Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Tomato of the Summer...bitter sweet

No, I don't mean the tomato tastes bittersweet, but rather it's the first tomato of the summer, from my father's garden.

Dad planted about half his garden before he died May 16. Mom and my boys have been trying to keep his garden watered and weeded.

This particular tomato comes from a special plant. It's a tomato plant my dad had growing in a pot. Those of you who attended my father's funeral might remember a large tomato plant among the flowers. This tomato is from that plant. Three were ripe enough to pick today, my mother brought this one over.

See what I mean about everything reminding me of Dad these days?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Must still be a "time to mourn"

Sorry I haven't been posting too much lately. I have been busy with ministry and family, but that's not really the reason I've lagged on posting. I have started several posts only to quit writing.

Very honestly, I'm still grieving the loss of my father. I try to put his death out of my mind, but I think of it pretty consistently still six weeks later. In talking with folks who have gone through grief like this, I am dealing with something common but crappy. Everyone will have their time(s) to grieve in this sin-torn world. I try to dwell on good thoughts and memories about Dad, but such an exercise leads me right back to the memory of his death and the impossibility of interacting with him this side of heaven...and very honestly, right now heaven seems an awful long way away.

I think the relatively sudden nature of his passing and the gnawing feeling that things could have been different had a few medical decisions and actions been done differently make it tougher. Don't get me wrong for a second- I don't doubt God's will or sovereignty in any of this, but being human, I struggle to reconcile my feelings with what I know to be true about God.

As I shared with my congregation this past Sunday, being in the midst of a storm draws you to greater dependence on God. I definitely sense my helplessness apart from God and have been far more prayerful than ever before. My anchor continues to be Christ's ultimate victory over death. Christ the victor is my sure and wonderful hope.

So when the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote (3:4)-there's a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance- he never told us how long these periods go on. I'd really like to know such a thing...right now I can't really picture dancing, but I know God's Word is true.

I could say more, but I'm burned out on talking about it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

If Christie doesn't run for Prez...I'm writing him in

I can't believe how underwhelming the Republican cast of potential presidential candidates is.

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey is my current favorite potential presidential candidate. Unfortunately, he's not running....yet. Here's some classic Christie from a few days ago-

Did I mention Christie is of Irish/Sicilian descent?

Friday, June 24, 2011

With Christ is Enough

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” - Mark 4:35-41

I very much appreciate Donald English's comments on Jesus' calming the storm-

"At the personal spiritual level there is a deep lesson to be learned from the stilling of the storm incident. For the disciple it should be enough to be with the Lord, whether life's seas are running smoothly or not. Forms of Christianity which encourage and promise a life of continual success, excitement and growth will not only lead to frustration and despair; they actually point the disciple towards the wrong goal in the Christian pilgrimage. It is enough that Christ goes with us on our journey. We do not judge his care for us, nor the state of our discipleship, by the roughness of the seas over which we sail. We 'rejoice in the Lord', not in our current circumstances."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 HCA Charger Junior Soccer Camp

I've been super busy this week with regular duties plus a soccer camp I helped lead in the mornings with my varsity players. They did a GREAT job teaching young kids about soccer...and how their faith in Christ affects even how we view and play sports.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spurgeon on the growth God gives to His Word when sown

The so-called "Prince of Preachers" was Charles Spurgeon. It's always a mistake to read a sermon by Spurgeon the day before you are supposed to preach on the same text. I should just throw out my sermon, apologize to my congregation for being lame, and read Spurgeon's sermon on Mark 4:26-29.

In this particular sermon, after exhorting us to "sow the Word" every chance we get, Spurgeon reminds us the growth comes from God.

See what he preached regarding this text:

Mark 4:26-29 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

"Let us now think of what you cannot do. You cannot, after the seed has left your hand, cause it to put forth life. I am sure you cannot make it grow, for you do not know how it grows. The text saith, "And the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how." That which is beyond the range of our knowledge is certainly beyond the reach of our power. Can you make a seed germinate? You may place it under circumstances of damp and heat which will cause it to swell and break forth with a shoot, but the germination itself is beyond you. How is it done? We know not. After the germ has been put forth, can you make it further grow, and develop its life into leaf and stem? No; that, too, is out of your power. And when the green, grassy blade has been succeeded by the ear, can you ripen it? It will be ripened; but can you do it? You know you cannot; you can have no finger in the actual process, though you may promote the conditions under which it is carried on.

Life is a mystery; growth is a mystery; ripening is a mystery: and these three mysteries are as fountains sealed against all intrusion. How comes it that there is within the ripe seed the preparations for another sowing and another growth? What is this vital principle, this secret reproducing energy? Knowest thou anything about this? The philosopher may talk about chemical combinations, and he may proceed to quote analogies from this and that; but still the growth of the seed remains a secret, it springs up, he knoweth not how. Certainly this is true of the rise and progress of the life of God in the heart. It enters the soul, and roots itself we know not how. Naturally men hate the word, but it enters and it changes their hearts, so that they come to love it; yet we know not how. Their whole nature is renewed, so that instead of producing sin it yields repentance, faith, and love; but we know not how.

How the Spirit of God deals with the mind of man, how he creates the new heart and the right spirit, how we are begotten again unto a lively hope, we cannot tell. The Holy Ghost enters into us; we hear not his voice, we see not his light, we feel not his touch; yet he worketh an effectual work upon us, which we are not long in perceiving. We know that the work of the Spirit is a new creation, a resurrection, a quickening from the dead; but all these words are only covers to our utter ignorance of the mode of his working, with which it is not in our power to meddle. We do not know how he performs his miracles of love, and, not knowing how he works, we may be quite sure that we cannot take the work out of his hands. We cannot create, we cannot quicken, we cannot transform, we cannot regenerate, we cannot save."

Spurgeon's full sermon "What the farm laborers can do and what they cannot do" can be found here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Response to smear campaign by The Graze

Viciously photoshopped picture posted by "The Graze". Nice turtleneck though...

I was recently the subject of a vicious smear campaign on "The Graze" regarding some comments I made in private to a co-laborer in the ministry. I am writing to set the record straight.

It is true, I hate dogs. I am sure I would have liked dogs before the fall of man, but this side of the fall, I despise them. Admittedly I have had various run-in's with dogs over the years that have colored my opinion, nevertheless, I make no secret of my angst toward all rover-kind. Now, before all you dog-loving readers raise your pooper scoopers in anger toward me, let me be clear that I think it's great that so many people get satisfaction from enslaving a wild animal. It's perfectly OK with me that others enjoy having a mongrel roam their house, poop and pee on the carpet, shed hair everywhere, smell every person who walks in the front door (I'll say no more on that), bark at every squirrel they see in the yard (undoubtedly longing to be free like the squirrel), drink out of the toilet, lick their private parts, and then lick their master's face. Hey, it's a free country, if you want a dog in your house- go for it!! Why not a pot-bellied pig while you're at it? I hear they're neater. How about a wolverine? Maybe a family of muskrats? I admit to being curious about the kind of pet a coyote would make. But anyways, I don't like dogs, but I am totally in favor of people who want to have their life altered by the need to care for a canine friend to have it their way.

Now, as for the vicious attack I was the subject of on The Graze, I feel it is essential that I make my position plain.

Yes, it is true. I think cats rule and dogs drool. To be clear, I am not generally a fan of the concept of keeping animals as pets (except a piranha...feeding time makes it so worth it!). I did have a cat once though. She wasn't the most social pet. As I watched her live her life in two apartments we had and our first house, it dawned on me how superior cats are to dogs. Whether in the wild or domesticated (to the degree such a concept works with wild animals), cats are awesome, dogs are not. People will often say dogs are smarter. Why? Because the dumb beasts can be trained to do stupid, demoralizing things like fetching a stick over and over and over? Because a dog can roll over it's smarter than a cat? I think just the opposite. Only a stupid animal would lower itself to "sit" in order to get a biscuit made of horse meat. How ridiculous! A cat on the other hand is far too regal to reduce it's honor for such a pitiful treat. Cats are independent. Cats are wise and cunning. No matter how long you keep a cat inside, they never lose their hunting instinct. What could be more precious than Tabby leaving an eviscerated mouse at the front door for their master to see. Cats are in the same family as Lions! Yes- the Lion King, The King of the Jungle, and Aslan! Dogs? Hmmmm...{crickets chirping}. What, pray tell, was the Godfather's favorite pet? Not a dog, of course.

So, no matter what the tabloid site "The Graze" may purport, you now have the truth here- Dogs drool, cats rule!!

Side note: I do have a stuffed coyote (killed legally with a .223 from 200 yards) and a stuffed bobcat (also killed legally with a bow and arrow from about 25 steps) prominently located in my office to honor both the canine and feline species.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Crazy Goal

MLS ain't EPL, LaLiga, Italian Series A, or even Bundesliga...but it has some very good moments-

Friday, June 10, 2011

I got slimed today at wasn't much fun

Being the "seeker sensitive", be all things to all people, try out the latest gimmick, apologize for historic Christian practices, going and blowing, relevant, transparent, not your grandmother's church, that we seemed like a good idea to let the kids at VBS slime me.

Our attendance ought to be way up this Sunday, right?

If not, I'm never listening to my two emergent co-pastors, Brian and Nathan, again.


Last night I attended the first game at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City. It's a memory my son and I will always have. The game wasn't stellar, but the stadium, buzz, and excitement were extraordinary.

I have another blog, one that analyzes Sporting KC. I post there about the stadium (among other things). Click here: Sporks Take

Brian's blog has some cool pictures of last night also. Click here: Hough Family Blog

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Today I did something I have never done...

I have never listened to one of my own sermons in entirety (no wise cracks about how you haven't either, Redeemer people!). It feels weird listening to myself, so I just have never gotten much past 5 minutes- until tonight. I'll explain.

The past few weeks have been spent dealing with my father's death and all the transitional affairs that must happen when a person dies. My father didn't have too much in the way of earthly possessions- his house, his "Sweet 16" Browning Shotgun, a modest coin collection, various trinkets, quite a few 20-dollar bills stashed in various places (you had to know my father to appreciate this), and his 2002 Olds Alero.

