Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Christmas Lists ...

I have a confession to make, I do not enjoy making Christmas lists. There I said it. Does anyone else agree with me? I am not sure what it is about making Christmas lists that I don't like, I am speaking of a list for myself. Don't get the wrong idea, I love Christmas, I love the decorating (okay, I love seeing the decorations not doing them, the wife would have strong objections to this if didn't but that in here), I love seeing excited or pleased looks on people's faces as they open a gift, I love the celebration of the birth of Jesus as the real reason for the season, I love being with family whenever possible, I love the smell of Christmas trees and Christmas treats, I love reflecting on how much God loves to have sent his son to us, I love the songs of Christmas, but I don't like making a personal Christmas list.

I bring this up because it is the time of year where everyone seems to be asking each other for a Christmas list. Our family is going high tech this year and sharing the lists on the web. I have no problem with that idea and it will make it easier to read instead of some our handwriting for sure. Maybe it is the idea of saying what I want you to buy for me. Maybe it is the realization that I really don't need anything else. Maybe it is the fact that I would seriously rather give a gift than get one. But whatever it is I don't enjoy it.

Of course at this point my wife, kids and kids-in-law are all saying this shouldn't be a big deal because my wife generally gives everyone my list anyway. That is true, mainly because I don't like to give my own list. Don't misunderstand, I enjoy the gifts I receive and I am truly appreciative of the love with which they are given.

Some families get into a long process, almost a legal process, when it comes to Christmas lists. They will discuss for hours who should buy for whom and how much should they spend, what will the minimum and maximum be. In one church I pastored (long, long ago, in a land far, far away) one man in the church told me of a discussion his family was having regarding the giving of gifts and lists. After much time had elapsed he suggested that he had the answer. He said they should al stand in a circle and each one should pass a twenty dollar bill to the person on their right and be done with it.

Our family is great about the lists and the giving. Now if they would just let me get away without giving a list it would be almost perfect. How about it? Oh well, here is to the lists and more importantly to the giving they will produce.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Morning Musings ...

Monday morning again, it is amazing how these seem to roll around every week after a Sunday. Yesterday was a very day. We had a tremendous time of worship yesterday morning. Our children did a very fun and energetic song that had some Jamaican flavor to it, the leader even had on a long dreadlocks wig and sunglasses. After seeing the congregations reaction I am considering wearing that wig while I preach next Sunday morning. At the very least it might get people to smile. There just a good spirit in the whole service yesterday.

I posted yesterday about people arriving to church early because they got up before they remembered the clocks were to be set back an hour. Well they definitely got that corrected in the afternoon, because they were back to arriving late in the evening.

It is interesting to see how a crowd livens up and responds to children. Whenever our children do something up front there is more energy in the place. We have committed to having the children do something every month. Not just for the energy, but also to get them used to serving and ministering.

The church surprised myself, my wife and my associate pastor and his wife on Friday evening. We had a Fall Festival planned and to our surprise it was planned as part of a time of Pastor Appreciation. It is only the second time a church has pulled off a surprise on me that I didn't sniff out ahead of time. It was a fun night and we felt much appreciated. It is encouraging to be a part of church family that expresses their appreciation. This church does well at that, not just on special occasions but throughout the year as well.

I am somewhat encouraged today and realize that I am less than 6 days from another Sunday morning. I better get back to work.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Let' Give it up for the Clock ...

As a pastor I am not always a fan of the clock. So often I see people checking their watches, or turning to see a clock, during a sermon. By now I have gotten used to this and am rarely offended by it, it is when they start to get out their calendar that I get annoyed. (As in this service has lasted so long I want to see what day it is.) But today I have to give it up for the clock.

Today is the day that we turn our clocks back 1 hour. You know, spring ahead in the spring and fall back in the fall. It is part of all that daylight savings time junk. The reason I am so clock friendly today is that my congregation was on time today. They were not only on time, they were early! For those of you who don't know where I am that is a huge deal. Usually I am hoping they just won't be too late, let alone be on time. But today it was 5 minutes before the start of worship and viritually everyone was there and seated. There was this uneasy feeling that we were late in getting started. Afterward I heard from most families that they forgot about the time change and were up an hour earlier than they needed to be today. In fact one man came an hour early without realizing the time change.

