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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I wanted to "cheat" a little and use one of the articles I recently sent to my church family here in TN. I think it is something that all men desperately need to read and a challenge that the Christian brothers should accept. I hope you'll agree.

Every Monday morning at 9 a.m., the RCC staff joins around my dining room table (aka the Ridgeview Conference room) for a time of staff planning. We begin each meeting with prayer and discussion regarding spiritual concerns facing our church family. There are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for healing, prayers for direction, etc. There is one prayer concern that has been on our list for many months now and continues to be of the greatest concern to me. About half way down our prayer list is a request—“prayer on behalf of the RCC marriages.” You see, as I write this, I can think of several families in our church who are in the midst of spiritual warfare regarding their families. Sometimes the cause is financial. Other times it is because of communication. Sometimes the finger can be pointed at poor choices that one or the other spouses has made. Behind every cause is the enemy that we talk about so casually—Satan. He wants to destroy us, our families and our nation. He wants to see us living destroyed, defeated and chaotic lives. What better way to dismantle God’s plan for mankind than to attack one of the first gifts He ever gave us—marriage. Now, the reasons for my sharing this are two-fold. First, to remind all of us how important it is that we pray for each other. We are better together. There is no doubt about that. And my life and your life are made much easier when we are “knotted” together with others in prayer for each other. We should make it a daily commitment to pray for each other—that’s how you “do life together.” The second reason is directed specifically at the men. I can say this because I am one. When are we going to do what God has commissioned us to do as head of our families? When will we take responsibility for the physical safety, emotional stability and spiritual security of our families? How many of us are spending as much time on our knees praying as we are surfing the net or watching our favorite teams? When’s the last time we set aside a whole Saturday to invest in our kids or a whole weeknight to date our wives? Have we bought into the lie that more money and success will satisfy our families or bring them more fulfillment? Or, have we uncovered the truth that the best investment we make as men is in our own personal relationship with God? You see, most of the problems I see as a pastor (even with women who have gone through divorces) can be attributed to the abandonment of Godly principles by our men. When there is work to be done in the church, it is women who lead the way (especially when it comes to working with children). When there is praying to be done, women are considered to be our prayer warriors. When compassion is needed for someone in our community, it is the heart of a woman who drives the response. The question I must ask you is this: what kind of church would we be if our men spent as much time talking about faith as they spent talking about the Titans (and they aren’t even worth talking about these days)? Revival in our churches and victory over the enemy will only come by the hand of God. However, I am increasingly convinced that God is waiting on men who are completely surrendered to Him who will be used as catalysts for this movement. Will you join me in praying for a resurgence of Godly men in our fellowships? More importantly, if you are a man, will you join me in praying that God will use us to re-discover what being a real man is all about?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fear

There are two kinds of fear. There is fear that paralyzes us, that causes us to freeze or to flee and to never accomplish all that God has purposed for us. Then there is a fear that humbles us, that puts our lives in proper perspective. I was reminded of these this morning by a friend's e-mail. There is a scene in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where Lucy and Mr. Beaver are having a conversation about the powerful King Aslan. Lucy asks, "Is he quite safe?" Mr. Beaver responds, "Safe? Safe? Who said anything about being safe? Of course he's not safe. But he is good." Isn't that amazing? God is not safe. Following God is not safe. Rather, following after the mystery of Christ is placing ourselves recklessly in the hands of an incredible God we cannot see or touch. He is not safe, but he is very good. This world with all of its pain and sin and death and broken relationships and car wrecks and stuff is a world full of fears...and nothing else. But the world we live for--that amazing Kingdom of Heaven we read so much about--is a place where fear melts away under the overarching theme of the universe: NO! God is not safe but He is very, very good. Whatever your fear today--the dreaded conversation, the inevitable phone call, the relationship that seems at its end--face that fear with this mantra in your heart: "In the presence of a very good God who loves me and wants the best for me, there is no fear. Whatever may come, I will trust in Him."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How hard it is to tame the tongue--even in the most innocent of situations. The Bible says to "not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." On the surface that seems like such a logical command. However, in practice, we find from experience how deep the words of others can cut to our soul. After the accident, there were so many people who tried to offer words of comfort and support. They were wonderful. It is not a stretch to say that the kids and I would be completely different if it weren't for those affirmations during that critical time. But, some equally well intentioned people did not have such encouraging things to say. Many times, there were words and prayers that came from ignorance, selfishness and even anger. There were some who could not understand why we would do such a thing or say such a word. When I preached just two days after my wife's death on Easter Sunday, there were some who said I was out of line and should never have attempted such a thing. God bless them. They really did mean well. They still do. You still do. I still do. Often the things we say are not meant to hurt or to tear down, they are simply words that were not well thought out. The encouragement for us today is that we should speak and speak often to encourage one another. But words should never be spoken without much thought and, when those words still come out wrong, never be afraid to say "I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you." Our words hold both healing and hurt in them. They can raise the lowest soul or can sink the highest spirit. Be careful what you say today. The few phrases you and I utter may change somone's life immensely--let it be for their good and His glory.

