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#ChristmasChallenge#Post13#Gifts!#Don’tMissThem

Friday, December 13th, 2019

In his book When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado wrote about a fictional game called “What’s Your Price?” The contestants were presented with options and must choose one. The pot was fed more when the price was 10 million dollars. You might be shocked to know what some of the choices were:

  • 25% would abandon their family.
  • 25% would abandon their church.
  • 23% would become a prostitute for a week.
  • 16% would give up their American citizenship.
  • 16% would leave their spouse.
  • 3% would put their children up for adoption.

That’s not counting the 7% who said they would murder; the 6% who would change their race; and the 4% who would change their sex.  I realize some may choose to argue with those stats…that’s okay. But that leads me to a point.  For whatever reason, we are becoming (some have already become) people of no commitment.

As a result, we are often missing out on the three gifts most people would love to have: Love. Joy. Peace.  Those three ideas are probably the most talked about gifts people want and need for Christmas.

I’m posting this today and then will be using those three as “seed” for my #ChristmasChallenge. They are the crux of my sermon Sunday so I would appreciate your prayers as we get closer to Christmas and try even more to bring the focus on Jesus. Thanks.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

I have been blogging each day as part of a #ChristmasChallenge I asked others to participate in. Due to my schedule I have been using virtually the same post here and at my other blog. But this one is different. This will stand alone from my other blog.  So…I give you my thoughts on this sensitive topic.

Recently we have had two holidays together which emphasize family, love, happy times and togetherness. For many they are anything but. For various reasons pain, hurt, emptiness, loneliness and depression are more apparent than the aforementioned family, love, happy times and togetherness.

Consider why:

  • A divorce has rocked the world of a woman or a man or their children.
  • A downturn at work has left him or her out of work.
  • An ugly spat has taken away family unity.
  • A death of a loved one is a painful memory that crops up even bigger during this time.
  • Friends are visiting out of town.
  • Family is unable to make the trip to see you or visa versa.
  • Perhaps you can think of more reasons.

My heart aches for these people. I realize what the church does in offering a lunch at Thanksgiving and a hot breakfast on Christmas morning is a small token when compared to the price of loneliness or pain.  Making our presence felt is needed more than just those special times.

When I look around-when you look around- we see people all around us going through the motions of life. Aimless. Heartbroken. Lonely.  Out of sorts. And sadly, it is just as easy to miss them. Avoiding their eyes. Rushing past their pain. Ignoring their tears.

BUT…and this is a big BUT…if we are to have the heart of Christ, we can’t pass by unaffected or closed off.  Having the mind and heart of Jesus demands we see people through eyes of love and compassion.

So let me challenge you this year to keep your eyes and heart open to really “see” other people. Reach out. Invite them to your family gathering. Take them a meal or take them out for one. See if there is something they need done which they are unable to do, but perhaps you can help by doing it or having someone else help. Speak to people as you see them. Don’t ignore them or divert your eyes.

The following song is on one of my favorite Christmas albums. It is not a “spiritual” Christmas song by any stretch but does touch on my thoughts for this post. And yes, it was partly responsible for me writing what I have.

https://youtu.be/V3Z3-z8eXuM

If you have trouble with understanding the lyrics, underneath the video is a “Show More” tab.  Click it and the lyrics will show up.

I encourage you to check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

 

#HardReads#Abuse#Essential#Review

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

I haven’t been on here much lately. There are various reasons but they are legitimate. Least I think so. 🙂 First, there is that thing called “work.” You know…that thing that helps pay the bills; gets me up in the morning; has me traveling to multiple hospitals. You know…non-essential stuff.

Then (and this may not seem legitimate to you but is to me) I have been doing a copious amount of reading. Aside from my regular sermon prep time and my at-home Quiet Time, I have been a “reading fool” of late. I have started some books and laid them aside because another has taken precedence or is more relevant at the time.  This review is going to be of two of the three powerful and impactful books I have read recently. The reason is they are along the same subject line. Another review will follow on the third book, which is completely opposite of these two. I read it for that very reason.

My first review is on a book I simply had trouble putting down. It was one of those sad, “I hate to read this book” book, but it was also contemporary because of its recent news coverage and its topic.  What Is a Girl Worth? by Rachel Denhollander is a non-fiction account of her coming to grips with the United States Gymnastics Association (USGA) and her abuse at the hands of the gymnastics sports doctor, Larry Nasser.

