Thursday, March 31, 2011

Because You'll Want To Know

In two weeks I will be attending the Epic Fail Pastors Conference.

I know. It sounds bad.

I’m thinking there are other pastors going, too, but I haven’t heard from them. I assume they’re too embarrassed to let the news get out. After all, no one wants to claim to God and everybody that they are failures. Especially not in epic proportions.

But I’m also thinking those other guys are probably trying to write something just like this--some blog or newsletter or email in Constant Contact in which they will try to explain to their congregations and friends and enemies why they’re attending a conference with that name. I’m thinking we all want to make everyone feel quite OK with the fact that we registered months ago, that we’ve been looking forward to it, that we’ve done all the homework that Epic Fail PC has asked us to do, and got it done early. We all want to make sure everyone knows one thing about us . . .


Forthwith and forsooth, two lists:

Not Reasons Why I’m Attending Epic Fail PC:
  • It’s not because I’m a whining, hang-dog, persecuted, beat-up pastor.
  • It’s not because I’m failing. At least I don’t think so.
  • It’s not because I’ve gone to the dark side.
  • It’s not because my congregation doesn’t pay me enough. They’re very good to me.
  • It’s not because I’m having a mid-life crisis. That’s so yesterday.
  • It’s not because I love staying in a hotel room alone.
  • It's not because I enjoy leaving my wife to handle things at home.
  • It’s not because I think the name “Epic Fail Pastors Conference” is about the coolest thing I’ve heard in a very long time. Although it is.

 Why I’m Attending the Epic Fail PC:
  • Because self-reliance kills ministry. And pastors.
  • Because I know who I am.
  • Because God has not seemed to call me to mega-church success. (Sorry if you were hoping otherwise).
  • Because I sometimes frustrate Jesus’ headship with my own willful plans.
  • Because I’m weary of programs and strategy and gimmicks and methods.
  • Because pastors get pastors.
  • Because I’m only strong in Christ when I fully realize and own my weakness.
  • Because I’ve been to the flash and smoke and strobe and glitz and big-hired-gun conferences. I like them. Just not what I need right now.
  • Because the day I read about Epic Fail PC, I nearly lost it.
  • Because Paul wrote these words in a letter to a church:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

 So, I’m going. I’ll tell you what I think once I’m there, and when it’s over. 
 "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." — Thomas A. Edison

Friday, March 04, 2011

Grandma Tales: Dignity, Independence, Talking Dogs

Grandma is having a hard day.

Her light was on at 5:30 a.m., and she stuck her head out several times, long before light of morning, to inquire about what time it was, whether it was time for dinner, and who it was that was singing. When she does this (almost every morning), she shouts out to no one in particular. She shouts because she doesn't have her "ears" (hearing aids) in yet. And of course, we have to shout back even louder to answer her. It's quite jolting to wake up to all this noise, even if you're the one making it.

At 9:30 a.m. I heard Grandma talking in her room. I thought maybe it was Jeremy visiting with her, but she was alone. I happened to see the blinking light on the phone system indicating she was calling someone. That's a great thing, except that all of the people she would call live in different time-zones, and all of them would be sleeping. After waking someone, she talked in circles for a minute, then said, "Well, OK then. It's no fun getting old." and hung up.

She came out a few minutes ago, at 10:45, and asked it I'd had lunch. I said it was a little too early for lunch, especially since I knew Grandma had only finished breakfast about an hour and a half ago. She giggled and proceeded to fetch a can of soup to fix. She put it in the pan, added water, and put it on the stove, all the while singing/talking in a kind of ninety-year-old rap, "The angels beckon me from heaven's open door," (here's where she starts kind of rapping), "And I can't feel at home in the world anymore."

She sang for several minutes before realizing that her soup was not getting hot because she had forgotten to turn on the burner. She turned it on and now is enjoying some chicken noodle between stanzas.

Grandma is slipping.

The other night Linda found her brushing her teeth, sans toothbrush or paste--just using her finger. Her brush and paste were within inches of her other hand on the bathroom counter.

Several times now Grandma has heard the new dog, Marzipan, speaking to her. Once, according to Grandma, Marzi said, "9-1-1!"  (Grandma does not know what 911 means at all, which makes the whole thing that much more remarkable). When Marzi spoke to her, Grandma answered, "Well, I just can't believe that!"  And Marzi answered back, "Believe it!"

The struggle: how much do we do to fix and protect? How much "help" is really robbery? How much does dignity depend on independence? Our decision has always been to err on the side of not helping in favor of the satisfaction of Grandma being able to handle as many aspects of life as possible. But sometimes that tact has been hard to hold. The more we do for her, the less she remembers how to do. She doesn't like it when we do some things for her, but she loves to be waited on, too.

It will not get easier.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Simple Me

I wrote this response on a Donald Miller blog post. His posts are always good, and provide lots of thought-snacking. This particular one is aimed, although not explicitly, at the furor over Rob Bell's new book, which most people haven't read yet. In spite of that little fact, everyone's chiming in.

My response fits many faith-arguments around today. What do you think?

My mother is 92 years old, and she’s more like a child than ever. Nothing is very complicated anymore. If it is, she doesn’t have time for it.
The older I get the more I chafe at the anthropocentric complexities of the good news. If God, sovereign and incredible, communicates to humanity, broken and finite, it only makes sense that he does so simply.
I don’t think I’m lazy, or anti-intellectual, or simple-minded. But I’m weary of taking something that is to be believed with child-like faith and making it so complex and confusing that it’s not-fit-for-toddlers anymore.
Mom believes Jesus. She anticipates seeing him soon. None of this stuff matters to her at all because she is close to heaven. Is it naive to think she’s exactly where we should be?