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December 29

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

It is 2:30 in the morning. Ive been up since 12 and tried to fool myself into going back to sleep. It didn’t work. 🙁 So going on the assumption God wants to get my attention or teach me something, I got up. If not, then I’m up early. During my Quarantine I’ve slept more than I ever have. Since I normally get up at 3:30, it is not unusual for me to be in bed by 9:30. Try 8:00!! That’s right. Jo and I often found ourselves heading to bed by 8 and sleeping for 11-12 hours!! Seriously? I’ve never slept that long at one sitting. E.V.E.R. But this night is different. Maybe it was the Ginger Ale I was able to keep down. First time I have had sugar in days. I don’t know. No matter. I’d like to share some year end thoughts with you and some future plans.

In this past Sunday’s sermon, I talked about not wasting our lives, of submitting to the call of the Gospel and surrendering to Jesus. I have the most important message in the world-the message of God’s love for a sin-broken world. I have absolutely no reason to keep that message to myself. 2020 has shown me, as it has others, how fragile life can be. Things, health, even life, can be taken away with a snap of a finger. I must become more intentional with my life this year. I’m 68 and it is a pretty safe bet to say my years left on this planet are much less than what I have lived. 🙂  Lord willing, I’m not going to stop having fun; laughing; cycling; working out; make friends; laugh and cry with those friends; preach Gospel-soaked sermons; keep reading, growing and stretching; love the people of OVCF even more; and hopefully lead the church to impact our community for Jesus.

I’ve contemplated stopping this blog-Living in the Shadow. The amount of time it takes to keep 2 blogs going-and thinking one is failing at both- is something I’ve tried to reckon with. Cycleguy’s Spin was my initial blog started in 2007. Then along came this one a few years ago as a discipline for me. I wanted to hold myself accountable every morning to meet with God. One way I figured to make that more meaningful and permanent was to start “Shadow.” It began as a daily blog based on New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. But after a year I felt that had run its course so I refocused. It became more of a hodge podge of daily devotional thoughts gleaned during my QT. I’ve actually had Ryan (techgeek) pull out this year’s worth of devos that I may look into editing and seeing about publishing them as a daily devotion. Who knows? I have no visions of grandeur of being a great writer, the next Max Lucado. But its hard when you have one very consistent daily reader and commenter, and a few others here and there to get over the “ego slam” to feel as though the time involved is worth it. I’ve decided it is-not because I’m all that and more- but because I need the daily discipline of a QT this gives me. So I’m going to continue with “Shadow,” if for no other reason than for me.

But some changes are in the air. Since the early 2000s (2001 to be exact), I have 99% of the time exclusively used the ESV translation. I have read the whole Bible several times. I cannot tell you how many times I have read through the NT. I’m making a change this year. As I’ve watched Pastors Chuck Swindoll and Greg Laurie use the NLT, I decided to give it a try this year. I bought an inexpensive faux-leather Large Print edition to use with a goal to read through the NT several times this year. Ironically, someone in the church blessed me this Christmas with a One Year “Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional.” Guess what translation it uses? You guessed it: NLT. I’m also planning to use Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff as a side read. And finally, this past Fall I purchased Unfolding Grace-40 Guided Readings through the Bible and the accompanying Study Guide. It uses the ESV. I’ve looked it over and plan to do one guided reading a week.

And there you have it. With that being said, this will be my last post here until Monday, January 4. Covid has wiped out my normal scheduled routine and so I don’t want the added pressure of feeling like I “have to write a Shadow blog.” Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. (You deserve a medal. If you don’t want a medal treat yourself to a Diet Dr. Pepper or whatever your poison is…within reason of course). Thank you for reading my “Shadow” blog. Lord willing, I will see you Monday, January 4, 2021 with my first post of the new year. I love and appreciate all of you.

November 30

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Stop! Don’t let it get away!! It’s November 30th-four days after Thanksgiving Day 2020 (and who wouldn’t like to forget this year?) – and you have already (probably) shifted modes from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Thanksgiving buzzed by like a speeding Ferrari on a long stretch of lonely, open road. It flashed before our eyes like a strobe light then was gone. Thanksgiving is-to most people-a blip.  A speed bump. A forgotten holiday. I remember as a youngster we would make our way to church on Thanksgiving Day morning. The whole family. We would sing gratitude songs. The pastor would speak. We would pray. Then go home while mom would finish preparing our meal and we waited for Grandma and Grandad to come over. It was a fun time.

