Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Morning Musings ...

Another Monday morning, so it must be time for some musings from the weekend. Yesterday was a good day. Great spirit in both the morning and evening services. We used 10 of our children as a part of our worship leadership team yesterday morning. They did wonderful and their spirit and energy really added to the service. Several adults commented about how it encouraged them. We are really trying to instill the idea of ministry and leadership at an early age with our children. Our children's leaders are doing a wonderful job or working with the children. One of the things I love when our children are up front is that there are 2 or 3 of the girls who just can't stop smiling. How cool is that? It makes me smile and I am sure there are others who are smiling because of those girls. I wonder why we adults don't just smile more when we worship?

I was encouraged because my wife was back, if you remember she was helping with our grandkids last Sunday. I missed her, I loved that she could help with the grandkids, but I loved having her back.

Our Sunday morning attendance was much higher than I expected for a holiday weekend, in fact it was above the week before. Sunday evening we had a Thanksgiving Communion Service. Again the spirit was great. Two of our Jr. High girls helped lead worship and I know that added to the spirit and energy. One of the girls sang a special and it was good. It was good in it's quality, but more importantly it was good because of her spirit that came shining through. The time of communion seemed to have a special meaning to it, and I know that some individuals were really processing the true meaning of communion. It was an encouraging day for me in many ways.

I am leaving in the morning to go visit my Dad so I may not be able to post for a couple of days. Until I am back keep focusing on what really matters and remember that "God is still God" no matter what you are facing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Family Fun

It seems that any time our family gets together we have fun. Thanksgiving was no exception. Whether it was finding the two youngest grandkids playing in a dog cage, (we have pictures to use when they get older) or the many games that were played, or when I made a batch of rolls using my Mom's recipe and forgot to put in the yeast, or the times someone just got their words wrong, or the many video games that were played, or decorating cookies, or seeing who would spill first (it usually doesn't take long in our family) or just talking together there was plenty of fun to go around.

Hopefully we are creating family memories that will carry on for many years after my time on this earth has ended. I pray that my children and grandchildren will remember times when we were all together as great times and desire to continue these times for generations to come. I realize that some of the traditions will change, the numbers will certainly change (we are at 11 now and come March will go to 12), the games will change (but Rook must always be one of the games), the locations will likely change and even the frequency will likely change. But what I hope never changes is the desire to be together and the willingness to make sure we do get together periodically.

I still remember family gatherings at my Grandparents. At one it was always somewhere around Christmas and outgrew my Grandparents home so we used their church's fellowship hall, and there was the traditional picture of all the grandkids in their new pajamas (until you were a teenager then you got opt out because you were too cool). At the other grandparents it was nearly always at their house on the farm. I remember the Nativity set instead of a tree ( I wonder where that set is now?). I remember the food, so much of it, the multiple stuffings because Grandma knew some of us liked different ones, the laughter, the french chewing and divinity candy at Christmas, the candy jars by the back door and so much more.

I desire those same kind of memories for my children and grandchildren, and I suppose greatgrandchildren some day. How about you? What kind of memories are you building?

I need to go, church begins soon, but I must admit some of my smile today is remembering the family fun this week. I wonder if my congregation will wonder what I am smiling about?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thankfully tagged ...

I am responding the tag from Rob's post to tell things for which I am thankful. Listing things we are thankful for is dangerous because we will likely leave out something big, with that in mind here goes.

I am thankful for...

*God's grace, forgiveness, salvation and love. I don't deserve it but am so thankful for it.

*My wife. She is my best friend and I love her more than any words can express. She has endured me for over 31 years. Wow, that is a long time.

*My family, my children, my daughter-in-law and son-in-law, my grandkids, they are so awesome and I am so proud of them.

*My upbringing. I am so fortunate to have had the godly parents I had. Dad and Mom were great examples of godly people, godly parents and of a godly marriage. I learned so much from them.

*Sports. I am a sports nut, but I am thankful because I am not sure what would have happened to me without being able to play so many sports. I learned great lessons from many coaches, some great ones, and some not so great, but I learned a lot of valuable lessons playing sports.

*My youth sponsors. Those people who gave so much time, energy and I am sure their own money, to work with me and my friends while we were teens. I remember them and thank them for their efforts, their love and their examples. I don't really remember many of the official lessons, but I remember many of the times together and that they cared.

*The church. As a pastor's kid and now as a pastor, I am so grateful to the church. The church is the only organization that is really equipped to care for people from the cradle to the grave.

