Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ten Points About Sharing

I haven't pulled my bow back in three months now and I'm getting a little anxious to get out in the woods and chase some critters around. The above picture of my '07 IL deer was taken by Danny Younger when he met me at the processing place. It was really nice to pull up there and have a good friend waiting to see what took me three months to get. The best part of hunting, for me, is the fellowship and sharing with good friends. I remember learning how important that was when I did a short Colorado hunt by myself back about eighteen years ago. We've been going to Meeker, CO since 1986, and we've had from two to five in our group every year. That year I went back for a two day hunt and it just wasn't fun at all. No one to report to after each hunt - and there is ALWAYS something to tell even if it's not about deer or elk- and no one to share meals with, the hunting cabin with, or to get you pumped up at 4:30 in the morning when it's cold, dark, and your eye lids are made out of concrete.
As I applied for my '08 mule deer tag for Colorado yesterday, I thought about all the guys I've shared that trip with through the years and all the fun we've had. My brother-in-law, Kevin has been the only one who has been part of it with me since that first one in '86. There's probably another dozen names I could list who have been part of the group at one time or another. Kevin's brother Brian has been there quite a few years since he started in about '90 or '91. And Danny went for his first trip last year. Yes, I'm thankful for the few times I've come home with something for the freezer, and yes, it's a blast now to play with ATV's on the fourteen thousand acres of private property we have access to, but the best part is the sharing with friends. That's really what hunting is all about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lessons From the Village Idiot?

I love to make fun of myself. I guess I learned a long time ago that people love to hear the preacher make fun of himself. If you can't laugh at yourself you will not survive in ministry. Everyone has a preacher joke and everyone loves to "put the preacher in his place" by sharing it - and the more public the better. One of the reasons I enjoy doing my own self "buffeting" is that I like to remind everyone who listens to me that we are all on the same journey. If I'm an expert on anything it's how badly I need grace. I've never tried to be perfect authority on anything and have found it helpful to occasionally be the village idiot. I certainly have very little to brag about, but a whole life-time of things to be thankful for. So yes, sometimes you can learn a lesson from the village idiot - especially one trying to stay close to the cross of Jesus.
When I wrote the first draft of my last blog and then published it, the title which now reads "Nana's Fridge" was "Nana's Frig". When I read my daughter's comments I immediate thought "Why of course!" and then "Man, I'm a terrible speller!" I am and always will be. Discovering computers and spell check in the mid-eighties was an incredible liberating moment in my life. I didn't have to be shackled by my fear of writing something that people would laugh at or ridicule, or worse - simply not "get"- because of misspelled words. And even with a firm reliance on spell check and my mini-dictionary that rests beside my computer, I have to say to myself, "How many times do I really misspell a word?" One in a hundred - or two hundred - or more sometimes? Do you know how good it feels to hit the spell check on this blog and have it come up and say "No Misspelled Words"? It happens a lot. I know the spelling rules, but I just can't remember how some words are spelled. It just doesn't stick in my head. Double consonants? Is it "ence" or "ance" - or, and I have no idea why, I can never remember if "occasion" has two "c's" or two "s's" or both. If I can't remember, I spell phonetically (like I say it) or with logic. If you'd have given me 100 chances to spell "fridge" I never would have gotten it right. I never connected it with "ridge" with a "d" and I knew it was a slang word for "refrigerator" so I assumed it just transcended the rules and the context made it work. I certainly know that "frig" is just "fig" with and "r" in it. It was a logical call for me - especially since spell check didn't correct it and my mini-dictionary didn't have it (of course, since it's spelled wrong it wouldn't). So what do you do but laugh? I just really hate it when my memory losses keep someone from getting the real message.
You have to remember, I've been writing for five decades. I have six published books and I write every day. It's not like these are new words for me. There is just some mental block that keeps me from remembering certain words. I change words while writing sometimes, just because I'm unsure of the spelling. I'd love to use more proper names (i.e. stars, athletes, politicians, etc.) but I can never spell their names right. I'm envious of all my family who are great spellers and can write anything without worrying about looking dumb. Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not whining or offering excuses. It's just me and the brain God gave me and I'm thankful for all of it. HOWEVER, it scares me to think how easy it would be to let fear keep me from doing something God called me to do! And how many others are not doing things God gave them the talent to do because they focus too much on their weaknesses and shortcomings? What are you not doing because you fear ridicule, failure, or revealing your foibles? Maybe by risking being the village idiot occasionally you might help someone else learn a powerful lesson that could change their life.
Think about that while I go see what's in the frig.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Nana's Fridge"

