Thanksgiving

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July 24

Monday, July 24th, 2023

I’m sure you have heard or used the phrase, “Man, it looks like you got up on the wrong side of the bed.” That, of course, is not a compliment nor should it  be taken literally. That is a trite way of saying that the person is in a rotten mood and might want to start all over.

But…have you ever had the opposite? Everything is cranking on all cylinders. Your day clicked. You had a really good day. You laughed with people. You got lots of hugs from little people and big people.  You rejoiced at the good news someone received. You dined with people who were fun to be with and had two children who were mercurial-they cried at one point and then had smiles to melt your heart. You then had a productive office time. All was good until…

Something happened which ruined your mood.

That was me yesterday. Let me just put it into one word: c.o.m.p.u.t.e.r.

‘Nuff said? Over an hour’s worth of hard work. Gone in one stroke. Yeah…I was not a happy camper. An effort to ease the looming pressure of the coming week…gone. Needless to say, my mood changed in a heartbeat. Frustrated beyond belief, I quickly did some physical stuff which needed done and then closed up shop and went home. Even this morning as I sit here writing this and contemplate getting back to that document-once completed but now only partially so-I can sense the irritation.

I have a choice to make: let it be said I either got up on the wrong side of the bed OR I wiped it off the map, hitched up my britches, and got back to work.

I’ve already made my choice. I chose last night to spend the evening in conversation and laughter with my wife and daughter. I chose to spend part of the time texting with folks who just needed an ear and some encouragement, or to share in their joy. And I choose this morning to pick up that document and finish it, maybe even better than it was before. I refuse to allow it to ruin my day or start my week off on the wrong foot (or the wrong side of the bed).

What do you do when you day goes sideways?

July 20

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

A blogging friend of mine, Pam Williams, is an insightful and engaging writer, as well as a pastor’s wife. She and her husband, Dick, “retired” from full-time ministry. Dick and Pam are close to my age and several years ago he decided to retire from being a full-time pastor in the Methodist church. So he thought. He has recently been asked to serve as the interim pastor of First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg, PA. You can read all about it here.  Pam is a long-time blogger…longer than me (my first blog was 2/08). Her most recent post (you can read it here) is called “Examples to Follow” and it really made me travel back through time. Please take a moment and read her short post then come back here to see my  time travel thoughts.

In my comment to her I wrote about 3 specific people:

My mother. She was primarily the one who told me and taught me about Jesus. I’m sure-although I can’t remember 🙂 – that she sang to me as she fed me and rocked me. She strived to live out her favorite song “Make Me a Blessing” from the hymn book. It was her faith that helped her survive my dad walking out after 25 years of marriage. She wasn’t perfect, just perfectly forgiven (to borrow a line from a Petra song).  It was her faith that kept her going when both her parents passed away and it was her faith that was real during her battle with a rare form of cancer that brought her to see Jesus in 2004.

My grandfather. Many were the walks to church on a Sunday, Wednesday or a Friday night (prayer meeting) when i was young. Those 3 miles were “open mic” nights when I would ask and he would listen and then answer.

Pastor Ralph White. Pastor White was a Timothy of the church I grew up in and at the retirement of our pastor after 35 years, he came to the church in Duquesne, PA, He was the pastor for about 3 1/2 years when he moved on to more fruitful and accepting territory (Johnstown, PA). He brought a renewed faith in my young heart and put a spark there to consider full-time ministry. I’m in the ministry largely because of his influence on my life.

There are more people…too numerous to mention. When one is 70 years old he has a lot of years and people to consider. I’m forever grateful for the people God brought into my life-past, present, and future.

Who has influenced you and your walk with Jesus? If they are still alive, have you thanked them?

July 12

Wednesday, July 12th, 2023

Disclaimer: longer than normal devotion.  🙂

As I sat down this morning in my familiar chair at my familiar table to have my Encounter Time (time alone with God), I had an idea for my devotion this morning. Actually two. Jo, Tami, and I went to the fair last night at the Owen County Fairgrounds. We like to walk around and see the displays, talk with the kids and vendors (least I do) and eat. We did the first two but only Tami the latter. It was like 89 degrees and I think we were all ready to find some A/C. I thought about writing about the “pride” I take in each of the church’s young people.

