Thursday, December 25, 2008

A New Face In Heaven

This picture was taken back in the Summer at the Curtis family reunion. Dean was able to joke about his cemo treatment by saying that he hadn't had to shave in six weeks - because of losing all his hair. Dean took his last breath in this life this morning and took his next breath looking at the face of God. I have said many times over the last thirty-six years that I had the best in-laws a person could hope for. Dean probably is one of the biggest reasons I'm such an avid hunter today. I really began my serious hunting by tagging alone with him and Randy on many rabbit hunting trips, back when Dean had 10 or 12 beagles to chase them around for us. It took me a long time to get the hang of how to know where the rabbits would be in relation to the dogs who were chasing them. He loved to hunt and he especially loved helping others have a good hunting experience. Those early years of hunting will always be special memories for me.
Dean was one of the most humble and godly men I have ever known. He was the consummate quiet servant, helping hundreds of people in hundreds of ways and mostly without anyone else ever knowing about it. He loved simplicity, hard work, his family, and his church family. He was a man of integrity. I know there were plenty of times when he and Gleneve wondered what in the world their first son-in-law was doing, but they would choke to death before they ever did anything to criticise or be negative to any of us. Their example of love, sacrifice, service, and hospitality are unmatched by anyone I've ever known. I am thankful for every memory I have of time we spent together and for the godly daughter he raised who has made such a difference in my life. I am truly looking forward to seeing him again - and I will. I just hope there's rabbit hunting in heaven.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Still A Wonderful Time of the Year!

This is the cast from Donna's Children's Christmas musical - December 14th. They did an awesome job.

I've been trying to figure out why I haven't really felt much like it was Christmas yet. We've been busy, but that's typical. The weather has been a mess - much colder than any Missouri Decembers we've had since arriving four years ago, and it has kept me from getting to hunt as much as I would have liked. All our shopping is done and we are excited about what we have prepared for all our loved ones, and that's definitely Christmas-like. I think it's because we haven't decorated any at our house. No one is coming here - we're going to Nashville next week, so it was hard to find the motivation to dig everything out of the packed basement store room and put it up. As usual, our neighbor across the street has such an incredible light display that our house shines at night like a spotlight was on it. Why try to match that? I'm sure the biggest reason is that we both are so concerned about Donna's Dad. Dean is clearly in his last hours in this life, and while we praise God for where he's going, the sadness and empty feeling is already there - as much for her Mom as her Dad. We may have to reschedule our already rescheduled Christmas plans, and that's no problem. Still, I know that when we get to be with family, the warmth and love that we share all the time, will make it special, and will make it Christmas - whenever it happens. Right now we're busy doing our usual church stuff, trying to get things done early, and we're enjoying our church family, because we love them dearly. We're also praying a lot, but that's always a good thing. I hope all your Christmas plans go well and you get to be with those you love the most. God is good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Machines Are Coming!

I've shared this picture before, but I use it again because it speaks of my feels towards modern technology - occasionally. Our home computer has been out all week after a short power outage or surge last Sunday night. It caused our cable Internet connection to - evidently - fry. The cable fixer-upper was scheduled for Thursday between 1 and 3 in the afternoon - BUT - they would call twice prior to that, and if no one answered the phone the repair visit would be automatically cancelled. So, how soon before the 1 o'clock time would they call? And why schedule a time to be home for the repair, if you have to be there to cover the phone? Well, no big deal. I came home for lunch and they called while I was finishing off my microwaved soup. Then I thought, I can still use Word on the computer even if the Internet is down! DUH! I did - working on the final scene of next years play. BUT - I could not make that thing save the file to the same CD I brought in home on! Long minutes where spent trying to figure out how to do it. I couldn't even find the crazy program that I know we have that lets us burn CD's. Oh well, after it was fixed, much later, I sent myself an email with the doc. as an attachment so I could pull it up at the office and save what I had done. See, I have learned something.
The cable man did his thing - put a new cable box on our machine and it worked like a charm. It seemed good to me (sounds biblical doesn't it?) to ask, "Hey, while you're here. Can you change out our DVR? It's really been acting up lately and I thinks it's bout to go out." He was more than happy to do that. Nice guy! BUT - I forgot how EVERY cable fixer-upper has a terrible time trying to figure out how to hook things up to our TV. It took him much longer than he had planned. I almost invited him to stay for a microwaved soup dinner. He finally got it up and running and the new DVR is great. I just had to program all the shows I usually have recorded into the new box - Jeopardy was first. BUT - I noticed that the wide screen picture had three inch black borders top and bottom - like watching a movie, except it was regular TV programs. Ha-ha! This happened before and I knew I could figure it out. Wrong. Two hours of reading every word on every page of our giant TV manual and pushing every button on everything and even a few things that weren't buttons - no luck. What was wrong with our crazy TV? Exhausted and frustrated, I picked up the control to the cable box and began scrolling through some of it's index of capabilities. One said Wide Screen Set Up. I clicked on Extended Wide Screen and presto - I had a full wide screen. Who knew it was a cable thing and not a TV thing?
Okay - there's a great lesson there somewhere, but it took too long to tell the story. So come up with your own. For now 1) I'm a techo-idiot; 2) User-friendly is a relative concept (my relatives can do it but I can't); and 3) Maybe machines will one day take over the world - they certainly know how to push my buttons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Are Some People So Happy?

My good friend Bob Nash has got one of the greatest smiles in all the world!

For some reason, this morning I was reflecting on the reasons why some people are so unhappy. Why are so many folks perpetually unhappy, sad, discontented, or just plan miserable? Why do so many teenagers bounce in and out of contentment and seem to be manic-depressive as an age group? I remember being that way - especially in my mid-teens. So, okay, I'll quit asking about everyone else and just get a little personal here. When I've been unhappy, why did I feel that way? I say "when" because it doesn't happen much at that point in my life. I know a little more about peace, contentment, and priorities now than I have in the past. So, I get to reflect and ask why. When I do that, I find everything boils down to the same reason - every time.

Here is what I wrote down on a piece of paper this morning. It's on a sticky-note, and yes, it will probably be something that will show up in a sermon in the near future.

You are only as happy as your ability to think about others rather than yourself.

I truly believe that the most miserable people in the world are the people who spend most of their time thinking about themselves. So now you know why teenagers are so miserable so much of the time. The more you focus on yourself, the more you feed the need for attention, for approval, for things that feel good, for things that will build your ego, and the more you resent anything or anyone that competes with any or all of these things. If we don't learn the lesson of unselfishness as teenagers, which most of us don't, we tend to struggle with the chase for happiness for a lot of years, and in the meantime, we can lose friends, destroy marriages, alienate loved ones, and postpone seeking God.

There is a reason why Paul connected godliness with contentment. Godliness (God-like-ness) is love or thinking of others! Contentment is finally finding happiness.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hear No Evil

In working on this coming Sunday's lesson, the first line I wrote down for the introduction was "What are some things that you just don't want to hear about?" So - here are my "gut reactions" to that question. I can't call them a "Top Ten" because I haven't thought it through that well. They're just the first things I thought of and they're in no particular order. And yes, these will appear again on Sunday morning.

Things you just don't want to hear about.

1. Who's gay - especially when it comes to celebrities. I'd rather not know.

2. Government corruption - just arrest 'em and quit talking about 'em!

3. Reality TV - mostly junk, mostly contrived, and always confrontational. Don't need that. Give me pure escapism or something that will add to my meager storehouse of knowledge.

