Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ah...It's Good To Be Accepted!

Core Thought: It's nice to be accepted...spots and all!

My mom might really give me a hard time about this, but here goes. Yesterday, I went visiting at Methodist Oaks outside of Orangeburg...we have 13 members living there in one of the larger retirement communities in the state....with all stages of independence...from regular homes, to apartments, to assisted living, to full nursing home care. There are so many of my folks there, that it has become impossible to everyone in a day, so I try to see a certain group at a time.

Anyway, if I had only been at Denmark for a little while as a minister, when I got out of the car to start visiting, I would have left and driven back to Denmark visiting no one. You see, I was in a hurry when I left my house, and put on a blue shirt which was only "mostly blue." In my haste, I had not noticed that this was my "only around the house" blue shirt with a mass on my belly area of bleach spots!

Then I thought, "Wait a minute! These people have known me for two decades...and they won't care one bit!" Guess what! I was right! I had four great visits, and the bleach spots didn't cause anyone to call a deacon demanding my resignation! time, I'll be a little more careful getting dressed! Ain't life great! Oh, and I got to use my new Sony PSP (Play Station Portable) to show my seniors pictures from our church Christmas party last Sunday (PS...the pictures are at seemed to appreciate it!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Core Thought: How should Christians fight the Christmas wars? Be meek!!!

Go here for a cool picture of the space shuttle's launch last week at night:

Now what does the space shuttle have to do with being meek? Well, being meek doesn't have to do with be whimpy. When Jesus said In Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," He didn't mean the "whimpy shall prevail!" The Greek word for meek was one used to describe force being brought under control for a purpose. It was used of breaking horses...their strength remained, but it was channeled for new purposes.

The shuttle is shot into orbit because of the meekness of its power. It's fuel could be ignited by spraying it over a flame onto a field...and the result would be a big fire! It would have no boundaries to reign in its destructive force. But in the rocket, the fuel is exploded under control, and the force is channeled through the engine nozzles in a certain way to produce the right amount of thrust. When the Challenger exploded in the mid 80's, it was because a seal failed in a rocket booster, and the exploding gas was escaping from a place other than the rocket's engine nozzle. It was no longer under the control of the engineers' design, and the result was devastation.

This is what happens when a person lives a life in which his or her potential is "exploded" in ways that are not channeled for good, in ways that go against the "Engineer's" (that would be God!) design. A person who lives life totally by his or her own uncontrolled appetites, can the most extreme example, a sociopath, not able to live in society. On lesser levels, the destructive power of a life without meekness, a life in which power is not disciplined and guided into good purposes, can destroy or damage marriages, and families, and churches.

Christ is saying that a person who is guided by nothing other than their passions for pleasure, power, control, etc. with no discipline, no channeling for God's good purposes, is bound for destruction, and that only those who learn to direct and discipline their lives for good will ultimately survive, and even thrive as they discover just how "high" in orbit they can go, trusting God to direct the amazing potential He has given to every human being!

Having a Good Day? Then Don't Watch the Evening News!

Core Thought: Why are we drawn to the negative stuff?

Sorry, I've been out for a week...had a mini-cold, etc. I saw the ABC (you can probably insert any seems to be the same with them all) news the other night, and in 20 minutes (you subtract about 10 min for commercials!) of actual broadcasting, they covered these stories:

Iraq: daily, weekly death tolls; questions on staying/withdrawal/internal fighting between two main factions, etc.

Political race for president (Isn't that still two years away???) / Democratic tension over Hillary vs. Obama

The IRS's ineptitude using a new computer system (without a backup) that caused 200 to 300 million in refunds that were NOT legitimate. Guess who ends up paying for their, so if you got a refund that you were not due, send it back! Hmmm...hasn't the IRS heard of stop payments??

Violence in GAZA as Palestinian factions continue to fight...this night was particularly gruesome with video of the car in which three children (3,6,9) were gunned down because of their father's position in the gov't. Sure, it's news, but why did they have to show video of the interior of the car riddled with bullet holes, and blood...remember, ABC is owned and operated by DISNEY!

The plight of children (as young as five or six) in the Congo and other parts of Africa working in mineral mines (copper and cobalt) to get minerals needed for OUR ELECTRONICS! Now how guilty do I feel about that? I didn't know! Honest!

And then my personal favorite: THE CHRISTMAS WARS...the tag line was something like, "Tis the Season to Be Intolerant or Outraged." The story centered on the airport in Seattle removing their Christmas trees when a rabbi wanted a menorah put up. They even interviewed the airport Santa, asking if he felt like he was a "walking target!" Personally, what saddens me is when Christians get angry ON AIR about not having a nativity scene somewhere, etc., instead of finding ways to reach and love people who disagree with them. I mean, if Jesus on the cross can forgive everyone (including you and me) who was responsible for his being there... and mind you, He did that with no one (other than the thief) coming for repentance, agreeing with Him, be careful what you get mad at! Make sure it's something that Jesus would get mad injustice, poverty, the sin in your own life. Then again, that's the subject for another blog.

No, where was I? Oh, the negative 20 be fair, there was one news story that was upbeat..the shuttle made it to the international space station...that took about 15 seconds.

I wouldn't have even blogged this had not Charlie Gibson (who comes across as an upbeat person), said, "We hope you've had a good day, and we hope for you a good night!" I thought to myself, "Hmmm...that news cast didn't really contribute to my having a good day! Sure, we need to know what's going on in the world, and sure, people are more interested in the negative stuff....but can't we have more than 15 seconds of uplifting news on a news show?

I guess the good news business isn't the networks anyway, I guess that why God gave us the Great Commission, and not to ABC!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Don’t Think You’re Special? Take Another Look!

Core Thought: If you can read this, rejoice! It's long for a reason!

God popped me with two quick lessons as I drove to the hospital in Columbia this week. As usual, I was running late, so it was rush hour, and for someone used to a town of 3,500, rush hour in the “big city” isn’t a lot of fun. As I was driving through (with lots of other people driving though, too!) a residential area near the hospital, hoping to miss the major traffic “clumps” on the major roads, I saw a blind man walking along the busy road alone with only his white cane to warn drivers.

Lesson One: Don't take the miracle of seeing for granted!

Lesson Two: Some blind people have amazing sight! (See next post below!)

I had been going over all the “stuff” I needed to get down and wondering how I was going to get it done, and not once the whole day (or week for that matter), had a paused to thank God for the amazing job He did in designing my sight. Did you know….(Warning, you may want to skim the following small print…it’s long to make a point…that seeing is a wonder we seldom reflect upon. Remember, what you are about to skim is happening trillions a time a second, and doesn’t even touch what the brain is doing with the information the eye is constantly sending it!) Anyway, as I said, “did you know that…

when photons hit the cells of the retina, they activate a chain reaction, rather like a domino effect. The first of these domino pieces is a molecule called "11-cis-retinal" that is sensitive to photons. When struck by a photon, this molecule changes shape, which in turn changes the shape of a protein called "rhodopsin" to which it is tightly bound. Rhodopsin then takes a form that enables it to stick to another resident protein in the cell called "transducin".

Prior to reacting with rhodopsin, tranducin is bound to another molecule called GDP. When it connects with rhodopsin, transducin releases the GDP molecule and is linked to a new molecule called GTP. That is why the complex consisting of the two proteins (rhodopsin and transducin) and a smaller chemical molecule (GTP) is called "GTP-transducinrhodopsin".

The new GTP-transducinrhodopsin complex can now very quickly bind to another protein resident in the cell called "phosphodiesterase". This enables the phosphodiesterase protein to cut yet another molecule resident in the cell, called cGMP. Since this process takes place in the millions of proteins in the cell, the cGMP concentration is suddenly reduced.

