December 15, 2009

I’m a MERRY CHRISTMAS kind of guy.

For me, and I know for lots of other folks, Happy Holidays just doesn’t cut it.

Happy depends on circumstances.  If your child is in Afghanistan or a military hospital recovering from wounds, it’s not a happy holiday.  If you have lost a loved one – a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend; happiness is illusive.  If you are facing illness, or walking with someone through illness, it’s probably not a happy time.  Perhaps you are losing or have lost your job.  Maybe you are alone.  The holidays are probably not happy for you.

Wishing someone “Happy Holidays” is not bad and usually expresses a sincere desire of good will.  There is nothing wrong with it by any means.  I believe there is a better greeting to offer people.

That greeting is MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

When I offer this greeting to someone, I am offering the deepest, most significant, intensly personal gift of myself  and all that is dear to that I can offer.

For me, there is nothing more valuable in my life than Christ.  When I tell you MERRY CHRISTMAS it is not about politics or a casual greeting.  I am giving you a gift.

Since the greeting has “Christ” in the center, it conveys the reality of God’s love, presence, and hope to all who receive it.  Whatever the reason of their unhappiness, MERRY CHRISTMAS is about a person, not a feeling.  Feelings such as happiness can be affected by how many Christmas cookies we eat.  They are powerful but unreliable.  Christ is powerful and reliable.

MERRY CHRISTMAS reminds people that Jesus is the reason for the season.  It is a greeting that reminds them that God has come looking for them, to bring them home.  It reminds them that God has not forgotten them and God is with them.

I don’t use the greeting to be in your face.  It is a precious gift from my heart to yours.  To offer any less would be unloving and disrespectful to you.  It would be to offer you less than the very best I have.

From my heart to yours,




The Staying Power of the Call

November 8, 2009

I had become weary of the wrangling.  Hallway conversations were undermining me and the church’s ministry.  Ministry was suffering.  People were suffering.  I was suffering.  Feeling like a failure I wondered whether or not I was wasting my life.  I wanted out.  I was developing quite a collection of unhealthy attitudes, including a tinge of martyrdom.

I complained to God constantly.  My prayers had become whining sessions with God.  They were open invitations for the Divine Audience to come to my pity party.  At some point, God spoke.  A voice in the heart?  A thought?  An impression out of the blue?  I’m not sure, but there it was crystal clear and simple.  “Stop whining!  I called you.  I will let you know when that changes.  Until then, be faithful where you are.  I am with you.  Remember, you are working for me.” In the humor of God, I have a reminder on my bookshelf, given by a dear friend.  It’s a plaque.  It simply says, “Thou Shalt Not Whine”.

That’s when I discovered the power of the call.

It’s a staying power. I’m not paid to be a pastor.  I am called to be a pastor.  That’s the power of the call.  Whether through an appointment system such as the United Methodist system, or a call system, I am deployed by God.  That does not relieve me of my accountability with and to the local congregation.  It’s not an ego trip.  It’s not self righteousness.  It is not arrogance.

It is not about me.  It is about God’s grace, will and power.  The call’s power   lifts me above what is happening right now.   It reminds me that I am not the failure often implied in conflict, disagreements; as well as those times when things simply don’t work well.  It prevents me from taking credit for the successes.  It prevents me from quitting when things are tough and people are not affirming.  It holds me accountable when I do dumb things and make mistakes.  It is rooted in God, not what is going on at any given time.

I still struggle with conflicts, self esteem issues, and times of debating my own competency.  The ego times still pop up.  I make mistakes and do dumb things.  I wrestle with what to do next.  I reflect on my past mistakes, wondering, “What was I thinking?”  I occasionally wonder, “Does God ever revoke a call?”  That level of questioning comes after the spectacular blunders of commission and omission.

When these wash over me, I remember my call and where it came from.  I realize I am not called to take up permanent residency in these areas.  My life verse is Philippians 1:6 which essentially says that what God begins in me, God will bring to completion.  God doesn’t quit on me – or on any of us.  That is the staying power of the call.

Next time, I blog about, “Whose Call Is It-Really?”   Blessings.  Bill