Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Transcendental Consideration

There are things that are spiritually and theologically transcendent or superior to all other things. We all know, for instance, that love transcends all other spiritual goals. Jesus Himself call loving one another the greatest command, and God, from the very beginning, declared that loving Him, others, and self were inseparable and transcendent to all else. Love is both the goal and the key to a relationship with our heavenly Father. It's only to the extent that we know love that we know God because God is love.
Something else that transcends everything else is faith. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb.11:6) When you couple that with Ephesians 2:8, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith..." and it's clear that nothing happens in our relationship with God without faith. You can repent all you want, confess until your hoarse, and be baptized until you look like a prune, but if there isn't faith - it means nothing.
There may be something that even transcends faith and love. If the "want to" isn't there - if there is no desire to have a relationship with God - can there be faith and love? God calls it "seeking". Did you notice that pleasing faith is defined as "earnestly seek him"? An incredibly well-known verse hit me between the ears big-time the other day. In Paul's sermon on Mars Hill, in Acts 17, he introduced to the crowd "The God who made the world and everything in it" and pointed out that there is nothing that He needs from man - in terms of temples and altars. He, God, did it all! And why did He do it? What is He looking for? "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'" (vs.27-28)
Paul was telling this group of philosophers and thinkers that the first and foremost thing that God is interested in and looking for - the thing that transcends all other commands, demands, and requirements - is a heart that is seeking Him! The recognition of God existence, the awareness of His presence, and the seeking of a relationship with Him - MAKES GOD HAPPY!
If God is happy with a heart that is seeking Him - are you willing to put limits on how He chooses to give His love and grace? I just hope He's happy with me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Gifts

These are in reverse order, but it gives you a good idea of how our Christmas gift exchange went. It begins with dinner and then a total clean-up of the kitchen before anything starts. Then the kids, with the help of Nana and Pat, deliver the gifts to the appropriate persons and their chosen spot. We actually did the gift exchange with the kids first, then we went to the Christmas Eve Devo at the church building, and after we returned and put the kids to bed, all the adults had some prayer time before we exchanged our gifts. Both sections of the giving part took a long time because we do it one gift at a time, from youngest to oldest, so we all get to enjoy each gift. It was a lot of fun, as usual, and, as usual, we are all blessed far beyond what we deserve. On Christmas day, we got to use our new online video camera to talk with Jonathan and Holly for a while. It was almost like having them here.
I hope your Christmas was full of family fun and memories.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Promised Pictures

As per the last blog, my son-in-law Chad got our computer working better so that I could finally download some pictures. Yesterday we all went shopping at the Mall and had lunch together at Chevy's, a Mexican Restaurant. Unfortunately, Donna took the picture so she's not in it. This is the whole group, or at least parts of everyone in the whole group. It's hard to get that many people all looking at the camera at the same time.

This is our tree before the Big Opening this evening. Donna's gift from me was too big to keep in the box. That's her glider with the gold bow. Her gift to me was a large, rolling tool box that was also too big to be in a box or under the tree. It's in the garage waiting to be filled up with my tools.

Donna was very happy to try out her new gift. We're getting old and boring I guess. We both got gifts for each other that were very practical and we both had the other one help us pick them out. No big surprises, but we are both happy with what we gave and received. We can't wait to see how the kids all enjoy their gifts. God is good.
I'll post some more pictures of our Christmas in a day or two. Hope your Christmas time is wonderful.

Family & Food - Oh Yeah!

We have been incredibly busy enjoying family time with all seven of our grand children, our kids and spouses, and having Donna's mom with us. We really miss Jonathan and Holly, of course. One of these days we will ALL be here for a Christmas together. It's been five years since the last one. If I could spell all the words right, I'd love to write up a copy of the menu Donna has been preparing. Awesome food and too much eating, but hey, it's what we do best. My crazy computer isn't letting me down-load pictures right now, and that's another reason why I haven't had a new post, but I will try to get some pics on here as soon as it will let me. It's amazing how much these things run us!
In case I don't get to say later or your not blogging later - MERRY CHRISTMAS. I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends. God bless.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Working Nine-to-Five?

Being a couple weeks away from our fifth anniversary at Florissant, I've been reflecting on several things that make our ministry here so special. While it's a long way from being at the top of the list, one of the things I truly appreciate is not being defined AT ALL by an office. I love my office, and I love the people I get to work with. They are the greatest servants of God I've ever had the privilege of being in partnership with as we all try to do what God called us to do. Hey, I'm the Office Administrator and Staff Coordinator! I'm all about having an efficient, productive, supportive, and purpose driven office and ministry team, but - my job is not an office job it's a people job - it's a serve God wherever - whenever - 24/7 life! One of the saddest, most narrow minded, and worldly ways to limit, and even destroy a servant ministry, is to expect a highly trained, highly motivated, and adequately paid minister of the Gospel to sit in a church office just in case someone walks in and wants to talk to "the preacher." How can you expect someone to be available 24/7 and still require 9 to 5 office hours? I've already made the point that I'm not anti-office, I'm very pro-office, but it's a tool to use not the focus of the job. Office oriented thinking destroys creativity, sets artificial boundaries for productivity, and turns ministry into administrative paper-work rather than people work.
Sure, full-time ministry is a job where an unethical person can learn how to be seen, be heard, and be lazy the rest of the time, but that will be easily revealed over time. I never leave work - PERIOD! I never stop thinking, reviewing, taking notes, writing down ideas, and looking for ways to help people have a deeper relationship with Jesus. That's not bragging, that's my life. I don't sit in a tree stand hunting without working on ideas and plans for the future. I don't go on vacation without spending time studying, praying, and thinking about ways to be a better servant of God. Again, that's not bragging because I'm not saying I'm good at it. I'm just saying my job and my life are the same thing, and, Praise the Lord, I have a car, a home, an office, a cell phone, a laptop, and plenty of pens and notebooks in my tool box to help me do my job.
I am so thankful to be with a church family and to have shepherds who respect that. I still manage to put in from thirty to sixty hours in the office, depending on the need that week, but it's only part of what I do and where I do it. Preachers and elders - I wouldn't accept a ministry with a church that required set office hours. If you can't trust your minister to be about God's business you better not hire him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Special Night Out

This is where I took Donna last night for our 37th Wedding anniversary. We went to the one in Nashville many years ago and really enjoyed it, so when she mentioned something about wanting to go again, about a month ago, I filed it away and set up the surprise dinner last week. This one is in University City and is really nice inside.

I ordered a dozen roses for Donna to be sitting on the table when we arrived. It was a nice special touch for a special evening. After the "settling in" picture, we moved the roses off the table and proceeded to over-indulge. Hey, that's as good a way to celebrate 37 years as any, and it certainly isn't out of character for us. As per-usual for the Root family, while we ate, we talked about the potential menu for when all the family gets here next week. Doesn't everybody talk about the next meal while enjoying the one before them?
This is the third course of our meal - the main course - MEAT! We had all kinds of dips, batters, and seasonings to use on the steak, lobster, chicken, veggies, etc. that we cooked ourselves in the fondue pot. Awesome - and totally fat free and calorie free - I think.
The final course was a Chocolate, caramel, pecan mix to dip our fruits, cakes, and other sweet goodies in. I thought I was beyond another bite after the main course, but we found our "second wind" and devoured pretty much all the dessert.
I completely forgot that I had to give blood for a lab test this morning. While I obeyed the rule to not eat after midnight last night, I have a feeling that my stomach was still full when they stuck me at 8:00 this morning. Oh well, I'm already taking pills for that. What good are they if I can't enjoy a 37th anniversary dinner with the one who still owns my heart.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Musical 2009

Here are some pictures from last night's Children's Christmas Musical. It was cute to the bone! Donna and her helpers did a wonderful job of putting it all together. It was the result of several months of preparation, rehearsals, and loads of patience. These are not the best of pictures since I took them from the back of the auditorium so I wouldn't distract the kids, and it didn't help that our Kodak file has got something wrong with it and it won't let us work with any pictures. The above picture is the Pre-school group who sang a few songs to start off the program.
They sang some really cute songs and did some serious teaching about Jesus and why He came to earth. It was a good program and I heard a lot of "Amens" to the lines the kids were saying.

