I want to go back to bed.

The pastor is away on vacation. I need to lead the Sunday School opening and songs. I’m teaching the adult Sunday School class. I’m running the PA for the morning service, though that’s no real big deal. I’m leading the 11am worship service with my wife. I’m needed at church today.

This afternoon at 2pm is my brother’s funeral.

If ever there was a day I would want to skip church and go back to bed it’s today. If ever there was a day I was needed at church it’s today.

The Spiritual Discipline of Sleep

“Get plenty of sleep” the book said. “You can’t minister appropriately if you don’t get enough rest.” The professor said “Try to get one day a week where you sleep as long as your body wants to.” For me, that was today. Is was supposed to be today. It’s Saturday. I didn’t set an alarm. My body woke up around 5am, as I’ve trained it to do; that’s around my usual wake-up time. I went to the bathroom, but then proceeded to go back to bed. I thought perhaps I’d get another couple hours of sacktime in. I fell back to sleep, but not for long. Nothing wakes one up faster than the sound of a 90lb labrador retriever chortling in one’s bed. My wife and I both lept up. She pushed Deuteronomy (yes, my dog is named after an OT book by way of TS Eliot) out of the bed. I grabed a box that had been filled with Christmas socks. Deut hacked and wheezed, and I stood ready to catch a belly full of nasty, but it never appeared. But now, fully awake, knowing getting more sleep wasn’t going to be happening, I figured I’d start my day. Deut and I took our walk. He ate his breakfast. I read from my Bible, and decided to start the online journal for my Spiritual Formation and Transformation class. Here’s entry #1.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 5

My father-in-law was the most patient man I have ever met. Ever. The man. Was. Patient. Are you catching that? How many of us count patience among our virtues. Few. Generally speaking, people aren’t patient. Men aren’t patient. Mainers aren’t patient. And yet Dad was the example of patience. In the 30 or years I knew him, I never saw him lose his patience. Never. I never heard him yell. He never raised his voice even! He never got frustrated. Never exasperated. Never lost his cool. Never. Never ever never. My mother in law even commented he was no good to fight with, because he would never argue!

There was one time–one time in 30 years–where he got into some physicality with his then teenage son Jonathan. Susan and I were in the living room, and I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember Johnathan was out of line. Whatever the issue was, Dad was in the right. Then, there was some pushing. I didn’t leave the living room, so didn’t see what happened, but I’d bet dollars to donuts Johnathan started the pushing. In any event, even during that, Dad never lost his cool. No yelling. No name calling. Even when it came to being pushed by his son (and both Dad and Jonathan were tall, and John has some meat on his bones–a fridge sized man he is), he didn’t lose his patience. Amazing. His patience is such an example to me. I fall so, so far short there. He gives me a mark to shoot for.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 4

My Beloved has always called her father “Daddy.” That name is full of love and endearment. I’m sure she calls him Daddy because she loves him so much. I’m confident she feels not only loved, but safe and secure, cared for and cherished. I hope I can live up to his example such that my own daughter will call me Daddy, even when she’s older, and for those same reasons.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 3

Something that always impressed me about my father-in-law was the way he prayed. There was an honesty and a humility with which he prayed. (Really, honesty and humility were a hallmark of his life, so it’s only logical his prayer life would follow suit.) And one of the things he did, almost–but not every time, but usually–he started his prayers with “Father.” He used “Heavenly Father” some, but mostly he started with just “Father.” I never asked him why he started this way, if he was intentional about it or not, but it was usually how he started. This made an impression on me because of what that opening word says about his relationship with God. God wasn’t someone distant to Dad. He wasn’t “Heavenly Father, creator of all things seen and unseen, immortal and immutable, so on and so forth.” He IS those things, yes, and my father-in-law would recognize Him as that, for sure. But in dealing with God on a day to day basis, He was much closer to Dad than that. He was “Father.” I find that inspiring, that one would be in such close communion with God that, when praying needed to be done, when he needed to ask, when he needed to talk to Him, he addressed Him as that simple word: Father.

