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Does honoring God really matter??

22 Mar

You KNOW what my answer to this will be.  But, instead of the pat answer, I present to you solid evidence.

There is a family I know.  Actually, many families, but one in particular.  They are NOT members of my church or even live in our city.  But I know them and have known them for many years.  When I look and compare this family to the family in which I was born, I see striking differences.  And the main, root difference goes back to how God is valued.  When I think about my grandmother, Tweeter Hooper (yes, her given name WAS Tweeter), she worked, pestered, fought, and did everything else to make sure her family was in church.  I see that paying off in the lives of all of her children now.  Somehow, we are seem to have healthy connections to God (at least as far as I can tell).  But this is not the family of which I write.

Another family.  A grandmother who really didn’t value God.  Her children, one who married into a strong family and does value Him.  One who did not.  As the generations go, they seem farther and farther separated from God and from His desires for creation.  With each generation, this family seems to move farther away from Him.  With no apparent end in sight.

Two things … Number one:  If you think your relationship with God and your service to Him doesn’t matter, YOU HAVE NO IDEA THE IMPACT YOU MIGHT BE MAKING FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.  YOU have a responsibility to the generations that will come after you, and your positions on such things DO MATTER and WILL MAKE AN IMPACT whether you realize it or not.

Number two:  This other family is NOT beyond salvation.  They are NOT beyond the scope, reach, or love of God in Jesus Christ.  But someone will need to share it with them.  Maybe that is YOU???

Today, I write and say that I am thankful for my grandmother and the impact she made.  I am thankful for my parents and for the fact they taught me that God is real and Jesus really does love me, not only in their words but in their lives.  And I am praying that I won’t let the next generation down.

An Open Letter to the Parents of young children

1 Feb

Specifically, I hope every parent of a young child at Ebenezer will read this.  But it applies to every parent I know.  There is a battle waging for the hearts of your children.  Satan is trying everything he knows to steer them away from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And much of his success or failure will be placed in YOUR HANDS.

Been praying and thinking a lot today.  Thinking about my role at Ebenezer.  Thinking about how one day, I will stand before God and He will not only ask me about how I lived my life, He will hold me accountable for how I shepherded His flocks at the churches I have served.  One huge truth swelled up in my heart today and, even though I seldom EVER blog on a Saturday, I had to write this down.  One of my jobs is to remind parents of this fact:

YOU will teach your children FAR MORE about the reality of a relationship with Christ than I ever will.  

Your children will see if God is real to you in how YOU SERVE HIM.  HOW YOU REVERE HIM.  HOW YOU WORSHIP HIM.  Makes me wonder about what the children of parents who send them to church but never make time for it themselves REALLY think about God.  I KNOW there are parents with jobs that prevent them from being at church, and I KNOW there are circumstances that sometimes prevent it.  But how about those times when parents do the drive-by and then go out with friends or do their own thing??  Those that deep down, if they really would admit it, don’t find a relationship with God to be all that??  What are they teaching their children about LIVING FOR CHRIST?

But those are not the only parents who need to think about this.  WE ALL DO.  Because how we handle adversity and how we deal with crises and how ethically we do business with others ALL teach our children about how people live and conduct themselves.  We are teaching our children the realities of God by HOW WE LIVE.  No excuses.  No bones to be made about it.

Even when we do our best,  ULTIMATELY, each child will grow into an adult and be responsible for their own decision. All a parent can do it do their best to show Christ to their children. Some parents do the best they can to show their children Christ and the children still grow up and go their own way … Don’t ever stop loving, praying, and showing them Christ!!

What are YOU teaching your children about God?  Because you will teach them far more than I ever will …

Family

30 Sep

This past week I saw the entire spectrum of life unfold before me.  And in all of it, FAMILY plays a key and vital role.  Earlier last week I saw the burial of a good friend.  Actually, the father of a really good friend for most of my life.  And at the core of it all was family.  How does someone make it through such trying times??  Without God and without family, it would be virtually impossible.

Later in the week, I took my parents down to the Isle of Palms for a wedding … well, SORT OF a wedding.  My nephew and his bride have actually been married for over a year now.  But life has just slowed down enough for them to be able to plan a blessing of the wedding, something done in the Catholic church for church recognition of the marriage.  The service itself was brief and very meaningful.  And the celebration surrounding it was much like that of a traditional wedding.  And I don’t see how anyone could ever make it through that without God and without family,

It boggles my mind how some don’t value family.  When you minimize family or cut them off all together, there is a price to be paid down the road.  You might say “Well, you don’t understand what I’ve been through with my family.”  Maybe.  But I know they hold a special place in our heart.  And when they are no longer with us, if we have denied them access to our lives, we will pay a price.

