Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Highlights

2010 is nearly over and a little reflection is in order. I recently answered the question "What one word would you use to describe 2010?", my word was "Complicated". There were many ups and downs and confusing things that took place, but as always God was(is) still God and I learned a lot. But I want to take a moment and reflect on some of the high moments.

Special experiences - for Christmas 2009 my wife and I wanted to give some different to our grandchildren. So we added an "experience" for each of the 4 oldest. We chose a special experience for each of them that we believed fit their interests and age. It began in January with a night at Chuck E Cheese (or however you spell it). I picked up my 7 year old grandson and we headed out for a special night. When he and I got there we loaded up on tokens and headed to the games. The smile on his face never went away for the rest of the evening. He played a lot, I played a little and loved watching him have fun. We ordered our pizza and went back to the games. We paused long enough for him to devour most of our pizza then back to the games. All along we had some good conversation, lots of laughs and a special memory for me to be sure. When we ran out of tokens, he cashed them in ,we boxed up what was left of the pizza and headed home. The smile still stuck on his little face. It was a night to remember and I hope one of those lifetime memories for both of us.

Later in the year my wife picked up our 5 year old granddaughter as they headed out for an evening of shopping and dinner. They shopped, they sang songs, they ate, they laughed and shared some very special moments. The whole time my wife was recounting the experience to me she was either smiling from ear to ear or laughing.

Then I picked up my oldest grandson, he was 12 at the time. We went for a round of golf. This wasn't minature golf or even the par 3 course, it was a regular course. It was great. The longer we played the better he did and seeing him improve and make some really nice shots was very cool. He was putting for par on a couple of holes. We had some nice conversation as we rode from shot to shot. I don't honestly remember how I played but I do remember that played with a young man that I am very proud of. I then gave him his choice of places to eat, he claimed not to care where we went until I mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings, then his eyes lit up and he said that was the place. (A kid after his grandpa's heart for sure.) We had a great time eating, and playing trivia. I am smiling as I type this remembering him concentrating on the trivia questions and trying to get the correct answer before me.

Then I picked up my 9 year old grandson then next morning and we headed out to go fishing. We stopped to buy some bait and get me an out of state fishing license.Finding a place to fish was quite an experience, we had a some adventures just getting to the lake. When we finally settled on a spot we began throwing bait at the fish. It took a little while and we moved to a few spots around the lake before we found our spot. The big ones were avoiding us, but we caught quite few before we finished. A few times I think the bait was bigger than the fish we pulled in. I took an early lead in catching fish but he came on strong and I believe he beat me by one by the time we finished. Come to think of it, maybe that is why he said he was ready to go. I then gave him his choice of places to eat and he didn't hesitate he knew where he wanted to go. To a Pizza Hut with a big buffet. Smart kid. We had a great time fishing, talking and even eating. I learned a lot about my grandson, about the family and even about myself.

My wife and I enjoyed the experiences so much we gave something similar again this Christmas. This time we gave them a couple of options to choose from and we added our youngest grandson to the mix this time, he is a little shy of turning 4. I have a feeling this gift idea will continue for a while. I can truly say that these gifts were a real joy to give.

How is this for some hightlights?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Love Story continued ...

Then the next school year began and something changed. You see while we were apart things changed with the other people in our lives. We began to date again shortly after the school year started. There was a significant weekend fairly early in the semester. The girl from back home came to school for a visit with several other people and we spent quite a bit of time together. She asked me to come back home for a brief visit. I declined and Jody and I went out to a concert the next night. That date did not go well, but it still turned a corner for us, at least in my mind. Whether she knew it or not I had decided to go all in with our relationship and find out where we were really headed. A bad date night was just that, a bad date night. It was not a deal breaker and made me realize that I wanted to make this work.

We began to see a lot more of each other. Basketball season began, so my time was much busier. Homecoming was the first time I met Jody’s mom. That moment could have gone better. Then my future mother-in-law took Jody to the Homecoming concert instead of coming to my basketball game. In spite of this we kept dating.

In fact the HUGE decision was made that I would go home with Jody for Thanksgiving. I was going to her house, meeting her Dad for the first time, seeing her Mom for the second encounter and I was to meet her sister and family. You could say I was nervous, the reason you could say that is because I was very nervous. Remember, the first encounter with her mom had not gone well and I was pretty sure I was being blamed for that, and now I was to meet Dad, older sister and nephews and a niece.

