Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunday Pictures



A few pictures we took one Sunday after church. Claire's dress was Cyd's as a little girl.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The youth at FBC Statesboro participated in Host An Elf this month as part of our mission project. We provided 20 Elves from Catie for Backus Children's Hospital in Savannah. Here are few pictures of us delivering the elves to some of the children who received them.

Ecumenical Dialogue

One of my core convictions in ministry is an open and honest dialogue with people across the spectrum of historic orthodox Christianity. I have had the privilege to serve and be a part of churches from a variety of denominations over the years, all of which enriched my life and my faith. The thing that drives me the most to pursue true unity in Christ is Jesus' prayer that his disciples would be one. When I think about all the unreached people of the world I can't help but think that one denomination or tradition can't possibly reach them all, so we must work together to spread the gospel to all who will listen. One organization that strives to do this is Evangelicals and Catholics Together. This past weekend the ecumenical efforts of this group lost a strong voice, Avery Dulles. I had the opportunity to hear Cardinal Dulles as a seminary student. I was struck by his humbleness and his passion for the gospel. Below is a link with more about the passing of Cardinal Dulles and the work of ECT.

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Theologian, Professor, Mentor, Friend

Over the summer I received a copy of a book published in honor of Fisher Humphreys upon his retirement from Beeson Divinity School. I eagerly dove in and have long finished the book but wanted to devout a little bit more time than usual for a post to talk about not just the book but the person behind the book. Theology in the Service of the Church is a book that captures the essence of who Fisher Humphreys is and the passion he has for the Christian faith. I first heard of Fisher from a dear friend and former professor, Buddy Shurden, when Cyd and I were investigating which seminary would be the best fit for us. Buddy took us to dinner and gave us some much needed counsel, all of which was wise of course about our future decisions. He did try to convince us to attend McAfee at Mercer, but we weren't convinced that was the best place for us. Buddy did tell us that Fisher Humphreys was the best living, Baptist theologian. High praise from such a student and expert in all things Baptist. At the time I had recently worked in small bookstore in Macon and I stumbled across the first edition of The Way We Were by Fisher. This introduction to a brilliant theologian fueled my growing curiosity for theology and especially of a Baptist variety.

I took4 courses with Fisher and instantly fell in love with Fisher's teaching and his genuine character. Over the course of our time in seminary, Fisher became more than a professor or a theologian to be admired from a distance, he became a mentor, helping to guide and shape my own pursuit of God. Most of all though, he became our friend! I don't think for a minute that the friendship is equally reciprocated, I have benefited more than I am sure he has from our relationship. Fisher is an incredible theologian who has a gift for making the most profound theological truth and make it readily available to the most non-theological minded person, perhaps that's why I like it so much!

Theology in the Service of the Church follows the same trajectory of Fisher's own work. The thing that stood out to me most, and I think is the most fitting thing considering Fisher's personality, is the expression of warmth, gentleness, and friendship by every contributor. Indeed, the one thing in common other than Christ, is the friendship given and received with Fisher. The contributors are eclectic at best. There are Baptists of different stripes (SBC and CBF), a Presbyterian minister, and a Catholic priest who all contributed. Perhaps the most telling thing about Fisher is that despite differences that he may have with someone, he doesn't allow those differences to be a source of contention.

In September, I was able to attend a conference in Birmingham for a few days. Fisher and I met for coffee at Starbucks and visited for about an hour, just catching up and enjoying each other's company. It was a time of refreshing for me in many ways. Fisher has taught me many things through his books, in the classroom, and through our friendship, but the greatest thing is the art of friendship. I am the first to admit that I am not the best about calling, writing, keeping in touch with friends from different stages of my life, but I do love and care for them immensely.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Ralph's

Not the best picture of any of us but at least it's all of us together, semi-coordinated. This was taken Saturday at Cyd's cousin's house in Beaufort (technically Lady's Island). Cyd's uncle passed away recently, so Ralph, her cousin wanted to have the family over to his house for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time and great food except UGA and USC both lost.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Slideshow

Thanksgiving in "The Country"

I can only remember one year in my entire life of not being in "The Country" for Thanksgiving...two years ago when I broke my arm the day before, but that's a story for another day. My family on my mom's side gathers at my grandmother's childhood home in Walthourville, GA, just a few minutes outside of Hinesville and Fort Stewart. The house was built around the turn of the 20th century complete with high ceilings, tin roof, and a wrap-around porch. Over the years the house has been vandalized so now it is boarded up and used really only for Thanksgiving.

It's always an eclectic bunch that gathers in that old house on 119 just over the railroad tracks. Cousins, aunts, uncles, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, anyone remotely related to our extended family. This year we had 30-35 which is really a smaller crowd than normal. Every year someone new and different shows up to join in the fun and the food. There have been many years when I have asked my mom and aunts who so and so was and they had no idea. I am convinced that the only person who really knows everyone each year is my grandmother. She loves having everyone together. I have one cousin who is pregnant but on bed-rest who made the trip this year. Another cousin is pregnant and was due last Friday, but she is using a birthing center so we would have been ready had she gone into labor today. We had 4 children under the age of 3 not counting the two in the womb. Like I said, it is always a hoot, then some for Thanksgiving. Claire said the blessing this year, which was the best memory of the day for me, possible one of the best ever in that old drafty house. Did I mention there is no heat, just two fire places? We do have indoor plumbing, but the old outhouse is still standing and every child that has ever been there has to use it and usually has his or her picture made in the process.

Rustic doesn't quite begin to convey the environment. No TV or phone. Needless to say, I have never seen the Macy's Parade or a football game on Thanksgiving Day, but you don't really need it because we always have a pick-up game in the field behind the house but you have to navigate the trees, bushes and barbed wire fence when running your routes. All in all, today was a fantastic day of food, family, and fond memories. I hope to post some pictures soon. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful too!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks

I know it sounds cliche to offer a list of things I am thankful for during Thanksgiving, but a sermon I heard this week mentioned telling people around you that you are thankful for them. Well some of those people won't read this, but I don't really write this for people to read...writing is therapeutic for me and a lot cheaper than seeing a counselor or playing golf or fishing or hunting.

