Monday, May 20, 2013

A Time To Rest

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that, "There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth..."  Since August 26, 2009 it has been the right time, as well as a pleasure and a blessing to write this blog. It has given me focus, a chance to dedicate myself to something worthwhile, and a an opportunity to reconnect with many old friends. It has also helped bring new people into my life who have taught me much about grace and friendship.  But now, after 1280+ posts, feels like the right time to stop.  Probably not forever, but at least for awhile.  It is simply a matter of inspiration- or lack thereof.  As I wrote here yesterday, a part of my heart is missing.  I need to seek some peace.  So now is a time to rest.

To those of you who have been faithful readers, I say thank you.  To those of you who may actually miss my daily musings, I apologize.  I don't expect to be gone all that long; perhaps even just a few weeks.  But I also do not know with any certainty when I will start writing again. If you need to reach me, I will still be around Twitter (@youthguy07) and available by text (813-919-3755) and e-mail (

From the beginning, this blog has been about the things Jesus has done through my years in student ministry and is still doing in my life today.  Lately I feel like it has been more about me and my feelings- and I don't like that.  Today, I ask that you would pray for me, that I might better understand God's purpose for my life as I go forward.  You will all continue to be in my prayers. May the love of God whose name is Jesus fill our lives with hope and peace for the future.  I love you guys.  See ya real soon.

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Along the Road

I have written often in this space about journeys. I have talked about life as a journey.  I have suggested that following Jesus is a spiritual journey.  I have shared my feeling that life is often not about the destination, but about the journey.  There is joy is the journey.  There was a decent rock band named Journey. I believe in the metaphor of the journey.  

But in recent days, "journey" seems like much too calm a word to describe my life.  It feels more like a Griswold family vacation than a simple journey. Sometimes the road we travel makes very little sense.  Today I'd like to share a personal story with you about a family trip from nearly 40 years ago that reminds me that such vacations do not not always bring joy. Or even sanity.

By the summer of 1976 my father (who was known for such things) had adopted a new personal passion- white water canoeing!  He had even built hi sown "rag bottom" canoe from a kit.  As part of this obsession, he had designed a family trip that would take us on a cross country drive from Greensboro, NC to the Buffalo River in Arkansas.  My mother and I were less than thrilled, but Dad was so excited that we got on board.  We traveled with another family that Dad knew from his work with the Boy Scouts.  We had almost nothing in common with these folks, and having them on the trip turned out to be...interesting.  To say the least.  But off we went, two families pulling small camper with canoes and kayaks on top.  We were told the trip would be exciting and the Buffalo River beautiful and epic.  I guess it was all in your perspective...  

Among the events of that trip (there are far too many to mention them all) that are still lodged in my memory are driving an hour out of the way to visit Sam Houston's School House. This turned out to be a one room building with a window you could look in where young Sammy had once been a student.  Thrilling!  There was the night we camped just to the west of the Mississippi River, and as we lay in our our little Scotty camper I could hear mosquitoes buzzing like B52 bombers all around my head.  I swatted as fast as I could but simply couldn't keep up.  For the only time I can remember, my parents actually moved us to a motel for the night.  When we examined the camper the next morning, there were monster blood stains all over the walls where we had killed mosquitoes. It was horrifying! 

But all of that paled in comparison to the experience of actually trying to canoe the Buffalo River. It was scenic...I think. But I don't really recall, because what I remember most clearly is that the river had no water in it.  Arkansas was in the midst of a drought, and the river had simply dried up.  For the better part of 8 hours, in 95 degree heat, we CARRIED our boats down that river bed. We got to canoe in certain places, but for the most part, my dad and I and the other man and his son were merely glorified pack mules.  And the other son...whined and complained and cried and moaned the entire time.  It was awful.  My family had a lot of wonderful family vacations.  This one- my last big one with my parents before leaving high school- does not make that list.  We couldn't wait to just go home.  And we did.  But not before a part of our joy, a part of our family bond...died.  The trip would later be something we could look back on and laugh about.  But that took the passage of time.

