Thursday, May 31, 2012

2012 Dress Rehearsal

Last night's dress rehearsal was great.  We had a really really small crowd, so it was truly hard to judge audience response to things, but all the actors, songs, and tech stuff was super.  I can't wait to hear how a good audience responds to the lines, jokes, and songs.  Above, is right after we had our cast picture taken and we stayed in place to do a couple of warm-up songs.
The first BIG number as the senior angels welcome the "Newbies" to their angel class.
The Priests of Baal explaining why they're just "a product of their environment".
One of the songs with six of the eight senior angels and half the newbie class.
The Big closing song.  Hope you get a chance to come up and see one of the performances over the next four nights.  I am really thankful and happy with how well it has come together.  This is really the smallest cast we've had since our first musical seven years ago, but everyone does an awesome job.  "Break-a-leg!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Life Principle #11

One of the great ironies of sitcoms is the simple fact that they rely on disastrous relationships.  "I Love Lucy" was an excellent example of that point.  While I enjoyed it and did my share of laughing at Lucy and her all antics, I found myself mentally shouting, "Just tell Ricky the truth!"  Every episode was based on lies and deception, and in the real world, no relationship could survive the distrust that would generate.
Principle # 11 is "A LIFE THAT COUNTS IS A LIFE THAT VALUES TRUST."  Trust is a beautiful word, concept, and principle.  It is the heart of who we are and who we love!  Those we don't trust, or who don't trust us, are not in our circle of people we keep close.  It's not hard to illustrate trust in the stories of the Bible.  We see trust in God when Abraham was told by God to leave his home, when Noah was told to build an ark, when Joseph was told to wait, when Moses was told to go back to Egypt, and when Elijah was told to confront the King and the Prophets of Baal - just to name a few.  We also see it in the apostles as Jesus called them to leave home, families, and jobs, and when he had them feed the multitude, cast nets on the other side of their boat, gather a coin from a fish, and when he sent them out with his limited commission and the Great Commission - again, to just name a few.
There are three ways to think about trust:
1.  Trust is a character quality!
    A. We are born trusting parents:
    B. We learn the importance of trustworthiness = true, loyal, dependable, honest, & responsible.
    C. Trust is what keeps us consistent and authentic (1 Cor.4:1-2)
2.  Trust is a relationship essential!
    A. All relationships start, grow, and are built on trust.  "It is a fragile crystal of life's relationships."
    B. Once damaged or broken they are hard to restore!  Only God sees hearts.  (i.e. David)
    C. Family, friends, church families, leadership, fellow workers, and God, all required trust.
3.  Trust is faith!
    A. The difference between intellectual belief and a relationship is trust.
    B. Abraham & Isaac show us that faith is a journey of trust!
    C. Jesus call on us to trust him - John 14:1-6   Trust is depending on God! (Prov.3:5)
Conclusion:  Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego in Dan.3 show trust in God, even if he decided not to rescue them from the fiery furnace!  Ps.56:3-4 &11 "In God I will trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writer's Block?

We love our church family, and we thank God every night for bringing us to Florissant.  It is a very special - loving church family, that has qualities we've experienced with other church families, but none that has had the same high level of unity, tolerance, and unabashed love that is common to this family.  We are in the middle of our eighth year here, which is hard to believe - time truly does seems to keep flying by faster and faster, but our love for all of our family here just keeps growing.  The one thing that I have never been able to develop here, like I've had everywhere else we've been, is a scheduled time to write.  I'm not talking about the weekly writing that is part of my ministry - bulletin articles, lessons, letters, emails, and even blogs, but the time I want to set aside to work on books that I feel God gifted me to write.
You see, to work on a book, you need a good solid uninterrupted couple hours.  That's hard to find with all the daily and weekly things that full up my time.  It takes that long because you must back-read what you've already written to get into the flow of thought you had when you last stopped.  If the writing times are close enough together, that's not as important - since you remember better, but it still needs to be long enough that you don't have to stop in the middle of a great flow of thought.  Most of the time, in the past, I was able to fit in a couple hours twice a week.  I have done a little of that, but it has really been difficult to do consistently.  I have a book I have been working on about God's Tool Box for about four years now, but I've had lulls in my writing that have spanned months at a time.  I'm about two-thirds of the way done, but it's so old that I know I have tons of things to rewrite - which isn't all bad.
How can I work this out?  This is my 720th blog.  That means prior to this blog, I have written 719 articles.  Yes, some are just personal pictures, and some have been short thoughts to share or that I've passed on from someone else, but the majority have been articles.  That's about two books worth of writing.  It's not a totally good comparison to make, since most of my blogs take 30 to 45 minutes to write and construct (some less some more).  I'm just wondering if I'd do more Book writing if I wasn't doing the blog writing.  I don't know - I'm just thinking out loud - I mean out blog.  I'm just sharing with you so you won't be too surprised if - sometime after the play is over - I decide to bring my blog adventure to a close.
I would appreciate any insights and prayers that anyone can give as I consider how I can best serve and glorify God with whatever gifts he has blessed me with.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Added Time To Ponder

