Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The flight arrived at 11:30 p.m. As I waited, I saw family after family greet arriving loved ones—kids coming home from college, sons and daughters with military haircuts and cameo backpacks, etc. You could see the eagerness as many of them literally ran into each other’s arms.
Soon my quartet of travelers came into view. Isaiah carried his blankie, Brianna had a sack with her favorite stuffed animal and Hannah was wearing calf-high boots, looking much like the pre-teen that she is becoming (she was 11 on this very day)!
Cries of ‘Papa’ rang out as they sprinted toward me. “What a special greeting,” I thought, as I hugged armfuls of kids.
Shortly, we were loaded and headed for Queensbury. Mimi (Susan) had been working all evening to make sure that all was ready.
As we came in sight of the house, I slowed to a crawl. Candles blazed in every window. Six inches of snow blanketed the yard. I pointed out the acres of woods they could play in. Excitement filled the car.
”I know what I want to do tomorrow!”
“I want to live here.”
“This is just what I’ve always wanted.”
Once inside, and after the greetings with Mimi, they got a tour of the house.
The tree was lit and beautiful.
All of the Christmas knickknacks that they remembered
from other Christmases were sitting around.
Air mattresses were blown up and beds neatly made.
Again they were beside themselves. The district parsonage has two floors, roughly 1800 sq. ft. per floor; not a mansion but certainly larger than the Army base housing they are living in now. “This is awesome!” they declared.
Then Susan took them to see ‘the clubhouse’. Under the stairs is a large storage space. It has two doors and a play space that would capture any child’s imagination. Being a grandma and teacher, Susan knew this would be a hit, and she made sure that I moved everything out so that the kids could play unhindered. If it meant moving a fire-proof filing cabinet that had sat there for decades, so be it. “Get your pastors to help you, and make it happen,” I was told. We did. I think this clubhouse will become their headquarters while visiting.
Sometime later in the night, I awoke and thought of Heaven, a place Jesus says He has gone to prepare.
Welcoming candles in every window.
Beds and rooms are prepared.
Surprises are in store.
In his book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn writes:
“Do you recall a time when you were away from your earthly home and desperately missing it? Maybe it was when you were off at college or in the military or traveling extensively overseas or needed to move because of a job. Do you remember how your heart ached for home? That’s how we should feel about Heaven. We are a displaced people, longing for our home.”
C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Alcorn continues, “Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen TV, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us!”
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"David didn't suddenly become an expert marksman with a slingshot when Goliath showed up, or a master harpist when King Saul invited him to the palace. He took the long, slow, disciplined route. David had no idea what his future held; he simply found joy and fulfillment in discovering and developing his gifts. Your greatest obstacle isn't ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge. It's in believing you have arrived. When that happens you are done growing, which means you are done!"
"Which zone do you live in?"
"The Comfort Zone - I only do what I already know I can do."
"The Coasting Zone - I don't even do what I have done before."
"The Challenge Zone - I attempt to do what I have not done before."
"Phillip Brooks said, 'Sad is the day for any man when he becomes absolutely satisfied with the life he is living, the thoughts he is thinking and the things he is doing; when there ceases to be forever beating at the doors of his soul a desire to do something larger--which he seeks and knows that he was meant and intended to do.'"
"David's brothers knew his skills, yet none of them told King Saul about him. Be encouraged, you'll get there without them! Then one of Saul's servants...said, 'Look, I have seen the son of Jesse...who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor.'"
"David didn't compete with his brothers or complain about his status as a sheepherder. He just kept developing his relationship with God and sharpening his skills, and when the time was ripe God promoted him."
What are you reading?
What are you listening to?
What conferences are you attending?
Who are you spending time with?
What thoughts do they have you thinking?
What direction do they have you going?
Is that okay?
(For those of you who are alumni of Success U. and those of you who are presently participating, I would love to get a testimonial regarding your present personal development track and what part SU has played. If you are an SU alumnus and are reading this blog, please forward it to other SU alumni you may think of.)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Last week I was to attend a wedding in the Bronx, and in order to make sure I arrived on time I decided to drive down the night before and stay in a small, safe neighboring suburban city.
