Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home with Belinda: at Christmastime

It was Christmas 1983. Belinda and I had been married for 9 months and were settling into life together in our first house. Already she'd done so much - turning my bachelor ways into our 'together' home. For by adding her caring touch, and her ever-present chatter and laugh, I wondered at how I had survived before "B"

But now, as Thanksgiving 1983 was ending, my new bride began digging - not for more turkey, but into our closets - bringing out box after box, and sack after sack. She was unpacking items heretofore not seen. This one whom I'd been forewarned would spend hours as a child decorating doll houses and changing the clothes of her 'Barbie' and 'Ken,' had now switched homemaking into the highest gear of all. It was Christmastime at the Dennises. Christmastime, Belinda style!

That memory is 34 years ago, but for each proceeding Christmas - I can assure you - the same has remained. The difference being this - that what once took hours, or a day, now requires days. But... certainly, for each year since, come rain or shine, whether in plenty or in want, Belinda has turned our home each Christmas into a virtual wonderland. A place of blessing and memory. Memories of 'His Day' and of 'oh so many' family-days gone by. For today our home displays at least 10 nativity sets - most of them given to us, and loads of churches, too - in city and in dale - covered by snow and an assortment of outdoor scenes. There are - let's see - 7 Christmas trees - I think (one in each family room, the breakfast nook, and all our guest rooms, too), and row upon row of garland on stair-rails, mantels, coffee tables and doors. And stockings? Why, of course! The stockings come first. 'Hung by chimney with care' and displayed from the main-room mantel - hand-made - for Taylor, Trey, B and Me but now with Matt, Cannon and Colt added. So that walking through each room decorations are found on beautiful display. Each one made, or set out, with love and care telling story upon story, of place after place, of memories, people, and many great times shared.  


On that first Christmas now long ago I confess to being a bit of a Scrooge - chiding Belinda, after a fashion, for the effort she was putting forth. And now - well now - I am ashamed of my silly, youthful view. For this was, and is, the one whom I was fortunate to marry. The wonderful woman I have grown so to love. One who has sat in classroom after classroom, with child after child, in our church and often in your school too. She has cut, pasted, and made things - things like all these about our home tonight. Treasures, I call them now, each bounding from the same creative energy and 'lure to do'.  This strong and enthusiastic woman who has stood alongside me each and every day, albeit - to most of you - only from the pew, she is this one who has expressed herself with enthusiasm and joy by creating, building, and never fearing to take down and renew. So that being home with Belinda at Christmastime has become the great blessing of my life. For who knew? That what she was taking out of the closet in 1983 was not just our Christmas, but a constant, steady stream of love - for hearth, home, me - and for so many others like YOU.

So Blessings Belinda (meaning beautiful), my Bride.  And Merry Christmas...

From our home - and... to each and everyone of you!

Pastor Sam




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Yom Kippur, 2016

This evening marks the end of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, literally, 'day of atonement', which is arguably the most important holiday of the Jewish year - as Jews, even those whom might not observe other Jewish customs, refrain from work, fast, and attend synagogue services. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri, and was instituted as a holy day in Leviticus 23:26, and was instructed for in the same book (Leviticus) of the Jewish 'Torah' and our 'Christian Bible.'

...In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. - Leviticus 16:29-30

Though wary of over-simplification, let me sum by saying that Yom Kippur atones only for those sins committed against God, not for sins committed against another person, as Jews believe those must be atoned for first by going directly to the person they have wronged. And, let me add that Yom Kippur begs a truth, which is that to participate one must believe that sins have been committed. And this, of course, begs the question: what has happened to this notion in our culture today? As it appears we are at risk of thinking this is not so based upon our actions and heart. Still... Jews across the world will today so observe, and we Christians, of course, follow the same in our theology. We believe that our sins - all sins - are in need of being atoned for, meaning their penalty paid and forgiven; and that the only way this can be done is by the provision given by God Himself, which is His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yes, the Bible makes it clear that sin - both toward our fellow man and God - is real.  It also is clear that God is just, and that, as a just God, He cannot and will not tolerate sin un-atoned. But thanks be to God that, by His grace, there is a way just as the prophet Isaiah makes clear:

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6. . 

