Monday, March 31, 2008

two sides of the church thing

Last week, an email was sent on my behalf, with my permission, to everyone on our email list. Lots of folks got it. The email was asking for financial assistance to finish the classrooms on the second floor.

A few people responded positively. Thank you. Most did not reply. That is fine. Two have asked to be taken off of our email list. One, wrote me an unhappy reply about how they only get contacted when the church needs money.


Well, I wrote back a very nice reply. Offered to get together with them. Tried to reach out. It is what I ought to do. But there is another side to the relationship between a person and the church or a person and the pastor. It's not always about the pastor or the church needing to take care of a person. There is another side to this relationship which is easy for folks to forget.

Here it is:

When you join the church, you make a commitment. Not to me, but to Jesus Christ and his church. You promise to be loyal to the church and support it with your prayers, presence, gifts, and service. There are no conditions attached. The promise is not conditioned on whether or not you are happy with the sermons. It is not conditional on whether or not you like the issues of a bigger church. It is simply a commitment to support the church.

I tend to believe that if we stay with good things and keep our commitments, even when we feel bad about something, eventually, everything will come around. We can't throw away our spouse because we are bored with them, stop paying taxes because we are mad at the president, and we shouldn't quit the church because something annoys us.

The church is worth supporting. Sure, it has it's moments, but all in all, this is a great place. We teach people about Jesus, we adopt orphans, we feed hungry people. We encourage the broken hearted, help hurricane victims, and give people the opportunities of Christian fellowship. We connect people to Jesus Christ. All of this on a proportionately small budget, and under the most stringent of financial controls. I am proud of our church, and I think that you should be too. There is so much more good than bad. In fact, there is so little bad, it surprises me when it shows up.

Please don't ever be offended by the church or the pastor or staff. Its a great place, doing great stuff. Because of the faithful participation of many, we are making a difference in the world.

Thank you for what you are doing at Woods Chapel Church.

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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I went to church yesterday

Yesterday I worshipped for two hours in the garden of God. I have missed this. I forgot just how much. What the winter has taken away, now the spring has restored.

Yesterday I planted iris that I was given a year ago. Some of it was sprouting in the box. I heard it saying to me, "Hello Jeff, you better get me in the ground. I am doing what I was created to do."

I moved some dirt. I pulled some weeds. I trimmed a few bushes that someone neglected to trim last year. I counted mums. 11 of the 16 that I planted last year have come back so far. They are pink and purple. Really pretty.

New grass is filling in the dead spots. The maples are making whirly gigs. The pears are getting ready to flower.

It felt good to be out. Healthy. Whole. I hope that you have something that you do in your life that brings you this much joy.

I thank God for the way that he speaks so clearly through things that grow. The voices of plants and flowers are not interfered with by human banter. They speak of God's greatness. They speak of his amazing abilities.

By the way, the daffodils and tulips are coming up at church. Keep an eye out for them.

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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

48 sermons

48 sermons. That is all that Methodist preachers needed to have in the old days. Every year they would give their 48 sermons and then be appointed to another place. They always had a new audience for the same old 48. No one ever heard their stories more than once and their jokes were always new.

Having been here as long as I have, 14 years this June, this is a real challenge for me. I am not asking to move, but I am asking for your understanding.

The stories that I have, are my only life stories. My approach to major pieces of scripture has not changed over the year. Consequently, sometimes I wonder if people feel like, "well, here we go again with that stuff."

Sure, I can read books and learn new stuff, and I try to do that, but Jeff is pretty much the same guy as he was 14 years ago [I think]. Actually, I think I used to be funnier.

The other point here is that the core message of the Christian faith does not change. There is no new spin on the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. We just need to make peace with the story and learn to apply it to our lives. It is what it is.

Finally, our culture has predisposed us to want to be entertained. The pressure for preachers to always have something new on the table has led to some very unfortunate heresy [false teaching].

Tomorrow is Sunday. You may hear something that you have heard before. Not a repeat, I always [except 2 times per year] write sermons from scratch. But there are only so many ideas in my head and heart. I have been blogging for almost a year. It is time for some topics to be addressed again.

In order to learn, we need to hear important things over and over. And I need to release my self from the worry over if you have heard or read all of "my stuff." I am sorry if you know all of my jokes. They are still mine and they are all I got, and I still think they are funny.

So, coming soon to a pulpit and blog site near you.......the story, the old old story, of Jesus and his love.

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

Friday, March 28, 2008



We all have it from time to time. We are disappointed by a family member, by a coworker, by a neighbor or a friend. If we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we even disappoint ourselves from time to time.

