Monday Morning Musings …

I couldn’t do my musings this morning as we were saying goodbye to the 2nd of our 3 kids and family as they headed back home. What a glorious weekend and what an outstanding Sunday we experienced. I am overwhelmed today. As for my musings …

-They were all here. All 16 of them, which made 18 of us all together for the very first time. My wife and I, our 3 children, their wonderful spouses and our 10 awesome grandkids. On Wednesday we picked up my son and family as they returned to the states after serving as missionaries the last 3 years in Kenya. On Thursday afternoon our oldest daughter and family arrived to join the festivities. Then on Friday evening our youngest daughter and family arrived to complete the crew! It was awesome! The last time we were all together there were only 16 of us. Two of grandkids were born while our son and family were in Kenya. So there was a lot of catching up to do. There was a lot of hugging. There were more smiles than could be counted. There was raucous laughter erupting all over the house often. There were games to be played and stories to share. There were pictures to take and much food to be eaten. There were fierce hugs and some tears as we began to separate again. And it was amazing! 

-We experienced the hottest weather we have had since I moved here two and a half years ago. That limited the activities to the indoors.

-Both of my churches had good attendance and especially for late July in this type of heat.

-We had major technical problems at both churches. So frustrating.

-The spirit was good in my 9:00 church and it was outstanding in my 10:30 church.

-I preached with a shovel in my hand. (Maybe I will share why in another post. I like to keep them on their toes during the message.) 

-As part of my 10:30 church’s worship one of the kids from church presented a check to my son and daughter in law. The check was for a wonderful ministry called Kenya Kids Can. They feed 16,000 school children a day. My son and daughter in law worked in this ministry as one of their ministries in Kenya. The money came from the children during our Vacation Bible School. The check was for $540 and was just part of the offerings the children gave. The other part went to support a pastor’s child’s schooling in Kenya for the next year. It was a very special and moving moment in our worship. 

-Last week our church was broken into and someone damaged 3 doors and ruined our safe. The person was caught in the act by the local police while doing a routine patrol. The person did not get away with anything since they were caught in the act. Our safe held up, but it will need to be replaced. Last Monday was a very difficult day. My heart is breaking for the person who broke in and for their family. It made quite the splash in the news, not exactly the type of publicity we were looking for.

-Today is my 2nd grandson’s 16th birthday.

-Yesterday I shared some of what God has been pressing me on personally (see my post titled “My Monday Morning Wreck”) and how I believe He wants all of us to respond to the needs around us. We are seeking ways to go deeper (see the connection with the shovel) so that we can grow up and produce the fruit of changed lives and helping those most in need. God is really up to something special in our town.

Here’s hoping that you are seeing ways to make a difference in your community and that you are courageously stepping out to help people.

Dennis

Advertisements

Tuesday’s Thoughts …

Sunday was an outstanding day and this week is going to be epic. Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have ever had in my ministry. I was awakened Monday morning at 1:30 am with a phone call. Since then a couple of other emergencies have arisen and my thoughts and emotions are exhausted. As for my thoughts (they can’t be musings because it is Tuesday not Monday) … 

-My 10:30 church had our Vacation Bible School last week and the kids shared a few songs, there was a lesson shared and I got to share that the 50+ kids who attended brought in $900. They gave enough to cover the school costs for the next year for a girl we support in Africa and they will be sending a good amount to help with a program that feeds 16,000 students a day in Kenya. Some of the kids brought in money they have been saving and one boy had been saving coins since last year’s VBS. He brought in gallons of coins. One day when I took the coins in to the bank’s coin counter, the machine was overwhelmed and stopped working!

-Many of the kids who attended VBS were here Sunday and we had a few parents who don’t normally attend our church here as well. Our attendance was good as was the energy and spirit in the service.

-My 9:00 church had a nasty rain storm arrive about 25 minutes before our worship began. It was dark as night and raining very hard as the service started. An hour later it had stopped and the sun peeked out. Our attendance was down but we worshiped with passion anyway.

