Thursday, July 31- The Homecoming

Homecoming

If you know me very well at all, then it will come as no surprise to you when I say that the most important thing to me, next to my relationship with God, is my family. They are why I get up in the morning! They are the most awesome people in the world to me. I am partial, but for my money, I have THE most awesome wife and THE most awesome kids in the whole, wide world!

I say that because there is an important thing happening in my family over the next few days. I call it…The Homecoming! As you might know, our older won, who is 26, lives in Chicago. Our younger son, who turns 14 THIS MONDAY lives…of course…with us!

We don’t get to see our older son as much as we would like. Oh, don’t get me wrong- he comes home for the weekend every 4-6 weeks-ish. But we don’t see him EVERY DAY, so we don’t see him as much as we would like. But he is coming home for the weekend. In fact, he’s coming home TODAY, so it will be a slightly longer weekend!

Our younger son, on quite the other hand, left town last Sunday! He got the opportunity to “go home”. My wife, my older son and I all call the St. Louis area home. We were all born in the same town. My wife and I spent the first 43 years of our lives in the STL area, while our older son was 16 before we moved north. So for us, that area is home. But our younger son was only 3 years old when we moved out of the STL area and headed to Central Illinois. He spent 8 years there before we moved to where we currently serve. So for him, Central Illinois is home! He went back to spend the week with one of his best friends. While there, he has been able to also see some of his other good friends- people he hasn’t seen for 2+ years! And he has been having a GREAT time!

So tomorrow night, our older son rolls in. Then, on Saturday morning, we drive to Peoria, IL to meet the folks with whom he has been staying so we can pick up our younger son! By 10AM Saturday morning, my family will be together again! Now the reality is that it will be for a rather short period of time…but that’s OK. We will enjoy every minute and make the most of the time!

Saturday night, we will celebrate my younger son’s birthday two days early, since we will all be together. He has already ordered his birthday dinner- cranberry pork roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, fresh green beans, fresh sweet corn and lemon bars for dessert! (I’m not sure which one of the four of us will enjoy that dinner the most!) Sunday morning, we will all go to church, have a great morning, have lunch together and then begin opining the fact that our older son will soon have to grab his backpack and his guitar, hop in the car and head to Chi town!

I am SO proud of my sons. In some…important…ways, they are very much alike. And yet in other, substantive ways, they are marvelously different from each other. They are unique human beings who are frighteningly smart, wonderfully creative and overwhelmingly kind and caring. And do you know who I attribute ALL the good traits to? THEIR MOTHER! I figure that any questionable or annoying characteristics they have come straight from their father’s side, while all of the GREAT qualities they have are directly from the awesome woman who birthed them!

People who say, “These kids today…!” don’t know the same kids I know! My kids, my nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great nephews, the kids at the churches I have served or are currently serving- awesome! I look at the kids I come in contact with on a regular basis and I think to myself, “We are in GOOD hands!” Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to peel potatoes!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Passion

Wednesday, July 30- Yet Another Health Update

health update

The past 14 months have TRULY been a roller coaster. There have been more ups and downs than any amusement park ride I’VE ever been on! Well, yesterday the roller coaster went for another ride, and THIS time it was NOTHING but the peaks!

My wife and I left home about 1:30PM on Monday afternoon, heading for the St. Louis, MO area. My brother and one of my two sisters both life in that area, and we stay with my brother and his wife when we go for my “medical stuff”. (As I have said in this space before, I shudder to think how much we would have spent on motel bills over the past 14 months if it weren’t for family!)

We got to the town where they live about 5PM and stopped off at Imo’s Pizza for dinner. (If you have never had Imo’s pizza…you are MISSING it, my friend!) We then went to their house and hung with them for the evening.

We were up at 6:30AM yesterday and on the road by 7:20AM. (We HAD to stop and get coffee before we headed for STL! I mean, you HAVE to have your priorities!) After lots of road construction and lots of Tuesday morning STL rush hour traffic, we made it to the Center For Advanced Medicine, a part of the Barnes Hospital/Washington University complex. We went to the 3rd floor and checked in for the MRI.

