Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Traditions

My wife and I come from varied backgrounds. We are similar where it counts but there are some things we will never see eye to eye on. Movies, olives, and eating meat obtained from hunting are things we have just decided to agree to disagree on. Another of those battles is more applicable to the Christmas season. It revolves around the question of the best way to open Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. I will give you two scenarios and not tell you who prefers which way. Then you vote for which way you think is best. Here we go.

Christmas gift opening style #1.
Gifts are sorted, usually be a younger member of the family and deposited in a neat pile near the person whose name they bear. Once the gifts are piled the patriarch (or matriarch) of the family gives the "go" signal and everyone tears into their gift pile devouring each of those precious packages in seconds being sure to shout a brief but heartfelt thank you to the gift giver before going to the next morsel. It is all over with in about 3.5 minutes including thank you's and the obligatory large plastic bag bursting from the wrapping paper and packaging stuffed inside during the clean-up. Then you process the bounty with each other over sticky buns, egg cassarole and coffee.

Christmas gift opening style #2
In a seemingly similar beginning, younger members of the family sort gifts from under the tree depositing the gifts in a neat pile near the one whose name it bears. Everyone sits in a circle, adults with coffee or some warm beverage and kids anxiously awaiting the carnage of torn wrapping paper. Then an "opening order" is established. The order usually goes from youngest to oldest. The youngest is quietly given permission to open one gift - and only one. The wrapping paper is removed while onlookers giggle and poke fun at any difficulty in unwrapping the gift. "Just rip it" someone usually says and then one uncle is usually reminded that "rip it" refers to the wrapping paper not his intestinal issues. After the one gift is revealed the youth is reminded to thank the gift giver and then is asked to sit and wait next to a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts with his or her name on them and slapped by a caregiver if he or she even looks like they might open a gift out of turn. The next youngest then does the same, unwrapping one - and only one - gift while everyone pokes fun and then "oohs and ahs" over the coloring book and crayons they got (like anyone really cares). This goes on until everyone in the circle has opened one - and only one - gift. At that point the nod is given to the youngest again to begin to open his or her second gift. Then everyone else in turn opens their second gift as well. This goes on until everyone in turn has opened every gift. It lasts roughly twelve hours. People have to take IV fluids to keep from dying of hunger and when breakfast is finally served it is usually cold and slightly moldy.

So give me your thoughts on which gift opening style is better and later I will reveal which one I prefer and which one Lenore prefers.

PS. Don't call Lenore until after New Year's day. She will finish opening her gifts about then.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Been Awhile...

I haven't changed my blog in weeks. I am sorry for those who might have checked lately and not found updates. Thanksgiving was great. We got to reconnect with Lenore's side of the family at Joe and Jan Johnson's house in St. Louis, MO. We saw the Johnsons too before they left for Tennessee. I also met with a great college friend, Wade Gillespie. He preaches for a church in the St. Louis area. Reconnecting is good. It reminds you of your roots. It affirms that there are people out there who love you even if you don't see them every day. It is also spiritually enriching to connect with people who share your faith and encourage you to be what God wants you to be. In this holiday season there are many things for which I give thanks but family and friends are at the very top of the list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Marriage Myth #5

Our final marriage myth was "If it doesn't work out we can always get a divorce." We discussed how marriage is considered from the beginning to be a covenant that is for life. God said upon creating marriage that it was him who joins and "what God has joined, man should not separate." But from early on it seems man's heart was hard and people were determined to seek what they wanted over what God wanted. Moses allowed them to divorce and set boundaries for divorce because people were going to do it anyway.

Malachi a post exhilic prophet reminded an errant Israel that "God hates divorce." (Mal. 2:12) In Jesus' day, there was a raging debate surrounding divorce. There were two schools of thought. One was a more liberal interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where the law aknowleges that a man could divorce his wife by giving her a certificate of divorce if he finds "anything displeasing about her." According to this school, "anything displeasing" means anything. If you don't like her cooking or her personality or her housecleaning skills those could all be legitimate reasons to send her packing.

