Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Happenings

This week has been so busy and full. We had activities of some kind nearly every night. Christmas Eve and Day were simply wonderful! I made Italian "gravy" with meatballs for our Christmas Eve dinner with Mom, unfortunately the girls were so tired they all had to eat before I could make it home from the services at church.

Claire and Charlotte were so excited they couldn't go to sleep. In spite of my stern warning not to even think about waking me up before 7:30, we were all up and in the den to see what Santa brought by 5:45, that's AM! It was a great morning, Cyd's parents joined us shortly after 7AM, so that we could enjoy a nice breakfast together as the girls played with their new things. We eventually got dressed and went to Cyd's parents, with a slight detour to Aunt Tori's (where my family was gathering for Christmas) to see them for a little bit. The girls and I then headed back to Cyd's parents for dinner and Christmas with her side of the family.

Saturday the girls got to test out the new Barbie Jeep, which they love!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Services

I love Christmas Eve services! I really enjoy the candlelight and communion (somber, reflective type services) but it seems to me that perhaps that first Christmas night was more like the Family Service we have at FBC Statesboro. There are children all over so it's not quiet, it's not somber, yet it holds a great measure of reflective potential if one will open his/her eyes. Don't you just know that Joseph and Mary looked at each other and at Jesus and thought what in the world do we do? How do we raise him? How do we provide for him? How are we gonna make this work? All the while, the Father was observing this and probably mumbled, "Let me worry about that." And so it is each time a baby is born or a loved one passes, at least to me...the Father is saying, "Let me worry about this, you just trust me."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

I said earlier this month that I would be doing a few lists that are so prevalent this time of year. Cyd and I love decorating for Christmas each year, we always have. I think part of the reason is because our parents all love to decorate. We have so many wonderful things to pull out at Christmas time like our village. It's a hodge podge of various villages some nicer than others but the best part is they were all gifts from family, so we didn't have to buy any of them. Christmas trees themselves are always interesting around our house. We always use ones that other people have outgrown or discarded. For years we used ones from The Victoria Shoppe that were left over from decorating jobs. Okay, I'll try to give my top five ornaments, some of them will actually be groups rather than individual ornaments.

1. Macon Ornaments: We have a just a few of these but they are of Mercer University and the Woodruff House. Mercer is important because that is were Cyd and I went to college. The Woodruff House is important because that's were I proposed.
2. Homemade ornaments from the girls (and from our childhoods).
3. Savannah Ornaments. We have several ornaments of historic landmarks in Savannah that we love to have on our trees.
4. My Homer Simpson ornament. I actually got Charlotte to say "D'Oh!" yesterday.
5. Teacups for our teacup tree. Several of these I bought for Cyd along the way. It reminds me of going to antique and junk stores to find unique teacups all those years ago.

What's your favorite ornament?

The Real Meaning of Christmas

Charlie Brown specials are always a blast to watch. As our girls have gotten older we have tried to start watching the shows with them. Usually they start to get sleepy and can't make it through the whole thing, but it sure is fun to relive some childhood memories while making new ones. In this clip, Charlie Brown is frustrated with what Christmas has become in one fashion or another and cries out, "Does anyone know the real meaning of Christmas?" Linus steps up and recites from Luke 2. How incredible that each year millions of people who watch this Christmas show don't just see stockings, trees, and snow...they are confronted with the reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Slave of Christ

Michael Card, the gifted singer/songwriter who has shaped Christian music for the past 3 decades has offered his reflections and insight into being a slave of Christ in a new book by IVP. You can check out more information about Michael Card's writing and recording projects at The book draws on a fascination with American slavery and the horrors it entailed while examining the life of slaves in New Testament times. The best part of the book is the focus on what it means to truly be a slave to Christ. Being a slave to anything or anyone else is about bondage and oppression but being a slave to Christ is "A Better Freedom". If you have an interest in African-American history or in the subject of slavery you might find this book an engaging read for the light that it sheds on those topics, but also for the way it illustrates how only as slaves to Christ can we ever experience true freedom.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Neil Diamond and the Holidays

I have always loved Adam Sandler's version, but this one is pretty funny too.

