Tuesday, July 24, 2007

where’s dave?

Yeah, I know…the worst thing in this universe (or any parallel universe, multiverse or metaverse, for that matter) for a blogger to do is not post for weeks. The worst. I just got horribly behind.

SOS happened…which is total overload for our staff and literally hundreds of volunteers. And then I got sick as a dog, as my mom used to say. Fever, chills, headache…I’m really close to bleating again, aren’t I? Then I took some time off…my wife Anita and I went to Florida and stayed in a friend’s house for a week. With no internet there. Spent some hideaway time working on a book for Baker Publishing on outward-focused thoughts that was due last Friday.

Anyway, very, very sorry, gang, for being extremely tardy.

Let me catch up with a few thoughts here about the past few weeks.

First of all, for those of you on the outside, I can’t fully describe what really happened at SOS. Summer Of Service combines our best values at VCC. We had over 700 students come in from all over the Midwest. We actually have to cap it at that to be able to handle the outreach logistics. About twenty-five buses pulled up each day to take all 700 students to locations all around greater Cincinnati to simply serve others: free car washes, block parties complete with games and prizes (everyone wins…), face painting and big blowup bouncy things that kids pile into, mural painting in the inner city, housework for urban ministries, free water giveaways, etcetera etcetera. They do an outreach in the morning, then we take lunch to them, and then another outreach in the afternoon. They come staggering back between 3 and 4pm, have some free time, dinner at the church, and then a worship extravaganza in the evening along with a message. A ton of fun stuff is thrown in as well. Our student ministry gang handles all the speaking including the weekend…which is awesome for me: I get to lead some outreaches and don’t have to worry about writing a message that’s relevant to a 14 year old. The last night of their time with us we held an extended cranked worship set with baptisms…about fifty students decided to get baptized. Beautiful.

The following weekend we launched into the TXT series. On the first week, I asked people to take out their cell phones and text in the Big Question they have about God, the Bible, life, whatever, while one of our worship leaders, Jim Zartman, played a beautiful simple song called To Find An Anchor. It really created the right atmosphere. The questions were profound and at times intensely personal. We took the top five most asked questions and created the series. Adam Dressler took the next weekend and did a great job. Matt Massey, pastor of a church we planted nearly five years ago called Northstar Vineyard, was his always engaging, funny and passionate self. It was great to have him back. Andy Ransdell followed him this past weekend. Andy was sent out from us last January to launch LifePoint Vineyard in Monroe, Ohio. I love his heart for people who don’t yet know Jesus. Andy is a true pastor/evangelist…and a good friend.

Anyway, enough rehashing of history. Let me throw out something philosophical to get the thought processes pumping again.

I want to post something that was truly revelatory for me personally from the last talk I gave. It was the opening talk on how we all have big questions for/about God. And they’re typically driven from a very personal—and sometimes wounded—perspective, such as David’s opening lyric to Psalm 13: "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" That’s an intense longing for a personal answer.

But it hit me as I was studying for this that even knowing all the answers doesn't insulate me from pain. I think an impetus for wanting answers to our questions is that it would somehow ease the anquish we feel. But I’m not so sure. Consider this: Jesus knew a lot. He not only knew the “how’s” of life, he knew the “why’s”. He knew how Peter was going to die, but what’s more, He knew why. We are quickly coming to the point where we will be able to know what genetic disease we will succumb to; already doctors can pretty much determine through DNA testing if you’re heading toward Alzheimer’s. Would you want to know that? It still doesn’t answer the throbbing question: why me, God?

Now think about this: Jesus actually knew the “why” but was still referred to in scripture as “the man of sorrows”. He cried at his friend Lazarus’ grave. He wept over Jerusalem. Even if you knew the answer to everything, it doesn’t protect your emotions. Jesus knew how He would die…and why He would die, but still sweat drops of blood and wept in the garden of Gethsemane: “Father, please take this cup away from me.”

Don’t fall for the trap that if you knew the answer to everything—to all your questions—it would be easier to follow God…or to simply go through life. God Himself shows us that’s not the case. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask God questions, He welcomes them. Just remember it doesn’t solve the emotional and spiritual—and sometimes physical—pain we may have.

Now that was a new thought for me.