Category Archives: Personal Thoughts

Give Me a Break!

A sabbatical, by one definition, is a time away from work to give one a chance to step away to focus on personal enrichment and perhaps professional development. For a minister, it can be a time to relax, refresh, renew your spirit, and de-stress. A paid leave keeps the financial stress at bay; no time constraints, sermon, or Bible study deadlines; no – or at least extremely limited – access for members to intrude with church business or their own personal needs – no pressing agendas!

Eleven years ago, I was facing a near burnout situation. My church granted me a month, paid sabbatical. They would take care of “business” while I was gone. I found a refuge in rural Arkansas that provided me the perfect place for a sabbatical. One month of just me and the Lord! Reading, praying, writing, relaxing, whatever – it was up to me – my time! It saved my ministry.

This year, my trustees talked it over and said I should do it again. I’m 11 years older and nearing retirement age – yet still going. I have had, in the past five years, a triple bypass, a subsequent slight heart attack requiring two stents, an ongoing major building project at church, added missions involvement through our Association of churches, and more. Added to all that, it has been extra stressful navigating the Covid pandemic of 2020 and its influence on ministry. By the time I could get a sabbatical planned and set up, I definitely needed one!

So, in August, I spent two weeks back at that same refuge in AR, the next week with family at a resort in Branson, MO, and then another week back at the refuge. I thought perhaps I’d share my typical day. Keep in mind these facts about the Broomtree Refuge: it is a retreat just outside the small town of Mountain View, Arkansas, nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains; the “cabin” is actually a modern house in a rustic setting; they lay in a few days of provisions and the kitchen is stocked with utensils; there are a washer and dryer in the house; they have a small cabin on the grounds that serves as a library; there is no TV service, but they do have plenty of DVD movies available; there is no Internet and the cell service on the grounds is very weak and spotty.

So, I can get up whenever I want to, but I tend to wake up between 6:00 and 6:30 anyway. I clean up, make the bed, and take my daily walk. I usually walk about 30 minutes at a good fast pace, which means I can do around 2 miles. It’s more of a daily stress-test when in the hills of Arkansas! Then I shower and fix breakfast. Breakfast is something like scrambled eggs and toast or French toast or pancakes, bacon or sausage, fruit, and juice. I’m not a coffee drinker, but it’s there.

I like a tidy place, so I clean up the kitchen and do the dishes each morning. Devotion time comes next. I had visited the library early in the sabbatical and chosen a few books to read – one for devotional purposes. I have options for the devotional spot – the front porch, the living room, or the loft that opens up over the living room. Some days, I do the porch, others the living room. I prefer to save the loft as a makeshift study since it has a desk at one end.

I like organization, so I tend to do my devotions every morning on the porch or in the living room, read for pleasure in the recliner or in bed, and do some sermon prep or church planning up in the loft. It seems to keep the different activities from bleeding into one another!  A time and place for everything, so to speak, keeps down the stress.

So, after the devotional time, I take some relaxing time – no studies or planning for a while. I work my Rubik’s Cube a few times nearly every day – it helps keep my hands nimble and it helps with my memory skills.  I like working Sudokus and reading mysteries, so my Kindle Fire tablet provides me with plenty of both. The refuge’s library has plenty of books of all genres if you prefer old-school – and sometimes I do! I always get a couple of spiritual books to read and sometimes some fiction. This year, I just used my Kindle for my personal reading and puzzles.

There is no agenda nor timetable, so I do puzzles or read for however long or short I want! If reading makes me sleepy, I doze off! I usually skip lunch, but if I do get hungry, I have lunch meat or PBJ sandwiches or soup or leftovers from my previous supper, etc.

By early afternoon, I often decide to be productive for a while. I take a book or two up to the loft with a couple of notebooks. There is also a couch up there. I read, take notes, and eventually make some sermon or study outlines. I might even get out the calendar and do some church planning!