I combat disappointment by reminding myself that maybe that was the best that they could do at that moment. I remind myself that everyone is a little bit broken, and maybe that is all they had to offer.

If they are crushing my boundaries, I will speak to them, but I try to remember that everyone is human.

Life is funny. One day you are on cloud nine cause your kid got into nursing school, the next day you are dealing with disappointment.

The best thing to remember when disappointed is that the sun is still shining. It may be foggy outside, but if we can see past the haze, the sun is still up there. God is good, and things always come around.

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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Alli gets in

Celebrate with me! My oldest daughter Alli, [the one on the right in the picture] is finishing her sophomore year at CMSU. She had applied for the nursing program. Had to write an essay and keep her grades up. Lots of folks want in the program, it has limited space.

Today, she got the word. She is in the program! Now if she just stays at it another two years, she will graduate and have a job as a nurse.!!!

Ahhh. Yes! Dad is happy. Dad is proud of Alli!
Dad is proud of Jenny and Scott too.
Thank God.

On a lighter note, the girls had an intramural softball game at 10pm last night. Jenny [the one on the left] called to say that she got a hit. She was very excited. Jenny is a freshman at CMSU. Anyway, life is pretty good for them right now.

Enjoy your kids. They grow up fast. Suddenly, Easter 1991 will turn into Easter 2008. Time flies, but it is all good. We have much to be thankful for.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dad's tax stuff

I kept it for years, just in case. Finally I decided that it was time to get rid of it. A cardboard box full of my parents, then my father's tax returns.

I put the box in the trunk of my car. I would take it to church and put it through the shredder a little bit at a time. With all the worry of identity theft, it has to be shredded.

The box sat in my trunk for two months.

Then, I sold the car. Now I had to do something with the box. I finally moved it into my office. Yesterday, about 7:15 am, I started shredding my Dad's stuff. Dad kept every check and every receipt. It was a funny feeling to see Mom and Dad's handwriting. Just yesterday they were here.

I learned some things about them. They were very generous. Their charitable giving was something to make you proud. They gave to their church, then after mom died, Dad gave to his new church, our church, Woods Chapel. They gave to funds for the poor, funds for the sick and political campaigns. When the parsonage needed new carpeting in 1994, Dad gave $500.

I didn't finish the shredding, because I had to get to work, but I felt connected again. Connected to two people who weren't perfect, but did the best they could. Two people who grew up during the depression. Two people that I miss and remember fondly.

Someday, someone will shred your stuff. What will they find? What will you have left behind?

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

sermon ideas or requests

I am making plans for the next couple of months worth of sermons. Are there any topics that you would like the Pastor to cover? Are there any questions that you would like him to take a shot at answering? There may be something that I can't do a sermon on, but I would write about on my web page. Anyway, I would like to know what is on your mind, what is on your heart.

Please post a comment to this blog with sermon ideas or send me an email at

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

Monday, March 24, 2008

Post Easter

Postpartum depression for preachers.

The church can be absolutely exhausting. You get yourself all worked up for special Holy Days. I guess I have no one to blame for that except myself. You worry about how its all going to come out. You hear that someone stayed home because they wanted to make room for others.

hmmm.... I need to do a better job of helping them understand the importance of the church family.

All in all, a great day. Great music. A wonderful church family. Thank you to every hospitality person, every musician, every singer, every usher. Thank you.

Spring has sprung. The flowers are coming up. My trees [on loan from God] are starting to leaf out. Its beautiful. Its all good.

Jesus is alive.

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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He is alive

It is Easter. The day of resurrection. Jesus is alive! Praise God. He has shown his power in the world. His power over death. We have hope. We can trust him. He is real.

But on this Easter day, I have a question.
Am I alive?

I don't mean "is my heart beating." I mean, am I living in a way that is free. Living in a way that celebrates the gift of life and makes use of what God has given to me.

When I trust in stuff, houses, cars, and people, for my joy, I am not really alive. When I worry about every little thing in my life, I am not really alive. When I am broken, and refuse to try to become whole, I am not really alive.

This kind of life is no longer acceptable to me.

Because Jesus is risen, I can truly be alive. I can celebrate every moment of life that he gives me. I can choose to see his glory in all of creation. I can give thanks for each circumstances of life, the good and the bad.

When I am alive, I am concerned about sharing love. That is all. I know my purpose, sharing God's love. The human stuff begins to fade from view. I begin to live in perspective. I am alive. Alive to Christ. Free to live. Free to love.

