Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Here We Go One More Time

 

Since last November I have been having alot of pressure under my belt on the right side. The surgery in October was to alleviate that. It has gotten worse to the point that when I feel the pressure if I push down the area, I can make it go away for awhile only for it to return. Yesterday, I had an appointment with my surgeon who did the previous surgeries and she said (in her words) “your appendix is being a little b#@&!#d. I removed the scar tissue from it last time because it was folded in half. It appears it folded again so I am going to remove it.” She doesn’t want to because it can mess with your system but…here we go again. April 14th is the date.


Why do I mention all of that? Because since January of 2020 this will be my 7th time visiting the surgeon. After enduring many trips to the O.R. one begins to let their mind wonder what is going on. In fact I go one step further and wonder what God is trying to tell me. At this point in the game each trip to the O.R. is another step towards not dealing with feelings and emotions very well. Just when you think you are on top of things you get knocked down a few rungs.

This is the life of being human. What I can say is that I would rather do this with Jesus leading than doing it on my own. Many people throughout the Bible did not want to do what the Father has asked of them. In fact, Jesus himself said in Luke 19:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will….”. Am I comparing myself to Jesus? Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that we all have to go through the valley to reach the next mountain top. David…the one God used mightily many times had his own issues. He is up again and down all throughout the Psalms. Some of the prophets throughout the Old Testament had mountain top experiences with God only wanting something else bad to happen to them after those moments. This is normal…this is being fully human. 


As I go into this next surgery, I am reminded that many others have gone through this as well. I dare not compare myself to anyone else less I be corrected by the ones who try and “one up” me regarding what they are going through. Trust me…there are plenty out there that would tell me what I am going through is nothing compared to what they are going through. As if they are proud of it or something. Regardless, we are all on different journeys and what I am going through…to me…is a big deal. Onward I go however and pray this is it now. 


So why blog about this? Well first and foremost is in hopes that you would pray for me. Second, to let others know going through a difficult time that you need to hang in there. Your friends, family and others need you. You will get through this and once again will be back on top of the mountain. 


When a person has so many things going wrong with them it is easy to be viewed as a basket case by others. People do really well in dealing with a one off illness. If it is ongoing however, we can have a hard time dealing with it. I know this because I am not the best at caring for people with ongoing or chronic issues. Lord knows I have said things I wish I could take back. Try being a pastor dealing with your own health while trying to counsel others. Some things do not come out well. What some need to understand though is that no one (unless they are sick upstairs) would want this path in life. Trust people who are going through one thing after another when they say "I can't wait for this to be over". The emotional toll this past year and more has taken on me has been a struggle. Through it all though I know God is in control. I will get this "check engine" light looked at once again and will be biking around the city in no time. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Day 65 of 365: Doubt God?

 “Is it wrong that I doubt God?” This was the question of asked of me this evening. It was a question from someone newer to the faith but legitimately was wondering if it is okay to doubt God. What brought this person to ask this question was the fact that they do not work, has no home and is somewhat depressed. 

Whenever a person asks me these kinds of questions, I usually respond out of a heart of compassion and this case was no different. One could look at this situation and tell the person all kinds of things but really what needs to happen is to help them understand that we place a lot of troubles onto ourselves. As the old church would say “we give the devil to much credit for things we do to ourself.”


The fact is that we blame God (or the Devil) for a lot of things that do or do not happen in our life. For someone that has no money, housing, etc. I suppose the illogical step to take would be to blame God. The logical thing to do though (if physically capable) is to get a job. I am quite confident anyone needing employment these days could get hired the very same day. I have come to notice (and lived it) that if the job/money isn’t there then many MANY other things fall into place that will stress a person out BIG TIME.

God has given us all the ability to take care of ourselves. Sure there will be the times circumstances are simply out of our control but that is where he will step in. The next time we blame God for neglecting us…let’s take a step back and simply ask “am I helping myself by using the God given abilities he has given me?” 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Day 64 of 365: Family Vacation

 

The vacation. Something that as a pastor can be difficult to take for a few reasons. Coming from a smaller church it is always on the back of a pastors mind if they should be back in time for church that following Sunday. Who are they going to call if something happens with the building? What will people think if they go on vacation?