How does all this help with sight? The last element of this chain reaction supplies the answer. The fall in the cGMP amount affects the ion channels in the cell. The so-called ion channel is a structure composed of proteins that regulate the number of sodium ions within the cell. Under normal conditions, the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while another molecule disposes of the excess ions to maintain a balance. When the number of cGMP molecules falls, so does the number of sodium ions. This leads to an imbalance of charge across the membrane, which stimulates the nerve cells connected to these cells, forming what we refer to as an "electrical impulse". Nerves carry the impulses to the brain and "seeing" happens there.

In brief, a single photon hits a single cell and, through a series of chain reactions, the cell produces an electrical impulse. This stimulus is modulated by the energy of the photon, that is, the brightness of light. Another fascinating fact is that all of the processes described so far happen in no more than one thousandth of a second. Other specialized proteins within the cells convert elements such as 11-cis-retinal, rhodopsin and transducin back to their original states. The eye is under a constant shower of photons, and the chain reactions within the eye's sensitive cells enable it to perceive each one of these photons.

WOW! Here's a picture of the chemistry of sight going on right now in your eyeballs in case you skipped the small print!

Didn’t know you were carrying around such amazing biochemical processing plants in you’re your head did you!!!! Add to these reactions that ability with a second for the brain to process these trillions upon trillions of bits of information, and then, almost instantaneously compare them to memory cells, so you can recognize a person, determine their current emotional state by their expression and then respond appropriately. It’s a wonder our heads don’t explode with all that’s going on in there!

During the Christmas season as you “see” the sights, the lights, the faces of family and friends, take a moment to remember Proverbs 20: 12 Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both. Thank Him for this amazing gift!

Oh, and one more thing about the wonder of seeing! Do you remember the first thing the shepherds said once the angels had delivered the news that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem? Luke 2: 15 tells us, When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They said that they had to go and “see” this Savior! That is my prayer for everyone reading this blog as December 25th approaches…that you will “see” the wonder of a baby in the manger, who became the Savior on the cross, and the Risen Lord out of the empty tomb! May you “see” God everyday in the miracles that surround you, even for the miracle happening RIGHT NOW as you are reading, processing, and understanding these very words! Go and celebrate the wonder of you! God as put a lot of work into making you YOU!

On to Lesson Two!

Another Kind of Sight!

Core Thought! The physically blind are handicapped in one way, yet we might be more handicapped if we have eyes, but cannot perceive truth and beauty. Maybe then we need to “see” with the eyes of people like Robert Smithdas and Helen Keller (both blind and deaf).

Robert Smithdas has been blind and deaf since he was 4 and a half, and was, according to Barbara Walters on 20/20, the most inspiring person she had EVER interviewed. He is married to Michelle, who was born deaf and lost her sight in a snowmobile accident as a teen-ager. They are happy and independent, both having earned masters degrees, and both teachers of the blind and deaf. Bob is a poet, too, and on the 20/20 piece on him and Michelle, they ended with this poem.

I praise my God,

for he provided me with music

when all sound had died away.

Into the songless darkness of my days,

the light of hope and

song of love have crept,

until my spirit sings this hymn of praise

to Him who woke me when my whole life slept."

How is that for “seeing” life from a clearer perspective. And before Bob Smithdas became a poet, Helen Keller, also blind and deaf since infancy, had her own powerful vision to share with others. Here are some of my favorites! (If you're getting tired, skip to the last quote, it's worth it!)

"With the death of every friend I love -- a part of me has been buried -- but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world."

-- Helen Keller

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

-- Helen Keller

"The world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks."

-- Helen Keller

Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. If I had three days to see, this is what I would want to see.

On the first day I would want to see the people whose kindness and companionship have made my life worth living. I would call in my friends and look for a long time into their faces. I would also look into the face of a new baby. I would like to see the many books which have been read to me.

The next day I would get up early to see the dawn. I would visit a museum to learn of man's upward progress in the making of things. I would go to an art museum to probe the human souls by studying paintings and sculpture.

The third morning I would again greet the dawn, eager to discover new beauties in nature. I would spend this last day in the haunts of persons, where they work. I would stand at a busy street corner, trying to understand something of the daily lives of persons by looking into their faces and reading what is written there.

On the last evening I would go to a theater and see a hilariously funny play, so as to appreciate the overtones of humor in the human spirit. Yes, by God's light in Christ, seeing what matters and beholding the extraordinary in the commonplace.

Helen Keller

As we are tempted so often to self-pity, we would do well to remember Helen Keller’s words written at the end of her autobiography:

Fate--silent, pitiless--bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is undisciplined and passionate, but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in other people's eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness.

How we all need the "joy in self-forgetfulness!" Have a great day, devoid of destructive selfishness, filled with the joy of being alive!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Christmas Movie: The Nativity Story

A new movie about the birth of Christ is just being released. For more info on it go to:

This site has lots of "best of" lists regarding movies, too! If you haven't seen it lately or ever, see if you can find a copy of The Bishop's Wife (the old black and white version, not to be confused with the more recent The Preacher's Wife!)'s a great Christmas movie that is often overlooked!

All I Want for Christmas!

In case you're wondering what to get me for Christmas! Wouldn't this be "cool" in the sanctuary for a children's sermon????

See it in action at:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! We're Not Ant Children!

Core Thought: God's love is not given to us through some spiritual eye dropper, it is LAVISHED upon us!!!

I am at my mom's; she's on the couch reading the oh-so-heavy-with-Black-Friday-sales-circulars newspaper; I'm updating my blog on the other end of the couch, and Tom (my brother's 10 year old Golden) is contently snoozing on the floor. We spent the day at my aunt's in Mauldin, having some good fellowship and great food. I'm pretty content. Thanks to everyone for the prayers concerning my first Thanksgiving without my father. My gratitude has far outweighed any feelings of sadness, and even for that, I am....well..."thankful."

Last night at prayer meeting, we began with 10 people including me since the church had opted to cancel supper and the kids' program due to the holiday. I jokingly began to talking about hoping God would send two more to make an even dozen (a prediction I had been making all day), and then we heard the door open, and another came...just one more to make my lofty goal.
As I finished with announcements, the door burst open and my dozen was made (PLUS NINE MORE!!!)! One family entered with a total of 10! We joked about God's generosity and my lack of faith. So I did a short devotion about 1 John 3:1: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" I asked, "How do we know that God's love has been LAVISHED on us?"

Everyone answered, and I kept grinning, because I was getting the answer I wanted, until our 5th and 6th grade Sunday School teacher, smiled and said, "heirs." "That's it!" I exclaimed! "We're CO-HEIRS with Jesus Christ! We're adopted into his family, and we're not some little, itty-bitty ant children sitting in some saucer by God's bed, we're co-heirs with Jesus! We're really part of the family!" How great is that!

For my place in God's family...not because I was good enough to earn it, but because God was good enough to want it...and provide for it! So I am thankful that we're not ant children of God, but co-heirs with the Son, Jesus Christ!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Can God Use Little Cars to Feed the Needy? YES HE CAN!

Core Thought: Little is much in the hands of God!

A long time ago, a little boy brought a couple of fish and five loaves of bread to Jesus, and he fed thousands. Tonight (Monday the 20th), our Royal Ambassadors (elementary aged boys) gave Jesus some little wooden cars, and their time and out of that, over $4200 was raised for Meals on Wheels. That's enough to feed eight people for a year!

I hate that I missed it due to the remnants of this weekend's stomach flu, but I am so proud of our RA's for all their hard work which yielded an evening of fun as they raced for the coveted first place trophy, and, more importantly raised some much needed funds to feed the poor!

My Grace is Sufficient

Core Thought: Even when there is tragedy, grief and heart ache, God brings good.

Sometimes people say in the wake of something bad or tragic, "Well, God has a reason for everything." I don't tend to see things this way. This statements can inply that God "intends" for certain things to happen, but I know that He does not intend that children die at the hands of abusive parents, or drunk drivers, etc.... it is never God's will that someone sins, and in that sin, someone else is harmed.

