Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Had a great day yesterday. There was a very good spirit throughout the worship service. One of our teens played a special on the piano for the offertory and did a fantastic job. There were 2 teens on the worship team. I love seeing our youth involved in worship leadership. We had a decent attendance. There was some powerful stuff going on in people's hearts and minds during the service. This was evidenced by the prayer time and by people stepping out to counsel someone while worship continued.

I concluded the series "Changeover" yesterday. Using Isaiah 43:14-44:5 we have looked at what we need to focus on to be all that God desires of us as individuals and as a church body. Each week we had a challenge and the last 4 weeks we have examined specific disciplines such as reading the Bible, Prayer, Fasting, Giving and committing to a community of believers. This week was a challenge that links all of the disciplines, serving others. The call to serve Christ by serving others. One of the criticisms that God gave to the people in the passage in Isaiah was that they had "not wearied yourselves for me" (43:22). That verse has stuck with me all through my study of this passage and preparation for the messages in this series. Too often we don't put ourselves out on God's behalf. We often weary ourselves over many things don't matter and neglect God.

We are to serve others because Jesus showed us how. He was not only an example, but he told us to serve others, John 13:12-15. Jesus looked for opportunities to serve. An opportunity is when we see or hear of a need. This requires us to be seeking to serve. So you must be looking and listening for needs. Matthew 25:14-30 is a great parable about a master giving responsibility to some who worked for him. He went away and came back to check on the results. Two of the three worked hard and brought the master a return on his investment. The third one did nothing with what the master gave him and literally buried it. He then simply handed it back to the master. The master didn't want it returned, he wanted the worker to use it. God has gifted each of us and he is not looking for us to preserve it, but to use what he has provided to serve. What are you doing with what God has provided for you? Notice in this passage that the master gave to each of the workers "according to their ability". The master believed in each of the workers, but the one didn't believe in himself or the master as evidenced by him doing nothing with what was given. Brian C. Houston said, "Great churches are not built on the gifts and talents of a few, but on the sacrifices of many." The issue is not equal gifts but equal sacrifice. This requires no special skills but a willingness to be available.

The challenge: Seek to serve others as God shows you needs. Note there is no time limit to this challenge. Are you willing to be available?

Last night we began new small groups on Sunday evenings. The reports of the groups has been outstanding. I am really excited about the group Jody and I are leading. It was a great beginning and the future should be great in these groups.

Yes, a very good day indeed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

That first morning (our first in our home) we realized a major difference that we had not talked about, or even thought about, before we got married. You see the alarm clock was on my side of the bed and …there are a couple of things you need to realize about our trailer. We had a full size bed (not queen or king) in the bedroom. It was against a wall at the head and on one side of the mattress. At the foot of the bed was our closet and built in drawers. You had to be on the bed to get into the closet or open the drawers. Therefore, there was only one open side to the bed. That was the side I slept on, (I still sleep on that side 35+ years later) I don’t know exactly how we settle on which side of the bed we would sleep on, but it must have worked. Since my side had the only opening the alarm clock was on my side. We were using the one I had in dorm. So I set it was we went to bed that first night in our home. You need to understand that at that point in my life I needed loud noises to wake up. In fact in the dorm I had to put my alarm clock out of my reach so I had to get out of bed to turn it off. If I could reach it from bed I would smack it off and go right back to sleep. I didn’t use the radio option because that never woke me up, I used the alarm setting. On my clock that sounded a lot like a fog horn and I turned it up all the way.

This was not something Jody and I had ever talked about before we got married (I often bring it up in pre-marital counseling now). So the next morning when the alarm went off I didn’t budge at first (remember my side of the bed was the only open side), Jody however flew up, bounced off the wall landed on the open side and shut off the alarm. I began to arouse about then and heard her muttering about how loud the alarm was and I commented that I hadn’t heard it. I got ready and headed to work. That evening we had our first meal together as husband and wife in our own home. As we went to bed that night, Jody said she had already set the alarm. We went to sleep and the next morning I began to wake up, I opened one eyelid just far enough to look at the alarm clock, as I focused on the time I flew out of bed yelling that I had overslept and that commenting that the alarm didn’t go off. Jody said that it went off quite a while ago and when I didn’t get up she assumed that I was going into work later that day.

Remember Jody had set the alarm the night before. Her setting was to have the radio come on at a low volume when it was time to get up, that was what she was used doing. I never heard it and certainly didn’t wake up. That night we had a discussion about how the alarm clock needed to be set and how we could come to some compromise since we were miles apart on this issue. We got it worked out. Today we each have an alarm clock, since we now have a bedroom that is bigger than the size of the bed. We still do not wake the same way, but she doesn’t bounce off the wall anymore and I don’t sleep through the alarm.

This was the first of many issues that we had to work out in living together as husband and wife. It was really minor by comparison to many other things, but it set the tone that we had to work things out and remember that we were no longer living just for ourselves. Some of the first things we had to work out had to do with just living in our trailer. Our trailer had some unique things about it to put it mildly. Such as …

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

My buddies wanted to pull a prank on us. So they lifted my keys to our trailer and were going to have people help them do stuff to our trailer. They got a little nervous and asked my Dad if the keys they had were to our trailer. My Dad looked at the keys and said, no those to the place they are going on their honeymoon. We had already left and there were no cell phones … when we stopped at Jody’s parents home to pick something up the phone rang and it was my Dad. He told me he had the keys we needed for the honeymoon and we made arrangements to get them. My Dad saved the day, or actually the next few days.

