Pastor's Blog
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June 28, 2014, 10:40 AM

Vacation and Family

For 28 of our 33-years of marriage, Peggy and I have lived a great distance from our parents.  As newlyweds, we moved 21-hours from my family and 25-hours from her family.  Because we have lived such great distances from family, our vacations have always been spent returning to our roots and reconnecting with our parents, siblings, and other relatives.  On a few of those trips, we took 2-3 days to invest in a “real vacation.”  Our four grown children will tell you Branson, Missouri, is the only “real vacation” they remember while growing up. 

Three of our four children live a great distance from us.  Three of them have families of their own.  Just as we once took them on long drives to spend vacations visiting our parents, siblings, and their families, Peggy and I now spend hours driving to be with our children and their families for our vacation.  We recently traveled 2,750-miles on our two-week trip to visit our kids and grandkids in Florida.  The faces at the end of the trips are different than those we once so excitedly anticipated.  Those waiting for us now when we arrive are every bit as precious as what we recall from those trips thirty-years ago.

Our oldest daughter put things in perspective when she reminded me of the love, laughter, and fun we always had while visiting family during our vacations.  She stated  all the beautiful scenery, expensive trips, and elegant travel they never experienced as children could not compare to the priceless value of investing time with her grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, and other relatives.  All the best souvenirs paled by comparison to the time shared with biological family.  She said she would not trade those memories for anything!  “Family” will not be around forever, but most vacation spots will still be there whenever we get around to visiting them. 

The benefits of taking vacation to visit family are beyond description.  I could not resist our five-year-old grandson when he asked me to go with him to his room to play cars.  I honestly did not feel like joining him, but knew that moment would never be available to me again.  His smiles and laughter as we played together were priceless!  Having our two-year-old granddaughter run into my arms and respond to my telling her I loved her with the words, “Papa…I love you!” melted me and gave me a joy that only grandparents can know!  Being with our adult children was a bittersweet experience.  We thoroughly loved being with them, but wept when we had to leave. 

Peggy and I have not been to many of the exciting vacation locations we have heard others talk about.  Some of the locations sound interesting, but we will happily decline those exotic places in order to have time with our family.  We thank God for them and know our minimal sacrifice to be with them is more than worth it.  Only our relationship with Jesus Christ exceedes the joy of a loving family. 

June 9, 2014, 11:00 AM

The Blessed Challenge of Being a "Dad"

Years ago, I heard it said:  “Most any man can father a child.  It takes a real man to stick around and be a Dad!”  One of the most challenging, frustrating, and demanding jobs I have ever had has been that of being a Dad!  I must quickly add, it has also been one of the most rewarding, blessed, and life-fulfilling jobs I have ever had!  I clearly remember when our first child was born on April 9, 1984, at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois.  I was excited, yet scared-to-death!  I loved children, but this was going to be different.  This baby was going to be MINE!  Could I really be a Dad?  Two-years later, our second child was born.  She could not have been more different than her older sister!  Four-years later, our third daughter was born.  She was a sweet, adorable, reserved little girl with a smile that lit-up the room!  After having three-children born in six-years, we thought our family was complete.  SURPRISE!  Sixteen-months after our third-daughter was born, our son arrived.  He was all boy!   Our children were involved in sports, music, and other activities.  I tried to attend as many of their events as possible, often making major adjustments to my schedule in order be there for them.  Although I tried to make time for my children, I wish I would have invested far more time with them than I did.     

Across the years, Peggy and I were “Mom and Dad” to dozens of our children’s friends.  We thoroughly enjoyed that role and usually treated those other children as if they were ours.  There were several of those guests who actually lived with us and became part of our family for months-at-a-time.  We attempted to share Christ’s love, along with parental love, to the children who visited in our home. 

Peggy is quick to express how she misses the noisy, kid-filled house we once had.  We do not like the “empty nest” we now have.  The last of our children moved-out four-years ago.  Our lives are forever wrapped-up in our children.  Our oldest lives 90-minutes from us, so we get to see her regularly.  However, the others live nine-hours and eighteen-hours away.  We talk to them on the phone, text, Skype, and email, but it is not the same as being there with them.  The life we once knew as a family is only a memory now.  Our children are grown, living busy lives of their own, and enjoying families of their own.  I thank God for all four of our children and my greatest desire is to be a Godly example for them.  One of my greatest joys these days is to answer the phone and hear the voice on the other end say, “Hi Dad!”  It is an intense privilege to be more than a biological father.  Few things compare to the joy of being a Dad!

May 30, 2014, 12:40 PM

Being "Cheap" Can Get Expensive!

This morning I had an appointment which I was certain would not take more than 45-minutes.  Before leaving the house, I made certain I had coins available since I knew I would have to contribute to a parking meter.  I drove into the parking lot, found a place, grabbed my coins, and started to feed the parking meter.  Twenty-four-minutes for a dime or one-hour for a quarter.  I had several dimes and a quarter in my hand.  Normally, I would put the quarter into the meter and consider the extra time a gift to the next person who parked there.  Today, I kept the quarter and put two-dimes in the meter thinking forty-eight-minutes would be adequate…plus I saved a nickle! 

The appointment lasted about as long as I expected.  I stood around and talked to friends, then leisurely made my way to the parking lot.  I stood in the parking lot and talked a bit more.  As I stood there, I noticed a city official walking around the parking lot making certain those parked there had paid.  My only thought at that point was how it had been years since I had seen a “meter maid.”  When I got to my vehicle and opened the door, I looked up at the parking meter and saw it flashing “0:00.”  The forty-eight minutes my twenty-cents bought had expired.  My next thought was how fortunate I was to get to my car before the city official handing out tickets saw my expired meter.  As that thought went through my mind, I saw a yellow envelope under my windshield wiper.  I got a ticket!  I paid for forty-eight-minutes of parking, but did not return to my car until fifty-two-minutes after paying.  The extra four-minutes will cost me TEN DOLLARS!  My concern with spending an extra five-cents cost me ten dollars!

