Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday Thoughts

I'm not normally a participant in Black Friday shopping, but I do have to confess that I did go shopping today. I dropped my daughter off at the grocery store where she works and, while there, went inside and bought some paper towels. I'd run out of paper towels, and we needed a grocery store receipt to get a discount on gas for my car. Win/win.

So, while I did shop on Black Friday, I didn't go out for special deals that were "Black Friday only." My reasons are not noble; I'm just too lazy to get up early and fight a crowd. If I weren't so lazy, I might go to save a few dollars. My warm bed, especially on the day after Thanksgiving (which I spend on my feet cooking) is too comfortable to abandon for a shopping trip.

One thing I noticed about this special shopping day were some negative comments on Facebook and a few other social networking sites concerning the Black Friday shoppers. I can understand the negative comments; I watch the news.  People are doing crazy things for a deal on something. I know the value of a deal. I'm on the tail end of rearing eight kids - believe me, deals have fed them many times! I have two teenage boys - and all you moms of teens know it's nearly impossible to keep food in the house with growing, active teenage boys around.

Sometimes the only way people can afford a certain item is to get it on a super-great deal. I've been there, done that.

As I watched the news stories about Black Friday and saw all the masses of people clamoring for the sale items, only one thought crossed my mind.....and I don't mean to be clichè......but I thought "What would Jesus do?"  Whenever Jesus saw masses of people, He was instantly moved with compassion. Compassion ruled His heart when He walked on this earth and He was moved to tell them of His love for them, to reach them with the Living Water which would satisfy their thirst forever. And they did, and do, thirst. (Hence, they shop.)

He came into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.

The world is already condemned; they need to know about the Savior.

We will, no doubt, see masses of people clamoring for sale items again and again. No need to condemn them, but real need to pray for them.

As we close out this Black Friday, those are my thoughts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Guest Post of Gratitude

My oldest son, Mark, wrote this guest post. I'm incredibly proud of him and gladly feature his writing:


Last Friday night I was sitting in my living room, preparing to go to bed and get some rest in preparation for a busy weekend. Being somewhat of a news junkie, I picked up my iPhone to check the latest local headlines before retiring for the night. I was hoping, in particular, for a positive update on a story I read earlier in the evening; that two Chicago firefighters had been seriously injured on the job. Throughout the evening, my mind flashed back to the morning of December 22, 2010 when I watched a live television feed of Chicago firefighters desperately trying to rescue their colleagues from an abandoned building that had collapsed in flames. Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer lost their lives that day trying to find people that may have been trapped in the building. I hoped for a different outcome this time, but a few hours after the story initially broke, a lone headline appeared on the first page of my display;  A HERO FOR OUR CITY.

A career as a public servant can be the most challenging and gratifying, yet still most frustrating experience in the life of a person who chooses that path. At the time of this writing, I have completed a little more than half of a “Citizens Police Academy” offered by my village police department. It’s a 30-hour class, spread across 10 weeks, designed to educate community members about the many facets of law enforcement and police operations in this Chicago suburb. To simply say this experience has been eye-opening would be quite understated. I’ve gotten to know and respect the person behind the badge. I understand better the complex and immense responsibilities that come with that badge. I learn of officers who put their personal life on hold for decades because of their unwavering dedication and tenacity for the job. I hear their stories of success, of failure, and of sheer terror as they recall events that escalated out of control and placed them in grave danger. I try to understand how they cope with these pressures while facing the ever-flowing spigot of criticism which comes, often rightfully so, from those who they have sworn to serve and protect.

All our public servants, from our local police and firefighters to our President, face a level of intense scrutiny that most of us never will. The election season produces a staggering amount of criticism, misinformation, disagreement, and even vitriol. There is no end to the stories of those who have failed in their civic duties and deserve their downfalls. But there are also countless stories of heroes that will never be told. This month, as we make important decisions about our public leaders and celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, we should remember those who have set aside their own interests for ours.