It was wonderful. So today I give the clock it's props. Do you think we could do this 1 hour back thing every week? For a month maybe? Oh well, at least I enjoyed it for day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Put it Gear ...

One of the first rules of learning to drive is that eventually, after you do all of the proper preparation things, you have to put the car in gear if you want to go anywhere. I realize that is might come across as something less than profound at the moment but stick with me. The reason I bring this up is because it is something the Lord has been prodding me about recently. No, not my driving, but putting things in gear spiritually and at the church.

Too often it seems that as believers, and as churches, we get in the car, check everything that needs to be checked, double check them in fact, but rarely do we drop it in gear. Which means don't really go anywhere. We look good in the seat, we have the proper equipment, we are even very busy with our preparations, we just don't go anywhere. Are you with me on this?

I had a grandpa who understood this principle very well. When he went to his car and started it you had better be ready to go, because as soon as he started the engine he dropped it in gear with his foot on the gas and away he went, ready or not. My grandmother learned to lift her feet off the ground as soon as she sat because grandpa was putting it in gear. Many a time my grandmother swung her feet into the car and closed the door as the car was moving away quickly.

We need to be more like my grandpa was, maybe not with our cars, but with our spiritual lives and with our churches. We have been sitting idling, using precious time and energy looking good and preparing but not really going anywhere for far too long.

Steve Sjogren (pronounce "show grin") wrote a book in recent years entitled "Ready, Fire, Aim". You read that correctly, ready, fire, aim, not the order in which most of us operate. His point was like mine, too often we get ready and aim, and aim, and aim, and aim and then never pull the trigger. I say too often we get in prepare, even start the car and idle, but never drop it in gear. The result is that we stay where we are and nothing of much significance takes place. We don't grow spiritually and our churches don't grow spiritually or numerically.

So how about it, ready to get going? I am trying. I say "way to go grandpa I am coming right behind you". Where will you be?

Monday, October 23, 2006

We can't hear you...

To "Can You Hear Me?", No we can't. Where have you gone? It has been over 2 weeks. Come on, even your pregnant sister has posted since your last one.

Monday Morning Musings ...

To answer the burning question that all of you have today regarding yesterday's message, it was not one for which I need to apologize. I realize that given my post last Monday you were on the edge of your keyboards wondering, so there you have it, it was not terrible. I felt better about my preparation, I could tell more people were paying attention and I have already heard parts of the message referenced a few times in less than 24 hours. Now I just need to do it again in about 6 days.

You see for a pastor you plan, prepare, pray and point (how is that for alliteration?) toward Sunday all week. In the midst of all that I do every week my mind is never away from the fact that Sunday is coming soon. In the new TV show "Studio 60" (which I do not like and no longer watch) the producers of a Saturday Night Live type show have a clock in the office that counts down to the opening of their show. As soon as the show begins the clock resets and begins counting down toward the show the next week, that is how it is for a pastor every week. So that your good feeling from any given Sunday is somewhat offset by the fact that you have to do it all over again in less than a week.

Some good friends from a previous pastorate came and worshipped with us Sunday, we went to lunch together and had a great time of catching up. It is always good to be with good friends.

We had a meeting after church last night with Sunday School teachers and it was encouraging to hear reports from many of the classes of what is happening. From children, to youth, to the adults there are some good things taking place. One children's class in particular encouraged me with how they are reaching out to a family in our community that is going through a very difficult time, and this family does not go to our church. That is the church being the church.

Attendance is sure not what it should be, but there are some positive signs and that is what I have to focus on. As my dad always says, "God is still God", and that is enough. Well I better run, after all Sunday's coming!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Collection...What else from a Pastor?

