Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unfairness is Fair

Today I'm pondering the facts of unfairness. I begin by pondering the purpose of the referees and umpires who wear the striped shirts and blow the whistle during all sorts of sporting events. Besides being the recipient of all our yelling...their purpose for being on the court or field of play is for the sole purpose of maintaining fairness in the game. Yet, with all their best efforts, there is one thing for certain...they will not catch every foul, every block in the back, etc. The thing that really levels the playing field is the fact that there will be misses on both sides and therefore the unfairness, is fair.

Life is much like that playing field. As much as I would love to think that life for us all will be fair, I am painfully aware that it is not. This fact is unsettling to me. I want everyone to have a fair shot, the same opportunity, the same advantages. It is especially painful to witness bad breaks happen to good people.

I just came from the funeral of a friend this week. She was still young, only 40 years old, the mother of two young sons and a surrogate mother to hundreds. She was a pastor's wife who lived her life in an impeccable manner, serving others. Five years ago, to the day she died, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She suffered immeasurably. She had multiple major surgeries but the cancer spread from the breasts, to the lungs, bones, liver and other areas. She endured over 100 chemotherapy treatments and the latent sickness that entails. She had a rod placed in her hip to repair bones that broke due to the disease. What in the world is fair about that?

I have witnessed good people who have tried to get ahead in life, which means taking some amount of risk financially, who have found themselves struggling, having to sell almost everything they have to survive. More and more people have filed bankruptcy...good people, with good values and financial responsibility. Yet, due to job losses and the inability to sell their existing homes, these catastrophic things happen. If life and success was based on fairness, these things would have never happened. But, they happen. Life is not fair.

The only fairness in life, is that one day some level of unfairness will come around to all of us. The 'ref' will miss a call concerning my team, and your team too. There is fairness.

In reality, the God of heaven and earth will deal righteously in all matters. Sometimes He heals and sometimes He does not. But in either case, He has it all in control. Our job is to play the game and not whine about all the calls. If we keep the faith, we win...and that is all that really matters.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ode to the Church Sweeper!

Following is a little jingle I put together to honor one of THE most important people in our church. The thing is...that person should be you! If it is, God bless you. If it's not, grab a broom or a vacuum soon and give us a hand. Don't leave it to the same people every week.


Tis a job that many will scorn....that few people do....but none can do without;
It's sweeping the floor that I'm talking about.

With all that goes on 'round the singing, preaching, and potlucks galore;
At the end of it all someone must sweep the floor.

We preach on heaven and hell with a sermon so stout.
Maybe its time the value of sweeping we must start to tout.

We give much applause to those 'neath the lights...who give a nice speech, or greet at the door;
But we should give recognition to the sweeper of the floor.

Frail ladies often get left with this job, after cooking and cleaning...its time we turn about;
And see some of the gentlemen sweep, whose arms are more stout.

There's crumbs and dirt and paper and soot, tootsies and bulletins left from before;
These are collected by some dear saint, who willingly sweeps the floor.

Next week we return ready to sing and to shout
Knowing the carpet will be clean, of that there's no doubt.

When the dinner is over, there's much rushing and more; whilst we grab for grab our coats and head for the door.
Why you're almost home,... and soon ...will snore,...while some tired, old soul will be left with the task, of sweeping and sweeping, and sweeping the floor.

We'll notice the roof, the paint or its lack; who fails to give us a pat on the back...and we will see the preacher's new car...that's for sure;
But who gives a hoot about who sweeps the floor?

Let me tell you who cares...we all do! God does, guests do, and the regulars too. Deacons and sinners and even kids can't ignore;
If that blessed someone...tho over-looked, under-paid,...decided they were too important... to sweep the church floor.

If ya mess it up clean it up!! These are words that we all should live by. Take your turn serving the church in the most menial of tasks. You and your church will be blessed for it.

Tim Estes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Gift of Memory

While I do not consider myself a 'techy' person, I do understand the supreme need for memory when it comes to computers. I know that in the last few years, with the advent of more high resolution games and diverse usage of computers, the need for more memory is important. Long before Al Gore or Bill Gates, or whoever in the world invented computers and internet, God had already created the greatest memory ever....the one in your mind.

It is amazing how wonderfully we are made. God made us to be able to recall events of the past. Right now you can remember mental pictures of vacations you've had, friends you've known, and special experiences you have had. Sometimes a certain song, or even a certain smell can trigger a memory. Often I attempt to comfort the bereaved by reminding them of the gift of memory God has given to us. As long as we live, and have a healthy mind, we will be able to remember those who have passed from our midst.

Let me share a memory with you. My grandpa Estes was a wonderful man. His life revolved around keeping his family, hard work and looking out for his fellowman. He was a cowboy and a farmer. Something about that in itself gives him a larger than life idealism in my childhood mind. I loved his boots and hat. I even liked the blended smell of tobacco and after shave lotion that was uniquely him. When he grew old and was in a nursing home, my dad and I walked in one day and could hear him singing before we got to his room. He was sitting up in bed. His thinning hair was sticking up everywhere and he was oblivious to the world. His fingers were drumming on his chest as he tapped out a beat to which he sang, "Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do Remember Me!"

Yesterday I thought of that song and when I did, immediately I thought of my grandfather. Thank you Lord for the gift of memory where we can keep alive those special moments of life. Throughout the Bible we are told to reflect and to remember. May it be so with you today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Replaceable.....but Irrreplaceable!