For I believe that the "Him" of Isaiah's verse is Christ - that Yom Kippur has come - and now really is a blessed day...

Indeed,

Pastor Sam

Monday, October 3, 2016

There's STILL time to register - and VOTE

I cannot recall a time of ever hearing so many people complain, 'pastor, I just cannot vote in this year's election for I'm not pleased with either candidate.' But, if I may, let me dissuade you of this. If you are registered to vote, VOTE.  And, if you are not registered, register today (for in Texas voter registration must be completed at least 30 days prior to the election, which is November 8) and do the same - VOTE.

Why? Because I believe the single greatest expression of the freedom we have in this country is the freedom to vote our convictions. Not to just have an opinion, for you can have that anywhere, but to actually exercise our opinion with a vote. And though I do sympathize with many over their distaste with much of our political rhetoric, vitriol, and circumstance during this seasons campaign, I still believe that we should never give up that which we've been given - the freedom to choose - for this, after all, is not only our privilege but our responsibility. Christian's are given the responsibility to be good citizens - and we should do so faithfully with integrity and grace. For this formulates a witness that cannot be ignored.

If you are not registered, the link below will help.

I hope to see you at the polls!

Pastor Sam

http://www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/you-must-register-by/


Friday, September 23, 2016

A Word or Two About These Days, and Choice

I confess to feeling sad of late. Watching the news and tracing the rhetoric of this years Presidential campaign, and the vitriol that has followed. Listening to talking heads on TV, and witnessing the division in our country at heights I cannot recall - even in the decade of the 60s - including Colin Kaepernick not standing for our nation's anthem, and now the similar act of others. And then, last night, gazing at coverage of one more city, Charlotte NC, in riot over perceived (whether real in this case, or not) racial bigotry - all of this has, frankly, left me sad.

But today this sadness came to a head as I received a text and pic from my daughter, Taylor, who is visiting Philadelphia, PA. to attend a wedding. She is with our dear family friend, Debbie Irons, and they've taken this opportunity to visit sites of this famed city, such as Independence Hall (aka the State House of Pennsylvania), pictured here. This is where our nation's Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. So that when I saw the pic Taylor sent my heart was seized. Seeing it and reflecting over what now is, I wondered over what we have become. How have we come to this? What has happened to our sense of unity, common ground, or our national thankfulness and pride? At least... that is where I began. But now, in thinking further, I offer up this - for, for me, it brings both a reminder and some needed hope.

How so? By remembering that the idea, which is America, has always been, first and foremost, just that - an 'idea.' One capable of creating, if you will, in any of us the 'hoped after ideal.' For think of it. Both those who framed our Constitution and those who fought for our liberty were simply those who, one person at a time, chose to believe in this idea and thereby live. In other words there were, even then, those who disagreed - not only across the ocean but here on this very land. They were those who saw things differently, who did not want change, who chose not to join in and who even chose to resist. Did this dash effort or halt progress?  Did this change sentiment or cause our constitutional framers and militia to give up?  No! The majority held. Some early on and some sometime later.  And so, today, we remain hopeful in this ideal. One which still, on any given day, is either true or not- but certainly only for those who choose it to be.

Now the way of my point is this. Many of us recall parents teaching us of choices we could make everyday - to choose right over wrong, love over hate and good over evil. Like mine, perhaps yours reminded you this 'choice' would never be any more true than it was right then - encountering your next circumstance or the person you next might meet. So when Taylor sent me her pic my reaction, though at first sad, is now changed. In realizing that the framers of our constitution and those who declared our independence did not do so because of their reality but because this was the reality they chose - one they wanted so; likewise, my own patriotism and hope should not be based only on what is, but as much so on what should and yet might be. Meaning, my patriotism - the best part of it - lies squarely in choice. My choice everyday to defend your right and mine to have an opinion, and do so in respect and awe of my fellow man. Not with hate, vitriol, vengeance or revenge, but with love. Yes, racism is real in America. To say it is not would be foolish. Like you I don't like it. Not one bit. But why is it so? Not because our constitution is failed, but because we are fallen, sinful and come short, each of us, of God's ideal.