It is His will only in that He allows freedom in this life, and that freedom causes great pain. What the Bible does say is that no matter what happens to us (whether by natural disaster, the sinful acts of others (or ourselves)), He will bring good out of it. (Romans 8:28)

I have witnessed that so many times. This past week an SCE&G employee, Ken Butler, died while working on restoring power in the wake of a night of storms. My Chairman of Deacons, Eddie Platts, was Ken's co-worker and was with him at the time of the accident. Even on the evening of the day of Ken's passing, Eddie shared with me how real the Lord's presence had been to him throughout what had to be one of the most difficult days of his life.

He, and other members of my church who worked with Ken, shared similar stories of a great man of faith, who seemed to really love his family and life. Though there was (and "is") much sadness, there were also comments of gratitude for having had such a great co-worker.

Eddie spoke for me this past Sunday morning while I was away on a college retreat, and even when I told him that I would get someone else considering all he had on him, he insisted that he speak, and from the reports I'm hearing, God used him in a great way as he spoke. Pray for him as he will speak during Ken's funeral service this Wednesday. Also pray for Ken's wife and three children.

Once again I'm reminded of the powerful wake that is left behind when someone passes! I hope for all who read this blog, that when your time comes to pass from this life to the next, people will be sharing stories about you and you blessed them while you were here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Be Patient and Pray

Hey everybody, I have a lot to blog about from this week, but am going to be late for a retreat in the upstate this evening if I don't get going! Pray for me as I lead four sessions about LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS which college students, primarily from Clemson University (Not that students at Clemson need to learn anything about living right, since we all know what a wonderful, Christian school it is...sorry...couldn't resist!).

Also, pray for everyone who is freaking out trying to get a Playstation 3...heard this morning someone got shot in a line waiting for one...pitiful! Paying $600 for a video game...more than pitiful! Wait five years, and you'll be able to pick up one for $25.00!

I'll be blogging before Thanksgiving!!

Gratitude and Grief and Grace!

Core Thoughts: Last Week Was An Amazing Week! Sadness, gratitude, sacredness...all rolled together!

I went to the funeral this past Wednesday of an amazing lady...Cordery Robinson, mother of Gordon Robinson who was pastor here at Denmark FBC for 12 years. I had the joy of serving as his associate for 5.5 of those years. Cordery was known as Big Mama (though quite petite) to her family, and lived 92 great years, facing life, mountain tops and valleys, with a simple,profound, powerful, enduring faith in her Lord.

The themes of her memorial service were put Jesus first, others second and yourself third, and never just do what is expected of you, do better. She was an optimist...if she had a flat tire, she thanked God it happened near someone's house who helped her. Her last several months were spent in pain and discomfort, but never in despair or self-pity. She never lost her optimistic edge, nor her desire to point people in the direction of the Lord. Her family described her last months as a continuing revival, with her being very vocal about wanting to see Jesus, and about how God's grace had truly saved her, giving her an extraordinary peace in facing her death.

When asked if she had regrets, she talked only of gratitude. She wanted God to wait until after her 92nd birthday to (her words) "pull the plug." At that celebration she asked to make a speech, and she did...tell her family that the most important thing in life was to put Christ first and follow him.

Her grandson, Brian, did an eloquent and effective job in describing his admiration for Big Mama, who was good at growing things, and who had planted many seeds in his life and the lives of others. He surprised most of us by singing a gospel song acapella. Gordon also spoke of having a wonderful, faithful mother, whose faith as expressed in the past several months, had awed him and others. How great to see a child to be able to proclaim publicly his gratitude for having had such a great mom. Her example will be remembered by all who knew her, and all who knew her would do well to imitate that example!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Velocity Skip

Core Thought: Don't miss an opportunity to be grateful.

I was home over the weekend visiting my mom and brother. We did our typical Saturday thing and went to eat seafood and do a little shopping. (Nope, I didn't find any bargains!) Anyway, I had a few thoughts on vehicular courtesy.

Whenever someone stops in a parking lot, or on the street to let me walk in front of their car, I do two gestures of gratitude:

First, the courtesy wave (There was once a Seinfeld episode about this!), which you can also do when someone lets you into traffic by stopping, or waves you on at a four-way stop. It's just a simple wave of the hand to say thank you.

The other gesture is probably not as well known, and I have dubbed it the "velocity skip." This occurs either simultaneously with the courtesy wave, or shortly thereafter. It is a slight skip or change in your forward velocity to indicate your desire not to hinder the driver any more than necessary. In short, it's just a slight increase in your speed to "get out of the way."

Yes, it does irritate me a bit (just a bit) when I wave a saunterer (yes, it's a word!) across (especially someone who is young and fit), and they continue at their previous pace, a slow saunter (strange word isn't it?). This act of ingratitude is compounded by a lack of the courtesy wave.

So what am I saying? Get mad at saunterers? NO! Just don't forget your wave and your velocity skip! The world will be a better place! in this Coke commercial...don't assume it's a video the whole thing!!!

Don't forget - you can comment now!!!!


Core Thought: A public service announcement we all need to know about.

Go to this link and watch the whole thing! It could save a life!

It still amazes me how powerful one decision, or one moment of inattention can be. Don't throw your decisions around! They are powerful!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Ads - Two Ways To Live!

Core Thoughts: You can either be a GIVER or a TAKER; GENEROUS or SELFISH. You choose, but choose wisely.

Here are two links to two TV ads. The first is from Toyota and emphasizes the stupidity of selfishness.

Ever met a happy stingy, selfish person? Ever met a sad generous person?

Okay, the next ad is from an insurance company. Wouldn't the world be great if we acted like this all the time! Oh and remember my definition of true love (from I John 3:16-18). Watch this and see if you agree...

Cool...huh? So go out and spread some doesn't take a lot of time, and it may just spread to someone else!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Being A Success Means Remembering the Basics

Core Thought: It’s easy to be distracted by so many things that you forget that the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!

I have a good friend who has a problem. He owns his own business and it is growing too fast. His problem is success! Of course, that’s a pretty good problem to have. So what’s the secret of his success….well, he is making things people need and want, but as I stand by as a semi-objective observer, I have noticed some other reasons:

  • He is smart and knows what he’s doing.
  • He uses his knowledge and experience to make a good product.
  • He is open to learning how to do new things if a customer wants something special.
  • He is honest.
  • He is cares about his employees and is fair with them.
  • He is hard working.
  • He has integrity.
  • He has a great business partner (his wife).

Oh, and one more thing. He takes Jesus Christ seriously….seriously enough to let that relationship function not only in his church life, but in his work and family life as well. The qualities that he exhibits reminds me of qualities we all need to be intentional about when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Think about it…

Just as my friend is smart and knows his business, a believer should seek to grow in wisdom and be about his Father’s business.

Just as my friend uses his knowledge (his “smarts”) by applying it to what he’s making, so wisdom that is not used is useless. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. In Galatians 5: 6 Paul reminds us that: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Love, unconditional love, is an action in the best interest of another. We need to “act” on what we “know,” and what we “know” is that we are here to “love” God and others.

Just as my friend is open to learning new things, so should we be open to learning new things about Christ, ourselves, our purpose, His Spirit, and so many other things to make our life better. And when our life grows and becomes better, so does our impact on others. A disciple is a life-long learner.

Just as my friend is honest, so should we be to honor Christ. If people can’t trust us about life in general, how will they ever trust what we have to say about Christ?

Just as my friend cares about and is fair with those who work for him,
so should we care and be fair in all our relationships. People are not to be used merely as means to an end. They are valuable to God, and should be valuable to us.

Just as my friend is hard working, so should we give ourselves to serve the Lord with joy and enthusiasm. Paul told the Roman Christians in his epistle to them, “
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (12:11) Also, just as an athlete needs to train to excel (versus merely “trying harder” to do the same old things), so should the believer train to experience the abundant life in Christ.

