Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! Doesn’t it feel like we just said this a week ago? Now I am beginning to understand the old adage of being over the hill. It is not so much that a person is declining in usefulness but everything has sped up. Now I do sound old!

Once again, Barb has given the order to write a Christmas letter, so here I go. 
Barb and I know we live in many blessings...our children and grandchildren are close by...
really close and we are so blessed by that. 

Stacy is still working at Springfield schools, running a class for those who are expelled from school to try to help them keep up on their work; she continues to teach workout classes for the Y; and she is one of our church’s great worship leaders...just saying. One of Eric’s former students and track athletes, Eric Kynard, won a silver medal in the Olympics this summer. That was cool. Stacy’s oldest, Ian, sits with us every Sunday for worship and that is so much fun; He is becoming a first class drummer. I didn’t see that coming! Eric’s oldest, Bradley, is still working on becoming a basketball star and is doing quite well in that quest. Will, the youngest, is...well he is...he is Will!. He loves anything with a ball. I even took him the driving range a couple of times this summer. He and his cousin Jace are best friends, most of the time, and love to play with cars together. 

Corey is still working with Ford and has moved to a different area that draws from some of his tool and die skills. Nichol is home schooling Evelyn and Cole, and I am sure that is keeping her busy. Corey and Nichol are expecting baby boy number 3 in January...keep the grandkids coming is what we always say!  Our kids are our greatest source of pride...Corey and Stacy are awesome...and the grandkids are even more awesome!  Evelyn is still our red head, beautiful, little princess with an amazing smile. I think she has some of her mom’s artistic abilities which result in some great drawings from her. Cole is doing well in school and I think is going to be like his dad with skills to build things; to be able to look at a problem and solve it; and to be a real helper. Jace, who I mentioned earlier, is a three year old who is sure he is at least ten. Not much fear in him.

Barb and I had lots of fun this past year...too much for one letter. We did a motorcycle trip with five other pastor couples down the Blue Ridge Pkwy, and it was a blast. Fun rides and great fellowship! She and I also did a ride to Green Lake, WI by ourselves for a retreat and then a 40 year anniversary celebration. We both said the whole trip was one of the most fun times ever...and we have had lots of fun over 40 years. Also jammed into our lives this year were our mission trips. Barb spent a little over two weeks in Zimbabwe with four other ladies. It was a spiritual adventure for sure...she took over 400 pictures. (This will be important in a moment.) In November I was able to go to Zimbabwe with a friend, and I too had an incredible trip. We both fell in love with the people and the Church there. And I goes...I took one picture! Barb was not too happy with me, but I figured how many more pictures of Zimbabwe does anybody need? A few more I guess.

Monday evening dinners with our kids are such fun...trips with friends are great...a wonderful church family...we are so blessed to have you all in our lives.

We recently lost a friend, and that makes you realize life is short...just a today...gone tomorrow. We are grateful for and treasure each moment God has given us.

Have a great Christmas...and an awesome New Year.

Bill and Barb...  

Friday, December 21, 2012

OK then...I have had a strange week or so as I look back and try to embrace leadership.  I was reading on Facebook the other day...and a friend posted...a really smart friend posted and I felt so out of my league as a leader of a small area of churches. I swear as  read...he did speak English...but I could not decipher what he was trying to say. Then when I did begin to understand I realized I did not agree...but how does a former factory worker approach a highly educated and intelligent person and disagree? I feel like in my simple approach to God and Jesus and His word and His church whatever I had to say would come out like a kindergarten student debating with the high school captain of the debate team.  It won’t be pretty and all I could hope for would be sympathy points...called another friend and said, “I am outta here!” He talked me off the ledge. (figuratively speaking) All of you who read this and struggle with confidence and self esteem issues know there always seems to be a voice saying, “See, I told you, you can’t do this.” Always. 

I have to admit the voice is not as authoritative as in the past...not as in control as before. We might still hear and begin to listen but then another voice comes in and reminds us we can do this...and we are not alone. In time my hope is the other voice dies of completely...and I will give him a proper burial. 

