Friday, November 30, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things

Well actually I just wanted to list a few of my favorite Christmas movies. Each year as we decorate our house Cyd and I watch several of these over and over again. So here's my top 5 Christmas movies...
1. It's A Wonderful Life- This is actually my favorite movie of all time!
2. Home Alone
3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation- This is the best movie to watch as you string lights.
4. A Christmas Story
5. White Christmas- I think I really only like this one because Cyd likes it so much, but Bing Crosby singing White Christmas is pretty good.

Honorable Mentions: Elf, Mickey's Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street

Hope you get a chance to watch one or all of these this Christmas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Magi

I think some of my favorite Bible characters are the Magi, the Wise Men from the East, that visited the baby Jesus. Their painstaking journey to see this new king and bring him gifts has always amazed me. Frederick Buechner helped me to remember the foolishness of these Wise Men. It gives you pause to consider how, for all their great wisdom, they overlooked the one gift that the child would have been genuinely pleased to have someday, and that was the gift of themselves and their love (Peculiar Treasures p.195).

I have to ask myself each day if I have given myself and my love to the King.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Persistent Process of Discipleship

Okay, first off, sorry for the slight alliteration. I started running a few months ago, which is something I had never done before. I'm not the perfect runner's body type by any means. I asked a friend who is an avid runner for some advice. I told her that my goal was to run in a 5k in the fall of 2008. She said that was crazy that I could be ready to do that in January. To which I quickly protested. Training and conditioning my body to desire to run and actual run have reminded me that the process of being a Christ follower is not a quick process at all. In fact, if anything I have discovered that true intimacy with Christ is a slow process that requires patience and diligence, not unlike running. The last two weeks I have hit a wall for some reason...I get frustrated because I want to be able to run for 2 miles without ever stopping, but I can't seem to reach that goal yet. I have to remind myself that for my sake it is equally important to walk the parts I can't run for the health benefits alone. So there are days when I can run a fair amount and others where I can't but the walking/running has reminded me that just as it takes perseverance to condition your body it takes perseverance to condition your soul. The art of discipleship is not a simple three step process, a neat bullet list, or even a how-to manual...rather it is a lifelong pursuit to know God and be conformed a little more each day into the image of his son.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Music

A few weeks ago I heard most of the new Bruce Springsteen CD while sitting in Starbucks with some students. I was impressed by the new offering by the full E Street Band. In many ways the sound is what has garnered Bruce a legion of fans over the years. Although I haven't checked out the lyrics in detail, what I heard seemed to be full of elements of faith, sin, redemption, and love.

I have heard a few of the songs off the new CD by Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. If you are like me you're thinking how could those two singers sound good together, but to my surprise they are a unique duo. Plant, best known as the lead singer of Led Zepplin, adds a gritty, soulful feel to the songs. One song entitled, "Gone, Gone, Gone" was included on a sampler CD with a free issue of Paste Magazine I recently received. Might I add a plug for Paste if you are a lover of music, movies, books, and culture. The magazine and the companion website are worth checking out at

The Gospel in a Nutshell

Several years ago I heard an illustration about the gospel that has always stuck in my mind. I think it is attributed to Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

"You are far more sinful than you ever dared imagine, but you are far more loved than you ever dared hope."

I think this sums up the essence of the Christian message of God's love for sinners like you and me.

A Redeemed Child of God

Yesterday in my sermon I mentioned a favorite professor from Mercer, Papa Joe Hendricks. He always taught his students that the most basic understanding of ourselves is as "a redeemed child of God." No matter what happens in life, good or bad. No matter what kind of achievements and accolades we earn, at the core of who we are at least in God's eyes is that phrase. I think it is becoming a new favorite nickname for myself...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Being Thankful

The craziness of family gatherings has kept me from posting anything the last few days. I wanted to list a few things that I am thankful for and encourage you to do the same.

  • Life
  • Grace
  • Cyd, my beautiful wife
  • Claire, my energetic 2 year old
  • Baby Pagliarullo (possibly Charlotte) who will be here in March
  • My family (immediate and extended)
  • Good friends
  • My Church
  • My students at FBC Statesboro
  • My former students in Alabama and Georgia
  • 2 cars that work at least most of the time
  • A mortgage cause that means I have a house
  • My education and life experiences
  • Good books and good music (both of which are means of grace to me over and over again)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good Food and Good Friends

I took a break from studying, writing, and planning to eat dinner with the Foil family tonight. Kate Foil is the Student Ministry Intern at First Baptist Statesboro, and her family is from Macon. Her parents, David and Gina, were my Sunday school teachers while I was a student at Mercer University. They invited me over for dinner since I was in town tonight. It was a wonderful experience. We enjoyed some excellent food (by far the best thing I have eaten while being in Macon). It was wonderful to catch up and reconnect with David and Gina. They are two incredible people who are blessed with two amazing young ladies for daughters. It's amazing how much spending time with people can be so refreshing at times. The entire family made me feel special and at home. In many ways, it was like I was part of the family more so than a guest. I think I was blown away by David's prayer for my family and ministry more than anything else. Good food and good friends certainly are a blessing from the Lord. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the yummy apple crisp/pie dish that Mary Ann made for dessert! It was so good! Thanks for the food and the conversation guys.