It has been interesting to have some extra days to reflect on this coming Sunday's lesson since I wrote my first draft last week.  We had a great assembly time last Sunday led by our graduating Seniors, and my speaking duties were taken by a couple of our young men who did an excellent job.  I always do my lesson on Wednesday - as I did last week before it was confirmed that I wouldn't be preaching - and that has given me a full week to just reflect on my Living A Life That Counts principle #11.  I may not make any significant changes - just because of the fact that there is only so much material that can be shared in the allotted time, but - I have broadened the scope of my thoughts and prayers regarding this week's topic.
I have some strong and deeply emotional feelings about this topic.  Those who've known me for several years, have heard me say that my greatest hurts in life have come from people I loved who have violated the trust I placed in them.  When you choose to build a relationship with someone, whether it's marriage, friendship, or just partners in a project or mission, it is only as strong as the trust you have in one another.  There is nothing like the pain of betrayal, dishonesty, violated confidences, unfaithfulness, and deception.  It shatters trust, crushes hearts, and destroys relationships.  Thankfully, mistakes, omissions, momentary thoughtlessness, and unintended failures can be overcome, forgiven, and even strengthen a relationship.  When a personal trust is purposely broken, however, it's like a broken vase, sometimes the pieces can be put back together, but it's never the same.
It comes down to one word that we (I) don't usually connect with trust.  RISK!  That is the heart of trust.  What we don't know, and can't know, about a potential relationship is covered by trust, and what we do know reinforces that trust, but the bottom line is - every relationship is choosing to take a risk.  God said it long before the philosophers and poets did, but it's better to take the risk and enjoy the best part of being alive, than it is to never risk being hurt and living without the joy and fulfillment of great relationships.  If we let a broken trust control us, we end up living a broken life.  God will never break a trust, and the closer we get to Him, the easier it is to risk trusting in those he placed in our life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Family Info

This is for family who will be coming to visit us in a couple of weeks to see this year's Musical - and to see us of course.  Just wanted to show off the changes (finally) to the back porch we all love to sit on and visit when they are here.  I've been wanting to finish off the ceiling for the last two years since I finished the porch, but I sort off liked the look of the wood and the rafters.  I wanted to put these pine tongue & groove boards on it, but they were expensive two years ago - so...I waited until their price doubled before doing it now.  I wanted natural wood.  Siding would have been a third the cost, but not as pretty.  Hopefully, with some good help, it will be done in the next few days - at least the ceiling part.  I still need to pressure clean the deck and put new sealant on it.  There will also be two fan/light fixtures in the ceiling - and some trim - and some vents - and some fascia - and some...wait, maybe it won't be done in two weeks.
For the last several years, our cherry tree has become fully ripe during the week of the play, so the birds have had a feast since we didn't have time to do very much picking.  Click on the picture and enlarge it and you'll see how full and nearly ripe it is already.  I'm sure that is due to all the early warm weather we've had this year.  Looks like it will be ready within the next few days.  There are already some ripe cherries on it.  They will probably be all gone by the time all the family get here in two weeks.  Sorry grand kids - no fruit pickin' this year, but maybe Nana will have a cherry cobbler or pie!  Now we're talking!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Life Principle #10

