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#48#Seriously?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

I am going to take today’s “devotion day” off.  I know you are disappointed. I can hear your tears from here.  (I can dream can’t I?)

I have a good reason though. Sometimes I write a devotion that very morning and post it.  Sometimes I write and work a day or even two days ahead.  Today…I’m a slacker. But I have a good reason to be.

Today I have the honor of celebrating my 48th year with Jo as my wife.  Questions abound:

You mean she put up with you that long?

You mean she stuck around with you during all those moves?

You mean she stayed with you even with all your quirks (her words) and strong points (my words)?

The answer to all of those is Y.E.S.  Believe it or not the answer is a big fat YES.

Like all couples we were naive enough to think it was going to be all good.  I’m here to tell you honestly…it was not. But we never gave up. The “D” word never crossed our lips.  We never have had a fight. (She is a lousy fighter and arguing with a brick wall is no fun at all).

Instead, we had a lot of quiet nights and lousy sleep until we decided to hash it out lovingly. We talked about it. Cried with each other.  But never raised our voice with each other. Some might say that is not good.  But you have to know Jo. She is not very excitable (except at ball games).

We spent and spend a lot of time together…and still like each other. Go figure! And there is no one else I ‘d rather be with.  There are some things we do together. (Get your mind out of the gutter folks).  We like to eat out. We like to visit with friends. We love going to Ohio and supporting Janna and Braden, our grandson. We love Tami and are so proud of what she has become and who she is.

There are also some things we don’t do together.  I ride a bike. I work out at the Y. She does not do either. She hates exercise. I love it.

I am blessed. She does all my sermons for me on Power Point. She knows where I am going to go with a point she has done it so often. Although…I have been known to throw here a curveball every now and then.  We took our first “our couple” trip to Florida in 2017 because someone gifted us with it. It was the first time we went somewhere and knew no one. The in 2019 the church blessed us with a dream trip to Alaska to celebrate my 45 years as an “official” pastor.  I was ordained April 13, 1975 but had actually been a pastor in a church before that.  I started preaching in 1972. I am not ashamed to admit I would love to go back to Alaska. We dodged a bullet with that one

though. We had almost postponed it until September of 2020. Can anyone say COVID?

Long story short: Today is Jo’s day. Our plans are no plans. The only two things I know are 1) we will eat out somewhere; and 2) we plan to visit our church camp and see Pastor Ryan and the campers from the church around lunch time.

I have not been the perfect husband. Bet you are surprised. 🙂  But love her I do. And I know she loves me. How long this party will last only the Father knows.  But until then…I look forward to spending more years with Jo. I’d say “I love you honey” but she doesn’t read this and I would hate to think someone reading this would take that wrong.  And yeah…that is another of my quirks. She rolls her eyes a lot at my jokes (if she could roll her eyes. She rolls her head instead).  Okay…I better call it quits before she decides to read this and you end up reading my obituary.

Have a great day. See you, Lord willing, tomorrow morning. BTW: I wrote this Tuesday afternoon.

#MemorialDayThoughts

Monday, May 31st, 2021

I have also entered this same devotion at my other blog, Living in the Shadow. Please feel free to comment either place.

I have never served in the military. When I was in high school registering for the draft was a law. When I was in college it was a law also. When I turned 18 on October 9, 1970 I was a Freshman in college. But I was required to register so I hitched a ride from a school buddy and made my way to another town in Kentucky to do so. I was never called and to this day do not know what my number was. I was exempt because I was in a Bible college studying for the ministry.

I did not go to college to bypass the draft, even though I know of some who did. They really had no business being in that college because they had no desire to really be a pastor.  Without trying to be too judgmental, their lives showed it.

I did not know what VietNam was all about. I was naive when it came to war and political things. Call me guarded. Call me shielded. Call me sheltered. I do know if I had been called on to defend the freedom of this country, I was willing to do so. But I didn’t have to.

Others did it in my place. I am grateful.  I am beyond thankful for the men and women whom we honor today, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  I keep thinking of those who want to destroy what we have; to take it and give it away to some lawless nation; to compromise the foundation of our great nation to satisfy their own whims; and as they do, compromise their own words to get what they want. Sacrifice does not do that. Sacrifice is no where close to the “what-I-can-get-out-it” mentality that dominates today’s thinking.  I still say that if they don’t like living in the United States of America then take their wretched philosophy and governmental garbage (socialism) and 1) move somewhere else (you know…as they threaten to do so) and 2) take their wretched ideas and put them where the sun don’t shine. (Sorry if that is too crude).

