Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ministry Remnants: Pastors are Human

"Pastors are Human, Too!"

What does this mean? Everything, I guess. It means they have family pain and frustrations, that they wonder about their career path; it means they have money struggles or emotional pain or difficult habits -- just like those in the pew! This is not profound or new so why am I saying it? Because pastors are human, too.

Through the years I've heard this refrain and always thought it somehow diminished the pastor. I always considered the pastor a cut above, on a different plane. In some unusual sense he is, I guess, though I have no erudition for it. Perhaps his unusual calling places him in cruxes not unlike that of the Great Shepherd, cruxes without which he can never pastor.

But this matter of him being human is still to be heard. For as I know so very well first hand, pastors are human, too.

I realized this afresh this week as I faced that peculiar mix of fatigue, shortcomings, demands and emotional lows. Each factor interacts with the others to make some dispositions susceptible to real emotional pain, almost debilitating. Without the "almost".

The realization set me back on my heels. Would I like to overcome? I did overcome, but not immediately. There was suffering, humbling, learning, forced waiting. I am glad for the ordeal, but more glad to have endured.

Pastors are human, too. Don't imagine they can carry all the weight we too easily send them, whether imagined or real. It is their job to listen and help carry, but not to bear the whole load. Pastors are human, too.

That is all.

(None of this is reflection on my congregation. They are very gracious and forbearing. I do think the matter requires all the discipline a pastor can muster, and more. And they do not bat 1,000. Pastors are human, too!)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

News Flash: Old Guy Runs for Funds in Midnight Sun Run!

On Easter Sunday I stepped off the proverbial cliff and announced I would run in the Midnight Sun Run. At the time I thought it was a 5K. It is a 10K. No I was not in shape! No I do not have a death wish!
I did feel it was right, for the fun of it, and for the cause of raising mission funds. I have been training and plan to run Saturday night at 10 PM. 

The form below says a bit more and gives options for contributing if you would like. 

Smiles and gratitude and giving it my best -- thanks to all for friendship and prayers. I am looking forward to it! (be sure to read my stellar qualifications at the bottom!)

We'll let you know how it turns out!


 Fun Fundraiser for Missions

10K for $10K

Pastor Huff caught a vision to raise money for missions by running in the Midnight Sun Run this year. You read that right – he will run in the 10K! Skeptical? Good reason for that! Here are some ways to respond if you want to:

    I'm amused. I'll come to town and see if he makes it. _____
    I'm not amused! Does he have life insurance? _____
    I'm amused. If he survives I'll give $________
    I'll donate a wheelchair or crutches. _____
    I'm concerned! I'll come and encourage him! _____
    I'd like to run, too. (Register online) _____
    I'd like to run and raise mission funds too! _____
    I will give “per K” he actually runs. Gift amount per kilometer ran: $100 ____; $50 _____; $25 _____; $10 _____; $ Other amt. ________. (ex: A pledge of $50 per K means if he runs 6 kilometers the gift will be $300.)
    Additional snide remarks: __

What will this fundraiser support exactly?

This fund will support short-term projects that arise from time to time. This could include helping one of our own on a mission, village projects/VBS, or emergency needs. Please give as you feel led. If you wish just to give to the fund and pray for Randy's health, simply mark the gift accordingly and place in the offering. Randy qualified? YES! Consider:

  • he's breathing
  • he ran the ½ mile in 8th grade
  • he can stand for 30 minutes in line at the donut shop
    (Seriously, he has been training for a while and thinks he will be able to run at least 5K. Pray!)

All gifts are tax-deductible and will be prayerfully administered.

Gifts can be mark 'mission fund' and mailed to:

NPMC ~2485 Dawson Rd.~North Pole, AK 99705

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Alaska Weather

When I saw this Alaska weather pie chart I had a good belly laugh. Yes, winters are long, but 85% of the year?!?! Not quite, but it can seem that way!

Monday, June 13, 2016

On Understanding Gospel Songs

I have found a resting place when sore distressed
Jesus Rock of Ages strong and true
In a weary land I in His shadow rest
He is my strength in all that I do.

Jesus Rock of Ages, let me hide in thee
Jesus Rose of Sharon sweet thou art to me
Lilly of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star
Fairest of Ten Thousand to my soul. 

A few days ago I posted the words above and considered their meaning. Today I remember how easy it is to miss the import of words like this. I have tended to do one of the following:

1. Assume the writer wrote during a time of euphoria.
While this is certainly possible, and no doubt sometimes the case, I now see it differently. Expressions of adoration and high praise for God can spring from many sources within, all of which may be sincere and indicative of a genuine and sustained relationship with God.
2. Closely related: I disconnect the suggested experience or understanding from any real sense of living that way on a daily basis.Well, just because something is expressed in flowery lanuguage, even hyperbole, does not mean it fails to reflect something real.

3. Move thoughtlessly through the words regardless of their merit, rationality overpowered by the [somewhat super-] natural power of the music.This seems the largest difficulty. Ironically, the music 'blesses me' while the actual lyrica meaning is passed over. Perhaps more accurately, the music adds to the rational process a language of soul that brings body, mind and spirit together and confirms the meaning of the text.

Hmmm...not sure where that leaves me, except this. I want to know Jesus in the way this song-writer describes. I need that kind of friend.

That is all.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Empty Bottomless Pit of Human Rationality without God

"The arguments of man will not save me. Ethics, as much as they matter, will not save me. 
Only God can save me. 
To Him I look, on Him I depend."

