Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 181- A Rocky First

While we were driving to North Carolina today, we stopped at Patton's Run Overlook in the Nantahala National Forest.  I took the family to a very scenic place we had never been to and taught them how to skip rocks for my "first."

This was a beautiful place. There was a running river, smooth rocks, beautiful trees, birds flying over the river, and God's glory on display.  The kids have some kind of app on their I-Pods where they electronically skip rocks.  To me, that's just no good if you don't know how to really skip a rock.  They learned to select a slim, smooth stone and give it a sideways throw close to the water.  Some learned better than others.  Joel found an old (like all rusty and gunky old) pocketknife and said, "Watch this Dad, do you think I can skip this old knife?"  I told him to try and he did and it skipped three times. Joel said that was a legendary skip. Hannah Grace managed to get 4 skips on one of her throws.  Laura, well, Laura did not have any legendary skips.

The clear water rushing over the rocks made them very slippery and the water was really cold.  Hannah Grace says she recommends being very careful on the rocks or you could slip down and get your overalls dirty.  This ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it would. 

When we got back in the car, Joel said this was one of his favorite "firsts" that I have done. As we drove, I asked them what that setting reminded them to praise God for.  Joel said the clean water in the river reminded him that God gives us clean water to drink.  He also added that if it were not for Him, we would not have been able to be there to skip rocks.  Hannah Grace said it reminded her not to slip on rocks. Perhaps we could expand that to say we need to hold tightly to God's hand so we will not slip morally or spiritually.  Laura said it reminded her that God created everything and made such beautiful things for us to enjoy.

Psalm 150:6- Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!

Praising God for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Privilege to visit with family we don't see very often
2. Running rivers with clear water
3. Skipping rocks with the family

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 180- A Packing First

We are planning on going to see some family that we've not seen in a while tomorrow.  Our family does some things really well. One thing we do not do well is pack and get out of the house at around the time we had hoped to. Today, I packed some of our things the night before in our vehicle as my "first."

To some of you, this may seem a bit silly. You are good packers and when you get ready to go somewhere, you leave around 6 or 7 in the morning.  That is not us.  Tonight is Sunday night and I got home from church around 8:30. We actually have packed some yesterday and today, but not like those of you who leave at the crack of dawn for a trip. 

Tonight, I packed some stuff in the vehicle. It is out there and ready to go. Will this save us some time in the morning? It is possible, but I don't have real high hopes for it saving us much time.  We still have bags of toiletries, medicines, and food that need to wait till morning. I have the ice chest in there, but it doesn't have ice in it yet and after looking at what we have, it is very possible it will be discarded for something smaller.  When we start putting the last minute things in there, it will not be terrible surprising if there is a re-arranging of the entire contents of the vehicle.  The toy box is the one thing that I feel good about. It is in place and should ride there.  Then again, there is always the possibility of that being re-packed at some point in the morning.

 Ready to go

Is this really going to work?

The computer, wallet, meds, and the keys will have to wait till morning; of course, those directions would probably be nice to go ahead and put in the truck.  Just a minute, I'll be right back.

We do have a start; I have little confidence that it will stay this way; where are the fans going?  We can't sleep without fans! 

Perhaps the toy box will stay

Well, it is a "first" to have something packed in the vehicle the night before. Who knows, it may even turn out profitable.  It is good that we have a destination in mind and a plan to get there. We may not leave as early as we hope, but we will leave (Lord willing) and we typically have lots fun on the journey.

In life, it is important to have a destination and a plan on how to get there.  As a follower of Jesus, a large part of the plan is to glorify God by becoming more and more like Jesus.  It seems that it is very easy to know that in our heads and give lip service to that without having a plan on how to get there.  One question that would be helpful here on Sunday night is this, "What will I do that (by trusting in God) will  help me become more like Jesus this week?"  I read something by Dallas Willard where he  wrote something along the lines of (I can't find the exact quote right now) most Christians are not becoming more like Jesus because they don't intend to. They are not intentionally doing things that will bring them more into Christlikeness.

While we realize that we can't become more like Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit, we do need to intend on becoming more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit by doing things like getting the Bible into our hearts, sincere prayer and repentance, acts of faith, godly conversations and things like that.  Becoming more like Jesus is a trip worth taking.

Now, someone just asked me to go put something else in the toy box...

Intending to live the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. I'm a citizen of Heaven-  Philippians 3:20- For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
2. Garlic bread
3. Belts

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 179- A Sand First

I did a wedding today at Pensacola Beach.  I've done lots of weddings and even a beach wedding or two. Today, the couple wanted to include a sand ceremony in the wedding.  I conducted a wedding with a sand ceremony as my "first" today.

