Thursday, February 21, 2013


What do you say when you don’t know what to say?  What is left to utter when utterance has become utterly futile?
I am in this season.   I hope it is just a season.  I feel like I have nothing left to say. 
What kind of a pastor ends up here?  Well, one who has experienced the outer limits of what his heart and soul can bear.  I am going to uncover my depths.  I need to.  You don’t have to listen, or care, but I must write it.  In this Lenten season of emptying the cupboards and puking the soul, I must pour it out.  Like the Psalmist I have found my dregs where deep calls unto deep.   Wave after wave of God’s unrelenting faithful and frustrating pounding have besieged the beaches of my life.  It has knocked the legs out from beneath me.  I am scrambling in the foam of his gentle fury.
I father a child deeply troubled.  My being aches.  My intestines twist.  Love aches.  Mental illness has shattered the portrait of the ideal family.  Love overcomes a multitude of sins, but can it overcome this fathomless mystery?  Can we endure this?  Can we survive it?  Can my son make it through this valley blanketed by the shadow of death?   Can God deliver?  I know he can.  Why does he wait?
Advent was about longing and waiting.  We waited and God was revealed.  God with us; the joy we cling to and long for.  We are not abandoned or alone.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who testify to the power of the child who became a man; God enfleshed, who is now the risen Lord. 
Lent is about preparation and repentance.  This journey toward Easter flirts dangerously with the human tendency to navel-gaze and work to save oneself.  I must know my depths and face them honestly, but I must equally analyze the tendency toward over-analysis and in humility make straight the way of the Lord.  This is what I need to hear.  Jesus, God with us, God for us, seeks the honest soul, not the perfect one.  Will I be so bold?  Will I be so needy?  I know I am. 
I Am.  That is who he is.  He will be who he will be.  Will he be what I need?  Will he be what my son needs?  He is. 
But, what if we never escape  this season?  What if the King simply prorogues and delays?  What if he is long in coming?  What if I become like Mary and Martha wondering why he didn’t show up in time?  What if I am left at his feet, belly-aching, berating the divine, and wondering why he who loves so widely and completely seemingly refuses to love as I would like? 
I am the resurrection and the life.  This is his speech in the depths of my despair and disillusionment.  This is who he truly is despite this place where dirges drag, silence tortures, words fail and no answers abound.  This muddy season in which my innards are plowed up and rained upon: can this be the season of new life?  I am given to doubt; touching his overcoming wounds is my only hope.  Truly Paul is correct, if there is no resurrection than we are to be greatly pitied.  Sure, there are times of glory.  There are times when it all comes together, the sun shines, and all is right with the world.  Yet we eventually seem to end up back here in this valley and it is here where he proves himself time and time and time again. 
So, I sit.  I wait.  I discover dust and ashes.  I find I am weak.  I find I am not so smart after all and that he who holds his tongue is wise.  My fingers slip, holding the tongue is not so easy, I am prone to speech.  I vomit words.  I drool vocabulary.  And the Lord is a faithful listener.  He does not butt in.  He simply weeps with me and I find there is only one answer: he is the resurrection and the life.  That’s all that can be said in this season where even in my speech I don’t have anything left to say.

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Wine in New Beer Kegs

What would you do if a dead preacher left you $13,000?
In 1752, Arthur Price, Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland, died and left the equivalent of about $13,000 to his godson, who shared his first name. This second Arthur, a 27-year-old entrepreneur who had recently experienced a spiritual awakening, wondered what to do with such an unexpected gift.
Those were tough days for the Irish and Arthur’s heart was broken at the state of his people. The “Gin Craze” raged as people sought escape in cheap booze from their sorry lives and unsafe water conditions. In the mid-1700s, it was said the average person consumed 45 to 65 litres of gin each year. Arthur was infuriated with this drunkenness and its effects, and began to sense God calling him to “make a drink that will be good for them.”
So he combined his broken heart, love for Jesus and entrepreneurial talents to develop a dark stout drink low in alcohol and high in iron, so people felt full before over-consuming, a drink that a 2003 University of Wisconsin study discovered bolsters heart health and is better for a person than coffee or pop. With the archbishop’s inheritance he bought an abandoned brewery in Dublin and went to work producing his creation. Oh, and he famously gave it his last name: Guinness.
That may be surprising enough, but consider further the impact of Arthur Guinness’s Jesus-centred life and work. His grandson, Hendry Gratton Guinness, became the Billy Graham of a spiritual awakening in Great Britain in the late 1800s. Other descendants transformed public housing and influenced the implementation of a system aimed at reconciliation based on Matthew 18 to end duelling as a means of resolving conflict.
By the early 1900s, Guinness became one of the best workplaces around. The influence of Arthur and his conscientious family meant 24-hour medical and dental care and an on-site massage therapy for workers. In addition to this, education and funeral expenses were paid, as well as a full pension. The company had libraries, reading rooms and athletic facilities.
And today the Guinness Brewing Company has the “Arthur Guinness Fund” that blesses social entrepreneurs in the tradition of Arthur to deliver measurable, transformational change to communities around the world. The fund was developed in 2009, the 250th anniversary of Arthur investing the archbishop’s inheritance, and has invested more than $5.5 million in social transformation. Everything from community gardens, mental health assistance and adult math classes to jobs for the disabled, to the mentoring of ex-prisoners, empowering those who work in search and rescue, and a program of men’s sheds where guys gather to fix bikes for local schools or repair furniture for people, have all been supported by the social entrepreneurship inspired by Arthur Guinness, who put the wine of the kingdom of God into beer kegs.
Now this tale is not told to defend the consumption of alcohol, but rather to make us think again about what a Spirit-inspired imagination can do for God’s glory and the good of one’s society. Arthur’s redemptive creativity was one small part of a new social transformation and produced a legacy of goodness. We, too, have a responsibility for the welfare of our locales (Jeremiah 29:7). Should not our love for God and neighbour awaken such inspired genius still? Ought not those who know the hope of the kingdom get creative for the common good? What would you do with $13,000?