Monday, December 04, 2006
The Irony of Serving the Lord
Isn't it funny how God changes your opinion so drastically sometimes? If you had asked me in college about Russia, I would have responded something like "Remember the Cold War? Those guys are out to get us!" Years after college, I met my now dear friend Leo Semenov. He and his wife Nadia started a missions organization which reaches out to children, particularly orphans, all across the vast expanse their home country (TEAR). We have traveled together to a couple of different cities including Shuya and Smolensk to work in orphanages, and my life has been radically changed because of Leo's influence. Don't you think that is ironic? One of the guys that was "out to get me", ends up being a mentor, a friend, and a co-worker for Christ.
It's so cool working for the Lord.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
A Man's Greatness
"A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men."
I read this recently, and was particularly challenged by it. Do I look down on folks who seem to be less privileged than I? Do I belittle others who haven't had the opportunities that I have enjoyed and been blessed with throughout my life? Do I unwittingly ignore those who seem unimportant by the world's standards? God forbid.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Ps. 51:10, KJV)
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Ps. 139:23-24, NLT)
That's my prayer. Clean out the junk that would allow me to treat anyone as unimportant. Jesus loves EVERYONE He created. We are ALL important in His eyes. He expects us to love the same folks that He does. That's a bunch of folks. Pretty much everyone, no matter how 'little'.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
It's Not All About Success
Who would have known that so much could be expressed in only three words. It reminds me of how the Bible itself can jam so much meaning into the most seemingly simple passages. What a wise, Godly woman she truly was. She understood, probably more than most humans ever will, the concept of success in God's eyes. It's not about how many awards you get, it's not about how well-known or liked you are, it's not about how many great things that you have done. It's just about simple obedience.
Dictionary.com defines obedient this way:
Dutifully complying with the commands, orders, or instructions of one in authority.
It made me think, "Am I complying to the Lord's commands in my life or am I doing my own thing?" I won't pain you with my answer to myself. It isn't a bad thing to be reminded that there is One who is much greater than I who has all authority. The bad thing would be if I didn't act on that truth. So, my prayer today is "Lord, help me to pursue obedience NOT success."
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Pure and Genuine Religion
I have heard folks talk about their "life verse". You know, the one verse in the Bible that encapsulates who they are and what God has created them to be. It felt a bit odd to me when someone talked about this, since I didn't really have one. Don't get me wrong, I don't think everyone HAS to have a life verse. In fact, I'm sure that many don't. Most folks would probably point to a number of verses that express their life better than their own words. At this point in my life, I don't think I could articulate my life purpose better than James 1:27.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Back From Russia
There's just something about a mission trip that pulls you closer to the Lord. I needed that time with Him in the last couple weeks. It was good to be back into the place of service that I love so much.
See, I have a good excuse for no postings in the last couple weeks. There's not much opportunity for internet access in Smolensk. I've found that it isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I must admit it is good to be back.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
We had spent over 4 days in the hospital with Dad in intensive care from a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of his brain. Every time we spoke to the doctors, hoping for some good news, it just didn't come. I could tell that they desperately wanted to give us some hope; I certainly wished they could. On Wednesday morning, the 30th, the neurologist prepared us for the next 24 hours by informing us that in his opinion that would be the longest that Dad could last. He used the words, "his death is imminent". It still didn't really sink in.
I went about the morning, trying to make sure everything and everyone was taken care of; praying for Dad, and certainly for Mom. In a moment of reality, I asked the Lord to allow me to be there in the room with him when he passed. Determined doesn't even describe the emotion I felt in regards to being there with him as he left this world.
That afternoon, at around 5:30pm, my Mom's pastor came out into the waiting room and told me that I needed to go back "right now". I knew it was happening. God answered my prayer, and I was able to be at my Dad's side, holding his hand, rubbing his arm, telling him how much I loved him and that everything was going to be OK and I would take care of Mom. I hope he was able to hear me. Either way, I took comfort in remembering the first 24 hours after his stroke, when he could still understand me and I had the blessing of being able to say one last time, "Dad, I love you."
And just like that, at 5:50pm, he was gone. It still doesn't seem real. It seems more like one of those dreams that you wake up from, which are so vivid and so realistic, that you can't immediately decide whether it really happened. I know it did, but how do you grasp something like that?
The Lord almost immediately impressed upon my heart some words that I believe He wanted me to speak at Dad's funeral. I know that it must have been from Him, because of the way it came to me. I would like to share the words, as best as I can remember them, which I hope and pray honors my Dad for the great man that he was.