I arrive in the area around six p.m. “I’m going to conquer this fear downtown New York,” I said to myself. “I have my GPS!” Recently, I listened to an audio-book, entitled Hometown, that told the story of how Manhattan was developed—from the Battery to Harlem. In my mind, I had a little idea of how the streets were laid out. “I’m going in,” I thought.
In the Bronx, I passed Yankee Stadium—both of them (the new and the old). As a boy in the backyard, I was always Mickey Mantle and played center field in my imaginary Yankee Stadium. Soon, in a misty rain that persisted off and on all evening, I crossed The RFK Bridge into Manhattan and followed FDR Boulevard south along the river. My goal was to get to the southern tip of the island, find Broadway, and follow it north—uptown--the way that the island had developed. What I didn’t know was that much of Broadway was now one-way going south.
I passed the Staten Island Ferry terminal and then Battery Park. As I zigzagged my way north, I came to the Brooklyn Bridge—one of the engineering wonders of its day—I thought, “There is no way that pictures can do it justice. You just have to be here to understand its majesty as it spans the river. All of the other places on my list are probably the same way. Seeing them in person far outweighs pictures and videos.” I was reminded of my friend, Becky Storms’, Facebook statement, “I haven’t been everywhere but its on my list!”
It was dark and misty—hard to see—as I wandered around, what I thought was, the financial district. One building said Wall Street Plaza, but I never did actually see Wall Street, so named, I had learned, because in its early days a wall had been built across the island to keep enemies out. Looking upward through the skyscrapers, I saw the top of the Empire State Building.
Driving north with the Met Life building in the background, I saw a huge building with the road running right to it—and around it. GRAND CENTRAL STATION.
Nothing prepared me for TIME SQUARE. Neon lights and more lights; mammoth signs! Broadway musical theatres and people, people, people. I drove through that section three times. Went by Carnegie Hall, saw the Late Night With David Letterman building, NBC News and Radio City Music Hall.
“Heaven is going to be like this,” I thought, “only hundreds of times more grand. And I’m going to get to spend eternity there in the ultimate Facebook environment. Wow!”
Continuing north, I soon located Central Park and drove most of the way around it. Upper East Side and West Side came alive. Soon the landscape began to change. The sign on the subway station read 125th & Harlem. I was in the home of the Harlem Globetrotters. My GPS lady guided me a half mile to the RFK Bridge and I was on my way off the island.
Fears were conquered. Doubt gone. I had spent three hours in Manhattan, in the dark, in the rain, with hundreds of taxis, rickshaw boys, and horse-drawn carriages. I had been honked at, yelled at and narrowly missed by aggressive taxi drivers, but I had survived and thrived. I will do this! I’ll go back, walk the streets, see the sights, take my family, be the tour guide.
I had broken a barrier—where most barriers need to be broken—in my mind.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
As I ministered to Danny, God taught me that there are no second-class citizens; that Jesus died for all. Through a series of events, God gave me an attitude adjustment that left me changed forever. I have told Danny’s story everywhere I’ve preached. Thousands have been challenged and changed by it. He never realized the impact his story had. He lived his simple life in Anderson, S.C.
When I left Lakeside Wesleyan in 1986, he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me into his wooly beard and in a voice that was hard to understand said, “Preacher, I love you. Thank you for telling me about Jesus.”
Danny Carver died last week. He was 44. He no longer limps! He no longer breathes heavily or has a speech impediment. His mind is sharp and his body strong. He is whole in every way. Danny is with his Savior. It was my privilege to introduce the two of them years ago!
The next time I see Danny, he’ll wrap his arms around me and say, “Preacher, welcome Home.”
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The phone rang this week. It was Dad. “I’m just reporting in,” he said. “This morning I walked the entire circle; all 1.6 miles of it.”
This circle is what he walked every day before his open heart surgery; every day before his stroke; every day before his heart attack; every day before his thirty days of rehab; every day before infection sent him back to the hospital with a 106-degree temperature.
