Saturday, March 31, 2007

Many Thanks ...

I need to express my thanks to many of you who prayed for me yesterday as spoke at Bethel College. (I guess there are a few more than 4 who read this blog, I may need to rethink some things I post in light of that revelation.) Some of you contacted me to let me know you were praying, thank you so much.

The news from yesterday is I did it. I made it though without falling down, without falling off the stage, without any major incident (this is always a concern of my wife's, I did she her hide her face a couple of times, but we are both used to that). It appeared that the students were paying attention, there was a reaction at appropriate times and silence at appropriate times (that means some of them laughed when I hoped they would and responded to some comments and questions at other times), I didn't see any students get up and leave before I was done and they even applauded when I finished. Of course applause is not the goal and applause at the end raises questions. Are they applauding because they enjoyed it or appreciated it, or are they applauding because they are glad it's done?

There were some students who approached me later in the day as they saw me around campus and they said good things. That was encouraging because they certainly didn't need to stop and say anything. I am sure my daughter, who is a resident director at the school, will hear more in the next day or two. Now the real test is what she tells me.

It was fun to see some students whom I had pastored in years past. It made me feel old, because most of them were in elementary school or junior high when I was their pastor.

Thanks again for your prayers and thoughts.

Here's hoping you have a great Sunday. Here's hoping you realize you have people who love you and pray for you. Here's hoping you invite someone to join in church.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I am nervous ...

It is true and I am really nervous. No not for the birth of my 5th grandchild, that already happened and the handsome guy has already won everyone's heart, see earlier posts. No for my Fantasy Baseball draft, that already happened and I blew that one. No not because my first competition of Fantasy Baseball is next week and I didn't do a great job at the draft, considering my first week's opponent I am not worried (Can't you feel the love in that last statement?). I am nervous because I am speaking/preaching this week.

I know I preach/teach/speak multiple times each week, but you need to understand that I get nervous each and every time. Why, why do I get nervous when I have done this for so many year? Because I realize that each and every time I am doing something has an impact for eternity. How is that for pressure? Each time I am sharing God's Word and attempting to help people apply it to their lives or convince them to accept it personally and make them realize how relevant it is for today. So I am nervous each time, in fact I have often said that when I stop being nervous is when I need to get out of pastoring, because I will have lost sight of the importance of opening God's Word to impact people's lives.

But this time my nervousness (man that is a weird word to type) is multiplied many times. Tomorrow morning I am speaking/preaching at a college chapel. When I was asked to do this some months ago, I was honored and excited. I am still honored and excited, but now I am really nervous, because I am really old compared to the students. Also, I have no fancy degrees or titles ( I did graduate from college, don't panic.) that will cause the faculty to sit up and take notice. Also, my daughter is a resident director at this college (now you know how I got this gig) and I certainly don't want to embarass her, after all she has 180 some girls in dorm who will be in attendance.

But I am really nervous considering this is just one shot. At my church I get to come back the next week, or that night or midweek and follow up and go deeper. But this is my one shot with these students. Also, this is such a critical time in their lives, even if they don't realize it. They are wrestling with so many things at this point in their life and are on the threshold of going into the rest of the world to work, live and make a difference. Wow, am I nervous!

If you are so inclined I would covet your prayers in this matter. For the rest of today as finish preparing and for tomorrow morning between 10 and 10:50 am. (No I don't get that whole time, we are trying to punish the kids). I am well aware of the cut off time and know that the absolute worst thing I can do is go over the time, being boring is a very close second.

Here's to hoping you realize how important God's Word is and are applying to your life today. Here's hoping a couple of you (that would be 5o% of those who read this) will pray for me between now and the chapel tomorrow. Here's knowing God will do His part.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lasting Impact ...

