July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Fast and Slow

"My soul thirsts for ______." What would you put in that blank? Recognition? Fame? Power? Wealth? Sympathy? Family? Something else? The Psalmist filled that blank with "God" (see Psalm 42:2). Not surprising, but oh so wise. All else quickly fades and loses its ability to satisfy. God alone fully and finally satisfies the deep thirst of our souls. Our problem is we constantly drink from other fountains and never allow our thirst to drive us to the sole source that satisfies. So how shall we to develop a thirst for God? The answer is quite simple - but the practice is patently unsavory; we need to fast.

The spiritual discipline of fasting is, by and large, lost to western Christianity. I believe this to be a function of the unprecedented affluence we enjoy in the U.S. In our affluence the discipline of fasting requires a far greater sacrifice than the giving of money. We are not accustomed to "denying ourselves" anything. Certainly not on purpose! Yet in the practice of fasting we discover a way to break the sensual thrall of our lives and allow the all-sufficient and all-satisfying grace of God to enter.

"The disciplines of abstinence are designed to weaken or break the power of life involvements that press against our involvement in the kingdom of God." (Dallas Willard, Renovations of the Heart) Fasting reveals the things that control us and in so doing reveal the things that we have set up as "false gods" in our lives.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:12, offers a powerful premise for our consideration. "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything." What enslaves you? Food? Recreation? Your cell phone? The internet? Perhaps a fast from that which enslaves/controls you is in order. Perhaps you will discover there is a deeper, more urgent thirst you have simply covered with temporary things.

Fill in the blank, "My soul thirsts for _____."

The Habit of Perfection
Geral Manly Hopkins

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shelled, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

July 27, 2007

The Church at Auvers

My friend Carol over at Watch Me Paint (which BTW is pretty incredible - watching her take a canvas and convert it into a work of art - WOW!) got me thinking about art. Please understand I am not one who has a great knowledge of art nor have I been exposed to much through my years. I recall 3 visits to art museums in my 40 years. With that disclaimer, there are a few pieces that have spoken volumes to me through the years. This piece by Van Gogh is one.

The Church at Auvers was painted during Van Gogh's last years during a time of serious mental and emotional stress. His life circumstance certainly colored his view of this grand edifice and I think it serves as a message to the church that needs to be heard today. A few things I notice about the painting are...
  1. The church dominates the canvas. Literally, there is no way to avoid it.
  2. There are two paths leading around the church - both happen to lead through the shadow of the church.
  3. Sadly, there is no door into the church.

I'll leave it to you to generate your own conclusions about the message Van Gogh is sending us from 1890. I'd love to hear what you think...

July 25, 2007

Pray for Idaho

Just came from my buddy Paul Thompson's blog, Bridge Bloggin, and they are in a crisis out there. His church is in a position to be on the front lines in caring for some folks who need help and hope right now. Let's get some folks praying for this church family and the people who are in the path of these incredible fires.

Here are a few suggestions for prayers...
*Pray for rain!
*Pray for Eastside Baptist Church. Pray for them to be bold in stepping forward to meet needs. Pray for them to be sensitive to those who are hurting. Pray for them to be a source of hope for some people who have lost hope.
*Pray for Paul. As pastor he will be called on to fill a lot of roles from administrator to counselor to friend. Pray God will give him strength during these days.
*Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with people. C.S. Lewis said that pain is "God's megaphone". Maybe God is speaking to some people through this terrible time.

Take a moment and drop by Paul's blog and leave him an encouraging word.

July 23, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Grow up!

Trying something new on the blog...as always any feedback/suggestions are appreciated. The idea is to give you my Sunday morning sermon in 150 words or less. (Those of you who are part of my Sunday morning flock please hold your snide remarks about long-winded preachers!) So, here goes!

"Like new born infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:2-3)

His name was Tim and he never grew up...literally. Confined to a wheelchair he moved through life much like any other 15 year old, only he lived with the constant threat of broken bones. Tim had brittle bone syndrome and he never grew up. Simple, everyday activities were a potential threat to his health. It was common to see him with a new cast or for him to be facing a new surgery. His body just never grew up.

I believe many Christians have a spiritual disease similar to Tim's physical disease in that they have failed to grow properly. Why is this? I think it is largely because many never intended to grow. I talk with so many who tell me of an initial rush of growth in their walk with the Lord that faded over time. They have become frustrated or disillusioned with pursuing God's plans, shouldn't He be pursuing them?

