Monday, July 29, 2013

Do you like Normal?

Well, the vacation is winding down and that means in two days, I'll be home. For me, of course, it's back to Normal (literally the town I live in AND figuratively the routine of my family, life, ministry, and home. The good news is that I'm ready for Normal. I think this is the ultimate success of vacationing (or going on holiday as the Europeans say - I prefer this since "holiday" comes from "holy day" and ultimately getting away from the routine should be a before-God, holy time...but I digress) is that when it is over, you like the Normal you are returning to. For me that means I have a sermon to write for Sunday, an elder's meeting to approve the 2014 budget, and any number of unknown surprises at both my home and office. As for me, I love the "normal" I'm returning to. Here's why... 1. I love the people of Normal. I haven't seen my mom (who has lived with us for 17+ years) or my boys for 3 1/2 weeks. Really can't wait to catch up with them. There is also the awesome staff we have at church - the people I partner in ministry with - haven't seen many of them in a month. And finally, the church that is Eastview. I was so homesick visiting a church here in Phoenix yesterday that I couldn't stand it. 2. I love my calling to Normal. I am coming up on 18 years at Eastview and 6 1/2 years as Sr. Pastor. I'm still energized to do what God has called me and gifted me to do. I visit a lot of cool places, and frankly most of them are way more fun than Central Illinois, but the place I belong is Normal and Lord willing, I'll belong there for another 15 years or so. 3. I love the normal of Normal. A trap many of us fall into is to focus on the times of vacation and travel and miss the blessings of normal. Honestly, vacationing is just not real life. What seemed so cool 3 1/2 weeks ago, now is not enough to sustain my soul. For instance, I'm tired of eating at restaurants, living out of suitcases, and having no agenda every day. I'm looking forward to my normal Starbucks, my normal car, my normal house with it's normal blemishes, my normal kitchen table, my normal running route (Constitution Trail), my normal work schedule, my normal withering corn, and my normal ministry challenges. Ultimately, the design of a vacation should be to help one realize just how great "normal" is...and I have learned this truth once again!

Monday, July 15, 2013

preacher on vacation

What does a preacher do on vacation? Well, I don't know for sure, and I don't know why anyone might care, but I'll tell you what I did on my vacation today in Indianapolis...yes, I am vacationing in Indianapolis...until Friday-then I'm going to Arizona. Anyway, here are some of the highlights, not in any particular order. 1. I ran five miles. Training for a marathon doesn't take a vacation. 2. I sat at an outdoor table of Starbucks and watched people while I sipped an Americano. This is one of my favorite forms of entertainment. 3. I read the local paper. I am one of those old-school guys who still reads an actual paper made of...well, paper. But I usually skim through it. Today, however, I read it all...even some obituaries. 4. I took a nap (while finishing a biography of John Wyclif - enough to put anyone to sleep). 5. I read from the Bible, read from a daily devotional book, journaled and prayed this morning. I know you're thinking, you have to put that, you're a preacher - but I really did...with no distractions...nice! 6. Gave $1 to a street beggar. 7. Sat in a park by a fountain without a cell phone - no agenda - just thinking about nothing. This usually evolves into thinking about church, or my family, or staring at a squirrel. 8. Listened to Sara read facebook posts about my son Caleb preaching at Eastview yesterday - proud father. 9. Studied for a sermon I'm preaching this weekend at Central Christian Church of Arizona - sometimes preachers preach on vacation. 10. Watched the evening news with my best friend and wife. Well, not too exciting, but I'm on vacation...hopefully tomorrow will be just as boring.