4. Digital TV! Is there anyone in the whole wide world who doesn't know about the change yet?

5. Tax Increases! Just do it and don't tell me about it.

6. Rosie O'Donnell's new conflict, new career, new anything.

7. Religious legalism - I want to hear about Christ-like churches

8. Racism - of any kind or form. Ignorance and hate needs light and silence.

9. Front yard deer sighting - everybody has one to share with hunters

10. A group of middle aged men sitting around singing "Viva Viagra" - PLEASE!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Just A Fly

If a bug comes into my house and I see it, its short life just got a little shorter. I especially don't like flies in my house. I have had some extensive hunts, with the fly swatter in hand, that went from one end of the house to the other - several times, before I dispatched the buzzing trespassers. That's why it struck me as odd that I viewed the dead fly on my upstairs bathroom windowsill with such poignancy. If I had seen him when he was alive and flying around, I would have instantly transformed into hunter mode. But looking at the dead fly, at the highest part of the house, lying dead just on the wrong side of the window of freedom - well, it just struck me as sad. He slipped into the house through a quickly opened door because his instincts told him there was food to be had if he could just get into that giant storehouse. All he found was imprisonment, hopelessness, and death.
Okay, maybe he was incapable of being depressed, feeling hopeless, and even regretting his mistake. Maybe he was just being led by his instincts. Still, the analogy is appropriate for us. How many of us chase after something that will never satisfy, fulfill, or sustain us? How many people fly into the open door of easy opportunities and sensual possibilities only to find a new prison, and for some, death? Isn't that letting our instincts lead and control us? Satan loves to use our desires as leashes to lead us where he wants us to go. Maybe the real difference between us and the house fly is that our ability to think is used to rationalize our actions rather than keeping us from flying into something that can destroy us.
I probably won't ever us this as a sermon illustration, but I kind of like the idea that even a dead fly can make me think. That doesn't mean I'm throwing away my fly swatter.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Reason To Fight

Religiously speaking, we like to think that we are doctrinally right - about everything. The TRUTH is that we are all wrong! Otherwise how can it be that "no one is righteous" and "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"? You might counter that knowing what's right and doing what's right are two different things. True, but just knowing what's right is not the same as understanding God! We are all in a sad state of error, inadequate understanding, and pitiful connection with God. There is no sadder evidence of our poor understanding of God than our woefully poor understanding of His grace. We can quote the verses, but then we still believe we must earn our salvation. We "Amen" sermons on grace and still "hope we are going to heaven." We believe we have it and still judge others, compare ourselves to others, and seek the affirmation of others. We say we are drawing closer to Him and yet we still feel unforgiven, unworthy, and insecure in our relationship with Him. Our definition of grace is a cliche' and our walk with Him is a constant struggle rather than being overwhelmed by His love for us - that fills us with love, joy, peace, and all the other "natural" heart-level responses that take place when we "get" what His grace really means!
Last Sunday I offered this premise: Our willingness to fight & sacrifice is directly related to the VALUE we give to what we are fighting for. This was to help us understand why Paul told Timothy, and us, to "fight the good fight of faith." If there is no clear sense of value - there is no willingness to fight. His point, which is incredibly important, is that grace gives us the clear sense of value! "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." Paul points out that this happened to him "the worst of sinners," declaring that he was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" yet he "was shown mercy". So Timothy, how can I not fight the good fight of faith! How about you?(1 Tim.2:12-20)
You see, if we don't understand how amazing His grace is - we lose the value behind the fight! Maybe, no - not maybe, this is why we find it so hard to fight the good fight of faith. It's impossible to really understand His grace and not be motivated to truly be a "living sacrifice" to him.
His love = grace = value = faithfulness! We need to stop thinking of faithfulness as "doing what's right" and start thinking of it as responding to grace!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quick Trip To Arkansas

We made a very quick trip to Searcy (left Monday morning, returned Tuesday evening) to see Jonathan and Holly, whom we haven't seen since this time last December, and to spend a little time with Donna's parents. Monday night we had a diner at Carol's house (Donna's sister) with several of the nieces, nephews, cousins of, spouses of, and one boy friend of, and shared some grilled elk, venison, and chicken - along with some required fillers of course. It was so much fun to see this group together. Some of these relatives haven't seen each other for a lot of years. We decided that Jonathan and Zach, hadn't been together since the famous WV Christmas of '95. For some, it was the first time to meet the spouses of their cousins, and/or boy friend. What a great group of young men and women! They all have such a wonderful, sweet, and kind spirit. Not only was there a lot of grilled consumption, but a huge amount of laughter.
As mentioned, it was so nice to see our son Jonathan and his wife Holly. She was at Harding to teach a class and speak for a special dinner. Jonathan came along for the ride and we are so glad he did. They look great! It was hard to believe that it has been a year since we got to talk face-to-face. They are both doing so well in their careers and are now part of a church planting in Brooklyn. I hate that they're going to have to miss Christmas with us again, but such is the life of a Broadway actor, and will probably be true for many years to come. We really are going to figure out a way to visit them in New York sometime this winter or spring. We are very thankful to just get to see them for a few hours and hug them for real and not just in thoughts. God is good to allow us whatever time we get to have with the ones we love.
Speaking of which, please keep Donna's folks in your prayers. Dean is very weak, and unable to even get out of bed for more than just seconds. It was heart warming to see the stream of friends and family coming by to see him and express their love and respect for him. As we left, I held his hand, looked into his eyes and said, "I will see you." Because of God's grace, I believe that with all my heart.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Missed It By That Much!

This is how it looked just out our back door this morning at 7:00. I had mixed feelings about it. First I thought how sad that everybody left yesterday (Saturday) and missed the chance to play in the snow - especially with all the grand kids here. It would be fun to see how Curtis reacted to his first snow. But then, I thought it was probably good that everyone got away before the snow got here - for safety reasons. Of course, the nice part of this snow was that there was nothing on the roads, driveways, or the church parking lot. So I vote for the extra day of family being with us!
I love the way an even small covering of snow makes everything look so clean and new. I always think about the blood of Jesus, which should cause stains, washing away my sins and making me whiter than snow. Wow! How can I not want to seek a deeper relationship with some ONE who does that for me? I truly am valuable to Him - how can I not value Him?
More to follow...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

We missed having Jonathan and Holly with us for Thanksgiving. We had enough food for an army, but we still tried to eat it all. It was awesome.
You can see what most of the "good stuff" was here. Don't let the small plates fool you. They were fixing plates for children on this run.

This is the children's table, or as we call it, the "pre-adult table". Good food, followed by a football game, and then, after the kids where all down for the night, we got out a new game for the adults to play called "Loaded Questions". We laughed way too much for people who had eaten as much as we did. It's been wonderful having everyone here all week. Chad and I even managed to get in a couple of hunts, but the best part is just being together. One of these days, we may even get to have Jonathan and Holly with us.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Sorry Buddy, but God said, "Kill and eat" (Acts 10) not "Put together a tossed salad".

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot about being thankful. It's not just something to think about because you're a Christian. Because you're a Christian - it's what you are - a thankful person. Thankfulness may be the single most important element in our walk with God. I know - you're shouting, "What about love?" That truly is the bottom line of our whole journey to God, but I would simply ask, can you learn to love without being thankful? Thankfulness is the foundation of every spiritual quality that we need to grow in. As I've said many times, we can't grow any higher spiritually, than our level of thankfulness. It's the foundation of our relationship with God (and any growing relationship for that matter). Thankfulness toward God means seeing His hand in everything that happens around us and to us. It gives us the sense of His presence that we must have in a relationship of faith. It's the cornerstone of our communication with Him as we thank Him for so much each day. In one sense, thankfulness is communication with God. Who are you thanking if you're thankful for something. Thankfulness is the secret to dealing with life's hardships and problems. Only a thankful life can see the big picture of how much the blessings have over-powered the problems. A thankful life doesn't expect more, demand "why?", or feel like God "owes" them anything. A thankful life treasures every day, enjoys it, lives in peace, and longs to be with the Father for eternity - whether that day comes sooner or later.

