Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hate Mail

So, I have been preparing for this Sunday's theme at Cornerstone, what THE BOOK says about MONEY. One of the books I read as additional commentary was Dave Ramsey's TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER. I was taken back at the start of his book. He says, "I get alot of hate mail and criticism. This book has generated alot of negativity and name-calling." What??? Are you serious? A HUGE financial success writes a book, tells the unvarnished truth about the steps he took to get there, offers his wisdom for the simple price of the book, and people HATE HIM FOR IT? Geez Louise. But that's our general culture for you. One would think that the advice of someone who has succeeded where I have not would be valued and welcomed. The tendency in most of us is not so simple and grateful, however. We get attached to a goal we want regardless, a behavior we want to continue anyhow, a relationship we want to obtain whatever the cost--even spending we don't want to discontinue. So, when someone who has been successful in an area where we have not yet gives us advice that runs agianst what we have already decided to do, we reject the advice and often even THEM. But, as Jesus said (recorded in Luke 7:35), "Wisdom is proved right by all her children." Dave doesn't need the applause of the hate-mailers or even to answer them. Time will show (and is showing) who has the goods and is wise.

Dave actually gave some good advice when any of us get "hate mail" and name-calling. He says, "...the negativity means two things: for some people we are touching a nerve that needs to be touched in order for them to change their lives, and two, I am actively and passionately pursuing the truth. Aristotle once said, 'To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. ' I can't help people change their lives by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. So I take the anger, the criticism, and even the hate mail as encouragement."

That speaks to me in two ways: First, don't be personally defensive when I get advice that goes against my grain and desires. Second, when I am on the giving end of a message someone doesn't want to hear, don't be surprised and quit when people don't want to hear it. The old proverb "Don't kill the messenger" was written because of this human tendency. But wisdom is proved. Time will tell. Please put wise people in my path, and help me listen, Lord.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Water for the World

One of my passions for the last few years has been providing clean, safe water for desperately needy locations around the world. Following a sermon I preached in June, 2007, our church picked up the challenge, and CLEAR BLUE GLOBAL WATER PROJECT was founded. It's quite a story to tell what God has done...many other people have joined with us, and 60+ water projects have been completed in almost a dozen nations since then! Right now, a couple of guys from Cornerstone are in Uganda, drilling a well there. Here is the source of water for these refugees until now!

World Water Day is fast approaching...March 22. Our church has posted 3 billboards around the Akron area. What are YOU going to do?? Check out our website at for ideas and more information. You could download a label, put it on an empty water bottle, and let people help you fill it with change at work or school. You know how creative you are. :-) You can think of something.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Decisions, decisions!

My friend Debbie Ring posted this on her facebook---I have applied these tests in my own life, and whenever i do, the result is great!

7 Questions For Decisions I’m Trying To Make..

1.) Is it consistent with the word? Psalm 119:11 (treasure the word)2.) Is this a wise decision? If I do it what are the future consequences of it? As I ask questions the Holy Spirit is going to bear witness to me. (Satan will make me rationalize)3.) Can I honestly ask God to enable me to do this? (Example: money you need asap/ trickiness – purposely hurt someone to get what you want.)4.) Do I have a genuine peace about this? Galatians 3:15 You can not force peace – it can be his will, but not his time.5.) Does this fit who I am in Christ? 6.) Does this fit Gods overall plan for my life?7.) If I make it will it honor God? Actions and attitudes keeping in line? Don’t let satan trick me! God will make the answers crystal clear, I have the almighty God on my side!Now that I know His will, am I willing to do it? May not be popular, may be criticized. You can not loose if your in His will. Obey and watch it work!! He makes it simple, we make it complex.~Charles Stanley

