From the mind of men - the 'heart' of True Friendship

Are you tired of those sissy 'friendship' poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of True Friendship. You WON'T see cutesy little smiley faces on this card - Just the stone cold truths regarding great friendship.

1. When you are sad,
I will jump on the person who made you sad like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew!!!

2. When you are blue,
I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile,
I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.

4. When you're scared,
we will high tail it out of here.

5. When you are worried,
I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining, ya big baby!!!!

6. When you are confused,
I will use little words.

7. When you are sick,
Stay away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have....

8. When you fall,
I'll pick you up and dust you off--After I laugh!!!

9. This is my oath...
I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask;-- because you are my FRIEND!

Friendship is like peeing your pants,
everyone can see it,
but only YOU
can feel the
true warmth.
Try sending this to 10
of your closest friends ..
including the person
who sent this to you .....
Then, get depressed
'cause you can only think of 4!

This is one of the few e-mails I thought good enough to share. Don't know who to credit it too but I know Jim sent it to me from Al - two great guys - two great Christians - two great hunters - two guys I'm proud to count as friends! ;)

Word Filled Wednesday

Permission To Play? Childlike Faith vs. Childish World

When you stop and think about it, there is one thing we all have in common – we have been children. Either we are now or we once were. Now those experiences of childhood might be vastly different, but that we were children. And like all children, our minds were wired to explore our world. We have called that explorations many things but the word that comes to my mind most easily is Play.

As babies we get be cute and adorable and have everyone “oooo” and 'coo' at us. We have the world on a string and get whatever we want – that is until our parents and guardians say the dreaded word - “NO!” Suddenly, an idea is introduced into our play that can forever alter our world. You see – NO tells us there are some things that are dangerous – all the world isn't safe. We begin asking permission to play.

But we aren't all that trusting of those who love us are we? I'm certain that as a toddler, I had already learned that NO meant BAD – STOP – DANGER. But after I broke the lamp and glass was scattered across the floor, I just didn't believe my mom as she stood on the other side of the broken shards. She told me NO – but I just wouldn't listen and proceeded to walk right across...without cutting my feet.

And just like that, even at the earliest of ages we discover something new, rebellion, do we really need permission to play? Do those who care about us really know what is best? We learn the phrase, “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” and come to apply it early and often. As we discover when we get older, there aren't always immediate negative consequences when we hear NO.

We question the need for sunblock because it doesn't immediately cause cancer. We question texting while driving because we don't wreck when we do it. We question why our parents say no to rated R movies because we don't see the change in ourselves right away. We question saying no to drugs because we don't addicted and look like those people on billboards as soon as we try it. The word we use to describe all of this is a simple one – we call it behaving childish. It is a lot nicer term than the word most used by God – He calls it sin.

Gen 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Gen 2:15-17 NASB Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. (16) The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; (17) but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

And you know what? When the woman and the man ate from it they didn't die...not immediately physically BUT death entered the world. A curse has followed us all since that moment. It was a childish decision but a decision which we all of us would have made. The truth is we do make it for there is an alternative.

The father of John the Baptist would give a prophesy saying: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, (Luke 1:68 NASB)

Since children go to school, let's have a little English lesson today. Redemption begins with a prefix (re-): meaning "back" or "again.” The word comes from the Greek lutrōsis. It is an ancient practice of the Jews coming from the exodus, later called The Redemption of the First-Born found in the book of Numbers. The Jews believed that the first born child was set apart in God's eyes but if able, in a religious ritual, a child could be redeemed – brought back into the family.

Now listen very carefully, you are that child only you and I have become captive in a childish world. Oh, don't believe me? How can tyrants still run nations? How can people still be persecuted by faith? How can celebrities who cannot stay married or who have restraining orders by their children – give advise on parenting and marriage? How can we truly believe we can live on debt? These are only signs of the Curse. God was right – they are death to us because it wasn't how it was supposed to be but instead how we chose.

But this is what God did, he sent Jesus Christ into this childish world and began to ask the question, “Would you like permission to play?” Now this is a problem for childish people – they think they know what playing is all about – they own playing – you don't need a parent in a childish world.

