A Place Called Somber

Somber:  solemn, grave, serious, toned-down, subdued.

These words are all synonyms that I found for the word “somber” when I looked it up in the thesaurus, their were some others that indicated a much more intense meaning, but this subdued list will work for my purposes here.

The line between despair and hope is a very thin and fragile line for me.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:5 & 11 and 43:5

 

Some days I have a really hard time responding to the question posed in this verse, at least in the same way that the psalmist does here. I think that is easy for you (the psalmist) to say, but honestly some days I am just not there, because on many days I find myself on the despair side of that thin, fragile line between despair and hope. Sure I have many days where I am on the hope side of that line as well. My problem lies though in the fact that I indeed spend all or most of my time on one side of that line or the other. Either in a state of despair or a state of hope, the lows of despair can drag me down into a state of utter depression and the highs of hope can to a state of extreme joy. While some may say that is just the way life works, it really does not “work” that well for me at all, these dramatic swings wear me out physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am left so tired that there are days when I can barely function, so I either work at staying in a  state, of despair or hope, because the swing in the other direction in tearing me apart. When I am sad I battle with the idea of staying sad, saying it is just so much easier to stay here than to deal with the extreme swing into hope and joy. On the opposite side, once I am experiencing that state of hope and joy, I almost immediately try to quench it or put it out so that it does not become too high, so that my fall will not be too hard.

So I work really hard at staying on that thin, fragile line between despair and hope, for me it has become a place called somber, a place without highs or lows where I find myself more at peace, more able to cope from moment to moment, from day to day.

Because I know that there will inevitably be times where those swings which cause me so much pain will happen, for that is life. But if  today I seem to be a bit somber to you, know that I am at home, in my place called somber and there I am at peace.

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I looked into her eyes

Do you remember the day that you looked into the eyes of your bride and told her that you would love her forever? After 32 years, I still look into the eyes of my bride and remember that promise, along the way though I have seen a number of different looks in her eyes as she has looked back at me; I have seen anger, and joy, heartache and sorrow, pain and pleasure, wonder and puzzlement, yes even disappointment and despair, sometimes those looks were fleeting and sometimes they seemed to linger much longer than I would have liked. The good I wanted to linger and the bad I hoped would be fleeting. The look that I remember most though is the one from March 15th, 1980. It is the lens through which all the other looks are seen, when I look into her eyes today I still see those eyes that I saw then and I remember the promise that I made to her that day; to love her forever and I do and I will.

Stuck on Jacob’s Ladder

Stuck on Jacob’s Ladder

I at times feel as though I am stuck on a rung of Jacob’s ladder suspended between heaven and earth, life and death.

Out of fear I dare not move.

I am in limbo.

I fear ascending because that means I am being drawn closer to the presence of God, a place I feel unworthy to be.

I fear descending because that means I am being sent further away from that very Presence that I seek , a place that I am not comfortable being.

So I do not move.

I look up and there are those who are waiting to come down.

I look down and there are those who are waiting to come up.

Neither group seems angry or mad, but both seem to be pondering what I am doing. Why is he not moving?

I myself ponder these things and even forget from which direction I came.

Was I up, coming down or was I down, going up?

All I know is that I cannot move.

If I cry for help will anyone hear?

If I cry for help will anyone answer?

Do I go from where I came, or do I go to where I’m going.

All I know is that I just need to get moving one way or the other, so that others can move as well.

Pondering, what to do…

Pondering the Presence and Absence of God

I think that God in greatly anguished by the lack of His presence in the life of people who are suffering. The reason for His anguish I believe is simple, he has set up this world in a manner where His presence is supposed to be self-evident. He has established the Church (the body of Christ) to be His manifest presence in the world today.

It has been my personal experience that many people today, when they hear of someone who is struggling; their pat reply is to say I will pray for them, which by itself is not wrong. It becomes wrong (in my eyes) when they have an opportunity to pray with them in person and choose instead to pray for them from a distance. What this tells me is that people of God are making a conscious decision to withhold God’s presence from people in need. We pray for them, that they will know God’s presence as they go through their struggle, yet by not praying with them or at the very least being with them, we deny them an opportunity to be in His presence (if indeed we believe that His spirit dwells in us and with us).

I for one struggle with this, it seems as though people (not all, but some) in the church have relinquished this role of being presence to paid clergy. We think it is acceptable to not visit the sick or those who are struggling because that is the pastor’s job. I believe that this it is totally unacceptable and I also believe that it is sin (look at Matthew 25:31-46).

With those things being said though I don’t really want to cast blame, I just want to right a wrong; I believe it is wrong for the people of God not to be a presence to people in need. I believe that it is wrong for people to pray for someone when they have the means to pray with them. I believe it is wrong to be absent when we have the means to be presence. By presence I don’t mean that we need to come up with magical words to say, I mean all we have to do is just be there, it is by just being there that we bring God’s presence. A gentle hug, a simple glance, the touch of a hand means more than you will ever know, your very presence says you care, your presence says God is there…

I am writing this to help myself overcome a personal experience that I had with the absence of God recently (not that he wasn’t there), but in the midst of a time of unfathomable pain as my 28 year old son suffered a stroke and my family sat at the hospital devastated by the news and no one from the Church showed up to pray with us, God’s presence was absence when we needed presence.

