Monday Morning Musings ...
Yesterday turned out to be a very good day. Our morning worship was in the downtown park and was a part of our local town weekend Festival. The weather was threatening all morning. It began sprinkling while our worship band and team were practicing. One of the songs we sang was "Holy Spirit Rain Down" and our worship leader said we this was not to be prophetic. Right as the service began it was still sprinkling and it was very cool for the end of June. Many people were wearing jackets or were wrapped in blankets. I was in shorts and sandals, the last 2 years it was blistering hot for this service. But just after we began worshiping it stopped raining and didn't rain another drop until after the service was done. How cool was that?
The weather hurt the attendance some, but it was still a good crowd all things considered. There was a remarkably good spirit for that type of setting. Our band and worship did a very good job musically and in the spirit in which they ministered. My message was from Numbers 13-14 when the Israelites went to assess and report on the promised land. 10 of the 12 who went focused on the obstacles and recommended no trying to take the land even though God had already promised them the land. Caleb and Joshua were the only ones to say they should, and could, do it because God had promised. The people voted not to go and suffered greatly as a result.
The question they faced was whether to "Give up or Go up". It is the same question we all still face today. Whether to go up and do whatever God is giving us to do or to give up and go back to our own ways. The challenge was to consider what they are currently doing with God is offering them. Are you giving up or going up?
The message seemed to be well received, I went about 17 minutes, that was a little longer than I intended. Thanks to those who prayed for me and to those who prayed after the fact for the impact on people's hearts and minds.
Sunday evening was a fun discussion on the summer topic of shepherding. It is going to be an interesting summer on Sunday evenings.
Here's hoping that you are going up!
Still Wrestling ...
I don't how most other pastors would describe their sermon preparation, but I would often describe mine as "wrestling". I wrestle over what passage to use, over what the main thought needs to be and over how to best present it so that people will take notice and wrestle with it themselves. Maybe I am more wrestling coach than pastor, never thought it that way before, but maybe...I may need to develop that thought further in the future.
The point this morning is that it is Sunday morning at 6:20 and I am still wrestling with the message. This has happened before, in fact I have wrestled right up until I stepped up to preach a few times. That is an unsettling, nervous and exhilarating feeling.
Part of the wrestling this morning is that this is not a normal Sunday morning worship time. Our small town has an annual Festival and this is the weekend. For a few years they have had a Sunday morning worship service at the park as part of the Festival. This is the 3rd year in a row that the responsibility has fallen to our church. Our worship band, team and leader will lead the musical portion of the time and I will be sharing the message. This will take place outdoors at the park. There are supposed to still be some vendors and other parts of the Festival still there and the service will be followed by other events. We did an outdoor service at the park for Father's Day, but that was just us, no rides, vendors or other events. We had complete control of things, this is much different.
I figure at an outdoor service, in a park, with all of the other distractions that I have a much shorter window of attention than normal. That adds to the pressure. So here I sit, still wrestling, praying and hoping. I want desperately to communicate well so that the message from the Word is received, understood and that people would wrestle with it on their own some after the service is over.
The service is now 3 1/2 hours away. Here goes, if you read this in time say a prayer for the service and for me. If you don't read this in time, well you can figure that one out on your own.
Fooling Myself ...
Yesterday I was able to play in a golf outing for a local civic club. It was a fund raiser for their scholarship fund and for other projects they do around the community. I am an officer in the club so I felt I needed to participate, plus I enjoy golfing so it was a win win. My team came in second place just one stroke behind the winning team. We had an excellent score of 12 under par on 18 holes. When I told people that my team came in second and what our score was they were appropriately impressed.
In fact, those who have never played golf with me made the assumption that I am probably a decent golfer. That would be incorrect assumption on their part. The surprising part of all this is that I caught myself beginning to think that I was a pretty good golfer as a result of how our team finished. You see this was a scramble, where the rules are that each person on your team hit a shot then you determine which of those was the best shot. Everyone else picks up their golf ball and proceeds to hit their next shot from where the best shot landed. In the course of the day everyone contributes and the team used a few of my shots. But not on every hole and certainly my shots were not used anywhere near the most on our team. There were 2 very good golfers in our group and we used their shots the most.
Then I thought of my walk with the Lord and realized that because of His strengths that I can look better than I ever deserve to look on my own. It is tempting to begin to think that we are the one carrying the "team" and forget that it is only because of how good He is that we are winning.
