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Interrupted

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

If you saw the last post, it was a description of Sunday’s sermon: Black/white.

Well…it was supposed to be. Until that Sunday morning when God interrupts the thought-process and says, “I want you to go in a different direction.”

So “Black Hats/White Hats” was held over until this coming Sunday. God had other ideas. I want you to know I’m not really into that. I prepare for a reason. I study for a reason. I practice on Sunday morning to an empty auditorium for a reason. I am a firm believer that if people come on Sunday morning to hear “me speak” (to hear a word from God as He has taught me), they need to hear something worth listening to. Half-baked, half-prepared sermons which use the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as an excuse for not studying and preparing tell the people they don’t matter and the pastor doesn’t care.  That’s not me. So when I no sooner begin my sermon and I sense the Holy Spirit prompting me to put it all aside and talk from the heart, I don’t jump up and down like Horshack on Kotter saying, “Ooh ooh ooh.”

That is what happened though this Sunday. I no sooner made two comments:

“Along with the fake there will always be a real.”

“Underneath it all we need to see that Looks can be deceiving.”

At that point I told the people to put their Bibles and notes away. I confessed to them that for the past 9 months or so I have been wearing a mask. I wore a mask so when they asked, “How you doing?” my stock answer was, “I’m fine.” Problem is Bill wasn’t fine. Bill was running on fumes.  He was empty.

It took two bicycle accidents to get my attention. The first didn’t work because it wasn’t my fault and I was able to move on too quickly from it. But this second one was a doozy. I’ve written about it here. I’m healing physically, but spiritually is taking longer. If you would like to listen to the podcast of Sunday’s talk, you can link here.

Your continued prayers are very much needed. Priorities need realigned. Relationships need mended and realigned as well. Thanks ahead of time.

Struck

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, it was Jo’s birthday. I survived the caning I received for telling her age, but other than that I have come out of it relatively unscathed.

We did go see Hidden Figures. What a moving picture! I was born in 1952 and even though I grew up during the age of segregation, I was basically naive. My mother was not a segregationist by any stretch so I was taught all people were worth something. I was never allowed to use the “n” word in her presence, nor was I allowed to make fun of any handicapped person. (Kids can be cruel you know?) I grew up living in the projects, low income housing units built for the steel workers in the 20s, I believe. Improvements had been made but I was still a son-of-the-projects.  I look back now and remember the separate housing units for the black people (that’s one of the names they were called. That and colored people). But I can also look back and realize some of my friends were black kids. I played sports with them. I went to school with them. I was affected by, but in the dark when the riots of ’69-70 hit home to my little town of West Mifflin, PA. I grew up in a high school that was about 1/3 black so I was not out of sorts like so many whites and blacks were. In fact, while former friends were fighting and calling each other names outside before school, I stood inside with Jeff Goldblum (yes him…a Jew); John, a white Catholic; Bruce, a black with concert violinist aspirations; and me, a white Christian. So I knew of difficulty with the races but isolated myself against it.

The movie, Hidden Figures, showed the ugliness and inequality of the whole racial situation. It was, to me, a blight on our country…to think of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves as basically a non-event in our nation’s history. I was struck by the way people were treated.

If I were you, I would make plans to see the movie. Go prepared to get angry. Go also with Kleenex because there are both happy/laughing moments, and also weepy moments. Above all, go prepared to be struck by the reality of God’s love for every individual…no matter the race or color.

Treasure

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

When someone mentions treasure our thoughts most often turn to financial things.

But there is another kind of treasure…one (sadly) I’m not very good at most times. The reference is found in Luke 2:19 where it says that after the shepherds visited the baby and then left, Mary pondered or treasured these things you her heart. That word has always intrigued me.

As I probed what it meant to “treasure” something in your heart, I knew exactly why I was so bad at it! 🙂

The expression “treasured these things in her heart” has more to do with the emotions and the heart, than the physical organ beating in our chest. It literally means to keep something alive or to savor.

