Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What a Year!

I was reading last week's communication from the Presbytery, and on the calendar it mentioned that the annual consultations for the Committee on Preparation for Ministry would be held this week. Last year, that was me. I flew home from Japan specifically for this meeting, since in another 6 weeks, I'd be leaving Japan to come back to the US. I had been looking a little at Church Information Forms online in an unofficial capacity since until this meeting was completed, I couldn't do so in a formal manner. At my consultation I was asked if I wanted to serve in our presbytery. I said yes, and I was encouraged to hear that although I had not seen many CIFs from churches in our Presbytery that there were quite a few possibilities.
I went back to Japan to serve a crazy 3 weeks of ministry while trying to pack and ship my belongings back to the US, cleaning out my apartment, filling out a bunch of reports for Asian Access and trying to get my Personal Information Form online. The day before I left for our annual spring retreat, I had a two hour break and got my PIF completed. After our retreat I went up to Hokkaido to visit my old church. I hadn't checked email in a couple of weeks.
I checked it the day before flying back to the US. I had gotten a rejection email from some megachurch in Wilmington. I thought, "That's weird, I didn't even send them my stuff, nor would I ever want to work there." So I wasn't at all bothered by this. Then I got an email from our executive presbyter saying, "I hope you don't mind, but I sent your PIF to a bunch of churches in our Presbytery."
Okay, so that's how Wilmington got my stuff. I told him I didn't mind at all. In fact, I was really thankful! It saved me some work.
I flew back to the US and visted my cousins in Washington state whom I hadn't seen in 17 years, although we send pictures and emails. It was fun catching up in person.
Then I flew to California for reentry. During this time I got an email from Grace Presbyterian Church suggesting that we set up a phone meeting! I was totally excited. I had actually looked at Grace's CIF back in August. I had told my mom about it then, but I also told her not to think about it too much.
Well, you can ask the former Grace Pastor Nominating Committee how that first conversation went. Needless to say, it went very well. I was already coming to Morehead for Easter to visit my family, so it worked out quite nicely for me to meet them at that time. I had called some pastor colleagues for input because I knew I didn't want to use Grace for a practice interview! Well, things moved nicely, and I never had to candidate at any other church. I also only had to go without income for one month, which was something I had had my Grow Group in Japan pray for because I was thinking that it might have been more like three months with no income.
So it was totally a God thing to bring us together.
So far the journey has been wonderful, fun, messy, challenging, joyful, stressful, and I love it!

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Thoughts on Sin

In the last post I wrote how God does not want us to beat ourselves up over our sin once we acknowledge and confess it. To do that is to say that Jesus's death was insuffient. But there's also another attitude that we have to avoid, and that is taking sin too lightly. I saw this even in seminary. On occasion, I hear someone say something like, "Ha, ha, so-and-so got drunk last night!" I'd say, "So what did you say to him? Did you ask him why he got drunk? Were you with him?" Person's response: "Everybody messes up; it's no big deal."
Well, yes, everybody messes up, but it's also still a big deal. If you are laugh at sin for the purpose of showing someone how stupid it is to do it, that's one thing, but you'd better be around to hold that person up too. What we should be saying is, "Hey brother/sister, what you did wasn't right, but God forgives you. Is there anything I can do to help you not do that again?" I'm such a screw-up that I have 5 personal accountability partners. I talk to at least one of them at least once a week.
Taking sin too lightly is cheap grace. It also takes away the impetus for complete repentance--to leave the sin behind. Hopefully, as we grow in Christ, repentance becomes easier and more complete because we see the foolishness and stupidity of sin compared to the power and riches of Christ and the disgustingness of our sin compared to the holiness of God. When sin becomes sick and to stupid to you, it's not that hard to walk away.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. A time of reflection on the sacrifice of Christ and a season of repentance. May this Lenten season inaugurate in us a season of repentance in which we fully accept the grace and mercy of God, while pursuing a passion for holiness, which will last well past Easter.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Not-so Random Thoughts on Sin

Hopefully within a week or so, you'll be able to go to our website and listen to some of the sermons preached at Grace. I was listening to last Sundays and first I noticed that my NC accent has really come out after moving back down here! I also hear what I left out. It was so hard for me not to burst out into "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes & the Pride of Life" by the 77's during that message. It was running through my head and was a little distracting. I've been quoting lots of song lyrics lately and thought I'd give the congregation a break from hearing lyrics from obscure songs they've never heard of, although they are quite meaningful to me. But I'll post them here:

Well, I feel like I have to feel something good all of the time
With most of life I cannot deal, but a good feeling I can feel,
Even though it may not be real,
And if a person, place or thing can deliver, I will quiver with delight,
But will it last me for all my life, or just one more lonely night.
The lust, the flesh, the eyes and the pride of life
drain the life right out of me.

Well, I see something and I want it--Bam! Right now!
No questions asked.
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later:
I want it and I want it fast.
I'll go to any length--sacrifice all that I already have and all that I
might get
just to get something more that I don't need,
And Lord, please don't ask me what for.

And I love when folks look right at me and what I'm doing or have
And lay it on about how groovy I am, and that I'm looking grand;
And every single word makes me think I'll live forever, never
that they probably won't remember what they said tomorrow.
Tomorrow I could be dead.
(by Mike Roe)

[Yep, the song is still relevant after all these years! It's over 20 years old, which means I'm getting old!]
But that little chorus is true: sin does drain the life right out of you. Me-centeredness leaves us impoverished. I felt this last week. I made some negative unnecessary comments to someone that encouraged a comaraderie of ill-will (a Bible study leader I know would call it an "alliance"). It didn't take me long after leaving the conversation to be convicted about what I had said. I was also convicted that maybe I had been harboring unforgiveness for a number of years, enough so that I had to write about it in the "Sad and Bad Book".
But even after confessing and repenting, I was still bothered. I have a mutual accountability partner who often beats herself up over her sin. I tell her that God does not want us to that, but here I was doing the same thing. In this case, what I had needed to do was to go beyond taking it to God back to the person with whom I had made the "alliance" and admit my fault to her. That solved the problem. It hasn't bothered me since. James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed."
These are good and true words. They are the answer to having the life drained out of us!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Getting Started

So for a few years now, my friends have been telling me I should blog. I've Although I'm quite active on a couple of message boards, blogging just doesn't appeal to me. Sure, I like reading and commenting on other people's blogs, but honestly, I don't enjoy writing that much. I can do it, but I don't generally enjoy it. I don't even always write full sermon manuscripts.
I've never been into journalling. The only time I ever journal is when I'm seriously depressed or in a quandry about something. I call my journal "The Sad and Bad Book", and when I finally manage to fill one up (it takes several years, which is probably a good thing, seeing as how they are mostly negative), I burn them.
I had a class in seminary that required us to keep 3 different journals. It was torture, and the proof was a B- in the class. Then another semester, every single class I had required journal keeping. Ugh! Fortunately, those journals were more directed writing, so they weren't too bad. In fact, the ones for my Christian Ed. and ethics class (Christianity and the Problem of Racism) were actually enjoyable.
But now I've succumbed to the pressure, I guess! Here is my very own blog. What can you expect? Certainly I will not write everyday, but I will check to keep up with comments. You will NOT be reading the stuff that goes into "The Sad and Bad Book," although I may occasionally rant about something. (That's totally different!) Hopefully I'll be able to podcast some of my sermons from here. (If not, we'll do it on the website.) You'll get a random mixture of seriousness and silliness posted at random intervals. (We'll see how regular they become!)