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#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I knew of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. A rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

#Forgiveness#Childhood/AdultTrauma

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my posts on Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World to do a far more enticing and exciting book. There is one thing for sure about old age: unless you write something down you are sure to forget it. It isn’t that earth-shattering but I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw this book for the first time. I don’t know if I was reading a book and it was mentioned, or was just passing by it on Amazon but I stopped, read the short blurb on it and decided to get it. Or I may have seen his book on The Uniform of Leadership, decided to buy it and saw this one right beside. No matter. 🙂  I just want to say one thing: GO BUY THIS BOOK!!

Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

Jason Romano is with a Christian sports magazine called Sports Spectrum.  He also has a podcast that I have started listening to.   Before that he was involved behind the scenes at ESPN for close to 17 years. Before that he was an abused child-mostly verbally abused (never physically) by an alcoholic father.  It is quite a story.

I’m not going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the story. It is much too involved than I have time to get into here, but I will tell you that this is Jason’s story of struggling with his father’s alcoholism; his own response to it because of his Christian faith; and moving forward when those we love hurt us the most.

This is a FANTASTIC book for you or anyone you know who is struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you/them in the past by their behavior or even continuing to do so.  It took Jason lots of years to finally forgive his father and…well I can’t tell you how it changed things or if it did.  I guess you will have to read the book to find out.  🙂  Since I’m a sports fan, I enjoyed some of his stories of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and their candid talk about their drug abuse and how it ruined their careers.  Both have found Christ and are doing their best to warn others of their path. But I want to make this clear: you do NOT have to be a sports fan to read this book.

I am buying an extra copy of this book to have in my office to hand out. I am that sold on this book.  By the way: have I told you that you ought to get a copy of this book and read it?  Warning: you may need some tissues handy.

#Work

Friday, September 4th, 2020

In the late ’60s I purchased an album by Chicago Transit Authority. They had a song on that album called Questions 67 & 68.  There weren’t that many questions in the song so I had no clue why they named a song by that title. Thanks to the internet I recently found out that the song actually referred to the years 1967 and 1968.  Of course if you follow the name change and their next album, they never did learn the answer because a year or so later they asked another question: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”  🙂

I start a new series this Sunday called Q & A. They are questions people have asked or are asking and I hope to give Biblical answers to those questions. The first in line is one tied to this weekend’s holiday. I thought I would try to answer the question “What about Work?” I think it is a fair question to ask, especially since the whole virus mess has caused many to take stock of why they do what they do.

Speaking for myself: I love doing what I do. I love my job. I love the people I work with on a daily basis.  However, I am also aware my job is different from many.  I work for the Lord as the pastor of the church so I don’t face the daily influences many of you do.  But I still feel there is common ground we can stand on.  There is another issue we all face. Many today find it more convenient to stay home and collect than to work. There are cases where that is good, but tragically we face a scourge of laziness to just stay home and not work.  There is a difference between will not work and cannot work.

My purpose this week is to show how work has been given to us by God as far back as Genesis and there is value found in working.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for those who listen.  Meanwhile, have an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

#Relax#PermissionTo#Refresh

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

If there has been one thing this whole virus fiasco should have done is given us permission to take it easy. I know…that is hard when someone is uptight and scared. But then again, maybe that is exactly what was needed to relieve anxiety.

I have a book in my office I read years ago by the late Tim Hansel. It is called When I Relax I Feel Guilty.  I thought that was a rather unique title. Sadly, it is also true. We have this crazy mentality that the busier I am the better it looks. But I think the old saying is true: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” One of the statements Tim makes in his book is the word leisure comes the Latin word which means “to be permitted.”  He then says, “More today than ever, we need to learn how to give ourselves permission to relax, to play, to enjoy life, and to enjoy God for who He is.” (p.30)

And because we can’t relax, we find ourselves wound up tighter than a drum.  We have to somehow give ourselves permission to enjoy moments/hours/days of leisure.  I read enough blogs and listen to several podcasts to know that pastors/youth pastors, etc across the spectrum have found themselves burning out due to the failure to take some leisure time and not feel guilty doing so. Especially during this pandemic.  I’m going to be honest. I tend to be high energy.  I get up at 3:30 and most often my feet don’t go horizontal until 9:30 at night (unless I am happen to be sitting in my recliner).  🙂  But during this pandemic I made sure I found time to do leisure. Now…my leisure was not doing cross-stitch or redoing antique furniture or making a boat in my basement. (NCIS anyone?) My leisure was physical in nature because my relaxation is riding my bike.  Going to the Y was out for obvious reasons so I made sure whenever possible I took a 15-25 mile spin on my bike. Some will say, “But that is not relaxing!” For me it is. I breathe fresh air. I can feel the wind at my face. I can sweat. And I can clear my mind.

