December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Christmas Day
by McKinley Cash
Up on the wings of the morning
From the mystic land of Nod!
To greet the day that's borning,
When man drew close to God.
"Love ye one another,"
We heard the Master say,
And one way or the other,
We'll answer that today.
The Lily of the Valley
And Sharon's red, red Rose
Are treasured in the tally
As the heart overflows.
Let's ope the parcels now,
And as we snip each seal,
The woundrous why and how
The content will reveal.
All thoughts are centered home
In Love's own master plan,
For on this day has come
God's greatest gift to man.
(McKinley Cash was my great uncle and this is one of the poems he left for us in his collected work Alabama Folk Tales. A copy of Uncle Cash's work will be available in the Sulligent Public Library in January 2010. I apologize for the lack of spacing, but blogger is not accepting my formatting.)

December 24, 2009

And the Word Became Flesh

It is my prayer that you and yours take a few moments to consider the magnificent truth of God taking on flesh and blood and coming to live among us. Be blessed during this season when we recall that there was a day when God spoke to us all and said, "I am with you."

December 16, 2009

Psalm 55

Cast Your Burden on the Lord

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
8 I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”

9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.

12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God's house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

16 But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
19 God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God.

20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.

December 3, 2009

About the Photo - The Next Big Step

If ever there was a parable in a picture this one would qualify. On a late summer afternoon a longing was fulfilled; a step was taken that had been considered for years but had simply been set aside for reasons of practicality. Maybe it was the testosterone level that was right that day. Maybe it was we knew changes were coming and this might be the last chance for us to do this thing. Maybe it was simply that the light was perfect. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I am now 42 and it had been a whole bunch of years sine I had jumped off a cliff. Or maybe it was the realization that my kids were finally old enough to make up their own minds about doing questionable/dangerous/fun/crazy/memorable things. Whatever the reason we did it.

I jumped first. The fall was exhilarating but my impact with the water was almost debilitating. I pasted a lying smile on my face and groaned out a "Come on! It's great!" My poor entry into the water was no reason to deny others the thrill of leaping from the stony security of the cliff. One after the other they took the leap with a descending "Whooo!," a glorious splash and a concluding fist pumped victoriously into the air with a shout of conquest. It was, and will be forever, a memorable day.

My friend Barry captured this photo of my eldest taking his leap. It is a photo with the potency of poetry. Not only was Jeremy leaping from rock to river, he was also making the leap from family to future. It is his next big step. He seems to be enjoying the journey much like he enjoyed that marvelous day at the river. I hear tales of leaps he's recently taken from a bridge into a river near campus! I suppose that first big step and that first big leap inevitably lead to others quite naturally.

Do I worry? Sure. What parent doesn't? (I can tell you my mother worried enough for all of us on the day the photo was taken!) But my worry is not that he'll get hurt, or that he'll do something stupid - I'm pretty certain that's going to happen along the way. No my worry is, and has always been, that he will be afraid to take the next big step.

So, for Christmas he's getting a framed copy of this perfect parable in a photo to remind him of the joy in taking the next big step. Please don't tell him. I'd like to watch his face as he remembers this unforgettable day.

November 15, 2009

Resigned to His Will

Dear Church Family,

It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation effective immediately. Due to issues, both personal and professional, within the staff and administrative structure of the church I feel it to be in the best interest of the church to move out of the way in order that the church may continue to move forward. Please be assured that I have not been "forced" out neither is this intended to be "send a message," I simply sense, due to events beyond my control and relationships which are already deeply strained, that moving out of the way is in the best interest of First Baptist Church and my family.

Eleven years have flown by. You have watched my family grow and watched me grow as a pastor. I and my family carry nothing but fond and loving memories of our days spent among some of the finest people in the world. We thank God daily for your partnership in ministry and rejoice in the remarkable, even miraculous, accomplishments with which God has blessed us during this season of ministry. You can be sure there will always be prayers of thanksgiving offered for you and we will eagerly anticipate the glad reunions ahead of us!

Please pray for us as we seek God's direction in the days ahead. It is our belief that He has faithfully, though by difficult paths, brought us to this place. That clear confidence inspires us to believe that His plans for us are good and that we will continue enjoying His good blessing in our lives. We believe the same to be true for each of you. We are already praying for the man God has in mind to come and lovingly shepherd this church.

I leave you with the words with which we began our journey together, "Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding." (Jeremiah 3:15) I still trust His words today; for you and for me.

Respectfully submitted to the Deacon Fellowship, November 15, 2009.


John Nicholson
Pastor

November 8, 2009

The Cripple and the King

The once was a little boy...

To be clear, this is NOT 'Once upon a time there was a little boy.' This little boy was once a real little boy and the story I am about to tell you is true, even if I have taken the liberty of filling in some of the blank spaces in the story. It really happened and it really happened something like this...

There once was a little boy who, through no fault of his own, grew up crippled. He wasn't always crippled. He started life just like any other little boy; mischievous, rambunctious, and adventuresome. He had a name, but if I told you his name you would think, "What a strange name to give a child!" So, instead, let me tell you what his name meant: "Beloved of the Lord."

And so he was.

As Beloved ran down the halls of the palace fighting the bad guys and disrupting the servants trying to do their work, smiles would cross faces. Everyone enjoyed watching Beloved grow up!

What's that? Oh, the palace. Yes. I suppose you need to know that this was no ordinary child. You see, Beloved of the Lord was the king's grandson. Not only that, his dad was the 1st born son of the king, which, everybody knows, meant that he would one day be king. No, Beloved was anything but ordinary, he was beloved. Certainly beloved by God, after all he was born and raised in the palace. Certainly beloved by all who knew this delightful, if mischievous, boy. His name fit him perfectly.

Until.

It all happened so suddenly. Such things usually do. Without warning Beloved of the Lord heard the panic in the palace. He saw people running whom he had never seen run before. He was only a small boy but he knew that something must be terribly wrong. At first he was just curious but when his nanny grabbed him and started running he got scared and, as little boys are want to do when they get scared, he started crying. He didn't know why he was afraid. He just knew he was afraid.

