Category Archives: My Stuff

This is material I wrote.

Take the Next Step

Jesus loved to tell stories. He said and did things that were controversial. Things He said caused debate among the people and the religious leaders of the time and, in fact, are still being discussed today. And not just in church.

If you read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), the books that tell the story of His life, you’ll find that Jesus very rarely gave a straight-up answer to a question. His teachings were never bullet point lectures.

“6 Steps to a Better You.”

“5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Life.”

“7 Amazing Life Hacks – Your jaw will drop at number 5!”

No, “click-bait” wasn’t His style. Not exactly.

The religious leaders of the time would often try to stump Jesus with a trick question designed to tie Him up in knots. Whenever they would do that He would pause, look them in the eye, and say something like, “Have I ever told you the one about the son who squandered his inheritance?” And everyone would sort of roll their eyes and try to track with Him.

He would tell this open-ended story with His own question at the end, like a riddle.

I wonder why he did that.

His disciples wondered, too, and one day they asked Him…

Matthew 13:10-13
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables…

Even their question about His teaching style was answered with a sort of riddle!

When I read these verses I get the feeling that Jesus is saying that there are certain answers discovered only by taking the next step. Sometimes you don’t really understand until you go on the journey. You may want to have all your questions resolved ahead of time but that’s just not going to happen.

Here’s an example: Parenting.

You can read every book and go to every class about being a good parent but until you actually get in the game you don’t know a thing. True? You have your first child and before too long you realize that you’re just making it up as you go along. But you learn. As new parents you can double-team the child. There are 2 of you and one of them so you figure out how to parent in that situation. And about the time you sort of get into a pattern and feel like you’re getting a handle on this parenting thing, the 2nd child comes along and you have to shift to a man-to-man defense. It’s 1 on 1 and it requires some different types of strategies. But you learn it as you go. I’m not sure what happens when that 3rd and 4th child comes along. I suppose you have to shift to some sort of zone defense, but we never got to that point. What I’m saying is that the book learning, advance planning, and parenting classes are all good things, but the truth is that you don’t really learn parenting until you become parents.

DSC_0898There are just some answers in life that aren’t discovered until we take the next step.

I believe this is profoundly true of the Christian life.

You and I may be in completely different places on our journey with Jesus, but I can pretty much guarantee that, anyplace along the path, the only way we get closer to Him, the only way we grow in our discipleship, is by taking the next step. By obediently putting into practice the things we’ve already learned. These things may not make absolute sense ahead of time, and we may still have questions, but it’s when we take that next step of faith that we get answers…

…answers that we would otherwise never learn.

Lloyd

PS – I recently went on little hike in the woods with my grandson Asher. That’s when the photo was taken.

 

I’m a Reds fan, but…

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/mlb/images/team_logos/social_media/og_1200x630_image/cin_1200x630.jpg
I want to begin by stating it clearly, unequivocally,
and for the record.

I am a Cincinnati Reds fan.

The 2015 baseball season has not changed that fact.

But…

When I finally came to the realization in the final weeks of the season that the Reds had not one shred of an iota of a chance at the post-season (which, in retrospect, I should have realized back in June) I started rooting for the Cubs.

Let there be no misunderstanding. I emphatically did NOT become a Cubs fan, but I did start hoping they would do well. I rooted for the Reds to beat the Pirates in their last series, not so much for the Reds record, which was beyond help, but so that the Cubs could get home field advantage for the playoffs.

It seemed like the thing to do, you know? I have a lot of friends who are die-hard, no-matter-what, forever-and-ever, world-without-end, Cubs fans. So, I hoped the Cubs would finish the season strong for their sake. Yes, I have a lot of friends who are St. Louis Cardinals fans, too…but rooting for the Cardinals was just too unthinkable.

So, like a friend of the homecoming king and queen standing along the gym wall, I watched them dance and wished them well.

What could it hurt?

It hurt bad.

The season is really over for me now. Oh, I’ll watch the rest of the playoffs and the World Series, but I have no emotional attachment to any of the teams.