Living a life that counts means valuing souls over success (Principle #10).  I like the statement, "Sometimes we know the value of everything and the importance of nothing."  It's not difficult to look around and see that we often label "things" as priceless, but don't think of character, integrity, faith, family, and friends as even more priceless.  The premise is simple: Our most precious and valuable possession is our soul. (And that is an emphatic PERIOD!)  It's a struggle for all of us to remember that and live our lives like we truly believe it, but that is why God calls what we are on a journey, a walk, and a growing process.
Jesus cared about souls and he was very clear about it:
1. Matthew 10:26-28  He gives them value!
2. Matthew 16:24-27  He gives them priority!
3. Matthew 11:28-30  He gives them rest and reward!
How should we care about souls?  Three simple points:
1. We must first care about our soul!
    A. It is our connection to God!
         * How we love him - Deut.6:5
         * How we seek him - Psalm 42:1-2
         * How we praise him - Psalm 103:1-5
    B. It begins w/ loving ourselves as he commanded
    C. It means learning to love soul food = Bread of Life
2. We must care about the souls of our loved ones!
    A. Nothing in their life is more important!
    B. Make it clear that you care about their souls! (More than anything else they do!)
    C. You will never regret putting souls first!
3.  We must care about the souls of ALL who are lost!
    A. Problem? We're not sure anyone will be lost!  Satan sold us his world view of God!  Cheap grace!
          * 2 Thess.1:7-8 pretty clear
    B. What does God want us to do?
          (1) Use his tools: leaders, church, Word, etc
          (2) Grow, mature, & fall in love with Jesus
          (3) Witness, share, & care about their souls
    C. 1 Peter 3:15-16  attitude & actions count!
         Philemon 6  "share your faith...have a full understanding...of Christ"
Conclusion:  Most Doctor visits are preventative care = catch it early & live longer.  Sounds like grace - catch it and live longer!  Someone has to pitch it before it can be caught!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day
To all the Mom's, Grand Moms, Step-Mom's, adopted Mom's, and Mentor Mom's - I hope this is a special day for you.  To the Mom of our three kids, Mother-in-law to our other three kids, and Grand Mom of our eight grand-kids; while to them you are Super Mom or Super Nana, to me you're still the brightest light in my life second only to the One in whose light I try to walk.  I love you and I'm sorry you're still feeling sick on Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Need Stability?

My brother sent me this picture with the caption "Indisputable proof that a good woman can add stability to your life."  I'm just passing on the message and intentionally choosing to not make any further comments - though - the proverbial "Thousand Words" would be easy to use with this picture.  It would be fun to experiment with other potential captions.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Living By The Golden Rule

Principle #9:  Living a life that counts means living by the "Golden Rule".   Of course, like many tags given to biblical things (i.e. The Five Acts of Worship, The Great Commission, The Seven Deadly Sins, etc.) Jesus' call to "do unto others as you would have them do to you" wasn't called The Golden Rule until centuries later.  In fact, forms of the exact principle are seen thoughout antiquity in nearly every culture, religion, and philosophy before the first century.  I especially love Matthew's account because there Jesus said, "So in everything" prior to making the statement, and then he ended it with "for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  Wow - talk about a preeminant principle of pleasing God?  This is it!  Of course, it is simply an extention of God's foundational call to "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev.19:18)  This is one of the few things that Paul adamently declares transcends the removal and death of the Old Law.  It's still the foundation of what God wants for all his people - even in the new covenant. (Gal.5:13-15)
There is probably no principle from God's Word that is better known than this one, so it was a little bit of a challenge to figure out how to talk about it in a new way.  As usual, for me, simplicity won out.  Here is the outline of the body of the lesson:
1. To live by the Golden Rule is choosing to live controlled!
   A. Jesus called us to live a radically different life of non-retaliation (Mt.5:38-48)
   B. "Eye for an eye" living is letting others define us and our character.
   C. In Christ, we choose the "new life" = Christ-like  (Col.3:5-14)
2. To live by the Golden Rule is to live considerately!
   A. Unselfish thinking is what we do!  (Phil.2:1-4)
   B. Are you a considerate person?  In your car?  With your cell & texting? Etc.
   C. Being thoughtful is:   How do they think & feel?  What do they need? How can I help?
3. To live by the Golden Rule is to live like Christ!
   A. Remember Jesus & the Lawyer w/ questions?  Luke 10:25-37  (Go & do likewise)
   B. The epistles are primarily relational not doctrinal!  How brethren should treat each other.
   C. The Spirit of Christ is found in how we treat others not just in what we DON'T do! (Phil.2:5)
Conclusion:  Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities takes the place of Charles Darnay, who is to be executed.  "It is a far, far better thing that I do than I've ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I shall go to than I've ever known."  Jesus called that the "greater love" and he knows.  He is THE GOLDEN RULE personified!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Weird Sixty?