The more conservative school interpreted "anything displeasing about her" to mean something sexually displeasing or that she wasn't a virgin or had experimented sexually with someone else. The only reason for divorce in this paradigm was adultery or fornication. When Jesus is asked for his opinion (Mark 10:1-12, Matthew 19:1-9) he takes the side of this more conservative interpretation. That is why he says that anyone who divorces his wife except for the reason of adultery commits adultery and causes his wife to do the same.

There are some gray areas in the theological discussion of marriage-divorce-remarriage but one thing is crystal clear, God wants married people to stay married. With the very institution of marriage being threatened these days, it is not surprising that even some Christian marriages are nearing the point where divorce feels like the only option. The Bible teaches that someone who feels that way should reconsider. They should stop and think, "Is this about what I want or what God wants?" God sees that they are not happy but he also makes it clear that he wants us to seek obedience before happiness. When we blindly obey even when making that choice puts our happiness at risk, God will show us how to claim happiness from obedience.

If you or someone you know is in a situation where your marriage is struggling it is so important that you submit to obedience and stay. Then it is important that you get the help you need. Find a competent Christian counselor to help you walk this path and watch what God will do as you choose his will over your own.

I feel the need to add two disclaimers so that I am not misunderstood.
1. I write this to encourage the married to stay married. I do not intend this as an indictment on those who have made the painful choice to divorce in the past. I neither judge nor question your decision and encourage you to seek God's forgiveness if you were in the wrong and then move forward into a life centered on pleasing him. Divorce is not a death sentence.

2. If you are someone who is living with someone who is abusive to you then my recommendation is to get out of that situation. Abusive individuals trap those closest to them in a cycle of violence and repentance to manipulate them to do what the abuser wants them to do. The only way to break that is to leave. If that is your situation, please get safe and then get help.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Marriage Myths Busted #4

Marriage Myth #4 is "It doesn't matter where you get the appetite as long as you come home to eat." It is used to excuse behavior that is inherently threatening to marriage. It means, "You can lust after anything you that pleases you as long as you don't engage in physical adultery." Given the state of marriage and divorce in our country and given the fact that extramarital sexual activity still remains a leading cause in divorce, it doesn't seem that this little mantra has served us very well.

Christians are certainly expected to remain faithful to their spouse. Our text was Matthew 5:27-28 where Jesus reminds us that lust is the same as adultery in God's eyes. He says there that adultery begins and ends in our minds. We looked at David's affair with Bathsheba and remarked that he not only allowed his gaze to linger where it should not have but he also preserved the image of her body in his mind to sexually feast on. That "lust" led him to inquire about her, send for her and then commit adultery with her. Later David's son Solomon recalling the devastation that David's adultery and his tragic attempts to cover his sin caused his family tells his sons in Proverbs ch. 5 to stay away from adultery and to delight in the wife of their youth.

We discussed making a plan to deal with temptations that are inevitable for most of us. The three point plan we discussed is below:
1. Avoid temptation rich environments - including attractive people and the internet
2. Avert the eyes - control where you look intentionally avoiding sexual images
3. Keep the flame alive at home - a strong marriage is the best defense against infidelity

We also pointed out that the internet can be a menacing tool for the enemy with its many sexual images and its opportunities to anonymously connect to others in a sexual way. Sixty percent of all married people in one survey admitted to having some sort of extramarital sexual/romantic connection on the internet. We stated that we need to begin considering the possibilty that an open, unfiltered connection to the internet might be a threat to our marriages.

We also listed four keys to faithfulness and they are below:
1. Discipline the mind - don't allow sexual images or scenarios to dwell there.
2. Accountibility - meet with someone to discuss, confess and pray for each other in dealing with temptations.
3. Do the work of marriage - A strong marriage is the best defense against infidelity
4. Know the heartache of failure - know from the experience of others that adultery and sexual sin will devastate your family.

We closed by pointing out that if someone were to break into your home with the known intent of devastating your family you would do harm to them or give your own life to stop them. We need to consider sexual temptation as just such an invader in your marriage and family. Be determined that Satan will not get to your family through you.

