Friday, December 31, 2010

A Sabbatical Year (or maybe longer)

As you can see since my last post in September that I haven't been very diligent in writing and posting lately. Our lives have been hectic with family, work, leadership consulting, friends and getting the house ready to sell. In fact, I don't recall a time in my life when I have been busier.

So I am going to put this blog on the back burner for a while. The subject matter remains a passion for me. But I am looking for a slightly different creative outlet. Something that can be quicker and more timely.  And something that doesn't require deep theological thinking.  I am looking for something that allows me to write about a broader range of topics, thoughts and issues that I see.

Look for a new blog and something from me soon after the new year. You may likely see it first on facebook. Thank you for all of your support and your insightful comments on this blog for the last several years.  It has been an amazing journey since that first post in January of 2006.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If a man is fortunate in life . . .

If a man is fortunate in life, he will be raised by a great father.  I am a fortunate man to have such a father.

If a man is really fortunate in life, he will marry a woman who was raised by a great father.  I am a really fortunate man to have such a wife and father-in-law.

Both of these men have had a profound influence and impact on my life.  They have showed me what a Godly husband and a Godly father look like.  And I am forever grateful for their influence.  But, just how fortunate would I be to have had yet another man in my life that was a Godly model of what it is to be a man, a husband, a father, an employee and leading layman in his local church?

We recently lost such a man.  Paul Freese went home to be with the Lord on August 21, 2010.  Today he is with the Lord and I am left to ponder the weight and the value of his influence on my life. 

He and I first met at his house one evening back in the Fall of 1980.  I was visiting my girlfriend's (now my wife's) family for a holiday week-end.  I was told that acceptance in the family was not contingent upon what they thought about me.  It was contingent upon acceptance by Paul and Helen Freese.  And so we all trudged over to the Freese house.  I was there for inspection and evaluation.  And I was a little scared.

Little did I know how easy that evening would go.  And little did I expect to be made to feel so welcome into their home.  I was reviewed and inspected by Helen in the kitchen of their home.  There were the obligatory questions about my college studies and future plans.  And there were the somewhat unexpected questions about my life and my Faith.  As I look back now I am not surprised by those questions at all.

I guess I passed that initial inspection because I was dismissed to the family room where the men were hanging out.  And there I got to spend my first bit of quality time with Paul Freese.  But his reputation had already preceded him.  He was somewhat larger than life.  He was a V.P. and senior executive with a very prestigious environmental services company in the Washington, DC area.   He had a huge house in a quiet suburb.  He had a lovely wife and 3 successful grown children.  He was every thing I wanted to be.  But I was only looking at the surface.

The Freese's and my in-laws had a friendship that is as close as any that I had ever seen.  And since they were so close I had many opportunities over the years to be with them in many formal and informal occasions.  Many of those occasions occurred after Cathy and I were married.  In fact, we moved back to that part of the country at one point and we began to attend the same church as Paul and Helen.  For several years I had the opportunity to serve side-by-side with Paul on the Board of our local church.  It was in these years that we had the chance to sit and talk about many things.  He mentored me in many things.  He shared with me tidbits and insights into the business world, the church world and the "home" world.  I was still a young husband and a young father.  And these were opportunities for conversations that I vowed not to squander.

So what are some things I learned from Paul?

I learned that  a crew cut never really goes out of style.
I learned that being steady is harder than it looks.
I learned what it feels like to be a grown-up.
I learned that there is no higher calling in life than to be a man of God.

I learned that there is more to being a husband than bringing home a paycheck.
I learned that there is more to being a father than you see on TV.
I learned that there is more to being an employee than just showing up.
I learned that there is more to being a church leader than casting a vote as a board member.
I learned that a soft and thoughtful word is more powerful than a persuasive argument.
And I learned that I had value in Paul's eyes and he assured me that I had value in God's eyes.

Everything I "learned" from Paul I also was learning from my own father and my father-in-law.  But, Paul made some of these life lessons easier to receive from his lips than from my own father's.  I am pretty sure my own dad was smart enough to realize that.  And, if truth be known, my own dad is probably grateful for Paul's influence in my life.

So, I will not prolong this post.  Neither will I become maudlin.

