Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ten Things I think that I think

Sometimes I talk, write and think too much about sports (Did I just hear Karla say, “Amen!”?). With a favorite team in the Fall Classic in Baseball, and another favorite team beating all comers in football (the Wolverines, definitively not the Lions), it’s easy to talk (read: brag) a lot about sports. Still, I am trying to reform. To that end, this e-mail will be completely sports free. There will be no references to the World Series playing Detroit Tigers. No gloating on the #2 in the nation Michigan Wolverines (which will turn to #1 in the nation on November 18th following the whuppin’ – that’s Oklahoma talk for a very fine win—that Michigan will give the hated Buckeyes. Oops, you almost got me talking about sports). I will not mention Herm Edwards or the Kansas City Chiefs. I will not speak of my hopes for a hockey team to become the occupant of the yet to be completed Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. In this e-mail, I will not even mention that it’s MNU’s homecoming this weekend and how I hope the mighty Pioneers will stomp Lindenwood College. There will be nary a word about basketball, soccer, volleyball or lacrosse. Yes, this e-mail will be a sports free zone.

Instead, it’s been a while since I’ve given y’all ten things that I think that I think. So here we go…

1) I think I am looking forward to seeing the 3,000 people or so that will be coming through our doors on Friday and Saturday for the Central Christmas Craft and Cookie Sale. I am praying that these folks will not simply see nice crafts and tasty cookies, but will see and sense the love of the Lord that is here.

2) I think I am tired of negative political ads on TV. If I see one more grainy, black and white, frowning picture of the rascally opponent of some candidate while an announcer is flinging more mud than a super motocross race, and then see the pure as Ivory Soap candidate’s smiling, happy video with cute babies and nice senior citizens I think I just might puke all those cookies I’m planning to eat.

3) I think the opening of the 87th Street exit off I-35 is a wonderful thing. It saves me a few minutes getting to the church every day, and it takes me right by Steve’s donuts. Steve makes tasty donuts.

4) I think my favorite animals this time of year are Tigers, Lions and Wolverines. I also like birds with Red Wings, but not Cardinals. (Those are not sports comments, but rather animal kingdom comments). And if you were to ask me, my favorite auto parts are Pistons. What’s your favorite auto part?

5) I think I’m getting excited for Sunday, November 19th. In the morning, Central will be celebrating 25 Years in Lenexa. Lenexa Mayor, Michael Boehm, will bring greetings from the city as we rejoice in what God has done over the last 25 years. That evening, we are planning a very special gathering where we will look forward to the next 25 years and discuss how we will “Now Finish the Work.” (Clear your calendars and stay tuned for more details).

6) I think brand new baby and son of our own Joe and Amy Hall, Samuel Hall, was very embarrassed to be seen wearing an Oklahoma Sooners beanie cap. Quite frankly, he told me that he believes he would look much better donning Maize and Blue apparel rather than red and white. (FYI…that also was not a sports comment, it was a fashion comment from little Samuel.)

7) I think I am still amazed at how well Annikah Tooley is doing. Major surgery sure doesn’t seem to have slowed her down. She is still the same smiling, beautiful baby that she has always been. Praise the Lord! Speaking of the Tooleys, they will be leaving for their missionary assignment in December. On November 12th in the evening service they will be sharing how God has led them on to this new journey.

8) Speaking of folks leaving, I think I am sad that this month we will have said “See You Later” to two terrific Board Members. Melanie and Bill Crayton moved to Nashville a week ago, and Brad and Tresha Richerson will be moving to San Antonio in a week. Both families have served the Lord and Central well and will be deeply missed!

9) I think that you might want to check out my new “blog.” It is still a work in progress, but it will contain this little e-mail each week for people who might not be on the list or folks who are checking out Central’s website. And if somehow your e-mail gets kicked out of our list (I don’t know how or why that happens, but from time to time it happens.) Which is kind of weird if you ask me, then you can still check out the latest stuff. The address is:

and, 10) I think that Central Church of the Nazarene is a great place! I am so pleased to be your pastor, friend, and co-worker in the Kingdom. You have blessed me and my family in many ways. Thank you Central Nazarene!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Knowing what to do, but not doing it

When will I learn? When oh when will I learn that I have to save the data on my computer?

On Tuesday, when I left the church office to head for home, I had this Sunday’s sermon approximately 75% completed. A few finishing touches, a few humorous anecdotes, maybe a nice little illustration and Sunday’s sermon would be wrapped up. I’m not sure that Mrs. McCleery would have given me an “A+++” for the sermon or not, but it was going quite nicely. (Mrs. McCleery, a former school teacher, is the greatest encourager I have ever known and when she likes a sermon she grabs my hand with both of her hands and says, “Oh Pastor, that sermon was an A+++!” It makes me feel good when Mrs. McCleery gives me an A+++.) But we’ll never, ever know if that sermon was an A+++ because something happened. Something terrible happened.

