Tuesday, December 26, 2006


It is Dec. 26th! I am done with workout #1, starting to work on sermons for the new year, and in general trying to recover from the Christmas Celebration at church and Home.

Sunday ( Christmas Eve) was a heavy work load day for me. I preached twice in the morning and then did the devotional in the evening Christmas Eve Service. I was pretty tired, and really still am two days later.

I was very pleased with our attendance on Sunday. We did not know what to expect. First Service was full ( about 400 total) and Second Service approached 500 people. Then in the evening, I suspect there were well over 600 people. It was standing room only!

We did not do a candlelight service this year. Instead we used these little flashlights... the reaction was very mixed. Some didn't work well, others were hard to get on... and in general people like the candlelight more than the lights. Traditionalists feel that it was lacking.. But we have had such a bad time with wax on chairs and floors... and with the new facility next year, we felt it was a good time to make the change. We will evaluate this more over the year to see what to do next year. I wonder what other churches with nice worship facilities do with this?

We only did one service, because we had two services and SS in the morning. I felt that it was just too much to ask some of our music people to be in the building from 7- 12:30 and then from 4-8 on Christmas Eve.

It worked out great, people were understanding and the services were high quality. I have great respect for all our musicians and vocalists who give and give each week. Tim does a good job of pulling it all together and leading them.

Christmas day was a bit strange. For the first time, one of our kids was not here. Joel is with the OSU football team in Shreveport. We sure missed him, and after the phone call we had last night, I think he missed us too. Lydia and James went to his family's place around noon, and Liz and Nathaniel went home at 2 or so. So it was Abigial, Pam and I. What should we do. I took at 5 mile walk, which felt great, except for the 25 mph wind from the north. Then we decided to go to a movie. We went to the Pursuit of Happyness. Abigial had the best assessment of the movie. She said, "Alot of depression for two minutes of happyness." None of us really liked it... it was a sad story until the end. So if you are going to it, make sure you are in the mood.

We decided not to go to Nebraska... and just stay home this week. I think it is a really good thing for Pam, and it is for me to. So we are on our own schedule for a few days, doing different things and in general not having to do much in terms of meeting schedules or obligations. Should be nice.

THE BIG NEWS! Last night my Fantasy Football Team defeated Aaron Rathbone's team for the Fantasy Football league championship! Not bad for a rookie. I am so lucky. But it was a fun experience. I learned alot during the season... and next year I will be better. I owe Marc Bulger ( St. Louis Rams) and Ladanian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers) alot... they carried me.

More reflections on the last year are coming later in the week.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fuel for Reconciliation

I think that one of the things that makes Christianity work is disagreement. That may seem strange, because we are called to unity, called to be one in purpose, called to agree with one another in the Lord and so on.

But how do you get 1000 people together every week and not have some sort of disagreements? We can't do that in our homes from time to time. We can't do that at our work places either.

This may seem like a strange statement, but disagreements are the fuel of reconciliation. Think about it.... If there was not a disagreement in the Garden ( "Don't eat of that.... but I am going to eat of that".) there would have been no opportunity for 2 Cor 5:18 to be true. " All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ...."

I am not saying we should pick fights or have disagreements just so we can have the pleasure of a reconciliation . But I think that passionate people will tend to disagree from time to time.

Does Paul and Barnabas ring a bell? They had a passionate disagreement about John Mark. But scripture indicates that even though they parted company,( the Bible says, "it was a SHARP disagreement- Acts 15:39) later in life there was reconciliation and further ministry together.

Can you be married very long before you disagree? While some couples make it a daily thing, for Pam and I, fighting and strong disagreements have been few and far between. Something that Pam has taught me over the years is that while we may disagree, we can not linger long on that, and need to settle the disagreement and move on. I tend to want to escape, let it fester and grow, and in general just be mad for a while. It is a way that makes me feel like I am in control.

But she has taught me to talk it out... to see both sides and to find the middle ground if possible. And in our marriage that has never been impossible. We have been able to work those things out. She has been the teacher for many years on the value of reconciliation in my life. ( That is a pretty cool person if you ask me!)

I used to think that at work everything was good if we all agreeed all the time. But the staff of our church has taught me that disagreeing is healthy. It shows good thought... It shows passion. It shows that people are thinking and not just becoming mindless robots that toe the bosses line. We had a staff retreat recently that included some tougth discussion about issues on the staff and in the church. One staff member commented to me recently that it was the best retreat that we have had because we actually scratched below the surface dealt with issues.

That is counter-intuitive to me. I want peace. I want harmony. But is peace and harmony desirable at all costs? Apparently Paul and Barnabas felt differently.

There has to come a time when a decision is made, a direction is chosen, a line is drawn in the sand, and where everyone on the team has to say, "Well, that is what was decided, so I will do my best with it." But it is not healthy to refuse the dialogue. It very destructive to team dynamics. Dialogue often means more information, which can change minds. Dialogue often means that someone feels like they are being heard. Dialogue often gives God a chance to change a heart... or point out a flaw or two that needs work. ( The Holy Spirit is pretty good at that, if we will give him the chance.)