These are the gifts of Easter.
Hallelujah! He is risen.
He is alive! I am alive!

Thank you God for these unspeakable gifts!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Black Saturday.
Holy Saturday.

Not sure what to call it.
Its the in between day.

For the disciples, it was a day with nothing.
No Jesus, he had died.
No resurrection, yet.
In between.

It's like there is no God today.
No Jesus, he died.
No Savior until a resurrection.
All of creation stopped to wonder what was going on. There had never been a day like this before, or since.

Waiting. Hoping.
It must have been tough for the disciples.

I can't imagine a world without God.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

a long, sleepless night.
humiliating trials.
beatings. my face hurts from being struck.
eyes of hate
spit in my face.
before Pilate, rejected for Barabbas.
familiar faces in the crowd,
now unrecognizable with hate.

off to the fort.
I know what is coming.
I am stripped. tied to a post.
young men, soldiers, calloused hearts
those terrible whips.
searing pain.
it takes my breath away.
when will it stop?

finally it ends.
i can feel the warm blood running down my legs
my back, my neck, my backside,
stinging, throbbing, pain like i have never known.

now what?
a robe. a crown of thorns.
the robe soaks into my back
I am beaten again.

A cross bar tied to my shoulders
we begin the march though the city
I am exhausted.
the crowds that line the street
many faces I have seen before.
the former blind man, former leper, former demoniac
it seems that everyone is against me now.
O God, why? why does it have to hurt so much?

The place of Crucifixion.
many people are here.
something is happening to draw a crowd.

my arms are stretched out.
a soldier sits on my arm.
ouch. get off.
I see the hammer, i see the nail.
I hear the thud.
I feel the iron pierce my wrist
one, then the other.
my hands curl up in tremors of pain

I am raised and set on the crossbar
more nails
my feet
oh God, this is terrible.

It is really hard to breath
I push and pull
struggling for every breath

the sky is blue, there are birds in the air
so many wonderful days
now this
my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

what have I done to receive this?
I feel my life slipping away
Goodbye my mother.
Father, into thy hands, I commit my spirit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday worship tonight, 7pm at church. You are welcome.

Maundy, from the latin, Mandatum. Mandate. Commandment. So named for Jesus words at the last supper, "a new commandment I give unto you, love one another, as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one to another."

He washed their feet.
He tells some stories of the kingdom.
They eat. They drink wine.
They laugh. Friends are celebrating.

They are celebrating the passover. This feast commemorates the tenth plague in the book of Exodus, when the angel of death passed thru the land, taking the life of the oldest male child in every Egyptian home. The angel of death "passed over" the Jewish homes because their doors were marked with the blood of a lamb.

After dinner, a walk to the garden of gethsemane. Time in prayer. betrayal. desertion. A long night begins.

So again, it is Holy Week.
If the death angel passed over your home tonight, is the entry to your home marked with the blood of a lamb?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I was reading some C.S. Lewis yesterday. I came across a passage that I totally disagreed with. I thought. I thought, how odd, that I would disagree with one of the most well known, well respected Christian authors and thinkers of our time. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe my paradigm is wrong.

Webster offers up this definition of paradigm: a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly : a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.

I think the best way for me to explain the word paradigm is to remind myself of the "rose colored" glasses that I am wearing. Everyone sees the world through a certain set of lenses. No one sees it clearly. Brave people wake up one day and realize that they really are wearing glasses. They really do not see the world as it is, but as they perceive that it is. They begin to ask the question.......what is my paradigm like? Soon follows the deeper question, how can my life view begin to change?

The essence of the Christian faith invites all of us to "see" the self-centeredness in our paradigm and to begin to work on replacing the self with love. There is a familiar statement around here, "it is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good." This statement invites all who read it to leave the world where they are unhappy. To leave the world where it is all about them. To leave the world of negativity and to choose to see the good. An invitation to a paradigm shift.

Do you know that even you have a particular paradigm, a particular way of seeing the world? Did you know that you put on glasses every morning? What things in your way of seeing the world may need to change? Just asking the question is so invigorating to me!

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I need you

I loved the post to yesterday's blog: "I don't think this was written to me.....but I'm going to pretend it was.....thank you."

I received several emails from folks wondering if yesterday's note was about them. There is such a deep need to be loved. I am reminded of the following story:

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father." On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Well, this isn't written today for anyone in particular. It is written to everyone.

