Help Us Help Others

Help Us Help Others
Chaplaincy Clark County

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Get out of the boat

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I was driving to the YMCA this morning, as I was driving I was listening to the radio.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend who had recently bought a car, he is an avid motorcyclist and didn’t even have a car for years. I asked him, “How do you like the car?” He said, “It’s warm!”

So I am driving along listening to some station that was on the radio when I got in the car this morning. They were talking about sandwiches, more aptly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They talked about crunchy or smooth, debating the pros and cons of each. They talked about jelly verses jam, debating the pros and cons of each. The topic of preserves came up and threw everyone for a loop for a while.

I am driving along thinking my own thoughts with half an ear tuned to the radio. After about twenty minutes I came out of my thought and started listening to the radio fully. This is when I realized that I was listening to utter nonsense. That in my unintentional state of being I had been listening to a group of people who had nothing better to talk about than the differences between chunky and smooth peanut butter. When they went off on a debate over miracle whip and mayonnaise, with arose after someone said that they like to put mayonnaise on their peanut butter sandwich, I turned off the radio.

I like being intentional.

I like being a chaplain.

I like being a conduit that Jesus can use to have conversations with people who for whatever reason never or at least seldom walk through the doors of a church.

I like working with people, getting them to see their God given potential.

I like being a chaplain in the YMCA.

I like seeing people learn to be great.

My sadness comes when someone says, “I’m good to go. I don’t need the YMCA, church or Jesus.”

Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, makes the following observation.
Good is the enemy of great.

If someone never takes that hard look at themselves they may never go from good to great.

John Ortberg laments the following in his book, If you want to walk on water you’ve got to GET OUT OF THE BOAT.

To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed,
Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed –
Until weeks become months
And months turn to years,
And one day you’re looking back on a life of
Deep intimate gut-wrenching honest conversations you never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered
Lives you never touched,
And you’re sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,
And forgotten dreams,
And you realize there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself –
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling.
You never got out of the boat.
[1]John Ortberg, If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to GET OUT OF THE BOAT, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 34.

My prayer today is that we spend less time talking about peanut butter sandwiches and more time talking about things that truly matter. That we spend less time thinking about things that at the end of the day are really trivial and more time thinking about the things that are truly important. That our hearts are turned toward love and unity and away from anger and dissent; that we have the courage to get out of the boat.

When I asked my friend what he liked about his car I am glad he didn't say the radio.

Blessings,

Roger

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The case of the missing boom box

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

A boom box went missing the other day.

I found out about it as I went into the person’s office and she was complaining that somebody took her boom box. It was in her office when she left on Friday but was missing when she came back on Monday. Needless to say she was pretty upset. She wanted to know who took her stuff.

The funny thing about “stuff” is that we get attached to it. When “stuff” goes missing we wonder two things: one-where it went and two-who might have taken it. We go to great detail as to “why” someone would take our stuff.

As she lamented the loss of her boom box I said, “We live in a broken world.” She said, “Roger, that doesn’t help.” I said, “I know.” So often we try to ultra spiritualizing something and offering someone no real help often times inadvertently hurting them even more. To push her buttons a little more I said, “Maybe they needed the boom box more than you.” She said, “That doesn’t help either.” I said, “I know.” She said, “I just want to know where my boom box is and why someone would take it.”

So the hunt was on.

At first the thought of a practical joke crossed our minds. When after a time no one returned the boom box the idea of a joke had passed.

We looked up and down but to no avail.

Two days go by.

It was Wednesday afternoon and I was walking through the YMCA and there on top of the sound equipment in one of the studios was a boom box that looked exactly like the one that had been missing. An instructor was teaching a class and the music was playing. I went to get my friend who had lost her boom box.

She looked in the studio and sure enough that was her boom box.

She turned and started walking back to her office smiling.

I said, “Aren’t you going to get your boom box?”
She said, “No they are using it.”

I said, “We live in a broken world.” And smiled at her.

Suddenly she realized that when I said that two days ago I wasn’t lamenting over the brokenness of everyone else in the world. I was making an observation that her perceived need for her “stuff” had taken her to a place of anger and anguish; that even though someone took her boom box without asking or at least leaving her a note that she was placing a lot of value on something that could break or be gone in an instant.

