A Cathartic Bump In The Night

It’s 1 a.m. The rest of my family is sound asleep.

I’m up because–well, it started in a dream.  About a half an hour ago I was having a bad dream; one of those bad dreams that ends in a loud noise that your mind swears happened outside the dream.  Jarred from my deep sleep, I woke with the very convincing notion that someone was at my front door, trying to get in.

I’m a lover, not a fighter so the only weapon I have is a fixed blade knife.  And since I’d never be willing to get close enough to any intruder to use it, its pretty well pointless.  But just in case intruders read my blog, I’ll keep its location to myself.

It turned out, no one was at my door.  So I went back to bed, only after checking around the house while swallowing my heart repeatedly.  While lying in bed wide awake, I heard another noise.  This time I KNEW I wasn’t asleep, and that this noise was definitely real.  Out of bed I sprang again, and once I again I felt the “what if someone’s really around that corner” lump in my throat.  Knifeless, I checked around each corner.  No one there.

After yet another round of noises and checks, I decided that the noise is coming from my air conditioning ducts–well, actually its coming from my house that is literally being sucked inward when my air conditioning kicks on.  Since my vent filters apparently need cleaning, its working a bit harder to do its job and therefore sucking in creaks and squeaks like I suck in my gut at the pool.  So, here I sit at my blog which feels to me much more like a long lost friend than a website address.  I decided to come down and write because quite frankly I have had a ton of things on my mind and laying in bed thinking about them doesn’t do me a bit of good.  So here I am.  Let me tell you about some thoughts I’ve been thinking recently, in no particular order, and with no particularly well-crafted substance to prop them up.

For years I’ve wanted to write a book.  I can’t tell you how many people have told me I should.  I’ve been told by many that I have a peculiar knack to be able to bring the reader into my thoughts, and that’s a sign of a talented writer that people want to read.  I want to say that I whole-heartedly would love to write a book.  I’ve actually written several in my head and am constantly starting what I think are great ideas for great books on a fairly regular basis.  But I’ve got to tell you that I view the publishing world as an incredibly confusing place.  As much as I’d love to see a book published, I haven’t the first clue as to how to go about getting a book published.  Now, I’m sure someone is sitting there reading this saying, “Oh, it’s easy. You just do this, this, and this.  That’s all.”  Well, if you’re that person, please drop me a line and tell me what those three “this’s” are because I’d gladly listen.  I once went to a seminar on getting published and left more discouraged, frustrated, and confused than when I went in.  It seemed the consensus of the published authors that led the seminar was that there really wasn’t any more room for more authors.  It felt like they were behind a huge door saying, “Sorry, its really crowded in here.  Besides, you don’t know the secret handshake. Go away now, thank you!”  So, my latest book idea is titled “This Way To The Publisher”.  The book cover would have a standard diamond-shaped road sign with a black arrow on a yellow background, but the arrow wouldn’t be pointing in any direction at all.  Maybe by writing a book about the arduous adventure of getting a book published, I’d learn along the way how to do it.

I’m afraid that “para-church” organizations are contributing to the death of the Church.  I should have warned you that I’ll be changing topics with little or no warning whatsoever.  This thought about the parachurch came to me last week when I attended a quarterly regional luncheon for Richmond-area youth leaders and out of the 30 or so people present, I was only 1 of 2 other pastors from actual churches.  Every other person there was representing some parachurch organization.  The reason I fear that the parachurch is contributing to the death of the Church isn’t the parachurch’s fault.  So if you work for such an organization, please back away from the red button in the corner you’re about to click.  Parachurch organizations are organizations designed to come alongside, support, and supplement the Church.  However, not one of them would exist had the Church stayed true to fulfilling its mission on Earth.  It hasn’t or even if it has, other pursuits have crept up and seemed like really good or noble or necessary pursuits.  Even though they were not, enough people thought they were and as a result, here they are.  Not only that but more times than not, the parachurch-to-Church connection isn’t strong enough and even if the bridge is visible, not enough people are walking across it.  Some people will contend, “But we’re all the Church.”  I don’t know how to argue that point at 1:15 a.m. except to say that I don’t think that’s true.

