Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Incomplete Life

Part of being a parent with any number of children means one of you must go to the doctor at least once a week. During a recent visit I found myself aimlessly staring at some random television talk show and there was this guy, Daniel Pink, claiming to have found the secret to leading a significant life. Pink based his idea (and the self-help book he was attempting to sell) around the thought that all you had to do to determine if you are living a significant life was to create a sentence that summed up your existence so far. As he put it, all the major participants in history have great sentences. The example he used was that of Abraham Lincoln; “Lincoln secured the Union and freed the Slaves”. Pink then goes on to attempt to help those with weak sentences (thus weak lives) by establishing goals and showing readers how to achieve them.

I decided to test this idea that a life of impact could be wrapped up in one sentence. The one I came up with was “Jesus, the son of God, lived, died, and was resurrected so that we may be given the opportunity to be free from the fires of hell” Paul does an amazing job summing up his own life in one sentence when he says in Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Clearly Paul had his mind set on something more than the finish line. He wasn’t ever going to be satisfied until every single person he came into contact with knew of the power of God. The beggar on the street corner, the Caesar in Rome, if you knew the name of Paul the Apostle you knew his purpose in life. In the end, it’s no question Paul’s life was complete.

Recently I’ve heard talk from someone that is regularly asked to provide the eulogy at many a funeral tell that there’s nothing more depressing than discussing the dearly departed’s life with those closest only to find there’s nothing that needs to be said other than how much he/she will be missed. Have you ever been to a funeral where the message was short and the song list was long? When a life is lived without God, can it ever be considered complete? Take a moment to consider what your sentence will be? I definitely know what I don’t want mine to say, “He was an avid Auburn fan who loved his family”. I want “He served the Lord until his last dying day and where he lead, his family followed.” not “He enjoyed spending time on Facebook, loved his family, and saw every episode of Friends.”

In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” When your time comes…when my time comes…as that man prepares for our eulogy to be spoken, will it be one of hope filled with the deeds we have done in the name of God or will they talk of a life that was never completed because it never seemed to have a purpose to begin with?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Shelter In The Time Of Storm

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday”
Psalm 91:1-6

Every year around the same time they come with little warning. The weather men do what they can, but most of the time the tornados touchdown so quickly there’s simply not enough time to spread the word to the ones that need it the most. For those lucky enough to hear the sirens, the choices of where to hide always seem inadequate compared to the force of the destruction just seconds away. Afterward….after the pieces are put back together…as best as they can be… it’s no shocker that statistics show sales of storm shelters skyrocket as much as 60-70% in areas that have recently been hit. With such a surge in orders, crews often tell customers it will be almost a year before they can complete construction. When the storms come everyone seeks shelter…

Sadly this is how some people view The Church. The sun is out, work is going well, the kids are getting straight A’s, the bills are being paid, and we’ve never been happier. Why go to church when everything is going our way? Then someone has a bad day at work and then another. Things become a bit cloudy and skies begin to darken. Suddenly we have a prayer life where once God never heard from us. Each time they open the doors, we are there sitting in our pew praying for others….praying for God to help us through this tough situation.

Eventually things get better or we find other ways to cope like alcohol or drugs. Regardless of how it gets better, we don’t need God anymore. Things are back on the right track and for the first time in months we can see the light of day. Mission accomplished! Our storm shelter served its purpose.

Make no mistake; The Church is here for you in your time of need. Rarely is a request made that goes ignored nor is there a service we are not committed to. Through our community service and our mission work, each week there are countless hours spent by not just our preachers, but also by our devoted members, doing everything they can to help others. We open our doors and give rescue to those in need…but we must remember that The Church is not just a storm shelter here when you need us, only to be left empty to collect spider webs when you don’t. We have a much greater purpose. A purpose that Jesus clearly lays out in Matthew 28:19-20 “ Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We love you. We are here for you. We will help provide for you. We miss you when you are not here no matter the weather outside.