I remember back to 2005 when Tracy and I decided to go on vacation (out of the state). A lady from the church who is no longer with us told me “must be nice. Only rich people can go on vacation.” For some reason or another that ignorant comment has stuck with me all of these years. To be honest, I wanted to reply that “not necessarily rich but fiscally smart”.

Let me first say that vacations come in all different types of forms. From the staycation to simply driving somewhere in the state you live in for a day or two…a vacation is really a state of mind. Where you go is relative. 


The way I have been able to take my family on vacation the past two times via an airplane has been due in part to our Chase Southwest Airlines credit card. Tracy and I put pretty much all of our purchases on the credit card. At the end of the month we pay it off so there is no interest charges. By doing this we rack up frequent flier miles all year long. This past trip to Florida only cost us $50.00 in processing fees for all five of us to fly. 


Regarding hotel, once again Priceline came through. When traveling with a family of 5 it can become costly to eat out for every meal. There were two things I was looking for in a hotel and they were a continental breakfast and kitchenette. That way we could cook most meals in our hotel room after a simple visit to the nearest grocery store. If I were to book this room through the hotel’s website it would have cost me $340.00 per night. Thanks to Priceline, I found the same room for $120.00 per night. This was a win win situation. 


I have traveled so many times to Florida and other places that I have become quite savvy in doing things in a less expensive way. It has really been a blessing. With that said…yes…I will continue to go on vacations. I will continue to not answer text messages, etc. from church folk while I am away so that I can be fully present with my family. It is necessary to stay sane and to give my family some much needed downtime. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Day 63 of 365: Put The Book Down

I will admit right away this isn’t going to be a very long blog. It is about a funny thing my dad said when he was over earlier for my son’s birthday. While sitting on the couch he began to read a book I have regarding small churches and growth strategies. 

After he read a few pages of the book he simply asked “are you reading this book?” I said, well I have begun but am not sure I will continue. My dad continued to say “I take it you have to take what this book says with a grain of salt?” He went on to tell me, I thought each church was unique and that God is going to build his church. 


You know…my dad was never a pastor but he made a whole lot of sense with his comments. I think this book will go back on the self. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Day 62 of 365: Which Way The Wind Blows

 Earlier this week I posted on Facebook that I have a song on repeat in my office. It is called "Which Way The Wind Blows" by 2nd Chapter of Act. I suppose I could go on and on about how awesome this group was from the Jesus movement era but the proof is in the pudding. Here are the lyrics...

Feel the feeling
Say the saying
But youll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment
Do a doing
Mourn a mourning
Still wont get you off your sorrows
So go ahead and cry your tears
But you cant cry and look at tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Run a running
Hide a hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And you ask for the proof
You wont listen (listen)
Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you dont know wrong from right
Oh, wheres your wisdom
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Die a dying
Resurrecting
By believing

There is something about this song that has given me a great peace. The other day I received word that my MS is no longer on my record. Today I learned that my surgeon wants to see me because of a potential complication pertaining to a hernia surgery. It is like a wind that will take you anywhere and everywhere. Regardless...I cling to Jesus and know that he is in full control. It has been said that the life of being a Christian contains mountain tops and valleys. One must cling to Jesus through it all. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Day 58 of 365: My Desk

A desk…it’s the one thing I want from my former youth pastorate. I have never been fired from a job. The only time when I quit a job on the spot was when I was working at a Christian bookstore in downtown Milwaukee. My former and colleagues and I put up with the owners garbage and verbal abuse because he was “well known” in the city for putting on the governors prayer breakfast. In fact he was such a head case that he felt he could berate us employees including his personal secretary. He would often refer to her weight which made me sick. It got to the point that I would fume if/when he would come in to his office. 

It all came to an end when in the middle of one day I taped the store key to his office door with a note not fit to be read on a Christian blog. I walked out and that was that. There was only one other time I quit a job and stuck around out of pure spite. That was when I was told “they don’t want you here” by the interim pastor of the church I gave 8 years of my life to as the youth pastor. 


The desk I had represented what I went through. When I became the youth pastor (and associate pastor) of this church, I was shown my office and the old desk that sat there. I remember asking “is there a possibility of getting a new desk?” I was told no because they knew they were bringing on a new youth pastor so I would have to work my way up to a nicer desk. 