What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics (Hardcover)

Rachel was working her hardest to become a world-class gymnast when physical issues led her to a sports doctor who was recommended by many others- Dr. Larry Nasser. The abuse began immediately but it took awhile for her to realize what was happening. Strange thing: her mother was in the room and Dr. Nasser did it in such a way to hide it from her so that she had no idea what was happening. Rachel was the first to speak up against Dr. Nasser’s abuse. Rachel became the trickle which became a waterfall which became a hurricane with gale force winds that eventually exposed Dr. Nassar and those complicit with him.

This was a hard book to read and I wept as I read some of it. Be prepared to be convicted; alerted; informed; and even a tad bit angry as you read her story. Stonewalling. Denial. Cover up. Finally justice for Rachel and countless other young girl gymnasts. Rachel is a Christ-follower and makes that known almost immediately. It even comes out in her presentation at Nasser’s trial. She also helps the reader understand why the “wheels of justice turn slowly.”

The other book was a bit different. More clinical and technical and far more biblical. Not that Rachel’s wasn’t but it wasn’t the same type of book. Not Forsaken by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg is her story of life after abuse.

Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse: How Faith Brought One Woman From Victim to Survivor

This abuse was (in many eyes) much more hideous. The abuser was her father, a man who studied and taught the Bible in church but was totally different at home. Her mother helped cover it up. Jennifer’s abuse was mental, physical, and at times sexual. This is her tale of coming to grips with it all. Her book is different from Rachel’s book in that Jennifer’s book analyzes and shows how the abuse from her father clouded everything-her relationships with men, especially her husband, and her relationship with God. Like I said, far more technical in that she spends a lot of time helping the reader understand her mental state and spiritual struggle as she came to grips with her father’s abuse.

I would highly recommend both books.  I still have one more book to read along the same lines called Becoming a Church that Cares Well for The Abused by Brad Hambrick (General Editor), which also includes material from Rachel. But after reading these two books I had to take a break. That is where my next review comes into play.  If you choose to read these two books, bring a Kleenex and check your anger at the door.

#Servant#Don’tForget#3Essentials

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Ever since 2009 the church I pastor has had a Day of Service (DoS). It is a day where we serve the community.  Our first one was humble in its efforts but very successful. We changed oil and did some light mechanical work as well as help people who were unable to get things done to their houses (prepare for winter, clean up after the flood, and more). We missed a year or two as we found our footing at our newly purchased building but eventually we “got it going” again. Then we saw the need to do two a year. We invited another church to join us and then two others. They fizzled out before they started but the first invite (The Connection) formed a great working relationship with us. The Spring DoS was cleaning up after winter’s havoc, preparing flowerbeds, and general maintenance. The Fall DoS involved the mechanical work on vehicles, cleaning gutters, as well as getting ready for winter. This year (2019) we had one in the Spring but had some unfinished work so OVCF took it upon ourselves to finish the two jobs that needed done.  Our last 2-3 efforts also involved the Owen County Chamber of Commerce.

All things change. After the two very tedious jobs this year which required a lot of man hours, I started feeling unsettled about asking our people to go to the well one more time. Then I studied for the first letter in Revelation-the letter to the church at Ephesus- where Jesus commended them for their hard work and service, but had one thing against them: they had left their first love. So I started praying and meditating on that and realized those words were very relevant to us. So during that sermon I told them my thoughts and that I was calling off the DoS (It was considered “my baby” by the others) for the Fall. I “felt” God was saying, “Bill, you guys have been so busy doing for Me, it is time to just be with me.”  So this Sunday we are having an afternoon of a Guided Prayer Time through different “stations” in our building. From 1-3:30 this place will truly be a Holy Place. My next post will tell you more about it.

But I decided to carry on with my initial sermon for that Sunday and to develop a whole month of sermons. My theme is “Servants” and my Scripture this Sunday is from Micah 6:6-8.  The Scripture tells us three items every follower of Christ (a servant) needs to have:

  • Do justice
  • Love mercy
  • Walk humbly with God

I would appreciate your prayers for me this weekend. I would especially love it if you would pray for the church as we meet. Learning to be a servant who does those three acts is absolutely essential.

I will be closing the sermon with this song.  Hope you enjoy it.

#DeedDone#I’mGone

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Well…my medical event from yesterday is done and over with. Obviously, since I am here typing this. 🙂  All went well with the exception of him finding 3 small polyps which were removed. It is a regular thing for me so I’m glad I have a doctor who is vigilant. I am also aware of my body’s needs for care since members of my family have died or have had cancer.

I have some other things on the docket for the next couple of days. Today I’m celebrate my 67th birthday. I am grateful God has given me these years and simply pray that whatever time I have left it is lived for Him.

