Perseverance Required

Perseverance Required

If you haven’t noticed, yet, I love to watch sports. Baseball is probably my favorite, because it is a cerebral game that forces you to think three or four batters ahead. Football, though, is probably the sport that gets me the most animated. I’ve been told that I can get a little loud and crazy when we’re not winning or the referees make a call that I do not appreciate.

Most of the time, though, I am watching the games in my home office and with the door closed to give some protection to the family. We don’t go to as many games as I would like, primarily because of cost and the challenges of taking Noah to an event with a large crowd. The last time I went to a home college football game was probably 2007. I probably haven’t been to a college football game, in general, since West Virginia last played Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in 2010.

The one thing that I miss about going to games in person is the pageantry. You don’t get a good feel for the crowd noise, especially before a game, by sitting on your recliner with a Diet Coke and a bag of chips by your side. Those moments before a game are special. You have the band playing. You have the anticipation from the crowd for what will come. You have the players getting ready and jumping around in the tunnel. All of this rises to a point that it runs over with excitement and jubilation when the team runs out onto the field.

I love that moment. It gets you excited. Now, can you imagine if the pregame ritual was kind of “eh.” Imagine what it would feel like if you sat in the crowd and the entire stadium was discouraged or despondent. Imagine if the band stopped playing. Imagine if the team walked out with their heads down believing that there is no way they could win. How would we respond? We probably wouldn’t be too excited about the game, and probably would turn the channel or go home early believing that there is no way our team would win.

Imagine if that is how we treated our faith in Christ. Imagine if instead of players running out on the field, it was us going into our mission field of Huntington. What if we were despondent, discouraged, and detached from it all? Would we be growing in our faith in Christ? Would we be able to share the love of Christ with others in such a way that it would encourage people to come along side us? Continue reading “Perseverance Required”

Advertisements
A Living Faith

A Living Faith

Wednesday is coming! For students, teachers, and school officials, it marks the beginning of a new school year. Noah has been looking forward to this day since the middle of May when school ended for the Caldwell County Kindergarten. He is ready for school to begin.

Personally, I am ready for a season of normality. I’m also ready to live into our usual family tradition of dropping off Noah at school and quickly running to a restaurant that he will not eat at for breakfast. Suggestions are more than welcome on where we should go Wednesday.

While there is excitement and joy for a new year and the possibilities that it will bring, I cannot help but admit that I have some anxiety about this school year. It is the same anxiety I have felt for several school years and will probably always have. Will Noah receive the care he needs from his teachers and school therapists to thrive? Will other students respect him and recognize that he, too, is a child of God and a person of worth? What will we do if this doesn’t work out?

Those questions weigh heavily on my mind. Even though we have always had a good working relationship with his school, his therapists, and his support systems, I have that fear. Even though I have seen him thrive at every school he has been at and treated with kindness by his peers, I have that fear. Why? Because, as we all do when we are faced with an unknown, we are more focused on the negative possibilities than on what has carried us before and what will lead us moving forward. When life gets difficult, both in our homes and in the life of the church, it is easy to get discouraged, throw up our hands, and say, “I’ve had enough” or “nothing will ever get better.”

Ever feel that way? Maybe that sounds familiar to you with where you are in your faith or the how you see the church this morning? When we come to these moments, what can we do? Should we just give up and say, “Faith shouldn’t be this hard, and it’s hard for me, and I don’t like it, so I quit.” Or should we claim a way that reminds us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going? Continue reading “A Living Faith”

How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?

I like to think of things in terms of: “What kind of world will Noah inherit one day?” As a parent, that seems to be an important way of thinking about our world and my contributions to it. One day, as hard as it may be to realize, I won’t be there to protect Noah, care for him, and make sure that he is growing into the person God has called him to be.

Noah is 6. I’m anxious for the world that he will not only inherit, but that he is living in today.

Since arriving in the world in 2013, Noah has witnessed more mass shootings than I care to admit. The other day, I took a look at how many mass shootings have occurred since his birth. I took advantage of research that was readily available that look at. Essentially, did a shooting event have multiple victims and receive media coverage? Since Noah was born, there have been 88 mass shootings, which killed 564 people and injured 1,1,45 people. Taken all together, the death toll is as if everyone in the town of Matewan was shot and killed since 2013.

That is too much.

It is hard to get a clear definition of what counts as a mass shooting. Different organizations use various standards to determine what mass shootings are or are not. A 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service suggests defining mass murders on whether four people were killed during the attack. Others, such as the organization Gun Violence Archives, defines a mass shooting as any event in which four people were shot, not including the alleged shooter. By the Gun Violence Archives count, there have been 255 mass shootings in 2019.

No matter how you define a mass shooting, it is clear we have a problem, and it is only getting worse. Continue reading “How Can We Move Beyond Hatred?”

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child

Every new pastor receives several questions when they arrive to a new church. Who are you? Where are you from? How will you preach? Will you root for my favorite team?

If a pastor and their family have young children, there are additional questions that you get asked week to week. They focus around the idea of how can we love your child? Those are some of my favorite questions to answer, because there is nothing like seeing your child loved and cared for by the family of God. Your immediate thought is to say, “Well, love them like they are your own.”

For me, though, I have to think about how to answer that question. It’s a lot harder to answer, because of our son’s autism.

With each new community, there are additional questions, concerns, and needs that come in welcoming a new pastor kid let alone one who is on the spectrum. While autism has been part of the general consciousness since 1943, there is still a lack of understanding and awareness of what autism is and is not. I include myself in that conversation. Questions about the basics of autism, what needs to be done, and everything that falls in between are welcome for not just our son but the general community of how to love all of God’s children.

While most conversations about our son focus on worship and interactions within the church – that is, after all, where the majority of people will see him – it only scratches the surface of what is involved in raising a child on the spectrum, especially as a pastor.

So, what is it really like to raise a child on the spectrum disorder as a pastor? Continue reading “What It’s Like to Be a Pastor Raising an Autistic Child”

What Will We Do?

What Will We Do?

One of the highlights of my ministry has been to go to the Holy Land. I’ve gone twice now either with the encouragement of the church, or this last time, with 20 people from my previous church and community.

Each trip has been holy and have included some breathtaking moments. They have included teaching adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, preaching sermons in Israel, and offering communion to pilgrims in Jerusalem. They have also included some hilarity in what I call my classic “Clark Griswald” moments. I had a stress fracture during my first trip for stepping off the bus wrong. In February, I spent the entire trip with both food poisoning and asthma issues.

And I want to go back. I want to go back, because every time I have gone it has opened my eyes more to the life within Scripture. The pages are no longer just words, but are lived out places of life, hope, and struggle. My preaching is better because of my experiences in Israel.

Our passage today, from Luke 10:25-37, is among those that I have a different appreciation for after visiting the Holy Land. The story takes place somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho. This is same area Jesus would travel throughout the majority of Luke’s gospel on his way to the passion. These two historic cities are separated by almost 20 miles and a vast arid desert.

That desert includes the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The same valley cemented in our minds through the words of Psalm 23. It is a rocky and desolate place, but also features several meandering roads. Those roads were regularly traversed by people wanting to go between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a dangerous road, because robbers and bandits would hide in between the valley’s ridges waiting to attack unsuspecting travelers. It would not be uncommon to see someone lying on the road left for dead.

So, with all of that, and knowing all of that, what would you do? Continue reading “What Will We Do?”