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Time FLIES when you are having fun

8 May

It sounds so cliche, but it’s the absolute truth:  ENJOY EVERY DAY of your children.  Because, one day, they won’t be children any more.

Twenty-two years and three days ago Diana and I welcomed our son into the world.  We were in the midst of packing our home and preparing to move to Florence to serve at Ebenezer as Minister of Youth and Recreation.  I was two weeks away from graduation with one class remaining to be taken a week after graduation in a workshop.  Our lives were in a tempest of things that had to be done to take the next steps in our lives when Drew was born in a hospital which was over 600 miles from home.  We had no biological family nearby, but we had plenty of family from Woodmere Baptist Church and from our seminary family.  And there it was …

Four weeks later we drove away from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to our new home, Ebenezer.  A place we still call home.  With two small children and a calling from God.  And it has all unfolded faster than we could blink our eyes.

Today I have two children who have earned Bachelor’s degrees … One who is working on her masters degree as a Physician Assistant, and one who is now in process of applying to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to do online work as he serves his own church in Florence (Greenwood Baptist).  And it all seems like a flash.

Just yesterday we were unloading a truck into one of the Cambridge Apartments.  Playing softball at Freedom Florence and baseball at Maple Park.  Going to programs, plays, and multiple sports at Delmae, Moore, Sneed, and West Florence.

I have said it many times the past few years and am saying it again now:  PARENTS, BELIEVE IT!!  It goes by like a flash!!  And I really wouldn’t change it at all!!  (Except maybe to slow it down and enjoy it a little more)

FAILURE

11 Apr

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all seen success and we LOVE IT.  We LIVE FOR IT.  And we’ve all experienced failure and most all of us hate it.  Period.

And, most all of us work hard NOT to experience failure a second time.  Well, guess what?  NONE of us are perfect.  We will all fail.  We will all make mistakes … Sometimes small ones.  Sometimes COLOSSAL mistakes.  What can we do?  Where can we go for help?

First of all, we need to level the playing field.  Because our nature gravitates towards the image of a perfect life.  We do not want to admit failure and imperfection.  Somehow we think it lessens our value in the eyes of others.  If we all slowed down enough to see that we all face the same issues and that, in reality, NOT ONE of us is perfect, our world would spin a little smoother.  But pride stops us from doing that.  To make matters worse, we demand perfection in others and yet allow ourselves to be imperfect.  As if we deserve a break, yet no one else does.  The nature of humanity is interesting to say the least …

Whether you realize it or not, someone in your realm of influence TODAY is struggling.  Perhaps with failure.  Or disappointment.  Or, maybe they are just hurting.  And the best thing you can do for them is to be a BARNABAS.  Paul’s famous missionary sidekick was probably the greatest encourager in the New Testament.  His name literally means “Son of Encouragement.”

Someone near you needs encouragement today.  Pray for them.  Speak a word of healing to them.  Remember that you will need the same word some day!!!

A Family Calling

24 Mar

Twenty six years ago, I was an IT professional struggling with a gnawing in my heart.  Gnawing seems to be a crass word in this sense, but that is the only way I know to describe it.  My relationship with Christ was stronger than it had ever been and He was calling.  And I was running.  I tried to excuse it away as a bleedover of my love for the youth ministry at Washington Avenue Baptist Church.  In fact, I passed up an opportunity for serious career advancement because I didn’t want to move to Charlotte BECAUSE of my youth Sunday School class!!  (This is the evidence for those who think I am a fool … Think what you will.)

The more I struggled with this uneasy feeling, the more I knew exactly what it was:  God was calling me to ministry of some sort.  And I was terrified!!  I was nervous about telling Diana.  I was uneasy about the fact that we had a six-month old and this would be a radical change of life and income.  I had a great career ahead of me in computer technology and the financial potential was endless!

My parents had always taught me the most important thing I could do was to provide for my family.  I was scared to death to tell my mother and father, just knowing they would tell me I had lost my mind.  So I prayed.  And I ran.  I knew it would require me to continue my education and had no idea how far that would lead.  I even had no idea how my friends and peers would react:  They KNOW how imperfect I am.  What would they say?  What would they think?

