Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lag Time

Last Saturday morning I put about thirty 4 inch lag bolts into the 2x10's that will eventually be how our new porch is attached to the house. Like everything else about this project, it was a lot harder and went a lot slower than I anticipated. I thought it was interesting that one of the boxes of lag bolts that I used was supposed to have twenty-five 4 inch lag bolts in it, but it ended up only having nineteen. Then, a pre-packaged bag of one and a half inch washers that I bought that morning, had only sixteen washers when it was suppose to also have twenty-five. I wasn't particularly upset about it since I had plenty to finish the job, and I also knew I could run up to Lowe's and fix the problem real easy. It did, however, make me think about how much trust is a part of our every day life. We trust other drivers to obey the law. We trust the waitress and the cook at the restaurant we like to bring us well prepared and safely cooked food. We trust that packages and containers really have in them what they say they do on the outside. The list is endless, and that's not even talking about the trust we place in people we know and love.
I guess the thing that gave me pause, was how much we are affected by distrust or a violation of trust. It's what makes some people so negative and pessimistic, I'm sure. It is the reason why some people seem to be so sour about life and what they expect. We've all been burned, but we haven't all been changed into grumpy old half-empty-glass people, who fully expect to get burned again. It's better to trust and be disappointed than to distrust and be miserable all your life. That is why trusting in God is so important. We know we can depend on Him, and that will see us through anything that may dampen our spirit. Or - I could just make another trip to Lowe's.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sonic Smiles

Look at that face! I hope she doesn't ask Papa for a car anytime soon!
Elizabeth sent me these pictures, so yes, it's another excuse to share pictures of some of our grand children. I thought it would be fun to send them each a five dollar gift card for Sonic because 1) they all stop there regularly and get a drink or a dessert, and 2) I knew they'd love having a card of their own that meant "possiblities" and "ownership" and "yummy". Okay - so I wanted them to also say "Papa's great". So sue me. I love Carter's and Ashlyn's posing. Are they ready to do commercials or what? I knew Curtis would be clueless about the whole thing, but I was confident that Elizabeth would know what to do with it. He did enjoy dunking it in the play pool. It's been baptized. Maybe we're looking at a future preacher!
As I look at their faces in this picture and see the fun they are experiencing just thinking about their future trips to Sonic, my mind pictures most of us holding similar cards. The cards don't say Sonic. They say Grace. Is that not the ultimate Gift Card?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This is one of several pictures my brother sent me. It made me think about something I watched happen on my back porch yesterday morning. I watched a small bird eat a worm, and it wasn't a little worm either. It was a fat five or six inch worm, who wasn't very happy about being eaten alive. I was amazed at the challenge facing the bird. It would be like me trying to eat a ten foot Boa Constrictor - at one meal. The little bird was very focused, and at the same time very protective, nervous, and watchful. He clearly didn't want to have his meal stolen or shared with any other bird. He was quick and purposeful. At first, I thought he was just pecking at the worm, but as I watched more closely, I could see that the worm was obviously getting smaller. The worm wiggled like crazy, but gradually stopped moving and became a quiet breakfast for the small bird. I thought, he couldn't possibly eat the whole thing! But within seconds - that's exactly what he did, and then was able to fly away. I expected him to just roll away. That's what I'd have to do if I ate that much at one meal.
It reminded me of that old joke, how do you eat an elephant - one bite at a time. The little bird had a huge challenge before him, but he did it - one bite at a time.
That's the way big jobs, big challenges, and big changes are accomplished - one little bite or step or change - at a time. It takes time to grow. We want things to happen immediately, but the truly important things take time and take patience. Spiritual growth is no exception. We are "being transformed into His likeness" one tiny baby step at a time. Why? Because relationships take time - they're built - they're cultivated - they develop, and it's even harder when it is a relationship based on faith not sight! Maybe that is why it's described in scripture as a walk or a journey. The nice part is that God is with us all the way. When we are clear and honest about seeking Him, He promised that He would draw near to us. He helps us with every baby step - even when we happen to take one in the wrong direction.
So how to you partake of the Bread of Life? One bite at a time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trigger Words!

With Donna in Nashville, taking care of grand kids, I took myself to dinner at Bob Evans the other night. I had my journal with me and I started to make a list of words that cause great memories in my brain. It's a long list, totally random, and certainly a long way from being complete. Donna may be the only person in the world who knows why all these words/phrases bring great memories to me. Some have multiple application and memories.

Lost River State Park
Grandma's Biscuits
Red River
"I'm pregnant"
Spanish Moss
Chap 8
"I do"
"I want to be baptized"
Be Real
Full Bubble
Camp Wamava
TN Small Group
Wood Stove
Blackie & Blaze
"Hey you"
Uncle Bud
Bye Bye Birdie
"Faithful Love"
Oak Ridge Boys
Cabbage Patch Dolls
Waffles & Bacon
Thanksgiving w/ the Vaughts

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Do I Hear "The Criminal on the Cross"?