By late afternoon, I do some reading just for personal pleasure. That might bring on a nap – might not, but who cares? The idea is no stress! I gauge supper time by my hungriness. I planned for no late-night snacking, so eating supper a little later in the evening doesn’t hurt, but then most days there is no lunch, so that can go either way!

Suppers were things like spaghetti, or grilled pork chops or hamburgers, fried chicken from a deli in town, etc., baked or mashed potatoes, green beans, and always applesauce! I always cleaned up and did the dishes after each meal. Evenings were spent doing Sudokus and reading murder mysteries. I would finish off by reading in bed until I got sleepy.

Sprinkled in among the usual daily activities would be an occasional shopping trip to town, weekly laundry, a few text messages home when I could track down cell coverage on the front porch, or a relaxing soak in the tub. I journaled every day and began to write another short-story for my blog. I have always fantasized of writing a successful novel but seem to do better at the short-stories. I read once where a novelist is just a failed short-story writer! So far, I’m quite successful! Hopefully, I will finish the story now that I am back home.

So, that’s how I spent my sabbatical. I could have used the swimming pool, but I’m not big on pool time. I could have taken nature walks, but I’m always leery of poison ivy – and besides, I walk every day! I could have watched some DVD movies – in fact, I did watch one – but I get enough television at home. It might all sound lonesome and boring to you, but it was peace and quiet, relaxation, no worries, no stress, no deadlines, no expectations, few interruptions, and not costly at all! Pretty nice if you ask me!  Thank you, church!

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My Grandfather’s Clock – Mystery Solved!

I think I’ve solved it! No, not the coronavirus, that’s a real thing. No, not even my Crayola virus – I made that up. What then? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Remember the old folk song we sang as kids – “My Grandfather’s Clock?” My granddaughter likes to play it on the piano when she’s around. Well, it got me to thinking. We’ve always assumed that when the old man died, the clock stopped ticking. It’s in the lyrics, but there is room for another scenario.

The lyrics could be interpreted that the old man was already dead as the family stood by his side and the clock had already stopped, too, after it sounded its alarm. So, I began to wonder – did the clock stop when the old man died or did the old man die when the clock stopped!?

And if the alarm sounded with the clock’s final tick, perhaps, since it was in the dead of night, it scared the old man to death! So, if the alarm sounding and the clock stopping caused the man’s death, what caused that to happen? Was it just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Oh, I know most of you don’t think like this. Most of you don’t care. You just blindly follow time and traditions, never questioning, never seeking answers. You are sheep and Little Bo Peep doesn’t have to worry if you get lost, because sooner or later, you’ll come home, wagging your tails behind you. You don’t even wonder why the sheep’s in the meadow and the cow’s in the corn! OR why anyone would trust their care to a little blue boy who would fall asleep in the hay and let them go astray!

But I digress. I wonder things. So, I wonder about that clock and the old man. And I think I have it. I cannot prove it, but I think I’m right. See what you think.

The family bought the clock when the old man was born – no, not as an old man! A baby was born and grew up to be the old man – stay with me here! For the next 90 years, the child, youth, young adult, old man wound the clock every week, and the two ticked on together, so to speak. But the man was getting old.

Across the field from his house there lived a “Farmer in the Dell.” The farmer took a wife and so on. Eventually, a mouse came into the farmer’s house after the wife’s cheese. Now, we all know mice don’t work alone. If there is one mouse, there are more!

I believe there were at least three more – three blind mice, three blind mice. They all ran after the farmer’s wife, who cut off their tails with a carving knife.  –  Yes, she did! But they got away.

These three blind, tailless rodents ran out into the dell and ran in the direction of the grandfather’s house. They blindly found their way inside. It was nighttime, but they were blind, so they didn’t know. In fact, it was just before 1:00 in the morning and the old man was asleep.

Well, one of the mice bumped into the grandfather clock and ran up it! Hickory, dickory, dock! The clock struck one, the mouse ran down, and according to my theory, the clock, for the first time in memory, set off its alarm and then stopped ticking.

