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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I played golf with a good friend a few days ago.  That may not seem significant, but I don’t do it very often; maybe once every 18 months or so, whether I need it or not.  I served up more slices than a butcher in the deli department, but I accomplished my goal--a relaxing day with my friend.
We shot in the lower 90’s. It would have been nice if the temperature had been in the lower 80’s instead, but it was still not bad.  We actually didn’t keep score.  Today was not about birdies, pars, bogeys.  It was about laughter, conversation, and fresh air.
At one point, we let some guys play through because they were faster and better than we were.  While we watched them tee off, one of them hit a shot that I’m pretty sure he wasn’t pleased with.  There was a lot of tossing of clubs and saying some words that cannot be repeated here unless I use all those little symbol keys.
My thought progression on this little spectacle went something like this.  1. Wow, that guy is really unhappy with that shot. That was a masterful bit of deduction, Sherlock.  2. That shot was better than any shot I hit all day.  I would have done an awkward Baptist happy dance after that one.  3. I feel sorry for that guy.  Why would you deliberately spend a sunny Friday afternoon doing something that makes you so miserable?
It’s that third one that really inspired me today.  Our world is full of misery, disappointment, and frustration.  Circumstances beyond our control contribute to those anxieties.  How much control do you have over the economy, for example?  In those circumstances, we pray for change and for wisdom to respond in the best way possible.
But what about the activities in which we voluntarily participate?  Like how we spend time off.  Or what church we attend.  I have been around church folks that make me want to ask the same question.  Why do you deliberately choose to participate in something that makes you so miserable?  Of course the simple answer is to quit.  Give up golf.  Find a different church.  People do that all the time.
But I believe it is not the circumstance, but the attitude that contributes to the misery.  What if I could approach my golf game with an appreciation for a day to get a little exercise and enjoy friendship with my playing partners?  What if I could approach church life with a desire to seek God’s purpose and God’s glory and deliberately encourage my companions on this journey of life?  Attitudes usually don’t change by changing circumstances.  Miserable people usually pack up their misery and take it with them wherever they go.  Encouragers bring hope to their circumstances and infect their companions with hope.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage each other and build each other up.”   
Are we having fun yet?  Yep, I bring my fun with me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

To Be a Kid Again

You’ve heard the old joke, right?  One guy asks another how he slept the night before.  “Like a baby,” says his friend.  “You mean you woke up wet, hungry, and crying every two hours?”
Sorry about that. Sometimes I just can’t resist.
I have been reminiscing about being a kid. Those were simple days without a care in the world; always being the center of the universe and always having someone to pick up after you.  What do you mean that was not how it was for you?  Ok, that’s not how it was for me, either.  In fact, some things about being a kid were tough.  We actually had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel on the TV.  And there were only three channels!
That still doesn’t sound too tough, does it? Well, I could mention that I had to wash the dishes and carry out the trash and do my chores and my homework before I could go play.  It still doesn’t sound like much of a challenge.  I guess it’s really all perspective.  The things that seemed tough at the time seem pretty tame compared to some of the challenges of grown up world.  And now that my own kids are in grown up world, and I’m dealing with mid-life challenges, those young adult challenges don’t look the same anymore.
But, there is something for me that hasn’t changed.  I still want to make my parents proud.  My parents divorced when I was seven years old.  That was a real challenge, but God has a way of turning bad situations into blessings (check out Romans 8:28) and I am blessed to still have two wonderful sets of parents that remain a huge part of my life.
I sing with the Singing Men of North CentralTexas.  Last night, we kicked off a new concert season at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood.  We had a great audience that pretty well packed the place.  But my attention kept going to one pew in the church.  On that row were my brother and his family, my wife, and both sets of my parents.
I am 50 years old and have been in front of crowds of various sizes in hundreds of venues in a dozen states and several countries over the past 35 years.  But the last time my parents heard me sing in a really great choir was 29 years ago.  I kept looking down at that pew last night to see if they were enjoying it.  I basked in every smile.  My throat tightened every time one of them wiped an eye.  I was a kid again. And I think they were enjoying hearing their “little boy” sing.
I am also thinking about what it means to be a child of God. Our lives matter so much to Him that He notices everything we do, say, think, feel, and even try.
Let’s make Him smile today.