His nanny was a wonderful woman who loved little Beloved as if he was he own. She certainly didn't mean to change his life that day, but in her haste she did. As she ran through the halls of the palace, trying desperately to get Beloved to safety, she tripped and fell crushing Beloved's ankles beneath her. Now the little boy was truly frightened and in terrible pain.

This was a little boy caught up in something much bigger than him. How could he possibly know that on this terrible day God was already at work creating another beautiful masterpiece of reconciliation? How could he possibly understand that he, Beloved of the Lord, was to be at the center of it all?

The bones never healed properly. Beloved never ran another step, and oh, how he used to run! That's when the whispers started, "Maybe he's not 'Beloved' after all. Maybe he's something else. Maybe, instead, he is the shameful one." It wasn't long before everyone was calling him by this new name and he began to forget his real name. He began to believe that he was, indeed, a shame. And, as shame is want to do, he hid.

Shame was afraid. People were telling him that this new king would hunt him down one day and kill him. That's what kings did.

Shame was bitter. You see, even though he had forgotten his real name, he sometimes had memories of running through the palace. When he did remember he wept because he was certainly not running now and he was certainly not living in a palace. There were moments when he thought he heard someone call him by that once familiar but now forgotten name. He would always think, "Pah! If this is what being "Beloved of the Lord" is like I'll just keep my shame. It surely fits me better. A crippled outcast with no future."

Shame woke one morning to the sounds of strange men in the village. King's men! And they were looking for him! So, this new king who was living in the palace where he should be living had finally found him. The king was going to have his way with this crippled, shame of a man. This crippled, shame of a life.

Shame hobbled into the court of the king. His heart was racing, his hands were sweating, his eyes were darting from side to side, expecting a knife in the back at any moment. Though he had eaten nothing all morning he felt sure he was about to throw up. The metallic taste in his mouth made him think of the cold steel of bitterness that had been forged and re-forged in his heart all these many years of being Shame.

He somehow found himself on his face before this king. Did he trip? Did someone push him? Did he just naturally do what people do before a king? He wasn't sure why, but there he was; before the king and expecting the very worst.

Surely there would be gloating over another victory. ("Some victory!" thought Shame. "I'm just a cripple!) Surely there would be speeches about the superiority of this king as compared to that other king (who, just to remind you, was Shame's grandfather.) Surely there would be a pronouncement of judgment. Surely Shame was breathing his last breaths here on his face in front of this king.

Yes, come to think of it, especially at this moment, "Shame" was a more appropriate name for him after all. He had stopped believing he was "Beloved of the Lord" a long time ago.

Shame sensed that the king was now standing to his feet. His guts clenched in anticipation of the words that were about to come. And those words did come. But those words came in a way he had never dreamed.

This king was calling him by his name!

This king was not angry!

This king was kind and gentle of heart!

This king was taking this shame-filled cripple by the hand and lifting him to his broken feet!

This king was inviting him to lunch, and then dinner, and then breakfast, and then every other meal that was to ever be served at the king's table!

This king was restoring Shame to the palace, forever!

In the days and weeks and months that followed Shame pondered all that had happened to him. He discovered that this king was looking for an enemy to love. How astonishing it was to be the enemy who gets invited to dinner!

On a clear evening Shame heard the king playing one of his favorite songs. He was quite the musician. Near the end of this song Shame thought he heard the king's voice waver with emotion as he sang, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Shame began to weep because in that moment he realized something truly marvelous. Something that changed him much like those broken ankles changed him so many years ago.

At that moment he knew that even though everyone called him Shame, his real name was Beloved of the Lord.

There is a king calling your name. You may fear what He has to say. I assure you He is inviting you to come and live with Him in the palace.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." -Revelation 3:20

(If you would like to read the story of the cripple and the king you can find it in 2 Samuel 4:4 & 9:1-13)

October 28, 2009

Gloom to Glory!


The path ahead was clearly evident but nothing more. All else was deeply shrouded in cloud, rain, and wind. It was a singularly un-pleasant day to take a walk. Roots and rocks were slippery traps waiting to spring their surprise on unwise steps and puddles patiently pooled their resources to further dampen our spirits. We knew there must be incredible views out there, after all we were walking a knife-edge path along the ridge tops, but there was only a seamless wall of gray.

Arriving at the shelter we discovered other weary and discouraged travelers, strangers now brothers because of a shared journey. One considered pressing on to the next shelter but the presence of good company outweighed the certainty of six dreary miles. Stories were shared, meals were eaten, and a fire was attempted and abandoned. Somehow the only solution to such a day was to turn in and turn off. Surely tomorrow would be better.

And the views simply fell into our laps! A bright sunrise inspired the decision to retrace our once dreary steps in order to see just what we had missed along the way. What had only recently been burdensome was now breathtaking! Where there had been only gloom there was now nothing but glory!


As is often the case, my wilderness wanderings crack open spiritual insights. "Sorrow may last the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Ps 30:5). What may seem to be a dreadful section of trail can, in fact, become a place of wonder to be returned to again and again. The discomforts of a dreadful day are banished by memories of enduring beauty. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!

October 16, 2009

Hey Mark over at Pragmatic-Ecclectic!

Mark, I attempted a drop-by reading today and was unceremoniously stonewalled by the "by invitation only" page. While I fully understand the decision I rue the fact that I am now sitting on the outside without the ability to look in from time to time. Perusing your ponderings was (and hopefully will be) a pleasure and a prodding for the pudding in my head.

If there's a test to pass I'll study. If there's a secret handshake to learn I'll practice. I'll even promise to leave comments in the shout box (unless of course the mysteries of technology allow me access to utilize the normal venue for comments...). Hey Mark over at Pragmatic-Ecclectic! I would really like to be an invited reader!

October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

So, I signed up for the Blog Action Day event this year, duly noting that Climate Change was the topic du jour. I have my opinions about Climate Change but they are anything but scientific. I have made observations about changing seasons but they are purely anecdotal. I have dollar sign shaped question marks surrounding those who are espousing this "inconvenient truth" but that is largely my general cynicism speaking. So what do I have to say about this issue?

I could rant about Kyoto or the "cap-and-trade" idea. I could snicker about setting up my own carbon credit business (Sure, I'll plant a few trees to make you feel better about running around in your private jet!). Or I could take a long serious look at the whole issue from a theological standpoint. Lo and behold someone beat me to the punch (circa A.D. 2000) and did a passing fair job of it!

