Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Take Me With You

I just got back today from one of the most unique and powerful experiences of my life. I have been at a 3-day spiritual retreat for pastors sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. What made this retreat unique was that much of the time was spent in silence. That may sound a bit odd - it did to me at first - but it was unbelievable some of what happened in the silence.

The point of the retreat was to equip pastors to nurture their souls and to provide resources for personal spiritual formation. One of the disciplines that I made use of in the last 3 days was walking a labyrinth. A labyrinth is not a maze - you cannot get lost in a labyrinth, for there is only 1 way in and out. I was not really sure what I was supposed to do, but as I began my journey into the center, I found my thoughts drifting to every worry, anxiety, self-doubt, and sin that was weighing on me. I prayed for each of these as I journeyed closer and closer to the center. When I reached the center, there was a tile cross in the concrete. I stood there and focused on the cross for a moment. I began to leave when I felt a voice within me saying, "Stay a while." I sat there on that cross for sometime, silently meditating on Jesus Christ until a peace came over me. When I got up to leave a second time, another sentence came to my soul. "Take me with you." I do not know if this was God's word to me, or my words to God. As I travelled out of the labyrinth, I found myself repeating that phrase again and again. The burdens I came into the center with were not forgotten; instead, I indeed felt a sense of real rest.

For the last several days, I have kept that phrase with me. "Take me with you." I do not know if it even has just one meaning, and I continue to look for understanding in all that God is working in me through these words.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

When the Happiest Place on Earth Turns Sad

My family and I just finished a week long vacation in Walt Disney World, the "happiest place on earth". We took a Disney bus to and from the airport. On the day we left, the lady driving our bus was in the midst of her third day on the job. She was having some typical growing pains, but was pleasant and clearly doing her best. When we arrived at the airport, she got off the bus and said that we should remain in the bus until she unloaded our bags so that we did not have to stand in the hot and smelly bus parking lot but could stay in the air-conditioned bus. I imagine there was also a safety question - you couldn't have 50 people standing around waiting for their luggage, running the risk of being hit by any one of the numerous buses constantly pulling in and out. She went on to, by herself, pull people's bags out of the bus and put them out where we could get them. Inside the bus, after a couple of minutes, people began to get agitated that they were having to stay on the bus and wait. They wanted to go. One guy said, "This lady better get used to dealing with unruly travellers." We proceeded up to the front of the bus to try to figure out how to open the door. It hadn't even been 5 minutes yet! Amy and I tried to occasionally speak up on the bus driver's behalf, but most of the folks didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to wait.

Disney is renowned for its customer service and doing everything it can to make its guests feel like a prince or princess. However, I think yesterday I saw the dark side of that. When people have been treated like royalty, they start to feel like everything should be the way they want it the moment they want it. Here was a lady doing everything she could to take care of her passengers, and people were complaining that they were having to wait for a couple of minutes.

I wonder if this is what life is like for God. He has said that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. He has made us a little less than the angels, treated us like royalty. However, I wonder if we allow our royalty to make us lethargic, complacent, even spoiled. We complain because God doesn't do something exactly the way we want Him to do it or when we want Him to do it. All the while, God is there working away, thinking of our best interest and serving us, giving us what we need.

While I sat on the bus listening to people all around me complain about our bus driver, out my window I could see this woman, pulling yet another suitcase out of the bus. And I felt a little sad that no one else seemed to see her effort.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy Birthday

Today I had a unique opportunity. I had a chance to participate in a worship service celebrating the 100th anniversary of a church, Melrose Baptist Church in particular. I had served as the Youth & Children's Minister there for 4 years. For the anniversary service, they invited me to do the Children's Sermon. However, I got a pleasant surprise - the planning committee had invited all those who were children while I was on staff to come forward as well. What a blessing to see familiar faces! I just about cried when I saw these old friends. Today truly has been blessing!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Good Read

Several years ago, I bought a copy of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. I bought knowing pretty much nothing about the book except 1) I really like C.S. Lewis and 2) it was pretty cheap. In sat on my book shelf for the last few years unread. Finally, on Monday, I pulled it out of my stack and started reading it. I wish I had read it when I first bought it.

In a relatively short story, Lewis narrates the story of a man who dreams about Hell and Heaven. In his dream, the man comes to the realization that those who desire Heaven cannot try to hold onto a little bit of Hell. They must truly seek first the kingdom of God. If this is what they truly seek, then they shall indeed truly find.

I am glad I read this book, even if I am a couple of years overdue.

Monday, September 10, 2007


While accomplishing some household tasks mixed with personal worship, my cell phone rang. I opted not to answer, figuring whoever was calling would either leave me a voice mail or call back. They left me a voice mail. I know this because for the next 20 minutes, my phone sat there and beeped. I mean beeped. A loud, annoying beep about every 2 minutes. By the time I went to the phone, I was more concerned with getting the beeps to stop than with actually hearing the message the person had left for me.

