Richard Exley Ministries

Is Your Jar Too Full?
Posted on February 28, 2015

Has life lost its zest? Is your plate too full? Have you taken on more than you can manage? You can complain or you can do something about it.

I’m thinking of the Ivy League professor who opened the first class of the semester by placing a two and a half gallon glass jar on the table at the front of the lecture hall. As the MBA students watched he carefully filled it to the brim with golf balls. Looking up he asked the class if the jar was full. When they responded in the affirmative he reached under the table and extracted a bag of sand. Slowly he poured the sand into the jar allowing time for it to work its way in-between the golf balls. When the sand was level with the top of the jar he repeated his earlier question. Finally one young man said, “It looks full but I suspect you have another surprise for us.”

Once more the professor reached under the table and this time he produced a pitcher of water and carefully poured it into jar as well, filling it to the brim. “Now,” he said, “it’s full.” After a moment he asked, “And what do you think is the point of this demonstration?”

Category: Life

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Kodiak Moments
Posted on March 30, 2009

She performs even the most menial task with a grace that transforms it into an act of love. Her tireless efforts make Dad’s last days not only bearable, but blessed. Truly she is a sister to be proud of!

Return with me one final time to the three questions that the psychiatrist asks each of his new clients. 1) What is the worst thing you have ever done? 2) What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? 3) What is the proudest moment of your life? Since we’ve already addressed the first two questions in previous blogs let’s turn our attention to the final question: “What is the proudest moment of your life?”

When I think of my proudest moment several memories come to mind. I call them, “Kodiak Moments.” In the first, it is Christmas season and I see Brenda (my wife) standing in the check-out line at the Walmart in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She greets the woman in front of her – an elderly lady of indiscriminate age, attired in stylish but well worn clothes – and they chit chat as they work their way toward the cash register. In a moment of vulnerability the lady confides to Brenda. “I hope I’ve added right. I only have $15 and I’m afraid my groceries will come to more than that.”

Category: Life

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What's the Worst Thing that Ever Happened to You
Posted on March 17, 2009

Return with me to the psychiatrist who asks each of his new clients three questions. 1) What is the worst thing you have ever done? 2) What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? 3) What is the proudest moment of your life? Today we are going to consider question number two – “What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?”

Of the three questions, I find this one the most difficult. Not because nothing bad has ever happened to me, but that the disappointments and hurts I’ve suffered seem rather inconsequential when viewed in light of the things others have experienced. What is the disappointment of having a manuscript you’ve labored over for months repeatedly rejected compared to the devastation of divorce? Once I was “fired” from my position as associate pastor, several times I candidated for churches only to have the congregation call another candidate, but what is that compared to having a child in prison or addicted to drugs?  

Death is about as bad as it gets, but there are deaths and then there are “deaths.” The death of a beloved parent or a dear friend – both of which I have experienced – is a grievous loss, but it pales in comparison to watching helplessly as your six- year-old son loses his life to the ravages of leukemia. That’s what happened to Randy and Vicky and it just about killed them.  Another dear friend lost his young wife and the mother of his four children to cancer. In the ensuing weeks he nearly lost his mind as he tried to come to grips with the reality of life without her.

Category: Life

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The Worst Thing I Ever Did
Posted on March 04, 2009

I recently read about a psychiatrist who asks each new client three questions. 1) What is the worst thing you have ever done? 2) What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? 3) What is the proudest moment of your life?

 If you are like me you would probably like to skip over the first two questions and go right to the third one. All of us like to remember our achievements, those bright and shining moments when we outdid ourselves. Yet, for many of us, even those highlights are tainted with the shame of past sins or the pain caused by some unspeakable tragedy. Many of us cannot accept our achievements because we are haunted with the thought that if others knew the whole truth about us they would know what a phony we are. Maybe that’s why that psychiatrist wants his clients to remember the worst. Maybe he realizes we can’t really accept our achievements until we have made peace with our past.

 If that’s the case, then the first step is to come to grips with our past – both the evil we have done and the evil we have suffered. No one likes to remember their sins but we must if we ever hope to be rid of them. Pretending they didn’t happen is futile.

