Friday, February 29, 2008

Only Visiting This Planet: Larry Norman dies

(What? You never heard of him? Maybe not. But if you have been influenced by "contemporary" Christian music, you've been influenced by him.)
I just heard today that Larry Norman passed away. (Click on his name to find out more about him.)

Never heard him in person, but I still have a collection of his LPs (vinyl record albums for the younger set). A talented musician, he chose to sing for Christ when it wasn't cool in the late '60's and early '70's . His music has been covered by lots of contemporary bands.

Back in the day when I used to pick and grin, my favorite LN song to do was "The Outlaw". He was way ahead of his time, asking the question of the church, "Why should the devil have all the good music?". He challenged the world, "Why don't you look into Jesus?". Many called it the "Jesus Revolution". If it was, Larry was the one stirring the pot.

His lyrics weren't tame. He dared sing about the emptiness of trying to find fulfillment w/o God in street talk language. He referred to Jesus' return as an "unidentified flying object". He broke from tradition. His most well-known song was "I Wish We'd All Been Ready". And his trademark "one way" sign was the icon of the Jesus Movement that revived the church and brought my generation to Christ.

Thanks, Larry, for daring to be different. For being an evangelist first and an artist second. For being willing to be misunderstood and criticized. You were only visiting this planet. One day we'll all gather and "sing that sweet sweet song of salvation" around the throne.

(I am curious as to why he was never invited to participate in one of the Gaither Homecomings.)

The Church and the Boy Scout motto

Recently while meeting with our church's leaders I said something like this: "I don't know what God's going to do in our church this year, but I expect great things and I want us to be ready."

That's so not like me/us. We're supposed to be the leaders. I'm supposed to be the "lead pastor". Aren't we supposed to know just what we expect God to do?

Since the first of the year I've learned a bunch of God things. One of them is that we don't have to know all the answers; all the next steps; all the stuff. And the reason we don't have to know them is because He already knows them. It's His call as to whether or not He shares our future, whether it's tomorrow or next November with us.

Our call is to be prepared to follow; to act; to obey. And for Type A's like me, that's asking a lot. I'm the leader. I want to be able to say, "Here's what God's going to do". Wait a second. I'm really not the 4th person of the Godhead, am I?

So what do I expect God to do? I expect God to be Himself and to show Himself in and through us IF we'll allow Him to do His thing through us. Because if we don't, I also expect Him to find someone else to do it through.

So, hold up your right hand. Bring your pinky and your thumb together at the palm. And say, "Be prepared".
For what? I have no idea. But I know His plans are good. I also know they're often surprising. And that's what makes it so intriguing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Saturday my friends and I took a drive to Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. It's one of the most exclusive places to live in Orange County - maybe the most exclusive. So it's cool to walk around the village and see a lot of interesting homes crammed into a small space.

But the best part about going to Balboa is stopping to get a frozen chocolate covered banana. Dad's (in the pic) is the place I recommend. I had mine rolled in peanuts. Man, they're good. Really good. Sinfully good.

I wonder why Balboa seems to be the only place I've ever found them?
Since I couldn't bring one home for Gail, I did manage a box of See's Chocolates for her.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Raise your hands if you're sure

Following a recent memorial service the following observation was made (not to me directly, but it was relayed to me):
"One thing about you guys - you really seem confident in what you believe and that you can know for sure about heaven. I belong to the ________________ Church, and you don't get that kind of confidence there."

He's right. I had no problem telling the crowd assembled that day that the one we were saying goodbye to was in heaven.

Here's what I said, "And it would be real easy for someone to think that [she] is in heaven today because she was such an incredibly good wife, mother, friend. But we can’t do that either, because although she was all that and more, that’s not why she’s in heaven today. She was a saint, but not because she was so good. She was a saint because was given the goodness of Christ."

There's the catch. Most religious people and frankly, many, if not most churches teach that heaven is a place where good people go. If that were true, no one would be there but Jesus. It's not goodness that God's looking for, it's perfection. And Jesus was the only one qualified.

