Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seventeen, but who's counting!

There hasn't been a family picture taken in a lot of years so it was nice to finally get one done. This is the whole gang, including the newest addition in Deborah's arms and Great Grandma Curtis (or Mither to some) right in the middle. We've had a great week of eating too much, saying up playing games too late, and getting up way too early with all the little ones who got up with the sun. God has truly blessed us. And of course, it was super wonderful to have Jonathan and Holly with us for the first Christmas together since we left TN seven Christmas's ago. Even as nice as today was (mid 50's) they aren't sad about heading back to the mid 70's in LA.

Just for fun? What a mean looking group. It's really hard to tell who's who with all that fancy disguise!

And of course, here are all the "bad" girls in the family. I especially like the model-like pose of our only grand daughter. Deborah was busy with grand kiddo #8 and had to miss this classic picture opportunity.

It's has been a great week and we are very thankful for every minute of it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Just for the fun of it - I introduced a "Florissant Version" of The 12 Days of Christmas. I thought I'd share it on my blog for anyone who might enjoy it and for any Florissant folks who wanted a copy of it. Enjoy! Hope you had a great Christmas! We're having ours this afternoon when the rest of the family gets here.

The 12 Days of Christmas at Florissant

On the first day of Christmas our church rejoiced to see:

1. The temperature was perfect as can be

2. Second day...: Two songs they love (and)

3. Third day...: Three close friends

4. Fourth day...: Four old Greek words

5. Fifth day...: Five - phones - that - ring

6. Sixth day...: Six guests a praying

7. Seventh day...: Seven Shepherds snoring

8. Eighth day...: Eight teens a texting

9. Nineth day...: Nine holes a leaking

10. Tenth day...: Ten buckets filling

11. Eleventh day...: Eleven minute sermons

12. Twelfth day...: Twelve stomachs growling

(It works better if you sing it backwards from the 12th day)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deer Sign Tutorial

When you are searching the woods for signs of deer travel, you look for specific signs. All of these pictures are deer signs and they are all within about 8 to 10 feet of each other. These are incredible signs. They are both fresh and made by at least one large buck. The above rub could have been made by a small buck, but the general rule is, small rubs are made by any buck, but only big rubs are made by big bucks.

This rub is a little bit bigger - probably a three in thick sapling, but again, it's only feet away from all the others.

This is a fresh scrape. If you look close or enlarge the pic, you will see the hoof lines in the dirt. They scape the dirt to break it up and then leave their scent there to let the other guys know it's their territory and let the gals know they are available. It's easier than dating.

This is a huge rub on a 8 to 10 inch cedar tree, which the big bucks like to rub their antlers on. I'd love to have a picture of the buck that did this. ANY hunter who comes across this size of a rub will get excited. It means HE'S there!

Just steps away was an even BIGGER rub, probably made by the same buck and clearly shows that he passed that way regularly. If I hadn't arrowed my buck the day before I would have been putting up a tree stand close by in a heart beat.

And of course, nothing says fresh deer sign like these nice wet fresh deer droppings. They say "You just missed him!" (or from the size of these dropping - missed her)

Any one of these signs are an indication that it's a good area to hunt. With all of these being so close together and on a main trail through the woods - can you say "Next year's stand placement"?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free to Be Naughty or Nice!

I wanted to wrap up my series on Freedom In Christ, by trying to pull several things together from this study of Galatians into a one-lesson-definition of what freedom in Christ really means. Whether or not I accomplished that goal will be left up the the listeners (you can hear it on the church web page). One of the most challenging questions I tossed out, after struggling with it myself all week, came after quoting John 8:32 &36. We all know these verses even if we can't always remember where they are. Jesus said, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Then in vs.36 he amps things up a notch with, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
We love these verses and can't even hear them without shouting "Amen!" But, here is the question: If it is so wonderful to be free in Christ, why do so many of us think of being a Christian as restrictive? Why do we tend to think about all the things that our faith doesn't "allow" us to do anymore? Why is our walk with God so often defined by what we can't do, better not do, and "shame on you" if we do?
Obviously, Satan doesn't want us to think about sin as enslavement. That takes away it's appeal. But Jesus was clear, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin." (vs.34) His appeal is that in Him we become sons and sons aren't slaves anymore. That is the exact same argument Paul made in Galatians 5 and Romans 6. When you are not in bondage to sin, you are free in Christ! But that's the answer to our Challenge Question isn't it? Paul said that in Christ we have "crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires," but maybe we haven't really done that. When our passions and desires are still in control, freedom in Christ looks like Stop signs rather than an open road.
Here is the key: Freedom in Christ is only real freedom if we truly have a relationship with Jesus. Without that honest and seeking relationship, we're just church goers, image builders, and unhappy hypocrites! We have just enough church and worldliness to be miserable in both. Freedom comes from truly understanding grace and being drawn to a loving God and Savior.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Da Group!

This is most of our One Another Group that met tonight at our house for discussion time and fellowship. We've had a great time discussing themes from The Andy Griffith Show. Most of them have been two minute clips from the show, and they just provide an introduction to a theme that we enjoy talking about. It's been a lot of fun having this group in our home. I just wanted to take a picture of the group tonight since it will be a month before we meet again. It's a fun group and a close group -as you can see with ten people sitting around a six seat dinner table. We've been blessed to have them in our home, and hopefully, we've learned a little something a long the way too. Since Donna fixes a meal every Sunday evening for our group - I know the food had been great and probably what pulls everyone back week after week. Lord willing, next month we will begin a study of Romans - so no more lessons from Barney.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Couple of Thirty-Niners!

Thirty-nine years ago last night, at the College Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas, I began a life long journey with a cute young thing who went from being Donna Sue Curtis to being Donna Sue Root. Next year she will have been a Root for twice the number of years she was a Curtis. Where does the time go?
Over the last thirty-nine years, when our anniversary has come around, I have written lots of church bulletin articles, and lately, some blogs, about that decision I made way back then to wrangle her into marrying me. I just can't think of a better way to say it than the way I've said it so many times before. That decision to marriage Donna, is far and away the best, the smartest, and the most blessed decision I have made in my entire life, second ONLY to my decision to live for Jesus. If I were putting together a Dictionary, I'd just put her picture under the words wife, friend, mother, grandmother, and Christian. I would also have to put it under cook, teacher, example, and child-friendly. Even more than that, I couldn't find a better definition for kind, thoughtful, caring, unselfish, respectful, encouraging, positive, and sweet. The older I get and the more time God gives us to be together, the more she becomes my biggest hero in life. After thirty-nine years you learn one-another's faults, weakness, and struggles. I don't know anyone, who by their very nature, is more Christ-like than she is. No one is perfect, but her spirit is more consistently like Jesus than anyone I've ever known. She won't like that I've said that, but that is all the more a reason why it's true.
I'm blessed and thankful for every day God has given us to be together. Thirty-nine years is more than I deserve, but I don't hesitate to ask God to let me have a few more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the season...

