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Relief

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Welcome to my Sunday meanderings.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes things just seem to pile up?  We have those seasons when stuff happens, in spades. Not every once in awhile but what seems like an onslaught. As many of you have experienced, it isn’t just one thing; it is a myriad of things.

Cancer diagnosis in friends. (A complication in one came in while I was showering this morning).

Marriages falling apart.

Deaths of friends and the funerals which follow (3 in the last month).

A three-week old baby requiring open heart surgery.

A host of other “beat downs.”

Plus one very tired pastor who needs a break (which is coming).

I’m preaching about HOPE this morning. Hope in a forever home. Good thing I believe in that. If my hope is not connected to forever, my hope will somehow die.  For hope to be hope it must carry with it the promise that all which is broken will be repaired, and that it will remain repaired forever.

I’m glad I have Someone to lean on. If I didn’t I don’t know how I would handle this onslaught right now.  Maybe that is why I have chosen two songs for this week. They are throwbacks. The singer is Mark Farner, former lead singer for Grand Funk. His conversion is a great story but his music is timeless. His lyrics are clear so you shouldn’t have any trouble listening and understanding. So check out this song then go to this one.

Have a great week bolstered (as I am and will be) by the truth I serve an amazing God who understands.

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

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!

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.

Otherwise

Monday, November 13th, 2017

I used the following poem in my sermon yesterday. I think it says what needs to be said without a bunch of commentary. It was written by Jane Kenyon and was quoted in Alter Ego by Craig Groeschel (pages 151-152)

I got out of bed on two strong legs.

It might have been otherwise.

I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach.

It might have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill to the birch wood.

All morning I did the work I love.

At noon I lay down with my mate.

It might have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks.

It might have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day.

But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.

Kenyon wrote this poem in 1993, upon learning that her husband, Donald Hall, had cancer. Ironically, it was Kenyon, not Hall. who died a year later after a fierce and swift battle with leukemia. “Otherwise” came unexpectedly. But Jane Kenyon didn’t miss the blessings of God in each day. She learned the art of gratitude.

As I said, no commentary needed. Enjoy the blessing of today!!

Dubious

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Some memories are, shall we say, dubious. My post today is in memory of one of those dubious anniversaries-ones that remind you of something you are not so fond of.

One year ago today this happened to me.  The date is today. The day is yesterday. So I guess it depends on how you look at anniversary’s as to how you will see this. Doesn’t matter though. It happened and it began a spiral downward in the health department but it also began a very, very slow process of spiritual awakening and renewal (which actually took on a more earnest effort in February.

I wanted to ride yesterday and today but the weather has not cooperated (nor has my life). I was busy from the time I got up to the time I laid my head on the pillow yesterday. Today, we host Dine with a Doc and then Jo and I are taking off for Sandusky, OH to visit her sister. Things are really improving there and we need to help her get a new washer/dryer (and be there for the delivery) and get her duplex ready for when she comes home.

I wanted to ride past the scene and stop for a moment of gratitude for God’s protection. I realize some will say, “Well, if God protected you why did He allow it to start with?” Fair question and all I can say is, “I don’t know. He could have but chose not to.” But I also don’t think He put His finger on the driver and said, “Hit him!” Some people are either just evil or distracted. I consider His protection because it could have been worse. He missed my spine by two inches. I shiver at what the two possibilities are with that. Yes, I just had surgery in July which was required due to a bone fragment laying on a nerve in my spine, but the reality is I could have been paralyzed with 2 more inches. So, in my case, I relish God’s protection.

The saga is ongoing. I suspect they will never find who did it. I am okay with that. He/she has to live with it. Will I ever be back to the way I was? No. Physically, I now have limitations. Mentally, I sometimes relive it and realize how close I came. Spiritually, it began a good process. It still has not been settled with the insurance company (and who knows when that will be? I refuse to get a lawyer.) So it is before me. Or is that behind me?

No matter how you look at it though, it is a dubious anniversary. One I’m grateful to be celebrating. And I can also say I love Jo more today than I ever have. She’s my “knight” in shining armor. I put her through the wringer this past year and she stood solid as a rock. Cried a bit. Okay…a lot. But she stood strong next to me. For that, I will always be grateful.

Jo’s sister does not have wifi so I may be out of the loop for the next couple of days. I’ll use my phone to approve comments but I despise using it to make comments. Please be patient. And thanks for your prayers.

Reflections

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

I had every intention on posting this immediately but life got in the way. Plus…I needed time to process the weekend. So much was going on that my head literally “swam.” (I am still suffering from some vertigo so that is not far from the truth). 🙂

My day Thursday was highlighted by picking up a new friend at the airport. His name is Dave Waechter and he is now the leader of “3 Feet Please,” the advocacy group for giving cyclists three feet of safe distance when being passed. Dave and I hit it off immediately. He likes pizza. He loves ice cream. He loves cycling. He loves to talk. And even though he is a very intelligent man, never once did I feel he talked down to me. He is involved in IT consulting and has been with the Suicide Prevention Network in Tempe since it started. He has a good and kind heart. The death of his friend, Lynn, by being hit by a car while cycling has deeply affected him but he is using it to make things happen. The big disappointment (besides not being able to ride this trip) was his daughter, Nina, his cohort in cycling was unable to come with him. Dave fit into our family like we have known each other all our lives. Jo & Tami felt very comfortable with him. And I was particularly thrilled he enjoyed being with us Sunday and felt very at home.

Sunday was the really big day I wrote about in this post. Our celebration was super and, I believe, God-honoring. Ryan and I both talked to folks who were here. You can listen to the podcast if you’d like by going to the church’s website and clicking on the podcast. Because we both spoke it is a bit longer than normal. What I wish is you could have been here to listen to the people singing their praise. WOW! I literally stopped to listen and felt emotions well up within me. I honestly believe the people were “heart-engaged” and not just lip-engaged. We had some great food afterwards, along with laughing and joking, and a good time being with people. And the weather? WOW! I’m not sure we could have asked for more ideal weather. 70s. Sunny. A slight breeze. Just an all around beautiful day.

To bring even more drama into our weekend, we all attended the New Beginnings Pregnancy Resource Center banquet on Saturday night. Sunday night Dave and I went to our local theater, the Tivoli, to watch Luther.  This is the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther started it all with his 95 Theses nailed the Wittenburg Church door.  I took Dave back to the Indianapolis airport at 5:30 this morning.

So I had a full but very good weekend. Thanks to all who were praying. Thanks to Dave for taking the time to come and visit. Here are two jokers joking:

Yeah…we are a tad bit strange but you gotta have some fun! Thanks for joining me today.