Friday, September 15, 2006

It's been great reading the comments that have come from doing this blog (all 3 of the readers, thanks Mom!). Seriously, I am very encouraged that people have taken the time to read and have drawn encouragement from some of the ramblings I have chosen to put on this page. I've even had a couple of opportunities to refer some people to this page who have gone through similar problems. I want this to be a ministry (maybe it's more accurate to say a part of my ministry). I know it will be a ministry to my spirit to write down things as they are on my heart--and it won't always be about my life or the accident we had. But I want to minister to those of you who take the time to read and think about what's being said. I want to talk about what matters to us and to our families, the things that really cause us to stop and think about life. However, I also know that this cannot replace the value of human touch. Studies show that 8 to 10 meaningful touches a day or necessary for a meaningful life and for a sense of fulfillment. Whether it's a hug or a warm handshake, holding hands with your spouse or wrestling with a child, touch means so much to us that we cannot underestimate its importance during the trials of life. I pray that you have those significant moments during the hard times when someone can sit and hold your hand or wrap you in their arms. Don't devalue those times and don't short change their importance. I'm off to get my 20 meaningful touches today (hey, I'm a big man--I need more than most). Hope you find yourself in the embrace of a friend or loved one today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I awoke this morning with a tremendous sense of urgency...to roll over and stay in bed. After hitting the snooze, I was very convinced that I could have stayed there all morning. Then I was reminded that there were two little angels upstairs that I had to get ready and get off to school. So I rolled back onto my back and began to pray a prayer I have prayed many times in the last couple of years. "God, I don't want to get up. Quite frankly, I feel like I could lay here a good, long while. But that's not your plan for me today so I will get up. In order to do that, I'm going to need your help--mentally, emotionally, physically. So...as soon as your ready, I'll get up."
Truth is, this has happened more than I care to admit. I'm actually a morning person. But I get to points where I feel so overwhelmed and overmatched and overscheduled and overlooked that I really just don't feel like I can move any further. Some have suggested it is depression. Maybe. I tend to believe it's just "single parent exhaustion" (SPE--that way it sounds more scientific). Like today. It's my day off. So, what will I do for my day off? First, I must respond to e-mails that fill my inbox. Then, I will move outdoors to cut the grass. Hopefully, I will get done in plenty of time to do something I love to do--eat lunch at school with my kids. That's made a little more difficult by the fact that they are in separate schools for the first time this year. Then, I'll run to the grocery store, come home and start laundry and supper, check e-mails again and, if all is done in a precision-like manner, I may have a few minutes before my kids get home to sit down and read a few pages of one of the books that are piled on my desk. I'm not counting on that, however. After the kids are fed, the dishes are washed and the kitchen is cleaned, we'll get the kids showered, their homework done and prayer time. My "day off" will come to an end and I'll make myself ready for another morning of SPE tomorrow. But before I do, I'll go to sleep thanking God for another day--every single minute of it. For grass that grows and kids that grow even faster. For the money to buy groceries and to have clothes. For kids that love to snuggle with their dad, even as my boy grows older (he doesn't call it snuggling. For him, it's wrestling. That's okay, he can call it what he wants). I've got no reason to complain and many reasons to pray that prayer again in the morning, "God, I don't want to get out of bed but you've got a bigger plan..."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Surrounded. That word evokes a lot of different images for people. My first thought when I hear the word is the old Westerns I used to watch with my dad growing up. Images of the good guys surrounded by those who would wish to take their life and to destroy it. In those movies, the good guys would take hits and injuries but would always seem to prevail. The Cavalry would arrive or some hero would show up in the nick of time. There's another image that comes from that word surrounded. It's the image of a cold Winter day when it's frigid outside and I'm wrapped up in a throw blanket on the couch. Or, maybe spending a few extra minutes in the bed up to my eyes with sheets and comforters. It's a great feeling--that warmth and closeness and satisfaction. That's the feeling I had this morning. I just got back yesterday from a weekend long family reunion. Talk about being surrounded--our clan numbers almost 100 when we get together for these annual events. I am surrounded by aunts and uncles, cousins and their spouses, and more loved ones than I could even remember at this point. And I am surrounded--not just by family but by this overwhelming reminder that God is good. There are many things that can strengthen my faith. One of those is sharing time with family. It reminds me that God created us to have relationships; that, out of all the relationships he gave, family should be the best. He reminds me that, when it's done right, marriage is the most precious of those family relationships. And...He reminds me that He wants to be my Father. Why? Who really knows what makes a Holy God desire to be the parent to a person like me? The answer, I like to think, is that He wants to surround me. In that, there is warmth, there is closeness and there is satisfaction.