Patty and I went on our first date in January of 1969, we were engaged in April of 1969, and married in August of 1969. In June of that year Patty went to her home in Petaluma, California, and I went to my home in Trout Lake , Washington. We didn’t see each other until I drove down to her home a couple days before the wedding. This was before the days of computers and smart phones so we wrote letters and mailed them to each other. I wrote a letter every day except Sunday because there was no mail pick-up or delivery on Sundays, and Patty also wrote a letter a day to me. We talked on the phone once a week, but not for very long because we were on a ten family party line, which meant that there were 10 residences that had one phone line so if one phone in a home was being used no one in the other 9 homes could use their phone. If you picked up the phone to call and one of the other 10 on your party line was using their phone you could hear them talking, so you knew who was hogging the line if they talked for very long, and often you would get yelled at during your conversation to quit hogging the line. If you picked up the phone real slow so as not to make a clicking sound whoever was talking on another phone wouldn’t know you were listening, and you could listen in on their conversation, which was another reason why Patty and I didn’t talk very long on our weekly phone conversations. The 3 months of separation before we were married with the daily letters sent and received was a very powerful way for us to get know each other and to learn how to communicate to each other. I have often thought as I Have remembered back on those 3 months how effective that was as premarital preparation. When you write with a pen or pencil on paper you usually write a bit then read what you wrote, change a couple of things, write for a bit more, and then read again what you wrote, repeating that process dozens of times until the final masterpiece is achieved. Communication was well thought out, and it was easy to go back and reread the last letter I had received from Patty several times before the next one came so I was training myself to “listen”to what she said. The Word of God is in written form and has been preserved over all these thousands of years in writing. God in His sovereignty knew what form of communication would work best for His thoughts, laws, principles, and stories to be understood by us, his family. Writing is a good discipline and skill to develop if you want to become a good communicator to people so that you influence them by your words.
Pastor Mike is in Sierra Leone, West Africa teaching at our Bible College so I preached this weekend at the main services at JBC and will the next two weeks. I am also teaching Hebrews at 8:00 am on Sunday morning and again on Wednesday night, and 5 different leadership classes, and 6 different accountability groups, and then there is the study, preparation and writing for each of the sermons and lessons that I teach so it is a pretty full schedule. I enjoy every minute of it though, and feel so blessed that I get to invest my life doing what I enjoy and what God has gifted me to do. After a day like today that is stacked full of ministry and activity, I sit in my recliner replaying the day, and think, ” Wow, what a great day, how did I get to this place where I get to do this”? I am not sure, but thank You Lord for making it happen. I will stay faithful, and hopefully I will get to do this with my life for many more years to come. We will see.
Yesterday I ran my chain saw for 5 hours straight, and today I split and stacked that same wood for 5 hours. The big difference was that I had 7 grandkids here helping me split and stack it, what a fun day it was. They all worked very hard, and we got a lot done, about one more hour of splitting and stacking, and we will be done with that job until next year. One of my and Patty’s goals in raising our kids was to teach them to enjoy working hard, that they would have the character trait of diligence. It was rewarding and fun to see 2 of our kids working with their kids, our grandkids today teaching them how to work and enjoy it. Of course working with grandpa is what really makes it fun, especially when he has grandma bring out Cokes for everyone and we have hot dogs for lunch. I had a young college age boy visit me several years ago and he said he was unmotivated to do anything but play video games, and that he was lazy. He said he knew he was lazy, he didn’t like being lazy, but he didn’t know how to fix it, to change, and he came to me for advice. I gave him a dozen Bible verses on diligence to memorize, a good book on diligence to read and told him to come back in a week and we would discuss what he had learned. He came back the next week but he hadn’t memorized any verses or read even one page in the book, to unmotivated he said. That was the last time I saw him. I have thought of that event numerous times and have wondered what I could have done for him, should have done for him that would have helped him to escape this significant character flaw. I still haven’t figured it out yet for sure, but that short experience with this unmotivated young person made me very thankful for my parents who taught me to love working, and for my parents work ethic being passed down to my grandchildren.
