Saturday, April 15, 2017

For An Hour Or Life?

Day 40 Doxology:  This is my final "Praise To God" entry for this Lenten season.  I've done ok at best!  I've missed a few days, probably more than in years past?  However, I wanted to have meaningful post this year not something scribbled down then posted out of duty.  One dear friend said, "You've gotten more personal this year, and I like it!"  Encouragement goes a long way, and I hope you too have enjoyed what is a powerful, personal Lenten discipline for me.

I think our goal is to be this disciplined the rest of our year.  That this discipline of seeing and praising God would carry over into other parts of my life, and your's.  That when you see a manhole cover that is not "lined" a weird way you think of God.  That you will look for all the ways to "Extend Grace" (This Year's Most Popular Post) more in your life.  Everything is connected and everything builds on the other -Good and Bad!  What are the rituals that lead you to greatness or move you further from the light?

This year, because of a family friend, my wife organized an end of holy week discipline for our family based on Matthew 26.  Remember when Jesus was praying and he went back to check on His disciples and found them asleep?  That is when Jesus said, "Couldn't you even keep watch for me for one hour?"

So, with that in mind, our family would take and hour and stay awake in prayer or journaling...anything spiritual or contemplative lending our part in the drama of Jesus' final days.  It was so cool, in part, because everyone participate!

Each grandchild was given and hour throughout the night, and when their hour had ended they were responsible for calling the next person on the list...your time in prayer affected you, and someone else!  The next person on the list depended on you!  That's two life lessons rolled up in one!

I think we gain by spending designated time with God each day (sure I would say that, I'm a pastor), but it's true!  Back to my points...we would benefit greatly by spending designated time with God each day AND helping others.  What a novel idea?

This might be our first year to exercise this lenten discipline, but what if as our family grows so does the number of participants?  What if we could get to the 24 hours before Easter?  What if when our children become grown, and we've passed on, they continue this act of obedience with their children, then their children do the same for theirs?  It's mind boggling!

Here's what I know...It's my day's doxology even if my day has just begun!  Yesterday was Good Friday...Christ is still in the tomb...but, because of my (our) first hour today, I eagerly look for tomorrow's sunrise!  It's going to be a great year!

Since you've struggled through this year's Lent with me let me leave you with this blessings:

[May] the Lord Bless you and keep you.
[May] the Lord make His face shine upon you,
 and be gracious to you;
[May] the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
and give you [His] peace.
                                              (Numbers 6:24-26)

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit....Amen!

Personal Indeed!

Day 39 Doxology: What an evening to remember even if we race through life trying to fill our days so that we can overlook the event that changed everything.  We try to stay busy so that we don't have to make that event personal, but how can we?  Last night we hosted and participated in the events that lead us to Easter.  Tenebrae, which literally means "Darkness", is an opportunity for clergy and laity to walk through the last three days of Holy Week.  It does not mirror the joyful celebration of regular has all the feelings of a painful "dark" Good Friday.  Each event is marked with the extinguishing of a candle until all that is left is the Christ Candle only to be taken from the room until Easter Sunrise.

To be honest, for me it was mechanical until I started absorbing all the parts being read then I could feel the weight of Good Friday.  That is what we do in life isn't it?  Before we start school we cover ourselves with a life-proof sealer like we would deck stain or outdoor furniture so that the elements of life bead up and roll off.  It's not until we absorb life that we can realize the personal side that we've been missing.

Tenebrae is very personal, and a very real doxology for the end of Holy Week.  The picture that I've included is picture of the altar after a few candles had been extinguished and other were waiting to be snuffed out.  I think this was taken during the girls singing at which time I could feel God's enormous love being soaked up.  The question is was it the girls singing; was it the Scripture being read; was the visual of slowly Christ light leaving the world?  In short, yes!  It was all of those things, a lot like in life it is the collection of our whole life that makes us feel alive.  It was very personal!

Speaking of life...I have another picture of a personal side of life.  Our church put up their pastors this weekend with a chalet at Guntersville State Park.  They do this every year, and we are humbled! It's received with love and affection for each and every one of them.  Every year they leave a basket of goodies on the table.  This personal touch is not overlooked...someone has to go out of their was to plan, purchase, assemble and deliver this basket of goodies to our gifted chalet, and write a handwritten card...what can be more personal than that?  Here is the tough part...this will be my last Easter with this very personal church family since Shannon and I will be moving to Athens in June.  I'm afraid that it's just starting to sink in for both of us.  Everything is a series of "last"...Last Easter, Last Sunrise Service, Last Easter Eggestravganza...

