Well Done Dad …

If you are talking about a steak, well done means no pink and some crust on the meat. If you are giving a compliment to someone, well done means that what you accomplished was done with excellence. But if you are talking about the evaluation of a life, well done means a life lived to the fullest in obedience of service for Jesus Christ. It means a life of impact and influence. It means a life that made other people’s lives better. It means hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done describes my Dad’s life.

If a mischievous smile and a twinkle in the eye were an Olympic sport my Dad would have won a gold medal. When it came to teasing people, and still making them feel good, my Dad was a master. When it came to encouraging you to keep going and not give up, my Dad may have been the best. When it came to making you feel better just with his presence, there may have been no one better than my Dad. Well done, Dad, well done.

When it came to motivating a group of people to grow as followers of Christ and become a church that makes a difference, my Dad excelled. When it came to giving a challenge, one that you remembered, he always came through. When it came to being the pastor that you wanted for your church, it was my Dad. Well done, Dad.

When it came to living what he preached, my Dad did it better than anyone I have ever known. A person who worked with him at factory when Dad was a bi-vocational pastor said of Dad, “The direction of his walk always matched his talk.” Well done Dad.

When it came to making the loudest finger snap known to mankind, Dad was the best. If I was not listening, or if I was beginning to misbehave in church he would drop that right hand outside the pulpit and SNAP his fingers. It was so loud the whole congregation would sit up straight. My head would pop up from wherever I was and then I got the look. This is etched in my memory because I heard it more times than I could count. All of this took place without Dad missing a word of his sermon. He kept me in line, he kept me listening and he kept me interested in Christ. Well done Dad, well done.

When it came to embracing people and making them a part of the family Dad was outstanding. He did this with all of us in the family, he did this with all who entered the family, he did it with all whose family he entered and everyone who was in his church family. He left no doubt that we were loved. Well done Dad.

Between my Mom and Marge, Dad was married for more than 69 years. Dad did it with excellence and set an incredible example of what it meant to be a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Well done Dad.

Most of all, Dad took the admonition of John 10:10 to heart “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” You lived life to the full Dad. You showed us how to live life fully for Christ, for your family, your church and everyone you came across. Well done, Dad.

Enjoy your eternity. Enjoy reconnecting with so many who are in heaven because of your influence. Enjoy no more pain. Enjoy the return of a strong voice. Enjoy eating ice cream again without worrying about your blood sugar numbers. Enjoy running and jumping again. Enjoy hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done Dad, thanks for the example.

Dennis

Advertisements

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday saw some severe swings of emotion. It was the culmination of a full week with some dramatic, and traumatic, events in our community and personally. As for my musings …

-On Wednesday, this past week, at a little after 5:30 pm a large explosion ripped through our downtown square. It was the result of a natural gas leak that was being repaired when it erupted. It originated behind an office building and blew up an addition to the building and ripped straight through the building and out the front wall. Windows were shattered for a few blocks and there was structural damage in several buildings. The building that blew up housed a Pregnancy Resource Center in which my wife works on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They had just moved to this space 5 weeks earlier. Everything in the center is destroyed. Everyone who works in the center is safe. They were all gone and only one person, who works in another office, was still in the building when it blew. He was injured but is healing. Sadly, one of those working to repair the leak was killed. As you can imagine the town is reeling from this event. The town is rallying around people and businesses including the Pregnancy Center.

    

-Being part of a community that comes together in prayer, in serving, in caring and giving is a powerful and beautiful thing.

-I had been processing a sermon from the 23rd Psalm for a few weeks and 2 or 3 weeks ago, decided that yesterday was the right Sunday to preach it. That was without having any idea how timely it would be to present this sermon. God knew and was directing my study and plans, thanks be to God.

   

-At both my 9:00 and 10:30 churches it was obvious by the reactions, and the conversations after, that the message resonated with people.

-My 9:00 church had very low attendance. The 10:30 church was a little above their average.

-I have a whole new appreciation for the imagery, and truth, of the 23rd Psalm. The picture of the good shepherd guiding, protecting, healing, providing and the peace that this produces overwhelmed me this past week.

