The Adventure

A week ago was a long Sunday.  I spent the week putting together a Memorial Day slide show for the family members of the congregants who have served.  That made for a long week and Sunday snuck up on me.  One of our sunday school teachers is going through medical struggles and I completely spaced it out.  I have subbed for him before and it wasn’t a problem.  But it becomes one when you remember at 9pm Saturday night.  I got to the church early to find an email about the church service at the nursing home and long-term care that churches in the area take care of.  It’s at 2 pm and we were on the docket.  Of the three main players who do this ministry: one was the one I was already subbing for, another was out of town at a wedding, and the third when asked knew nothing about it.  The schedule had changed and we were unaware.  I ran back to the house to get my guitar to throw something together.  Church went fine that day.  Immediately following Church, we had an elders meeting that lasted about 30 minutes and then I went to lunch with an elder where I ate a fabulously tasteing meal, but a diabetic nightmare.  I led the church service at the homes and then ran home to get the dog.  Dumbhead had drug every piece of trash out of the trashcan and spread it throughout the house.  After 45 minutes of cleaning up after her, we hit the road headed to Topeka for Memorial day with the family.  It was 3 1/2 hours after I wanted to leave, but at least I was finally on the road.  I reached Concordia and realized that in my haste to leave, I had left my insulin at the house in Belleville.  I had been so busy I had even forgot to take insulin Sunday.  I was now running on 24 hours without any insulin and I could tell my blood sugar was sky-high.  Three hours later I reached the Memorial/Graduation Family BBQ and I could barely function.  I just sat there comatose.  I stayed for about an hour and had to leave.  I went to my parents house and sat on the couch to watch Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.  I hoped it would be a blow out, but I couldn’t turn it off.  By the time the game was over, my blood sugar was even higher from the small amount of food from the BBQ and I was exhausted.  I made it down to bed and fell asleep with all my clothes on.

Around 2 am, Monday morning, I woke up to go to the bathroom and felt terrible.  My sugars were off the chart and I was struggling.  That is the last thing I remember.

I awoke sometime Monday afternoon in the hospital on a ventilator.  Dad had found me unresponsive, with no pulse, on the floor of the basement.  I had passed out in front of the air conditioner vent and was so cold he couldn’t find a pulse.  He called the ambulance and they took me in.

I could see down a hallway from my room in the hospital, but I didn’t recognize where I was.  Finally, some nurses explained to me that I was in intensive care.  I had come in with severe DKA, nearly frozen, dehydration, exhaustion, and severely low blood pressure.  For the next day or so, I spent most of my time hallucinating and seeing things.  Ants were crawling on my bed and all over my room.  I had conversations with people who weren’t there and I saw people walking through my room.

After 36 hours on an insulin drip, my blood sugars abated and I was shipped to a regular room.  I was diagnosed with an infection and low blood pressure.  I was released Friday. Thanks for all the visitors and conversations I had with you that came to see me.  Some of you came to see me with out even knowing it.  Those first couple days are still pretty hazy.  That has been my last week.

Exhaustion

My favorite pictue from my cross-country career isn’t even of me. It’s of my best friend Tyler.  He is coming directly towards the camera at full stride.  He is 3 miles into a 3.1 mile race and you can see it on his face.  It’s the longest race on the toughest course, Rim Rock, and it has taken a toll on the man.

That is exhaustion.

That is the word that I finally was able to attach to my situation in life.  I am exhausted.  It seems like since Mom fell in September and went back in the hospital, life has been hectic.  She wouldn’t ever really leave the hospital.  My foot has been broke and I moved.  Now all this hospital stuff and the question is offered: when will it all end? And what was I supposed to learn?

