Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Refresh ...

Starting tonight my wife and I are going on vacation! In fact it will be the longest one we have done in many, many years, it will be officially 2 weeks. We will be back in town 2 or 3 times during those 2 weeks, but it is 2 weeks of vacation. We will be camping for 9 or 10 of the days. Looking forward to the fishing, the reading and especially the time with my wife. After nearly 34 years (on Aug. 9 it will be 34 years), we still love to spend time together, especially just the two of us. How cool is that?

We will get to see all of our kids and grandkids for a double birthday celebration near the end of the 2 weeks. That is always a blast. I am so thankful that our family enjoys getting together and that we get along so well.

I am trying to remember the last time I missed 2 Sundays in a row, evidently it has been a while. Shame on me. I am looking forward to the relaxation, but I am also looking forward to the refreshment. I plan on spending a good deal of time reading the Bible, listening to the Lord and looking ahead to the next steps in my life and ministry.

I am looking forward to lots of fishing, lots of games to be played, great camp food (but not too much of it, I am 9 or 10 pounds away from goal for weight loss) and just plain being lazy. I am looking forward to some bike rides and walks on the trails hand in hand with my wife. I am looking forward to just being away.

Don't know when the next time is that I will be able to access the internet, so it may be a while before I post again. So have fun and we will chat again, but not too soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another great day. What a great summer season we are enjoying. The spirit was great during our time of singing and prayer. People were very involved, focused and most were participating. Our regular worship leader was gone along with some of our worship team. The guy who led worship did wonderful and the team really led us by worshipping themselves. Our attendance was very low but it did not dampen anything.

The message was from Jeremiah 29:10-14. The question was "What System are You Using?", in other words what plan are you following in your life? Your system determines your decisions and choices. I told of the story of an old woman in Scotland many years ago who went about selling buttons, thread and such. Whenever she came to a crossroad she would toss a stick into the air and whichever way it pointed that was the road she took. One day someone observed her repeatedly tossing the stick in the air and asked her why. She replied that the stick kept pointing to the left and she wanted to go to the right, so she continued to toss it until it pointed to the right. For many of us that is how we live and claim that it is following God's plan.

We use systems all the time to get through our lives. We have a pattern for getting up, getting ready for the day and so on. Whose system are you following in your life? God's system is the best. Jeremiah 29:11 says it well that God's plan is for our good and for our future. Two big points about God's system is that you can know his system, or plan for your life. He doesn't hide it or play games with us. You must seek it and you will discover it. The other point I made was that God's system is hopeful and forward-moving, as opposed to depressing and stuck in the past. If you are wondering about God's plan if it is not hopeful, or if it focuses more on the past than the future then it is not God's plan. Part of that forward-moving hope is the promise that God will carry you back from wherever you have landed away from God's plan.

On a personal note, our oldest daughter was with us yesterday and that is so encouraging to see how she is living for the Lord. Also, one of my wife's best friend from college days and her husband were with us Saturday evening and Sunday. It was great to see them again, to watch my wife and her friend tell stories on each other and laugh till they cried. It was even greater to see, and hear, how God is working in their lives.

Yesterday was a very good day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When it hurts ...

I have been thinking about hurting a lot recently. Maybe it is because I hurt my legs trying to play softball. (Note to self the legs don't work they same as they did 30 years ago.) But I think it is because of how many people I have spoken with, heard from or read about who are really hurting. Usually the hurts are not as much physical as they are emotional. Sometimes they have been things out of their control and sometimes they have been somewhat self-inflicted. Either way it still hurts.

I have ached as I have read, heard or conversed about their hurts. In some cases I have tried to give encouraging and hopeful counsel and in some others I am not in that position in the person's life. In many of the cases I have wished I could just make it go away for them but then I awaken to the reality that I don't have that ability. How would that be for a super power? But I also know that we often learn much during times of hurting.

My prayer is that they will sense and know God's presence, grace and strength as they face their hurts. That they would have someone, I am willing in most cases, to listen and really care for them. That they would depend on God fully. That they would not become bitter or withdrawn as a result of the hurt. That they would be able to see someone else in need and reach out to them, this is such a healing step. That I would be who I should be for them, not what they want me to be but who they need me to be.