"First of all, I would like to thank everyone so much for all of the prayers, encouragement, and support. We have been so blessed by so many family and friends. I would like to specially thank Riverside Baptist Church, Sugarloaf Community Church, and Cypresscare, and there are so many others. Dad would have been very pleased by the love you have all shown for our family.
As I thought about Dad in the last couple of days, many words and thoughts have come to mind. Many of you knew Dad, but I'm sure that some did not know him personally. So I am going to share these words and thoughts with you. For those who did know Dad, just remember. For those who did not know him, I hope this gives you a good glimpse of what a wonderful man he really was.
Thank you all, and God bless you."
- Fiercely Protective
- Mom, he was romantic
- He had the highest integrity, and taught me to always act with the highest integrity
- He was ornery, sometimes
- He'd get mad, but be over it in minutes
- Hilarious, he had a great sense of humor. He really was a funny guy. I don't know if it is good or bad, but I think I inherited a bit of that from him.
- Opinionated. You never had to guess where he stood on anything.
- Loving, in his own way
- Particular, about his things and about his family
- Very unique, there will never be another like him
- Not pretentious. He didn't think too much of himself and didn't think too much of those who did. He never put on airs - he was who he was.
- But the most important word to me to describe him was -- DADDY.
I miss him already. My daughter, Hannah, was sitting in my lap a couple of weeks ago and was obviously upset about Granddaddy. She said, "Daddy, I don't think I will ever get over Granddaddy dying." I replied, "Honey, you won't ever get over it. My Granddaddy died when I was about your age, and I still get upset about it sometimes. That's OK. You will always miss him, and you won't get over it. But, I promise as time goes on, it will get a little easier and a little easier."
It's hard to see that right now, but I know what Dad would have said (I've heard him say it so many times): "Death is a part of life, and life goes on."
Thanks Dad. For everything.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I'm going to try and get back to my schedule, 3 or 4 times a week. Keep me honest! I have a lot to let you folks know about.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I will share more later. Right now, just help me pray that I will know what the Lord is saying and act immediately on His directions.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
The really cool thing is that Jamie (my wife) and I ran as a husband/wife team and placed 3rd with a combined time of 56:49. We didn't get at trophy, what's up with that!?
My next race is the Lightning 10k in Sandy Springs. Should be fun!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Ceiling Tiles and Beans
So, there I stood. No key to my office within 10 miles or more, other than the one within a few inches, separated from me by a barrier of drywall. I looked things over and decided if I could find a ladder I could go over the wall, and through the drop ceiling. One of our youth (lately we call him Beans) made the mistake of saying, "You won't do that."
Is that a fact?
I found an 8-foot ladder in the furnace room; just tall enough to reach the bottom of the drop ceiling. Once I finally got the ceiling tile out of the way, avoiding the large metal pipe and fiberglass insulation, I determined that I had enough space to squeeze into the ceiling and stand on the top of the wall. All the while, my audience is growing. By this time, there are four folks standing below me in the hallway with eyes wide wondering if I was that insane. I figured they would know me by now, for Heaven's sake. Beans was still taunting me: "You won't do that." Dude, don't you see me with my head in covered in ceiling tile rubble and fiberglass insulation?
Finally, I was able to sit on the top of the wall with my legs on the hall side. Over my shoulder I could see my keys. That kind of ticked me off, so I had the fleeting thought of someone holding my legs while I dangled down to get them, but it didn't take me long to rethink that one. I'm not completely insane, after all.
I stood up on the wall's edge, grabbed a fortuitously placed 2x4 above my head with both hands, dangled over one of my padded visitor's chairs, thought "Lord don't let me die", and let go. With a loud thud, I came to safe rest on the chair's seat.
As I opened my door from the inside, the crowd that had gathered stood and stared for a second. Their eyes seemed to be saying, "I can't believe you just did that." Then Beans said, "Man, I wish I had a video camera so I could have recorded that". Thank goodness he didn't. Then I certainly would have mangled at least one important body part. You know, Murphy's law. (By the way, Murphy needs a beat-down.)
Just another day at the office.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I ask myself so often, why in the world does the God of the universe care to take personal interest in my life. It certainly isn't because I deserve it.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Today I attended the Willow Leadership Summit. I've only heard Bill Hybels speak a couple of times, but his talk this morning really hit home. He spoke on the life cycle of a leader. Towards the end, he told a story of what he called a 'defining moment' in his life. He was in Zambia helping to hand out large bags of food grade 'mealy meal'. A young woman whose husband had died of AIDS, and who had two children of her own, had taken in an additional two children who had been orphaned by AIDS. She was a small woman, and couldn't pick up the bag of food so she started to drag the bag down the road. He decided to help her carry it to her house (which turned out to be 2 miles away). As he walked along the path talking to the woman, he said that the importance of succeeding as a leader in the church hit him hard. He felt the Lord saying to him, "Bill, if your leadership fails, people die." Man, what a responsibility we have. The rest of the day, that same statement has echoed in my mind, "Bill, if your leadership fails, people die."