Dancing for the Rhythmically Challenged

As I sit here this morning drinking my third cup of Trader Joe’s Vanilla Chai Spice coffee, having eaten my bowl of high fiber cereal with things like fruit, nuts, twigs, tree bark mulch, one thought keeps running through my mind.  Where did I misplace my man card?
No, that’s not really it.  My prevailing thought this morning is that I love my life.  My second thought is that I love my day off.  I don’t love my day off because I hate my job.  My job is part of the life I love.  But my job is not my life, and my day off reminds me of that.
When I was a young, energetic pastor, all fired up about changing the world, the day off was as an option that I might take occasionally.  Now that I am a middle-aged and more seasoned director of a regional network of churches, the day off is absolutely essential to maintaining the focus and energy necessary to assist churches in impacting their communities and extending to the world.
A day off is about putting all of life’s pieces into perspective.  It’s kind of like a reset button.  For me, it is a reminder that I am not just a director of a ministry; I am also a husband, a father, a neighbor, a homeowner, a community member. I usually check email one time on my day off.  Phone calls go to voice mail unless they are family members.  I work in the yard or around the house.  I think about other things besides the ministry activities that consume my time, energy, and focus the rest of the week.  I have extended times of prayer and private worship where I may sit at the piano or in my rocking chair with my guitar in hand. 
Maybe the best way to sum it up is that a day off helps me to get back into the rhythm of honoring God through a balanced life.
I’m looking out my back window and watching the framers begin to give shape to the new Sweetie Suite on the back of our house.  It’s going to be really nice and we will try to decorate and stage it attractively.  But most importantly, we will LIVE there. We will recline, watch TV, read books, sleep, snuggle, shower, dress, talk, and pray.  We will mess it up and then clean it up.  We will rest and restore.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
God said to Moses, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."  (Exodus 33:14)
A day off is not taking a break from the things that matter.  It is a reminder that all of life matters to God.  If life is a race to be run, maybe a day off is a pause to dance.
Even for rhythmically challenged Baptists like me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

How do you know if a guy’s on the level?  Because his bubble is in the middle!  Sorry about that.  I didn’t make that joke up, but unfortunately I am an example of its truth.  I have great plans to firm that bubble up starting tomorrow.  My problem is that every tomorrow turns into today and today I’m too busy.  And so the saga continues.  The truth of the matter is that exercising to strengthen and tone my body is something that I would like to do and that I know I ought to do, but it’s not foundational to my life.
This is No. 3 in a series of blogs about “life building” that I am writing in conjunction with the construction of the Sweetie Suite on the back of our house.  This week I am thinking about solid foundations and eternal values.
As I look out my back window this morning, everything is in place and prepared for the concrete slab to be poured first thing in the morning. The process has taken longer than we wanted it to, but, as any builder can tell you, the foundation is … well, foundational.  If the framers just built the walls directly on top of the ground in my backyard, it might look good for awhile. But it wouldn’t be long until wind, rain, soil erosion, and general everyday use would reveal the lack of a solid foundation.  They might as well build on that bowl full of jelly around my middle.
How do you make your living?  Whatever your field, I guarantee that someone has written a book to tell you how to do it better.  There are techniques, tricks, new technology, tips from experts, and stories from people who have already done it.  You could probably even find a seminar to attend.  Even if you are retired, there is information out there to help you “do” retirement better.
To help me in my work with churches, I attend a lot of those seminars, read the books, tap into the technology, and prepare myself to deliver the most effective resources possible.  While all those things are good, they are not all foundational.  They may help me make a LIVING today, but if they are not constructed on top of the solid foundational truths and eternal values that under-gird me, they are not helping make a LIFE.
For me, life is built on solid eternal values like integrity, compassion, love, generosity, and faith.  The One who is the Source and Foundation of my life said that putting His words into practice is like building a house on a rock (Matthew 7:24).  Hymn writer Edward Mote said it this way, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
All other ground is sinking sand.