As I prayed and wrestled, I gave God every good and logical excuse I could think of.  And He took them down one by one.  He confirmed and He called.  And the greatest confirmations came from my family.  My mother and father, whom I told AFTER Diana, basically told me “if God is calling, you have to answer!!”  I was floored!!  But I had already received the greatest confirmation I could possibly receive from my bride …

When I told her, she wasn’t surprised at all.  She agreed to pray with me and we would figure this out together.  Then she told me a story that I will never forget.  Several years before she even met me, she was at a retreat or a youth camp and had a strong calling from God.  You might say an unusual calling.  The Holy Spirit told her that some day she would be the wife of a pastor.  Then, in her words, she met me.  Some time later she knew that I was the one, and just guessed she had misunderstood.  But now it all made perfect sense to her.

And it takes a family calling …  My profession is both extremely rewarding and heartbreaking.  Some go out of their way to encourage me.  Some go out of their way to tell me how sorry I really am.  And then I come home everyday to a woman who is called, and her calling is to walk the mountain tops and valleys with me.  To very little fanfare or recognition.  And she will not like the fact that I wrote this, but it is true.

Another great confirmation for me is the fact that I know I couldn’t make it without a partner who is just as called to ministry as I.  Who loves our church just as much.  Who celebrates the victories and struggles through the hardships.

Because, she is called too.  It really is a family calling.

One Last Ride in a Golf Cart

17 Jan

Since Mom died six weeks ago, I have been like a kid trapped in the surf. Every time I think I can get back on my feet, another wave crashes in and takes my feet out from under me. Since mom’s death, several people at Ebenezer who mean the world to me have gone to join her in Heaven. Every time I catch my breath, it seems another takes place … So I am writing this from one of her favorite places: Garden City Beach. This weekend has been good for me to unplug and deal with some of the emotions I haven’t been able to process because of my obligations at Ebenezer.

I got a text last night from Stephanie McCabe (who just lost her father) and it reminded me of something I really got a kick out of as we dealt with some of the duties with the funeral home after mom’s funeral. It seems that in South Carolina, you cannot cremate a body until you have a death certificate. And the doctor at the hospice house where mom died is notorious for being slow with these. So, I will confess that we had the funeral with an empty urn (apparently that is not so unusual). Years ago, mom and dad picked out cemetery plots in the veteran’s memorial garden at the cemetery where she is now interred. However, a year or two ago, mom decided she would rather be cremated than embalmed and buried. SOOOO …. About a week after the funeral, Diana and I had to return to Easley to finish those arrangements.

It was a painless issue: We had to choose where her urn would be placed. We opted to trade the burial plots for a place at the mausoleum, a place where Dad’s wheelchair could easily roll up. We had to sign all kinds of paperwork (which is apparently standard with EVERYTHING when someone dies). After we were all done, the kind lady asked me “would you like to place your mom in her niche??”

“Ummm …. Yes?” I tentatively responded. “She is in there on the countertop!” the lady replied. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing … She was sitting on the countertop, in her urn. Her pretty urn that my sisters and I picked out. It was definitely one she would like. And she was sitting in there on the countertop!

My purpose is not to be flippant about death. It just sounded like I could get up and run into the next room, and there she would be, sitting on the countertop. Mom had such short legs, that would’ve been really funny to me. I contained my laughter, although I did smile. The lady went into the next room and brought the urn into the conference room where we had been signing papers.

She radioed down to have the niche opened, and when everything was ready, we went and got back onto the golf cart to ride back down to the mausoleum (where we had been a half-hour before to pick out the perfect spots for her and dad). There was one difference: I was holding mom’s urn!

We rode down to the mausoleum. It was sunny but cold. And I carefully held on to my mom. Those same hands I held tightly when I was a little boy were now held tightly once again, but this time my hands were tightly sealed around a large vase. One last time. We arrived at the mausoleum and I carefully walked around to our destination. I had never been the only pall bearer before that day. I gently placed mom’s urn into her niche. And it was over.

