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Showing posts from January, 2010

Unsolicited Advice to A Pastoral Search Team

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Today’s Episode of The First Reece is being preempted for a personal message to the committee charged with finding a new Pastor for Highpointe Church. The usual mix of laughter, wit and inspiration will resume tomorrow. Dear Pastoral Search Committee: In the January 4, 2010 entry of this blog I observed that “Some board or committee or other entity is going to read resumes and interview candidates, and present me with my new pastor” . I now know who the members of that committee are. You are all good people; Godly people; people whose judgment I trust. And so it is with excitement I await your findings. Meantime, I wish to offer this unsolicited advice. Don’t try to replace Darren & Michelle Pilcher. They are irreplaceable. If God moved them on, then God has an incredible plan for Highpointe Church. That plan is what we seek. Don’t get in a hurry. In the Kingdom of God timing is everything. But that timing is God’s timing. At the right time he will open the right door and w

The African in the Closet

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The year is 1900, or 1800…..or 1700, it doesn’t matter. The point is that it’s not current times. The place is Africa – a tribal village in the darkest depths of the jungle. The people are cannibals, feasting on the captured of other tribes, or missionaries whenever possible. The focus is on one of the natives. He’s the alpha male; leader of the pack. In modern day Sicily he would be the Godfather, but we’re not in modern day Sicily, we’re in ancient Africa. This chieftain is naked except for a breech-cloth (which is probably to accommodate modern day TV viewers). He’s tall but pot bellied, and adorned in an elaborate headdress of feathers and bones, like the bone through his pierced nose. He holds a six foot long spear decorated to match his headgear, and he’s standing impatiently in front of a large black pot over a blazing fire…waiting for it to boil. My maternal grandmother was a sweet lady – we called her Nanny. She was a member of the 20th century, born six years after its begi

West Wingin’ It

One morning a few weeks back I was getting ready for work, and as usual I turned on the television to check the morning news, weather and traffic. I accidentally ran across a rerun of The West Wing, airing on a cable channel. My first thought was, “I could call in sick!” I really believe that if there would have been a second episode airing, I would have found a way to stay home and watch it. While I am a man of deep convictions, I have endeavored in this blog not to talk religion or politics, lest it become just another rant from another zealot that would go largely unread, even by those who love me most. But since I brought up the subject, I will confess that I am unashamedly evangelical in my religious beliefs and conservative in my politics. If you are not, that’s ok with me. See, while my opinions on most things political tend to align with those of the Republican Party, I am able to see clearly why Democrats believe what they do. You don’t have to agree with somebody to underst

The Little Blue Pill

My e-mail box at work has this feature where it diverts junk mail into a holding box. I go into that box once every couple of weeks or so, and do a quick scan for any valid messages that may have been flagged improperly. I seldom find real messages there, and when I do it’s usually one day after the deadline for the matter being addressed. But it’s not really the prospect of finding good messages that keeps bringing me back to the Junk Mail Box. It’s the fakes that make it all worthwhile - they can be so entertaining. There are several types of junk messages that seem to be making the current rounds: “Your bank needs updated information”. Frankly, anybody that clicks on that one probably deserves what they get! (Did I say that out loud?) How about the “Let’s get acquainted” message – usually from a girl with a foreign sounding name, like Ingrid or Brigitte...or Anastasia. I’m supposed to think she wants to get to know me because, even though she’s absolutely gorgeous and the life o

Time for a Social Check-Up?

Somebody once said “no man is an Island”. Actually it was the same guy that said not to ask “for whom the bell tolls”. That sounded like good advice to me, so I didn’t ask. Anyway, I’ve seen “It’s A Wonderful Life” so I know “whom” the bell tolls for. That’s how Clarence the Angel got his wings! But back to the island thing – the point is that everybody wants to belong. When you’re a kid you see a group of kids hanging out, and you gravitate to them. Usually they look at you funny for a minute, and then invite you to play. And before you know it you’re the new 3rd baseman for the sandlot team. But the older you get the harder it gets to fit in. In my high school we had three distinct groups - hippies, jocks and goat ropers. I was in the fourth group…everybody else. See, my hair wasn’t long and I didn’t do drugs so I didn’t fit in with the hippies. And while I had as much athletic ability as the next guy, I wasn’t on the team. And I didn’t own a horse…or a goat! So I muddled through -