I was standing in the kitchen this morning, waiting for a second cup of coffee to brew before I descended into the basement to finish installing insulation in the walls, and I found myself staring at our refrigerator. It's just a typical frig like the one in most kitchens across the country, and yet, it's very different - very special. What makes it special is that it's "Nana's Fridge" - that's Donna for any of you who don't know her grandma name. Because it's Nana's Fridge, it's iconic to the Root family. It's were special pictures must be posted with magical magnets. Pictures of our children and grand children, of friends and their children and grand children. And of course, there must always be those amazing works of art that only little hands with crayons can make - where horses are blue and mice dance and lines become impossible to stay inside of. It's a great achievement to get your drawing placed on Nana's Fridge. It's not for just anyone. You have to have a sweet smile, an infectious giggle, and a pure heart. It's not required, but it's always the case - you have to think that Nana is the best thing since glazed doughnuts - and she is. Nana's Fridge hasn't always been Nana's Fridge. We bought it in 1990 when we moved to Texas. Back then, it was Mom's Fridge, and strangely enough, it pretty much looked the same then as it does now. Same kind of facial characteristics in the pictures, same kind of requirements to get posted, and the same kind of art work. And the best part of Nana/Mom's Fridge is that it always held wonderful things that she seemed to turn into the best food, the most fun, and the greatest memories. I am thankful for that and mostly I'm thankful for Nana. I am thankful for God's goodness and blessings, and of course, He is good whether or not life is good to us. I guess the reason I haven't paid a lot of attention to Nana's Fridge is because I'd much rather look at Nana.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Easter Irony

Between having some special time with visiting family this week and dealing with the fog of head cold/allergies or just Missouri Crud, I haven't been able to even think about doing a blog. (By the way, did you ever think about how incompatible a runny nose and a mustache are?) Nevertheless (love those big theological words) I have been thinking a lot about this Sunday's approaching sermon topic: Be Real: Am I passionate about unity. The challenge being - am I as passionate about it as Jesus was - since He's the one I want to be like. Yes, I'm talking about unity on Easter Sunday and I think it's the perfect lesson for such a day.
I've been amazed and somewhat troubled to think about how differently I would have preached his sermon twenty or thirty years ago. I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who would simply say that as "Old Root" has aged he's gotten liberal and started watering down the "pure Gospel". And maybe to such folks the "pure Gospel" means checking off the "five acts of worship" like it was done in 1950 in all faithful Churches of Christ nationwide. And those only count if you "obeyed the five steps of salvation". Don't even think about unity unless you are in full agreement with our formulas, steps, and patterns - not to mention a few hundred other potential battle lines that any rational student of the Bible can see drawn in the sand of truth.
I suspect that Paul, if he heard about all this, would feel like he was right back in the middle of his struggle with those brethren who were Judiazing teachers. Leave it to us to complicate God's plan. His will is simple - love Him and love others as we love ourselves. The Gospel? It's not a formula or some steps. It's Good News - remember? It's two words - HE'S ALIVE! Just look at what they said in Acts every time they had a chance to speak. GOD RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD! It's a fact! Since it's a fact - it means He is the Son of God and the ONLY name under heaven through which we can be saved!
The irony of Easter, as I see it, is that on one hand it's one of the most divisive days of the year, with more people in more churches emphasizing more divisions! Yet, on the other hand, it's a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus which is the foundation - the heart and soul - upon which all unity must be based. Yes, there are some serious differences, but I am so thankful that so many realize how important the Resurrection of Jesus is! Easter is a celebration of The Gospel, which is Jesus! Have you ever thought about what a powerful witness it is that hundreds of millions of people around the world are declaring the Resurrection of Jesus to be a FACT? None of us is totally right about everything, but most of us are right about the most important thing. Remember what Paul said? "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Yes, there may be more - but there's nothing if it doesn't start with His resurrection.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Brother Root?