We lost sight of how much joy a parent has in giving permission for a child to play – I think the word the Bible uses for this is called “blessings.” God's desire for us is for our desire to be for Him. God wants to give us permission to play – to explore this incredible world as he intended it and to know Him as he intended. Jesus came to REDEEM – to take us out of the curse – out of childish into childlike – knowing that He simply loves us as we are – who we are.

For 20 years, I have strived after pleasing God. From youth volunteer, ministry leader, youth pastor to pastor = how can I please God? Yes, I've read the Bible. Yes, I've heard teachings otherwise. Yes, I've counseled people to not live that way. But the Curse is all too easy to fall into even for a pastor. And maybe especially here in a church plant. So many to please – so much work to be done – so little time for anything else.

And there I was, sitting in a networking meeting this fall. I don't remember just how the introductions began, but somewhere, a joke began about being people's assistants. When it came my turn, I stood and introduced myself, “I'm Ken, the lead pastor at Crossroads UMC and I'm nobody's assistant.” There was a moment of pause before someone blurted out, “Oh Yes you are and we're clearing the room before lightning strikes!” We all had a good laugh. But as I sat down, I heard these words in my head, “You're right – you are not my assistant. You Ken, are my son.”

While all the 'doing' and 'knowing' is good it isn't the best. I'm not going to say it is easier either. I've read enough and talked with people I respect enough and lived through enough to tell you, God's words of assurance and acceptance are available always. Unfortunately, we don't always listen. But here, at the communion table, we have the opportunity again to tell the story...

All About Soul

With Valentine's Day approaching, I was thinking about some of the songs that just completely make me stop and appreciate my wife Heather. Every time this song by Billy Joel plays, I cannot help but think about and give thanks for how incredibly strong and supportive my best friend is and all we've been through. I'm not saying this is one of her favorite songs but for me it captures a piece of the most incredible person in my life.

Trading Spouses - Husbands Take Note

Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! "Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets. (Matthew 7:9-12 GNB)

I know it would be wrong to make assumptions so let me say it this way - “Traditionally, a man asks a woman to marry him.” Each man in doing so makes a recognition of a woman's sovereignty to choose. Of course, there are those who also make the assumption she is going to say yes too. I watched some marriage proposal failures on youtube and just cringed knowing what was coming. But then that is the nature of being sovereign beings – we have the freedom to choose.

As I said last week, Trading Spouses isn't about trading in your spouse. No, Trading Spouses is about the freedom you have to become the spouse your spouse needs. And that is why I want to look at this rather tounge-in-cheek humor that Jesus displays for his hearers.

Jesus, in one of his great moments of divine sarcasm points out the absurdity of a parent's response to needs of their children. This leads to his pointing out how much God, the heavenly Father also is interested in giving good gifts. And this leads to what is known as the Golden Rule - “Do for others what you want them to do for you.”

Let me ask ya this - “Do you want to be treated as a free, sovereign human being?” I'm pretty sure I can assume we all do.

So then let me ask you this - “If you had a burden, a responsibility, a project, would you also appreciate a little help along the way? An extra hand or another perspective? My guess is that you'd answer a thumbs up to that as well.

Would you join me in looking at this very important, passage of scripture as today, we help the men in the room today...
Eph 5:22-24 GNB Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. (23) For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body. (24) And so wives must submit themselves completely to their husbands just as the church submits itself to Christ.

Now, you may wonder why I said we're going to help the men in the room today, right? This didn't have anything to do with men did it....Ah! And that is where you'd be wrong. Look guys, I've missed this far too many times myself but I'm convinced we've missed the boat here...I mean, it left the dock LOOOONG ago. That is, if we look at it in the light of what Jesus said.

You see, the role of women is fairly clear, if not very much misunderstood. But if we are looking at one another through the eyes of Jesus then something else ought to become clear. The first is most obvious, Paul writes to clearly identify the expectations of women in a marriage (and to help us see more of the mystery of the relationship with Christ and the church). To submit in marriage IS an act of sovereign will to one WORTHY of respect. It is not to the role of a servant but as a partner.