All I can do is to soak up the personal part of this life....Whether it's a church full of the most loving people I could ever hope to serve, or the sacrifice of a's personal a personal touch don't you think?  This is what I do is worth a very mighty "Praise To God!"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Yet To Be Determined...

Day 35 Doxology: What would our life be like if we knew the start and the finish like a race or a timed test...Ok, let's use the race, because nobody likes test!

I have witnessed many "Praise To God" moments throughout my day, but my thoughts always return to my morning workout.  This past weekend, The Gym where I train for the 3,010 Olympics hosted a race...Fuzzy something-or-other!  Regardless...the banner from the race was still hanging today when I went in for my 4 hour run and 200 sets of bench press.

If you cannot read the banner it says..."Start / Finish"! (I added the exclamation point)  All day I kept thinking about what if we knew the "Start / Finish" to life?  What if in everything we did we knew the beginning and the end? Would we treat life differently?

You see...I already believe we treat life badly!  We don't start out this way, but at some point we get lazy with life.  We cry when we could laugh.  We complain when we should lift other's up.  We delay when we certainly should act!  We hate instead of love!  The book of James tells us that we don't even know about tomorrow..." which prompted an old hymn:

"I don't know who holds tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from it's sunshine;
For it's skies my turn to grey.

I can remember some of my youth helped me peach a message in church by singing this old hymn, and you know seemed like yesterday!  It had to have been almost 10 years ago!  To me it's clear that we don't know what tomorrow may bring, but so many of us live like we have a bazillion tomorrows.  We live like we know the starting-line and the finish-line to life.  

In January 2010, I was appointed to my current appointment, and now this June, I will go serve another church in a county far, far away.  January '10 seems like yesterday! Within the last 7 years, my family has grown leaps and bounds, and I cannot have ever imagined "not" being in ministry with so many that have now become extensions of my family! (Feels like  a double-negative?)  I give God thanks and praise for tomorrow, that I will heal from my leaving and grow with my tomorrows!  Because, I may know where I started, but the finish is yet to be determined.  My promise is simple...I'm going to live like it is tomorrow!  Praise be to God!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Manhole Covers

Day 34 Doxology: Do you know of those people that just skate by?  If you haven't already, you will come in contact in your life with those that do just enough to get by.  They answer only the questions that you ask.  They only ask a scripted question that they are supposed to ask knowing that if they go one more inch they could save someone a lot of trouble.

In the city that I live there is a road.  In the center of this road are two manhole covers.  If you are a member of my know where this is headed.  These manhole covers provide a huge function.  They prevent cars and people from falling in the hole that has been created for the city sewer system.

In the center of this road are two solid yellow lines.  These lines provide a huge function.  They tell automobile drivers that it is unlawful to pass another car.  My doxology is where two huge function collide and excellence is achieved.  My doxology is a praise to God for all the people that seek to do things with excellence.

As stated earlier, it is obvious that some of us seek to take pride in our jobs.  Teachers teach just as hard on their 25th year as they did on their 1st year.  A lawyer works just as hard to uphold the law even if he, or she, have been tainted by the system for years.  A law enforcement officer still believes that a person is innocent until proving guilty.  There are people that still seek excellence in all that they do and each day that they do it.

However, some over time, have been broken down.  They feel the system is broken, nobody cares, or no one is watching.  Well, regardless if the system is broken we can control how we respond and fulfill our responsibilities.  I care, and I am watching.

In our city, on this road, under those lines are the manhole covers.  They both prevent people and cars from having a bad day, but excellence is not always achieve.  Where is that person that stops and picks up an empty cup, or that stray piece of paper?  I believe they are out there!  Where is that person that straightens those misaligned manhole covers...I question if they are out there?

I talk to my leadership at church, and I try to tell them everything has been given to us.  Why wouldn't we want to give everything of ourselves in return?  Live life with excellence!  It only takes a small amount of time to do things right THE FIRST TIME, than to have to redo something later.  Look for the manhole covers in your life and seek to straighten them up so that all the pieces of your life fit together.  If not for yourself, then for others?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Plucked From The Butt

Day 32 Doxology: Tonight is a memory of bitter-sweet!  This time of year, my late father-n-law would watch The Masters from beginning to end.  I had a chance to attend this year's event and decline, not because I wouldn't enjoy it, but mainly because I wanted to partner with my old friend just one more year in the comfort of the living room.

My wife and daughters continually to remind that..."I have been plucked from the butt" of her dad, and their grand-dad.  In a sick short way, she married her dad!  After years with the man...I resolve, she could have done worse.