Family has always been very important for me, even more so now that I have a family of my own with two spit-fire little girls! So I am truly grateful for my family. I have been blessed with parents who love me, grandparents who nurtured me, aunts and uncles and cousins who bless my heart in so many ways. I have the best set of in-laws ever, I mean they let us move in with them for 3 months while we renovated our house and I was incapacitated with a broken arm. My mind also recalls the people who have shaped my worldview in ways that they could never have known. Teachers like Ronda Johnson, David DeWitt, Tim Blackston, Donna Thaggard, Buddy Shurden, Fisher Humphreys, Calvin Miller, Sarah Gardner, Tom Scott, Rick Wilson, Scott Nash, and the list could go on. Mentors like Paul Bankson, Eric Ashley, Jason Mobley, Jeff Parrish, Sonny Stroud, David Maginnis, and of course others. Friends too many to name like Matt, Josh, Jay, Sarah, Tammy, Allison, Jason, Paul, Todd, Renee, Jimbo T., Jimbo B., and many, many others. I am blessed to serve the Lord and his church with the wonderful ministers and staff at FBC Statesboro! My "big kids" as Claire calls them are always a blessing to me...the ones past and present have taught me about God's love and grace in ways that you can't learn by reading about it or hearing others talk about it, only by experiencing it, thank you all for that!

The one person who has most shaped my heart other than Christ is my beautiful wife, Cyd. She knows me better than I know myself sometimes...Darlin', thank you for everything you are to me!

As you think about the things or the people that you are thankful for this week, don't miss the opportunity to say thanks somehow, someway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Halloween Party




Here are few pics from Claire's Halloween Party at school. We have been blessed with wonderful teachers like Wendy Rice, Judy Downs, and Liz Bland at FBC Preschool. As you can see Charlotte even enjoyed the festivities! Judy and Wendy look a little tired don't they!!
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Bill Mallonee Article for Christianity Today

Bill Mallonee's band Vigilantes of Love has reformed and kicked it off by performing at the 40watt Club in Athens, GA last Thursday night. Over the weekend I received an email with a link to a great article about Bill and his music, plus a really cool slideshow. Check it out when you get a chance.

This is copied from the email from Bill.
Christianity Today did a fine interview last month on my life and work.(At least up to this point! I'm not quitting anytime soon. I love this too much!) The interview was well done by Nate Anderson; The whole interview PLUS an extended interview with slideshow is now up online at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/october/39.78.html

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Keep on Rockin in the Free World


I have continued to be amazed at the reactions to president-elect Obama over the last several days. In the middle of the election season I thought about including the lyrics from a Neil Young song on my blog that seemed to fit the day, but never got around to it. The song is entitled "Rockin in the Free World" off of Young's 1989 album, Freedom. This is my favorite Neil Young song because it just absolutely rocks your face off! This was also my first Neil Young album so it holds a special place in my heart. The song is definitely politically charged, much of it directed to discontent with President George Bush. I am not endorsing the political messages in the song, but the song has always challenged me to think about the state of affairs of other people around me, especially those in less fortunate situations (see the 2nd verse). A local Christian band from Savannah, Fishermen, introduced me to this song in their concerts. I ended up going to seminary with one of the members of the band, Jimbo Bass. So for me, the song is as much a memory of Jimbo, Chip, Mike, and Jim's influence on my life as young teenager as it is anything else. The song still always moves me when I hear it. I thought about including a clip from YouTube featuring the song, but none of them where all that great. My favorite two however, are Neil Young with Pearl Jam at an MTV award show (back when MTV still played music) and a version with Bruce Springsteen circa 2004. I think for me the message I gather from this song is that despite the darkness there is hope, ultimately in Christ, but in the meantime, let's ROCK!

There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign on the road ahead
There's alot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them
So I try to forget it, any way I can

Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away, and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she's done to it
There's one more kid that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive

Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jesus Rally 2008

Last night was the Jesus Rally 2008. This was a political rally without the politics as we focused on listening to Jesus. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, worship, and hearing from God. Lots of energy and effort when into this event from many different people, which is one of the things about it that made it a success. We had youth and adults working together to make it happen. The band consisted of students from different churches. The crowd had churches from at least 3 different denominations, not just different churches getting excited about Jesus and what he wants to do in and through us. One of my passions is seeing denominational lines crossed as churches work together to spread the Gospel, so for me last night proves that it can be done.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Practice of the Presence of God

Brother Lawrence's classic entitled The Practice of the Presence of God has impacted Christians throughout several centuries. The book is a short, powerful glimpse into the nature of prayer. Brother Lawrence was 17th century monk of humble circumstances whose thirst for God made all the difference. His job in the monastery was to wash the pots and pans and dishes in the kitchen. It was through his service that he developed the spiritual discipline of being aware of God's presence in our lives in good times and bad times and all the in between times. As I read I was challenged to make my heart aware of God's presence no matter the situation.

Here are a couple of selections that grabbed my attention like all those Florida defensive backs grabbing Stafford's passes today...

"The time of business," said he, "does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." p. 30

"Let all our employment be to know God; the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love; and if our love of God were great, we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures." p. 59-60

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall Pictures




Last night was the FBC Fall Festival. The girls had a wonderful time! Charlotte spent most of the evening napping in her stroller and trying to stay warm. Claire loved the games and the slides the best. We did go through three costume ideas before Cyd found her bee outfit for a really great price at TJ Maxx that recently opened in town. Also included are a trip to Clark Farms for a hayride and to get a pumpkin, Halloween fun with friends and lots of laughs and smiles as a family.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall, Trains, Home, Love



I love the Fall! It's one of those times of year that I "feel" God's presence more. I'm not sure if it's the leaves changing colors, the sounds of football games, the crisp air, or the anticipation of Advent just around the corner, but there is just something magical about the fall. This song is one of my favorite by Bill Mallonee. It always reminds me of the fall. I thought about just typing in the lyrics but I think the music communicates as much as the lyrics. The video is from a house concert he did in someone's living room, not the best quality but pretty decent.

