Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Myth Family

Of all the dream families that I grew up watching on TV or at the movies, the one that really gave me dreams of wishing I were part of their family was the Swiss Family Robinson. I loved that tree house! It was even better when I first got to see it at Disney World in January of 1972. Now, I'd be happy for any house in a tropical paradise like they had. Still, we must remember that there aren't, and never have been, any perfect families. Just try to find one in the Bible. All families are dysfunctional to some extent because who defines functional? We're all sinners, and we all make mistakes, and all we can do, with God's help, is try to be the best spouses and parents we can. It will always be true that our view of family is molded by our culture and our traditions. That can be good at times, but it can also be bad. The "Myth of Family" is that while it's important and precious, it's not THE most important thing in life.

1. The Magic of Family includes at least three parts. A. The Magic of Marriage, which is God's plan for us. It's a primary way He wants us to learn commitment, giving, unity, togetherness, and keeping promises. B. The Magic of Molding (not moldy but life changing), is simply that in relationships we grow to become the people God wants us to become. We are what we are because of our education, our experiences, and our examples. The family is the main place these three things happen. C. The Magic of Memories is maybe the best part of families. Memories are treasures that can never be taken away. All of these elements are made even better when we add God's magic. The special glue that comes from keeping Him at the center of our home.

2. The Mission of Family. Amount other things, God put us in families to give us A. Belonging, B. Bonding, and an environment for C. Building. Eph.6:1-4 makes it clear that the family is a place to learn and grow. Look at how we are told to treat other Christians in 1 Timothy 5:1-3. Where did we learn those things if not in the family? A successful family is one that points each member to God.

3. The Misuse of Family comes from misplaced priorities and dishonesty. We need to be careful of A. Misuse of Blood (Mk.3:31-35) only One saves, the rest is just DNA; B. Misuse of Purpose = family is important but not #1. Jesus said there are more important things than food and clothing and being anxious (Mt.6), and the kingdom can't take second place to the loss of a family member (Mt.8:18-22) or a bad family experience (John 4, woman at the well). And, C. Misuse of Blessings = Did God bless you so you could forget Him? Are physical blessings pulling you from God? What are we teaching our children about putting God first? The most valuable thing you can give your family is your own deeper relationship with Jesus!

Of all the descriptions God could have used for what He wanted the "church" to be, He used Family! Not club, business, corporation, institution, charity, school, or even a place! He used one word that means related, connected, committed, united, accepted, supported, and loved! What else do you call folks who have the same loving Father? It's got to be FAMILY!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Treestand Philosophy

One of my favorite things to do on my Monday day off, is for Donna and I to go out to lunch together some place where I can get breakfast for lunch. That usually means Bob Evans, especially the one across the street from Cabela's. As we enjoyed our time at Bob Evans yesterday, I mentioned to Donna that our presence there brought the average age of the customers down considerably. We're not spring-chickens, but most of the clientele were clearly elderly folks, I'm sure enjoying the good Senior Discount that Bob Evans gives to anyone over fifty-five. Oops! I guess that includes us! Really, most of these folks were well past that, whereas we are newbies to the oldies crowd. Anyway, being the people watcher I tend to be, I couldn't help but notice how so many elderly folks seemed to be so unhappy and grumpy. Not all, for sure! One nice gentleman stopped at our table to ask me where "Harding University" was since he saw it printed on my shirt, and we had a wonderful little talk about Arkansas and Searcy in particular. But others, well, they seemed so, so, down and depressed. Like they were mad at the world for letting them get old.
The other day I was sitting up high in my tree stand, watching the fall color explosion more than looking for deer, and I had a metaphorical vision about life. We all know and are familiar with comparing the seasons of the year to the seasons of life, but have you ever just thought about a leaf. A single leaf, clinging to a branch like all the other leaves, and yet unique in ways that the naked eye can't easily detect. All of them start out the same. Shiny, green, and strong. Some don't make it through the storms of life before they get ripped loose and fall back to the earth. The comparisons are endless and any metaphor will fall apart if you try to make TOO MUCH of it, but I was truly touched by one particular thought. Isn't it interesting that so many leaves reach their peak of beauty at the end of their life. Just before being disconnected, they are bright yellows, gorgeous reds, and vibrant orange, and they give joy to the world around them. Then they're gone. Back to the place that gave them life in the first place.
I want to be like that, don't you? I want aging to be my peaking not my dying. I want to bring joy to the world around me, and then return to the One who gave it all to me.
That gives all new meaning to the old joke, "Make like a tree and leave" doesn't it?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Donna

