Thursday, May 31, 2007

Royals vs Orioles part deux

Back to the ball game on Tuesday night. The game was not going real well for the home team, so the crowd was looking for alternative entertainment. Enter the bird on the wire. I said it was an Oriole watching the game, my wife says, "no, stupid, it is a meadowlark."

There is a wire, a cable that runs from the back of the backstop up to the upper deck. On this cable during the game was perched a solitary bird. While everyone wants to catch a foul ball, everyone seemed to be pretty concerned about what this foul might drop into the stands.

The bird sat on the wire. We watched the game. And we kept an eye on the bird. What was he doing?

Later, when the lights came on at the stadium, the purpose for his perching came into clear view. The lights attracted lots of big moths which our bird friend was very interested in. He/she would swoop down from the cable and pick the pesky bugs out of the sky, return to the wire and enjoy the meal.

Everytime the bird left the wire to dive bomb an unsuspecting insect, the crowd in our vicinity would grow quiet. Who cares about the game, look at this bird! When he missed the moth, there were groans of sorrow, when he nailed it, applause errupted as if Mike Sweeney had knocked it out of the park.

40,000 seats. One wire. Lots of people at a ball game, one bird at the lunch counter. Here is the point. We thought we were at a ballgame. He thought we built the stadium and put up the lights so that the bugs would come to his cafeteria.

Lots of lessons here:
- some people get to go to the Royals games, others are worried about where their next meal will come from.
- some people think they know what is going on in the world, but there is really something else very important taking place right next to them if they would just open their eyes and look.

-I'll bet you can find some other lessons in this story.

It is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The dancing gene

I have it. I know I do. If you have the dancing gene, you just know it. I don't care if my family thinks that I dance like Bill Cosby or Elaine from Seinfeld. Maybe Bill and Elaine had the dancing gene too.

The London Times recently did a nice article on the dancing gene.

Dancing is good. Its good for your heart, it is good for muscle tone. Dancing make you feel good. The Bible encourages us to "praise Him with the dance." It also tells us that "David danced before the Lord." You have to know that there was dancing at the wedding of Cana, when Jesus turned the water into wine.

So, I have the dancing gene. Sometimes it just pops out of you and you start to swing and do your special moves. You can't help it. You cant stop it. You just have to dance.

And so, last night the family is at the Royals game. [Thanks to my friend for the nice tickets.] The Royals may not have the best record in baseball, but they have a really nice sound system, and when the music comes on, well, its hard to keep still. The feet start to shuffle and the arms start to swing, and pretty soon you are up and out of your seat. And so it happened that after the "kiss cam" they had the "dance cam" and it was then that this old boy made it on the giant skytron tv screen, showing the fans his moves. As I remember the moment, there was a great ovation from the stands, followed by the wave cheer. Then everyone joined in and learned one of my favorite moves. I got the key to the city. [To be fair, my family remembers the moment a little differently.]

Dancing is good. It is the happiness inside of you bursting out. I guess Lee Ann Womack said it very well: "when you get a choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."

I have the dancing gene. I cant help it. Try it. Let loose. It is good for your soul. Who cares what your co-workers may think. Life is good and sometimes you just have to dance, no matter who is watching.

It is a beautifl day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The new longview

I saw the new longview area last week for the first time. It is a beautiful throw-back to days gone by. Nostalgic. Businesses look like an old downtown from the 40's. The brand new homes are based on designs from the 1920's. Just being there provided a comforting feeling.

I dont know about you, but framiliar things make me feel good. Yesterday. The way it was. Memories from childhood that come to life. Grandma's house. 60's and 70's music.

Conversely, new things make me nervous. Computers! I saw my first one when I was 28. I never thought I would learn how to use one. New music. Rap= yucky. Meeting new people, crowds. Change. Kids growing up and leaving for college. It is all hard.

Somewhere in this world of changing times, my burden is clear. I need to learn how to adapt. I need to learn to see the good in things that I am uncomfortable with. Think about it. Its all good. What would I rather have, a day filled with new things and new ideas that make me nervous, or to not be given the gift of today? Someone once said that as you grow older, you can choose to become bitter or better. I choose better, what about you?

Its a beautiful day is God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sermon notes

Sometimes it happens. I forget part of the sermon. If I just read a manuscript this would not happen, but when you speak from notes you sometimes lose your place and sometimes leave things out.

I really liked this part of the sermon. I think it made it into the 905 service only.