Nothing Like a Train Run Time: 5:17

Written by Bill Mallonee for CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) ©2000

nothing like the rain to bring you down
nothing like a train to take you far away
leaving here without a sound
yeah should have been gone yesterday
it was the diamonds i remember
yeah right there behind your eyes
i'm captured once again and seen through
honey your camera never lies

nothing like the leaves 'round your front door
and the stages and the pages you've been in love before
and the things you feel inside these bones
and those that won't leave you
those that won't leave you
those that won't leave you alone

you can map the lay of the land
yeah you can describe the sad terrain
let us survey all the borders
yeah but it all still looks the same
when you find there's nothing special
yeah about that big hole in your heart
'cause everybody's got one
with precious little time to talk about it

here's another song for brenda
yeah another tune for josh and joe
another postcard from the highway
my God where do these days go

Did You Know?

An excerpt from "Nothing Like a Train" was used in an episode of Felicity on May 17, 2000 (#2.22 "The Final Answer"). This came about because one of the soundmen for the show is a huge fan of Bill Mallonee. Bill has described this song as an "appalachian lullaby" and says that it's about leaving home and trying to find a sense of home on the road. In the lyrics he mentions his two sons and his first wife by name.

Appeared On…

Heartache

I'm sure that I have more times of heartache as a parent ahead with two daughters, but this morning was especially tough on Cyd and I. It's much harder to discipline in love as God does his children than I ever thought possible. I know that parents, if they love their children and are worth anything, they will discipline their children in an appropriate manner, but I never thought it would be as hard on the parents as it really is. The old adage, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" is very true.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Red Letter Christians

I promise this will be the last politically connected post I make for a while. I saw a book review a month or so ago about Tony Campolo's Red Letter Christians. I knew I had to check it out. Campolo is a voice that I love to hear speak about anything because of his wisdom and perspective on things. I also have an affinity for his thoughts because it was after hearing him preach at a Youth Evangelism Conference in Atlanta that I became a Christian. Campolo is about as evangelical and conservative as one could find theological with very progressive ideas about politics and society. Red Letter Christians challenges the reader to take to heart the explicit teachings of Christ to inform one's views of politics and citizenship. In many ways, Campolo simply challenges the reader to view politics through the lenses of an informed, biblically robust faith and not just a knee-jerk reaction to different issues. Prayer is essential for Red Letter Christians to make wise decisions about the political arena of America. There were a few times when Campolo didn't try to hide or at least soften his own bias, but overall he gets people to prayerfully reconsider why they hold the particular view they do and whether or not it is rooted in historic Christian orthodoxy. There were times I found myself readily agreeing with him and other times when I thought, "that's not very well researched and supported." The contents of the book are timely and time sensitive at the same time. A worthy reading for any Christian who wants their faith to govern their politics.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fair

The fair is in town this week! What excitement! we started the week off by watching the fair parade Monday just in front of the church as it marched down Main Street. This was the first time we have experienced the parade even though this is the third fair week since we have been in Statesboro. Claire got lots of candy and a Frisbee. Tuesday I helped several other volunteers from the church serve a steak lunch to the fair workers. The smiles and thank yous were overflowing. Thursday night we went to the fair. Claire loved it! Absolutely loved it! I even road a couple of rides with her. Cyd and I are not riders when it comes to the fair, although she handles it better than me. I just don't like getting on things that are assembled in a few hours and move locations each week. Claire cried when we ran out of tickets and it was time to go home. We are afraid we may have created a monster! She did have a wonderful time. The funniest thing is she waves like a little princess every time she passes us while she's riding something.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jesus Rally 2008


Who’s in control of you’re life? We all serve someone or something, and it’s time we became informed voters about who we’re electing as Lord of our lives.

It’s time to cast your ballot.

When: November 2, 2008, 6-8pm

Where: FBC Statesboro Fellowship Hall

What: Food,Music,Speakers...Awesomeness!


This is the poster made by Bonnie Hanna and Jeremy Lavender for Jesus Rally 2008. This will be a special time to encourage teenagers, college students, and adults even to think about who they are casting their vote for as their Lord and Savior. Encourage anyone you know to come.

Monday, October 13, 2008

God's Politics


I recently finished reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis. The book is a few years old, but I picked it up a few months ago for 4-5 bucks and wanted to read it before the election. Jim Wallis is passionate about the label evangelical, because the gospel is the driving force behind his endeavors to share the love, justice, and compassion of God. Although many in the "religious right" camp would label him as a liberal and even a heretic because of his involvement with social justice issues and poverty issues. God's Politics could have been about 100 pages shorter and still said everything that needed to be said, but it's still a book that is worthy of more than a passing glance. Wallis believes that aligning the work of God as manifested in Christ Jesus with one political party over another is a grave mistake.

Those are the two ways that religion has been brought into public life in American history. The first way-God on our side-leads inevitably to triumphalism, self-righteousness, bad theology, and, often dangerous foreign policy. The second way-asking if we are on God's side-leads to much healthier things, namely, penitence and even repentance, humility, reflection, and even accountability.

God is not partisan; God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities, for their political agendas, they make a terrible mistake. (p. xviii)

Wallis is known for calling people of faith to the prophetic, biblical role of speaking on behalf of those who have no voice and championing the cause of the widows and orphans. The two organizations that he works through are Sojourners and Call to Renewal. The alarm that Wallis sounds will not be readily accepted by many who have entrenched themselves with the dominant political parties or with the extremes of the religious right and the lunacy left. Those who I think will most identify with Wallis are people of my generation and younger who have begun to realize that politics cannot ultimately save people only God can, however, we are called to work for those who have no voice and bring about the righteousness of God today, not just at the apocalypse.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Deacon Ordination

Tonight we ordained two new deacons at FBC Statesboro. Dwayne Rocker and David Lavender are two Godly men who model the Christian life for people of all generations. I couldn't help but think of my own ordination service and the people who came to the front to kneel with me and encourage me. I can still remember some of those sweet prayers. I vividly remember some of my friends from high school and college who taught me so much about faith and life. The interesting thing to me is that those people, many of whom I haven't seen since that day, have a stake in my ministry today, this week. I believe this is part of what Hebrews means when it talks about the great cloud of witnesses.

