Friday, May 24, 2013

Honoring Our Dead

As we move to the hallowed ceremony in honoring our soldiers that have fallen or left us on earth to remember them, my heart rate always quickens for it is a wonderful time to reflect.  The link is the changing of the guard at Arlington which bring chills each time I stand and watch that.  In 2013, I find myself growingly concerned that fewer Americans feel that swell of passion for patriotism that wrapped us as children as we pledged the flag. 
Having worn the Uniform for several years and having lost many friends during that time, my heart swells with pride when my mind goes back to those days.  We will honor the dead at our church Sunday and I will cry even trying not to but each tear is a tribute to the many I knew and those I did not know. We will have many WWII veterans in attendance Sunday and I will try to shake every hand and salute each one thanking them.  I do that now routinely anywhere I am with whoever I am with for it is a blessing to me.
Do we respect our nation enough to honor it and its uniformed warriors?  Yes but I cannot help but believe that proportion of the population is now much lower than just a few years ago.  I am still a strong proponent of a mandatory military draft that should every American young person, male or female, to serve out nation in uniform for two or three years. The all volunteer military is a great thing but I believe those that enjoy the treasure of our nation should have to serve that nation in some way.
As we see the flags Sunday, see the old guys wearing uniforms now too small; thank each of them. I wish, now, I could have known more about my father and his service so I could have appreciated his service more and thanked him.  For those of you that still have your fathers or grand fathers that served, talk to them, question them, get this to talk about it. I love to sit with the old veterans and chat for they now love to talk about the days as they remember them. What a blessing!
Find a veteran and honor him or her!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Joy of Summer

I love my home for I get to look through a whole back wall of glass to see into a wetland and witness the amazing shifts in growth and coloration of God's creation.  Barren in Winter, shoots of buds and greens in the Spring, beautiful colors of orange and red in the Fall and full greens and whites in the Summer. I am simply amazed at the level of enjoyment I find myself basking in as I read my Bible each morning to look up and see what portrait has been painted for me. And then at times a bonus of squirrels or deer grazing and armies of cardinals and robins stopping by the Williams Bird Feeder Restaurant is only condiment to the beauty of God's Creation.  It is breathtaking and I realize that I have rarely ever taken the time to ingest the beauty of our world.
But then reality returns as I click on CNN, read my Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time and the Economist and then pick up the local newspaper and read all the not good stuff that tarnishes the natural beauty I have been bathed in.  Killings, robberies, home invasions, rapes, drug overdose, corruption, divorce, abortion seem to flood over the awe inspiring beauty of my early morning time with God and His Creation.  So then comes the crossroad for the day; dull, dank news that concerns me all day long or casting off the chains of that bad and enjoying the joy of this thing called life. Which road do I take?  You know, life really is boiled down to that decision isn't it?
This is a been a beautiful, busy, wonderful weekend as we are getting to keep our son's three children for a few days.  It is my son I wish to focus on this morning in my blog. My son, Taylor, reminds me so much of myself in his drive, focus and leadership and yet he is colored by his mother's sensitivities and servant heart.  As a pastor of a growing church, young family, husband, actively involved in his neighborhood and community, has been additional embarked on earning his PhD as well as serving as a mentor to young pastors at a national level.  Yes, like his dad, always a very busy, event filled life.
Tomorrow is a major milestone in Taylor's life, thus all our lives, as he sits to defend his dissertation for his doctorate. We have all been invested in this work for months as he has worked tirelessly to bring it together via research, assessments, interviews, writes and rewrites. It is a good paper! But reality is that it is not our thoughts that matter but the board of professors that he will sit with to be prepared to parry with the board on the logic and context of the paper and the strategies for the writing and a clear articulation of the meaning and implication of his dissertation.  I realize, as well, it is quite normal in academia for a rejection in this earlier stage gate of the dissertation process and thus the ever present concern of rejection, rework, etc. 
As you read this I am asking that you commit at 10 am tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21, to pray for God's  Will to be done as Taylor puts to words and thought his heart and his passion for young pastors integrated into his research and work. We are praying not for the time to be easy but that God would give him confidence, calm and a sense of joy as he explains his heart mirrored in his written work. I remember so very well going through that same process for my MBA for four hours and even though it went well, I completely ruined a brand new suit with sweat from nerves; quite normal!  This tomorrow is a big deal in our family for so many in my son's life and family have been invested in this journey with Taylor.  I want to thank you in advance for remembering this time tomorrow, please.
Enjoy this day to the fullest.  Tonight we get to come together as a family at another grandson's baseball game which I will enjoy knowing the "herd" is together once more. Sure, there will be ice cream involved as  reward but what a blessing.  Thank you God for your blessings on me!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Life Moves Forward

