Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Anybody here, seen my old friend ___________

"...i looked around and they were gone..........." Well, maybe not gone but who would have ever thought they would be where they are now, my old preacher friends, I mean. They shouldn't be where they are. Take Bob, for instance. He is in Beaumont. He is from Big Spring. There is enough cultural difference alone to see Bob in a place other than in Beaumont. But there he is, chaplain at the hospital and doing great job I hear, especially from Bob (just kidding). When first I met Bob at a Howard Payne University freshman gathering you could tell he was smart, funny, and had a bit of a rebel streak in him. He wouldn't view the world like everyone else, especially preachers, although he was one. With his quick wit, compassion for the little guy, ability to see quickly through masks of hypocrisy and with a view toward justice for the disenfranchised he should have been in a university town with a large church filled with professors. He'd challenge, inform, love, tic-off, push, prod, and show mercy to movers and shakers and future shap-ers of the world and the Kingdom would thank him for it. He spent most of his ministry in a dusty oil field service town with a little farming around it. He fought health issues, battled fundamentalist in the denomination, got a new liver, married country boys to country girls, baptized freckled-faced boys and curly haired girls. He finally moved to town with a college, a two-year college any way. He helped the church clean up some lingering staff problems and they thanked him by firing him and anyone else left around just to give the church a complete clean slate. So Bob became a chaplain and you wonder about all that energy, wit, freshness, and rebellious spirit that kept church from being too worldly or too stuffy going to waste. I wouldn't have put Bob there, but God did. Then there's Larry. Larry doesn't really know how to pastor. After all, he's only had two churches. The first one he stayed at for about eight years and the second one for nearly thirty now. What can he possibly know about pastoring after only two pastorates? His church is in a suburb of Dallas. It is "landlocked" with streets, and parks, and businesses around it so they can't expand the buildings much. The area has gone from middle class white to black to Asian to Hispanic and back and forth. He never stood a chance. I'd have gotten him to a rich church with a huge missions budget because he dearly loves missions. He could have preached and taught and gone on mission trips and encouraged young men and women to become missionaries. He should have been named the head of the denominational mission board but he and God left him at the same place for thirty years. Oh, sure, his church has started or funded a dozen or so new mission churches, kept a crisis pregnancy center going, has blacks, whites, Asian, and Hispanics worshipping together and they love like no other church you've ever seen. Yeah, his sons are all in ministry from music to youth to pastoring and they touch people with the gospel in three states but just think what he could have been with a little push out of the nest he's made. Instead they just keep loving, proclaiming, funding, and finding ways to love Jesus and share him with a neighborhood that probably has no idea how good Larry could have been somewhere else. Poor suckers only know how good Jesus is to them there. In the list I'd have to include Bobby, too. Bobby had ADhD before they invented it. He does a lot , if not most of his pastoring from the car. You having a hangnail extracted,? If you're part of his church he'll probably hold your other hand during the procedure. If your having a real operation, he'll probably move in with you to serve you. He loves his family. He loves the Bible. It shows up in his preaching. He loves to go on mission trips. He loves his denomination. He loves his church. He's got enthusiasm and passion. He is loyal to a fault. His greatest trait may be that he can tell you to your face with bold honesty what "the problem is" and he will be right and you will hug him for it. If I told you the same thing, you would hit me. Bobby should have been in a church with lots of young couples getting married and struggling to stay married. He can help folks fix their marriages. So God puts him in churches in west Texas with bunches of old folks with very stable marriages, well, at least a much as you can have these days. He goes around loving and helping people in trouble. I've been to a half dozen leadership training conferences, have two theological degrees and read hundreds of books on Christianity and pastoring, hardly any of them mention those qualities. Oh well, if all your going to do with your life is love God, love people, and serve them 24-7, I guess it doesn't matter where He sticks you. Now consider poor Rick. Rick was one of the brightest. Rick was one of the quickest. Rick could preach up a storm, argue Satan to hell, and turn the lights of glory on in the hearts of sinners. He was the one. We'd all go to vacation in the big city where he would eventually pastor, attend his gigantic church, and lean over and tell our children in the pew beside us , "your dad went to school with that man." After church, he'd even remember your name right in front of your kids. He was the one. Bachelor's degree--waste of time. Master's degree---child's play. Doctorate--hard logistically but merely stimulating. Humble, sure. He'd pay his dues. He'd pastor little churches for a while we thought but "the call'' would come soon enough. The big one never seemed to fit. He take a church and next month the "big" pulpit would open up but now it was too soon to move again and unfair to the church he had just taken. That happened a couple of times. What was God up to? So he goes to one and stays a while and just grows it into a pretty big church. The denomination calls him to lead one of their divisions. He goes and within a few years the denomination is struggling so it lets hundred of workers go. How, God, could you let that happen? So Rick twists in the wind and the Wind blows him to a small community with a small church. Funny thing, in all the churches he leads people to repentance and faith in Christ. That guy on the couch in his living room has no idea the guy telling him about Jesus has the pedigree he has. Neither one of them seem to care at that moment. What happened? Is this how God works with the brightest and most promising? Rick, Bobby, Bob and Larry are not where I would have expected them to be when I considered our futures 37 years ago this month entering Howard Payne University. Maybe you never expected to be where you are either. Why? Who Knows? I guess He knows. He has His reasons. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. He has used the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before Him (I Cor. 1:25-29). We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (II Cor. 4:7). Guys, I, along with many of your peers would have said 37 years ago, "these men will do a great work for God." I believe you have on so many levels but more importantly I see God has done a great work in you (Phil. 1:6) and through you. The score is not kept in Nashville or Dallas or Los Angeles or New York. No, if I had been in charge I'd have not put you where you are. I certainly would not have left you there. Turns out, God hasn't either. Cos

