Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sorely Thankful ...

This was a great time with family at Thanksgiving. My oldest daughter (middle child) hosted our family, all 12 of us. She is a resident director at a small college and all the students were gone. We also used a guest house on the campus for sleeping purposes. But all day we had the run of a 3 story dorm. It was great. I played hours of hide and seek, hide and seek tag, regular tag and sardines. If you are not familiar with hide and seek tag, it is simply combining the classic games of tag and hide and seek. You seek those who are hiding, but must also tag them to have successfully found them. Sardines is where one person hides then the rest of the group tries to find them, but when you find them you hide with them until the last person has found the group.

I haven't run that much in a long time, especially sprinting and add to it that many of these sprints were up and down stairs. Therefore, the title of this post. My legs hurt like they haven't hurt in many years. I might look to add this to my volleyball team's preseason conditioning. Amazingly the grandkids didn't seem to mind it at all. As I recall no child ever asked to stop playing for a while, it was always an adult, okay it was usually me. But that is because I played nearly every game.

It was awesome to be able to spend so much time with my wife, kids (that includes my kids-in-law because I consider them my kids) and grandkids. The grandkids range in age from 2 weeks shy of 11, to 8, to 6, to 4 to 20 months. After the kids went to bed the adults (I use that term purely from a biological definition) would play table games. The running stopped after the kids went down, unless you count running the mouth (did I type that?). We enjoyed a wonderful meal, it actually lasted for at least 3 meals we are nothing if not thrifty or at least very hungry.

It was so encouraging to see my kids and grandkids enjoying each other's company and not minding that mom and dad were hanging around. It is great to see that all of my kids love the Lord and are serving the Lord where they live. It is encouraging to to get hugs and kisses from grandkids. It is encouraging and incredibly humbling to realize how blessed I am. So I am very thankful for many things and I am very sore for some obvious reasons. That's right I am sorely thankful.

Lord, help me to notice and touch those who do not have as much for which to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crisis Thoughts ...

Don't panic, there has been no accident or anything like that, but there is still a crisis. It is a crisis of thinking first of all. I mentioned last week that shared with my congregation that I was frustrated with the "normal flow" of church. God has been messing with my heart and my head for quite a while which has created the crisis.

It goes something like this, I don't believe we should keep doing church the way we have been doing church. How is that for a crisis thought? Which means I as a Christ follower (not to mention pastor) can't keep doing things the same old way.

There are needs all around us, all kinds of needs. What are we doing to meet those needs and help the people with the needs? What should we be doing? Part of the answer is that we should be doing a lot more than we are currently doing.

I believe that we do too many things at church that are the already convinced and not nearly enough for others. I believe that we need to be doing more that shows that we are not only following Christ in belief but also in practice. Jesus was among the people, touching people where they lived and where they hurt. How are 4+ services a week following His example?

A crisis, yes it is a crisis of thought. Stay tuned for how this crisis progresses. Oh yeah, your prayers about this crisis are desperately needed and humbly appreciated.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a difficult day. My wife was gone, that always messes with me. I gain a lot of confidence from knowing she is present. She was watching 4 of our grandkids so their parents could a attend an awesome ministry conference. I am glad she could get away, glad for the time she got to spend with grandkids and glad she could help our son and daughter-in-law attend a great conference. But I still missed her. She does a lot of things on Sundays that most people are not aware of, some of that I tried to pick up, some others helped and some things didn't get done.

Our music was not smooth yesterday, not one particular reason, it just wasn't smooth. My message was not smooth either, that one is on me alone. The message was on being Thankful and remembering that for which we should be thankful. II Timothy 2:1-13 was the passage we examined as Paul reminded Timothy of many things. He started with Grace. That is always a great place to start. Paul told Timothy to "be strong in the grace". What a great admonition! I need to be stronger in that grace. Being thankful for it, living it, sharing it and just being grace filled.

Our attendance was way down, a lot of people were gone and it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet. Sunday evening we dismissed so we could participate in a Community Thanksgiving Service. This is an annual event in our community. It was poorly attended by the community and by people from my church. I think people are voting that it is no longer a priority for them. Just a thought.

Looking forward to today as a former staff minister from another ministry comes to talk about his new church plant. It will be good to see him and to hear about this exciting ministry.

Here's hoping you experience grace this week. (Hint: share it and you are more likely to experience it.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Interruptions ...

What do you think of interruptions? I am one of those people who is schizophrenic when it comes to interruptions. You see I am often looking for something else. If I am reading one book I have a tendency to interrupt that by beginning another one that looks interesting. If I am studying I too often look for an interruption. But I don't always like interruptions. If I have just started to eat I don't like to have to stop eating because of an interruption (but it happens a lot to me). If I have planned some get away time I don't like to be interrupted.