I need you. I love you. You are awesome. Sue, Linda, Bill, Bob, Debbie, Paul, Jim, Stan, Amy, Mommytriplet, Lions Den Man, Rocky Soil, Anonymous, Chigger farmer, Paula, Dan, Cathy, Kathy, Mom, Dad, Alli, Jenny Scott, Fern, Betty, MaryAnn, Eric, Jean, Jerry, Gina, Sherri, Sherry, Becky. Glenda, Jan, Irene, Fred, Kim, Angie, Bruce, Doug, Brian, Laura, Holly, Kyle, Jennifer, Wendy, Missy, Andy, Greg, MaryBeth, and every single other one of you all......

I love you. I need you. You are so dear to me. I am so pleased to have you in my life.

And if I feel this way about you, imagine how much your heavenly Father loves you and wants to spend time with you.

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

bonus post

On St. Patrick's day I am always reminded of that famous Irishman who invented outdoor tables and chairs. You remember his name.............


Paddy O'Furniture

You are on my mind

It is Monday morning. You are on my mind today. Again. I am not sure why. Is there something bothering you? Are you troubled or in trouble? Its like there is a tremor in the force.

I want you to know that I love you very much. I sense a bond between us that only God can explain. Everything is going to be ok. That is my message for you. I sense in my soul that all is well. Everything is going to be ok. Don't worry. God is with you. You are not abandoned. You may not feel him close right now, but he stands immediately by your side. On the other side of every valley is a mountain top.

Chin up. Smile on. You are not alone.

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

Sunday, March 16, 2008

its that special time of year

It is finally here. That special time of year. The snow is gone and spring is in the air. This is a special time of year because everything is coming back to life. Right now its mostly tulips and daffodils, but the maple and pear trees are also starting to emerge. The mums are back. The sedum is back. Plants are awesome.

This is the time of year when I walk around the house every single day and watch the progress of life. I tell you, there are few things so glorious as to watch a tulip over a few weeks as it sprouts, grows, buds and blooms. God is awesome and all of creation speaks to us of his glory.

Winter is over. It is time for our spirits to get up. No more pot roasts for a while. Fire up the grill. Get the kids outside. No more cabin fever. Go look at the plants that are growing at your house. Watch them leaf, bud and bloom. It is a holy thing.

Praise God! My tulips are coming up!

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

Saturday, March 15, 2008


How can it snow today? Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. It cannot snow today. I will not allow it. There is snow on my tulips, snow on bags of mulch that were waiting to be spread. There is snow on the football that the kids were playing with yesterday. My washed, ready for spring car is covered with snow.

I don't like it. I had some yard work planned for today. My kids were going to get to help. I don't want the snow.

Well, I guess that sometimes God needs to remind me that I am in sales, not management.

Sometimes in life you get what you want, and sometimes in life, you get what you get. The trick is to face the unhappy moments with joy. The trick is to choose to to see the good, even when it isn't rising to the top.

Ok, here we are, today, March 15th. It is snowing. Where is the good?

Well, I am alive. I was given, so far, the gift of today. My wife is home, and she still loves me. I have tons of friends. Everyone is reasonably healthy. There is food in the pantry. I am ready for tomorrow's sermon. I can relax today. Hmmmm. Maybe not so bad after all.

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

A short trip to Africa

I guess I made it sound like I wanted to move to Africa, permanently. Well, my wife would not vote for that. She doesn't even like to go camping.

I was thinking of a two week trip. It's almost like I have a feeling that it is something that I am supposed to do. I just keep wandering into things that drive all of you crazy. Maybe that is good, I wouldn't want you to become bored or complacent.

Change of subject.........the prom dress ministry is awesome. It is very touching to see what is being done thru this outreach. A dress, shoes, purse, jewelry for girls, or a tux for the boys. Very nice. Very kind. I don't know whose idea this was, but it is a very good thing.

They are building bunk beds in the missions building for the Shiloh Children's Home.

When I take the time to wander around the building, there are so many good things going on. There is so much good at Woods Chapel Church. So many good folks engaged in the work of the Lord.

Thank you. Thank you. I think God is well pleased.

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

lunch on shoes

Yesterday I had lunch with a preacher who just came back from Liberia, Africa. His favorite place for lunch is the Mongolian BBQ off of 40 hiway.

I listened to him talk about Africa for 45 minutes. I was spellbound. I want to go there. I want to visit the preaching stations out in the bush. I want to see the passion in the hearts of the people. I want to see the church in it's infancy.

Finally, we got in line to make our Mongolian bbq meals. You know the gig: fill up a bowl with all of the stuff that you want to eat. Pour some sauces into a smaller bowl. The cook frys your bowl of food, then he puts the sauces onto it. He scrapes it off and you go sit down. Stir fry of your choice with rice. It is an excellent meal.

The food ingredients and sauces are lined out on salad bar type counters with covers so that you don't breathe on the food. So, I have my bowl full of ingredients. I have my little bowl full of sauce. Instead of going over to the fryer guys, I have to go back the other direction to the ingredient table for something else that I cannot live without. There is a woman coming the other way. I move to the side to avoid her. My left arm hits the cover of the salad bar counter. Hard. Serious collision with the salad bar cover.

The food in my bowl goes straight up in the air. I catch half of it in my bowl. The sauce in the sauce bowl goes straight up in the air. I catch none of it. Half of my ingredients and all of the sauce are now on my jeans, my shoes and on the floor.

This is a public restaurant during the lunch rush. Several people come up and ask me for my autograph. There is a corporate gasp of "oops, poor guy."

Here is the funny thing. I wasn't embarrassed, I wasn't angry, I wasn't anything. This is what went through my mind..... I had just knocked more food on the floor than many people in Africa will eat all day today, and probably tomorrow as well.

I was actually proud of myself [I hope I can say that here] for having a virtuous thought instead of being mortified or self consumed.

I began to clean up my mess. I was assisted by an employee. The event was soon over. I refilled my bowl. I ate my lunch. We talked some more. I went back to work.

I want to go to Africa. I want to preach at the ends of the earth. I want to teach in their college. I want to bring encouragement to the least of these. Call me crazy, but I don't think that this is a bad thing.

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Linda Sue

Hello Linda Sue. Linda and Sue. Yes, you. You do not attend our church, you don't even live in our town, but I hear that you have been reading the blog. Hello. We are electronic friends now. Thanks for sharing God's love.

One of the things that I love about God's love is that it has a life of its own. It just goes and goes. Across the miles, from person to person, heart to heart, the love of God is amazing. Whatever avenue we have to deliver it, may we do so. By letter, by phone, by word of mouth, by the internet, let's all deliver God's love.

The love of God is not bound by humanity, nor can it be contained. When God's love fills your heart, you become full. Full to overflowing. His love just spills out of you and touches other people. One simple act of love can mark a person for life. One simple act of love can build a lifelong relationship. One simple act of love can be exactly what someone is waiting for or needing. A good word at the right time.

Reach out and touch somebody. Across the miles, across the room, across the state, may we share God's love.

Hello Linda, hello Sue. I know nothing about you, except that you are loved by God almighty. You. You. You matter to God. Feel the power of his love, feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Be filled. Filled to overflowing. Thanks for being who you are.

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the family room

The family room. Its where no one wants to be. To sit down with the preacher and visit about the life of a loved one who has just died.

Yesterday, I sat in the family room with a family. They told me about their loved one. I am so blessed to learn the stories of love that come from spouses and childen. There is so much good that dwells in the hearts of people, and often we don't know it until they are gone. People are so private. So good. So anonymous. Doing their acts of charity in secret.

Every day that we are alive is a chance for us to care about others. Your kids may not get it now, but they will get it in the future. Keep loving them. Keep showing them. Keep pointing the way. One day soon, some preacher will sit in your family room and mine.

We have today. With God's blessing we have tomorrow. Let's make every minute count.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.
Mommytriplet send me an email.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I am pretty positive right now. In general I think I am a pretty positive person. I am writing about this topic because it has been on my mind. I see myself sometimes feel this way, and I run into others that feel this way on a regular basis. I am not claiming this feeling today tho, I am just writing, sharing some thoughts.

Discouraged is too strong of a word. Disheartened is closer. Not a permanent feeling, not an overwhelming feeling, just an occasional sense of being disheartened. I think we all get this from time to time. Maybe your kids are draining you, maybe the money goes out the door as fast as it comes in, maybe your dreams seem to be just out of reach.

Pastors feel this way sometimes. I am not owning this right now, but I just wanted you to know what happens sometimes in the brain of a preacher.....

"I just can't seem to make anyone happy. No matter how hard I try, it seems that so and so is always mad at me. I am the preacher. Why does anyone have to be mad at me. My actions may not be perfect, but my intentions are. That should count for something. I am expected to do the impossible. To always have a word of encouragement, to always have a good sermon. To always be on. The expectations are impossible to meet. I am required to go to an all day meeting in Columbia. I have to preach again on Sunday. I don't have time for my friends anymore." Sometimes I think that pastors pray for a "regular" job.

