Thursday, December 31, 2015

family

I was so happy on Christmas Eve this year.  I wasn't worried about all of the services.  It seemed that everything was in hand.  I was  so happy and so excited because on Christmas day I was going to fly to see my family.

You know, we take those people for granted sometimes.  They are always around and sometimes annoying.  But when you don't get to see them, you miss them.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.


Someone told me the other day that "family isn't the most important thing, it is the only thing."  How exciting to spend time with the ones that you love.  Cherish every moment.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

love

I love this quote from the opening lines of the movie the Notebook......
James Garner says,

"I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough."

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I got it right

Since yesterday was an oops, today I can tell you about something that I did right.  I actually got it right one day last week!

So, in the picture you can see that I am at my favorite restaurant La Fuente with my son Scott.  You can also see that we are consuming lots of salsa.  What you don't know is that the level is low on the salsa carafe because it was spilled on me.

right before the salsa attack
When the server was setting things down, his hand caught the top of the salsa container and it went flying, launching towards me at a high rate of speed.  The salsa got me pretty good.  Both legs of my jeans, and all over my red electric jacket.  Which is my favorite jacket. [see picture]

Well, here is the good news.  I was surprised, but I did not get angry.  I did not flare up.  The server had an alarming look on his face but my son and I just started to laugh.  Later they came by and thanked us for taking it so well.  They told us that many customers look for the smallest infraction to demand a free drink or a free meal.  Accidents happen.  When they do, we can choose to shame the person, or offer grace.

So, for all the times that I get it wrong, one time, one time, one time, I got it right.  May we all get it right a little more often.

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


Monday, December 28, 2015

Oops

A friend of mine asked if she could comment on the sermon from last week.  I said, sure!  I was not prepared for what she said.

What she said horrified me!  [I thought, Oh my, I am out of touch] She said, "that one story that you told in Sunday's sermon, don't tell it again.  You have told it three times this year."

Yikes!  Oh, my I was so embarrassed.  I felt so out of touch.  Sometimes it is hard to remember when the last time I told a particular story.  I don't ever want to have people sit there in the pew and think, "Oh, this again!"  I don't know if I am becoming more forgetful, or if my hard drive is full.

Forgive me for telling that story one time too many.  I really care about what we do on Sunday morning and I want it to be good.  And I am always open to comments and suggestions.

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


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mary is back

After a long hiatus, the Virgin Mary is back in my possession.  At some point in my life, I would like to know who keeps taking her and teasing me with her.  I am glad to have her back.  Finding her the other day was like finding a lost friend.  What a joy!!

If you don't know the story, Mary was stolen from our manger scene outside of our old church in 1997.  Since then, she has appeared, here and there.  I get to keep her for a while, and then someone takes her again and sends me pictures of her in various places, as if she has gone on a trip.

I am glad to have her back.  I think I will just keep her locked up in my car.

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

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The song goes on

Howard Thurman speaks to this idea of “ keeping the joy of Christmas” beyond the markings of the calendar. He writes:

When the song of the angels is still,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their sheep,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

After the Christmas Cantata, there was a music department pot luck dinner.  After dinner there were some table questions that were passed around so that we could get to know each other better.  It was a wonderful event.

One of the questions asked was this, "What is the best gift you have ever received?"  I thought for a few moments, and it occurred to me that the best gift that I have received was something that has developed over the last year.  And surprise, it is not a shirt or a tie, but thing of the heart.  After raising my children and watching them spar and fight, I have noticed that they have moved on to a different stage.  They have moved past sibling rivalry and actually care for one another.  Their interaction has turned a massive corner and today they would take a bullet for each other.

To see my kids grow up and love each other- Oh what a gift!
Today I am with my family.  It doesn't get any better than that.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Card

I received a wonderful Christmas Card from the Smith family.  Really.

On the cover were the words:

  • Help a Stranger
  • Praise a Child
  • Light a Candle
  • Share your Love
  • Sing for Joy
  • Lend a Hand
  • Pray for Peace
  • Understand

Inside were the words:
"Peace and Joy this Season and throughout the Year."

I loved the message.  It felt so good, so positive.  It made me smile!

  • Help a Stranger
  • Praise a Child
  • Light a Candle
  • Share your Love
  • Sing for Joy
  • Lend a Hand
  • Pray for Peace
  • Understand

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Eve

If the Good Lord gives us tomorrow, we will celebrate another Christmas Eve.  Services are set for 10am, 4:00, 5:30, 7:00, 8:30 and 11:00 pm at the Lees Summit campus and 5:00 pm at the Raytown Campus.

4:00 and 5:30 are our busiest times.  Please arrive early and do not save seats.

I have seen the music line up and it is going to be great.  The worship center will be open at 4:00 and 5:30.  The music will be more contemporary and the message is the same message as in the sanctuary by Pastor Jeff.

Although it is a lot of work, to me, Christmas Eve is the crowning moment of our church year.  I love you all and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

taking pride in one's work

I advertise this blog as random- what ever I might be thinking about.  For some reason, I want to post today about taking pride in one's work.  It is so very important.  What you do and how you do it matters so much.  I don't understand when I see people give half of an effort at a thing.

There are many old sayings about doing your best.
Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. 
Today is God's gift to you.  What you do with it is your gift to him.

Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

You know, life is short.  Why not give it your best?  I always feel better when I do.

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

sick

On Friday and Saturday I asked a friend to post for me.  Christmas is a busy time and sometimes my brain needs a rest.   I knew that Ami was going to post later than I normally do.  I was surprised, pleasantly, at the number of calls that I received from folks that wanted to know how I was doing.  Was I sick?  was I ok?

I am fine.  I just needed to rest my brain.  Everyone needs to rest their brain from time to time.  I thank my friends Ami and Lions Den Man for filling in for me from time to time.  I hope that you have friends that have your back.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Walk to the Manger

Today and on Christmas Eve, Woods Chapel will be having our annual "Walk to the Manger."   If you are unfamiliar with the Walk, it is a year end opportunity for each of us to make a special gift to God's work.  Just as the Shepherds and Wisemen made their way to the manger and offered gifts, so we too take a moment during the Christmas season to honor and thank God for all that he has done for us.

We generally invite members to give to major categories, like missions, endowments, landscape, sound and lighting upgrades, or the building fund.  There is a place on the card to mark "other," and many members do give to other ministries that they feel called to support.

Walk to the Manger takes place at the end of each service today and on Christmas eve.  Envelopes and cards are available at the info desk and in the pews.  If you are feeling moved to give back to God and support any of the ministries of Woods Chapel, I invite you to join me and hundreds of others and take a walk to the Manger.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Don't Miss The Manger"

Don't Miss The Manger

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

"Quick!  Move those papers off the table.  Get these crayons out of here.  Who left their cereal bowl out?  Come on, really?  It's 3 in the afternoon.  Who's take-home folder is this?  Bookbags people.  Bookbags.  Those hooks in the foyer are for a reason!  Nope, you can't have the Darth Vader mug; I want matching cups for everyone.  Don't hit your sister.  No, I did not give the others more.  You all have the same amount.  Really, must you count the mini-marshmallows to prove I've been fair?  Geez.  Okay, you sit here, you sit here, and you sit over here."

"Mom, what are you doing?"

"Making memories.  Quick scoot together and act like you like each other.  Okay, ready?  Everybody smile."

And THAT'S how I make a memory.

