Monday, December 28, 2009

An Amazing Evening


I was sitting on the couch with my daughter in late October. It was one of those Saturday afternoons where little was going on in the world but college football. We sat quietly together observing all the sights and sounds of the college football experience. I wondered if Madison had ever been to any event remotely close to the live college football experience.


I made a decision that I would make sure that she got to every major sporting venue before her eighteenth birthday. Then I popped the question. "Madison would you like to go to a game like that?" "Sure!" - there was no hesitation. I quickly chimed in, " I would like to take you to all of the major sport venues before you get out of high school. We could go to a hockey game first. "


The normal protocol proceeded..tickets, arrangements, maps, times and dates. I was so excited to share this experience with my daughter. Last week I was walking through the mall when out of nowhere a St Louis Blues' jersey in the front window of Hibbett sports jumped out at me. I had to stop. It was on sale and just the right size for Madison. Yip, you guessed it.... bought and paid for and ready to be worn on our special night.


Sunday afternoon we packed into the car and off we went - father and daughter to her first professional sporting event. It was kinda quiet on the way down. Just sporadic conversation about varying subjects. As we got closer though, the anticipation began. I told her to be looking for restaurants that we might want to eat at afterwards. The traffic got heavier and the city skyline appeared. Madison took it all in. Questions started to come at a rapid pace. St Louis Blues' fans were all streaming to the stadium.


We arrived early, getting fantastic parking that allowed us a fifty step walk into the Scottrade Center. (no lie...it was crazy good) We hustled right in. It was free hat night. Madison thought that was pretty cool and the hat would go well with her jersey. She wanted to find her seat immediately. So off to the seats we went. I loved to give her this experience. She asked me if they were our seats for the whole time. I assured her that they were ours.


At that time we went shopping for "create-a-fry", a mix of bacon, cheese and chili on french fries. We found them and boy did she love them. The pregame started and all the music, lights and fans were in full bloom. Madison was taking it all in. I LOVED watching her observe everything. The game was exciting, back and forth scoring, fights, and the beer man.


St Louis struggled at the end, giving up two late goals in the third period. The game came to an end and we were on the losing end of our first professional hockey game. Madison chose Olive Garden as the place to eat afterward. She began to talk about lots of things on the ride to the restaurant and at the table. We enjoyed the conversation, the appetizer, meal and dessert together.


The night ended with her balled up in the front seat, sleeping away, all the way back to Quincy. Our next professional sport will be baseball this summer, watching the St. Louis Cardinals.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Change

I filled in for our associate pastor last night teaching the "Equip U" class. I was a hair resistant about the whole thing, but I agreed to fill in. The topic of the class has been "How We Change." The entire class has been an uncomfortable and convicting yet very challenging experience for me as I sat and learned. And this time - as is the case many times when we say "yes" to something that we do not want to do but we know is the right thing to do - I was convicted, moved, and challenged. The central message last night was that we change by placing ourselves in a position to receive God's gifts of grace which help us grow. We don't cause the growth. We just "show up" and receive God's gifts of grace.

Five gifts of Grace in the life of a believer that provide growth and change are:

The Bible - When we interact with the Bible, God directs our hearts, minds and actions toward Jesus Christ. His sacrifice motivates and inspires us to change. We desire to please God through change as a way to say "Thank you".

The disciplines - Dicsiplines include fasting, meditating, prayer and worship. These are all delivery systems where humans gain a Godly perspective.

Other Christians - This is a significant way in which God introduces change into our lives. Others (an outside force) help us in areas where we are weak. There strengths are passed along to us via modeling, instruction, and accountability. (Yes, that means that the person that you may find to be just a little annoying may be God's gift to you to bring growth and change in your life.)

The Holy Spirit - The Spirit of God indwells the believer. As we experience life, we are convicted, taught, and directed by him. When we yield (we call this filling) to His voice, major changes transpire. We no longer medicate our hurts with what makes us feel good but rather are comforted by His presence.

Time - God does not expect us to change overnight. In fact change is a process - a process through which God demonstrates great patience to us. We are weak, sinful and self-centered beings. These characteristics don't just fall off of us at the time of salvation but rather are torn away through grace. We call this sanctification.

So why is this important? I often find my self falling into the same old hole, walking back to the same old vomit (what a picture in Proverbs 26:11), and failing in the same old ways. When I surround myself with the works of grace in my life, I BEGIN to see some real and measureable change. Last night I placed myself in a position to receive God's grace and today I'm seeing slow (ever so slow) change.

So let the work begin!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Facebook Friends

Facebook is a cool thing! I have reconnected with so many friends from the past. The list of people who are my "facebook friends" extends all the way back to elementary school. There are people from junior high, high school, college, seminary, and people I have ministered to and with. The time I have known these people extends to just under 44 years. (My sister Leigh is now on Facebook and I have known her all my life..ha). As of 1:45 today, I officially have 234 of those friends. I THINK that is a badge for some people.

Some "facebook friends" I barely remember and others were as close as a brother or sister at one point in my life. At one time I rubbed shoulders with these people everyday and now I get a peek into their world. It is interesting to read all the posts. You see people in love and out of love, people who are parenting, people with busy schedules, and people with interesting hobbies or games.

If you take a step back and observe for a minute, you can really see parts of what you saw in someone 5, 10, 20, and 40 years ago. It is amazing to see what people are doing with their lives and how it often mirrors their past interests and passions. Seeing the good parenting skills of some and the success and contribution others are making to God's plan motivates me and makes me so proud to be there friend.