Many people think of "collections" when they think of pastors, as in receiving the offering during a worship service. This post is collection of a different sort, a collection of thoughts from the past few days.

The funeral for the 96 yr. old I have mentioned was a great tribute to her. Listening to family members share was very meaningful. They all had different stories but emphasized the same aspects of her life. A grandson said it well, "She taught me to laugh a lot, love people and the love the Lord whom she served. Well said, and a great model to follow.

Wonder what my funeral will be like?

The 50 yr. old guy who had open heart by-pass surgery came home on Tuesday and is progressing well. Probably doing more than he should, but hey isn't that better than not working to get better? He is already urging others to get checked out sooner rather than later so they don't have to go through what he did. Sounds like a testimony to me.

Could you believe the number of exciting finishes in football games yesterday?

How ironic that I am preaching on the importance of friends and the difference we can make as friends considering that some very good friends of ours are coming for a visit today. No, honestly I had this sermon in the works before I knew they were coming. But since they will be here, I have to use them as in the flesh illustrations. I wonder if they will still be my friends if I do that?

Is anyone else looking forward to basketball season? For me it goes in the order of high school, college and pro as far as my level of excitement.

I am not sure, were these thoughts random, or haphazard? Oh well, at least they were mine.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What Will Your Legacy Be ...?

The 96 year old that I referenced last week passed away late Monday evening. The funeral will be Thursday. I have had the opportunity to speak with family members and observe them at the funeral home during visitation. What a legacy this dear lady left for her family, and all who knew her. I always consider it a real privilege to do a funeral and especially to sit with family members and get them to share about their loved one. It gives me great insights into who the person was and the legacy they have left behind.

This lady left a very meaningful legacy, not just for her children but also for her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. I have heard testimonies of her influence and impact from 3 of the 4 generations that she leaves behind. The 4th generation, the great great grandchildren, are a bit too young to tell me much at this time but I am sure they will hear stories that will influence them as well.

All of this got me to thinking, what will my legacy be? Since I am thinking about it, let me ask you what will your legacy be? The good news is that if you are reading this you still have the opportunity to change, or enhance, your legacy. We can choose to be more loving, to be kinder to all people, to be a cheerleader to those around us, to be less critical, to be joyfu, to laugh often and enjoy life, to live for the Lord and share him with others. These are just a few examples of areas we can focus on that will have a lasting impact on those in our spheres of influence.

So what will it be? Any changes that you need to make to enhance, or change, your legacy? Remember, it is not too late, let's do something about it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oops ... Correction

Just a quick correction of a typo from my Monday Morning Musings post yesterday. The post should have said "it wasn't God's fault", instead of it was God's fault. Sometimes my fingers don't work in cooperation with my thoughts. But I guess it was appropriate in a post where I was speaking of my poor sermon to make a mistake, even in the explanation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A shout out to ...

Here is a shout out to "Memoirs of a Pregnant Woman", isn't it about time to put up another post? Come on we like read about your adventures. Even "Hot Flash Mama" has posted twice since you put one up.

Disclaimer: This is done with nothing but love and no disrespect is intended.

Monday Morning Musings ...

I have to start this one with an admission and apology. The admission is that my sermon yesterday morning was not good, no that is too kind, it stunk. As I preached it I did not like it and afterward I was sick to my stomach thinking about it. Thus the apology to anyone who had to endure it and might read this blog, I am so sorry. It was so bad I didn't even get the perfunctory "nice sermon pastor" that you always get from people. Man was that bad. Don't get me wrong, it was God's fault, it wasn't the Bible's fault, it wasn't my congregation's fault, it wasn't the music's fault, it wasn't anyone's fault but mine. The content was okay, but as my wife said afterward there no "ummpphh to it". I am assuming that by "ummpphh" she meant anything to make it memorable and meaningful.