Monday, February 23, 2009

Precious Memories

Jerricho's name means "walls come down." He sure could make that happen. With his sly smile and infectious personality, he was hard to resist, even if you WANTED to keep your distance. He provided me a one of a kind experience. A couple of years ago after he gave his heart to Jesus and began following Him to the best of his ability, Jerricho wanted to be baptized. Pastor Jim, who was baptizing with me, is "vertically challenged" like me. We have a hard time not getting completely soaked on a normal baptismal night. But THIS night when Jerricho gave his public witness, boy, what a witness! To congregational applause and laughter, he cannon-balled right into the pool! The water splashed well past our faces, and my hair was nearly as wet as at my own baptismal :-) Every year after that, Jerricho wanted a repeat performance. It's hard for me to believe Jerricho is face-to-face with Jesus now. His impulsive immaturity was captivating--but it took him from us far too soon. I am so glad for God's promises. Some day, Heaven. Till then, God's presence, and precious memories.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Despair and Freedom

This week my niece Jennifer posted this blog after we lost a precious young friend to apparent suicide. The truth she shares in telling her own story is so good, i wanted to share it with you.

So I got some really tough news tonight. A good friend of mine lost her 13 yr old. son tonight to suicide. For me it is always really to lose anyone that is young but especially to Satan and his demons. It hits hard to my heart due to my own circumstances. I was raised in a Christian home, I was at church all the time, and I went to a Christian School. So here's my story: In my Sophomore year of high school I went into a deep, deep depression and I stayed at that state for the next 4 years. I have almost no memories of that time because my main goal was to one not let anyone see past the mask that I put on because I knew that if any one saw the "real" me they would know what was going on and two was pray that God would take me to Heaven to rescue me from my pain. If you knew me you would have no idea of the pain that I was in. I can remember every road and intersection that I would pray that God would have someone have a heart attack and would hit my car and kill me because I knew that I wasn't sinning if I was killed by someone else. I know that every time I wanted to die that it was really Satan who was trying to take me down. I amazingly was able to fool so many people for quite a while until I started to mess up in life. In October of 2000 I had been in counseling for a couple of months and was told that I needed to go through Freedom in Christ (which is the most amazing thing ever).So the night of my FIC appointment I had already known that I was in a depression but it had not hit me fully until this night. I remember as I was going through I was physically feeling lighter, so that night I spent the night where I had my appointment since it was late and I had to be at church the next day. The next day at church my mom kept asking me how I had slept the previous night and truthfully it was the best night sleep I have ever had. Well, after getting asked over and over, I finally told my mom that she had to tell me what was going on. So here is the most amazing part of my whole story. After I had gone to sleep the people that were in the house were wakened up by hearing my name being screamed. So they woke up and came running to where I was thinking that something was happening to me. The closer they got to me the louder the voice was and the voice was yelling "JENNIFER" over and over and over. I never woke up that is the most amazing part was that as soon as my mom told me that I knew that God was telling me that HE was in the hole that Satan had used to come in and where a demon had attached itself to me. How awesome is that God made sure that I knew that HE had filled all the cracks and was saying to me "You are my child and I'm not giving you back."Unfortunately too many people don't get the message that God can fill the cracks in your life before it's too late. I heard someone say once that it is Satan's job to watch us and learn about us completely. He does his job well but God does his better. I am no where close to being the person that God wants me to be but I'm on my way and I have learned that there are things that I have to be careful of because that is an area that Satan can take really easy for me. But God is bigger, better, and greater.

My point in sharing this is that God has a great plan for your life--Satan has one, too. You can defeat Satan and get on track with God, and Freedom in Christ is a great tool to help you. If you want information about it, just let me know.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Now that's a Love Story!

Back in my college days, GONE WITH THE WIND was my absolute favorite love story. I wrote a sequel in my head long before Hollywood got to it. Tom and Jan Amblin were college students thene, too, at Ohio Christian Univeristy (good old CBC) when Charlie and I were there. Young marrieds, full of anticipation and joy in life as they prepared for a great life and ministry together. When Charlie and I went to dinner last Monday evening where we were retreat speakers, I never dreamed of seeing them at all, let alone peeking in on an incredible love story. Tom and Jan came into dinner that evening, looking spruced up and lovely, Tom strong and walking, pushing the wheelcahir where Jan reclined, small and fragile. I was so shocked I made no comment on her condition until much later. Every time we had an interchange with them, their deep love splashed on us. They spoke of their missionary service together, laughed about events in current life at the church where Tom is associate pastor. Sparkling, they told of their children and grandchildren, Tom with quick flowing words and Jan with slow sentences and great effort. At dinner, his meal cooled as he fed her. Liquid love flowed from one set of eyes to the other as he served her, she encouraged him.