In the case of Paul and Barnabas, John Mark was the disagreement. Paul did not want him on the journey because he was a deserter. Barnabas saw something in John Mark and said, "Give him another chance." When Paul wouldn't, Barnabas did.

I am sure this was uncomfortable for all involved. But Acts 15:40 says that Barnabas took John Mark and sailed for Cyprus, and Paul took Silas and left, commened by the brothers to the grace of the Lord." Sounds to me like the "brothers" decided that the big picture was more important here... that there was middle ground. And as a result (as He is prone to do) God made the best of it... sending two powerhouse teams out to spread the gospel.

Late in Paul's life, from a Roman prison, He writes to Timothy and says, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4: 11.) The disagreement between him and Barnabas was long gone. The disappointment of John Mark's decision to leave Paul on the first missionary journey has faded away. What was left was reconciliation and ministry.

It is a story of hope for me. It is an encouragement to not let disagreement linger, to work things out, to find middle ground, and to see the big picture.

It is hard work. But God has been doing it since the garden. And I am thankful He still is doing it today.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I thought I had seen it all.... Christmas each year brings out some really weird things... But what I saw on CNN today takes the prize....

On an Orange County Floriday Highway, there is a Santa Claus and a real live elf (with point ears and pointed shoes). A Santa Clause and real elf along side the highway, with a radar gun in his hand. Down the road there are 20 of his little "elf" helpers who happen to wear helmets, ride motorcycles and issue citations.

So imagine yourself driving down this highway ( looked like a 4 lane with a median in the middle), minding your own business, listening to the radio ( Christmas tunes I am sure), and you see Santa along side the road. Then you notice the Elf. You are going too fast, so you slow down, but you have that pang of guilt that says, "You just got nabbed by a 5'6" elf with a radar gun. "
Surely it can't be! It's Christmas. Then, you hear the shrill sounds of a motorcycle siren, and the signal to pull over. WOW!

The cost of the ticket is nothing compared to being nabbed by an elf.

I can't believe it. ( and this is coming from a guy that has never gotten a speeding ticket... I didn't say, "has never ever had occasion to drive in excess of the speed limit) To be caught by an elf is humilating. It is demeaning. It is down right scrooge like.

Makes you want to plug your chimney up... or refuse to put cookies out on the table on Christmas Eve, just in case that elf is moonlighting this Christmas Eve.

Or on second thought... maybe it would be better to be a law abiding citizen and not speed.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Deviled Eggs, Vision and Caring

This past Sunday, I made a significant point. ( Really Jesus did- Acts 20) "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

I am sure that coming on the heels of a Stewardship series, many people thought, " He just won't give up." But I didn't really say anything about money. I challenged our congregation to reach out to people, and to give tangible expressions of love to others. I am not sure that money is the best "tangible expression." I know that when the bills pile up, and you have alot more month left at the end of your check, you think, "I would take money this Christmas." Believe me, I have been there.

But then you miss the blessings of other gifts. In the past couple weeks I have gotten some pretty amazing gifts.

For starters, there was a note on my desk one day, saying there was a gift in the refrigerator (at the church) for me. So I wandered down there to see what it might be. I had visions of cookies, chocolate clusters, a piece of pie...stuff like that. When I got down there, and looked into the tin, I found that it was "deviled eggs." ( like 20 of them.) That may not be significant to you, but it was to me. The lady who made them for me, knew that I love deviled eggs. It was a gift... and I have been eating on them for several days ( one or two at a time, although I could have finished them off in a day if I had wanted to.) That was an unexpected gift... a personal gift... and a tasty gift.

I got a couple more gifts today. One was in the form of Vision. I visited with the new director of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Owasso. She shared with me her vision for a center that would continue to make a difference in the lives of young girls who found themselves to be pregnant. But her vision goes beyond just the unborn and their mothers. She celebrates all life and to that end we talked about caring about the elderly and others that seem so easily discarded in our society. She expressed her inadequacy for the job that lay ahead of her... and I thought, "Boy I know that feeling... and it is just where God wants us." I have great confidence that she and God will make a great team. I love her humilty, and her desire.

The other gift was a caring conversation with a friend. This individual and I had not talked alot since my stroke. We are alot alike and that at times had led to some "head-butting" , but always with respect.

Today , the conversation was so good because this person was shepherding me. Caring about me. Interested in how I was doing. There were ideas shared about potential changes in church activities but there also were laughs, and some honest reflection of how things are for me since I have come back.

I felt cared for. Many people care for me. I am so blessed.

So there you have it three gifts... Deviled Eggs, Vision and Caring. Maybe not what most people would look for under the tree, but all in all, not a bad day.

I know that it says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." But somedays, it is really cool to receive too.

Thanks to all three of you....