3rd Sunday of Advent

Yesterday we lit the candle of hope on the advent wreath…hope is perhaps the greatest thing a believer can have. Our hope to escape the punishment we deserve for our sins, rest solely on the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus Christ, our savior who didn’t want us to die apart from God, but came in the form of a tiny, helpless baby to eventually conquer sin, death, hell, and the grave. That is the reason for the hope in us this Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

I'm usually not one of those Christians who waves the battle flag for issues like abortion, the biblical definition of marriage, etc., not because I don't believe in those just seems that too often Evangelical Christians are too busy waving those banners rather than the banner of Jesus. It's a fine line to be sure, but it seems to me that the more important thing for me to do is to tell them about Jesus and how he can change their life rather than championing causes or fighting over morality, which cannot be legislated I might add, as hard as some Christians try to do that. In reality what the world needs is a group of believers who are so consumed with God that it radiates out of their lives and instead of defending our issues we can live subversively to impact culture and people for the sake of the Gospel!

HOWEVER, as I read through the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, I found the language, the tone, and the issues it addressed almost exactly what I would have said and written. It is worthy document for Christians of all persuasions to sign and support because it unifies us as the Body of Christ, the Church universal, to boldly stand for the cause of the widow, the orphan, the forgotten, and the down-trodden of our society...there seems to be several of each category in America...sadly the church has either been too loud in condemning culture to rescue the widows and orphans or too focused on gospel presentations and altar calls to make much of a difference for anyone or anything, especially God. The Manhattan Declaration is call for believers to put faith into action, I'm prayerful that it will happen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Choosing to Love

Romans 11:33-36 (New Living Translation)

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?[a]
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?[b]

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Calvin Miller in his devotional book, The Christ of Christmas writes the following:
We basically have two choices to make in dealing with the mysteries of God. We can wrestle with Him or we can rest in Him. We can continue searching the unsearchable or relax in the reality. What exists at the end of all our searching will be a God who knows absolutely everything...and chooses to love us anyway.

The mystery of God is not that he is distant and far off, it is that in spite of our sin and failure he has loved us with an everlasting love! A love that knows no boundaries, a relentless love, a pursuing love, God's love!

Top Christmas Songs

I have seen lots of lists in the blogosphere the last few weeks so I intend to indulge in compiling a few of my own over the next few weeks. Here's a few of my favorite Christmas Songs. Some are classics and others not so classic but all of them bring to mind the spirit of Christmas and the celebration of the Savior.

1. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" I like just about any version because the theology of the song is so rich, but one of my favorite is on The Gift: A Weathervane Christmas Sampler

2. "Go Tell it on the Mountain" Something about this song just resonates with my soul, I love to sing it in church at Christmas time. My favorite CD version is Garth Brooks.

3. "On to Bethlehem" An original song by Bill Mallonee, did you really think I would do a post about music and not include something by him?

4. "White Christmas" Bing Crosby's version of course!

5. "A Christmas Song" Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

6. "Santa Baby" Not sure who actually sings this but it's on a Starbucks sampler from a few years girls love to sing it in the car. They even did a performance last night at the youth worker party!

7. "Baby It's Cold Outside" James Taylor and Natalie Cole Again one that my girls love to sing.

There are many others I could list but these few are the ones that get played and sung over and over again in my head, house, and office.

Here's a few verses from "On To Bethlehem" by Bill Mallonee
Quiet, introspective, meaning of life stuff, but isn't Christmas a great time for us to do that sort of thing.

and i'd like to say i'm faithful
to the task at hand
speaking gospel to a handful
and others with their list of demands

it's cold this year and i'm late on my dues
it's cold in here ah but that's nothing new
my heart's electric with your love again
so it's on to bethlehem

you might surmise that i ran there
but i really only crept
lead me to the place where love runs wild
and then it dogs your every step

you know how fickle my heart is
prone to wonder my Lord
yeah we talk but it's at arms length
always got one eye on the door

God wraps Himself up in human skin
for those who want to touch
and God let them drive the nails in
for those of us who know way too much