While we are talking about the perfunctory "nice sermon" comments (at least I was talking about them and since you are reading my blog then by default you are at the very least thinking about them). You might want to think about that comment before making it to your pastor. For example if I notice that you were napping, snoozing, nodding off or checking your eyelids for holes, then you comment really lacks great significance. For another thing, hey I am a pastor when has a pastor only had one point, having our sermon called nice is rarely what we hope to hear. Meaningful, applicable, thought provoking, insightful, are great to hear. I even like okay, not bad, I disagree and it made me mad. You see these comments show that you were probably listening and that something has you still thinking about the sermon. Oh yes, I am okay with you saying, "it made me mad" or "I disagree", because we then have grounds for further discussion. Also, it means that you are likely to check about some things that week to see for yourself. But "nice" no thank you, that is not the impact I was going for when I prepared. The good news is I didn't hear "nice" yesterday, so I guess I accomplished one good thing.

So much for musings, I guess today was more a confession than a muse. Until next time ...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Observations ...

Yesterday was a day of observations for me. Most of it was in the hospital while waiting through a heart bypass surgery for someone from my congregation. Surgery waiting rooms are very interesting places. You can learn about families and family dynamics in waiting rooms. I don't know if it is just the tension of waiting for news of your loved one, if the decor and furniture in waiting rooms does it, or if it is just that much time (over 6 hours in this case) or what, but learn you will if you just watch and listen.

The family I was with has some great relationships that became obvious throughout the day. There was much laughter as they shared stories about each other and the one in surgery. (Of course I am a sucker for families that laugh together and laugh at themselves.) Their was geniune concern without anyone attempting to call attention to themself. Fortunately we heard good news at the end of a long wait, that always helps it all come together. Some of the other families were not as cordial to each other. Some hardly spoke to each other, I know that different personalities handle things differently, but a couple of these families had some serious issues going on. Some were waiting by themselves, which is something most of us don't think about until we go through the wait for a loved one ourselves. There was also a kinship among all the families in the waiting room. Whenever the phone rang, everyone stopped talking to hear which family was getting news, then everyone else resumed their talking, reading, TV watching, sleeping or whatever, but with one eye on the family with the news. They were watching to see if it was good or bad news, and there were always supportive statements to these people you really didn't even know, but shared something in common with.

One other observation, my wife hosted a ladies event at our home last evening. It was still going on when I got home about 9:30 pm. There were over 20 ladies at a "Death By Chocolate" event. It supposedly was a murder mystery type thing, with different ones playing roles and everyone trying to guess who was guilty or innocent. They all brought a favorite chocolate dessert. It was sponsored by the Women's Ministry at our church. The observation was that these ladies, many of whom nearly always claim to be on some kind of diet, will dive into anything chocolate without reservation. I can't wait to hear the "diet" comments on Sunday morning. I will have to decide whether to take my life in my hands and comment on the chocolate buffet they devoured or not. What do you think I should do?

Here's hoping you have a great day of observations.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stages in life ...

Yesterday I had the experience of visiting with a 96 year old who is likely in the last days, or weeks, of life. A dear saint that has lived a wonderful life and will leave a lasting legacy. Then I visited a young adult in prison. They are doing okay and appear to be making spiritual progress since being incarcerated. Then today I am leaving in a few minutes to go to the hospital and be with a family as a middle-aged man (I wrote a little about this in my previous post) has heart bypass surgery. What contrasts those 3 visits are, what a difference in stages of life. Not just their ages, but where they are in their journey with the Lord. The man who is having surgery today is a great Christian guy who I really appreciate. They are all following Christ, the one in prison has had some pretty dramatic changes in recent months.

What stage are you in, in your life, in your journey of faith? Where will your next stage take you? We all need to think about where we are and where we are headed, now and for eternity. We do have choices and each of the three people I mentioned above have had choices. It has been said that we are the sum total of our choices up till this point. What choices are you making? Where will those choices lead you? How will those choices impact those you care the most about?

Here's praying that you make godly choices that have a lasting impact.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stop and Think ...