Upon reading the title you probably have something different in mind for this post than what you are about to read. The title is referring to the impact of a loving and lasting marriage. I am blessed in many ways. I am blessed to have been married over 31 years and be even more in love with my wife today than the day we married. I cannot imagine life without her. I am blessed to have had so many great examples of loving lasting marriages in life. My parents had been married for 41 years when my mom died. They had an awesome marriage, they were a great example. Both of my grandparents were married more than 50 years. They loved each other, they loved all of us and we knew it. My uncle who just died a couple of weeks ago had been married to my aunt for 63 years when he died. They were a great example of loving and lasting. My other uncle and aunt had been married a long time when she died (I can't remember the exact number of years right at the moment). They had a great relationship and shared with so many people. My uncle and aunt on the other side of the family had been married over 50 years when she died. Theirs had not always been the best of marriages but they lasted and in their last years had some of their best years.

I am celebrating these loving and lasting marriages today. They have deeply impacted and influenced my life and my marriage. Remembering my parents holding hands still brings a smile to my face. After I was out on my own and married there were many times we went home to visit and found love notes or cards around the house that mom and dad has exchanged.

That is what I want for myself and for all of those who are married. If it is good now, keep working at it make it even better. If it is not good, pray and work to restore the joy of your marriage. If you are not married, don't settle for the something less than loving and lasting and don't let the hollywood's idea of love mess you up.

Here's to loving and lasting marriages. Here's to my beautiful wife, may we celebrate another 31 years together.

What kind of an impact are you making because of your relationships?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday Morning Musings...

Mondays seem to roll around every 7 days or so. I always have trouble getting rolling on Monday mornings, after a long day on Sunday with a lot of emotional energy spent I guess that is understandable. But Mondays are always interesting. This morning the phone rang a bunch in the first hour I was here. Not a good thing, because I am not sure I trust everything I am going to say right out of the box on Mondays. Maybe there should be a rule that says pastors are not responsible for things they say, or type, on Mondays until after noon.

Okay enough whining, you don't really care anyway, but I feel better having typed the whine.

Yesterday was a surpringly good day. Surprising because I knew ahead of time that a lot of people were going to be gone. Anytime I hear from several people ahead of time that they will be gone I get really nervous because I figure that for every family that tells me they will be gone there are 2 more that don't tell me. Then it had been a very busy week with many interruptions and annual reports for the church due, and that means reminding people to get them in, reminding them they are late and then compiling them and running them for the congregation. Not something I enjoy, just ask anyone who knows me, on second thought just take my word for it. So with all those things, I have to be honest I was not as excited as I should have been. But God took over anyway. He change my heart and mindset early Sunday morning. He brought a great spirit during our time of singing. Our attendance was only 8 less than the week before with many regulars gone. People were very receptive and responsive. Sunday evening was a time for our ministry department coordinators to share about the past church year and share about their vision for this church year. The coordinators did a fabulous job of sharing, the people were very receptive and the spirit was really evident. The attendance was bad, but God really moved. Then as the service ended one of my congregants ( I don't even know if I am using that word correctly, but sure sounds impressive.) did something that was one of the most encouraging things I have personally experienced in a long time.

Easter is now less than two weeks away. I am hopeful that we will really reach out and touch a lot of people, unchurched people, this Easter even though it falls during our schools spring break. I love Easter.

Here's hoping that you are excited about Easter and are inviting a lot of people to join you in worship on that awesome day.

(Did I mention that I am in first place in both NCAA brackets that I entered? Don't worry I am still humble.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Sunday afternoon...

Family is such a great thing. We were able to be with all of our grandkids, our son, one of our daughters and both our daughter and son-in-laws. We were just missing our oldest daughter. (We missed you K1.) In addition we were with another family who feels like family. He was on staff with me at another church and my wife calls him "our other son". We always have a great time when we get together with our family. This time was no exception. I am very grateful that we get along so well and enjoy being together.

No matter how hard I try not to, when worship attendance is down, I feel down. I always bounce back and see the bigger picture and realize it is not the only thing. But I confess that on Sunday afternoons, it gets to me.

I love fantasy baseball, at least I love my fantasy baseball league. It is a great group of guys, some of whom I know outside of fantasy baseball and some only because we are in the league together. I always look forward to the draft when we all get together, catch up and then try to outsmart each other. I made the trip from Kansas City to Indiana for the 4 drafts while I lived out there. It is that important to me, the relationships more than the game, but I enjoy the competition very much. Since we just had our draft Friday night, we are all in the evaluation mode. Trying to determine how good, or bad, our team is and what our chances are to win and who we can make trades with soon. The trash talking has already begun (that is music to my ears) and is one of the reasons I love this league. We are able to rip on each other, without anyone getting bent out of shape. We don't take it as life or death and realize it is all fun.