Like that trip or the Griswold's pilgrimage to Wally World, family vacations often come with frustration, pain, confusion and anger.  So does life.  My life is full of great joy and many blessings.  But sometimes...especially feels like I keep reaching places where the Buffalo River is dry and Wally World is closed.  It hurts.  And I struggle with my faith. Many of you have noticed a dip in my spirits and my normally positive attitude.  And I have felt and appreciated your love.

I began this blog in 2009 with words from the late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg's song, Along the Road. At this point in the journey I turn to that song once again, although sharing different lyrics...
Joy at the start, fear in the journey
Joy in the coming home
A part of the heart gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road...

Part of my heart is lost right now, and I am still "learning" how to deal with it.  It is not any one thing- my trip is just encountering a few too many school houses and mosquitoes these days.  I am mostly healthy, I have wonderful friends and family around me, and I know that God is faithful. I believe that all things will be made new again- including me.  But in the meantime, my heart is hurting. I am not sure where my journey will take me next. This may well be my final blog post for a while as I sort out my thoughts.  I pray that God will make clear a path, and that I will have the faith, fortitude and wisdom to follow His leadings. My destination is secure, and I know there will be "joy in the coming home." I ask for your prayers, and I covet your support. 

Because of Jesus,

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Technicolor Stomp

Among the things that confused and baffled me about the students I was working with at the Union Church of Hinsdale in 2000-2001 was that they really didn't like games or stunts.  The only games they ever wanted to play were basketball and Capture the Flag- both fine games, but hardly the kinds of games I wanted to play exclusively.  I led them in a few of my tried and true favorite games, and they just didn't get the art of playing.  As for stunts (little skits or games designed to "punk" someone at the end) they just seemed confused as to why anyone would do such things.  Even Psychological Sit-Ups failed to amuse them.  It was all very frustrating for me, because I always loved a great game!  So I want to share with you a few things that worked most everywhere else I served, and see which ones my former youth remember, and which ones still sound good today.

The Egyptian Mummy Race-  We would divide into several teams, and each team would attempt to wrap one team member in a roll of toilet tissue from head to toe.  Best mummy wins!  You can see great mummies from Springfield Friends Meeting and FUMC-Kissimmee on this page.
Sardines-  The king of all youth group games, in my humble opinion.  Hide and seek played with a partner, where on pair hides and everyone else looks for them, then hides WITH them after finding them.  A classic game best played in huge, old church buildings. Outside of youth ministry circles, this is also known as the Make Out Game.  Not that such things EVER happened in my youth groups...  
The Honey Bee Club-  An "initiation" stunt that convinced students they were being welcomed into a special club, this elaborate bit conned the victim twice.  The first time they had water spit in their face, and then were promised a chance at revenge by initiating the next person.  Unfortunately for them, the next "victim" was in on the gag, and so they got it again.  It may sound a little mean, but it was a beloved stunt at many stops along my journey.  And who can forget listening to the entire crowd buzz likes bees the entire time.  Bzzzzzzzz...
Do You Love Your Neighbor?-  A musical chairs type game, this was played with great ferocity by all of my groups- but one.  The odd-person out would stand in the middle of a circle of chairs and then approach a seated peer.  They would then ask the question, "Do you love your neighbor?"  If the seated player answered yes, the people on either side of them had to change seats while the odd-person also fought for one.  If the player answer no, they would then continue on to say "But I do love people who..."  They would then complete the sentence with things like attend a certain school, are wearing socks, haven't brushed their teeth today or what ever they choose.  Then everyone with that characteristic has to change seats.  It is a wild game that also helped kids get to know a little about each other.
Speed Kissing-  A race of teams in straight lines, facing forward, the turning as rapidly as possible and passing kisses on the cheek to the back on the line.  After a few practice runs, they race against another team or a bogus "world record."  And when the next to the last person in line turns for the finish, they are greeted with a pie in the face.  Another often requested stunt.
The Technicolor Stomp- You divide into teams.  Each team gets an equal number of balloons to inflate, with every team having their own color.  After they are all blown up, the balloons are all placed in the center of the room, and you yell, "GO!"  The idea is to use your feet to pop the balloons of the other team so that your color will be the only ones left.  Thus the name.  The game is wild, loud, easy to cheat at and a ton of fun for everyone!  Yet somehow the students in Hinsdale found it beneath them.