They took me back, had me change into the charming “paper pants/ill-fitting gown” ensemble, and then had me remove any jewelry. I realized at that moment- I wear a LOT of stuff! 2 rings, a watch, a “survival” bracelet, a cross necklace I wear on the OUTSIDE of my shirt and a puzzle piece necklace that I wear INSIDE my shirt. (My wife has the matching puzzle piece! Ain’t we SWEET?!) Oh, and of course- the earring!

Then I got the IV put in. I have had so many IV’s, blood draws and shots over the past 14 months that needles don’t even phase me anymore. I carried on a conversation with the tech about the difficulties he is facing in his personal life while he got the IV in and I didn’t even bat an eye!

After that, it was off to the room for the MRI. I gave up my glasses and climbed on the table.

The headphones went on, the foam piece went under my knees, the “panic button went in my hand, the cage was snapped down over my face and then…sucked into the tube! My MRI’s are done “with and without”, meaning they do a regular one and then, after injecting me with a special dye, the do it again. Apparently it offers more and better contrast. I’ll be honest, even with the noise and even with the claustrophobia, I tend to sleep though them these days. Yesterday was no exception! About an hour later, I was getting off the table and heading out to get re-dressed and re-earringed!

An interesting side note- we ran into a former parishioner in the MRI waiting room. She was there for a scan. I hadn’t seen her in more than two years and she lives ALMOST as far from STL as I do! It was good to see her and reconnect.

Then it was up to the 6th floor to check in at the neurosurgeon’s office. We were almost an hour early for the 11:30AM appointment, but whatcha gunna do? So we sat in the waiting room and read on the trusty iPads until about 11:20AM, then heading into the exam room. The neurosurgeon came in about 10 minutes later. He hadn’t seen me since just 2 weeks after surgery and he was thrilled with my progress! He thought the scar…his handiwork…looked great. And he was excited about how much mobility I had regained in my face. The day after surgery he looked at it and said, “Yeah, you have some movement.” Yesterday, he said, “Right after surgery…you had NONE! But NOW…!”

And then we talked about the MRI results. I had told me wife on the drive down, “85% of me is looking forward to this MRI because the results are going to be SO good. But 15% is dreading this MRI because I fear the tumor is coming back.” Well, apparently the 85% won out, because the neurosurgeon said that the MRI showed no sign of the tumor…NONE! In fact, he was so pleased with the results, he said I don’t need another scan for 6 months! For the past 14 months, I probably haven’t gone any longer than 4 weeks WITHOUT a scan! Awesome!

I still have to be monitored. It’s still possible that this thing could rear its ugly head again sometime. I’m still completely deaf in one ear. BUT…I’m also alive! And I feel good- for the first time in a LONG time! I have facial muscles that are back up to 70% usage. And I have an MRI that could NOT find any evidence of the tumor. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

Let me take another opportunity to thank you, sincerely and from my heart, for your prayers throughout this journey. Prayer is NOT the least we can do- it is the MOST we can do!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Homecoming

Tuesday, July 29- On the Road…Again!

barnes02

Yesterday, I wrote about “the new normal”. Today is a GREAT example of that! As you read this, my wife and I are in the Center For Advanced Medicine at the Barnes Hospital/Washington University Hospital complex near downtown St. Louis, MO. Although I could look it up, I have lost track of how many times we have made this trip!

You may be thinking, “Oh, no! What’s wrong? I thought you had the surgery and all was well?” First off- nothing’s wrong. I DID have the surgery and things DID go well. But the reality is that the tumor I have is exceedingly rare- I am the 19th recorded case…ever. And they were unable to get it all in the surgery. They got an estimated 99% of it and they cauterized the rest of it. But they had to leave that little bit because it had attached itself to the outer layer of the dura- the “sac” that envelopes the brain. They were reluctant to penetrate the dura in order to get that last bit. I, for one, am QUITE grateful they made that decision! A very invasive, in-depth, lengthy surgery would have become, at that moment, brain surgery!

