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!