Just as my friend has integrity, so should we as believers. How many of us have heard a lost person talk about how horrible the church is because of all those hypocrites. It is true that no one is perfect, but we should strive for integrity so people can trust us. Hypocrisy destroys a person’s witness.

Finally, just as my friend does not conduct his business alone, so does the believer grow and live and serve the Lord in community with other believers. We need each other…it’s biblical! We are to depend on each other…that’s biblical, too! Remember that the first thing God labeled as “not good” at the beginning of creation was that man was alone. So God gave him a partner because: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

So how is your success these days? Are people looking at your life and thinking about your relationship with Christ? Are they looking at your life and seeing anything that they might want to imitate…anything that points them toward the One whose presence in your life is obvious? I hope so, because that IS success!

Your Risks Can Change Quickly

Core Thought: Be careful about living as you are invincible. Life has a myriad of ways to prove the contrary!

I really like the insurance company’s commercial where the guy goes hunting for sharks ALONE in a cage. He is surrounded by several of these computer-generated man-easters, and gets bumped, stumbles with spear gun in hand, and accidentally shoots the spear through the bottom of his boat. Oh, wait…here’s the link:

At first he rejoices because it scares the sharks away, but in a moment his jubilation turns to disbelief as he sees from below his boat exploding and sinking. So much for an exciting fishing trip. The dummy went alone, and he had not taken the time to think out possible scenarios. Hmmm….sharks….that would be enough to a.) keep me out of the water, and b.) if I did go in, I wouldn’t be out there by myself!

At any rate, it reminds me of how dangerous it is to go through life thinking you can handle it alone. Also, we have an innate ability to create a good bit of our own suffering and pain.

We don’t get our way and get upset.

  • We assume stuff about others, and instead of going to check it out, we withdraw, or gossip to rally support.
  • We enter into dangerous situations with little regard to possible consequences (affairs, addictions, etc.).

And then there are the sharks we can’t control: disease, tragedies, grief, etc.

We need more than insurance. We need to wake up and realize that we were created to live life in healthy relationship with God and with others. Nothing is more important than this. Yet we forget. That’s one of the many reasons God intended for us to live in community with others; so we could remind each other to stay awake!

God has not hidden the fact that life here is risky, and that things can change in an instant. We warns us about sharks, but promises over and over that no matter what, He is with us.

So don’t go shark fishing alone; and don’t do this life alone either! It may not be today, but one day you might just find your boat sinking, too!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forgive Me - I'm Still Learning

HEY EVERYBODY! YOU CAN POST COMMENTS NOW! I HAD A SETTING SET INCORRECTLY. Just click on Comments and leave one. You can choose to be anonymous, but that would drive me crazy trying to figure out who you are! So do leave your name! Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

God Still Uses Donkeys To Get Our Attention

Core Thought: Donkey's Lesson Number One - Real Friends Tell Us The Truth and Stick with Us!

God still uses donkeys to get our attention! In Numbers 21, we read how God used Balaam's donkey to get his attention by giving the donkey a voice and a message. Now, I may be treading on thin ice even saying this, and I am not equating the two, but Donkey in the motion picture Shrek is a powerful communicator, too.

It's easy to overlook the impact Donkey on Shrek because he is so entertaining, but if you look past that, you'll see in Donkey, a lot to learn about impacting others for good. Donkey ranks up there as one of my favorite movie characters (one day I'll blog about my all time favorite!), and NOT just because he is so funny.

Donkey becomes a phenomenal force in the transformation of Shrek, a lonely, angry, frustrated, isolated, misunderstood ogre incable (it seems!) of true love, into everyone's hero who finds true love (when he had been hopeless) and lives happily ever after (Well, at least until Shrek 2)!

From the beginning of their friendship, Shrek tries to get rid of Donkey, who is determined to forge a relationship with the ogre, because, as Donkey sings, "You gotta have friends!"

No matter how rude or scary Shrek tries to be, Donkey is in the relationship for the long haul. As you watch the story unfold... you see that Donkey's connection to Shrek is not a selfish one. No, it is born out of an initial act of salvation. Shrek scares off Donkey's would-be captors (not to help Donkey, mind you...just for the sheer pleasure of scaring people!), and Donkey is from that moment on...connected! Why?

Gratitude! Shrek even tells him upon their first meeting, when he is trying to brush this new irritant off, "why don't you go and celebrate your freedom with your own friends?"

I like that phrase, "celebrate your freedom." Isn't that how anyone who has been freed should look at life? From the start, Donkey is an expert in celebration, and eager to use his new found freedom to forge a friendship with his liberator, Shrek.

And this relationship is not easy, but it is worthwhile. When Shrek decides to go and confront the evil Lord Farquad, it is Donkey who excited exclaims in front of the crowd of displaced fairy tale creatures, "Pick me! Pick me!" Christian should be so eager to follow Christ on His adventure called life....

As I said, significant relationships are not always smooth or easy. Near the end of the movie, through a major misunderstanding, Shrek retreats to his isolation and anger, and lashes out at Donkey. Donkey, however, refuses to end the friendship and goes to confront Shrek....why? "Because" Donkey exclaims, "Friends forgive each other!"

Finally Shrek wakes up...and, with his restored friend, Donkey, go to rescue Fiona from evil (and short) Lord Farquad! What a great friend to have...someone like that irritating little donkey named, "Donkey!" Someone who takes all of us, good and bad, and is committed to our best interest.

Donkey could have called it quits and said it wasn't worth it, but he didn't because he knew that Shrek needed a new life, a better life, and Donkey was committed to do whatever it took to make it happen. Friendship can mean hard work some time (any deep relationship does!), but it is worth it! Still, Donkey has another lesson for anyone willing to look deeper than the laughs...

Core Thought #2: Donkey knows a little something about witnessing using "rabbinic questioning!" Could there be a better way to share our faith?

A couple of days ago, I heard a message in which the preacher brought out Jesus' witnessing style. He brought to our attention the fact that Jesus did NOT debate about the merits of his "religion" as opposed to other religions. Interestingly enough, when he did attack religion, it was usually aimed at his own religion...Judaism...and then only with regards to the hypocrisy of certain leaders, or with people abusing that particular religious system (like the money lenders).

You don't see Him making the paganism of the Romans a target of attack. He came to announce the good news of the coming of God's kingdom, not to establish just another world religion. He did not come to debate and win arguments; he came to reveal God's love and salvation and purposes.

Basically he told his followers to learn from him, to demonstrate what kingdom living was in daily life (i.e. a life of love for God and one's fellow man, including enemies), and to be willing to give an explanation for their lifestyles of love.

He didn't get sidetracked into the issues of the day. As a matter of fact, he didn't promote religion at all, but relationships...with Him, the Father and with each other. For Christ, Christianity was no religion at all, but the reality of who He was and who we are.

This is not to say He didn't upset people, because He did, but not by debating them, but by living a life that revealed hypocrisy and the dangers of empty, ritual-only religion. No wonder so many of the religious leaders of the day turned on Him.

Others, however, were drawn to this new kind of life. And Jesus responded to many of these seekers with a witnessing "style" we would be wise to learn and practice. Jesus, who was not only God incarnate, but also a Jewish rabbi, employed an amazing tool in reaching out to those drawn to Him. That tool is called....are you ready....asking questions!

In his book, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, Randy Newman spotlights this simple, yet powerful way of engaging people in meaningful dialogue. He cites several examples of Jesus' method of engaging people versus just preaching "at" them.

  1. A rich man asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" That question was a great set up for a clear, concise gospel presentation. I can almost hear a disciple whispering in Jesus' ear, "Take out the tract." But how did Jesus respond? He posed a question, "Why do you call me good?" (Mark 10:17-18).
  2. When religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes, Jesus referred to a coin and asked, "Whose portrait is this?" (Matt. 22:17-20).
  3. When the Pharisees asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus' response was a question: "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" (Matt. 12:9-12).

