Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A fond farewell to Downton Abbey

This weekend my dear, sweet wife and I watched the last two episodes of the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey.

We were late arriving to the party, so to speak.  We didn't start watching the show until it had finished its run on PBS.  And we would probably still be ignorant of Downton Abbey had I not bought seasons one and two for $3.99 a piece at Savers.

It only took about 15 minutes of the first episode for us to be hooked, hopelessly hooked, on the program.  The first two season were watched in a week or so.  "Do you want to watch another?" we would ask each other.  The answer was always and firmly, "Yes!"

I knew nothing about Julian Fellows, the creator and writer of the series, before we began watching the show.  He is such a gifted and talented writer.  He knows how to use words.  He communicated timeless thoughts in no more than a sentence.  Sherri and I are going to watch the series again - very soon! I'm going to be watching with a notepad so I can write down some of the dialogue that I found so meaningful.

There were multiple story lines involving a multitude of characters.  And Fellows made us care for each one - from often hard hearted Lady Mary, who has a man die in her bed, to lady's maid, Anna, who was brutally abused later in the series.  The acting, from a large ensemble cast, was superb.

As we watched the credits roll following the last episode I felt as I often do when I finish a book that I really enjoyed.  There is kind of a bittersweet joy that is felt.  Joy that the book has been finished. But tempered by the knowledge that no more time will be spent with the characters that you had grown to love and care for.  You've lived with such people for a time but "the end" really means "the end."  It's hard when that little part of your life is taken away.

Hopefully, we'll be able to move on with our lives this week.  I wonder if there is a Downton Abbey Center for Withdrawal available? We might need it!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all

On Tuesday, I was blogging about where we should locate a basketball hoop at church.

Now, basketball is the last thing on my agenda at the moment.

On Wednesday I woke up in the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced.

Worse than when I snapped my ankle.  Worse than when I blew out my ACL.  Worse than when I checked out a "Real Housewives..." episode, just to see what it was all about.

The pain got so bad that Sherri and I spent a quiet overnight at the Arrowhead ER where I had some x-rays done and received some good pain meds.

Since then I've received some excellent care from Dr. Justin Wright and his staff at Camelback Chiropractic.  He has help to reduce the pain quite a bit.

So the pain is being managed and he's telling me to take it easy this weekend.  That's what I'll do.

Dr. Wright suspects that I'm suffering from a cervical issue which has resulted in a pinched nerve. Tonight I'm hoping that an MRI I'm scheduled for will solve the mystery.

Would you pray that the pain might relent some more and that the MRI will reveal the cause of this pain?

We like to say, "God is good."  This is true in both large and small ways.

Sherri was out of town for a week, celebrating baby Duke's first b-day in Green Bay.

She returned home Wednesday.  Just in time to take care of me.

I don't know how I would have managed without her.  Connie Kanzler would have dropped everything to come to my rescue.  Pastor Marcus would have helped out immediately.  I'm certain an urgent request on Facebook would have brought many responses (as they have with our beloved TFG group).

But having my partner and best friend (for almost) 44 years here at this time has been the greatest comfort and joy.

So where do I see the goodness of God in all of this?

All of this didn't happen until Sherri was headed back home.

It wasn't the best homecoming in the world for her.

But I am a greatly blessed man.

Thanks for your prayers.  God's best to you today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One thing our expansion project needs

As many of you good readers know, our church is undergoing an expansion project.  If all goes according to plan, by the middle of September we will be ready to move into our new Christian Life Center.  We'll have a large hall for hosting events, Bible studies, meals and other activities; classroom space to grow our Sunday school; an upstairs area dedicated to our older youth; a proper kitchen with all the amenities; more storage for our stuff (and what church doesn't have "stuff"); a new over-flow seating area in the sanctuary; new office space, and music room; and a small chapel for those who seek a quiet place to pray.

I'm encouraged by all the activity that is taking place on our campus each day.  Our foreman, Rick, seems to be really on top of the project and is working hard to ensure that we meet our completion date in September.

I've looked over the building plans many times now and it finally dawned on me that we're missing something.  It's important.  I don't know how we overlooked it.

Where is the new basketball hoop?

Now, I was told that we won't be able to play basketball in the new hall because the ceiling won't be high enough.  That was disappointing news but I can live with it.

But surely we can find a place somewhere on our property to place a basketball hoop.

Shooting jumpers was one of my favorite past times for a good part of my life.

I fell in love with basketball in 1968.  LSU featured one of the great players of all time - "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

I loved Pistol Pete's creativity on the court.  He didn't just dribble the ball.  He dribbled the ball behind his back, between his legs.  He was magician.