Here's that challenge. Most of us think we are thankful people, but we're really not. We are, what I call, situationally thankful and not attitudinally thankful. We appreciate it when good things happen, but we haven't made the decision to see the thousand daily little things that God does that we need to be thankful for. It's a choice. We can start right now to be thankful for everything that's around us, and we will immediately start looking at life, at relationships, and at eternity completely different. Then we will have Thanksgiving 365 days a year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Recommend Deception

I love discovering a new author to read. Randy Alcorn isn't new, but he is to me, and I need to thank David Judd for bringing me the above book to read. I generally prefer for someone to just recommend a book. When they hand it to you, you feel a greater obligation to make sure you read it. As it happened, I was just finishing up reading through The Shack for the second time so I could mark it up, and I was ready for another night time book. I immediately enjoyed Alcorn's writing style, and I especially loved his main character in the book, who is telling the story. His sarcasm, comedic cynicism, and quick wit are a joy to read. Those of you who enjoy such things, and see yourselves being described in like manner, will love this. It is one of the best murder mysteries I've ever read, and it all involves cops - at least one of whom seems to be the killer (I don't want to give anything away). It has all the excitement, turns and twists, of a Grisham novel, with the humorous flow of a Nelson DeMille work like The Gold Coast. There is a nicely done sub-plot of his friends talking to him about God, Jesus, the problem of pain and suffering, and some interesting comments from loved ones watching from heaven. It's not heavy discussions, but just an ongoing friend to friend debate, and concern for his emotional and psychological well-being as he blames God for taking his wife and others. He is a riveting character. Part redneck, part scholar, lover of dime detective novels and Sherlock Holmes. His family consists of a huge dog that eats everything he eats, and a large collection of firearms that he has stashed everywhere. You've never read a murder mystery with as many unexpected twists, potential suspects, and pure surprises at this. It's a wonderful page-turner, beautifully written, with clean language, no sex scenes, and some interesting characters that you will want to know more about.

Deception follows two earlier novels that are about the two close friends the main character has in the book. I can't wait to get them. So check it out of the library, buy a copy, or borrow this one from David. You'll love it. Just be ready to have a hard time putting it down.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's A Letter!

Did Paul know that he was writing down the Word of God when he wrote his letters? Could he possibly imagine that one day his letters, along with several others and four Gospels, would be compiled into THE DEFINITIVE MESSAGE OF GOD TO MAN? Maybe that's not important if God was the master designer behind everything, but still, did he think his letter to Corinth, or any of his letters, was anything more than a letter to a family of disciples to help them understand God's will better?

It seems to me that it would be of immeasurable help for any student of the Word to remember that there is a huge difference in writing a letter and writing a document for the express purpose of being studied. Can you imagine a group of people minutely dissecting one of your letters to find hidden truths, implied meanings, and applicable examples to follow? It's a letter! Because it was a letter, there was no need to explain things THEY mutually understood and knew about. Because it was a letter, from people who had an on-going relationship, they knew why he said what he said, and maybe more important, the tone and the love with which he said it. They had a history, and there was no need to clarify, explain, and update readers he/they never expected to read it.

At the very least, as students and honest interpreters of the Word, we need to remember two things. One, don't waste time speculating about stuff we can't and never will know! 1 Corinthians is an excellent illustration of this, with all the division, spiritual gifts abuse, and failure to consistently grow in love for one another - they knew everything Paul was talking about - including their agape meals, their women prophets, and the self-centered tongues speakers. They knew who was messing with their heads about the resurrection. So why are so many so attracted to arguing and trying to figure out what Paul was talking about with these things? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on.

And the second thing, quit looking for patterns to follow. With so much information not being given - because it's a letter - how can we possibly believe that the Holy Spirit was trying to give us a "pattern to follow" to be "faithful Christians"? Since when did God make His will known to His followers by requiring them to discern the hidden pattern and assume it is synonymous with His will/plan? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on!

Again, what irony? Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians to get them to focus on the truly important things and quit getting distracted with stuff that - either isn't as important, or is simply a tool to help them stay focused! And even then, they weren't using the tool for what God intented. So what's his message? Focus on Jesus! Focus on growing in love! Yet, what do with do that that very letter? Argue about the details. It's probably the most fought over battle ground in the Bible. It's a letter! A love letter! Learn the principle and move on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Three Cheers for Dad

About 15 to 20 of us have been meeting on Wednesday morning at 5:30 A.M. for a special men's class. It's call the Men's Fraternity and the subject is "The Quest For Authentic Manhood". It has really been interesting and thought provoking. The DVD teacher is Robert Lewis, a minister and author out of Little Rock, and he has some quality material that every man needs to hear - especially young fathers. He has been sharing some challenging material lately about father and son relationships, mostly from the angle of how adult men carry around a lot of baggage, wounds, and bad habits from our fathers. Not everyone - since many did have great dads, but a lot of us didn't - or maybe had no dad around at all. He's called for a lot of soul-searching and for men to work through any of the things that hinder us from being great dads and husbands. At my age, with grown kids, and having worked through all my baggage many many years ago, I truly don't feel any sense of "being wounded" or cheated or being the victim of a poor role model. God used my experiences to mold me into the person I am today and it took both the good and the bad. I made a conscious decision about what kind of dad I was going to be after seeing some pretty amazing dad's in action. I might not have made the same decisions if I'd had a bad role model around to copy when I was a kid.
Most of my reflection in the class has to do with what kind of dad I WAS not what kind of dad I missed out on. Dr. Lewis has been strongly making the point that there are three essential things that every child needs to hear from their dad. 1) I love you; 2) I'm proud of you; and 3) You're good at... (some strength or affirmation). I love tight - three point lessons, but this is one I learned before our first child was born. Our children heard all three of these often from both of us, and the truth is, we've never stopped saying it - we've just added grand children to the mix.
So maybe, when my three adult kids sit in a class some day and are challenged to confront their "Father Wounds" - they'll feel free to reflect on something else, unless you count making them listen to "Oldies" music all the time as psychological abuse.
If you haven't heard of those three "essentials" for every child to hear from their dad, jot them down somewhere and use them - and share them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bottom Line

Several years ago, I stuck a sticky-note on my computer that said, "So What?". It was a reminder note that my sermons need to have a clear point, a specific purpose, and a challenge for us to change. I began adding a line on the final draft of my sermon outline, just under the title and before the Introduction that says "Bottom Line". I force myself to write a one sentence summary of the lesson. This helps me stay focused on the "So What" of my lesson and also keeps me true to my goals of being simple, logical, and biblical.
In tomorrows lesson on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, where Paul warns them about idleness and how to deal with brethren who are guilty, I was impressed with his unspoken Bottom Line. I wonder if it was on Paul's outline somewhere. The reason it's unspoken is because it's the foundation Bottom Line for most of what our spiritual journey is all about. Be a giver not a taker.
Those who were idle at Thessalonica, or anywhere for that matter, are takers. They want everyone else to take care of their needs, make them feel good, give them what they want, sing their kind of songs, pay for all the costs, and demand nothing in return. They probably even used some doctrinal arguments about the Lord coming back at any moment to justify their non-actions.
Look at that description again. Not only does that describe a lot of folks in the church today, but because of our obsession with, and elevation of, the assembly, it's why so many congregations are having worship wars all across the country. When you put a bunch of takers together, the goal becomes comfort, predictability, and security. They don't want to hear about relationships, giving, love, truth, and transformation. Their Bottom Line: "If I don't get what I want, I'll find a place that will give me what I want. And I can even quote you some verses from the Bible to prove my point!"
Paul's command to the church was to quit enabling those idle brethren. If they don't work, they don't eat! I think his Bottom Line was - do what you have to do to help them go from being takers to becoming givers.
I many congregations are run by the takers rather than the givers? Givers see opportunities to give. Takers are all about receiving. Remember which one Jesus said was "blessed"?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ramblings On Politics

A passage that has always been very interesting to me is 1 Timothy 2:1-3. Paul said, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior..." We don't reflect much on what this tells us about our relationship as followers of God to our government. How is it that God could want those early Christians to pray for an evil, totalitarian, repressive, blood-thirsty, ungodly, and idolatrous government? Why not call on His people to rebel and revolt and overthrow Rome so a good and virtuous form of government, like the one we have, could be installed? Maybe it's as simple as what I keep hearing Jesus say, "My kingdom is not of this world."

