“The Ubiquitous Backpack”

When did backpacks become necessary?

I’m not a backpack guy but clearly they are essential to thousands of hikers and to millions of children.

They seem an indispensable element within the culture of children’s academia. A kid without a backpack is like a milk shake without a straw.

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some have solid colors and some have stripes, patterns, and prints. There are packs with superheroes, sports stars and movie themes. Some are designed for girls or boys.

kids with packs 2

 

My Favorite?

I don’t use them so I don’t have a favorite, but the ones that make me smile are those on the backs of younger kids, the packs that are as big as the child and so heavy that a soft breeze could blow them over. 

kids with big packs 2

 

Modernization?

I’m not sure how sophisticated a backpack can get. It’s basically a bag with shoulder straps, but somehow the smart people at the pack places manage to find a way.

schoolbag for black kid

 

The Old Days

In the old days when kids walked to school, took the buss, or rode their bikes, they did so without a backpack. We didn’t have book bags, lockers, or even a plastic grocery sack. We didn’t carry anything. Perhaps it explains why none of us grew up to be the hope of our generation.

My Church

We do an annual back pack drive to help families in need. We buy the packs, fill them with supplies, and then bring them to, “Back Pack Sunday.” By the end of 2nd service the stage is covered in packs. We have a blessing for them and for the kids. Its pretty cool. 

In Closing

Across America children have started school, or are about to. According to the National Center For Public Education there will be 50 million kids in public schools and 6 million in private schools. 

kids with packs 1

So God bless you kids. Have a great year. Study hard, learn much, and prepare well. We are counting on you. And with a brand new back pack filled with every needed item you are all set. Wear them proudly. And just in case you don’t like your pack, don’t worry, you’ll get a new one next year.

Shalom

When Cats and Pharaohs Go Bad

A fox, badger, peacock, swan, squirrel, cat, and a seagull. 

In Common?

Yes, according to news reports those animal have all been reported as:

“Animals that have gone bad” 

In fact, there is a series called, “When Animals Go Bad.” I can feel the pain. There aren’t many things worse than a snarky squirrel, a raunchy raccoon, or a cranky cat. 

mean cat

Others? 

Sure, how about when people go bad? History is replete with dastardly dictators and noisy neighbors. What about pesky pastors? They are the worst aren’t they? There should be a TV show called, “When Pastors Go Bad.” Here’s another:

“When Pharaohs Go Bad” 

Pharaohs?

Sure, like the Pharaoh of Egypt who clamped down on the descendants of Jospeh and his brothers. As the Hebrews multiplied the god of Egypt decided to fear them. His worry was that the Hebrews would form an alliance with Egypt’s enemies. 

Pharaohs

What happened? Pharaoh orchestrated slavery to control them. Slavery was framed by brutality, abuse, and ruthless and bitter treatment. All of which was birthed in fear.

Fear

Fear will cause us to:

  • withdraw and separate from people
  • cower in the corners of our lives
  • attack others because we despise them
  • subjugate, diminish, or enslave them

Pharaoh feared the Hebrews due to their massive numbers. It wasn’t like they had a fortified army or weapons of mass destruction. They were sheep herders and farmers. At some point, prejudice and racism become foundational to hatred and discrimination. 

Pharaoh did it and so did the Nazis. As did a bible class teacher who didn’t like having a Vietnamese child in her class, and the kids who beat me up because I was new. 

To Close

We fear what threatens us. I guess its a normal response. But what did Jesus do? Did he attack those who feared him? How did he treat those who were different? Did he castigate and cast them out? Can you imagine this show on TV?

“When The Messiah Goes Bad”

Shalom 

A Joy To My Eyes

If you knew what to look for you could see a lot.

What Did I See?

Spark: Camp Spark is our camp for younger kids. We had 60 children who were led by teens from our Youth Group serving as the counselors. Saturday some of our elders cooked breakfast, it was so cool. I saw the teens caring for the little children and doing a fantastic job. Camp Spark was amazing! Thank you Janel.

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Camp Spark, 2018

Next Camp: Next week about a hundred of our older kids, teens and adults will be at Camp Bandina where nearly 400 campers will have an amazing experience. It will be fun, challenging, and Spirit filled. All who go will come home closer to God and to each other. Camp Bandina will be fantastic. Thank you Melissa.

gerald-james-300x200
Not Melissa, but close, really very close. Her dad and husband. 

Youth Worship : Sunday nights our Youth Group gathers in the gym for basketball, games, food, and worship. It’s a great event and packed with fun and fellowship. Last night one of our teens was born again, joining the body of Christ, such a sweet moment. Thank you Parker.

IMG_1399

Support: Our staff does whatever they can to serve everyone they can. Yesterday morning I observed one of our team serving a family experiencing some challenges. She was kind, supportive and serving in the spirit of Christ. Thank you Debbie. 