And there wasn't a shot Pistol Pete couldn't take or make.  He could drive to the basket and shoot with either hand.  Or he could pull up and hit the long jumper with a hand in his face.

Maravich is college basketball's all time scorer.  It was once determined that he would have added another eight to ten points to his scoring average had the three point line existed in his day.

It's been years since I've grabbed a ball and gone out to hit some jumpers on the basketball court.  Now, in my old age, I'm ready to do it again.

I was at a graduation party a few weeks ago and ran into a few guys with whom I used to mix it up on the court.  We had a great time swapping memories.  We played in some epic games (at least they were epic to us!)

Somebody said, "We should get together and play again."  Wow! Bad idea.

To a man, we all had put on a little weight.  OK, a lot of weight.  We also spent a fair amount of time talking about our aches and pains.  I've got a bad back.  My right knee has been getting along without an ACL for the past 25 years.  Someday I'll be joining the knee-replacement club (not looking forward to that!).  We concluded that none of us had any business running up and down a basketball court.

And then we hit on it - we could hold free-throw shooting contests!

This would be perfect.  No running around.  Just stand at the free-throw line and fire away.  Might need a little "Icy Hot" for the shoulder and elbow afterward but that would be a small price to pay to be involved once again in fierce competition (as fierce as shooting free-throws can get).

So, when I get to the office this morning, my first order of business is to find Rick the foreman.  We need to discover the perfect place for the basketball hoop.  Can't be shooting into the sun.  Actually, a place where I could stand in the shade would be great.  A nearby water fountain would really be a help.  Maybe I should invest in a one of those "Life Alert" buttons as a precaution.  Should I be stricken from shooting too many free-throws I'd surely want some help.

At my age you can't take too many chances!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hey Number One!

For nearly three years I started my work day with a phone call from Carole Cody.

She had been a member of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran and was acquainted with many of our Life in Christ church family.  She called LICL one morning and I took the call.  We spoke for a few minutes and then she had to go.  End of conversation, right?

Nope.  The next morning she called again.  The following day, she called.  The day after that, she called.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.

Through our wonderful administrator, Connie Kanzler, I learned that Carole was developmentally disabled.  Following the death of her father, Carole was living in a group home west of the church on Thunderbird.  The phone was free in the morning and so Carole would call.  And, honestly, in the first few years of my ministry here, we were a small, but growing church.  I had time to talk on the phone. And Carole kept me entertained.

In fact, I looked forward to Carole's morning check-ins.  During the time I spent in my previous congregation on Hilton Head Island, SC, the Lord led us to connecting our youth to minister and witness Christ to the developmentally disabled.  We worked with a group called PEP (Programs for Exceptional People) and took our kids every year to "HandyCamp," where each youth would spend a week caring for and being with an adult.  God produced an abundant harvest of good fruit through that ministry.

Carole began each call with the same question, "How ya doin, George?" Her biggest area of curiosity was people. Carole had an amazing recall for names so she would usually have a list of folks for which she wanted "the scoop."  How were they? How was their families? Her concern was sincere and she would say, "I'm praying for them!"  And I believed her.

Over time Carole took an interest in my family.  She wanted to know all about my dear, sweet wife and our kids and also about Sherri's mom and dad.  The conversation was never about Carole.  It was always about others.

After Connie became our church administrator, it was she would would answer the phone and make the first contact with Carole.  They would talk for awhile and then Carole would ask to speak to "Number One."  Connie would issue some mock protest and Carole would tell her something like, "You're Number Two.  But George is Number One!"

In her own little way, Carole made me feel important.  Who doesn't like to be thought of as Number One? We all have the need to be cherished.  We all need to know that someone cares for us.  That I was an important little piece in Carole's life was special.

In late 2008 Carole moved to South Dakota to be closer to her extended family.  Occasionally, we would talk on the phone but over time we lost contact with her.  Thinking about it today, I wonder why I ever allowed that to happen.  Our friendship with Carole was special, a gift from the Lord.

Last week we learned that Carole fell asleep in Jesus on April 19.  Her family, while going through her possessions, found some of the names of LICL members with whom Carole was close.  They sent us a couple of copies of the funeral service bulletin and included a note with a story about Carole.  It was pure Carole!

