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Image

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

There is no doubt we live in an image-conscious world. Fat-shaming. Body-shaming. All kinds of shaming going on. Cyber bullying has become a pastime for many. Plastic surgeons are in high demand to fix this, tuck this, remove this, do this, do that.

Whatever happened to Psalm 139: 13-16 and the reality it teaches? Before you jump all over me, I agree we ought to take care of ourselves. I don’t cycle and lift weights for nothing. But to body-shame someone because they don’t meet “our standard” of loveliness is just downright wrong. Sinful even. And to feel less than beautiful because of someone else’s standards is not right either.  Because of back surgery I am limited in what I can do for my core muscles. I was not allowed to do anything for almost 3 months. My stomach is not as flat, toned and defined as it once was. But that hasn’t stopped someone from commenting about it. I laugh it off but what would that do to someone who was less confident or didn’t know the uphill battle I face trying to find ways to exercise?

That is why this song was so insightful to me this past week.  If you have trouble with the lyrics I have included the lyric video of the song here.  I hope this helps set your week on a good path.

Suicide

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Warning. Spoiler Alert. This is not going to be a fun post to read. Or write for that matter.  This is not a fun subject, a joking matter, or something to be taken lightly. Everyone of us has probably, in some way, been touched by suicide. Either we are survivors of it (those left behind) or we know someone who has threatened suicide or someone who died of suicide.  As a pastor I would love to say it has never touched a church I have pastored or affected someone in the church. I could give you statistics but that would belabor it.  Because I am a pastor, and because I want to reach out to the survivors, I felt a definite need to “read up” on it. I feel God definitely led me to a book called Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu. A few months after his wedding, Dr. Hsu’s father took his life. No doubt depression played a major part in his father’s actions after a major stroke three months earlier.

What makes this book so helpful is his personal involvement in it. It is not a clinical “this-is-what-is-wrong-with-people” approach. Nor is it a book which condemns people to hell who take their life (I won’t do that either). What I especially liked about the book is it can be read and understood by the common person. Like me. I have no visions of grandeur about my intelligence. I like things simple. Dr. Hsu does that. He doesn’t back down from the hard questions but neither does he get heavy-handed. The ones who won’t like this book are those looking for proof of condemnation. If you are one of those, go looking at the comics. I prefer not to cross swords or paths with you.

Here is one example of down-to-earth teaching: there is some discussion about the use of terms-committed suicide vs  completed suicide. I have always use the former but there is someone in the church who uses the latter. His thoughts? Survivor’s react against the former saying it sounds criminal. I’ll grant that now. The latter, he says, “sounds like a laudatory accomplishment…It comes across as somewhat clinical and cold.” (p.169)  His suggestion? “My dad died from suicide” or “my dad took his own life.”  He also recoils against describing suicide as “successful.” (p.170).

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is also interspersed with excellent and informative items like “Warning Signs of Suicide”; “Facts About Suicide”; and others. It is helpful if you are a survivor and are looking for help, and it is helpful if you want to help someone. Check out the right sidebar of my blog for more information on the book.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope

Legacy

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

In my last post, I talked about a legacy of faith. One of the responses was basically not seeing the sense in worrying about it. We die…that’s it. Since I don’t believe that death is the end…and since I do believe that dead men speak (not audibly)…I searched for something I had read years ago.  I found it! Of course, if you get the right people the answer is easy. 🙂 🙂  Here is why I want to leave a legacy of faith behind:

A great example of this is Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan Preacher from the 1700s.  Jonathan and his wife Sarah left a great godly legacy for his 11 children.

At the turn of the 20th century, American educator and pastor A.E. Winship decided to trace out the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death.  His findings are astounding, especially when compared to a man known as Max Jukes.  Jukes’ legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system traced back to him.

Jonathan Edwards’ godly legacy includes: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries.

Max Jukes’ descendants included: 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 50 women of debauchery, 130 other convicts. 310 paupers (with over 2,300 years lived in poorhouses) 400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living.

It was estimated that Max Juke’s descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

One can perhaps question the research. I saw one source cite the VP as Aaron Burr (duelist with Alexander Hamilton). I even saw one source which completely discounted the research on Max Juke’s life. Even if both are true, that doesn’t change the truth of what we leave behind is important.  We either leave life or poison behind.

I choose to leave life.

VDay

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know today is Valentine’s Day. If you couldn’t tell by the stores, you have to be blind. I’m thinking VD cards were out the day after Christmas. 🙂  Seriously, it is a day which has new meaning to me.

I’m not sure how many of you reading this knows of the significance of this week for me. This coming Friday will be the one year (dubious) anniversary of my bike wreck in which I broke my collarbone, broke 3 ribs (I hope you never have to experience that), did a face plant, split my helmet in three places, ruined several pieces of cycling clothing when it had to be cut off by the paramedics, and almost checked out and met the Father.

