Monthly Archives: February 2010

Without Comment (Mostly)

There is no right way to do a wrong thing.

I Found myself reviewing one of my journals and came across this quote. I’m not sure to whom it should be attributed, but it is still as true and meaningful as it was when I captured it ten years ago.

I also found this quote I recorded from Mid-Course Correction by Gordon MacDonald,

There are some awesome consequences whenever we make stupid attempts to help God out in fulfilling his promises


Promises and Waiting – A Story

Sometimes God will use the emptiness of false hope to bring to light His true hope.

This is one of my “pastor” memories. A true story. Just the name and a location point changed. Seems appropriate to remember as so many seem to be in a season of “waiting”.

Years ago (Pleistocene era), when I was a budding youth pastor, working with Junior High students, I met Donny. Donny was a bright fun-loving twelve-year-old who was a bit small for his age, well liked by our staff and all the other students, and, quite lonely. He, and his mom, came some distance to our church so he wasn’t as connected as he wanted, but several staff made the commitment to get him to youth group despite the long drive. Donny’s parents parents were recently divorced and his mom was trying to make it with little money earned at a lower wage job. Her ex-husband, Donny’s dad, was an alcoholic who had driven the family into debt, continued to spend money profusely, failing in his support payments, and and promised the world to his son.

Like most kids his age, Donny didn’t understand everything going on. He missed his dad. He loved his mom. He just knew that if he could just spend time with his dad the world would be right. And if his mom would just trust his dad more they would get back together and happy times would come. But mostly, he missed his dad and wanted to spend time with him. And his dad promised that they would have some great times even as soon as whatever excuse he had for that week was gone. So Donny talked about his dad a lot, the things they would be doing, where they were going, how cool his dad was, and how happy his mom was going to be when they all got back together.

The Junior High winter camp was coming up and Donny was pretty pumped about it. He’d never been away with friends like that overnight – and in the mountains, with snow! We arranged financial help for him. One of the staff was going to pick him up so mom wouldn’t have to take time off her shift. We easily found a sleeping bag and warm jacket for him to borrow. Donny was really excited! He must have called one of the leaders three or four times a day with questions. I think every student and leader was almost as excited as Donny about Donny going to camp.

And then Donny called the night before and cancelled. His father had called. “I’m taking you fishing this weekend buddy! I’ve got spaces on the boat reserved. Pack a bag because we’ll hang out for a few days and have some fun. Just you and me buddy. Tell your mom to have you out waiting early tomorrow. Yep, we’re gonna have a great time.” 

So Donny missed camp … and waited on the curb for his dad to come pick him up on Friday morning.

And he was waiting there until well after dark. A call. “Sorry buddy, I had something to do, but I’ll be there tomorrow. Promise”

Donny didn’t know about alcoholics; that some people don’t keep promises – don’t even remember that they made one. So he waited again on Saturday. All day. His mom said he had his little bag and proudly told anyone who walked by he was going fishing with his dad. He was so excited he didn’t even take time eat. Didn’t want to miss when his dad came. Another phone call late. “Sorry buddy…”.

So Donny waited the next day. Another call. “Tomorrow buddy. I’m taking a couple of extra days off for the holidays.”

Meanwhile, we had a great winter camp. Of course, everyone wanted to know where Donny was; but they were pleased that he was spending time with his dad. When I called on Wednesday to see how his weekend had gone Donny’s mom tearfully told me the story, along with the conclusion.

Monday, Donny waited again, but only until noon. Another call.

Tuesday, he didn’t even go outside.

Wednesday, I had the opportunity to talk with Donny about his disappointment and hurt; and introduce him to the One who’s promises are always kept, who always comes through – even if you have to wait for a while.

On Friends & Change

Anne Jackson had an insightful post a while back about friendships that change when the circumstances of our lives change. As is usually true with a post, the comments following bring real-life depth and insight to the discussion. Anne’s honesty is always refreshing even if us older pastor-ministry folks don’t always feel comfortable with it. (I have a daughter like that too. And a couple of other young friends).

As someone in the midst of an ongoing significant change of circumstances, it has been interesting to see how friendships are affected, how I am affected by that. I wonder how much harder it will be if we ultimately move out of the community, not just out of the church.

But I do know that every friend is a valuable gift for however long God allows.

Finding Signs of God’s Presence

This morning I tweeted. No surprise there.

Preparing for a solo morning in downtown Glasgow … freezing fog, grey, dreary. Will look for signs of God’s presence in a dreary day.

I had just completed my daily Bible reading and journaling and was heading off to downtown Glasgow. Linda chose to remain in the warmth of our room at the guest house so I was heading out into a deeply dreary morning, the fog was quite dense, and everyone walking by outside was bundled up like Eskimos (or Glaswegians, which of course, they are). Anyway, I was hoping to be observant enough to find something of God’s joyous presence in the midst of the grey (have I mentioned how much I really dislike grey – especially in February?).P1030506

A short walk brought me to Kelvinbridge station for the underground. A handful of people were waiting to board, none looking at anyone else or talking. The only noise was the building rush of air announcing the soon arrival of the still unseen train. Ah, a metaphor for the movement of God’s Spirit! Maybe we won’t see what God is doing all the time, but … OK. I found something of a sign of God.

At Buchanan Street Station, I joined the majority of people in disembarking. Having shared a few moments together on a train, we now went our various ways, some moving with purpose to their employment, some excited about shopping, and some, like me, with no real agenda. Directly behind me was a church with a sign announcing a 30 minute service on Wednesdays for workers on their lunch break. The doors were open, and inside this rather bland looking building was a light, airy, welcoming interior. Three volunteers welcomed me warmly and allowed me to look around. The small book shop was filled with solid volumes of theology and excellent commentaries. Their vision was to be a light house to the lost of the city. I almost wanted to return a few hours later to experience their 30 minute service. All in all, it seemed that they were a light in the grey.