It happened in the thirteen and one half hours that I was away from my computer. Sometime between my leaving at 5 PM on Tuesday afternoon and arriving at 6:30 AM on Wednesday morning something terrible happened. While I was cheering the Tigers onto victory over the Oakland A’s, my computer decided it was time to shut down. I don’t know if there was a power surge, an electricity outage, or maybe an evil terrorist or disgruntled Yankee fan broke into the church and turned off my computer. All I know is that when I arrived on Wednesday morning my computer was off. My sermon was gone. And now, I am back at square one.

To quote Charlie Brown just as Lucy is moving the football away from him during football kicking practice, “UGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” (Incidentally, that is the same noise made by Yankee fans last week and Oakland A’s fans this week, and hopefully, St. Louis Cardinal fans next week after the Detroit Tigers give them a beatin’!)

I wish I could say that I learned a lesson in all of this. But I already knew the lesson I was suppose to learn. To quote Lucy, “Always save your data, blockhead.” I knew it. I just didn’t do it. I repeat, UGHHHHHHH!!!!!

A lot of people approach their spiritual life with the same recklessness. They know what they are supposed to do, but they don’t do it. They know they are supposed to spend time with God, but they don’t find the time. They know they are supposed to be sacrificial in their giving, in their attitudes, and in their life. But sacrifice is hard in this me-first world in which we live. They know they should avoid gossip, anger, self centeredness, “even the hint of sexual immorality,” and other non Christ-like behaviors and yet they find themselves falling into the same old patterns and the same old habits and the same old same old. They know what they need to do, but they just don’t do it.

There’s a powerful moment in Tolstoy’s War and Peace when Pierre, the main character, shakes his fist at the sky and says, “Why is it that I know what is right and do what is wrong?” The Apostle Paul talks of the same battle within in Romans 7 when he says, “I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate… I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” (Romans 7:15, 18-24)

There are a lot of people who know exactly what Paul is talking about. They know exactly how miserable it is to know what to do, and yet find themselves not doing it. Like me knowing that I need to save my data on my computer, but not saving it. They know they want to love God and serve him. They want to be completely His. But seemingly every time the slightest temptation comes around, it’s back to the same old patterns and all those wonderful promises and commitments made to God are out the window. Have you been there? Are you there right now?

Had Paul stopped at the end of Romans 7, we who truly long to live a holy, God-pleasing life would be in real trouble. Had he simply ended with how miserable he was in this condition of knowing what to do but not doing it-- there would not be much hope for victorious living.

But he didn’t stop there. Paul goes on to ask, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25). Jesus can enable us to not only know what to do, but to actually do it!

He goes on in Romans 8 to write, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin… you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you… The Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” (Did you read that? We are under no obligation to do what the sinful nature urges us to do!) “For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” (Romans 8:1, 9, 10-13).

What an awesome truth! The Power of the Spirit is more powerful than any sin! When the Spirit of God is living within us, He empowers and enables victorious living. He puts an end to the control of the sinful nature, when we give the control of our lives over to Him. In other words, through the Spirit we can know what to do and actually do it! We do not have to be doomed to a roller coaster type of Christian walk. Up one moment, down the next. Through the Spirit of God we can know God’s will and actually do God’s will.

What a lesson! It won’t bring back Sunday’s sermon from cyber-nothingness, but Christ can bring victory and enable us to truly live a wonderful, God-pleasing and holy life.

World Series Tickets

I have cheered for the Detroit Tigers my whole life. When they won the 1968 World Series, from my kindergarten classroom I cheered them. During the 1972 American League Playoffs, I booed loud and long at Oakland A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris who threw his bat at a very nice Tiger pitcher named Lerrin LaGrow all because Mr. LaGrow accidentally drilled him with a 95 mile an hour fastball. In 1976, I was in attendance at a “Monday Night Baseball Game of the Week” when the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees because of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych talking to the baseball while pitching. When the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series, I was “high fiving” all of my friends in the TV room in Chapman Hall at Olivet Nazarene University. I never even wavered in my support for the Motor City Kitties in 2003, the year they lost an astounding 119 games. Moreover, in my office I have former Tiger great, Al Kaline’s jersey (on which he not only signed but he also wished me a “Happy 40th Birthday!”). Among other memorabilia, I have an old box seat from Tiger Stadium, bats, balls, pennants and pictures galore. As I write this article not 12 inches from my computer monitor is a poster of the final game played at old Tiger Stadium. I am and will always be a Tiger fan.

So when the Tigers announced that on Monday morning, at exactly 10 AM (Eastern Time) they would sell the approximately 10,000 remaining tickets to the World Series games, I knew I would have to try to get a ticket. It was a no-brainer. I knew that it would be difficult. I knew the odds of getting a ticket would be slim. Some estimates had over a million people trying to get those 10,000 tickets. I also knew that even if I got a ticket, in order to attend the game, I would have to preach on Sunday Morning and quickly head to the airport, catch a plane, hope for no delays, arrive in the Motor City, and take a quick taxi ride from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to the ballpark all before 6:30 (Kansas City time). Everything would have to work perfectly to get to the ball game on time.