Throughout the weekend that followed, the details of Friday night emerged. Captain Herbert Johnson had been recently promoted to his position after more than 30 years of service. “Herbie” was so well-known and loved by his colleagues that he “didn’t need a last name.” He traveled to New York after the September 11th terror attacks to assist with the rescue efforts at ground zero. During his career, he received the state’s Medal of Honor for bravery, the highest honor given to Illinois firefighters. He was the first one to enter the burning home on the city’s south side, and without hesitation, he climbed the stairs to extinguish the flames at their source. But even a veteran with decades of experience could not predict the next moment. The local news coverage noted the cause of Captain Johnson’s death in sanitized terms – smoke inhalation and airway injuries resulting in cardiac arrest. The raw truth was that he was caught in the attic as it exploded in flashover, the 1000-degree heat burning through his protective equipment, scorching his face, and searing his lungs shut. He likely died in unimaginable agony. While these details are difficult to hear, they are possibilities that every firefighter knows he may face someday, and they offer a stunning reminder of the bravery and selflessness that characterize our rescuers.

Thank you, Herbie, for your willingness to help others at any cost. Chicago will be grateful forever. Thank you to all the other heroes whom I’ll probably never have the privilege to meet or to hear about. I may hear hundreds of accounts of politics, failure, and criticism in my lifetime, but yours are the stories that I will always remember.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Hero, My Son

Today, as I think of the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, I can't help but think of the two of my kids who served in the Corps. My oldest daughter, Marilyn, served for four years, stateside. My son, Michael, served for five years, including two tours of duty in Iraq.

When Michael went to war, it was the most unreasonable thing I had ever experienced. I fought this with all my might, yet God sustained me, him and our entire family as we endured his deployments, one of which had him on the front lines in the Battle of Fallujah.

When he came home, I wrote a poem.  In honor of our USMC and our Veterans, whom we celebrate on Monday, I'd like to share my poem. I'm not much for writing poems, but my Michael said that, as far as poems go, this one's "pretty good."

My Hero, My Son

You say you’re not a hero,
I beg to differ, son;
You went into the war zone,
Carrying your gun.

You faced all of the danger,
Without even looking back;
You did what you knew God wanted
You didn’t one time slack.

You followed your heart;
Did what you thought was right.
You just kept pressing on,
Did not give up the fight.

Oh, you really are a hero,
A hero fair and square.
So far from home, you dared to go,
You didn’t think of where.

Now that you are home,
Oh, so safe and sound,
I will not forget the others,
The ones who aren’t around.

The war zone was relentless
They paid the highest price,
I know you would have done the same,
And made that sacrifice.

But, God allowed you to come home,
He has work for you to do.
It’s His will you must seek,
His calling you must pursue.

Follow Him with all your heart,
And a hero you’ll remain.
Don’t look off to the right or left,
And His reward you’ll someday claim.

You’re my hero, yes, my son,
I’m proud as I can be.
Thank you for what you have done,
You’ll always be a hero to me.

Love, Mom

Next week, I'll be sharing a guest post by one of my other sons.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Together Again!

Today, we had the very honorable privilege of participating in the first service of our new Hispanic church plant here in Austin, MN. We were so pleased to find a packed house in their new location. The building seemed to vibrate with energy and love.

Pastor Moises Rodriguez led the service, interpreted by Abril. What a great team!

Pastor Ephraim, here from Sedela, MO for the kick-off with his wife, Gisele, provided special music by playing and singing one of his favorite songs.  What a treat!

Pastor David Johnson opened God's Word, preaching from II Timothy 4.


Abril did a great job interpreting, as usual!

Five pastors, working together to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From left: Pastor Bob Ray, Pastor Ephraim, Pastor Jeremy McMillan, Pastor Moises Rodriguez and Pastor David Johnson.

Five pastors and their wives and families planting churches - 3 so far!

We will remain faithful.