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!

Out of the Mouths of Babes...Well, Out of First Graders!

It's been a "significant" week as our church family met for our annual fall revival. Tim Tapp, our church's former associate pastor ('98-'00), was our guest speaker, and the Lord did a great job through him reminding us of our core foundations in living the abundant life. We had significant times of prayer as a church family, including a special time of affirming our youth on Sunday night. Several of our teen-agers shared, and it was extraordinarily encouraging to this pastor! Another brief, but very encouraging word, came not from a teen-ager or adult, but from a first grader!

Tim's family, Amy, Carrie aged 12, and John almost 7. Amy and the kids came down for Sunday, and had to leave after church. I gave the kids some stuff from "Andy's Gift Shop"...i.e. my closet of bargains accumulated after years of shopping research! Anyway, I gave John a little Lego set, and he (without parental prompting no less) quickly said, "Thank you," but then added, "do you know that you are a good man?" That surprised me...sure I enjoyed the comment immensely, and I overlooked John's lack of information about me, and focused only the gift, and the goodness of life...receiving something good while not expecting it...and then reacting positively...with gratitude. I hope John keeps that perspective (I think he has a great chance in that his parents are excellent in engendering in their kids, positive self-value, faith, and gratitude. I have interacted with a lot of people in my almost 50 years, and I have seen so many fall prey to a life lacking basic gratitude, and it's not a great way to go.

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. John thought I was a good man because I have him something good. These days, Christians can become so obsessed with "being right" in terms of political opinions, and doctrinal positions on non-essentials, that they forget the power of basic kindness to impact others. We, as believers, need to respond to God's gifts to us, by being grateful to Him, and kind to others that they, too, might know our generous and loving and forgiving and saving Father. How long has it been since you've given an unexpected gift to someone? Maybe it's time to look in your closet to find something to bless someone else with!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Don't Squeeze the Charmin and Get Off the Shelf!

Yep! At times I'm nuts. I admit it. I was standing in the line to have my sales receipt checked as I left Sam's Club this past week and I noticed that the last rack on display near the exit was filled with pack after pack of toilet tissue. it still amazes me that these huge stores eventually sell everything they have. We sure buy a lot of stuff don't we? Anyway, the thought hit me that in a way we're like all those nicely stacked packs of some of the nicest toilet paper in the world. No matter how long those packages sit on the shelf, eventually, someone will buy each one and each roll will eventually end up fulfilling its purpose and then being flushed into oblivion (or the septic tank, sewer system, port-0-potty). That is how things work. And believe it or not, the thought hit me (the people in front of me in the line had a LOT OF stuff to count), that we're like that. Regardless of what we think or what we're doing, one day death will come and pluck us off the shelf and flush us from this life into the next. Unless Christ returns in our life time, this is the destiny of everyone on this planet. My last thought as I made it to the final checkout point was that I don't want to spend a day just sitting on the shelf waiting for that final flush!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Honk if You Love Jesus

I attended our Baptist association's Women's Missionary Union leadership meeting last night. I thought it might be a good idea since my church was hosting the event. I gave an invocation, scared everyone with two unexpected BOOMS of sound system feedback, took some great pictures of folks eating, singing, and listening with my new 12x zoom which allows me to get really close without anyone noticing (I save those for future "photo fellowships," when I get to embarrass folks!), and then after making a mad dash around the church to check our oh-so-indifferent-to-our-thermal-comfort computerized thermostats (Baptists are notoriously sensitive to minor degree changes in temperature), I ended up in the pastors' leadership class, where our facilitator asked us to go around the room sharing what our WMU's meant to us and our churches. One pastor compared them to the geese flying in the "V" formation who "honk" encouragement to the lead goose...who, of course, is the pastor. (We can discuss the pastor as "lead" goose controversy, later!) Sure I agree wholeheartedly that I have been encouraged many, many times by the dedicated women of my church family, but the though occurred to me later...our female church members do so very, very much more than honk encouragement. I told the group, "Let's face it guys, our ladies are doing THE major discipling of our children and young people." Sure, there are exceptions, and I thank God for I have men, too, who seek to impact others inside and outside the church for Christ, but if you take a closer look at our history, at least as Baptists, you find that our most memorable missionaries were women. Should this surprise us since our Savior chose to reveal Himself first to women after His resurrection? I love the passage in Luke 8:1-3 when Luke mentions three woman (among others) by name who traveled with Him and the twelve. These women weren't just "honking," they were financially supporting Jesus' ministry! Pretty remarkable for a time when women were regarded by many as just the property of whoever was over them (i.e. father or husband.). We are told of no other such financial supporters of Jesus. Were these women merely in the "background" of Jesus ministry, or part of the "backbone" of those He gathered around Him to be used in God's redemptive mission. All I know is that the First Baptist Church of Denmark would be ....yuck...I don't want to even imagine what it would be like without a long list of dedicated, Christ-following ladies who don't just honk that they love Jesus, they show it...over and over teaching us about missions, encouraging us to support missions financially, and most importantly, by DOING missions.....and to a pastor, THAT'S real encouragement!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Never Judge a Book by Its Cover, Or Caller I.D.

I got a phone call today and it was from Knoxville, TN, but it wasn't! It was from the United Arab Emirates from Jim, a church member, stationed with the Air Force Reserves at the airbase at Debai. If I am "gettin" this blogging thing,his picture should be showing up right here! I thought it was a telemarketer, but lo and behold it was Jim using a domestic calling card (with a little help from the Air Force)...hence the Knoxville I.D. Anyway, pray for him as he is about to be deployed to a more hostile territory (like Iraq), through January. I'm glad he's been awhile since I prayed with someone on the phone THAT long distance! So don't ever assume stuff too early!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My First Post

I finally gave into peer pressure and got my own blog. The final straw was when a friend's teen-aged daughter said (loud enough for me to hear on the phone), "Andy doesn't have a blog!?" My greatest fear is forgetting that this is a public (even though it's a small public)forum and posting something stupid, which, with me, is always a possibility. Anyway, I've made this one small step, and now I have to run and take my secretary out to lunch for her birthday!

Quote for the day: "Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone you meet is waging a great battle!"