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June 11

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

Truth disclosure: I am writing this on Monday afternoon.  You will see why in just a moment.

I just spent an incredible couple of hours with some inspiring people. I met Gavin probably close to 10 years or so ago at the Y.  Just a few days prior to that he had just lost his sister when a box truck mowed her down while cycling.  Until then I did not know him or his sister.

Fast forward to the middle of 2023 and in walk Gavin, Jenna and their children to a church service. I knew they were going to another church and my philosophy/policy is never to be accused of being a “sheep stealer.” They were accompanied by their other children who immediately went to our children’s department and loved it! In their arms was a little girl they named Gigi. Oh, I forgot to tell you that they have three biological children (all boys), adopted two children they had fostered, were fostering another cute little girl and were also fostering Gigi. The one was given back to mom within the past month, but Gigi was a special child. In more ways than one. She is one of most smiling children I have ever seen with the brightest blue eyes you will lay eyes on (pun intended). Those bright blue eyes have a special trait which identifies her as a child with Williams Syndrome (I encourage you to look it up on your own).  Thanks to Jenna’s fighting for her, Gigi was given a fighting chance to live. And live she does! She is two years old now-a little small for her age but quickly developing a personality all her own and slowly learning to walk and talk. When Gavin and Jenna began attending the church I pastor (Owen Valley Christian Fellowship) we immediately began praying for her and for them.

This morning at 10:00, Gigi officially became Gloria Jane (_____). “Gloria” because she is a light to the world. “Jane” because that is her birth mother’s middle name. What a joy it was to be there and to witness the love they have for her, but also her sibling’s love for her. They asked if I would support them in prayer since Gavin’s mother, who is a medical doctor and the pastor of a local church, could not be there. I was honored to do so. And then I noticed she was able to make it and whether they had asked or not, I would have gladly stepped aside for her to pray. Afterwards, Jo and I were invited to a cookout at their house. It was fun meeting some of their friends and extended family.

Gavin and Jenna are perfect examples of Christ-followers who feel about children the way Jesus feels. There is no doubt that Jesus had a warm, tender heart toward children that knew no bounds. The way we treat children today has to truly break His heart. To see children thrown away as unwanted has to make Him cringe. And weep. To see them abused and mistreated surely makes His blood boil. Thank you Gavin and Jenna for showing Jesus by loving children and making them your own.  I’m glad I was able to be a witness to this act of love.

June 10

Monday, June 10th, 2024

This past Friday I received a text from someone who was passing something along to me.  As soon as I read it I thought it would  be good to share with you:

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? “Because some bumped into me!!”

Wrong answer.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.  Had there been tea in your cup, you would have spilled tea.

Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.

So we have to ask ourselves…”What’s in my cup?” 

When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratitude, peace and humility? Anger, bitterness, victim mentality and quitting-tendencies?

Life provides a cup, YOU choose how to fill it.

Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, resilience, positivity; and kindness, gentleness and love for others.

As the person who sent this to me said: “I love this analogy!”  I would agree.  The Scriptures back up this analogy. “Live by the Spirit,” Paul writes in Galatians 5:25. That follows his description of a life of the flesh versus the life of the Spirit.  “Be filled with the Spirit,” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18.  Jesus spoke about how a person speaks from the overflow of his/her heart. 

So the question remains: If you are shaken, what will spill out?

June 5

Wednesday, June 5th, 2024

One of the hardest things for most of us to do, i.e. yours truly, is to surrender. Coming in first is so ingrained in us that coming in second is not seen as an option. Athletes are taught to win and most often, win at all costs. I have no doubt that type of thinking is behind the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). We want to win! No, we HAVE to win!

This battle doesn’t even have to play out on the baseball field or basketball court or at an Olympic event. It can be seen in the classroom. A home. While driving (can anyone say road rage?). Even a store. It is seen in a battle of wills. “I will not bend to your rules.” Is that not what temper tantrums are all about? I was in a grocery story last week and I saw this fleshed out in front of me. I watched a mother and son battle it out. He could not have been older than 3.  He wanted. She said no. He still wanted and she still said no. He knocked things off the shelf in defiance. She bent to pick them up. He took off with the cart and she went after him. I saw some fire in her eyes. (I also know the solution to that but I’m guessing that would not have been a good time to tell her. 🙂 ). I wonder if she was trying gentle parenting? Aaaah but that is a story for another time.

