Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Keep Christ (AND GIFTS) in Christmas!

I realize this is a very opinionated piece and perhaps an odd topic coming from a pastor but hear me out. There is a disturbing trend that I have seen more and more within today's culture around Christmas time. It is a trend that directly contradicts what many are taught to be one of the “Five Love Languages”. What I am getting at is the lack of; or doing away with gifts at Christmas. I would have to say my love language is physical gifts. No doubt I inherited that from my mom. Both of us loved giving and receiving gifts.

Let me clarify that there are many well deserving charities out there that benefit greatly when a person or family buys gifts for them. I understand it is with a good heart that people say they are going to purchase gifts for those in need instead of the family this year. At the church I pastor we are doing just that for an ongoing ministry we have. What I am not asking for is families to not buy for each other. 

Let me get a bit personal. What were your fondest memories of Christmas growing up? I am willing to bet it was not the vast array of cookies aunt Mildred set out; though everyone likes cookies. Perhaps I will go out on a limb and even suggest it wasn’t some charity the church was getting behind during the Christmas eve service.  No, what stands out to a kid is that bike, game, lego set, etc. that they were wanting for so long and it was finally theres wrapped in a glowing package under the tree on Christmas morning. 

I came from a home where my parents loved each other, us kids and God. Was it ever a thought for my parents that somehow getting the Atari 2600 (yes I am showing my age) was going to somehow tarnish the true essence of Christmas? NOT A CHANCE!? When my brother received his first new Raleigh bicycle on Christmas morning did it cause his faith to waiver? Nope. To this day my brother loves God. Did getting the Capsela set I was nagging my parents for more than Ralphie nagged his parents for a Red Ryder BB gun set my faith today into a theological tsunami? Once again…no. In fact, I remember my parents taking us to Mayfair Mall in Milwaukee to sit on Santa’s lap so we could ask him ourself what we wanted for Christmas. I know…BLASPHEMY!  My parents never thought for a moment that seeing Santa was going to somehow tarnish our thoughts of God. In fact, I am quite confident they knew at some point we would grow out of that belief. Guess what? We did! For me it was just a couple of years ago. Um....

Here’s what I know to be true. The whole “no gifts this year to help the less fortunate” thing sounds good and understandably so when you are granting your kids requests by purchasing a new iPad or 65” color tv. When did it become the norm for kids to receive multiple gifts over $100 each? It’s no wonder parents pull their hair out during the holidays. If we were to get a new video game system, that was the only gift under the tree. Well, that and the new digs we were going to wear to Christmas Eve service. No wonder Christmas shopping can be such a drag when we purchase big things each year potentially matching or exceeding last years indulgence. It’s easy to understand why Christmas shopping can be a downer when many families are in debt up to their eyeballs because of other things deemed more necessary (moving out of their "starter home", boat, cars, etc.). Again, things that are not necessarily bad if done within ones means. It's fine if adults agree on the no gift thing...but the kids?

Keeping Christ in Christmas? Why is this even an argument? It is what you make of it. No one can take Christ out of Christmas. If someone has in your world...I wonder how deep a walk you had in the first place. Keeping gifts in Christmas? I can tell you as a guy that came from a family with not a ton of means…getting those gifts each year actually strengthened my faith. The gifts were not huge and expensive because they didn’t need to be. Most of the items were things that we wanted. Perhaps we even circled them in the Sears catalog. I'll be honest...some items were what my parents felt we needed…you know…socks, underwear, etc. An experience Christmas present? That's lingo used over the past few years. If my parents would have said "instead of you getting the G.I. Joe Amphibious Personnel CarrierI, we are going to go to the museum" it may or may not have been met with a bit of a protest. If the big ticket item was not under the tree, we took our gift money and started a fund to work towards that big ticket item.

