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.