Egg Shells

Have you ever hardboiled some eggs? Of course, you have. You choose the right saucepan to hold the number of eggs you are going to boil, maybe pour some salt in the pan, add just the right amount of water, set it on the stove, turn on the heat, and carefully lower those raw eggs down into the water without cracking the shells.  Then, in a little more than five minutes after the water comes to a boil–voilà–hardboiled eggs.

After you turn off the heat, you have to decide how to cool the eggs. I usually just start running cold water over the little critters in the pan. After a few minutes of that, it’s pretty safe to pick one up and get ready to peel it. Some people crack the peel on the edge of the counter, some use a kitchen knife; I just smack it good on the side of the pan I cooked it in.

As soon as you crack the egg, you start peeling off the shell hoping it will come off in just a few pieces and come off completely. Here is where I have a problem. I don’t know if it’s impatience, lack of knowledge on how to actually peel and egg, or some mysterious rule of the universe that causes egg shell peeling to never go right. Rarely do I get an egg that starts to come apart but almost always I get a lot of little pieces of shell on the egg and on my hands. What do I do? I hold the mostly peeled egg under some more cold water and wash the small bits of shell off the egg and my hands and into the sink to be dealt with by the disposal.

Here is where it gets tricky. You see, we have a large, deep farm-style stainless steel single basin sink so we have one of those sink grids that protects the sink bottom and allows stuff to fall through without scratching the sink. Most everything falls through and goes down the drain easily–except for the small, pesky pieces of egg shell. No matter how many times you take the faucet around the edge of the sink at full force, invariably, there are still tiny little pieces of shell hiding–most of the time right under the edge of the little feet that hold up the grid.  Wash, wash, wash, look; eggshells. Wash, wash, wash again; eggshells. Finally, pick up the grid, pull the little pieces of shell off the feet and curse them as they once and for all go down the drain.

Ever had that or something like it happen to you? Maybe not with eggshells but something else you are trying to get rid of in your life. Maybe it’s a bad habit you can’t lick or a dangerous relationship you just can’t seem to give up. You have tried to bust out and get away from what’s hiding, but you can’t. Every time you look around, there it is–holding on to you with a grip as strong as super glue.

What to do? Well, the practical self just says something like, “I’ll just keep working on it and eventually it will all work out.” But then, months or even years later, it’s still hanging on like a piece of egg shell in the bottom of the sink. Sometimes, you just can’t get rid of what needs to be gone without some help. I find that a good degreasing dish detergent helps with the shells. And I find that a great God helps with the issues of life that we just can’t seem to overcome.

For those of us who are believers in Jesus, we are oft to quote Phillipians 4:13 (my favorite bible verse), I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and then we go right on doing the same stupid things we do. Well, I’ve learned something lately that has helped me and maybe it’ll help you, too.

There’s a big difference between doing and giving. By nature, I’m a doer. Give me a problem, let me analyze it, and I’ll do my best to accomplish whatever task is at hand. Most of the time, I’m really good with that scenario. But sometimes all my analytical skills and more time than should be necessary just don’t cut the mustard.

That’s when I have to–you have to–lean in hard toward Jesus. Sometimes there is no good answer, not from counselors, not from good books, not even from the Bible. What? Not even from the Bible. That’s right. When you are wrestling with something that you need to turn loose but can’t seem to find the strength to do it, not even all the great memory verses you’ve learned over a lifetime seem like much help.

So, you lean in hard toward Jesus, the one who gives you strength, and you let him find the pesky eggshells. What, exactly, does that mean from my point of view. Continue to read and study the Bible–even when it seems like it’s not helping. By the way, the Bible always helps us even when we don’t realize it. Continue to pray about whatever it is that’s bothering you and won’t go away. Why? Because even when you’re stuck and it seems like your prayers aren’t going two inches past your lips, God hears you. He loves you and he has a purpose in all this. Continue to do whatever you can to advance God’s Kingdom around you. Even when it seems as if you are getting nowhere fast. Someone who needs your help is watching, waiting, and listening.

Don’t ever give up on yourself or on God. Listen to what the apostle Paul said about something in his life that was bothering the heck out of him. He said, I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15 [ESV] Romans 7, especially the last half, speaks to this issue of dealing with hard stuff. You ought to read the whole thing and then think about it.

