Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Thoughts

I really can't stand our copier, the good news is that have ordered a new one and it should be here in a week or so. Thing just jammed on at least 5 times trying to make 50 copies and now I have toner on my pants. I am not a happy camper.

Next our family will take our 3rd annual vacation with all the kids and grandkids. In fact this year will be the first one for our newest grandson and actually for his parents as well. The last two years our youngest daughter and son-in-law have only been able to visit briefly while we camped. Their work/vacation schedules didn't match up. This year they will be with us for nearly the whole time. That means there will be 12 us together this year. Another change this year is that we are not camping. Two years ago the weather was brutally hot the whole week and last year it rained nearly every day and it stormed big time one night. So I found a lake house to rent for a week and we are giving it a try this year.

Can't wait to be with everyone to watch the grandkids, all 5 of them, to play with them and watch them play. To fish with my two oldest grandsons, the others aren't into it yet. To enjoy meals with the family. To play games with the family. To laugh a lot with each other and at each other at times. To have a few rousing discussions on some random topic. I am also looking forward to just being away for a few days, though if you read my previous post you know I won't be away as long as I had hoped.

The wife and I took some junior high youth to our district campground on Monday. That was an interesting 2 hour drive, junior highers are sometimes a whole different species from the rest of us.

Family will be a theme for us in the next couple of weeks. Besides vacation next week, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are arriving in a couple of hours from Kansas to spend a couple of nights with us. We will go to a memorial service for one of my wife's uncles tomorrow and get to spend some good time together. Then the day after we get back from vacation one of my cousins and her husband from Illinois will come and visit us for a day or two. I saw them briefly at my uncle's funeral about 4 months ago but this time we will really be able to visit.

Two men in my Kiwanis club have lost their wives in the last 2 months, both had been married over 50 years, in fact the one this week had been married 64 years. Wow, what a great example, but also what a great loss for those guys. I can't really imagine it, but I really feel for those guys.

In about 6 weeks my wife and I will celebrate our 32nd anniversary. Wow, she really deserves some giant award for putting up with me for so long. I can't imagine life without her, watching those guys recently really reminded me of that.

I have the best looking, smartest grandkids anywhere, at least that is my opinion and if you disagree you are entitled to be wrong.

It happened again this week, I took the car in for an oil change and tire rotation and made the mistake of asking them to check a few other things. Bad idea, because with a 14 year old car they will always find stuff and they did. Ouch!!!

I can't wait for vacation.

Here's hoping you get a break from your routine soon. Oh yeah, Go Cubs! They swept the stinkin White Sox, I loved it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Be Flexible ...

Flexibility has always been something I recognized as a necessity for being a pastor. Not physically, or I would be in big trouble. But flexible with your schedule and plans. I learned this morning that our community ministerial association is responsible for a community service in the park a week from Sunday. This is at the end of a town festival and has taken place for a few years. However, the ministerial association had gotten the word some months ago that the festival was finishing on Saturday this year and would not have a Sunday morning service. So all of the pastors in town have planned accordingly.

Surprise, surprise, the information was wrong. They are planning on the service and even have some advertising up stating that the service will take place. I am president of the local association this year and our church took charge of this service a year ago. It went well and I acutally enjoyed it and it seemed that the town enjoyed it as well. In fact just 3 weeks ago I had someone mentioned something I said in my message at that service year ago. I was impressed that he remembered and he was not from my church.

So we are being flexible, which means we are scrambling, and going to do the service again this year. That means I have to adjust my vacation schedule a bit. I was going to be gone that Sunday, now we will come home a day or two earlier so I can participate in the service. Flexible, maybe I am more limber than I appear after all.

The real struggle is to know when to be flexible and when to stand your ground. Theologically I don't want to be bending to every whim and fad. Strategically I want to be willing to be flexible as new information becomes available but not to compromise on our purposes. Relationally I want to be flexible to seek what is best for the other person. But I must confess this one is stretching me about as far as I am willing to go. I guess I need to plan another Sunday or two to be away in the near future.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

What a great day we enjoyed on Sunday. The weather was beautiful, that often hurts attendance in the summer but we had a very good crowd yesterday. The spirit in the service was good, it was lively and upbeat. A few responded at the close of the message and came to the altar. Sunday evening was our first summer celebration service. Good testimonies, good attendance and people hung out for a long time after the service just talking.

