Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jim, Kim, Royce and My Trip Down Anxiety Lane by Greg York

Jim, Kim, Royce and My Trip Down Anxiety Lane

When this blog for Southeastern Church’s leaders began, the original vision as I understood it was for us to share what was going on in our lives spiritually.  God must have known that this week was my turn to write because three people unwittingly and unintentionally conspired to call my attention to something in my walk with God that needed immediate remediation.


Tuesday morning of this week, Royce McDougall came into my office and told me that he was ready to cast his lot with Christ and be baptized.  Absolutely wonderful news!  So many people had been praying and working toward that moment for so long.  Not the least was Donna, of course, but also, especially, Keith Stillinger.  Later that day, the time was set for 6:30 for family and friends to gather to share in this moment of great joy.


At 6:00, I went up front to open up a door or two and to make a final check of the baptistery.  That’s when I saw Kim and Morganne West in the auditorium setting up for a training session Kim was to lead for 40-50 people.  In the auditorium.  At 6:30.  In the auditorium (because she needed audio-visual capabilities for the training presentation).  In the auditorium (which is the only place from which a family-and-friends sized group can witness a baptism).  In the auditorium at 6:30 (the same time the family-and-friends group was to be in the same place for a long-awaited baptism).


I just about froze up as thoughts started racing through my mind—I can’t believe this is happening!  Did I mess this up?  What am I going to do?  I’m not going to ask Royce to wait; this needs to be such a special moment.  If Kim’s reserved the space, I sure can’t kick her out, which would make a really good impression on the folks from outside our church family she would be working with (“Yeah, Kim’s preacher kicked us out…”).  I really was trying to think fast but my thoughts were coming in almost random, disassociated spurts.  I finally hacked my way through the fog just enough to realize that if I could find an alternative spot for Kim’s event… (We have no readily-available alternative spot for a baptism on site.  At least I remembered that.)


To move her event though, I’d have to find a room in which she could present the video portion of her training.  That, it turns out, is why God invented laptops.  If I can just get mine to work with one of the screens we have in various rooms… But now, I’m even more nervous because to call me technologically challenged would be a huge understatement.  I took my laptop and tried to set it up with the big screen TV in the Friendship Room.  No go.  (By this time, Jim Brantly has come in early for the baptism and is following me around in my frantic movements trying to break through my fog to offer his help.)


Next, I think maybe I can hook up the laptop to the TV in Room 503.  So, I hurry to 503.  Success! Yes, it works!  It’s at about that moment that Jim looks at me and says, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so flustered.”


Ouch.  I try never to appear flustered in public—it’s just part of my persona (though the sweat running down my back told me I was, in fact, very flustered).  Clearly, although I was trying to manage it, my anxiety was oozing out of me.  Maybe pouring out; maybe that wasn’t sweat.  (Though it will come as a surprise to my family, I really do try to avoid getting flustered; I really do try to be a consistent “non-anxious presence.”)


As I head out of 503 to tell Kim the “good news” that I’ve found a place I’d like her to move to, I find her already in the process of moving her stuff and her people and ready to head wherever she needs to head and generally being incredibly calm and gracious about the whole thing.


And finally, my brain still spinning far too fast, there was the wonderful event of Royce’s baptism, featuring his confession of faith before his wonderful and gracious family and friends and Keith’s wonderful prayer.  A truly exciting moment and one that I will always feel privileged to have been a small part of.  One of those moments in life that really matters.


When it was all over, I realized that I would need to wait until Kim’s training was finished to retrieve the laptop.  No problem, plenty of things to do.


But that also gave me time to process my anxiety.  Jim’s comment (born of concern) and Kim’s calm graciousness (in contrast to my flustered state) and Royce’s momentous decision for faith had all worked together to get my attention and refocus me on something deeper.  Why had I gotten so flustered over what had happened, so flustered and overwrought at such an incredibly special, God-infused, joy-creating moment?


The answer actually was obvious.


Things have been pretty busy lately and even though I know better, what I was allowing to be pressed out of my days was the very set of practices that could keep me centered and calm and rightly focused in God’s presence.  When I actually do them.


I think through things prayerfully when I walk, particularly when I walk outside.

Not time lately for too many walks, particularly the last week or so.


I try to use centering prayer, just being silent before God, at least once a day.

No time for that for a while.


I try to keep my devotional and “preparation” Bible reading separate.

Too many preps to have time for devotional reading lately.


Whatever the excuses or reasons I might offer, Jim’s comment, Kim’s graciousness, and Royce’s act of faith and courage somehow came together Tuesday night to slap me upside the head and grab my attention: Greg, you can’t be a spiritually-minded person if you are not intentionally, consistently training your mind in that direction.  Greg, you’ve begun to coast spiritually and you’re paying a price.  You’re anxious because you’re relying on your own strength.  This will not work.


