Thursday, February 25, 2010

No Varooooooom

Alex’s car wouldn’t start this week. The problem wasn’t a bad battery or a broken starter. There was plenty of gas in the tank. The problem was that the ignition key wouldn’t turn. It was stuck. Really stuck.

Now if the situation were on my car I could understand someone thinking that the key turner (that’s me) was experiencing a lack of muscular fortitude. No one has ever confused me of being a Mr. Universe candidate. My muscle tone (or lack thereof) was always more like the “before” picture on the gym advertisements rather than the “after” picture. But this was Alex’s car and Alex’s muscles. He tried. I tried. Even the most mechanical in our house, Karla, tried—all to no avail. The key would not budge. We jiggled it. We bought some stuff to spray into the key hole. It still wouldn’t turn. We turned the steering wheel. We kicked the tires. (I don’t know why we thought kicking the tires might make the key move—it didn’t). Nothing worked. If I didn’t know better I would have thought the key was singing that old Sunday School chorus, “I shall not be… I shall not be moved.”

While I am neither a mechanic nor the son of a mechanic this was a new problem to me. I guess I’ve always taken for granted that a key properly placed in the ignition would turn. Usually the car has made a varoooom sound following turning the key and occasionally it does not make a varooooom sound after turning the key (I hope all of this technical automotive lingo is not going over anyone’s head), but the key has always turned. Or so I thought.

Not on Alex’s car. No turning of the key. No varoooom. No driving for Alex.

Eventually, the car had to be towed into the shop where a new key turner thing-a-ma-bob (again, I hope this isn’t too technical for you) was installed. The key now turns. The car now starts. And while his bank account is a little lighter than it was a day ago, Alex has his wheels and life is back to normal.

I think we take for granted a lot of things in life besides the ignition key turning in our cars—especially we Americans that have heated homes, full refrigerators and healthy teenagers (albeit upset ones when their car is stuck on the driveway).

In the past week, I’ve been in contact in one way or another with plenty of people and situations where I’ve walked away with the lesson of not taking things or people or life for granted. For example…

• A family where the dad died at age 45. I’ve learned-- don’t take life for granted.
• A healthy college student hospitalized with a mystery illness. Don’t take health for granted.
• A lady younger than me battling cancer for a third time. Same lesson as above.
• A divorced dad juggling schedules of a “dual homed” family. Don’t take family for granted.
• A divorced mom struggling with kid issues. Don’t take Karla for granted.
• An unemployed man trying to make ends meet. Don’t take jobs for granted.
• People utilizing our food pantry. Don’t take food for granted.
• Our furnace broke: Don’t take heat for granted.
• Our washing machine broke too: Don’t take clean clothes for granted.
• We are assembling 700 Crisis care kits next week for Heart to Heart: Don’t take the basic necessities of life for granted.

You get the idea. It is so easy to overlook the everyday blessings in life. It is so easy to take for granted people. It’s easy to focus on irritants (see above comments about broken cars, furnaces and washing machines) instead of being thankful for the money to repair the car or appreciative of the friends that help when stuff is broken.

I’ve quoted it before, but I guess I need another reminder this week from Paul, maybe you do to: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13).

Sunday, February 21, 2010


You cannot know how much it pained me to postpone COLLIDE for a week. Michiganders do not postpone for the little bit of snow and ice we had (maybe I’m becoming a Kansan after all). But I thought it was too important of an even to have a third of a crowd at tonight. We really need our Seniors here to make this event a success and I was afraid they and others would not venture out on the roads. So next week….

Friday, February 19, 2010

The eye doctor

I went to the eye doctor today. I knew he would either give me a new prescription for a new set of glasses or put me on the rack to stretch my arms a few more inches.

I guess they don’t use a rack anymore. I’ve got a new Rx for some new glasses.

Karla says I should get some hip new glasses that will make me look twenty years younger. For that I told her—I wouldn’t need new glasses, she would need to get rid of hers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Church that became a Doctor's Office

The little church that I attended as a child never grew much. As I recall, we tried to grow. We had Sunday school drives, revival services, and one time we brought in a “Christian” clown. There were special “singspirations,” Christian Movie nights (cinematic “classics” like Thief in the Night and The Cross and the Switchblade were played) and an “old fashion” Sunday where people would dress up like during the pioneer days. Efforts to reach the lost and troubled were made—but nothing worked much. I guess the unchurched folks in Michigan didn’t want to be entertained by a Bible verse quoting Bozo the Clown or dress like Laura Ingalls. Who knew? Today the church is a doctor’s office and most of the members are either in heaven, moved away or have found a new church to attend.

