Thanksgiving

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April 29

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Peace…in spite of.

Have you ever wondered what makes some people be as “calm as a cucumber” while others are frazzled to the bone with the same situation?

How can some be relaxed while others can’t stop wringing their hands?

How come the first move of some is to run to the doctor for a med at the first sign of stress while for others the first response is to drop to their knees in prayer? (Please don’t take that as me saying I’m against meds that serve a purpose).

Much has been made of the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent on circumstances; joy is in spite of the circumstances.

Peace is the same. There is a settledness, a peace that some people have in spite of their circumstances. There is a well-told story about a lawyer named Horatio Spafford. He, his wife, and four children had booked a passage to Europe for a much-needed vacation, but at the last minute something came up that required his immediate attention. He sent his family ahead with the intention of joining them as soon as possible. The ship collided with another and sunk and only his wife survived. She sent a wire to him: “Saved alone.” In his grief, he booked the next passage to meet up with his wife. When they came to the spot of the shipwreck, the captain pointed it out to him. Mr. Spafford penned these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say/’It is well. It is well with my soul.'”

What kind of peace could lead Mr. Spafford to pen those words when his heart is breaking? A peace that is not dependent on circumstances. That kind of peace comes from the ONE who is bigger than the circumstances. Jesus once said, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” That’s the kind of peace I want. How about you?

November 22

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023

Throughout the month of November, I have been encouraging the people of the church I pastor to take time to be truly thankful. Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I will not be posting until Monday (unless I get a wild hair to do so), I thought I would do what I have encouraged them to do and write down some things I am grateful for. This list is by no means exhaustive. It is a starting point, maybe a guide for you as well.

*For the God who loved me and continues to love me; sent His Son to die for me; gave His Spirit to live in me; promised the return of His Son; and for all He has given me, I give the highest praise of all. Words fail to adequately express my gratitude.

*For my wife of 50+ years who has stuck with me through all kinds of stuff. I don’t deserve her.Thank you for doing life with me.

*For my two adult daughters who call me “Dad,” the loftiest word in the English language. They continually bless my life with their love and presence.

*For Braden, my one and only grandson, who is forging his way in life, in sports, and in the world. May he always know how proud Grandpa is of him (even though as a 17 year old he now finds other things more important than sitting on Grandpa’s lap and watching Transformers movies). 🙂

*For the church family called Owen Valley Christian Fellowship (OVCF) I am honored to pastor. I started my 19th year this past Sunday. To say how truly blessed and grateful I am to be their pastor cannot be expressed. I pray the Gospel is preached; Jesus is Honored; Grace is offered; Lives are Changed; and Obedience is Encouraged. I truly hope that those who find their way to OVCF can say, “I’m home.”

*For you who read “Shadow.” Thanks. Blogging is not what it used to be in popularity or influence. Life changes. But each day I journal during my Encounter Time at my kitchen table before anyone stirs (maybe even the mice if there are any). 🙂 As I journal, I write my thoughts and musings which become my daily posts here at “Shadow.” Each day you get to read my heart and mind. How scary is that? 🙂 I do hope these devotions spark a desire in you to know Jesus deeper, and to face life in His strength. Selfishly, I wish more would read, but I’m thankful to you for reading. And, of course, it is all up to Him as to what happens with “Shadow.”

Have a grateful Thanksgiving my friends. May you truly find much to be grateful for.

#JustDoIt!

Friday, November 17th, 2023

Victory

There is a profound difference between thankfulness as a concept and thankfulness as a practice. This is true in so many ways. Take, for example, car companies. Every year they have a grand extravaganza of a car show.  Included in this show are “concept cars.” Cars of the future. Cars that are dreams of people. But in most cases, they remain concepts. I’ve seen some wild ideas that are just that…ideas. How much more practical to reveal a car that is a reality.

Think for a moment about gratitude. People who think rightly about God’s provision are thankful, and rightly so. And they say so. Thankers (that is not a word according to spell check) feel something because their gratitude is felt, sometimes deeply. We may stumble on words or how to express our thanks (like when we are put on the spot in a crowd), but we have this overwhelming sense of gratitude for what we have received.

This week I am continuing my series on More Than a Holiday by talking about “we have been blessed to bless others.” There is no better way to say thanks than to pass along that thanks by doing something for others. So, after a look at the 10 lepers in Luke 17 we will be going to James 2 and try to put a “handle” on some practical ways to show gratitude.

Join us in person if you are able. If not, please watch our live stream. We meet at 9:00 and 10:45. I look forward to seeing you or hearing you were watching.

#Let’sCompare!

Friday, November 10th, 2023

Victory

The story is told that Oliver Cromwell, an English statesman and widely considered one of the most important figures in the history of the British Isles, coined the phrase “warts and all.” Pictures show him with a very prominent wart between his lower lip and chin. When he was given the title of Lord Protector, it required a portrait be painted of him.  He refused to sit for the portrait unless the painter, Peter Lely, painted him “wart and all.”

