Friday, November 30, 2007

First Impressions

This morning found me at the American Red Cross to donate a pint of blood and double unit of platelets. The process took a little bit over an hour plus all of the time to take care of the necessary paperwork. Having an hour sit and chat with whatever staff person has been assigned to you for that day can bring about some interesting conversation. I should point out that I've always thought that the entire staff at the Aphresis/Blood center is very friendly and they really do cater to you as their special guests while they are sticking needles in your arm to take away the life giving substance in your veins.

After talking about my family, her family, the banquet from a few weeks ago, etc., she says to me, "When I first met you, I thought you were stuck up." She assured me that she didn't think so any more and I laughed about it at the time, but it does give me a reason to pause for a little reflection. After all, I'm a people person. I like (genuinely like) people. And I think that most people like me too.

I'm hoping that it was just a matter of timing. I have been going in to donate at 7 in the morning after having worked a mid-watch and just getting off work at 6:30. Maybe it was one of those mornings that I could barely stay awake and the nasty alarms on the machine kept going off to signal that I needed to pump more blood. Today, I was a little more alert and she was very talkative which helped, I'm sure. In any case, I'm sure that I'll be paying a little more attention to those first encounters.

While I'm on the subject of first encounters, I met a woman at my daughter's orthodontist's office yesterday that seem very nice. Her daughter is in band with Hannah and they are relatively new to the area. I asked if they have found a church home yet and they are still looking. When I invited her to Hopedale (my church), she said that they had visited and have been meaning to come back. Though larger than what they were used to, she said that everyone was very friendly and they enjoyed their visit. Attaboys for the gang at Hopedale! I love it when I hear those kinds of things about my church family! I think that they (we) are the best. It is a great place to come together for worship and for fellowship.

So my lesson for the day (and maybe yours, too):

Be good to people. Treat them well. You know the saying..."You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Give me a Break

I know that "burn-out" is a common malady among church workers--both paid staff and volunteers. Among the lay leadership of the churches, I think that burnout often comes from utilizing people outside of their gifted areas and taking advantage of good hearted, well meaning people by not offering any support or additional resources.

Paid staff can suffer from burnout from trying to do too much with too little, not adequately budgeting their time and from letting a few well meaning members dictate their schedules and monopolize most of their time.

Face it, people need some down time. It's important to guard your rest time. It's important to be able to tell people "no!" But I've noticed a trend among the lay ministers--common members doing uncommon work. Today's volunteer worker/teacher/musician/singer/etc. is much more likely to just...well, quit--to take their "break" without any preplanning or coordination with others that will be affected by their failure to continue or find a substitute.

When asked they will simply say, "I'm just taking a break." or "I need a little break."

Their break might take them out of a Sunday School class, away from working in the church nursery, out of the choir or even out of church attendance! Have they forgotten that people are counting on them? A last minute call in or just not showing up creates a great burden on others.
Are you taking a break from filling a job in the church or are you deciding that you're taking a break from serving God?

What if your pastor--or my pastor showed up Sunday morning and said that he wanted to take a break? You can put you own church, your own pastor into the following scenario.

For my church, it would be Pastor Terry announcing on Sunday morning that he really didn't feel like studying this past week. He kind of needed a break from sermon preparation. He might tell us that church would be dismissed as soon as Rich and what ever choir members showed up were finished with the music service. Nobody will have to pick up their kids from the nursery or children's church because most of those workers are taking breaks, too. Since several teachers were wanting to take breaks, we would be canceling Sunday School for the next month or so. With any luck, Satan will decide to take a break too!

It would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? God doesn't take a break from being God and we shouldn't take a break from serving Him.

Paul writes to the Romans that because of God's goodness and mercy, we should offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. He says it is our reasonable act of worship. Giving our life to God; living our life for God should be what we consider reasonable for His blessings.