-Bill Beck III

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Science may not agree with me, but as a parent I fully believe that every rock regardless of size, shape, or geological composite is at least partially magnetic. I know this because every time a child of mine gets within two feet of one, it magically either ends up in their hand or coming into contact with their foot. I’m convinced it has something to do with the iron in their blood. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not a geologist but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express one time. Plus, I too was also a little boy once and fully understand the allure of sailing a rock across a pond or empty parking lot. I also understand a day will come when I will be required to forgive my children for accidently denting a car or shattering a window because of those magnetic rocks and their overpowering attractiveness. When that time comes I will be able to forgive them just as my mother once forgave me for nearly giving my brother stitches thanks to a poorly aimed rock thrown from what time has stretched into fifty yards away and was meant to miss him a foot to the right. To this day when he brings up that lump on the back of his head, I still tell my brother that he was at least halfway responsible because he zigged when he should have zagged.

I could probably write a five hundred page book about the different things my parents forgave me for and still have room for a sequel. After all isn’t that what being a family is all about? Growing together, learning from our mistakes, tackling life’s tough choices, and being able to forgive one another for miss-steps along the way. It seems that no matter what age I am the apologies never end as I apparently love the taste of my own in foot in my mouth.

As a spiritual family we must also remember to forgive one another like we would those genetically connected to us. Beginning in Matthew 18:21 we find Peter asking Jesus what limits should be placed on forgiveness only to be told that unless we want to end up like the servant who was delivered to the “torturers” until his slate was clean after not showing the same forgiveness his master had shown upon him,” So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”v35.

It’s hard to at look grown men and women as babies, yet in many ways we are just that having been born again through baptism in Christ. Regardless of when our baptism’s occurred all of us young and old are expected to continuously grow not only in our knowledge of Christ, but also in the way we show our faith to the rest of the world. Like a momma forgiving her little boy for failing to heed her warning against throwing rocks, we must all learn to forgive others for their mistakes in judgments and pray that one day we will be forgiven ourselves. We should never forget the words of Jesus in Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” As a former rock thrower who has passed around his share of apologies, believe me when I say there’s nothing better than knowing that forgiveness is possible.

Men of The Father

There was time when children weren’t created to entertain us or to fill a void missing in our lives, they were meant to give dad a hand in the fields and help momma with the daily chores. A son was born into a home and the moment he learned to walk he was given a task. There was no such thing as an easy ride and every family member had a specific set of duties that had to be done before sun down. As our lives moved from plowing the fields to working the big machines to today’s high tech land of iGadgets, so did our roles at home. Dad still gets up and goes to work every morning, the difference is that he spends his days with strangers and his nights juggling family life. Today’s fathers are a new breed unlike any the world has ever seen before.

The first house Mandy and I moved into had a kitchen fit for one. It was designed to fit mom only. For century’s Dad’s didn’t belong in the kitchen any more than mom belonged underneath an old clunker covered in axle grease, so there wasn’t a need for a kitchen built for two. Those were the days when Father Knew Best and Ward Cleaver always had a hot meal waiting for him after pulling Beaver out of another mess. Things changed of course. A 2013 marriage isn’t built around dad being the boss of the house or ruling with an iron fist. Mom and Dad are a team tackling everything from the daily menu to their children’s choice in music. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.

Fathers of this generation are more involved in their children’s lives than their fathers and grandfathers ever knew possible. Maybe it’s because there’s more to be involved in. Growing up I got out of bed, went to school, came home, played outside, slept, and repeated the routine for months at a time. Today there’s gymnastics, karate, soccer camp, and dance practice. We barely learn English before Dora starts teaching us Spanish. Technology is taking over to the point where rather than talk to the person next to us, we sit in silence and text them. In case you haven’t noticed, our Bibles are being replaced by computer screens. Why should we have to remember to bring the real thing, when at the tip of our fingers we can pull up five different translations, a commentary on each chapter, and tell a million people our favorite verse within seconds? Nowhere on that Little House On The Prairie did Charles Ingalls come across internet predators, cyber bullies, school shootings, drug dealers setting up shop next door, and he certainly never had to explain why Timmy has two moms and no dad.

