Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Befriend: A Book Review

Scott Sauls, a pastor in Nashville is quickly becoming one of my favorite spiritual voices on social media. I have read his books Jesus Outside the Lines and Befriend. In both books the reader senses Scott's heart for God and his passion for people to know God. He gently encourages the reader to join him in discovering what God is calling us to do as we follow Jesus.

Friendship is an interesting topic to tackle. We can have hundreds or even thousands of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter or Instagram but do we really have genuine, meaningful friendships? Do we even know how to have those type of relationships anymore? Scott Sauls answers these questions and more as he offers encouragement for the believer to rediscover genuine, loving friendships with different types of people, different groups, and even oneself as modeled by Jesus. This is a great resource for a small group Bible study or accountability groups.


New Music and a New Road

Cyd discovered Ellie Holcomb early this year and introduced me to her music. This song captures the essence of what it means to live and walk by faith and not by sight. Too often, I see God rescue me from my "Egypt" only to get to the Red Sea and see the impossible rather than the possible. God has been reminding me lately that he always provides a Red Sea Road to his children.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Centri-Kid Week

This week has been a great week for my girls, all three, to be away at camp with our Kidz Ministry at FBC Statesboro. I am beyond excited that they will be home later this afternoon! Since Cyd was gone, Tripp and I got to spend a lot of time together this week. We have had some funny moments, an occasional tear, and many moments of wanting to freeze time in order to remember that exact moment with him. He has helped me work on some projects for the college ministry here and there, but mostly he has been a conduit for God's grace. His smile, laughter, and even his tears have served as a gentle touch to my at times callous heart. Through our time together (the endless questions, the insatiable appetite he has, the need for affection and closeness with his dad) he has unknowingly pushed me closer to my Abba, Father.

Surely, the emotions that I feel as an earthly father with my son during these times pales in comparison to how God feels about his children. For this truth, I am thankful. Children are not simply a blessing from God, they are at times the instruments God uses to teach us what he is doing, to remind us that we are loved, and to redirect our energy to the things that matter most.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Five Years and A Few Tears


It's hard to believe that five years of life has passed since you drew your last breath on this earth. So much life happens in five years. There are days when it seems like I was just talking to you on the phone driving to Savannah to make hospital visits. Then there are those days that it feels like you've been gone for a decade. Five stinking years! In that time, the kids have changed in so many different ways. Sometimes I look at Cyd and say, "Dad would have loved watching them grow up." There is no doubt you would be right there to support them in all that they do.

I have lost track of the number of days I have wanted to ask your opinion on something, seek your counsel, ask for you to pray about something specific over the last five years. It's unfair, that at the junction of life where I most wanted you and your influence, I can't get it. If only, I had let go of my own hurt and anger earlier in life, I could have soaked up more of GLB's essence...yet it is this regret that the gospel has most come to bear on our relationship. The gospel needed time to root into my heart so that our relationship could be redeemed, even if for a brief season before that diagnosis in January. God's work in our lives is unique in that it doesn't always happen instantly. Perhaps that's why Jesus used so many stories about people and scenarios that required time and patience to see results. I'm thankful that neither of my father's ever gave up on me, rather like the Prodigal Father, both waited for me to return.

The similarities between us continue to manifest themselves. I have come to the conclusion that I am more like you than I ever thought possible. Sometimes this reality scares me speechless. Other times, I laugh and consider if this self-revelation the last five years would have happened if you were still here. I'm still in utter shock that the characteristics, mindsets, and patterns of behavior of a parent can be so strong in a child when they only lived together for a few years. The indelible nature of a parent's mark on a child is sobering. My own journey as a parent has reminded me that God is able to use our meager efforts at this whole parenting thing to do some incredible work in children's lives. We tend to forget all the faults of someone when they die and only recall the good times and the good qualities. I remember the love and tenderness you always offered me. I remember your laugh, your smile, and your anger. Mostly, I remember these things because I see them weekly, if not daily in my own heart and life. I think one of the things that God has shown me these past five years is that the faults are places where the master craftsman is still shaping me into his masterpiece. My own self awareness has helped me appreciate your faults, not to cast blame, but to learn from your mistakes, while rejoicing in the work that God accomplished in your life to bring light out of darkness. You taught me many things during the time our lives overlapped...I believe you have taught me even more about myself, about my vocation, about my family, about God, and about the gospel in the five years you have been present with the Lord. Thank you!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beach Reach Update #1

It has been a great first two days in Panama City Beach, FL. I am so encouraged by how God is using our students and working in their lives. Tonight was our first night of van ministry, which entails picking up other spring breakers for a free van ride to wherever they need to go. Our students had some great conversations with the people we picked up throughout the night. Pray that the seeds planted tonight will be watered and grow into maturity.

Our very first ride was a group of students from Appalachian State...talk about loving your enemies for all of our GSU students. Pray for Sam from App State.  You can also pray for Lyndsey from App State. Our last call for tonight was her and some friends who are staying at the same house as Sam and his friends.

We also had an interesting group of guys from Boston. Nick is one of the guys from that group to be praying for this week.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Top 5 Books of 2016

I love books. All kinds, old, new, short, long, fiction, and non-fiction. I confess that much of my reading derives from Christian spirituality and theology, so the list is bent in that direction. Some of these books I read for my doctoral classes, others I chose because of various factors. I read several meaningful books this year but these five books have been ones I have been drawn back to since reading them. Since five is a small number to list all of the great books, I added an honorable mention list. These aren't in any particular order either.