I also thought about writing that Ryan, our youth pastor, and his family (a family of 5)  leave today for their “Easts meets West” trip-a 4 week excursion out west with stops at many of our national parks.  Today begins his 7 week sabbatical. I was going to write about making memories and ask you to pray for their safety. (I guess I just did!) 🙂

But then I read Psalm 69 & 70 for my OT reading; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 for my NT reading and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I think common to all of us are questions like, “I wonder what’s next?” “I wonder if I’ll get through this?” “I wonder how long this will last?” “I wonder if God will show up?” My one or two word answers to those questions are “Don’t know.” “Yes.” “Don’t know.” “Yes.” I know…not very sufficient and it does seem like the easy way out, but honestly, can you give any other answers?

In Psalm 69 & 70, David seems almost mercurial. On one hand he seems in distress (69:16-18); on the other hand totally okay with it all (69:29-30, 34). He for sure knew where to go to get the help he needed (70:5).

The Apostle Paul wasn’t mercurial but confident. In verses 3-10 he gives his experiences as a follower of Jesus. In verses 8-10 he says, “Our sole defense, our only weapon, is a life of integrity, whether we meet honor or dishonor, praise or blame. Called ‘imposters’ we must be true, called ‘nobodies’ we must be in the public eye. Never far from death, yet here we are alive, always ‘going through it’ yet never ‘going under.’ We know sorrow, yet our joy is inextinguishable. We have ‘nothing to bless ourselves with’ yet we bless many others with true riches. We are penniless, and yet we possess everything.” (Phillips)

I especially like that last phrase. After writing what it looks like vs. the reality, Paul says, “We are penniless, yet possess everything.” Appearances can be deceiving on so many levels. In this case, what appears to be heartache and hardship, is not; it is instead a testimony to God’s goodness. David said it well, “But I am afflicted and in pain; let  your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (69:29,30)

What appears just might not be; the reality might be something totally different.That goes especially for those who are going through tough times and wonder if God-or anyone for that matter-cares.

July 6

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

I want to continue my thoughts from yesterday’s devotion. I wrote about listening to God, about being aware of His “voice.” But the opposite of that, or perhaps the offshoot of that is how do I know the choice I made, or the way I am going is God’s or mine? There have been many times I have pursued a path believing it was Him leading me when I found out it wasn’t. It was more my own desire or maybe desperation that led me to choose that path.

So…how can I know?  I think there may be several answers to that question.

One, is a general unrest that develops. Call it lack of peace, a sense of incompleteness, a general disgruntledness which develops. The calling isn’t there. The fit doesn’t square with the giftedness. Extreme example: someone who feels called to be a Marine working in a flower shop. I know…silly…and I’m not putting down working in a flower shop. But some people just don’t fit the square hole because they are a round peg. God’s peace is just not there. A growing dissatisfaction develops.

Two, a door is closed. I remember wanting to leave a church I was the pastor of and everything looked positive. I had had good interviews and the leader of the group said it looked good. They would be contacting me. So I waited. And waited. I found out a couple of years later that that leader was actually getting into his car to come hear me preach when he got a call from the interim pastor who said, “We aren’t interested in him anymore.” Come to find out he had his own agenda; the man he hand-picked didn’t last very long; and I didn’t go there. Less than two years later I was here at my current church. Ironically, that leader left that church to pastor another church here in town and we actually rented our first house from that church. After meeting him in person, we had lunch together and he told me the story and apologized for not calling me to tell me. He then took me to the head elder of that church and we all talked and he also apologized. Long story short: that door was closed. No…make that slammed in my face. But I’m also here today to tell you I am glad.

Third, sometimes life events happen. A sickness. A sudden change of health status of you or someone you love. A significant event with a child or spouse alters your course.

Here’s the truth though: God loves you; He loves me; and His greatest desire is that we know that and trust Him to have His will and way in our lives. He has His will. He has His way. It may be different than mine, but it is ALWAYS RIGHT AND BEST.

June 19

Monday, June 19th, 2023

I am a blessed man! Things haven’t always gone as I would have liked them to, but as I look back-just over this past weekend alone-I can see God’s hand in my life.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of men, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (ESV)

Life has taken some unexpected twists and turns over my 70.8 years, but as I look back, while I may not have the financial stability I wish I had (hindsight sure is 20/20), I can see God’s hand in my life. This past weekend reminded me of that fact.