Someone once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they have a tendency to want to crawl off of the altar. I guess that means that we want to take a break from serving God. It kind of makes me sad. I imagine that God isn't thrilled about it either.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Have it Your Way

Some of you may remember that Burger King used to use "Have it your way" as their advertising slogan. It told us that our burger would be made for us the way we wanted it.

Hold the pickles
Hold the lettuce

Special orders don't upset us.

All we ask is that you let us

Serve it your way.

Have it your way

At Burger King.

Funny how that jingle sticks in your head decades later.

This isn't a post about Burger King, although I like Burger King. I once ate six Whoppers at a single sitting. Unfortunately, I only tied the facility record. I knew that I couldn't finish a seventh and they said that partial burgers didn't count. But this isn't a post about gluttony either. It's really a story about some of the stupid things that we do when we are allowed to have it our way--without having to be accountable.

I heard a story recently that upset me very much. It was about a church pastor that was so intent on doing things "his way" that he has literally destroyed a growing ministry. Many of the established teachers, deacons and long time members have already left. Some of them will be starting a new church next month. I'm not sure if there is a particular agenda behind the actions other than he doesn't feel accountable to anyone. He enlisted spies to inform him of members private conversations so that he could know who was for him or against him. He quietly cultivated a following to be able to have control over ministries in the church and demanded that all leaders, deacons, teachers, etc. sign a loyalty oath that basically states that they will not oppose him. Most of them, being freethinkers, refused and were removed from their ministries.

Unfortunately, there is much done in the name of God, or in the cause of religion that is wrong. We can do what we want, say it is God's will and convince others and ourselves that everything is okay.

To be fair, I have to admit that I've only heard one side of this story. However, it was from a man that I've known for almost thirty years and I have a great deal of respect for him. It is also not my place to be in judgment of this pastor, that place is reserved for one far greater than I. But I am greatly concerned about the image that is presented to new Christians and to those that are outside looking in. This is not the love that Jesus talked about. I absolutely hate it when someone on the inside gives someone else a reason to want to remain on the outside. This kind of behavior drives away the very people that Jesus wants for us to attract. For that matter, it drives away good people that have served well. Most of them will find new church homes and continue to serve in some ministry. But some will miss church for a week or two...or three...or a month. Soon it will be easier to to fall into the habit of not going to church than to go back to the habit of going.

We must always be careful about exercising self will. We must really ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" (WWJD)

To anyone that judges God by the actions of those that claim to worship Him, I caution you...Don't. We are so far below His goodness that if you look to His people to judge Him, you will see a God that is small and not worthy of your adoration. We fail miserably when trying to live according to His will. It is a daily struggle to live well. My nature is to be sarcastic, self-centered, and mean. I have to work hard at being "nice". It's a lot easier today than it used to be. I think that I've made great progress in becoming less like John and more like Jesus. But I've still got a great distance to go and I still struggle with the inner nature of being John.

I hope that you do well in your endeavor to live life It's easier one day at a time.


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Hill Family Clan

Okay, ready or not, here we are.

This is my family; these are our families--from oldest to youngest.

This is my sister, Theresa. To the far left is her husband, Mike and she is flanked by their two sons; Jason and Justin. Mike and Theresa are in the Oklahoma City area, Jason in Florida, Justin in OKC.

This is me with my wife Chris with Aaron and Hannah. Before you all feel the need to comment, it has already been suggested (several times) that I update the photo on my blog to reflect the more mature (older) me. Trust me, the younger, thinner guy without the grey beard is in there somewhere.

Steve is here with Austin and Laura. They are in the DC area (Maryland) with Laura a college sophomore in Minnesota.
She plays rugby, Austin plays soccer.

You can see that each of the three oldest kids have two children. I don't know what got into the younger three. It's like they're having a contest or something.

This is Mike and his wife Christine. Between them is Andrew and in the front are triplets Ben, Zach and Ty. They are in the Chicago area.

Mary and husband Chris (yes, that's the third spouse named Chris or Christine!) live in the Indy area with Joe, Haley and Amelia (left to right).

