Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Auld Lang Syne

I have been struggling with posting yet another auld lang syne blog wherein I debrief the previous year and look ahead to the new one with new resolve and resolutions. I am not the world's best at making and keeping resolutions. Last year I put 2005 behind me and just 3 days into 2006 got hit with the biggest challenge I have ever faced. The fallout from that one day is still there for me each day when I wake up.

Frankly, I am glad that 2006 is almost over. Hands down, I would have to say that this has been the worst year of my life. It has been a year that I can only categorize as a "Year of Losses." Aside from devastating financial loss, I also lost my last remaining grandparent and my dog. I moved my wife and family to Walterboro, SC during the summer. In the five months we lived there, many awful things happened:
  • The transmission on my van blew up...at night...in the middle of nowhere.
  • The water pump and radiator on my truck busted simultaneously.
  • My dog Levi died very suddenly.
  • My Grandma Vick also died very suddenly.
  • The distance between my children and me caused me to become very depressed.
  • Because of our landlord in Walterboro, we had to move right before the holidays, thus we had no money to buy presents for anyone.

It was not all bad, though. During those difficult months, the Evergreen Church family helped us in ways that go beyond anything I have ever seen. Furthermore, the Lord gave me an even deeper revelation of Himself in the midst of my trials. He showed me that my calling isn't and never was to be a pastor--at least not a traditional one. It was a great release for me to finally come to terms with that.

The Lord has also challenged the level of my faith. I have come to realize that after 3 years of loss and disappointment, I have stopped trusting Him. It's true. I believe IN Him, but I have stopped believing Him. I guess I feel that if I just give things up to God, He will just let me down. That is a lie, but I have believed it, and now I am working on changing that mindset. In doing so, I am rediscovering the joy of living by faith.

So...what does all this mean? Simply this: 2006 is behind me, and 2007 holds great promise. I am simplifying my life--scaling down a bit. I am working toward a lifestyle of faith and giving. I am waiting and listening for what God has in store for me next. I have reconnected with some treasured friends, and they have already been a source of encouragement in unexpected ways. My desire is to post again at this time next year with stories of God moving in new and exciting and fresh ways.

I will turn 40 in 2007. There is a saying that "Life begins at 40." I'll let you know...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Years Day Plans


My Enthusiastic Addiction

During this time of year, many people begin to make plans for New Year's Resolutions, which typically include swearing off unhealthy addictions.

Not me. Not this one. Not unhealthy.

Last year I made a resolution to laugh more. I have found something that really helps me with this. It is the HBO Series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," starring Larry David, the co-creator of "Seinfeld." I can honestly say that I have not been so fond of a TV series since Seinfeld or Frasier. Thank you to James for introducing me to this little gem.

Thus and thus, my New Years Resolution is to own all of the episodes on DVD.

OK, and I will try (yet again) to drop the 30 pounds, read my Bible more, and ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Great Friends, Great Times

Last night, Tracy and I were able to spend a nice evening with Lori, James & Caryn, Tim & Angela, Ralph & Sandye, and Joseph (Mike) & Renee. It was our annual Christmas Shindig, and it has become the highlight of my holiday season. Those who were not able to come were greatly missed.

Thanks to Lori for hosting us, and thanks to Jane (Hane) and Ma Wilks for opening their lovely home to us. Jane's red velvet cake is still unbeatable on any star system.

Prayers go out to the Rickwell family for quick healing from the flu.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Santa Who Again?

Am I the only one who has never noticed that if you take the "N" in the middle of "SANTA" and move it to the end it spells another all-too-familiar name?

It would certainly explain a great deal...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Circa 2006

Furthermore, we now live in a world where my 3 daughters each have their own cell phones...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Visions of Griswalds

Today we will be celebrating Christmas with the families. First we will be going to my sister Tiffani's for lunch and then to my mother-in-law's to be with Tracy's family. My sister and her husband have a tradition of decorating their house and yard in a way that would make Clark W. Griswald salute. There is festive, then there is overkill, then there is just plain tacky, and then there is Tiffani and Jason's house. They live for Christmas! I wouldn't change a thing.

Tomorrow I hope to catch at least one showing of "A Christmas Story" on TNT. Later in the day, all of the kids will be going to their other parents for the week, and Tracy and I will be celebrating Christmas with the cats. Before Christmas is over, I hope to view "It's A Wonderful Life" and maybe "Die Hard." All I am asking Santa for this year is a job.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Remembering a Dear Friend



It was on this date six years ago that my dear friend Brenda Smyth succumbed to cancer. Even though it has been six years, it still seems like yesterday. The photo was taken just a short time before her death. We were vacationing together in Pigeon Forge, TN. Brenda and Randy were always so much fun to be with. The smile on my face is mostly from laughter. The two of them cracked me up. Our only concern on this day was choosing which rock to climb on next, and where to enjoy our picnic.

I miss you Brenda. I have a lot of great friends, but there was something special about you. You were more of a sister than a friend. Some people are just not long for this world, but I sure wish we could have kept you around a little longer.

To Randy, Aaron, Tia, and Jordan, I once again wish you a happy holiday season, although I know it is not easy. Your wife and mother made a significant impact on my life, and I will always be grateful for that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Best Gift Ever

God never ceases to amaze me. Never. How He can take a negative thing and turn it around is fascinating to the mortal mind.

It happened in the living room. I was prepared to lecture the kids about why we have rules in the house, and why it is important to keep them. I would have made Howard Cunningham proud with my warm, compassionate, and firm parental logic. Without warning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to discuss why we break rules in the first place. Because we are born under sin. We are naturally rebellious. No arguments from the kids there.

I then pointed out (like Tim Russert on election night) with dry-erase board in hand, how God cannot allow sin into Heaven. Anyway, after a few moments, it was evident that Christi, Matt, and Nick were ready to fix the sin problem, and so I led them all in a prayer of faith, and they each asked Jesus into their hearts.

Six down, one to go.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On The Superhighway Again

We are back online in our cozy little Leesville, SC dwelling. We are all decorated for Christmas, and Tracy and I will be starting back in the workforce again on Monday. We have reconnected with our church, the Chapel of Redemption and it is good to be back. The Holy Spirit is alive and well, and God's favor is upon us.

I will be sending a mass email today with all of our new contact info, including our new email address. For those who have my GMail address, feel free to continue using it.

It's good to be back online.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Alive and well in Leesville

Still 2 more weeks before my internet is hooked up. We are settling in, getting ready to start working, and praying the cold Christmas weather will stick around. Will post again when I can, and FYI, my comcast email is no longer valid. Please use the "GMail" address until further notice. Blessings!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Worst Part Is Over

We are now all moved in. We made it with the last load last night at around 10:00 pm. This move never would have happened without the help of my parents. Their help to us was invaluable, and I will never forget it. Furthermore, Tracy's brother and his/our friend Randy made the difference in getting the big stuff out of the old place and into the new.

Not sure what is going to happen with the church in Walterboro. I offered to remain there as pastor, but on a part time basis. I am uncertain as to whether that is what they want. I never meant to upset them; I honestly thought they would be ok with this move and change in status. I miss my kids, parents, and friends. I was very depressed being so far away from here. I tried to create a win-win situation, and I seem to have created turmoil instead. The Lord will need to step in here and clean up my mess...again.

This post is brought to you through the use of a friend's PC. We will be back online in our new home in about 2 weeks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Life Moves Pretty Fast

And speaking of moving, that is what I have been doing this week. We are moving to Leesville, SC. This move will allow us to be closer to our children, parents, and dear friends. I am excited about this move. Leesville is a very nice place, and Tracy and I have wanted to move there since we've been together.

We will be without internet for about 2-3 weeks after tomorrow. I will do my best to check in now and then until we are back online at our new digs.

Happy birthday to Christi, and to James as well.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey Hangover

No shopping for me today. Though my experience as a pro wrestler may come in handy, I do not participate in the "Day After Thanksgiving Sale." With all of the kids minus one here, we will be packing and preparing for our impending move. In-laws are possibly coming down for a visit this weekend, and we are well-prepared with leftovers.

Today I woke up with a headache that goes all the way down to the small of my back. Is there such thing as a "Turkey Hangover?" If so, it was well worth it!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!



May you be blessed today, stuffed to the brim with Turkey and trimmings, and all the while thankful for the blessings of family, food, and fun.

Tracy and I will be spending the day with 6 of our 7 kids. I will be watching the Macy's parade and tonight we will enjoy my favorite tradition: the annual Thanksgiving viewing of Home Alone.

Have a wonderful day, and a blessed hoilday season.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Obligatory Thanksgiving Pre-Game Post



The last several months have been nothing short of a test of my faith and a building of character in me and Tracy. We are not the same people we were when we moved to Walterboro. I believe that we are stronger in our faith, more disciplined in our spiritual life, and more focused on God's plans for us and our family. The best is yet to come.