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quality Time

It's only December 6th and life is already hectic for the holidays. This weekend I was in our Christmas Celebration which took me away from my girls. Yesterday was cousin Jackson's one year party, which the girls went to and I had to miss because of the Christmas program. When life is crazy, especially at Christmas time, it's great to get to spend some quality time with Cyd and the girls. Snippets here and there like a conversation with Cyd, those are rare when you have a 4 year old and a 20 month old. Or getting up before the crack of dawn because Claire has been asking to get up for an hour. Little moments seem to make big memories these days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Pictures

Thanksgiving is always a big event in our family, on both sides. These are just a few pictures from Thursday in the "country". The house and other structures in the background of the pictures are where my grandmother grew up. It's always a busy, full day, but each year is filled with wonderful memories! This year I thought for sure that there wouldn't be anyone new, so then I would know everyone, but I think there were three new faces and names. Of course if you ask most of us, we just consider anyone new a "cousin."

Hope your Thanksgiving was as great as ours!

Empty Saviors and the True Savior

Here's an excerpt from my sermon this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah gives Israel a glimpse of the hope
that awaits them. The hope that could possibly come at any moment. The promise of a descendant from David’s lineage who would rescue them, who would save them, who would be their messiah. The problem was that many of the Israelites interpreted God sending the messiah as something that would be political-that the messiah would be a great conqueror and military leader. They longed to be released from the clutches of Rome who occupied the Mediterranean world and the Ancient Near East.

They anticipated the arrival of the Messiah
they way I anticipate getting that 1st slice of warm pound cake my wife bakes when I’m good. They had listened to the prophets for so long that they waited and rehearsed every year the coming of the promised one. The coming of the one who will do what is just and right and who will save them. You see everything that had happened before and it would all happen again…
…God had acted for Israel before…and he would act for them again.
…God had rescued his people before…and he would save them again.
History would repeat itself. Israel’s story, God’s story would repeat itself. But in the mean time they took matters into their own hands and put their hope and trust in empty saviors!

How often do we do that? How often do we
pin our hope to job security, financial security, education, wealth, status, relationships. We’ve all done it before and we will probably all do it again but what God wants is for us to turn to him and look to him alone as our savior, specifically the baby born so many years ago in a lowly manger filled with smelly animals, crude conditions and rude sounds. Because after all what happened that night had happened before and would happen again, a baby(wrinkled, red, crying) makes it’s way into the world, nothing new or special, nothing different than how other babies come into the world. And yet it was completely different than any other birth, for that little baby boy was “Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” as the Nicene Creed states. Finally the promise of the prophets has been fulfilled.

We don’t have an empty savior, a political
messiah, an empty promise of redemption, a story that has no plot and no meaning. Paul writes in Colossians 1:19-20. We have a savior and a story that we need to tell people about this Christmas! The cross is our hope, it is what the prophets looked forward to-because it is the cross that God used to reconcile the world to himself, to bring hope, peace, and love. The same is true when we take the Lord’s Supper or Communion. We find in the elements of juice and bread symbols that point us to the body and blood of our Lord the way Christmas trees point us to presents, lights, and decorations. In gathering for Communion we join our lives together, we join our hearts and minds together, we acknowledge that we not only need God but we need each other to make it each day, to live out our faith so that we too can point others to the Messiah. So that we can find our place in the story of Life, the only story truly worth repeating.

Communion is a leveling act for the body of
Christ. We all come as broken sinners to the table to find healing, wholeness, peace, and of course grace. Communion is not about a bunch of hocus pocus or about something magical it is a symbol that points us to the grand story of redemption of renewal. As we receive the cup and the bread this morning may we be ever mindful of the baby whose body was broken for you and for me, the baby whom we are preparing to celebrate his arrival. Just like the Advent season and all the rituals and traditions that we do in our families and will continue to do we gather this morning in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to experience something that we have all experienced before and we will all experience again. May we be forever changed this morning.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

This brief look into the practice of communion is insightful and helpful for anyone wanting to better understand the “practice” of communion. Nora Gallagher explores communion in light of her own story, her own journey as part of The Ancient Practices Series published by Thomas Nelson. One will not find a detailed history or theology of communion but rather a modern understanding of how such an important Christian practice impacts our daily lives. Gallagher is an Episcopalian, so she writes out of her own context of experience communion (and helping to serve communion as Lay Minister). Her gift for words is evident as she blows the dust off of the church-worn words of this ancient discipline and breathes new life into this means of grace for Christians the world over.