This isn't to say Jesus never preached, but when he was one on one, often he used questions to get whoever he was talking to to think. Wait a minute...I almost forgot Donkey, didn't I?

As he and Shrek are learning to tolerate each other; they have an important and revealing confrontation under the stars after Fiona has retired for the evening in the cave. Donkey, ever the analyst starts "the process."

DONKEY: (heaves a big sigh) Hey, Shrek, what we gonna do when we get our swamp anyway?

SHREK Our swamp?

DONKEY You know, when we're through rescuing the princess.

SHREK We? Donkey, there's no "we". There's no "our". There's just me and my swamp. The first thing I'm gonna do is build a ten-foot wall around my land.

DONKEY You cut me deep, Shrek. You cut me real deep just now. You know what I think? I think this whole wall thing is just a way to keep somebody out.

SHREK No, do ya think?

DONKEY Are you hidin' something?- SHREK Never mind, Donkey.

DONKEY Oh, this is another one of those onion things, isn't it?- SHREK No, this is one of those drop-it and leave-it alone things.

DONKEY Why don't you want to talk about it? - SHREK Why do you want to talk about it?

DONKEY Why are you blocking? - SHREK I'm not blocking.

DONKEY Oh, yes, you are. - SHREK Donkey, I'm warning you.

DONKEY Who you trying to keep out? - SHREK Everyone! Okay?

DONKEY (pause) Oh, now we're gettin' somewhere. (grins)

Okay, so Donkey isn't that smooth or embracing, but he is motivated by the desire to help his friend, and he does this by finding out who Shrek is. Do we want to know people? Do we want to engage them as Christ did? I hope so. As God gives you opportunities to share the good news of your life with Him, relax, and find out who you are talking with. If Christ took the time to engage people with questions of true concern and compassion, shouldn't we?

If you want to find out more about the power of rabbinic questioning as a way of communicating the good news, check out:

If Donkey can help an ogre named Shrek by being committed, compassionate, and willing to ask questions, can't we?

Don't You Love Those Political Commercials!

Core Thought: Despite all the mud slinging, you still need to vote! (A lot of people in other places would love the opportunity to be irritated by our political process!)

If you haven't seen this commercial from AARP, you need to, and after you visit the link, find out what issues are at stake, and vote! The link:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lessons From a Junk Yard!

CORE THOUGHT: Life is short! Don't waste it!

This past week I got my oil changed. (Oh, be sure to check the website for wherever you take your car for service…sometimes they have coupons!) Now, where was I? Oh, I was waiting on my car to be revived with new oil, so I decided to walk around the showroom looking at the 2007 models.

I was surprised to see a van, a Honda van, with a list price of just under $43,000! A Honda? For $43, 000??? Wowee! And oh the features…satellite navigation, DVD system, lots of cup holders. I did not covet it at all! For that price I could have purchased two Civic coupes like mine with several thousand left to spare. Anyway, today I was looking at cars again…but not in some spiffy showroom with pleasant music in the background and that intoxicating new-car-buy-me-right-now scent permeating the air…no, I was in a junk yard!

A friend was looking for tires and rims for a trailer, and I went along for the ride (an a meal, of course!). I don’t know if I have ever been in a real junk yard. I didn’t even know that the politically correct term is now “salvage yard.” I waited while my friend went on a safari with one of the employees to the back forty in search of steel and rubber. I noticed the cars…all starting out the same way…new…featured in slick, colorful brochures touting their many luxury features or payload capacities or their resale value.

Some had just worn out, but others had been devastated in accidents. Some were so twisted and contorted that I knew that someone had died in the mass of metal before me. That’s life, isn’t it? We’re only new and shiny for awhile, but before you know it, the gleam is gone; reality sets it, and BOOM, it’s over before you know it…No, it didn’t depress me; it just reminded me once again that life is passing by quickly, and we need to pay attention and live well.

I have learned that the best way to live life is to do it God’s way…not that I know perfectly what that is, but I do know that God is real, and that I can trust Him as he teaches me who He is, who I am, why I am here, and as he shows me just how valuable EVERYONE who crosses my path is…not just the people who look like me or think like me, but EVERYONE…Everyone is made in God’s image. He values each one, and so should we, and in my life, it is only through my relationship with Christ that my selfishness is held at bay daily.

No, I don’t know everything there is to know about Christ, my Father in heaven, or the Spirit who is God’s living presence here…but then again, I’m not through with the journey am I?...and neither are you! So how’s the scenery? Who have you met on your journey? What’s going to be the point when you reach your destination? As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” If you’re going in circles, stop it! Life is too short! Don’t live life in a junk yard, you were made for the road, and it’s a great ride with the One who gave you your life to begin with!

Movie Recommendation

Core Thought: Over the Hedge has some nice teachable moments, and looks great, too.

A couple of my Sunday School class members made my day last Sunday when they called to let me know that Over the Hedge had some nice sermon material in it. I was just glad they were looking for teachable moments in a movie. I finally saw it this past weekend on a visit to my mom. She enjoyed it, too.

As with most movies I like, its main theme was transformation. I like transformation (oh, for the better I mean!). There's nothing like a Darth Vader suddenly being turned back to good at the last minute when he had to choose between killing his son, Luke, and the evil emperor. In Hedge, there was no evil Lord of the Sith; just a selfish raccoon named RJ using a bunch of gullible forest critters to collect a huge stash of food to replace the food he stole (and then accidentally destroyed) from a hibernating bear. He has one week before the bear comes to "rectify" the situation by eating RJ.

The "critter family" (a paranoid, anxious turtle, a family of porcupines, a father/daughter pair of opossums, and a hyper-active squirrel) are waking from their own hibernation only to find their forest suddenly invaded by a huge hedge. On the other side is a new development of perfectly manicured homes, all maintaining perfect compliance to the neighborhood's home owner's association. RJ convinces them not to be afraid, but to take advantage of a new, unlimited source of food.

The critters fall in line (except for the turtle who remains suspicious, cautious, and unconvinced of RJ's wisdom or intentions.). To make a long story short, the family decides to follow the newcomer and to ignore the turtle until the truth comes out...and that's where the transformation comes in....RJ has lessons to learn, and is finally convinced that there are more important things in life than playing it safe and being selfish. I don't want to ruin the ending with any more details. For a "Christian" review, check out:

Oh, some of my more favorite "transformational" movies:

* Shrek I and II (III comes out next year!)

* The Elephant Man (People are transformed from seeing a freak, to seeing a beautiful person)

* The Lord of The Rings (Even Merry and Pippin, through struggle, become brave and noble)

* The Incredibles (A family finds its joy and passion in being who they were meant to be.)

* Finding Nemo (A fearful father faces his own phobias to find his son.)

* October Sky (A father learns to love his son for who he is and not for what he wants his son to be.)

* The Mighty (You might have to look for this one. A kid who has given up on himself is transformed by the disabled kid who moves nextdoor and teaches him a thing or two about chivalry and embracing life.)

* Pay It Forward (One kid with one idea transforms thousands of lives)

* You Can't Take It With You (Best film of 1938 with Jimmy Stewart; friendship wins out over material wealth.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Recommended "Old, Old" Movie

Core Thought: I used the best movie of 1938 (Academy Award), this past Sunday night during evening worship. If you can find it, "You Can't Take It With You" is a great flick with a lot to say about investing your life in others versus living for the almighty dollar!

Basically, this is the story of two wealthy men: Grandpa Vanderhof who is rich in the love he has from family and friends, and Anthony Kirby who is very rich in money, but very poor in love. Kirby needs Vanderhof's house to close the biggest deal of his life, but Grandpa doesn't care about money, but wants to stay in his house with his amazing family members who are...well...happy being who they are.

