Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's been a LONG year ...

OK ... so my last blog post was in May. Why haven't I blogged since then? Well, I could blame it on the rain, or blame it on Rio ... but the real reason is because I've had a lot of more pressing things going on. Sorry.

Well ... now it's almost Thanksgiving - and things really aren't slowing down. In fact, it almost seems as if they are starting to snowball. That is just par for the course in the life of a Worship Pastor heading full-steam-ahead into the Christmas season.

It has been a long year, though. The events of this year have had major impacts on my life. Some good - some not-as-good. Through it all I've learned a lot, though.

* I've learned not to take things just at face value.

* I've learned not to blindly trust someone just because they say they can be trusted.

* I've learned that there are a lot of emotions that can run the gambit when bad things happen.

* I've learned that God is still in control - and that nothing ever takes Him by surprise.

* I've learned that forgiveness is easier to tell other people they need to do than to have to do it for ones self.

* I've learned that my kids are a lot stronger than I ever gave them credit for.

* I've learned that my wife is even stronger than that.

* I've learned that losing a pet is even hard on a grown-up.

* I've learned that not everybody shares my disdain and dislike for "Twilight".

* I've learned that saying that "I support the office of President no matter who holds the office" is getting harder to agree with every day.

*I've learned that no matter what plans I make - God always has different plans (and His are ALWAYS better!)

These aren't all the things I've learned ... but it's a start.

Now ... the week-long countdown to Thanksgiving is on! BRING ON THE BIRD!!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays ...

It is such a dreary day outside ... and that blah-ness has worked its way into the building. Ever had one of those days?

There's work to be done, things to finish, places to go ... and yet, I just don't have a lot of motivation. Is it just the weather? Is it something else? I don't know.

On the brighter side of things - tonight is our Maplewood Baptist Reunion Dinner!

For those that aren't familiar with Maplewood - let me give a little background:

Back in October of 2000, Missie and the kids and I moved from Manvel, Texas to take the position of Music Minister at Maplewood Baptist, here in Clarksville. The church was a small church, running around 100 on Sunday Mornings. The pastor had been there for a little less than a year - and the church was poised for growth.

The first year and a half were hard - but in a great way. God began moving and changing things - and repositioning the church to be a huge impact in the community. By the Easter of 2002, we were averaging over 250 on Sunday Mornings - and on Easter Sunday, we had over 450 people! Things were awesome! There was a wonderful Spirit in the church, and it was truly a great church family.

But then ... something happened. To this day, I still don't know exactly what it was - but things changed. By the summer of 2003, there was a tension that had developed ... and a lot of it came from the staff. We had grown from 2 staff to 5 full-time ministers ... and I think we lost our focus. We began, under the leadership of the pastor, to focus on who WE were and what WE wanted rather than who God was or where He was leading.

I was constantly belittled by the pastor, and was told on more than one occasion that I 'suck as a worship leader' and that I shouldn't be in the ministry because I didn't have a 'pastor's heart'. After months of that, I stepped down from leading worship in the early summer of 2003. I should have left the church at that point, but selfishly I wanted to stay because of all the blood, sweat and tears we had put into the church.

I took over the Administration area of the ministry. Well ... that is definitely NOT my calling! It really stinks to be out of God's will ... and I had stuck myself so far out of it, that I couldn't even see what I was supposed to be doing. To make a long, painful story short ... in October, I was called into the pastor's office and fired. However, I wasn't allowed to tell anyone that I had gotten fired - I had to speak before the congregation on a Sunday night and 'resign' - or I was told I wouldn't get my severance pay. I capitulated and spoke on November 2. Then, I was told that I didn't make it clear enough that it wasn't the pastor's doing that I was leaving - so I had to come back the next Sunday night and do it again!

After I left, a lot of allegations were made and my name was drug through the mud ... but God was gracious through it all. I can see now that He delivered me from the situation before it really got out of hand.

After I left the church, Maplewood merged (took over) another church in town, moved locations, changed it's name, lost more staff members, had the pastor resign and lost their building.

All is not lost, though! God is still in control. The remnant that stayed with the church through it all has gotten another location, called a great man as pastor, has changed it's name and is beginning to grow.

So ... tonight, we're having a dinner for all the former members of Maplewood. A lot of us haven't seen each other in years. I have been able to make amends with all of the former staff and God has allowed us all to grow in other places.