Category: Life

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The Perfect Storm
Posted on February 05, 2009

The temperature was hovering just above freezing and when it started raining on Tuesday morning, January 27th, I had an uneasy feeling. If it turned into freezing rain and we lost electrical power, things could get dicey. Heat would not be a problem as we have two wood burning stoves and plenty of firewood, but water and sewer would be a challenge. Without power neither our well nor our septic system would work. Hastily Brenda and I filled every container we had with drinking water and we filled the bathtub for good measure. By the time we finished, ice was forming on the trees and power lines. Shortly thereafter we lost electricity and telephone service. Since our cell phones don’t work at the cabin all means of communication was lost.

After the sun went down the three of us (Brenda’s eighty-three-year-old mother was staying with us) lit the kerosene lamps and played table games to the sound of the icy rain pinging on our metal roof. Occasional we heard what sounded like a rifle shot followed by the crash of a huge limb falling to the ground. Time and again we looked at each other and breathed a prayer for protection. Since our cabin was closely surrounded by a number of towering oak and hickory trees, the risk of having one of them fall on the cabin was very real.

After one final game we decided to call it quits. Brenda and her mother climbed the stairs to the loft while I banked the stove for the night and blew out the kerosene lamps.  The loft was toasty warm but it wouldn’t take long for it to cool down given the fact that the mercury was already in the teens and dropping.

There was just a smudge of light on the horizon when I awoke after a fitful night. Pulling on my jeans and a jacket I made my way downstairs to build a fire. Glancing at the thermometer I saw that the temperature was in the single digits. It was warmer inside the cabin but it was still cold enough to see my breath. The freezing rain continued to fall intermittently all day Wednesday and most of Thursday, followed by an inch or two of snow. Although the sun shone brightly on Friday, the temperature barely climbed above freezing and when I ventured out it looked like our mountain had been bombed.  Broken and uprooted trees were everywhere and the only road out was blocked in a number of places by downed trees.

We were in no immediate danger but I was chopping at the bit to get back to work. Without electricity I could not use my computer or the internet which meant I couldn’t write my by-weekly blog or record my pod casts. (My last pod cast airs 2/6/09 and I don’t know when I will be able to resume recording but be assured that I remain committed to the pod casts.) I was scheduled to preach that week-end but with no way to get out it wasn’t going to happen. To make matters worse I had no way of contacting the pastor or the church to let them know I wasn’t going to make it.

What had started out as a romantic adventure was quickly turning into a major challenge. We were running low on water so I hauled several shovels of snow and ice and dumped them in the bathtub. If worse came to worse we could always melt the ice on the stove to get the water we needed. I estimated that it would take me the better part of two days to cut our way out to the main road a half mile away. Complicating things was the ice which made the footing treacherous. The last thing I needed was to slip and have an accident with a chain saw.

About two o’clock on Friday afternoon four of our neighbors hiked in to see how we were faring. When they learned of our predicament they offered to help me clear the road so we could get out. With four chain saws and a tractor with a frontend loader we cut our way out in short order. Of course that wasn’t the end of the challenges. On Saturday morning we couldn’t make it up the first steep hill and slid back to the bottom. After chaining up we finally made it to the highway seven miles away.

After preaching at First Assembly of God in Beebe, Arkansas last Sunday we returned to the cabin. Of course we are still without power (ten days now) but we now have a small generator which gives us enough power to run our pump, refrigerator, TV and of course my computer. I still can’t record any pod cast because the generator makes it sound like I have a lawn mower in my recording studio!

I hope I don’t sound like I’m complaining because I don’t mean to do so. I’m simply trying to let you know what’s been happening in our lives. Tomorrow we head out for a marriage seminar in Siloam Springs, AR. We will return home for two days and then leave for Houston, Texas, where we will minister that week-end. We will probably spend two or three days visiting family before returning to Tulsa to minister at Christian Chapel’s 35th anniversary on February 22nd. Hopefully the power company will have restored our electrical power by then but who knows? With hundreds of power poles down the task is enormous and ours is the last house at the very end of the line.

Last week’s storm simply underscores the fact that we are living in uncertain times. No one knows what the future holds but we do know who holds the future. My Word for 2009 comes from Psalm 112.