This is Donna's closing comments and announcements. She's the best!
This is two of our shepherds (Matt & Stan) giving "high fives" to all the kids as they exited the auditorium to "thunderous applause."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas - there I said it!

There is nothing like Christmas. No other holiday, no other time of the year, has the same intensity, passion, cultural and economic impact, and the same extreme polarities of contradictions. While it's the "most wonderful time of the year" for most people, for many it's the most stressful, depressing, and anxious month to get through of the entire year. It's a time of joy, singing, shopping, and giving, but it's also a time that amplifies for many, their losses, their broken relationships, and their loneliness. It's full of contradictions, but then it's driven by human beings who are full of contradictions. "Peace on earth and good will toward men" doesn't seem to be on the minds of uptight shoppers, dragging screaming kids through Target, complaining about long lines, and taking it out on the check-out clerk. Still, for most people, you can see a clear sense of having fun, being happy, and enjoying family. For most, it truly is a wonderful season of giving.
There's probably no place where there is more neurosis about Christmas than at church. I remember the first time I heard that there were members of the church who didn't celebrate Christmas because it was "a man made holiday, and Jesus really wasn't born on Dec.25th." I was dumbfounded and responded with the deeply theological rebuttal of "So what!" Because of the few, and our pattern driven legalistic heritage, we've always felt that we had to "keep separated" from what the world (and the other 99% of the congregation) was doing. Decorations, Christmas songs, and even saying "Merry Christmas" was something we had to use and do carefully and diplomatically. Sorry, but I find it humorous and ironic, that so many in the church are screaming about the anti-Christmas-be politically correct-call it something neutral trend that is threatening our social traditions.
I've said it many times, but I am thrilled that so many people all over the world are going to be spending a little bit of time thinking about Jesus and why God sent Him to this world. No, it's not everybody, yes - it's too commercialized, and yes - the story isn't told right, the date is wrong, and not everyone is feeling "Joy to the world." I'm still thankful for those who think about Him, sing about Him, pray to Him, and praise God for His birth. Even with the stress, the commercializing, and the church Grinch's, with all this attention and love being shown to the Son of God and thanking God for sending Him, how can it not make God smile?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Redneck Christmas Float

I love this. It made the rounds of emails last year, but my insurance agent sent it to me again this year, so I thought I would share it. The caption said, The Redneck Christmas Float! Frankly, I can't imagine someone 1) putting that much work into something so off-the-wall (there is a pun there), and 2) I can't imagine anyone putting all their trophy heads in such danger. But hey, at least the caption didn't read "See what happens to eight little reindeer who landed on the wrong roof!" Yes, I know these aren't reindeer, but most people don't know the difference.
Why do I have the feeling that this was in West Virginia?
And putting a red nose on a nice buck? Well, that's just wrong.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Life's Ripples

I have been thinking a lot lately about the ripple effect of our actions. In my Wednesday evening class we've been studying 2 Corinthians, and I was really struck for the first time with how he tries to impress on them (and us) that the completion of their commitment to financially help the brethren in Jerusalem is going to cause others to be thankful, to rejoice, and to give sacrificially themselves. He wanted them to know about the ripple effect of their actions. He used the ripple effect of the Macedonian's selfless giving to encourage the Corinthians. You just never know how something you do or say will impact others. In fact, we will never know about the vast majority of those impacts. I mentioned Sunday that we've all been impacted by a teacher or two, who literally changed our lives. You can easily name a couple of teachers who lit a fire of interest in a subject or changed the direction you were going. Here's the question: Do they know it? And if they don't know about the impact they had on you, how many others are there whose lives were changed that the teacher has no idea about? We know that's true! Why then do we tend to minimize the power of teaching? Why do we have to twist arms to recruit teachers for any of our Bible classes? Have we been judging success and the worthiness of our efforts by the wrong standards? Isn't it up to God to "give the increase"?
And teaching is just one example of life's ripple effect. I've received many emails, calls, and letters from total strangers thanking me for a blog, a book, or a lesson that I did that touched them and made a difference. And how many people who have enjoyed the same "ripple" just didn't let me know about it? That's fine - it just amplifies the reality of life's ripples going out in all directions and the impossibility of seeing how they splash on the shoreline of other peoples lives.
You know what is really neat? I mean REALLY amazing? God sees every wave and every splash! We're not sailing through life on concrete! Everything we do and say, has a ripple effect that needs to roll from us to the glory of God.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Chew With Your Mouth Closed, Please!

I love the word "pithy". I don't know why, but it's been a favorite word to know and use since I was in High School. I don't know if it's because it sounds like something an incontinent lisper would say (and do) or because it's just a fun word to say, but I've always enjoyed dropping it in conversation every now and then. Sometimes, when I use it, people look at me like I'm the one with a speech impediment. It doesn't sound like a "manly" word, which is interesting since its ROOT word means strength and vigor. Maybe that's because it rhymes with sissy and that it's easy to say in an effeminate way. But I digress - as usual. I just wanted to share a couple of pithy statements that I've been chewing on for the last few days. I don't want to elaborate on them, but just let you chew on them awhile - if you want to.
The first one is a variation of something I've written about before: Your level of joy in life is determined by your level of thoughtfulness. I dare you to chew on that for a week and see what happens.
The second one is not worded as well as I'd like it to be, but you'll get the point. There is nothing that God asks us to do, whether it's an act or a belief, that is not part of His plan to help us grow in love.
Here is the first draft of that same statement. Maybe it will elicit a greater desire to chew. If in your obedience to God you don't see the connection between the act and loving God, you've misunderstood the reason for doing it.
Go your way and chew!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A New Tradition?

I love traditions. That may be a shock to those who think I'm one of the iconoclastic preachers of my generation. I still remember how surprised I was to see an editorial comment printed on the back cover of my book Spilt Grape Juice, that declared, "The road to hell is paved with good traditions." It was removed in later editions, but at the time, I thought, "Wow! I'd never say anything like that!" While I agree with it, and while it is - has been - and aways will be wrong to elevate any tradition of man to equality with God's will, I know that God is more interested in the condition of the heart than He is with the practices and performances we create. What has always amazed me is not the fact that we have routines and rituals what make us feel comfortable and secure, but that many Christians are totally oblivious to the fact that much of what we do, especially in our assembly oriented believe system, comes from early American church traditions and from Catholicism. Somehow it makes it all different if we can call it "following the New Testament pattern," even if we care little about doing that honestly.
No, I love traditions. I love family traditions. The whole time I was building my back porch I had visions of sitting out there with my family, watching God's creation, enjoying the peace and quiet, and building some great memories and traditions. And I love church family traditions, like trying to get four hundred plus people to form a circle after a baptism so we can welcome a new brother or sister into the family with song, prayer, and family support. I love all the little things we do as a church family that makes us closer, more loving, and yes, different.
That is why I regularly remind us all of one of my favorite sayings. It came to me several years ago, and has helped me tremendously to know the difference between godly and ungodly traditions.
Traditions are for bonding not binding.
That'll preach!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Take Off the Sunglasses!