There were many faces that I was thrilled to see that February day...two stand out...Sonny and Dana Stroud. They are the parents of a friend from high school, Allison, but Sonny was also the music minister when I was a teenager. There's one prayer that stands out in my mind, Melinda, Cyd's roomate from college. She leaned over and said, "I just wanted to come touch your bald head." I got to do Melinda's wedding this past May. It truly is amazing how people's lives intersect and overlap.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sickness

That is the one word that best describes life at the Pagliarullo home the past week. Every female in the house got sick! Of course this meant that I was a busy husband and father trying although poorly at times to play doctor to my girls. Claire and Charlotte are better, but Cyd is still sick. I never realized how demanding it was to have sick children until this past week. One sick child is manageable for most people but two is an interesting dynamic. Hopefully all the sickness will be completely gone soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trip to Alabama

At the beginning of September, we took a vacation of sorts to Alabama to visit my parents. They are house parents at Big Oak Ranch for Girls in Springville, Alabama. We got to spend some time relaxing at Lake Guntersville in Northeast Alabama as well as spending a few days in Springville. We also took Claire and Charlotte to the Birmingham Zoo for their first trip to the zoo. We met one of Cyd's friends, Kimberly and her two girls for our day at the zoo. Kimberly and Cyd used to work together at M-Power Ministries in Birmingham, while Cyd and I were students at Beeson Divinity School. We enjoyed spending time with our parents and getting to rest and relax, although Claire was up every morning by 6 AM, so sleeping late never really happened.

Cyd and I love getting the opportunity to travel together. Ever since college we have enjoyed the car conversations that occur when you travel together. I'm not sure if having two kids in the car is quite the same thing as those early days, but a few speed bumps along the journey didn't spoil all the fun. Claire also got to go on her first boat ride! You can tell by the pictures that she fell asleep from not having had a nap that day. She wasn't quite ready to try tubing though! I always enjoy getting to spend time with my family so the trip was a blessing in many, many ways.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Shack

I recently finished The Shack. It seems that everyone else around was reading it, so I decided to (but only after someone gave me a copy) I tend to stay away from books that everyone else is reading until well after the popularity has waned. I must confess it wasn't that great to me. The story line was intriguing but as far as literary quality, lacking. I do think that the book offers what I look for in books, an author that is willing to stretch their own faith for the sake of his or her audience. I measure books by how much they make me stretch my faith, by how much they make me question my own life and heart, not to cast doubt but so that my faith can be strengthened. Young accomplished that with his human portrayal of the Trinity! The promise of hope and grace was what I most took away from the book. The danger of The Shack is reading it as non-fiction or theology rather than a work of fiction. People have responded to this book the same way people responded the Left Behind Series, love it or hate it. If you have the time The Shack is worth a look, just remember that it's not theology, but like a good sermon it points to the reason for theology.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Living Unloved

I have been reading, experiencing, and contemplating numerous things in the last few weeks all with good intentions of sharing some thoughts here, but time hasn't been my friend lately. I have found myself using the few extra moments to soak up time with Claire and Charlotte, which is definitely a good thing. Perhaps this week I will have some time to catch up on my blogging. I did want to share one story that I read in e-mail preaching journal sent out by Walter B. Shurden, Minister at Large, Mercer University. Buddy Shurden was the chair of the Christianity department when Cyd and I were at Mercer. He holds a special place in our hearts as a teacher, a mentor, a pastor of sorts, and a friend. The following is actually his response to a section of The Shack. His thoughts on living unloved spoke to me when I opened the e-mail last week. I have already used a variation of it twice in preaching and teaching, it's that good!

Years ago when I was a very young pastor, I encountered a college student who had been sent my way “for counseling” by a member of my church who was also the dean of students at the local university. I know of no other way to describe the college student: she was a wreck of a human being.

For an hour I made absolutely no access to her soul. But as she grabbed the door handle to leave, I said, “Let me ask you one more question.” “Shoot,” she arrogantly shot back. In as pastoral a way as I knew how, I quietly asked, “Who loves you?” “That’s a stupid damn question,” she countered; “Why do you ask?” “Because,” I said, “My business is to tell people that they are loved.” I pressed the issue: “So tell me who loves you.” Long, long pause with obvious pain and then sadly: “My brother . . . maybe.”

When we live unloved lives we end up overreaching like Adam, lying like Eve, manipulating like Jacob, being fearful like Saul, living unbuttoned like David, amassing like Solomon, denying like Peter, boasting like Paul, and killing ourselves like Judas. Living unloved, we end up puking in alleys, bed-hopping, living self-destructive lives, buying till it hurts, climbing ladders made of others’ heads, building barns too big to live in, confusing ambition with vocation, hoarding rather than sharing, hating folk who don’t look like us, driving by Lazarus, and using rather than serving people. To tell the truth, we end up on trash heaps on the southwest corner of Jerusalem. They called it Gehenna. We call it Hell! We end up as waste, and we waste the only life given to us. That is hell: waste.

But here is the Good News: God is for you! God loves you! You don’t have to live your life hating yourself! To believe all of that is much harder for most people to believe than doctrines of the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, etc. God welcomes you! God accepts you! And Fred Craddock closed his sermon on this theme with: “Can you BELIEVE THAT?”

Powerful thoughts indeed!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thoughts on God

The prophet Hosea provides a challenging look at faith. Some scholars believe Hosea's marriage to Gomer is purely metaphorical, representing the waywardness of Israel and their affairs with other God's particularly Baal. What strikes me most is not a matter of interpretation in terms of historical event or hyperbole but the ever-true message of God's faithfulness in the midst of our unfaithfulness.

Hosea 13:4-6 (The Message)

4-6"I'm still your God,
the God who saved you out of Egypt.
I'm the only real God you've ever known.
I'm the one and only God who delivers.
I took care of you during the wilderness hard times,
those years when you had nothing.
I took care of you, took care of all your needs,
gave you everything you needed.
You were spoiled. You thought you didn't need me.
You forgot me.