Spend a few minutes, if you will, and consider the Cornwall Declaration. I believe this presents a cogent and compelling case for environmental stewardship resting on the foundations of Judeo-Christian beliefs. And, just so you will know, you can find my name among those who have signed. You might also want to check out WeGetIt.org - Caring for the Environment and the Poor Biblically.

The Cornwall Declaration On Environmental Stewardship

The past millennium brought unprecedented improvements in human health, nutrition, and life expectancy, especially among those most blessed by political and economic liberty and advances in science and technology. At the dawn of a new millennium, the opportunity exists to build on these advances and to extend them to more of the earth’s people.

At the same time, many are concerned that liberty, science, and technology are more a threat to the environment than a blessing to humanity and nature. Out of shared reverence for God and His creation and love for our neighbors, we Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, speaking for ourselves and not officially on behalf of our respective communities, joined by others of good will, and committed to justice and compassion, unite in this declaration of our common concerns, beliefs, and aspirations.

Our Concerns

Human understanding and control of natural processes empower people not only to improve the human condition but also to do great harm to each other, to the earth, and to other creatures. As concerns about the environment have grown in recent decades, the moral necessity of ecological stewardship has become increasingly clear.

At the same time, however, certain misconceptions about nature and science, coupled with erroneous theological and anthropological positions, impede the advancement of a sound environmental ethic. In the midst of controversy over such matters, it is critically important to remember that while passion may energize environmental activism, it is reason—including sound theology and sound science—that must guide the decision-making process. We identify three areas of common misunderstanding:

  1. Many people mistakenly view humans as principally consumers and polluters rather than producers and stewards. Consequently, they ignore our potential, as bearers of God’s image, to add to the earth’s abundance. The increasing realization of this potential has enabled people in societies blessed with an advanced economy not only to reduce pollution, while producing more of the goods and services responsible for the great improvements in the human condition, but also to alleviate the negative effects of much past pollution. A clean environment is a costly good; consequently, growing affluence, technological innovation, and the application of human and material capital are integral to environmental improvement. The tendency among some to oppose economic progress in the name of environmental stewardship is often sadly self-defeating.
  2. Many people believe that “nature knows best,” or that the earth—untouched by human hands—is the ideal. Such romanticism leads some to deify nature or oppose human dominion over creation. Our position, informed by revelation and confirmed by reason and experience, views human stewardship that unlocks the potential in creation for all the earth’s inhabitants as good. Humanity alone of all the created order is capable of developing other resources and can thus enrich creation, so it can properly be said that the human person is the most valuable resource on earth. Human life, therefore, must be cherished and allowed to flourish. The alternative—denying the possibility of beneficial human management of the earth— removes all rationale for environmental stewardship.
  3. While some environmental concerns are well founded and serious, others are without foundation or greatly exaggerated. Some well-founded concerns focus on human health problems in the developing world arising from inadequate sanitation, widespread use of primitive biomass fuels like wood and dung, and primitive agricultural, industrial, and commercial practices; distorted resource consumption patterns driven by perverse economic incentives; and improper disposal of nuclear and other hazardous wastes in nations lacking adequate regulatory and legal safeguards. Some unfounded or undue concerns include fears of destructive manmade global warming, overpopulation, and rampant species loss.

    The real and merely alleged problems differ in the following ways:

    1. The former are proven and well understood, while the latter tend to be speculative.
    2. The former are often localized, while the latter are said to be global and cataclysmic in scope.
    3. The former are of concern to people in developing nations especially, while the latter are of concern mainly to environmentalists in wealthy nations.
    4. The former are of high and firmly established risk to human life and health, while the latter are of very low and largely hypothetical risk.
    5. Solutions proposed to the former are cost effective and maintain proven benefit, while solutions to the latter are unjustifiably costly and of dubious benefit.

Public policies to combat exaggerated risks can dangerously delay or reverse the economic development necessary to improve not only human life but also human stewardship of the environment. The poor, who are most often citizens of developing nations, are often forced to suffer longer in poverty with its attendant high rates of malnutrition, disease, and mortality; as a consequence, they are often the most injured by such misguided, though well-intended, policies.

Our Beliefs

Our common Judeo-Christian heritage teaches that the following theological and anthropological principles are the foundation of environmental stewardship:

  1. God, the Creator of all things, rules over all and deserves our worship and adoration.
  2. The earth, and with it all the cosmos, reveals its Creator’s wisdom and is sustained and governed by His power and lovingkindness.
  3. Men and women were created in the image of God, given a privileged place among creatures, and commanded to exercise stewardship over the earth. Human persons are moral agents for whom freedom is an essential condition of responsible action. Sound environmental stewardship must attend both to the demands of human well being and to a divine call for human beings to exercise caring dominion over the earth. It affirms that human well being and the integrity of creation are not only compatible but also dynamically interdependent realities.
  4. God’s Law—summarized in the Decalogue and the two Great Commandments (to love God and neighbor), which are written on the human heart, thus revealing His own righteous character to the human person— represents God’s design for shalom, or peace, and is the supreme rule of all conduct, for which personal or social prejudices must not be substituted.
  5. By disobeying God’s Law, humankind brought on itself moral and physical corruption as well as divine condemnation in the form of a curse on the earth. Since the fall into sin people have often ignored their Creator, harmed their neighbors, and defiled the good creation.
  6. God in His mercy has not abandoned sinful people or the created order but has acted throughout history to restore men and women to fellowship with Him and through their stewardship to enhance the beauty and fertility of the earth.
  7. Human beings are called to be fruitful, to bring forth good things from the earth, to join with God in making provision for our temporal well being, and to enhance the beauty and fruitfulness of the rest of the earth. Our call to fruitfulness, therefore, is not contrary to but mutually complementary with our call to steward God’s gifts. This call implies a serious commitment to fostering the intellectual, moral, and religious habits and practices needed for free economies and genuine care for the environment.