Be watching this week for the final Marriage Myth to be Busted!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marriage Myth #3

In my sermon series "Marriage Myths Busted" we completed marriage myth #3 this past Sunday. Marriage Myth #3 was "Sometimes Married People Just Grow Apart." The truth is, married people often do drift emotionally apart but there is no mystical force that just separates them. "Growing apart" happens when couples fail to do the work of relationships. We discussed how the honeymoon phase of a marriage ends when couples begin to have to work together to solve the inevitable problems that arise. Couples that do not develop an effective strategy to accomplish the three primary tasks of marital relationships are going to struggle with negative emotional energy that tends to smother the positive emotion that we desire in our marriages. The three primary tasks were compared to three common household chores to enable us to remember. They are as follows.

1. Focusing on God and Spouse Rather than on Self. - We likened this to Folding the Laundry. When you fold laundry, you often fold more clothes for others than you do for yourself. Marriage is an entity designed by God to help us to shed all selfishness and look to God and others before self. Find out what your spouse's needs are and seek to meet them regardless of whether or not they reciprocate.
2. Develop an Effective Strategy for Problem Solving. - This is like Taking Out the Garbage. If we don't take out the garbage regularly, it will pile up and stink. Likewise, we need to clear the problems from our relationships. Resolving conflicts, collaborative problem solving and leading with faith are important for this task. Also must be careful about power imbalances. Both members of the couple should feel comfortable giving their input to the solution.
3. Continual Effort to Build Intimacy. We called this one "Making the Bed." The bed should be made every day if we want the room to be presentable. Both husband and wife should be working daily to interject fun and togetherness in the relationship. Taking walks together, going on dates, playing games, little love notes and surprise gifts mean just as much to every marriage as what goes on in the bedroom.

As couples attend to the work of their relationship they grow through the working phase to realize a marriage that is a real partnership. It is a comfortable place where each supports the other and love continues to age and add real quality to the marriage. It is what God created to be that sense of "one flesh" that he spoke of in Genesis. When we do the work in our relationships we reap the rewards as God desired it to be from the beginning.

Be watching next week for Marriage Myth #4

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Marriage Myth #2

Marriage Myth #2 is - "Conflict in Marriage is a Sign of Big Trouble"

The truth is that conflict in marriage is both normal and healthy as long as the conflict is being resolved. We discussed a three step strategy for resolving conflict.
1. Think before you speak - plan to resolve a conflictual situation rather than react to it. Most of what we say when angry or hurt is stuff we have to apologize for anyway.
2. Seek to understand the perspective of the other - recognize that both have a perspective and it is important to see the discussion from the other's perspective. Understanding it does not necessarily mean you agree with it.
3. Clear emotion from the discussion first by listening and understanding why the other might have an emotional attachment to the issue.
Unresolved conflict can be a marriage killer. It builds up over time and numbs any positive emotion in the relationship. It is important enough that those marriages who struggle with unresolved conflict should seek counseling when repeated attempts to resolve it fail.

Look back later this week for a clue to Marriage Myth #3.

Marriage Myth #1

Marriage Myth #1 is "Marriage Is Forever."
In our lesson, we established that marriage is not forever, it is for life. It is a preparation for forever.
Quote - Your number one goal in marriage is to help your spouse get to heaven.
Challenge - Make your first thought in the morning be, "What can I do today to help him/her get to heaven?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marriage Myths Busted

Sundays from September 28th through October 26th, I will be doing a sermon series on marriage. The title of the series is "Marriage Myths Busted." We will analyze several so called facts about marriage and test them against the standard of scripture to see if they stand or fall. I will attempt to update my blog every Friday during this series foreshadowing the myth we will deal with on Sunday. There will also be questions that will get you thinking about the myth of the week. So check back weekly or even several times a week for more on "Marriage Myths Busted!" The first teaser will be posted on Friday, September 26th.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stuff of the Past

Last week, churches in our area were subjected to an e-mail expressing concerns about the direction of an Area Wide Worship event planned in Greater Cincinnati every year. In the e-mail they also labeled the speaker for this years event a "false teacher."

Before I comment on that let me start by saying that the Area Wide Worship event - which I help to plan - is an event that is striving to promote unity within the churches in the Greater Cincinnati area. Representatives from any area congregation are invited to attend our planning meetings. Each year however "leaders" from some congregations would rather sit back, do nothing to promote unity and attempt to shoot down the good faith efforts made by many. In so doing they continue to damage the fragile connection that we share between congregations of the Churches of Christ in the area. I speak from experience when I say that efforts for unity are so difficult to build up and so incredibly easy to tear down.