True happiness doesn’t come from the things we own.

True happiness comes from the things we share.

She wasn’t there the Saturday that the sound equipment failed and a group exercise instructor was scrambling to find something that would work for a class. That is why the boom box went missing. In her haste she forgot to leave a note and then forgot to leave a note after the class.

It was fun to see her smile!

Matthew 6:19-2119 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Blessings,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baritones and violins

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

When I was in the fourth grade my parents took me to band night at my school; band night is where all the instruments are laid out to look at and hear. The band teacher was there and played a number of instruments so that we could listen to them and see which one touched our hearts and captured our souls. This was where I learned what an Oboe was. I sat there not really interested, my parents made me go, and listened. Nothing really hit and I was growing impatient. I was growing impatient until I heard the most beautiful thing that I ever heard; a violin. I immediately knew what instrument I wanted to play. I leaned over to my dad and said, “I want to play the violin.” My dad leaned over to me and said, “You’re going to play the baritone.” I asked, “Why?” Dad said, “We already have a baritone at home and violins are expensive.”

So I played the baritone.

I would go to band practice and listen to the violin sing. All I got to do was boom, boom, boom, the melodic rhythm of the bass section.

I didn’t play the baritone very long.

I played sports.

I always told myself that when I grow up I am going to buy a violin and play it!

I ended up being kind of good at football, good enough to play it in college anyway. So I did. I played wide receiver and defensive back. The funny thing about these two positions is that you get your fingers jammed a lot; you get your fingers broken at times. I liked playing football; I didn’t like the jammed and broken fingers very much.

Time goes by.

I grow up; I get a job and yes I buy a violin.

The day I brought the violin home was a great day. I took it out of the case, placed the violin under my chin and griped the neck. It was then that I realized that I could not bend my fingers around the neck to press the strings. My fingers didn’t work the way they used to.
It was a sad day.

I placed my violin in a place of prominence, a place where I could at least look at it and see its beauty.

A place where it could collect dust.

I was talking with a friend the other day and they were looking in pawn shops for a violin for their daughter. They were not having any luck. They were getting frustrated.

As I listened to my friend talk I realized that as beautiful as my violin was its true beauty came from the music it made.

A violin is meant to be played, not looked at.

I gave my friend my violin.

They were very thankful, they kept telling me what a blessing I was.

What they didn’t realize is how they have blessed me.

In my mind I can hear their daughter playing that violin. I can hear it sing.

Christ’s love comes to mind.

He could have kept His love to Himself, but He didn’t.

He could have kept it on a shelf, but he didn’t

He gave it away, He gets to hear it sing.

The blessing of giving.

Blessings,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lasagna and Corn dogs

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

The sun is shining and the day is warm.

At church on Sunday one of our members mentioned that it was the first day in over two hundred days that had any measurable sunshine. He made the observation, “I am not sure how you measure sunshine.”

Two hundred days is a long time, over six months. Actually in the course of a lifetime it isn’t that long but it can sure feel like a long time when you are going through it.

The “two hundred days without any measurable sunshine” thing got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about the statement, “this too shall pass.” We tend to live in the moment and we do have a hard time looking forward to the things to come; especially when the “things to come” are out in front of us a ways.

I can remember when we were in the midst of the rain the weather people would say things like, “Well, today is rainy, the three day forecast is rain. But Friday looks dry. I would excited about Friday. I would look forward to Friday.

I would get up Friday morning and look outside and expect to see the sun only to see rain continuing to fall. I would turn on the news and the weather people would say, “Today is rainy, the three day forecast is rain. But Tuesday looks dry.” Only to have the same thing repeat itself on Tuesday. This would go on and on and on and as I mentioned earlier it went on for something like two hundred days.

I got to the point where I wished that the weather people would just predict rain and if the sun happened to come out I would have a nice surprise. I started to connect the “predictions” to my wife’s lasagna. I love my wife’s lasagna, this is one reason why my old pants don’t quite fit anymore. These predictions were like me asking my wife what we were going to have for dinner and she would say Lasagna. I would work all day all excited about having lasagna for dinner. When I would get home she decided to make corn dogs instead. Now I have to confess that my wife never traded lasagna for corn dogs but that is what I think it would feel like. I am glad that my wife is not a weather person.

