Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is A Hero Just A Sandwhich?

I have been troubled for several years now about the over usage of the word "hero," and no, I'm not talking about the TV series, though it does somewhat speak to the point I want to make. Anyone trying to learn the English language today would have to assume that everyone is a hero. If you're famous - you're also a hero. If you or your sociological group are the subject of a talk show - you're a hero. If you give money to a worthy cause - you're a hero. If you help with any service project - you're a hero. If you did something honest or showed integrity - you're a hero. If you are underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated, or if you put your family first, or if you join any military service, or if you honor those who serve, or if you called 911 for someone else - you're - well, by now you get the point.
Our generalized application of hero has made it an almost meaningless word. The news media throws it at anyone who is nice, does what's right, sets a good example, or is being the good citizen we assume and expect everyone to be. It's like the NFL players who pound their chest, dance their personal dance, and basically scream "Look at the awesome tackle I just made!" Well Duh! Isn't that what they pay you millions to do? And didn't the work of ten other guys have a little to do with it? And you think you're a hero?
I know - the dictionary says that a hero is someone who is admired for their accomplishments. So yes, Mom you're a hero for all the work you do, and Dad's a hero for playing catch with Junior. I guess being born right after WW2 and during the Korean War, I tend to think of a hero as someone who does something "above and beyond" what is expected. It's the person who risks their life to help others! It's the willingness to sacrifice and do what few people are willing to do. Doing something "heroic" is doing something extraordinary, not doing what any responsible person should do.
I don't know? I guess I can't help but think about the 1200 WW2 veterans who die each day, who paid dearly for this right to do a blog and keep goose-stepping black-shirted government killers from closing the doors of my church. Men and women who pass from this life unnoticed and forgotten as we spent days mourning the loss of TV stars and musicians, and listen to other celebrities call them heroes.
I don't want to take honor and recognition away from anybody - but I do wish we'd save the word "hero" for people who truly did something heroic. If you're a hero for collecting litter from off the street, what would you call someone who allowed himself to be crucified to pay for the sins of all mankind? Now that I think about it, I can't remember a time when anyone referred to Jesus as a hero. Why not?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just What Is Real Power?

This is my 350th blog post! Wow! I wonder how many books that could have been? I wonder how many people have read even one of them? I guess it doesn't matter as long as I enjoy the sharing. After all, how many people have to read something before the writing is justified or worth the effort? My, am I getting philosophical in my almost old age or what?
Speaking of which (philosophical not the age thing), I wrote a note to myself last week that I wanted to think about this week. As it turned out, I shared it in my Sunday morning Bible class and I will be referring to it again this coming Sunday in my lesson on God's Tool of Leadership. Here's the note: "Real power is when you don't have to make sure people know you have it!"
Often, power is a matter of "I'm bigger, meaner, stronger, or richer than you, so you better do what I want you to do!" But real power, the power of character, integrity, and admiration - the power of influencing others because they respect you - the power of quiet leadership that commands attention and attracts a following - well, that's a special kind of power. Real leaders have it. If you have to have a title or position before you display leadership qualities, you're not a leader, you're a wimp waiting to be promoted. Everyone knew that Jesus had authority - even when they didn't see him perform a miracle. He didn't have to throw around titles, and he had some - just ask Isaiah! He didn't have to impress anyone with his supernatural powers. They were dwarfed by his compassion anyway. His power was seen in his purposeful living, his godly character, and his understanding of his Father. Some people who only know worldly power didn't get it. They would - eventually. I wonder what it's been like for the last two thousand years for those people who shouted, "If you are the Son of God, come down off that cross and save yourself!" Power kept him up there. The power of his love for us.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wanderings in the Dessert

This is Donna's famous "Cootie Cake" which she has made for our annual Dessert Auction each year. I think Danny Younger named it that five years ago when he saw the chocolate curls on top. If you remember where that came from - you're old! The Dessert Auction is really a lot of fun. The Dessert Auction is a fund raiser for the youth mission trip, and this year, since they're not going very far for their trip and don't need as much money, it was the smallest auction we've ever had. Still, by the time it was over, they'd raised over $3200 for their trip. Last year the amount was around $10K. Donna's cake is really a German Chocolate cake with lots of extra chocolate "things" decorating it from top to bottom. I think it went for about $150, which is half of what it went for in the past. Tough economy?
Donna and a couple of our members are looking over one of the tables with desserts and other "packages" to be auctioned off. There are always some amazing things that are donated by members to be auctioned off - like first-base tickets to a Cardinals game, and some of the desserts came with all sorts of decoration or picnic utensils or such like.

This is Danny Younger being the auctioneer - trying to create some "bidding wars" to push up the amount. He always does a good job and makes it a lot of fun. There is something ironic about a dentist pushing SO much sugar!