In this individual's ill conceived communication he used phrases like "warn you" and "mark this man as a false teacher" and "contend for the faith" to simply mean, "I don't agree with some things he has said or I don't like what others have said about him". I remember a lot of this mean spirited, accusatory slander that went on when I was growing up. I also worked amidst a lot of it in the Pittsburgh area where a few ultra conservative church leaders aggressively policed the other churches in the area and were quick to use "disfellowship" and "marking as false teachers" as a weapon to assert their control and impose their views on other area congregations. Their definition of truth was "anything with which they agree," and their view of sound doctrine was "any view of scripture they hold." A false teacher was anyone who failed to pass their litmus test of doctrine (sometimes a literal 'test' in the form of a questionnaire sent out to area ministers that had questions worded to 'trip up' anyone who saw things differently than they). When they sniffed one out (and apparently, I were one) they would ring the bells of alarm far and wide sending out letters warning the 'faithful' (i.e. those who cower before their spiritual bullying) to stay far away.

I just want to say...I'm so tired of that. These tactics - largely employed for one individual or a group of individuals to gain control of people who in their opinion shouldn't be thinking for themselves - are nothing but a Pharisaical attempt on the part of those who use them to convince others of their own self importance. They are not contending for the faith, they are campaigning for a broader acceptance of their own views and bullying those who may see things differently.

I for one am so glad we don't see these tactics used much any more. That is not the way of church Christ began (see Eph. 4:1-16 -esp. v.3- , I Thess. 4:11 and Phil. 2:1-2) and not something I want to be associated with. I hope we are moving forward as a church to a time when we can disagree and still promote unity in love. I hope we can all see in our humanness the propensity to be wrong and we respect the faith of those who see things differently even if we may seek to lovingly influence change. I hope we can learn to work with each other around the periphery of points where we may disagree and celebrate our unity around the core of Jesus and his love. I hope we continue to move away from the stuff of the past to be more like Jesus in the future.

Windy Day!!

What a night! Sunday was one of those nights we will all remember for a long time. Near hurricane force winds, power outages, trees and limbs down, utility poles toppled, roofs damaged, windows broken, roads closed and general mayhem was the rule of the evening. I was at the church building with Mike Gulley (youth minister from Withamsville) preparing the presentations for the Area Wide Worship. As we worked to set up sound and slides for songs we anxiously awaited the first arrivals for the events planned that evening. I remember noticing that the wind had picked up significantly. The sound it made against the skylights in the church steeple gave the building a haunted house feel. Still, ever the optimist, I felt it would pass.
Then the electricity in part of the building went out. I investigated to find that the source was beyond the church building. A limb somewhere had taken out a power line and we were one of thousands of victims. Unfortunately, the part of the power that failed was the one that supplied power to the AV booth in which we were working. We searched and found extension cords and ran them hoping we could maintain our progress at least until the power came back on which we were assured would be soon. About the time we got things going again the electricity went out in the entire building.
People began to arrive with stories of downed trees blocking roadways and of wide spread power outages. Our speaker called to say that his plane was grounded in Nashville and there was no way he would make it here in time. Large trees threatened the very building we were in and high winds began to take their toll on exposed structures. The alarm in the air was apparent.
I was reminded of a story in the Bible of frightened sailors on a windy sea. The storm was sure to capsize their little boat and send them to their deaths. There was one man sleeping in the storm; a sleep born no doubt from exhaustion but sustained in the assurance of who controlled the storm. When he was awakened he stood facing the angry seas and said, "Peace, be still." And it was.
That same man is still present during the storms of our lives and he is still very much in control. He loves us no matter what storms may come.
And still He calms the storm.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Each night for the last couple of weeks, my family and I have been getting to bed rather late. It is not a burst of youthful enthusiasm that has us awake past midnight but a passion for the competition of the Olympic games is enough for us to keep vigil into the early am hours.
It has been such a thrill to watch Michael Phelps surpass the bar set by Mark Spitz (who I am old enough to remember seeing) and win eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. Two of his medals came in electrifying fashion with come from behind victories and fraction of a second margins of victory.
I have enjoyed watching the gymnastics with a special interest in the women this year. Shawn Johnson has an incredible talent for gymnastics as well as an attitude that has been as gold as the medal she won on the balance beam. She also has the cuteness factor to the extreme. Her teammate Nastia Liuken has been thrilling to watch also. The men were awesome in their medal performance in the team competition as well.
I enjoyed watching Usain Bolt, the Jamaican speedster win his matches and as of the writing of this article, he may win more in these games yet. It is impressive to see him sprint out in front of the fastest athletes in the world and then relax and jog to the finish and set a world record in so doing.
I am not a big basketball fan but because we will never see the players on team USA play together again it has been interesting to see the "Redeem Team" set the bar of play way high and win what will almost surely be a gold for the US. These games have had it all. World records aplenty, thrilling victories, heart-rending defeats and controversy have all played a role. The Chinese have done a remarkable job hosting the games and hopefully the games and those who have traveled there will leave a permanent mark of progress on the Chinese political and religious landscape as well.
It is also cool to realize the connection between these games and the ancient version of the Olympics begun in Greece in 776 BC. The apostle Paul would have been familiar with and perhaps even a fan of the games. It was the Olympic games to which Paul alludes in I Corinthians 9:25 where he says,
"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict
training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but
we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
Let these games remind us that we are running a race as well to use Paul’s analogy. We must never lose sight of the prize that lies before us. Our prize worth so much more than any gold medal is our home with God in heaven.
How is your race going?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back From Vacation