I don't think I like my fantasty team at the moment. I need time to look at it a little harder. But what in the world was I thinking with my first basemen? To Sparky (he knows who he is) maybe I do want Swisher, and boy do I have a first baseman or catcher for you!

I am loving the warmer weather we are enjoying. It really makes me ready to go fishing and golfing. Not at the same time, although I have been known to have the need to do a little fishing for my golf balls on water holes. (Stop laughing)

Easter is coming in two weeks and I love preaching on Easter. If you can't get fired up for Easter then you don't understand what really happened.

Here's hoping you have some place to air out your random thoughts.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I got him...

That's right, I got to hold my new grandson first on Thursday evening when we arrived. But I knew my wife gave way a little to easily, when I picked him up my daughter and wife said "he has a dirty diaper and the holder is the changer". No problem I have done this many times before. I did just fine and he survived, and since I did that work I got to hold him for a longer period of time. Over the next 28-30 hours I held him for at least 3 or 4 hours. I loved it. He is growing already. He is very strong and follows your movement with his eyes. My son-in-law and daughter's dog is doing very well with the baby. The dog become very concerned when he cries and if he is sitting in his seat the dog brings a ball and drops it in the seat as if to say "since you are here let's play".

It was a real thrill to be able to spend some time with my new grandson, and with my daughter and son-in-law. Then on Friday evening we all headed to my son and daughter-in-law's place where some other great friends were visiting. What a great time of catching up and sharing we had. We got to see the friend's baby, now 9 months old, for the first time. We got to see our other 4 grandkids and I got stomped by my oldest grandson in a NASCAR video game. All the while you would keep hearing the phrase, "I got him", referring to who was taking a turn at holding the newest grandchild.

Then myself, my son, my son-in-law, and our good friend (he was on staff with me at another church) met 4 other friends for our annual Fantasy Baseball Draft. This is a really big deal. For the next 4 and a half hours you kept hearing that phrase, "I got him" as player after player was drafted. There were comments made after most of the picks, such as "nice pick", "Nuts, I was going to draft him next", "you bum, I wanted him", sometimes there was laughter sometimes there was a collective "huh?", that is not a good sound. We made fun of each other, trash talked with each other (all in christian love) and had an all round great time. Draft night is always a highlight. In a just over a week we begin the head to head competition to see which of us drafted best, has the best luck and substitutes at the right time.

Here's to hoping you can say "I got him", when referring to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as your personal Savior. Have a great day worshipping tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesdays Thoughts ...

Sorry about missing my normal Monday post, it was an a day of unexpected things that consumed the day. So me will see how well I remember things a day later. Sunday was a good day. Sunday School attendance bounced back after being down on the Sunday before, the day of a time change, go figure. There was a good spirit in the morning service, we had several of our new families back again and our attendance was okay considering we were missing several of our regularly attending families. The evening went well in our study and discussion however, we were down considerably in attendance.

I think a lot of people were surprised to realize that Easter is just 3 weeks away. I must admit it has sort of snuck up on me this year. Maybe it was the focus on the coming of a new grandchild, but I am normally a lot further along in my Easter prep than I am this year.

I will be seeing my new grandson again this week. I am loving the pictures, and can tell that he is changing and growing already. If everything goes well this week my wife and I will see him (and our daughter and son-in-law) Thursday night and Friday. Given that my wife stayed and helped out for a few days after he was born, I believe I should get to hold him first when we get there. Amazingly she doesn't agree. The other reason we will going south this week is that I will have my annual Fantasy Baseball draft on Friday night. I will post more about that later.

I need to get moving on a lot of stuff so I can see my grandson Thursday night. Here's hoping your week goes well.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Surprises and Shocks ...

