Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slow Down

In my line of work, I have to take time out of my busy day to tour my store. I must stop everything I'm doing, and slowly walk the store 4 foot by 4 foot in different areas of the store looking at things from a customers perspective. I also need to look at things as my supervisor would see them. I have to ask myself, "If I was a customer shopping this section of the store... what would my shopping experience be like?" I also ask myself as I'm walking, "How do things look from a Corporate standpoint?" "Am I following and executing corporate direction in my store?" Touring allows me to see things I normally wouldn't if all I did was stay busy dealing with the critical issues of the day. I must have a routine that I follow and there must be time scheduled during my routine for focused tours or I won't really see what's going on.

Today during my tour I asked a department mgr if she knew why she had the wrong sign on a display of merchandise she had on sale? It was an old sign that we don't use anymore... our signing has changed to a new look, yet here this one was. All of her other signing was correct but for this one display. She said, "Well I just didn't see it. I missed it." I asked her again to think why that happened? She still didn't understand what I was asking her. I said... "I know why you didn't see it. It's because you're so busy... you have this to do and that to do and you're trying so hard to get all you have to get done in a day done, that you run right past it everyday because you're focused on doing your job well and trying to get it all done." She smiled and said, "You're right." I explained that's why it's so important for me to come along once in a while and slow you down and have you tour with me so that we can see things differently, from a different perspective if you will. When we slow down, and walk through just looking at things and observing things we see more clearly, we know where we stand, and we can make a list of things to do and get done. If we don't slow down and take a look, we'll run right past it over and over again.

The point is this... I wasn't upset that I found the sign, it's not really about the sign at all. The point is that we'll walk past stuff all day long until we stop what were doing then slowly move forward looking at things from a different perspective. There's a verse that reminds me of how important this is. Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."

You know the same thing happens with our spiritual walk every day if we're not careful. We can get so busy with all that we have to get done each day that we forget about what's really important... the things of God. We have to be still (slow down and stop everything for a minute) and know that He is God. There have been times that I've missed out on an intimate relationship with my Lord because I'm just too busy. Well just as my store begins to look messy if I don't stop everything and refocus on things... so does my life, it gets messy. I'm thankful that even while I'm at work God is teaching me things along the way. Today it was... "Just like you take time to stop and tour each day in your store... Don't forget to do the same thing with Me." The results are the same. If I neglect my Lord, things get messy. I won't see the things that hinder my witness, I won't see the trap of sin coming my way, I won't see the Lord at all... I'll just be running around trying to do a good job and that just doesn't work well. It's hard to do the Lord's work if you're not connected to the source. Just like it's hard to run a store like it should be if you don't stop once in a while and refocus and really look at it.

My lesson today... Read the bible, study His word. Seek what it is the Lord wants to reveal to you today and act upon it. SLOW DOWN, be sure quiet time is in your daily routine, or you'll miss stuff that you should have seen. Do you want your life to reflect the Lord? Then slow down and refocus on Him. As the Lord says... "Be still, and know that I am God."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Northside, a special place in my heart.

For the last 13 years I've been attending Northside Baptist Church in McMinnville TN and when I think about this church and the people I've gotten to know over the years, it's with great sorrow that the time has come for me to say goodbye. My last Sunday at Northside will be September 28th, 2008. I'm not leaving on bad terms, but good ones! I'm not leaving because I want to but since I'm living an hour away, it's best I find a local church within the community I now live in. It's difficult to meet and make new friends outside of a loving church sometimes, so we welcome the opportunity to visit other churches within the area we now live. Saying all that... I will miss Northside.

My Pastor is a wonderful loving and caring man. Three years ago we were blessed at Northside Baptist Church as Tim Miles became our Pastor and I must say I've never worked with anyone that was easier to work with than Tim. As the worship leader each Sunday it was a joy to work with Tim in the planning of our service and music. In the beginning we would meet weekly and plan the service, but as our time together became more and more difficult to schedule, we eventually just called each other and planned over the phone or he'd let me chose the music and lay out the order of worship each Sunday morning as I felt lead. When I moved to Murfreesboro TN then it became almost impossible to meet anymore so he simply trusted my judgement and allowed me to plan the order of worship and the songs each week and he only called me with special instructions for the Lord's Supper or other special services like this. I have seen other worship leaders have issues with their Pastors and this wall between them could always be seen and felt by the other members of the Church. Tim and I have never been at odds with each other and I've always known I had his full support and he's always had mine. He is the kind of Pastor that made my life of service in music a joy, and that's one of the reasons why I hung on so long before finally making the decision that it was time to move on.