The Good News is that He provided a means for us - and none of us are that good - to receive eternal life. But it's not by being religious or even obeying the Big Ten or keeping some list of "holy" acts. We can be religious, but we can't perfectly keep those ten, can we? And the means God provided was His Son Jesus, who lived a perfect life, then was put to death by people who didn't understand who He was or what He came to do. Then 3 days later He rose from the dead to prove He was qualified.

The simplicity of it is its beauty. All that is required of us to get in on His gift of eternal life is for us to believe that Jesus was who He said He was and that His sacrifice did everything necessary for us to acquire His life.

Amazingly simple. That's why it is so roundly rejected. We want to think that there must be something we can do. But we can't. Think about it, why do you think "Fat Tuesday" precedes "Ash Wednesday"? It's the idea that today I can live like hell, but over the next 40 days I can somehow fix it. It doesn't work that way.

However, if we believe - that means to trust completely - in Jesus and Him alone, we can be confident in our eternal status. It's not self-confidence. It's confidence in a promise God made.

Here's what the Bible says - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life... (1 Jn. 5:13) That word "know" is huge, isn't it.

God doesn't want us guessing; wondering; worried that maybe we are and maybe we aren't. He wants us to know.

The C Word

Please be praying for a couple of people who have had or will have surgery for cancer this week.

  • Claire is a part of our church family along with her husband Tommy and daughter Cathy. She has a wonderful faith in God (strengthened over the years by Tommy's own health issues). Her surgery today was more invasive than they hoped. Her recovery will be long and then comes the chemo.
  • Robin is a lady I met Thursday on the plane. Her surgery should be relatively "minor", but nonetheless frightening. I told her that I would be praying for her. Please join me.

And for those of you who have been following my blogging, Dylan, the 8 year old was in church yesterday and seems to be doing great!

Observations from Gate C7

While I’m enduring a scheduled 3 hour layover that will be 4 hours, I thought I’d stay awake while I wait on my Delta flight (it’s 11:44PM MST) with some insights gained from my travels.

You pay a lot of money for a ticket that gives you flight times that really don’t mean anything. On Thursday my Continental flight was delayed 2 hours while they waited for a plane to come in to Houston from NYC. And it was empty.

They airlines must be making some money. (See the last sentence of the previous paragraph.) And, every flight I’ve been on thus far (3 out of 5 total on this trip) have been full.

The security check at Orange County is the slowest I’ve ever been through. It was the same the last time I flew out of SNA. Two hundred people waiting to take their shoes off and two TSA personnel checking IDs and boarding passes and two check points. On the other hand, Norfolk and Raleigh seem to do much better. Maybe it’s just that laid back California approach to life.

In airports you can spend a lot of money for a little fast food. And at 9PM there aren’t many choices at Salt Lake City International.

Why do all these 20 year old kids in suits, white shirts and ties have name tags that says "Elder So and So"? Elder than who?

“Free WiFi” at the airports costs at least $9.95 per month. You know, if I’ve got to wait 3 or 4 hours and eat your lousy food (‘cause they don’t serve meals anymore on the planes) you could at least give me free internet access. Heck, I’d put up with internet that has ads running across the top. But don’t tell me it’s “free” when it isn’t.

The chairs aren’t comfy. Anything but.

Some people can sleep anywhere on anything. I’m not one of them.

I shoulda brought some movies to watch! What was I not thinking? I’m too tired to read.

Oh yeah. Electrical outlets are a premium at airports. If you’re not going to provide real free internet, you could install a few outlets so I can at least play solitaire and not use up my battery. (Note: Atlanta's airport has quite a few.)

I thought I was the only one crazy/dumb enough to fly the red eye. I was wrong.

Babies should be sedated before boarding an aircraft. Sorry, but if they’re not happy, no one on the plane is either.

Every teenager on an airplane has wires coming from their ears. I’m still trying to figure out the crossword puzzle in the back of the airline’s groovy magazine.

Does anybody really buy stuff out of that airplane catalog? You gotta admit, they do have some cool stuff.

I wish I could have seen the terrain around Salt Lake City in the daylight. It looks very suspicious at night.

I’m not looking forward to arriving in Atlanta at 7AM, especially if I have to change terminals for my last leg to RDU. (I didn't have to change terminals).