So, this year, rather than wax nostalgic over my long list of things I am thankful for (though I am no less thankful), I am simply going to list one new thing for which I am thankful. To be sure, there are many new things I could list, but they are all rolled up into one word. Rick, aka, Mr. Coffee, will understand this word as it applies to me.

Without further ado, the new thing I am thankful for this year is: clarity. I have been seeking it for a couple of years now. I have had it, then quickly lost it. But now I have it, and I am going to hang onto it. So many things which have not made sense for a long time have finally come into focus. It took a move to Walterboro, a new pastorate, the transmission dying on my van, the radiator and water pump going out in my truck, my dog dying, a trip to Wisconsin, my grandmother dying, and my wife having surgery to get it. I suppose I could add a renewed sense of purpose to clarity just for good measure.

New doors are opening, changes are coming, and all in all, for the first time in a long time, I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Update on Tracy, etc.

My wife, the amazing Tracy, has successfully had that pesky gall bladder removed. With her low-to-zero tolerance to pain medication, she should be asleep until Thanksgiving Day! Well, maybe just tomorrow. And with that, we are now officially beyond all scheduled surgeries and are now able to focus on the holidays as well as a move.

That's right, we are moving...again. Basically, we have lived in our current home for five months now, with absolutely no written lease having been provided. We have asked; we have insisted; all to no avail. So, all of a sudden, landlord decides he no longer wants to rent the house. We have until December 15 to find new digs. Colorful metaphors aside, what the devil meant for bad, God has turned into good.

Another instance of God turning something into good was that on Saturday I blogged what I would consider to be one of the more substantial posts I have done in a long time. I commented on the whole OJ Simpson "confession", Ted Haggard's "coming out," and referenced Luke 7:36-50 as to what the Lord's attitude toward these men is vs. our general attitude and our need to categorize sin into degrees of atrocity.

Long story short, I pressed the "publish" key and the whole thing vanished into the blogosphere. Gone. Bye bye.

Rather than retype the whole piece, I used it in the sermon Sunday. The general attitude of the church was, "Fry them now, forgive them later." We are so far from God's heart when it comes to grace, mercy, and forgiveness. It was truly a defining moment. More on that later.

Will update more when I can. Thanks for the prayers.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Update on Steven

His surgery went very well. There are never guarantees, but the surgeon was very pleased with how it went. Hopefully he will never have to endure this again. Steven is doing well today and may very likely go home on Monday. I talked to him earlier and he sounded great. He is a tough kid and should recover quickly.

Thanks to everyone for the calls, prayers, and support. Now we have to get Tracy operated on November 20.

Badgers just won! Barely, but they won. Woo hoo!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Matters of Life and Death

I was perusing my blog posts over the last month and there seems to be a rather hefty emphasis on death. Granted I have no control over who passes and when, but it seems that lately there has been a surge of death in my life. In a very short time, my dog and my grandmother have suffered sudden, massive, and fatal strokes.

The interesting parallel between the two is not that Levi and Grandma Vick died similarly, but how they lived before their deaths. I have pretty well gone on record about Levi, but not about Grandma. She was truly an amazing lady. She lost her husband, my Grandpa, 32 years ago. She continued each day, in spite of the grief and the loneliness. She also lost two of her six children. After raising six kids, she "adopted" four more and raised them. She went bowling with the seniors well up into her 80s. She did her own gardening and yard work. Up until recently, she drove herself and her other senior friends to the grocery store and to doctor appointments.

My motto has been "Get Busy Living" for the last couple of years. I believe I inherited this attitude from my Grandma. She absolutely loved life. She had her routine each day; she rested when she needed to; and she pressed on. She rarely took medication. She truly was an amazing lady.

As a pastor, I visit elderly people nowhere near her age who cannot do the things Grandma did. I feel sorry for them. Many seem as if they cannot wait to die. Grandma Vick couldn't wait to live.

While we were all at her bedside, no one cried or mourned. We laughed and celebrated her life instead of crying and mourning her death. She lived 94 years, and I mean she LIVED. She remembered birthdays of all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She had her right mind all the way to the end.

Though she was unconscious, I believe she knew we were all there. Each time I spoke to her, she responded by squeezing my hand, smiling, and at one time trying to talk. I was one of the last ones to leave and come home. She waited until we were all gone, and then she passed yesterday at 3:00 am Central Time, just mere hours after I unpacked my suitcase.

So what does all this mean? I don't know. One thing I do know is that Jesus said He came not only to give us life, but ABUNDANT life. Literally, "life overflowing." Whatever this means to me, I want it. Like Levi and Grandma, I want to keep on living, no matter what life brings. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, I want to "Keep on breathing, for the sun will rise again, and who knows what the tide will bring in."

Lately, I realized that I am too quick to let things get to me. I was talking with my cousin Ben the other day and I pointed out that nothing seems to bother him. I want to be like that. I used to be. I believe I can be again. I want to laugh more, live more, and love more.

Why not?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Amazing Lady

Theo F. Vick
April 20, 1912 - November 9, 2006

Home

I arrived last night. I was able to spend a couple hours with Tracy before she had to leave to go to Columbia. Steven, her oldest, is having major surgery today. Please keep him in your prayers as well.

At last report, Grandma Vick is still hanging on.

I will be heading to Columbia tomorrow to get my children, who I have been dying to see. I have missed them so much.

I am going to rest today. I need it. I can hardly hold my head up to blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Good Day

Yesterday was just one of those days that will stay with me for awhile. I drove over to Monona, where I was born and visited my old neighborhood. It has been 31 years since I lived there, and very little has changed on Shore Acres Road. The convenience store where my sister and I used to bike up to and get a "Blue Moon" ice cream is no longer there. It appears that it was torn down only recently.

I drove out to Cottage Grove and visited my Dad's grave. I spent quite awhile there. It was hard to leave. I'm not sure why. I do miss him terribly.

My next stop was downtown Madison, where I visited the capitol building and walked down State Street. I made a stop at Steve and Barry's and at last purchased some Wisconsin Badger merchandise. I still love my Gamecocks, but being a Badger fan is bred into us at birth.

After an incredible visit to our great city, I stopped and visited with my Uncle John and my cousin Keri-Jo, after which we met up with my Aunt Sandi (Mom's sister) and cousin Jason and dined at Outback. Then they took me to visit the graves of my maternal grandparents. I miss them so much.

Then we said our goodbyes and I headed back to DeForest to Kimmy and Denis's. I slept like a log for the first time since I arrived last Thursday.

Today I pack up and head back to Milwaukee for an evening with the newlyweds, Ben and Joneen. Tomorrow I fly home.

It is strange how Wisconsin affects me. I absolutely love it here. I feel like I belong. In SC, though I love it there, too, I feel like a stranger, though I have lived there most of my life. I grew up in SC. Married there...twice. My children were all born there. Yet I still feel like only a visitor. Maybe this will pass once I am home and in the arms of my wife and children.

Maybe it won't. No matter where I land, Wisconsin is my home.

Either way, yesterday was a good day, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Plans

Grandma Vick is still hanging on, bless her heart. Relatives have flown in from all over the country, including myself, to say their goodbyes. If she continues to hang on, I am just going to head back home on Wednesday and wait. When she passes, I believe we will just drive up for her funeral, which I will still be a part of.

I don't think any of us expected that Grandma would still be hanging on. We should not be surprised, though. She has lived an amazing 94 years. Her zest for life is a phenomenon. She lost her husband, my Grandpa, way too early, and yet continued to live each day. She buried two of her children, including my Dad, and while most parents would roll over, she pressed on.

She was given no hope after her stroke, but since I have been here, I have seen her smile, and I am told that she has tried to climb out of her bed. I would not be surprised at all if she actually overcame this. Vick women are strong. I see this even in my daughters.

Unless something changes in the next 2 days, I will be headed home on Wednesday as planned, and then we'll see.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

Gosh, I had forgotten how beautiful Wisconsin is. The farmland is absolutely breathtaking. Yesterday my Uncle Bob took me on a family history tour. I saw the gravemarker of my great-great-great grandfather, who along with 10 other families, came here from Norway in 1843. Now THAT was cool.

Last night we had a family gathering over in Oregon, WI at my cousin's place. I have not laughed so hard for so long in quite awhile. My family rocks.

Grandma is still hanging on, and I don't know when I will be able to go back to SC. Meanwhile, I am thoroughly enjoying my time with family here. I am staying with my cousin, Kim and her husband Denis (no, I spelled it right---he is from France).

