God is never surprised

One of my favorite sports quotes is Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly a few years ago, who responded to a question about his QB cheating on a test: “Am I surprised? Heck no. I have a 16 year old knucklehead at home. Nothing surprises me. I am disappointed, but not surprised.”

Today my wife Diane and I will celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary serving dinner to the community and church of Wesley Chapel in Short Gap.  She will spend a couple hours today making strawberry pies and cream pies.  And God is not surprised.  She lost a nephew to an accident and her sister to cancer.  God was not surprised.  She graduated from Frostburg State University in May of this year. God was not surprised. We will celebrate our anniversary by visiting and staying with our friend Patricia (who we met in Haiti) for a few days at the end of this month at Siesta Key, Florida.  God is not surprised.

I cannot conceive how all of our choices, both good and bad, have led us to where we are today and made us who we are today.  We are in Short Gap, WV and we are blessed to be followers and servants of Jesus Christ.  We are living our lives for Him. There is no other reason I would be a pastor.  I always tell the people here that there is no other reason we would live in Short Gap.  If we were going to choose for ourselves where I would pastor, Diane would choose somewhere near the beach.  And God is not surprised.

Over the last 31 years, I am sure He has been sad for us and disappointed in us, but never worried about us.  To God be the glory for where we are in our relationship with each other and in our walk with Him.

*

*

*

*

Posted in Obstacles, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting my phone in bacon grease

While Diane and I were cooking for Samaritan’s Purse in Marshall County last week, I was saving bacon grease.  I use bacon grease to make green beans for our Wednesday night dinners.  We fixed nearly 30 pounds of bacon for the volunteers!  I was worried about someone throwing away the bacon grease so I set it in a metal bowl up high above the stove.  On a related note, I have this habit of putting my phone in bowls to amplify my Andrew Peterson Pandora station.  The suspense is gone for you from the blog post title, but I did just that.  I had a half gallon of bacon grease saved when I reached up and put my iPhone 5c with an otterbox case, all the way down in the bacon grease.

The moment I felt the bacon grease, I pulled out my phone.  I turned the phone off, and freaked out.  One of the women from the church we were in went to get a bag of rice.  I had no confidence rice would absorb bacon grease. I took it out of the case, cleaned it up, and tried my best to get the grease out of the charger hole and the ear bud hole.  An hour later, I tried turning it back on.  It worked.  They I tried plugging it in to charge it.  It worked.  The only side effect is a little scratchiness from the speaker.  And I may try to run a hair dryer in it to melt the remaining bacon grease!

I was certain that my phone was toast (with bacon hahahaha).  I am shocked that it works.  And to be honest, I think Diane was and is a little disappointed that it still works.  She has been telling me for a year and a half that I need to get a new phone and she thought this would force me to get one.

I am reminded that we often think we know how things are going to turn out, and we are often wrong.  While Jesus hung on the cross, everyone thought they knew how it would turn out.  When the women went to the tomb to anoint His body, they thought they knew how it would turn out.  Jesus completely shocked and forever changed the world when He rose from the grave.

Whatever it is you are going through or whatever you go through in the future, I hope you will remember me putting my phone in the bacon grease.  You must keep going.  You must hang in there.  Things often turn out much differently than how we think they are going to.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
~ Psalm 40:1-3

*

*

*

*

*

 

Posted in Hard times, Opportunity, prayer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to blog and time to read it

I have a beloved friend in Montana who will be happy to know I am alive.  Nearly any time I go a week and a half without blogging, I get an email from her.  It is hard for me to blog on my phone.  A lot has happened in the last 10 days.

Diane and I used some vacation days to go to Moundsville, WV last week to cook for Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and staff, including Billy Graham Evangelical Association chaplains.  SP was responding to flash flooding in Marshall County, WV and Shadyside, OH.  Between the testimony of volunteer workers in the orange shirts and the witness of BGEA chaplains, over 30 people gave their lives to Jesus last week in the Marshall County, WV area.  It was worth our time to feed the folks who were feeding the community the Gospel.

Time is the most precious thing we have on this earth.  Once I was on the phone with someone for over 30 minutes when they said to me, “I have never asked you for anything and you have never given me anything.”  I said, “I have just given you 30 minutes of my time.  It is the most precious thing I have on this earth.”

I am aware, as the theological leader of Wesley Chapel in Short Gap, that the people who come on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights are spending their time.  That inspires me to give them something of God to challenge and/or encourage them each week.  I am aware that you who read my blog posts are spending your time.

This coming Saturday I have a choice of three ways to spend my time.  And a fourth way is not out of the question.  There is a UMC district picnic, the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company is having their gun bash, and a young man I know is having a wedding reception for a wedding he and his new wife had a week ago.  Right now, I am planning to spend my time at the wedding reception.

This morning I have been spending time cooking lunch for the Union Rescue Mission.  I’ll be leaving for there in an hour.  How are you spending your time?

*

*

*

*

Posted in Opportunity | Leave a comment

The unpredictability of God

This past Tuesday I was cleaning the deck with a pressure washer. I got a text that Samaritan’s Purse had opened a disaster response location in Marshall County WV.  Diane came out to ask me if I got the text.  I said yes. When I finished the deck I walked in the house and Diane had this look.  I asked her what she was thinking and she said something like, “Nothing.  Nothing.  I’m not thinking anything.”  I knew she was wondering what God was going to do in our lives concerning Moundsville (Marshall County).