I'm really looking forward to tonight ... but really wish the rain would stop!!

Oh well ... maybe some Mexican food for lunch will help! Torreros ... here I come!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Don't Understand ... part deux

After offending some people - I guess I need to give a caveat to my last posting.

I want to give some clarification to things that may not have come across as clearly as I had intended.

1. Do I feel that a person is any less of a Christian because they read/watch either of these books/movies - or anything like them? Absolutely not. I just don't understand how Christians CAN read/watch them.

2. Do I feel that a person will lose their salvation, or go to hell because they read/watch either of these books/movies - or anything like them? Absolutely not. I just don't understand how they can read/watch them. (Just like I don't understand how a Christian can be Pro-Choice. I don't agree with that stance - but I don't think one will go to hell because they hold that viewpoint.)

3. Am I saying that all fictional things are bad? Not at all. I just think we need to hold things up against the mirror of the Bible - and if they don't mesh, then we don't need to have any part of them.

4. I don't even like the Chronicles of Narnia. Since my kids were little, I've tried to keep things with witchcraft (even Disney's Fantasia) from the house ... so I really have an issue with "The Lion, The WITCH, and the Wardrobe."

5. Do I think that the authors of any of the above/below mentioned works of fiction are Christians? That's not for me to say. They may claim to be - and may or may not be.

6. Do I have things in my life that aren't healthy for me? Yep. I'm only human.

7. Does that make me any more/less of a person than you? Nope. I'm just a sinner, saved by grace, who has to answer to the Lord just like every other one of His children.

8. Do I apologize for my earlier blog? Nope. I do apologize to those who took it offensively, and I do apologize if I came across as 'holier-than-thou' ... but I don't apologize for my stand, opinion, viewpoint or conviction.

9. Where do we go from here? I guess that's up to each of us individually.

I Don't Understand ...

I know I'm probably going to get hammered for this one - but I'm going to post it anyway. If you are easily offended by someone disagreeing with you on popular movies or societal obsessions - you may want to stop now.

OK ... If you are still reading - you've been warned.

How can people who call themselves Christians be so enthralled by things that are clearly anti-Christian? For the past decade, the whole Harry Potter craze has amazed me. Black Magic, Sorcery and Witchcraft ... and we ENCOURAGE our children to read the books and see the movies? Most recently the craze is all about Twilight. Vampires. Hmmm. Another great thing for us to encourage our children to become obsessed with.

Before you get all defensive and say to me that these are only fantasy, and that they are only showing good-vs-evil ... I've heard these excuses - and don't buy them. There is no reason that we have to embrace anti-Christian values of witchcraft and vampires in order to show how good can overcome evil. (In truth - it's evil-vs-more evil.)

We have been created by God to worship Him. According to Philippians 4:8, "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." How can these books/movies fall into the above categories?

We have been created by God to have a relationship with Him. Jesus Christ gave His life so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly. John 3:16 tells us that God loved us so much that He gave us His son - and that when we accept Him, we inherit eternal life. This is what we call being born-again.

Twilight has a totally different message. After Bella’s “rebirth” as a vampire in Breaking Dawn, she says, ”I was amazing now - to them and to myself. It was like I had been born to be a vampire. The idea made me want to laugh, but it also made me want to sing. I had found my true place in the world, the place I fit, the place I shined.”

So what does Bella experience by becoming a vampire? A greater ability to enjoy the “forbidden fruit” that is Edward: ”I could really appreciate him now… He was all new, a different person as our bodies tangled gracefully into one on the sand-pale floor. No caution, no restraint. No fear - especially not that. We could love together - both active participants now. Finally equals… I was never going to get tired, and neither was he. We didn’t have to catch our breath or rest or eat or even use the bathroom; we had no more mundane human needs."

Evil is evil. This is a basic premise from the beginning of creation. Satan has tried to sway humans from the truth. Remember Eve and the apple? Apparently Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight, at least has an idea of it - as is apparent from her use of the apple on the cover of Twilight and the introductory quote from the book of Genesis, of which the author states: “The apple on the cover of Twilight represents ‘forbidden fruit.’ I used the scripture from Genesis (located just after the table of contents) because I loved the phrase ‘the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Isn’t this exactly what Bella ends up with? A working knowledge of what good is, and what evil is.” She is clearly taking the scripture out of context in order to justify her perverse writing.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 addresses these books/movies: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

I will not allow my children to read these books nor see these movies. I will not read them nor see them. They are not permitted in my house ... and if I had my way - we wouldn't allow any of the merchandise (shirts, books, binders, etc ...) in any of our Children's ministries at church.

