Saturday, May 05, 2018

Breakfast

I'm sitting across the table from Riley. He's eating cereal. I'm drinking coffee. Deana is still in bed.

It's 7:30. AM. I've been awake since 4:00 and up since about 4:45. AM. A!M! In the morning.

We bought melatonin last night. A couple of friends talk about it. Maybe it will help me sleep a little later. I forgot to take it last night.

But really, I wake up at moderate noise and since we now experience apartment life, moderate noise happens a lot. I wake up to moderate light, too. If I wake up and it's fairly daylight, I can't go back to sleep. Our apartment complex is well lit. And a light on a building across the way shines perfectly through the slot in the blinds where the cords go…right into my eyes if I'm sleeping on my left side.

I know, the fix is easy. Don't sleep on my left side and put a pillow over my head and play some white noise and… And I've tried the PM meds but don't want to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen so often. Maybe melatonin is the key. Or getting back to my high school graduation weight. Or even my college graduation weight. Or, hey, my seminary graduation weight would be an improvement. I have a Master of Divinity. Too much candy, I guess.

Riley just refilled his cereal bowl. Maybe he'd eat just one bowl of cereal if he had a Jethro Bodine bowl. Raise your hand if you know what that is.

Deana's still in bed.

I like to grind coffee beans and did this morning before 7:00. It didn't stir anyone. Not that I did it on purpose to stir them, of course.

My breakfast was an English muffin with peach preserves and a banana. And a cup of coffee. Or two. Half a pot, actually. Maybe the caffeine is why I sleep like I do!

Riley's breakfast is fueling him for a baseball game. The Baptist Prep Eagles are playing in their regional tournament today. They have already qualified for the state tournament. Today's game will determine their seeding.

(I've been meaning to look this up. Is "seed" the proper term? Or is it "cede" or something else?)

The Eagles have had a 5-year drought with no appearances in regionals or state. These are exciting times. Worth getting up early for. Worth an extra bowl of cereal. Worth the 2-hour drive.

I don't get to have breakfast with Riley very often but today is special. Because of the baseball but mostly because I get to have breakfast with Riley.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

When Believers Pray

I have to share with you what God did over the last few days. Riley's truck is not new. OK, it's old. But he likes it and it is what we have. He needed front brakes and rotors so we took it to a trusted mechanic who has worked on this vehicle and others of ours.

After doing the brake job the mechanic took it for a spin. It overheated quickly. Pretty good leak in the coolant system. Pretty good bill, too. We had some money saved up so we spent it all on that. We rarely have money saved up so the timing was good.

But that wasn't the end of it. The engine was missing - not gone, but not running right. Cylinder 6 was the culprit. The mechanic discovered this at 6:00 Friday night so we left the truck there (we had come by to pick it up thinking the work was finished) and he would look at it Monday.

Possible solutions ranged from $50 to $1500. And we had just spent all we had.

We spent Friday night through Monday morning praying. We could pay the $50 bill but not much else. We asked others to pray with us. At church Sunday afternoon our pastor and his wife joined Deana and me for a prayer meeting. We needed God to do something.

So Monday comes and I expect a call fairly early giving me the news. No call. Finally, I called just before lunch. He said it wasn't either of the problems he would have guessed so he was still searching.

Monday afternoon I called again. He said he tweaked a thing or two and all is well. As well as a 20 year old truck can be, I guess.

No extra charge.

We needed God to either heal our truck or somehow get the work paid for. I don't know which happened - and I'm OK not knowing. But I do know that we needed God to do something and he did.

I will ever praise him because he met our need, and even more - he loves us enough to do it.

When believers pray...they are blessed.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Things Change

Today I announced to my church family that I have accepted a staff position with another church. That is harder to do that it seems. I have served Cross Road Baptist Church for eleven years. That is 20% of my life, more than half of my married life with Deana, and almost two-thirds of Riley's life. This is the longest job I've ever had. The next closest is six years.

God works in mysterious ways. That means I don't always understand why God does what he does. And I believe this is the work of God in my life, the life of CRBC, and the life of the church I'll soon serve. But I don't really understand it.

God is good all the time. That means that even if I don't understand (even if I don't like) what God is doing, it is good. God can do nothing else. Goodness is his nature so everything he does is good.

My time here is filled with great memories. We've seen many people give their lives to follow Jesus and have baptized them. Those are precious memories. We have travelled the globe engaging in God's work. I have fond memories of those who have gone with me and those who supported us in prayer and resources. We have mobilized to serve our community and almost every member has been a hands-on participant. I won't forget those people and mission moments.