I'll stop there, but I have to tell you, games and stunts were an important part of making our youth groups meetings "You Gotta' Be There!" events in the communities we served.  Other games like Hook-Up TagFruit Basket Upset and Four On a Couch were huge parts of various ministries.  I am so thankful that I grew up knowing, and hopefully was able to impart of the students I served, that following Jesus is fun.  Thanks for letting me look back.  Now I'm gonna' go play some SMITH...

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Throwback Thursday

In honor of today being the birthday of both Nina Mock and Zach Wehr, today's #TBT pictures are from our 2004 Myrtle Beach trip with the youth of Wesley Memorial UMC of Tampa. As always in student ministry, great people make for great memories.  Have a great Thursday, everyone!

The group gathers outside Myiabi Kyotos

Zach- dancin' fool!
Nina, proving once again that SMITH is a game no one can win!
Happy birthday, Nina and Zach- and here's to the memories!

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Brilliance of #HIMYM

Warning: The following post contains spoilers, personal opinion and inside jokes about the TV show How I Met Your Mother. In fact, here's an inside joke right now- Relax, "Robin."  This is not about you!!!  :)

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the final episode of Seinfeld.  Time flies, huh?  Many of you who know me or follow this blog know that I consider Seinfeld to be the greatest TV show of all-time. I love a great sitcom, and we currently have some really good ones gracing the airwaves. Modern Family.  Community.  The Big Bang Theory. I love them all. But I have recently come to the realization that for me, the most important 30 minutes of TV each week is Monday night at 8 pm.  That's when How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) airs on CBS. It has now achieved the status of my second favorite show...EVER.  Bold statement. I know. But there are reasons. Like Seinfeld, almost every situation you may encounter in life has an episode of HIMYM that relates in some way.  Unlike most sitcoms, the show is meticulous in following up story lines- even if it takes several years to do it.  The main characters - Barney, Marshall, Lilly, Ted & Robin - have had to deal with real life.  They have messed up relationships, lost jobs, betrayed friends, had parents pass away and divorce and dealt with infidelity in their own lives. And yet the show remains very funny. They have their own language, like nearly every great sitcom.  We have learned about the Bro Code, which is now legend- wait for it - dary!   We know that sometimes to get a real answer out of a friend, the right question is "Where's the poop?"  We know Teddy Westside. We eagerly await the final slap in the infamous "Slap Bet."We have learned that Laser Tag is the greatest of all sports. We met Canadian pop sensation Robin Sparkles. We discovered the existence of the Cockamouse. And so much more.  It's been a wild ride.

This past Monday night was the finale of season 8, with the promise of the answer to one of the longest running cliffhangers in TV history- who is the mystery woman who will marry Ted and become the mother of his children, and how did he meet her? To be honest, for many of the hardcore fans of the show the question was no longer important.  We had already discovered that the journey was so much greater than the destination.  And we knew so much about this woman.  Knowledge gained over many years of faithful viewing.  We had seen her ankle when Ted dated her roommate without ever meeting her.  We knew she wore boots. We knew she played bass in a band.  And we knew of her fabled yellow umbrella.  We even already knew that Ted would meet her outside of the church where Barney and Robin were getting married (maybe- that's still next season). But still...we were finally going to see her face. The mother of all mothers would be revealed. In an episode that contained more plot that most sitcoms squeeze into a year, the last scene featured a woman carrying a guitar case and a yellow umbrella, wearing boots and buying a train ticket to Farhampton- site of the wedding.  The camera swung around, and we saw her face.  Even though Ted has not met her yet, we have.  And there was celebrating at the Jones house!

