"But music was his life, it was not his livelihood, and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole." - Harry Chapin - chorus of "Mr. Tanner."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some sort of renewal may be coming . . . (views expressed are my own)

Ahem!

I been doing some reading, phone calling, and talking to folks face-to-face about some of the stuff we've started to hear . . . about some actual renewal of the UMC being led by the Council of Bishops.

And I have to say . . . I like what I am hearing. Cautiously so . . . but it is starting to sound promising. Some of the new and younger bishops, whose hearts are for evangelism and not administration, are speaking up, and following up what they are saying with some constructive ideas and suggestions.

My personal suggestions for renewal of the UMC, offered in love and in the hope for us to return again to the values of the Wesley's, have always been the following, similar to what many of you have suggested when we talk at district and conference gatherings:

1) Eliminate all denominational level program commissions, boards and agencies. Replace these groups with similar but leaner and meaner teams in each jurisdiction, whose focus would be narrower and based on more easily recognizable geographic needs. In my opinion, this would provide for better stewardship, with more funds going to the ministries that need them.

2) Replace the title "District Superintendent" with the older title of "Presiding Elder". Require that 80+% of their efforts be concentrated on helping and equipping the pastors and churches in their districts to become more effective. And yes, holding us pastors accountable is part of that.

I believe in my heart that these two suggestions alone would bring about some good.

3) Place our focus again on people, and not on structure. All that we see and do needs to be focused and viewed through a Wesleyan theological lens. Fringe groups who for years have caused division in our church, along with I don't know how many needless and completely fruitless programs, can either accept that we are going to return to taking the gospel to the people, building schools, churches, help centers, and engaging societal sins head on . . . or they can leave and start their own church.

From what I am hearing . . . each of these suggestions, in part or in whole, are being considered. I think eliminating commissions would need General Conference approval, but the other two could occur through leadership of the bishops.

The question will be this . . . how important is power to those who now have it, or want it . . . and will they surrender their needs for the needs of the Kingdom?

I'm better than I deserve! That's a good thing. ><>

Fretlight Guitars

Fretlight Guitars has a neat idea and concept. Might actually be what a lot of us novice guitarists need to "turn the corner" on our playing.

Check it out.

I'm better than I deserve! That's a good thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday languages . . .

We were talking about the "Texas translation" of cetain words relating to food and holidays.

In Texas . . . we don't say "Pecan" . . . most us say "Be-con."

At least I do.

And it may be spelled "Pumpkin" . . . but most of us 'true" Texans prounce it at "Punkin".

I don't know what we do with the missing "m" and "p".

Sure hope we have some "Be-con" pie and "Punkin" pie for Christmas.

Don't ask me what we call "fruitcake." You don't want to know.

I'm doing better than I deserve! And that's a good thing. ><>

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now, I'm ready for Advent . . .

Except for part of an apple pie that I bought yesterday, all the Thanksgiving leftovers are all gone. Mighty fine eating this year. Turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, brocolli-rice casserole, mint carrots, pecan and pumpkin pie, and pumpkin-gingerbread trifle.

Went to the 10:10 AM worship service at the church yesterday, and sat in the congregation next to my wife for the first time in a very long while. I was able to worship as a participant instead of being one of the leaders. I did miss doing the children's time.

Spent some time talking to a few relatives and friends on the phone, people I haven't talked to in a while. Catching up and stuff.

The Christmas Tree is up, along with other "inside" house Christmas decorations. I will probably put up the Christmas lights and star on the outside of the house next weekend.

I got a lot of yard and housework done before our Thanksgiving "cold snap" arrived in our area on Thursday. The yard and house look real good.

But most importantly . . . I've been away from my office for 8 days. And as a result, I am ready for Advent.

From now until Christmas Day, there will be very little, if any time off. In the past, when I didn't take Thanksgiving Week off, I would struggle, both physically and emotionally, to make it through to Christmas. This season is very demanding on everyone, but especially on pastors. It is the busiest time of the year at our churches with all the special services to plan and attend, along with numerous Christmas parties. But it is also a busier than normal time for our familes,as we prepare for Christmas Day.

But now, I am rested, and I am ready. I will be able to fully particpate in the Advent journey that leads us to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I will have everything in its proper perpective . . . and I won't be the "Grinch" I have sometimes been in the past.

I'm better than I deserve. That's a good thing! ><>

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ahhhh, it's time for Thanksgiving . . .

Vacation time starts tomorrow. For several years now, I've been able to take most of Thanksgiving Week off. It's a great time for a break. With Advent just around the corner, this is my last break away from work until the middle of Spring.

A little garden work, getting flower beds ready by trimming down seasonal plants and putting out a bunch of mulch. Here in Texas, this week may be the last time for lawn mowing. That means draining out gas from the lawn mower and tiller. Time to store them until early spring.

There is a starkness to winter that I enjoy. A time for things to go dormant, for greens to be replaced with browns . . . a time for nature to go-to-sleep for a while.

This will be a week where I will have time to bake home-made muffins each morning, and help get the house ready for Thanksgiving company. This will be a week where I have time to do some "physical work" with my hands. May even ride the mountain bike a few times.

I don't want to sit much this week. I want to fiddle with lawn mover engines, oven thermostats, washing machine timers . . . anything that lets me have a reason to go to the hardware store.

Advent is going to be so busy. Our church is growing, and we anticipate record crowds for our annual Choir Candelighthing Service and later for Christmas Eve services (at 5 PM, 7 PM, and 9 PM). I want to accomplish as many "need to do's" this week as I can. I need to do this, because my focus in December will be our church, and getting ready for Advent and Christmas Day.

It is also a time to break in the new 2008 Planner Pad, and begin planning in earnest for the next quarter. It has been a fruitful year of ministry . . . of friendships . . . for family. This week will also be a time give thanks, but also a time to do some "long range" visioning, to dream about a preferred future . . . God's future.

It's going to be a good week.

I'm better than I deserve! That's a good thing.

Rick ><>

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More on To-Do Lists

As I have spent a day or two thinking about it . . . I think I have, in fact, several to-do lists. More than I thought I did. And I do think they reveal some things about me . . . such as current interests, and what I spend my spare time thinking about and doing. I hope it reveals that I am a somewhat organized person . . . who still makes time for the whimsical.

1) I have a to-do list for my daughter's wedding. And it keeps getting longer and longer. But I am glad I have it . . . especially since it is organized by deadline dates.

2) I have a "fish I want to catch" list. It is decently long, but there are quite a few types of fish, both fresh and salt water, that I have yet to catch.

3) I have a "guitars I want to own" list. This one isn't so long anymore. All that is really left on the list is a good Fender Telecaster or a G&L Telecaster.

4) I have a "songs I want to learn to sing and play" list. It is the longest list I have. For every song I learn to sing and play on guitar, I add another five to the list.

5) I have a "places I want to take a vacation" list. Seems as I get older, vacations are becoming more and more important to me. My list does reveal that I don't like to travel that far to get to a vacation destination.

6) I have a "learn to grow grapes and make wine" list. I have drawn the plans to plant 5 rows of grapes in my back yard. Need to grow the grapes before I make the wine!

7) I have a "things I wish I had done" list. But then, most of us have a similar list, don't we?

8) I have a "things I need to do around the house" list. But again, so do most of you!

And yes, I do have a "what I would like to do and accomplish in ministry" list. It is quite long, but in truth, most of it is about my making a name for myself verses yeilding to God's call and will. That list I will be spending some time working on. I will write about it later. Near the top is my wanting to go to Kenya on a mission trip in 2009.

No doubt I have quite a few more lists. I think I am going to purchase the book. Interesting subject.

What To-Do lists do you have?

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To-Do-List blog . . .

Check out Sasha Cagen's To-Do-List Blog.

Funny thing to consider . . . what do my daily "to-do" lists reveal about me?

I think I will make sure and shred mine at the end of every day!

Give this blog a read. I am going to go look at the book at Barnes & Noble. Maybe I will buy it. Will let you know.

To-Do lists I have considered creating:

-Songs I want to play on the guitar before I die.
-Things I want to accomplish as a pastor before I retire . . . or die.
-Fish I want to catch before I die.
-Diseases I do not want to catch or die from.

I am sure I can think of a few more!

Fascinating to think about.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank you for your time . . .

Jeff Murphy is one of the guys in our church . . . loves to hunt and play the guitar. He sent me this story. I really would like to find out who the author is . . . so if you know, could you pass on the info to me.

This is the type stuff I've been finding out about in my life the last 3-4 years. Hope you see wisom the following words.

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said."

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important ... Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture .... Jack stopped suddenly."

What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone!" he said.

"What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day, Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. "Mr. Harold Belser," it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside."Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life."

A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:"Jack, Thanks for your time! - Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most was ... my time."

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said.

"Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!"


With friends sending me stories like this . . . I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Preached at LifePoint UMC yesterday . . .

For the past month or so, I have been a consultant for our new LifePoint UMC in Keller, TX, a new UMC start that will soon celebrate its 1st birthday. Working with their pastor, Dr. Thomas Childs, and the great volunteers on their New Consecration Sunday team, 50 families attending worship there yesterday turned in giving commitments for the upcoming year.

Their commitments increased by 136% over the giving received this first year. What a great bunch of people whose actions speak so much louder than their words.

I appreciate them all. It was an honor to work with them, and to preach there yesterday.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Commentary from my friend, Floyd . . .

My best friend, Floyd, emailed me this commentary. It is worthy of being shared with our blogging friends.

Dude:

Slight historical error in your latest blog. According to Wikipedia, the compact disc (CD) was introduced in 1982, not 1989. It was on sale in Japan first, by Sony, then to the U.S. the following year. The first commercially released music CD was "The Visitors" by ABBA on 8/17/82.


Stuff that was either too new to be affordable or not yet invented when I was in college: VCR, CD, DVD, DVR, microwaves, personal computers, cell phones, cable tv, satellite TV, MP3's, PDA's, desktop electronic calculators (important to my job), digital cameras, digital watches.

When I was in college, LED watches (remember pushing a button to get the time?)came out and cost 3 times what a Timex costs today, without even adjusting for inflation. There was such a thing as cable TV, but only to replace an outside antenna. You could only get local broadcast stations. When I was in high school, my parents bought me a TI electronic calculator which would add, subtract, multiply, divide, and do square roots. It cost $100.

Floyd


This got me to thinking about something Ken preached in a sermon in October. He asked, "How many products at Best Buy were not even available 20 years ago?"

I bet that list would include about three-fourths of their current inventory!

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Tried planning my own way, and it didn't work . . .

Rats . . .

For the past year . . . I have tried to "organize" and coordinatre all my projects and work with over a dozen ministry teams in a personally designed system that I was hoping to actually market for pastors someday.

Parts of it worked . . . but most didn't.

So, I am going to return to using the Planner Pad.

It only costs $26 plus shipping, and is available in looseleaf or spiral in several sizes.

I used it my first year-and-a-half here at FUMC-Grapevine, with great success. My order for the new 2008 Planner Pad was sent in today.

Why did I stop using it?

Ask my friend Floyd why I am always looking for the "perfect" guitar pick!

I was hoping, actually, that I would be a better coordinator/project manager if I developed a personalized system. I gave it a good ride . . . but it didn't work as well as I hoped.

Just thought I would share what I believe is a very good product, especially if you help coordinate teams or manage a lot of projects, like I do.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Even more stuff 50+ year olds think about . . .

More stuff about the college class of 2012 that was sent to me by my friend, Rick.

-The young people who are starting college this year were born in 1989.

-They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.

-Their lifetime has always included AIDS.

-Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.

-The CD was introduced the year they were born.

-They have always had an Answering Machine

-They have always had cable.

-They cannot fathom not having a remote control.

-Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.

-They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.

-They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.

-They don't know who Mork was or where he was from.

-They do not care who shot J. R. And have no idea who J. R. even is.

-They don't have a clue how to use a typewriter.


I think I am actually starting to feel sorry for those entering college this year!

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Stuff a 50+ year old thinks about . . .

The following info was sent to me by my long time friend, whose name is also Rick. I do not know who to give credit to for the research. However, I had to share this, because as a 50+ year old . . . it is stuff I do actually think about.

And may God help me!

1977 : Long hair
2007 : Longing for hair

1977: KEG
2007: EKG

1977 : Acid rock
2007 : Acid reflux

1977 : Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor
2007 : Trying NOT to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor

1977 : Seeds and stems
2007 : Roughage

1977 : Hoping for a BMW
2007: Hoping for a BM

1977 : Going to a new, hip joint
2007 : Receiving a new hip joint

1977 : Rolling Stones
2007: Kidney Stones

1977 : Screw the system
2007: Upgrade the system

1977 : Parents begging you to get your hair cut
2007: Children begging you to get their heads shaved

1977 : Passing the drivers' test
2007: Passing the vision test

1977 : Whatever
2007: Depends

What is funny about this, is that in know I have "friends" out there who are scratching their heads as they read this, saying to themselves . . . "Dang, that makes sense to me!"

I'm better than I deserve! ><>

Monday, November 5, 2007

A blast from the past . . .

Out of the blue . . . a phone call to my office this morning . . .

Hey Rick, you won't know who this this, but I used to live 3 doors down from your grandparents in LaFeria, TX.

I knew exactly who it was . . .

Scott . . . dude, how long has it been?

Over 30 years.

Wow! A lot of water has gone under the bridge in that time.

Scott had been talking with another of our former high school friends, who told him that I was here in Grapevine.

The conversation lasted about an hour. We both are older . . . have experienced a lot . . . overcome a lot . . . and we both love the Lord.

What a flood of memories today . . . of some awfully good times.

Fishing at Padre Island . . . driveway basketball games . . . tennis . . . snorkeling in ponds and lakes . . . and packing tomatoes by size in cartons at the packing plant in LaFeria.

Scott got me that job. We worked as long as their was a harvest. About three weeks, then it rained, and the harvest was over.

Then it was back to playing basketball . . . fishing . . . the beach . . .

Those were some great times . . . times that kids today will not have a chance to live out as we did.

Good memories. Definitely a God moment.

I'm better than I deserve! ><>