Today I may just hang out and watch the Packer game. Later I may drive over to Monona, where I was born, and look around.

More updates as they come in.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Journey Begins

I am all packed and ready to be driven to the airport. I have just checked the weather, here and there, and here is what I can expect:
  • I am leaving in a short-sleeved short. The weather is nice and warm and rather humid.
  • When I arrive in Wisconsin, it will be about 28 degrees (feels like 19) and they are calling for "flurries."

I used to love getting a "flurry" as a kid from the local convenience store. And how about those Mc-Flurries?

But I digress.

If I am able to get online while in Madison, I will update on the events as they unfold. Otherwise I will instruct my lovely wife to update you from her blog. I am sad to point out that she has not yet upgraded to the beta blogger.

Pray for safe travel, and a pleasant visit despite the circumstances. I understand that relatives I have not seen in centuries will be there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

Ciao...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Blogger Brethren



(Photos blatantly stolen and used without permission!)


Here I am posing with my two best friends in all the world. These photos were taken at our high school reunion recently, and I have been meaning to post on these two gents.

To the left is Rick, whom I have known since 1983. We met as freshmen in Coach Payne's P.E. class. We went from casual acquaintances to fast friends to brothers in Christ. All in one semester! To this day, he remains a mainstay in my crazy life. Rick challenges me. He makes me want to be a better husband, father, pastor, and friend. Even though he is not a wrestling fan, I treasure our friendship and our mutual affection for caffeine.

On the right is James. I first met him in 1975. We were in the same second grade class, something was said about Star Trek, and we have been inseparable ever since. Our friendship has crossed state lines and stood the test of time. He stood as best man at my first wedding, and he was present at the births of all of my children. He spoke at my ordination, and he never forgets my birthday. We share a deep love for science fiction, film, baseball, football, single malt scotch, and a good cigar every few years, among many other things, including a number of long kept secrets known only between us. For three decades, I have called this man friend, and also brother. I realize that a friendship like ours is extremely rare, and I am all the more thankful for it.

My, the stories with which we will regale our grandchildren one day!

Update & Prayer Requests

I am leaving tomorrow for Wisconsin, and I will be staying at least a week. Grandma is still hanging on, but it could happen anytime now. I am praying that I will be able to get there before she passes. The Lord has miraculously provided the means for me to get there, and so I give Him thanks. Please pray for the following:
  • Pray for Tracy. I will be gone for a whole week. On the day I am to come home, her son Steven is having major brain surgery. I will post more on this as the time draws closer.
  • Pray for a flight free of incident going and coming.
  • Pray for my family. My aunts and uncles are holding up pretty good so far.

My thanks in advance for the prayers and support. It means a great deal to us.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Prayer Request

I was informed yesterday that my Grandma had a massive stroke and is not expected to survive. She is 94 years old, and up until recently, was still able to drive herself! I have not seen her in a long time because she lives in Wisconsin, but I have kept in touch with her pretty well via snail mail.

Pray for our family, and pray for me, as I have been asked to perform her funeral services. It is an honor for me to do this, but I am not sure how I am going to afford the airfare to Madison.

Thanks for the prayers, blogger buds. I will keep you posted.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Out of the Closet

Today I have a confession to make: I am a closet Heavy Metal fan. I always have been. Jazz is still my number one preference, but I confess to feeling the need to "bang my head" now and again. The problem is that the heavy metal stuff today is downright nasty at times. At least it is to me. I am finding more and more Christian Heavy Metal bands, such as Living Sacrifice to satisfy my cravings.

Last night at the WFJ event, I discovered a local group led by one of our wrestlers, Ace Hardy. The group is called Firebred and having seen these guys in action last night, I can wholeheartedly recommend them. I can attest that these guys walk with Jesus, and they rock! Check them out if you like.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Giving Credit Where It Is Due



After several days of sad posts due to a sad week, I am feeling the need to change the tempo of ye' olde blog back to the cornucopia of fun and nuttiness that it is best known for. Today we deal with the movie industry.

There are movie stars who come and go, and then there are consistent, solid actors who just seem to show up in every film and do excellent work. Lately I have discovered that I really admire the work of Paul Giamatti. He is just one of those "sidekick" actors who makes whoever he is working with shine that much brighter. Apparently he is extremely busy and has a lot of great new films coming out next year. I look forward to that.

Along with guys like Gene Hackman, James Cromwell, and a host of others, Paul Giamatti takes his place in my book as a consistent, consummate actor who increases in value and respect after every project. Check him out in The Cinderella Man, Man on the Moon, or even in Big Fat Liar. He rocks.

I am equally excited about my earlier use of the word, "cornucopia."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Love This Town!



I have always loved living in South Carolina. One of my favorite places to visit in SC is Charleston. It used to be a 2-plus hour drive for me; now it is only about 45 minutes.

I drove to Charleston today to be with a church member having a tricky procedure done. The highlight of the trip was driving over, for the very first time, the new Cooper River Bridge. It was as exciting as any amusement park ride I have ever been on. The view from the bridge was breathtaking.

I used to always dream of living in Charleston. Now I am close enough to visit anytime I like.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Life After Levi


It's funny how animals affect some people. I confess I am one of those people who REALLY love their animals. I have an aunt who pushes her dog in a baby stroller. I don't take it quite that far, but I understand why she does. Pets really can get into your heart. They sure have gotten into mine.

Levi was more than just my dog. He was my friend. Wherever I was in the house, he was right there with me. If I moved to a different room, he got up and followed me. When I went to bed, he came and slept on the floor beside me. I couldn't fall asleep until I knew he was there. He was my shadow and constant companion around the house. I can't go to bed before midnight most nights, so I would stay up and unwind, watching TV, and of course, Levi would be right there. Most nights, Tracy and the kids would all be asleep before I was ready for bed and I would look at Levi and say, "Looks like it's just you and me again, Levi-boy." The fact that he was deaf never hurt our communication at all. He knew he was loved. I wish I'd gotten him years ago.

With his previous owners, he was left alone almost all the time. He was a pure-bred Golden Retriever, and they left him outside on a short leash and fed him table scraps if they remembered to feed him at all. We also discovered that Levi had been shot with a shotgun at one time. He miraculously survived. When we got him, Levi was malnourished and eaten up with heartworms. In fact, it was so bad that it took three heartworm treatments to cure him. The third treatment almost killed him, but he miraculously survived again. I'm so glad he did, and that we were able to spend his "retirement" years with him.

Levi hated being alone. That's why he followed me and Tracy all over the house. Many times he would wake up just to look and make sure one of us was there. When the end was inevitable, Tracy and I stayed right there with him until it was over, so he wouldn't be alone. He knew that we were there.

See, I told you I was pathetic.

What I loved the most was taking Levi on walks. He loved being outside. He loved to stop and sniff at different spots. I always thought this was funny. I never knew what scent he had picked up and why he practically buried his nose in the ground sniffing it. Our walks were special because of the fresh air and the undeniable companionship we shared. I believe it is providential that we were able to completely finish our last walk yesterday before the stroke happened.

When he and I took our walks, we always walked basically the same path around the yard, which is a couple of acres. Last night, after a long day of grieving his death, I took the walk alone. I stopped at the places he usually stopped, and that's when it really hit me that he was gone.

I am thankful that he didn't suffer at the end. He had suffered most of his life, but didn't suffer once during the entire time we had him. He was spoiled and pampered every day by his family. Even the cats would rub up against him. He lived like a King and "ruled the roost" during his final 2 1/2 years; He deserved it. He died as peacefully and content as he had lived...with our family. In fact, when Tracy walked into the exam room, he smiled at her. I'm serious! He was surrounded by the ones who truly loved him, and, as he had done so many times before at my feet, he peacefully fell asleep one last time.

Levi, I miss you so much it hurts. I will always be thankful for having you in my life, if only for a short while. I hope that your time with us made up for the time you had to endure those horrible people. I will never forget you, you old puppy. You made me very happy and you were such a great companion. I love you and you will always have a very special place in my heart and memories. Goodbye, old buddy. I'll see you later.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

So Long, Old Friend



Today we said goodbye to a very dear friend: our Golden Retriever, Levi. He and I were on our morning walk as always, and as we rounded the corner to come back into the house, he suffered a stroke and collapsed. He could not get back up. Tracy and I were able to get him up long enough for me to carry him into the house. He was a big dog at 116 lbs. After that I took him to the vet and there was nothing that could be done for him. He just went to sleep with Tracy and I at his side. He was 14 years old.