A couple of Sundays ago, at our worship celebration, I confessed I still struggle with fear of man...hard to lead with that one for sure. Then I had other brave cowards stand with me and we prayed for God to set us free. We prayed for a better view of God.  We prayed to live from Gods’ love for us. I know for myself I had some breakthroughs the next week and I hope the same for my brave friends who stood with me. Now some of you might ask why would I confess something like that to my church family...and I wonder why wouldn’t I? I was struggling to lead...they deserve a better leader...I knew others struggled with the same stuff...and I wanted them to be free from it. As a leader I felt like I had to lead them in this area...I am one of them not above them or way ahead of them. I am on the journey also. And it is always more fun to travel with others!

Then on the positive I had a couple of cool things happen...encouraging words.  Alice, from Zimbabwe e mailed and told me how things were going over there since I had visited. It was all so cool...baptisms happening this week end...stories being told. Then she told me how she has been “leaking” out recently. Now before you jump to conclusions let me explain...if I can. When I was there on a Sunday one of the things I mentioned was out of 2 Corinthians 4 where Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not us.” We are cracked pots...clay jars...not meant to store this amazing power but to let it leak out of our cracks...even to be tipped over and poured out. What spills out is not us but God...His power...His love. So Alice and others have been leaking, allowing God to use them in very naturally supernatural ways. Conversations with some that seem so stand offish. Small touches of kindness that do not seem very big a the time but over the course of time they add up. Cowards like me and spurs us on to take more risks. The encouraging thing is to hear stories of people hearing my story or the message God gave me and then running with it. They listened, heard and believed it was true! How cool is that?

 We were with some friends this week having dinner with their small group. The friend began talking about her 16 year old son and a story he told her. First we realized that when they began hanging out at the Vineyard since he was about 3 years old. Other than a few years when they helped with a church plant and then felt lead to help another church in the area of worship they have been with us. (Some of my favorites but don’t tell them) Anyway the son is taking voice lessons and after one of the sessions he told his mom about this conversation he had with his teacher. Somehow they got in a God conversation and the son told his teacher about how the important thing in church is loving God and others...and I am sure much more but this was the gist of it. His mom looked at me and said, “That is you Bill...that is what he has heard over and over.” His teacher e mailed the mom and told her about the conversation also...I do not remember all the details but he was so impressed with how her son confidently carried on this conversation and that he had never had anyone lay it out so simply and clearly. Well, after I brushed the tears out of my eyes I had to say it was such a blessing to hear this story. So encouraged that maybe the next generation will get it done better than we have. So encouraged to know he has been listening...and buying it...getting it. 

I stand back and grandson worshipping and then praying for adults because God told him to. Another young guy leading a small group to head out to the malls to pray for people...sick people...anyone who will let them. A really young girl writing down a vision God gave her to tell her how she will minister to abused children...especially girls. So many signs that even a regular guy can have an impact...could lead...and some will follow. 

It can be so easy to be intimidated by others...those smarter...bigger...with more hair. What I am beginning to see though is this...God is not all that impressed with all that. He is not looking at degrees...He is not looking at positions and titles and being impressed. He is still looking at hearts...for willingness...for servants. Will a person hold onto the truth in scripture or bend it a bit to help culture feel better? Will scripture hold a greater place than mans reasoning?  Will the Church ever influence culture again or will we bend to culture to try to be relevant? It seems to me that at times the Church or rather some of its leaders want to apologize for God and His word and His old fashioned ways. He is quite old you know...always has been...always will be. Old. Ancient. 

I still agree with my young is about loving God...and loving others.  We can use many big words in between there but that is the story...and loving others might mean having to tell might mean you have to be truthful with just might have to tell might have to tell them, no you are wrong about that. That breaks God’s heart what you are breaks His heart. I think it is more loving to tell them the truth...even if it hurts...than to try to make the truth help them feel better about themselves...and leave them living a lie. That never helps.  You know a person can use big, ambiguous words...sound really, really smart...and still be wrong. Yep...that is right...could really be intimidating...and little guys in the world...lead on...we need you.