-I was studying for this sermon when the explosion took place. My wife and I were at church when we heard a boom of some kind and felt the building shake. My wife asked if a car or truck had run into the church building. I got up and walked around the building but saw nothing. A few minutes later we learned that there had been an explosion on the downtown square, that was the noise we heard and why we felt something. Keep in mind that we were more than a mile and a half away from the blast.

-I received a positive comment from a parishioner about yesterday’s sermon, they said that they had never recognized some of the things in the 23rd Psalm that I shared. I believe it is the first time this person has ever commented to me about a message.

-We had more new people in attendance at my 10:30 church yesterday. I love seeing people bringing people to church with them.

-In my reading time this morning I came across this from Mark Batterson in “The Circle Maker”, “So quit wasting your worries. Redeem them by recycling them. Turn them into prayers.”

Worry Quotes   

-A couple of days ago I came across this gem in Kyle Idleman’s “The End of Me”, “To do is to take some action. To be requires real transformation.”

-I finally have my Christmas series figured out and laid out. It is entitled “Pieces of Christmas, or The Peace of Christmas”. Too often we get caught up in too many things around the Christmas season. The result is we only catch pieces of the beauty of Christmas and miss the real Christmas story. The true meaning of Christmas produces peace that changes lives. So we have a choice. We can either snag a piece of Christmas here or there and miss the meaning. Or, we can embrace and be embraced by the Peace of Christmas and be changed. Each message will look at a character, or group of characters in the Christmas story and examine how they reached past the pieces of Christmas and embraced the Peace of Christmas.

-My fantasy football team has a chance to win this week. It comes down to the Monday night game and we each of 2 players in the game.

-We received great news on Thursday. Our son and his family arrived safely in Central Africa Republic where they will begin their new ministry. Communication will likely be rare while they are in this location, so we were thrilled to get this word.

-I am excited to spend some time with our daughters, sons in law and half of our grandkids for Thanksgiving.

Here’s hoping that you find much to be thankful for this week and that you will remember that you are loved and prayed for often.

Dennis

I am Grateful …

Thoughts of gratitude have been overwhelming me the past several days. As a result I thought I would just start a thread of gratitude. I invite you to join. You can join by leaving a comment of what you are grateful for, or post what you are grateful for on your Facebook page, Twitter account, blog or any other social media that you frequent. Let’s embrace an attitude of gratitude and pass it on. Image result for graphics on gratitude

*I am grateful that my son, daughter in law and 5 grandkids made it here safely from Kenya last week. And that all of their luggage made it as well.

*I am grateful that all of my kids, kids in law and grandkids were able to be here together for the weekend. We total 18 now when we all get together. That was the first time in over 3 years.

*I am s grateful for my wife. We have been through a lot and are stronger in our marriage and love today than the day we exchanged vows in front of family and friends nearly 41 years ago.

*I am grateful for some difficult experiences in life. Some of them I would give anything not to have gone through, but I wouldn’t take anything for the lessons learned through them. 

*I am grateful for the freedom to worship openly.

*I am grateful for some great friends.

*I am grateful to have a grill. I love grilling. Everything just tastes better when it is grilled. Image result for graphics on grilling

*I am grateful for having been raised by parents who loved Jesus and lived it out at home and the community.

*I am grateful to have lived in so many different places with some many great memories.

*I am grateful that my 3 children love Jesus and are serving Him and that they all have spouses who love Jesus and still want to be with their mom and dad on occasion.

*I am grateful to be grandpa to 10 awesome grand kids.

*I am grateful for the health to do most things I desire to do. I may not be able to do that as well or quickly as I once did, but I still do nearly all the things I love.

*I am grateful that I am still growing in my relationship with Jesus.

*I am grateful that I still love being a pastor. Image result for graphics on pastors

*I am grateful for laughter. This past weekend I loved hearing my family laugh, a lot. We always have  great time when we get together.

*I am grateful … I could keep going for quite a while, but I will give you a chance.

Here’s hoping that you will take some time to think about the things for which you are grateful. I would love to read some of them in the comments. But it you don’t leave a comment think about it and share some with another person.

Dennis

 

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

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

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was an amazing day for weather, it was mid 50’s on November 23, for here that is amazing. Yesterday was a good day spiritually with some significant conversations and people committing to go deeper in their walk with Jesus Christ. Yesterday was a good day on a personal level as well, but let’s get to the musings so you can see for yourself.