Lord, give us as leaders of your church the strength to succeed.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Not Too Smart
Somehow, I missed the fact that we have had temperatures in the mid 90's lately. I'm just so darn tired of running on the treadmill!
When I finished my 90+ degree 7 miler, my only thought was, "You idiot."
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I have been blessed with some truly great friends. I consider them a direct blessing of God. I don't know specifically why, but I was thinking about that a lot today.
I'm even thankful for Bo.
Monday, July 31, 2006
No Technology Required
Oh well, I suppose it doesn't hurt to get out pen and paper and pick up the phone. It's a good thing we don't have an IP phone.
I had a thought: Do I depend on the Lord even as much as something like technology? If He were "not available" for a time, I think it would become quite obvious how much I need Him. In fact, I believe He does pull away a bit sometimes (at the same time, He never leaves us) just to remind us how much our lives truly depend on His love, grace, and guidance. It may be painful for a time, but it is a true act of love on His part.
I just thought of something else. It's a good thing I don't need e-mail, or even a phone, to contact Jesus. He's always there, and He will always listen. No technology required.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Old is Relative
My kids are amazed by the funniest things. As I was writing this entry, Hannah noticed me typing and said, "How are you doing that!". Now, keep in mind that I am not a particularly great typist, but it looks impressive (as long as no one notices me hitting the backspace key hundreds of times). I told her that I took lessons when I was in high school from a wonderful, and eternally patient, teacher Mrs. Terry. Get this: on an old IBM Selectric typewriter! Believe me, I don't feel old!! Is 37 really old? When I was 16 it seemed ancient. Now, I delude myself into thinking that it is still 'spring chicken' age. My friend George likes to say that "Denial is not just a river in Egypt." To which I respond, "What were we talking about?"
Well, knocking on the door of the big 4-0 is a strange place to be. I have learned by experience now that it creeps up on you. It makes me wonder if the next 40 years will go by as fast. It just reminds me that I MUST use every moment wisely.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Today was my first day back to work after vacation. Do you ever have one of those days? Not that it was such a bad day, just crazy and somewhat overwhelming. I have lot's of those lately.
I have heard it said, "Attempt something so huge for God that it is doomed for failure unless He be in it." Now, I don't know if what I am attempting is that huge, but it certainly feels like it! God seems to be teaching me what it means to lean on Him at an all new level. It's interesting, but I look back at my life in Christ since I accepted Him in 1999 and I can see the relational ebb and flow. Not that He has ever abandoned me in any way, but there have been times when I was so close, and other times when I was so far away. The really cool thing is, I know He will never leave me. I have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. It helps me to remember that when I see that the relationship has reached one of those ebbs that seem so inevitable.
I'm babbling. The bottom line is, I'm so thankful that Christ's acceptance of me is not based on anything I do (or don't do). I am accepted. Period.
I'm also thankful that I didn't have heatstroke in Piedmont Park yesterday.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Don't We Always Need Another Week?
If you know me, you are probably surprised since I normally don't eat beef at all. Well, I break that personal rule only a couple of times a year, once on vacation at Angelos and the other when I visit Moscow. Angelos because the food is AWESOME, but Moscow is a different story.
When we go to Moscow on mission trips, generally we visit the McDonalds on the way out and on the way back into the city. Unfortunately, the only thing that seems like a safe bet is a cheeseburger (they call it the "Royal Cheeseburger", aka "Big Mac"). I just can't bring myself to eat the unrecognizable cubes of processed mystery meat that is listed as "chicken" or "fish". I know better than that! Of course, come to think of it, what makes me think that the cheesburger is actually beef? I suppose it's like they say, what you don't know won't hurt you.
I think I just need another vacation.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
So, Father's Day is almost over. I had a pretty good day. It was busy, to be sure, but I was reminded how blessed I am.
VBS was last week, hence the hiatus in blog entries. It was worth every moment I spent! I was able to teach 260+ kids about missions for 5 days straight, and get to know many of them. My plan is to make this part of my schedule each year. Who would have ever thought that I would enjoy teaching kids that much?!