The truth is that many of us don’t want to be seen as we are. We want the warts to be hidden.  For us to know what a thankful heart should look like, we have to be open and honest and openly picture it, even it makes us feel uncomfortable. 

Sunday morning, after finding out what a thankful heart should look like, I plan to run a comparison of a thankful heart vs. an ungrateful one. This time, for this purpose, it will be good to compare. Sunday morning I am continuing my series More Than a Holiday as I look at Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, with that theme in mind. So…what does a grateful heart look like? And are some of the negative results of an ungrateful heart?

Please join me Sunday at 9:00 & 10:45 either in person or via live stream.  I would love to see you and meet you in person if possible. If not, let me know you are watching and I will try to contact you. Have a great and grateful weekend.

November 6

Monday, November 6th, 2023

I started a new sermon series yesterday which is planned for the months of November and December. I’m calling it More Than a Holiday. My original plan was just to use that idea in November but once I really started thinking about it my rationale became clear and simple: those two months carry two of the “Big 3” holidays (the other obviously Easter). Tragically, those two special days have also become “taken-for-granted” holidays. Possibly none more than Thanksgiving.

I think a quick quiz will show that. One question. Word association. “Thanksgiving.”

Answers: Turkey. Family. Football. Time off work (for some). Holiday.

How many in our culture today would say, “Gratitude”? Or something like, “It is stopping the wheel in the mouse cage for a time of slow down and thankfulness”?

Not very many, if any, I’m afraid. That includes those of us who follow Jesus. we often get just as caught up in the rat race as our non-following counterparts.

Thanksgiving should not be a forgotten part of our lives. It changes us. It transforms us. It makes a difference in how we act; how we perceive life; and how others perceive us.  Here is something I wrote for my sermon and used it as part of my conclusion before reading Psalm 75:1 and Psalm 67. 

Gratitude changes our perspective. It changes our altitude (how we look at things). It changes our whole outlook. We go from pouting to praise. We go from grumbling to gratitude. We go from pessimism to optimism. We go from looking down to looking up. We go from griping to grinning. Gratitude helps us hold on to hope. We see from the past that God was good; we can see into the future with hope, knowing God is good.

Start this month determined to make gratitude more than a holiday event but a daily practice.

October 24

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

Well they say to expect the unexpected. We hit just that. After getting all our ducks in a row (or so we thought) we were ready to take Vicki to her surgery. Only one problem-one huge problem-someone forgot to tell her to cooperate. She gets dialysis three times a week-M,W, F-which tires her out. When we got there she had eaten and was heading to her bed for a nap when they told her she wasn’t going today. She was being taken to an eye doctor. It was all they could do to get her into the wheelchair to get her outside. Then came the impossible part: transferring her to my vehicle. Finally the PT said, “Ain’t going to happen.” So the surgery was postponed. We took her back to her room then made the decision to leave Sandusky and go back to Columbus to stay the night. Fortunately, the hotel released us from the night’s charge and we came here where the hotel is more expensive. But it is what it is. We will return home tomorrow with a much shorter drive. Many of you said you were praying for us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This is gut-wrenching for Jo to watch her sister lose sense of everything. She knows no one, especially us. Before I left I went in and woke her up to tell her who I was and that were loved her. She stirred and smiled and said some unintelligible words. But I’m banking on her hearing and knowing.

Psalm 91:1-2 says, “One who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will lodge in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’”

That is a promise to hold onto. It is good in good times and bad times; tough times or easy times; strained or relaxed. May those words from The Word be a balm to your soul.

October 16

Monday, October 16th, 2023

“While there is breath, there is hope.”

I read that this morning. How appropriate. This past weekend we (Jo, Tami and I) traveled to Ohio to see our daughter/sister, Janna, and our grandson/nephew, Braden. While there we received a call (Thursday) from the dialysis center that Jo’s sister, who is in a nursing home with diabetes, dementia, and other maladies, had suffered what they thought was angonal breathing (Google it). They took her to the ER and admitted her. From that point we were 2+ hours away. From our home in Indiana we are 6-7+ hours away. Long story short, they believe she actually had some type of seizure and then admitted her that night to the ICU with another one. We received word yesterday afternoon (Sunday) they were releasing her to the nursing home.

“While there is still breath, there is hope.”

Vicki has lived a long life (74 years). Not so a 5 year old boy named John (named changed). John has had a glioblastoma since sometime in 2022. (Sorry the exact date escapes me). Long past the expected lifespan, John continues to fight as do his parents and doctors. As do I. Only my fight is the prayer version. I will pray until John breathes his last breath…or me. It would thrill me if my last breath was before his.

What a testimony it would be if John was healed. Only God knows, of course. Only God decides when each of us will die. He does not heal everyone, least not physically here on earth. But He has promised a great retirement plan for those who love Him, and especially children. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your  book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (ESV). Our days are known only to Him.

“While there is breath, there is hope.”

Thank you to Lori Hatcher. That statement was from her book Refresh Your Hope published by Our Daily Bread.

