Friday, December 31, 2010

Nashville Christmas

We were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas in Nashville last week with everyone except for Jonathan and Holly, who were suffering - I'm sure - having Christmas with Holly's family in Florida. As mentioned, we had our Christmas on Wednesday, then the Bills went down to be with Pat's family for the duration of the season. We had a wonderful time, and as usual, the youngest ones seemed to steal the show.

Daniel and Caden were providing plenty of entertainment and camera moments. I love the expressions on everyone's face - especially Caleb over in the chair.

I'm not sure if the small ones really were the center of attention or if they just happened to be the only ones I took pictures of. These five pics are all I took.
The neat thing about that age is that they get as much joy out of the opening of the gifts as the gift itself.

"And now, modeling our latest fashion in aprons..."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Nard Nerd?

It never fails. The moment you think you have done a thorough job of explaining and applying a section of scripture - of truly exposing the reasons why the Holy Spirit included it in the Bible - you get slapped across the face by the light bulb that you thought was so clearly visible above your head. Sure, I danced all around it, but I didn't quite put into words a major point that screams from the recorded story. I hope my pride is a godly pride, but I do pride myself in being able to reveal things from familiar biblical events that many people tend to miss. That is one of the toughest challenges when it comes to preaching about a very familiar story in the Gospels. I did do that, but I missed emphasizing something that is crucial to answering the question, what does God want us to learn from this?
In Mark 14, Jesus is having dinner at the house of Simon the Leper. A woman comes in, breaks open "an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume," and proceeds to pour it over the head of Jesus. It's a year's worth of wages, as one disciple described, wasted on Jesus rather than being used to do something really worthwhile - like helping the poor. Jesus defends her, praises her, and rewards her and her act of love with everlasting remembrance.
I won't re-preach my lesson, but the best way to understand it - I believe, is to ask yourself why this touched Jesus so much. It was an act of love, of sacrifice, of singular devotion that ignored others, and maybe most important of all, allowing yourself to be used by God to glorify his Son.
That's some good stuff to chew on! Still, here's the point I wish I'd made Sunday:
An act of love needs no justification! It is it's own priority regardless of what others do, think, judge, or say.
That's even more good stuff to chew on for a while. Wow - could a call that a God cud?

Friday, December 24, 2010


I am blogging from Brentwood, TN planning to be safely home in Florissant, MO by tomorrow afternoon sometime. We had a wonderful (early) Christmas with family on Wednesday afternoon, right after we arrived, and then we had a wonderful dinner at a great restaurant in Cool Springs. Pat, Deb, and kids went on down to Pat's family get-together in Tullahoma, and we have really enjoyed a couple of nice days doing things with Chad and Elizabeth and kids. In a little while we will be heading out to a Christmas eve program at Otter Creek C of C and look forward to seeing our grand-daughter perform and see some of our old TN friends who have migrated to there. The plans are to start home tomorrow morning - but all things could change if the snow ends up being a lot more than the news people are saying. We'll see.

Hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a wonderful time with family and friends.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Talk

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you know that one of my favorite Rootisms is "Traditions are for bonding not for binding." It's one of those oft forgotten principles that should be on a banner in every church auditorium and elders meeting room. Not because I said it, but because it's true. Too many people have no idea that there preferences and patterns have no foundation in scripture, and have no right being declared as the "correct way," the "right way," or the "scriptural way." While traditions have value as unity builders and fostering family uniqueness, they are tools not laws. For churches, if they don't contribute to helping people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, they should - and must - be replaced.
Christmas provides an excellent illustration of this principle. The other day someone asked me if our family did Christmas on Christmas eve or Christmas morning. I said, "Traditionally, we do Christmas on Christmas eve, but this year we're having Christmas on Wednesday afternoon." (Christmas eve is Friday.) They quickly had a shocked look on their face - clearly saying, "You're not celebrating Christmas on Christmas?!!!!" I quickly explained that we have Christmas whenever we can get our family together. For us, even with our family traditions, the bigger principle is being together and making Christmas a family experience. That is more important than the Christmas eve tradition.
I think it's nearly always a safe bet that when a tradition stops being about people but a performance - it's time to let go of the tradition. It really doesn't take very long to create a new one. Like I've said about church traditions: Anything that's new, that can be done three weeks in a row without too many complaints - becomes a tradition.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thirty Eight Years Ago...

It's really kind of hard to imagine being thirty-eight years old, let alone being married for thirty-eight years. Let's see...that means we got married when we were...what...four or five? Oh well, it's all good. On Tuesday I surprised Donna with a night out at the Four Seasons in downtown St. Louis. We had a beautiful huge room that overlooked the Arch and the heart of downtown, with amenities that I can't begin to list. She had a long trip to the Spa and then we had dinner in their really nice restaurant.

This is the view from the living room part of our suite. Both the bedroom and the living room had wall windows looking at at the city. The Edward Jones Dome is right off to the right, across I-70,

Like a couple of tourists, which - with this kind of luxury, we are - we had to take pictures of the mirror TV with my favorite program on. The flash washed it out for the picture, but it was high quality, as was the 52 inch in the LR and the one in the bedroom.

This is dinner in their restaurant and the arrangement of flowers I had them bring out for Donna. It looks like I have a name tag on, but that's the card with "Thanks for 38 great years." I was an awesome dinner. (I can't think of a better superlative.)

As we were trying to decide on a dessert, they brought out this platter with all kinds of goodies that made picking a dessert unnecessary.
We had a wonderful time, but it only reminded us of thirty-eight wonderful years. We thank God for that every night and for all the great memories we have. Seems like just yesterday when this all started on a cold Thursday evening at the College Church of Christ in Searcy. As I say regularly, and not just once a year, it was the best decision I've made in my whole life - second only to my decision to follow Jesus. If we get a lot more - great! If we don't - it's still more than we deserve. Thank you Father.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cool Pics

These pictures were on Danny Younger's Trail Camera which was about two hundred yards down the hill and north of where my stand was when I arrowed this big boy. His camera date was off by a month, so this is really November and just the week before this nice twelve pointer walked in front of my stand. He's really a beauty. If you look really careful, you'll see Danny's ladder stand in the tree just behind the deer. He is actually heading southeast and up the hill toward were my camera is. I'm still wondering why I don't have any pictures of him on my trail camera.
This was the night before the above picture. He is heading down the hill toward the corn fields - or where the does are. This is so cool. I've never had a picture of a deer I've taken while he was still in the wild. I had five nice bucks on my camera before I shot this one, and he wasn't one of the five. I feel the need for additional trail cameras!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It Twas Twue!

'Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house,
It was lunch left overs all filling our mouth.
When from our front yard came a scream filled with fright
Causing us both to behold such a weird sight.
A red bearded monster was stalking our place,
There were visions of hand outs all over its face.
He just squealed and he strutted with his cock-a-doodle-do,
And we both grabbed our camera to snap up a few.

We don't know were he came from or what he was seeking,
But he didn't want us to get close with our peeking.
So he crossed to the neighbors and bid us adieu,
He was gone by that evening, hopefully not in a stew.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Relationships - Again?

