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.