I could write a caption for the photo I took that reads, "Colder weather brings the time of sweet children sitting around the table with frothy mustaches and rosy, wind-kissed cheeks."  But that would be on big ole lie!  Let's face it, a mouth full of marshmallows muffles the incessant quarreling that has been going on non-stop around here.  I don't know about your home, but it's like the "little folk" have just up and lost their minds.  I'm not doing much better.  With squabbles, whining, and smart mouths; Momma's breaking down too.

My goal for the past three years has been to make Christmas break exactly what it's called.  A. Big. Break.  A break that slows us down enough so that we don't miss celebrating why we honor Christmas in the first place.  A precious Son given by His Father to save us all.  God so loved us that He gave His Son!  Words learned in my youth that only grow weightier as I see the depths of my own sinful soul.  How can I afford to miss such a precious gift?  A son given for me.  Thank you God.  Thank you.

I have determined not to miss it.  Not to miss Christmas.  I have determined my family won't miss it either.  As I mentioned, we have had to make some adjustments to our Christmas scene.  For starters, we scale way back on activity.  We also make use of the word, "NO," a lot when asked to do things.  We let go of the need to have to be everywhere and everything for every one. The Buccero's have started to learn the healing in shutting down for a recharge.  We focus on togetherness or as my husband likes to call it we concentrate on, "Team Buccero."  We slow down to reconnect and refocus.  We don't want to miss the manger. 

The month of December is well underway.  Christmas is close at hand.  Don't wait until school starts back to say, "What happened to the holiday?"

If stopping is not natural for you, make yourself do it.  Plan a day to just stop and be; to stop and listen, to pause and pray.  And don't just do religious activities either for the sake of being religious during the holiday.  Seek a fresh nudge from the Spirit to be Spirit led this Christmas.

Don't miss the Son born for you!  The Light of the world has come!  Grab a cup of coffee or cocoa and a smile as you celebrate the birth of your King.  Hallelujah!

Prayer:  You gave us your Son.  Your precious Son.  Don't let me miss that truth this Christmas because I'm too busy.  Slow me down to see the manger.  Slow me down to truly worship the King this Christmas.  Amen.

Merry Christmas and hugs to you my friends.
Ami

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Greatest Gift




The Greatest Gift

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9

In this gift-giving season, it is natural to focus on material things of Christmas.  As Christians we have much to rejoice in and share with the world, most importantly our salvation.

What verses better encapsulate the beauty of our salvation than Ephesians 2:8-9?  We are saved by GRACE.  Our salvation is a free gift from God!  Webster's defines a gift as "something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation, "with a synonym being "deliverance".  We have been delivered from the bondage of the sinful nature that enslaved us.  That is an awesome gift!

We deserve eternal separation from God, but by his grace and mercy, when we accept Christ's free gift of salvation, we receive eternal life in heaven. 

A USA Today survey asked Americans how much money they would pay for particular things that money cannot buy, like a great intellect, natural beauty, true love, etc.  At the top of the list, people said they would pay $640,000.00 to guarantee themselves a place in heaven.  Wow!  Do we have a deal for these people!  Eternal life is free; God only asks us to believe in him. 

What do we say to the Creator God of the universe who showers his children with this unmerited, wonderful, amazing, precious, awesome gift?  THANK YOU LORD!

This Christmas, and every day after, I pray that we will all respond to the gift of salvation with hearts bursting with thanksgiving, gratitude, praise, and generosity towards others.

Thank you, Lord, for the mercy and grace you demonstrate to me day after day as I receive gifts from your hands.

"It's a beautiful day in GODS world.  Be sure to see the good. :-)
Merry Christmas and Hugs from your friend,
Ami

Thursday, December 17, 2015

wanting less

It seems that the older I get, the less that I want.

Is that because I am more interested in people than things?  I hope so.
Is that because I have met friends in Nicaragua whose Christmas list would have one item on it:  food.
Do I want less because I am becoming more spiritual?  [my wife would doubt that]

What I fear is that we learn to want less when we have enough.  I remember when I wanted a new TV, a bigger TV, another TV.  I don't want TV's any more.  Is that because I am growing up or because I have enough TVs?

My dad used to ask me how many pairs of shoes I could wear at once.  The point of that is that we don't need more stuff.

Well, I do know people who have very luxurious lifestyles and still want more.  I know people that just never seem to have enough no matter the level of opulence in their lives.

Whatever the reason, it makes me happy to want less.  It allows me to love others more.  It makes me happy to look at what is, and to be content with things as they are.  I don't need a different car.  I don't need new clothes.  I'm just glad to be alive.

All this seems true until the tool catalogue comes in the mail.  Then I begin to covet again.
What is your relationship to wanting things?

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

intention

What is your intention?  What are your plans?  Are you trying to accomplish something in this life or are you simply rolling with the punches of life?  Are you a victim or a victor?

Oh for people that will live life with intention.  Who will step out on purpose and try to leave a mark on the world.  Time is short and humanity is frail.  Share love and kindness while you can.  Do not allow a moment to be wasted.

What is the intention of your life?

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

who's in

I am routinely asked by members and friends, "who gets to go to heaven?"
I have landed on the answer, "I am not in charge of who gets in, God is."

There are plenty of preachers who want to play God and decide who is in.  So sad.

Romans 1:20 reminds me that God's ways are higher than mine.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Hmm, so this does not fit the theology that I was raised on, but somehow, anyone who looks at the world that God has made, is going to see God's amazingness.  The heavens declare the glory of God.  Somehow, every person who is alive in this world is accountable, they are without excuse.  They have seen enough of God that they are either in or out, and God decides that, not me.

Who am I to say?   God has set himself at work in the world.  Lets trust him instead of trying to control him.

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

the best time

Do you know when the best time to plant a tree is?

50 years ago.

Do you know when the second best time to plant a tree is?

Today.

We all have regrets about things that we should have done but did not do.  Alright, I missed the boat on that one.  I should have done it in the past, but I didn't.

Let's not stop ourselves from what we need to do.  The goal awaits.  We should have done it one year, five or ten years ago.  We didn't.   But today is a new day.  Plant the tree.  Set the budget.  Write the letter.  Change your course.

Never let past failures hold you back.  Today is a new opportunity for you to pursue your goals.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2015

perfect Christmas

Coming to a sermon somewhere this morning...............

Are you working hard to make a perfect Christmas?  Do you want it to be just so for your family?  Make sure the food is perfect.  Make sure all the gifts are right.  I want Christmas to be perfect for my family.

If this is you, stop.  STOP!  We can't make Christmas perfect.  God already did that.  Christmas is not about gifts or food or me getting what I want.  Our focus on those things only keep us off track.

Christmas is perfect.  God made it that way.  Let's focus on the part that really matters.  Christ the Savior is born!

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

easy and hard

Some things are easy.  Some things are hard. 

I like baseball.  Easy.
I like cars.  Easy.
Cars break down.  Hard.

Wanting to love people.  Easy.
Actually loving some people.  Hard.

Talking about being kind.  Easy.
Actually being kind.  Hard.

Making bills.  Easy.
Paying bills.  Harder.

Praying for other nations.  Easy.
Immigration issues.  Hard.

The people that I usually deal with.  Easy.
The people the FBI deals with.  Hard.

We need to learn to accept that there is ambiguity in this world.  No politician, in spite of their promises, is going to solve every problem.  Some things in this life we will like, and some things we won't.  Nothing is perfect.  Nothing on this earth is ever going to be perfect until we understand that imperfect is wonderful.  Beauty has many facets.  Good is good. 