I know there are some church folks who get tired of hearing about the importance of relationships. It's actually tragic that it was "out of vogue" for so long, other than the occasional cliche' about "having a personal relationship with Jesus." My training and experience was clear. Church wasn't about relationships, but about doing church. It took decades for me to discover that church is ALL ABOUT relationships - or should be. The New Testament is clear, if we don't go to it with preconceived conclusions, the church exists as a tool to build spiritual relationships that help us love one another and thus learn how to love God. It's what getting together is supposed to accomplish. (Read Eph.4:11-16 and 1 Jn.4 again) It is sad that some resist that simplicity and purpose. It changes the paradigm for church as a detached, non-participatory, scoot-in-scoot-out, once a week spiritual activity that labels us "Christan" in the eyes of those we want to impress. Relationships require time, effort, and commitment. It means investing in something other than work and home. It means risking ourselves, risking the possibility of disappointment and hurt, and risking having to give more than we receive - at least temporarily. That is more than many people want church (God) to demand of them.
It's not just a risk - it's a certainty. When we choose to get close to people, there will be problems. The same is true the second that beautiful baby of yours takes it's first breath. Relationships always come with problems, and with love, and with all the wonderful joys that so out-weigh those problems. It all comes back to believing what our hearts tell us. We know, though we often forget, that life isn't about comforts, possessions, accomplishments, prestige, and flashes of happiness. We know, when we remove all the clutter, that life is about who you love and who loves you back.
I wasn't going to write about all that with this blog. I was just going to write about how wonderful is was to spend some time with a great friend the last couple days. A brother who has been a loyal and loving friend for about fifteen years. A brother who has been with me through peaks and valleys, shared some beautiful memories, and who has been both a student and a teacher to me. A friend - I met at church - years ago - who I know I'll get to be with for eternity, even if we don't see each other but once or twice a year. That's what God put His church here for.
I thank God for all the wonderful relationships I've been blessed to have - at church.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Crying Awesome Wolf!

Have you noticed that we seem to be a people in search of a good superlative? Hey, I'm the last one to be critical of any one's speech habits and word choices. I'm as guilty as the next guy when it comes to the over use of superlatives - and yes, cliches. I've got a boat load of 'em! It just seems to me that if we use superlatives to describe everything from our morning bagel to our late night bed, where do you go from there? It's like the boy who cried wolf, except we are crying "stupendous" and no one cares. If your hot chocolate is awesome and your new shirt is incredible, what can you say about a sunset or a star-filled night? If everything is super, where do you go next? Super-Duper? We've been forced to create new words or prefixes just because we need to elevate something beyond rad, bad, or cosmic. Now everything can be mega-something, or monster-that, or uber-meister-crack-a-lackin'-A+, if you can think that fast.

And if the nice guy who collects toys for foster children is a hero, what do you call the soldier who covers a grenade with his body to save the lives of his fellow soldiers?

I'm not complaining, just wondering. Ask me how my last hunt was, and I'm more than likely going to say, "It was awesome." I just wonder, what ever happened to good? Why isn't good - good anymore? Isn't being a good person, doing good things for the good of mankind a pretty good superlative? What's wrong with "You did a good job," or "That was a really good piece of pie"? "Really" sort of makes it a mega-superlative doesn't it? It gets boosted even higher with the addition of "very".

I can't help but remember when someone called Jesus "Good Teacher" and he told them, in essence, that was such a high superlative that is should only be applied to God. Maybe that's why I hear so many people say, "Good God." Wait! I don't think that's a superlative.

Just something to think about. Have a great day, or good day, or an awesome day. Choose your superlative.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Family Time

It's back to the routine again, after an incredible week with family. "Incredible"? I've been chewing on the thought that we have become a people in search of superlatives - but that will have to wait until the next blog. Right now I wanted to share some additional pics from last week while the experience is still fresh on our minds.
If you look real closely at the above picture you will see tiny blurs of snow flakes falling. See the blurs off to the left? It was neat to have a beautiful snow fall for just a short time last week. We had a little of everything with sunny and 70 on Monday, rain storms, dropping temps, snow, and cold sunny winter-like day's on Friday and Saturday.

Again, if you look hard you can see the snow flakes that Curtis, Ashlyn, and Caleb are trying to enjoy.

This looks exactly like the earlier picture of Joshua in my double tree stand, but it's Chad and his oldest Carter, settling in for an evening hunt. Carter did really well. It was cold and windy and the deer weren't moving much, but they still saw a buck way up the hill directly in front of them. I was about forty yards away in another stand, and I saw five does, who all stayed a long way from my effective range with a bow.

This is a better zoom in picture. Carter had his camo on and was really excited about going on his first hunt with his Dad and Papa. I really think there is something special that happens when kids spend time in the woods with their Dad, or Mom. There is something about appreciating nature and God's handiwork, and learning patience and enjoying time to think and meditate, and having stories of things seen and experienced that - well, it bonds you like nothing else. If I had to do it all over again with my three, I'd have taken them with me a lot more than I did. It's a lot harder when your day off is a school day, but I'd still like a few more memories of having them with me. Back then, we never even thought about taking daughters hunting, so I only took Jonathan with me, but today, the largest group of new people coming into bowhunting is girls/women. The new bows are so much easier to learn how to use, and the ladies are proving to be excellent bowhunters.
So, maybe next year Ashlyn will go hunting? They do have pink bows now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Favorite Holiday!

I hope that you are having a great Thanksgiving. We are really enjoying having ALL of our family here this year for the first Thanksgiving we've had together since the year before we left TN. We moved six years ago, but it was seven Thanksgivings ago that we were last together for this special holiday. Lots of food, fun, and just being together. I got to take our oldest grandson, Joshua, on his first hunting trip Tuesday afternoon. He wasn't hunting, just seeing what it is like. I got this two man stand last Summer just so I could start taking our grand kids with me, so they could see if it was something they might like to learn how to do.

It was a beautiful day, but it was a little chilly. Joshua was cold within 45 minutes, but fortunately I had my heavy fleece coat on my backpack and I used it to wrap him up and keep him warm. We didn't have any deer come right by us, but we did get to see a nice 8 or 10 point buck about sixty yards away. He was big and pretty. I told Joshua, a lot of hunters go hunting for years and never see a deer that nice and he got to see one on his first trip. I know, I've had years like that.

It rained all day yesterday (Wed.), so we took the grand kids over to the church building and let them run around while Chad and Pat helped me move chairs around. We had a wonderful area-wide Praise Service Sunday night, and we had put all our extra chairs in the auditorium. We needed to set up a couple adult classes that use the same chairs, and stack some up in the back so we wouldn't have too many seats for our normal Sunday morning assembly. Once the chairs were moved, we got to toss a football around a little, and just let them burn off some energy that couldn't be burned off in our house - with fifteen people in it.

These two smaller pictures are ones that Pat took with his phone camera.
It sure was nice to have some extra muscle with me to move all those chairs. After all the food we've been eating, we needed the exercise as badly as the kids did. Speaking of's about time for our Thanksgiving dinner. There may be some additional pictures later.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"It's Not Easy To Stay In Love!"

Since I told some folks that I'd share the following from last Sunday's lesson on my blog, here are the ten "SIGNS" I mentioned in my introduction to illustrate that "It's not easy to stay in love."
1. Did you think you were "falling" in love and found out that you only tripped?
2. Did your spouse offer you the moon, and all you got was an RC and a Moon Pie?
3. Did he promise you precious jewels and it turned out to be Lucky Charms for breakfast?
4. Did your Prince Charming end up being one of the Seven Dwarfs in a suit?
5. Did your "Message in a Bottle" come from Anheuser Busch?
6. Did your "Sleeping Beauty" wake up and start flying a broom?
7. Has your George Clooney turned into Loony Tuney?
8. Did she say she'd worship you, but all you've gotten are burnt offerings?
10. Did you marry a Mac Truck that was disguised as a Mini Cooper?
All this to help me set up the point: Love is the vehicle that takes us to God!
Really! I was able to make the connection!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It Doesn't Have To Be Tough!