It’s like I’m standing along the wall of the gym and I don’t even know the homecoming king or queen.

I think I may even be at the wrong school.

Lloyd

 

Why do preachers talk so much about money?

money-02Why do preachers talk so much about money?

At WOCC we are in the final year of our ENGAGE vision campaign. The goal of this campaign was to get everyone excited about what God is doing here and where He’s taking us, and to fund this vision for the next three years debt-free. At the beginning, this campaign caused me to think quite a bit about money and it challenged Kathie and me to a whole new level of giving. (Now, the fact of my recent retirement has caused me to revisit that subject from a whole new perspective! But I digress.)

Inevitably, during a campaign such as this, and during the typical fall “stewardship emphasis” the question comes up: “Why do preachers talk so much about money?”

Seems to me there are two answers to that question, depending on what you mean.

If by “so much” you really mean “too much” the answer is simply this:

They don’t.

I can tell you sincerely that it’s just not true. Every single preacher I’ve ever known (and I know a LOT of preachers) hated talking about money. They just never got real stoked about preaching that yearly “stewardship series”. They did it because they knew they had to. And the reason they felt they had to is probably not the reason you’re thinking.

However, if by “so much” you really mean “at all,” here’s why…

Preachers don’t teach about money just to get the offerings up. They do it because they know that the way we handle money is as much a mark of discipleship as our sexual morals, our prayer life and our Bible learning…and anything else you can think of. From time to time you’ll hear (or maybe, say) something along the lines of: “We shouldn’t talk about money. Let’s just reach out to people with the gospel and the money will follow.” The thing is, we don’t approach any other area of discipleship like that. “We shouldn’t talk about living a moral life. Let’s just reach out with the gospel and the morality will follow.” While it’s true that the gospel changes lives from within it doesn’t mean we stop teaching about what it means to live life as a Christ-follower. Jesus’ teaching (Now THERE was a preacher who talked a LOT about money!) was that the use of our money is the BEST indicator of a person’s discipleship. In Matthew chapter 6 he tells us that where we put our money is where our hearts will be. So to determine what is really important to us and what it is that we value and trust the most, we have simply to ask ourselves the question, “Where do we put our money?”

So preachers talk about money.

And, just in case you think that your church doesn’t need to grow in this area of discipleship, I challenge you to do a little research and a little math.

Take a couple minutes and Google the average household income for your area (county, city…whatever). I did it for Colerain Township. Then check how many households would be considered members of your church. Multiply the average income with the number of church households and you’ll have something close to the total income of your church family.

Now I realize that the tithe was an Old Covenant requirement and we’re now under grace. I get that. But the point of the whole tithe thing was for us to learn that God really owns everything anyway. So, for convenience sake, let’s just start with a tenth. If everyone in your church gave a tithe, one tenth of the household income, what could your church budget be? I don’t care if you calculate it on gross or net, I’d be willing to bet your church budget is nowhere close to what it could be under those conditions. Imagine the good that could be done in your community if that were to happen.

So, do preachers talk too much about money?

It would seem not.

Lloyd

The “R” Word

RetiremeRocking Chairnt.

RETIREMENT?

During the months leading up to my retirement date I had quite a bit of trouble simply wrapping my brain around the concept. It’s not that it was a new idea. I had been thinking, praying, and talking with a few close friends about it for over a year. It’s not that I didn’t think it was the right move. It seemed most of the conversations I had with close friends, and so many of the little “moments” and circumstances served to confirm for me that it was the right thing to do. Right for the church and right for me.

However, there were two big concepts I had trouble with:
How did I get here so fast? And, what next?

The first issue is nothing new. I’ve known people who have retired and they seem so…well, so old! I had (have?) a hard time using that word (“retirement,” not “old.” Ok…”old” too) in reference to myself! The older I get the faster time seems to go by. It’s cliché, I realize. But when something is so universally true, that’s what happens. It becomes cliché. But it’s a cliché that I feel in the depths of my soul. I mean, if this life is a bridge, I’m probably somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way across.

