Saturday, November 25, 2006

One More Day

I was sitting around tonight listening to my new "Lost Dogs" cd and happened across this song. I like it. After 23 years of serving King Jesus at a church I dearly love I have been instructed by God to lay it down tomorrow. I have one more day. I will speak in the morning. I know what I am supposed to say. It is written on paper. More importantly it is written on my heart. (note: if you can't be there and care to listen in you can do so at Click the "sermons series" link.)

Being at FBCB has been an incredible ride. Some days have been so near to heaven that I swear I could hear the angels sing. Some days have been so far ... so far from God's plan that my heart breaks. I have made some life long friends there. I have met some people there that I have yet to figure out. This song reminds me of the whole package. You may understand. You may not. Following Jesus is a call to live a life of great paradox. The longer you serve, the longer you live, the more confusing it gets. You finally reach a point where you throw up your hands to The Father and say, "Whatever!" You do not mean it in anger or frustration. You mean it in surrender. "Whatever, Jesus. Whatever you want ...let's do that. Wherever you lead ... let's go there. You take the point and I'll follow."

This song reminds me of what that kind of life is like. It feels so good. It hurts so bad. You will never figure it out. You just wait for The Father's smile and say ... "Whatever." For me "whatever" means ... one more day.


from the album "The Lost Cabin and the Mystery Trees"

(2006 Mike Roe)

One more sad and silly love affair gone bad
One more best friend that I thought I had
But didn't have
One more dream long gone forgotten
And yet still I carry on
It's a wonder I can sing you
One more song

One more song for you
To live your life beside me as I cry me
One more tear I shed aloud
For crying out loud
One more sacred song to bless you
While I curse the life I lead
Plodding down the path of sorrow
Bringing you the joy you need

One more sun to wake my weary
Eyes wide open
One more day
That surely will give way
To one more night I'm gonna
Find a way to get all the way through
To one more day
I made it, yay, horray

To climb instead of walk around
But even so I know that I
Should be so grateful for yet one more

Life that I could touch in some small simple way
Or one more light that I could shine
To show someone the way
Or one more sure word of encouragement
To say to one more soul
Oh Lord please won't you save me one
One more day
Lord won't you save me one
One more day

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Open Letter To God...

Dear Abba,

I just want to take a few moments in the midst of this day to say thank you. Yes, it is Thanks Giving Day. I deeply hope that I do not confine my thanking you to this Thursday in November. But anyway, here is what I want to say to You...

*Thank you, Abba, for the gift of Your Son. Jesus, you mean everything to me. You alone cause life and this world to make sense.

*I am so grateful for my bride. My wife. You made her just for me! She amazes me every day that she gets up and kisses me good morning. I don't know why she puts up with this ADHD type person but she does. And I am forever in her debt. (Honey, I loved you long before you ever tackled me!)

*My three kids are among your greatest gifts that I have ever received. Kelli, Scott and Chris. Abba, I could not have designed better kids if I had tried. And now they are all adults. Very good adults at that. Tonight I just sat and watched them with the wonder that only a father can feel as he sees the children that began as little rug rats turn into God lovers.

*And then there is Joe, Amanda and Laura. Laura and Topher have been together for almost one year now, Abba. She seems like a part of our family. When she walks in the door I just automatically smile! And she actually laughs at my jokes! Traveling with her to South Carolina last summer was one of the highlights of my year! Oh, and Abba ... she didn't really mean what she did in front of the Lifeway store in Knoxville. Ok, ok, she did mean it. You are God and you already knew that. But I have to think you understand! And if not ... please just forgive her! (You owe me, Bella...) And then there is my Amanda. You know, Abba, she is about to become my actual honest-to-gosh daughter-in-law. That is so incredible! She and Scott have walked together over the long haul already. They are so made for each other! I had so much fun with her yesterday when we just sat and talked for well over an hour. And then our late night White Castle topped off a perfect day. She's right ... we had quality time! Abba, I love her like my own daughter. And, as you know, I really, really love my own daughter. Oh man. God, I will always cherish the moment that I placed my daughter's arm into Joe's. That was a very good day. He has loved and adored her as I knew he would. To watch them serve you, build a home together, minister to and love kids and their church, well it's almost too much to believe. Wow. And together they bring me to the next reason I thank you today...