If you or I ever get the big head and feel that we are so big, so bad, so grand, so talented, so needed that we cannot be replaced...well, we are dead wrong. Wrong to feel that way, and wrong in the sense that we are all very much replaceable. Pride manifests itself in many ways. Egos that are fed and allowed to 'go to seed' become very dangerous. Like a rat tasting the peanut butter on a trap, any moment we find ourselves tasting the bait of self-dependance, self-reliance, and self importance, we are about to be ensnared in something deadly.

The Bible declares that "pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." Tis true! The forerunner of failure is a spirit that indicates no need for anyone to tell them what to do, how to do it etc. The team spirit is out the window and 'me' spirit takes the throne. Let me get squarely in front of you and tell you that you aren't worth a dime if someone can't yank your chain without you getting an attitude. One of the reasons our world is rapidly declining is because at the center of the home, God's intended headquarters for teaching discipline and respect, are young people who are being allowed to do anything they want without having anyone to tell them 'no'.

The lack of authority in the home will haunt them the rest of their lives because they will not then respect the teacher, the preacher, the policeman, the laws, the boss, etc. Soon, the only thing left is to toss them behind bars and spend thousands of dollars a year to house and feed them....all because they felt that they were above being told what to do.

We are all irreplaceable in the context of our intended purpose in life. In God's economy, non of us reach our intended, irreplaceable purpose without an upline! That is to say, we must have someone above us to help watch for us and to call us to accounting when we are out of line. When we have that, our unique abilities and talents make us irreplaceable to God and His work. In our proper setting, with the right accountability, we are awesome and none can do it better than you.

However, no matter your talent level.....every, last one of us are replaceable when we are insubordinate. Heaven must have cried a million tears at the awesome men and women who have let their talents rust and ruin all because they refused to be in submission to anyone. I think of Saul...a man who stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was mightily anointed, yet he got too big for his breeches. He refused to seek God and maintain his anointing through prayer. His anointing shield was vilely cast aside in order to pursue his own jealous ways. Bitterness crept in...nobody around could tell him no. Soon he was overtaken and his end is one of the saddest in all of Holy Writ.

Judas must have been talented and trusted. For he carried the money for the disciples and Christ Himself. A place of power. But it wasn't enough! He wanted riches...Satan sowed the seeds that came to full harvest the moment he left the table where Jesus attempted to arrest Judas attention one last time. Judas died with a million regrets. But he was replaced. Read the book of Acts where Matthias took Judas place in the 'bishoprick'. A new face at the table...the work continued.

Over and over I have seen those who wanted to threaten the church with their talents. "If you don't do it my way...I will leave!" What they don't see is that the trap is about to snap shut on themselves! As a pastor, I have always maintained that I will never be held hostage by someone's talent. My dad used to say, "We will worship God with the only music being me beating on a metal chair with a stick if we have to, rather than give in to a talented rogue."

God always sends replacements. When we keep our attitude right, God will bless. Favor follows those who will prayerfully and humbly do the right thing. When one walks out, another will walk in. I believe this! That being so, we should never think of ourselves more highly than we ought. The best among us is no more than a servant. Remembering that will ensure longevity in our work for the Lord. Keep it low....and you will fly high!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Nostalgic Memory

When we hear folks talk about the past, it is usually with a sense of idealism. Even if the past was truly difficult, the woes and pains are glossed over with the passage of time and only the sense of 'how wonderful' it used to be remains. I've heard my father talk about how they gathered in a one room school and shivered around the stove til the teacher brought in some coal and lit it up for heat. Something inside me says, "I wish I could have been there, because that sounds so old-time American." It is almost mysterious how the past is, in our minds, made to be better than the present.

One of my favorite things as a boy, and even now, was to listen to elders speak of their early years. The methods of farming, overcoming the hardships of life, and the way church was 'done', all had a glowing appeal. That being so, there is a tendency to feel guilty living in the present as though we aren't as good, our ways are not as inventive, or to innovate in the modern age is to stray from the paths of the glory years.

Understand this concept. The nostalgic memory always glorifies the past! (you should read that again to let it sink in) In the mind's eye, yesterday has such a special place in our hearts that is not easily unseated from the throne of awe. Problems arise from such false views of the past. One is, we tend to build and unspoken loyalty to yesterday. Suddenly, to consider anything new feels like we are slapping granddad's generation in the face. This is especially true in religion. Blind loyalty really is holding churches and even entire organizations back. Many spend all their energy, their ministry and their lives merely trying to make tomorrow look like yesterday. I've found that these people have an unending job because they keep making yesterday so much better than it was.....they will never get back to it! I read an applicable bumper sticker once that read, "The older I get, the better I was!" Amusing.

Walking into an amusement park in Missouri known as Silver Dollar City, there is a sign over the entrance. Keep in mind the park is set up to look like the mid-1800's. The sign reads, "You have a great past ahead of you." It makes for a nice day of vacation. I really enjoy watching them make horse shoes the way the old blacksmith's did two generations ago. But at the end of the really is nice to walk back out under that same sign and go to an air-conditioned hotel room, take a hot shower without hauling water, eat meals cooked on a gas stove, watch TV, and sleep on a nice mattress instead of corn shucks,..etc. etc!

For me, I am appreciative of the past, but I can't live there. I have been called to live and serve in a generation of high tech, fast paced people. We must learn from the past or we will certainly repeat it. I promise if you had to repeat the'd find it was not as glorious as they said it was. The past was full of pain, suffering, trouble, people issues, hardships, and pneumonia with no cure. So...don't be guilty of glossing it up too much with your nostalgic recollections. Talk of yesterday...but live today!