Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Leaving Springfield

Remember, my old Springfield buddies- lunch at Pizza Inn on August 16th at noon! Let us know if you are coming (and how many are coming with you!) so we can let the restaurant know how many to prepare for!!!

A Springfield Christmas at our house

In early February of 1994 I accepted a call to be the new youth pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee, FL. Hard to believe it's been 20 years. Leaving Springfield Friends Meeting was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. On this Throwback Thursday I'm going to tell the story of what happened at Springfield Friends Meeting after Marilyn and I made our decision. We were leaving on April 14th. And there was so much to do!

Once our decision had been made, and the task of telling the people I worked with and for began. It was not an easy task. A few people- Max Rees, Judy Rees, Rick Harward and Neal Thomas- already knew of the possibility because they had written incredible reference letters for me. Telling everyone was difficult; telling the youth seemed impossible. I broke it to them one Sunday afternoon at YFYF, and there was lots of crying and lots of hugging. Once we were past that, I told them how much I loved them and that they needed to know we were going out with a bang, not a whimper. We began to talk about what they wanted to do over our last 8 weeks together, and their answer was simple- EVERYTHING! I explained to them because of finances and school schedules we could not do a major trip during the time, but other than that I would try to do everything they asked of me.

The list of requests was extensive. They wanted one last Rec Around the Clock, one final Quaker Lake Retreat, one more Movie Night, another Kyoto's Night and every other special event we had ever done! They asked for specific things to happen at both YFYF and the newly renamed Monday night program, MARS (formerly TNT), right down to which songs they wanted to sing and which games they wanted to play. They wanted it all- and I gave it to them. We crammed a year's worth of programming into two months, and it was amazing. We even planned an "alumni" trip to Disney for the following December so our college students would have one last event together- and we would have company in Florida. Combined with trying to hit the ground running in Kissimmee and packing after almost eight years in our little house, I have never been more exhausted than I was when April arrived. But it was so worth it...

The relationships I had worked so hard to foster over the years could have easily drifted away once they knew I was leaving. They could have felt deserted and unloved. They could have even felt let down by God. We did pray a lot and cry a lot during that time. But because of the effort and care we gave to those last 8 weeks, everyone felt energized and important. I have always believed that in any ministry position how you leave is just as important as how you start. This experience reinforced that belief- times 10! By the time of our "going away" dinner on March 30, we were closer than ever to the youth. That final night could have been tear filled and joyless. Instead, it was one of the best nights of our lives. We may not have done EVERYTHING in those last 8 weeks...but we came pretty darn close! Have a blessed day!

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Quaker Lake Flashbacks

From 1978 until 1983 I spent my summers working at a summer camp. I loved that job and have so many great memories. However...looking back I sometimes question my sanity. Long days, short nights, no air conditioning, no carbonated beverages and only one night a week to do anything else doesn't sound like anything a normal young adult would choose to do. And yet we considered it both a blessing and an honor to work there, as have so many others since then. Sometime in the late 1980's I stole from Jimmy Buffet and parodied his song We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About for a Quaker Lake Camp reunion event that never happened. I have always thought the song expressed a little bit of the craziness that came with working at Quaker Lake. The song is now WAY out of date; instead of Neal, I could say Heather and instead of the campers are the staff it could read "now the campers kids are the staff."  Everyone who has ever worked at QLC can identify with the spirit of the song, if not the particulars, because to survive working there you have to LOVE it. And it helped if you were just a little bit crazy...

I was supposed to have been a computer wiz or a naval academy grad (HA!)
That was the way that my parents perceived me, those were the plans that they had
But I couldn't fit the part, too dumb? Or too smart? Ain't it funny how we all turned out
I guess we are the people our parents warned us about

I could have worked at Pizza Inn, or Sears, or McD's, 
but instead I worked at Quaker Lake
It did permanent mental damage, the campers wouldn't give me a break
Now those campers are the staff and I just have to laugh
 'cause I know that it's so easy to see
That they're all demented, just like we taught them to be!

We are the people, they still can't figure out
We are the people, our parents warned us about

Hey, hey, Neal what do you say? Let me come back to Quaker Lake with you
Blue skies and the sun shining high, playing on lake so blue...well, green...
I've see it red!

Now I've got quarters in my loafers trying to fight inflation 
when it only used to take a cent
What happened to my Quaker Lake pension; now even my dog is for rent
But still I miss that crazy place, it put a smile on my face
and I'll never be normal again
'Cause I love tuna cheesies, and singing Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann!