Back to the point Roger. While it may seem that whenever we are going through a tough time it seems that it will never end, it will. While it may seem as if the hurt will never end, it will.

It will if we allow Christ to comfort us, to turn and look at Him, He can and will heal us. He will hold us in His arms and whisper in our ear, “This too shall pass.”


I know that I have used this passage before but it fits very well:
Jeremiah 29:11 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

If you are going through a “rainy” season in life know that the sun will come out again.

Blessings,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paper or Plastic?

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

Paper or plastic?

I found myself at the store the other day and I am standing in line waiting. It seems as though I have the uncanny gift to go to the store when it is at its busiest. I like to joke with my wife that I don’t know how everyone knows when I’m going to be at the store. I live in a small town and it seems that every time I go to the store I run into a variety of people that want to talk. Many times the conversation surrounds kids, family, the weather. Often times they ask me to pray and share times of difficulty with me.

So I am standing in line waiting, and I look around and this is what I see. I see moms with their kids. I see dads with their kids.

I am standing in line waiting, and this is what I don’t see. I don’t see moms and dads with their kids.

I begin to take a closer look.

I don’t see the rings on the fingers anymore; something has changed in the dynamic of some of the families. Not everyone at once mind you, but every time I go to the store I notice something amiss.

I am reminded of a book that I once read, “Those that stayed behind.” It is a book about the depression. It is a book about the dustbowl. It is a book very unlike the “The Grapes of Wrath.” It is a book about the people that didn’t go away. It is a book about the ones that stayed behind.

While the depression and resulting catastrophes that it caused to society and to families was a terrible thing, there are many lessons that we can take from it. One lesson is that know matter how bad things may get or how unhappy one may become we are not alone. There are people that still count on them. There are people that love them.

I’m not talking about people living in abuse. I’m talking about people that give up on people. I’m talking about people that start seeing greener pastures, or so they think, and decide that they will leave. I am talking about people that have made a mistake and can’t forgive themselves so they assume the person that they have wronged can’t forgive them and they leave.

Paper or plastic?

We live in a throw away society. We live in a time or recycle. We live in a time were when we are done with it we recycle it back or simply throw it away.

Recycling is good when it comes to paper or plastic. It isn’t so good when it comes to people and families.

Many have been recycled, many have been thrown away.

In the midst of being recycled there is nothing that anyone can say that will make a recycled person feel better. Every piece of advice seems trite. The best that we can do is just stand with this person and be there for them. The act of praying with them gives them a sense of peace and that they are loved.

There are a couple of verses that seem to help. One is Joshua 1:5 “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Just knowing that no matter what God is with you and will never leave you gives you a place to go to lament. The other is Jeremiah 29:11 “11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Remembering that when Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews into captivity there were many that were just everyday Jews that had kept His word and loved Him that were taken with all the rest. They must have been saying, “Why me, what did I do?” knowing that God was telling the people that had been taken into captivity that He is there with them and that better days are ahead is a comfort.

Paper or plastic?

Being recycled is a challenge. But a very wise person once said, “It isn’t the challenge that defines you. It is your response to the challenge that defines you."

Will you let darkness win? Will you dwell on evil thoughts, on how to get even?

or

Will you let light win? Will you set your mind on the things above:
Colossians 3:1 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Just remember that Christ loves you, will you love Him back?

Or in the midst of your pain have you recycled Christ?

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Woodpeckers, muffins and the soul

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I was up early this morning sitting outside in my favorite chair. Abe, my dog, and Mattie, my cat, were sitting with me. I was just sitting there, wasting time with God, thinking about my new grandchild and talking with God. Abe was lying in the grass and Mattie was busy scratching on her favorite tree. The morning was quiet and the air was fresh. I was wondering what I would write about this morning. I had lots of thoughts but nothing that was really hitting me. Then the quiet was broken by pecking sounds.

Peck, peck, peck…I looked around for the source of the sound and after awhile I spotted a woodpecker up in one of the trees, pecking along, peck, peck, peck…I was watching this woodpecker and as I watched I began to be thankful that I am not a woodpecker. Here this woodpecker is, beating its head against a tree. Why is it beating its head against a tree? Because it knows that there is a tree grub under the bark and it is pecking along so that it can get its breakfast.