The youngest sibling is Pat. He here with his wife Jeanna and daughters (left to right) Amber, Morgan and Grace, and son Ryan.
Pat is in the Navy and stationed in Virginia.

For anyone not counting that's six kids, five spouses and seventeen grandkids (from age 29 down to 1+). Add in Mom and Dad for thirty in all. We are Republicans and Democrats, meat eaters and vegan, from big city suburbs and from small towns. We are in management and we are in labor unions. Some of us have dealt with divorce and custody issues. We go to Catholic, Baptist, Christian, Assembly of God churches...or not at all. Some are musically inclined with instruments or voice and some can barely play the radio.

Each one of us kids lives in a different state and we rarely get to see each other. But we are family. We have a blast when we are together. You would like my family. If you wandered into one of our gatherings you would soon be assimilated. You would want to be a part of us. We always have other friends and relatives that want to hang out with us. When you're with us, I can promise that you'll laugh. We laugh with each other and we laugh at each other. We tell stories about our kids and our lives and we love to hear others tell their stories.

Mom and Dad are here, surrounded by the rest of us. This is my family. Can you tell that I love them all?



It is now early in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving. Chris did an outstanding job with our feast. We had an enjoyable time with Jenny (Aaron's girlfriend) and her parents. Chris' mom and dad made the trip across the state to join us as well. Trace (Hannah's boyfriend) stopped by to visit with Hannah before heading off to his grandmother's for their family dinner.

It is really hard to think of all of the things that I have to be thankful for. I really have a tough time figuring out how I get to live the life that I have. My own family, the one that I grew up in, is the absolute best. Oh, we're not the perfect family--not by a long shot, but we truly love each other, miss each other and have the best of times when we get together. I'm going to have to get some of the pics from our reunion last summer to post and show off our great clan.

My family today is more than I could have ever dreamed of. Chris is tops. She really wanted to do the mom thing right. In a time when many of our peers worked as dual income families and utilized babysitters, relatives or daycare--we made the decision that we would raise our own kids. She was always there. She taught them to read. She taught them manners. She took care of them...and of me. Back when I worked long hours in the factory, she made sure I got the rest I needed, the food I needed and the time I needed with the kids. Our household joke was that Chris' idea of a two income family was John with a part-time job! Truthfully, it was much easier for me to have a part-time job (and I've had a few) than for me to try to take over any of the many chores that she was doing. It was never anything that we considered to be a sacrifice--it was just a life decision that we made...and we made it work.

When the kids hit school age, she went back to school, too. Today she enjoys working as a surgical technologist. She works three days a week and still takes care of us.

Aaron is in college! I can't believe it! He is a great young man and I am very proud of him. He is pretty much self sufficient. He earned a full scholarship to the only school in the Midwest that offered a degree program in his chosen field. He saved money from his summer job so that he wouldn't have to work while in school and really asks for very little from mom and dad. He volunteers at an elementary school a few blocks from campus and helps a third grader read once a week. If this young boy is like others that Aaron has had contact with, he probably thinks that Aaron is some kind of hero or something. Aaron has a way of making other people feel important.

And Hannah is driving! Having just turned 16 a couple of weeks ago, she is now able to drive on her own. It's nice for me to be able to send her to take care of the horses by herself--although I think that we'll still do that together most of the time. It's remained the one thing that this teen aged girl does with her dad! She is getting straight A's in school and loves to read. She is rarely without a book and thinks about a purse's ability to carry a book before buying it. A trip to the library is a must before we leave for vacation or any trip that will take longer than her current book will last. Her latest new adventure is going out for the swim team. Hannah is somewhat of a loner, having only a few really close friends--although I think that there are many more that would like to be her friend. I still tell her that she's my favorite daughter in the whole world...and she still replies that she's my only daughter in the whole world.

