I Think I’ll Give Up Worry for Lent

This year I think I’ll give up worry for Lent. The newspaper called yesterday Fat Tuesday, a day where many indulge in gluttonous feasting or revelry. Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of intentional preparation for Easter. During this season, believers focus on self-examination, reflection, and repentance.

Traditionally, Christians give up something of importance to them during Lent. I have friends who give up one or more of their favorite things such as chocolate, coffee, sugar, or soft drinks. But since I am all too often compelled to worry, I think I’ll try to give it up for at least 40 days.

I don’t really like to worry. In fact, it’s not constructive. Worry is like spam or junk mail. It just takes up valuable space in my mind, space needed for creative thinking, planning, visioning, and problem solving. And I know I function better when I am not weighted down with excessive worry. But each time I kick worry out the front door of my mind, it seems to sneak around and re-enter through the back door.

Years ago a friend of mind had a huge poster mounted on the wall over his desk that said, “Don’t tell me worry doesn’t help. Half of the things I worry about never happen.”

I think worry is genetic. At least one of my grandparents and one of my parents would sit and worry for hours. It’s no wonder that I have a pre-disposition toward this mental distraction.

And I am in good company. I frequently have coffee with CEO’s, ministers, business owners, attorneys, physicians, and educators and they all tend to suffer from a similar dilemma. That is not surprising because there are so many things about which a person can worry… your business, your family, your investments, terrorism, the economy, the future. The list seems endless.

Perhaps my friends should give up worry for Lent also. Since Lent is a time of intentional preparation for Easter, maybe we should listen again to the words of Jesus who urged his followers to give up worry:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:25-27

Today is Ash Wednesday, I am going to try to give up worry for at least 40 days…and maybe, hopefully, longer.

Submission Is a Tough but Timely Topic

This week marks the halfway point in my journey of preaching through the Spiritual Disciplines.  In recent weeks our congregation has focused on Mediation, Prayer, Fasting, Study, Simplicity, and Stewardship.  During the next six weeks we will highlight Submission, Service, Confession, Worship, Guidance and Celebration. 

During casual conversations with me, a few of our members have speculated on which disciplines are the toughest to preach or to practice, and the usual assumption is that Fasting and Stewardship must be among the two most difficult.  At this point in the journey, I am thinking that Submission may be the toughest to deal with in a sermon or to practice in our daily lives.

From early childhood, our fast food culture indoctrinates us with a counter-Christian mantra that urges, “Have it your way!”  Rather than pressing to get our way, the Discipline of Submission teaches us to follow God’s way.  It is necessary, but not at all easy, to forego our personal ambition and to submit… submit to God, submit to our spouse, submit to our leaders, and to submit to our spiritual community.

This week I am preparing to tackle the subject of Submission in the sermon entitled Knowing When to Follow.  Many are surprised to learn through the study of numerous biblical texts that Jesus focused more on the importance of being a faithful follower than he focused on the role of being a leader.  Jesus implies that the key to becoming a good leader in your area of giftedness or expertise, is to first learn to be a good follower.

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster proposes one dimension of submission as the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get your own way.  As I lead a diverse and dynamic community of believers  who have been taught by the world and at times, the church,  to define success and happiness as having things go their way, I am finding it tough, but timely, to preach on the spiritual discipline of submission.

Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Baptists

This year we join with the global Baptist family in celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement.  While many of the values and principles treasured by Baptist have been around since the time of Christ, 1609 marks the beginning of our Baptist Heritage as an identifiable movement within Christianity.

Throughout 2009 our First Baptist Family will celebrate our Baptist Heritage through a variety of worship and study emphases, through our newsletter and web page columns, and through our continued recognition and practice of historic Baptist distinctives.

On Wednesday evenings during our Midweek Worship Gathering in February and March, through word and experience, we will be highlighting the values and principles that are characteristic of Baptists…past, present, and future.  Here is our tentative schedule:

February 11     Celebrating Historic Baptist Distinctives

February 18     Baptists: Networking and Partnering

February 25     Baptists: The Early Beginnings  

March  4          Baptists: A Missionary People 

March 11         Baptists: Navigating Change

March 18         Baptists: Baptism by Immersion

March 25         Baptists: What Does the Future Hold?

This Sunday we continue our journey through the spiritual disciplines as we focus on Stewardship: Opening the Windows of Heaven.

On Sunday afternoons and evenings we are in week 3 of Ministry Madness.  This week you are invited to participate in Meet the Church. You can sign up in the atrium to serve at one of 8 locations in Pensacola and the surrounding area on Sunday afternoon as we become the hands and feet of Christ in serving our community.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we gather for worship and Bible study.

 

 

Hope Still Floats: Lessons from a Falling Plane

My eyes were glued to the news story dominating the networks on January 15 when US Air Flight 1549 collided with birds, disabling both engines, and yet the aircraft made a successful emergency water landing on the Hudson River. Remarkably, all 155 of those aboard survived without serious injury.

A few days ago, I took my first flight since the incident and was amazed to notice how many more people paid attention to the flight attendants as they gave the pre-flight orientation. In fact, I was among those listening more carefully and investigating how my seat could become “a flotation device in the unlikely event of an emergency.”

As I have watched the follow-up news stories, listened with admiration to the interviews with the pilot and passengers, I think there are some valuable lessons all of us could learn about how to respond during an emergency:

  • Stay calm and do what you do best.  Veteran pilot, C.B Sullenberger, remained remarkably calm and focused.  Passengers and crew have testified that the calm, professional voice of their pilot kept them remarkably poised and attentive during the ordeal.  Likewise the cabin crew followed their disciplined training striving to control the chaos by assisting passengers in locating exits and taking flotation devices.  If the pilot and crew had panicked, the outcome of Flight 1549 could have ended much differently.
  • Pray.  When asked what the passengers did in preparing for this emergency landing, one passenger was quoted as saying, “my fiancée was crying and I just took her by the hand and kissed her and said ‘I love you’ and just started praying,”  Jesus taught his followers “to always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).
  • When the odds are against you, don’t give up hope.  The odds of landing an Airbus 320 on an icy river in the winter with no casualties seem almost impossible. But this landing defied the odds, reminding us that hope still floats.  If we are not careful, we can let the odds of any circumstance pre-determine the outcome, whether it is the odds of getting a new job in a tough economy or the odds of surviving a disease.  Maintaining a hopeful spirit, a positive attitude, and a strong faith when the odds are against you can help you to be an overcomer.
  • Know when to get out of the way!  There are times when the best thing you can do is not become an encumbrance.  For example, you should never become a gawker at the scene of a house fire, an automobile accident, or a catastrophic storm.  And certainly, do not hold up the line during an evacuation or an emergency exit. While many passengers on Flight 1549 assisted others in exiting the plane, they also tell of one woman who had to be pushed out the door to make way for others when she stalled the line by refusing to leave without her luggage. If your assistance is not needed, get out of the way as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t let success change your character.  Other pilots join the general public in applauding Captain Sullenberger as a hero.  However, Sullenberger himself credited his crew with the successful landing. Although he was at the helm of the plane, he said, “We were a team.”  On January 22, 2009, Sullenberger, along with the crew of Flight 1549, was presented the Master’s Medal by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.  Though Sullenberger is genuinely a hero, he hasn’t seemed to let his success lead to arrogance.

Hopefully, none of us will have a harrowing experience like the passengers on Flight 1549. But you never know when you are going to get caught in an emergency situation. If you suddenly find yourself facing potentially traumatic circumstances, remember the lessons learned from that falling, and later floating, plane.