We have all heard, or said, the phrase "it made me stop and think". There have been a few things recently that made me stop and think. One in particular was getting the news today of a man in my church who has 2 complete blockages in his heart arteries, so they are recommending that he have heart bypass surgery. It made me stop and think because he appears to be a very fit guy, not overweight, does a fair amount of physical exercise and he is around my age.

My thoughts are first for his well being, praying for a successful surgery and quick healing. Also, for his family, I know what it is to wait around for health news on a parent. It makes me think about myself, maybe I need to worker at losing the weight that I know is too much. Also, wondering what can we do for the family during this time. I need to be exercising more. I probably ought to go to a doctor just for a physical, I don't want to, but it has me thinking.

This stopping and thinking also got me to thinking about what makes us really stop and think. Does it have to be something so ominous? Why do we seem to wait for something big to take the time to think about important things?

So let me ask you, what has made you stop and think recently?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Morning Musings ...

Another Monday, another morning of reflection and evaluation which another morning of sighing and wondering what to do next. We have begun to see some other people begin to step up and do ministry, that is good. We have a new family that appears to have made our church their church, that is good. Our new projection system is really expanding our capabilities in worship, that is good. A couple of fairly new ministries appear to be working well, that is good. So why am I sighing and wondering this morning. It is some because of inconsistency, we seem to be good at being inconsistent. From people following through, to attendance patterns, to sermons (yep that would be me) to taking care of things around the building and to attitudes it seems that we are very inconsistent.

Maybe it is just the normal let down on Monday morning, plus last week being a rather intense week that has me pondering, excuse me, musing ( I need to be consistent with the title of this post) these things this morning. The solution? Be more consistent myself, encourage others, get some perspective, after all I listed a lot of good things and get back to work.

Here's to a great week!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy Birthday!

We have all heard, and sung, Happy Birthday to you. We all know the song and we know that it means someone has reached another milestone. Well this weekend our family celebrated a double, that's right two birthdays. In fact the two birthdays are on the exact same day, but the emphasis was much different. The birthdays were my wife's and my granddaughter's. My granddaughter is Elle (not her real name just her blogging name which is the pronunciation of the first letter of her first name) and my wife is Jo (use the same principle as with Elle).

Jo's birthday was done with almost no mention of the number years being celebrated, while Elle's had everyone asking her repeatedly how old she was and we all ooohed and aaahed when she said two. Jo asked only that we have a family picture taken, since the last one we had was when Elle was just a couple of months old. There was no cake, no candles (maybe it had something to do with smoke detectors) and no pictures of her opening presents.

Elle's birthday consisted of a cake, presents and many, many pictures, it also had a lot of ooohing and aaahing during the present opening time. Nearly all of the ooohing and aaahing was done by Elle. She picked on this after she opened her first present when the rest of us ooohed and aaahed, from then on we didn't need as she just continued to oooh and aaah when opening each present.

Now both celebrations were certainly significant, both got many things they wanted. Jo with the family picture (we looked good by the way), a meal together and much laughter (no not at how old she is). Elle with many presents (I assumed she wanted them since she loved opening them) , cake and ice cream, pictures, smiles, laughter (how cute she is, come to think of it that was probably what some of the laughter was about at Jo's birthday, at least I was smiling at cute she is) and again the family theme was there.

Birthdays just seem to go much better whether it is number 2 or number ?? (hey I am not stupid, you really thought I was going to publish it?) when people you love and care about are around. So here is to birthdays, no matter what number is attached to it. May you have many more and may many of those you love and care for be around for each one of them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vision ...

I have recently come across some material by a man named Pete Grieg (not sure of the spelling at the moment), he is a leader in a movement called 24-7 Prayer. He was writing about getting the vision of God and about the Holy Spirit inspiring vision in us. Here are some thoughts in his writing.

"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision." (Muhammad Ali)

Grieg put some scriptures together to write:
"God has a breathtaking vision for your life. From the moment you were created he loved what he saw. He handpicked you to be fruitful. He can do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine. He wants you to succeed."