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. The blessing of living in a free country is wonderful - but unique. Very few people, past and present, have been part of a true democracy. We are blessed to be able to vote and choose our leaders, who will in turn, pass the kind of legislation that we want. Our constitution says that we have that right. But that's a privilege those early Christians couldn't even fathom. I believe that I have a responsibility to obey my government, fight and defend it, and do what I can to keep our rights and privileges as a citizen of this great country. I can and should try to change it in whatever ways I have the right to change it - to make it better. But my kingdom is not of this world. Those early brethren prayed for a government that persecuted Christians, enslaved millions, and was wicked to the core. Should I pray for a government that won't protect the unborn, that promotes immorality, ignores spiritual values, and uses my taxes for things I don't support or believe in? Yes. What if I were born in communist China? What if my country's leader was a wicked despot? What if my country was killing Christians, like is happening in Africa? Yes - I would pray for it.

We have to look to God for our values, not our government. We must do our duty as submissive citizens, but we must first, last, and always be citizens of heaven. We must be thankful for our rights, but not confuse them with righteousness. That's exactly the battle our country is fighting right now. Our constitution, our legislature, and our courts are charged with protecting our rights, but our rights may not always have anything to do with righteousness. Where in the Bible would you go to prove that we have "inalienable rights... to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"? I love it, but these, according the the New Testament, only have real meaning and fulfillment in Jesus.

So what am I saying? 1) Be thankful to be in such a wonderful country; 2) Be a good, responsible, and submissive citizen; but, 3) Don't be surprised when your government allows things that your belief system abhors. Remember, rights and righteousness are not the same thing, and will, inevitably be in conflict with one another.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Be Still My Heart!

I started bowhunting in 1979. I can't begin to guess how many days hunting I've had since then. One of the things that always made me sad was to come home to my family, tired, but exhilarated from a day in the woods, and have them ask, "Did you get anything?" And of course the answer was usually "No." I've told many people on many occasions that bowhunting is about the experience - if you HAVE to bring home some meat for the freezer, take a gun. Most people don't get it because most of life's endeavors involve some type of achievement before it has meaning. This morning illustrates my point.
It was a cold, but still, 27 degrees when I began walking to my stand. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful morning even though it was still dark. I did, however, make a big mistake by hiking with my heavy coat and coveralls on instead of carrying them to the stand and then putting them on. I was dripping with sweat by the time I climbed into my stand and that's a good way to insure getting cold real quick. Within thirty minutes, I was cool, but a little buck coming down the hill to my left got the blood pumping again and it never had a chance to slow down. He was a little 1x2 and he ate down the hill on my left, stopping for long minutes to look all around, circled below me, grazed off to my right, only to reappear a few minutes later and come up the hill on my right. Thirty minutes of close deer watching and I wasn't busted. Ten minutes later, a small spike came up the hill on my left - oh so slowly - and just stood ten yards away looking all around. Another fun watch w/o being seen. I was spoiled by then so when 45 minutes went by with no sightings, I decided to try some "hunting stuff". I used my doe bleat and grunt tube to simulate a buck chasing a doe in heat. I barely put it back into my back pack when the BIG BOY came trotting in. I mean big! Not a "nice buck" like you say about a good 8 or ten pointer. This guy was "nice" like Bill Gates "has some money". He was standing 45 yards away before I could react. I grabbed my bow, though I wanted desperately to use my binoculars, but I didn't dare. He stood tall and proud, looking all around for the noise makers, and when he didn't see them, he immediately turned and trotted away. That's how big bucks get to be big bucks. He knew that if he didn't see what he thought he heard, something was wrong.
BE STILL MY HEART! He was the kind of buck you dream about but never see live in your life time.
Two more little bucks entertained me for awhile after that. A really tiny spike and a little 7 pointer, both stood ten yards away eyeing all around - including my tree and - in 15 minutes - never saw me. I literally had my left hand up over my face to break up the white showing between my nose and hat. Later, when I hiked out, I found over a dozen fresh buck rubs. Ah - what works of art.
Before I got out of my car as I pulled into my garage, the IL landowner called me to tell me he saw a huge buck run through the field behind his house at 12:30 in the afternoon. In the house, there was a phone message from Danny Younger saying he had a huge 8 pointer standing in his driveway when he came home for lunch.
"Did you get anything?"
A day in God's outdoors and loads of memories? Yes, I got something.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Happy Genes

With Donna down visiting her folks, after finding out that her Dad's cancer has returned, this picture made me think about her. I miss seeing her at this computer playing her favorite game - Solitaire. I know that they are glad to have her there for a few days, but that is one of the things that makes Donna so special. Everyone likes to have her around. I've known a lot of people in my fifty-seven years, but I know no one who is as genuinely positive and chronically happy as Donna Sue Root. A big part of that comes from her genes. So, while I pray for her to have a safe trip and to return soon, I continue to pray for her parents. I couldn't have had better in-laws if I'd picked them out of a catalogue. They are dearly loved by children, grand children, and great grand children, and all of us who came into the family after a marriage ceremony. I've been blessed so much to be part of the Curtis family for nearly thirty-six years now - and God "aint done yet"!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reflecting On Obama

I liked Barack Obama from the first time I heard about him and heard him speak four years ago. I even agree with several of his political ideas for the country. But, as I mentioned a few blogs back, I can't in good conscience vote for anyone who is not interested in protecting the lives of the unborn. That having been said, I'm still excited about our new President elect. I never liked and I reject all the fear-mongering that has been flooding my emails and being spoken by many who think anyone new is going to cause our country, our constitution, and our rights to be discarded. I'm excited that so many seem to be energized by him and have a sense of hope about the future. Anything that restores some good feelings about our government, especially our executive branch, has got to help. I'm excited about having some new thinking, some young thinking, in our leadership. It brings back good feelings to think of kids in the White House again, and having a good, healthy family for so many to see and emulate. I'm excited to have someone sharp and articulate as my leader who can handle interviews and spontaneous questions, and look cool and calm while doing it. And I'm especially proud to see anything happen that destroys those racial barriers that have been ugly scars on our America the beautiful.
He will be my President - not a party leader, but my President! And I wish him success, because I want our country to have success. I will pray for him, like I have for every one of my Presidents since I started praying. I pray that as he helps to build national and international pride in America, he will help our nation rebuild a strong sense of values and integrity.
I am thankful for President Bush. I truly believe that he is a good man and that history will show him to be a far more effective President than the popular polls do now. I personally believe that his biggest mistake was poor public relations more than poor leadership. Nevertheless, if Obama can help heal our nation and unite the divisive partisanship that has been growing for twenty years - may God help and bless him, and may all of us support him.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Control Nut Test

