Archive for the category “Personal”

Poland/Baltic Adventures

This past Wednesday, Linda and I returned from oversees having been out of the country for two and half weeks. Our trip was divided into 2 different adventures both of which were excellent.

Adventure #1 – For the 4th time in 5 years our church staffed a retreat for the missionaries (M’s) that are in the Germanic and Catholic clusters of Europe. This includes M’s from Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland. We gathered in Jelenia Gora, Poland with about 55 M families  who came together for meetings, fellowship, worship in their heart language, and soul refreshment. Our job was to provide ministry to the M kids and students, lead worship, and create some fun surprises for the adults.

Linda and I, along with 7 others were in charge of the Student Ministry. Essentially we hosted a 4 day retreat experience for middle and high school students. It took me back to the 25 years that I spent in Youth Ministry and reminded me why I stayed so long and how much I enjoyed working with students. I did a series of messages entitled “Not Your Average Joe” and looked at 4 “Joes” in Scripture and what it was that made them not your average Joe: Josiah, Jonah, Joseph (OT), and Barnabas – yeah, Barnabas. See if you can figure out why he is not an average JOE. Here are a couple of pictures of the awesome students we had the privilege of hanging out with for the week…

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This is after one of my famous “Shay hikes”. The next one is the group sporting our “Not Your Average Joe” tee shirts.

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Adventure #2 – Our Poland retreat finished up on Saturday, August 5. We had flown into Prague but we were flying out of Berlin. We arrived in Berlin around lunchtime and since our flight home was not until Sunday morning we took a 4 hour tour of Berlin in the afternoon. Hit all the main tourist spots like Checkpoint Charlie, The Berlin Wall, TheBrandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Monument, and a few government places.

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The rest of the team took off early Sunday morning but Linda and I stayed behind and took a train up to the northern coast of Germany where we boarded a ship and began a 9 day cruise with Norwegian around the Baltic Sea. It was AWESOME. We had great sailing weather – never really knew we were even on a ship. Incredible dining experiences. Perfect weather everywhere we went – sunny and 70-75 degrees. We enjoyed all the ports as well as the 2 days we were at sea. Norwegian did an excellent job of spoiling us and refreshing us. Here are a few pictures that will not do justice to our experience but will at least give you some kind of idea to what our trip was like…

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Warnemunde, Germany – Day 1

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Tallinn, Estonia – Day 3

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St Petersburg, Russia – Day 4

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St Petersburg, Russia – Day 5

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Helsinki, Finland – Day 6

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Stockholm, Sweden – Day 7

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Copenhagen, Denmark – Day 9

 

And a few random pictures…

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A few comments about the trip…

1) We enjoyed all the ports but Copenhagen was our favorite.
2) We loved walking around the Old Towns of Tallinn and Stockholm.
3) The Peterhof Palace and Gardens  outside of St Petersburg was incredibly beautiful.
4) We were unplugged for most of the trip which was kind of nice.
5) We got in over 23,000 Fitbit steps in Copenhagen.
6) The Danish danish in Copenhagen would be worth flying back for (see picture above).
7) I am now quite the selfie stick master.
8) Never underestimate the value of your favorite pillow.
9) It was great to be away together by ourselves for an extended period of time.
10) We loved the trip but we were glad to get back home.

And we would definitely recommend a Baltic cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines to anyone who is so inclined – and I was not paid to write that.

 

Oh The Places I’ve Been

One of the huge ways that my Mom influenced my life was by instilling in me a love for travel and seeing the world. Admittedly, I have traveled much more extensively internationally than I have in our own country – something which I think will change over the next 30 years. Much, if not most, of this travel has been mission oriented over the last 30 years.

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I wanted to create a post that chronicled the countries I’ve had the great fortune of visiting – if for no other reason than to help me remember as my brain cells begin to deteriorate. There is much beauty in this world. I’ve witnessed it both in the scenery and in the faces of the people I’ve seen all around the world. This is a good reminder to me as our world becomes a scarier place each day and as travel becomes more hazardous.

It has been a joy to see so much of this world. It will be even more so to see the wonders of the new heaven and the new earth that God has created for those who are called by His Name.

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North America: U.S., Mexico, Canada

South America: Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru

Central America: Nicaragua, Honduras

Caribbean: St Thomas/St Johns, Haiti, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Caymans

Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus

Europe: England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Vatican City, Netherlands, Belgium, Monaco, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Kosovo

Asia: India

Pacific: Guam, Palau

Africa: South Africa, Botswana

42 and counting!