It’s 12:07 AM now (2:07 EST). My eyes are burning, so I think I’ll quit. (10 hours later and they're still burning. I think I'll take a nap.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Flashback

In just a couple of hours I'll be dropped off at John Wayne Airport in the OC and head back to NC (via Salt Lake City and Atlanta! - an all nighter).

I worshipped this morning with Calvary Baptist Church of Yorba Linda, CA. Pastor Brian Moore and his congregation have been very gracious to me - they provided my trip out here for the funeral. Althought I've worshipped at CBC and spoken there before, this was my first time to meet Brian. He's been here just a little over a year, and has done a marvelous job at leading a hurting congregation back to vitality and vision. They're not afraid to take risks and try new things to live out their purposes. Keep it up!

They're in a series called "Go Fish", and he invited me to "tag team" a sermon with him. My part was to address the fears believers have when it comes to sharing their faith. I hope I made some sense as I talked about overcoming our fears of people by having only one "fear" in our lives - the fear of God.

The folks at Calvary always make me feel welcome. Thanks! And as great as it was here this morning, there's no place like home.

After a great salad a Chili's and a short visit with Mr. Z, I've been showing Sarah's wedding pictures to Laura, who is tying the knot in August. Thankfully the drive to the airport is only a few minutes. Before long I'll be looking down at the Pacific, then over the amazingly green landscape of southern CA (they're getting a lot of rain lately) and over the Rockies to Salt Lake. Never been to Utah before!

I'm scheduled to arrive at RDU at 10AM Monday, and am looking forward to visiting Tricia, Gwyneth and Nate before heading home, either Monday evening or Tuesday morning, depending on the jet lag. I'm still trying to adjust to Pacific coast time.

When I get home, it sounds like I have a lot of work to do....chairs, floors, etc.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Orange Panthers

Richard and I just got back from watching a couple of simultaneous baseball games on the fields at Orange (CA) High School.

We both used to play there.

37 years ago.

Now that's depressing. I feel like Ty Cobb.

Fabulous Friday

Today was a most excellent day.
  • Tricia was listed and activated today for her double lung transplant! And Gwyneth continues to do great.
  • The memorial service I participated in was moving, worshipful, celebratory and well-attended. Some said it was the best they had ever attended.
  • I saw so many friends from those thrilling days of yesteryear when I was in my teens and in our first year of matrimony. You guys and girls rock!
  • For the first time in 30 years I re-visited the location of the church of my youth and first ministry position. It was kind of surreal. But it looked so good. The memories are still there, including my first sermon when I was 16.
  • I'm still full at 9:30 PM from the Mexican comida eaten this afternoon.
  • I got to chat with my honey over the phone to share some of this with her. Everybody asked about her, as well as Tricia, Gwyneth and Nate. She's coming with me when I come back out in August for a wedding. (I miss you, sweetie.)
  • I met Fidel, the owner of a most awesome restaurant in Solana Beach. We're going down in August to eat there again, and he said to be sure to let him know we're coming.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Hard Day's Night

After visiting in Durham yesterday with Tricia, Gwyneth, Nathan and Agnes at Duke Hospital I spent the night at our family's second home - The Residence Inn Marriot. Nate's alarm went off at 4AM. It woke me, but not him. So I roused him up and a little before 5:00 I was standing in line at Continental Airlines to get my boarding pass for my flight to Orange Co., CA, with a stop in Houston.

I was shocked at how many people were up that early to catch that flight. Seated beside me was Robin. We chatted the usual stuff - where are you from, what do you do? When I explained that I was flying out of RDU because I had been visiting my daughter in law and grandaughter at Duke Hospital that brought out her questions. So I brought out my lap top.

I've officially become a grandfather. Robin was moved by the pics to tears several times and called what she was seeing "a miracle". She's right. And pray for Robin. Next week she's having surgery. She's got the big C. But doctors are optimistic.

What should have been an hour layover in Houston turned out to be nearly 3. I don't know what it is about Continental, but every time I fly with them it turns out to be an adventure of some kind. So I used the time to work a bit more on my sermon for tomorrow's memorial service [see my earlier post about tamales in heaven].

