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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ministry Adventures in Haiti

I continue to be inspired by folks who take the words of Jesus seriously.  That is never more true when you answer the call to be actively involved in the dirty and sweaty aspects of ministry.

I guess we expect pastors to be involved in that sort of thing.  And they are.  Fellow blogger, Trey Morgan, is actively involved in feeding the Dump People in a city in Honduras.  He is preparing his second trip this May.

My brother is constantly involved in rebuilding activities following hurricanes, floods and whatever else God calls him to do.  His church in Michigan adopted a church in New Orleans and rebuilt it following Hurricane Katrina.  A year later, he was at it again.  This time in Iowa following the flooding there.

Today, I received an email from my uncle who is returning yet again to Haiti.  He has been there many times and has been active in ministry there for years.  This time it is a little different.  Ministry in countries like Haiti is sometimes difficult under the best of circumstances.  But, trying to minister following the devastation of the recent earthquake seems extraordinary.  But this time when he goes, he is planning to blog about his adventures in ministry. 

I know we all are busy.  Maybe we are too busy to go and minister alongside of folks like these guys.

But, are you too busy to read about what God is doing in the midst of chaos and devastation?

Are you too busy to pray for them as they go and do what God is calling them to do?

Just wondering . . .

Go check out my uncle Bob's blog.

Drop him an encouraging note or comment.  It'll do both of you a world of good!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why Am I Here? -- Part 3 -- Somebody Paid

We are half way through this short series that examines a bit of my personal story and yet illustrates some principles that apply universally.

However, this one will not have a name associated with it as the others have.  It will have an element of mystery.

Here are the four topics again as a reminder.

I am what I am because:
  • Somebody Played
  • Somebody Stayed
  • Somebody Paid, and
  • Somebody Prayed

I discussed the first point and I am deeply grateful for the impact that my 4th grade boys Sunday School teacher had on my life.

I discussed in the last post what an impact on my life was made through the personal sacrifice that my mom made to stay at home and raise two boys.

This post is about something a little more tangible.  This post takes the word sacrifice and makes it a little more concrete.

I am what I am today because somebody paid.  Somebody, and there were lots of somebodies, invested in me.  They took their hard earned money and they decided to use it for Kingdom building. 

The first two posts went back quite a few years.  This one does not delve that far back into history.  And, I must be honest.  I don't really know for sure who the person is that is worthy of my thanks and God's blessing.  But, i think I do.  And it happened about 15 years ago at a time of great financial struggle in my life.

Every year there was a Layman's Retreat Week-End that was hosted by the Washington District Church of the Nazarene.  This event was the highlight of the year for many folks.  The event was held in various places and conference settings.  But the best by far was The Willow Valley Resort & Conference Center in Lancaster, PA.  This place was not the place for folks on a diet or for vegetarians.  Does the word "smorgasbord" It was the place for incredible gravy covered menu items and coconut cream pie as a chaser!  But it was a wee bit expensive if you were a one income family living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

We scrimped and saved and found a way to go most years.  But one year, things were a little tougher than other years.  And it didn't look like we were not going to be able to afford it.  Then the envelope came in the mail box.  It was addressed to us.  But it didn't have a return address on it.  What it had in it was almost the exact amount of cash that we would need to register for and attend the conference that year.  Somebody paid for us to go.

I don't know for sure who did that.  I think I do.  but I am not certain.  But I know this.  There was a couple in the church that was a little older than us.  They were both established in their careers.  I'll not give any more details about them out of respect for their privacy.  I know that they would not want any sort of public acknowledgment.

Nevertheless, I think they chose to invest some of their money into a young couple with two small children.  They invested in a young couple that was doing all that they could to raise their children right.  They invested in a young couple who worked hard and volunteered for many duties in their church.  They invested in a young couple who needed the encouragement and fellowship that they found at the conference each year.

What about you?  Are you able to invest in someone?  If so, what are you going to do about it?

We made a solemn promise to God that if we ever were in a position to "invest" like somebody did in us, we would do so.  God has blessed us over the years.  And through God's blessings we have been able to make a few investments as well.   The gift and the blessing goes on and on and on.

Thank you *** and ****.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Why Am I Here? -- Part 2 -- Somebody Stayed

Earlier in the week I began a series that is somewhat personal in nature. It was inspired by a post by a fellow blogger who pastors up north in Childress, TX. If you are looking for a great blog to follow, I wholeheartedly recommend his to you. But enough of this shameless promotion . . .

Here is what I came up with and began exploring in my earlier post.