Our Aspirations

In light of these beliefs and concerns, we declare the following principled aspirations:

  1. We aspire to a world in which human beings care wisely and humbly for all creatures, first and foremost for their fellow human beings, recognizing their proper place in the created order.
  2. We aspire to a world in which objective moral principles—not personal prejudices—guide moral action.
  3. We aspire to a world in which right reason (including sound theology and the careful use of scientific methods) guides the stewardship of human and ecological relationships.
  4. We aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.
  5. We aspire to a world in which the relationships between stewardship and private property are fully appreciated, allowing people’s natural incentive to care for their own property to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of resources and enterprises, and in which collective action, when deemed necessary, takes place at the most local level possible.
  6. We aspire to a world in which widespread economic freedom—which is integral to private, market economies— makes sound ecological stewardship available to ever greater numbers.
  7. We aspire to a world in which advancements in agriculture, industry, and commerce not only minimize pollution and transform most waste products into efficiently used resources but also improve the material conditions of life for people everywhere.
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October 9, 2009

Sustenance

I am thankful for green pastures.
My souls needs to stand again beside still waters
and once again hear the voice of my beloved Shepherd.

Too long, too far, and too many days
have I struggled along.
Peace, rest, sustenance for a wearied soul -
a need, a song.

In these scant few hours of rest
my struggles have ceased and I find again
the sure footing of faith.

September 16, 2009

Big God - little me

Milky Way dividing light from darknessImage by jpstanley via Flickr

Big God. little me.

Today I discovered a place of wonder on-line and encourage you to discover it too. Take a virtual trip to a rural hillside and see our cosmic neighborhood. Giga Galaxy Zoom will give you an unprecedented opportunity to see the Milky Way. After your head stops spinning from the magnificence revealed on your little computer screen (you might want to take your laptop outside and hold it up to the night sky---just for effect) take a few moments to marvel at the God who "calls them all by name."

"It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in...Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing." Isaiah 40:22 & 25-26


Big God. little me.

When we lived in the greater Atlanta metro area we missed the night sky. It is largely a wash of light pollution allowing only the brightest of stars to shine through. When we moved to our slice of rural heaven we were stunned by all we had been missing. Wonder was reborn in us as we observed the turning of the universe. We eagerly await Leo's rise in the spring and long for Orion's winter arrival. We never knew Corvus (the Crow) or Bootes (the Shepherd - one of my favorites!) or Auguira (the Charioteer) ever existed before moving to a place where the stars can actually be seen. Lying on our hillside with our eyes lost in the vastness of the night sky we finally understood what David meant when he asked, "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:3-4)

Big God. little me.
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September 14, 2009

Shepherd Season

For those of you kind enough to invest a few moments dropping by my place here, thank you. It's been one of those season's of shepherding the flock I am privileged to serve which has required much of me in time and effort. It has been my blessing to serve families at their point of need, to prepare messages that serve as spiritual food for souls, and to give gentle and, hopefully, wise counsel through difficult decisions. To quote Paul,

"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
In God's perfect timing I have a long awaited and joy-filled break coming my way in the guise of celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary with my beloved! We will be getting away to the historic and wonderful Kate Shepard House in Mobile this weekend to be treated like royalty by Bill and Wendy and to remember again why we love being in love with each other!

Perhaps a return to the blogosphere will materialize then. Until then this shepherd is lying down in green pastures and enjoying a restoration of the soul.

August 20, 2009

Find It Here


Looking for hope in a seemingly hopeless world? Find it here. Looking for peace in a world torn with strife? Find it here. Looking for life where things seem to be sucking life out of you? Find it here. Looking for purpose in a world that seems to have lost its way? Find it here.

The e-book is available free of charge. Enjoy, share, respond.

August 18, 2009

The Meeting House

Marlboro, VermontImage via Wikipedia

Credit where credit is due. My blog buddy Idaho Paul reminded me of that good puritan phrase, "the meeting house," recently and it was the very phrase for which I had been looking. I shared it with our late service crowd on Sunday and will share it with our church family at every opportunity over the next several months as we process this change of vocabulary.

When people speak of gathering together as the body of Christ they most often use the phrase (or one very similar), "We're going to church." They usually mean by this that they are going to the edifice designated as the meeting place for the church. Not a bad thing in and of itself except that over time the edifice comes to represent the embodiment of the church when nothing could be further from the truth. My own children are victims of this notion as they often speak of going "to the church."

A brief theology lesson is in order here. In the New Testament the term translated "church" is the Greek word, eklessia. It is important to note that this term never refers to a building; it always refers to the people who make up the body of Christ. The point being that when we say we are "going to church" it's not the building but the body, it's not the place but the people.

Why is this important? You see if we equate "the church" with a particular place made of sticks and stones then that is the only place "the church" exisits. As I write these words I look out my office window and see our particular place and it occurs to me that at this moment it is simply an empty building, it is not the church. The church is at this very moment teaching class at the school, running a piece of machinery at the local factory, dealing with issues of governance for our town and county, writing loan applications, cutting a neighbor's grass, washing another load of clothes, shopping for groceries, and a whole host of other activities which may seem anything but "churchy." But it is in these day-by-day activities God is at work through His body, the church, to bring reconciliation to this world.

So, in the coming days you'll not hear me say, "I'm going to the church." Rather you can expect to hear, "I'm going to the meeting house." Instead of "I hope to see you at church" you'll hear, "I hope to see you at the meeting house!" You see, the church gathers and scatters and gathers again. The meeting house stays put. Church family, be the church right where you are and let's gather together at the meeting house to celebrate all the marvelous things God is doing! I'll see you there.
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August 7, 2009

Lo Siento

For those who stopped by late on Aug. 6, I mistakenly hit the "Publish" button instead of the "Save now" button. The completed version of Coffee and Friends is now available for your perusal.

Coffee and Friends

Italian roasted coffee beansImage via Wikipedia

My esteem of the blessed bean is well known. I fairly gush when people bless me with a bag of these marvels of creation as I relish the enjoyment that is to come my way for days to come. Darkly delicious brews every morning to awaken the senses of sight, smell, and sound (my FAVORITE morning sound is that final "gurgle" of the coffee maker!) make getting out of bed a joy. Combine that with regularly scheduled moments of quietness before my Maker and mornings are something to which I look forward.

