Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is worship?

Tonight I taught on worship. This week has been a blur and quite honestly exhausting in so many ways. As I struggled to finish my lesson today I found time running away, phone calls left unreturned, emails unreplied, even relationships left hanging. The most frustrating thing was not being able to organize my mind in such a way as to collect my thoughts enough to know exactly what I wanted to get across. When it came time for The Gathering tonight I had about 3 different lessons on worship to teach, but ended up not really teaching any of them. That's a good thing though...I think. It's an incredibly humbling experience to see God work in spite of yourself at times. The really cool thing is that Kate came in and whipped out her education background and made everything gel in a really cool way! Now if I could just get her to teach on Wednesday nights. God truly is bigger than us.

The words of one of the songs says this "Holy, You are still Holy, Even when the darkness surrounds my life. Sovereign, You are still Sovereign, Even when confusion has blinded my eyes." How true those words are for us. As we talked about worship tonight I realized that one of my greatest joys is seeing and hearing students worshiping God through song. The last song tonight and the worshipers around me led me to the quiet place of worship in my heart that I desperately needed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

All I Really Want To Do

Last week some guys and I were talking about taking the gospel into our friendships and relationships. The phrase we kept coming back to was speaking the truth into people's lives. I think the best way we can do this is not with any kind of religious, political, or social agenda, but to love people as Jesus loved them. Think about the woman caught in adultery, the blind man who had mud in his eyes, Zaccheus, and others who experienced the haunting, unrestrained love of the Savior. After we left each other's company, a Bob Dylan song came on my iPod. I couldn't help but smile, because this song is an embodiment of how we are to love people. Following is the song in its entirety.

All I Really Want To Do

I ain't lookin' to compete with you, Beat or cheat or mistreat you, Simplify you, classify you, Deny, defy or crucify you. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you. No, and I ain't lookin' to fight with you, Frighten you or uptighten you, Drag you down or drain you down, Chain you down or bring you down. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you. I ain't lookin' to block you up Shock or knock or lock you up, Analyze you, categorize you, Finalize you or advertise you. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you. I don't want to straight-face you, Race or chase you, track or trace you, Or disgrace you or displace you, Or define you or confine you. All I really want to doIs, baby, be friends with you. I don't want to meet your kin, Make you spin or do you in, Or select you or dissect you, Or inspect you or reject you. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you. I don't want to fake you out, Take or shake or forsake you out, I ain't lookin' for you to feel like me, See like me or be like me. All I really want to do Is, baby, be friends with you.

Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

Another Year Older

Yesterday I turned 29. The funny thing is that I don't really feel older, I guess you could say I feel wiser! Ha Ha! I have come to the conclusion that age is something that you define regardless of what your ID says. I'm told that fine wine grows better with age. Age is essential for that fermenting process initially anyway. Perhaps we are all like fine wines that only grow better, more complex with age. I guess only TIME will tell.

Friday, January 25, 2008

63 Years

After I finished the graveside portion of the funeral yesterday I walked down the marker for my grandparents, George and Irene Bonner. As I stood there, I was reminded of their love for each other and commitment to each other. They were married for 63 years. Cyd and I have always told each other that we want to make it to 63 years, hopefully longer, before either one of us passes away. George and Irene's love have always been a source of inspiration for us. I had also forgotten that their anniversary is September 2. Claire's birthday is September 1, so maybe that's a sign that we will exceed 63 years.

Funeral Reflections

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

Yesterday I had the privilege of helping to celebrate the life and legacy of Sarah Agnes Rabey Boykin. She was 97. Her life of love and devotion to her savior and to people is an example to me of a life well-lived. She was a precious lady who touched many, many lives. She will be greatly missed, but we know that she is in heaven with our Lord preparing a place for the rest of the saints of God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Family Visit

This past weekend my parents visited from Springville, Alabama. They are house parents at Big Oak Ranch for Girls. We had a wonderful time talking, laughing, and being together. It was especially great to see Claire interacting with her grandparents. The distance that separates us keeps us from seeing them as much as we would like, but the times together are always cherished. It made me think about the times of corporate worship in our lives as believers. Those times should be filled with awe, grace, and love. So often I think we come to church burdened down with so many other things that we can't seem to find our heart's desire and contentment in Christ. Really there shouldn't be a difference in our demeanor in those joyful times with family and friends and the gathering of God's people for worship.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Last Night On Earth Again pt. 2