-It was exciting, encouraging, and humbling to see and hear what God is doing in people’s lives in our church.

-It was great to see people making commitments to go deeper in their walk with Christ.

-It was great to hear people share what they are learning.

-Our children’s ministry continues to experience good things and the changes we made are attracting children and getting them, and some of their parents, to attend more often.

-We had no technical glitches yesterday!!!

-In just over 7 days my wife and I will be with our kids and grandkids who are serving in Africa!

-I used a little “Zombie theology” in the message yesterday. That was fun.

-People were very engaged yesterday, in every part of our worship. That makes for a great day.

-Our small group met last night and it was great to be together with them.

-Our attendance was just above our average for the year, that is good, but after the large number last week it felt much smaller. I love that our low Sundays are much larger than our average was a year ago. I especially love that some of the growth is pure evangelism growth.

-Only 2 days until our stateside kids and grandkids arrive at our house for a Thanksgiving celebration!

-I love that the people of our church do a great job of genuinely welcoming new people. Not a perfunctory “hi”, but a real, heartfelt greeting and welcome. Sure makes it easier to invite people to attend and know they will be treated well.

-My cold is so much better than it was last Sunday.

-I love getting questions from people about my messages, including things from a previous week. Shows me they are not only listening, but thinking and processing the message throughout the week.

-I am really excited to preach this coming Sunday. The whole service is going to be about God’s amazing grace. I wish I could get everyone here and preach it today.

-We have many people going through very difficult situations and we have several people who continue to come alongside those who are hurting to help, encourage and comfort.

Here’s hoping you have a week full of thanksgiving. Here’s hoping that if you get full of thanksgiving that you don’t get sick as a result. Here’s hoping you find someone to encourage today.

Dennis

What a Difference a Sound Makes …

There were 2 very significant events that could place last week. These events will be forever connected to each other and they were both marked by some special sounds. The events were that my 9th grandchild was born last Sunday night and my van died on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the best things about spending a little time with granddaughter, and her parents, was the sounds she made. She had the cutest sounds of breathing while she was sleeping in my arms. She sneezed and used her whole body to produce the sneeze. She even cried a little and it was beautiful. These sounds were awesome because they were all indications of life. Hearing them was a wonderful reminder of the fact that she is alive.

My van died on Tuesday. It died 1 mile from where my granddaughter lives. I was on my way to see, and hear, her for the first time and my van didn’t quite finish the trip. I turned a corner a mile from my destination and it happened. At the time I didn’t know what happened but the sounds my van was making changed. The engine started revving and it slowed down. The revving was because I still had my foot on the gas pedal but the transmission was no longer engaging. I realized that I was now coasting in my van and not powering forward. There was also the absence of a sound that had accompanied me the whole trip. That was the sound of the van moving through the air around it. In contrast to the beautiful sounds I was about to hear from my granddaughter these sounds were an indication of death. The death of my van.

The sounds with their contrasts had one thing in common, that was they both produced thankfulness for me. You probably have no difficulty figuring out why I was thankful for the sounds of my granddaughter, but you might be wondering how the sounds of my van dying produced thankfulness. Last Sunday I preached from I Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When my van died my first word was “Nooooooooooo”. As I waited for my son-in-law to pick me up I began to become thankful. Why? I got to within a mile of my destination which was 262 miles of my 263 mile trip. It happened on a side street and not on the Interstate as I went around Chicago in bumper to bumper 4 lane traffic at 70 mph. This van cost me $2,500 3 years ago and had served me well. This happened to me and not to my wife. My van died, I didn’t. I began to have a fresh new understanding of thankfulness and joy and I have certainly been praying continually for another vehicle.

I am still thankful for my trip. Yes my van died, but I got to spend 26 hours with my new granddaughter, my daughter and my son-in-law. My van died, but we were able to borrow a vehicle to make it home and use for a little while during our search for another mode of transportation. My van died, but my family and my faith is alive and well.

The sounds of my granddaughter still resonate in my heart and mind. The sound of my van are fading. What a difference a sound makes.

Dennis