Christian Heritage: Lone Eagle Tim Bowyer #65

Tim Bowyer’s Lone Eagle ceremony was Saturday morning, and I had the privilege of bringing his charge.

In 1970, when Sally Jo and I arrived in Murfreesboro, Martha Sue Carroll was a member of the Presbyterian Student Fellowship. We soon came to know her parents, Burns and Martha Carroll. Burns, an Elder at the First Presbyterian Church, often provided wise counsel to me personally, and as I worked with the leadership of the church. “Mother Martha”, as I called her, was of continual encouragement to both Sally Jo and me, often with a big, heartfelt laugh! Later I learned that both Burns and Martha had both come from solid Christian homes.

Martha Sue earned her Master’s in Christian Education and became the dean of women at the Christian College where Randy Bowyer was the Dean of Students. Randy’s parents and grandparents were also solid Christians, trusting in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

Martha Sue and Randy were married and they had a daughter and two sons. These sons, Tom and Tim, became campers and staff members.

As I stood before Tim, I reminded him of this Christian heritage, the solid foundation which had helped him to understand and choose Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the Lord of his life. The members of the Lone Eagle Fellowship had observed Tim’s living out his chosen relationship with God.

I also reminded Tim that almost 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote to a young Timothy of his Christian heritage.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also…God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” II Timothy 5-7

Whereas few of us have the name of Timothy, many of us come from a solid Christian heritage. We have the opportunity to build upon this heritage, a living demonstration of the reality of the living God.

Whether or not we come from a Christian heritage, we should continually remind ourselves that it is not God who gives a spirit of timidity, of fear. Rather, God gives to us the spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline – enabling us to accomplish what He directs us to do.

People in every generation since Jesus Christ came to earth have chosen to live In Partnership With God.

This privilege is our choice.

Forgetting What is Behind #64

Perhaps 55 years ago, I said: “Dad, I know about your successes, please share with me some of your failures.” He responded with “Son, I have tried to forget my failures”. I was surprised by his answer to the place where I remember the exchange. If he could have forgotten his failures, wonderful. But my guess is there were many failures, but remembering them would have been painful.

The Apostle Paul said, in a different context, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14. It seems much easier for me to press on than to forget some of the really inappropriate, really stupid things I have done. Though we seek to live In Partnership With God, we are not always wise! I share one of these painful remembrances, hoping it will be an encouragement to continue to press on, in spite of the fact that we have sometimes done really was in appropriate, perhaps really stupid! Experiences like the one I share have made it much easier for me to forgive, to hug someone who has just blown it, but really did not mean to!

Bev Shea, soloist for the Billy Graham team, came to Christ Church of Oak Brook on a beautiful, warm Sunday evening to sing hymns and gospel songs. He brought with him the team pianist, Ted Smith. (George Beverly Shea, in addition to singing at the Billy Graham Crusades all over the world, made many recordings.) Bev lived 15 minutes from the church, and many people in the area knew this quiet, gentle man. We first met in 1958 when I worked closely with the Graham team at the Washington, DC crusade. We became quite good friends. Because of my relationship with Bev, I was asked to lead the service: welcome him, probably have the congregation sing a few hymns, and then close the service with the benediction.

As the 1200 seat sanctuary filled quickly, the ushers guided people to the choir loft, and then started putting up chairs in the aisles. The large room was packed for this incredible evening of worship and celebration. Those present knew most of the music that Bev sang, and several times during the evening he would sing the verses of a hymn and then motion that we should sing the chorus with him. As the worship service moved towards conclusion, he sang very soft, very thought provoking, very worshipful music. When he finished, no one in the sanctuary moved…it was totally quiet.

Before I motioned for people to stand, I asked that everyone remain standing after the benediction while the ushers removed the chairs from the church aisles, which would take a few minutes. Very quietly everyone stood, I gave the benediction, and again, silence. I motioned for Ted to play something on the piano – and he nodded “no”.

O that I too would have been silent! But instead I told a humorous story about Bev. My story brought some smiles, but the worshipful mood of the evening was gone! I left the sanctuary in sadness.

The next morning the Senior Minister came into my office and asked what I had been thinking. I muttered something about seeking to share something of the heart of the man with the congregation. I am sure he could see that I was very aware of my poor judgment. Thankfully, no one else ever mentioned the incident.

Let’s face it; though we may seek to lives pleasing to the Lord, we still make mistakes, sometimes significant mistakes. May we never forget, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

Lord, may we remember that we are but dust – and though we may seek to live In Partnership With God, we will have moments of poor judgment.