I am what I am because:
  • Somebody Played
  • Somebody Stayed
  • Somebody Paid, and
  • Somebody Prayed

I discussed the first point and I am deeply grateful for the impact that my 4th grade boys Sunday School teacher had on my life.

So today, let's consider the second -- Somebody stayed

This one is a little more difficult.  It evokes thoughts in my head of a famous Friedrich Nietzsche quote that became the title of a book by Eugene Peterson.  The quote is:
The essential thing in 'heaven and earth' is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.

Now, lest we get all worked up praising this insightful quote, let's hastily remember that this is the same Nietzsche that proclaimed that “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed Him!”  However, Nietzsche has stumbled upon a theme that is true regardless of where one is on the spiritual spectrum.  And that is that there is something powerful about a sustained obedience or commitment.  Some would call it “Staying Power”.  Hence, my alliteration, “Somebody Stayed”.

The list of those who have “Stayed” in my life is long.  My generation was ripped apart by the sexual revolution of the 1960s.  In the midst of all of that commotion and noise, my parents remained faithful to one another and remain so to this day.  They stayed together.  They have been together now for more than 50 years!  And they ingrained that idea of what commitment was like into my brother and me.  He and his wife have been married for more than 30 years.  This June, my bride and I will have been married for 28 years.

There are other examples of staying.  My Mother stayed home with us boys and worked while Dad went off every day to his job.  At a time when many disdained the role of “housewife”, Mom embraced it and made it a Divine call in her life.  She stayed home rather than ship us off to day care and pursue a career of her own. But let me be clear about this, what ever she would have chosen she would have been great at because Mom is one of the smartest people I have ever known.  But, she stayed home with us.

So, what does all of this mean?  I don't know for sure.  I don't know what I would be like if my childhood had been different.  But, I know this.  I know that I benefited greatly from that model of what a mother was like.  And 20 years later, I found myself married to a woman with that same mindset that was willing to sacrifice an external career for an internal one.  And the following generation has benefited just like I did.

Thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Why Am I Here? -- Part 1 -- Somebody Played

Why am I here?

Now there is an interesting question.

I don't think I am going to go into the biology of it all.  That would be icky and probably bring the wrong crowd to the blog.  Or maybe it would be the right crowd.  Who knows?

But, why am I here?  Or maybe, a better way of putting it is, "How did I get to where I am today?"

One thing I know for sure, I did not get here on my own.  And I was thinking the other day about the influence that many folks have had on me down through the years.  Fellow blogger, Trey Morgan had an interesting post on that today.  He was asking about it from a ministerial perspective.  He was posting about a couple of pastors who were very influential in his life and ultimately his ministry. 

But what about that question from a more wholistic perspective?  Here is what I came up with and have been formulating in my mind long before Trey's post today.

I am what I am because:
  • Somebody Played
  • Somebody Stayed
  • Somebody Paid, and
  • Somebody Prayed
Let's consider the first -- Somebody played

I grew up in the church.  My family has always been a part of the fabric of ministry.  My dad is the best Sunday School Superintendent that has ever been.  And my mom is perhaps the best Head of the Children's Department that has ever been.  I truly mean that.  They were that good.  And I will get to them in a later post in this series. 

There were others that were influential.  And I will not name them all.  But, one stands out tonight as I sit at the laptop.  You probably don't know him, his name is Mr. Gene Snell.

Mr. Snell was the 4th grade boys Sunday School teacher when my family moved to New Cumberland, PA.  I remember a lot of things about that man.  I remember he loved us boys.  I remember he gave us $20 if we would read Revelations.  And I remember that he took time out of his busy schedule running a concrete construction business to take us boys horeseback riding on a Saturday. 

That's right.  He took time out of his busy schedule to play with a bunch of unruly boys.  He didn't have to do that.  But, he knew that if he were going to have an impact on our lives, he would have to do more than just show up on Sunday morning with a Bible story and a snack!  He would have to play with us.  He would have to spend time with us.  He would have to invest his time, talents and treasure into our lives.

I don't know whatever became of Mr. Snell.  I don't know whatever became of the twins Charles and Charlie that were in that class.  (Seriously, they were twins and those were there names!) That was about 40 years ago.  But, I know what his investment in me has done.  It helped form the foundations of my Faith.  It propelled me on to jr. high and sr. high and then on to college where my Faith grew and matured. 

I am beginning to grow older.  My kids are grown and serving the Lord.  And I am watching the next generation come along.  And I remain firmly grounded in Faith because somebody played.  And I want to have that kind of impact on a young boy's life.

Thank you Mr. Snell.