The main plot thickens as Kirby's son (Jimmy Stewart) falls in love with Grandpa's grand-daughter Alice (Jean Arthur) bringing the two opposite philosophies into open confrontation. It's worth finding and watching!

Monday, October 23, 2006

They're All Dead!

Core Thought: Every physical "thing" we think we own has to stay behind when we're gone!

We're in the middle of a stewardship emphasis which puts me in a stewardship frame of mind as I am out and about in the world! On a recent trip to Charleston, I did something I rarely do. I walked around in the historic section of town...mainly as an excuse to use my new camera. It's always a challenge to take pictures of things photographed so frequently by other tourists.

It was a nice change of pace, and a great day to do it. I noticed something. As people were touring homes that have been around for centuries, I thought about how wealthy those original owners were. Behind one of Charleston's signature churches, there was a stark reminder of what happened to every one of those old cemetery. My guess is that not one of those owners escaped that final moment of being divested of all their material wealth.

Think of the most wonderful, memorable, or life-changing moments in your life. How many of those moments were mainly the result of something you bought? Probably not many...those amazing moments usually revolve around significant moments with God and/or others...hmmm....sort of like what Jesus said were the two greatest God, love others. You can't buy that in a store.

Yep, those people in Charleston a couple of hundred years ago, had some mighty fine houses, and now they are tourist attractions! Since you're not going to get to keep all your stuff at the end anyway, why not have more fun with it now and invest in loving others with it. It's the only investment that has returns that you can take with you when it's time to go!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Taking Time to Notice

Just wanted to share these two pictures I took at the 150th annual meeting of our local Baptist association. We obviously took communion as part of the service. I noticed the bread and cups arranged like this, and took the shot...just to remember that communion is not just "remembering," but also it is committing ourselves to continuing to follow the One who paid such a price that we might have the privilege of following Him in the first place!

The Power of a Simple, Good Life

Core Thought: Success is when on the day of your funeral, people can say, "He loved me, he taught me that God loved me, and that the best life possible is one that loves God and loves others."

Years ago when I was doing some pre-marital counseling, the husband-to-be shocked me by asking me a question, "Pastor, how do you define success?" The shock was not in the particular question, but that he would ask anything as most grooms endure this part of the long march to the altar.

After I gathered myself, I told him, "Reid, success is when on the day of your funeral, you kids can say, "My daddy loved me and taught me that God loved me, too." Since that day, I've expanded that definition a little as you have read in the core thought.

One of my very best friends called me yesterday to tell me about an "amazing" (his words) funeral he witnessed for one of his very good friends. A quiet, humble, good man in his early 40's who died suddenly of a heart attack. His friend left behind a devoted wife and three great kids.

God's will? Only in that He allows heart attacks and other tragedies in life. As a bonus "aside," I tell people when they ask me "why" did God "take" my child, husband, etc....well, I respond that I don't envision God "taking" anyone. I see Him as a rescuer. For whatever reasons (and I'm sure they are good ones), God chooses not to violate human freedom as a else can we explain his standing by when drunk drivers hurt and kill innocent people, child abuse, rape, etc....but you've heard me go on about that haven't you?

I believe God hurts when we hurt, and that He knows every "appointment" we have with death, and He is there to rescue, to guide us home, to show us in the instant we wake up on the other side, that in eternity's eyes, death is no big deal.

In our eyes, however, it is the ultimate deal...especially when we lose someone we love. Yes, the death of this young father was a tragic one, but the tragedy would have been much greater if he had not lived his life so well...actually taking God seriously, and actually living out the best life spent loving God and loving others.

His life was marked by humility, gentleness, goodness and service. He worked in the family business, and in the church as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and children's worker.

Some people couldn't even get in for the funeral as the church sanctuary only seated 500. Those who came represented only a fraction of the number of lives this one life had touched. I love this quote by Helen Keller: "With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world."

What will people say about you when your time comes? What kind of legacy, or what kinds of seeds will you leave behind? In Romans 12:9-18 we have a pretty good description of a life that will not only be remembered long after a person is "gone," but a life that will leave behind seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (See Gal. 5:22,23) In this passage, Paul describes a life that is possible through our relationship with Christ, a life that "gets specific" in its impact on others... a life described like this:

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This is the life that is successful - not just now - but forever!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Evolution By Random Chance? Get Real!

This is one of my favorite shots of Tom, my brother's dog, and brother of my late dog, Dave. Tom loves getting pounded in the chest by a strong stream of water on a hot summer day. This picture was taken at the millisecond before he barked for another "shot."

I find it impossible to look into the eyes of a dog (especially exceptional dogs like Golden Retrievers!), and not believe in a benevolent God!

Dog quote for the day...

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment. George Eliot

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Big Preacher vs. Tiny Roach! Roach Wins!

CORE THOUGHT: Distractions can come in small packages, and can deter big plans!

One of the few verses in Song of Solomon that preachers don't mind preaching on is this one: Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom(2:15). In this dialogue between the lover and his beloved, there is the desire to rid their relationship of anything that might threaten their love...those little foxes. Tonight, my "fox" that threatened my relationship with my hearers (this happened during my Wednesday night Bible study) was one, lone roach, who must have been the black sheep of the family since he was not adhering to the strict roach protocol of staying in the shadows, and not coming out until it's dark.

No, I didn't have the luck to have a law-abiding, this guy was a daredevil...crawling above my head on the chandelier (I was oblivious to his acrobatics until some of my members couldn't contain themselves any longer, and had to let me know. ) I didn't freak...I looked up, and made some comment about, "Well, my point must be a good one for Satan to send a roach to disrupt our train of thought.

I was making a particularly strong point about stewardship being fused with loving God and loving it's not about giving money to the church, but about learning how to value things the way God does...which is the same as valuing things the way they TRULY are valuable...

That's when the roach caught our attention...I didn't my best to ignore him, but then he swooped at me (again, I was oblivious) causing a stir among the front rows...hmmm...I wonder how many people went home discussing the relationship between our love for God and others, and the value we put on our stuff as dictated by soceity, or were they making comments about that roach!?

I wonder how many times God tries to show us some wonder right in front of our eyes, and we're either watching, or running from, or chasing to catch a roach (or a fox for that matter!)? Don't let anything derail you from the important stuff!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dead Ends and Absolutely No Exits!

CORE THOUGHT: Discouraging words are all around us so there is no need for us to add to the atmosphere of despair.

I went to a nursing home this week and as I was leaving that particular hall, there was a sign on a door leading to the outside made to look like a traffic sign with the simple phrase: DEAD END! As if that wasn't bad enough (and I am not making ANY of this up...), this door had a window which revealed a chain-link fence gate with a bright red sign with white letters saying ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT!

I had seen an aide walking with a resident who was moving very slowly with her walker...slowly enough to have no trouble reading these warnings. I wonder what they think when they see the words...DEAD END or ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT...and then make a U-turn to go back to their rooms?

No, I'm not going to make some rosey statement about heaven waiting for them, or anything else that overlooks a real need. I just wanted to put a reminder out there that people are struggling in ways we can't imagine, and we just need to pay more attention to them. Without exception, everyone in a nursing home is valuable, and many of them have amazing stories to tell, if you will just take time to ask them!

I remember visiting a veteran years ago, whom I had visited many times before, but this time I decided to ask him about his memories of World War II, and I came to find out he was in the Battle of the Bulge! For anyone too young to know, care or remember this battle, search for it at
It was one of the last big battles of WWII in Europe involving over 1,000,000 soldiers (600,000 Americans!)...

Anyway, we need to take time to really listen to folks...and not just people in nursing homes...plenty of people feel caught in DEAD END situations with a sense that there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT. They need encouragement, not pat answers...maybe they don't need any answers, just someone willing to listen.

PS...if you want to read a really great story...a true one...about a very special nursing home lady...get John Ortberg's book, The Life You Always Wanted and find the story about Mabel (pp. 22-25), or search for Mabel's Story, Ortberg at The following blog has the story posted...don't know how long it will be there, but here it is:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Good Grief It's Hard For Me To Listen!

