Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

The Import of Story

I recently told you about a great a superlative book I read recently called The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson (pick up a copy here) (It’s the third in the Wingfeather Saga).  I thought I would let you know about how it helped me in a sermon and in a hospital visit.  As I was preaching on Sunday it came to me – a quote from the book.  I held up my finger (indicating that everyone should wait a moment) walked over to the piano and picked up a pen and wrote a note to myself in my notes…where I could use this quote.  I was preaching on the story of Joseph.  Actually, I’m trying to preach a spring/summer series on the larger story we’re a part of.  We started with Adam and Eve, hit Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and this week was Joseph.  Kind of hard to do.

You have to tell a long story and then land on one particular scripture passage in the middle or at the end and draw out of it what God has to say.  Anyway, it was Joseph this week.  I told his long up and down story: Up – Dad’s favorite, Down – Brothers sell him into slavery, Up – become slave-owner’s favorite, Down – thrown in jail for not sleeping with someone, Up – become head prisoner/warden, Down – have to tell someone that their dream means they’re going to die soon, Up – Become lord of all Egypt.

After telling the story we read the part where he was reunited with his brothers and says, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:8).  And in the middle of the story I remember this line from The Monster in the Hollows, “Evil digs a pit, and the Maker makes a well. That is His way.” ~Artham Wingfeather.  Dang! I wish I could write like that.  It fit well into the sermon, but then, on a hospital call it worked well, too.

The 6th floor of the hospital has a wing for mental health.  I was on the 6th floor of the hospital on the last day of May visiting a friend.  She asked me why all this was happening to her, and why God would put all this hardship in her life.  What possible good could come out of it all?  As is the case in many situations like that, I don’t have a good answer.  Not sure there is a good answer – at least not a good one that can come from people.  God’s got a lot of explaining to do in my opinion. 

With Joseph and Artham fresh on my mind we talked about the Bible story – one she had never heard.  Sometimes story is the only thing to tell in the middle of hardship.  Sometimes explaining things away only makes everything worse.  Take Job’s friends for instance: they did everything right until they opened their mouth.  So it was story for us on the 6th floor, and I let Joseph’s tale just hang there.

Thank God for story.  And thank God for storytellers.  And thank God for the larger story we get to participate in.


Meow, Click

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment


Warning: this story includes my personal opinion about cats.

This story is only funny because it turned out OK.  I received a phone call at 8:30 in the morning from a friend of mine who is part of our church.  She sounded pretty cool, calm and collected, so I didn’t expect what came next.  Turns out she was in a storage room (no windows, no heat) in her house when her cat knocked over a piece of furniture that knocked into the door.  The door happened to be locked (from the outside).  The door closed on my friend and vuala! – locked and alone.  Meanwhile a meowing cat (probably complaining about kitty litter or not enough catnip) paced outside the room.

Fortunately she had her phone in her pocket and rang me up.  After a few calls, and a brother-in-law with a spare key and a video camera, she was free from her feline imprisoner, and on to the rest of her day.

No point here.  Just an awesome story about why Julie needs to consider getting a dog.

Did I forget to give you my personal opinion about cats?  Oh.  Well, I hate to alienate friends who like cats.  So, I won’t.

Categories: Yellow w/ White Trim Tags: , ,

Two Hobbies (Part 1)

April 27, 2011 2 comments

I have two hobbies that I think I will tell you about.  One is the kind of goody-two-shoes hobbie that everyone expects from a pastor.  The other is just the opposite.  It’s the kind of thing I shouldn’t tell you about.  But I will.

First is smiling at people.  Now, that sounds super lame, but there’s a trick to it.  If you just walk around smiling at people they will hate you.  For instance, I walked into the post office on Tuesday to mail my mom’s Mother’s Day/Birthday present (yes, I did double duty on the gift…if you have a problem with that try having a birthday on December 23 and then complain to me) and tried doing it the wrong way.  I just walked through the whole place with a big ol’ grin on my face.  First, it probably looks a little creepy – someone smiling for no apparent reason, especially at a post office.  I got looks from people.  They were the looks that said, “Hey, pal, what do you have to smile about?  You think your life is so great?  Better than mine?  Probably, but now I hate you.”