-The reason this week is going to be epic is because my son, daughter in law and 5 of my grandkids are arriving back in the states tomorrow after serving the past 3 years in Kenya! My wife and I will pick them up at the airport tomorrow along with their 21 pieces of luggage. We are taking a vehicle just for the luggage and then a minivan that has been loaned to our kids as well. We are very excited. 

-The greatest part of this week is that all of our kids and grandkids will be at our house this weekend. That will be 18 of us. We have added 2 since the crew went to serve in Africa. Someone is allowing us to use their RV while everyone is here to give us some extra sleeping space.

-My heart is breaking over a couple of the emergencies that have come our way in the past 36 hours. I was already planning to begin a new sermon series this Sunday that focuses on going deeper, praying harder and living authentically.

-Prayers are appreciated as my planned study time has been destroyed yesterday and today.

-This morning my wife and I went out for breakfast and one of our kids who comes with someone other than his family came into the restaurant with some of his family. He came straight to us and gave each of us a big hug. We talked with him and his family a little and reminded the family members that they are always welcome to come to church with him. That was a nice little bright spot.

-With everything that has taken place the past 2 days here and the past few weeks around the world I have been reminded of the phrase my Dad continued to share in his 44 years of ministry. “No matter what is happening, God is still God”. I have been saying “God is still God” over and over to myself and to a few others. I am grateful for this truth and for a Dad who continues to live this out. 

-I recently wrote this during one of my prayer times “My inaction is an indication that my prayers are empty words. If I prayer with the desire to be surrendered to Christ and to see Him move in my life then I must follow Him. Following requires action on my part.” I pray that inaction will never again be descriptive of my life.

Here’s hoping that you find a bright spot today. I am praying that you will recognize and live with the truth that God is still God echoing in your life.

Dennis

 

Monday Morning Musings …

The Monday after a few days of vacation, especially when I was gone on Sunday, are always an interesting mix of joy at being back at it again and wishing for a few more days away. I think my laptop is having trouble getting back into the routine as well. Maybe because I shut it off on Thursday morning when we left town and didn’t turn it back on until this morning. As for my musings … 

-We went to see and spend some time with my dad, stepmom, brother and sister in law, stepsister and her husband and a few other family members over the weekend. The trip is a little over 6 hours each way.

-It was a wonderful weekend.

-2 of my daughters and 5 of my grandkids joined us for this little family time. One of my daughters came to our place and we rode together with her 20 month old and 5 month old girls. They made traveling a lot more fun. My other daughter and her 3 kids, ages 9, 6 and 4 met us there. Needless to say we were never lacking energy (from the kids) or entertainment.

-My Dad had not met the 3 youngest members of the clan. That was fun to witness. My stepmom played piano at the request of the great grandkids and the 20 month old accompanied her and danced to the tunes. Now that is entertainment. 

-I was able to sit and worship with my Dad yesterday morning. I haven’t been able to do that very many times. He pastored for 44 years before he retired and I have been pastoring for 33 years. The last time he and I sat together in a service was at my son’s Ordination service 6 or 7 years ago.

-It sounds like things went very well here while I was gone. That gives me great joy. I was not concerned one bit and that enabled me to have a very relaxing and refreshing time away.

-It appears that the services went well at both of my churches and that the attendance was reasonable at both as well. I have already gotten 2 unsolicited praises about the message our new Assistant Pastor preached, 1 from each church.

-We are beginning Vacation Bible School at my 10:30 church tonight. The place looks incredible. The VBS is entitled “Cave Quest” and our whole building is decorated to look like caves. We have waterfalls, a boat, rocks everywhere, bats flying, and other critters watching from many of the walls. We also have several adults and some teens who are excited and ready for the students to arrive tonight. 

-My 9:00 church will begin their VBS in 3 weeks. People are furiously making plans and getting things ready.

