Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Job Well - Hired!

Generally, I truly enjoy doing house repairs and remodeling. It's very satisfying to look at a finished job and have that "I did it" affirmation warm your heart. In spite of that, there are things about DIY house stuff that I dread and, frankly, I find intimidating. It's jobs that have the potential of turning into huge, complicated, and labor intensive chores. You know - the simple little job, that you set aside thirty minutes to finish, and end up spending the better part of a day on. I've had that happen several times with plumbing repairs or changes, or when you remove something and find out that underneath it was a floor or wall or steps or such like, that had to be replaced. Oh the stories I could tell! It happened, again, on Saturday. A simple plan to strip wall paper off the ONE WALL in our bedroom that had it, paint the whole room, and have a nice surprise for my wife when she got back from a trip to Nashville. NOT! I couldn't get that wall paper off no matter how hard I tried. Gallons of spray and chemicals, two trips to Lowes, and five hours later - I had three feet of wall stripped. That's three feet out of eighteen, and the wall board looks like it got in a hatchet fight and lost. I had a professional come out yesterday and finish it for me. It took him two hours. Now I've got patching, prep painting for the stripped wall, and two gallons of non-surprise to put on the wall. Oh well - something about "plans of mice and men" keeps running through my mind.
Fear of complications? I wonder how much we DON'T do because of that? Make new friends? Volunteer to help a ministry? Commit to a small group? Just maybe - draw closer to God? After all, He's probably got some expectations that could - well - complicate our plans. I'm just glad that He didn't shy away from complications. Like what it took to pay for my sins and allow me to be with Him for eternity. He had to start planning that before He said, "Let there be light."
Sometimes we have to embrace the complicated if we want to grow. Remember Acts 14:22? "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

He Doesn't Sing

This blog really isn't to show off my new deer mount that I just picked up Friday. Well - maybe a little. But it's mostly for the benefit of our grand children, who not only need to see Papa's new deer trophy, but that it's replacing the familiar singing deer that has been in our computer room for four or five years. We had a lot of fun with that singing deer. Especially when we used the portable microphone and had all the kids thinking the deer was talking to them. That worked for a good while, but they eventually figured out that someone was pushing buttons to make that thing talk. I'm not sure that Ashlyn ever got over being afraid of it - though she really liked the songs he sang. Well he's been moved to the basement and will probably be retired. His mechanical parts are not working so well, and he make a lot of noise when he moves - kinda like me. It was a nice gift from my hunting buddy Danny, and we got a lot of laughs out of it.
See! No electrical cord coming down the wall on this boy. And if he does sing, I'll run with Ashlyn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Living In The Now?

I am a lot more aware than I used to be of time and life slipping by. It doesn't bother or frighten me. I embrace death as a necessary part of being with God for eternity. But as I was doing my morning walk today, I found myself reflecting on - what I call The Numbing of the Now. Don't misunderstand me. I believe we need to live in the "here and now" and we must treasure each day as a gift from God - making sure we don't waste it by living in the past or dreaming about the future. Still, there is something deceptive and blinding about only seeing life as now.
As you get older, you begin to understand and feel the results of how you've been living over that past whatever years you've had. Maybe you never thought you'd live to be sixty, seventy, or eighty years old - but all of a sudden, that's what you are, and your quality of life is dependent on how you've lived during all those other years. People can live just fine in their thirties, forties, and fifties as overweight, sedentary, smokers, and feel no need - at the time - to change their life-styles and correct bad habits. After all - they feel fine! They have no idea what it will feel like to desperately want to be there for their child's wedding, or live to see that grand child graduate from college. Those things are not NOW! They are too far off and, they rationalize, there's plenty of time to change things before then. One day - then becomes now, and the law of sowing and reaping has no compassion or sympathy for our abuse, neglect, and poor self-control.
I'm healthy and active and feeling as good as I did twenty or thirty years ago, but I know it can't last forever - and that's okay. I may have to pay for too many hamburgers, too much chocolate candy, and too many trips to our favor Mexican Restaurant. I'm not sure I can say "It was worth it," but I'm not going to whine about "Why me" either. There will always be things I want to be around for, but you can't go to Heaven and still do everything you want.
So why am I writing this? Because I can and I want to, but really it's a challenge to those who are in that 20 to 50 age group who are still "living in the now". How do you want to feel when you're seventy? If you are doing things that are self-destructive now, you will pay later. Be wise. Learn from those who have gone before you, and get your head out of the now - at least long enough to add quality of life to your quantity of years.
(Coming Soon - Part Two: The Power of Prune Juice)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not a rant - just a perspective!