In Genesis 32 (take a moment to read verses 22-32) we have a titanic-type battle-a wrestling match between Jacob and God. What a classic story worth taking a closer look at. Perhaps tomorrow.

Until then, yours and my best reaction to the battle of wills is surrender. To stop fighting God for supremacy. Jacob was a head-strong, conniving, devious man. That’s the story of his whole life up until the wrestling match. Only a surrender to God will change that.

Sounds familiar.  

June 4

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024

Have you ever met someone whom you then know for years and don’t realize the impact you both have on each other? That is what happened to me back around 2006. One of the women in the church I pastor had a grandmother in a local nursing home. One day I went to visit her and in the process met her daughter. Her name was Carole.

Today, I have the privilege of conducting Carole’s funeral. Over the years my friendship with Carole deepened. I was there when her mother passed. I was there when her husband suffered from Parkinson’s and dementia and then passed. She attended another church in another town but that didn’t matter. After her husband of 50+ years passed, she began attending the church I pastor with her daughter and son-in-law. She was more traditional (hymns, suits and ties, etc) but she came anyway, until her health wouldn’t allow her. But I went to visit her in her home and would laugh and chat with her, and pray with her before I left. The past year or so had been one of excruciating pain and virtually being home bound, but she still had joy. (She made sure, even in the Hospice House bed, that we knew that before she became non-communicative).

Last Friday morning Carole met Jesus. I am convinced He met her with open arms. I suspect standing beside Him was her husband and her mother as part of the welcoming committee. Sure, there is speculation in what may actually happen, but it doesn’t matter. We can dream and speculate. But there is one truth that remains: Jesus has prepared a place for her-a mansion some call it-but I wouldn’t care if it was a shack. It’s a home in heaven.

My life is richer because of Carole. I have been told her life was richer because of me. I guess being asked to do her funeral is proof of that. 🙂  My last words to her when I left the Hospice House on Thursday (the day before her death) were “I love you Carole. I’ll see you later.”

I will.

June 3 (extra)

Monday, June 3rd, 2024

Happy Birthday Tami!

49 years ago God blessed Jo & me with a bundle of joy. When the doctor came to me to tell me that mom and baby were fine, I asked him what it was. He said, “A little girl.” I replied, “Oh.” I guess I took for granted I would have a son. 🙂  But that initial disappointment quickly dispelled when I saw you and held you. Your mom had too many tubes in her arms to hold you so I was privileged to feed you and hold you, i.e. feel like I was going to break you in half. A head full of dark hair (I think you took all of mine) and little fingers that wrapped tightly around mine sealed the deal (as if I would have changed anything). What a joy it has been to be your dad as I have watched you grow from the little baby to a sports-minded (even though it is the Braves) beautiful young lady who gave her heart to Jesus and continues to serve Him. I wouldn’t trade one second of your 49 years for any amount of money in the world.

You are not around today since you decided to take a relaxing (and much needed) vacation to TN to visit old friends and to be alone to recoup after a brutal school year full of health and professional challenges. Just know this: even though miles separate us today, love has no boundaries. I am proud of the lady you have become. The Christ-follower. The daughter. The friend to others. The teacher who truly cares about her students. The person kids love and look up to because you made them each feel important. You have a gift and I’m glad to see God is using it, because you are letting Him.

I love you. Thanks for letting me be your dad.

June 3

Monday, June 3rd, 2024

I’m sure you have noticed that we all go through different seasons in our lives. Life seems to be a series of ebbs and flows, of hills and valleys, and in my case, highs and lows, heartaches and sheer joy. As a pastor I have experienced, I think, just about every life situation. The past two weeks have been some of the wildest times of ups and downs I have ever experienced in my 50+ years of ministry. No details but simple words will tell you all you need to know: cancer, strokes, hospice then death, kids’ baseball games, kids going to church camp, a college student being baptized, disappointment over a setback on an addiction, grad parties, surgeries, a daughter’s birthday (which means I am getting older)…you get the picture.

People often ask me how I cope with all of this. My job is not a physical one like so many; mine is more mental and emotional. Two ways: on a surface level I go to the Y and ride a bike. I call those my stress relievers. On a deeper, more spiritual level I cling to verses like I read this morning: Psalm 59:16-17- “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”  Sometimes I run to Him and hold on for dear life. I cling tenaciously. Sometimes I run to Him and simply let Him love me. I can sense His arms around me. I like a quote I just read:

Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture more natural to Him is not a pointed finger but open arms. (Dane Ortlund from Gentle and Lowly quoted in Shepherding the Shepherd by Lee Eclov-p.39)

I can’t do this on my own. Neither can you. I have a place (a refuge) where I can go. Do you?