We had a wonderful 10 day vacation. We went to Paragould, Arkansas to visit family there. Lenore and I also took the opportunity to take in a Family Ministry Conference in Phoenix, AZ. It was a great time of refreshing and renewal. The Family Minstry Conference is an annual conference put on by the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries (AMFM). They are an oganization committed to building strong Christian marriage and family ministries across all denominational lines. Though the planners and presenters attend churches with names that include Baptist, Bible Church, Community Church and the like, there were obvious marks of the work of the Holy Spirit in their ministries and their messages. Lenore and I gained a great deal from their insights and ministry experiences and I know the Family Ministry at Northeast will grow as a result. One of the most interesting classes we attended was a 2 session series on Marriage Ministry. This church (The Scottsdale Bible Church) has a marriage ministry that includes a pre-marital class, a marriage counseling ministry, a marriage mentoring ministry and a marriage outreach piece. I think Lenore and I would like to start with the marriage mentoring ministry and build a similar multi-faceted marriage ministry from there. Pray for me as I move forward with this. I really don't feel like I have time to add something else to my schedule but I also think this is a core concept for any Family Ministry and it needs to be in place. Pray that I can be more disciplined with my time and do this while not letting other facets of my ministry suffer as a result.

We took some new family pictures in Arkansas. To see them you can go to my facebook.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Church Growth and Change Agents

I have been thinking a lot about church growth lately. I would love to see Northeast grow but even more than that I would love to see Churches of Christ emerge from what has been a period of plateau and decline to begin growing once more. I don't have any illusions that it will be easy. Churches have already begun the process of making painful changes in order to spur growth within their bodies. Some have gone to praise teams and even to an instrumental worship service to attract those who identify with that worship style. Others have re-evaluated traditional CofC stances on doctrine and issues to see if there are Biblical ways to reconnect with a culture that seems to be moving away from us. They have looked at issues of the women's role in the church, instruments in worship and even baptism in an effort to be more effective in reaching out to others. Some of these churches have made radical changes leaving them to appear very dissimilar to the church we knew in the 60's and 70's or even 80's for that matter. Some Churches of Christ seem to be adopting the current "Community Church" model. They have seen some success in reaching the unchurched and have undergone a time of phenominal growth. Those of us who have been observing this and the sometimes heated discussions surrounding it are asking, "is all this necessary for churches to realize sustained growth?"

Personally I do not stand in judgement of those who try new things and who find it expedient to think outside of the traditional CofC box. I am encouraged when churches are seeking ways to get the gospel into the hands of the lost and praise God when a lost sheep is returned. The one aspect of this with which I am completely uncomfortable with is the supposition that one must do away with the traditional/conservative views of the congregation in order to move forward. It saddens me to hear of congregations where the leaders announce that they are trying some new things and those who differ can leave. That just seems pattently unfair especially to those senior saints who have worked their entire lives to build some of these churches and are summarily dismissed because their views differ and they are slow to change. I can't believe that this is God's will.

