Friday, July 06, 2012

Reading Through A Pastor's Stories

One of my husband's congregants and our good friend, Sherri Burgher, gave him a book she thought he might enjoy.  It was added to the mile-high stack of books he hopes to read one day.  This week, he came across the book and tossed it to me with  a "You might enjoy this."

And, boy, did I!  Stories I Couldn't Tell While I Was A Pastor by Bruce McIver had me crying both with empathy and from laughing so hard my stomach hurt as he recounts episodes from his time as pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas from 1958 to 1988.

Growing up in what was, at the time, one of Louisville's larger Baptist churches and serving on staff there for a few years, I recognized many of the people about whom he writes.  Sure, they went by different names in Dallas, but I knew these people!  Any one in ministry will tell you, certain personalities exist in every church of every denomination and size - the good, the bad and the ... well, you know. As a pastor's wife now, I read the stories on the page while also reading the stories I knew were there between the lines!

This little snippet had me picturing the Daisy Nells in my home church:
Daisy Nell didn't intentionally try to disrupt a worship service or any other gathering for that matter; she just couldn't help it.  She was the kind of person whom you heard approaching, who filled the room when she arrived, and whose dust you saw when she left.
She was loud, boisterous, and loved a good argument.  The subject of debate really didn't seem to matter to her.  Among her specialties, however, were the new church budget, taxes, relatives, Paul's missionary journeys, the price of groceries, and the length of hair worn by a church staff member.  She would talk as long as anyone listened on any of these matters.  I'm convinced that the Daisy Nells of life are sent to keep pastor's humble, other staff members nervous, ushers hopping, and Sunday school teachers intimidated. . . Every new staff member, sooner or later, was initiated into the real world of ministry through an encounter with Daisy Nell.
If you have every been involved in church work, you will relate to these stories and find yourself teary-eyed at the poignancy of ministry one moment and chuckling at the hilarity of it the next.  Especially if Daisy Nell wants to show you her scar. . .

Sunday, July 01, 2012

My Father's Gifts

I am usually hesitant to ask the Lord for little things in my life.  I pray for family, friends and associates, my country, and fellow Christians around the world.  I pray for wisdom for our church leaders and for myself in preparing Sunday School material.  I pray for big things.  For upcoming trips, I always pray for traveling mercies and good weather.  I prayed for these things recently when my hubby and I had the blessing of returning to Yellowstone with friends.  On our previous two visits to this unbelievably gorgeous park, I've asked for safety and good weather and the Lord graciously gave us both.  This trip, our family prayed for the usual things and then added a request to see wildlife.  This would be their first visit, so we wanted the couple joining us on the trip to have a wonderful experience.

We were barely five minutes into the Grand Tetons National Park, when we saw two grizzly bears not 30 yards from our car!  At Jenny Lake, we saw a black mink and had several marmots scampering at our feet.  We also caught sight of a western tanager and other colorful birds.  Later that afternoon on our way back to Jackson Hole, we were treated to elk, mule deer, pronghorns, and - a bull moose, the animal my husband had most wanted to see!  All this was before we even stepped foot in Yellowstone!

The blessings were just beginning.  We saw a total of 11 bears, four of which were grizzlies within just yards of our car!  We watched as cow elk grazed with their babies right beside us and heard them communicate with each other.  At incredibly close proximity, we watched a buffalo calf nursing and had the rare opportunity to see a bighorn sheep with two kids.  We stopped where a couple had a telescope on a great grey owl in its nest with babies and they graciously let us take a look.  We were tipped off to a beaver dam and arrived to see the beavers busy cutting plants and carrying them to the dam.  My husband wanted to get a picture of one of them swimming and would later admit he had stopped and prayed for this.  It was like the beaver heard his prayer, because the little animal swam right to him and seemed to stop and pose!

The four of us marveled at the blessings the Lord was bestowing on us and actually stopped to sing the Doxology at one point.  We heard of a mama bear with cubs in the vicinity.  We remarked how wonderful it would be to have an iconic Yellowstone experience like that - just minutes later we saw a black bear with two little cubs playing   on the side of the road and then the trio ambled across the road right in front of our car.  At this point, if a Bengal tiger had appeared in front of us, we wouldn't have been surprised!

The abundance of wildlife we encountered is not proof God is a good God who gives good gifts, that would be true whether we had seen the first animal or not.  What it is proof of is the graciousness of God.  What I learned through this is to appreciate my Father God.   I have experience with sanctification through hardship.  When it comes to learning spiritual lessons, I'm often dense.  The Lord has had to whop me upside the head several times in my life to get my attention.  I treasure the Apostle Paul's incredibly honest statement in Romans, "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do."  On this trip, I learned more about our God, not through His faithful chastening, but through His abundant blessings.  I repeatedly thought of Matthew 7:11:  "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"  The beginning of the model prayer, "Heavenly Father." has a much richer meaning for me now.