Imagine my pleasant surprise in discovering that Lee Gross, a young man I had the privilege of ministering to during his high school days, is working on his masters degree from the University of Vermont and is spending the summer in the Dominican Republic, get this, working with coffee farmers! Yes, I immediately contacted him and asked about coffee. I didn't ask him how he was doing, or if life was treating him well, or even how his mother was doing. No, I dispensed with all the social niceties and cut directly to the chase. Would it be possible for him to procure for me a few bags of those beautiful beans? After all, this was coffee we were dealing with and the summer is growing long in the tooth. Time was of the essence. We could visit later about family, life, and love - maybe even over a cup of the marvelous mud.

After securing his promise of procuring the goods for me I dug a little deeper and discovered an opportunity for people like me to make a difference. There are coffee cooperatives springing to life in poor countries and they simply need customers. It occurs to me that I am one. Granted, I will not be able to afford these premium coffees all the time, after all I have kid starting college and two more to follow soon, but I can treat myself and a few others to some wonderful coffee every now and then and in so doing offer hope to some folks in some desperate places in our world one cup of coffee at a time.

Here are a couple of links for you coffee bean counters out there. Wooden Bike Coffee brings coffee to your door from the volcanic soils of Rwanda and is helping rebuild lives and communities in that devastated nation. The cooperative Lee is working with is Cafe' Alta Gracia. I have enjoyed a shipment from Wooden Bike earlier this year and will eagerly await the arrival of the coffee from the Cafe' Alta Gracia. Perhaps I will let you know about its brew soon.

If you have a moment stop by Lee's place and find out a little about what he's doing down there in the Dominican.

I've got to find a master's program like this!
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August 4, 2009

It's A Wedding!

When we think of weddings pictures like this one (yes, that is My Beloved and me on our Wedding Day) come to mind with all of the attached images of wedding cake, birdseed being thrown, flowers, candles, and the long awaited "I now pronounce you man and wife!" This is only natural as this is what we have come to know as a wedding.

A conversation several years ago with a member of the flock here led me on a journey of discovery concerning what came to mind when the Jewish people thought of weddings. It was arresting to realize the differences and stunning to consider the implications of the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony. As I learned more about the process of the ancient Jewish wedding (which is still practiced to this day) I was awe-struck by the fact that God had placed into the social fabric of the Jewish people a vivid picture of what He was doing in salvation.

Before I proceed here a couple of disclaimers are in order. First, I am no expert on Jewish wedding customs. I consulted several sources including The Everything Jewish Wedding Book (I get comments on that one when it is spotted on my shelf - so far no requests to perform a Jewish wedding ;-)) and The Ancient Jewish Wedding by Neil and Jamie Lash. Secondly, what follows is a synopsis of 9 weeks of preaching. These are just the high points. I believe you will readily see the meaning filled significance of each of these "steps" in the ancient Jewish wedding.

The steps in the ancient Jewish wedding (somewhat simplified):
  1. A Bride is chosen.
  2. A price is paid.
  3. Promises are made by the husband to the Bride.
  4. The Bride must agree.
  5. A cup of covenant is shared.
  6. Gifts are given.
  7. The Bridegroom departs.
  8. The Bride makes preparations for the Bridegroom's return.
  9. The Bridegroom returns.
  10. The Bride is taken to the place prepared for her.
  11. The marriage feast takes place.

A Bride is Chosen - Jesus told his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16). It is an humbling thought that He has chosen us as the ones He loves!

A Price is Paid - Scripture affirms the great worth of women. "An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels." (Proverbs 31:10). This is quite astounding in view of the ancient world these wedding practices were instituted where women had no rights. For those of us who are in Christ we remember the price paid for us every time we celebrate Communion, recalling His body broken for us and His blood shed for us - simply because we were, and are, the objects of His love.

Promises are Made - Interestingly the bride doesn't make any promises. This portion of the Jewish wedding ceremony is decidedly one sided. The husband makes it clear all that he promises to do for the bride. Here enters a marvelous opportunity for discussing the issue of salvation! It's not based on anything we do - it is simply our acceptance of what our heavenly Bridegroom has promised!

The Bride Must Agree - I call this the "Yes Factor." The Bride has been chosen, a price agreed upon, and promises have been made, all initiated by the Bridegroom. Yet for the wedding to proceed the Bride must say "Yes." In similar fashion, God initiates the relationship but we must respond to His most marvelous offer. After all, a gift not received is worthless to the recipient.

A Cup of Covenant is Shared - We re-enact this moment every time we celebrate Communion. It was stunning to consider the fact the Jesus' disciples understood His words "Take and drink, all of you, for this cup is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." in the context of the Jewish wedding. I was amazed to learn that many Jewish rabbi's still teach that the Passover in terms of God wedding His people.

One other note of interest here is that Jesus is waiting to drink this cup again with his Bride. Matthew's gospel records these words from Jesus concerning the cup, "I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fahter's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29) What a moment that will be at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb!

Gifts are Given - Usually the Bridegroom would give gifts to his bride to remind her of his love for her and to help her remember that he would soon be returning for her. As believers we recognize the "promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13-14) as the gift that our Bridegroom gave us upon His departure.

The Bridegroom Departs - This really struck me as an oddity in the wedding ceremony. How many weddings have you been to where the 'I do's' are said and then the Bridegroom leaves? Well it's part of the Jewish ceremony and it has a wonderfully practical purpose. The Bridegroom has to get a few things ready for his Bride. Sound familiar? Jesus told his friends, "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." (John 14:2-3)

The Bride Gets Ready - Her preparation is a gift given by the bride to the one she loves. There is a time when it is too late to prepare. Are we ready for our Bridegroom's return.

The Bridegroom Returns - This would often happen in the middle of the night. His return would be announced by a blast from the shofar and a loud shout, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" Amazingly, this is paralleled in the descriptions of the return of Jesus, "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God." (I Thes. 4:16)

The Bride is Taken to the Place Prepared for Her - For a mental picture of the place being prepared for the Bride of Christ take a look at Revelation 21 and 22. Our Bridegroom has outdone Himself!