-It is always interesting to me how visiting another church nearly always makes me miss my churches and people.

-It was different to sit through an entire worship service and not have any part in it.

-I also found that Sunday morning before worship begins is really long when I am not getting ready to preach. I got up 2 hours later than I normally do on a Sunday and still felt that there was a lot of time until church. How do you do that every week? That would take some getting used to for me.

-My son, daughter (in law) and 5 grandkids will arrive in the States in 9 days!!!! After 3 years in Kenya.

-It appears that we are going to have a weekend with all 18 of us together, my wife and I, our 3 children and our in law kids and 10 grandkids at our house for a couple of days. I am really pumped about that and wondering how my wife and I will contain our joy when it does take place. 

Here’s hoping that you find some joy in your day and that you pass it on. I need to go make sure the critters in the building are behaving.

Dennis

Signs that You Grew Up as a Pastor’s Kid … just for fun

If you were always expected to volunteer to pray when the teacher asked in Sunday School, then you very likely grew up as a Pastor’s kid. I know this feeling, I grew up as a Pastor’s kid. My 3 kids grew up as Pastor’s kids. Several of my grandkids are growing up as Pastor’s kids. There is a lot of unique things about being a Pastor’s kid, some of it is fun and some of it can be frustrating.

If you knew the shortcuts, or secret passages, around your church building you probably grew up as a Pastor’s kid.

You likely grew up as a Pastor’s kid if you know what it feels like to stand in front of the whole congregation while your parents open a Christmas card with money in it and all you want to know is “What is my cut?”

Pastor’s kids know what it is like to have the whole congregation turn and look at you when your preaching parent says “The other day one of my kids did …”

If you knew what it was like to go to people’s home for dinner who had no kids your age, just because your parent was the pastor, and have to sit at the table for what seemed like hours listening to the adults talk, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you knew what it was to wonder if the fact that you got in trouble at school would get your parent in trouble at church, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you knew what it was like to be able to walk into the pastor’s study/office even with the door closed, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you had to go to church, sometimes even Sunday School, while on vacation, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you knew what was on the shelves on the back side of the pulpit at your church, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If the words “church board meeting” created worry lines on the foreheads of your parents, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you knew the joy, and curse, of everyone in the church knowing your first and middle names and your birthday, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you had someone in your church who slipped you candy and seemed always know when you needed a hug even when you weren’t related, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid. Quite often then someone seemed to take on a grandparent role with you. My kids had a few of these who they still think of fondly.

If you had to go to midweek kid’s and youth meetings no matter how much homework you claimed to have, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

If you ever spent a Saturday night at a friend’s house who did not attend church and got picked up by your parents so that you would not miss church, you probably grew up as a pastor’s kid.

Feel free to add to the list if you grew up as a pastor’s kid. Here’s hoping you have a week with some great laughs and enough smiles to share a few with others.

 

Dennis

Sometimes You Just Gotta Make Some Noise …

I walked into our local public library, I heard her and then I saw her and then ….

A while ago my wife and I had the joy of having 3 of our grandchildren stay with us for a few days. The range of their ages are 8, 5 and 3. Those are ages of great energy, noise, laughter, emotion and joy. I absolutely love being around my grandkids

I noticed that my grandkids often ran to wherever we were going. Even when they walked they would mix in a few hops and skips. Their energy seemed boundless at times. Did I ever have that much extra energy?

I walked into our local public library, I heard her and then I saw her and then …

It was not just the extra energy that changed our house while my grandkids were here, it was the noise volume. It went up several decibels. Some of the noise was laughter, some of it was loud talking attempting to get someone’s attention and sometimes it was just loud yells of joy for the fun of it.

I walked into our local public library (as in no loud talking, no running and never ever any yelling allowed), I heard her and then I saw her and then …

You are very likely smiling as you read of these noisy exploits of my grandkids. I will confess that I am smiling as I remember and type these thoughts. You are smiling as you picture children of these ages and imagine the smiles, the energy and the noise. I am smiling because they are my grandkids and I always smile when I think of my grandkids.

