Friendship

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#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?

#FromtheHeart#Observations

Friday, May 29th, 2020

This Sunday is a week of transition on several fronts.

First, we plan to meet in person for the first time in at least two months at 9 and 10:45. We will have some safety recommendations in place and we will expect them to be followed in order for all to feel comfortable.

Second, it is a week of transition from the series on Colossians (which I finished last week) to a new series I am starting next Sunday called Promises, Promises.  In our grand scheme of things Ryan was going to preach this weekend so I could go away while he went away this past weekend. However, his plans changed, but then he let it be known that he did not feel he should preach the first Sunday back to in-person worship.  So I changed my plans to be here in the morning and then leave after our worship for a few days in Ohio.

Ryan paid me a great honor by believing I should preach this first Sunday back. As I was studying for it, I decided he has had as much influence, if not more, during this pandemic mess as me, only in a different way. His shepherding of the kids was out-of-this-world and I felt like I wanted to share the “stage” with him. So I asked him to join me for the morning as we just talk about what we have gone through. I drew up four questions I’d like us to answer:

  • What we observed
  • How we felt
  • How we filled our days
  • What’s on the horizon?

Those bullet points might lead you to believe it is about us. It isn’t. Neither one of us would be comfortable if it was. We are going to be sitting in chairs and just talking to the folks as if we were sitting in their living room.  Please feel free to join us at 10:45. That is the only service which will be live streamed.  You can join our FB page at Owen Valley Christian Fellowship-Spencer, Indiana. Ask to be approved and either Diana or Tami will approve you.  You will then have access to our page 24/7,  as well as the live stream.

In any case, would you please pray for me, Ryan and the church as we prepare for Sunday? Thanks.

#MemorialDay#Tribute#Jesus

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Over at my other blog I wrote the following devotion. I decided to do double duty today and also post it here.  My plans today involve working on a sermon, having an early morning ride, then spending the rest of the day with my wife and daughter.  Here is my devotion:

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

#Friends#Close#Praying#Loyal

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

I mentioned in another post in another life (just kidding. I have no clue where I wrote it) that when I became a youth pastor after college the Senior Pastor once told me to “never get close to anyone in ministry.” He was not talking about colleagues, especially since his son is my long-time best male friend (over 46 years). He was talking about people within the church I was serving. I understand his words, but I was just never able to do that.  Reason? As I matured I was able to see that I was a very social creature.  I score multi-high on the extrovert scale.

Friends are important to me on various levels. I have had cycling friends who have come and gone.  Jim is now about the only one close enough in distance. I count Dave (3 Feet Please) a friend but he lives in Arizona. Sort of hard to get together to ride. 🙂  After years of legalism, I have ministry friends outside my “camp.” I’m richer for it. I have “Y”/lifting friends whom I have not seen over the past 10 weeks or so because of some crazy virus.  But the most friends I have are church friends. Males whom I love to get together with. Granted, there are some “guards” I have to put up, but I know if I need them for anything they will come.

The final sermon from Colossians is like a “Who’s Who” in Paul’s life.  Starting in 4:7 Paul gives a list of very dear and close friends. I’ve categorized them as such:

  • Close friends
  • Praying friends
  • Loyal friends

We need all of them in some way in our life. I’ve titled the sermon A Little Help from My Friends.  And yes, you can cue the Beatles song. I did.  “No man is an island” it has been said. My sermon this morning will show the importance of friends to Paul…and to us. I’d love to have you pray for me and for those listening online. In fact, I’d love to have you join me!

#Loved#Surprised#WOW!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

I have a file in my office I have titled “Makes it All Worthwhile.” It is filled with cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous things people have sent or given me over the years to remind me of their love, prayers, thanks, and all-around encouragement. With the onset of texting I sometimes receive encouragement that I cannot put into that file. Yesterday, was one such day.  I was in the dermatologist’s office and when I got back to my truck checked my phone.  I had received the following text. I am withholding the person’s name but will text that person with the link to this post. I want him/her to know how much their text meant to me.  Here is the text:

6 different times in the last two days, I have had you heavy on my heart. I did some digging and found this in Jeremiah- “and I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

This is what I feel like I’m supposed to remind you of:

The crap of the world right now can be discouraging. Can feel like you aren’t able to do what God has called you to do in the capacity you normally do it. But don’t be discouraged by that. You are reaching people that you may have never reached because you are forced to do so online. You got this because God’s got this and you are totally a dude after his own heart.

Love you! Happy Tuesday!

My response:

“Was in doc office and don’t take my phone in. I’m emotional over your text because you care. And I love you and appreciate you for that. It has definitely been different but I’m also seeing God come through in a big way. I’m excited about telling the folks how.”

One of the people I shepherd sent that to me.  A guy can go a long way on encouragement like that. He/she has no idea how that made my day and my drive home yesterday morning. So here is my question to you: have you told your pastor how much he means to you? I guarantee it will go a long way in lifting his spirits.