CORE THOUGHT: At a recent workshop on crisis intervention, I was reminded of how difficult it is to really, really listen!

One lesson I know I need to learn, but haven't is that I need to talk less and listen more. This weekend I went to disaster relief training and attended a wonderful workshop on crisis intervention. Part of the exercise included a simulated disaster (My group chose a multiple school shooting.) in which I was the pretend facilitator.

One of the "parents" of a victim started out by saying, "I'm going to get my rifle and kill the guy who did this." Sure, I wanted to say in a simulated way of course, "Now, calm down...let's dissect that...blah, blah, blah." One problem...our instructor told us that it was important to give group members real opportunities to ventilate, which meant we were not to comment much, or critique or respond too much for fear of shutting down honest expression. The "instruction" part of the process was to occur later in our simulation...

Those of you who know me know how hard this was to just be quiet, but it was worth it. The group really "got into it," and we even processed some real feelings ('re not supposed to use that word...I meant to say he had some "reactions.") against the exercise saying it was a waste of time.

At any rate, I learned that I must continue to fight that all-too-common tendency we have to be formulating a response to a person's words as he or she is speaking them, instead of focusing on what they are saying, how they are saying it and why they are saying it. It is shocking to some people when you reflect back to them what you heard, but I have seen it work lots and lots of times. Something as simple as, "What I hear you saying is..."

James 1:19 states, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." Sure, it's hard to learn how to be quick to listen, but it is worth it, and if I can get better at it, anyone can! May you find hidden treasures today as you learn to listen BEFORE you speak!

Example Four - A Parent's Love is a Parent's Pain

CORE THOUGHT: The following is an episode that happened a couple of weeks ago. I delayed posting it to get "clearance" from my friend, the parent. It is about how love can be painful, especially with regards to raising kids. God understands that pain, and is our ultimate resource in dealing with it!

This is the last of my posts concerning how often examples of love popped up with in a recent two day visit to my mom's. Examples one through three can be found by scrolling down!During this time, I talked with a father in the midst of a struggle with his teen-ager. Now this kid is not into major "trouble" as many define drugs, illegitimate kids, etc. She just likes pushing the envelope...not calling when she should when she's out late; breaking curfews; being disrespectful or non-communicative.

Like so many teens, she knows which "tone" can get the most effect out of her parents. She's a very smart kid in a lot of ways, talented in a lot of ways, and popular. She has a very, very bright future ahead of her. She is not smart, however, in one major area. At this time in her life she appears to have forgotten a simple fact. She has forgotten, or at least acts like she's forgotten that of all the human beings she knows, or ever will know, that no two human beings on the planet love her and have her best interests at heart more than her two parents.

I have known this couple for some time, and they are at the tops of my list of parents who parent well. Their faith is consistent, deep and abiding. Their love for their kids is the same. But this past weekend, my friend didn't feel like a parent at the top of Andy Hunter's coveted "List of Remarkable Parents." No, he felt like a failure. The fact is, however, that he is not a failure...anymore than God is a failure for the way His earthly kids have turned out (see notes in Pt. II about God's first kids and grandkids!). God never lied to any of His kids, loved them completely and perfectly, and provided for all their needs... yet they forgot in the beginning, who to trust and opted for a snake's lie instead.

Theologically, I don't have the space to delve into exactly "when" the fall happened (i.e. as Eve's lips first touched the fruit)...but Adam and Eve were already on the slippery slope when they did not check out what the serpent said with God. No, they took the easy (so they thought) way out...the lazy way out...they acted on impulse and suffered the consequences.

We've been acting on impulse ever since. My friend's child isn't thinking clearly, she's acting on impulse: the impulse to be free; the impulse to be like her friends; the impulse to do what feels good. Contempt is the farthest thing from her mind, but that is what she's dishing out to the people who I have said...loved her the most; told her the truth the most; and sacrificed the most for her well-being.

Contempt is to treat something of value as if it has no value...being indifferent...sort of like what happened in the garden...choosing a sneaky serpent over the one, true, loving God, who even then had proved his love by giving life...and not just any in the midst of great with provisions freely given for lived in unhindered relationship with the Creator.

Still, impulse won out, and Adam and Eve lost....reaping what their lack of trust had sown...a much, much more difficult life than they had bargained for.I believe my friend's child will one day wake up and realize just how great her parents are. It might not be tomorrow, but I believe it will come. Until then, my friend will have to suffer with the continuing mine field of raising an adolescent.

He is suffering for the same reason God suffers when we ignore Him...because he loves his child!I'm reminded of what Christ said in Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." At least my friend knows that when he prays to his Father in heaven, that God understands what he's going through. Yet,God keeps on loving us, disciplining us, and forgiving us, and He's going to keep on giving my friend all the love and wisdom and power needed to keep on doing the same with his child!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Love is the Theme - Part III

Example Three - Tom's Seizure (Scroll down for Pts. I and II)

Someone once said, "No amount of money can buy the wag of a dog's tail." That is SO true. My family has been blessed by two dogs of extraordinary caliber...Tom and Dave. I still miss Dave who died almost four years ago, but Tom is an important connection for me, and as he ages, his color reminds me more and more of Dave.

This past Saturday, my brother, mother and me were getting in the car to go eat and shop (a Saturday tradition), when I saw Tom by the fence, having a seizure. He has them every several months, and is especially susceptible during extreme changes in the weather. It is a pitiful sight to be so helpless when he's having one of these episodes. All you can do is pet him, and be there.
The vet says these seizures are much harder on the owner than on the dog, and I believe it. The episode reminded me that sometimes love means "just being there."

As a bonus thought for those interested in the age-old question, "Do dogs go to heaven," I am including a wonderful quote from Joni Earickson Tada from an article on the subject in Christianity Today. She says, "If God brings our pets back to life [in heaven], it wouldn't surprise me. It would be just like him. It would be totally in keeping with his generous character … Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy—utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. … Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness of joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on his children."

True or not, I like the quote, especially the phrase about God, "It would be just like him." Where do we ever get the idea that we have the right to limit God's expressions of his own generosity!?? As for me, the very existence of Golden Retrievers (and a few other "select" breeds) is evidence of a God's generosity and love!!!!

Oh, here is the link to the Joni/Dog article:

And a link for "dog quotes":

Love is the Theme - Part II

Example Two: Love Grows A Family

I'm still new at the blog thing, and I am kidded a great deal about my pastoral "paranoia," so I am going to be very general with this story so as not to invade the privacy of someone else. My church family knows who I'm talking about, and I don't want everyone to think that anything that happens to them will end up on my blog. Also, I got the "go ahead," from the mom in this entry.

I know this wonderful couple who have adopted three boys, all of school age. They thought they were "through" adding to their family, but then the phone rang informing them that their boys' birth mother had given birth to another boy. The husband is between jobs (though his prospects are good!), and the mom doesn't make a huge amount of money in her job as secretary.

After a painful 24 hours of prayer and consideration, this couple decided that this baby was "one of their sons," and that the only option they had was to go and get him! They would figure out the nuts and bolts of paying for (adoption is still pretty expensive, as are feeding, clothing and educating kids!) their new son later.

They have to go through the typical paper work before they can bring their new son home, and in the mean time, the child is in foster care with a delightful family who have helped over fifty newborns over the past 10 years. Yes, a lot of people may think this couple is nuts to adopt another child considering finances, etc. I know this couple, however, and I know what is motivating their in the best of interest of their new baby and of their three boys at home.

Their decision reminds me all over again that God's love for us is...well...unreasonable. It doesn't make a lot of sense does it? He knew from the beginning that we would be a lot of trouble. After all, how long do you really think if took Adam and Eve to do the ONE thing God told them not to do? And grandkids are supposed to be a specially blessing to grandparents, but God's two grandsons...well, one of them turned out to be the first murderer. Still God did not abandon his first family, and he hasn't abandoned us either.