Donna took this picture of me Saturday evening when I came home after doing a wedding. The only reason I share it is to show "some" of my good friends that I really do own a suit and I do wear one occasionally - weddings or funerals (I know there's a joke there somewhere). The real reason I share it is because of the combination of two things that may never be seen together again - or at least for a long time to come. My white beard (which, yes, I do keep trimmed short) and the wearing of a coat and tie. Unless someone dies, my next wedding ceremony is in October and my three month old beard is not long for this world (which isn't connected to someone dying - thank goodness). I've used it as my Be Real reminder since the first week of January, but to be real about it, I'm already tired of it. I plan to continue my series of lessons on Be Real (about being like Jesus) through May, but our adult classes on this subject will stop at the end of March. It has been one of the most spiritually enriching things I have ever done. It's all about being completely honest about how passionate we are about building a deeper relationship with God and becoming more like Jesus. It's about breaking free from ruts and routines. It's about stopping the pretending and playing church. I hope others have been blessed as much as I have. Anyway, when you hear someone say, "That Mike Root never wears a coat and tie," which I'm sure you hear daily, just guide them to my blog and show them that I still know how a real preacher is supposed to look. OOPS! I forgot to hold my Bible up for the picture!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Church PC

We had a lot of great songs in our musical last year, but the one I had the most fun writing the lyrics for was "I'm So PC" from West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty". If you saw the play, it was sung by Valerie McBain. In fact, she's singing my favorite set of lyrics again this year's musical. She's doing "Pirate School Drop Out" from the Grease number "Beauty School Drop Out." Anyway, I say that just to introduce my Top Ten. Every one's obsessed with being PC (politically correct, for those living in a cave) and it dawned on me that we've been doing that in church for decades. I've always said, especially regarding "change" and "new things", that it's not what you do but what you call it. So - here is my Top Ten Church PC Language.

If you are going to be Church PC, it must be:

1. Choreography not dancing (especially at any Christian University or school)

2. Chorus not choir (this is where it's good to ignore the OT)

3. Baptismal Practice not a pool party (this varies depending on how close you are to a large body of water or living in a hot area of the country)

4. Stretching! Not raising hands! (and don't rock)

5. Elders not bosses (church CEO is definitely out of the question)

6. Chronologically Challenged not "long winded"

7. Closing Prayer not "The dinner bell"

8. Opening Prayer not "Shut up and sit down!"

9. "Traditional" not immovable

"Progressive" not entertaining

"Liberal" not totally wrong

"Conservative" not dead

10. "Offering the invitation" not "The Song-book-shuffle"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Prayer That's On My Heart

Father, please put the best person in the White House. I feel so helpless to know who's right or best. Help me to rely on You, to trust in You, and to remember that Your Kingdom is not of this world. Father, I'm torn and confused. Do I side with the party that claims to have conservative values, but sometimes doesn't, or the party that claims to have compassion, but sometimes doesn't. Do I side with a party that is pro-choice as a platform, but has many who are pro-life, or a party that claims to be pro-life, but over half claim to be pro-choice. Do I listen to those who declare that one party is more righteous/Christian than the other, when both seem so godless at times? Father, I'd love to see a woman as President, but this one? I'd love to see a black, Christian man in the White House, but this one? I'd love to see a true hero lead our country, but this one?
Father, I don't want to be apathetic and I surely don't want to be cynical. Father, help me to be a good steward of all you've given me. You gave me life, you gave me an imperfect, but still the greatest country ever, and you gave me the opportunity to have a voice and a vote. But Father, my citizenship is not of this world. I am a stranger and an alien here. Help me to not be driven by self-interest or party interest, but by the spirit of Jesus. I know you'll guide me, and I know you'll still be in control no matter who is elected. Father, help us to show the world that no election is more important than your election - being added to your Kingdom. Thank you for listening. Thank you for answering.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Troubled Teens?