During the Masters (we called it Master's Weekend), we would watch the replay 'til it concluded -Approximately 10-10:30pm.  It was the only time he stayed up late.  We always watched it, and I was amazed that he knew so much about each golfer.  He knew their college, their previous year's ranking, their family situation, and whether or not they played with Shay (his son) in college.  He would have absolutely loved the coverage that we have today.  On Direct TV, I have this Mosaic of coverage that he would have absolutely been consumed with.  I can take a 70inch TV divide into quarters because of the Mosaic coverage and still have more coverage than he had all weekend.

So, like I said, this time of year is somewhat of a memorial.  As I watched the Masters I watched and listened.  All I could hear is my father-n-law root for the seasoned veterans.  This year Freddie Couples is doing well at age 56.  Which means Ol' Shelly is pulling for the ol' man.  If Freddie falters on the back-nine, then he will simple pull for anyone American.  I catch myself doing the same thing.

Here is the deal...If I have been plucked from the butt of someone that I catch myself admiring so much...then pluck away.  I could do way worse. I think this time of year will always be special...For me...I will have to decide is it because of what I've lost or what I've gained?  Either way...I have this uncontrollable desire to spend the final round of the Masters in my recliner in nothing but my underwear!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Apple Tree

Day 30 Doxology:  I can still hear my dad say, "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!" But, usually that phrase was quickly used after I hit a home run; or after I had completed a job that seemed to huge for me to complete at whatever age.  I heard it when I made a game-saving tackle, or "that" block.  I thought I was going to hear it the night he came to the only wrestling match he ever attended when I pinned my opponent in about 30 seconds, to which all he said was, "I can't watch that!"  In truth, I spent most of my youth trying to get my dad to say, "I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!"

Today was one of those weather days.  The old saying is, "If you don't like the weather in Alabama...just wait a day."  Meaning...our weather changes on a dime from one extreme to the other. You just never know what to expect.  Like my dad's "apple tree" statement I always heard that we live tornado alley.  That is not entirely true.  As it turns out there are a lot of "Tornado Alleys" across the United States.  We do fall within the boundaries of what is referred to the "Dixie Alley", and Alabama is 9th on the list for tornados per 10,000 square miles -worthless info that only Big Mac will appreciate.  The relevance Alabama we pay attention to the weather growing up.

My dad use to watch the weather none stop.  It was like his responsibility to know what the weather was going to be for tomorrow.  "You are going to need a coat in then morning," he would say.  "You'll want to put the top back on the jeep tonight," he would suggest.  My dad was James Spann before James Spann was James Spann.  I'm embarrassed to say that he even had a James Spann bobble-head.

So, I digress!  This evening I watched hours of coverage on the moving cells of hailstorms and potential wind damage moving across our state.  My dad, if off work, would have been glued to the coverage.  I believe he would like the technological advancements that have been made for storm prediction.  In the end, after I was glued to the T.V., like the years I mocked my dad for being glued to the T.V., all I could hear is "I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!" -a phrase that never get's old!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Extended Life

My mom's Rt. Carotid Artery
Day 28 Doxology: I have what will seem like a boring and usual doxology for a son.  My mom had an arteriogram today of her carotid arteries.  The carotid arteries carry blood to the brain, and when they become occluded all kinds of complications ensue.  In the past, an arteriogram made it possible for her to get in line for what is called CABG -Coronary Artery Bypass Graph -pronounced "cabbage".  So you can imaging our anxiety while we waited. Now that you're nodding off and thinking Blah, Blah, gets better.

My mom's mother (my grandmother) died when I was just a year old from an aneurism.  Although an aneurism is different than my mom's current condition...the risk is great.  In addition, still different is that my mom had the opportunity today to prevent something devastating.  So, like a good Christina, I pause and in prayer over mom my and give thanks.  Then I was reminded that mom had something else in mind.

When you go for a similar procedure you are forbidden food and drink after midnight.  The medical world calls it NPO which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase that means "nothing by mouth".  To my mom, the moment the nurse gave her Diet Coke, Graham Crackers, and a cup of ice was the moment she offered praise.  In our world we forget the sting of hunger until we are forced to do without.
Lent continues, and will not end until sundown the Saturday before Easter.  Until that time, many of our friends and family have exercise the discipline of fasting to remind them of their hunger for a savior.  All over the world, people will be praising God for many different things -someone will be healed of cancer; someone will have a relationship restored; someone will catch carotid stenosis before it causes great damage, but yet there will be one that will get to eat.  In each is extended and God is praised!