Alone, Lonely, or Choice

IMG_1173I met him one fall day. I sat watching him more than the game on the field. He came in alone with two soft drinks and two small popcorns. He sat one drink on the seat beside him and began eating and drinking the other. I watched as the other popcorn and drink sat through the first quarter. No one sat with him.

He was dressed nicer than most around him this early fall day. Yet, he seemed lonely.  I wondered about the empty seat; Did it belong to him? Was it for a friend who was meeting him? What was the story of the seat?

Curiosity got the best of me, I had to know. During a long network timeout, I made my way to this gentleman. I asked if he was saving the seat for a friend. “No, it is my wife’s seat. We have been to every home game since we were students and started dating in 1952.” He breathed a deep sigh, “She passed recently, so I am here alone. We always bought two cokes and two popcorns.”

I wanted to communicate my sympathy.  I was touched by his tradition and love. I chocked on the words, and he continued.  He told me about all the wonderful people they had met. The stars they had seen play. He talked about her favorite players and how much she loved The Million Dollar Band. He talked about the good years and the not so good years of their beloved Crimson Tide. He talked about hopes for the season that was unfolding. sixty-four years of history, sixty-four years of love of a team and a love as a couple.

Tears came to my eyes. “I am sorry you are hear all alone. I am sure you had friends or family that could have come with you today.”

“I do,” he said, “but they are all at her funeral.”

OKAY, Okay, I made that story up. It did not happen. 

I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I know enough fans to think it could happen. Football is a priority. Many plan their fall schedule around their favorite team including away games and neutral site games. They put a lot of time and money into “their team.” I am not too far from this myself. I may not go to many games or travel, but I am always watching or listening to the games, and I watch the rebroadcasts during the week.

Priorities.

There is an observation I have made about people. We have time for the things we want to do. I may not have time to mow the yard, but I have time to watch a three hour football game. I may not have time to study and pray, but I have time to go to the beach, lake, hunting club. I don’t have time to prepare to teach a class, but I have time to go to the gym. I don’t have time to visit the sick, hospitals, or homebound, but I have time to read novels and magazines.

I am taking inventory.

I am looking at me.

I am asking myself,

“What do I consider as priority?”

Paul teaches that Christ is not looking to be first simply be first in our life, but that as a child of God, Christ is TO BE our life (Colo 3:4).  All we do is for Him. Are you and I living that way?

-Scott

 

Losing the Battle

dsc_0576

The three of us Charles, Scott (me), and Doug who did not see the camera

For the last five months my younger brother, Charles, fought a glioblastoma. A glioblastoma is an aggressive malignant brain tumor. At age 43, he lost this battle on Friday.

I despise cancer!

I want to take the high emotional and spiritual road that says, “This was for the best. He is no longer suffering, etc.” He might not be but we – the survivors are.

Those that study grief tells us that there are five stages to the grieving process:

  1. Denial & Isolation: This isn’t happening, this can’t be real, I am dreaming, or similar thoughts run through our minds.
  2. Anger: We lash out at family, friends, co-workers, hospital or medical staff, God, or our loved one who is suffering.
  3. Bargaining: We try to regain a sense of control. The “if only” stage.  If only I had had more regular check-ups, If only we had _______________.
  4. Depression: Depression over the financial costs of the illness and funeral. We begin to wish we had only spent more time with them and less time bring busy. We think about the deceased and intensely miss them.
  5. Acceptance: We know what happened is real. We have moved passed anger and worked through our bargaining stage. We still miss them and will still feel sad all along, but we are recovering. We focus on the good things our loved one left us and we smile, maybe for the first time in a long time.

Everyone moves through these stages at different speeds, some take very little time, others may take years. You may even experience more than one of the stages simultaneously. The best we can do as we grieve is to allow ourselves to experience the grief as it overcomes us. To quote the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Resistance is futile.” Resisting grief only acts to lengthen the time it takes you to go through the stages.

In other words, it is okay.