I guess that happens to some churches.

There are reasons it didn’t grow. But I was too young to know most of those reasons. I remember that a preacher or two left because of questionable morals. And I’m sure we had more than our share of church going folks that didn’t always behave the best either. There are reasons the church is a doctor’s office today.

Sometimes we had children’s church, but usually we didn’t. I sat in big people’s church because there wasn’t a “little people’s church.” By the time I was in high school the youth group dwindled down to me (which made planning youth activities pretty easy). Usually the youth group activity planning committee went like this:

Me: “Where does the youth group want to go tonight?”
Me: “I think I’m going to McDonalds.”
Me: All in favor of the motion to go to McDonald’s say “Eye”
Me: “Eye”

Maybe some would look back at the church that is now a doctor’s office and say: “What a failure.”

I guess I don’t view it that way.

I can’t speak for anyone else who attended the Elmwood Church of the Nazarene except for me ((a.k.a the entire youth group)—and of course I was young, and it was 30 years ago (my memory might be fuzzy)), still I have many fond memories of those days. The handful of members taught me some important life lessons:

Mr. Kipp: Always had candy in his pockets for the kids. The lesson learned: Boys and girls matter to Jesus.

Brother Bond (we called some of the older believers “brother.” I’m not exactly sure at what age one made the crossover from “Mr.” or “Mrs.” to “Brother” or “Sister” but “Brother Bond” was old): He helped me with more than one school wood-working project. Lesson Learn: Helping children with school projects is part of being in the family of God.

Mrs. Buckley: I mowed her lawn. She always called me Freddy (my brother). Lesson learned: Mrs. Buckley had a bad memory.

Nell Norton: Piano Player. As my memory has it, she played most songs a little slow—except for Wonderful Grace of Jesus—she raced through that one. I liked singing Wonderful Grace of Jesus. Lesson learned: God can use your gifts whatever talent you have.

Mary Vail (my Junior Boys and Jr. High Sunday School teacher. Mary got promoted when I did): I have memories of fancy restaurants and baseball games with Mary. Again, I don’t remember any specific lesson ever taught—but I do remember that she cared for the kids in her class. Lesson learned: Junior Highers matter to God.

Norm Norton (my Sr. High Sunday School Teacher, and husband to Nell): he put up with a smarty pants church kid who was sometimes bored, sometimes mouthy, sometimes not the best student—and all Norm did was patiently teach with humor and grace. Lesson learned: Teenagers matter to Jesus.

I remember Mrs. Van Dyne’s meatloaf (Lesson learned: Nazarene’s are good cooks) and Norm Fisher’s haircuts (Lesson learned: Maybe the original “Nazarene” had long hair, but the ones in the 1960’s definitely did not). There was Brother Sexton singing with his guitar (before guitar playing in church was considered “contemporary”) and Aunt Myrtle getting pinched by the rickety old theatre seats and letting out a holler (everyone thought she was getting a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes they sounded similar from Aunt Myrtle, I suppose).

All this to say, my home church was small; never grew; and probably could have done a whole lot better in reaching people with the gospel—still the lessons I learned were that followers of Christ loved boys and girls and teenagers too. I learned that the church is meant to be a family that cares for one another. Old people and young people can share in life together—all of that’s a good thing. I honestly don’t know if I’d be pastoring today if it weren’t for some of those good influences in my life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Last Night's Board Meeting

We had a long board meeting last night. Somethings had to be done: Tweaking our Child Protection Policy; approving those ministers in the credentialing process; treasurer's reports, etc.

But we also were able to talk about things just on the horizon that are really exciting-- "lighting candles in the darkness" stuff; getting every single ministry involved in Making More and Better Disciples; creating a means to share the success stories; and later in a committee meeting-- making plans for the Central Leadership Academy.

So thankful for a Christ-led board of leaders!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preaching sick.

Preached sick yesterday... that's never good. But God gave the strength and we made it through.Our tech guys videoed the first service just in case I couldn't go in the second service-- it would have been the first video of a sermon at Central, but we didn't need it.

Seussapaloosa is done. Next up: GOLGOTHA: Objects from the Hill

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

COLLIDE is Coming

The Pastoral Team of Central is working on COLLIDE this morning: our inter-generational All- Church Worship and Service event that begins on February 21 and ends February 24.