I especially found it to be enriching as I read it during the week of Thanksgiving and as I was preparing to celebrate communion with my own church on the first Sunday of Advent. While I disagree with some of Gallagher’s musings that are too far to the left for my own theology, many in mainline or liturgical churches will find this book extremely valuable for re-imagining the role that communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper plays in the life of Christians.

For more information about the book or to order a copy

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do Hard Things

I don't usually like most books written for teens because they usually are full of sub-par expectations that lead to below average teenagers! Enter Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. I was skeptical at first because of some of the endorsements, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it's among the best books written for teens that I have come across in the last decade. Note, this book isn't for parents or youth workers although reading it would be helpful for those two groups, rather this is a book that seeks to challenge the status quo of teen culture by challenging teens to rebel against the cultural norm of low expectations for teens.

One of the strengths of the book is that it isn't just a hard-core Christian manifesto to "Do Hard Things", it is a challenge for teens regardless of faith or beliefs to rise above the conventional norms that society has placed on them. At the end of the book the twin brother, clearly present the gospel and challenge their readers to search their own hearts about their relationship with God.

I usually don't endorse many teen books from a Christian perspective because I believe that teens should be reading the same books as adults when it comes to faith. Teenagers aren't the future of the church, they are the church! Nevertheless, this would make a great Christmas gift for anyone who has teenagers in their lives.

For more information about the book and the movement check out

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Few More Fall Pictures

All of us "working" on our laptops!

Playing dress-up

Girl cousins on Halloween

Take one more picture of me and I will sting you!

Fall Cookies

More Fall Pictures

Ms. Patty and Ms. Wendy

Fair Parade got rained out

Halloween Party at School

Class Field Trip

Sisters! Eating popcorn and watching a movie.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review: From Peanuts To The Pressbox

For any die hard Crimson Tide fan (is there any other kind?) or NASCAR lover, Eli Gold’s new book, From Peanuts to the Pressbox is a wonderful peek behind the curtain to see how the magic happens. Gold has more stories to tell from his days as a sports broadcaster than most Baptist preachers. The color and candor with which he relays his fondest and at times funniest memories of his childhood and his ascent up the ladder to the pressbox are priceless!

I lived in Alabama for about four years while doing graduate work, so I was familiar with the personality and of course the voice of Eli Gold. His name is almost synonymous with Bear Bryant in Alabama, I said almost. Gold’s stories almost sound as if you were sitting at a coffee shop and catching up with an old friend. He has the ability to take you to the moment and the person so that you feel as if you were experiencing his memory for yourself. I guess that’s why he’s so good at what he does by calling games, races, and nearly everything in between.

At times the choppiness of the chapters made it feel repetitive. Not sure if perhaps a bit more editing would help that or not…regardless this book would make a great Christmas gift for any University of Alabama fan or any sports fan for that matter.

Fall Festival Pictures from FBC

Riding the train was lots of fun!

Haystack photo shoot

What Halloween picture isn't complete without a black cat?!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Frontier Between Science and Theology

I will readily admit my ignorance to most things scientific. I believe I have a decent grasp on major theological themes but the convergence of the two is another story. Enter John Polkinghorne. Polkinghorne is a former particle physicist who helped advance the study of quarks and gluons (the things that make up atoms) he knows his science! However he is also an Anglican Priest, so he knows theology as well. He has written extensively on the frontier land of science and theology. I picked up a brief book entitled, Traffic in Truth: Exchanges between Science and Theology this weekend. It's in simple layman's terms but well worth a read.

In answering the question of how these two disciplines relate to one another, Polkinghorne states, "Science cannot tell theology how to answer theological questions, and theology cannot tell science how to answer scientific questions, but the two sets of answers will have to fit in with each other if they are really describing the one world of God's creation"(10).

In another section he discusses miracles and the resurrection of Jesus being the hinge of belief in miracles, even in God. Alone among the great religious leaders of world history, Jesus dies, not in honored old age surrounded by disciples resolved to continue the work of the master, but painfully and shamefully executed in mid-life, deserted by his followers. It seems like an ending in total failure. In fact, I believe that if that had been the end of the Jesus story, we would never have heard of him. He wrote no book and he would just have disappeared from history. But we all have heard of him, and so something must have happened to continue the story of Jesus beyond his death. I believe the Christian claim that that "something" was God's raising Jesus the first Easter Day (46-47).