I have a good job and will be eligible to retire in just four years, 1 month and 14 days (but who's counting!). I like our town and love our church. We have so many good friends. I have been blessed with a wonderful ministry and feel like maybe I have made a difference in some lives along the way. I'm really looking forward to what God has in store for me when retirement gets here. This past year, I was invited to be a part of five revivals, pastored two children's camps, participated in two evangelism conferences and a number of community, children's, youth and outreach events. I was in several schools and am looking forward to expanding the magic part to include more schools and some corporate/motivational work.

I realize that I am just a simple man from a small town. I have no real education other than what I have read and/or picked up along the way. Among the six children of my parents, I am the only one without a degree. It won't be long before both of my own kids have their degrees and Chris already has hers. I am thankful that God has watched over me and shown favor towards me by providing me with opportunities and income in spite of myself. I doubt that I would encourage anyone else to do things the way that I have done them. I also doubt that things could be any better for me if I had done them differently. I am where I am and I am happy to be here.

I am also thankful for all of you that stop by to read the ramblings of a simple man. I never would have imagined that I would have regular readers from around the globe or that I would look forward to reading your posts from so many different backgrounds, places and cultures. Thanks to Bilbo for this award. If you haven't read his blog, I'd recommend it. It is one that I check daily. I always enjoy it, usually agree with him and figure that I'd probably like this guy if we were ever to meet in person.
I hope that you all had a great day.
Black Friday awaits!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back, Again

Wow! It has been some time since my last post. I had to deal with a computer virus and had quite a time getting rid of it.

In the mean time, I kept up on reading other blogs during breaks at work but didn't really feel like spending enough time to write out a post.

I had a great weekend travelling to my folks' home with my son Aaron for their 50th Anniversary Open House. They had a good turn out and I got to visit with many people that I haven't seen in quite some time.

I dropped Aaron off at the Amtrak station on Monday morning. He went to Chicago and I drove the 7+ hrs to work. He and Jenny just arrived home a few hours ago.

I know that my US friends are looking forward to a great Thanksgiving Day Feast. Feast or not, I would encourage all my readers to pause and give thanks to God for all of your blessings of life.


Side note from a news program: The average American consumes 7100 calories on Thanksgiving Day!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday at Hopedale

I hope that you have all had a wonderful weekend. Today was a great Sunday at church. Our Sunday School class is an exceptional study. It is a men's class taught by Dr. Burris. The guy is one of the the best Bible teachers that I know. The dynamics of the class are great and everyone participates either by offering input, asking questions or both.

The worship time was great (as always). Rich really does a grand job seeking the Spirit's guidance and preparing a great worship experience. Pastor Terry's message on doing church God's way really address how we, as believers, need to be ever mindful that church is not about us--it's about Him.

I managed a brief nap before making it back to church for our Deacon's meeting and the evening service. Our Sunday evening service was super! We had a musical family come for an evening concert. The Crist Family has a wonderful blend of voices and a real desire to share the love of Jesus. You can tell when performers are performing for themselves and when they are performing for their Lord. I really believe that this family desires to bring people to Jesus just by lifting up His name.

I the Bible Jesus says, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me." He was telling of the type of death that he would die but the reference to being lifted up was to story told back in the Book of Numbers.

The children of Israel had been delivered from 400 years of captivity in Egypt. During their time in the wilderness, they began to grumble against Moses and against God. God punished them by sending "fiery serpents" (poisonous snakes) among them. Anyone bitten by one of these snakes would die. When Moses interceded for the people, God told him to make a bronze image of the fiery serpent and lift it up on a pole in the midst of the camp. If a person was bitten and looked upon the bronze snake, they would not die; they would be saved.

Now it doesn't take a modern day, educated person to know that there is nothing about the sight of a bronze snake that provides any kind of anti-venom. It wasn't looking at the snake that saved them. It was about being obedient; about trusting that God would do what He said He would do. It was an act of faith. I can imagine that there were people dying in their tents that wouldn't get up and go look at the snake on the pole. It sounded too ridiculous to be true. I can imagine that even though neighbors dropped by with words of encouragement and personal testimonies that they had been saved from death by looking at the snake, some people wouldn't believe and would choose to die rather that to admit that they could be wrong about the ridiculous notion that that God would only save them if they lifted their eyes to look on the snake.