We are the people, there isn't any doubt
We are the people our parents warned us about
We are the people who make you do a double take
We are the people who use to work at Quaker Lake

So here's to all the crazies without whom my life would have never been the same! The early Christians were like that- people thought they were either crazy or demon possessed. There is something about living life in the Light of Christ that makes us all a little dangerous- may we always be those people!

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In the Middle

Today will be my last update on the status of my father-in-law, Posey Steele, unless there is dramatic news to share. It looks like there is a long and winding road ahead of him and his family and friends...

One of my favorite teachers in high school taught history, and his name was John Brown. Seriously. We all kidded him that he was in the witness protection program because that couldn't be his real name. Mr. Brown was a short, stocky man with a tremendous sense of humor. He made history fun, and I count him high on the list of reasons I still love history today. His lectures were interesting, and he brought out facts that were not always obvious. And since this was back in the dark ages when teachers actually wrote their own tests, you were responsible for knowing everything he said. People would take notes like crazy when he spoke, because there was a test every Friday. I remember how distressed some of my classmates would get at the sheer volume of information he would spew each week. Those of us who were really paying attention to the situation knew such stress was unnecessary. Every Thursday Mr. Brown would spent the last 15 minutes of class reviewing, asking questions to give us examples of what would be on the test the next day. Most weeks those review questions were almost word for word the actual test questions. If you took notes on Thursday, you could spend the rest of the week enjoying the humor and adventure of his lectures. But so many people never noticed, and Mr. Brown played the "difficulty" of the tests for all it was worth. Every Thursday class ended with the same mini-lecture. "Big test tomorrow. You guys need to study hard tonight, but don't let it get you down. Some of you will do well and some of you won't. But here's something to take with you throughout your life- hope for the best, expect the worst, and be satisfied with something in the middle." That was some 37 years ago, and obviously it has stuck with me.

When my lovely wife Marilyn flew to NC on Saturday to see her father in the hospital, she went expecting the worst. We were both afraid that if she didn't go immediately she might not get a chance to say goodbye. The situation was that dire. The fall he took Friday night had done damage to his brain and there was a pooling of blood in his head. He was in a light coma. He was not expected to survive for very long. Marilyn arrived expecting the worst. And while there were a few positive signs, we knew that Posey was now in the hands of God and the doctors.

Then Sunday was a very good day. He was more alert, his eyes were open, he recognized some people and was speaking more. He ate a bit and just generally seemed to be improving. When I spoke with Marilyn there was a new hope in her voice. What had felt like it might be the end seemed to be turning into the beginning of a long road. A difficult road to be certain, but one that had hope. The prayers of our many friends were being lifted and we felt encouraged that God was at work in Posey Steele.

And then yesterday was a rough day. No details are needed; you just need to know that he was struggling and not as alert. There was more pain. Marilyn arrived home last night just as unsure of the future as when she had left on Saturday. There was permanent damage done by the fall. The extent is unknown. The ability of his 80+ year old body to recover is unknown. But he is still with us, and he is still fighting. His amazing wife Marie and daughter Carol are by his side. He has a wonderful church family that will support them all. So while we hope and pray for the best, we live with the knowledge that the worst is still a real possibility as well. The worst for us, anyway. I'm sure Posey would tell you that going to be with Jesus is not the worst thing that could happen! But in the meantime, here we are. In the middle. And given the events of the past few days, I'd have to say again that Mr. Brown got it right. We are thankful to be here. So we ask for your continued prayers for Posey, the family and the medical staff. Those prayers continue to make a difference. Our God can do miraculous things.

One more thing about Mr. Brown. Every test had a bonus question, and the question was always to predict the final score of some collegiate sporting event for the following day. You didn't have to get the score right to get the bonus points. All you had to do was pick his alma mater, Appalachian State University, to win. Even if they weren't playing. And many people never figured that out either. Life is so much easier when you pay attention. And when you understand that God is in control. Love you guys.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Wretched Refuse

For those of you who have been praying for my father-law, thank you. Please continue to hold him in the Light. He continues to hang in there. There is really nothing new to report, but they will be doing more testing today and I will give you an update tomorrow. 

But on this Monday, I feel a rant coming on...