After months of illness, we wondered if he would ever be able to take care of himself again. He could not walk alone. He sat in the wheel chair all slumped over. He struggled to swallow and eat. The future, indeed, looked bleak.
At home he eventually graduated to a walker and success was measured in feet, not miles. As he struggled to walk he would veer to the left and not even be aware of it. The awareness of the left side was gone. He would start on the right side of the road and in 100 feet be across the road—almost in the ditch.
The walker was traded in for a cane. One hundred feet became two hundred; then four. Now eight months after the sickness struck he called to say – I walked the whole loop again – all 1.6 miles of it!
I have walked that circle with him many times. I know its every nook and crack. Although I am not there, I can see him, step by step, navigate his personal track. Amazing, yet it shouldn’t surprise me. He has always been persistent—consistent. In the home and in the church, day after day, step by step, job by job, he has persevered. If I’m fortunate, I inherited a little of that.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For years, one of my dreams has been to reconnect with as many as possible from the past. Susan and I have had the privilege to go to school with, and minister to, some of the finest people on earth. Responsibilities and busyness and moves have caused us to lose contact with many. Also, I have always tried to practice ‘ministerial ethics’ and stay out of the way of the person who followed me. However, the older I become, the more I have this urge to ‘re-connect’ to those with whom we have shared.
Recently, my kids have been nagging me to join Facebook and be their ‘friend’. “I’m already your friend,” I would reply. Occasionally, an email would appear inviting me to join someone’s network, but this was new and I’m not a whiz on the computer, so I procrastinated. Yesterday, however, my son, David put the squeeze on me and I made the plunge.
Within a few hours, my Facebook started to take shape. A roommate from the boarding high school I attended showed up. Several young people from the church in Warsaw—one now a student at Asbury. Janice and Michele from northern Indiana. I performed the ceremony at their weddings 15-20 years ago. And the list goes on!
“God,” I prayed this morning, “Please let this be a tool in Your hands. Often I pray that You will enlarge my territory and expand my influence.
May this be another way
to minister and be ministered to
to share and be shared with
to coach and be coached
to love and be loved
to influence and be influenced
God, give me the discernment I need as I touch lives.
Give me the discipline I need to use my time wisely.
Now, my dilemma is finding the perfect picture to put a ‘face’ on my Facebook!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Just a few minutes ago, the district lawyer and the lawyer for the West Chazy Holiness Camp Association were here at the District Center. In just a short period of time, we were able to sign papers completing the sale of the West Chazy Camp.
As you know, this was one of my 100-day goals, which got pushed back a little bit, but I am grateful that it has now been completed. As one of the Association members said to me recently, “There’s been much healing going on throughout the district." My prayer is that it will continue--that the Camp Association will be able to minister in a way they feel called and that the district will be able to plant healthy, reproducing, soul-winning churches throughout the northeast. May God bless us all.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Soon after arriving in ENY-NE District, Susan’s dad came to live with us. It was apparent that, at 81, he was failing. Had God brought us to this part of the country ‘for such a time as this’? we asked.
As Susan and I settled into the role of caregivers we believed that God was at work—opening and closing doors, bringing helpers and advisors into our lives to help us know how to better help Mr. Cooke physically. Also, we were asking God to show us the way to introduce Mr. Cooke to the God we love and serve. For over 40 years Susan had prayed for her dad to know Christ.
Last night, after I got comfortable in my big, black, soft robe, I joined Mr. Cooke in the TV room where many evenings we watch Andy Griffith, Hogan’s Heroes, or a basketball game.
Last night after Pitt beat UConn and Texas A&M was beating Texas, I pushed the mute on the TV and engaged my father-in-law in conversation. Slowly we worked our way into spiritual matters and when I asked if he would like to pray the sinner’s prayer with me, he replied that he would. Sometime between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. on February 16, the angels had a party. Paul C. Cooke, Jr., at the age of 81, invited Christ into his life. I was there! I heard the prayer! I saw the glint of tears in his eyes! I felt God at work!