As you consider today, think of it as more than a holiday (and in many cases) a day off work. Remember the sacrifice paid for your freedom.  Here is a thought: did you worship yesterday at the place of your choice?  Try that in a socialist country.  I don’t think we are perfect and I certainly don’t worship the USA. I am not a Christian nationalist. But I am a grateful American whose Christian faith recognizes the God of all humanity as the One True God and as the One who has truly blessed us.

‘Nuff said. Soapbox put away…for now. 🙂

#JesusAtHisBest#Endearment

Friday, May 28th, 2021

If you happened to be raised in the church, you learned or at least heard two songs as a child: “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” 

“Jesus loves me this I know/For the Bible tells me so/Little ones to Him belong/They are weak but He is strong/Yes, Jesus loves me…”

“Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  (No racist language in that song because Jesus is not).

The love Jesus had and has for children is unquestionable. It is because of His love for children that OVCF has a love for our children.  Pastor Ryan works hard to bring a well-rounded program for all ages. (It is a rare bird who can be all things to all the children and doesn’t put one age group over the other. Ryan is one of them).

We are trying something new this Sunday. Every month which has a 5th Sunday will be “Youth in church” Sunday. The children who are normally elsewhere in the building having their own worship and class will be experiencing “big people’s church” with their parents and other adults. I have asked Ryan to join me in a interview-type of setting to discuss why we are doing it; to help the adults to see what takes place on a given Sunday; to talk about his goals for the Sunday morning children program; and what might be coming down the pike in the future.

It will be very relaxed and much different than a normal Sunday. I will be opening with a short “visit” to Mk. 10: 13-16 and then Ryan and I will do the “interview.” I’d like to invite you to join us in person or on line.

#Broken#FindingStrength

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some books which you labor through; some you breeze through; some you savor like a fine pizza (fooled you didn’t I?); and some you read that you don’t want to put down and think, “I suspect somewhere along the line I will read that again. I most definitely will pass it along to someone else when the time is right.”

I found and read one of those books just recently:

Strength at the Broken Places: A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God's Grace

I am not sure where I heard about Greg’s book. It may have been a podcast. It may have been while reading another book. But wherever it was, I’m grateful. This book is subtitled A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God’s Grace.  It was that and more.

From the earliest memories of his childhood Greg’s life was broken. An unsettled parental relationship which eventually wound up in divorce. A mother who never really recovered from the divorce.  High school years which had both success and failure. The loss of his grandfather (Big Pa) deeply affected him. Then it was off to college and surprisingly for this “going nowhere young man” college became a much better experience. His grades were so bad in high school Greg started college on academic probation. But he found his niche. He found it even more when his relationship to Christ blossomed and he met Terri Lynn, who eventually became his wife.

It would be nice to say that Greg’s life was all peaches and cream after that. It was the exact opposite. Seminary. A doctorate.  Several different pastorates. Things began to fall apart though as he allowed his demons from his childhood (and other events) continue to haunt him.  A failed marriage. A failed job or two. Shame from his past. He is definitely one of those men who found his identity in his job.

Eventually, he found another wife who was committed to Christ.  I wish I could say that it was a “happily ever after” kind of life but it wasn’t. She even moved out when his “demons” came back. Ultimately though he sought help in the form of a Christian counselor and two mentors who helped him rise above the “demon” past. Today Greg is the pastor of Lost Pines Cowboy Church in Texas. God has used him, his past, and his present to help others and to make the future something to look forward to.

I highly recommend this book. It was readable but not fluffy. Greg painted himself warts and all. Everyone can benefit from reading this book and then passing it along. I plan to do just that whenever I find someone who could really benefit from his experiences.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if there was a grading system.