So, that’s the wrong way to do it.  The right way can actually be pretty great.  (Warning: if you try to do the following without meaning it, you can be perceived to be a pervert or suicide bomber.)  You have to, in your mind and heart wish the best for someone, then make eye contact and a split second after making eye contact you have to generate a very real smile.  The smile has to say, “I see you, and I think that if we were to take the time to talk to one another we would like each other.”  I would say that 92.5 percent of the time that I properly execute that kind of smile I get one in return, and I’m willing to bet that it surprises A LOT of people that they smile or that a stranger gave them that smile.  Try it, but you have to mean it or you’ll come off really creepy.

Ok, the other hobby.  I’ll put that in the next post.  I promise.  But, I’m telling you that if you have some semblance of a good picture in your mind about me it will be shattered when you find out what I like to do (It’s nothing creepy).  So, if you want to keep thinking I’m a stand-up guy, don’t read Part 2.

58th District Court

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Sitting in the second row of courtroom B at the 58th District Court in Holland, MI gave me the ability to hear each conversation between judge and defendant.  I was able to listen in on the four sentencings before the one I had arrived to attend:

First up was a diminutive young woman who drove her car under the influence of alcohol.

Second was an enormous man in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.  He was there because he beat his girlfriend.

Third, an older Chilean man who allowed a young child to drive a car.

Fourth, a man in his very early twenties who now must register as a sex offender.

While they were young, old, male, female, small, and very large they all had one thing in common besides the fact that each stood before the judge.  Each had misused power.

The diminutive woman misused the horsepower of her car.  The enormous man misused his physical power over someone weaker.  The older Chilean man misused his power over a younger person, and the newest member of the national registry of sex offenders misused his power of age and experience.

Each was entrusted with this power, not necessarily from the State of Michigan, but they all found one thing to be true: there is a power greater than that of their own.  They stood before a judge who represented the seal of the State of Michigan that hung on the wall right behind him, and that power outmatches each individual.

Power flows downhill and is granted by those uphill.  At the end of the day, or at the end of days, we stand before the judge who has broken all seals and has disseminated power.  I pray for justice.  And mercy.

Easter Invites

April 15, 2011 1 comment

I’m planning on having  little improvisation on Sunday morning with Brett VanderBerg my seminary intern.  I can see that making an invitation to a friend is scary for some people.  I can understand that.  It’s not so with me because…well…it’s part of my job and natural for me, but it’s not for other people.

So, we’re going to do a little improv before we part ways after worship this week.  I’m sure it will go well.  Brett is really good at stuff like that, and I’m not too horrible myself.  My hope is that it will give people some picture of how it can go.  “Hi Bill, wondering if I could borrow one of those funky wrenches that are specifically for replacing kitchen faucets.”  “Sure, it’s the kind of thing you only use once or twice.  Otherwise better to borrow than buy.”  “Definitely.”  “Say, have you and Jen found a place to go to church on Easter morning?”  “No, we’ve been meaning to ask around a bit, but haven’t gotten to it.  When’s Easter this year?”  “The 24th.  We’d love it if you two would join us at our church.”  “I’ll check with Jen, but…yah, sounds good.  Thanks for the invite.  Here’s that wrench.”

See, that wasn’t too scary.  But…I do know it can go the other way:

“Say, have you and Jen found a place to go to church on Easter morning?”  “No, you know, we just don’t really get into church that much.  I think we’ll be heading up north that weekend.”  “Oh, that sounds relaxing.  I hope you have a great weekend.  If you’re ever interested, you know the invite still stands, right?”  “You bet, man.  Hey, here’s that wrench.”

That’s not even that bad.  It’s certainly not what people are afraid of.  And you might be thinking that people are afraid of the angry response:

“Say, have you and Jen found a place to go to church on Easter morning?”  “No, and dammit, you’re like the 5th person to ask us.  We aren’t interested in church, Ted.  Jeesh.  We think it’s a bunch of hypocrits trying to make themselves feel better by making others feel like they’re on the outside.”  “Here.  Here’s that wrench.”