I have always known that thankfulness was important, but about ten years ago it finally dawned on me how much it is the foundation - the secret ingredient - for everything that matters in life. As I have mentioned in past blogs, we can only rise spiritually to the level of our thankfulness. It is the anchor upon which every other spiritual quality rests. It is the root system from which all other gifts, graces, and godly character grows. It is the secret to happiness, the glue for relationships, and the antidote to fear. Thankfulness is the lens through which we see God, the reason why we talk to God, and the source of our love for God. A truly thankful spirit will see God's love and grace as the ultimate gift that overshadows any hardship, hurt, or heartache this world can throw at us. Thankfulness causes us to appreciate what we have, while we have it, and prevents us from focusing on what we don't have or what we will surely lose. It is the only thing that will allow us to face death, whether it's ours or a loved one, with a spirit of "Thank you Lord for what I've had," instead of "Why me Lord?" Every day is a precious gift to be thankful for, but it is a gift to be spent drawing closer to God. Being thankful for every day and every opportunity to know Him better, helps us see life as a short journey to our real home.
Thankfulness is something we can choose to develop. We CAN make it happen! The truth is, until we start doing that, life will remain an unsatisfying, self-centered, unhappy, and fearful trip. Choosing to be thankful is like taking your sunglasses off while in the house. Life is never dark when we walk in the light of God's goodness and grace.
Have you taken your sunglasses off yet?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick Trip to TN

(From our trip to NY last month)

We went straight from last Sunday morning's assembly and drove to Nashville so we could be there for a good friend's surprise sixtieth birthday party. Because of the five and a half hour drive, we got there a little late, but that allowed us to make a "grand entrance" and truly be a surprise to our special friend Kathy Rose. Don and Kathy Rose have been wonderful friends for well over a decade now. They have gone with us on most of our "big vacation trips" and are one of the original members of the small group we were part of in Nashville for six and a half years. That group still meets every Sunday evening, and we got to see all of them again at Kathy's party and then join them for a Bible study after. It was really wonderful to see everyone. It was great to be reminded about what a blessing it is to have good friends. Our warmest memories of our nearly seven years in Nashville come from time spent with that group of brothers and sisters. We've been gone from there for almost five years now (as of 12/31/09), but we still manage to see one another a couple times each year. They all helped me surprise Donna by showing up at Disney World for our thirty-fifth anniversary - two years ago - and making it an anniversary that neither one of us will ever forget. They have also given us a special surprise gift by showing up for our musical the last couple of years.

So, if you were wondering why I haven't done a blog the last few days, that's the reason. We got to spend a day with all of our family too (everyone except Jonathan and Holly of course) on Monday, and we got back to MO yesterday at noon. If there was ever a reason to skip blogging, the best one will always be seeing family and friends.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATHY! Wow - I didn't realize you were THAT much older than me!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Step By Step?

When I showed this picture last month, I mentioned that I was waiting for - what I thought would be - our final inspection. No such luck! Take a close look at my steps. I was so proud of them that really couldn't wait for the inspector to see what a wonderful job my helper Steve and I did. They are nine and a half feet long with extra 2x10 bracing on the front. There is NO spring in those steps. They are put together with a ton of three inch screws and 16 penny nails. I had visions of our grand children sitting and playing on those steps, so I purposely went the second mile to make them secure. We meticulously followed the county codes for minimum heights and maximum depth for each step. It was a no brainer. Twenty-three inches high - three steps - the easiest thing to do was have two eight inch steps and one seven inch step. There was nothing in the code that said you couldn't do that! The inspector, however, immediately pointed out that there can't be one step that is one inch smaller than the others. He said it was unsafe and they would have to be redone. REDONE? He said it like it was no big deal instead of the half day major job that it would be to dismantle and rebuild! And when we redo the steps, that one "illegal" step will be five eights of an inch bigger! Five-eighths of an inch? I've gone up and down them with my eyes closed and I can't tell the difference one inch makes. And you can't argue with them or they may, all of a sudden, fine several other things that aren't up to code. I wanted to point out that nothing in the code says they have to be totally equal steps, that it really was a lot of work, and hey - it's a BACK PORCH that our grand kids will jump off of far more than go up and down the steps, but I bit my tongue and tried not to look too disappointed. I have to confess, since then, I've have wondered how badly I need a permit. I know plenty of people who finish basements and build porches with out it - but then there's that Disclosure Statement when you sell the house - I'm not going to lie, so the county would get us then. Besides, I just want to do it right! Oh well, I guess I'll redo it - one step at a time - there's a song there somewhere!
I have done a lot of thinking about this over the month since we failed our inspection. I'm thankful that God's will is a clear covenant of love and not a code to check off. I'm glad that when I miss the mark with Him, I know it immediately and don't need to plead ignorance. I'm glad that He is a Father who let's me redo things that really do need redoing. I am really thankful that He is a Father I can talk to, and not an inspector to JUST salute and obey. Most of all, I'm thankful for His grace because there have been a lot of things in my life that have failed His Holy Spirit's inspection - and I didn't have to schedule it and some ONE else paid for the permit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Caring Is Loving!

Last Sunday I introduced our plans to have a new kind of class as part of our Adult Sunday morning Bible class program. We're calling them Caring Classes because; 1) they come from our need to be driven by our Purpose and our Steps (Connecting, Caring, & Committing), and 2) because "Caring" for one another describes the goal of the class. There will just be two pilot classes to begin with, so that those who feel that they benefit more from the traditional 45 minute lecture class can still attend one of those if they want to. The Caring Classes will focus on building spiritual relationships, growing in love for one another, and meeting the needs of one another. I'm sure there are a few who don't want that, just like there have been many who clearly don't want the traditional approach to Bible classes, and they show it by not attending. I don't really know if this will impact that or not, but frankly, that is beside the point. How did we ever let things get to the point where we have to convince brethren that learning to love one another is more important than gathering more biblical information. That same Bible that we love to think we know so well, tells us that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." The Lord of that Bible is the One who declared that the world would know we belong to Him, "if we love one another." It seems to me that Satan got a lot of mileage out of convincing us that learning is more important than loving. Where is the track record of success? Where are the signs of spiritual growth as we continue to do what we've always done? Why is fellowship and relationship building, which was the purpose of the New Testament get-togethers, demeaned as "socializing" and extra-curricular activities for churches?
What a wild idea to suggest that we could use a one hour Sunday morning time slot for something that builds deeper spiritual relationships instead of letting that same hour define our time spent in God's Word. Could loving others cause some people to spent more time studying God's Word on their own, or with some close friends - outside of the "formal Sunday morning Bible Class"? What might happen if we actually cared about one another's hurts, struggles, concerns, and victories enough to talk, pray, and share with one another?
It seems to me that we not only need Caring Bible classes, but Caring assemblies, Caring small groups, Caring ministries, Caring special events, and so on. Caring is loving. We are only like God to the extent that we learn how to love. Doesn't that sound like why He put the church here in the first place?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, Monday...

It's Monday morning, my day off, and the deer are probably at the peak of rut, which means that huge bucks are running around the woods wild-eyed and careless (like another species we all know), but, it's pouring down rain. I know, if I was like the dedicated hunters who do the hunting shows on TV, I'd be out there hunting with my rain suit, boots, tree stand umbrella, and the other expensive gear I own. It's not that I'm a weather wimp. It's more a matter of coming to grips with my REAL level of love for chasing the ever elusive big bucks. I enjoy bow hunting for whitetail deer, but mostly I just enjoy quiet time in the woods. I love watching God's creation happening in front of my eyes. It's a hoot to see any animals doing their thing in the woods and know they don't know I'm there. Squirrels are so funny to watch. There is nothing like seeing the look on the face of a squirrel when they coming running down the branch of the tree you're in and they come to a screeching hault two feet away as they notice the huge camouflaged blob in their tree. You can almost here their little brains saying, "What in the world are you doing in my tree!"
My point is, yes - I love hunting, but I do have limits on what I am willing to put up with to do it. After thirty-plus years of doing it, I know when it's fun and when it's not. I've hunted plenty of times in the pouring rain - I did that once last month, and I've hunting in the snow, the hard winds, and the bitter cold. Actually, of all the bad weather scenarios that one could hunt in, you actually have a better chance of seeing some good deer when it's raining than in any other. They move around all day when it's raining because they feel safer in it and it's not so comfortable to sleep a long time in a wet bed. Still, my personal rule is, "Why do it if it stops being fun?" I'm not so driven to get a deer that I'm willing to pay the price of being miserable. Call me crazy, undedicated, or just too practical, or whatever you want. I'm old enough and secure enough in my thinking to not have to prove myself to anyone as "The Great White Hunter." It's something I do for me, because I like it, and because it's not a competitive sport or a symbol of manhood - at least for me.
You know what's nice? Looking out of the window at the back of our house and seeing our beautiful and dry porch, and watching the rain pelting the pond and - well - having no place in particular that I have to be. God is good!
And yet, it might be nice to be in my tree stand this afternoon...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Four Hundred Blogs!

