Monday Morning Musings …

We finally had a true summer Sunday. The weather was warm and it hasn’t rained in 8 or 9 days and many people were gone. It is okay, one out of the first 10 Sundays of the summer is okay. It was still another good day …

-The spirit during our time of music in worship yesterday was tremendous and that was with some significant sound issues. People were really singing out aloud. Maybe it was because I told them that I had decided the music goes better with motions, after experiencing worship with our Vacation Bible School kids this past week. I told the congregation as we began that after watching the kids in VBS that if the adults didn’t sing out I was going to make them do motions with all the songs. Maybe I need to make that threat every week. Just kidding, sort of.

-It was so fun to share with the entire congregation that our kids brought in $1,000 for kids in Kenya during VBS.

-We had a missionary speak during worship and he is serving in Kenya. That worked out great given our focus for giving during VBS. He and his college student daughter also shared with all of our children during Sunday School. That was a great follow up for our kids after VBS.

-I love hearing from people who are passionate about serving Christ. I was especially moved hearing from the missionary’s daughter about her passion to serve those in need wherever she is located.

-Our attendance was below our last year’s average for the first time all summer. The good news is that it was just barely below. But it was the first time it has felt like a summer Sunday.

-I am excited that a couple of our kids, and some of our grandkids, will be in worship with us next Sunday. They are coming in to help us celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Even better news is that will all be staying with us for 3 or 4 days. The other kid, and grandkids, have a great excuse for not being here, they are serving in Kenya. We hope to Skype with them.

-I am very excited to hear from a few people this weekend who are desiring to serve in ministry. These are people who have not been serving until now. In fact, they are very excited to begin serving. Good things really are happening in Canton.

-Loved getting together with some of the people from our small group last evening. We will be starting a couple of new groups out of this group in a few weeks. It is exciting to think of reaching new people, seeing new relationships begin and seeing people step up in leadership.

-My wife and I enjoyed having lunch with the missionary and his daughter. They serve a little over an hour from where our son and family are serving. We were able to talk about some familiar places.

-Next Sunday will be our celebration of Vacation Bible School. They kids will be sharing in song, memory verses and sharing about their giving. I am so excited to see them all together again and I am praying that many of their family members come and experience this with them. I am excited for our whole congregation to see and share in this outstanding event as well. For many who give faithfully to see that their giving is going to reach many children and families in our community.

Here’s hoping that you are already looking forward to next Sunday. I am praying that you will have many opportunities to encourage someone this week.

Dennis

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Lessons learned from Vacation Bible School …

“Oh, I know Jesus loves me, Oh I know Jesus loves you, from the top of my head to my wiggly toes …” That song (with motions) is stuck in my head. Why? We just finished our Vacation Bible School and that was part of the theme song. Vacation Bible School was great and I know I learned more than the kids. The kids learned a lot, but I can say without a doubt that I learned more. Just over a year ago I wrote a post “7 Lessons learned from Vacation Bible School”. I learned some more this year and was reminded of some of the lessons I learned last year.

-I learned that energy makes worship and learning a lot easier and more fun. The kids brought the energy every night and the adults used that energy to serve in powerful ways. Now if we could just get the rest of the people who attend on Sunday mornings to have a little more energy. Maybe we should start requiring that they do motions with every song. What do you think?

-I learned that giving can be fun. Our church, that is not large, at least not yet, had a total of 47 kids attend VBS. Those kids gave over $1,000 in 4 nights!!! You read that correctly. More impressive is they did it with no incentive of a prize and none of the money given was for anyone they knew. The money is all going to Africa to send a bunch of kids to school and feed thousands of kids who otherwise would have no meal at their school.

(Highlight: some of you are being cynical and thinking that all the money came from the kid’s parents and grandparents. Much of it did, but we had many, many kids emptying their personal banks to give their personal money for other kids. In fact one boy had been saving coins since last year’s VBS so that he could give to other kids this year. How is that for sacrifice?)

-Serving together is a great way to get to know people. There is a great bond that forms when you serve with someone.

-We have many outstanding adults. So many gave so much of their time, and energy, to serve the kids. Some gave up hours at work, some took vacation days to serve and all of them gave all the energy they had to serve. There are some serious naps going to be taking place this weekend.