The sermon was about how it is easy for us to "go thru the motions" of faith. What I left out of several of the services on Sunday was a quote of some lyrics from a Keith Green song. Keith Green was a contemporary Christian singer who died at age 28 in a plane crash along with two of this three children. Keith's ministry has been described as "John the Baptist style." That is, confrontational and challenging.

Here are the lyrics that I wanted to share. They challenge us to do more than just go thru the motions of faith. Hang on, they are straight to the point.

"To obey is better than sacrifice, …
I don't need your money, I want your life.
And I hear you say that I'm coming back soon,
But you act like I'll never return.
Well you speak of grace and my love so sweet,
How you thrive on milk, but reject my meat.

Well you pray to prosper and succeed,
But your flesh is something I just can't feed.
To obey is better than sacrifice.
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights,
Cause if you can't come to me every day,
Then don't bother coming at all.
To obey is better than sacrifice.
I want hearts of fire, not your prayers of ice."

The quote "to obey is better than sacrifice is from 1 Samuel 15. To me, these words mean that it is better to live the christian life during the week, than to come to church on sunday and ask forgiveness for not living the Christian life. Worship should lead us to a transformed life. The result should be that we are becomming better wives, better husbands, better friends, more determined to be dispensers of Gods grace in our daily life.

Ouch! I apologized for picking on the folks at 905. These were words that cause me to think. Think really hard. I wanted to share. Sometimes it is the things that challenge us that make us better people.

I would rather go to a church where I was challenged from time to time than to have a place where I was allowed to go thru the motions of faith.

Its a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The most beautiful wedding

The conditions were perfect. 72 degrees, light south wind. Longview gardens were in full bloom. Six groomsmen, young and handsome stood to my left, Six bridesmaids, in all their beauty, stood to my right. All of their parents were beaming. The singer, well the singer was our friend Amy. It doesnt get any better than that. The bride, a young lady that I have known for ten years, since she was a youngster, stands glowing, holding the arm of a fine young Chrisitan man. The payoff? The kicker? They really love each other. The backdrop to my view included the beautiful longview mansion and the horse drawn carriage that delivered the bride to the gardens. After the wedding, when the bride and groom held each other for their first dance, outside overhead, fireworks lit up the night sky.

At this moment I was struck with a thought. "Every wedding should be this beautiful. Every couple that starts out should be celebrated just like this." Now I know that not everyone can be celebrated in this fashion. I have two daughters and their weddings are not going to be like this. But they should be. Why? Because when two people find love, there should be a massive celebration. Like no other. To know love is a joy uncomparable to anything else. You may find it in a husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, cat or dog, but to know love is a gift above all gifts. It is the gift of God. In fact, God is love. Just to sit here this morning and think about the word "love" makes me feel good.

If you woke up this morning and you have someone that loves you, you are blessed beyond measure. Whether romantic love or the love of a friend or family member, no amount of money can purcase such a gift, no valuable is worth trading for it.

If there is any love in your life at all, stand up and shout! Sing out! Praise the Lord! Thank God for His many gifts. Every gift of love should be celebrated!

Its a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Staff views mission sites

On Wednesday of this week, the Woods Chapel Church staff had a staff retreat. Usually on days like this we have a speaker come in and learn some cutting edge ideas about growing churches. Sometimes we take tests to learn about ourselves.

On Wednesday, we didnt do any of that. Instead, we all loaded up in the shuttle bus and went to tour some of our mission partners. Our first stop was at the Westport UMC where we visited with Pastor Eric Huffman. We saw the homeless ministry "neighbor to neighbor" in action and spent a few moments with those whom the program serves. Next we went to Camino Verdad Verdida on Independence Avenue. Pastor Gustavo and his wife served us a very nice lunch and then we toured the building and listened to all of the things that they are doing in ministry. Our last stop was Hillcrest Transitional Housing in Independence. Director Cotton Sivils gave us a tour of the building and explained how the program works to help get needy people back on their feet.

The decision to spend the day visiting these ministries turned out to be a very valuable one. It is one thing to hear about a ministry, it is another thing to see it in person. It is one thing to hear about homeless people, it is another thing altogether to see their world and visit with them in person. I am sure that the staff will now be more informed, more passionate advocates for these mission outposts.

If there is anyway that you can get out into the community even for a short time and visit one of our mission sites, I think you will be blessed. If you are down and discouraged and life is weighing heavy on you, a trip like this will provide you with a whole new perspective.

We are blessed beyond imagination. We live in mansions. We have so much, they need so much. How easy it is for us to forget.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Larry Stewart Field

I was reading in the Blue Springs Examiner. The School board is going to name the new football field at Blue Springs South after Larry Stewart. Bravo! Thank you!

There are a number of pieces in my world that cause me to miss Larry Stewart very deeply. He gave me a hat which sits on my office shelf. He gave me a golf ball embossed with the seal of Pres. Bush Sr. Mostly I miss him because he was a great man with a great big heart. He could laugh and the whole world laughed. He gave his time, his attention, and his money.

I am sorry to say this, but I am still not real happy with God for taking Larry. Why does such a good man die. We were pals. Aarruuughh!!!

I understand. I know all of the things that I believe about losing a friend. It still hurts.

I celebrate today a man who challenged all of us to be generous in thought, word and deed. I miss him. I see him alive in so many ways. I see how he touched so many and turned so many more into generous people.

Larry, my friend, you are grieved.

Thank you Blue Springs School Board for keeping his name out in front of the community.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It takes all kinds to make a world

I am often asked, "why are there so many small churches?" One possible answer is that some churches spend a lot of time running off those who do not agree with every single point in the churches list of doctrines. Pretty soon all that is left is the preacher's family and a few others, and everyone is looking over everyone elses shoulder to make sure that they keep thinking right.

One of the things that I have noticed at WCC is the number of different kinds of people that we have attending. Some are like me, some are like how I was a few years ago, some are not like me at all. All are important. If all Christians have a place in God's family, then all Christians should have a place at WCC. In fact, we need to have non-Christians and nominally Christian people among us, or there will be no one for the church to win.

We cannot be threatened by those who see the world differently than we do. [Often a sense of being threatened is a sign of our own insecurity in who we are.] Every single person is important and they all matter to God. Stand back and watch and see if God doesnt use people too, who are very different from you. There are many different parts in the body of Christ and the church should look more like vegetable soup than a broth.

What does this mean for your personal life? While there are surely those that we enjoy more, and those that we enjoy less, everyone in our life matters. If we treat those with whom we are uncomfortable in a standoffish manner, then the results of that are predictable. Maybe they have just be waiting for a kind word from me. Even those who hurt us have a role. God can use them to help me learn to be more gracious. And my wife would tell you that I need to learn to be more gracious.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good. Even in those who are different from you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I wake to this day

Two years ago I was sick. When I was pronounced "well" by the doctors, something was different about me. Different in a good way. I was marked by those weeks of uncertainty. Now I wake to the day with a different expectation. Sure there are occaisional down moments [see Sunday's post] but for the most part, I am very glad to be alive in God's world.

Last night I was dreaming all night long. Sure seemed like it. There was a line of people to be baptized.....35 of them. Some of you were in the line. I spilled the water coming up the stairs and there was only few drops left in the bowl. The first person in line, a member who has struggled with life, asked for more water. She did not want to miss any of God's blessing. I gladly obliged. Those in line had a strong sense of joy and expectation as they waited and prayed for God to meet them and touch them.

Later on, I dreamed that I was talking to an old friend about coming back to church. People drop out for many reasons, sometimes they dont feel worthy. Well, we are never worthy in our own right. The blood of Jesus Christ makes us worthy. I am going to contact this old friend today and invite them to retake their place at the table of the Lord.

I woke up several times during the night....I wanted to get up and go to church. Finally 6am rolled around and I am up and excited and looking forward to what the day will bring.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Dear Inky, very very well said. I am praying for you today.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, May 21, 2007


We had three babies. That was a long time ago. I would sit in the recliner and hold all three of them on my lap at the same time. They were totally dependent upon us and we loved them dearly. Still do.

We blinked our eyes. Now they are 16, 18 and almost 20. One in college, the second leaving for college this fall. All of them are driving now.

Passages. Where did the time go? I struggle with many feelings. I am proud of them. I am happy for them. I am concerned for them. And I am sad. Sad for myself. It is an interesting process to adapt to the changes that life brings you.

They are becoming little adults. They are going to make their own decisions. Some decisions I will like, and some I won't. I believe that the core problem for me at this time of life is me. I cant control them, and I dont want to. They have the right to make their own decisions and they will make them whether I like it or not. I have to get used to this. If I don't adapt, then my relationship with them is about me and that is not healthy. I dont want to be the parent who is constantly trying to manipulate the adult kids to come over for Christmas on a certain day, at a certain time. I need to get a life.