I think we all tend to do that. It is called memories. I have them. You have them. Good and bad. I have memories of Christmases in the past which were good. Waking up on Christmas morning to find a tree, a running train, and more than I ever dreamed of under the tree. I can also remember the Christmas my dad was about to walk out of the house.

These days I treasure my Christmases. As we get older, the awareness becomes more apparent that Christmas memories are to be treasured. I like what Tim Keller says, “The treasuring is not so much a technique as an attitude.” The sad part (and am I alone in this?) is that treasuring is getting harder to do. I’m really having some difficulty focusing this Christmas. Maybe it is the accident. Maybe it’s the volume of work. Maybe it is preoccupation with things to do. But I do need to slow down and treasure my memories.

How about you?

Some have asked for an update on my accident. I continue mending. I am totally grateful to God for His healing. I found out the good news that my auto insurance is going to cover the medical bills. That is a huge relief. I go to the general surgeon this coming Monday for a follow up on the hematoma and whether she will remove it or continue hoping my body will absorb it. Continued prayer would be appreciated. And thanks.

Loneliness

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

That word…loneliness…seems to be so empty. Drafty. Lifeless.

For many, Christmas is one of the loneliest times of the year. They feel like they are home alone. When the movie Home Alone first came out, I was not a fan. It just didn’t turn my crank, so for years I never watched it. One day, I think we were at a friend’s house, and they wanted to watch it. I found myself chuckling then laughing at the gags. It was almost like watching the old 3 Stooges, only updated with modern antics.  The story centers around a young boy who is left behind when his family heads for vacation and his attempt to keep the thieves away from the house. What ensues is an adventure in comedy that keeps you laughing.

What isn’t funny is how many live lives of quiet desperation in today’s media saturated world. Busy but alone. Surrounded but isolated.

That is what is so good about the name Emmanuel (God with us!). Not only is it a beautiful name for God’s Son, it also explains one of the great reasons for Christmas in the first place.

There is more. Guess you will have to come Sunday to hear it. But just in case you can’t, I will give you this preview:

  • The glory of Christmas means we are far more precious to God than we could ever imagine.
  • the glory of Christmas means there is far more to celebrate then we thought.
  • The glory of Christmas means we will never be alone

Those alone give us reason to celebrate Christmas. I hope you are not one who spends time alone. Find friends. Find others who are alone and get together for a Christmas dinner. Go visit a nursing home.  You will find others just like you-dreading the holiday because of some memory. You can have a mutual “pulling-out-of-the-doldrums” party.

Until then, I’d like to ask you to pray.

 

Thanks

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

As I write this it is a rainy Wednesday. The day before the world in general (with a few exceptions) will focus on Thanksgiving. True, some find football a whole lot more fun, but not this boy. My Thanksgiving Day will consist of the following:

The church serving our community a lunch from 11-1:00 at the local Lion’s Club (their building is in town and the church building is not). We will also deliver a whole bunch of meals.

I have two traditions that I have done for years. I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Santa Clause” sometime Thursday. Well, our local theater is going to show “IaWL” on Sunday for free so I will go to that. So Jo and I plan to watch “White Christmas,” one of my other staple movies during the holidays.

I’m guessing a nap might be in there somewhere.

I will take some time to be thankful. My recent car/bicycle accident has me a bit more reminiscent than normal. To be aware that only 2″ separated me from either permanent damage (paralysis) or even death, tends to wake up even the sleepiest soul. I’m not going to rehash the scene. You can read it here and here.  Unfortunately, even though my memory wants to erase the event and forgive the perpetrator, my body keeps reminding me of it. On Monday I go to a general surgeon who will take a look at the giant hematoma on my left hip where he used me for a bumper car. I had to go to Urgent Care last week, and when nothing happened and things got worse with the rest of my leg, I went to my family doctor Tuesday. The surgeon will decide if it is be drained (can you say knock me out?) or let it go. It will be 3 weeks to the day that it happened. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember because my body reminds me.

However, I am also impressed by God’s amazing design and how it heals. The bruising is lessening (it has moved from my hip to my thigh/hamstring, to my knee, to my calf and now to my foot. The painfully sore bruised shoulder muscles (inside) have healed enough to start lifting weights again. I have yet to be back on my bike. Not because I’m afraid but because of the discomfort of this hematoma.

