Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snow Day- Oh Wait, It's Saturday




Well kids, sorry, it snowed enough to possibly close the schools but it is Saturday. A quite beautiful snow storm hit early this morning and it continues now. Hopefully all of you are enjoying the amazing beauty that is snow. If you are unable to sit by a fire today and stay warm with family and friends, please drive slow and take care of yourself. I walked among the snow this morning and I experienced a quiet that many of us usually ignore. I always forget that in a snow like this that it becomes very quiet. The regular sounds of cars, trucks and construction around us is greatly diminished by the snow. I took a few pictures to capture the wonder of the day. Psalm 46 says- "Be still, and know that I am God". Are you still today? Spend a few moments this day with the tv off, in the quiet and know that He is God. Go in peace and go with God.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Led by the Spirit

The other day a person I had not thought of in a long while came to mind. I felt a concern for them. I did not know why I was feeling this way, but I knew some action was needed. I inquired about the person to discover a great struggle in their life. Yes, indeed, they were in need of help, prayer and conversation. This happens more times than I care to admit. A few times the feeling or thought is lost due to the busy day. But on a somewhat regular basis, I have learned to listen to the Spirit. It's a prompting. When our hearts are open and willing to listen, God speaks to us in quiet moments of the day. Only once was the prompting not received well by the person I contacted, but that is another story.
Are you listening? It is not random. God is constantly working for the good of those who love Him. If you need to talk, give someone a call. If you feel that someone needs prayers, pray for them. It never hurts to check in on someone that God has placed on your heart. Remember, there are people who right now feel alone. They feel that the world is against them and they have no where to turn. Check in on those whom call you a friend. Go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thank You

You are always around, it seems. Faithful to the church. Faithful to your purpose. Without question or request, you show up. Your presence is a blessing. This church is growing, vibrant and healthy because you are here. Thank you. I know we don't say it enough. None of us probably does a great job at saying thank you. Several months ago I sat down and started writing thank you cards for everyone who had helped with a service. After twenty cards, well my hand was tired and I was out of cards. I did press on though. There are so many faithful people who help every week. Our choir, our praise team, the sound techs, video people, ushers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, staff, drama team and the band. So, thank you to everyone who helps on Sunday morning. Your presence and efforts have not been taken for granted. If you have ever felt that way, I am deeply sorry. Thank you for helping us move to a place of healthiness and vitality. May God continue to bless you and His church. Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faithfulness

Just when I think problems are too big to overcome on my own, there He is to help me through. I cannot count the number of times that God has helped me through a difficult situation. Countless times when I turn a difficult situation over to God, I move toward God in an act of faithfulness the problem seems to be resolved. Sadly, many of us forget God's efforts on our behalf. A blessing happens one day and we forget by the next. Hold onto those blessings. Receive them and enjoy them. As we begin our Lenten journey today, spend your day in prayer, seeking to be faithful to God. If you have been struggling with problem, turn it over to Him. As for guidance and help. Ask the Lord, "what would you have me do?"
No matter how big the problem, He is here.
No matter how scared you are, He is here.
No matter how long you have been dealing with it, He is here.
Pray. Pray. Pray. Surrender. Submit. Humble yourself.
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

So today is what is traditionally known as Mardi Gras. It means "Fat Tuesday". As we begin Lent (time of prayer and fasting in readiness to celebrate Easter) on Ash Wednesday many people of many cultures celebrate the day before, the week before or even months. They celebrate by doing the opposite of fasting, and that would be throwing a big party and doing things that probably are rather morally ambiguous. It used to be that it was a religious festival celebrating a time of preparation and it has now has turned into just another spring break. Some cities and states actually have declared it a holiday. The town shuts down and people have parades and festivals. While many of us consider what we are giving up for Lent, this is the last day to indulge in those things. So if you are giving up coffee, well, drink some coffee. If you are giving up eating at your favorite restaurant, then go eat there. If you have chosen to give up numerous other things as well, try and enjoy the day. Lent is not a time of saddness, no it's a time of prayerful fasting where we better identify with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Fasting is not just supposed to be done during Lent, but it's a good time to remind ourselves of the Christian walk we are all on. Oh, if you don't fast during Lent and you participate in the Mardi Gras activities, then you are just go to another party and the significance of the day is completely lost. So today is the last day before Lent and hopefully you have already decided what you are going to give up, and maybe what you might take on during Lent. Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lenten Fast

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We begin the church season of Lent. Lent is a long practiced time of prayer and fasting that was started by the early church. In the Bible you find numerous references to 40 days and many contemporary churches have picked up on it with their own versions, as Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose, Community, and Love. Some churches and some Christians do not observe a Lenten fast. It's just normal time for most people. Of all denominations, the Catholics have adopted it to not eating meat on Fridays, observing Holy Days, but some Catholics still do observe a 40 day fast of something. For some reason I have always observed fasting and prayer during Lent. I try and give something up and take something on. I encourage our church to do so as well. Over the years I have become rather creative and have had lots of fun with my Lenten fast. In some respects, it has really become a challenge for me to place upon myself to help me become more humble, better connected to God and with Easter, achieve a mini victory of discipleship. I've heard of people giving up smoking (sadly, some only make it about ten days), some give up coffee, pop, food, sweets, etc. I have not completely decided what I am going to give up, but it will probably be a huge list of stuff as usual. I observe a Lenten fast because I know it strengthens my discipleship. Have you considered what you might give up? It is entirely up to you to attempt a Lenten fast. It is between you and God. So, what will you give up? If you have never done it before, just try it. The forty days don't count on Sundays, so if you want, you can just go six days, then let go of the fast. But of course, I always hold the 46 days of the Lenten season and then on Easter, the reward seems that much more sweet. Go in peace and go with God.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Never Give Up

Jill and I went to the LS North Boys BB game last night. We had an absolutely wonderful time. There were several Grace families there and we had some good fun cheering for North. The Broncos were playing Blue Springs. The game started slow but after halftime it really was exciting. It went back and forth and then with less than 5 seconds left it was all tied up. North inbounded and as time ran out a layup was made. No dunk or three, a layup. North won!!! A very exciting game. Before the last play coach Mike pulled his team together. I have no idea what he said but it was enough to instill confidence in his boys to score and win the game. Less than 5 seconds (I think it was 3.9) is very little time. There is not much you can do in 5 seconds. Wave, smile, say hello! Our lives are made up of little moments. Moments that sometimes bring great joy or great sadness. We all go through low times in our lives. Pressure builds up and things spiral out of control. The voice of a friend to help guide us and calm us down is always appreciated. Our little moments build up to be minutes, hours and days. Live your moments as if they were your last. Be honest, humble and trustworthy. Love God, love your neighbor and love your enemy. Too much time in the world is spend in anger and frustration. Never give up doing good in this world. And even when it seems like there is no more time and we have lost our chance, there are always new beginnings and second chances. Go in peace and go with God.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sky is Falling

We are in uncertain times. What we have become accustomed to seems to be slipping away. Change continues to bring fear and worry. Doom and gloom are clearly spouted every day from numerous sources. Jobs are gone. Money is gone. Confidence is gone. It's difficult to trust in what people used to trust in. Things change. I've recently heard "worst ever", "years to get out of this mess". The nature of things these days touches some of us in a very personal way. So, how does a loving Christian deal with such times. I turn to read Paul's description of his troubles and how he dealt with hard times. "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." 2 Corinthians 11
I often have to remind myself that the person who suffered so much also is reported to have written this- "4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. " 2 Corinthians 6
No matter what came his way, he tried to do good. After accepting Christ, Paul endured great hardships. He tried to lift the spirits of others up.
Today I have a choice. I can choose to be fearful, full of worry and anxiety or I can try and encourage others during times of trouble. I can help those in need. I can choose to not focus on myself, but focus on being a positive and joyful influence and be there for my neighbor. So today, live on!
Go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Power of Story