As I drove away from that parking lot, the Lord reminded me how so many people try to be “cheap” with Him.  There is an epidemic of “cheapness” within the church and among those who say they love the Lord.  There is financial “cheapness” seen when we refuse to obey God’s call to tithe and give generously for His Kingdom.  Scripture is vividly clear all such acts are SIN and result in spiritual separation from God  and will destroy a person spiritually.  There is “cheapness” in prayer…when we profess to love the Lord, but will not invest time talking with Him each day.  A failure to make time to communicate and listen to God always results in spiritual backsliding.  Some are “cheap” with their worship, wrongfully thinking their physical presence in a church service is “worship.”  To truly worship on Sunday morning requires daily private time alone with God in worship the other six-days of the week!  I have seen folks who are cheap” with their involvement in ministry.  They want to see the local church actively providing a host of ministries, but will not give their time to be involved.  Still others are miserly and “cheap” in serving the Lord with their unwillingness to tell anyone what God has done in their lives or even invite anyone to attend church with them.  Those same inviduals wonder why the church is dying, why attendance is declining, and why worship is so routine.  “Cheap” Christianity is worthless!  What cost God everything, we dare not disgrace and defraud by our “cheapness.” 

I will soon write a check to pay my ten-dollar fine caused by my unwillingness to spend an extra nickle.  I must NEVER be tight-fisted, selfish, or “cheap” with the things of God!  Scripture repeatedly states He wants to lavish His best upon those who serve Him with all their hearts!  When you are tempted in any way to be “cheap” with God, remember the cost is extreme!  Live generously in His Spirit! 

May 21, 2014, 10:59 AM

A Big, Little Lady!

On Mother’s Day, I shared a message about my Mom and some key lessons I learned from her as I was growing-up.  Mom’s Mom, my Grandma Ball, was the one who powerfully influenced my Mom.  Josie Olive (Fulkerson) Ball was 4’10” tall; was a petite little lady; was legally blind more than sixty-years due to a botched cataract surgery when she was a young lady; had a very rough life; yet was one of the most Godly women I have ever known.  She died one-month before her 98th birthday. 

Grandma Ball endured countless hardships in her life.  My grandfather was unfaithful to her and made no secret of his womanizing.  Some of the stories passed along to me of his mistreatment of Grandma caused me to cringe.  Her two oldest sons were at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.  Both survived, but several other relatives were killed.  Her third son, Billy, followed his older brothers into the military even though his physical problems should have prevented him from being accepted.  Within a few months of being deployed, he was captured by the Japanese and later died as a prisoner of war.  When Grandpa Ball began to lose his mental faculties, she had the difficult decision of placing him in a nursing home.  She then made the life-changing choice of coming to live with my family, leaving the house she had lived in all her adult life.  On Easter Sunday  1984, Grandma Ball had a massive stroke that paralyzed one side of her body and soon stole her ability to speak.  She spent her last six-years of life in a nursing home bed, unable to see or speak.  Based on the tears she shed in response to our telling her how much we loved her, we knew she could still hear us. 

When I was a young man, Grandma told me about giving her heart to the Lord.  Someone invited her to church and she attended for the first time in her life.  As the preacher shared the good news of Christ’s forgiveness of sins to any who repented and sought Him, she began to sense her spiritual need.  Although she did not respond immediately, she said she could not get the message off her mind.  One day a few weeks later while at home, she began talking to God, telling Him if this was real, she wanted His forgiveness.  She promised to live for Him the rest of her life.  She told me in that moment, she had the assurance of God’s forgiveness!  She said,  "And I have been living for Him ever since!"  That prayer was prayed when she was about 33-years-old.  She faithfully served the Lord for nearly 65-years!

Grandma was a quiet little lady who loved her Savior and loved children.  She taught the Nursery Sunday School class at the Matthews, Missouri, Church of the Nazarene for more than forty-consecutive-years!  When she was in her late 80s, she was still helping in Vacation Bible School.  Although nearly blind, she read her large-print Bible each day.  I recall her standing at church testifying to God’s faithfulness in her life and how she was determined to serve Him all her days!  I do not remember her ever saying a negative word about anyone.  Her life was saturated with God’s love and His love flowed onto everyone who met her.  Physically, she was a little lady, but spiritually, she was a giant!  Like Timothy in the Bible, I thank God for the blessing of having a Godly Grandmother!

April 30, 2014, 2:40 PM

Holding Steady

How do you “hold steady” when it seems everything you have worked so hard for…the very things you have poured your life into…the items that seem so drastically vital for you…are placed in jeopardy by scenarios you have absolutely no control over?  When your faith is being stretched, how can you move forward in spite of the challenge?

I wish these were hypothetical questions.  They are very real.  They are very prominent in my life TODAY!   As I write this, projects I have worked nearly one-hundred hours on over the past year are in jeopardy and there is nothing from the human standpoint that I can do about it.  Is it creating a crisis-of-faith for me?  Is it causing me to question God?  Is it bringing numbing doubt into my life?  Not at all.  I do not understand “why” things are happening as they are, but I know God has everything fully in-control.  Even though I am concerned, I trust Him implicitly.  Over the 47-years I have served Him, He has never once disappointed me or let-me-down.  (I wish He could say the same of me, but that is not the case.)  As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12, “…for I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return” (New Living Translation).  My life and the situations of my life are all fully surrendered to our Sovereign God.  He will intervene, redirect, and guide me into the future as I trust and obey Him…even when I do not yet understand the “why” of it all. 

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