    “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
        who finds great delight in his commands...
    Good will come to him...Surely he will never be shaken;
        He will have no fear of bad news;
        his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
     His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
        in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”
This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

Category: Life

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Living With a Thankful Heart
Posted on November 26, 2008

This past Sunday my pastor preached a Thanksgiving message challenging us to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. In order to cultivate a thankful heart, he suggested that we thank God for one hundred things each morning before we head out the door to work. Things like a bed to sleep in and a pillow for our head, as well as a blanket to keep us warm. We could thank God for indoor plumbing with hot and cold water, central heat and air conditioning, and a roof over our heads. Then there is a closet full of clothes, several pairs of shoes to choose from, a coat for warmth, ample food for breakfast and a car to drive.... Most of these things we take for granted, seldom pausing to give God thanks, never realizing that at least one half of the world’s population lacks many of these essentials.

In addition to these obvious blessings, one of the things for which I am most thankful is the gift of memory. It allows us to relive the joyous experiences of the past again and again. For instance, memory makes it possible for me to leave my office on this brisk November morning in 2008 and return to a sunlit afternoon when I was just sixteen years old. On that day, more than forty-five years ago, I went swimming in the South Platte River with a pretty girl who would later become my wife.  Carelessly, we splashed in the clear water, oblivious to the sun’s deadly rays. Later that evening, I rubbed Noxzema Skin Cream on her sunburned shoulders. That, I think, is when I discovered I was in love, and to this day Noxzema Skin Cream smells like love to me.

Only now, these many years later, do I realize that the source of my joy that sunlit afternoon was not young love, but God. He was the One Who brought us together, Who made our running laughter a kind of holy music, Who destined that we would one day marry and give birth to a child of our own.  

Category: Life

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Bump, Bump, Bump
Posted on November 03, 2008

For the past several weeks I have been focusing on the financial crisis with its bank failures and government bailouts, as well as the national election and our responsibilities as citizens of both the United States and the Kingdom. At the risk of being redundant, let me remind you that as citizens of the United States we have a responsibility to vote and as citizens of the Kingdom we have a responsibility to make sure our vote reflects the values of the King to whom we owe our highest allegiance. And we have a responsibility to pray that the Lord’s will might be accomplished in this election.

Having said that let me turn your attention to more personal matters of faith and action. In his book, “Come Share the Being,” Bob Benson relates a tragic story that contains a message for us all.  He writes:

“We bought an old building and remodeled it for offices and warehouse space.  The electrician who did the work was named Richard.  He was such a talker that after a while somebody in the building started calling him ‘Motormouth.’  He always had a smile and a ready answer to any question, serious or joking.  He was a joy to have in the building.  In a year or so we were making some additional changes that would require wiring and I asked if anyone had called Richard.

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The White Elephant
Posted on July 29, 2008

I don’t like to think of myself as a materialistic person but driving away from the Highway 12 East storage complex last week I could hardly come to any other conclusion. For nine years I had been paying almost $40 a month to store things I hadn’t used in nearly a decade. Still I continued to hang unto them. Not because I had any attachment to them but because I had no way to get rid of them. We donated several things to people we knew could use them. For instance we gave a newly wed couple a dining room set and a chest of drawers. A few months later I invited a pioneer pastor to meet me at the storage facility to see if there was anything he could use in setting up his church office. He selected a desk and some office equipment. We loaded the things he had chosen into his pick-up but I had no idea what to do with the rest of the stuff. It was junk mostly – a couple of battered book cases, a metal storage cabinet, and several boxes of things that we had carted all over the country in our forty-two years of marriage. There was no organization in our area that would take the stuff so I kept paying rent to store it. Brenda finally decided enough was enough and called a dumpster service to come out and haul it off. That cost me $290! Add it up – nine years at $444 a year comes to $3,996 in rent plus the $290 to haul if off. $4,284 to store and dispose of junk! Now that’s a true “white elephant” and hardly what I would call good stewardship.

Thinking about it as I drove home three things came to mind. The first was the parable that Jesus told about a rich man. He said, “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.  He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).

What a tragic picture and a prophetic one at that! The rampant consumerism of the twenty-first century is unparalleled in the history of mankind. People live in huge houses with three car garages but have to park their cars in the driveway because their garages are overflowing with things they can’t get in the house. Our addiction to things is further evidenced by the fact that one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States is storage rental. More and more people are renting off site storage to store all the things they “own” and for which they have no place and often no use.  “...But God said to him, “You fool!’”