Ron Ebker just happened to get caught in this picture. I wanted to take a picture of the cake our table went together to buy. Four of us pooled our money, got the top bid, and bought this - some kind of candy bar cake! It was wonderful - and I could say "rich" - especially since it cost me $25 for my slice! But it's a worthy cause. It was a great evening of fun, fellowship, and fundraising. If you ever need a good fundraiser at your church, try this idea of a dessert auction. Hey - food? It's clearly one of the things we do well as a church!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thoughts on Fathers Day

Sunday is Fathers Day. I don't know - it just never struck me with the same level of importance as Mothers Day. Why? Maybe it's because I never had a Dad to honor on that day - at least one that was home or alive. Maybe it's because I've always felt like Moms clearly deserved it, while "us Dads" generally got to have Father's Day every day. I don't know. Every year at church the ladies whine "Why don't you do something special for fathers on Fathers Day, like you do for the Moms on Mothers Day?" What? A flower? Maybe a Dandelions to represent all the yard work not done yet. A pen or a bookmark with some sweet saying or Bible quote on it? It always ends up in Mom's purse. No, we need to hand out pocket knives, so guys could whittle during church, or defend the preacher from some crazed shooter. I can see the headlines now ARMED ASSAILANT TURNED INTO A PIN CUSHION AT CHURCH! Or maybe we could hand out Philips screwdrivers and all the men could tighten up all the chairs in front of them during communion. Or what about a bottle of DOE-IN-HEAT deer lure? That would give a whole new meaning to being the aroma of Christ, though it could perk up a few marriages...
No, the ultimate Dads Day gift can't be handed out at church on Sunday morning. It never was a tie, and while the sharp three button shirts are nice, it's really not something from Penney's. It's even not, and I hate to say it, getting his favorite food for Sunday dinner! Ouch. It's something much more precious. It's hearing "I love you" from the ones who call you Dad. Sure, most guys wouldn't say that, but just being loved, remembered, and appreciated - for just a few seconds is - well that's really what matters. And the beauty of that is - it makes every day that it happens - Fathers Day.
PS. My cordless drill is a close second.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Talk Is Cheap - And Precious!

Sunday morning I began a series of lessons about God's Tools. These are the things that God has given us to help us grow spiritually, which is growing relationally with Him. I did a similar series in TN about seven years ago, and while the list is the same, the presentation will be very different. The biggest reason is because I've changed. Yes, I know the truth doesn't change, but our ability to understand, interpret, and communicate it does. It's called growing - at least that's what I hope it's about for me. I began with what I think is the most important tool in my list of twelve (I really believe there are fourteen tools, but one is angels, whom I conveniently merge with the Holy Spirit, and the other is TOO scary for some people to classify as "TOOL" when they've seen it as the goal for too many years - makes you wonder doesn't it?).
Prayer is the most important tool God has given us as we develop a deeper relationship with Him and with Jesus. Why? It's our communication with Him. Like I've said many times, without communication there is no relationship! That's true with family and friends, but also with God. In fact, I really think the word "prayer" as been so institutionalized and formalized by doing church, that most people see it as a religious rite or sacrament and not the simple talking to God that it truly is.
One of my sub-points was "Our relationships are only as strong as our ability to keep communicating!" Stop talking and you stop the relationship. We know that, and that is why it is so immature to show our anger or dissatisfaction with someone by giving them "the silent treatment." Do you really want to destroy the relationship? Of course not - it's just a petty way to make someone notice that we are upset. My most famous, and most used, saying also explains why it's so destructive. If you don't communicate you speculate! Speculation is almost always wrong!
So the question is, are you communicating with God or just speculating about Him? If you're not talking - the relationship is dying. Don't let that happen. Talk to Him. He sent a text message two thousand years ago and He's waiting for a rely!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can't Top This!

This past week has almost been an overload of blessings with the play and having most of our family with us. In the above picture all the kids, except for baby Daniel, take a Popsicle break in back of our house as they watch the pond out back get chemically treated for algae and bugs. Interesting stuff!

After the final show Sunday night, trying to get Curtis to sit still long enough for a group picture of us and all the grand kids proved impossible. So, here we have an "action" picture of us and our grand kids.

It was also really nice to have my sister Becky visiting with us this week. I think she has come out every year for the play and stayed the week after so we could have some good visit time. If she lived here, she'd be up on the stage as part of the cast. I guess it runs in the family.
God blessed us with another wonderful experience with every part of this year's production. We had about two thousand in attendance over the four nights with Sunday night being the largest crowd of over six hundred. We had five hundred and twenty family units that registered for a free DVD of the play, and we are receiving some wonderful comments from everyone who attended. We've been praying about this for months, and God has answered our prayers. The follow-up will start in about three to four weeks as we get our finished DVD's of the play back from the company that is making the copies for us.
And add to all that getting to be with family for several days and you have the makings of one incredible week. God is good!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Post Production?