I thought this was an appropriate election day picture. I took it last week when two trees across the street were so full of color. I was only going to take the one picture below, but as I stood there, I saw the Stars and Stripes blowing behind it and I decided to take this. The picture below shows the location a little better. The two bare trees are the ones I usually take pictures of as they've been bright yellow every year, but this year, our first non dry Fall, they just turned brownish yellow and fell off. The next neighbor over had the pretty trees this year. I wish we had some trees in our yard - but then again - we have a pond.
My family would have enjoyed my comments Sunday morning about why we like to control our future by planning and being time conscious. Some of us are a little more OCD than others. Like I said Sunday, I like to think of it as being more organized than others. Anyway, as per the previous blog, I though I'd share The Control Nut Test I came up with as part of my Introduction for my lesson Sunday.
Are You A Control Nut?
1. You're 30 minutes into a trip and you realize that you've left your watch at home. Would you...
A. Turn around immediately and go get it.
B. Tie your cell phone to your wrist and use it as a watch
C. It would never happen! It's impossible for you to go 30 minutes without checking your watch.
2. When you go on a vacation...
A. The only thing unplanned is the potty breaks
B. You never lose your sun glasses because they're always with your Day Timer
C. You take comfort in knowing that if you ever get stranded, you can always build a bond fire with all the maps, menus, and budget sheets you have with you.
3. When you go shopping for Christmas...
A. You prefer the "after Easter sale" over the 4th of July sale
B. Your shopping list is alphabetical, chronological, and interchangeable with birthdays and anniversaries
C. You think that clocks, watches, and egg timers are universally appropriate gifts for all ages
4. During the Sunday morning assembly (called church by some)...
A. Checking your watch is an "act of worship"
B. You've trained your stomach to growl at 11:30 (or whenever your assembly is supposed to end)
5. You may be a control nut if...
A. You plan to retire but fail to repent
B. You insure every possession but possess no salvation
C. You love to be known as a Christian, but you don't do anything to love Christians
D. You find it impossible to believe that Jesus will return before you decide to Be Real!
The real problem with being a control nut, is that we are trusting ourselves more than we are God. Maybe that's part of the freedom He wants us to have. Free from trying to think we are in control of anything.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

If It Fits...

Conspiracies are exciting, truth is mundane. At least that seems to be the way most of us think. It's much more exhilarating to think of a CIA conspiracy behind the JFK assassination than to think one crazed "nobody" was able to kill the most powerful man in the world. The examples are endless, but I can't help but wonder if the same mental tendencies that causes so many to love conspiracy theories isn't the same as what causes so many to focus so much of their spiritual energy on Revelation, prophecy, and any apocalyptic sections of the Bible? Simple explanations just don't work, because it's more exciting to speculate, wonder, read-between-the-lines, and play theological detective than it is to admit that we don't - and can't - fully understand the meaning of something that involved symbols and language that only contemporary Christians understood.
I've been studying 2 Thessalonians 2 all week and trying to decide how to preach it Sunday morning. This is one of the toughest passages in all the New Testament to understand. It talks about the Second Coming not happening until after the great rebellion or apostasy and it has a long condemnation of the "man of lawlessness" Who is, or was, that guy? The opinions are Legion, and there's more comparisons there than I have time to make. I've heard plenty of Bible teachers (especially from my early years as a young Christian) declare that it was the Pope. Others say it was a Caesar, or all of them. There are many ideas - most, like the way Revelation is interpreted, are conclusions based on the "it fits" approach to figuring out the Bible. It fits? How many JFK theories are based on "It fits"?
Paul clearly says this was a subject they had talked about when he was with them. Since it's a personal letter to the same people, there is no need to explain who and what he is talking about. So here's a novel theory - we don't know! Why is that so hard for us to live with? This speaks to how and why we study God's Word. It's not about figuring out puzzles but seeking the spiritual principles. Paul's principle is: quit trying to be in control of the future. Trust God! I've got four education degrees and thirty-five years of preaching/teaching/studying experience and I'm totally comfortable saying "I don't know." It sure makes for a short discussion of Revelation, Ezekiel, and 2 Thessalonians 2.
That being said - the "Man of Sin," the "Man of Lawlessness," and the "Anti-Christ" is Darth Vader. It fits.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And Now Presenting...

I presented the next Bible Action musical at our Homecoming two weeks ago because we had a lot of visitors and I wanted them to make plans to come back for the play. So here it is! I actually decided on the subject and title long before I found out that the new Transformers movie is coming out in the Summer of '09. Oops - what a fortuitous coincidence - or providence? Our June 4-7 musical will begin with the martyrdom of Steven, which introduced the coat-carrier Saul and will take the story through his conversion and his beginning life as an apostle. I have seventeen pieces of music already picked out and all the lyrics that need to be rewritten are already rewritten. I started in July, in my spare thinking time, to collect ideas for music. The list was long, but I finalized the 17 by the end of September and I've been listening to them over and over throughout October. Folks are surprised at how early I start on this, but you need to remember that 1) it's a fun hobby done in my spare time, of which there isn't just tons of, and 2) there are loads of things that have to be figured out LONG before I start writing the script. November starts day after tomorrow and I need to write the script in December. That leaves early January for rewrites and changes, it's introduced to all interested parties the last Sunday in January, casting is mid February, and the first read-through with the cast is the third Sunday in February. Rehearsals begin March 4th. I'm not early, just avoiding a crunch later on. Plus, I want it to be good, fun, and true to our desire to glorify God by telling a story from His Word. I can't wait to share the music with everyone! We have a few more praise songs, since it's a New Testament story, and some great Broadway and R&R songs with lyrics apropos to the story.

Mark you calenders and plan to be with us for one or more nights of the play. Watch Saul become Transformed into the great apostle Paul - do-da-do-da!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stages of Maturity in Prayer

I don't usually put things from my Sunday morning lesson on my blog, but I thought that some of you would enjoy reflecting on the topic of prayer a little bit. The Seven Stages of Prayer Maturity is something I put together as an introduction to 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, where Paul talked about what he was praying for. I led into it with the statement, that "our prayer life reveals our relationship with God." Since there is no relationship w/o communication, doesn't that mean that there is no relationship with God without prayer? So where are you in your prayer life? The following represents the transition from external prayer practices to intimate communing with the Father.
If you've played the game, you know that this is acting. It basically means that prayer is really non-existent, but you know all the signs, motions, symbols, and things to do to be seen of men. It's all about playing the part.

This is when prayer becomes a law or ritual of faith, that must be obeyed - performed. Still, prayer is only for church times or official gatherings. After all, God only attends official functions.

Calling God only during emergencies - when all else fails! There is no communication, just reaching out to the great Santa in the skies when you need a miracle. How odd to demand a miracle without a relationship!

This is a little better communication with God, at least enough to feel like it's okay to start bargaining with Him. After all, don't you have a better idea about how things should happen in your life? So you bargain good behaviour or righteousness. His offer is already on the table.

You know Him and talk to Him some, but you know it's not a real relationship. So your prayers are all an effort to get the "check list" done and escape guilt. It's staying in touch - just in case He's real.

God never intended for you to be alone. Once you realize that this maturing stuff is a togetherness journey, and you start building loving relationships with others who want to know Him better - you learn how to pray - the importance of communicating with a real Father, and you grow with fellow warriors who help you and you help them. It's called church - the real one.

This is when you realize that you have an ever present Father, a loving Dad and friend you can talk to anywhere, any time, and for any reason. You have an intimate relationship with a real God and a real Savior.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Real Men Do Cry

After writing my last blog I got to thinking about things that nearly always make me teary eyed. The list could be really long, but there are a few general themes that I can easily detect. What would be on your list?
Some things that nearly always makes me teary eyed are...
1. Seeing unapologetic but humble passion for God.
2. Amazing Grace being played on a bagpipe.
3. The closing scenes of Saving Private Ryan - "Did I earn it?"
4. Hearing or reading how much some one in my family loves God.
5. The Shack (I can't wait to skip stones with Jesus.)
6. Singing Faithful Love and remembering my grandson singing it at Pepperdine.
7. Military funerals with Taps playing in the background.
8. Loyalty from friends.
9. Hearing my grandchildren pray.
10. A ten-point buck just out of bow range.