One day soon, my life, and yours, is going to end. Death is imminent. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. But before you know it. So, while you have breath, keep fighting the good fight of faith, keep wrestling with whatever gets you down, don’t give up, and wait on God to show you what is going on. He will, in this life or the next. The fight is worth it, friends. It is.


Life Hurts

It has been a while—about a year, in fact, since I’ve written for my personal blog. I don’t really know why, but here goes anyway.

First, I want to praise God and tell you that I am blessed among men. If, for no other reason than, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy,  he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 [ESV]

Or, as the prophet Jeremiah put it, Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. Jeremiah 17:7. [ESV] And that’s not even to mention my sweet wife of nearly 47 years, my son who is a great pastor, his wife, 4 grandchildren, and so many more who have invested in my life over the years.

And still, life hurts sometimes. I was reflecting about life the other day and it occurred to me that, like many of you who read this, I’ve had some painful episodes over the course of years. Not too long ago it was kidney cancer. Before that, a nearly deadly blockage in my heart. Before that, my dear old dog died. Before that, my parents died a few days apart. And a long time ago, over fifty years in fact, my first bout with cancer ended in a surgeon using a circular saw to remove an entire joint. Ouch, I still remember waking up to the pain. So, life has hurt from time to time because of death and maladies.  And that doesn’t even address all the other hurts that concern people who I care about.

What I really want to speak to in this essay is the prison we sometimes jail ourselves in because we refuse to listen to our own body or the sage advice of another person who is trying to help us live a better life. You need to know that what really got me thinking about this is the sermon series my son just finished up at church. The series title was simply, HABITS.  Here’s a link to the last message, although I encourage to you watch the whole 4-sermon series; In my personal opinion, and I’m not the least bit prejudiced, this is the best series I’ve ever heard about developing good habits and defeating bad habits.

You are probably thinking, Oh boy, here goes the preacher picking on my XXXXXX.  Nope, not gonna happen. I’m not about to tell you what is right or wrong—you already know that. I already know that. And still it seems that we often lock ourselves up because of what I call mental blindness.

What is mental blindness? It’s when a normal, clear-thinking person allows their self to be hurt by. . .their self. Let me explain. Over the course of the last 24 months or so, I’ve had a couple of those hurts that pretty much sidelined me from activities that I enjoy. What I’m talking about is the heart/cancer issue.  Sure, it hurt physically. Who wouldn’t hurt after a surgeons knife goes poking around inside your body. It hurt emotionally. When your physician comes into the room and tells you your heart is about to explode or you have a cancer growing, it’s scary, whether you want to admit it or not. Having both, back to back, took a toll on me. And, it hurt spiritually. Now I know God in Jesus Christ very, very well. He’s had my back for a long time; actually since before I was born. But we’ve had a close personal relationship for over 40 years because I accepted him as my Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit has been my guide for all of those years, the Bible has been my roadmap, and ministry has been my vocation. And, yet, those days of pain caused me, allowed me, tricked me, I don’t know—did something to me that started me down a path I didn’t want to go down, didn’t intend to go down, and frankly, never thought I’d ever go down again. Let me see if I can describe that path. . .looking for a word, the word, any word will do. No, not just any word, a particular word that is so descriptive of my case, it simply cannot be ignored or denied.  The word—INDOLENT. My 1948 Noah Webster’s Dictionary defines indolent as indulging in ease, avoiding labor, lazy. Ouch. The current Merriam-Webster online dictionary adds habitually lazy. Double ouch, but guilty.

How do I know this applies to me? I stopped eating right, I stopped sleeping right, I stopped exercising, I stopped being in the Word several times a day, I stopped praying regularly, and on and on. The key here, I STOPPED. I bet you didn’t know stopping could be a bad habit. Sure, you’ve heard plenty about stopping stuff that hurts you because it’s a bad habit. But what about stopping stuff that’s good for you?

In my case, it was weight gain caused by eating stuff I have no business eating, eating too much of whatever I was eating, and failing to realize that the resulting physical pain had nothing much to do with a bad back but, rather, a bad. . .dare I say it, HABIT.  There was much more than poor nutrition, though. I put stuff off—I’m not even wired that way. I’ve always gotten out of bed with a plan, things to do, people to see, a schedule and a budget. What I found myself doing instead was planning how to do little, put off more, and sit around feeling sorry for myself because I “hurt.”