  • It is okay to deny the reality of the situation for a time. It took me a week or more to accept that my brother had a dangerously malignant tumor that would eventually take his life.
  • It is okay to be angry. Confession time. I am ANGRY at cancer! I am ANGRY that this world broken by sin and Satan takes life.
  • It is okay to bargain and try to control.  I have wondered if I should have seen changes in my brother’s personality that are common with glioblastomas.
  • It is okay to be sad, to cry, to be depressed. I am here too. In moments of solitude I tear up. Writing this is hard. I think of song he liked, I see a meme of Kermit the Frog and I laugh and cry. Charles did a spot on Kermit imitation. I miss him.
  • It is okay to accept the loss. I think I have generally accepted that Charles is no longer living. I know life goes on for the survivors. I don’t like it, but I know.

Let me thank you for your thoughts, gifts, prayers, and compassion. It truly means a lot to the family. As we get ready for a memorial service this Saturday, please keep us in your prayers.

Death is a part of life. Allow me to put on the “preacher hat” (I never really take it off, but you know what I mean) and encourage you to ensure that you are ready for that day. In Christ, we may lose a battle, but He has won the war.

-Scott

Freedom, Family, and Friends

Wow! What a weekend. Since Thursday we have had wonderful company.

Friends.

Richard and Samantha (Richie and Sam) Moore stayed with us Thursday evening before collecting their son Samuel from Indian Creek Youth Camp. It is always great to catch up with the Moores. They were a dating couple in one of the earliest youth groups I worked with (circa: April 1987-April 1989). I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony on August 5, 1989 (one week before Amy and I married). They stopped in at Central the Sunday before when they dropped Samuel off at camp.  We had a great visit over lunch that day. We count them as some of our dearest friends, we just wish we could get together more often.

Family.

breakoutFriday evening, Doug, Tammy, and Melanie came for the holiday weekend. For new readers, Doug is my brother. Friday evening we stayed around the house and caught up. Saturday we went racing at Birmingham Autobahn, for lunch we grilled Grouper Cheeks and Shrimp they brought up from the Gulf of Mexico. Sunday was worship and then that evening after worship we tried to breakout at Breakout Birmingham – notice I said tried. Monday we took in a movie and then they left for home.

Freedom.

Yes it was Independence Day Weekend. The time when we as citizens of the United States celebrate our independence from Great Britain that began 240 years ago – has it really ben 40 years since our Bicentennial Celebration? Surely not!

More importantly, the connection we have with the Moores and my brother and his family is deeper than friendship. Our relationship is deeper than family. Our bond goes beyond our freedom as citizens of this nation.

Our connection is in Christ.

Our true freedom is in the Son of God “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36). In Christ we are free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). Once we died to our self and sin, being buried with Christ, we rise alive in Him and no longer a slave of sin, but we belong to God (Rom 6:3-6, 17-18).

We are FREE INDEED!

-Scott

Vertical

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my world turning Sideways. Current political climate and current issues of morality or immorality played into that post, but mostly it was about a personal event. My younger brother’s diagnosis with a brain tumor.

This week I traveled to Gainesville, Florida to Shands’ Hospital where skilled surgeons and others removed 90% of the tumor. As of today, I do not know of the complete pathology report, but the surgeon and oncologist are both certain that the tumor is malignant. Watching my parents and my sister-in-law as the word cancer entered the room was difficult. No family wants to hear that diagnosis.

cj

 

Breathe.

Cry.

Pray.

Inhale and exhale.

Pray more.

Now that we know, we fight. We fight with medicines, we fight with technology, we fight calling upon the Great Physician to be in our corner fighting for us and with us. We fight vertically.

My brother is not perfect, I am not either. My brother is a child of God. In the hospital from pre-op to post-op in the ICU and in a semi-private room, he prayed with surgeons, nurses, and other patients.  He shared the reason for his hope and good spirits. I do not know how other families react to such news, but after the initial disappointment we quickly reverted to hope and laughter. Charles and I even had a few laughs about comedy skits that made fun of brain surgery. We are not laughing at the diagnosis, but in spite of it.

We can laugh and cope because of our hope in Christ.

Last evening at our devotional at Central, J, our Youth Minister shared the following statement. A statement I wish I had made. A statement that summarizes how my family is coping with brain cancer.

“This world is full of grave things, but this world is not my grave.”

I may die here. Unless Christ comes first I know I will die (Heb 9:27). It may be of cancer. It may be from a heart attack. It may be of old age, in automobile accident, or a random shooting. Death will come, my body will be buried, but because Christ rose from the dead and I put my hope in Him, the grave will not hold me for eternity. I will rise to be with the Lord always.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1Th 4:13-18).

