Friday, August 16, 2019

Happy Birthday ... to Me!

My birthday is tomorrow.  As my friend, Bobby, might say, it will be the 58th anniversary of the day of my birth.  Try as I may, I still haven’t caught up with another friend, Randy. 

This year, I feel particularly pensive.  Many of my former high school classmates just gathered for a celebration of our 40th year since graduation.  I appreciate how social media and smart phone technology almost made me feel like I was there.  The pictures and comments on Facebook brought back more than a few memories and stirred a melancholy mix of emotions.  They also revealed in no uncertain terms how far from 18 we have all come.

As I kept coming back again and again for more updates from our class reunion, I was saddened by the number of our peers who have died.   Like every generation, I imagine most of us rarely if ever imagined we were actually mortal.  Live forever?  Tell that to one of our own, Mitch, whom I understand is now in hospice care.  Actually, I think he would gladly tell us the truth about graduations and living forever.  Anyone who believes and receives Jesus Christ will graduate to glory when death comes, and they will live forever – truly live and truly forever!

Today, it feels like most of my “firsts” have come and gone.

·      First home run – hit off my friend, Brad Burns.  Actually, I hit two off of him in that game – the first barely over the right field fence at Shields and the second was a bomb to left.
·      First girlfriend – Hey!  I carried her books, she taught me how to play basketball.  Thanks, Jill.
·      First true love – I know who that is.   Donna, you are still the one.  How wise and gracious of God to complete me with you!
·      The five first times to hold each of our “Fab Five” – Lauryn, Bethany, Jonathan, Joshua, Caitlyn, God continues to teach me about Himself, His love, His amazing “father-ing” (?) by the esteemed honor is it to be your dad.
·      The first time I sang our “Family Song” to our grandkids, and the upcoming first tie to sing it to our third grand.

Ah, you get the picture.  Now, I am at a time of life when I need to appreciate the swift arrival of many, many “lasts.”  The problem with our “lasts” is the most of them wave an unnoticed farewell to us in the rearview mirror before we even knew they were here.  We do not typically schedule our most meaningful “lasts.”  I so very much want to make the most of my “lasts.”

I suspect the best way to make the most of my “lasts” will be to do my best to see and seize every moment of meaning.  Many of my friends have heard me talk about making the rest of our lives the best of our lives.  You may also remember me saying something to this effect: None of us know how many days we have left in the rest of our lives.  We do know, however, when the rest of our lives starts – right now.  I think this is akin to what the psalmist means, “Lord, teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12).

That brings me back to my birthday.  Occasionally, my beloved or one of my children will ask me what I want for my birthday.  I rarely know what to say (or at least how to tell my sensible, godly, grown-up sweetheart I really want the newest RPG for my PS4 – or the next Madden if there is not a new RPG to my liking!).  Well, this year I think I do know what I want for my birthday; although, I fear I may stumble to say it as well as I would like. 

The wonderful reality about what I really want most for my birthday is that it is FREE!  It has already been paid for in full!  The sobering reality about my birthday wish is that it requires of any who would be so inclined to give up everything in the exchange, an exchange heavily tilted in our favor, immeasurably so!  We give up our brokenness, failures, blind scurrying, and sad ends for healing, wholeness, healing, and Home.  The heartbreaking and tragic reality is the eternal loss of every soul who walks away from the offer God extends.

If you have read this far, maybe you would dare to read a bit more.  This piece won’t answer every question, but as I read it today, I thought of more than a few of my favorite people, and I thought this might be a helpful stepping stone for some of you in a new direction.  Of course, if you’d like to take a few more steps in that way, I would be happy to walk with you! 

Anyway, thanks for being who you are and whom God has fashioned you to be in my life.  Thanks for enduring!  And, thanks for giving this article from Patrick Morley a look-see.  Here’s what he thinks is the best analogy of the existence of an invisible God he’s ever heard (  I like it, too.

Well, here's to wishing me a happy birthday!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Did God Just Call Me to Another Church?

So, I had a dream last night (Friday, January 5, 2018).  In the dream, I was very excited, honored really, and energized to be invited to join the ministry team of a young church and to help them grow.  In the dream, we discerned a way for the church to make an adjustment to their normal way of operating that would help them grow closer to one another and also to be more effective connecting with their community.  The leaders were all in, and it was all very exciting.  The church was abuzz.  There is really very little that thrills me more than when God’s people are on board to do whatever it takes to know Jesus more intimately and to make Him known more intentionally.
Sadly, in my dream, we came to the realization that in order to move forward with the plan, I would have to leave the church I loved.  I could not follow God’s direction and stay where I was.  Of course, I did not want to leave the church I loved.  We were just getting to know one another and love one another, just getting into that blissful groove between getting to know you and getting to love you.  The last thing I remembered from my dream was me straddling the road halfway between stepping out in the unknown to see God do something wonderful with this new church and staying put to remember and relish what God had done with our old church.
This was one of those dreams that lingers with you after you wake up and get going with your day.  As I was finishing off my oatmeal, still chewing on the dream, I was suddenly struck by a reality.  Anytime we purpose to go with God and to make adjustments to be more faithful, fit, and fruitful in the harvest, we must leave the church we love behind us.  We leave that church for the church we believe God wants us to become. 
I love the faith family God has called Donna and me to serve.  I love who they have become in their brief existence.  I love who we are becoming together.  In many, many ways, Highland Community Church feels like the church God has been preparing us to shepherd all along.  That said, change is inevitable.
Think about this.  We are not today the church we were when we started 13 or so years back, or five years ago, or even last year.  We grow, we change, we gain new friends and family, and we lose some.  Similarly, we will not be quite the same this time next year as we are today.
Which change do we want – the change that comes whether or not we pursue God’s best, change that rolls over us whether or not we are ready or even compliant, or the change that accompanies an intentional partnership with God, change guaranteed to move us more into Christlikeness?  Be assured: whether or not we follow God, we will be changed.  For my part, I opt for the kind of change that aims to make Father grin.
I have decided to accept the invitation of that young church in my dream.  I have determined it is somehow better to leave behind the comfy, cozy church we love for the courageous church we can yet be.  I see some adjustments we need to make, some tweaks here and some very real overhauls there.  They will change us, in some ways perceptible, in some ways not, but I am certain, in every way more like Jesus Christ our Head, as always, by His grace and for His glory!
Did God just call me to another church?  Maybe that’s not the question.  Maybe this is: Doesn’t God call us every day to be a new version of His church, another step closer to His design?  What do you say?  Want to go for a ride?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lions Gone Mad!