I should have preached my message Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning. I think I was more passionate while typing my blog Saturday evening than I was preaching on Sunday morning. But it wasn't really a feel good message. Still, I was not satisfied with my part Sunday morning.

I loved our time of testimonies Sunday evening. People were sharing some of their fears, and doubts, about some of our recent service and care projects. But they were testifying how in doing the service, or giving the care, they were blessed and saw the blessing it was to others. We even had 2 teenagers share!

This afternoon I am taking a few junior high students to camp. Our campground is 2 hours away and these are junior high students. You don't suppose they will sleep during the trip do you? What was I thinking when I volunteered to do this?

Someone recently gave me 2 Chip Hilton books after reading my post on my parents inspiring me to be a reader and my mom giving away my collection of Chip Hilton books after I got married. It was a really cool gift. They found them on ebay. So I went on ebay and have purchased few more of the series. It has been a fun trip down memory lane. Boy do the pictures on the book jackets look cheesy.

I love my wife, and to quote my good buddy Rob, I way outkicked my coverage in marrying her. She is such a vital part of my ministry. How is that for timing she just IM'ed me reminding me of something I need to get done today.

Here's hoping you have a great week and that you encourage someone today.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Now is the time ...

This is not an advertising ploy, but a plea for Christians and churches to get off our duffs and do what we already know. My sermon tomorrow is going back to our church theme for this year, "Live It!", from John 10:10. But this time I am focusing on the need to live the life right now. Many passages in scripture remind us that we are act today. This is not an implication, but a command.

Pastor John Maxwell once told his congregation that he was tempted to not preach another sermon until they began to do what they already knew to do, he said he figured it would take at least 6 months. Pastor Jim (last name withheld to protect the guilty) of Kansas once decided to preach the exact same sermon every Sunday until someone noticed, he preached it 3 weeks in a row.

Why do we demand the fastest computer and internet service, the most powerful microwave, instant on TVs and pay at the pump gasoline and yet we not only tolerate, but seem to encourage a wait and see approach to Christian living and church growth?

I have never been big on wait and see, and am growing increasingly impatient with it in the church and my own life. In fact I am close to becoming downright hostile toward it. I recognize the need for discernment, planning and proper timing, but come on, this is getting ridiculous! There are many things that we already know we are supposed to be doing for the Lord, we don't need to pray about it any more, we don't need any more focus groups, we don't need another committee (one of the things I am most looking forward to in heaven is NO MORE COMMITTEES), we don't need any more time spent aiming, we need to fire. We need to do something. We need to get up off our significant duffs and do it!

Wow, am I ready to preach. Pray that I don't lose any of this passion before it is time for me to preach tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We are in this together ...

Just got an email prayer request from a Pastor friend's church asking special prayer for a ministry team that they have in another country. As I paused to pray for the needs of this team and their ministry I was really struck with need for all of us to be reminded that we are in this thing together. By this thing I mean ministry. Wherever we are, whatever tribe (denomination) we claim to be in, whatever our style we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not doing a solo act. We are a part of a much larger team. Our team is spread all around the globe, we don't all wear the same outer uniform but we are on the same team.

We need to be lifting one another in prayer a lot more often. We need to mourn with each other and we need to truly rejoice with each other as God blesses. I have observed that in the church we seem to have more trouble rejoicing with other churches and believers than we do mourning with them.

This concept came home to me this week as someone from my church who had been away on vacation recently told me about an amazing church they visited while they were gone. (That's right they went to church on vacation, now there's a foreign concept for many people.) They wanted to go somewhere very different and looked for a large church with something happening. I was told about how exciting it was, I was thrilled to hear this and asked where they went. I knew it was several states away and not in our denomination, but was curious. As soon as they said the name, I started laughing and said yes, I know of that place and named the pastor. I received an astonished look. Then I said that I have quoted this pastor a few times recently because I read his blog most days. My joy came from this family seeing something different and exciting and it was mentioned that they now see some of things I have been trying to say around here lately.