Instead of thinking sideways, think VERTICAL!

Cancer is bad. But God is good!

-Scott

Sideways

Recent events have turned my world sideways. Not stopped or upside-down, but sideways. As a minister I am no stranger to destruction or disease. I have consoled many through tough times. I have personally  faced them on occasion. But the passed few days grabbed my attention.

I would start with the current political situation in the United States and more specifically my home state, but then I would digress into a rant and  . . . well let’s just say I am not thrilled, happy, pleased, or hopeful about our nation at the moment.

I could also mention current issues of morality that are hot topics in our nation. But again, I would have way too much to say, and you likely know where I stand on those issues – or think you do.

My world is sideways for some personal reasons. Please indulge my personal message.

I have a dear friend (a member where I serve as minster and my “amen” corner) who is visiting family in Japan. I have a cousin and his family living in Japan as teachers and missionaries. Japan recently had earthquakes and aftershocks. Thankfully they are both safe and are a good distance away from the epicenter and suffered no damage. I have friends in Ecuador, again they suffered earthquakes. I have heard from many of them that they are all safe. Some shaken, but safe.  I even learned that some of these poor people are gathering supplies in Ecuador to send to the hardest hit regions.

Yesterday something even more personal struck and grabbed my attention. My younger

10457592_621156656250_8216987243847011345_n

l-r: Doug, Charles, Scott (me)

brother (Charles a.k.a. Chuck, Chaz, and Kermit) fainted at work and then had a seizure. Co-workers got him to the hospital – I presume they called for an ambulance. They found a tumor on his brain affecting the left side of his body.  He admitted to my parents and older brother that he had recently been suffering from some weakness on his left side. As of now, we do not know the nature of the tumor. He should know sometime today when a larger hospital will have him come for further evaluations and tests. My sister-in-law says he is resting well and is in good spirits about it. (Update – Charles expects to be at the hospital next week for biopsy, evaluations, recommendations and the next steps to recovery.)

 

My world is sideways, but my faith is strong. I thank God for the safety of my friends and family in Japan and Ecuador. I thank Him that they are in positions to help others recover from these disasters. I know you have friends and family in similar situations and that with God we can all have a peace that passes understanding. I know that no matter what lies ahead for my brother, his family, and our family together, that God is there with us, holding hands, and hearing prayers. I know that you and many others are praying for Charles, for his healing, and for those that will be taking care of him. We covet those prayers and thank you for them.

Today, the well known words of the psalmist seem more than appropriate,

Psalm 23
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name ‘s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

-Scott

Characteristics of a Can-Do Faith

beach 10-10-15This weekend Amy and I had the opportunity to do some things we have not done in a while.  After she finished teaching and getting everything together from School and after I finished up in the study, we left for my parents’ house in Florida. On Saturday we experienced a first for us –  a 7 to 9 year old girls soccer game. It was exciting. I do not know the score, I only know that my niece is good at using her body to protect the ball when she takes away on defense. After the game we went to my brother’s place for my niece’s 8th birthday party.

After the party, my brother’s family, my parents, along with Amy and I took a walk along the beach – not a long walk, we had to leave that evening – but a walk none-the-less and an opportunity for a few pictures. After supper we left for Montgomery to spend the night.

Sunday morning was unsusual for me. As a minister it is not often that I get to listen to other preachers on Sunday mornings. This particular Sunday, since we were traveling, we worshipped with Dalraida Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama.  This is where Andrew (our son) worships while he is a student at Faulkner University. It was good to sit in Dr. Terry Edwards’ class on John 3 and 4. It was good to worship with our extended church family. It was good to see folks we knew from when we were in college and others who live in Montgomery that were part of the congregation where we preached in Florida. Of course it was great to meet some of Andrew’s college and church friends. It was also good to hear a sermon from Doug Smith.

Here are my notes from his lesson (Central folks, you may hear this one . . .). I did not write down Doug’s title, so I came up with my own.