Talk about a trip down Memory Lane? I got back from our retreat at Paris Landing State Park, and one of the many highlights of the retreat was getting to hear a "reunion" concert from some of the old Acapella singers. This is Gary, Keith, George, and Rodney (I don't have Donna hear to tell me how to spell their last names right) singing one of the many songs that first captivated all of us so many years ago. My mind went back to great memories of trips with our family in our Ford Club Wagon and listening to Acapella cassettes booming through our stereo system. They truly were the first ones to wake us all up to the fact that there are some awesome songs that aren't in our song books, and singing can be fun, inspirational, and magic. It was nice to share that with Keith as we've become good friends over the last six years of being at this retreat together. He still sounds incredible! They all did!
Steve Maxwell, a not so old member of Acapella, joined in with the "oldies". He has an awesome voice too. This group has gotten together to do some concerts outside the country to help the missionaries and churches where they are going.

Yes - Rodney sang "Amazing Grace" and shook the walls and our hearts just like he did over two decades ago. There's no one who sings that song in such a clear bass voice like he does.

And then there was the scary addition to the group as Jerry joined in to help them sing his favorite song - as he calls it "The Water Song."
The only thing nicer than the concert was the sweet fellowship we had with some wonderful folks we only, for the most part, get to see once a year. I am so thankful for the wonderful opportunities God gives me over and over again, to draw closer to Him by drawing closer to my loving brethren. It was a great retreat - again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tool Talk

Yesterday I presented a lesson on God's Tool of the Bible, and what an incredible tool it is too. The more time I spend with it, digesting it, and meditating on it, the more I realize how little I've understood about it in the years past. I am especially overwhelmed by the challenge God had of trying to communicate a totally spiritual message to a totally physical world. And add to that, say it all in such a way that it could be grasped by a first century culture or a twenty-first century culture. Still, as amazing as it is, I pointed out yesterday that the Bible is a tool to use not a god to be worshipped. We've all been raised to respect and honor the book, but to elevate it - as a physical icon - is idolatry. Sometimes it's easier to exalt a book than it is to live it's message.
God said it was a tool. It's part of what He gave us so that we would be completely equipped to do all He asked us to do (2 Tim.3:16-17). Our challenge is to use it correctly(2 Tim.2:15). That's why I shared the four "C's" of interpreting/studying God's Word. They're not that amazing, but they are essential if we are going to use the tool properly. They are Context, Consistency, Command, and Christ. Context means we look at the "whole" message and understand the author, the audience, and the limitations of what he was doing. Consistency is simply keeping the spirit of God in the forefront of what we study and let His Spirit - His nature - guide us. Command? Do it! God is clear about what He wants. He doesn't imply or create puzzles or make you guess about examples. And the most important one is Christ. What does this passage tell me about Him? How does He want me to see it? How will this help me be more like Him?
The Bible is a tool. Like any tool it's only effective if we use it. It's not the only tool and it was never God's intent for it to replace any of the other tools, but there is only ONE message from God.

We'll be at a retreat for the next four days. Hopefully I can update this blog on Friday evening. Have a great day, and don't forget to use His tools.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Let the Fun Begin!

Yesterday Lowes delivered all the material we ordered to build our covered porch on the back of our house. This is something that I have wanted since we bought this house four and a half years ago. We love the view of "The Pond" out back, BUT - because we have direct sunlight on the back of the house all day long, it's really hard to sit out there and enjoy it. It also means we have a daily struggle to keep our house cool inside with all that sun beating down on it. We have tons of things to spruce up, replace, upgrade, and decorate in nearly every room of the house, but that's all stuff that' s "just nice" - it still works. The porch, with the view and the shade is, well - pure function. I take function over fashion any day. So the work begins. We used a gas auger and a post hole digger to dig the ten thirty inch deep holes for our ten concrete foundational pylon's. Oh, my! Lots of really hard work. We can't do anything else now until the county inspector says we made them according to code.
Here is most of the lumber for the porch and roof. You can also see some of the holes that we dug. Three of the hole had to go through the existing concrete porch. My buddy, Steve Smith smashed them out yesterday.