What is the solution to this dilemma? Grow! Peter encourages his readers to "long for the pure spiritual milk". He's telling us to crave the food that helps us to grow into salvation. Just as you are not likely to forget to eat today, let me encourage you to not neglect the feeding of the new life that is yours in Christ.

"Grow dear friends; but grow, I beseech you, in God's way, which is the only effectual way. See to it that you are planted in grace, and then let the divine Husbandman cultivate you in His own way and by His own means." Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life.

Pearls of Wisdom and Peals of Laughter

Enjoy a couple of quotes that tickled my funny bone.

"Never criticize someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then if they get mad, you're a mile away, and you have their shoes."

"Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge; some only gargle."

July 18, 2007

A Different View of the Immigration Issue

Don't have time to fully develop this one right now, so I'll offer you a teaser to bring you back in the next day or two...

Imagine what it would be like if 50% of the kids in your local elementary school, or better yet, 50% of the kids on your street had dads (and sometimes moms too) living in another country. This is exactly what we encountered in Guatemala. I never considered the immigration issue from the other side of the Rio Grande. One of the unseen problems this unchecked flow of people from Latin America is causing is the terrible, and unprecedented, stress being placed on the social and familial fabric of those nations.

In one home we encountered a woman who had simply taken in three boys because their Mother and Father had abandoned them and gone to the United States. I'm sorry, but for the life of me I cannot think of anything that would make My Beloved and I leave our three kids. Stunned only begins to touch our reaction. More on this later...

July 17, 2007

It Speaks for Itself...

Louisiana became the first state in the Union to make this late term abortion procedure illegal. The following quotes are from a couple of news articles concerning the Louisiana law. Here's hoping other states will follow suit quickly. Please note, the law does allow for the procedure if the mother's life is in danger.

I am glad I don't have pictures to attach. The description speaks for itself.

"Anti-abortion activists call the procedure "partial-birth abortion;" surgeons and abortion rights activists call it "dilation and extraction." It involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion." Fox News

"The procedure at issue is generally used only to end pregnancies in the second or third trimesters. It involves pulling the fetus through the birth canal and then collapsing the skull before extraction." Times-Picayune, New Orleans

July 16, 2007

The Newest Member of our Flock!

We had a wonderful surprise at lunch today! A new chick had hatched out sometime this morning! We are anticipate some more soon - you can expect more pictures when the others arrive.

My Beloved decided to put a few of our Buff Oprington's eggs under a couple of our Rhode Island Red's who had "gone broody" and try to hatch them. Well, success is her name today! We are excited about having a few more Buff's. They are good natured birds and beautiful to see. It is truly a miraculous process to witness. Shortly after I took this photo the little one worked its way under the proud mother hen and took a nice little nap. Talk about a precious thing to see! If you're in town, stop in and see our new addition!

Miracle on Canal Street

How shall I make this incredibly long and tiresome story short and engaging? If you've ever wrestled with our glorious government bureaucracy you know the unique frustration produced by this endeavor. It is that very experience which forms the kernel of this miracle.

We have been preparing for several months to take a team to Guatemala to work directly with our brothers and sisters there. They are in the process of planting two new churches in a community of over 50,000 people in which there is no identifiable evangelical witness. We are excited about the opportunity and look forward to watching God unfold His plan for us in this endeavor. A part of preparing any team to go overseas is to secure passports. We made application in a timely manner and waited...enter the miracle.

After waiting for 12 weeks for Steve's passport to arrive we began the process of communicating with the government. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe the experience. We talked with machine after machine and well meaning congressional interns without number. Both equally helpful (grrr!) but the interns were much more polite. After exhausting every known avenue we had all but given up hope on securing the Steve's passport for the trip.

Forgive me for doubting, after all we had numerous people praying. Add to those prayers a clear conviction that Steve was supposed to go and it seemed only logical that Monday morning the passport would be on it's way. Alas, it was not to be. What ensued was what Dr. Henry Blackaby aptly describes as a "Crisis of Faith."

Monday's final phone calls to congressional offices and passport agencies left us with what seemed to be a dead end. Had we prayed in vain? Had we somehow missed God's clear call for Steve to go? Was there some unknown and unseen reason for him to stay in the states rather than accompany us? As I hung up the phone and looked across my desk at Steve all my pastoral skills were for naught. I had nothing to say. No words of comfort or wisdom to share. I don't even recall having the presence of mind to pray for him as he left my office. My emotional and spiritual energies were at an all time low.