May 29

Wednesday, May 29th, 2024

Since I am leaving for Ohio shortly, I thought I would take a few moments to update you on Janna’s surgery. Thanks to all of you who prayed for her. She (and Tami) were born with my eyes. That is bad. I began wearing glasses in 4th grade and if it hadn’t been for new material coming out I would have been walking with a permanent downward look to my head. Yes, my glasses were that thick. Coke bottle thick. I wore contacts for a number of years but my vision stopped being sharp with them so I went back to glasses permanently. Then I (finally) developed cataracts which allowed me to have eye surgery and no longer need glasses! (And all the angels in heaven rejoiced with me! 🙂 ). I wear readers for up close and when I preach I wear a pair of glasses with a lens which allows me to read and look up and see people sharply instead of being a blur. I think they would prefer I not see them sitting with their eyes closed or pretending to listen.  Just kidding. I have no one in the congregation who does that!

Anyway…a little over a year or so ago Tami’s eyes got so bad she had eye surgery. They were worse than mine. Her eyeballs were shaped like footballs so the normal lens implant would not work. Now she only has to wear a thin pair of glasses to see in the distance or to drive. Janna’s eyes were bad but not as bad as mine and Tami’s. She had a lens implanted in each eye-one for distance and one for close up. She has astigmatism (courtesy of yours truly) in both eyes so the doctor said he put them in just perfectly. When she looked up (she was awake the whole time) and could read the clock, she shouted loud enough I’m thinking we could have heard her if there weren’t a number of doors between us. She immediately tested 20/40 and that will get better as her eyes and vision settle in. She goes back this morning for a one day follow-up and then Jo and I will be taking her back to Ohio. This doctor is so good he was willing to work with an eye doctor in Columbus, OH to do the other follow up visits.

Thanks again for praying for her. But the preacher in me can’t and won’t let this go. The importance of sight cannot be diminished. One of my mother’s concerns was that she would go blind. Taking away a person’s sight, while it can be overcome, is a big blow, especially if that person loves to read for example. But consider this: there are thousands of people who lack sight. Not physical sight, but spiritual sight. While they may have 20/20 visually, they are blind spiritually. The idea of sight in the Bible is a constant. Moses wanted to see God. David said, “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)  Jesus said that “He was the light of the world” and in Matthew 5:14-16 He said, “You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Light dispels darkness. Followers of Christ have the light of Jesus in them; those without Him only have darkness. Be light to someone. Show them THE LIGHT…Jesus…can take away their darkness and bring light to their life.

Again, thanks for your prayers. Thanks to Dr. Fornefeld and his amazing team at Clariti in Bloomington, IN. I highly recommend them (so much so Janna came here). Above all, I thank God for His marvelous gift of sight and for giving men and women the ability help people see better. And I pray you will know the Light of the World.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

May 28

Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

It has been a wild and wooly Memorial Day weekend. Instead of it being the laid-back-and-just-grill-a-hamburnger-or-bratwurst kind of holiday, mine was anything but laid back.  And just so you know…I am not complaining. At all. There are times in a pastor’s life where all kinds of stuff happens that takes one out of a routine.

It started Saturday when I found my Saturday being a busy one. Normally, I get up early and go to the office for 1-2 hours then head to the Y for about a 1-1 1/2 hour workout. Then after my shower I head back to the office where I study and pull things together for Sunday. Around 1 or 2:00 I normally head HOME where I relax, study, read and visit with Jo for the rest of the day. This past Saturday we had planned on attending a wedding on Saturday afternoon, but my Saturday afternoon was all different. I found myself visiting someone at the Hospice House in Bloomington and then running to the Bloomington hospital to see someone I had just found out was in. When I got HOME that afternoon it was time to eat and rest. I had told the folks that I would probably not be able to attend the wedding because of my visits and also the need to study.

Sunday seemed to go off without a hitch until the storm came through. We were done with our worship and people were milling around as the deluge hit and then the power went off. NOW THAT WAS FUN!!  Meanwhile, it is pouring like cats and dogs; people were getting soaked as they ran to their cars (even with umbrellas); and I hadn’t left the building. The rain slacked off until I decided to leave. Since I park at the back of the lot only one word can describe me. Can you say drenched?  At the same time we are expecting our daughter and her significant other to get here to drop her off for a few days. They get here and fortunately, we never lost power in town. After lunch and a short visit, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the office due to the hectic nature of this week and made my way HOME early evening.

