Thursday, May 30, 2013


It was just minor surgery,.except...

It was minor surgery to repair a hernia.  Yes, I admit it.  I had old man surgery.  I heard lots of phrases like "now that you are older", "you're not a kid anymore", and "you have to be more careful".  So we decided to do minor day surgery.

Except, they put me to sleep.  Somehow that didn't seem minor.  And they made me sign some form that basically said it was OK if I died during surgery.  Well, that's not exactly what it said but that's what I got out of it.

And the anesthesiologist asked why the echo cardiogram (and the ones he saw on file) all show an abnormality.  Yes, I have some odd thing about my heart but all the stress tests come out OK so it is probably something I have had all my life.  But still, he had to say that right before they knock me out?

And you know it really was minor, and obviously I didn't die because I am writing this..

But here are some things I thought about that morning.

Would I change anything if I knew I was going to die?  Nope.  Not really.  If I knew today was my last day here, I wouldn't do much different.  Love God and my family, talk about Jesus and try to live like him.  Yeah, pretty much what I try to do every day.

Is my family going to be OK if I die?  Sure.  I like seeing what God is doing in the kid's lives.  And boy is it fun to enjoy the five grandkids.  And Marsha and really have a neat life together.  But it's not like I would never see them again.  And the most important legacy I can give is faith.  And they've all got that.  And they would take care of each other.  Our community of faith would surround them and care for them.

But what about all my ministry?  Preaching and shepherding?  It would be silly of me to think I am indispensable to what God is doing in this world.  None of us are.  God will always raise up servants to do his will.  

So what am I going to do differently after surgery?  Nothing.  I'll do the Jesus thing till I die.  When my body gets too old to keep up this pace, I'll do what I can.  When I can't do, I'll spend my time praying (learned that one from our parents).  If I lose my mind -- and odds are high I will -- then Marsha will take care of me as a living witness of faithfulness.

So I realized I'm pretty much doing what God made me to do.  Wouldn't change much about how life is.

Oh, except for this.  Because Marsha, Julie and Jamie (our two nurse daughters), and my Doctors seem to think it is a big deal... I will remember that I need to be careful dragging deer, cutting wood, working at the farm, wrestling grandsons, and lifting things that are heavier than I am.

So thanks God for taking care of my minor surgery.  And I'll just keep on keeping on till you take me home.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Caleb died and reminded me what matters.

Caleb Martin died.  He was late 20's, about to get engaged, and was turning the corner spiritually.  He was going to church, talking about loving God, and becoming the man God wanted him to be.  He was a great athlete, a fitness freak, and building a couple of businesses.

I knew him from Southern Hills.  His Dad and I are good friends.  Chip and Janet have a great testimony themselves of how God works in our lives.  Caleb was baptized as a teenager at Southern Hills.

He was living in Austin and they found him unresponsive in his bed one Saturday morning.

Stephen Corbett, his youth minister, and I did the funeral at Southern Hills.

And here is what Caleb helped me remember.

I am not God.  I don't understand.  It doesn't seem right or fair.  I don't know how to make sense of this.  So I am reminded that I am not in charge.  I am not in control.  I am not God.

This is a fallen world.  It is a world where death exists.  It is a world where Satan wants to use death as our enemy.

Jesus wins.  He overcame death.  Because of Jesus, I believe that Caleb lives.  I believe that his family will see him again because they believe in the One who overcame death.

We can all come home.  Like many young people, Caleb had to find his way.  He had to figure out if they faith of his youth would be what mattered as an adult.  And he did.

I am still on the journey home.  Just like Caleb.  In a different place, but walking on the same road.  The road home.

So glad for a community of faith.  The Martins were loved on, visited, prayed for, hugged, honored at the funeral, and cried with.  The parents, sister, niece, and girlfriend/about to be fiancee are not walking alone.  Their faith community is still walking with them.

Life's short for all of us.  You never know when this life is going to be over.  So let's all stay pointed in the right direction.

So thanks Caleb for lessons learned.  Didn't want to be reminded this way, but you are where I want to be.

So come Lord Jesus.

Someday.  Soon.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I do think we can show up -- and speak up -- during tragedies

Much has been said recently about Christians saying inappropriate things during times of tragedy.  I have heard several use the phrase "show up and shut up".  In some ways I agree with that statement.  We Christians have sometimes spoken thoughtlessly.  Sometimes we have even said things that are not true about our God and this world.


Scripture says be ready when you are asked about the hope that we have.  And I don't think you show up and start talking Jesus whether anybody is listening or not.  But my experience has been that when you are there in times of disaster or tragedy, eventually you are going to have an opportunity to speak.  Here are the ways I have been invited to open my mouth.

Why are you here?
Why are you doing this?
Why did this happen?
Where was/is God?

