White or wheat?

downloadFourth year of seminary education. Married. One in the oven. Time to get a job to make ends meet. Subway is taking applications. Why not?

I was hired at a store on the south side of Ft. Wayne, about twenty minutes from our tiny (before tiny homes were fashionable) home. Back then, the menu was simpler. Only two kinds of bread: white or wheat. Two kinds cheese: American or Swiss. No cookies. No toasted subs. Old school. We didn’t wear gloves, just washed our hands a lot. Cleaning the bathrooms was as gross though. Some things never change.

Since I was about ten years older than most of the crew, I often closed the store at 2 am. One night, just before I locked the front door, a man came in, pointed a long barrel revolver at my head and said, “Give me the money.” Since we dropped the cash about every half hour or so, there was less than $20 in the drawer. Impatiently he demanded, “Just give me the whole thing.” I handed him the money tray and followed his instructions to lay face down on the floor. After a few moments of silence, I locked the front door and called 911 and the store manager.

I was pretty shaken up by the time I got home around 4 am. The assistant store manager was more upset that the thief took the money tray than he was about the stolen cash. I worked a few more shifts after than, but as call day and graduation approached, we were making plans to move…somewhere. We didn’t know where our first call would be for a few months.

I’m always nice to workers at Subway. I get to do what I do today because of people just like them!

Madagascar (part 5 – clinic day three in Ankazomiriotra)

The preschool children assembled for the morning devotion.

The preschool children assembled for the morning devotion.

Wednesday’s clinic was the busiest of the week. We saw 650 patients, dispensing over 2,000 prescriptions. When we arrived at the church, all of the preschool children were assembled for the opening devotion, in their pink smocks. (Different age groups wear different colors.)

My breakfast of fried eggs didn’t sit real well this morning, so with a “rumbly in my tumbly” I got to make a few trips to the outhouse. Fortunately, I felt better after lunch and had no other problems for the rest of the trip. Molly, however, did get sick and Donna wasn’t feeling well with. Always a possibility on trips like this.

Our team gets along really well and works well together. About half have been on trips before and have some great experiences to share.

In the absence of the team leader, I got to greet the waiting patients before the clinic opened.

In the absence of the team leader, I got to greet the waiting patients before the clinic opened.

Day three clinic

Day three clinic

 

Mathew 1:6-11 Royalty

As Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage through the kings following David and Solomon, he includes some good ones, like Uzziah, Jotham and Hezekiah. He also includes some who weren’t good, like Joram, Ahaz and Amos. Some, like Manasseh, started evil and ended their reign good. I think that there is an interesting assortment of rulers to fill out the fourteen between David and the exile.

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Kenya (travel day…days)

After lots of preparation and packing we took off on the first leg of our trip to Kenya on Thursday afternoon (July 11). An easy leg, just a hop up to Atlanta. We checked four fifty-pound bags of medicine and supplies and fit our own personal items into carry-on duffles.

The first leg of our flight was easy. Got to Atlanta and had time for some very pricey drinks and food. A glass of wine was much more than I ever spend on a 1.5 liter bottle of wine! Anyway, it was good, we found our gate, and met another member of our team, Patrick, who also came from FL. Our overnight flight to Amsterdam wasn't too bad. I think I slept for about four hours.

In the Amsterdam airport, we came across the rest of our team and spent a little time getting to know each other. Everyone seems very nice, with a wide variety of mission and medical experience. Our flight to Nairobi was on a 747, and it takes a long time to load up that plane. I sat in-between Lisa and a man whose elbow was in my side for most of the trip. I slept a little, watched two movies (“Silver Linings Playbook” and “Oz: The great and powerful”) and started Eugene Peterson's book A Long Journey in the Same Direction, which is about a lifetime of discipleship.

When we arrived in Nairobi, we waited in a long, slow line for immigration, and found all of our bags but one. So I waited in line in baggage claim, and we finally got into our van and on the road to the Scripture Mission Conference House where we were just spending one night. Next, we do some orientation and drive to Kisii, where our clinic will be for the next week.

The edge of night from our plane, on the way to Amsterdam.

 

 

 

Logs and specks

 

One Bible verse that a lot of people seem to know and like to quote is, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NLT). If you express disapproval of a certain behavior, dislike someone's attitude or speak unkindly of another person, you can almost be sure that someone will start throwing these words at you.

