Thursday, June 26, 2008

Could Be Your Last

What if it were your last time? Your last time to give someone a hug. Your last time to preach a sermon. Your last time to say something you've intended to say. Would it make a difference? You bet it would.
Recently, I read a preacher's blog and he talked of preaching his last sermon at the church where he had been for six years. Even the comments made by his readers talked of the impression they had as he spoke concerning his last time. Things change. The situation is different. You look at things differently. There is a new perspective. When we know that something is the last time, it does change our outlook. Problem is we never really know when the last time is.
If you knew, wouldn't you act differently? Problem is, we don't know. Ask my friend Sam Thomsen, the 13 year old Boy Scout who died just two weeks ago in the tornado at Little Sioux Camp. Ask my friend Rebecca Adams who just had her first child and has been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. (She is optimistic concerning her fight against this horrible disease.) Ask my friend Craig Jones whose wife fought breast cancer for many years, only to die in just a few brief months from pancreatic cancer.
The point is, none of us has a guarantee on life. None of us knows what tomorrow (or today for that matter.) will bring. So shouldn't we act as if each moment could be our last? Wouldn't that change our attitudes? Wouldn't our words be better selected? Wouldn't our hugs be sweeter? Wouldn't life be sweeter? Well let's start now because we don't have the assurance tomorrow. And any day could be our last. I know that sounds so cliche, but it has been brought home to me once again. So make today a good one. I hope you have a good day today. JW

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What God Has Promised

It's raining again today. My first thought was to get depressed. Then I thought of this poem.

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hat not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountian rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.

by Annie J. Flint, 1919

Wow! I feel better already. I read of an old Arab proverb that says, "All sunshine doth a desert make." Have a great day. JW

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mysterious and Wonderful

I don't understand everything that happens in life. I don't know why kids die in tornadoes. Why there's starvation in Africa. Why people get cancer. If I understood everything, I think there would be no wonder in this world; probably only bitterness and anger.
So I choose to stay in the wonder of it all. The mystery of God is tremendous. I can't figure Him out. All I know is I see all kinds of good things happen even when bad things occur. Sam Thomsen was a neat kid. There wasn't anything particularly exceptional about him. Please don't take that wrong because I don't mean it in an ugly way. I'm just saying he was a typical teenage kid. He had great aspirations. He made me laugh. But as a result of Sam's death, millions are reading about the God he served. About a week ago there were over 788,000 websites that talked about Sam and printed the sermon he wrote. Can you imagine if just two people read his words, that would be over 1.5 million who heard of God's call to us?
I have had numerous people come up to me and tell me what a loving congregation we have. They notice how much we love one another. Isn't that what we're supposed to be known for? Isn't that what it's all about?
E-mails have come from all over the country. Cards have flooded in from concerned people. Prayers have risen in the millions! All of this occurred because one little boy who had been taught by his parents to love God and he followed their lead to do just that. How did God do this? I don't know. But we'll never be able to measure the influence this one 13 almost 14 year old had on this crazy old world. How do you do it, Lord? You are truly great! Have a great day. JW

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sam Thomsen Thoughts

What an experience the last several days have been. That is the understatement of the century. And yet, when I contemplate my experiences, I cannot imagine what my friends, the Thomsens, are going through.
Last Wednesday night, their only son Sam was at a Boy Scout Camp in Iowa. The Little Sioux Camp was being used for young men who had been selected as leaders in Boy Scouts and they were there for training. The weather turned horribly bad and an EF-3 tornado came right down through the valley where the camp was. Sam was in one of the buildings that took a direct hit. Sam was near the chimney that collapsed. He died there at the camp.
Those are the bare facts. Last night, we had nearly 700 people in our building to honor the memory of 13-year-old Sam Thomsen. We laughed and laughed as one by one people came up to tell stories about Sam. He was a funny, enjoyable kid. We heard from home-school people, Scout leaders, Family Group members, basketball coaches, and many others. As I scanned the crowd it hit me what an impact this little boy (he was turning out to be a fine young man, too) had. Many of that age, and I imagine Sam would have thought this also, that they can't do much to affect people. Don't ever feel that way again. There were 700 in that auditorium last night and many more who, I'm sure, would have liked to come last night.
But there were others, too, who were affected. I visited with a young reporter from Good Morning America. She stood in my office as her camera man filmed by desk computer that was pulled up to Sam's Facebook account. I started reading some of the comments made by Sam's friends. "I love you buddy," "Just know I will never forget you," "I am so blessed to have known you," "Hey, kiddo. You're finally home." It became suddenly silent in the room as I continued to read the tributes. Finally, the reporter said to the camera man, "Did you get any of that?" She placed her hand over her heart and said, "That was so touching." The camera man backed away from his camera and wiped tears from his eyes. What an impact.
Everyone that I talked to wanted to know what kind of young man he was. I told them all of his love for his Lord. I talked to reporters from all the television stations here in Omaha, to the Omaha World Herald, the New York Times, NPR, Inside Edition, The Christian Chronicle, Nightline, and the Associated Press. I appeared on Good Morning America and the Larry King Show. As a result, Sam's faith, his love for God, his life are known to millions. People all over the world know about Sam Thomsen.
Incredible, isn't it? To have an impact on this world like that is something he never expected. But you know what? I think if Sam would have been able to see all of this attention, I think he would have thought it was cool. In fact, I can hear him say that. And you know what else? I bet he knows.
One of Sam's favorite quotes listed on his Facebook was a quote from his sister while they were at Sonic. She said, "My whole life is a happy hour." That's just like Sam. And that was his attitude about life. As a result, he impacted countless lives. I miss him already. Sam, this is for you. You've got to know how much I love you by this comment, especially coming from this huge Razorback fan. I wouldn't say this for anybody else but you. Go Huskers!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sam Thomsen