Rocket Science Comes to Edmond

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Ever been arrested? The closest I ever got to a jail cell was in Edmond, Oklahoma in the summer of ‘71. For all I know there may still be a warrant out for me. If you are on Broadway and you drive straight north through Edmond, you will run smack into a cemetery. Now, behind that cemetery there used to be a drive in movie theatre, The Woodstock. It was small and showed 2nd rate movies, but it was close and it was cheap, and the local kids hung out there. Calculating the angles and trajectories needed, factoring in the speed of the car and the length of the fuse… Rocket Science had come to Edmond... Across the road from the drive-in was undeveloped land. Oh, it’s all houses now, but back then it was untouched by human hands…or at least by human bulldozers. Several hundred feet back from the road was a tree line, and what we referred to as “The Black Forest”. And that’s where it happened. Three or four of us decided to camp out in the Black Forest one Friday night. So we pitched ou

All Out War

Did you catch the movie “American Graffiti”? It’s a rock-n-roll and hot-rods flick about one evening in the lives of a bunch of high school seniors in Southern California. The tagline for the film is the question “Where were you in ’62?” I know exactly where I was in ’62. Dad and mom had purchased their first house, a quaint little tract home in a modest neighborhood in south OKC. It was a young neighborhood and it was full of first-time homeowners and renters, with small children like my brother, my sister and me. When the school bus stopped in the middle of our block it seemed like three hundred kids poured out, ready to play in the street until dinner call. A few houses down lived this family I'll call the Sandersons (not their real name). The Sandersons were a different breed than us…in fact, different than most. The dad was kind of a shifty-eyed type; short in stature and grimy under the fingernails. And he was always swiggin’ a brew. The mom had a cigarette butt hanging ou

Run-Run-Run-Run Runaway

The story you are about to read is true. The names were not changed, because nobody was innocent. I’m probably the only kid in America that ever asked permission to run away. Back when I was about 16, my phone rang early one Saturday morning. It was my friend Mark calling to tell me he was frustrated with his parents and wanted to get away (translated, run away). I was concerned for him so I said, “Why don’t you spend the day with me before you do anything.” I had plans to go down to my uncle and aunt’s house for the day, so Mark tagged along. This uncle and aunt’s house is kind of a destination for a lot of kinfolk, and that day was no exception. Not only was I headed down for the day, but another uncle and aunt, and their two kids were up from Dallas. It was, and is, an awesome place to spend the day. (For more on their place see my blog entry titled “Ole Blue”.) Now one of these two cousins I mentioned happens to be a girl, and my friend Mark kind of took a shine to my girl-cousi

Our Kind of Folks

Every now and then God is feeling especially benevolent and he decides to give someone a gift too precious for words. For some reason He has chosen to bestow such an unfathomable gift upon Stephanie and me…and more than once. Let me tell you about one of those gifts. When Stephanie and I visited Lakeside Church (since rebranded Highpointe Church) we met Pastors Darren and Michelle Pilcher. We quickly made the decision to join this church, and so we invited the Pastor’s family to our home for a meal and fellowship. Of course, at that time we didn’t know the Pilchers very well, and they weren’t familiar with us either. That was one reason for the dinner – to get to know each other. If you’ve ever been invited by or invited folks you don’t know well, you know how uncomfortable such an evening can be. This one wasn’t. From the moment Pastors Darren and Michelle, and their kids walked through our front door we could tell these were “our kind of folks”. I was out on the patio grilling the

Where Did You Come From?

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Has anybody ever asked you, “Where did YOU come from?” The year was 1570 and George Kepler lived in Ansbach, Germany. He had a son he named Andreas who had a son he named Johannes Kepler (not the famous one – probably his cousin or something). Johannes Kepler had a son named Bernhardt, who had a son named Benedict, who went on to have a son of his own. He named him Andreas, after his great-great-grandfather. By now it’s 1720, and Bernhardt, Benedict and Andreas all got on a ship, along with their families and belongings, and three generations of Keplers came to America! They had heard about William Penn’s big real estate deal and wanted a piece of the action. They settled in Bucks County, PA on land that is now a part of the City of Philadelphia. Andreas (Andrew) had a son he named Andreas Jr, who grew up to fight in the revolution. He shot at British soldiers…and helped win us our independence. He then had himself a son he named John Kepler. John and his brother loaded up a buckbo

17 Millimeters of Sweet Success

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I changed the oil in our car the other night. Now this may not seem noteworthy to you, but what you don’t know is that I haven’t changed the oil in a car in over 20 years. But with the economy like it is and finances a little tight we are doing what we can to conserve. A dime here, a dollar there…it adds up. Actually I didn’t save any money though - I used it to buy bullets for the next men’s breakfast at church. What can I say - Sometimes there’s not enough food to go around and it gets a bit ugly. A trip to Wal-Mart for a basket full of stuff and I was ready to go. I found that oil now comes in 5 quart containers. I bought one. I also got a new oil filter and one of those drain-pans. You know, you drain the oil into it and tighten the cap. Then when you have time you drive it down to the auto center and pour it in their drum. So neat…so tidy…. yeah, right! And I bought a wrench to remove the oil filter. First one – too big! Next one – too small! This must be what Goldilocks felt

Is Idaho on Route 66?

