Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What A Shot!

Sorry about the steamy lens on my camera. This is a two inch group of four arrows shot at about twenty-two yards. I'm practicing for our hunting trip to Colorado in two weeks and for the bow seasons that open soon in MO & IL. No, this isn't about trying to impress anyone with my shooting ability. In fact, that's kind of the point. You can look at this picture and maybe be impressed with my "tight group," and maybe even be envious a little - if you shoot archery. What you don't know is how many times I shot that same group of four arrows before I was able to get that two inch group. (This was my second set this morning.)
I think all of us have times when we are with a group of brothers and sisters, on Sunday or some other togetherness activity, and we find ourselves reflecting on the spiritual maturity of someone, and wishing we could be like them, but instead, we feel weak, inadequate, and frustrated with our spiritual growth. We need to remember that those folks, as wonderful as they are as spiritual examples, all did a lot of missing before they starting getting it right. You just didn't see it. What you see now is the result of many years of walking, falling, getting back up, and seeking God in spite of their misses.
When people look at me, THE preacher, THE answer man, and the example to follow, they need to remember that what they are looking at is merely a little "tighter group" than what they would have seen in the past. NO ONE is on target every time - all the time! But, we are pointed in the right direction. Remember, it's not about perfection but direction! The one that is in THE LIGHT (1 Jn.1:7).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wise Changes - Maybe?

Great memories of our Alaska trip a few years ago.
As badly as we'd love to plan a mid-winter vacation to a warm spot this next January, we have returned to our decision to have a really good vacation (i.e. cruise) every two years. It's soooo tempting right now to schedule something because the prices are coming way down - I guess because of the tough economy. However, for the same reason, we decided to skip 2011, get back on our two year plan (so we can save for it -there's a reason we are driving old, paid for cars) and plan something special in 2012. For several years we have been looking at a twelve day Med cruise that includes two day stops in Egypt and Israel, as well as some other neat places, some with biblical-historical significance. We hope (and hope is a key word) to do that trip in the Summer of '12 - now less than two years away. We are also hoping that the prices will continue to come down, but it's hard to wish for a continued tough economy. Anyway, just a little FYI in case anyone might be interested to joining us - planing is half the fun. The Panama Canal trip this past winter was incredible, with the canal itself being worth the price of the trip. But, I can see this trip even topping that. Hey, we're talking the Mediterranean, pyramids, and Jerusalem! Not to mention Rome and Athens and on top of that Fargle with friends! Does it get any better? Just think about it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Babel to Radical

In studying Genesis again for my Wednesday evening Bible Class, I found myself thinking more about God than any other time I've studied it in the past. I think we fall into the trap of seeing Genesis as a series of great stories and forget that it was written to tell us about God. Sure it gives some insights into history and some earth changing events (not to mention earth beginning events), but it's purpose it to help us see and understand God better. Now that I read it looking for things about God and how much he wants to have a relationship with man, everything is new and exciting.
I am especially intrigued by the lack of description of how God communicated with people at different times. He'd clearly had a very personal relationship with Adam and Eve that included some walks in the garden and some intimate discussions. He must have spoken to Cain and Abel because it's assumed they knew what he expected as far as sacrifices go. And how did God speak to Noah? Was it just a voice from the sky or visions in his sleep? I don't think so. And then you get to the Tower of Babel event in chapter eleven when it says, "But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building." How did he "come down"? Isn't he always there? Was he in the form of a person, animal, or thing? He does all three, in some form later. And then he reports - to whom - the Son and the Spirit obviously - and tells of his concern about the tower. Then he says, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." How did they do that? Did they stay invisible or did they, again, take on some form, and if they did, whey didn't anyone see or recognize them?
I know there are a lot of possibilities, but in the next chapter the Bible says, "The Lord appeared to Abram and said..." (vs.7) So not only did God speak to him but he appeared to him. How? What did he look like? It wasn't a burning bush or a talking donkey. I wonder if we've allowed our theology of the incarnation of Jesus to limit our thinking of God. Yes, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" but maybe the uniqueness of that is the "dwelt among us" part - the living with and experiencing every part of humanity. If we can entertain angels without knowing it, is it that far fetched that we might encounter God and not know it? I'm not talking about new revelations or still voices in the night. I'm talking about a Father who says he will draw close to us if we draw close to him, and who can do that anyway he wants. Besides, if we're going to be consistent with our doctrine of the Trinity, if the Holy Spirit can provide help, isn't that the same as God providing help?
I think we will be surprised to find out how much God has been involved in trying to keep and maintain his relationship with us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