I did get some cat naps in on the flight from Houston to the OC, but not any real serious sleep. My friends Richard and Carol were there to pick me up. After an afternoon and evening with them and their family and pastor I'm in my motel room at 8PM PST to wrap up my thoughts for tomorrow and to get some good sleep.

The problem for me with these jaunts to the left coast is that it takes me 3 days to get adjusted to the time difference. And in 3 days I'll be returning home. So I'll be goofier than usual for the next week I guess.

Tomorrow's a big day for people who outside of my family are among the most important in my life. I also hope it's a huge day for Tricia with the best news ever.

Good night!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Joy of Spontaneity

We don’t do stuffy church anymore. Not that we never did, but Sunday was another indicator that our vision of being a celebratory kind of church was being realized.

Used to be in our church that when someone new joined our fellowship that there would be the obligatory “right hand of fellowship” handshake from the pastor, the “all in favor say Amen” followed by a hearty “Amen”, and that was about it. Simple; clean; almost dignified.

Sunday proved that the mold had been broken and thrown away. As our Pastor of Mission read the names of the newest partners and asked them to stand, each one received a raucous ovation. I even heard some whistles and “WooHoos”. I just sat there with what must have been a grin of “they get it”. And no one said, "Let's give them a cheer or a round of applause" or anything like that. It just erupted. Andy said it was like a pep rally. And why not?

And I thought, "If these newbies don’t realize that they’re in a church that enjoys being together; a church that’s a family; a church that doesn’t know what it means to be religious now, they’ll never figure it out." What a welcome!

As someone said, "The boring slot has already been taken". They can have it (and keep it).

Let the partying continue.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Surrender All...but when?

I grew up in a church tradition where the Sunday sermon culminated in an "invitation" for those who were being "moved by the Spirit" to "come forward" to the front of the church where you typically took the preacher's hand, said some words of confession or commitment and got whatever settled.

Now, I'm certainly not against the idea that God's Word doesn't and shouldn't produce some kind of response. Just the opposite, in fact. Every time I teach/preach (whatever you want to call it) I do so believing that God's Word gets results. It brings changes about in our lives when we become doers, not just hearers.

But I also wonder if the mindset created by the "come forward" and get it right philosophy hasn't built a false sense of fulfilling God's expectancies for us. Witness the twice a year "revivals" so common in some camps. Every year the evangelist preaches compellingly and every year the saints walk the aisle to "rededicate" their lives. Then too many of them go right back to living the same old mediocre lives, putting God somewhere down the list behind NASCAR and fishing.

Is this a journey we're on or an event, over and done with in a moment? Shouldn't the "rededication" come every day with the realization that His mercies (especially if I blew it the day before) are new every morning? It was Paul who wrote, "I die [to self] daily". And why wait until Sunday or "revival" to get things right with God? That aisle isn't a yellow brick road leading to Oz. So let's not treat it like it is.

Sunday flashback

What a great day!

Awesome OBX February weather!
  • Exodus from Liberty U. stayed around after The Call Friday and Saturday and led our worship. These guys did fantastic. What a combo of passion for worship and musical ability! I hope they can come back again some time. Having them also gave our own band a well-deserved week off.

Although I've had a headache since yesterday evening (rare for me) I felt like the teaching flowed really well today. This was the second week of "Gear Up" and we covered Eph. 6:10-12.

Attendance today in the second gathering looked like a summer day for us. The ushers scrambled to set up more chairs and the parking lot overflowed. We also had at least one of the youth groups that came to The Call stick around and worship with us today.

We welcomed 8 new partners* into our fellowship today. That's always a good day.

And 4 of those were baptized after the second worship gathering at the Y. Lately almost all of our baptisms have been adults, which is really indicative of our mission.

Quote of the day: "Any church that makes pop corn for the kids on Sunday morning is my kind of church".

