Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Can I Broaden Your Horizons?"

That is exactly what I said to my son Jared, a little after 1:30 today. I wanted to do something just for me today and I asked Jared if he wanted to go with me. He was not overly excited about the prospect, but decided to go with me.

My favorite novelist, Daniel Silva, was in town as part of his 33-city National Book Tour. He was scheduled to be at Murder By the Book at 3:00 P.M. I did not want to miss this opportunity. I had met Mr. Silva during a similar book signing about three years ago and I've read all of his books.

I printed up a map on how to get to the bookstore on Bissonnet and headed over to pick up Jared. Now what I'm going to tell you is so much like me. I left the map and directions in the printer! Called Patti and the way and had her verify what I believed to be the way to get there.

There were about 150 crowded into that small bookstore, half of them standing. We joined the throng. A few minutes after 3:00 Mr. Silva was introduced and kept us spell-bound for about 50 minutes. I don't know if Jared was spell-bound, but I thought the author did a great job of informing us about how the book was written and answering questions.

The event closed with the book signing. There was only one problem. I was #92! After the first 40 had their books signed, we found two vacant chairs and were finally able to sit down. Then we stood in line with those in the 90's to have our books signed.

After reading all of Silva's books and really digging into his major reoccurring character, Daniel Silva seems like a friend. When we were driving home, I realized that I was glad that I didn't skip the event and I was glad that Jared got to experience something in life that he had never tried...a book signing. I will not forget that even for a long time to come.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

These Are Busy Days

I have two major projects that I'm working on for about the next three weeks.

One project is rolling out another semester of Abundant Life University for the church and launching the first Alpha Course. Both are scheduled to begin on September 7. I will be facilitating the study of Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and leading part of the Alpha Course. They will be held on the same evenings, so that should be a challenge. I think we have it worked out.

The second project is getting ready to teach four daily classes: 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, and a Junior/Senior class. I am presently designing a syllabus for the Jr./Sr. High class and will follow it up with some lesson plans. Then I will do the same thing for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. This is a whole new learning curve for me, but I am enjoying the opportunity to be creative.

In between these two major projects I'll be teaching a "Teachers In Training" class for prospective teachers and substitutes during August and then I'll be filling in for one of the Sunday morning Adult Bible classes for at least the month of September.

I think my schedule this fall is pretty well filled up. I guess it could be a little overwhelming, but I learned a long time ago to just take one step at a time and that is what I'm doing. I'll fill you in as the weeks roll out. I am looking forward to the next three months!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lombard Street

Life is often like Lombard Street is San Francisco. Lombard is the crookedest street in the world. It is steep, full of hairpin curves, and can even trap some vehicles as they attempt to descend it's crooked path.

Lombard has some of the finest Victorian homes in the city. Some time ago, the residents of Lombard Street completely changed the configuration of the road in front of their homes. They constructed it at their own expense to lessen the increasing number of vehicles that passed their homes bumper to bumper. The crooked road became so unique that it increased the amount of traffic and had just the opposite effect than what its designers had intended.

Life is like Lombard Street. Life is full of steep inclines, surprising curves, and runaway descents. We will run into a variety of obstacles along our journey in life and we have to navigate it, but without the Lord as our navigator, pilot, and everything else that is important, we can end up at the wrong destination.

Four years ago I began working in retail. For four years I've sold appliances at Best Buy and then The Home Depot. It has been a wonderful experience in so many ways. I've had the opportunity to observe people out in the world, where they are comfortable. It is a different view than from the pulpit, the walls of a church office, or even the cubicle of a hospital intensive care unit. I have had the opportunity to really listen to ordinary, everyday people. The experience has changed me, opened my eyes, and has made me a better minister.

About a year ago, First Baptist Church hired me to head up education, or as I would prefer to call it, discipleship. It has been a challenging year for me and yet, I have grown through it as well. We are a long way from making discipleship real in people's everyday world, but it will come.

Earlier this month I was asked to teach Bible in the Christian School that is part of the ministry of FBC. I will be teaching 4th, 5th, 6th, and Junior/Senior High. I am looking forward to this challenge, doing what I think I do best.