One quote that has stuck with me recently was by Albert Einstein. Loosely quoting Al, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." The Lord is stretching me in this area, since I tend to be a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" kind of guy. I'm having to instead become more of a "it may not be broke, but break it and then fix it and it will be better" guy. That should be quite interesting.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
In the book there is a quote from 19th century cleric William Ellery Channing* which says:
The greatest man is he who chooses right with invincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptation from within and without, who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most unfaltering. (emphasis mine)
Wow. That's the guy I want to be. Lately, I have been praying that the Lord would show me what it means to truly lean on and trust Him. I think I have done an OK job of this in the past, but I feel in my spirit that He is calling me to an all new level of trust and reliance. It's exciting, because I have many challenges ahead in the coming months. You would think I would be worried and completely stressed, but oddly enough, I am at peace. Maybe I am on my way. This kind of calm in the midst of a life storm can only be supernatural.
*Mr. Channing was a Unitarian Universalist, whose theology I disagree with. In any case, I believe that you can learn something from just about anyone. This quote was also attributed to Stoic philosopher Anneaus Seneca.
Monday, June 05, 2006
"Tonight we gather to walk our property and pray the Lord’s blessing on our VBS program. I was reading the story of Hannah from 1st Samuel, and something struck me. Hannah prayed for a child for many years. She was barren, and had to endure taunting and the despair of a woman who could not bear children. So what did she do? She took it to the Lord. She told God that if He would only give her a child she would dedicate him to the Lord’s work for his entire life. The Lord heard her, and answered her prayer. Samuel arrived not that long after Hannah’s desperate prayer. Hannah was true to her word and dedicated Samuel to the Lord. In 1 Sam v.27&28, it says:
“I asked the LORD to give me this child, and he has given me my request. Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will belong to the LORD his whole life." And they worshiped the LORD there.”I think this is what the Lord is asking of us today. He has blessed us with children, not just as mother’s and fathers, but also as a church. We are to dedicate them to the Lord and PRAY for them as they grow. It’s not a cliché, they are the church of tomorrow, and the world is not getting to be an easier place to live. Their challenges we cannot even comprehend right now. The prayers we send up for them now, in 2006, will be the foundation of their ministries and their dedication to the Lord in the future.
We want a very successful VBS this year. We are praying for over 300 kids to take part. But the bottom line is not in the numbers, or in the success from a human perspective. The bottom line is: Did these precious children grow closer to our Lord? Did kids who had no knowledge or understanding of salvation receive Christ as their Lord? This needs to be our prayer tonight. As we pray for many things, this is the measure of success. A success that will bring glory to Jesus Christ, and not to us. That, He will be pleased with. And when it is all over, we can do the same as Hannah and Eli did when the miracle child Samuel was dedicated: We can worship the Lord in His sanctuary."
Thursday, June 01, 2006
It's Been a Long Time Since I Rock and Rolled
Anyway, craziness of all craziness. My life is rolling along, sometimes it seems a blur. Does anyone else experience that?
Lately, I have come to the realization that I need an all new level of reliance on Christ. I have so many responsibilities and I don't want to screw things up. Well, if I have anything to do with it I will. If Jesus has anything to do with it, things will be greater than I could even imagine. Not only that, but HE will get the glory.
If I come up with any great insights on what it truly means to rely on the Lord, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm just going to pray and trust.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Washing Dishes, Again
As I was soaping up the pot in which the potatoes were cooked, I found myself again singing. This time it was the classic Joe Cocker song "You Are So Beautiful". If you have ever heard this song, it's what I would call a tear jerker.
I happened to look up and into our living room, and there was my daughter Rebekah. She was sweetly humming an unknown tune, and lovingly putting up toys that she hadn't pulled out. Man, it hit me. What a beautiful child. How blessed am I. God, I don't deserve to be so blessed. I felt an overwhelming need to hug and tell her how much her daddy loves her. So I did. I hugged her tight. I kissed her cheek and said, "Rebekah, Daddy loves you so, so much." Her response I'll never forget: "I'm so glad you're my Daddy." I squeezed tighter. I told her again that I loved her. I didn't want to let go.
Now, not many things bring tears to my eyes, but after that I boo-hooed. I wept almost uncontrollably on and off for about 20 minutes. It touched me so deeply. I wish I had the talent to describe what that felt like, but I have decided that it is absolutely beyond any words.
That wasn't all. Later, I hugged all of my beautiful children tightly as they went off to bed. Then, I went up to the girls' room to tell them goodnight. I kissed Rebekah and told her again that I loved her, and then she put the icing on the cake. She whispered, "You're the best Dad ever. I love you Daddy." How could it possibly get any better than that.