Well, I did it again yesterday. I was at Lowe's looking for some indoor spotlights for our basement, but I found myself drawn to the huge Christmas yard decoration aisle and all the possibilities for adding to our already decorated house. I've never really been much into decorating the outside of our house for Christmas. I like it, just not enough to put the work or the money into turning our house into a drive-by Christmas show. Our neighbors are hugely into it. I've had pictures of their house on my blog in the past. Last year, I used a picture of their house in my Sunday morning power point presentation, and compared it our house, which last year had zero decorations. I think I made a joke about people thinking we were the only Jewish family on the block.
So what was I doing looking at expensive yard decorations of angels and snowmen and Christmas trees - all built out of lights? I wanted just a little something to "cap-off" the already well lighted front of our house - for our grand kids. That's why we didn't decorate at all last year - no one was coming to our house for Christmas - so why do it? I can live with the knowledge that people who drive or walk by looking at all the other decorated houses might think I'm related to The Grinch. I don't care, but with the grand kids coming to our house for Christmas this year - the lights were up two weeks ago!
So, did I buy another Christmas decoration yesterday? I thought long and hard about it, but -hey - they were all $80 to $100, and since I haven't finished Christmas shopping for the grand kids, the "common sense" part of my brain said, "Save it for gifts!" After all, I have stocked our coffee K-cup selections to mammoth proportions, but what can I say, that's for all the "Big kids". Wait - I'm seeing a theme here! Oh yeah, I'm excited that our whole family will be here for Christmas for the first time since we moved to Missouri seven years ago, and that our newest grand baby will spend his first Christmas with us!
Maybe I will go back and look at those decorations just one more time...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Bears & Angels?

Can you be a fan of bears without being an idiot?

My good buddy JV sent this picture to me the other day. While there are a lot of ways to apply the picture and the caption, it kinda reminds me of some Cardinal fans (?) who are are slamming Albert Pujols for leaving and going to LA. While I hate to see him leave, there is something rather crazy about thinking that because I'm willing to buy a $50 ticket to watch the Cardinals, he should be willing to give up about five million a year to entertain me. I also see it as a classic example of how most people view life. Rather than being thankful for over a decade of historical baseball, including two World Series Championships, all they can think about is what we're not going to have anymore. I will miss him and I truly wish he could have finished out his career in baseball with St. Louis, but I'm certainly not going to judge his heart or diminish his character by accusing him of greed and selfishness. Pro baseball isn't a "Be true to your school" proposition. It's a business, and I'm sure he did what he felt was best for himself and his family. I also have always respected his spiritual convictions, so I know he prayed a lot about this decision, and who am I to question what he felt he was guided to do?

Albert! Good luck, God bless, and thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

What Does It Mean to be Spiritual?

One of the things I enjoy about doing this blog is the opportunity it gives me to add on to, or embellish, or finish up - things I talked about in my lesson the previous Sunday. Yes, it probably means fewer people are exposed to it, but I like blogging about what is fresh on my mind.
Just to give you the flow of thought, the lesson was about defining spiritual maturity. What does it mean to be spiritual? Spiritual living is maturing in Christ. I believe this is Paul's message in Galatians 5 & 6. Here are the bullet points: (they'll make sense if you read the passage in 6:1-10)

1. It is Restorative, vs.1
2. It Reaches out, vs.2-3
3. It is Responsible, vs.4-5
4. It is Reciprocal, vs.6
5. It is Responsive, vs.7-8
6. it is Resolute, vs.9-10

It'll preach!
The last point about being resolute, is a profound and powerful concept that I wish I'd had time to develop more. It is about who you are as a child of God. It's about keeping things in balance and having the right perspective. It's about the heart and soul of what a church family is all about. We read him saying, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
When you consider that this is his wrap-up after his tough talk about love and grace over law and works, and his call to walk by the Spirit and not by our sinful nature, these are some of the most practical, love oriented, family building, and Christ centered guidelines Paul ever writes. I see three resolute declarations every child of God could/should make.
1. I will never get tired of doing good!
2. I will not give up!
3. I will be Christ-like to everyone, but especially to my spiritual family.

What I didn't have time to point out on Sunday was that these are not just doctrinal statements but way of life statements. When you come from a religious tradition that focuses on being doctrinally correct, sometimes that religions is more talk than walk. A church family that is not committed to helping each other grow in Christ is not really a family of God. It's a theological social club. Doctrine is not unimportant, but it's love that covers a multitude of sin, not having all the answers to all the questions most people never ask. Paul was talking to people who were struggling with legalism. If we focus on being right, we create a new legalism that forgets to do what's right.
Paul says we walk by the Spirit in response to God's grace, and that walk is only defined by the fruit of the Spirit, which is revealed in how we treat others.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Welcome Dandy Andy!

God is good - always! We thank Him this morning for bringing our eighth grand-baby in the world. Andrew Kyle Bills arrived late Wednesday night, and - Praise the Lord - both Momma and baby are doing great. We would both love to rush down to Dallas and see him, but it will have to wait for a little while. Nana is flying down on Tuesday, and she is anxious to hold little Andrew, but I'll have to wait about three weeks before I get to hold our best Christmas present.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Nasty Nine

For those who aren't members at Florissant, I wanted to share with you what I preached on this past Sunday morning - just because I think it is an interesting perspective. I wanted to do a lesson about Thankfulness Robbers, and after some prayer and meditation, I hit on this list. I call them The Nasty Nine. Like The Dirty Dozen, there's not a good guy in the bunch. These are robbers of happiness, joy, relationships, and spirits. Sometimes they are people, but most of the time they are attitudes - attitudes we all have to watch out for. These destroy my four principles of thankfulness, which are:
* Thankfulness is the foundation of all spiritual growth.
* Thankfulness is prayerfulness (building a relationship w/ God)
* Thankfulness is a choice
* You can't be thankful for only the big things that happen to you and believe that means you have a thankful spirit. A thankful spirit is being thankful for the little things - daily.

Now - here is The Nasty Nine:
1. Hateful
2. Dejection
3. Contention
4. Discontent
5. Mean
6. Valueless
7. Dishonest
8. Hurtful
9. Self-indulgent

What Bible illustrations would you put with each of these?
Can you tell where these all came from?
They are antonyms for the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Color Is Your Stripe?

The old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words can clearly be applied to the above. My buddy, who sent it to me, said it was a good pictorial definition of wisdom. I can see that. It might also be a good picture of patience, or sharing, or maybe - as you look at the dogs face - a good illustration of "counting the cost." I also thought of the caption "OK, I'm at the limits of being Mr. Nice Guy!" Or what about "Where did you get that funky fur coat?" Or what about the caption "Keep it a face-to-face encounter!" I also like "You don't have to raise a big stink about everything!"
Got any ideas?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Touch Down Club