Over the past few weeks I have had numerous occasions to sit down and hear stories from our members at Grace. Our congregation is filled with some of the most loving, caring and kind people I have ever met. When we begin to talk about the future of our church I hear excitement and hope in their voice. To sit and listen to another means we care what they have to say. Listening to the hopes and dreams we begin to see how God has shaped and formed us. There is so much good here it is sometimes overwhelming. We are passionate and joyful people who are seeking to be faithful to God's vision in our life. When we finally "get it", our lives are never the same. We are forever transformed and changed. We become a new creation and the sadness and lostness we have experienced no longer has power over us. I'm excited to see what God is doing here. Every day I hear new stories and become more hopeful (if that is possible) as we lean forward toward God's vision for our church. Take a few moments this day to truly listen to someone else. Hear their thoughts and desires. The more we listen to others, the more we hear their story. Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pride and Arrogance

A good friend of mine once said that when entering the pulpit "all preachers need a little bit of arrogance." I pushed him on that statement and asked if he really meant confidence. He said no, arrogance. That started a rather year long debate in preaching class about the meaning of words and how we approach the task of preaching. To this day, my friend still believes this statement. He is long out of ministry, no longer serving the church, but he is holding fast to his beliefs. Personally, I believe that pride and arrogance have no place in the hearts and minds of Christians. Peter says this, "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." He is actually quoting on old proverb. Jesus talks about humility a great deal also. So I guess for me, maybe pride and arrogance are things that each one of us has to fight or struggle against. Usually pride and arrogance dig deep into our hearts and when they have a chance to take credit for something that we have done or God has done through us, they stand up and proclaim their victory. I would like to think that most of the great ideas that I have are not from me. They are due to an unwavering focus on God's purpose for my life. So daily I listen to God, my friends, church leaders and family. My hope is as I listen that I might be able to determine the best path for my life and the life of our church. Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Leading People

In seminary many of us clergy learned that there are several models of leadership. A few we heard were, "prophet, priest, shepherd". There are hundreds if not thousands of variations on these three. And many believe in what is called the priesthood of all believers, which means that clergy and laity(non-clergy, basically, everyone else) should be engaged in ministry. My call to ministry was a gradual one with several key defining moments that have shaped my life. Those have included moments in prayer, on mission trips, preaching in worship, of course being at camp, studying the Bible and many others. To lead means you have a direction to go and that others might follow. Jesus led a small group (12) men into a new reality. That new reality was the Body of Christ, the church. Leadership is never easy. If someone says it's easy to lead, either they are not telling the truth or they are not leading. Sometimes leadership is pulling, pushing, prodding, and other times it is calling, beckoning and asking. Whatever type of leadership model you employ is up to you. Whether it's the church or somewhere else, many of us are thrust into roles of leadership and honestly, most of us are not prepared or ready for the responsibility. But, when you are given the responsibility to lead remember do not take your opportunity for granted. Thank God every day for your blessings and remember to follow Him humbly. It is a wonderful day no matter where you are because God is with you. Go in peace and go with God.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Is All Around

Today was a beautiful day. It was sunny and the temperature started out cold, but it turned into a fairly mild day. I encountered a guy at the store who had been helped by a stranger earlier in the day and he handed me a $2 coupon for the dozen roses I bought for Jill. He said, "hey, somebody helped me, now I am helping you. Pay it forward." I thanked him and will probably never see him again. I have a circle of people that I regularly encounter. Church people, family, friends, acquaintances, people I see around town, etc. In that circle of relationships some folks are happy, some sad, some worried, some overjoyed. Valentine's Day is a day we are supposed to spend with our true love, a soulmate. I feel blessed to have Jill (my wife) in my life. As I think about the numerous people in my life I thank God that I am connected to so many good people. I care about my friends and family. But Jesus asks us to care not for just our friends and family, he asks us to care and love our neighbor. No, not just the family that lives next to you, your neighbor. Who is my neighbor a young man asked Jesus once...well, anyone in need, someone in your path, and usually, it's a stranger. This morning, a complete stranger, someone I have never met handed me coupon to help me save some money. Did I need it, probably not. Was it welcomed and did it brighten my day, YES! I ask you this day, the next and many more, that each one of us would consider doing something nice for our family, friends and THE STRANGER. You never know who is having a tough day and you never know who really needs $2.00. Go in peace and go with God and Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Your Journey