We have been so excited as we look forward to having all of our family together for Thanksgiving for the first time since we left TN six years ago. I was reflecting on that as I did my walking this morning and I found myself thinking about how close we are to having grandchildren becoming teenagers. It truly does seem like yesterday when our three were going through their teenage years. They were wonderful years, and we have nothing but great memories as a family when we think back over those times. Unfortunately, many families go through some pretty tough years of conflict, rebellion, and stress. For a lot of teens, those transition years are traumatic and, in some cases, life altering.
Why are the teen years so difficult? It's the time in our life when some major things merge, or maybe crash, together. Three things are impacting the teen brain: the desire for independence, the desperate need for acceptance and affirmation, and the discovery of desires, experiences, and challenges not available previously. Any young person, who doesn't have a good foundation of character, self-control, and self-esteem, will have a serious struggle on their hands as they try to walk through the mine-field of peer pressure, decision making, and temptations.
Healthy parenting is still the best hope for preparing any youngster for those tough years. The right kind of parenting provides the balance and the merging of self-control and self-esteem. All parental discipline is, or should be, about helping a child move from parent control to self-control, because it's in those teen years that the parent won't always be around. However, if the parenting is just about parent control, and it isn't building self-esteem along with the proper discipline, that parental control will simply be replaced by peer control and the absence of self-control.
When parental control is driven by parent comfort, the need for peace, frustration, or just being in charge, and there is little or no building of self-worth or of significance and confidence in the child, that child will not be ready or capable of resisting the three brain attackers mentioned above. When parenting provides lots of love, clear direction, and consistent discipline, that new teenager will feel good enough about himself or herself to "Just Say NO" to anything they need to resist.
No one ever said it was easy being a parent. In fact, next to your own walk with God and maintaining a healthy marriage, it is the most important thing any of us will ever do - and we only get one chance to do it right!
I'm excited, if the Lord lets me hang around that long, about seeing my grand children become teenagers. They have incredible parents - no brag, just fact - and I know they will all have a wonderful time through all those challenging years. We did, and I thank God for it often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let Me Introduce You To God...

Not only do most of us have a difficult time understanding and grappling with God's love - agape' - but that means we struggle with knowing God too, because "God is love." What does that mean? How is God love? What does that tell us about him?
In all my years of studying and preaching on 1 Corinthians 13, I discovered something in studying it last week that thrills me to my soul, but also has me thinking, "Why didn't you think of that a long time ago?" Maybe I did, and I forgot. Maybe it hasn't been as important to me in the past as it is at this place in my life. Here's the point. 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter (though 1 John 4 is too), but the description of love given by Paul in verses 4-8 is the most detailed and applicable account in the Bible. Isn't a description of love a description of God?
What does it say to you to read that passage like this?
God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.
Wow! If that doesn't help you know a little more about God nothing will. Maybe we should quit calling it The Great Love Chapter and start calling it The Great God Chapter.
Now go back and put you name in each spot where God is mentioned. That's called god-li-ness!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Jonathan has been doing some really funny videos on YouTube. Check out YouTube RootDownStupidity'sChannel. They're all funny, but the last one "Not a Christmas Song" is really funny.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Warning: Dead Critter!

It has been three years, but I finally got another nice IL buck this morning. It was so beautiful outside. The temperature was mild, the leaves were raining down giving a yellow cast to everything, and I'd just had the thought, "It's wonderful to be out here even if I don't see the big boy," and then he just walked right in like he'd read the script. My stand, and the spot I shot this big guy, is just over my shoulder in this picture, about forty yards down the hill. It was nice that my good-buddy-land-owner, who left work to come help me haul this heavy guy out, was able to drive right up to this fence on a neighbor's property. To say I was excited is an understatement, but I guess to those who know me, it's hard to imagine seeing me TOO excited about anything. Well, this was it, and I am very thankful for the successful hunt - and even the new taxidermy bill we'll have.
He came by at 8:15 in the morning. I watched him do a lip-curl - checking for does - before he walked straight across the clearing in front of me some fifteen yards away. After the shot, he circled right behind me and dropped on the top just five yards from the fence, just a couple yards from where the picture below was taken. How's that for being cooperative? He is a twelve pointer even though his G4 on his left side is broken and only an inch and a half long. He has a curled kicker point on both G2's, but it's hard to see the left one, and his right brow tine looks like a can opener. Lots of character. He's a beauty. So now I only have doe tags in IL and the land owner said he'd like to see us take about fifteen of them. I wish! I'd settle for a couple during Thanksgiving week - who knows...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Inny or Outty?

If your church/congregation is trying to grow, and who doesn't want to do that, and you attempt to objectively determine what is hampering your growth, you will at some point - whether it's a member, minister, or "church growth expert" you bring in to help - hear some form of the following comment, "Our problem is that we are too inwardly focused and we need to be more outwardly focused on serving and evangelising others." If that is said in the right spirit, how can anyone argue with that logic? Of course more involvement in unselfish acts of benevolence and soul saving is not only good for the church, but these are things that God wants us to do.
I have to ask, however, are we really TOO inwardly focused? Does your church have too much fellowship, too much compassion and caring for one another, and too much togetherness? Now, if you are talking about TOO much attention on THE assembly, or TOO much fussing about "What I want," or TOO much self-centeredness in TOO many people - YES, YES, YES - you are TOO inwardly focused. On the other hand, if you talking about a family of God's people growing in love, responding to one another's needs, building one another up, and using time together to truly help one another draw closer to Jesus - call me simplistic, but isn't that why God wanted his people to get together? Read Paul's letters again and ask yourself how much of his writing was about children of God growing in Christ, growing in love for one another, and challenging them to focus on unity, the body, and love. I guess Corinth, Rome, Philippi, and the other places he wrote to were not focused enough inwardly.
And here's another question to consider, if you challenge people to be outwardly focused, but you haven't provided them with the inward motivation, support, and spiritual maturity to do it, should you be surprised if it doesn't happen? Maybe the problem isn't about being more outwardly focused, but about providing the correct inward focus. Remember, the New Testament is very clear about why God wants his people to get together. (Eph.4:12 equip/prepare; Heb.10:25 encourage; 1 Cor.14:26 edify/strengthen; add all the one another passages)
A question I hope to answer this Sunday is: With all the serious problems the church in Corinth had, what did Paul challenge them to do to solve it? Did he call for more inward focus or say that more outward effort would cure their problems?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A Sad Hunting Story

Talk about making a bad choice, I had planned to take off part of the day yesterday to go hunting. We had a full schedule of events on Saturday, so I wanted to get in another hunt this week. I couldn't decide whether to make it a morning or an evening hunt. When I woke up at 4:30 AM, I thought about it for a few seconds and decided that an evening hunt would be better. It really wasn't a sleep issue but more a "I need to do a couple of things at the office" line of thought. When I got to my stand yesterday afternoon, at about 3:00 PM, I checked my trail camera to decide if I was going to hunt there or move my stand to a new location. Ugh! The picture below was taken by my camera at 9:34 AM. It's not the best picture in the world, but the camera is only five yards to the left of my stand. This huge IL buck is walking right down the trail at fifteen yards. He's at least a huge ten point, big bodied buck on the prowl for does. How do I know? You'd never see this big boy out at nine-thirty in the morning if he wasn't looking for love. Oh well, at least I know he's there. He was one of five different bucks on my camera, all passing by between 8:30 and 12:30. And where was I??????

