Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.
Dear West Family
It’s all fun and games until you wake up face to face with a bear.
This last week, I had the immense privilege of being away in Lake Tahoe with the Central Elders of the Austin Stone. We spent time planning out and prepping outlines for sermons through to February 2019, we got to know each other as a team through some team and self-assessment, we spent lots of time praying through and thinking through strategic initiatives. It was hard work, but it was a lot of fun.
We ate together, laughed together, worked together, hiked together, and together we watched the daily journey of a mama brown bear and her three cubs. We don’t get bears where I am from (or tigers for that matter) and so I loved watching this family moving around daily. I will be honest and say that, as someone who has a reasonable amount of experience with wild animals, this family of bears looked a little too familiar with humans.
We were having so much fun, and were loving planning out the future, and then a bear opened a sliding door in the early hours of the morning and walked into the house. This mama bear walked right into the room of one of our pastors. I won’t say his name, but it may or may not rhyme with Bat Darter. He cried out for some help from his brave fellow warrior pastor shepherds, but none was immediately forthcoming. This may have had to do with the response we had observed to a mouse in the house the day before. But when he shouted again, we knew something was up, and so a few of us went running into Bat Darter’s (not his real name) room in our sleep clothes ready to face whatever lay the other side of the door. The sight of a gaggle of middle aged pastors with bedhead was too terrifying for even this apex predator and she left, slowly shimmying down a tree, and seemingly shaking her head at how ridiculous human dad bods looked when they tried to stand up to a bear. We laughed, and joked and went back to our rooms, but as I tried to get back to sleep I just lay there and thought – “well that could have ended very differently”.
The story – that will now undoubtedly serve as an excellent sermon illustration – really could have had a tragic and disturbing ending. One swipe of mama bears paws, and well…you know.
Life really is short.
We really don’t know the future. We don’t. We make plans and that is good and right, but we have no idea if any of them will come to fruition. The Scriptures warn us about this a lot (Psalm 103:15, 1 Peter 1:24, Psalm 39:5, Psalm 144:4, Job 7:7) and we are told that the wise take it into account and live differently as a result. This isn’t supposed to lead to paranoia, but rather it is supposed to lead to urgency. Urgency to do the things that we have in our power to do today.
So today friends, what if we lived as if we weren’t sure we would get another go at it tomorrow? What if we repented today, not presuming that we would get another chance to humble ourselves before God? What if we said what we needed to say to people we care about today, not presuming that we will see them again and that there will be some better moment for it? What if we started chasing hard after that God-shaped dream today, not supposing that we will do it when life gets a bit simpler?
Grab today, with urgency, making the most of the vapor of life that you have today.
Don’t wait for your mama bear moment.
See you marvelous saints on Sunday, Lord-willing.