We savored the day. We ate. We slowed down. We ate.  We sat at a big table…all 7 of us. We ate. We laughed. We ate. We watched NO football on our black and white TV.  And did I say we ate?

No more. Today is a blip between Halloween and Christmas. It is not commercialized like the other two. What are they going to hype? Pilgrim outfits? Turkey feet? A fake neck comb? Nope. Stores are stocking Christmas stuff as they are taking down the Halloween candy and costumes off the shelves. No space empty there for long.

So before you move on: did you take time for counting your blessings? More importantly: are you still counting them? While shelves may change, our hearts should not.

“Father, help me to live and breathe a heart of gratitude and not let it go the way of Thanksgiving Day.”

November 17

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

I love music! I don’t sing very well but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying music. I’ve been asked from time to time if I play a musical instrument since I like music so much. I say, “No. But I play a mean stereo.” (How’s that for a throwback word? How long since you heard that word?) Anyway, the psalms are filled with…well…songs. Here are just a few:

  • “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (23:1)
  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (27:1)
  • “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (51:1)
  • “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (51:10)  {Cue Keith Green}
  • “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (91:1)
  • “He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.” (103:12)

Needing security. Needing courage. Needing reassurance. Needing a fresh start. Needing His presence. Those psalms are music to my ears. And they don’t even rely on a trained musical ear or a voice like a bird. Just a good ear sensitive to the Spirit’s song and good eyes to see the notes.

I’m wondering: do you have a favorite song (psalm)?

“Father, give me ears to hear and eyes to see.”

October 9

Friday, October 9th, 2020

I turn 68 years old today. (Don’t applaud just throw money! 🙂 You can also throw in a shock emoji here). I was officially ordained on April 13, 1975, my late mother’s birthday. I could think of no better way to honor the one person more responsible for my faith walk (other than my grandfather) than her. So that means for 45 years I have been “officially” a pastor. But I have been preaching since the end of my Sophomore year in college (1972).  I’m not sure that little church in Irvine, KY ever fully recovered. Being a pastor has been all I have wanted to do (except play professional baseball or basketball.  But there was a huge roadblock to both. It’s called talent). 🙂

But it is time for a heart check. After reading 2 Cor. 2:17 I got reflective. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” That verse led me back to I Cor. 2:1-5. (I encourage you to look it up or click on the link). It’s time for a heart-to-heart check with myself. Here are some thoughts based on the Scriptures:

  1. The word peddle used in 2 Cor. 2:17 means “to corrupt” in the Greek. It came to refer to corrupt hucksters, or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product. We would call them “cheap knock-offs.” It reminds me of the street vendors who sell “cheapies” that look original. People think they are getting an original but…nope. Fooled you!! This is a picture of a false teacher who worms his/her way in only to spew rank heresy couched in spiritual language. 
  2. Good language, perfect speech, even high falootin’ words cannot resuce a wrong message. I was visiting a couple Wednesday and was told that she really appreciated my sermon from this past Sunday on “What about Doubt?” She explained why and I cried inside that she lived so many years with inside turmoil. Our conversation went on and I commented how someone had said he didn’t think they (as a couple) would stay at OVCF (they came from a very strict, traditional church) because of our music. They both said, “Well, we don’t know the songs…although we are learning them…and do miss the hymns, but we stay because of the Word.  We hear the Word being preached.”  Is a pastor allowed to feel good? Proud…but not the bad kind? At peace? A sense of “I-did-okay?” I sure hope so because, to be honest, I felt validated. I hope that’s not wrong. I suspect if it is then God will bring me down a peg or two. 🙂 In a time of questions and evaluation, it was good to hear God say through them, “Good job.” I am humbled and eternally grateful that God chose me to do this.

I have no idea how much time I have left (who does?) but I do know this: as long as God gives me breath and as long as He gives me good health, I want to be found guilty of preaching the foolishness of the cross. I want to point people to the cross. For as long as I can remember my brother, Rob, has always signed his letter using Gal.6:14- “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” May that tribe increase.

And those are my ending words to this devotion/reflection.

September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

August 28

Friday, August 28th, 2020

I read another devotion book that got me thinking. It was on friendship. It began with a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Friendship is a sheltering tree

The writer (Chuck Swindoll) gave the example of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was burnt out and discouraged and just wanted to give up. Elisha stood with him and fortified him. He became Elijah’s sheltering tree.