*I don’t know whether or not I am  mad or bitter, but I do know that for awhile afterward I was extremely hurt, the wound has began to heal but has a long way to go,  my son is striving to recover, with God’s help, we know that he will.  

I just don’t want anyone else to have to experience, what we went through…

*I thought I had peace with this, but I am still struggling …

Pastor Gary Lynch

6/6/12

*To those who may have already read this, the italicized words are edits from my original post on 6/5/12, the words here are more reflective of how I feel. I guess I was trying to soften the blow for others but realized for the sake of my own healing that I needed to speak more to the reality of how things actually are.

Pondering: Eve and Forgiveness

Last night at a prayer meeting we were discussing the topic of forgiveness. More specifically the way men and women remember in regards to forgiveness. I noted that I had done a little research several years ago in relation to the way men and women remember in regards forgiveness. In my research and I don’t remember the source(s). I found that women tended to be able to retain the pain of a specific incident for a longer period of time, and were able to pull up that incident with dead accurate specificity at the drop of a hat, especially in the face of a situation that was very simillar. This dealt more specifically with the marital relationship.
It mostly involved a case where the male had thought that he had been forgiven for a past incident, when he truly/clearly had not been, indeed words of forgiveness had never been spoken, but both parties had simply moved on or past the situation, leaving the specter of forgiveness looming in the air, waiting to drop at the appropriate time.
The solution to the problem seems to be easy enough, in that we just need to deal with these things in an honest and forthright manner. But we are human and by nature very complex. So we do not in all cases do things the simple way. Blame for this I don’t believe falls to a particular party, it is and must be shared, if indeed the deired outcome for both parties is resolution of the matter.
In order for a person to either give or to receive forgiveness, the issue at hand needs to be clearly expressed so that both parties know without a doubt what the true issue really is, the forgiveness being offered has to line up exactly with the forgiveness being received elsewise you do not have true forgiveness.
I have no expectation that these words here will have any kind lasting effect or impact, after all, they are just some my ponderings on the topic.
The hope is I guess; that others to might ponder these things in their own life and relationships.
Back to the title, do you think that Eve asked to be forgiven? Did she receive forgiveness? Did she ever forget what had happened? Did she in her heart blame Adam? or, did she take full responsibilty for what she had done and have an expectation that Adam would do the same?
I sure that other questions about this should/could be asked, but for now I will ponder these, as I ponder the importance and significance of forgiveness for all of us …

Pondering: Bearing Witness about the Light

I am presently preaching through the book of Acts, the last two weeks in chapters 18 and 19 we have had mention of those who had only received the baptism of John. Reflecting on that these last few days has caused me to plan a detour for this Sunday back to the Gospel of John explaining a little more about who John the Baptist (Witness) was and what his ministry was all about and what that should mean to us, especially during the Advent season.

First let us look at John 1:6-8 which I believe gives us both a summary of and the purpose of John’s ministry.

 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (ESV)

 

Witnessing is such an essential part of who we are, it defined John’s ministry and I believe it should define ours as well.

While the witness of the individual is important, more important I believe is the witness of a group of local gathered believers called the Church. We are collectively the Body of Christ in the place where God has placed us (for our church that is the Drexel Gardens Community in Indianapolis, IN.)

I believe that sometimes we send a mixed message to the people around us, who while they have heard of Jesus, they really are not in a place to receive him or the message of the gospel, the condition of their hearts does not allow the message to sink in. We try to give people Jesus who have no clue what it is to receive him. We have people profess a faith in something that they know little or nothing about, not because we haven’t taught them with words, but because we haven’t prepared their hearts to receive him in his fullness.

God  thought that the condition of the heart was so important that he sent John to prepare peoples hearts to believe in Jesus when he did come.

Just maybe we have got this all wrong or at least partially wrong, instead of just telling people about Jesus (which is important) maybe we should invest a little more time in getting to know them and the condition of their hearts.

John’s witness/ministry was about preparing people’s hearts, showing them the need for repentance so that when Jesus came that they would be able to hear and respond to him.

I think we leave this step out sometimes, it is difficult, if not impossible to help/minister to people that you don’t truly know and might I add that don’t know you.

We need to invest time in developing relationships with people, so that we can give them the help that they need, we need to show/witness to the fact that we care about them as people, I believe that it is through  bearing witness in that way, that the light of Christ is allowed to enter into the darkness of their heart.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.”

Pondering …

 

 

 

 

 

Tension Between Gospel and Biblically Driven Mission Models

This is written in response to the following blog:

http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/12/the-mission-of-the-church.html

“It is my hope is that as people debate the mission they might not get distracted from it. On that we can be united.”

My hope to is that we can move past the debate and simply live in the tension between the two. I believe that really is the only way that this will ultimately be productive for the Church.