Sometimes I hear it thru tears, sometimes thru anger, and sometimes thru incredible pain?  Sometime it is a sincere question longing for an answer.  Sometimes it is a challenge.

And usually these opportunities come because we are with people.  Not "drive-by" help, but because they have seen God's people day after day after day.  Or the questions come in tragedies because we have a relationship with friends, co-workers, or neighbors.

So we have an opportunity to speak for God. Don't waste that opportunity. But be careful when you do.  Be sure you are speaking God words and not the words you assume God would say.

So here are the four most common stories I tell in the midst of disaster and tragedy.  I have sometimes told only one, and sometimes over time have told all four.  I have preached these in seminars and assemblies.

And I am confident these are God words because they are his stories.

The Creation/Garden story.  God made a perfect world for us.  Satan hated that.  So he got Adam and Eve to disobey God.  And the consequence was that from then on we have lived in an imperfect world.  So there are tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis.  Because Gods' creation was spoiled by sin.  And there is still sin so people do horrible things that hurt others.  And there is sickness and death.  None of this was God's doing.  It was not how he planned it.  But he is the one who will fix it.  He told Adam and Eve he would make it right.  So he sent his son to restore this world.  And someday all will be right because of Jesus.

The Blind Man in John 9.  Tragedy and disaster do not happen because of any specific sin committed.  That's what Jesus told his disciples when they were trying to pin the blame on someone.  But God's work is seen in these times.  That's why the people of God show up.  Jesus helped the blind man see.  We do what we can to help.  It's not because we are good, but because Jesus was good to us.  It is so this world can see the work of God displayed.

The Good Samaritan.  I don't know why the poor guy got beaten up, but I do know the hero of the story is the guy who helped him.  And it cost him something:  time, effort, and money.  So when people are beaten up by tragedy or disaster, we show up.  With our time, our energy, and our money.  We show up because the guy we follow said to.

The Philippian jailer.  The consequence of an earthquake cost him everything.  His career was over.  His life was ruined.  Suicide was the only answer he saw.  Until a Christian spoke up.  And told him about Jesus.  And the nightmare of his life turned to joy in the morning.

So show up.

And be ready to speak up.

With God words.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Yes we did celebrate 40 years together...

We made it to 40 years last Sunday.  Amazing.  Hard to believe.  Wonderful.  Exciting.  So here are some of my thoughts on why I am a blessed man.

God gets the glory.  We met in church.  She was in the youth group and I was leading singing.  At Southern Hills.  Yep, same church where I am an elder.  God put us together, kept us together, and still is the center of our marriage.  Without God, we wouldn't be together.  Without God, we wouldn't be this happy.

People seem so amazed when we tell them 40 years.  I guess you don't see as many of those as you would like.  Or maybe they don't believe someone that looks as young as Marsha could be married that long.

So here is how we made it 40 years.

Pray lots.  We have prayed for our kids, for our marriage, for each other, for our ministry.  We have prayed about every major decision in our life together.

Love hard.  She still makes my heart skip a beat when I see her.  She's still my girl.  I'm still her guy.  It works this way.  I did a hard funeral a couple of weeks ago.  Was standing by the casket greeting everyone. Saw her coming thru the line and we had to hug and she kissed me.  I needed her.  She knew it.  Love.

Laugh often.  We still have a good time.  We like to be together.  We enjoy life.

Cry too.  We still cry.  We cry over family problems.  We cry over church people we love.  We cry over lost people.  We cry with lots of people.

Go to church.  We are church people.  Raised our kids in church.  Will be in church till we die.  Still the best place to be to make it thru this world.

Talk about Jesus.  We still spend a lot of time helping people find Jesus.  It's what we do.

Help others.  We help couples put Jesus back in their marriage.  We show up at the hospital and pray.  We are there when tragedy strikes.  It is what we do.

She said I can't say the other thing I was going to talk about.  But trust me... it's still special too.

So I don't know how many more years we will celebrate.  God is in charge of that.  But as long as he wills, we will keep loving him, loving each other, and loving those God puts in our life.

Thanks God.  You did an amazing thing when you put us together.  It has made all the difference for me.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


Has youth ministry failed us?

Let me say upfront that I am not against youth ministry.  I spent several years in full-time youth ministry.  I think most youth ministers are committed to helping young people develop a relationship with Jesus.  It was about 45 years ago that churches of Christ became heavily involved in youth ministry.  For decades, youth minister was the second staff position hired in most churches.

And many of these youth ministers entered youth ministry because they were impacted by their youth minister.  And I do think it was a move in the right direction to start calling it Youth and Family ministry. 

But I have to wonder...  

If we have been so heavily invested in youth ministry for all these years then how can we be so worried about losing our young people?  

Or has youth ministry failed us?

Here are some questions I think must be asked.

Has segregating our teenagers really been an effective way to develop faith?  Would we have been better served with a inter-generational model for the church?  