God, grant us the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change,
The courage to change the things we can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.  See it, right through difficult things.  See the good.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Prayer for today

Dear Lord,

May we humbly go about doing your work today.  May we choose the right.  May we choose the good.  My we remember that it is not about us.

Thank you for the great privilege that we have of loving people, of going about doing your work.  Show us someone that we an love today.  Tug on our heart.  Use us this day.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

someone hit my car

A member came in with pieces of their tail light in her hand.  Someone hit her car in the church parking lot.  And did not leave a note.

Hmmm.  Hmmm.  I am trying to think of what I should say!!

I hope that every person that reads this blog would leave a note if you hit someone's car.  Its the right thing to do.  It doesn't matter if we liked the sermon if we don't leave a note on the car that we hit.

If you are reading this, and it is you, please contact me.  I can help you navigate this in a way that will be healing.  The right thing to do is always the right thing to do.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

conflict management

I was talking with a new friend the other day.  He told me that he had a degree in conflict management.  He said that his degree was not in conflict resolution, because most conflicts cannot be resolved, they can only be managed.

Wow.  My little brain stopped. 

Here I have been trying to fix things for years and I think he may be right, that there are many things that can only be managed, never completely healed.  Sure, miracles happen from time to time and God can do anything, but so often the healing that we experience still leaves a scar, a mark, or a memory. 

When I think of resolution, I expect the thing to be perfect, to go back to the way it was before.  When I think of conflict management, I think that I need to allow myself and others the freedom to be human.  It makes me want to relax in the world and accept the fact that there are many broken things in this world, but it is still good.  Keep working on them, manage them.  Your life does not have to be perfect.  It's all good.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Unintentionally Intentional

I heard a phrase the other day that I really liked.  Someone was described as being "unintentionally intentional."  Like they accidently did the right things.  Or they went about doing the right things without even thinking about them.

Much like the righteous ones in Mt 25.  They were self-unaware.  They did not know that they were doing good for Jesus, it was just their way, its just how they lived.  They weren't expecting any accolades, as if doing good was it's own reward. 

Imagine a life, a person, so kind that they just causally, without fanfare, go about doing good.  Changing lives and making a difference in the world, unintentionally intentional.

I am reminded of the Dan Fogelberg song, Leader of the Band, in which he describes his father's way of raising children "his gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand...."

What an impact such people have on us.  Oh how I aspire to be such a person.  How about you?

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



Monday, December 7, 2015

Good will to men

Peace on earth.  Good will to men.

Jesus was born into a time when nations slaughtered nations.  Only the strong survived.  This empire, that empire, the Greeks, the Persians, oh here come the Egyptians and finally the Romans.  Kill or be killed.  Take whatever you want.

Even the Jews are killing and taking in the conquest of Canaan.  In the New Testament, when they are talking about and praying for the restoration of the throne of David, what they are saying is this:  "We are tired of being the little guys.   We are tired of being beat down.  We want to be on top again.  We don't want to be subjugated.  We want to subjugate others."

Jesus was born into a mind set of national violence.  Winner take all.  And in the middle of this setting, the angels make a profound announcement to the shepherds.  Peace on earth, good will to men.  Not just that the wars will stop, but we are going to begin a new way of treating each other.  Good will to men.  No longer an eye for an eye.  The cycle of violence and retribution is coming to an end.

Goodwill.  Grace.  Love.  This is the work of Kingdom people.  This is what we are to be about.  No more hatred.  No more one upping.  No more who is the greatest.

Peace on Earth.  Good will to men.

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Cathy on left w sister Carla
Happy Birthday to my sweet wife Cathy!  Today is her birthday and she is 29!  I love her and I miss her.  Sorry I can't be with her today, but when you only work one day a week, you better be at work!

Everyone should have someone in their world that cherishes them.  I am hooked on her for good.  It makes me smile to think of her and I look forward to seeing her every time that I can.

Happy Birthday Dear!

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

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I'm an atheist

I'm not an atheist, but those can be painful words when a loved one speaks them to us.

Random people often tell me that they are atheists. Families worry about their loved ones that say they are atheists.

When someone says they are an atheist, what we hear is that they're throwing away God. I've come to believe that often what they mean is that they're not throwing away God as much as they are throwing away the church. Frankly, the church has no one to blame for that but itself. In my lifetime I've witnessed so much guilt and manipulation delivered from pastors and churches to society that what we're experiencing today is simply a backlash. 

Someone tells me they don't believe in God.  I like to ask them do you believe in love? And if they say yes and they always do, then I simply remind them that God is love. He's not an angry old man in a long beard.  He is not an angry old man waiting to judge you. God is love, and that is something that I think everyone can believe in.

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

Friday, December 4, 2015

I used to be that

Yes, I used to be that. I used to cheat on my taxes. I was once in jail. I used to steal from my employer. [Not true for me, but you see where I am going.]  All of us have something that we used to do, or used to be.  We want to move on, but there is someone who insists on constantly reminding us of who we were and what we did.  Maybe our own brain is the one that won't let us move on.

But the truth is,  I'm not any of those things anymore. In human terms there are sometimes consequences that we must pay, for things that we did in the past. You have to pay your taxes back. You may have a prison record. Etc. 

In God's economy there's always a fresh start. Yes there are memories. Sometimes there is guilt, but in Jesus Christ the old things have gone away and behold all things are new. Don't think of yourself in terms of what you used to be.  Think of yourselves in terms of what you are now, and what you can be in Christ. 

Yes, I used to be that, but I am not anymore, and I thank God for his grace.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

me, myself

Houston, we have a problem.
There is a problem here.
And I am it.

The older I get, the more I realize how little I know.
The older I get, the more I realize that some of the things that I feel so strongly about, are just flat out none of my business.  Or worse yet, they just don't matter.

I have been thinking lately about how nice it would be if sometimes I just got over myself.  Stop expecting things to go my way.  Listen to others more.  Defer to others more. Relax more.
What about you?

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

to forgive

I noticed a thing the other day.  Someone made a mistake.  Fortunately,  I was thinking straight.  I considered my options.

  • Sit down with them.
  • Carefully explain the behavior and why it needs to change.
  • ignore it.
  • do nothing.
  • fix it.
  • absorb it.
  • learn from it.

I remembered an old saying, "blessed are those who forgive the sins of others."  The world is full of people who always need to be right, who always need to correct everyone else.  I don't want to be that person.

Maybe the person did not know what they did.  Maybe they were in a hurry.  Maybe this is not a big enough deal to make a big deal about it.

I did nothing.  I chose to forget it.  I solved the problem quietly. We all might have a more peaceful life if we covered the sins of others more often.  Blessed indeed are those who forgive the sins of others.  I hope that they will also forgive mine.  Mercy rejoices over judgment.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

live. now. don't wait.

Learn to live in the present. It is called the present by the way, because it is a gift from God.

There is a proverb about a spiritual master who spoke at a public meeting. All questions at the public meeting that day were about life beyond the grave. The Master only laughed and did not give a single answer. To his disciples, who demanded to know the reason for his evasiveness, he later said, “Have you observed that it is precisely those who do not know what to do with this life who want another that will last forever?”

“But is there life after death or is there not?” persisted a disciple.
“Is there life before death? That is the question!” said the Master enigmatically.

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reflections on Thanksgiving

Last week I was able to spend a few days with my wife, all of my children, my daughter's boyfriend, and my mother in law.  We had a delightful time.  [and you were expecting a mother in law joke]

Yes there were games, and laughter, there were jokes and discussions.  There was turkey, dressing, potatoes and the like.  There was the annual apology for some part of the dinner that did not meet the cook's expectations.

