Love/Marriage

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#Calling#Shepherd#Presence

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

This post is a little bit of both worlds: the world of the “big church” and the world of “I’m a shepherd.” They will intertwine so I hope I don’t totally confused you. 🙂

When I started on my journey as a pastor while I was still in college (1972), I admit to total “duncity.” I know that is not a word but that is the way I would describe myself. Clueless might make more sense. What did I know? It was the summer following my Sophomore year and I was asked to preach at a country church-Mt Camel Christian Church in Mt. Sterling, KY. It was 100 miles away from the school. I worked all week and then would head down either sometime Saturday or very early Sunday morning. It was aptly named…it was at the top of a mountain.

As I graduated and became more acclimated to the pastor’s life, I began to see that I was to be a shepherd of the people. I took that seriously, sometimes too seriously, at the sake of my family. I was gone a lot. I didn’t know any better, plus that was the day and age of the visiting pastor. Office work all morning and visiting in the afternoon and many evenings. In my mind I was shepherding my people.

Then came Church, Inc. That was the time in the 90s when being a pastor switched gears. We were no longer shepherds; we were CEO’s. How can I say this? EPIC FAIL for me. And in my mind EPIC FAIL for the church as a whole. I’m not going to mention any names of the gurus, but being a pastor was no longer about being a shepherd but being the “chief vision-giver” of the church. Frankly, I despise that moniker. For one, I don’t work well in a vacuum. I dream best when surrounded by others who can dream as well. Batting ideas off each other. Seeking God’s purpose and plan more than my own.  Not doing things and making decisions unilaterally (although I sometimes have too) but including others in the dreaming and planning process.

Somewhere along the line I came full circle. The best part? I became a shepherd again. Granted I don’t go like I used to. Safety issues (translate that #MeToo, etc)  have changed the way I do ministry. I no longer see females alone, in my office or in their house or at a meal in a restaurant. If they can’t say it with Jo around, they don’t need to be telling me. (She or someone will at least be in the building if I meet with them at the office). But being a shepherd has allowed me to once again adopt something I read from Skye Jethani’s book, Immeasurable:

When I enter the room, I represent the presence of God.

That is especially true of visitation in a hospital or nursing home. I am Jesus to many- and honestly?- that is a very scary thought. But it is true. I am their shepherd and I represent Jesus. No CEO type pastor who sits in an ivory tower; is isolated from people; or looks down on people from “the sacred office” can say that.  I had to learn the hard way that I was wired to be a shepherd.

I would rather represent Jesus any day than some stuffy Church, Inc organization. You can’t put a price on people’s lives and hearts. No matter how badly Church, Inc wants to do that. So leave me out of the Global Leadership Summit and other Church, Inc gatherings. “Father, give me a heart for the people of OVCF.”

I apologize for the length of this “rant.” Thanks for reading this far.  If you have gone this far, I’d sure like to know what your thoughts are.

#Test#HardestTask#MajorRoadblock

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

In your mind, what is the hardest thing you have done or need to do?  I’m not going to beat around the bush on that question. I think one of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to forgive.

I have heard this quote or some variation of it for years:

To err is human, to forgive, divine-to forgive and forget supernatural.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the movie called Love Story, which starred a very young Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It was a blockbuster hit for those days (1970) and was actually the first date Jo and I had (it didn’t end well). It contained one of the dumbest statements that I think has ever been made: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Now…that statement assumes that a real relationship will never require saying, “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness should just happen. There should be no special initiative on the part of either party.

But I beg to differ.  I hope we are all smart enough to realize any relationship takes time. Marriage. Friendship. Pastor/sheep. And I would be remiss if I left out the part forgiveness plays in any relationship. Forgiveness is never easy, especially when a great wrong has been done to you.  Makes you wonder about Joseph doesn’t it?

I believe this may have been his hardest task. This week’s sermon covers that time of his life when his brothers come seeking grain because of the famine. He recognizes them immediately but they don’t recognize him. There is quite an exchange which takes place until his “great revelation.” It will be a challenging sermon for all of us. I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare.  Thanks.

#Goodman#Worthemulating

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

I was in the presence of a good man last night. I might even venture to say a great man.  My Uncle Bob is the last of the family. My grandparents had 3 natural children and adopted one. My mother was one of those natural children, and my uncles Bill and Bob were the other two. My mother and my Uncle Bill have both moved on to their heavenly home. Both victims of cancer.