I know very little about the hot topic of immigration. I tend to be politically naive and simplistic. But still, with all the debate lately about immigration and building walls and closing our borders I have found myself wondering about the Statue of Liberty. As a student of history (and an old geezer) I can remember when Lady Liberty was more than a tourist attraction. It was a symbol of hope to the world. But the world has changed, our nation has changed, and I worry that the old girl may soon be out of a job. If the borders are all closed, who will she welcome? And if she is no longer needed we could have a real predicament on our hands. She's an immigrant from France, and if she becomes unemployed she could be deported. How embarrassing would that be? Seriously, I know we need to limit the chaos and I know we need immigration reform so that families can stay together in our country after they arrive. But this country was founded on the "wretched refuse" - my ancestors and yours. We are all mutts. We need to be very careful about seeing ourselves as "real Americans" and others as interlopers. Does the rest of the world now see Lady Liberty more as a guardian of "what's ours" rather than as a beacon of hope? I love this quote from Robin Williams:

Maybe that's the way things have to be in this new world. But fixing immigration is, at its heart, a political problem. And since I know very little about politics and care about them even less I will leave that issue up to those who are smarter than me. Besides, that's not what I want to write about today.

I want to write about Jesus.

You see, I fear that too many of our churches (and PRAISE GOD for those churches that rise above this description) have already adopted a closed border policy. We are often only comfortable with those who are like us- who look like us, think like us, act like us and smell like us. We seek those who are already Church Worthy in our eyes. If I were going to start a church tomorrow, I would put these words from the Statue of Liberty on a billboard in the front yard. Even if, as some feel. they are no longer applicable to USAmerica in 2014, they are still absolutely perfect for the church of Jesus Christ.

Jesus made it clear during his earthly ministry that outreach to the lost, the hurt, the lame, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the sin-filled- the wretched refuse- was not just a task, it was a priority! Those who are "tempest-tost" by life, looking for a port of refuge in the storms of this world, should find the church to be a welcoming shore. Jesus has lifted his lamp and promised that "he who the Son sets free is free indeed!" The questions are not about the Savior and what he taught; they are about us. Do we live in fear of those who are different? Have we taken ownership of a love that was never meant to be contained or controlled, but was meant to explode throughout with entire world? Has Christianity become a religion of entitlement, teaching us better ways to save resources instead of better ways to share them? Do all of the biblical commands to take care of one another only apply to church members? Jesus said he did not come for the healthy, he came for those needing care. Our churches should be FULL of people who are hurting, who are among the lost and the least, because our streets are full of wounded people. The very people Jesus commanded us to love the most we too often turn away. These huddled masses are indeed yearning for freedom, and we know the one true source of freedom- Christ Jesus, the Risen Savior! How dare we keep the Good News to ourselves?

It is time to take the love and care of the hurting and disenfranchised out of the hands of a government that is (and has been for many years) ill-equipped to handle the job and put it back where it belongs- in the arms of Jesus. My pastor often says that "the church is God's Plan A for saving the world- and there is no Plan B." The church can still be a beacon of hope. I know- I am one of the wretched refuse who has been saved by grace. But if we want to love like Jesus taught us to love, we cannot have guards at our doors. We cannot build walls. We cannot label people. The church needs to be the one place where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved- no matter how tired, how poor or how wretched. I know I'm naive and simplistic on this issue too. But I'm also right. Because Jesus said it first...

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Chain of Prayer

A quick update on my father-in-law, Posey Steele. He is still in critical condition, and there are still many unknowns. But there are also positive signs. Marilyn reports that he has been speaking and showing signs that he recognizes people. His family had not left his side. We wait and see what today might bring.

I believe in the power of prayer. Back in my student ministry days we used to begin every summer with a Chain of Prayer. Usually a 12 hour event, we would have youth sign up to come to the church and pray for 30 minutes. They would pray for family and friends, for themselves, for our ministries and for our world. It was always a powerful time- 12 uninterrupted hours of speaking with God. It made a difference in both the prayer and for those for whom we prayed. Over the past 36 hours I have felt like I was once again involved in a Chain of Prayer, this time for Posey. Marilyn and I have gotten messages from so many people who have been praying and are continuing to pray for him and the family. Many of these friends do not know Posey, but they know us, and they are simply showing their love. Prayer puts us all with the family in that hospital room. We are a people who believe in God's healing power and that prayers are heard by the Almighty. The prayers are being felt in Winston-Salem, my friends. They lift and comfort a hurting family. They offer hope to a very sick man in a hospital bed. Your prayers are a direct link to hope. It feels like this chain has been unbroken since Posey fell, and no doubt it will continue. And for that I lift a prayer of thanksgiving.

One quick story. Last night I received a text from a friend on vacation who was asking for updates. A little while after we finished chatting, she texted one more time to ask the name of Marilyn's father. The reason? Her 5 year old daughter wanted to pray for him. Amazing to watch God at work, isn't it? Have a blessed Sunday- and keep praying, my friends!

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Prayers for Posey

Posey & Marilyn
Last night in Elkin, NC my father-in-law Posey Steele fell outside of one of his favorite places, Bojangles Chicken & Biscuits, and hit his head. A CT at the local hospital showed bleeding in his head and he was airlifted to Forsyth Hospital in Winston-Salem for surgery. After further testing they felt surgery was too dangerous, with only a 30% chance of survival. Posey drifted off into a light coma, where he remains this morning. His wife Marie and daughter Carol stayed with him last night, and Marilyn will be flying up a little later today to join the family at his side. If you've never met Posey, then you don't know what a unique and special man he is. If you have met him, I can guarantee you have a story to tell. He has been a great husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and will leave a legacy of faith, love and laughter when his Savior calls him home. Right now all there is to do is pray. Pray for the doctors. Pray for the family. Pray for Marilyn as she flies to NC. But most of all, pray for Posey. Pray for healing, of course. But pray also for peace and rest with whatever this situation may bring. We love you, Posey. There will be updates on Marilyn's Facebook and my Twitter as we learn anything. Thank you, dear friends.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, July 25, 2014

30/30: Ten Fictional Dinner Guests

My 25th prompt in the 30/30 Vision Blog Challenge (hard to believe we are almost done!) is to invite 10 fictional characters to dinner. To make my life a little easier I will stick with one genre of fiction, so I give you my list of 7 fictional characters from TV shows with whom I would like to break bread. Including characters from films and books would have given me far too many "people" to choose from! If you know me at all, then you know that I would invite a group of strange and wonderful folks, some of whom are among the most bizarre figures in television history- because I want a dinner PARTY! Since I am old and you may not know all of these unique individuals, I will include a word or two of description and the occasional link to a Youtube video. Enjoy! And then be sure to leave your own suggestions as a comment. Here we go:
  1. Rev. Jim IgnatowskiTaxi - Played brilliantly by Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown from Back to the Future) Rev. Jim was a washed out, drugged out hippie who became one of the cabbies in season 2.  His signature moment, and one of the funniest scenes in history, was taking his driving test while his friends tried to help him cheat.  You can see it by clicking  here.
  2. Dr. Sheldon CooperThe Big Bang Theory -Jim Parsons is simply amazing in this role. He would no doubt dominate the conversation and make everyone feel like an idiot, but I love him. Bazinga!
  3. Phoebe BuffayFriends -Not only would she provide quirky conversation and refuse to eat most everything I served, but she could provide some after-dinner entertainment.  "Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?"
  4. Dr. Walter BishopFringe- How John Nobles did not won an Emmy for his amazing portrayal of both Walter and the Walternate is beyond me. His love of bizarre foods and eccentric chat would keep things going, plus he would be an intellectual match for Sheldon. As long as we let him take his tapioca pudding and his LSD...
  5. Sue Sylvester, Glee -Because no matter how smart or how right everyone else at the table thinks they are, she is smarter and "righter." Just ask her.
  6. Cosmo KramerSeinfeld -It would be worth it just to see him make his signature entrance in to the room, but Kramer would also be so random with his thoughts that the course of the conversation would keep changing all evening. Plus there had to be a representative from Seinfeld, and I am NOT inviting George...
  7. Dr. Johnny FeverWKRP In Cincinnati -The ultimate radio personality, Johnny once was once fired from a station for saying "booger" on the air. He is usually totally "out of it" and would be a dynamite fit with this cast of characters. Actually, I would take most anyone from the cast of WKRP.  A brilliant if short-lived show.
  8. Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother - Because we have to invite her if we want Robin Sparkles to perform, and every good party needs a Canadian! Plus. with any luck, Barney Stinson might show up as well...
  9. The Church Lady, Saturday Night Live! - Dana Carvey is one of my favorite cast members ever, and this was his signature character. Plus I would LOVE to see Sheldon and the Church Lady do the Superior Dance together!
  10. Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek - Because someone will need to be in charge of this madhouse and keep Dr,Cooper under control. And Spock would be boring...
So there's my list. Dinner would never be same. And after dinner, I'm teaching them to play Cocktail, the best card game ever for a group that size. Now ...who's coming to your party?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: TNT Theme Nights

In honor of the upcoming Springfield Friends Meeting Reunion Lunch at Pizza Inn (August 16 at noon) we will be looking back at some highlights of those years each Thursday until then.  Today's Throwback Thursday post remembers a classic TNT theme night. Not that anyone cares...