The Marriage Feast Takes Place - Jewish weddings are not quiet and reserved events. They are exuberantly joyful. Simcha describes one such feast like this, "The amazing all-out joy at such a wedding is hard to describe. It can, in fact, be quite wild, with people juggling fire, dancing in big hora circles, the bride and groom up on chairs in the middle, and so much more. The entire atmosphere is one of extreme joy, all done in fulfillment of the instruction to give joy to the bride and groom."

Here's how Revelation 19 describes it...
"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
'Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God the Almight reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready!...

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."

How about it? Have you been invited and have you accepted the invitation? If not, why not?

July 31, 2009

About The Photo

I suppose I am taking more notice of honeybees these days. The news stories of their demise and my youngest son's interest in them as a hobby has put them solidly on my radar. So you can imagine my intrigue in watching this little fellow doing his best to get a drink of water from my water bottle in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains.

My fellow trekkers and I had just arrived at our campsite after descending from one of the high points in the park. Ten-plus miles of walking downhill will take its toll on one's knees and toes. So a soak in the nearby creek and a welcome sit down gave us a few moments to take in the beauty of our surroundings.

Among those beautiful things that caught my eye were these honeybees. It was wonderful to see them busy in and around our campsite. I found myself imagining a black bear finding the hive and enjoying a snack. I wondered where these little guys (and their queenly gal) made their home. Perhaps some ancient hollow tree, or maybe a sheltered cliff-side crack? I would not know on this trip. I was just glad these guys were doing their job. The wildflowers on display were a marvelous testament to their labors.

Here are a couple of other memorable photos from that trip. I hope you enjoy!


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July 22, 2009

Now THAT'S What I'm Talking About, - Again!

Vectorized Southern Baptist Convention logo, d...Image via Wikipedia

"Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:15-16

My copy of The Alabama Baptist (you can read the article on line next week...) came today and there on the front page was the story of hundreds of students paying for the opportunity to go and serve someone else in the name of Christ. Now there's a concept for you, paying for the privilege of serving someone else. When's the last time you heard of that happening? World Changers is an outstanding example of selfless service and effective partnership between local government and the body of Christ. M-Fuge is another excellent example of meeting people at their point of need.

These are just a couple of ways Southern Baptists are seeking to change the conversation about what it means to be a follower of Christ. There is the dynamic work being done by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews who are often the first on the scene following a disaster. The World Hunger Fund is unique in that EVERY dollar given goes directly to relief efforts all over the world (unlike many other relief agencies which take a significant portion of contributions for staffing, publicity, logistics, etc.). Then there are the countless points of ministry which will never be in a news article or the subject of an acclaimed documentary. Simply God's people doing God's work in God's way.

Invariably when such things are being done the question is asked, "Why?" And when that question is asked God's people are ready with the answer, "The love of Christ compels me." (2 Corinthians 5:14) And sometime those asking "Why?" will want to know more about this love of Christ and God's people are ready to tell them about it.

As Jesus reminded his friends, "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). Keep following the leader church. Keep following the leader.
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July 21, 2009

Now THAT'S What I'm Talkin' About!

Really?!?! A well-known Bible thumper working side by side with an openly gay mayor? Can they possibly have anything in common? In a word, yes. With their differences clearly on display for all to see, Evangelist Luis Palau and Mayor Sam Adams stood together at the front of Portland, Oregon's Hinson Baptist Church to kick off the second annual Season of Service.

What's a bible-believing, soul-winning, on fire for

Pierre Montallier: The Works of Mercy, c.Image via Wikipedia

Jesus evangelist doing standing next to an openly homosexual, politically liberal mayor? The very thing, I believe we might find Jesus doing. Jesus was repeatedly taken to task for "hanging out with the wrong crowd" to which he responded, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)

Somehow this evangelist and this mayor recognized that "the least of these" in their city needed help and that opportunity was not a liberal or conservative issue. That need was not somebody else's job. That need was something that all people should address - maybe most of all the believers among us.

Tom Krattenmaker's article in USA Today lays out the dynamics of this dynamic partnership (perhaps the way church and state should be relating...) and signals the growing cultural awareness brought on by the unavoidable acts of mercy being committed by Christians. He states, "the evangelical church may be losing its temporal power but winning something more important: its soul."

He might just be right.
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July 16, 2009

"Here Come the Christians!"

Our church family experienced a wonderful day of worship Sunday as our students shared their stories from M-Fuge this year. Their trip to Charleston, S.C. to share the love of Christ had a transforming effect on Charleston as they left the evidence of their passing in the lives of children, the elderly, the handicapped, at soup kitchens, abuse shelters, and on freshly painted houses. Perhaps more transforming was the impact of serving others in the name of Christ. Those who went returned significantly changed.

One shared comment caught my attention and fired my imagination. Angie worked all week with children in a difficult neighborhood and she shared that as they pulled up on the last day she could hear one of the girls yelling "Here come the Christians!" (I wish I could give you the vocal inflection here - just know that it was ethnic, joyful, and sincere.)

I thought to myself, "If only that could be the world's reaction to the arrival of Christians."

It seems that the world is less than excited to see Christians coming.

SignsImage by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

According to research done by the Barna group, and published in a book titled UnChristian, growing numbers of people born after 1965 describe Christians with words like...
  • hypocritical
  • pushy
  • anti-homsexual
  • sheltered
  • too political
  • judgemental
too rattle off a few. One fellow from Mississippi stated, "Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart." (p. 15, UnChristian, Dave Kinnamen)

Ouch.

It doesn't sound like there are many voices like that little girl's in Charleston, S.C. shouting with delight that the Christians have arrived.

I am grateful that our students and adults had the opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. I pray that all who claim to follow Him will take note that He came with a hand stretched out in love and not a fist clenched in anger (except for those who were supposed to be rightly related to God - another post for another day). And even His lovingly outstretched hand ultimately got a nail driven through it for His trouble. To which He replied, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

Beloved, we have lessons to learn.


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July 15, 2009

As We Forgive


Could you forgive the person who murdered your family? This incredibly powerful and difficult question is addressed in the film "as we forgive" airing on PBS stations tonight. I have not seen the film but became acquainted with the project about 4 months ago after reading the book by the same name. I am astounded by the depth of forgiveness exhibited by victims of the genocide in Rawanda in the early 1990's. I am shamed by my own petty un-forgiveness.