Looking back on the 2015 Thanksgiving, I am reminded of an old saying, "people are more important than ideas."  Sometimes in a moment, we argue about spending money, shopping, saving money, politics and such.  But if the people in our lives were gone, who would we talk to?  Who would we spend time with?  Isn't it silly to argue in the first place?  If I don't agree with something that a loved one thinks, why is that my concern anyway?  Do I want to drive them away?

People are more important than ideas.  The opportunity to sit at a table with loved ones, share old memories, and make new ones is indeed a great privilege.  I am thankful for my family.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

When in doubt, go!

I have been reading some sermon illustrations, and I found some that were very good, but not really fitting my sermon. Here is one about missional living:

One summer, a man spent the day on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida. The undertow was unusually strong that day, and more than once, lifeguards jumped down from their towers to rescue swimmers from the treacherous surf. Finally, the man went to the lifeguard station to express his appreciation for the dedication of these men. When he walked inside, he noticed a sign on the wall in large red letters: "If in doubt, go!" And the man said, "Those same words should be on the walls of every church and on the wall of every person's soul."

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Never give up

Mexico City, 1968 -

Out of the cold darkness he came. John Stephen Akhwari, of Tanzania, entered at the far end of the stadium, pain hobbling his every step, his leg bloody and bandaged. The winner of the Olympic marathon had been declared over an hour earlier. Only a few spectators remained. But the lone runner pressed on. As he crossed the finish line, the small crowd roared out its appreciation. Afterward, a reporter asked the runner why he had not retired from the race, since he had no chance of winning. He seemed confused by the question. Finally, he answered: "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish."

I love this story. Never give up.

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Jokes

Because everyone needs a little humor from time to time - -

 If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
Pilgrims!

If the Pilgrims were alive today, what would they be most famous for?
Their AGE

Why can't you take a turkey to church?
Because they use such FOWL language

What are the feathers on a turkey's wings called?
Turkey feathers

Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
Yes - a building can't jump at all

What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus?
Enough drumsticks for Thanksgiving

What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?
Plymouth Rock

Why did they let the turkey join the band?
Because he had the drumsticks

Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside
  
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A prayer on Thanksgiving Day

Dear Father,

Thank you.  On this day that our culture has set aside for giving thanks, we want to thank you.  Thank you for flowers, for trees, for the warmth of the sun and the stars at night.  Thank you for the cold weather that makes me appreciate Spring.  Thank you for my friends.  Thank you for every person that has ever loved me.  Thank you for the feeling of goodness that I have when I see a friend.

Thank you for relatively good health.  Thank you for the ability to see, to hear, to taste and smell.  Thank you for all of the things that are going on in my body with out my knowledge:  digestion, breathing, and rest at night.  Thank you for the way that my body parts work in concert, all at the same time to perform various tasks.

Thank you for the stress that I feel and the problems that I have.  Although I sometimes wish that they would go away, they actually keep me grounded in prayer.

Thank you for the food that we are about to consume.  Please bless it.  May none of it go to waste, and as we enjoy our bounty that you have provided, may we be ever mindful of our friends around the world who will not have a feast today.  Motivate us to bless them, help us to hear your call to take a cup of water in your name.

Father, give us a heart that longs for you.  Give us a heart that sees the good.  Give us a heart that believes that in spite of the current news, this is our Father's world.  Thank you for all that you are, and all that you do.

Thank you so much for everything.  Thank you Father.  Amen

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert K. Chesterton 1874-1936
     Chesterton was a brilliant man.  He had no college degree, but was known as a brilliant orator.  When we came to town, the halls were packed.  Everyone wanted to hear what he had to say.  He spoke many eloquent words on gratitude.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. –Gilbert K. Chesterton

There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person. –G. K. Chesterton

The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them. –Gilbert K. Chesterton

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. –G. K. Chesterton

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? ~G.K. Chesterton

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. –G. K. Chesterton
WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I love it.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

value

Value.  Valuable. 

We think it is contained in fancy cars or homes.  We think it is held in a large bank account.  But imagine those things with no one to share them with.  Imagine that you make a million dollars, drive a BMW and live in a mansion, but have no friends.  You would be missing one of the most important parts of life.

In fact, if I gave you a choice of having enough to get by and a ton of friends, or lots of money and no friends, eventually I think we would all chose to have less stuff and more friends.  Yesterday I wandered around church and my eyes opened and I simply saw so many of the people that I value so much.

It feels so good to have people that we love in our lives.  Thank you for being among them.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Amazing Life

A friend sent me this.  She read it and thought of me.  I love to think of how many friends that I have.  I am truly rich in friends.  This  is a great thought.

















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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friends

I am thankful today for friends.  I am talking about the people that look into your eyes and read you.  They can tell if you are up or down.  They laugh with you and they hurt with you.  They love you in a way that goes beyond male or female - it is a thing of the soul.

And then I think, I remember that every single one of my friends that are this kind of friend, I met them all at the same place:  church.  Woods Chapel Church.

And today is Sunday! I get to go and see my very best friends.  Thank God for friends!  I hope to see you in God's house today.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

the joy of generosity

One of our Financial Peace University teachers shared this delightful story......

We had our last FPU class last night.  It was a great class, and most of the people came every week, and got a lot out of it!  My husband and I really enjoyed facilitating this class once again- it is a way we can pay forward all we have learned from it over the years.

I wanted to share one story.  Last night, the topic was The Great Misunderstanding- talking about giving (tithing, offerings, donating, helping people in all ways).  After the video, we had a great discussion, and one of the questions was "how have you helped someone else that made a big impact on you?"  The class was very quiet, so my husband & I shared a couple stories about how we have helped others and were blessed by it, and also how we have also been blessed by others when we were in a tough place.  One 20-something husband said he was embarrassed that no one had stories to share, and he wanted to start giving.  Another lady said that she has helped family members, but never strangers.  The discussion was very encouraging for working toward living a life of giving to others.  Later, when class was over, everyone left and we were cleaning up.  The 20 something husband and his wife hung back and came to ask us for the address of one of the attendees who sat at their table each week.  She was a single mom, who has been struggling, and has not yet been able to save up her $1,000 emergency fund (baby step 1).  This husband and his wife wanted to anonymously fund this single mom's emergency fund!!!  He didn't want to mail it, and thought they would deliver it to her.  We don't have her address, but will try and find a way to help him do this.


This totally made our whole night, and was well worth the time spent doing this class.  We can't do it during the winter months, but ask us again next fall if you need someone to lead the class again.  Thanks for the opportunity to give back!  I love our church.  

I love our church too.
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, November 20, 2015

thankful

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
                                                                          Albert Schweitzer

I am so very thankful for those who lift me up when I am down. For the God who understands our frame, how we are made and our brokenness. I am thankful for the joy that I feel when I am around friends from church.  I hope you have those in your life that buoy your spirit.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

sleep

Today I am thankful for sleep.  I covet sleep.  I wish I was better at it.  What a wonderful gift it is to sleep.  During sleep our minds solve problems.

Last week I was upset about something and somehow, in the middle of the night, it got resolved.  The argument in my brain about the situation was healed.  I love it when that happens.  I woke up, and I just knew that it would be ok, and it turned out that it was!

To sleep is to rest, and resting is good.  Sleep renews us for another day.  On a related note, I love the notion of laying your head down on the pillow with a clear conscience.  It is so nice to go to bed, considering your life, and feel happy that all is well, or at least that you have made the best choices possible.