The second thing, which is not as clear is this. If you know you would like help in fulfilling a task and you know the task put before the person, then it only makes sense that you would do then what you would want done...and fufill the law of love – the way of Jesus Christ. Husbands, by knowing what it is that your spouse is being asked to do – a choice she gets to make. You have the freedom to choose to make that burden for her AS EASY and AS LIGHT as POSSIBLE – Become worthy of her respect!!!

I'll admit, I make it far more difficult. The Bible tells us that this is the result of our choosing our own way rather than God's way – our sovereignty – defaults to selfishness. These verses, became, even in the church, a burden to women when in fact, in light of Jesus' teaching and his sacrifice, are an opportunity for us to be more like Jesus – to trade in the spouse we've become for the one our spouse needs.

Before we got married, Heather and I went through premarital counseling. There I was introduced one of the two books that I recommend to couples that I counsel. It is called, His Needs. Her Needs. By Dr. Willard Harley. In his work and research, Dr. Harley identifies those things needed most by spouses. You'll need to get his book to get all of them but two I want to identify and share because of their application to all of our lives.

One, you might say, is a no brainer – women want to engage in conversation. Guys, wives are no different – they are women! Yet, it is one of the top 5 things wives need from their husbands and significant others. Dr. Harley puts it this way - “Caring partners converse in a caring way (pg 75).” Caring conversation recognizes the needs, the hopes and the dreams of the most important person in our lives.

The second, points reflects the community and that is – women are looking for a commitment to family. I will say on this instance, Dr. Harley is a bit narrow in his definition. There is a bigger family involved in a marriage than the immediate family. A concern for parents and siblings is also a valid need. Talking about in-laws in a negative light is likely not going to win many points along the way. It does mean, as guys, our desire to go off and do our thing is put to the side.

Two things, that would make it so much easier for your spouse to follow after God. Two things that Jesus Christ did and continues to do for the church. Two things that the church can provide for everyone in need of having a community to call their family.

The mystery is, or maybe better said – the reality – is that no man, even a husband, will ever fulfill the greatest desire of the human heart. For human hearts long for relationships – God has made us this way and it is in these relationships. We were meant for something more, something more than what we see and experience here – we are meant for a relationship with God and because of Jesus Christ – the one who knows our deepest needs – we can truly do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It Begins Somewhere.

It was a spring evening like many others. Moderate temperatures and a bit damp after rains. The weather was clear and I was a fifth grader under a pine tree in Tennessee with my Gideon Bible. I was a Webelos Scout, preparing to 'crossover' to Boy Scouts and was reading the 23rd Psalm. At 11, I really didn't know any other important parts in the Bible. As I looked up at the sky, for the first time, I was in awe of God. My faith journey had begun.

What about you? What has been the starting point of your spiritual story? It often starts with a moment of awe and wonder. Maybe it was the birth of a child. It could be a healing experience or like me, an experience in nature. It could be at any point in your life - there is no requirement for certain!

As adults, the journey may begin with a sense of need following pain in our lives. Divorce, illness or job loss all hit home. As we near milestones of aging, or parents aging, we begin to ask, “What more is out there?”

For Zac, it came after finding incredible success in life, mostly through taking advantage of others in business. When he heard about a great Teacher coming into town, he went all out for a chance to hear what this man had to say. With a bit of negotiating, he managed to get a great spot to see and hear. But when the Teacher stepped up, rather than spending anytime with the crowd, he looked at Zac and said, “Let's go to your place.” Zac didn't know what to say but he suddenly became aware in the presence of this great Teacher, his life fell far short of meaning much. In front of the crowds, Zac owned up to his faults, agreed to pay back those he cheated and chose to reorient his life after the Teacher. (For the full story, check out the Book of Luke 19:1-10).

Sometimes, we can get hung up here and start to focus on all of our faults and failures. Because of past experiences, we think we have to “clean-up before going to church.” Not so! Reflect for a moment on Zac's story, for it is a story many of us know well but may not realize it as our own story too.

I am not going to play around. Going on with God will require change and it may not be easy. It may be uncomfortable. It may mean leaving a way of life as it did for Zac. You might find it necessary to try a different church – not church hopping for what “feels good” but where you see faith lived in others.

It is a good place to be, in awe of God and I pray you will always have those moments. But the Teacher's invitation was to follow. In 2010, will you?