I have to keep reminding myself that there is life on the other side of raising children. There are good things ahead, just as there are good things behind. I want to transition this passage, painful as it is, in a way that is healthy for my family. Those of you who have been thru this, I covet your advice.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It is Sunday Morning

Here we go again. When you are a minister, it sure seems like Sunday comes about 3 times a week. Arrughh! Its here again!

I had a bad dream last night, over and over again. There is water leaking from an air conditioner unit in the foyer ceiling. Soccer and other sports have started and the faithful will be fewer and fewer until thanksgiving.

It is a full morning. full of important things, but full none the less. 5 announcements, tours of the new building. 2nd Graders receive bibles. High school graduates are recognized. Two baptisms. 43 new members. All good stuff, but is there time for a sermon?

So, now I stop and think for a minute. I stop and listen. Ahhh. Yes, I hear it, right outside my office window. I hear it and it changes me. It changes my heart. What did I hear this morning? You guessed it.

I heard the birds sing. Listen. Can you hear them? Step outside. Listen.

What a glorious reminder of the goodness and glory of God. We are so easily drawn into negative circumstances, when all around is is the beauty of God's world.

I am renewed. I am ready to preach- no matter how much or how little time I have. Give me the microphone. I have something to say. First service starts in 45 minutes. I hope to see you this morning in the house of the Lord.

It is a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Full Disclosure

Inquiring minds want to know. There is a big buzz in the KC metro area right now over a particular church that is accused of some questionable business and accounting practices. I want to say a few words about the operation of your church, Woods Chapel United Methodist.

1. We have a policy of full disclosure. If you are a member or a constituent, you can ask anything that you want to ask. All reports are available to you and the business administrator will answer any questions that you have. Open doors, open books.

2. Our policies do not permit the supervision of relatives. None of the pastor's family are allowed to work at the church. Any other supervisory personnel cannot have someone from their family working in their department.

3. Staff does not handle money [except for the bookkeeping/admin staff.] If in a last resort you do have to give money to a staff person, they are required to turn it in and a phone call will be made to you from the business office verifying that the funds are received. It puts staff in a very difficult position when they are asked to handle checks or cash outside of normal proceedures.

4. The budget of the church is available for review by all members and constituents in December. The budget is approved at the first meeting of the church council/dream team in January. Every member and constituent is welcome and encouraged to attend. The budget and cash flow issues are reviewed monthly by the budget team.

5. We work very hard to protect the tax-exempt status of your church. No outside businesses are allowed to use the church for their personal gain. Any tapes or cd's of the pastor's sermons are made available at no cost or at the cost of the materials. The pastor does not profit from the production or sale of any audio or video materials.

6. The church has employment policies and an employment handbook. There are many other policies that have been put in place to insure the integrity of operations. All of these are available to you to view at any time.

7. Our recordkeeping is impecable. Our bank has worked with us over the years to insure that everything is in order. We have an annual audit, per United Methodist guidelines. If you want to see the financials from five years ago, you can. Our business department works hard to insure that all gifts are recorded as inteneded. It is a United Methodist policy that funds are always used for the identified purpose.

Let me close by saying that you can have full trust in your church and its operations. You can come to worship and participate in ministries with full confidence in what is happening behind the scenes, and if you ever ever have any questions, just ask.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Humble Pie

I had lunch with some friends today. Saw their offices, visited about business, the church, families. Great day, great lunch. I was interested that there was a ping pong table in the foyer of their business. Hmm. "What is that for," I asked. [dumb question] She told me that it was a great de-stresser and that after lunch we should play a game.

Well, I am going to be 50 this year, but when she offered a game of ping pong, something inside me smiled. Yes I have arthritis in my ankle and I have had cataract surgery on both eyes, but I used to be pretty good at ping pong. This should be fun. After all, she is a girl. Let the games begin.

As soon as the practice volleying began, it was clear that this is no ordinary ping pong opponent. "Ok, no problem, I am up for a challenge," I thought to myself. You know a man has to defend his honor.

Before I knew it, the score was 13-7, and she started slacking off. I gave her the speech. "Don't you go easy on me, I want to beat you fair and square. I will come back and win this game and you will be sorry. Let's see what you got.... What's wrong, ya getting tired?"

She grinned. I hardly scored another point the rest of the game.