May you and I go to bed on time, fall asleep right away, and snooze all night.  May God grant us the gift of sleep [not during the sermon.]  I am thankful for the gift of, the miracle of sleep.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

normal

Today I am thankful for "normal religion."  I grew up on heavy religion.  It was certainly... well, heavy.  Manipulation, guilt, heavy language, rigid thinking, my way or the highway.  Watch out or you are going to hell.  No one that I grew up with ever showed the joy of the Lord.  They were all too worried, they were too scared, because their lives were heavy.

Thank God that somewhere along the way, we actually learned that Jesus loves us.  Faith does not have to be heavy.  True spirituality is never heavy.  God does not need guilt or manipulation to reach people. 

Children loved Jesus.  They flocked to him.  Children don't flock to heavy, guilt laden people.  Jesus was normal, approachable, and kind.  He hopes that his followers will be as well.  Joy to the world!  We can believe in Jesus and not be heavy.  The world needs normal Christians, just regular folks that go about sharing God's love.

I am thankful that we can simply live a life of love and joy.  And that is enough.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

on a lighter note


After a week of posts on pain, here is a lighter moment. I am thankful for lighter moments.

A friend send this to me.

* If you took the same excuses that people use for not going to church and apply them to washing hands, you'd realize how inconsistent we can be.

1. I was forced to as a child.

2. People who make soap are only after your money.

3. I wash on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

4. People who wash are hypocrites-they think they are cleaner than everyone else.

5. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can't decide which one is best.

6. I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.

7. None of my friends wash.

8. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.

9. I'll start washing when I get older and dirtier.

10. I can't spare the time.


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

Monday, November 16, 2015

imagination

Today I am thankful for God's marvelous works fo creation.  The things that God has made show the amazing side of God's imagination.  The zebra, the clown fish, whales, guppies, turtles, and a thousand other animals exist that are just plain beyond human thought.  God however is bigger and larger and incredible.  What he invents is down right fascinating.

In Kansas City you might find squirrels in your front yard, or an occasional deer.  My wife sent me this picture of her recent visitors to the Florida house.

These long legged cranes are very noisy and are yet another picture of God's ability to create things that are stunning and wonderful.  What is hanging around in your life that is beautiful or amazing that we might be missing or taking for granted?  All of creation is telling us about God's wonder if we would just open
our eyes and see it.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

thankful

Today I am thankful for the transformation that simply being grateful can make in a persons life.  You know I believe it so strongly, "If you can find one thing to be thankful for, it will change the course of your entire day." Or the course of your entire life for that matter.

Gratitude takes us from being a victim of circumstances to being a liver of life, truly alive in this world.

      "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."  William Arthur Ward

Join me in worship today and spend some time giving thanks to almighty God.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

rumors

Well, someone that I am very connected with called a couple of days ago.  They wanted me to know that there are a couple of rumors floating around.  The first is that Jeff has been offered and has taken a job in Florida.  NOT TRUE.  The second is that Michael Scott is leaving WCC.  Not true as far as I know.  Call Michael Scott and ask him.  But I don't think that is true.  I am not even going to justify it with a comment.

Now, let me be clear......... yes my wife and two daughter are in Florida, but I have not received or accepted any job offers.  Yes my life is torn between two places, but I am still here.  I will be sure to let you know if and when any of that changes.

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

pain - the end of the matter

There is no end to the matter.  At least not in this life.

If you are fortunate to have a life that is free from the VERY painful things.......
You know, if your life looked like this........ you were loved, you were married, you didn't experience a divorce, you had kids, they were healthy, they all grew up and got good jobs, all of your loves ones lived a long full life and died in their sleep...... or what ever our picture of the perfect life is like....

If you lived that magical life that most people say that they want, you are still going to find pain.  Eventually.  If you live long enough, your skin is going to get thin.  You are going to bump your arm on a corner and get a bruise.  Your ears are going to keep growing and get larger than you are comfortable with.  Hair will stop growing on your head and will grow instead out of your ears.  Your bones will begin to become brittle.  Your energy levels will fade.

In this life, if you live long enough, you are going to find pain.  Period.  Those who say otherwise are selling something.  Trusting God does not make difficulty go away.  The Shepherd is not a magic problem solver, but he does promise to walk with us in the valleys of life.

The question is what do we do with the pain that comes our way. 
What ever is on your plate, I encourage you to grieve, but I also encourage you to be brave.  Mostly, I encourage you to lean into our Father.  It's ok to have questions about the level of difficulty that you face in this life.  It is ok to be angry about things, but don't stay stuck there. 

Our God is a friend who comforts us in difficulty.  Let's acknowledge the pain, and learn to look past it, to see him with us at all times and in all things.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

sandlot theology - all things

Warning - this may upset some of your brains........
One of my pet peeves is when people use Philippians 4 "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" for personal comfort or personal gain.

I hear them quote it to win a football game.  I can do all things through Christ.  I can work harder, I can defeat the other team.   I hear them quote it to overcome a difficulty.  I hear them quote it as if the point of the passage was the ability to find God's power to get what you want and to bring circumstances to your liking.

While God has lots of power to help with lots of things, and he may just help you win the prize, that is not the point of this scripture.  I can do all things through Christ is not a magic formula that changes bad situations to good.  It is not our will power added to God's special powers that magically eliminates undesirable circumstances.

If a person actually reads the passage, this is what is says....."I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him [all things through Christ KJV] who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:11-13

What Paul is saying is that I have had lots of troubles.  I still do.  I have good days and bad ones.  Happy times and sad.  I have learned in all of them to be content.  I can do this, I can acclimate to all situations through Christ who gives me strength.

It is not a hiding from or running from difficulty, it is a leaning into the difficulty.  It is a trusting God enough so that I can handle the difficulty.  It is not removing the problem, but it is in fact the opposite -  it is finding contentment in adversity.

God is big enough to help us be ok in difficulty.  Having God with us in this life is much more valuable than having circumstances go our way.  When Christ is with me, I can do, I can deal with all things, whether the circumstances change to my liking or not.  And I can do this, because I have come to know a God that is bigger than any difficulty.

That is why it is a beautiful day in God's world if we simply work to see the good.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

the rabbit and the crocodile

Part of me hates this story and part of me loves this story.  It surely exists in many forms and in many writings.  I found it first in an Anthony deMello book.  Warning- pain ahead......

http://www.demellospirituality.com/awareness/27.html

When you awaken, when you understand, when you see, the world becomes right. We're always bothered by the problem of evil. There's a powerful story about a little boy walking along the bank of a river. He sees a crocodile who is trapped in a net. The crocodile says, "Would you have pity on me and release me? I may look ugly, but it isn't my fault, you know. I was made this way. But whatever my external appearance, I have a mother's heart. I came this morning in search of food for my young ones and got caught in this trap!"

So the boy says, "Ah, if I were to help you out of that trap, you'd grab me and kill me."

The crocodile asks, "Do you think I would do that to my benefactor and liberator?"

So the boy is persuaded to take the net off and the crocodile grabs him.

As he is being forced between the jaws of the crocodile, he says, "So this is what I get for my good actions." And the crocodile says, "Well, don't take it personally, son, this is the way the world is, this is the law of life."

The boy disputes this, so the crocodile says, "Do you want to ask someone if it isn't so?"

The boy sees a bird sitting on a branch and says, "Bird, is what the crocodile says right?" The bird says, "The crocodile is right. Look at me. I was coming home one day with food for my fledglings. Imagine my horror to see a snake crawling up the tree, making straight for my nest. I was totally helpless. It kept devouring my young ones, one after the other. I kept screaming and shouting, but it was useless. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the way the world is."