I had seen a sand ceremony done one time before at a wedding I attended.  This was the first time I had conducted one.  It is a pretty cool idea.  Some couples use this in place of the unity candle as it has something of a similar meaning. By the way, as someone who has conducted lots of weddings, if something is going to go wrong in the wedding ceremony, it will usually be with the unity candle, a child, or the sound system. 

I digress.  The sand ceremony has nothing to do with the beach, building sand castles, getting sand in your shoe, or throwing sand at people passing by. After the exchange of rings, there were three slim glass containers with three different colors of sand in them.  There was a larger glass container in the middle.  I started the sand ceremony by pouring the dark color sand into the larger container while explaining that this sand represented God as the foundation for the marriage.  He is the rock of the marriage as they lean on Him. Then the couple took turns pouring their sand into the larger container representing their lives being bound together. It shows how their lives- once separate- are now becoming intertwined as one. Just as it would be impossible to separate these sands once poured, their union shall make them inseparable as well. Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."  Then, they can take this home as a reminder of their lives being intertwined together, no longer two but one, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Beautiful setting

If you happen to notice that there is a dark color and the other two are the same, you are very perceptive.  The bride and a bridesmaid did some quick maneuvering during the ceremony and got some beach sand in her container while I was explaining to provide the different color. 

If you notice one container is not all the way empty it is because the pastor (that would be me) got nervous that there would not be enough room for all the sand and stopped pouring; oops.

There are different ways to do the sand ceremony with different colors and containers.  I love the symbolism that this represents.  In marriage, the two become one.  That's the picture here.  They are to become one in purpose, goals, love, and commitment.  The best way to do that is to build the home on Jesus Christ. Then you share a common purpose of glorifying God by having a great commitment to the great commandment (Mark 12: 29-31) and great commission (Matthew 28: 18-20).  Also, you have something to put in your home from the wedding to symbolize this commitment.

I'm so glad Laura and I are married.  We tell each other that very often. A number of people told us that the first year of marriage would be the hardest.  After the first year, we looked at each other and said, "Woohoo! If that's the worst, we have some really happy years ahead because this first year was a blast."  I love sharing with couples that marriage can be really fun and full of love and adventure.  There are problems and difficulties but they are far outweighed by the joys.  We have found that the closer to are to Christ, the more loving, patient, kind, and forgiving we are with each other. When our relationship with Christ gets a bit stagnant and stale, we tend to be more critical, impatient, and argumentative. I like to picture marriage as a triangle.  God is the top of the triangle and the two spouses on the sides.  As they move closer to God they will automatically move closer to each other.  As they slide away from God, the distance between them gets larger. If I did your wedding, you probably remember that part.

Loving the abundant married life

3 things I thank God for today
1. A happy and joy-filled marriage (due to a wonderful wife)
2. Sand ceremonies
3. Fried shrimp available at the wedding reception

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 178- A Welcome Home First

Laura and the kids have been in Ms. since Monday visiting with Laura's sister and family. Today they traveled home and got here about 8:30.  I baked chocolate chip cookies for them as a welcome home surprise for my "first."

I don't cook.  Laura does a great job of cooking and I'm content with that and she does not complain.  I started thinking about some way to surprise them with a "welcome home" treat.  It's not as easy as one might think because Hannah Grace loves chocolate and Joel loves fruit.  I knew they both enjoy chocolate chip cookies as does Laura (hmm, I think Barry does as well). Several times through their trip I talked to them trying to gauge what time they would get home.  Gratefully, I timed it pretty well. When they got home, the last batch was still warm.  Yay!

Do you think I ate some raw cookie dough?

The hot ones are tempting

This was a fun "first."  The anticipation of surprising someone is a big part of the fun. Then trying to pull it off where it is really fun; like the cookies still being warm adds a bit of spice to it.  Even though this did not make me want to cook more or spend more time in kitchen, it was very enjoyable.  I'm glad my family responds really well to surprises. 

While the family was away, it is a reminder to thank God for them and enjoy these days. In my head I understand that these days will not last forever.  This season of life will not last forever.  Whatever season of life you are in, it will not last forever.  We can not stop time and we can not save time.  We can only spend it wisely.  It is a constant challenge to remember that this is the only day I have to live.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.  Martin Luther wrote, "There are two days in my calendar: This day and that Day.”  In other words, he lived for this day because it is the only one we have.  He also lived for that day; the day when he would see Jesus.  I love that quote.

While looking up that quote to get the words right I ran across another quote by Martin Luther that I really liked. He wrote, "Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave." 
Now that the family has been home a while, I think there are a few cookies left....