When I started this blog, 3 or 4 years ago now, my biggest fear was that I'd lose interest and just let it die. It's hard to believe that this is my four hundredth blog. Wow! And every time I start wondering if anyone sees it, I hear from someone at church, on the phone, or from thousands of miles away about how much they enjoy reading my blog. I have no idea how many people check it. I've been tempted to put a counter on it, but after this long I'd always wonder how many have clicked on it in the past. I don't need to know. I enjoy doing this, most of the time, if for nothing else than knowing that my family checks it and gets to hear about what is going on in our life here in St. Louis, and what's going on in my radical brain. I try to do a mixture of both kinds of blogs. So, to celebrate my blog #400, I thought I throw out what I think is an interesting question - at least for all the other preacher-types who check my blog.
What are preachers paranoid about? Here are some of my ideas.
* Repeating an incredible joke or illustration to an audience that just yawns!
* Unzipped pants
* Spiting on the front row
* Having the totally wrong scripture in your notes
* Getting into a compound-complex sentence and forgetting the subject-verb relationship
* Questions about "the end of time"
* Being totally wrong about historical facts in an illustration
* Having an elder (s) who is control freak
* Members who think they could do a better job of preaching than you
* Everyone expecting you to remember their name
* Weird casseroles at members dinner parties!
* Quiet, standoffish people who expect attention
* Communion presiders who want to be preachers
* Saying "Crap" when you meant to say "Trap" (Been there...)
* Being defined by an office rather than a ministry
* Slipping in the baptistery (counts as two)
* Forgetting the word "subject" while trying to offer the invitation
* Questions about circumcision (w/o Power Point)
* Personally thinking of my lesson as "just another sermon"
* Quenching the Holy Spirit!
* Thinking I really know what that means!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Great Unknown

Last Sunday I spoke about our "Ultimate Journey" of life being meaningless if we aren't excited about the destination. I am finishing up a study of 1 & 2 Timothy, and my text was from Paul's classic farewell passage in 4:6-8, "...the time has come for my departure". A couple of years ago I said in a lesson that if we were really looking forward to going to heaven, when a brother or sister in Christ pasted away we'd be saying "You lucky dog!" rather than feeling cheated by loss. I used another familiar refrain Sunday to make a similar point. On all our long family trips when the kids where little, we heard what every family hears, "Are we there yet?" Today, with so many children watching movies on DVD screens in there vehicles, it's probably not heard as much. They may even want you to slow down so they can finish the movie before you arrive.
What makes any journey worthwhile, no matter how long and trying it may be, is the anticipation of arrival at the desired destination. Yet, when it comes to heaven, we don't hear many of us saying, with excitement and anticipation - in principle - "Are we there yet?" Are we having a difficult time letting go of this world? Have we forgotten that we are aliens and strangers in a foreign land? Is our faith and trust in God still a little weak?
I'm sure there is some form of "yes" to every one of those questions, but did you ever stop to consider how little we really know about our final destination? Sure, we have an "it's something like this" description from John in Revelation, and Jesus promised us a room/place - not a mansion, and we all understand that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God's people from all ages past, present, and future will be there, but there is still SO MUCH THAT WE JUST DON'T KNOW! It's not like looking forward to a Disney World trip, or going on a cruise to the Panama Canal like we plan to do in January, or even like a long awaited trip to see loved ones. What will we look like, how will we feel, what can and can't we do, what will it look like, how can there be no time, how much will we remember, will there really be no sadness if we still have our memories, how can there be room for so many, assuming there will be so many, and - well - there's just a lot of unanswered questions. So we are talking about the unknown, and even though we totally trust in God and have no worries about how wonderful heaven will's still just a little hard to get excited about letting go of THIS and finding out about THAT!
Did you ever stop to consider that there may be a very good reason why God didn't give us more information about heaven? Not only is it beyond our comprehension, but maybe - just maybe - if we really knew HOW INCREDIBLE HEAVEN IS, we'd want to go there too much - and forget that we've got a job to do here first! God gave us everything that "pertains to life and godliness" and all we need to be "thoroughly equipped for every good work" so evidently, more info about heaven is not needed or necessary for us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Besides, don't you just love a good surprise?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Missed Opportunity

Look into the absolute center of the above picture and imagine a very respectable buck standing broadside. That is what I was looking at from my treestand at 7:40 this morning. I had been a little down about this seasons hunting because I've seen so few deer in either state I've been hunting in - IL & MO. This morning I went to my MO spot. It was comfortably cool and eerily quiet. I heard the buck coming long before I saw him. This is what I've practiced for, waited all year for, and put in lots of hours to achieve. The dream opportunity of the season! Unfortunately, things didn't go as I'd hoped. I don't even want to tell what happened, but suffice it to say, it was incredibly disappointing.
As I was returning home and reflecting on the morning hunt, (remember it is called hunting not killing) I thought about the connection between opportunities and blessings. In many ways they are synonyms. Opportunities are blessings and blessings are opportunities. But have you ever thought about fact that they are still blessings and opportunities even if we miss it or mess it up? In fact, I'm sure we've missed more than we've caught, because we've all had blessings and opportunities that we never even knew were there. The amazing thing is that we continue to receive blessings even though we miss some or are not grateful for the ones we got. Opportunities are the same way. If we miss an opportunity, there will be others. Even if the missed opportunity was one we desperately wanted to not miss, there will be others. I especially think about all the opportunities God gave me to learn certain things, and most of the time it took many many opportunities before I got it.
I guess the lesson is to remember that God will take care of us and he will provide us with everything we need to do the important things in life. He promised that. As far as all the other things that we "want" to do, sometimes you get multiple opportunities and sometimes you don't, but each one is a blessing even if we blow the chance. Our job is to persevere, learn, and do better the next time.
I'm ready for a picture of something besides just trees.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"99 Bodies of Brethren on the Wall"

At our monthly preachers meeting this morning, the brother who was leading the discussion asked us to do two things. First he asked us to list in order of priority the ten things we need to do to be successful in ministry, and they he asked us to do the same with ten things we needed to do to be effective in ministry. He was making a good point for us to think about. There is a difference between a successful ministry and an effective ministry. The truly big question, however, is how and from where we define success and effectiveness. I am totally convinced that most church leaders define both more from worldly standards than from God's plans. My #1 on both lists was "Helping people have a deeper relationship with Jesus." There is nothing more important and there is no better qualifier of success than someone drawing closer to Jesus. Sometimes it's introducing someone to Jesus, and helping them begin their spiritual journey with Him, and sometimes it's helping a brother or sister in Christ love Him more, know Him better, or become just a little more like Him. That involves caring about people, loving them, and helping them use the tools God has given us so that we can deepen our relationship with Him. Our focus on "numbers = success" comes from the world. Jesus talked about numbers, but He emphasized the need of the one over the ninety and nine. The world would say that what counts most is the ninety-nine up on the attendance display board. To Jesus, success and effectiveness was measured by finding that one who wandered away and bringing it back into the fold. Maybe if we start doing that with the one hundred God has given us, He might blesses us with one thousand to guide and shepherd.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I Want Patience - NOW!