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Rules for Preaching

I was my turn to lead the discussion for today's monthly Preacher's meeting. I had agreed, and was assigned the topic of Preaching and Teaching, as we look at a different element of ministry each month. As I told the guys, talking about preaching to a bunch of preachers is packed with potential problems as every preacher has strong feelings about how and why they do what they do. So, I just decided to start making a list of, what I called, My Rules for Preaching and Teaching. I thought I'd put together ten - a good, solid, and biblical number, but I ended up with twenty, and it would have been more if I had allowed myself to keep doing it.
For the sake of any preaching buddies out there, and the guys who didn't take notes this morning, here is my list - in no special order and certainly not by priority.
1. Never preach anything you haven't first internalized and struggled with personally. Your lesson should be an extension of your private devotional life.
2. Always have a clear and stated objective. I always have a Bottom Line statement - for me - at the top of every lesson.
3. Stay true to your non-negotiables. Mine have always been - every lesson must be biblical, logical, & simple.
4. Represent God, Jesus, and the Word accurately. Never get in the way of people seeing Jesus.
5. Never talk down or condescendingly to your church family.
6. Don't expect huge changes, but guide them toward baby steps. Be patient.
7. Always make it clear that you are on a journey together. It's about "us" not "you".
8. In teaching, remember there are no wrong comments or answers from students. Make it fit, or you'll never get another response.
9. No matter what the point is - explain, illustrate, and apply!
10. Capture attention - don't demand it!
11. Make people think! You don't have to provide ALL the answers.
12. Stay fresh or leave soon!
13. Preach from the overflow not the scraps!
14. You can say anything - if they know you love them and they love you back!
15. Mid-week marvels are better than Saturday night specials!
16. Consider destroying your sermon file regularly - at least ignore it!
17. Be real - be honest - be open!
18. Feed your spirit! Read, go to things, find a mentor!
19. Find a hobby that lets you REALLY get away from church stuff!
20. All the talent and all the admiration of brethren can't replace the power of a vibrant prayer life with God.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stacked Forgiveness

As I've mentioned before, I really don't like to re-preach my Sunday lesson on my blog, but since our web page is under construction and the online lessons aren't available, AND I truly feel these points are important and need to be remembered by every child of God - I want to share them with those of you who would appreciate them. Wow! Was that a long sentence or what?
The lesson was about forgiveness, and these points to remember are about understanding the nature of forgiveness. It's vital for at least two reasons: One, forgiveness is an integral part of God's love, and two, ignoring or forgetting about forgiveness may be the single biggest obstacle to our walk with God. Forgiven people forgive people! Our love for God IS our awareness of what being forgiven by him means. (See 2 Pet.1:3-10 & Rom.8:1)
Here is a stacking system that I came up with to help me remember these points about forgiveness. Maybe they will be of help to you too.
Visualize the scales of Justice - then on top of that visualize a band aid - on top of that a broken heart - on top of that a Cross - on top of that a red traffic light - and the last thing is a clean slate (a clean black board). Picture this stack in your head. Now, what do they stand for?
1. The scales of Justice = Forgiveness doesn't remove guilt! When you forgive, you don't let anyone off the hook, you're refusing to let what they did make you bitter. Bitterness doesn't punish anyone but you and those you love.
2. The band aid = Forgiveness doesn't remove hurt! That's not the point of doing it - though it does begin the process. Jesus forgave while still on the cross - the hurt didn't stop.
3. The broken heart = Forgiveness doesn't heal relationships! It makes it possible if the goal is reconciliation, but THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT FORGIVENESS THAT MEANS YOU MUST HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ONE FORGIVEN. Trust takes time and track record to rebuild - and a desire to rebuild it.
4. The Cross = Forgiveness has nothing to do with deserving it, but everything to do with grace! Needs no explanation!
5. The red traffic light = Forgiveness is essential to our forgiveness. STOP - when you feel tempted to not forgive! We are only forgiven if we forgive! Grace is given to be given!
6. The clean slate = Forgiveness is an essential part of love! Our sins are forgiven (clean slate) because God loved us so much he sent Jesus to died for us. We must have the same kind of love.
Maybe if we can remember these, it will help us be a little quicker to forgive instead of looking for a rationale to hang on to anger, bitterness, and malice.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Eph.4:32

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mixed Bag of Pics

It's not the best picture in the world, but this is the display case in my office with my 'HERD' in it. The top two shelves have loads of little ones that are difficult to see. The biggest one on the top was from my brother-in-law Randy who carried it all the way back from his mission trip to India. It's heavy. I remember where, or from whom, most of them came from, but a few leave me clueless.
This is the view from one of my tree stands. Two weeks ago, while at another stand some thirty yards behind where I am while taking this picture, I saw a really nice ten point buck standing smack in the lower middle of this spot. He was beautiful, but I haven't seen him since.

This is just another picture from my trail camera. It was about thirty yards to the right of the last picture. Had it up for a week and got several pics of turkey, which I can't hunt in IL, and a couple of does who came by in the middle of the night. Even with trail cams, there's nothing easy about bowhunting.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Herd Effect

In the Summer of 1970, right after my graduation from High School that May, I spent the entire Summer working as one of the Recreation Directors at a Christian camp named Camp Wamava. It included eight weeks of campers of different ages, and two weeks of pre-camp set up with brother Nelson Smith, the Camp Director. It was a wonderful time, and I have loads of great memories from that Summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I actually began going to Camp Wamava as a camper back in 1960 or '61, so it was fitting that my last Summer vacation before college, marriage, and ministry took over, was spent there.

Memories are truly special blessings. Even the bad ones remind us that we learned something, and that life's lessons aren't always about fun times and happy moments. That same Summer, while taking a weekend break with my good buddy Bruce, I bought a ceramic elephant at a gift shop. It was my first one. Then in July, Bruce gave me a marble elephant as a birthday present, and that really started the herd going. I don't know why I wanted to have an elephant collection. Maybe it was my Republican leanings. Can you imagine that in 1970, I was really excited about Nixon being in office. He was the first president I ever voted for. Ouch! I did say not all memories where good.

Anyway, over the next three to four decades, my herd grew. I bought some in Europe, while on campaigns and mission internships in college, and I picked up a few special ones a special places, like Disney World, and a coal carving in WV, but most of the - now large - herd is made up of gifts from people who have been special friends through the years. The whole herd has been in boxes in our basement for the last, almost six years now, and I finally got a display case for my office to place them in. In truth, I was more excited about clearing out space in my basement, but this morning, as I unpacked and unwrapped each elephant and placed it on a shelf, nearly each one triggered a special memory of a special friend and shared experiences from the last forty years. Wow! How blessed it that? Gifts from people who were thinking of me when they traveled across the country or around the world. Gifts from my Youth Group in Arkansas, from the church family in Virginia, from elders, from families, from my brothers travels in the Navy, from my wife, and a few from people who I never realized cared much about me - but they did.

