Full Disclosure – 1) At this moment I am struggling to get out of bed and get started. Not because I’m tired. Not because we ‘lost’ an hour. Yet, because I just don’t want to. There is so much that HAS to be done, that it’s out weighing what I want to do. Those famous last words – just a few more minutes.
2) Last night I wrote a different thought to share today. Reading through it again I realized I began doing just the opposite of the reason for the writings. I noticed it had become a mediocre meditation on ‘stuff’. I recognized the fact the more people that I began sharing them with, the more fearful I was of total openness. Vulnerability was at risk the more I shared. The reason I began this many months ago was to share what was deeper than the surface. It was to expose the week’s ills, trials or tribulations to the air so healing could begin. It was a balm. It was to be the source for someone else’s healing. It was to let others know they were not along in their thoughts. In their struggles or their week’s challenge. As we challenge those we shepherd to be vulnerable to the Holy Spirit, I must myself remain honest to the charge. Not to bleed all over others but to be reminded we do bleed & we are vulnerable & we will heal. I want these writing to remind others to see the challenges of those we see sitting in the pulpit. There are weeks were our emotions are in tack. Where we see no issues or concerns. There are weeks that’s it’s all good and nothing to complain about. I’m all for them and want more. And I pray these writings are fuel to begin that kind week for you.
3) in the last week, in several different settings, I have found myself having to complete 3 different self assessments or evaluations or personal surveys under different circumstances. Though they are difficult to do at times, to face our mirrors. I would like to challenge others to try them. How can we improve if we do not know where we stand. Theology, management styles, love languages, financial goals or habits good or bad, parenting styles. Ask the hard questions to reveal the real person.
Reflections: Typically, as I write, there is something or situation that has settled in my thoughts, creating and taking the space in my mind and appears as if it may be relevant to others that find themselves serving as pastors and addressing the issues we face from time to time as we sit in the ‘big chair’. (I heard that reference last week and laughed.) This week what I find relevant is the abundance of ‘quiet’ blessings in the daily lows and highs of living. There are recurring seasons in our lives that “it’s all good” and there other days we have to deal with ‘issues of un-importance’. There really are no heartaches at this moment. There really has not been any ‘earth shaking’ news. Life has presented the normal challenges and we’re ‘equipped’ and prepared to manage the problem and process. In the mist of all this, how could I not just thank God and offer praise. In the mist of my daily walk, I have praise to give. It is so easy to take the gift of quiet-blessings for granted. I am thankful for God’s blessing of wisdom, resources and experiences. Every opportunity presents us with a chance to honor God, because we have been equipped to face the ripples in the lake as well as the crashing of the waves against the shoreline. A co-worker stated this week it was a “trying week” for her. And following that statement she said she was grateful because it pushed to find the ‘better’ in herself. Shouldn’t we all be thankful for the issues, grand or small because there is a lesson to be learned in the big and the small. In the simple and complicated. Blessings in the ugly as well as the beauty of every situation. There’s a blessing in the alarm clock working as well as the safe travel when you’re rushing and make it to your destination safely. There’s a blessing for me just in the fact you may take time to share in my thoughts. There’s a blessing and praise to be given for it all. Thank You Lord for all you’ve done for me. The song says “it could have been me”…. Well it was me. Thank you Lord. Be blessed today and see the hand of God in it all.
Confession-Today I’m taxed by the ‘fear in preaching’. This is not fear that most have of public speaking. It is not the fear of reading the wrong word from our manuscript or outlines. It’s not a fear felt when sharing the pulpit with more seasoned or educated preachers and worried of conflicting statements or even theologies. Today it’s the fear of preaching a true and honest, God ordained, a Holy Ghost inspired, Jesus centric word that the people need. It is not the fear of preaching a pastoral sermon in another’s pulpit. This fear is not in the delivery, it’s a fear that’s rooted in the relevance. It is the fear that’s spoken in the bible of our need to fear God. Not a fear of horror but a fear of honor. Preparing this week for today’s message, I constantly found myself beyond the challenge of needed confirmation of what God has desired for me to say. I continued to find the weightiness of the hearer’s soul and path to salvation to be the tension in my preparation. I am under no grandiose illusions of self importance or that the words preached by me will or will not grant entry to heaven or hell for anyone. However I am also dually aware of the charge placed on me by saying yes to God’s call and the covenant for my faithfulness and obedience to preach God’s word. It is the fear Moses experienced at his call. It is the fear of Gideon and testing and questioning God’s reasoning. It is the emotional depth of Isaiah for God’ people. It is the ‘why me’ of our humanness. Since the congregation is expanded today, I am more sensitive to the charge we have for the flock we serve and not wanting to lead others astray from their shepherd’s guidance. This morning we will stand to preach the Gospel & trust and believe that God is in control. Today’s fear is in the magnitude of God’s Word and how it can change someone’s life for the better. I know this for a fact. It changed mine and today I’m thankful the the preacher that day who feared God more than man and preached ‘thus said the Lord! (Thank you Pastor Cy.) All week I have had this classic ‘church statement’ in my head…”Won’t He Do It!” And the answer is always yes even in my self described space of fear.
