Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Yard

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Watching the game with Matt

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Saturday, October 09, 2010


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Until We See You Again

Father, our hearts cry out to you right now. Broken hearts are grieving the loss of our mother, our grand mother, our sister our friend our wife. We cry out with King David from so long ago, “Be merciful to me for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, Oh Lord, how long? Turn and deliver me; save me with your unfailing love.” Father, speak words of comfort to us in this hour. In Jesus name amen.

I am the longest surviving son in law of mom and I count it a privilege to stand before you to speak some words about my mother in law. So I thank all of you for the opportunity.

JoAnn was a born again believer in the saving grace of Christ. Through the ministry of many and in times of great need, she found the foundation that would hold her up for the rest of her life. Even through her last moments here with us. She passed on into the arms of Jesus with all of us standing around her. It was a precious time that I will never forget. Watching dad kiss her for the last time was a powerful moment that underscores the love shared between them for over 58 years.

Most every Christian I know has a favorite bible verse. A verse they can return to at any moment that reminds them that their is a greater power, a greater purpose, a greater principle than anything that confronts them at any time.

JoAnn’s favorite verse was Proverbs 3:5 & 6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

As I read and re-read those verses I thought about trust and how JoAnn trusted the Lord for so many things with all her heart. How she trusted that the best things would come to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Joanne trusted that the Lord would take her home in His time and trusted that his final peace would be her healing.

Trust and Obey for there’s no other way... the song goes. We’ve heard a lot of things about trust in our lives and to be sure, I trust that you take that to heart. But the next part of the passage is the tough part, isn’t it? And maybe that’s the part that caught JoAnn more than we might know.

...lean not on your own understanding;... That’s not easy. As each of us has struggled to understand the whys of a dear loved one’s passing, we each formulate reasons upon reasons; possibilities upon possibilities and ways upon ways it could have turned out differently. We want to understand and we hate the idea that we don’t. But Isaiah 55:8 tells us that God’s “...thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways (His) ways,”

Those are hard words to understand and even harder to hear. Because from our perspective our ways are right. all your ways acknowledge him... Ways, what ways? This way? That way? Which way? Another verse pops into mind. Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life...

There’s the way. In all your ways... Jesus. Jesus in every thought, every decision, every moment. A continuous stream of connectedness that enters into every movement of our lives. But you say, “Martin, I can’t do that! I can’t pray over the decision to have a Latte or a plain cup of coffee!” Oh but you can! You see, God’s ability to provide you with everything you need for every decision you make is limitless!! The only limitation is your willingness to accept it!

He will make your paths straight! Sam and Deb drove all night to get here from North Carolina. Sam told me he didn’t know that a little four cylinder would go 100 mph! I would dare guess it would go even faster that that if the road was wide, straight and flat!

JoAnn’s second born, Ellen, my wife is a district manager for a petroleum company. She oversees a dozen or more convenience store gas stations. On one of our trips between Lake Odessa and Jackson, Ellen and I calculated that she has driven about 34,000 miles in her car since last Thanksgiving. That’s an average of over 800 miles a week!

The reason she drives so many miles is due to changing her district from one that was fairly close to one that is nearly as far away as possible from our home. Plus the district is a much larger district square miles wise. When the change was given, neither Ellen nor I were too happy about it. To us, especially to me, the change did not make a lot of sense. I struggled to understand it. It seems to me that a manager is hired to oversee people more than anything else. That means talking to, teaching, disciplining, hiring and interacting with people. Business people call it “face time.” This change of district would require a lot of “wheel time.” Higher travel expense. More wear and tear vehicle miles and a lot less face time. She had worked very hard to build an efficient and profitable district for her employer. She had developed relationships with store employees that were important to both her and them. I personally was concerned with the number of additional miles she would drive every day. The possibility of a road accident increases with each mile driven. No, we did not understand.