The alarm startled the old man whose ticker wasn’t too strong either and he died of a heart attack! The family awoke and stood by his side, saying their last goodbyes to a grand ol’ gentleman who died in his sleep at 90 years old.

So, unwittingly, the Farmer in the Dell’s wife set off a chain of events when she left that cheese out to stand alone and attract mice. She chopped off their tails, which sent them blindly into the night and one of them eventually, inadvertently set off the clock whose alarm scared the old man to death! That’s how I think it all happened. Scoff if you must, but I believe it.

Unless — she trained the mice to climb the clock and the whole thing was a dastardly plot to murder the old-timer! But what would have been her motive? Humm…. I wonder…

 

For more “deep” reading, if you haven’t already, read these…

Crayola Virus               More Crayola                  Closed Caption Confusion

Too Much TV?              Too Much More of TV!

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Too Much More of TV!

I’ve received several requests, but I’m going to offer some more advice anyway! In particular, I mean about TV being the wrong source of entertainment during this stressful time of quarantine. Naturally, I am immune to its influence. I don’t want to be Branded as a fanatic, but I just have to speak to this some more – this social distancing thing shouldn’t be that hard to get. You don’t have to Run for Your Life. You don’t even have to make a Quantum Leap to get away from others, just stay 6 feet apart. It’s the right thing to do, so Get Smart!

It’s not that difficult either. Don’t wander around out in public like an aimless Maverick. Stay inside! You can still have Good Times. Everyone in your household can help, even if you have a Full House. Just don’t invite over your Friends until this thing is over – make sure to keep your germs All in the Family. You don’t want to inadvertently infect people who might be Perfect Strangers.

If you must go out, remember the advice we got when us older folks were little – you know, about cooties and such – and “Don’t touch That Girl!” As for shopping, if you’re not going to buy those particular groceries, leave them alone. They are The Untouchables!

You can do this people! This is not Mission Impossible. In fact, The Name of the Game is common sense! Listen to the authorities – after all, Who’s the Boss? Just take it One Day at a Time. I’m sure this will all be over soon and we can have a great big Shindig! Meanwhile, just remember “Who loves ya, baby.”  And don’t watch too much TV!

Too Much TV?

Crayola Virus

More Crayola

Closed Caption Confusion

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Too Much TV?

I lost track. Is this day 15 or 627 of the quarantine? Are you bored yet? Going stir crazy? Perhaps a few encouraging words and some sage advice are in order. A little perspective from someone who’s been around awhile.

We have much for which we should be thankful. Yes, we are sheltering safe at home and cannot, for now, go about business as usual. But we are blessed to have technology to help us. Take advantage of phones and the Internet to check on people, spend time with friends and family, and be productive. A word of caution, though, about television time. With so many channels and even old TV shows, there is so much you could waste time on. Old soaps and game shows might actually have a detrimental effect on you while in isolation from the real world.

To Tell the Truth, I personally don’t watch much TV. So, I would advise that though this virus has affected our Concentration, we don’t have to let it get us down. If you need a Guiding Light in your Search for Tomorrow, don’t let it be TV!

Even just deciding what to watch can turn into a Family Feud, so be careful. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we only have One Life to Live. I am so glad that All My Children are safe and sound, but I am concerned about The Young and the Restless. They seem so easily distracted and get bored quickly. It could just be Growing Pains, but if this is you, don’t Press Your Luck. You could put us all in Jeopardy and we might end up in a General Hospital if you don’t stay sheltered. These are just The Facts of LIfe.  I urge you to stay in and help us get through this. Please Password around!

So, to keep it positive, here’s my advice. Don’t watch too much TV. In fact, Let’s Make a Deal – don’t lurk in the Dark Shadows at The Edge of Night!  You’ll be rewarded, if you step out, get up each day like it’s a brand new start.  Clean up, get dressed, and face the challenges of the day head on. Be The Bold and the Beautiful!