I understand that I can't make other parents see things the way I do - but I would hope that people would not just take the world's opinion that this type of garbage is acceptable.

Like I said, if you were offended by what I've posted - you were warned before you got this far. You are entitled to your own opinion - but as a Christian, I really don't see how there could be one different than the one I've laid out here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

3rd Annual Cruise with Pastor D & Missie

January 11 – 16, 2010
5 Day Western Caribbean Cruise
To Cozumel, Mexico and Calica, Mexico

Cost: $359 per person (first 2 in a cabin)
$199 per person (3rd & 4th in a cabin)
(Ocean View Rooms are Double Occupancy Only – and the rate is $409 per person)

We are opening the cruise up to minors this year – up to 2 per paid adult.

Deposits : $200 per person – due April 8th.
(I need to book several cabins on this date – then can request another 30 day hold on the cabins I have reserved. If you want to go, and can pay your deposit before April 8th, please do so – as it will extend the opportunity for others to be able to go.)

Full Payment Due before November 11, 2009.
All deposits and payments are 100% refundable until November 11, 2009.

From November 12th – December 13th - cancellation will forfeit the $200 deposit

From December 14th – January 3rd, - cancellation will forfeit 50% of the cabin fare (minus taxes)

After January 3rd – cancellation forfeits 100% of cabin fare (minus taxes)

(So – if you need to cancel after November 11th – wait until between December 14th and January 3rd, because the penalty is less.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

"You want to go ... where?!"

It utterly amazes me how some people view church, and their participation in it.

In our 'fast-food' society, where "have it your way" and "Delivered in 30 minutes or it's Free" have become the standards - that mindset has bled its way into the church. People come to church to "get" what THEY want, WHEN they want it, HOW they want it, WHERE they want it ... and at the cheapest possible cost to them.

Understand ... I am not talking about EVERYBODY. I know there are those (and probably more than not) who actually come to church with the right heart and mind ... but it does seem that the "McDonalds Members" seem to be the ones that make the most noise. Their favorite Praise song would be a modified version of "The Heart of Worship" - where they sing, "It's all about me - Jesus. It's all about me" and their favorite hymn would be "We shall not be moved."

This all stems from recent events where people in the congregation don't want to do something that the Pastor and the leadership sense is God's leading. The change would not be convenient for them - and they "don't want to" do it. Well, as my mother used to say, "who died and made them boss?" Don't get me wrong - I am all in favor of the church coming together to make decisions ... I've seen the opposite happen, where one person made all the decisions - and that wasn't pretty, at all. However - when a pastor, who is called to be the shepherd of the church, tries to lead in a direction that God tells him to go ... who in the world do the sheep think they are to say, "no"?

If you see a shepherd leading sheep along a road ... the sheep NEVER get to tell the shepherd where to go. The shepherd leads - and the sheep follow. I just wish people in church would understand that concept. God has placed His man as His shepherd for His people ... and we need to stop wanting things OUR way ... and start doing things GOD'S way.

Sorry for venting ... but this one has really been eating at me today.

Friday, January 30, 2009

We're Back!

Well ... we're back from our cruise to Nassau & Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. I have to admit - it's actually a little bitter-sweet!

We had an awesome time of relaxing, spending time together, hanging out with friends and enjoying being waited-on ... but really missed our kiddos.

Next year, we're planning on going to Cozumel, Mexico ... but we're taking the kiddos with us! We're still going to open it up for a group cruise - but we're allowing people to bring their children with them. We are planning to sail out of Mobile, Alabama sometime in early January - and are looking at a 5 day cruise to Cozumel and Calica. I'm working with a travel agent right now to try to get the rates, so we will know how much it will cost. We're going to go ahead and get passports for our children, that way there won't be as much money due later.

The picture above is of the sunset somewhere between Nassau and Jacksonville. Watching the beauty and splendor of something like that makes me wonder how some people can actually believe that there is no God. That this (life) just 'happened' ... and that there is no divine creation, intervention or salvation. I just don't get it.

Anyway ... we're back. Who-hoo! ;)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some pet peeves ...

