For the last many weeks I've driven two hours a day to work and back. Not my choice but a responsibility that is partly self-imposed, but mostly done out of commitment to a job I'm paid to do. It has been draining - emotionally and physically it is taking its toll. But it's become a way of life. This picture is from my cell phone driving into the beautiful sunrise today. I've become quite enamored with podcasts from my very favorite pastors, only two of whom I have actually met. But I feel like I know each one of them up close and personal because I've literally gone back since the inception of each of their podcasts to listen to these. Yes, that's how much I drive. Not much time for some of you, but for someone who must squeeze every minute of productivity out of every hour of the day, while feigning off sleep all the way, it is two precious hours each day I don't feel I can afford to lose. But it has become the best part of my day.
There are themes. There are sermon series. And then there are the unique little "catch phrases" that each pastor uses that makes him so endearing. They probably don't even realize they're doing it - it's just their personality and God shining through their voices. It's fun to see how they have emerged over the years, grown in their communication and delivery style, and in each of them, have spoken so relevantly to my life. Here are some of my favorites.
Pastor John Fuller (Prairie Lakes Church): "Here's what....I ...knaoow...." (yep, that's just what it sounds like, and with a subsequent pause, it really makes you sit up and listen - and really, really believe. Love it!) and "Let's go to the Word...." That's my favorite. "Let's be Jesus with skin on." But I can't leave out "Step over the faith line..."
Pastor Justin Wise (Immersion/Lutheran Church of Hope): "This is huge...." & "This just Blows. My. Mind..." (Yeah, he actually talks like the punctuation is in there. Very effective.) & "Context is King!" This young whippersnapper is "wise" beyond his years, yet maintains his GenX/Y credibility while enlightening us boomers. He craves Jesus. His mind is always churning deeply, and he is very well prepared for his sermons on a level that is so relevant not only to the 20s and 30s in Immersion, but to their parents! Relevancy. What a concept. Sometimes his sermons are so perfect for me or my family during a particular need, I refer to him as "Justin Time." Whoa.
Pastor Mike Householder (Lutheran Church of Hope): "God is on the move...." & "Praise God for that..." Coupled with his personal stories, quick wit, and obvious passion for his congregation, it's not hard to see why this will be my church should I ever have the opportunity to live in Des Moines.
Pastor Richard Webb: (Lutheran Church of Hope): "Let's pray" (I can't do this one justice because words can't express the inflection or the timing in there, but it is spontaneous, very quickly and softly spoken, and seems to come most unexpectedly...out of nowhere. It's like an instant piece of peace. No other "catch phrase" from him as no two of his sermons are alike, and he uses really cool big words that just roll out of his mouth (along with that inflection and timing gift), and I'm telling you, this guy is smart. As in ::genius:: smart. A brilliant theologian who can pull the stories out of the Bible at will and tell them with drama and flair. He also remind us, now and then, that "God is not your housepet."
Pastor Tommy Sparger (North Point Church): "...and I believe this...I really do..." Perhaps it's that Texas twang, the folksy delivery, or if you're watching the video, the pity for the video dude who must constantly try to keep this cute little man of God within the viewfinder as he sprints across the stage. He's really a Holy Hoot. "Now...here's the dill" (in Iowa we say "deal"). And at the end he recognizes new believers with "...will you raise your hand so I know who you are. I want to pray for you..." Though I'm not a "new" believer, I would raise my hand so Tommy would look right at me and pray for me. God knows I need it.
Pastor Craig Groeschel (LifeChurch.tv): "Lift your hands up now, lift them high..." He does this recognizing new believers at the end of his sermons. Again, I'd be one raising my hands. I could really get into that one. He gets deep into my head, is extremely creative, and the pre-sermon videos are amazing.
The thing these guys all have in common is their humility, their love of Christ, and their shared times of shaken faith. They are admitted sinners (what? them too? is the world full of them?) and have fallen short. And they give illustrations in their sermons that bring us all down to earth, yet give me cause for pause to admire them. Better yet, they empower me to look more closely and where I am in my life and why that's ok. Because it's where God put me. Yet these "church dudes" are all so different from one another. What a party it would be to have them all together. With Lutheran jello. I praise God for them.
I have grown so strong in my faith because of these gifted people that even during a sheerly exhausting, refrigerator-dying, patient-crumping, car-clunking, sick dog meltdown, they push me toward Him. And He carries me. And He is really the only one who cares. I've certainly felt that this week. Romans 5:1-5
Need further proof of God's promise? How about newly blooming water hyacinths on my pond today - in September!!
Tea tonight: Young Hyson
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