The day arrived for us to head to her house and we took off from school for the 4 hour drive …

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very good day. Sometimes the Sunday after Christmas day is a difficult day and more so when it is literally the day after Christmas. We had our challenges yesterday, but people really stepped up and overcame with great attitudes. The great attitudes probably had a lot to do with why they overcame the challenges so well.

The first thing that stood out about yesterday was the number of no shows among those who were scheduled to do ministry. Some of them were known for some time, others let us know a day or two before and others, well they just didn't show. But I am so proud of how others stepped up their game to cover this shortfall. Of our normal 6 band members 1 was able to attend, and that was the drummer. That makes for a challenge when it comes to the music side of worship. The worship leader who was filling in, didn't know all of this while planning the service. So he was adjusting on the fly as he arrived. The thought was to just do everything acapella (how do you spell this?). My wife had a CD with background music for several worship songs. They were able to pick out what would work and went for it. The guy running the projectors then had to enter all of these different songs and then run the CD for us. All involved did so without complaining and it went very well. The worship team even came up with an impromptu special number to sing.

Our attendance was much better than anticipated and the atmosphere was really one of being a family. It was so much fun to see and hear the sharing going on before and after the service.

I concluded my Christmas series and this week we looked at the shepherds, my favorite characters of the Christmas event (with the exception of Jesus of course). The theme through this series is looking at the obedience and courage of the characters in the Christmas story. The shepherds had to overcome many fears to be obedient. That is still true for each of us today. Their call was to check out the signs, see the Savior and accept the Good News.

The signs were, and are, all around for all to see. We just need to be paying attention. Paying attention is a key to following Christ. How well are you paying attention to Christ, to His Word and His will? The shepherds overcame their fears and went to see Jesus and tell others about him. Courage is needed to be obedient. This requires you to listen to God and his Word. It requires you to act on his words, Your action is the evidence, or lack thereof, of how well you are listening. Courageous obedience requires you to be looking. You cannot avert your eyes to what God is calling you to see and do. It requires you to share what you hear and see. Following Christ and being selfish are not compatible. It is really interesting to see that obedience amazes those who encounter it. What are people's reactions to how you follow Christ? There is Good News of great joy, do you have it? Are you showing it? Are you sharing it?

Here's hoping you had a great Christmas. When we realize the truth of Christmas and accept it for ourselves then Christmas will be great no matter the circumstances.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Love Story continued ...

The next night came and we doubled with a good friend of mine and his date. My friend drove and we headed toward Chicago. Being the romantic big spender that I am we went to a baseball game. Hey I love baseball and it was a night game in Chicago in early May. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, early May, night time at the ball park should have meant cool weather with the chance that she would need some help staying warm. (I had a plan) Anyway, my buddy got stopped for speeding on the way to the game and talked his way out of the ticket. (Still not sure how he did that) The game was the Chicago White Sox versus the Oakland A’s. It wasn’t the Cubs but this was before Wrigley Field had lights. (Did I mention this story started a long time ago?) We got seats in the first couple of rows down the right field line. Unfortunately it was a pretty warm night, especially for early May, so much for the plan. However, we were seated by a guy who definitely went past his alcohol limit. He decided that my date (wife) was someone he could talk with and share his opinions to and so I was needed after all. While at the game (we got real food after the game) I bought her some peanuts, you can’t go to a baseball game without having some in the shell peanuts. After we were married I found out that she didn’t really like baseball and she really didn’t like peanuts. (So how charming was I that I got her away?)

The date went relatively well, at least as well as a date where you take someone to something they don’t like, buy them something they don’t want, get stopped by the cops and sit by a talkative drunk. So since the date had gone so well I figured I would go for a kiss at the end. As I walked her to her dorm we stopped for the obligatory “I had a nice time” statements and decided this was the moment. So…I leaned in and asked her if it was okay if I kissed her. Yes, I asked her! It was either really respectful or really lame. You have to decide for yourself. But before you vote realize that she said yes, which made for a much less awkward moment than leaning in and not knowing if she will return your intention or turn away. I was either scared of being rejected when leaning in or very smart. Only I know for sure.