God proves himself true over and over again as he demonstrates his faithfulness in our lives daily. We take for granted the little things, like breathing each morning when we awake, even if the wake-up call is because of aching muscles, alarm clocks, or an energetic 3 year old. What about food to eat each day. Or perhaps an encouraging word from a friend or a smile from a stranger as you pass them in the grocery store. God is faithful to provide for us and meet us right where we are.

Hosea 14:4-5 (The Message)

4-8 "I will heal their waywardness.
I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out.
I will make a fresh start with Israel.
He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.
He'll put down deep oak tree roots,
he'll become a forest of oaks!
He'll become splendid—like a giant sequoia,
his fragrance like a grove of cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him,
be blessed and prosper like golden grain.
Everyone will be talking about them,
spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods.
From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him.
I am like a luxuriant fruit tree.
Everything you need is to be found in me."

There is this print my mom has in her house of a historic oak tree in Savannah. The oak has this huge sprawling canopy of branches complete with Spanish moss hanging from the limbs. The beauty and grace of the Majestic Oak above ground is only made possible by the deep roots beneath the surface. Roots that run long and deep down in the fertile soil of the Georgia coastline. That root system serves at least 2 purposes. 1) It provides the groundwork for the beautiful vegetation of the tree and 2) a strong support system so that the tree isn't toppled by winds and rain and other potentially dangerous elements. Isn't it great to know that God provides the strong support system we need to face each day of life! He is our protector, our shield, our defender....He is our REFUGE!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Helping Mom Ice Her Birthday Cake





Claire's 3rd Birthday

I can't believe that Claire finally turned 3!! I feel like we have been celebrating her birthday for a month. We had a great day on Monday. She and Cyd made a chocolate cake, then Claire licked the icing until she had it all over her face. The pictures are great. I will get them posted soon. Then we had some company. Kate, our family friend and the former Assistant Student Minister at FBC came over for a few hours. We hadn't had a chance to catch up with her lately so it was good to do so. Claire loves to spend time with "her Kate!" Then Cyd's parents and aunt Carolyn from Texas came over for a birthday dinner. We had a wonderful time together.

There's lots on my mind but not much time to share it right now, so I will hopefully get caught up soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How to Help Students Navigate Ethical Situations

The following op-ed piece is from today's edition of USA Today. I received an email with an link to this article from The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. I thought it was interesting to hear different sides of this debate. I am inclined to agree with statements of being able to serve in the military, vote, etc. as equal footing as the legal drinking age, however the argument that making something legal will allow it to loosen its stranglehold on society or a portion of society. All one has to do is look at the tobacco industry or perhaps a better example would be pornography. Just because something is out there and legal for people of certain ages to do doesn't make it good, beneficial or moral for anyone!! I'm not endorsing the consumption of alcohol by anyone, but I have witnessed far too many 18-20 year olds make poor, dangerous-even life-threatening decisions under the influence of alcohol to support the college presidents and this push to lower the legal drinking age.



Don't lower drinking age; teach value of waiting

Derek Melleby, director, College Transition Initiative, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding - Elizabethtown, Pa.

The recent movement by some college presidents to reduce the legal drinking age to 18 is shortsighted. Trying to lower the drinking age is a superficial response to a deep issue ("College presidents want lower drinking age," USATDOAY.com, Aug. 18).

(Photo - In praise of drinking: The Booze News, a satire, was founded by Derek Chin and Atish Doshi in 2004 at the University of Illinois / Dan Gill, AP)

It is unlikely that the law would be changed, no matter how many college presidents join this movement. So why are they getting involved?

Know this: Not all students go to college to drink. I've talked to countless students across the country who long for their college experience to be different. They are developing virtues of delayed gratification, self-control and sacrifice. They are students who want to think more deeply about the goal of education and the meaning of life. Some are students who have been hurt by the effects of alcohol abuse. Many didn't mind waiting a few years to drink legally and have learned to do so responsibly.

Developing students such as these will require college presidents with the moral clarity and courage to make strong decisions about what is acceptable behavior at their colleges.

What is needed is an atmosphere on our nation's campuses conducive to shaping students' character so that waiting to drink until the age of 21 wouldn't seem like such a sacrifice.

Colleges and universities used to pride themselves on fostering a countercultural ethos. Today, what would be more countercultural than a college or university committed to educating students to be responsible and virtuous?

Students are mature

David N. Laband, Professor of economics and policy, Auburn University - Auburn, Ala.

As a 27-year university professor with a reputation for not being drinking buddies with college presidents, I support 100% the college presidents who have proposed that the drinking age be lowered from 21 to 18.

I routinely discuss drinking behavior with my students. They are, to say the least, candid. They are mature enough to be asked to risk death in Iraq or Afghanistan, mature enough to vote, mature enough to sign contracts, get married, drive automobiles, but not mature enough to have a beer?

This is oxymoronic and, therefore, insulting.

In response, they simply evade the law, with sometimes dangerous consequences. For example, because students are not permitted to bring alcohol into Auburn University's football stadium, they either front-load their consumption before entering a game or sneak in smaller containers of considerably more potent alcohol.

Either way, from a health standpoint, the resulting alcohol abuse must be much more damaging than the casual consumption of beer that occurs when the individual does not feel like a criminal. Consumption of four or five beers over several hours, in addition to a couple of slices of pizza or other food, has a much lower toxicity impact on an individual.

The Europeans have it right with this one: They treat alcohol consumption by young people as a normal activity and, so far as I am aware, their colleges and universities are not plagued by destructive binge drinking.

Limit change to beer

Frank Glamser - Hattiesburg, Miss.

The university presidents who have recommended a discussion of lowering the legal drinking age are on to something if the change is limited to the consumption of beer.

Drinking has been an integral part of college life for centuries. Attempts to suppress it have driven drinking underground to private spaces where abuse is common and unobserved by people in authority. It also might be increasing the interest in hard liquor, which is easily transported and hidden.

It would be much better if students were consuming beer in a campus pub or commercial establishment where behavior could be monitored to some extent. Also, beer consumption is somewhat self-limiting because of the volume of liquid involved and the tendency to become ill when consumption is excessive. This is unlike hard liquor, which is often the source of alcohol poisoning cases that plague higher education.