I think members get disheartened sometimes too. Here is what that may sound like: "I try so hard to help. I don't feel as excited about my faith as I used to. So and so at church is mean to me. I can't give financially right now. I am tired of thinking about being a kinder person. I just want some time for me."

If you have ever felt this way, you are in a big club. Most people, at one time or another feel disheartened. Here is my advice. Don't quit. Don't quit your marriage, don't quit your job, don't quit your God. Understand that these feelings are just part of the ebb and flow of life. Keep doing the things that you know are right. Feelings come and feelings go. Your good feelings will come back.

In fact, sometimes when I get disheartened, I imagine that I quit. It is an interesting mental exercise. In my brain I go to work somewhere besides the church. Maybe I work on cars, maybe I paint houses, maybe I work at a bank. In each scenario, my feelings are the same. After the initial rush of peace and quiet, after the initial joy of the pressure release, I get bummed out. I miss the people, I miss the church, I miss the challenge to reach out in the name of the Lord. In fact, after I pretend in my brain that I am doing something else, pretty soon, I am looking for chances to do the very things that I thought I didn't want to do anymore.

What does that mean? I believe that the good will always keep rising to the surface if we give it a chance. We may feel down for a while, but it is not the end of the story. Hold on, keep loving. Sharing God's love will always get us to the other side of our feelings. Eventually.

You know that it is true. I smile as I think of it. Sharing God's love always, eventually, gets me to where I need to be.

Ahh, I feel better already.

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

Sunday, March 9, 2008

the Lord's day

This is the day that the Lord has made. This is the Lord's day. Today, around the world, millions of people will gather to fellowship and worship. That is an awesome thing. Sometimes we bemoan the fact that many people go to church and then forget God the rest of the week. Well, yes, that is not so good. But, at least they are in church. There are also many other people who forget God during the week and are not in church on Sunday.

If you are one of those folks who feel good on Sunday, but struggle with living out your faith during the week, that is ok. Take heart. This is the Lord's day. You are going to be in the right place today. You are in a place where you are loved, where you matter, where your heart can be touched.

God is good and his mercy reaches out to all. His grace reaches out to you. This is the Lord's day. Let's go see him. Let's go sing the songs. Let's pray together. Let's open our hearts to the words that are shared. See you in church. This is the day that the Lord has made.

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

Saturday, March 8, 2008

when the self receeds

If you would like to help put together shelves in the missions building, meet me up there today [Saturday, March 8th] at 10am. Should be done by noon, but even 30 minutes of your time would be a help. Now on to the blog post.

When the self receeds...........

When the self receeds, love will emerge. It is an interesting idea. We try so hard to be good and to do good. I think that our efforts sometimes get in the way. Our humanness sneaks in and ruins our efforts without our even knowing it.

The sly self is so self-centered. We are clouded by our brokenness so that we keep falling back towards self interest. I try to be loving, but Jeff keeps getting in the way.

What if instead of trying to love, and the self getting in the way, what if we just worked on removing the self. What if I was able to truly see and resist my selfishness. What would be left? Maybe the grace of God would just come rushing out of me. It is an interesting thought.

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

Friday, March 7, 2008


Everyone knows Oprah Winfrey. She has one of the most watched television shows of all time. She is kind, funny, and generous. Oprah has developed a spirituality over the years that is worrying some Christian leaders. She has started recommending books, holding seminars and interviewing guests that some Christian leaders categorize as "new age."

New Age. What does that mean? For some, it is an ecclectic spirituality that may include a random collection of things from many religious backgrounds. Sort of an "age of aquarius" approach to spirituality. For other Christian leaders, anything can be branded as new age that they do not agree with.

Let me be clear. We are Christians. We find a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But let me also be clear. The Christian church has elements of both Western and Eastern culture. The first split in the Christian church took place in 1054 between the Eastern and Western models of Christianity. The "Western" thinkers continued on as the Catholic church. The "Eastern" branch of the church is represented by the Greek and Russian orthodox churches among others.

My point is this. There are many approaches to the Christian faith that Americans have never heard of. We are grounded almost exclusively in Western Christianity. Just because something is different than what we have learned, does not make it new age, does not make it evil or demonic.

Now, having said that, we need to be very careful about what we are reading. There is some dangerous stuff out there. You are not a god, you are a created being. There is no magic potion in life that will make all good things come to you. Just because it was recommended by Oprah, Max Lucado, or Jeff Brinkman does not mean that it contains 100% truth. Infact, I don't know of any writer that I agree with 100% of the time. Christians need to remember that we are followers of Christ. We may read and appreciate some other ideas, but the suffering and death of Jesus Christ is the act that brings redeeming grace into our lives.