And, then, the worst part. My quiet time became alarmingly quiet. God became distant. I didn’t think I could hear him anymore like I could before I retired. The Bible started becoming stale. The message didn’t resonate in my heart anymore. Does that sound at all like a place you have visited, a road called silence?

You see, mental blindness usually has two sidekicks, physical lethargy and spiritual deafness. I wear hearing aides and know a lot of people who are hearing impaired. It’s not a happy place when you can’t hear the person sitting next to you. It’s even worse when it’s God. Worse yet, well maybe not as bad but it seems like it, is when you’re sitting on the couch with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon watching some stupid program on TV wondering when you’ll get that next half gallon when you finish the one on your stupid lap.

Stop it, just stop it. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. Success. Some. Failure. Plenty.

Here’s the good news. Even while it has seemed sometimes that I was lost and on a path to nowhere, that same Spirit that has lived within me for going on 50 years never stopped telling me to get up and do life right. By the way, that’s the way it is for every person who has been saved by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, I got up. Still eating ice cream? Yeah, just not as much and not as often. Potato chips. Same thing. And that reminds me of an old song. 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus name.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

Not gonna sink. No sir. The God I serve is greater than all my weaknesses, all my excuses, and yes, all my sin. When I’m lowest, He is still highest. When I can’t hear his lovely voice, His trumpet still sounds. When I can’t get up by myself, He reaches down from heaven and somehow lifts me up again and again and again. Thank God!

Is there a moral here? Maybe. For me it’s just time to get “back at it.” And I have. One more thing. When you get yourself in one of these predicaments, the people around you are affected, too. When I quit eating right and exercising to stay alive, my sweet wife was dragged right down into that mire with me. Thankfully, she didn’t sink as far, but still, it’s just not right to hurt the people you love that way.

I’m back to stretching, getting ready to start regular workouts, looking forward to conditioning, enjoying my time in the Word, and looking forward to re-developing the good habits I forgot about for way too long.

I’ll leave you with this, not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 312-14 [ESV]

Spending Time

This morning, I read a blog by a Christian leader I really respect. It was about New Year’s resolutions. He made the most valid point that we should focus on Kingdom issues–what spiritual changes do we need to make in our personal lives and how do we advance the Gospel in a world without Christ. I could not agree more.

This morning, I read another article by a guy who said he wasn’t making any New Year’s resolutions because he already knew he wouldn’t keep them. It sounded like he thinks he is somehow morally superior because he knows in advance he is a failure.

This morning, I remembered reading somewhere last week that a vision without a plan is just a dream. I have no idea who said it, probably a bunch of people. I do, however, agree.  As I was doing my reading/tracking/reading/tracking thing I do every morning, I also found this interesting “quote,” “vision without action is a dream action without vision is a nightmare.” Wow. I guess that means if we move without informed direction we’re headed for trouble.

This morning, I was reminded as I read Genesis 1 & 2 for my IFIT Journal study that God made a perfect world and man screwed it up. Trouble is all around us and, frankly, it’s in our bones. Yet, if we try to go through this world avoiding trouble, we won’t accomplish much because we will always be running away instead of facing our circumstances.

So what? Each of us must decide how we are going to spend our time this year–unless we want to begin or continue to hide from the real world and try to find our worth through Facebook and Instagram and whatever other social media medium we find. (Including writing blogs and reading what others write 🙂

Resolutions. Good or bad. Neither. Decisions to act. Necessary. Informed decisions. Absolutely.

When you resolve to do something and fail, at least you tried. Never be afraid to fail–if you do, you’ll always be a failure. But don’t be afraid to succeed either. Success actually feels pretty good. I’ve done it a few times.

Sometime in 1896, Palmer Hartsough wrote the song, I Am Resolved. It’s obviously old, but also tried and true.

I am resolved no longer to linger,
charmed by the world’s delight;
things that are higher, things that are nobler,
these have allured my sight.

I will hasten to Him,
hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior,
leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true one; He is the just one,
He has the words of life. [Refrain]

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
we’ll walk the heavenly way. [Refrain]

As we enter into 2018, let’s resolve to love more–God AND people.