I don't really feel like I am the best Dad ever, but I want to be the best Dad I possibly can be. My children have been entrusted to me by my heavenly Father, and I don't take that lightly. Sure, I've had times when I messed up bigtime. Then again, I've also done some really good things. My prayer is, "Lord, make me the kind of Dad that you have been to me. Help me to have the same unconditional love for my kids that you have for me, one of your kids."
I get a picture of Jesus looking down and saying, "Bill, you are beautiful to me. You are my creation, and I love you. I love you in spite of your failures, your faults, your often wavering faith. I love you, and you are beautiful to me." How could I ever deserve that? I don't, and yet He loves me anyway. I hope and pray that my children ALWAYS know that I will love them no matter what, and they don't have to do anything to deserve it.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Miracles Still Happen
This week, I started again. Monday was not very encouraging. After getting used to runs of up to 20 miles at a time, 3 miles shouldn't be that big of a deal. You'd think. It was less than half a mile into my first run in many days that my knee started barking at me. Barking like a rabid rottweiler. Bummer, 2 weeks off didn't work. What a rotten way to get back into one of my favorite activities. In any case, I finished the 3 miler, somewhat dejected.
Wednesday morning rolls around, and I'm on my way to work. I was listening to one of my heroes, Mark Rutland, on tape. He was talking about how the Lord healed him of some debilitating back problems early in his ministry. Some old ladies found out about his struggle, and they prayed over him intensely. He was healed. The doctors tried to write it off as a mistake, but he was having none of that. It was an awesome sermon, and I didn't really think that much about it for the rest of the day.
That is, until I finally was able to work in my Wednesday run. Normally, I like to run in the morning, but as things worked out, I didn't get the chance until late evening. I figured, surely I can get in 4 miles. Don't want to overdo it.
I hopped on the treadmill, punched in a 10 minute/mile pace, and I was on my way. Amazingly, no pain after half a mile. No pain after 2 miles. Holy moly, no pain after 3 miles! Then it hit me; I think the Lord has healed my knee! Simultaneously, I recalled Dr. Rutland's sermon from earlier that day. Surely not. Surely it's just a fluke. Immediately, my faith was starting to waver. Could I believe, in faith, that the Lord had healed me, even though I was approaching the 4 mile mark with not so much as a twinge of pain? I have to admit, I still had my doubts once the run was complete. But, the Lord was still dealing with me.
I don't run on Thursday, but I noticed that the ever present dull ache in my left knee was no longer there. Weird. My faith was starting to grow.
Friday, my long run day. Still a bit hesitant, I went to the gym, as is my normal routine. Again, on the treadmill I passed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 miles. No problem. You know what the coolest part of that run was? The Lord clearly said to me (not in an audible voice, but I knew it was from God) that I would have no more trouble with my knee. Incredible.
Another really cool thing that came of all this is that my faith has been grown and strengthened. Why in the world would God do that for me? It seems so small, and you may think I'm insane (wouldn't be far from the truth), but I know what the Lord did for me. If that doesn't help keep me humble, I don't know what would. Thank you Jesus.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
One last question: Which is more important, getting our task list completed or living fulfilled and contented lives surrounded by those we love - and those we love knowing that we love them by our actions?
Yeah, life is in a balance, but if I were unbalanced I think I would rather tip on the side of relationships.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Good Day, I Said Good Day!
It was a simple day, but I have come to the conclusion that the simple days are the best. The girls played the best games that I have ever seen. Hannah threw a girl out at first from third base. She also moved to circle early in the game and threw out several others at second and first base. Great defense today. Then, on her last at bat, she smacked the ball down the third base line - the hardest hit I've seen from her - and got an in the park homerun. She also was awarded the gameball.
Between games, we went to my Mom and Dad's house and visited for mother's day. I really did enjoy sitting outside and just talking with them. That doesn't happen as much as it should, I decided.
Then Rebekah played an awesome game. It was against the number one team in her league, so she couldn't have picked a better game. She played circle, so she threw out a bunch of girls at first. She caught a pop-up. She ran down a girl going into home and tagged her just before she stepped on the plate, saving a run in a very close game. Then, in the bottom of the last inning in a tie game, she came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a hard grounder just left of second base to drive in the winning run.
What an awesome day. At times like this I'm reminded how blessed I am. It's easy to get soaked up in the craziness of life and forget, for a time, that I am so blessed. God knows that sometimes I just need a nice reminder.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I Can't Believe I Ran the Whole Thing
Last weekend, I ran my first marathon; the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. I wish I could explain the feeling of finally crossing the finish line after many months, and seemingly innumerable hours, of training. It didn't matter to me that my knee completely went out on me at the 11 mile mark. It didn't matter that I finished a whole hour longer than I had planned. At that point, it just mattered that I finished.