As I watched by grandson play the game he loves (baseball), I thought back to my own dream of being a professional baseball player which never materialized for obvious reasons (one because I wasn’t good enough).  I see my life flash before my eyes as I watch him play with a dream of playing ball in college and maybe the pros. We took a 4 hour trip (one way) to watch him play 3 ballgames…and were blessed with fantastic weather the whole time.  I wonder where I would be today if God has fulfilled my childhood dream of playing baseball as a professional.

I certainly would not have celebrated 50 years of marriage (6/16) with the girl I met in college. I would not have gone to that college to pursue a life of full-time ministry as a pastor.  It only follows that had I not met Jo, I would not be the father of two daughters. Before we left for Ohio, I saw one of my daughters off to visit some friends in one city,  and then attend a conference to help her learn some new things and to become an even better teacher for her K kids (she already is a good teacher) in another city.  I had the chance to visit the other daughter, the mother of my grandson.  I have been doubly blessed with them.

This past Sunday, nine men stood before the church family and shared their hearts about a man in the Bible whom they emulate or want to be like. I’m grateful for a church that allows for variety without a bunch of hype tied to it. A simple presentation by men who stepped out of their comfort zone to speak publicly. (You can watch it on YouTube. Just type in Owen Valley Christian Fellowship-Spencer).

There are so many more I could tell you, like a simple bike ride of 17+ miles on Father’s Day which gave me the opportunity to get out and sweat and enjoy a carefree 1.5 hours. I will repeat: I am a blessed man and am grateful for the life God has given me. Once again that verse from Proverbs 19:21 plays in my mind: “Many are the plans in the mind of men, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

How about you? How have you been blessed and have you stopped to write it down so you can replay the blessings when needed?

March 13

Monday, March 13th, 2023

There is something common to us all-rich or poor, black or white, single or married, famous or not so. We all are good at

COMPLAINING

Here in Indiana we had a wonderful February. Sunny, even somewhat balmy weather. No white stuff falling, but plenty of sun. A little rain. Okay…a lot at times. Somewhat windy. Temps hovering near the 50s for the whole month. I even rode my bike outside on a 70 degree day! Keep in mind that was February. And did I mention there was no white stuff falling? 

I determined years ago to never complain about the weather. I have nothing to do with it and have absolutely no way to change it anyway, so I might as well accept it and live with it.

I often quipped during February’s aaaaah factor, “My fear is March will be what February was supposed to be.” Guess what? So far, except for a handful of days, I have been wrong! 🙂  However, not so much the past few.  No white stuff has fallen to amount to anything but the temps have turned. There is one common thing though:

COMPLAINING

It seems we are never, or have trouble, being satisfied. The more we complain the more miserable we get. The antidote?

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

That is not just a religious thing; it is a life thing.  Being thankful for what we have changes things, especially our perspective. Nothing good ever comes out of bemoaning what you don’t have, or even bemoaning your lot in life. 

If you want to beat the blahs; if you want to beat the wear-down that comes from complaining, take time out to count all you have been blessed with. Keep a journal. State your blessings out loud. Make a point each day to be grateful. Catalog your blessings by zeroing in on them.

COUNT NOT COMPLAIN.

February 7

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

We have been asked/commanded in the Scripture to do two things: Love God supremely and to Love Others genuinely. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 22:37-39.

We seem to work hard at getting that first one down pat because it is so important. We see loving God as the top thing we are to do…and that is absolutely, 100% true.  So we try to invest time in that-reading the Bible, praying, worshiping.

It’s the loving others that sometimes get a little bit “sticky.” Let’s face it: sometimes our relationship with others is like two porcupines trying to get close. They might be able to but it sure is a prickly situation.

So, what does it mean to love genuinely? We could say, “Be patient.” “Be forgiving.” “Be accepting.” “Be kind.” “Be considerate.”

How about this? “Be generous.” We can set an example of Jesus in us by being generous. Not stingy. Not self-absorbed.

Let’s expand on that for a moment. The Bible speaks of those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you get a moment, check out I Tim.6:17-18. Not all of us are wealthy (I’m certainly not), but hoarding, for example, is never seen as a virtue. Even if we are not wealthy, God has called us to radical generosity. Case in point: tipping at a restaurant. I know a couple who never left a tip. Never. When I asked why they said, “Because they chose that job and knew the possibility.” And that justifies what? Maybe, at that time, that is all he/she could do, while trying to raise a child as a single mom/dad. I personally believe followers of Christ should be the most generous people, especially if they have received good service.