You never think about how nice it is to keep your car in a garage, out of the hot sun or pouring rain, and where you can get into it just a few steps from inside your house - until you don't have it. We got a notice last Friday that our driveway would be blocked due to construction for up to seven days, so - come 7 A.M. on Monday morning we better move our vehicles out of the garage and to places not blocked by a NO PARKING sign. They weren't kidding! This is the front of our house Monday afternoon, and that's my van parked down the street in the second picture and Donna's car is down the street in the first one.
Interruptions are an interesting part of life. Jesus seemed to enjoy and even treasure them as he did some of his most amazing things for people who the apostles wanted to ignore. I've always struggled with interruptions because I am an organizer, planner, get-it-done-and-move-on-the-next-thing kinda person. I get things fixed in my head as to how it SHOULD go or how it SHOULD happen, and then - BLAM - I get hit between the eyes with an unexpected interruption (isn't that a redundancy?), and I have to adjust.
No - adjust isn't the right word. I have to grow. Growth doesn't take place in the smooth routines of life. It happens when we are forced to change, stretch, compensate, and adapt. In short, I have to think! That is one of the amazing ironies about church life. Church is always changing! Even in churches where people think it's a plague from Satan, they still change. However, it's not a spiritual growth kind of change. It's more a mindless evolution of culture impacting people's lives that slowly changes small things in small ways. They may think they are just like they were in the 1950's, but they look nothing like they did back then.
Our little Root residence interruption just reminded me that God usually has to interrupt our lives in a fairly significant way, many times, before we are sensitive to the next step in our spiritual development that he wants us to take. Comfortable people should be extremely thankful people, but unfortunately, they tend to be self-centered people.
Had in "road construction" in your life lately? What is God wanting you to learn?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wild Life Pictures

Donna got me a Trail Camera for my birthday last month. I've been wanting one for several years so I could, hopefully, take pictures of the deer on the property where I hunt. They're not cheap, and I'm techno-ignorant, so I wasn't in a hurry to learn how to use one. But, now I have one, I've read the instruction book twice, and, as it suggested, I put the camera out on one of the beams of my porch. I just knew I'd capture some great pictures of wild game like deer, rabbits, skunks, and raccoons. Maybe even some ducks and geese who visit our back yard regularly. I left it out there for a couple of days and brought the SD card in this morning to view ALL THE WILD LIFE that got it's picture taken. I had lots of animal free pictures of the pond, and the only living creatures that I got pictures of were some kids who visited the pond one evening. And then there was the really wild creature below...
I guess you could call this a special species of deer. One where an "a" replaces the second "e".
At least it works! And no, I haven't set the time and date on it yet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Keep The Change!

Church is changing. Certainly that is not a news flash to anyone. The church, in spite of the many who fear change and fight it with unmatched enthusiasm, has always changed and will always change. With all our spouting about unchangeable truths, historic Restoration, and imitating New Testament patterns, the church is people and people change. It is usually incremental and only discernible over a long period of time, but traditions change, expectations change, styles and preferences change, and priorities change. The church has always fought to keep the world out, but has still found itself compromising, blending, imitating, and evaluating itself a lot more by worldly standards then we'd ever admit.
We are impacted by the cultural values that every member lives, works, and plays in. Our culture, or our society, is materialistic. Most churches are made up of middle class affluent people who work long hours, feel insecure about their jobs and the future, want the nicer things in life for themselves and their families, and judge everything they spend money and time on by "Is it worth it" and "what will it do for me." We are consumers, comfort seekers, and committed to doing more of both.
Has that impacted, or brought about change in the church? You bet your debit card it does. When passions shift from seeking God and building loving relationships in His family, to seeking "the good life", the church becomes a burden, or a club, or sometimes just a bad memory.
There is a core group of dedicated church family members in every congregation, and praise God for each one. However, one doesn't need to be a social researcher to observe that fewer and fewer people feel committed to the family, feel responsible to participate and support family events, or feel the need to honor and improve their financial commitment to the family.
There has been a loss of passion for the church in the lives of many people. I guess it would be more accurate to say there has been a shift in passion from church family to worldly family - having the things the world says we all deserve and will make us happy. And that is nothing new. Satan has been using that line for centuries.
Change is coming - again. People are starting to see that money, things, and financial success is like riding a Jello horse. People are rediscovering that life is not about what you love, but who you love, and who loves you back. We'll be here, and we'll be remembering Paul's command, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love," and Peter's command, "Love one another deeply from the heart." That is what the church is here to do. The church is changing. Have I said that?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fearless Trailer