Yesterday was Donna's birthday and she spent it doing what she loves best, playing with our grandchildren. It is really nice to have Chad, Elizabeth, Carter, and Ashlyn with us for a few day. Chad and I are trying to hunt with all the rain we are having, which is a blessing for those of us in a drought, but not so much fun for hunting. But, hey, a rainy hunt is better than no hunt. Anyway, we didn't get to celebrate Donna's birthday until later in the evening. She is opening the birthday presents I had for her. The above, is a Lenox Snow White statue to add to her Snow White collection. I think Ashlyn was as excited to see it as Donna was.
So, of course, she had to give Snow White a big hug. Notice the grip Grandma has on Snow White.

Not only is this Donna's big fifty-five birthday, but our thirty-fifth anniversary is coming up on December 14th. I've been planning since back in January to surprise Donna with an anniversary trip to her favorite place in the world, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Since the time frame, Dec.12-17, of the trip has a new grand baby arriving (any time late Nov. early Dec.), Donna's Children's Christmas Musical (Dec.9th), and a surprise visit of Jonathan and Holly to Nashville - where we will of course be then (Dec.6-8), the calender got too hectic for me to wait any longer to drop this anniversary trip on Donna. Originally I was going to surprise her after the musical was over on Dec.9th, she has several weeks to plan and be excited.

We took a similar trip for our thirtieth anniversary and had a wonderful time. Just the two of us, running all over the four theme parks like kids. Well, she did have to push me some. I couldn't even get her to take an afternoon break for a nap! I guess I better start getting in shape for five days of trying to keep up with DW's greatest fan. Ya know what? It's fun doing things for people ya love! There's a sermon there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Myth Image

Just for the record, the pictures on the previous blog do show a thinner me and it's not the camo. There is about fifteen pounds less of me than there was back in the summer. And no (Nancy), you don't have to wear camo to practice with your bow. I was on my way to hunt at the time, but generally, camo does make any activity seem more outdoorsy.

Myth America Contest: Myth Image
I used Forrest Gump as a good example of someone who was not driven by image. And his famous "box of chocolates" line is a perfect illustration of something that is good, but can be bad if we eat too much. Image, like chocolate, is not bad until we get it out of balance. Most of life's problems come from our in ability to control our drives, desires, and limitations. Food, drink, drugs, sex, and most everything we enjoy in life are God-given, but we can't seem to keep them when and where God intended. Our image is something to care about, but we must grow up, mature, deepen our values, and at some point, care more about the image of Christ than we do our own.
1. The Problem of Acceptance (Wanting to be liked)
A. "Love one another" means it's good to be liked by others - but not required!
B. Loving yourself must never depend on being liked by others. That's how peer pressure gets it's power in our lives. (Look at what it caused Herod and Pilate to do.)
C. One of my all time favorite quotes, "You wouldn't care so much about what others thought about you if you knew how little they did it." Are we paranoid or egotistical in thinking people are looking at us so much?
D. Faith is seeking to please God first! Heb.11:6; Matt.6:33
2. The Problem of Conforming (Changing to be liked)
A. Fit in but don't sell out! We all observe others and adjust ourselves to be liked and accepted, but don't let that control you. Be who God made you to be. Celebrate your uniqueness! Have convictions, values, and self worth! People respect that and you admire those who have them. Joseph's brothers are good examples of people who didn't like uniqueness.
B. We are all changing! Getting older is changing, so why do older people resent change so much? Maybe we're changing into something other than Jesus.
C. Romans 12:2 challenges us. Are you conforming or transforming? It's all about choosing Jesus over the world! As a church, do we expect transformation or conforming? Become like US or like Jesus?
3. The Problem of Self Absorption (Obsessed with self, and wanting everyone else to be obsessed with you too!)
A. How important is "Image Management" to you? All do it some, but some do it all! How did you decide what to wear today? The only thing I have? This is what's clean and modest? This is what's comfortable? This is what's acceptable and expected? This makes me look good?
B. Obsession with self is ego, pride, and pleasure NOW! Work, family, marriage, and church are all about you? Phil.3:15-21 some early Christians had the same problem.
C. Image is idolatry! The worship of self! (Actually, imbalanced image!) Romans 1:24-25 worship of creature rather than Creator!
D. Image is idolatry for the church too - if it's more important to look good to the world than to God! Are we more interested in acceptance and conforming to what the world says we should be and look like? Are we guilty of self absorption? What really is church growth?
It's time to BE REAL and forget our image! We need to be real about looking like Jesus. Sounds like a good reason for an Image Makeover to me!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Signs and Practice