No matter how this all turns out – Win, Lose, or Draw – life can be something special for you. I hope this little bit of advice will be a real Bonanza for you and Happy Days are in your future!

Too Much More of TV!

Crayola Virus

More Crayola

Closed Caption Confusion

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More Crayola

(If you haven’t read the beginning of the Crayola Virus “saga”, you’ll find it here Crayola Virus)

Since it’s just you and me here, I can tell you – due to my extensive knowledge of the Crayola Virus, I was contacted by the Secret Health And Medical Service (SHAMS) for a special assignment.

I am currently undercover as a patient in a large hospital in one of our finer IL cities to learn, if I can, what is really wrong with the three patients who are claiming to have the Crayola Virus. As you know, there is no such disease. Is there something else wrong that “they” are hiding from us? Are they up to something else altogether?

Per my mission, I went to the hospital in our hometown complaining of chest and back pains and found a way to elevate my BP (that’s code for blood pressure). I’m afraid I overdid that a little – it got kind of high. Anyway, naturally, they couldn’t find any real reason for the symptoms I presented (see, I worked that term in again!), so they sent me by ambulance to the hospital where the three suspicious cases are being “treated.”

I will have to keep my cover in play, so I will be having an EKG, an ECHO, a CT, an R-E-S-P-E CT, and maybe an RSVP. I really didn’t pay much attention. Meanwhile, I will try to slip around to patients 0,1, and 2 and try to find out what thay are up to. It may have something to do with toilet paper! I will keep you posted. Shhhh!

(Update)

I snuck out of my room last night and found they had been keeping the three Crayola “patients” just a couple of doors down from me.  Two men in black suits were guarding the doorway. I could see inside and the room had three empty beds. No one in the room. I did not know at the time that the men worked for the World Health Organization (WHO) nor did I know the names of the patients. Later this morning I got a nurse to tell me confidentially the patients were Gene Rowdey, Sam “Dizzy” Dean (like the famous baseball player), and Noah Count.

As I looked past the “suits” into the room, one told me to move along. I asked if he was in charge of the patients. He said, “WHO is.”

“That’s what I’m asking you,” I said.

“I told you.”

“You told me who’s in charge?”

“Yes.”

“Who?”

“That’s correct,” he said.

I said, “I’m confused,” and changed the subject. “What were you sent here to do?”

“Get Rowdey.”

“Did you get rowdy?”

“Yes.”

“I’m just two doors down and I didn’t hear anything.”

“We were quiet.”

“You said you got rowdy.”

“We did.”

“You can’t get rowdy and be quiet.”

“We did.”

I said, “I’m getting dizzy.”

“You can’t – we already did.”

“You got dizzy, too?”

“That’s right.”

“You got dizzy when you got rowdy?”

“Yes. At the same time,” he said.

“Well, THAT makes sense. But you said you were quiet.”

“We were.”

Moving on, I said, “There were three patients here, right?”

“Yes. We sent one home.”

“Could you tell me his name?”

“He was Noah Count.”

“But he still has a name.”

“Of course he does.”

“And you sent him home?”

“He tested negative for any virus. And he was Noah Count.”

“It was okay to let him go, but you shouldn’t pass judgment on his character. Did he get rowdy?”

“No. We did.”

“But you got rowdy quietly?”

“Of course. And we got Dizzy.”

“And sent one of the patients home.”

“Yes. That one was Noah Count.”

“You’re probably right.  So where are the other two patients?”

“They were taken to our main office.”

“Whose office?”

“Correct.”

“I’m going back to my room,” I said.

“That’s a good idea, sir.”

I am still not quite sure what happened. Maybe it’s because they keep taking blood from me. ECHO stress test yet to come. After last night’s ordeal with WHOever, this should be a piece of cake!

 

(Since learning that the Crayola Virus in under control, I turned my attention to learning about the Coronavirus!  Check it out: Closed Caption Confusion )

Also check out these related: Too Much TV?