Admittedly at times we still seem to revert back to our caveman roots, but if you look around what you will find in between the dead beat dads and no-show fathers so often highlighted on the day’s news are men that cherish their families more than anything in the world. Men that take time to get involved in every aspect of the lives of their families, not because they have grown soft as a species, but because they understand that in order to fulfill God’s command that they should lead their families to heaven…they must be an active participant in it.

As a father trying to raise a family in a world that starts and ends wars overnight and seems to have forgotten its founding principles just as quickly, I know that it’s only through our belief in God and the teachings of his son Jesus Christ that all things are possible. So today, Father’s Day, I’d like to send a special thank you to all those dads that inspire me and so many others to be better men and to say that no matter what age we live in….THE FATHER will always know best.

Watch Us Shine

I was in a men’s meeting a few months back and I believe it was Jeff Henry that said, “For as much as we are paying for this building, we should be wearing it out!” I’m not sure you’ve noticed, but lately that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Every first Saturday we provide a meal for the community, the ladies have started a class that meets during the day once a week, the singles are getting together for dinner after services, practically the entire congregation sits down together for dinner on Wednesdays, we have begun to meet one Sunday a month for a meal followed by an afternoon youth lead service, the Men’s Ministry that is starting up….there’s literally so much going on it’s hard to find spots on the calendar to plan anything else. What a great time to be a part of Highland Park Church of Christ! Speaking from someone that has been a member of this congregation for almost ten years, I can truly say I don’t remember a time when the spirit was so alive among us! Now comes the icing on the cake, VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL!!!

As a kid the reasons to be excited about VBS are obvious: Hanging out with your friends every night, singing those great VBS songs (Father Abraham had many sons!), snacks of cool-aide and cookies, learning about God and his son Jesus, bringing friends that may not normally attend our church, and last but certainly not least seeing all the great things this congregation comes up with each year. To this day my 7 year old thinks Blake Holliman turns green when he gets angry. Each year is filled with puppets, skits, and great crafts….I could go on and on about VBS and never run out of ways to describe all the wonderful things that happen this time of year. We may never know the impact VBS has on the lives of the children in this congregation and surrounding community.

It goes without saying that if not for the help of so very many adults and the youth group, VBS would never get off the ground. If ever there was a time during the year to lend the church a hand, this is it. Your help is needed and everyone has a part. What I really want to discuss though is how much I enjoy VBS as an adult!

I hear it said over and over, “I wish we could come together more than just a couple times a week”. Well that’s exactly what VBS is! That time of the year when we all have the opportunity to come together (regardless of whether or not we have children of our own) and enjoy great fellowship night after night. During VBS the halls of this church are filled with laughter and joy for four straight nights. It’s a time of the year when friends from surrounding churches can visit without missing services of their own, when members have the opportunity to chat with those they may not normally see, a time when the word of God is brought to us for almost an entire week straight! As someone that struggles to balance work and family during a typical week, VBS is a chance to recharge my batteries for more than twice a week. Plus who doesn’t love a good puppet show!!

This week I encourage you to make a special effort to set aside cutting the grass, folding those towels, and working late…to spend some extra time with your church family. Come see our children smile and laugh, our volunteers do their magic, and our church shine.

In Memorial

I dare say that if you took all the church bulletins printed each week across the globe, you wouldn’t find too many references to 90’s pop music. The gears started turning on this week’s topic though and what kept coming out was the 1997 single “The Impression That I Get” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. As the song goes “Have you ever been close to tragedy or been close to folks who have? Have you ever felt a pain so powerful so heavy you collapse? No well…I never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has. Which makes me wonder if I could…” You see in terms of hard times, I really haven’t had it all that bad. Yes I grew up in a single parent home and yes there were nights when I asked the stars above what my purpose was. I’ve never known much in the way of tragedy though...things were tough, I lived through it, and I’ve been rewarded with a family I deeply cherish both at home and church.