So we headed out on our honeymoon. The trip was a few hours long (I don’t recommend traveling that far on your wedding day) and we stopped for supper on the way. We arrived at our place in the evening. We pulled up to the place went inside, opened the garage door and drove in. You see we were at my parents home. They were on vacation in Canada and we had the house to ourselves. Remember me saying we didn’t have any money? So my wedding night was spent in my old room. You can insert your own headlines here. Having a whole house to ourselves was actually pretty cool. Naturally my Mom had made sure the fridge and pantry were well stocked. The next day we actually went to church, in the evening. There was a concert taking place at my Dad’s church and Jody wanted to hear the group. So we snuck in a little late and sat in the back.

On Monday we headed to Cincinnati and went to King’s Island. We arrived as they were opening and there was hardly anyone in the park. As a result when we would get off a ride if we liked it we would walk back and be near the front of the line and ride it again. I think we rode the main roller coaster 12 or 13 times among all the other rides as well. Near evening we left King’s Island and drove to Riverfront Stadium. Some friends of my parents had gotten us a parking pass and tickets for some really great seats to see the Reds that night. We drove into a preferred parking spot and then grabbed some food and headed to our seats a little while before the game. We watched a good major league game and then headed back to our honeymoon home. It was a great day and showed who we are for sure.

Tuesday was spent in the Springfield, Ohio area and near the house. Then on Wednesday we headed back to Kankakee and our little trailer. We didn’t get much time off work and didn’t have any more money so it was a short honeymoon. The trailer seemed especially small after having a whole house to ourselves. But it was ours and therefore it was special. I went to work Thursday morning and the real world had now invaded our wedding/just married bubble. That first morning we realized a major difference that we had talked about, or even thought about, before we got married. You see the alarm clock was on my side of the bed and …

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

And now for the wedding …August came rushing toward us and that meant the wedding day. All of the last minute stuff was being done, and to be honest I don’t remember a lot of it, not because I wasn’t aware of it but the details don’t compare to the event and the life after. The day of rehearsal was full of greeting people who arrived, setting up the church and cringing at things that were being changed without our consent. Of the guys who stood up with me the only one had seen that summer was my brother. So there was a little bit of catching up that we did when they all arrived. My memory is that rehearsal went relatively smoothly, but I could be blocking some things out. I do remember it took too long and as a pastor now I am a stickler that rehearsals don’t need to be more than 45 minutes once everyone arrives. Everyone understood where they were to be and most agreed on when they were to be in their places.

You must understand that given all the things Jody and I desired in the wedding that were changed on us one of the points I refused to budge on was that the wedding would start on time. I wanted people coming down the aisle at the stated time of the wedding. My mother in law had read that the mother of the bride should enter 10 minutes after the stated time. Not sure where she read it, or why someone thought that was right, but it was her firm belief that this was correct. I insisted more firmly that an article didn’t matter to me and that at our wedding we were starting on time. That night the guys and I spent the night at the home of one of Jody’s bridesmaids, we didn’t do anything wild, we did talk a lot about how much life was changing. I was the second of us five of us who was getting married. We realized things would not be the same, but we said we would remain friends. Sound familiar? Well you should know that the five of us are still friends and still keep in touch. We live in 3 different states and all took different career paths, we have 16 children and about that many grandkids. For the past 3 years we have gotten together for a weekend to catch up and deepen our friendships. Sometimes those college dreams live on.

The day of the wedding dawned and we made our way to the church. In those days you took almost no pictures ahead of time (I like the pictures ahead of time). In the room where we were getting ready a startling discovery was made, some of the tuxes were missing pieces or were the wrong size. There were phone calls and a hurried trip to the rental store to correct the problems. I don’t know if Jody heard any of this or not. We were ready early and the word was so was Jody and the girls. I was waiting in a little room just off the front of the sanctuary, anxiously waiting. Word came that we were about ready to begin but no one could find Jody’s mom. Remember the issue of when the wedding was to start? That’s right my mother in law was hiding so she could start on her time. My dad got word of this, he said “I’ll be right back. Later I learned that he searched for and found my mother in law. He returned and said, “We are starting now.” I have never learned what my Dad said, he won’t say and she never would either. All I know is we started on time. My Dad rose even higher on my hero list that day.

Jody was beautiful. We made it through the wedding. My mom’s nose was red from tears, they were tears of joy. My Dad and Jody’s pastor, Rev. Andree, did the ceremony. Jody’s brother and sister in law sang and we got married. We went had the ritual known as the receiving line (that seemed to go forever), then we went and cut the cake and the reception began. We went back in the sanctuary for pictures and they took so long that by the time we finished everyone had left the reception and the cake was gone. At that point I didn’t really care, I wanted to change get in the car and head to the honeymoon. We changed, got in our car that was covered in drawings and writing from my buddies. We stopped by Jody’s parents home for something and then were on our way.