I've had ten months to think about it and I've decided it's weird being sixty.  It always seemed silly in the past when others would ask, or I'd ask myself, "How does it feel to be forty?" and then it was "fifty".  No one asked you how it feels to be thirty.  I guess that's too young to feel any different than it did to be twenty.  But that's the problem.  I don't "feel" any different than I did at forty or fifty, but my brain keeps telling me I should.  Oh sure, there are plenty of times when my body reminds me - in a not so subtle way - that I'm not as young as I use to be (and by the way - when is that ever not true?).  Like the last couple of times I chased elk up the mountain in Colorado, or week before last when I used a post hole digger to put up a sign in front of the church building - though I think it was just really hard dirt (?).  Anyway, it's weird being sixty because you DO finally realize that you're not young - and maybe not even middle aged - ouch!  Still, I feel like I did decades ago - most of the time.  Until...
Last month my oldest grandson was baptized.  What a thrill!  What a blessing!  It was only yesterday that his mom announced at our dinner table that she wanted to be baptized.  That's yesterday, as in twenty-five years ago.  Really?  To see your own grand children growing old enough to want a relationship with God is, well - like nothing else.  It makes you look back through the years and thank God that, even with all our mistakes, we kept our priorities straight.  God first!  Still, I don't know which is harder to accept:  (1) that we have a GRANDSON old enough to make such an important decision, or (2) that we have a DAUGHTER who's old enough to  have a son that old?
Yes, it's weird being sixty.  I guess the weirdest part is imagining yourself looking like all those OLD PEOPLE  you've know through the years who were sixty.  Surely I don't look like any of them.  It's weird because now seventy looks so much younger than I used to see it.  Hey, I saw a seventy-eight year old guy in the Iron Man Triathlon last year.  He was in better shape than me, but then, a lot of people are - younger and older.
The truly weirdest thing about being sixty is that God has let me be around for sixty years.  That's so many days, weeks, and months to be blessed with.  I never deserved one day of it, and I will never deserve whatever is left.  Again, that's another one of the weird things about being sixty - I'm clearly closer to the end than the beginning of my life.  When you get to be around this long, you can't EVEN pretend that "there's plenty of time".  You know how I view that?  I have had so much to be thankful for - my children love the Lord and have a close walk with him, my grand children are being raised to do the same, and I have had forty years of incredible days, memories, and blessings with the best person God has ever put into my life - Donna - so how could I possibly feel robbed or cheated if it all ended today?
Now, don't think that means I'm in any hurry to "catch that boat to heaven."  On the contrary, it means I will treasure every day and do my best to make sure each day glorifies my Father in Heaven.  Since I'm only two months away from sixty one, I'm already thinking about how weird seventy is going to be.  I'm starting to think that mid-life is much longer than many people think it is.  Yes I know - weird.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Thankfulness Not Expectations

Principle #8 in my Living a Life That Counts series is "learn to live with thankfulness not expectations."  There is nothing inherently wrong with expectations.  In fact, we should all have spiritual expectations that allow us to live with joy (Principle #7).  However, when we are honest, we live with expectations that are self-centered, unrealistic, and (here's the hard one) godless.  My introductory question was:  Since this is the first day of the rest of your life, what do you expect from the future?  Yes, anytime you ask a question "at church" people will give "church answers".  I believe most of us, however, if we are honest, expect three very specific things:  (1) Prosperity; (2) Health; and (3) Longevity of life for us and those we love.  We try to say that we only "hope" for these, but the truth is we live, think, and act like we expect them, and we blame God when it doesn't happen.  Here are three tough questions to ask ourselves about these three expectations:
1. When were any of these ever promised?
2. Why do we think we deserve these when so many in the world never get them?
3. When will we be satisfied with what we have had?
4. How important were these three to Jesus?
Jesus was pretty clear in chapter six of his Sermon on the Mount.  (1) Don't worry about your life because your value comes from God not from things! (vs.25-27)  (2) Trust God to take care of you because he know what you need! (vs.28-32)  (3) Seek God today and let tomorrow worry about itself! (vs.33-34)  He is gives us three very clear challenges:
1. Don't live by worldly expectations!
2. Focus on what God does for you!
3. Glorify him today, tomorrow may not happen!
These are in direct opposition to the three expectations we tend to live by.  How can we turn it around?  The key to doing this, as a child of God, is choosing to live thankfully!  Here's the brief outline:
1. What is thankfulness?
    A. It is gratitude and appreciation to and for God.  (See Psalms)
    B. It is recognition of God!  Not just thanks but honoring God. (See Rom.1:21; Eph.5:19-20)
    C. It is a heart in touch with God!  (Col.1:9-13)
2. Why is thankfulness so important?
    A. It means we focus on the goodness and kindness of God!  Not just Judge, Wrath, Anger...
    B. It is essential in building our relationship with God!  There is no relationship w/o communication.  Our communication w/ God is prayer.  Thankfulness is the best way to have an ongoing connection w/ God that build faith and makes us aware of his presence.
    C. It keeps us from living for worldly expectations!  It changes the way we look at prosperity, health, and longevity!
Conclusion:  A life that counts is not a life that depends on prosperity, good health, or a long life, but a life that has been made whole by the precious blood of Jesus.  "Thanks be to God, through Jesus our Lord!...Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Rom.7:25 - 8:1