I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Caring, Compassion & Concern

These 3 C’s have been given to me in abundance over the past few days. I am humbled and grateful.  Life is full of surprises and the latest one, on the heels of retirement from pastoring, was a real lulu.

I have an appointment with a surgeon tomorrow afternoon and under the care of his team I will lose 1/3 to 1/2 of my right kidney to a cancerous tumor. It was a big surprise to learn about the lesion, but God always has a way to show us what we need to see and know–a CT scan for stomach cramps revealed the little devil.

My imagination tells me this will probably be a pretty painful procedure and while there is no fear in my bones to say that there is no concern on my part would be an outright lie.  It has been a long time since a doctor gave me a big scar to remember him by.

And something else–this is not my first rodeo with a tumor. In fact, it’s my third. The first was a wildly growing bone tumor in my leg way back in 1966 and the second was multiple lesions on my larynx sometime around 1980. Both of those surgeries proved to be successful and there is no reason to believe this one will not be, as well. All of the physicians who have counseled me about this are confident that the cure will be complete. I’m glad!

All that said, I’d like to ask those of you who know me and read my missives from time to time to pray about some things. The most obvious is tomorrow’s surgical procedure. I report to the hospital at noon, the surgery is around 2 pm, and barring no complications, back in a room by about 6 pm. After a couple days of watch care at the hospital, I’ll recuperate at home for a few weeks under the watchful eye of my sweet wife.

The other things I want to ask you to pray about concern two churches. The first is The Church at Lake Forest where I served as senior pastor for 26+ years. My son, Christopher, will be following me as pastor in a few weeks and I’m asking that you pray for him, his family, and this dear church. I believe God is going to do some great things as he leads the people there in Walls, MS. He’s a great guy in spite of being my son. His heart is big and so are his dreams. I know he will give it all he has and I can’t wait to see the results.

The other church is Journey Baptist Church in Olive Branch where God has led Debbie and I to serve in the next chapter of our lives. We didn’t expect to walk into a place on the first Sunday after retirement and fall in love, but we did. God has made it so very easy for us in this regard. We were expecting to “church shop” for a few months in hope of finding a place we could be satisfied and God gave us a place to get involved and he has given us a fresh passion. Pastor Jarrett and his wife Kari have quickly become close friends and we’re looking forward to supporting his leadership helping Journey to grow.

In the midst of so much cultural turmoil, peace reigns supreme at my house. Oh, we’re concerned about what we hear in the news, for sure. The world, by and large, has completely turned its back on the God of the universe. We haven’t. God is more real and more satisfying to me than ever before.

About 24 hours from now, I imagine I’ll be coming back to my senses, what little there is left anyway, and I’ll likely be complaining pretty loudly. That doesn’t change the absolute fact that God is so very good and Jesus still saves!

Philippians 4:4-7, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And  the peace of God,  which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [ESV]

I Am Resolved

A year ago, I wrote a blog entitled, Resolution VS Revolution. It started a chain of events in my life that changed just about everything. Go back and read it if you have time. The jist of that missive was this: stop listing new year’s resolutions (I’ve never really done those anyway) and resolve to actually do something and stick with it.

My resolve last year was pretty simple. Spend thirty consecutive days in the gym, work hard, and continue to improve my physical conditioning. It worked very well. Thousands of calories burned, more weight lost, more muscle gained, better sleep and even improved eating habits.

Then, a couple of weeks after completing that stage of resolve, I moved onto 3 days a week in the gym plus teaching 3 fitness classes. That, too, was working great until one Sunday afternoon at church while teaching a step class, a slight but noticable pain ran down the inside of my left arm.

A few days later I was in the hospital having a stent put in the “widow maker” artery that was 99% blocked. Talk about life-changing. One day you are working your butt off, feeling great, and the next you are laying in bed wondering what’s next.

Later, I blogged about A New Path, a phrase used by my cardiologist. By the way, I’m still utilizing that phrase today. So much has changed in the last twelve months. General physical weakness, loss of stamina, and overall malaise set in so that I simply didn’t feel like working out and didn’t really want to anymore. That all happened in the first two months of 2016.

Then, in March, after delivering a Sunday morning sermon, God spoke into my heart that it was time for me to retire from pastoring. He made the same spiritual announcement to my wife. That had never happened in our lives. We weren’t sure what to do with this new information at the time. After a couple of weeks passed, I shared with the church elders and set a process in motion that would end with my retirement at the end of 2016.