But there is something else isn’t there? If you are thinking anything like I am your question is along the lines of “When did I stop living life with this kind of joy and when did I stop making noise just because life is good?”

I walked into our local public library (as in no loud talking, no running and never ever any yelling allowed), I heard her as she yelled “Grandpa” and then I saw her as she came running across the library and then … without worrying about where we were she launched herself into my legs and gave me huge hug.

Jeremiah chapter 20 verse 9 says, “…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

Here’s to hoping that you and I get a little bolder and make some noise. Here’s hoping that we don’t allow circumstances, fears, worries, or just the passing years to stifle our voices. Here’s hoping that you take a moment to yell this week, to tell someone about the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Bonus points if you choose to yell during a worship service!

Dennis

3 Answered Prayers …

Yesterday was one of my son in laws birthday. As I was thinking of him (and how I didn’t get a card in the mail in time to get to him on his birthday, again) I was reminded of 3 long time prayers that have been answered. My wife and I to watch 3 children enter this world, 1 son and 2 daughters. Before they were born we prayed for them. Then not long after they were born we began praying for their future spouse, if they made the choice to marry.

We prayed that they would find and choose someone who loved Jesus as their personal Savior above all else. When our kids began to get serious with someone we always asked if they loved Jesus. In fact, when we met the son in law who just had the birthday for the very first time with several of our family together for a meal, we were about to call it a night and my wife said to him, “I just have one question for you, do you love Jesus?” He answered that he did. Each of the kids who joined our family by marrying into it answered the same.

Our biggest concern was not about what any of our soon to be in laws were going to do for a living. Instead our biggest concern was who they were living for. By the way, I just consider them one of our kids now, I really don’t think in terms of in-laws. I usually state that they are a son or daughter in law when I speak to others, but in my mind and heart they are one of our kids.

We have been blessed because all 3 of our prayers were answered so beautifully. All 3 of our children found and chose to marry wonderful people who love Jesus. All of our kids, all 6 of them, are serving Christ wherever they are living. We continue to pray for them daily for many things, but we are so grateful for these 3 answered prayers.

We are still praying these prayers for future spouses who love Jesus, only now we are praying it for our grandchildren. Since we have 9 grand kids and we will get to meet number 10 soon, we are spending a lot of time praying. I look forward to meeting these future spouses of my grandkids. I am sure that I will consider them one of my grandkids when they join the family. If they each get married that will mean a lot of grandkids. I think that is awesome.

But since I am praying for 6 kids, soon to be 10 grand kids and their future spouses. I better quit writing for now and go back to praying.

Here’s praying that you are witnessing some answers to prayer as well.

Dennis

40 Reasons We are still Going Strong … (they aren’t all in this post)

True confession. Today is the 40th anniversary of our wedding. At this time 40 years ago I was awake and excited about getting married. I was nervous, but strangely I think I was more nervous about putting my Tux on than I was about committing to someone for a lifetime. You see I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing with a Tux or a marriage. (More on that in another post.)

Over the next few days I am going to give my wife some notes, cards and other things that will contain 40 reasons I love her. Shhhhh, don’t tell her this is going to happen, it is a surprise.

Here are 5 of the 40 …

She is beautiful. In all honesty I noticed her because she was so pretty and she is more beautiful today than she was when I first met her. (Side note: I first met her while on a date with someone else. Don’t get upset the first time I called to ask her out I had to wait until she got in from a date with another guy.)

She still laughs at my jokes. Even the ones no one else gets. I am pretty sure that she sometimes laughs just to make me feel good. But the fact that she still laughs after 40 years is pretty cool.

She is my biggest cheerleader. (If you ask her she has a great cheerleader story to tell you. It is very inspirational and has become a family legend. A former staff member of mine still calls and asks her to repeat the story sometimes.)