I’ve never been to Idaho. Or have I? In 1963, when I was 6 years old, our family took the now infamous Route 66 vacation. We drove west from Oklahoma City (it’s mighty pretty). We saw Amarillo and Gallop, New Mexico – Flagstaff, Arizona…well, you know the rest. It was an awesome trip. We saw the Grand Canyon, drove across the Hoover Dam and down the Vegas strip. And we drove on some highway where there wasn’t a speed limit. The suitcases were strapped to the top of the station wagon, and they flew off onto the highway. We made it down to the San Diego Zoo and Marine Land of the Pacific. We spent a day at Disneyland, where we rode the Matterhorn and joined the Mickey Mouse club. Mom left her purse on the teacup ride. Way to go, mom! We visited the Hollywood Wax Museum and Muscle Beach. Then we drove north, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. I have no memories of San Francisco. We probably ate Rice-a-Roni. If not, we should have. One of my clearest memories is this cool coke machine t

Measuring Time

People tend to measure their lives by events - glorious events…tragic events. Their conversation gives it away. “That was before the baby was born…” Or “back when dad was alive…” I was in the Oklahoma City Bombing. Oh, I wasn’t inside the Murrah Building, although I once took the air traffic controller’s exam there. And I wasn’t in one of the surrounding buildings that were damaged. I was working about a mile and a half away, and our building was not damaged. But we heard the blast, and we felt the shock. I remember thinking that for the rest of my life I would remember events as “before the bombing” or “after the bombing”. I went that day to give blood. I felt I had to do something. But the line to give blood was estimated to be 3 hours long, and I had obligations, and so I had to get back to the office. Fortunately none of my friends or family died that day, although many fine people did. The body count ended up being 168; 171 if you count the unborn babies, which I do. And a fine

The Talking Board

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are when we would all pile into the car for a road trip. Sometimes we would drive to see family or friends. Sometimes we would drive to attend a tent revival or church service. Sometimes we would just drive. Dad was the kind of guy that couldn’t pass a winding road without heading down it to see what was around the next bend. And I’m afraid I inherited that from him. Just ask my wife. I particularly remember a trip we took when I was in 5th grade. We drove to the next town to visit a couple who were friends of mom and dad, and who had kids about our ages. We always had fun there because…how shall I say this? They were just a bit more familiar with the ways of the world than we were. I don’t mean to be passing judgment or anything like that. That’s for the good Lord to sort out in his wisdom. We just lived a little on the sheltered side. We had been there for a short time when one of their girls brought out a Ouija board. If you don’t know

Death by Smooching

Sometimes my wife leaves the house for the evening to go to a women’s function at the church, or to go to a scrapbooking party. I love it, because – see, we have cable TV and there are certain shows on the premium channels I just can’t watch with her in the house. NO – not those shows! Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about westerns. She feels about westerns the way I feel about her Food Network cook-offs. Being a child of the 60s I was raised on horse operas. A ten gallon hat, a pair of blazing six shooters and the smell of horseflesh fueled my imaginations. Back when Pat Robertson’s TBN network owned The Family Channel they showed a lot of my cowboy shows, and it was named one of the most violent channels on TV– because of all the violence in the horse operas! Give me a break! Gunsmoke and Bonanza – Maverick and Paladin – these old black and white westerns are the most violent shows on TV? Have these people not seen today’s cop-show fare, with blood spurting out of bull

'Ole Blue

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I was about 16 and my Uncle Cecil and Aunt Frankie were building a new home down near the Texas State line (the real one, not some restaurant by that name). If you had a really good arm you could stand in their front yard and throw a rock into the river, if you could get it over the trees. What a cool place to live! It was July and I was down there for a week to help with construction of the house. My cousin's cousin (but not my cousin), Ronnie Joe, was there too. After Ronnie Joe and I worked for what seemed like hours, but was probably just a few minutes, we would go jump into the Red River to cool off. So we put out some trot lines and started baiting and running them several times a day. Over the course of a week we pulled off over a hundred fish from those trot lines. Drum, alligator gar, other trash fish...but mostly catfish. Frankly it was a pretty brave thing for us to do. If you've ever had a face to face encounter with an alligator gar, you think twice about going in