Hail to thee, Mercer University

This morning I sat in Jesse Mercer Plaza doing some writing. I watched as college students strolled past, some quietly and methodically, others in a frenzy. Some silent and stone-faced while others were exuberant with the knowledge that they could now enjoy a few days off from school. I was struck not only by the differences in demeanor, but the differences in style, body shape, and self-expression (whatever that means). It reminded me how the church, the body of Christ, is suppose to function-many parts but one whole organism working together to bring about the completion of God's Kingdom. It certainly takes people with many different talents and abilities to accomplish the mission of the church, and for that I am thankful...after all, if everybody were like me I would go crazy!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Waste Your Life

I finished Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper this morning. If you are familiar with Piper's work, then you will enjoy this book immensely. He revisits some of the key themes in his other books as he pleads with readers to not waste their life, but wholly surrender to the gospel. This was one of the most challenging books I have read in a while. It made me rethink why it is I do what I do. I am still prayerfully asking God am I doing exactly what you have called me to do or just something that is easy and comfortable for me. Piper also encouraged me to see the goodness and mercy of God afresh. The passion and intensity of his writing grips you like few authors because every word is dripping with a holy zeal for the gospel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guarding Your Heart

Last night I taught on Proverbs 4:23-27. This passage talks about guarding your heart for it is the center of our lives. I reread this passage a few months ago, and it has gnawed at me. If anything this is a mantra I have for working with students both for their sake and mine. I am always reminding them in all areas of life to guard their hearts. I think this is one of the greatest challenges that believers face when trying to live for Christ. It's so much easier to do our Christian thing and check of our list of dos and don'ts, but to vigilantly protect our hearts from the sin, evil, and pain of life is just plain hard. Nearly ever day I ask myself, "Are you guarding your heart?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Reviews

I just finished two books this week. Like Dew Your Youth by Eugene Peterson is a great resource for parents. Unlike most parenting books that offer lots of advice and how-to steps, Peterson's book is a devotional look at how teenagers and parents change as teenagers grow up. This is a great resource for parents who need to be encouraged in the battlefield of teenagers.

Lifesigns by Henri Nouwen provides a great source of encouragement and a fresh look at the themes of grace, love, and faith.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 Years Gone

Bill Mallonee has a song that starts out "Ten years gone and a few songs/ I'm drifting in this place/Conclusions drawn in blood are the hardest to erase."
For some reason that lyric has been circling inside my head since my 10 year reunion this weekend. It was bittersweet... I loved seeing old friends and faces, but the state of affairs for some of my classmates has been so dark that I was grieved in my heart. So many people with great potential in life who perhaps haven't realized their full potential yet.

All in all it was a great experience to see people I hadn't seen in 10 years and relive old times. I was also struck by how God was at work in different ways in people's lives. Some of them I don't know if they are even fully aware of that fact, but He is still at work in their lives and the world around them.

This weekend made me think about what I want God to do in and through my life over the next 10 years. My prayer is that it is exceedingly, abundantly more than I could imagine.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Grapes of Wrath

I have a goal of reading some of the classic American novels over the next couple of years, so I have been plugging away here and there. I recently finished John Steinbeck's classic The Grapes of Wrath. I had started this a few years ago but didn't get past the first hundred pages. This time I resolved to push through to the end. I found it to be a gripping tale of life and family and the hardships that we encounter. Near the end of the book as Tom Joad is talking with his mama about Casy, the preacher, a few lines grabbed my attention.

Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an' he foun' he didn' have no soul that was his'n. Says he foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain't no good, 'cause his little piece of a soul wasn't no good 'less it was with the rest, an' was whole (535).

It struck me that community and fellowship are a necessary part of what it means to be a Christian, perhaps simply to be human. God has created us as relational beings to live in harmony with Him through the cross of Christ, and to live together with each other as part of the church. The struggle for many of us is that we think we can do it all on our own. For some reason we are convinced that we don't need God in the everyday goings on of life, and we certainly don't think we need the help, support, and encouragement of other people. In the last 18 months I have especially been reminded by different people in my life that we are each part of the larger whole of the body of Christ and that we desperately need a touch from God and each other in order to find our joy and satisfaction in the Christ-centered life that we have been called to live. Thank those people around you who help to make you whole.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Girl # 2

This has been a very exciting week for the Pagliarullo household. We found out Monday that we are going to have another girl. We are so thankful that God has continued to give Cyd a safe and healthy pregnancy. The baby girl look healthy and normal according to the ultrasound pictures. Picking out a name is the next fun part. We have several leading candidates but the final decision hasn't been made quite yet. Claire is very excited to be getting a little sister! The most interesting thing has been that very few of our family and friends can believe that it's a girl and not a boy. We can't wait for you to get here baby girl!