And the stories I could tell about so many of those miniature pachyderms and the people who gave them to me! But, that's not why I wanted to write this. I just wanted to write a post that shared with anyone who reads it, how wonderful it is to have great memories. Memories of being loved and of those you love. I am thankful to God for each one.

Maybe it's fitting that elephants helped me remember to "never forget".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"It Ain't Easy!"

I agree with Rick Warren when he says that forgiveness my be the hardest part of love. We are in the middle of his "40 Days of Love," which is basically a study of 1 Cor.13. Part of what it means for love (the real kind of love that is God's love) to be patient and kind, is that it "keeps no record of wrongs." Love can not grow in an unforgiving heart. The refusal to forgive is the acceptance of bitterness, rage, and anger, which causes malice, and is not the kind of heart that Jesus lives in. (Eph.4:31-32) To seek God is to seek love because God is love, which means that forgiving those who hurt us is not an option. Our forgiveness depends on it!
With apologies to my high school English teacher, sister Smith, "It ain't easy!" Jesus never said that it was! In fact, the Cross shows us that it's usually very very hard and very painful. And to pile on to that Jesus' teaching that it be endless, limitless, and - if I understand Paul - countless, well - "IT REALLY AIN'T EASY!" How can it be endless when the hurt doesn't go away?
Forgiveness isn't about taking away hurt, it's about not letting what someone has done to you have any power over your walk with God. That is why it has nothing to do with what "they" need, want, or deserve. It's about us having a heart like Jesus.
I have always thought about Jesus' shocking reply to Peter's magnanimous willingness to forgive seven time, as being a little "over-kill" to make the point of endless forgiveness. After all, if you let some one hurt you four hundred and ninety times, and you have to forgive them four hundred and ninety times - shouldn't you have moved a long time ago?
As we studied that passage in Matthew 18 again this week, it suddenly dawned on me that it's not just about 490 trespasses that need to be forgiven, but maybe it's about the 490 times you will remember the hurt and relive the pain and disappointment in your head, and you'll have to refuse to let bitterness and anger seize your heart! You'll have to remember to forgive again - and again - and again, because forgiveness isn't about forgetting or about not hurting, though it helps with both, it's about growing in Jesus and learning to love just like he and our Father do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monthly Musings

I love November and December mainly because they cover Thanksgiving and Christmas, which for me means only one thing - family time. I love April and May too, with their comfortable warm days that seem so incredible after a long cold winter. And those spring flowers, and the re-greening of trees, and the return of birds singing, and all the things that just give you a sense of renewal, rebirth, and freshness.
That being said, nothing in my book compares to October. September toyed with nice weather, but October brings it. The cool mornings, the burst of color in the trees, and the comfortable evenings that make watching the sun set worth all the work of building a porch on the back of my house. Okay, so you're ahead of me, yes it's the start of bow hunting too! But it's the sitting in a tree stand in October that is so special. Everything is alive and moving, and every time you come back, new colors appear and new views materialize where leaves used to be.
There has always been something very special about being in the woods in October. I mean special in the sense of feeling close to God. It's a time and place for thinking, mulling over things, solving problems, reflecting on life, ministry, and family, and - most of all - just talking with God. I think I understand why Jesus would often climb a mountain or a hill, to spend some quiet time with the Father. I have so many memories of wonderful days in the woods of Northern Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and now, Illinois and Missouri. Memories of sorting things out, planning next steps, addressing short-comings, and refocusing on what really matters. Those times have been a very important part of my spiritual journey, and I am deeply thankful for them all.
I don't know how many more times God will let me enjoy these October excursions. I've already had more than I deserve. So, if I don't get many more, it's really okay, because for some reason, I can't help but think that it's always October in Heaven.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lighting Fires or Being Lights?

Since "I heard it through the grapevine" (Welch's, of course) that my last blog caused a few of my members to wonder if I was talking about our church family, let me clear that up quickly with a "NO". It was a generic observation about churches as I have been letting my brain chew on the topic of Church Growth over the last several weeks. I have been especially troubled lately with how far from the Word of God our perceptions and assumptions about church growth have come. I can't help but wonder what Jesus would say. He was far more concerned about the one lone sheep who wondered "away from the fold" that He was with the ninety-nine still there or the nine thousand who could be there.
After a couple centuries of evangelical traditions, followed by the post-war mushrooming science of church growth, it's normal and expected that we will focus on "getting people excited and involved" and "providing the church with a clear vision of who we are and where we are going" (as if Jesus wasn't absolutely clear) Church leaders are forced to meet in long sessions to hammer out "how can we light a fire under this church and attract our community to our services." Yes, for most of my ministry career, I've seen it as my job to create ideas, programs, and ministries, and to offer up "brands" and "slogans" that will ignite the imagination of members, build a sense of excitement, and challenge everyone on to greater works. Some have been good and some haven't. None have ever been sustainable for more than a few years.
Here's where my heart aches. " so amazing so divine, demand my soul, my life, my all." Can you even sing that and not feel the tug of truth in that song? If it's true and if we are honest when we sing it, why do we have to spent even thirty seconds discussing how to get church people excited?
Paul said, "The love of Christ compels us," and John said, "We love him because he first loved us". Paul's argument against Christians being cavalier about sin was that grace was so amazing, "how can we who have died to sin continue to live in it?"
I guess the question is, why isn't Jesus enough? Why isn't grace enough? I mean, enough to fire us up to give and do all the "one another" things the Spirit called on us to do when we get together? Enough to make us excited about Him and His family? Enough to cause us to witness for Him when He gives us the opportunity throughout each day?
I know, every one's not "mature in Christ" and many folks need neat ideas, new opportunities, and organized excitement. But still - one of these days - Jesus needs to be enough.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweeping Judgements?

If the minister of a church is the kind of people person a minister should be, then there is probably no one who has as good a perspective on the spiritual health of that church family as he has. Yes, there are always exceptions to any general statement like that, but no one, again assuming we're talking about an effective minister, mixes with more members, more age groups, and has more interaction across all segments of the congregation. The average member, including the shepherds, have a circle of church friends that they do most all their "church stuff" with and no one circle of church people has a complete or accurate perspective on the whole congregation. Unfortunately, many members, again including shepherds, don't realize how often they make sweeping judgements about the entire church family based on what their small circle seems to think and feel. If their circle has several disgruntled members who complain about things and seem to be constantly "bent out of shape" about something, many shepherds have concluded that "we have some serious problems" or "we've got to do something or a lot of people are going to leave." That leader's perspective is slanted, incomplete, and does not speak to the feelings of the vast majority of members.
Any of us can fall into the trap of assuming that if my few contacts are unhappy everyone is unhappy. Leaping from the specific to the general in a church family is very egocentric, paranoid driven, and unwise. It's probably one the single most important arguments for having multiple shepherds, who can compare notes, offer alternate view points, and slow down the rush to judgement. It's also a good time to ask the minister what he thinks.
I can't tell you how many times I've been in a leadership meeting and found myself wondering, "Are these guys going to the same church I'm going to?" Elders hear from complainers. They tend to get bombed with negativism, and sometimes that is overpowering. As the minister, I see those who are excited and those who are growing and doing things that encourage others - like me. I don't sit in one section and see the same group of people week after week.
The challenge is to slow down, observe, pray a lot, and truly try to objectively analyze the problem - if there really is one. I think every church and it's leaders needs to remember two simple things before making sweeping judgements about the spiritual condition of their church family. First, as mentioned, remember our circle of input is extremely small and often a grossly inaccurate way to measure the whole. And the second is, in most church families, we don't know how wonderful our church family really is because we have nothing to compare it to. Satan loves to take a loving family of God's people and sow just a few seeds of doubt, complacency, and pessimism. He loves to create problems where there are none.
God' wants us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and that's not the same as the world's standards for church growth. It's also not about fabricating some activity that creates a sense of excitement that we incorrectly label as "growth." Events and ministries are just tools. We live between the events, because the goal is not excitement, but as Paul said, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." (Rom.12:10) That's what FAMILY does.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tired of talking about love?