*Cherry pie, chocolate chip cookies and anything off of the grill. I guess I could just say food, but there are some things that I don't think God really intended for us to enjoy. For example liver, no matter how it is cooked, and coconut.


*Laughter. What would life be without laughter? Boring, depressing, and any other negative image you care to insert here. I love to laugh and make others laugh. The family is coming for Thanksgiving so I will get a good fill of laughter this week.

*The internet. Hey without it how could I share these amazing posts with you? How could we keep up with cats that deliver puppies and so much more?

There you go, now you have been tagged. What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Morning Musings ...

Another Monday morning, another post of a pastor's musings following a Sunday. I have to confess that my musings are divided today. My wife has been gone for 4 days watching our grandkids so our son and daughter-in-law could go to a conference. So my mind is on seeing her again tonight, I have really missed her. Sundays are just not the same without her, regardless of the ministry she does at the church, she is my sounding board, supporter and encourager. So, Sundays are just never the same when she is gone.

Yesterday's worship started poorly, as I got up to welcome everyone I realized that the battery for my wireless microphone was dead, so I grabbed another mike and it took a while for the guys to get it on, then as went to sit down I inadvertently grabbed the worship leader's music with my stuff. Then as I went to find another battery, I discovered that we had none, so I handed a guy $5 and asked him to run and get a battery for me. He was a lifesaver, thanks Doug.

Even with all of those distractions the Lord was gracious and there was a good spirit in the service and there were some significant moments of impact. I believe credit also needs to go to a prayer warrior who was off praying for the service during its entire time. This is something we have done in other churches and are just getting started here. There is such power in prayer, because of the one to whom we pray. I c0ntinue to anticipate great things, because God is really up to something here.

Last evening there was a community Thanksgiving service sponsored by our local Ministerial Association. These are always interesting for me. I am not generally a huge fan of these types of services. I believe they serve a purpose at times and in some communities are more needed than in others. The attendance at these services generally tell me that most people do not believe they meet needs and are not important enough to attend. I am not upset by that, just making an observation. I believe we really need to evaluate these services and either change them, or not have as many of them.

I can't wait to see my wife, give her a big hug and kiss and talk together for quite a while. God was good yesterday, the day was positive, but it wasn't the same.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Temporary vs. Eternal

I have had this thought on mind a lot in the last couple of weeks, the idea of what is temporary and what is eternal? Maybe it is because of some study I have been doing. Maybe it is because the Lord is just directing my thoughts this direction. Maybe it is because I am dealing with two families right now who have a loved one who may be in their last days, at least that is what the doctors have said. Also, both of the individuals are much younger than we normally think of someone dying. Whatever the reason, I cannot get away from this temporary versus eternal evaluation.

I know that intellectually and theologically this is an easy one to answer, but I don't think it is so easy to answer emotionally or in practice each day. I believe if you are honest you will agree that we sometimes get the answer turned around.

I know that the answer is supposed to be that only Christ and people are of eternal importance, but I am realizing that I don't always live as if that is true. I mean I often elevate stuff to higher level. Haven't you ever gotten more wrapped up in some "things" and jumped over the Lord or people because of those "things"? I have put my schedule ahead of the Lord and people at times, and even done it in the name of the Lord for crying out loud!

Things, houses, cars, clothes, jobs, hobbies, etc... are the truly temporary things of this world. They are not bad, they are just temporary. They can, and will, fade away. But the Lord and the people he has created are the eternal ones. But it is seems that we often choose to treat in reverse order. I have looked into faces today of individual who may not be long to this world and looked at their families, and it hit me like a ton of bricks (not that I know what that feels like) that all the other stuff is truly temporary.

Let me challenge you, and me, to really evaluate our daily practices and see which gets the most of our attention, our energy, our planning, our money and our thoughts, the temporary or the eternal. Don't dismiss this post as the irrational rantings of a pastor who has to say these things. I struggle with this too, I am not saying that we shouldn't invest in houses, cars, clothes, jobs, hobbies, etc..., but I am saying that need to do it with the full knowlege that the Lord and people are more important.

So what will you invest in this week? As for me, I am working on seeing the eternal first and keeping it their in my daily practices. Anybody what to join me in this journey?

Maybe I should have begun this post with "Hi, my name is Denny and I tend to put the temporary ahead of the eternal". Maybe I should start a support group for this struggle, or maybe I should do what I know is right.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Musings ...