Levi was with us for just over 2 years. We rescued him from a terribly abusive situation and saw to it that he lived like a king in the twilight years of his life. I have had dogs over the years, but this one got into my heart more than any other. As terrible as his life was before, he was always so sweet and loving. Even the cats loved him. They were never afraid of him. The worst thing I can say about Levi is that he had a tendency to sneak into the cat food when our backs were turned. Never before have I seen such a sweet spirit in a dog. I will miss him with all my heart, and we will never forget Levi nor the joy he brought into our family.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What the...?

To all my fellow bloggers:

It seems that having upgraded to the new "Beta" version has made it impossible to leave comments on, and I quote, "non-beta" blogs. So I am still reading your blogs each day, but please don't think I am ignoring you by failing to comment.

On the positive side, the upgrade has been very good for me. All of my previous woes with blogger have been resolved. I highly recommend an upgrade. It's free.

Keep on bloggin'!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Older? Yes. Wiser...?

This past weekend was my 20th High School reunion. I had a great time with my best pals in the world, left to right: Bob, Me, Rick, Alan, George, Chuck, James, & Peeley. 20 years have passed, and each time we get together it is like we never left. Great times, hilarious stories, and now all of us have beautiful wives and kids. It was an evening I will cherish forever with friends I have been so blessed to have.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Weekend In A Nutshell

  • No kids this weekend. Tracy and I got some housework done and had some time together.
  • Badgers won, Gamecocks won, Packers lost.
  • We have finally found S. Ritter!
  • Sunday worship was nice, and we enjoyed lunch and supper with some of our folks.
  • My truck will be back on the road by week's end.
  • No kids this weekend!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Home At Last!

We finally got Tracy out of the hospital and back at home. She will be following up with the surgeon in a couple of weeks.

I am glad she is finally home. Our thanks to everyone for prayers and support.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Finally...

Tracy has been diagnosed as having cholangitis, or an inflamation of one of the tentacles of the gall bladder. The cholangitis is treatable with antibiotics, and she will be coming home in the morning. That is the good news.

The bad news is that the gall bladder is not functioning properly and will have to come out. She will need to follow up as an outpatient with the surgeon and have the GB removed in about 2-3 weeks. If she did this now, in the hospital, she would have to stay for an additional 3-5 days. No thank you.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Tests, Less Sleep

Tracy was supposed to come home from the hospital today, but they still do not have a firm diagnosis and want to run at least one more test. So she is confined to the hospital for one more night, maybe more.

I have had 8 hours of sleep in the last 4 days. I just can't sleep without Tracy here. The fatigue is starting to catch up with me. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. Tracy, on the other hand, is sleeping very well.

God was absolutely right when He said, "It is not good for man to be alone." I think I am the poster child for that universal truth. I hope my sweetie comes home soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is there a doctor in Walterboro?

We are now on Day Three of Tracy's hospital stay, and we still don't know anything. I have talked to nurses and nurse practitioners, but I have yet to talk to anyone with an "M.D." beside their name. It is like going to a mechanic for an oil change then being told by the lady at the counter that you need a new transmission.

Tracy is resting well and being treated with antibiotics and clear liquids. Families from the church have arranged to bring dinner each night that Tracy is hospitalized, which means that the kids won't be eating poptarts and cereal three times a day. As far as housekeeping, well, why make a bed if you're just going to get back in it later....?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tracy Update

She will be spending another night and will have more tests run tomorrow. They are trying to discover the actual cause of the pain and have narrowed it down to two possibilities:
  1. Diverticulitis--this may not require surgery.
  2. Gall bladder infection--may not require surgery either.

I have been awake since Sunday morning, so I am going to turn in, even though Green Bay is playing tonight. Well, I may try to make it through the first half...

Please pray

I had to take Tracy to the ER last night. She is having many tests run to determine the cause of some pretty intense abdominal pain.

Will post more when I know more. Thank you for your prayers.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sick of September

Actually, it would be more accurate to say Sick IN September. For the past several days, I have been down from food poisoning. I partook of some bad Blackberry Jam last weekend. I am over the vomiting part now, which I absolutely did NOT enjoy. I am still kind of weak and nauseous, but today is a beautiful day, and I felt the pull of the blog.

Nothing specific rolling around in my head (only my stomach). I hate feeling so foul. I am 35 pounds overweight, an insomniac, yet tired all the time. I am going to be making a few lifestyle changes. I would appreciate prayers for strength and the resolve to follow through. I have resolved to change several times lately. Each time I do, bad things seem to happen to my vehicles. Nevertheless, I must make these changes or suffer the consequences.

If in fact any progress is made, I will post about it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Trust 2

My post generated some rather lively comments from a pal, but offline, a few people who read my blog have shared that it hit home for them. So what to do with this struggle of trusting God. In no way will these thoughts encapsulate God's magnificent character, but it does give a snapshot of what I am learning about my Heavenly Father.
  • Rick is right. My real question is not why God doesn't answer prayer, but why He answers the way He does. Sometimes I just blog what I am thinking, before I really think about it. It comes down to what I want vs. what God wants, and He will always win that battle. It is not mine to win.
  • Prayer is not simply asking God for what you want and hoping that you get it, like a Christmas list. The word "pray" comes from old English, and it means "to ask." The Greek word that is translated prayer (a big word, too) literally means "to stretch out." The picture here is of a person stretching out trying to reach God. That is what real prayer consists of. Spurgeon once said that "The goal of prayer is the ear of God." When my children were small, they would reach up with their arms indicating the need to be picked up and held. When I picked them up they were closer not only to my ear, but my heart as well. That is the kind of prayer life worth striving for.
  • When God doesn't answer prayer the way I want, could it be that He is trying to show me that what I really want is Him? Even if the Packers are having a bad season, it doesn't affect who and Whose I am.
  • Bottom line (at least for this humble post): What I want is not always what is best, even though sometimes it may seem so to me. My problem is that I enjoy getting my own way. Submitting to the will of God is not always convenient, but it is always the right thing to do, because He is always right.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Welcome to the Family

Isabelle Judie O'Neal
4 lbs., 10 oz.
Born: September 19, 2006, 10:30 pm
Proud Parents: Jason & Tiffani O'Neal
Proud Uncle: Me

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trust

Last night was the inauguration of Youth Sundays at Evergreen. We have been wanting to do this for a long time. I have happily pushed for this Sunday night service for youth and children, and our first one was a big success in many ways.

The older teenagers' lesson was about trusting God. Mrs. Christy and Mrs. Allie did a phenomenal job. In fact, they did so well, that for a brief moment I felt like I was in Frank W.'s class back in my youth group 23 years ago. The material was great, the games were fun, and I was challenged. Perhaps more than I bargained for.

You see, I have a beef with God lately. The lesson point was, "We can always trust God, no matter what." I did not verbalize my beef, but took it to God later, as I have been doing in my quiet moments. My beef is this:

Do I really believe God can be trusted? My beef is that I am struggling with that question lately. I believe that I can trust Him with BIG things. It's the little things I am having problems trusting Him with...well sometimes.

For example, why can I pray for a good parking spot at Walmart and get it, but when I pray for the Packers to win, they lose. In fact NONE of the teams I pray for ever have a winning season. What does this mean? The other day, I prayed for an ailing church member in the hospital, and he passed away within 48 hours. I'm serious.

How can one trust in God, when He only answers certain prayers, while seeming indifferent about other ones? This is where I am in my walk with God.

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/12---Five Years Later

The events of 9/11/2001 still stagger me. I was seated in Shoneys on Bush River Road with an associate of mine. We were having a meeting, when we both realized that all eyes in the place were on the TV. There we watched with horror as the second airplane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. After awhile, we just went home. Nothing else mattered from that moment on. Within minutes, we went from discussing sales strategy to living in a world where our country was attacked by terrorists in the most unimaginable way. Like most of the country, I got my kids out of school and spent the rest of the day glued to the TV.

The next day, 9/12/2001, I felt numb. Like I had just awakened from a nightmare but it was still happening. Similar to the loss of a loved one, I expected to wake up and find that the twin towers were still there after all, and that the mind-blowing events of the previous day never happened.

No chance.

What was there, however, was the rebirth of the spirit of this great country. For at least one day, there were no Republicans or Democrats. There were no opinion polls. There was no racism (at least no black and white). We ransacked the local stores purchasing flags to display on our homes. We were sending a unified message to our enemies: that you can attack America, but you can NEVER beat us!

For one fateful day, September 11, 2001, we were Americans, one and all. No one could come between us. Heroes were born. At night we confidently told our frightened children, "Don't worry, President Bush is taking care of us."

Five years later, with great emotion, our Commander-in-Chief visited all the crash sites. He consoled family members of those lost five years ago. The final word on the news last night was, "Will it be enough for President Bush to win back the popularity he had five years ago?"

I do my best to leave politics out of my blog. Not today.