My purpose this week is not to brag about how lucky I am or to pat myself on the back for staying out of harms way, but just the opposite. I’ve never had to stand up for what I believe in. I’ve never slung a rifle on my back, crawled under a spray of enemy fire, and scrambled to stay alive so others could be free. I’ve only been in two fights that I can remember and was 12 years old at the time the last one occurred. Nobody has ever told me I can’t pray where ever or whenever I want. I’ve never left my family for more than a couple days at a time. “I’ve never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has…”

His name was Thomas Bryant Beck Sr (my great grandfather) and he died on the sands of Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945. Nobody forced him to join the Marines. No draft letter came in the mail demanding him to stand up and fight for freedom. He wasn’t hurting for cash and looking for way to go to college. He was 33 with a wife, four children, and the guts to stand up for what he believed in. He was one of thousands who have given up everything so that the rest of us can sit around with our iPhones and laptops chatting about the latest winner of American Idol. They are the reason we’ve never known what it’s like to live without freedom. The soldiers that look in their children’s faces and agree to be sent to foreign lands where nobody understands a word they say and every smiling face has the potential to hide the devil himself.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Everyday fathers, mothers, wives, and husbands sacrifice in the name of The United States of America. They put the rest of our needs before theirs and they walk that path that so many of us dare not. Quiet honestly saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough….

The Rose of Pasadena Avenue

This past weekend I was on my own running some errands when I found myself at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Pasadena. In itself there’s really nothing too spectacular about this location other than how drab and run down it looks compared to the rest of our beautiful city. In fact at this point it’s probably best known for what used to be there instead of what exists at this particular moment. More than likely you probably haven’t even locked in on where I’m describing until I remind you of the abandoned gas station that may have been a Conoco or a Citgo and eventually evolved into some generic Quik-E Mart before giving up the ghost.

I’m not sure what caught my attention, maybe it was the splash of red against the dull gray, but I found myself transfixed upon a spot along the curb. There amongst the knee high weeds and scraps of trash, is the prettiest of roses I’ve seen in quite a while. Now admittedly I don’t go around the city comparing one wild flower to the next, but there is something fascinating about this specific flower that has made a lasting impression. The sight of such life growing amongst such decay as if God had chosen that very spot to show the world how something beautiful can spring forth from something so ugly as an abandoned gas station parking lot.

As this image turned in my head, I thought about going by late one night when the traffic was down to a minimum and digging up those roses for my own. After all what a waste of such an awesome rose bush just sitting there collecting street dust and exhaust fumes all day. Then I was reminded of the Parable of the Weeds (Mathew 13:24-30) in which Jesus tells the story of the farmer whose enemies tried to ruin him by mixing weeds among his wheat crop. When the servants belonging to the farmer discovered what had occurred they were told not to separate the weeds from the wheat at that moment because “while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

Like that rose bush growing among the weeds, as Christians we should stand out amongst those around us. With a couple words and a handshake, it should be clear to all where our hearts lie and who we represent. We should be unafraid to stand tall among the weeds and shout the joys of a life lived for Christ. There should never be any doubt as to who we believe in, what our motives are, and what we have to offer those who have fallen beside the path and feel as if there is no hope in this world. As Christians we should also understand that there will be a time when our own motives are questioned and we will either be “set aside to be burned” or gathered into God’s home. I can’t speak for you, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15)

The Perfect Helper

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s rib and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said,”This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘for she was taken out of man.”That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Gen 2:18-24

Whenever I read the passage above I always think about how difficult it must have been for Adam to come up with a name for all those creatures. As the parent of two children and the owner of various pets in the past, finding the perfect name is a monumental task. The right name says who we are, where we come from, what we aspire to be. Image giving every living thing on this planet a unique name; now imagine doing it all by yourself. Thankfully God with all his infinite wisdom soon realized that man was not meant to walk the world alone and gave Adam a helper.

As husbands and father’s we so often find ourselves caught up in the tasks of daily life, that we often forget this last part. Eve wasn’t created so Adam could have a hot meal after a long day at the office. That rib wasn’t taken from Adam’s side so there would be someone to drop one kid off at soccer, the other at dance, and make sure they both get their homework done before bed. Eve wasn’t there to grant Adam his every wish. Adam and Eve were a team. They tilled the hard soil together; faced the cruel world as one; and stood side by side as every parent’s nightmare of losing their children came true.

As you read this no doubt you have discovered today is Mother’s Day. Today we have a chance to thank our wives and mothers for their never ending commitment to their families. I can’t help but wonder why though? Man and woman are to be of one flesh; we are to be together working towards a life lived for God; we are to share in the encouragement and upbringing of our children; Husbands, knowing all of this why do we often fail to do our fair share? Why do we need a special day to say thank you, when we should be saying it all year long. This year instead of celebrating her, think about the passage above and make a commitment to help-her.

Q and A

I’m seven. I know things. Mom says that you shouldn’t say the word gosh, but Mickey Mouse says it. I’m a first grader now. Diego was my favorite a couple years ago, but not anymore. Diego’s for babies…I don’t watch it unless it’s on. I’m learning to read. Sponge Bob is the funniest thing ever, but my parents never let me watch it. I’m a fast runner. I could be as fast as The Flash, but he’s not real so we’ll never know. I know about God. I’ve known God since I was a baby. I know Jesus loves the little children, that this is the day that the Lord has made, and I never want to be lazy like a rooster. I know puppets are fake, but they crack me up anyway.

I have questions you’ve never thought about having the answers to. Why are some words said the same but spelled different like right and write or two, to, and too? My grandparents like to watch me play sports. They came to my school play last year. How come they don’t come to church. When I ask they maybe, but that’s the same thing my parents say when I ask for drums. I heard Jesus said through him all things are possible. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden until they listened to a snake and ate an apple from a special tree. Grandpa seems proud of me when he hears I sang a song at church. How come he didn’t come to see me? If I get in trouble at church, Granny shakes her head and gives me that look like I need to do better. If it’s so important, why doesn’t she come with us? My Sunday school teacher says that if we have faith in God and ask forgiveness of our sins, we can go to Heaven someday. Does that mean my Uncle isn’t going to Heaven unless he says he’s sorry to God?


I’m thirty-seven. I have some of the same questions. My family knows better. They know the path to Heaven. Why are they not choosing to take it? How do I help knock down those walls that are beginning to make themselves clear in my child’s eyes? Why are they pushing my child to go to church every step of the way, yet always have to work, have a headache, have a million things to do that prevents them from going themselves? What do I tell my child if he asks if Granny is going to Heaven? Why does Mickey Mouse say “gosh”, when “my goodness” sounds so much better?

Next time maybe I’ll say this: Did you know that when you believe, repent, and are baptized into Christ, you are like a new born baby? It’s funny to think of Grandpa as a baby isn’t it? That’s kind of a scary thing for a Grandpa or Granny, to start a new life after all these years. Remember your first day at the new school and how frightening that was? I think I know what to do….we just keep trying. We keep asking, keep praying, and keep showing them the kind of person they could be with a little faith in God. Who knows, maybe they will come the next time we ask or the next time or the next….

Words For Friends

I like words. I like the way words can bring even the most mundane tasks to life. Instead of “I took out the trash”, I prefer “Reluctantly I trudged the sack of refuge to the green bin of disgust”. Finding the correct phrase that brings out the most in what I’m trying to say at the time, is entertainment for me. I run the phrases through my head for hours at a time until they come pouring out like a damn bursting forth and flooding the page.

As children we quickly learn that words have power. Who wasn’t teased on the playground and then asked Mommy why the other kids said such mean things. When strung together the right combination of words can stop in your tracks, change your life in the blink of an eye, and make you wonder how you ever lived without hearing them.