But I am realizing that some of the best opportunities come disguised as interruptions. Also, it seems that we too often are not willing to minister to those in need around us because we don't want our schedules, or plans, interrupted.

I recently read a statement about giving that said something like, "It isn't real sacrificial giving unless it interrupts our plans". How do you do with interruptions? How about when it is God doing the interrupting?

My prayer lately is for God to interrupt my plans with His plans. For God to interrupt me when I am too focused on me to notice the needs of others around me. For God to interrupt me when I don't want to be bothered with anything but what I have planned.

Here's hoping you have some great interruptions this week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Do You Respond?

I have been reminded a few times in recent weeks that we have to decide how we will respond when someone else stumbles and falls. What goes through your mind when you hear of someone you know, or know of, who blows it and falls? Do you think , "I knew it, I saw that one coming."? Do you think, "How could they be so dumb?" Do you think, "Better them than me!"? Or do you think, "Ouch, wow that one hurt, they must be hurting too. What can I do to help them?"

I want to respond with the last one. In fact I want to take it a step further, I want also to have it be a reminder that I am weak and that I could fall too, that I need all the help I can get from the Lord and my friends. I want to respond this way, but in all honesty I have sometimes responded with one of the other options.

How can I get better at responding the way I desire to respond? I think that the obvious first step is to pray for the right attitude and to be filled with compassion. I think that I really need to remind myself that I can fall and walk with dependance upon the Lord. I think that I need to let some of those around me who stumble know that I still love them, no matter what. I think that I need to model this in front of my family, friends, community and church.

People are falling, or stumbling toward a fall, all around most of us. How will you respond?

Lord, help me to respond with grace and compassion. Help me ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Here ...

It has arrived and is no longer a secret. It is snow. We have had some snow in the last week or so, but yesterday afternoon it snowed hard for a while. It snowed enough that it covered the ground. The temperature hasn't gotten above the 30's for about 3 or 4 days. Today was gorgeous, with a lot of sunshine and this morning the sun was glistening off of the snow.

I am not really ready for full blown winter yet, but the snow was some good looking stuff. It means basketball is getting into full swing. It means that scraping windows is not far away. It means that I can break out the sweaters and I love sweaters. It means my wife and I get to "discuss" the setting on the thermostat at home. (Of course we all know that she will win the discussions on temperature.) It means that hot chocolate and hot cider will taste so good.

Like it or not here winter comes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an interesting day. It was cold, at least by mid-November averages. Our time of worship went okay. We didn't have any major technical glitches (there are always some minor ones). My Sunday School class was pretty good as we continued our look at things we sometimes don't handle well in the church. Yesterday we looked at how we teach truth. That is becoming more difficult in our society that seems to view all truth as relative, in other words it depends on the situation. My "no sermon" (see 2 posts previous) went okay. I didn't print an outline like I normally do. There was no powerpoint presentation on the screen, with the exception of one quote that I wanted people to not only hear but see. I called it a message and not a sermon. I am not sure what the difference really is, but I wanted the people to know that this was not the norm. That this message was coming from great concern and even frustration.

The bottom line of the message was that Jesus was among the people. He was aware of the needs and He touched people and their needs. He called the disciples to follow Him and pray for others to follow that example as well in Matthew 9:35-38. Also, in Acts 2:37, after Peter has shared about how the people had just crucified the Messiah. The one they claimed to have been waiting to follow. The people responded. The verse says the people were "cut to the heart". The Greek here means to "pierce thoroughly" or to "agitate violently". When was the last time that God's Word pierced you thoroughly, or agitated you violently? Then the people asked an awesome question, "... what shall we do?"

That is the question that we need to be asking, what shall we do? In light of the needs around us, what shall we do? Jesus' example was to get among the people, touch them and share Jesus with them. To help meet their needs. To love them right where they are and make sure they know that Jesus loves them as well.

A few came to the altar to pray at the end seeking what God would have them do, or repenting for not doing what they already know to do. You see Peter's answer to the question of what shall they do was to repent. To turn from the current direction and action and go the other way.

The comments after were mostly positive. It was an interesting day. Also, we had the highest attendance we have had in months.

Here's hoping you find a way to touch someone's need this week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Special Gift

I have received some neat gifts throughout my life. As a pastor I have had some interesting and meaningful gifts. Specially engraved pens, nameplates, a tree, and many other things. But this week I got a unique and special one that made me smile, laugh and feel great. It was a box of M & M's. Not your grocery store shelf variety, and not even the Costco or Sam's Club over sized type. This box came delivered by UPS. It was a more like a 5 pound box.