Characteristics of a Can-Do Faith – I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

  1. Be a SERVANT – All of life as a child of God emanates from this relationship. We are here to serve God and we serve God by serving others.
  2. Know the Great Cause – We are successful and happier when we serve a greater good – a cause greater than ourselves.  Our cause is building up the Kingdom of God. We are part of the GREATEST CAUSE on Earth – an eternal cause.
  3. Forget the Past – Consider Paul’s past. Obviously he did not completely forget his past or he would not bring it up in Phil 3:13 and other places.  He is saying that we cannot allow our past to keep us from doing what we can to for Christ today. Be forgiven for the past in Christ.
  4. Pay the Price – Things that are valuable in culture are not always valuable to us spiritually and are ultimately without value in the kingdom. Ask: What effort do I put into my spiritual growth? Does it compare with the effort I put into worldly efforts?
  5. Set the Right Example – Ask: What do people see in me? Does my example lead people closer too or further away from God?
  6. Work for Unity – Look not to your own interest, but the good of others.  Have the mind of Christ that humbly gave self to bring others (me and you) into unity with God. Unity does not just happen. Strive for it.
  7. Be Positive – Paul says, “I CAN Do . . .” The “all things” means all things in God’s will what He expects, what He commands, and is in service to Him. You and I CAN DO what God says to do.
  • Scott

Parenting is a Ministry

Went through the archives and found this post.  Thought it was a good time to share it again.

The Ministry of Parenthood

There are a number of texts to speak about the role of parents: Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, and Psalm 127:3 come to mind.11076261_10204996389362588_295757434754120591_n Then there are general verses about every Christian being a minister (servant): 1 Pet 4:10-11 Parenthood is such a ministry. We must give parents: Time to be good parents. Training to be good parents. And we must provide them motivation to be good ministers.  Below are some suggestions for the ministry of parenthood.

  1. Build Credibility  Your relationship with your children matters.  We should work alongside them (Neh 4:13-14) when working around the house or in the yard. We should make every effort to be at their events (sports).
  2. Think Long Term Parenting does not end when they no longer need diapers.  Parenting does not end when they starts school. Remember what Ruth said to Naomi and Christ to His followers, “I will not forsake you.” Children need the security of knowing their parents are there and will be. We should be available to your children as long as they need you, even if they forget they need you.
  3. Look at What They Can Become.  Thankfully God sees what we can be not what we are at any given moment. God is patient with you – pass it along: 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Ths 5:14.
  4. Teach them God’s Word  God designed families as an avenue to teach and grow faith – Deut  6:1-9.Point your children to Jesus – John 10:9 
  5. Pray – Continually! Paul says to “Pray without ceasing.” –1 Ths 5:17 Parenting cannot succeed without God. Pray for your child’s day, week, rest, and future.
  6. Challenge them to Grow Set educational goals. Set physical goals. Set spiritual goals. Do not forget that branches that do not grow (produce) are cut off the Vine – Jn 15:6.
  7. Model What you Teach Replace the old parental saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” with “Do as I do, as I teach.”  Consider Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 11:1. You children will be like you in many ways.
  8. Be Balanced Demonstrate love. Discipline fairly.  God is both severe and kind (Rom 11:22) so should we.
  9. Remember Your Responsibility to train them up in the way they should go – Prov 22:6.

Teaching the Next Generaton

image via Crimson Confidential

image via Crimson Confidential (UA vs WV 2014)

Saturday, thanks to a friend, I had two tickets to the Home Opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Andrew was in town for the weekend do we had a father and son day as we watched Alabama take on Middle Tennessee. We were not the only father-son duo there.  Sitting a row behind us was a dad and his 9 year old son. They were dressed in Crimson and White, had shakers, Cokes, and popcorn.  I listened pre-game as this young father explained the traditions at Bryant-Denny. How the band was spelling BAMA and pointed out the Elephant that The Million Dollar Band made as Big Al lead them in Tusk.  This dad pointed out how everyone used their shakers during Sweet Home Alabama (Roll Tide Roll).

Then as the game got under way, this dad patiently explained why Alabama went “three and out” on their fist possession and then explained why they got the ball back after a fumble.  Every play, every possession, this dad shared the love of the game. It was a special day for this father-son duo.

As special as that day and those moments were for them, they were special to me as I sat next to my college freshman.  It does not seem that long ago that I took him to his first BAMA game sharing a my love of the game and of the band. Now he will be on the John-Mark Stallings Field at Falkner University, not playing football, but as a part of the Marching Eagle Band. I should mention that I am excited about their upcoming home game.

Yet, there is another event that I am thinking of.  One that plays out not just on a special Saturday in Fall, but one that plays out every Sunday – somewhere. I witnessed such an event recently.

A young family sat together during worship.  The youngest child is just reaching that age when they are curious about what they see their parents doing during worship.  The were about to join in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and this little one asked why they were eating crackers? I could not hear what Mom or Dad said, but I heard them explaining.  The next question was about grape juice. I love witnessing families passing on what they love. I love watching them encourage their children to sing with the congregation. I love seeing families teaching their children about God and the Church so that when the children mature, they can make a decision about faith for themselves.

God always planned for parents to teach their children lessons of faith. In Joshua 4 the Israelites set up stones where they crossed the Jordan as God command them. Joshua explained why, “And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” (Jos 4:21-22).

We are quick to pass along our love of football, baseball, music, good food, cars, hunting, fishing, and family traditions. May we be just as faithful at teaching our children about God, Christ, the Spirit, Christ’s Church, and the Faith.

  • Scott

Summertime

The school year is almost over.  I can hear the students and teachers sigh relief and I think I heard some shouts of joyful celebration. As you look for things to do this summer, as you take vacations, don’t forget about God. As a child of God remember that Christ is your life (Colossians 3:1-4) keep centered on Him.  As you travel take time to visit with the Church where you are.  You will encourage the congregation you visit and you will be encouraged by being there.

Take time this summer for activities specifically focused on God and Christ. Attend a VBS (Vacation Bible School, Family Bible School, or Weekend Bible School – there are so many differs names for VBS now). If you are in or near Tuscaloosa County, Alabama come check out the VBS Central and Northport churches of Christ are hosting together.

Into the Wild with Moses June 22-24, 2015

Into the Wild with Moses
June 22-24, 2015

You can also take time to spend a week at Christian Camp: ICYC (Indian Creek Youth Camp) is close to us physically and close to our heart.

icyc

Have a great summer!

– Scott

Ten Things to Do this Summer

Summer is rapidly approaching and you are making your family plans.  Here is a list of ten things you can do as a family this 11076261_10204996389362588_295757434754120591_nsummer.

  1. Travel together.  You do not have to go far. You can travel a couple of hours and take in new sights. Within that distance form us there is American Village that recreates colonial America, or a couple of lakes for boating or swimming, some historic towns, historic iron works, waterfalls, and national forests.
  2. Eat together.  Take a picnic to a park. Go to different restaurant. Gather around the family table and tell stories about when you were growing up.
  3. Visit a Summer Carnival or Amusement Park together.  Ride roller-coasters, swings, haunted houses, take in a show, laugh and enjoy these things together.
  4. Laugh together.  Find an old slapstick comedy or clean parody to watch together. See ho many knock-knock jokes ou can remember or make up.  JUST LAUGH!
  5. Go to community events together.  Summertime brings art festivals, music festivals, pet days, town days (Around here there is Kansas Day, Berry Heritage Day, Mule Day, etc. When I lived in Florida there was the Mullet Festival the fish not the hair style.) Take in the family events of these special days and weekends.
  6. Walk together.  Walk in the early morning before it gets to hot. Or walk in the late evening while the sun is just setting. Walk the neighborhood, walk in the community park. Not only are you getting some exercise, you are in each other’s company.
  7. Have devotionals together.  Take time to sing, pray, and study together in the family room.  If you are on vacation have devotionals in your hotel, condo, resort room, camper or tent. There will be some great discussions about Christian living that will take place in those rooms.
  8. Worship together.  Spend Sunday and Wednesdays gathering with Christians as you worship. When you are on vacation, make time to worship with Christians in the area you are visiting. You will encourage them and they will encourage you.
  9. Talk together.  Those walks, meals, and hours of standing in line at amusement parks gives ample opportunity to talk. So do the car rides as you travel.  Talk together.
  10. Spend TIME TOGETHER.  Really that is what the whole idea of this post is – time together.  Make the most of the time.  Build relationships and create memories by simply being together.

Have a great FAMILY SUMMER!

– Scott