But God’s way are not our ways. Lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

So with prayer and thankfulness for a good work for Ellen to do, thinking that she’d have a ministry with a new group of people, we put this difficult to understand decision into the hands of Jesus and went about our life.

As a result of the district change, for the past year, on almost every Wednesday afternoon, Ellen has met with her mother and dad for lunch. She had no way of knowing the outcome that finds us all here. She only knew that because of the change in her district an opportunity arose. An opportunity that presented itself in spite of our “better” knowledge. His ways are not our ways. I acknowledge that now. His wisdom surpasses mine and yours.

Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

You see his ways are not a list of do this’ and don’t do thats. It’s not about behaving like this or like that. So many Christians get that wrong. I wish it were that easy. But it’s not. Scripture says we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. Your behavior is not; can not be the determining part of your relationship to God. JoAnn understood that. It’s not about doing the right thing. It’s about relying upon the right person. If you attempt to be “good enough” to be in the presence of God you will experience epic failure! You cannot be good enough. To think so throws away the sacrifice of Christ.

No, it is about understanding that no matter your behavior, as good or as bad as it may be, you are broken and cannot scratch the surface of understanding the ways of God. To worry about the circumstances in life is a form of atheism. You simply cannot understand the ways of God.

JoAnn did not understand the ways of God any more than you or I. But she did understand that she was broken. At the end she gave in to God’s understanding, God’s plan, God’s call, God’s hope. Her brokenness is now healed! She was willing to trade her corruptible body for an incorruptible spirit that celebrates a knowledge she could never know here. She is dancing with angels and waiting for the glorious time of meeting all of us who, though broken, believe. We will celebrate with her then and do so even now knowing that His ways are perfect. His way is strong. His way brings us home. That his way heals us too. And at the time of our perfect healing we will see our mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and wife again.

Yes JoAnn, mom, we celebrate with you today. We thank you for your life and the way it enhanced ours. We all are better because we know of your faith. We hang on here as each of us is called to do. Though we ache, grieve, cry and will do so at times for the rest of our lives, we anxiously wait to see you again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

That's a Mountain I'm Not Willing To Climb

Yahweh-Yireh. On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided. The plainly obvious lesson in Abraham’s dedicated proof that he loved the Lord beyond everything else is easy to grasp. He’s on some elevated point in the region of Moriah with a son bound by cords or ropes laying on a pile of wood. He wields a knife, holding it high above his head seemingly willing to plunge it into the chest of his only son from his marriage to Rachel, his true love. As sacrifices go, this one trumps them all. Human sacrifice seems a grisly path to atonement to most of us, let alone the idea that we’d kill one of our own children. Most of the people I know wouldn’t go to the grocery store to buy a carton of cottage cheese at the request of the voice of God. Leave the mountain climbing to to someone with a bit more faith and a keen God ear, I’ll stick to simple things like asking for a help with the water bill or a head-cold. Kill one of my children to show my faithful dedication? That’s a mountain I’m not willing to climb.

I have a budget that I manage for my employer. It’s a substantial budget. I need to use that money to benefit a large number of people. But the budget is not unlimited and it’s rarely enough to accomplish what “should” be done. I hear a lot of compelling arguments about how to use that money. Some of those arguments are better than others. Once in a while they’re convincing. Most of the time they’re shoot from the hip or knee jerk reactions that bear small considerations. So I wonder, what could God possibly say to me that would compel me to plunge a knife into the chest of Amanda, Sarah, Matthew, or Michael? Those words don’t exist. If they do, I don’t want to ever hear them.

Why a mountain? Why carry a bunch of wood up a mountain? That’s work, I’ll tell you. I’ve climbed small mountains in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. It’s not easy even without the bundle of wood. My guess is that Abraham carefully thought through each and every heavy step on the way to his son’s death. Is there a heavier burden that we could possibly carry than to know that with each passing foot print upon the sand of an uphill battle we’re gradually moving closer to the inevitable death of one of our children? That’s not a mountain I’m willing to climb. I’d rather lay low that mountain one spade shovel at a time than step one foot upon it’s face.

