Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sausage...Need I Say More?

It is almost here, St. Paul's Annual Sausage Supper. This Sunday, March 2, 2014, is St. Paul's Sausage Supper, served in the Ministry Center from noon to 6:00 p.m. I have to say that I really enjoy the Sausage Supper for several reason.

First, it is because of the food. The sausage is some of the best around, which is saying a lot. I consider the Sausage Supper at Bethlehem, Ferrin, IL the best one around. When I measure Suppers, I measure it against Ferrin and let me tel you, St. Paul's is a pretty close second. I don't want you to think I am "dissing" other Sausage Suppers, because I am not. Each person probably has what they consider to be the best. This is my measurement. So if you want great sausage, good gravy, sauerkraut, beans and of course, wonderful pies, then come to Troy on Sunday and enjoy the meal.

Second, it is because of the people. I enjoy working with the folks at St. Paul's. It is good to see so many people, young and old, new members and long-time members working side-by-side, serving the people of the community. It reminds me of how the Lord wants us to be in our lives - living and working together to serve our fellow man. As you come to eat, look around at the workers and see what it means to serve the Lord with gladness.

Third, it is because I get to meet a lot of people. Penny and I serve as host/hostess at the supper. We work to help get people seated (Jennifer Kesterson and Erica Sipes are great to work with in seating folks). Being in the lobby of the Ministry Center and greeting folks from Troy, St. Jacob, Marine, Highland, Collinvsille, Bethalto, Glen Carbon, Maryville, St. Louis, Alton, Ferrin, Carlyle and a whole bunch of other towns in the area, I find it uplifting. I love to talk with folks, see who they are and where they come from. I also enjoy trying to make their day enjoyable. I hope to greet you this Sunday.

Finally, it is because I get to serve the Lord. As I serve the community, I find myself at the feet of my Lord. Each person that walks through the door is a special because the Lord sees them as special (He gave Himself for them!). So in serving them, I serve the Lord. What a privilege and what a humbling thought.

So I hope to see you Sunday at St. Paul's for the Sausage Supper. The weather is going to challenge us this year. I recommend coming during the day, not waiting till the last minute (unless the forecast changes). Bring on the sausage!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When will it end?

One of our dogs, Blackie, had been a part of our family for nearly 15 years, which when Penny and I thought about it, was 1/2 of our married life. Rachael and Matthew picked him out of a litter of puppies at an auction in Carlyle, IL. We were living in Ferrin at the time. I remember being asked if they could have a puppy (we already had a golden retriever at home by the name of Goldie). They would take care of him. You know the story. And being the softy that I am at times, I said yes. 

And I have to say that I am not sorry for that answer. Blackie came home with us and became a part of our family for the next 14 years. He gave us a lot of smiles, laughter, frustration and friendship. He had a bark that would go right through you (he learned that from Goldie). He loved to go for walks. He would lay in the sunshine in the middle of summer when we thought it would be too hot to lay in the sun and didn't like the cold. The snow would always cause problems with his paws but he didn't like wearing the booties that Penny bought him. He was a dog that loved his people. Matthew was close to Blackie. He had bad hips, lots of arthritis and stairs were a problem for him. It was the stairs that finally was his undoing.

On Monday of this week, he fell, tore the ligament in his back right leg and couldn't walk. Sadness hit the family. Tuesday, I took him to the vet, and the unfortunate outcome came upon us. We had to say good bye to Blackie. I know that it isn't true but I sure hope that "all dogs go to heaven," like the movie says. I imagine he is running and playing with Goldie and Missey. And perhaps even with Bart our cat that loved to tease Blackie in so many ways. Thanks for all the memories and joy Blackie. You were a good dog, a good friend and a part of our family.

I was asked the very words that are the title of today's blog. When will it end? One sad event after another. One heartache after another. A family dog for us. A family member for another. The loss is difficult, a weight that is upon the shoulders, in the heart of the one that has the loss. When will it end? When will the pains of this world end? When will people quit getting sick? When will people quit suffering? When will all of this be no more? 