It was exactly the kind of day I know I needed. Just hanging out with a church so committed to God's purposes and serving so selflessly in ministry charges me up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

There will be tamales in heaven

Today the mother of my best friend moved. Since the late 1950's she had lived in the same house on a quiet street in Orange, CA. There she reared 5 children and then cared for what seemed like an endless parade of grandkids. Even though most of them are now grown, too, they somehow show up for her Mexican cuisine, just dropping by whenever they're hungry. And amazingly she always seemed to have food on the table for them. How did she know they were coming?

Thirty five years ago I was a house guest for a couple weeks following my high school graduation. My family had moved back to Virginia the summer before. So right after graduation my sister and I flew back to California to spend the summer with friends. My first day back we went to the beach (of course) and I got a brutal sun burn on my legs. It was so bad that for 3 days I lived on Mrs. Z's living room recliner, only getting up to painfully walk the few steps to the head. I think she was the only one in the house who didn't laugh at me! And she gave up her chair for me. Whenever I look at my shins and see all those freckles, I think of Mrs. Z's chair.

After Gail and I were married we moved to that same town where we lived for the first 15 months of our life together. I will forever be indebted to Mrs. Z. Gail would go over to her house and she taught her how to make enchiladas, Spanish rice and the best refried beans in the world. Mrs. Z should have opened a Mexican restaurant like her brother Fidel. But she used her culinary skills to serve others. A few years ago our church worship team from NC attended a conference in CA, and Mrs. Z had us all over for dinner. Cooking was her gift to the body of Christ.

It will be hard to walk into that house on Sycamore and not see her puttering around in the kitchen. Her recliner will sit empty. But the lives she touched, the husband, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are blessed to be her family, the friends at church and in the neighborhood have all lived fuller lives because of her quiet and humble influence.

Mrs. Z moved today from her home of 50 years to her home for eternity. She's with her Savior, whom she so looked forward to seeing for the first time. I don't know this for sure, but I feel rather confident that there will be tamales served at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Heaven. And I promise, you'll find me standing in that line.

Please, Lord, let her make her homemade salsa, too. You'll like it.

Happy Valentine's Day

Don't know much about St. Valentine, but don't we love his day?

Everybody needs to be loved. Some of us are great lovers, others lack in that area.

Some of us accept love better than others. But we all need to be loved. The song said "I wanna know what love is."

Here it is...
"God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us." (1 Jn. 4:9-12 NLT)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

William and Mary*

I don't have a dog in this fight, nor do I pay taxes in the Commonwealth of VA. But because it plays here in our local news, and touches on both Christianity and morality, I find it intriguing.

Here's the skinny: The Board of Visitors (I never understood that term - shouldn't they be members or something?) of The College of William and Mary (which I believe is the 2nd oldest college in the US) told their president that his contract would not be renewed this summer. So he quit. Students (the media would have you believe all of them) and some faculty are protesting with sit ins and cancelling classes for a couple of days.

Why all the hubbub?

Well, the prez did a couple of things to tick off the BOV, not a few alumni and hordes of old fashioned Americans who just don't get it.

First, he removed the cross from the historic Wren Chapel, citing tolerance and religious sensitivity and diversity. Later, after much protest from alumni (some with deep pockets) he reluctantly compromised and placed the cross back in the chapel encased in glass.

Second, he allowed the students to bring in a Sex Workers Art Show, where prostitutes and strippers and porn stars came on campus to enlighten the collegians. BTW, it drew a huge crowd of hormonally charged young adults. He did not step in and stop it because that would have been censorship.

A few observations.
  • What was he thinking in both instances? Wren Chapel, completed in 1732 was built as a place to worship the Christian God Jesus. From the College web site, "The clergy of the Church of England in Virginia adopted at a convention "Several Propositions" for founding a college to consist of three schools: grammar, philosophy and divinity. On July 25, 1690, Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson authorized several gentlemen to take subscriptions in Virginia for the proposed college, and on the same day the clergy issued an appeal for financial support to merchants in England who were trading in Virginia." [Emphases mine.] That's it's historic context. You really can't change history, try as you might. If you want to be inclusive of other faiths on campus, build another come one, come all chapel.
  • My guess is that the College is governed by the BOV and is not a democracy, nor is it a mobocracy. Sure, the students have their constitutional freedom of speech to voice their protest, but soon you either move on or move out. You're there to get an education, not set policy. If you don't like how the school is governed, go somewhere else next semester. You have that right and freedom, too.
  • While I'm sure that on and off campus sex is pretty free in Wmsbrg and that you won't have to knock on many dorm doors before you'll find porn being viewed on a laptop or TV, I'm also sure that parents haven't sacrificed financially to send their kids to a school where the man in charge buries his head in the sand and allows illicit sex to be openly promoted to impressionable youth. But then, they say Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
  • If Nichol's goal was to make W&M the Stanford of the East Coast, well, he tried and failed. You're in Virginia, for Pete's sake.
  • Sometimes what claims to be "progessive thinking" is nothing more than amoral license. Freedom without restraints is no different from restraints without freedom. Both imprison the innocent and naive.

*The College of William & Mary was founded by a charter from William and Mary, King and Queen of England as an Anglican institution; governors were required to be members of the Church of England, and professors were required to declare adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Prayer for Dylan and Update

Update: Dylan's surgery went amazingly well. It was a day of good news for the Johnsons. First, they didn't have to do the bone graft, so his healing time will be less. So the surgery only lasted about 2 hours. Second, he's coming home today! Third, he'll be able to go back to school in about a week. Thanks for the prayers. Please continue them for his recovery and healing.

There's this little boy in my church who has this mischievous, infectious smile. Dylan is like most 8 year olds. When I see him he's always on the go. But for the next 5 weeks or so he's got to slow way down.

Later this morning doctors are going to do some facial reconstruction surgery on Dylan to correct some things and make life much better for this guy. They have to take some bone from here and graft it there. He's had this surgery before but it wasn't successful, and this will be the last time it can be attempted.

So would you pray for Dylan, his mom and dad, Pam and Juan, the doctors and nurses at CHKD who will be caring for him and for his brother and two sisters? Once home in a few days Dylan will have to become a couch potato for several weeks as he heals. Not an easy assignment for an 8 year old!

BTW, Dylan and his siblings are all adopted. He's from Asia, his sisters and brother are from Africa. And mom's got red hair. They're a treat to see all together!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Miracle Mike?

I'm sitting at home watching the political stuff on the eve before the "Potomac Primaries". The Democrats have a real horse race going on. It's interesting to watch.

On the other hand, the GOP nomination seems a given for McCain. Mathematically there's no way Huckabee can catch him. Yet he refuses to give up his campaign. Mike says he "majored in miracles, not mathematics".

Personally, I like Mike. I don't think he has a chance to be nominated, but I admire his spunk. I'm just curious as to why he keeps running. Stubborn? Well, he is a Baptist preacher!

Maybe he should ask for advice from another famous runner who kept going and had the country scratching its head. Quoting his mama, "Life's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get".

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday flashback

Today was the start of a new teaching series on spiritual warfare and the protective armor God has provided every believer. I'm really looking forward to it. Today I introduced the series by putting on my bunker gear (firefighter's protective gear) and giving a description of it piece by piece.
We had a guest worship leader today, filling in for Chad, who has done a great job filling in for Nathan. Robbie is Rich's friend at LU, a guitar player with a great voice and passion for leading worship. He stepped right in and did great, working with our band w/o skipping a beat.
It was good to see Agnes, Tricia's mom back with Don at church today. She's been away at Duke since the first of the year. I also met Patrick and Lynn today. Patrick's dad and my dad were best friends growing up, best men in each other's weddings and went in the the USMC together. Last time Patrick and I saw each other was over 40 years ago. I look about the same, but he has changed a lot!
After the worship gatherings there was still a lot of activity going on. The Call team worked at getting the auditorium ready for next weekend's youth conference. And our elders interviewed 8 new members. We all ate pizza together (about 30 of us) and had a great time.
It's a windy day here, and temp's supposed to drop significantly over night. With Gail in Durham, I'll be sure to turn on my side of the electric blanket. But first, I'm going over to Andy's for dinner!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Update from NICU

If you read my post below, thank you for praying. But Kayla's grandfather just came by and told me "we lost her". Please pray for this young family. And continue to pray for Tyler.

