Tag Archives: faithful

a smaller group is still full of people.

Sunday mornings, I teach.

I’m part of the staff at a church and so on Sunday mornings I run around helpingĀ  with many details, but at 9:00, I teach. It’s a class of about 18 or so.

I’m aware of our larger congregation as well. I greet or chat with many people. I find cables and equipment and rooms and answers. But I like to help people understand. So I teach.

Yesterday, I almost thought it didn’t matter. As I stood in the shower, having spent some time studying, before driving the 20 minutes to our building, I thought, “but no one will be there.”

It’s spring break here. In the culture of our small community, spring break is a big deal. It’s big enough that we set up fewer chairs on the first Sunday of spring break. Last year, my first year with this congregation, I was amazed at the drop in attendance.

That’s why I thought, “but no one will be there.”

I shook my head. I remembered that there would be people in the building. There would be people in the class. I still needed to be ready.

Our attendance was a third less than usual. Our class was half the usual size.

But 2/3 of our usual attendance is still bigger than the number of people I got stressed out about for 7 years at our previous church. Half a class is still a whole group of real people with real concerns about real kids living real lives. The individual conversations that I had are still real conversations with people who need encouragement and affirmation and challenge.

I understand maximizing influence. I understand numbers. I understand the significance of traffic.

But I also understand that when your business is relationships, in our case with God and each other, your primary measurement must be “whether” rather than “how many.”

“Did you care for the people you had?” is far more important than “how many people showed up?”

It turned out to be a good morning.

Sunday mornings, I learn.


First date

I am not a fan of seafood. I used to like popcorn shrimp because you could hardly taste the shrimp. Now that I am a little more aware of health, I just ignore seafood, even at seafood restaurants.

I’m not sure, therefore, exactly why Nancy and I went to Red Lobster for our first date. (This one, on Army Trail Road in Carol Stream, Illinois.) I know, of course, that it probably was because she liked (and still does) seafood. I probably was trying to impress her. Which was interesting because our first date came two weeks after we decided to get married and about a week after our first kiss and about two weeks before we got engaged.

Our story is an interesting one for understanding something about faith, for understanding something about leaps of faith.

When we got married (about 8 months after this first date), we didn’t know nearly about each other as we thought we did. We probably didn’t know as much as we should have. We just knew that getting married to each other was the right thing to do. We decided that all the stuff that many other people do before getting married, before deciding to get married even, could wait. Because we just knew that we belonged. We did, however, decide that we needed to have one date. Just to say we did.

Do I recommend this to everyone? Not at all. Some people need to understand everything before making a decision. They need to know everything they can about the other person. They need to know that they will be accepted no matter what. They need to know that they have explored all the options, considered all the implications, talked through all the possibilities. They need to know for sure that this will work.

We, on the other hand, knew that we couldn’t know everything. We knew, as we sat on a rock after a long walk, that we should get married. It just made sense (to me anyway. I spent the next 8 months wondering whether Nancy would come to her senses and realize how nuts I am and call the wedding off). We had faith in each other, and we were pretty sure that the God we both know had faith in us, enough to bring us together.

We’ve spent the last 25 years getting to know each other. We are far more real to each other than we were back then. We have grown into marriage and grown into adults and parents. Although we don’t try to impress each other much any more, we are thoughtful about caring for each other.

And a couple weeks ago, we went to Red Lobster yet again. There were five of us this time, celebrating Andrew’s 21st birthday. Apparently, it’s a milestone kind of restaurant for us.

Maybe believing comes easy for me, easier than for other people. Maybe, on the other hand, recognizing is what comes easy. At the right moment. On a rock. Alone in the universe with the (suddenly) love of my life.

my word

We usually hear that phrase when something has gone wrong, as a mild way to express frustration. “My word, child, you are ….”

Yesterday, I thought of that phrase in a whole new way.

I went to a funeral calling, to the time of visiting with family and seeing the body. I walked into the funeral home, chatted with some people I know, got in the line for visiting, and then looked up the line. The person I came to see wasn’t in line.

That wasn’t too surprising, since I came to talk with the first wife of the man who had died. It made complete sense that the person standing closest to the casket would be the second wife (and widow). Since I’ve never met her, and don’t know three of the four children, I got out of line. I went back up the hallway and found the back door to the large room, the door where people were leaving. Going through that door, I found the person I was looking for.

I’ve know Kay for about four years, I think, since she started as the director of the childcare in the church where I was the administrative pastor. We talked a lot during the year that we worked together, until the childcare closed (through no fault of hers). Every conversation with her, my respect grew.

You see, several years before, she had been the wife of the person who was then pastor of this church. This church had been her life, the people were close friends of the two of them. And then the two of them became two different thems. He had made promises to her and to God and decided that he didn’t want to keep those promises. He left that church, left that wife.

It was a hard thing for her as she battled physical illness and the pain of someone else’s spiritual illness. She worked hard, prayed hard, loved her kids, loved her God, and lived.

If you are a reader who notices when familiar phrases don’t appear, you will notice that I didn’t use the phrase, “moved on.” She lived on, but she had one interesting quirk. Just because he broke his word, she thought, didn’t give her permission to break her word. Being committed, being faithful to one man didn’t stop with divorce. It didn’t stop with his remarriage. It didn’t stop when he didn’t believe that he had done anything wrong. It didn’t stop when she struggled with her health and the health of her family. It didn’t stop when his example affected their children. It didn’t stop when she could have found it very easy to say, “God? Why should I trust you when pastors and churches and people and life aren’t trustworthy.”

Did she think they would get back together? No, she didn’t. Not in marriage. But she did earnestly hope and pray that he would someday acknowledge that he hadn’t kept his word.

He died last week, of a brain tumor. During the past couple years, bridges were rebuilt, slowly, painfully, a rope at a time. (Some bridges, after all, are massive concrete structures; others are rope bridges hanging high above and abyss, allowing one person at a time, with fear and trembling, to cross). Near the end there were some moments of clarity, both physically and spiritually. She saw what she had earnestly asked come to pass, without drama on her part. She had offered forgiveness long ago. At last, without her prompting, the need for that forgiveness was acknowledged.

So yesterday there was one casket and two grieving women. They could see each other. They acknowledged the role each other had in his life. The first wife was present, invited, welcomed, at the request of the second wife.

She kept her word. And ultimately, so has God.

I told this woman, older than I, deeper than I, far more faithful than I, “I’m proud of you.”

And, my word, I’m humbled by her.