It is "unreasonable" that God "demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) As I told my Sunday School class yesterday, "God loves us because...God loves us!" It's not because we're good, or because we're better than someone else...but it's in God's nature to love us. And God wants us to learn to love others, even our enemies, with this kind of unreasonable love. Our world says is someone is evil to you, then you should be evil to them.

God's word has a better way. Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Another way to put this is, "love wins!" Evil by its very nature is not the opposite of good, but the absence of it. Evil is a vacuum. We can get mad all we want at the evil in the world, but before we do, we need to ask ourselves if we are filling the world with more and more love? Are we acting in the best interests of others?

So this couple may not have made a logical decision, but they made a love decision, and how could that be wrong? May you find an opportunity this week to be unreasonable in your love toward another!

Love is the Theme...Of This Past Weekend

Did you ever have a teacher who taught you specific truths that have stayed with you? Rick Yount was one of my professors in seminary who defined love as "acting in the best interest of another PERIOD." This simple truth is the central thought of one of my favorite passages in Scripture, 1 John 3:16 which states, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." John then goes on in verses 17 and 18 to describe this "acting" love very specifically..."17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

This past weekend, I have seen this truth played out in several ways, none of which presenting the Hollywood idea of love as feelings, oh, oh, oh, feelings (aren't you glad you can't hear me singing that!). It began on Friday.

Example One: The love that hurts, but still reaches out to others. (Note: I let my mom read this before posting it for all the world to see!) My mom is doing amazingly well just six months after my father's death...getting out, visiting homebound folks, eating out with friends, going to church, visiting relatives, etc. Friday we finally got around to getting rid of a lot of my father's clothes. We would have done that earlier, but had to wait until his brother could come down and get some of them. Anyway, he took some, and the rest Ma is donating to charity. She still gets down sometimes, we all do, but our grief is a simple one. We miss my father, and that's okay...we forget that feeling down is not always bad.

Our culture is filled with products to help us not to feel bad, and these medications are needed when depression, etc., become chronic and debilitating. At other times, however, our pain and grief should not be so quickly erased (or covered over with medication). Grief, like it or not, is love...that's the deal. In a strange sort of way, the pain we carry from our losses are testimonies of how deeply we've been touched.

I thank God that my mother's pain is only the pain of missing my father, and not the pain of regret, or anger, or confusion that some people experience when a loved one dies tragically. My family agree that we have much to be thankful for in how long we had my father; for his quality of life; for being given the gift of avoiding some of the ravages of old age like Alzheimer's or having to have my father in a nursing home as an invalid.

Our gratitude is never far from our grief; and our grief, and especially my mom's, is appropriate and, yes, loving. I'm not worried about her, and am grateful for having such a great mom who has such a heart for others, on days when she's "up," and even on those days when she's not. She learned a long time ago that loving others is truly about acting in their best interests! Pray for her, as she is probably embarrassed as she reads this, but I can't help it, she is a great mom, and I want the world wide web to know it!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Defenseless Little Old Ladies? Give Me A Break!

In my congregation I have a good many senior adults, and the majority of them are vibrant, sharp, fully embracing life! A couple of my older ladies, far from being defenseless, are actually a pair of rattlesnake wranglers! This past Monday, Mantha called her former deacon and left a message that she had a BIG snake in her yard. When he called back an hour and a half later, she told him that she and her friend Peggy had taken care of it! She had called Peggy who made the 20 minute drive to Mantha’s while Mantha held the snake at bay with a stick, not wanting to let it back in the woods.

Peggy brought her double-edge axe, an axe that had beheaded many a serpent…she has had more than her share of reptile invasions when she lived in the country. With one strike, the snake was dealt a fatal blow. I called Peggy to tell her that I had heard about her heroism, and she dismissed it saying she had killed more than her share of snakes. I asked her, "How many strikes did it take?" She said, "One...that's all you strike."

This whole episode reminded me of something these two wonderful saints have in common. They have a tough faith. Both had had more than share of heartache including the loss of children and husbands. Still, they have not let life rob them of their joy or faith. Their faith is not some wimpy, pie-in-the-sky thinking happy thoughts kind of faith. No, their faiths have been tried again and again in the valleys of adversity, and have come out stronger. No wonder they can take on a rattlesnake with no fear; compared to what they’ve experienced, it might as well have been an earthworm.

I am reminded of Hebrews 13: 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Mantha and Peggy have the same confidence, and it shows! Oh, and the next time you are threatened by a rattlesnake, call Peggy!

Tom’s Advice – Stay Focused

I got a new camera this year, and I enjoy taking photos of my brother’s dog Tom. Tom, brother to my late dog Dave, has his own unique set of neuroses (He won’t come up the back steps into the house unless you walk down and escort him up!), but has many of the typical Golden Retriever qualities. He wants to be in close proximity with whoever is present. Though he’s ten and a half years old, he’ll still pretty active. Like most goldens, he has a big range of emotions, and from time to time, I want to share them with you. This picture was taken with the ball in flight toward Tom.

You can tell that the most important thing in his life at that moment is that ball heading toward him. His brain, at this moment, is calculating speed, trajectory, angle of descent, anticipated joy of making contact with the ball. At this moment, his brain is preparing a set of neurological instructions that will be sent to muscles in his mouth, neck, and the rest of the body…creating an elegant symphony of movements, perfectly coordinated to intercept the incoming projectile!

God must have some engineering department to have put so much work into allowing a dog to catch a ball! There is wonder and mystery all around us! Pay attention and live will be a lot richer for you! The psalmist reminds us, Psalm 40:5
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. I totally agree, and I’m glad that God had time with all the wonders He has made to allow a dog the indescribable joy of catching a ball!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sorrowful, Yet Rejoicing

I visited my mom this past Friday (9/29). We went out to visit friends and to do what Hunters do so When I left, she gave me a collection of "stuff" I had given my father over the past many years for birthdays and Christmases. As you would expect from me, the collection included some "odd" stuff...a singing, animated Bing Crosby, a robot beagle, a couple of stuffed Golden Retrievers...I mean stuffed "toys." Anyway, I am glad to have these of course. They remind me of a lot of great memories with my father, while at the same time reminding me that he is gone and that it will be a while before I see him again.

There is, of course, sadness that he is gone, but intertwined with that is a gratitude for having had him, for the way in which he passed without having to endure years of being an invalid, and for the assurance that I have that he is alive somewhere else celebrating a life free of ICU's, dialysis, and heart procedures.

My mementos are both a reason to be sad, but I thank God that with that sadness, there is much more to be grateful for. The day of my father's funeral, I never would have believed God's ability to mix great sorrow with great gratitude, but that is what I felt as God gave me the privilege of celebrating my father's life publicly by officiating at his funeral. Grief was present, but gratitude was the theme.

Why am I waiting so long to put these observations into words? Well, part of the reason is that as I anticipate participating in the Lord's Supper tomorrow morning at church, I was thinking about something being sorrowful (remembering Christ's suffering and death), and being grateful (remembering that His death accomplished the most amazing thing in my life!). Tomorrow I will remind my flock that you can be sorrowful yet rejoicing, because Christ's sacrifice did and does what no other religious system can do.

It provided the infinitely applicable sacrifice, that enabled God's just nature to deal with our rebellion and imperfection by placing it on Christ, so that Christ's perfect standing before Him could be "accounted" to us given us forgiveness, access to God's own divine Spirit and the truth of His word, adoption into his family, and...well, wonders too many to declare as the psalmist says in Psalm 40:5. Look around and be grateful...even if circumstances are rotten, God isn't, and remember that His most often repeated promise in ALL of Scripture is NOT, trust me and I'll make it easy, but "no matter what...I will be WITH you!" Now that's worth celebrating!