Susan then took my place beside him, and father and daughter hugged and cried. For 43 years, Susan had prayed for this day to arrive. I can only imagine how she felt as she witnessed a ‘God thing’ in our family room.
Monday, February 9, 2009
1. Spiritual and Ethical
2. Family and Home
3. Mental and Educational
4. Physical and Health
6. Social and Cultural
7. Professional and Ministry
I have goals in each area and work diligently to keep life in balance. However, this last season of life has left me very “out of round”.
Interviews, votes, moves, remodeling, illnesses, travel, and major transitions drove all clarity from my life plan and left me wondering if I would ever feel “normal” again. Last week, something clicked and my internal compass gave me hope that balance was once again attainable. What contributed to the change of emotion?
1) The sun is shining a little longer
2) Temperatures have moderated
3) New York tags on my personal car
4) Registered to vote in NY
5) New York driver’s license (lovely picture)
6) I took one whole day off!
7) I got a library card
8) I walked two miles (in the mall)
Just these simple things were huge in getting me back on course.
For years, Friday has been my day off. It was my Sabbath—a day I looked forward to—a day to date my wife and have R&R. For the past months I have violated my Sabbath, allowing stuff to creep in. And I didn’t feel good about always being on call. So this blog is to let you know that on Fridays the office will be closed, and I will be recharging my batteries.
I will need you to hold me accountable. Having a job with a never-ending ‘to-do’ list and having the office in my home, lends itself to workaholism. But with your help and support, we will live the balanced life.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
One pastor wrote, "As I sat on the plane on the flight down I was blown away. More than fourteen years ago my wife and I accepted the call to pastor our church. With little more than faith and God's vision we have pressed toward the goal, steadily chipping away, making a dent in our world. I give God the praise for the miracles He has performed through us and in the lives of our church family. It has been my fervent prayer for over two years to be challenged by God and not to let complacency be the rule of my ministry. That, somehow, through someone, I might learn more to break through the barriers and not only lead more souls to Christ, but to disciple them to a thriving relationship with God. As I looked out that window and contemplated where we were going and what we were going for, I simply cried with praise and thanks for this opportunity and His answer to one of my prayers. For some time now, I have felt lost at sea with my goal in sight but not so much as a paddle with which to get there. I now have more than a paddle to stroke with; I have someone else to help get me there."
He continued, "Thank you for your help, vision, encouragement, leadership, challenge, and most of all, leading by example. I look forward to the future, tremble with excitement, and know you are going to kick my backside if I don't get going.
As I read this, I thought of the tag line we are now using--"Unleashing a Team of Energized Leaders to Multiply Life-Changing Churches".
One highlight of the trip for me was watching my dad pray over the pastors from my district. He was so excited to be well enough to participate in the activities of the weekend. As the man I love dearly prayed over pastors I am learning to love, I thought, "It just doesn't get much better than this."
Oh yes... We made him an honorary member of the ENY/NE District--certificate and ceremony!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
When something like this happens while I am trying to straighten out a Cable TV account or rectify an errant bill, I am not proud, but secretly know that I’ll never see or talk to that person again. When it’s with someone I know, it’s a little different. I’m very unhappy with myself.
Following this situation, God sat down beside me and said,
“1) You are under considerable stress. Be careful that you pace yourself.
2) You are weary. You didn’t sleep more than two hours last night and your plate has been full.
3) You are coming off of a spiritual high. You’ve led several people to Me in the past few days.
4) However, that’s no excuse and with My help you can do better.”
“Yes, Lord,” I replied, and “I am ashamed.”
Opening my devotional book the next morning, I discovered that God wasn’t through teaching me.
“THE WISDOM THAT IS FROM ABOVE IS…PEACEABLE” – JAMES 3:17 NKJV
Keep Your Peace
Have you ever gotten into an argument before church and felt like a hypocrite during the entire service? Understand this: the Devil knows that God’s Word can only be ‘sown in peace’ (Jas 3:18), so he will do everything he can to keep you from receiving it and being blessed by it. That’s why you must do whatever it takes to keep your peace. There’s power in peace! If the Devil can’t get you upset he has no power over you. He only gains control when you ‘lose it.’ He plans to get you upset in order to steal your peace, confuse you and make you run in circles. Don’t let him.