So I began thinking about my friends-men who have “been there” for me. Like:

  • Doug- my friend since college (that’s early 70s if you wonder). We have laughed so hard our sides have hurt; prayed with each other; consulted for wisdom with each other (I was short on that); told secrets to each other; cried together over the death of his father and son; worked on projects together; driven to each other’s house; attended conferences together; had multiple lunches together. We still get together 3/4 times per year for lunch (we meet 1/2 way). No dearer friend do I have than him.
  • Jim- we started out cycling together after we met in the 90s. His availability changed when his job demanded more time, but we still rode together as often as we could, often on weekends. But our friendship didn’t end with my move from Indiana to Ohio and now back. It continued and still does-over 25+ years later. We get together for lunch when we can. His 2+ year struggle with prostate cancer and even his winter in Colorado working (because it was a bucket list thing for him and he loves to ski) only deepened our friendship.
  • Those are my closest two friends. I’ve had others along the way who were sheltering trees, albeit temporarily. Some are gone-moved into heaven or on to another life. Some, sadly, are no longer in the picture.

But I am grateful for every friend I have had. I’ve even had a few online friends who have encouraged me with their words! And we have never met except via computer or phone. I once told someone: “I’m an extrovert so I know a lot of people-some I talk to; some I call friend. They are rare and few and far between. I take none for granted.”

How about you? Are you a friend? Do you have friends? Don’t take them for granted.

“Father, help me to be a friend as much as I want friends. Help me to be someone’s sheltering tree.”

July 27

Monday, July 27th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every

erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I also posted this on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.  I invite you to check it out here.

July 22-23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

We were in Ohio watching our grandson play his last baseball game on Tuesday night. After having breakfast at IHOP with him (he loves french toast with extra powder but no syrup) yesterday morning, we made our way home. I wrote this on the morning of the 22nd in the hotel room so I wanted to share it with you and post it as a two-day devotion.  Here were my thoughts on the morning of the 22nd:

It has been an up and down season for the team as they weren’t allowed to practice and then had 3 practices before their first game. Last night I saw exemplified a trait in all the boys that I believe is worth mentioning. Braden especially has this trait.

There is a saying attributed to Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  A similar phrase: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” has a connection to opera and was believed to be first used in 1976 by a reporter named Ralph Carpenter. Both phrases mean virtually the same: A person/team should never assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches the end, because circumstances can change.  It is used in athletics to say, “Never quit. The game isn’t over until the final out or the gun sounds or however a sporting event ends.”

I saw that last night. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and the game looked hopelessly out of reach. But B’s team scored 4 runs to make it 11-7. Unfortunately, the other team scored 4 runs in their top half of the 7th. But with 2 outs our team struck again. A hit. Braden got another hit. Next thing we knew 3 or 4 more runs scored. Even the final out of the inning was a ground ball that the player ran all-out to first in an attempt to beat it out, but he was thrown out. Heart-breaking? Yes. But go down fighting? No shame in that.

I see a parallel in our walk with Christ. We are in a battle and our enemy may have us down for the count. All hope seems lost. But Jesus doesn’t want us to quit. It’s not over until the trumpet blares. Don’t quit. To borrow Yogi’s phrase: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

“Father, help me not to give up, to throw in the towel. You are my hope and strength.”

July 20

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Have you ever played the “If only” game?  I suspect we all have.

  • If only I had married someone different.
  • If only I hadn’t had that first drink or that first smoke or that first snort. 
  • If only I hadn’t bought that item.
  • If only I hadn’t let my responsibility slide.
  • If only my list would end. 🙂

Yeah, I suspect we have all had those moments of regret. Martha had a case of the “if onlys” when Jesus finally arrived on the scene in Bethany. Lazarus had already died and Martha looked at Jesus and said, “If only you had been here my brother would not have died.”

The problem with our “if onlys” is we tend to look at them from the worldly perspective. We see the here and now. We see the consequences of a choice we made years ago. I recently read the memoir of Jonathan Cain, a member of the rock group Journey. By his own admission his double life came back to haunt him in the breakup of his second marriage to his children’s mother. The consequences of choices made and actions taken broke up his marriage. That’s a perfect time to say “if only.”

As hard as it is we must move on from the “if onlys.” I know for some that is harder than for others. But if we don’t, we will forever live with regret. What happened can’t be changed. What can be changed is our response to our choices and the ensuing actions. We can forever be a slave to them or we can choose to be free.

“Father, I can’t change the ‘if onlys’ in my past. But I can change-with your help-how it affects me. Help me to overcome those regrets from my past.”

June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”