Now it was not the size of the box that made this box special, though that was pretty amazing. When I opened the box I saw that these were special ordered M & M's. Half of them had my name printed on the side opposite the M & M insignia and the other half of them had the words "Keep Swinging".

As soon as I saw the words "Keep Swinging" I knew who had sent them. A good friend, former parishioner, had sent them. That is his phrase to me. It is a phrase of encouragement. He uses it often when writing to me. The M & M's came at a special time and they really did encourage me. They made me smile and laugh. Those near me when I opened it didn't understand, but I didn't care because I knew that a good friend had picked me up.

The M & M's taste great, but the message of them is even better. Thanks buddy, I needed that and I am continuing to swing with all I that is in me. May you be blessed for all the encouraging you do.

Here's hoping you find the opportunity to encourage someone this week.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Sermon

That's right, at the moment I have no sermon for tomorrow morning. I have message that I think I will be sharing, but no sermon. What does this mean? Well, stay tuned for future posts to see the facts revealed.

Here is the opening that I have written for tomorrow:

"I have no sermon today. I have a message, sort of, but no sermon. It is not because of busyness. It is not because of lack of thought. It is because of frustration. It is because I have a growing sense of unrest with the 'normal flow' of church. My frustration has been a long time coming. It is ... "

Stayed tuned, I will try and recap what happens for you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Search

We are still in the search mode for our Associate Pastor position. I had another person come in for a visit and interview yesterday and today. This went very well and I was duly impressed.

Now we pray, wait and see what happens next. I am waiting to see if he is interested in continuing the process. He got the full picture as he was here for a midweek youth meeting. We had a good number present. I gave them the opportunity to ask him any questions. It was interesting to say the least. He handled himself very well under difficult circumstances.

We had some lengthy conversations, I showed him around the town (that wasn't lengthy) and we shared a couple of meals together. There was a question and answer time with the church board. I imagine he had a lot to process as he made his way home.

We had someone else in for a visit and interview a couple of weeks ago. So I am pushing forward to try and find the right person. I would like to have the position filled yesterday, but I want the right person and am willing to wait. However, it has been 4 and a half months since our previous person left, so I am ready.

Your prayers for this matter are much appreciated.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Musings ...

I didn't to this post in time to make a morning musing, but then again I posted something else last night anyway.

Yesterday was of some ups and downs. We had some technical glitches again during worship, that is always frustrating but you learn to move past them. We were missing a key member of our worship band, but he can be excused since he got a call early in the morning that a grandchild was about to be born, so he took off to be there for the event. Temperatures dropped considerably over the weekend. It was in the high 60's and low 70's during the week and then barely hit 40 on Saturday and never got out of the 30's on Sunday and even snowed last evening. Our time of singing in worship went okay and our prayer time went well. I loved the special song. I didn't love my message but I believe the past few weeks have come together well and the accumulation has been good. This was on Trusting God versus Settling for what is easiest. Proverbs 3:5-6 was the scriptural foundation. Attendance was way down.

Sunday School went well and we had some good discussion on the impact of culture on the church.

Sunday evening our continued study on "Where Did You Get Your God?" moved to the positive side. We had looked at incorrect images people have of God and we began looking at some positive images people have of God. This one led to the subject of prayer and how much God desires to give us what is needed. Yet we so often are timid in our prayer.

Here's hoping that you are looking for ways to encourage someone this week.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

How to Support & Appreciate Your Pastoral Staff

This post is in response to a call from my buddy Rob. He listed several posts he would like to see from different people he knows and his request for me was "How to Best Support and Appreciate Your Pastoral Staff". In all fairness I must confess that he made this request a couple of weeks ago and I have been slow to respond. Why? For one, I knew he would call me out on it and I wanted to see what he would say. Two, I have been busy, how lame is that one? Three, it seems somewhat self-serving for me as a pastor to talk about how to appreciate me. Four, I am not sure I really know how to answer this one.

With all of those qualifiers I am sure that I have sufficiently lowered your expectations of this post, therefore I can now move forward.

I know it sounds like a cliche, but praying for your pastors is the best way you can support them. I mean to really pray for them, not just say it and think of it on Sundays, but to really pray for them regularly. Let them know that you are praying for them and even ask them if there are specific things that you can for in the coming week. Pray for their family relationships, their own spiritual condition, to be strong against temptation, to not get discouraged, to be wise, to have sufficient energy, pray for their family and for their times of study. When someone tells me they are praying for me it is encouraging, when they follow up later and ask how something they prayed for is going I am really pumped.