It was clearly time to go. Holding back a tear, I told her thanks for the visit, the lunch, and for the ping pong lesson, a dessert of humble pie. Come to find out, she was the men's champion of her college.

There is a moral to this story. Pride cometh before a fall.
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of
himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt
to every man the measure of faith." Romans 12:3

God has a way of putting us in our place. We need to let Him do that. We are not as smart as we think. And we aren't as good at ping pong as we thought either. If you doubt me on that, I can set you up with a young woman who will give you a lesson in the game.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Generous Heart

I had lunch recently with a generous heart. That is not a statement about how much money they give. Somewhere in the changing and growning that happens in my faith development, I have discovered the joy of generosity. Generous people do give money, but not all people that give money are generous. Some are self centered, mean and attention seeking. Truly generous people give in hundreds of ways.

They always take a moment for you. They always say thank you. They walk little old ladies across the street. They always want to pay for lunch. They are kind and compassionate. Anything that they have is at your disposal. They seem to give, happily and freely. It brings them joy to give.

That is an opposite from what the world teaches us. Society teaches us to take and to collect. I think all of us have learned that this does not lead to happiness. People that have learned to give themselves away are incrediby happy. Its like their motto is "if I can help you, I will."

I encourage everyone within the sound of this keyboard to look at their life and consider how much of it they are consuming and how much of it they are giving away. Everyone can be a giver. Watch how happy it makes other people. If you have been down in the dumps, go find someone who needs something, and give to them. A generous heart is a glad heart.

Its a beautiful day in Gods world. Be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Friend,

Dear Friend,

I was glad to have some time to catch up with you the other day. I want you to know that I am very proud of you, and I want you to know that I grieve with you. I am so glad for the progress that you have made and the fortitude that you have shown. If I could wash away all of the hurt, I would be there in a moment. We don't see each other much, but I want you to know that you are a dear friend. I feel a sense of being bonded to you.

I have another friend who has a theory about this. He says that we used to live in a neighborhood in heaven, before we were born. Then we left heaven and came to earth. Later in life, we meet people and there is a connection that we cannot quite explain. He says the connection is that we used to be neighbors or brothers in heaven before we were born here. Now I know that is probably not very good theology, but it helps me understand and explain the special feelings that I have.

Stand tall. You are the best. God says so, and so do I. Remember that He defines you. He says that you matter. Time and God's love will heal all.

In spite of life's challenges, inspite of the rain, it is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Your friend,

Jeff B

Baseball can bring a family together

Please celebrate with me!

Monday night. A trip to Costco. That is what Cathy wanted for Mother's day. Now that is a good woman. After Costco, split a hamburger at Red Robin. Arrive home at 7:45pm.

We are standing in the front yard talking to the neighbors [great people]. Scott [16] comes up and wants to play catch. About that time, Alli [19+] pulls in the driveway, home from Chicago. After greetings and hugs, she plays catch with Scott. Soon Jenny [18] is home from work and wants to play. The challenge is issued: boys vs girls.

Gametime is 8:00pm. Weather conditions are perfect: 75 degrees, clear skies, sun just over the house across the street. The field is in perfect condition: asphalt circle with concrete curbs. The stands [two coleman foldout chairs] are filled to capacity. One wife [29] and one noisy dog [5 in people years, 35 in dog years].

The game begins. The girls are up first. Wow, they can hit the ball. [Someone taught them well.] By the time the boys come to bat, it is 7-0. The girls are cocky. Well, you know it, the boys can hit too. Soon, there is a feeling in the air that the home team girls may be in trouble. Enter the most amazing moment. There is a hush in the crowd as mom leaves retirement and steps onto the field. Taking her position in the outfield, she is going to help the girls get these boys out.

I am so touched by this. The kids dont know this, but mom used to be a very good softball player. It is something that we did together before they were born. In fact, Mom once fell and rolled on the way to first base while great with child #1. It was a joyful throwback moment to the way we were.

Back to the game. In short order, the girls get the boys out. Score 9-7, boys. The girls bat. Mom can hit, though it is hard to run in medium heels. Everyone laughs.

Darkness finally takes over the stadium and the game comes to a close. Everyone hit. Everyone ran. Some good plays were made. Laughter is good medicine. Good natured fun was poked. No one cared who won. Each rooted for the other. We were a family. This was one of the greatest moments for all of us together. It was fun. It was joyful. Little kids have grown up. A family come of age.

