Saturday, June 20, 2009


Rest day today. I'm taking a break. Hope you do, too. I hope to meet you here tomorrow!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Are We Almost There Yet?

In yesterday's story about running, I faced a different side of the "Are we almost there yet, daddy?" issue. It's one thing to have bored "young-uns" asking that question repeatedly as they bicker with their siblings in the back seat. It's quite another when it's we adults who are huffing and puffing up one of life's steep hills.

Such was the case on Sunday at our kids' church in the city where they live. We had just been a part of a great service in which I enjoyed the sweet aroma of God's presence and during which our grandson Zoodle was dedicated. After greeting some other attenders, I sat down in a chair against the back wall. Pastor Kenny was sitting next to me and we struck up a "preacher-talk" conversation.

I have known Kenny and his wife Michelle for some years now, but it has only been about two years since he transitioned to the role of pastor in their church. Kenny asked a question related to managing church finances and, in the course of the discussion said, "I'm concerned about how we are doing financially. We saved money for moving into our own building (a great space where we now sat), but I'm afraid that it's going out faster than it's coming in."

In other words, "When will we get there?" "There" is that wonderful, often mythical, place where our current difficulties will dissipate like mist burning off a corn field in the hot, morning sun.

"I've been pastoring a long time," I said, "and our church has never outgrown financial stress."

"Really?" Kenny asked with a sigh. "You mean this is normal?"

"Our staff meets every workday at 9 a.m. just to pray for God's provision," I added. "I have learned that, the times when we seem to be flush with cash are usually because God has already started to supply for some as-yet-unforeseen need."

Their church is a bit smaller than ours and it helped Kenny to see that the problems never really go away. Experiencing them is part of leadership.

And, as in this case, they often have nothing to do with the overall health of the church. This church struck me as being pretty healthy. I met God in worship. The loving spirit of the people was contagious. The church is full of young families and more little kids than you can shake a stick at. I fully expect them to grow and flourish.

Then Pastor Kenny and their leadership can face more challenges!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Does It Get Easy?

My son-in-law "The Engineer" asked me Saturday, "Do you want to get up and go for a run in the morning?"

"Sure," was my quick reply. I had gone to the gym with him earlier that day and looked forward to running outside rather than on a treadmill. I originally planned to run by myself on Monday, but this was even better. Ummm, this was even better! Do I sound convinced yet?

I know I need my head examined, but I enjoy running. So I went running with my almost-20-years-younger and a-good-4-inch-longer-legs son-in-law. Oh, did I mention that he was a cross-country runner when he was a kid? Oh, and did I mention that he just finished his first triathlon?

Like I said, I enjoy running. But this was closer to torture! It's much more humid where they live. And they live in a place with lots of hills. We live in the place where the term "flat terrain" was invented. I thought of that when we started up one of those hills. I was gasping for humid breaths. He was trotting along. Chatting.

I have run for a long, long time. I have taken years off. I have thought I would never run again. But I have been back at it for almost three years. However, I'm not sure I have ever received input from a well-coached runner.

The Engineer talked to me about breathing and about my stride. When we got back home and I recovered enough to concentrate, he reaffirmed what he told me. I thanked him. I meant it.

Yesterday, back at home in the desert, I went for a run. I told my running partner Kelly about what I had learned. I started putting the lesson into practice. When will it get easy? Probably never.

But it can get better.

Later that day, I had the chance to answer a, "When does it get easy" query about pastoring. I'll tell you that story tomorrow.

Gotta run...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Power of a Few

Cathy and I returned from Texas yesterday on a Southwest flight into San Diego (we live half-way between San Diego and Phoenix -- the SD airport is a little quicker drive). I learned a valuable lesson by observing our Captain and Cabin Crew.

The first thing I noticed was the very friendly smile and "Good Morning" as we boarded. The flight attendant seemed genuinely happy to have us aboard. The next thing was actually a funny. She got on the microphone and said, "Folks, we have a completely full flight today. Every seat is sold. If you have put your purse or briefcase in that center seat and are avoiding eye contact, hoping to keep someone from sitting there, it's not going to work!" That comment brought laughter throughout the plane. Experienced fliers on Southwest do just that all the time. Busted!

The captain did the typical greeting and told us about the flight, including the headwind that would make it a bit longer than normal. He made us aware when a closed runway delayed our departure. What really, set him apart was how he communicated during flight. We had 2 or 3 stretches of turbulence along the way. Each time he warned us and each time he told us when we were through it. He turned the seatbelt sign off whenever the sailing was smooth. He seemed genuinely concerned about the combination of our safety and our comfort.

I have sat on lots of airplanes. The vast majority of the time, no one speaks even to the person next to them. Those rides in long, winged cylinders can be a few hours of gloom and boredom. This flight wasn't. People chatted and seemed totally relaxed.

It took a few caring and kind people to change the atmosphere for all of us. What does that say about your church? How are you doing in that department, anyway?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Rest of the Story?

I must be slipping (probably am) into the abyss of vagueness. What I intended to be a creative way of ending yesterday's post obviously left some of you "hanging." I had a couple of comments about it on Facebook and one or two here. So...

We walked into the burger joint on Sunday (a thousand miles from home) -- me with Cathy's burrito and Cathy with Chickie. About two steps in the door I looked up to see our old friends David and Martha standing there with their kids who live here. Talk about an "Ah-ha Moment!"

David and Martha were here for the same reason as us -- time with grandchildren and were literally on their way out of town back home, but we had 15 or 20 minutes of rushed conversation with a certain need for more (later, by phone I hope).

Now for so many of you who couldn't know -- June 8th marked my 23rd anniversary as pastor in Yuma. When we came here, David was the chairman of the pastor search committee who recommended me to the church. It all started there.

About ten years ago, when I was going through the most painful time of my pastoral ministry, they were two key people who encouraged us. They listened to our heartache. They supported us and, when necessary, defended us.

Our brief contact made me aware that they are going through their own "dark night of the soul." By God's grace we want to do our best to support them -- even at a distance.

David and I found common ground in our friendship many years ago. We both discovered that the friendship we have was very "low-demand." We don't need to see each other that often. We both have plenty of other friends. But we both discovered that, no matter how spread out we get by miles or months...

...we can easily pick up where we left off.

I plan to call him soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The "Ah-Ha" Moments

We are a thousand miles from home. Yesterday we went to lunch with our daughter C. Beth, her husband The Engineer, and our grandkids Chickie and Zoodle. They suggested "Sunday-after-church-lunch" at a burger joint which is a local hotspot.

Cathy, not one for burgers, went next door to Chipotle Mexican Grill for something she preferred and which she could carry out to eat with the rest of us at the burger joint. I gave my burger order to the The Engineer and accompanied Cathy (and Chickie, who is joined to Grammy at the hip). We picked up her order and, for some reason, a thought flashed through my mind.

You see, we have some old friends, former Yumans named David and Martha, who resettled to Oklahoma a few years ago. One of their daughters and her family live in the same city as C. Beth. I suddenly thought, "I wonder if we might see David and Martha here visiting their grandkids." This is a fairly large city, D & M live quite a distance away, and it was just a strange thought.

Until we walked into the burger joint to meet our family...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Proudly It Waves

"Red is for the blood of patriots who have died to free us;
White is for justice in government and law;
Blue is for honor and faith in all we do.

This is my flag!
This is Old Glory!
The red, white and blue."

(From "The Red, White and Blue" by John W. Peterson)