One of our favorite stories is when we were in Target shopping (one of her favorite things to do) and ran into a young mom who Carole knew.  The mom had just adopted a handicapped little girl from Africa.  Carole talked with the little girl for awhile and then Carole grabbed the mom's hand and started praying for healing for her little daughter right there in the middle of the store.  Then, Carole bounded off to shop for t-shirts.  The young mom turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "No one in my church has ever prayed for my little handicapped daughter...but Carole did!"  She loved God and she loved people.  Her simple, childlike faith was truly an example to the rest of us.  Now she is "home" with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It was a nice way for Carole's family to end the letter - Carole is now at home with her real "Number One," her Savior, Jesus.  I can't think of a better place for her to be.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor Is Too Focused On the Presidential Campaign

Last weekend, while we drove through one thundershower after another, I put this top 10 list together. It seemed like a good way to pass the time on I-35 which had major road construction and much stop-and-go traffic.  So be on the lookout for these important signs:

Signs your pastor is too focused on the Trump campaign

5) Made a motion during a voters meeting to have Megyn Kelly removed at Fox News

4) Tells confirmation student who failed to do his memory work, "You're Fired!"

3) Refers to Peter, James, John and the rest as the "12 Apprentices"

2) During the sermon asked the congregation to turn to "Two Corinthians, just like the Donald"

1) Dyed his hair orange

Signs your pastor is too focused on the Clinton campaign

5) Pastor encourages his wife to only wear pantsuits "like Hillary"

4) To drum up support for the church picnic the pastor tells the congregation, "It takes a village to raise up a great potluck!"

3) Spilled coffee on himself when someone sneaks up behind him and whispers, "Benghazi"

2) Balks at doing a baptism when learning the child's first name is "Monica"

1) Explained in Bible class that Jesus was arrested, persecuted and put to death due to a "vast right-wing conspiracy"

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Come to San Antonio and baptize the babies

That was the Facebook message I received from Tim when I offered my congratulations on the birth of his son, Benjamin.

Tim's wife, Rhea Ann, had just given birth to their second child.  Rhea is a member of LICL.  She and her husband make their home now in San Antonio where they live near Rhea's mom and dad, Melissa and CJ.

When I read Tim's Facebook post I immediately talked to my dear, sweet wife about traveling to San Antonio.  She didn't hesitate.  "Yes" was her answer.  We found a date that would work for us, made the travel arrangements and off we went.

We flew in to San Antonio around lunchtime last Friday.  Between road construction and driving thundershowers our 2 hour 20 minute trip to Waco, Texas took well over three hours.  But we made it and had a great time.

Among the highlights:

Friday evening we stayed at a B n B about 20 minutes outside of Waco.  Every hotel room in the city was booked for Baylor University's graduation.  The B n B turned out to be much more fun.  The owners have their own vineyard on the property so they treated us to a wine tasting.  We eventually purchased a half-bottle and sat out on the porch of the B n B, enjoyed cool breezes and beautiful views and kicked back.  It felt great!

Saturday morning we drove in to Waco to visit Magnolia Market, the brainchild of Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of the "Fixer Upper" television show.  The store sets in the shadow of some silos and was packed.  We had heard that the merchandise was way overpriced but my dear, sweet wife felt the prices were reasonable.  As we checked out we met Joanna Gaines' mother - she was directing traffic and doing a very effective job keeping the lines moving.

The Market also has a large playground-like area when parents and kids can play games.  There are food truck circling the perimeter and a place with picnic tables when folks can enjoy their food.

Saturday afternoon we started toward Austin, Texas, ran into more road construction and heavy thundershowers and after several detours we reached our hotel.  That evening our goal was to visit 6th Street, the home of numerous music venues and restaurants.  The town slogan is "Keep Austin Weird." We did see lots of local, er, color.  We had a great meal, did lots of sight seeing, including a tour of the state capitol building - very impressive!

Sunday morning we took a short drive to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Gardens.  With more cool breezes we had a delightful time.  The idea of the gardens is to capture various varieties of flower in their natural habitat.  We marveled at God's creativity.

We were scheduled to meet Tim and Rhea Ann at 3 pm and we were right on time.  Rhea's parents, CJ and Melissa, were wonderful hosts and Rhea's grandmother, Trish, another member of LILC, had flown in for the baptism.  We had over a dozen family and friends gathered in the living room.

I began by explaining what baptism is and that it is at the Lord's invitation that parents bring their children to baptism's waters.  "Let the little children come to me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God," Jesus said.  I explained that Ethan and Benjamin had earthly parents; in baptism God adopts children and adults into His family and He become their heavenly Father.

We prayed the Lord's Prayer and confessed the faith in the Apostles' Creed.  Three year old Ethan was held by his father and enjoyed getting his head wet.  Brother Benjamin - not so much.  The water was a surprise and he wasn't sure what to make out of it.  Fortunately, being in his mother's arms helped.

