Friday, September 25, 2009

Worth Dying For

"I hear you are entering the ministry," the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. "Was it your idea or were you poorly advised?" And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else's. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching in the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace. I will condemn you to death. - Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finishing Well

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task that the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. (Acts 20:24 NIV)

Volunteering at the Tour of Missouri here in Sedalia, I had a great view of the finish line. Amazing athletes to be sure, some of the greatest cyclists in the world competed right here in our little town. The winning time for the nineteen mile time trial course was 36:30, averaging well over 30 miles an hour.

There is something grand and glorious about finishing, finishing strong, finishing well. Just to finish the course, on foot, on a bike, in a boat or a car, ignites the thrill and pride of accomplishment. And it feels just as good to finish a project or a plan, to fulfill a promise or pledge, to complete the job and achieve the goal. I think of the couple that have weathered the tough trials of marriage and family life and can now celebrate 60 years together. Or the young soldier who serves his tour, fights his way through countless battles, fulfills his duty, and finally makes it home into the arms of his family. And then there's the lonely missionary far from home, isolated from support and encouragement, enduring hardship and opposition, yet faithfully gathering a handful of new believers until finally a church is born.

Whatever seems too hard, too difficult, too much, too heavy, too steep, too long for you today, don't give out, don't give in, and don't give up. Keep going. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your pain will pass. Your second wind will come. And the finish line may be much closer than you imagine.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

If I Were a Regular Guy

I have been enjoying a little time off this Labor Day weekend. This morning Suzanne, Rebecca and I drove over to Columbia to worship with Suzanne's parents at their church, Fairview United Methodist. It was a fine service, quite a bit different than our approach, but still a good worship experience.

Perhaps only those who have served as a pastor for many years can fully appreciate how wonderful it feels just to go to church without the weight of responsibility. Don't get me wrong. I love my work, and I wouldn't trade my ministry calling for anything in the world. But sometimes it is so refreshing to lay it down for a day or two and find an anonymous place in the pew. Well, almost anonymous. My mother-in-law graciously introduced her visiting family to the congregation and myself as "our son-in-law, Dr. Drew Hill", but she didn't mention anything about me being a pastor. Maybe the folks thought I was a professor or a surgeon or a psychiatrist or a proctologist, but probably not a pastor.

Well, anyway, my Sunday off got me thinking a little bit. What if I were a regular guy? You know what I mean? What if I were a normal person? Not a professional minister, not a full-time pastor, not a paid holy man, but just an ordinary believer, an average Joe, a regular guy? It raises some interesting questions for me to ponder.

If I were a regular guy, would I still be showing up at church almost every Sunday?

If I were a regular guy, would I still consider pot luck to be gourmet dining?

If I were a regular guy, would I still keep a snazzy black suit just for marrying and burying?

If I were a regular guy, would I still pick up my Bible even when I don't need to get a sermon?

If I were a regular guy, would I still be involved in several mission projects each year?

If I were a regular guy, would I still pray for my friends in crisis even without being asked?

If I were a regular guy, would I still pay attention to people and listen to their problems?

If I were a regular guy, would I still try to encourage those who may be struggling with their faith?

And, if I were a regular guy, would I still know that I am a child of God, just as much a part of God's family, and just as important to God's plans and purposes?

You see, I really am just a regular guy, nothing extraordinary about me, pastor or not. Just one ordinary follower of Jesus, trying to live a little bit of His life in mine. You too?