Monday, November 29, 2010

The Advent Conspiracy

Check it out and see if you and yours can't spend less, give more and truly celebrate the birth of Christ this year more than ever before.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day: An American Tradition

While earlier American presidents issued proclamations on occasion for days of prayer, fasting and thanksgiving, it has been an annual tradition in our country for our President to do so since Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863.

I found it enlightening to read the words of these men of our past – especially in how they gave encouragement to our citizenry to worship, pray and give thanks to God. It is a great tradition that I hope will live on.

Here is a random sampling from those proclamations. I hope their words inspire you this Thanksgiving as they have me.

I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. – A. Lincoln, 1863

I recommend that they gather in their several places of worship and devoutly give Him thanks for the prosperity wherewith He has endowed us, for seedtime and harvest, for the valor, devotion, and humanity of our armies and navies, and for all His benefits to us as individuals and as a nation; and that they humbly pray for the continuance of His divine favor, for concord and amity with other nations, and for righteousness and peace in all our ways. – W. McKinley, 1900

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the way in which on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow-men. – T. Roosevelt, 1901

May we on that day in our churches and in our homes give humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us during the year past by Almighty God. - F. Roosevelt, 1932

I…do hereby proclaim …a day of national thanksgiving, and I call upon every citizen to offer thanks to God for His gracious guidance and help. Again I ask all my countrymen to appeal to the Most High, that the God of our Fathers who has blessed this land beyond all others will in His infinite mercy grant to all nations that peace which the world cannot give. I entreat them, in church, chapel and synagogue, in their homes and in the busy walks of life, every day and everywhere, to pray for peace. – H. Truman, 1950

…for the unity of spirit which has made our country strong; and for the continuing faith under His guidance that has kept us a religious people with freedom of worship for all, we should kneel in humble thanksgiving. – Pres. Eisenhower, 1953

I urge that all observe this day with reverence and with humility. Let us renew the spirit of the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, lonely in an inscrutable wilderness, facing the dark unknown with a faith borne of their dedication to God… - Pres. Kennedy, 1962

…it is our desire to observe, in the custom and tradition of our forebears, a special day dedicated to giving thanks to God - a day on which to lay aside our daily tasks and cares and pay joyous homage to Him. We are impelled to raise our voices in His praise and to proclaim our heartfelt gratitude for another year… - L. Johnson, 1964

I ask all Americans to gather on that day with their families and neighbors in their homes and in their houses of worship to give thanks for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us. – J. Carter, 1977

Let us pause from our many activities to give thanks to almighty God for our bountiful harvests and abundant freedoms. Let us call upon Him for continued guidance and assistance in all our endeavors. And let us ever be mindful of the faith and spiritual values that have made our Nation great and that alone can keep us great. – R. Reagan, 1986


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love Hurts (sometimes)

This past week has been one of heartbreak for me on several points.

Anyone is is called by God to shepherd His flock are by nature of the business vulnerable. You can't help it. God trusts you with the care of His sheep and that requires loving them. And that's good. But sometimes that love brings hurt.

Sheep stray. Because they are essentially defenseless creatures they become easy prey for the wolves that continually circle the fold. And sheep die.

The last week I've seen all of it. I am so grateful for the grace that God provides to handle the tough stuff and that the Chief Shepherd's shoulders are broad enough to carry the burden.

Don't forget to pray for your pastors.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Say "Thanks" to a Veteran for his/her service

Saturday I was at our local nursing home and engaged in a conversation with Harold, a veteran of World War II. He served in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the US Air Force.

As we talked, because of his age and physical limitations he was somewhat slumped over in his wheel chair. But when I said, "Thank you for your service to our country", he looked up at me and replied, "Thank you".

Whenever I meet a veteran I try to say those words. Their willingness to put on the uniform of the United States is not taken lightly in my view. And just thanking them always brings a smile to their faces if not a look of surprise. Apparently they don't hear it often.

Two days loom large this week. The first is Wednesday, November 10 and the Marine Corps' Birthday - the oldest military force in our country. Semper Fi!

The second, of course, is Thursday, November 11, Veterans Day. Memorial Day in May is when we remember those who died for our country. This one is to say "Thanks" to those who served in uniform and lived to tell about it.

So express your gratitude to a Veteran this week. Make their day. Fly the flag.

And if you can, get out to a Veterans Day ceremony in your town. Take the kids. Teach them appreciation for our flag and how to stand and place their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner is sung and the Pledge of Allegiance is proudly recited.

Freedom isn't free. Thanks to all our Veterans for your service. And we pray for those in active duty service today, especially those on foreign soil.

