Lewis — a comparatively contemporary figure. Though most of us know Lewis as a writer of prose, we are going to begin our discussion of prayer with one of Lewis’ poems, and I want to share it with you here. This poem — IMHO — is deeply powerful and provocative.

Footnote To All Prayers…C.S. Lewis

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow,
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou.
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart.
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme.
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address,
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless,
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense.  Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Loving Tears

Monday I received a cold call from the local hospital, Kaiser Redwood City. The wife of an elderly couple was dying and the family wanted a local pastor or chaplain to come by and pray with them. The social worker (and you know I have a special place in my heart for social workers) knew the family was Protestant and we were the only “non-denominational” church she could find.

So, I went to the hospital. The couple was in their 80′s and had been married for 63 years. For the past 8 months the husband and his adult, special needs son had visited his dying wife, and for 8 months she hadn’t gotten any better. The 8 months of anticipation hadn’t curtailed his heartache as his tears revealed. And now I was with them. I was there to pray before he told the doctors the very last thing any of us ever wants to tell a doctor; that it was OK to let her attempt her own breathing, all the while knowing she couldn’t.

It was Holy ground.

I’m reminded tonight of all the petty and small things so many of us in the church become consumed with. It’s hard to miss pettiness when it rubs up against the beauty and heartache of loving devotion.

In these times I’m mindful of the simple power of love and that loving one another volunteers us for tears. Yet in the end, who among us would rather not have loved?

Acclimated

Our family has been in the Bay area for 2 full weeks as of right now. Friends both here and across the country keep asking what differences we see between our new and former environment. At this point I’m not sure what the major differences are. We spent most of our time working; me at the church office and Rochelle trying to setting up house and getting Malia squared away for school next year. I really enjoyed living in Houston, so I don’t want to set-up a good/bad  or better/worse scenario. Nevertheless I thought I would list some of the things I’ve observed  about our new life in Redwood City.

1. My commute is 352 steps. I’ve moved for 20 miles and 50 minutes one way to less than 5 minutes and I don’t even have to get in the car, even when it rains. I eat lunch at home with my wife and girls and I haven’t cranked the car in over a week.

2. Cali is laid back. I’ve been wearing jeans and tennis shoes to work for two weeks (partly because we’re in boxes still and partly because our washing machine is broken) and no one seems to have noticed. For a T-Shirt and blue jeans kinda guy, you gotta love it.

3. I really miss the Houston 10:00 news. Because of the time difference, the late night news doesn’t come on until 11:00 — like it does on the east coast. Though I grew up with film at eleven, I’m too old for that now. By 10:30, I’m out!

4. There are Apple and Mac stores everywhere. Here’s a list of companies I’ve driven by in two weeks: FaceBook, Apple, Yahoo, Intuit, and a few others I can’t even remember. Homeless people in the Silicon Valley have iPhones, it’s crazy! 

5. I can see the mountains when I take out my trash. Already I’ve stopped noticing the beauty of God’s creation and I really hope to put a stop to that. This area is gorgeous. I hope to not be in too big a hurry and miss it!

6. There’s more Christian presence here than some people would have you believe. California is not Texas, but so far the difficulties faced by churches in California are the same as Texas. 

7. No drive-thrus. Land is expensive here, so some places (I’m particularly thinking about Starbuck’s) don’t have drive-thru’s. That’s already a pain.

8. The cold here is a wet, penetrating cold. The temperature may say one thing, but not being acclimated, I’ve found that it takes me a while to get warm here.

Anyway, since so many people had asked about things I thought this might be a good way to get the word out. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

First and Last

Today is my last day in the office at Bering Drive Church of Christ. I’ve come to the same office, sat in the same chair, had the same view out the window and cluttered the same desk for over nine years. Today will be the last time I do that. A new chapter is beginning — as I’ve mentioned before. But before newness can break in fully, something must be done with what has passed. So today, I offer some random reflections on my time at Bering Drive.

1. Bering will always be precious to us because this is the church that our daughters were born into. Much of what they’ve learned about God, Jesus and the church came from Bering Drive. Malia, my 5-year-old, speaks about how much she’ll miss Bering. I’ll miss it much more than she. In 10 years she will hardly remember ever being here, but I will remember God sending her to us here.

2. The time I spent preaching at Bering in the interim (August 2003 – June 2004)was the greatest time of my ministry life. Rochelle was pregnant with Malia (a pregnancy that wasn’t supposed to happen); the church had it’s highest attendance since the hey-day of Dr. Bill Love’s preaching; staff and congregational morale was high; I was working nearly 60-hours per week and loving it; and each week it seemed like there were new young or minority people in the pew. For ten months we caught lighting in a bottle. One church member described it as “Camelot,” an older member said “It was the most meaningful church experience of my life,” a single, middle-aged woman said “You’re changing my life,” and the wife of an atheist said, “My husband doesn’t believe, but when he hears you preach, I think he’s close.” Those times can’t last forever, I know. It was a great ride, though. Thank you, God for using me.

3. At Bering I was challenged to think in new ways and allowed the freedom to challenge others in new ways. Thoughtfulness was encouraged, and I am a better minister for it. I know far too many ministers who are subtly told to not think, and merely replicate whatever is fun and popular. I became “theological” here, and it has changed my life. The commitment to theology was so deep here that some very good men and woman paid for me to get my masters. How many people are willing to do that?

4. The kids, the kids, the kids. Each of them deserves an entire blog post. Suffice it to say they are genuine, talented, funny, and beautiful. I am more proud of each of them than they’ll ever know. I will forever love them, and not being able to think of them without moist eyes, a broad smile, and my greatest hopes.

5. At Bering I met some older Christians (many), whom I truly respected; people who were wise and steady, yet forward-looking. I was 25 when we moved here McAllen, TX, and in so many ways entered adulthood at Bering. Thankfully, there were some helpful guides along the way. You can’t go wrong surrounded by people like Edward Fudge, Bill Love, Rolfe Johnson, Bill Ward, and Rob McRay. They taught me much that I will carry forever.

6. I will desperately miss my T.R.I.B.E. (The Right Individuals Believing Endlessly). Every minister needs a fan club. These people were my unwavering supporters. Folks like Sara Faye Fudge, Jean Worley, Laura Bard, the Hughes, Leah Snyder and so many others. The trusted my heart and accepted my humanity while believing in my gifts. If you don’t have a tribe. You should get one.

As I move on to the next phase of life and ministry; the phase orchestrated and ordained by God, these are just a few of the things I enjoyed in my time here. My God bless the believers who meet in this place.

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