About Chuck Spindler

I'm married with three adult daughters, two son-in-laws and three granddaughters. I pastor a Southern Baptist church in a small town in Southwest Iowa.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement

For the lowly dachshund, the annual “Halloweener Derby” at Seaside, Florida, is the opportunity to showcase one’s speed and focus. As the dog’s human entices it to the finish line, one can easily be distracted by fellow competitors, the humans at the fence or an interesting smell along the way. But the finalists were true competitors and did not disappoint. Dash, the first female champion, beat out Hawk* in a close final of the 5th Annual Halloweener Derby.

Hawk to the finish line

Hawk to the finish line in early heat.

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Quarter final match with both weeners flying to the finish.

Seaside, a planned community on the Florida panhandle’s Emerald Coast, was the film location for the movie “The Truman Show,” starring Jim Carrey. The founders of Seaside, Robert and Daryl Ellis, were owners of a dachshund, named Bud. The loveable dog went everywhere with his owners and connected the community. While raising funds for Kind Heart Kennel (a shelter for pets of domestic violence victims), the event honors the memory of Bud.

HERE are more great examples of “achievement.”

HOMILY: My wife will often see situations and say, “There’s a sermon illustration in there.” That was certainly true of this event. While the length of the race was relatively short, some dogs did not finish it. There were a few that were content to stay with their “human” at the starting line. Others were distracted along the way with the sights of people on the other side of the plastic fencing. At least one had to take care of some bodily functions.

Then, there were the ones, who spotted the goal, usually attracted by some object or treat in the owner’s hand. These were the dogs that made it successfully to the finish line.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the Bible wrote:

12 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

This dog race was a small picture of the pilgrimage mankind faces. Ultimately, there is a finish line, but many do not have their hearts and minds and affections attuned to it. They are the ones who linger at the starting line, seeking what they can out of life with no real understanding of how much they are missing out on.

For those who began a pursuit of Christ, many of us run with the encumbrances of this world – the pursuit of passing pleasure, power and possessions. We fail to see the lasting, eternal prize at the finish line – Jesus in all His fullness and glory – and allow the temporal to rob us of eternal focus and pursuit. We, who fall into this category, will ultimately finish, but not reap the rewards that could have been received.

But like the writer of Hebrews, there are those who keep their eyes focused on the Source – the Creator, the Provider, the Sustainer. Like the dog that salivates upon seeing the treat at the finish line and runs with all of the rest of his appetites in check to receive the prize in his owner’s hand, the follower of Christ must have that kind of focus on the Author and Finisher of the faith.

I pray that you experience that most significant of “achievements,” which in not based upon your own work but based upon the completed work of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).

*I had the pleasure of talking with the owner of Hawk, asking the dog’s name at the end of the heat in the first picture. It was only after “tweeting” the picture with the #halloweenerderby that I discovered the owner was Ryan Michaels, Meteorologist of WJHG/Panama City, FL. I hope for Hawk’s continued success!

The Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

I’m a “catch and release” kind of person for most living things. When my administrative assistant came into the office and told me there was a tiny frog in the church’s vestibule, I looked for a way to get it back into a more natural habitat. I managed to capture the miniscule frog in a 12 oz translucent, plastic cup and placed my camera phone (Moto X) on top to secure the frog. The thought occurred to me, “Take a picture.” Thus, mini(malist) frog in a cup.

 

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Here are the before and after capture/release photos.

This in in response to the challenge – minimalist

The Church “Stand and Greet” Time

members_6997cnIn my church tradition (Southern Baptist Convention), the welcome time has always been incorporated into the worship service. It varies from church to church, but it is typically a time when members and guests stand and offer and hand-shake and a word of welcome.

In a recent post, Thom Rainer, a denominational leader, reported the results of an informal Twitter poll of first-time church guests and what factors made them decide not to return. Surprisingly, the “stand and greet” time was the number one reason. He found:

1. Many guests are introverts. “I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time.”

2. Some guests perceive the members are not sincere during the time of greeting. “In most of the churches it should be called a stand and fake it time. The members weren’t friendly at all except for ninety seconds.”

3. Many guests don’t like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time. “Look, I’m not a germaphobe, but that guy wiped his nose right before he shook my hand.”

4. Many times the members only greet other members. “I went to one church where no one spoke to me the entire time of greeting. I could tell they were speaking to people they already knew.”

5. Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise as awkward. “Nowhere except churches do we have times that are so awkward and artificial. If members are going to be friendly, they would be friendly at other times as well. They’re not.”

6. In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another. “So the pastor told us to tell someone near us that they are good looking. I couldn’t find anyone who fit that description, so I left and didn’t go back.”

7. Not only do some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members. “I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us liked.”

Rainer admits that there were strong feelings on both sides of the question about the practice’s helpfulness in reaching guests. He summed it up by saying churches must considering its place in their local context.

I decided to do my own informal poll on Facebook and found a similar mix of responses. From germaphobes to introverts, a few tried to avoid it. It saddened me to hear from one that said it was partly the reason she stopped coming to church. Curiously, those who most vehemently objected to the exercise came from outside our region of the country. Those associated with our church who are not members left comments like:

I like to meet and greet and sure it can be a little intimidating at first but it helps you to get out there and get to know those around you. Otherwise we’d all be caught in our own little shells.

I like it! When your new to the church, people notice and make you feel welcome.

My thoughts:

  1. The church is all about creating healthy relationships – with God and others. When people see a church that has genuine care and concern for others, it is appealing. I have had multiple conversations with people who were considering coming to our church and I’ve stepped them through the “what to expect” list. When I mention the greeting time, they’ve not been put off and have even mentioned that their own church was so cold that no one spoke to them AT ALL! I would much rather err on the side of a friendly greeting time.
  2. We must be considerate of those who are uncomfortable and not expect everyone to fit our mold. We have several in our body who don’t like hugs. I respect that and don’t force myself on them.
  3. I shake hands with more people than anyone else on Sunday…I am germ conscious and have probably gotten a few colds through this practice. But, we encourage “fist bumps” in flu season and keep a large jug of sanitizer at the welcome center.
  4. A forced and contrived greeting time (except on Easter – “He has risen…He has risen, indeed”) has never been our practice. I object to being told to repeat something and insincere greetings are obvious.
  5. It saddens me to hear that people would not come because of the “howdy-do” time. However, as one respondent related, it may be the most affirming moment some have during their week. As Christians, we are called to move beyond our own wants and needs and consider the needs of others (Philippians 2:4 – Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.). A widow in my last church said the thing she missed most after the death of her husband was no longer having hugs. We made sure she got those hugs after hearing that. Even if you don’t like the “stand and greet” time, someone around you may need that greeting, hand shake, hug, fist bump…think about what someone else may need in the moment.

I believe churches must always evaluate their methods of conveying the love of God in their context. In rural Iowa, despite some who are uncomfortable with the practice, it still seems to work.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

I was excited to come home from vacation and find a new playground unit installed on our church property.

Some of my first experiences of “descent” were on backyard swing set and public park slides. I have vivid memories of the climb, the quick slide down and the run back to the ladder to repeat the process all over again. No curving slides in my day…just a straight shot down a shiny and hot piece of metal- the taller the better. If the ride down was slow, you just got some of your mom’s wax paper and rubbed the surface down. Then, you better make sure you were ready for a running landing or else you were on your backside or face down on the hard ground (no mulch, pea gravel or safety mats for us).

While those safety measures are now in place with plastic instead of metal slides, I’m happy that kids still have slides. A private, Christian school uses our facility and helped fund this project. The squeals of students at play during daily recess brings joy to my heart. I am sure that this multiple-slide unit will elicit its fair share joy.

Click HERE for more examples of “descent.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

As a child, I remember laying on my back with my buddies and watching the clouds pass overhead. We would imagine different objects as the shapes of the clouds shifted and changed with the winds. I have not given up that pastime and offer a few of those clouds here. Do you see what I see? (Hover over the photo for my interpretation.)

Perhaps these serve as more of a Rorschach test and reveal something phobic or sinister about me, but I still love to daydream about what’s in the clouds.

For more examples of “dreamy”, click HERE.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

This was Homecoming Week in Creston, Iowa. The home football team traditionally runs through a banner, challenging them to “carry the day.” For this special game, a friend’s son carried the Panther flag and was the first to break through this hand-painted sign, leading his teammates onto the field for the evening’s competition.

Of course that sign was only a hopeful prediction. The sign that really matters is the scoreboard at the end of the game. Our boys prevailed in the end, even adding a field goal to finish with a 50-35 win.

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 Sherri Lucas Rowlands offered this week’s challenge. See more interpretations HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

As Ben Huberman, WordPress Editor, suggests, “nighttime is when the real action starts.” That is certainly true of football homecoming week in rural Iowa. The annual tradition of TP-ing (aka: toilet papering, rolling, or wrapping) is in full swing as the Friday night game approaches. The young people, who hit my home tonight, were a little more creative. Not only was toilet paper wrapping my deck and hanging from the trees, but plastic forks, some impaled with marshmallows, lined the sidewalk.

Even my car was covered with post-its. We’ve been assured after many years of having our home TP-ed that only those who are liked get targeted. Such was the sentiment of a message painted on the window of our car – “We ♥ You, PC.”

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Some decry this as vandalism and wasteful. Because it is not malicious, I do not consider it as vandalism. I would agree that it is wasteful, although there have been a few times when abandoned toilet paper rolls not completely used on the yard found their way into my bathroom. Perhaps that is “TMI” (too much information).

All this nighttime activity took place under a beautiful half-moon.

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Click HERE for more examples of “nighttime.”

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

We have two items in our home that convey the “endurance” of influence on my wife’s side of the family. The first is a watch that belonged to her great-grandmother for whom she was named. It was a gift to Myra McKay Harned on Christmas of 1903 and still endures 101 years later.

The second is a wooden cut out, representing a special family connection to Harned Hall on the Austin Peay University campus.IMGP9824

Myra’s great-grandfather, Perry L. Harned, was the first Commission of Education for the State of Tennessee, serving under Governor Austin Peay. William Hale, President of Tennessee A & I College, said of Harned:

Commissioner Harned is a Christian gentleman who towers above men and their petty schemes. He did much to make the building program and the program of the school in general possible.

President Hale was so impressed by Harned that he named his second son and third child Edward Harned in honor of the Commissioner. As Commissioner, Harned was instrumental in the establishment of what was then the Austin Peay Normal School in 1929.

Myra had always heard that a building on the campus was named for her great-grandfather. So, on a trip to Clarksville, Tennessee, we stopped, hoping to find it. After asking a maintenance employee for directions, we soon found ourselves getting much more attention than we expected. He informed the administration that we were there, and soon we were met by the university’s vice president and a history professor.

While visiting with the history professor, I mentioned my wife’s name and he replied, “Your name is Myra?” That is when we were told that Harned Hall was actually named after Harned’s wife, Myra McKay. Since buildings were generally named in memoriam and Harned was still living at the time of construction, it was named after his wife.

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The building had been slated for destruction, but because of its historical value and outcry from older alumni and faculty, it was saved. (HERE is a link to that story.) The wooden cut out was a gift to my wife, representing the 1932 building that continues to stand as an enduring mark of the educational influence of Perry Harned and wife, Myra McKay.

So, these two tangible items in our home give us the sense of an enduring family legacy.

Krista at WordPress issued this week’s challenge:

Show us what endurance means to you. Is it that high-school diploma, beads of sweat earned on a long run, a treasured family heirloom, or something else entirely?

Click HERE for more examples of “endurance.”

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

Humanity is perhaps at its highest when it moves beyond selfish pursuits and comes together to care for the needs of others. Last spring, our church helped coordinate a community-wide “Mobile Hunger Fight” sponsored by Meals from the Heartland of Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Since 2008, the faith-based organization has packaged over 40 million meals for the hungry in Iowa and around the world. With over 150 volunteers from churches, schools, businesses and health-care facilities, the event packaged over 60,000 meals.

It was a joy to see our community come together and make our light shine beyond ourselves. Isaiah 58:10 “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”

Click HERE for more examples of humanity.