I need to never forget that I am on the winning team in the long run and that I am blessed to be a part of His team. I need to keep serving Him and following His will, but remember it is by His grace that I look good.
Monday Morning Musings ...
Yesterday was a very positive day. Our time of singing during worship went well and people seemed to be responding and participating. The sermon was simply on the fact that "Yes, Jesus Love You". Using John 3:1-21 with obvious focus on John 3:16-17. I used the question that I have been asked many, many times throughout my ministry "How can this be?". People want to know how can Jesus/God love them given their doubts, past, present, questions, etc... It is the exact question that Nicodemus asked in John 3:9. I love telling people that God loves them a lot, that he has given them a lot, that he doesn't desire their condemnation but rather their salvation. I built this on the song "Jesus Loves Me" and we finished the service with that song. A trio sang the verses and all of us sang along with the chorus. There was a very positive, spiritually refreshing feel to the service as we finished.
In the evening there were a couple youth small groups that met and then the children and adults had a Bible study. We looked at shepherding styles. I asked them to compare the shepherd styles of Jesus Christ and Little Bo Peep. If you don't remember, Little Bo Peep realized that she had some lost sheep and wondered what to do. Her style was to leave them alone and they would eventually come home, and actually be happy when they came. Christ's style was to go in search of the 1 lost sheep and when finding the lost one to joyfully carry it back and then to celebrate that the lost one had been found.
Among Christians and churches, I see both styles. I want to be more like Christ and always be among the sheep. To know when one is missing, lost or hurt and then to go to them and carry them if necessary to aid their healing.
What is your style?
I thought I would give you some updates on a few things I have mentioned in previous posts.
My wife went to spend some time with her sister earlier this week. The reason was that her sister had what was reported to be a significant heart attack over the weekend. Her sister is doing better and has been transferred to a rehab section of the hospital and is working to be able to return home. Thanks for your prayers and though she is in a different position she is still in need of prayer.
She made the 6-7 hour trip on Monday to spend time with her sister and niece and nephews. She arrived there tired but safe. She got to spend some real quality time with her sister and especially with her niece and one of her nephews. The other nephew had to leave town for a conference. She returned home Friday night, again tired but safe. I am so glad she was able to spend that time with her family, her brother came for a couple of days. But I am really glad she is home. I really missed her.
I am still feeling the effects of the Father's Day fall. I am also getting virtually no sympathy. But it feels somewhat better, until I lift something or lay on that side.
Families that lost children in the fire
Please continue to pray for these two families. The family whose house burned are facing an especially difficult day tomorrow. Tomorrow would have been their son's birthday. So I am asking you to join me in remembering them with extra prayer tomorrow.
My Associate Pastor
He is approaching his last week with us. A week from tomorrow will be his last Sunday here. We will miss him greatly. I am having to change some of my summer plans as a result of this move. Pray for he and his family in their move and for me as I pursue finding the right person to join our ministry team.
Here's hoping you have a great day tomorrow and that you recognize God's love in a special way.
The Fall ...
I am a pastor, thus the title of my blog site, with that in mind you think by the title of this post that I am about to give you an intellectual treatise about the theology surrounding Adam and Eve being shown the gate at the Garden of Eden. If that were your mind set approaching this post then you obviously don't know me at all. If you do know me then you were simply curious knowing that the title had to mean something else. You might even have begun to get irritated at this point in reading this post wondering where the point of this post might possibly be headed, or if there is a point at all. I can certainly understand your growing frustration. In fact at this point in writing this post I am now beginning to wonder myself.
So if you have been patient, or bored, enough to still be reading this far, or if you are related to me and feel obligated to continue reading knowing precious few people will read this far here is your reward.
On Sunday at our Father's Day whiffleball game (see previous posts) I was an active participant. In fact the record shows, well if would if anyone had kept a record so my memory is the only record, that got a hit all three times I batted. My team lost in the last inning despite my hitting and some outstanding fielding on my part, hey it is my memory and I say my defense was superb. At this point you may have looked back at the title of this post and are wondering once again what the point might be. Here goes, during my first at bat I ripped hit almost to the shortstop and beat the throw to first. At this point you might tempted to begin to marvel at my speed, but you need to remember it was a whiffleball they were attempting to throw and, did I mention it was a little league field? As I reached first base I decided that given remarkable speed in beating out the throw to first, obviously I forgot the whiffleball thing, I rounded the base and took off for second. At this point the fact that my speed was more in my own mind than reality and the fact that I was running in sandals on dirt began to dawn on me. At this point my upper body was moving quicker than my feet. I will pause for a moment to let you picture the moment .....