Confession – This morning my flesh is a deterrent to the work I have been called to do. I am having to prayerfully remember the covenant with God as it relates to pastoring. There may be many “I’s” in this confession because it is my challenge today. Friday, I caught a member in a direct and bold lie that has had a negative impact on the church. Since my arrival, this member’s words and actions have ‘held the church hostage’, and for many years before. I’ve heard every issue and reason why something has or has not occurred. They have been boastfully prideful in the work they claim to do, yet has not manifested. Before arriving at the post, this member was the one I was encouraged to reach out to because of the influence. Today, it feels as if the influence is cancerous. For many, you question why a pastor would continue to entertain the trials and tribulations from one member. As you may know, in rural ministry and small church, one member can have a major and lasting impact: positive and negative. Just as one nail in a tire can interrupt a journey or a single red light can ground an airplane or one signature can start a war. The community has learned to live with the “way” the member is because they’re family. Just as you have learned to live with “that” family member in your tribe. “That’s just the way they are.” However you wouldn’t let anyone one else (an outsider) say something to them because they’re yours and you have learned to tolerate them. Today, I am troubled at how to respond to “one that has a problem for every solution”. It must be dealt with. As God answered Solomon with wisdom, I pray the same. When the trials and turmoil of leadership become the fork of your pastoral road, I pray for God’s divine wisdom to become the guiding star to follow. This morning I sit in silence waiting for the Spirit to speak. I stand in the pulpit to preach the good news, not to correct or reprimand. Today, I pray for God’s guidance, grace and gifts to preach the Word. Often I ponder when we say “hide me behind the cross”. Where we not called to stand boldly and point to the cross? This day, I do ask that ‘I’ be hidden behind the cross so my flesh has no voice in the pastoral position. May God’s voice be heard in all that is spoken today and may our flesh be arrested in the preaching hour. May the words of our (my) mouth and the meditation of our (my) heart be acceptable in thy sight. Praying for each of you and that today our covenant of service is consecrated with the God we serve. Today I pray you are able to preach with the Authority and Power of God and that souls are saved, lives are changed, bondages are broken and those under your charge are strengthened in their Christian and communal life.
Reflections – There is weight that entered my spirit last week and it is the catalyst for prayer. As I went to visit a member in rehab I met her nurse caregiver. She was as caring and concerned for her patients as you would want. My member raved about how she was attentive and on point in every aspect of her job. It was refreshing to see someone in service give such a level of compassion and concern. My spirit kept hearing a silent cry for help. Just in conversation I asked where she attended service and a litany of other questions. Within 20 minutes this young lady was balling with tears and pain you would never expect. She found herself pouring out pain: this single mother that has a parent and child in the penal system. Financially strapped between two jobs. 2 young children. And all the other trappings of life, fair and unfair, imposed and self-inflicted. Her current situation would take the wind out of most of us. She has been masking and hiding her pain in the care for other and self-medicating through service to others. As you can imagine the sleepless nights and stressful days. I really started wondering after my own holiday self-diagnosis how many of us clergy, pastors are walking around doing the same. There is no doubt in the power of prayer and we are quite aware of the Holy Ghost as our comforter. And we have understood physician heal thyself. However God has empowered and gifted others to serve as our intercessory help for our own stresses. These writings are shared so we are reminded we are not alone in our own journey of trials and tribulations. Find and ear, find a hand, find a shoulder, find a friend to be open and honest with that will listen and help. If you’re continually cooking and feeding others, when do you sit and eat a nutritious meal. The caregivers must be cared for.
We come this morning standing in the need of prayer. Not only for ourselves but also for those who find themselves unable to call on you. We stand in intersession for those who have lost their voice. We stand in intersession for those who do not know they have a voice. We stand in intersession for those whose voice has been silenced. We stand in intersession for those whose voice is not being heard. Not that we have achieved anything isolated in our own accomplishments. We only speak because you have given us the breath of life to stand for those who do not. As a community, hear our prayers for them. God grant mercy, grace, protection and discovered purpose for those who are in search of a way. Let it be your will and your way they discover. And as their voice begins to sound let it first be of thanksgiving and of praise for who you are.
Reflections: The last few days speaking with a few friends, the question was what are you preaching Sunday as we are entering the new year. What strikes me is not the sermon titles or text. It is the disclaimer that was the common thread. “This year I need to church to get ___ so I’m preaching…”. Each of us has the desire to set the year’s direction for our perspective community through a sermon. I wonder how fair is it to us or to the congregation to expect so much change after turning the page on the calendar. We know in our personal lives how many changes and challenges we look to do after the first of the year and before the month is over, we have seemed to slide back or slacked off. There is no doubt that we are to offer new God-ordained direction. And we should recognize in their own lives they have called for personal change. So today I have to remember to offer a single step in a new direction. What are you asking of God’s congregants today? Today I just want them to praise with their mouth and speak to God. Next week we may ask them to praise with their hands and mouth! LOL
Bless you in your service today to God. Preach with power. Preach with a prophetic word. Preach with the undeniable promise of God.
Today’s scripture: Isaiah 62:1-10
“There’s a Need for Noise!”
So today, let’s make a joyful noise!
Thank you for the ability to rise to our feet and stand amongst the living. Thank for vision to see the beauty in all your creations. Thank you for allowing our lungs to fill with the breath of life. Thank you for allowing our ears to hear your sweet call. Thank you for allowing our hands to feel your touch. Thank you for the voice to speak praises to your name. Thank you for a heart to embrace your love. Thank you for a mind to know it is all because of you we can say thank you.
To the ever present God who has one hand in time past and one hand on eternity, we come with many days behind with choices in and out of your will. We first ask for your forgiveness and mercy. Tune a blind eye to our sin. We ask as we stand in this place called ‘now’, we position your will and your way at the edge of our choice and our actions. We ask that our spirit of discernment be in tune with you will and be ever present in our words and our walk. Let our call to you for guidance be lifted up to you and that our hearing not be impeded by our our life’s noise. We stand open to receive your word today.