What has President Bush done wrong exactly? Is he sleeping with interns? Is he being investigated for shady real estate deals? All he has done for the last five years is try to protect us from another terrorist attack, and to rid the world completely of terrorism. This is an aggressive plan which will not be accomplished overnight. Many Americans feel that we should not be at war any longer. To them I say, where were you five years ago yesterday? Have we forgotten the thousands of people buried under the twin towers who never had a chance to escape? What about those airline passengers who were unwillingly crashed into the WTC Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA? Do you think that they would approve of our nation's attitude?

Politics and religion stir up discussion more than anything else. That is not my intention here. I am only voicing one man's opinion, my own. I am willing to concede to the fact that there are many things which I do not know, including how to run a nation. I have two friends, Russ and John, who served in Iraq as Marines. They have both said to me that they do not regret one minute of their stay over there, and that they would go back if they were called. I have another friend who left his home each morning, drove to the air base at which he was stationed, boarded his fighter jet, and for 12 hours a day, remained in the cramped cockpit flying missions for his country. I asked him if he would rather do anything else with his life. His answer was a resounding "No."

The men and women on the front lines don't seem to have lost sight of why they are there. Neither should we.

As a Christian, I will continue to pray for our President and for the end of this conflict. As a pastor, I will continue to preach and teach God's word. As an American, I will continue to support our President and our troops. As a Christian-American-Pastor, I will always pray that it will not take another horrible tragedy such as 9/11 to unite us as a country again, but that going forward we will do so because it is right.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Happy 40th Anniversary


I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not Star Trek fanatic. I was born the year after the original series launched, and so I have only been able to enjoy the syndication reruns.

The Star Trek universe is where I would like to live, I think. No prejudice, no poverty, and highly advanced toys. I have always been intrigued by the view of the our present though the eyes of the Star Trek of the 60's. Apparently, in 1999, we blew ourselves to smithereens in WWIII. I'm glad the series was not prophetic in that regard.

Gene Roddenberry had a vision of a better world that was not so far from our reach. But have we listened? What other than cool pocket gadgets and desktop computers have we taken from Trek? Is there still prejudice and poverty? Is there world cooperation? I think Roddenberry would be disappointed that we have not totally embraced his vision of a better universe.

Maybe it will take another 40 years.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to Reality, but Well Rested

Tracy and I got home last night from our trip to Carolina Beach. We had an absolutely wonderful visit with my Wisconsin relatives, and my cousin Ben's wedding was beautiful. After the wedding, we ate dinner at a very nice restaurant. When I received my bill, it was only $3.75. Uncle Bob and Aunt Karen paid for all of our meals. I paid for 2 iced teas.

For me, personally, being around other Vicks was a nice treat. Being with them reminds me of my heritage. In the last few years, I have learned the history of my family, and it gives me a sense of deep personal security to know my family roots. It also gives me something to share with my own children.

Only one thing was missing from this amazing weekend: my Dad. I had the honor of saying the blessing before our big dinner after the wedding. Before I did that I proposed a toast to my father. The response that it received told me that I was clearly not the only one who felt his absence. I heard even more new and funny stories about Dad. I never knew that he also aspired to be a professional wrestler at one time!

It is good to be home, but when Tracy and I drove out of Carolina Beach yesterday, I left a huge part of my heart behind. Not surprisingly, so did Tracy. She fit right in with my clan. I never doubted that she would.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Goodbye Walterboro, Hello Ernesto

Tracy and I are a couple of hours away from leaving for the weekend. It will be our first weekend away (alone) since our honeymoon. We are off to Carolina Beach, NC for my cousin Ben's wedding. It is an honor to officiate this ceremony. Ben and I were really close as kids, and even though I have not seen him in 12 years, we have stayed in touch through email and phone. He is a good guy, and I am happy for him. I am also looking forward to spending some time with my other cousins, Kim and Mike, and their families, and of course, Uncle Bob and Aunt Karen.

Most importantly, I am looking forward to spending 4 days and 3 nights with my wife, minus kids, cats, dogs, homework, and pastoral responsibilities. We have needed this for quite awhile. The last couple years have been tough in some ways, but Tracy and I have weathered the storms together. She is a real trooper, and I can't wait to walk hand in hand on the beach with her...alone...while we are pelted by the remnants of Ernesto.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ernesto Hoopla



Here in Walterboro, we are about an hour from the coast of Charleston, SC, where Ernesto was expected to hit today. The local schools were closed today, and the local Walmart was "ransacked" by overly cautious consumers purchasing batteries, water, bread, generators, flashlights, transistor radios, walkie-talkies, and, of course, milk, which in the event of a power loss, would spoil. So much for cereal. In the wake of the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that our Governor is in a re-election campaign, I believe that we have once again overreacted.

Even as I write, there has only been a slight intermittent drizzle of rain off and on through the day, but no storm. No cloudburst or even a slight gust of wind. Yet they closed the schools!

I am originally from Wisconsin, where they don't even close the schools for blizzards, much less a drizzle of rain.

Were this an actual emergency, I would not want to be a Walmart employee. On the bright side, there will be a nice sale next week of used batteries, generators, flashlights, walkie-talkies, water, bread, and cartons of half-used milk. Boo yah!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Happy Anniversary, baby...yesterday



Tried to do this post for Tracy yesterday and the day before, but blogger was either down or extremely slow.

We celebrated our 2 year anniversary in Lexington. We watched my son Cody receive his blue belt in karate, and then Tracy and I went for Chinese food.

P.S. Stay tuned for my typepad debut...now that I am a serious blogger, I need a serious platform.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On a Lighter Note

Your Taste in Music:
80's Rock: Highest Influence80's Alternative: High InfluenceClassic Rock: High InfluenceHair Bands: High InfluenceHeavy Metal: High Influence


Thanks, Cube Rev.

Pondering the Prayer Meeting

It is sort of an unwritten "rule" that the Wednesday night church crowd are the truly committed ones. My experience and observation has indicated that perhaps they are committed to attendance, but not necessarily to prayer. Wednesday night prayer time is often treated as something that needs to be gotten out of the way so that we can get to our Bible lesson, choir practice, and then home. Prayer is not the priority, it is one of many small priorities.

Can a church without prayer as a priority survive? To narrow the scope, can a Christian without prayer as a priority survive? The "pat" response here would be, "Well, no, of course not." Good answer, but is it the right one? I believe that Christians, and even churches can SURVIVE without prayer, but they cannot THRIVE.

The question begs to be answered: Do we want our churches to THRIVE, or merely SURVIVE?

I can only answer for myself. I want to thrive. I really do. I want my church to thrive. I want the life of Christ to spread like wildfire in our church and community. I want my home to thrive. It is not. Neither is my church, community, or my own personal prayer life. I think I know why.

Last Sunday at dinner with my wife and our kids, I asked if anyone would like to ask the blessing. One of the children enthusiastically offered to do it. We bowed our heads, and the blessing was, "Thanks for the food. Amen." I suddenly got religious. I was appalled. How dare they insult God our Father with such an empty prayer! And a pastor's child at that! Well, a stepchild anyway.

As the meal progressed, I hardly spoke to anyone. It dawned on me that some of my own prayers were not as sincere as, "Thanks for the food. Amen." I began to realize that my own prayer life was dull, lifeless, intense in times of struggle, and generally pointless. I knew I wanted more than that, but all my prayers are usually focused on needing things from God. Many times it is needing things, asking for things, and not getting them. My prayer life is a cycle of hope and disappointment, with seemingly no real power.

I have always made this statement: "We don't need prayer in the schools, we need it in the home and in the church." As the pastor of a church, I believe that my personal prayer life will have a direct impact on that of my church family. The same is true of my home. I want to break the cycle of asking, hoping, and being let down, but how?

So, I guess I will go to Prayer Meeting tonight and play along until I experience a breakthrough of sorts. The fact that the Lord is dealing with me on the issue of my prayerlife indicates that a breakthrough is imminent.

Stay tuned, and let's keep praying...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Meme...My Reply

Never one to refuse a tag from Rick, here goes:

1. One book that changed your life. THE RIVER OF GOD, by Dutch Sheets

2. One book that you've read more than once. THE PATHWAY TO GOD'S PRESENCE, by Tom Elliff

3. One book you'd want on a desert island. THE BIBLE (with all that free time, I could really delve in there)

4. One book that made you laugh. TOM JONES, by Henry Fielding

5. One book that made you cry. PIERCING THE DARKNESS, by Frank Peretti (the part where Sally Roe gets saved never fails to choke me up)

6. One book that you wish had been written. THE BUFFET DIET

7. One book you wish had never been written. THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, by Bruce Wilkinson (Narcissistic Christian Hedonism running rampant)

8. One book you're currently reading. THE ASHES OF EDEN, by William Shatner (in my opinion, Shatner has penned some of the best STAR TREK novels out there---geek alert!)

