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...

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The sun is winning. This afternoon the thick clouds aren't thick enough to mask the heat of the sun and this heat is thawing this little valley. As I write, the icicles from my roof are beginning to run free, and I'm hearing snow slough off the roof. The sidewalks, having been cleared occasionally during this past storm, and already dry. Winter is dying. Yes, the ground is still covered with nearly a foot of what's become a dying slushy, but the trees are free again, and soon all will be free.

My heart has melted too, overcoming the deep freeze of indifference and despondency that sometimes grips me. I hope I learn from these kinds of moments; I think I do. This time around, as I gain a grip on hope once again, pack my bags, and turn my heart towards my calling back in Seattle, I take away at least three lessons from the dark night of the soul.

1. the same Bible that pushed me in, led me out. I know my convictions about most parts of the Bible, and hold them firmly, with courage and humility. But there are some parts that still mystify me because they're veiled enough, and obtuse enough, that one can read six scholars and get six different views. In my weariness of this past week, I found myself weary of the certitude scholars proclaim about things which can't be 'certainly' known. The date Joel was written is open for debate, as is the dating of many events he sees in the future. And though there's precious little evidence to grant certitude, everyone seems to have it. This bothers me; bothered me enough this past week that I was upset, both with the obtuseness of scripture and the arrogance of people who claim to get it.

Still, I read. This morning, I read Psalm 106, and this passage leaves very little room for guesswork, either in it's historical interpretation or personal application. "They quickly forgot His works" - Yes, that's me. God does amazing things as our church gathers to celebrate the resurrection. Lives are changed. Challenges accepted. Hearts healed. But 48 hours later, all I can see is that God should have spilled out the historical context of Joel better so that arrogant scholars wouldn't pretend to know stuff when they're really just guessing. I'm a fool! Like Israel, I easily forgot all the things God did, allowing His obvious work in the big things to be covered with the ice of my cynicism regarding a small epistemological issue.

2. Still reading the Bible, "they craved intensely" in the wilderness. I'm reminded this morning, that my appetites for technology, for comfort, for carrot juice, for good coffee, are just appetites. Let them control my contentment level when they're denied, and I'm setting myself up for a life of grumblings, always waiting to live fully because I think fullness depends on satisfied appetites. I fell into that this week, and the Bible reminded me this morning of that danger.

3. Romans 1:12 speaks of the mystery that two people can both feel as if they receive more than they give, as they find themselves encouraged, each by the other's faith. I know this happens on missions trips, when I feel that friends in Nepal or Central America, or Europe give me so much more than I give them. But a memorable moment was mine last night when I read the comments from my previous post this morning. I was deeply touched by all of them, but particularly the last one - touched, encouraged, and convicted. Yes Michael - one is enough. Thanks so much for melting my heart with your encouraging words.

Nothing's changed really; pirates still steal ship, not just because they're pirates, but because they're trapped in poverty. Children still die. Scholars still pontificate with confidence about things they really don't know. But for me, I'm back in the sunshine, and the deep freeze of discouragement where I'd been stuck for a few days is nearly thawed completely. I'm grateful.

One of my take aways from this: I need to keep reading my Bible. The fact that my Psalms reading pattern brought me to 106 this morning was deeply encouraging. I needed to hear it.
I pray and hope that I'll continue to show up... looking for God in creation, His word, and fellowship, because revelation is like sunlight - life giving, thawing, healing.


At 17/4/09 09:23, Anonymous Andrew said...


Thanks for sharing your struggles and your thoughts of working through it. It is comforting to know that even your pastor sometimes struggles with the same things what I think I shouldn't struggle with.

At 26/4/09 20:24, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read the comment on that last post- it brought tears to my eyes :) I'm so glad that there are others in the congregation who are so blessed at encouraging you. I wish I had an ounce of the wordsmithing Michael has so that I could more appropriately echo his sentiment. I sat up in the balcony today, as you did, during the baptisms, and cried right through them- it was touching to see you get a little choked up, too (or at least I think you did). I hope that all of those wonderful baptisms were an encouragement to you as well. I was reminded this morning to be more diligent about praying for you and the rest of the staff- I hope that is also an encouragement to you and Phil and the others who have touched so many lives ;)


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