P1030502 I finally found my way to Princes Place, a unique shopping center inside a very old looking building. For those from Seattle, its similar to Pacific Place only a bit smaller, in a much older facade. Walking to the top floor I noticed a young girl, maybe five or six years old. She was sitting with her brother on open floor which serves as a performance platform for seasonal events and concerts. As I watched she shoo’d her brother off to her mother seated at a nearby cafe and immediately she took a ballet pose, taking care to put her arms in special places, and moved her feet around a couple times. Then she began to dance. She lost the ballet form quickly, but it didn’t really matter. She ran across the floor moving her arms in the air. She twirled brilliantly, and often. There may have been a jump or two. The music was in her head and I’m sure she was keeping perfect time. And in her mind there must have been P1030505crowds watching rather than her distracted mother and a lone American three floors up. Finally, after dancing her heart out she stopped, took her ballet pose again for several seconds, then with all the humility of a child, she bowed with a flourish, pumped her arms in the air and ran to her mother saying something like “did you see me?” And I had another reminder of God (Jesus did say a few things about children and the kingdom of God). This little one just danced for the pleasure of dancing. It didn’t matter that no one watched, that it was dark outside, or cold, or that she didn’t do everything perfect. She just danced.

And as I walked outside, the sun burst out almost as brilliant as it had been dreary minutes before. I’d like to think that it was because a little girl danced without concern and brought joy to an man’s heart as he watched. God is often in the little things.

Repurposed Church

I’ve written before on some thoughts I had upon considering the church in Scotland. I’ve now been to Glasgow 4 times in five years and each time, I have noticed a large number of mostly very old church buildings in the area surrounding my daughter’s flat which is near theAlong the Kelvin (11) University. I don’t get all the ins and outs of the Church of Scotland, nor many of the other churches I’ve come across, and I’ve been a bit lax in reading my Scottish church history. But I have found that many of these churches that once proclaimed the message Jesus have “gone out of business”. I’m told, in fact, that one of the “cool trends” in real estate and business is to find and purchase an empty church building and repurpose it into something "worthwhile”. This former church in the heart of the district has been re-“anointed” as a nightclub. I guess it gives new meaning to being filled with the spirits. Several others are now restaurants. I came across one that is now an office complex.

If I didn’t know about a growing movement of the Spirit of God in Scotland, it would probably be quite discouraging to consider this ongoing re-purposing of space formerly devoted to God. I wrote back in January 2007:

As I reflect on the state of affairs in Scotland, I wonder about the state of the church here in the U.S.A. Could we come to the same place 20 years from now? I’m not a prophet so I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that the true Saints of Scotland past would be surprised by the lack of faith today, so I have to believe that it could happen here too.

What I can do is pray that the church where I serve today would remain faithful to Jesus and the Word of God well after I am gone. I can also seek to do what I can do to encourage the young leaders to “guard the good deposit entrusted” to them (2 Timothy 1:14).

Making Herds Disappear

On our jaunt to the Scottish Highlands this weekend we heard the story of a highland clan that had the ability to make their herd of sheep disappear whenever they were raided by other clans or the hated English. Apparently these disappearances were common enough and frustrating enough that they took on the feel of legend with the powers becoming magical and  growing with each telling of the story.

Hidden Valley 1But like most legends the reality was a bit less than magical. There is a valley hidden high in the crags that is accessible only by a narrow track that is also somewhat hidden from view. From below it appears to be just a saddle in the crags, but (I’m told since I did not actually hike it) there is a sizeable hidden valley with everything the flocks and herders might require. As our “guide” told us, they hid the flocks in plain sight for you can see the valley entrance, just not what is behind. the entrance, while not disguised, requires one to imagine what is beyond in order to actually be motivated to climb that high.

I wonder how often we miss some of God’s good things because they are hidden somewhere that doesn’t make sense to us.

Musings on a Hotel Room

Mrs. Random and I are warmly ensconced in room 8 of a guest house in Glasgow (being in Glasgow seems to bring out words like “e nsconced”). It is a nice lodging with a number of notable features including the fact that they located it just one-tenth of a mile from our daughter.

Amenities of said room include a walk up three flights of wonderfully creaky stairs covered in mid 1900’s carpet. Using a decidedly low-tech skeleton key one enters a large (by UK standards) guest room with a bay window sitting area looking out over the river Kelvin, the local skyline of hundreds of flats, several church spires, and the Pewter Pot Pub. The room

comes furnished with unique lighting by bulbs that are especially imported in order to give a jaundiced cast to all in the room when there is no daylight. I believe the mattress is imported as well – they are made with unique coils designed to make themselves individually felt over the course of the night (however, Mrs. Random seems not to have noticed this unique feature).

In one of the upgrades at the end of the last century, a television was mounted upon the wall – carefully placed so that it can be seen from both beds or the sitting area, it is also at head height so one cannot miss caressing its corner with one’s head on a regular basis. the TV unit has stylishly rounded corners so that these times of loving contact draw no blood.

This unit is one of 4 with ensuite bath. The unique, smaller-than-cruise ship size shower is equipped with instant hot water and low flow spray unit, and an amazing drain that is designed to keep run off from entering the city sewer lines too quickly. The same yellow lights make for adventure in makeup (not that I wear any of course).

Yet, we rejoice that God has allowed us funds and time to visit Glasgow, our daughter, and her friends. We have found that there are more important things than the best hotel rooms. Or even the most comfortable bed. Family & friends, connected by God, reflecting on his work in our lives, just loving on one another wherever we are, makes all the difference.