I couldn't wait to play high school football. In the seventh grade I bugged the high school football coach so much that he let me be an assitant manager for the team. I actually was awarded a high school football letter while in the seventh grade! The next year, I bugged the coach so much about wanting to play, that he, after getting signed permission from my mother, let me dress out and practice with the team. That was when the whole concept of "being small in a game for big guys" finally - and literally - hit me. I was the target of many "average sized" football players who wanted to feel the joy of finally dominating somebody - even if it was a five foot five inch 8th grader who weighed in at 145 lbs when wet. It was rough and I was very intimidated, but I refused to quit.
In the ninth grade, it was a little different. I was still short, but I did put on another ten pounds, and since we were a very small school with very few players (everyone played both ways), I actually became a starting guard. Everyone I matched up against in every game - even practice - was bigger than me. I was still very intimidated and I stayed worried and scared most of the time. Oddly enough, I got to occasionally play fullback on the Junior High team a few times, when we played a school whose team was made up of 7th through 9th graders. It was fun. I was one of the big guys and I loved running over all those little guys who only knew how to arm tackle. But the next day, it was back to being the runt guard against Hulk Hogan. Still, I'd made a decision, and I was not going to back down even if I didn't enjoy it.
Prior to the start of football camp that next year - my 10th grade year - something amazing happened. I loved football! Once we started those three-a-day practices that week before school began, I was loving it, and I could not wait to get my pads on and do some hitting. When we finally did get our pads on and started scrimmaging, I was a monster. I was playing quarterback on offense and center linebacker on defense and I really don't know which one I enjoyed the most, but I think it was defense. I wanted in on every tackle. I wanted to hit anyone and everyone on every single play. I loved it.
What happened? I grew six inches between the end of the previous season and the start of football camp in August. I was 5' 11" and 160 lbs. and, while I wasn't a Bubba Smith, I was big enough for high school football at a very small school. I was changed and my attitude about playing the game changed. I remember it well - even though it was many decades ago.
It is the difference between a decision and a conversion. In those early years, I made a decision that I wanted to play football, but it wasn't until the beginning of that sophomore year that I was really converted to playing football. The decision was about acceptance, appearances, and image management. The conversion was about throwing myself into it with every ounce of my body because I was loving it.
After years of reading Galatians 5, it finally dawned on me that this is the same principle Paul is challenging the Galatians, and us, with. When you make a decision to be a follower of Jesus it must be a conversion and not just an intellectual choice. When it's just a decision, you can easily be pulled into giving up your freedom in Christ and "let yourselves be burden again by a yoke of slavery." A decision only can mean that we "use our freedom to indulge in the sinful nature" and remain in a state of conflict "so that you do not do what you want." A conversion is living by the Spirit which means we "will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." The whole "works of the flesh" verses "fruit of the Spirit" is about more than a decision. It's a walk, a way of life, and a conversion to "keep in step with the Spirit."
Paul's challenge is to end the misery of mediocrity by giving ourselves over to a relationship with God. It's where love and grace motivate us, and it's where we find the peace that only comes from having "crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Turn the decision into a real conversion. That's a real touch down!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rules to Hunt By!

On NCIS Jethro Gibbs has a list of rules that all the members of his investigative team must learn. They are all rules about investigating a crime, dealing with people, and what he expects - and some are generic rules for life. I think the number of "Gibbs Rules" is up in the fifties and maybe higher.
We all have rules of living. We may not have formalized them or put them down on paper, but there are rules - i.e. principles, beliefs, guidelines, and truths - that drive how and why we do the things we do. After nearly four decades of preaching, writing articles, doing bulletins, writing books, and - the last six years - writing blogs, I have a long list of Rootisms that I live by and share when I teach or preach. Many of them have appeared in this blog over the last 66o plus blogs.
It's hunting season - in case you haven't noticed the trail camera pictures I've shared and the picture of the nice buck I got last week. I mentioned in that blog that my good hunting buddy and brother-in-law Kevin was in town last week to hunt with me in IL. We have a lot of hunting trips in our memory scrapbook, not the least of which is twenty something trips to Colorado to chase mulie deer and elk all over the mountains. Notice I said "chase" not "kill".
Here are a few of our spoken and unspoken rules about bowhunting.
1. On a hunting trip there are two things you never count or worry about - cost & calories.
2. When it stops being fun, I stop doing it. (I have nothing to prove to anyone about my dedication to hunt in the cold, wet, and nasty.)
3. If it is followed by a good breakfast, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful morning of hunting.
4. It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. (It's all about the equipment)
5. A trophy is something in the freezer as the result of a good bow kill.
6. "Be still and know that I am God" was written for tree stand hunters.
7. Harvesting is for vegetarians. Bowhunters kill deer for dinner.
8. No, I don't hunt Bambi, but I am after his great, great, great, ........great grand-dad. (By the way, they don't talk and play games with rabbits.)
9. It's never about the kind of weapon you use, but about spending time in God's creation and enjoying the fruits of being a good steward.
10. While you're at breakfast, after a morning hunt, the deer are doing a Conga Line dance under your tree stand. It's still a good day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Sort of" Free in Christ?

I got to preach on one of my favorite verses this past Sunday. Because it was part of a larger passage I was wanting to expose, I had to "hit it and move on" rather than dwell on it alone for a while. If I had been a little smarter or more alert, I would have notice a long time ago how supremely relevant Paul's letter to the Galatians is. I guess it was aways just hard enough to understand that I tended to use verses and sections without noticing the over all purpose of his letter. Legalism, whether it's found in Moses or man made laws, robs people of their freedom in Christ. That freedom is an inseparable part of the gift of grace, and grace is a very expensive gift from God. So it is no wonder that Paul pulls no punches in warning and condemning anyone who would elevate law over love. (see 5:4-6)
His point is summed up powerfully in that favorite verse I referred to at the beginning. It is verse one of chapter five, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
It gives me chills to read it. For many people, freedom in Christ means you are free to believe and agree with everything they believe, it means you are free to have fellowship with them as long as you obey and follow their traditions, and you must see their opinions as equal to God's truth rather than something to "agree to disagree" about.
It gives me chills because Paul is so clear that freedom in Christ isn't just a great spiritual slogan. We have been set free, and that is what it means! No one has any right or power to change my relationship with Jesus or to place any burden on me that Jesus hasn't placed on me. That is true whether it is a person, an organization, a church, or even family. If I let them, I'm choosing a yoke of slavery that Jesus never intended for me to carry.
It gives me chills because Paul declared "stand firm" and don't let it happen! Those early brethren where having a hard time letting go of their works and performance geared approach religion. Today we don't struggle with people requiring obedience to the Old Law, but we do struggle with people binding rituals, rules, guilt, external acts of righteousness, dishonest and inconsistent interpretations of scripture, institutional expectations, Lording leaders, sacred traditions, uniformity, and beam-eyed judgmentalism - just to name a few. I can hear Paul screaming off the pages of my Bible saying, "STAND FIRM - DO NOT LET YOURSELVES BE BURDENED AGAIN BY A YOKE OF SLAVERY!"
How can that not give you chills? Grace means freedom in Christ!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Make some room in the freezer...

Here is something you won't see very often. This is the buck I shot yesterday, coming in to a buck scrape just to the left of the picture. My trail camera took this picture just seconds before I sent an arrow through him. My tree stand is off to the right of the picture and (obviously) up about twenty feet. It ended up being about a ten yard shot. I was actually packing up my stuff to leave because it had been about three hours of hunting, I was cold, and ready for a big breakfast at Mel's Riverdock Restaurant. The clock on the pic is an hour off because of the change from DST. It's really about 9:15. He ran about 60 or 70 yards before he dropped, and it was three hours later before we made it to Mel's - for lunch.

He's not a monster buck, but he's a nice mature buck. The guy at the processors est. it was a 185 to a 190 pound deer. All I know is that dragging a deer uphill for about 80 yards is a lot harder than it was thirty years ago. The best part was having my brother-in-law Kevin with me for the whole thing. We had a great week of hunting (and still trying to get some work done). He didn't tag one, but it was great to spend the time together.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I SEE YOU!!!!!!

I am taking a few days off this week to bowhunt over in IL with my brother-in-law Kevin. So far the weather has been terrible - either too wet or too windy. But - tomorrow is another day. Haven't seen many deer and there haven't been many even on my trail camera. The above doe performed in front of my camera for about five minutes and had about fifteen pictures taken of her. She was truly interested in the little IR light that came on every time it took a picture. I have several of her sniffing it out and providing some REAL close-ups.
I thought a good caption for this picture might be WHO IS WATCHING WHOM?

