Archive for August, 2011
Earlier I had to make a late night run into the office to take care of a few things. As I drove, a Jon Foreman song came on that made my thoughts turn to my wife. Out of nowhere I start crying. Why? I wasn’t really sure. It wasn’t sadness. I have no major difficulties going on in my life right now. I am not feeling any anxiety in the moment. But there I was, underneath a black sky, driving down a dimly lit road, weeping.
At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I realized it was joy. So here I am now, unpacking the reason for this sudden burst of emotion from the safety and comfort of my bedroom against the backdrop of a humming box fan, my wife breathing, and the familiar rumble of a train as it crawls past my house.
As I drove tonight all it took was that one song to tip the first domino and bring to mind the blessings in my life. In about 24 hours, I turn 30 years old. Three decades. They have gone by in a blink. Sometimes I wish I could slow things down, just let certain snippets of time linger. Life consists of all of your moments lined up in a row, but I am all too often tempted to forget about the moments and press for the future. It is the moments that become lodged in our memory as we reflect back later. So many good moments in the last 30 years have flooded my mind tonight. So many recollections to be thankful for.
I remember my wife on our wedding day. The look in her eye that communicated she never wanted to be with anyone else. I remember the first Island sunset we watched together, the day after we married, as it dipped below the horizon. Coming home together for the first time. Walking across the stage together to receive our Master’s degree. Driving to Dallas to get our dog. The time it snowed in December in Southeast Texas. I remember the first time I saw my son and feeling love and pride well up inside that I could not previously have understood. All the little quirky things he does that remind me of myself. I have hundreds of memories from growing up in my parents home. Late night talks with my mom. Early morning fishing trips with my dad. Movies we watched. Games we played. Sayings we had. Things we laughed at. Vacations that we went on. My dad’s enthusiasm when he saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time and us both spitting off of the top of the Empire State Building. I remember the time a Blackhawk helicopter landed in our yard. I remember naive conversations with friends. Music that we liked to listen to. Studying for certain tests in college. Planning what life would be like. I remember all of the antics my roommates and I had. The time we ran a truck over a Christmas tree in the middle of the parking lot just because we had nothing better to do or pouring washing detergent in the school fountain. I remember Christmas plays that our church had. Specific sermons that impacted me in a significant way. Kind words spoken by others. I remember certain times were God convicted me to change and other times were He nudged me in a certain direction. I remember the first time I spoke in front of a congregation. If space and time would permit, I could fill volumes about all of my memories. All of the moments that have composed my life.
It’s almost been 30 years. I have gotten to love so many people. I have been loved more than seems possible. I have been blessed more than I deserve. I know where I will be when this body wears out. It has been a joy. There have been highs and lows, but the string of moments that have comprised my life have been wonderful. If 30 years is all I get, I can honestly say it has blown any expectations I had. I look forward to whatever the future holds and wonder how it could be any better.
I am thankful that tonight was about remembering, for the flood of unexpected emotion and surprising joy, and for 30 years of life that have gone by too quickly.
“Over and over I hear the same refrain
It’s the rhythm of my heart
And my sleepy girl’s breathing
It’s the rhythm of my Southbound Train”
Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
The thoughts being purged through my fingers by the dim light of my computer screen are the culmination of many things. I briefly want to discuss my thoughts in relation to being “called to ministry.” My thoughts in this area started to grow out of a conversation that a dear friend and I had about our experience in feeling the need to vocationally preach the Gospel and become ministers. Recently, he shared a blog with me that echoed our conversation from about a year ago.
I have heard many people say that one “must be called” to ministry. I understand what they are saying to a certain degree because some things are a fit for people and other things aren’t. In this sense, I was not “called to sports” because I am not an incredibly athletic person. I have also heard people say when someone asks them to serve in a particular form or fashion that they “don’t feel called to do that.” What does that mean exactly? Are they ill equipped? Do they lack the desire? Is it an excuse? I know I have used the phrase as a wonderful Christian cop-out that politely says “I don’t want to be a part of that but I want to look good.”
So what does it mean to be called? I have heard people spiritualize “the call to ministry” as if it was reminiscent of the scene in the Star Wars film where Luke and Obi-Wan stumble across a holographic image contained in R2-D2 where Princess Leia proclaims “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” I never received my hologram from God. The sky never split where God said, “Hey Josh, it is high time you become a minister.” I never randomly opened the Bible and put my finger on a random verse that said, “Go and preach the Gospel into all the nations.”
So how did that “calling” come? Before I share how I came to become a minister please allow me to share something I read from Andy Stanley (who is certainly one of my hero’s) not too long ago. Andy and his Father, Charles Stanley (maybe you have heard of him, maybe), had a conversation one day as the drove down the road. Andy asks Charles, “Dad, does a person have to be called into ministry, or can they just volunteer?” Charles pondered this question for a few moments and responded, “Well, I guess it is okay to volunteer.” So Andy did just that. He volunteered. No fanfare. Fairly anti-climactic. He simply volunteered to become a minister, and he has done some very significant things for the kingdom of Christ.
Back to my experience in this area. I grew up in a pastor’s home. Essentially, I have been tied to ministry in some form or fashion for most of my life. As a child and adolescent the last thing I wanted to do was be a pastor, preacher, etc. My plan was to major in psychology, get a M.A. in psychology, become a licensed professional counselor, and minister to people by helping them work through their difficulties in life. I started down this path and it was, and still is, and incredible journey. After pulling away from God, making a few bad decisions, and then drawing closer to God amidst sorting through some things in my life I found myself wanting to serve in a greater capacity. I then started reading more and devoting more time to spiritual pursuits. I felt a gap I had created between God and myself begin to narrow because, after all, God never moves away from us. Instead, it is we who move away from God. My family and I would watch DVD’s of preaching in the evening, sometimes for several hours. One night while we were watching sermon after sermon, message after message, and series after series, I realized I also wanted to volunteer. I wanted to volunteer to preach and teach. In some ways, I was naive. Not realizing the difficulty, frustration, heartache, and even loneliness that comes at times with becoming involved in ministry. On the converse side, it is also incredibly rewarding and exciting to be a part of what God does in other people’s lives. Tonight all of these thoughts caved in on me as I watched a sermon that I go back to from time to time that I have on DVD that ministers to me in a significant way. It reminded me of when I first realized that I wanted to serve Christ through preaching. I know I am suppose to preach, teach, help others with their difficulties and share insight with others. If someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow, I would still do these exact same things only in a different capacity. This lets me know I am doing what I should be.
So what am I trying to say exactly? Only this. We all have our unique set of talents, gifts, abilities, interests and passions. If we wait for a hologram to be projected in the air, we will never serve. It’s okay to volunteer. We are all called to serve Christ in some capacity. So what are you good at? What are your passions? What do you feel interested in? Harness these things for the cause of Christ! Ministry and serving God cuts across all vocations. Don’t wait to be asked. We are all commanded to serve.
Just remember. It is alright to volunteer.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31
Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.