Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nothing is Sweet or Easy About Community

Nothing is sweet or easy about community.  Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope.  In community we say: "Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs -- but we do not have to live it alone.  We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone. become sources of healing when we live them as a part of a fellowship of mutual care." --  Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What We're Learning

The Wisconsin Wesleyan District Conference was held last week.  An annual tradition of the conference is the "two minute drill", when pastors give a brief report from their congregation.  This year, we were instructed to try to make it snappy -- less than two minutes.  Any pastors who wax eloquent and go beyond the allotted time, are unceremoniously shut down -- sort of like the Gong Show.

How can one possibly capture a full year's worth of congregational happenings in less than two minutes?  It's quite a daunting task to figure out what to say.

This year, I just shared a few "one-liners" -- tweets -- of what we've been learning in Hayward over the past year.  I'm pretty sure most of them just flew over the heads of the puzzled delegates -- but a few landed -- and some folks asked if I could post them here:

1.  There is a direct connection between emotional healing and spiritual growth.

2.  As a church grows, the sense of congregation (belonging) shrinks unless you are intentional about it.

3.  Shared leadership is powerful and sweet when you're making music in the same key.

4.  Relationships are like guitars.  You must keep tuning them if you don't want to go sharp or flat.

5.  You can make progress and you can make excuses -- but you can't make them both simultaneously.

6.  Organic tomatoes are better than greenhouse tomatoes (same with discipleship.)

7.  Preaching in community is powerful.  It blesses the congregation, and is refreshing for the preacher.  They need to hear more than one voice.

8.  Discipleship is not a program.  It is a life.

9.  Men are willing to meet at 6:00 a.m. if it's worthwhile.

10.  Dead skunks won't smell better if you shove them under the bed.

11.  Children need to see their parents worship.

12.  Training multiplies ministry ownership and effectiveness.

13.  Multiplication is higher math than addition.

14.  The Gospel is enough.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

It's Still a Good Day

Sometimes, life is like cruising down a highway on a summer day.
At other times, it's like hiking through a murky swamp.

There are "smooth sailing" days -- and then there are the ones filled with bumps and jolts.

But one thing lies in common: They're both good.

They don't both FEEL good, mind you -- but they're good, nevertheless.

The sunshine days are good for carefree laughter, pleasure and fun.
The dark and difficult days are good for character development.

Either way -- it's still a good day.

If you're going through the dark valley, don't despair. Joy will come in the morning. Learn the valuable lessons life has to offer -- and keep trudging forward. Don't give up.

As Dag Hammarskjold stated, "When the morning's freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will go quite as you wish -- it is then that you must not hesitate."

"I love the man who can smile in trouble," observed Thomas Paine, "that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trading Cows for Beans

Remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?  Jack and his poor mother were going in the hole.  Maintaining the status quo wasn't working any longer -- and they realized that a change needed to take place.

So, Jack's mother sent him to town with the family cow and some specific instructions.  "Sell Bessie and bring back as much cash as you can."

Now, it was hard to give up old Bessie.  She had been a good cow, and a great source for ice cream.  But now, the ice cream days were over, the budget was tightening -- and Bessie was a gonner.

And then, miracle of miracles, as Jack was leading Bessie to the village market, he came upon a gentleman with a handful of beans -- not just your regular garden variety beans, mind you -- but magic beans!  At least, that's what the man said.

Somehow, Jack left the realm of sensibilities, and traded Bessie for the beans.  To him, although it was hard to explain, it seemed like a pretty good idea.  Somehow, there was fresh, bold, new opportunity in those magic beans.

His poor mother, however, saw neither the opportunity nor the magic.  Instead, she only saw hairbrained foolishness.  How could her son be so stupid??  Their good cow for a handful of beans?   In fury and snit, she threw the beans out the window.

Ah, but those "worthless" beans were indeed magic.  They took root and grew overnight -- far, far into the sky, beyond the reach of human eyes -- beyond the level of comprehension or even possibility.

The next morning, Jack climbed to brand new heights and explored a fabulous world of dangerous delights!  Giants!  Talking harps!  A Goose that laid golden eggs!

There was power in those beans!

And when he grew old, Jack lived in the retirement center.  There, he entertained his friends with spellbinding tales of the beanstalk adventures.  A few believed him, but most didn't -- because they were the type who would have kept the cow.

It really didn't matter to Jack, however, whether they believed him or not.  The opinions of others don't matter so much after you've had some life-changing experiences.

Every day, he closed his eyes, smiled contentedly, and thought, "I'm sure glad I traded the cow for the beans."

Moral of this story:  You have to give up the cow if you want to climb up the beanstalk.  What is your cow?  What is your beanstalk?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Begins in June

"Summer begins in June.  It comes after the wild excitement of spring, the migration of birds, their mating and choosing of places to live and defend.  It is a time of fullness and completion, the goal of all that has gone before.... It is a time for building strength and storing energy for whatever may come.  It is also a time of joy."
-- Sigurd Olson, Wilderness Days, page 61

The Pastor's Momma

An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps.  

"Where would you like to sit?" he asked politely. 

"The front row, please," she answered.. 

"You really don't want to do that," the usher said. "The pastor is really boring." 

"Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquired.
"No," he said. 

"I'm the pastor's mother," she replied indignantly. 

"Do you know who I am?" he asked. 

"No," she said.
"Good," he answered. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

6 Things I Learned from Dad

We buried my father twelve hours before Father's Day.  Over two decades have since passed, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. Grief has a funny way of popping up in unexpected places.