I won't be wearing an "I Love New York" T-shirt any time soon. I enjoyed NY, but I'd be lying if I said I loved it. I loved seeing our son and daughter-in-law, I enjoyed seeing some sights that are historical treasures of our country, and I loved spending some time with our good friends Don and Kathy. So-if they come out with an "I Enjoy New York" T-shirt, I might wear one. I'm not into crowds, dodging people on the sidewalks, standing like sardines in lines for everything, and I'd have a very difficult time getting use to the Kamikaze traffic and constant noise. I heard more car horns in our first day in NY than I've heard in St. Louis over the last five years. Lots more!
I don't share that to bash NY. Remember, I enjoyed it. I share it because there are few things that symbolize impatience more than honking a car horn. Car horns lost their practical usage a few decades ago, but we'd feel cheated if we didn't have one in any car we purchased. They are tools of frustration to let someone know we don't like what they did, or that they need to hurry up! That is where the phrase "A New York Minute" came from. That is defined as the time between when the traffic light changes and the car behind you honks it's horn. It's also known as "a split second".
While I feel like I have grown considerably in my journey to be a more patient person, I still find it to be a daily struggle. Whether it's my computer that moves at a snail's pace or trying to fast forward through commercials when it's not a recorded program, I am reminded regularly, I have a long way to go. Now, if I could just hurry up and get there. Oh wait, isn't that being impatient about being patient?
I have to add to my list of confessions that I've never spent much time considering the last phrase of 2 Timothy 4:2. I've always zeroed in on Paul's charge to "Preach the word" and the challenge to be ready to "correct, rebuke, and encourage." Any good Bible major memorized this verse right after memorizing Acts 2:38. It's the "Preacher's Verse"! But what about that last phrase "...with great patience and careful instruction"? That sounds like good advice to parents or to some school teacher, but not something for any "go-getter-church-building-success-driven" young preacher! Ouch - or older preacher.
Yet, think about it - preaching the "word" - as Paul is presenting it, is preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified! It's not preaching about opinions, petty preferences, and personal exegesis that leads to Pharisaical patterns to bind. It's presenting Jesus! And if I am presenting Jesus I must be like Jesus! We preachers love the call to correct, rebuke, and encourage, but we must do that under the umbrella of Jesus and His love. Hence, "great patience and careful instruction"! They are the tools that Jesus would use to do the job He called on us to do.
Aren't you glad He doesn't honk a car horn every time we forget that?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Big Apple Trip

This is the Observation Deck on the Empire State Building. It was neat to be able to see New York in all directions. It was a beautiful day with very little wind - even up there. The night before, we all got soaked by the rain. This is definitely a MUST for any visit to NY, but I was not ready for the huge crowds of people. Pre-purchase tickets on line and go in the morning as soon as they open. The lines were longer than Disney World and you go through several different levels of lines. I was also surprised by how many foreign languages we heard all around us. It makes sense that any foreigners visiting America would want to see NY, but I was still surprised at how many and the tremendous variety.

I recommend the tour bus. It's a great way to see everything and you have the option to get on and off anywhere you want. You can use it for pure transportation, but not if you're in a hurry. It was so neat to see the advertisements for Toxic on walls, buses, and even trash cans. This is the same picture as my last blog. JD is the cop - second from the left.

The elevator was broken at Lady Liberty and again, the crowds were huge, especially catching the ferry back and forth. Don't be in a hurry! Even with tickets, pre-bought on-line, we only got to go up to the observation deck (the balcony below the statue). To go up through the statue takes another ticket and you have to reserve it way ahead of time. It was still neat to see it up close after seeing it so many times from planes. If you don't like lines and you don't care about up close, you can take a harbor cruise that circles all the islands and lets you see everything in comfort. We had tickets for that but not the time. Also, the Long Island Ferry is free and allows you to see everything too - from a distance. Thanks to Don Rose for sitting on the ground to get the above picture.
It was raining on Saturday when we arrived, then we had two beautiful days on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, our last full day there, it was raining again, but we really wanted to see Central Park. It was really beautiful, even in the rain, and it was much bigger than I ever thought it would be. It's two and a half miles long and a half mile wide, with lakes, trails, roads, and buildings of all kinds - not to mention all kinds of sports fields from baseball to tennis. And there are all kinds of things around it or attached to it like museums, the zoo, and lots of other stuff. It is really hard to believe you're in the middle of NY City when you're walking around in the park.

That night we went to dinner with Jonathan and Holly at Otto's, one of Mario Batali's restaurants, in "The Village". It was nice to spend some time with them. We see them less than anyone else in the family because of Jonathan's show schedule, which doesn't include vacation during any holidays. They really do love NY and seem to be coping well with incredibly busy work lives. We really hope that we can go back again before too terribly long.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Toxic Trip

(Jonathan is the Cop)
We got back from our trip to the Big Apple yesterday at about 5:00 P.M.. We had a great trip for a lot of reasons. First, because we got to see Jonathan and Holly, and see the new musical Jonathan is in, The Toxic Avenger. Second, because we met up with our good friends from Nashville, Don and Kathy Rose, who we always love to be with. And finally, it was nice to spend some time touring New York City and seeing some of the places I've heard about all my life but never had the time to go see. Things like the Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. We did the bus tour thing, which was really nice and informative, and we used the train system for all our travel. Yes, it is a very crowded, hectic, and busy city with some of the craziest drivers in the whole world, but it is a neat place to visit. I've got a long list of things I wanted to see but just didn't have the time.
As mentioned, the highlight of the trip was seeing The Toxic Avenger. It has to be the funniest musical I have ever seen. It is fast-paced, hilarious, and full of incredible music and singing. The five actors are all incredible and the costume/character changes that the White Dude, Black Dude, and Mayor/Mom do is amazingly funny and entertaining. It's a little gross, with a few words, and suggestive jokes that would make me say it's probably a PG13, but it's so funny and fast that those moments are short-lived.
We, of course, especially enjoyed seeing all the incredible things that Jonathan had to do. He has some 16 characters that he plays and his ability to change costumes, roles, voices, and genders is hilarious. I feel like I need to see it a couple more times just to keep track of them all. We especially got a kick out of the first female character he played. You can't see it as much in the picture below (from their web page), but when he did certain things while singing, he looked just like his sister Deborah.

(Jonathan as Diane)
This actually isn't the first girl he plays in the show, but the wig framing his face gives him a very familiar look. It was a great show with great acting and music. I've seen a lot of musicals, and yes, I am partial, but it was one of the best - most fun shows I've ever been to.
We had a wonderful time, but as always - it's nice to be home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Things Change...

This picture of our grand kids has been on my computer screen since we took it the first week of June. It's missing baby Daniel who was a tiny thing back then, and Caden, who wouldn't arrive until late September. Things change. This was one of the last pictures taken of our old porch, which was really just a concrete slab. Construction of the new covered porch began in earnest just days after the play was over and everyone was back at their homes. This is our porch today, the morning of the final inspection. There are still a ton of cosmetic things I want to do, but there isn't any hurry to do them and I also really want to remove the County Inspectors from the whole equation before we do anything else. Plus, I don't want to drag out their part of this until the Spring, when I'll probably being doing the final things, like the ceiling, painting, staining, and trim. It has been a lot harder than I thought it would be, but still it's been fun and very fulfilling to see each part come together. With my partner Steve Smith helping me all the way, we've gone the second mile to make it stronger and sturdier than the plan required. Our running joke is that this porch will still be standing when the house falls down. That's probably not much of an exaggeration.