  1. There is more to life than accomplishment.  I will work along time to pay off some medical bills and I thank God for the insurance payment i do make every month.  Still if that was the end game I think I would go insane.
  2. It’s ok to show some emotion.  At 24 I was physically unable to cry.  Since Labor Day weekend, Mom’s entrance into the hospital, simple thing will bring me to tears.   I just teared up at a text my cousin sent.  I’m a mess.
  3. Everything is permissible, but not beneficial.  In times of exhaustion, some will give great advice, others not so much.  Learning to ignore the bad advice or support really takes the pressure off.
  4. Finally, knowing where your good support lies is invaluable.  Not all support is good support.  Some will force themselves into your crisis, ignoring boundaries and your wishes, and they will only add stress and add to your exhaustion.  Others will simply set with you seven days and say nothing, just to be supportive.

Still learning and the list will continue to grow…

The Self-disclosure of God (Part 2)

thNRXMC1ZVWe usually didn’t pray when Mom tucked us in at night growing up, but we started in January of 1991.  I was in 1st grade.  It was the first war that live video was fed from the front lines.  I sat in the living room and watched CNN as scud missiles flew through the night sky and that night Mom led my sister and I in prayer for the troops over there.

I was in 5th grade when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City.  I first heard about it as we were exiting the classroom to go to lunch.  I remember seeing the pictures on TV of the building with a crater in the side of it.

Sophomore year of High School, I sat in Mr. Switzky’s Human Anatomy class.  We were just a few minutes into the class when a school secretary walked into the room.  She made her way to the front of the room.  She whispered something to him and exited the same way she entered.  He sat silently for a moment and then reached up and turned on the T.V. mounted above and behind him.  CNN came on the screen with a smoking tower centered in the picture.  Minutes later, a second plane hit the towers.  Just before we dismissed for the next class (mine was wood shop), the Pentagon was hit.  Then Flight 93 crashed.  I watched, in the woodshop, the Towers fall.  At noon, the TV’s were still on in Ms. Scarborogh’s Mythology class.  By the end of the day, Bloomfield’s Construction Science class, we weren’t watching.  Just before Cross Country practice rumors of $4.00 gallons of gas and draft rumors were swirling…I knew where I was.

Every generation has those moments: Bombing of Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, the ’66 tornado, Columbine.  People knew what they were doing, where they were, and when it happened.

What does one say to a community in crisis?  What is the word that is needed for a nation suffering?

That is what Joel was commissioned to address.  He confronts the issue with this statement:

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2.13)

It’s comforting.  The people walked away from God.  Verse 12 makes it abundantly clear that their worship and their hearts are not where they should be.  There is a crisis in the land as well.  Locusts have invaded.

What the locust swarm has left
    the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
    the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
    other locusts have eaten. (Joel 1.3)

The identity of the locusts has been debated; whether they were the insects or an invading army.  I think they are best understood as the insect for reasons that are irrelevant here.  Moses alludes to this at the end of Deuteronomy.  The people are getting ready to enter the promised land and God gives Moses a message for the people.  Their first instruction upon entering the land is to have half the tribes on Mt. Gerizim reading blessings for obedience and the other half of the people on Mt. Ebal pronouncing curses for disobedience.  One of the curses reads:

You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. (Deuteronomy 28.38-39)

The locusts came and devoured all the grain because of the sins of the people.  So what do you say to a nation in chaos?  What do you say to a person in crisis? (I understand that not all crisis’ come because of sin, but we do live in a fallen world)

Message 1: Return to God.

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God. (Joel 2.12-13)

The people need to turn back their hearts through confession and repentance.  If comfort and peace can be brought back to a people, to a person, the first step is to return to God.  People are never at rest if distance from God remains.  When crisis comes, it often reveals our distance and our independence from God.  To save our churches, our nations, our families, and our communities, the first thing that needs to happen is a returning to God.  The first word in verse 13, translated as “rend” by the NIV, is the Hebrew word, qara’.  Most often it is translated as “tear”.  It was an act of confession, repentance, and worship.  “Tear open your hearts to God” is the first message gives to the afflicted.