While working on last Sunday's Father's Day sermon, I suddenly missed my dad, with an overwhelmed longing and a sadness that my children did not have the privilege of knowing him (except through my stories.)

Earlier this year, I ran into one of dad's old friends. He said, "You're Andy Wilson's boy, aren't you?  You look so much like him!" 

When I was young, I don't believe I would have appreciated that comment at all! To me, dad always looked OLD!  But, now, I consider it a great honor to bear my father's resemblance.  Reflecting back these days, I remember that dad looked happy most of the time. It's not so bad to look like that!!

One night, driving home from the airport in a thunderstorm, I found myself reflecting on the formative things my father taught me.

1) Dad Taught Me to Stay Through: He was a rural Wesleyan pastor who stayed at the same church for thirty years. Some of those years were difficult. Lesser men would have quit and moved on to greener pastures. Dad, however, was made of stronger mettle. He believed that if we stay through the hard times, the end result will be better.

2) Dad Taught Me to Stay True: He stayed true to my mother. He stayed true to us kids. He stayed true to God. He stayed true to his convictions. He stayed true to his church. One time, during some troubled years in the Wesleyan Church, a large group of ministers led their churches out of the denomination. Many of dad's best friends were in that group. They pressured him to join them -- but my father felt that he should stay true to the church. I wonder where I would be today, if Dad had followed his friends.

3. Dad Taught Me to Stay Positive: He always said there's a good side to just about everything. Sometimes, you have to look harder than others to find it. He believed that, though we cannot choose our circumstances, we can choose our attitude and the way we respond.

4. Dad Taught Me to Stay Prayed Up: One of the greatest memories I have of my father is his prayer life. He prayed often and spent extended time with the Lord. In recent years, God has developed a much stronger prayer focus in my own life -- and I owe that to my good father who taught me by example.

5. Dad Taught Me to Stay Sweet: Whenever people opposed him, he would simply turn around and bless them. I was amazed at how kind and forgiving he was towards those who mistreated him. Growing up in the parsonage, I never heard him speak negatively about the church. He genuinely loved the people, and believed in "disagreeing agreeably."

6. Dad Taught Me to Stay Spirit Filled: The Holy Spirit was Dad's power source. He believed that unsanctified ministry is impossible. Thus, my father's pastoral service was marked primarily by holy love. I recall, in one of our last conversations, dad reminded me of the great need of a continual re-filling of the Spirit. This has proven helpful many times since.

Dad's life, sermons, and library (which was passed on to me) all reflected deep love for God and others. I am, indeed, grateful for my godly heritage, and hope, someday, my kids will be able to say something similar about me.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Live in a World, and a World Lives in You

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”   ― Frederick Buechner

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pay Now or Pay Later

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Life comes with a price tag. The choice of WHEN to pay the price is entirely up to you.

You can pay the bill up front and invest your effort and energy into planning, intentional decision making and thinking ahead. Or, you can wait and pay the piper at the end.

Yes, you have to pay for it, on one side or the other -- and you get to make the choice. But here's the difference:

If you pay up front, you will receive a great return in life with compound interest!
If you pay at the end, you will have to pay much, much more -- with compound interest!

There's a reward for "up front payments" and there is a penalty for "paying later."

This is true for all the areas of life.

When you buy something, you can pay now, or buy it on credit and pay double.

In your marriage, you can pay emotionally up front, and do the hard work of listening, understanding, dating and keeping romance alive. Or -- you can delay this payment for several years and then you'll have to pay more -- in heartache, regret, misunderstanding and wishing you would have listened.

In your job, you can pay up front -- and give the extra effort. You can work harder, add value, and make your boss happy. Or you can pay later -- with bad reviews, relational conflicts, getting fired, and having to give an extra effort looking for another job.

In the spiritual dimension, you can pay up front -- by praying, reading the Bible, going to church and loving your neighbor. Or -- you can defer payment to the end of your life, when you realize the tragedy of neglecting your soul and ignoring the most important thing.

In the educational arena, you can pay up front and study. Or you can pay later, by flunking the course and taking it over again.

My friend, John Maxwell says, "There is always a pay day and a play day. If you pay first, you can play later -- but if you play first, you will certainly PAY a higher price later."

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Marriage ABC's

To have a happy, thriving marriage that lasts, follow these A,B.C's:

A - Accept your partner as he/she is - no strings attached.

B - Be attentive, thoughtful and considerate.
C - Commit yourself and your marriage to God.
D - Date each other regularly and often.
E - Endure the difficult times with a good spirit.
F - Forgive any grievances you may have against each other.
G - Give affection generously.
H - Have fun together. Make wonderful memories!
I - Involve your partner totally in your life. Don't shut him/her out.
J - Journey through life together, looking forward to what's around the bend.
K - Keep the lines of communication open. Always be honest.
L - Listen, really listen to your partner.
M - Make love often.
N - Never gripe about your mate to others.
O - Openly praise your mate.
P - Pray together. The couple that prays together, stays together.
Q - Quit doing stupid things that annoy your partner.
R - Remember to put the lid on the toothpaste tube.
S - Start something new. Don't let your love grow stale.
T - Take time to tune in to each other.
U - Understand that there is ebb and flow in every relationship.
V - V.I.P! Treat your partner like the most important person in the world.
W - Write love notes.
X - 'Xpress affection and tenderness every day.
Y - Your spouse is God's gift to you. Be thankful!
Z - Zoom! Your marriage will zoom into high gear when you give it your best.