There were other reasons I stayed on after moving away in February of this year... I love the people of this church. I had made a commitment to Northside Baptist and I didn't want to leave them shorthanded in the area of worship leader or music minister. I care about what happens at Northside, so I kept up the work even though I knew one day I'd have to quit. There's another reason... I love singing and I love music. I'll miss being the worship leader for Northside and I'll miss singing with them as well. We have a small Choir that has always supported me and I'll miss each of them. Peggy McMurray, and Karen Wood (pianist and organist) both have encouraged me and motivated me to be my best. You see I don't read music. Most of what I do is from ear, so I have to learn the songs by hearing them. They have always worked with me and I can not tell you how much help they have been to me over the years. I could not have done this without these two great people and their awesome talent and ability to help get me through each week. I'll miss Mike McMurray... he operates our sound system for the church and he has encouraged me and helped me with music tracks and great sound. Most of all he's always been there to help me any time I needed it. I will miss Gina Maxwell so much. She and I have been singing together and leading worship together for several years now and even before I became the worship leader, we would sing together doing special music during the morning worship services whenever we were asked. We have sung together now for so many years that I know that I will miss singing with her most of all. I thank God for Gina and her willingness to serve through music in our church. I will miss her greatly. I have to thank Jeremy for all of his help. He is so smart and he knows everything I needed to know about the technical side of worship. He's taught me so much with the computer and how to use the media for the best worship experience possible. I will miss working with Jeremy. He's such a great Youth Pastor for our church and he has a heart for serving God with his talent and abilities. All the people of the church, is what I'll miss. I have grown so much through this church. God had helped me to grow spiritually through Northside baptist Church. The many friends I've made have influenced me and encouraged me. God's allowed me to serve as a Deacon, as a Sunday School Teacher, as a choir member, as a worship team member in a band, as a Men's Ministry leader, as an AWANA leader. God's allowed me to go on mission trips to Brazil, to serve as a new Christians class teacher, and finally to serve as Worship Leader/Music Minister for our church. Northside has been such a blessing to me! Probably the single greatest thing the church has done for me however is to always support me and my family through prayer as we've gone through this most difficult time with our son's addiction and legal issues. This church has always stood by my family and supported us even in our darkest days. I have been blessed and Northside will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you all so much!

One more thought about music in church...
Our service is very blended as far as music is concerned. This did not come easy. I remember the pains of changing music in our church over the years. I'm not saying what we do now is the best, but because of circumstances and God's timing we as a church have learned that music is only a part of worship. True worship comes from our own attitudes towards God the Father, not the songs we sing. We sing the great old hymns from the hymnal and we also sing the great new contemporary praise songs that you hear on the radio today. By blending the music and using both CD tracks or live music and songs with the piano and the organ in each service, we provide music for all ages to worship with. That's what the church is about anyway, all of us, all ages, worshiping together and serving the Lord. A blended style of music in the service is a great way to always be mindful of each other in the body of Christ. Sure we may have favorite songs or styles, but that's not what's important. What's important is that we're all together... unified and focused on Jesus Christ and realizing that music is not what it's about... it's about our relationship with Jesus and our willingness to serve and obey His will in our lives. It's about our willingness to be concerned for the lost of our community and always be reaching out to them so they too can have eternal life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Think about this... The church building can be beautiful, the songs wonderful, the preaching magnificent, the programs all the best and latest thing... but if we're not telling the lost about Jesus... then all we've done is create a country club for ourselves to enjoy. Everything we do as a church has to be done with one purpose in mind... Will what we do help someone who is lost become a follower of Christ? That's the question we need to answer isn't it?

Northside Baptist church has a rich and long history made up of some wonderful people whom have come and gone through the years. For those who remain and for those yet to join this wonderful church... Northside is a place to grow spiritually if you'll allow yourself to be used by God. I challenge you, wherever you attend church. To be willing to go where God needs you. It will not be where you think most times. It will most always be outside of your comfort zone (this way you'll stay humble) but you can do anything, anything at all, that God calls you to do. It's through His strength that we can do all things! God bless you in your service, and God bless Northside Baptist!