Fast forward to the move into the newer building. I came back from my first anniversary trip which was protested by the pastor and board because I was going to be gone for the move. I was excited to get back to the new building and settle into my new office. I heard there were new desks awaiting. When I came back there was a new desk in the secretary’s and pastor’s office. My office was there but it was all in the garage. My desk included. They decided that I got the smallest room in the place and that my desk would not fit. When the pastor came in I asked what I should use and he said “you will have to find a card table to use since there are no funds for a new desk.” I knew this wasn’t the case so I literally walked out of his office, got in my car and drove to the local office supply store to pick up a new desk out of my own money. I had to pick up book shelves also since apparently the shelves I had were left at the old building. 


I recently reached out to that church and asked about my old desk. Last I knew it was still sitting in the garage. The youth pastor told me that it was good timing because he is going to be getting a new desk and the old one was going to be hauled off. Needless to say, I will be getting a picture tomorrow to confirm it is my desk. If it is, I will be driving down to Milwaukee to bring it back to Waupaca. I couldn’t be more thrilled to get this desk if indeed it is the one. It will serve a great purpose here. 


So why do I want my old desk? Because it held such great memories for me. It was my first youth pastorate and if the church planned on getting rid of it, I will use it in one of my two offices here. A remembrance of where I have come from in ministry. I am all about momentos and this is very special to me. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Day 57 of 365: Pastors Only Work on Sundays

“Pastors only work on Sundays don’t they?”. That was the question I was asked today for about the one thousandth time. Pastors get asked this ALL THE TIME be it “in jest” or a genuine question. Today it was the latter. 

I never really get upset over this question unless it is “in jest” which means it was meant as sarcasm and we all know that there is always a bit of truth in sarcasm. I kindly told this person that is not always the case. In fact it is NEVER the case. 


As a pastor of a smaller church, I maintain a strict daily schedule which I keep posted on the bulletin board in my office. Smaller church means the pastor wears more hats. I will admit that outside of Sunday mornings; Tuesday is my favorite day. You will see why. Here is what my schedule looks like…

Monday

- Record 7 days of My Utmost For His Highest

- Data entry

- Sermon rough draft


Tuesday

- Tech Day

- E-Newsletter

- Online Church Update

- Radio Show

- Post Podcasts


Wednesday

- Breakfast Huddle

- Royal Rangers


Thursday

- Sermon Prep

- Pastoral Care


Friday

   - Setup Church Computer for Sunday

     - Post songs


Looking at that schedule it can seem light to some but many steps are involved. Like recording My Utmost For His Highest. I love doing this but each recording needs to be edited down. I do not just record and post. The same applies to the radio broadcast, etc. Weekly online church updates involves a lot of coding each week. The embedded live service, messages, etc. don't automatically post each week. Royal Rangers is a solid 4 hour investment of my time which includes the meeting itself. Building maintenance is an ongoing thing that can be sprinkled into the week at any given moment.

One of the items on the list is pastoral care. Now Thursdays are my day to specifically reach out to individuals I have in mind. I am available for people to reach out to me anytime. For instance, this afternoon I went to sit down in my office and instantly I am talking with a manic depressive person using illegal substances so that they can relax. I was then notified of a friend of the church involved in a drunk driving accident. This was followed up by a person battling severe depression. I say all of that to mention I don’t mind this one bit but by time I was done “counseling”, it was evening and I had not gotten to the things I needed to get done. This means everything gets bumped to the next day since I do like to hang out with my family. 


For the record, I put the word counseling in quotes because people often mistake pastors for licensed counselors and we are not. There are a handful that are but as a general rule; pastors can provide wise counsel but we are not licensed. 


So…do pastors just work on Sundays? Not at all. In fact that is the easy day! The icing on the cake if you will because we get to deliver the message and hang out with awesome church folks. I am so thankful for the ones that help keep the church afloat by volunteering, etc. As I stated in a previous blog there will always be those who suggest things trying to put more on a pastors plate as well. At some point a pastor has to say no or...if your not willing to run with it then it simply will not get done.