I got the courage to finally ask, "Jan, how long have you been ill like this?" With a simple little smile she whispered, "Twenty-six years." TWENY-SIX YEARS????? Twenty-Six YEARS????
26 years??? Unbelievable. Can you imagine not only experiencing this yourself for 26 years, but making such a challenging relationship THRIVE for 26 years? Adding pastoral responsibilties on top of it, and even serving on a mission field? INCREDIBLE. Then Tom spoke, "Her spirit and intercession make her the most valuable partner I could have." There's a list of the greatest love story movies of all time, and I can tell you--GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, Dr. ZHIVAGO, PRETTY WOMAN--none of them can hold a candle to the real life gripping emotion and servant-hearted love of Tom and Jan.

In my counseling, I deal with people every day who decide that miniscule frustrations and difficulties in their relationship make it too difficult to pursue or cherish any more. How amazingly insightful that is. Diffiulties we face in keeping our covenant of love to our life partner generanally say more about us and the state of our own hearts than anything else.

Love is a moment by moment decision to value and pursue the well-being of another person above consideration of my own wants and needs. I saw it in Tom and Jan. Now that's a love story. Rhett and Scarlett, you are imposters in the love business. Move over for a couple of REAL lovers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Logs on the Fire

When Charlie and I got engaged as college seniors, we took Psalm 37:1-6 as our life verses. They have meant so much to me in a variety of ways over the years, but this morning as I participated in the devotional time at the Leadership Team meeting for the Ohio Conference this morning, God spoke to me in a fresh way.
1Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Though we generally associate “fret” with worry, a study of the original word is quite different. It has to do with being angry and frustrated. God is telling me not to allow frustration with people who have done wrong to dominate my life, thoughts, and attitude. The word actually means “fueling the fire”…throwing another log on the fire or disappointment and frustration that keeps it going. I know what that means, don’t you? You hear something new about a situation that has already pained you, and instead of dismissing it, you rehearse all the ways you have been wronged, and add this new incident to the list. I may even think “God has shorted me—I have been wronged, and that person is getting away with it!” If I stay there, I can discover before too long that my frustration is fueling my life more than my vision.

I need to recognize that God will deal with people who deal with me, and not be jealous or envious of how he allows others to operate. He says the solution for life involves 3 steps—1) Trust in the Lord and do good 2) Find delight in what delights God 3) Commit my way completely to the Lord.

Paul Walter, the leader who presented the devotional , shared his paraphrase of the famous and often quoted verse 4, “If I want for my life what God wants for my life, I will never be disappointed.” Wow! That puts it all in proper perspective, and keeps me from” throwing more logs on the fire” of my frustration. I need to do like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane---present my heartfelt desires to the Lord, then from my heart say, “But—the bottom line is, I want what YOU want for my life.”

Help me live this way today, Jesus---fret free.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Great Emancipator

Last night Charlie and I went to GOSPEL MEETS SYMPHONY at EJ Thomas. The packed out 16th annual event was in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, coming up February 12. And you thought I was old! :-) Charlie and I have long been collectors of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, and huge admirers of his courage and integrity. We are huge music lovers, and so the night was guaranteed to be a great success just with those ingredients . But, we got there and got to sit with John and Bonnie (John's the great sax player at Cornerstone) and our friend from church Barb Salak had a solo (way to go, Barb!) All good stuff! The greatest of all was hearing and watching the true symphony woven from two kinds of music--classical and gospel--and the harmony of African-American and caucasian musicians worshiping together.

