Tuesday, July 31, 2012

116 - Really?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My 30 Year High School Reunion

Can it really be 30 years since I graduated from high school? It simply doesn't seem possible.

Facebook made the reunion better, in my estimation. In the first place, I was able to recognize many more people because I've been staring at their profile pic for the past several months.

Second, it let me be acquainted with people before I met them again for the first time.

I didn't make it to my 20 year reunion. We were in West Africa at the time and I couldn't make it home.

I did go to my 10 year reunion. It was like all the cliques and nonsense of high school was still in place.

But the 30 year reunion was a bit different.

There didn't seem to be the same cliques, and if there were, I didn't seem to notice. 

Actually, I left the reunion feeling pretty good about myself.  I'm at a very good place in my life. I have a wonderful family and a great career.  My life is not a wreck.

I'm not judging, but just making observations here, so don't get bent out of shape if your life IS a wreck. This isn't about you.

At nearly 50 years old, so many of my former classmates still don't have their lives together. Let me say it this way; I'm grateful to God for a loving wife and a faithful relationship with her. I'm grateful that I don't "party" - I must seem awfully boring to most of my former Chieftains. I'm grateful, I guess, to be boring in the world's eyes.

One particularly interesting tidbit is that I was honored to be asked to give a blessing for the meal.  I was asked with the caveat to remember that there were church-goers and non-church goers; believers and atheists. I was asked to pray in a manner that wouldn't offend people.

Well, they were in luck, because I was hungry and the barbeque looked and smelled delicious, so it was short, sweet and to the point, all in the name of Jesus.  Several folks later thanked me for blessing the meal.

We had a wonderful meal with good company. My best friend, Martin Whipple, and I were the only men at a table full of women, my wife included. It was fun catching up with old friends.

They handed out awards and I won the award for "Most Countries Traveled" with 27. (Although I later recounted and discovered it was actually 30)  Everyone "ooohed" and "ahhhhed" and I had my picture taken with the presenter.  The award was a 3" gold-colored plastic loving cup.  But, hey! It was an award!

The least pleasant part (putting it nicely) of the evening was a local comedienne they hired to "entertain" us. She apologized to me BEFORE she started and again afterward. It was the single most vulgar assault of the senses I have ever endured. Everyone at my table was aghast. My wife got up and walked out.  I'll bet SHE wasn't given the caveat about "not offending people!"

They had a live band, which was good, but was better for a crowd of 20 or 30 Somethings instead of a bunch of nearly 50's who wanted to talk.  My wife and I left early due to the volume of the band.

The organizers worked very, very hard to make this reunion happen, and for that, I am grateful!  It was a good venue. The food was excellent. The price was good. The company was excellent.

I hear they are possibly planning a 50th Birthday Party for all of us in 2 years. Perhaps a murder-mystery-dinner is in the makes. I think that would be fun.

In any case, I enjoyed seeing everyone again. There were some there with whom I do not see eye to eye, but we put our differences away and really enjoyed each others' company for the evening.

Most interestingly, I walked away feeling pretty good about the life that God has given me.  Not with a feeling of superiority; for I'm not superior to anyone. Not with a feeling of being better off than others; for life is not about "stuff." (and a whole lot more people have a whole lot more stuff than me!)  But with the feeling that I'm very happy I've made the decisions I've made and that I'm very happy with the direction my life is heading. And I praise God for it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

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Abortion vs Guns

Something very strange is happening in America. People are simply ignoring a crisis of biblical proportions.

Each and every day, an average of 3700 people are MURDERED by doctors; robbed right out of their mother's wombs.

Yet, the public outcry is not against abortion; it is about gun control.

Each day, on average, there are 37 homicides related to firearms.

Looks like we're looking for murder in all the wrong places...

Sunday, July 08, 2012

My Visit to a Mega-Church

I'm not often in a position to visit other churches on a Sunday morning, being a pastor and all. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the actual definition of a mega-church is, but, I'd assume that what we attended this morning was in the vein of a bona fide mega-church.

We've been "on vacation" for the better part of this week. We all needed a little time away.

We arrived for the early service, and was "greeted" by a man in an orange vest who, I assume, was supposed to  show us where to park. He waved enthusiastically to us.

We parked close to the door and walked in with several regulars, some wearing casual clothes, some looking like they just came in from the lake.  I'm not judging; just reporting.

I snapped this pic during one of the songs I didn't know.

The man who held the door open for us wished us a "good morning."  The man who handed us the printed announcement sheet also said, "hello", but the woman who handed Sally hers, was talking to someone else and didn't greet her.

We walked into the cavernous foyer, past the coffee shop and bookstore into the auditorium. I would call it a sanctuary, except that it looked and felt more like a concert theater than a sanctuary.  Looking around, I regret not stopping at the coffee shop for a grande latte, you know, to blend in with everyone else.

We watched their video presentation and waited for the countdown clock to signal the beginning of service.

I've been in church my entire life. I listen to Christian radio almost exclusively.  I did not know, nor did I recognize any music presented during their worship service.

They had, what I would call, a full concert setup.  Lights, fog, the whole shebang.  One thing I certainly DID NOT like was the rotating stage lights that shone from the stage into the eyes of the people in the audience.  Again, I couldn't tell if I was at church or at a concert.

My kids said they LOVED the worship, even though THEY didn't even know any of the songs that were sung. They loved how it made them feel like they were at a concert....

The regular pastor wasn't there, but the fill-in guy was excellent. Very clear presentation of the Gospel.  The invitation was for people to fill out a card if they made a decision and put it in the offering plate. A man behind us and a man in front of us raised their hands to indicate they had received Jesus' salvation. Neither filled out a card.

We left without ever having anyone introduce themselves, give us a personal welcome, or even have my hand shook.

We debriefed ourselves at IHOP after the service.  The kids said they liked the worship but didn't really care for how they didn't "connect" with the service, as a whole. They wished our church had a better praise and worship time and wasn't so "fancy" and looked more like a theater. 

I certainly am not opposed to what people wear to attend church, well, for the most part...  I didn't see anything objectionable this morning.  I don't like not being welcomed in a personal way; this is Oklahoma after all.

* * *

This is the first time I've attended a mega-church in a couple of years. I'm really not trying to be overly-critical of my visit. I think that leaving without having shook anyone hand was the tipping point for me. I understand the differing of opinion about music/worship/praise. I understand that not everyone does it like us. I understand that some people feel a need to be coaxed into worship. I understand that some people only want to be entertained.

I understand that a mega-church reaches a lot of people that my "more traditional church" will never reach; of course a lot of that has to do with the fact we are a small town church.  I understand that many of the people attending this church are the typical "un-churched" people and that this church is doing a fantastic job of actually connecting with these people.

This entire post is based on an hour and a half visit to a church while on vacation. I haven't named the church on purpose.  I know that many, many people love this church and it has a huge ministry in its community. I know that God is using this church for His kingdom, and when all is said and done, that is all that really matters.