Monday, July 8, 2013


First, I want to dedicate this blog post to my good friend Missy Wright, who when asked what she thought of my blog said, "you have a blog?" Thankfully, her husband (and apparently better friend, Brad) does read! :-) In 1971 right after church one Sunday, my dad, who had just finished preaching in his Indianapolis church, my mom and my sister piled into our family car - a VW Bug and headed for Dallas, TX and the North American Christian Convention. I don't remember much about the trip but it must have been long. I do remember it was 103 in Dallas when we arrived and my sister and I were in a place called Kiddie Land which is what they called the child care stuff back then. Fast forward 42 years. Yesterday after preaching three times at Eastview (it was an awesome day in the word and worship by the way - God continues to do some amazing stuff and His Spirit's presence is palpable), Sara and I headed toward Louisville and the North American Christian Convention. This will be my 24th out of 48 years of I guess you could say, it's been formative for me. And as I head into the week, I reflect on just why I like is so much. 1. It's a place to catch up with long lost friends whose ministries have separated us sometimes for years. I'm sure at least once, I'll see a former school mate from Johnson Bible College (I know, I know - it's Johnson University now), or run into someone I met in my years at CIY, or the youth ministry years from Florida, etc... It's always a pleasant surprise to see someone, tell some old stories, and hear what God is doing throughout his kingdom. 2. It's a place for me to hear some great preaching. This convention particularly has been primarily a great preaching event for over 80 years and it becomes for me the one place every year where I stock up on preaching. It is a good place to nourish my soul. 3. It's a place to spend time with some very valuable ministry friends. There are some precious souls that Sara and I just enjoy being around. And again, because of ministry and geography we don't see them enough. But week's like this we have several opportunities to do so. 4. It's a place to learn and get some new ideas. Already, one of my friends has suggested a couple of books that I will add to my reading list and I'm sure some seminar or something will inspire me in some way. 5. It's a place to be encouraged at the breadth and depth of God's kingdom. It is encouraging to worship with thousands of people who come from all over the country and the world to praise the same God and declare our relationship to Him through Jesus. Something here makes me feel very small, but a small part of something very big - the worldwide kingdom of God. Well, those are reasons enough. Looking forward to another great week in Louisville, KY (pronounced - Loueeville, louavul, loovul, louisssville, etc...)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Young Preachers

I'm 48 now, not a young preacher no matter how you look at it. I used to say, if you want to be a good preacher - go preach 1,000 sermons and you'll be on your way. But where do you get a chance to preach that much? I was blessed in each of my youth ministries to have many opportunities to preach (mostly on Sunday nights) to our adult congregation. I can't thank Fred, Wayne, or Ross (they were the sr. pastors I served with) enough for allowing me so many opportunities to stretch my preaching wings. I have preached close to 1,000 sermons at this point, so I'm on my way to learning how to preach. But after this coming Sunday, I'll be out of the pulpit at Eastview for three straight weeks. It's only appropriate that I let some of the young preachers on our staff lead us from the word in my absence! Certainly, things are a bit different - I usually preached in front of 125 and they will preach to thousands. We didn't have a big video screens back then, and the worship was usually two or three songs picked out of a hymn book 15 minutes before church started. But when you remove all the externals, preaching is preaching. It comes down to opening the Bible and talking about what God is saying to us through it. The next three weeks the three youngest members of our preaching team will preach to our adults on Sunday morning. You may not know this, but our preaching team at Eastview consists of our Jr. High preaching pastor (Caleb Baker), Sr. High preaching pastor (Matt Fogle), college preaching pastor (Charlie Welke), our spiritual formation pastor (J.K. Jones), and me. We meet weekly to pray through, study together, and brainstorm the upcoming week's text. On most Sundays what is being preached in our adult worship services is also being preached in our Sr. High worship (ONE), our Jr. High Worship (EDGE), and in our college age ministry (formerly called FUEL). Of course, J.K. brings at least 35 years of preaching experience and over 20 years of teaching preaching in the university to the table and I have been a preaching guy for my whole life. In essence, it is a college level preaching lab every week. It is a blast and I can't wait to see the "projects" these three young men will "turn in" August 14, 21, and 28. In a small way, I hope I'm returning the favor that was afforded me all these years ago. Who knows what God will do with these guys in the future, but hopefully Eastview will be a place they find great nurture!