One last comment about Facebook... Rarely do we see the pain, toil, and difficulty that people may be going through. I have discovered on more than one occasion recently total devastation in the life of a facebook friend. Divorce, death, disease are always around us. Be sensitive enough to observe and ask the people from your past the real questions. Life's not all about the latest sports score, weather reports, or activities in a person's life. Don't miss the heart and soul behind that status update - that's where life is lived.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Common Ground


This week I was given the opportunity to teach a class on the topic of Outreach at Baptist Bible Seminary in Northeast Pennsylvania. It was a good week and the classroom dynamic was very favorable. The weather was mild and the scenery was absolutely breath-taking. I met up with old friends, classmates, professors and coaches. It sure was great to see them all but it was not the highlight of my time away.



I was so blessed to meet 7 people from all over the world, with different backgrounds and varied ages. It has been a long time since I have interacted with so many people from such diverse backgrounds in an intimate context. I was reminded over and over again of one primary thing while interacting with these men.



We think that we are so different than other people. The color of their skin, the language they speak, where they come from and how they view the world shape our opinions. I was reminded this week just how similar we all our. I met men from Korea, Camaroon, Jamaica, Russia, Alabama, Pennslyvania, Ohio and Virginia.



These men, young and old alike, shared much more in common then they could ever differ on. I was amazed with the common goals, aspirations, passions, concerns, and dreams. These similarities extended from personal life to vocational life and from ministry to marraige. The problems that we face in the ministry and the challenges to move people in a new direction were similarly echoed by each man.



The point is, finding common ground with most people is not too difficult. When you find that common ground, it will lead to friendship, conversation, partnerships, networking, encouragement, and understanding. So the next time you meet someone new - look for the common ground.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ignoring God

I am not a quote guy. Rarely do you here me say, "so and so said this or so and so said that." Don't get me wrong quotes are good but probably what we should quote most often is the Bible. Saying all that, here is a quote that has given me much food for thought;

"As Romans 1 teaches us, once we ignore God, we inevitably misuse the goods of creation as we mistakenly make our own rules. So our sin in the vertical direction (ignoring God) inevitably causes disorientation on the horizontal level (as we lose our sense of reference and direction)."

from the book Unfashionable
Tullian Tchividjian

Simply, the question that I have been asking myself lately is, Where am I misusing the goods of creation? How am I making my own rules? Ignoring God is serious business. So many of us have lost our sense of reference and direction. Tullian's quote points us back to the Vertical sin of ignoring God that leads to disorientation.

May we all take some time and ponder how we are ignoring God. Repent and become vertically oriented once again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Times Stands Still When...

Time stands still when you are doing the things that you love to do - those things you do where the opinions of others, their critiques, or their inputs don't matter. Time stands still when I am racing my stock car. The race is usually ten to fifteen minutes and yet in the cockpit it feels like an hour. There's no one telling me why I should or shouldn't do it. No one telling me how to drive or where to drive. I have realized that time stands still when I am involved with the things that make me uniquely me. It is easy to spend ones life filling time vs fulfilling God's dream for you.

Time stands still when you are talking about things that you are most passionate about. I realize that when I have opportunity to share with people my love for God or answer their questions about Him. I become incredibly focused and aware. There is nothing more time-halting then that moment when I am able to explain the truth of the Bible to someone. I want time to stand still each and every day of my life.

Time stands still when you are with people who you love and desire to be around. I can remember so many times with my children where we would have the day or week committed to each other. Nothing to do and nowhere to go. Time stood still in those moments. It is amazing to think about all the opportunities we have to touch the lives of other people. I remember playing tennis with my children in Colorado four years ago and what we talked about. I don't remember who won the last political debate I was in. God help me spend time with the right people!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What love does.

Okay, I admit it... I do not even like dogs or cats or animals for that matter. They are fun to look at but in no way do I enjoy owning one. So the picture with the dog is a bit miss leading.
The long story short is this; I promised Matt a dog when we moved from Ohio to Illinois when he was 13 years old. What love does!

I look back on that committment to him and identify the love I have for him, and his happiness far out weighed the inconvenience of dog hair, late nite bathroom walks, chewing on all of our valuables and even eating our couch. Yes, Hercules ate a portion of our couch, attempting to retreive his tennis ball. What love does!

Now that Matt is at college, he has given us the responsibility of taking care of Hercules. Daily attention, feeding, cleaning up that stupid hair and the late night bathroom breaks are all ours. I asked myself last night as I was called on by Hercules to take him out at 11:57 p.m. , "Why do we even have this dog?" I quickly focused on the love that I have for Matt because that is what love does!

So what is love doing in your world? Are there any sacrifices being made? Are there ways that you demonstrate love to your children that isn't easy? Does love get sifted through your selfishness, busyness, and desire to take the easy way?

Looking back on my eighteen years with Matt, that gift from me to him was the most powerful expression of love that I could have ever given him. It was not my thing. It was certainly not easy, in fact I hated then and I almost hate it now, BUT tonight Hercules will take me out for a pee at 11:57. Oh by the way, I am taking Hercules to see Matt tomorrow at Greenville College. What love does!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This is my first post. I have been encouraged to use a blog to communicate to others about different aspects of my life, family, marriage, hobbies, and ministry. I believe it will be helpful for me. Getting what is in my head out into a readable form will affirm my life goals and the reasons why I have been left to serve my Saviour on earth. Spending the bulk of my time on the planet around people, has given me insight to their challenges, victories, defeats, temptations and sorrows. I CHERISH all the people who have made my life rich and those presently who fill my days with richness and joy. I am a blessed man who recognizes that little matters on this earth and the goal is to fill up our time enjoying God and impacting those around us. I truly pray that we all recognize the great day that we have in today!!