We really are in this together. So let's act like it, let's pray like it, let's cheer like it and make sure we remember that it is God's team and not ours.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

This Monday morning was different than most, our oldest daughter was visiting this weekend and left this morning. Before she left we went to breakfast, so I came to the office later than normal. I liked it, maybe I need to go out to breakfast every Monday morning. I felt more relaxed when I came in this morning than the normal Monday. It was great to have my daughter here for the weekend, see is off to help her brother counsel at youth camp this week.

Yesterday was a good day. We did a much different order of worship yesterday and I believe it went well. We sang, took offering and then I preached. After I preached we had a special song and then finished with more congregational singing. I had to really adjust to preaching in the middle of the service and give myself a different ending time while leading into the next section of the service. I think I liked it. We had a very spirit in the service. I felt like I didn't really get my point across in the message as well as I desired, not sure why. Our attendance was fair, we had a lot of people out of town. Our "Manly BBQ" went okay, but not great like last year. We will need to do some things different for next year, I have a few ideas. We did have some visitors and at least one of them just because of what we were doing for Father's Day. That was cool, and this person's child was thrilled to have them attend.

Last evening the wife, my daughter and I had a great time, playing games, taking a bike ride and just talking. It was a good Father's Day personally. I spoke with all my children. I talked with my Dad and I had some time to really relax and enjoy the day.

Our church board is studying the book "Purpose Driven Church" and discussing it each board meeting. It is leading to some really good discussions and it is really challenging our leaders. I am loving it.

Here's to having a great week. Here's hoping you will find someone to encourage this week. Here's hoping that you realize that Christ is passionately in love with you.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day ...

Father's Day is always an event on the calendar for the 3rd Sunday in June. Hopefully it is more than a calendar event. I am blessed because of my Father, actually my Dad. Father just seems way too formal for our family. I was, and am, blessed because my Dad is one of the great ones. He is a true man of God whose testimony is strong. He loved my Mom immensely for the 41 years they were married and mourned greatly when Mom died way too young. He loves my step-Mom and has embraced her family as his own. He was always there for me, to listen, to cheer, to discipline (I didn't appreciate that one at the time), to lead and most importantly to love.

Too often I watch dads who are passive in their spiritual life, passive in their marriage and generally passive in their parenting. Given the example I had in my Dad I don't get it when I see these guys coasting through such an important role. Knowing what the Bible says about Dads and Husbands and their responsibility I really don't get these passive guys. It has been a very sore spot for me for a long time and I try to influence that by my example (flawed it can be at times), by my teaching and by my leadership. One thing that we have begun at our church is bringing a little life back to our Father's Day worship. We will be having our 2nd Annual Manly Barbeque following worship today. The guys will be grilling burgers and dogs, serving baked beans and chips for the meal. We will have a Dad's only tug-o-war, then a male only tug-o-war and then an everyone tug-o-war. We will have a log toss competition for everyone and a bunch of other outdoor games. The idea is to make the church a destination place for celebrating Father's Day. For years I watched as Mother's Day was a big Sunday and Father's Day was pitiful. People seemed to think that to honor Mom they should go to church because she would want that and to honor Dad they should go anywhere but church. The fault lies with the men and what they have communicated is important to them. So we are on a campaign to change the view of honoring Dad to include honoring God. Not to diminish the Mother's Day celebration but to raise the level of the Father's Day celebration.

Here's to Fathers everywhere, le't raise our games to match the importance of our roles. Here's to your celebration today, I hope it is God-honoring and fun. Here's to my Dad, my hero and role model. Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Where is your power?

Today was a first for me, we had no power for just over 8 hours. Yes I have gone through times (some longer than this one) without any electricity. The difference today is that this was a planned power outage, no storm, no car crashing into a power pole, no squirrel getting into a transformer and getting fried. This one was announced a month ago. You see the area power company needed to move the main power poles coming into our town and to do it safely they had to kill the power to those poles and thus to our whole town for 8 hours today. Now we knew this was coming and plans were made by businesses and people for this day. Even with all of that I barely got the ice in the cooler and a few things out of the fridge when the power went off.

