Thursday, October 30, 2008

Welcome Back ...

No, Mr. Kotter hasn't taken over this blog, but I am welcoming myself back from an unintended blogcation. My volleyball team had 3 nights of competition last week in 5 days, and one of those was a doubleheader. Then I left town within a half an hour of the last match for the weekend. That's right I took a couple of days of vacation and actually missed a Sunday. That hadn't happened for 6 months.

The weekend was great. I got together with 4 other guys. We became friends our freshman year in college. We have maintained contact for these 35 years since that first meeting our freshman year. Wow, I am getting old. We gathered at a lake cottage a couple of hours from where I live. 3 of us are within 2 hours of the gathering place, 1 is 5 or 6 hours away and one had to fly in to join us. 2 of the group live back in their hometowns, 3 are in the state they grew up in and 2 of us are not even in our original home state. Among the 5 of us we have 16 children, 13 grandchildren with another one due any day. A couple of interesting facts are that among the 5 of us I am the only one who has lost a parent and none of us has been divorced. But, one of the guys recently lost his wife after a 3 year battle with a brain tumor.

We still get along well after all these years, in spite of the geographic distances between us and the varied experiences in which we are working and living. We did a little bit of reminiscing, but that was the smallest part of our conversations. It was fun to catch up on what is happening in each of our lives. We are all not only attending church, but involved in our churches as well.

The weekend was a much needed time to get away, to laugh a lot, share with those who know us and care for us. There was not much rest given that we didn't make it bed until 3 am or later each night. But it was still very refreshing.

From all reports things went well here at church while I was gone. (Not to self: they can survive just fine without me.) Attendance was down, but the spirit was good.

Here's hoping you can enjoy some time of renewal and refreshment this week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Colors ...

One of the reasons I enjoy living in the upper midwest is the changing of the colors in the fall. It is a gorgeous and invigorating sight when the leaves on trees begin their annual transformation. To drive near wooded areas and see the bigger picture of so many trees and the multitude of colors is a blast. God has created a beautiful picture. If I understand it correctly the colors are determined by what is inside the tree, in other words the type of tree generally dictates what colors will come out. The colors come out when the tree begins to experience the stress of the changing temperatures of fall. I realize that I haven't given a scientific explanation, but I think I have the principle correct.

That got me thinking about us and what comes out of us under stress. What are my colors when stress comes? I am trying to figure out what comes out when faced with stress. How about you? What color comes out in your life when stress comes your way?

Some trees burst forth with beautiful colors, others just kind of turn brown and fall off. I want to be someone who shows great color when stress comes my way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Wow, I really stink at this blogging thing lately.

Yesterday was a confusing day. My Sunday School class didn't go as I expected and our overall Sunday School attendance was down. The worship service went okay. We are still having different worship leaders each week until our regular leader is able to return from his back surgery. This creates some issues each week, nothing big, just different. Our fill-in leaders have done a great job and the fact that we have a few people who are capable of stepping in is a tremendous blessing. I realize that many churches do not have this ability and I am very grateful for our abundance in this area.

Just looked outside and saw that the power company is setting up to work on an electrical pole in our parking lot. Don't know what is going on, maybe I will lose power before I finish this post.

People seemed to participate okay during the congregational part of the music. We had several people who had to leave before the service was over because of work or other commitments. The spirit in the service was okay. People seemed to follow along during the message, but I can't say that I felt they were fully engaged as they were a week ago. We had many regulars absent and still had a reasonable attendance. We had some people there who had not been to a service quite some time. That was encouraging. The message asked the question, "Living by Faith, or Fear?" We examined our memories in this area. We looked at what a life controlled by fear looks like and how a life controlled by faith is lived. Then we came back to the question of which you choose to be controlled by, faith or fear?

We had a good time of discussion in the evening. We have been doing a study entitled "Where did you get your god?" We have been looking at popular images of God and then contrasting that with the truth of the Bible. This has led to some interesting conversations around the tables. Last night we looked at the controlling image for many people of an "all you can eat buffet god". This is where people take what they like from many belief systems and discard what they don't like to come up with a god that fits what they like. It was a very interesting time.

The power didn't go out and made it through the post. I will try post a little more often this week. Have a great week and find someone to encourage.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Random Thoughts ...

*Did you realize that it is less than 2 1/2 months till Christmas?

*My volleyball team had it's biggest win of the year (maybe the biggest of the past 4 or 5 years) last Thursday night. It was a great night. We took a doubleheader against a big rival of ours whom we had not beaten in years.

*I love fall weather, the colors and smells.

*I believe my church needs a breakthrough moment like my volleyball team had last week.

*I can't believe I got excited to fill up my car at $2.88 a gallon.

*How do you motivate unmotivated people?

*I was so disappointed that my Cubs got swept out of the playoffs.

*My oldest daughter completed her second marathon on Sunday in Chicago. She lowered her time by almost 30 minutes. Wow!

*My wife is awesome.

*I haven't had any cold cider yet this fall. I need to get some soon.

*The Tampa Bay Rays are an awesome story this baseball season.

*I am really hungry.

*Just finished a disturbing book entitled "Quitting Church", it is on why the faithful are fleeing church. It was a worthwhile, and discouraging, read.

*Wow, the Browns are crushing the Giants.

*I miss the old Bob Newhart show, the one where he owned an Inn up in Vermont, or someplace like that, and he had the 3 brothers for neighbors, Larry, Darryl and Darryl. That show cracked me up.