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Gospel of Chuch Growth

I am more convinced than ever that most of us have been raised on the "gospel of church growth" so thoroughly that we can't bring ourselves to see the simplicity of what God really wanted the church to be. The church is a family not a corporation that judges itself by a growth chart and a data base. Many church families have many amazing people doing all kinds of amazing acts of service, sacrifice, and sharing. People who are quietly glorifying God and causing others to think positively about His church family. BUT, we still find ourselves moaning and groaning because our church family is not generating more visitors, baptizing more people, and causing an electrical stream of excitement to be shooting through every member. We still want something new, something innovative, or something magical that will cause our family membership to explode and do amazing things as we impress the religious world with our success!
I love excitement. I love new people, new things, and new ideas. BUT, we are in the "maturing in Christ" business not the worldly success business. God placed shepherds, evangelists, and teachers in his family to guide every single member of His body to a deeper relationship with Him! His plan, which is usually ignored and/or forgotten in the pursuit of church growth, is for each member to grow in Him and help each other grow in Him. When that happens, people WANT to serve others, they WANT to share His Good News, and they WANT to be involved in whatever they can to help others grow! When that happens - how can a church family not grow?!!!
There is no magic bullet, special program, or dynamic ministry that will make that happen. It can only happen when spiritual leaders learn the old old story from Jesus about the value of one wandering sheep. Most leaders would rather meet and have discussions about how to get the ninety and nine more involved. Spiritual formation in Christ is the only goal, and that is a one-on-one mentoring proposition.
You want to see some excitement in a church family? You want to see some spiritual electricity shoot through every member? Forget the program, the ministry, and the new idea. Follow Jesus' lead and personally guide the weak, the marginal, and the wandering back into His family and a closer walk with Him.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Animal Revenge

My good buddy JV sent me this pic. The man who wouldn't kill a rabbit - I suspect - is on the animals side of hunting. I love it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

DW Review

Disney World is an amazing place. Duh - that's why people flock there by the thousands pretty much 365 days a year. My wife thinks it's the best place in the world. If you catch her at any given time or place and ask her where she'd rather be at that moment, she'll say "Disney World!" She loves it. I enjoy it. There is a difference. A trip there once every four or five years is plenty for me, but she could do it annually - okay, maybe monthly. I'm not a crowd person, rides don't just compel me, and long lines don't thrill me. Still, DW just amazes me with it's attention to detail, it's total customer orientation, and it's ability to give everyone an incredible, memorable experience. I love the friendliness of everyone who works there, I love the cleanliness, and I love the total-kid-friendly-atmosphere, professionalism, and high moral standards that are part of everything they have. More than anything else, I love watching kids (especially my grand kids) see everything and be totally wowed at every turn!
Of all the times that I have been there (and there have been many since my first visit in 1972), I was really aware of how nice and polite nearly every one in the park was - and I'm talking about the visitors - parents, kids, and families of all kinds and sizes. I saw more smiles, less stress, and more acts of consideration and friendliness than I ever have before. Not that it was THAT bad before, but it just seemed to be more obvious and prevalent. As an official "stroller watcher" a couple times, I got to just watch people/families - especially at the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween night when we were there until 11:30 P.M.. Good people having a good time. I liked seeing that. I loved seeing my family love it. I loved seeing my beautiful wife love it. So I suspect, Lord willing of course, this won't be the last visit we make to DW. Maybe my wife's right. Maybe it is a special place. Where else can you spend so much money and yet find yourself saying, "I don't care"?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From Mickey Land

We are in the middle of our vacation with family at Disney World. I brought my iPad thinking I could do anything with it that I could do with my lap top, but I was wrong. I posted the previous pics yesterday, but my iPad wouldn't let me do any typing on it. Those pics are from my trail cams from last Friday. You really have to click on them and enlarge them to see the deer clearly. Especially the first one because my camera is angled up too much, so I only got the top of his head and it's a little dark. And the last one is a true monster. I heard one was shot by a bowhunter that was a real trophy class animal and I assumed it was this one, but I found out later that it had been shot before this pic was taken. So it's still out there. ALRIGHT!
Anyway, we are having fun and staying busy. Don't know when the next blog will be posted. We'll be home Friday night, so not too far away. Now it's on to the next Mickey sighting. Boy, talk about new and exciting pics...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Cat's Meow?

My brother sent me a bunch of these funny animal pictures, but I especially like this one. I think it brought back memories of our last cat EE, who died about nine or ten years ago. He sang a lot, and he was black, but I'd say he was a baritone not a soprano.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sleepless In Suburbia

Something I used just briefly in the Introduction to last Sunday's lesson was the question, "What keeps you awake at night?" I called it a Focus Question because I wanted us to focus on our passions, concerns, or drives, and I feel that this is a question that causes us to honestly see what really goes on in our hearts. Most people lay awake at night worrying about one or more of the Big Three - money, family, & health. In past years I have done my share of staring at the ceiling as it if were the "mirror, mirror on the wall." For the record, it has never given me an answer or helped out in any way, shape, or fashion.
A lot of sleepless ceiling watching comes with life's changes and varies with where we are at that time of life. Like when you're young and you discover for the first time that credit cards are a two edged sword, or when your children are sick or struggling or going through a life change of their own. And then there are those years when your teenage kids want to be with people you don't know, go places you're not sure about, and stay out later than you want them to. No one knows the anxiety of laying in bed late at night waiting to hear them come in the front door unless they've been a parent. Their time will come - and then they'll "get it".
The bottom line for asking the question is to simply challenge us all to ask, "When was the last time I laid awake at night because of concerns about spiritual matters?" When do you worry about your walk with God? Do you have worries about the souls of your loved ones? Have you ever lost sleep thinking about your church family? Remember Paul's list of experiences and sufferings as an apostle and a missionary in 2 Corinthians 11? Wow! Beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and near-death experiences galore - and on top of that, he added his constant concern for all the churches! I think many would consider that unnecessary baggage. He didn't. Jesus didn't, when he paid for his church with his blood and called it his body.
Maybe it's a sign of getting old, but I don't lay awake a night worrying about the "Big Three." Reflux - yes, but money, family, and health - no. I do worry about whether or not I am doing all I can to help people grow in Christ. Even then, what is different from years past is that I'm not ruminating in the darkness buying guilt that Jesus already paid for. I'm talking about it with God. I found that when I do that, I not only tend to find some answers, but I find peace, and perspective, and often...sleep.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trail Cam Wild Life

Nice buck. You may have to click on the pic to get a close up of his rack. This is a new (and cheaper) trail camera, so the pics aren't as clear. This is in the newly cut corn field at the stand where I got a nice ten pointer a few years ago and where Chad shot his first deer w/ a bow. I now have my two person stand there just waiting for a grand-kiddo to go hunting w/ me. Notice what time of day it is at the bottom of the pic. That's another reason it's not easy to get one of these big boys.

Nice little buck - just before shooting light - of course.

It is almost thanksgiving - and me w/ no IL tag.

Masked bandit?

Now we're talking REAL wildlife!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Go Cards!

Okay, I'm not exactly a fanatical fan of the Cards, but we have gone to several games and we watch most of the rest of them on TV. We've watched enough games - and seen them in person - that we feel like we know most of the players personally - which of course, we don't. Nevertheless, we are excited about the play-offs. It has be great watching them come back from being so far out that all the news people had written them off - and of course the are all now saying they never did that. Well, we're cheering for our team and hoping they will make it to the World Series - hopefully against the Texas Rangers.

Albert is a neat guy. He's one of those players you nearly find yourself praying for just because you want a good guy to do a good job. I appreciate his spiritual convictions and the great job he does of being a role model. We don't see a lot of today's professions doing a very good job of that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Communioin for kids?