Tasting the abundant life

3 things I think God for today
1. The joy of family coming home
2. Jesus is always with me
3. Martin Luther quotes

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 177- An Olde Seville Square First

I went to Pensacola to the Olde Seville Square to listen to a concert by the Sarah Mac band for my "first" today.

This was a free outdoor concert in downtown Pensacola. I saw this on a website that features events in Pensacola and that the Sarah Mac Band was back by popular demand.  So, since the family was out of town I could sit at home and watch TV or ride to Pensacola and see why her popularity demanded her band to come back. The year of "firsts" helped me to not act like an old person and get out and go to the concert. I've been to concerts before, but I figure this was a a "first" the way it played out with the location and the band. I did think that I could have stood up and yelled, "Play some Creedence" and that would have been a definite "first."  I decided not to do that. If you don't understand that, search Youtube with "Creedence Clearwater Revival" and add the words "Bad Moon Rising" and you'll get an idea.

For those of you who know I'm a pastor and figured this was a Christian singer; no she was not touted as a Christian singer. I had never heard of the band before.  I had no real idea of what I was going to listen to.  Hey, a free outdoor concert in Pensacola? What are the downsides to that?

I did enjoy myself.  The setting in the Olde Seville Square is pretty nice. There are big old live oak trees that cast a lot of shade.  There was a pretty big crowd that seemed to be having a good time.  I enjoyed the music. There was the lead singer that also played acoustic guitar on some songs; I presume that is Sarah Mac. With her was a bass player and electric guitar player.  The music was not so loud that is was overwhelming.  As I listened, I thought that this is a soulful, bluesy kind of music.  Then, they described their music style as "jazzy bluesy rock with a whole loot of soul." I was very happy to hear that; I was not too far off with my musical assessment.

Me jamming

A cool cat at the concert

I enjoyed myself this evening. While the band was playing a song that talked about a person that wanted to go to Michigan to see their true love, I noticed one lady standing up with a raised hand.  Just one. I thought to myself, I wish I had a picture of her so that I could explain to people that feel led to stand up and raise their hands in praise to the Lord that they should not be ashamed to do that. I don't know if this lady had a true love in Michigan that she wanted to go see or what, but she was into the song.  I guess all I can say is "Go girl."

The thing I liked besides the musical style was that the lyrics had some meaning to them. I would have enjoyed it more if I had known the words to the songs of course. Here's one that I looked up that was enjoyable:

I’m ready to be alive again
My heart has lain fallow for far too long
And the rest of me has been following
But I’ve made up my mind, I am too young to expire
Uncloak the embers of soul and breathe them to fire
Because I’m ready to be alive again
I’m ready to be alive again

Though Sarah may not have intended this message with her song (she may have), I'm glad Jesus can offer us new life. He said in John 10:10 (NLT), " The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."  Yes, Jesus can give life again if we will trust Him and surrender to Him.  Wherever we are, whoever we are, Jesus wants you to have life. Jesus talks a lot about life in John.  I'm so glad that He is the giver and sustainter of life. 

Praising God for abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Music
2. Truth
3. Live Oak trees 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 176- A National Catfish Day First

Today is National Catfish Day.  That's the kind of holiday I can enjoy.  I celebrated National Catfish Day for my "first."

I was driving out of town today and I stopped at a restaurant that I've never stopped at before and ate fried catfish for lunch.  This place had some pretty cool sides and offered me two for the lunch special.  I had cheese grits in honor of Alabama and red beans and rice in honor of Louisiana. The catfish was good. It was even better when I dipped it in ketchup with just a dash or two of Tabasco sauce mixed in it.  I enjoyed celebrating National Catfish Day.

I realized I could have done more. I should have wished some people Happy Catfish Day; especially at the restaurant. They probably did not even know about it.  Late this evening it occurred to me that I should have gone fishing for catfish. That would have been loads of fun, but I don't know how I could have made time for that today.

Then I realized that maybe the catfish were not too fond of how I was celebrating National Catfish Day.  I did not read up on the holiday at all.  Maybe I should have taken some food to the river and fed the catfish.  My celebration was more about me than it was looking out for the catfish's joy.  It kind of reminded me of Christmas.  It is very easy to celebrate Jesus' birthday by spending way too much money on gifts for each other rather than focusing on Jesus.

This was on the wall in the restroom; I love the Scripture and felt good about eating in a place where the owners are possibly Christians.  I did get to wondering why this one in the restroom?  

This picture was on the wall; if this is how they get their fish, that must be one busy man!