Lessons from the Waiting Room (Pt. 2)

I've been in the NICU unit today visiting my grandaughter. Earlier I noticed a family Mom/Dad and grandparents huddled together crying...not a good thing here. The younger couple went back into the unit. The grandparents went into a conference room. So I went back to see if there was anything I could do for them. Their little grandaughter, Kayla, is really struggling today with NEC. In fact, she's already coded today, but somehow they brought her back. I've prayed with the grandparents and then with the parents.

Then moments ago a young mother passed by and asked how my baby was doing. She had seen me here before. I asked how her baby was doing, and he is also in grave condition. Shortly she'll be meeting with the docs to decide what to do, but the outlook is not good for Tyler. I promised her my prayers and she thanked me, saying that lots of people have been praying for him and that's why he's still here.

And I told her I would let you know.

So would you please pray for Kayla and Tyler? I'm going to just hang out here today just in case there's something I can do.

(Bump) How "Pro-life" are you? Really.

I believe in the sanctity of human life, primarily because I believe life is sacred and God is all about giving and protecting life. But sometimes such beliefs contradict conventional wisdom.

Years ago I heard that abortion might be permissable in the cases of rape and to protect the life of the mother. OK. That sounded reasonable to me. But some would argue, "Come on. How often does a pregancy put the life of the mother at risk?"

It's easy to proclaim yourself to believe in something that never touches you; that you never experience up front and personal. And it's easy to work into positions compromises based on "logic". Until it dares you face to face.

When my son and daughter in law discovered they were expecting the day before she was to being prelimnary physical therapy in preparation for a double lung transplant they had to make a choice. Clearly such a pregnancy would compromise the window of opportunity for a transplant as well as her fragile health. Plainly put, carrying a baby to term would likely not happen, and the chances of her surviving such a pregnancy were slim.

So they were counseled by the medical community which cares for her to abort. The greatest medical minds said the risk is too high. Being pregnant now is the worst possible scenario. And from a human and scientific perspective they were right.

But they were wrong. So my son and daughter-in-law said "No" to the scientific rationale. Their reasoning? God is the Creator of life. They made a choice to be willing to risk her life, believing that God in His sovereignty had all this in His plan for them.

It defies logic. But sometimes that's exactly what faith does: stares finite human reasoning in the face and says "You're wrong because God is always right".

Convictions don't come without a price. But obedience never comes without reward. This story hasn't yet come to it's conclusion, althhough it's getting there rapidly. But regardless of the outcome, it's what God thinks and reveals that counts.

So for me, being "pro-life" has moved from being a political stance or even a theological tenet. It's become experience, and that makes it as real as real can get.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Singles Ministry?

At our recent Ministry Fair our Fellowship Team introduced what must be a new ministry to singles promoting "True Love Waits". Very creative!
But shouldn't it have been spelled "celibate"?
Sorry. I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Gwyneth!

Four weeks ago you made a most remarkable entry into our world. Your strength and will is strong - just like your mommy's. And the love we have for you is so big.

I hope to see you in a couple of days.
(Please don't judge your grandfather by the print gown he wears in the picture. It wasn't my choice of apparel, but was all they had available at the time!)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Lessons from the Waiting Room

My hours in a hospital waiting room lately don't compare with some other members of my family, but still, they've been adding up. While Tricia was in ICU for about 4 weeks we were blessed with a little room directly across the hall from her that was christened "The Hole". Most of my time there was with others, friends and family. Occasionally I was alone (but never without my laptop!).

In my other life as a pastor and chaplain I've spent countless hours with others as well. Some are church family; some are (until that moment) total strangers. All are there because of a medical crisis of some kind. And all have that one thing in common: waiting. Waiting for the surgeon to come and say "It went well" or "I'm sorry". Waiting for the waiting room attendant to make a fresh pot of coffee or for someone with the remote to please find something other than "The View" and Regis to watch. (Please give the remote to a man!)

And lately I've been thinking about things I've learned in those waiting rooms. They have been among the most real life and at the same time surreal experiences of my life. But out of them I'm learning many things about what it means to wait, and that waiting time doesn't have to be wasting time.