The rest of the year was pretty much a big blur. The closer we got to the end of the year, the more real this giant life change looming before me became, even though it still seemed very surreal. Then we entered into December and The Church At Lake Forest honored us for our service, gave us many wonderful gifts, shared kind words, wrote cards I will cherish the rest of my life—and lovingly sent us on our way.

We celebrated the Christmas holiday with our son, daughter-in-law, and four sweet grandchildren; it was great. Their presence and laughter and joy and sense of childhood innocence was a medicine that did me good. Going to a movie with my son and oldest grandson was a blessing that I cannot describe. Three generations of Sykes men together, each one on his own journey with God—that’s a good thing!

Christmas passed, the decorations came down, and the reality of the new path came to bear once again. Late on new year’s eve—well, not really late, neither of us stayed awake anywhere near midnite—I was still wondering what the new year would bring and what it would be like trying to find a church to attend, not being the guy in the pulpit.

The sun broke over the horizon on New Year’s Day, we got out of bed much later than we had in years, had our quiet time in the word, and headed out the door for church. I knew when I cranked up the car and headed east on Goodman Road instead of west that this was going to be a different kind of day. How was I going to find a church like Lake Forest? Was there such a thing even out there? Was that even a good idea?

I knew then and I know now that TCALF isn’t perfect. That’s why we had the motto on our t-shirts, NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED. A perfect church would only have one member, God himself. But that’s not what church is about, is it? Church is about sinners who have been saved by the grace of God because of the sacrifice Jesus made at Calvary and his victory over death we celebrate at Easter. Still, how would this day turn out? Debbie and I had been praying and talking and searching the internet for a church for months.

Almost at the last minute, we decided to try a little church in Olive Branch. We pulled on the lot of the office complex where they meet and, quite frankly, I was a little nervous. After thirty seven years of pastoring, I was nervous about visiting a church. Weird, huh?

Anyway, we went in, were warmly greeted my the people, met the young pastor and his wife, sang along with the worship band, and listened to a message from the pastor that was tailor made for this “older,” retired, pastor. We started the day thinking this would be the first day of many “church shopping sprees” and ended the day feeling like we had moved to TCALF east.

We prayed and wondered and even worried a little how we would find a place to worship that would be comfortable to us as a family and at the same time challenge us to stay on fire for our LORD. He answered our prayer and we looked at each other wondering if this was even possible. Why would God so directly and plainly bless us this way?

As I sat down this morning to write this blog, God reminded me of an old, old hymn, written in 1896, I Am Resolved. It goes like this:

I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight, things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.


I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee. I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free; Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior, leaving my sin and strife; He is the true One, He is the just One, He hath the words of life. Refrain

I am resolved to follow the Savior, faithful and true each day; heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, He is the living Way. Refrain

I am resolved to enter the kingdom, leaving the paths of sin; friends may oppose me, foes may beset me, still will I enter in. Refrain

I am resolved, and who will go with me? Come, friends, without delay, taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit, we’ll walk the heav’nly way. Refrain


I’ve never considered myself a man of great faith. Stumbling, falling, and getting picked by God are a regular part of my spiritual life. But this one thing I do, obey. Daily, I rely upon the Word of God and God’s Spirit to guide. He does.

And sometimes, maybe more often than I realize, his leading is so discernable that it catches me a littel off-guard. Thank you Lord for not giving up on me.

Now—back to the gym!

A Political Musing

The Democrat party has fallen on its own sword with glee and satisfaction. In their blindness to reality, they have declared that all is well in America. They have called upon their current leader who has completely failed at his job to promote his protoge to follow in his footsteps and continue the policies that have our country at the brink of bankruptcy—both fiscal and moral.

Democrats have assembled some of the Hollywood elite whose lifestyle completetly serparates them from the realities of the average American to stand on their stage and promote the ideas of progressiveism that are closer to socialistic societies of third world countries than they are to the democracy within the republic that my father fought for in war.

Democrats gladly stand upon a platform that calls for the federal government to take more of the money I work for and give it to people who work little if at all. These recipients have been convinced by this same political system that they are entitled to what I earned. They are wrong.

