Monday, June 28, 2010

Tell Us You Didn't Mean That!

"Unless the global mission offering increases in the next year, we will call missionaries home.” That's how the Associated Baptist Press reported a statement by Dr. Daniel Vestal, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at a June 23rd meeting of the Coordinating Council. Surely he didn't really mean that. CBF began with the primary purpose of sending and supporting missionaries who would live and serve among the most neglected anywhere in the world, including the most neglected in the USA. Judy and I have been involved with CBF since the beginning about 20 years ago. We have served as Member Care ministers for European and North Africa missionaries for 13 years. We love and support CBF because of its mission focus. CBF, like other organizations, has grown in its mission and supporting system. CBF now does many wonderful ministries. However, the core or the heart of CBF is sending and supporting missionaries. Surely, the supporting staff in the Atlanta Resource office would be diminished to the bare minimum before there was any decision about diminishing the missionary force. Even after returning from a wonderful CBF General Assembly in Charlotte, we are shocked, saddened, angry, confused, anxious, etc. We were all reminded by the speaker during the final CBF worship in Charlotte that any bureaucracy can lose its focus and become primarily concerned about supporting itself. Has our CBF done likewise? Please, Daniel, tell us you didn't mean that.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

My Father's Day gift was a trip to the Lexington Legends baseball game. Our seats were on the second row behind the catcher. I could hear fast balls smack the catcher's mitt and see the bottom drop out of a sinker ball. I was given the gift of jumbo hot dogs with way too much spicy mustard--just the way a ballpark hot dog is supposed to be prepared. The Legends won 10 to 6. Since the Legends are a very minor league club (South Atlantic League), between every inning there is some type of home grown enterainment, such as: kids in a taco sailing contest, mascots spinning with their heads on bats then trying to run the base-line, a couple in a pillow fight on a tall and very small inflated mattress; etc. At the end of the ballgame, there was a fireworks display. Well, you get the picture, a minor league baseball game is a lot of fun and they play baseball. Maybe someone will figure out how to make church more like minor league baseball games--a whole lot of homegrown fun in the midst of some "meetings." I think Jesus and the children would like this. Who knows, maybe even some of us older ones would have to become more like children--oops, I think someone has already said that.

I've been to a meeting

I've been to Charlotte, NC for the 2010 meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The small extrovert part of me was thrilled and excited. The larger introverted portion of me is exhausted. It was a good time. I especially enjoy these meetings as I meet new acquaintances, see friends and renew former friendships. The highlight for me, as always, is to see so many of our friends who live and serve as missionaries. Their hugs and conversations are worth the expense of the meeting. I'm always drawn to and energized by the music in these meetings. Most of the sermons, speeches, lectures, etc. are okay and a few are inspiring. It took me many years as a pastor before I honestly realized that I wasn't the star on Sunday mornings. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit was the star and he/she/they were more likely to show up in the 'water fountain' conversations than my well-planned and delivered sermon. It wasn't that my preaching and teaching were unimportant; they never were the main thing. I'm glad that I went for the meeting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

One thing leads to another


We've been doing and having done some work at the house. Our home was built in 1927 and the single pane windows weren't doing a good job of holding in the cool and keeping out the heat. In the winter, it is just the opposite. So, the windows needed to be replaced. Two workmen arrived, and in a couple of days our twenty-two windows that were 83 year old were replaced. The old windows with their storm window additions are history, and new windows have been installed. They finished the installation with an aluminum surround molding so no one, that's me, will again need to paint those windows. The new windows are wonderful. Out first impression was the quietness, as we weren't hearing the outside noise as before. Our second impression was the air conditioner didn't seem to be running as frequently. We are pleased! However, workmen do leave hand and thumb prints so, the windows needed cleaning. Judy washed the windows, and this time she didn't need to go outside with a ladder to get to the outside of the windows. They tilt so the the outside is inside. A few days later we began noticing that our front and back doors looked old and, in addition, we could feel the summer's heat around the door. So, back to the store to look at new doors. The salesman and installers came to the house to talk about the doors, especially back door. They asked if we wanted to replace the back door sill, which has significant age and water damage--after all for 83 years folks have walked on it and it has collected rain and snow. The installer said that if he tore out the door frame to get to the sill, it might be a good time to think about some work on our deck. I built the deck about 20 years ago so, it is also old, worn. Yes the deck needs to be replaced. Well, one thing leads to another. This truth or reality is happening not only in regards with our house project but, also, with my life in general. Perhaps the message, if there is any message in this experience, is to make certain that choices are pointed in a good and healthy direction when I begin something, because one thing leads to another.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

A botched block

I've been watching the World Cup today. I'm thrilled that the USA did well against England. However, I feel sorry for the English goalie whose botched block enabled the USA to score and, thus, the match ended in a tie. I think all of us are capable of a botched occurrence. I know that I've had many. I hope the goalie can move on and not let this get in his way. He has to be an excellent player even to have made the team. Perhaps only those who are as excellent a player as he, have earned the right to make their comments and criticisms. That won't happen but, I wish it could--not only for his sake but mine and everyones as well.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