One of the really fun parts of the early days of writing this blog was looking back through my files to see old newsletters and brochures I designed and wrote to keep students interested in what we were doing with our youth ministries. I have to admit I had some pretty strange ideas. The following was an ad for our TNT program at Springfield Friends Meeting from March, 1993. Would this themed event grab your attention? Or would it have sent you scrambling for the remote control, hoping to find a re-run of Little House on the Prairie?

March 15th- TNT will meet from 7:30-9PM, and it will be (YAWN) Apathy Night. This is your night not to care! Wear the most boring clothes you can find- nothing bright or colorful. Some of the things that will not be allowed on this night include laughing, smiling, crying, fast movement, applause and interesting conversations. If you are caught breaking these rules, you will be dealt with in a very boring manner. Yawning is perfectly legal. Plan to join us for a real ho-hum evening of boredom- or not- I could care less if you come to Apathy Night.

Hard to imagine that the youth still showed up, huh? But they did, for this and lots of other very strange theme nights, such as Jell-O Night, Disco Night, Slop Night, Pie Eating Night and 60's Revival Night. Those nights were all part of what we did to put butts in the seats so we could talk about Jesus. And for those of you who may have been part of one of my groups, I am curious- what theme night sticks in your memory? I'd love to hear from you!

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Does the LORD Require of Us?

Most of you know that I am very much into Twitter. It is my social media of choice, the only one I participate in. You may also know that I am currently followed by 2, 474 people, 1, 986 of whom I follow back. I follow everyone who follows me and do not unfollow unless they are too crude, too obnoxious, spew hatred, only tweet about politics or show no signs of a sense of humor. This means that there are many in my Twitter feed with whom I often disagree. It keeps in touch with a very diverse cross-section of the population, and that is important to me. Every issue has at least two sides, and I believe one of the problems in our nation today is that people only listen to the people with whom they already agree. I am a fan of diversity. 

One of the gentlemen who followed me a couple of years ago is a well-known conservative blogger and author. While our views on political and social issues are often at odds, I have great respect for him as a family man and a human being. He listens. We have sparred a few times, and it is safe to say he considers me a true left-wing liberal both politically and theologically. While his views are often very comparable to those of Fox News and their ilk, he actually IS fair and balanced in his writing. His tweets often give me pause and stir my mind. A few nights ago he asked a great question on Twitter- "What does God want from our lives?" Unfortunately, many of the immediate responses came from his very political fan base. Apparently what God requires of us is to impeach President Obama, close our borders, kill all Muslims and stop gay people from taking over the world. I was struck with a very different answer, and I tweeted my response: The LORD requires us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. I read that somewhere...

I am sure it made him smile that the first scriptural answer came not from his conservative followers but from a "liberal" like me. Had space permitted, there was more to say about how God wishes we would behave in His name. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) is to love God and love our neighbors- and that everyone is our neighbor! He told Peter (John 21:15-17) that if we loved him we should feed his sheep- take care of people, nurture them and love them. And in Matthew 25 Jesus gave us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven- treat the least important people you meet each day as if they were him, showing them love and giving them hope. The answer to my friend's question has already been written. God does have expectations of us. They just aren't the ones we often expect them to be.

So for at least this one night, in the midst of a lot of conservative uproar, I was the Bible thumping fundamentalist quoting scripture and praying that we might all better understand what it truly means to turn our lives over to Christ. You gotta' love Twitter. You just never know what will happen next...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Smell the Color 9 you smell something?

"I would take no for an answer, just to know I heard You speak..."

Lately I've been praying some pretty specific prayers about what God wants me doing with my life and how He wants me to go about it. As I wrote last week, I am ready to take some steps I can't take back. I'm praying to feel the leading of the Holy Spirit. And to be completely honest, I'm just not getting any answers- that I'm aware of. Now I spent enough years teaching and preaching about prayer to know that God answers all prayers. I am fully aware of the sermons that teach us that there are 4 answers we may get. I believe they all follow this basic format:
1) NO- Sometimes God just says no, and we have to get over it and trust that God knows best.
2) SLOW- Sometimes God wants us to be patient and to wait on whatever it is we are asking for.
3) GROW- Sometimes God has areas of of our spiritual life that He wants to see mature before giving us what we ask for.
4) GO-  Sometimes God simply says YES!
It is entirely possible that I am getting the SLOW or GROW answer from God and that I just don't want to hear it. But what it feels like to me is that God is backed up with prayer requests and that mine is not getting past the secretary. Anyone else ever feel that way?  

"Now I'm not looking for burning bushes or some divine graffiti to appear..."

I know better than to expect God to spell it all out for me. Jesus' disciples never had a clue what the plan was for them- why should I be any different? God likes to make us search, because there is much to be learned in the process. It's  just that sometimes in my life- like right now- I want answers. More specifically, I want God's answers. Sometimes I wish He was a CEO, so I could file a plan and He could accept it or reject it. Or maybe just send God a text to make sure I'm going the right direction. But that's not how it works. God wants me to discover what He has coming up next in my life, not file my plan with Him. And no matter how hard I search, I cannot find the home office. I know that Jesus is all the proof I should need that God loves me and will take care of me, but I struggle with wanting more. It's like Chris Rice wrote in his amazing song (all the quotes in this post are from itSmell the Color 9:

"Cause I can sniff, I can see, and I can
count up pretty high; but these faculties
aren't getting me any closer to the sky,
but my heart of faith keeps poundin' so
I know I'm doin' fine but sometimes findin'
You is just like tryin to smell the color nine."

You know what? I lied. I do want a burning bush. I want to know God's will in my life, and I want to know it now. I want a return text message from God giving my life direction. But I'm not going to get it. There is a great mystery to following God and putting our lives in Jesus' hands. It is in many ways a trip into the unknown, one of the scariest places there is for human beings. That's why we call it faith- the evidence of things unseen. We want control and we try desperately to hang on to it. But in fact, real prayer is about letting go of control and trusting God totally. So I'll keep praying, and trust that the answers will come. Until then, I'll just keep trying to smell the color 9...

"Nine's not a color, and even if it were you can't smell a color.
No, and that's my point exactly..."

Because of Jesus,

Monday, July 21, 2014

The (Sun)Day the Music Died

Over the past month or so I have read several blog posts and articles that focused on the theme of singing in church worship services. At least two of them shared the same title- Why Does No One Sing in Church Anymore? I thought the authors made some interesting points, but that they were a little over-the-top with their hyperbole. Still, they left me curious. I grew up loving a song entitled How Can I Keep From Singing? Could it be true that participatory singing in worship is at an all time low? I decided to explore the question in my own church.

The church I attend, like so many others in USAmerica in 2014, features a praise band to lead the music in worship. Our band is made up pf very talented (and in some cases professional) musicians, and the music is simply brilliant. On July 13, the band was at the top of its game. Drums, percussion, two guitars, a bass. two keyboards and four vocalists on microphones blasted their way through a four song set of the latest worship songs. Normally, I am a singer. I am loud and proud, belting out songs and keeping in mind David Crowder's theory that singing praise to the LORD is not about singing well, it is about singing loud! But on this Sunday, I decided to become a spectator. I wanted to see if the congregation- about 1000 strong- was actually singing along with the band. It didn't take me long to determine that they were not. I could look around and see hands raised but lips were not moving. I could not hear anyone around me (besides the gorgeous voice of my wife) raising their voices in praise. At one point our worship leader and the vocalists on stage dropped out so your could hear the congregation in full voice- and there were crickets. The crowd was clapping, moving and responding in very enthusiastic ways- but they were NOT singing. As someone who spent a lot of years leading group singing at camp, youth group and in worship, I was fascinated by this phenomenon. I wanted to decipher the reasons no one was singing. These reasons may or may not apply to your church. But if you have a praise band and do really contemporary music, I suggest you try my experiment. Based on the articles I read, it seems to be a growing problem, not just one in my church. Here are 3 thoughts I had...

  1. The congregation is no longer necessary. When I was growing up in church, singing primarily to organ or piano accompaniment, the entire dynamic of hymn singing was very different. The music was not as loud, so you could hear the people sing. There were no "golden voiced" mic singers leading the way, just an unamplified choir, perhaps a choir director, and a preacher who sometimes couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. The only singers were the congregation. You heard the people around you singing praise and you wanted to join in. This was especially true if you sat in front of the elderly woman who loved God with all her heart and sang at the top of her lungs each and every song- horribly out of tune! You wanted to sing loud. And the mosaic of voices from the gathered body of Christ was always a blessing to me. In one of the last youth groups I served I grew so unhappy with the lack of singing in our worship times that I ditched the praise band and went back to a single guitar and just the voices. The difference was amazing. I love contemporary worship in so many ways, but now we are too often drowning out the masses to the point that their voices no longer matter. I do miss hearing God's family sing together.
  2. The songs are often unsingable. There are so many beautiful songs of praise being written these days by some very gifted composers and publishing companies. The music soars and the lyrics move me. But there is a problem. For the past 10 years or so, worship music and the Christian recording and radio businesses have been inseparable. Many of the current worship songs are absolutely gorgeous- and never meant to be sung by a large group. The melodies are unpredictable, which is wonderful for radio and terrible for group singing. The lyrics are deep and thought-provoking, but the phrasing is often difficult. It is easy to find ourselves lost listening to the professionals sings while we simply lift out hands in praise and think to our selves "what a beautiful song." This happened during my experiment. Our worship team did an amazing song that absolutely no one sang along with because it was NEVER meant to be sung with the congregation. It was meant to be sung TO a crowd. And that's what wound up happening. It was also a song that no one knew. Which brings us to point number 3...
  3. We have come to believe that in church music, new is always better. This one may be more specific to my church, but I am sure if your music is contemporary you either have or will struggled with this one too. One reason no one sings anymore is that we never know the songs! It seems the worship leader (every contemporary church has their very own Chris Tomlin these days) introduces about two new songs every week. We sing them 2 or 3 times over the following month or so, and then it's on to something else. By the time you learn a song it's labeled a golden oldie and filed away. The Sunday of my experiment we sang 4 songs and 2 of them were brand new. One I had heard once, the other perhaps twice. Please understand- I loved the songs. But people rarely sing along with unfamiliar words and tunes. When the team does on some rare occasion break out some familiar hymns of praise, the difference in the congregation's volume is amazing. People SING Amazing Grace, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, God of Wonders and Shout to the LORD. And I mean SING!!! There are not many songs being sung in my church today that people will be walking around the house singing because they learned it in church- we just don't sing them often enough. When I led music I wanted the songs to become part of the fabric of our group. We don't give songs that opportunity very often anymore. Too many worship leaders are buying into the myth that new is always better. No one goes to a rock concert and shouts, "Play that song we don't know!" It's something to think about.
I have a few other thoughts, but I'll stop there. This is not meant to be a condemnation of contemporary music or worship. I just want us to think about what we are doing to congregational singing, which from the time of the Psalms has been a crucial part of worship. For years the church sang songs that were hundreds of years old. Now we seem to have discarded most everything written before 2000. My own personal tastes are wide and varied. I love the contemporary sound. I love how gifted our praise team is and how much that style of music can move us. I know I could go to a different church with a more traditional feel and sing the old hymns, but then I would miss the celebratory feel of the more contemporary style. I guess I want it all! Somehow we need to find a way to strike a balance and rediscover the voice of the gathered family of God in worship. Otherwise, in years to come the famous question from Les Miserables will already have an answer. "Do you hear the people sing?"  No- I can't. 

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Darkness & Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  -John 1:1-5

It's been an extremely dark week in our world. Planes shot down and hundreds killed. Escalating violence in the Middle East. Escalating tensions on our border, and so much hatred being spewed from our fellow citizens about our leaders. It was very hard to find any light.  But the Light was there-  the same Light that is always present in the darkness. The above scripture reminds us that the light is always shining, no matter how dark it seems, because light is so much more powerful than darkness. A single candle lights the darkest night, and the darkness has no chance. No matter the situation, Jesus will still be there.