He goes on ...
"But perhaps your dreams have been crushed. Maybe you're discouraged and weary. Will you allow the Spirit to breathe on the embers of your call? As Brennan Manning says, 'When we fear failure more than we love life, when we are dominated by thoughts of what we might have been rather than by thoughts of what we might become ... we deny our faith in the God of love."

So what is your vision? What do you know, or think, God wants from you and for you? Do you realize that he loves you and has huge plans for you. Not always huge by our definition of fame, money and power, but huge in regards to eternity and the impact on other people's lives. To fulfill his vision for us means we are being who he created us to be, to be 100% ourselves. To be God's creation in his world.

Be encouraged you were created for a great purpose. You are very special.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What Does it Mean?

That is a question that we ask when we see, or hear, something that is unclear to us. Sometimes it is something brand new, sometimes it is a foreign idea or symbol, sometimes it is something that we are very familar with but have yet to embrace. It is the latter that I am referring to today.

I am currently wrestling with the areas of discipleship and evangelism in my study, my teaching and preaching. Now I hear some pastors don't preach/teach on anything until they have thoroughly studied, understood and have their ideas all laid out. I am not one of those people.
I have a tendency to start studying something, get very intrigued by it, and decide that this needs to be taught now. In my mind if the Lord is working me through I assume that there are others who need to work through it as well. So I guess what happens is that we work it out together.

All of which leads me back to the question, 'What does it mean?', especially our role in evangelism and discipleship. That is the dominating question for me now, and in the last 3 weeks. I know what I am supposed to say, I know most of what the Bible says (I am not about to claim that I know all that the Bible says on these subjects) but as I study I am realizing that my life is not such a great example of these two vital areas. So 'What does it mean?'. Is it enough to simply know the answers intellectually? Or, do I need to be living it more regularly before I can really claim that I know about evangelism or discipleship?

I am pretty sure that I know the answers to my last two questions, but I sure don't like the answers or the implications that come for the answers. As I said I am still wrestling, maybe you can wrestle along with me (I mean wrestle with the issues not actually with me, only my grandkids are allowed to really wrestle with me these days. Well I should be truthful and say my wife can too.) I will likely be writing more on this in the near future.

Sometimes I really don't like studying...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ego boost revisited ...

My ego feels better now, I just 24.4 seconds on the 'Red Square' game. I feel so much better now that I am in the mid-20 second range.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday Musings ...

As I reflect on all of the events of Sunday the word that keeps coming to mind is interesting. It was an interesting day. We had communion as a part of our morning worship. Communion is always a highlight. Things were a little rocky in some of routine in the service because of people not showing up or coming late or missing practices, but that happens many Sundays. It was just especially unfortunate as a part of communion, although the majority of people likely didn't notice the problems. The spirit was good, not great. Attendance was down and there were no visitors, that was disturbing. Sunday evening went well. A good spirit, and some very insightful discussion. We are doing a study on personal evangelism entitled, "I Hate Witnessing! So what do I do?" People sit around tables and there is always a question or two that they discuss or discover with the other people at their table. Our Senior High youth began a group at the Associate Pastor's house during regular service time and the report was positive from that group. After the service the wife and I had young adults, married and single, over to the house for some food and games. It was a great time. So it was an interesting day.

I admit that this morning my thoughts are dominated by those who failed to show up for things without notice yesterday and with those who came late and didn't seem to think it mattered. I am baffled by this, it is not new but I am still baffled by it. I have to work to focus on the positives from yesterday, but I am working on it. How sad that I can allow a few people to mess with my enjoyment of a pretty good day.

Well need to get back to it, much to do and plan for today.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ego Booster ...

Not mine, everyone else who has played that stupid 'red square' game that you can find on Todd or Rob's postings. I have seen all their boastings about scores of 27, 28 and even 31 seconds. So to make those of you who have refused to reveal your scores (yes, we all know that you have tried it even if you won't admit it) I now reveal that my all time high score is 20.9 seconds. What is even worse is that was after I had played it about 100 times. So there you go, don't you feel better now? I thought so.