Over a month into this year's hunting season and I'm still trying to figure out the best place to put my stand so I can get a shot at a big buck. If you look hard at the above picture, you will see the white buck rub on the sapling in the middle. It's about 25 yards from my tree stand, but I did use the zoom on my camera. This is a nice sized rub on about a three inch tree and there are several more all around. The only problem is that the Big Bucks who are making these rubs are doing it at night. Hopefully that will change when the rut kicks in soon.
This is another buck rub just under my tree stand about five yard in the opposite direction from the first picture.

One of the hardest things about being "in season" is reminding yourself to keep practicing. We don't have the privacy around our house I'd like to have in order to practice without making the neighbors nervous. This is our neighbors house, about 15 feet away from ours, but it gives me a little hidden lane to take a few quick shots at times of the day when no one is around. I'm shooting towards the pond behind our house - not the kids who play back there occasionally.

What form? And no, I didn't get shot in the rear! Those are my practice arrows in my back pocket. Notice the wind enhanced high forehead. Practice, practice, practice. Actually, I don't do nearly as much as I should. Well, it's Monday morning, so Lord willing, I'll mow the yard and then go hunting this afternoon. I might even shoot a couple more practice arrows before I go. Our freezer is really getting low on venison. Time to get serious and stop being picky about does and bucks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top Ten October Things

It's been a long time since I did a Top Ten List, and with nothing else rising to the top, it seemed logical to do it on the Top Ten Things I Like About October!

1. It's not August!

2. You gotta love the cooler temps!

3. Just to show I'm not obsessed with it, I'll put Bowhunting season here in the middle, but in truth - it's 1 through 10!

4. In October my wife becomes just one year younger than me rather than two years!

5. Fall colors, and I mean all of them. In Texas the seasons went from Summer to short Winter, then back to Summer again, and the few trees with leave instead of thorns turned yellow for two days before dropping.

6. Columbus Day! Which really means nothing, but I can't say Halloween because certain folks in Nashville will label be "Witch Lover"! (That's a joke Nashville!)

7. Cranking up the fireplace for the first time after Summer. I just wish I knew why I can't get the pilot light lit on my gas logs.

8. The beginning of rut starts in late October. That's bucks in rut not me, though...better not got there.

9. I love the electricity that is in the air as people start thinking and planning for family time at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

10. Did I mention that turkeys are in season for archery hunting now?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Myth Youth