It is the working together in this tension that a true, strong, lasting relationship can/will be formed, and isn’t that what people need to see modeled so that they can come to know and believe in Christ.

Most people who are either marginal christian or not christian at all don’t give a crap about this debate.

The best witness to them is to see a biblically and gospelly (if that is a word) driven church community faithfully carrying out its mission in the world.

I think we could possibly talk about this forever, but that would be unproductive.

It is time for us to simply get on with living the message. (loose paraphrase from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – The Cost of Discipleship)

Death, Advent and Presence

This week has seen four people that my wife and I care very deeply about lose loved ones, with another person giving us the news that her 14 year old niece has had hospice called in her battle with terminal cancer. As a pastor you would think that maybe I would have an easier time than most dealing with death, for me at least that is not true. I tend to get drawn in to peoples lives and have a hard time separating mine from thiers, their joy becomes my joy and there pain my pain.

I have been pondering today death and Advent, usually when someone close to us dies around the holidays, we tend to look upon it as bad thing. I am sitting here today though thinking that it really doesn’t doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially at Advent when we are awaiting the coming of our Lord, celebrating his birth and the new life for us that it represents and at the same time remembering his second coming with all of its promises …

I at times have a hard time expressing exactly how I feel, I get choked up even trying to pray or carry on a conversation about someone who is close to me who is suffering, it is something that I  am in no way ashamed of, it is who I am.  I tell people all the time not to worry about finding or having the right thing to say, that your presence is what counts, being present is more important than you know.

A word comes to mind for me this time of year more frequently than at others; that word is Immanuel – God with us and that is what sustains me. God has been made himself known to us in the presence of his son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His presence in our lives loses it significance when we fail both corporately ( as the church) and individually to be that presence in a world that and to people that desperately need him.

In the face of death we have the promise of his presence, in the face of death are we being that presence to others who are suffering?

So much more that can be said …

Longing for a community where these things can be more fully realized, but longing faithfully and slowly, knowing that these things take time.

Resting in his sweet embrace, have you allowed someone to rest in yours?

It is time to simply get on with it, to get on with living the gospel

Jesus, keep us from the tragedy of blaspheming your name because we have succumbed to a watered-down faith. Make our spirits restless whenever we think that the way things are is the way things have to be. Amen.

For we know that by faith that the way things are, is not the way that things have to be. But I ask you, what will you do about it.

Hebrews 10:32-39 (19-39)

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,

and the coming one will come and will not delay;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

If we believe that God is who He says He is, than don’t we need to be doing what He has called us to do.

Our faith has been watered down in so many ways, through out the years. We have so many denominations, so many different labels, seeker, evangelical, missional, social gospel, etc… It is really no wonder that people don’t know what to believe, where to go, who will really help them.

In our own ways, we have worked to compete for winning lost souls, falling into the way the world does things, we have in a lot of ways become indistinguishable from the world. It shouldn’t be about who has the best plan, should it. I thought we were all supposed to be working from the same blueprint.

Why then are things the way that they are?

As people of faith don’t we believe that the way things are is not the way things have to be.

I love The Sermon on the Mount, in it Jesus teaches us what being followers/disciples is supposed to look like, I believe that in a lot of ways that the problem that we have in the church today can be traced back to the ignoring of this great teaching of Jesus as a whole. Sure we have used it in bits and pieces, but in doing so we have missed the main point as a whole.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This piece, I am sure to some will seem incomplete or inadequate, but than again, so is the the work of the Church, let us strive together in this work until its time of completion, and it will be in that striving together that its inadequacies can and will be overcome.

One last thought: We tend to focus a lot on justice today and very little on grace.

Ponderings on “his disciples believed in him”.

Throughout the gospels we are repeatedly told that after some word or deed of Jesus “his disciples believed in him.” The point of this statement is not that up to that point they had no faith, but rather that their faith deepened with the passage of time. To believe in God is more than simply to profess God’s existence; it is to enter into communion with God and — the two being inseparable — with our fellow human beings as well. All this adds up to a process. – Gustavo Gutierrez, from his book We Drink from Our Own Wells – excerpt from Sojourners, Verse and Voice – 1/13/10

Received this on the heels of reading John 2:1-11, as part of my sermon prep for this week. This is verse 11 in that passage: “This is the first of the signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

I don’t know where I was going to go with this, but the thought of it, I felt I needed to be put out there for others to see and maybe reflect on as well.

Was it a sign or miracle that caused you to believe at first?

If so, have you moved beyond that and entered into an ever deepening relationship with God?

If I believe in God,then don’t I have to believe in other people as well? That is, don’t I need to love them like God does? So that through that love, they too may come to believe also.

Is love God and love others, synonomous with; believe in God and believe in others?

If by believing in people, we give them hope, so that they can start believing in themselves, and that by believing in themselves they start believing in God, then they can start believing in people and giving them hope and so on …

If you think you might see where I’m going with this; then please comment on it,so that we can get a conversation going and maybe we can clear it up for both us and others.

Pondering …

Original post on Facebook Note on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 2:57pm