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Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday February 14, 2018


I can't say I have particularly observed Ash Wednesday.  High church traditions observe Ash Wednesday and Lent.  This would include the Lutheran tradition.  I was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran tradition.  Of course, I can't remember the event.  As a matter of fact, I can't remember attending Lutheran services.  My father's mother was of the Lutheran tradition.  It would be my guess that the baptism was for my grandmother's benefit?  My father died acknowledging God, but questioning Jesus as Son of God.  My mother proudly claims to be a Southern Baptist.  I doubt she could say what makes a Southern Baptist different from most other evangelicals.  She hasn't been a regular churchgoer for decades.  For a short time in my youth, she attended a Southern Baptist congregation regularly.  I was baptized again at the age of twelve in a Southern Baptist church.  This time, it was by my prompting.  I went forward at the invitation …

Finding Application

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Finding Application February 13, 2018
Formal training for the preaching ministry is at the very least intimidating.  Many of us grow up in a church background, so the thought upon entering seminary can sometimes be, “All I need to know is more about the Bible.”  That’s data – information, cold, hard facts.  Information is but the beginning of sermon preparation.  Seminarians enter into study in the fields of philosophy, hermeneutics, ancient languages, oratory training, theology, doctrine, history and a mind-numbing collection of arts, sciences, and varied fields. And that is but the beginning. When I began, you bought, and read, books – may, many books.  Today, the investment is in computer programs and digital libraries.  My library numbers in the thousands.  A preacher is not worth his/her salt unless there is a vast library at hand. That was until I was humbled by a preacher from a third world country whose library consisted of just four volumes.  Three if you did not count his Bible…

Helpless

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Helpless
I have what can best be described as a "hideout,"an establishment in town where I can sit, drink coffee (it is a coffee shop), study and write.  Normally, it is my safe place as my office can sometimes seem more like Grand Central Station.  This morning it was not my safe place.  As I entered a woman sat at the counter, saw me and motioned for me to sit down next to her.  Used to having people recognize me before I recognize them, it took a few paces for me to realize I did not know this woman.  One or two more paces and it was very obvious this woman was clearly disturbed.  Too late, as by this time I had arrived at my "spot."  Funny how we are such creatures of habit, like church folk have their favorite spots in church service, I have a favorite spot.  The unfortunate aspect to my "spot" this day was that it was next to the counter at which my new friend sat.  I went around the counter and placed my order with my favorite bartender/barista.  …

Beautiful

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Beautiful
A young woman in our congregation posted, "I just want to say that I love my church family. You are amazing," on her social media account shortly after services this morning.  I've been thinking about them quite a bit lately and I would have to agree.  The young woman in question has a father suffering from stage 4 cancer - he also happens to be one of our elders.  As this congregation pours out love to her and her family, it is no wonder she has come to such a conclusion.  I am amazed, because their family is not the only family in this small congregation facing a major health crisis.  In each situation, they have responded with phenomenal outpourings of love.
As a preacher, it is encouraging to hear such compliments about one's church.  But then, that made me think how incongruous part of that statement is with reality.  Consider how often we say something like, "my church."  As minister I serve - a congregation entrusted to me.  More important…

Timing

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Timing March 21, 2017
When it comes to patience I am consistently inconsistent.  For example, I just do not get bent out of shape when made to wait as a customer.  I can be very patient as some poor clerk struggles to get through a transaction - usually with a difficult client.  I can wait - there are far more important things to fret about in this world.  However, such patience is not always evident.  I have a rather large, complicated program I use for sermon prep and study.  Several thousand texts are resident in the program and on start-up it can take several minutes, especially if a program update is underway.  It is not unusual for two or three other programs to be going at the same time on the three screens attached to the computer.  I will start a process on the Bible program but quickly become impatient with the slow response, switch to one of the other programs on another screen and quickly realize by doing so I inadvertently cancel the process started on the Bible software…

Prayer

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Prayer March 10, 2017
en·ig·mat·ic enəɡˈmadik/ adjective
difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious.
"he took the money with an enigmatic smile"
synonyms: mysterious, inscrutable, puzzling, mystifying, baffling, perplexing, impenetrable, unfathomable, sphinx-like, Delphic, oracular; cryptic, elliptical, ambiguous, equivocal, paradoxical, obscure, oblique, secret.
It's hard for even me to believe, but I've been in church leadership for over 40 years now.  That means countless sermons, thousands of Bible lessons, one-on-one question and answers, counseling, guiding, leading, teaching and sharing.  What never ceases to amaze me is how so many people - churched and unchurched alike - are intimidated by prayer.  Perhaps a few object, "Not me!  I pray all the time."
Really?!
Be honest.  When was the last time you led prayer in church?
My experience and observation - the last is obviously subjective, I do not know the heart of man except my own, and evidence w…

Tap Dancing in Roller Skates

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Tap Dancing in Roller Skates February 28, 2017
If you are old enough to remember, and I AM old enough, roller skates had a primitive ancestor to today's evolutionary masterpiece.  In those bygone days, it could be said that roller skate design was intended to weed out the weak - an intentional survival of the fittest.  Early designs were all-metal, with cleats on the front and straps in the back in order to clamp them onto your street shoes.  The rich kids, and I was NOT a member of said category, could afford to have actual shoes designed for skating.  The wheels were still metal, but you did not have to rely upon thin leather straps, and two half-inch cleats to hold the wheels onto your street shoes.  When new, the leather straps worked extremely well.  Invariably though, the cleats on the front would slip off the soles of my shoes and dangle by the leather strap around my ankle.  Normally, this was the cause of a spill, I would be on my back, blood oozing from several wounds a…