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Surprise!!

Monday, April 8th, 2019

This past Sunday the church I have pastored since November of 2005 surprised me and Jo. The picture which follows will tell the story.

Yeah…you’re seeing that right. It has been a bucket list of mine for a long time. Jo’s bucket list got lighter almost two years ago when someone gifted us with a week’s stay at a Timeshare in Daytona Beach. She has always wanted to go to the beach. They felt after my two bike accidents and major back surgery as a result that time away was a good thing. We agreed. 🙂 🙂

The back story to this trip is several months ago I asked Jo what she thought about a a cruise to Alaska. We contacted an old friend who had renewed her travel agent license (and whom I also think was in on this “deception”)  but after getting prices to the cruise and flights to Seattle we decided to back off and save for another year. We were okay with that. We would just take little junkets to Ohio and other places to get away which didn’t require a lot of money.  Combine that with the need for a new roof this summer and a new driveway and some needed house repairs and you have a recipe for waiting.

Fast forward to yesterday. It has been a really emotional week and weekend (see my other blog for April 8), even several months, so this could not have come at a better time. We were both stunned when Ryan put two chairs down where I stand to preach and asked us to come to the front. He started by asking me how long I have been doing this (being a pastor) and I said 45+ years. He then asked Kris, a lady whose family is going to Alaska this summer and close friends to the agent in Florida, to come forward. Kris presented us with the bucket and an all-expenses paid trip to Alaska, including air fare.  Can someone say, “Knock me over with a feather?” Jo & I were both so stunned we didn’t even cry.  In all my years as a pastor I have NEVER been treated by a church to something this magnanimous.  It looks like we are going to shoot for the first of September when they have an opening rather than wait until next year.

I thought I would share my/our surprise with you. We are blessed. And this is just a small part of the heart of these people. I have never felt so loved as I have here.  This is just a minor reason why. And I can honestly say that even without something this generous, I love these people.

Effectiveness#2

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

“I’m afraid of living an insignificant life.” So said one speaker at a conference. That’s a good sentiment. I could say that as well. I might say it as “I want to leave a legacy.”

But here’s the rub: what is significant? What kind of legacy? Well….I guess it depends on who and what one listens to. If I listen to the world’s definition of significance, I’ll hear something totally different from God’s definition. Ask someone the definition of significance and most will tie it to something they have done-even though it may be something truly worthy like a home for unwed mothers, or a shelter, or feeding the homeless, etc. But that significance is tied to “do.”

When that idea creeps into a Christ-follower’s thinking, or the church, then it is easy to think my value (significance) is related to what I do, what I have achieved. I tie how I feel about myself to what I do. So the “bigger” something is the more significant my life appears to be.

NOT. TRUE.

Significance is not found in what I do or even don’t do. My value to God is based on what I am in His eyes. He isn’t going to hold me up and carry me on His shoulders to be praised before an adoring crowd. I’m not going to be ride the wave like a coach or star player after a huge victory. My significance is not based on my effectiveness (see Leader A vs Leader B again in that first post), but on my relationship with God. Service is good but it should never trump being with Him.

What do you think? Better yet, ask yourself how you view your significance. Is there a change I need to make so I can see myself through God’s eyes?

 

Effectiveness

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m going to steal from my other blog for this week. I have been reading through (for a second time) and writing about a book by Skye Jethani called Immeasurable. I thought I would take this week here to write some thoughts about a chapter he titles Effectiveness. For today, here is a test:

Leader A. Lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy.  Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.

Leader B. Lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just a hundred students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded.  He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled-including Leader B himself.

So, given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which man’s life would you rather emulate? Which leadership conference would you rather attend-the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A, or the one with a small workshop in a back hall facilitated by Leader B?  GIVE YOUR ANSWER NOW (before I give the punch line).

If you are inspired by the world-changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.

So…how did you do? Whom did you pick? You see, simple effectiveness is not enough.  We often equate effectiveness with success. I once heard someone say, “It is not success that matter; it is faithfulness that matters.” I agree. To be “successful” is not wrong; it’s okay. But it is far better to be faithful to what we have been called to do.  I want to pursue this line of thought this week. Hope you will join me.

OldAgeObservations

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

My title is Growing Old vs Getting Old.

There is a well-worn saying that stands the test of time:”There are two things which are certain-death and taxes.” No argument on that!! The rub is the part which usually precedes the death part: old age.

We have milestones in our lives. 21 signals “adulthood” (as if). 30 for a pastor was/is the magic age, i.e. a pastor is now old enough to show maturity, gain respect and to have been around the block a few times. 35-30 is supposed to be the pastor’s most productive years-something about youth and energy and learning. 🙂 40 is a tough age for some. 50 is even tougher because a sense of mortality is kicking in. 60 is seen as the start of the downhill slops. 65 is “retirement.” Beyond that? It’s anyone’s guess (largely because I’m not there yet).