To me, Monday mornings are a time for sleeping in, lazing around, and easing into a new week.  Not so today, as evidenced by the following entry I just penned.  Enter the world of my waking thoughts turned to prayer.
Horrible, horrible dream!  Lions gone mad.  Lions everywhere.  In our neighborhood.  On our walking paths.  In our yards.  In our own homes!  Hunting.  Stalking.  Attacking … us!  Screams everywhere.  Corpses of dear ones dragged away where they are suffocated, ripped apart, eaten.
I awoke, glad for my safety, my bed, my blankets, my wife breathing deeply next to me, my dog doing the same next to out bed.
Poor Trinity (the name of our three-legged boxer).  She would be an early victim in the lion apocalypse.  Heart and disposition to defend herself and her people, yet unable to do so long or effectively because of her disadvantage.  Strange how frequently I am moved to melancholy, almost mourning, thinking of her dying – but that’s another tale.  She would tragically be such easy prey.
Easy prey the weak and defenseless.  Like children.  Children.  Grandchildren.
O dear God!
8 Be serious!  Be alert!  Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Lions!  Lions everywhere!
“5:22 AM.  Relax.  Pull the covers up.  Adjust the pillow.  Get comfortable.  Go back to sleep,” he purred.
The foe purrs, and my heart shakes.  Fool!  Lazy, self-centered, reckless, feckless fool!
She was right.  I used to rise early and often to plead for strength and wisdom.  Why do I no longer rise to my knees and fight so for my family?  Years now wasted away in a few more hours of slumber!
9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, … (1 Peter 5:9a).
Father, forgive me!  Jesus, what a poor clanging noise bucket I have been.  My own children have been hunted.  My son.  My daughter.  They are dragged off while I opine oh so reverently!
Who will resist him?  Who will pray?  Who will battle?  Who will protect Evangeline and Judah?  Who will be engaged for our children and our grandchildren’s sakes?
This is our call!  This is our place!  This is our post, beloved!
Lions everywhere!  Where are the warriors?  Where are the guardians? the protectors armed and armored in battle attire and arrayed on their knees?
9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world (1 Peter 5:9).
In the Lake Moraine subdivision.  In Brighton and Hartland and Howell and Highland and Holly.  In Detroit and Ann Arbor.  In Windsor and Washington.  In Canada and Mexico.  In Europe and Asia.  In Myanmar – Yangon, Theinzeik, Thaton, Mawlamyine.
Late and weak and ashamed I come, Lord.  Forgive my ignorance and insolence.  Protect and preserve Your people.  We are too frail.  So easily distracted and divided.  Such easy prey.
Spirit of God, open the eyes of my heart – of our hearts – and grant that we may hear the lions’ roars.  Then, rather than quake or panic or pull the covers over our heads, move us to mercy and to resolve to pray for our children, for one another and with one another.
10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.  11 The dominion belongs to Him forever.  Amen (1 Peter 5:10-11).
Father, restore in me a right spirit, a clear vision, a soldier’s integrity and purpose and resolve, a servant’s heart and constitution – like that of my Lord.
Establish, strengthen, and support us, Spirit of the living God.  Grant that we – Donna and I, our family, our faith family – would see again what really matters and what is truly at stake. 
What did Jesus do when Satan sought to sift Simon Peter like wheat?  Jesus prayed for His man.  Can we do any less for one another and especially for the most vulnerable among us when we perceive the dragon lurking at the gates?  Dear God, move us to march out and on together on our knees!  (I’m looking at you HCC).
If it must be, stir us from our sleep even with the terrible howl of the predator and the desperate screams of his victims.
Lord Jesus, save and keep safe our children our grandchildren, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and the nations!
Thank You!  Thank You for sounding alarms in my spirit while I yet have breath to do something about it.
Thank You for Your personal commitment and investment to accomplish Your purpose in, through, and for us.
Make Your church, Lord Jesus, a window to the world, a station where we are increasingly more bound together by Your heart than by our whims, and an instrument made ever more useful in Your work to populate Heaven with our family and friends, with our neighbors and the nations.

Soli Deo Gloria!