Democrats parade victims of vicious crimes and racial inequality across their stage claiming they have the answers and remedies to their ill fates knowing well their promises are empty rhetoric that can only be funded on the backs of hard working Americans.

Democrats are against guns. Not one single gun has ever hurt a Democrat or anyone else. Misguided, mean-spirited criminals use guns to hurt people. Honest, hard-working people use guns for sport and self protection.

Democrats stand tall and proud in their support of abortion rights. Of course, abortion is murder but the democrats ignore the facts on this subject like so many others. A simple query proves this point. According to law, if a pregnant woman is murdered, the murderer is charged with two counts of murder, not one. If a child in the womb is only a fetus and not a child, why is this so?

Democrats build social walls around cities to protect illegal aliens in our country, cities of refuge. However, when anyone, democrat or republican, suggests building a wall on our sothern border to keep illegals out they go into a moral rage. Why? They know that can count on the illegal votes of the illegal aliens.

The list goes on. Democrats continue to foster inane arguments to further their flawed post-liberal ideology. Progressiveism, socialism, and eventually some form of communisim will surface in this nation is the good people of America do not stop it.

The only way to stop it is to vote against Democrat candidates. Are Republicans perfect. Not at all. But their plan might just save America from certain doom under the leadership of the Dems. Think about it.

The High Cost of Ignorance

For thousands of years, this truth has stood in all the cultures of the world: no one deserves anything they do not work for. It is still true, but many in America have lost sight of the value of it. For several generations in our country, politicians, in an effort to foster their own flawed ideology, have put forth the idea that some people are entitled to have things without making any personal effort to earn them.

The result of this mistake is what some have called the haves and the have nots. The haves work for a living; they earn their money and buy things with it. The have nots sit around complaining that they don’t have enough when they are already getting what they don’t deserve. Unfortunately, many of the have nots really believe they deserve to be supported in their laziness by hard working Americans. And many politicians are supporting this unsound economic strategy.

The result: a lot of people  feel entitled when they, in fact, do not deserve anything they are receiving. This situation has gotten out of hand becasue it has been going forward for generations. Granted, there are individuals who cannot work because they are physically or mentally unable. Society will always support those people. On the other hand, able bodied people who simply refuse to work or claim they can’t find a job are becoming a plague upon our society.

Reading this you might ask why I am against people having what they need. I am not. I am against people getting something for nothing—no effort, no participation, no responsibility. Why do I feel this way? Glad you asked.

I’m 63 years old. I’m getting ready to retire—sort of—you see, even after I retire from the vocation I’ve had for the past 30+ years, I’m still going to work for a living because it is the right thing to do. I simply don’t want other hard working people to have to support me.  Someone might say, Oh, but you’ll receive Social Security benefits, won’t you? I will at around age 66.  But let me tell you something. Social Security benefits are not an entitlement. I’ve paid into it for all of my working life. As a minister, I’ve paid 15%, not the 7-1/2% that people pay when they work for a “regular” employer. (I won’t even address Congress stealing from the fund.)

I began working at the ripe old age of 10, that’s right, ten years old. My first paying job was mowing a cemetary with a push mower and I mean push mower not something self-propelled or with a seat. And that doesn’t even address spending most of my growing up pre-teen and teen years working on a 500 acre farm. My granddad had milk cows, tobacco fields, corn fields, grain fields, gardens, chickens, hogs, and horses.  Someone had to feed the animals, milk the cows, and work the fields.  Guess who? And you know how much pay I got? Not a red cent. My cousins and I worked hard and we got to eat good and sleep sound.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have fun growing up. I did. I had a bicycle, a skateboard [okay, in those days a skateboard was just that, a board; it was an 8” wide piece of painted plywood with roller skate trucks bolted to it], a ball glove, an old, faded football, and a big field to play in. The farm had a creek to splash in. My dad took me fishing and hunting. I shot game and drove farm tractors long before I had a driver’s license.

Life wasn’t always easy but, then, when did the rule of life become sit down and do nothing while someone else pays your bills.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people in the news protesting for their cause and that’s why I wrote this piece. I just wonder, I mean, really wonder how many of those protesters work for a living. I wonder how many of them put stuff back at the grocery store because they can’t afford it. I wonder how many of them pay taxes. I wonder how many of them have a high school education. I wonder how many of them have ever worked a day in their lives.