My buddies wanted to pull a prank on us. So they lifted my keys to our trailer and were going to have people help them do stuff to our trailer. They got a little nervous and asked my Dad if the keys they had were to our trailer. My Dad looked at the keys and said, no those to the place they are going on their honeymoon. We had already left and there were no cell phones …

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. There was a great spirit in our worship service. The temperature was in the single digits but our attendance was reasonable, in fact it was up in Sunday School. We had all of our worship band members participating yesterday and that always adds during the music and singing part of worship.

I preached part 4 of the 5 part series "Changeover" that we are doing to begin this year. Where you focus determines your destination and your destiny. In understanding the need to focus on God's way we have been examining some spiritual disciplines we need upon which we need to focus. We have looked at Bible reading, prayer and fasting with specific challenges for each of them. (see previous posts) This week we looked at sacrificial giving and committing to a community of believers. Isaiah 43:14-44:5 is the foundation for this study with many other scriptures referenced as well. Sacrificial giving is giving from the essential instead of the excess. Sacrificial giving will be felt and will change your lifestyle in some way. Need to give for God's purposes, not just our favorite things. Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us that our hearts follow our money. Malachi 3:6-12 reminds us of the importance of giving to God and accepting his challenge to give. I believe much of our giving needs to be given where we can also serve, because this will increase our joy of giving and multiply our passion as well. John Henry Jowett sais, "Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing." Showing love requires action, in fact I believe love is sacrificial action. Many people speak of being fearful of sacrifice because of the cost. I am realizing that the greater cost is when we sacrifice God's will, God's plan and His promises for the sake of fear.

The challenge: to give sacrificially to God's cause in a place where you can also serve for this year. Then see what happens in your heart, your life and the place where you give and serve.

We looked at the need to focus on committing to a community of believers (a church). Hebrews 10:24-25. Martin Luther said, "Apart from the church, salvation is impossible." Not because we are saved through the church but because we can't truly fulfill God's call apart from a community of believers. The great commission (Matt. 28:16-20) tells us that we are to give our lives for the sake of others. Being a part of a church allows us to give where we can be personally impacted and can make a personal impact as well. God's purposes are to be accomplished in relationships/community. William Temple said, "The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members." Church is not to be about our comfort but about fulfilling God's call to reach the lost. I have concluded there are three levels of commitment in the church, I have related them to where someone lives. 1) The Motel Patron - this is day to day. They check in and they check out for convenience. They desire the benefits with none of the responsibility. 2) The Renters - this is more month to month, or longer. Usually they stay a little longer and realize they have some responsibility for care, but they have no responsibility if things go wrong. 3) The Owner or Buyer - they are committed financially and in responsibility for a longer period. They understand they need to work at seeing things go as they should for their intended purpose. On which level are you operating?

The challenge: move from casual to committed in a church where you will serve.

Will you accept the challenges? When? Where?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2010 Highlights ...

Thanksgiving and Christmas were special times this year. They were special because we were able to spend time with all of our kids and grandkids. We have great times whenever we get together. There is always a lot of laughing, teasing, game playing and some story telling. What really makes these events highlights for me is that I don't take for granted getting everyone together. With 3 of us involved in pastoral ministry, with the grandkids getting older and just the busyness of life it is special whenever we are all able to be together.

We don't all live near each other, we are 2 to 3 hours apart. We don't have hourly jobs with set hours. So I am extremely grateful whenever we get together.

As my birthdays mount and our clan becomes larger our gatherings are all the more special. I am humbled that the kids and grandkids want to get together with us and each other. I have ministered to many families that are not able to get together for a variety of reasons and some that do not deisre to get together.

So my highlights included every time we got together and especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved every minute of those times. The laughs, the sounds of my grandkids, the smiles, the hugs, the food and just being in the presence of people I dearly love and who appear to love me as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

The end of the school year rushed upon us and summer was beginning. That led to the final plans for the wedding and a few missteps along the way, such as …I was busy selling shoes and Jody was working at a nursing home. She moved into our trailer and I was rooming at my brother and sister in law’s house. When we were able to be together we were planning the wedding and our lives. We were planning a wedding while being 4 hours away from where the wedding would take place. That caused some problems and made some appointments difficult since both of us worked some on the weekends. One big issue that nearly became a disaster was the blood test. That’s right folks when we got married 35 ½ years ago a blood test was required as part of the marriage license process. Unlike a TV show these could not be done and results returned within an hour. With almost no time to spare we realized this had been missed in the planning process. We had to both take off work and make a quick, unplanned trip to her hometown for the blood test. Tension was very high for that trip and that is all the details I care to share with you.

We had the tension of the final plans, dresses and tuxes being fitted. Scrambling to get all the addresses to for the people who were being invited is always interesting, thank goodness for mothers who kept up to date lists. (A trait neither of us has continued, sorry kids.) Planning everyone’s arrival for the rehearsal, wedding and where people might stay while in attendance was an issue I didn’t see coming. Selecting who would be in the wedding party was not a difficult one for me, and I don’t remember it being difficult for Jody either. Given my friends and who was available it worked out well.

The planning of the honeymoon was relatively easy. We had almost no money so the plans had to be very simple and very cheap. For those who know us well you will not be surprised at the events we took in on our honeymoon. (That will come in another post.) During this time of planning I remember a time when we were planning and we began to speculate and dream about the future. We were trying to figure out how we were going to make it financially once we were married and school started since I would not be able to keep working full time. We began to talk about “what ifs …” I am smiling as think back on that conversation when we declared that if we could just to the point that we made $10,000 a year we would have it made! My how times have changed. One thing this shows is that the money is never the biggest issue, because things will keep changing. The bigger issue is your relationships, including the relationship with Jesus Christ

We got settled and involved in a local church that we decided would be our church. This was an important decision. I realize now that it was also very important that we did not wait to get involved. We started helping with the youth and even in children’s church. The youth involvement has been an ongoing theme for our entire married life it seems.

And now for the wedding ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

Life, and school, continued as we rushed toward our wedding day. Some highlights of this time were …I was beginning to get more and more playing time on the varsity basketball team and the team was doing very well. Don’t misunderstand, I was a bench player but I was getting minutes in every game now. That spring our team went to Chattanooga, TN and won the National Christian College Championship. In the semifinal game I scored 8 or 10 points (can’t remember for sure) but I sprained my ankle very severely. As soon as I pulled my shoe off after the game it swelled up like I had a grapefruit taped to my ankle. I iced it all night and all the next day. Before the game I had the trainer tape it as tight as possible, it felt like I was wearing a cast. During warm-ups I had trouble jumping and cutting. We won the game by 2 points on the other team’s home floor, I did not play. It was a great weekend to win the championship.

The trip to the national championship was the first time Jody and I were apart for more than 2 days since we became engaged. Before I left for the trip she gave we a package with specific instructions. There were different envelopes and each was labeled as to when I was supposed to open them and there were special snacks in the package as well. I enjoyed opening every envelope and reading every note and card. To answer the question, I did not open any of them ahead of the instructions on the envelopes. Surprised? I can exercise self control when needed. I am smiling as I type this remembering that package.

With basketball season finished the realization of an upcoming wedding and more importantly life as a married person pressed in on me. We got our rings through Jody’s uncle Keith who owned a jewelry store at that time. I began to look for some type of job that I could work part time during school and full time in the summers. I found the job at Ted’s Shoes in downtown Kankakee, it is no longer in business. Jody really liked the fact that I could get discounts on shoes. I actually enjoyed the job quite a bit. I have a lot of stories about those days, but this story is not about that so I will leave those for some other time.

We began to look for a place to live after the wedding. A basketball teammate of mine was selling a trailer. It was located on the college property in what was known as “Trailerville”. (Trailerville is no longer in existence, in fact that land is now a parking lot.) The trailer was a 10 foot by 50 foot trailer. We made the purchase and began our married life with a mortgage. Our payments were $85 a month and we had a lot rental fee that I believe was $15 a month. How would you like to have that for a payment now?

The end of the school year rushed upon us and summer was beginning. That led to the final plans for the wedding and a few missteps along the way, such as …

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

I soon discovered that life as an engaged person was somewhat different than just dating. Such as
…you spent time planning for an event that you really don’t understand. You check in with each other more often and keep each other more up to date on what you are doing and where you are going. There is also the way other people treat you once you are engaged. After all the congrats and jokes you are now left out of a lot plans because the assumption is that you are busy with your fiancé. There are usually some moments of, “Wait a minute, I am getting married. That is a really big deal. Am I ready for this?” The answer is, yes it is a REALLY BIG deal and no, you are not ready for this.

I/we began to learn a big lesson that is true for too many weddings. The lesson was that sometimes your wedding is not really your wedding. I can see many of you nodding your head as you read this and remember your wedding planning. What I mean is that sometimes family members forget that it is your wedding and do more dictating than suggesting. My father in law was fine, my parents were fine but my mother in law seemed to forget that it was supposed to be our wedding and not hers. Jody and I would get together and talk about things we wanted and didn’t want (not things that changed the money issue of the wedding for those who are thinking this was the issue) and then her mom would change those things. Sometimes this happened with a declaration without discussion. I loved my mother in law but we did not do well when it came to wedding planning. During this time I learned another big lesson on wedding planning and your relationship with your fiancé. The lesson was that it is a stressful time and you need to realize it is not personal (unless of course you are being jerk about it all), you need to be as supportive as possible. The thing we kept reminding ourselves was that all that really mattered was that we get married. The rest of it is not life and death.

I must insert here that I share much of this with couples that I counsel before doing their weddings. I try to remind them of what really matters while also counseling them to share their feelings with the parents and remind the parents that this is supposed to be their children’s wedding. I also address it at every wedding rehearsal before we get started. I let everyone know that I have been meeting/talking with the couple and they have shared what they want in their wedding. Then I say “If you have other ideas about how their wedding should be done save it for your wedding because this is the wedding of this couple.” That has an interesting impact on rehearsals at times. I will let your imagination go with that image.

