Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Postponed Father

I can't remember who said it, but I like it. "The older I get, the smarter my Dad becomes." That wasn't a comment on his Dad's aging, but one his own maturing. I never got to experience that as a son, but I think I'm getting to experience it as a Dad - with adult kids. I think every parent goes through moments where they can't wait for their children to get older - move on to the next level of growing up. You can't wait for them to walk, talk, dress themselves, turn on the TV without waking you up on Saturday morning, fix their own cereal, go to school, catch and throw a ball, sit still in a restaurant, and so on and so on. Hopefully, most of the time, you simply enjoy who they are and where they are in life, and at times, even find yourself wishing they could stay like they are for ever - until it's diaper changing time again.
I wonder how God, our great Father who gave us life, looks at us through out our life. I can see Him smiling at my crazy antics as I learn painful lessons about what not to do in life. I can see Him enjoying me, each day, and never being anxious for me to "move on" to the next stage. But I can also see Him wanting me to want Him. Waiting patiently for me to realize what an awesome Father He is - smart, loving, totally trustworthy, and totally on my side. I can see His hurt as I stumble along being distracted by selfishness, sin, seeking the approval of people, and worshipping a career as if it was going to matter in fifty years.
Is He a "postponed Father" to me? A Father I put off appreciating, respecting, and truly loving while I, like Solomon, gave myself over to the pleasures of this world? No, like a Dad, He was always there, and I always knew it. I would occasionally drop Him a line and acknowledge His existence - knowing that someday, I would need to give serious thought to how much I really wanted to draw close to Him.
I did. I grew up spiritually. And you know what? I'm amazed at how much He loved me - in spite of me. He never gave up on me and He never stopped cheering for me from the sidelines of my busy life. He patiently waited for me to grow up. He is not a postponed Father any longer. Yes, the older I get, the smarter my Dad has been.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Curtis Reunion

It's good to be back home after being out for a week. The retreat we attended was awesome. Good friends, great lessons & singing, and just a great time to renew our excitement about living for God. Then we went to the Curtis family reunion in Searcy. It was a short-quick trip, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving for St. Louis on Saturday afternoon after the reunion. It was wonderful to see all the family. We had a huge dinner at Donna's folks house on Friday and got to spend some time visiting with family. On Saturday, we had the official Curtis family reunion in the fellowship hall of the College Church of Christ. The picture above is us with Donna's Dad and Mom. Dean was look much better, but still has some cancer treatments ahead. Please join us by keeping them in your prayers.
Just in case you've wondered what the rest of Donna's immediate family looked like, here they are. Donna is the oldest (but still young) sister, and then next to her is Kathy, Carol, and in the back is Randy. One of my life's greatest blessings has been to be part of the Curtis family. I love them all and cherish the wonderful memories God had given us through the years.
Those of you who know what a hunting fanatic I am may wonder how it all got started. Not when I was a little kid - growing up int Washington, D.C., obviously, but when I started going rabbit hunting with Dean, back when I began dating Donna. Those were some great times that I will always treasure. May He give us many more reunions, but if not, we know there will be one that all of us will attend.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another Fish Story?

Several have asked me about our short fishing trip while in Alaska and I shared the fact that my brother-in-law Kevin caught a huge King Salmon. Of the five fisherman, only two caught fish, and Kevin's was clearly the largest. In fact, never even got to touch a fishing pole. But you know what? I was very happy for Kevin and it really didn't matter that all I was was a cheerleader. It was important and special to him and I'm truly thrilled that I got to share it with him.
Back in 1986, on our first bowhunting trip to Meeker, CO., we were all a bunch of newbies at the whole western game hunting thing. On the third full day of hunting, I dropped a huge mule deer buck with a 42 yard shot through the heart. There are a lot of memories that float around my brain about the trip, but right up there at the top is the excitement that Kevin showed over my success. He was ecstatic and doing more back-slapping than everyone else in the group put together. He was truly happy for me, and that made it a lot more special (because not everyone was that happy about it - but that's another story). He's always been a great encourager to have along on any hunting trip - or fishing trip.
So see! I wasn't' just telling another "fish story" and it really was huge! Congrats Kev!
We'll be at a retreat for the next few days in TN, and then at a family reunion in Arkansas, and plan to return home Saturday evening. There probably won't be much on this blog in the mean time.
God bless - and have I mentioned that you need to real The Shack?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Another Day?