Today I am thankful for my family.

This might just be about YOU

24 Sep

Today I did a funeral for a man who made a huge impact on my life.  And even though life and circumstances have been so that I haven’t spent a lot of time with him in the past 20 years, I still very clearly see his impact on my life today.

This blog post is for every parent who spends time with the friends of their kids.  Who opens their homes, their tables, their lives to their “kids” who do not share their blood or DNA.

When I look at the adults who shaped my life, my parents hold the top spot on that list.  I see them in myself every day.  And, honestly, there are several other adults who are on that list.  Who played major roles in shaping who I would become.  Who helped to make me the man I am today.  There are teachers, coaches, mentors, friends.  And then there are my other dads.  There are only a couple of them.  They were the fathers of my friends as I was growing up, and they helped teach me what it means to be a man… a dad … a husband.  I see their fingerprints in my life as well.  As I rode and walked into the wilds of Honduras this past summer, delivering Bibles and helping churches, ALL of these were with me.  And I think about them often.

Today, I did the funeral of one of my “dads.”  His name?  Walter Ronald Burton, but we knew him as “Nick.”  How did they get “Nick” from Walter Ronald??  I asked often.  Nick had a different answer every time.  That is just how he rolled!!  He had a great sense of humor and knew the value of laughter.  Always had an encouraging word when we needed it.  Would cut our tails when we needed it as well.  He loved his family, and he loved those of us who were his sons’s friends and considered us family as well.

Nick and his sweet wife, Jane, were those parents.  The ones who would open their doors to us.  Who would get us to stay for supper.  As a dad, I now KNOW there had to be times when he came home from a long day of work, saw our cars in his driveway, and just cringed.  But we NEVER saw that or knew that.  That is just how he was.

So, to you parents who do that today. Who open their homes, tables, hearts, and lives to the friends of their children, I leave you with this:  YOU HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THE INFLUENCE YOU ARE MAKING RIGHT NOW.  DO IT WELL!!  Do it like Nick.  Because you ARE making a difference.  YOU are shaping lives.  And that is pretty cool!!

Now … Of all of the great mysteries of life, I guess I will have to wait until I get to Heaven to ask Nick, once again, “Why Nick?”  And I cannot wait for the 20 new answers he will have for me!!!

They were just babies

20 May

Yesterday.  All my troubles seemed so far away.  I had my entire life ahead of me.  My children would jump up and down and get really happy when I came home from work.  They would run to me and hop up in my arms.  And life was good.

Then I blinked my eyes, and one walked across a stage to receive her Bachelor of Science degree.  And the other … He is ready to walk across a stage for his high school diploma.  And, it seems like only yesterday when he would hop up in my lap just to spend time with me.  He could barely walk, but he sure could hop up in my lap.  Where has the time gone???

Yesterday (the LITERAL day) was awesome.  And one of the hardest days of my life.  As I prepared for the Baccalaureate Service at EBC, I couldn’t help but realize who those graduates were.  Those graduates hold a piece of my heart, and they have since the beginning of my ministry at Ebenezer.

When we moved here almost 18 years ago, Drew was one month old.  And most of those kids that walked down the aisle in their caps and gowns were babies.  Just babies.  And I have watched most of those children grow up at EBC.   Keith Pettigrew and I have coached them in basketball, some of them in baseball.  Diana and I have cheered them on in many other sports.  These kids are like my own children.  And I love them that way, too!!

If ever there was a class that I personally KNOW Ebenezer has impacted in a positive way, this is it.  And here is something I could’ve NEVER said yesterday:  As a parent, I am SOOOO thankful for everything Ebenezer has done to prepare my son for the next step in his life.  From the Nursery, Sunday School, Children’s Church, RAs, and every aspect of Youth Ministry, there have been many hands that have shaped my son into the man he has become.  And I am thankful for every one of them!!  (And I know every parent in that room yesterday feels the same way)

I cannot see these kids as babies anymore.  They are young men and women.  And many of them are ALREADY making a tremendous impact on this world for the Kingdom of God.  And, life is GOOD!!!

My Friend, Mary

17 May

Many of you Ebenezerites know her voice… She has answered the phones at Ebenezer for over 16 years now.  Mary Todd is more than a part of our church staff … She is my family.  And I will miss her working in our office.