We actually drew closer during this time. We were learning about each other even in our disagreements. After all, this was who I had chosen to be my mate for life, we better figure out how to handle tension. We weren’t always good at this, and looking back on it now we would handle a lot of it differently but we were committed to each other and that matters more than anything else.

Life, and school, continued as we rushed toward our wedding day. Some highlights of this time were …

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

It was very cold yesterday morning, but the sun was shining and God shone through in our worship as well. (Wow, that really is a cheesy statement now that I see it in black and white.) In spite of the cold we has decent attendance and are seeing some new people commit to this being their church. That is always encouraging.

We had most of our worship band back this week, only missing one, but we were a short on our vocal team. It seemed that it took the congregation a long time get engaged in worship yesterday.

Yesterday I preached part 3 of a 5 part series entitled "Changeover", using Isaiah 43:14-44:5 as the foundation. Looking at what we need to focus on to make the changes needed to do what God desires of us. Last week we looked at the need to read the Bible everyday and pray for others everyday. This week we looked at the spiritual discipline of fasting. This is an often neglected discipline in our country. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which helps us to recapture our hunger for God. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus said, "When you fast..." is a clear message that those who follow Christ are to spend some time fasting. He did not say 'if you fast'. The life of Christ shows a pattern of prayer and fasting. Fasting is abstaining from food to spend more time and focus on God and his will. Not because food is bad, but because God is better. It is saying that having more of the Giver is better than more of the gifts.

Fasting is not ...a diet or hunger strike, it is not a substitute for obedience and not a way to make God love you more.

Fasting ... exposes your heart, it fans the flames of your hunger for God and it reveals who/what controls you.

Lisa Bevere said, "A diet changes how you look. A fast changes how you see."

You need to take your physical condition into consideration before fasting. You may need to have food at specific times due to medication or other physical conditions. Be wise in undertaking fasting.

There are total fasts that mean only drink water. There are fasts when you only drink fruit or vegetable juices (be careful not to drink ones with a lot of sugar). There are partial fasts where you abstain from meat for example. The point is to deny yourself something and spend that time and effort in more time with God in prayer and reading the Word.

The challenge was to fast one meal a day, or one day a week, for the next 6 weeks. Then see what God reveals to you.

Will you accept the challenge? What changes do you need to make to meet this challenge?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

The next day arrived and I realized that I should let my parents know that I was now engaged. I hadn’t really thought that part through, so I thought it only fair to let them I was going to get married and that they would have another daughter in law. Now I knew that they really liked Jody so I wasn’t worried about their reaction as far as she was concerned. But I had never done this before, so I was a little nervous, but mainly I was I pumped to tell the news. They were on vacation in Florida staying with some friends and had given me the number in case of emergency. (To my grandchildren, realize this was before cell phones so I couldn’t call them directly.) I considered waiting until they got back home, but I didn’t want to wait and I knew that someone from college would tell their parents who would likely ask my parents about it. Therefore, I concluded that I should call without delay.

I placed the call and found out from the friends that they were out on a trip for the day. The only message I left for them was to call me as soon as possible. Evidently that freaked out their friends. So as soon as my parents returned they told them that they needed to call me asap and the friends were all worried. When asked what they thought I had called about, my Dad in usual calm manner simply said, “Either he had an accident with the car or he got engaged.” Very perceptive man, my Dad. Those of you who know my Dad can just see him saying this can’t you? With that mischievous grin dancing across his face.

The call came and I shared the news. My parents congratulated me/us. Then asked some practical questions like when the wedding might be, etc… I hadn’t really thought about these questions very much, I was still enjoying the glow of just becoming engaged. At the next basketball practice Coach Wilson called me aside and asked if what he heard was true, was I engaged? I answered yes. He nodded and said “Okay. Do you know when?”. I did not have a good practice that day as I now pondered the practical side of my being engaged.

When I met Jody that evening, I said I guess we have to figure some things out. Such as when we would get married, where we would get married and then whatever goes into getting married. I had no clue what was involved in planning a wedding. I often reflect on my ignorance when I sit down with newly engaged couples who have asked me to do their wedding. I sometimes see that stunned look cross the face of one of them and do my best to stifle knowing smile.

I soon discovered that life as an engaged person was somewhat different than just dating. Such as …

Friday, January 14, 2011

2010 Highlights

I completed my 4th season coaching volleyball at our local high school, first year was as the Junior Varsity(JV) coach and the last three as varsity coach. This was definitely a highlight of my year. This was a very fun group to coach, oh we had some moments, but they are a great group of young ladies.

We had a winning record for the first time in a long time and we had some gut wrenching losses. It was a year of some great steps forward, beating a conference leader for the first time and making a great run at the county tourney. One of those gut wrenching losses was in that county tourney. The hardest loss was the final one. It was in the District tourney. It was an amazing match to watch. Both of our teams lost one of our best just before the match. They lost a girl to sickness and we lost one to a torn ACL on the last moment of warmups. That was the last match but it is not the lasting impression of the season for me.

