Thursday, August 30, 2012

"How's your Spiritual Life?" by Mike DeCamp

"How's your Spiritual Life?"

I had lunch recently with a good friend and mentor. I met him at his “office” as I have done many times over the last three or four years…the Bob Evans Restaurant on East Washington Street, here in Indianapolis. He started the conversation as he nearly always does:

“Mike, how’s your spiritual life?”
Have you ever had someone ask you that? I mean, we often ask each other things like: “How’s it going?” or “How are you doin’?” We don’t actually want to know…we are just being courteous. It’s another way of saying hello. My friend’s question, though, will make you pause. It does a few other things too, like….
Make you nervous.
Make you embarrassed.
Make you want to slide down under the table and hide!
The first time he asked me that question, I was caught off guard. Not because I had never before been asked that or a similar question. Rather, it was because it hadn’t happened in a long time, and never since becoming a member at Southeastern. I was caught off guard…and a bit embarrassed because at the time, my spiritual life was less than stellar. When that happens, you have a choice to make: Will I be honest or will I hide? In my case, I was sort of honest. “Sort of.” That means that I didn’t want to really hide…I wanted to tell the truth…but, I was also embarrassed and didn’t want to be completely straightforward. So, I hemmed and hawed…I admitted to some struggles, but I lacked detail. That said, you know, I walked away from that encounter refreshed. I felt better because someone had pushed me to be open even just a little bit with what was on the inside, and my struggles had leaked out some. It felt good to have someone care enough to ask me how I was doing. I felt like I had company on my spiritual journey.

During our most recent lunch, when he asked me that question, I answered like this:
“Keith, I try real hard to be doing really well anytime I’m going to have lunch with you. Don’t ask me about last week, and next week isn’t here yet, but for right now, I’m doing pretty good.”

He nearly fell of his chair in laughter. Never, in all the years that he’s been asking that question, had anyone answered it in quite that way.
But, you see, that’s the glory of great spiritual relationships…especially relationships where there is a sense of mentoring or discipleship. They drive you to be better than you would be otherwise. They influence you to focus on the facets of life that are primary and of highest importance. Like the Six Million Dollar Man, they make you better than you were before. (Children of the 70’s will get that reference.) I am a better man today because there have been a handful of men over the years (along with my wife) who have taken the time to really ask me how my walk with God is doing, and through their influence my life has been changed and continues to change for the better.

Here are a couple of scriptures to emphasize my thoughts:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
To the point of my post, we need to care enough to ASK and LISTEN to one another. We need to show an interest in the lives (interests) of each other.
This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7
When we hold all our mess inside, are we not hiding in the darkness? 
We need to have folks in our lives that will help us drag it all out in the light. We need to be honest with God, and we need to be honest with one another….and we can then have real fellowship with both God and our friends.
Thank you Keith.
So, to my Southeastern family……
How is YOUR spiritual life?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rules of the Road by Brian & Rhonda Potts

Rules of the Road

 By Brian and Rhonda Potts

One of the hobbies that we enjoy doing together is riding our bikes on the rural roads of Johnson County (or anywhere else we find good scenery and few cars).  It is a great way to share time together while enjoying God’s creation and getting some exercise.  No, this is not a blog on marriage building, but…“recreational companionship” is a great way to strengthen your marriage.  We digress slightly…back to the topic at hand.  One of our favorite topics of discussion as we pedal down the road is what we have entitled “Rules of the Road”.  These rules are guides for a good bike ride as well as for a good Christian life.  We thought we would share a few of these rules of the road with you in hopes that they help you through your “ride”.


1.       Aim for where you want to go instead of thinking about where you don’t want to go.  As you are riding along, you don’t always have much time to respond to obstacles in the road.  If you look at the hole in the road and think, “don’t hit that hole”, you will often hit that hole. Instead, if you focus your eyes on a positive direction away from the obstacle, your bike will follow your eyes and you will take a safe path.  Proverbs 3:6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.  If we keep our eyes on God, our path in this life will be much smoother.

2.       Follow the leader.  Organized rides often have “ride leaders”.  Their job is to point you in the right direction and help you avoid hazards.  Even on casual rides, the standard ride etiquette is for the person in front to point out potential dangers to the following riders by pointing or saying pithy things like “car up”, “bump” or “gravel” (Ask Rhonda about gravel, a major nemesis of all bike riders).  I Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  With God as our ride leader, we can avoid many of the pitfalls of this life.

3.       Use the right equipment; it makes for a better ride.  When taking a long ride, we are often 10-20 miles away from where we parked our car, so it is essential to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.  We always take emergency supplies such as an extra bike tube, a pump to blow it up, band-aids, dog spray (not to attract them), cell phone, bike multi-tool and identification cards.  It would be easier to go without all these things, but if you ride long enough, you will be glad you have them.  We also ride with the right clothing and a helmet.  Believe it, those funny looking shorts with the padding in the back really help after 20 or more miles on the bike.  And the first time you hear the sound of your bike helmet hitting the pavement instead of your head, you will never ride without one again (ask Brian about wet pavement).  II Tim 3:16-17  All Scripture is God-breathed…, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Eph 6:11   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Why wouldn’t we take advantage of every piece of Christian equipment that God supplies us with…especially the Word of God and the helmet of salvation.  The devil will throw things at us much worse than gravel and wet pavement.

4.       Don’t ride through poop.  This thought came during a ride through Amish country (think horses on the road).  When you ride though something wet or sticky with your bicycle, the back wheel is very effective at picking up the substance and slinging it off at high speed.  Not only does it go up your own back, but it is thrown out in a fan shaped pattern behind you.  This doesn’t make you very popular if others are close behind.  Prov 4:14-16  Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.  For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.  II Cor 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  We don’t always realize it, but we are constantly being observed as representatives of God…sometimes good examples and sometimes not so good.  The less mud or other things that we sling, the more pleasing the aroma is that we give off for Christ.

Hopefully, these few thoughts will help you in some small way on your ride through life.  We have many more rules of the road, so be on the lookout for part two.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"I'm Too Busy!" by Frank Black

“I’M Too Busy?"   
          This is today’s all too common refrain!  It may well be a valid reason at times, but it’s also come to be considered a “valid excuse”.  Have you said this?  C’mon on now; be honest.  Is it a reason or an excuse.  STOP!  // Stop at this point and truthfully evaluate how you actually spend your 24 hours a day every day. This relates to everyone from first grade until retirement – and perhaps beyond.  How do you spend your time?  How much of it is necessary?  How much is purely for your personal enjoyment? How much is “wasted”?  Yes, I’m talking to myself also. - [Television; movies; talking on phone; texting; facebook; tweeting; games [computer or other], clubs, sports, reading for pleasure [as opposed to reading for enhancement or learning]; travel; time with friends; hobbies; the list goes on].  We have so many choices now for ways to use our time.  Most of these are good choices, but of course there are bad choices also.  Chris Shelby, our missionary from Rwanda who visited last Sunday, told me they now have satellite TV and get ESPN, etc.  Even they have to be responsible in their choices and use of time.  Now don’t get me wrong; of course it’s very important to have recreation, relationships and communication with others, and “down time.”  We just need to keep a proper balance.  How is your balance?

         While I’m talking about balance, I’ll put in a word against what I call being “electronically tethered” – being a slave to cell phones, texting, Face book, internet capability, or whatever new ‘creature’ comes along.   It’s improper for them to assume immediate and utmost priority to you [and please DO NOT use them while driving!].  A good general rule is: “Use new technology, but don’t be used [abused] by it.”  I think my grandson, Nicholas, has reached a very wise and functional way to use the new media.  He carries his cell phone with him, but he keeps it on “silent” - checking it about every 30 minutes.  He then responds if the situation is appropriate.  This is his way of using it but not being abused by it. 

          You’ve heard the statement: “Stop and smell the roses.”  We need to do more of this - Pause; reflect; take time to observe God’s wonderful creation; don’t over commit; drop even good things if you’re over committed; have more meaningful communication; read and study to learn;  plan to grow spiritually – through Bible study, books by Christian writers, CD’s, DVD’s, meetings and seminars, web sites, sermons, classes, etc.  There is such a wealth of good information available.  

          My underlying message is for you NOT to say you’re too busy - but to evaluate your lives, how you use your time, prioritize more wisely, make changes where needed, and always leave time to ‘stop and smell the roses.’    

          Let me conclude with this poem by Deborah Ann Belka, entitled:


Slow me down Lord;
help me to take the time.
Help me to see You’re more important
than this life of mine.
Slow me down Lord,
sometimes I move too fast.
Sometimes I am too busy seeing others
to realize it was You I’ve passed;

Slow me down Lord,
Help me to stay close to You.
Help me to know You are more worthy
than anything I have to do.

Slow me down Lord;
sometimes there’s too much to get done.
Sometimes it gets too hectic and I can’t tell
it’s Your voice that I shun.
Slow me down Lord;
help me to put You first.
Help me to see when I put things before You,
my soul will always thirst.
Slow me down Lord;
sometimes I am always on the go.
Sometimes I can’t stop what I am doing
to get close to You and grow.
Slow me down Lord;
help me to see that You are all I need.
Help me to know the time spent with You
is time I can’t afford to concede. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Someone to Look After Me by Dale Robinson

Prior to my mom’s death a few weeks ago, she had suffered for 10 years from the debilitating effects of Pick’s Disease, a relatively rare form of dementia.  At the outset of the disorder, mom began jumbling “yes” and “no.”  A year or two later, she was unable to express herself in full sentences.  Eventually the disease silenced her voice completely. 

Last fall, I found copies of a few letters my mom had written that would once again give voice to her personality and passion.  The letters were to Inez Baucum, 1 the social worker who handled the adoptions of my brother, sister and me:

            September, 1962

            Dear Inez,

We named the baby, Rhonda Maye.  Dale wanted to call her Baby Moses, but we told him that was a boy’s name, so he agreed to Rhonda.  She has done so well and changes every day.  Dale keeps me posted on what she needs, thinks, etc.  He doesn’t even want to chew gum, preferring to save it until she grows so they can share it.…

About a month later, Mom wrote again:

             Dear Inez,

Enclosed is the picture I promised.  Dale is holding it while I am writing saying, “We love her; we think she is precious don’t we?”  He really listens to what people say about her.  If they brag appropriately, he’ll say later, “Wasn’t that a nice woman?  I like her....”

The sentiment I expressed toward my new sister probably had more to do with the love my parents modeled for me than any real passion in my young heart.  I joked at the funeral that we never found any letters about my brother, Mike, who came along a few years later!  But one of my mom’s friends shared a conversation she had with Mom when the disease first began to affect her speech.  

“Afraid to die?”  Mom asked her friend, Flo.

“No,” said Flo, “but I AM concerned about leaving my grandchildren.”  

After several moments of silence, Mom said, “Mike!?”  

Flo quickly reassured mom, that even after her death, Mike would be cared for by his church family.  

Mom’s loving devotion to me was reinforced in another story that I learned in college shortly after I met Dana.  Dana had gone to visit her grandmother in Levelland, Texas one weekend and told her all about this new guy she had met.  As it turns out, Dana’s grandmother knew me—and used to babysit me when we lived in the same small town.  She told Dana that I had been in and out of foster care with my parents for a few years before they adopted me, and that plenty of well-meaning church members counseled my parents:  “Don’t adopt the problem child!”  Mom’s response was always the same: “We want to adopt someone who needs us.”

And so it seems, from the first days we three came to live in her home to the last days within her ability, mom loved and cared for us, often at great personal sacrifice.  But she was always quick to add, “with God’s help. The truth is, we all need Someone to look after us.  I’m thankful for a mom whose life reflected, modeled, and pointed me toward dependency upon a Gracious God, the Stronger One.

Jude 24, 25:  “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Re-boot! by Chris Kirby

This is always a weird time of year for me.  I parked the last van for the summer season this past Friday and my body, mind, and soul don’t quite know how to adjust to the changes.  I go from a nonstop summer schedule to a fall in which the teens are in school and I sleep in my own bed almost every night.  Oh how I miss the bunks of Spring Mill…
It has been a great summer.  I was blessed to watch God do some pretty amazing things.  I witnessed eight teens give their lives to Christ and new leaders emerge in our group.  I experienced the process of teens maturing and talents being exposed while our group served selflessly in Murphy, at Spring Mill, and locally in Indianapolis.  I even got to go play at Cedar Point and have a lot of fun with the group at other activities this summer.  It has been a great couple of months, but it is time for a recharge!   If you see me in the next few weeks and I seem to be in a comatose state, don’t worry, I’ll bounce back.  But, it is definitely time for some Sabbath. 
When I give thought about how to find rest, the examples Jesus set comes to mind.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus took opportunities to connect with his Father to recoup energy and sharpen his mind.  If we are fulfilling our call into ministry, whether it is a fast-paced summer with teens, “simply” serving our neighbors, or representing Jesus to co-workers or peers in school; it requires us to take breaks and be refreshed if we want be focused and at our best.  May I present just a few ways that I “fill my cup” when I am empty? 
1-   Dig into the Word.  The Bible can be a rejuvenating book as it reminds us of the presence and nature of God.  It also recommits us to the knowledge and wisdom we gain through the Bible.
2-   Heart-felt talks with God.  He loves to hear what is on our hearts and minds….good and bad.  And, as we talk through things with Him, the Spirit can work in us for peace, clarity, and rejuvenation. 
3-   Escape!  In our culture we are always connected with people and we seldom find time to be truly quiet.  Halfway through a Bible study or prayer time, the phone will beep at us with a text (mine literally just chimed in with a new text as I typed the word “beep”), Facebook update, Tweet, or phone call.  Be willing to shut off the phone and go somewhere for isolation.  
4-   Connect with those who recharge you.  I have a couple of really good friends who I can talk to about anything and laugh a lot with.  It always helps me to feel better when I can unload a few issues onto them.    
I recognize that different people have different ways of reconnecting with God. The important thing is that we find time to take rest and refocus.  If you have any good ideas that work well for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.