#FamilyMatters

Friday, May 8th, 2020

There are a series of commercials on TV about an insurance company. Their tag line is “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” They show weird examples of situations they have covered. I can say the same thing after 46+ years as a pastor.  I’m not bragging when I say, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”   Let me tell you: one of the hardest things I have had to deal with is the young person who gives up on his/her parent’s faith because they have seen too much hypocrisy in their parents. Mom and dad saying one thing but doing another.  The teaching in this week’s passage (Colossians 3: 18-4:1) is much needed because marriage has fallen into such disrepute.

Living as followers of Christ is meant to be done in every area of our life. This Scripture is not a marketplace or political commentary.  Don’t even think of taking it there. It is not about a women’s role in society or in the church. It is about followers of Christ who want to live as followers of Christ within their home. In this passage Paul show us two things: 1) It does matter how we treat our family; and 2) it does matter how we treat others.  It runs the gamut of husbands, wives, children, parents, masters and slaves. It ought to be interesting. 🙂

I’d appreciate your prayers as we are once again virtually live.  Ha. We are still honing our equipment and training. We hope to unveil it soon. Our first gathering worship in our building is May 31st. Until then, we meet virtually. I’d appreciate your prayers now and then. Thanks.

#Drive-By

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Say the phrase and you are sure to get visions of someone driving by and shooting at will or maybe at a specific target. I want to give a new picture and reality to the word “drive-by.” I realize even as I write this or say this there will be those who disagree; will call me reckless; etc.  Save the hate speech. 🙂

Monday afternoon I was riding my bike. During most of my rides I play mind games with myself.  Or is that mindless games? I don’t ride to think; I ride to relax. I ride to gain perspective because you know how exercise frees the mind, especially when you are in pain. I wasn’t in pain in the sense of hurting, but the 14 mph wind out of the SW was killing me.  Not just hurting…killing me. I rode yesterday also. About froze my you-know-what off since I underestimated the 15 mph W wind that lowered the temps into the 40s. I did stop back at the office and put on some more clothes (arm and leg warmers and a jacket) but didn’t have anything to cover my head or ears. My helmet is designed to allow air flow. Trust me…it did flow through! I wondered if I would have any ears when I got back after my 14 mile ride.

Anyway…it hit me hard on Monday how much I miss seeing the people at the church. I am a social creature.  I sent notes to everyone several weeks ago (over 100). I try to text or call. I preach each week via FB. But I miss the personal touch of seeing, laughing and hugging. So while I was riding an idea came to mind. One I began implementing yesterday. Why not do a version of a drive-by? I hit 4 out-of-town homes yesterday (and one I couldn’t find). No I didn’t throw stones. I threw prayers. Actually, I pulled into their driveway and prayed specifically for them. I texted them to see if they were home afterwards and told them what I did and to look outside. Every family, to a “T,” came outside on their porch to say hi. I stood by my truck, maintained a safe distance, and chatted with them.  Got to see some of the little ones who will give me hugs on Sunday (but could only smile and wave). Even some of the adults who will.  Got to fist-bump a couple teenage boys. And the best medicine of all? I got to laugh with all of them. I have a mask but one wasn’t needed…not at the distance I was at (except for the teen boys. I had to fight off their hugs. Yeah, and if you believe that I have some swamp land in Arizona I’d be glad to sell you).

All in all, it was a great afternoon. Gave me the social interaction I needed. Hopefully gave them a sense that they are loved and missed.  I plan to do take a couple hours in the afternoons and do some more drive-bys until this thing is over and we can see each other in person and up close.

#Anniversary#Celebration#Honored

Monday, April 20th, 2020

I took a break last week from posting on this blog except for the sermon. After posting on two blogs for over a month, a break was needed. Something happened yesterday that I wanted to share.

April 13th is a day that has significance to me.  On April 13, 1932 my mother was born. She went to be with Jesus in March of 2004. So when April 13th came this year, I thanked God for her influence in my life and then moved on. I am not a real sentimental person on things like that.

But something else happened on April 13th. To honor her in one of the biggest ways I could think of, April 13, 1975 was the day I chose for my ordination into the ministry. I had been preaching since I was a Sophomore in college (1972) but that was my official day of being licensed as a pastor. I had heard of it while in college but I didn’t like the reasons some of them did it: to be an official pastor which basically gave them a free ride on Vietnam. I can also remember my mom telling me not to become a pastor because of the respect and “fame” and honor given to clergy. Back then, pastors were seen as upright and worthy of respect. (My how times have changed!)  Anyway, when I saw how some acted and talked and chased woman, I didn’t want to move too fast on this idea of being ordained (not that I did those things). I wanted it to be an occasion where I knew what I was doing and was serious about my calling.  As I reflect on those ideas today, I’m not sure I knew either! What I did know is that it was a big step for me.