When Paul told us that the law was "a tutor to bring us unto Christ" he was not only talking about the temporary nature of the law, but the teaching purpose of the law. The law was pointing to and showing the need for Jesus. The law could only reveal sin. It never was intended to save anyone, but rather to show the need for Jesus and the grace that comes through him.
The law, which was the Jewish way to think of the entire Old Testament, also teaches us about God, his nature, and how he makes his will known to us. One of the many things we learn about God in the OT is his understanding of mankind's weaknesses and limitations. I am especially amazed with how often God commands his people to do things so that they won't forget what he has done. Whether it's stone pillars & altars, or special feasts, or even physical signs like circumcision, he knows how easy it is for us to let time and distance cause us to forget things we really need to remember. I especially like those many times he specifically says, "When your children ask you....". He wanted his people to have a means and an opportunity to explain, tell the story, and make sure it was passed on to the next generation.
Knowing that part of God's nature, it makes me wonder if we've missed something very important about communion. In the culture where Jesus first gave it to his disciples, did he think he was giving them a sacred ceremony for insiders, or did he think he was giving his followers a simple symbolic tool to remember, to share, and to teach the next generation. Have we let our traditions, and the Catholic sacramental thinking it comes from, rob us of a wonderful tool to teach and share with our children?
I've been asked a few times by parents if they should let their children take communion. There was a time when I discouraged it, thinking it should only be for those who are obedient believers of Christ. Children can't get all the "deep meaning" behind the Lord's Supper - or at least that was our argument. But what was so deep about using two things that were on every table at every meal, and Jesus saying "Think about me" some of the time when you share it?
Again, was communion a "religious hoop to jump through" to show our obedience, or was it a tool to use to help us draw closer to God? In my opinion, using it to teach our children is probably a lot closer to the original intent than letting it become some private ritual to get checked off the Sunday morning list. Remember, in every mention of it in the New Testament, the Lord's Supper was part of a regular meal. Use it for the tool God intended - share & teach!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Liar, Liar!

I've started compiling a list of Things That Make a Liar Out of Me. Ouch! Yes, I know that's kind of harsh, but I'm amazing at the things in life that remind us of our inconsistencies. Here are a few that I already have on the list. What would you add?

1. Children - especially when they share "special" things about Mom & Dad with their school teacher or Sunday school teacher. (None of ours ever did that - of course!)
2. A mirror - I'm always ten years younger, twenty pounds lighter, and have hair three shades darker - before I look!
3. My doctor - enough said!
4. Our digital ultra modern bathroom scale - don't ask!
5. Driving - I always think of myself as patient, kind, non-aggressive, and considerate - and then I get into the car.
6. Sexy, attractive women on TV - I'm getting old enough that I don't notice them any more - and then I turn on the TV.
7. Motel clerks who ask if I have an AARP card
8. Watching "Surviving The Cut" (Special Forces Training) and thinking, "I could do that!"
9. Going to bed at 10:30 and planning to read for an hour - can you say "snore"?
10. Seeing Albert strike out and saying, "I coulda done better than that!"

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Parenting & Churching

What would you say to parents who want to have a large family - they want lots of kids - but they don't want to raise them? They just want the excitement and recognition from being large, noticed, and maybe even envied. I know what you'd say, or what you should say, "You people have no business having children!" Then once you got over your shock and anger with such an irrational perception of parenting, you might back off and say, "You should only have children you are willing to parent and raise with all the love and guidance they deserve."
It is my observation that many of us think just like those "irrational" parents when it comes to "doing church." The worldly church says successful churches must be driven by "Church Growth" principles, and those principles are all about becoming large. Everyone wants to be part of an exciting, growing church, that is the envy of all other churches. And we cover ourselves by saying something like, "Well, we're only interested in numbers because that means more souls." Why do I hear the above parents saying, "We want a lot of children because of all the tax deductions we'll get." Parenting is about growing children into maturity, not about how many children you can have. Parenting is living for the joy of seeing your child grow in "the training and instruction of the Lord." There is no greater sense of thanksgiving and godly pride than "to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 Jn.4)
Paul was clear that church leaders have one primary purpose and that is to grow His people to "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph.4:11-13) There is, or should be, nothing more fulfilling and satisfying than seeing souls that God put into your guiding hands become mature Christ-like servants of God.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a large church, or being part of a large church, but we MUST NOT LOSE THE PRIMACY AND JOY OF GUIDING MEMBERS TO MATURITY IN CHRIST! Since God is the One who gives the increase, and we are only planters and stewards of the Word, the real secret to "church growth" might be following His plan! Guide, mentor, shepherd, and love members - one at a time - into a deeper walk with God. What might THEY do when you've helped them develop a passion for Jesus! And maybe, just maybe, God is waiting for me, for us, to do the job He's given us before He adds to the work load. And maybe that's why the New Testament talks in terms of Christians coming together for spiritual growth, not "Church Growth."

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Safe to Assume - Is it?

I mentioned a while back that the first casualty of biblical interpretation is objectivity. As I reflect on that, I realize how much I have been driven over the last few years by the desire to do just that - understand God's Word free from the baggage of pre-taught and predetermined conclusions. Like many things in life, it's easier said than done. I had many years of being taught what the Bible said, long before I was filled with a passion to truly know what God was saying. So for many years, passages of scripture that "I knew," because they were regularly used to prove a doctrinal position I'd been taught, became sections of scripture to skim, sometimes ignore, and often never study in the larger context of what the Holy Spirit was saying. Some of those same passages, now don't say what I'd always "known" they said. Some of them are NOW far more exciting, challenging, and full of grace then they were when I used them as proof-texts to support my positions.
I am also discovering how many conclusions I have be taught, and taught to others, are conclusions I/we infer from passages that support what we have already concluded. If you study the New Testament with the predetermined mindset that there is a formal time, place, and way that Christians worship God - I'm talking about a Temple worship mindset - you will find passages that support that belief, even if you have to infer that was what the Holy Spirit was talking about and there are zero commands to base it on.
We read the Old Testament because it tells us about God, how He works, and how He tells His people what He wants. The one thing that is absolutely clear from any study of the OT is that God is very clear about what He wants. When did He ever expect His followers to do anything with eternal consequences based solely on figuring it out from and example or from an inference? What God wants, God commands. An example or an inference is only valid if it supports a direct command from God. And yet, we have no problem developing major doctrinal positions based totally on what we infer from examples or biblical witnessing. It doesn't mean they don't count, but it does mean they are not a primary source of determining obedience.
Does it matter? Yes is does. Do we really think that God's will is a jigsaw puzzle to be pieced together? Does it make sense that God's plan for redeeming man, which was in place pre-Creation, and cost His only Son's death on a Cross, and is totally built on love, is dependent on our ability to infer what He wants us to do?
Commands are always a primary source. It's how God works. Whatever your personal passion is as far as your journey to know God, or whatever you believe the church should have a passion about - does it come from a command or did you start with a conclusion and then find verses that infer that your conclusion is correct? Again, it's not always about something being wrong, but about honestly interpreting, and being a person "who correctly handles the word of truth."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Slap Heard Around the Church!