I remember we overcame some difficult circumstances in the deaths of a fellow student and of a teammate's niece. I was so proud of them as they faced these tough moments. I remember the 4 hour early practices, the deals they tried to make to lessen some of the work, sometimes they won. I remember some awesome hits, great digs, perfect passes, pinpoint sets, monster blocks and special serves. I remember the laughing, they have some of the best laughs. I remember nicknames, even for me. I remember the hard work they put in. I remember the food at saturday tourneys. I remember some funny falls and moments that just made me shake my head.

This year was especially fulfilling because this group of seniors have been with me for all four years of my coaching. I had them on JV my first year, 2 of them have been with me all three years on varsity and the other all six of them have been together again the past two years. I have watched them grow as athletes, as volleyball players, but more importantly in intelligent, beautiful young women who are going to make a real difference in the world. I am so proud of them.

Next year will be really different to begin volleyball without any of them. But they have helped turn the program around and their fingerprints will be all over this program for a while. I am looking forward to next year but it will be different.

Coaching volleyball with some of the greatest girls anywhere was a definite highlight this past year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Love Story continued

We returned from Christmas break and things just started moving forward, but not without a faux glitch on the horizon. It looked like a glitch, but sometimes looks can be deceiving. As January began we began talking more and more seriously about the future. We danced around things by asking each other “What if …” questions about our ideas of relationships, marriage, family and more. The “what ifs” got more and more specific and the picture of the desired future started to come into focus. I don’t know exactly when it happened, there were no shooting stars and no writing on the wall, but the time came when I realize this is who I want to spend the rest of my life with. As I held that knowledge I began plotting how to share that truth with Jody. I had decided that it was time to ask her to marry me. I didn’t plan anything elaborate, I just thought I would ask. (I know I have shattered your image of the moment haven’t I?)

We were out on a date one night and we were having some more our “what if” discussions. Jody suddenly scooted away from me and declared that she was not talking about the “what ifs” anymore. When I asked why, she replied that she wasn’t going to keep talking about the future any more because I hadn’t asked her the question. My reaction (now remember I already knew that I was going to ask) was to smile and maybe a chuckle escaped my lips. Evidently that was not the reaction she was expecting nor hoping I would give. – Timeout – do you remember the story of my first visit to her house and the fender bender in the snow? Do you remember her reaction to that incident? If not go back and read it. So I felt entitled to my chuckle at that moment. – Time in –

Later in the evening, when I had convinced her to get near me again, I asked the question. She said yes! We embraced the moment and then in moments she wanted to go back to campus. That was not what I had imagined, and besides it was way before the dorm curfew. When I asked why she wanted to go back so early she replied with a large smile that it was so she could tell people that we were now engaged. So we returned to campus, walked up to her dorm entrance, she gave me a big hug and kiss and said good night! It was about 10:30!!! She ran inside and I soon heard some squealing. I turned around and headed to my dorm. There was no one to tell, all of my buddies were out on dates. So there I sat, in my dorm freshly engaged and all by myself. It was a pitiful picture.

Sometime later the phone in my room rang and it was Jody telling me she loved me and that she was having a blast telling people that we were engaged. Then she hung up and there I sat. Did I mention that I was all alone? Two or three hours later my buddies came in and told them. Unlike at Jody’s dorm there was no squealing. There were congrats,(“Way to go Sundance!” Did I mention that was my nickname in college?) handshakes and some pats on the back. It was all, you know, guy style.

The next day arrived and I realized that I should let my parents know that I was now engaged. I hadn’t really thought that part through, so I …

2010 Highlights ...

As I look back on 2010 the greatest area of personal growth in my spiritual life happened on Tuesdays. I started the year by encourages the church to come and have some special times of prayer on Tuesdays throughout the year. There were 3 specific times announced that people were encouraged to come and pray for a little while or the whole time. They were 6:30-7:30 am, noon-1:00pm and 5:30-6:30pm. We took a room that was being used to store some stuff, cleaned it out and called it the prayer room. Every week I created a Prayer guide with praises and requests from our church, community and around the world. There were papers that people could fill out with additional requests or praises. We announced it every week and made sure the church was open and the room available every Tuesday.

What happened was that only a handful of people ever came to pray. After several months I quit announcing it every week but continued to create the prayer guide and I continued to come in at 6:30am every Tuesday that was in town. Somewhere around September it dawned on me that though the church had not responded to this plea for prayer it was changing me. I still don't know if the main reason the Lord prompted me to encourage the church for this special time of prayer was just for me or not. But I do know that it changed me. My prayer life increased several times over this past year.

So what was at one point very discouraging and frustrating to me is now a highlight from this past year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

Our relationship was moving full steam ahead at this point. It was soon to be obvious that this was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but of course there were still a few more adventures before I acted on that fact. Such as …Christmas break which came a few weeks after we got back from Thanksgiving break. We each went our separate way to our own homes. We managed to delay our trips home briefly, but we ended up a few hours from each other. This was a big test. The college life is not real life, you are in such a tight environment, you see each other a lot and there are many things that are more optional than required. This leads to being able to see each other almost at your whim, but life outside of that is not so easy.