My Uncle Bob will be 83 in August. My Aunt Dee will be 82. They live in Arlington, TX and have for as long as I can remember. They have also lived in the Azores, Okinawa, Grissom AF base, and places I can’t remember. He served 31 years in the Air Force and after he retired he served as a postal carrier for 11 years. His knee finally let him down and like his dad before him and his nephew (that would be me) after him, a knee replacement had to happen. Two of his children live near them and one lives in Utah.  The last time we saw them was back around 2011 when they had made a trip to the Northeast (New Hampshire) to see Aunt Dee’s family and then they swung down through to see me and Jo. They were on their way back home when he called Monday night and asked if we could meet up for supper.

Sounds normal doesn’t it?  What is so special about that you may be asking. You see…Aunt Dee has Alzheimers. She started it about the time they came by in 2011. She cannot speak or tell you what is on her mind in any way, shape, or form.  All she does is mumble with an occasional strong-willed sound (like when I tried to help her drink and she wanted to do it herself).  They will soon be married 59 years this year. He takes care of her 24/7. Each morning he gets her up and they go to the mall to walk (he pushes her in a wheelchair).  He feeds her, bathes her, helps her do all that needs to be done. But you know what he really does? HE LOVES HER WELL. We ate at Cheddars last night with them and spent one of the most delightful evenings in memory. We laughed. Reminisced. Talked about family. (My dad was never keen on family so being a close knit one with mom’s was never a priority so we lost touch with cousins long time ago).  Oh yeah, did I say we laughed a lot? It was getting to be 8:30 when we finally said our “Goodbye’s.” He needed to get Aunt Dee to bed so they could get up and make the long trek back to TX.

He has been through a lot watching his bride deteriorate as she has. Screaming all night long. Unable to speak or communicate her love for him. But watching him lovingly rub her shoulder or labor to get her from her chair to the van was proof of something Jo said earlier in the evening: “In sickness and in health. For better or for worse.”  He was a living embodiment of that commitment.

Thank you Uncle Bob for a real live example of someone who loves well. For all time. No matter the situation.

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?

Nostalgia#2

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Last week I decided I would do a short blog series on my Top 5 songs of all time. My #1 song of all time is Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells. Floyd was not surprised (see comments).  🙂  I guess I’ve written about him quite a bit for him to know.

My #2 song is another one which does not seem to fit the times I grew up in. I was born in 1952 so that means my teenage years were during the ’60s. I graduated from high school in 1970 so my high school years were smack dab in the middle of the “peace, love, sex” era. Woodstock. Haight Ashbury. Black Power. Drugs. LSD.  A whole host of other recognizable markers. But it was the music which set it apart from previous generations.

Before those formative high school years music was different. I can remember a classmate named Chuck. In 8th grade he listened to The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops and others. Come 9th grade his musical tastes had changed to rock and the early psychedelic music.  Definitely a 360. But I hadn’t quite latched onto the new music…not yet. That’s where my #2 song of all time comes in at.

There was this group made up of 4 singers. One guy, though, had a really unique voice. Once they hit it big with songs like Dawn (Go Away) and Sherry that voice was never mistaken. In fact, every recording had a signature: “Featuring the sound/voice of Frankie Valli.” I liked the 4 Seasons…still do. I still listen to them. But this one song hit me the first time I heard it and never left. I listened to it over and over (I’m sure my mom got sick of hearing it). I wore out the 45 (remember those?). Then I wore out the album it was on. Even today, I never get tired of hearing it. It featured Frankie’s tenor but not his falsetto voice.

Here is my #2 song of all time. Hope you enjoy it and maybe it will even bring back memories.

Wonderful

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

I was getting out of my truck the other day to lock a door and had my music blaring loud playing. I honestly wasn’t thinking anything about it since I tend to listen to my music a lot little louder than Jo likes it.  But she wasn’t with me; I was heading for the gym to work out; so I opened my door to get something at the church building and left the door open. Two people were talking and all of a sudden, the man who is close to my age said, “I love your choice of music Bill!” Say what? Someone else likes my choice of music? So I made a comment about the artist being from the ’70s and all of a sudden he shouted out the words to part of the chorus which came on that moment. I cracked up! I think the young lady who was there had to be wondering what is wrong with these two old codgers. 🙂

My song this week is NOT a Christian song, unless you look at it as a man’s thoughts about his wife. I do.  After 45 years I still feel this way about Jo. We have both changed. Wrinkles have replaced smooth skin. There is a bit more weight on both of us. There is less hair on our heads. We aren’t as active and energetic as we used to be.  I have put her through the wringer-moving more than we should have (much of it due to my arrogance). We have had our emotional ups and downs. She has put up with my bike wrecks and surgeries as a result. But she still loves me. Go figure!

She’s some kind of wonderful. These past two years have shown me more than ever how much she loves me. And have shown me how much I love her and how valuable she is to me.

My song this week is a feel-good song.  It is a good toe-tapping song. Maybe even one which will take you down memory lane. The only “Christian” part of this besides love for your mate, is Mark Farner gave his life to Christ and sang about the “sweet loving Savior” when he redid it.