With that said...as with anything...it is what you make of it. If the main thrust for Christmas is just about the gifts then you missed it. If it is over compensating and not doing any gifts so you can give them to the homeless...just stop. I have discovered people that say that only give about a quarter of what they would have normally spent. What are the homeless going to do with gifts? They're homeless. Give the cash to a good ministry that helps the homeless instead. Find a balance where gift openings are tied together with the reading of the Christmas story out of Luke in the Bible. Where a goofy trip to see Santa is met with a Bible story regarding where all true blessings come from, then you will find that Christmas can be a very special time. A time where we don't have to say no to things that meant so much to us in our childhood. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

My Mom's Funeral...A Mentoring Moment

It’s a cheerful title to start a blog with isn’t it? I will be honest that I am writing this blog as a person that loves God, has a strong faith yet feels like a part of my soul is missing with the passing of my mom only three weeks ago. My faith is a non-negotiable and I am not mad at God. The day Tracy and I got married, we used it as a mentoring moment for the teenagers that called me youth pastor. Today, I am writing this blog as a mentoring moment regarding what it is like to walk through such a dark time. I have decided to list 10 things I have learned through the process of losing a loved one.

If you have never lost a parent, a few items on this list could come across the wrong way. Perhaps you have lost a parent…I would expect you to know exactly what I am talking about. Perhaps you could even add a few comments. In my case my mom was my best friend next to my own wife. We talked over the phone multiple times per week and so we had a very tight bond. I am writing this blog from the perspective that I love my parents very much. If you have a fractured relationship with your parents, I would urge you to get it right. On that note….let us begin. 

1. Expect it to be tough. Nothing prepares you for the loss of family member. I was in ballroom dancing lessons with Tracy that Monday night. Earlier that day I called my mom and she did not sound like herself. When Tracy got home that night I told her that my mom was not doing well. During dance class I got the phone call that my mom had passed. Within in a half hour I was on the road to Milwaukee. I picked up my dad and walked him up to the room at the rehab/nursing. It was the room where my mom was now laying dead on her bed. The room was cold because they turned on the AC full tilt (this is protocol until the person is picked up). It was also a bit dark but as my dad looked at his wife, I put my around him and laid my head on his shoulder. He had a good cry and so did I after putting my hand on her and saying a few words. We left together completely broken but with the hope that she was in heaven with her parents, siblings and others.

2. The day after someone’s passing is tough. The day after a loved one passes you are thrusted into dealing with the funeral home. I have been with many families during a part of this process but now I got to see the entire ordeal. When we left my mom that night we had to provide the name of a funeral home. This would be the same if a loved one passes away at home. Due to my mom’s age and health it was suggested there was no need for an autopsy. This is a question you are asked right away. While on the phone with the funeral home the next morning to setup an appointment I was asked “should we go ahead and start embalming her?”. I was taken back as it seemed cold to ask such a question. You will receive many of what seem to be cold condolences but please understand that they are simply wanting to help and do their job. Your loved one's funeral is not the first one they have done and like any other business, they have done this many times. There is a business side to this all and they were just doing their part. I stayed calm. That morning we met with the funeral director. He was as a very nice man. He spoke to my brother, his wife, my dad and I about the process. Expect this all to be pricey less you do cremation or the loved one had insurance, etc. Even then it will not be as inexpensive as you think. Things that go into the price of funeral home costs are casket, vault, spray of flowers for on top of the casket, cemetery plot (my parents purchased their plots years ago), opening of the plot (not included in the plot purchase), pastor’s honorarium, meal afterward, head stone, etc.

3. In lieu of flowers. If things are tight regarding funeral costs or if they are not and you would like funds to go towards a memorial, you can still expect flowers. I will be honest…the money that came in to help my dad was very much appreciated. The flowers that arrived despite the memorial fund were very much appreciated as well. If you say “In lieu of flowers a memorial fund has been setup for…..” You can still expect to receive many flowers. Again, this is not a bad thing. It was very much welcome. I can say for me it was nice to bring a couple home for my house and church. People share sympathies and grief in different ways and flowers are one of them.

