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Archive for Uncategorized

Aug
09

Shade

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Back at the first of June we obtained one, female German Shepherd puppy. Needless to say, our summer has been busy, but limited. Puppies are a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. One of the things I’ve noticed about her is that she doesn’t care to be outside in the heat of day. Summers in Iowa are not renown for intense heat and humidity, but we have had several days of 100 degree heat indexes. On those days she immediately seeks shade when outdoors.

Shade is something that makes summer what it is. It is a place where we find rest from the heat of the noonday sun. There are times when we have to be in the sun, but its nice to have some shade available.

There isn’t really much about shade in the Bible, but recently I’ve been thinking of the story of the Exodus. When God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he provided his presence and guidance through the form of a cloud. The fleeing children simply had to keep an eye on the cloud to know the path to the land of promise. Interestingly enough, the same thing that provide them with guidance also provided them comfort, for those who followed the cloud walked in its shade.

The same thing is true today. Following God provides some marvelous benefits, including his comfort. The more closely we walk with God, the more we sense his comfort. The Psalmist understood this principle far before I did. Psalm 121:5-8 says, “The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.”

So next time you see a park bench under a shade tree, remember that the Lord is your spiritual shade, provide rest and refreshment from the noonday sun.

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Here’s the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that I recently shared at the Memorial Service of a member of our congregation. It’s titled, “Two Kinds of People.”

“There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people no more I say.
Not the good or the bad, for it’s well understood,
The good are half bad, the bad are half good.

Not the happy or sad, for in the swift-flying years,
Bring each man his laughter, each man his tears.
Not the rich or the poor, for to count a man’s wealth,
You must know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life’s busy span,
Who puts on vain airs is not counted a man.
No! the two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, the people who lean.

Wherever you go you’ll find the world’s masses
Are ever divided into these two classes.
And, strangely enough, you will find, too, I mean,
There is only one lifter to twenty who lean.

In which class are you? Are you easing the load
Of the overtaxed lifters who toiled down the road?
Or are you a leaner who lets others bear,
Your portion of worry and labor and care?”

Here’s to a great day of living as a lifter!

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How can you really tell if someone is good at what they do? I mean that’s a pretty subjective value, isn’t it? What is good to me may be average to one or excellent to another. Over time I have come to a very simple conclusion to help me decide if someone is good at what they do.

My conclusion? I think I can do what he or she does. There is something about those who are good at what they do that make it look effortless. The good ones always make whatever they do look easy, and the exceptional ones motivate you to actually try it.

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Jan
10

The Last Car Ride

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About five years ago, after a heartfelt, written request by my middle child, we piled into our vehicle and drove to the Perry rescue shelter to look at a dog. The dog we went to see was a reddish colored Golden Retriever, who looked more like an Irish Setter than any Golden I had ever seen. Once he was free from his kennel, he ran round and round the fenced area as though he’d never been free.

Then there was a second Golden. He wasn’t on the website, the woman explained, because he’d just been seized by the local police department after several complaints from neighbors. This one simply came over and sat in front of us. As we deliberated over which one to pick, the dog picked up his paw and put it on my daughter’s leg, a habit we would come to adore, and I said, “I think this one has picked us.” After more conversation and $100 changed hands, we loaded the dog into the car and headed home. By loaded I mean literally. He wouldn’t get into the car and we had to lift him in.

As we drove home we discussed possible names. I’ve always thought dogs needed goofy names, and we went back and forth, no one willing to give an inch. When we got home my son walked through the living room. He was the one dissenting vote on getting a dog, reasoning that the energy and expense would be great. Hearing our conversation, my son simply said, “His name is Jackson.” And so it was.

Those early days were exhausting for sure. Within a couple of weeks he had destroyed two pieces of furniture and, if memory serves correctly, at least one pair of shoes. He was scared of his own shadow, refusing to go down that dark, dangerous hallway that led to the bedrooms or down the long, steep set of stairs that led to the basement. It would be months before he would jump into the back seat of a car without being hoisted in. Most of those fears would diminish over time. Though he still barked at any non family member that came into our home, he would would go down the hall, down the stairs, or jump into the back of the car.

Today Jackson took his last car ride. Jackson was dealt a crummy hand, and when we got him we had no idea how hard his life had been. He was blind in one eye from blunt force trauma. He had Addison’s Disease from being beaten across his back. His anxiety was so profound he took Prednisone to help calm him down. In December he was diagnosed with severe diabetes, and our Vet even suspected cancer of the liver, due to the increased enzymes in his blood system. Last night we agreed enough was enough.

Its funny the way memories flood back as you wait in the exam room…things you’ll never forget…like the way he carried my wife’s shoes through the house when he wanted attention or how no steel kennel cage could hold him. We’ll never forget the long night of force feeding him canned spinach after he ate razor blades or how he could hear a jar of peanut butter being opened from across the house. I’ll miss him following me around the house and lying about needing to go outside at night so he could get a treat.

Even more, I’ll miss the things he taught me about unconditional love. That’s one of the great things about a good dog. They love because they love. No strings attached and no performance standards to be met. And I’ll miss that the most. No matter what kind of day I had, Jackson was always Jackson. Though we didn’t have him all that long, I am comforted that we gave him the kind of life he deserved all along.

I would like to thank and acknowledge Dr. Robert Foss of Ashworth Road Animal Hospital for five years of great care and for his compassionate counsel regarding our pet’s health and well being. I would also like to thank Dr. Jessica Merk, whose compassion and care for Jackson this morning was exemplary. Those of you who knew Jackson know the stories I’ve alluded to in this post. And what stories they are.

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Nov
17

Hello Again!

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Some of you have inquired where I’ve been for the last month and a half. Like anyone else, things have been very busy for me both personally and professionally. But I’ve taken some of this time to rethink what I want to do with this blog. So bear with me, and don’t give up. Regular posts will resume soon! Thank you for your support!

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Here is a helpful article by Frank Viola published at ChurchLeaders.com. I think he’s spot on! You can read it HERE.

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Jul
07

Weighing in on Mainline Decline

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Here are a couple of articles from Ted Campbell and Tanya Basu regarding the decline in attendance and membership among American mainline denominations. What do you think? Does this resonate with your impression of mainline denominations in your community?

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Jul
01

Do We Care Too Much About Sports?

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Today the USA Men’s Soccer Team is facing Belgium in the “knock out round” of World Cup Soccer. Nationalism is at a favor pitch, and those who typically don’t care about soccer are glued to their television monitors. Barna Research released a new study today regarding the American perspective on sports. I found it interesting, and hope you do as well. You can access it by clicking HERE.

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May
01

Is Global Poverty in Decline?

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Barna Research has released a new study on global poverty, conducted in conjunction with Compassion International, on the reduction of extreme poverty in the world. The research includes some interesting insights regarding American’s thoughts on the topic. You can read the study BY CLICKING HERE.

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May
01

What about Gluttony?

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I would encourage everyone to check out Kevin DeYoung’s fine post on the sin of gluttony.

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