I know I “rabbit-trailed” it today. That sometimes happen in a mind that seem to go everywhere (and no, I am not ADHD). So…long story short: be generous. Love genuinely, even in ways that go beyond financial.

January 24

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I may be wrong in my assessment (I have been known to be wrong a time or two) 🙂 , but I think one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is practicing the Scripture which says, “Be thankful in all things.” (I Thess. 5:18)

“In everything give thanks.” Seriously? Does the Bible really say that? Does it really say to give thanks when my heart has been torn apart by a wayward child? By a health crisis? By a domestic crisis? By a financial crisis?

The short answer is Yes. Notice it does not say “Give thanks for the event/crisis.” But it does say, “Give thanks in the crisis.” Let’s substitute during for in. While the crisis is happening, or even after it, I am to give thanks.

I can remember a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. She and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and her sister told her they needed to give thanks for the fleas-the fleas that were in their hair, their clothes, their bedding. Sounded strange to Corrie until they came to realize the guards left them alone because of the fleas. They were free to have Bible studies and talk to other prisoners about Jesus because of the fleas and without fear of the guards.

Giving thanks in the situation NOT for the fleas. We are not asked to go all stoic as though nothing is bothering us. No, we are being told by Paul that while we are in the crisis, an attitude of gratitude and faith can change our perspective.

We can also see God working…even though we don’t understand. I don’t have to say, “Father, thank You for this cancer” (or whatever the crisis is), but I can pray, “Father, I thank You for Your presence and peace that is within me in spite of this crisis.”

Be thankful in all things.

November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 23

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

As I said on Monday, this will be my last post this week. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day so I’m going to take my own advice, to practice what I preach, and take time to be thankful. The church is serving a meal for the community at noon and there will be plenty of preparation leading up to that, but I still want to take the time to be thankful. For this post I want to do what I have suggested the folks at OVCF do: make a “gratitude list.” Here is mine (at least in part):

But first, I want to show you something. I just finished reading Romans 16 this morning and Paul does exactly what I have recommended we all do: make a list. Have you ever read Romans 16? You ought to right now. Hint. Hint. He lists names. Lots of them. Names I have no clue who they belong to. Some yes-Prisca and Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18. Gaius (v.23). He is mentioned in 3 John by the Apostle John. Erastus (v.23). He is mentioned in Acts. Timothy (v.21). But the others? Clueless.

But what a list! Name after name. So, I’ll take a cue from him:

  • Always at the top: my Lord Jesus. No one is like Him. No one is worthy of His praise and honor. (See Paul’s words, his benediction, in verses 25-27)
  • Jo. For almost 50 years she has stood by me. Believing in me even when I had trouble believing in myself.
  • Tami and Janna. My 2 daughters. I was blown away at their births and they still put a sparkle in my eyes.
  • Braden, my only grandchild. I marvel at God’s goodness when I think of him.  Smart (4.0 student…and I can guarantee he didn’t get it from me).  Funny. Athletic. May he always strive for the right things. (And he just passed his driver’s test yesterday. Yikes!)
  • OVCF. The church I have had the joy of pastoring the past 17 years. I started #18 this week.
  • For friends throughout the years. My life is much richer because of them. Doug, my college friend whom I still get together with upon occasion (for pizza and laughs). Jim, a past cycling buddy, who has moved away. Jim is a cancer survivor. Ryan whom I met when he and his family moved here in 2008 when they started attending OVCF. We quickly became friends and our families became “Sunday eating out” groupies. 🙂 Hardly a Sunday went by that we didn’t go out to eat together. Jo hated that! NOT! He has moved away, but not so far that we can’t see each other (and even ride bikes together).
  • For my blogging friend, Martha. Blogs are almost passe’ now, but some I still read and comment at. Martha and I have stayed in contact through our blogs for a lo-o-o-n-g time.  For other blogging friends: Linda. Gail. Glynn. Pam.
  • So many more. I could fill page after page, but I won’t bore you. 🙂

Now…it’s your turn.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. To God be all the glory, great things He has done.