I've worked alongside and prayed with some wonderful Christians. They have helped me mature as a Christian and as a pastor. Whether it was a challenge or a victory, we did it together. I'm glad the Lord works like that.

I've been their pastor as they welcomed babies into the world, married their children, reached milestones, and mourned the loss of loved ones. I've celebrated and mourned with them. Some of the best people I have known are part of the CRBC family.

There is a lot I don't know but this I do know: Following Jesus with others who follow Jesus is worthwhile.

Thank you, CRBC, for letting me be part of your lives. Thank you, Lord, for calling me here and keeping me here for these eleven years.

Monday, January 08, 2018

What Happened?

It must have been the late '80s because I was working for a company traveling from town to town selling industrial safety products to different types of businesses. Highway 80 is a quite road I was on between Waldron and Danville in western Arkansas. There wasn't much going on this late afternoon. Hardly any traffic competing for my space on the road. And hardly any thoughts competed for my brain's attention. I was zoned out headed home.

Then all of a sudden…out of nowhere…I thought my car was about to vibrate off the road. Could it be the Second Coming? Could it be an earthquake? Could it be a nuclear attack? No. It was an airplane.

Not far from where I was toodling along on Highway 80 is the Fort Smith airport which serves as the training facility for the Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Wing. I've read that in 1988 the 188th acquired the F-16. My guess is that a pilot was out with the new ride having a little fun. I might have done the same thing! He spots a lone vehicle on a secluded roadway, drops down to treetop height, and punches it right over my head.

My immediate thought was, "Oh no!" A second later, "What was that." Another second later I looked up in time to see the jet disappear. An hour later my heart rate returned to normal.

The only other experience I've had with something like that was several years ago on the weekend of the air show at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville. Deana, Riley, and I were about 15 miles away from the base, it was an cloudy day, and we were headed to get some lunch. Just toodling along with hardly any traffic around us.

Then the clouds opened up and a black disc swooped down, then right back up. For just a moment we saw what could only be explained as a flying saucer from outer space carrying aliens to attack us and carry us off into an alternate universe. That was the only plausible explanation.

The next day's newspaper carried a story about the new stealth bomber making an appearance at the air show. The pictures in the paper looked a lot like the spaceship we had seen the day before.

Oh.

Add to these two events the time the army helicopter landed in our backyard and you have the three times I've had weird things happen to me involving the United States military. Each time I asked myself, "What happened?"

Many more times in my life have I asked that question when something goes wrong or I'm hit by something unexpected. I just don't understand. Maybe you feel that way, too. A divorce. Losing a child. Getting fired. An expensive repair. Blown up friendships. Repossession. Foreclosure. The diagnosis.

"What happened?" Most often the answer is, "I don't know." But in every situation you can add to that, "But God does."

Have you come to the point where you can trust that if God knows that is good enough? You'd like to know but you don't have to know?

Here are a couple of verses from the Bible that help me when I'm wondering what happened.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The promise of these verses is that God acts in the lives of those who love him to help them when they aren't sure what happened.

Friday, December 22, 2017

'Twas Three Days Before Christmas

Way down deep, I'm a kid. My favorite memories of Christmas revolve around times spent at my grandparents' house in Paris, Arkansas. I never remember not having a sister and two cousins. Carri, Steve, Teri, and I were the first four of ten grandchildren. Steve and I are just eight months apart in age. If I had lived in Paris we would have grown up more like brothers than cousins.

The Christmas tree with the frosted tips to look like snow. The jillions of colored lights on the tree. Andy Williams singing in the background. My favorite Christmas song was "Ding-a-ling the Christmas Bell" by Lynn Anderson. I bought it on iTunes a couple of years ago. The kitchen counter was always loaded with food. The kitchen table was where the men would eat and later play dominoes.

I remember the gas wall heater we'd back up to then turn around when our backsides were too warm. And I remember the "cold room." Heat never reached there, not even when central heat and air was installed years later. Even the closed in back porch where the kids always ate was not as cold as the "cold room." I'm not sure why, but I always think of the "cold room" when I hear John Denver's "Grandma's Feather Bed." When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, it was in that room that we spent hours looking through boxes and albums of family pictures.

At the heart of our family's Christmas celebration was the true meaning of Christmas. We didn't read the Christmas story but many of us were coming from a church service. I knew I was loved and love like that has just one source. I've grown up to realize the importance of letting the people you love know you love them. The Christmas gatherings for my side of the family were last weekend. The whole, big, extended family still gets together on Christmas Eve but I haven't been able to attend that in a while. I haven't seen my big kids on Christmas Day in many years. But the day we get together isn't as important as letting them know you love them.