Okay, back to the story. My upper body continued it's pursuit toward second and feet decided to abort the run. That led to a picturesque tumble. (See I got to the point of the title.) I did a complete somersault and came running, I use that term loosely, on toward second base. At this point the other team was mesmerized by my speed, or my somersault, or they were laughing to hard to throw the ball. Whatever the reason, I made it safely to second base and inspired my team on to losing in the last inning.
Back to the fall. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I continued to play. The reasons I continued to play are several. I am an idiot at times. I didn't want to let me team down. I didn't want to admit that a tumble in a whiffleball game could hurt that much. I am a man. I wanted to keep playing. Now that I type those reasons they all seem to connect back to the first reason, don't they?
Anyway, it still hurts. It is a little better, but it hurts. It is in my ribs that it hurts, which makes sleeping an ordeal.
There, aren't you glad you kept reading to the end?
Monday Musings on Wednesday!?!
Sorry about the delay in my Monday Musings. Monday was a bit crazy. My wife left to go check on her sister who we believe had a heart attack. She lives 6 or 7 hours away. My wife debated the trip for a while then decided Monday morning that she really needed to go. As a result Monday kind of slipped away from me. In fact I didn't realize that I didn't do a Monday post until I went to do another post just a few minutes ago. Her sister is doing better, but is still in the hospital. Your prayers are appreciated.
Sunday was a very good day for us. We had our worship in the local town park. The weather was nearly perfect. We had a band with a couple of young men from our church in it lead the music. They are a crossover type of band playing a style that reaches young adults, they are invited to play at a lot of different venues including some clubs and are well received. While in these "non-Christian" environments they are able to share their message through some of their music without beating people over the head with it. They gave us a different flavor for our worship and being outdoors at a park attracted some attention. We had a baby dedication was really cool to do outdoors. This is a couple whose wedding I have done since I have been here, in fact I coached volleyball with the mom, so I had a lot of connection to them. Then my wife and I finished the series on healthy relationships. Following the service (which was less than an hour) we had our "manly BBQ" (see previous post) and a fun game of whiffleball.
Things went well with sound and setup. We had a very good attendance, many of them came for the baby dedication. There were several unchurched people in attendance which the goal of the day. The message seemed to go well. The theme was on being strong in our relationships with some emphasis on the men being Godly men. My wife focused on being imitators of God and on the men in her life, her Dad, her brother, myself, our son and son in law. Unfortunately we were unable to record the message in that setting. The feedback on the message has been very meaningful. The BBQ was great, the only complaint was that about half in attendance didn't stay for the meal. Many had their own Father's Day meals planned.
I was blessed to hear from all of my kids, and our oldest daughter was even here. I got some pictures of some of my grandkids, a nice shirt and a very nice card. I had a nice conversation with my Dad as well.
Here's hoping that my sister in law recovers well, that my wife is able to minister to them and arrives home safely from her trip. Here's hoping that your relationships are healthy and growing. Here's hoping that you realize how loved you are by the Lord.
Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there. I wrote recently about my Dad and what a great Dad he is and the legacy he is leaving as he lives his life. Dad just turned 80, I know that he has had a lot physical problems in the past several years, but I still think of my Dad as somewhat invincible. I am blessed to have a Dad that cares, that loves me and my family, to have a Dad that loves the Lord, to have a Dad that I can still talk to about life stuff and to have a Dad whose example I want to follow.
Today our church is going to have our Father's Day worship at the local city park. We will worship, preach and everything outside (provided it doesn't rain) Then we will have a "manly" BBQ. We will have burgers, brats, dogs, beans, chips and watermelon. No salads, no casseroles, no fluffy stuff and no need to ask what anything is before you eat. We will have several games to play and plan to have a big whiffleball game at the end. We are trying something different. I love to do that, but also know that it has the potential for being a flop. But hey, you might as well go for it right? If it works what a blast and if it bombs we will have a story to tell for a long time. But at least we are trying.