So I need to keep seeing my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, my oncologist and my neurosurgeon. They are doing extensive genetic testing on the tumor the removed, to see if there is anything they can learn that would help me down the road, help someone else who comes up with this…or both. But in the meantime, they want to keep tabs on me, to make sure that things are going OK.

So today started with a drive through Tuesday morning St. Louis rush hour traffic to get to our destination. I have an MRI at 9AM. It will be “with contrast”, so I will have a temporary IV inserted so that they can, at the appropriate moment, inject the dye. My last MRI was early Easter Sunday morning (how appropriate!)- AFTER surgery and BEFORE I was released. That MRI established a new baseline- my new normal, if you will! Today’s MRI will be compared to that one. They will be looking for any change that might signal that the tumor has “awakened”. They don’t think it will…but they want to make sure. Again, I am quite happy with that decision!

Later this morning, we will meet with the neurosurgeon- the guy who had his hands in my head! First, he will marvel at how well the scar has healed- he told me that his work on the OUTSIDE of my head was “as good as a plastic surgeon”! Then, he will marvel at how much of the use of my right side facial muscles I have regained. When he last saw me, I only had about 20% used of those muscles. Now, I have about 75% use and, according to my physical therapist, that number should continue to climb!

He will have already looked at the MRI I had earlier today, so we will then discuss what he saw. Assuming that what he saw was a whole lot of nothing, we will talk about when he would want/need to see me again and we will leave. If, by some odd chance, there IS some change…then we will discuss that as well! When we leave downtown St. Louis, we will drive across the Mississippi River, stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Troy, IL (it’s RIGHT off the interstate!) for some of the BEST coffee on the planet! We will then drive home, get the dog from the kennel and sleep in our own bed again! 2 years ago, I could not have imagined ANY of this. Now…welcome to our new normal!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Yet Another Health Update

 

Monday, July 28- The New Normal

Normal

Are you normal? Seriously- are you normal? We throw that word around a WHOLE lot- “He’s not normal.” Well, THAT’S more normal.” “This simply isn’t normal!” And we use that word as if we have…ANY idea what it means!

I have decided that, for most people, “normal” really means “typical”. You know what I mean- THIS is what I typically experience when THAT happens. Therefore, it must be “normal”. Example- I ask the dogs if they are ready to…EAT! And all they have to do is HEAR that word (because they both clearly understand English!) and they get all excited and race for the kitchen…and the food bowls! Their behavior is…normal.

I have also decided that, in many measurable ways, I am NOT “normal”. I used to TRY to be normal. But somewhere along the way, I realized that A. I don’t even know what “normal” is and B. even if I figure it out, I’m pretty sure that, whatever it is…I don’t have it! I mean, ministers are supposed to be rather serious. They are supposed to wear shirts and ties all the time. (I once had a parishioner, mad as a wet hen because I was mowing my lawn in shorts and a t-shirt, inform me that Rev. Yiffniff, a former pastor of the church and NOT his real name, even wore a shirt and tie to mow HIS lawn! My response? “Well, bully for Rev. Yiffniff! But I can GUARANTEE you that you will NEVER see me mowing my lawn in a shirt and tie!”) Ministers are supposed to be perfect and not make mistakes. Well, if THAT’S the list of qualifications for minister…I’m in deep trouble!

The other thing I have come to understand about “normal”- thanks in large part to many conversations with my smart and beautiful wife- is that “normal” doesn’t stay normal for very long. To be entirely honest, my family currently experiences a “new norm” seemingly every day. Just about the time we feel like we are getting our sea legs, that we are getting a handle on things, that we have identified “normal”, something changes and we usher in a new norm,.

But I have come to understand that “new norm” is not necessarily a bad thing. If we get too mired in the current normal, our lives get stale, rote and repetitive. And when that happens, we aren’t much use to God. BUT…when we stop worrying about what normal is and simply start living day by day, taking things as they come and constantly searching for the silver lining in the cloud, then God can use us for all sorts of things. Why? Because we are open to change, open to something and most importantly…open to Him!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- On the Road…Again!