Does that mean Christians not allowed to express disapproval, point out obvious sin or even have an opinion? Many people would “judge” us for doing so. But Jesus was judgmental at times, especially when it came to someone who flaunted their piety, showed no mercy, and refused to believe He was the Messiah. Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel were told it was their job to warn people about sin.

So what did Jesus mean when He spoke those words?

Here are those words in context from Matthew's gospel:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT).

If you're going to point out someone's sin, be prepared to have your sin addressed, too. Don't be a hypocrite and pretend you're better than someone else. Come clean about your own “log” (sin) and need for God's grace and forgiveness. Then you can talk about the “speck” that someone else needs to deal with.

The law of God, which does specify right and wrong behavior, shows us our sin and condemns us. It makes us aware of our need for a Savior, and drives us to Him for forgiveness. That's why we point out sin. Not to condemn, but to proclaim the gospel.

The important question is, “What's your motivation?” Are you expressing disapproval to make someone look bad? To make yourself look good? Or to proclaim Christ?

 

How to do the BBQ fundraiser dinner

chicken legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today our high school youth group serve up a barbecue dinner for the congregation to raise money for out trip to the National Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Youth Gathering in San Antonio this July. Pulled pork, chicken, slaw, baked beans and strawberry shortcake. We got a ton of support from the congregation and are well on our way to covering all our expenses.

How did we put on a successful event? Here are a few helpful tips.

A very visible and hard-working youth group. While the parents did the cooking, it was the youth who handled the ticket sales, handled publicity, set up the event, served the food and provided the entertainment. I am very thankful for the efforts of young and old alike, as well as the support of our congregation.

A simple, inexpensive and appealing menu. Everyone here likes barbecue chicken and pork. We prepared the pork in crock pots the night before, marinated the chicken night before, cooked it the day of, and added some last minute clam chowder from a native Bostonian who knew how to do it right.

Youth talent. Magic, music and balloon animals, all done by our youth. They’ve got so much to offer!

Lots of prayer. I had my doubts, but it turned out to be a great day. God was good (as He always is).

We’re going to make it after all!

No surprises

I met the gentleman I mentioned yesterday at the Volusia County Library Center, where I have never been before.  Actually, a very nice place off of Beach Street near the river.  I recognized him right away and we had a short but great conversation.  We prayed together.  Yes, he needed a little financial help and I was ready with that.  Talked a little about his past and his future.  He’s got a strong faith and really wants to come to church, but I think he’s underestimated the distance from his new place to our church (about 35 miles)  With no transportation, I’m not sure how things will turn out.

He and his wife have only been here a week or so, and only gotten back to their faith in the last few weeks.  I said I’d call him on Friday night when  he had moved to  his new place.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

Interesting phone message

I heard this staccato phone message at my office, just before I headed home after services on Sunday:

“Name:  Rick.  Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx.  Terminal cancer.  Missouri Synod Lutheran.  Call me.”

The message was left at about 9:20 on that Sunday morning.  Guess he didn’t think I’d be busy at that time.

Yes, I called him today.   I called out of duty rather than compassion.  I’ve gotten calls like this before.  The conversations usually head in the direction of needing some financial help.

I caught him at work, roofing a house.  While his condition was terminal, he was making a go of it and actually doing a little better.  He’d soon be moving to Palm Coast, would be heading back to church, and could I meet him to talk.  I didn’t realize he was a few towns away, so it would have to be tomorrow.

I’ll probably spend most of my time with him listening to his story.  And I may give him a little money.  I am pretty sure I won’t ever see him at church.  This will be one off those ministry moments that will bring me in touch with someone I won’t see at church, but need to know about.  The world is filled with people in that situation, most of whom I will never get to know.  So here is my chance to learn a little about life from another point of view.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Wise Men

img_0097This is the tie I wore today.  I only get to wear it once, maybe twice a year, like today, as we celebrated Epiphany.  Were there three of them?  Did they look like that?  Where did they really come from?  Who knows.  The account of the wise men’s visit is filled with mystery, but they are a staple in our celebration of Jesus’ birth.  And as I told the congregation this morning, their arrival is a game changing performance, fulfilling prophecy that Jesus came as Savior for all, Gentiles and Jews alike.  Good thing for us.  I think we only had two people from Jewish backgrounds among us this morning.  The rest of us were non-Jews.

Some year I’ll plan ahead and have some frankincense and myrrh on hand to show people.  Gold I can get my hands on.