I do believe that change is in order for our churches but it may not be the kind of change I discussed above. I am a big fan of praise teams and I like listening to Christian music with or without instruments. But I have not been an advocate of bringing either one into our church. The change I think is of primary importance is in the tendency of most churches to be homogenous in membership. We are typically white, upper middle class, well educated, urban and conservative. Tell me if this isn't true of most everywhere you have been. Unfortunately, we struggle accepting anyone who doesn't look like us. If a person of color or someone living in poverty walks into a service, they often see right away that they are out of place. Members often greet them briefly or not at all. If someone from a different religious background speaks up in a Bible class espousing something different than what we believe the shock in our faces is noticable. They are quickly silenced and often just as quickly move on to another church. This is a change we had better address before we even begin thinking of changes in our worship style or traditions. Until our congregations begin to universally diversify we limit our opportunities for growth and unwittingly tell several classes of people for whom Jesus died that they are unwelcome in our churches. What a shame that would be.

Might you become a change agent in your church? What would it be like for a few members to begin thinking of what it would take for their congregation to be more accepting of those who are demographically different from the majority of folks in their congregation? What if they began to look at their church through the eyes of a visitor who is of a different race or speaks a different primary language or runs in different socio-economic circles? What does the church need to do in order to for that person to enter and feel the love of Jesus surround them through what they see and experience?

Perhaps some reading this are members of a church that is diverse and reaches people from many different demographic categories and God bless you if you are. For most of us however, we have a long way to go.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Disaster Relief in Iowa

It was a great week in Iowa working with the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team (henceforth referred to as: DRT). I took ten people from Northeast including my family - Lenore, Sam, Anna and Lizzy - Rhonda Bever, Lynnis Conner (Rhonda's mom), Sue and Cody Price, Cara Gadow (a friend of Anna's from church) and Teresa Weber. Lenore, Rhonda, Lynnis and Sue worked in the kitchen preparing meals and packing lunches for the volunteer work teams. Lizzy worked full time in organizing and giving out supplies that had been donated. Teresa and I worked with the four teens (or nearly teen in Cody's case) and helped in the gutting out and cleaning up of three different flood affected houses. I really kind of enjoyed it when they gave us a bunch of hammers, nail pullers and power tools and said, "Now go and rip all of the walls, floors and fixtures out. It was really a lot of fun but it was a genuine help for the owners of the homes and an important first step toward getting to live in them again. My favorite tool for the job was a 17 pound spud bar. When you hit things with that...they move! I also had rock hard forearms and biceps after I got back. Those have gone soft again by now but they are not sore any more. I had a great crew. Teresa was a tireless worker and knew enough about what we were doing to need very little guidance. The kids were amazing as they worked this hard physical labor for 8-9 hours a day with no complaining at all. I was as proud as I could be!

Next week it is off to Charlotte, N.C. to join the teens from Northeast at their work camp. They leave Saturday and I will join them Thursday. It should be fun. We will be back a week after that and then leave again for 10 days of vacation. Busy summer!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team

We at Northeast are happy to be supporting a great ministry in the "Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team". Mark and Laura Cremeans are the ministry leaders. They go to spots in the United States where disasters (floods, tornados, fires, hurricanes etc...) have devastated communities and offer help and aid to the victims. They base their operation out of Churches of Christ in those communities offering some great opportunities for those churches to build a positive identity in communities that are suffering. I plan to go with a small group to Cedar Rapids, Iowa next week to help families put their homes and lives together again after recent flooding. I look forward to telling you how it goes when I get back. Be praying for our travel and our opportunities there.
You can support this effort too through donations and prayer. You could also make plans to join us if you can. Let me know!
For more information check out their websites
CofC Disaster Response Team -
Laura Cremeans Blog -