But what is even more exciting (I mean how excited can someone get at my age for another birthday?) is we will be leaving today to celebrate my birthday with Janna, Jason and Braden and to watch him play football tomorrow night. We have tried as he has grown up to be as present as we can at his games. This year was just not one of those years due to several factors. But he plays his last game tomorrow night (Thursday) so we have planned to go see him for over a month. He was supposed to play tonight but they changed it. That’s okay. We can celebrate my birthday tonight and then watch him play tomorrow. We will be home Friday.  The cool thing is he turns 13 next Thursday (the 17th) and we will be celebrating (or that bemoaning?) that he will be a teenager.  So we will be returning to Ohio for that.  Oh….the things you do for your grandchildren. (Face smack)

Say a prayer for us please as we travel. I-70 is torn up with construction to the Ohio border so I plan to take an alternate route. We will see how alternate it is. 🙂  I may send you greetings from Alaska again. Wait…that’s the opposite direction. Think Jo will notice??  🙂 🙂

 

#OutofCommission#UGH

Monday, October 7th, 2019

In my weekend post I alluded to the fact that I have been crazy busy but it will soon slow down. Well…that slow down will begin occurring this week.

I began last week preparing for a procedure they want all 50+ year olds to have. My earnest prep took place today as I had to limit even more of what I ate or drank. Translated that means I ate nothing solid and drank some nasty stuff as well as a prep drink for a procedure which takes place tomorrow morning (Tuesday). I’m not a rookie with this procedure…unfortunately. I have had 4 of these and each time they have found polyps that required removal and diagnostic lab work. They have come back okay except a few were “pre-cancerous” so I submit myself to this on a regular basis. I have told Jo if doing this procedure  would keep me from getting colon cancer I would do it every 6 months…although I don’t want any doctor becoming that familiar with me. 🙂  So I would appreciate your prayers for protection during the procedure and a good report afterwards. So Monday and Tuesday I will be out of commission, especially Tuesday.

Wednesday we head to Ohio to celebrate my birthday (Wednesday the 9th) and to watch our grandson play his last football game this year on Thursday night. It has been the only one we have been able to see.

Then on the 14th and 21st it is actually a good “out of commission.” I am having eye surgery for cataracts which will allow me to GET RID OF MY GLASSES! I have worn them since I was in 4th grade and so I look forward (pun intended) to not having to wear them! No more cycling with sweat running down my glasses and my eyelashes spreading sweat all over my glasses! No more cutting grass or working outside and having to wipe sweat off so I can see! No more waking up and reaching for my glasses first thing! Can you tell I’m excited?

Finally, Braden turns 13 on the 17th and we wouldn’t miss his teen birthday for anything. So off to Ohio we go.

Whew! What slow down? Looks like another cruise to Alaska is in order. Donations accepted.  🙂  Just kidding.

That’s not all for this month but that’s enough for now. What does your month look like?

#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

#Caring#Empathy

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

I have been a pastor for over 45 years. In those years if I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times (and wish I had asked for $1 every time I did! I could retire and live off the interest. 🙂 ). The statement I have heard often from both nurses and even doctors is “Doctors and nurses make the worst patients.” I’ve seen cool, calm and collected nurses under extreme pressure melt when it comes to their own treatment.  I’m guessing it is one of those “I know too much” kind of deals. You know…they know what all could go wrong.

When I had my bike wreck in February of 2017 I spent 8 hours in the hallway of the Bloomington Hospital ER. Even though I had gotten there mid afternoon, I waited. It was a Friday in IU town. Although in and out of it due to pain, I was aware of the screaming person in one of the rooms due to drugs. I was aware I was put off for treatment or x-rays because a college student came in high and had an accident. And while I have my thoughts about being pushed aside for stupidity, I found something else.

E.M.P.A.T.H.Y

I was on the receiving end of delayed treatment. I laid in that hallway for 8 hours being pushed aside for others. Broken collarbone. 3 broken ribs. Multiple contusions to my face and hands and legs, i.e. road rash (but fortunately not a head injury due to my helmet which was split in 3 places). I now know what it is like when people tell me they sat or laid in the ER for hours waiting for treatment. Been there done that.

Empathy is a great gift. It allows one to know what another is going through and to feel with them. I’m reminded of the Scripture which says, “He was in all points tempted like we are yet without sin.” Imagine that! Jesus, the perfect, divine, virgin born Son of God knows what I am going through and how I struggle with sin.  He is not some far-off or far-out dude; He is the “close by and I understand what you are experiencing” Savior.

How are you with empathy? Do you feel it when others hurt? Do you take the time to let them know you are thinking of them (without telling your whole story)? As a follower of Christ we are told to cry when others cry; to laugh when others laugh; and to feel when others feel.  How well are you doing?