I have to say that I've always focused a lot more on the last half of Galatians than I have on the first half. If it wasn't for Gal.2:20 ("I've been crucified with Christ...") I'd say nearly all my memory work in Galatians comes from chapters 3-6. I mention that to simply point out that Paul's confrontation with Peter in chapter 2, has mostly been "interesting" and in the category of "a novelty" for me, because I just didn't quite see the relevance and the application for me. My bad. If someone like Peter can get so distracted and out of focus that it takes Paul opposing "him to his face" because "he was clearly wrong," I need to sit up and take notice! After a couple decades of being an apostle, an elder, a missionary, a preacher of the gospel, and a "pillar in the church," he allowed peer pressure to pull him into ignoring his non-Jewish brethren and hobnobbing with the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, forgetting everything he personally heard from God about not showing preferences (see Acts 10). Paul said he was being a hypocrite! This was more than just switching dinner partners one night. It hurt those brethren who had been slighted, it seriously damaged his influence as a leader in the church, and - maybe worst of all - he dragged others into the same hypocrisy. Paul said that even Barnabas was pulled into following Peter. Paul was shocked, and I think, hurt by that. Here's the Son of Encouragement being discouraging to all the Gentile Christians!
Clearly the biggest thing that disturbed Paul - and you must remember that he's the new guy with lots of folks questioning whether or not he was legitimate - was that Peter's decision to associate with the "circumcision" group, meant that he was promoting (probably not intentionally) the law over grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul screams - you can't have both! Only one brings justification (i.e. salvation) and it isn't the law! The only thing that counts is being "in Christ" - this is where you can quote or sing Galatians 2:20.
It's frightening to think that any of us could so cavalierly do something that could do that much damage! Just because we want to be accepted by some group of people who intimidate us or might not include us? As much as I love vs.20, I must say that it's vs.21 that probably hit Peter between the eyes like a sledge hammer, and took him back to a morning breakfast on the beach with Jesus.
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Special Hunting Buddy

One of our grandsons sent us his class project, Flat Stanley, so we could introduce him to St. Louis and put together some pictures for him to use when he has to share this with his class. So, Caleb, I decided that Flat Stanley needed to go with me on my first hunting trip of the year. He seemed to enjoy the drive down to my hunting spot just outside of Sullivan, MO.

FS was a little nervous about being in a tree stand twenty feet off the ground, especially since I didn't have a safety belt for him. So he held on a little tight. Just as well, he was lacking some decent camo.

He tried to pull my bow back, but he couldn't quite do it. Still, I could tell he was ready to see something for me to shoot at. He's a born hunter. You can see it in his eyes.

FS hung on pretty tightly. He was my official bino-man, but he never saw anything.

Since the hunting wasn't exciting enough for FS, he decided to take my ATV out for a spin. He's a real speed maniac.

I finally found something that gave FS a real thrill. He's still picking bugs out of his teeth. What a wild man!

We didn't see many deer or come home with anything for the freezer. It was just a bunch of guys sharing an experience in the wild. Hope FS can come back for a visit some time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Trail Camera Pictures

Missouri bow hunting opened last week, so we just got back from a short two day hunting trip to my hunting spot outside of Sullivan, MO. I had gone down a couple weeks ago and repositioned mine and Danny's stands and put up my trail camera. These are my first trail camera pictures of the year. That nice little 8 pointer above came past my stand the day before we got there. Unfortunately, while the camera showed deer movement every day, nothing came by my stand Sunday evening, Monday, or this morning (Tuesday). Oh well, that's why they call it hunting and not killing. I was pleased with all the nice pictures I got. I had 150 on the camera, fifty were of my arm or hand putting up or taking down the camera. Another 50 were empty - probably a squirrel running by faster than the camera could catch it, and about 50 with some form of deer on it.

You might have to click on this picture to enlarge it and see it clearer. It's a momma doe and her little fawn - still with spots. Must have been a late season birth.

This is a nice buck, and I think it's still in velvet. Hard to tell with a night picture. Wish he'd come past my stand. Still plenty of time left in the season.

Again, you might have to click to enlarge this, but it's a really nice buck with nice tall tines and big body. I will definitely be looking for him later in the season. My tree stand is actually just behind the deer to the left of the picture. The camera is ten yards from my stand. Hope to have some better pictures soon, especially when I set up my cameras (three now - how did that happen?) in IL.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"I'm happy today, oh yes I'm..."

John Steinbeck once said, "A sad soul can kill you quicker than a germ."  What grabs me most about his quote is the idea of a sad soul.  That is a deep sadness that goes beyond having an unhappy day, or being temporarily depressed about things in life.  A sad soul is a mind-set, an outlook on life, or maybe a permanent habit of looking at the world through a glass that's always half empty.  It's seeing the ray of darkness in a field of light.  It's seeing a world of people with specks in their eye, and assuming it's just camouflage for the planks that must be there.
A sad soul is sitting in the critics seat and never feeling any responsibility to commend others, be constructive, or contribute to any one's joy.  A sad soul is basically a selfish soul.  Yes, there are exceptions, but we've all known the secret to happiness most our lives.  Happiness comes from making others happy.  The sad soul is sitting back waiting for someone to do that for them, but it won't be enough, and it won't change a thing.  The more we focus on ourselves and dwell on what we need or what we don't have, the more we wallow in self pity and sorrow.
When those thousands of people journeyed out from their towns and cities to listen to the new prophet from Nazareth, they were poor people.  They had no transportation, no food, and time from work was time not making a living.  But they were seekers, and they hoped the new prophet named Jesus would show them how to draw closer to God.  What he gave them - right out of the bag - was what we call the Beatitudes.  A really strange way to begin a lesson.  And contrary to what we've always said about "blessed" being another word for happy, and that they would be happy if they had these spiritual attitudes, he was telling them that God understood their hearts and their deep desire to seek Him.  Each Beatitudes was a promise that God knows and would bless everything they were doing to seek him.  They were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted on their journey, but they should "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."  Jesus was telling them that their souls where in good hands and that is a reason to smile from the heart!
Often, a sad soul is not a victim of hardships or tragic circumstances, but someone who has never discovered that real living is found in unselfish giving and, more than anything else, being at peace with our God and Father.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Are You Smarter Than An Eighth Grader?

When I was preaching in Nashville, there was a young brother who became a pretty close friend.  Ocassionally he would come by my office and we'd study and pray together, and spend a good bit of time sharing some very personal things in our journey to know God better.  At that time, I was really discovering, or maybe rediscovering, the primacy of thankfulness if we truly wanted to draw closer to God.  In private discussion I said to him what I later used as a permanent prayer on this blog, "God has been so good to me, and I am so thankful for the wonderful life he has given me, that anything that comes from this day on is truly gravy."  That was said as a profession of thanksgiving, but later, when for reasons still unknown today, he became dissatisfied with our church family, he put that quote from me in a letter of complaint to the elders to point out that I was "burned out" in my ministry.
How could something that was being said as a praise of thankfulness to God be interpreted as the words of a burned out preacher?  I don't know, but I do know that communication - that is, being understood - is always a complicated process.
Many times we assume someone understands what we are talking about, or at least our perspective, and we don't explain things as completely as we should.  That's a real problem in marriage, because after so many years together, we assume our spouse knows what we are thinking so we don't have to explain things.  Wrong.
I have often mentioned to people that I preach on an about an 8th grade level.  It's not just me, any and all public speakers, even if they don't know it, nearly always speak on a Junior High level to be understood by the greatest number of people.  NO, that doesn't mean that you prepare your lesson and then go over it to "dumb down" your message for the "lowly masses" of people you have to talk down to.  Most of us, yes even with multiple graduate degrees, speak to one another on about an 8th grade level.  That has nothing to do with conceptual understanding or intellect, but has everything to do with vocabulary.  I could throw in all kinds of theological terms that I've learned from scholarly volumes or papers, but why?  To impress others?  To sound erudite and superior?  The goal is communication not personal grandeur.
I am profoundly convicted by Paul's declaration to the Corinthians, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."  It was essential to him that they understand, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Cor.2:1-5)  There were some at Corinth that evidently thought Paul's message was too common, too basic, and lacking eloquence.  They didn't want to be challenged by a crucified Jesus, they wanted to be impressed by a polished public speaker.
No, an eighth grade vocabulary is all you need to share Jesus, confront sin, and show the way to find hope.  Everything else is fluff, fizzle, and fake.  If you don't know what those words mean, ask an eighth grader.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Weekend With Good Friends

We were blessed to have our good friends Don and Kathy Rose with us for all of the Labor Day Weekend. We spent a lot of time talking, eating good food, going to some neat places, and playing lots of Fargle and Hand & Foot. It was essentially a cruise vacation w/o the cruise. Saturday was the last of the triple digit summer heat wave, but we still managed a great trip down to Union Station. Sunday was full of church activities and having a reunion of some of our Panama Canal trip people. Fun evening. Then on Monday, with wonderful cool temperatures and deep blue sky, we took them to Eckerts in Grafton to pick peaches and apples. It was a lot of fun. The above trailer is waiting for us to board to take us to the apple orchard.