Mom is having me sell Dad's car, so being my day off, I worked on getting it ready. I didn't foresee cleaning up his car as a difficult thing emotionally. I was wrong. Taking off his various "I Remember Korea" type bumper stickers took quite a while and the tears flowed off and on the whole day. Cleaning out the car brought me in to contact with various little items that kept reminding me of Dad. It just wouldn't stop. I found myself breaking down multiple times, something I'm sadly uncomfortable doing. I took the car to get the oil changed and the AC charged at the place he usually got the car serviced. When I gave the keys to the guy at the desk, he recognized my name and asked where my father was (we have the same name). I told him Dad had passed a couple weeks ago. This big ole' bearded redneck-looking mechanic seemed genuinely sad. He said, "Aw man..I'm so sorry...we loved it when your Dad came in here." I knew what he meant. Dad loved to yuck it up with anyone. He would joke and banter and make you remember him. That was Dad. I left the car there and walked home...again, the tears flowed. It just doesn't seem to stop.

When I got the car back from the shop later in the evening, my boys helped me clean out the trunk where Dad kept quite a bit of...shall we say...OK, what my mother says- JUNK. Being from Buffalo and the driver of many crappy cars, my father always kept a change (or three) of warm clothes and boots in the trunk in case he got stranded. The boys also found all sorts of other fun keepsakes- a flashlight, his old Buffalo News I.D. badge, a map of Buffalo (why would he keep a map of a place he knew like the back of his hand?), three umbrellas, and a blanket my Aunt Mary (his sister) made for me when I was a baby. More sniffles, that's for sure.

So I had all the stickers off the car, the interior cleaned, and the trunk emptied. I didn't think there was anything else left, so off to the do it yourself car wash place to give it a good washing and vacuum. I spent the better part of an hour cleaning the Alero up. I remembered when I helped Dad buy it at Fuccillo's on Grand Island, NY back in 2003. I went with Dad to buy the car because he hated car dealerships and making a decision on something that would require lots of money. It was a year-old program car with 27,000 miles on it in. We got a pretty good deal, he enjoyed the car for 8 years. He didn't drive much the last couple of years, it only has 71,253 miles on it now-not bad for what is essentially a 10-year old car. He also has receipts and records for everything he had done with the vehicle while he owned it. It seemed strange returning the car to the bland condition it was in when we bought it 8 years ago. It was like I stripped my father's personality from it. My eyes have been pretty puffy today.

I was all done cleaning outside and in. I got in and started to drive back home when I saw the little "CD" symbol lit up on the stereo indicating there was a CD in the player. I wondered what would be the last CD Dad left in his player? When a person you love dies and you miss him, you look for any undisturbed affect of his life. I wondered if "old blue eyes" would be the CD in the player? Maybe Leon Redbone or Dad's favorite of all- Louie Prima? So I hit the power button and the CD started.

The last CD in Dad's player was me preaching a sermon on Titus 2:11-16.

I was overwhelmed. I cried like a baby (and am doing so again as I type this). It was a CD Redeemer mass produced to give visitors. It is a sermon that captures the essence of the gospel of God's sovereign grace through Christ and the effect it will have on our lives. I don't know if it's my "best" sermon, but it's one of my favorite passages in Scripture. I'm just so blessed to have found that CD was the last one Dad listened to in his car. When someone is recently gone, you scramble to find last "messages" or hints at things he did before leaving- because you know such evidences will soon disappear and memories will fade. Let's be honest- when people say "it'll get better with time", what they mean is you'll start to forget all the little details that make you miss the person so much. It doesn't get easier when grieving the loss of a loved one, it just gets harder to remember them in full, so the pain seems to lessen. That's the truth.

Today was a much harder day than I had anticipated, but once again, God manifested Himself as utterly gracious. It's true that many memories of Dad will fade over the years. But knowing the last CD he listened to in his car was my sermon about God's grace in Christ cements one thing for sure in my life- Jesus Christ is the hero of all our relationships. I may not be able to remember all the special details as time goes on- but I will remember that Christ was (and is)Dad's Savior and because of that, I will have fellowship with my father again.

Oh...yeah...I actually listened to the whole sermon, something I have never done during my almost 20 years of regular preaching. It felt weird.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. - Titus 2:11-16

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Turretin had a way with words...

Francis Turretin was one of the greatest theologians ever. His biblical insight was keen and his ability to communicate the truth of Scripture unparalleled.

"The work of our conversion is a creation, resurrection, regeneration and the production of a new heart by which God not only gently persuades but powerfully effects in us to will and to do. As, however, man can contribute nothing to his creation, resurrection and regeneration, so neither can the sinner contribute anything to his conversion."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Treasuring God's Word- MUST WATCH

We had the privilege of hearing about the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship in Papua last night at church. Matt and Alyssa Harris shared this exciting, yet very convicting video. It's a must watch.

It's about a tribe in Papua receiving God's Word in their own language.

Sunday, June 5, 2011