The Day My Son Got “Mary”d and Legacy Thoughts

I was recently asked the question, “When you are 80 years old, looking back on your life, what will have made you happy?” I did not have to think long about the answer. Soon after Linda and I got married (33+ years ago) we began praying that God would develop a spiritual legacy through our family. I am a first generation believer so this would be something new to my side of the family. Over the next 10 years we had 3 kids. We tried to model for them what it meant to walk with Christ and what a godly marriage looked like. At times we did well, at other times not so much. But by the grace of God by the time they were 10 each of them had professed faith in Christ and were learning what it meant to follow Him. We watched with awe and joy as they went through their high school and college days – making wise friendship choices, involving themselves in missions, eagerly participating in church, and developing hearts that yearned to know God. I use the word “awe” because we had very little to do with it – it was definitely a work of God in their lives.

None of our kids dated much. Somehow they had got it in their heads that dating was a waste of time unless it was a serious relationship that could result in marriage. Christy hung out with a group of friends (guys and girls) in high school, fell in love with one of them and married him (Chad) 6 years later. Tucker met a girl as a junior in college on a local missions project, knew pretty quickly that she was “the one” and married her (Danielle) a few weeks after graduation. Scott met a young woman while serving in the Kid’s Ministry at his church, told us within a few weeks that he “had met someone”, and married her (Mary) 17 months later – just a few weeks ago on November 23. I refer to that day as the day Scott got “Mary”d.

It has been my great pleasure as a Dad and as a pastor to officiate the weddings of each of my kids. At all of the weddings that I do I will give a short message (perhaps 7 minutes) to charge the couple with some thoughts from Scripture about marriage. Here is what I said to Scott and Mary:

Here are 3 gospel-centered phrases and a few comments that I hope you will never forget…

1) The Importance of the Incarnation –  Incarnation means “in the flesh.” One of the great truths of our faith is that Jesus is God in the flesh. In the person of Jesus we are able to see forgiveness being offered, compassion being demonstrated, love being lived out, patience being practiced, and grace in action. As husband and wife, you are to incarnate, to flesh out, both to each other and to those around you these same virtues because Christ lives in you and is on display through you and your marriage. Together you have the opportunity to manifest the gospel in a way that you could never do were you not married.

ScottMary2) The Mystery of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons – one God. It sounds crazy to those who are outside the faith but to those of us who are believers it is a mystery that we joyfully embrace. I say joyfully because the Trinity affirms for us that our faith is about relationships, not about rules or religion. And then Scripture tells us in Genesis 2:24 that when it comes to marriage, husband and wife, 2 distinct people, will become one flesh. 1 + 1 = 1. An incredible mystery. A powerful mystery. A beautiful mystery. And an awesome miracle. Like hydrogen and oxygen coming together to form life sustaining, thirst quenching water – each of you are independent and dynamic and valuable – but together, you become a supernatural work of God. An extraordinary work of the Father. But this will only be true so long as the Lord remains the all sufficient, supreme Sovereign in each of your lives.

3) The Centrality of the Cross – The cross stands as the preeminent symbol of our faith and there is a lot that we could talk about regarding the cross and how it relates to marriage but I want to mention just one. Ephesians 5 talks about the sacrificial love that Christ demonstrated for His bride, the Church. The Apostle Paul admonishes husbands to love their wives in this same way. Essentially, Scott, Paul is saying that it is up to you to lead your wife by sacrificially loving her – by demonstrating day in and day out that you will do whatever it takes to present her to God as a radiant bride, wonderfully sanctified. This is the power of your love for her. And let me tell you a secret – when a wife knows this kind of love, when she knows that her husband is willing to put her needs, hopes, desires, and dreams before his own, then you have a wife who will respond in the same way – unselfishly seeking to meet his needs and make his hopes come true. And if you will sacrificially love one another this way then you have a marriage that most couples can only dream about. But it starts by remembering the sacrificial love that was demonstrated for you when Christ went to the cross on your behalf.

These are words that I need to be regularly reminded of as well.

We are very excited to have Mary as a part of our family. God has provided godly spouses for each of our kids so we are eagerly watching the legacy grow.  The 3rd generation of the legacy is currently in growth mode. Grayson (Christy and Chad’s son) is now 2 years old and they are expecting another baby boy in mid January. Linda and I consider ourselves to be incredibly blessed in so many different ways and are very much looking forward to see how God uses our family in the generations to come to bless the nations.

 

About Barking Dogs and Snoring

So it’s 4:15 on Sunday morning. I’ve been awake for several hours already. I wish that I could say that it was for spiritual reasons. Like maybe I was burdened in prayer for something and the Lord wouldn’t let me sleep until I prayed. Or as I anticipated Sunday morning worship I was so excited that I had to get up and spend time in the Word preparing my soul for what God was going to say to me. But it is for none of those reasons. Truth be told there is a dog in a pen right behind our house that has been barking for several hours.

