A Hunting Story

7 Sep

When your son leaves his college paper on your laptop you just have to take advantage of it. Especially when he admits you’re right about something. Here’s a story my son wrote that might interest you if you hunt. He’s gonna kill me when he sees this.

 

Narrative Essay

Thanksgiving week in 2010 was one of the most memorable times in my life. Hunting this week showed me that even if I didn’t believe my dad or understand his reasoning, he was often right.  I had been hunting since I was five years old. When I was young, my dad would sit with me and tell stories from when he hunted as a kid. We would play cards and just have fun. Little did I know that this time we were spending together would eventually result in me becoming an experienced hunter at an early age. Thanksgiving week 2010 would be the first time I would be hunting alone, and not have my dad there to tell me what to do. I would either have to do what he had taught me or just rely on my inexperienced self.

Finally, the week we had been waiting for came.  My sister and I were out of school for Thanksgiving break. My dad was on vacation the whole week and planned to hunt every day we could.  We got to the woods about an hour after daylight.  I was surprised when I discovered that my dad was going to let me hunt alone while he took my sister to another stand. He walked me to my stand, and I climbed up.  It was a stand that we built together out of fence posts and scrap wood. My dad prayed with me, and turned to go. As he disappeared into the distance, I realized that I had entered into a new chapter of hunting.   I was all alone.  There would be no more stories or advice from my dad to pass the time.

I sat quietly in the stand by myself and just gazed into the woods. After about twenty minutes of sitting, I had to do something. I pulled my beef jerky and Yoohoo out of my backpack and began to snack on them. While I was eating, I looked up and right before me was one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen in my life. I began to shake nervously and slowly recall the instructions my dad had given me if ever in this circumstance. I picked up my gun and stuck it through the window of the box stand. The words of my dad, telling me to slowly pull the trigger and not jerk the gun, spun around my head as I looked at the deer through my scope. I set the cross-arrows right behind the deer’s shoulder and fired.

A still hush fell upon the woods after the shot. The deer turned and ran down the lane. I thought I blew it and missed the biggest deer of my life. All of the practice I put in and I had missed. I began to tear up and lay my head down. After some time I looked up and saw my dad and sister walking down the lane towards me. They had heard me shoot and were excited to see what happened. The excitement quickly left them as they saw my head hanging and the tears in my eyes. I missed the biggest buck of my life.  I started at the beginning and explained every detail of the hunt to my dad.  After I finished my story, my dad was convinced I did shoot the big buck.  He continuously asked me to go look for it.  I looked at him multiple times and assured him there was no reason to look for it because I knew I missed the deer.   My dad finally quit pleading with me and began to walk toward the truck.  I did not believe he was right and would not listen to him.

As we loaded back up in my dad’s truck the only thing I could think about was the deer. I replayed the morning in my mind over and over again. I was depressed all day long. Later that evening, my dad asked if I wanted to go hunting the next morning.  Pouting and feeling sorry for myself, I quickly responded with a no. Eventually, I came to my senses and agreed to go hunting again the next day.

First thing the next morning, I heard my dad say in a loud voice, “Son, get up.” I quickly put on my camo and headed for the truck. We arrived in the woods right before daylight and headed to the same deer stand I sat in the day before. As the sun began to rise, a doe came out in about the same place as the day before.  I quickly grabbed my gun and pointed it toward the deer. My dad coached me through the whole thing.  I took the shot. Bang! The deer took off, and I knew I hit it.  We made our way to the spot where I shot and began to search for the wounded deer in the brush.  After searching for about thirty minutes, I gave up and started to sulk. I stopped searching and walked away hopelessly while my dad continued to look for the doe.  Suddenly, I could not believe my eyes.  I slowly walked over to the side of the road to get a better look. It was the big buck I had shot the previous day.  I began screaming loudly, as my dad hurried to see what the noise was all about. We both celebrated an important milestone in my life. The only problem was the deer had spoiled. I was not able to harvest the meat or get the deer mounted. As we were riding home, my dad said, “Son, if you would have just listened and searched yesterday we would have found him.”  My dad was right all along.  I learned a valuable lesson that day.  When it comes to hunting, my dad is always right.