-Smiles really do made a huge difference. I wrote something about kid’s smiles last year and I was blown away by the smiles of the kids and the smiles they were able to produce in the adults this year. I will go through smile withdrawal this next week.

-Kids love to volunteer. When we asked for volunteers we had dozens of hands go up no matter what we were asking them to do.

-Kids remind me that Church can, and should be, fun.

What are some of your memories of VBS? What have you learned from serving children?

Here’s hoping that you receive many smiles this week.

Dennis

What are you seeing? What are you hearing? …

I took a lot of pictures on my recent trip to Kenya and I posted several of them on my Facebook page. After a few days of posting pictures one of my daughters commented “We need more pics of the kids”. The main purpose of the trip to Kenya was to see and spend time with my son, daughter in law and 5 of my grandkids where they are serving as missionaries. Up until that time in the trip I had posted more pictures of the scenery than anything else. I was spending hours each day with my grandkids and I wanted everyone back home to see how beautiful it was in Kenya. My daughter however, was desperate to see pictures of her nephews and niece.

I have thought a lot about my daughter’s comment since arriving back home. As I have been doing some planning for preaching in this next year I have been asking if I am going to be communicating what matters most to the people who will be listening? My daughter wasn’t opposed to pictures of the beauty of Kenya, but what mattered most to her was pictures of her nieces, her nephews, her brother and her sister in law.

I have spent a lot of time today asking if I am seeing and hearing what matters most to the people around me.
You can help me plan for this next year. What do you most need answers to this next year? What do you most desire to know? What about the people you work with? How about your friends? What about your family, what do they need to hear?

I am not looking to compromise the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am looking to present the truth of his love and forgiveness and the power of the gospel in ways that matter and in ways that will be heard.

Will you help me? Just leave a comment for me on this blog. If you don’t want others to see the comment or question you leave for me just say so in your comments and I won’t allow it to seen by everyone.
Here’s hoping you are listening. Listening to the presence of God and to the needs of those around you.

Dennis

Lessons Learned on My Trip …

My wife and I recently returned from an incredible trip to Kenya. We went to spend time with our son, daughter in law and 5 of our grandkids. We were in Kenya 22 years ago and fell in love with the people and the country, so this trip had great meaning for us on many levels. I have been reflecting on our trip the past few days since we have returned home. Here are some lessons learned on this trip …

… I viewed everything I saw on this trip much differently than the trip 22 years ago. My first trip to Kenya was for a specific purpose of speaking in a few churches and to an annual retreat for a group of missionaries. I knew a handful of the missionaries before I arrived, but I had not known them for long. This trip I was visiting my own flesh and blood. I viewed everything, and everyone, I saw through the lens of how what I was seeing impacted the lives of my family. That changed how I looked at everything.

… I was deeply impacted by the experience of being in places that were out of my comfort zones. I was the foreigner. I sometimes looked different and I certainly sounded differently than those for whom this was their home territory. I really spent a lot of time during our trip thinking about being in unfamiliar places. When I encounter people in my church who are new to our church they are in unfamiliar territory. I am praying that I am more sensitive to the fears and concerns of people who are in places that are out of their comfort zones, in and out of the church.

… I flew on 6 different planes and they were operated by 3 different companies. My conclusion is that customer service, from those at the gates, to pilots, to baggage handlers, to the flight attendants, makes a huge difference in my impression of whether I had a good or bad flight. Let me just say that of the 3 airline companies, Delta was far above the other 2 when it came to customer service. This experience will influence my future airline choices.

… Jetlag is a very real thing when you cross several time zones.

… We worry way too much about little critters that crawl or fly in the U.S.

… It is customary in Kenya that if someone speaks to you, you will take the time to speak with them no matter what you are currently doing. I think that is a healthier way to live, but I don’t know how to do make it fully work in our time focused culture.

… The idea of personal space is much, much different in the U.S. than it is in Kenya. If you struggle with people invading your personal space, including on the highway, you will not enjoy a visit to Kenya.

… Technology is changing the world. Even in remote spaces in Kenya people have cell phones and many have other communication options as well.

… Time is viewed much differently in Kenya, and “on time” has a whole different meaning. This would take some major adjustments on my part if this was where I served. (Those who have worked with me are smiling at this last understatement.)