It was at that moment that the full brilliance of HIMYM became clear to me.  A show that has always rewarded intelligence, faithfulness and attention to detail had topped itself one more time.  You see, we knew that we had just met the mother.  Other long time fans were certain they had just met the mother.  But for the uninitiated, there was no clue. Unless you had been watching, caring and paying attention, you only knew a woman with a yellow umbrella and boots had just bought a train ticket.  The writers didn't tell us who she was.  Those in the know just KNEW.  

We live in an "I want it NOW!" society.  For the past 8 years, HIMYM has offered us the opportunity to enjoy the virtues of patience, loyalty and wisdom- all while laughing our butts off!  That they reached the penultimate moment in the show's history and were still faithful to those virtues is a tribute to all involved.  We were rewarded for persistence. So today I say thank you, HIMYM. Thank you for 8 seasons of joy, laughter, ridiculousness and friendship.  There is one season left, and still many stories to be finished.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out. And to see if maybe...just maybe...Seinfeld's reign at the top of my list will end.  Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Old Man

I have often written in this space about the joys of being able to reconnect with old friends and former students though the wonders of the internet.  Through my wife's Facebook, my Twitter and this blog, I am able to see so much of what is happening in the lives of so many people I care about. I see pictures of their families, read of their joys and sorrows, and share in their day to day lives.  It also allows me the privilege of praying for them in times of crisis and need.  I love these connections, and feel blessed to live in a time when I can still be involved in the lives of people I may not have actually SEEN in 30 years.  It's amazing.

HOWEVER...there is a downside to all of this information and connection.  I see things most everyday that remind of a certain truth that I would just as soon forget.  I am getting old! Recently there has been much evidence of this fact all over Facebook for me to see.  My former Springfield Friends Meeting youth groupers Jennifer Wood Jones and Keri Vinson Johnston both sending daughters to their respective proms.  Ouch.  Beth Edgerton Bell, from my New Garden Friends Meeting group of the late 70's and early 80's had a child graduate from college.  Bring on the Geritol.  I know people younger than me (Lisa Jewett) and my age (Susan McBane Tuggle) who are GRANDPARENTS!!! Where's my AARP card? My best friend from 8th grade on, Steve Semmler, is getting ready to see his YOUNGEST graduate from college. Steve is older than, me, so that one doesn't hurt so much.  But the point is, time is passing.  In fact, time is flying!  And today, my own son Will takes what is for all practical purposes his final test as a high school student- his AP physics exam (please pray hard!). It feels like a day passes with every blink of my eyes- which are not what they used to be either...

So what is the point of this lament?  Not to go all Dead Poet's Society on you here, but it is really very simple- Seize the Day! Live life to the fullest, making the most of every moment.  I tend to over-think things, analyze relationships and try to discover if things will work BEFORE I even try them.  That's life on a merry-go-round.  I want to ride the big coaster, with the huge drops, the tough climbs, the queasy stomach- and the amazing thrills.  I want to remember that Jesus tells us to live the abundant life, full of joy and soaking in everything this world has to offer.

With each day that passes, it is clear that this old man has a limited time on this earth, and I am more than cool with that- because I know that I know that I know what my future holds. But when I get to heaven, I want to arrive able to say to whoever wants to know that I LIVED my life full of love and adventure in the name of Jesus.  I may not have (and will never) gotten everything right in my life, but I did live it with gusto! I begin this week with a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm.  And if you think that all sounds a little nuts, then I suggest you get out of this old man's way.  Let's have a great week!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

A Mother…
When you’re a child she walks before you,
To set an example.
When you’re a teenager she walks behind you
To be there should you need her.
When you’re an adult she walks beside you
So that as two friends you can enjoy life together..
Author Unknown

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7 Things I Know To Be True

My life had been a bit wonky these past few weeks.  I tweeted just the other day that if were to ever write my memoirs, this past week would need it's own chapter.  There's just been a lot going on, and I know that at times my posts have seemed at bit "down."  Well today, I want to share only the positives in my life.  Here at 7 things I know to be true...

