Sunday, July 27, 2008

The New Journey Begins

Today I began a two year journey on a road to recovery with the Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church. The church had two reasons to be filled with energy this morning. Not only was it their new pastor’s first Sunday, it was also the closing program for Vacation Bible School. Due to these two factors attendance was around 160 instead of their current average between 100 and 110.

Even knowing that we had guests present I felt that I needed to begin the sermon with a reminder of the bad news / good news story. The bad news is that NGWC is not a healthy church. But the good news is that most, if not all of us, are willing to admit it and want to do something about it. This is what sets NGWC apart from most other sick churches that do not want to admit that they have problems or aren’t willing to do anything about the problems they know they have.

I discovered after the service that there were first time guests present that were not associated with the VBS program. I made a point to invite them to join us on this two year recovery journey. These guests were the Dr. Marcus Gentry family. Marcus is the son of Rev. and Mrs. Warren Gentry who pastured immediately before me at the Rocky Mount, NC church in the mid80’s. If God does lead them to join us I feel certain that they will be a great asset to NGWC.

I closed the sermon this morning with the announcement that our first step on the journey to recovery was a call to congregational prayer together. Next Sunday we will join at the Lord’s Table to pray and commune as a community of faith. During the month of August we will be forming Share and Prayer Triplets that will meet together at least 5 times during the 50 days between August 31st and October 19th. The congregation will be encouraged to form triplets with others that are not that familiar with already and to pray for one another and their church.

The proverb goes something like – a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. We took that first step today with what I believe to be God’s smile of approval and favor.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Spirit Gully Washer

Growing up in the flat land of eastern North Carolina I often heard the term “gully washer” to refer to a strong and long rain. But it was not until I went for a walk recently after a night of some torrential rainfall at our Lake Lure mountain house that I came to fully appreciate the expression. As I walked down our long and steep driveway to the street I saw at the bottom of the hill a line of rocks, clay and debris that began at the end of our ditch or gully and stretching some 60-70 yards down the street.

As I continued my walk God reminded me that Scripture refers to the rain of the Holy Spirit, how the Holy Spirit was poured out on the earthly church and how I have experienced the strong flow of the Holy Spirit in my life and ministry. What I want to see again in my life and in the church is a “gully washer” of the Holy Spirit poured out.

Observations about Gully Washers:

1) We can petition for a gully washer but we can’t produce one on our own initiative. God sends the gully washers at His discretion and in His time.

2) The longer the season between gully washers the more impediments build up that need to be flushed out. We let the crud of sin and selfishness mount in our lives without realizing how unattractive it is.

3) We often create human hindrances to slow or stop the flow of the gully washer. We like to control things so we craft ways to contain the movement of the Holy Spirit to a speed or pace that we are comfortable with.

4) The more impediments and hindrances, the stronger the gully washer must be to break through and flow mightily. It is our responsibility to clear the impediments and remove the hindrances. When we do, God rejoices to send a gully washer of Holy Spirit rain into our lives.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just "Doug"; Not "Pastor Doug"

Almost three weeks ago I told the Bessemer City First Wesleyan congregation that I had been “Pastor Doug” for the last four years but that from this time forward I would just be “Doug”. Next week I again become “Pastor Doug” but this time to the congregation of Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church in Asheboro, NC.

During these three weeks I have felt so strange. I felt so strange that I slipped into the church office for a couple of days this week to get a head start on the work. I look forward to being “Pastor Doug” again. I have also attended the NC East District Conference this week and appreciated learning more about this district’s vision for planting churches and getting established churches refocused on mission and ministry. I am looking forward to serving under the leadership of District Superintendent Dan LeRoy.

Let’s get back to the feeling of being “Doug” for three weeks instead of “Pastor Doug”. My interim training gave emphasis to the need for exit preparation from the moment of entry into each assignment. I had for several months done my best to prepare myself and the congregation for a good closure in our ministry with the congregation in Bessemer City. But as I spoke those words to this group of people that I was releasing to the care of another it hit me pretty hard – this was it – it was now over. I wonder how that moment impacted those who were listening. If I did my job well then they were ready for it.

This concept of preparing for your exit from the moment of your entry carries much truth for all of life and living, especially for believers. Think about it!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attack of the Dogs

The following is the account of the second Monday mentioned in yesterday's posting. On July 7th, after arriving at my mom’s house for a two day visit, I decided to take a 40 minute walk before going to a visitation at the local funeral home for an old high school classmate, Ross Bennett. But my plans were suddenly derailed after getting about ¼ mile down the road from mom’s home when three dogs attacked me from a neighbor’s yard. Before I knew what had happened I had received two dog bites on each leg, all bleeding, and one pretty significantly. The worst bite took two hunks of flesh out of my leg and are now open wounds having to heal from the inside out.