It was strange to have no power in the house when nothing was wrong, no storm, etc... My wife and I each flipped switches a few times this morning out of sheer habit, but nothing happened. No computer, no TV, no hair dryer (this one didn't have any impact for me), no air conditioning, no coffee maker (now this one really impacted me) and no garage door opener. We went out of town for most of the day, I did some work at a coffee shop for a while and we saw quite a few people from our town doing the same thing. The power came on about 10 minutes after we returned home and then I headed to the office to get some more work done.

It really made me think about what I depend on, I mean the stuff I have come to feel I really need. The bottom line is that very few of my "can't do withouts" are worth much with power. So when the electric company cut us all off, most things stopped. It would have looked silly to be sitting in front of a blank computer, or a dark tv screen, it would have foolish to be waiting on a powerless coffeemaker or waving a silent hair dryer around your head.

But how often do we attempt to go on with things spiritually on our own, without plugging into God, into his power and will for our lives and our church? How silly is it to be going through all the motions with no power?

Here's to being plugged into God and His power, to being in His will and purpose for our life and for our church. Here's to us stopping the silly practice of just going through the motions with none of God's power. Let's get plugged in, powered up and turned on so we can make a difference.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Drives You?

I am not asking what you drive, or even if someone else drives you. Some of you are drifting off at this point with phrases such as..."I'll tell you what drives me crazy..." or "Here's what drives me over the edge ...". That is not what I am writing about either. Let me explain. My church board and I are going through Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Church". We read a few chapters each month and then discuss them at our monthly board meeting, hoping to help direct us to be more purposeful in our planning, our ministry and our spending. The first chapter that we will be dealing with tonight is one entitled "What Drives your Church?".

There are all kinds of things that can drive a church. A church can be driven by tradition, by personality, by finances, by programs, by worship style, by events, by seekers, by buildings, by missions, by music and the list goes on. The problem is that often we are attempting to be driven by all of these and that leads to a lot of confusion, conflict and changes that don't really change anything.

We need to determine what really drives us as a church, as individuals, as families and I know that businesses need to figure out what is driving the business. A sign on a closed business read, "Gone out of business, we couldn't figure out what business we were in". If we don't decide what will drive us we will get pulled in all kinds of different directions with every person's idea of the direction the church so go.

So how about you? What drives you in life? What purpose filter do you run your decisions through? What about your church, do you know what is driving it?

Here's hoping whatever is your driving force is from the Lord and not just your personal preference.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

God is so good! We serve an awesome God who is able to do so much more than we can imagine. Last evening was another of our Summer Sunday Evening Shake-ups. Not a special lemonade drink, but doing things completely different on Sunday Evenings this summer. Last week we had groups out visiting, writing notes of encouragement to people and others praying for all of the groups and those being touched by the ministry. Last night was a Service Project Night. We had 43 people come and serve. Some went to our city park and painted some picnic tables and a restroom to help out the city and those who enjoy the park. Some went downtown (that is not as big as it sounds in our town) and washed all the windows on the business storefronts, at least those who would allow it. Some went around our neighborhood and handed out 90 batteries for people's smoke dectectors just to show we care. There were some who were praying for all the groups and the impact on people's lives. Then some of those who were handing out batteries told me there was an older lady trying to spread mulch in a very large area by herself. So some of us went and finished the project for her in 30 or 40 minutes, it would have taken her all week I believe. She was so excited, she said she couldn't wait to tell her son, that he wouldn't believe it was all done. We did not have a "service" last night, instead we were out serving. How cool is that?

Sunday morning was a good day. Our children did a special song, they always do great and bring a lot of energy. Our worship during singing was very good and there was a very good spirit in the place. People were paying attention and got into the message on expressing appreciation and affection for those with whom we have relationships. The prayer time around the altar was powerful. Our attention was down from recent weeks, but above a year ago.