Our Christmas break was 5 weeks, if memory serves me correctly. This was our first lengthy time away from each other. Now remember we had no cell phones and no email. (Hey I have admitted to being old already) So we were left to letters and long distance phone calls for which you had to pay extra. If you know either my wife or myself you know that the letter thing was not going to happen too much, so that left the phone. I had learned while still in high school that long distance phone calls to girlfriends were expensive and they came out of my pocket.

The old saying is that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. I don’t know if that is always true, but I do know that I was not fond of the absence. What this time did prove to me was that Jody was the person that I loved and that I didn’t want this kind of absence again. What I missed was seeing her and spending time with her, it was all the little things. It wasn’t the dates, it was just the time being near each other. This was a great and painful time. We were able to see each other for a few days during this time and she spent some time at my house and with some of my family. See already knew my brother and his family, because at that time he was living in the town in which we attended college. He liked it because he got some free babysitting out it, well if you don’t count the food I ate whenever we babysat. Come to think of it maybe he would have been money ahead to pay a babysitter.

We returned from Christmas break and things just started moving forward, but not without a faux glitch on the horizon. It looked like a glitch, but sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a hectic day that had some great moments. In fact it was another very good day. The hectic was that we returned to have Sunday School on Sunday mornings so schedules were thrown off and there was a lot of scrambling to be done, mainly by me. I had gotten used to the pattern when Sunday School was not in the morning and I just forgot how different my own schedule was on those mornings. So I was sprinting more than usual.

Worship went well. We were missing half of our band. A couple of them were out of town on trips and another got paged for a fire run a little before the service began. People seemed rather lethargic as the service began, but got more engaged as the service continued. I was really moved as watched our worship team leading us and realized that half of them were teens. We nearly always have some teens in our worship teams, but this time it just really touched and encouraged me. God is really doing some great things in our youth ministry. Jody and I had a great conversation with a teen on Saturday who is really seeking to do what God desires.

The message was part 2 of a 5 part series (those who know me well are aware that the length of a series is always subject to change). The series is entitled "Changeover", in seeking to know, understand and do the changes God is desiring of us to do his will. Our foundation is Isaiah 43:14-44:5. In review: your focus determines where you will go and how you will live. We are to focus on what God is doing now. We are to focus on God's perception not our selfish perceptions and we are to focus on being ready to follow God's way.

To be ready to follow God's way will require that we are following God's disciplines. This week we focused on reading God's Word and prayer. God keeps reminding us of his words. In our foundations passage there are 3 verses that say "this is what the Lord says", and another that asks you to "review" with him. God has already given you the answers in his Word. But we must read the Word to find the answers. You cannot depend solely on someone else teaching them to you. The challenge was to read the Bible everyday and to read all of it within the next 1 or 2 years. Most people who claim to follow Christ rarely read their Bible outside of attending church. That won't cut it. I shared several different Bible reading plans from which people could choose. The bottom line is get in the Word. Start with a little, because I know that the more of the Bible you read the more you will want to read.

We also focused on the discipline of prayer. I mean really praying about the needs and concerns in your life and the lives of those everywhere. Prayer is a conversation with God and a conversation is not a monolog (that doesn't look right, is that how it is spelled?). There must be listening as well as talking. We listen as we read the Bible and we listen for his still small voice while we pray. This is a personal and corporate need. The challenge is to pray everyday. How long is not the critical factor in your praying, however the more you pray the more you will want to pray. Some tips that help me: Write it down. I do much better when I write, or type, my pray list. I guess the visual helps cement it for me. Find a spot that is somewhat a regular spot, a chair, a room, a closet, a tree, the spot doesn't matter but it helps to focus you on praying. Find a time for some regular prayer. Without scheduling it you are less likely to continue it. However, don't be limited by your spot or time, but be in an attitude of prayer. Be specific in your prayers, then you can really see God at work. Make sure you are including praises. Share some of your prayers and needs with others. If you say it is only private then it is easier to not do it because no one knows. Pray for others more than yourself, this includes praying around the world. I have also been very encouraged this past year by having a day (or time) each week for some extended prayer. I have dramatically increased my prayer life this past year because of having a time of extended prayer nearly every week.

Will you accept the challenges? If so, when? Don't just say yes and leave it. If you say yes then answer the question of when you will begin. Otherwise you are not likely to to actually do it. I am praying for you as you accept the challenges this week.

Friday, January 07, 2011

2010 Highlights

In August we did our annual outdoor Baptismal service. We were at a member's home and did the baptizing in their pond. The weather was sunny and hot, in other words beautiful for baptism. We had 4 young people who were baptized. I love outdoor baptisms. There is just something uniquely special about them.

We sang a few songs. I shared about the meaning of baptism. Then each of the people shared their personal testimony and reason for getting baptized now. I love hearing the tesitmonies. Often I know most of the testimony, but I always learn something new. I love watching the families of those getting baptized. They go through a series of emotions. Pride, humbled, impressed, encouraged and just plain beaming with joy.

I love the expression of each of the people's faces as they walk into the water. It is always mixture of excitement, fear and joy. The fear is rarely deep fear, more of a "How cold is the water?", and "How long will you hold me under?" Then the best part is the look on their faces as they come up out of the water. They are grateful to be up from being under the water and then there is the most awesome picture of joy and accomplishment. I am smiling as I type this and am remembering that day.