For those of you who are family and friends, I hope the running reports have been interesting and informative. Part of the reason I started this blog was just to let you know what's happening with the Roots in St. Louis. Now, when you don't hear from us or see new blogs, you'll know why. We're sitting out on the porch enjoying the view.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lessons From My Computer

It is amazing how our culture has been impacted by computers. I confess, again, that I am a techno-dummy, but I still find myself spending a huge percentage of my day looking at a computer screen. It has added words to our vocabulary, gone from a neat toy to a necessity, and changed the way we communicate. With all the texting, emailing, blogging, Facebooking, and the many other forms of typed communication used worldwide, you would think that we have improved our communication skills, deepened our relationships, and become a much more understanding society. Wrong. Like a lot of tools, computer communication just amplifies what we already are. We choose whether or not it is a vehicle for good or evil.
The other day, however, my computer presented me with a visual illustration of what I've been teaching and preach for the last couple of years. When I clicked on the Internet icon, to bring it up on the screen, I noticed the little flashing word in the upper left corner for the first time. It flashed "connecting" over and over again until the Internet page came up. The first step in our plan for the spiritual growth of each member of our church family is Connecting. If we are going to build spiritual relationships with one another and with God, we MUST first connect. It has to start somewhere.
That made me think of our second step, Caring. A relationship will only grow if we care about one another. Loving one another is the heart & soul of what Jesus called us to do. When I've been connected by my computer to whatever I've chosen to be connected to, I only stay there if I care about it. I often click on things that might interest me or help me, and I decide it's not what I want or need - so I click to something else. Nothing lasts if you don't care about it - especially relationships.
And then there are the things that I'm really committed to. They are things I'm connected to that I care so much about that they're on my "Favorites" list and I check on them daily. Our third step of Commitment is the natural next step when you care deeply about someone or something. It is why you are happy to serve, sacrifice, and share.
All growing relationships go through the same process. You connect, begin caring, and it builds commitment. Whether it's friends, spouses, brethren, or God, if it's going to deepen as a relationship, it will follow the same path. Even computers know that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Piece of Cake...

This is the cake that Donna made for a marriage renewal ceremony for some friends of ours last Saturday. It was such a beautiful cake that I almost hated to see it cut-up and served. I said, "almost" because it REALLY tasted great. I saw several people coming back for a second piece, because not only was it good - it was three different flavors, and the whole thing disappeared like I've rarely seen at occasions like this.
It was a joy and an honor to be part of Stan & Faye's 34th wedding celebration. I love that they did it on #34. Who said that only the 5's count? Every year is important! It was nice to help them celebrate their years together, but also to join with them in declaring that marriage is important and special - and it's worth the effort to keep it strong and last a life-time.
Yes, that thing I'm wearing is called a suit and tie. I can't remember that last time I wore it, but I'm just glad that this time it was for people who are vertical and breathing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sermons and Books

Just a quick blog to answer a couple of questions I've been asked lately. Sorry if this blog sounds self promoting. It's not, because this is about what I do as a servant of God. First, I was asked if my Sunday morning lessons are available to be listened to and/or downloaded. Nearly all of my Sunday morning lessons are available on our church website. Not much changes on it each week, but we do have people who put each weeks lesson on the website. We are in the process of creating a new site that stays current and interesting, but in the meantime the lessons are usually posted within two to three days of Sunday. They occasionally get a week or two (or three) behind, but they try to keep it current. I understand, remember I'm a techo-dummy, that they can be downloaded to IPODs and such or just listened to through computer speakers. The church website is
The other question was about how to find copies of my books. College Press, who published four of my books, still has at least three of them in print - I think. I was also very surprised to find all my books for sale on-line - at some amazing prices too. The short answer is that I have copies of all my books, and the only copies of a couple of them. I have copies of:
Spilt Grape Juice (our lives as worship - much more radical in 1991 then it is today)
Unbroken Bread (not in print -a study of what the NT assembly really was)
Empty Baskets (last of the worship trilogy - looks at worship as stewardship)
Life's Cobwebs (not in print - dealing with life's problems)
I Knew That, from Covenant Publishing (learning difficult lessons)
Rev (a poorly edited but dramatic novel based on some of my experiences as a Police Chaplain)
If you are interested in getting copies of any of these books, just call me at the church office or email me. I've had several small groups and Bible classes use one or more of my books as a study guide. I just sent a box of Life's Cobwebs to Murfreesboro, TN last week and one church in WV spent two years in their auditorium Bible class studying Spilt Grape Juice and Unbroken Bread. You can also get Spilt Grape Juice and Empty Baskets through College Press, who will ship them and bill you. Call them at 1-800-289-3300

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get it? Got it?

Our job, as church leaders, is to help people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. When that happens, God will take care of the "church growth." I know, I've said that a few times before, but I feel like very few people really understand what that means. They're usually too busy turning to the back of the bulletin to check the attendance and contribution numbers to think about who they've been encouraging and mentoring. In the last couple of months I have been blessed to baptize two people who were attending my Connecting Class on Sunday morning. It's a combination Introduction 101 to God's plan for redeeming man and how this church family fits into that plan. It's awesome to see someone "get it" when it comes to Jesus and what he did for us. Helping someone begin their journey with Him is exhilarating, encouraging, and humbling. I used to say without hesitation that baptizing people was the most fun thing I ever did as a minister of the Gospel. While that hasn't changed, I do think that seeing clear spiritual maturity take place in members of my church family is equally as thrilling and inspiring to me.
One of our older members (as in my age or better), who has been a Christian for many decades, stopped me in the foyer last Sunday to share a humorous apology for having joked to some members at a dinner that she was surprised I still had a job after all the radical stuff I'd been preaching. I think she got a lot of blank stares, as they didn't "get" what she was talking about. She went on to explain to me that when she really thought about what I've been saying about these religious "acts" and "requirements" really being tools from God for us to use, it finally hit her what an incredible paradigm shift that was. It meant that she needed to look at them in a totally different way. They're not "ceremonial acts to perform" but tools to use to help us help one another grow spiritually. She "got it" and was overwhelmed by the new way to think. God gave us an amazing tool box full of powerful tools, not a check list of "acts of worship" to perform.
I can't put into words how cool it is to really see someone "get it". So many people listen to challenging new ideas, smile and say "Amen," and never see the implications - the application - the need to change anything! The same Bible that tells us it's through baptism we "put on Christ" also tells us "to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." That's what He put "pastors and evangelists" here to make happen. (Eph.4:11-16)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Foggy Morning Update

It is cold and foggy this morning, so the view from the porch isn't much. It's so quiet that it feels a little secluded out there. It would have been a great morning to be in the woods hunting, but I'm hoping the sun will come through soon and I'll be able to build the stairs for the porch.
It's hard to see the thermometer on the porch post, but it's thirty-eight degrees outside. As you can see, with the fog, it's very damp. Still, it's a different look from our porch, but one you need to be wearing a coat to appreciate.