My knee trouble didn't appear before that day, so it was quite a mystery when it started tightening up on me around mile 6. By the split where the marathon runners went one way, and the half-marathoners went the other, I could hardly walk. The more I stretched, the worse it got. The conflict inside my mind and heart grew with every painful step. I finally told my buddy, David Hornsby, "You better go on, I don't know that I will be able to finish." Reluctantly, he finally went ahead with best wishes, after he generously spared a couple of his Advils.
Think about it. You plug away, working toward a seemingly unattainable goal. You build yourself up with expectation to the big day when your preparation will finally be tested, only to be sitting less than half way to the finish line deciding how you are going to explain your failure.
That's exactly where I sat. Right there at mile 11, watching the other runners happily jog by toward their long anticipated goal. I told the Lord, "If you have something to teach me in this, I will accept that, but I REALLY do want to finish this race."
Then something clicked. I got up and started hobbling forward, pain with every step, wondering how in the world I was going to make it another 15.2 miles. I sped up slowly. My knee loosened up. I told myself, "If you can make it to 18 miles, you've got this thing." I was flat determined to finish, no matter what it took. At that point, I would have crawled to the finish line if necessary.
Next thing I knew, I crossed the finish line. I hadn't reached it in the exact way I expected, nor in the time I had predicted. Nevertheless, I finished. A little sore, a little beaten, a lot hungry, even more thirsty, and absolutely ecstatic.
Funny thing is, the Lord did use this experience to teach me a lesson. Thankfully, it was a much different lesson than I thought I was going to learn.
There have been times in recent months that I have completely felt like giving up on some things. Just like mile 11, I have gotten precariously close to turning around, finding the medical tent, and hitching a ride off the course. So, who said life would be without pain, or stress, or life's unpredictable difficulties? Only those who live in some alternate reality. Sometimes you just have to push through. You don't know how long the pain is going to last. You have no clue what the journey will look like. You just know that you have to keep going, and trust that it is all for your best. You have to finish strong.
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." (1 Cor. 9:24, NKJV)
I, for one, want to win the prize. There's no way I'll win the prize for the marathon (bum knee and all), but there is an eternal prize to obtain. Should I put in any less training, or have any less determination in the spiritual realm than on the race course? The lesson I learned that day is that giving up is just not an option. I simply can't give up on the Man who has never given up on me.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Today we came together as a church and as a nation to pray. Prayer has been the habit of our forefathers, prayer has birthed many revivals, prayer is the only thing that is going to keep our nation close to our Lord Jesus.
I look at the state of affairs in our great country, and I am saddened. There is a great turning away from the morals, standards, and faith of those who came before. We have forgotten the God of all things who desires to have a close relationship with each of us. We have forsaken the discipline of getting on our knees and crying out “Lord, here I am, I repent of my wrongdoing, please use me.” Instead our cry has become, “Lord, what can you do for me next” if we call on him at all.
Now is the time to fall on our faces and repent for our nation. Repent for the materialism, selfishness, self-centeredness, and moral bankruptcy that the world mocks us for. Now is the time to acknowledge that we can’t do this ourselves. Now is the time to let God have our lives and our great country – The United States of America.
The Lord will honor that kind of prayer; He promised He would in His Word.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Jesus says this quoting the prophet Isaiah:
"God's Spirit is on me;
he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, 'This is God's year to act!'" (Luke 4:18-19, MSG)
Is there any question that we have a job to do?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Stay Off the Other Side of the Road
I'll never forget Mr. Merrick wailing "I am not an animal! I am a human being!" My heart hurts for him even when I remember the simple cinematic re-enactment. I don't know how I would have dealt with it in real life. What if I had known him? Would I have shown him compassion, mercy, grace? Or, would I have avoided him and assumed that someone else was his friend, someone else would take care of him, someone else will show him love. I can only hope that I would have been kind.
It brings to mind the story that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan when He was asked the question "Who is my neighbor?" A guy is on his way somewhere when he is viciously attacked and left for dead by a group of bandits. A priest and a temple assistant both pass him by without offering any assistance. The folks that you think would be first in line to help just passed by on the other side of the road!
"Someone else will handle it."
These two frauds, religious position and all, simply wrote him off. So who ends up helping? The least likely person - a despised Samaritan. He even pays for the injured guys rehabilitation without seeking repayment. Jesus concluded that the true neighbor was the one who showed mercy, and told his inquisitor to go and do likewise.