… I miss being able to be with my kids and grandkids on a regular basis. I love the reasons we are not able to be together. I love that my family is serving Christ and others wherever they believe the Lord is leading them. That being said, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss them.

… I was once again reminded that the world is a big place and that my part of it is small. I was once again reminded that my God is big and he created an amazing world.

Here’s hoping you are learning new things about yourself and the world each and every day.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Warning: I make no guarantees as to the clarity of this post. I am operating on a few hours of sleep and still recovering from jetlag.

We made it home Friday evening and are still trying to recover after the travel home from Kenya and to the 9 hour time difference. Our trip was fantastic and it was difficult giving goodbye hugs to the family when we left. But it was so good to spend time with them again. Let’s see if I can do a little musing this morning.

-We had our Children’s Christmas program yesterday. It was such a good day. There were more than 20 children involved in the program. Given the number of children attending a few months ago this is a tremendous number. I am so proud of our children’s workers and the progress that has been made in our Children’s ministries.

-The kids did such a good job. We had the obligatory pre-schoolers grabbing for and fighting over the microphones. We had kids who shined being up front and some who froze. All of which adds to the charm of a kids program.

-I love the simple message of the children’s program. Focusing on the innkeeper of Bethlehem and asking if we have room for Christ.

-There was great humor and serious thought in the dialog and songs.

-We had a great attendance. W, I mean really great attendance. We had many more than we had on Easter Sunday. It was great to see that our people really took to heart my urging to invite people to come. That makes 3 Sundays in the past 6 or 7 weeks in which we had more in worship than we had last Easter Sunday.

-It was great to meet some parents and grandparents of our children. Praying for those who live near us to return.

-It was so much fun to see the huge smiles on the faces of the core people of our church. Those who were here when we arrived and who have served so diligently for years. They are thrilled to see the growth that is happening and are not bemoaning someone sitting in their spot or that they are having to park a little further away. Their attitude is one of the keys as to why we are growing.

-It was great that I did not need to preach yesterday. You will rarely hear me say that, because I am passionate about preaching. But given my travel and the effects of jetlag it is probably good for all that I wasn’t attempting to preach a sermon yesterday. It would have been an adventure, but I am not sure it would have been helpful to anyone.

-Our small group had their Christmas party last evening. It was great that someone in the group took control and hosted the group for us last night. All we had to do was show up. We could just relax and enjoy the time with this great group. There were some great laughs and even a few moments of sharing.

-In anticipation of how I might feel on this day I avoided any meetings or appointments for today. That is proving to be a very wise decision. I am really having trouble focusing and even carrying on a conversation is interesting this morning. I do have a hospital visit I need to make later. Here’s hoping I make it in and out of the hospital without someone thinking I need to be admitted.

I am missing my grandkids and kids this morning. But I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel to Kenya and spend time with them. Here’s hoping you have better focus than I do today. I pray that you will sense the comfort of the Lord’s presence and the power of his love today. Now I wonder if I can sneak in a nap without anyone realizing I am asleep.

Dennis

Kenya Trip #6, heading home today …

So glad that we have been able to make this trip and spend time with our family. So tough to think of the last hugs and goodbyes in a few hours. These will be more difficult knowing that we will not see all of them again for another year and a half when they come home for a short furlough.

When we get on the plane for the first flight of 3 heading home it will be about 19 hours in the air and a total of 26 hours before we land back in Illinois. If you are so inclined prayers for on time flights and for no back flare-ups, at least until we get home.

Yesterday we went back to the little local restaurant and I was again struck by the contrasts all around us here. We walked up what is affectionately called “killer hill”. We have a couple of pictures, but they do not do justice to the steepness of the walk and then add that we are at 7,000 + feet elevation. It was a great experience and we now have great mental images of the campus and area where our kids and grandkids live and serve.

We watched our granddaughter show how she has learned to “ripstick” and then we watched our daughter in law trying to learn it as well. I did not attempt it. We played more games and more ping pong. I once again did not fare so well in the ping pong. But I loved every moment of it with my grandkids. We watched a movie and were again reminded that though they have some conveniences here it is much different than back home. The 1 hour and 48 minute movie took several hours to completely download. Electricity, water and internet are all here, but they can go away quickly as well.