Here's hoping this is a great Father's Day for you. No matter what, remember that your heavenly father loves you!
This morning I finished my reading of the Bible. No, I am not done reading the Bible, I mean that I was reading straight through the Bible and I finished this morning. It took me 15 months, but I did it. I knew that I needed to do this for the discipline of doing it.
I really planned on doing it in a lot less time and when I didn't hit my goal I was tempted to quit the straight through journey. I have stopped doing it a couple of times.
I discovered that there is a lot you see when you read straight through. When I read passages in big chunks without jumping around to other passages it was really enlightening.
Here's hoping that you are in the Word and letting God speak to you through his Word.
Monday Morning Musings ...
Yesterday was a day of contrasts. We began the day with a special time during what is normally our Sunday School hour. We had what was called a "Vision Meeting". Some of our ministry leaders, my associate pastor and myself all shared highlights from the past church year and some of vision for this coming year. Everyone did an excellent job of sharing, I was very encouraged by the way in which each of them handled their time up front. However, the time had a big downer moment when my associate shared that he was resigning to take another position with a church near St. Louis. I knew this was coming, so it was not a surprise to me, but it didn't change the fact that it was a big downer. He has done an excellent job with our youth ministry and much of our media (computer, website, sound) ministry as well. As much as I will miss him this is an excellent opportunity for he and his family. He, his wife and daughter will be greatly missed. He shared just before me which meant that I got to deal with it for part of my time. Kind of hard to talk about the future when the biggest question on everyone's mind is who are you going to get to replace him?
Worship went as well as could be expected after that kind of news was presented. We continued the series on "Yes You Can...Have Healthy Relationships", with a message on forgiving those who have hurt you. That is always a relevant and difficult subject to present. The Bible is clear that we are to forgive, but how? We attempted to deal with this much needed area of relationships. There was a reasonable response at the end of the message. Out attendance was decent for the first Sunday after all of our schools began their summer vacations.
Sunday evening was the last of our small groups that were dealing with this sermon series on relationships. Our group had a cookout along with our time of sharing. The food was plentiful and very good. Translation, I ate more than I should have eaten. The time of eating and just talking with each other was very good. Our time of sharing was good, but somewhat stifled, I think by the difficulty of the subject. Overall I am thrilled with the reports of how this time of small groups went. This might be a beginning of something special.
During our small group time a storm blew in quickly. We got reports a little later that there was some kind of terrific wind that went down our street. Sure enough, we had some large limbs down and a small tree uprooted, plus a very, very large section of a very large tree came down at church.
Here's hoping that you are having a good day and enjoying the knowledge of forgiveness.
There was another significant milestone that took place recently, in fact it was recorded this week. The milestone was Dad's 80th birthday. Congratulations Dad!
My Dad was a pastor for 44 years. He was my pastor for around 22 years of my life. There is no one who has taught me more about being a follower of Christ, about being a pastor, about being man than my Dad. He has always really lived his faith, even in the toughest of times. Just a few months ago my current District Superintendent told me that the greatest advantage I had as a pastor was my Dad. He was referring to the example, the support and the heritage. I agree with my D.S.
Dad has had a lot of physical problems in the past few years but he is still a great supporter, encourager, prayer warrior and faithful reader of this blog. (He would just as soon I not write stuff like this about him, but I imagine he will have a tear in his eye and appreciate it anyway.)
Dad told me how to be a father, how to be a husband and a contributing member of my community. Dad was a very good preacher and a very good pastor. Though he retired several years ago I still have many pastors come up to me and tell me how much he meant to them as they were beginning their own ministry. He was always a leader on his District.
He was a good athlete and still hit the softball well into his late 50's and early 60's. He would play basketball with his grandkids and I remember him diving on the floor and getting a rug burn going after a ball during one those games when he was in his 60's.
He always encouraged me in whatever I decided to attempt, sometimes even when it didn't make sense to him. He always listened when I sought advice, he would make me think through things from all angles, he would give me some input, but he never told me what to do, that was up to me. (I am speaking about life as an adult, when I was kid my parents parented me they didn't let me dictate to them. Just a hint to many parents I see today who are letting their kids call the shots.)
He is proud of his grandkids, and greatgrandkids and he prays for them alot.