During my work (and the beeping), I was listening to the song "Offering". It talks about our ability to come to the throne of God with an offering of praise because of the love of Jesus revealed in his shed blood and abundant mercy. It is amazing to me to consider that God could choose loud, overbearing, unmissable ways to get our attention. Yet instead, God speaks in still small voices and sheer silence. He takes on regular human flesh and bleeds regular human blood rather than putting on a Superman cape or appearing in a divine fireworks display.

I think sometimes it is the things in my life that beep the loudest that turn out to be the greatest distractions to the One who truly needs my attention.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I was watching the end of the UNC-ECU football game last night. The score was tied with 2 seconds to play. ECU had a chance to kick a game-winning 37 yard field goal. Their kicker came out on the field, and you had to feel for this kid. He had already missed three field goals on the night from shorter distances. At least two of them were misses late in the game that would have already had his team in the lead. On the last miss, he came off the field with his head down. All his teammates and coaches were doing everything they could to encourage this young man. Before he walked out on the field for this last kick, his coach pulled him over and talked to him face to face. His coach was smiling.

The teams lined up. The snap. The hold. The kick.

It was good.

The young kicker whose head had been hanging down in embarassment and shame now was mobbed by his teammates as the hero.

Scripture says that when even one is saved, the angels in heaven celebrate.

I think, in watching that kicker, I saw a picture of what redemption looks like.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Leviticus and Doctors

Yesterday I attended a seminar at Duke on the connection between spirituality and health. During the seminar, the speaker talked about how a project his group was involved with where they were equipping oncologists with a series of questions to ask their patients about what spiritual resources they were using in dealing with their cancer and were these resources a help or a hindrance to them. As I listened to him talk about the success of the program, I have to admit that I experienced a little professional slight. I found myself thinking, "Isn't that the realm of the minister or chaplain? Does a doctor have adequate training and knowledge to deal with such issues?"

This morning, during my quiet time, my passage for today was Leviticus 13-14. In the passage, it talks about leprosy. When a member of the Israelites was believed to be developing a skin disease, they would come to the priest and the priest would determine whether or not this skin ailment was leprosy or not. If it was leprosy, then the person was pronounced unclean. If it was not leprosy, the priest prescribed a series of actions for the person until the ailment went away. If a leper became clean, there was a ritual for welcoming the person back into the community.

As I read these words, it struck me - the priest was not only acting as religious leader, but as medical personnel as well! It struck me then that this idea of a connection between spirituality and health is not something new, and I should welcome the fact that a doctor is asking a patient questions about their spirituality. The doctor, just as the priest, should be concerned about the total well-being of the person and the community.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


"And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." - Genesis 4:7b

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." - 1 Timothy 6:10-11

I was outside having my quiet time this morning when I noticed a spider crawling on the table next to me. I am not an expert on insects, but I did recognize that this was a spider that could cause me harm. Since it was on the table next to me, and not on my chair, I tried to continue to focus on my devotional reading, which was focused on the meaning of salvation. However, I kept shifting my attention to that spider, keeping an eye on its movements. At one point, I thought I should get up and kill it, but decided to take the pacifist approach, telling myself that it was not near me and therefore not a danger. However, my eye kept drifting back to it. Finally, the spider fell of the table and crawled over to my chair. At that point, I finally got up and stepped on the spider.

When I sat back down, these two verses came to my head. Here I was, reading a devotion about the meaning of salvation and being set free from sin, and my eye continued to drift towards that which I perceived as a threat. However, I did nothing about it until the threat seemed close enough to hurt me. But what about the mere distraction of knowing it was there?

Perhaps that is the best way to understand Paul's call to flee from sin. It is not just to keep us from engaging in a sinful act, but to remove the distraction that sin can have when it is close enough to tempt us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

As The World Turns

Has someone ever said to you, in a moment of great stress, not to worry because "the world won't come to an end"? I know that to be true, but there are times that I know I keep myself moving on the fast track because I think that if I stop or slow down, it will be the end of the world, or at least a part of it that I don't want to disrupt. That is why I find these two Scriptures so interesting:

"If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable, if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth ..." - Isaiah 58:13-14

"The world is firmly established; it shall not be moved." - Psalm 96:10

The world really will keep turning, even if we stop to rest and delight in God.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Marketplace

Yesterday I went to the Organization Fair at Elon University as a representative of our church. I guess it was my final responsibility before beginning my sabbatical. I handed out water bottles to students between the church handing out cake and the church handing out ice cream. We all were hoping a student would stop and talk to us and ask about our church. At one point late in the afternoon, the image flashed through my head of Jesus chasing the merchants out of the Temple. "This is a house of worship, but you have turned it into a den of thieves." Still haven't totally worked that image out of my head. My initial thought: Christianity is about sharing Christ, not selling church.