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.