On Monday, we mixed twelve and a half bags of concrete to extend the preexisting slab from three feet to nine and a half. We have no idea what that original 3'x3' slab was for, but it's deep and it has three steel rods in it that have been cut off at the surface. It's even on the original survey plot. It must have been some kind of signal or radio tower. Anyway, I decided to just expand it and build our steps to cover the nine plus feet between the middle two posts. Not only will that give us a nice large (and long) stairway, but it will give us a concrete platform off the bottom step. We have to get the steps built, and the side rails up, and the gutter put in before the County inspector can sign off on the project. There will still be a lot of finishing things to do, but there is no hurry on that. It's dry, big, and ready for anyone who wants to sit and have a cup of coffee. Did you notice our swing and two rocking chairs? There are three more chairs stacked between the door and living room windows.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I love it when I finish a blog, hit Spell-check, and the little green phrase appears at the top saying "No misspelled words". The single most inhibiting aspect of writing anything for public view is the fear that one misspelled word will steal the attention away from the point of the writing. It's happened plenty of times. I put together something that I think is very profound only to find out that one misspelled word or incorrect form of the word is all a reader sees. So imagine my surprise when I typed in the word "multitasking" and I got the happy green phrase telling me it was spelled correctly. I just knew it was a made-up word. Maybe it is, but because of the overwhelming usage of it, it's been put in the dictionary now. It's definitely not in my old Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language! Of course, my Mom did get me that in 1968. I guess no one was multitasking back then.
I've decided that I don't like it and I don't like feeling like I should like it, like everyone seems to think I should. Is that too many likes? When did multitasking become a virtue? Is it really a sign of productivity or a sign of widespread mediocrity? Hey, I think working fast is necessary - occasionally, like when a bunch of men meet to do volunteer manual labor and it turns into a demonstration of testosterone driven one-ups-manship. I'm even all in favor of doing more than one thing at a time, like watching Donna scramble eggs, fry bacon, and make waffles, and I'm still able to watch the News on TV.
No, what I'm talking about is split focus, half-attention, and half-hearted devotion to a task, and then gloating about ones ability to multitask. All multitasking does for me is create stress and cause me to be more concerned with finishing than with doing my best. I'm married to one of the most talented women in the world, but I've noticed that she always does her best when she can focus on one thing and doing it right. I know that is the best way for me to function. I don't even like having split excitement about several things at once. I tend to spend too much time figuring out how I can make time for each thing and feel the stress of maybe forgetting something.
Right now I'm excited about a number of things: my sermon, plans for a new class, writing lyrics for the 2010 play, (I have to write the script in December so the music has to be picked out now), we've got a new grand baby I'd love to see again, and we've got a trip to NY coming up in two weeks to see Jonathan and Holly and to see the new play he's in, I'm finishing up the work on our new porch, and on top of all that, it's bowhunting season in MO and IL and I've got tags for both states. If I were a multitasker, I would try to do everything at once. I can't and won't. I do one at a time, enjoying the moments I spend doing each or thinking about each, and then move on to the next one. Of course it helps to live by one single motto: When in doubt - go hunting.
Oops! Maybe I am a multitasker after all. Do you know how many sermons, blogs, class outlines, and ministry ideas I've worked on with my journal while in a tree stand? A lot! And I've been burned many times by deer walking right under me before I noticed them, while I was reading a book. Okay - if I am a multitasker, I'm not a very good one. I'm not even a good double-tasker. Is that a word yet?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Changing Scripture?

I think it's interesting how one key word in a verse of scripture becomes the driving force behind how we use it and apply it. A couple weeks ago I mentioned how much the way we use 2 Timothy 2:15 has changed through the years since most of us don't use the KJV anymore. When I was a kid in Bible school, memorizing that verse was second only to Acts 2:38 in importance because of the "then" command to "Study to show thyself approved unto God...". It was the scriptural mission statement for Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible classes and the theme of every VBS. The NIV translation "Do your best," which is far more accurate, just doesn't have the same clarion call to "get your Bibles out." So when you get to the end of the verse, with it's description of the "approved...workman" who is "unashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth," it just doesn't have the same "make sure you interpret the New Testament scripture" challenge that the old KJV did. What did Timothy and the folks at Ephesus understand Paul to be talking about? They didn't have any Bibles lying around. The "word of truth" Paul was talking about comes from what he said in verses 8&9 of that chapter: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained." Handling the word of truth correctly meant living and preaching that truth and not letting Satan distract you with "godless chatter" and "quarreling about words."
Wow! It really is a different verse than the one I grow up quoting and later using to put people on guilt trips.
Now - just a few verses later (vs.22)- is "Flee the evil desires of youth" really a challenge to young people, or simply telling us when the evil desires begin in life? Could it be an ageless warning rather than just a good verse to point out when you're speaking to the Youth Group?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Leaks, Logs, & Love

Yesterday was opening day of archery deer season in IL. I spent three and a half hours standing in my tree stand in the pouring rain repeating over and over, "I'm having fun. I'm having fun." We did manage to grab a good late morning breakfast at Mel's in Hardin - and watched it continue to rain. It really was nice to be in the woods and to know that big bucks move in the rain and at any moment, the sloppy weather could turn to sunshine with just the sighting of one. I'm still very thankful for the chance to witness God's handiwork, which includes rain.
I cross three rivers on the way to my hunting spot in IL. First the MO, then the Big Miss, and then the IL going into Hardin. I often see sticks and logs floating down the river and wonder if they'll make it all the way to the Gulf. It made me think of our newest grand baby, little Caden, born Monday night. He's been set adrift in the sea of life, and for several years, he will be guided by the currents of family and friends, but at some point, he will have to stop drifting, stop being guided, and have to be in charge of his own direction in life.
I wonder if a floating log has ever been pulled from the water, made into planks, and used to build a boat? I'm sure it has happened. Wooden boats are just organized driftwood. I just love the analogy of a drifting log that becomes part of something that seeks it's own direction, even against the current, if that's were it chooses to go.
In the meantime, before Caden becomes his own speed boat, it will take a lot of love, nurturing, and praying to help him "stay the coarse." Praise the Lord, he's in the right river that's going in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Welcome to the World Caden!

Yesterday morning I was up on the roof of our new porch putting the flashing on it, and Donna was out running around taking care of some chores, and we got the call from Elizabeth and Chad that the Doctor was sending them to the hospital. It took us a couple hours to clean up and clear up what we were doing, but we managed to get both cars on the road to Nashville by 12:30 and got to the hospital by 5:30. Little Caden came into the world a little after 10:00 last night and was every bit as beautiful as is brothers and sister, and cousins. It's in the genes. What a blessing it was to be there right after his birth and see the incredible gift God gave us all. These pictures are ones I took this morning at the hospital, before I headed back to St. Louis. Donna will stay and help for a few days, and I'm so glad that she can. It's going to be quite a chore for Chad and Elizabeth to get use to having four little ones to take care of. They'll be just fine. They are both fantastic parents. And by the way, doesn't Elizabeth look beautiful in this picture? She was worried that she wasn't really made-up for pictures, but I think she looks great.

Curtis couldn't come to the hospital since he's just getting over a fever, but here is one big brother and one big sister, who couldn't be more excited about the new addition to the family. Of course, Carter and Ashlyn had to have a Krispy-Kreme doughnut first before they held Cadin.

And here's the proud and amazingly popular Nana with the new grand baby to start spoiling.

I just love little babies - especially when they are my grand children. It's kind of odd to think that just fifty-eight years ago I was that small. Oddly enough, we have the same amount of hair.

Thank you Father for this new addition to our family. He will grow up knowing You and Your Son, and that will be the most important thing he will every learn. Thank you for being so gracious to us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Porch Pics

Okay - so every one's not interested in keeping up with the progress of the Root's new porch. I am, and I'm excited to see it finally becoming something that is ready to use. This is the view from my rocker at nearly 2:00 in the afternoon! Usually we have the back of the house closed up, covered up, and the poor AC is fighting a losing battle to keep it cool. Not only do we have a great view out back, but it's usually so peaceful and soothing. Of course, it's really nice now since Donna's cell gets better reception out back than it does in the house.
This end of the porch will eventually have a railing with a set of steps on the right side. It doesn't have to have a railing because it's under the County code of 30'', but the other side does and it will look better if the sides match. From this view you can see the full 38 x 12 size of the porch. Lots of room for everyone to sit and visit.

I took this from across the pond, obviously, and it show the new shingled roof of the porch. Can you believe that's over 15 bundles of shingles? We finished it Monday but I've still got scabs on both knees from spending so much time nailing shingles. The steps will cover the area between (from l to r) beam three and beam four. I have to have a hand rail on one side, which will be at beam four. It's fun looking out the windows and door while sitting down to dinner. Because of the slope of the back yard - from inside the yard disappears and it looks like we are on waterfront property. (Look back at the picture and notice how closed up the upper windows are compared to the ones on the porch. Yes - shade!)

This is a view not seen before. Because the deck is barely over the 30'' height, I have to put a railing across this part before the County will sign off on it. It will block a little of the view, but not much, and I'd hate to see someone slip off the edge and get hurt. There's still plenty of room for grand kids to jump off the porch, which I have no doubt will compete with "frowing wocks" in the pond.
The entire time that I spent taking these pictures, Donna was on the phone with Elizabeth, getting the scoop on how she feels an when we can expect our future porch jumper to arrive into the world. Little Caden will be number seven - and you wonder why we built such a big porch?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Great Church?