We had some more great conversations about ministry their here and where they are headed in the next couple of years. This has been a great experience and we have created lasting memories. Once again, let me say thanks to all who helped us get here and have been praying for us on this trip.

I am very grateful that I do not have preach Sunday as our Children’s Christmas program is Sunday morning. I am in the program and will share a closing thought, but those are not near the pressure and since we are coming back trying to adjust to a 9 hour time difference, this is a great for me. Until we get home, talk to you later.

Dennis

Kenya Trip #5 …

Yesterday we celebrated my oldest grandchild’s birthday. My grandson turned 17. He is a an awesome young man (wow, can’t believe I am using the word “man” in a description of one of my grandkids, but it is a fact). He has a great heart for Christ and for other people. He is funny and thoughtful. He loves music and movies. He is a reader and thinker. He is athletic and good looking. He is researching colleges and wants to make a difference in the world. He isn’t perfect, but as I already wrote, I think he is awesome.

We also went to a local vegetable market and there are people there who sell souvenirs as well. I loved the experience and again am reminded of so much that I take for granted back home. I love the hospitality of the Kenyan people. I loved seeing how my son and daughter in law know these people. They know their names and some of their stories as well.

We talked more about some future ministry possibilities that my son and daughter in law are pursuing. Wow! I was reminded of when we dedicated my son to the Lord. My Dad was the pastor who did the dedication. Part of what he said and challenged my wife and me with was that we were dedicating him to the Lord. Not for our preferences but for God’s call on his life. We gave him to the Lord while he was a baby. He chose to personally follow Christ as a teen. He has, and is, answering God’s call on his life. He still belongs to the Lord. I trust the Lord. As a parent I still have moments of worry and fear. But I know that God loves my kids and grandkids even more than I do. Therefore, I embrace where they are headed. I will continue to pray fiercely for them. I will love them passionately and encourage them in any way I can. But I will also worry some.

The birthday boy and I played some ping pong. Then my son and grandson and I played some ping pong. I didn’t do so well, but I sure enjoyed the time. We played a couple of other games and just soaked up being with this beautiful family.

I spent a lot of time reading my Bible yesterday. I was reminded over and over again of God’s faithfulness and that God has a plan for us. His plans are full of hope and a future. I needed that reminder.
My back is doing better, it is not completely free of pain but it is worlds better than the day before. If you prayed, thanks, it is improving and I am hopeful that the 18 hours of plane rides when we head home will be okay.

Today is our last full day with the family. We will head toward the airport in the afternoon tomorrow and are scheduled to fly out about 10:30 Thursday night (Kenya time). This has been an awesome trip. Again let me say thanks for all who helped us get here and for all who have been praying for us.

Dennis

Kenya Trip #4 …

One of my fears for this trip came true yesterday as my back acted up on me. It started with spasms and then continued through the day with pain. I have been through this many times before, so I will be fine I just didn’t want anything to take away from activities with the family. The other concern for the trip home. Praying that it is significantly better by the time we board our first flight on Thursday. If you are so inclined I would appreciate a prayer for this creaky back of mine.

We exchanged a few Christmas presents last night. Some of the items we intended to give did not make it here, but we had a good time anyway. It was a real blessing to see their faces this year as they received the items. Through a little grumbling we were even able to take a couple of family photos. Teenage boys are not always thrilled at lining up for a photo op, but they cooperated even if under protest.

We went to a small local restaurant that is in the little town next to the campus where our kids live and do much of their ministry. These experiences are enlightening. There is such a mix of modern and not close to modern all around us. Technology has changed the landscape of many places. With solar powered electricity and satellite towers spread far and wide even remote places have a few surprises. No matter where we have gone we have seen people on cell phones. They may not have many of the conveniences we take for granted back home but their communication capabilities are far beyond what I saw when I came to Kenya 20 years ago.

Today we will be celebrating our oldest grandchild’s birthday. This will be a thrill for us, as the others have all had 2 birthdays since we last were able to celebrate with them in person. For those of you who complain because your kids or grandkids are 30 minutes or an hour away, I don’t want to hear it. The celebration will have a little sadness attached to it as well. Since it is his 17th birthday it is another reminder that I am not young. Of course every glance in the mirror is a reminder as well.

