Dear West – 21 June 2018

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

In 1993, rock super group U2 released an album called Zooropa. It didn’t get as much critical acclaim as it deserved. It was like Ecclesiastes being read over Eastern European electronica. On that album was a song that I found quite silly until I became a grown up. It is called Some Days are Better than Others, and the first verse lyrics go like this.

Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor

Now that I am a grown up (of sorts), I know all too well that many days are pretty sneaky, and most of them take more than you expect. I also know that they have a habit of slipping through your fingers with alarming regularity.

Let me tell you about my day today. I was supposed to get up with my alarm sounding, work out, get to the office early, crank out a life-changing sermon, solve some pastoral issues, encourage the staff, choose chairs for the new auditorium and quickly write a profound Thursday Thoughts email, all while making sensible food intake decisions. I was then going to shoot across to the Domain for some last minute shopping with my in-laws who are celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary, after which Sue and I were going to cook them a gourmet meal to celebrate them and to say goodbye to them as they head back to South Africa tomorrow (pray for us in that traumatic goodbye).

Here is how my day actually went. I slept through my alarm and got to the office late and without breakfast or workout on board. I stared at a computer screen and realized that my sermon outline for Sunday was totally not what we needed to hear and eventually scrapped it all together. I ate some pretzels. I chose the “wrong” chairs for the auditorium which discouraged the staff, and comforted myself with more pretzels. Sue called me to tell me she had broken a tooth, which in turn had broken the bank. I then returned to my blank computer screen to try to write a sermon and a weekly mail, and my screen went from blank to black due to a flat battery and my charger being at home. I jumped in my car (after grabbing a few more comfort pretzels) to discover that what could only be a pterodactyl with a serious stomach ailment had become acquainted in an intimate way with my Volkswagen, and that even though I was in a rush, I had 4 miles left of gas. After I filled up and tried to restore some of my car’s dignity through about 400 pounds of paper towel, I pulled out of the gas station, only for my tire pressure monitor to notify me that I had a flat. I then bought a bag of potato chips. All of this resulted in no shopping or celebrating with the in-laws, and no gourmet dinner. We ate Rudy’s. Lots of it. I just couldn’t sink any lower into defeat.

I know what you are thinking… “This dude needs some cheese to go with all his whine”, and I get it. These really are first world problems, but it was just a day that went seriously against what I planned and now it has slipped through my fingers and onto the floor. Days like this used to take me out, but I am determined to not let them do that any more. These are the sorts of days that I really need to press into the gospel. It is easy to experience God on the mountaintops, and sometimes it is strangely equally easy to experience Him in deep valleys, but what about average Thursdays that are just not good days? Jesus can be especially present in those days if we let Him, and I am very grateful for that.

I don’t need to be awesome every day, Jesus is.
I don’t need to be massively productive every day, as God runs the universe just fine.
I don’t need to pretend to be better than I am, because I am righteous through the work of Jesus Christ.
I don’t need to be a rockstar, I have the Holy Spirit to help my in my weakness, and to help me laugh through random Thursdays.

I do though need to press into the truth of the gospel every day, knowing that God loves me and justifies me on my best days as well as my worst. I do need to press into time in the Word and prayer whether it feels like its fruitful or not on days like this. I do need to welcome others into how I am doing so that they help me to make sure that days like this don’t turn into seasons like this where I grow increasingly discouraged.

I am really glad that today is over, and really glad that there are a new batch of mercies tomorrow.

Some days are better than others.
Let’s try again tomorrow.

See you Sunday.
Ross

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