This week I am preparing the final message in my series on "Learning to have Fantastic Relationships". This message is really the cornerstone of the whole series, it is on commitment. I planned to finish the series with this topic because it falls on Father's Day and men need to be challenged and reminded of our commitment to our spouses, children, families and friendships. If you are inclined to pray for me, this week is one in which I especially covet your prayers. We will also be having our second annual "Manly BBQ" following our morning worship. We be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, have chips and baked beans, there will be no casseroles, no salads and no fufu desserts. We will be having a tug-o-war and a log toss, there will also be a lot of other games around for anyone to play.

Here's hoping you express appreciation to someone this week, especially someone who not get another affirmation. Here's hoping that you look for ways to serve someone this week. Here's hoping that those eat too many of the beans this Sunday are not in front of me during tug-o-war.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Let it go ...

I am always amazed how long we can hold onto grudges and the wrongs we believe someone has done to us. I regularly hear from people how they "just can't get past" what someone did to them in the past. Sometimes it happened recently and other times it happened many years ago. But by not letting it go and moving on the wrong still seems fresh to the person. It is only fresh because they continue to feed it and nurture the hurt. If they would let it go and move on the hurt would begin to lessen and seem a lot further in the past.

I realize that some who are reading this are arguing with me in your mind and saying that I just don't understand what happened to you and that I have probably never had anyone hurt me, speak poorly of me, take advantage of me or lie about me. Well you are right and wrong in your assumptions. You are right in the fact that I likely don't know what hurt you have endured and you are wrong in thinking I have never had any of these things happen to me. Trust me, Pastors are not immune to any of this stuff.

We have all been hurt by friends, loved ones and others. Jesus faced this one big time and yet he let it go and moved on. In fact he let it go by forgiving the person who hurt him, including those who crucified him. What I have learned is that it is just not worth it. It is not worth the time it takes from my life to hold on to and nurture any hurts others have inflicted on me. It is not worth the pain that continues when I won't let go the hurt. It is not worth the harm I cause for those closest to me when I am holding on to the hurts from the past and can be what I need to be for them because my mind and heart is focused on the hurt. It is not worth the separation in my relationship with Christ that caused when I let the hurt get between us. It is not worth it.

So let it go. It is not easy, but it is worth it. Ask the Lord to help you with this process. Ask a loved one or good friend to help you by listening and holding you accountable to let it go. Forgive them, whether you have asked for it or not and whether they deserve it or not. None of us deserved for Christ to forgive us and die in our place, but he did it and tells us to do the same for others. Pray for, not against, the one who hurt you. I find it impossible to be bitter toward those for whom I am praying. Enjoy the freedom that comes from releasing the hurt and moving on.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Way it Ought to Be ...

This is the time of year where I attend several graduation open houses and often multiple graduation ceremonies as well. Last night the wife and I attended my 3rd graduation ceremony of the year. I know that is not a lot, but hey, how many did you attend? Anyway, last night's ceremony was how all graduations should be in my opinion, and since this is my blog my opinion is the one that counts the most. (Except for the wife, of course. I have been married over 31 years, I know there are wrong answers to certain questions.)

You see most graduation ceremonies are conducted as if they are very solemn, sometimes even somber, events. The truth is nearly everyone involved is feeling anything but solemn and somber. They are feeling giddy, happy, relieved, joyous, proud and maybe even surprised, but not somber. Sometimes the education community takes itself way too seriously. I know of what I speak, I was a public school teacher for 5 years and have coached in public schools for 12 or 13 years. At graduation events someone in a suit, or fancy dress, always tells everyone that this is joyous event and even a celebration, but then warns everyone to act with decorum and reservation. I don't know about you, but for me joy and decorum don't go together and neither do celebration and acting reserved.

Last night's graduation event got it right. It was awesome! Not only were we not cautioned to be reserved, but we were encouraged to cheer for the graduates. I loved it. The graduates all reacted with great joy as they received their diplomas and they cheered themselves as well. It was so cool.