The next day she went back to her guy and I went back to … well I am sure it was really exciting. The school year ended a few days later. She stayed in the area for the summer and I went home to work 2 jobs. I am not sure if we had any contact that summer or not. Without cell phones it would have been up to sending letters, so I if there was contact there couldn’t have been much. Why? Everyone who has ever received a letter (not a birthday card) from me raise your hands. That’s what I thought. Turns out she saw the other guy quite a bit and made some contact with the former girlfriend.

Then the next school year began and something changed. You see while we were apart …

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Love Story

I am beginning a new series of posts that will tell a story. It is the story of my life with my wife. How we met, dated, chose to love, got engaged and married, and then 35+ years of marriage with 3 children, 2 children who have joined us (daughter and son-in-law) and 6 grandkids and the waiting for a 7th who will join us through adoption. It will tell some of the difficult times and the wonderful times that far outweigh all other times. It will be a story that is not finished. My motivations are to honor my beautiful wife, to remind my children of some stories, to let my grandchildren know a little more about our life together and if it encourages others that would be a bonus.

Near the end of my freshman year of college is when I met the beautiful young woman who would become my wife. We actually met while I was on a date with another girl, one who she knew. My date and I had walked several blocks to a restaurant (hey I was a poor college student) and while we were there it began raining. Looking for a way not to walk back to campus in the rain she spotted some girls she knew from our school and asked if we could get a ride. In the process I was introduced and we rode back with them to campus. The relationship (and I use that term loosely) with the girl I had been with ended shortly after this incident. (Wonder if it had anything to do with all that walking)

In the meantime I had begun to pay attention to, and frequently notice, that beautiful girl I met while on my date. I liked what I saw, I liked it a lot. I began to find occasions to be near her and talk occasionally. The big problem was that she was regularly dating someone else. But I have always enjoyed challenges so I wasn’t about to give up. I continued to have other dates during this time and also had a girl back home who I had dated exclusively until going to college. We kept in touch occasionally but were both dating other people.

In the last couple of weeks of my freshman year I decided to go for it and called her up to ask her out. Her roommate told me she was on a date with that guy and wasn’t in yet. Don’t get the wrong impression, I was not in my dorm room sipping a Dr. Pepper counting the minutes for her to get in from her date. I called after I got in from my date that night. When I finally got a hold of her I asked her out for the next night, actually I guess it was for that night considering the time when I finally got a hold of her. Much to my delight she said yes, actually it might have “okay, whatever”, but no matter the specific words she agreed.

The next night came and we …

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

It has been a while, for any of you who are still checking this blog I am sorry and will begin more (semi)regular postings, if you have given up on me then you won't be reading this so it doesn't matter.

Yesterday was another good day, we have had many of them recently. We had some breakfast for those who came early. My wife and my part-time associate made some breakfast items and had them available to everyone. This is something we do every year as a thank you to our congregation, our Christmas gift to them. Several people actually came early, that is impressive with this church. That started things off with a great atmosphere and it carried over into the worship time. There was a very good spirit in our singing, giving and during the message. There was a lot of good sharing and conversation taking taking place before and after the worship time.

The message was the 3rd of a 4 part Christmas series "Christmas is about Obedience". Each week we examine a character, or characters, and look at their opportunity for obedience in the Christmas story. This week we looked at the Wisemen and King Herod. The Wisemen were called to search for the Savior and follow directions, which is the same call we have today. Obedience always involves following directions, could this fact be why you often struggle with obedience? I for one do not have the gift of following directions, how about you? All of us get better at following directions as we follow directions. In other words repetition enhances the ability to follow directions. Obedience also means giving. In fact the wisemen showed us that it means giving your best. It means giving from your essentials not your excess. What have you been giving lately? Worship comes from obedience. Disobedience results in false worship, just look at King Herod. He claimed a desire to worship, but he was being disobedient and did not really desire to worship Christ. He was posing, he was pretending, he was putting on a show of worship but was not really worshipping. How obedient have you been in your worship?

Our attendance was good and has been for the past 3 weeks. We also have had a real surge in our giving the past 2 months which has been much needed.

In the evening a few of us gathered and went to several homes to sing carols, it was very encouraging to be a part of this simple giving last night.

I am going to begin a new series of posts later this week entitled "A Love Story". Merry Christmas to all and to all a good day.