our 3 year old reacts to monuments.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
This week I was able to spend some time catching up with folks who haven’t seen in church in a while – church family who have been in nursing homes or stuck at home due to sickness or injury.
It’s one of my favorite things to do. I shouldn’t be surprised that godly faithful Christians who are suffering are grateful, content and thankful for God’s blessing. But when I visit someone going through an awful lonely season and they talk about how thankful they are for their Faith, for our supportive church community and… I think everyone I visited this week mentioned that they pray for me and our church leaders daily. I can’t help but leave more encouraged than when I got there.
I’m also thankful – we’ve been praying a lot for them and so many of them have had really really hard seasons. It’s been Psalm 23’s “valley of the shadows of death”. But they aren’t afraid – and they seem well… because their Shepherd is with them.
Some things are just easier when you’re young and healthy – But, sprinting is easy… it’s the runners that finish the race well that get the prize.
She invests most of her time and energy in our little family – loving each of us, caring for each need, adjusting to every mini-crises as the kids conquer each hurtle. Today we celebrate Ashley. Her gifts, talents, time – spent on things that matter. She loves and is loved in big ways. (Even if Jude thinks he’s too cool to smile in family pictures).
Sometimes I forget about how cool this is. In a time when being uninsured means it’s really hard to get medical care, and when so many people are struggling, ignoring symptoms and getting much much worse. – Our church has partnered with Christ Health Care to host a Free Health Clinic to provide primary care to people without health insurance.
This is a big deal. It means that people with no where else to go can come to our church basement, get treated by an M.D./R.Ns – we have rooms setup with medical equipment, basic labs, medicines, etc. And they can get the help they need because of the generosity of funding and time by people who care. Our practitioners are volunteers who are able to make a difference outside of their normal jobs. We’re able to host local medical students who are happy to learn and help. And our local church planter will pray and encourage people spiritually and emotionally.
The Bible says that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows [the most vulnerable] in their distress.” (James 1:27) And I’m thankful that I’m a part of a church community that prioritizes doing just that.
Tomorrow we’re taking an offering to support this ministry – you can donate at www.Goshen.Church/Give (select Christ Health Care Ministry)
I spent this morning at one of the most peaceful spots in Orange County – the Veterans Memorial Cemetery I’ve been there restless a dozen or so times. As a pastor, I’ve often been a passenger in the front of a hearse saying a few words between leading a funeral service and getting folks to a luncheon afterwards.
Today was different – the funeral of Alan was in February – the service and luncheon was long over – grief was well on running its course. This morning was a small Interment, which is when the ashes of a cremated deceased are compiled, the site is ready and only the immediate family gather to say goodbye to someone everyone else bode farewell to months ago.
And it was profoundly restful. I arrived early with nothing to setup. And I sat with a Bible and the sight of three thousand stones reminding me of the shortness of life. The feel of a gentle breeze whispering that “life is but a breath”. It was peaceful.
I remain convinced that mourning is a healthy part of the rhythm of life. And the fear of death makes us more anxious than we should be when we can rest in the hand of the Almighty.
Thanks to everyone who was praying, thinking of and caring for my dad over this last week. I was a conference speaker last week at America’s Keswick – and my family came to see me. My dad was walking and took a really hard fall on concrete and hit his head and leg really hard. We rushed him to the ER and after hours we were really thankful to find out that his head/neck injuries only looked worse than they were (they looked really bad, but were ok). BUT his leg injury was far worse than it looked. It turned out to be a fractured upper tibia (with some complications). – After three days in two hospital emergency rooms he had an initial surgery (basically for supports to keep the bone in place while swelling goes down). And thankfully he’s able to return home to York, PA to wait for his next procedure.
It was an overwhelming couple of days but I’m glad that he seems to be ok and is now recovering/waiting for swelling to go down back home. My sister (Emily, RN) will be taking good care of him, and I expect Joey to be mowing the grass. God has been kind.
I spy things on the campus of Goshen Church that most people don’t see. She just left us to return to Korea for a season, but for the last 10 years Helen has been an under-celebrated prayer warrior. On most days over the last decade (if you were wandering around like me) you’d find Helen praying in this spot, or on a prayer walk around our buildings. She prayed for many of you, she prayed for her boarding students, she prayed for the people she loved in Korea. She prayed for people that God would find in our buildings and campus…
And I don’t think anyone but me saw her. Except God. God sees, God heard and God moved in ways that we can only begin to understand as He does in response to faithful prayer. –
I think that most healthy church have people like Helen. Praying, caring – mostly behind the scenes, but noticed by GOD, and a blessing to people. And we’re all better off for that.
Character develops not in an instant but over a series of challenges that force you to make decisions, rise to occasions and work unselfishly with a community. Character forms works best when you learn from both caring mentors and peers who are on the same track.
I got to watch this happen during our CADETs camping trip. Goshen.Church took 9 young men to join a community to spend 4 days tent camping. At this age, even just being away from WiFi is a challenge, and I got to watch these young men work together, push themselves in new ways, and rise to the occasion of difficulty.
To be clear, I’m not the kind of pastor that fights hard advocating for cultural gender tropes. (The Bible doesn’t say a lot of good things about tents.) This is just me as a dad of a son – but I’ve become convinced that having to deal with minor difficulty, working through impatience, itches, dirt, fish, heights, learning the buddy system, trying to stich leather, sleeping in the dark without a noise machine, working at making the people around you better – I think these things add up over time to be the sum of the sort of character that sustains a life-full of challenges.
The quietest part of my week is Saturday night. I spend most of it alone in a large empty sanctuary. I talk to myself… doing final edits and revisions to tomorrow’s sermon, thinking through announcements, prayer request and technological hurtles. I’ll give it all a final run-through.
I talk to God – praying that He blesses the people that will sit in each pew in the morning. That He’d nudge folks who are indecisive about attending. – Praying for people who have so many needs – spoken and obvious, unspoken – and hidden. People who need the Lord to bless them in some way. People whose lives need to be changed by the hope and love that God offers.
And I’m really convinced that it matters – that a morning as standard and regular as a Sunday spent in worship can make a difference in the lives of people – whatever they’re going through, in a way where people are more grateful for Christ and more loving to their neighbors. And each Saturday night, I ask God in faith that He make the next morning a powerful one. (And He often does just that and more)
I measure church seasons by terms of office. We’re led by elders and deacons who serve for three years at a time before taking a two year break. Right now we’re saying “thank you” and “rest up” to leaders who have finished a three-year term. Jim, Mart, Mike, Tim, & Josh. And it’s been a memorable 3 years.
They started in July of 2019 – and I remember thanking them for their willingness to serve. The previous three years (2016-2019) had been really challenging. We had prayed, planned, fundraised, and finally built a new addition (lobby, bathrooms, cafe, kids space etc). It was a wonderful project, but a TON of work – and a massive strain on our leaders. I remember telling them that by Fall of 2019, after spending over a year worshiping in the gym, we’d finally get back to the normalcy of our main building and some stability and… I mean, “2020+ was going to be boring and unchallenging in comparison to the previous three years…” I said and God laughed.
Because the church leaders going on break now led us faithfully in a not-boring, very challenging season of disruption. We got back in the building and expected normal right before COVID hit and we had to together navigate all the stress of a state of emergency all while each of us had extra stress at work and at home. Leaders had to make a lot of decisions quickly. We had to deal with people under our care who were going through some of their worse moments. We started programs that helped and energized old ones (Health Clinic, Food Pantry, Benevolence). We walked with people who were in crisis, and came along people who needed support.
I’m out of the prediction business, but always working at being grateful – in this case to a team of leaders who rose to difficult occasions.