Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I lost a good friend, yesterday.

Don't worry - it's not quite as serious as it sounds.

Yesterday, I finished reading a book.

I suppose there should be some feeling of accomplishment.  Finishing off a book is kind of a big deal.  But when I've spent time reading a really good book, there is a certain sense of sadness.  Something really good or beneficial or just plain fun has come to an end.  And it's hard to say goodbye - even to a book.  Do you know what I'm talking about?

For about the last 10 days I've been reading R.A. Dickey's "Wherever I Wind Up."  Dickey is a 38 year old pitcher, currently playing for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He has knocked around baseball for a long time.  In his story he tells how he reinvented himself as a knuckle ball pitcher and through that finally found some success.

But Dickey shares so much more.  "Transparent" is a word that comes to mind.  He describes what it is like to grow up with an alcoholic mother and a distant father. He tells about the sexual abuse he endured as a young boy and what it was like to live with a secret that impacted every facet of his life.

When I read the last page of the book yesterday, I felt some sadness.  I always feel this way when I've finished reading a good book.

Now I want to find another book to read  I'm not sure what subject I'll tackle next? Theology? Fiction or non-fiction? Maybe a good biography? Something dealing with sports or entertainment?

All I know is that I'm ready to make a new friend. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Panic at Spicer Sanctuary

That's what my son-in-law, Josh, calls our house - Spicer Sanctuary.  For him, our house on Sunday is a place to escape from the stress and pressure of every day life and to rest and relax.

Not that the place is as peaceful as a monastery.  With eight adults - my wife and I, three kids and their spouses, my in-laws - and four grandchildren, our place is a noisy place.

Yesterday, we celebrated my father-in-law's 85 birthday.  He is a generous man and an inspiration to us all.  We're glad the Lord gave us such a nice day to celebrate (it was also the first day that we had the air conditioner on, something not worth celebrating!)

In the afternoon we retreated to the cover of the backyard porch so that my oldest grandson could play in his sandbox.  A mother Quail decided to use one of my wife's handing pots as a nest for the 14 eggs she laid.  Earlier in the day we noticed that the eggs had hatched and we watched and laughed as we saw those little heads pop up and down in the nest.  It looked like Mom was having quite a time keeping track of all of them.

Suddenly, Mom seemingly became quite agitated.  We thought it was because so many of us were near to the nest.  Then, without any warning to us, one of the little baby fell out of the nest.  Mom was on the ground making a racket, and so were we.

What do we do, we screamed! If we pick the baby up and put it back in the nest, Mom won't have anything to do with it, said one of my son-in-laws.  Soon we were brainstorming - surely there had to be a solution to this problem. 

Before we had a chance to assist with the situation, a second baby fell out of the nest.  Then a third.  Our problem was becoming unmanageable.

Then we started to watch more carefully.  The babies were falling out of the nest - they were leaping out! While we were in a panic, Mom Quail had everything under control. It was time for the babies to leave the nest.  And over the course of a few minutes, the nest was empty and Mom was herding the  baby to the north-west corner of our back yard.

We went out this morning to see if the family was still around but they were gone.  Peace has returned to Spicer Sanctuary.  But every once in a while, it's nice to have a little commotion going on.  Especially if it involves baby quail.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Love One Another

Have you ever heard of a fellow named Dick Hoyt? Join us this Sunday morning and learn how he heeds Jesus' call to "love one another as I have loved you."  Worship is at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour at 9:15 am.

This afternoon at our 4:32 service we'll begin at three part sermon series called, "They WILL Live Happily Everafter."  Come and explore with us the last three chapters of the book of Revelation.  Child care is provided.  Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Priceless Moment

There are moments in your life when you are filled with awe...when your heart overflows with gratitude...when your eyes fill with tears...when you just have to stop and praise God.

I had one of those moments yesterday.

I was checking my phone for text messages which I noticed one from my oldest daughter.  All it said was, "Amen!"

When I opened the text, I found a video.  I pressed the arrow for play and pictured was my 2 year old grandson, Ethan.  He wasn't speaking very loudly and I had to listen carefully.  He was saying, just for me, The Lord's Prayer. 

He had a few problems saying words like "trespasses."  I suppose that's typical for a 2 year old.  Nevertheless, he knew the prayer, his Lord and Savior's prayer.

Next, it was his brother's turn.  Some of you know that Luke was diagnosed with apraxia, a condition that impedes speech.  During the first two years of his life, we prayed nightly, "Lord, loosen his tongue!"

The Lord heard our prayer and graciously answered it.  Luke began receiving the care and training he needed.  His parents and family patiently worked with him and just kept loving him.

Now, Luke's tongue is loosened and he talks up a proverbial storm.  PTL!

Luke, being Luke, had to do things a little differently.  He tells his mother, "I will count 1-2-3 and then say it."  That's exactly what he did.

In a loud and clear voice Luke recited the introduction, the seven petitions and the conclusion.  But the time he was done, I had tears in my eyes.

Now, I know that these are not the only two grandchildren who have memorized The Lord's Prayer.  As folks in our church family know, I am a bit of nut when it comes to my grandkids (all four of them are perfect in every way:-)

Still, I can't help but give thanks that Luke and Ethan have parents who are committed to teaching them the faith in which they have been baptized.  The two boys go to church and sit through church (well, at least Luke, Ethan is still learning how to sit still) - they're learning to worship.  They attend Sunday school - they're learning more and more about the Savior that loves them so.

I thank the Lord for the work He is doing in their young lives.  And I give thanks for the priceless moment I experienced yesterday.

What can you say after that but "Amen!"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Prayer of Confession

Back in 1948, Concordia Publishing House printed what they called "The Devotional Bible," a two volume set of devotional readings of the Gospels.  The devotions included a prayer and this particular one seemed to be meaningful for me on the day I read it because I wrote in down in my journal.  The prayer went like this:

O Lord, for Jesus' sake, remake me day after day, creating in me a clean heart.  I confess my sins to You.  They have bruised and wounded my soul.  You alone can blot all these wrongs and transgressions through Christ.  Make me acceptable to You and grant that every word and act of mine may please You.  Then You shall be the praise in Christ Jesus forevermore.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A petition from Bo Giertz

May Your good Word be fulfilled in us so we hurry on our way without giving up and travel on without being tired.  And if we tire, you'll carry us.  Take us by the hand and lead us forward.  You're loyal, and your loyalty is our hope and our strength.

From To Live With Christ, page 618

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Luther on the 8th Commandment

For there is nothing on or in a person that can do both greater and more extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue.  This is true even though it is the least and weakest part of a person (James 3:5).

From The Large Catechism

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So you want to be a sports-talk show host?

I've had the opportunity to listen to the big sports talk station in town this week and I've discovered a few simple steps for hosting a sports talk program.  It's really pretty simple so if you've ever listened to such programs and thought to yourself, "Hey! I could do this!" I urge you to put these three steps into practice and soon you'll be rubbing elbows with Dan Patrick and Bob Costas and, well, probably not.

First, learn to repeat every sentence you say at least three times.

Say something like, "The Suns did not show up to play tonight." Then say it again.  Say it one more time.  Apparently, those who listen to sports talk program aren't very swift so you've got to repeat your points over and over again until the listener gets what you're saying.

(Or maybe the host is not very swift and simply repeats stuff over and over again because they've got no real insight or anaylsis to offer.  Nah - that's couldn't be true, right?) 

Ah, but repetition in and of itself is not enough!

Second, as you repeat every sentence three times, crank up the volume!!

Let me try and demonstrate (you can't hear me so use your imagination, OK?)

"The Suns did not show up to play tonight.  The Suns Did Not Show Up To Play Tonight!  THE SUNS DID NOT SHOW UP TO PLAY TONIGHT!!!!!"

Cranking up the volume proves that you are a passionate sports talk show host and we sports fans are nothing if not passionate about our teams and their performance.

Third, remind your audience over and over again that you were at the game.

I guess this lets your listeners know that you weren't watching the game from the comfort of your living room where with all the good camera angles and instant replay, you can see the game much better than at a seat in the stadium.  You were there at the game! That must lend more creditability to what you say.

So, say something like, "You're right, I was at that game and the Suns did not show up to play.  No way did they play hard.  I was there and the Suns didn't show up.  I was there at that game and the Suns did not show up, no way! I WAS THERE AT THE GAME AND THE SUNS DID NOT SHOW UP!" (a good use of rules 2 and 3).