Polkinghorne's writing is worthy of careful study as he integrates the two worlds of science and theology as he attempts to answer the questions of How? and Why? to the existence of life in this grand universe.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sesame Street, The Berlin Wall, and Jesus

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street.
That wonderful creation that has helped educate scores of children through the years. I must admit I don't really remember watching Sesame Street growing up as a kid. I preferred things like Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, Jabber Jaws, Yogi Bear, and of course The Three Stooges. As a parent I have grown very fond of Sesame Street for the way that it has helped my girls learn and develop. I know that the experts say children shouldn't watch TV until after age 2, but seriously what parents who aren't Amish do this? In fact there are some shows on PBS that I can't stand not because I'm the reincarnation of Jerry Falwell and his disdain for they just plain get on my nerves. Sesame Street and Curious George are among the ones I can tolerate the best! Although every time I catch an episode of Curious George it happens to be one I've seen like five times. There's a lot to be said with the lack of response from churches to incorporate the media in all of it's forms in reaching the new generations for the sake of the gospel. I don't mean broadcasting Miss Pattycake or The Old Time Gospel Hour...I mean embracing the changing climate of technology in order to facilitate the methodology of sharing theology with a lost and dying world.

On a different note, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. What a milestone for Capitalism and freedom! I was listening to the Rick and Bubba show this morning in the car and they were talking about how for people my age and younger the Berlin Wall is "an obscure thing that happened somewhere over there." I think there's a lot of truth to that statement. The Wall of course represented everything that Americans stood against. The Wall was a visual reminder of the Cold War and the effects that it had on us as a nation and the rest of the world. I confess that my knowledge of Communism, at least of the U.S.S.R. variety is less shaped by history and reality and more shaped by epic films of the 1980s, like Rocky IV (you know, the one where he fights the Russian and defeats not only the Russian but in a small way Soviet Socialism) and Red Dawn (the one staring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen that recounts the fictional invasion of America by Communist countries, specifically Cuba and Russia).

I guess ultimately, though the Berlin Wall for me represents throwing off the shackles of whatever it is that holds you down. For many that could be a crooked government, God knows we have had plenty of those in the last 100 years. For some it is the burden of illiteracy, literally millions of Americans are illiterate, that's not just something that keeps you from getting a PhD. That impacts your everyday life of going to the store, reading the newspaper, checking people's Facebook updates. Still for others the Wall represents things like alcoholism, drug addiction, materialism, abuse of various kinds. For Christ followers, it represents anything including some of the things mentioned above that are tied so tight around our necks they are squeezing the life out of us. True freedom is available though, if indeed that is truly what we want.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ecumenical Evangelical

One of my core values in ministry and in my personal theology is a commitment to ecumenism. Not the everyone's going to heaven regardless of what you say, do, or believe, but a genuine respect and willingness to work together with brothers and sisters in Christ who are a part of other Christian traditions than my own. I saw this post at Internet Monk that reminded me that even though some are drawing the circle tighter and tighter, that many are willing to find commonality in "one faith, one Lord, and one baptism.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Philip Yancey on Prayer

I finished Prayer:Does It Make Any Difference? today. Philip Yancey is one of my favorite authors. I like reading Yancey for a number of reasons, like the fact that he is staunchly evangelical and still finds encouragement and comfort in many of the different traditions within the larger Christian world. Yancey has a way of taking something that you know, something familiar, something worn in so well that it has a natural fit and completely dusting it off, breathing new life into it. His journalistic mindset takes the mundane and makes it holy. I tell people all the time that there is no book or author that I agree with 100% of the time, but Yancey probably comes close. I have enjoyed every book I have read by him, usually they are easy to really engage and draw a lot of nourishment from.