Good morning after far too long.  I have been in email transition mode and it has not flowed smoothly but I am here on this rainy Saturday morning.  Much has unfolded just in the last two weeks with much more still before me over the next 72 hours; I love that if you know me! 
The world continues to illustrate the immeasurable depths of depravity that Man can find that leaves us in a state of disbelief and anger with the Cleveland kidnappings story as example. The Boston Bombings are almost now disappearing in the mist of history as more tasty morsels of awful are served up for the cameras.  When will it stop we find ourselves uttering but the answer, there is no stopping point less a relationship with God I have realized more and more as my years race by even more quickly.
Since my last blog there have been several deaths in my world from ages 32 to 92. During that time we have seen the Benghazi debacle come back to political life in each side of the aisle trying to attack the other while our nation continues its debt addiction.  We see the decay in our mores as our society seems daily to become less and less stable.  We watch in anguish at it all asking ourselves questions about why and how and how much. But with all of this garbage, songs continues to come to me that takes the stench away. Songs like .. I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today. I know that He is living, no matter when men may say. I see His Hand of mercy. I hear His Voice of cheer. And just the time I need Him, He is always near. He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He Lives, He Live. You ask me how I know He Lives .... ready? He LIVES WITHIN MY HEART!
I think our world needs a great dose of clear, unabated knowledge and reminder that we do serve a God that loves us with a love not a single one of us deserves as evidenced by the headlines.  Never forget that what we are seeing in the news is many times only a coating of what is really going on. 
Last night during one of the jail services, this young inmate was distracting the process of the worship service for the others with argumentative-toned outpouring of questions about "what is the cross," or "how can Jesus be God's child and still be God Himself", etc, etc which was disrupting the sermon by our speaker.  I found myself tensing up and actually wanting to lash out at the interference but then realized, if they do not ask, then how will they ever know.  I felt, in retrospect of this morning, that the questions and the tone were coming from an inquisitive, totally unchurched, angry young man in jail from a crime I do know anything about, a life I know nothing about facing a future we cannot predict.  It is people like that that illustrate why we do jail ministry so I was lifted by the way the service ended as I sang THE OLD RUGGED CROSS with all the men gathered around me as we looked at the symbols of the cross on the wall behind me; it was a moment!
Today we go to the funeral of a great friend and one of our pastors. Our pastor's brother was killed last Saturday in a terrible crain accident and his brother, our pastor, will preach the funeral service today. Much prayer has been lifted for Pastor Jake and his family as most of his brother's family are not Christian facing the pain and horrors of such an unexpected death a few days ago. It is all just so tragic. But it amplifies the mandate to always be ready to leave this world to spend eternity in Heaven or Hell and yes, that is a choice each of us must make.
I will close by almost apologizing for the tone of my blog but please know, I am so very happy on the avenues of my life.  The health is good; a gift.  I had many former students graduate with their degree from Kent State last evening with many messages from them with some very kind and humbling remembrances of our time together; what a blessing to me! 
Please know I am glad to be back up operationally so we can communicate more routinely.  I covet your prayers as there is much singing today, tomorrow and Monday as I sing for the funeral of a dear friend now resting with the Lord. Pray for his two daughters as they wrestle with losing their dad that loved them both so very much. Dave Smith was a great friend and a man I grew to love dearly and am so honored to get to be part of his funeral.
Thank you for your friendship; I have our linkage electronically.  God just keeps getting better I find!!!