Be wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove.

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

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I am losing you

I can feel you pulling away. I can see your absence. I have received enough calls, I know that you are sliding down the slope. I have tried to reach out. I have prayed for you. I have hugged you. I have been as direct with you as I can.

I know that you have been hurt. I know that you are afraid. I know that life seems really big and difficult right now. I also know someone who can help. This is not a cliche. It is not old news. In Jesus, we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. In the dark valleys of life, we do have a Shepherd, and he is good. You can trust him. You can lean on him.

Everyone has problems. Do not be embarrassed, there is no reason to hide. Most people have no idea what is going on. Your church community loves you and dearly desires to help.

Step into the light and feel the warmth of God's love.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

wrong way driver

Last night, police chased a driver who was travelling the wrong way on 71 highway. At speeds reaching 100 miles per hour, the driver ran others off the road. Eventually he decided to give it up. He drove to his own house and was captured there by police.

Which direction are you going in life? Are you heading the wrong direction at 100 miles per hour? Are your feet swift to find trouble? Are you crushing under your feet those whom you love? Are people that are going the right direction worried about you? Do you decide to go home way late in the game?

Don't give me that, you know if you are going the wrong direction. And you know where home is.

Are you making excuses for yourself? Are you giving in to selfishness? Are you demanding for yourself? Are you hurting others? Are you giving no regard to the will and purpose of God? Are you going deeper into debt? Do you see yourself as a victim? Do you think the world owes you something? Have you lost your joy? Is it all about you?

Most people eventually grow tired of a life that is heading the wrong direction. Sometimes they don't stop running until late into the night. When they finally give up, they have hurt so many, and have painted themselves into a corner. They want to go home, but they end up in a prison of their own making.

We have today. It is an opportunity to make good choices. It is a chance to reach out to others, to see beyond my needs, to become a dispenser of grace. If you are going the wrong direction, today would be a good day to turn around. There is no time like the present to find home. If you need help, call me or call any of your friends from Woods Chapel Church.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

the parade

Don't miss the parade today.
All of the high school bands are going to line up downtown and March 4th.

the soul

Shhh. quiet. rest. turn off the TV.

Wait. right now. count to 20. Listen to your breathing.

Lord, these moments are yours and mine. I look only to you.

The mind worries. the soul is at rest. The mind complains, the soul looks for the presence of God. The noise of the trash truck in our brain keeps us from even being aware of the soul. Some people live and die, and exist only in the realm of the brain. The heart of God is in the soul. The spark of the divine, the image of God, is imprinted on our souls.

You have captured my interest. Where do I find the soul? Where do I look?

When I see someone I love and my heart leaps within me. Then my soul magnifies the Lord. When I innately know the good, I see the soul. The kingdom of God is within you.

What would today look like if I sought to live from my soul instead of from my brain? Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

Our souls magnify the Lord.

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

Monday, March 3, 2008

yesterday's sermon

If you missed church, yesterday's sermon was the annual sermon on the crucifixion. I think it is important to remind ourselves of the story. But, I have to tell you, after telling the story 4 times yesterday, I am spent. I am not sure that I will be able to do that again next year. I don't want to think about the suffering of Jesus anymore right now. I want to be thankful for what he did for me/us, but my brain and heart are full right now. Full of the sadness. Full of the fear, the terror.

I am ready for a resurrection.

Maybe that is the whole point. Maybe we don't really understand the resurrection until we are immersed in the suffering. Maybe that is why we need to do this every year. Maybe we would never know joy had we not known sadness. Never know love had we not known hate. Never experienced true life had we not been touched by death.

Easter is coming. I am ready.

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

Sunday, March 2, 2008

clothes, food and teenagers

I have finally figured out the difference between teenage boys and girls, and how to make them happy.

For a teenage girl, it is all about the shopping. They may have a closet full of clothes and yet be unfulfilled. My girls have a closet full, but will sneak into each other's rooms to sneak something new to wear. The thievery has been the source of many painful discussions at our home. These girls are growing up just like their mother. How many pairs of shoes can one girl wear? My dad would have said it well, "you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time."

If they are depressed, set them up with a trip to Kohl's and they are whole again. Don't waste the $80 on a counselor, just give it to them in cash and they will come home happy. If I need a sweater, I will wait until they go on sale, walk into the store, pick out a sweater, pay for it and leave. The girls will spend all day buying a sweater. We run into people in the grocery store. The girls talk to them. Later I say, "who was that?" It was the woman who works the sweater department at Kohl's. They know my daughters personally. Do you know why there are always hotels and places to eat next to Kohl's? Think about it. It takes the girls so long to shop, they have to eat and sleep. And $80 for a sweater, well the sweater was only $30, but we had to eat too dad.

