Legacy…My Grandfather

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Legacy

It’s what we leave behind.

Mostly after we’re gone.

The memories…

The witness…

The example to follow…

My grandfather died last night. He left a legacy.

It’s sad, but I’m having a hard time seeing it as a heavy loss. Not that I won’t miss him. I will.

But he was 101 years old. Few live that long. He celebrated that milestone last week. He had a party. He had a good time. Everyone talked about how well he looked. This week, he went down fast and peacefully passed from this life to the next. In an instant.

Death always comes that way.

But, sad? Sad for us, but so happy for him.

He lived a long, good life. He worked hard. Harder than most people I know. He worked, as a matter of fact, until he was nearing 90 at the church where we all were raised. I think I inherited my work ethic partially from him. I used to accompany him on second jobs when I was little. I watched him work. Work hard.

I watched him love too. And, he loved well. He loved deeply. He loved Jesus deeply and would tell you that if he ever met you. He loved his family. He adored all 5 children and he got giddy at the mention or sight of his many grand or great or great great grandchildren.

He loved Gospel music and singing in the choir. He loved his garden and he loved his cats. And, he loved his tractor. He loved Big Lots and Dairy Queen. (He loved the times I took him there when he stopped driving.)

Not all with the same kind of love of course. But, he seemed to love life. And everything in it.

He was humble. Perhaps the most humble man I know. He was strong. He was loyal. He was steadfast. He was honorable. He was gentle. He was a peacemaker. He was sincere. He was joyful. He was kind. To everyone he met. Everyone.

He loved my grandmother with such a passion you couldn’t help but smile when he referenced her. It was obvious to everyone. I got to renew their vows once. They were married well over 70 years. You can read about their marriage HERE. My grandmother is still living.They were soul mates. At his 101st birthday party he wanted to hold her hand and have his picture taken with her. (He didn’t realize how many pictures were being taken with people’s phones.) Pray for her.

Granddaddy. You did well. Great legacy. Easy to follow. Well done good and faithful servant. Well done.

Party with Jesus! I hope they’re playing some of your favorite songs right now. Either way, I’m sure you’re smiling. And probably dancing. Say hello to my Daddy…your son…whom you were talking about up until the time you passed.

We will see you on the other side.

(Read a more humorous post I wrote about him a few years ago HERE.)

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed that, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post. (I always note that this post is written about my experiences for people who may currently need it.)

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. That’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize that God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success – Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner struggle – I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ – Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself – The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences that God brings a new opportunity my way. That is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord…Here am I…send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call – After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences? What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

The Cosby Show – Revisited

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I am a Bill Cosby fan, so when I was asked if I’d allow a guest post in honor of his birthday this week, how could I refuse? (This is NOT a sponsored post.)

The Cosby Show – revisited

The 1980s was a much different time in American culture than the current era, a period in which a television show featuring a middle-class African-American family was a revelation and something never seen before. The Cosby Show was a landmark TV comedy even without considering race — but with race in mind, it was a groundbreaking one. As star Bill Cosby turns 76 this week, let’s take a look at how The Cosby Show helped make the entertainment world ready for Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, and many more African-American TV stars whose shows didn’t revolve around the projects or even make a big deal of their families being a part of mainstream America.

Humble Beginnings

Inspired by his standup comedy show triumph Bill Cosby: Himself, the star and network NBC created a show focused on the family life of the Cosby-like Dr. Cliff Huxtable. In fact, many of the jokes from the first season of the show are taken word-for-word from Himself. It was natural for the new sitcom to feature an upper-middle-class African-American family, since that is what Cosby himself had and talked about during that comedy special. (In fact, Cosby’s TV family and real family both had four girls and one boy, the boy being the middle child.) NBC, however, didn’t have high hopes for the series, especially since it would go head-to-head on Thursday nights with the hugely popular Magnum, P.I. on CBS. They needn’t have worried, however; Cosby soon pulled ahead of Magnum in the ratings, prompting Bill Cosby himself to rub it in by wearing a Magnum ball cap on an episode of his own show.

Gentle Humor

Bill Cosby is known for being socially active and even somewhat harsh in his criticism of all races when it comes to racism and hypocrisy. Cliff Huxtable, on the other hand, was always an avuncular presence, wearing sweaters and college sweatshirts and dispensing funny fatherly advice to his kids. Also, Clair Huxtable kept her husband in line with sharp wisecracks as well as warm understanding. The show was sometimes criticized for not consistently taking on racial issues such as poverty and crime, but Cosby retorted that this was not demanded of shows featuring Caucasians although many people of that race also live in such conditions. To its fans, The Cosby Show was just a funny and heartwarming TV program.

A Trend-Setting Star

It’s fair to say that without The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, starring clean rapper Will Smith, or That’s So Raven, starring Cosby regular Raven-Symone, would have had a harder time getting off the ground. But Cosby — and Cosby — showed that African American characters can be people first and then, if the time is right, symbols later.

As of his 76th birthday this week, Bill Cosby has created some of the most indelible entertainments of the late 20th Century, from I Spy in the 1960s, Fat Albert in the ’70s, and The Cosby Show in the ’80s and ’90s. And he hasn’t stopped making people laugh: he still does standup comedy on tour all throughout the year, and those shows consistently sell out from Las Vegas to New York to Miami. His books still sell briskly. He is still an icon of humor among all races, a breakthrough for those entertainers who followed.

Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a television and movie blogger for DirectTV who covers everything from previews and new releases to classic films and shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. He’s been a huge Cosby fan since he was a child. He lives and works in Chicago.

Happy Birthday Bill!

What’s your favorite work of Bill Cosby?

20 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife this Weekend

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

Give her the best time of your weekend.

Do something with her you know she enjoys, even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.

Share a dessert with her. (Ouch! This one hurts me personally. I don’t usually share desserts.)

Take a long walk together and hold her hand.

Fix the bed, take out the trash, or pick up your clothes…without being asked. (Or whatever it is that you know she would love if you did.)

Genuinely listen to her without trying to fix anything.

Give her a few hours with no responsibility…none. (Even the kids.)

Brag on her to your friends.

Hand wash her car.

Tell her your deepest fears and greatest dreams.

Leave her notes around the house.

Write down 10 reasons she’s the woman of your dreams.

Leave a sweet voicemail on her phone telling how much you love her.

Cook dinner. And then do the dishes.

Book a date night for later this week. Take care of ALL the arrangements.

Pray for her out loud.

Ask her advice.

Say, “I love you”. Unsolicited.

Make her belly laugh.

Dream with her about your future together.

Any ideas you would share?

7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend

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If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F…right? If we are not careful, however, the weekend passes so quickly and we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

How can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions I try to live:

Plan on Monday – Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment.

Do hard things now – Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously that’s not always possible, but many times it is. for example, don’t put off that difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with your schedule – Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go then go, but if you’d rather relax then do that. No guilt. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. They sometimes sound good on Monday but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church – That’s an appointment you should keep. I know it seems self-serving to suggest it, and I’m not being legalistic. That’s not my nature or theology. I’ve just hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. God always seems to bless the time I give Him.

Plan ahead for a true Sabbath – Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule – If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love – The best memories center around time with people we love. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. Limit activities your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?

A Dad Loves Uniquely From Any Other Love…

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A dad loves uniquely from any other love.

A dad often shares a quieter love, marveling at his children on the inside, yet expressing it differently than mom.

A dad may act silly. Wear funny clothes. And never change his hairstyle, use the same corny jokes or actions, inaudibly enjoying the teasing it brings from his kids and because he loves the sound of his children laughing.

A dad will often stand back, watching as mom dotes, often even pretending he thinks she dotes too much, but so glad that mom dotes on his children.

A dad may pretend to be tough, when really, he’s only a big puppy dog, and this is many times only realized later in his life.

A dad might let mom take the phone call from the kids, but then ask lots of questions after the phone call ends.

A dad loves to sacrifice, work hard for his children, not doing it for recognition, but secretly relishing when his children do realize he did it just for them.

A dad might dismiss the need for attention. Say he doesn’t need anything. Act like he’s good with less attention on Father’s Day, but a dad warms inside with a simple acknowledgement from his children that he is their dad.

A dad loves uniquely from any other love.

(I realize this us written from the perspective of a dad who is involved in the life of his children…and it won’t fit with every dad. It’s written more in principle than in exact practice. A dad’s love is unique. But, I hope your dad was or is all that you have needed him to be, even though no dad is perfect. If you didn’t have a great experience with your dad, and I know so many who don’t have this story for their life, my heart goes out to you today. That was my story until the last few years of my dad’s life. Don’t be ashamed to reach out to other older men in your church or life and thank them for their influence in your life.)

5 Critical Needs for Dads

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We are in a crisis of men these days. Godly men are in shorter supply. Do a quick Google search and you quickly find some of the ramifications of absentee fatherhood on our society.