Prayer was a more difficult book for me to initially engage, but it was well worth trudging through parts in order to gain so much wisdom and insight into such an important subject. Yancey is a master at weaving in his story and his own thoughts into his books with just the right amount of help and insight from other Christians, both dead and alive.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fleeing Sin

Last night I had the opportunity to teach on the subject of "Dating, Relationships, and Sexuality". Always a hot topic for teenagers! As I had been preparing I was more burdened than ever for students (past and present) who are wrestling with issues of purity in the context of relationships. I relied heavily on some great input from former students and many parents to help navigate my way through this topic while allowing scripture to speak clearly and plainly. One of the resources I looked at was Mark Driscoll's newest book. In one of the chapters he says that when it comes to purity so many people ask where is the line of how far I can his opinion that's not the point at all, he even considers asking that question a sin. I'm not sure I could go that far, but he is correct in saying that as Christians we should be running as hard and fast as possible away from sin instead of seeing how close we can get to it without getting sucked in. Are you fleeing from sin in your life?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Heritage and Ecumenism for 2009

I have posted here before about my convictions in a broad circle of ecumenism among the body of Christ. I strongly admire the work of groups and individuals like Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Timothy George, Chuck Colson, and others. I saw this article this morning. I thought it fitting since tomorrow is Reformation Day for many, many protestants, particularly of the Reformed and/or Lutheran heritage. There are differences between Protestants and Catholics, let's be clear about that fact, but there is more that unites us than divides us. That being said I am alarmed at this article and what is going on within subgroups of the church among minor differences and distinctives. (I acknowledge that most of those who would have issues over these "minor" differences actually argue that these are major differences of doctrine, you can be the judge of that.) I really liked what Timothy George had to say in the article:

"The gaping divide between evangelicals and Catholics is ecclesiology and authority, not justification and salvation, as important as that debate remains," George said. "There is enough commonality that evangelicals and Catholics with a living faith can recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with a common Lord and common grace that brought them together. The hard issues are questions related to the church, such as the Petrine office [the papacy] and the Eucharist. Those discussions will occupy us for the next 100 years."

Conscience will not let me dismiss my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, but I am thoroughly Protestant. I am ever grateful for the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, and others who realized that the core values of the reformation really were important enough to fight for. It is Luther's work that allows us to read the Bible in our native tongues all over the world. It is Calvin's renewal of systematic and organized theology that has influence every one who has attempted to do theology since then. This Reformation weekend I will be grateful to God for working throughout the years, from Christ to Augustine to Benedict to Aquinas to Luther to William Carey to Billy Graham to ????.

Happy Halloween!!

I know Halloween is tomorrow but for us it seems like it started four days ago with goodie bags from Claire's friends at school, a wonderful Fall Festival at FBC Statesboro, watching the Great Pumpkin and making fall themed sugar cookies with the girls. Today was Claire's class party, Grandmother coming to visit, and trick or treating tomorrow night with cousins! Whew! I briefly considered dressing up as Michael Jackson as an homage to the late "King of Pop" but I figured that doing that once in a lifetime is probably enough. It has been one crazy week, but so many great memories with family and friends (old and new). Whatever your plans for October 31st, I hope that you get scared just once, it does a body good!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why I Am a Baptist

You got to love being a Baptist, all apologies to others who read this if you aren't. My own summation of Baptists as a whole, is that we tend to take ourselves way to seriously. Perhaps we should remember that God does have a sense of humor, that's how Baptist's got their start to begin with...j/k. I know I've posted a lot from Internet Monk lately, but he really has a great perspective on many things even if I don't agree with him on everything.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Next Saturday is Halloween. One of my favorite times of the year...I know preachers aren't supposed to like Halloween because it's the devil's holiday. I think that's a lie straight from the devil, really manipulated by the kind of folks who held membership cards for the Moral Majority of the 1980s and 1990s. I used to love dressing up and going around the neighborhood to get candy. I think part of my affection stems from the love that my mother and grandmother have for this festive holiday.