*Elle Parker McGill. Oh Abba, how I have fallen head over heels in love with my granddaughter. All I have to do is to smile at her and she almost always smiles back! What a delight to hold her and feel her grab one of my fingers with her fist. She is amazing! So trusting. So happy. Ok, most of the time. There are moments. But she gets over them! I love this little lady, Abba. Thank you so very much for creating her and putting her in our family. We will do all we can to point her toward you ... her truest Daddy.

*Thank you, Abba, for twenty three and two thirds years to serve you by loving teenagers at FBCB. I cannot believe that I only have one Sunday morning left and then I will be finished there. There are so many memories. Centrifuges. Mission trips. JPL's. Willow Creek Retreats. Time alone with individual kids as they sought out opportunities to grow closer to you. Kids that you allowed me to watch go into the ministry themselves. Oh God, it is all just too much! My cup is over flowing! Thank you for this gift! When my body is dead to this world ministry and service will still go on through these (roughly) twenty young men and women you have allowed me to love, disciple and send into ministry. I am humbled, Abba.

*And how I thank you for the future. It is true that if my life on planet earth were to end right now I would call it a raging success. Not because I am so good. No, it is because You are so faithful! I do not know what is next on Your agenda for my life. A kind church has allowed me to have three months to rest, heal, seek you and find the doorway you would direct me through. Thank you, Abba. Such a kindness!

Well I could do this all night. There are so many friends. So many special people in my life that are there because you brought us together. Some live here. Some live on the left side of the country, some on the right. But I am rich in friendships. My brother and his lovely family are chief among them. Thank you, Abba, for Jim, Edwina and Jackie! Thank you for Jason, Tanya, and their families. Thank you for Dave, Lynda, Bob, Cindy, Dave, Barb, Reda,Tammy, Brad, Sheri, Judy, Jim (my other "bro",) Alisha (my newest sister!) Diane, Steve, Theresa, Katie, Jeff, Jeannie, Jeffy, Jim, Sandy, Ruth, Ronn B., Ron W., "Big Steve" and "Big 'Nita," Matt, Tim, Danny, Cheryl, Larry, Frank, Ed, Mindy, Patti, Rick, Steve, Shannon, Kristi, Lisa, Scott, Bill, Eric, Stephanie, Gary, Cathy, Beth, and even Bailey. And of course, every kid in a very special youth group that will probably be my last one. I love each of them as You have told me to. And every one that came before them. I could go on and on and on and on. There is neither time nor space. But Abba ... I am rich. You have made me rich through the blessings I have received from You.

And I can never, never say it loud enough, long enough or frequently enough. Thank you, Abba. For everything. The crowns that are waiting and the scars that are healing. The pleasure and the pain. The Word that keeps me pointed in the right direction. The blood that flowed. The thorns. The nails. The spear. The empty tomb. The fish you cooked for the disciples breakfast. The acension. And thank you for loving this man. Me. Really, tangibly, audibly, visually, shockingly.

I will praise you as long as their is breath in my lungs. And when the breath is at last gone I will arrive in Your presence and praise you all the louder as I lay at your feet.

Abba ... Jesus ... Holy Spirit ... Thank You. I love you.

Your child....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Here Is Why

The last time I was unemployed I was 14 years old. It was the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. (1969 for you young 'ens.) The year the hated Mets STOLE the division championship from my beloved Cubs. The year I took my first job as a cook at a "Dog 'n Sud's" style drive-in. A buck twenty-five an hour and I dated the car hops. I'm telling ya, I was worth at least a buck fifty. But I was 15 and not supposed to be working at all. (Where were the child labor lawyers in those days?) I quit after about a year and went over to the enemy ... McDonalds. While there I was named "Grill Man of the Year." I could flip a row of burgers so fast that cow's were lining up to get on my grill. From there it was K-Mart for me. I was a stock boy in ladies lingerie. That's right, children, I made my living with ladies frilly unmentionables. Best job I ever had. After that I decided to get serious about earning money because it was college time. I landed a job at Andrew Corporation in Orland Park, Illinois. At first I worked on an off-campus location. We made "gas block cable." The purpose of this little wonder was to run across the desert floor, down a couple of miles beneath the surface of our fair planet where it would provide the charge to detonate a nuclear bomb. My job was to test and inspect the cable to make sure it really would block the gasses from leaking to the surface. I am still waiting for my thank you card from the state of Neveda for keeping their air nuke free. Then after the S.A.L.T. talkes all nuclear tests came to an end. I was transferred to the "reflector room." This was a horrible pit of a place. I'm sure you've noticed those big round "micro wave dish" antenna's stuck high up on towers. Well the ones with the orange lightening bolt on them are dishes I just might have worked on. I did not actually make the things .... I had the highly technical job of sliding down into them after they were laid on the bowl-like bottom on the factory floor. They had been coated with grease to keep them from melting from the friction while being spun out on a lathe. I got to take this liquid cleaning chemical in a bucket with a bunch of rags and slide down into the dish. After a minute or two I would settle to the bottom after sliding around like a penny that you put in one of those funnels in the mall to donate to some worthy cause. Then I would clean the grease out. Only problem was that the fumes of the cleaner were heavier than air. if I forgot to lift my head above the rim of the bowl every few seconds and instead breathed the chemical fumes in the bowl ... well, they would have to pull me out and wait until I woke up. Then I went back to work. That only happened a few times. There were no lasting effects. Debbie disagrees but what does she know? I quit that job and went to work at Sears. They were still connected with Roebuck back then. I think it was 1976. I worked in "customer pick-up." Yes, I was a young and warped teenager and it did occur to me to try to pick-up a few of the customers. I usually just got slapped for my efforts. That's all I have to say about that. I left Sears and went to work for Panduit Corporation in Tinley Park. I did that so that I could make enough money to marry Debbie. It seems that her family was moving to Milwaukee and it was get married or get a new girlfriend. I liked the one I had so I took this new job to pay for her and college. At the same time. college was getting old by now and I really wanted to get done. I did not know it would take me five more years. That's a whole other blog. At Panduit I was a "material handler" which means exactly what it says. I handled material. And then I became an inspector which meant that I became one of the most hated men in the company. I would inspect the product that machine operators made and if they were not up to code I would yank their days work. This made them upset because they were on commission. They were also bigger than I was or ever have been and they carried huge steel tools with them everywhere they went. Needless to say not many product batches got yanked. I quit that job and went to work for myself. I bought a pick-up truck and sub-contracted the installation of storm doors and windows all over the south side of Chicago. The south side is NOT the safe side. I got to know a lot of things in those days called "street smarts." Basically that means "how not to get killed for being the wrong color. I hated my job. My boss hated me. We had a blizzard that winter and the city residential streets were impassable and so I could not get to the houses to work. That means we almost starved. One day Debbie came home from work to find that I had cooked pheasant for supper. Later that evening she noticed our two parakeets were missing. I will let you decide for yourself if that is true or not. Ok, I was also working part time as a real, honest to gosh, part time youth pastor at that time. I lasted 6 months. The pastor was crazy. No, really. He was. I could tell you stories but I won't. But I think it's ok to tell you that after I got fed up and quit the church fired him a month later. He lived in their parsonage. He refused to move out and actually ... STARTED A MISSION IN THEIR PARSONAGE. See. I told you he was crazy. So I quit and went away for a week to help my dad paint his retirement home in Mtn. Home, Arkansas. I hated Arkansas. Still do. But I loved my dad so I went. Debbie did too. She owed me because I saved her from Milwaukee. When we got back I had an interview waiting for me with the First Baptist Church of Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Clarendon Hills is a very, very nice Chicago suburb. We met for about a month and they hired me. I was now a full time youth pastor, a full time college studend, and a part time school bus driver. Debbie was full time pregnant. (This is where Kelli entered the picture. I loved that church and the seemed to like me ok. After I had been there for 6 months the pastor got caught with the secretary. She knew short hand but she was not taking a letter. So he was suddenly gone. They hired a new pastor after 6 months. I was not allowed to preach for those 6 months because ... well ... I don't know why. I just wasn't. After about 3.5 years they ordained me. The pastor said he did not really want to because, in his experience, everytime he ordained a staff pastor they moved away in about 6 months. Well. Yeah. Three months later I finished college, got my degree in theology, and in six months I moved to the First Baptist Church of Bethalto. Sound famaliar? So I came to Bethalto. Two months later I got a phone call from my former secretary at Clarendon Hills. (This one did not know short hand and nobody caught her doing anything. She was my friend.) She called to tell me that they were writing their church history down. The church was 25 years old and they figured they needed to get stuff in writing. So anyway, that morning the pastor that was mad because I left after they ordained me came into her office, grabbed the master copy of the new church history, took a marker and drew a line through my name everywhere it appeared. She wanted me to be aware that I no longer existed in their official history. Oh, I have a certificate of ordination in my prayer room here at home where all of their deacon's and my unhappy pastor signed it. But the church that ordained me in 1982 does not know today that I exist. But I do. I just checked and I am still here.