Too Much More of TV!

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Crayola Virus

I would never make fun of someone who has a disease or is even just ill. Well, not anyone seriously ill. Okay, I’ve done that, too, but only because I believe laughter is truly a great medicine! Anyway, I recently posted some comments on Facebook about something I called the Crayola Virus. It was supposed to give us a little humor about the current situation in our country about the Coronavirus and what seems to be a panic. With all the hype and misinformation and subsequent panic-driven activity around the nation, I figured we could use a laugh and perhaps it might even cause some to step back and take a good look at what’s going on before joining in the fray.

I do not post much on social media and almost never with the thought of changing someone’s mind about almost anything. I am still waiting to hear from the first person who changed his or her mind after reading a Facebook post on religion or politics. After hearing about all the nonsense going on in response to this new virus, I decided to post a little satire piece. Not to change the world, but just to laugh at it a little. Here is what I wrote:

(first post)
I don’t watch much news – can’t believe most of it anyway – so I was a little shocked to hear there’s some new disease going around. I just heard a little from the other room, but it got me worried about the kids. I think they said it was a Crayola Virus.

I guess you get it from using other kids’ crayons or something. Some schools have closed. Parents and grandparents need to take those pictures off their refrigerators!  I’d say just use the same precautions we used back in the day for cooties and other stuff – don’t touch the other kids, wipe your nose, wash your hands, and for heaven’s sake – stop eating the crayons!

(2nd post)                                                                                                                                        More about this Crayola Virus: I’m not a doctor, but I played one in the Christmas play in grade school one year – I think it was 4th grade, but I’m not sure. Anyway, my advice? Take two cookies and call me in the morning!

(3rd post)                                                                                                                                            I’ve done a little research on the Crayola Virus. It seems there are over 100 different colors! Each color brings its own variation to the bug and therefore might present the symptoms differently. (I learned to use that term “present” by watching TV doctors!)
The degree of seriousness of the virus depends on the color and how you contracted it. If you merely took someone else’s crayon and used it, you have only made contact with the virus through touch. I don’t think you can get it at all from using your own crayons – likely why you were taught NOT to take someone else’s crayons in the first place! You should have listened. What do you do now? Suck it up (No, not the crayon!) – it won’t be too bad – and don’t do it again!

If you got the virus from eating a crayon, well, the good news is your stomach acids likely had a positive effect on the virus and minimized its negative effect on you! What to do? I told you before – take two cookies. The sugar will accelerate the production of stomach acids and eventually totally destroy the virus. If symptoms persist more than a few hours, eat more cookies!

On the other hand, if you got the virus by sticking a crayon up your nose, well, that’s a virus of a different color. In your nose, the virus was sniffed right into your lungs! (please excuse the technical terms)  No stomach acids there to counteract the virus. If the virus somehow did not survive the trip to your lungs, the smell of the crayon alone might make you sick anyway! That’ll pass, and cookies will help even if you don’t have the virus. And if they’re homemade, the aroma of the baking will more than counteract the odor of the crayon!

Assuming you sniffed the virus into your lungs and it survived, then you likely do have a serious case of Crayola Virus. Drawing upon my extensive experience as a gradeschool-play doctor – we had to practice a few weeks to get it right! – I’d say you’ll definitely need more that two cookies! Perhaps several over the next few days. And plenty of bedrest – no school for sure and hopefully not much work, though that may depend on whether you want to keep your job!

Sooner or later, with some common sense prevention and treatment (and cookies – did I mention cookies?), you should be able to handle it. Of course, we all know by now there is very little common sense out there to draw from, so you had better use your own! Do not, I repeat do not, listen to the media or politicians on this. Most of them cannot even color inside the lines! Doctors? Well, sometimes I wonder if they know how to color either, but then I was just a kid when I was a doctor, so it’s likely medicine has come a long way since then.