I’ve spent far too much time in ministry giving attention to those who make God sad rather than those who make God happy and I’m taking responsibility for this wrong decision.  Lately I have given far more mental energy toward people who’s decisions frustrate me to no end, and not nearly enough investment and attention to those who’s decisions and actions reflect the attitude of Christ.  It may seem like I’m saying I’ll only interact with Christ-like people.  That’s not what I’m trying to say at all.  It’s just that with the sheer numbers of people I see knowingly living lives contrary to the right decisions they should make, I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  I’m not talking about people living in ignorance or unbelief; I’m talking about disobedience despite full knowledge of the truth, and for no other reason (that I can see) than that of utter selfishness.  And don’t think I think I’ve arrived anywhere.  I certainly know my own faults, shortcomings, and sins.  (Heck, writing this paragraph might be viewed as one of them.)  But one thing I do: “forgetting what lies behind, and pressing on to what lies ahead”, I lean toward the person of Christ and in Him find rest, salvation, satisfaction, and a Lord I can gladly serve.  And I only find my greatest desire is that others would do the same, and far better than I have.

I think I’m in a time of reflection and I’m guessing that since I’m 37 years old, you might suspect that its nearing “midlife”.  I suppose it might have a hint of that, but really its not nearly that purposeful or thought-out.  Instead, I find myself to be observational–even more so than usual.  By nature, I’m a listener/processor.  I liken myself to a crock pot:  my thoughts may take a while longer, but what you get is correspondingly more flavorful.  Or so I like to think.  Along the lines of my reflections has been that my greatest fear is uselessness.  Like I said, I’m 37 years old.  I work with teenagers and have been in one way or another for nearly 20 years.  Wow.  And I’ve had 20 years worth of experiences; highs, lows, bedsides, roadsides, gravesides. Courtrooms, police cars, bedrooms, counseling sessions, housing runaways, and trying to be a soft place to land. Not only that, but speaking truth consistently, understandably, and practically.  20 years of working with, teaching, standing by, crying with, reaching out to, sharing God’s Word with, and investing in teenagers.  I’ve always wanted to do this ever since I learned that I could.  And as long as God will allow me to, I’ll keep on loving teens and their families.

I’m excited about an upcoming speaking engagement this fall.  If all works out, I’ll be sharing a number of revival service messages with some of the good folks of North Carolina.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of revival, its the week or so out of the year that Southern Baptists are excited about Jesus.  And if there’s a week that you want to be with a bunch of Southern Baptists, its that one.  Having grown up in a small Baptist church, I’m familiar with the concept of revival and have all confidence in the Spirit of God that He will be pleased to use even a flawed vessel like me to bring it about.  Honored to be invited, I’ve been thinking often about this special and precious time we’ll have together in God’s Word, in all-out worship, and in deep-fried fellowship together.  And what a powerful opportunity to again tune my own heart to God’s praises and to His voice regarding revival in my own life.  While I may have been asked to serve the meal, don’t think for one second that I’m not going dig in to it myself! I have a spiral notebook where I’ve been keeping the things God has been nudging me with and impressing on my heart through Scripture, by His Spirit, and in our talks together.  And if that group of His children in NC will still have me after reading this paragraph, then I can’t wait to get there and experience this time together!

I haven’t contributed to my blog for nearly a month now, and while I’d say that’s mostly been blamed on time, I suspect that there’s more to it than that.  (Not to mention “lack of time” gets way too much use and is way too lame to be used that often.  We all know that, but no one likes to admit it.)  I talked with my Dad recently about his regularity in contributing to his blog (check my blogroll to find it).  He’s a bit more systematic than I am.  Scratch that–my Dad’s writing schedule is more like a well-tuned machine while comparatively speaking mine would be more like a pile of dirt.  Nonetheless, I like to think of it as good soil that occasionally springs up a blade or two of green grass now and then.

I’ve been writing for over an hour now and I feel less burdened than I did before.  I suppose whatever else lies just inside the fingertips of my feverishly typing phalanges might just have to wait until next time to emerge.  Until then, whenever that may be, whether sooner or later, good night.

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3 thoughts on “A Cathartic Bump In The Night

  1. Jerry –
    1. Totally agree about parachurch ministries not being connected to the church enough, and how the church has abdicated its role to parachurch ministries, and how we are ending up with “paraChristians” instead of church members! Well said.

    2. I love that you are still in youth ministry and feel a specific calling to it. But don’t kid yourself. You are a wonderful, all-around pastor, too. Proof: I’m sure that most of your blog readers are adults!

    3. Your work schedule may look like a pile of dirt compared to your dad’s….but I bet your dirt is “well fertilized!”
    There are always good things sprouting up!

    Thanks for using your moment of panic to share some thought provokers!

  2. Jerry, it’s been a while since I visited your blog – or any blog for that matter, including my own – and I enjoyed reading it just a much as always! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your writing style, and definitely need to stop by here more often.

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