When we are finished we have a picnic and have some great conversations and fellowship. I also love watching those who were baptized as they are greeted by their family members, and then by others in the church. I enjoy standing back and watching all of this interaction. It is really a picture of intimate fellowship. I don't get to see that often enough so I make sure I don't miss watching it.

This was one of the best ministry highlights of the year.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

The day arrived for us to head to her house and we took off from school for the 4 hour drive. It was snowing a lot and the drive became very slow and treacherous. We into the trip we were traveling on an interstate and traffic was inching along at about 15-20 mph. It was slick, cold, snowing and visibility was poor. I saw all the brake lights up ahead of me come on, so I applied my brakes. I did it gently but the car began to slide anyway, I did all the tricks you are supposed to, but the cars in front and to the side of me came to a complete stop and we didn’t until we slowly slid into one of them. I put on the flashers, got out to inspect and talk with the other car. The other drive waved me off and I couldn’t see any damage on either car, but I gave me my information anyway. As I got back into the warm car I was upset. Ticked at myself, the weather, and really irritated that I was going to have to contact the insurance company and my Dad in case the other driver filed a claim. With all of that churning in me I looked over at the girl had fallen in/chosen to love and realized that she was laughing! She was trying hard to conceal it, but I could tell she was chuckling. I asked “Are you laughing?” She tried to deny it, but it is hard to deny you are laughing when you are laughing and tears are running down your cheeks. At that moment I wondered what I had gotten myself into and I was really steamed. Her explanation to me, after apologizing profusely, was that she has a tendency to laugh in times of crisis. I have discovered in the 35+ years of marriage that it is often true. It is not that she doesn’t care. There is just something in her that has to laugh when she someone falls, etc … I still love her, but this took some getting used to.

The visit at her house went well, though I was very nervous the whole time. Her mother and I did better during this encounter. I met her Dad and that seemed to go well. That is always a biggie for the guy to meet his girl’s Dad. I have 2 daughters and I looked at every guy with suspicion when I first met them. I also had to pass the test with her sister, brother in law and nephews and a niece. That went very well. The 4 or 5 days went by and we headed back to college. The trip back to college went much better than the trip to her house, the weather was better, there was no accident and thereby there was no laughing at my misfortune.

Our relationship was moving full steam ahead at this point. It was soon to be obvious that this was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but of course there were still a few more adventures before I acted on that fact. Such as …

Monday, January 03, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. Our time of music went very well and people really seemed to engage and participate during the singing. There seemed to be a good spirit of expectation and always helps. Our attendance was decent for what is still a holiday Sunday. To put the pastor's frustration into perspective, we had at least 60 people here yesterday who were not in attendance the previous Sunday but our attendance was only 9 more.

I began a new message series, "Changeover" using Isaiah 43:14-44:5. The focus this week was on verses 43:18-19 to launch into this series. The series is about a challenge for the year that I will begin making this coming Sunday. For many the beginning of a new year is a time to declare somethings they want to change in their life. We must realize that to see real change we must change. Your circumstances are not the real issue, you are. Perry Noble tweeted "One way to have VICTORY in your future is to stop being a VICTIM to your past."

Don't let the past steal your focus or your energy. Don't dwell on your past failures, failure is not final nor is it fatal. Unless you stay there. You must learn from the failure and move on. Don't dwell on past success, there are new battle to be fought and won. You do not win the new battle just because you won the past battle, you must fight the new battle. Telling the enemy that you won the past battle means little in the new battle.

Focus is critical, we are not to dwell in the past so where do we focus and why does it matter? Where you focus is where you will go and where you will live. Your focus determines your direction and residence. Focus on what God is doing now. He is doing new things, focus on these. Focus on God's perception not your selfish perceptions. Quite often we see what God is doing and we don't like it because it is not what we wanted him to do. Instead of focusing on God's will we waste time and energy trying to get God to focus on our will. Focus on being ready to follow God's way. To do this requires that we follow God's disciplines, such as reading the Bible, praying, giving sacrificially, serving, fasting and committing to a community of believers.

What needs to change for you to live obediently? What changes are you willing to make? When will you begin making the changes?

We had a few who came to the altar in response to the challenge. I am really looking forward to laying out the whole challenge over the next four weeks.

Here's hoping you have a great new year as you focus on God and his will.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 Highlights

Another great highlight of 2010 was going with my wife to watch the state high school volleyball finals. We went on a Wednesday night and checked into the hotel connected to the arena. The matches started on Thursday afternoon, so we had the morning to go out to breakfast and just relax. The matches were very entertaining and whenever we wanted we could just head back to the room without even going outside. On Friday we had the same schedule. It was very relaxing and great to spend some quality time together. Saturday the matches began at 10 am and we only stayed to watch 2 of the finals and then headed home.

This was a highlight because of the time spent with my wife. It was special because she spent time with me watching something that I am more interested in than she is, I am sure. It was a hightlight because it reminded me of how fortunate I am to be able to coach the girls I get to coach on our local high school volleyball team. I saw some very good teams but none that I would rather coach that the young women on my team. I am a very fortunate man.