I really try not to re-preach my Sunday sermon the next week as a blog, but sometimes there are some truly crucial concepts that stick in my mind and I just can't drop them and move on to the next lesson so easily. This past Sunday I posed the question, "Is is possible to be a loving church and not be an obedient church?" Depending on how you define love, the answer may be either yes or no for you. If you use the world's definition for love, and tend to think of love as the warm, fuzzy, and subjectively emotional feeling that makes ladies dream and gives men nightmares, you've seen loads of love that wasn't supported by loving actions. On the other hand, when you understand that agape, God's love, is choosing to love the way God loves, you understand that nothing of any true value to God actually happens without love. If it's real love - God's love - it's impossible to not be driven to please him.
There is no such thing as "just being a loving church" and not being a committed church. Maybe the problem is that we don't understand what it really means to love our Father with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves.
* Do we mistake friendliness for love?
* Do we mistake peace for love?
* Do we mistake talk about love for really being in love?
I have actually heard church leaders moan about "Too much emphasis on love and not enough on ministry, outreach, and giving!" Where do we think these things come from? REAL LOVE LEADS TO COMMITMENT! To demand commitment without building love is why churches can't get members to volunteer, witness, and increase their contribution!
We need MORE LOVE, but it must be THE RIGHT KIND OF LOVE. Here are the reminders I pointed out Sunday - they are but a few on the complete list.
1. Love is the ONLY command of God that is number one! Mk.12:29-31; 1 Tim.1:5
2. Love is the ONLY thing that gives value to every spiritual act! I Cor.13:1-3
3. Love is the ONLY answer for fear! 1 Jn.4:18
4. Love is the ONLY way to know God & live in God! 1 Jn.4:7-8; 11-12
5. Love is the ONLY thing that covers a multitude of sins! 1 Pet.4:8
6. Love always builds up! 1 Cor.8:1; Eph.4:15-16; Heb.10:24
7. Love motivates us! 2 Cor.5:14; 1 Jn.4:19
8. Love is the ONE thing that Jesus said identified us as his disciples! Jn.13:35
9. Love is why Jesus was crucified! Jn.3:16; Rom.5:8
A. Nothing of value happens without love
B. Nothing is Christ-like without love
C. There is no commitment without love
D. Without commitment ALL the ONE ANOTHER stuff doesn't happen! (I have 24 one another passages on my list) With love/commitment - WHAT DOES HAPPEN? All of it!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

More Trail Camera Fun

I placed my new trail camera on the same tree as my hunting stand, which is on the edge of a cut corn field where it's been for four years now. I put it in on opening day, Oct.1 and I checked it yesterday, Oct.8, before hunting that evening. There were over four hundred pictures on it. About half of them had noting on them. It was either the wind blowing vegetation and setting off the camera, or some critter (bird or ground animal) zooming across before the picture can snap. You can see the date and time of the picture on the lower right corner below the picture. I liked this picture because the doe is so still. She looks like a one legged 3D target, but she's very real. The following series of pictures are just part of the pics recording two bucks sparing. It's really neat. I've been blessed to watch it in person a few times, but most people never get to see it. Enjoy.

This was more of a playful pushing contest. The big boys, during the rut, actually get very vicious and deadly. There have been plenty of nice bucks found dead with antlers locked together. Below, there were lots of pics of the local raccoon, who left a couple of very personal mementos on my stand.

With mama standing guard, this yearling was very intrigued by the little box on the tree.

While there were several pictures of about 4 or 5 bucks, this big boy had several pictures, but this was the most complete and still. He's a nice ten point, probably three and a half year old buck. There are a couple of really nice buck scrapes about fifty yards to the left of this picture that he probably made. When you hear us hunters moaning about the really mature bucks being nocturnal, we're not just making excuses. Look at the time in the lower right corner. Hopefully that will change in just a few weeks as he gets a lot more serious about looking for some girl friends.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Once Upon A Time...

Fred and Mary were quiet folks. On Sunday mornings at church, they were as happy and friendly as anyone, but they never really took a lot of initiative to go up to members or visitors and just talk and visit. They were a little more laid back, and generally only responded to members who came up to them. Like I said, they were quiet folks - I guess you'd say shy, introverted, and meek.
After a quiet Sunday dinner at home, Fred and Mary just quietly got to work, doing things they did nearly every day of the week. Mary fixed a meal to take over to an elderly couple who had visited their church, but, because of poor health, hadn't been back in a long time. Fred and Mary knew they were both in poor shape, so they have been taking food over there two or three times a week. Fred cut their grass for them, and put their trash cans out front for the Monday morning pick up, and he always came back on Monday evening to check on them and return their trash cans to the back porch.
Fred and Mary left the elderly couple's house and drove to the Elder Care Center, to visit with the many folks, all of whom they knew by first name. They went straight to the central TV room where most of the folks spent the afternoon, and they just talked with each one and got them smiling and laughing, and did dozens of little things for many that the Care Center workers just didn't have time to do. At one point, Fred and Mary, sat with half a dozen folks and sang some of their favorite hymns for them. It was soft, but sweet, and the folks were all so appreciative of the attention Fred and Mary gave. They hated to see them go, but it was getting dark, and Fred and Mary always spent Sunday evening teaching Bible class for the small children in the inner city church about 45 minutes from their suburban neighborhood. They always got home late on Sunday night and fell asleep exhausted from all their labors of love.
After the evening service at their church that night, the elders had a meeting. After dealing with several budget concerns and figuring out how to keep some disgruntled members from leaving, they began to talk about the spiritual needs of members. They were deeply concerned about the seemingly weak faith of several families. They spent the rest of their meeting discussing how they could get Fred and Mary more involved in "church work" and thus, help them become "more faithful members of the Lord's church."
Be careful when you judge members as complacent and inactive. You may be judging their walk with God only by church generated ministries and involvement opportunities - but that's not all there is. Church is a tool to use not a standard to judge by. God is the only one who doesn't miss a thing. Leave the judging to Him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Is It Even Mostly Most Important?