4. Expect wrong comments. The fact is that during a time of crisis or grief people are going to say the wrong thing. They don’t mean it and actually mean well. There is no reason to get upset or let it ruin your day. People knew how much my mom meant to my brother, dad and I yet we heard all kinds of comments. Again, they mean well but sometimes it just comes out wrong. I myself have done this before. It’s going to happen…get ready.

5. Expect ignorant comments. I can deal with wrong comments that were meant to be good. It took everything in me to hold back when ignorant remarks were made. While standing by my mom’s casket I had people ask me “so what really did her in?”. Another one asked of me was “which pill did she take that put her over the edge?”. There was one lady that has known me since elementary school days that showed up. She was with a caretaker and told me about how to cast out demons and the fact that we could have a curse upon our family and these are the steps to cast that away. Bottom line…expect ignorant comments and don’t fire back. This is not the place for it. Simply let them share their thought and move on. 

6. Enjoy the company at the funeral because the days to follow will be tough. You will have times of laughing and times of crying. People do not expect a whole lot out of the family that day. It was comforting to see all of the people that showed up for my mom’s funeral. From people I knew when I was a kid to first time introductions of my mom’s social circle. It can feel like a long time standing by the casket greeting everyone and getting hugs, etc. Embrace this time and enjoy the conversation and memories. 

7. If you have held it together through the service, expect to be broken at the graveside service. I had a difficult time getting through the eulogy I prepared but nothing prepared me for the graveside service. When that was all done I just stood by my mom’s casket with my hand on it. I fell apart because it was all so final. In one aspect you have family, friends, etc. standing their to support you. In another aspect you have the gravediggers there ready to lower your loved one down so they can close the vault, put the dirt back in and move on. Yes I know (was reminded many times) where she is now but in the physical I knew a piece of my heart and soul were now gone…and it hurt…still hurts. I hugged my wife and fell apart. After I pulled myself together somewhat, my pastor from my early years gave me a hug and I lost it once again. 

8. When the funeral is over and life continues on the next day, expect moments of emotions that are all over the place. I filled my life with busyness yet even three weeks into life after the funeral I long for a day where I can just be by myself. Where I can visit my moms grave, retrace old steps and mourn in that way. I have not been able to do that yet. Be ready to help as well. For me I told my dad that I would take care of all the thank you cards and other odds and ends. 

9. Follow up with your other parent. If you are blessed to have your other parent; be sure to follow up regularly. It has now become my M.O. to call my dad every other day. Chances are they are by themself now. I know my mom was quite the talker. If she was not talking with my dad, she was on the phone talking with someone else. Now my dad is faced with a lot of quiet time. A phone call from his kid or relative are no doubt always welcomed. 

10. Don’t force conversation. When a person has lost their spouse or a child has lost their parent…talk about it when they are ready. This past weekend I had my dad up for a visit. We didn’t talk about mom’s passing unless he brought it up. I feel that if you pressure a person into making decisions, etc. after a loved ones passing they will feel like you are pushing them into a corner. Death is a big deal and it will be dealt with in days, weeks and months to come. Two days after the funeral I took a van full of hurricane supplies down to Florida with my family and a couple from the church. I was so appreciative that we did not make my mom's funeral the point of conversation other than when I brought it up just to vent a bit. 

Here I am three weeks out from my mom’s passing and there is still not an hour or two that go by without me thinking about her. This weekend I was at Fleet Farm and heard Christmas music. I fell apart in the store. I still hurt and will probably be a mess through the holidays. Her birthday would have been on December 10th as well. I hope to find healing through prayer, reading, remembering and finding some me time. I am so thankful for my church, supportive family, friends and in-laws that have encouraged me.

Feel free to comment on this blog as you see fit. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has. If it is more personal you can email me pastorbobadams@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lessons Learned From Hurricane Florence Trip

It’s been just couple of days since my return from South Carolina. While watching the news coverage of Hurricane Florence, God gave me the idea to head down there with hurricane relief supplies. Tracy got home from work and I told her “What do you think about heading to South Carolina to help?”. She was all for it and so I rented a van (which we ended up not needing) and began to make preperations. 