One of the saddest things to see in life is a young person who feels alone, rejected, or just isolated and misunderstood. Wait a second! Doesn't every child feel that at some point or points in their life? Of course they do - it's part of life - especially in those teen years. Why do some get over it like it was a brief virus while others seem to get trapped in it, overwhelmed by it, even to the point of being suicidal? I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm not even sure I can spell it right. I do know that the best way to overcome self-focus is to help others, give to others, and break the cycle of self-pity. As we teach our little children to have good manners, brush their teeth, and put a coin in the collection plate when it comes around - we need to teach them the joy of giving and helping others. Of course, if they don't see it in us they won't pay much attention to us. In a self-centered world with so much comfort, materialism, and unrestricted accumulation, if we don't learn to sacrifice and share we will be doomed to selfish misery and the pain of seeing our children fall into the same trap. "Trust Jesus" is not a motto or cliche' but the best parenting advice you'll ever get. He said, "It's more blessed to give then it is to receive." It's not just a nice truth but a fact of life. Don't you want your children to be blessed? It won't happen if we keep making sure that all they do is receive. You could be saving their life - not to mention their soul.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I Don't See No Stinkin' Pirates!

Let the rehearsals begin! These pics are from this past Thursday evening's rehearsal. We actually had a short rehearsal on Wednesday evening, but because of starting late and the usual announcement stuff, we're lucky to have 30 to 35 minutes of actual rehearsing. But Thursday was the real thing - two full hours of working on some of the 18 or 19 songs that will be in the musical this June. I am so thrilled with how well everyone did. I'm sure, with most of the 50 cast members being repeats, the confidence level is much higher sooner than it has been in the past, but they're doing really well. It also helps that most of our "group songs" are familiar to more people. I planned it that way because I want us on stage sooner so we can spent more time on choreography than we've been able to do with the last two productions. This is going to be fun, but we've got a ton of work to do to get everything ready for that opening night in June. Now, if Donna and her costume group can just come up with 50 different fish outfits for the belly of the whale scene...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Maybe The Last Snow This Year?

I thought you might enjoy seeing what a 12 inch snow looks like. I know, all you folks who live farther north are saying, "12 inches? That's nothing!" But for those of us who live in a part of the country where ALL four seasons are equally represented - it's a huge storm! It made the top five largest snow storms in St. Louis in March - and that was taking measurements at the airport where it was only 10 inches. We've seen bigger storms, especially in Northern Virginia.
Maybe the most amazing part of the whole experience was that it all fell between 9 A.M. and 3 P.M. Talk about a sudden dumping of snow! This is a foot of snow on one of our trash cans.

So, I was out scooping it up by four in the afternoon. Amazingly, just twenty-four hours later it was 46 degrees and the driveway and streets were clear and dry. I could have avoided the sore back I got from all the manual labor.

Another picture of our pond out back the morning after the storm and before the quick melt-down started. Just beyond the trees, in the next field, the fog was incredibly dense and the sun was shining through it. Wow! I love this spot. Now, if all our friends and family would just move to Florissant...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Winter Refections

As I look out of the windows of our house and see the heavy snow falling onto the seven inches of snow already on the ground, I am again impressed with it's beauty and it's ability to cover all the winter nastiness and grayness that still dominates our early March. Jesus makes my sinful heart look "whiter than snow" and that's even more beautiful than the landscape outside. But I'm also reminded about how quickly things change. Day before yesterday it was 78 degrees and we drove home from church with our car windows down! We had the windows of our house open and the ceiling fans running right up until we went to bed Sunday night. And now we're home on a Tuesday afternoon to keep from spending the night at the church office.

That's life. It's full of changes. Things can't stay comfortable, happy, and wonderfully healthy anymore than the weather can stay the same through four seasons. But life, like the St. Louis weather, no matter how bad or tough it gets - will change. With patience and trust and fortitude and people who love you, you can work through it and a season of blessed change will come. When God our Father and Jesus our brother are there to share, comfort, and encourage us, we not only "get through it" but we end up stronger, better, and closer to them. It's as much a part of growing up spiritually as growing out of our clothes is physically.

Think about that if you're having some relationship struggles in your family. One day they will be laughed at over a cup of coffee. Think of that if you're wondering when your child or children will ever move on to the next stage of maturity. They will, and you'll forget the worry that plagues you now. Think of that if you're worn out pinching pennies and robbing from Peter to pay Paul and listening too much to the nightly news. Some day you'll realize it was the wrong master anyway, and you'll be grateful that you're closer to the only One Master there can be.