Today, I gave notice at The Home Depot. My last day there will be August 7 and New Teacher Orientation begins on August 18. I have a lot of work to do to get ready for the start of school on August 25. I've got to plan curriculum for each of these grades and write lesson plans. I'll have a "learning curve" there, but I've been through that a lot of times in my life. I've even got to send off for transcripts tomorrow. And I thought those days were over!

Life has been like Lombard Street for me the past four years (I guess we could say that all of life has its curves and we sometimes get stuck), but it feels like I've been in the middle of Lombard for these four years. That is not something that is just can't see the bottom, or a clear view of where you're going. God knew and I followed. What an education! God had me on course, within the parameters of His Will, even when I didn't understand. I am in awe of Him.

Maybe it is dark and you are on Lombard Street right now. Stop and look around. Get your bearings. Depend on your supernatural compass. When daybreak comes, you will know where you are! Life is a journey. It has a beginning, a huge middle, and a wonderful ending.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Will 2008 Hold for You?

I was watching television tonight and was slightly bored when I began thinking about 2008. Allow me to share a few of these thoughts with you.

2008 will be remembered for many things, but let me mention just a few:
$4.00+ a gallon gasoline
Escalating food prices
Airline Industry chaos
Massive foreclosures
Declining home values(that could have a double message)
Investment losses
Layoffs leading to higher unemployment

And this is just a few of the could probably list even more. Just these few downturns can be devastating to many people. They can think their lives are over and life is not worth living. It can and has changed life for many as they have known it.

What if we can recognize some things irregardless of our circumstances?
1) What if we recognized that what the world gives is secondary to our happiness and has nothing to do with our joy?

2) What if we recognized that Jesus is with us despite the world's worst conditions and that He will sustain us?

3) What if we recognized the need for a changed life that would produce abundant Christian living and we make the change?

Then life really will be different and we will find ourselves on a plane above the world's values and aspirations. We would find what we didn't even realize that we were looking for.

We may never make the money we once did; we may live in a rent house, drive a used car, have no retirement account, but life would be abundant because our focus has changed.

What will you remember 2008 for five years from now? Will it be the world in terms of a recession, a bear market, losses we sustained and maybe never recovered from, or will it be the changed life that produced life that touched other lives??

There are five months left in 2008. Make them count!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two Funerals In Last 24 Hours

Dr. Michael DeBakey passed away at the age of 99 and his funeral was held today. They said Dr. DeBakey was the pioneer of medicine in the 20th century. He was a hero and changed the world!

We lost one of our family members yesterday at the age of 112. She had no impact on the world, but had a wonderful impact on our family. She changed the context of our world. We knew death was not too far around the corner. She lost her eyesight during the past year and was starting to get pretty frail. I just wasn't ready for her death yesterday.

Pixie Mathews came into our lives back in 1993 when we were living in Texas City. One of Patti's students offered her a puppy and Patti accepted it, much to the surprise of the rest of the family. Patti said she would never have a house dog and we all knew she was partial to cats. This addition to our home was a tremendous surprise.

Pixie was Pomeranian/Pekingese and the runt of the litter. She lived with us in six houses over a 15 and one-half year period of time. She became a family member and a "house" dog, I might add. The kids left home for college, got married, and started their own families, but Pixie remained and was one of the constants in all of our lives.

Pixie, like many dogs, loved us unconditionally and we loved her. It seems like any dog owner would have to learn about total acceptance from their dog. How could they not apply that to the acceptance and love God has for us. He sent His only Son to give His life for us. He paid the penalty for our sin. You can learn a lot from a dog, but it pales in comparison to how much God loves us. Dogs stay with us during all the ups and downs of life, but God even more so. They are faithful to the fullest extent of the word, but God is faithful beyond what we can even imagine.

When I came in from church last night, Patti said, "I think Pixie is dead." I was shocked at several levels, but it was not a 100% surprise either. There was no heart beat, the warmth had gone out of her body, rigor mortis was setting in, and when I looked into her wonderful eyes, no one was home. It was the look I had never seen in her. I was the one who bathed her from the time she was a pup. The life that I had held so many times was gone.

