52!

There are 52 weeks in a year. Most of them drag on and on, but we never seem to have enough time. 

The number 52 is never the sum of proper divisors of any number. . . Whatever that means.

There are 52 cards in a deck . . . I've never played with a full one. 

There are 52 keys on the piano . . . but you only need six to play "chopsticks."

In the arts world, September 23 is a big date. The Phantom of the Opera was first published on 9/23/09. On 9/23/62 The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts opened in New York City. And, regrettably,  on 9/23/80 Bob Marley performed his final concert. It might interest you to know that on 9/23 Mickey Rooney, Ray Charles, and the BOSS Bruce Springstien were born. 

My wife, Lorilise, tells me that 9/23 is the exact middle. It has an even number of hours and minutes of sunlight and darkness, it is the last day of summer.  

Perhaps less important or significant to all of this, on 9/23/1963  - 52 years ago - I was born. 

You may not know this but my parents, after two miscarriages, had been told they would not be able to have another child. One December Sunday morning my "big" sister Karol was asked by a deacon of the church my father was serving what she wanted for Christmas. In her self-assured three year old way, she told him she was praying for a little brother. That deacon was my mother's physician, Dr. Phillips. My mother told me that he looked her up that Sunday morning and told her that if she was willing to try again, he would support that effort. Nine months later, I was born - Upside down and backwards! As my mother would find out this was only the beginning of the pain I would bring doing things my way.  

My way is most always the hard way. My way appears to be easy, but actually takes a lot of "backstage" effort. My way is to walk slowly (my friend Pastor Mike calls me a mosier), listen closely, and try to laugh off all criticism. My way is almost always the long way around the horn, mostly because I don't like straight lines. My way appears to be a "life of the party guy," but in reality I prefer a quiet place with a few friends. My way has most often been wrong, but I serve a God of grace and mercy.

When I lived my life completely my way, I cared only for personal gains and career goals. Then one day I reflected on a life well lived. When my grandfather, Rev. Floyd Jent died God used his life to show me just how selfish my way of life had been. Not long after that I left my way and started to walk on Jesus' path. Those who have had a closer view of my life's journey know that I've often stepped off that path, but at every turn Jesus has gently led me forward. It was Jesus who said, 

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." (Matthew 16:24-27 NIV)

52 is not old enough to begin giving life advice . . . I think Mark Twain said that right does not come until you are 70. But if you'll indulge me for a minute, I'd like to share the real secret to life as I've seen it. It is to understand that your way is not the right way. ("My Way" made for a popular Sinatra song, but that is just a song.) God's way, on the other hand, IS the right way. Only when we stop rebelling against God's way can we end our struggle and settle into the groove of walking in His purpose and His will. For me that was when my life truly began; I became a better husband, father, neighbor, employer, employee, and person. I ended all paths that led my way, and began the spiritual journey that went Jesus' way.

So, at 52 - let me say. Stop fighting and start following! 

 

 

 

 

Guy Stuff

This weekend I am preaching at a Men's Retreat. Not too long ago they called it a Men's Advance, because guys hate to retreat! I guess that's the reason why I have had trouble preparing for this event, I've never been much of a man's man (not that there's anything wrong with that!), mostly because I don't like sleeping on the ground, getting up early and shooting things, and while I enjoy spitting and scratching - my mom convinced me not to do it in public long ago. 

So, with all these non-manly strikes against me, I set out to prepare something that could be of value to guys who willing gave up a weekend to spend time with other guys following Jesus. Here's what I came up with . . . And perhaps this will not surprise anyone to know that the premise for my talk is based on plowing over another one of those guy things - never asking for directions.

My talks are based on an Andy Stanley book called The Principle of the Path. Those of you who attend The Word at Shaw regularly know that I am a huge Andy Stanley fan . . . Another thing that is not very manly . . . What can I say, he scratches where I itch and I know no better communicator in America today. He explains that our direction not our intentions always determines our final destination. Since this is true, then why do we spend so much time moving in the wrong direction, assuming we will end up where we want to go (intentions) without aiming in the right direction in the first place?

Here is what I came up with, (ladies you might want to turn away). 

Why don't guys stop and ask directions? Four ways to insure we are on the right path.

1. ASK for Directions (Gideon)

2. STOP Going in the Wrong Direction (Samson)

3. SET a Moral Compass (Jesus)

4. FOLLOW Jesus

To be fair, guys are not the only ones who find it difficult to ask for directions. In life we all try to put on the good-looking-right-thinking-proper-acting mask which has an unwritten rule that states, "asking for directions means you are dumb, out of touch, and incapable of finding your own way." This notion is contrary to what the Bible tells us about how we should live. Jesus constantly talks about leaning on each other, living as a community, and giving and seeking help from others. James writes:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5 NIV)

Gideon wasn't afraid to ask for directions, in fact, he tested God twice to be sure he was right. This lack of faith was not punished, it was rewarded and Gideon's leadership led only 300 soldiers to defeat the Midianites (Judges 7). 

Samson on the other hand never asked for help. He just kept moving in the wrong direction until his wife betrayed him, his strength left him (never cut you hair), and his eyes were gauged out. Finally at the very end of his life he asks for help (Judges 16:28) and ends his life fighting to restore the glory of his youth. 

The third message of the weekend will make the argument for setting a moral compass. As a regular compass always points north, a moral compass always points us toward righteousness. Jesus is that compass. When we follow Him we have a constant direction that never leads us astray. If we truly believed this we would spend more time on the right path, headed in the right direction, leading to a righteous life (see what I did there?!).

The last message of the weekend will lead us back to the message series currently being done at Morning Star Church (which is where most of the men at this retreat attend). It is called "Follow" and this might not surprise you to know that this too is an Andy Stanley series . . . . There . . . Justified . . . Pastor Mike likes him too! It is a very good series about Following Jesus. 

As many shots as I have taken at guys, let me end this blog by saying I am excited about this weekend and looking forward to spending time with my brothers in the woods . . . Scratching and spitting . . . Oh and following Jesus too! 

 

 

Where the Score Don't Matter

As a lifelong Cardinal fan, I must say that (for me) the SCORE always matters.  

I remember visiting Busch Stadium from a very young age. My father always made sure I took my glove, to catch peanuts I think because we never sat close enough to catch a foul ball. I remember when my hero Lou Brock broke the stolen base record. I heard it live . . . Mom made me go to bed because it was a school night . . . But she didn't say I couldn't listen to the game. And so in the darkness of my room on Buttonwood Court in Florissant, I listened intently as Jack Buck made the call and Lou swiped his 105th bag to break the record! (In her defense, my mom did come into my room to say "he did it!" But I just showed her my transitor radio and grinned.)