What makes a great church? I still hear members, but mostly church leaders, talk about how great it would be to be a church of one or two thousand. They say it as if the size validates our success as a church family. Okay, let's say that all of a sudden we became a church of two thousand. What would that really say about us? Would it reflect on our ability to share Jesus or our ability to attract others who like our church better than others? Would it mean that we were doing everything right, like God wants, and that we have been true to our commission and purpose? Would it allow us to help people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus? Would it really glorify God or stroke our egos?
I'm all for growing in numbers as a church. Our present church family has been at a plateau for several years. I guess to some that means we've haven't been growing, but it's only a plateau if no one has been growing in Christ. It's only a plateau if it's assumed God wants us to be something different than we are now. We are a church family with over five hundred on the rolls, we have the largest number of elders of any church I've been a part of (and the other three were larger), and I'd say that we still are not guiding our members to maturity in Christ as well as we could. Would we do a better job if we had another fifteen hundred members? It's hard to see the logic in that. There is a part of me, mostly my ego, that would love to be the pulpit minister of a huge, thriving church, that everyone else envied and wanted to copy, but is that really what God called me to do and be?
We have more visitors and community contacts then we can keep up with. We have visitors who walk in to check us out every Sunday! We have a large number of members who are very serious and honest about wanting to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. Still, someone will occasionally talk like we have failed to become a great church. It's just so hard to keeps the worlds definition of church success from driving our perspective on what we should do. We must learn to celebrate the maturity of one soul in Christ. That is the job of spiritual leaders, at least according to Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16. Our job is to build a great church, but in God's eyes, a great church is a loving, spiritually mature family that the world recognizes as followers of Jesus because of how much they love each other. not the church with the slickest program in town. Those house churches of Acts 2:42-47 were great churches. Not because they were a group of thousands when the all got together, but because they understood difference between caring relationships and community attractiveness. Just maybe - a great church is a family of disciples who are interested in seeing every member of the family draw closer to Jesus. Just maybe - if we do that with what we have, God will give us more to help grow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How Do I Love Thee...

I never was much of a love-letter writer. When I was in love, or thought I was, I generally never allowed myself to get very far away from the one I was focused on. The summer before Donna and I were married, I spent eleven weeks in Holland working with a couple of churches there and helping with the Campaign groups from Harding University that were there part of that time. I wrote a lot of letters that summer - probably daily or at least every other day. So, while I don't claim to be an expert in writing love letters, I do know a few things that a love letter doesn't do. A love letter is not vague, unclear, or hard to interpret. The writer doesn't try to communicate love with tricky textually ambiguous pronouncements. The love-struck doesn't hide his or her wants, needs, and intentions in puzzles that have to be pieced together over multiple letters. The seeking of a relationship is not hidden by stories, impeccable logic, or meaningless challenges of loyalty. The message is not complicated, convoluted, or concealed from all except the scholarly and legalistic. While it will aways be informative, the heart and soul of a love letter only has two points: I love you - and - don't you want to love me back?
I remember the first time I heard someone say that the New Testament was a love letter not a law book. I thought they were being too simplistic - almost heretical, but now, not only do I see it as a love letter, but a simple love letter from God, and, yes, it is heretical - to those who still see it as a twenty-seven book jigsaw puzzle filled with new laws and rules to discover and obey.
When you read the Word looking for God's message of love, you realize that He's not trying to present a series of hurdles to jump, but giving us the tools - the keys - to getting closer and closer to Him. He is clear and to the point. In fact, He only has two points! He declares His love for us, including all He has done to show that love, and He asks us to love Him back - with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Forget Hallmark! No one does it better than God!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Treestand Journal

Tuesday, September 15th - From my treestand in Missouri
I was in my stand by 3:00 this afternoon. It's warm, but not too unbearable since there is a gentle breeze that feels good and makes the leaves applaud God's handiwork. There is some fall color already appearing. The hickory's are turning yellow, but it's mostly green in all directions. The floor of the woods is a brown carpet of last years leaves. I am in a white oak tree, about twenty feet up, and I have a good view of everything out to sixty yards in most directions, and clear shooting lanes out to thirty yards. There are a lot of oaks of all kinds, dropping acorns with a thump, and providing dinner for squirrels and, hopefully, deer. There is some under-growth of smaller trees under the larger canopy of hardwoods and sprinkling of evergreens. It's a great day to be in God's woods.
At 4:00, a buck suddenly appeared behind me, just as I was standing up to stretch. Their stealth for their size is simply amazing. The pretty young buck, a 4x3 in reddish velvet came right under my stand about five yards from my tree. He was legal to shoot, with four points on one side, but he wasn't what I was after. I wish Danny, who is with me but several hundred yards away, could have been in my stand and got his first buck. Still, the thrill of beating any deers incredible nose, eyes, and ears is part of what this is all about.
I am really enjoying the quiet time in the woods after a long summer. What makes this so much fun? It's seeing God's work, enjoying great fellowship, having quiet time to think and pray. All that is huge, but what really gives bowhunting it's driving element is anticipation. Hunting is all about expectations. Every minute on stand is a minute of living expectantly.
Life is supposed to be lived expectantly. We live anticipating eternity with God. Well, at least we should. It sure would change the way we look at the world we live it.

Thursday PS. About two hours later, a huge buck came within twenty-three yards of me, just munching acorns like he was starved to death. He had my knees shaking, my heart pounding, and my breathing barely under control. That's what anticipation does to you. Unfortunately, he never gave me a clear shot, so I didn't try to take one. He trotted off, and, after a short bout of depression, the anticipation started all over again. I just knew he'd return on Wednesday. He didn't. I big momma doe finally came by and got a whiff of where I'd walked in, and she stormed off snorting to all the deer in Missouri to stay away! I know there's another lesson there, somewhere, like persistence, or patience, or maybe don't hunt when it's so hot you leave sweat all over the woods.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Dollar for Your Thoughts?

These are some of the pictures Donna took during my lesson yesterday on God's Tool of Grace. We skipped our usual greeting time after the first song, and during the first point of my lesson, which was "Grace helps us understand God", I had our communion servers come down front and I asked them to show everyone what was in their baskets. Thus the above hands full of one dollar bills. They passed their baskets around and I asked everyone to take one dollar out. The serving time allowed me to share a few jokes and to poke fun at a couple members. Once everyone had one dollar, I then told them that I wanted them to give it to someone. I even took a couple moments to ask those who were unemployed to raise their hands, and then anyone who was going on a mission effort or had a ministry that needed money. They could keep the dollar, give it to someone in need, or just give it to a friend or whatever they wanted.
It was interesting to watch the mixture of usual Sunday morning greetings and hugs, and everyone walking around with money in their hands.
Everyone seemed to have fun with it. A few made it too hard of a task. Some even brought their dollar and laid it in a pile on the stage - giving it back to God. I didn't think about our guests, but I do wonder what they did or what they experienced.
Some people were clearly helped by the gifts from others.
Once everyone sat back down, we did a little survey to see who did what. I asked how many gave their dollar to someone who needed it? Lots of hands. How many gave their money to a friend? A good number of hands. How many just stuck theirs in their pocket? One kid raise his hand. Brave soul!
Then I asked, "How many of you gave your dollar to someone you totally don't like? How many of you gave it to someone you consider an enemy?" There were no hands, and it was awfully quiet.
That is when I made the lesson about grace. God didn't give his only Son to us because we were so lovable. Jesus died for us while we were sinners, ungodly, and enemies - according to Romans 5. We think we understand God's grace, but in reality we barely know what it is!
Hopefully it was a lesson that will help us all think a little more deeply about God's grace. If so, it was well worth the baskets of dollar bills.
Tuesday & Wednesday - gone huntin'! First time ever to hunt opening day of Missouri's archery season.