Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Never what you expected...

The convergence of studying Acts 3 and moving my mom into assisted living in Fresno this week has been a powerful reminder that life usually unfolds in ways that are different than our expectations. In Acts 3, the lame guy just wants a hand-out, but Peter has much more in mind; not a hand-out, but healing; not just walking, but worshiping; not just an encounter with Peter, but an encounter with Christ.

So this week, all I've wanted to do is move furniture, sell stuff on craigslist, buy other stuff for mom's new situation, and get on with life. Instead, God breaks through and reminds me, time and again, of His faithfulness in my life, and how He's been writing a story on my heart for such a long time. For example:

1. last night, in going through one of the many boxes that are filled with papers in need of sorting, I found a letter from me to mom, February 1976. It was the letter where I told her I thought God might be calling me to leave architecture school in preparation for a calling in ministry. "As much as I love creating, and designing, and buildings, I can't imagine spending my life investing in these things when I could be investing in people's lives more directly through ministry". There it was, in my own hand, and I mark the moment: "thanks for the reminder God, that you were clearly speaking back then - help me to keep listening."

2. sorting through a bookshelf, I found the biography of Henrietta Mears, the woman who began Forest Home. I speak at Forest Home, and every time I do, I'm reminded that I'm standing in the same place where Billy Graham preached to college students, and found his calling as an evangelist. As I paged through the story of her life, I saw a picture of her standing on the very stage where I preach, and another picture of her with Billy Graham, and I am reminded of how 'great a cloud of witnesses' has gone before, and what an awesome, amazing, privilege it is for me to stand where these giants have stood. I'm reminded that the torch is in my hands, in our hands at this moment in history. I pray to be found faithful.

3. I find my mom's Bible, and her parent's Bible, and eventually even a giant 'family Bible' from about the 1870, and I realize that I've been adopted into a powerful heritage of faith - generations of people who walked with God, as farmers and carpenters, working in the oil fields and the peach trees, teachers and bakers. I found gratitude to have 'found my way' to such a family.

There's much more happening that's less profound: details that are giving me headaches, backaches, and weariness. But in the midst of it all, reminders of how God's hand has been on my life make me grateful, humbled, and intent to keep the faith, however haltingly, for another generation, because someday my great grandchildren might find my Bible, see my picture, and be challenged to press on.

This isn't what I expected by being here this week - but it's what I've got, and I'm glad.



At 28/1/09 11:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bitter and sweet, spirit and flesh, past and future. I think we are always poised on the rim of tension between these dichotomies, but we can only see it clearly in our times of greatest need. May your needs (and your mom's needs) be divinely filled this week, Richard. I am thankful that beauty is still there for you in the middle of very painful work. Carvers are praying!

At 1/2/09 14:09, Blogger Jody said...

Great verses to complement these great thoughts:

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103: 17,18

At 1/2/09 23:36, Blogger Malia Drennan said...

Just wanted to say I was at church this morning...and was truly overwhelmed by your words, your rawness and your wisdom. During communion today I was looking down at you from the balcony (sounds creepy now that i type it!) and I just thought here is this man trying to reach and speak to 2000 people. what a tremendous challenge! Where do you even start and begin? And how do you share Jesus with these people? And i truly do it so beautifully Richard just by sharing yourself, your heart and your weaknesses. I can see with my own eyes that the church is growing so rapidly! Do not feel overwhelmed or burdened but overjoyed that the Lord is truly moving...and the Lord is blessing people through your humility and vulnerability. What you spoke on today reminded me of two books I am currently reading for my masters program...Globalization, Spirituality and Justice by Daniel Groody and then EVerything Must change by Brian McLaren. check them out if you get the chance...and thank you Richard for the way you have touched my life and so many others!

At 2/2/09 10:22, Blogger Joanie said...

Emotions are running wildly through me... Not only regarding your mother, what you've been going through (and being blessed beyond measure by what you've shared), but also our own life situations and Jesus.

Your recent messages are even more anointed than usual and I find myself trying to drink in from the fire hose of wisdom, love, humility and grace that has been sent my way...

Peace, my friend, and may He continue to speak to your heart, mind and spirit! Eagerly looking forward to what He will say each Sunday through you and how He prepares me for what is next ~ and learning and growing in the midst of it all.

At 4/2/09 23:21, Blogger Unknown said...

beautiful. Thanks for sharing. What a great remember the legacy. I love it when I notice that prayers prayed 10 years ago are coming to be answered (usually with the aid of reading old journals)

I think I often think Jesus as an insta-savior...present only in what I can remember...but He holds the whole story in His hands and molds it so beautifully.


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