A New Caboose

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When I was 15 mom and dad called us kids together with some major news. We were turning the spare bedroom into a nursery. I was the youngest of three and dad always introduced me as “the caboose”. But suddenly, at 15 I found myself promoted (or was it demoted) to just another boxcar . The “oops” baby was born and she brought joy to all our hearts. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to laugh at, and sometimes it’s hard to know when to laugh. Something that is funny today may be just downright cruel hearted tomorrow, and vice versa. I remember when I was going through a painful divorce. I would turn on the TV hoping to lose my emotions in a funny plot. But invariably the show would be poking fun at…divorce! This isn’t funny at all, I would think. How can they be so cruel hearted? Same thing when there's been a death in your family, and this week's episode of your favorite comedy mirrors your tragedy. Ha Ha. How funny! In the midst of a tragedy laughter becomes the indicator that

The Early-Bird Conundrum

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We send men and women into war with full body armor and automatic weapons. But we send them into parenthood with nothing but some cheesy book about how to change diapers (you mean a garden hose isn’t involved?). If you have kids you already know how difficult parenting is. And not the least of these challenges is the safety of the child. With God’s help you do your best to nurse them when they are sick, to know who they buddy up with, and to teach them to look both ways before skateboarding across the interstate. But one peril you’ve probably overlooked is what I call the Early-Bird Conundrum . The chain of events needed for this rare, but possibly deadly happening, goes as follows: 1) Live within walking distance of the church you attend 2) Have an event on a Sunday morning that requires you to miss church 3) Inform your child that he must still attend Sunday school and church 4) Have this event fall on the day that Daylight Savings Time ends 5) Forget to set your clocks back (rememb

I’m Not Really Sicilian

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You’d think I was in the Mafia or something…the number of cousins I have. But these are really cousins. You know, family - not “family”. On my mom’s side I have four; on dad’s side, 10. Some I was closer to than others – closer in age, in proximity, in relationship. If you’re not on Facebook you might check it out. It’s really cool. Oh, I know there are a lot of silly distractions built in. You can farm imaginary crops, shoot imaginary mobsters or find out what your imaginary leprechaun name is. But it’s not all imaginary. The people are real. And they are people you know, or used to know, and maybe would like to know better. For instance, I might have gone the rest of my life without really knowing my cousin Gina. Oh, I knew her when we were kids, but when you’re a kid another kid has to be pretty close to your age to pal around, and she was a few years younger. I remember one Christmas Eve when the family got together at her house. Gina’s dad, Uncle Vito… uhummmmm, I mean Uncle C

The Knuckle Sandwich

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The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said Jesus was a Liberal . As annoyed as I have become of late at all things political, I gave it only passing thought. But this small voice down inside me wasn’t so ready to let go of this one. So I girded the loins of my research talents, intent on proving that bumper sticker wrong. Wow – what manner of man goes to battle with a bumper sticker? Worse yet, what manner of man LOSES a battle with a bumper sticker?! Here’s what I found: The word “Liberal” comes from the Latin “Liberalis”. Three different Latin-English dictionary sites all confirmed one another; Liberalis translates as honorable, courteous, generous, gentlemanly, well bred. Hmmmm - I can’t make a case against ANY of these attributes in our Lord and Savior. Especially the well bred part. After all, he IS the Son of God. What better pedigree could there be? We might see a healing revival break out on the floors of both houses of Congress...maybe even the White House... Merri

Feed Me to the Crocs

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I have a couple of grandkids; Devon and Kiley. My friend Paul tells me his mom had a saying, “Every hen thinks her eggs are the whitest.” Well, my grandkids are surely the whitest eggs in the henhouse. Kiley is 4 and tonight she’s spending the night with Grandpa Kepler and Gramma Stephie. We picked her up from her house after church, and in the car on the way home Stephanie put in a CD of Christian music, of which she and Kiley are particularly fond. She was able to coax Kiley to sing along to their favorite song on the CD – Lead Me to the Cross. She knows all the words because they do this often. Stephanie has a beautiful soprano voice, and sings on the praise team at church. Kiley has the beautiful voice of a 4 year old. Grandpa Kepler has the voice of an ornery grandpa. So, when the song came to an interlude Grandpa Kepler sang out “Feed me to the Crocs…..” (To the tune of lead me to the cross). Kiley: “NO GRANDPA…it’s not feed me….it’s LEAD ME….Lead me to the cross.” Grandpa: “