I have loved seeing, and hearing, of the ministries going on here and of lives being changed in so many ways. I am so proud of my kids and grandkids. They are all serving and making a difference. Being able to see where they live and minister, to breathe the air they breathe and travel some of the same roads and paths has been a tremendous blessing. There are many lessons learned when you travel and I am confident that stories of this trip will find their way into a few sermons and lessons when I return home.

Time to work on the back a bit, get a cup of tea and see what is planned for this day. Only a couple more days here so we want to soak up all the possibilities. Thanks for reading, for thinking of us and for praying for us.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings from Kenya …

A Sunday always feels different when I am not in my home church and when I did not preach. This Sunday felt very different for some awesome reasons. First we were in Kenya which is a few thousand miles from home. Second we were in worship with our kids and grandkids here in Kenya. Some here are some of my musings …

-The 9 hour time difference allowed me to pray for the service and people back home as they were worshiping. That was kind of cool.

-I was amused to see that the church we attended here had 3 times as many people in attendance at the end of the service as they had when the service began. It is possible that some of my people back home are just trying to be like the Kenyans given the time they arrive for worship.

-The service we attended was 90% in English, though it was English with a heavy accent.

-I could get used to not having to have any furnace, no need for a foyer because you gather and fellowship outdoors and to walk out the doors of the church look at the mountains. Could we get some mountains in the corn fields around our church back home?
-One of the highlights of our time of worship yesterday was to look down the row and see my grandsons with their bibles open when the pastor announced the scripture. It was a proud and heartwarming moment I will cherish for a long time.

-The more interesting service would have been the one following the one we attended, that second service is a Swahili congregation. That service is longer and more energetic. Since it was completely in Swahili I don’t think I would have understood much. The service we attended had a couple of songs in Swahili and I followed them well because I recognized the tune. That was fun.

-Time is treated much differently in Kenya. If I were serving here that would take some adjusting on my part.

-We walked to church. I walk to church back home, but the walk is about 50 yards back home. The walk here was a little longer, but not bad. The biggest differences in this walk was the up and down of the terrain, the beauty of the flowers and plants and seeing mountains. I see no mountains on my regular walk to church.

-I loved seeing how many children were in the worship service here yesterday. Prompted me to pray for our children and children’s workers back home.

-I loved seeing the ministries of this church and noting that their most active ministry was their missions ministry.

-We spent great time with our family yesterday afternoon and evening playing games. Some of my greatest memories of our family are from times when we are playing games, or sitting around talking following a game.

-My greatest musing from yesterday was being humbled and thankful for all who helped make it possible for us to make this trip and be able to spend time our family.

Here’s hoping you have musings to reflect on with thanksgiving from your activities on Sunday. I will attempt to post another couple of updates from our time here in Kenya before we leave later this week.

Dennis

Kenya Trip #3 …

Last night we enjoyed a roaring fire in the fireplace. As pleasant as the temps are, it gets a little chilly at night and when you are at 7,000+ feet elevation it feels a little cooler than the thermometer declares. We played some more games, our family has always been a game playing family and this is so fun to do some catch-up in playing games with this part of our family.

I am already in the habit of having a cup of hot tea when I get up in the morning. For those who know me, you would be stunned to know that I have only had 1 cup of coffee in the past 6 days. On a normal morning at home I have 1 cup of coffee in the first 6 minutes after getting up. The tea tastes better in Kenya, I may have to bring some of this home with me.

Yesterday we took a trip to a retreat center, where they had some wonderful places to walk through tea fields, a place to purchase some souvenirs and a nice restaurant. We took a nice walk, bought a few souvenirs and enjoyed a unique lunch. I ordered, and ate, roasted goat. I liked it, though I doubt I will get too many options for it back home. As usual the drive was exciting. Between the traffic, the road conditions and the people watching every trip in a vehicle is a thrilling adventure.

We also played some Rook, a thrilling game of 31 and a few of us played Angry Birds and I once again got creamed at a game of Memory by my granddaughter. I am soaking in all of this family time.

I am so pleased watching my kids serve the way they do and to hear their heart for the Lord and to reach people who don’t know Jesus. They shared some new possibilities for ministry in the future. Let’s just say that my prayer life will get even more fervent if these possibilities happen.

This morning we went to a local church, but I will share more about that in my Monday Morning Musings. Until I can sit down and type again, hope you have a great day.

Dennis