Christ once told His disciples that freedom is not found in circumstance, but in knowing - saying, 'you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.'  He was talking of Himself, and of potential freedom from sin through 'knowing' Him. Today I stand on this very same thing - both as a man in Christ free from sin because of Him, and as an American citizen free from tyranny over ones actions and my own mind. I stand and choose. I choose not to hate but to love. I choose not vengeance but forgiveness, not sentimentalism but freedom - even from those with whom I disagree. In standing so I am free indeed. I will not give up simply because of someone else's response, and in this way my sadness over what is can be replaced with hope in what might yet be. I will not be made a prisoner.  For in Christ, and in these United States, I am still... free.

Indeed,

Pastor Sam






Thursday, July 7, 2016

Two More Minutes, Papa!

This week I have been busy preparing for a mission trip to Brazil. Over the past 10 summers I and other ParkwayHills members have traveled there with P70, a church planting and strengthening initiative founded by Jairo Campos. Long story short - during this time we have seen many new churches begun, thousands come to Christ, and a host of young pastors called and trained into ministry in the north part of the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, and -... it has been amazing. 

Of course, before leaving I also wanted to see my grandchildren, so, I did a quick 48 hour road-trip to Oklahoma City and back. It was good - but, I do confess to feeling a bit pained when my daughter said, "looking forward to when you can stay more than a day, Dad." She didn't mean to pick, but, it did hit home nonetheless.

As I was preparing to leave, I went in to say goodbye to Cannon, the oldest, just turning 29 mos. (2 yrs. 5 mos.) He was on the floor of his brother's room, Colt, and playing, so I bent down to kiss him goodbye.  As I did he shook his head, NO. Then, as if rehearsed, he patted hard on the floor indicating he wanted me to lay down beside him, and said, "NO! Play me! 2 more minutes, Papa!"  His intention was clear.  He didn't want me to leave, He wanted me to stay and play. To get on the floor right then, and, all this with the negotiation for just... '2 minutes more."

Now Cannon is young and the chances of him comprehending what 2 minutes really means are slim.  Still, it was a phrase he'd heard - and one he'd learned to use in appeasing his desire for continuance.  A desire God has given us all.  With the capacity to feel and love comes a desire for more.  And, Cannon, well, he'd been bit with the bug, too, so... '2 minutes more, Papa', became his sturdy appeal.

Well, I gave Cannon his 2 minutes.  In fact, I gave him another 10. And, when I did leave it was much harder on me than him. As I drove off I could not help but think of how we all do this very same thing - how we all come into this world (after a a fashion) and go out - often asking for just 2 minutes more.  

Back in Texas one of the Godliest women I know is about to see Jesus face to face. She is dying. Or, as I have often said, leaving the land of the dying to move on to the land of the living. Her name is Adele Glensky, and our church, especially her LIFEgroup, has been praying for her for months.  First, for her healing, and now, for mercy and peace in her passing.    

In each of my many conversations with Adele over the last weeks, I have asked what she might want me to pray for.  Early on it was for healing, but, of late, it has been for strength.  I have come to realize, though, that Adele was asking me to pray for more than strength to live - she was asking God for strength to carry on, peacefully, even in the midst of this thing we call dying. And though she has never asked me out loud for more time, she has spoken about the joy she feels in seeing her husband, her daughters, her grandchildren and her friends - each and every time, perhaps just one more time - or, in her case, just 2 minutes more.