Shortly after lunch I received an unbelievable phone call from Steve. He had gotten an appointment at the passport office in New Orleans for the next morning! I still don't know how and he's not completely sure how. It involved a 20 minute wait on hold that was summarily disconnected followed by another 20 minute wait on hold that somehow led to a real person that amazingly found an appointment slot open on a Tuesday when the passport office is publicly closed on Tuesday!

The end of this amazing odyssey is that we secured the passport on Tuesday afternoon and departed for Guatemala on Thursday filled with the knowledge that God was opening doors for us. The fact that God moved the wheels of government after we had exhausted all of our strength is further evidence of His greatness.

(Here's a picture of Steve showing off his miraculous passport!)

This was not the last hurdle we would face on this journey. Check back for the next installment of this missions story. Until then, grace and peace to you.

July 13, 2007

Answering my tags...

O.K., I'm late. I promised these two that I'd get to this on Thursday and I didn't. I spent the day (the whole day) cutting grass and washing cars (yes, we have a large yard and multiple cars). So, here it is Friday and I'm getting to it at last. I know the rules state that I am to tag others but the rebel in me is showing up and I'll not be tagging any others. Largely because I'm still really new in the "blogosphere" and I don't "know" 5 or 8 others well enough to tag them. So here goes...

Lucy's tag...
1. Each player must post these rules first.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight Random facts/habits

1. I have become an avid coffee lover. Check my post labeled "coffee" for the full story. This morning I enjoyed a marvelous pot made with Guatemalan beans.

2. There is nothing I enjoy quite so much as the sound of my family around the dinner table. When we moved to "Mayberry" My Beloved told me, "Dinner is at 5:30. If you want to eat with us, be here at that time." The driven side of me whined. The side of me that sees a watch as a decorative addition to my wardrobe rather than a functional device wailed. My children balked at the idea that we would all have to be at the table at the same time. My Beloved prevailed. Now, 9 years later we find ourselves circling the kitchen waiting for the magic moment to arrive. There will be joy and laughter tonight.

3. Morning is my favorite time of the day. My Beloved and I are polar opposites in this respect. I am a "Good morning God!" person. She is a "Good God, it's morning!" person. I love to take an early morning run and see everything fresh. If I'm not running you can find me on the front porch listening to the world wake up.

4. My "life verse" is Psalm 90:12 which state, "Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I try to live out the truth that each day is a gift from God. To waste that gift would be unthinkable! I can't remember the author, but the turn of phrase sticks with me, "...As if we could "kill" time without affecting eternity".

5. I love my job! God has called me to be a pastor (which, BTW, is simply a word that means "shepherd"). Sure it's frustrating sometimes but I can't begin to tell you the joy that comes from watching people, young and old, come to grips with their relationship with God in good times and in bad. I've held people's hands at births and I've held people's hands at deaths and I've held people's hands at just about every other spot along life's road in between. The memories are poignant and precious to me. I am humbled to be involved in God's work in other's lives.

6. I am awed by nature's majesty. The Psalmist is spot on when he states, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims His handiwork." (Psalm 19:1). I am mystified by those who simply write all of creation off as mere chance. How do they stand before the enduring grandeur of mountains, or experience the deafening silence of deserts, or dabble their toes in the immensity of the oceans and not see the glory of God being revealed?

7. I'm a sucker for an adventure, whether I get to participate or just read about it. Some of my favorite stories are Shackleton's incredible voyage on the Endurance and Adoniram Judson's life as told by Rosalie Hall Hunt. Some of my personal favorite journeys have been....1. My son's 16th b'day road trip. 2. A three day canoe trip down the Buffalo River in Arkansas when I was 12. 3. A backpacking trip with my friend Tony - snow, wild ponies, and an unbelievable view.

8. Vanilla wafers and peanut butter make a great snack. I like to make little peanut butter sandwiches with them. Invariably my children will begin hovering around me like vultures with puppy dog eyes, lustily pleading for dear old dad to share with them. I'm a softy, they always win.

Paul's tag...
(a) Those tagged will share “Five Things They Dig About Jesus”.
(b) Those tagged will tag 5 people.
(c) Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of this post so everyone can keep track of what's being posted.