Sunday, July 27- Here is Our King

Psalm Pseries Here is Our King     Early on in their marriage, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were crossing the Strait of Georgia to reach Vancouver Island on the western coast of Canada. The weather was a bit rough and the boat was rocking violent. Just as a young petty officer arrived in the royal suite, the ship lurched and the tray of tea cakes he was holding fell to the floor. Surprisingly, Philip jumped onto his hands and knees and helped pick them up. After grabbing a handful of cakes, he returned to his chair, turned to his wife the queen and playfully remarked, “I’ve got mine- yours are still on the floor.”
Later, Prince Philip was visiting an Australian University where he was met a couple who were introduced to him as “Mr. & Dr. Robinson”. The man explained, “My wife is a doctor. She’s much more important than me.” Prince Philip nodded and sympathetically replied, “We have that trouble in our family, too.”
Today, we continue our current sermon series- The Psizzlin’ Psummer Psalm Psermon Pseries- taking a good, hard look at the Old Testament Book of Psalms. This book is a collection of religious poems set to music. And in these 150 Psalms, every human emotion, every circumstance of daily life are captured. This 11-week series is carrying us through the rest of the summer…AND through the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows of life. Today we take a look at who we are actually talking about when we say: Here is Our King.
1Timothy 6:12-16 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, Who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, Who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time- God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone is immortal and Who lives in unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Possessions of the powerful or famous – no matter how common those possessions might be- can be seen as extremely valuable…some would say priceless.  Several years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush sold for $21,000. His toothbrush! His old, dirty, used TOOTHBRUSH!
Adolph Hitler’s car sold for over $150,000. People have paid extraordinary amounts of money for Winton’s Churchill’s desk, C.S. Lewis’s pipe, sheet music handwritten by Beethoven, and a house once owned by Ernest Hemmingway. Jackie Kennedy’s FAKE pearls sold for almost a quarter of a million dollars and JFK’s wooden golf clubs went for nearly THREE quarters of a million! All these things were sold at many times their intrinsic value. These items didn’t demand great sums of money because they had great intrinsic value. Instead, they demanded those prices simply because they once belonged to someone famous.
Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll. Garth Brooks is the King of Country. Michael Jackson is the King of Pop. Harry Belafonte is the King of Calypso. Sam Cooke is the King of Soul. Bob Dylan is the King of Folk. Benny Goodman is the King of Swing. Scott Joplin is the King of Ragtime. BB King is THE King of the Blues. Kenny Loggins is the King of the Movie Soundtrack. Luciano Pavarotti is the King of the High C. Johnny Carson is the King of Late Night. And LeBron James is, apparently, simply…The King! (Just ask him!) Lots of people claim the title of King, but who IS? Who’s at the top of YOUR list? Today’s Psalm focuses on that very question- who is YOUR king?
Psalm 93 The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns Your house for endless days.
The Sunday School teacher said to her students, “We’ve been learning about how powerful the kings and queens were in Biblical times. But there is a higher power than a king or a queen. Who can tell me what it is?” The kids thought about it for a few moments, then little Tommy blurted out, “I know what’s higher than a King or a Queen! An Ace!”
In the Old Testament Book of 1Samuel 12:12, the people told God, “We want a king to rule us.” What they REALLY meant was that they wanted a man, a person- someone they could see and touch, who could sit on an earthly throne, wear a crown and tell them what to do. They wanted to be…like everybody else. So…God gave them a king. He gave them Saul, David, Solomon and many others. Some were good. Many were bad. In the end, it took defeat at the hands of foreign kings and being hauled off to a strange land in exile for them to understand that they HAD a King…all along. In exile, they no longer had an earthly king, so God became their king again. They were no longer ruled over by human kings, but by God.
