Friendship

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#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.

#Forgiveness#Friends#BackUp

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I have also posted this on my “Shadow” blog. Did you know I had another blog? It is a devotional blog I write in every day. I’d like to invite you to check it out here.

 

#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

#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.