Author Archives: Todd K Estes

About Todd K Estes

In this journey called Life, it gets a bit muddy - But Jesus sees beyond the mud and sees the person He created, the person He loves, and the person He is still working on. I am one of those persons - and so are you. I am a sold-out follower of Jesus, husband way out of my league, father to a great son, part of the family of God, and pastor of a great church family - Evergreen Baptist in Appomattox.

We have hope?

The world is messed up. We are messed up. I am messed up. You are messed up.

But there is hope. There is light. There is Jesus in all this mess. I came across this tidbit and it speaks volumes …

WHAT DOES HOPE DO?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardship when no on is caring.
Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
– Max Lucado

The just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin in the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever reconciled to God forever.

What Does An Alternator Do Anyway?

So last week, the week of lessons in my life, was on where my car broke down – again. I had just dropped my wife off at work and headed to breakfast. The radio started skipping. The dash lights went off and on. And next – the battery and ABS lights came on. 

I pulled into Chik-fil-A and thought I’d take care of it after breakfast, but then I was told by the experts (Google) that it was the alternator. Come on. I just fixed injectors, replaced battery, had the cables replaced. An alternator?  What does an alternator do anyway?

So back to the experts.

Among the components that provide support to the initial functionality of a vehicle, a car’s alternator is one of the most important … it provides the vehicle with the ability to move … working in sync with other components, it provides power … AND … If the alternator stops operating as intended, a car’s battery will begin depleting as the vehicle is driven – causing the car to shut down once the battery has run out of charge. (drivesmart.com)

Okay – I better not wait. Back to old APX – but I didn’t make it. Barely 5 miles before it rolled to a stop at the Shell next to the Falwell Airport.

After being towed later that day – worked on by my faithful mechanic and trusty friend – and paid for … I got the 4Runner back. May mechanic is running out of things to fix.

So, just one part went bad – one part was faulty. And because of this, the car lost power.

I started to ponder about the Christian life. We are told … I am able to do all things  …

No. That’s not what it says. It says … I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me.

He empowers me! That means I need to stay connected to Him and stay connected to His power. How?

In Watchman Nee’s study on Ephesians, he puts forth the three fold principle of Sit-Walk-Stand.

Sit—Know and stay in the Word … This is our position in Christ
Walk—Walk in love and in Christ … Our practice in the world
Stand—Stand firm, don’t back down and don’t quit … Our position toward the Enemy

By staying connected and keeping the connections in their proper function, we will have power from on high.

They say a car’s alternator won’t last ten years – God’s power is forever. That’s power.

Does a New Coat of Paint Change Who You Are

It was a beautiful setting. I’ve been told it’s the South Fork of the east coast. Rolling pastures. Cattle, Old Trees. Wonderful and large main house.

Side note – I think those who connected it to South Fork were referring to the TV production’s image – for the ranch itself in the Dallas suburbs isn’t really what TV made it out to be. Now back to the story.

So, as shared earlier this week, I did a wedding. Let’s move away from my nom de plum error and talk about the venue. Rolling pastures. Cattle, Old Trees. Wonderful and large main house. Sunset was over the lake. So much of God’s wondrous creation. And the indoor setting for the wedding party prep, rehearsal dinner, and wedding reception was wonderful. Decorated in dusty rose and terracotta colors. A wonderful Autumn wedding setting for a delightful couple starting a new part of their journey together.

Statistics show weddings are moving away from church venues. Vineyards and farms are leading the preference list. Some older churches, with stone masonry or the little white church feel are still popular, but with so many places of worships now in theater style, converted Piggly Wigglys, or meeting in homes, I can understand why weddings have moved to alternate sites.

I hope it is not that marriage is seen less a sacred act and more of a social event – but with society’s attempt to redefine marriage, that probably has a lot to do with it as well.

But this wedding – this venue – this … place. It was not built for weddings. It was built for cattle auction. Yes, bidding off of heifers and stud bulls for profit and cattle population growth. Hey, maybe it is a lot like weddings of old. (Did I say that out loud?)

So an auction barn, where thousands of bovine were bought and sold. A stable type setting. Now it has a new purpose, a new way of making the owners money.

I was told they rejected the idea, they wanted to keep its original purpose. But then … Covid hit. Auctions went online. Video and internet made the physical site unnecessary. They could accomplish their trades without having to ever use the auction barn. And on a visit to an out of state site, another farm, they learned how important venues can be for weddings.

Cue Rocky Music … clean it up, new paint, new decorations, tables, chairs, couches, and more. I mean, the Duttons did it at their ranch – bring on the brides.

But can a new coat of paint, a lot of decor, hiring a coordinator …really change what it is? It’s an auction barn. And for those that know it as such, forever they will see it that way.

But it has changed, it has a new purpose, it now is a wedding venue.

I started to think – God has changed us too. We are new creations, the old has passed away. Oh yeah, I still look like a troubled soul, searching for hope and purpose – but I found it. And forever I am changed. People that knew me before, they may still see the jerk, the selfish prat. And while I may still struggle with some old ways – I have been changed, and am still being changed.

What am I?

I am a new creation – one still in the process of being made into what my Savior has for me – but still a new creation.

Don’t see the old. Look past the history. It’s not about what was. I’m new, because God made me new.

It’s not the paint – that can be faked.
It’s not the name on the door – that can be our own doing.
It’s not because we bring about change – for we will mess it up.
It’s because God is working in me – to make me into the image of Jesus! He has and is changing me. And that is the reason I am a new creation.

He can do the same in you.

Oh, You’re “What’s Your Name?”

Have you ever looked like this Grumpy Cat? Given that look to people when they call you the wrong name, or just stutter, or mumble trying to get through the awkward moment? For me – I really don’t give this look, but I do receive it a lot …. I mean A LOT!

There is something wrong with my brain. I mean it. I can remember things, stupid facts that I read in middle school DEAR time (drop everything and read), or directions to get to an obscure store, or the lines from Bugs Bunny cartoons … but names elude me. The “Say it seven times” rule doesn’t seem to work. Name tags? Waste of paper.

Oh, I remember faces, people, places, even some phone numbers from college … but names? Oh how they vex me.

This could be dangerous. In the early years of my marriage, I called my wife by an old girlfriend’s name several times. I am surprised I wasn’t smothered when I slept.

There was a funeral service that I did for a friend, whose name was Hazel. Her bestie was Helen. They were always around each other. We used to joke how I could never get the names straight. Well, at Hazel’s funeral, I stood by the coffin and said, “Helen isn’t in here.” Before I could continue, the real Helen commented from nearby and said, “I’m over here, not there yet.”

Ouch.

Well, the brain lock hit again. Last week, I was doing a wedding for a lovely couple. I knew the bride’s family but only met the groom at the rehearsal the night before. I was intentional to write his name repeatedly in my notes, but my brain has a different agenda. So at the vows, instead of Andrew, I said Anthony … several times. I had it right earlier, it was right in my notes, but my brain … it has mind of it’d own.

Gracefully, the groom said, ” I don’t who Anthony is, but I do!”

Idiot – Dummy – Maroon. What’s wrong with me?

I’ll get over it. The couple is married. Now she can call him Anthony when she’s mad. But my spirit really feels bad, deep inside I know I should remember names better, but I’m broken.

As I ponder my own shortcomings, my lack of memory, and especially the way I probably make people feel … I return to the comfort of knowing that in the big picture, I have a Savior that loves me, knows me, and never forgets my name. And with billions and billions of people (past, present and future) … He knows them too.

Here is something very important – He knows you too! He knows the number of hairs on your head. This is comforting, and scary, but comforting. You will mess up – He knows you.Forget Him at times? – He never forget yours. I may forget you – He never will.

So the take away – I have a Savior who knows me, loves me, and never forgets me – and you can say that too.

The Missing Week

Where did he go? What has happened? Has the last days begun? Where, Oh where was he? He was gone a week?

These questions, probably more the last one, swirled through your heads. Last week – took father IL to doctor – not covid, not pneumonia, not much of anything. Took car to the shop – broke down, stranded, friends step up, faithful mechanic, more expenses. Issues all around. I mean a draining week that makes one weak.

Counseling with me is not the easiest – I am a tough love kind of guy – like suck it up buttercup. But I do care, it is more my short attention span. So this week – ugh for those that had to listen.

I did a funeral – and forgot to push record on the video … I did a wedding – and called the groom the wrong name … I did sermons – never feeling like I am worthy, nor interesting, nor deep enough, nor (well, you get it). We did a Fall Festival at church – just to watch it rain.

Now more on these specific items in days to come – but the key take away today – life gets overwhelming.

But …

and this is a BIG BUT … but, we have a bigger God. And the Scripture challenges us to strive to enter rest. Strive – work hard, press forward, don’t give up. Do you see the irony here? Strive for rest. We have to work at it. But the rest is from God and it’s bigger than any overwhelming week. Bigger than any hard circumstances thrown our way. Bigger than all the vexations of this world – but we have to strive, work at it. And in the context of where we find this principle, the striving is about having faith in that bigger God.

And also – key to striving is staying in the Word!! For in the written and in the incarnate Word of God, we find the personal connection, we find a powerful connection, we find a penetrating connection. We find God.

So this week, we will look at some of these ‘stress‘ filled scenarios … see how we can ‘strive‘ in spite of, through, maybe even because of these scenarios … and then we will see the ‘serenity‘ God provides.

Stress – Strive – Serenity

I could have done better last week. So let’s all do better this week.

Friday’s Friends

It’s Friday. Some of these wonderful days that end the normal work week and start the relaxing weekend … I like to share blogs and posts from my friends. Today’s comes from a wonderful writer and poet. See her site here if you want to dig deeper.

Building off Wednesday’s theme of leaves changing colors – here is a wonderful poem on autumn …

these are a shadow

…all that is worth remembering of life is the poetry of it

autumn comes

Autumn comes like a bittersweet sorrow,
as summer’s mournful farewell
to the heat and light of a free run in the sand,
skin warm and spirit dancing.
Now we shrug on our sweaters
and we cup our warm drinks
while the crisp air and triumphant leaves
send a lump to my throat.
What a glory, to be given such a sojourn
into the colder months
when we’ll brace against
our knifing foe, that bitter wind,
and hibernate deeper into our caves
of warm comfort.

I marched in the parade
through my dear college town of yesteryear,
every smiling face turned toward us,
every voice a celebration and a cheer.
I scanned them all for the sight of a few
dear to my deep heart,
and found them all,
and hugged them later,
around the kitchen island by the leftover cider.
I felt nostalgia in that sweatshirt,
that rainy football game,
that warm and perfect pizza,
just as good as I remember it.

It was the ideal autumn day,
thrills of joy sung over
harmonies of lament.
The celebration of reunion
painted with the shadow of goodbye
and the grief we all have borne
since last time.

Gathering in, around perfect chili,
we watched our children learning friendship,
stepping in to re-direct when needed.
The sun warmed the windows
and gave us the strength we needed
to part again, until (hopefully not)
another five years, but perhaps.

Autumn is such a fitting season
for coming and going,
for rejoicing while longing,
for resting while yearning.

Like my son, frantic to take and keep
every fallen leaf and twig,
I wish autumn glory would stay close,
would linger longer,
would stay in my pockets with its fiery splendor.

But its ever a dying glory,
a cello song at the end of things,
and the ache of its beauty and brevity
will only last
until we are finally done
with all our leavings and farewells

——————

Thank you Katherine – you’re words are precious.

Fake It to Make It

“Turn that frown upside down.”

How many times have you not felt like smiling, you were mad, vexed, disturbed, sad … ? You just didn’t want to smile. You were NOT happy. But you gritted your teeth and forced a smile. Is it helpful? Will forcing such an expression help your mood? Can you fake yourself to happiness?

A study, led by Nicholas Coles of Stanford, was published recently in the journal Nature Human Behavior that is titled “A multi-lab test of the facial feedback hypothesis by the Many Smiles Collaboration” looks at just such a question, “Will faking a smile make you happier?”

“Will faking a smile make you happier?”

In a nutshell – the answer is yes! in their words … smiling more or frowning less—can help manage distress, improve well-being and reduce depression. WOW. So I truly need to smile more.

Now in all frankness (whoever Frank is?), they do say they don’t really know why smiling more helps your mood. They put forth several possibilities … a subconscious mind game … the interaction with others (you smiling prompts others to respond with positive mood, which in return gives you a better mood and so on the circle goes) … a biologic stimulation they couldn’t discern. In the end, they said it helps but they just don’t know why.

True Joy is from the Lord

Now I am all for positive mood vibes. They are much better than the put-down, depressed, angry, critical moods we see so often today. In the words of those famous theologians – All we need is love! Love is All we need! That’s some positive mojo.

And when you want real joy, lasting joy, true contentment, even in a mad, mad, mad world – it is found n something bigger than the world – something beyond the world. More specifically, it is found in Someone. Jesus.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength. Ii will lift my eyes, where my strength comes from.

If we fix our eyes on Jesus – who for JOY paid the price for our messiness and sin …
If we remain in Him – who loved us and gave His life for us …
If we return to Him with humility and transparency – the One who can create in us a new heart …

The we are at the right place to restore the JOY of our salvation, to be upheld by His willing spirit.

He will turn our frown upside down.


So go ahead, SMILE! You’ve got a reason to. You are loved by God. So all we need is love, His love! That should put a smile on any face!

Leaves Turning Color

It is Fall – my favorite time of the year. All around me, the wonderful leaves of the hardwoods are changing colors. Now, it may not be as bold as someone the northeastern part of the country, but it is very vivid and spectacular…

Blue Ridge in the Fall – Stock Photo

There are the deep yellows. Trees of red that pops. And so many in transition with colors all along the palette. But I do live in a little village called “Evergreen” – so there are quite a lot of trees still keeping their needles and leaves as that ever constant green – pines, firs, and more. And mixed in all of this are the brown leaves, leaves that have turned already, or went straight from green to brown, like all the Dallas, Texas trees I remember.

Yet also, another category – empty trees. Trees that have lost their leaves. Maybe they are trees that are sick or dying and no longer have any foliage.

But as I drive around, my eyes are drawn to the colors, to the wonderful artistry God has given us this time of year – every year. This is just one of the great pieces of God’s creative nature as His glory is manifest in all of creation.

Life is like the drive around – our eyes are drawn to the colors, the wonderment. And in doing so, during this time, we often neglect the evergreens. Evergreens – ever faithful to life – ever showing us robustness through storms, cold, snow – ever green.

We feel disappointed in the brown leafed trees – as if we missed their moment of glory and wish they had waited for us to see it. It’s like we can disregard them until next year.

We try to blot out the empty trees – not really giving much thought as to their vitality or usefulness. They make us feel cold, shivering, isolated. Hiking in the winter is often filled with forests of little but these trees, so I walk along wondering what they would be like if it wasn’t so … barren. What good is being barren except maybe a source of firewood? (still a source of heat in this area.)

Awe for the lively colors. Neglect or taking for granted for the faithful evergreen. Disappointment for the brown. Avoidance of the barren.

Wait, is this about life or about leaves?

In life, we are drawn to the glam. We live vicariously through the idols, the stars, the athletic G.O.A.T.s. We long for the life of the rich and famous, even if just a glimpse. This is not new. Remember Robin Leach and his show.

LESSON ONE – the bright colors, the flash in the pans, are temporary. You only remain that way so long before you yourself loose your color and fall to the ground.

And we neglect the steadfast, the workhorses. My wife is a certified EA, has worked for C-Ring execs, at Fortune 100 companies. Her work is that of the steadfast, sure, and dependable. Not the flashy offices. Not the burning bright, on their way up the corporate ladder, flash in the pan – but a faithful, trustworthy evergreen. Too often, she and others get overlooked just because there is no corner office, no name on the building, yada yada yada … you get it.

Calvin & I at Bryce NP

LESSON TWO – the world is full of faithful, steadfast people that keep the machine going. Be thankful and appreciative people.

We are disappointed in the browns. Ignoring where they are now and wishing for the past. How often do we see old entertainment idols that didn’t age well. We long for the good old days. How long can The Rolling Stones still be a trend setter?

We do this too. What picture do you use for your LinkedIn? Is it current, with a little (or lot) of grey, before the pandemic poundage that was added, and so on? Or is that a shot of five – even ten years ago. Guilty as charged.

God placed you here right when He wanted. So you are the age He wants you to be. Appreciate it. Yes, the mountain top experiences may be in one’s past, the athletic feats may no longer be viable; but if you are here, you’ve got something to do – now. Share your knowledge. Learn from others that have gone through life. Maybe you’ll be a better person because of the knowledge you can glean.

LESSON THREE – God placed others here right when He wanted. So we are the age He wants us to be. Appreciate it. Learn from these who’ve been there and done that.

And lastly, we avoid the hurting, the barren, those that add little to the panaramic scenario – Who knows why they are like that. Maybe they are in a dry season. Maybe they have been hurt, wounded, shaken. But in regards to people, they are still people. And as people, we are to show the love of God.

LESSON FOUR – Sometimes there are people in our lives that add little or nothing – but they still need to know they are loved. They still need to know they are not alone. Don’t ignore them.

So, go ahead, look at the snazzy, colorful, picture worthy leaves of Fall – but never forget, the colors are temporary. And there are a lot more trees around that do not need to be ignored.

—— Cover Photo at Lake Holliday

10 Ways to Live Radically

Sometimes I jot down points, lists, ideas to kind of squirrel away for later blogs. most the times I make notation of the source, a citation – after all, I’ve been through enough grad and post grad school to know the importance of citations. For a while there’s thought I had Kate Turrabian memorized. I know my wife did. However, I did not write this citation down. I would love to say I came up with the list open my own, and maybe I did – but I doubt it. So, if you came up with these, let me know and I will easily give you the credit that is due.

We often get into our little comfort zones – a tidy (or not so tidy) way of living that helps us be a little more at ease with our lives. We make rules and practices that identify us and help us cope. But is that best? If we look at Biblical practices and the way Jesus lived, we find someone who didn’t live within the norms of society. His way was radical. An upside way of seeing things (compared to the way man sees them) and an upside way of live. “Blessed or the Meek”? Nope, not the way society lives. “Bless your enemies”? Ouch.

So here is a list I discovered (invented? adapted?) that challenges us in ten ways to live outside the line.

10 points to living outside the line …

1-be like Jesus, hang with sinners … hey, it’s not about image, it’s about people
2-form genuine relationships, don’t treat them like projects
3-actions speak louder than words
4-when talking about philosophy and religion, listen more and ask more questions
5-don’t give unsolicited advice or judgement, support people … wait for them to ask for your input if they want it
6-appreciation of nominal Christians too … we are all growing and on a different place in the journey
7-don’t try to force others into Christian participation … let God move them
8-understand atheistic way of thinking and embrace opportunities confrontational atheists afford you … show love, even if not appreciated
9-respect other religions even as you evangelize their members …
10-love your enemies, not just their tribe

These are pretty outside the lines – a radical way of living. But what a ride it’ll be if you live this way. The world may not understand, but all the more reason to show the love of Jesus!

In the words of The ChosenGet used to different.

Monday Minute – 60 Seconds to Begin the Week

Problems – we’ve all got them. Money – Health – Relationships – Work.

However …

I believe we spend way too much time addressing the fruit of the problems and not the root of the problems.

We get mad at people, circumstances, TV shows. STOP – we need to remember our battle is not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers. It’s a spiritual warfare going on all around us – in our workplace – in our schools – in our relationships – in our heart.

And if that is the real battle – if that is the root of the problems, we have the solution. And the solution has a name. That name is JESUS.

REMEMBER …

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

  • In ALL things
  • MORE than
  • CONQUERORS
  • through HIM
  • who LOVES us

That my friends is a Monday minute that we need not forget!