“I’m pregnant!”- Talk about a game changer! Mandy and I were married for five years before we had our first child. The moment those words were said I forgot everything I had done before. Apparently I was a reader of some sort because there are still books around the house that have been collecting dust since 2005. I vaguely remember watching movies the same month they came out at the theater and not two years later on cable. The people at McDonalds didn’t know my name or what kind of car I drove.

“I think I’m going to be sick!”-Nobody ever wants to hear their child say this and definitely not going 85 mph down the interstate in the middle of the night.

The right phrase has the power to inspire people to new reach new heights, believe in the impossible, and give hope to the hopeless.

“I missed you today”- What the person is really saying is “I looked around to see your face and you were nowhere in sight. Are you alright? What can I do to make things better, to get you back here?”

“I’m praying for you.”- It sounds simple of enough, but think of what is really being said, “I’m stopping what I’m doing today and I’m going to talk to God about you. I’m going to put aside my own problems for just a moment so that the creator the of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, Jehovah Jireh himself knows that all I want is for you be well, be safe, and be at peace!”

Recently I heard the story of someone saying this phrase, I’ll pray for you, to a little girl who had just witnessed a tragic event. The little girl looked up and said “I don’t know how to pray. I’ve never done it before. Can you help me?” Can you image! Can you help me pray? This little girl had no idea how to talk to God. Nobody bothered to show her the joys of a life lived for God, the strength that comes from reading the words of his son Jesus Christ….nobody had ever given her the gift of peace that comes from faith in the Almighty. That mistake was all corrected that day though….thanks to the power of words.

Train Up A Child

She sits there alone with a smile on her face surrounded by various scenes from the Bible. Noah guiding an ark full of animals over rough waters. Moses with his arms out stretched as he parts the waters of the Red Sea. Jesus walking along a dirt path surrounded by a flock of smiling children.

There's a small desk drawer just to the right of where she sits. If one were to look, they would find the tools of her trade. A bin full of crayons that have long ago seen their best days, yet still bring a cheer to all when presented. Underneath the crayons lay a row of stickers she uses as a reward to those with perfect attendance. Not many of those being passed out anymore. Tissues for runny noses, safety scissors and glue sticks for craft time, a bag of suckers for all who remember to bring their bibles; all of which are invaluable but none can compare to her greatest asset….patience.

Next to where she sits, over in the corner stands a large plastic barrel wrapped in ornate wall paper. She uses it to hold the can goods and dry food items that are so desperately needed by those less fortunate. Twice a year she manages to fill it up. Things have been slow lately though. She can’t help but say a little prayer to herself when she sees it there half empty and collecting dust.

The week’s lesson starts to take shape on Thursday night, she picks up a few odds and ends while running errands on Saturday, and just before show time on Sunday she does a quick rehearsal. Once everything is ready, she simply sits back and waits for those to come.

As they begin to pass by her door, the older kids wave and say their hellos. She never forgets their names or how much their time together meant for the both of them. If you were to ask her how things are going while she sits there in that empty class room, she would simply smile and let you know she expects to have students in just a few moments. The instant the words hit the air you can tell they are said more in hope than fact, like a wish made over the open flame of a birthday candle.

I ask you now... is there anything sadder than a Sunday School teacher without a class? Someone who wants nothing more than to teach our children the word of God and the joy that comes from knowing his son Jesus Christ. Parents if you think there’s nothing you can get out of a 45 minute Sunday morning bible class, I challenge you to bring your child this coming week. See the effect our wonderful teachers have on them after just one class. Ask them what they learned and be proud of them for paying attention. When your children have shown you how much they have gotten out of that one class, go hug that teachers neck and tell him or her you’ll see them again next week.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Fishers of Men

As far back as I can remember; I’ve been fishing. My grandfather would get me up a couple of hours before dawn and we would hit the water in that tan boat that sparkled when the sun hit it just right. The cold morning would slice us to pieces as we cut across the water towards our favorite spot. I remember the largest fish could always be found in the weeds. No telling how many lures I lost going in after them.

I’m a top water guy. There’s nothing I love more than flipping that popper across the water so it mimics a hurt minnow. The sight of that big ole’ bass leaping out of the water captured like a camera in the mind’s eye. The fight that comes after leaves you wishing the day would never end. The story of how it all went down was always bigger than the reality.

I fish with my Grandpa Hamm, but my Grandpa Beck is a fisherman too in his own way. For over 60 years he’s been stepping up to that pulpit at every Church of Christ that would let him. His face lighting up and that deep voice growing louder as he throws his net out in hopes of bringing someone closer to the Lord. I remember being small and seeing that giant hand thrusting out towards the congregation and the feeling that he was looking directly at me the entire time. Even now when the Michael’s or Ben finish their lesson without anyone coming forward, I feel that same tinge of pain that always came after hearing my grandfather pour his heart out with no immediate results. Their nets empty just like a day on the water with nothing to show but a sun burn.

Of course, I grew to learn that the lines that are thrown out every Sunday and Wednesday sometimes take years before they prove to be successful or not. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus tells us “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Every morning as we wake up and get ready to face a new day, let’s all remember to cast out our nets towards the world. That’s the great thing about fishing….you don’t have to be a professional angler to put one in the boat.

Good Grief

Valentine’s Day is this week and while romance is certainly in the air, for me it’s also an excuse to sit around the television with the kids and share one of my great loves….Charlie Brown & Snoopy. Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy, and even Peppermint Patty….I love them all and every holiday brings another excuse to follow their adventures. It should be no secret to any of us that who we are today is because of what we were yesterday. From the moment we were born every action, reaction, and circumstance has combined to form the people we are today and can be seen by everything we do. With this in mind it should be no surprise that hidden not so deep in the adventures of a Boy named Charlie Brown and his faithful dog Snoopy, Charles Shulz’s can clearly be seen.

In an interview Shulz told the story of how he found God “My mother died the week I was drafted….before going into the Armed Forces I met a minister…he simply walked into my father’s barbershop one day…we chose him to do mother’s funeral and after coming back from the Army, I began to attend services at his church….we had an active group of young people all in our twenties and we began studying the Bible together. The more I thought about the matter during those study times the more I realized I really loved God. I realized he had pulled me through a depression in which I had been torn apart from everything I knew and that he had enabled me to survive so many experiences.” He was also quoted as saying “if you do not say anything in a cartoon, you might as well not draw it at all. Humor which does not say anything is worthless. So I contend that a cartoonist must be given a chance to do his own preaching”.

Charles Shulz has a message and like a preacher taking his pulpit every morning he has delivered that message since October 2nd 1950. Even since his passing in February of 2000, that message is still being sent daily all over the world.

In the books Parables of the Peanuts and The Gospel According To Peanuts, Robert Short translates the messages hidden in Peanuts Comic Strips and shows us exactly what their creator was passing along to the world every morning over coffee and toast.

If Charlie Brown has one catch phrase, it’s “Good Grief”. Every time that tree eats his kite, Snoopy wakes him in the middle of the night for a bowl of food, or Lucy pulls that football, Charlie picks himself back up and with a “Good Grief” he moves on. Like the little round headed kid with the crazy dog he created, Shulz knew there was such a thing as good grief.

Lucy Ups Ups Ups Strip. Lucy doesn’t seem to understand that in order ultimate appreciate what is about to come, there must be some hard times along the way. In Romans 6:6-8 Paul answers Lucy’s question by saying “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we sill also live with him.”

Snoopy Snow Strip. No matter how bad things are they could get worse and will soon better. Job 33:29-30 “God indeed does all these things, twice, three times, with mortals, to bring back their souls from the Pit, so that they may see the light of life”

Finally we see this again when Linus loses a ball in the weeds. Life is not fair. It’s not easy. And at times we must struggle. We must be brought to our knees so that we can appreciate that sacrifice made on the cross and the rewards that await us when we give out life to Christ. As it says in Romans 8:18 “I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

Grief is good. Matthew 11:28 “come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Charles Schulz knew this. He read the words from 1 Corinthians 9:16 “For an obligation is laid upon me and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel” and showed his love for Christ through the adventures of a little round headed boy and his goofy dog. He taught the world the Gospel of Christ one hand drawn frame at a time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Yes Man

"Alex did you scratch Stan?"
"Did you get sent to the office?"
"Was he picking on you?"