The same is true of the cross. If we will only lift our eyes to look at the cross and realize that it is still an act of faith that saves us today. It is still about trusting that God will do what He says He will do. It is still about obedience. It is about trusting that in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, is salvation. We can believe that it is ridiculous to think that the only way that God will let us into His heaven is to trust in Jesus. But that is no different that those that chose to die in their tents thousands of years ago. It is about the act of faith.

That's a long way to get to the point of encouraging you to go see the Crist Family if you get the chance. I'm adding a link to their website with the others on the right side of the page. I also encourage you to check Wess Adams and Poet Voices from time to time to see if they'll be in your area. I can't tell you how much I admire those that have given their lives to serving our Lord and Savior.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Night at the Movies

I'm not a big movie goer. I usually end up waiting for a movie to hit the discount bin at Wal-Mart or at the video rental place before I see it. Chris will see movies with her friends and the kids often want to rent something that I don't really care to watch. Tonight, however, Chris and I went to the local discount theater and saw a pretty good movie...The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster.

It was a bit of an action movie, a bit of a suspense movie and brings up some interesting questions for our society. In many ways, our sense of fair play caters to the guilty more than to the innocent or to the victims. It would seem that our over flowing prison system (full of repeat offenders) would indicate that the system itself is not a deterrent to criminal actions. Showtime has its series Dexter with a modern day vigilante. In my own mind, I have to wonder if a movie like Brave One and a series like Dexter doesn't sanction or at least encourage some kind of modern day vigilante activity?

Do we as a society guard those that take the law into their own hands and rid us of criminals when the law seems to fail? Do we make them out to be a sort of hero? Remember Bernie Getz? He shot four African-American teenagers on a New York subway in 1984. He ended up serving a year on a gun charge but was otherwise hailed as a hero at a time when crime in NYC was going crazy. I wonder about our system when it would appear that justice is often for sale.

Even something as simple as a traffic ticket can be bargained away at the prosecutor's table. A speeding ticket can raise your insurance rates. In Missouri, it can add points to your license that can lead to suspension or revocation. But rather than have that go on your record as a moving violation, you can plea bargain for a non-moving violation. The fine may be the same, but you don't get the points and you get to keep paying the same insurance rates as the safe, law-abiding drivers even though you may be a higher risk. The prosecutor's office gets to keep their conviction rate high since you did agree to the fine for a lesser violation (that you didn't actually commit).

It works pretty much the same way for more serious crimes. No wonder victims and victim's families often get so upset and feel like the system has let them down. I often believe that we are soft on crime and criminals. But I do believe that our system is a good one that works most of the time. If you've seen this movie or the show Dexter and want to comment, please do. Or maybe you haven't seen them but would like to weigh in just the same. I'm interested to hear your thoughts.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Another Milestone

We have reached another milestone at our home--Hannah has her driver's licence!

Yes, my baby is driving. It was about this time last year (when she was getting her learner's permit) that I was reminding a friend that Hannah was just a baby when we met. I asked him, "Doesn't that make you feel old?" His response was, "No, but it makes me feel like I have a friend that's old!"

I remember the day that Hannah first learned to ride her bike. We didn't see her all day! I knew then that I would be in trouble when she got her driver's license. Now she is feeling like she has this license to freedom but is restricted because she doesn't have her own car to drive and can only drive when and where we let her. (Like having her own car would make a difference!)

This morning I'll get home from work in time for her to skip the bus and drive my car to school. She has plans to take a friend to Starbucks after school, then straight home; a little freedom but not quite like the freedom she must have felt as a five year old riding up and down our country lane to all of the neighbors' homes. I know that we'll soon have to buy another (fourth) car and that it will make life easier for mom and dad, but I'm just not sure that I'm really ready for my baby to be growing up. Although she is somewhat of a free spirit, I know that she is a responsible girl. She is getting good grades and stays out of trouble. But she's still a teenager and subject to the irrational thoughts and actions of a 16 year old. What's a dad to do?