How To Get an Amen

24 May

Pastors, let’s face it, we all need amens. They keep us going. They light a fire under us. They remind us that we are doing what we have been called to do. Sadly, the amens often dry up. When an amen drought comes it can affect us deeply. During these days we need to prime the pump. We need to get an amen out of our people. Here are ten proven ways you can get an amen out of your people

 

  1. Ask for one. During your sermon simply ask “Can I get an Amen?” Oftentimes the amen will come immediately. However, some churches are very discerning about what they amen. Such churches will usually table the request. The request will be put on the agenda as an item to be considered at the next regularly scheduled business meeting. If all goes well, within the next month you will get your amen.
  2. Speak loudly then pause. Churches do not like silence. The awkwardness of the moment will usually bring an amen out of someone. If more than a few seconds goes by without a response do not give up. Simply repeat in an even louder voice what you just said and then begin making eye contact with known ameners in the church. The key is perseverance. The amen will come if you do not grow weary.
  3. Use a cliché. This is foolproof. There are many clichés that cause a good Baptist to give an involuntary response. Here are a few examples:

I Believe the Bible from Genesis to the maps!

God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!

If God doesn’t judge America he’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!

I’m not what I should be but thank God I’m not what I used to be!

  1. Mention how awesome church used to be. Talk about how people used to come to church, used to tithe, used to serve willingly and used to say amen. It’s amazing to watch. Even the young people will cough up an amen using this tactic.
  2. Remind everyone that kids used to get spankings. Talk about how you got a lot of spankings as a child. Remind the people that the spankings didn’t kill you and that you got less spankings than you deserved. Use an illustration of a disrespectful kid you saw in a shopping center. Tell the people how you could change that child if the mother would let you keep the child for a couple of days.
  3. Bash technology. Call it the helevision instead of the television. Call the computer the one eyed devil in the home. Call it the sinner-net instead of the internet. You could go on forever with this. Call it Fakebook instead of Facebook, the world wide web of lies instead of the world wide web. You get the picture.
  4. Tell everyone how great America is. Tell everyone how lucky they are to live in America. Remind them that this is the greatest country in the world. Continue by telling them that you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. You could even quote some lyrics from a Lee Greenwood song if you like.
  5. Tell everyone how awful America is. This is a good place to throw in a cliché. I’d recommend one like “America is going to hell in a hand basket.” That one works great. Talk about the sins of the USA and remind everyone that God doesn’t need America.
  6. Compliment your church. People love to hear how awesome their church is. If it’s a small church announce to everyone that the church has a big heart. Churches like to hear how friendly they are as well. They like it when people recognize they haven’t grown much because they preach the Bible and no one wants to hear the Bible anymore. If it’s a big church quote statistics. Compare the church with other churches in the area that haven’t seen as much growth as they have.
  7. Say something negative about yourself. Tell everyone you’re not the greatest preacher in the world. Explain that you make mistakes and sometimes don’t even know what you are doing. People like it when you affirm their presuppositions and judgments. You’re sure to get an amen when you do this.

If You Have a Mom

2 May

My mom has been very sick. She had quadruple bypass surgery. Her lungs failed. For thirty seven days she could not wake from a sedated state. She developed internal bleeding. She is currently breathing through a tracheotomy. Finally things are turning around. We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. She turned sixty-four during this ordeal. I wrote this poem a couple of weeks ago. I was depressed. I was thinking about my mom. I was thinking of how I have often taken her for granted. Hope it makes sense.

 If you have a mom, as many do

Who walks the earth and talks to you

Who sends you cards and calls your phone

Who fixes your hair even though you’re grown

 

If you have a mom who cooks you food

Who calls you out when you get rude

Who shows you pictures you already saw

Who thinks you’re perfect but knows you’re flawed

 

If you have a mom who’s always there

Who listens closely when no one cares

Who won’t sit down when you come over

Who outworks you even though she’s older

 

If you have a mom that you can touch

Who with her stories makes you blush

Who always has an open door

Who couldn’t possibly love you more

 

If you have a mom that you can see

Not just in pictures or in dreams

If you have a mom that you can hug

That you can kiss or just bug

 

If mom’s still here waste no time

Bother often, it’ll be fine

Eat her food, take her advice

Look at the pictures you’ve seen all your life

 

If you have a mom as many do

These short lines are meant for you

If I sound anxious, and I just may

It’s because I’ve discovered that moms fly away. 

 

The Pastor & Staff Meetings

13 Aug

Moses staff split the Red Sea, mine split the church. I wrote that a while back in jest. Most humor is rooted in truth and that line is no exception. Being on staff at a church can be frustrating at times. Regardless of the size of one’s church, staff relations are extremely important. One of the most important things a pastor can do to ensure unity among the staff is to have productive staff meetings. I’ve had the privilege of being a small church pastor for over fifteen years. I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about staff meetings.

1. Have staff meetings. It can be weekly or biweekly, but you need to have regular staff meetings. It doesn’t matter if there are only two staff positions at your church. Staff meetings are a must. Don’t be legalistic about it. In fact I periodically cancel staff meetings just to give our group a break. But your staff needs to know that there is a scheduled time in which you come together to discuss the matters of the church.