... and I'm not talkin' about the 4 legged kind.

Maybe I'm just getting more cynical in my old age, or maybe I'm just turning into a crotchety old man ... but there are some things that just really irritate me - and I thought I'd air them here.

1. I went to Walmart (have you noticed they took the dash out of their name) last night to get some necessities. I got there around 10:30, or so, and there were several things that irritated me.

First off, I understand that they have to restock the shelves ... but do they have to stack the pallets in such a way that it is almost impossible to move down the isles? I went to where the meats are, and had to literally walk from the front of the store to the back of the store to get to the other side of the 'islands' of food. They had pallets lined up between the islands, and there was no egress.

Secondly, I noticed some families out shopping. One family, in particular, caught my attention. It was a father, mother and two young children - probably 4 and 2 years old. The father was getting really agitated at the youngest of the two because he was whinning and fussing. UMMMM ... it's 11:00 at night - these kids should be in bed!! Do you really have to bring them to Walmart in the middle of the night - and then get mad at them because they're fussy? I mean, come on! Either you or your wife stay home with the kids and the other one goes to the store ... how hard would that be?

Lastly ... 2 lanes open with 15 people in each? Really? Seriously?

2. I hate it when people won't fess-up when they've made a mistake. It happens on all fronts, and it is really irritating. Really ... if you mess up - then fess up.

Children are the worst at this pet peeve. I can't begin to tell you the number of times when I've confronted my children about something - and they have bold-faced lied about it. Case in point - one of my children was supposed to be taking some antibiotics. I went into the bathroom, and notice that the pills were in the trash can. I took them out and went to my child. I asked them if they had been taking their medication. They looked at me - and without blinking - said that they were. When I showed them the pills - they STILL stood their ground. Unbelievable.

When confronted with a mistake, I guess it's just human-nature to try to lie and protect ourselves --- but that's where maturity comes into play. Admit the mistake, take the slap on the wrist and go on. I guarantee that the honesty will be met with a better response than will be given when the deception is found out!

3. Customer Service Representatives. This group is a major pet peeve to me. For some reason, they feel that they are doing me a favor by allowing me the privilege of letting me breathe the same air as them, and that I am somehow less of a person than they are - because their time is apparently much more valuable than mine.

CSR's who don't speak clear English (primarily those in India) are the biggest peeves in this area. I have finally gotten to the point where, as soon as I hear an Indian representative on the line, I tell them that I want to speak to someone who speaks fluent English --- and preferrably someone in the contiguous 48 states. After hours of dealing with HP's Indian Reps ... I can't take it anymore.

4. Do you want to know what really burns my butt? It's a flame about a foot high.

Have a great day ... and here's a tip to help make someone's day:
When at a restaurant, be sure to get your server's name - and call them by their name everytime they come to the table. It makes you more personable to them - and will make their service more friendly to you. Try it ... and then tip at least 15% ... if not 20%!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Time Continuum

OK ... so maybe not that science fiction ... but I do think there is something to an old adage that I heard many years ago. The adage goes like this:

"The amount of time it takes you to do something is directly related to the amount of time that you have to complete it."

I have found this to be amazingly accurate - especially when it comes to my children. This adage can best be proven when they are told to clean their bedrooms. If I lay down the gauntlet and tell them that they have 10 minutes to get the room cleaned, or they will lose their phone/DS/PSP (depending on which child) ... they can have the room cleaned in 10 minutes. On the other hand - if I tell them at 3:00 pm that the room needs to be cleaned before their mother gets home ... it will take them the whole 5+ hours to do it.

This adage can also be proven when getting ready in the morning. If I wake up on time - it usually takes me 25-30 minutes to get up and get ready to leave. However, if I oversleep, I can be up, dressed and out the door in 3 minutes!

Well ... in thinking about this, I think we have to be extremely careful about proving this adage out in our ministries. Those of us in ministry (and to some extent, especially those of us that have been in the ministry for many years) have to be careful about our time management ... and not only giving ourselves minimal amounts of time to complete the things in our ministry areas.

There have been a few times when I have put off and put off getting things ready for worship on Sunday morning ... and then, at the last minute, have thrown together a worship set of music. Sure, it flows well, and is pretty to listen to - but it wasn't a Spirit-Led arrangement ... and I could feel the tension in trying to lead it. Others may not have noticed anything - and I may have gotten away with it ... but that isn't how it's supposed to be done.