Below is a link to the trailer Joe Woolbright and I did for Fearless: The Story of Esther DVD. I needed a promo to encourage our members to help us deliver DVD's to the nearly six hundred families who registered to receive one. Joe has done all the video work for all our plays and he's done a super job. This years is the best one. All I did was the voice over, and since I was only two weeks from my lastest voice shot, I didn't have the deep voice I wanted for doing the trailer, but it came out okay. Click on the link, turn your volume up, and enjoy. It helps if you saw the play, but it's still entertaining if you haven't.


Thursday, August 12, 2010


Wow! I hadn't noticed it until I logged on to do this blog, but this is blog #500 for me. That's a lot of stuff! Hopefully there were a few things over that last four years that were worth reading, or maybe pictures worth seeing. At any rate, thanks to all who have clicked in regularly or even occasionally - or rarely. Yes, I have family and friends who don't count the minutes waiting for words of inspiration from me. I've tried not to use my blog as a test of friendship or love, but I have been surprised many times to find out who checks it out and who ignores it. Oh well, we must not predetermine how people will express their affections. It's okay with me if they choose to remain in pits of darkness and ignorance.

I suppose for blog #500 I should say something profound and memorable. Something like "How on earth can people make an out-of-control airline attendant jerk into a folk hero!" Actually, I'm saving that one as an illustration for this Sunday's sermon. Oddly enough, we just studied anger/wrath in last Sunday night's series of The Seven Deadly Sins. If he'd only been a jerk a week earlier...maybe he was.

Back to profound and memorable. Here are a couple of things that I wrote down to think about this past week. I've been thinking about some things for a leadership seminar I'm doing in a few weeks, so these were some conclusions I reached.

1. The fatal flaw of preaching is believing that sermons can bring about giant changes. Spiritual growth comes in baby steps, and preaching is only a support system.

2. The fatal flaw of church leadership is the unspoken belief in the preeminence of decision making. It is the belief that it will solve all the problems, discover the magic bullet for church growth, and offset the lack of one on one mentoring that people really need.

And that - is half a thousand blogs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"I Want It All!"

When the young rich guy asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life, in Mark 10, he surely wasn't expecting anyone to question his financial status. Yet, his wealth was the one thing in his life that was a barrier to what he claimed he wanted most - eternal life. I asked the question Sunday, "What's wrong with wealth?" and probably surprised some folks with the short answer of "nothing is wrong with wealth." It's just a tool, a blessing, a means to an end. It can accomplish incredibly wonderful things or it can be an obsession that twists life and steals eternity. The saddest thing about wealth is that we, like the young rich guy in Mark 10, define ourselves by our wealth, rather than our relationship with God. In fact, it's another illustration of a tool becoming an idol, like so many other things God has given us to help us live and grow.
Wealth is a weird thing when you think about it. First, it's relative. We never think of ourselves as wealthy because it is what those who have MORE THAN US are. And, in spite of how wealthy we really may be, we just know that happiness and contentment can only be achieved when we have MORE. Amazingly enough, we just know that we would be good stewards of MORE WEALTH and not abuse it, blow it, or hoard it, like so many others seem to do. And that is important for our theology of interpreting what Jesus said when he pointed out that it's hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. He didn't say impossible, but he did do that camel through the eye of a needle thing to illustrate his point. He also made it clear that God makes things possible. So - our logic about increased wealth just has include our belief that we would be (or are) the exception to the rule. In other words, God would be so pleased with how we used the wealth he gave us that he would save us in spite of our being rich.
Maybe the honest thing to do is to ask ourselves some questions about what kind of servants we have been with what he has already given to us. Why would we possibly think that God would be interested in giving more to servants who haven't been faithful with the blessings already given. There is that parable about The Talents - remember? Would you say you've been like the five and two talent guys, or maybe more like the one talent guy?
The good news is that the Master hasn't returned yet! So - what will we do with the wealth we have?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fletch Lives

No, I'm not doing a commercial for NAP products, though I've used their broad heads for a lot of years. What you see in the above picture is a relatively new product that allows you to put new fletching on your arrows in seconds, when in the past, it has taken hours. It's amazing and it's a top quality product. Let me show it to you and close with a few comments.
As you can see above, the new "shrink tube" fletching simply slips over your arrow...