* Getting to say "Happy Birthday" to the love of my life one more time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Little S & R Talk

Drinkers don't die of cirrhosis of the liver because of a few months of alcohol addiction. It's the accumulative effect of years of abuse. Smokers don't get lung cancer or emphysema from experimenting, but from decades of addiction to the drug called nicotine. Overweight folks don't keel over from a heart attack just because they're overweight, otherwise we'd have children dropping dead all over the country. It's the effect that it has on the body over a period of time that eventually catches up with you. AND IT ALWAYS DOES - IT'S JUST A MATTER OF WHEN!
These are classic sowing and reaping examples. But as I get older, I see the effect of accumulated poor decisions as a much broader thing than chemical or culinary abuse. What you sow through the years WILL eventually be reaped in your older years - the years that should be the most enjoyable, giving, wise, and thankful years of our lives. I have said on many occasions that I don't want to grow up and become a grumpy old man. I use to wonder how and why anyone could let that happen! I know how and I know why. It's from a lifetime of being negative, critical, selfish, and therefore, unhappy. There are no instant grouches, only self-made men and women who missed out on where joy in life comes from. It comes from giving. It comes from loving and being loved by people that God put in your life. When you realize that early enough, and you sow thankfulness and loving relationships, you reap a peace and joy in later years that your career, the shiny things, and the praise of man can never give you.
When you see a man or woman who has been around for over five, six, seven, or more decades, who can't even talk about how special their family and friends are without getting choked up and teary eyed, don't think of them as blubbery, maudlin, old folks living in the past. The truth is just the opposite. They are blessed in the present and thankful in their hearts that God helped them see what really counts in life - so now they can face the future - even if that future may not be much longer.
I've been in the same room with Grumpy and Happy. Not Snow White's mini-men, but brothers in Christ, who were reaping what they had sown in the earlier years of their lives. What are you sowing? Are you interested in lung cancer, cirrhosis, or heart attack? You will reap what you sow. Are you interested in being a blessing to those around you, spreading joy and love, and living close to God because of a thankful heart? You will reap what you sow.
As for me, I don't apologize for blubbering when I try to talk about family and friends. God's goodness overwhelms me and I can't help but be touched by the fact that "He's especially fond of me."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Pack at the Park

We just finished a fun and exciting weekend that was full of family, friends, and food - all things we focus on a lot. At church, it was our Fiftieth Anniversary Homecoming, so we had events on both Saturday and Sunday, and it was a wonderful time of being grateful to God for what He has done in this place for five decades. But we also had Chad, Elizabeth, Carter, Ashlyn, and Curtis with us over the weekend too. They came up early (see previous blog) and stayed until Sunday afternoon before making the trek back to Music City. Saturday morning we all spent some fun time at the park, just up the road from our house. It was a gorgeous Fall morning and the kids, as you can see, just went from one climb to another. Ashlyn loved the climbing wall on the slide.
Carter loved the tree with so many branches that it wasn't hard to feel like Tarzan. He was pretty proud of his ability to climb "way up!"

This cute little guy was intrigued by the nuts and leaves that covered the ground. He was loving just pushing an old hickory nut around the padded play area. Don't you love that smile?

And of course, Nana, the ultimate kid-friendly grandma, got into a leaf tossing game with Carter and Ashlyn. It's amazing how the simple things mean so much to kids and are so easy to do. We are thankful for the wonderful visit with family and we can't wait to have everyone here for Thanksgiving - well almost everyone. Another Turkey Day without Jonathan and Holly, but, Lord willing, we will get to see them the first week of December down in Searcy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From TN to MO to IL Doe!

These are the days you live for as a bowhunter. All the pre-season scouting, sweating in Summer as you put stands up, and spending hours practicing with your bow so that you will be ready to make the important shot when it's time. Last night, my son-in-law Chad killed his first whitetail deer. It was a nice big healthy doe, which is the only kind of hunting tag he had, but it's the culmination of seven years of trying to get a deer with a bow. Of course, it must be understood that he hasn't be able to hunt many times each of those seven years, but he has tried and has had shots and missed. This time though, it all came together and I couldn't have been happier even if it had been me making the shot. He did a great job field dressing it by himself, and then we had a long drag out of the corn fields because we had to circle the field so we wouldn't wipe out a couple rows of corn. Congratulations Chad! There will be some wonderful back-strap at the Milom house in couple weeks. May this be the first of many successes in the hunting woods.
This is the scene from the stand I was in last night. It's actually Danny Youngers stand, but we share when the other one isn't there. This picture doesn't do justice to how beautiful it was. This is looking down hill, towards the valley road and you can see the other side where the valley goes up again. The trees are just starting to change colors and the temperature was about as shirt-sleeve comfortable as it can get. Chad was in my stand off to the left, in the upper corner of the field, and his deer dropped about thirty yards to the left of this picture, just ten field from the upper edge of the field. I heard her fall. It was a wonderful late afternoon and evening to be in the woods, or over a corn field. I'm thankful for Chad's success and thankful that I got to be part of it. Let's see...who's next? Jonathan, Pat...or will it be a grandson or grand-daughter?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Book Club Choice

I don't recommend a lot of books. In fact, The Shack is by far the only book I've recommended to anyone and everyone I get a chance to, because it's life-changing. It's challenging and healing and hopeful, and I love everything about it. Other than the Bible, in my opinion, if you only read one book in your life - I recommend The Shack.
That having been said, some friends of ours, while we were discussing The Shack, recommended to us two books by Anne Rice. Yes, the same Anne Rice of Vampire fame. She has had a conversion of sorts and has written two incredible books about Jesus that have really blessed me greatly. The first is Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt and covers the early years of Jesus' life in Egypt and goes with Him and His family as they return to Nazareth. The rich historical material makes it worth the read if there was nothing else, but there is so much more. It gives a sense of the culture and times of Jesus like nothing I've ever read. And then the story is picked up with Christ The Lord: Road To Cana, that covers the last couple years of Jesus' life prior to the wedding at Cana when He turned the water to wine. It's full of all the drama and discovery that you'd expect from a thirty something Jewish man in a small town who is unmarried and is known to be "sinless". It's incredibly fascinating. You will know why He went to that wedding, who was getting married, and why He performed the miracle. It's like reading another Gospel.
The cool part is that both books are in the first person. Yes, Jesus is telling the story. She does a marvelous job of being true to His character and His deity. Sure it's full of speculation and imagination. It's fiction, but you don't feel like it is as you read it. You will have mental pictures in your head about what it was like living in those times that you will never get from a Bible class or a sermon. Treat yourself to some fun and inspiration. I even enjoyed her explanation at the end of the first book for why she wrote it. She is a true apologist for the historical accuracy of the Gospels. Check it out of the library. I listened to the first book on CD's from the library and loved it. I read the second while hunting in Colorado and finished it much faster than I wanted. (Large print version helped)
Hope you're blessed by it like I was.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Last week I was reading through the book of Acts and I read a verse that I've read hundreds of times before - but this time it intrigued me, amazed me, and caused me to reflect on it for days. I mentioned it in my Wednesday night Bible class on 1 Corinthians and referred to it in the conclusion of my Sunday morning sermon. I still can't get it out of my head. Acts 4:32 is so familiar, I can usually quote it because I use it so much. "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." As incredible as that is with all it's love, unity, unselfishness, and focus on relationships, it's the next verse that has been rolling around in my heart for over a week. "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all." (vs.33)
There is a volume of stuff to think about just with the idea of testifying to the resurrection of Jesus. That's real witnessing! That's real sharing of the gospel - not correcting those who have a "worship style" doctrine that doesn't match ours! But again, the thing that intrigues me the most is that final phrase "and much grace was upon them all." What does that mean? Are there degrees of grace? How do people act who have "much grace" on them? Is there such a thing as too much grace? Are we missing out on something God wants us to have?
Here's what I think. The "much grace" that "was upon them all" is the joy and peace that comes from being fulling in tune with God. As I told my church family Sunday, they "got it." When you "get it" - understand what God wants and are seeking a deeper relationship with him - and when you sense his presence, his help, his strength, and trust his promise - YOU FEEL HIS GRACE LIKE NEVER BEFORE AND YOU CAN'T HELP BUT GIVE IT AWAY TO OTHERS!
I want it! I want his church to feel that! I want to see what happens when a family of God is awash in his grace, overwhelmed by his love, and driven to love one another in such a way that everyone will know that we are His disciples. Witnessing becomes explaining! Commitment becomes a way of life! Fear is replaced by love!
Can you imagine what would happen to a church where "much grace was upon them all"?