"See," says the crocodile. But the boy says, "Let me ask someone else." So the crocodile says, "Well, all right, go ahead."

There was an old donkey passing by on the bank of the river. "Donkey," says the boy, "this is what the crocodile says. Is the crocodile right?"

The donkey says, "The crocodile is quite right. Look at me. I've worked and slaved for my master all my life and he barely gave me enough to eat. Now that I'm old and useless, he has turned me loose, and here I am wandering in the jungle, waiting for some wild beast to pounce on me and put an end to my life. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the way the world is."

"See," says the crocodile. "Let's go!"

The boy says, "Give me one more chance, one last chance. Let me ask one other being. Remember how good I was to you?" So the crocodile says, "All right, your last chance."

The boy sees a rabbit passing by, and he says, "Rabbit, is the crocodile right?"

The rabbit sits on his haunches and says to the crocodile, "Did you say that to that boy? The crocodile says, "Yes, I did." "Wait a minute," says the rabbit. "We've got to discuss this." "Yes," says the crocodile. But the rabbit says, "How can we discuss it when you've got that boy in your mouth? Release him; he's got to take part in the discussion, too." The crocodile says, "You're a clever one, you are. The moment I release him, he'll run away." The rabbit says, "I thought you had more sense than that. If he attempted to run away, one slash of your tail would kill him."

"Fair enough," says the crocodile, and he released the boy. The moment the boy is released, the rabbit says, "Run!" And the boy runs and escapes. Then the rabbit says to the boy, "Don't you enjoy crocodile flesh? Wouldn't the people in your village like a good meal? You didn't really release that crocodile; most of his body is still caught in that net. Why don't you go to the village and bring everybody and have a banquet."

That's exactly what the boy does. He goes to the village and calls all the men folk. They come with their axes and staves and spears and kill the crocodile. The boy's dog comes, too, and when the dog sees the rabbit, he gives chase, catches hold of the rabbit, and throttles him. The boy comes on the scene too late, and as he watches the rabbit die, he says, "The crocodile was right, this is the way the world is, this is the law of life."

There is no explanation you can give that would explain away all the sufferings and evil and torture and destruction and hunger in the world! You'll never explain it. You can try gamely with your formulas, religious and otherwise, but you'll never explain it. Because life is a mystery, which means your thinking mind cannot make sense out of it.


[I edited the next line, from deMello to soften it up a bit.... ]
If we would make sense out of  life we must wake up and then you'll suddenly realize that reality is not problematic, my understanding of it is problematic.  I want to fix it, instead of working on me.  Difficulty will come.  What will  I do with it?

In the movie the Princess Bride, Cary Elwes say, "Life is pain, Highness!  Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Let's be honest.  HONEST.  Some people have a little pain in life, some have lots.  Some deal with it bravely, some weep over a hangnail.  Part of the journey of maturity is to learn to lean into God and trust him no matter what the circumstances.

I talked with my daughter about this post.  She found it depressing.  Well, I don't want to depress anyone, but life can be hard and pain is real.  I don't believe in pretending, but I do believe in pointing people towards God.  Especially in difficulty.  God is with us.  What more do we need?  Sometimes things are difficult.  There are valleys.  But in the valleys, we always find the Shepherd.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

thankful for pain

Is it wrong to be thankful for pain?  It sure seems to go against the grain. 

There is some pain that I will never be thankful for.  I will never be thankful that my son was sick, only thankful that he got well. 

But there are many painful things that I am thankful for:
  • I am thankful for gray hair and a balding head.  It means that I am getting older, and getting older is better than not.
  • I am thankful for people who have hurt me.  Sometimes I deserved it, but even when I didn't these experiences have taught me a good deal about forgiveness.
  • I am thankful for chances that I have had to visit the inner city and other countries.  what I saw there was painful, but it also made me more compassionate and more appreciative.
  • I am thankful for the illnesses that I have had.  They have reminded me to appreciate every single day.
  • I am thankful for the things that have not gone my way.  They have taught me to trust in God. 
  • I am thankful for the many bumps along the road.  They have taught me to be tenacious and keep going.
Pain or not, it is still a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The problem of pain

I am going to write this week on the problem of pain.  I have posted this before, but it is well worth remembering from time to time.  I tend to forget important things.

This is a reminder to me and to all of us that sometimes we just need to close our mouths.  Our words add nothing to many situations, and sometimes our words make things worse.

Here are some things that should not be said to someone that is grieving.  Simply let them grieve.  It is ok to grieve.  We need to grieve.  Just be there with them.  The ministry of just being present is so important.

What you should never say to others who are grieving. This is the uncut, unedited version and I am very sorry for much of it.

from The New York Times, December 7, 1999.
To a 60-year-old recent widow: Don't worry. You're young and attractive; you'll find someone else. To a woman whose husband died of lung cancer: You have to meet this man. His wife also died of lung cancer. To a man whose 26-year-old daughter died of AIDS: If she hadn't been that way, God wouldn't have struck her dead with AIDS, and It was just a purification thing. To a woman who suffered a miscarriage: It is probably for the best. To a woman whose 25-year-old son was killed by a drunken driver: At least you have four other children. To a man whose elderly mother died: Oh, well, 79. To a young man whose 19-year-old brother died of cancer: I know how you must feel losing a brother. And to the boy's mother: I know it's not the same, but I really empathize because I lost my dog. To a woman whose husband committed suicide: Are you going to get a dog now?
-Jane E. Brody, Mourning, a time when words often fail,
The New York Times, December 7, 1999.

Here are some other things that I have personally heard – not helpful
1. It must have been their time
2. Everything happens for a reason
3. God doesn't put more on us than we can take [actually based on a scripture, but still not helpful.]
4. It was gods will

May we all remember to guard our tongues. May we remember that the gift of our presence, the gift of a hug, the gift of food. Is the best gift in times of pain.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pain

I am going to write this week on the problem of pain.  Some of what I write this week may bother your brain.  Sometimes our brains need to be bothered.  I believe that there is a good deal of sandlot theology out there in the Christian world, and certainly a lot of it on the issue of pain in the world.  Sandlot theologies are beliefs that people pick up randomly along the way.  They are ideas that we run across that we collect for some reason, that don't work well when put under the pressure of real life. 

Good theology makes sense.  It points people away from pat answers and back to God.  There is no magic pill in this life, only God.

We all have pain, we all experience pain.  Sometimes there are no good answers and our best hope is to lean into our heavenly Father.  Actually that is all that we ever really have, is the experience that even in our brokenness, we are complete in him.  Let go of your platitudes and rest in him.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

quote

A few weeks ago we had an event at church that was sponsored by the group "Something to Eat."  Their name comes from the phrase in Mt. 25 "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat."

I wrote about this event in a blog post on Saturday, September 26th.  Here is the post if you want to read it.

http://canyouhearthebirdssing.blogspot.com/search?q=40,000

We will be having another one of these food packing events pretty soon. 

I am writing today about a quote that I heard that day in one of their videos.  A young man was considering his life and his standard of living in comparison to those who have so little.  He said, "I have come to believe that having more than you need is just as bad as having less than you need."

This is quite a thought to ponder.  When you don't have enough, you are hungry and thirsty and lonely and sick.   When you don't have enough, you simple want food.  When you have too much, you start to feel entitled.  You easily fall into a life of enjoyment.  We can forget our responsibility to help others.  When we have too much we can insulate ourselves from so many things that really matter in this life.  We get upset over the smallest things.  We want everything.  We can never get enough.... and we have so much.