9. One book you've been meaning to read. NEW KIND OF CHRISTIAN, by Brian McLaren (and every other book Rick has recommended this year; guess I'll wait for the movie)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

End Transmission

I blogged a few days ago about out transmission going out on our minivan. The van itself has been sitting parked and quite useless in the front yard for several days now. Tracy and I have been making due with our one other vehicle. I believe we are very spoiled, and so I have embraced this as a character builder. Many families out there have only one vehicle. Each day I see a lot of people who walk to and from their jobs. They seemingly have NO vehicle. So I think we have settled fairly well into "one vehicle family" mode. We simply cannot replace a transmission right now. The funds are just not there. We only live a block or so away from the children's school, so walking is not out of the question. We live in a nice neighborhood. No worries.

Last night at our Christian Men's Fellowship (CMF) meeting, I was told that the men had taken up a collection and have arranged to have our van towed to a mechanic with whom they have made arrangements to replace our transmission. They told me that it should be ready by next weekend. It will not cost us one cent. Once again, I am totally overwhelmed.

Call me deeply spiritual, deeply naive, or deeply insane, but I still believe that God can do anything. I also believe that I am very blessed to be associated with this group of people at Evergreen Christian Church. Since day one, they have been like one big collective hug to me and Tracy and our brood. May the Lord extend extra special grace to each of these dear saints of His.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Has it really been 20 years?

My sources tell me that there wil be an Airport High School class of 1986 reunion in October of this year. I am actually considering going. Why?

I skipped the 5 and 10 year reunions. To be perfectly honest, I had no desire to go. Not that I had a bad time in high school. Quite the opposite. With the exception of dating a bus driver, my high school years are filled with very fond memories.

My best friends from school are still my best friends today. We get together at least once a year and have some laughs. We stay in touch via email, blogs, and good ol' Ma Bell. My friends are gold, and I always enjoy being with them.

The more I think of it, a "reunion ploy" may prove to be quite an adventure. The reunion itself is intriguing, but a reunion of the old gang invading the AHS reunion has great potential. Maybe we can bring our band instruments!

GREAT! Now the darned fight song is stuck in my head.

Has anyone seen or heard from C. Catoe?

I will decide soon if Tracy and I are going.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A New Day

Today is a new day. Yesterday was a special day, however. During worship, I shared what I believe to be God's vision for us at Evergreen Christian Church. The vision was revealed and received with great joy. The attendance was our greatest thus far.

Later in the afternoon, we held my Installation Service as the new Pastor. To be surrounded by my family at such a special event was a bit overwhelming...in a good way. It has been quite a journey to get to this place, and the whole thing just sort of culminated in a "moment." I got choked.

Today is a new day. I feel refreshed and I am looking forward to the writing of the next chapter of our lives. It has been a long journey for the Evergreen Church family, too. Almost exactly the same amount of time, actually.

Past is passed. Today is a new day.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

When It Rains...

Yesterday evening we had quite a storm. When we arrived home from church, we discovered that lightning had apparently zapped our A/C unit. So, as I write, we have a van with a busted transmission, and a zapped A/C. Today's expected high: 104. Woo hoo!

I must be living right, because the enemy seems to be quite unhappy with me.

On a positive note, our Wednesday Night Bible Study had the highest attendance thus far last night. Despite the storm, the youth and children were able to actually enjoy their Back To School Pool Party.

In the words of this generation, "It's all good...."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Backblogging

Last night and this morning, I read through the archives of my blog. It was interesting to relive some of the good, bad, and horrible times of my life from the last couple of years.

Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to look back at the milestones which brought you to where you are today. My blog indicates that I am quite good at this. Nevertheless, it has been healthy for me. I have finally been able to come to terms with my more painful memories, both recent and past. Some of these memories were hard to relive, and my moods have been up and down like "The Hurler" at Carowinds. But I have finally made peace with my past.

I have discovered that God is leading me to help my wife and church do the same thing. It is easier to help people with things that you have been through. There's not much I haven't done, or at least tried.

This Sunday there will be two major things happening at church. First, I am going to roll out our renewed vision. Second, I am going to be officially installed as Pastor. Both of these are major for me AND the church family. From reading my blog posts, I realized that a year ago, I wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind to lead a church much less cast a vision.

By no means have I "arrived." There is still much more growing to do, and much more work. But I honestly believe that for the first time ever, I am moving forward with no baggage. What a time it has been getting to this place!

When I lost my first marriage and my ministry, I told the Lord, and I quote, "&%#@ You! I will never step into a church again, and I will never preach or teach Your word ever again." A far cry from Job's reply to losing everything, "Though He slay me, yet I will praise Him." Despite my poor choice of words (I meant them, too, by the way), like Job, I have experienced restoration and grace. I have a fresh start with Tracy and with Evergreen.

Before I became a permanent fixture at Evergreen, my dear friend and "compass," Rickwell, admonished me, "If you're gonna do this, do it with your whole heart, and cut ties with the past. Otherwise don't do it." When that advice was given, I couldn't do it. I wasn't ready. It has been a process of three of the most horrible years I have ever spent to bring me to the place where I can totally heed the wise words of my friend and brother.

This past Sunday, I challenged the church family, "Either pay the price for growing, or pay the price for not growing." In all my years as a Christian, I have never paid such a price as I have these last 3 years. But I believe that I have grown as a Christian in ways I never dreamed of.

In the Bible, 3 years or 3 days always represents a transition from punishment to restoration. I hope to NEVER experience anything like these last three years ever again. But I wouldn't change them. Things don't always happen the way we want them to.

The other day, Tracy, myself, and six of our kids were riding home late from the WFJ television taping. It became apparent that the van was not going to make it home. The transmission was doing some weird things. We were only able to go about 25-35 mph on a dark country highway. The kids were scared, Tracy was praying, and I was mad.

"Lord, I cannot believe that you are going to leave us out here in the middle of nowhere. You can do anything. You are a God of miracles, and yet you won't make this transmission catch the last gear so we can get home quicker."

That still, small voice then spoke to me, "The van is moving, just not like you want it to. I will get you where you need to be, but not always the way you want Me too."

What a summary of the last three years! Yes, we made it home that night. As I sit here typing, I am humbled by my lack of faith and trust in the Lord. I am more humbled by the fact that God even takes the time with someone like me. Though I griped the whole way here, and never actually thought I'd get to this place, here I am. I am ready to grow deeper, and I am ready to move forward.

Before I do, a few "Thank Yous" are in order:

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for never giving up on me. Not for one single moment. Even when I gave up, You didn't. When I quit, You were just getting started. I love You, and I will preach Your words forever.

Thank you, Tracy, for hanging in there through all the difficult times. I know that this marriage has been a lot harder than we both thought, but you have really stuck by me. I really believe that our best days are still ahead.

Thank you to my children. You have sacrificed so much for Daddy to be a pastor. The Lord sees it, and He will reward you for all you do. I am so proud of you, and I love you. I will always be there for you, no matter what.

Thank you to my stepchildren. Putting up with my moodiness cannot have been easy. I really do love you guys, and I hope that the man you see in church is the man you always see at home. You all deserve that.

Thank you to Rickwell. Over the last year or so, you have challenged me with some very strong words of rebuke and encouragement. You have always been a "compass" for me. Our friendship means more to me than you can know.

Thank you to Dan Rabon. You are true and steady, and I wouldn't have made it at all without your friendship.

Thank you to James. Though we are a whole country apart, Caycee Cussum remains close to my heart. Yippie Kai Yay!

Cube Rev, you da man!

Thank you to T-Money and WFJ for giving me a place to belong and to serve.

Thank you to Pastor Dave Phillips and the Chapel of Redemption for nurturing and preparing Tracy and I for ministry again. The church really lived up to her name.

Thank you to the Evergreen Christian Church, for believing in me, and for taking a chance on me. I have never felt as loved by a church family as I do here with you. Great things are coming!

And with that, another chapter of my life is closed. Time to begin writing the next one.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday Challenge

I am always challenged by Rick's thoughts, but this one hit me deep. Read it if you dare.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It Gets To Me Every Single Time


I just caught the last hour of FIELD OF DREAMS on HBO while flipping channels. I have seen this film many times. I even have it on DVD. It is truly one of my all time favorites. I must admit that the ending causes my tear glands to overflow every single time.

The next to the last line, "Dad? You wanna have a catch?" Is the place where I really lose it.

For me, the movie is very close and personal. I hardly knew my father. For many years, I didn't even like him. I ignored him. I was waiting for him to come crawling back to me and apologize for all of the broken promises and lost years. He never did, and I realized too late that he didn't have to. Like John Kinsella in the movie, he died way too soon. He never knew my wife or kids. He'd have gotten a real kick out of them, and vice versa.