2. Be on time. If the pastor is not on time to staff meetings it is likely that others will not be as well. As pastor, you set the schedule; therefore you ought to abide by it. If the other staff is waiting on you to show up, guess what they are doing. They’re roasting you. One of the easiest ways to lose respect from your staff is to be late to a meeting that you scheduled.

3. Have some time in the Word. Right now our staff is working through the Psalms. We have three staff positions. We rotate the devotion. By the time we are finished with Psalms we will have each led in 50 devotions. Pastors, we don’t have to be the only ones handling the Word. Trust your staff with the Word. Give them the freedom to explain and apply Scripture. Compliment them on their insight.

4. Have fun. Serving on staff at a local church can make your heart heavy and your back bend. The staff needs a sanctuary within the sanctuary. The staff meeting can be that place. The average local church has far too many committees and far too many meetings. Most of those meetings are dry and often unproductive. Don’t let the staff meeting be like that. In our staff meetings we laugh more than anything else. We rehash the problems. We analyze tough situations. However, I always try to lead us to a place where we can see the humor in the situation. I try and remind our staff of where we are heading, not where we are. I’m convinced that if you can’t laugh at what happens at church you’ll leave because of what happens at church.

5. Loosen up. There should be an order to the meeting. You should prepare an outline to follow. However, be willing to abandon that outline for the benefit of your staff. Sometimes a staff member just needs to blow of some steam or a subject may need to be dealt with that you didn’t even know existed. The staff should know that you value them enough as a person to tear up the bulletin and allow the Spirit to lead. A staff meeting is a great time for the senior pastor to lend pastoral care to the staff.

6. Pray together. Pray for your staff out loud. Pray for their ministry. Pray for their family. Thank God for them. Allow them to pray for you as well. Pray for the burdens and the vision of the church. It is a sad reality that many churches have staff that seldom or never prays together privately.

Close Call

16 Mar

If something crazy can happen, it will happen to me. Let me share an example of that with you. I was pastor of a church in Florida for eleven years. During that time one of my church members was waiting for a much needed liver transplant. Finally, a liver became available and I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida to offer support. God was good to us; the liver transplant was a success. I traveled to my wife’s parent’s home in Jacksonville Beach to get some much needed rest. This is where the story gets interesting.

I awoke early the next morning, before daybreak. As I approached my car I realized something wasn’t right. A broken pool stick was lying on the ground beside my car and my windshield was completely smashed. My father-in-law was now outside with me and he called the police. I expected when the policeman arrived a simple report would be made and I would be on my way. I was wrong.

The officer began asking me questions. It was pretty clear he assumed I had upset someone. The exchange went something like this:

“Where were you last night?” “I was at the hospital and then I came here to sleep.”

“Did you go to any bars last night?” “No sir I was at the hospital and I came here.”

“Did you get in any arguments with anyone last night?” I was getting aggravated by this time. “No sir, I am a pastor visiting a church member in the hospital.”

The officer asked for my license, took them to his car and sat for a few minutes. When he returned what he said blew me away. He said “Sir we have a warrant for your arrest.” I had only been married a few years so I’m sure my father in law was thinking “I knew it, I tried to warn everybody about him!”  I was completely confused. The officer went on to explain that I had warrants for my arrest out of Georgia for writing bad checks to a liquor store. On top of that I had been recently released from prison for involuntary manslaughter. He told me that the Sheriff’s office in Georgia did not want to come and get me but they expected me to turn myself in immediately.

I did my best to explain to the officer that I was a good person and none of that about me was true. He wasn’t convinced and I’m not sure my father in law was either. I understood why. In fact the county I was wanted out of was fourteen miles from where I grew up and was the hometown of my mother. I spent a lot of time in that county. After returning home I contacted the Sheriff’s department in Georgia.here’s what happened. Little did I know, I share the same first & last name, eye color and hair color with a pretty bad dude. His charges and crimes were somehow imputed to me. I don’t know exactly how that happened but the sheriff’s office told me it was a mistake on the computer. To say the least I was relieved and perturbed. I was not prepared to go to jail for something someone else did.

As awful as this situation was it makes for a great illustration. As I was studying the arrest of Jesus I was struck by His words “So if you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8). Jesus was arrested so that the truly guilty people could go free. He willingly took the sentence for our crimes upon Himself. The prison door was opened to release us and receive Him. Our crimes were imputed to Christ and He didn’t try and argue His way out of it. Peter should have been arrested for attempted murder in John 18. Jesus said “Let him go.” Peter was free, Christ was arrested. You and I have our share of crimes against God and man. We are guilty. But Christ assumed the debt for us. Because of our faith in Him, Christ says to death and hell “Let them go.”  Thank God for that! What a Savior!