This graduation was for 8 special needs students. They had completed requirements to move on to another program or were now moving on into society. Before you dismiss this as not a real graduation, I caution you to ask any of those parents if this was real? To look at the faces of the graduates and tell them it wasn't real. To see how they clung to their diplomas and say they really don't count. Frankly I think "regular" graduations could learn a lot from last night, even the administrators sitting on the platform got into it.

So how about it, will you join me in trying to get the schools everywhere to lighten up and enjoy the victory? I will say it again, last night is how graduations ought to be. By the way, great job Ben, we are all proud of you and some of those cheers, whistles and loud applause was from your Pastors and their wives. We were not reserved, we showed no decorum and I am proud of us.

Here's to enjoying the victories and living life as if we are glad to be here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very exciting day. We celebrated Baby Day, it is something we do annually to highlight our Nursery ministry, show off our babies and honor those who work in this vital ministry. I think we had 8 babies, and parents, who were apart of the show, and we had pictures from a few more who didn't make it to the service. Baby Day always has an extra level of excitement. After the service we had a potluck meal and an all church baby shower for my Associate Pastor and his wife, their first child is due in about 2 and a half weeks. Man did they get a haul of stuff. I am really excited for them and it was great how the church came through. Even with all of the extra stuff we still had a good spirit during the service. It was a little different preaching because we had everyone sitting around tables so we could move right into the meal and baby shower. The fact that it was a little more difficult to communicate the message was ironic because the message was on the need for positive communication in our relationships. Our attendance was great, we were within 16 of our Easter attendance.

The evening was another time of change. We kicked off our Summer Sunday Evening Shake-Up. We had people choose 1 of 4 groups to be a part of for the evening. They could be in the prayer group, they could be in the group who wrote notes of encouragement, they could make phone calls or join the group who went out to make visits in homes. Several dozen notes were written, much prayer was done and 11 people went and made some home visits. Some of the ones making home visits said would do some more later this week. All things considered it was a good night. I need to lay things out a little better next time, but it was a good first experience.

Which made for a great day. What a great way to start the church summer.

Here's hoping your summer is off to a great start.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I always wonder ...

There are many things in my life that I wonder about, like why they don't make mouse flavored cat food, why it takes a family of 5 to stay home from church when any one of them is sick, and why Noah ever let those two mosquitoes into the ark? But these are not the kind of "wonders" I am thinking about this afternoon.

I am writing about the wonders of how people I used to minister to are really doing. How the couples I have married are doing? What of the babies I have dedicated? What of the families of those whose funeral I preached? Those are the kind of wonders I am thinking of today.

This is prompted by an email I received this morning. It was one of those out of the blue emails. It was from a couple whose wedding I did several years ago in another pastorate. They stumbled upon my email address and decided to contact me. It was a very encouraging email. They brought me up to speed on their life and marriage and even some of their extended family who were a part of my ministry in the past.

It brought a smile to my face and great feeling in my heart. Their marriage is good, they have some fun, energetic kids (are there any other kind?) and they are following the Lord and involved in a local church. They moved away as soon as they got married because of jobs and I moved from that church shortly after their marriage to take another pastorate. They even thanked me for the pre-marital counseling that I required of them before the wedding. I am not sure they were excited when I requred it, but they are seeing some of the value of it now.

Reading the email was one of those moments that just confirmed that it is worth it. It is worth being a pastor. That even with all of the other junk (or crap if that doesn't offend you, if the word crap offends you then just stick with the word junk) that sometimes comes with the position of pastor it is still worth it. The wife and I had lunch with another pastoral couple this week. They wanted to meet to talk about their church and ask questions of what they might be able to do to see it turn around and be what they believe it could be. They were very positive given the difficulty of their ministry, but fighting with discouragement. We listened, tried to encourage and give some ideas that might help. Most of it all it reminded me that it is easy to wonder if it is worth it.

So for that email this morning I am grateful. My wonders were answered in this small area today. The wife and I are headed to 3 graduation open houses this afternoon and I am sure that it prompt some more wondering on my part. But for now I am thrilled to know that it was worth it and that that one couple is doing well. Thanks Lord, I needed that.