Since this was my first time assisting in hurricane relief, I thought I would share my observations. I have already known some of these things to be true and others I did not. 

1. When God plants something in your mind, no matter how big it may seem…you have to go for it. 

2. Overplanning will lead to it not getting done. I remember the WLUK Fox 11 reporter asking me what kind of preparations I made in order to make this trip possible. She meant well by asking and I so admire her boldness in wanting to do this story. It really turned out well and we gained a lot of exposure. I simply replied that I just pulled the trigger on it. In my mind I looked at what God has already equipped us with and that was church insurance for the vehicle, a van that was available to rent and a group of people willing to go not knowing the outcome. I have always been the type of person to jump first and then figure out how to land. I knew God planted this idea in my heart and so it was not going to fail.

3. It is always amazing to see where the donations come from. I was humbled when Pick N’ Save let us park our trailer in front of their store so patrons could donate supplies. So many area businesses gave. One of our biggest donations came in from K-Mart where we filled my car on the first pickup. Even more amazing were the people that randomly showed up at church and my house to donate supplies. I have always known this to be true but what was reiterated to me was that those who do not have a lot (by society’s standards not God’s) tend to give the most. Those who do have plenty, give little to nothing. I know this sounds bold but after one has planned a few benefits and now a hurricane relief trip, I find this to be even more true. 

4. No matter how well intentioned you are with your endeavors there will always be naysayers. When the local newspaper published our story online, it was met with resistance from community members even former members of the church. One of the biggest responses we received was that we would be a burden to the people there. That we should just send a check. I wonder if those people leaving negative comments did anything at all to help. I can tell you thoughts and prayers help but I am glad God used us to deliver the answer to their prayers. Once we arrived, I asked the pastor about the benefits of simply sending a check. It would have been ok but the stores are empty in times like this. One of the church volunteers told us because of our donation, they now have more stuff to help their community then the local food line does. There are those that used to attend the church that sit back and look at what God has called us to do and simply brew about it. 

5. Never underestimate who is watching you. The support we received from this trip by simply putting the need out there was overwhelming. Tracy and I are in a weekly ballroom dance class. In that class, two different couples saw the Fox 11 news story and gave us cash for the gas tank to get down there. This happened time and time again. What is even more amazing is that God knew how much we were going to need. We had just a little extra to cover extra costs.

6. Listening to God’s promptings is important. Shortly after I reserved our rental van I went for a drive around Waupaca. I tend to do this when I need to get out for a bit. I drove past Petersen auto and knew God was telling me to pull into the parking lot. I was a bit discouraged because I knew the rental van was going to eat up a lot of unnecessary funds. I called another large dealership in town and left a voicemail regarding borrowing a vehicle. The call was never returned. I pulled into Petersen auto and began looking around and I told God “I am not sure why you have me here…I don’t see a big van.” As I began to leave through the back of the lot, I saw just the van that would work for this. It was certainly large enough! I contacted the owner and he replied right away! Everything else fell into place and we were able to use that vehicle. I will ALWAYS refer people to this business because of their willingness to let us use their van which had only 700 some miles on it. 

7. Churches need to help other churches more often. My original intent was to bring the supplies down to South Strand Assembly of God in South Carolina. A couple of days before we left the pastor of that church called me to say their church survived and the community is doing well. He did however refer me to another church in Loris, SC. I will never forget when I called the first church. The pastor was busy boarding up his house and his wife told me “We have never had another church help us out before”. I was so honored that God was using us to do this but I was also sad. Churches need to help out churches. Did I require the church we were assisting to fill out paperwork or want to meet with the board or anything like that? Absolutely not, it was all about love with no agenda. The church I pastor is not huge but it helps where we can. It goes back to my thought on those that do not have much helping out the most.