Interruption

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Image result for Picture of 45th wedding anniversary

I call this post “Interruption” because I normally run my weekend/sermon post all weekend. In the grand scheme of things, there are some things that might be a tad bit more important than a sermon announcement. Let me think….

OH YEAH!

45 years today and as the shirt says, “She still puts up with me.” It is so hard to put down the memories of 45 years together.  All I can say is June 16, 1973 was a red-letter day for me. I’m sure if you ask her she will say it was a banner one for her. 🙂

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HONEY! I LOVE YOU!

I played a song for her the other night and told her this is how I feel. Listen here.  You gotta love the hair. The lyrics are here.

But then again after some one has been married as long as we have, that song sort of fits someone just getting married. One that I absolutely love is here. It may actually fit us better. In any case, my love for Jo is deeper now than it has ever been. Sometimes an accident on a bike is the best thing that can happen.

VDay

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know today is Valentine’s Day. If you couldn’t tell by the stores, you have to be blind. I’m thinking VD cards were out the day after Christmas. 🙂  Seriously, it is a day which has new meaning to me.

I’m not sure how many of you reading this knows of the significance of this week for me. This coming Friday will be the one year (dubious) anniversary of my bike wreck in which I broke my collarbone, broke 3 ribs (I hope you never have to experience that), did a face plant, split my helmet in three places, ruined several pieces of cycling clothing when it had to be cut off by the paramedics, and almost checked out and met the Father.

It happened on a Friday.  The first Sunday back in the pulpit (two weeks later) I talked to the people about my spiritual state at the time of the accident. To borrow Paul David Tripp’s words: I was a spiritual amnesiac.  I was not in a good place. My marriage was limping along. Not because of any affair, unless you consider my affair with my job as legitimate.  The wreck was the best thing that happened to me. God got my attention. Sure, I wish He had used a softer means but, would I have heard? I don’t think so. After all, getting hit by the car in November should have been a warning sign.

I can honestly say I love Jo more today than many yesterdays. We no longer take each other for granted. We are more open and honest with each other than we have probably ever been. Neither one of us wants our relationship to go back to where it was one year ago. Today is Valentine’s Day. And I love my better half, and will forever how much longer we have together on this earth.

 

Tribute

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Today I honor someone else.

She has been with me permanently for 44 1/2 years. Lord willing, it will be 45 on June 16th.

She is the fantastic mother of my two daughters.

She is the doting mamaw to our only grandson.

She has been my helper, my supporter, my cheerleader (without the outfit…rats!) all these years.

She has gone wherever we have believed God has led us.

She has been a rock through the good times and the tough times.

Her primary love language is Quality Time (and let’s me know when she isn’t getting it).  🙂

She never has been and still is not athletic. She is not like the Energizer bunny. She would prefer to spend a quiet night at home watching TV than go out on the town (which is a good thing). She loves to eat out (but has trouble picking it unless we have been blessed with a gift card). She has a few (very few) close friends. She loves being behind the scenes and pushing me forward. She prefers a stress-free life (her personality type wants peace).

And she’s married to me!

That makes me the most fortunate man on the planet.  I haven’t always known that or believed that but this past year has been a “dream” for both of us. We took a dream vacation thanks to someone in the church. We have been able to dream bigger in our marriage due to a newfound love and respect for each other. I could go on but if she reads this I could get shot. (It would have to be an imaginary gun since I don’t own one).  I’m embarrassing her because she hates attention being brought to herself.

I woke her up this morning playing this song on the record player she got me for Christmas. She knows this is my #2 song of all time. Cheesy I know. I even told her that but since I don’t sing and he does, I let the record say it for me. We’ll spend a quiet day together doing some errands, eating lunch out somewhere so she can be at home tonight watching NCIS, and just enjoying each other’s company. Just the way she likes it.

I love ya baby! (Frankie sings that).

TrueLove

Friday, January 26th, 2018

This past December Spencer’s own Community Theater did a play called The Velveteen Rabbit. It was written in 1922 by Margery Williams (aka Margery Williams Bianco). The book is subtitled How Toys Become Real. One of the most quoted sections of the book is this:

By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

As you know, love is more than a word. It is more than an emotion. There are two things which stick out in  Romans 12: 9-13.  True love lacks hypocrisy and true love discriminates (that will make for an interesting “discussion” among the people). But to put you at ease think “discernment.”

Love can be expressed in so many different ways. This passage in Romans presents 8 different ways love can be displayed. It should be a fun sermon to preach. 🙂  I’d appreciate your prayers for us this weekend. And if you care to listen to it, the podcast is put on the church’s website.