Monday I came to the office to do my Encounter Time since Janna was sleeping in the living room and I didn’t want to wake her.  My slowed-down Monday took on a whole ‘nother dimension when I found myself going to the Hospice House again (for what may be my final visit) and then head to the hospital to visit two patients, one a new one with a stroke and an emergency surgery as a result. I finally made it HOME.

Today Janna has eye surgery with a follow up tomorrow and a trip to Ohio to take her to her home on Wednesday. Probably Thursday Jo and I will be back HOME.

You may be wondering: why the travelogue Bill? Notice the word I emphasized throughout the post. HOME. That word means different things to different people. HOME to me means a place of safety and security and love and acceptance and kindness and relaxation. A place of LOVE. Hmmmm sounds like what the church ought to be. And that is my focus these days. How can the church be a HOME? I have so much more to say and will…another time. This is already too long. But over the course of the next few weeks and months I will be sharing more of the church being a HOME.

Meanwhile, I may post tomorrow but will be out of commission until Monday. I’d appreciate your prayers for Janna’s surgery and our trip to Ohio and back.

May 23

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

“Of course I’m a responsible person!”

Perhaps you have heard the comedic exchange:

“Are you a responsible person?”

“Yes, I am. My wife tells me I’m responsible for everything that happens.”

I’m sure it isn’t quite that bad, but consider this: Do be a responsible person. Now, before you get all ballistic and huffy think this through with me.

We live in a culture today of what I will call “blame-shifters.” We would rather blame than take responsibility. In fact, Proverbs 24:12-13 is surprisingly contemporary, especially for those who want to say the Bible is an antiquated and outdated book. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’ For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul and knows you know.” (NLT) (Emphasis mine)

Shifting blame is nothing new. It is as old as…well…the Garden. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit and knew things had changed, they hid from God who had come for their daily walk. When Adam replied, “I heard you walking in the Garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

God: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I told you not to eat”

(WAIT FOR IT)

A: “It was the woman you gave me.”

G: (to Eve) “What have you done? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

(WAIT FOR IT)

E: “The serpent deceived me.”

Not a sliver of taking responsibility, bu they both were good at shifting blame. “The woman.” “The serpent.”

And we haven’t changed or stopped. We still shift blame.  “It wasn’t my fault. He or she did it.” Don’t you think it is time to start acting like men and women and assume responsibility for our actions? Growth can happen when we accept responsibility instead of pointing our finger at someone and say, “It’s his or her fault.”  Well…what do you say?

May 22

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Do any of these sound familiar?

You walk into a room to ask a question and whoever is in the room (spouse, son, daughter) is locked onto a TV screen and their fingers are moving at warp speed.

You speak to someone and they see but don’t really see you. You feel as though their eyes are looking at you but their mind is elsewhere.

You speak to someone who acts as though they didn’t hear you (because they probably didn’t). When you shake them or wave your hand in front of them or call their name they act like they awakening from a stupor.

The scenarios are multiple but the problem is the same in all…preoccupation. I’m going to go out on a limb here and saw we live in a preoccupied world. I know myself if someone comes to speak to me I have to put down what I’m reading; turn away from the computer screen; stop looking/texting on my phone; even turn and face that person in order not to be distracted and give my full attention. I was visiting someone just the other day when I asked where she wanted to talk and shey said, “Anywhere.” I told her I needed to be away from the distraction (TV) and its entertainment (a certain country female singer-who shall remain nameless-whom I have NEVER liked, even when I listened CM over 20+ years ago). Anyway…

I read of a woman who went to see her doctor with two burnt ears.

Doctor: In all my years of practice I have never seen this. How?

Woman: I was ironing (remember what that is? 🙂 ) and watching TV when someone called. I picked up the iron instead of the phone.

D: That’s horrible! But how did you burn the other ear?

W: Can you believe it? The idiot called back!

We can laugh, chuckle, and even roll our eyes, but that is the way of many of us. Preoccupied. Distracted.

Try this: next time someone comes to you wanting your attention, give it to them. Put the book down. Forget that text that just came in. Turn away from the computer. Give people what they want: your undivided attention.