We probably have it backwards. The older we get, the less we care about celebrating our birthdays. A couple years ago, we were traveling on my birthday and the day was two-thirds over before I remembered it was my birthday. Most of us just really don't want anyone to make a fuss over our birthday. After all, big birthday celebrations are for kids - right? I personally like to keep mine very low keyed. But, when I start thinking about how much I have to be thankful for, how incredible it is that God has blessed me with 57 years, and when I think about how many days that totals out to being - days that many never got to enjoy - maybe it should be a bigger deal. Not for others to celebrate my day of birth, but for me to thank God for all those opportunities to grow, learn more about Him, and enjoy all the wonders of life He has given me. I haven't deserved any of them, and I don't deserve, nor should I expect, the days yet to come. Each day is another day to celebrate loving relationships. That's why this birthday present from Deborah and Elizabeth (and their supportive husbands of course) is so special. They made me a photo album filled with pictures of everyone in our family, but especially with lots of pictures of all the grand kids. So when you come to our house, be ready to look at pictures.
Thanks kiddos. It was a very appropriate and thoughtful gift that truly helped me be thankful for 20,805 days that God has allowed me to enjoy. That was as of yesterday, my official birthday. This morning I'm up to 20,806. God is so good!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One More Time

Yes, I know I just did a blog about The Shack days ago, but there are still some of you that haven't read it yet. What are you waiting for? You can order it online for about ten dollars! It is a powerful book, a life-changing book, if you're heart is ready for it. I would go so far as to say that, other than the Word, if you only read one book this year, make it The Shack. I got copies for all our shepherds and their wives, for the staff, and I got a case of 30 from CBD (Christian Book Distributors) and had them available for sale last Sunday and everyone was purchased. (Actually, I did give two away.) A sister, whose family experience an incredible tragedy several years ago, told me that of all the books she's read since the tragedy, The Shack helped her more than any.
Let me warn you. It may rattle your notions about God and how he might appear if you got to visit with Him in person. I loved it. It shocked me at first, but then when I reflected on how William Young depicted God, it made total sense. Again, it will give you mental images that will stick in your heart and help you to draw closer to a personal God like nothing you've ever read.
I suspect that those folks who are drawn to law over love will have a difficult time accepting the images and the theology of this work of fiction. For those who are seeking the Spirit, it will touch you with challenges about forgiveness, judging, legalism, organized religion, and understanding how God works - well, like nothing I've ever read.
One more thought. If you haven't experienced serious tragedy in your life, you know you will. It's not whether but when! The Shack is one of the most comforting and encouraging books anyone could read whether it's for healing or for helping you get ready. One of the most powerful and life changing things anyone could do, in my opinion, would be to get a group of seekers together who have read this book, and discuss it chapter by chapter. I think you'll be surprised about how much we all need to adjust our theology.
Thanks Bill, but mostly, thanks Papa.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's Not My Fault!

This picture (thanks JV) just touched my "Ironic Button" since it reminded me of something I was sharing at Florissant just last night. I am constantly amazed how people don't want to take responsibility for their mistakes and their poor decisions. IT IS easier to blame the gun, the pencil, the car, or the spoon rather than own up to the fact that we not only do wrong things, but we like to rationalize away any guilt or liability.
Last night, at a special Summer class we're having on Sunday evenings, we looked at the subject of abortion. Not exactly one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Still, while I had no trouble jotting down some thoughts to share, I still did some on-line research to just bring myself up to date on the contemporary arguments both pro & con. Why do the Pro-choice people like to call themselves Pro-Choice instead of Pro-Death? Or why not be honest and say they're Pro-Abortion? Why form a nationwide policy based on the less than 1% of women who want/need an abortion based on rape or incest? Or the less than 3% that are based on the health risk of the mother? Even if a person isn't a believer in God, how do you totally disregard love, sacrifice, values, and unselfishness that are innate maternal qualities? The truth is, that most abortions truly are a matter of convenience. It's simply a way to end an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy, so nearly one and a half million lives a year get sacrificed on the altar of selfishness and are dismissed as a side issue to freedom of choice.
The reality is that people want to have irresponsible sex and then not be responsible for the consequences. I don't even want to think about how that might be said on the above T-shirt.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Magic House

"I've been framed!"
"And that's the way it was."
It's been great having Deborah, Joshua, and Caleb with us this week. It's always good to see family and spend time visiting all the St. Louis sights, and doing what we do best- eating. Yesterday, Nana took them to the Magic House. It's a wonderful hands-on experience that all our grand kids truly enjoy. I've only been there once and I was amazed at all the cool stuff there was to see and to interact with.
I'm glad they got to spend some time with us while Pat was out of the country on a mission effort. We are so proud of the wonderful way Pat and Deborah, and Elizabeth and Chad are raising our grand children. They are really super parents and I especially love the fact that God and Jesus are always part of their family activities. I can tell that my ability to relate to small children has gotten pretty rusty over the years, but you know what? I enjoy just watching them rip and run through the house and having so much energy and so much fun. I get tired just watching them. Today I was the delivery boy and brought MacDonald's to the park where Donna, Deborah and the boys were. We had a picnic and enjoyed lunch under a nice shade tree. I think the amount of time they actually stayed seated could be counted in seconds. The play ground was calling and there were places to run to - so lunch was wolfed down pretty quickly.
Every night when we ask God to take care of our loved ones, we also ask Him to let us be together soon. I suspect we'll be praying that prayer for a long time to come.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Missing Question