This is the beginning of a series of articles I am working on regarding the spiritual journey. I've not been posting much this past fall for reasons related to my own life work.

Now, I recognize such talk is taboo for some. Please understand, I'm referring here to more than just "navel-gazing" (though I think mine is rather cute). For others, you may have your own thoughts that think maybe I've not gone far enough. Fair enough but keep reading. As I have studied, researched and of course, lived, I have come to respect and love these differences in the human experience of following God.

Understand, this is a beginning for me too. The magazine I write for requires a 500 word limit. I'm convinced that a good writer, as well as a good communicator, communicates best when they communicate simply. I've learned, doing such work is not easy. My hope and prayer is that these articles and the postings which follow, would help you even as they help me, understand better the life work God has set each of us to do in this life. After all, it does begin somewhere.

Worth Crying About...

So tonight as my son is going to sleep, we're talking about his crossover from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, about growing up and he says something like, "You know dad, I'm growing up. I don't ever cry anymore." Now he is right, when you're in the midst of the growing up stuff, you don't - you're a guy - you don't cry ever.

You see, tonight there was something worth crying about for me as a dad (and I wasn't the only one mind you)! My son ain't a CUB anymore! We're into Boy Scouts now. The boys in our den den are going to different troops and it is likely that I really won't see most of them at all anymore. They've done so much together and all of us have gotten to watch them grow-up. But they don't realize that was something worth crying about and I am thinking, that most of us are really missing out on a lot of things worth crying about.

I think doing something at the ripe old age of 10 or 11 where you set a goal and stayed the course - that is something worth crying about. So if you'll excuse me tonight, I'm going to celebrate with a few tears, the achievements of all the boys of Scorpion Den 9 who stayed the course (you know who you are). I know you guys can't but I hope and pray one day you'll be able to.

While I do that, I'll leave you with my last official act as an Assistant last Cubmaster minute

I learned this story from a group of hunting dogs I spent some time with this last season. They were rolling around, laughing about a friend of theirs that had had some problems on a recent hunt. I asked them about it, and one old dog came over and began to tell me this story...

It seemed that during a recent hunt, one of the dogs was out with his master trailing a mountain lion. The hound came to a place where a fox had crossed the trail, and the hound decided to follow the fox instead of the lion.

A short time later, a rabbit crossed that of the fox, and again the hound changed direction. Why should he chase a fox when a rabbit might be easier to catch?

When the hunter finally caught up with his hound, the dog was barking at a small hole in the ground. The hound had brought to bay a field mouse instead of a mountain lion.

Well, how about you? Have you set out on a trail to achieve your ambition? Are you able to follow it, or are you sidetracked by easier trails that cross it from time to time?

Don't be like that hound. Find out what it takes to achieve your ambition, and then get started.
Each scout that crossed over tonight was at one time, sitting where you are. Their trail to Boy Scouts has pushed them and challenged them. Where others have quit, they saw their goal and stayed the course.

Learn from their example and not be like that hound dog. The best way to achieve anything in life is to set a true course for it, surround yourself with those who believe in you and then stick to that trail.

Trading Spouses - 'The Story'

This week, I want to begin by sharing one of my favorite stories of all time. (Note, this story comes in a number of versions. This one is slightly different from the one I told on Sunday morning).

Once upon a time, long, long ago, King Arthur was riding with Sir Gawain when they came to the rescue of a damsel in distress. To free the lady King Arthur fought a black knight with supernatural powers. And he lost. He was no match for the knight’s black magic. The black knight spared Arthur’s life only at the behest of the witch he served. The witch made a bargain with Arthur: “Answer this question or forfeit your life in a year. What do women want most?”

What do women want most? Sir Gawain and Arthur puzzled over the question as they returned to Camelot. Arthur and Gawain questioned the ladies at court, their maids, the women of neighboring towns, the countryside, and all the wisest people they could gather. Every one had a different answer: Money. Love. Power. Beauty. Wealth. Youth. Castles. Servants. Children.