It has been two days since our last performance of Transformers: Saul to Paul, and I haven't allowed myself much time to reflect on the "success" of the play. I really don't need to do much reflecting to make that call. I've never been part of a church-musical-performance that generated as much thinking, soul-searching, and questions for the audience as this one did. The comments from scores of people that I talked to more than convinced me that the message in this play will be effecting lives for a long time to come - and that's true for both audience and performers.
Every person who attended was confronted by the message that Jesus changes people. They heard the Gospel message, they witnessed the change from Saul to Paul, many saw a real New Testament baptism for the first time, and everyone understood that God's love should lead us to love one another and Him. I could focus on the good crowds, about 2000 in total, or the several hundred families that registered to receive a free DVD of the play and thus, give us an opportunity to connect with them one more time, but I know that lives were changed, and that is what it was all about.
We had two young people baptized into Christ Sunday morning. They were brother and sister in a wonderful, dedicated Christian family in this congregation, but when one of them was asked what made them decided to be baptized, they said, "It was the play. It made be realized that I've never been transformed by Jesus." Nuf said!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

After Two Nights...

This is the opening song from Friday night's performance. We begin with "Glorious Impossible".
This is the action prior to the stoning of Stephen. They're singing "We will rock you!"

The Pharisees have some great songs in scene two. This is "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better".

This is the "horn duet" in "Old Time Hebrew Scroll".

This is the singing of "He Is Jehovah" in scene two. It helps display Hebrew pride!

The ladies sang a medley of songs from the Martins that we call "The River Medley".

This is the church in Damascus sharing communion using the song "The Bread Has Been Broken".

In the final scene, we use "cardboard confessions" to enhance "Your Grace Still Amazes Me". It's a powerful song and the personalized transformations from sinners to saved saints is very touching.
Tonight we have our third show. So far both shows have been great with about a thousand visitors between the two nights. Tonight and Sunday night should be our biggest audiences. It's truly neat to hear people talking about how moved they were by the play. There is no doubt about what the point it, and everyone seems to get it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


This is last night's dress rehearsal and it really went well. It was the first time we got to see all the color of the Pharisees costumes. This is from scene two when Saul and the Sanhedrin are singing about the virtues of "old time scrolls". I doubt if the original group had as much rhythm.
This is still scene two as the whole crowd sings about how wonderful Jehovah is. Yes, that is the Temple behind them (not to scale).

This is in scene four as, now Paul, tries to get the Damascus church to accept him as a true convert. I can't wait to have an audience respond to the lines, lyrics, and action of the play. It has been a lot of hard work, but fun work, and we have all been blessed in many ways already. Now we just ask God to use it to touch hearts.
I'll try to get some live show pictures up before the four show finish on Sunday night.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Need a rest?

It's amazing that many of the things in life that you truly enjoy are also things that you need a rest from. Every year, especially as we get into the heat of the Summer, I begin to really look forward to Fall bowhunting. When it gets here in late September, I sooooo enjoy relaxing in a tree stand, watching all the wildlife, meditating on God's beautiful creation, and being filled with the anticipation of a nice buck coming my way. Even when the cooler weather of November and December comes blowing in, I still love every minute in a blind or stand. But, by the time I make those last few bowhunting trips into the woods in January, I'm usually ready for the season to finish and put my bow up for a few months. I love it, but I'm ready when it's over.
Tonight is the last official rehearsal for our musical Transformers: Saul to Paul. Tomorrow night is dress rehearsal and then we do a performance Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. I'm really excited about finally getting to do the show for our audience each night. The cast and crew are ready, the costumes and sets are ready, the advertisements have been handed out, and all the membership support has been assigned. It's time to do it and I can't wait!
Still, I picked all the music last Summer. I listened to it over and over before writing new lyrics and the script in late Fall early Winter. We had our first meeting and read-through in mid February and have been in rehearsals since the first of March. After Sunday night, I will be ready to quit thinking about it and ready to quit waking up in the middle of the night with one of the songs going through my head. I love it! It's going to be incredible! I'm glad it will end.
These are two of the biggest things in my life - bowhunting and our musical - and I'm still glad they end? You know what? I never feel that way about God's goodness and grace. I never get tired of thinking about how thankful I am for what He constantly does for me. He's not a hobby or an event! He's not an activity or entertainment! He's my Father! I have a relationship with Him and I cannot get tired of building it and seeking to know Him better. Without Him, the other things wouldn't be as special or as meaningful. He gives purpose to everything. I'll never need a rest from Him, but I do seek a rest with Him!