I have come to believe that having more than you need is just as bad as having less than you need.

It is a beautiful day in God's world, and we have more than we need.  How can we use our abundance to bless others?

I was hungry and you fed me.... How can I use what God has given me to bless others?  How can you?  Jesus is going somewhere.  Am I going with him?  Am I allowing him to drag my brain out of it's current paradigm into one where I am on a mission in this life with him?

Friday, November 6, 2015

paycheck

On Sunday, October 25th I wrote a post about why I go to church.  Here were some of my reasons:

1.  I love to take time to honor God.
2.  It is a great way to start the week.
3.  I usually learn something.
4.  I meet great people.
5.  I am a part of something that is doing very significant work.
6.  Together we can do much more than what I can do alone.
7.  I get to care about others.  And in a world of self-centeredness, that is very important.


Someone wrote a comment to that post:
And the paycheck surely comes in handy. (smiles)

I receive this comment with warm appreciation.  And I want to comment on it.

Yes I do receive a paycheck.  I think we always like to get paid.  Whether I was working at the Bicycle shop, the Shoe store, the asphalt company or a church, I was always glad for payday.  Work is an important part of life.  We all need to learn to work, and how to manage our money.  We also need to learn to see our money as a blessing from God that is to be managed for his purposes, not simply for our pleasure.

So, yes I am glad for a paycheck.  But I want to tell you this...... if for some reason all churches have to close, or it becomes illegal to pay pastors, I will keep doing what I am doing.  I love being a pastor.  I may have to take another job to pay the bills, but I am never going to stop caring about people and doing everything that I can to be a part of Jesus' work.  There is a reward in loving others that is bigger than a paycheck.  I hope you feel it too.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

what is Jesus doing?

What do we find Jesus doing?  He is going somewhere.  To some town, to somebody's house.  He is going somewhere with a story.  His disciples go with him.  They follow him.  They physically follow him on a journey and they mentally follow him as he teaches them new ways to think.

Turn the other cheek.
Take up your cross.
Go the second mile.

Christians are called Christ followers because they are following Jesus.  Not just going to church and then going back to their lives, but going where Jesus went.  Christ followers follow Jesus and he is going somewhere.

Are you going somewhere?  Are you allowing Jesus to take you to the next town?  Are you seeing the mission field?  Do you see someone to care about?  Are you following him in your brain?  In your heart?  Are you letting him stretch you?

If we are stuck in the same place, then we are not following Jesus.  He is on the move.  He is going somewhere.  Fortunately it is not too late for us to catch up.  When we begin to listen for his voice, really listen, he will lead us out of our complacency, out of our comfort zone and into mission with him.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

memory

Today I am thankful for memory and memories.  I find myself forgetting more and more lately, and so memory is quite a gift. 

Memory makes us smile and time seems to wash the pain away from our worst memories.  Lessons from the past are codified by our memories of them.

When I was 14 I entered a chess contest at the local library.  There were kids ranging in age from 8-16.  I was one of the oldest ones there.  They paired us randomly for our first match.  I was assigned a 10 year old.  A little tiny guy who looked a bit like Harry Potter.  That may explain what happened next.  Although I was sure that I was going to beat the child in this game of wits and strategy, he ended my day in 5 moves.

I was surprised!  Checkmate!  Oh my, and by such a child.  My mother had barely left the parking lot when I was calling her to return to pick me up.

Ahh the memories of life.  The ones that humble us will teach us if we will listen to them.  Jeff, you aren't as smart as you think, and Harry Potter is good at chess.

Today I am thankful for memories.

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

prednisone

Today I am thankful for prednisone, although I will blame my recent weight gain on it.  My weight gain has nothing to do with ice cream or pizza.........

Last week I finished up a three week regiment of prednisone.  I had another flare up of my sarcoidosis.  Prednisone knocks it out.  For more info read here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcoidosis

I don't like telling people about things like this, but it usually gets out and then I end up in trouble with some folks for not telling them.

So I guess what I am really thankful for is health.  Relatively good health.  It is such a blessing to be alive.

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Interpretation

Today I am thankful for who ever it was that taught me that I am not always right.  [It was not an easy job.]  When we think about Biblical interpretation, it is really important for us to remember that we are not as smart as we think we are.  We are not right and everyone else wrong.  That is not spirituality, but arrogance.

So many people toss around words like literal and inerrant, as if the Bible itself was to be worshipped.  The real problem with interpretation is that we interpret the Bible to our comfort.  Our brains naturally look for the understanding of scripture that justifies my life, my habits, my standard of living and my prejudices.

Jen Hatmaker in her book Interrupted describes the day when she awoke to see that she had been looking at the Bible all wrong........

     " I still can’t believe it, but I managed to attend church three times a week as a fetus, fulfill the pastor’s kid role, observe every form and function of church, get swallowed whole by Christian subculture, graduate from a Baptist college, wed a pastor, serve in full-time ministry for twelve years, become a Christian author and speaker – and misunderstand the main point. I am still stunned by my capacity to spin Scripture, see what I wanted, ignore what I didn’t, and use the Word to defend my life rather than define it. I now reread treasured, even memorized Scriptures and realize I never understood what they really meant. " Pg 5

     "I developed a spiritual form of [bulimia] where I did my devotions, read all the new Christian books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited information up to friends, small groups, and pastors. But it never had the chance to digest. I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death. I was marked by an over consumption but malnourished spiritually, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God." Pg 10

If your Christianity isn't talking you out of your comfort zone, if you are a Bible expert instead of being humbled by scripture, then it may be time to put on a new set of reading glasses.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints Day

Today, November 1st is All Saints Day.  It is traditionally a day when Christians remember those loved ones who have gone before us.

This month, I am going to mention thankfulness or gratitude on every post, every day.  I am going to force myself to find something to be thankful for.  It should not be that hard.

Today, among many other things, I am thankful for my Parents.  They were not perfect.  They were children of the depression.  They had a hard life.  They wasted nothing.  They did not tolerate  anything that smelled like disrespect.  Boundaries were kept very firm between a parent and a child.  Questions were frowned upon.

But, they loved us, they cared for us, they fed us and they protected us.  They got us through college and they survived our craziness.  [we were children of the 60's and 70's]

They gave me a chance at life.   I know that they loved us and if they had the chance today would tell us that they are proud of us.

I hope that you have parents or mentors that helped launch you.  Although not perfect, where would we be today without them?

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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween

this is the actual sign
My mom was a pretty fundamental Christian.  Everything was black and white.  Lots of judgment.

That was then, this is now.  She is in heaven with Jesus now and I know that she is basking in his love and sharing it with others.  She is whole.

So what does this have to do with Halloween?  My mom, the fundamental Christian, loved Halloween.  She set aside all of her dogmas and let the dogs out for Halloween.  Demons that were feared and riled against during the rest of the year were amicably welcomed on Halloween.  She had more Halloween decorations than Christmas ones.......

One of my favorites was a sign, which went up every year on the front door.  The sign had an ugly witch on it and it said, "Welcome kiddies, put all your goodies in the box below... go quietly and no one will get hurt."  Yes there was a box underneath the sign.  No one ever left any candy, but I find the story to be so funny.

Have a Happy Halloween.  October 31 is the Lord's day too.  This is our father's world.

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

angry

Do you ever get angry?  Or am I the only one?

One of the things that I really hate is when something happens and I find myself angry on Sunday morning.  Here I am, supposed to go in and be happy and cheery and spiritual, and I feel angry.  It happens sometimes.