I ran a chain saw for about 5 hours straight today cutting up some really big fir trees for fire wood for our household to burn. Wood heat is the main heat for our entire house so getting a good supply of good wood is important. We have had wood heat since we were married 50 years ago so I have cut a lot of firewood over the years and have spent a lot of hours running a chainsaw. I enjoy cutting firewood very much, I am not sure why, but I do. Even though I enjoy it, tonight I am totally tuckered out, and I am sitting here in my recliner with every muscle in my body screaming at me for abusing them. Sitting here thinking about the day, I wonder how many more cords of firewood I have in me. I am fighting this getting old thing but it doesn’t feel like I am winning. As I sit in my recliner right now I am so tired I am struggling big time trying to focus my thinking to finish this blog. In fact I think I will call this good.
I am going to be doing the preaching in the main worship services at JBC for the next 3 weeks while Pastor Mike is in Sierra Leone, West Africa teaching at our Bible College there. I am going to teach about the “One Another-ing” commands given in the New Testament. There are 18 different commands given, and they are basically the commands given by God on how to have an amazing, wonderful, joy filled relationship with just about any person in your life. A few of the 18 are, “encourage one another, be kind to one another, serve one another, forgive one another, and accept one another”. Reading over the 18 “One Another’s” in the context of where they are in the New Testament” makes me feel this strong longing for such an environment in my life where these commands are lived out consistently. I guess they will be in heaven, and that is where I am headed. In the mean time we work hard at getting better at living these basic relational commands day after day. Through discipline they will eventually become a learned skill, and then after a season of faithfully practicing these commands they will move to habit, and then they will become character traits. Once they are embedded in our soul as character that is who we are, that is how we act, we can’t not do them. How cool is that! Every morning now I present myself to Jesus as my King and Lord, committing myself to pursue Him and obeying these commands, asking Him for the power and strength through the Holy Spirit to overcome the pull of my flesh, the influence of the world and the temptation of the devil and his demons that push me hard toward self-absorption and selfishness.
You don’t have to act the way you feel, and if you do most people will think that you are childish, selfish, dumb, a bitter old man, divisive, grumpy, and a person to avoid. So what do I do with these emotions in me? Ignore them, stuff them, pretend they don’t exist? God cares about my emotions, I can dump everything on Him, and there is no fear that He will reject me. Most of the Psalms are a roller coaster of emotional experience and expression, and most of the Psalms are a prophecy of the coming Messiah, which clearly indicates that Jesus was a very emotional man. When I am depressed I tell the Lord, and I talk to Him about why and what can I do now. When I am angry I unload on the Lord again, and I pray for those I am angry at, sometimes I pray that God will give them a severe case of diarrhea for 6 months. When I am afraid I pray and ask God for boldness. God knows my heart, and He knows the emotions that I am feeling, He understands and fills my heart with His peace and joy. The key is spend time with God everyday, and talk to Him about your day, talk to Him about everything.
Probably one of my most repeated life principles is, “I don’t have to act the way I feel”. I also repeated it to my kids as they grew up more times than anybody could count, and I have repeated that phrase in my teaching and preaching ministry hundreds if not thousands of times. Our emotions are up and down, good and bad, strong and intense, and then no where to be found. We have little control over how we feel from one minute to the next, they are mostly the result of events, circumstances, and words. We can be feeling like a real winner and then as a result of someone’s comment can be in a major blue funk in the next minute. Our feelings are neither good or bad, they are automatic responses to life. We feel happy, angry, sad, depressed, confused, hurt, embarrassed, critical, and passionate. Allowing our emotions to be the dictator of our life is very foolish and immature. Acting the way we feel makes us a victim of life circumstances that we usually have little control over. People who act the way they feel have many strained relationships because they are not fun to be around, God doesn’t use them much to do anything significant or important because they can’t be trusted. But, that being said, it is very difficult not to act even a little bit the way we are feeling, especially when the emotion is strong. It takes great self-control to do the right thing, say the right thing, and even think the right thing when our emotions are pushing us to do the wrong thing. For me the key to staying in control in spite of raging emotions is to talk to myself in a wise way, in a way that persuades myself to be kind, talk nice, no anger, patient listening, and honoring to others. I have Bible verses memorized that I can meditate on that tremendously help in my self-talk. Some days I do pretty good and then other days I am continually doing and saying things that are provoked by my emotions. It is a daily battle and it is a battle I am committed to winning for the sake of my witness for Jesus and so my relationships will be healthy and growing in love.