Time out. He's saying yes to everything. Let's try something....

"Alex did Stan steal your giraffe?"
"Did he make you wear clown makeup?"

Later that night....

"Alex, who did you scratch?"
"And what happened?"
"Big trouble go to the office"
"Right. So are you going to scratch Stan again tomorrow?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Wealth Of Elf On The Shelf

Every year around this time we pull out the good'ole Elf On The Shelf in hopes of keeping the kids off Santa's Naughty List. The way the story goes is that the Elf (ours is named Flash) watches over the boys each day and every night he visits Santa to report what's he's witnessed. He's a very mischievous little thing so in the mornings it's always a sure bet that he will be found digging in the snack bowl, riding in Spider-Man's car, or wrestling with the Incredible Hulk. It's a well known fact that if a person touches the Elf he losses all his magic and will never be able to tell Santa all the good deeds he's witnessed.

Last night the "Elf" was playing in Adams room and he apparently left it in a huge mess. In his defense the "Elf" was trying to invite the Hulk to play and it was very dark in Adams room. The "Elf" promises to do a better job covering his tracks going forward.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tele-revisionist History

I was telling a story today. The story of our 56" projection screen television going out overnight, when I was suddenly hit by another story I had long forgotten.

It too involved a television and while the details and exact date may be off a month or two, it's a good story just the same. Mandy was just days away from having Adam and was ready to pop. We woke up that morning like any other, me preparing to head to work at Anderson Press and Mandy facing another long day of bed rest. As you may have guessed the television had gone out.

Now normally a TV hitting the skids wouldn't be considered an emergency, but we are talking about a very pregnant very uncomfortable mother of a soon to be born 8 lb bouncing baby boy. Doing what any other good husband would do I heeded my wife's request when she pleaded " I cannot sit here in this bed all day and stare at the walls. You have to do something." So that morning at 6:30 AM I found myself at Walmart looking to buy whatever television they had on sale.

As I mentioned today I found myself in a similar situation, waking up to find the television had gone out. And wouldn't you know that same TV purchased some six years ago is now being called back to active duty.

On second though this really wasn't the best story.....

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cane & Able

So much for resolutions. Waaaay back in January I promised to post everyday, a promise I kept until recently. October was hard on us as a family and in particular myself as a person. We were all sick with various illnesses ranging from the normal everyday sinus infection to the more dire pneumonia (Adam). To say we were missing in action would be an understatement. We missed church, work, school, soccer games, Fun Fest, football games, a catfish fry, and everyone in between as we spent weeks locked inside fighting for survival. I even spent four days walking around with a cane thanks to a bum ankle that started hurting out of no where and thankfully disappeared the same way.

By the time it was all over I had changed without even realizing it. I'd become bitter. Selfish. I was a jerk and generally unpleasant person to be around. I withdrew from the world content with feelings of misery and self depreciation. My children were affected and so was my marriage. I gained 15 pounds and all I wanted in life was my couch, my remote, and a bag of cookies.

Not everything was gloom and doom. Don't get me wrong. There were good times...Adam was convinced a character in one of his books was called Butt Bunny on the same night Alex went around the house looking in people's underwear determined to prove it wasn't him that was dirty....Alex took after a little boy at the soccer field who in his mind was the real life Little Bill...Adam feel in love with soccer...and together dressed as Dracula and Iron Man, Adam & Alex enjoyed a very happy Halloween.

All the good aside though somewhere along the way I sorta lost myself a bit. I'm back now. I feel good and the fog has cleared. I know what's important again and they will never doubt how much they mean to me. What can I say other than I'm only human. There was only one perfect person and he died so that I may live. I pray I get to thank him in person for his sacrifice one day.