This is the peach orchard we walked to first. It was late season and a little hard to find a bunch of nice looking and ripe peaches, but as you can see, we did ok.

This is Kathy, Donna, and me waiting for the aforementioned trailer.

We drafted a nice guy to take our picture after we'd paid for our peaches and apples and taken them back to the car. He was such a nice guy and did a pretty good job - considering the subjects.
From Eckerts, we drove over to Hardin, IL and had a great lunch at Mel's Riverdock restaurant on the IL river. It's where I eat breakfast after a morning hunt. Good stuff! Then we drove down to the Mississippi River and took the Golden Eagle ferry across to St. Charles. It's a really fun trip that we have done with several folks who visited us.

Don & Kathy are dear friends and we truly treasure getting to spend four days together. Can't wait for our winter vacation cruise this February when we get to do even more of everything we did last weekend but in a warm Caribbean location - and on the Grand Princess! Yeah!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Things that make me smile

For the last couple of weeks I have been making a list of little things that make me smile. Of course, some things on the list aren't so small, but they are all things that, when I see them or think about them, they make me smile. As I say regularly, we can grow no higher spiritually than our level of thankfulness. These are just some things I am thankful for - and they are in no particular order - just what I happen to add to the list on any given day. Maybe they will make you think of things you are thankful for.

Quiet moments on my back porch
Watching humming birds come to our feeder
My iPad (where this list was developed)
Wild flowers
Turtle concretes at Fritz's
Seeing kindness
Baby giggles
Loyal friends
Sitting next to my wife
Short dental check ups
Remembering God before getting out of bed
Everything Sunday
Mimosa blossoms
A good book
Chips and Ranch Dressing
My daughter's blogs
Skipping shaving
Being finished w/ my sit-ups & push-ups
People passionate about anything
AC (it's 104 today)
Hearing anything from my son
Fargle w/ friends (called Farkle by some)
People who are truly thankful
Sam carrying Frodo
Vacation with family or friends
First cup of coffee in the morning
Seeing loved ones reunited
Las Fuentes
Have I mentioned my back porch....

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Additional Thoughts

I've been working on a new list of "Things that make me smile" for the last couple of weeks. I add one or two to my iPad each day as I think of things. I'll put them on a blog next week, Lord willing. In the meantime, I want to add to a blog I wrote last week about being a people pleaser. First, when I referred to elders being a good example of people pleasers, I was talking elders in general, though I suspect my fellow leaders here are driven by that same need too. I would just remind you that the whole blog was about me being a people pleaser, so I certainly wasn't picking on or condemning anyone. I was just pointing out the impossibility of living with the misguided feelings that you must, or can, please everyone.
So - have you ever noticed when you spend time reflecting and praying about something, God has a way of helping you out? Part of my text for this weeks lesson is a verse that seemed to jump off the page and slap me around. So, for all my fellow people pleaser family and friends, I share it with you so you can be part of the slapping - if you need it.
Paul said, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please mean, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal.1:10)
Ouch! And what does that do to our feelings that being a people pleaser means we are servants of Christ?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Years Left?

Here is the challenging question I tossed out Sunday morning. If life was measured by the number of years remaining rather than the number of years lived, how would it change the way we think and live? That would obviously requiring knowing the exact date of our death, but would it make a difference in the way we live. What if rather than being sixty, I was minus ten (and counting), or minus one? Some of us would become instantly uninsurable! All of us would probably drastically change our future plans.
As I reflected on that challenge, the one thing that really jumped out at me was "There would be some serious changes in how people thought about church." For one thing, we'd quit gambling with our souls by falling back on Satan's best excuse, "I've got plenty of time to do that!" On the practical side, here are the things that rose to the top of my list in terms of what would probably change. (See Hebrews 11:13-16 on how we should think)
1. We wouldn't define our walk with God by what does or doesn't happen in the Sunday morning assembly. We'd truly understand the difference between a pep rally and THE game, and turn our togetherness time into a giving, helping, and encouraging opportunity.
2. We would see the importance of loving relationships. Life is about who you love and who loves you back! So is the church! The purpose of the collective church is growing in Christ through loving relationships. We'd stop looking for the "wow" and start building genuine love that would allow us to be a supportive community through tragedy and triumphs.
3. We would seek to serve rather than be served! "One of these days" has limits and now it's time to be what we know Jesus called us to be.
4. We would want our children to know God more than anything else! School, sports, and entertainment would take second place to securing the souls of our kids! Having an iPhone would not be more important than having the great I AM!
5. We would not sweat the small stuff! Dwelling on irks, perks, and jerks is a waste of time! Remember what Jesus said was a waste of time? Worrying about food, drink, clothes, self worth, and tomorrow! (Mt.6:25ff) We'd do what he said and seek God's kingdom first. We'd also stop seeing the speck in others eyes, and stop being fearful about being a witness for God.
We would probably treasure every day as a gift from God, and if we understood his grace like we should, we'd live expectantly and not fearfully.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Real Friends?

My brother sent me this cartoon. The caption of the email was "There's friendship, and there's friendship." Not only did it make me laugh, but it made me thankful for good friends and good teeth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forget about it?

I was reading an article in USA Today (on my iPad) about Glen Campbell's struggle with Alzheimer's at the age of 75. The article was about how he stills records and tours even though he occasionally just forgets the lyrics of a song. He just laughs and asks the audience what the next words are. The article points out that one of the reasons for his optimism is that the disease itself causes him to forget that he has it. I can think of some other diseases that it would be nice for the one who has it to be able to forget they have it.
I like to think I have a good memory for things, though I must confess that my life-long struggle with remembering names seems to be getting worse. I really don't have OCD, but if I did, it would include an obsession with not forgetting things. It's a regular source of stress for me when I am working on something that is important to me. I truly can't stand finding out that I have forgotten to do something I wasn't going to forget to do. Even little things.
But what about the BIG things? You know - the really big things - things that really count? Like remembering to be thankful, remembering that many people in the world have no idea what it's like to struggle with WHICH food to have for breakfast, or remembering that tens of thousands of American men and women would love to be waking up in their home bed in their own house with AC, hot showers, and loved ones all around them?
Why is it so easy to forget how many good things so many people are doing because of their faith and love for God? How many acts of service are performed by godly people, in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the glory of God - but we don't know about it? And then we look around at what we don't see, can't see, and never will see, and conclude "We need to do more" because it's not being done in the name of THE CHURCH! Since when is an act of service or love done by a Christian, who is the church even when alone, not a work of the church? We forget that the very nature of being "light" and "salt" is an individual responsibility more than it is a collective responsibility.
I need to remember that good, godly people, are doing wonderful acts of service for others every day. I need to remember that my brethren are sharing their faith, speaking about God, and encouraging people every day. I need to remember that they not only don't need "The church's" permission, but they don't even need the church to organize and define when and where it happens. Before I start declaring "what this church needs" I need to remember that every cup of water given in the name of Jesus by his people every hour of every day, will not be ignored by God and will be rewarded. That's what Jesus said - I just need to remember it.
Now - what was this blog about? I forgot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New and Exciting Book!