I will just say, "Thank you Lord for putting Paul in my life while I was still young and 'moldable'.  And thank you Lord for helping me recognize what an opportunity was right in front of me."

If a man is fortunate in life, he is befriended by a man like Paul Freese.  I am a really fortunate man.

Paul V. Freese
March 7, 1926 - August 21, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"buildings are sacred places"

I had an opportunity to attend a gathering Saturday morning.  Thank the Lord it ended up being something different than what was planned!  A meeting and ideas for fund raising was planned.  But, it ended up being an opportunity to see what God is doing in other parts of the world.

I had the opportunity to meet Imir and Janette.  They are ministering in Imir's country.  Both Imir and Janette spoke eloquently about their ministry and their home, the newest country on the planet, Kosova.

The list of things that are different between their home country and mine is HUGE!  And I could pick any one of a number of them to blog about.  But Imir made a statement while discussing the need to purchase a building in one of the cities in Kosova.  He is currently leading a small group of Believers in a building that is not a church.  And that building is in much need of repair.  So they are looking to try to locate a building to purchase.  In his country, a church is really not taken seriously unless they have a permanent facility or building.  In his country, "buildings are sacred places."

There it was.  Did you catch it?  He said buildings are sacred places.

I thought about my church today and many of the churches that I have attended in recent years.  Some of them didn't even look like churches.  And I am not here to debate the relative merits of the "sanctunorium" or the multi-purpose building.  But I miss the days when you walked reverently into the sanctuary.  You didn't run inside the church and passing notes was the 8th deadly sin!

Do you think there is any connection between the informality of the new church and the lack of a deep abiding reverence for the Lord's House?  Again, I am not attacking the modern church.  But what "message" is being sent to the congregation when the pulpit has been replaced with a bar stool and a tall table?

Have we lost a sense for what is sacred?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Grace and Peace

I have a lot of friends who use various closings in the signature blocks to their emails and blog posts.  Some of my favorites are:

* Respectfully (that's kinda old fashioned)
* Have a great day (that's a little wishful)
* Warm regards (that's a little stilted)
* All the best (that's a little optimistic)
* Blessings (that's a little out of my league to dispense)
* In Christ (that's where I want to be)
    They range from totally secular to completely sacred.

    My favorite is . . .

           Grace and Peace

    There is nothing wrong with any of the other ones.  I just like that one best.  I don't even use it myself in my email and blogging for fear of jumping onto their bandwagon. 

    But it speaks to me.  It reminds me that those two things are certainly things that I could use a little more of in my life each day.  I don't know about you, but I have never come to tough situation and thought there was too much grace applied.  I have never come home at the end of the day and thought, "Wow, today was just too peaceful!"

    So what about you?  Could you use a little more grace and peace in your life?

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    Monday, July 05, 2010

    There's no place like home

    I think it was Dorothy that spoke that line of dialog in the classic 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz."  She was longing to go back home to Kansas.  Her wishes and dreams of traveling "Somewhere over the rainbow" had not turned out quite like she wanted.  And, although I haven't not traveled quite like she did, I have been away from home an awful lot lately.  My work has had me on the road about 75% of the time lately.  And like young Dorothy, I want to go home.

    I remember early in my career when I got to take a business trip or two.  What a thrill that was.  Stayed in a nice hotel.  Got a new rental car.  Ate whatever I wanted at whatever restaurant I chose.  That was the life!

    But lately it has been meeting here, negotiate there, meet over there.  Go to the big conference.  And every hotel room looks the same.  All I can think about while on the road is, "When will I get to go home and see my wife and my kids and grandson?"  All I think about is coming home.

    You know, heaven is like that for the Christian.  Maybe at this stage in your life it isn't all that you think about.  But, it is something that you should think about from time to time.  It helps keep things in perspective.  I can get through anything on the road because I know I am coming home soon.

    I think about it a lot more and more as I get older.  I've never been there.  But I know I want to go there.  I know that I will go there some day.  After all, it is my home.  It is my eternal home.

    And there's no place like home.

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    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    Have you heard from the kids lately?