I began to think how horrible that would be. I began to imagine that instead of going to the cupboard or refrigerator to get my breakfast I would instead have to take a pick and start picking at the cement until I unearthed a muffin. And I would have to do this until I found enough muffins to sustain me for the day. The only thing that I would have to look forward to is pick, pick, picking at the cement again tomorrow for more muffins.

I had been watching the Natural Geographic Channel, I like the National Geographic Channel, and from watching this channel I know that woodpeckers are specially adapted for pecking trees. They have developed a cushion between their beak and their skulls to soften the impact that pecking, or in other words, beating their heads against a tree, against their brains. The funny thing about adaptation; it doesn’t happen over night, adaptation takes a while. I began to imagine the first woodpeckers finding bugs to eat under bark. It must have hurt to do this but the bugs were so good to eat that they kept at it until eventually they developed a cushion to soften the blow.

I began to think about Del and Suzanne who recently came back from Africa, they work on clean water projects. They told us about how these village people would walk four hours in each direction to get “dirty” water, for this was the only water that was available. They would do this every day. At the end of every day the only thing that they had to look forward to was to walk four hours in each direction to get water. They too have adapted. Their feet are callused and their legs are strong.

As I sat in my favorite chair this morning I was struck by the fact that I don’t have to pick for my food, or walk for my water.

I began to think about adaptations.

How have I adapted, how have I built up calluses and such, to cushion the blows to my soul when I am confronted with the fact that I have a pretty easy life. I don’t have to worry about water, and I don’t have to pick for my breakfast.

My prayer for today is that I worry less about me and pray more for others.

I am reminded of something Jesus said:
Matthew 6:19-21 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The question that I am asking is, “Have we adapted to the point where our souls are cushioned from the pecking and picking from God, can we still feel His proddings?”

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A baby was born today

Good afternoon,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I baby was born today.

A little child of God came into this world.

Aurora was born this morning to a loving mother and a doting father. Laurie, my wife, and I got the call at 3:45am this morning from our son that they were in the hospital and to come right away. So we quickly got up and dressed. As we drove to the hospital we were very anxious and excited. We got there and waited.

Aurora came into this world a few hours later, and we were ushered in to the room to see our grandchild. Meagan and Brandon were all smiles and the love for their child was all over their faces.

They handed me my grandchild and as I held her I looked at her perfect little face and my love for this little being instantly going to the clouds my thoughts went to God and how He must look at us and how His love for us is even greater than we can ever imagine. But holding her I know that if His love is unimaginable, and feeling the amount of love that I have for her, the amount of love that God has for us is huge.

As I held her I found myself repeating some words that God has said to us; first told by Moses to the Hebrews when they were in the desert... “for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6. And then in a more personal way in Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5. I looked at her and prayed, I told her that I would never leave her nor forsake her. That I would watch over her and her parents.

As I think about this little child, this brand new baby I am reminded of the words of Paul:

“17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This baby is a new creation, but so are we.

I’m pretty tired, I think I will take a nap. Congratulations Brandon and Meagan

Blessings,

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

Well I am still here.

There was much hubbub and to-do about May 21st. Sunday morning came and I stood in the pulpit silent, with all eyes on me, the congregation waiting for me to say something. I looked over the congregation and said, “You will be glad to know that just in case I wasn’t raptured last night I did prepare a sermon.” Everyone laughed.

I have been thinking about Semiotics, actually I think about Semiotics a lot.

Semiotics is defined as:
Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or (in the Saussurean tradition) semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. Semiotics is often divided into three branches:
•Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata, or meaning
•Syntactics: Relations among signs in formal structures
•Pragmatics: Relation between signs and the effects they have on the people who use them

I try to look for God in the everydayness of life; I guess that is why I write these breads. I look for signs of Him and then talk about what I see.

I first saw the “end of the world billboard signs” a few months ago. It was shortly after I first saw them that people started talking about them. The billboard signs stated that the end of the world would come May 21st at 6:00pm. This never really affected me personally. My thought pattern went like this, “If Christ comes on May 21st at 6:00pm great. If somebody has figured this out (which scripturally I find troublesome) but if they had and Christ comes, fine I’m ready. And if May 21st comes and goes without His coming I am ok with that too. He is God and I am not. He will come when He is ready. That was and is my thought pattern on the Second Coming.

People really started talking about these billboard signs though, mostly negatively, making fun and calling people “stupid”.

I started to think of that Jim Carey movie, “Bruce Almighty” where he is standing on a road screaming to God that if He exists show him a sign, and all these road signs are flashing in front of him, a funny movie taken for what it is.

Anyway, time is ticking and May 21st is growing near, more and more people are talking about it. I began to wonder, “Why all the conversation? If you are not concerned about Jesus’ coming, if you are right with God and know of your salvation is secure or you don’t believe at all, why are you so busy talking about it?”

I began to think about the Old Testament prophets, like Amos, who came out of Judea and into Israel telling everyone to get right with God. Amos, like so many others was ridiculed and eventually “run out of town.” Funny thing about 3,000 years ago, they didn’t have cars so obviously they didn’t have billboards, no they had prophets.

May 21st comes and goes and here I am standing in front of a congregation preaching out of the book of Mark on the calling of the first disciples and the miracle of the catch. I am talking about how four men followed Jesus and became His disciples. The funny thing about this text is it starts with Jesus standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and there is a crowd of people crushing in on Him as He teaches. At the end of the text four fisherman follow Him after the miracle of the catch.
I talked about the billboard signs and how God uses things. With all the conversation surrounding the billboard signs it became obvious to me that people were affected. If people looked at these signs and were confronted with their own mortality and these signs caused them to wonder, this is a good thing. If people merely thought, “I don’t want to be left behind.” and started to wonder about Christ, then this is a good thing. We call these “day of visitation” moments; where they have been confronted with Christ. If people know Christ but start to think that maybe they haven’t been walking the right path and are “awakened” to a deeper understanding and desire to walk with Christ, then this is a good thing.

Semiotics, the study of signs and what they relate to; seeing God in the everydayness of life, sometimes it can be a billboard.

I will leave you with a funny story:
A pastor was holding a prayer meeting at a members house and it was a hot summer evening. All the windows were open, because it was hot. All the doors were open, because it was hot. The only doors shut were the screen doors, as they allowed the breeze to come through. Just as they started to pray a cat started scratching at the screen door, it was very distracting. As they prayed, the cat scratched and meowed. The pastor started to pray to God to quite the cat, the cat still scratched. The pastor prayed that the cat would go away, the cat still meowed. The pastor even prayed that something more devastating would happen to the cat, anything to shut it up. After the prayer ended conversation arose surrounding the cat. Everyone commented on how distracting the cat was during the prayer. At this point an elderly gentleman offered his opinion. He merely said, “I wonder what God was trying to tell us through the cat?”

Semiotics, the study of signs and what they relate to; seeing God in the everydayness of life, sometimes it can be a cat.

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Cat Diary

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.
Someone sent this to me a while ago, I can’t remember who, whoever it was, thank you.

The Cat's Diary:
Day 983 of my captivity.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Jerks!
There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage. Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.
I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now.

After reading this I was left with the thought, "Am I the cat or the dog?" Do I celebrate my life and live in the moment, practicing “The Presence of God” as Brother Lawrence would call it. Brother Lawrence once said, “I engaged in a religious life only for the love of God, and I have endeavored to act only for Him; whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least, that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. ”
Or is my life subject to a feeling of complete bondage.
As Martin Luther stated in “The Bondage of the Will.”
“Therefore, it cannot do what God or His grace wills. And why? because we have now separated the grace of God from it; and what the grace of God does not, is not good. And hence it follows, that free will, without the grace of God is, absolutely, not free; but, immutably, the servant and bond slave of evil; because, it cannot turn itself unto good. ”
Brother Lawrence goes on to say:
“All things are possible to him who believes, they are less difficult to him who hopes, they are easier to him who loves, and still more easy to him who practices and perseveres in these three virtues. ”
The cat is in need of God’s Grace; the dog has faith, hope and love.
When I first read this I thought, silly dog. As I dwelled on this I began to see the genius of the dog.
One last question, “Are you the cat or the dog?”

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Will you follow Jesus?