The mornings in my Office

I like the place where I work. The building is 100 years old this year. It is an old house that has been fixed up with heat/air conditioning, paint, wall paper, carpet, etc. Each room has a fireplace and even though they are no longer functional, the 'feel' is comfortable. I especially like getting to the office in the early mornings. The morning sun enters through my office windows and brightens up the whole area. During these early mornings the only sounds in the building are from a small water fountain on the bookcase in my office and a smooth jazz CD playing in the reception area. I like these times so I can sit silently being in wonder about the day and the people I'll meet. Sometimes, I read the Bible anticipating that the scriptures will work on me. Other times when I read the Bible I work on the scriptures with my mind seeking understanding and use of it's truths. I like my office, especially in the early mornings. Later in the day the building and offices will get busy with lots of people coming and going. I like that also but, it is different. I like my office, especially in the mornings. I hope everyone has a nurturing space.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back,
The only path to serenity."
(from the Tao te Ching #9, translated by Stephen Mitchell)

I like this quote because of it's ageless wisdom. I'm not certain that this is the only path to peace or serenity. Nevertheless, it is important to do my work and that my work is purposeful. Do it well then step back. It is crucial to know that who I am and my worth are not solely defined by what I do.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gluttony and the oil spill

When I first read about the explosion on the Gulf of Mexico's oil rig, I grieved for the 11 men and their families who died. After a few days I had difficulty understanding why BP and/or the government couldn't stop the 'leak.' I've not found another word to replace 'leak' as that word doesn't seem to do justice to the large amount of oil rushing in the waters. As I watched images of the oil covered pelicans, the oil sheen and the oil washing into the marshes, I've grown frustrated and angry. I have listened to the interviews of the gulf coast residents whose work as well as life-styles have been significantly altered by this accident. Standing over against their ever growing loss is the BP's CEO whose compensation package was worth about $4.6 million in 2009 (see Lexington Herald-Leader, Eugene Robinson, June 6, 2010page D-1.)

I also began to think about the life-style to which I've grown accustomed with its dependency on oil based products such as gasoline, plastics, etc. My 'oil based' life style helped create the gluttony, dependency and demand that created a need for nearly 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, only one of which has created such this accidental oil spill. I'm pretty sad and angry today.

Lord of Creation, I ask your forgiveness as I also ask for the wisdom and courage to live more simply so that others may also live.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Greetings from a warm and humid front porch,
We've returned from our journey to Oklahoma. We took my brother, Bobby, who is mentally challenged, back to Shawnee and Norman Oklahoma where we grew up for his 65th birthday. He did exceedingly well with flying. He repeatedly told me that "I'm not anxious." When the plane would bank for a turn he would grab my arm and say, "I can see the ground but I'm not anxious." He couldn't understand why the men and women, i.e., "policemen" at the airports wanted to see his shoes. He thought it was funny to want to look at peoples shoes. We visited cousins, 2nd cousins, the two former homes that were still standing (the other 2 have been removed so as to make church parking lots), our parents and grandparents graves, etc. We also visited the OU football stadium in Norman and ate at Hamburger King in Shawnee. We remembered, told stories, saw relatives we haven't seen in years and it was very good.

This afternoon we are going to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary of some friends. We've known them thirty plus years. Been with them through deaths, weddings, divorces, illnesses, etc. We've been their pastor most of those 30 plus years. Their celebration will bring together family and many friends some of which we've not seen in several years.

As one who practices and teaches mindfulness, I (Rick) try to stay focused on the present. God is alive with me in this present moment as God is also present in my memories and future story. The trip and wedding celebration, however, have me focused on my memories of the past. Those memories remind me again of who I am because of loving family and friends who help to mold me and upon whose shoulders I stand with whatever gifts, abilities, interests, etc. with which I may have been granted by God. Deo gratis!

As we looked out over a Methodist parking lot that used to be our home, I wondered what they did with all of the OU football programs I collected through the mid-50s to mid-60s. Yes, I had collected every one of them and nailed them to the walls of my bedroom during that great run of victories for the Sooners. I have many other great memories of life around that house such as my first car--a Henry J. My friends and I pushed more than drove it. Nevertheless, I was proud of that automobile because I bought it for $50 which I had made from mowing lawns. I bet many of you have never heard of a Henry J. When the missionary Paul writes, "forgetting what lies behind," my theological reply during these past few days has been "Sorry," Paul "but those were pleasant memories of what's behind and I don't want to forget them completely." However, neither do I want to live in the past because the present is so exciting and the future is promising.

Remember that You are God's Gift and you possess many gifts. Just keep in mind that without the Gift, that is you, the gifts are not longer available. So take care of yourselves.