In preparing for this Myth, I found out the hard way that Peter Pan, the Disney version, does not have the song "I Won't Grow Up" on it. It's only in the play version. And since I waited until Saturday night to check the DVD we own, well - let's just say that there was no movie clip on Sunday morning. Still, most people know what The Peter Pan Syndrome is because we all struggle with it some. We fight growing old as if we can change it. We can't, and here are some of the things I shared about the Myth of Youth last Sunday.
* Do you focus on what you can't do anymore or on what God has empowered you to do now?
* Have you retired or been reassigned?
* Are you productive or pouting (feeling sorry for yourself because you're getting old)?
* We will never be younger than we are right now!
* The only exception is spiritual living, because the more you mature the healthier you become! How's that for a great thing to think about ? To God, we are always His children.
1. The Myth of Youth is the myth of external beauty!
A. To be young or look young is beautiful? That kind of thinking is shallow, selfish, and sin seeking not God seeking?
B. What do we really want? Attention, admirers, people jealous, or lusting over us?
C. We need to redefine beauty to match God's definition of beauty! 1 Sam.16:7; 1 Peter 3:1-4
2. The Myth of Youth is the myth of "better days." Everything was better when we were younger!
A. We suffer from selective memory. There were wonderful times, but not all of it!
B. Remember insecurities? Fears? Ignorance? Twisted priorities? Weakness? Lack of self control? Just to name a few.
C. There is nothing better than NOW! (Eccl.9:7-10)
3. The Myth of Youth is the myth of long life! The younger you are, or think you are, the farther away death must be! Wrong!
A. The older you get, the harder it is to ignore death, but it's a step away from everyone.
B. We must remember that we don't deserve anything! Every day is a blessing and a gift that many others didn't get to have.
C. If you are still fearful of death, what have you been doing all these years as a Christian? Not preparing! Not growing in your walk with God? (Eccl.12:13-14)
4. The Myth of Youth is the myth of significance! You only count if you're young!
A. Only to those who are selfish or full of self pity! Poor me!
B. If thankfulness grows w/ age, who should be the most thankful people on earth?
C. Praise God for every wrinkle and gray hair! They proclaim to all how wonder God has been to us to let us live long enough to have them! They are our badge of blessing! Our promotion stripes! Our crown that most people never got to wear!
D. Older Christians are significant, not because they are alive, but because of what they have to offer. Thankfulness! Years of walking with God! Loving relationships! Learning to give not receive! Learning that God is right! Where else will the young learn these things - from other young people?
Conclusion: Ask Moses which part of his 120 years was the most important? How long did it take to get him ready to be used by God! So, how many burning bushes do you deserve?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tags & Camo

A friend at church sent us this picture. The caption was "What to wear when your wife wants you to do the chores."

I've been tripled tagged so I guess I better do something about it. For those who tagged me, I wasn't ignoring you, but according to the rules I'm supposed to tag eight more people and I don't know eight more blogs that haven't already been tagged. I didn't want to be the one to break the chain and cause catastrophic events, prove to be unloving, unpatriotic, unfaithful, or be cursed for the next seven years. So, here are my eight unusual things about me (I can't say unknown, because they've probably all been sermon illustrations at some time in the past.)

1. I am paranoid about spelling. Praise God for spell-check. I'm mostly paranoid that everyone else in my family are all incredible spellers and don't have to think twice about any word. I avoid names and places especially because I'm afraid of misspealling thim!

2. Of all my Rootisms and thought provoking wise saying, the hardest one for me to remember to say to myself - several times a day - is "It really doesn't matter." It's my biggest defense against, as Elizabeth says, being annal retentive! (Did I spell that right?)

3. While we did use Bible names for our children, the toughest part was coming up with their middle names. All three names came from relatives.

4. I am totally comfortable with my age and thankful for every day God has given me, but the biggest thing I miss about the "old days" is being able to sing well. I'm talking way back before botox-shots time.

5. After a battery of psychological tests for Harding's mission internship program in 1972, the counsellor said I was "Very honest. Very stable. Very extrovert." And that was all he said.

6. My mother is still one of the most intelligent women I've ever known in my life.

7. If I were starting over again, I wouldn't be a full time minister. I'd be in vocational ministry of some form. I love ministry and preaching and can't imagine doing anything else, but I'd truly love to be self supporting some how.

8. When I was a kid in school, I thought my middle name Rand was so corny that I told people it was Randy. Later I liked having my mothers maiden name as my middle name.

So there they are. Just the first eight things I thought about on a Monday morning when I skipped going hunting because of potential rain that turned out to be late and wouldn't have arrived until after my hunting time. Oops, is that number nine?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lesson From a Six-Pointer

A friend of ours sent us this picture today. I'm confident the Ford will fly - aren't you?