Friday, October 10, 2008

To Score or Not Two Score?

How's this for a "blast from the past"? This was, I believe, the Fall of 1974 when I was an Admissions Counsellor for Harding University. Those who where around back then - you're dating yourself - yes this is the old podium in the old auditorium. Love the leisure suit! Man, I miss those - like I miss the days of no air conditioning - never! This picture is on my desk to remind me that I once was skinny and I once had a lot of hair on top.
This is the oldest picture I know of that depicts me preaching. The reason I share it is because I remembered last night, while attending a funeral, that I preached my first sermon ever in October of 1968. That can't be forty years ago? Unfortunately, my usually suspect mathematical skills are correct this time. Forty years ago? Yes, when Cokes and candy bars where still a dime and movies cost under a dollar to attend. The little church was in Morvan, Georgia, about 45 minutes from Georgia Christian School where I lived in the dorm. My old friend Tony Black had to give me a ride to my first preaching appointment. I was scarred to death. Five minutes into my lesson, a little boy off to my right stood up, looked bug-eyed and pale, and then projectile vomited all over the pew and hard wood floor. I'm sure it was not a commentary on the quality of the preaching he was hearing at the time.
Back then, I still thought I would be a lawyer, or a psychologist, or a soldier. Becoming a preacher for the rest of my life was still something God hadn't revealed to me then. It took a lot of people encouraging me, giving me opportunities to speak, and probably some gracious lying about the undeveloped talent they were witnessing in me.
God has been incredibly good to me. I love how He was worked in my life. I love every blessing and every opportunity to learn - both good and bad. And, forty years later, I have absolutely no regrets about following His lead that took me through many things to place me where I am right now. If I don't get forty more hours, it's okay. It's all been good. Thank you Father!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Simple But Deep?

Simple but deep. How many things can be described that way? Childlike devotion? A clear, still, lake? A pithy saying? Maybe some other things fit the bill, if not literally, at least figuratively, but nothing fits it like the Word of God. When I was younger it overwhelmed me with it's information, puzzled me with it's symbolism, and frightened me with it's wondrous and eternal principles. It's been the Law, the weapon, the rod, the jigsaw puzzle, the bed time story, the proof, the resource material, the key to the executive wash room, the defense, the accuser, the crown, the smack down, the sip, the gulp, the feast, the workout, the spiritless, the Spirit led, the builder, the humbler, the light, the life, the voice of God, and finally the love letter. Through all that - it never changed - only I did. When I stopped looking for support for my doctrines and started looking for Jesus. It became a new book. When I quit piecing together passages and started listening to God's love, it became a new book. When I gave up seeking patterns and began seeking a relationship with God, it became a new book. Nothing improves your appreciation for the Bible like learning to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Now I see things that I never noticed before. Like how often the Bible talks about being thankful, and how much it challenges us to seek Him, and how His grace permeates every passage. When you're looking for what His Spirit is trying to say to you instead of pulling things out of context to back up your preconceived theology - it's the most simple, but deep book every to exist. When you think about it, is there anything that is MORE simple or MORE deep than love? The Word is the greatest love book ever read by man.
Isn't God good?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wild & Wonderful West Virginia

( Rehearsal on Friday evening)
I don't like being gone from my church family - period! I say that, but I feel like people don't really understand how MUCH I mean it. For the last fifteen years, I've had four Sunday's of vacation time and three Sunday's of speaking engagements - to be gone each year - as part of my agreement with my elders. I average being gone about 2 to 3 Sunday's a year. If it's not a chance to be with family or to go on a special hunt, I don't want to be away from my church family, because I love them and I love what I do. It's not my job it's my life. So - that having been said, when my niece, Megan Haugh called us and asked us if Donna could make her wedding cake and I could perform her wedding - we quickly said yes because she's family and "ya just have to take care of family." We are so proud of Megan and so thrilled that she found such a great guy like Zack -it made the decision a no-brainer!
It was a beautiful wedding in a beautiful place. It was at Deer Park Lodge in Buckhannon, WV about an hour plus south of Fairmont. The weather was perfect and the fall colors were just starting to touch the trees. We had a wonderful time being a part of the whole thing, and we wish them both God's blessings.
This is the point when they get to kiss for the first time as husband and wife. Somehow I don't think it was the first kiss.

This is the cake that Donna made. It's very different and unlike anything she'd ever been asked to make, but it turned out great. It's what Megan wanted and she was very pleased with it. I know that Donna had a hard time getting the brown the right shade of color. I didn't get to enjoy a piece of it because we left before they cut the cake - which they were doing at the end of dinner and other things. We wanted to get a few hours down the road on Saturday evening so that Sunday wouldn't be the full eleven hour trip. We left a little after 3:00 and got to Moorehead, Kentucky at about 7:00 and stopped for the night.
The best part of the trip was getting to see so many family and friends. The Haugh family has always had a special place in our heart. We've loved them and been close to them ever since Kathy (Donna's sister) married Kevin three decades ago (maybe longer). There have been holiday's, hunts, weddings, funerals, vacations, and loads of great memories. We are very happy that we could be a small part of the beginning of Megan and Zack's life together.
So now the only big question is how long is it gonna take to turn Zack into a bowhunter?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Take A Walk

Since we are leaving in the morning for WV, and I will be gone through Sunday morning, I actually had nothing to prepare for today except my 1 Corinthians class tonight. I considered going hunting since it's the opening day for IL bow season, but decided I didn't want to get up early the day before we were getting up early for the trip. Nevertheless, I drove up to our hunting spot, put a tree stand up for next week's hunt, and did a little scouting for deer sign. It's amazing how different the whole property looks from last January. The undergrowth is thick, the trees are full of leaves, and the bugs are swarming like July. Still, there is something very therapeutic about just walking through the woods. It's quiet, except for the birds chirping and the squirrels scurrying around, and the wild flowers just seem to pop with color. I sometimes wish I knew what kind of flower each one was, but then I realize that it wouldn't change their beauty or the way they bless me. When I walk through the woods I can't think of any of the things that seem to dominate my brain 24/7. I have to be alert, see everything, and absorb the untouched wonder of God's creation. Now, sitting still in a tree stand is a great place to think through problems, get ideas, talk to God, and even take notes in my journal. But not when I'm walking. I enjoy seeing the spider webs, spotting the game trails, and looking for any signs of travel, bedding, or feeding. It helps to have a slight coolness in the air too. I can't wait to see the fall colors this year. There certainly hasn't been any drought to hurt it, like there has been in the last three falls.

It will be next week before I can add to my blog page. By the time we get back, the cake Donna will make for the wedding of our niece will be eaten, I will have pronounce Megan and Zack "husband and wife", and we will have spent eleven hours in the van each way. I'll be ready for some serious quiet time in the woods, but I will be hunting not walking.

If you get a chance, take a walk in the woods. See if it doesn't do wonders for you.