If you have a PBS station on your T.V. set check the listing. I assure you the stories told here will be well worth your while. You can find more information about the film at as we forgive.

I will be posting more on the issue of forgiveness soon.
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July 14, 2009

Some Recent Deaths NOT in the News

I don't ordinarily post e-mail "junk" but this one struck a particular chord with me. As I stated in an earlier post, I have had enough tabloid news. I certainly feel for the Jackson, Fawcett, McNair and Mays families but considering we've heard next to nothing about the deaths mentioned below I felt I could at least do my part to mention them. Thank you to the real "icons" of the very best of America!

"With no disrespect intended to the Jackson family, we should remember that others have also died this month, whose lives are every bit as significant as Michael Jackson.
Others whose lives were cut short and who leave behind loved ones and whose families will dearly
miss them; families who will suffer silently with no TV fanfare and with much more dignity and honor.

These American military members died in Iraq this month:

Sergeant Justin J. Duffy
Specialist Christopher M. Kurth
Specialist Charles D. Parrish
Lance Corporal Robert D. Ulmer
Staff Sergeant Edmond L. Lo
Sergeant Joshua W. Soto
Captain Kafele H. Sims

Specialist Chancellor A. Keesling

ARLINGTON, VA - FEBRUARY 17:  A bugler plays &...Image by Getty Images via Daylife


And these members of our U.S.
Armed Forces died in Afghanistan this month:
Sergeant Jones, Ricky D.
Specialist Munguia Rivas, Rodrigo A.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer Garber, Jeffrey J.
1st Sergeant Blair, John D.
Sergeant Smith, Paul G.
Staff Sergeant Melton, Joshua
Sergeant 1st Class Dupont, Kevin A.
Specialist O'Neill, Jonathan C.
Chief Warrant Officer Richardson Jr., Ricky L.
Specialist Silva, Eduardo S.
Lance Corporal Whittle, Joshua R.
Major Barnes, Rocco M.
Major Jenrette, Kevin M.
Staff Sergeant Beale, John C.
Specialist Jordan, Jeffrey W.
Specialist Griemel, Jarrett P.
Specialist Hernandez I, Roberto A.
Sergeant Obakrairur, Jasper K.
Staff Sergeant Hall, Jeffrey A.
Private 1st Class Ogden, Matthew D.
Private 1st Class Wilson, Matthew W.

Let's remember and honor this day those whose deaths are truly impacting our Freedom and Liberty."
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July 10, 2009

And Such Is His Power

Force Without Wisdom Falls Of Its Own WeightImage by stage88 via Flickr

"And finally, who is he? All that we know is the sound of his voice and maybe the lightest touch of his hands on our shoulders. He is the one we are free to follow or not to follow, the one we begin to know fully only by following. As we follow, we become, such as we are, his church, which is to say his body - a weak thing in most ways, half-hearted and of little faith, but full of hope for all that - and the only body that he has in this world, the only hands and feet to do his work. And such is his power that even through us others may be led to follow too."

Fredrick Buechner, "Follow Me" in The Magnificent Defeat (emphasis added)

July 5, 2009

An Open Letter to T.S. Spivet, Cartographer


My Dear Master Spivet (May I call you T.S.?),

I simply wanted to thank you for a most memorable journey. It seems that your journey is our journey too; all of ours. On the way from "here" to "there" passing through terra incognita, can be and often is, a frightful journey.

You were a most delightful traveling companion. Your attention to detail is remarkable for one so young. It re-awakened in me a similar attentiveness. For instance, I walked past a wooden gate that was two different colors - not from paint, mind you, but from the effect of the sprinkler system hitting the lower half of the gate causing a variant pattern of weathering. Also, the upper hinge was sound while the lower hinge, subjected to the repeated dousings of the sprinkler was full of rust and in need of replacement. Scoffers are even now scoffing at such minutiae. After all, what difference does it make in the world of appointments and schedules and bills and, and , and, (and always another "and.") Not much really, save this; with eyes open again to wonder the world is no longer a passing blur of sound and light. Indeed T.S., there is meaning in it all, if only we could remember.

Some of the folks you met along the way were pretty unsavory. I didn't care for the language Ricky used. The homeless man in Chicago saddened and angered me. Jibsen was a opportunistic jerk, and the railroad bull could have been a bit more genteel with a 12 year old. But when it's all said and done I think you rightly described our lives. There are plenty of unsavory people and unsavory experiences along the way. They make reaching the destination that much sweeter don't they?

I loved your turn of phrase. So often startling in its simplicity and sometimes arresting in its incisive wisdom. Like, "Outside there was that predawn kind of clarity, whee the momentum of living has not quite captured the day." Exactly! Or, "To tell you the truth, I hardly every used pencils. Pencils are for wussies - for those who question the veracity of their stroke." Ha! I'm a pen user too! I often found myself mumbling some comment in response or chuckling at the marvelous wit or, best of all, rolling the words over and over my tongue again to get the full feel of them. I like a man who has a vocabulary and isn't afraid to use it. Although, at times, it mystified me - either from abject ignorance or my lack of experience (i.e. I've never read pg. 28 of The Godfather but you can be sure I will do so - soon!) You stretched my cerebral capacity while also stretching my heart.

I looked for Layton everywhere. Sometimes I couldn't find him. Was he missing or just well hidden or did you just forget him sometimes? It's like that isn't it? Everywhere and nowhere all at once. And then, completely unexpectedly present; painfully present in his absence. Especially when you carry around the heavy load of responsibility whether it belongs to you or not. Those we lose do weave themselves inexorably into all the maps of our lives.

And maps! I can spend hours with a map. It tells me so much and leaves so much untold. It tells me where and only rarely tells me who. But you take map making to a wh

A map of North America ca. 1566, one of the fi...Image via Wikipedia

ole new level! (Mapping the flight of a bat around your backyard - genius! I was left wondering why the bat took the path it did. I imagined a tasty bug here or an interesting echolocation there. Fascinating.) But still the maps don't tell us what we most need to know do they? That's the whole point isn't it? Finding the things not on the map. Maybe better, finding the one thing not on the map. I'm awfully glad you found that one thing, even though there's simply no way to categorize it and file it away.