I am typically a great sleeper but there are 2 things that I absolutely cannot sleep through. One is snoring and the other is a barking dog. I think it is the regularity of the noise that bothers me. Just knowing that every 20 seconds there is going to be a fresh blast of acoustical commotion keeps me wide eyed and alert. There is also the ridiculous hope that I somehow maintain that the last eruption will indeed be the LAST eruption – so I eagerly wait hoping not to hear anything until I of course hear the same thing that I have been listening too for hours.

Those many people who have been with me on mission trips in previous years  can attest to the lengths I will go to avoid snorage. I have been known to create “snoring rooms” and to banish all those afflicted with this nasal anomaly to the uttermost parts of the property. But what do I do about a dog in the middle of the night. I am not a gun owner so that is out of the equation. If I was I would be more tempted to use it on the owner than on the dog. To me it is the epitome of rudeness and un-neighborliness to allow your canine companion to bark all night is an outside kennel. It’s not like they are 4 acres away on very private property – it is literally 75 feet from my back window. Probably closer to my house than to his. I am also not a cop caller in the middle of the night. I don’t even know if that is something they would respond to anyway. Nor am I the angry neighbor that throws bricks through windows to get somebody’s attention. So I will suffer through a night without sleep and then probably forget about it tomorrow – only to be reminded about it tomorrow night. Hopefully not.

But if you happen to read this and you happen to see me at church in the morning and you happen to notice me walking around in a zombie like state – then please pray for the state of my soul as I deal with my anger issues – and perhaps offer to get me a cup of coffee: 3 splenda, 2 creams. And a pastry would be nice too.

Dog Days of Christmas

So Linda and I are dog sitting this weekend. First time we have had a dog in our house in three and a half years. We have had 2 dogs since we got married. Both golden retrievers. We got Cassidy while we were in Massachusettes when I was in seminary. She was with us for 7 years and died right before Tucker was born in 1990. We got Molly in January of 1994 after we moved to Durham. She lived just over 13 years. Golden retrievers are wonderful dogs. Great pets – though don’t let them know that they are not people as they will be offended. And yes we are most definitely dog people. Not cat people. Don’t ask us to cat sit. It ain’t gonna happen. So this is Duke. He has taken to us quite nicely. A very laid back mutt. Doesn’t demand attention. Doesn’t beg for food. Seems to be content to just lie around and be a dog. My kind of pooch.

So in honor of Duke and given that it is Christmas here is a little doggie humor for you to enjoy:

Holiday Etiquette for Dogs

1. Be especially patient with your humans during this time. They may appear to be more stressed-out than usual and they will appreciate long comforting dog leans.

2. They may come home with large bags of things they call gifts. Do not assume that all the gifts are yours.

3. Be tolerant if your humans put decorations on you. They seem to get some special kind of pleasure out of seeing how you look with fake antlers.

4. They may bring a large tree into the house and set it up in a prominent place and cover it with lights and decorations. Bizarre as this may seem to you, it is an important ritual for your humans, so there are some things you need to know:

– – don’t pee on the tree
– – don’t drink water in the container that holds the tree
– – mind your tail when you are near the tree
– – if there are packages under the tree, even ones that smell interesting or that have your name on them, don’t rip them open
– – don’t chew on the cord that runs from the funny-looking hole in the wall to the tree

5. Your humans may occasionally invite lots of strangers to come visit during this season. These parties can be lots of fun, but they also call for some discretion on your part:

– – not all strangers appreciate kisses and leans
– – don’t eat off the buffet table
– – beg for goodies subtly
– – be pleasant, even if unknowing strangers sit on your sofa
– – don’t drink out of glasses that are left within your reach.

6. Likewise, your humans may take you visiting. Here your manners will also be important:

– -observe all the rules in #4 for trees that may be in other people’s houses.
– – respect the territory of other animals that may live in the house
– – tolerate children
– – turn on your charm big time.

7. A big man with a white beard and a very loud laugh may emerge from your fireplace in the middle of the night. DON’T BITE HIM!!

Random Stuff I'm Thankful For (Part 2)

My pillow – I don’t know about you but I am very particular about my pillow. I can’t sleep on just any pillow. in fact if it is not a pillow I don’t like, then I can’t sleep. I’m a foam pillow kind of guy. Don’t give me one of those pillows where your head still feels like it sinks to the mattress when you lie on it. I’ve even been known to ask hotel managers if I can have (or buy) one of their pillows if I really like it. I believe the pillow I currently have came from Country Inn and Suites a few years ago.