    This is the latest question that I pose to my beloved everyday when I call her on the way home from work. It is a question that is becoming more important to me in these days ahead. It is becoming regular. It is becoming like clockwork. And it is a question that I am really more and more interested in. You see, I want to know what is going on in their lives. I want to know how they are doing. I want to know how my one year old grandson is doing and whether or not he has taken his SAT yet. (Did I forget to mention that he is very bright and advanced?) I love them and I miss talking with them every day.

    Obviously from my opening lines we have recently become "empty nesters." Our house that has been so full of love and life and laughter is now much quieter. Our kids have all moved out and I don't see them every day like I have for the last bazillion years. And, quite frankly, I miss them. I miss the sounds and the smells of a full house.

    These thoughts and feelings caused me to think about this from a Spiritual perspective.

    I wonder if our Heavenly Father misses us in much the same way. I wonder if He feels some of the same emotion that I feel. Does our Heavenly Father miss talking with us every day? Am I too busy to talk to Him? Does He sit around the heavenly realm and say to the Holy Spirit, "Have you heard from the kids lately?"

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    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Why Am I Here? -- Part 4 -- Somebody Prayed

    So, we come to the end of this little 4 part series. It has been an interesting experience for me.  It has been a blessing to think about my life from 4 distinct perspectives.

    I was recently told by a very dear (and slightly OCD) friend that I should not have interjected the little commercial for someone else's blog between part 3 and this last part. So, I offer my apologies for that literary faux pas.

    Let me remind you of the topics one last time.

    Here are the four topics again as a reminder.

    I am what I am because:
    • Somebody Played
    • Somebody Stayed
    • Somebody Paid, and
    • Somebody Prayed
    In Part 1, I pointed out that I am deeply grateful for the impact that my 4th grade boys Sunday School teacher had on my life. In Part 2, I discussed what an impact on my life was made through the personal sacrifice that my mom made to stay at home and raise my brother and me. And in Part 3, I wrote about something a little more tangible in terms of a specific monetary investment made into my life.

    Now, the last installment.  I am what I am because somebody prayed. That someone is my Dad.

    Tonight as I sit at the keyboard my memory goes back to a morning in my early childhood. Actually, any morning morning that would come to mind would demonstrate my point. And that fact may be the greatest statement and testament to a life of consistent prayer.

    I really don't remember when I first experienced it. But the memories are about as vivid as any of my childhood. Every morning as I was getting up in the morning and heading to the table for breakfast I would pass by the bathroom in the hall. Our home was a modest home. It did not have a private bathroom in the master bedroom as I recall. So, the family shared a bathroom in the hall. Dad, Mom, David and me. Each morning on the way to breakfast I would pass by that bathroom. Usually the door was slightly ajar. I could see in the bathroom as I walked down the hall.

    What did I see as I walked down the hall? -- I would see Dad.

    Where was Dad? -- He was kneeling by the bathtub.

    What was Dad doing? -- He was praying?

    Who was he praying for? -- He was praying for me.

    Now I need to tell you something at this point. I did not grasp the significance of that act at that point in my childhood. But I did later in my life as I got a little older. As I was growing up I would often pause by the door and listen. Dad would use my name as he prayed for me. He prayed for my safety. He prayed for my day as I went to school. He prayed that I would make wise decisions. He prayed for many things. But he prayed that I would come to know Jesus in a very real and personal way. He prayed that I would come to know Jesus like he knew Jesus.

    That memory has come to me countless times in my lifetime. It seems that memory always came at the worst times. That memory came at times when I was tempted to do stupid teenager stuff. It came when I was tempted to do stupid college stuff. It came when I was tempted to do many things. Unfortunately, that memory did not always keep me from making those decisions. But I never escaped the memory of Dad praying for me.

    That habit that Dad had is still a part of his daily life. He still prays for me every day. He calls out my name in prayer. He calls the name of my wife. He calls the name of our children. He calls the name of my son-in-law. And he calls the name of my grandson, his great grandson, every day as he communes with God at the start of his day.

    So here I am. I have more days behind me than I have in front of me. And I owe much of the life that I have enjoyed and the success that I have enjoyed in raising a family to the faithfulness of my Dad and to his prayers for me every morning of my life.

    I am what I am because somebody prayed.

    Thanks Dad.