Who helps you out when you are struggling? All of us need friends to help us through the tough times of life. We all need friends. No matter whether like is up or down, friends are great to have in our lives. Friends will tell us the truth when we get ahead of ourselves. They will also listen to our nonsensical rants. Most importantly though, our friends check in with us to see how things are going. It does not have to be a daily thing, but they in general, know how we are doing adn what we are doing. If you don't hear from someone for more than a few months, that is an acquantince. There is a great song we sing every now and then in our traditional service. It's called, "What a friend we have in Jesus". Do you check in every day with Christ? Through prayer and Bible reading every day I feel I am connected to God. I have a sense of purpose and knowing that I am moving in the right direction. I value my friends. I value my spouse. I value my relationship with God. I value the time I spend with Him every day. What do you value? Over the next few weeks, be attentive and try and observe your day. Where is your time spent? Work, work, work? Or, are you attempting to be attentive to the relationships that matter. Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love Covers Over a Multitude of Sins

On Monday I went to a local business to have them mount five posters for our upcoming campaign. They said to come back within 24 hours and they would be done. I was unable to make it there on Tuesday, so I stopped by this morning to pick them up. Needless to say, they were not ready. The posters were as I left them. All bound together with one difference. They had been placed in a bag to be given back to us. After some conversation and the manager admitting they were embarrassed that this job was not finished, I came on into the church to start my day. Now, we do not need the posters until Sunday and for some reason I am in a good mood today. I guess a good nights sleep with the rain blowing against the windows will do that for me. I can't count how many times I have heard stories of people upset with others over seemingly little things. Sometimes the frustration is an indication of some deeper problems, but so many of us seem to be right below the boiling point and once something sets us off, its BOOM. So today, as the rain continues to fall here, please let some of that steam go. I know that there is worry out there. I know there is frustration out there. But I also know that there is love, peace and joy in this world. If you watch the video from yesterday's post you know that ultimately, our point of view either helps or hinders us from seeing the world in a good or bad way. Remember, go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Honesty


I was reading a wonderful book the other day "The Cabin: Away From It All" by C.W. Gusewelle. In the book the author describes a tale of his family cabin and the land surround. There are lively characters and beautiful woods all around this small cabin in the woods. If you have ever lived in the country you know this already, but he describes that the opportunity to purchase land near your own land comes up for sale every now and then. Although usually when approaching someone about purchasing their land before it's for sale the answer is always a "no, never". But as with most things, feelings change. The land is a mix of beautiful trees and other splendid displays of nature. The perfect addition for the Gusewelle family land. So, he is able to sign a contract on the land near his cabin. The sellers are moving away and have signed the contract. A week before the closing date, Gusewelle says that "thieves", a loose term, come in a clear cut and strip the land of almost all trees. A sad thing to be sure. It would take years, decades for those trees to come back. It seemed that he had been HAD by the neighbors. Of course, the lawyer stated something to the effect of, "take it or leave it, as is." Now, who knows how you come down on this but it's pretty clear to me that the owners, the sellers knew the reason the C. W. was buying the land. In this, I feel the sellers did the buyer an injustice. Essentially, they signed the contract with the knowledge of what they were going to do. Not only did they sell their land and make money, but they probably also sold all the trees to make money. How many times has someone pulled a fast one on you? Got the best of you? It's interesting C. W. response in the book. I fear most would broadcast the name of the seller, forever staining their name as swindlers. But no, he did not mention their name. They have long since passed and with time, I assume most wounds of the ego are healed. So how would we respond to such activity? Hopefully we would do so with grace, mercy and love. Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lord of the Dance