I’d like to invite you to read the rest of this at my other blog, Living in the Shadow. I’d be honored if you would visit and consider leaving a comment there or here (or both). 🙂

AmazingBody

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

It never cease to amaze me…this body God has created. Not only are we all different sizes, shapes and colors, but we all grow, heal, and respond in different ways.

I have been blessed in the past. My body, while not without its quirks- bowlegged, skinny legs; no hair; long, lean muscles which will never get overly big although I’ve tried; and a cranky back- has been one which has stayed relatively healthy (in spite of the bike wrecks) with a somewhat quick ability to heal. God has blessed me with some pretty good health, even now in my 66th year.

BUT…there comes those times when your body finally says, “Enough is enough. You have used me enough and it is time to slow you down some.” That is what has been happening over I-don’t-know-how-many-weeks. I have pushed myself to get up at 3:30 every morning (not unusual) and go all day. I work out at the Y and on the off days I was riding for an hour or so inside on my trainer. I was not sleeping well. We traveled to Ohio to visit family and slept on a hard hotel bed for 3 nights. I came home and immediately was bombarded with stuff that needed attention. At the same time I was fighting off the same junk everyone else around here has. It caught up with me yesterday (Wednesday). I slept very little the night before. Slept 1 1/2 hours in my office chair before anyone got here (and I wasn’t even aware it was happening) until finally I was encouraged by Jo and the church secretary I looked bad. My upper part of my nose where my glasses sit looked big, was sensitive to the touch, and to put it mildly, I was miserable. Jo talked me into going to the clinic where they diagnosed me with “backside deep sinus infection” or something like that. They gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and steroid to take, sent me home, and I proceeded to sleep for 3 hours. I’m talking “lights out for 3 hours.”

Guess my body said, “It’s my turn to get some proper attention.” Psalm 139 receives a lot of attention in the discussion of abortion -and well it should- but I keep going back to that one small phrase: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who else could have created a body like this? Who else could have created a body so intricately and finely made like this? Who else could have created a body with the ability to take blows and heal like it does?  Only ONE.

I am grateful to the ONE who alone could have done this. No AI will be able to accomplish anything remotely close to this.

Explanation

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

I’ve been absent for a few days from this blog. Sunday afternoon, after our morning worship, Jo, Tami and I took off for a few days in Ohio. Tami is on Spring Break, as is our nephew, so it seemed like an excellent time to get away and enjoy our family. We had a crazy time with a 12 year old who keeps us in stitches. We also realize those days when he likes to be with his grandpa and Mamaw and Aunt Tami are winding down so we have to take advantage of them.

I got back into Spencer in the early afternoon and after unloading a boatload of stuff, I came to the office where I am trying to catch up on several things. Why am I trying to cram so much into one afternoon? Because tomorrow 2 other men and I are heading to Terre Haute for a Church Safety and Security Seminar which will run from 9-4:30. Unless I miss the boat I suspect I am going to be one tired puppy.

While I was gone I made my way to Panera Bread on Tuesday morning while everyone else was sleeping in order to have some Quiet and Reading time. While there I wrote this:

I’m calling this Spoken Words vs Unspoken Words.

It seems, at least to me, that we are a nation of spoken words. What I mean by that is that it is hard for us (for me) to keep my mouth shut. It’s almost like I/we are afraid of dead air. Tragically, when words are spoken it is more often than not words better left unsaid. A couple of Proverbs I’ve read recently are reminding me of the wisdom and prudence of keeping quiet, or at least of measuring my words before I speak.

To read the rest please click here or check out my other blog, LivingintheShadow.  Living in the Shadow is a daily devotion I write from what I am reading or from Scripture. Hopefully always challenging and equally uplifting. I’d love to have you join the email list if you’d like to.

CQD

Friday, March 8th, 2019

There are a number of international calls for disaster on the sea. The Germans used SOE. The Italians used SSSDDD. Marconi, who was a leader in wireless technology, proposed CQD, which actually came from an earlier one “CQ” and by adding the “D” for distress it was to represent extreme danger. According to him the letters meant absolutely nothing. In 1906 it was proposed by the second International Radio Telegraphic Conference that the letters “SOS” be adopted. Not because it means “Save our Souls” or “Save our Ship” but because of the ease to transmit- 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots. By 1908 it had been accepted by all except the United States.