I've spent most of my life having opinions as, I assume, do most sentient human persons. There, I just did it again...and get the idea; I did it again!

I recently followed a string of facebook comments that debated questions of life and murder and personhood with interlocutors weighing in on all points of the continuum. Many of them were highly educated. To cut through the hubris, assumptions, any logical clarity or lack of would only be possible for an infinite being. I came away because I must. To read further leads to near-despair.

So what of all this opinion-sharing? What matters in the end? I have only one answer. I really do trust the first century man Jesus to be who he claimed to be. I am barely aware of the virtually infinite arguments on either side of that trust and that claim. But it seems the trust is as intensely personal as is possible and as such surpasses argument in some way, just as love does.

I am suggesting that if we place our ultimate hope in the rational processes of mankind our hope is weak indeed. If we place our hope in the integrity and righteousness of mankind we are running on broken feet. Am I better off to trust a man who made claims to be eternal, infinite, God? Yes, if I can find those claims defensible in some reasonable fashion, if the claim to actual resurrection carries (however shocking) plausible substantiation, and if I am willing to die for this belief.

The willingness to die has no intrinsic merit, I suppose. Rather, it says I have abandoned all hope in other means. It is in Jesus I have invested my everything. I will suffer for this, for it is a truth claim countless people mock and will be unable to avoid persecuting. Such is the way of this fallen world.

The arguments of man will not save me. Ethics, as much as they matter, will not save me. Only God can save me. To Him I look, on Him I depend.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ravi Zacharias on Music

I enjoy hearing Ravi Zacharias when I can. His understanding and speaking ability are remarkable and very helpful. This morning he spoke graciously on the differences among Christian people and he dared to artfully engage differences in musical taste. Here is a paraphrase of what he said:

"You know I find it amazing that some people like to sing the same thing 5 times. My mind does not work well that way. They say they cannot bear to sing five verses so they sing the same thing 5 times. [laughter] But I can respect where they are coming from. People make an emotional connection in different ways and so I respect that. But for me, I do not want to sing the same thing five times; I need progression of thought." [laughter]

I can believe his last quip was sincerely respectful. Happily I have found I can engage in similar opinions without the self-righteous aplomb that used to take over. But it is a critique worth reckoning. Does the continual repetition of the same sentiment express a particular emotional/psychological fabric that must be 'indulged' in order for the singer to feel as though he is engaging with the Almighty in some fashion? Indeed, and the same is true for those songs that require 'progression of thought.' Many find that these are the only types of [lyrical] music that allow one to engage in worship.

So what is the answer? Is Ravi right to suggest neither is intrinsically superior, while expressing affinity for one? I confess I do not know. At the very least we must try to discern to what extent the medium influences the message and thus the listener. What are the implications of the two categories? If repetition is a dominant motif, what will that teach about what matters most? If progression of thought is the dominant motif, what will that teach? Is either superior?

Often, Psalm 136 proposed as exhibit A for the value of repetition. David writes "His mercy endures forever" repeatedly. What do we gain from it? A constant refrain that embeds a message in our mind. Meditation does the same thing -- repeating the same things over and over. And repetition is central in teaching, especially in childhood.

The only counter-thoughts I would have are these:
1. As a song writer, David's repetition in 136 is a bit unique. He would get quite boring if he did it all the time, and he doesn't.
2. Further, in Psalm 136 each of the repetitive statements is tied to a new statement about God's character and actions. With each repeat comes a new thought.
3. Repetition is important, but as we grow in understanding it gives way to arranging ideas in logical format, sometimes called progression of thought.
4. We greatly need the most thoughtful and robust understanding of Christianity. Our music should reflect that need and avoid subjecting us overmuch to repetitive lyrics that do not challenge the mind.

(to be continued - maybe)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Knowing the Rest only Jesus can Give

When life needs or disappointments bring crippling despondency, 
do I find that He is One who comforts and understands and comes along side me in pain?

I have found a resting place when sore distressed
Jesus Rock of Ages strong and true
In a weary land I in His shadow rest
He is my strength in all that I do.

Jesus Rock of Ages, let me hide in thee
Jesus Rose of Sharon sweet thou art to me
Lilly of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star
Fairest of Ten Thousand to my soul. (vs. 2/3 below)

This song was written by one Charles Weigle who, incidentally, served not far from where we lived in Eastern Kentucky. I first heard it from the Bullock family in the 1970's and it has been a favorite in recent years. Weigle also wrote No One ever Cared for me like Jesus after the devastating loss of his family. He found solace in Christ and wrote from a deeply wounded soul about the true friend who brought healing.

I've never suffered like that and pray I will not. But I still need the friend. And I wonder if the beauty of the music and the layers of familiarity keep me from hearing the words and letting the reality truly transform my thinking and action.
  • Do I know Jesus -- the real person Jesus -- as my friend and elder brother? 
  • When I am deeply hurt or bewildered do I go to him as one who understands and can offer counsel? 
  • When life needs or disappointments bring crippling despondency, do I find that He is One who comforts and understands and comes along side me in pain?
I think I am learning this reality, and the very possibility makes me deeply happy.

He has made us for Himself and we do not rest unless we rest in Him.

* Vs. 2 & 3

I have found the sweetest flower that ever grew,
Jesus, Rose of Sharon fair and pure;
He's my joy and comfort blessed Friend so true,
He blooms within my heart evermore.

I have found a lovely star that shines on high,
Jesus, Bright and Morning Star to me;
In the night of sorrow He is ever nigh
He drives the darkest shadows away.