5 Things I Dig About Jesus.

1. Jesus is the smartest person I know! I have Dallas Willard to thank for this revolutionary and important insight. In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Willard states that saying "Jesus is Lord" has little meaning in practice for anyone who hesitates before saying "Jesus is smart." I must say I had never paused to consider Jesus as being smart, but when you think about it he was, and is, wildly intelligent. Willard says, "He [Jesus] knew how to transform the tissues of the human body from sickness to health and from death to life. He knew how to suspend gravity, interrupt weather patterns, and eliminate unfruitful trees without saw or ax. He only needed a word. Surely he must be amused at what Nobel prizes are awarded for today." (TDC, p. 95)

2. Jesus loves me! I know it's worn to the point of almost being trite, but the overwhelming truth that He loves me takes my breath away time and again. There is no reason for Him to love me. There is no benefit He derives from loving me. There is no compelling force beyond Him making Him love me. The truth is that He simply loves me. Excuse me while I pick my teeth up off of the ground again.

3. Jesus is unique! No other figure in human history can compare. Just how many people do you know who came back from the dead...AND ARE STILL LIVING!? He was, and is, so much more than just a good man or a great teacher. In fact, He doesn't leave us with the option of considering Him like that. He directly and repeatedly makes the claim to be the God dwelling among men. That's the talk of a madman...unless He is who He claims to be. For the record, I believe He is who He claims to be.

4. Jesus is a breaker of barriers! Humanity is really good a building barriers. Jesus is really good at tearing them down. I love how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:13-14, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility."

5. Jesus is a promise keeper! "I will never leave you nor forsake you." "Behold, I am with you to the end of the world." "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where i am you may be also." Just to quote a few.

Thanks Paul and Lucy for the opportunity to share a bit with you and anybody else who cares to read. Be blessed today.

July 10, 2007

Playing Tag with My Friends

Something interesting I ran across in my surfing today. I think it did a fairly good job of identifying my leadership/personality style.

My personalDNA Report

Since I was UNFAIRLY tagged by TWO (count 'em, one, two) people while I was out of the country!!!! I think it only reasonable that I tag the two offenders and request appropriate compensation for my troubles. One caveat (love that word!), I have not responded to their tags just yet. Plan to get to that tomorrow or Thursday. In the mean time Paul, at
But a Poor Reflection, and Lucy at Well Behaved Women, you're on notice!

1. Take the test
2. Tag me back when you've posted the results.
3. Feel free to eat up others blog time with this wonderful game!

Another dose of heritage...

Ran across this great article in my reading today. It is so important that we all understand from whence came most of the principles of freedom we enjoy in this nation. Many question the relevance of Christianity in our society when, in fact, Christianity had and continues to have an undeniable positive influence on our daily lives. Without courageous Christians who stood for those "unalienable rights" bestowed by our Creator our world would look very different indeed.

Atheist, agnostic, pagan, eastern religion practitioner, and Islamist all have Christians to thank for the ability they have to freely practice and believe according to their consciences. Those who would squelch the voice of Christians in our nation are doing so at their own peril. It will be the Christians who will continue to stand for the rights of people to believe as they will. Your time to read and remember those who have gone before us will be well spent.

July 6, 2007

Good to be home

Thank you all for your prayers! Our group has returned safely from our trip to Guatemala. It was a trip riddled with difficulties and with great opportunities. I promise to share more fully in a later post. I simply wanted to say thanks to all of you who prayed, share a brief summary of the trip and let you see a couple of pictures.

In summation...
We encountered and shared the gospel with people from 4 continents. Cab drivers from Senegal and Mauritania (West Africa), various individuals who served us in Memphis, a reporter from Austria (Europe), and numerous individuals from Central and South America.

In Guatemala we...
  • held Vacation Bible School for over 200 children in two different locations.
  • shared over 3000 tracts with residents in three communities.
  • shared the gospel with over 150 high school students in two different schools.
  • saw at least 20 people make a decision to follow Jesus.
  • met a part of God's family that challenged and inspired us.
  • were personally changed by watching God at work in all the places we went.
As we return we are all struggling to find words to share the stories. Pictures and words can only go so far. I pray that as you read these words and look at these pictures you are led to pray for the church in Guatemala.

This is our group praying over the Lantana community. This is a new community that has no church presence of any sort. Pray for the Luz de Lantana mission as they shine the light of Christ in their community.

This is Alex. He has just prayed to receive Christ and is now a member of the family of God! Pray for Alex and pray for the believers in San Pedro as they help him to grow into a mature follower of Jesus.

This is Lee leading Bible Study for the children in Lantana. Pray that the seeds of the gospel will find fertile soil in the hearts of these children. Pray that they will grow up to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and make a difference in their society.