Psalm 93 tells us one important thing: no matter what happens, God is still in charge. He is still King over everything! We need to remember that- especially when bad things happen. Let’s take a second and walk through Psalm 93.
Verse 1- The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
God reigned and is robed in majesty. In other words, He wears his authority and power like we wear our clothes. Those attributes are out there where everyone can see them. And nobody can take His power and authority away from Him- it will always be there. He will always be there. He will always make our souls safe.
Verse 2- Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity.
This verse tells us that God not only IS King- He has BEEN King since before time.
Verse 3- The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
This verse suggests that the waters of life get higher and higher … until they threaten to drown us! The pounding waves of life are hard to overcome.
Verse 4- Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the Lord on high is mighty.
This verse says that, while the powers of this earth, the powers of life might threaten to overtake us…God is stronger. He is mighty.
Verse 5- Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns Your house for endless days.
The statutes of God- His rules- are in the Bible. They’re not hard to find and they’re not hard to understand. But they ARE hard to live out day to day! We’re told that holiness adorns His house forever. In the Ancient Near eastern world, the house of God was traditionally seen as the temple in Jerusalem. When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, they also destroyed the temple. But, after the Israelites returned from exile, they re-built God’s house. And since WE became the house of God when Jesus showed up at the beginning of the New Testament, then we are now the place God dwells forever.
God wanted us to live in a kingdom, to be sure- HIS kingdom. But what does it look like when we live in His kingdom? First of all, it means that we live with an awareness that His kingdom really exists. Many people live their lives as though this earthly, visible world is the only one there is. They seem to have no awareness that we’re surrounded by another world which is more real than this one will ever be. Repentance is the way we enter the kingdom of God. Once that happens, then His kingdom lives inside of us.
Luke 1:31-33 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.
Jesus came to fully establish God’s kingdom on the earth. His kingdom became “darn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” once He proved that the grave could not keep Him, that death could not hold Him. In that act, He showed, once and for all, His victory over sin and death.
Let me assure you- God’s kingdom is NOT in trouble- never has been never will be. We can’t make it stronger and, likewise, we can’t throw a stick in the spokes. We DO, however, have an invitation to be a full-bore, pedal to the metal part of it- an invitation that we have every bit of free will to turn down if we so choose. But if we DO refuse His offer…the only one we hurt is ourselves.
It’s important that we have an awareness of God’s kingdom. But it is JUST as important that we recognize that, for it to have any real impact in our lives, God’s kingdom needs to be…within us. The people of the Ancient Near Eastern world were looking for God’s kingdom to come in a huge, outward, visible display of overwhelming power. They thought God would throw out the foreign oppressors who occupied Israel and usher in a new age of peace- one that ALL would see. But God’s kingdom is, in fact, a complete 180 from what most people think. It’s NOT turning a right-side up world upside-down. Instead, it is turning an upside-down world…right-side up. There won’t be any stereotypical outward display of power and success. There won’t be any overt military victory or political coup. God’s kingdom is an interior kingdom, a kingdom of the heart.
He is changing the world by changing us. C. S. Lewis said, “God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought. . . into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”
God’s kingdom is subversive. Let me say that again- God’s kingdom is subversive- revolutionary and, frankly, treasonous in some circles. If we commit to being a part of the kingdom of God, we agree to be a part of a subversive, countercultural movement. As members of the kingdom of God, we live in a kingdom that runs parallel to the kingdom of the world, the kingdom of evil. And like the two sides of a train track, these two kingdoms run side by side…and they are in complete conflict. No matter how trite or hackneyed it may sound, we are engaged in a spiritual battle, with weapons like faith, prayer, righteousness and joy in our arsenal.