(last post)
Please disregard all previous posts about the Crayola Virus. I recently learned that I heard the TV wrong! Sometimes it’s hard to hear the TV in the living room while sneaking cookies in the kitchen. Anyway, apparently there is no such thing as the Crayola Virus. Well, there wasn’t until I posted about it! Since then there have been several reported cases – oops, my bad!

To be continued… see More Crayola

Closed Caption Confusion

Too Much TV?

Too Much More of TV!

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Rounding Third and Heading for Home!

(Softball is like life!)

My dad is an ASA (Amateur Softball Association) Hall of Fame umpire! I grew up in the 60s watching fastpitch softball in and around Decatur, IL. Many weekends every summer were spent watching the game. The past three years, my two brothers and I joined dad in watching the NCAA Women’s College World Series, played at the Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The first two years, we were at the stadium with several thousand others, but this year we joined the 90 year old at our sister’s house in Arkansas where, like millions of others, we watched the tournament on television.
On my trip home, I was mentally preparing the devotion I was to share at our church that evening and it occurred to me that softball (or baseball, if that’s your preferred sport) is a metaphor for life.

Here’s my take on that:
The crowd, whether at the stadium or at home with their televisions, just watches. They don’t play the game because they are NOT on the team. They will never make it to the dugout (or clubhouse if you are the MLB fan), because that is reserved for the team. Only the team gets to go there! The crowd may enjoy the game – cheering on the team, second guessing the coach and players, criticizing the umpires, etc. – but they’ll never get into the dugout because they aren’t on the team! The dugout (or clubhouse) represents heaven. The vast majority are only spectators. They enjoy watching the game and might even talk a good game themselves – even critique God and Christians (the Coach and players) – but they will never get to heaven because they are NOT on the team! Jesus said in John 14:6, that He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him! He told a religious leader (recorded in John 3) that he had to be born spiritually, from above, or he would never see heaven. The Bible clearly, repeatedly, explains that God’s “dugout” is only accessible by the team and one only gets on the team by grace through faith – confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior!
Sadly, most of the world will never choose to join the team. However, even that is not the end, nor even the immediate goal. It is not enough just to be on the team! It’s not enough just to be guaranteed a seat in the dugout! The team is there to play the game – even to win the game! And to win the game, you must score runs! Someone has to eventually cross home plate! The more, the better! If no one scores, the team loses! Oh, the players are still on the team – still have a place in the dugout – but they lose the game! You have to score runs. You have to cross home plate!
But to do that, you have to make it to first base. That is not enough, but you have to start with that. You have to get to first base, then second base, then third base, and only then can you head on into home and score. In softball, the bases are but little square pads in various places on the playing field, but what are the bases in life?
I think first base is personal growth. Remember, only those on the team can actually expect to reach even first base. You must take some responsibility for your own spiritual growth. Read and study the Bible, pray, and worship. Learn more about God and how you should live. All these things you can do for yourself. Learn, grow, start becoming the player God wants you to be. That’s first base and you must get to first base or you’ll never score! You cannot stay on first, but you must  get there! You have to move on. Nobody wins if you never leave first base! You must get to second base!
Second base, to my way of thinking, is corporate growth, or church growth – involvement with the others on the team. There is no such thing in the Bible as a “Lone Ranger” Christian – and even he had Tonto! No ‘lone wolves’ – no ‘go it alone’ Christianity. The Bible speaks of believers as a family, members of one body – Christ’s body, and even as the bride of Christ. Never complete when alone. Always in conjunction with the rest of the team. The New Testament says over fifty times to do specific things for one another. So, second base consists of our involvement with others on the team – group Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, and fellowships, for example. Being involved in VBS, church camps, work days; singing and praising the Lord (congregationally, in choirs, anything but a solo means you’re working with others!), helping neighbors and others in need. Too many ways to mention – so many ways to be involved with others. YOU need the church and the church needs YOU! Church involvement and interaction is second base. In order to score, you’ll have to get to second base.
But you can’t stay there, either! No one scores by staying on second! You must get there, but you have to move on to third – and you can’t skip ANY bases! Third base is leadership. That can be many things. Preaching, teaching, leading worship or prayer groups, witnessing, and on and on. My point is that you must move on from just involvement with others to, at least in some areas, actually leading the others. On third base, YOU are the teacher or YOU are the witness, the deacon, the trustee, the choir leader, etc. You’ll still be a learner, a team member, a disciple – but you’ll also become a discipler!
However, in life, as in softball, you don’t score a run by staying on third base. Oh, those dreaded words from the announcer at the close of an inning, “…and one man left on base.” It means someone COULD have scored, but didn’t. Games are lost with someone left on third base!
So, what, you may be wondering, does it take to score? If personal growth is but first base, church involvement is second base, leadership is third base, and getting to heaven is the dugout or clubhouse, then what does it take to cross home plate!? What scores a run and wins the game?