We have just got to stop letting work become our identity. That is what gets us into the mess to start with.  Work= identity. More work = recognition added to my identity.  Been there done that.  I find it interesting that Jesus often withdrew to be by Himself to be with His Father. Luke 5 tells us it was to pray.  Hey, the way I look at it, if it was good enough for Jesus to withdraw and relax then who am I to argue?

Take some time away. Relax.  Enjoy yourself.  Someone has said, “If you don’t come apart, you will soon come apart.”  There you go. Think about that the next time you want to cover yourself with a load of “To Do” stuff.

#Grace#HassledHeart

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture before-maybe countless times-and not really read it?  You know…sort of mindless reading. Honestly, I have found myself doing that when reading parts of the OT.  I have in the past read through the Bible in a year several times. But I “cheated” when reading some of the more tedious passages-like Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy and some of the Prophets. Ezekiel was one of them. But one day I woke up as I was reading Ezekiel 34: 11-16. I was blown away and stunned by its beauty, power and all-encompassing picture of grace.  That grace is seen in so many ways, but I think it is especially seen in the one subject I think may plague more Christ-followers than anything else.

What topic is that? It is the one I’m going to be dealing with Sunday.

FORGIVENESS

That just might be the one subject Christ-followers are more fragile on than any other.  When you think about it, forgiveness actually has two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.  Forgiveness starts with vertical-our relationship with God. Then it moves to horizontal-our relationship with others.  So many try to get the latter right before the former is in place. We get it all wrong.

To show you the emptiness of the latter without the former taking place I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. I was in Circle K (a gas station/convenience store) and the cashier made a comment to me and really to all who were around. As I stepped up to pay she said, “There are 3 things that keep me going-caffeine, tobacco and resentment.” I said to her, “The latter two will kill you.” She repeated it to me like it was a badge of honor. So I did likewise-I repeated my warning.  I felt sad for her and wished she had a wise friend who could help her. 

My sermon Sunday is entitled Grace for the Hassled Heart.  You already know the Scripture and the focus. Now I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for us.  Thanks.

#OutoftheBlue#VictoryStory

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

“What is it with me?” I have to ask. This is the third book review in a row? This is the second that has to deal with cancer. You might be wondering the same thing. Is Bill trying to tell us something? Truthfully, not that I know of. Who knows what is going on inside my body…or yours for that matter.

While I was reading Dream Big by Bob Goff (my review is here) Bob told how he was asked to do a Preface for a book by Greg Murtha. So I pursued it a bit further since Bob told a little of Greg’s story and it sounded interesting. Greg wrote a book called Out of the Blue and finished it on June 19, 2017. He went “to the head of the line” on June 22, 2017.  This book is Greg’s story and life lessons learned during 5 years of chemotherapy and fighting through 75 chemo treatments.  This was literally one of those books I had trouble putting down.  I started reading it Saturday evening since I didn’t have to preach and had to pry it out of my hands to go to bed. Then as I tossed and turned I wondered if I should have just stayed up and read some more. I finished it Sunday night after attending church with friends, having lunch with them, and coming home to cut grass. The rest of my evening was spent putting the finishing touches on reading this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

Greg was a hard-driving and successful man, but by his own admission not a great husband or father. Provider? Yes. Engaged? No.  But here is how his journey began: “On a cold December morning in 2011, I ran eleven miles on the picturesque Crocket Hills Trail in Middle Tennessee…As a 46 year old man in what I thought was peak physical condition, eleven miles was nothing. Afterward, sweating but pumped, I headed for the bathroom at the YMCA. That’s when my runner’s high deflated. It appeared as if someone had poured a container of bright-red blood into the toilet. It was a lot of blood, and I realized instantly, this is not good.”