  1. I have GREAT friends.  After yesterday's post in which I indicated what a hard night Thursday was for me, I heard quickly from my friends Steve Semmler and Teresa Tysinger, making sure I was ok.  But that was just the beginning.  I also spent time texting with Jill Painter Watson, who is always so encouraging to me. Susan McBane Tuggle did her usual job of encouraging me and making me smile via text. I got a call from my high school friend Beth Vestal McGalliard, who indicated she is ready to jump in the car and drive to Tampa to see me.  Just made my heart warm. And then to wrap up up the day, Jerry Hanbery called just to check in and get Will's movie review on The Great Gatsby.  It is very hard to have a pity party for yourself when you feel that kind of love.  Thank you all!
  2. The Killers are an amazing band.  The more I listen to them, the more I want to listen to them.  Their songs actually SAY something!  Want proof?  Check out Here With Me.  I am borderline obsessed...
  3. I had a great report from the doctor this week. My lab work indicated that my diabetes is under control and that everything else is excellent.  In fact, she said that my cholesterol is PERFECT! Here's what I know to be true- I am 53 years old, and that is the first time anyone has ever told me that something about my body, inside or out, is PERFECT!  So yes- I'm gloating!!!
  4. My son graduates high school 3 weeks from yesterday, and I could not be more proud of him. Because of me he has had many obstacles to overcome in his high school years, and he has faces them all without complaint or excuse. He and and his mother have both earned their halos these past few years. Love you guys!
  5. God still speaks to us if we take time to listen.  Yesterday afternoon I was having some quiet time (in-between all the texts and phone calls) when I suddenly had on my heart to text my friend Ashley Goad Broadhurst. She travels constantly, and I had no idea where she was or what she was doing- but God just put on my heart to let her know I was thinking about her.  Turned out she in the midst of some emotional stuff and was glad to hear from an old friend.  I do love being used by God...
  6. The Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie (with ice cream) at Chili's is absolutely to die for. Yes I am diabetic. No I shouldn't have had any. Yes, I splurged. Get over it!!!
  7. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I am convinced that mothers should get a month of recognition, not just a day.  May it be a great day of celebration for all you moms.  You are loved!
So there you have it. I don't know much, but those are 7 things I do know.  I also know that I am blessed to have so many of you share life with me through this blog. I hope you know how much that means to me.  Have a great weekend!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, May 10, 2013

A New Day

I was awake at 4:17 AM today.  As I sat in my recliner reflecting on life and the day ahead, I must admit some of my thoughts were less than positive.  There was a wistful longing for the past. There was a dread of the future.  There were feelings of loneliness. I really just wanted to go back to sleep and skip Friday.

But as I sat there, two quotes came to my mind that helped me focus on what is real in my life and on the truth of each new day.  The first was from the late songwriter Dan Fogelberg and his brilliant song To the Morning:

"And it's going to be a day
there is really no way to say no to the morning.
Yes, it's going to be a day
there is really nothing left to say
but come on morning."

The second comes from Psalms 118:24:

"This is the day that the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

So I think I will go ahead and have a Friday.  My prayer for today is this- LORD, I only want to say that I love you and I pray for you to make each new day a better day. In every way.  Amen & Amen!

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Quaker Lake Camp, 1981

Who's the young skinny guy surrounded by the best team/small group that Quaker Lake Camp ever saw?  It's me!  It's been over 30 years, and I still know this group without any need for prompts.  From left to right it's Laura Wheeler, Marty Bray, Kim Haynes, Me, Angie Swaim, Marshall Ratledge, Marnie Larkins, Jay Osborne, Sabrina Perry, Lisa Wilkins and (in front) Rey Iglesisas. It's like sitting down and making a list of some of my favorite people.  And there is a great story that goes with this group.  You can read it here- It Just Doesn't Matter!   Have a blessed Thursday!

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Swim Team Playlist

Several weeks ago my old friend, former student (in the youth group of Springfield Friends Meeting) and faithful reader of this blog Jamie Robinson asked me via Twitter if I would be interested in taking on a project. James has a couple of kids involved on a swim team in NC, and he has been chosen to serve as the "DJ" who plays music during their meets.  He said he needed a playlist that would fill about an hour, and he wondered if I might be willing to put together such a list.  I was glad to accept.