But first things first-- I had to get a ticket.

At exactly 9:50 AM, I logged onto the Tiger Website and began to click my mouse on the “buy tickets” button. A message came up that the tickets were not on sale yet. I kept clicking and clicking and clicking. For eleven minutes I clicked. At 10:01 I got in… but a message told me I had to wait. I nervously waited. It kept telling me to wait. I kept waiting. At 10:10 a message came on the board that said I had two tickets in section 342 for Sunday’s game. I was talking on the phone to Karla through out this ordeal and I started to shout “I GOT THE TICKETS! I GOT THE TICKETS! I’M GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES, BABY.” The message also said I had two minutes to fill in the request form and submit it, or I would be “timed-out” and sent to the back of the line.

Two minutes. Two minutes really isn’t a lot of time when you are a slow typist, who tends to make many errors when he types. In the whole scope of a lifetime, two minutes isn’t very long at all. On the other hand, two minutes can seem like an eternity at the end of a college basketball game. Depending on which side of the bathroom door you’re standing, two minutes can be a very long time indeed. Two minutes should have been plenty of time to read over the instructions and then type in my name, e-mail address, retype my e-mail address, type in a password, retype that password, and indicate how I was planning to pay for the tickets. Oh yes, one more thing, I had to type in my zip code. After I composed myself from all my shouting and celebrating because of my good luck, I typed in all the information--except for the zip code. I forgot to type in my zip code. A message appeared on the screen and told me that I forgot to type in my zip code. Oops. Silly zip code. I typed it in. 6-6-0-6-2. It’s not a hard zip code to type. In fact, it’s rather easy. There are three 6’s, one zero and a two. You can’t get much easier than that. 6-6-0-6-2. I typed in my zip code, and then hit “send.” That’s when it happened!

How could this happen? Another message came on the screen. It was the most awful and horrible message I have ever read in my entire 43 years of living on this planet. It said that I had “timed out!” I had gone over the two minute limit. I had spent too much time celebrating and not enough time typing, and when I forgot to type in 6-6-0-6-2 that pushed me over the time limit. I was being sent to the back of the line!


No tickets. No World Series. NOOOOOOOOO!

I have thought a lot about this between my sobs the last few days. I’ve asked the Lord what message he was giving me throughout this heart wrenching ordeal. I’ve come up with a few lessons that the Lord might have been trying to teach me. Here they are:

1) Don’t count your chickens (or in this case tickets) before you got ‘em. Maybe I shouldn’t have been standing on my desk singing: “I got ‘em, I got ‘em! I really, really got ‘em”—when I didn’t quite have them yet.

2) Like the boy scouts, always be prepared. I’ll admit I got a little nervous during that 2 minute drill.

3) Learn to handle disappointment. If the worse thing that ever happens to me is missing out on a ball game… that’s not such a bad life

4) You never know when your “time is up,” so act appropriately. (See #1 and recall my little singing on the desk episode that took place.)

5) Family before Baseball. Not only is this Sunday Game #2 of the World Series, but it also happens to be my #1 cherub’s #15 birthday. Alex will only have one Happy 15th so do I really want to spend it away from him and the rest of the family? (Also Karla’s folks are in town… oh wait a minute, I’m supposed to be giving reasons I want to stay in Kansas City. Just kidding. I love my in-laws. What kind of host would I be to leave when they are here?)

6) Pride cometh before a fall. Could it be that the many Royal fans at Central finally grew tired of the beast I had become (I believe the official scientific name is “Obnoxious Pastorus”) and asked the Lord to dish me up some humble pie? I’m afraid to admit that had I attended a World Series game in which my beloved Tigers actually won the game, I might have become a tad unbearable.

7) Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Ummm… the game is being played on Sunday… and that “Remember the Sabbath” thing is still one of the “Top Ten.” Would I be keeping the day holy if I was yelling “KILL THE CARDINALS! KILL THE CARDINALS!!! RAH! RAH! RAH!!!”??

8) Good Stewardship might not include two $190 tickets, an airplane ride to Detroit, a taxi ride to the ball park, a World Series souvenir or two, a couple of hot dogs, nachos and a large coke at the game. Maybe there are better uses for the money that God has provided.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what lesson I should have learned from this fiasco. Maybe it was none of the above, maybe it was all of the above. Karla probably put in the best perspective. After removing all the sharp objects from our house, she reminded me that God is in control and if He really wanted me to be at the game I would be there.

She is not only pretty. She is smart too!

This is what I know: God is in control and He has given me a great wife! Oh yea, one more thing: Go Tigers!