Just think back over the last several discussions you've had with Christian, or even the ones you just happen to overhear. If you're a church leader, add to that all the things all the other leaders have passed on to you lately about the "concerns" that members have. Now, blend them all together and come up with a concoction that summarizes what seems to be the most important one thing in the church today.
Many people, and this certainly doesn't include everyone, seem to still be driven by the extremely selfish and worldly goal of "keep me happy and comfortable," which translates in church-speak as "I want an uplifting and inspirational worship." It's selfish because it's all about what "I want" and what "makes me feel good." It's worldly, because it's the product of centuries of formalizing traditions, elevating the assembly, and changing a giving event into a receiving experience.
I have been saying that for a lot of years now. My wife might even say, "A little too often". For the folks who have had to hear it multiple times, that may be true. I am just astounded that we continue to major in minors and so completely miss the point of why God put the church in place. But then I think about how much and how long he has been saying what he wants, and how much and how often his people have ignored or forgotten it.
A teacher of the law came up to Jesus right after he had dealt with trick questions, one from the Pharisees and one from the Sadducees, and asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" Your first inclination is to assume it's another trick question, but evidently it was an honest seeker, wanting confirmation of what he understood.
You know what Jesus said: "THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE is this..." and he quotes God's original command from Deuteronomy 6, that we should, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. THERE IS NO COMMANDMENT GREATER THAN THESE." (Mark 12:28-31)
God said it first and it was repeated by Moses, Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, and John, just to name a few, and the people of God continually seem to lose track of what the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GOD IS! Love him and love one another, which is how we learn to love him!
The teacher of the law, in Mark 12, got it. He not only praised Jesus for his answer, but pointed out that it was "more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." These were the most important "acts of worship" to every Jewish worshipper. That makes me want to ask, "What things have we allowed to become more important than God's MOST IMPORTANT ONE THING? Again, has the tool become more important than the purpose? When do we start evaluating "church growth" by what God wants rather than by what the world says it is?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

No Elk, But Lots of Coffee

This is for family and anyone who visits the Root house in the future.
It may not look like it, but this is an elk processing, or at least the cost of an elk processing. Since I didn't get an elk in Colorado last week, I decided to use the money I'd set aside to pay for the processing to purchase a Keurig Gourmet Coffee Maker. This is the Platinum version with a sixty once water reservoir. I really enjoyed seeing and using Pat and Deborah's Keurig when we were in Dallas last month, and decided I wanted to get one. Yes, it's not the most economical way to make a cup of coffee, but it's cool and it's quick and it's got lots of choices. Of course, being a plain-Jane kind of coffee drinker, with no tendency to experiment, you can clearly understand that this was something we thought family and friends might enjoy when they visited. There are literally hundreds of kinds and favors of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and fancy Starbucks-type drinks, but I also like the fact that it has an attachment that you can use (purchased separately of course) that allows you to use your own coffee if you want, and not one of the little pre-made packets that are made for it. You can set this one for five different sizes of cups, and I've already got ours programmed to come on early, about 5:30 AM, and turn off again about 9 AM. When it's on and ready, you have steaming, freely brewed coffee in less than one minute. Okay, it's fun to play with. I'm anxious to try the hot chocolate. It will be nice to have the week of Thanksgiving when all our family are here, and I'm not the only coffee drinker in the house. I'm not going to be using all those wild and fancy kinds of coffee, so somebody has to try'em.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Most of the time?

When is is okay for a child of God to be un-Christ-like? Don't be too quick to answer! Many people seem to believe that there are EXCEPTIONS to the rule of consistency in their walk with God. Yes, we all get angry occasionally, and lose it, which rarely means we exalt Christ in what we say and do during those times. As we grow, however, those times should happen less and less, and the self-control takes over more and more. Still, we're humans and sin is battle we will be involved in until we leave this world.
No, I'm talking about those time in life when we are in complete control, but for some reason, the event or the subject causes folks to forget they represent Jesus. While I'm not into pattern theology, I do believe I see some patterns in human behavior that I can't quite figure out. I've notice three things that seem to cause people to have spiritual dementia on a regular basis.
The first is pride. When personal pride is at stake - not the godly pride of righteous accomplishment, but the haughty pride of self-centeredness - people get testy, combative, unkind, and down right mean. The absence of humility causes some folks to say and do things that they know Jesus would never say or do, but "Hey - you just punched the wrong buttons on me" and somehow that makes it acceptable.
The second is preferences in worship styles. Of course, in the New Testament there is only one worship style and it's a life put on God's altar and totally given to him. I have seen nothing in my many years of church work that causes people to become more un-Christ-like than how folks react to changes in the assembly. They essentially become un-Christ-like about Christ centered things. Go figure! Some of the most unkind and ungodly things that I have heard come out of the mouths of Christians has been because of their expectations and preferences in the assembly not being met, kept, or increased. They are way too focused on the pep rally than they are the game.
The final area is politics. What is there about politics that makes Christians think it's okay to be mean spirited, vicious, unkind, judgemental, and un-Christ-like. I truly am bewildered and personally offended when brethren send me articles, videos, cartoons, and stories that bash our President, call him names, and make charges and accusations that any reasonable person knows Jesus would never make. As I said before, I didn't vote for him, but he is MY PRESIDENT, but more important - it's MY LORD YOU REPRESENT - ALL THE TIME - EVERY WHERE - EVERY DAY!
Don't say "For me to live is Christ" if you only mean it for part of the time. It's all or nothing. That's what a life given to him is all about.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Myth of Multitasking

I have decided that multitasking, which to many is a symbol of productivity, is actually a euphemism for shoddy work, half-hearted results, and lack of focus. It is exalted as "the new work ethic", but in reality it just creates stress, belittles systematic accomplishments, and involves far more motion than quality results. In today's world of "image management," it looks impressive, but the truth is it drops more balls than it juggles, misplaces priorities, lets biscuits burn in the oven, and causes death and destruction on the highways.
Maybe I'm getting older and slower, but I find when I divide my attention by trying to handle multiple things at once, I sacrifice quality, thoughtfulness, and pride of accomplishment. When I slow down and ask myself, "Who am I trying to impress?" or "Do I want this done right or just done?" - I usually realize that what I'm doing needs more focus - and not to mention - more fun. If I take the time to plan and prioritize, then calmly work my way through my "To Do" list, I'm not only more productive, but the results make me happy, as opposed to just feeling relieved it's done.
Life is hectic and stressful, and most of the time I can't do anything about it, other than change the way I choose to perceive it. There are, however, plenty of things I can choose to give my full time and attention to, enjoy the journey, and feel proud of the end product. We need to learn the joy of being focused. If we don't learn, or remember, how to stay focused, how can we truly be seekers of God? Even Jesus pointed out that we can't serve two masters. Satan says we can, and I suspect he'd just call it multitasking.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

They're Back...

We got home safe and sound, and tired, at about mid-day today - Saturday. We took two days to do the seventeen hour drive since we couldn't get away from Meeker, CO until later in the morning Friday. We had to wait for the deer processor to open up so we could pick up Danny's mulie. The above picture is from early Wednesday morning in the draw I was hunting in about midway up the mountain. The spot where I am standing is pretty close to were I arrowed my elk year before last. Not so lucky this year. I saw a lot of elk, got close to several on several occasions, but never had a clear shot. Such is bow hunting. It was a lot of fun - still.
This was a brief rest in our "tour of the ranch" that Kevin and I took the crew on in the middle of the afternoon last Sunday. This is on top of one of the mountain ridges, one we call "Bloody Nose Ridge." (Family will have to ask Uncle Kevin why it's called that.) It's a great spot to see miles and miles of God's beautiful creation. This looks a little like a used ATV park. Boy they're fun to ride around the mountains. Sure beats hiking.