There were two things that Jamie and I both knew going into this joint venture.  I knew that he had been the "DJ" at a youth group Christmas dance back in the 80s (see picture), and that his musical taste was questioned way back when.  And James knew that my musical tastes vary wildly and are questionable still today. So I have put together a list, which (at his brave suggestion) he is seeing for the first time as I post it here this morning.  I hope this will work for him, and he certainly is under no obligation to use it.  I thought long and hard about appropriate songs and according to my I-Tunes, this is one hour and 4 minutes worth of quality stuff.  I will be interested to hear other reactions as well, but whatever you think you have to give me props for one thing- the use of the Dire Straits song Twisting By the Pool is sheer genius.  :) Here we go...

  1. I Never Walk Alone -  Huey Lewis & the News
  2. It's Time - Imagine Dragons
  3. Bulletproof Heart - My Chemical Romance
  4. I Will Wait - Mumford & Sons
  5. Surfer's Paradise - All Star United w/ Phil Keaggy
  6. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
  7. Twisting By the Pool - Dire Straits
  8. All Star - Smash Mouth
  9. Since I Met You - dc Talk
  10. ho hey - The Lumineers
  11. Human - The Killers
  12. Dark Horses - Switchfoot
  13. Feelin' Stronger Every Day - Chicago
  14. I'm Still Standing - Elton John
  15. These Times - Safety Suit
  16. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
Some of you (including Jamie) may be stunned that no Beach Boys or Buffett were included.  We must all make sacrifices for the good of the team.  I hope this works, James. We'll be pulling for your kids!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


My son Will and I are huge movie buffs, and over the years we have developed our own "short hand" language, using lines from movies to make specific points to one another.  One of our favorites comes from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the mostly forgettable sequel to the most excellent Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.  In the plot of Bogus Journey (and I use the term "plot" extremely loosely here!) Bill & Ted are battling the Grim Reaper for the right to not be dead.  Yeah, you read that right. In one scene that are playing charades with some aliens (again, I cannot make this stuff up) and the aliens are making some wild gestures and hand signals, seeming to indicate it is a movie.  Suddenly the Grim Reaper blurts out a guess- "Butch and Sundance, the Early Years!"  Bill & Ted look at their teammate, shake their heads in disbelief and utter this immortal line- "Death...Nooooo..."

Anytime Will or I see or hear something that seems so completely moronic, out of place or inappropriate that we cannot believe it just happened, we will look at each other and repeat that line.  It happens more often than you might think.  It is our way of saying "I can't believe you just went there!" 

So what does this have to do with anything?  I read a blog on Sunday from a guy I will call Kevin- because that is his name.  I refuse to tell you more than that because I do not want to send traffic to his blog. (As a side rant, are there any other 3-2-1 Penguins fans out there who have trouble saying the name "Kev-innn" with a straight face?) In a post about the current state of the Christian church in USAmerica, he made the following statement:  

"The Jesus found in scripture would act differently and teach differently if he were in 21st century America. He would be much more conservative, much more restrained.  He would focus more on sin and less on loving one another.  The church needs to realize that just as Jesus would have a different focus, so must we. We need to preach hell fire and damnation. People need to understand that an angry Jesus is waiting to judge us.  Talk about grace all you want to, but trust me- we will all be judged."


We cannot re-write the teachings of Jesus (GOD!) just because they seem out of step with the church of today.  We must change our churches to be more in step with the radical, ridiculous love and grace of Jesus Christ.  We are promised in scripture that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. I try really hard not be judgmental of others, but in this case, I believe Kevin has earned the coveted Green Weenie Award for representing the WORST the church has to offer our world. In fact, I would suggest to Kev that he check out the urban translation of Proverbs 10:19- "Speak not at all, because you are gonna' say something stupid!"