It isn't Monday morning, but I have some musings anyway. I didn't have time this morning, due to a hospital run and then another hosptial run this afternoon. Yesterday was a very good day. We had some decisions for Christ!!!!! That is what it is all about. That alone made it a very good day. But there was even more. The morning service had a great energy and spirit all the way through. The music was great, we had a good drama, the kids did a fantastic job with their sticks presentation, and I didn't screw it up when it was my turn. We had a very good attendance with many visitors, at least 40 visitors. The evening was huge in attendance and a good spirit again.

Reflecting on the day. I am so proud of my congregation for praying and inviting so many people. For the way they welcomed the visitors and that so many of them were on time, in fact were early for a change. I am excited for the seeds that were planted with many of the visitors. I am looking forward to building relationships with some of the visitors. I am excited for our church, because as I posted recently, I really believe God is up to something special in our church and community.

We are now full blown into the holiday services planning mode. That is always a hectic and exciting time of the year. I am excited to see what is going to happen this holiday season.

One other note from yesterday, it was my one year anniversary as the pastor of this congregation. First Sundays are always special, but I will take yesterday over a year ago anytime.

I saw while reading Rob's post that we weren't the only place where God was doing great stuff yesteday. I will quote Rob about his Sunday and say "Yea God!!!!".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Response to the challenge ...

Recently my daughter-in-law issued a challenge to her relatives to answer a series of questions, her challenge was specifically to those who only post every couple of weeks. Since I post a few times a week I realize her challenge wasn't meant for me, but I feel compelled to respond because, well, because it was a challenge and I am a guy. Nuff said.

*4 jobs I've had:
1) dipping ice cream - my first hourly paying job
2) selling shoes - actually liked this one
3) public school teacher and coach - loved this one, still miss it at times
4) pastor - I was a youth pastor for a while

*4 Movies I would watch over and over
1) Tommy Boy - a classic (my wife does not agree)
2) The Sting
3) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
4) Christmas Story - Ralphie is a hoot (again, my wife does not agree)

*4 Places I've lived (the actual number is much higher than this)
1) Auburn, Indiana
2) Greensboro, North Carolina
3) Oskaloosa, Iowa (I just like saying that one)
4) Wakarusa, Indiana (I loved this town too, just like my daughter-in-law)

*4 TV shows I love to watch
1) NCIS (This is the one with Gibbs in it Nic)
2) According to Jim
3) Law and Order(s) - the orginal and Criminal Intent
4) Shark

*4 Places I have been on vacation
1) Rabun Gap, Georgia - it is gorgeous on the mountain
2) A little campground a hour north of Toronto, Canada
3) Hermitage, Missouri - Pomme de Terre lake in the Ozarks
4) Frankfort, Michigan - the absolute best

*4 Websites I visit daily
1) AOL News
2) My families blogs
4) A variety of others depending on the day

*4 of favorite foods
1) Steak - especially on the grill
2) Barbeque - especially KC style
3) Chicken marinated in Blue's Hog barbeque sauce off of my grill
4) Chocolate chip cookies

*4 places I would like to be right now
1) Right where I am
2) The cottage on the lake just outside of Frankfort, Michigan
3) Kenya - the best trip ever, it wasn't a vacation so it didn't make the other list
4) sleeping in

*4 places I would like to visit
1)Kenya - again, and again
2) Hawaii
3) Fenway Park in Boston
4) Alaska

There, I did it, and I now tag the rest of the family to respond. If you don't, you will look silly, not as if that is big deal in our family, but come on, the challenge has been issued.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What was I thinking?

I ask myself that question often, and my wife has asked me that question (What were you thinking?) even more often. It is usually prompted by me saying or doing something that doesn't make much sense. Or, to put it in more concrete terms, when I have done or said something stupid. Well the answer to this question varies. Sometimes the answer is "I have no idea!". Sometimes the answer is "I guess I wasn't thinking". Sometimes the answer is an explanation of how I came to the conclusion that this was a good thing to do or say. I have discovered that my explanations often produce a similar question of, "What?". I say all of this to answer the question that some of you were thinking when you read my previous post. I began to write about church board meetings and then thought better of it, however I am now about to get myself in deeper by explaining.

My reason for writing about church board meetings was conversations with other pastors over the years about their church board meetings and the fact that I had a board meeting last night. First, let me say that I have been blessed to have very good church boards nearly everywhere I have pastored. I have rarely dreaded heading to a board meeting. I have nearly always felt respected and valued as the pastor. Second, I am grateful to be in a system that has church boards and pastors working together for the good of the church and the kingdom. The problems arise when the pastor or the board starts thinking more of their own desires than the good of the entire church. I have talked with numerous pastors through the years who have dreaded heading to board meetings, some have even gotten physically ill before these meetings. Now I don't doubt that there are laypeople who dread these meetings just as much.