As promised more reflection on some Over the Rhine tunes. "I put my soul up for sale/And the whole world asked,/Could you take any less?" Isn't this what happens so many times when we offer our souls, our deepest, darkest secrets, our hopes, dreams, ambitions, and idiosyncrasies to the world? We think to ourselves, "I will make myself vulnerable and open." Unfortunately, we end up discouraged and wounded because the world, even the people closest to us, reject our offer and cheapen our very existence and worth.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Today millions of Americans celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's my humble estimation that few Americans of the 2nd half of the 20th century did more to change the world than this man. A natural-born leader, King's dream for equality became a realization that changed America and the world. I am amazed at the amount of injustice and racism still prevalent in our country. I must confess, at times I find the demon of racism within my own heart. I'm not sure if anyone can ever be totally, 100 percent free of racism because of the fallen world in which we live, but I don't want that to be a reason to let it go unchecked in my life or my world. My views on race changed drastically during my days at Mercer University. Dr. Sarah Gardner taught me more than she could ever realize about the sins of racism and the ugliness on our nations conscience, to her I say thanks. An old Bob Marley tshirt I have says "Until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, there is war."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Last Night On Earth Again

This is the title of a song by Over the Rhine that I just can't get out of my head. Some of the lyrics are hauntingly true and quite humorous all at once. The first line of the song goes like this, "Down south where Elvis is king and Jesus is Lord." Doesn't that capture the tension of pop culture and faith, especially in the south. So many of us equate something else in our life with our relationship with Christ, not intentionally, but with how we spend our time and resources. When I lived in Alabama I realized that some states like football, but there it's deeper and wider than the blood (at least it seems that way sometimes). When you first move there people want to know which team you are going to pull for Auburn or Alabama, even though you are from Georgia and are a Dawg all the way through. I kid you not, two separate job interviews included the question of my allegiance to the Crimson Tide or the War Eagle. Football is covered not just for 5 months, but 365 days a year the news touches on something with Alabama and Auburn football. So I guess the age old question is, "Are our allegiances to college football teams the same as our commitment to Christ?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Presidential Primaries

I have voted in two presidential elections. Both times casting my vote for the Republican candidate, George W. Bush. I'm concerned, okay, frightened that the Republicans have failed to really address some of the key domestic issues that consume the American people. Issues like health care, jobs, the economy...although some of these are not traditional Republican banners, it seems that an increasing number of Americans are finding these the most pressing issues of their day. A war half a globe away or key issues like abortion are not so important when you can't afford insurance and health care for your middle class (that's right) family. How can you one be focused on some of those issues when the economy continues to suffer? My fear is that the Democrats, although they might not be able to deliver, are at least talking about issues that hit home with so many Americans. This election will be one for the record books!

Over the Rhine

I recently got 2 Over the Rhine Cd's. They are amazing! The vocals, the song writing, the arrangements, all heavenly. Discount Fireworks is a career spanning "Greatest Hits", and The Trumpet Child is their most recent offering. Both are worth the price of admission. The songs penetrate the soul unlike most music on the radio today, in an age of American Idol garbage. Over the next few weeks I will probably share some thoughts about a few of the songs that have either struck a chord or brought a smile to my face. In the meantime, you can check them out on the web at

Carry My Burdens

I just read Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." What would our lives look like if we really put this verse into practice? I'm not sure if we can carry every one's burdens, but certainly there are certain friends, family, brothers, and sisters in Christ that we can be their burden carrier. After I read this verse, I thought for a few moments about the people in my own life who carry my burdens and I theirs. It made me realize that it is in some of these relationships that I have most deeply experienced the grace and love of God. I think that is what is meant by the second half of this verse.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Faith like a Friend

Have you ever noticed that conversation with an old friend is so easy and comfortable? I visited a church in Augusta last week and got to reconnect with an old friend. It was amazing how our conversation just kinda picked up were it left off a couple of years ago, the last time we saw each other. It reminded me that our relationship with God is similar. We can go long stretches of time without spending time in prayer or Bible reading, but when we do either it's a very natural and comfortable feeling. Like we haven't missed a beat. It is regrettable the time we let slip away when it comes to friends and God, but isn't it wonderful to know that the intimacy is there to press the pause button so that life can continue.