The year passed without bringing Arthur any closer to answering the riddle. And so it was with heavy heart that Arthur and Gawain returned to meet death at the castle of the black knight, one year after the riddle was posed. Along their journey a repulsive old hag stepped into their path and wouldn’t let them pass. This loathsome lady was the most revolting creature either had ever seen: she farted and belched; she had a face spotted with hairy moles, broken brown teeth, bloodshot watery eyes, matted, greasy hair that had never been washed, and she had a short and twisted body with lumps and bulges in alarming places. She reeked.

“I have the answer you seek,” she hissed. “Who are you?” Gawain queried, “What answer?”

“What women want. I am Ragnell, and I will save the king’s life for a price.”

“If your answer is true, you can have anything you wish,” Arthur promised.

“Women want sovereignty over themselves. They want to make their own decisions,” Ragnell snorted. “And my price is marriage to a knight of your court!”

Arthur sickened by this trick. To marry one of his men to this hideous thing! But he was caught in his promise. “I’ll marry you,” said Gawain. “If Arthur lives, you will be my bride.”

Of course Arthur lived. The answer was true. Gawain, true to his word, married the foul Ragnell. The wedding party watched with horror all through the wedding feast. Everyone pitied poor Gawain.

Poor, gallant Gawain climbed the steps to his wedding chamber. He shuddered to contemplate touching, much less coupling, with this monstrous woman. And there she was, leering at his as he entered the room. “Embrace me, husband!”

And Gawain, ever true to his word, took the bride into his arms. He discovered he was holding a gloriously beautiful young woman.

“Who are you?” Gawain asked as he glanced around the room for his wife.

“I am your wife,” she smiled. “I was cursed to be as you knew me until I could win a true knight in marriage. You can have me as I am either by night or by day, but I must return to my hag form at those other times. Do you prefer me as I am at night, when I am in your arms? Or do you choose me to be beautiful by day, when I will be seen by your friends?”

Gawain thought for a long time. At last he replied, ““This is your life. This should be your choice. You decide.” And in that moment the spell was broken. His gift of her sovereignty granted her complete freedom from the curse and the return of her natural beauty.

As we begin this series on Trading Spouses, this seems an appropriate place to begin. It is this story that we'll return to but today I want you to just set with it.

As we read Paul's words to the Ephesian church, I hope you'll see that Trading Spouses isn't about Trading in Our Spouse BUT to Trading in the Spouse We Are. More to the point, trading in the Person who we are. Because when we look at this passage, as with a great many passages, there is often a double meaning. The marriage relationship is compared to the relationship with Jesus and the Church.

I think there are things that we can all remember about the needs of others, the differences between men and women, that can strengthen our relationships. Often we joke about men and tools and women and shopping. But the real change begins within us – when we work on being the man of God or the woman of God intended us to be. It is soooo much easier to point fingers at another and see it is their fault. Marriage and family provides us the “intense workshop of relationship building” that ultimately effects all other relationships.

What each of us desire, both men and women, is our sovereignty – our free will. In a sense Paul confirms that here. Don't try to point those fingers at anyone other than yourself – Husbands and Wives – be the spouse YOUR SPOUSE NEEDS!

But hidden under this are the words of Paul... “There is a deep secret truth revealed in this scripture, which I understand as applying to Christ and the church. (v 32).” And I think, if we miss this secret truth we miss the vital piece. Just a few verses before, in verse 25 Paul says... “ Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her...”

For years, God has been referred to as “the Sovereign God” and it is in Jesus Christ we see this shown most clearly. At creation, a sovereign God gave us our sovereignty – the freedom to choose his way or our own. Love is always a choice. And in Jesus Christ – God reminded us and showed us, just how much he loves us. And it seems to me here we catch a glimpse of the mystery – God has given you and me the choice – forever he will allow us the freedom, the freedom of sovereign.

So even as we speak about spouses, we are in fact speaking more about who we are as men and women... and then again who we are becoming, not just as A church but The Church – the Bride of Jesus Christ. The next two weeks we'll look more specifically at Husbands and then Wives – and Trading In who we are for who we are CALLED TO BE – in more ways than one.

I want to invite you this week to read the book of Ephesians. There are 6 chapters, so you can read 1 a day. Ask Jesus to show you each day something new about yourself and remember this quote:`

"If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's because they take better care of it."  ~Cecil Selig You have been given sovereignty - going after God will be your choice.

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