Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are We There, Yet?

Last Tuesday night we drove down to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my family. We packed Priscilla and myself, four kids, and a dog for the 9-10 hour drive to Jensen Beach. It was the first time in a while that we had made the trip with all of us in one vehicle... now I remember why!

Large quantities of questionable coffee helped get us there. Along the way I realized that the "are we there, yet?" queries of children aged 24,21,20, and 14 aren't much different (or less frequent) than when they were 14,11,10, and 4!

On any long journey "are we there, yet" can express the frustration of cramped quarters and weariness. "Are we there, yet?" can also express the eager anticipation of reaching the desired destination.

As we enter the Advent season we are reminded that life and faith are journeys. As the holiday season seems to begin earlier each year some of us will just be ready to have it over with by the time Christmas arrives. There was a time, especially for baptists, that the introduction of advent themes to worship was a way of "stretching-out" the emphasis on the gift of Christmas. Maybe now it disciplines us in its focus/limit to four Sundays.

May advent force us to ask ourselves the "are we there, yet?" question as we eagerly anticipate the gifts of the season.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Practical Prayer

I am not sure who Frank Colquhoun is but I connected with his prayer:

Make us as ready to listen as we are to talk, ready to listen to your voice in the quietness of our hearts and ready to listen to other people who need a sympathetic ear.

Show us when to open our mouths and when to hold our peace that we may glorify you both in speech and silence through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Too many times my praying is a monologue, me talking to God instead of a dialogue where I stop talking and listen. Sometimes my "listening" to others is simply waiting for my turn to talk.

Lord, help me to listen better--- to you and others.

I found Colquhoun's prayer in The Doubleday Prayer Collection.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall Gifts

"Thank You, God, for Fall Gifts" is the title of a book we used long ago in Sunday School for preschool-aged children. It is the thought that has been on my mind this week.

Fall gives opportunity to thank God for the beauty of His creation. I read once where Garrison Keillor wrote, "fall has more colors than crayola can put in a sixty-four pack of crayons." The ever-changing palette of north Georgia is an amazing display of God's creative glory.

We even change our menu in the fall. What can be more enjoyable than a bowl filled with slow-cooked chili with a hunk of butter-slathered cornbread at its side? Summer seems to be a season of constant motion. Maybe the early sunset and cooler temperatures allow us to slow down to enjoy the simpler pleasures of food and the family and friends with whom we share meals.

As seasons change, I am also reminded that we go through seasons in our lives. From newlyweds to parents to empty-nesters to "seasoned citizens" we experience the reality that life is not static. However much life may change we are reminded that God is our faithful companion.

The preacher of Ecclesiastes instructs us that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Thank you, God, for fall gifts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Give Me, Good Lord

My most unexpected blessing from the summer leave in London was the impression made by our visit to Canterbury Cathedral. Today I ran across a prayer by Thomas More, whose martyrdom at the cathedral has inspired saints through the centuries:

Glorious God, give me grace to amend my life, and to have an eye to my end without begrudging death, which to those who die in you, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life.

And give me, good Lord, a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, in all my works and all my words, and all my thoughts, to have a taste of your holy, blessed Spirit.

Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love of you incomparably above the love of myself.

Give me good Lord, a longing to be with you, not to avoid the calamities of this world, nor so much to attain the joys of heaven, as simply for love of you.

And give me, good Lord, your love and favour, which my love of you. however great it may be, could not deserve were it not for your great goodness.

These things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me your grace to labour for.

(as found in Eerdman's Book of Famous Prayers, p. 47)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just Call Me

Through the course of a week I am called by many names... to my face! Often times someone will ask me, "what should I call you?" That all depends...

Rev. Conrad
is what I am called either by salespeople trying to impress or those few remaining people who rate "clergy" as a profession slightly ahead of car salesman or loan shark.

Mr. Conrad tends to be the choice of teachers, folks in the community who know me in a professional setting, or friends/family of my children.

Dr. Conrad is a title I simply don't respond to-- those who use it are simply trying to impress and don't know my disdain for ministers who like to be called "doctor" but haven't done the work to earn the degree or title.

Jim is just fine for me. It lets me know that people are OK with me as a person, whether or not I may be their minister. For some, it is an open acknowledgment that I can be both friend and minister.

Pastor is a term that it took a surprisingly long time for me to grow comfortable with being called. I have come to appreciate it as a representation of my roles as pastor/shepherd/teacher/preacher/minister/leader (it also picks-up all that white space at the bottom of the job description!).

Pastor Jim may be my favorite title because it comes from the mouths of our children and youth. One of my chief goals in ministry is to be an accessible model for our children. Pastor Jim always gets my attention!

Call me what you will... just call me!