Last Sunday I made the statement that the Bible as the newest book of all. Sure, if you date it from the time it was written, it is one of the oldest books of all, but the unique message of the Bible makes it new every time you read it. It doesn't matter how much of a scholar you are, how many degrees in Bible and biblical languages you have, or how many passages of Scripture you can quote - it's new every time we read it because we are not the same person we were the last time we read it. That is why we constantly find ourselves "discovering" a new truth from a verse we have read - literally - thousands of times. There is no other book in existence that becomes deeper and more precious as our hearts draw closer to the author!

I also made the statement that there is nothing more interesting, exciting, and enlightening to me now than the Bible. Of course, I had to point out that I haven't always felt that way. Why? Because of the two principles that determine when a new subject becomes exciting. First, the principle of being Age Appropriate. We must be mature enough to understand it and see all or most of the possibilities it holds for us. Secondly, the principle of Prerequisites - those things we must know before hand that lay the foundation for understanding the new subject.

There have been many time in the past when I was not "age appropriate" to understand the power and thrill of what God was sharing with me. Remember, I'm not referring to a matter of years, but of spiritual maturity. When we are ready and wanting to see the things God has for us in his word, things start hitting us like proverbial "ton of bricks" on a regular basis. And the prerequisites are not Introduction to the New Testament 101 or Church work 201, but love, grace, and a seeking after the mind of Christ. That is why, before I shared my four rules for understanding the Word of God, I offered the suggestion "Communicate don't study." Think of it as talking to God. Hear him talking to you, and as you seek him, talk to him. Communication is an essential part of relationship building, so think about listening to God not just studying him.

For those who wonder what the four rule were:
1. Read it objectively: try to ignore all preconceived conclusions others taught you.
2. Read it consistently: see God's consistence message and let the Bible explain the Bible. Always understand and address the context.
3. Read it historically: consider the culture and the occasion.
4. Read it lovingly: look at it through the eyes of God and Jesus.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Please! Please! Please?

In my family we laugh about our personal obsessions. What else can you do? When something is important to you, even if it is driven more by your personality than objectivity, "you gotta do what you gotta do." If there was one personality obsession that pretty much captures every adult member of my clan it's being a people pleaser. Intellectually you know you can't please everyone all the time, but emotionally you expect to. I have learned to develop a little bit of a thicker skin than I used to have, but I still have to fight the tendency to be disappointed and depressed when I find out just one person doesn't like me or agree with something I have said - and I say a lot to a lot of people. The older I get (I guess I'll never stop saying that) the more I find myself getting angry with myself for being that way. Again, it's an emotional thing verses an intellectual thing, and sometimes balance just isn't possible.
What makes me angry with myself is that I allow one disgruntled or negative person to dwarf the scores of people who love, appreciate, and support me as their friend and their minister. Since perfect pleasing is a perfect impossibility, why be surprised when imperfect people point out your imperfections? (Don't say that in front of a microphone!)
I guess we all do that some. We let the "squeaky wheel" run over us, or dominate our attention too much. It happens all the time in every church family. I few people complain to some elders, and all of a sudden "the whole church is upset, inactive, unfaithful, uninvolved, un-enthused, and/or leaving in droves!" A classic case of going from specific to generic, making mountains out of mole hills, and not seeing the forest for the trees - or any number of saying and cliche's we could apply to this. Shepherds are probably be best example there is of a group of people pleasers. How many decisions are made based on who and how many will be displeased? A happy church is a growing church right? Right - and since it is an impossibility to keep everyone happy, what does that say about us? The faith that is pleasing to God is not always a faith that will please people. If the purpose is clear and biblical, you will not please everyone. We need to keep our focus, please.
So here is the new Rootism I want to keep in front of my eyes and also share with my fellow church leaders. Don't let the squeaking wheel cause you to forget how full the wagon is!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Advice to Young Ministers

A lot of years ago, my buddy Jim Mankin had me down to Abilene Christian University to speak to the Bible Majors about what full time ministry is like. I spoke to them about what I called Ministry Mountains, and after pointing out the abundance of "mole hills", I shared with them what I thought the three greatest challenges of being a full time preacher are. They are the Three Big "E's" of preaching: Ego, Elders, and Economics. These are not bad thing at all, but they are things that every minister must get a handle on or they will destroy your effectiveness and cause grief on every level of your life.
I could write volumes about my mistakes and life lessons with each of these, but that isn't why I share them in this article. I'm sharing them (again) to simply make the point that ministry is first, last, and always about glorifying God. I don't care how amazingly talented a minister may be, if they are not in an honest relationship with God, they will not deal with the Three Big "E's" in a godly way. Only a humble heart that is genuinely seeking to please God can stay focused on His plan and His mission for your life. It's a difficult job to be a dynamic and forceful leader and at the same time be humble and meek. Even the most humble leader will have people who misjudge their actions and motives, but God knows the truth. If unqualified men are given the title of Elder and in their need for control they make ungodly decisions - hurtful and destructive decisions - a minister who is walking with God must show what Jesus would do and not let that other "E" (ego) be their guide.
And in a day when churches are not expecting their ministers to take the Catholic "Vow of Poverty," and salaries are much more in line with qualifications and abilities, ministry can't be about "the money" or ever appear to be a driving force. At the same time, you can't control how people want to think. You can only choose to be at peace with God.
It will aways come back to integrity. There will aways be people who second guess, judge, and criticize, but when your conscience is clear and you know God is please - it becomes their mountain not yours.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reflections on Teachers

This coming Sunday I am beginning a new and short series of lessons called Back To School. I'm basically planning on using this time of "beginnings" to challenge everyone to refocus and reconnect with God. This Sunday I am discussing A Fresh Start, which is what the first days of a new School year are all about. As a result, I have really been doing a lot of reflecting and remembering as I try to deal accurately with what all our young people are heading into in the next couple weeks. I always loved the beginning of a new school year. I mention in this weeks bulletin article about my memories of seeing old friend, finding some new ones, wondering what kind of teacher I had, getting new books, new supplies, and, on a good year, some new clothes to wear for the first time. Looking good and feeling good! I was never afraid of going to school. I always looked forward to finishing up, what was by then, a long boring summer.
In the midst of all my reflecting, a couple things jumped out at me. First, what I'm talking about this Sunday, how important fresh starts are. We have so many throughout our lives and they are so pivotal for getting us back on track or reminding us of our priorities. Often those times of renewal are because of stressful changes in life - some by choice and some by circumstances, but they change us. As we grow older, we learn the importance of choosing renewal - of putting ourselves in a place we need to be to jump start our commitment. If we don't choose it, life will choose it for us - eventually.
The second thing that my reflecting did was remind me how important teachers have been in my life. I turned sixty last month, but I can tell you the name of every teacher I had since the first grade. I can see them in my mind, and I can remember things they taught me. That's saying a lot for a guy who can't remember the name of someone I shook hands with five minutes ago. It just reminds my that our culture has a truly twisted sense of who our heroes are. Those football, baseball, and basketball stars that we worshipped as we grew up are long forgotten. I lived through every Super Bowl Game ever played and I only remember a hand full. And those movie stars that we idolized over they years never did a single thing to improve the quality of our lives, and now they're just trivia questions every now and then on Jeopardy. But those teachers - men and women who never knew whether or not they made a difference, but who taught, encouraged, praise, and pushed all of us into another school year and into a better life - they are the real heroes of this world.
I wonder when we will start treating them with the recognition and reward they deserve? Could that be a better way to make sure "no child is left behind"?