An oft quoted verse these past weeks has been Isaiah 40:31. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (NLT)

I'm not an "omen" kind of guy. But on successive trips to visit Tricia, Gwyneth and Nathan, at the same spot on the highway a bald eagle flew directly over my vehicle. And God used that to remind me of that verse and the time I had spent and would be spending in waiting.

As I have time, I hope to write down some of those lessons. Maybe they'll be an encouragement.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Giants win!

No, I'm not a Giants fan. In fact, the Giants are a hated rival of my team (who like me was watching from home). But neither am I a Pats fan. And there's just something about them that had me pulling for the underdogs to win.

I missed a good part of the game. We had our commuion fellowship tonight. But then, the only part of the game that really matters is the end, right? When I tuned in it was 7-3 NE.

Great game! Really. I think probably the best Super Bowl ever.

Now I'm listening to my pager in case some fool driving home drunk doesn't get there. Let's hope for radio silence.

Sunday flashback

Tom Lee did a great job - quintessential Tom style - of teaching about love and hate. Practical stuff. Great use of a couple of props. An easy chair for hate and a backless stool for love. He also used a video that fit well from Bluefish TV about how an older Christian won some thugs to Jesus by loving them.

I shared the video from Nathan's blog with the church for those who somehow hadn't seen it yet. He and Tricia are such an integral part of our congregation, and because our church really is a family, they are so much a part of that whole story.

Good pick of songs, Nate, with an emphasis on love. And the band, as they always seem to do, did great. Buddy and Andy both rocked on solos. We'll miss Chad's leadership next Sunday. And thanks to T for subbing at the sound table. Great job.

It looked to me like there were way more people in the second gathering. And the weather today was incredible! Sunny and around 50.

Tonight we came back for communion and a fellowship meal. I think the lure of the Super Bowl was too much for some people! But still, we had a great turn out and Burnie did a super job taking us to the cross. We shared around our tables about lessons God was teaching us about faith and prayer. And tonight was Italian food!! Thanks to Mike and Chris for surprising us by getting the room set up for us with tables and chairs. And as always, a big thanks to our fellowship team for getting it all organized. You ladies are pros.

Barring any surprises, I should be teaching next Sunday - starting a new series called "Gear Up!" about dealing with life by wearing God's protective armor.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let's quit our bellyaching

In recent days many of us have seen God turn life and death crises into miracles. Others in my church have witnessed life as it is for most of the world outside our land of plenty. They've been humbled by people who in comparison have next to nothing materially live with appreciation for what little they do have and joy in spite of their poverty.

God uses experiences like that to wake and shake us who have so much, yet whine about it anyway. We in the US are simply spoiled rotten. Thankfully He graces us by placing us in contact with people who have strength and courage that makes us realize how petty and shallow we can be and too often are.

I'm thinking of people like my dear friends Tom and Sandra and their daughter Cindy. She was born with spina bifida. Several times in her 26 years her condition has placed her in life and death situations. Yet I have never ever heard a complaint or whine from any of them. But let me catch a cold or strain a muscle in my back and I'm out of sorts. Like I deserve perfect health or something.

Tommy and Claire are another couple whose lives speak volumes to those of us who gripe. He's suffered for years with a debilitating back injury, numerous surgeries and more recently pancreatitis that's hospitalized him more than once. She just completed a long series of radiation treatments, having to travel over an hour each way every day for weeks and dealing with the pain those treatments cause. Now she's looking at surgery to remove a tumor the radiation didn't get, to be followed by chemo. Yet they shine with the joy of God.

God help me from whining and getting irritated when something doesn't go just quite like I want it to go. God help me from demanding You do something about my inconveniences, like when my internet connection is slower than it should be or my cable reception is snowy or some other minutia that sets my orbit out of kilter.

God help me to remember I'm not the center of the universe. So what gives any of us the right to complain one iota if He or his don't treat me like I think I deserve to be treated? In fact, that He would even pay attention to me at all should be all the grace needed to rise above the stupid little things that get my shorts in a bunch.