I can honestly say that I would give absolutely anything for the chance to play catch with my Dad, whether it be here in Walterboro, or in an Iowa corn field. I would love to sit and listen to him tell stories of his time in the Navy, or stories of him growing up. I would like to ask him why he made some of the choices that he made. I would like to tell him I'm sorry for making him feel like I was too good for him. I would love to hug him and tell him that I was wrong, too. I would like him to know that our estranged relationship was more my fault than his. I would like to take him to lunch on Father's Day. I'd love to take a generational picture with him and my son. I'd like to watch old movies with him. I'd love to go fishing and hunting with my Dad. I'd love to talk about deep life issues with him, and hear what he thinks. I'd love to argue with him and have him argue back. We could work on cars together. Maybe he would watch wrestling with me. He could ride to church with us.

I suppose I could go on and on. The pain is very, very deep. Sometimes it lays quiet, other times it screams. Yet I live every day with the knowledge that it could have been different, but it is too late.

I am a Dad now, and I have always tried to be perfect. I'm not, and the kids are OK with that. I try to be there and be a part of their lives. That is all I can do. I try to teach them what I know and hope it helps. I even play video games (though I much prefer PONG and Super Mario Bros)!

Yes, my children will be much better off than I was as far as their Dad is concerned.

I do take a great deal of comfort from the fact that I have a Heavenly Father (Dad) who can do more for me than any earthly father. I love the Lord, and never want to be away from Him. Sometimes I yell at Him, and it occurs to me that it is more yelling at Dad than Him. It hurts, but I know I can go on. I have a beautiful wife and family, and I want to be there for them for as long as I can.

I have a purpose, and that is to "make disciples." My church family needs me, too.

WFJ needs me, and I need them. What potential there is to reach the multitudes!

The pain is there, but life can and will go on for me. I am glad.

If there is internet in Heaven, then I hope my Dad checks my blog. It would be cool if he could leave a comment. :o)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back to School

Lately I have been in a blog funk...not much to write about. So, once again, I have borrowed an idea from Rick which has inspired a thought or two.

Summer vacation is almost over. All of my kids are starting new schools this year. To answer Rick's question, I always looked forward to the first day of school. Summer vacation had a way of "wiping the slate clean" from the previous school year. Every year was an open door into a new world of possibilities. New friends, new teachers, and new subjects.

At the same time, there was a reunion with old friends, along with new memories to create.

I confess to always being somewhat sad when the school year ended. Summer vacation was never all that exciting to me.

I am thankful that in the same way that the first day of school is a new start, each day is filled with the promise that God's "mercies are new each morning." Likewise, each day is filled with new possibilities, and opportunities to make a difference.

Who knows, I just might attend my 20 year reunion this year after all.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My Girl(s)

Today my twin (fraternal, not identical) daughters turn 11. I confess that 10 was a bit harder to believe. I think I am finally accepting the fact that they are growing up, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

They have come a long way. They were born premature, and had to stay in the NICU. One for 2 weeks, and the other for 4.

Today, they are so close, even though they would never admit that. They share the same friends, and they always make each other laugh.

So Happy Birthday, Squirrels. Daddy loves you and always will.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Perfect Day

Today we took the kids to Edisto Beach. The day couldn't have been more perfect. The air, water temperature, sunshine, waves, and the spot we picked on the beach were just awesome. We had a nice relaxing afternoon.

For supper we had some of Tracy's famous spaghetti, and for the first time in awhile, all sat together for dinner. After dinner, we had cake and ice cream for my girls, who will turn 11 on Wednesday. They each got their own fishing rods. Oddly enough, right after we bought them, they each said that they wanted a fishing rod for their birthday. I love it when a plan comes together.

I could get used to more days like this. Living in the Lowcountry of our fine state is really growing on me. The humidity is rough, but when it cools down at the end of the day, it cools down quickly. By 5:00 in the evening, it is safe to be outside.

What a day....

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Reunion

For the first time in quite a few weeks, all seven of our children are under one roof. My digital camera is on the fritz, or I would be posting photos o' plenty! Last night at VBS was "Tacky Night," and my kids were brilliant participants.

Gotta get that darn camera fixed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Our Priorities Are &$%#!

Amazing. It bedazzles me what an uproar of water cooler discussions has risen from an expletive uttered by our president. So the guy used profanity. He's a Texan. He's human.

The real story is that many of our nation's finest are still in the middle east defending our way of life. There are babies that have been born in the US who haven't met their Daddys yet because he is fighting for our country. There are Moms and Dads keeping the home fires burning all alone waiting for their loved one to come home from a war that I believe we have forgotten why we are fighting.

We are the greatest country in the world. We have the greatest news coverage that there is, and the best we can do is report that the leader of the free world said a "wurdy durd." There is much more profanity on network TV. Kids are being exposed to it more and more. Why not report on this?

America, it's time we grew up.

Monday, July 17, 2006

VBS Kick-off

Last night was our first VBS with the Evergreen Church family. I was extremely impressed with our church and the way that they have taken the reins of the most important outreach event of the year. It ran like a well-oiled machine.

I had a great time teaching the adults. I have not laughed so hard since I have been in Walterboro! Thank you to everyone who shared their "Embarrassing Stories."

When I lived in Columbia, I lived just a couple of miles down the road from the Barnyard Flea Market. I was devastated to hear of a gang-related shooting there this past Saturday. I hope it is the last.

Saturday was also disappointing in that I missed the WFJ banquet. My stomach was not cooperating with a "Bubba Burger" I had had the night before. I was to present four awards. Major bummer.

Sunday worship was phenomenal. The worship service and VBS Kick-off, along with Friday night's Primetimers gathering, were the bookends of a tremendous weekend.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekend Forecast

Today is my first official "day off" as the pastor of Evergreen Church. Tracy and I are going to use this day to really finish moving in. I anticipate at least two major trips to the local recycling center (fancy way of saying trash dump). Our new home is really growing on me. We have a beautiful yard, at least 2 acres. The house is solid brick, and we have plenty of room for everyone. With all respects to my lifelong pal Rick, I will never complain about the humidity in Columbia ever again. Here in Walterboro, only 45 minutes from the ocean, the humidity levels are off the charts. The other day it was 92 degrees with a heat index of 106!

Tonight we are meeting with the "PrimeTimers," the young adult group at church. These people are incredible. Typically in a church like Evergreen, there are an abundance of senior adults and youth, while the Gen-Xers like me are uninvolved. Not so. The PrimeTimers are a very active and effective group.

Tomorrow night we are heading to Beech Island, SC for the WFJ Annual Awards Banquet. I hear I am up for the "Klutz of the Decade" Award! By the way, WFJ is going to be on TV starting in August. We will have an hour a week broadcast in the Augusta area. I guess I'd better drop 30 pounds and shine up my boots.

Then of course we have Sunday worship to look forward to. I am beginning a three (or four) week series called, "Vision Checkup." At the end of the series, I intend to cast a fresh vision that I believe the Lord has given for us. More on that later.

All in all a great weekend. Now if someone could just turn down the humidity...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Force Is With Me...Always


Special gratitude to my Jersey pal for this little treat. What would YOUR obituary say?

I didn't know that being a Jedi-Master of Flatulence earned you a nod from Darth Vader. He never even writes or calls.

Who knew?

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's Good to be the Pastor

Today was a really good reminder of why I enjoy the ministry so much. The day started with Mr. Clyde coming over and hooking up our dishwasher. I didn't ask him to do this. He did it because he knew it wasn't hooked up yet, and he wanted his pastor to have a functioning dishwasher (besides the kids or the wife). Because of the old copper piping in this house, it took him over 2 hours to hook it up. He never complained. Not once. He is an amazing man.

Then I visited Mr. and Mrs. K, a lovely couple in the church who haven't been feeling well. They loaded me down with enough squash and cucumbers for me to start my own produce stand. They gave it to me because they love their pastor and his family.

I also made a stop at the local hospital to visit Mr. Clyde's granddaughter and had the chance to minister to her family a bit. Whether my being there made a difference or not remains to be seen. All I know is that today I was Pastor Todd for the first time in three years, and I once thought I never would be again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weak one, day two

I'm tired. My head still hurts. My mind is not as sharp as it has been in days gone by. Mainly due to fatigue, I'm sure.

Today I finally unpacked all the boxes I had taken into my office. With great joy, I loaded all of the empty cardboard clutter in my truck to take to the local solid waste station. As I reached for my keys I realized that they were still on my desk...that's right...inside the locked church.