This week is perfect for making Better Disciples (one of Central Primary Objectives) as we learn from one another-- Old and Young alike. We need everyone participating as we eat together, learn together, serve together and end each gathering with the communion.

I can’t wait! Plan on a great week!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Free Grand Slam

This morning I ate my free post Super Bowl Grand Slam breakfast from Denny's. Last year Ben went with me-- this year he decided it was too early for free food. I almost didn't go-- but the cheap side of me won the discussion in my mind-- and I found myself eating the eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes. Yum. Free is good!

Monday, February 08, 2010

NTS Chapel

It's been a while since I was in a chapel service at the seminary. (I admitted that I think I doubled my attendance from my seminary days). Still it was great being with the students-- who were very responsive to the message I shared. I am so thankful for my seminary days and the lessons learned both within those walls and outside of them.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rememberin' Rasslin'

Todd Morgan (one of Central’s finest youth and a senior at Olathe East) was featured in a newspaper article recently. The article told how he is wrestling well for the East wrestling team and how hard Todd works. The article made me proud to know him; it also reminded me of my “rasslin’ days” (as my grandfather would have said).

You did not misread that last paragraph. I wrestled during my junior year in high school. Unlike Todd, I didn’t have newspaper articles written about my skills or my work ethic on the wrestling mat. No one was worried that I was going to become the next Hulk Hogan. I had no signature move like some of the WWE “rasslers.”

As I recall I was not a particularly good wrestler (shocker #1!). I wrestled in the 105 weight class and I didn’t need to lose weight to get there. I could have wrestled in the 98 pound class but the other 98 pounder in my school was a beast. Can a 98 pounder be a beast? Well, he was scrappy and he beat me every time in practice. So I moved up to the 105 weight class where I thought I would have a better chance of competing. I am not sure I did any better—instead of getting pounded by a 98 pound kid from my school in practice; I got pounded by 105 pound kids from other schools at the meets.

I am not sure why I decided to go out for the wrestling team. It was not because I looked good in the “uni-tard” and head gear that wrestlers are required to wear. It’s not that I had a best friend on the wrestling team that talked me into getting beat to a pulp every other day. It’s not because I wanted to impress the girls—no one showed up at our wrestling matches but a few parents. (I don’t recall my folks being at the matches but I am sure they were there. I imagine them sitting in the bleachers and finding time in the 42 seconds before I was pinned to say, “See that skinny kid who’s twisted like a pretzel? That’s our boy.” They had to be so proud.) As a matter of fact, I only wrestled half the year because of an injury (see above comment about being twisted like a pretzel and this becomes shocker #2). Still, for that half of a season I wrestled for the Fighting Tigers of Garden City West High School. I made the team; competed in a few tournaments with mixed results (read: lost nearly all of them) and soon put my uni-tard and the wrestling mat behind me.

Why the wrestling confessional?

When I look back on those days, I remember the hard work of getting in shape. I remember working out in practice. I remember the uni-tard, headgear and wrestling shoes. I even remember a few of the agony of defeats. But don’t remember much else. I don’t remember my coach’s name. I don’t remember most of the other wrestlers on the team. I don’t even remember the all too few victories.

Time has a way of blurring our memory. We tend to forget both the good and the bad stuff of our lives. I think that’s OK--especially as it relates to the bad stuff. We all have had bad stuff happen in our lives. We all have things that we wish we would not have done, and/or we have had things done to us that we wish had never happened.

One thing about the past—it’s past. And for the most part, we need to let it go. Obviously, there are some things that have happened to some people that are so deep and painful that they need help and counseling and the Lord’s miraculous healing touch to let those things go. I get that. Still we need to let it go.

And by the way, even the good things, we need to leave in the past. If I had been a great high school athlete—I would not want a “Hail Mary Touchdown or a Walk-Off home run” to be the defining moment of my life. I’ve lived nearly 30 years since my high school days; I don’t want to say that the greatest thing that ever happened to me was 30 years ago. When I am 102 (if the Lord let’s me live that long), I do not want to look back at some glory years in the “sweet by and by,” instead I want to be able to say: God is still doing great things in my life. Today is the day that the Lord has made! Our yesterday may have been great, but I always want to be living for a great new day!

I love Paul’s words to the Philippians: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14). I pray that I am always pressing on toward Christ—whether wearing a uni-tard or jeans or a suit and tie I want to be moving forward! (Ok, I have left the uni-tard permanently behind).