Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Selection

Happy Saturday! Those who have been hanging around here for a while know that this is the day I take a blog break and recharge my blog batteries. I also take advantage of other posts I have written and share them with newer followers. Today's story comes from a couple of months ago and -- ahem -- it's still appropriate. I will follow your responses, so please join in!

When my daughter Beth wrote yesterday about Chickie's flirtation with temptation, I laughed. I've had many of those charming conversations with myself...

"Just one peek!"
"Just one more game!"
"Just one more Old Fashioned Candy Cane Creme Flavored Oreo!"

In fact, "Just one more push of the 'snooze button'" meant I had to take a college class just one more time. But that's another story.

Those temptations we flirt with? They're not all about things we consider "tantalizing." In fact, some of them are about subjects we'd never want to dwell on in our wildest imaginations.

Like our fears.

My friend Ox called me recently with an update on his wife TJ. TJ is a normally healthy mom of two rambunctious preschoolers who got a headache last week. And it hasn't gone away! Ox called to tell me about her CT Scan. They don't have the official results yet, but the techs said they didn't see anything that looked unusual.

Ox and TJ are in our Small Group and we gathered around and prayed for her on Monday night. We are concerned about her constant pain, but probably the cause is something related to muscle spasms or a pinched nerve. Still, she is being tested, which is good. What's not good is that Ox heard just today about a lady he knows -- about TJ's age -- who suddenly died of a brain tumor.

His fear is working overtime!

I understand all too well. Whatever the reason, I started worrying myself sick over meaningless symptoms when I was still in my twenties. That was about thirty years ago and I still occasionally have to re-fight the battle. I don't struggle with that fear often now, nor for very long. But I remember... I remember a doctor who told me after several needless visits that I needed to go home and quit worrying about my health. I knew he was right, but that temptation was Indescribably Delicious to my mind.

Paul, the Apostle guy, said in Philippians that we need to think on the good things. Amen! But sometimes we have to take baby steps as we are learning how.

Beth may eat a whole bag of Oreos today, but tomorrow she can cut it down to half a bag. Then, by reducing her intake a few cookies at a time, she will have conquered the temptation by Christmas (or whenever they are no longer on the shelf).

What Delicious thing do you need to overcome?

Friday, January 9, 2009

I Sat In a Funeral... another country. 20 miles from home. As I sat, I reflected.

This is a story about two farmers, four nations and a world of difference. One of the farmers, Scott, is the manager of a very large farming operation in our region of large farming operations.

Scott's fellow farmer -- and friend -- Jose knew something was missing in his life. Scott, an ardent Christian, saw Jose's need and told him about Christ.

After Jose received a new life (see Tuesday's edition), he told his family. His wife, two of his daughters, his dad and his mother followed him and gave their hearts to Christ, too.

Jose's dad, Jesus, died on Sunday at age 81. Jesus was a simple, hard-working man who wanted his family to do well. He offered them hope and sacrifice so they could receive education and opportunity. I sat in his funeral, all in Spanish. Even with my linguistic limitations, I could see the beautiful result of a life well-invested.

The story doesn't end there. Scott, the farmer from the United States, is making preparations to leave it all behind and move to Albania as a missionary.

Jose, the farmer from both Mexico and the U.S. (who manages a farm for a Japanese company), regularly travels to the Dominican be a short-term missionary.

These two men have spent their lives growing things. Increasingly, the seed they plant is the kind that will be harvested in eternity.

I know that many of you are followers of Christ. Even though your first instinct would be humility, could you share with us someone in the path of your life whom you want to influence toward God?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Have you read Psalms lately?

If you have, you may have noticed this word after a verse. Sometimes at the end of the Psalm.

Pause and think about it.


Means the same thing.

I hope you can bear with me missing a complete post today -- I was out of the country yesterday.


Tomorrow, I'll tell you a great story about it.

In the meantime...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Life Drags You Down...

...remember to jump back up!

I often tell stories about my high school German (2 years) and English (Senior year) teacher, Mrs. Hollinger. Or Frau Hollinger. Or, as she wrote it Frollinger, with an oomlaut over the "o." (If you didn't take German, sorry for the confusion.)

Frau Hollinger was also our church pianist when I was growing up. My dad was the (volunteer) music director. The sweet-spirited little lady who lived with a broken heart after her grown daughter went into a years-long coma was a total intimidator in the classroom.

She gave us our report cards with the letter grade written neatly in the appropriate box and our numerical average -- rounded to the nearest tenth -- written in tiny (and totally legible) numbers in the corner next to it. Not because of her friendship with my family, but because of her motivational skills, she may have been the best teacher I ever had. (Except Cathy, who "rules the rooster." But thats another story.)

As a young pastor, I was invited to speak at a special service taking place in the church where I grew up. I wanted to do a good job, being the returning local kid. Of all the people there that night, I especially wanted to impress one. You guessed it!