That all changed April 14, 1912 when Titanic sunk. Senior operator Jack Phillips was using CQD when junior operator Harold Bride joked to Phillips that he ought to use the new one (SOS) because it might be the last chance to use it. Sadly, it was because Phillips never left his station until there was no more power. By then all the lifeboats were gone.

Psalm 51 as a whole is a powerful psalm of sin and rescue. That was last week’s message. This week’s message takes it further and finishes it as this psalm becomes a psalm of renewal.  I’ll be concentrating on verses 10-19 this week after a brief review of last week’s lesson of grace and mercy.

I’d appreciate your prayers for us this week. Attendance may be slim due to Spring Break for our local school system, but I’m convinced someone there will need to hear its message.

Heroes

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

I’ve been absent from this blog all week. Along with daily ministry life, I conducted a funeral yesterday (Tuesday) of a lovely lady. It has got me thinking of heroes. Not the fake Marvel kind. The real kind.

The funeral was for a beautiful lady named Carolyn. She has fought Parkinson’s for 10 years. She was a vibrant lady up until the end, even after her diagnosis. She refused to allow this ugly disease to stop her from enjoying life. As was stated by several members of her family (son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren) she refused to give up and give in to the disease. The last couple of years it began catching up to her, but the anesthesia for a knee replacement is what really took her down. Carolyn is a hero because she refused to quit. Her family are heroes because they loved her well. All of them. Three boys who adored her. Their wives. The grandchildren and sadly, great-grandchildren (3) who will never really get to enjoy her arms.

I spoke at length with one of my family members yesterday afternoon.  His wife has had had Alzheimers since 2010. She can no longer talk or walk but he continues to take her to the mall to walk (she rides while he pushes) and to care for her at home. They will be married 59 years this June. Not only is that love, my uncle is my hero. He loves her well.

I spoke with a brother of mine last week. Just shy of their 18th anniversary she suffered a stroke that has left her unable to play music, among other things.  He has had to move them from San Diego to Washington state due to finances. He also is care-giver for her Down syndrome son, who is probably 30 something I’m guessing. My brother is my hero. He is loving her and him well, even two years into this ordeal.

Kirby and Marge have been living with MS (Kirby for over 10 years; Marge even longer). They refuse to give up. Even flare ups are seen as “blips” in their full life. They are examples of “the rain falls on the just and the unjust,” but also of those followers of Christ who refuse to quit. They are the inspiration for me riding in the MS150 in August.  Heroes both.

Real heroes don’t wear capes; have indestructible shields; fly at the speed of light; smash when green; wear a suit of armor that talks to you; shrink or grow in size; or any of the other characteristics we associate with a superhero. My heroes are real people.  Real people who put their pants on the same way I do, but show extraordinary love and grace. Real heroes are people who love well. They live well by giving their lives away.

How about you? Know any heroes you need to tell?

SOS

Friday, March 1st, 2019

First off: SOS did not stand for “Save Our Souls.”  It was actually chosen because of its ease to use in Morse Code. (…—…)  What it did mean is “We are in trouble and need immediate help.”

The story Sunday started with a sleepless night then exploded into a story of lust, adultery, deception, and murder. If it was a movie at the theater or a book we were asked to read we would (probably) avoid it. The story is, of course, the story of David and Bathsheba. It is a story most are familiar with-in the church or outside the church. Why include it in the Bible? I mean, why not whitewash everything and leave this type of story out? Maybe this verse of Scripture might answer the question:

“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come…Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” I Cor.10: 6, 11-12

The story of David and Bathsheba is the story of me. It is the story of you. We are prone to stand off and say, “I’m not that David” and feel pretty smug. But the reality is that we are that David because David’s enemy is our enemy: sin. Gratefully, the Scripture for Sunday’s sermon, Psalm 51 has the theme of grace not sin. This is actually going to be in two parts: Verses 1-9 this week; verses 10-19 the next.

I’d appreciate your prayers for this weekend. Thanks.

Choosing

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

You have probably heard Robert Frost’s opening lines to his poem The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

As I was studying for Sunday’s sermon I came across this three-line ditty by Dante in his Divine Comedy work:

Midway this way of life we’re bound upon, I woke to find myself in a dark wood, Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.

Both poems say virtually the same thing only from a different perspective.  Life is filled with choices. We choose whether to get up in the morning or not. We choose whether to eat right or not. We make both big and small choices every day. We must also choose the path we will choose to walk-the path of the godly person or the path of the ungodly. The distinction is sharp.

I’m reminded of what Jesus once said: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Matthew 7:13-14

My sermon this Sunday is from Psalm 1. I’ve entitled it Choose Your Path. The line of demarcation in the psalm is clear. I will not veer from it. It will either be Life on the Right Path or Life in Fast Lane. Your prayers would be much appreciated.