After limping back to mom’s house, she and Pam got me in the van for a trip to Urgent Care. After two hours at Urgent Care and one hour in Wal-Mart waiting for a prescription to be filled we returned home to see the Animal Control officers waiting for me to go with them so that I could identify the dogs. They indicated that they would have to impound the dogs for 10 days and that it would cost the owner $150 per dog for him to get them back. The officers had already been to the owner’s house and he said they weren’t taking his dogs so they had called for a sheriff’s deputy to accompany us.

The owner did become very irritate and it took several minutes for the officers to secure the dogs. The owner never spoke to me but I tried to tell his sister that I didn’t call animal control but that the Urgent Care office was required to report the incident once I asked for medical attention. When the officers (animal control and deputy) and I were back at my mom’s house the deputy informed the animal control officers that we were too slow leaving the owner’s property. They were concerned that once the owner went back inside his home that he could come back out with a gun.

Lessons Learned:

1) Like the Boy Scouts, you ought to be prepared. I have walked on this road before and these same dogs have barked at me before but never attacked. I should have, at least, carried a stick with me.
2) It is good to keep a positive attitude in a negative situation. I made up my mind to be light hearted and as cheerful as possible in spite of my pain. I think this attitude impacted those who were providing for my medical attention.
3) We live in a small world. During conversation with one of the nurses I learned that years ago she attended the Rose Hill Wesleyan Church and spoke kindly of her pastor and my friend, Bill Tietje.
4) It is good to have people who love you near when you are hurting. Both my wife and mom displayed such care and concern for my welfare in the moments, hours, and now days following my injuries. I owe more to these two women than anyone else alive today. Also, I have received many, many calls and emails from several people in Bessemer City after the congregation there heard of the dog attack. These expressions of concern have meant so much during these days of recovery.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm Doug Dennis and I'm an Idiot!

The last two Mondays have been two that I would just as soon forget. Here is the account of the first Monday. The second Monday story will follow tomorrow. June 30th was moving day. What a day! As long as I can remember how tired and sore I felt the next morning I will never be tempted to move again. But my fatigue should have been expected and was the least significant event of this memorable day.

Being the person that I am, I had a plan for the day. Not much went according to the plan.
1st: I had reserved a U-Haul truck 3 weeks ahead and had checked with the dealer personally twice in the last four days before to insure that I would have a truck at 8:30 am. 8:30 am came and no truck! I had to go to the U-Haul center in Gastonia to get a truck and the packing started two hours late.
2nd: I thought I had Josh, Trey and two men from the church to help me pack. I had Trey and at least six men from the church to pack the truck (way to many to pack effectively).
3rd: I knew from multiple prior moves to turn the gas value off the grill before putting it on the truck but in our haste to finish forgot. I will come back to this detail later for this is the detail that makes this moving day memorable.
4th: I thought I had two friends planning on help Josh, Trey and I unload the truck in Archdale. Josh did arrive late but his car is having transmission trouble and he had no business driving to Archdale. So, Pam, Trey, Elizabeth and I made the trek toward Archdale with each of driving a vehicle. In route I learned that one of our two friends in Archdale would not be able to help but within five minutes got a call from a third friend and his wife were planning on helping us and the other original friend was bringing his son. PTL!!

Upon arrival in Archdale, I determined that I would need to angle the U-Haul truck up our steep driveway to keep the truck from bottoming out. It was during this angled climb that I think something moved inside the truck. Anyway, some how and some time near the end of the trip the gas control knob on the grill turned on and igniter switch was pressed so that the grill fire lit. When we opened the back door of the truck smoke came rolling out. I blistered my thumb getting the grill fire turned off but the damage had been done. Our coffee table that was close to the front of the grill had melted and warped. The freezer door that was against the back of the grill was severely blackened. Several plastic baskets near the grill were ruined. Soot was on everything near the back of the truck and a burnt plastic smell was in everything on the truck.

We spent several hours cleaning up that night and the next day. The smell is gradually lessening as we wash clothes, remove emptied boxes and the odor naturally dissipates. My loving wife was brought to tears as she reflected on what might have been (including the loss of all our belongings and maybe even my life).

Why did God allow me to forget to turn off the value to the gas tank on the grill? I had always remembered to do this on every other move! I am not sure but here are some possibilities:
1) To remind me that I need to be humbled from time to time. I now reference the title given to this story.
2) To remind everyone that He still is looking out for us, even when we do stupid things. This story could have had so much worse an ending.
3) To serve as a reminder of others to not make the same stupid mistake that I made, especially my children who will probably move many times in the future.
4) To help Pam and I to realize what the most important things are in our lives. Obviously it is not the “stuff”.
5) To serve as a powerful sermon illustration in my future ministry.
6) ??? (Only time will tell what other reasons God may have had!)