I am a person who likes surprises (usually), I am not a stand pat type of person. When I hear someone respond to a new idea "We've never done it that way before" my instinctive response is "Cool, let's try it". I have had to learn to curb that instinct at times but I still like most surprises, at least those of the pleasant variety. Such as seeing a couple of my long shot pick in my NCAA brackets actually win and propel me forward in the competition. Or when purchasing something and hearing the checkout clerk say, "that is actually on sale today", I love that one. Surprise calls or visits from family and friends fit in the fun surprise category.

Yesterday was one of those great surprise moments. A person in my church came to see me and after some conversation about a variety of topics laid a great surprise on me. We had talked weeks ago about them possibly taking on a new vital position of ministy. At that time they said thanks, but I don't think so, but agreed to pray about it. A couple of weeks ago they came back to me and said they hadn't been able to get away from the thought of that new ministry and asked me to pray some about it with them. (That was a good suprise also.) Then yesterday they said that they would take the position, that they had had many confirmations that it was the right move and were ready to roll. Surprise, well not as much now, because I could see it coming, but had not let myself get my hopes up too much. I love those kind of suprises.

Friday I received one of the shocks that I don't like. Much more than a surprise and certainly not something I desired to have happen. A friend informed me of a 48 year old person from a former pastorate who died suddenly. He leaves a wife, two teenagers at home and one child in college. He was a christian and I am confident of where he is now, but it was a shock. It is one of those that really makes you take some time to think through life, your relationships and especially y0ur relationship with God. I am certainly praying for that family, for the pastor who will speak at the funeral and for the church who will surround, support and encourage this family.

So, how are your relationships? Are you up to date with God? How about your spouse, your kids, your parents or friends? We really don't know how long we have on this earth. We must live with purpose each and every day and let those around us know that we love them.

Here's to more suprises and fewer shocks. Here's to being ready whichever comes your way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

She's Coming Home!!!

That's right, my wife is on her way home. She has been helping our daughter, son-in-law with the new grandson for the past week. I can't wait for her to get back. We will only be able to say hi, have a hug and a quick kiss before everything starts tonight, but I still can't wait. What a lousy night for a church board meeting, that stinks!

I am so glad she was able to be there and help out, and to hold the baby a lot. I have seen her twice while she was gone, on the day our grandson was born I was there and she drove over to my uncle's funeral, but I have really missed her.

What have I missed? I missed her support on Sunday. I have missed our conversations everyday, a few minutes on the phone doesn't cut it. I missed her touch, a kiss, a hug, holding hands, and ... I missed her laugh. I missed being able to have lunch with her. I even missed fussing over what we would watch on TV and who has control of the remote. I missed knowing that she was nearby. After more than 31 years of marriage I always miss her when we are not together. That doesn't mean that I don't think we should have times when we are apart, but I always miss her.

Just in case you were wondering, the dishes are done, the house is picked up, the bed is made and I don't have stuff lying all over the house. In fairness I must confess that we need to make a grocery store run soon.

Here's hoping you have someone who is looking forward to you coming home. Remember that Jesus Christ loves you and will welcome you with open arms if you will just accept his love and forgiveness.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday Musings ...

It is Monday evening, I just got home from my uncle's funeral. It was great and difficult day. Great as we celebrated him and his life. A life of love, much, much laughter and a live committed to Jesus Christ. Difficult because he will be missed. Missed by me, by his other neices and nephews, by his brother, by his great grandkids, by his grandkids, by his kids, by the community and most of all by his wife of 63 years. Yes, you read correctly, 63 years! How awesome is that? Great because I got to spend time with my wif4e, Dad, stepMom, Brother, Sister-in-law, Cousins, Aunt, Son and others. Great because we all shared memories. Great because I know where my uncle is and that if I remain faithful in my relationship with the Lord I will see him again. Great because I was privileged to share in the funeral service. Difficult because I shared in the funeral service. Great to have my aunt give me a big, long hug after the service and whisper, "thanks so much, your uncle would have loved what you said."

Funerals are never easy, but it is especially difficult to express yourself through your grief and tears when it is someone you know so well and love so much. But I was so honored to be able to share in the celebration of my uncle's life.