Now I know that there are only a few sports talk show hosting opportunities out there so maybe you can use these rules where you work.  If you're a pastor, use them in the pulpit: (The devil fooled Adam and Eve.  The Devil Fooled Adam And Eve! THE DEVIL FOOLED ADAM AND EVE!!!)
Or maybe you can apply the rules with your fellow employees: (I was there at the meeting and our benefits have been frozen.  They're frozen! I was there.  I heard it with my own two ears.  I WAS THERE AT THE MEETING!!!)

Of course, should you apply these three rules to your place of work, you might run the risk of having happen to you what I did to the sports talk station.

Tune it out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Martin Luther on the one thing necessary

One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness and freedom.  That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ...Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul.

From "Treasury of Daily Prayer," page 220.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Difficult Assignment

Ananias, a believer in the risen Christ is directed to go and pray for Saul, public enemy number one of the Christian church.  Now that's a difficult assignment! Would you go? The reluctant Ananias did and, in a small way, had a hand in launching the man who would become the greatest missionary the church has ever seen.  Learn more about Ananias this weekend at Life in Christ.  Saturday's 4:32 worship features music from Stuart Townend, Scott Wesley Brown and Darlene Zschech.  Sunday worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with class for all ages beginning at 9:15 am.  It's also another Membership Sunday - the Lord continues to grow our church.  PTL! Join us this Sunday at LICL!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

If I have my facts straight, the legendary golfer, Bobby Jones, once said years ago of the new phenom, Jack Nicholas, "He plays a game of which I am not acquainted."

Bobby Jones might have said the same thing about my golf game.

However, unlike Nicholas, it wouldn't have been a compliment.

Anyway, the next two weeks of professional golf are the most enjoyable ones for me.  This morning The Masters got underway in Augusta, Georgia.  Next week, The Heritage tourney will be played at the Harbor Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC.

My wife and I lived in Hilton Head for almost four years.  I quickly learned that The Heritage was a very big deal.

I lost track of the number of folks from the church I served who came up to me and proudly said, "Pastor, I won't be in church this Sunday.  I'm (fill in the blank) at The Heritage."

It took lots of volunteers to make a golf tournament successful.  People from our church carried scoring signs, picked up pro golfers at the airport, worked concession stands, and helped run the parking lots.

My wife and I lived on a golf course so I had plenty of opportunities to get out and hit the ball around.  I remember a short time where I actually had improved my game to the point where I felt like I knew what I was doing every time I stood over the ball.

Then I went on vacation and didn't take my clubs.  When I finally got back to the course, the magic was gone.  It has never returned.

Now, with my back hurting so much I don't go out very much to play.  But I know how hard the game of golf really is.  So I like watching it (even if my wife says that watching a bag of popcorn cook in the microwave is more exciting).

My pick for The Masters is Phil Mickelson but I got a feeling that Tiger Woods (a guy for which I have zero respect) is going to win and continue his assault on Jack Nicholas' record of 18 majors victories.

Whatever...at my house on Sunday, it will be as quiet as it is when a golfer is lining up a putt.  Hey, it's The Masters!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

God bless Mrs. Royer!

My dear, sweet wife often makes fun of the fact that I have the ability to remember the most insignificant details from the past but have a hard time remembering that garbage pickup in our neighborhood takes place on Mondays and Thursdays.

Or is it Tuesdays and Fridays?

Anyway, I was doing some devotional reading in the Scriptures yesterday when I came across a familiar verse.  Here's Luke 11:28 - Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.  (KJV)

Every time I read this verse I take a trip down "Memory Lane."

During my years in elementary school, my sister and I attended Redeemer Lutheran School in Tucson, AZ.  Luke 11:28 was the first verse our 5th grade class memorized that year.  Our teacher, Mrs. Royer, told us that everything we learned in religion class that year would be from the Bible.  She said, "Now, I don't want the Bible to go in one ear and out the other! I want you to memorize God's Word and know it and keep it and obey it!"

She was rather emphatic about the importance of knowing your Bible.