We need to work one more disaster response to qualify as part of SP’s site leadership team.  I emailed Jason from SP to ask him if we could do another flood response as our one more disaster response.  Within 5 minutes I got a call from Jason.  He asked when we were thinking of going to Moundsville.  I told him I was not sure.  He said they had hired a cook to feed the teams in Moundsville, but they had “cook training” in Boone next week and Moundsville needed someone to fill in for the week.  He knows we served for 5 days as cooks in Charleston, WV last summer, in addition to the 12 days we went out and cleaned out flooded houses.  I have a wedding to do next Saturday and have rehearsal on Friday evening, but I told him we could feed the volunteers from breakfast Monday to breakfast Friday.  And that’s how we ended up working with SP in Moundsville next week.  I will be taking a few vacation days to work with SP next week.

I hope this does not sound blasphemous, but sometimes God is as predictable as a two year old.  You never know what He is going to do.  You never know what He is up to.  The difference between them is that God has a purpose and a plan.  But He sure is unpredictable.  John Piper said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you are only aware of three of them.”

If you do not find following Jesus to be unpredictable, you might need to follow a little closer.

*

*

*

*

*

Posted in Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something happened

I’m pretty sure we had a bear in our trash last night.  It’s the first time in 4+ years that a trash bag has been pulled out and drug toward the woods.  We have a pretty deep box for the trash.  Small animals have gotten in it plenty of times, but this time it was different.  Something unusual happened.  It was a large animal or a team of squirrels.  And while squirrels are pretty ingenuitive, there’s no way they did this. I picked up the trash and put it in a new bag and also re-bagged the two other bags left in the bin that were rummaged through.  One thing is for sure, there is evidence that something happened last night. This has bear written all over it.

It reminds me of the change in my life that happened and keeps happening because of Jesus gaining more and more control over my life.  I know others who have the same experience, people with friends and relatives knowing that something different in going on in their lives.  My observation is this: If there is no evidence, then more than likely nothing has happened.  There is proof that something happened in my yard last night.

My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. ~ John 15:8

*

*

*

*

*

Posted in Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holding on tightly to nothing

I have this handle on my desk from a dehumidifier.  The dehumidifier bucket (full of water) cracked when it crashed to the floor because the handle let loose.  I fixed the bucket with gorilla glue.  I took the handle off so nobody would be tempted to empty the bucket by picking it up by the handle.  The handle is not reliable.  The handle has been on my desk in my office for a few weeks.  It is a worthless handle.

But today, it reminded me of all the things in this world we cling so tightly to that are really meaningless through the lens of eternity.  Look at your checkbook or bank statement.  Look where your time is spent.  How much of what we feel is so important is really not that important?  Regarding possessions, I remember hearing one time that everything we own is the stuff of future garage sales and trash dumps.  But we cling to so much more than possessions.  Search your feelings for anger or resentment or unforgiveness?  Search your feelings for the need to be who you are not just for approval.  We will never be who God saved us to be if we cling to things other than Him.

What do you cling to?  What are you hanging on to?  What do you need to let go of?  Who do you need to forgive?  And I do not mean for their benefit, but for yours.  Don’t get to the end of your life and realize you have been holding on to the wrong handle.

*

*

*

*

Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Faith in spite of reasons to doubt

My sermon Sunday was from Acts 3 about God, through Peter and John, healing and allowing a lame man to walk.  I’ve heard it preached over and over and I have preached that story myself more than once.  I have heard it preached from the perspective of helping others, as Peter did.  I have also heard it preached from the perspective of the lame man who, after all those years of begging outside the temple, was finally healed and received grace.  This time, there was a “gut punch” ending though that left the congregation in silence, and some in tears. I ended it from the perspective of the other lame beggars who sat and begged for years near the formerly lame man.  While the Scripture does not mention them, I know from experience that they were there.  There is no way there was only one person begging in such a busy spot.

Why is it that one person receives healing and another does not?  I know all the kind things to say, “God needed him/her” blah, blah, blah.  But the truth is, there are often no answers and we have to find peace with that.  Anyone who has a persevering faith in Jesus does so in the face of seasons of and reasons to doubt.

Today, there is a family remembering the 4th birthday of their beloved little Liam (pictured). He is celebrating it in heaven.  They had him for three years, two months, and seven days.  They have kept their faith in spite of having reasons to doubt.  There is an amazing woman from our church who has chronic pain that has her really incapacitated right now.  I sent her this text this morning:

 

I’m reading about the power that came to the disciples when the Holy Spirit came. Then I think about the fact that we have the same power. Yet I do not understand how it says we can ask for things and we do not receive them, how we have His power and feel powerless. All of this as I pray for you.

I said earlier that there are often no answers.  Ultimately, I see this as the answer to our “why” questions.  I am convinced that the assurance of our Christian faith is found in and through the trials.  It is proof to ourselves that we love Jesus because He loves us, not because of what we can get from Him or because he gives us what we want.  If we only love a God because He runs a candy store (as Eileen says) and lets us choose whatever we want, we do not love God.  The truth is we love the candy.  And He is the means to get what we love.  Maintaining our faith when we suffer and mourn, and when others seem to get the blessings we desire… that kind of faith is actually the greatest blessing of all.

*

*

*

*

 

Posted in Hard times, Obstacles, Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments