Wednesday, July 21, 2010

John Newton on being a pastor

Read this this morning in my time with the Lord and have already been reminded of the accuracy of his words, "It is a bitter sweet, a sorrow full of joy." He's been a pastor.

Gal 4:19 -- Travailing in birth for souls (Olney Hymns, Book 2, Hymn 26)

What contradictions meet
In ministers’ employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor, or disgrace!

Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel;
Constrained to speak, in vain,
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt?

The Savior’s dying love,
The soul’s amazing worth;
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth:
They pray and strive, their rest departs,
Till CHRIST be formed in sinners hearts.

If some small hope appear,
They still are not content;
But, with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived,
Then, how their inmost souls are grieved!

But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The rip’ning ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest–joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.

On what has now been sown
Thy blessing, LORD, bestow;
The pow’r is thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do thou the gracious harvest raise,
And thou, alone, shalt have the praise.

Monday, July 05, 2010

On Life and Love

The last ten days have been full of life. It has left me thinking about the beauty of the fabric that God weaves into our lives.

In the past 10 days:
  • We celebrated a daughter's birthday.
  • A good friend passed into glory earlier than we would have liked.
  • A friend broke off her engagement.
  • Two other friends got engaged to each other.
  • My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
  • We grieved over kids whose parents couldn't stay together.
  • My softball team won a thrilling game and lost a heart-breaker.
  • We won a game by the "mercy rule" and we lost a game by the "mercy rule".
  • The season is over.
In addition, tonight my children will be sleeping in 4 states.

If I stir all this together, what do I get?

Life is a glorious mixture

I get a life that is full of pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, victory and defeat.

Is it what I expect? Not really, I expect only pleasure, only joy, only victory. The pain, sadness and defeat parts of life I pretend will never happen to me. I say pretend because I know for certain they will come. I'm realizing after a substantial time on the planet that I need to realize there are no untainted joys, no pristine victories. Everything in life is mixed.

I have to realize that on both sides. I have no complete pain, with no pleasure. Joy shows up mysteriously in some of the saddest moments. There are always small victories to enjoy in the midst of larger defeats.

Life is about what you love

Life is comprised of what you love. Your life may be defined by what and who you love. I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but love shapes all our experiences.

I realized early as a parent that you play catch with your son, not because of your love for baseball, but because of your love for your son. That perspective transforms my experience of the end of my softball tournament. If I loved softball, I'd have a meltdown at an umpire's bad call; a bobbled grounder would cause me heart burn. But, if I love the girls, those same experiences impact me primarily as they affect the players. If I love myself, well, everything will disappoint me.

The rich fabric of life is woven in the colors of what we love. In life and death, with light threads and dark, what we love is the most important thing about us.

Jesus said this in multiple ways:
  • Matthew 22:37 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
  • Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Or in the words of the wise man, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).