Monday, May 31, 2010

Walking Sticks and Hot Chocolate

Living at the cabin makes it such a fun place for grandchildren. Our little cottage is surrounded by pines and mountains. About 20 feet from the backdoor there's a small stream. It's called Fountain Creek and it flows into the Arkansas River. It's crystal clear and serves as the home for small trout. On occasion the grandsons are able to talk grandpa in to pulling out the fishing poles and it's such fun to listen to them squeal when a small fish is pulled from the water, glistening in the sun and flipping water on them. Of course, it's "catch and release" here.

Two weeks ago Jane and I were keeping Atticus and Conrad for Jamie while she was gaining extensive training for her job. We stayed in Parker at their house for the first couple of days and then brought them back to the cabin near the end of the week.

The two boys joined grandpa on a walk one morning. About one mile from the cabin there's a pond with a gazebo in the center and across the pond there's a small restaurant called The Pantry.

 It's been a favorite for years. We walked to The Pantry. Both boys had their walking sticks and their coats. It's often cold in the mountains in May. It was that day.

As we walked, Conrad fell and skinned a knee. It was deja vu. EXACTLY the experience I had with his mother when she was three. However, Conrad continued to walk...eventually was worn out....and carried by grandpa.

We finally arrived at The Pantry, sat at the counter like big boys and ordered cinnamon, raisin toast and chocolate milk.

I love making memories with my "Hot Rod Boys."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Relevant or Relational?

So here I am at age 62 finding myself asking questions that most folks, especially preachers, probably ask when they're 12 or 20. It's not a crisis of Faith at all, but it is an exploration of faith that's more intense and actually more fun than I seemed to have time for when serving as a pastor. I know that must sound strange to many. It is assumed that preachers hibernate in a musty office surrounded by dusty volumes of books exploring the penal substitution theory of atonement. That's not usually the case. Most often pastors are caught up on the "business" of church or the never ending task of trying to keep church members appeased or stopping the flow of gossip. Churches, under the surface, are not always the "heaven on earth" that they are meant to be. The reason is really quite simple. It's because they are not museums for saints but rather hospitals for sinners. They are filled with hurting people and the old adage is true that "hurting people, hurt people." The sin that most pastors fight against in their churches is not alcohol, drugs, adultery, etc. Though there is certainly enough of that. It's the fact that church folks find ways to nibble away at one another. Petty bickering, backbiting, criticism, finger pointing....well, enough of that.

I find myself these days asking questions about worship. Is our normal Sunday morning gathering really worship? Is that the best we can do? Is God really thrilled with we gather in His living room and sing a few songs ( if we sing at all) and then listen to a little religious lecture?

And preaching? Is it really necessary for someone to stand up front and try to talk people into some salvation experience? I think back on the sermons that I've preached over the past 39 years and I wonder how many of them were even worth listening to. And here's the big question for me. Was I really a spokesman for God or simply an entertainer?  And how much entertainment does it take to get folks to come to church? I was one who was eager to get on the band wagon for screens and video clips and props on the platform. I loved that stuff. Before leaving Denver First Church we had four screens up front with constant content meant to keep the attention of the folks looking on. I wonder, at what point did I leave the simple message of Jesus and reach for the gospel of Cecil B. DeMille. When did I stop believing that the Word was enough?

No, I don't have a bunch of answers but I'm having a kick just exploring the implications of the questions. Would I do anything different? Probably not. We can only make decisions based on the information we have at the time and at that time I was panting hard trying to keep up with the call to be "relevant."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Day After Tomorrow

After 20 hours behind the wheel, 1300 miles and way too many diet Cokes, I finally slept in my own bed last night. You see, I had driven to Independence, Kansas, to participate in John Palmer's memorial service this past Monday. It was one of those sad celebrations. Sad because we won't be able to fellowship with John for a while, yet a celebration over the fact that he lived well and because of his faith we know where he is.

I seem to be doing more funerals lately and they are for people who are closer to me in age. At 62 I realize that I'm not so old when compared to some but I also see that if I should live as long as my dad did I've only got 20 years left. And if they go by as quickly as the last 20 did, well.....that's just the day after tomorrow.

So what do we do with our time? I find myself wasting way too much, but there are some things that seem to grow in importance. I want to make sure that Jane knows how much she's loved. I want my daughters to know how proud I am of them. I want my sons-in-law to know what a privilege I think it is to be "family" with them. They're just awesome. I want my grandsons to know grandpa and to know how much they are loved by the big old guy who insists on teasing them and tickling them. And even though I'm not serving in a full time position as pastor these days I stll want my life to count for Christ. I want to find ways to encourage folks. My favorite phrase for several years has been to tell people, "you're probably doing better than you think you are."

I'm reminded of a sermon that I preached years ago. It was called "Finish Like A Pro." I'm not sure I did that in my last full time assignment. I have some regrets there. But as long as I have breath I still have days to change the outcome when it comes to the big issue of life. I want to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "for me to live is Christ, to die is gain."

Rest well, John Palmer