So to the hurting, you are not alone and you are not forgotten.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an outstanding day. God is always present, but sometimes his presence is more dominating than others. That is on us more than on him, often we are not prepared, at times we are not open to God's move among us, there are a lot of reasons that God's presence doesn't dominate all of our services. But yesterday he certain was here, he was working and his presence was evident to everyone.

We participated well as we sang, people seemed to be engaged during the time of prayer and they were very intent during the message. It was a very good day.

My sermon was entitled "Handfuls of Hope" from Isaiah 40:27-31. I brought a small glass jar half full of nickels, dimes and quarters up to the platform. Then I called up a boy who is in 2nd or 3rd grade. I told him he could put a hand in the jar and grab as my coins as he could and that all the coins that he grabbed and could pull out of the jar would his to keep. The look on his face when I called him to come up on the platform was priceless and then when I explained what I wanted him to do he had another great look. He got a bunch of money out of the illustration. I then told of the coin dig our kids used to do with their Uncle Jim and how I now do that with my grandkids on occasion. I told that the problem was that the kids always touch more coins than they can lift out of the jar and though they love getting the money they are frustrated by the coins that fall back into the jar. I then when on to say that I believe many of us view the things of God in much the same way. We feel there is a limited amount available and we get frustrated by what we perceive as the things that escape our grasp. But the truth is there are handfuls of hope and grace available. In fact it is overflowing and overwhelming because God's supply is endless.

I said that hope is a choice and that our choice is influenced by some realizations. The realization that God is always available to you, that God's strength (all of it) is available to you and that choosing to live in God's will is the most hopeful place in which you can ever exist. So choose the hope that God provides. The spirit was working and though I didn't initially give any kind of invitation a young man came to the altar and then many others did as well.

The evening service was a great time of discussion that went deeper in the area of hope. I left them with the challenge of finding someone with whom to share this hope this week.

A big bonus was that a cousin of mine had been visiting with us over the weekend and we had a great time together and then Sunday afternoon my wife went and got our youngest grandson who is staying with us all week!

Here hoping that you make the choice of God's hope and find someone else with whom to share the hope.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wow ...

God is good all the time, all the time God is good. Somtimes that is easier to see than others. This morning in worship was one of those times that God's touch was so evident it created goose bumps. One family who has been gone for quite a bit this summer commented after the service that they knew they had missed church recently but didn't realize how much they missed it until experiencing worship today. They then said we have missed a lot by being gone.

I will share more tomorrow morning.

Lessons from the Frogs ...

Friday night I had my first experience at "Frog Giggin' ". It is an after dark experience where you go on a pond, or river to find frogs to catch. The catching is really spearing them with a "gig", a small pitchfork type device attached to the end of a pole. The pole is similar to a broom handle or long paint roller handle. You walk along a band, or row in a boat or canoe spotting frogs and them gig, or spear, them. The first lesson to be learned is to be able to spot them among the weeds or floating stuff on the water. This was not as easy I as thought, if they are on the water they have only a small portion of their heads above the water, mainly their eyes. If they are on the banks they often hide well in the grass or weeds. The second part of the equation is to gig 'em. This sounds easy enough until you try it yourself. The frogs, as I discovered don't want to be gigged. So they move, quickly I might add when they sense what is being planned for them. The other part is that there is a specific method to giggin' this is more than stabbing at the frogs. This I discovered after missing the first 5 or 6 went after.

I did get the hang of it after a while and successfully gigged several frogs (ask me in a few weeks and I am sure that the number will increased greatly). There was a real sense of satisfaction considering my pitiful start to the night when I got several in a row that went after.

There is also an art to getting out of the boat to go from giggin' in the boat to wading along the shore to get the frogs out of your reach from the boat. I was wearing a borrowed pair of boots that big for my feet (that is saying something for those who have seen my feet, yeah that doesn't sound creepy does it?). As I stepped out of the boat my boot stayed in the boat and my sock covered foot went into the 6 inches of muck invested pond water. This was to the laughing delight of the others in our giggin' party. This meant putting my now filthy and soaked foot and socks back into the boot and getting out of the boat successfully. Which I did until my next step whereby I stepped out of the other boot. To the increased laughter of the group who were my "encouragers".