Danny got is first buck with a bow and arrow. It's small for a mulie, but still bigger than most whitetails. It will be good eating for the Younger family. He made a great thirty-two yard shot, while sitting flat on the ground. Must have had a great coach. I'm really proud of him and happy for him. It's always nice to bring something home besides a T-shirt.

Have I mentioned how nice the ATV's are? We tossed it on the back of my Arctic Cat and I took it back to the bunkhouse and loaded it into Rob's pick-up truck.

This are my hunting buddies for this trip. From L to R is Zach Haugh, Rob Leasure, Kevin Haugh, and Danny Younger. Kevin and I have been going to CO to hunt this place since 1986. Why, I was only a kid! I mean, my kids were only kids. Anyway, we've been blessed to have loads of great memories and we added quite a few this year. I am especially happy that Kevin finally got to share a hunt with his son Zach. The one time my son Jonathan got to go with me is till one of my best memories of hunting trips to CO.
God blessed us with fun and safety, and it's good to be home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

From Meeker, Colorado

I am using the wireless connection in the Meeker, CO library, so this may be my only chance to do a blog this week. I forgot to bring my camera to town, so I don't have any pictures of the group of guys with me hunting elk this year. We are having a great time. Several times we have really been into the elk, and had a lot of fun chasing them all over the mountains. Nothing has been taken yet, though a couple of arrows have been unsuccessfully flung. The above picture is from my trail camera that I put up Saturday afternoon when we first got here. This early morning picture was taken yesterday and is an area I have been hunting a lot and seeing a lot of elk. Not many mule deer though.
This picture is from Sunday afternoon. We actually jumped these elk up as we road our atv's up the dirt road about 500 yard behind these elk. They just happened to run right by my trail camera. Yes, that is the mouth and tongue of a cow elk just coming into the picture on the right. It was actually a herd of about a dozen elk. Cool! Not as good as meat in the freezer, but cool.
Tomorrow is mine and Danny's last full day of hunting, but Kevin, Zach, and Rob will stay another day and leave on Saturday. We will be driving back to St. Louis early Friday morning and try to drive seventeen hours straight through. If we get too tired, we might stop for the night somewhere and get in early Saturday. It's been a lot of fun to hunt, be with good friends, and see some of God's most beautiful creation. Please keep us all in your prayers for us to have safe travel as we return to the real world. God is good.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Time For A Peak Experience - Again

Lord willing, I'll be seeing a sunrise like this again this weekend. This is a picture a took two or three years ago on the property we bow hunt on in Colorado. We leave early tomorrow morning and plan to put in about twelve hours of driving time and then finish off the last five hours Saturday morning. We begin our hunt Saturday evening and hunt through Friday morning before heading back home. Usually, we skip the Friday morning hunt and start back home getting in late that night or early the next morning. That's a lot easier to do when we already have an elk or a mule deer.
Anyway, I'm hoping to post a few pictures and updates about the hunt while we are there, assuming I can find a wireless spot in Meeker, CO. So I'll be out of town but not out of touch - I hope.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Appropriate!

I love words. Duh! I wouldn't be writing a blog if I didn't, but I especially love words that clearly change with time. One such word is "appropriate". In truth, the definition hasn't changed, but the application has changed dramatically over my life time. I makes my heart ache to think of all the wasted energy, strained emotions, and damaged relationships that were part of my high school years because of the battle over what was and wasn't considered appropriate clothing, hair length, and accessories. Yes, we are talking about the late 60's, at a Christian school in deep south Georgia, but it just seemed like every member of the the church (many of whom were connected to the school also) was a self appointed member of the What's Appropriate Committee. Today, many people, young and old, walk into the church building wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, and sandals and no one gives it a second look or thought. Back then, where I was, that was a Tar & Feathering offense. I have so many memories and stories of comments and criticisms from "church folks" about my attire back then that it's amazing that I came away from all that with a passion for preaching. At the very least I've learned that what's appropriate is relative to the times and places we find ourselves.
James slammed the brethren for making distinctions between members and giving preference to the finely dresses wealthy members. The Corinthians were evidently cliquish even to the point of not waiting or sharing the Lord's Supper with those who were poorer or not part of their group. All this in spite of our Lord's clear warnings about judging others and defining them by externals rather than their hearts.
So what is appropriate today? We still have folks who think the assembly is a fashion opportunity, or who have some preconceived notion about what you MUST wear "in the presence of God" on Sunday morning. That's not only a incorrect theology, but a prescription for self-righteousness. We dress for God 24/7! Everything else image management.
I have said for years that the only things that have any bearing on what's appropriate for any Christian anytime, even during the assembly, is modesty and cleanliness. Even that, sometimes, is in the proverbial eye of the beholder. What is always appropriate is kindness, consideration, humility, and tolerance. I know Jesus wasn't a fashion critic, but a heart searcher. If we let looks keep us from learning about the heart of someone, we've stopped being like Jesus. And if we're more concerned about our outer appearance than we are with our inner spirit - well, that's just spiritually inappropriate.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Lone Stove State

We left Dallas, TX at 5:40 P.M. Saturday evening and it was 100 degrees with high humidity from the flooding rain they had received that week. When we landed at St. Louis, we stepped out into a cool 79 degree low humidity evening and signed, "It's good to be back home." Now before the TX folks get riled up, the good thing is we were talking about the weather - not the state of the Lord's church in Dallas. That morning it was my great pleasure to do a four hour workshop/conference for the shepherds, their wives, and the staff of the Highland Oaks Church of Christ. It was a wonderful experience, and I'm not talking about the quality of the teaching they got. What a wonderful group of spiritual leaders! I was so impressed with the obvious love they had for one another and, most of all, their passion for wanting to truly be the kind of shepherds and ministers that the church family needs. The series of training sessions that they've all gone through to help the new and existing shepherds prepare for honest shepherding, is absolutely amazing. It's great to have a desire to change, grow, and follow a more people oriented path of leadership, but it's not ofter that I've seen that kind of effort and training put into learning how to do it.
This is a great church, doing some great things, and I can't wait to see how God blesses them. We are so happy that Pat and Deborah (our son-in-law and daughter) are working with such a wonderful group and being loved so completely by everyone we talked to. They have an impressive facility, but more import, they have an impressive plan to help every member develop a deeper relationship with Jesus - and that's what church is all about.
I was blessed to be with them and do something that I hoped helped. If you're ever passing through the north side of Dallas on Sunday, stop by and visit with these good brethren. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Trail Camera

These are some REAL trail camera pictures. I put it up at my hunting spot in IL week before last, and left it up there for about ten days. I got it on Monday so I could take it to CO with me next week. I got some interesting pictures of does, bucks, raccoons, and, I think, some turkeys. The above buck is on several. He's young, and safe, at least from me. The tree my hunting stand is in is straight across the opening that he is looking at. Fifteen yards away. Pretty buck and still in velvet.
There were several pictures of raccoons. Notice the time on the right side. That's late afternoon but there were several night time pics.

Just at dark this nice buck showed up. There are several of him, but the night pics are harder to see. It's neat to not only see the critters, but to know exactly when they come through.

This was a mom and fawn that walked down the trail right beside the camera. This was the best one of the fawn.

He's getting an early start on his/her night time feeding. There were a lot of pics at night with nothing on them but vegetation and a few blurs. I think night birds or bats set it off. It's been fun already. I can't wait to use it during the hunting season to see what's moving at my hunting spots. Hopefully I'll get some nice pics in CO.