It is so easy to be consumed by the daily grind, dragged down by the negative moments. I am happy for every good frame of the day, every baseball game that brings us back together. I will remember that game for as long as I live.

May God give you many such moments of joy.

Its a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Monday, May 14, 2007

If love comes first, everything else will follow

If love comes first, then everything else will follow. Sometimes Christians get stuck on the "shoulds" and the "oughts" of life. Good Christians should do this or that or should not do this or that. Jesus talked about how the pharisees placed great burdens upon the backs of their followers, but refused to carry the loads themselves.

Behavior is important, but behavior is secondary. Love is primary. Love must come first. God is love. Let me say it again, God is love. If we begin to learn that God loves us, truly loves us, we can begin to love ourselves. Once that happens, His grace at work in our lives will begin to bring about changes in our lives. If love comes first, everything else will follow.

Dont allow your days to be filled with worry over whether or not you are a good person. Let your days be filled with God's love and you will naturally give it away.

It is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good. That includes yourself.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

it's just another day

Well, now that I am a blogger, I have this feeling that I should write something every day. Do you ever have days when you dont seem particularly inspired? I spoke with a friend at church today about how some days a person just doesnt feel like they have much to say.

I want you to know that this is ok. It is ok to have just a normal day. Normal days are good. Days that seem mundane and common are good days to practice listening. They are great days to ask the question, can you hear the birds sing?

Would you prefer to not have had this day? Not everyone woke to the miracle of this day. We that did, need to celebrate the simple goodness of life. Maybe no great inspirations today, but every day is good if you can just look and see the wonder.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why I like trees

I have learned something in the last two years that has really changed my life. It is a very simple thing, but I am getting better at it, and it is making a difference in how I feel about each day, how I feel about myself, and how I think and feel about others.

Awareness. Being aware of what is around you. So many people live their lives in a big hurry, they never stop to smell the roses. When we are too busy, we forget that we live in a beautiful world. We forget that the people that live in our homes are little miracles. We forget to give thanks for the day. If you get really busy, you can become easily angered when things dont go your way and begin to see people as exisiting for the purpose of making you happy.

Today I planted 8 trees on the church property. [Friday is my day off, so it is ok.] I have 4 more trees that I am taking up to the workday tomorrow. These are not big trees, but they will grow and in time, they will provide shade to the weary. What is it about trees? They are beautiful. You can watch them grow. You can prune them so that they grow efficiently. They provide shade. They are alive. Psalm 1 refers to the righteous as a tree that is planted by the waters.

This is hard to explain. Do you understand what I am saying? Go into the backyard or find a park and just enjoy the beauty of a tree. God speaks to us through his creation. He made trees. I love trees.

Awareness. Paying attention to the wonderful things that are around you. Awareness brings an appreciation and an admiration for the object. If we can learn to love trees, just think what is next.....neighbors, teenagers, mothers in law. Trees are good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Do you approve or disapprove of me? Do you reject me? Do I feel better when you approve of me and worse when you don't? Human beings are addicted to the drug of approval. Someone likes you, you feel good. Someone doesnt like you, you feel bad. That is silly. Their opinion of you does not change the truth of who you are.

Who tells you who and what you are? Your mom, your dad, your friends, your spouse, the popular people, the rich people? Who tells you that you are ok?

God does. God tells you that you are loveable, that you are accepted and approved. He loves you without condition. He loves you completely. Do you understand this? Can you take this truth into your brain and past your brain into your soul?

When you know you are loved by God, the tapes that have run in the back of your head telling you that you are bad, well they stop running. Not all at once, it takes practice, but you can actually live your life with confidence and joy.

This is a very big thought. There is much to say about this. I hope and pray that you are beginning to understand how much God loves you. He tells you that you matter. Remember that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Getting myself out of the way so God can come in

My life would be easier, my life is easier when I am less self-centered and more Christ centered, more other centered. We insist upon things that do not matter. We cling to things that we need not hold onto. Remember the story of the monkey who sticks his hand in the jar and grabs the penny? His tight fist around the penny keeps him from removing his hand from the jar. Wanting things and insisting that things go my way invites worry and struggle into our lives. Relaxing, letting go, allowing others to win the argument brings a sense of peace to our lives. When I can do this, I am no longer tied up in "me and mine." I begin to relax and make room for the quiet presence of God.