God bless you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ed and Edith are on a mission

Pastor and his wife are on a week of vacation! Most in the church are glad they could get away and enjoy the time off. After all, everyone needs a break, even pastors, right? Most think so.

But while the cat's away the mice are playing. Here's an opportunity to do some underhanded, covert operations, and Ed and Edith are on it.

First off, Ed's a bit frosted that the pastor would take a vacation now. After all, there are important items on the church calendar and shouldn't the pastor be here? Committee meetings (especially the committee on committees), the choir's progressive dinner, the exterminator is coming for the annual pest inspection. It's January and he needs to be here for the start of the new year, it's May and that's just before the "summer slump", it's summer and everybody else is on vacation, it's fall and don't we have a revival scheduled soon? There's really no good time for a vacation, Pastor. Sorry. And that guest preacher who filled in for you...well, he wasn't what we are used to...

But there are other underlying reasons Ed and Edith are on a mission. Really it's about control, and Pastor has lately been showing some initiative - some would call it "leadership". New people are taking on roles in the church; new ministries are being started. For Ed and Edith it feels like they are losing their grip.

So, as the pastor and his long-suffering wife are enjoying palm trees and gentle breezes, little do they know that a storm is brewing back home. By the way, they would have never been able to afford a vacation like this had not some folks in the church provided it.

Edith, who also has been doing the pastor's taxes the last couple of years is on a campaign to tell everyone in the church that their pastor makes more salary than any other pastor in the county. Actually, he is probably the lowest paid pastor around. In fact, he never got a raise of any kind his first five years in the church. Nada. Because of that, he was forced to take on some supplemental employment as a handyman to help make ends meet. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what it takes. But even then, some in the church, like Edith, resented the fact that he wasn't at her beck and call 24/7.

And Ed? He's started a petition calling for a vote to remove the pastor! It's the American way, right? Before and after church last Sunday he approached those he thought would be on his side to sign the petition. This was something he cooked up on his own, however. The deacons didn't find out about it until one of them was called by a member questioning the petition's legitimacy.

Arriving home, refreshed from their holiday, Pastor and wife find several unsettling messages on their voice mail. "Pastor, the deacons need to meet with you ASAP. There's a petition going around..." "Pastor, is it true you are the highest paid clergyman in the county? Can our church really afford that?" Their hearts sink into the pits of their stomachs. Welcome back to the real world!

Fortunately the deacons, who wield great authority in the church, are visibly incensed at what is going on behind their backs. "We'll take care of it, Pastor." So Ed and Edith get a phone call, telling them what they are doing is out of bounds and to cease and desist with the petition and the insinuation that the church is being robbed with every paycheck Pastor receives. The salary, by the way, is voted on annually by the congregation.

Ed and Edith have a choice. Stay or leave. Shocked that they've been confronted and told what they are doing is not very Christian, they decide they are no longer welcome in their church. "There are plenty of other churches in town that would love to have us as members", they tell themselves. They've had that same conversation with themselves before.

So, the next day they show up at the church with both of their vehicles, including Ed's pick up truck. Since they both have keys to the church it doesn't matter that no one else is there to explain what they're up to. But into the nursery they go, and out with them comes a rocking chair, a changing table, a crib and the curtains (Edith prefers to call them "window treatments"). You see, two years ago, with the arrival of their first grandchild, Ed and Edith joyfully offered to refurbish the nursery. Who knew there were strings attached?

Pity the church that gets the nursery furnishings next.

Meanwhile, back at their old church, for some reason it seems as if Someone has opened up the windows and let the fresh air come in.

(Believe it or not, Ed and Edith's stories are based on real life. I couldn't make these things up! If you want to read other installments on Evangelical Ed and Edith, click on their link under "Labels" on the right side of this page.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Everything Rises and Falls

Watching the American political scene, especially the last 10 months has reaffirmed the maxim that "everything rises and falls on leadership" in my mind.

Leaders set the tone and the pace. They say, "Follow me", and whether it's to utopia or the blind are leading the blind, the destination and course of the journey rides on their vision or lack of it.

They also lead by example. People follow what they see more than what they hear.

I don't envy political/governmental leaders - not at the national level - not at the local level. They have to try to please everyone and that's just plain impossible. If you ever hear that I'm considering running for anything, even dog catcher, please break out the two-by-four.

But I am a leader, not by choice or by election but by calling. And I have to wonder, especially when those I lead are straying from the flock, or ignoring the warnings from the shepherd that there are predators nearby, how responsible am I for their wandering? Did I do my job? Did I stumble or fail to act because of fear?

It weighs heavy on my heart. Some days more so than others.