May 29, 2009

One To Chew On...

"Forgiveness is a gift one gives to change the heart of the offender." Joy, survivor of the Rwandan genocide.

There is theological gold and philosophical dynamite in this phrase spoken, not by a rarefied academic or lionized prelate but, by a simple young girl who lived through the crucible of terror and discovered the power of forgiveness.

May 28, 2009

Papaw's Favorite Poem

My maternal grandfather was a delightful man who regularly walks the halls of my memory. Whether it is the "million-jillion pieces" into which he used to cut my morning toast or the indelible vision of his solitary figure contentedly tending the garden, he is part of the daily fabric of my life. Just this morning my ministry assistant made mention of a pithy phrase from a calendar gracing the kitchen window of our office and it reminded me of Papaw. The phrase was this, "Pessimists are people who need a swift kick in the can'ts." Papaw would have liked this and would have likely launched into a recital of, what I must believe was, his favorite poem, "It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar Guest. I gladly place it here for your review and my joy-filled remembrance.

It Couldn't Be Done
Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't" but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, as he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one we know has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done, and you'll do it

May 18, 2009

Can A Church Get Too Large?

I was browsing around The Upper Room and Sojourner asked this question in response to Mike's posting about the difficulties of the multi-site church. It tweaked my sensibilities and raised the bile in my shepherd's stomach. Can a church get too large? In a word, yes.

When a so-called pastor has zero contact with the flock which he tends I question the ability of such a pastor to truly know and meet the needs of that flock. How can the pastor of a multi-site church possibly speak to the hurts and hopes, dreams and disappointments, aches and achievements of people he never sees or knows? Certainly there are some truths that speak universally to people in all conditions but there are moments that a word needs to be personally spoken from the heart of a pastor to the need of a person.

I not only think this to be an unhealthy arrangement for the flock but I think it unhealthy for the pastor as well. I find it incredible that some pastors intentionally wall themselves off from the very ones they are called to serve. How sad that such a pastor will never know the joy of watching God's story unfold in all it's intricate beauty in an individual's life. I wish that every pastor could spend some of those seemingly endless hours in hospital waiting rooms with anxious families. What a tragedy that many pastors will never know the glorious burden of walking with families through days, sometimes weeks, of grief or extreme crisis.

When a church grows so large that it needs a mayor instead of a pastor (that is a direct quote from a pastor of a large church in my state) I believe that maybe, just maybe, it has gotten too large. One of my mentors laid good foundations for me with this bit of wisdom, "The minister reminds people that God is with them. In many ways your physical presence as their minister reminds them in a tangible way that God is there also." If a pastor is nothing more than an image on a screen or a celebrity seen from a distance how can an individual know the intimate relationship pictured by the notion of a shepherd? After all, our word "pastor" simply means shepherd. To borrow an image from Lyn Anderson, the shepherd must smell like sheep otherwise he's probably not a shepherd.

Paul makes a startling statement in 2 Corinthians 2:15-17,
"In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation - an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility, Is anyone competent to take it on? No - but at least we don't take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can." (The Message)

So many things to consider here but I will restrict my thoughts to one question, if the pastor is so far removed that the people he serves cannot smell the aroma of Christ in his life is he really pastoring or is he doing something else? You've gotta' be pretty close to someone to smell them.

May 12, 2009

A Few Photos of Fidel's Finished Boats

Sojourner asked if I had any pictures of Fidel's finished product and these are the best I can do. I also included a couple of photos showing the pescadores at work. Hope you enjoy!

May 11, 2009

About the Photo

On a beautiful July day we stopped in Irapa, Venezuela to visit with a friend I had made the previous year. Fidel the boat builder is a fourth generation boat builder and is a remarkable man. The boat you see pictured here is nearing the end of its production which, from start to finish, takes about three weeks. Fidel builds these 36 foot vessels from materials gathered from local forests and shaped into useful form on sight at his boat building hut. This is made all the more incredible by the simple fact that almost all of the work is done with simple hand tools; an axe, a hand saw, a hand planer, hammer, and generations of know how combined to efficiently build these works of beauty.

Fidel supplies the local fishing fleet with the boats they need to keep the fish coming in and there always seems to be a fisherman showing off his latest and greatest catch to Fidel. On the nearby beach a line of boats stand ready to go. All are brightly painted and proudly cared for. I was invited by one of the pescadores (fishermen) to go out with him. Alas, my schedule would not allow such an outing this time. Perhaps another day.

Each time I have been near Irapa, I have insisted upon stopping by to speak to Fidel. It is my hope and prayer that he will one day come to know the Savior. I have spoken with Fidel about Jesus and have left copies of the New Testament for him and for his employees. I keep praying that the simple seeds of the gospel planted in his life will grow and produce a harvest of righteousness for God's kingdom. Would you take a moment today and pray for Fidel? And if you happen to be near Irapa, be sure to stop by and visit. You'll be glad you did.