During our traditional service this past week we sang "Lord of the Dance." It's a beautiful song that we rarely sing because by some, it is really not "traditional" enough. Maybe that is because it was written after 1960. Not sure what traditional means these days, but we did sing it. And a few of the words really got to me this weekend. Verse three says, "I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame, the holy people said it was a shame, they whipped and stripped and they hung me high; and they left me there on a cross to die." I don't know why, but that verse really got me choked up this past Sunday. Maybe the directness that God's holy people sometimes are unable to hear or see God at work because it does not fit into our preconceived ideas about Him. Jesus came into this world and challenged the status quo. He challenged assumptions, Scriptural interpretations, societal norms and just about every view of the religious world. God came to the world to die for humanity. His example of sacrifice and service stunned the world at the time. God's were removed, far away, unknowable and not personal. In Dan Kimball's book "They like Jesus but not the church" he talks about where churches have gone wrong. Instead of standing for something, we stand against things. The teachings of Jesus are simple. Love God, Love your neighbor. Don't judge unless you want to be judged. He hung out with people on the margins of society. To a younger generation who are seeking to know God more, the church sometimes seems like an institution of moral watchers than a group of do gooders. Who do we need to reach out to and who should be sharing the love of Jesus Christ with? Hopefully when the Lord of the dance is with us we see Him, hear Him and follow Him. Go in peace and go with God.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The End of Fact

In their 2009 predictions for trends in marketing, Leo Burnett identified a trend that has been coming now these past few years. It's called "The End of Fact". They said, "perceived wisdom now changes on a daily basis. This year expect more contradictory opinions and diverse solutions being presented as definitive. In the future we will cherry pick what constitutes fact. It will be the model equivalent of the hypochondriac with the medical textbook." In other words, your opinion may not be a proven fact, but since it is perceived as fact by you, especially if you are able to broadcast is loud enough, then you are right. The world becomes more gray as lines of truth collide not in historical or empirical fact, but in perception. In a post modern age of electronic communication, truth and facts might not matter that much to the person who is able to help shape the perception. This is not new by any means. Politicians have been doing this since the beginning of time. What IS new, is how fast that perception can be and is changed due to the the speed of conveyance. In other words, something you believed yesterday could and might be changed tomorrow...and you yourself may be more easily swayed by new forms of communication. So what I know as fact today will probably not be fact in a year as perceptions change. The reality of this means that change is happening at such a rate, the church is no longer 30-50 years behind society in adapatation of communicating the Gospel. We will be one hundred years behind if we don't start utilizing the newest and best tools for commnicating a timeless message in a timely fashion. Check out the 2009 trends here. As always, go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cough, Cough, Hack, Hack

As many of you already know, I caught that stuff that knocks you down for about a week and keeps you coughing for another three. Not a great week at the Vickers home, as Jill had it first, then I had it. I fully expect to come home to see Rheau coughing and hacking too. So after visiting the new Emergent Care place here in Lee's Summit, I was loaded up with meds, inhaler and some really delicious cough medicine. I worked from home for a few days trying to gear up for church on Sunday. Lost my voice on Thursday/Friday. It came back again slowly, but I came to the realization that if I was going to get better and actually function at work then I would need to take a Sunday off. If you read the last post then you know, I don't do well taking days off. Never have. Just not in my nature. I have gotten better at it after getting married, but it's still tough. If I am not working, I am thinking about what I need to be doing, except for last week. So last week being sick was not easy. I learned a few things while I was off for a few days and here is a brief list of those wonderful thoughts that swam through the fog of meds.
1. You can only watch Sportscenter about 3 times a day before you start talking like those guys.
2. There is nothing on TV during the day worth watching.
3. Bridezillas could be the worst and best show of all time.
4. Cable news is a wasteland of fear, sensationalism and breaking snooze.
5. I can now forecast the weather for the next 3 days just as well as Leezak, Busby and Horner.
6. It's hard to read when you cough every five minutes.
7. It's hard to sleep when you cough every five minutes.
8. I love my job.
9. My body does need rest every now and then.
10. It's great being married (already knew that, but thought I would throw that in)