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Your brother in Christ... Steve

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

It's been a wonderful week. Eric is finally home and we are together once again as a family. I was able to get Eric out of jail at 6AM Monday morning (8th of Sept) and bring him home before I left for Dallas TX on a business trip. I was able to spend a few hours with Eric and this made me feel so much better about leaving town on the day he got out. I praise the Lord for this opportunity. It turns out that I was the very last person to arrive in Dallas for our Company meetings that day. Isn't it amazing how God worked all this out. I didn't have to leave for the airport till 12 noon and Eric got out at 6AM to give me time to be with him. When I arrived at Dallas a representative from our Company was there to greet me and five others who were on the same flight. He said you are the last ones in for the day. The last six out of several thousand flying in for this meeting!... This was the first time that I didn't fly out early morning, I've been attending these meetings twice each year for over 15 years now and I've never before been scheduled to leave after noon, until now... God just worked it out!

As far as Eric goes, he's doing well. Several of you have asked how he's doing and I apologize for not updating my blog sooner. It's been a very busy week with me being out of town and of course spending my free time with our son Eric has left me very little time to write. Like I mentioned in my last post... we still need your prayers! We've closed one chapter only to begin another. Life as you know, is simply one chapter after the other. One chapter has it's pain and joys, while another has more of the same I suppose. It's how we react to these different chapters in our lives that will determine how we feel and how much joy we can have. Can a person have joy during suffering without Christ? I can't imagine how, it's hard enough to have joy during suffering with Christ in your life... imagine without? This new chapter in our lives has both, joy and pain. The joy comes from being free from the confinements of jail and being able to enjoy the pleasures of our home and his family. The joy is being with his daughter and seeing them spend time together (she loves her Daddy so much), the pain is in the fact that he is still on house arrest for quite a while and then of course some more probation time after that. Rules, rules, rules... they really never end do they. Rules of the house, rules at work, rules of government and in our society, rules at school, and of course even more rules when you've broken the law in some way and trying to work your way back into society. Rules are very important and if there is one thing we need to do a better job of teaching our youth... that would be following the rules. One things for sure... we will follow them one way or the other. We can obey them voluntarily or be forced to obey them. Rest assured... life is harder if you can not accept that you have rules to follow. A lesson Eric's learned the hard way!

Even with all these rules, I can't tell you how happy we all are. It's great to have Eric home and he's accepted his lot in life and he's going to overcome. He's wanting to go to church but we understand that too will be a privilege later in the upcoming weeks. It's hard to think that I can say life is good under these circumstances, but it is! It's wonderful to have our son back. It's wonderful to see the joy on my wife's face again. It's good to see my youngest son Ryan spending time with his older brother again. We've longed for this day and it came. Thank you Lord Jesus.

Thanks again for all your prayers, I've listed a few prayer requests that we have need of if you would like to pray for some specifics for us.

Eric needs to find work... required for probation.
Eric will not lose heart working on all the rules and restrictions applied to him.
Eric, Marcie, and Halle find a local Church they feel they can grow and be ministered in.
That Brenda and I be the examples that God would want us to be for our family.

God bless you all,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One more Day

It's like Christmas for me right now. I wish I could go to bed right now and wake up and the day is over. It's Sunday morning... just a little after midnight Saturday. 30 more hours and I can hold my son Eric once again for the first time in years. I can not wait. My flight for Dallas leaves at 1pm Monday but fortunately for me Eric gets out at 6:00 AM. So of course I'll make the trip to McMinnville one more time to visit the jail, but this time it's to pick up my son and say my goodbyes to that place (refering to the jail).

I ask this of everyone who reads my blog... pray for us. One chapter ends and another begins. The prayers that got us through this chapter can't stop now, it's on to the next chapter of our lives and we need your prayers. If it wouldn't be too much to ask... I'd ask that you never stop praying for us, never! We need you, we love you and we're so thankful for you.

I Thank God for your prayers. I know he hears every prayer.

Psalm 4:3
"But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call."

With much hope and anticipation I call upon the Lord to be with us and guide us in the next few weeks and months. May others that love the Lord pray for us as well because this I do know. The Lord hears us.

Thanks so much,

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Judge Not!

Jesus teaches us about criticizing others. Basically, we shouldn't do it. We are to read God's word searching for guidance and direction for ourselves, not others. As we read it we're to evaluate ourselves while the Holy Spirit speaks to us through what we've read. So I ask you... What do you hear the Holy Spirit saying when you read the bible?

Read Matthew 7:1-5
"Judge Not"... Jesus says! We are not to judge others but rather, look at ourselves instead. We shouldn't be looking at the life of someone else and criticizing them when if we really looked deep into our own deficiencies and issues we'd realize we have no place to talk. I love the way Jesus teaches us that while we're consumed with the speck (or the little issue) in someones eye that we don't even see or realize that we've got a plank (some major issues) in our own eye to deal with. This kind of judgemental attitude is what Jesus calls hypocritical. It's the attitude that tears others down in order to build oneself up.