Becoming like Jesus! The real goal of the team is to win the game. Scoring runs wins games. Team members score by becoming like Jesus. Romans 8:29 tells us that. This is a made-for-softball paraphrase, but it says that God chose some to be on His team in order to become like His Son, Jesus! In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells us to have the same mindset as Jesus. In 1 John 2:6, John wrote that those who are really on the team are to live like Jesus. I can’t yell it loudly enough from the coach’s box as a pastor or even just from the dugout as a team member – “the goal is NOT getting into the dugout! (That was guaranteed when you joined the team!) You have to score! The goal is to be like Jesus!”
You cannot get into the dugout (heaven) from the stands. You sure can’t score (become like Jesus) in the stands. You have to join the team and play the game. You cannot score if you don’t reach first base. You also can’t score unless you advance to second and third! And even then, you keep going. But what else is there? What have we NOT covered on the other three bases?
It could take a whole book, not just a blog, to cover it all! It could take a lifetime of learning and doing to understand it all. But to point you in the right direction, let’s think about Jesus. Become like Jesus. In character, attitude, world-view, values, love and wisdom, and so much more! It’s not so much about doing, though Luke said of Jesus that He went about doing good (Acts 10:38). Jesus did good, because Jesus is good! Try to be like Jesus. He did personal growth, so you must, too – first base! He was involved with others, so you must be, too – second base! He taught, led, and discipled others, so, again, you must aspire to that as well – third base! THEN, do whatever else it takes to score – to be like Him! Don’t just try to do like Him, but be like Him!
Maybe you’ll run across home plate as you score. Perhaps it will happen so easily that you can just trot on across the plate. Maybe you’ll have to slide or maybe you’ll fall and have to crawl the last few feet! But whatever it takes – score!

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Enter and Sign in, Please…

Those of us who grew up at Forsyth Baptist Church in the 60s shared several “dads”.  They all took turns teaching us, leading in our church activities – we called them ‘socials’ back then – and helping us grow in our faith.  Many of them – probably most of them – are gone now and another went to be with Jesus yesterday – Scott Spriggs.  Besides being a teacher and a deacon of the church, Scott led the music worship for years.

A couple of other staples of growing up in a small mid-western town in the 60s were Halloween traditions and a tv game show called “What’s My Line?”  Believe it or not, these all tie together!

On the game show, a panel of celebrities questioned various contestants in order to try to guess their occupations.  The host would call the contestants to the stage and instruct them to “Enter and sign in, please.”  They would write their names with chalk on a blackboard – I know, the 60s, right!?

At Halloween, we would dress up and go from house to house throughout Forsyth for Trick or Treating and fill up our goodie bags with tons of candy and other treats.  We would also carry a concealed weapon!  A bar of soap.  The “trick” of the season was to soap windows without getting caught.  Nearly everyone would try to chase you off before you could do much soaping.  A few really meant it, but I think most enjoyed the chase as much as we did.  At the Spriggs’ house, however, Scott took a different approach.  He would greet us at the front door, point to the big picture window next to it, and knowing we were armed, say, “Enter and sign in, please!”  Which I did – though I was too smart to sign my own name!