Cute clothes. Cute is very important. They will look all day for something that is cute. But, no matter how long they look for something, once they hang it up in their closet, it is less cute. Less cute than anything that is hanging in their sister's closet. Why don't they just trade clothes every month or so. It would be a much better world.

Then there is their brother. He went to Kohl's yesterday to buy sweat pants for track. He was gone ten minutes. He is a man after my own heart. Walked in, saw 'em, bought 'em, came home. That's how men shop.

The way to the heart of a teenage boy is through his stomach. This kid will eat anything. One day last week, he ate oatmeal for breakfast, lunch I did not see, five peanut butter sandwiches after school. After work, he at a cube steak and asparagus. Before he went to bed, one more peanut butter sandwich.

He is scary. One of these days I think he is going to grow about a foot overnight.

If he is depressed, its real easy. Yogurt, pudding, cookies, chips, more chips, all kinds of chips. Mexican, Italian, Chinese, he doesn't care. Give him food and he is happy. Feeding him is not cheap, it costs about as much as sending the girls to Kohl's, but at least he doesn't steal his sister's food.

Ok. sorry about this, but I have to go here. As I write this humorous note on the difference between boys and girls, I am struck with a very painful thought. Many of us will read this, laugh and go on, assuming that all the world is like our families. But they are not. All the world is not like our families.

I met kids in Russia who have one sweater. One. One. Not one closet full, one sweater. They have never been to Kohl's. They will live and die, with the meagre necessities of life. They will never steal clothes from their sister. Their sister doesn't have anything either.

And the food. The things that I have seen in Russia. People who sacrifice to feed the Americans, and eat very little the rest of the time. Plain, ordinary simple foods. Russians hang with friends because they may have nothing to eat at their apartment today. Going to the store and there isn't much there. If you have money, it isn't about what you want for dinner, you pick from what may be available at the time.

And so I have opened up a very deep and painful discussion that all Americans should have. I have a pantry full of food, I have a closet full of clothes. My kids fight over each other's clothes, where there are things hanging in their closets that they have not seen, much less worn in years.

What should we do? Give some of our clothes away? Yes. YES. Give food away. Yes. Give money to help the poor. Yes.

Is that enough? I don't know. Somewhere, I also think it is important to consider what kind of steward I am of God's stuff. When I think of how much I have and how little others around the world have, I am convicted. I want to live my life in a way that I can help others. I want to think it terms that draw a very big circle. I want to take in as many people as I can. I want to help. I want to care. I want the way I live my life to say to God, "I see what you have done for me. Thank you. Help me to help others, every day, every way that I can." Lord, help my life to be about human beings, not about stuff.

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

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Schnauzer bird dog

It is obviously pet week at the Brinkman house. Lou the Schnauzer has decided that he is a bird dog.

Here's the story. Up at church, we have a lot of geese. They are pretty, but they make a big mess. I don't mind the mess in the grass, but when it is on sidewalks and across the parking lot, well, the geese need to move on to Canada. It's a natural thing. They are called Canadian Geese for a reason.

So, I am off on Fridays. Fridays are good days to think. Yesterday, when we got up, Lou the Schnauzer says to me, "hey, old guy, can I go for a walk today?" I told him that I would take him up to church to run around. That seemed to satisfy him.

About 8:30am we get up to the church and I let him out in the field. About 75 yards away from us there is a nice flock of 25 geese. Lou is so excited to be somewhere besides his own back yard, he doesn't even notice them. For ten minutes he is snooping around, nose to the ground, investigating every new scent. I tell him, "get those birds." He keeps running around in circles, sniffing the ground. I move closer to the geese. "Get those birds." He is oblivious. He is nose to the ground, wondering what all of these new smells are.

Finally, he looks up and sees them, and he is off like a shot. As fast as his little legs can carry him. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Lou is on a b-line for the geese.

They see him coming and take to the air. He chases them for a while. Then, triumphantly returns to his handler. Lou has moved up in the world. He is now a bird dog.

There is a moral to this story. When your head is constantly looking down, you will never see what is on the horizon. When you can't get your eyes off of what is right in front of your face, you will never see what lies ahead. We need to look past the momentary concerns and see the big picture.

Lift up your eyes. See the possibilities.

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