In the movie, there is also a Good Samaritan. Dr. Frederick Treves reluctantly takes in Mr. Merrick and helps him regain some dignity in his last days. Even though he had his faults, I admire the good doctor for showing mercy to someone in an extremely difficult condition.
We all have John Merricks in our lives. Maybe they aren't physically deformed, but they have some ugly problems. I have to ask myself, am I going to be repulsed by their spiritual, emotional, or mental defect and pass on the other side of the road? Or, am I going to realize that I too am in need of grace and mercy because of MY many flaws? I realize that in God's eyes, I am nothing more than filthy rags - a grotesque perversion of the original plan for humanity. But God didn't pass me by. He walked over, picked me up, put me back on my feet, and is still walking beside me today - defects and all.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I was washing dishes tonight (yes, I do that) and I realized that I had been singing "Nobody Home" from the second disc of "The Wall". Specifically, there is a part that says:
"I've got wild staring eyes.
And I've got a strong urge to fly.
But I got nowhere to fly to."
Suddenly, memories flooded back of times when I was really down and depressed and I would listen to this album. If you have ever heard it, you will quickly realize that it probably wasn't the wisest choice when I was bummed out. Goofy teenager.
When Roger Waters would drone out the words "But I got nowhere to fly to", such an empty feeling would come over me. Loneliness, despair, sadness, hopelessness, brokenness - all emotions that are captured in that one simple line. As I stood there with my hands in soapy water, for a moment, those emotions hit me. Then I remembered this:
"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31, NKJV)
Back then, I certainly was weary. More than once I did utterly fall. I literally had "nowhere to fly to", since I possessed no hope, no strength, no faith, no waiting on the Lord.
That is no longer the case! My hope is in the Lord! I don't always wait on Him. Too often, I rush ahead and screw things up. But when I come back to my senses, and begin to wait on and trust in Him, He renews my strength! Then I have somewhere to fly to; right into the arms of my Savior with wings like eagles.
Friday, April 21, 2006
When I began this new position, the company was called AT&T. Our team was originally tasked with manufacturing computer systems installation and support. Cool stuff. In 1996 when I started, there were 2 guys who were my team. I was 27 years old and just a bit green when it came to a corporate environment. (I had worked for the Gwinnett County School System in tech support before - way different world.) One of my teammates, Jim Gunter, was probably twice my age, and remarkably experienced in surviving the minefield of corporate life. In retrospect, it seems that it would have been particularly easy for him to be unenthusiastic about this young whippersnapper coming in as his supervisor. After all, who was I to be leading him, a veteran of almost 30 years with the company?
But Jim didn't do that. Regardless of my age, my inexperience, or the possibility of his reputation being damaged, Jim took me under his wing and became my mentor. I will love him for the rest of my days for that. I attribute much of my later success in that position to his influence and the investment he made in me - a smart aleck young punk with something to prove.
I don't know why I have been thinking about him so much this week, but I just had to say something. I suppose it's because I miss him. Jim passed away a couple of years ago, after he had retired and I had moved on to become a pastor. But you know what? I'll never forget him. I don't really know if he realized the impact that he had on my life. The thing is, I can't wait to tell him. He is with the Lord, and someday I look forward to sitting under a shade tree in Heaven, drinking sweet tea, and catching up with my dear friend Jim. You bet I plan to tell him what he meant to me.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
What's my point?
Just this: Tonight when I got home and this ritual was repeated, it occurred to me that this is the way our Father wants me to approach Him. When I come into His presence, He wants me to possess the same absolute joy that my two year-old has when rushing to give me a hug when I get home. I confess that I don't always feel that way towards my heavenly Father. I, like my children, can also be defiant, self-centered, prideful, inconsiderate, and my list is even longer. However, as a dad I have a finite glimpse into what the Lord must feel when I look up to Him and yell "Daddy!" I know this; for me it is one of the most wonderful feelings of all. In spite of my children's shortcomings, I will always love them. In spite of our shortcomings, our Lord Jesus will always love us with a more perfect love than we can comprehend.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Then something very peculiar happened.
A very dear friend, with whom I do ministry, sent me an e-mail out of the blue. I wish I could share it with you, but it is one of those things that is so special that I just want to keep it for myself. Suffice it to say that I felt very loved once I read it.
Then, a few hours later, I received another e-mail from a member of our church. We had been talking about a specific situation, and she ended the e-mail "keep on doin' what your doin'". Affirmation, hmm.
That wasn't all, but you get the point.