I know the texts.  I teach the texts.  Set your minds on things above… (Colossians 3.2a).  Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12.2).  Even one I was going to use in my Wednesday night class: Train yourself in godliness… (1 Timothy 4.7b).  But was I listening?  Was I applying it to me?


So, Wednesday morning, I read devotionally and had a prayerful walk.  It was a great and refreshing time.  But there’s still work to do—I was sorely tempted the rest of the day to wish for that time back as deadlines real and imagined loomed.


Well, there’s my confession.  I don’t want my spiritual life to be of the cut flower persuasion: a cut flower will fade over time, sometimes slowly, sometimes pretty quickly, but the fade is inevitable.  And my fade was in full view Tuesday evening.  Instead, I want to be attached to God.  I need his strength for my life, in my life.  I want to send roots deep into his Word and to seek his presence by the Spirit and to emulate the mind of Christ.  It will take intentional action to stay attached, to continue to be open to transformation.  Feel free to hold me to that, as Jim and Kim and Royce perhaps unknowingly did Tuesday night.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Empathy and the Way It Is by Mike DeCamp

To polarized America, a place dominated by hateful elections, bickering and biased news channels, and debates, arguments, and accusations related to everything from health care to race relations to praise teams…I’d like to reintroduce a word that seems to have fallen out of favor:

Empathy:  The ability to sense, feel, and understand the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of another person without having actually experienced those same emotions, thoughts, and experiences yourself.

I’ve been thinking about this word often this week in the wake of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin tragedy and verdict.  It has been weighing on me…sitting on my heart.  But, this weight on my heart is not directly tied to that case and subsequent verdict.  Rather, it has more to do with the pain I am sensing in so many of my friends…friends from both ends of the spectrum.  And, also the expressions of despair from many other ordinary folks to whom my only connection is being a fellow member of the human race. I agree with some of them.  I disagree with others.  But, I can feel the pain from all of them.

For example, I saw some middle-aged black men being interviewed on television the other day, and they were explaining how they had to carefully explain to their sons exactly how to act…How to stand…Where to put their hands…How to speak…Where to look…WHEN (not if) they were detained by someone in authority.  While I have tried to teach my children a respect for authority, I would never have imagined a need to go into such incredible detail.  And, I am told that this is not random.  This is a common parental educational step in the black communities of America.

That example illustrates to me just how apparent it is that we just don’t understand one another.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

It seems to me that one of the most basic things that we all want is to be understood.  We want others to LISTEN to us, and to UNDERSTAND us.  We want the empathy of those around us.  I know I do.  I’m pretty sure you do too.  If that is what we want from others, then we are obligated to give it out as well.  That is the Golden Rule!

I found an interesting line from an old Joe South song:

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

And this goes well beyond the issue of race…although I do believe that the issues of race are some of the primary points in which folks do not understand one another very well at all in the United States.  This need for enhanced empathy is also found in political views, socio-economic differences, and matters of faith.  As I said, everything from healthcare to praise teams.  We are often so quick to come to our own personal conclusions and go on the attack without really considering that there may be a number of other ways to see the same set of facts and come to a different conclusion.  The key is to really LISTEN.

James 1:19My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 

So much of this reminds me of the Bruce Hornsby song from the mid-1980s:

The Way It Is

Standin' in line marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
'Cause they can't buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old lady's eyes
Just for fun he says, 'Get a job'

That's just the way it is
Some things'll never change
That's just the way it is
Ha, but don't you believe them

Said, 'Hey little boy you can't go
Where the others go
Cause you don't look like they do'
Said, 'Hey, old man how can you stand
To think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules?'
He said, 'Son

That's just the way it is
Some things'll never change
That's just the way it is'
Ha, but don't you believe them
But, don’t you believe them!!!!

Brothers and sisters, that’s not just the way it is.  At least it doesn’t have to be.  We don’t have to live with this mess.  We can change the pattern and break the cycle…at least as far as we are concerned.  And we can make a difference…if we listen…if we understand…if we exercise a bit of enhanced empathy toward one another.  If we give to others what we so desperately want from them and practice the ultimate example of the Golden Rule!

So, the next time you are feeling that urge to spout off or hurl those verbal grenades at someone’s opposing view, perhaps you could first stop…and ask them to help you understand their point of view first.

Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 4:8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sometimes You Don't Need Math-SMBC 2013 by Craig Hill

30 adults working together for God and 70 children on an adventure having fun, learning about God, and getting to know themselves and each other better.  Every year for about 15 years, I’ve gone with my family and about 100 other people to Spring Mill Bible Camp in Mitchell, Indiana.  We go the week of the 4th of July.  Most of us stay in rustic built cabins with no air conditioning – but they have hot water, showers, and flush toilets.

Why do we go?  Why do we love it so?  Why do most kids fall in love with the place?  We work so hard, many of us.  Sometimes, the reason we love it is so clear to me.  Other times, I really don’t understand it.