Mary came to Ebenezer in January of 1997.  I had not quite been here two years as Minister of Youth.  We quickly learned that Mary was actually Marion County Royalty:  EVERYONE over there knew her father, Albert Courie, who had an appliance store on Main Street.  He brought the first television to Marion.  He was more than that:  He served in the US Army in WW2 and afterward was an integral part of the SC National Guard.  Everyone I know from there now knows her sister and brother-in-law, Ken and Margaret Baker.  But Mary doesn’t need the family ties to define her .. She is quite capable of doing that herself.

When Mary came to work with us, we quickly learned that she was really good at her job:  Good at reading people.  Good at handling issues and helping people when she could.  Good at running interference when we needed it.  She was a natural in her role.  We also learned what Kevin (her son) meant when he called her “Scary Mary.”  (I am thankful I was never on the business end of the scary part)

Mary will be missed in our office.  A few months ago, doctors starting running tests on her and discovered a small mass.  Two surgeries later, they feel they got it all, but have prepared her for the fight of her life:  She will undergo chemotherapy and radiation.  And she has to put all of her energy into that fight.  So, she regrettably resigned her post.  We did not want to see her go… Especially with this reason … But, she needs her strength for her fight.

Will she have enough strength for this battle???  YES!!  Because when she feels like she is running low, I’ll give her some of mine … Ed will give her some of his … Pam will give her some of hers … Andi will give her some of hers … Dusty will give her some of hers … Kitty will give her some of hers … Lisa will give her some of hers … Edwin will give her some of his … Billy will give her some from California … Omerea, Michelle, and the Weekday crew will send some up the hall to her … and Tory will bat cleanup, and give her plenty!!!  And that list of those who are putting their strength with Mary and Roy in this fight GOES ON AND ON.

Because we are family.  And that is what family does.  As I write this, Mary is taking her FIRST chemo treatment.  Doctors have prepared her that this will be a long road and a serious undertaking.  And I am helping her out right now.

How, you might ask???  I am praying that GOD will give her some of His strength.  Because, the truth is, that is ALL WE CAN DO and THAT IS EXACTLY ENOUGH.  His strength is perfect and plenty!!!

Pray for my big sister, Mary Todd!!!  Thanks!

Hey Dad!! They’re watching …

31 Jan

Yes, I’m calling ALL dads out.  Again.  I wish all of you could’ve heard Chris Wells last Thursday.  He welcomed all to our Wild Game Supper, but made no bones about the fact that he was talking to men as he preached.  Why??

Dad, if YOU lead your family to the throne, the chances of your children doing the same is very high.  Over 80%.  Now, when I write “lead them to the throne” I mean more than just coming to church or bringing them and coming back to pick them up.  In fact, going to church is only a PART of leading them to His throne.  When I write this, I mean you take seriously your relationship with Christ.  You live by faith and not by sight.  And NOT that you brainwash your kids to do this (because that would do them NO GOOD AT ALL), but that you show them by how you live your life that God is real and His promises are true.  Because they ARE watching.

Due to the vast number of funerals we’ve had at Ebenezer and for family members of those who attend Ebenezer, I am reminded that there will be a day when people will gather around a casket and view my remains.  Hopefully that day is FAR, FAR away.  But still, it will happen.  And I wonder what they will say about me??  Not that I desire accolades, but everyone wants to be remembered as someone who treated people well.  But what I am really concerned with is how my children will remember me.  How my wife will remember me.  They know me far better than anyone else.  Do they see the reality of the power of God in my life???

If they don’t, I am not doing my job.  NOT AS A PASTOR, but as a husband and a dad.

Hey Dad!!  They really are watching … What do they see?

Something for Dad

7 Jun

This is not a Father’s Day post.  Nor is it a present.  Or, maybe it is …

I sit here in Garden City alone right now.  I am the only one awake (as usual).  This is the FIRST day of our week in which I actually see the sun peeking through the sliding glass door.  We might actually get warm today!!  But, there is something missing …

That “something” is the reason I woke up at 7:20 on a vacation day (I am one of those that once I am awake, it’s all over). That one thing … one person … is my oldest!!  Krissy is doing an internship with the Greenville Hospital System in June and July, so we do not have her at the beach.  And, it’s not right!!

Yeah, I know:  She is now a senior at Clemson.  This was bound to happen sooner or later.  But I wish it had been later!!  And I am reminded of something I’ve always been told and now I must tell YOU, DADS:  You’d better be making memories with your kids.  Because, one day, those will be all you have!!!