It happened on a Friday.  The first Sunday back in the pulpit (two weeks later) I talked to the people about my spiritual state at the time of the accident. To borrow Paul David Tripp’s words: I was a spiritual amnesiac.  I was not in a good place. My marriage was limping along. Not because of any affair, unless you consider my affair with my job as legitimate.  The wreck was the best thing that happened to me. God got my attention. Sure, I wish He had used a softer means but, would I have heard? I don’t think so. After all, getting hit by the car in November should have been a warning sign.

I can honestly say I love Jo more today than many yesterdays. We no longer take each other for granted. We are more open and honest with each other than we have probably ever been. Neither one of us wants our relationship to go back to where it was one year ago. Today is Valentine’s Day. And I love my better half, and will forever how much longer we have together on this earth.

 

Refreshing

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

This past Friday night I honored Jo.

Now…before you get to thinking, “My. my, what a great husband,” let me tell you how I did. You may also change your mind from “what a great husband” to “what a cad.” Okay…maybe not that bad, but you may change your mind.

Friday is my day off. It was anything but a day off as we had a chiropractor appointment, had time to eat lunch and then headed to Terre Haute (almost an hour away) for a funeral visitation of a fine, godly man who died quickly from cancer. His son owns the Nissan dealership where I buy my vehicles. Anyway, we rushed back after that to go to the local theater to see a movie.

A movie I had no desire to see whatsoever. But one she wanted to see. I wanted to honor her so I went.

How was I supposed to know I would come away refreshed? Laughing? Feeling good? And wanting to see it again?  Yeah…I wanted to honor her with the wrong attitude.  But I am so glad I did!!! Some of her movies/musicals I cringe at seeing (like Beauty and the Beast) but this is one time I chose to go.

The movie?  Actually a musical. Here’s the big moment… The Greatest Showman. Exceptional movie with fantastic music. The core meaning of the movie stands out: All lives matter.  Hmmm seems like I know SOMEONE who taught us that.

My song for today? Here is one of them from the movie. Please take the time to listen and read the lyrics as you do.  In the movie the character she plays has PCOS. Hers manifested itself in a full beard. The lyrics speak even louder when you know that.

We might actually go see it again this afternoon. Hard to beat a free movie.

Tested

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

In last week’s sermon I talked about True Love. You can read more about it here. But you know as well as I do talking about love, defining love, does not a lover make. The real test of love is when love is put to the test.

Despite all our learning or lack of it; despite all our high-falootin’ talk or lack of it; despite our rhetoric or lack of it; everyone one of us knows we will not get along with everyone. Wishful thinking. Dream thinking. “Not possible” thinking actually. “Ain’t going to happen” thinking.  Yeah…I hate to be the one to burst the bubble, but we will not be able to get along with everyone.

So…how do we keep the peace?

So…what do we do with enemies? With those who want to make our life miserable? In fact, that seems to be their mission in life. How are we supposed to act and react to our enemies?

My sermon this weekend will get down to that nitty-gritty. When you have been abused, walked on, used as a doormat or a ladder, had lies told about you, or have been stolen from…what to do? How would love respond?

Romans 12: 14-21 is not an easy passage to deal with but it can’t be skipped over either. I’d appreciate your prayers for this weekend.

I’m posting this early because Jo and I will be heading to Evansville, IN to see one our young men play one of his last two games in Indiana (Saturday is the other). He graduates from Maryville College in St. Louis this year. So we will be out and about and I will be away from a computer. I’ll have my phone to approve comments, but I despise typing anything of length on my phone. Have a great weekend!

Tribute

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Today I honor someone else.

She has been with me permanently for 44 1/2 years. Lord willing, it will be 45 on June 16th.

She is the fantastic mother of my two daughters.

She is the doting mamaw to our only grandson.

She has been my helper, my supporter, my cheerleader (without the outfit…rats!) all these years.

She has gone wherever we have believed God has led us.

She has been a rock through the good times and the tough times.

Her primary love language is Quality Time (and let’s me know when she isn’t getting it).  🙂

She never has been and still is not athletic. She is not like the Energizer bunny. She would prefer to spend a quiet night at home watching TV than go out on the town (which is a good thing). She loves to eat out (but has trouble picking it unless we have been blessed with a gift card). She has a few (very few) close friends. She loves being behind the scenes and pushing me forward. She prefers a stress-free life (her personality type wants peace).

And she’s married to me!

That makes me the most fortunate man on the planet.  I haven’t always known that or believed that but this past year has been a “dream” for both of us. We took a dream vacation thanks to someone in the church. We have been able to dream bigger in our marriage due to a newfound love and respect for each other. I could go on but if she reads this I could get shot. (It would have to be an imaginary gun since I don’t own one).  I’m embarrassing her because she hates attention being brought to herself.