True, that stinks, and can happen, but more than likely people you would invite are your friends and wouldn’t blow up.  People aren’t really afraid of that.  What they’re really afraid of is this:

“Say, have you and Jen found a place to go to church on Easter morning?”  “No.  Actually, I’m glad you brought it up.  Jen and I were having a discussion about church the other day and I was hoping you could answer a couple questions we weren’t able to figure out.”

Now, I can understand that fear, but if you are so fortunate as to get that kind of response, then you are in the BEST of places.  It means your friends trust you, and are seriously primed for a season of exploring faith.  You don’t have to have the answers.  Heck, they don’t have the answers.  Here’s a great response: honesty.  Try it.  They’ll love it, and it frees you up completely.

“Wow, Bill, I’ve never thought of that.  Want to explore that over a beer (or coke, if you’re friend has alcohol issues)?”  Or “Good question, Bill.  I’ll have to ask my pastor about that.  She tends to have studied enough to give her a jumpstart on some of those good questions.  I’ll ask, or better yet, you can ask.  She’s really easy to talk to.”

Bottom line.  If you’re feeling like you should invite a friend to Easter…better do it.  Could be the Holy Spirit has prepped the whole thing.

Blessings and bravery to you.

Ninja on a Bicycle

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

David on his way to the Way Cup Cafe

The following is a poem about a friend of mine who is a great example of service and selflessness.  He’s a terrific picture of gentleness and servanthood.  He rides his bike to the Way Cup Cafe and makes sure it’s clean and cared for, and I think he cares for more than just the cafe…because I feel it, too.  Thanks, David!  I hope you enjoy the poem.

Ninja on a Bicycle

Pedals gently

Coat swiftly to its place

Hands moving silently

Sits and stacks scattered papers

If you look away, he’s gone,

But the garbage is emptied

Unsanitary sliced away

And toilet paper restored

A second glance and he’s there, outside

But you never saw him move

Three sips of java and the patio is swept

Dirt cut into oblivion

Everything is gentle

But between the earbuds

A world-altering thought brews

Everything is gentle

But his heart beats with fierce passion

And he’s gone

You catch a glimpse of bicycle wheel

Reflecting the rising sun

Leaving as he came, a glimmer

A reminder of things to return

Categories: The Slow Grow Tags: , , ,

The Jist of the Quist

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Quist At Work

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine.  We see each other on Tuesday mornings at the Way Cup Cafe on 17th Street.  He’s young.  He’s a pastor.  He’s a pastor of a church in our target area.  He’s thoughtful.  He’s funny.  He’s smart.  So…he’s a young, thoughtful, funny, smart pastor of a church in our target area.  Oh…and the best part: he get’s it. 

His name is Mark Quist and he pastors a medium sized church (for this area).  The church has been around for a longish while and has all the properties of a church with multiple generations.  So, Mark has his work cut out for him in some areas and has it made in others.  Mostly, Mark is the kind of guy who knows how to patiently walk with a group of believers who genuinely want to make a difference for the Kingdom of God in their area…our area.

I love LOVE LOVE! it when I get to see Mark at the Way Cup, and I’ll tell you why.  It’s not because we sit for a few minutes before we get our sermons started for the week.  It’s not because he laughs at things I think are funny.  It’s not because we see things in the same way.  It’s not even the fact that we’re the same height (something tough to find for me in Dutchland here).  It’s this: every week when I see Rev. Quist I feel like Elijah under the broom tree when God reveals that he’s not the only one out there.

I am encouraged.  I’m strengthened.  I am reminded that God is at work in multiple places in multiple ways to do the same thing: usher in the Kingdom of God on the South side of our town.  Renewed and invigorated, I carry my coffee cup back to my table, laptop, Bible (mobile church office) and am spurred on to greater faith and works.  Who is that person for you?  For whom do you fill that role?

Categories: The Slow Grow Tags: , ,