October 12

Thursday, October 12th, 2023

We jokingly talk about, how as a person gets older, forgetting seems to be part of the equation. As we age, our memories aren’t as good. We don’t remember names and faces like we used to. Memorizing sentences, speeches, verses, directions (you name it), just doesn’t go as smoothly as it used to…if at all.  I used to never forget a name and a face. Now I’m good enough to remember my own name, and the face staring back at me in the mirror doesn’t look like I remembered. 🙂  I also used to memorize my sermons and then graduated to a very minimal outline. COVID and age changed that!

I’m sure we have all heard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The original bill establishing the Tomb was in 1921 in remembrance of the unknown soldiers who fought in WWI and were buried on the battlefield, often where they fell.  In 1956 President Eisenhower signed a bill to pay tribute to soldiers who died from WWII and the Korean War.  The tombstone reads, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” That tomb has remained guarded at all times, in all kinds of weather 24/7/365 since 1937. On April 6, 1948 the Third US Infantry Regiment took over the task of guarding the Tomb.

In Psalm 78, the psalmist is reminding the people of Israel of all God has done for them and that they must not forget. He recounts the goodness of God because, as we all know, it is easy to forget. I realize Thanksgiving is still over a month away, but why not start now remembering all of God’s goodness to you/me over the year?

In fact, why did you/I ever stop?

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Jo, Tami, and I are leaving this morning for a quick trip to Ohio to see our family. We will be returning on Saturday. Prayers for our safety would be appreciated. I will respond to comments as I have time (and Wifi). Have a great weekend.

September 12

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

A further recollection of 9/11…only this one comes later…one year later.

I was still the pastor of a church in Sandusky, OH. As 9/11 approached, I knew the memory was still very real. I had befriended several other pastors and met with them on a monthly basis for laughter and mutual encouragement and prayer. I lived in a small town outside of Sandusky and had become acquainted with a law enforcement officer or two (not from disobeying the law). 🙂 Some of the other pastors had communication with LEOs and firefighters. So we decided to have a memorial service, which included some singing, short recollections, and honoring the men and women in attendance who were, what are now called “front line workers.” Standing on the stage with me were pastors of various churches, various colors, various races, and various nationalities. There was no distinction based on race, color, or creed.

There is a reason for that. When tragedy or hardship strikes, it knows no boundaries. It doesn’t say, “I’m just going to bother white people this time.” As a matter of fact, did AIDS just visit one class of people? COVID? Does discrimination? The answer, of course, is a big resounding NO.

We used a school auditorium for that one year anniversary of 9/11. It was packed! Year #2 not so. Much of the cooperation was also gone. Not because of animosity, but because life moves on. It happens. The pastors still met for prayer, laughter and mutual encouragement. But, in some way, the collective remembrance stopped. For me, 9/11 always brings a time of silence, of gratitude for others, and a renewed sense of living in a flawed, but still-the-best-country to live in.

I still sing “God Bless America” when I hear it (mostly under my breath because my singing acumen has much to be desired). 🙂 🙂 But I pray more that America will bless God, that we will repent and return to the ONE who controls all things and heal our land.

August 10

Thursday, August 10th, 2023

Recently, I witnessed a healing. No, not the kind you are probably thinking (although I wish I could in this case). Here’s the story:

In the past, Person B listened to the voices of others and told me to leave Person A as a friend and as a pastor.  He then turned his “guns” on Person A. He continued listening to the voices and sought changes which did not happen. A resignation happened and the “guns” were taken up by another. Meanwhile one of the voices was pretty much out of the picture. Again, changes didn’t happen and another abandonment happened.

In the meantime, Person B has come on hard physical times. Devastating actually. As Person B’s pastor, I made the conscious decision to forgive and made countless visits-many of them hours away-to minister and to bring healing. I truly believe God has been faithful in bringing the latter.

But what about Person A?

I make weekly visits to Person B to encourage, to pray, to laugh with, to offer communion (something he misses since we offer it weekly), and to share the amazing healing power of God in a relationship. My love for Person B and his family is real and I want them to know that.  I want him to know that.  In my visits I sometimes take others, friends from his past, to visit and hopefully encourage and let him know he is not forgotten. And to offer hope. I decided-with the wife’s blessing-to bring Person A with me some day. I saw God work!! Now, whether Person B even remembered the past I don’t know-such is his memory. But I saw Person A engage with Person B and his wife and offer some vital help where they have been stymied before.  What a phenomenal gift it would be if Person A can pull off the help he has offered!! I can’t speak for Person B’s feelings, although he did get emotional when Person A told him that he and his wife were praying for him. Person B’s wife, I think, was simply relieved someone was going to do something.

Mention healing and our immediate thoughts go to someone physically healed. Rarely do we think of emotional healing or relational healing. I witnessed both, especially in Person A. Personally? I think being witness to the relational healing does more good to my soul than all the physical healings I have seen God do (and I’m not speaking of the showy, TV, made up kind).

Somewhere angels were rejoicing, and the Father was smiling, as they witnessed “Forgive as you have been forgiven” come alive. I know I am.