This morning I snuck off and went hunting. I couldn't wait! It has been so warm that it wasn't worth even trying and a third of October is already gone! So when this cool front came through this week, I finished up everything on Thursday so I could get away for a few hours this morning. And it was cold not cool. The bank sign down in Sullivan said 35 degrees when I passed it at 6 AM. I wasn't wearing enough and ended up shivering for the first couple hours. But hey, such is hunting. I had a little six point buck feed under my stand for about ten minutes, totally oblivious to the predator just above him in spitting range. It was fun watching him. He was so young and so stupid, as most one and a half year old's are, but he won't stay that way for long. I couldn't help but wonder how many times in my fifty-six years I've been as close to my death as that deer was today - and, like him, been totally oblivious of it? It probably completely dwarfs the number of "close calls" that I'm aware of. Did God intervene? Was I just lucky? It really doesn't matter. I praise Him and thank Him for every day He has given me. I know in my heart that He protected me during many of my "young and so stupid" days. I believe He wanted me to share what He's taught me to others. Things that took time, a lot of questions and struggles, and a lot of experiences. Part of being older and wiser is seeing life's predators, and they have the best camo, weaponry, and tactics there is - and they work for the best predator of all - Satan. Remember, Peter called him a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. So dear brethren, keep an eye on those trees!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Myth Begins

Last Sunday morning I presented the first of my series on The Myth America Contest. I'm really enjoying this because it's not only an attempt to be relevant and take a break from expository preaching, but it allows me the chance to challenge some of our cultural myths. For example, this first lesson was Myth Chemistry, subtitled EHarmony.Con (intentional changing of the M). I challenged the cultural myth that relationships are all about chemistry - finding your "soul-mate" is all about finding the person who answers the secret 25 questions the same as you do. While there's an element of truth to the idea, my counter argument is that relationships are about commitment not chemistry. This chemistry myth causes people to have unrealistic expectations, see relationships as automatic rather than hard work, and to have an excuse to end it when "the chemistry is gone." It's built on three other myths...
1. The Myth of Compatibility = if we are so alike we will be so close! Compatibility doesn't always build closeness. Sometimes it fosters competitiveness, comparing, and it's boring. We weren't made to be alike, but to like how we are made different. It's not about shared interests, it's about shared values. Love is not chemistry, it's a choice. 1 Cor.13:4-8 are choices, just as loving God is a choice.
2. The Myth of Conformity = "I want someone who will become what I want them to be." I call this the "They'll Change Syndrome". NO relationship will work where people think about controlling, molding, or training their mate. Relationship building is about giving not taking - or making! Eph.5:21-25 describes it as submitting and being like Christ, but this is about what we must be not what we must force "them" to be.
3. The Myth of Continuity = the fantasy of "the eternal honeymoon". The problem free marriage never existed and most young people are totally unprepared for the reality of working through relationship problems. After all - they have chemistry! BUT, do they have commitment? It's working through the problems that deepens a relationship and the love. That's why the Bible talks in terms of effort, work, and seeking - even in spiritual relationships. It's what we decide it will be - look a 1 Thess.5:12-18 and apply it to marriage!
Would you say that our "Chemistry" with God is strong? He made us in His image! If it was about chemistry, we'd ALL be as close as angels to God! It's about choices and commitments and love that grows through trials and tough times. That's why "love covers a multitude of sins," - not because of a chemical formula, but a committed faith.
This coming Sunday I'll be taking a look a Myth Youth. The subtitle is "Get the Wrinkles out!" (If you are one of those who download the lessons from the web page, be aware that our recorder crashed last week. They're making recording from the video tape and that will make each lesson be at least a week late. I'm hoping we get the new recorder in this week.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chuck E. Church?

Welcome to Chuck E. Church. It's the ultimate experience for professional church-goers. There are two sections for the discriminating non-participant. The first section is filled with predictability and security. Auto matrons sing three hundred year old hymns, with prayers and scripture readings spliced in at the appropriate and expected points. Male only servers deliver up the Supper, in silence and with training that every submissive woman can only dream of being able to carry out. And then the real fun begins. A robot in suit and tie, carrying a "family size" KJV, delivers up a message of orthodoxy, guilt, and exclusivism. This is followed by an "everybody sings" rendition of Just As I Am - An always Will Be. All who attend are satisfied they can deal with whatever the next week can throw at them, because they will be back next week - or die trying.