Did families -- and even churches -- abdicate their responsibility to raise our children to have faith?  Did we hire it done?  Did we really think "professionals" knew better than parents the best way to impart faith?

Did we emphasize youth activities to the detriment of teaching God's Word?

And if so... then what is a better way?

Should parents be leading the youth ministries?

Numbers down?  Kids leaving the faith?  Then better start a youth program.  Or fire the current youth minister and hire a better one.  That has been our default reaction for years.

It may have been wrong.  

So is their a place for youth ministers?  I think so but with a couple of caveats.

I think parents and elders should retain control of the youth program.  That is who is responsible for the spiritual formation of our children.  Don't put that off on a youth minister.

I think we should think more in terms of youth evangelists.  What if we hired a youth evangelist with a mandate to equip our youth to share their faith?  What if we expected our youth minister to spend most of his time evangelizing teenagers and their families?

But one last thing seems really important to say.  Youth ministry as usually done may have failed us.  But do not blame the youth minister for your child losing their faith.  It may have been the youth minister's job, but it was the parent's responsibility.

Well, these are just questions I think need to be asked.  Not sure even how I feel about some of them.  Not sure I know the answers.  But I do know we better ask the questions.  

Youth ministry is not about the future of the church.  It is about the eternal destination of our kids.  Big difference.  

We have to do our best to get it right.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


I love my mother-in-law

I have to think before I call her my mother-in-law because Granny is more like my other Mom.  Last Saturday we celebrated her 85th birthday and here are just a few of the reasons I love her.

She gave me Marsha and that has made all the difference in my life.  But more than that, she taught Marsha to love her family, to cook, to be faithful Christian, and to be a good wife and mother.  And I get the benefit of all that.

Granny, Marsha, Julie (our daughter), and Avery (Julie's daughter) have this really cool 4 generation thing going.  Marsha and her Mom are really, really close.  So are Julie and Marsha. And Avery and her Mommy.  But so are Julie and Granny.  And Avery and Mimi.  And even Granny and Avery.  Really, really special.

Granny doesn't complain.  She just doesn't.  Not about her pain, which is incredible most days.  Not about her health status, which is not good.  At some point she is going to have kidney failure.  She knows this and accepts it.  Loves her time here.  Ready to go home when God calls her.

She reads to Grandpa.  He can't see too well anymore so she reads to him.  Reads the Bible to him.  Reads all my books to him.  Reads the sports pages to him.  That's love.

Treats me like I am her son.  I don't mean just nice and sweet to mt.  I mean she really loves me just like I was hers.

And I am.

So happy birthday Granny.  I don't know how many more you get in this life, but I am thankful for every one we get to celebrate.

Thank you God for Granny.  She helps us see you.

Friday, May 03, 2013


My Dad turned 85 and doesn't know it...

Last Wednesday was my Dad's 85th birthday and he doesn't know it.  I don't mean that he doesn't act his age.  He was that way for years.  Healthier and stronger than most men his age.  But now it is that he doesn't process it.  I called and sang happy birthday and he thanked me.  My Mom said he knew it was his birthday but he thought he was 45.  Interesting since I am 61.

Alzheimer's.  It has taken most of the Dad I have always known.  I see little hints of my Dad:  he says I love you, he can still ask about my family -- even when he can't remember any details about them.  He knows I talk about Jesus but can't remember exactly where or how.

But I have thought a lot about his kingdom purpose now.  After all, he no longer can serve as an elder.  He can't teach Bible class.  He doesn't study with non-Christians any more.

 So let me tell why my Dad still has value.

His voice still communicates.  Every time I talk to him I remember.  I know what he would say if he could.

He is the means for my Mom to be a living witness of a faithful wife.  For better or worse.  She is literally giving her life to take care of him.  It is a life testimony.  Her commitment speaks Jesus into a world that does not sacrificially love.

He provides an opportunity for their church to serve.  Some bring by meals.  Some bring by communion.  Some send cards.  Some drop in to visit even when they can't really visit.  Last time they went to a primetimers meeting, they got a standing ovation.

It lets my sister give back.  She and her husband drop in, visit ,sit with Dad, run errands with Mom.  When I called to sing Happy Birthday, they were there bringing cake.  That's what family does.

It lets Marsha and I prepare for our future.  Both sides of Marsha's family live a long time and in their right mind.  Not my family.  Not on either side.  My Mom is about the only relative I remember who kept their mind past 80.  I may not go senile.  Or, depending on how you like my preaching, I may already be senile.  :)
But if my folks are a glimpse of our future, then what a great example.  Like they have been for so much of my life.

So my Dad can't understand this post.  But I love him.  He still is of value to the Kingdom.  It's just in a different way.

So happy 85th Pap.  Love you.  And thank you God for the lessons I'm still learning from him.

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