Opps! I missed Valentines Day - again! I guess my wife will have to wonder, for another year now, if I truly love her. At least that is what the jewelry, florist, and candy commercials imply. Let me see now? A thoughtful and memory making Anniversary surprise two months ago on December 14th doesn't count, and I guess that means the thoughtful, and not so inexpensive, Christmas present (and I don't ever purchase a gift for anyone that doesn't have A LOT of thought going into it) - just six or seven weeks ago can't possibly say "I love you" like a box of chocolates in February. And all of that pales to insignificance if there wasn't the daily words, touch, and acts of affection that are part of our marriage. Could I do more? Absolutely! Do I need an arbitrary calendar date to do it? Maybe - if I need it or just want to use it. But should I feel guilty for not spending money on my wife on a day that has no significance or specialness, beyond the fact that the commercial world wants me to purchase their products? I don't think so. Sure, through the years we've occasionally exchanged cards, gone out to dinner, and did something special, but after thirty-eight plus years, we don't need anyone to define the depth of our love for each other. Don't get me wrong. It's never a bad idea to do something good. Still there is part of me that resists and resents someone else telling me when and how I should show it. For me, it's like the National Day of Prayer. Good thing to do - okay! But, how can you have a DAY for something you do every day?
It's like I've been saying for several years now about the things Christians do when we come together. They are tools to use not rites to perform - or laws to obey and get off your check-list. Hey - Valentines Day is a wonderful time to REMEMBER to show love and appreciation. Use it - if YOU need to. Just don't turn it into a test of love or a source of guilt.
Thoughtfulness is quite possibly the most important element in building a marriage. If you need a reminder, like Valentines Day, that's great. But, you're going to need a lot more thoughtfulness than that - over the course of any twelve month period, if you're serious about building a great marriage.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Make It Happen?

Is it possible to MAKE yourself be Christ-like? I suspect that is what we all try to do - at least some of the time. And yes, there is a place for MAKING yourself do what is right, but no one has the gigantic reserve of self-control that it would take to completely and consistently be like Jesus all the time. Even if a person could do such a thing, it wouldn't make them really Christ-like because it would be egocentric rather than Christ centered. It would build self-righteousness rather than God's righteousness. It would cheapen grace.
The goal is to develop the spirit of Christ in our life not just imitate Christ in our actions. Pretending to be something you really aren't won't hold up when things get tough. Paul warned about the temptation we all feel to conform to the patten of this world. We automatically assume he is talking about "outside" the church, but isn't there just as much a draw to conform to church people - to gain acceptance and affirmation - to dress, talk, and act like what is expected of church people? Isn't it easy then, to assume that since we no longer conform to the outside world that we must therefore be "transformed" since we are part of the "church world"?
That is not what Paul was talking about in Romans 12:1-2! The transformation he was talking about involves "the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." That is a changed heart and not just a change in peer group. This transformation is us being formed into the likeness of His Son!
I have reflected in amazement for decades on why it is that some Christians can become so un-Christlike when discussing things about the Body of Christ? How can children of God justify being unkind, uncaring, and be a ruthless control freaks in the name of Jesus? Unfortunately the answer comes back to the fact that a life "conforming" to Christ is not a life transformed by Christ. If His spirit isn't there, His love will not be there either.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Random Trip Thoughts