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Caption Contest

This little feller had too much Mt. Dew, I guess. This was alongside the road north of Blum. Got a good caption for this pic? I'll buy lunch for the winner. Cos "...gonna love me some high fructose corn syrup with a jolt of caffeine..." "'s a 103 degrees out here, the asphalt was killin' my feet..." "...when its this hot, i'll do anything for a dew..." "...i'm gonna get this bottle cap off if its the last thing i do..." (contest is still open............)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Death at the Doorstep

Ok, maybe the title is a bit strong, let me explain. While in Waco on Wednesday, Pam moved a cooler with synthetic ice blocks in it from one side of the car to the other to get the cooler out of the sun. Your rightfully ask, "So what?" Let me explain. At about 9:30 or 10 on Wednesday night I remembered I had left the garage door up about 10 inches to allow more air to circulate and cool the garage off. I poked my head out of the back door into the garage and pushed the button and closed the garage door. Still don't get it? Let me further explain. At approximately 10:50 on Wednesday evening, I went to bed. In about five minutes Pam remembered that she had not retrieved the blue ice blocks out of the cooler to put back into the freezer that stands in the corner of the garage. (Now its making sense isn't it?) Pam hollers back into the bedroom and asks me to put the blue ice in the freezer. I lovingly answered back, "No, I'll do it in the morning. I'll put them in when I go the walk the dogs about 6:30." "Never mind," she said. "I'll do it myself." I think to myself, "cool." I heard the back door to the garage open, in about ten seconds I hear the worst scream I've ever heard Pam scream and she comes running into the house yelling "there's a rattlesnake in the garage." She has definitely seen and\or heard something. At the scream I had jumped up and ran toward her but now with the news I'm hearing I run back to the bedroom. No, not to hide under the covers, although the idea had crossed my mind. I had to put on my glasses and some clothes. The glasses were to see whatever it was I had to do battle with and the clothes in case whatever I do battle with wins. I didn't want the paramedics to get grossed out or laugh so hard at a nearly naked preacher that they drop him off the stretcher going to the ambulance. As soon as I walk into the garage it is obvious that it is a rattlesnake, the rattle is unmistakable and I see it's tail rattling out from behind a bag of mulch. Pam has shut and locked the door leading back inside. It's me and the snake now. I am running on adrenaline. I went across the garage and grabbed my hoe. I now regret getting the fifteen dollar hoe made in China instead of the twenty-nine dollar hoe made in Pennsylvania. It has no sharp edge. Should I opt for my driver or another golf club. I'm a twenty-two handicapper. I stick with the edgeless, Chinese hoe. (OK, guys, enough about me going out with a Chinese hoe) I reach out with the hoe and pull the bag of mulch over and reveal the snake. It's bigger than I thought it would be from just looking at the rattlers earlier. It's fat, too, and I'm guessing a little over two feet. It doesn't "stand-up" but it cocks it's agitated neck as I position my hoe over its head. Whack! In the neck about six inches off. Whack, whack! and its over. I finish severing the head and see a lot more blood than I expected. I knock on the door. "Who is it?" "Who do you think it is?....." In taking the thirty inch snake out to the ditch, a recently eaten rat falls out of the snake. That explains the blood and how fat the now disposed of snake appeared. I throw rat and snake out and go clean up the blood in the garage. Pam lets me in and believe it or not, neither of us is sleepy. We access the night's happenings with some of these conclusions. I will not leave the garage door up again no matter how hot it is. I will invest in a twenty-nine dollar hoe. I will sharpen both hoes. I will probably, for a while anyway, go into the garage and get anything Pam wants. I hate snakes. I almost hesitate to to mention this in light of the horrendous things happening in our world, even to true Christ-followers who are endangered for their faith because of where they live. But I truly believe God watched over us last night. Pam stepped within about two feet of the snake when she went to the freezer. Had the cooler with the blue ice been on the driver's side instead of where she moved it to the passenger side, she would have walked right upon the demon. Had I gone out to the car myself to put the blue ice in the freezer, I would probably have not turned on the light at all and walked right up with a quicker, and to a snake, more threatening pace to the place where it was digesting its prey. The fact that it had just eaten probably slowed it down some, too. Bad things happen to both good and bad people and I know Christians that have been bitten by rattlesnakes, but not by that three foot monster last night and I am truly thankful. So, remember, life does come at you fast, even beyond insurance commercials, so be ready. Life is fragile, so handle with prayer. I believe less and less in coincidence but in a God who protects and when He doesn't it is for a greater purpose and glory. When the films of our lives are rewound and shown in glory I suspect we will be amazed at how many times, unknown to us, God protected us, even by simple moves like a cooler moved the other side of the car. Now let me say this, if a rattlesnake makes it way into your life, don't call me, one five footer is enough! Cos