I am obviously not alone in my outrage of Halloween being hijacked by other groups. Here is a post from Internet Monk that gave me a good laugh.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reading The Bible (Again and Again and Again)

I recently finished reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again For the First Time and then saw this information from the Barna Group on Bible reading. Admittedly these are two different voices within the Christian community. In fact, there are times when one questions whether or not Borg truly is a person of faith, I will decline from making my judgment call on that and allow God to sort that out with Borg directly. Borg is however a brilliant Biblical scholar, although he is definitely shaded by his own biases and preconcieved notions of faith, religion, and spirituality. He is the type of scholar that conservatives are scared of, liberals don't think he's liberal enough, and he seems to go either way with moderates depending on what side of the bed they woke up on that day. The book is a good read, mostly free of scholar jargon. Borg's intention is to help people who have dismissed the Bible reclaim it, at least on some level.

My biggest concern was the broad brush strokes he paints people and their view of the Bible. He argues that there are two groups, the fundamentalists and people like him. I however would propose a third group, which seems to include most people in ministry and academia that I know who profess faith in Jesus Christ, let's call them informed Christians. These are people who hold steadfastly to the Bible as the word of God, but also acknowledge that their are some things that the Bible has no intention of addressing, because after all it is a book about God's revelation of himself to his chosen people and the ups and downs of that relationship.

All that to say that, Borg's book offers some challenges for people on both sides of the theological debate about the Bible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Word About Blogs

If you peruse the whole site you might notice that I list other blogs that I think are worthy to be checked out by people who read my blog. All of these are people who I know, friends, collegues, etc. who write about their corner of the world and who offer me encouragement, the occassional laugh, and extend grace to me through their own writing. There is no limit to the number of blogs I could list that I read from time to time or subscribe to, but as much as those are informative and helpful for me and my journey, I enjoy knowing about people that I actually know and what's going on with them. All that to say that Allison Stroud, a long time friend started a new blog that I added to the list. Check it out here.

Hopefully you enjoy what I have to say...even if you don't always agree and you might find some hope for the journey from some of my friends!

Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper is always an interesting topic for dialogue and discussion among brothers and sisters of different traditions. My own understanding and appreciation of the Table has been deeply enriched by learning from other perspectives than my own Baptist understanding of the Lord's Supper. I found this post from Internet Monk to be insightful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

I finally finished Three Cups of Tea this week! It's a great book, just one of those that I only got to read a little bit here and there so it took me a while. It is the first-hand account of Greg Mortenson's attempt to bring peace, literacy, and hope to an area of the world that has suffered turmoil, war, and poverty for too long. Mortenson's story shares the triumphs and the struggles of his journey, his passion. A couple of things struck me as I read through this book...
1. Mortenson's passion to help people. His parents were missionaries, but the story doesn't indicate that it is his faith that was the driving force for his efforts. There are accounts of sleepless nights worrying about how to make education a possibility for Pakistani children, especially young girls. Would missions be different if more Christians had sleepless nights and overwhelming burden for those who have yet to hear the revelation of God in Christ Jesus?
2. Mortenson's success largely depends on his willingness to learn and adopt and even cherish the customs and culture of the villages that he visits.

About half way through the book the story of Mortenson's realization of his necessity to meet the needs of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has been walking around with his ledger book, his plumb line, and other tools trying to oversee things and make sure everything is happening on schedule and just as he wants it to, as a frenzied American. Haji Ali, the chief of Korphe, the first village where he establishes a school, takes all of his tools and looks them up-removing Mortenson from the task at hand, at least for a while. Haji Ali urges Mortenson to have some tea and sit down for a lesson of life that he hadn't yet learned.

"If you want to thrive in Baltisan, you must respect our ways," Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die," he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. "Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time."

"That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life," Mortenson says. "Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them" (50).

What would happen to the church in the 21st century if more believers took those words to heart. How quick we move from meeting to meeting, mission project to retreat, to evangelistic efforts...all filled with half-hearted people who are as concerned with what is going to be their next meal as they are the power of the gospel taking hold in their lives and the lives around them, thus transforming their community. Perhaps we would be better served to meet people where they are in their journey of life and learn from them, inviting them to follow The Way, The Truth, and The Life, not our church, denomination, or theological group. It's so easy to get wrapped up in evangelizing the "lost" that we forget that those people are PEOPLE! Let us learn to love people for who they are and meet them where they are and invite them to be moved by the only Mover that can change their lives.

Thanks for letting me borrow the book Sarah Mooney!!

