I look forward to preaching this summer on the theme of “What’s God Saying ?” We’re going to take a look on Sunday mornings at several word-pictures used frequently throughout the Bible story and ask ourselves, “What’s God saying …
with bread ?
with shepherds and sheep ?
with wind ?
with fire ?
with seeds ?
with rocks ?
with trees ?
with fire ?
with light ?”
What does God intend to communicate through these images ? He is a powerful communicator. Many times we look right past these word-pictures as we read our Bibles and rarely, I think, do we ask what they consistently communicate as He uses and re-uses them throughout the pages of His story.
I hope you will join us on Sunday mornings, and I ask that you pray for me as I, too, try to listen and discern what God is saying.
We were traveling on the interstate last week, coming back from college graduation for my daughter Annie, when a small bird unexpectedly hit our windshield, lodging its little neck right in the crux of the windshield wiper on the passenger side, and died immediately. What do you do with a dead bird stuck in your windshield wiper while traveling along a crowded highway at 70+ mph ? Much to the angst of my passengers, my first instinct was to turn on the wipers to see if I could dislodge it. It didn’t work, and thankfully I didn’t create a real mess on my windshield !
Evan, who was riding in the passenger seat at the time, ever curious, peered forward and said : “Looks like now’s a good time to observe a bird,” and began taking note of the different features of this little creation of God.
I hope this summer will be a good time for us to observe some of God’s prettier – but challenging – pictures in the Bible.
An Ordinary Life
I finally finished reading the short book I started not long after Diana left us to go to heaven. I’ve been telling some of you how good – and challenging – it has been for me. It’s called A Grace Disguised : How the Soul Grows Through Loss. In it, the author recounts his own experience as he recovered from an automobile accident that claimed the life of his wife, his mother, and one of his daughters.
At the end of the book, three years after the accident, he writes that mixed into the pain of his loss has also been a new sense of simply being alive and living an ordinary life.
As I read that passage, I wondered what an “ordinary” life might look like for me.
Nothing really seems ordinary or normal to me now. I know several significant changes have occurred within me :
I know I’m not the “answer man.” Some people approach a pastor as if he should have an answer to every question and should be able to arbitrate every conflict. At times in the past, I tricked myself into thinking I did have most of the answers. I know now that’s not true. I don’t have all the answers to your situation ; I don’t have answers to many of my own questions. What I do know – and am experiencing as a reality – is that we don’t live by explanations and answers ; we live by promises. God’s promises are profound and, seemingly, endless. When He says His mercies are new every morning, that seems to be really true. When Jesus said not to worry because your Father in heaven knows what you need … well, I’m finding that to be true too. (I had thought for so long it was really up to me to know what I needed.) I’ve come to like this quote from Elisabeth Elliot : “If it’s time to work, get on with your job. If it’s time to go to bed, go to sleep in peace. Let the Lord of the universe do the worrying.”
I know I’m not the “rescue man” any more. I wasn’t able to rescue Diana. I have a hard time seeing how I will even rescue my own family out of the predicament we find ourselves in. I do know, as I shared at a funeral this week —
The Lord is present in sorrow and in fear (John 14:1).
The Lord is preparing a place for those who love Him (John 14:2).
The Lord is coming back for us (John 14:3).
The Lord will lead those who love Him and are willing to follow Him (John 14:4-6).
I know I need some new dreams, in addition to those parts of the old dreams I can still strive toward. Someone asked me the other night, “What is the one question you have that sticks out above all others ?” It was a great thing to ask, and I had to think about it for a while. Then it dawned on me : The most pressing question for me is not, “Where is Diana ?” or “Why did God take her ?” or “Why do bad things happen to God’s people ?” It’s “What am I going to do with the rest of my life ? How can I manage these two more-than-full-time jobs that have collided in my life : being a single parent to nine children, … and ministry ?” If I were to reach deep down inside, I would say that if I ever heal up fully and have what seems like a normal amount of zeal for life, my simple desires would be these : preach, teach, and disciple men. … And maybe, one day, to serve the Lord again in France, who knows ? I’m praying, at least, about a small group of men I might have the opportunity to lead in discipleship … and who might, in turn, be prayer supporters for me.
Preach, teach, and allow God to use my experience to help and bless others. That’s all I really want. Would that be an ordinary life ? I think it might. Would you pray with me for God’s clear leading ? Thank you.
The words of Columbia International University’s Alma Mater, sung at the commencement exercises Annie was a part of last weekend, seem for me to sum up these sentiments. I hope you’ll read through the words slowly. They were written in 1927 and are a little sappy, … but nevertheless true !
Columbia, Alma Mater, thy name we would adorn,
With filial devotion of veneration born.
In land of golden jasmine and fair magnolia white,
Thy towers are pointing upward toward God and Heaven and light.
(I need to be mindful of those things that are pointing upward to God, don’t you ? Much in life is pointing to God, if we will only look and listen.)
Of rare and costly marble, thy walls were never reared ;
But sons and daughters faithful to whom His grace appeared,
Have ever been thy bulwark, thy rare adornment too,
Columbia, Columbia, our Alma Mater true !
(The Lord’s work is not built on money and marble, but on lives ! What a privilege to join with others like you who are giving their all to rear the walls and ceiling and beauty of God’s work on earth !)
The vision thou hast given of truth and human need
Inspires us all to service to sow the precious seed.
May we in consecration to Jesus Christ alone
Fulfill thy sacred purpose : “To know and make Him known.”
(There’s our purpose, isn’t it : to know Him and to make Him known to others. Will you join me in that “ordinary” life ?)