So on April 13, 1975 I chose to honor my mother, whose influence on my faith is unquestioned, by being ordained on her birthday. Besides, as I got older I figured it would be easier to remember one date instead of two. Remembering Jo’s birthday and my two daughters was hard enough.  I’ve never made a big deal about special days in my life, except for my wedding date (which I am trying to remember…oh yeah, June 16, 1973) and the birth of my girls (June 3, 1975 and August 23, 1979).  Let’s see…mine is…oh yeah, October 9, 1952.  And I hereby refuse to publish Jo’s birthday since I value my life.  But trust me when I say she is a tad bit older than me, like from January 30, 1951 compared to mine. (But please don’t tell her I said anything! I love my life!!)

But I digress. Yesterday during the virtual morning worship, I welcomed people to the worship and moved away from the pulpit to let the first song play. It wasn’t the one I picked and looked up and it was a slide show Tami had put together honoring my 45th anniversary of ordination. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. To say I walked away to gather my emotions before standing before the people again might (not) be a lie. Anyway, I was honored and humbled she put this together. And I was especially honored folks responded.  It was hard to see via the FB worship so she has posted it on YouTube. It was public at first but she is taking it private. You have the extreme privilege (I’m humble too) to be given the link to watch it.  Here is the link. Hope you enjoy it. And yes, you will notice two people missing from it: Jo and Janna (my youngest).  Least Tami still loves me. 🙂

I have so many people to thank for 45+ years.  But most of all, I want to give praise, glory and honor to the ONE who called me into this high calling. He has been a beautiful picture of grace, forgiveness, patience, and transformation through all of this. And thank you Tami for doing this (she was last one).

#Lent#12

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

In yesterday’s post (#Lent#11)  I gave some thoughts about what survivors need after a loved one has died.  I encourage you to read that before reading this post (if you haven’t already done so).  In this post, I’d like to carry on with how to treat a survivor with some thoughts on Things Not to Say and Things to Say.

THINGS NOT TO SAY:

  1. “He/she is in a better place now.”  The question which begs to be asked is, “How do you know for sure?” Unless the victim was a follower of Christ,  you are better off not giving false hope.
  2. “I know how you feel.” No, no you don’t. You know how you feel, not how they feel.
  3. “All things work together for good” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Honestly, not only do I want to gag when someone says this (even though it may be half true), but it sounds more like an empty platitude.
  4. “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Not biblical.
  5. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Catchy Kelly Clarkson song, but this comes from Nietzche, who was an atheistic philosopher. He publicized the “God is Dead” movement.
  6. “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” This may sound good coming from your lips but it is virtually a worthless use of words. Why not offer something tangible like “I’m going to bring you a meal” or “Let’s go out for a run or coffee.”
  7. Any joking about people killing themselves is out of bounds. “Oh, if I fail this test, I’m going to kill myself.” (Roll eyes)

THINGS TO SAY:

  • Nothing. (But be present).  Being there and letting them talk or cry or just holding them or just sitting with them is much better than endlessly spoken, weary words. 
  • “I’m so sorry.”  (And mean it when you say it. Yeah you would be surprised).
  • “I don’t know what to do or say. ”  (See the first one of this section).
  • “Do you want to go out for coffee?”  (See #6 above).
  • “Tell me what you remember about him/her.”  (I do this for the funeral experience. It helps them remember the good times).
  • “Tell me your story.”  If they have been married a long time this helps heal.

Some added thoughts: 

  1. Be careful of using “committed suicide.” This implies criminality.
  2. Be careful of saying “completed suicide.” This sounds like a laudatory accomplishment, like completing a project or a grade.
  3. It is much better  to say, “Took his/her own life” or “He or she died.”

I know it is hard to know what to say. It is made worse by “tongue-tied disease.”  People want to give comfort but don’t know how.  Granted, much of what I have written is concerning suicide, but in many cases the advice can apply to any death and survivor.

Some of what I have shared comes from a book by Albert Y. Hsu entitled Grieving a Suicide. I simply cannot recommend this book enough.  The thoughts are a mash up of his and mine (mostly his). 🙂

#Supremacy#Colossians

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

It never ceases to amaze me how contemporary the letters that Paul wrote are to today’s culture. Case in point: Colossians.  I am beginning a new series this Sunday on the book of Colossians with the title of Supremacy.

Many churches have glorious pasts and they like to live there…forever. You can hear it in statements like “We never did it that way before” which someone has dubbed as The 7 Last Words of the Church. Then there are those churches who revel in their past and want to spend an ungodly amount of money keeping their buildings update, their stained glass windows looking all nice and spiffy and regularly use Murphy’s oil soap to shine and wax their pews. Then, of course, there are those who celebrate milestones by putting people’s names on buildings, pews, and even offering plates.

I’m not trying to be difficult but I sure think a church should have another focus than just the looks of their building. If celebrating the past gives us a heightened awareness of the future, I’m all for it.

In this opening passage of Scripture (Col.1:1-8)  Paul gives us a reason to celebrate in the church. I’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with faith, hope and love. 🙂

Your prayers would be appreciated this Sunday. Thanks.