Nose and ear hair trimmers – For those of you who are still on the young side of life you will find that as you get older hair will start growing in places you really don’t want it to. I hate those pesky little hairs that pop out of my nose and compete for face time with my mustache. Enter my nose hair attachment and zip – that wiry sucker is history.

Loofahs – Okay, I admit it, I use a loofah. And I like it. I’m not a manly man that washes with just a bar of soap. Neither do I use a wash rag. I love the way a loofah gives me consistent soapiness throughout the entire shower experience.

Hoodies – I love fall and winter if for no other reason than I get to wear hoodies. The pullover kind not the zip up kind. And especially ones that have pockets. Maybe it’s because of my hairlessness that I love the hood on the hoodie. All I know is that they sure do help me to stay warmer this time of year.

My Droid X – This is the only tech gadget that makes my list. I’ve only had a smartphone for a couple of weeks but I gotta tell you that it is an impressive piece of equipment. Who would have thought 10 years ago that I could carry in my pocket not just a phone but a camera, a video camera, a Bible, a photo album, a calculator, a web browser, a radio, a TV, a newspaper, and I’m sure much more that I haven’t even discovered yet. I’m a fan.

I really have so very much to be thankful for. And not so much the stuff that I have as the people in my life – and the fact that God has “rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of His Son.” Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Random Stuff I'm Thankful For (Part 1)

Seems like we just celebrated Thanksgiving about a year ago and here we are again. It’s always good to be reminded that we should be thankful. I know that I do not say thank you enough to enough people. And I do not say thank you enough to God for the abundant blessing upon my life. Since this is a thanksgiving post let me go ahead and list the things that you would expect me to be thankful for: My wife, my kids, my extended family, my health, my job, food and shelter everyday day, great friends, great colleagues, and on and on. I wanted to spend a few minutes here listing some things that I realize I take for granted that I am extremely thankful for. For example:

Zippers – I once had a pair of pants that had buttons instead of a zipper. What a pain. I was thinking this morning how much I take for granted the fact that every day I can zip up my britches. And don’t you just love those plastic bags that are zip lock – instead of trying to line up those thingies that you are supposed to press together. I sure do.

Toilet paper – Here’s a little toilet paper history you probably didn’t know – Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the United States. It was first introduced in 1857 as Gayetty’s Medicated Paper and was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor’s name. I’m not EVEN going to comment on that last line. The jokes should jump off the page. I will say this though – if you have ever used bad TP then you can understand why I am thankful for good toilet paper. Now I come from a generation that has by and large always had decent paper to work with. But apparently my pastor has not. A recent reference in a sermon to the Sear’s Catalogue left me with a picture that I would just assume had never gotten into my head. One other thought: Whoever developed 2-ply should be given an award. That single ply stuff is not worth a cr…. Pun intended. (not sure if I can say the word since I’m a pastor)

Electric blankets – I gotta say that I do love climbing into bed at this time of year when the sheets are nice and toasty. Now my wife will tell you that it is her very favorite part of the day. This is because her feet stay at a temperature of 27 degrees. I know this because the first thing she does when she gets in bed is show me how cold her feet are. Every single night. I’ve tried to tell her that I believe her when she tells me how cold her tootsies are but for some reason she feels compelled to prove it to me. So the electric blanket has become a good friend who helps me make it through the cold winters and helps me put up with cold feet. Cold feet I can deal with. So thankful that my wife does not have a cold shoulder.

Why I love Being Bald

It used to bother me to think about losing my hair. Now that I am seasoned (as opposed to old) I realize all the benefits of being follicly challenged. Here are a few that come to mind:

I’ve got a great fraternity of other bald dudes (and dudettes): Chris Daughtry, Marc Francis, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Andre Agassi, Homer Simpson, Jason Statham, Michael Jordan, Al Huffman, Sean Connery, Van Diesel, Britney Spears, Elmer Fudd, Dr. Phil, Stone Cold Steve Austin … ‘nuf said!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE  not having to pay for hair cuts.

I never ever have to think about packing a hair dryer on trips.

I can use soap on my head as well as the rest of my body – no need to switch from one bottle to another.

The testosterone that I have left at 52 years of age does not have to be channeled towards keeping hair on my head.

It may give me yet one more thing that I will have in common with my sons and son-in-law.

I get my head rubbed by random people (seriously, this happens!).

And my favorite…

It will give me a conversation starter with Elisha the prophet when I meet him in heaven:  Elisha went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”   And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. (2 Kings 2:23-24)

The only down side I can see to being bald is that I get colder quicker. There’s no insulation so to speak. But even with that it just gives me a good excuse to wear a cool looking hat. So I’m embracing baldness and highly recommend it to those of you who were not “chosen” to be hairless. As someone once said, “God only made so many perfect heads, the rest He covered with hair!”

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