The only answer that we can give is when Christ returns! That is the absolute best answer that we have, and it brings joy to the heart. When Christ comes again, this heaven and this earth will pass away and He will give us the new heaven and the new earth. Out of the rottenness of this sin-filled and death-filled world, He will give us a sinless and deathless world. Eternity with the Lord will be the exact opposite of what we face today. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more cold, bitter weather and crippling snowstorms or ice storms. No more traffic jams. No more shootings, rapes, robberies. No more suffering. No more illness. No more temptation. No more sin. NO MORE DEATH! 

That is the wonder of Christ's return. All this, all this frustration, anxiety, fear, suffering, tears, pain, grief, and loss will be gone. In one moment, it will be gone. And it is will be replaced by the wonder of what Christ gives to us in eternity. What will it be like? Beyond anything that we can ever imagine. And it will be great, fantastic, wonderful, amazing and however else you want to describe it.

Until then, there will be tears and sorrow. There will be loss. And Christ will take us in His arms, comfort us and heal our broken hearts. We will feel empty and Christ will offer to fill that void. Here is the real question: Will you allow Him to fill your emptiness with His love, presence and peace? Don't live in your grief and loss. I am not saying to forget. You can't. But what you can do is give it to the Lord. Too many times we hold onto the grief thinking that in that way we honor the one we have lost. We aren't. We honor them by giving up the grief to the Lord and holding onto the wonderful memories we have. Carry the memories. Carry the love. Let the Lord carry the grief. 

Thank You, Lord, for Blackie. I know that You made these animals to be special to us. I appreciate it. It was a great 14 1/2 years. What do You have for us for the next years? I can't wait to see.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Beat Goes On

Monday morning, the day after the Super Bowl has been played. One team one. One team lost. It is the same each year. One will come out on top and one will not. Neither team has anything to be ashamed of when all is said and done. Both teams made it to the Super Bowl, the highest level of performance in the football world. This year one team dominated the other. The next time they meet, it might just come out differently. One team was really "on" and the other team was "off." Doesn't change the fact that both teams played well enough during the season and the playoffs to make it to the place that no other teams made it this year. Congratulations to both teams. And congratulations to the team that won.

But what difference has that really made for the world? We have spent millions and millions of dollars for this one game. It is not just the advertisers that spent that kind of money. Think of all the money spent on chicken wings, chips, salsa and beer. Millions of dollars spent for those few hours on a Sunday evening. So much hype and push for the "big game."

All right, I almost slipped over to the "we shouldn't spend that kind of money on worthless things while so many people right here in our backyard are freezing because they don't have a warm place to stay or are starving because they don't have food to eat" direction of talk. But I know the reality. If we didn't spend the money on the ads, the food, the game tickets, the hotel rooms, etc., we wouldn't be putting that money towards helping others out of the problems of their lives. We would just find something else to spend the money on. It is like the lottery of the states - it was supposed to help finance the schools. But with the billions that are put into the lottery, you would expect that we would have the absolutely best school system in the world. But we don't. We just shift money from education to other things and our education system still suffers from a lack of funding.

I sit back and think, "If only 1/2 of that amount of that which was spent by Christians on Super Bowl festivities was spent on the mission work of the Church, think of what could happen." The local churches wouldn't struggle. The mission churches wouldn't have to pinch pennies to make ends meet. There would be more than enough to take care of the needs of the homeless, the sick,  and the hungry. But I am also a realist to know that even if that happened, we sinners would find some way of messing things up once again.

So should we stop having the Super Bowl? Nope. Should we cease having the Super Bowl party? No. That isn't what I would envision. (Though I would say to stop getting drunk at these parties because that isn't the life that our Lord wants for any of us. We shouldn't overeat either, for that is just as bad.) What I would encourage is that each of us would look at how much we spent on such things (whether it is the Super Bowl, the World Series or and of the other events that we make such big deals about in our lives) and think about how little it really makes a difference in this world. Then perhaps we might stop, reflect, pray and ask the Lord to guide us to support the work of our local church or mission in the same way. Give us a heart to be so excited about our time of worship, the time we spend in Bible Study and to give as much to the work of the Lord as we do the works of man in some game.

Then perhaps we will begin to see what a difference that just might make.