Yeah, DAD, I am calling YOU out.  The only way you can make memories with your kids is to BE A PART OF THEIR LIVES.  In a MAJOR WAY.  Money and stuff are great, but they mean NOTHING to a kid who has a dad but he is not part of their lives.  I know kids who’ve already lost their dad … and they would give ANYTHING for more time.  That is what they remember and that is what they want!!  NOT STUFF!!  And, likewise, I know adults who have lost a child.  And they all say the same thing!!

MAKE MEMORIES, DAD!!  However you can!  It will be the only thing that helps you keep your sanity one day when you miss your kid like crazy!  Trust me …

Good side effects

9 May

There are some good things about my injury.  In a strange and amazing way, it pulls our family closer together.  A perfect example of that would be the Great Hot Water Heater Catastrophe of 2012!!

We have a two-car garage, yet we park our cars outside.  Why, you ask??  Because our garage is basically a big storage unit. There are toys, furniture, and other things in our garage.  So imagine our surprise when the hot water heater tank rusted out and was running like a waterfall on Monday afternoon??  You guessed it, we had to pull all of that stuff out of the garage before we could even get to the heater.

So there we were … looking like the Clampetts.  Some of our neighbors got whiplash as they drove by and whipped their necks over to see.  Two or three stopped to ask us if we were having a yard sale!!  (SOON … soon)  One church member stopped and asked if we were moving!!  (Not sure how to take that)

But, in every way, we had to work as a team.  All four of us.  Even as we removed the old heater and put the new one up on the stand.  As we plumbed it and connected the gas.  As it filled up.  In every way, it was a team effort.  And after we cleaned up and put it all back, all four of us were absolutely worn out!!  Even Bailey, who got to stay outside all afternoon, was tired!!

And, as much as I hated that happening (and HATED to write a check for the replacement), it was good to work together with my family!!!

The Final Leg of the Journey

20 Feb

Saturday morning we got up … ate breakfast … and waited.  Waited for the caravan of cars to go back to Del Rio.  Then, in a strange twist, the caravan left us.  Long story.  But we made our way back on our own!!  (All I need is Mr iPhone!!!)

We actually beat the caravan back by about an hour, since they stopped for pizza.  Here is where the Omni Colonnade part of the story starts …  Yes, the great Omni Colonnade of San Antonio, where I shall NEVER stay again!!!  Our issues started last Tuesday when Diana was trying to make sure Mom and Dad had a wheelchair-accessible room.  The rocket scientists that work there kept transferring our call to the national reservation hotline, who told us we HAD to talk to the local folks and would transfer us back.  After the local folks picked up and hung up on us twice, we decided to wait a day or two.  On Friday, Diana called and finally convinced them to talk to us and NOT transfer us back to the national folks.  She made the necessary arrangements and even got Mom and Dad a noon check-in time.  We thought we were set!

We arrived at the Omni at 2pm.  Mom and Dad’s room wasn’t ready, but ours was!  If not for the handicap accessible room, we would’ve camped them in that one.  But we waited for the room that was supposed to be better set-up for the wheelchair.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And 3pm check-in time came.  And we waited.  No room.  No room until 4pm.  And it wasn’t even wheelchair friendly!!!  By that time, Mom and Dad were so tired it didn’t matter to them.

Long story short, we got settled in and went out for supper.  When we got back … went to bed .. went to breakfast early Sunday morning.  Then found out that Jake’s cousin had been ROBBED!!  Well, at least his room was … Someone took his MacBook Pro, his iPad, and his iPhone from his room.  It seemed like an inside job, but the front desk reminded that no one really knows who got it.  The police came out, filed a report, and that was all.  Housekeeping was in our rooms after we left for supper, because they left a little something in each room.  I thank God no one took my MacBook Pro or my iPad, which was charging and in plain sight.  Moral of this paragraph and the last:  DO NOT STAY AT THE OMNI COLONNADE IN SAN ANTONIO.  (Ironically, Diana had read a story about the exact same thing happening to another person a few weeks ago at the same hotel on the web.  Staying there wasn’t our choice … )

We left our hotel, ran downtown, did the high-speed self-tour of the Alamo, and got to the airport.  Once again, the US Air folks were great.  TSA left a little to be desired.  We got back to Charlotte and found it cold, rainy, and 40 degrees.  We got Mom and Dad loaded back up, on I-85 South, and we headed home!!

In the five days of this trip, I flew over 2,200 miles and drove over 800.  I’m tired!!