We both know that a dog does not have a soul, but Pixie had a spirit about her, a personality that is no longer with us. She loved to be in the back yard and feel the gentle breeze blow in her face. She would close her eyes and look like she was in total relaxation as the wind blew her hair. She thought she was a watch dog--her bark did get people's attention, but her 8# physique gave her away.

Today, there is a big hole in our lives and something missing in our home. When I look on the floor of our bedroom she is not there. When I shaved this morning, she was not looking at me like she did yesterday morning. When I cut the grass this weekend, she will not be in the backyard with me. She is not around in all the old familiar places. Patti says she doesn't want another animal...I's the grief of life.

Now, if we can love an animal like that and receive her much more should we be able to love a human being that has a soul that Jesus died for?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday has got to be the best day of the week! Today was no exception.

I remember a year ago going to work on Sunday morning at The Home Depot and walking down the main aisle about 7:55 a.m., before the store officially opened. I wondered, "What in the world am I doing here on Sunday morning?" Then First Baptist Church Pearland gave me a part-time position leading discipleship and I've been where I belong the past year. This little walk down memory lane keeps life in perspective for me. Thanks for reading along.

I've got some good news. Miranda and Steve are expecting their second child next February. That will be our fourth grandchild in less than three years. I never imagined what it would be like to have four grandchildren that close together. Truth is, I never imagined four grandchildren period. God is so good (all the time)!

Changing the subject...our lawn is really growing. If I cut it on Saturday, it is really ready to cut again before the next Saturday. I heard that other people are experiencing the same thing. I am amazed at how green it is and how fast it grows. That is what grass is suppose to do. It is suppose to grow. If it is fertilized, watered, weeds removed, and disease prevented, anybody's grass will grow. Just like grass, you and I are suppose to grow as well. The Word of God enriches our lives. Life opportunities and the decisions that we make strengthen our lives. Living the Christian life gives us an opportunity to grow and if we grow, our lives will become healthy. We can't help but grow in our faith.

The next time you look at your lawn, or cut the grass, think of your own life.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hiatus Is Over

The "vacation" is over and I was suppose to be back on Journey of a Lifetime on June 23, but here it is July 12. I could not get back into a routine after we got back, but the hiatus is over.

Patti and I had a great time in San Francisco. We did the "tourist thing", but had a great time doing it. Yes, we rode the trolley cars, but found that the subway was the best way to travel in that city. We did a city-wide tour and spent several hours at Muir Woods. The National Park was absolutely awesome. Patti felt like it was the best part of the trip.

We went on an evening tour of Alcatraz. Left the dock about an hour and half before sunset and came back after dark. It was great, except, my audio became disconnected during the tour and I wandered without directions for about 30 of the 45 minutes audio tour. My family says that is typical "me"!

We celebrated our 33rd anniversary on a Dinner-Dance cruise around the Bay. It was beautiful. They served us a five-course dinner and the band played music from the 60's to the present. Yes, for those of you who know Patti well, we did the Twist, danced to some of the 60's music, and while we danced to "Pretty Woman" we sang the words with everybody else. It was fun.

We got home about 1:30 a.m. and decided to put everything up. I guess we got to bed about 2:30 or after and then I went to work at noon on that Monday. It has not slowed down since. Patti picked up her mother in Mobile and they arrived back on July 1. We had a fantastic Fourth of July and the celebration with our whole family is still going on. I've got a feeling that it will continue until Patti takes her mother back this coming weekend.

I am leading our discipleship emphases to start Alpha in September, as well as our second semester of Abundant Life University. We are in the process of enlisting participants for Alpha. We got our first one last week. Our goal is to have 20-25 by September 7. That may be a really healthy goal, but we will push for it. Also lining up teachers and courses for ALU. This July-August will be a hectic time of planning and making things happen. I 'll let you know in mid-August how it has turned out.

Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and enjoy those closest to you.