7. When you go to help out an area affected by a natural disaster, be good to the organizer. In this case the pastor was dealing with his own water damage at the church yet he was willing to let us come and drop off supplies. I have no doubt he has spent many hours wondering what the next steps would be with insurance, funds, cleaning, etc. When we were getting ready to leave I presented the pastor with a card. I told him pastor appreciation was a few weeks off but I want him to know how much we appreciate him and all he is doing. Inside the card was a generous gift. There was enough for him to take his family out to a restaurant and not have to add anything to it to cover the bill.  Very few pastors make a handsome salary which is why I wanted to bless him with funds so his family could go out for a meal (maybe two) and take their minds off of what has happened. 

8. Bob Evans restaurant is good!

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I am so thankful that my wife and two oldest kids were able to come. I was also so blessed to have another great couple from our church ride along with us. We can get such a narrow view of the world when all we know is our immediate area. It was crazy to think that just 17 hours one way we saw the National Guard blocking exits because entire neighborhoods were half under water. We saw homes that would not be livable in again. It’s important to gain a worldview by taking time out of our schedules to help, go or simply give.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Not Ready For Summer to End!

Summer…another one has come and gone. I used to think older people were crazy when they would say the years would go by quicker as you get older. You know what though? They were right.

Since kids have come along I reflect back on each summer to see if it was good. Did we have good bonding times as a family while making memories? This is where social networking can be a beautiful thing. It can either remind you of all the good times you had or it can remind you of the lack of things you have done. 

I can honestly say looking back at this summer that Tracy and I gave our kids a great one. It’s a misnomer to think that one must go hours away in order to have a “vacation”. I use quotes there because I have seen some families go to Disney World only to come back and wish they had gone camping instead. The fact is a vacation or outing can look different for each family. In my kids world a night at the hotel with a waterpark is just as exciting as taking a massive road trip. For some couples a nice meal out would entail a restaurant where the bill would come to $80.00. Tracy and I reach our spending brink when we take in a meal from the Texas Roadhouse. We simply do not see the value in spending a lot on food. We would rather spend that at Barnes and Noble on a date night. Not saying one way is wrong but it is all a matter of perception. 

Since June I have coached softball and soccer with my kids in both. Tracy and I were able to get away to Ambergris Caye, Belize once again for our anniversary trip. While biking, Noah and I found a free Little Tikes slide which he has used almost daily. It always brings a smile to his face. My family was able to go on several camping trips which we all really enjoy. A couple of the trips included a ride to my in-laws camper in Phillips, WI. There was go-karting, mini-golf, Brewers game, the joy of building an old school bike with my daughter, visiting friends at their campsite, multiple bike rides with me pulling Noah in the trailer while the other two followed behind, sports tournaments, fishing and so many church activities as well. I can honestly say, I have no regrets about this summer. My kids favorite thing this summer? We will just keep that an Adams secret.

Of course there were some let downs but that is just natural to have those times. Those moments that are out of your control. Perhaps I am feeling reflective because July 10th changed my life and I can say I have not been the same. With Noah by my side we walked into my neurologists office not knowing what he would tell me since the day before they called me with a sense of urgency. The appointment was not the best. The fact that I survived a brain hemorrhage was good news but to know I am living with two brain aneurysms is a tough pill to swallow. Nevertheless, I keep going and know God has it under control. I feel that that doctor’s appointment robbed me of my summer. I think about my health daily and, to be honest, if I let my mind wander I can get into quite a slump. I know God has equipped me to overcome it but sometimes it is just hard. I will stay positive though and walk in the knowledge that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Perhaps this is what finally stirred me to write a book about overcoming obstacles. I have entitled my work "Even If...". In that process I have found humor knowing that my "GoFundMe" campaign has basically fell flat on it's face. I will continue with the project though "Even If...." it is not funded.

So, I guess all of that to say I am not ready for my kids to go back to school. It went very quick but I remain confident they/we had a very fun summer. We made many memories, had plenty of laughs and though not all is perfect and I had some parenting fails, I am so thankful for my beautiful wife and kids. 