So begins his story of 5 years/75 treatments. And so begins one of the most captivating books you will ever read.  One month after that 11 mile run, Greg and Tracey (his wife) found out he had Aggressive Stage 3 colon cancer (I’ll leave out the details)  which soon became Stage 4.  Out of the blue his life was changed forever.  Out of the blue his well-planned life had been radically changed. Hence, now you know the reason for the title of the book.

And out of the blue I was slammed by the lessons Greg learned.  How often, even though I want to be a pastor who is tender and open to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, have I walked past people who are obviously hurting?  How many times have I been so preoccupied with my own issues or concerns that I have failed to see the signs of others who are needing someone to care?  How many times have I sensed that nudge from the Spirit to reach out and failed to do so? I can honestly say…way too many.  I shed tears during this book.  Not for Greg but for how his heart was made tender for others. How his heart was molded into a heart like Jesus.  And I shed tears because I am so lacking in that department. Like Joni, Greg says cancer was a blessing and he wouldn’t change a thing.  His biggest regret was leaving behind his wife of 23+ years and his 15 year old son.

Out of the blue God taught me how I needed to be much more open to others; how I needed to be much more sensitive to His voice and available to His lead.  I say “out of the blue” because I was not expecting this book to be what it was-a lesson in listening to God’s voice and acting upon it.  Greg’s journey on this earth is over, but then again, maybe it has just begun…in me. I pray my heart will be open to the Father’s leading as his was.

Get this book. But just be forewarned: you will be hit out of the blue with powerful lessons.

Out of the Blue: The Unexpected Adventure of Life Interrupted

#/DreamBig#GoodRead

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Every once in awhile (not very often) I will look in the mirror or say to myself, “I wish I was younger.”  After 22 miles on a hot, humid and hilly day in the saddle this past Saturday, I got off my bike completely spent and found myself saying, “I wish I was younger.” (Yeah, I didn’t get any sympathy from my wife either).  When I cut my grass (I walk it) and my back, legs and knees are sore when I’m done, I wish I was younger.  When I look at what used to be Mr. America type muscles (cough! cough! That’s a joke son. I say. I say. That’s a joke) and see that I can no longer get the size I used to (especially since I don’t use steroids), I will say, “I wish I was younger.” When I make my way to bed between 9-9:30 so I can get up at 3:30 and it is still light out, Jo and I will sometimes say, “We’re pathetic.” (Translate: we didn’t do this when we were younger).  When I used to memorize a good part, if not all, of my sermon and now have trouble with the title, I will say, “I remember when I was younger.” 🙂

Just recently I finished a book only I didn’t wait until I was finished to say, “I wish I was younger.” I was saying it all along.  I have loved reading Bob Goff’s books- Love Does and Everyone Always. They were gems to read.  Going on that I picked up his newest book, Dream Big. He didn’t disappoint. His engaging and out-of-the-corner-of-his-mouth way of speaking and writing make me chuckle. It also had me underlining. I took notes. Each chapter began with a short pithy statement that alone was worth the price of the book. It read quickly. It is not filled with deep theological truth that makes you stop and chew on it for days.  That is not his style. But you cannot go away from any one chapter not thinking. His stories capture you. His honesty and transparency are refreshing.  Bob has the ability to laugh at himself and also to be serious about the passions which drive him.

But I wish I was younger.  If I was in my 20s or 30s or even 40s this would be a book I would read over and over, probably once a year. But at age 67 I’m near the end of my dreaming big stage. Not that I’m done dreaming or hoping or wanting to serve, but I WISH I WAS YOUNGER! I’m giving this book to my daughter, Tami, to read. She’s only 45 and has dreams. I want her to pursue them, especially since teaching kindergarten kids in school is no longer what it once was. Masks on kids? Seriously? Social distancing kindergarten kids? Seriously? “Pursue your dreams Tami.” And you who might be reading this: pursue your dreams. Especially if you are young and still have time to dream big.

Yeah…if I was only younger. My suggestion: go out and buy this for someone you love and care about. Read it with them and challenge them. Mentor them to pursue their God-given passions.  Let me leave you with just three quick quotes from his book:

Live on the edge of yikes. (p.155)

I love that!! Here is another:

Be where your feet are. (p.127)

That is an old South saying. And one more:

Don’t act like you got it all figured out. Nobody wants to give that person extra time.  Instead, be humble, self-aware, and punishingly truthful. (p.15)

There are more…way more. Enough to fill two journal pages.  Get the book for yourself and read it.

Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It

#Where’sBill?#GreatDisappearningAct

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

I’ve been largely absent from this blog this week. Okay…I haven’t been here at all, except to tell myself I ought to post something. I could shoot you all kinds of excuses but you might think I’m just blowing smoke. I don’t smoke so it can’t be that.  It’s just plain being busy.

Ryan is out of the office this week. I told him several weeks ago I expected him to find a week where he, Hope and the kids can get away. No office. No media (although I have no control over his phone use).  He has been working hard through this whole COVID thing trying to stay in touch with the kids. Lots of ZOOM meetings with them. Studying to make their time productive.  He even had an early Sunday morning time with the elementary kids! They sang; they danced (the kids did); he taught them and they loved it. He did too. But then he would rush to the church building and be one of the 4 who were here-Jo (Power Point); Tami (recording for FB); Ryan (sound and recording); and me (preaching…I think).  He took on the added responsibility of helping get our fledgling recording of the worship started and moving. He also had two weeks of Wilderness Week at our church camp cancelled (they cancelled the whole summer). So along with some frustration was some sadness.  He was tired and wore out.  So they went camping.

Today is his and Hope’s anniversary (#15 I think) and they decided to spend it together backpacking. Not to worry. They spent their honeymoon camping as they traveled cross country.  I affiliate with strange people you know? 🙂 In all honesty, there is no underestimating his value to the team. I am so grateful that he left a secure bank job to become our youth pastor. The dude knows how to minister. 

My week has been full with appointments, one that went way past my normal bedtime.  Yesterday I spent time visiting some folks who would love to be there on Sunday but are being cautious because of underlying health issues.  It was a fun afternoon. But when I do those things it takes me out of the office.

So…out of office…no blog. I know, I know. Makes you sadder than all get out. I love my job. I prefer to call it my calling. I love seeing people. It has been a good week.  I look forward to tomorrow except for the doctor’s visit at 7 a.m. which is a follow-up to lab work from last Friday. But I get to spend the day with Jo! That’s always good.

Hope your week was good. Anything you can share about it that will put a smile to my face?

#47

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

I was in the flower shop yesterday (that is a surprise all its own) when someone asked me how many years of marriage we are celebrating. I said, “47.” She said “Wow! Good for you! We are celebrating 33. We started late.”  People have a hard time believing we are celebrating 47 years because I look no older than 50.  I can see the wheels in their head turning ’round and ’round as they try to do the math. 🙂  So I save them the brain drain and tell them I am really 67, my bride is 69 and we were married while in college.

I met Jo when we were Freshmen in college. She had stayed out a year to work and not study. She had her roommates who became friends; I had complex mates who became friends. Lo, and behold, my friends hung with hers and we became friends.  We did really stupid stuff back then (like crawling through bat guano when we were crawling through caves) but we were young and adventurous.  She really didn’t like me when we first met. Said I was arrogant. Who me? Just because I was a starting Freshman on the basketball team? I didn’t think I was then…but I guess I was. Eventually, my charm won her over and we went out on a date. We went to another town to see the movie Love Story and man was it quiet in the car. She didn’t talk much. I thought she didn’t want to be with me and actually wished she was out with another guy. Come to find out she was sort of shy and didn’t really talk all that much. Oh…how times have changed! But I digress.

Eventually our sophomore year we started dating and except for a break-up by her (twice)  we have been together since.  Our original date to get married was August 18 but the school (where I was working for the summer) threw us a curve ball so we had to move the date to June 16th against the wishes of both our parents. It was either that or be unemployed two weeks from the end of school. We had all our invitations printed when the school told me I didn’t have a job since I would be single and they weren’t hiring single people that summer. So we scrambled to put together a wedding in less than 2 months. She said we could put a notice in the invitations that said “due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to move the date of the wedding.” I said, “I don’t think that would be the best thing to say.” 🙂 She agreed. Anyway, we got married. I had to have my parent’s permission since Ohio required the parties be 21. My father-in-law never let me live that one down.