As a fellow dad, I want to use this Father’s Day to challenge my male readers. This is for you fathers and fathers-to-be.

Here are 5 critical needs for dads:

Shape up – “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11) The privilege of fatherhood should sober us into the responsibility of fatherhood. I’ve met a lot of dads (me at times) who need to grow up so we can better help our kids do the same some day. I am not suggesting we stop having fun. I hope that never stops for me. I’m speaking of childlike immaturity that injures healthy relationships. I can never forget that my children will often be partially shaped for life by my example. For example: Where do you need to put away childish ways? Is it with your senseless anger? Is it in your pity party practices? Are you like a toddler when it comes to patience? Are you selfish with your toys?

Step up - I’ve never known a godly woman who didn’t want her husband to take the godly role of spiritual leadership. I’ve known lots of men who didn’t know how so they never even try. Men, we need to take an active leadership role in our home. We need to lead our families boldly towards Christ. The world isn’t going to do this for us and neither should the church have to do it. The church should be our partners, but our role as dads is to lead. Do it! In what ways do you need to better lead your home?

Show up – That means “Be there”. Don’t dump the responsibility for your home on your wife. Be there from the crying babies and the dirty diapers, to the rebellious teenager and the sex talk. Your children will spell your influence in their life many times with one word…TIME. Would your children say they feel they are a priority in your schedule and your attention?

Stand up – “As for me and my house…” Men, we need to protect our family, wherever possible, from the ills of this world. When my boys were young, I monitored what we watched on television and what we listened to on the radio. I enforced Scripture in the home as best I could. I led our family to discuss Biblical principals. I wasn’t always popular with them for every decision I made, but I’m thankful today for the foundation my boys have and the Christian lives they are living. I believe much of that is a direct result of decisions Cheryl and I made, (and Cheryl allowed me to make) to take a stand in our home when the boys were young. Men, what stand do you need to take to better lead your family towards truth?

Serve up - I heard a preacher many years ago, early in my life as a husband and father, that he wanted to “out serve” his family. I’ve set that as a goal ever since. I want my wife and children to recognize I’m willing to sacrifice my desires for theirs. I heard a story of a family who never knew their father’s favorite piece of fried chicken was the leg. He never ate it. Years later they learned it was because he thought it was the best piece and so he always saved it for them. I’m not advocating you skip the chicken leg, but that man had an attitude of sacrifice. That level of commitment won’t be done holding the television remote all the time. It will more likely be done holding a wash rag and a bucket of water. How can you better serve your family?

This is a tough stuff. I know it. When I offer such a challenge I sometimes hear from men who say too much is expected of men already and I shouldn’t bash them more. They mention the sitcoms where the man is always made out to be the idiot who never does the right thing. I get all that. And, I agree. This is not intended to be more stress, but I believe we need more accountability not less. More leadership. Not less. We need to raise the standard for authentic manhood. It’s been lowered enough. We need men willing to defy the norms and be men of God. Men who are bold in their love of family, bold in their faith in God, and bold in guiding their family to better reflect Christ to the world.

Here’s to the challenge men! I’m praying for you as you love and serve your families.

Happy Father’s Day Dad! I believe in you!

You may want to read:

10 Things I’d Do If Raising a Daughter Today

10 Things I’d Do If Raising a Son Today

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Go to Bed Tonight

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Did I begin today in prayer?

Have I read my Bible today?

Did I give today my best efforts?

Did I make someone’s life a little better today?

Did I take steps towards the dreams I have and God has for my life today?

How did I add value to the world around me today?

Was my attitude ever in the way of me or others having a productive, happy day?

Can I put today behind me, go to sleep, and give tomorrow another chance?

How can I improve my answers tomorrow night?

Am I ending today in prayer?

12 Random Pieces of Life I Love

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Sometimes it’s the little things.

A lazy Sunday afternoon nap after a great morning at church.

Picking raspberries in Michigan and “testing” them along the way.

Inside jokes with friends.

A song that brings back a nearly forgotten memory.

Sitting on a porch swing listening to a gentle rain.

Laughing as a puppy plays.

Discovering a “hidden gem” of a restaurant when not even looking.

Wrestling with a two year old boy.

Sharing a smile with someone you love.

Waking up at Grandma’s to the smell of fresh coffee and breakfast.

A small child whispering in your ear.

Saturday mornings with no agenda.

That’s 12 of mine. Add one, two or twelve of yours.

Take time today to reflect on the moments that make memories.

And don’t forget…

Sometimes it’s the little things.