Appropriate Compensation #63

At Christ Church of Oak Brook a church leader said to me in the context of compensation: “He’s only a youth man”. The “youth man” led the very healthy high school youth group of well over 100. The leadership team numbered 30. They met weekly for study and planning. Almost all of the regular 100 also attended the high school Sunday school class. A couple times a year the group went on a well planned retreat. These young people invited their friends, many of them non-Christians. There were equivalent junior high and college groups. Parents frequently asked for time with him. Jim McCue was outstanding! Yet, in terms of his compensation, we needed to remember that “He is only a youth man.” In reality, Jim was chosen by God to be the shepherd for a large flock of young people, and he carried out his God given responsibility in a wonderful way. Jesus clearly said: “the laborer is worthy of his hire” Matthew 10:10

Our first Christmas in Oak Brook, our finances were very tight. We had three children, one car, and an older house in need of repair in a rather expensive town 15 minutes from the church. We were doing everything possible to keep our expenses under control – our only debt was the mortgage on our home. I had painted the house, installed a used stove when the one in the house died – you get the idea. As Christmas approached, our heads were above water, but not by much. We honestly did not have enough money to keep up with necessary expenses and still buy a nice Christmas tree. This was an affluent church with over 1000 attending every Sunday.

What is the appropriate compensation for those chosen by God for a specific ministry? We gain insight through seeing how God asked the Israelites to support the Levites, his chosen spiritual leaders for the Jewish people. God told Moses: “Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering…to Aaron you must present as the Lord’s portion the best…” Numbers 18:26-29. The Levites were one of the twelve tribes. My guess is that it was not one of the larger tribes. If the rest of the Israelites gave 10% of their income, then the income of the Levites would have been quite comparable to the rest of the Jewish country.

God in the Old Testament, Jesus in the new, did not talk about giving a certain amount of money – with two exceptions I am aware of. The first was the rich young ruler who was told to sell all that he had and to give to the poor. Matthew 10:21 The second was the widow who gave all that she had. Mark 12:42

Jesus said to his followers: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:19-21.

Should I have a higher standard of living than a foreign missionary who has the same education, experience, and ability? Should this missionary have to come almost begging for support? Should the missionary family come back and be provided poor housing and a tired car? Or should appreciation be demonstrated to these people who obey God’s claim upon their lives – and leave family and security? Do we have the mental twistedness that says….God will supply their needs…and if they have enough to eek by ….they will be OK. Do we forget that their children arrive at a school with no close friends? With clothes that may be 4 years out of style – and don’t fit quite right?

I write all of the above from the context of being wonderfully cared for these past 23 years. When we came to Deerfoot, it was in serious trouble: low contributions, low camper attendance, buildings and vehicles in need of repair – and the economy (1982) was not good. My salary reflected these truths! As DL got up to speed, the DL Board and family have made us feel very special, very well cared for!! Now Sally Jo and I have been provided the use of a summer cabin on Whitaker Lake. It ours to use all but a month a year. We could never afford this

If all of us Christians gave generously – from thankful hearts – there would be no shortage of funds for His work. If I live “In Partnership With God”, I will give generously. I have no choice. To do so remains a challenge for us.

And It Was Good #62

I look at the sky. It may be bright, clear, and blue. It may be full of puffy white clouds, seeming to float, hardly moving, but as I look more carefully, I can see that there are several layers of clouds. Or the sky can be dark, with rain pouring down, the landscape occasionally brightened by a bolt of lightning. On a dark night I see the stars in predictable patterns, a few seem brighter than the rest…and there is the milky-way. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have put in place…” Psalm 8:3-4 At such moments I may worship God – it just happens.

I watch a doe leap a five foot fence…and a chipmunk running with a nut in his mouth – cheeks bulging. I see daddy long legs – how can those legs work? I wonder at the beauty, sounds, and mechanics of the humming bird, the bee. The hawk soars without a sound. And the butterfly? Perhaps it is enjoying lunch on a bright yellow flower. I see the robin feeding her young. I watch ants working together, and I am fascinated. I hear honking, and hundreds of feet above I see geese flying in formation, knowing that when the lead goose get’s tired, another will take his place. “And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

When God gave the directions for the building of the ark, the directions were clear, the boat was constructed, it held all it was supposed to, and it floated for a long, long time. The temple Solomon built was incredibly beautiful, down to the last detail. And there God made Solomon a promise: “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commandments and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David you father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” I Kings 6:11-13

God does good work. We too are to do good work, and we can, if we put our minds, guided by God’s spirit, to the task.

Christ church of Oak Brook is a very simple, very beautiful structure. The steel beams that form the pyramid roof remain exposed; the peak is 40 feet from the floor. The ceiling above the beams looks like pine paneling – it is very thick! The contrast between the warm color and smoothness of the wood and the solid, gray stone walls is dramatic. The frosted windows are framed in heavy, dark wood – very simple. As people arrive on Sunday morning, they may talk with their friends or greet visitors in the large foyer. As people enter the sanctuary, they are entering a different world. A true sanctuary: peaceful, beautiful. The carefully prepared bulletin contains the content necessary for a visitor to feel comfortable in this place. When the organ stops, we hear the call to worship…and then silence. When the organ begins again, the congregation really sings. It may be a hymn of reflection, prayer, praise, or commitment. The pastoral prayer has been carefully prepared to put into words the feelings of our hearts, be they praise, brokenness, struggle, or intersession. The prayer will also seek to help us talk to God about things we have not thought about, perhaps would rather not think about. The twenty minute sermon seeks to open a passage of scripture to help those who have come to understand its meaning, and some of the implications for us, God’s people. The message may be troublesome, but when it is over, there will be a strong message of good news. The world brings to each of us enough bad news.