Every now and then something happens to show me how little I still know. After THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER was sung and we were seated, majestic notes began and a wave of people began standing again. I didn't know why, but when everyone else was standing, I figured I would , too, and find out why later. I googled it and found out. The beautiful song for which we stood was called LIFT YOUR VOICES, and has been known as THE NEGRO NATIONAL ANTHEM. It was oringinally written in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson for a celebration of Lincoln's birth. The inspiring words lift me. Thank God--we aren't where we ought to be, we aren't where we will be, but PRAISE GOD! We aren't where we were!:

Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod,Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?We have come over a way that with tears have been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,God of our silent tears,Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,May we forever stand.
True to our GOD,True to our native land.

Amen. Let it be so.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Real love :-)

This is our Shiba Inu dog Spike. He has gone through serious grief since my mother-in-law Audra left us for heaven last fall. She was his guardian angel, always sneaking him treats, responding to his little paws on her leg, and making sure no one took advantage of him. He spent weeks laying by her door after her stroke took her to the nursing home. He is so persistent and adorable that I have gradually accepted that it is my lot to take her place. :-) He is my special little friend. He can't talk, but there's never a doubt how he loves me. I don't even have to give him a treat; he just wants to be where I am. On a day like today when I am working from home, he finds me wherever I am and just lays at my feet. Presence is what he wants. And you know what? I have discovered I really like it, too.
I think that's what real love is about--you get contentment and what you need in large measure just by being with the other one. I want to love Jesus that much--I think he would be so pleased if he could sense I just want to be with him, instead of looking for something from him. That would be a treat for both of us. Just relaxing in the Presence.

A Father's Ethical Legacy

I was finishing my haircut while the stylist beside me prepared to leave and begin arrangements for her father's calling hours and memorial service. I commented on the hard loss of a parent, and she replied, "Yes--and my father was amazing." She held out a small booklet and said, "Would you like to look at what he wrote about himslef and his life?"

While there was not time for me to read the entire book, I was fascinated and intrigued by what he wrote, and what prompted a man in his eighties to chronicle the wonderful events and thoughts I found in those pages. And then I found it. He explained himself. He said a number of years ago he heard a speaker challenge people to "leave an ethical legacy, by life and by word." This speaker said that people should record for their children and succeeding generations a clear record of how they lived, what they believed, and why.

What a wonderful idea! What a wonderful man! If you want to read about him, his family summarized a very full life eloquently in the Akron Beacon Journal. You can find his obituary under R. Wayne Duff at

How about you? I want to live a life so amazingly clean, attractive, and inspiring that people will wonder what was behind it all. For the answers I want to make sure they understand, I needto get writing.

A leader and criticism

You don't have to be in charge of a group of people very long until you realize that there are many opinions and much criticism for leaders, and much of it is leveled without even knowing the truth about a situation. A godly leader is charged with the responsibility of knowing when to "blow someone's cover" when they have shared an untruth or made inaccurate criticisms, and when to be quiet and let God handle it. I found these thoughts from a man under fire to be very thought-provoking and honest.

“I have two principles that guide my decisions as a father, a husband and a pastor. … Principle One: Do the right thing, for the right reason, even at my own hurt. Principle Two: Say what you mean and mean what you say. These two principles were put to the test this past week as I navigated the media frenzy surrounding the new allegations involving our church. I have told several close friends this week that it is really hurtful to be criticized so strongly for simply doing the right thing. I actually believe it is easier to accept criticism after doing something wrong. If that were the case, I would stand before my family, my church and the media and simply accept the responsibility and the consequences. But when no wrong act has been committed, it hurts to be misunderstood or questioned. … When my integrity is questioned, I try not to be defensive but I also want truth. In the end, I know God sees my heart and ultimately He is my judge. I trust my reputation into His hands and believe that He will ultimately defend me. … These two principles are big leadership ideas that I hope are adopted by everyone in a position of influence or authority. It is a sacred responsibility to lead people and I consider it an honor to be called pastor. —New Life Church senior pastor Brady Boyd, blogging after a week in which he and his church’s leadership were criticized for concealing certain details involved in the Ted Haggard scandal [, 1/30/09]