You can check out more about Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughts on Prayer from Yancey

This quote was at the heading of chapter 7 in Philip Yancey's book on Prayer: Biblical Prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the church. Walter Wink

Yancey also shared this story that I found convicting as a minister but more importantly as a believer.

The church I attend reserves a brief time in which people in the pews can voice aloud their prayers. Over the years I have heard hundreds of these prayers, and with very few exceptions the word polite indeed applies. One, however, stands out in my memory because of its raw emotion.

In a clear but wavering voice a young woman began with the words, "God, I hated you after the rape! How could you let this happen to me?" The congregation abruptly fell silent. No more rustling of papers or shifting in the seats. "And I hated the people in this church who tried to comfort me. I didn't want comfort. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt back. I thank you, God, that you didn't give up on me, and neither did some of these people. You kept after me, and I come back to you now and ask that you heal the scars in my soul."

Of all the prayers I have heard in church, that one most resembles the style of prayers I find replete in the Bible, especially those from God's favorites such as Abraham and Moses.

What a powerful picture of redemption! What a powerful picture of the true nature of prayer, a soul sliced open before God...needing his touch and presence more than anything else.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back to the Tried and True

Cyd wasn't a big fan of the new look. I have to admit it was rather bright and intrusive, so I switched back to the original template. I might try changing some subtle things here and there to make it better.

I think the sickness has finally left the house. Thank goodness! Here's to a good week!

Here are a few quotes about fasting that I came across today while preparing for The Gathering on Wednesday night.

Fasting weans us from the world by removing the frivolous and the fluffy from our lives. Christian George

Anything that distracts us and threatens to take God's place can be put in its place by fasting. Christian George

Fasting unto our Lord is therefore feasting-feasting on him and on doing his will. Dallas Willard

Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it. John Wesley

Friday, September 25, 2009

A New Look?

I really like the template that I have been using for my blog for the past two years, but I thought it might be fun to change things around a bit, mix it up, get a little funky with the design. Of course, I didn't want to do anything to different since that would be a betrayal of my evangelical background! It has been a CRAZY day around here. Cyd woke up feeling horrible (fever and all) so playing doctor and Mr. Mom today has been a challenge to say the least. The girls are always great for me, but they do miss their mama! I really hope Cyd is better tomorrow.

Last night was a great night at The Gathering! We have such an incredible group of students at FBC Statesboro! I've been listening to music and doing some reading that has challenged me (yet again) with the challenge of living an authentic faith. A faith that is full of hope and fear, certainty and doubt, peace and war, love and hate. A faith that is not content with canned answers to the deepest questions of human suffering, the despair of many cultures, and the atrocities that go on around us. In the midst of the darkness...still their is a glimmer of light desperately trying to break through. My prayer is that light shines in your darkness this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Question?

Is blogging the 21st century version of journaling, especially for Christian? I welcome any thoughts and comments.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend

This weekend has been so busy. We went to see my mom on Friday night. We wanted to take her out to dinner, but she offered to keep the girls for Cyd and I to go on a date. We readily accepted her offer of a few hours without children. Cyd and I enjoyed each other and some good food at Olive Garden before heading back to mom's house to check on everyone. We visited for a little while and watched as Charlotte spilled not one, but two glasses of chocolate milk. We finally got everyone packed and loaded up to come home.

Claire had a birthday party to go to on Saturday, so in between setting up for the GSU tailgate we got the present wrapped and sent the girls off to the party. They then met me at Georgia Southern's RAC for our Student Ministry tailgate. We try to tailgate at two games a season. GSU football is a great part of living in Statesboro! Many of my students and their families attend the games and tailgate before the games, so it was fun to get to finally make it to a football game this year. Claire and Charlotte were dressed in GSU cheerleading uniforms, too cute! Unfortunately the rain showed up before I could get a great picture. I also got to catch up with two friends from high school at the game, two other dear friends that I haven't really talked to in a long time, and enjoyed the view from a skybox for a few minutes at the game.

Sunday of course is always a full day at our house. I heard two great sermons (Dr. John and Dr. Stewart) and was really encouraged by all of our youth Sunday school teachers!

While some in the house have been resting this afternoon, Claire has been talking non-stop while I have been trying to do some work in preparation for some different things coming up this week.

I'm so thankful for good times with my wonderful family and my great students!