T.S., I'm pretty sure I will travel again with you again soon. There was so much I missed along the way. Retracing those steps will be a pleasure with you along for the journey. Thanks again for a memorable journey.

Your traveling companion last week,

John

(This was my "brain candy" read for the family vacation. Was I in for a wonderful surprise! Larsen has written a wonderful work that spoke deeply and clearly to me. Not only is the book visually engaging with T.S.'s maps and charts but it is emotionally charged as well, not to mention the intelligent and well informed writing (you will learn a bit about everything from geography to hobo symbols.) Take some time and take the trip with T.S. It's a memorable journey. You can also visit the entertaining website that compliments the book at www.tsspivet.com.)





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June 29, 2009

Lying Down In Green Pastures

This Shepherd will be on vacation with the family this week. Don't look for updates here or anywhere else. I'm taking a break from all things electronic...well, I will have my cell phone in case of emergency but there will be no facebook or twitter updates. I'm probably not responding to SMS messages. I might listen to my voicemail - might not.

Check back next week. I'll tell you about life disconnected. What I'll really be telling you about is life re-connected. Re-connected with the relationships that really matter in this life. Until then, I am outta' here!

June 28, 2009

Enough Tabloid News!

OK. Michael Jackson died. Is there anybody on the planet who doesn't know this now? I've got it. We can move on to other news now if it's ok with everybody. I'm not interested in his autopsy report. I'm not concerned about his toxicology screening. As for the kids, common sense says Mom gets them unless there is some mitigating circumstance making that an unhealthy choice (i.e. Mom is currently serving time on child abuse charges).

I feel like the police officer at an accident, "There's nothing to see here people, lets move on."

Please understand I am not a Michael Jackson hater. Deeply disturbed by his behavior in recent years but felt more pity than ire. I remember my cousin Danny gathering us all in the living room to see the "Thriller" video. It was a huge event that everybody was talking about and still talks about. I too turned up the radio when "Smooth Criminal" hit the airwaves. But I must tell you this is, in my step-father's signature line, "Too much sugar for a dime."

How can the tectonic shifts happening in Iran or the ominous rocket saber rattlings of North Korea or the bank breaking health care plan or any number of other issues of importance be pushed to page two or three? Just another sign of the apocalypse I suppose.

When our culture is more concerned with celebrity than clarity, I believe it's a pretty good indicator that we've lost our way. Enough with the tabloid news. Save it for the tabloids. Can we get back to the things that affect the way our lives are lived?
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June 24, 2009

Breathtaking Confession

Breathtaking.

That's all I can say about Gov. Mark Sanford's press conference today.

Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most b...Image by [ r ♥ c e y t ♥ y ] {I br♥ke for bokeh} via Flickr



By way of quick review here's what we saw:
  • A man take full and personal responsibility for his actions. No finger pointing. No whining. No paper thin double talk about word definitions (i.e. Clinton's "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.") Just a man simply saying, "I was wrong."
  • A public figure using words like "sin," "God's moral law," and "forgiveness" with a straight face and with the expectation that those listening would understand what he meant. (I think many, if not most, did understand.)
  • A man clearly stating that though the sin was committed by him it had serious and far reaching ramifications in the lives of many others.
I may find words later. For now, I am breathless.

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June 23, 2009

A Good Word on Behalf of Respect

Dr. Rick Lance wrote a piece worth a look. You can read it here. For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Lance you can check his bio here, but in short he is a leader of remarkable caliber in a day desperately short of leaders. I am glad to know him and it is a joy to contribute in some small way to the work he is doing through the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

Respect is a social commodity that has lost value in recent years. I often hear teachers in our public and private schools bemoaning this fact. Seeing it on public display in the instances Dr. Lance mentions simply serves to reinforce the disdain for others which is already rampant in our culture. Perhaps a return to civility would serve us all well.

I often tell my children, and on occasion other people's children, "It doesn't cost you anything to be polite and show respect." Maybe some of those Dr. Lance mentions should be reminded of this simple truth, in a respectful manner of course. Paul said it like this, "If you bite and ravage each other, watch out - in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?" (Galatians 5:15, The Message)

June 17, 2009

God's Good Care

The kids are all off to M-Fuge this week so my beloved and I are enjoying a taste of the empty nest. Our youngest is the farthest and longest from home he's ever been so he approached this week with some trepidation.

I got a phone call from him on Monday (he hasn't yet learned that calling the parental units is no cool - please don't anybody tell him!) He asked me to pray for him as they were getting ready to sign up for their groups and he wanted to be right where God wanted to him to be. I assured him I would pray and reminded him that God already had everything taken care of for him.

Pray I did.

The Light of God HimselfImage by KLuwak via Flickr


Later that evening he called again (whew, nobody has filled him on the parents and cool thing yet) and asked me if I knew a guy named Roger B. In fact I do. It seems that when they were assigned to their various groups youngest just "happened" to be placed in the group with one my college buddies. Coincidence? I'm thinking, no.

God is good in all of His care for us. It is humbling that He is willing to attend to small prayers like this one in light of all the other things happening in the world today.
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June 15, 2009

Old, but Insightful, Interview with N.T. Wright

I am fast becoming a fan of N.T. Wright. He seems to be able to communicate orthodox doctrine in a manner which makes sense in our modern world. A needed voice. I just finished his "Evil and the Justice of God" and, in a word, I consider it outstanding. I ran across this interview from the Wittenburg Door, which set aside it's funny bone (for the most part) to talk with Wright back in '07. It serves as a pretty good introduction to the man if you are unfamiliar with his work.
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June 14, 2009

Zemanta test...

Playing with a new tool. Zemanta. We will see how well I like it. It's supposed to give me "relevant content to enhance my blog and emails." As you can s

MISSILE STONEWARE:  Thor's thunder~bolt~serpen...Image by quapan via Flickr

ee from the "relevant photo" I've chosen I still prefer stone aged tools like pen and paper to all this modern machination. However, I do enjoy the interaction that such modern marvels as the blogosphere and email have made possible. At what other time in history would I have been able to put together a few words expressing some of my ideas and then have the opportunity to have response from such far flung places as Australia, Africa, and Arkansas? Have fun clicking on the links! I think this may enter the area of "too much information" but it may have some useful helps along the way. We shall see.
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