Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too bad it wasn't yesterday

The weather man says today the temperature will hit a balmy 71 degrees. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

I imagine by the end of today what’s left of our snow piles will be gone. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

Probably all vestiges of “Blizzard 2011” from a couple of weeks ago will be a memory. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

Why all of this “too bad all of this wasn’t yesterday” talk?

Well, yesterday morning when taking out my trash and collecting my mail, I noticed that one patch of ice remained at the end of my driveway. One last, grey, melting stretch of winter was lying there. Lying there in wait to slip up one last victim, it turns out. The ice patch (as if it had a sick and crazed mind of its own) was holding out for one more dupe.

It found one.

I clearly noticed the icy place. I even thought to myself, “Remember Rob, you’re wearing your slippery black shoes. Be careful of the ice.” Still, I wanted to get the mail and to do so would mean stepping on the icy area. I carefully maneuvered around the ice to get to the mailbox. I tippy-toed on all the places that looked dry and ice free. I grabbed the mail and noticed that Ben had a birthday card from a nice lady in the church; I think there was a bill in there from a doctor’s office and some advertisements from the grocery stores. “Oh, Price Chopper has some good deals this week!”

For a brief moment, I forgot about the remaining, evil ice patch.

That’s all it took.

My slippery black shoes hit the ice and like a boy in the love for the first time I was “head over heels”.

I fell.



Today I have a sore hip to prove that this winter was an icy, yucky season of coldness. I wish trash days were Thursday instead of Wednesday because this morning the ice is gone. But they are not. Trash day is Wednesday, and on Wednesday there was ice. And I fell. Did I already write the word “Ouch”?

Isn’t that the way of temptation and sin? We might know that there are trouble spots ahead; we might even try to maneuver around them; and we might even be successful for a while. But when we get distracted, or forget, or simply stop trying and stop looking to Christ for our help—that’s when we slip up in life. And that’s when we fall. Then afterwards, we wish we hadn’t fallen. But we did. We have the bruises that verify our actions.

Paul offers this warning to us in 1 Corinthians: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

I know a lot of folks who look back on their yesterdays and wish they hadn’t happened. They remember slipping and falling on things a lot more serious than a patch of ice. The ensuing pain and agony was much deeper for them and their family than my little bruise.

So be careful. Oh―not be careful of the ice―it’s gone. Be careful of the snares the Enemy has placed in front of you to trip you up. Be careful of those places where you know you are weak. But most of all, keep your eyes on Christ. Don’t get distracted. He can help you to withstand any temptation and keep you standing firm!

My Prayer Request

I was asked this week to give some people a list of my prayer requests. This was my response to the request.

I was humbled to learn that some folks in the congregation want to pray and fast for me for the next 40 days.
I am thankful for this sacrifice of their time and their willingness to go before our Heavenly Father on my behalf.

I was also asked to make a list of some of my prayer requests…and I thought I could jot down a few items on the sheet of paper and send them along. My medical chart seems to be growing by the week―that alone could keep these good folks praying for 40 days. I have two teenage sons (another 40 days); a wife tired of the health concerns of her husband (40 more); etc….
But are those my most pressing needs?

The more time I thought about this― (Wasn’t this supposed to be a few scribbles on a note pad? It is quickly beginning to rival War and Peace.)―the more I realized that my most pressing need is not my health or even my family. Not even close.

If I am going to continue to lead a great church like Central, if I want to be the best husband and dad that I can possibly be for Karla and the boys, then here is my request:

I want to be closer to God. I want to hunger and thirst for Him. I want to crave the word of God. I want to covet spending time with Him. I want to see things as God sees them. I want to have my heart break when I see someone hurting or broken or troubled. I want to have a deeper passion for the lost. I want to better notice the lonely. I want to see the disabled through new eyes. I want to have the same urgency to pray for the confused teenager as I seem to have to pray for an oversized kidney stone.

So that’s my list…
Yes, I have health issues.
Yes, I want my marriage to be a God- honoring and growing relationship.
Yes, my boys are constantly on my mind to make good choices.
Of course, I would love it if the church worries were never a worry.
Certainly, I pray that our brand new newlywed class would grow and for those couples to get rooted early in their married years to Christ.
No doubt I need help in all the other pastoral duties that I carry—providing vision for a church, managing a pastoral staff, putting together sermons, counseling individuals, managing a church budget in a tough economy, on and on I could go…

But what I really need, what I must have—I want the Holy Spirit to be so consuming of who that I am―that when I speak or act or lead or am at a doctor’s appointment or a school conference or the check-out line at Wal-Mart―that the people I encounter will see Jesus in me. Always. Only. Jesus.

Pastor Rob

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Prepared for "Snowtorious B.I.G." and other things

When I was a boy… (Uh Oh here it comes… just writing those five simple words, “When I was a boy” instantly makes me sound like my dad. In the Bob Prince sound-a-like competition, the question now becomes “What will follow those five fateful words?” Will I write about working at the age of eight hitching up the ice man’s horses, eating mayonnaise sandwiches—no meat, just mayo and bread, or shoveling mountains of snow? This week it’s all about the snow, of course). So “when I was a boy” in the Great White North (a.k.a. Michigan), we would have laughed at the euphemisms for our recent slight dusting of snow. Seriously, do we have to refer to this week’s event as “Snowpocalypse”, “Snowmegeddon” or (as hip hop fans have been referring to it) “Snowtorious B.I.G.”? Back in the day, we had snow waist high (neck high to toddlers). We went to school even if there was a snowflake or two on the driveway. There were no snow blowers. We had shovels the size of teaspoons. Yet, we shoveled our walks and our neighbor’s walks, too. And we didn’t (I repeat did not) name the blizzards as if the world was coming to an end. (I think my dad is smiling in heaven right now and telling St. Peter how I’m a “chip off the ol’ block”. Peter probably doesn’t understand the cliché.)

I don’t know if you happened upon a grocery store on Monday night with the impending doom of “Blizzardopoly” on the horizon, but people were flooding my local Price Chopper like there would never be food in the Northern Hemisphere again. I walked into the grocery store to get medicine for our sick puppy… (That’s not another name for Ben. Our dog has been acting strange lately and the vet suggested we give her a baby aspirin or two.) When I walked into Price Chopper, I noticed that every shopping cart was in use. Every single one. Now I didn’t need a cart since my only purchase was Maggy’s baby aspirin. Still, the notion that every single cart was gone indicated to me that maybe the apocalypse had come.

I started to hum the song “And you were left behind” from the old Christian film A Thief in the Night. I wondered if maybe I should buy the last can of Spam on the shelf (then I remembered I don’t like Spam… sorry Pastor Tim). I ran a mental check list of needed supplies. Do we have enough batteries for our flashlights? Do we have any flashlights? Will we starve if we are snowed in for the next 24 hours (if not days)? Will we be able to see our food if we don’t have any flashlights?

I decided all of this was just plain silly. And while standing with my aspirin in the checkout line that reached Manitoba, (OK it didn’t go that far, but it was winding its way into the frozen food section) I thought how glad I am that I am prepared. And when I write “prepared” I’m not referring to “Snowzilla”. Instead I am so thankful that I am ultimately prepared for “come what may”. I have Christ Jesus as my Savior. I know that should my life end today, I will be at home with Him. My eternal accommodations have been made. My future is secure. I am thankful for the truth of Romans 10, where Paul writes: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

So, if this week’s 15 inches of the white fluffy stuff really were “Snowathon 2011”, then my cupboards might not have been totally prepared. But on a much more important matter, I am so glad to report that my heart is prepared! Thanks be to God! And my question for you is: Are you prepared?