Archive | December, 2006

Counting blessings

19 Dec

Have you ever REALLY stopped to count your blessings? To name them one by one? Truth is, none of us would have enough time to name them all. But, lately, I have been thinking about all of the people God has put in my life, at different times, and allowed me to know and help in some way.

Just today, I got a Christmas card from Joel Fowler and his wife . . . I talked to Adam Swindler . . . I got an e-mail from Jess Dowdy . . . Three adults that I knew when they were youth. I was their youth minister, and I am so proud of how they have turned out. And then I think about JB Usher and Jason Dorriety. I think about Blaine Olson and Michael. I got a letter a few days ago from Lisa Capote. I also frequently think about Matt Beaver, Brad Sheppard, Chris Meadors, Drew St Pierre and Erin, & Ryan Burns. And all of these names JUST SCRATCH THE SURFACE.

Truth is, I might never see most of these guys and girls again. But I am thankful for them and the difference they have made in my life. Yep, there were some things about being a youth minister that money could never buy . . . And those things are GOLD!!

Peace on Earth

18 Dec

God’s Word tells us that there will always be wars and rumors of wars until Christ Himself returns. In my 40-year lifetime, there have been PLENTY of wars and conflicts involving the military branches of the US. We now find ourselves locked into a battle halfway around the world, and things are not going well. What will we do?

To many, the President is to blame. Every day I read articles that bash him, make him seem foolish, second guess him, paint him as if he is a puppet atop the knee of Dick Cheney in Saturday Night Live style . . . As Rodney Dangerfield would blurt, “No respect, no respect at all.”

From someone who votes for the candidate, and not the party, it looks to me like both parties are setting each other up to fail, and our President is more of a target than a cause. He is in the center of it, being atop the power pyramid of Washington, and will naturally take blame and abuse. Is he an idiot? No, he is not. I met him six years ago at the church (seriously). He is a brilliant man, but in the most difficult job in the world. And, as far as the Iraqi conflict goes, I don’t have the answer and I am honestly unsure what the answer is. I just pray about it.

How about you?? Have you prayed for our troops? Have you prayed for our President? Have you prayed for peace on Earth?

A Griswald Family Christmas

18 Dec

I hope you are enjoying the Christmas classics that are on TBS and other networks this season, cuz I AM!!! I have seen Elf (a new Christmas classic) several times in the last few weeks (Buddy the Elf . . . Whats YOUR favorite color??). I saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard version) on TV last week, and it was all I could think about this morning when we sang “O, Come All Ye Faithful.” I watched Scrooged yesterday. And now, as I write, I enjoy Christmas Vacation (it’s the gift that keeps on givin).

And, TBS promises to run A Christmas Story for 24 consecutive hours on Christmas Eve. I can’t wait!!!

All we like sheep

17 Dec

We really are like sheep. We are usually focussed on what is directly ahead. We are narrow-minded. We are stubborn. We are sheep.

The frightening thing about that statement is this: Sometimes we will be quick to follow something or somebody without really thinking things through. We are gullable. We are open to suggestions (even the best of us, the most stubborn, will follow if it seems right to us).

There was once a man in the desert. He was SOOOO thirsty, and he happened upon a small shed in the middle of nowhere. Inside the shed was a hand-pumped well. Beside the pump was a jar of water and a note:

CAUTION!! Use this water to prime the well!! If you do, you will have all the water you need! If you don’t, you will surely die!

What would he do?? The well looked so rusty, like it hadn’t been pumped in decades. Would he risk the ONLY water he had to try to get the pump to work??

What would you do? INSTINCT would tell you to drink the water and move on!! LOGIC would tell you that you might want to listen to the note!!

Would you be a SHEEP, or would you HAVE FAITH??

The Circle is Complete . . .

15 Dec

One of our librarians at the church is using a pretty advanced software for church libraries, and she asked me last week if I would be willing to help them get a barcode scanner and automate some of their checkout and tracking. I just laughed at that, because although she knew I was a computer programmer many moons ago, she had NO IDEA that I used to do auto id work (specifically with barcodes). I was more than happy to take on the challenge: This is EXACTLY what I used to do.

I contacted the folks that wrote the library software to find out the specs on what we needed for a fixed scanner. She told me that they already had one that flawlessly integrates with their software and it was only about $150 more than the cheap ones I googled. I agreed to buy from them (since it will be a seamless integration) and that box came yesterday.

And, inside was an Hand Held Products 3800!!!!

And when I looked at Mary and Barbara and did my best Darth Vader “the circle is complete”, they looked at me like they were going to make me take a random drug test.

Why is this funny and extremely ironic??