She is an awesome mother and mother-in-law. She loves our kids, and we consider our in-law kids our kids and she loves them the same. She has sacrificed much, more than our kids know, while our kids were still at home. Actually, she still does.

She has been, and still is, my partner in ministry for the 32+ years that I have served. There have been times in my ministry that I was pretty sure some of the churches were happier she was with them than me.

There are many more and I will share them in the near future.

For today, I just want to say Happy Anniversary to the love of my life, to my partner in every sense of the word , to the one who has given me more than I will ever deserve.

Here’s to Jody, I love you.

Dennis

Unconditional … After all these years

As my wife and I are approaching the 40th anniversary of our wedding day I have been thinking a lot about how to describe our relationship and love. The best word I have been able to come up with is “unconditional”. To support, or love, without concern of any qualifications or prerequisites. That is my working definition of unconditional. What would your definition be? Do you have any unconditional relationships in your life?

After going through 40 years of marriage, living in 8 different states, 3 children, 9 (1 more arriving in January) grandkids, the death of 3 parents and 1 sibling, enduring me finishing college and then going from school teacher/coach to pastor (still coaching some), we are still together.

We are more than still together. I told my wife recently that I like where we are in our relationship today much more than I did 40 years ago! Do you feel that way?

We had youth, anticipation, dreams and the unknown on our side 40 years ago. Today we have experience, and the scars to prove it, we have so many memories (but sadly not a lot of pictures), we have 17 (with one on the way) in our family as opposed to the 2 of us and we have so many more friends than we could have imagined.

There have been difficult times, some very difficult times, and I wish that we hadn’t gone through some of them, but I wouldn’t trade what we learned and where we are for anything.  We have also had more wonderful times than I could possibly recall. 40 years ago when we came home to our tilted, 10X50 foot mobile home where we watched the winter winds blow the curtains covering our closed windows and where I could reach out of a window and exchange a newspaper with my neighbor, I could not imagine where we would be today.

I have learned that unconditional is not just a word, or a concept, in wedding vows. I have experienced unconditional love and life with the love of my life and I couldn’t be more content.

Funny thing is, we still have dreams about the future, we still believe that some of our greatest days are still ahead of us, we still believe in each other and in our savior Jesus Christ who has always loved us (and you) unconditionally. We still believe you can work out your disagreements and disappointments. We still believe that “I do” is a continuing statement.

I love her so much more today than I did on that Saturday afternoon in Flint, Michigan 40 years ago that I don’t know how to adequately describe it. I am very excited for the next ____ years. I won’t be a limit on our time together. Because no matter how much longer it is I know it will be awesome and that it will continue to be marked by “unconditional” love

Here’s to my wife, you are the best. I love you!

Dennis

7 Things my Dad taught me by his Example …

Examples are powerful teachers. On this Father’s Day I am reflecting on the powerful example my father gave me, and still gives me. Much of what I am today is a result of me following the example of my Dad. Some life changing things he has taught me are …

Love Jesus passionately and depend on him and his Word with each breath you take. My Dad is a great example of loving Jesus.

Laugh a lot. There was always laughter around our house and there still is whenever you are around my Dad. He loved pranks, he loves a good joke and a funny story.

Be committed. My Dad is a picture of commitment. He is committed to Christ. He was committed to my Mom, they were married for 41 years before she died and he has been married to my stepmom for nearly 26 years. He was committed as a pastor for 44 years. He taught me that if you are going to get involved in something be committed to it.

Preach the Word. My Dad was my pastor for all my growing up years but I didn’t have a choice he was a great pastor. He was my pastor for a few years when I was an adult (before I became a pastor) and that was by choice. In fact we drove 30 minutes each way just to have him as our pastor. In all of the years of his ministry he always was faithful to preach God’s Word. He showed me, and told me, that as long as I preached the Word I would be okay, and when I would get in trouble was if I tried to preach my own stuff.