Down To The River: I visited with a couple who shared that while on vacation she decided to be immersed into Christ, and that he did the immersing, in a river. They are so happy and so filled with God’s love. It was wonderful. Thank you Jim.

jorden-river-baptisms
Not the river where he baptized her. This is where John baptized Jesus. 

Some Encouragement: One of our members told me that I am her favorite minister. She said she can remember what I preach and that my sermons are down at her level. I assured her that what she hears is the only level I have! Thank you Bernice.

Bibles: One of my members works on an off shore oil platform and is on four weeks and off four weeks. Recently, he asked if we could ship some bibles out to the platform. They have services on Sundays and needed some bibles. They arrived and he was saying how much they appreciate having them. Thank you Brooks.

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Bibles are best when Bibles are used! 

To Close

There are more stories. There are always more stories. But maybe these are enough to give you a sense that for believers the Kingdom of God is everywhere and the Kingdom of God is with everyone.

 It was a good week end, a great Sunday, and as always, so encouraging. 

A Joy To My Eyes

Shalom

Land of the Free

There are places I want to see, not exactly bucket list stuff, but still. 

Like Where?

  • Africa
  • Austria
  • the Swiss Alps
  • Banff National Park
  • Just to name a few

Why?

I like to travel. Actually, I like arriving but the journey can also be exciting. Traveling opens the mind, awakens the senses, and often offers valuable insights. Yep, lots of places around the world I would like to see. But there is plenty to see right here at home. 

grand canyon

The Rocky Mountains aren’t to be missed. New England’s leaves are a treasure. The Grand Canyon doesn’t disappoint. Have you seen California’s red woods? Yosemite? Yellowstone? I marvel at the fluttering leaves of Colorado’s aspen trees transforming into their annual crimson and gold. 

Forest panorama in autumn

The joy is immense because we get to live in an amazing country.

The joy is all the more grand knowing we can get in our car, board a train, or take a plane and go anywhere we choose at any time of our choosing.

Why?

Because we are free. We live in a country that fought and struggled to give birth to a nation born into freedom. 

So, Happy 4th of July!

Be blessed for you are free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it. 

May God continue to bless this great nation of ours.

A Tale of Two Cookies

Question: What’s better than a really good home made cookie? 

The Answer

It’s obvious: two really good home made cookies, exactly like those I was given yesterday in 2nd service. They were fresh, they were delicious, and given by a friend. 

Our church has a children’s offering and any child is welcome to give. But typically the kids range from preschool to 3rd grade. On average we have 25 children in 1st service and 75 in 2nd. The offering supports Haitian kids through Hope For Haiti’s Children.

The offering is the most exciting part, so much more than the preaching!

IMG_9070
The children’s offering, it never gets old or ordinary.

The kids are:

  • innocent
  • fun
  • excited
  • energized
  • generous
  • sweet
  • and captivated to see themselves up on the screens

In 2nd Service

I hold one of the baskets for the children to give their money, it’s a selfish pleasure. Yesterday one of my friends, a five year old girl, handed me a bag with two cookies and then dropped her dollar in the basket. She looked at me with her beautiful eyes, she smiled her gorgeous smile, and was excited to give her dollar and happy to give her cookies. 

I was happy too. 

And Later

After the service, I was in the lobby and available to sign my newest book that was on display. My friend, along with her mom and grandmother, stopped by to pick up a few copies, which afforded the opportunity to talk with the adorable cookie giver. It’s impossible to guess what a five year old will say. It was so much fun.

friends uplift the soul
Not my little friend, but close, really, very, very close!

 

To Close

We went home for lunch and after cleaning the kitchen we each got to enjoy a really good cookie. Made with skill, given with joy and received by happy hands and a melted heart. 

It was a tale of two cookies.

I love Sundays

 

 

The Wookii Effect

There are places for men with really hairy backs who wear tank tops?

Sure, Such As?

  • the beach
  • the internet
  • carnivals 

Places They Shouldn’t Be?

  • fashion shows
  • bill boards
  • church

Did that last one surprise you? It did me too but then I was there in 1997. 

Where?

In church when a man with Wookii like body hair walked in and sat down wearing a tank top. I noticed him right away, he was hard to miss.

Wookii
Not the gentleman from 1997 but close, really very close.

Then It Was Monday Morning

 I began getting phone calls, letters and not a few drop by conversations from members. 

Even in 1997 tank tops were considered, by some, to be an undershirt. To go out in a tank top was to go out in your underwear. There were complaints and demands. There was a call for action, for a dress code, and that I should speak up for modesty and good taste. 

It was a long and difficult week. 

What Did I Do?

I took it to heart and the next Sunday I spoke against inappropriate clothing in church.

I said,

  • “You wouldn’t wear your swim suit to church.”
  • “You wouldn’t want your family coming in their underwear.”  
  • “You need to be sensitive to those around you and set a good example.” 