And yet, God’s provision wasn’t found at the bottom of Mt. Moriah. It was found somewhere further up upon it’s side. Somewhere in the crags and crevasses of dirt, stone, brush, rocks and sand Abraham’s blessed relief was given. God met Abraham at his ultimate knife-point of need. Relief and deliverance was administered only when Abraham reached his heavy sighed moment of complete dedicated-to-God despair. They joy must have been immeasurable. Certainly he couldn’t help dancing while he unbound his sacrificial lamb of a son. Would anyone even be able to decipher a word he spoke through the tear soaked laughter and giddy giggles of a man who found such a marvelous gift?

So, what of us? Where will we find such joy? In our back yard? On the smooth sidewalk in front of the house? Or rather, will we need to climb a mountain? More importantly, when we find ourselves at the foot of the hillside are we willing to raise our foot and take the first step.

Song idea. . .


On the mountain of the Lord it will be given
On the mountain of the Lord it will be seen
On the mountain of the Lord it will be given
On the mountain of the Lord it will be seen

Abraham left the city
at the Lord's command
He took his young son with him
A blessed but sacrificial lamb

Angels came to help him
At the sharpened point of need
To stop his bleakest hour
*Before his dream would bleed*

Obedience comes with an awesome price
It's sometimes hard to pay
It holds no currency in whim
There's no credit in going halfway

When you need to climb the mountain
But you can't see what's ahead
Take the time to truly listen
And you'll never be mislead

Dreams are often given
with a future paved in *doubt *
The doubting mind won't see it
like the one that's bound in Him

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Warm Fuzzy lists of Memories

I recently received a list of warm memories. You've gotten them too I'm sure. You know, those lists that bring back memories of days gone by and how we've lost the innocence of those times through an onslaught of laws and innovation that have stolen a bit of Americana.

I love these lists. There are a bunch of them that have been circulating in email circles for years. The elicit warm memories of days gone by. I like reading them and remembering. Over the past several years I've had the opportunity to attend several High School Commencement ceremonies. Almost always, someone gives a speech regarding the memories that that graduating class holds dear. I'm always amused at how the earliest memories they have are so new! But they talk about them in the same tones as me when I talk about growing up in the 50s.

Funny though, the lists always mention "somebody" stealing away all of the values suggested within the list. That's a revisionist's view of history in my opinion. I think that people weren't so "warm and fuzzy" about life DURING the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Back then I suppose they waxed nostalgic about the 90s, 00s, 10s and 20s. They probably woe d about how everything was going to hell in a hand basket back then too.

Here's a recent list I've received several times over the past 5 or so years.



1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O. K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own
good and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!


That's a great list of warm memories.

The last 50 years of inventions and improvements are the result of these people's creativity and innovation. Yes, that's true. And here is a partial list...

...cable Television with 99 channels games.
...motorized vehicles to replace pedal pusher cars.
...gummy worms
...jolt cola - "all the sugar and twice the caffeine"
...about 1000% increase in cartoons
...a junk-food hamburg joint on every other corner
...a society where separation of church and state is more about protecting the state from churches than it is about protecting churches from the state.
...the birth control pill - which fostered the idea that sex is mostly about personal enjoyment and nothing about having babies, which then fostered the idea that abortion is simply another personal choice.
...a society of litigious individuals unable to take responsibility for anything who so often sued everyone with any money that we necessarily need seat belts, warning labels on anything we consume, childproof lids, lead-free paint and bicycle helmets.
...unbelievably real violence depicted with uncanny accuracy on every television show and movie we see every day; all in an effort to so sensationalize the mediums that we're seemingly unable to resist watching. Which, of course, serves to pad the pockets of the Hollywood moguls producing them. But that's their purpose anyway, right?
...the "numbing down" of violence by the aforementioned productions to such a degree that BB guns are now a "viable weapon" instead of a pretend toy.
...a need for approval by everyone for everything to the extent that we all believe that we should, by right, never have to be disappointed. And we believe this so completely that we almost literally force everyone to succeed even if the success is completely "manufactured." Even though no one "loses" with such trumped up benchmarks, nobody really wins either because true success by achievement has become an "evil" thing that supposedly separates people, rather than something to be looked upon with admiration.