This afternoon I stopped by Adele's on my way home from Oklahoma, as I realized the likelihood of my seeing her again this side of glory was not high. And, though the visit was not long, it was good.  She was comfortable and at peace. As I returned to my car to drive the rest of the way home, I thought about both she and Cannon. Just 2 minutes more, Papa! I thought about all our negotiations with God in this life. How we ask Him, over and again, for more of this and more of that, and then, finally, often, for just some more time. Then I realized. Our desire - the desire for time, itself - is something given us by God (Ecclesiastes 3:11) And this - that what He has given us is realized ultimately only through Him. In the moment we step into His presence we receive that for which we have always pined - we receive from Him, not just 2 minutes more - but all the time of eternity. A perfect and lasting satisfaction in the thing we can never have otherwise outside of receiving it from HIm. More time, all of time, forever, with Him.

2 more minutes, Papa, indeed!

Pastor Sam

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kathy, Karen and the Gospel

In the past 24 hours I have been asked more than I can count two questions, "Pastor, how do you cope with the horror and heartache life throws at you and the people you pastor?" And this - "And what do you say to people when they face such?" My answer, though thoughtful, comes quick - "sometimes I cry, and always I remind them of the gospel."

As I was finishing our Board of Trustees meeting Monday evening, my cell phone lit up. Belinda was calling. Already in the middle of another call, she was insistent - calling back again and again, which meant something important was up and she needed me to answer. I called her back, and she blurted, 'you need to call Tim Boobar,' stating his wife Kathy had been shot.  She knew nothing else. My heart raced to high gear - Kathy, Tim and daughter Carly have been members of ParkwayHills for years, and had just been part of our trip to Israel this past Christmas. One of our finest and more faithful families. I braced myself for what might come and called Tim's cell phone.  Sitting in my truck, Carly, Tim's daughter, answered the phone sobbing. I asked, "Carly where are you?"  "In McKinney," she said.  "Is your Mom OK?" She sobbed deeply, then cried the words I dreaded, "Pastor, she's gone." "Mom has been killed." I groaned. Holding back my own shock and pain. "Where are you," I asked. And, as she was giving me the address, I turned my truck north toward McKinney, TX. and my next hours, which were to be as horrific as any I'd ever known. Kathy and her sister Karen had been killed by Karen's estranged husband. Two victims of the violence and pain becoming far too familiar in the culture in which we live.

Pastor's are not supposed to have favorites, but if I did, Kathy would be on my list. I cannot recall anything from her but kindness. Something true of the entire family. She and Tim had been sweethearts since they were 16. And Carly, their daughter, now a student at TCU, had proven a model child in our youth group and a standout student at her school, Prestonwood Christian Academy. Kathy had served on our church's Finance Team, she and her husband were faithful attenders of both worship and LIFEgroup, and a whole list of other charities and civic causes were supported by her through her work with our Collin County Chapter of Junior League. Kathy was special.

But, if you knew Kathy at all, you also knew that she loved her twin sister. They were inseparable.  She had told her husband when they married that she never wanted to live more than 10 minutes from her sister.  And... that became so. When the horror occurred Kathy was playing the role she so often played, that of support, as her sister was going through a difficult separation from her husband. He had suffered with substance abuse, had become erratic, and Karen had decided it was over. The two sisters were together when he came to end Karen's life. No doubt, both pleading one for the other.

In ministry, if you are a pastor, you shepherd people. Real people. You lead them, pray with them, love them, and, sometimes... you cry with them. Kathy and Karen's lives were cut short - not by any fault of their own, but by the brokenness of our world. They loved each other deeply.  Coming into this world together, they left the land of dying and entered the land of the living together, as well. For a while - a long while - we will all reflect on the horrific nature of how their lives ended. But eventually, even for the family, thoughts will turn otherwise. They will be remembered for who they were, what they gave, how they loved and how they lived. And, for we who are in Christ, we will cling to the truth - the gospel - which becomes ever more real. In an instant Jesus received them to Himself. Their savior - the One whom both had placed their trust in - welcomed them home. John 14, 1st Corinthians 15, and the entire record of God's Word promises us this.

So I told the young reporter from Channel 5, Meredith, when asked - 'pastor, what do you tell people in times like this?"  "I remind them of the gospel, Meredith" - "that Jesus loves them, and that, if we know Christ ourselves, we will see them both again."  "And, then... sometimes I cry.  For pastor's cry, too."

Love,


Pastor Sam





Kathy, Karen and the Gospel

In the past 24 hours I have been asked more than I can count two questions, "Pastor, how do you cope with the horror and heartache life throws at you and the people you pastor?" And this - "And what do you say to people when they face such?" My answer, though thoughtful, comes quick - "sometimes I cry, and always I remind them of the gospel."

As I was finishing our Board of Trustees meeting Monday evening, my cell phone lit up. Belinda was calling. Already in the middle of another call, she was insistent - calling back again and again, which meant something important was up and she needed me to answer. I called her back, and she blurted, 'you need to call Tim Boobar,' stating his wife Kathy had been shot.  She knew nothing else. My heart raced to high gear - Kathy, Tim and daughter Carly have been members of ParkwayHills for years, and had just been part of our trip to Israel this past Christmas. One of our finest and more faithful families. I braced myself for what might come and called Tim's cell phone.  Sitting in my truck, Carly, Tim's daughter, answered his phone sobbing. I asked, "Carly where are you?"  "In McKinney," she said.  "Is your Mom OK?" She sobbed deeply, then cried the words I dreaded, "Pastor she's gone." "Mom has been killed." I groaned deeply. Holding back my own shock and pain. "Where are you," I asked. And, as she was giving me the address I turned my truck north toward McKinney, TX. and my next hours, which were to be as horrific as any I had known. Kathy and her sister Karen had been killed by Karen's estranged husband. Two victims of the violence and pain far too familiar in the culture in which we live.

Pastor's are not supposed to have favorites, but if I did, Kathy would be on my list. I cannot recall anything from her but kindness. Something true of the entire family. She and Tim had been sweethearts since they were 16. And Carly, their daughter, now a student at TCU, had proven a model child in our youth group and a standout student at her school, Prestonwood Christian Academy. Kathy had served on our church's Finance Team, she and her husband were faithful attenders of both worship and LIFEgroup, and a whole list of other charities and civic notables were supported by her through her work with our Collin County Chapter of Junior League. Kathy was special.

But if you knew Kathy at all - you knew too that she loved her twin sister.  They sere inseparable.  She had told her husband when they married that she never wanted to live more than 10 minutes from her sister.  And... that became so. When the horror occurred Kathy was playing the role she often played, that of support, as her sister was going through a difficult separation from her husband. He had suffered with substance abuse, had become erratic, and Karen had finally decided it was over.  The two were together when he came to end Karen's life. No doubt, both pleading one for the other.

In ministry, if you are a pastor, you shepherd people. Real people. You lead them, pray with them, love them, and, sometimes... you cry with them. Kathy and Karen's lives were cut short - not by any fault of their own, but by the brokenness of our world.  They loved each other deeply.  Coming into this world together, they left the land of dying and entered the land of the living together, as well. For a while - a long while - we will all reflect on the horrific nature of how their lives ended.  But eventually, even for the family, thoughts will turn otherwise. They will be remembered for who they were, what they gave, how they loved and how they lived. And, for us who are in Christ, we know the truth - the gospel becomes ever more real. Jesus received them to Himself. Their savior - the One whom both had placed their trust in - welcomed them home.  John 14, 1st Corinthians 15, and the entire record of God's Word promises us this.

So I told the young reporter from Channel 5, Meredith, when asked - 'pastor, what do you tell people in times like this?"  "I remind them of the gospel, Meredith" - "that Jesus loves them, and that, if we know Christ ourselves, we will see them both again."  "And, then... sometimes I cry.  For pastor's cry, too."

Love,


Pastor Sam