 I was thorough, clear, and effective. I was proud of myself. Good job Rick!

Then It Was Monday Morning, Again

I began getting phone calls, letters, and not a few drop by conversations from members.

They said it was inappropriate to set a dress code. They asked, “Where do you get the authority?”  People were mad, and they were mad at me. 

Well?

There was no pleasing them. I was either to soft or to hard. The younger people, my peers, were furious. 

They said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is a dress code that makes them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

The others said, “In a growing church we need to do everything we can to reach out to the community and the last thing we need is inappropriately dressed members who make them feel awkward and unwelcome.” Okay, good point. 

Two sides of the same coin and I was getting flattened by both sides.

Something Interesting

  • Neither was willing to see the other’s point of view.
  • The two sides were generationally divided. 
  • Both used church growth as the basis for their objections.
  • Truthfully, it had little to do with growth and everything to do with preference. 

To Close

Ultimately, I gave a sermon appealing to everyone to see everybody’s point of view. I asked us to do what leads to peace and mutual edification, and to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. I appealed on the basis of love.

I quit being the moderator of modesty and good taste.  

It worked.

Shalom 

 

Imperfections of Imperfect People

I’m not perfect. Here’s a thought, you aren’t either. 

The Rub

Here’s the rub: I’m comfortable with my imperfections but yours drive me crazy. I’m good at extending grace to myself and quick to excuse my weaknesses. However, there’s lots of people who need to shape up, and they need to hurry. 

Here’s Something

According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs there is a saying tracing back to John Heywood in 1546. Then in 1738 it was used by Jonathan Swift in his Polite Conversation and appeared in the 1713 Works of Thomas Chalkley. The complete saying goes like this:

“There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”

john-heywood-english-writer
 John Heywood, the author of those, “Who are blind and deluded.”

How true it is that others are blind and deluded, the poor souls. 

The Manifestations

Here is a partial list of how imperfections are manifested:

  • arrogance
  • pride
  • ego
  • even bigger ego
  • compensating for inadequacy 
  • hiding the truth about themselves
  • believing themselves right about everything and everyone 
  • always thinking they are the smartest one in the room 
  • quick to give unsolicited advice about what is right and what to do
  • ruled by anger, frustrated by disagreement, resentful of different ideas

Their opinions are unscrutinized, there judgements unexamined, their ideas unvetted. They go about life believing that whatever they think is true. The juxtaposition is they tend to be critical of others who manifest the very same peccadilloes. 

They speak their judgements openly and without consideration. As if the whole world sits on the edge waiting to hear them speak. 

But enough about me. 

Some Wisdom

Proverbs 7:20-22

“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may here your servant cursing you–for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

 

James 2:12-13

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.”

 

Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful  for they will be shown mercy.”

To Close

We live in an imperfect world but the world’s imperfection is us, the broken and fallen. The world is imperfect because it’s inhabited by imperfect people. I’m one of them. I tend to be blind and deluded. 

And you?

I Like Coffee and Donuts

Some places are special, some are structures and some are pieces of land.

  • Gettysburg
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Ground Zero: 9-11 
  • Valley Forge
  • Arlington Cemetery 

Why?

A place becomes sacred because something deeply significant happened. Sacred ground may be a battlefield, a national memorial, or a cross on the side of the road marking the death of a loved one. 

It’s sacred because it’s sacred to us, or to God. 

An Example

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, (Mt. Sinai) the mountain of the Lord.”

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses thought, 

‘I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.’

‘Do not come any closer,’ God said.

‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.'”

Holy Ground?

Why was the ground holy? Had something special happened there? The answer is no. The ground was holy because God was there and he is holy.

God’s Omnipresence

Here’s a thought: If God is omnipresent then why isn’t everywhere holy ground? It’s a fair question. However, from Scripture it appears that a place was holy due to the direct presence or specific work of God. Some examples:

  • the burning bush
  • the Holy of Holies
  • the tabernacle or temple
  • the mount of transfiguration
  • the birthplace of Jesus

For Consideration

The place where Moses removed his sandals was holy because God’s presence made it holy. When God finished with Moses then the place on Mount Sinai ceased to be holy ground.  

When Moses threw his staff on the ground and it turned into a snake and then became a staff again God said,

“This is so they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to you.”

Miraculous things happen in the presence of God. Miraculous things happen on holy ground and at holy places. 

To Close

Can you imagine when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies that he did so carrying a Starbuck’s coffee? Or a Coke? Or a donut? Just a thought. 

coffee and donut 2
I like a good coffee and donut, but I won’t bring them to a wedding, funeral, or commencement ceremony. But to worship God? Hmmm.

Far be it from us to treat the holiness of God causally, right? And may we never make common what he has made sacred.

Shalom and May God Richly Bless You