*I am really hungry.

*I think I will go eat something I shouldn't.

*Good night!

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day. The weather was gorgeous. The Spirit in the services was very good. Someone led worship who had never done it before and did a very good job. There seemed to be good energy in the building as the service started and the energy level stayed pretty high for most of the service. The church recognized my wife's birthday and gave her an iPod, personally engraved, among a few other items. Since she has recently taken up running this was a great gift and she is really excited. Our attendance was back up, which was encouraging. But more encouraging was the reaction and response to the whole worship experience, including the message.

I preached on hope, "Hope in Weakness, or Weak Hope?". We looked at some ideas of hope. We also examined suffering and our own weaknesses. Then we looked at our hope and the help that is available to us. People seemed to be engaged throughout the message and I had a few comment about how much they needed the reminder, challenge and encouragement (I heard all of those, interesting how God uses the same words to personally speak to different people in different ways.). For me, I was not pleased with how I presented the message, but it is not supposed to be about me. So when people are touched when I didn't do my part well, I am reminded all over again that it is about God and people listening to Him.

In the evening we had a missionary who works in the countries of Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela speak. He shared an awesome story of the conversion of a former enforcer for the powerful drug cartel in Cali, Columbia. He was powerful and very moving. We had a good attendance for this time as well.

Here's hoping that you have hope in your weakness this week and that you are enable to encourage someone else to be hopeful as well.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Birthday Girls ...

Tuesday was a day to celebrate the birthdays of 2 of my favorite girls (I have 5. My wife, my 2 daughters, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter). My wife and my granddaughter. They have shared a birthday for 4 years now. My wife has had that birthday for a few more than my granddaughter. As my wife has said many times our granddaughter was the best birthday gift she ever received. Which makes me feel somewhat sad to think no gift I have ever given her has measure up, but I know what she means.

We made a trip about 3 hours south to celebrate the two together. The younger of the two ladies definitely got more presents and squealed a lot more than the one who has seen a few more birthdays. One of the most entertaining parts of the celebration was that my granddaughter read everyone one of her cards out loud. She is 4 years old mind you, so she didn't read was written on the cards, rather she created a story with each card and read it to us complete with "the end" for each and every card. Clever girl and entertaining girl. Her older brothers and I then played one of the games she got for her birthday while she took grandma into her room to play with a few of her other presents. Don't worry, the birthday girl got to play the game later, both of them played actually.

Birthdays are beautiful reminders of the joy of life and that we need to be ever thankful for each one that we are able to celebrate.

Happy birthday girls!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday had much excitement. We celebrated the 100th Anniversary of our denomination. We had pointed toward this day for a month. We had Sunday School lessons that dealt with our history and theology for the past month. It was very interesting and thought provoking. We focused just on our worship service. We had a carry in meal after worship and provided the meat, drinks and dessert to make it easier on families and new people. There a lot of excitement and anticipation as the service began. We opened with a very upbeat special song by a trio and people really got into the song. Our music went well and the band sounded good, even with 2 key band members gone.

My message was about glancing back and moving ahead. We looked briefly at our history, the foundation laid for us and then focused on our plan to move ahead. The focus was on our discipleship process that centers around 4 words, reaching, connecting, growing and serving. Everything needs to be measured against these words. We must reach the people around us through relationships, genuine relationships. We must connect to these people, help connect them to others and most importantly move them toward connecting with God. There must be growth, spiritually as individuals and a church. If these things are happening then there will be some numerically growth as well, but that is not our focus. Serving is the key. We must have servant hearts and truly look to serve others, especially those outside the church. All of these interconnect and are a continuous cycle. The challenge was on whether or not we will commit to this process. The wonderful history we enjoy is because of those who made this commitment before us. The question is what we will do with the opportunities in front of us.

We had all kinds of technical problems and last moment adjustments because because of technical or people issues. That made for me being frustrated, but the bottom line for the day was good. Our attendance was disappointing given the build up for the day. But again, it was a very good day.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Which came first ...

Regarding my previous post, I have received some great thoughts and advice in comments and emails. I am processing everything and still wrestling with some stuff in regards to these burdens. But a question that had been bouncing around in my mind (believe me there is a lot of open space in which to bounce) is "Which came first?" Did the burden come first followed by the frustration? Or, did the frustration come first and turn into a burden?

What do you think? How has it happened with you?

For me, I think it has happened both ways, either that or I am being unduly influenced by politicians and there straddling of the fences. I believe I have some issues where I was burdened first and some where I was frustrated first. Or maybe I am just losing what is left of my mind.

Have an awesome Sunday!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Frustrated Burden ...

Just wondering, have you ever had some that frustrated you, but it was also something for which you are greatly burdened? If so, how did you handle it?

I am facing that scenario in a couple of areas. The real concern is that I don't to become frustrated with my burden. I mean we all get frustrated with some stuff at times. We all have things for which we are burdened. Sometimes these things are minor and other times that are all consuming.

The areas for which I am both frustrated and burdened are not minor (at least not in my opinion), they are not yet all consuming, but they are getting closer with each passing day. What I don't want to have happen is that my frustration becomes bigger than my burden.

Any suggestions? I am trying to figure out if I can share these frustrations/burdens and do it with the right spirit and appropriately.

Now that I have appropriately confused and frustrated you I can sign off.