USA TODAY welcomes your views and encourages lively -- but civil -- discussions. Comments are unedited, but submissions reported as abusive may be removed. By posting a comment, you affirm that you are 13 years of age or older.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Renewing the Center

Recently, I finished reading Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era by Stanley Grenz. The book offered a sweeping history and analysis of evangelicalism, even recounting key figures that represent two ends of the spectrum within evangelicalism. In fact, some readers would argue that some of the people that Grenz defends as evangelicals are in fact outside of the realm of evangelical theology, which in many ways illustrates the purpose of this book to call evangelicals to a renewed vision of a "generous orthodoxy" that will reclaim the truth of the gospel while moving forward to engage an increasingly secular and postmodern culture. There were many things that were encouraging to me about this book. First, the rich theological history that I have by being a part of evangelicalism. Second, the shape of Protestantism to be a people who are constantly reshaping and revising the implications for living out the gospel. Third, the importance of being shaped by scripture and the biblical narrative rather than shaping scripture to meet my own needs and agenda. Stanley Grenz writes, "A renewal of the center, therefore, calls the church to the ongoing task of doctrinal retrieval and reformation, under the normative guidance of Scripture and Spirit, for the sake of the furtherance of the gospel of God's transforming grace freely available in Christ" (p. 345). The challenge for me and every other believer is to move forward in reaching people for Christ without compromising the center that drives us, THE GOSPEL!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gaining the World

I was listening to a playlist on my iTunes entitled Troubadours that has music from Neil Young, Bill Mallonee, Bob Dylan, Mo Leverett, and Edwin McCain, and The Lost Dogs. This song by Dylan came on entitled "Masters of War". The song obviously deals with his opposition with war in general and perhaps specifically the escalating nature of things in Vietnam (original release was early 1960s), but it has some piercing comments that grabbed my ear. One verse of the song challenged me to reexamine my own thoughts about money and material possessions.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

We live in a culture full of greed. We bas our society on the American Dream that has morphed into the American nightmare of debt. People are selling their souls for money and stuff that won't mean a thing when they die. Is it worth it? Didn't Jesus ask "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Big One

My beautiful wife celebrated her birthday today! Not much fanfare, just a simple family dinner which means we had as much food as we have at Thanksgiving. The best part about Cyd's birthday for me is that for a few months I get to be married to an older woman! I've been at almost as many birthdays as I missed out on before we started dating. We were talking just the other day about the fact that we don't really remember life before each other. I can honestly say that is a wonderful feeling! Birthdays are another day that reminds us to be thankful to God for the breath of a new day.

New Things

I was working on my lesson for The Gathering and I was reminded again about the amazing way God weaves redemption into nature and the world around us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 talks about being new creations in Christ...the best example of that to me is the way the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Yesterday Claire and I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar together. It is a simple book that illustrates a common occurrence in nature, but it offers profound insight into the way God looks at our old self and our new self. The caterpillar, a creature that most people don't think very highly of, but God takes that creature and forms a beautiful new butterfly out of it. What a picture of God's redemptive work in our lives to take the our broken lives before Christ and make them whole in Christ! He takes something not so pretty, even downright ugly and makes something beautiful and grace-filled out of it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Family Portrait


Our attempt at a family portrait at Tybee this weekend. My mom did a good job with the camera but it's kinda hard to get all four of us looking the same direction let alone smiling. This was also after Claire fell trying to climb a sand dune and got "stickers" in both hands and both feet, so really this is a pretty darn good picture, all things considered.

Claire and Charlotte

Some photos of the girls at Tybee.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wisdom from the Past

The old hymn writer, William Cowper, once wrote these words
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

Perhaps in your life difficulties have sprung up like the weeds in my flower bed and before they can be picked the rain has come to make them grow even more. Don't worry, the sun always comes out after the rain. Sometimes the rain is brief like a south Georgia, summer thunderstorm and other times it is several days of downpour, know that he will grant your soul rest again.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Amazing Grace


Early this summer I finished a book by Kathleen Norris entitled Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. In the book she recounts her own journey of being exposed to Christianity early in life through grandparents but walking away from God in college as she embarked on a literary career. Later in life, through a great deal of pain, she came back to faith. As someone who was on the inside of the church with an eye like those on the outside she decided to reflect on some of the common terms one hears in the church. Her insight is inspiring as she looks at matters of faith. She challenges people to rethink what some familiar terms mean and gives new life to ancient words. There were many passages that I underlined and noted, but I will only share one with you.

One so often hears people say, "I just can't handle it," when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: if we seek a God we can "handle," that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we've cut down to size. (p. 214)

Monday, August 4, 2008

First Things

Tonight was a night of first things. I'm not referring to the old Foreigner song, nor the excellent journal, First Things. I am referring to a couple of milestones met by the Pagliarullo women tonight. Claire got her first bloody nose! She was playing in the backyard when she fell and hit her face hard enough to cause a mild nose bleed. Charlotte gave me her first high five! I've been working with her for weeks now, but she couldn't ever quite get the hang of it. Tonight was different...in fact I got not just one high five but two. When all was said and done tonight both girls were happy and well loved!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The River



Cyd, Claire, and I went to part of the Ogeechee River last Thursday to swim and fish with Papa Ted and cousin Ashlyn. We had a blast! Of course Cyd caught more fish than me, but we still had fun.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

St. Louis Pics

Spiritual Warfare

I've been using The Message translation for my devotional time lately...yesterday I read part of Ephesians, you know how the last half of chapter 6 deals with spiritual warfare. I think that more often than not many Christians, myself included, forget about this reality. The cosmic forces and principalities at work around us. The death of Christ, according to the Apostle Paul has crushed all other power and authority including that of Satan, over our lives. This doesn't just mean in terms of our salvation but our daily existence as well. Nevertheless, we are in a battle for our lives each day, a battle that Christ has given us the weapons for if only we would use them.

Paul's admonition is so powerful and so encouraging that I want to leave you with that same encouragement.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message)

10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Interesting Quote

Since I have been gone several weeks this summer, my magazines have been piling up on my desk. I leafed through one last night for a few minutes and found this quote.