My thoughts about how to not dread these meetings. Be prepared for the meeting. Think through things ahead of time and pray about them before making decisions. Don't pull surprises in the meeting, by bringing up big things without warning. Of course we can disagree on how big certain things might be, but give it some thought. (All of these things are for both pastors and board members.) Always speak with respect to others on the board. Be on time! (This is huge to me.) Don't try to micromanage every thing that happens in your church. Keep asking the question, "What's best for this body of believers?". Don't read written reports in a meeting, otherwise why bother to write them in the first place? Don't take yourselves too seriously. Get to the point in your discussions, don't just talk it to death. Don't allow the meetings to drag on too long, but realize when you are the pastor, or agree to be a board member that it will take some time. Remember you are a leader, but not a dictator, so lead instead of just taking opinion polls. Don't use the "I have heard from several people" line unless you are willing to share who spoke with you. Have some fun in your meetings. Pray in your meeting, pray before you go to the meeting, pray after your meeting and ask many other people to pray for you as well.

By the way, we had a good board meeting last night and finished our business in a little over an hour this time.

Now, what was I thinking? You decide which answer fits this post.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Board Meetings ...

Got your attention didn't I? I was half through with a post on this subject when I chickened out, maybe I will post it soon. For now I will just leave you thinking of what a pastor might write concerning church boards.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day ...

This is an exciting day in our country. It is exciting to see who will get elected, to see if the power will shift from one party to the next, exciting to those running as they discover whether all the time and money pays off. It is exciting because you won't have to think up small talk for the next couple of weeks, you can just ask anyone, "So what did you think of the election results?". It is exciting for those working at the polling places, to see how many vote if the machines work properly. But the most exciting thing about Election Day is for the millions of us who will not have to endure endless political ads for a while! Now that makes this an exciting day. Starting this evening, no more of the ads slamming the other candidate while claiming the other person is lying. No more ads that claim to inform and say nothing that matters. No more phone calls claiming you are the most important person if you will vote for their candidate. No More!!!!

I hope that you voted, it is imporant. If your excuse was that you didn't know even to cast an informed vote, that is no ones fault but your own.

I was amazed that at 11am I had to stand in line and vote in our little town. I mean this is a mid-term election and the wife and I had wait in line at 11am. I loved having to wait, because it meant that people were taking it seriously and getting out, in the rain no less, to vote.

But I confess, I am glad that the ads are done. I am avoiding my TV until after the polls close so I don't see another one. Enjoy to the peace of no more political ads, now we can enjoy ads telling us how we can be thinner, richer, smarter, happier and all of this without leaving our couches. Now that is good news!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Morning Musings ...

Another Monday, more intriguing musings, well at least I think they are intriguing. Sunday was another good day, not the powerful day we enjoyed last Sunday, but it was good. Attendance was higher than a week ago, which is encouraging, but the spirit was not quite the same. There were some other very positive things in conversation with several individuals, and as I posted a few days ago, God is really up to something around here. I am excited to see what He is going to do.

There were some wild football games yesterday. Surprises - the Lions won (that is always a surprise), the way the Cowboys lost, the Bears got kicked by the Dolphins, and the 49ers won. Interesting, but not necessarily surprising - the Colts beat the Patriots at New England, Payton Manning outplayed Tom Brady, Mike Vanderjagt missed a key field goal (I know it was blocked, but this guy rarely comes through in the clutch), and the Chiefs victory over the Rams which has them at 5-3 without their pro bowl quarterback. Not surprising, but stupid - T.O. costing his team with a self-promoting penalty and dropped passes (one of which would have been a touchdown). In the give me a break category - why do we have to watch the Raiders on Monday Night Football? It is bad enough to have to put up with Tony Kornheiser as an analyst each week, but to add the Raiders to the mix is just too much. I wonder what is showing on HGTV?

I have a new prescription for contacts, so I am giving them a go. I preached with them in yesterday. It was a bit of an adventure. Let me just say it was a good thing I knew the scripture passage and my sermon outline very well.