The word "obey" certainly carries a lot of negative baggage.  But the emphasis of the Greek word for "obey" is "to hold fast to, trust, cherish, keep on believing."  Our Savior God takes up residence in our hearts through faith created by God's Word.  The Holy Spirit continues throughout our lives to teach us the truth of this precious Word.  As we hear and learn it more and more, we trust God for the forgiveness of our sins, hold fast to Jesus as "the way and the truth and the life," and cherish how God speaks to us through His Word. 

I didn't realize it at the time but I now understand the excellent instruction Mrs. Royer gave us.  To memorize Bible verses is one way to keep the Scriptures from going in one ear and out the other.  So, let's memorize - this week's assignment is Luke 11:28.

Let's make Mrs. Royer proud!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A good problem to have!

I've been praying a lot for our new facility planning team.  They need lots of direction and help.

The Lord has greatly blessed our church.  We never imagined that our membership would grow so large. 

But with that growth there is the demand for more space.  When our services are full, parking become a challenge.

More families are becoming a part of our church family.  We thought that our Ed. Building would take care of our needs for years.  But our Sunday school leaders tell us that if 8 to 10 more kids begin attending regularly, we will be maxed out - no more space.

These are good problems to have.  And the facility planning team is addressing some of these issues.  . 

They're a good group of people.  A lot of wisdom and experience there.  But they need my prayers and the prayers of our church family.  Even more than that, the need the guidance of the Lord.

How blessed they (and we) are that the Lord is near to them (and to us).  Word and sacraments give the greatest assurance that the Lord does not leave us to our own devices but forgives, comforts, directs and empowers. 

The team meets again this afternoon.  May the Lord bless and keep them in their task.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Be a "Pointer"

In the last analysis, you cannot pontificate but only point.  A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, "I can't prove a thing, but there is something about His eyes and voice.  There's something about the way He carries His head, His hands, the way He carries His cross - the way He carries me."

Your testimony is your testimony.  People can question or challenge or even dismiss your testimony.  But none of that changes the fact of what Christ has done in Your life. 

So be a pointer - point to Jesus.  Tell others how Jesus picked you up and began carrying you in your baptism.  Tell how He saved you and changed your life with the washing of water and the Word.  Tell what He continues to carry you each day of your life - how His forgiveness picks you up when you are down...how His peace lifts you up and enables you to live each day with joy in spite of tough circumstances.  Tell how He has promised to carry you into eternity.

You and I can't change or convert a person.  But the Holy Spirit can do this work through the Gospel.  It's not our job to persuade.  But we can point.  Be a pointer.  Point people to Jesus.

Above quote from Fredrick Bueckner, "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC"

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thomas the Doubt-ciple!

Ok, I know doubt-ciple isn't a word.  It isn't all that clever.  I took a shot!

But Thomas has earned the moniker, the doubting one, quite honestly.

John 20:19-31 is the traditional text for the second Sunday in Easter and since I am a traditional kind of guy (mostly), we're going to check this out this weekend.

The Saturday service begins at 4:32 pm.  Back by popular demand is Stuart Townend, "The Power of the Cross."  Also included is a second Townend song, "Glory Be to God."

Sunday worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am and we'll have a full offering of classes for everyone during Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour at 9:15 am. 

Hoping to see our services full of disciples and doubt-ciples!  (sorry)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thank God for the Little Things

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts...How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Whom Can You Offer Some Fruit Today?

In the late 1980's when our family moved from the Valley of the Sun to the Midwest, we didn't realize just how much we would miss fresh citrus.  However, my wife's Aunt Jean remedied the problem, at least a little bit, each Christmas.

Arriving at our doorstep would be a full box of fresh Arizona oranges.  For days afterward the only sound you would hear around our house was "Mmmmmm goooooood!"  The oranges were a delicious treasure.  Aunt Jean's gift was a blessing beyond compare.

When you arrive at the doorstep of a sick friend to provide a meal and a prayer...when you stand at the doorstep of a troubled friend to offer compassion and help...when you wait on the doorstep of a mourning friend to give comfort and love, you are demonstrating the fruit of Christian faith that the Holy Spirit produces in us and through us.  God uses you to be a blessing beyond compare to others.  And your faith in the Lord is nurtured as you trust more and more in your Savior God for forgiveness of sins, peace of heart and the gift of salvation.

Remember Galatians 5:22-23? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  To whom can you offer some fruit today?