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family Camping Outing

A big thanks to all of you who went on the family camping outing with Northeast. It was a wonderful time spent with our family in Christ. I will look forward to another. I even had one family who asked if we could do another one this year! That is especially gratifying to hear after the extended period of rain. I always worry that the rain might spoil the experience for others. Camping is a great family activity. I know I remember the camping trips my family took as very special times for my family growing up. I hope that will be the experience of those who go on these trips as well. Also if you went on the family campout, you might send any pictures you took to Rich and Dina Clyde for posting on Northeast's website. Keep in touch with your interest in another camping trip this year. It may happen yet!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Family Time in Arkansas

What a wonderful week in Arkansas! Thank you to Bill and Judith, Terry and Beverly and their families for showing me such a good time especially during a real busy time of the year. A special thanks to Mom and Dad for letting me again call their home mine for the week. Mom was such a servant with her cooking and cleaning and laundry mixed with lots of hugs and kisses and conversation. Could one ask for a better Mom? Dad always continues to mentor, teach, and work tirelessly. What a great example for a father. JDAME (acronym for Jenna, Daniel, Alec, Mallory and Ethan) were great for hugs and talks and play. Thank you all.
Lifetime memories from the week include:
  • "You're strong...real strong...I seen ya"
  • Driving the John Deere (lots of Tim the Tool Man barking!)
  • Building on Dad's barn with Dad, Bill and Terry.
  • Fishing on the Spring River
  • Tics and lots of them
  • Daniel's "daring" on the deck of the river cabin
  • Anatevka (Yeah, its stuck in my head too)
  • Morning coffee on the back porch with Mom and Dad
  • Lots of hugs and kisses and fun with all!

I love my family and thank God every day for the awesome blessing you all are to me.

I also need to give a special thanks to Lenore, Sam, Anna and Lizzy for getting by without me for the week. You four are all wonderful. I love you big time!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Watch What You Say!

"Better to say nothing and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." (Author unknown)

Yesterday as I was studying for a class I ran across a Proverb that I had not read in a while but it strikes me as one well worth remembering. It is Proverbs 10:19 and says:
"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (NIV)
My aunt Zelma was 100 years old when she died. She used to be known for her rather sharp tongue at times. I remember after a stinging comment hearing her say, "Now I'm sorry if that hurt but I just say what I think. That's just the way I am." I loved my aunt and want you to know that she had many endearing qualities as well but I think what her reckless words often earned her was loneliness.
Many of us remember our mothers telling us, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." That could be a very loose translation of this passage. Solomon wrote these proverbs down largely for the benefit of his sons. He tells them here and several other places in this book to think before they speak. Solomon doesn't give bad advice.
How many times would we have been spared embarrassment, hurt feelings and inconvenience if we had only heeded what Solomon says here? Below are some good tips for how to "hold our tongues".
1. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know". When asked for advice or guidance we sometimes feel we will be perceived as smarter when we answer immediately only to find that we are really perceived as smarter when we answer accurately. When we speak quickly and inaccurately we are perceived not only as less than smart but also as unreliable.
2. When angry, the fewer words the better. Nearly everyone has spoken words in anger that they wish they could have back. Tragically a large portion of those words spoken in anger have been directed towards those we love the most (Mom, Dad, husband, wife, son or daugher, etc...). When emotion starts to enter a difficult situation for most of us it is time to be quiet. Move away from the situation if at all possible. Process the situation with thought after a period of cooling off and then consider the impact of the words you choose. Determine what you are trying to achieve with your words and construct your response accordingly. For the most part our goals will be to resolve a conflict, to express feelings in a way they can be understood, or to add meaningful content to an important discussion. When we allow anger to dictate our words our results are often to hurt feelings, escalate emotion in a discussion and move the perception of our comments to the realms of extreme and insignificant.
3. Remember Whose You Are. I say this to my kids from time to time before they go to school. My intent is to remind them that their words and deeds represent their God, their family and their church. No matter who we are or what position we occupy in life, our words will have an impact on someone. If the words we choose are hurtful, condescending or gossip the reflection is not a good one. If our humor or language is vulgur or impure the contrast between who we are and who we profess to be could not be more clear.
In all you say, speak as if the Lord were right beside you because in reality he is. He is there and he expects all of us to represent him with holiness and distinction.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:6, NIV)

New Picture? You Vote.