Sunday was difficult. I wasn't on my game, I would love to have a "do over" on the message. A lot of distractions this week. The birth of my 5th grandchild, the death of my uncle (on the same day), extra travel, my wife being gone as she is helping with the new grandchild for a few days and other things. Our worship was good and the guy who led in place of my wife did a nice job, though he was incredibly nervous. Our attendance was decent and some of our recent visitors were in attendance again. It appears that a couple of these families have made us their church home. (God is certainly blessing.) It was fun to announce the birth of our grandson and to tell some stories about the day of his birth. Then in the afternoon I took off to get to my uncle's visitation and to be there for the funeral today.

I am weary and a bit weepy at the moment. I think I will finish, get some food and rest. Here's hoping that you will know the power of God's love and the beauty of family.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Cycle of Life ...

The cycle of life is an amazing thing. People talk all the time about it and they talk of something beginning as something else ends. I have heard many people talk about this in regard to the births and deaths of people they know as well. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

My 5th grandchild was born yesterday. That's right my youngest daughter and son-in-law had their wait come to a glorious end yesterday. At 12:16 pm he arrived full voiced and in he looks great! He weighed in at 9 pounds, that is not a typo he is a big boy. My daughter did wonderful and my son-in-law held up well also. Brandt is already a very handsome boy. The name was not agreed upon until after he arrived. I don't know if they decided he looked like a Brandt or if my son-in-law just figured that my daughter had gone through so much she deserved to choose the name she perferred.

That makes 5 grandkids, 4 grandsons and 1 granddaughter, and they are all beautiful and very percious. All of Brandt's cousins got to see him yesterday and were quite amazed as I understand it. For my son and daughter-in-law they now are uncle and aunt for the first time. For my oldest daughter she is now an aunt for the 5th time, she may have to give some pointers to her brother and sister-in-law on what it means to have a nephew. Needless to say my wife and I very proud grandparents, just ask us.

The cycle of life involved receiving a phone call from my dad while waiting for Brandt to make his appearance, my dad informed me that my uncle had died earlier that morning. My uncle was in his 80's and has had some big physical problems in the past, but had been doing pretty well, the heart problems evidently caught with him and he peacefully passed away while watching basketball on TV. That is a very appropriate way for him to go, you see he was a great high school referee for many, many years and then was a referee evaluator for a few years. He did a couple of Indiana State basketball championships in the days when they only had one championship, before they were divided into classes. He was a farmer by trade and a great guy. He was a real jokester and loved to laugh and get people to laugh. I will post more about him at a later time.

The news of my uncle really hit me hard. My eyes are welling up as I type this post. He and my aunt are great people and so well loved in their community. This leaves my dad as the only one left of his family. My dad and my uncle got along so well, and continued to play practical jokes on each for many years after both of them were married. (I wonder where that bed pan is?)

So as I am rejoicing at the safe and healthy birth of my grandson, I am grieving and celebrating the loss of my uncle. The celebrating comes from the knowledge that my uncle was a christian and is being welcomed home by the Lord. That means I get to see him again someday. What a glorious realization.

So the cycle continues, where are you in the cycle? Particularly, where are you in relationship with the Lord? Here's hoping that you take some time today to think about life, where you are, where are those you love and who else's life could you encourage today.

To my grandson, welcome I love you, to my uncle I will see you again!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day. Last Sunday was great, yesterday was good. There was a very real sense of people really listening intently to the message. My associate pastor commented on it later, that he had never seen it quite that way since he has been here (1 year). It was not a warm, fuzzy, feel good message but people seemed to really be paying attention and processing what they were hearing. There was a good spirit and people were singing during that part of worship, well at least many were singing, we aren't real good that part of worship yet. We had the best attendance we have had in several weeks, if not months. We had visitors. One family that just came because of a contact that was not a planned ministry. I love it when God reminds us that everything we do has spiritual consequences. We had some Wednesday night children and youth attend, who do not normally come on Sundays. A good day.