Monday, September 29, 2008

All Kinds of Construction

As I write this, a friend from church is replacing our back door. Like most home improvement tasks, this one had complications too. The boards under the old back door where rotten from water leaks. Fortunately, it's only the front outer board that attaches to the floor supports. Anyway, he's an expert and he will "make things all new." I refuse to waste time thinking about the losses and the destruction some selfish kids brought upon our house. We've just had a wonderful weekend - full of answered prayers and things to praise God for.
We had a shepherd's retreat all day Saturday. All nineteen shepherds, along with Jerry and I, met to map out how we can best function as a leadership to get the job done at Florissant. We ended the day with everyone coming to our house for dinner and some special sharing time. (Yes, that's 42 for dinner. See previous blogs ref. finished basement. PTL!)
When I told friends that we were installing twelve additional elders, they grimaced and couldn't believe we'd do such a thing. When I explained that we installed shepherds not CEO's, they understood. I am so thrilled to work with this wonderful group of men. They are humble, people oriented, sensitive, loving, and passionate about helping people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. I am absolutely excited about what God is going to do through this wonderful group of spiritual leaders.
To those of you who read this and have sour feelings about past church leadership (or present), please be encouraged to know that there are men out there who just want to serve God and help his people grow. With nineteen godly men purposefully encouraging, guiding, and connecting with EVERY member - HOW CAN GREAT THINGS NOT HAPPEN? I can't wait to see what he's going to do! What I pray about for our church family more than anything else is that we will look for spiritual maturing - people growing in Jesus - and quit looking for the things that the world says is "church growth". With this many men and women, committed to changing lives, God will give the increase as more and more members develop a passion for being like Jesus and sharing him with others. After all, He is the Door!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hunting Wonders

As mentioned earlier, I don't believe in Murphy's Law. I don't even know if it's spelled with an "f" or a "ph" - and I don't care. It's a negative - pessimistic way to look at life. However, the belief that "what can go wrong will go wrong" is the heart & soul of defensive driving. Never assume the other person is going to do what they are supposed to do. That's why great drivers still have accidents.
That being said, I still can't help but wonder why so many things seem to consistently "go wrong" on a hunting trip. For instance, why did I KNOW that if I bought a "cow elk only" hunting tag, I'd be surrounded by giant bull elks? I wonder...
Here are some additional HUNTING WONDERS: (penned in my journal while in Colorado)
* Why do I glass the same rocks every year? (To the ignorant, mule deer have bright tan tails that show up long before the rest of the deer can be seen.)
* Why is there a bird that makes a call that sounds, especially while your walking, an awful lot like a cow elk mew? (You must stop, listen carefully, w/ heart racing, only to find out...)
* Why do cows (beef type) always see me when I'm totally camouflaged in a blind or stand?
* Why does the pond I'm hunting always seem to be a cow hang out?
* Why can't they make insulated underwear that disappears when you start climbing the first mountain of the morning?
* Why can't the herd of elk you're stalking all face the same direction?
* Why is there no strait trails through sage brush?
* Why does Nature have to call at 7:30 A.M. during an uphill dash to get ahead of some elk?
* Why do barbed wire gates shrink from the time you open them and when you close them?
* Why do I have more T-shirts with Meeker, Colorado on them then I do pictures of arrowed animals?
* Why so many whys?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whale of a Gift

Isn't this incredible? This is part of the several gifts the cast and crew of Jonah presented to me for being their "Dictator" for the play. It was commissioned to be done by the award winning wildlife artist Mike McKelvey. It's a wood carving, in case you couldn't tell because of the colors, and it's the logo from the play. It just came in last week and Jerry presented it to me before I got up to preach last Sunday. They had told me it was coming back when we had our cast party in June, the week after the play, but I had no idea how what an amazing piece of art it would be. It is so beautiful. This artist has won loads of awards for his carvings of fish, ducks, turkeys, and other critters, but I'll bet this was his first whale. I understand that it was especially hard because the logo was more cartoon oriented rather than real-life, but he did a marvelous job. Needless to say, I am very humbled and thankful. The greatest joy of the whole experience - creating, writing, casting, set design, directing, etc., is just getting to share so much with so many wonderful brothers and sisters. There is nothing like working hard with those you love, on a joint adventure, and seeing it blessed so much by God. I don't know how many of them read my blog, but if you're one of them, thanks again for the beautiful gift, and thanks again for being part of our attempt to share a story from God's Word. Have I said it enough? God is good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mountain Top Experience - Again

Can you believe this is a rest stop? It's smack in the middle of the Rockies on I-70 just before Vail. It was breath-taking and cold. At this point, Danny and I are about 2 to 3 hours from Meeker, CO and the start of our elk & mule deer hunt. This year I determined to buy a "cow elk only tag" because in the past, I've always purchased the "either sex" (bull or cow) tag, at a much higher price, and always got so fixed on hunting the bull elks that I didn't take shots at cows - and bring home some meat! I don't like to believe in Murphy's Law, but I do think it applies in defensive driving and in hunting. With my "cow only" tag, I was in the middle of six huge bulls - like I've never been before. One was the largest bull elk I've ever seen in twenty plus years of hunting this property. One (a huge 5x5) even stood at twenty-five yards broadside and never knew I was there. Temptation? Never - just amazement. Seconds later this large cow elk crossed in front of me at about fifteen yards. The shot was high and there was no blood trail, but it didn't matter since she dropped in her tracks just forty yards away - exactly where I'm holding her.

It doesn't look like it here, but she is huge. I couldn't even roll her over and begin the field dressing by myself. I had to go for help.

It took the three of us a long time to muscle her into the back of Darryl's Polaris. She was, I guess, about 400 pounds pre-field dressing. Praise the Lord, we have a freezer full of awesome meat. Elk is soooo much sweeter than venison and even has less fat per grams than venison - like I care!
This is for Kevin and Brian, who couldn't go with us. The ranch is still there, but - are you ready for this - Sleepy Cat has closed! Sad, I know, but Cary's Steakhouse is still there and it has awesome hamburgers.
Thank God for safe travel and a wonderful week in His special playground. Unfortunately, we came home to find out our house had be broken into, messed up, and several things stolen. Just stuff. I feel sad for the kids who did it. They're headed in a painful direction.
God is good and I'm thankful that we got to enjoy another great week of hunting and Donna got to spend some time with all the crew in Nashville.
Now - bow season is open in Missouri and it opens in IL next week. Life is good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On The Road Again

This is a picture from last years hunting trip to Colorado. Well, we leave in the morning for this years trip. Hopefully I'll have some new pictures with some critters on the ground, but like I tell most people, if you have to come home with meat, you shouldn't hunt with a bow and arrow. I love the challenge and I'd rather come home without something for the freezer than use any other kind of hunting weapon.
So, there won't be an blogs for the next week. Donna is with all our crew in Nashville, and I am envious even though I'm going hunting. We both are getting a break. I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun with my hunting buddy, Danny Younger, and spending some quiet time in a blind and/or stand. I get to do a lot of communing with my Father, and that's always good.
Keep us in your prayers. It's a seventeen hour road trip each way. God bless.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Special Moments

I didn't preach a normal sermon yesterday, but it was still one of the most exciting and encouraging Sunday mornings I've ever been part of. We spent the entire sermon time installing twelve additional shepherds and reaffirming the existing seven. All nineteen brothers accepted the charge to serve and to be examples of the Great Shepherd to each member of the Florissant family. The above picture is when the existing shepherds, minus Ken Fester attending his daughters wedding in California, where called to the front as we thanked God for sending us spiritual leaders past and present. These are all men that I love a respect and feel blessed to be able to work with.
This is the whole group. I shared some scriptures about shepherding and submitting to our shepherds, I read the Shepherds Covenant, and then read the Charge to the Shepherds - asking them to say "I do" if they accepted it. I then had the congregation stand and I read a charge to the Family and asked them to say "I do" if they accepted the charge. After that, we presented each shepherd with a basin and towel as a reminder that they are servants just as Jesus was. The basin and towels were delivered to them by someone they've served - like a spouse, child, or grandchild.

This is part of the group that delivered the basin and towel.

This was a total surprise to the shepherds and there were a lot of tears, smiles, and hugs.

I asked the congregation to come down and lay their hands on the men who will be laying hands on them in the future. I don't understand all the reasons why they did it in Bible times, but I believe there is something special about touching and praying as you call on God's help and guidance.
I am truly excited about what this can mean for us as a congregation. We now have the number of spiritual leaders to truly touch, mentor, and care for every individual in the family. Nineteen elders is not about increasing our number of decision makers but increasing our shepherding. We want everyone connected to the family - growing in love - and deepening their relationship with Jesus. Anything is just playing church. These are all wonderful brothers who represent a wonderful cross-section of our church family. Most of all, they really want to be servants. How can you keep good things from happening when you have those kind of leaders?
God is good!