What to do?  When this happens I have some tools that I have collected over the years.

1.  I compartmentalize it.  I put it off, whatever it is, until later in the day.  I let it disappear in my brain until later so I can focus on what is going on for Sunday morning.
2.  I put it in perspective.  Usually what has upset me is a small thing, a car thing, an inconvenience of some kind.  I simply remind myself that this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of life.
3.  I pray.  I lean into our Father.  I relax and take some time to just sit with him in his presence.

Anger usually does not serve a constructive purpose.  We are human, so it is going to pop up from time to time, but anything that you can do to find the heart of God when you feel angry is always helpful.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

redirect

Hey Jesus, Hey Paul, I would like to get a redirect.  I would like to be able to ask a question.  I heard what you said, and I don't mean to be difficult but can I ask a question for clarification?  I am hopeful that you can redirect me on something that you said.

Jesus should I turn the other cheek every time?  Should I allow my family to be harmed by intruders? 
Surely you did not mean that, did you?  Should a wife stay with an abusive husband?

Paul, should all women not speak in church?  Are you still ok with slavery?  Paul do you eat shrimp?

Friends, there are many many scriptures that don't fall very easily into our models of living.  I wish that we could ask for a clarification on them.  But we can't.  We are left with the responsibility of using our hearts and minds to make our best decisions about them.  The Bible is not magic - it points us in the right direction, but it does not answer every question.  In fact the Bible is not here to point us to itself.... the Bible is here to point us toward God.

I think we will have many questions when we get to heaven.  I am ok with that.  I don't have all of the answers.  God is bigger than I am and he is bigger than my ideas about him. 

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

conservative or liberal

I don't like these labels.  When we speak of conservatives and liberals our language is polarizing.  Most of the people that I know, including myself are not classic cases of either extreme.  Most people that I know think a few things that would make both sides uncomfortable.

I was talking to another minister the other day and he was explaining to me that many in his congregation expect him to be liberal because he is a Methodist minister.  He did not understand that.  I am not sure that I do either.  Methodists come in all colors and sizes.  We have every variety of people in our church and I want to keep them all together.  Jesus kept all kinds together.

How about we talk less about what separates us and talk more about what unites us.  If we can all get behind loving God and loving others, then who needs the labels?  Life is too short for talk that divides us.  Come on people now, smile on each other everybody get together start to love one another right now.  [smile if you hear the song lyrics there...]

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I might be wrong

Tony Campolo is a famous Baptist pastor.  Some of you agree with him and some of you don't.  I don't agree with everything that he thinks, but hey, I might be wrong.

Someone told me about something that he likes to say.  Now since I am passing along what someone said that Tony said, this is hearsay, but I like the thought none the less.

The story goes like this- Tony will not talk with anyone about difficult issues unless the person admits that they might be wrong.  Tony knows that he might be wrong, the idea is why should I waste my time talking with someone else who insists that they are right?  They are not even open to considering what someone else is saying.  They can't entertain the possibility that they might be wrong.

You can't really have a dialogue with someone if the participants aren't open to learn from each other.

Are you able to admit that you might be wrong on an issue?  Is it possible that what you were taught about the Bible growing up was wrong?

I find this a very interesting thought.  But hey, I might be wrong.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

fall iris

Here are some of God's surprise fall blessings in my back yard.  Usually iris bloom in April.  This guy evidently likes October.

I smile when I consider the beauty of all the things that God has made.  This is our Father's world!

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


Sunday, October 25, 2015

why I go to church

There is a funny story about going to church.......

It kind of goes like this.  It is 7am on Sunday and the Dad is trying to wake up his son for church.  The son says, Dad, I don't want to go to church.  It's too early in the morning, the members are mean to me, and the sermons are boring.

The dad replies, well let me tell you why you should go... it's early, but it is the Lord's day.  Those members are God's children, and for crying out loud son, you are the minister!!

I go to church for many reasons besides the fact that I am the minister.

1.  I love to take time to honor God.
2.  It is a great way to start the week.
3.  I usually learn something.
4.  I meet great people.
5.  I am a part of something that is doing very significant work.
6.  Together we can do much more than what I can do alone.
7.  I get to care about others.  And in a world of self-centeredness, that is very important.

I hope that you can find some reasons to be in church this Lord's day.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

taking the Bible literally

I was talking with someone the other day who was very upset that some Christians do not take the Bible "literally."

I asked them if they gave 10% to the Lord.
The answer was no.

I asked them if they thought women should speak in church.
They said yes.

I asked them if they ate shrimp.
They said yes.

I asked them if they thought that slaves should relax and obey their masters.
They said no.

I asked them if they thought that a rebellious son should be put to death.
They said no.

I asked them if we should pray as the Psalmist does that God would kill our enemies.
They said no.

I think the point to be made here isn't the word "literal" but the word respect.  Do you respect the Bible?  Do you honor it?  Do you believe that it points people toward God?
My answer to all of that is yes I respect the Bible, yes I honor it, and yes I believe it points people towards God.

When Christians oversimplify things, they sometimes start to sound very narrow and judgmental.  Their attempts to protect the Bible or God can push away the very people that they might be trying to win.

Last time I checked, God did not need us to defend him or protect him.

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in tongues but don't have a loving heart, I am just a squeaky brake.  If I know all about the book of Revelation, if I have great faith, but am full of myself, I am nothing.  If I run a good business and provide for my family but have not love, I gain nothing.  If I go to church but ignore my selfish behavior, if I am married but do not pour myself into my spouse, if I insist that I am right but do not read what others think, if I do the right thing but hurt people along the way, I am missing the point.

Love.  It is the more excellent way.  Everything else that we call spiritual or important pales in comparison to love.  Without love we are fooling ourselves.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not want more, it does not want what others have, it does not need a new car or a bigger house.  I is not a bragger, it never blows its own horn.  It does not hurt others, it takes a fearless moral inventory from time to time to make sure that it is not self seeking.  It learns to control its anger.  It walks away to cool off rather than explode at someone.  It not only forgives, but it no longer keeps track of who did what to me.  It never celebrates evil, but it celebrates the truth.

It is dependable.  It keeps coming around.  It always protects.  It covers others faults.  It always sees the good in others.  It always hopes for a better day.  It sticks around til the very end.

Love never fails.  Every other method of living will fail.  No big house, no fancy car, no plastic surgery can replace love.  There is nothing like it in all the world.

All of our religious language will come to naught, our doctrine will be shot full of holes, our insistence that we are right will vanish.  But love will remain, for God is love.

May we spend more of our time investing in that which is important and being God's vehicles of love. Love is not just the most excellent way, ultimately, it is the only thing that really counts in this life.

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


Thursday, October 22, 2015

the pangs of love

Today I am grateful for the pangs of love.  That is, the hurt that we feel when we are away from those whom we love.

Parents feel it when their children go off to college.  Children feel it when their parents die.  I feel it as my wife is on the other side of the country most of the time.

Do you see the girl in this picture?  I love her.  Still.  Madly.  After all of these years!  I pine to be with her.  I can sit in her presence and nothing needs to be said.  Just being together makes me whole.

I see this love as a gift!  A joy!  I see it as a type of our love for God.  It helps me understand how we will be made complete when we enter his presence in heaven.

I wish that all married couples could feel this love.  I wish that all single people could find it.  Whether in a spouse, a friend, a cousin or even a lowly pastor, I hope that each of you are experiencing the gift of love somewhere on this journey of life.

Love is such a delightful gift.

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