#Test#HardestTask#MajorRoadblock

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

In your mind, what is the hardest thing you have done or need to do?  I’m not going to beat around the bush on that question. I think one of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to forgive.

I have heard this quote or some variation of it for years:

To err is human, to forgive, divine-to forgive and forget supernatural.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the movie called Love Story, which starred a very young Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It was a blockbuster hit for those days (1970) and was actually the first date Jo and I had (it didn’t end well). It contained one of the dumbest statements that I think has ever been made: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Now…that statement assumes that a real relationship will never require saying, “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness should just happen. There should be no special initiative on the part of either party.

But I beg to differ.  I hope we are all smart enough to realize any relationship takes time. Marriage. Friendship. Pastor/sheep. And I would be remiss if I left out the part forgiveness plays in any relationship. Forgiveness is never easy, especially when a great wrong has been done to you.  Makes you wonder about Joseph doesn’t it?

I believe this may have been his hardest task. This week’s sermon covers that time of his life when his brothers come seeking grain because of the famine. He recognizes them immediately but they don’t recognize him. There is quite an exchange which takes place until his “great revelation.” It will be a challenging sermon for all of us. I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare.  Thanks.

#Done#Finished/UnfinishedBusiness

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

The 2019 BikeMS is history. After a long wait and months of training and fund-raising, the ride was this past Saturday. Dave, my friend from 3 Feet Please, made the trip from Arizona with his son and daughter. Chris drove with him; Nina flew in Thursday. We met up at the hotel Thursday night. It was mine and Jo’s first time meeting Chris and Nina. They were a delight! Chris’ first words were to Jo when he said, “I heard you like Mexican!” Guess where we ate supper Thursday night?  🙂  If you guessed El Toro in Indianapolis give yourself a virtual high five!!

Friday we drove to the site of the ride, checked out some things, registered, then Dave and his two took off to visit relatives in Fort Wayne. Jo & I drove the route so I could check it out then spent the rest of the day just chilling.

Saturday started out beautifully. We made it to Lebanon and Dave set up the 3 Feet Please tent and merchandise. He was giving away bears and t-shirts and had a drawing for 3 winners. We finally took off for our ride and 9 miles out the young lady who was riding with us (and was ill-prepared) had a flat. That took close to 1/2 hour to finally get on our way. She went flat again about a mile down the road and we finally made it to the first stop where they replaced the tube. She didn’t flat again but we were way behind. By the time we got to the lunch stop we had ridden about 2 miles in a steady rain. While there it came down in buckets and we were told we would be unable to leave until 3:00. It was 1:45 at that point.  Dave and I made a decision to call it a day. The young lady could not have made it back and staying with her (we would never leave her) would have gotten us back to the home place about 5:00. So after 38+ miles we called our rides (Jo & his son) to come get the three of us.  Although I was disappointed in not doing all 65 miles (which I think might have ended up closer to 76), I was content.

I’m thankful for:

  • Many of you who donated to a great cause. MS can strike anyone at any time. I rode for Kirby and Marge and everyone else who suffers from this disease. I was able to raise $1100.
  • A safe ride. Roads are not closed off just because there are a plethora of riders.  Dave’s friend, Lynn, was killed on an MS ride by a 93 year old man who thought he could pass a ton of riders at one time and when he found out he couldn’t swung back in taking out Dave and Nina on their tandem and hit Lynn so hard she flew over them.
  • Dave, Chris and Nina for making our weekend extra special. Dave paid for our two nights in the hotel which allowed us the opportunity to relax and not do a lot of driving. It allowed me to study some on Friday so I wouldn’t be so tired and ill-prepared for Sunday. The three also made their way to OVCF to worship with us Sunday and go to lunch before he took Chris and Nina to the airport.
  • Dave came to Spencer yesterday (Tuesday) to ride with me. We were able to get in 20 before the skies told us we better cut this short and get to the church building (where we left from). That might have been one of the smartest decisions I have made lately. The skies opened up shortly after we got there. We would have been soaked to the bones. It was fun riding with a friend whom I’ve come to love like a brother. (Now we just gotta get to Arizona. Sounds like a great January/February trip).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the three of us in our 3 Feet Please cycling kit. But I did get two pictures of our help.  On the left is Jo, Chris and Nina. On the right is Chris and Nina. (In the back is my bike).  Marge also helped but was not in the picture (by choice, hence the empty chair).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a great day and a great experience. An absolutely fun weekend spent with friends and some down time with Jo. Lord willing, I hope to ride again next year. So start saving your pennies! I am!!!  🙂 🙂 🙂