Apr 13 2012

Even Easter can be … “poopie”

Disclaimer: slightly graphic content and straight-talk from a church planter.

Holidays are full of expectations, no doubt about that.  And in our over-marketed, media-saturated society, given that unmet expectations equal frustration, I wonder to what extent the Evil One preys on us through our holiday expectations.  Think back through some of the most recent handful of holidays and see if you know what I’m talking about: Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, New Year’s, Christmas.

Easter isn’t immune to the expectation quagmire.  And from a pastoral perspective, I feel that “church folk” stand to get the worst of it.  I certainly did.  Obviously Easter is kind of a big deal for a pastor.  As a church planter, I had to balance who was traveling, who we’re inviting, what rooms are available for renting at what times, who can play in the band, when can we set up, what will the celebration look like, etc.  I felt like we have an awesome plan.  I was totally stoked about some various friends who my family had invited to finally check our church out.  And along came Easter Sunday.

Make sure you hear me out: it was a great time.  For those who came, we loved on each other, gazed on Jesus, and enjoyed some great fellowship — I don’t at all mean to take away from that.  You see, there’s just this thing about expectations.  My friends didn’t come, I missed sharing the week with a number of our members who were away, there weren’t many new people, and generally it seemed like people didn’t treat the day like it was that big of a deal.

That last sentence was the thought that clued me into the issue of expectations.  On one hand, Easter is not that big of a deal because Jesus is just as risen and victorious every other day of the year, including Leap Day, so I wouldn’t want us to make a big deal about Easter for the wrong (empty rituals) reasons.  At the same time though, culture at-large sure makes a big deal about Easter, except without Jesus, so that makes me feel a certain responsibility to make much of the one who made Easter the most Victorious celebrationad infinitum.  So, these reflections simmered on “medium-high” heat in the back of my mind as we got home from the morning service.

As we disembark from the van, bathed in warm sunshine, ready to enjoy the rest of the special day . . . I enter the house to discover a massive, thick, putrid, milk-shake-consistency pile of dog poop in the dining room.  So I head back outside to help get the kids (and get away from the smell), and discover that Carrie is holding Hannah’s carseat with greenish poop dripping from the bottom … another diaper blow-out, awesome.  Later, Lillie has a near blow-out requiring some serious scrubbing, and Acuda makes another mess (this time on the carpet upstairs.)  Needless to say, this had become the “poopiest” Easter yet.

Well, then end of the story is this:  God is good.  As I stood outside scrubbing the car seat and vacuuming out the car (oh, guess I didn’t mention the spilled orange juice in the trunk), I found myself actually enjoying the tasks.  I was outside, the kids were playing with neighbors, and I was able to finish a few chores that I’d really been meaning to do.  Somewhere in the midst of all that I felt the Lord whisper, “Yep, even Easter can be ‘poopie.’  But I’m here; I’m with you; and my grace will always be sufficient.”

Amen to that.


Apr 13 2012

Post-Easter “c!weekly” post

Wading into the post-Easter week for me has had its share of hazards.  There are the daily hurdles of dirty diapers and household chores.  There are speed bumps of unanticipated stresses and complications.  There’s that background drum of outstanding to-dos that can prove ever-so distracting.  And sometimes there is the poignant pang of sharing someone’s intense personal hurt.

Coming off the sermon on the parable of the different kinds of soil (Luke 8:4-15), I’ve found myself often seeing the “hazards” as testing grounds as to the condition of the soil in my heart.  How do I react when “my time” is infringed upon?  How am I affected when I don’t get to do what “I want” to do?  How do I deal with stress?  Where do I spend my time, energy, resources?  What truth and hope do I have to share with those who need some?  Basically, what are the fruits of the “tough moments” in my day-to-day?

I’ll offer that as I look at my life, the biggest determining factor in my producing “meaningful fruit” is whether I’ve been sowing the proper seed.  If I don’t make sure that the seed of the Word of Truth has access to my heart, IT DOESN’T MUCH MATTER WHAT THE CONDITION OF THE SOIL OF MY HEART IS.  No seed equals no budding plants equals no fruit.  I wonder if we don’t frequently lament the choices that we make (or don’t make), thinking that we “should have known better.”  But little do we admonish ourselves for not sowing the seed that would produce the righteousness that our souls desire as a part of our grace driven effort.

Though we sow all sorts of “truth” into our lives through music, television, the internet and the like, the seed that we NEED sprinkled over our hearts and minds is the Word of God, the Bible.  Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will grow the Word in our lives.  I’ll close by simply scattering some relevant “seeds” to encourage you as you go:

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. . . . When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  (John 14:26; 16:13)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  (Colossians 2:6-8)


Apr 6 2012

Good Friday and the “day between”

Growing up, I never remember attending a “Good Friday” church service.  But somewhere along the way, I developed a little personal tradition of spending an extended quiet time reading through the Biblical narrative from Last Supper to the tomb.

This morning as I continued that tradition, I was struck by the emotion and angst that must have engulfed Christ’s followers during the trial, execution and burial of Jesus.  I wonder if any of them had a shred of hope or of understanding.  So many of them had already given so much to the cause, only to likely feel the world crumbling around them.  I cannot imagine the nature of that despair — all with the greatest dawn ever, just over the horizon.

As I meditated on these things, my heart grew increasingly thankful, because I (we) will NEVER need to know the depths of that despair!  The only avenue available for us to understand those days is through the lens of the resurrection.  We live completely in a day where the “veil is torn”, meaning the Holy Spirit of the Most High God dwells personally within those who believe!  We have such a privileged position in history and in faith.

Take some time this Easter weekend to reflect on the blessing of living in the Light of the Resurrection.   Join me in asking God to make the hope of Jesus’ victory REAL to us.  I’m convinced the more we rejoice and are moved by that hope, the more that God will bring us opportunities to share that hope.

May these lines drive home this truth in a different way:

What depths of grey
Defined the day
The one that stood between?
Darkened sun
Death of One;
No light through despair to be seen.

But now the Light shows
That we need never know
The depths of that day’s dread.
Darkness halted
Saviour exalted
Hope only from puddle of red.