In prayer we gave thanks to God for the grace He gives in baptism, washing away sins.  We also prayed for mother and father and for the children too.  When it was all finished there were lots of smiles and a few tears of thanks too.

At seven pm it was time for us to find our hotel and get some rest before traveling back home.  We flew home yesterday with a feeling of deep thanksgiving that God had kept us safe, had provided some time for a nice little getaway and that we had seen His love in action through the baptism of two beautiful children.  Even as life gets back to normal for us today, we were so glad for the invitation: "Come to San Antonio and baptize the babies!"

Friday, May 13, 2016

Who are you?

You are not your sin, your failure or your past.  You are who God say you are in Christ.

George McDonald, as quoted in "Imagine 5:16" page 121

Come to LICL this weekend and learn more about who you are and whose you are.  Saturday worship at 5 pm & Sunday worship at 8 and 10:45 am - Bible classes for all ages at 9:20 in the morning.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Top Ten Signs Your Pastor Is Drinking Too Much Coffee

10) Has so much coffee before services he delivers his sermon like an auctioneer

9) Keurig machine sitting in place of where his computer used to be

8) Calls Coffee Hour the "Hour of the Third Sacrament"

7) Announces that all future Bible classes will be held at Starbucks

6) Preaches a sermon on the evils of "decaf"

5) Coffee stains spoil the look of his white "Easter" stole

4) Goes around asking people, "Whatever happened to Juan Valdez?"

3) Refers to himself as "a barista of the Word"

2) Creates a scene at LWML when unable to get "A tall, non-fat, latte with a caramel drizzle"

And the number one sign your pastor is drinking too much coffee?

1) Names his first born son "Folgers"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

One reason for atheism

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle.

Brenning Manning

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

That More Excellent Life

Many Psalms encourage the reader to "remember" - remember all the different ways that Lord has forgiven, helped, saved and blessed.  Donald Deffner picks us this thought in the following prayer:

Lord thank You
for the gift of memory
with its moments
of delight
for the joys of yesteryear
which compensate
for the distresses 
of today
But grant me
an avowed distaste
for living in the past
when opportunities for service
that more excellent life!
beckon me
in your world

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure" page 23

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Amazing Grace

Jane Fryer is one of my favorite authors.  She knows how to communicate the Gospel of Christ in a way that encourages and inspires.  That's why I'm so excited that LICL will be giving away to all mothers, grandmothers and those who provide loving care for children a devotional booklet written by Fryer.  The booklet is based on the timeless hymn, "Amazing Grace." It will enhance a woman's daily time with the Lord.  We pray that Fryer's writings will provide many rich blessings for its readers.

Join us for worship - Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 8 and 10:45 am.  Bible classes for all ages on Sunday morning at 9:20 am.  God's best to you this weekend!

Friday, May 6, 2016

People need two things

This, according to author Philip Yancey:

I'm convinced that human beings instinctively seek two things.  We long for meaning, a sense that our life somehow matters to the world around us.  And we long for community, a sense of being loved.

From "Vanishing Grace," page 32

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Join us for Natl Day of Prayer

For years now the first Thursday in May has been designated as the National Day of Prayer.

The Nurturing Team at LICL has once again organized this event.  Our sanctuary is open today from 7 am to 7 pm for anyone who would like to come in for a time of quiet meditation and prayer.

There will be prayer slips upon which some of our members have shared prayer concerns.  You can pick up some of these and offer up prayers and petitions.  There will also be resources available to aid you during your prayer time.

Then, at 7 pm, we will conduct a Prayer service.  I will be offering up several short devotions about prayer.  Pastor Marcus will pray for families, our community and our country.  Special music will also be offered.

Hope to see you sometime today or this evening!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Twist and Shout Revival Center

In 2000 the satirical magazine, "The Door," published a list of newly formed churches (not really!) designed to describe the true focus of the church's ministry.  Hope this list provides a chuckle or two:

The Potluck Assembly

Little Bit O'Bible Church

Theology-Free Church

The Inaccurate Heart of Mary Catholic Church

Seldom United Church

Church of the Perpetual Building Program

Comfortable Pew Family Center

Clean Bathroom Bible Temple

Better Than The Rest Believer's Fellowship

The Church Where the Pastor's Family Runs Everything Church

The Two-Or-More-But-Sometimes-Less-Depending-On-Who-Shows-Up Bible Church

and my favorite...

The Twist and Shout Revival Center!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Martin Luther on the unusual taste buds of the proud

Therefore, the proud have no taste for grace, because their sins do not yet taste bitter to them.

Luther's Works, Vol. 14, page 166