Category: Life

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Don't Give Up On Your Dreams
Posted on January 30, 2008

Forty-one years ago, when Brenda and I were newly weds and just starting out in the ministry, we spent nearly a year and a half preaching revival meetings in country churches from Cuero, Texas, to Post Falls, Idaho, and a half a hundred places in between. We spent hours in the car together, driving from one small church to the next. Sometimes Brenda read to me but more often than not we just talked.  That is I talked while Brenda mostly listened, being a person given to few words.
Mile after mile I regaled her with dreams about our future together. Someday, I told her, we are going to live in a cabin, on the side of a mountain, overlooking a lake. I will write books and preach in churches large and small all over the world. Someday I will have a national radio broadcast and be invited to preach at District Councils and camp meetings. Someday…. 
She would smile and listen politely but I could tell she didn’t really believe me and who could blame her given our limited circumstances. In the course of time I pushed my dreams to the back of my mind as we immersed ourselves in the work of the ministry, serving churches in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. I began writing and published my first two books while serving the Church of the Comforter in Craig, Colorado. In 1980 we became senior pastors of Christian Chapel in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Lord impressed me to give up writing for a season and concentrate on serving the church. For nearly seven years I did not write a single thing for publication and I sometimes wondered if I would ever write again.
During those seven years God did many remarkable things at Christian Chapel and our congregation grew from barely one hundred people to more than a thousand. We purchased property and built our first facilities. God granted me favor with the seminary at Oral Roberts University and I was frequently invited to lecture there. I also served as a group leader in the Field Education program at the seminary. Through a truly remarkable series of events God brought me into contact with a radio executive whose vision helped me launch a nationwide via satellite call-in radio program called Straight from the Heart. Because Christian Chapel was an exceptionally strong missionary church I began receiving invitations from missionaries to minister in a number of foreign countries. Almost without me realizing it the Lord was fulfilling the dreams He had put in my heart when I was just a young man starting out in ministry.
In the spring of 1987 Honor Books approached me about writing four books for them. They had heard my radio broadcasts and felt that I would be a good fit for their publishing house. Of course I was excited but I had to pray about it. In 1980 the Lord had told me not to write until He released me and I did not want to be disobedient. After three weeks I felt released to write again and I signed a contract with Honor Books. Over the next five years I published seven books with them including The Making of a Man, which was a finalist in the Devotional category of the Gold Medallion Book of the year. 
In 1991 Brenda and I bought a small acreage on Beaver Lake as a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary gift to ourselves. We resigned from Christian Chapel a year later and with the help of Brenda’s parents we built a small cabin over looking the lake.
Fifteen years ago when I left the pastorate and moved to the Lake I thought my ministry would be primarily writing.  Boy was I wrong.  Although I’ve written 22 books in the last 15 years I’ve also traveled almost 2 million miles and preached more than 2500 times.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because I want you to see how God’s faithfulness manifests itself in an ordinary life. I’m no one special and neither is Brenda except to me. What God has done for us, He will do for you. The Lord would have been well justified had He given up on me any number of times during the last forty years, especially during the early years, but He refused too. Even though my faith failed on occasion, He has always remained faithful for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
Take a moment now and examine your own life. What God given dreams has the Lord placed in your heart? I’m not talking about personal ambitions but dreams birthed by the Spirit. Dr. Jim Horvath, a personal friend of mine, carried a God given dream of ministering in the Philippines in his heart for nearly twenty years before the Lord brought it to fruition. Now he has one of the most effective evangelistic ministries to the islands. What God has done for Jim He will do for you.
Don’t look at your circumstances or you may despair. You may feel that you simply do not have the wherewithal to see your God given dreams become reality or you may feel that your willful disobedience has disqualified you, either way you will be tempted to discard your dreams. Instead look to God for He is the author and finisher of our faith  (Hebrews 12:2) and He who has begun this good work in you is faithful to bring it to completion (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Nearly twenty years ago I was facing some unusual challenges. I seemed to have reached a stalemate in my life and ministry.  After several years of remarkable growth the church I was serving seemed to reach a plateau.  No matter what I did we seemed stuck.  To complicate matters a small, but vocal group, were critical of my leadership.  On top of everything else my latest book was not selling nearly as well as anticipated.  As a result I was experiencing some doubts regarding the effectiveness of my ministry.
One morning, during my devotional time, I was reading in the Psalms when I came across Psalm 138:7 and 8.  Although I had read that passage numerous times before, that particular morning the words seemed to leap off the page.  “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.  The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands” (emphasis added).
Although my situation did not immediately change I was at peace.  God had spoken to me through His Word.  No matter what others did He would fulfill His purpose in my life!  Not necessarily my goals and ambitions, but His purpose, those God given dreams He had placed in my heart and that was enough.
As you think about your own God given dreams remember His faithfulness and take heart. “This is what the Lord says: ‘…For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Brenda and I are living God’s dream for our life, not because of our faith but because of His faithfulness, and so can you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart/ and lean not on your own understanding:/ in all your ways acknowledge him/ and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5&6). That is, He will fulfill your God given dreams!     
This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.  
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Category: Life