As I thought about the events of the day, the Holy Spirit brought a specific scripture to mind:
"The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6b, NLT)
What a dolt! I had to be reminded that I am NEVER alone because Jesus is right there with me. I shouldn't need affirmation. I shouldn't have to be told I am loved. I have been freely given the love of the Creator Himself - not because I deserve it - but because He loves me and will never leave me alone. Man, what a deal.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Today, the Holy Spirit ministered to me from the most unlikely place. As I was going to my daughters' school to have lunch with them both, I was listening to Bob Marley's album "Legend". The second track is called "No Woman No Cry". First of all, you have to understand that right now I have some major changes happening in my life. The thing is, I love change. However, sometimes the changes are not so comfortable. I just have to rest in the promise of Romans 8:28,
"That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (The Message)
Back to Bob. In "No Woman No Cry", close to the end of the song, Bob sings blissfully in his Jamaican accent "Everything’s gonna be alright, everything's gonna be alright." All of a sudden, I could feel the presence of the Lord, and He was telling me “Bill, everything’s gonna be alright!” Slight different pronunciation, of course.
Funny how things happen sometimes, isn’t it. It just goes to show that many times the Lord CAN use folks in spite of themselves. Like Bob, I’m living proof of that.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Who'd a thunk it?
I come from a very traditional background, where we dressed up for church - particularly for Easter. Suits, ties (arrgh), and shined up shoes were the standard. At Sugarloaf, we are "come as you are", but I still have that tradition in me that feels like I need to look especially nice on this day. So, this morning I got up at the crack of dawn (since we had 3 services today) and put on my nice slacks, button-up shirt, blazer, and shiny black shoes (no tie, YEHAW!). I forgot that folks aren't used to seeing me that dressed up! You wouldn't believe the number of comments that I got on how I was dressed. Stuff like, "Hey Pastor Bill, you got a funeral today?", or "I didn't know you owned a button up shirt." My favorite was, "Look, Pastor Bill is trying to dress up like a Pastor!" I couldn't help but chuckle. Folks that know me have seen my somewhat unique style. Something like Bufordian casual. I almost understood what the demon possessed man must have felt like:
"A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane." (Mark 5:15, NLT)
I can't speak to the perfectly sane part, but I was certainly fully clothed.
Have a blessed Resurrection Day!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Step It Up!
After I returned from Africa a few weeks ago, God showed me that it was time to step up and quit standing in the background. It’s not a prideful thing – God forbid - it is simply taking on the mantle which He has set aside for me. In Galatians 1 Paul writes:
“My call is from Jesus Christ himself and from God the Father…”
I was reminded that I didn’t decide that I should be a pastor and missionary, that was Jesus who set me aside for that task – even before I was conceived.
“For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy!” (Gal 1:15)
I could almost hear the Lord telling me “What are you worried about, step up, I have created you for this!”
Immediately after coming back from Africa, several different speaking opportunities have arose – among these, the TEAR Banquet (over 520 folks in attendance, the most I have ever spoken to at one time!), our Awana missions night (talked to the kids about Africa), and most recently I have been invited to preach at a local Russian church. The first 2 I have completed (quite fun actually), the last one I am most hesitant about. Preaching is not a boat floater for me right now. However, I know that I am being pushed into another role that I should have already taken on. The Lord is stretching me. I can feel a move of the Holy Spirit in my life right now and I can almost see that this season is going to be one of those milestone times in my life that I will look back upon, with 20/20 hindsight, and see the great things that the Lord did in my life and ministry.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the Lord’s commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good. The highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love.” (Deut 10:12-15a)
Friday, April 14, 2006
Not Your Typical Redneck Pastor
Just uploading my picture!
I know, I know, it's kind of a dorky picture. It's the best I could find for now! The plan is upload a better one later.
For those who don't know me, please check out my profile (I'm in the process of updating it!). The short story is this: I am a former computer geek/Georgia Tech grad who now finds himself in a COMPLETELY unrelated field - Pastor! I'm Missions & Prayer Pastor at Sugarloaf Community Church in Suwanee, GA. Have been for about 3 1/2 years now, and what a ride it has been. Anyone who tells you that being a pastor is easy (kind of like some say a banker's job is easy) is just plain nuts! Sure, it's not easy, but it's kind of like the Peace Corp: "the toughest job you'll ever love". I can't imagine doing anything else, particularly when it comes to international missions that reach out to the poor and seemingly forgotten. My passion is to show the love of Christ to those who the world considers to be unimportant. It doesn't matter where, Russia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, or even in my own home town of Buford.
I could go on, but right now I don't have the time! It's Good Friday - the day that commemorates Christ's Crucifixion - so we have service tonight. More later...