Like any other father of a newly licensed 16 year old, I guess I'm left to pray hard and warn everyone I know---Hannah's got her license!


Monday, November 05, 2007

Story Time

One of the things that I do as an Evangelist is to encourage people to tell their stories. I want others to know that God is alive and well and a part of our lives. If our story begins and ends with a day long ago when we prayed a prayer or made a confession of Jesus as Savior, then our "savior" is as dead as any wooden or metal idol that we condemn others for worshipping.

While I believe wholeheartedly in telling the story of our conversion, I also believe that it is a meaningless story if we haven't grown in our knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and if the evidence of our actions doesn't demonstrate that we are growing in that knowledge. Too many of us want others to believe in the redeeming grace of God but we give them little reason to believe that it will make any difference in their lives because they can't see that it's made any difference in ours.

Our approach has been that they need Jesus or they're going to go to hell. This doesn't do much to really convince them of their need for a Savior. First of all, we assume that they believe in a place called hell and secondly, we assume that they think it is a terrible place. It's odd that we use hell as a "selling point" for salvation as much as the benefits of eternal life in heaven (which they may not believe in either!).

Anyways, the reason I started down this trail was to tell you part of my story. I don't want to go all the way back to the beginning (too long ago and too boring). Instead, I'll borrow from the Star Wars Saga and begin my story in the middle.

It was in the fall of 1998. I was beginning to feel like I needed to be doing something for God. I wasn't sure what that was, I just knew that I wasn't having any impact on the Kingdom and wasn't doing anything for the God that had given me everything. I should mention that I wasn't completely idle, I was a Deacon in our church, served on the nominating committee, helped teach Sunday School and other things that were "church related service." But that was really just busy work. None of it was helping to grow the Kingdom. What I wanted--want I needed was an area of personal ministry. As I looked to the types of personal ministries that other were in, I discovered that many people were doing the things that they loved to do and giving glory to God at the same time.

Musicians were writing, performing and praising Him through their music. There was a professional bass fisherman that would give fishing seminars and also tell these fishermen about his personal relationship with Jesus. A motocross rider was jumping over bands playing on stages at outdoor youth rallies and then telling kids that Jesus was the most important thing in his life. It was the heyday of the Power Team, a team of strongmen performing feats of strength but telling us that their real power comes from Jesus. It seemed that God rarely called people to suffer for Him. He was more likely to use them where they were, doing the things that they loved to do.

The question was, "What about me? What was it that I could do?"

Up to that point in my life, magic had only been a hobby. It was never something that I was serious about and I had never performed any magic for anyone other than my family or a few privileged (or cursed) friends. Somehow I got the idea that maybe I could use magic to teach biblical truths. It would be my unique ministry. I knew that I would have to get serious about it if I was going to move from hobbyist to performer so I did a couple of things.

I went to a meeting of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in Springfield. I think that on that day I was wearing a Promise Keepers shirt. Anyway, during a break a woman approached me and said that I might be interested in another magic club that met regularly--The Fellowship of Christian Magicians! So much for my unique ministry. It turns out that there is this international organization with the same unique idea for serving the King! I've been involved in our local chapter ever since.

Also, I figured that if I was going to be performing magic for audiences, the best way to practice was...well to perform magic for audiences. I knew that the magic shop at Branson's Silver Dollar City did short 15-20 minute acts on a little stage just outside of the shop. I figured that this would be a good way to get used to working in front of people. So I applied for and got a part-time job at the magic shop. I worked one day a week (one of my two days off from controlling airplanes) and really enjoyed the interaction with guests of all ages. It was more like playing than working and I had a lot of freedom to use whatever magic I wanted to draw a crowd. I made some great friends and got a few gigs out of the deal.