If you check my blog regularly, you've probably noticed that I haven't written a blog in the last week. We were in Dallas from Thursday until mid day yesterday (Tuesday). It began as a trip to do an elders retreat for a congregation in the Dallas area, but events - not the least of which included snow - caused the retreat to be cancelled. So, we got to have a wonderful visit with Pat, Deborah, and the boys, and then I preached for that congregation on Sunday morning. It was a nice, stress-free trip, and a great visit with family. Snow caused us to change flights several times, and the Wednesday through Sunday evening original trip, ended up being a Thursday through Tuesday morning trip. Let me share some random thoughts about it.
* I love Southwest Airlines! No baggage fees, no charges for changing flights, and a much easier terminal to get in and out of than the big St. Louis main terminal. And they fly to every city where our family members live!
* I always assumed that if I got to play in the snow with any of our grand kids it would be if they visited us in the Winter and it happened to snow. Just maybe - it might happen in Nashville. I never dreamed it would be five inches of snow in Dallas. Snow angels and snowball fights on Friday! All gone on Saturday. Just the way snow ought to be.
* I am again amazed, and blessed, to see what wonderful parents our kids have become. I am very thankful to get to see what amazing Mom's our girls have become, but equally thankful to see what incredible Dad's and husbands, our son-in-laws both are. I know it's just a matter of time before I say the same about our daughter-in-law. (No pressure! No hurry!)
* After getting to meet with some brethren from two different congregations in Dallas, I am just reminded again that there are some wonderful people in churches all over the world. I knew we had people like that at home, but it's good to remember that God's people are loving, caring, and kind - and they're everywhere. I'm especially thankful for the ones that love our kids and grand kids.
* Churches are constantly changing. They have to - it's the only way to stay alive. I was just reminded of that as I spent time with a church I haven't been with in six or seven years. The interesting thing is, they probably don't even think they have changed. Change is often so gradual and slow, that when you are in the middle of it, you don't see it. That reminds me - again - how important patience is.
* Finally, yes Dorothy, there's no place like home.
* No wait! Have I said, "I'm ready for Spring"?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Winter Whining

Yes, I could have chosen to make it a productive day, but that's not what I did. It was a snow day! And not only that, but we were planning to fly out this morning (Wed.) and spend the rest of the week and weekend with family in Dallas. I have a speaking appointment there this weekend, which I'm prepared for - so I don't even have a class or sermon to prepare this week. Again, it was a snow day! A chance to veg - so I did. And of course "veg" doesn't have anything to do with what I might eat. We were house-bound, with nothing really pressing to be done. So what do you do in a situation like that? You eat! Waffles and sausages for a late breakfast! Then leftover quesadillas from Chili's for lunch! Then peanut butter brownies covered with chocolate frosting for an afternoon snack - with coffee of course. Then end the day with venison, potatoes, and squash (oops - how did that veg get in there?). It was a food fest coupled with a History Channel buffet - capped off with watching a DVD of Red and last nights recording of NCIS. Life is good.
This morning we found out that our flights were cancelled and we can't fly out until tomorrow afternoon. So this morning I'm doing a few things at the office before we go to Las Fuentes for lunch and home for more History Channel and peanut butter brownies. I need Spring to come! Not just to save us from this long and tiring Winter, but to save me from looking as big as one of the dump trucks driving up and down the roads.
I did shovel snow last night, and again this morning, so I haven't been totally sedentary. In fact, I'm pretty sore from shovelling too hard last night. Our nice neighbor from across the street (the Christmas lights people) came over and helped me get the sleet and ice off our drive last night. We used flat-nosed dirt shovels to scrape the ice off. He's younger than me, but of course, I had to shovel as hard and as fast as he did, and show that being five months short of sixty doesn't mean I'm getting old - but - today - I feel old and sore, and ready for Las Fuentes, brownies, and more History Channel.