Yes, we enjoyed all of those listed things. But we are culpable for their demise at the same time. We raised the succeeding generations. We set the benchmarks. We allowed the changes to happen. We appointed or elected the morons who sit on the bench and allow companies to be successfully sued on the behalf of idiots who maim, burn, shoot and slice themselves with the products those companies produce, making those same idiots millionaires in the process. We allow criminals, child molesters, to get away with murder and gross indecencies again and again under the guise of building their self-esteem at the expense of their victims. We create laws that allow drunks the privilege of driving again and again, while drunk again and again. After all, that drunk is somebody's dad and what would happen to those kid's self-esteem if dad had to spend time in jail because he broke the law?

Yes, I would love to go back to a simpler time too. It's certainly fun to reminisce. Unfortunately, my freedom still ends where someone else's nose begins. That means I don't get to choose the things on the list that I want us all to “go back to.” But I can foster an environment in my home where right is right and wrong is wrong. I can tell my children that sin still exists. I can tell them that although there is gray, there is black and white too. Just because something isn't illegal does not mean it's not wrong and that just because something is legal does not mean it's necessarily right.

My granddaughter watches TV; movies and cartoons and kid's programs. She also paints with watercolors and felt tipped markers. She makes snow angels and "helps" hang Christmas lights. She runs a hundred miles an hour and needs to be reminded to slow down in the house. She eats candy and lots of it. She also needs to eat her vegetables first. She likes to cuddle with grandma and wrestle with dad. She sings and dances to any music playing. She's learning to count; in both English and Spanish by watching a cartoon program. She rides her bike and struggles with the pedals. She gives her baby sister hugs and kisses, but sometimes wishes mom would put her back in her belly. She's only two and a half, but she prays before meals and before bed. She goes to church with her mom and dad and sings the worship songs until she goes to the nursery. She knows how to spit - "outside only grandpa" - and giggles when she does it.

It's fun to reminisce. But our lives really aren't much different now than “back then” if we don't let them be. We are as responsible for the changes around us as anyone else. Change is inevitable and it's no different for us than for our forefathers before our grandparents.

Want to really go back?

Give up your...

...microwave oven top range and self-cleaning oven.
...double well stainless steel sink
...satellite and cable TV
...remote controls
...DVDs, VCRs and Tivos. (Of course if you really want to watch a program, you'll need to be sitting in front of the TV when the TV people say so.) tape rentals. (What's wrong with going to the theater anyway?)
...heck! Give up the TV altogether! (Now, there is a real solution that would probably work to restore the days of yore. But even though I know that, I don't DO it. I simply won't choose to give up some of the TV I watch!)
...fuel injected, computer controlled automobile engines. (Yeah, I really miss sticking my head underneath the hood of a car and prying open a frozen choke on a 20 degree winter day.)
...instant, push button connections via cell phones to your spouse and kids.
...efficient gas furnaces and water heaters. (Think the cost is too much? Try shoveling coal... I seem to remember a house we lived in where coal was still used. Somehow that missed the list.) CDs (why use these? What was wrong with scratchy, fragile vinyl records anyway? Remember the warm fuzzy of running down to the store to buy a new stylus? (that's a record player needle for you youngsters – ask your dad what a record player is.)).
...Oh! and most of all, give up all these Emails!

The list gives us pause to remember a sepia toned time of nostalgia. But it misses the point entirely with two things.

Take an honest look at this statement:

>You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up
>as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own
>good and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how
>brave their parents were.