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I have been thinking about Peter lately, well really Jesus and Peter. I have been thinking how Peter responded to hearing the word and witnessing a miracle. I have been thinking about a lake, a crowd, some fish, a couple of boats, and four guys off to the side.

I have been thinking about Luke 5:1-11.

Luke 5:1-11 NIV Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, {1 That is, Sea of Galilee} with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God,
So here we have Jesus standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and He is preaching the word of God. And the people are crowding around Him listening. The crowd is pushing Jesus closer and closer to the water.

2 he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.
What is interesting at this point is that while there is a great crowd around Him, Peter (called Simon) his brother Andrew are not part of the crowd. They are off to the side a little bit washing and fixing their nets. They are listening but going about their work as they do so.

3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Jesus seeing that the crowd is pressing in on Him and pushing Him closer to the water sees a boat that is right there and calls to its owner, Simon, to take his boat and push it out a little from the shore. Now here we have Simon, not part of the main crowd sitting off to the side washing his nets. Jesus calls to him and asks him to stop what he is doing and man the boat for Him. I can just imagine Peter at this point. He is washing his nets, why? Because he has been fishing all night and he is at the end of his day and this Jesus guy requests that he stop what he is doing and come help Him. I can see Peter, who we all know had a bit of a temper, being just a little put off by this. I can imagine the following conversation between Jesus, Peter and Andrew. It would go something like this:
Jesus, looking toward Peter and Andrew: Hey is this your boat?
Peter: Yea, that’s my boat.
Jesus: Can you put your boat out a little from shore so I don’t get pushed into the sea by all these people?
Peter, thinking to himself: Doesn’t this guy see I’m busy? Do I look like I am just sitting here? I am working on my nets.
Peter to Andrew: Can you believe this guy?
Andrew: Peter haven’t you been listening to what He has been saying? Go put your boat out a little so we can listen to Him some more.
What is really cool here is that when Jesus gets into the boat and Peter puts it out a little from shore, Jesus has just made a pulpit to preach from.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down {4 The Greek verb is plural.} the nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.
Now this is a really fun conversation. Here we have Jesus telling Peter to go get his nets that he just got done fixing and cleaning, which by the way is quite a chore, take them and put them back into the water and fish. I can imagine Peter’s thoughts:
I don’t know what this guy is thinking? We have been fishing all night long and haven’t caught a thing. Do you know why we have been fishing all night long? Because that is when you catch fish! If you could catch them during the day I would be out fishing right now! Now this guy wants me to go put my nets out, which by the way I will have to clean again when we get done, not catching anything. Aren’t you a carpenter? What do you know about catching fish? I’m the expert here! Geez!! But you are saying some really amazing things, teaching what I have not heard before so I will go ahead and create all this extra work for myself just so you can prove whatever point is that you are trying to prove.
So Peter says: But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Can you imagine Peter’s surprise? Here he complies with Jesus’ request knowing all along that it will be a futile effort only to throw his nets over the side and have a catch of a lifetime. They never had a catch like that before. The catch was so huge that the nets began to break. The catch was so huge that they had to signal to the other boat and have them come help. The catch was so huge that they not only filled Peter’s boat but their partner’s boat as well. The catch was so huge that they not only filled both boats but filled them to the point of sinking. This is a huge catch!
I can imagine Peters thoughts as he did this.
Jesus: Throw you nets right here.
Peter, thinking: I have been fishing here all night and not one fish. Ok, I will.
Peter, saying to Jesus: I’ll throw my net here because you say so but I’m telling you there aren’t any fish here.
Jesus: smiles!
The nets begin to fill rapidly.
Peter: What the heck? Oh my gosh, look at all these fish! How did He know? They just keep coming, the nets are overfull, I think they are going to break! Hey James, John, come help me, the nets are breaking! I have never seen so many fish in my life!
Can you imagine the chaos?
These fishermen struggling with the nets. pulling nets, grabbing fish. The boats start filling up and becoming “overfull.” If you close your eyes you can see in your minds eye the excitement, men yelling and screaming, “Pull here, grab that one. My boats overfull put them in your boat. My boat is overfull to, we are starting to sink from all these fish.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
Why did I think that Peter had doubts? Why did I think that Peter was just going along with this fishing scheme and not believing it would come true? Because when it did come true Peter fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” Peter’s earlier thoughts betray him at this point and he is on his knees totally convicted of what he thought. He is on his knees, because now he knows he is in the presence of the Lord.

9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Not only was Peter amazed and convicted but so were James and John.

Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Jesus simply says to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” Peter, I am sure, doesn’t understand what Jesus is talking about but he does an amazing thing. He along with Andrew, James and John simply pull their boats up on the shore and leave everything. They left their boats, the nets that just a little while ago they were so dutifully cleaning and fixing, they left the greatest catch of fish that they ever caught and simply walked away.
They left everything, and followed Him.

When confronted with the miracle of the catch Peter, Andrew, James and John left their old lives and everything that they understood about their old lives and followed Jesus.
When we look at this text we must not forget that first they listened to His words; second they responded to His words before they even had an inkling of what would happen; third when they witnessed the miracle they didn’t try to rationalize it or somehow take credit for it. No, they saw it for what it was and were forever changed. We have been confronted with Christ in our lives. We have witnessed many miracles. The question is have we tried to rationalize these miracles, make them into something man has accomplished or will we be like Peter and simply see these miracles of Christ for what they are, miracles. And allow them to forever change us.
Will we leave all of our old stuff behind, just laying wherever we left it, and follow Christ?

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are you getting tired of Blackberries yet?

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

As I was writing yesterday’s bread thought life came to mind. This is what I was thinking.

When we started cutting back the Blackberries all we could see was this jumbled mess of vines and thorns, but as we cut them back other things started to emerge. We began to see little gifts that where buried by the vines and thorns.

I mentioned before that neighbors and community folk began to take notice of our work and stop by. Children came over and at first were just watching us and then began to help us in our/their project. They would help clear things, move things, and generally lift our spirits by just being there.

As patches of ground would come into the light for the first time in a long time we would find treasures that were lost long ago, nothing of real value, at least in the eyes of the adults; nothing of value if you are looking for gold and silver (earthly treasures). First an old football was released from it’s prison, then a soccer ball came into view, we found ten baseballs under the thorns and the vines.

The kids looked at these gifts with wide eyes and amazement. They started to play with the balls. They were reveling in the sheer enjoyment of finding things that were once lost and now are found. I started watching these kids that were having a wonderful time “playing.”

Thought life can be like these Blackberry bushes. A negative thought can emerge, small enough in the beginning. It can grow, taking over small parts of the garden that is your mind, never realizing that it is encroaching on your other thoughts. Left unchecked these earthly thoughts can and will take over your entire minds garden. They can overgrow and bury your good thoughts, the ones you treasure, imprisoning them until they become out of sight. You’ve heard the term, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Hmm.

The beautiful thing about weeding is that once you have cut away all the thorns and trimmed the plants so that they are working with you, not against you, you begin to see things differently. You begin to see the beauty that God intended you to see. Cutting back the Blackberries allowed me to see the joy of a child’s play, the smile on their face, hear the laughter in their voice. When we began cutting we didn’t know what we would find, and frankly we didn’t “think” too much about it. It is truly amazing what God can reveal when we cut back our weeds in our minds garden.

I am reminded of something Martin Luther once said, he said:
“Thoughts are like birds. You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can sure keep it from making a nest in you hair.”

You may not be able to keep a fleeting thought from entering your head, but you sure can keep it from taking root and growing.

This brings me to Paul who said:
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Thought life, are we weeding our garden?

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blackberries and a Sabbath, just what do they have in common?

Blackberries and a Sabbath, just what do they have in common?

I mentioned yesterday that we, our church had created a community garden on the church property. We have been working very hard to create a space where people can come, not only to garden, but also enjoy one another’s company and connect with one another in a place that is relaxing, peaceful, allowing us to interact with our community in a positive manner that gives birth to the opportunity for a “Thin spot” to God. A place where one can slow down and just enjoy God’s creation and commune together as a family with Christ as the head. So we have been working hard transforming an unused, overgrown, weed chocked, part of the property into a place of tranquility.

Anyway, my job was to get the blackberry bushes under control. Blackberry bushes are amazing plants. They, when cultivated and pruned are beautiful things. They provide wonderful, sweet, juicy berries that can be eaten right off the vine or collected and made into wonderful pies, cakes, ice cream toppings…but left untended can and will become unruly, out of control plants that will take over any property that they happen to grow in. thought life comes to mind as I write this and will most likely bring on another bread later.

I was excited to work on the Blackberry bushes. Not because I love to grab vines with thorns on them, not because I love to have the thorns grab every part of my clothing and pull against me. No, I was excited because I could see in my minds eye the finished product. I could envision a place where families could come and pick berries, enjoying the fruit of the vine, so to speak. I with the help of a couple of other guys dove right into our “project” and we were “kicking” these vines. We had machetes and clippers. At first we were really making progress and while the work was hard we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. But as the day progressed we became more and more tired. Our work got sloppy and our enthusiasm waned. The thought of needing a break first came as a fleeting thought and as time went by taking a break was all we could think about. I started to dwell on taking a break. I wasn’t so excited about the Blackberries anymore. I kept going even though this work wasn’t all that exciting anymore; the Blackberries that in the beginning we where “kicking” began to “kick” us. We weren’t doing our best work at the end; we were just doing the job.

I began to think about ministry.

I began to think how ministry and pulling Blackberry bushes are a lot alike.

In the beginning ministry is a real hoot. The work is hard but you can see the end product and so your excitement is evident to everyone. But ministry, like Blackberry bushes can be a never ending job. There is always something else to do, someone that needs you. The temptation to keep going even after your enthusiasm has waned can be overwhelming. Pretty soon you no longer enjoy what you are doing, not because you don’t believe in it but because you are so tired. You need a break.

Taking a Sabbath.
God, tells us of the importants of taking a Sabbath. We need to rest. We need to take breaks. We need to rejuvenate so that we can present our best selves.

There is an old saying; “People can tell when you love your job, and they can really tell when you don’t!”

When we get so wrapped up in our ministries that we don’t take a Sabbath we are not only hurting ourselves we are hurting others.

Don’t allow ministry to “kick” you.

The importance of a Sabbath.

Something to think about.

Blessings,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Family vs. Fellowship

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

“I’m not much for going to church, but when I think of fellowship this is it.”

We were working out in the community garden at our church on Saturday, there was about twenty of us, and a neighbor that lives across the street came up to me and made this statement.

We were all working hard, pulling blackberry bushes, which I have been thinking about lately and will write about later, making planting beds, mowing and weedwacking the church grounds, building a rabbit fence for the garden (in an attempt to keep Peter Rabbit out of Mister McGregor’s garden) and having a lot of fun being together. We had no idea that “people” were watching us, and it got me to thinking.

Fellowship vs. Family:

The church doesn’t have a corner on the market for fellowship anymore. There was a time when I was growing up that the church was “the place to go” for community events and to congregate as a group, sound familiar? There was a time when extracurricular activities were scheduled around the church. The church was known as the place for fellowship. Not anymore, we can go to Starbucks and be with a group of people, we can go to a ballgame and be with a group of people. We can go any number of places and fellowship.

But family now that is a different matter.

Church still has the corner on the market for family.

The difference between family and fellowship is family loves you and you love family. The church is the place to go to find a group of people that will truly care about you and give you the opportunity to care back. Just try to go to Starbucks and share a burden with the group there and see how many people offer their help. Try not showing up for a “Tuesday coffee” and see how many people give you a call to see if you are alright and tell you that they missed you. Try not showing up to church, you will get a call. Share a burden in church and you will get help, that’s family.

Social media is full of people “trying to connect,” one even calls it “friending.”

We go to places where people are because we get lonely, this is a lonely world. In the midst of the sea of humanity somehow we have managed to become isolated and we are people that need the company of people.

We, churchy people, love others because Jesus loved us first before we even loved Him, and because of His love and our love of Him we are able to love those that don’t love us or know us yet. If you are looking for a place to connect, a place to belong, wouldn’t it be nice to belong to a place where the people will really take an interest in you and love you, giving you the chance to love them? I will even make you coffee!

A note about our neighbor across the street.

He took the time to walk over, share his thoughts and helped us mow the lawn. He even brought over his pickup truck so that we could haul off the blackberry vines. He isn’t much for church but he wants to be part of us. He even said, “If you need anything just let me know I want to help.” He is part of our family.


Something to think about.

Blessings,