I could have went fishing

I loved Catfish Day though I could have made more of it.  Catfish Day got me to thinking about how God can change us for His glory.  How?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Catfish are bottom feeders and can eat some pretty gross stuff.  They eat aquatic plants, other fish, decaying vegetation, fish eggs and crawfish as well as snails, aquatic bugs and minnows. They are also carrion eaters eating many types of dead things. They can eat carrion such as dead fish, dead bugs, or anything else that is dead quite handily. There is quite an advantage to being a “bottom feeder”. They also eat worm and leeches. I've used worms, small bream, and minnows in fishing for catfish. I'm not going to use a leech. I don't want to use something for bait that might bite me and then I'm trying to get away instead of the fish trying to get away. 

So here is an animal that eats leeches and dead bugs and tastes delicious. How does that happen?  It's a wonder of transformation. Plus, it's one that I believe we'll enjoy in heaven.  Some people laugh at me when I say that but what did Jesus eat with the disciples?  Luke 24: 42-43, " So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence." This makes me think there will be seafood in heaven.

Well, if a bottom feeding fish can be transformed into a delicious meal by a cook with the right ingredients, then God can transform us into His likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18- "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."  The more we get focused on Jesus and wrapped up in Him, the more He can change us.  Sometimes people try to transform their own lives by working hard.  Some of that is OK, I guess. Don't forget to meditate upon Jesus and who He is.  Let love for Him transform you from the inside out.

Looking for transformation in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Catfish
2. Thoughtful waitresses who bring you the Tabasco sauce the first time you ask
3. Jesus is alive

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 175- A State First

Laura and the kids went to Ms. today to visit Laura's sister and her family. After they left, I spent most of the day in my office and visiting in the community.  I did not see a lot of opportunities for a "first" so today's is pretty lame. I have seen on FB where a number of people are taking this little FB quiz to see what state they should live in.  So, today, I took the FB quiz to see which state I should live in for my "first."  Now that I think about it, since some of my friends have done this maybe it is not too lame after all.  It's just not as exciting or adventurous as I want, but some days are hard to do an exciting "first."

The little quiz said I should live in Texas. Here's what it said:You aren't really made for the big city life, or the small town ways, but you are just fine with living in the suburbs. You get involved in the communities around you, but sometimes you enjoy just being at home by yourself without having the big city noises right outside your window blocking out your own thoughts.

If I'm not made for small towns, I'm in big trouble because that's about all I've ever lived in. I've never really considered living in Texas. At least I don't have any exes (x's?) living in Texas.  That is probably a good thing. When I was young, our family enjoyed going to Houston and watching the Astros play and going to Astroworld.  That was fun.  I don't think I'm really a cowboy type. As a football fan, I don't really care for the burnt orange thing they have going on at Texas. Too many Aggie jokes to be an A&M fan. Perhaps I should trust God for where I'm to live rather than the FB quiz.

Not many Texas kinds of things around our house

I do have a pair of cowboy boots which I never wear because someone in the house doesn't like them

I also have a pair of Ropers; can't wear them either

Not sure what a Texas face looks like

OK, I will admit that I like to listen to some Willie now and then 

It doesn't seem like Texas is the right fit right for me right now.  The Bible actually tells me what state I'm supposed to live.  It is found in Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)-  "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." I am to live in the state of contentment.  That's the right state for any believer.  I've not moved around a whole lot in my life. I've lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and in Missouri one summer. I've lived in a house, dorm, old hotel , and a mobile home. I've enjoyed all of these places at time and at times I've been unhappy in all these places. I enjoyed the bathroom facilities in the dorm the least. The key for me has been to be in right relationship with God and those God has placed in my life. When that is right, I've enjoyed all the places I've lived.  When those things have not been right, I've been pretty discontent (nice way to say miserable). As followers of Jesus, let's live in the state of contentment.

One more thing about Texas.  There was this farmer from Texas visiting a farmer here in Alabama. Driving along in the pickup  truck, a rabbit hopped onto the road in front of them. The guy from Texas said, ""What was that!?" The Alabama farmer said, "That's a rabbit. " The Texas farmer shrugged and said, We grow 'em alot bigger'n at back home in Texas." So they went on and a little farther on they came to a few cattle in a field. The farmer from Alabama stopped the truck and the guy from Texas said in a puzzled tone "What are those?"  The Alabama native hesitantly said "Those are cattle."  The Texas native replied "Well, we grow 'em so much bigger back in Texas."   After a bit they drove down near a creek and a 40 pound loggerhead snapping turtle lumbered onto the road. The Texas farmer looked and said "Now what is that thing!?"   The Alabama guy said, "Tick."

Maybe telling a joke on my blog is a "first."

Content in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. A wife who cooks poppyseed chicken casserole for me to eat while she is out of town
2. Phones that you can talk to families while they are out of town
3. God is never to busy to listen to us pray