Message 2: Trust God’s Character

As discussed previously, God has made himself known.  He has declared His identity.  In fact, that is what Joel’s name means.  Jo-el means “Yahweh is God”.  And there is the description:

…he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2.13)

The key verse in the entire book by the man whose name means “Yahweh is God” is a vivid description of His character.  When I was going through a particularly dark time, alcohol became the sedative.  It easy the pain, or so I thought.  At least it erased the memories and I could sleep.  During that time the question was posed: “Do you think God wants good things for you?”  My answer was a resounding “NO!”.  Then I began this study.  There are still times where I question whether God does want good for me.  Mom’s passing has been hard.  The foot thing is inconvenient.  There were some reopened ministry wounds and some fresh ones that began last summer.  But restoration can only come if we as a community, a people, a nation, or a person trust in the character and integrity of the Lord.

Message 3: Remember God’s Promises

With God, a promise given is the same as a promise kept.  He has promised to take care of us.  He has promised to be with us.

19 The Lord replied to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
    enough to satisfy you fully;
never again will I make you
    an object of scorn to the nations.

20“I will drive the northern horde far from you,

    pushing it into a parched and barren land;
    its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea
    and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.
And its stench will go up;
    its smell will rise.”

      Surely he has done great things!
21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
           be glad and rejoice.
    Surely the Lord has done great things!
22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
          for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
    The trees are bearing their fruit;
          the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. (Joel 2.19-22)

He promises restoration and then provides restoration.  Once the character of God can be counted on; His promises can be remember.  A promise is only as reliable as the person making it.  God has proved over and over that He can overcome whatever comes our way.  For “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2.24)  He is sending new grain, new wine, satisfaction and protection.  How does one respond: “Surely he has done great things!” (2.20)  He has/is/will bring: rain, abundance, new wine, oil, grain, full-bellies, and repayment for the locusts (23-26).  Joel is switching back and forth in verb tense because with God a promise made is a promise already kept.  To what end:

…and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
    never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;…(2.26-27)

Once God’s character is on display, His faithfulness carries eternal significance.  How do you respond to that: “Surely He has done great things!”…to be continued…

The Self-disclosure of God (Part 1)

untitledSelf-disclosure is one of God’s favorite things in the Old Testament.

Moses is shown “the Glory of the Lord” on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 33.12ff.)  He is watching the power of God, the goodness of God, the glow of God.  He walked away radiated, with a glowing face. (Exodus 34.29)  What is most striking, is how God narrates the event.  God describes Himself like this:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…(Exodus 34.6)

This proclamation of identity would stick with God throughout the Old Testament.  I had an identity once.  At a birthday party in 4th grade (I don’t even remember who it was for), I was reaching for something in the pool at a hotel.  The party was at ice cream and cake phase so I had already changed out of my swimming suit.  I fell into the pool with all my clothes on.  I never lived it down.  It came up in 2 different graduation speechs, favorite memories from school portions of yearbooks and school news papers, and one reunion.  I will always be the guy who fell in the pool with his clothes on.  God will carry this identity through all his dealings with man.

It’s fascinating, however, how this phrase is used.

It’s worshipful.  Psalm 145 uses this phrase like a link in a chain.  Each link is a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Verse 1 begins with aleph.  Verse 2, with a bet and so on until verse 8 when chet is the letter that is the letter of focus.  The verse begins with the word “gracious” (chanoon).  It’s just another link in the chain of attributes describing God in this Psalm.  Count the “God is…” statements:

  • “Great is the Lord…” (3)
  • “The Lord is good to all…”(9)
  • “The Lord is trustworthy…” (13)
  • “The Lord is righteous…and faithful…”(17)
  • “The Lord is near…” (18)

David will extol and praise the Lord for all that He is. (145.2)  But it’s a bigger chain than that.  Psalm 145 is also a part of a chain that ends the book of Psalms. The last 5 Psalms all begin with the word “Praise” (hb. hallel).  In the Hebrew text, the Psalm titles are considered the first verse of the Psalm.  So Psalm 145 begins like this: hallelujah.  which translates to: “Praise the Lord”.

David loves this word.  Back in Psalm 103, he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103.8)

Here he attributes it to Moses, but until he makes his own purposes for the verse known.  Six times in Psalm 103 he begins a sentence with hallelujah.  I guess if you get stuck on repeat, that’s a great word to get stuck on.  Both are Psalms of Praise.

There is another type of Psalm that David wrote.  It’s called a Psalm of Lament.  These are Psalms that are written from deep despair and anguish.  They deal with the dirty issues of life.  He writes in Psalm 86:

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86.15)

It’s honest.  David is piecing together a prayer of quotations from other places: Exodus 34, Psalms 25, 26, 27, and others.  He is lamenting his current predicament.  Which predicament that is exactly is undetermined.  Is it the pursuit of Saul?  Is it the isolation?  Is it the Philistines?  Time and location aside, David prays and worships.  This is the prayer of a desperate man.  The Psalm begins:

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

   for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

   save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,

   for I call to you all day long. (Psalm 86.1-3)

and ends with this:

Turn to me and have mercy on me;

   show your strength in behalf of your servant;

save me, because I serve

   you just as my mother did.

Give me a sign of your goodness,

   that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

   for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. (Psalm 86.16-17)

David is struggling to put together a few concepts and ideas.  The beginning and end of the Psalm is works-oriented: “save me because I served” (17), “guard me for I trust in you” (1).  In the middle, the Lord is a “gracious” and “compassionate” God.  It’s a question of justice.  Why are bad things happening to a good person?  He’s served and trusted, why are things going badly.  It is the exact opposite question posed in Jonah’s prayer.

Jonah 4 begins with Jonah in a bad place.  Verse 5 let’s the reader know that he went east of the city.  That’s code for “bad times”.  Anyone going east in the Bible is not having a good day.  So he is east.  And when he is east, he prays.

Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?  That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.   I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4.2-3)

God did not destroy Nineveh for their sins and Jonah is upset.  It’s not that he has been tremendously faithful to God either; but it’s always easier to see the sin in others than in yourself.  Jonah laments about God’s justice.  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Jonah wants the Lord to know that he knew all along that this was going to happen.  So, in what I imagine would be a mocking tone, Jonah quotes Exodus 34.6 and part of verse 7.  Why is it mocking you may wonder?  Notice what Jonah leaves out at the junction of 6 and 7?  The “faithfulness” (’emet) of God.  In Jonah’s thinking: if God is for the Ninevites, He can be for Jonah/Israel.  Jonah is putting God perjury alert.  He is questioning God’s honesty…to be continued…

Vacation Bible School

20180523_124440Praise Day Bible Camp went by smoothly (outside of the Kindergarten kid who decided to jump and land on my foot). I was in charge of the Bible Story.  I recruited three young men to help me out and to make the day go quicker.  I can’t say enough good things about these young men.  Maddix, Max, and Caleb (with no advanced warning mind you) led small groups and Kagan activities, played the part of bouncer, and people listened.  I guess I shouldn’ be suprised that they taught like Maddix’s dad who is coaching his sprinters at state track; they disciplined and crowe control like Calebs dad, a county sherriff; and when they spoke to both students and adults, they listened, just like Max’s father.

“Like father,like son” can be a blessing or curse.  I was blessed today in sharing ministry with good men, because their fathers are good men.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6.4)

Graduation Sunday

20180520_154301I got up to give the sermon today on Graduation Sunday.  We had just honored those who would be graduating.  They were in their caps and gowns.  They stood out because the rest of the congregation didn’t wear their robes.  As I approached the music stand this thought crossed my mind:  THERE ARE BETTER SPEAKERS IN THE CROWD THAN THERE IS IN THE PULPIT.  Let me explain.

  • Carl Brunner is a National Forensic Finalist who is going to Washington D.C. for the National Tournament at the end of the Month.
  • Jama Gleue just won State with his Original Oration.
  • Laynae Beneshek gave the Salutatorian address that was compact, concise, and challenging.
  • Those plus Forensic competitors, John Price and Max Filinger, compose a talented roster of speakers.

I have never considered myself to be a great speaker.  I like teaching, but when it comes to manufacturing emotion and passion, I have never been that confident in my abilities.  I am, however, very confident in our youth and their abilities.  In the graduation reception line, I told them there would be one day where I just cash it in and let them handle the preaching…it may just be my last day on the job when the congregation see’s how good they really are.