And I do. It is a rare occasion that I speak to my big kids or my parents and not tell them I love them. Christmas is part of a grand love story that tells us that God loves us and gave his Son to die for our sins. Easter is part of the same story. And the story never ends because God's love for us never ends. I want my love for my family to never end. Memories help. I see my cousins mostly at funerals these days - like the one earlier this month for my uncle. He was the one who would put on a Santa Claus outfit and walk by the living room window on Christmas Eve. (I think it was Ricky! Maybe it was…)

Was Jesus born on December 25? Does it matter? What matters is that Jesus - the eternal Son of God - entered our world as a human to make a way for sinners like you and me to reunite with our loving creator. That changes this life and eternity. So I will celebrate and pass along the greatest love story ever told.

I still love a Christmas tree decorated with colored lights. Blinking. Because when you sit in the dark living room the lights on the tree will all blink off at the same time once or twice a night. Keep your yuppie white lights; take me back to an old farmhouse with wood floors, a wall heater, a cold room, presents under the tree, food in the kitchen, a domino game, and family.

Friday, December 08, 2017

God's Already Here Doing Things We Can't Imagine

Have you ever heard someone say, "I really need God to show up"? Sometimes that is in the form of a prayer request. It's important to believe that the presence of God is essential in our lives. But does he need to show up?

Churchy people sometimes say, "God really showed up and showed out today." Really? God isn't already here? Maybe they don't mean what they say but what they say.

The Bible tells us that God is omnipresent - he is everywhere. Psalm 139 says that if I go to the highest peak in the mountains, God is there; if I go to the lowest valley under the ocean, God is there; if I fly through space, God is there. Where can I go that God is not already there?

Where you are today…God is there. Where you will be tomorrow…God is already there. He'll be there when you get there. The problems that tomorrow will hold are no surprise to God…he's already there. Can you find a bit of peace and comfort in that? Even in the turmoil that accompanies your trek through this life, God is there and he knows and he is in control.

Christmas reminds us that God is with us. That's what the name Immanuel means. Prophets and angels said Jesus would be Immanuel - God with us. When Jesus was about to return to heaven he told his followers that when he leaves the Holy Spirit will come. For all who believe and follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not only present in this world but present within us.

What about God showing out? Again, I think it is important to believe God does amazing things. In fact, according to the Bible, everything God does is "showing out" because his ways are higher than our ways. Not only is he omnipresent, he is also omnipotent! He has all power! Amazing power! He can part the waters of the Red Sea. He can turn water in pots into wine. He can raise the dead. He can take on human flesh and become a man.

Paul says God does things that are our ability to imagine. We can't even accurately ask for what he can do. From our perspective, everything he does blows our minds. If not, we aren't really paying attention!

For where you are now and what you need from God, he is present and powerful. Christmas reminds me that God is omnipresent and omnipotent. That's what I really need…all year long.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Gospel, Sin, and Shame

I've just started reading The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson. He spoke at a seminar I attended recently and we all got a copy. Jared writes with a style that makes me feel like we are sitting around the table drinking coffee and eating pie.

Here's what he wrote that I want to share with you. "Jesus found it imminently agreeable to air out people's shame that he might cover it for them. You cannot vanquish what you cannot expose."

Take a second and read that again. The difference between the way Jesus deals with sin and shame is so different from the way most of us deal with sin and shame. We want to deny we've sinned and hide the shame that accompanies sin. We want to keep our image pristine. Never let them see you sweat.

But the truth is that sin has already made an ugly mark on our lives. Each of us is marked and marred. Many of us put make-up on to cover the shame. We may hide behind a false front hoping nobody notices. We've learned to be proud, so the shame is embarrassing. I know, I've been there. At any given moment you could look at me and you'd be looking at a person marred by sin and shame.

But Jesus wants no part of hiding our sin. He wants no part of covering up our shame.

Jesus died for your sins to vanquish them from your life. Jesus offers forgiveness and restoration so you can be free from the shame. But Jared Wilson points out that you cannot vanquish what you cannot expose. Keep you sin and shame hidden. Don't let anyone know. Convince yourself that it's not that bad. Do that and you'll forever miss the love and joy and peace and freedom Jesus wants you to know.

Or confess you sins to Jesus. He will forgive you. Admit your shame and Jesus will restore you. The gospel is the good news that Jesus died to make right what is wrong in your life.

Wilson also wrote that we turn the gospel into law when we take the good news and turn it into practical, self-help advice. The gospel is not "3 Steps to a Better Life," the gospel is that Jesus died to make right what is wrong in your life. The only steps you must take are to follow in his.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson. I'm sure it's available at Christian bookstores and online retailers. Or you could've attended the seminar I did and got yours for free, too!