Luke 11:2 “And He said to them “When you pray, say Father…”

Lessons from John Calvin Dancer

I’ve had the blessing of having two great Dads in my life. My own father, William Batty, Sr. has been an undeniable and indelible influence on me. So also my father-in-law, John Calvin Dancer. Yesterday, around 1:15 in the afternoon, he breathed his last and went to the presence of God through Christ Jesus his Lord. As much as I would like to praise God for him at his memorial service, I don’t think I’ve got the spiritual strength to get through it. And so I thought I’d write a series of blog posts about how he touched my life.

My father-in-law was not an ordained minister. Though he spent all of his adult life as a pastor, and 32 years in one church even, he wasn’t ordained. One day, we were alone together, driving somewhere, and I asked him why he wasn’t ordained. He told me a story of how he was in Bible college, towards the end of his education there, and how he overheard two guys talking about graduating college and becoming ordained. One of them was excited for his ordination because that meant he could get a discount at a local clothing store. There was something about that, something about the idea that the exciting part of starting out life as a minister was a discount on clothing, that saddened my father-in-law. He then told me this. “I always felt my ordination was like Jeremiah’s. And if God ordained me, what difference was there if I was ordained by man?” Now, we could have a discussion about ordination, what it means, and whether it’s important or not and why, but you’ve got to give it to John Calvin Dancer: he had his reasons, he was determined that scripture backed him up, and he stuck with that decision his whole life. He believed he was doing the right thing by his Lord. That lesson has stuck with me.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

 

John says “Come.”

My Bible reading plan is pretty straight forward. Pick up the Bible. Start at the first page. Read about five chapters in the morning. Keep going until you get to the last page. Find a different Bible. Start at the first page. Read five chapters in the morning. When you get to the end, find a new Bible. Repeat.

Today, I started the gospel according to John in the “American Patriot’s Bible,” New King James edition. In chapter 1, you get these verses:

vs. 38+39 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). (Emphasis added)

vs. 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (Emphasis added)

It struck me that the words “Come and see” were recorded by John. It reminded me of another writing of John, the Revelation given to him we find as the last book in the New Testament. There we read:

Rev. 6:1 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”

Rev. 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Rev. 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I’m thinking a word study on John’s use of the word “come” and “come and see” may be in my future. Possible sermon idea? I wonder if the phrase is used much in the three epistles we have John wrote. More digging to follow.

Our Father

Last night, around the dinner table, Susan and me and the boys were having a discussion. Apparently, sometimes when the boys need to get their mother’s attention, they refer to her as “Susan.” My oldest boy mentioned it, and he said it with a smile. I said to him “I’m glad you say that with a smile, because generally I wouldn’t want you calling your mother by her first name.” We talked about Frank Zappa’s children, and how they all apparently refer to their father as “Frank.”

I had a discussion about this with a guitar playing friend–a huge Zappa fan–who said it came from this idea in the ’70s that you treat your children as little adults, and so Frank trained his children to call him Frank. I was raised to never call my parents by their first name. My aunts and uncles were always “Aunt Ginny,” or “Uncle Roger.” Once in church, my Aunt Suz called me out because I told the congregation “If you have any questions, see Suzy Batty.” And she said “Aunt Suzy.” Even if I was just trying to be clear to those people to whom Aunt Suz isn’t their aunt, I was supposed to still call her “Aunt.”

I’ve taken this teaching one step further with my children. I’ve explained it to them like this: “There are three people in the entire world who get to call me “Dad.” Three. And you’re one of them. Anyone can call me ‘Bill.’ To you, I’m ‘Dad.’ Don’t take that lightly. Instead, be glad.”

Take a look at Luke 11. The disciples ask Jesus “Teach us to pray.” And then he says to them, “When you pray, say ‘Father, who art in heaven’…” (Emphasis mine.) Jesus doesn’t say “When pray, pray ‘Father.'” No, He tells them “When you pray, call Him Father.” Of all the names God could insist we call Him, He wants to be called “Father.” He doesn’t ask to be called Lord, or LORD, or King, or God, or Master, or any of those things. And He could rightly demand that we address Him as such. If I were to address the president, I’d call him “Mr. Obama,” or more likely “Mr. President.” If I would give the POTUS the respect he deserves, wouldn’t I offer the same to the God of the Universe? Of course. And yet, He doesn’t ask us for that. He deserves that, but instead He wants us to call him “Father.” The fullness of God’s glory is recognized through the Son. And the Son says “Call him Father.” How awesome!