But now I'm not. Here. I am not here anymore. This coming Sunday will be my last at the First Baptist Church of Bethalto. Wait. I have to say that again because it just looks weird. Excuse me. This coming Sunday will be my last at the First Baptist Church of Bethalto. Nope. It did not help. It still looks weird.

But it is true. Twenty-three years. Actually and oddly, my last day will be on November 26, 2006. My first day was March 26, 1983. That is exactly and precisely 23 and 2/3rd years. Is that weird or what? I don't suppose it means anything. Unless God knows something that I don't know. And He always does. But I cannot comment on it because I don't get it. I just know it's strange enough to make me raise my eyebrows.

I do not know what is next. Really. I do not think I am finished in ministry but God has not told me what's on His agenda for me. Will I wind up wearing a blue vest and shoving carts at people at Wal-Mart? Might I become a dentist? (You had best hope not because I have no plans to return to school.) Perhaps I will write a "tell all book" about my ministry years. Would anybody buy it? Would it scare anybody? (insert manicial laugh here.) Should YOU be worried? Only time will tell!

So the deal is that my doctor got in my face a couple of weeks ago. He and I had been talking about some health problems that I have been having. He listened. He asked questions. He told me in no uncertain terms to "eliminate the stress or it WILL eliminate you." That's a fun thing for your doctor to say to you. And if he says it in front of your wife, as he did to me, it means you might as well reconcile yourself to simplifying your life. For me that meant resigning. With no plan for the future. And that is one of the reasons why I'm sitting here tonight talking about being unemployed. I am really going to miss those teenagers that God has given me. I simply cannot imagine anything in life better than being a youth pastor. I've been one for 32 years when you count my volunteer years at the church Debbie grew up in and we eventually married at. It's been my sole source of income since 1979. Twenty seven years.

I guess that now I am going to rest for a month or two. I have been very busy talking to God about all of this. This "not knowing" thing makes me uncomfortable. Two days ago while I was still in Cincinnati at the National Youth Workers Convention God woke me up early in the morning. (Ok, it was early for me. That's different from "officially" early.) I was still in that not awake but not asleep stage. There was no dreaming going on and nothing on my mind ... until ... very clearly the words, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart" began ringing in my head. If that sounds slightly famaliar to you that's because God said it through David in the Psalms. Which is in the bible. Psalm 37: 4 if you want to check for yourself. I happen to believe that that voice speaking in the depths of my brain was the voice of the Holy Spirit.

So here is my immediate agenda. I am going to delight myself in the Lord. I am going to start tomorrow. When I wake up. I will know how to do that when the time arrives. But I am going to do it tomorrow and I am going to do it on Thursday and on Friday and on Saturday and on ... well, you get the idea. And I totally believe that as long as I do that ... there is nothing to sweat about. God has been so good to me. I really miss "my" teenagers at FBCB. I don't suppose they can really understand how "stress" and "ministry" connect. But they do. Trust me. Don't ask me about it because I won't tell you. You will have to take my word for it. My brain is tired. My body is tired. My spirit is tired. I am tired. And I am going to take whatever time God tells me to take in order to get un-tired and prepared for my next assignment. There are some interesting possibilities lurking out there. I was asked today if I would consider becoming a Presbyterian pastor. I am honored to be asked. But ... well ... no. I don't look good in a robe. God has a record of telling His people to do strange things. Like ... oh ... knife their kid on an altar ... march into a raging sea while an army bent on their destruction is fast on their heals ... marry a prostitute (no, I'm not kidding. Read Hosea. And don't say I did not warn you.) ... and now to resign and rest and heal and wait. I want the gorilla to stop sitting on my chest. He has gotten so very heavy. I want my vision to stop blurring. My left eye cannot read the computer screen as I type this. I want to not hyperventilate because I have to go to a meeting that is going to be difficult. I want to stop jerking in my sleep and scaring my wife. And I think God has made it clear that He wants that for me too.

It will be strange. But following our Abba (daddy/father) usually is. Pray for me and I'll pray for you.