Wives of ministerial students were tuition-free so that was one reason we didn’t wait until after graduation.  We lived in a too small trailer (I broke every light fixture as I walked through it)  that was moved and the add-on was not even connected to the trailer. We could see ground in the Spring, Summer and Fall and snow in the winter! And that add-on was our bedroom! We were poor college students but that trailer was our home. We loved each other deeply and still do to this day. We have had our tough times like all marriages do. I was way too married to my job. Tragically, I found a lot of my identity there.  On June 3,1975 Tami came along and at one time wondered why she was not in our wedding pictures. 🙂 On August 23, 1979 Janna was born. They were to the two best events that ever happened to me (other than Jo).  Janna gave us Braden on October 17, 2006. That was the next best thing, although I didn’t have anything to do with that!

My life has been full. It has been an adventure (My personal motto is “Live the Adventure”) and I have God to thank for that. He has been involved in my life since I was a child; personally when I came to know Him at the ripe old age of 8; and He has led me through the highs and lows. Jo has been one of the highs and I am forever grateful God brought us together. Life is much different these days. She is retired and prefers to spend her days either at home watching TV or relaxing, or driving all over creation.  If she had her druthers we would live a whole lot closer to Janna and Braden, but she never balked at where we lived and loves the people here in Spencer. Tami lives here in Spencer and teaches in Bloomington. We have found our most satisfying ministry here, and she has been allowed to be herself. I still work full-time as the pastor of people I deeply love.

We found out in the middle of last week that Braden plays his first baseball game tonight (Tuesday) so since I was already planning on taking the day off I surprised her by suggesting we go and watch him play ball, spend the night in Ohio, take him to breakfast (IHOP) and then head home. Yeah, I had to twist her arm for that one. So we head off shortly for what we hope will be a delightful drive and time with Janna and Braden. He is the light of both our lives and keeps us laughing. We want to take advantage of that before he sees his grandparents as too old to be bothered with or acknowledged.

So…thank you love (I call her Honey) for 47 years. My prayer is that we will be see that magical number of 50 together. Sorry this is so long, but I was writing about someone I love. Oh…I could have gone on for much longer.  But I’ll spare you for now. 🙂

#SpecialBlessing#Gift#Birthday

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I wrote this yesterday, June 3rd, while in Ohio. I did not have the opportunity to post it early and when I came to the office after getting home, the internet was down. (Thank you Comcast. It was down all over is what I heard). Anyway, I am posting this a day late but the sentiment is not any different.  Here is what I wrote:

45 years ago my life changed forever. Given that I’m only in my 50s you are probably thinking that is when I gave my life to Jesus and am celebrating that birthday.  You would be wrong. First, because I’m not in my 50s (I’m 67). Second, even though giving my life to Jesus was the most life-changing event of all, it was not that.

45 years ago today Tamra Jo was born around 9:45 p.m. at Akron General Hospital in Akron, OH. It had been a long day. A normal doctor appointment turned into a toxemia diagnosis which led us to the ER for immediate admittance to the hospital and an induction of labor.  That was about 11:00 a.m.  Around 8 that evening, after going through hours of labor (which Jo does not remember), they began to prep her for a C-section. Then the doctor came in and asked if it would be okay to hold off Jo’s surgery for an hour. The woman next door was trying to have her baby but the heartbeat was getting fainter.  Jo was out of it so I said, “Of course.”  The time finally arrived and he sent me to the waiting room (that was before men were allowed in the delivery room). He came out later to tell me, “Congratulations! You have a healthy baby.”  Me: “What is it?”  Him: “A girl. 7 lb 14oz.”  Me: “Oh.” Disappointed it was not a boy. But one look and that all changed. We only had boy’s names picked out so it took about 3 days for me to name her. (Jo was not thinking very clearly).

She has been a joy to have and raise.  Her heart has always sought God. She stood her ground in high school when a boy made a rude, crude remark to her one time. She hauled off and hit him and said, “Don’t you ever say that to me again.” That’s my girl! She changed her major in college 3 times (Athletic trainer, TV production, teacher). The latter has been her profession for 22 years. After living in Knoxville on her own for 15 years, she moved to Spencer to be closer to her aging parents 🙂 and her nephew. The latter hasn’t panned out as she had hoped but it has been nice to have her close. She may not be a mother (never married) but Jo put it well this past Mother’s Day: She is a mom to 20+ kids every year.

Best thing? Her heart still beats for God. And she still loves us!! How’s that for great?  🙂 Happy Birthday Tami. I love you more than you know.