Monday, April 23, 2012

Parting Words for the Pastor

These days are filled with farewells and goodbyes, smiles and tears. The kindness and curiosity of our people have been expressed to me in lots of questions and comments:

Are you really going to leave us?
How big is your new church?
What about your kids?
Are you sure about this?
Does your new church know what they're getting?
Who is going to do my funeral if you are not here?
Why do you have to move so far away?
Have you found a place to live out there?
How does your mother feel about you moving to Virginia?
Is there any decent barbeque out there? 
When are you actually moving?
Is there any way I can help you?
Are you going to straighten out that mess in Washington?
Who will be preaching after you're gone?
Can I be baptized before you leave?
Where are you going to find a bunch of old gym rats to play ball with?
So, have they seen you play golf?

I will really miss you.
I'm sorry to see you go.
Tell Sam and Jake and Becca to call me if they need anything.
I'll take care of your yard until you sell your house.
I know you wouldn't be going if you didn't believe it was God's will.
Thank you for being my pastor. You were always there for me.

Thank you, God, for letting me serve such a good and gracious people.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moving On

New orders have come down from the top, and I mean the very top. I have been called and sent to a new post, a new field of ministry and service. I will soon be responsible for leading a whole new battalion of believers, leaving behind the faithful troops that have been my assignment for fourteen years. We have taken a long journey together and now our paths are separating, pastor and people moving in different directions. Suzanne and I will soon be moving from Sedalia to Arlington, Virginia, where I will serve as Senior Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church.

How painful it is to leave behind all those who have been so much a part of my life and ministry. Our children have grown up here from just little tikes into young adults and our once noisy and crowded house has emptied. Strangers have become friends, friends have become family, and a community has become our home. Pulling up stakes is a painful process, but by now we all know it goes with the territory. This is life, isn't it, always interrupted by sad goodbyes and new hellos, holding on and letting go, packing up and moving on. 

What a potent mix of emotions I am feeling these days, a roller coaster soaring up in excitement and anticipation and the next moment plummeting downward in sadness and grief. The only thing that steadies me is the firm grip of God's Spirit and His strong peace that anchors our lives in times of upheaval and change. He is faithful and He is in charge. God gives the orders. What else do we really need to know?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Emptiness

A couple years ago, during a jubilant Easter service, our pastor said something that stopped me in my mental tracks: "The world offers promises full of emptiness. But Easter offers emptiness full of promise." Empty cross, empty tomb, empty grave-clothes … all full of promise. - Carolyn Arends

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Which Way, Lord?"

When you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”- Isaiah 30:21

If God has a plan for every life, how do you and I figure out and follow that plan? How does God let us in on His plan for our lives? Sometimes God's will seems like classified information, way above our security clearance and pay grade. We are only informed on a "need to know" basis, and we must not need to know much, because we find ourselves so often wandering in the dark.

If only God would take a GPS approach, calling out every bend and turn, steering us through unfamiliar territory, revealing the hidden shortcuts, and even "recalculating" when we are too stubborn to follow His directions. But regrettably, even though He has more than a satellite perspective, it is not His way.

There must be a better metaphor for us. How about trading in our GPS for a compass? Instead of deep space, think about the western frontier. It seems to me that finding God's plan for our lives is more like following a trailblazer like Daniel Boone. Imagine yourself hiking through untamed wilderness without so much as a well-worn path, just little markers every so often, a notch in the tree bark, a stake driven in the ground, nothing but subtle signs along the journey. That picture is much closer to my own experience.

And here's another thought shared with me just lately by a minister friend who is a little further down the road than me. My friend suggested that when God brings us to a fork in the road, that does not necessarily mean that one way is right and the other way is wrong. We may be terrified at the prospect of making the wrong choice, but maybe, just maybe, both paths represent good, healthy opportunities. Could it be that sometimes God is just letting you choose? Do you suppose that our Heavenly Father enjoys giving His children the freedom to choose how we may serve and show our love for Him? I believe He does.

So, when you find yourself at a crossroads of decision, don't be anxious or fearful. Pray and ponder, make a choice, and move on with confidence. The God who gives you choices is the God who will always be your faithful Guide and Companion.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost