Anticipating Graduation

We have had a beautiful ornamental shrub in the front of our house that has played a prominent role in every graduation we have celebrated over the past 28 years. The delicate, purple-colored petals of this rhododendron have been the backdrop to many photos during the latter weeks of May. Annually, it has bloomed at the perfect time for us to celebrate elementary, secondary, and college graduations! Although they won't be around to get that special picture, we do have two special grandsons - Brady and Ben - who will be celebrating their 8th grade graduations in the next few days and their passage into high school this fall. Oh, how those years have passed so quickly!

And there are more celebrations coming! I said to our grand daughter, Chloe, just the other day, "Sweet Girl, someday, you will be standing before the 'ole rhodie' mugging for the camera in all your youthful beauty as we mark for all-time the accomplishments represented by your graduation." While I w…

"Have Faith that God is Leading!"

Actor Gary Sinise has a new book out entitled, Grateful American: Journey from Self to Service. This autobiographical work tells the story how a reaction to a national threat and tragedy helped to shape this popular actor into an advocate for the men and women of our military who give their lives every day to protect our freedoms around the globe. In this book, Sinise reflects on his dad's health challenges and how it brought back to mind some things he had learned from attending church over the years. It was a recapitulation and paraphrase of the great promise of Romans 8:28 that "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (CSB).

In those near-death reflections of almost losing his dad, Gary Sinise has said, "We have a purpose in life, and if we're serving God, following him, living out God's purposes for our life, then we can have faith that God is leading us, and even difficult times …

The Danger of Self-Effort!

"Live Free or Die" is a popular series featured on Nat Geo. It is about a collection of individuals who have chosen to live a wilderness and austere lifestyle off of the land. These people are scattered throughout different parts of the country like North Carolina, Arizona, Louisiana and Washington. They are fiercely independent, self-motivated individuals who have chosen a solo-like lifestyle because of the freedom they have to live it anyway they like without interference from others. They think that if they succeed they have reached their highest dreams and aspirations, but they also know the risks of danger, deprivation and even death if they do not achieve their goals.

In a recent episode, a title page came up on the screen with a curious and somewhat humorous quote that was anonymously cited. The maxim simply stated, "The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm!" I immediately chuckled and thought about how appropriate this phrase is f…

Get Busy Living!

We just finished a rather depressing 6-week study of Ecclesiastes in our adult Bible study groups. Some say, Solomon with all his wisdom, possessions and power seems to be "in a funk" about life while others say he was just advising younger people about how to avoid some of the mistakes he had made and was warning them to always keep God "in the equation" of life. I think his purpose reflects a little of both. He is vindicated by the critics of his depressive tone when he concludes in the final chapter that what is required for a full and meaningful life is to simply, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:13, ESV).

I saw an interesting license plate on the way into town recently. It was a shortened version of a two-word maxim - "Busy Living." I like the word "busy" and since retiring that is precisely what I have tried to be. It makes me feel productive with my life when I am working on several &qu…

Upgrading Storage Issues

Vocabulary has changed over the years with our advancing technological culture and the use of cloud-based storage for our digital data. My son-in-law, Reece, works for a major computer chip company that utilizes their expertise in the development and maintenance of server farms to manage cloud-based storage. When looking at the super-sized buildings out by the St. Louis airport that are devoted to aeronautical manufacturing, he commented, "We have server farms the size of that facility!"

I have been learning some new video film-editing skills with the help of my oldest grandson, Brady. He gave me a tutorial session recently to show me how to edit the Sunday sermon recording that we upload to our church website. I will not soon forget his frequent counsel that morning as he said, "Remember, Poppi, don't go rogue! Read your paper instructions first!" With apology, I simply explained, "I was only trying to impress you!" To which he politely stated in his…

Time for Spring Cleaning!

This is the season of Lent for churches following the Christian calendar. Our church has been participating in a version of Lent for several years now. There have been times in the past when a guest speaker was invited to lead in revival services for a few days. On most occasions, the pastor has preached special messages on personal renewal to encourage humility, repentance, and selfless service for others during the weeks leading up to Easter.

Again this year, we have plans to commemorate the Lord's death on the cross with a Maundy Thursday "Service of Darkness" and observe the Lord's Supper. And of course, we will be rejoicing in the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday morning as worshipers share the Paschal greeting and acclamation, "Christ is risen! He's risen indeed!" These Easter practices are like a spiritual spring cleaning!

My Mother practiced another kind of spring cleaning. It was the literal seasonal spring exercise of mattress airing, deep vacuum…

Doubts About Serving?

Our church is getting ready to begin a new season of leader enlistment and development. We plan once again this spring to conduct a workshop called Design 1.2.3. This involves matching the gifts of potential leaders with a place of meaningful service. Letters are sent out to several individuals that the Nominating Team may consider new to the church, on the fringe of involvement, or otherwise underutilized. In many instances, these individuals are ready and even eager to serve the church in some capacity, but have not been asked and trained for service. Design 1.2.3. is simply the first step in the process of ministry deployment.

In the invitation letter to these potential servant leaders or mentees, we indicate what we plan to accomplish during a couple of hours on a selected Saturday morning. In the first hour, we give out a self-scoring gift inventory that identifies what the individual is interested in as well as any demonstrated skills that could match with a particular area of s…