Onto the next chapter of life that is James in middle school, Emma starting in a new charter school while Noah is going to learn how to use the potty.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Message Series: Positive Christianity Week 1

You will find more of my messages posted here. These videos are posted just a day or two after they have been given at www.radiantfellowship.net. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Here We Go Again

Not my brain image but rather an example
*Note: I wrote this blog a few days ago but waited to post after some personal reflection.

It was March of 2015 and I just had my MRI after suffering an aura headache. By the time I could get back to Waupaca to visit my friend who suffered massive brain trauma in 2014, my neurologist was calling. When I answered they told me they found some abnormalities. This lead to my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis. Fast forward just over 3 years and I find myself in this same situation. What was to be a routine annual MRI turned into something more. My neurologist knew of a debilitating headache I suffered in April of this year so he ordered an MRA as well. This exam was on Tuesday, July 9th. Before the day was over I received a phone call that has changed my life once again.

On that day my neurologist’s nurse told me they found some abnormalities and that the doctor would like to see me. I asked if they could just tell me because I do not do well with stress. She assured me she could not and that I could have the first appointment in the morning. Anytime you get the first appointment in the morning is a red flag to the severity of what one is dealing with. I am thankful to have a dear friend from my childhood that works in neurology. After messaging him for a bit, he put my mind at ease. In scenarios like this my mind tends to go to worse case scenario and I was just not ready for that. I am not sure anyone is ever ready for worse case scenario.

The next day arrived and with Noah by my side we walked into the doctor’s office to hear the news. I met with the nurse long enough for her to take my vitals and then she was gone. Within minutes my neurologist came in and asked how I was doing. I used medical terminology and said “I am a hot mess and freaking out a bit.” He went on to tell me that the headache I experienced in April was a brain hemorrhage. I have never in my life experienced a migraine like that before which included a fever, stiffness of neck and more. Now that I think of it, I am not sure how people that post on Facebook “I have a migraine” are even functional to type anything on any type of device. None the less he went on to tell me that I must be monitored very closely and that I must watch my blood pressure. When I asked him why, he proceeded to tell me that I have “outpouching” on my ACA A2 and PCA P1 branch in my brain. In laymen’s terms…aneurysms. 

Needless to say I was white as a ghost. While the doctor was telling me this news, my son Noah…intently watching Curious George on my iPhone simply leaned his little head on me. What do I do with this news? Where do I go from here? My doctor said if they get to be 5mm then a clip or coil would have to be put in. Now I know I have been dealing with high blood pressure so no doubt eating right and exercising will/should improve my problems. 

What a gut shot though to be nervous enough about any new changes with MS only to be told this news. I have walked this path before and I am so grateful for a very supportive wife as well. I find great strength in my family and God. I am reminded of the words of David in Psalm 91:1-2(NIV) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Do I want to be healed? Absolutely! One thing life has taught me is that many MANY strong people of faith have “bombarded the gates of Heaven” with prayer only to be let down time and time again. It’s interesting when the healing doesn’t come that we say the person experienced the ultimate healing when they pass away. I am not trying to be a doom and gloom sort of person because I have literally seen someone brought back from the dead because “the prayers of the righteous are effective….”. None the less there are many others in scripture that had to walk a dark path…Jesus included. I am believing for a miracle…an instantaneous one would be amazing but I believe miracles come from medical professionals that God has given wisdom to. I also believe miracles can come through our own drive/faith that God has placed in each of us. 

So, I don’t like where I am at right now. I don’t like it at all in fact. I am ready to fight and stay positive on this one. I have begun exercising way more and eating way less (and sensibly). In a week I will be joining a gym to stay motivated and to continue to see pounds dropped. I am reminded of the words of the three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) when confronted about their faith… “Even if……”. Even if the Lord should not bring the miracle I am looking for, I still won’t stop believing.

*Update, I have 9 pounds off since my diagnosis in hopes to bring my blood pressure down and to put less strain on my blood vessels.