I’m thankful I’m alive. I’m thankful I have a family who was concerned. I’m thankful for a marvelous church family who showed me in spades how much they love me. It has been my pleasure to love them for 11 years. In less than a week they showed me what I meant to them. *Tears on cheeks right now* I am thankful for you, my online family, who have said you would pray for me. I believe you did. I still pray for the one who did it. Not for vengeance but so I can forgive them.

This has gone longer than any post I have written in the past 4 or 5 years so it is time to shut it down. 🙂  Thanks for listening. Thanks for your prayers. Be truly thankful this year.

Timeless

Monday, October 10th, 2016

I have arrived safe and sound from a weekend in Ohio. I wrote about it here. I had a fantastic time. My right arm is a little sore of throwing a football countless times to a never-tiring grandson whose imagination goes wild. He had us in stitches several times during the weekend. I hope and pray his imagination never goes on the fritz and dies.

I’m a little rushed knowing what is facing me the rest of the week. A C-section delivery, a lunch appointment with my my wife and daughter, a Day of Service meeting at 5:00 and a movie to make popcorn for as a “Master Popper” at 6:00. (Yeah I’ll be a bit late). Wednesday is another non-stop day even though the kids are on Fall Break. And, of course, I need to find time to ride or work out. You know…the important stuff. 🙂

When I got back home I had a birthday card waiting for me. He included a saying in it:

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. Henry Ford

While I may not agree it is the greatest thing in life, it is certainly a very important part of it. I turned 64 Sunday. I have no clue how long God has me living on this earth, but I don’t want to waste away. I don’t want to stop learning. I don’t want to stop reading. I don’t want to stop enjoying life (my adventure). This sums up my thoughts (a gift from my secretary):

adventure-box

That is timeless. What are you waiting for?

Retreat

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

There has been a lot said over the past couple of weeks in the blogs I read about needing a rest. Some are taking a hiatus from blogging. Some from their phone. Some from all media (not a bad idea actually). Some would like to take a hiatus from their job but find that sort of impossible to do. 🙂  You know…no work=no eat. Small things like that.

Monday afternoon Ryan, our youth pastor, and I took a hiatus. We got away for the afternoon. We prayed, We talked. We planned a sermon we are presenting together. We talked some more. It was a well-spent 5 hour hiatus.

Several things were captured in my brain:

  1. Hiring Ryan 3 years ago was absolutely the best thing we did. His heart and spirit are continually pursuing God. His love for the young people of the church is evident and they are responding to it. We are a great team (all three of us) and I love and love working with Ryan and Diana (our church secretary).
  2. Getting away was absolutely essential. I needed it. We needed it. Church life has been at breakneck speed and it is taking its toll on our time as staff. It was the first uninterrupted 4-5 hours we have had in a long time.
  3. I need a personal get away. I realize I am not as young as I used to be and can’t keep up the same pace I once did. But this is ridiculous. The “backburner” has become all too often the go-to for me. I have 4 books on sex trafficking I need to read plus some others I need to review. That issue is front and center for me right now. No time=no reading. Bill is not a happy camper with that scenario. I do get to leave this Saturday for Ohio to watch my grandson play football but that will be go-go-go all weekend. He plays on Sunday…my 64th birthday. I told him has to play well and win for my present. 🙂

It is not good to stay “strung tightly.” I need to heed my own advice. Here are some pictures from the Retreat Center in Quincy, IN we went to. The second picture is Ryan with our friendly visitor who spent most of his time outside on the porch doing what most of us desperately need to do: taking a nap. 🙂

retreat-1

retreat-2

retreat-3

 retreat-5

retreat-4

Seasons

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I started reading this book about a week or so ago but put it aside for this one. I have a bad habit of doing that sometimes but in this case I needed to. The Grace Effect is by the same man who wrote “Hitch” and it talks about his adopted daughter, Sasha, from Ukraine. Now that I have finished a puzzle for a teacher-friend who is teaching a whole unit on it, I can spend some time reading.  (Yeah…Jo says I get obsessed when I am working a puzzle. I don’t agree. Just because I did this one in less than 5 days does not prove she is right).