My prayer today is that God will grant me the wisdom and the strength to follow and represent the REAL Jesus.  The one who came to save us, not condemn us. The one who taught us that whatever the question, love is the answer.  The one who gave birth to the church so that we might follow him, not so we can mold him to our beliefs.  Thank you for loving me, Jesus.  And forgive me for my judgment of Kevin.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Where the Buffalo Roam

Yesterday at Van Dyke Church the message was brought by the Director of High School Ministries, Corey Wolloff.  He used the John 6 scripture about the feeding of the 5000 to talk to us about joining with God to do things that would be impossible on our own.  It was a wonderful lesson about how when faced with a seemingly impossible task, we have two choices.  We can take a step away from the challenge and just honestly say that we don't believe it can be done. Or we can look at the gifts and blessings God has placed in our lives and take a step towards working with God to accomplish great things.  In the scripture, Philip chooses the first option, pointing out they have no food and no money with which to feel the gathered crowd.  Andrew, while not claiming to have the answer, does find 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  He doesn't really see how this can help, but he does know what to do with them. He hands them to Jesus.  And you know the rest. It was a wonderful teaching point.

Corey then went on to use this illustration, which really hit home to me.  He talked about buffaloes and cows.  He said that when cows are in the pasture and a storm approaches, they are very aware of the oncoming turbulence. They know the rain will be uncomfortable.  And so they run AWAY from the oncoming storm.  I have seen cows run, and while they do the best they can, they are NOT going to outrun any storms.  The end result is that they get caught by the cloud, and the reward for their efforts is that they actually spend MORE time in the rain than if they had simply stood still. Trying to avoid the trials and the pain simply does not work.  Buffaloes, on the other hand, respond in the exact opposite manner.  When they sense the storm brewing, they charge full speed INTO the path of the cloud!  They know that on the other side of the storm they will find fresh water and fresh grass. On the other side of the storm they will find the blessings they seek.  And they will spend LESS time in the rain by meeting the storm head on.

So what does all of this mean to my life?  It means that if God is calling me to something that feels impossible to me, that is a good thing.  I simply need to take a step forward (into the storm!) and offer what I have.  God is not asking me to do it alone- it is about WE. Too many times we pray for God to bless what we want to do instead of finding the work that God is already blessing and joining in.  Think of what the church could do if we all took that step forward...together!  That was Corey's message to us yesterday, and mine to you today.

What impossible task does God have in mind for me?  I am still praying about that. But whatever it is this, I know this much- I will not be a cow.  I wanna' be a buffalo!!!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

All I'm Saying Is...

This post originally appeared on March 1, 2011.  I share it again today because it became clear to me this week that while the players may have changed, the game (unfortunately) has not...

My wife Marilyn is a wonderfully patient and understanding woman- she has to be to put up with me.  She is warm-hearted and open minded, willing to discuss most any subject and always ready to listen.  Still, Will and I know that there are limits, and there are times when she does dig in her heels.  We know that we have reached such a point in any discussion when she begins a sentence with the phrase, "All I'm saying is..."  At that point you know there is nothing you can say that will change her mind.  And it's best to just quit talking.

Lately I've read a great deal about the differences Christians have with each other.  I've watched on Twitter these past few days as supporters of two popular church leaders aired all of their dirty laundry for the world to see.  This is not the kind of Jesus Revolution I have been praying for.  So much of what divides the church comes from our unwillingness to admit that there are things we do not know about our faith.  We forget that most of what we argue about are the opinions of people, not the Word of God.  After a lot of thought and prayer, I have reached an "all I have to say is" moment.  And here it is- Everything Jesus said is more significant to our faith than anything anyone else says about Jesus.  I'm certain it is not a new concept.  But it is certainly not being practiced by very many church leaders, who seem to see their words as the final authority.  To illustrate, let me try a parable...

Three men gathered to discuss the most important aspect of our faith.  A seminary professor went first.  "The only thing that matters is theology.  Without a strong systematic theology faith will wither.  Your understanding of things like sanctification, justification, the rapture, hell and the virgin birth determine who you are in the eyes of God.  Without an orthodox theology learned from the great masters of the faith, you will never reach Heaven.  With education comes grace.  Theology is the key."

