Friday, February 15, 2008

Patience - A Virtue and a Necessity

This is my car - a 1991 BMW 325i. When I bought it, I had intentions of it just being a beater car, cheap but dependable transportation. The more I've messed with it, tho, I've found out that the two owners before me took pretty good care of it. So while I wouldn't give it classic status, it really doesn't look bad. It drives like a dream (goes way too fast and corners like a Porsche), and will be the closest that this preacher ever comes to driving a luxury sports car. It was a steal for what I paid for it, and still a steal even considering the money (a little over a $1000) I've put in it to restore it. Much cheaper than car payments in this day and age - all my vehicles are paid for!!!

One of the reasons I bought the car was to tinker with something. It's an old hobby I've always enjoyed (I have a '93 motorcycle too). But, just like any hobby or endeavor, nothing is ever perfect or peachy.

I've got a hesitation problem in the engine, but only when it's warm. So, I've spent about 20 minutes a day trying to eliminate problems one by one. So far, no luck.

I've put in new plugs and plug wires. Replaced the oxygen sensor. Cleaned and tested the idle control valve. Checked and rechecked vacuum lines. Checked the catalytic converter. Sprayed carb cleaner around areas to check for good seals. There are still plenty of other things left to check: air flow meter, thermo-time switch sensor, engine timing, knock retard sensor. I'm praying it's not a bad ECM (computer). Yes, the car's old, but it does have a computer - and they aren't cheap. If I don't have any luck in a few days, I'll give in and go to a real mechanic.

However, I know that, just like me, he'll have to be patient. These problems rarely fix themselves - they need time, examination, and discernment. Sometimes, there is no quick fix (even when you hook up the diagnostics to the computer!). Bet you know where I'm going with this now...

Lenten disciplines call for patience. Hearing what God might be saying to us requires patience. And working with others, in making disciples and doing Kingdom work, requires patience. We humans require some tinkering on occasion.

I found the following prayer for patience. It is a good one - and an honest one:
Gracious God, it’s so hard to wait. To wait for new things to happen in my life. To wait for you to answer my prayers. To wait for the open doors that may lead me into a new way of being. During the time of waiting, it seems that all I can think of is having what it is I am waiting for. At times I feel weary of asking and waiting, and I wonder if you really hear my prayers at all, if you are ignoring me, or if you are simply refusing to give me my heart’s desire. A part of me knows that you want my best, and that your time is not my time, but Lord, it is still so hard to wait. Deepen my trust, O Lord, during the times when my heart longs for what can only come in the fullness of time. Give me a calm assurance that your will for me is grander than anything I could ever imagine. Still my mind and heart in your love so that I am mindful of the grace you are draping around me every single day, every single moment. I ask this for the sake of your love. - ©1999-2007

In the name of the One who is patient with us, even Jesus Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cuz I Got Tired of Seeing It - And It Needed to be Done

This is a picture of a fan belt that has been lying around near the intersection of Calvert Dr. and Reidland Rd. (next to Huck's Convenience Store) since before Thanksgiving. Somehow, between tornadic winds, torrential rains, highway salt trucks, and snow plows, the darned thing just wouldn't go away. I told myself yesterday that if I saw it today, I would pick it up and throw it away. So I did.

I remember reading Kathleen Norris' little book, The Quotidian Mysteries once, about how healing and redeeming it can be to make something clean again. That goes hand and hand with servant ministry, I think. Most of us have associated the image of a towel and basin as the Christian symbol for servant ministry - and particularly in the Lenten Season, a reminder to us of Jesus washing the feel of the disciples.

So now I have one more image of servant ministry: an old fan belt out in the middle of the street that had been out there for four months. I wonder how long we've neglected some of God's children...


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What REALLY Matters

As much as I am a political cynic, it has been difficult not to pay attention to the political happenings of late. Republicans and Democrats alike are divided on candidates. Political pundits find themselves at odds with polls and their readers and listeners. Many Republicans are arguing over the definition of “conservative” (which points to the problem of labels). Some Democrats can’t decide if voting against Sen. Obama means one is racist or voting against Sen. Clinton means one is sexist (again, a problem of labels). The upcoming political conventions do not promise to bring anything other than more divisiveness. Some people are even threatening not to vote. If the polls are correct, our country is very polarized in its opinions and political leanings.

Ya think? (Insert a grin and a “Well, duh!” here).

I think the growing dissatisfaction among Americans is because something is missing in their lives. I share the opinions of others when I say that I think people are missing something to believe in and something to count on. And I believe that something is God.

Most people believe in a Supreme Being. But less than 50% of Americans are churched. The top four reasons, according to research: (1) “What am I going to get out of it?” (2) “Church feels like a clique – I don’t belong and I feel like people really don’t want me there.” (3) “The Church is more interested in my money than me.” (4) “What about my baby and children? Is the Church’s childcare trustworthy?”

Guess what? These aren’t theological or doctrinal reasons – they are practical reasons.

In the weeks to come, we are going to be talking about restructuring our church in the way we program and do business. I want us to center on three things: (1) How can we best make disciples and change lives? (2) How can we transform the community we live in? (3) How can we renew the church?

At the church leadership training day last Sunday, I was reminded of a Latin phrase I haven’t heard since seminary: Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda. That was the phrase of the Protestant Reforma-tion: the Reformed Church must always be reforming. In other words, if we are to be a vital church, we must always be reforming. Change is inevitable in a changing world. What we must be willing to do is constantly remind ourselves: It is not about what we want to do; what does God want us to do?

That might be a good prayer to center on in our Lenten journey: What does God want us to do?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Keeping A Holy Lent

I hope this doesn’t sound strange… but I actually look forward to Lent. It’s a time when we focus our church life around prayer and preparation and discipleship. Not that we don’t do those things all year long, but this season helps us to hone our faith tools for our walk with Christ.

There will be plenty of opportunities in church life to assist in your keeping a holy Lent. Here is a Lenten schedule for Reidland UMC:

Ash Wednesday: Morning Prayer, 9:30, Choir Room
Ash Wednesday Service, 6:30, Church Sanctuary
Each Sunday morning of Lent: Eucharist, 9:15-9:30 AM, Church Sanctuary (except March 2nd)
Each Wednesday Morning: Mid-Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM, Choir Room (coffee follows)

Holy Week

Monday: Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM, Church Sanctuary
Tuesday: Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM, Church Sanctuary
Wednesday: Morning Prayer, 9:30 AM, Church Sanctuary
Holy Thursday: Service of Word, Table, and Servanthood, 6:30 PM, Sanctuary
Good Friday: Service of Tenabrae (Shadows), 6:30 PM, Sanctuary
Holy Saturday: 36-Hour Prayer Vigil, Midnight Fri/Sat thru 6 AM Easter Morning

Easter: First Service: Community Sunrise, 7 AM, Reidland Baptist Church (serves in lieu of the 8:15 service)
Second Service, 10:45 AM, Church Sanctuary

We will be inviting individuals to sign up for 30-minute slots during the 36-hour vigil on Holy Saturday, with a list of church ministries, programs, and sick/infirm/shut-in church members to pray for and about.

Join me in keeping a holy Lent – in the name of Christ.