God bless "Aunt Helen," the faithful church pianist, for living a short distance from the church, and for having a key with which she graciously let me in. I am happy to report that she did not laugh at me (at least not to my face).

For some reason I am reminded of an incident that happened back in 1988 while I was a deejay at WQXL, a Christian radio station in Columbia. A Sandi Patti song was playing and I was in the mail room at the other end of the building. Suddenly, the song ended. Apparently this was the short version. With the speed of a three-legged cat in a pack of dogs (strangely cruel metaphor), I rushed to the control room, turned on the mike, and muttered something while breathing heavily, and managed to play the next song. My then co-worker and lifelong pal, Rickwell, immediately called to make sure I was ok. He was my only listener, as I recall. He did not laugh at me either...at least not to my face.

Can't WAIT for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ministry: Extreme Rules Apply!

As a member of the pro wrestling community (albeit an inactive member at present), it is with great interest that I have watched the rebirth of ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling.

This particular genre of professional wrestling requires that the wrestler put their bodies through much more pain and suffering than your standard wrestling brand. The use of chairs, chains, tacks, barbed wire, baseball bats, tables, and other objects of pain and suffering, are commonplace in ECW. Personally, I would prefer to watch and not participate.

In my early wrestling days, I allowed another wrestler to hit me with a chair, just to see what it felt like. It hurt, but not as bad as I thought it would.

Today was my first day at the church as pastor. My main task for today was the unpacking and arranging of the Pastor's Study. n doing so, I had to unload boxes from the back of my pickup truck, onto a furniture dolly, and into the church for unpacking. During one of my trips, the furniture dolly fell back and nailed me on the left of my forehead, giving rise to a lump that would make Wile E. Coyote cringe.

As I made for the kitchen to get some ice, it occurred to me: my first day on the job, and I have been knocked upside the head...Extreme style!

Ouch...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July

Today we took a break from unpacking and took a little trip over to Monck's Corner, SC, to spend the day with my Uncle Sonny and Family. After a wonderful meal, lots of laughter, and swimming, we drove over to Goose Creek (funny names, huh) and watched a professional fireworks show. Oooooooooooh. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

It is truly a great country in which we live, and we surely have much to celebrate.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Settling In

We are all moved in to the new house in Walterboro. The house is a mess, and we are wiped out. All the animals survived the move, and it looks like Tracy and I will, too. All the kids are home, and we are just settling in one box at a time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What the World is Coming To

(Shamelessly stolen from Rick, who turned me on to blogging in the first place!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lowering the Knife

Yesterday I brought a Father's Day message, entitled, "A Father's Day." The text was Genesis 22:1-14, the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, his most treasured possession, on the altar as a burnt offering. The burnt offering was both final and fatal. So he laid his son on the altar, never questioning God, and at the point of absolute obedience, that is, as he was about to lower the knife, Abraham clearly heard the voice of God's messenger telling him to stop.

My challenge to the congregation was that we should lay our most treasured possession on that "altar of sacrifice," with the same unwavering faith as Abraham. It was during this part of message that I heard God speak to me very clearly and very lovingly, as only He can:

"Todd, you haven't done this lately, have you?"

It was true. I hadn't. I must confess that as Tracy and I and our children have been preparing to move to Walterboro, I have had second thoughts. Frankly, I don't want to move. The move will require me to alter my visitation with my children, which has been tearing me up inside. Yet deep in my heart, I know that this move is the right thing, though I don't fully understand what God is up to, sending a wild man like me into a very orderly atmosphere. I will be a square peg in a round hole, like I am just about anywhere else I go.

Yesterday, God required me to lay my children on that altar of sacrifice. Abraham never questioned God, and yet I have not stopped questioning Him. I finally did. I am in a battle that I cannot win. God is always right. Everything that has happened to me over the last few years has not been without a reason.

So, in my spirit, I "laid" my children on the altar, and I "lowered the knife." As I did, and this is absolutely the truth, I felt a peace that I have not felt in quite some time. In my spirit, I heard these words, "Look at them (my daughters, who were with me yesterday and seated toward the front of the church), they are still there. You are not going to lose them. I wouldn't let that happen. But you needed to put me first. You are all going to be fine, son. Happy father's day."

I have many more people and things to lay on that altar, but I can tell you that yesterday was a father's day I will never forget.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Passages

We are in the process of packing our belongings in preparation for a July 1st move. Yesterday I discovered a box of photos which I had not seen in quite awhile. I had forgotten just how long my hair used to be!

I guess it just really hit me yesterday that I am literally packing away old memories and creating new ones. I also found some pictures of my Dad which I had forgotten I had. With this being Father's Day weekend, I suppose I am a bit melancholy.

On the one hand, I am blessed. I am a Dad, and I have the most awesome children. On the other, I am a bit sad that my Dad or even my Grandpas never got to meet my kids, and vice versa. I miss them all very much. The other day I heard my Grandma's voice on a tape recording I found in a box. She was cheering for me. She always was. I miss her a lot.

Change has always been hard for me, too. I hate moving. I really do. I guess it is a necessary evil.

One final note: I have decided to let my hair grow long again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Home

Steven was released from the hospital yesterday. Thank you to everyone for your prayers, cards, etc. He is in for a rather uneventful summer while he recovers, but he is doing great. He is home.

Today in Walterboro we saw our new home. It is amazing. The Lord provided it, because we never could have afforded it. On July 1st, we are going to our new home.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Update on Steven

Many thanks for all of the prayers and calls regarding our son Steven's surgery yesterday. According to the surgeon, everything went "just as he expected," and foresees no further complications. He is doing really well today, save for a slight fever. He is in ICU and will probably get into a regular room as early as today. He is progressing even faster than we thought he would.

Tracy's father and grandmother are down from Ohio this week, and I think it has been good for her to be surrounded by her family.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Special moment

Yesterday, after church, my son Cody walked up to me and said, "You are really good at what you do."

I have received compliments like this over the years from people as they were walking out the door and shaking my hand.

"Good message today, Preacher!"

"You stepped all over my toes today!"

"You're going to be the next Charles Stanley (someone actually said that to me once---at least they didn't say Robert Tilton)!"

This time, however, was different. It was very moving to get such a nod from Cody. He does not hand them out freely, and he is a very intelligent, godly young lad in his own right. It was one of those special father-son moments that I will never forget.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Midweek Milestone

Yesterday was my children's last full day of school for the year. Actually it was their last full day at that school. They are moving up to the middle school next year. Yikes!

I was able to attend the Awards Day at their school, see my daughters get their awards (Katie--Citizenship, Jenna--Honor Roll), and then spend the rest of the morning and afternoon with them and their friends at school.

My daughter Katie has two best friends. It is amazing to watch how much they really love her as a friend. They are like "peas and carrots." It is also amazing that even though they sometimes don't act like it, my daughters are best friends too. They are seldom away from each other, even at school.

I have to admit, seeing them with their friends made me realize how blessed I have been in the friend department. My best friend since second grade is still my very best friend today. In fact, we are beyond friendship; he is my family. Furthermore, I have pretty well gone on record regarding my feelings about my high school chums.

It will be interesting to see if Katie can sustain her friendships for the next 20-30 years, as I have been able to with Jay and the others. She is off to a great start.

Proverbs 17:17---"A friend loveth at all times..."

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Polls Are Closed

Sunday, May 21, 2006, the vote was in favor of my being called as the new minister at Evergreen Christian Church in Walterboro, SC. I am told it was a unanimous vote, but I am not certain.

May this be the inauguration of a new era of victorious ministry and sweet fellowship. Pardon my overuse of political jargon.

I am honored to have this opportunity, and my family is excited.

Gotta go start packing now...

Monday, May 15, 2006

This Sunday: The Vote!

The precious folks at Evergreen Christian Church in Walterboro, SC are going to take a vote this Sunday as to whether or not to call me as full time pastor.

In many ways, I feel that my life has come full circle over the last three years. There was a time not too long ago when I believed beyond a doubt that I would never set foot in a pulpit again. In the last three years, I have lost so much of what gave me my "significance."

So if the vote is in my favor, what then? Am I really the best choice for this church, and vice versa? I suppose that is not for me to ask, but simply to follow the Lord's leading and trust His judgement.

In the event of a "no" vote, what then? I suppose we will find our way back to a church where we can settle in and be used of the Lord in some way.

Regardless of how things go, I am at a good place right now in my walk with the Lord. That I would even be considered by this church is a great honor, and it has been my pleasure to serve as their interim.

In many ways, I feel like Job, though I confess I didn't always respond with the faith that he did to trials and loss. But now I feel like everything I lost has been restored to me and then some. Whether I am a full time pastor or not, I can honestly say that for the first time in three years, I feel hopeful about the future.