So Long Soloists

11 Dec

If we were as nice to the lost as we are to horrible soloists at church we might see a revival. That’s what I was thinking as I sat listening to the weekly “special” that preceded my sermon. It was an awful solo. The words to the song were doctrinally correct but the sound bordered on heresy. I knew what would happen when our resident William Hung finished. Everyone would applaud. They always do. They know not what they do.  With their applause they are inspiring a host of other tone deaf members to take the stage.  As I endured my musical purgatory, a visitor caught my eye. Judging from the look on his face, he either had serious indigestion or he agreed with me. This singer was awful, and everyone knew it. This was church, however, so we would never tell someone they can’t sing. That would be unChristlike, right? But for a moment I began to daydream of what it would be like if we were honest about our singing in church. I slipped out of reality and into my own little world….

The song ended. I stood to my feet and said, “Well, that was a horrible solo wasn’t it?” Silence fell like a blanket over the church. I looked at Mr. Hung and said “Seriously man, you stink. You can’t sing. You need to stop.” I explained to him that God could use him in a lot of ways, but singing solos wasn’t one of them. I looked over the shocked congregation and continued to shower them with the truth. “Every week one of you well-meaning wailers gets up here and butchers a song. The truth is we only have a few people in this church that can actually carry a note. It’s time we admit it. Everyone in this church should sing but only about three of you should do it into a microphone”.

“From now on we are going to have qualifications for our soloists at church. For instance, if you want to sing, you have to have some talent. And I don’t want to hear anything about a joyful noise. The noise I’m hearing lately is anything but joyful. We are going to hold our singers to the same standards as our musicians. We require our musicians to be able to hit the correct notes so we’re going to require our singers to do the same. It’s time we get honest with one another about our singing. Bill, you sound like Barney Fife. Mary Ellen, when you sing half the senior adults turnoff their hearing aids. Harry, when you sing How Great Thou Art, all I can think about is how great you ain’t.”

With everyone’s full attention I decided to offer a little advice: “Don’t ask your mom if you are a good singer. She thinks you’re the best at everything. Ask someone who will be honest with you. Church, we all need a little Simon Cowell in us. People need to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts. But people who can’t sing need to know that they can’t. It’s up to us to tell them.” At that moment people began to look at one another and tell the truth. One by one horrible soloists began repenting of the torture they had inflicted upon countless eardrums. People brought their accompaniment tracks to the altar and left them there. Mothers came openly confessing they had misled their children into believing they were future American Idols. It was so beautiful. Never again would we hear “Is it rewound?” or “Tap, tap…is the microphone on?” Our worship leader trembled, weeping and overcome with joy.

The sound of applause woke me from my daydream. Startled, I realized the solo was over. I was back in reality. I made my way to the pulpit. I couldn’t help but notice our visitor looked as if his indigestion had turned into a kidney stone. With all the courage I could muster up, I looked over the crowd and said, “Let’s be honest, that was awful.” The congregation released a collective gasp. The people looked shocked, some even horrified. Except for the visitor, he was smiling ear to ear. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of that day. They really don’t matter. But if you’re interested, I am available for pulpit supply.

Death

2 Oct

Black, cold, lonely, full of drear
A fate to us all that is growing near
Does it stop here? Does it go on?
A question that is often pondered upon.

In regret I racked my brain
Does death bring peace?
Does death bring pain?
Are grave stones mocking me?
Under chiseled stone, is that where I’ll be?

It is no doubt that I will die
But will I rot or will I rise?
Will I ascend to the skies
Or fall prey to the lord of flies?

Perhaps I’ll wither in a decorated box
Live forever six feet from the top
Like a plague thoughts punished me
For in my heart was eternity.

So much to embrace in this universe
In one hundred years you can’t see much
Then like a trumpet came a voice
It crossed the expanse from a distant shore.

Penned by prophet and common man
Like floods of water to a barren land
Good news for those threatened by Death
One has come to take his breath.

To put a sword ‘neath our enemies chin
To take his head and give us the win
Outside the city on Golgotha’s hill
Christ set the stage for the ultimate kill.

Judged in our place He was mighty to save
Giving us hope and digging Death’s grave
Without a doubt He died for our sins
Just as certain He rose again.
He needed a tomb only three days
Now every believer has a borrowed grave.

Oh I will die, but I will rise
My heart will stop but I’ll open my eyes
I’ve answered the questions in my head
I will die, but I won’t stay dead.