Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Craziness or Sanity?

Last weekend I enjoyed one of the best trips of my life, spending an uninterrupted 24 hours with my son, Jordan, at his apartment in the suburbs of Chicago. Barely escaping the snow of Iowa on Friday afternoon, I made good time and was embracing my son by about 8:00p. Elated to be with him, I must confess that my heart was troubled, as I had just crammed a week's worth of church work into one chaotic afternoon so that I could make this trip.

Oh, things were done...but I felt, honestly, not very well. I had gotten the bulletin done, made some calls, and put together a sermon of sorts for Sunday, but I was far from happy with the quality of the work. Don't get me wrong, I was certain that the passage was what God wanted, but not certain at all that I had given the message that He wanted. I just wasn't used to having to "produce" on such a tight timeline.

After enjoying supper with Jordan at his favorite spot (TGI Fridays, for the record), we returned home and hit the sack before long, as the day (okay, the week) had been long and we had a big day scheduled for Saturday at the Chicago Auto Show - one of the premiere car shows in the country. It was going to be another long day (although a lot of fun), as after the show we were attending his Saturday night service together, then I was heading back to Iowa so that I could lead the service at my church Sunday morning.

I fell asleep listening to tunes on my phone (in a strange room it sometimes takes unusual things for me to fall asleep) and slept father fitfully through the night until I was startled awake at 7:30...not the kind of sleep I had hoped for before a big day! The house was stone quiet, and knowing I wasn't going back to sleep, I got up, got dressed, found a cup of coffee, and began perusing the books scattered on shelves all around the home's perimeter (he's living in an apartment in someone else's house).

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this family must have had more than 500 books around the house - quite the readers! As I moved from shelf to shelf, I recognized many classics and many others I had always wanted to read, but nothing really grabbed my attention unti...I saw "the book" - a smartly colored book by a man I've read a lot - Andy Stanley.

Within seconds I was sitting on the couch, engrossed in one of Andy's latest works, and God began to do His work. By the time Jordan rolled out of bed an hour later, I had read 1/3 of the book, and God had rewritten my entire message for Sunday!

The title of today's blog is centered on this one idea: some would have thought it crazy to leave Iowa with so much undone - with Sunday around the corner - the weather ominous - me almost totally pegged out in my energy level. I confess, I wondered if I was a bit crazy. Taking off to my see my son totally resonated with the "Dad" in me, but totally conflicted with the "performance" side of me.

Left to myself, I would have told you that what I needed was more time in the office to prepare and finish what was pressing in on me. But what's really crazy is to ever think that all that "stuff" hinges on me. Don't get me wrong - I'm all about being well prepared; but I was reminded through this that there are times when I need to walk away and just trust that the Lord is in control...not me. I still marvel that the Lord took me to the book (out of more than 500 options) that would transform a below-par work of mine into a message that only God could do!

The craziness lies in trusting in me...the sanity lies in trusting in Him. I wouldn't suggest that you presume on this and just blow off the next thing you need to prepare for, but I would suggest that you, as I, work on counting on Him more and on ourselves less. BTW (by the way) - the car show, and more importantly, the sermon went great!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I have been unbelievably blessed with friends...some of you who fall into that category are hopefully reading this right now. Matter of fact, it is with great joy that I get to tell you that this week's blog-installment is a little late because I got the rare opportunity to have some very special days with a few of those great friends.

You see, I just returned from Minneapolis (technically, Bloomington) where I was privileged to spend 3 days with an entire group of men & women who have devoted their lives to serving Jesus Christ, pointing countless numbers of others towards Him (you would know this group by the collective name of "pastors & their spouses"). They are not better than my other friends, but they are definitely unique!

As a kid, I was blessed with some great friends. As a collegian, I was blessed with some great friends. As a young adult, I was blessed with some great friends. As a husband, I was blessed with some great friends. And as a not-so-young increasingly empty-nester, I am blessed with some great friends. I've been blessed in Iowa, New York, California, Colorado, Indiana and Costa Rica...each many times over.