It soon became apparent that there was more to this "calling" than doing magic. As a matter of fact, it turns out that magic was my way of dodging my true calling. Using magic was my deal with God; my way of answering His calling on my terms--not His. It was as if I was telling God, "I'll do magic as long as I don't have to preach or anything like that!"

With some great encouragement from fellow evangelist, Ron Mills and from my pastor, Terry Kendrick, I accepted God's call to ministry through the preaching of the Word. In October of 2000, I was licensed into the Gospel Ministry. I feel incredibly blessed that God has allowed me to continue playing with magic as a part of my evangelical ministry. I have had some wonderful opportunities to preach revivals, children's camps and supply for churches (including my own) as needed. I have performed in many different venues including public schools and am growing as a performer and as a minister of the Gospel. I have often been challenged by the circumstances and have done some things that I never would have guessed I'd do (like children's camps!).

I know that I'll soon be taking the next step of ordination as an evangelist. I am looking forward to the opportunity to speak at next year's Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference. It is such an incredible honor to be able to share with those that are my heroes in ministry. God continues to grant me opportunities to perform and to preach although I rarely feel deserving of the "work" that seems to come my way. When August ended this year, my calendar was empty except for one revival in September. I ended up with eleven more events for September and October. God is truly awesome. (I should mention that I do no marketing. Most of these bookings come from repeat bookings, word of mouth or the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelist's directory.)

I am looking forward to what is ahead in 2008.


"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."

Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fall Back

I hope that everybody gets the opportunity to enjoy the extra hour provided by our annual change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. I know that there is all kinds of documentation to show actual energy use and savings by being on DST and that the dark months of winter have the least amount of savings, but it still seems silly to change back and forth.

Here is a site with a little history, a little documentation and some little known facts.

I, for one, plan on an extra hour of sleep. God knows I can use it. Hopefully the internal body clock won't mess up my intentions by popping the ol' peepers open an hour or so before the alarm gives me the official "time to get up" signal.

Enjoy the waning moments of DST. Beginning tomorrow, the sun sets early in the evening.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

You Get Out of It--What You Put into It

How many times have you heard that phrase? I even hear it about church. Somebody will say that they just don't get anything out of church or that they can't get into church. And then somebody else will respond with that worn out phrase--"you get out of it what you put into it!"

Here's my take--"It's not about you!" We are not supposed to be going to church for we can get out of it. We are there to worship God. It is all about giving of ourselves and expecting nothing in return. We are to worship Him because He is worthy of our worship. It is not about the kind of music we like. It is not about the kind of preaching we like. It is not about the programs available for our kids or for ourselves. It is about God (Period)

I'm not saying that you won't come away without a blessing. It is the nature of God to bless those that come into His presence for worship.

Years ago there was a man at our church named Gil Mitchell. I used to wonder how much chewing gum Gil bought each week. Every Sunday he had enough gum to give a stick to every child that said "Hi" to Mr. Gil. You didn't have to ask Gil for gum. If you said good morning to him, he would respond with a "good morning, sweetie" (didn't matter if you were a boy or girl) and hand you a piece of chewing gum. If Gil was talking to another adult, the kids would wait patiently for him to finish. (Interrupting was not going to get you your gum any faster.) Often, Gil might keep right on talking as he reached into his pocket and handed out the gum. The kids would offer their quick thank you's and be on their way. For a kid at Hopedale Baptist Church, being in the presence of Gil Mitchell meant getting blessed with a stick of good ol' Wrigley's Doublemint.

I think that Gil has given us a wonderful picture of God. If we will honor Him with our worship; if we will acknowledge His presence; we will always come away with a blessing. If we can come without seeking His gifts (without seeking His hands) but rather seeking His face (His presence) then I believe that we will be truly blessed.

The next time that you go to church how about trying not to get anything out of it? Try not asking God for anything--not for yourself; not for somebody else. There will be another time for that. Come only to worship; only to give; only to honor the Creator; only to praise God. If you would care to share your encounter with Him, I'd love to hear about it.