This past Sunday I went to church with Russ and Mary Vought. They had told me the worship service was two hours. Four hundred people filled the old sanctuary, the majority being between 20 and 40 years of age. After announcements were made, an invitation was given: “Let us worship God.” There was instant quiet as people prepared their hearts to participate interactively with the God of their creation. The grand piano, with one guitar and one vocalist, led the singing, though I was unaware of their presence. Several times two hymns were sung, one right after the other – each sung boldly and up to tempo. The prayers, all of them, were very carefully prepared to guide us in our praying. The pastor encouraged us to follow his reading of the chosen passage in our Bibles. He gave the page # in the pew bible. The pastor read the three chapters upon which the sermon was based, with clarity, with power. The back cover of the bulletin was blank “for sermon notes”. As the word of God was opened to us, the pastor clearly identified his outline for us note takers. After the last hymn and the benediction we quietly sat down and had a few moments to reflect upon our experience, perhaps to pray. When I left, though a visitor, I was very aware that I had been with God’s people in God’s house. It was good to be in the house of my Lord.

Is it possible for every church to provide the context for worship, to bring encouragement for those who come? Is it possible for us to leave feeling “and it was good.” I have had this experience in a country church of 25 and in a city church of 4,000. God created the deer, the butterfly – and the elephant, each uniquely suited for its environment, each with its family. Is it possible for the members of the church to work together as one body? God thinks so. Roman’s 12: Because we are sinful, all of this requires work, but the work may be enjoyable when the church body functions in the way designed by God. God has dwelt in Solomon’s temple, in caves with hiding believers, in thatched roofed shelters. God comes where He is welcome. Let us work to remove the distractions so we may worship, and hear from, the one true God.

Life’s Tedium, Life’s Rewards #61

Last weekend I spent sorting screws, nails, bolts, nuts and other hardware. Not exciting, but it needed to be done, thanks to great help from Dr. Tom Smith (cardiologist who sorts and organizes quickly) and several others!!!

After a long day’s work and a great Deerfoot meal, Tucker Lownes, a Deerfooter now married and with kids, asked me to take a walk with him. We had talked by phone a few weeks previously about an idea he had. We went to the cabin where Sally Jo and I were staying. Tucker thanked me for the help I had been to him through the years, and in particular when we had recently talked by phone. He went on to say that, as the result of our conversation, he had made some decisions, talked with a few other people, and was now headed in a new direction. I had no idea I had said anything that impacted the thinking of this man I greatly respect. God used me as His agent, and I had been totally unaware.

This weekend I flew to Washington D.C. for the ordination of James Swynford into the Anglican Episcopal Church and, that evening, a dinner to celebrate James’s engagement to Anna, whom I had never met. While in DC I stayed with Russ and Mary Vought – I was the minister for their wedding in DC last year. I also had time with James and Katie Boland. I was the minister for their wedding in DC a few years back. A good weekend indeed!

James had been a Deerfoot Counselor and Voyageur leader. After graduating from college he was one of twelve invited by Falls Church, Episcopal to participate in their Timothy Program. Under the guidance of the church, this small group studied together, met with leaders in government and business, participated actively in the program of this outstanding church, had regular jobs, and did other intentional things designed to encourage the integration of their faith into daily living. An intense year! I was privileged to meet with this group one morning. James then taught school for two years before entering seminary.

James had e-mailed me at the end of 2008 to say he would be graduating from seminary in June and had applied for a position on the Falls Church ministerial staff. “Would I be willing to serve as a reference?” He went on to say he did not feel he had much chance of getting the position as he was single. I e-mailed asking him to call me.

He called and we talked about what he had been doing and the church opening. I asked if he really wanted the position…”of course!” So I suggested he find a good woman and get married! He laughed! But then said that in October he had met Anna, a girl that really interested him. She had graduated from Wheaton College with a trombone performance major. She was really sharp! But, she was from the other side of the country – Washington state! Yes, they had gotten together since they met…in fact she was in the DC area right now, auditioning for an opening in major orchestra. I asked if she had met his parents. James laughed and explained that he was not nearly that far along! So I pushed! “James, how long would it take the two of you to drive to your parent’s home?” 2 ½ hours. “When is the next time she will be in the area?” No idea. “So why not drive her to meet your parents, spend the night, and return to DC? You could talk for five hours and she would meet your parents. What can you lose?”

Two days later James called to tell me the four of them had several wonderful hours together. He was sure he had found his future wife. We both laughed. A few months later James went out to meet Anna’s parents. This weekend Anna’s parents came for James’ ordination service, in which Anna participated, and for the engagement celebration. James joins the Fall’s Church ministerial staff in a few months. James and Anna plan a January wedding.

Living In Partnership With God includes hours of “sorting nails” and some very rewarding moments!