James writes, “The wisdom that is from above is…peaceable.” In The Message Eugene Peterson paraphrases this Scripture: “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (v. 17-18 TM). Notice, getting along with others can be ‘hard work’.
So next time you get worked up about some issue, ask yourself, “What’s the enemy trying to do here? If I give in to these emotions what will the result be?” When you’re stressed out you lose your joy, and when you lose your joy you lose your strength because “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Ne 8:10). So today, pray, exercise self-control, and keep your peace.
When I read this timely and powerful exhortation, I felt like a boy who had been spanked/disciplined/taken to the woodshed/put in time out. You pick the punishment you identify with.
“Oh Lord, I’m sorry. Restore my peace. Please!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Last Sunday evening I met them in Albany. It was my first trip to the Crossgate Mall; it was not my first trip to Ruby Tuesdays (Susan loves their salad bar). For a couple of hours I listened and shared with a delightful couple. At the end, he bowed his head and prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’. She is close to the Kingdom. I expect a victory call from her any day.
An appointment was set! Susan and I needed someone to help with her dad on occasion, to relieve her so that she could do errands and get out of the house. Some months ago, I had advertised for an executive assistant. Lots of resumes were mailed in. I interviewed three. One of the three was well versed in elder care and dementia. I didn’t hire her for the office but miraculously had made a contact for what was on the horizon. Since then, Kim and her friend, Kim, have decided to start a business that takes care of elderly in their homes. The business has a cute name—There Is No Place Like Home. Now that we needed advice and help, Kim & Kim were coming for a visit. Kim #1 couldn’t come because her son was sick, but Kim #2 arrived.
“I used to attend the Wesleyan Church,” she said as we talked. I sensed this was another divine appointment. Life had happened to Kim, leaving her hurt and questioning. She was eager to share and told me of her years of involvement and service in our local church.
“You would like to reconnect with God, wouldn’t you?” I asked. She was ready, God was ready, and in my office they got back together.
The rest of the interview went well. Susan and I have reinforcements for our challenges. Kim has reinforcements for her challenges.
God moments! Divine appointments! I love them!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Alzheimer’s, dementia, TIA’s, and a significant stroke some time in the past were part of the diagnosis. Parkinson’s and other related issues only complicated matters. 24/7 care—shouldn’t be left alone—home health care—all these bring a fresh sense of reality to this season of life. It’s a significant change for us—even more so for him. A dignified man who spent many of his years caring for others with health issues, he is now reduced to relying exclusively on others for bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, meals, and business.
Five times Susan and I have had such change in life responsibility. Three times we came home from the hospital with a little bundle of joy, full of burps, hiccups, coos and smiles. Life was never the same after they came—each one bringing something different to the family.
The fourth time was when we brought our daughter and her newborn baby home to live with us for a season. As Kathy worked on her college degree, we helped share the responsibility of that first grandchild.
And now, a father joins our household, changing our life for a season. As I’ve reflected this past week, I’ve prayed, “Lord, help us to know how to make the right medical decisions. Medicare and insurance are so complicated and life is already full. Grant us access to the right ‘counselors’ that will guide us. Lead us to the right medical personnel—home health care and other folks who know how to lift the load and make life manageable for Mr. Cooke and for Susan. Keep the tension of ongoing anxiety, perplexity and change from driving wedges between Susan and me. Grant us peace, calm and contentment with this season of our life. Help us learn so that we might use our life lessons to help others along their way. Forgive our inability to sympathize with others who have undergone life-changing experiences.”
What’s that I hear? The walker, headed for the bathroom. I’d better go make sure he gets there safely. I think I also hear chunks of my ‘comfortable life’ falling away as God keeps chiseling. He says that there is a masterpiece inside of me, and He keeps looking for it, sanding and shaping, molding and making, season by season of this sojourn called life!