Here is why I ask those questions. They always complain about what they don’t have instead of being thankful they live in America. Their plight in life is always someone else’s fault. They obviously didn’t pay attention in grade school because they can’t form a decent sentence. They destroy things—including families. They kill without a thought about how many people are going to be affected, just like the terrorists.

Their collective opinion of America is dark and damaged. Why? They don’t engage society in any other way than malice with a lazy “I’m owed” attitude. My point, I’ll say it again, noone deserves anything they do not work for. I know that sentence has a preposition dangling at the end but don’t you get the point?

Someone has to stand up and tell all these thugs to shut up and get a job. I don’t have the bully pulpit to do that like the Democrats and Republicans do. They’ll have their conventions and tell us all they ways they are going to improve our lot if we’ll just vote for them. Last time it was hope and change. How’s that working out for you?

I don’t have a crow to pick with anyone about who is important and who is not. God made us all, he loves us all, he gave himself for us all, and he will save all of us who trust his Son, Jesus Christ. Maybe, just maybe, if everyone would stop complaining and start praying, things would change in America. Don’t you think it’s about time?

Walking a New Path

Today was absolutely phenomenal. I woke around 4 AM and immediately thought about the high school and college students we would honor during worship @ TCALF. For the past 25+ years, I’ve presented a lot of bibles, encouraged students to stay in the word, and challenged them to walk with God and live a dynamic life of service as they face their own unique futures.

Today was no different. There was a slight twist. The whole time I was preaching, I knew the moment was fast approaching when I would tell my loving church family that my time to retire was here. I had the joy of reminding everyone that retirement is not and should not be an ending. It’s simply a change. A good one.

Today was a day of rejoicing, prayer, thanksgiving, and fun, yes fun. We enjoyed every minute of fellowship. We had a great meal. We worshiped with great music. Friends offered warm embraces and kind words. Debbie and I were completely at ease.

Today was not a day of doubt nor regret. God has proven faithful throughout the years and this day was no different. With confidence, God allowed me to preach his word, plead the Gospel to the lost, and offer encouragement to believers. When it came time to share my heart about retiring, God made it easy.

Today was a day of beginnings, not endings. As I prepare to leave TCALF, God is preparing someone to lead. Whoever it is, he will be a tremendous blessing to this church and its future. My confidence runs high because every time God does something grand for one of us, he does the same for those around us.

Today was a day of hard work. I was amazed at how the men and women at TCALF prepared for the best fellowship ever. As long as the day was, the effort made it pleasant and full of joy. It’s been great to see God working in lives, raising up leaders, and making it easy for me to start walking my new path.  I want to thank the staff for the organization, “chef K” and his helpers for cooking, and everyone else who made this a great day.

Speaking of new paths, God is already at work in my heart and Debbie’s heart helping us understand that as we leave this place that has been home for nearly half our adult lives, he has something else for us that will allow us to continue to steer people toward Jesus and his word.

Today was a great day. Tomorrow will be even better. Thanks again to everyone who has shown their love to us. We are blessed.

The OC

A lot of people I know are OC–Obsessive Compulsive. Some of us are, or used to be, OCD. If you have ever suffered from OCD, you know life can sometimes be pretty miserable. It goes a lot further than “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I remember a time when I couldn’t function in my study unless all my pencils (when people still used wooden pencils) were arranged in order by length, label up, and erasers cleaned.  I don’t think I’m still OCD, but I’ll readily admit I still have some OC in my blood.

A disorder is anything that lacks  order or regular arrangement. When your mind can’t deal with the lack of order, you have OCD. The stories I could tell.

Now, though, I’m dealing with a totally different type of OC. I call it over compensating. If you’ve read my previous posts lately, you know that about 8 weeks ago I had a stent put in my heart as the result of chest and arm pain that was caused by a 99% blocked artery.  The surgery was pretty simple and straightforward, the recovery has been more difficult than I imagined, and I still wonder when the next chest pain will rear its ugly head.

That’s where the OC comes into play. I guess you could say I’m a little “gun shy” or like a burned child I “dread fire.” It’s not a matter of worry, I simply don’t want to feel that way again.