On Sunday our children stayed in worship with us for the whole service, normally they leave during the offering to go to their own children's church. We are making some changes in that area that won't be in place until next Sunday. The reason I bring it up is that I didn't realize, or maybe just didn't remember, until just before the service that they would be in during the sermon. So without time to prepare anything just for the kids, I challenged them to keep track of how many times I said the word friend(s) in my message. (The sermon was on friendship.) I promised a prize to the one who was the closest, so I need to go listen to a tape of the sermon and count it for myself. (Why do I keep myself in these situations?)

Have a happy Monday!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Positive Stuff

I had the privilege to spend some time on a college campus this week. It was refreshing and encouraging. The wife and I were able to attend the chapel service, it was very good and uplifting. The most encouraging part was to see the way the students were worshipping. I was encouraged by the quality of the students that I met and observed. Don't get me wrong they are not all angels, some have great struggles, but overall I was encouraged by those I met and watched.

I especially loved seeing the students have fun, good, wholesome fun. I loved hearing a lot of laughter. It was a very postive day.

I write this with the full knowledge that there is more discouraging stuff coming about pastors and the church, such as the whole Ted Haggard situation. I needed to experience some positive stuff in light of those reports. Thought maybe you need some as well.

I for one am committed to praying for Pastor Haggard, his wife, his family, his church and for pastors and their families all around me. Praying for the Haggards that healing will come, for their church that peace and healing can prevail, for other pastors and families that they can remain strong, have a good support system, have friends that listen and hold them accountable and that they will make wise choices that help them to overcome temptations.

The thing I refuse to do is look down on Ted Haggard, or think that tough stuff can't happen to me or those I know. We must be vigilant and lean heavily on the Lord and each other. We must lift up those who minister among us. We must never be pious. We must look for ways to see those who have fallen to be restored in whatever way God desires.

Remember, there is a lot of good, positive stuff going on in the church. After all, "God is still God".

Thursday, November 02, 2006

God is up to something ...

I realize that God is always up to something, but I am becoming aware that He is up to something right here, in my church and community. There is a growing sense among the people of our congregation that something is happening. We have had some services recently where the spirit was tremendous. This past Sunday was one of those days where you knew you had been a part of something special as you left. Several people have told me this week that Sunday's services were really special. These were not the generic "good service" comments, but people who were really moved by the service. One of those was a person who had never been to our church and not only told me how much the service meant to them, I overheard them telling others in town this week about the experience. Our attendances are moving up, though worship is the slowest one, our mid-week and Sunday evening attendances are jumping up. The comments from those other ministries are so positive, not because of the attendance but because of the impact.

For me last night seemed to signify a corner turned. The group I lead on Wednesdays has been rather passive in recent weeks, but last night was different. Last night there was a real sense of presence and power during our prayer time. More people openly participated and it made a big impact on me. I am beginning to believe that God really is up to something here.

I am still struggling with some major frustrations and even discouraging things, but I am starting to see through the fog a bit and God is up to something. So I am determined to hold onto that hope and not let the frustrations and discouragements blind me to what God is up to in our midst.

Look around, I suspect that God is up to something where you are as well. Go ahead, take a good look around. If you still don't see it, pray for it and keep looking as you minister. That is what I am going to do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Moving on up ...

That's right I am moving on up in the Red Square game. My new record is 33 seconds. Oh yes, let's hear for the old guy!!!

A Wandering Mind ...

It is true that my mind has a tendency to wander when it should be focused on other things. So today I am going to give in and share some of my mental wanderings today. Who am I kidding, I give in to the wanderings all the time, I am just looking for an excuse to share some of it today.

Is anyone else tired of political ads? Living near a state line means we get double the pleasure. Can't wait for November 8, however we all need to make sure we go out and vote on the 7th.

I am so excited that basketball is starting soon, I don't mean the NBA.

Hey, did you notice that Indiana is about to become bowl eligible in football? That is certainly out of the ordinary.

Is it just me, or have you noticed that leaves fall in greater proportion just after what is already on the ground gets raked?

I don't take the need to drive safely even on daily trips, a visit to the hospital this morning reminded me of that one.

When is a good day to attend church? I hear people stay away because the weather is bad and I hear them say they didn't attend because the weather so good. So when is it a good day to attend? Does this mean that pastors need to hope for overcast days with a little wind?

I am ready to go buy a Christmas tree, but I suppose it wouldn't make it to Christmas if I did that, so I will wait until Thanksgiving.

Have I mentioned that I have incredibly cute grandkids? Have I mentioned that I have grandchild #5 coming in March? (Yes, that was the definition of rhetorical questions.)

I remember when ... sorry I forgot what I remembered.

Maybe that is a sign that my mind has wandered way too far and this needs to end.