I am tired this morning. I tired most Monday mornings, I think all pastors are after a Sunday. Yesterday was a busier day than some. But it was all good. Please remember to pray for your pastors, whoever they are, on Sundays for strength and on Mondays for recovery and to overcome the natural emotional letdown.

No word on the baby front. Today is the acutal due date for our fifth grandchild. Our daughter has a doctor's appointment later today, so we will be anxious to hear what the doctor says. My wife has her suitcase packed and waiting for the word. Given that we are just over 3 hours away from the hospital she is not going to pause long when she gets the word that the baby is on the way. She was wearing her cell phone, and had it on vibrate, while she led worship yesterday. I told the congregation that if she walked out during a song it would their signal that the baby was coming.

Here's hoping that you get the chance to encourage someone today. Here's hoping that you will take advantage of that opportunity. Here's hoping that the baby comes soon, for daughter's sake more than anyone else.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lots of smiles ...

We made the trip yesterday to watch 2 of our grandkids play basketball. What a blast! Even the drive (see yesterday's post) was fun with a chance to spend a big chunk of uninterrupted time with wife. The whole Upwards basketball experience is always uplifting. Watching so many kids have fun and put some much energy into playing kind of fires you up. (I must admit I walked with more energy into McDonald's after the games.) Watching the kids run throught the star as their names were announced is a blast. Watching kindergarteners play defense is kind of like watching a dance contest. Of course they have to be reminded often whether they are on offense or defense. The rules concerning traveling for the kindergarteners is lot like the NBA, you can take an extra step or two or twelve without dribbling it is okay. After all they too cute to call traveling on them (the kindergartners, not the NBAers). Their real joy is in being on the floor running around and having fun. I loved watching our grandson Zee (not his real name, the first letter of his name) and he obviously believes the Upwards motto, "every child is a winner". Zee is a big winner in my book.

Our oldest grandson Bee plays in the 3rd-4th grade league. This is more intense and has a real referee who does a nice job in the calling the game without dominating the action. The kids show some real skills and are beginning to see the bigger picture of the game, such as setting picks, spreading out on the floor and passing the ball to the open player. They are playing on a 10 foot basket, a little high in my opinion for that age because it causes some kids to throw the ball instead of shooting it. (The kindergartners play on a 6 foot goal.) Bee is a good athlete and is skilled defensively, maybe for the years of playing soccer, but is a little shy offensively at times. I love watching him play.

After the kids finish their games they get a coupon for a dollar's worth of stuff from the snack bar. I think many of them are more excited about this than the game. Isn't that great? Hey, it is supposed to be fun at all levels, but especially at this level. I loved watching the coaches as they encouraged, instructed and laughed during the games.

We bought some McDonald's for the kids, all four of the grandkids and their mom and dad. We talked for a while, got some hugs and kisses and headed home.

The days totals: 10 hours away, 5-6 hours on the road, 1 tank of gas, a McDonald's tab, a time on a metal folding chair, time with and watching the grandkids, priceless. What a great day. Here's hoping you have a great day today at the church of your choice. (Or your regular one.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

I can't wait ...

Tomorow morning my wife and I are heading south to watch two of our grandsons play basketball. They play in a wonderful program called Upwards. It is a great program and ministry to elementary boys and girls. Everyone gets to play a lot, the idea is to instruct about basketball, life and about Jesus. The kids practice once a week and have a devotional at the practice. The games are meant to instruct as well as give the kids competition. Each kid gets a great uniform, each week they all get introduced over the sound system with music playing and run through a star to the cheers of the crowd. It is all very cool. We have a two and a half hour to three hour drive each way, but it will be worth it. We have one in the kindergarten league and one in the third and fourth grade league.

The other part of our equation on what I can't wait for is that our fifth grandchild is due on Monday. My wife has her suitcase all packed and ready to go, in fact we will take it with us tomorrow. You see, the basketball games we are traveling to are only about forty minutes from our daughter and son-in-law and the soon to be fifth grandchild. The ideal for us would be for our daughter to go into labor as the games finish. But my experience has taught me that babies rarely arrive when it is most convenient. No matter when the kid decides to arrive, I can't wait. I am guessing my daughter feels that way as well, likely with even stronger feelings than me.