Love people. My Dad loved, and still loves people. He endeared himself to the people he pastored because they knew he loved them. He showed them that love during good times and not so good times. They always knew they were loved.

God is still God. This phrase is my Dad’s ministry in a nutshell. He repeated the phrase often to everyone and he lived it in all areas of his life. It was proven especially during my Mom’s battle with cancer and her early death at age 59. I vividly remember talking with my Dad shortly after my Mom died when he said, “I guess now I will find out for sure if all that I have preached through the years is really true.” Three months after this conversation I reminded Dad of his statement and I asked him if it was really true. His answer was a firm “Yes. Yes it is!” I use that phrase a lot in my ministry because I have seen it to be true, God is still God no matter what.

Be generous. My parents were always generous with their time, with their possessions, with their home, with their stuff and with their money. We never had a lot, but we always shared. What a powerful lesson of being truly generous and trusting God for all things.

There is much more I could share about the things my Dad has taught me by his example and maybe I will share more of them in another post sometime. For today let me just say thanks Dad and happy Father’s Day. I love you.

Dennis

The Balance of Love …

Today is Valentine’s Day. The day set aside to sell cards, candy and flowers. This is a day where society, or at least the retail side of society, attempts to force your hand to show your love through stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that most of us need a nudge or shove to express our love to those who mean the most to us. That’s not how it should be, but unfortunately for too many among us it is the sad truth.

My issues are not the setting aside of a day to express love. I struggle with the idea that you can substitute things for love. To be clear, I have purchased many a card, some flowers and other stuff in an attempt to express my love. But a balance is needed.

We need to express love for those who mean the most to us regularly. If we would focus on communicating our love more regularly we would be able to avoid the trap of thinking that stuff is sufficient to express our love. After all, few of us could afford to express our love with the cards, candy or flowers every day. We must learn more meaningful ways in which to express our love.

Here are some other ways to express love:

*Time – spend time together. How the time is spent is much less important than spending the time together. But the greatest impact would be if you chose to spend time doing some things that the other person enjoys.

*Hand written notes – you don’t have to be a wordsmith to do this one. Just jot a few words down and leave it someplace where they will see it. It can be as simple as “I love you”, “Just a reminder I am here for you”, “You mean the world to me”, “I thank God he created you and brought you into my life”. You get the picture. Cards that you purchase are good, but a handwritten, or typed one for those of us whose hand writing is illegible, is even better.

*Go for a walk, or a bike ride – I prefer the walking because you can hold hands and talk. I have found that the hand holding is tricky when riding bikes.

*Do a chore together – wash the dishes, or empty the dishwasher, or plant some flowers or paint something, etc… This can also be dangerous if you have strong opposite opinions on how to do these chores, but you ought to be able to stifle that long enough to spend some quality time together.

*Talk – this might be the most intimidating one. To just sit down and talk with each other. Share some pleasant or funny memories, such as … “What is our most memorable Christmas together?”, “What do you remember about our first date?”, “If we could take your dream vacation where would we go and what would we do?” Actually talking with your spouse, child, parent or friend requires more than one word answers.

These are just a few ideas. I am sure that you already have some great ideas. Let’s move from having the ideas to doing the ideas. Let’s balance our love so it is expressed all year not just on birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day or Christmas. You will be amazed at how fun it is surprise them with unexpected expressions of love and you will be moved by how much it means to them as well.

Shout out: to my wife. Happy Valentine’s Day honey. I love you. As we move closer to our 40th Wedding Anniversary, I love you more now than on our wedding day. You are my friend and lover. You are my greatest supporter. You mean so much more to me than I can possibly express in a few words. We have been blessed with 3 wonderful kids and God answered our prayers as they all chose wonderful spouses for themselves, then they have doubly blessed us with 9 grandkids who bring us so much joy. Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!

Dennis