#BadtoGood#God’sProtection

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Every week I write a Midweek Message to the folks here at OVCF and Diana emails it on Wednesday. I started writing it when Covid hit as a way to stay in touch during the week. I have fun with it, but also try to keep the folks informed about comings and goings and happenings around the church fellowship. This week (tomorrow/Wednesday) the following will be included in the MM. You ought to feel really important since you will get to see it before the church folks do. I don’t have to worry about the cat being out of the bag too much since probably 90+% of the folks don’t read my blogs. 🙁  Anyway, here is what I wrote:

Have you ever had one of those “this could have been a very bad thing but it has turned out to be a good thing” events?  I had one this past Friday that still blows me away when I think about it. Every year I have my bike serviced by Bicycle Garage Indy in Greenwood. That is where I bought the last two and so I tend to be faithful to where I bought something. This past Friday I took my bike to Greenwood to have two new tires put on it and to have a tune-up so that it is safe and ready for the summer riding season. I had an early appointment with the intention of taking Jo to lunch and hanging around Greenwood for a couple of hours so I could take it home with me when it was done. We were sitting at lunch when the store manager called me with bad news. I thought he was going to say it needed more than tires and a tune-up. Nope. I needed a whole new frame. There was a crack on the inside of the frame down by the rear shifters and derailleur. There would have been no way I would have ever seen that until the frame busted and sent me spiraling or worse. The frame is under warranty but my size is a detriment, as has been COVID. Bike makers are so far behind that if I ordered a bike today, it would not be available until the end of 2022. Fortunately, Trek had some frames available for warranty claims and hopefully, will get it to them to build me a bike soon.

How could that be good given how much I like to ride? If that frame had failed while coming down a hill; if that frame had failed while on 43 (the state road I have to ride on before I find side roads) and cars coming up from behind me; if that frame had failed when I was all alone…well, I don’t even want to think about it. Jo says I told her after my last wreck (the one that broke my collarbone, three ribs, and split my helmet in three places) that if I had another wreck I was done. I think I was delusional and under the influence when she says I said that. 🙂  But the truth is I may very well have been done. I still shudder when I think about it. And I am immensely grateful to God for His watchful eye while I was riding and having me get it to the shop as soon as I did. I have always believed that God does not do evil or make His children suffer.  God’s goodness and protection overwhelm me.  {Note: I’m sorry honey. I’m not quite ready to retire the bike just yet. And I still think I was under the influence when you said I said that}. 🙂

Never forget God does not do evil to His children. Someone else is responsible for that.   With that simple truth in mind, why would anyone want to serve him?

#TrueWords#ConvictingWords

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

As my readers know, I am not on FaceBook or Twitter or Insta or any other social media. I have enough trouble keeping up two blogs and my daily work (plus spend time with Jo) to have to worry about social media and keeping up with the latest trends, wacky and whacked-out thoughts posted on modern media. I have no patience for ignorance espoused as “brain food” and definitely no stomach for liberal politics. Or maybe politics in general.

I recently read an interview with Carl Trueman, the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self  and a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.  He was being asked what books are on his nightstand these days. After answering the questions he said some profound words that I want to copy below for you to read and think about:

Question: What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

Life is short. Now in my mid-50s I am increasingly conscious that time is limited and that as a Christian I need to be very careful about my personal and professional priorities. Private time with family and close friends means so much to me these days. An evening in the company of loved ones is a precious gift that I have too seldom appreciated in the past. And professional time has to be focused on things that count: the classroom, reading things that matter, writing articles and books on topics of serious moment.

I am amazed at how many Christians spend their days on Twitter and Facebook—too often platforms for ephemeral trivia and unpleasantness. I do not believe Jesus wants me to use my remaining years in exchanging insults with other Christians. I think he wants all his people to witness to the world by using the time and talents he has given them to edify the body of Christ and to help the rising generation think clearly about the challenges we all face.

Well, now you know I am not alone in my thoughts. It feels good to have someone so intelligent say it so much better than I can.

#Vaxxer#Non-Vaxxer

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I read a blog written by James Emery White that I want to share with you. But before I do I want to say something. I will go on record as saying that I thought COVID was a passing thing. I will even admit to saying that as the election drew near that it was too politicized, that one side was using it as a weapon against another side. There was tons of misinformation floating around. I went 9 months avoiding the “plague” and it finally caught up with me on December 21 when I tested positive. But it wasn’t done. After an incident on Christmas morning (which I will defer on telling you), I literally went from 223 pretty solid pounds honed on a bicycle and weights at the Y, and in three weeks I was looking straight in the mirror at a 175 pound refugee body.  It had attacked my digestive system, ruining my ability to keep food in or down. After a long and eventful 3-4 weeks which included several surgeries, I am on the mend. I am riding by bike again and working out at the Y.