The Perfect Storm

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There’s this cool trick you can do with a little box – about 3” x 5” or so. You cut a circle in the bottom, close to one end, and just the right size to put your finger through. Then you line the box with gauze and get some fake blood. Stick your finger through the bottom and squirt the fake blood on it. Then put the lid on the box. The result is what appears to be a bloody severed finger. Show it to your friends and watch them go from intrigued to terrified when you wiggle your finger! Why is this entry called “The Perfect Storm”? The concept is that one storm is bad, two storms – well, that’s really bad, but add a third storm to the mix and you have the recipe for a disaster of biblical proportions. She took one look at that nail-less, wrinkled up, bloody finger lying in that box and went into hysterics... Now, consider these three elements: Storm #1 - A harried mom trying to get three kids ready for church on Easter morning Storm #2 - A kid who recently smashed his middle finge

Brothers and Buggers and Lamps

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WARNING – This entry contains material that may not be suitable for some people. Reader discretion is advised. Consider yourself warned. One of the coolest things I ever owned was this lamp I got when I was a kid. My mom worked at a store that sold light fixtures and such, and she brought home this cowboy lamp for me. It had a horseshoe for a base and the riser was made from a replica of an old west six shooter with pearl handles. Of course it was topped off with a shade and had a light bulb inside…for the light, ya know. Gunsmoke and Bonanza…Maverick and Paladin – those were the shows we were raised on, so you can imagine how much I loved this lamp. And she got my older brother one just like it. Did you know I have an older brother? We shared a bedroom – would have painted a line right down the middle of it if mom and dad would have let us - but back to the lamp story. It was bedtime and the last step of our nightly ritual was to turn off our cowboy lamps. The room had been dark f

Stranded City Slickers

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Several years ago my best friend Paul and I went deer huntin’ in a part of the state with which we were not familiar. We simply drove deeper into the country until the terrain looked like it had deer in it. Then we turned down a county line road, then a dirt road, then into some farmer’s crop field. We got out and stomped through the woods, guns in hand. The testosterone was so thick you could slice it. I swear, if there were any deer around there they were laughing their white-tails off at us. Lunch time comes early when you’re deer huntin’, and we headed back to the car. Paul turned on the radio so we could listen to some football and we opened our lunch bags. We ate, and chatted, and snoozed, and listened to the radio until we finally felt obliged to go back out for the afternoon hunt. Not sure how long we had been sitting there with the radio on I advised he start the car to add a little charge to the battery. Guess what happened – or more accurately, what didn’t happen. We had n

The Rolex Watch – Part 2 (read part 1 first)

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Forgive me. I know the title of this entry is deceptive. You are hoping a certain preacher read my last entry and returned to me not only my twist-o-flex band, but the gold Rolex watch with the Halliburton logo that was attached to it. That hasn’t happened - not yet at least! But perchance somebody might actually be influenced by something I share in this venue, I want you to realize I DO believe in giving. And I believe in being blessed in and for that giving. Part 2 of the watch story isn’t really about the watch – it’s about a car. It was the early 80s and I was serving on staff at a mid-sized church in south OKC. One of my co-workers, another minister on staff, was dealing with the challenge of being one car short. His wife would have to shuttle him to work before going to her job, and he would have to wait for her to get off work to pick him up. He was a precious man and not a complainer, and they made do. Did I mention that he lived on the other side of town from the church? I

The Rolex Watch

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I was about eight or nine and didn't know the value of a Rolex watch. It was just my Pawpaw's watch and I admired it. "Do you have a will?" I asked him, and everyone in the room laughed. By the time Pawpaw passed I was in my 20s. After his funeral we met back at the house, where all the grandkids got something of his to keep. My brother and some of my cousins got a gun. I don’t recall what the others got. But everyone knew what I was getting. They had all known for years. It was a Rolex watch - Pawpaw's retirement watch for 35 years of service at Halliburton. It had that cool Halliburton logo on the face of it, and it was made of GOLD! Not being a man of means, that watch was my most valuable possession. I took good care of it and wore it with pride. A gold Rolex held on with a three dollar twist-o-flex band. I'd love to show you my gold Rolex watch with the Halliburton logo but it was stolen...sort of. See, a preacher came to town and I went out to hear him

My Spiritual Journey and the Resignation of a Pastor

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I was born on a Monday and though I don't personally recall, I'm quite sure I was in an Assembly of God church the following Sunday. Being raised not only in church, but in that specific denomination, I grew up dividing Christians into two categories - those who were members of an Assembly of God church and "the confused". I remember being at the ball park when I was about 10 years old, and seeing a boy that was selling candy for his church. I asked him what church he went to and he replied, "The best church there is." "You go to an Assembly of God church too?!" I asked. He boldly replied, "No, Church of Christ" (or some other denomination that I can't now recall). This is a true story and I am sincere in confessing it was that very moment that I realized everybody thinks their church is right - or at least the most right. ...this man was the bridge that I didn’t think existed - between what I was and what I am. Fast forward to ag