Last Sunday I asked my church family to update their spiritual resume. In fact, I asked them to totally rethink what needs to go on it. I gave a quick sample of mine, with decades of church and full-time ministry, with degrees and books, with baptisms, wedding, and funerals, etc., etc. After each pronouncement, I could hear God ask, "Great Mike, but who do you love and who loves you?"
I scares me that we have so misunderstood "church" for so long. When did it stop being a tool to use and become a goal to achieve? When did we start defining our faith by attendance rather than love? How can it be possible that we find ourselves trying to sell members on the priority of love when it's still the only thing Jesus said that shows the world that we belong to Him?
I heard about a congregation in another state who are trying to hire a church growth minister. Someone who will be able to examine their situation and tell them what they need to do to become a larger church. Which verse in the New Testament would you use to justify that purpose? Oh, don't hit me with that lame "We only care about numbers because it means more souls?" rationale that we've been using for decades. Jesus told us to "Beware of practicing your righteousness to be seen of men." It sure seems to me that our paradigm of church comes from a worldly need to impress others and ourselves, with our success.
When I say that I always hear the screams of those who say, "You mean we don't care about numbers anymore?" To them I say, let's start bringing people into a closer relationship with Jesus and then see what that does to our numbers. As long as our number one goal is having a "dynamic worship that attracts" and an education structure that doesn't build loving relationships, any numerical growth will simply be a temporary fad that makes the church a spiritual nursery school for members who love receiving more than they love one another.
When church leaders stand before God and He asks, "What did you do to help YOUR flock develop a deeper relationship with Jesus," what will they say? What will I say? What good is a church-going, money giving, ministry working body of Christians who aren't growing in love for one another and thus learning to love God and be like Him?
We need to rethink what belongs on our spiritual resumes. See yourself sitting on a beach with Jesus. It's early morning and you're roasting fresh fish over an open fire. You're struggling with doubt, fear, and guilt. You want to know what you can do to get your spiritual life on the right track. Jesus has only one question - even if He asks it several times. "Do you love me more than these?" THAT'S the single most important question every child of God must be asked and must honestly answer. What are we doing to make sure everyone answers it the way God wants it answered? THAT IS WHAT CHURCH IS ALL ABOUT!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Need to Read!

I have read many books in my life that have inspired me, challenged me, humbled me, and excited me, but it usually wasn't one book that did all of these and it certainly wasn't a work of fiction. I just want to encourage anyone who reads my blog to consider getting a copy of The Shack, by William Young, and reading it. You will want to share it with everyone you love. If I could afford it, I'd buy a copy for all my family and friends and give everyone a copy. I have discovered, however, that giving gifts of books does not guarantee it will be read. I've given away plenty of my books to family and friends who never read them. This is a book that will make you think and it will touch you like no other book. While it's a work of fiction, the insight into God - the Trinity - is incredible. It will bring you closer to God and give you an understanding of how He works, better than anything I've ever read. I really want to give a summery of the story, but I'd rather you be gripped and moved by every turn and surprise that you read in it.
I don't recommend a lot of books, but to all our friends and family, from Arkansas, to Virginia, to Texas, to Tennessee, to Florissant, and anywhere else, get this book and read it. It's in paperback at most Christian book stores. I'm going to see if I can purchase copies at bulk rates for my church family at Florissant. Let me know if you find a really good deal. I suspect I'm going to be thinking about this book for a long time.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Back from Vacation

We got back from our Alaska cruise Tuesday morning at about 7::30. Yes, it was an over night flight from Anchorage, via Detroit, to St. Louis, and yes, we both stayed awake the whole time. I never have been able to sleep on a plane. So between catching up on sleep and work, I haven't been able to do any blogging until this 4th of July morning. So HAPPY 4th!
We got to share part of the trip with Kevin & Kathy (Kathy is Donna's sister, brother-in-law Kevin is my long-time hunting buddy too). They flew to Detroit and then on to Pittsburgh. It was an incredible cruise. Like I've said before, it's the one cruise we chose to repeat because it's so beautiful. Princess is a wonderful cruise line, this was our fourth cruise with them, the food was amazing, and the ship was first class in every way. Still, the best part was the scenery. It's ALWAYS there and always beautiful. I did more glassing with my binoculars on this trip than I do when I hunt in Colorado. It's like traveling in a postcard.
This is three of the glaciers you'll see in College Fjord. The ship just parked in the middle of the bay and turned slow circles showing the glaciers on every side. The sun was shining and the water was smooth as glass. And this was the last evening of the trip which was wonderful every single day.

This picture was actually taken at about 10:00 P.M. I have a picture of my Micky watch at 10:00 as my hand blocked out the sunshine behind it. We introduced Kevin and Kathy to our favorite travel game - Fargle. It's great because all you need is six dice and it doesn't matter how many people are playing. You can also visit and enjoy fellowship while you play. Yes - it's not always about the competition. It was truly a blessing to spend time with Kevin and Kathy, all the crew from Florissant (past and present), and our great friends Bud and Betty from Nashville. We actually had 26 in our group and even had some visitors to our Sunday morning communion service in one of the ship's lounges. After the service, one visitor had a special prayer with Donna and me asking God to heal my voice problem. Never thought that would happen on a vacation cruise.