On April 19th Jo and I get our second vaccine.

I worked out. I took tons of immune support vitamins. I exercised. I thought I was “bullet proof” with all that I did. But I still got COVID, worse than anyone in my personal space. Even Jo who has compromised health (diabetes) did not experience what I did.

To be honest, I still didn’t want to take the vaccine. I was concerned about being kicked backwards by it. I also thought since I had COVID I thought, “I’m good.” But then I started thinking about the example I am setting. I thought about how the folks will feel more comfortable around me knowing I am vaccinated.  So I chose to get the Moderna vaccine. Time will tell its end results.

But I know there is a lot of misinformation still floating around…about the vaccine…about COVID. So I am simply asking you to read James Emery White’s blog about the vaccine. Click here to read.

Maybe it will help you make a decision.

#Worry#Don’t!

Friday, April 9th, 2021

If I were to do a random walk through a town or a mall and asked what one thing amped up during the recent pandemic, I suspect worry would be the list.  Maybe even tops.

Worry is not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. White or black or any other color. Rich or poor.  Living in a mansion or homeless.  Good job or no job. Married or single. Male or female.  White collar or blue collar.

There are three weeks left in the series on Ecclesiastes. I took a 4 week break for Easter so I could preach on the cross and the Resurrection. Ecclesiastes 11 is all about putting worry to bed.  Well…it doesn’t say that specifically but it does talk a whole lot about accepting life as it is.  The adage of AA is “Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change; to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  We are all faced with the issue of “Do I or do I not worry?”

Philippians 4: 6-7  says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Wise counsel. I’m going to open my sermon Sunday by using Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 to see what He has to say about worry. Then I’m taking Eccl. 11 and taking verses 1-6 to show what we shouldn’t worry about and verses 7-10 to show what we can be happy about.

Join me/us if you have a chance to do so. I would be honored. If not, then please pray. Thanks.

#NeverTooLate#Song

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I was on my way to the office this morning (Thursday) and was listening to Kutless. I have been listening to them lately and I’m sure I heard this song but never paid much attention.

Until this morning.

I realized how pertinent it was given the meaning of this whole week. The day we honor tomorrow (Good Friday). The day we celebrate on Sunday (Resurrection).

And the ache we have in our hearts for those we know and/or love who have continued to push Jesus away.  I know I do.  I offer this to you to be encouraged to not stop praying and hoping. It is never too late until that last breath is breathed. Until then…

Here is the song.

#Sensible#Wise

Friday, March 5th, 2021

It is possible to live our entire lives from the wrong perspective. Believing we are right, we can be wrong. A perfect example of that is the man or woman who says he/she is an atheist. Bad choice! Or how about the one who chooses a lifestyle or belief system which is contrary to the Biblical one? Believing they are right will not get them into heaven. Thinking we are hitting the target most definitely does not guarantee us a bullseye.

In preparation for this week’s sermon, I ran across an old illustration which comes from American Indian lore. An Indian brave found an egg that had been laid by an eagle. Not being able to return the egg to an eagle’s nest, the next best thing to do was to put it in the nest of a prairie chicken. The hen sat on the egg, along with her own, and it eventually hatched.  The story continues…

All his life, the changeling eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did what the prairie chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. And he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground.

Years passed. And the changeling eagle grew very old. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

“What a beautiful bird!” said the…eagle to his neighbor. “What is it?”

“That’s an eagle-the chief of the birds,” said the neighbor clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” 

So the changeling eagle never gave it another thought. And it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.

And we would say what a tragedy!  Designed to soar into the heavens, plunge to earth or water to get its food, and once again to soar majestically, this eagle settled for grubbing worms and seeds from dirt.

Is that any different than the jumble of humanity who sell their souls for temporary pleasure? There is sometimes a fine line between a wise person and a fool. This Sunday’s sermon is entitled Be Sensible-Be Wise from Ecclesiastes 10. I’ll be probing what it means to be both this week. I hope you will join me either in person or online.  And as I always ask, either way or if you can’t, I would appreciate your prayers.