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.