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December 2008 entries

An Anniversary of Sorts

CIMG0365 I couldn't let this day pass without saying something. It is the 17th of December. One week before Christmas Eve. The anniversary of my college graduation. Two days before my wedding anniversary. All of these are meaningful in themselves, but 21 years ago on this date was the day our oldest son, and the only son at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. Adam was almost 18 months old when the pediatrician told us that our son had a rare form of cancer; 1 in 100,000. The mortality rate if found in the latter stages was 90%. Most of the children who had this form of cancer never lived to see their 3rd birthday. Marilyn and I will tell the whole story on this Sunday. Part of the testimony was recorded in front of our nearly-famous aluminum Christmas tree last Sunday afternoon. I hope you will be at DBBC this Sunday to hear all the story. I would encourage you to bring someone who really needs hope this Christmas. That shouldn't be hard to find. Until then I just thought I would give the LOrd some well deserved praise on this anniverary of sorts. YEAH, GOD!    


A Life Well Lived

I just got back to my office. This afternoon I had the honor of sharing words of comfort to the family of a friend at his funeral. My friend was 35 years my senior and a much better man than I. He stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in WWII. He didn't talk about it much. The memories of his friends dying in the surf of that beach and others who perished as they tried to ascend the cliffs that were before them were just to painful to recall. The world needs more heroes like my friend. More people who will risk their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Too many today are more likely to complain than conquer; given to criticsm not encouragement; to take the easy road that leads to nowhere than the long hard road that takes you to success. The outpouring of praise came from friends and family alike. I have done too many funerals where there was more bickering than weeping. I once said some nice things about a lady in our church during her memorial service.  After the graveside service concluded one of her sisters made a b-line straight for me. Holding my arm firmly at the elbow she said, "If you knew my sister like I knew her, you would have never said such nice things about her." I doubt that were true. I make it a point to overlook personal deficiencies in character and conduct during a funeral. After all, that may be the only time some people ever have nice things said about them. I remember a joke about a preacher who was asked to do the funeral of one of the most crooked men in the community. The family met with him before the service and said if he couldn't find something nice to say about the deceased the preacher would have his house burned and land in the hospital, if not worse. The preacher, being a man of high integrity, could not tell a lie. So as he began his eulogy he said, "I have been encouraged to say something nice about the deceased. I think I can honestly declare that compared to the rest of his family, this man was a saint !"

That was not the case today. It was not hard to find nice things to say about my friend. It became obvious that he would be greatly missed by his family. The family had decided to open the casket for one last viewing after my message and before we traveled to the cemetery. Normally, I do not consider this a good idea. Once the casket is closed in the parlor, I think it only hinders closure that is essential in the healing process. But today it seemed natural and good. The sons and daughters, brothers, grand kids and great grand kids had to kiss their loved one just one more time. I have to admit, for the first time in years it brought me to tears. I was not sorrowful for my friend just as I don't believe Jesus was mourning His friend's death at the graveside of Lazarus.  I was touched by the affection these people had for my friend. They were genuinely heart-broken. For just a moment I allowed myself to imagine that was me in that casket. I wondered if my boys would be weeping and kissing my forehead as these children were doing. I asked myself if people would be saying the same things about me when I'm gone or will someone pull the preacher aside and say, "You wouldn't have said such nice things about him if you had know him like I knew him?"

There is no faking a life will lived. The tears shed at the graveside are not manufactured. They come whether you want them to or not. Occassionally we need to ask ourselves, "Will the world be any less colorful when I'm gone?" Or, "Will I leave a void that will be difficult to fill in the lives of my family and friends? Will the sound made by my passing away be loud enough to cause anyone to notice or will I simply silently drift into eternity?" These are questions we all must ask if we are going to live our lives well. Sorry, if I got a little melancholy. Funerals do that to you sometimes.

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken                 

Update on "Realize the Dream"

Last week I bemoaned the participation level of our capital funds campaign  "Realize the Dream." That solicited a lot of great testimonies from those who made committments that were prayerful but a stretch for their present circumstances. Some of these were amazing. In each case not only did God provide the ability to pay their committment to the campaign, but gave them an abundance above and beyond that amount. How sad then that some were advising people with fixed incomes to not participate in the campaign. I am sure people like this have the best intentions, but their advice rob those who listen a tremendous blessing. It's like telling a hungry person who has only a ration of minnows with which to fish to eat the minnows and not waste them by placing them on a hook and casting them where they might catch a real meal. Even fishing takes faith.

Now the good news. I am happy to say that "First Fruits Sunday" yielded wonderful results. The total in cash was over $263,000. When non-cash contributions are converted this amount could easily soar over $300,000. That's is a huge beginning considering it is more than 10% of the entire 3 year campaign. I want to thank everyone again who participated. Everyone who made phone calls, stuffed envelopes, attended meetings and picked up cards did so with a great spirit of cooperation. Now let's watch together how God leads from this point on. It may not be exactly how I mapped it out, but then it rarely is. 

In His Shadow,


Memories as Medicine

First things first; thanks to all of you who either posted a comment, emailed me or spoke to me in person with words of encouragement about "We Did not Realize the Dream." Sorry about falling into a funk on the internet. This blog is supposed to be just a little insight into my world. So to be true to it's purpose I have to be honest and I was honestly down. I'm still not happy over the outcome, but the outcome has ignited my curiosity to determine what it all means. There will be changes. There will have to be, but the changes may actually stir us from our spiritual slumber. We'll see.

Now, to the subject at hand. It is December 2 and as I write Burl Ives is singing "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" on my office radio. A strange thing happens to me during this time of year. Where I typically detest "sameness" and routine, I actually enjoy songs and stories I have heard repeated since I was child. Tomorrow night I have the DVR set to record "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer." It is supposed to be in HD. (How do they do that?) I read "A Christmas Carol" and watch at least a couple of versions of the classic on the tube. The "Muppets Christmas Carol" is a family favorite and George C. Scott is more convincing as Scrooge than he was as Patton. My satellite radio is set on channel 81 instead of 129 (CNBC) and 66 and 68 (both Christian music). Eighty-one is continuous Christmas music from Elvis singing "Santa Claus is Back in Town" to Bing Crosby singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". I will soon be reading the story of shepherds and wise men to our chidren and preschoolers as they gather around sitting still just long enough to hear of a baby born in a barn. I've been doing this so long now that some of those who once sat fidgeting at my feet listening to the Christmas story at my feet are now entering college. 

What is it that cause someone like myself, who doesn't even drive home from the office the same way two days in a row, to embrace tradition. I think I know. At least I have part of the answer. With all the disappointments in life; the bruised egos and thwarted dreams; the broken families and wayward children; the disgruntled church members who move to another church when things don't go their way; all the things you have to deal with in my position, Christmas is a reminder that God does care. He has not forgotten us. He cared enough to come to earth to save us. That is a message that all the crass commercialism in the world cannot obscure. All I have to do is to hear Andy Williams sing "O, Come All Ye Faithful" or Johnny Mathis croon "Little Drummer Boy" and I am carried back to my childhood. A time when I was just naive enough to believe Santa could be at the shopping plaza and in Sears downtown at the same time. (Not that I could attest to this first hand. I never crawled up in that scary man's lap. Are you kidding me?) A time when it didn't matter to me that shepherds and wise men were both depicted at the manger scene. (You did know that was incorrect, didn't you?) A time when my family was intact and the lack of presents under the tree was okay because we were all together. I guess it is okay to visit the past this time of year as long as you don't take up residence there. We'll talk again soon. Right now Amy Grant is singing "Winter Wonderland." 

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Ken