Ode To The Pastor’s Wife

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Pastor’s wives are a special breed.  The one on the right is mine.  Unless you are married to one, you probably don’t realize how wonderful the preacher’s wife is.   Here are some things that I love about my wonderful wife: 

1.  She actually said, “I do” on January 8, 1994!

2.  She has turned three parsonages (church housing) and three apartments into homes.

3.  She endured my Christian rock/youth minister phase.

4.  She proof-read every paper I wrote during seminary (a daunting task for anyone).

5.  She made our seminary poverty feel like kingly riches.

6.  She has very thick skin because of the dumb things people sometimes say about her husband. 

7.  She gives more credit to other people than they are due. . . by other people, I mean me.

8.  She can squeeze a dollar bill and make it give birth to at least 75 more cents.  Seriously, she can stretch dollars until they scream for mercy.  (She once haggled a car salesman out of $50.00 extra per month.  They stood toe to toe and eye to eye, and he blinked first!)

9.  Although she bites her tongue and turns the other cheek, she WILL tell you the truth when you need it.  (I love that about her)  

10.  Her faith often exceeds my own. 

 

Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 2:51 am  Comments (3)  

The Croc Files!

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We love to watch “The Crocodile Hunter” around here.  We like it so much that my daughter and I dressed as Steve and Bindi for our church’s Trunk or Treat party.  No matter what you might think about jumping on the back of crocodiles or wrangling snakes, you have to admire Steve Irwin’s passion for the job.  He lived to show the world that conserving wildlife and their habitats was important.  More importantly, he lived to show his children how important it was.  His passion lives on in his wife and children.  They are now carrying on what Irwin began.  Why?  Because of his passion. 

I have often thought that Christian fathers could learn a thing or two from the Croc Hunter.  Our love for Christ, His Church,  and imitating His compasion is usually half-hearted at best.  Our children watch us as we grumble about getting up on Sunday morning to go to church.  I bet Bindi never heard her pop say, “Geez, I can’t believe we have to go save another crocodile.”  “CRIKEY!”  We wonder why our children are half-hearted about Jesus.  We wonder why they give up on church as young adults.  Make no mistake, our kids are watching us.  They see the hypocricy in what we are professing at church and how we acted on the way to church.  Your passion for Chirst and His church is no guarantee of their’s, but it is a good start.  Do your kids think Christ is important based on your life and the things you say? 

Published in: on February 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm  Comments (4)  

Thinkers

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This is the middle child.  I don’t know how middle children are supposed to act but mine is a thinker and sometimes a stinker.  Analytical to the core.  What?  When? Why? and How? He questions everything, which can be a good thing and a bad thing.  He is a sponge soaking in every element of the world around him.  He is good at factual subjects like math and science.  He is also revoltingly good at more subjective studies like art and literature.  He makes us work quite hard to keep his mind busy.  His curiosity leads him to questions, and boy, does he ask questions!

His quest for answers never stops.  He is not afraid of asking the hard questions.  Theology is fraught with hard questions and difficult answers.  Some things are hard to digest b/c accepting Biblical answers means that we have to forsake our own wisdom for God’s.  Rural people and rural churches are not given nearly enough credit for being deep theologically.  I am finding more and more that the people I serve are very analytical thinkers.  They have not and do not shy away from the difficult texts in the Bible.  I have so much respect for their faith because they don’t take my word for it.  They want to read, see, and touch for themselves.  Many of them have more faith in their little fingers than I have in my entire body.  Maybe I am the pastor of a bunch of middle children.            

 

Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 9:45 pm  Comments (3)  

Questions to Ask the Presidential Candidates From the Rural Route

I can tell you what kind of President a person will be by how they answer the following:

1.  “Mother” or “Momma?”

2.  Green tractors or red tractors?  It really does matter. 

3.  Do you own a truck?  We don’t care which brand?

4.  Music:  Alan Jackson or Michael Jackson?

5.  Nascar:  Earnhardt or Gordon?

6.  What would your pastor say about you?

7.  Do you own a gun?  Do you mind if I own a few. . . dozen?

8.  Sweet or unsweetened tea?

9.  Dr. Pepper or Diet Coke?

10.  How much did the last fish you caught weigh?

11.  Do you put slaw on your barbecue? 

12.  Favorite Andy Griffith episode? 

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 12:21 pm  Comments (4)  

You Can’t Preach The Word Unless You Eat The Bird!

Disclaimer:  The following should not be interpreted as a complete condemnation of pot-luck dinners and fried chicken.   

Chicken and Baptists go hand in hand like Oreos and milk.  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish which job is more important.  The eating or the preaching.  If you go to any Baptist gathering where many pastors have gathered you will see two things:  1.  They will be eating.  2.  Many are, uh, how can we say this. . .husky? (wow, that wasn’t politically correct, was it?)  Two years ago at the  Baptist Convention my brother-in-law said, “Wow, those guys are puttin’ a hurtin’ on those suits!”  He was right.  I have come to the conclusion that the buttons on pastor’s shirts must be stronger than most people’s, because those buttons are holding back years of pot-luck dinners and hundreds of banana puddings.   

Why do preachers fight the battle of the buldge so much?  I think it could be because the eating has become more important than the preaching.  In many cases, the bird is more important than the word.  Rural churches are especially susceptible to this because of the family atmosphere that exists in most rural churches.   We call it “fellowship”, but biblical fellowship is so much more than a meal.  Biblical fellowship is centered around the preaching, reception, and practice of God’s Word.  Biblical fellowship has more to do with carrying each others burdens than with pot-luck.  Biblical fellowship has more to do with “hearing and doing”, than with eating and burping.  We have become churches centered around the bird.  How do I know this (besides the obvious pastoral waistlines)?  Because people show up for meals.  They show up to play softball.  They show up for game night.  If your church has a gymnasium, they show up to play basketball and volleyball.  THEY SHOW UP FOR FELLOWSHIP!  Increasingly though people don’t show up for Sunday morning Sunday School.  They don’t show up for preaching.  They don’t show up to pray at Wed. night prayer meeting. . . unless, of course, there is a meal attached.     

“I’m tired by Wed. night!”  “Sunday is the only day I have to rest.”  You can generally translate “tired” and “rest” as “there is something way more important than evangelism, discipleship, prayer, or preaching that I must do”.  The amazing reality, though, is that the same tired and unrested people can fish, hunt, and attend any number of Nascar races and ball games without blinking an eye.  I think preachers have led the way.  Quite frankly, it is easier to “fellowship” than it is to challenge a church with strong biblical preaching.  Preachers, including myself, get used to the pampering.  We get used to the calm created when the abrasive Word is somewhat held in check.  A preacher should be a prophet (truth teller).  It is our job to preach the “whole counsel of God’s Word”.  It would be so great if a church’s fellowship was centered more around obedience to God’s Word, rather than the many ways we can cook the bird.                 

Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm  Comments (5)  

“Those Eyes”

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I love this little girl.  This is my youngest daughter.  I love this picture because of what it represents.  She wakes up everyday with great anticipation of what she might find.  Yesterday she found the dog food bowl.  The day before that she found the dogs water bowl.  Today she found that mixing the two makes a delightful mess.  I think my wife (the world’s most fantastic photo nerd) captured the wonder and amazement in our daughter’s eyes perfectly.  Everyone and everything is a new opportunity for discovery.  There is no cynicism to be found anywhere on that precious face.  

I wish that I had that kind of faith.  That childlike faith that bubbles up from complete trust.  God tells us that everyday is  His.  He tells us that we should rejoice and be glad because today is His day.  There is no room for jaded cynicism.  There is only wonder and amazement as the God of the universe leads us and guides us.  Oh the things those little eyes can teach us.        

Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 2:39 pm  Comments (4)  

Aluminum and Rural Route Wisdom

1.  If you walk far enough and pick up enough discarded aluminum cans, your local recycling company will compensate you for your trouble.  Really. . . our last two vacations were paid for in aluminum. 

2.  Some snakes find discarded beer cans suitable places to raise a family. 

3.  Some people find that empty beer cans make a suitable spittoon. 

4.   Because of the snake and chewing tobacco issues, gloves are required when picking up cans.

5.  My new cardio work out video is going to be called, “Crushing Cans: A Redneck’s Guide to a Healthy Heart!”

6.  My new investment book will be called, “Aluminum:  The New Gold”.

7.  It takes 31-33 cans to = 1 pound of aluminum. 

8.  Aluminum brings .50 -.55 per pound.

9.  500 lbs of cans = 15,500 cans.

10.  It takes 1 man and 3 children a very long time to crush 15,500 cans.

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 4:48 pm  Comments Off on Aluminum and Rural Route Wisdom  

Practice Churches

I was a proud member of the Franklin High School Marching Band.   Go ahead with  your band geek comments . . . I can take it.  Putting on a show is a very intricate and detailed process.  You have multiple instruments (some playing 3 part harmony), 200 band members, 20 flag and baton twirlers, and a band director who is usually on the edge of insanity. All of these elements have to come together on a football field.  Did I mention that all of those people are moving and making different designs while they are playing?  

Rehearsal for all of this began in July at a place called band camp.  Band camp is kind of like Guantanamo Bay without all of the amenities.  Instead of being water-boarded into submission, we endured hours of drilling.  We would move from one position to the next over and over and over and over. We would play the same 5 notes over and over and over until we perfected a three-second portion of the show.  When band camp was over we would have one hour of practice during the day (because band was an elective), and then we would practice two hours after school.  We were a well-oiled machine dedicated to musical interpretive movement. 

The Contest of Champions was the big show.  There were smaller shows during the course of the year, but the Contest of Champions (C.O.C., as we band geeks would call it) was our Super Bowl.  We would go and play the smaller shows because they were good practice.  You had a certain amount of tension, and you really did want to win but you always had your eye on the big one. 

Those practice shows were stepping stones for us.  I have come to believe that many young seminary students see small and rural churches like we viewed those small band competitions.  You have a certain amount of concern for the small church while you maintain your focus on landing the big church.  These churches are places where you work out the bugs in your preaching and ministerial practice.  The problem is that these small churches begin to understand their role.  They begin to see themselves as “practice churches”. 

The second Sunday I was at Cottage Grove a man told me, “If you keep working at it Preacher, you’ll be able to pastor a big church soon.”  I’m not sure what I was offended more by.  The fact that he thought I needed “work” or by the fact that he was already promoting me out of Cottage Grove.  It is alarming to know that many churches see themselves as practice churches.  Pastors have led the way to this mentality.  I believe pastors have lost their sense of what it means to be called to a local church.  We have begun to see churches in much the same way a young executive sees the corporate ladder.  Each church is a rung on the way up to First Baptist Big.

I don’t believe God sees any local church as a practice church.  I don’t think He sends pastors to a local church to hone his skills.  There is nothing wrong with God calling a man from a small church to a big church, but he better be called.  When God calls us to a church He is also calling us to a group of people.  He is placing us in a community of people to preach, teach, equip, and minister there until we are sent somewhere else.  I look forward to the day when rural churches are no longer practice fields.          

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 3:13 am  Comments (3)  

From “What If” to Real Faith Part III

I can’t believe I am about to write this on my blog because writing what I am about to say in a public forum is kinda like burping out loud during a prayer meeting.  It kinda ruins the moment.  I was jealous.  I knew that Cottage Grove was where I needed to go but I didn’t want to go because I was jealous.  I wanted God to open up the door for me to be on staff at one of those 2000 member churches.  A church that played contemporary music.  A church where I didn’t have to wear a suit and tie.  A church that was considered cool, yet biblically correct.  In short, I was jealous of my long time friend Danny.  He was on staff at one of those churches.  A fantastic church that was reaching thousands in Durham, NC.  Danny’s church even had a cool name. . . The SUMMIT.  Cool huh?  God wasn’t moving me in that direction.  God was moving me in the polar oposite direction.  God was moving me to a church that would consider 80 people to be a GREAT Sunday.  God was calling me to a church where the “church field” really was made up of fields.  A place where you are very likely to hit a deer with your vehicle during your pastoral tenure.  God was moving me to a church that still knew what it meant to use “Robert’s Rules of Order” in a business meeting. 

All of my “what if” questions really boiled down to my selfish desire to be someone God never gifted me or intended for me to be.   I thought I knew what would make me and my family happy.  I didn’t want to be any of those people in Hebrews chapter 11.  In my mind, going to seminary had fulfilled my obligation in the faith department.  I was no longer interested in abandoning myself  for the sake of the Great Commission.  For me, the safe bet was a suburban church.  I thank God that He endowed me with such a curious heart.  It is that curiosity, and a little faith, that made me dial the phone to set a date to preach for the entire congregation at Cottage Grove. 

To make a long, very long, story a little shorter, I preached for them and they called me as their pastor.  We struggled with the decision for a few more weeks but we knew Cottage Grove was the place we were supposed to go.  My wife and I both still had genuine concerns about our ability to overcome the “what ifs”, and I was still stewing over the fact that God would make me go through the rigors of seminary in order to send me to a town where my family would increase the population by 6%.   In the end there was no burning bush.  We didn’t recieve a vision.  We didn’t get our orders from an abstract dream.   We had seen God eliminate every other opportunity and church.  The pastor search committee had also seen God remove all other candidates.  We simply came to the conclusion that God was bigger than our what ifs.   If God couldn’t deal with our addiction to Target and Starbucks then He wasn’t a very big God.   God is big enough though.  Big enough and wise enough to bring us to the right place, at the right time, for the right job.  God truly did move us from “What if to real Faith.”     

   

      

Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 7:41 pm  Comments (5)  

Prayer Request

Western and Middle TN  was hammered last night by multiple tornadoes.  My Alma Mater, Union University, in Jackson, TN, was especially hard hit.  TEMA is reporting 31 deaths across our state.

Thank You,

Mike

Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 12:52 pm  Comments (3)