There were two monks who lived together in a monastery for forty years and never argued. Not even once. One day, one said to the other, "Don't you think its time we had an argument, at least once?"
The other monk said, "fine, let's start! What shall we argue about?"
"How about this peice of bread?" said the first monk.
"Okay, let's argue about this bread. How are we going to do it?" said the second.
"Ok here goes," the first monk said, "this bread is mine, it belongs to me!"
The second monk said, "Well, if it is, then take it."

Peace isn't destroyed by disagreement. It is the "I" the "me" that destroys peace. Get yourself out of the way for a few minutes and invite God's presence into your day.

Monday, May 7, 2007

This church is on fire!

On Sunday night our church was struck by lightning and caught on fire. The fire was small and no one was hurt. The damage is mostly contained and we will work through the inconveniences caused by this event.

People have very strong feelings when this happens to their church. When something this important to us is threatened, we want to rise to the occaison and do something to resolve the danger.

Here is the good news for us. Smoke alarms and sprinkler systems worked fine. We experienced an excellent response by the Lees Summit fire department. Caring friends worked in the middle of the night to help clean up the water. [Jerry Cesar, Gary Glenn, Les and Donna Flandermyer] And last but not least, we have insurance that will make everything right.

Here is my suggestion. Since we are going to be ok, lets put our passion to use. How about we use the drive and emotion of this moment to reach out to those who have been impacted in very painful ways by these storms. The people in Greensburg, Ks. lost their entire church. They lost their entire town. Several members of their community were killed. How can we help them?

Let's turn our pain into an oportunity to reach out to others in need.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The happiest days of my life

A family was offered a job in another town. They considered the opportunity to move elsewhere, and decided to stay put. Some time later, one of the parents came to me and said the following, "among the reasons that we chose to stay in this town, was the Woods Chapel Church. The happiest time of our life has been while we were members of this church."

This comment touched me, and I have thought about it quite a bit since then. One of the thoughts that came to my mind is that I totally agree. The happiest time of my life has been since I have been a part of the Woods Chapel United Methodist Church. This is not to say that I didn't have happy times as a child or that other churches were not wonderful. But I can tell you this, I have made more friends in the past 13 years at this church than my entire life combined. I have seen more good, witnessed more miracles and watched more dreams come true than in the rest of my life combined.

I am so proud to have each of you as my friends. The opportunity that we have to make the journey together in life is a tremendous gift. Thank you for being you. Thank you for making this church the place that it is. Keep inviting your friends. We always have room for more.

Friday, May 4, 2007

I'm not moving to Africa, at least not this week

Well. I didnt mean to create a stir. On Sunday I talked about the disparity that I feel when I consider the suffering of many ministers and the relative ease of being a pastor in America. I mentioned 429 pastors who were martyred in the Sudan. I asked, what does that say about my level of discipleship? My level of commitment?

Since Sunday, I have received several nice notes from you friends about how much good is being done here at Woods Chapel and how important the work is here. I appreciate those thoughts and I know that they are true.

Lets be clear. I have kids in college. I am not going to Africa. At least not right now. And you are right, there is a great deal of good to be done here. Here is a question: What is better, for me [one person] to go to Russia, or for me to work hard to motivate all of you to go to Russia, Africa, Guatemala, and New Orleans? The answer is simple. I understand this.

However, and this is a big however. We have to be very care that we do not begin to believe that somehow we are owed the cushy life that we lead. The prosperity gospel is heresy. There are many very faithful Christians who are poor. Read Hebrews 11. Pay close attention to the end of the chapter. We must not justify our wealth as an excuse to forget about the poor and needy of this world. To whom much is given, much is required. We at Woods Chapel have a deep responsibility to give back to the world. We should be deploying people into the mission field. We should be living sacrificial, exemplary lives of discipleship.

I have a friend who every time she walks into her house thinks, "Lord, I do not deservve to live in a wonderful home like this." That is something for all of us to think about.

Another blog posted.
Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.
Jeff Brinkman

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Day One

I cannot believe it. I am now a blogger. Here is the amazing thing about it. I didnt even have to ask anyone how to do this. My son could have done it in ten minutes. I won't tell you how long it took me to figure it out, but here we are.

Let me start with something short. Why the name "Can you hear the birds sing?" Well, can you? Or the better question is, are you listening for them, are you listening to them? Are you aware at all of God's amazing glory in creation? Is your day at an end and you realize that you have not heard even one bird sing today? How sad? Wake up! Tomorrow, if God gives you the day, listen to the birds sing!

The heavens declare the glory of God! It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.