When we submit to God’s kingdom, God changes us. And AS He changes us…He changes the world. As things start changing inside of us, they also start to change around us. We start influencing the world. We start connecting more and more people to Jesus Christ. We start robbing the devil of his power. It’s more than just a subversive movement- it’s a full-blown Divine Conspiracy!
The fascinating thing about God’s kingdom is that, to an awful lot of people, it appears to be somewhere firmly lodged between little and nothing. But the truth is that God’s kingdom has tremendous power to influence, to change and to grow. It’s the seed in the crack of the sidewalk that fights its way through whatever stands in its way, fighting to break through to the sunlight. And as we all know, that tiny little seed eventually fractures and lifts the concrete. God’s kingdom does its best work while hidden and unseen. The tiny seed is hidden underground, but when God puts his life in it, it becomes a great tree. God works silently and in hidden ways, but what he is doing, quietly, is conquering the world.
We look at what goes on in the world and we think, “Why even bother?” But God is not beaten and discouraged. Instead, He is full of irrepressible joy…He IS irrepressible joy…and He wants nothing more than to share that joy with us. Your King hears you when you call His name. He supplies your needs. He helps you in times of need. He loves you and watches over you. You are the apple of His eye. He will never leave you or forsake you.
If we deny God and turn away from His power and authority, we will always…ALWAYS… find ourselves dominated by outside influences- influences that do NOT have our best interests at heart. We need to recognize and embrace God’s Kingship- His power and authority. We need to reflect that commitment in our marriages, in our parenting, in our jobs, in our church and in our witness to others about God’s glory!!
In their book Resident Aliens, authors Stan Hauerwas and Will Willimon talk about the fact that, sometime between 1960 and 1980, an old, inadequately conceived world ended, and a fresh, new world began. For them, the transition happened VERY specifically on a Sunday evening in 1963. That day, the Fox Movie Theater in Greenville, South Carolina, in defiance of South Carolina’s time-honored blue laws, opened on Sunday. Seven boys, including the authors, made a pact to enter the front door of their church…so they could be seen…then quietly slip out the back door of the church and head over to join John Wayne at the Fox Theater. That evening, and others like it, has come to represent a watershed in the history of Christendom. On that night, the Western world served notice that it would no longer be a prop for the church. There would be no more free passes for the church, no more free rides. The Fox Theater went head to head with the church over who would provide the world view for the youth of the country. And the Fox Theater won the opening skirmish. Those parents had never been forced to worry about whether their kids would grow up Christian. The church was the only show in town. Church, home and state formed a consortium, working together to instill Christian values. Most people believed that and lived their lives around that notion. But now, few readily believe it today. All sorts of Christians are waking up to the realization that it this no longer ‘our world’- if it ever was to begin with. It seems as if we are no longer a Christian nation- one nation under God and all. And for many, we are not only a non-Christian culture- we have become an anti-Christian culture. So what do WE do…us Christians…what do we do with the fact that we live in a world that has, in large part, abandoned God? What do we do when we realize that we are living in a completely different world than many of the people around us?
We need to turn away from the kingdoms of the world and fully commit our lives, and the lives of those dearest to us, to the eternal power of God’s kingdom. We need ask God to come fully into our heart and rule over our lives and our families with His spirit of love. We need to draw a line in the sand and let the devil, who tries SO hard to rule over the world…and us…through fear and manipulation, let him know that we will not be dominated by flesh or foe. He has NO stand in our lives and we will NOT be moved. We are NOT subject of the prince of darkness. We are subject of the King of peace!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- The New Norm