"A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don't want to. Best not to look in there." Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

As I read this excerpt I thought about a Bill Mallonee song that says, "Gotta keep a sharp eye on your heart and the company it keeps, you know the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

Our heart can be a deceitful thing if we don't keep it in check. It's easier and safer just to examine our mind rather than search the depths of our sinful heart.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Daddy's Home


We took some family pictures after church when I returned from St. Louis. Charlotte and Claire wouldn't cooperate at the same time or I wasn't looking at the camera.

St. Louis Journal 1

Colossians 3:12-14

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I read this passage one morning while on our St. Louis Mission Trip and it struck me in a unique way. God taught me a lot about myself on that trip. He reminded me that deep down I am a sinner still in need of a savior. I want to share with you some thoughts I jotted down that morning as I reflected on these verses. Like the beach journal entries they are unedited and raw.

"Vs. 12: We are God's chosen people because we have been adopted into his family, into his Kingdom. So Paul tells us to put on these Godly characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience...all things that we need this week.

Vs. 13: Bear with each other. Put up with each other's crap and be willing to forgive each other remembering that God in Christ has forgiven us of every stupid sin we have committed. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do but it is essential to life as a believer.

Vs.14: Over all these virtues put on love which binds them together. Elsewhere the Bible says love covers a multitude of sins. That's why God reached down and saved us. That's why as we live together as a community of faith we are called to love each other. I say I love you a lot to people, not to abuse the phrase or make it hollow but because I want people to know that even when I am selfish, stupid, and sin against them that ultimately I love them! For me, that cancels out everything else, unfortunately it doesn't always flesh itself out that way. I hate to be harsh because I don't want people to think I don't love them. Love is the greatest thing in the world, a glimpse into the heart of God, so let us genuinely love each other."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beach Journal 2

July 9, 2008 6:55 AM

I couldn't go to sleep last night and then I woke up early...I'm sure part of it was not being with Cyd (I never sleep well when we are apart.) Anyway, I decided to get up even though everyone else is fast asleep. As I sit on the balcony the sun is trying to peek through the cloud cover on the horizon. Directly below the sun is a lone shrimp boat withe its nets in the water. The struggling sun reminds me of the struggle we have in our culture of light with darkness, good with evil. The struggle to live each day with one foot in front of the other, embodying faith in Christ. This picturesque scene this morning also provides a glimpse of hope that we have as Christians. So many people in our world are without hope. Life has beat them down, circumstances have damaged them but the gospel holds forth the promise of hope. Hope in God who remains faithful in the midst of our faithlessness. Hope is the breaking dawn on Easter morning as the stone is rolled away to reveal an empty tomb not a lifeless savior. God has never promised us that life would be easy and peaceful and full of 8 hours of sleep a night, but he has promised us that he will be with us throughout all of life. He is as constant as the sun rising every morning and the waves rolling in on the shore. Our hope is not in things and circumstances but in the sovereign Lord and creator who has revealed himself through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

Beach Journal 1

The next few blogs are some "journal" type entries I made while on trips with students this month. This one is from July 8th, around midnight.

The beach is such a peaceful place. In the movement of the wind you can feel the presence of God. His hands wrapping around you and constantly feeling his presence. The salt air reminds me that God has called Christians to be salt and light. Salt gives things flavor and beckons to us to give meaning and flavor to our lives, to the people and culture around us...to make a difference in the world around us for the sake of the gospel. As I sat on the beach today and watched the waves lap against the sand I was reminded of God's relentless pursuit of us. The heart of God yearns for community, for relationship with his people. This was after all the reason he called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldean. God doesn't need us but still he wants us and pursues a relationship with us. As the waves crashed on the beach, forever trying to reach the top of the sand dunes, I thought about how much God loves us, how he is constantly trying to get our attention and show us the way to the better life. A life of relentless pursuit of the kingdom. A life that is fully lived in the presence of the Triune God. Truly God teaches us a lot about himself through his creation.

This is what I first scribbled down in my notebook with a nifty spellcheck feature added, so if it rambles or is incoherent then blame it on the beach or the time it was composed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So Long, Farewell





Sunday night we said goodbye to Kate Foil. She's not leaving Statesboro quite yet, but she is stepping down from her role as Assistant Student Minister at FBC Statesboro. I have been blessed to watch the past two years as Kate has invested in the lives of our students. Kate was a middle school student at a church I interned at during college. Her parents, David and Gina, were some of my Sunday school teachers in college. Kate, you will be missed! Thank you for allowing God to use you at FBC the last two years. May the Lord continue to guide your journey and bless you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back Home

Today has been a wonderful day with my three beautiful girls! I need a little bit of rest and family time after being gone on trips the last three weeks. We slept late (7:30ish), we do have a 4 month old and an almost 3 year old. Then had a lazy morning before we rearranged furniture for a few hours. Claire and I got in her little pool in the backyard so she could swim and splash her daddy. Claire would splash around a few minutes then come up to me and hug and kiss me and tell me that she loves me...I would say it's been a great day!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Girls




I'm trying to figure out how to post an entire photo album/slideshow on here, unfortunately it has been quite frustrating. Here are a few "cute" pictures of Claire and Charlotte instead.
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Barnes and Noble

Isn't it funny how certain things and places remind you of past events and circumstances. A smell can trigger a fond memory of your childhood, or a sound can jog your mind to a special moment in your life. Just walking into a Barnes and Noble bookstore does that for me, especially an older one that has a similar setup to the one on Tom Hill in Macon, GA. Without fail, the mixture of coffee, books, and baked goods reminds me of the many trips to Barnes and Noble that Cyd and I made in college. The library was such a sterile place that didn't foster learning, at least in our minds. Plus we wanted to enjoy a coffee laced beverage as we gazed across the table at each other. Truth be told, we never really got a lot of studying done because Cyd would look at magazines and I would peruse the sale books and religious section. Perhaps we both would have had a 4.0 GPA if we had studied in the library but those evenings at Barnes and Noble (usually 3 times a week) were pregnant with great conversation. It was in those settings that we talked about our relationship with God and each other, made wedding plans, talked about culture, planned our life together, and just enjoyed the community that we were a part of (Mercer, Macon, Vineville Presbyterian Church, RUF). I guess you could say that Barnes and Noble is a sacred space for me because God taught me a lot about myself and his work in the world over cafe mochas and pleasant conversations that has forever been a part of who I am.