Dina Clyde told me just yesterday that she thought my picture was just too "stiff". So, I thought I would leave it to a vote. Should I leave the picture as is or should I replace it with a new more recent shot? Either way, it don't get no prettier.

Friday, May 23, 2008

High Gas Prices...A Good Thing???

I have been called an eternal optimist at times and it is true that I generally try to find the good in just about anything. So when the gas prices roared past three dollars a gallon and went to four dollars a gallon, it was at first difficult to find the silver lining. I think however, I have found some hope in a discouraging situation. When our gas prices in the U.S. were hovering well below what the rest of the world was paying for the commodity (I know, often due to much higher taxes in other countries) many of us have gotten used to driving without thinking about the cost. That has driven the demand up and resulted (so they say) in the cost skyrocketing.
One other side effect of our indulgence is that our appetite for going and going has made us largely dependent upon other countries to satisfy our "need" to travel. Much of that dependency and no small amount of our cash has gone to countries that either covertly or overtly are encouraged by our distress. Countries like Syria, Venezuela, Iran and until recently Iraq have the power at least in part to manipulate our economy and are delighted when the U.S. standing in the world suffers. Being at the mercy of those who wish for our demise is not a good thing. It will push us to the brink of war again and again and unless things change, Afghanistan and Iraq are just the beginning of our military struggles.
I would agree that one of the things our next president needs to have at the forefront of his (or less likely her) agenda is breaking this dependency on foriegn oil. I think we need to open up land previously off limits to drilling and allow for more refineries to be built but ultimately we need to find a dependable, renewable energy source that has broad availability. While gas was cheap there was little incentive for anyone to develop the technology for this energy source let alone to spend the money on building the manufacturing and delivery infrastructure to support it. Perhaps now, with gas being so high and costs continuing to elevate, the proper motivation is there. Lets face it, the dollar is still the bottom line and until it becomes profitable no large scale efforts will be made to solve this dilemma. My hope is that now, businesses and investment groups with large resource pools will begin channeling funds into technology development and processing and delivery models that will allow us to move in the right direction.
I can't say that filling my tank these days doesn't make me feel sick to my stomach but I can say that I am hopeful. Even if the cost of travel is a little higher with a new energy source I still believe that the peace of mind for future generations is worth it.
I hope that in my lifetime I can witness the news story of a U.S. President who tells the OPEC nations that they can keep their oil. We don't need it anymore. Talk about defunding the terrorists! That will also keep the power in the world right where it belongs. Right in the home of the free and the brave!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Take Time to Remember

As the grim news about Senator Ted Kennedy began to circulate around in the news this past week, the networks were already piecing together tributes to him from their video archives. His failed presidential run and "Chappaquidick" were mentioned but the majority of the information was about his tenure in the senate, his standing for civil rights and his advocacy for the poor and for senior citizens. Well before his passing we are already gaining a perspective on his significance. It is a very common course of action.. What did this person do that mattered? What legacy did he or she leave?
A favorite T-shirt slogan reads: "Live your life so that the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral." A funeral is another one of those times when we look back over a person’s life in search of what mattered. We tend to overlook the struggles he or she had and go right to the "He would give you the shirt off of his back" reflections. That is easier to do in some cases than it is in others.
Memorial Day is a great time to remember the significant sacrifices of those who have defended our country in times of war. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Jn. 15:13) and tomorrow we pay special homage to those who have shown the "greatest love" for us. All of those who have served our country in our armed services whether in war or in peace have demonstrated a significance that will mark their lives in a positive way forever. If you are one of those brave souls, the rest of us thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Today is a Memorial Day of sorts as well. Not so much because of the holiday but because it is Sunday, the day each week that Christians gather to mark the most significant memorial there is. Today and every Sunday we remember Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us. We remember that our life lacked any real significance until the forgiveness his grace afforded imparted a righteousness that we could not have achieved on our own. He added value to our lives even when sin had made them worthless. In our memorial each week we give him the honor and praise he deserves.
There have been many sacrifices made to allow us not only the best of life on earth but also the hope of a life eternal in heaven afterwards. We would be remiss to live our lives without being thankful and taking time to reflect on the road to success that was paved in flesh and blood and pain and suffering and sorrow.
Each chance we get let’s all take time to remember.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


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