I will write more later, but please keep these people in your prayers. Sharon, Larry, Lindsay, and Sara Thomsen. Sam, Larry and Sharon's youngest, was one of the young Boy Scouts who was killed in the tornado in Iowa. They are members here at Southwest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Dull Stuff

I have to admit, and I think most bloggers would say the same, that it is a goal of us diarists to say something that is deep and profound; and to do so on a regular basis. But in reality, it's hard to come up with something (at least for me on any topic on a daily basis. The truth is, my life is really pretty dull. It's composed of doing much the same, day in and day out.
There are, of course, events that crop up. For instance, this week pretty much every night is taken up. Monday was a shepherds/minister meeting, Tuesday was clear, Wednesday is a singing at church, Thursday there are two things--a cook-out for some friends visiting from California and a devotional at an assisted living home, Friday is a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for a wedding, and Saturday is the wedding. By the time the summer is over I'll have performed four weddings and attended at least one other. I don't tell you this to say how busy I am, because you could do the same, probably more. I do it to let you know as I have already stated how truly dull my life is.
But you know what? Life isn't one big exciting event after another. It's what we do with these events that makes life interesting. You visit the hospital, you bring a smile to someone's face. You say a few words at a wedding, and the couple will remember the kind things you say. You stop to admire a precious newborn, the mother remembers that you stopped to acknowledge this precioius little one. Then occasionally, camp comes along and there's a mountain top experience. You watch your son graduate from high school. You see your daughter mature into a wonderful young lady. You enjoy, as Ecclesiastes says, the time with your wife. Or, the catastrophes do come and the trials hit and the temptations linger around. Then you wish for your dull life to come back.
I'm convinced it's about the journey. I've blogged about that before. But it's what you do with the everyday. The dull. The mundane. So here's the schedule, the rut, the routine.

Monday--Staff Meeting, reading, sermon & class prep
Tuesday--More sermon and class prep
Wednesday--Contact Together Group, prepare for the evening
Thursday--Finish Power Point for Sermon, class prep, Scheduled afternoon Bible study with member
Friday, Saturday--Off
Sunday--The Lord's Day, teach class, preach, nap, teach class

In between, the Lord fills the time with some great experiences. Have a great day. And keep your eyes open. You never know what will happen in between the dull stuff. JW

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

I wrote about Mom one year ago today. Today would have been her 87th birthday and it doesn't seem possible that she has been gone for over three years. She grew up in a Christian home in difficult times. The Great Depression influenced her family as they did without so many things that we would consider essential today. Truly a coal miner's daughter, she was a loyal wife, faithful Christian, loving mother.
I have her Bible in my hand and I was looking at some of the notes she wrote. The Bible is underlined all over, much like Dad's was. I don't know if he influenced her or she him. I smile as I read some of the things she's written in the margins.

"Put your faith in Christ during the troubled waters (times) of your life."
"There is a Great Day coming."
"Christ loves children."
"Angels praise God."
"What kind of listener are you?"
"Be not afraid--39 times in the O.T., 10 times in the N.T."

There are many more. Great lessons from a great person. She even had one writing that said, "Repent or perish." I guess that was the mother's ire coming out in her. She mentioned that angels praise God. Well, I can tell you one thing, she's praising God as we speak. I feel her presence. I sense her love. I miss her. I wish her a happy birthday.
I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Wisely and Well

I reminded our congregation Sunday that Christmas is only a little more than six months away. My goodness! We just started having warm weather. It's actually still Spring in Nebraska. The flowers are still blooming and the trees are shedding, pollen counts are the highest in years. And I'm reminding everyone that Christmas is just a mere six months away?
But you know what? In that time frame my son will have finished his first semester of college. We will have more elders here at Southwest. School will have begun for all the students again. I'll have directed another session of camp. There will be three more weddings to perform and who knows how many funerals. We'll have celebrated Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving...just in six months time.
Time flies. That's just life. So let's make the most of today. Who knows, the Lord may come before the time next Christmas rolls around. So let's make today count. Moses said, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 Here's how Peterson translate the same verse. "Oh, Teach us to live well! Teach to live wisely and well!" Wisely and well. Let's live today with those two words on our hearts. Have a great day.