This is the rest of the material for the porch. Everything from the concrete tubes, plywood, sacks of rocks, joist hanger, 50 bags of concrete mix, and much more. For now, it has replaced our parking spaces in the garage. Incentive to use it as as soon as possible. The goal is to have it mostly finished by our family vacation here first of August. That may be too hopeful.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Heavenly Thoughts

Last Sunday evening I answered any and every question that could possibly be asked about heaven. Well, almost. I shared a lot of things that dealt with how we should interpret the scriptures in regards to heaven. We waste a lot of time and energy looking for verses that will give us one little aspect about eternity and then we disrespect it by trying to make it literal, physical, and appealing to the senses. It's a spiritual world folks! It's the dwelling place of God and all that is limitless, timeless, and non-physical. The reason God intentionally gave us very little information about heaven is because He wants us to trust Him. He calls it FAITH!
I mentioned that my favorite verse in all of the Bible for getting insights into what heaven is all about isn't Rev. 21, John 14, or Luke 16 - it's Gen.1:26. It's one of the most ignored verses in the Bible. God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." The strange change from the singular to the plural has been attributed to poetry, multiple authorship, and God's way of messing with our brains. But just think about it. We've focused on the words image and likeness and missed the us and our. It's not about us looking like God or each of us somehow been one pixel in the large canvas of God's photograph. What is us and our all about? Relationships - togetherness - love! That's what God is all about. He made us to want and need relationships - like He and Jesus and the Holy Spirit have. There is no real love without relationships. His plan for redeeming man is driven by His love for us and His desire for us to know love. He gave us His church as a tool to help build loving relationships, He gave us His Son to make possible our relationship with Him - for eternity!
Now - what does that have to do with heaven? How can heaven possibly be anything except the realm of complete relationships - with Him and with one another? So all those questions about will we recognize each other, be with one another, remember and interact, and on and on... That's what heaven is for! It's the fulfillment of God's plan for us. We will finally and truly be "in our image." In spite of my warnings about taking scriptures literally - there's a reason why Jesus described heaven as sitting down to a feast together (Matt.8:11). Heaven is about togetherness, relationships and love.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!

This is a picture of the wedding cake Donna made for a wedding at Florissant this morning. The bride actually had them laid out this way so they would be easier to serve. What a wise girl. These four cakes are not all the same. Some were double chocolate and the others were French vanilla - and both were good. I tried both, just to be sure. As always, they were not only beautiful to look at, but wonderful to eat. Boy, am I glad the "Yuck" is over.
I guess it's a sign of aging, but every time we go to a wedding now-days I never think about our wedding - 37 years ago this coming December, but the weddings of our three children. Weddings are always so hectic and even stressful because of all the things that have to be done to make them exactly like "the Bride," or more importantly, "the Mom" - want it to be, that sometimes memories tend to get blurry over over the years. Like my memory of mine and Donna's wedding, my memory of the details of Pat and Deborah's, Chad and Elizabeth's, and Jonathan and Holly's weddings is getting a little fuzzy. Yes, I've forgotten things that "my girls" would never dream of forgetting, but - there are some things I remember quite well.
I remember how much I trusted my three children to pick the right person. I remember how quickly I came to love and respect their choice. I remember how proud I was that they found a life-mate who would help them get to heaven. And as I look at how their relationship with each other and with God has grown through the years, I remember how thankful I was that He guided them to the right person.
I can't imagine how horrible it would be to know your child was marrying the wrong person, and know that you can't interfere for fear of damaging your relationship with them. Or to know that they are committing their life to someone who won't provide any spiritual leadership in their family and you have visions of their spiritual journey becoming an uphill climb. I'm glad I never had to know what that was like.
They each married a very special person that God provided for them "to find" who would understand that success in this life means nothing if you're not prepared for the next one.
Did I mention how good that cake was?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Is "Yuck" really a word?

I fully intended to do a blog on Tuesday, but the day was too busy. Then I woke up Wednesday morning sick. I'm still sick, but getting better. It's one of those achy, stomach crampy, fevered headache kind of yucky sick that just puts you in bed. Now, I'm not sure if all my muscle aches are from the illness or from being in bed so long. My lovely wife just made me a grilled cheese sandwich, and it went down just fine and I actually feel a little better.
The only reason I share these personal aches and pains with you is not to garner sympathy (though a short "poor Mike" would be okay), but to point out how blessed I truly am. Donna and I were sitting at the kitchen table moments ago and neither one of us could remember the last time I as sick. How incredible is that! I have thought on many occasions that God has blessed me with a strong immune system. Do you have any ideas how many hugs and handshakes I've shared over the last thirty-five years with people who had colds, flues, and various other communicable illnesses? I don't know how many times, usually in the Winter, I'd shake hands with someone at the back door of the auditorium and say, "How are you doing?" and they say, "Oh, I'm just getting over a bad stomach virus." I want to scream, "AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING SHAKING MY HAND?" Oh well, God has protected me from all sorts of germs, viruses, and the people who insist on sharing them at church.
So, unless this illness kills me, I have to look at it as a small bump in my plans that I shouldn't have been so focused on anyway. And if it does kill me, Praise the Lord! I'll get to find out if there are bathrooms in heaven!