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Braided Rag Rugs, Coal Oil Stoves, and Friends from the
Posted on April 19, 2007

A key figure in my young world was Grandma Miller. Her entire life was lived on the ragged edge of poverty, but she was rich in spirit.

The longer I live, the more I realize just how fortunate I have been.  In addition to a very positive relationship with both my parents, and my brothers and sister, I was blessed with an extended family of loving grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Although I was never given any reason to think myself better than anyone else, I never doubted my worth as a person either.  Within the extended family circle I knew I had a place.  I was loved. I was somebody.

A key figure in my young world was Grandma Miller.  She stood 4'11" with tightly-curled red hair. As a child I never realized she colored it, but she must have, because it remained the same tint until the day she died.  Her entire life was lived on the ragged edge of poverty, but she was rich in spirit.

Category: Life

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The Painted Parable
Posted on March 08, 2007

Several years ago Brenda and I were browsing in a subterranean flea market when my attention was drawn to an unusual painting.  At first I couldn’t decide what it was that so captivated me.  The artist was good but not great.  His technique was just that – technique, nothing more.  Still I lingered, studying the painting...

Brenda had moved on, her attention drawn to something in another booth and now she was calling to me.  I turned to go and then I saw it, out of the corner of my eye. Although the picture was painted in great detail every face was blank – every face was featureless! Finished but faceless!  How had I missed that?

My mind was whirling. This was more than just a painting, it was a message.  The artist was trying to tell us something about himself, or maybe about us, and he did it the only way he knew how.  He painted a parable.

Category: Life

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Thoughts on Turning 60
Posted on March 01, 2007

A few days ago I celebrated my 60th birthday.  After reflecting on that momentous event for a few minutes I decided to share some of my thoughts. Unfortunately by the time I made it to my computer I couldn’t remember what I wanted share.  I’m just kidding but I do have to admit that, like a lot of other things, my memory isn’t what it once was.  Seriously here are some of my thoughts on turning sixty.

Wow!  I got here a lot faster than I would have ever imagined possible. (See James 4:14)

It seems only yesterday I was a twelve year old boy roaming the river bottom that surrounds the South Platte River in Northeastern Colorado, living my own version of Huck Finn. Then we moved to Houston, Texas and I had my first date – with Brenda Starr of course.  We went to my ninth grade football banquet where I received my Letter. At seventeen I bought my first car – a 1960 Ford Starliner.  Mom and Dad never paid a penny on it. I covered all expenses while making $1.25 an hour cutting donuts after school and on Saturdays.  On June 10, 1966 I married Brenda, Leah was born four years later and now I’m sixty and have two wonderful grandchildren.  Like I said I got here a lot faster than I would have ever imagined possible

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Marty's Latest Heartbreak
Posted on January 09, 2007

Marty’s Latest Heartbreak 

I’m an avid football fan and even though the Denver Broncos didn’t make the playoffs I’m still glued to the games. As always there have been some surprises. Had you told me the Baltimore defense would hold the Colts and Payton Manning without a touchdown I wouldn’t have given Indianapolis a chance, yet they won 15 to 6. Chicago beat Seattle in overtime and the Saints edged out the Eagles in a game that could have gone either way, which brings us to the Patriots and Chargers.  Once again Marty Schottenheimer came up short – a bitter ending to another great season. 

Having won more regular season games (200) without going to the Super Bowl than any coach in the history of the NFL, Marty obviously knows something about the thrill of victory but even more about the agony of defeat. It’s bad enough to lose when you’ve played your best and simply been beaten by a better team, but when you beat yourself, as Marty and the Chargers did, the self-doubt and second guessing can be unbearable.

So what non-football lessons can we learn from Marty’s latest heartbreak?

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