Now that's one telling statement. It shows the heart of the problem in two areas; our concept of government and our thoughts about bravery. First, I thought this was a government of the people. At least that's what I was taught. Aren't lawyers subject to the laws of our country? So, they are, in the end analysis, subject to what we, the people, allow them to do via our voice in a representative government. "They" didn't regulate us for our own good. "We" did. Or more correctly we let them do it for us while we sat warm and toasty in our easy chairs, remote control in hand, and entertained ourselves with the tripe emanating from the tube.

Second, as far as bravery goes, I don't get it! We fought wars on foreign soil to promote what we are unwilling to defend at home. That's not bravery, that's complacency. Brave fathers turn off the TV/VCR/Satellite/Mp3 player/CD/Radio or whatever and take their children out to teach them about life. Brave fathers know how to say no with a velvet fist. Brave fathers spend time with their children exploring their interests and build quality young men and women in the process. Brave fathers become "guides on the side," encouraging their children to achieve in the areas where they are blessed.

Brave mothers demand a few family meals a week. Brave mothers turn off the television while the meal is on the table. Brave mothers lead by example, doing the work instead of demanding the work be done by someone else. Brave mothers bake a pie and take it to "that" family in "that" house and attempt to befriend them. Young men and women see such things and learn from it. Most people watch "that" family from inside their home and tell each other what "they" did now. Young men and women see such things and learn from them.

Brave coaches tell little Joey that he won't make the team this year. Brave coaches tell Joey's mom that he's willing to spend some time with Joey to help him learn how to make the team the next time even though there is no guarantee. Brave parents know that not every child is talented in every area. Brave parents notice their children's gifts and find ways to build upon them. Many parents want their child to be shielded from any disappointment. But that's not the real world and fostering that "entitlement" attitude in children is just plain wrong. Sooner or later we all have to deal with shattered dreams and terrible losses. Dealing with the loss of a position on the little league team is a great way to get started. Especially so if a brave dad would come along side of that kid, discover his gift or talent and begin building on it. Losses help make success all the sweeter.

Brave people stand up for what's right and condemn what's wrong. Pure and simple. Some things are just wrong. Most people watch what happens around them and shrug their shoulders. Brave people get on the telephone or go to the meeting and begin finding out how to make a difference.

Am I a gloomy gus? I don't think so. I think that the good old days still exist. We just don't see them. We don't choose them. We don't fight for them. I like the list. I really do. I remember all of those things with fondness. I hope that my children and grandchildren remember the days we're living in now and create their own list of fond remembrances about them. Likewise, I'm sure my great, great, grandfather's grandfather would look at the life my grandfather lived and shrug his shoulders with wonder too.

The lawyers and governors of our country can't steal our valued lifestyle unless we let them and that is not their intent. They've got Email too. Let them know. Let the congressmen, senators, governors, presidents, military officials, business owners, pastors and priests know what you believe is important about life in America. It's easy to do. If you truly believe they are in control and stealing the American lifestyle out of our hands, tell them about it. Who cares if they think you're old fashioned or "out of it." They already do anyway. You can tell by their actions and legislation and sometimes by the personal choices they make.

I'll tell you what, here's your challenge for the week: Turn of the television. Really. See if you can do it. turn it off and do something else. Want a suggestion?

How about making a difference in the lives of the children you wish had it as good as you did. How about starting a knitting club, a chess club, a writing club, a wood working/gardening/jogging/computer/video/radio/shortwave/cooking/bird watching/painting/modeling/whatever-else-you-can-think-of club. Call the local school and ask to have a statement put in the bulletin announcing that you're starting it. Get involved with some kids. Teach them about the stuff on the list. Get them involved with something other than TV/Entertainment choices. Tell them about how great life was back in the day you grew up. Teach them about life as you know it now. All you have to do is tell them the stories. They'll listen. They love to hear stories. You can make a difference that can bring back the values of days gone by.

Or you can watch TV.