So, I’ve avoided a very important part of recovery; fitness. Yep, fitness. I know, I know. I’m the guy who preaches fitness right beside the Gospel. That’s because I believe in it–a lot. In fact, I still remember the doctor telling me I probably survived because I was so fit.

How, then, do I overcome this form of OC? How do I get back at it? Can I? Yes, I can. For me, and for you, it is a matter of faith. I have faith in Jesus. You have faith in something or someone. I hope it’s him.  My faith tells me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it. If I really believe that, and I do, as long as I have breath and ability, I can take care of myself, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

This morning, after way too much over compensating, a bunch of prayer, and encouragement from a lot of people, I went back to the gym. Gym can actually be a scary word, you know. But it wasn’t nearly as harrowing as I imagined; surprise, surprise.

Some of the muscle tone is gone (temporarily), stamina is pretty much at rock bottom, and the meds cause me to be a little short on O² absorption. My first hour back at it actually went pretty well. I didn’t have to use my nitro spray (it was rubber banded to my water bottle), I didn’t have any unusual pains, and right now, 8 hours later, other than being a little sore, I actually feel pretty stoked.

So much for OC, huh. Easing back into action is actually pretty difficult for me. I so wanted to light out with some wind sprints on the track as other runners passed me while I was walking.  I could have run and hurt myself but I chose to walk and help myself.

I may never get back to where I was physically; I’ll never stop trying. As long as I’m breathing, I keep pressing toward the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ.

I. . .CAN. . .do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

The Great Physician

One day Jesus was walking through Capernaum and a great crowd gathered, as was usual.  Jesus set about healing those who were sick and the religious crowd got all flustered.  They accused him of blasphemy, because as he healed those who were ailing, and they believed in him, he forgave their sins. Duh! Their accusation was that only God can forgive sins. Wow! Blindness abounds among those who deny Christ.

When the religious zealots saw him eating lunch with “publicans and sinners,” they were incensed. When Jesus heard their whining, he responded, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. 

That would be me, a sinner in need of a savior. About 37 years ago, that savior found me floundering and gave me eternal life. His love has seen me through so much; I dare not try to count the ways he has cared for me.

Last week, as you may already know, I was admitted to the hospital and underwent a stenting procedure on one of the arteries on my heart. My cardiologist knew something was wrong and I am thankful I have a great physician. Her expertise and caring attitude likely saved my life.

Last evening, sitting on my couch, I started to have chest pain again and ended up in the ER. After several hours of observation, and a call to my cardiologist, I came home with instructions to see her today. The office visit was both eye-opening and encouraging.

As we talked about my heart health, for technical reasons I won’t rehearse here, the pain I’m having now is not unusual after the kind of procedure I had–thank God. A little further into the conversation she confirmed that the artery in question–the one that was 99% blocked, was the proximal left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery, otherwise known as the Widow Maker.

If you believe in luck, I am a very lucky guy. I happen to take a different view of life, one guided by God. Accidents are not and fatalists are just silly. The Great Physician put me in the company of a great physician and the result is I’m a Timex kind of guy–I take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

I know some who know me have probably thought or said, “Yeah, there he is working his butt off doing physical fitness and look what happened.” As if I was wasting my time taking care of myself.  If that’s what you think, you’re just stupid, plain ole stupid.

In fact, my doctor told me just today to get back after it–fitness, that is. She suggested, and I believe, that my survival in this case was directly related to my high level of physical conditioning. My very strong heart was able to continue to function even through that LAD was 99% blocked.

There is one caveat with this, though. I’m 62, not 22. She told me I had a “lot of tread left on my tires” and that I just have to find a “new path” to keep going.  She used the word “moderation” more than once. Even while she was talking to me, God reminded me of a passage that I know by heart. Philippians 4:5-7 says, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [KJV]

There’s that word, moderation. ESV says reasonableness. ASV says forbearance. NIV, gentleness.  The lesson I’m learning in all this (one that a lot of people will say is way past due) is that it’s time to slow down. My personality knows only one speed–wide open. I guess it’s fair to say that my body can’t keep up with me anymore. And that’s OK.

There’s a huge difference between being temporarily sidelined and being permanently removed from the game. I believe I can still score, still win the race, still be effective. I just have to find a different path to get there. Maybe along the way, I’ll actually start to smell the roses more. Who knows.

I’m just glad I have great physicians.