Out of the Darkness...

I was listening to a song by Dave Matthews the other day on my iPod and one of the lyrics caught my attention. "Out of the darkness comes light..." A simple, truthful statement. A profound statement that reminds us of creation and new creation, two biblical images helpful for understanding God's relationship with his covenant people. God brought light out of the darkness in Genesis 1. He brought Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. He brought the light of Easter morning out of the darkness of Friday's hill. He brought light, a relationship with him out of the darkness of sin. He offers us a pure heart, unstained by the muck and mire of this world. This act of new creation in his treasured creation is an ongoing process as we walk with him and find ourselves in need of his ability to bring light out of our darkness. To bring hope out of tragedy and loss. The gospel is always filled with hope...hope in the savior, hope in the resurrection, and hope that we are loved by one who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer Lovin'

Cyd and I had a dear friend who got married this past Saturday. Casie is one of those friends who holds a special place in our hearts even though we don't see her or talk to her that often. It was wonderful to see some other friends that we hadn't seen in a while on our trip to Augusta. Cyd and I were reminded about our own wedding and the love that we publicly proclaimed for each other 8 years ago. It's funny how going to weddings reminds you of your own marriage and the commitment that you made to your spouse. Marriage is such an important commitment that requires both spouses to decide to love each other and enter a covenant with God and each other that is sacred.

Casie and Graham, thanks for reminding us of our own commitment to God and each other as we got to be a part of yours. We love you and wish you all the best!!

The Magic Kingdom

Yesterday the Sonpower group went to Disney World for 12 hours of fun with the big cheese. I hadn't been to Disney in well over 15 years so it was an interesting day, especially since I am not a big theme park person. All in all it wasn't a bad day. A few rain showers and pleasant temperatures made the day bearable. I couldn't help but think that millions of people will come from all over the world to see Disney characters but few believers are willing to go across the street or even across the hall of their home to share the joy of knowing Jesus. What is it that attracts people to a big mouse and his friends but repels people from the Kingdom?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Girls

One of the hardest things I have to do in life is leave my beautiful wife and girls for a week at a time. I am so thankful that I don't have a job that requires me to be gone from home all the time, but it is enough that it makes me homesick for my girls. I have this thing about being apart from Cyd that makes me not sleep well. It doesn't matter if I am home and she is gone or vice versa, I just don't rest well without her beside me. Granted, I don't really get a big portion of the bed when we do sleep together, but I always rest better when she is beside me. Being on youth choir trips makes me especially miss her. It was on those trips in high school that we became good friends which eventually led to us falling in love. One of my most vivid memories from youth group activities is staying up late talking to Cyd in her hotel room in Chicago on a youth choir trip. No, I wasn't suppose to be in her room, but we weren't doing anything inappropriate. It was that night that I learned things about her that few people know. If I had to guess, it was that night that first began to stir feelings for her in my heart. It was that night that God did some work in my heart, giving me a more compassion that I ever had for another human being. It was that night with all the Deadheads (The Grateful Dead were in town playing at Soldier field, so besides our group, the hotel was full of their fans) making noise in the hallway that the Triune God was working in a small group of teenagers lives from Savannah, Georgia.

Words can't express how much I miss my girls when I am away...the cool thing is that it's like I haven't been gone after I'm home for about 5 minutes. Whenever I am away, I anticipate those first few moments after I walk in the door, the hugs and kisses, the smiles, the tears (sometimes), it makes trips go by faster when I hold onto that hope.

Cyd, Claire, and Charlotte, I miss you and love you!

Youth Ministry Essentials

There are many tools that help me in youth ministry, things like the Bible, youth ministry magazines, books, websites, etc. I'm in a list mood so I wanted to include a list of essentials for any youth trip.

1. Diet Coke
2. Gum
3. Coffee
4. Junk Food
5. Energy Drinks
6. Bottled Water
7. More Caffeine
8. Tylenol

As you can see plenty of legal addictive stimulants (caffeine containing products) are the number one essential "tool" for youth trips.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Road Trip Music

Music is an important aspect of any road trip. I traveled with the youth choir to Orlando yesterday and came to the conclusion that most music teenagers listen to drives me crazy after 30 minutes. I also found that they love their music very loud (I know I sound old). So I wanted to offer my opinion on the top 5 road trip CDs.

5. Indigo Girls 1200 Curfew
4. Jimmy Buffett Greatest Hits
3. Bill Mallonee Audible Sigh
2. James Taylor Greatest Hits
1. The Allman Brothers Band Greatest Hits and The Fillmore Concerts (Tie)

The Indigo Girls offer some classic songs plus their trademark ones in great live performances. Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor are just two classic songwriters and singers. Bill Mallonee offers his signature vocals on songs that capture the Americana, road trip experience like few artists. Just about anything the Allman Brothers produce is road trip material, but the greatest hits provides an early career sampling while the The Fillmore Concerts offer arguably the Brothers best live performance before the loss of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Any of these are worthy of a listen this summer on your road trip.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Comfort of an Old Friend

I have written about Bill Mallonee and his music many times before, but I want to take the liberty to do so again. I was first introduced to his music in high school and became a devoted fan in college after driving to Athens and Atlanta to see him in concert. His music has always been a powerful influence in my life. I heard this song the other day while I was working in the yard. The song is really about that first kiss with someone and the awkward excitement that it brings, but this verse speaks volumes to the reality of the gospel in our lives.

Crescent Moon by Bill Mallonee

stumbling when i come
tripping over my dumb tongue
for God's sake don't these
momma's boys ever grow up?
much too easily hurt
life is coming to grips with what you're worth
when God says one thing
but your heart says another


Oh, how I wish that I would remember that the gospel is not about how I feel about myself or view myself, but about how God views us! I talk to people weekly, if not daily who genuinely struggle with realizing the goodness and grace of God in their lives as expressed through Jesus Christ. May each of us be agents of grace to those around us.