A couple of things I learned from the frogs. The bigger frogs moved sooner than the little ones. When approaching the frogs, more of the big ones moved before you could gig them than the littler ones. I assume that is how the big ones got to be the big ones. I need to do a better job of moving away from dangerous things before they "gig" me. I need to learn to sense the things that will stick me sooner and avoid their sharp points altogether. Also, once you had successfully gigged a frog and got it into the boat you had to put them into the basket with a lid on if you wanted to keep the frog. If you failed to get the frog into they would hop all over the boat until you either captured them or they got back out of the boat. Lesson learned was that just because I got stuck by something doesn't mean that life is over, I need to keep going (not hopping, that would look silly) because a stick (gig) does not mean life is over. Don't give up no matter how big the problem appears.

It was a fun, and humbling, experience. One that I hope to repeat. It was fun, I was with a great group of guys. It was beautiful with the moon out and the breeze on the water. But I do need to get my own pair of boots.

Here's hoping (not hopping) that you learn something today.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Comes with the territory ...

Every place, whether it is location, job, career, family or team, has certain things that just come with the territory. I usually use that term to describe things that I might not enjoy but that need to be done or endured given where you live or work. Some of them you get so used to that you don't think about them until someone new comes along and is surprised by said things. That is when you look at them knowingly and with a bit of a smirk say "Welcome to _____________, that just comes with the territory around here."

So what are your "comes with the territory" items?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Holiday weekends bring Sundays in which you never know what to expect. This is true of attendance obviously, but it is also true of the atmosphere and spirit in the services as well. Since this was a definite holiday weekend I was not sure what to expect and because of many people I knew would gone I was concerned. It turned out to be a very good Sunday. There was a fair amount of scrambling in filling gaps, but people really came through and helped make it a good day.

Our time of singing and prayer in worship was very good. Things flowed well, people were participating and there was a great atmosphere throughout the service. Everything seemed to fit together well, the songs and the message.

A laymen had asked if he could share a praise, I had him come up just as I was to start my message. He told of seeing a sermon just before our service began. A down's syndrome boy in our church had looked somewhat distressed. The boy then got up and went and took an empty chair from a row and took it back to a man who has recently had surgery on his Achilles so he could put his leg up. After he sat back down, he then got up again and went to the row in which he had removed the chair and respaced the remaining chairs so it did not look like a chair was missing. This act of compassion spoke volumes to this man and he shared it well with the congregation. It was a great lead into my message.

The message was from Romans 12:1-2, the title was "Wholly Holy". I know, titles are not always my thing. But the message was about the call to live holy lives at all times in all areas of our life. I said that I did not have doubts about holiness, or whether it was possible for someone to live a holy life. The reason for my confidence is because I saw it lived out everyday of my life while I was growing up. My parents lived it as well as they told it. Too often we give lip service to holy living but we live our lives in categories. We have a holy category and when we are in it we do fairly well. However, we have other categories of living in which holiness is no where to be found. The scripture calls us to live it in all of our life.

I don't what the right definition of holy living is, but my shot at defining it would be, "living in God's will in the place we are without pretense. To do this day in and day out. To live it in the good and the bad times."

Are you living your "whole" life "holy"?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Saying or Doing?

I have realized that recently there have been too many times that I have done more saying than doing. That there have been more times when I said the right thing more often than I did the right thing. Don't panic, I have not gone off the deep end, I have not done bad things. But I have realized that I have said the right thing a lot more than I have done the right thing.

Such as "I'll be thinking of you" and then not remembered if you thought of that person or their situation. "I'll be remembering you in prayer" and then tried to remember if you did.

This hit me hard this week as I did spend some extra time in prayer for some family and a great friend. As I was praying for them, I began to wonder how often I had recently said the words but not done the deed.

I want to keep saying the right things, but I want to a doer of the right things. I want to be the one that my family and friends don't wonder about, that they would know that did what I said.

Lord, help me to be more of a doer of your will. Lord, guard me against the tendency of feeling relieved just because I have said the right thing. Lord, continue to stir my soul until I do the right thing.