No matter my geography, title, life phase, occupation, income, success rate or age, God has filled my life to overflowing with great friends, and capped it all off by giving me the very best friend I could have on this earth: my beloved & faithful wife, Tonya. I haven't deserved any of them, have learned from each of them, been loved by all of them and forgotten by none of them.

And I guess, in this belated post, I simply want to say "Thank You" to each of you (I hope you're one of them). If you don't yet fall into this category, I'd like to believe that it's purely from lack of opportunity. And if you do fall into this category, be assured again today that every good thing about me is a result of God bringing you into my life, to teach & mold me, that I may in turn pass a little bit of you (and a little bit of Him) on to each and every person whom I am privileged to call "friend."

If by chance it's been a while, Friend, since we've talked...drop me a line...let's catch up, OK?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Days

Remember being a kid and just loving it when you got a "snow day"? Sleeping in, watching TV, playing outside, and maybe doing a little schoolwork - ah, those were the days! And then you "grow up" - my, what a change!

The reality is that after you "grow up," those "snow days" look an awful lot like any other day, except usually they're worse. You get up earlier because you need to clear the car and shovel the snow; instead of watching TV, you watch bumpers closely (just in case the person driving in front of you doesn't know what they're doing); and frequently you end up doing someone else's job and yours at work because they couldn't make it in that day!

In my humanity, I've had just about all the "snow days" that I can handle this year (I think the kids are going to school until about July...OK, I exaggerate just a bit). With about 2' of the white stuff on the ground, I find myself daydreaming more and more about living someplace warm!

But the Lord kind of "jerked my chain" this morning as I was shoveling, then navigating, through our winter wonderland. The verse suddenly popped into my mind where God says, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). It's a promise about what He will do for us when we place and keep our trust in Him.

I don't know about you, but I've had (and will continue to have) a fair measure of "scarlet" in my lifetime. I don't like it, and am seeing it decrease over time, but make no mistake - it's there! What these piles and piles of white stuff have reminded me of today is that no matter how much "scarlet" there is, God's ability to make them "white as snow" will never end. The very same beauty found with newfallen snow can be evidenced in my life as He washes the sin away.

I may never like the snow again after this winter, but I tell you what, the ever present reminder that it is to me of God's love, forgiveness and grace is something I'll never get tired of!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TV or Not TV...That Is the Question!

I love watching television: sports, the news, good movies and especially the Science Channel & Discovery Channel. Nothing wrong with any of them and in fact, a person can learn quite a bit from watching some of them.

But in the last few months I began to notice that the amount of what I'll call, "inspirational thought" in my life was diminishing. You know, the kind of thoughts that leave you pondering them for a while...sometimes days. Not quite sure what was at the root of this phenomenon, I began to do a little self-inspection. More accurately, God began to challenge me to do this.

You're probably way ahead of me, but what I discovered was that the amount of "inspirational thought" rattling around inside my heart and mind seemed to be directly linked to the amount of TV I watched (and not in a positive equation). Again, it wasn't that the TV was necessarily bad, but what was happening is that the more I watched, the less I read.

If you're anything like me, there's a "waiting list" of significant proportions comprised of the books I still want to read. People either give them to me or recommend them all the time, and you know what? They usually are really good; challenging, stimulating, convicting, correcting & directing my life in God's good hands. So I made a decision that every night after the late news (when I'm usually still waiting for my wife to come to bed and I end up flipping channels), I was going to turn the TV off and start working on some of those great books at my bedside.

The change was nearly instantaneous! I began getting new ideas for teaching, counseling, studying, writing and leading. I found the cobwebs being shaken out and the rythym of my life being reestablished. One cool side benefit: I found myself going to sleep easier at night having spent my final minutes before my rendezvous with the Sandman dwelling on the things of God and His Kingdom.

I'm sure I'll never stop watching TV altogether (not with the Hawkeyes & Cubs on), but I am thankful that the Lord helped me to get my thinking train back on His rails. Of all the good questions that are out there, I believe "TV or not TV" is one of the best ones we can ask of ourselves.