...then you place it into a pot of boiling water for just ten seconds, and watch them shrink down to a tight fit.

Let them cool and dry for a few seconds, and da-da-da-da, you have a newly fletched arrow that flies great and is tough as nails. Wow - repairing torn arrow fletching used to take a whole lot longer and was a lot more labor intensive.
Isn't that a good looking arrow? By the way, I've been using this arrow as a practice arrow for about five years now. Maybe I'll get five more - especially since I can put new fletching on them so quick and easy.
I just love it when someone figures out a way to do things better. When I began bow hunting in 1979, there were no archery shops around, I had no coaching, and the only camo clothing I could find was used military clothing a friend at church got for me. Now, bow hunting is big business, with bows that cost more than guns, tech toys that make it easier to do everything, and more choices of camo than you could wear in a life time. I love it. Every time I hear someone moaning about "the good old days" I think back to my first five years of bow hunting and learning by trial and error what not to do, and having equipment that did more to discourage new hunters than it do to appeal to them.
I'm just saying that I'm thankful to be here today, and enjoy anything and everything that makes life more enjoyable. "The good old days" are for memories, not for reliving. The "here and now" is exciting and fun, and I plan to not waste any of it looking back or waiting for what's to come. Every day is a gift from God to be appreciated and used to glorify Him.
I'm thankful I've got a pot to fletch in. Say that to a stranger and see what they say!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Preaching Paradox

Sunday morning I was sitting at my desk studying the lesson I was going to present that morning, and I did my usual "honesty check" to make sure I was trying to make a difference and not just filling a time slot. Was I being true to the context of the scripture I was covering? Was I helping people understand and know Jesus a little better, especially since it was His Gospel I was preaching? And, as my little 3M sicker on my computer reminds me, what was the bottom line of my lesson? What's the point? And that other soul searching sermon spotlight, "SO WHAT?" Will it make a difference to the people who will be hearing it?
In the midst of all this reflecting, a profound thought came into focus that I want to share - especially with all my preaching buddies and relatives. Here it is:
The paradox of preaching is that we are trying to lead people to a place we've never been, and show them how to have a deep relationship with God that we are still building.
For me, that is a very humbling thought. We're not the know-it-all's or the "Spiritual Answer Man" or even an example of success. Like any child of God, we are in the process of becoming what God wants us to be. We are on the same journey. The difference is, as preachers, they (our church family) are on OUR journey whether they want to be or not, because our journey is reflected in our preaching. We are not the preachers we use to be - praise the Lord! As we've grown spiritually, our preaching changes so we can help others who are on the same journey. As I look back on over thirty-five years of preaching, all I can say is, "Thank you God for your grace."

Monday, August 02, 2010

Family Pictures

During our quick trip to Searcy for the Curtis family reunion, we got to visit with nephew Zach at the house on the lake where he and his wife Cass live. Here, uncle Kevin is giving some of our grand children a ride on the hand car, which is part of the train that circles the lake. Neat place.
That evening just about the whole family came to dinner at Donna's mom's place. It was a little crowded, but we had a great time. Lot's of great food and great fellowship. Afterwords, everyone packed the small living room to do some singing. Since I was unable to contribute, I can truthfully say it was incredible singing.

As you can see, the next generation is coming along just fine. Some of these little ones actually helped with the singing of some of the songs.

We were glad that our "family time" got extended as Deborah and Elizabeth came back to Florissant with us to spend a couple days scrap-booking with their mom. It's been a fun few days, and a huge "at-a-boy" has to go out to my sons-in-law Chad and Pat for being mom & dad for a few days so the girls could have some fun time. I was around to provide security - and the ride to Fritz's, Las Fuentes, etc. etc..