Anyway, back to When Trouble Comes (the book I put down). The author, Philip Ryken, says some things just in the Prologue which I know will draw me back to this book when I’m done with the other.

“Would you like to know some of the things that helped me? The first was this: I knew that what I was going through was totally and completely normal.” (p.15) 

Oftentimes when we are going through something, we feel alone. No one understands. No one else has experienced what I’m experiencing. Not true!

Here was a gem: All of this leads to seasons of doubt, discouragement, and depression as a normal part of life in a fallen world. When trouble comes, this does not mean that I am a bad Christian. Nor does it mean that God is against me, although sometimes it may feel that way. (p.16)

I have spent time recently with several people who are suffering in various ways. I try hard to show them they are not alone. They are not bad Christians. They are not being rejected by God for some sin in the past. God doesn’t hold grudges.

If you are going through a tough time right now, don’t give up. You are not alone. This is a season of growth (if you let it). Be encouraged by a loving Father.

I’m also going through a season of not having much time to write. I apologize for that. Hopefully this season will be over soon.

Hitch

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

There are some posts a blogger feels somewhat intimidated writing. This is one of them. I don’t consider myself an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination. But I recently read a book which was not only a stimulating and captivating read, it stretched me some.

Product Details

The book is subtitled The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. Very few books do what this one did: have me wanting to keep reading even though I had things to do. Larry Alex Taunton has done a superb job of bringing to light the many different thoughts of “Hitch” as he was known.

Don’t read this book looking for a powerful conversion experience. Don’t read this book by going to the end of it to see if there was a death-bed confession. I wish there was. Instead, read this book to see what made “Hitch” tick and how a friendship with Mr. Taunton (his exact opposite in almost every area) developed into a mutual admiration and give-and-take relationship.

You will read of Hitch’s obstinance. You will read of his “earthy” life, his disregard for his body and health. You will read of his selfishness. You will also read of the two road trips Hitch and Larry took where they studied the Gospel of John and where Hitch made some phenomenal comments. You will read how Hitch had “two books”: a public book and a private book. The public: the one people saw on stage and in his writing. The private: the one which seriously questioned his atheism (but couldn’t pull the trigger due to his pride). You will read of his views toward some of his colleagues (know as “The Four Horsemen”). You will also read what Hitch thought of the religious hucksters -both those he saw on TV and those who tried to use him as a notch on their belt trying to convert him. You will also see a man whose esophageal cancer took him down, but not without a fight. You will see how he respected men who believed what they said (like Larry). You will also read a very probing final chapter where Larry considers Hitch’s final days.

This is not a “deep” book. But it is one I learned from. It is also one I recommend to anyone who thinks they know it all. I give this book 5 stars.

Asking

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Not much to write this particular post. That is not saying I have nothing to say.

Just ask those who know me.

“Bill? Nothing to say? Are we talking about the same Bill?”

I’m just asking for prayers this particular post. Not for me.

Yesterday (Saturday) 9 people in two vehicles took off for New Orleans (NO) to do some mission work with an organization called Team Effort. NO is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. It was unclear exactly what the group would be doing. Building. Clean up. Landscaping. Just don’t know.

However, included in that group of 9 was some very precious cargo…Jo (my wife to you who are uninitiated). When Amanda, a wife of the father and two children on the trip was unable to go due to her mother’s health crisis, Ryan E. asked Jo to go as a chaperone for the 3 girls. So they took a Ford Excursion and my Frontier. It will be hot and humid and stinky and dirty then be followed up with a long, long trip home Saturday. Here is the list of people:

Jo

Ryan East (our youth pastor)

Ryan S with two of his teens, Keegan and Aleah.

Donnie and MaryRose (step siblings)

Elizabeth (a Freshman girl & friend of MR)

Josiah (a Taylor University sophomore who has been helping Ryan this summer)

It will be a challenge for all. Thanks for praying.