The second man to speak was a pastor"The only thing that matters is worship.  Gathering with God's people to sing praise (as long as the songs are from the "correct" hymnal), sharing in prayer time, tithing and listening the the wisdom of the preacher are the things that connect us to Jesus.  Partaking in the sacraments such as communion (just juice, and no wafers please) and baptism ( of children; dunking only) brings us together as the body.  Without a well-planned and highly structured worship service, there can be no true connection to God.  Jesus is found in worship."

The final speaker was an activist"The only thing that matters is changing the world.  Without a good cause to work towards, faith becomes worthless and weak.  Whether you work for peace or to end hunger, to stop abortion or to end discrimination, every Christian needs a cause.  And a strong political stance is good too, because that gets you on the 11 o'clock news.  If you do not take a stand on the important issues of the day (as decided by your church leaders), then you fall short as a believer.  And if your attitude actually serves to drive people away from Jesus, then they just don't get it."

All 3 of the men spoke with passion and had valid points.  But...Jesus said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life.  Come follow me."  That's it.  No choices, no dilemmas and no complications.  No theological system, magic sermons or political causes are needed.  We Christians muddle everything by making it about us.  We think we have something important to add to the words of the Christ, thinking that we can somehow explain what Jesus meant better than he did.  We twist his words (or ignore them) to match our belief systems and theologies.  But whether it is me, your pastor, Billy Graham or Rick Warren doing the talking, everything Jesus said is more significant than anything we have to say about it.  What if we really tried taking his teachings literally?  Take a look at The Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  If we simply followed those teachings at face value we would turn this world upside down!   I want to be like the first Quaker, George Fox, who struggled mightily with the teachings of the Church of England until the day he truly encountered the living Christ.  He wrote in his journal that he realized then the greatest theology of all:  "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to my condition.  And my heart did jump for joy."   I want to be like John Wesley, who encountered Christ on a ship and found his heart "strangely warmed."  Jesus does not want to merely be my savior; He also longs to be LORD of my life.  I was not saved simply to avoid hell.  We are called (John 10:10) to live life with Jesus in the here and now- and to live it abundantly!  That's the Jesus Revolution- realizing that our man-made systems and traditions, while useful,  carry no weight at all when held in the light of the Gospel.  Keep your religion and give me Jesus.  You may disagree and find me too radical or too simplistic.  Well you know what?    All I'm saying's all about Jesus.  End of story.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Random Remembrance

Alan & I
Music has always spoken to me.  Since my earliest days it has had the power to influence my moods and effect my memories.  It seems that lately the lyrics to songs both old and new have been opening my ears and my mind to new insights into the human condition, and especially to my own.  I have spent many hours in recent weeks with my I-pod. I have smiled, I have cried and I have remembered.  I have been lifted to spiritual highs, and revisited the joys and the pains of relationships. Music is often my emotional medicine.

Thursday afternoon of this past week I was hit with a particularly random musical memory from around 1975.  I attended a Winter Camp at Quaker Lake after Christmas, and met this guitar playing legend named Alan Brown.  One late night in the Campfire Room of the lodge a bunch of guys were playing and singing, and Alan played a song called I'm Easy.  Never having heard the song (even though it was about to win an Oscar for best song from the movie Nashville!) I was simply entranced.  Alan sang it with such power and feeling that I assumed he wrote it, and was in awe of his talent.  Even after I discovered the truth, the beauty of his singing and the power of that lyric stayed with me a long time.  

Many of my friends and regular readers know that Alan Brown went on to become one of my very best friends, and a guy I was blessed to play and sing with many times over the years.  But I have to confess I had not thought of the song in years until Thursday. It popped into my head and soon I was remembering that moment (and all of the lyrics) from all those years ago.  I checked YouTube and found this video, which I share with you today.  Enjoy. Pay close attention to the the words- 'cause that's what cool people do.  And never underestimate the power of music...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Today I am remembering our 1990 youth group trip from Springfield Friends Meeting to Walt Disney World. The picture below was taken at EPCOT.  Can anyone guess where?  Have a great day!

Danny, Heather, Todd, Rich, Shelley, Amy & Jeremy