Allow them to talk about stuff other than church. Sometimes pastors just need to be regular people, they have other interests, hobbies, etc... They need to have some place and some people where they can be real. Find out what interests they have and encourage them to take time to pursue them. They will be more well rounded and healthier and you just might enjoy spending some time with them outside of church.

Remember that their families need them. Don' t make so many time demands on them that they cannot be what they need to be for their families. Allow them to be at their kids events even when they may be at odd times. Encourage them to spend time with their spouse and help make some provisions so that they can have some quality alone time.

Insist that they go to some quality training event, or events, every year. They need to challenge of these events and the connection with others who are in ministry. The change of pace is good and the training will benefit you and your church as well. Make sure that they are able to go without guilt about being away from the church.

Be sure that they take their days off and all their vacation time. I speak this from the experience of not doing that for too many years. There was always something pressing, something that I felt only I could do, I was wrong. But it helps to have lay people who check to see that the pastor takes time off. It shows that you notice and that you care for their long term well being. You would be amazed at how cared for your pastor will feel with someone who does this for them.

I am sure that I could go on, but I will let this suffice for now. There are of course special gifts, if they are connected to some of the above items they will be even more special. Also, if you give gifts that show you know them, their interests and needs they will be all the more special.

There you go Rob.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hard to Watch ...

Have you ever watched something and then declared, "That was hard to watch." Sometimes that is because the game, show, movie, play or program was bad, sometimes it is because you would rather have been doing something else and sometimes it is because you think "that should have been me". Last night I watched a District championship volleyball match and just kept thinking that should have been us. The night before we lost a tough 4 game match against a team we had beaten twice earlier in the season. No sour grapes, they beat us fair and square, but you just had a sense that we should have won. But as the old saying goes, "if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we'd all have a merry Christmas". (just be careful if you try to say that fast).

The match I watched was very good, it was exciting, it was a come from behind, 5 game, nail biter. But it was hard to watch because I just kept thinking it should have been us.

That got me to thinking about my relationship with Christ (hey, I'm a pastor, I look for illustrations everywhere). I wonder how often Christ looks at my life, my use of time, the things I do and thinks "it should have been me". That the things that occupy my thoughts and time are not always what they should be and I imagine there are many times the Lord watches with regret thinking "that should be my time".

How about you? Are you "hard to watch" sometimes?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

I am tired this morning, and that is after an extra hour of sleep Saturday night. The past few days have been very long days. There has been something extra every day for the past week, but that is not all that unusual. I guess that means that those things weren't really "extra" things then, were they?

Yesterday was a good day. Our time of singing during worship was very good, people seemed to be engaged and there was a good spirit in the service. We had some first time visitors, who live within sight of the church, that is always exciting. We had a family from the community visit who has a 3 or 4 year daughter who is battling cancer. Our church did a fund raiser for them in the spring and raised over $5,000 to help with their living and travel expenses as they seek treatment for her. She is home for a week between treatments. It was very humbling to have them their, it was also exciting to be able to rejoice and continue to pray for them. Prayer time was extra emotional with them in attendance. I felt like the message time was flat, people didn't seem to really be engaged, but by the volume, and depth, of comments afterward I think they were more engaged than I realized.

I showed a picture of myself and 4 college buddies from last weekend and then preached from Mark 2, where the 4 friends brought their buddy to Jesus to be healed. When they couldn't get in the front door they made a hole in the roof and got in to Jesus. Their friend received forgiveness of sins and was physically healed. I talked about us coming together to support our friend who had recently lost his wife because of a brain tumor. I asked people "What are you holding?" I spoke from this passage about the friends holding their friend and carrying him to Jesus. I pointed out that none of them carried him by themselves that likely they each carried a corner of the mat he was on and that together they carried him. I asked if they would be willing to at least carry a corner for someone.

My Sunday School class was fun, we had some great discussion about doubt. In answer to the question of whether doubt is good or bad, I said yes. It can be both. Good if spurs you to dig, study and come to conclusions about what you believe. Bad if it is used to keep from dealing with questions. Jude 22 says, "Be merciful to those who doubt..." Interesting thoughts and discussion, I really enjoyed it.

Sunday evening I continued our series on "Where did you get your God?". Looking at different images of God and seeking the God of the Bible to see the right image. This time was when people see God as their "Parents Supersized". Some fun, and humbling, thoughts and discussion.

Afterward the church had a time of food and fellowship for Pastor Appreciation. They gave Jody and I a couple of gifts, showed a bunch of pictures of us ministering in the church and community, gave us a card with a nice check in it and then gave us a pile of cards, notes and prayers. The prayers were what people had written on a 3X5 card of their prayers for each of us. Very cool.

Here's hoping you find a way to carry a corner for someone else this week.