As I challenge myself, I want to challenge you, as well ... Let's take the time to do what we need to do, and do everything the way it's supposed to be done - not in a hurried or repetitious manner. We need to do everything as unto the Lord, Himself ... remember another old adage:

"If we keep Christ in the Center of our lives ... then the Circumfrence will take care of itself."

Anyway ... those are my thoughts for today. Please feel free to comment (or not!).

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year Resolutions ... that I know I can keep!

Here it is, Friday, January 2nd ... and we are full-force into the new year of 2009!

Along with the new year comes the tradition of making those dreaded New Year Resolutions. You know - the promises that we make to ourselves with false pretenses of sincerity, knowing full-well that by the 3rd week of January, they will be like the period on the Dr Pepper Can ... gone forever, but not missed at all.

In an effort to make my resolutions a little different this year - I decided to make a list of things that I'm pretty certain I will be able to keep. Some of them may seem sillier than others - but it's my list!! So, without any further ado ... here are my top-ten resolutions (in random order):

1. I resolve to put the remote control in the remote holder after use, so that it is readily available for the next time we need it.

2. I resolve to finish my powerpoint work for the church on Friday, so that I'm not up until the wee-hours of Sunday morning finishing the slides for the morning services.

3. I resolve to spend more time playing with my kiddos. They are getting older, and I don't want to miss-out on the times that we can spend together.

4. I resolve to make my wife happy. Not that I don't try already - but this is an area where I know I can always improve.

5. I resolve to take more pictures of our family. Even though I have a photography business - basically the only shots we take of the family are staged shots. I want to take more pictures of my family than I do of other people.

6. I resolve to get down to my goal weight of 200 - and stay there. This isn't an out-of-reach goal, and it will just take me being serious about it. 20 lbs isn't too much to ask for!!

7. I resolve to make sure that my day-off from work is actually a day-off from work. Sounds easier enough ... but it's something I need to do.

8. I resolve to beat Jonathan in NCAA College Football on the XBox 360. Even if only once!!

9. I resolve to take a family vacation this year ... and to not call-in to the office one time while we're gone. Another one of those things that sounds easy ...

10. I resolve to eat-out for lunch only one time per week (which should help with #6) - and to put that money I save aside for our family vacation.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dirty Laundry

Those of us in our mid-life years will readily remember the Don Henley song, "Dirty Laundry". (In fact, you probably had to sing the title in your head when you read it!) There is a phrase in the song that states, "Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down; Kick 'em when they're stiff, kick 'em all around." Well, after a meeting I had with an old friend (old as in 'it's been a long time, old' not, old as in 'aged') I started thinking about how we, as Christians, do just that.

It's sad how we, who have been forgiven of ALL our sins by the blood of Jesus, have such a tendency to 'shoot our wounded', or 'kick 'em when they're down'. Why do we feel that we need to continue to hold someone else's sins against them, when Christ specifically tells us that we need to love each other as He loves us. If He can forgive them - why can't we?

It really amazes me that we can get so self-righteous and pious that we think that because someone may have made some mistakes, that seem so much bigger than our own, that they are somehow not worthy of forgiveness, reconciliation or friendship. It's especially laughable (not 'funny laughable', but rather 'sad laughable') that we will hold their shortcomings against them, even when they didn't do anything to us, personally.

Over the years, I have had several really close friends who have, for various and sundry reasons, gone through divorces. Now, the 'D' word may be taboo in many of our SBC churches - but it is not the unpardonable sin! In the cases of most of my friends, there were irreconcilable differences that prevented them from remaining together as spouses - but over the years, they have worked out their differences and have been able to mend friendships with each other. Here's the catch, though ... even though they have been able to forgive each other - friends, aquantances, ministerial leaders and others STILL hold the divorce against one or both of them!

How ridiculous is that!! I mean - if the two parties involved can forgive and move on - the rest of the world needs to get-a-grip and let it go! Life is too short and precious to 'black-ball' someone because of mistakes they have made. We need to cherish the friendships that God has given us - and realize that He is still on His throne, and is still in control.

Let's make it a goal in 2009 to mend relationships, reconcile differences and move forward with the Great Commission. As the old saying goes, "It's impossible to move forward if we keep looking in the rear view mirror."