snapshots and sabbath

Yesterday I took a "Sabbath" rest from my roles at our church. It has been a busy few weeks with preaching, teaching, counseling, moving into a new facility, launching a new seminary course, not to mention a teething 5-month old and family juggling as well...it was much needed. Rather than attend our regular worship service my family and I had the joy of visiting one of our church plants nearby to worship with our "extended family" and see what God is doing in the heart of Amsterdam, NY. What a joy it was! The scene was set as we drove past closed-down factories, past enormous brick facades that told tales of a bygone era of prosperity for this city, and directly into the belly of this beast . As we approached Crossroads Community Church, which meets in the old (Old is not the appropriate term - ancient/archaic/oooooolllld) YMCA, we were surprised to find ourselves driving past 4 other houses of worship. At each one, a handful of cars sat in the parking lot, the buildings were in disrepair, the congregations were clearly not thriving, and these churches, quite honestly, are on life support. And then we rounded the corner at the Old YMCA and couldn't find a place to park. We walked toward the front door and saw couples, young and old, families, people of every different ethnicity and social class streaming into the building. We gathered for worship in a packed out old gymnasium, celebrated the living Christ, and pondered Spiritual Gifts as Pastor Scott Baldwin delivered a powerful and honest sermon on the gifting of the Body. 6 people responded in faith to the gospel's message, they took a love offering to meet the needs of one of their own, there was a huge pile of produce and bread in the back for anyone in need, and for over an hour after the service ended, no one wanted to leave as they ate, talked, prayed, counseled, and generally enjoyed the fellowship they share.

I have been intimately connected with this church for 4 1/2 years now, from the dreaming stages where 2 guys and their families sensed the call of God to do something crazy they had never considered before, to the first meetings in a real building (without heat, a polished assembly space, kids' spaces, etc.), to slow steps along the way building the church, enhancing the facility, guiding people to the risen Christ. I get to visit every few months and when I do, I feel like the loving uncle who just so happens to live too far away to see his nieces and nephews. So every time I do, all I can see is incredible growth and development. I have watched Crossroads grow in snapshots for the last 4 1/2 years and I am so proud of Scott and Scott and the church they have sacrificed to build, so proud of my church for sacrificially supporting them, and so excited to see what God will do in the future.

What a wonderful Lord's Day. All that, and I didn't have to "do" anything - I got to ride to church in one vehicle (hasn't happened in about a decade), I got to sit down and read the bulletin and talk to some people around me, I got to worship next to my wife without having to look after anything - what a freeing day. I took a cue from my favorite hippie and stopped being a pastor for a day and enjoyed just being a child of God. Thank you Temple, for your flexibility with us, and thank you God, for the great friends at Crossroads.


I blinked and it was gone

I had a wonderful opportunity recently. I attended the wedding of a wonderful young couple for whom I have tremendous love and respect and it just so happened that this ceremony was about 10 hours away from where I make my home in Upstate NY. So off I went. For 10 hours driving all by myself (something that is rare for a guy with a family of 5) I made my way to the Shenendoah Valley. And so I occupied my time with, among other things, focused prayer. Don't let me mislead you, I also listened to the Eagles game and found a great radio station that played nothing but my beloved mid-90's grunge and let's be honest there is nothing like some good Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters to soften a road trip.

I had known the groom for just about 10 years and started to remind myself of what God had been doing in his life and prayed for him as he embarked on this wonderful new chapter. And then I was blown away to realize that a whole decade had passed since we had first met. I started to prayerfully, thankfully remember step-by-step the seasons of my own life and how they had unfolded over the past ten years. What a journey that was. College and uncertainty about the "call," the obligatory college heartbreak, finding the woman of my dreams (losing her) and by God's grace getting a second chance, engagement and marriage, early struggles (financial, emotional, spiritual), my first youth ministry and all the successes and failures that are part of a 23-year old pastor's life. To reflect on the carnage of poor decision making, immaturity, pride was humbling. To see victory in other areas was exhilirating. Remembering the purchase of our first car, first home, first (and only) dog. The news that we were expecting (earth-shattering), the beautiful gift of our first born. The struggle of faith to trust God to meet needs as Amanda quit her job to stay home and then the beauty of watching him supply our needs through nothing less than miracles. To see God's movement and tension give way to His clear leadership. A move to upstate NY to start fresh, a great season of victory in a new ministry, the refining and unveiling of giftedness. More failures, more struggles, more lessons learned the hard way. Great victory over crippling struggles. Two more children, both boys. Uncertainty about my own future rearing its head again and being settled with a new "call" and new passions. All of it has happened in the last 10 years and so much more.

And the crazy part is not all that happened (through our family and in the ministries we serve and the people we love and the God who is so gracious with us). The crazy part is that it seems like just yesterday I was sitting in front of the E. Carter Glass Mansion in Lynchburg, VA, asking God to take my life, dreams, and future, and do something beautiful with it. The crazy part is that I blinked and it was all gone. Our lives truly are a mist, a vapor. They appear one moment and are gone the next. As I reflected on all that God has done, I was forced to look with hopeful expectation to what He has yet to do in me, in my family, in my church, in the Kingdom. And I was brought to a point of humble request - God, let me live today in light of eternity. Let what I give myself to today matter for You and Your Kingdom. We have so little time. Don't waste it.