Saturday, July 26- What Is Success?

Success

What is “success”? As you have probably figured out by now, I LOVE words and am also a big fan of dictionary.com! (Why in the WORLD would I want a big ol’ fat dictionary cluttering up my bookshelf when I can simply call up dictionary.com and get what I need?!) AND…dictionary.com says this about success- “The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals, the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like, a performance or achievement that is marked by the attainment of honors, a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.” That whole definition seems to encapsulate what it means to succeed in this country.

But the portion of the definition I would like to focus on today is, “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like”. Let’s be honest- that is pretty much how our society measures success. That’s why we practically fall all over ourselves about celebrities who make hit movies…and massive paychecks. That’s why we go crazy for baseball, football and basketball players who have the best stats and the biggest contracts. That’s why we so easily forgive the Charlie Sheens of the world for one transgression after another. It’s NOT really because we are, to quote Charles Durning from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, “forgivin’ and forgettin’ Christians”. It’s really because we are so enamored of “success” that we are willing to overlook or explain away nearly anything when success is present.

But those folks are so hard to pin our stars to. And I would bet that, deep down in those places they don’t like to talk about at parties, many of them don’t even really WANT us to pin…anything…to them. They are just folks who were at the right place at the right time with the right combination of skills that made them “stars”, unlike the countless others who have mad skills but didn’t quite have all the planets align properly for them. I think about the sports stars I idolized growing up. Some of them have stood the test of time, maintaining a high standard. Some of them have crumbled under the pressure. ALL of them have proven, in one fashion or another, that they are…ready?…human!

As I have gotten older, I have come to a different understanding of success. For me, success is now much more about how people live their lives. I see great success in a parent who sets a high standard for their kids…and sticks with it. I find success in people who have the opportunity to do the wrong thing…and don’t. I see success in folks who have committed their lives to God, determined to bloom where they are planted and simple be the best person they can be- the person God created them to be. Those are usually the people who don’t attract attention. They don’t get articles written about them or TV shows produced about them. But I am convinced that they are the true backbone of this nation. Those people who keep getting up, day in and day out, putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of their circumstance. That, to me, is success! How do YOU measure it?

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Here Is Our King

Friday, July 25- Discontinuity

discontinuous

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which George and Jerry are talking about a woman. George says, “She wants me to dress smart-casual. What is that?” Jerry looks at him and says, “I don’t know…but you don’t have it.” I have been thinking about that quote recently because of a word that has been popping up on my radar of late- discontinuity. It’s not a word most people tend to use. And I would hazard a guess that, if you stopped the average Joe on the street and asked what discontinuity was, they might well respond, “I don’t know…but you don’t want it!”

Discontinuity is one of those words that you might not be able to fully define, but you’re sure, just from the sound of the word, that it’s not something to be sought after. So, let’s see what it DOES mean. Dictionary.com says, “Lack of continuity (that’s a LAME definition!), irregularity (that’s better!), a break, interruption or gap, a point at which a function is not continuous, a zone deep within the earth where the velocity of earthquake waves changes radically.”

So what I hear from that definition is that discontinuity is all about a break from the norm, about times when the “norm” is no longer continuous, about seasons when the very ground beneath your feet is unsteady…or changes radically. When you hear that definition, you might still think that discontinuity is to be avoided. But I would like to claim that discontinuity can be a very rewarding, even enjoyable thing!

In the church, discontinuity usually occurs when one of two circumstances are present. One circumstance is when there is a “power play” going on- groups or “cliques” within the church start jockeying for position. Often the pastor is in one of those groups- sometimes he or she IS the group! When some folks in a church fell that the status quo is in danger, they dig their heels in and attack, in an effort to maintain the church the way it’s always been. The ironic thing about this particular circumstance is that A. it is decidedly un-Christian and B. in their efforts to avoid discontinuity…they CREATE it instead! I have been in the midst of this type of discontinuity- it’s NO fun!

The other circumstance that brings about discontinuity is when the church begins to grow. When things are happening, people are joining, baptisms are being done and attendance is on the rise, it is an awesome time in the life of a church. But it also causes discontinuity because the church is no longer what they were…but not yet what they will be. One might say irregularity…discontinuity! I have also been in the midst of THIS type of discontinuity…and it is a BLAST!

The church I am currently serving is in the middle of discontinuity. To be honest, it began with my diagnosis and subsequent surgery. And while that was not the best kind of discontinuity, they handled it beautifully! And OUT of that discontinuity, and the way the congregation rallied around it, a good, healthy, exciting discontinuity has emerged!

Attendance is up, folks are joining the church, we are baptizing folks, more people are attending Bible Studies, more people are volunteering for ministries and the excitement and anticipation is palpable- you could cut it with a knife!

Now I KNOW that church growth, even at its best, can be daunting. “The way we’ve always done it” is not only challenged- it’s pretty much tossed out the window. Why? Because the reality is that, in order to keep up with the growth, a church has to adapt and change- they have to thrive in the midst of, perhaps because of, the discontinuity.

I would not wish the last year of my life on anybody. But God, my family and my church family saw me through it. And here, on the other side of surgery, God is richly blessing this church for their faithfulness and dedication. I simply cannot WAIT to see what He has in store for us as this unfolds in time and space!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What Is Success?