A friend had a car wreck yesterday that really put a dent in her week (no pun intended). As some of us gathered at the scene of the accident we were all reminiscing about our own wrecks. We were reliving our situation as her situation played out before our eyes. It reminded me that the act of corporate worship is about reenacting the drama of God's history with humanity. The details of the story include creation, sin, redemption, unfaithfulness, salvation, and faithfulness. I have been asking myself if I do this in my daily worship of God or if I, like so many others, am simply going through the motions. The wreck also made me realize that as a community of faith we share in each others joy and pain in a unique way...kinda like we did yesterday at Hill and Oak.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

God says one thing

As I took Claire to preschool this morning a song by Bill Mallonee came on my iPod. The title is Crescent Moon. One of the lines says, "Life is coming to grips with what you're worth, when God says one thing but your heart says another." I think we can be our harshest critics in life, especially when it comes to any shortcomings in our relationship with God. We stumble and struggle with sin and our heart tells us that we are worthless and unworthy of God's love. The truth is, we are unworthy. That's what makes grace so incredible. As God's children he looks at us with love and compassion and mercy even when we mess things up so bad that we can't see the light at the other end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Does that mean that Christ promotes sin?

In Galatians, Paul talks about the way the Law points out our need for Christ and grace. Verse 17 intrigued me yesterday as I read it. If in growing in our faith we discover that we are in fact sinners who still struggle with the taint of darkness in our hearts we cannot conclude that Christ promotes sin or evil. In fact, Christ stands in direct opposition to sin and evil. "Does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!" Sometimes I think we become so enamored by the wickedness in our hearts that we confuse our struggle with sin as God condoning our sin. The very opposite is true. As we grow in faith, we see better the depths of our sin and our need for redemption. Then we can join Paul in "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Ebenezer and a Wedding

I have never been to a wedding on New Year's Day, but this year I had the privilege to go to one in Effingham County, GA. This was some of Cyd's family. The ceremony was short and sweet, with a time for family to get together and visit, almost like a family reunion. The reception was held at New Ebenezer Retreat Center in Rincon. New Ebenezer was founded in 1736 as a group of Lutheran Salzburgers settled there seeking religious freedom. The original settlement served as a battleground during the American Revolution. The facilities and largely untouched natural environment provide windows into the past and the future. One can't help but wonder what it must have been like to live there all those years ago. The future seems hopefully after some time of reflection in such a pristine setting.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pretty in Pink

Thursday while Cyd and Claire wern't home, I painted Claire's new room Oxford Pink. It was fun to get to do that for her, not just because you have to paint a room in the house. When she saw the finished product she said, "Thank you, soooo much Daddy!" (which is her favorite expression the last week or so). I also liked getting to work on a project alone to have some time to think...I did take advantage of being able to listen to some music as loud as I wanted to while Cyd wasn't in the house. It's fun to listen to cds you haven't heard in a while so that's what I did. Some of my musical selections are listed below in no particular order:

Collective Soul "Self Titled"
Bob Dylan "John Wesley Harding" original version of All Along the Watchtower
Drivin'N Cryin "Mystery Road"
John Mellencamp "Greatest Hits"
Bon Jovi "Live"
Neil Young
Ben Harper
U2 "Achtung Baby"

The Start of 2008

Well, I hope that the start of 2008 is not an indication of the way the rest of the year will go for us. This week we've had plumbing problems (curse of an older house) and car problems. Frustration is the word for the week. On top of those two things, we have been trying to put Christmas away and paint Claire's new room. I will be glad when my "time off" is over so that I can get some rest when I get back to work. I guess I will have to wait and see what else 2008 will bring.