The second issue is a little more specific.

My church put on a lovely reception for Kathie and me that was very fun and touching. I remember thinking I should have set up a big poster with FAQs because I think I answered the same question several million times: “So, now what are you going to do?” I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I tried to answer it.

Is it typical to ask that question of someone who is retiring? Maybe it is, but I don’t think I was prepared with a good answer. I had some vague idea of some of the things I wanted to do but the truth is it was very vague and I was primarily looking forward to the free time to not worry so much about doing but to let myself just be. I had a hard time putting that thought into words, and looking back on that sentence, I realize that it still doesn’t sound like much of an answer, but there it is.

So now, about 7 weeks into this thing called retirement, I have found that, generally speaking, the adjustment is an easy one. That’s not to say that I feel like I have completely adjusted or that I have a better answer to the question, “What next?”

One adjustment example: I spent almost one whole day going through the 600 or so photos we took on a recent vacation. I culled (down to about 150), cropped, edited, ordered, captioned and uploaded to FB. (You can see them here.) I was surprised to find that I felt guilty about spending so much time on something that probably wasn’t important to anyone but me. But then again, that’s just the kind of thing I was looking forward to having the time for!

During the first few months of retirement I have also sensed the need to separate from my church for a time. This is both for me and for them. I’ve been attending a different church every week. While this has been good in some ways for the short term, it is not healthy over the long haul. (Plus, apparently Kathie hates it!) It will be another adjustment for me, when the time is right (…and if Kath has her way, the time may be right sooner than I thought…), to become a church member instead of a staff member. I haven’t been that since 1980.

I’m at the point now where I’m feeling the need to organize my time rather than just doing whatever whenever. So, my next step is to add some structure to my day. I want to write for this web site. (I promise that all my posts will not include this much “navel-gazing.”) I want to work on some musical projects. There are some other things I have in mind, but in order to be productive in any of these areas I hear that it’s important to have some discipline…my favorite thing…

Bottom line: So far, retirement is good. I recommend it.

 

My First Blog Post

I suppose it makes sense to start by explaining who I am and what you can expect to find here.

Who I Am

My name is Lloyd Hamilton and I have recently retired from 35 years as a full-time church staffer. The first 6 years was as a youth minister and the next 29 as minister of worship. Those were my titles, but the truth is I’ve done a little bit of everything when it comes to serving on a church staff.

I’ve been married to Kathie, my high school sweetheart, since 1974 and we have 2 grown daughters and 3 (so far) grandkids. (I’m fairly confident that they will show up here from time to time.)

I love Jesus, my family, the church, worship, music, movies and Cincinnati Reds baseball. These are the things that will drive the content of this site, but I have a curiosity about a wide range of subjects so you never know what might show up here.

What You Can Expect

  1. I plan to write about things that I care about…whatever is on my mind at the time. I’ve already mentioned some of those things so it will likely, but not necessarily, relate to one of those areas. My plan is to write and post 2 or 3 times per week.
  2. The second thing I plan to do is to share links to other material that I find helpful, challenging, informative or simply entertaining.
  3. The third category of posts will be devotional in nature. I have this thought that, when we read scripture, we often approach the text by asking questions of it…and of God. I believe this is a helpful way to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the content. But I wonder what would happen if we turned that around? What if we read scripture to see what it (and God) is asking of us? My plan is to read through the Bible and share the questions it seems God is asking of me…to let Him examine me. I’ll share a little more about this as we go, but I plan to post one of these “God Questions” each day.
  4. Finally, I plan to have a page where you can find some arrangements of hymns that I’m making available for those of you who are fellow worship leaders and church musicians. I’m offering arrangements of hymns only because they are in the public domain and there is no need to deal with copyrights. These are worship band arrangements of hymns that I have written and used over the years. Check the “Hymn Arrangements” page for more details.

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share and comment on anything you find here. I hope you stay with me for a while and that we get to know each other better in the coming months and years as we travel across the bridge together.

Lloyd