Last week, Brad Pafford and I had 12 boys from 3rd grade to 6th grade to care for and look after from Sunday afternoon to Friday midday.  And Fred Carter came in to help the last night when Brad had to get back to his job.  My wife, Regina, ended up as a full time cook to help out when Anni Carter’s eye condition got so painful that she couldn’t come down on time as she’d planned.  Regina had corrective knee surgery about 4 weeks before.  She and the other cooks worked 12 to 13 hour days and prepared 3 meals a day.

My daughter, Rachel led the arts and crafts for the children.  Steve and Melanie Faidley directed the whole operation.  As I said, about 30 adults worked hard all week to lead activities, teach the Bible, lead singing, drive vans to the park, discipline and encourage the children, help them find their socks, bandage scrapes, bruises, and spider bites, etc.

The camp is nice, but it is not a Disneyland type camp.  It is straight forward, has 2 basketball courts, a play set and swings, some tetherball, and a four square court taped onto the concrete.  And a zip line that Bill Sweet put up this year.

But why do we love it so?  Why did my youngest boy want to get baptized there last year?  Why did Mel and Steve commit to going to the camp many years ago and devote so much time to helping run the place?  It’s a ton of work.

Sometimes, I think it is the agenda.  It’s a wonderful mix of Bible classes, singing, fun, free time, crafts, eating, and activities.  Sometimes, I think it is just the love of everyone at the camp.  Sometimes, I think it was charmed by the Lord’s saints many years ago when the camp was dedicated and built.  You see, I am very mathematically minded.  And it just doesn’t add up to me when I look at the place and all the work of it sometimes.  We have the kids, the campers that is, do chores.  Every day, they have to clean up their cabin and help out in the mess hall sweeping floors or doing dishes.

Some kids come for the first time and they are nervous and scared about being away from home without their parents.  Some kids get in scuffles or arguments with each other.  But almost all just love the place.

And usually there are a number of baptisms either at the camp or right after camp – of the young people who come.  After all, they are immersed in the Gospel heavily each day in studying, singing, and praying.  It’s just what some of them need to build a deeper relationship with God and commit their lives to Jesus.

I think it must be that God’s presence is just thick in the place.  Between the deer and the other animals that inhabit the place, the people that built and maintain the camp, and the love of the families that come to the camp to help run it, it’s just overflowing with God’s presence.  His Spirit just dwells there.  Probably half of the adults there don’t even have children or grandchildren at the camp.  These people just come to help.

Sometimes, you don’t need math, you just need faith in God that He loves us and will take care of us, and will give us everything we need if we just seek Him first.  I count myself blessed to have had my family talk me into going there and helping so many years ago.  If you haven’t been there, you should go next year.  If you haven’t been back in a while, you should come next year.  And if you were there, you may know what I mean, and I hope you come back next year too!  I hope I can.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

His Grace to Me was Not Without Effect by John Wright

His Grace to Me was Not Without Effect

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         by John Wright

            What does it take to be a Disciple of Jesus?  Myself and most of the readers of this blog would consider themselves to be Disciples of Jesus.  Sure, I believe that Jesus is God's son, and that he is our Savior.  I also Believe that God is love, and that he loves us with a supernatural love that we humans have difficulty comprehending.  I believe that God revealed himself through the Bible and it is from the scriptures that we can know God.  The Gospels show us the life of Jesus and are an example to us showing us how we are to live, love God and our neighbor.  Knowing and believing the right things are important, but that is not enough for a disciple.  A disciple wants to always be in the presence of the master, learning from him and getting to know him personally.  The Gospel is the most amazingly beautiful story of all time, that when we were still enemies Christ died for us.  We are justified (made right in God's sight) by his blood and reconciled (made friends) by his death, and saved by his life.
            The saving work of Jesus is what we know as grace.  Grace, a gift we do not deserve, but given freely by our God who loves us without measure.  All these things concerning salvation are great and beautiful, and we love it because God is love, and he is Holy, and now that we are in Jesus, God has clothed us with the righteousness of Jesus.
            Knowing these things, it is easy to be a disciple, right?  Not at all!  Basking in the glow of God's love is not enough for a disciple.  The Bible tells us what grace saves us from, and it is SIN.  Yes, we are sinners!  And we cannot be good enough to be friends of God, not without grace. 
1 Cor.5:14  For the love of Christ compels us, and a disciple needs to be compelled by the love of Christ to tell others about what God has set him free from, and that is the guilt of our sin.  The scriptures tell us that the story of mankind is a history of the destruction sin has brought on the world.  Since the fall of Adam the world has been groaning under the strain of sin.  David wept over the consequences of sin by writing "Oh how the mighty have fallen."
            Paul in 1 Cor. 15:10 explains that the seriousness of his own sin had a tremendous effect on him, "I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, (Saved) and his grace to me was not without effect."  Let us never forget that it was my sin and yours that hung Jesus on the cross.  I want the knowledge of the terribleness of my own sin to affect everything I do, so that I give honor and praise to Jesus the author and perfecter of my faith.