When I heard that Scott had passed away, I pictured the gatekeeper of heaven (though I really doubt one exists since trusting in Jesus is the only way in) greeting Scott and saying, “Enter and sign in, please!”  Scott would reply that there was no need to guess his “vocation” (see Eph. 4:1ff) – it is no secret.  I am sure that Scott sang that old song a time or two at church – “It is no secret, what God can do.  What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.  With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.  It is no secret, what God can do.”

There is no need to bid Scott an “RIP”, because that’s part of what heaven is all about!  So, I’ll just say, “Thanks for all you did and see you later!”

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Happy Anniversaries!

I’ll have two anniversaries this month!  The first and longest-running is Jan. 17, which this year marks 42 years of marriage!  It has been a good run so far – I think we’ll just keep going!  “For richer – for poorer”, so where’s the “richer” been?  “For better – for worse”, it’s mostly gotten better through the years!  “In sickness and in health” – we’ve both been mostly healthy until recently.  And that brings me to the second anniversary.

Two years ago on Jan. 19, I walked into our local hospital with upper chest pains.  It didn’t seem too serious, but enough so to have it checked out.  Tests showed something amiss with my heart and blood pressure, so I was sent on to a bigger, better-for-heart-treatment hospital.  A heart cath the next day showed multiple blocks in a few arteries.  I had had no heart attack as yet, but three days later I underwent a triple bypass!

These past two years have been a whirlwind!  I think they may have been the busiest two years of my life!  They were filled with exercise, increased travels, and increased work load – both physically and spiritually (I am a minister and a writer).

I am quite sure that when I got married, I was not ready for all that we would experience over the next 42 years!  No one could be.  I am equally sure now, that I would not have been able to do all that I needed to do these past two years, if not for the bypass.  Many thought at first that perhaps the heart thing was God’s way of slowing me down for health reasons.  Turned out, He was fixing me up in order for me to do even more!

I think maybe that was what the marriage was, too!  He was fixing me up in order for me to do even more!  You know – two become one… two heads are better than one… there is power in numbers… strength in unity…  that’s all been true and very necessary!  AND a good strong heart helps make both anniversaries keep on going!

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In Defense of Trunk or Treat

Do churches really condone going around dressed up like ghosts, witches, monsters, devils, and all sorts of evil characters?  Is it another case of “if you can’t beat’em, join’em?”  Are churches simply compromising with the world in order to attract a crowd?

Maybe.  But then, maybe not.  I can’t speak for all churches.  For that matter, not everything that calls itself a church is in fact really a church.  All I can really speak for is my church and those I’ve heard from personally on the subject.  And we are NOT interested in Halloween!  That’s right – we are NOT interested in Halloween!

However, the kids in our neighborhood are.  Their parents and grandparents are, too!  And WE are interested in  THEM!  They need to hear that God loves them and so do we.  They need to know that in a world filled with hate, fear, and harm, there are those of us who still provide love, peace, and safety!

We don’t think that hiding inside our churches and ignoring the world teaches that.  So, we line our parking lot with cars and vans filled with goodies and prizes in a fun and safe environment and invite them to come and enjoy!  Poor kids get more candy than they can afford.  They learn there is no difference between them and those who “have’ already.  They learn the truth about God’s love, that it is given unconditionally to all who will just reach out receive it.  They learn that you don’t earn love, it is just offered.  They learn that our church people care about them and that they are welcome at our place.  They are invited to come back and learn even more.

That all sounds like good stuff to me – not evil.  It does NOT sound like we even condone the evil.  It is all around us.  We can’t ignore it.  We must not hide from it.  We don’t approve of it.  We shun it.  We will fight it when we can.  But sometimes we fight it by just out-playing it.  We overcome it with good.  The only way to dispel darkness is to shine light.  That’s what we do.  And the world sees that with us, there are no tricks – just treats!  And so it is with the God we serve!

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