It wasn't that I wanted her to think well of me as much as wanting Frau Hollinger to know that I had learned -- really learned -- from her.

During a fellowship time after the service, I was excited for her feedback. She said I had done a good job -- yayyy -- then she got that certain look in her eyes. "Uh-oh," I thought, "Here it comes!"

"Samuel," she said, using the German pronunciation of my name. "The past tense of drag is dragged." My eyes got big. "Did I really say 'drug?'" She replied in the affirmative and quoted my exact words.

Poor Frau Hollinger. She taught me for two years of high school. She coached me numerous times as a kid and a young adult. In all that time she hadn't dragged that bad habit out of me.

Now every time I hear someone make that mistake, I think of her. I hope she notices from heaven!

What teacher most influenced you? Why?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Life Begins In The Middle...

...and works it's way out.

My writing focus recently has been about things you can do to live effectively. While each principle I have given you is -- I believe -- both true and helpful, I would be amiss if I don't tell you the most important truth I have learned.

Let's be honest with each other for a moment. No matter how we try to make life work, we frequently find ourselves in an identity crisis of sorts. Paul, the former Jewish legalist who became a passionate Jesus-follower (and wrote about half of the New Testament), put it like this...

I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. (Romans 7:19 NCV)

I understand the struggle. Don't you? Perhaps it would be easier to grasp by gazing on the theology of Rubik:

In other words, life can be a mess! How can we sort it all out? Can we sort it all out?

We can if we understand that life begins in the middle. At least, that's how Paul -- in the same passage as above -- put it.

I learned to solve the original Rubik's Cube when it was popular back in the 80s. It took a small book of instructions, but the secret lay in one simple code: the middle square on all six sides remains constant. Once the cube is made, the middle can't change. For instance, the white middle square is always directly across from the black middle square and so on. The rest of the cube must align to those middle squares.

Paul said it's the same with us when we give our heart to Jesus Christ:
For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (Romans 7:22 NASB)

In other words, no matter how jumbled up we feel -- regardless of the inconsistencies we notice in ourselves -- Christ changes the inner person. He changes us so that the deepest part of us wants to do the right thing. That becomes our "constant" when we put our faith in Christ and his payment for sins on the cross.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB)

Your life begins in the middle. It takes the power of God through His Son Jesus Christ to change your true colors.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Something To Crow About

aka My Life's Pecking Order.

Growing up on the farm has certain advantages when it comes to understand how certain -- er -- things work. That may be part of the reason I have remembered with a smile the pillow cases Cathy and I received as a wedding gift.

We think the pillow slips were cross-stitched by Cathy's paternal grandma. We are almost sure they were given to us by one of Cathy's aunts. Either way, they were part of the fun -- and the lore -- of our early years.

We did the right thing with that memorable gift: we used them. Until we used them up! They were nothing but a great memory...

...until this Christmas! I may be the only guy (don't worry -- I received one or two things with rechargeable batteries, too!) in the country who received pillow cases!

Voila! The 2008 Cathy rendition of our wedding pillow cases...

By now, you're probably wondering why I think of these pillow cases so fondly. As Paul Harvey says, here's the rest of the story...

First, MY pillow case...

Then, Cathy's!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life Is Full of Possibilities...

...If you can stand the pain.

I was a much younger guy. Like almost all young women and men, I wanted to make my mark on the world. Doing so meant (I hoped) pastoring a growing church. After all, no one wants to complete a career and be described as a failure. "He weighed every possibility, often paralyzing his people with negative analysis. He taught them to retreat gracefully. Every time some fire of hope would spark, he would break out the retardants of fear and potential collapse. Under him, they never lost any great battles because they always ran the other way."

I mean, is that the legacy you would want to leave? Of course not!

Such were my thoughts as I sat with a dozen or so of my peers that day. We were there, listening to a man describe how he became pastor of a church that had narrowed their future down to two choices: close their doors or hire him.

They chose him. He came. He stayed. Years had flown by. The church had grown and was vibrant.

I wanted this guy's wisdom. I sat on the edge of my seat and heard these words...

"You can lead a growing church -- if you can stand the pain."

At the time, it was hard to imagine. I thought pain was what you felt when you failed. I thought pain was the sole territory of the team hopelessly watching the final seconds of their season tick away.

It took me awhile, but I started experiencing what he described. Growth means change. Change is uncomfortable. For some, it's terrifying. For others, it's frustrating. Ultimately, it's painful.

But, oh, so rewarding!

You can have babies -- if you can stand the pain.

You can receive a promotion -- if you can stand the pain.

You can walk again -- if you can stand the pain.

You can run a marathon -- if you can stand the pain.

You can get a degree -- if you can stand the pain.

You can lose weight -- if you can stand the pain.

Before you depart this page today, please take a moment to comment. I would love to hear what it is that you know you want to do...

Are you willing to stand the pain?