I woke her up this morning playing this song on the record player she got me for Christmas. She knows this is my #2 song of all time. Cheesy I know. I even told her that but since I don’t sing and he does, I let the record say it for me. We’ll spend a quiet day together doing some errands, eating lunch out somewhere so she can be at home tonight watching NCIS, and just enjoying each other’s company. Just the way she likes it.

I love ya baby! (Frankie sings that).

Father

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

A lot has been written about our earthly father and his influence upon our lives. You know…

“I am who I am today because of my father.” (Positive)

“I am who I am today because of my father.” (Negative)

“My father’s example was one I wanted to emulate.”

“My father’s example was not one I wanted to emulate.”

“I desire to raise my children the same way my father raised me.”

“I desire to raise my children differently than my father raised me.”

I could go on and on. Many people who are much smarter and wiser than me have said, “Your view of God is very often tied to your view of your earthly father.” In my case, I concur. Conditional love and acceptance. AWOL at times. Preoccupied with other things. I could go on but this is not a body slam on my late father.

I know some, many who have come to see me in my office or at a meal, who have screamed for a father who loved them. “What was wrong with me?” “Why couldn’t he just love me the way I was?” “Why did he try to live his life through me?” The litany goes on. Little girls especially need their father to be more than a biological necessity.

During Pastor Appreciation Month (which is also my birthday month) our worship leaders had this wood hanging made for me. I treasure it. I have it displayed on a table in my office. It just might be the first thing people see when they walk by or enter.

The song I’m highlighting today is one of my favorites from which this plague comes. Hope you enjoy it.

 

SecondDay

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Well…I hope your 2018 has started out well. Mine was uneventful I guess. New Year’s Eve found me in bed and asleep by 10:30. Hey! Don’t mock me! That is one hour later than normal. 🙂 🙂  I knew I didn’t have to get up at my normal 3:45 time so I actually stayed up to read some. But alas! I am not an all-nighter. Never have been…never will be (unless pressed). In fact, I’m not even a late-nighter. My girls laugh at me. Okay…Tami does. I’d say, “She’s a school teacher what does she know?” but I’d get thumped pretty good by all the teachers (and her). Seriously, I have never been a late night person except on rare occasions. Getting older hasn’t changed that one bit…except going to bed earlier.

Speaking of Tami…she is moving out this weekend into her own apartment. 2 1/2 years ago she moved back to be closer to us and Janna (really Braden but same family). 🙂  But she took a very significant pay cut to do so. She moved in with us until she could sort some things out, plus find a place she could afford. They are distant in Bloomington and Elletsville, as well as few and far between in Spencer. But thanks to the generosity of a couple who built their own house, they are renting Tami their old apartment. It has some big rooms, nostalgic points (it is a renovated apartment in “downtown” Spencer). Downside? A million steps to get there. But I’m happy for her. She will have her own place, a place to call her own. And space she doesn’t have at our house.

Teaser: “I don’t have to have it all figured out. He does. There is no way for me to know all that will happen anyway, so why work myself up over that? Why worry and be fearful over what I cannot control? I cannot understand it all so why spend my days and valuable time in fear and misery because I don’t and won’t? No…I need to rest in His perfect, sovereign knowledge.” For more check out my other blog here.

Have a good day my friends. Here it is -9. So stay warm also.

Alone?

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Something concerns me. I’m not totally sure what to do about it actually. Maybe it is more than just a concern too. It is an ache I don’t know how to take away.

Just recently our community was hit with the death of an 8th grader.  She died while sleeping. Rumors abound (as you can imagine). Rumors I refuse to be a part of. So far they are just rumors since no one knows how or why she died. I hate rumors. I despise talk without substantial proof. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Here is my concern. The death of a teenager, or anyone for that matter, is a “killer” to me. But what about those who are left behind? This is the Christmas season where people are wishing good cheer, joy, happiness,  and all those other wishes to people they see. But what about those who dread this time of the year? They hole up in their house or bedroom and have no desire to get out, see anyone, laugh, spread good cheer, nor any of those other “feel good” things.

Do we see their hurt? Do we feel their loneliness? Do we sense their desire to be left alone? Christmas is a particularly hard time for those who have lost people they love-spouse, parent, friend, child-so what do we do with and about and for them? The first of “everything” is the toughest-first Christmas, first holiday, first anniversary, first birthday.

So…I guess what I’m saying is “keep your eyes open” to those around you. There are many lonely, hurting people right out our back door. People who may not even know it, but people who need a hug, a smile, a word of encouragement, a card/note, or some other form of acknowledgment. What they don’t need is someone harping on them or criticizing them. Lend an ear. Lend a hand. Lend a smile. Lend a heart.

This song is not a “Christian” Christmas song. But it does talk about memories.