It's important that we realize this verse doesn't mean we shouldn't have critical thinking or thoughts, but we are to be discerning rather than negative towards others, that's why Jesus says "First remove the blank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." If we look at ourselves first and realize that we too have issue of sin and disobedience then we won't be so quick to judge others and point out their issues, when we have issues of our own. Who are we after all? The answer to that is of course... "Sinners, saved by grace," just like the one we may be judging. We need to put our trust in the fact that God is the one and only judge in a persons life. If we can overlook another person faults and forgive them just as God has forgiven them and us for our faults, then we now have the opportunity to lovingly help that person.

Remember, we all have bad habits and poor behavior problems. Some are more evident than others and often the one's we see in others may be different than the one's they see in us. But one things' for sure... we all got em. My strengths may be another weakness, while my weaknesses may be anothers area of strength. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all not judge each other but rather build each other up to be all we can be in Christ? To help each other through. Jesus tells us... What goes around comes around so we need to be careful. "Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what measure you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

The next time you read God's word, ask Him to point out your issues, your sin that needs to be overcome. Then as you experience God's Love, Mercy, Grace and forgiveness for your issues and sins, you'll be less likely to be so critical of others going through their issues and sins.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One More Week

Two and a half years later... I'm able to say, "One more week." That's how long it's been since Eric, my son, has been locked up in jail. This Friday will be our last trip to visit Eric in the jail house, our last trip to visit by phone while looking through a TV monitor that separates us from each other. This will be the last week that I won't be able hold or hug my son. This is the last week that Eric will go without holding his daughter. He's watched her grow from an infant to a 19 month toddler all through a TV monitor for an hour or so once each week, no more days of not being able to hold or hug her. His last week without holding his sweetheart, Marcie, and being able to tell her he loves her in person rather than over the phone. Yes, only one more week.

Eric gets out on Monday the 8th of September and of all days... I have to fly to Dallas TX that morning on a business trip so I will not get to see him till I get back Wednesday the 10th. I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself because I was thinking about all the things I was going to miss on the day he gets out. I won't get to hug him or kiss him like his mom and the others will. I won't get to watch him unite with his daughter that he hasn't held since her birth. I won't get to see the relationship build as Halle (his daughter) begins to warm up to her Dad as they get acquainted with each other. I'll miss the expressions on his face when he sits on a soft couch for a change or gets to sleep with a pillow under his head. I'll miss watching as he enjoys eating real food again. I'll miss seiing the joy on his face as he enjoys the things that we all take for granted each day. I think it will be the simple things that he'll enjoy most... like hot coffee, or ice in his water glass. Wearing something other than strips, a hair cut, being able to turn off the lights at night when he goes to sleep, peace and quite for a change, freedom to move around, being able to use the toilet without everyone in the room watching, laying his head on a pillow, listening to music again and watching TV which he hasn't been able to do since being locked up, reading a news paper and hearing the news (time's passed him by the last few years) he's got a lot of catching up to do. Yes all these thing I'll miss the first few days he's out, but as I think about it... I'm so blessed, because I think of all the "first things" that Eric has missed and my first "missed things" pale in comparison to what Eric has missed over the last two and half years. It's pretty selfish of me to be feeling this way isn't it? If he can do it... I can do it! and I wrote all this to make this point...

We can endure anything with the Lord's help. I'm so thankful that everything we experience... even death, is temporary and it all get better one day if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Two and half years ago I could not imagine this day coming. It was too far off in the future. To me it seemed as if it were an eternity away. But God new this day was coming and He saw that we would make it and that it would be good. He saw the lessons we would learn over the years and He saw this day and this week and He knew we would be here. It gives me great comfort to know that He sees us even two and half more years from now. I wonder where we'll be then? I have no idea, but this I do know. God will be there with us and whatever we experience God will be comforting us in that moment. Imagine 20 years from now, what will I be facing? What will I have been through? What great wonderful experiences will I have been blessed with and what tragic, sad and sorrowful experiences will I have gone through? Will I even be alive in 20 years? You know... I think many of us worry about what the future holds and God simply wants us to know that whatever we go through... it's only temporary and He will always be there with us. It may not have happened like we had hoped or dreamed it would, but in the end, all is good because we're with God. Romans 8:28