Tracks of a Fellow Struggler John Claypool
This brief book on grief is composed of four sermons Claypool preached as he wrestled with the diagnosis of Leukemia his daughter received. He recounts the emotions of diagnosis, treatment, remission, recurrence, and death. His honest doubting, searching, and questioning of God are the words of many people who have experienced the loss of someone dear to them. It is the best book on grief I have ever read!

Subversive Spirituality Eugene Peterson
Peterson always challenges the way I view myself, my calling, and my relationship with God. This book is a collection of shorter pieces: sermons, interviews, articles, poems. Some are better than others, but given the structure of the book the reader can skip around and read the ones most intriguing to him or her. His insight into pastoral ministry is especially helpful for anyone who is called to vocational ministry and missions.
Eugene Peterson

The Return of the Prodigal Son Henri Nouwen
Nouwen's insight into the parable is superb! His introspective writing invites the reader to place himself inside the mind of each character of the parable.

This Is Awkward Sammy Rhodes
I met Sammy when he was the RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) campus minister at Georgia Southern. He is now doing RUF work at USC (South Carolina). Reading this book is like having a conversation with Sammy at a coffee shop. Many people will connect with this book but especially those in the 30-40 age bracket. His witty take on faith and life leave you in stitches while realizing your own need of God's gracious work in your life.

The Death of Santini Pat Conroy
Southern novelists are some of the most keen observers of the human condition. They have a way of writing about the idiosyncrasies of the South while affirming the best parts of it. Conroy is a master storyteller. This book recounts his turbulent relationship with his father, USMC fighter pilot Don Conroy. At the end of Don's life and the end of the book there is redemption and reconciliation. Two powerful biblical themes that we need to be reminded of as often as possible.

Honorable Mentions:
Meditation Jim Downing
Daring to Speak for God Norfleete Day
Jesus Outside the Lines Scott Sauls
The Jesus Way Eugene Peterson
Grief Melissa Kelley
Turn My Mourning into Dancing Henri Nouwen
In the Heart of the World Mother Teresa
Sycamore Row John Grisham

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016: A Few Moments of Joy

The last several weeks have been filled with lists of books, movies, music, and events of 2016 nearly everywhere I turned. 2016 is a year that will certainly be remembered for decades to come. Memorable moments in sports, society, and politics. As I reflected on this past year, several things brought joy to my heart. Recently, I was reminded that joy is most often something we choose in spite of our circumstances. Indeed, joy is a spiritual discipline, rooted in the Old Testament and the concept of Jubilee, which celebrated a reverting back of land to original owners, release from bondage for those forced into slavery, and a resting of the land during harvest time. Finding joy in life is a holy habit of finding the sacred in the mundane. Finding joy helps us see God working in our lives in hidden ways that can easily become choked out by the darkness and sin of our world.

Here are a few moments of joy for me this year in no particular order. As I recount the jubilee of God may your heart be drawn to examine your year to find moments of joy...may they bring a smile and perhaps laughter or even tears as you recount God's goodness in your life.

1. Celebrating 16 years of marriage with my better half.
It seems cliche, but I never take one day for granted with her. She is my biggest supporter, always seeing good in me, when I find it hard to see it in myself. The depth of her spiritual wisdom and insight astounds me weekly. She is my favorite preacher/teacher because of her command of scripture and her transparency with her audience. The way she loves me and parents our kids brings joy to my heart...always.

2. Reaching the milestone of 10 years of ministry at FBC Statesboro.
One of the unfortunate aspects of vocational ministry is that the average tenure of pastors and ministers is about 3 years. I have been fortunate enough to get to do ministry in one place for 10 years. My roles and responsibilities have changed during the decade, but the relationships that are the core of ministry have been a blessing to me in so many ways. I have had the joy of walking with people through trials and blessings, periods of rebellion and growth, yet through it all, God has enriched my life through the scores of people I have rubbed shoulders with for these many years.

3. Conducting my Mamanon's funeral. 
I know what you are thinking, joy in preaching a funeral...but for the Christian, joy is perhaps the best response when the deceased is a believer in the hope and resurrection of Jesus! Mamanon certainly was a godly woman. She lived for over nine decades and touched thousands of lives. As I shared stories of her life at the service and throughout the year with friends and family, God has brought an increasing measure of joy knowing that she has "thoroughly enjoyed" being in the presence of her Savior and of course seeing loved ones like Papanon again. Every time I think about her, a smile breaks through to remind me of her legacy of faith, one I can only hope to measure half way up to her standard.

4. Little moments with my children.
These include moments of laughter in the car. Rocking out to a favorite song in the car. Doing things to slightly embarrass them in public. Moments of reflection as we read the Bible together or talk about spiritual matters. Quick dinners at Chick-fil-A in between school, dance, cheer, and church. Watching ELF 100 times during the holidays. Living through repairs to our house in which furniture is shoved everywhere except in the designated places. These are moments I look back on and find joy and a glimpse of God's grace, I pray that one day my children will do the same.

5. Living through Hurricane Matthew and the aftermath of the storm.
It's hard to really understand why I have found joy in Matthew destroying our yard and falling a tree on our house, unless you have experienced something similar. It would be easy to cry and bewail the reality that has befallen our family. I confess there have been moments of this as well, but ultimately joy percolates beneath the surface like the tree roots now exposed that once were hidden. Matthew has brought us closer together as a family. We learned to do without furniture to sit on while we eat supper. We rediscovered the joy of a good pallet to watch a movie on the floor in front of the fireplace. Don't get me wrong, Matthew has stretched us to our limits in some ways. At the end of the day, Matthew has taught us that delight in the Lord comes in plenty and want because it isn't based on our situation but on the sovereign Lord of the universe who has NOT forsaken us.