I e-mailed my old pal, Bill Ray up in Spartanburg. I knew he would get it, and he did . . . He responded this morning that he almost fell out of his chair laughing when he read all of this. You see, there is a story here:

When I was a computer programmer (and working for Bill), we were a value-added reseller for Hand Held Products (at the time HHP was based in Charlotte). We even did a lot of research and development WITH HHP as both of our companies grew. But, I surrendered to ministry, moved to New Orleans, and the rest is history. Bill and I worked closely with HHP in their early years.

So, it is EXTREMELY ironic that there was an HHP scanner in that box . . . Bill suggested I should name that scanner LUKE. I just might!

Remembering from whence we came . . .

15 Dec

I am originally from Greenville, SC. When I lived there, it really meant very little to me. When I was a teen, I thought I owned the town. It was almost boring to be there. I never appreciated it fully until I moved my family to New Orleans in 1992. Suddenly, I missed that town a bunch and was VERY proud to be from there. I could not WAIT to go home and visit from New Orleans. It used to really aggravate my youth at Woodmere Baptist Church when I would talk about going home: They would look at me and say YOU ARE HOME! They were right!

When we moved to Florence, I liked being this close to Greenville. This close to home. Close enough, but not too close. I can get there in under three hours. I haven’t been near as many times as I should have.

Now I find that my city has changed drastically, and does so between each of my visits. Since my dad’s diagnosis of NPH, I visit more often now, and Greenville keeps changing. It is definitely NOT the city of my youth. And that is a good thing . . . At least it is growing and thriving. Once known as the Textile Center of the World, I always wondered if it would dry up as the textile plants closed down. Greenville found a way to reinvent itself and is not only surviving, but also growing.

I am happy about that, but I have also discovered another change. My home is Florence. When I am in Greenville, I now talk about home, and it is here! And I would not mind it being here for a long time.

Difficult Decisions

14 Dec

I have been talking with a good friend who has a difficult decision to make. Today is the day he has to make it. A decision that on one hand, impacts his professional career in a major way; on the other hand, it also impacts his family. And, it is a tough decision.

Decisions are easy to make as an armchair quarterback . . . Many of us would step up to the plate and pose to him the EXACT solution to his choice. But decisions get tough when YOU have to make them, and when they impact people YOU love. And sometimes there is NO EASY CHOICE . . . My friend has prayed and prayed for direction from God. God will always give it to us, just not always in the time frame we want it.

Unfortunately, tough decisions are part of life. They WILL come and we will have to work our way through them. And they are never easy . . . (otherwise, we would not call them “TOUGH”, right??)

Pray for my friend today . . .

PS – This really is one of my friends . . . This is not my clever way of getting you to pray for me, although I do have my share of tough decisions every day!

Stealing the other team’s signals

13 Dec

That is the “accusation,” the explanation as to why Miami manhandled New England this weekend. They purchased game film with audio and analyzed Tom Brady’s signals. When asked about it, Nick Saban (Miami’s coach) did not deny it . . .And, why not?? At any sports level when there is game film to watch, why not take advantage of everything on the film that might help your team win??

That is a trick that is as old as Methusaleh . . . And New England should know better. But it started my brain on some of the issues I face as a pastor. There ARE many common denominators to the handiwork of Satan in trying to destroy the church, trying to destroy families, and trying to destroy ministry at Ebenezer. So if I hear his “signals,” why not steal them?? Why not be proactive??

There is a danger in that approach: How do you recognize Satan at work 100% of the time? Because, he DOES use people (even church folks) at times. He can even use me if I allow it, if I am not on my guard!

I write all that to say this: Pray for me and pray for our church! And pray, specifically, that Satan will be bound and cast out of our fellowship, in the name of Jesus Christ!

How far does FAITH go in a church?

11 Dec

Well, how far?? What do you think?? One of the delicate balances of the “business” of a church is that it IS a church, and yet a business. We still have bills to pay. We still have a budget. That budget depends on the faithfulness of church members to make it.

Now, last year was a tough year. We finished the year around 3% under budget in giving (although we were WAY under in spending). We put together the budget for 2006, and it increased around 10%. Some people got really mad that we were increasing the budget. Some even threatened to stop giving. That kind of move is only hurting those who hold out . . . When we tithe, we give to GOD, not to Ebenezer. Anyway, to finish the story: We did increase the budget, and to this point this year we are over budget in our giving (and, once again, under in our spending). So God has blessed us this year, and people ARE being obedient.

This year, we are looking at another budget increase. Not as much as last year, but an increase just the same. Ministries are growing. More people are coming to church. It is natural. After seeing what God has done THIS YEAR, I wonder how much faith we will have for 2007?? Or, will we get mad again??

Time will tell!

Angels, Angels, Angels

10 Dec

If you have seen the musical our kids are doing at Ebenezer this weekend, you know what I am talking about. Angels EVERYWHERE!!! It is an awesome sight!

I am thankful for the adults who helped pull this off, the parents who have been very patient during rehearsals and activities, and the kids, who are doing a great job!!!