Now, I often think about those conversations we had in the hospital. Those talks at breakfast at her house in the last year. This weekend, I have seen places here at the beach and immediately flash to the last time I was there with mom. Almost every night of my life, around 7pm, I think about calling her. And then remember I don’t have the phone number for Heaven. Wow … I miss her.

Places of Honor

15 Dec

As I look back and the events of the past three weeks begin to sink in more, I was reminded of something I always saw in my mom but never really placed it until today. Mom was a “behind the scenes” person. She liked to work and accomplish things without a lot of fanfare or recognition. It was just the way she was. I think it is a “middle child trait.” In a lot of ways, Mom was the glue that held things together, and yet she did not seek praise or any sort of honor for this. She just did it because it needed to be done.

Jesus was talking about that very kind of approach in Luke 14 when He reminded us not to seek places of honor at a banquet!! Not to seek honor, glory, or fame for ourselves. Just do the things we are called to do, and when the time is right, the Host will honor us in the proper way. The way He will honor us is so much better than what we claim on earth for ourselves!!! Jesus makes clear that humility is SO IMPORTANT for those of us in the Kingdom of God. Our earthly nature tends to lead us to seek fame and glory for ourselves …

What if we did everything we will do today for the glory of God INSTEAD of for ourselves??? Would that make a difference? I think so. I saw a real difference in my Mom.

In Memory of One Special Mom (and in honor of all the others)

11 Dec

Much like Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I do not believe in coincidences. The following post was the daily email from Mikey’s Funnies (you can subscribe to the madness at http://www.mikeysfunnies.com)

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good mom all year. I’ve fed, cleaned, and cuddled my two children on demand, visited the doctor’s office more than my doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground, and figured out how to attach nine patches onto my daughter’s girl scout sash with staples and a glue gun.

I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son’s red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I’ll find any more free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I’d like a pair of legs that don’t ache after a day of chasing kids (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don’t flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to carry a screaming toddler out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I’d also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you’re hauling big ticket items this year, I’d like a car with fingerprint-resistant windows and a radio that plays only big-people music; a television that doesn’t broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking daughter doll that says, “Yes, Mommy” to boost my parental confidence, along with one potty-trained toddler, two kids who don’t fight, and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting, “Don’t eat in the living room” and “Take your hands off your brother,” because my voice seems to be just out of my children’s hearing range and can be heard only by the dog.

And please don’t forget the Playdoh Travel Pack, the hottest stocking stuffer this year for mothers of preschoolers. It comes in three fluorescent colors and is guaranteed to crumble on any carpet, making the in-law’s house seem just like mine.

If it’s too late to find any of these products, I’d settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don’t mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It would clear my conscience immensely.

It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family; or if my toddler didn’t look so cute sneaking downstairs in his pajamas to eat contraband ice cream at midnight.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the chimney and come in and dry off by the fire so you don’t catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table, but don’t eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always, Mom

P.S. One more thing: You can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young.

The Other Side

8 Dec

We did something yesterday that we never expected to do. Sure, we know the only certain things for we Americans are death and taxes, and we know the number of our days is already known to God, but seldom are we ready so see someone we love cross over to the other side. And, as morbid as it sounds, I never thought we would see Mom cross over before my dad. Dad has been sick for some time. Elaine and I are sitting at the kitchen table right now at 6:50am, and for us this is all too surreal.

Everyone deals with death. Every family has their own dynamic in dealing with such things, and the Wikes are no exception. As is often true, Mom was the glue that held so much together. We children now have a job to do. As a pastor, I have walked many times through such situations with other families. I know the right things to say. I know the right passages of scripture to use. But I had never been in these shoes before. This situation will forever change my perspective on this ministry.

But this is not about me. This is about Mom. I have tried to be the glue … The middle child in me comes out, just like in mom. But soon I will be able to stop juggling all of the balls and just grieve. That that is natural and okay. And to Latha Janet Hooper Wike, whom I will always love, I take great confidence in knowing that I WILL see you on the other side. Until then, I will miss you terribly, Mom. I love you!!