The second section of Chuck E. Church is much louder and more animated. There are numerous sing-a-long-robots on the stage, the audience is impressed with their big sound, and everyone feels free to clap, raise hands, or shout spiritual cliche' to one another. It's slick, it's professional, and it's different. The songs are all radio hits, the words are projected, personal, and praise oriented. The Supper is served by - well - anyone who wants to serve it! There is a sense of freedom that says it's okay to laugh, cry, or watch. The MC, in a three-button golf shirt and carrying a purple leather Max Lucado New Testament, shares a lesson about overcoming mediocrity. It's all good. People leave feeling their needs have been met, and if they can't make it back next week - it's okay - because no one will notice.

No, this is not about my cynical opinions any more than it's about which Chuck E. Church is right. Here's my point. When we forget that our togetherness is supposed to be a giving opportunity - a relationship building opportunity, then we might as well rip the sign off the front of the building and call it Chuck E. Church - the place that's all about getting what I want. When we use it for what God intended - the section you attend becomes irrelevant.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Moving Past the Sadness

The title of this picture was "This is what sad looks like." I knew my cat-loving family would enjoy it. But speaking of sadness, I was reminded a couple times this week about how short and uncertain life is. First, I watched all seven episodes of The War on PBS and it was incredible. One of the best documentaries on WW2 ever done. It was about the people who lived it, at home and on the battlefield. It looked at the war from the perspective of four cities/towns in America from Alabama to Minnesota and Connecticut to California. It was about how everyone had a part to play and everyone made sacrifices. And of course, I was especially touched to see so many young men who went excitedly off to war, only to die on a beach or field, never to enjoy the happier things in life - like family, spouse, children, future. It was profound to see elderly men telling their experiences and still getting choked up and teary as they remembered the ones who didn't come back - and maybe still felt the guilt of being alive. Well over four hundred thousand American soldiers died in that war. Most in their late teens and early twenties. Men who thought they would live to a ripe old age and then die in their sleep one night. And then Tuesday morning we received word that Mark Moran, who was the minister at Florissant before I came, lost his son-in-law in an automobile accident. Mark's daughter has two small children, and everyone was talking about how they were finally getting things together.
These just reminded me what a difficult task it is to live in the now. I've committed myself to enjoying each day and not letting it "just happen" - but I've failed at it more than I've succeeded. It's so hard not to live anticipating the next "exciting happening" or to not wallow in the past like it was some standard of excellence that will never return. We can't spend our lives looking backwards or forwards, nor can we spend it just "trying not to die." We have to spend our lives enjoying the life we have this minute. Treasure it - be thankful for it - share it with those God gave us. The minute we spend complaining and griping, and the hours we spend worrying or feeling sorry for ourselves - are minutes and hours that won't come back and only bring us closer to wasting our life instead of truly living it. The joy of loving and being loved is all we've got time to do - and all God expected from us.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hunting Across the River

This may not seem like much of a picture, but it's the view I looked at yesterday from my tree stand on the first day of my first IL bow season hunt. You can actually see part of my shadow in the fork of the tree's shadow. There are several well-worn deer trails coming out of those woods as well as some obvious trails under the stand of trees I'm in. It's at the top of a hill about 250 yards from a neighbor's corn and bean fields. It's got a beautiful view in all directions - when you look around all the leaves that are still there.

This is the view behind my stand, looking down the hill. My bow and arrow are hanging on a bow hanger just to the right of the picture. That's actually a valley that drops off to the left going down to a pond and the crop fields. Danny (my hunting buddy) Younger was in a stand up the draw to the right of this picture. He saw several does, and from all the snorting I heard, a couple of them at least smelled him. Unfortunately, the wind changed on us and blew down the hill as the deer came out. I saw some of the deer that came by Danny, and three more on the distant hill in the next picture.

The tree branch covers the valley that is between me and the next hill. It really goes down steep before it comes back up. This doesn't do justice to how beautiful it is. I can't wait to see all this when the leaves start changing.
My first day of hunting in IL was fun. It's too hot and too dry still, so the deer don't move until just before dark. But, they are loaded with deer and I've never hunted anywhere where the land owners and other locals talk so freely about hoping we get several deer. The deer there really do a lot of damage to the crops and cause a lot of car accidents. I'll be doing my best to help them all I can.