So here's to my Dad, one of my heroes. Happy Birthday Dad, I love you!
A Milestone ...
A couple of Sundays ago was a milestone moment that I haven't written about and didn't mention it at my church either. That Sunday marked my 25th Anniversary in ministry. 25 years is a long time, and especially when you consider that I taught Special Education in public schools for 5 years before I began my ministry. Well actually, I taught 4 years before and I still taught for the 1st year of my ministry.
It was a somewhat long and winding road to begin my pastoral ministry, but I believe that background of teaching, of being an active layperson in church and of living out my faith in the "real world" before I became a pastor was a great foundation. Growing up as a pastor's child I never envisioned being a pastor myself. The children's and youth workers in the churches in which I grew up were probably among the most surprised people on earth when I became a pastor. I know because some of them have admitted that fact.
From ministering as an Associate Pastor working mainly with youth, to ministering for a year at a Bible College and to many years as a Senior Pastor, it has been a fascinating journey. The best part has always been the people, and the worst part has at times been some of the people. The great moments far outdistance the bad moments. There have been great times of joy and celebration and there have been many times of sadness in sharing in people's lives. Maybe I will post some highlights in upcoming weeks.
Thanks for sharing this milestone moment with me. Now I think I will go write a sermon in celebration, or maybe I will go home and hug my wife. She deserves much praise, a pastor's spouse is one of the least understood, and most difficult, position in the church. So thanks honey for all your support, prayers, encouragement and the endless times of being a sounding board. You are the greatest.
What Stood Out
In the Sunday evening memorial service for the two teenagers who died in a fire and in the Monday afternoon funeral service for a man in his 70's several things stood out to me.
For the two young people:
The suddenness of the loss is still shocking to all of us.
The outpouring of concern, the generous spirit of the community, and the love shown by so many people.
The fact that words seem to fail us at times like these.
The fatigue on the faces of the families. (Pray for rest.)
The joy with which these two young people had lived their lives.
The need to express love and gratitude to people regularly.
The incredible privilege it was to share in this service.
That pictures are powerful.
That I can't imagine life without one of my children or grandchildren.
That God is still God.
For the 73 year old man:
There is no good way to lose someone you love.
We are rarely ready to lose someone.
We need to embrace family while we can.
That 54 years of marriage is a great thing.
That it is hard for a spouse to say good bye after 54 years.
That I can't imagine life without my wife.
That God is still God.
Please continue to pray for these families, for the friends of those who died and for the rest of us to be wise in our ministry to all who are impacted by these losses.
Monday Morning Musings ...
Yesterday was a difficult day. It was difficult because my stupid cold came back over the weekend, which means living with a cough drop in my mouth, even while preaching. It was difficult because last night was the community memorial service for the two young people who died last week and I shared in that service. It was difficult because the point of the sermon was on forgiving yourself. It was difficult because the service just seemed flat to me, especially my part of the sermon. It was difficult because there were some distractions that were really messing with my head.
With all of that said, there were some really positive things about yesterday. We did deal with a difficult topic, one many people don't even want to think through or admit. There appears to have been some significant thinking taking place in many people in spite of how I felt about the message. There was the positive of people really hanging around and talking with each other for quite a while after the service. There was the positive of good attendance for the first Sunday of June. There was the positive of seeing healing taking place during the memorial service in the evening.
Next Sunday we are continuing on forgiveness. This time it is about forgiving those who have hurt us. Not an easy one either.
Off to another funeral visitation and to preach a funeral. After that and the funeral dinner I am meeting with a young couple about dedicating their baby. Talk about both ends of the spectrum!
This has been a week for extra strength, spiritually, emotionally and physically. It will be needed even more today and tomorrow. Our culture seems to be obsessed with strength. The airwaves and print media are peppered with ads for all kinds of performance enhancing supplements and equipment. The sports world has been rocked in recent years and months with all kinds of scandals regarding illegal supplements for improving or maintaining strength.
This week has been an "in your face" reminder that my strength is not sufficient. The good news, however is that God does have the strength and he desires for us to use his strength to make it. This week has not been done on my own and the next two days won't work if I try to do it on my own. I am always grateful for the reality of people praying for me, but this week has been a time of desperation for those prayers.
Thanks for all the help. Remember to pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones. Not just for now, but in the coming weeks and months as well.