"I know there are people in this world who do not love their fellow human beings- and I HATE people like that!"             -Tom Lerher

I have never understood violence and hatred; I long known the value of love and forgiveness. I do know that there is nothing to be gained by returning violence for violence or hatred for hatred.  As Gandhi once famously said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." And yet, I heard so much anger from so many places this week, including the church.  We cannot hope to stop the madness if we respond with the same kind of misguided, vengeful attitudes that have created such horrible situations. I knew far too many Quakers as I was growing up who preached non-violence and pacifism yet seemed ready to punch out anyone who disagreed with them. I don't know everything, but I do know this- you cannot truly follow Jesus and hold hatred in your heart for anyone. You should be angry and frustrated, but Jesus calls us to forgive everyone- especially those it is hardest to forgive. I know well that there are consequences for sin, and those who are responsible for violence and atrocity must pay that price. Grace is free; it is not cheap. But followers of the Christ do not get to choose the people to whom we offer mercy and grace. It has to be everyone- just as it is given to us though we do not deserve it.

"I wanna be in the light as You are in the light; I wanna shine like the stars in the heaven.  O LORD be my light, and be my salvation 'cause all I want is to be in the light..."  - Charlie Peacock

There is no denying that this world is a dark place. There is much rhetoric that creates an atmosphere of distrust and fear among us. Every story we read seems to focus on our differences. Events like those of this week bring fear, anger and a loss of hope to our lives.  But for those of us who who understand what the Jesus Revolution is all about, we know that the Light of Christ cannot be extinguished. We know that when we trust Jesus, we are in the light. And we believe- no, we KNOW- that the darkness has no chance. I have read the book. I know how it ends.  GOD WINS!!! So as you mourn for the terrible losses families are feeling in this time or unrest and aggression, as you feel anger over this senseless violence, do not give in to "the dark side." Do not give in to hatred. Pray instead the words above, and be part of the flame that will remind the world that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Because of Jesus,

Friday, July 18, 2014

30/30: Two Friends Who Haven't Met...Yet

Today's prompt for the 30/30 Vision Blog Challenge is one of my favorites on the entire list. I am charged with writing about two friends of mine who do not know each other, but whom I think would become fast friends should life ever throw them together. I think this prompt interests me so much because throughout my 28 years of student ministry in a number of different settings I was constantly making such judgements in my mind. I would find myself thinking that "BlaBla from Whoosawatchie sure would get along well with Whatshisname from Podunk" - or similar things. I elected to limit my thinking to those who were part of one of my youth ministries. In truth, this has already happened in my life a few times over the years. Tim Fountain, from my late 80's youth group at New Garden Friends, later served as my intern at Springfield Friends and met all of those folks. Holly Harward Yandle from Springfield spent a summer with us in Kissimmee and was hit on by many of the guys from FUMC-K. And then in April of 2103 Teresa Reep Tysinger from the Kissimmee group spent sometime with us here in Tampa and met Lisa Jewett, one of my favorites from our time at Wesley Memorial. It was so much fun for me to watch these interactions. Getting to make one up is just a bonus!

The only problem is I had so many old friends to choose from, and so many people who I think would hit it off immediately if introduced. I thought about Keri Vinson Johnston from Springfield and Nina Mock from Wesley. The pair of Ben Thompson from FUMC-K and Charles Freedle from Springfield might lead to total chaos, but it sure would be fun. Terri Johnson Harris from New Garden and Jackie Zimmer from Union Church in Hinsdale would be great partners in crime. The thought of Laura Wheeler from my Quaker Lake days getting to meet the aforementioned Teresa Tysinger might be more than I could handle- Laura knows all the old stories and Teresa the more recent stuff. But they would become fast friends, of this I have no doubt. The list could go on and on, but I have to make a decision and just pick two for the purpose of this post. And so I shall.

Although it feels like they should know each other already, Todd Willis (FUMC-K) and Todd Farlow (Springfield) never met. In my heart, it often feels like they were the same person. When I got Springfield in 1986, things with the youth program were at a low ebb. Many of the youth had bailed out before I ever arrived. Todd Farlow was a sophomore in high school and clearly one of the leaders of the group. Without his support it is hard to imagine that my years at Springfield would have turned out as well as they did. Todd not only gave me his support, he gave me his friendship and his trust, and we had some great times and amazing adventures together. His leadership was crucial in bringing renewed life to that student ministry. Even all these years later he continues to encourage me. All you need to do is change the last name and the location (and the fact that he was a junior when I first met him) and all of those very same things could be said of Todd Willis. At a time when many were giving up on the youth ministry of FUMC-K, Todd kept pushing me to do more and be my creative self. And it worked. I could have renamed either one of these guys Peter- because they were rocks upon which a couple of great student ministries were built.

They also had other things in common. Both were known to occasionally bust out in a rap. Neither had a whole lot of luck with the dating scene despite being being very popular with the ladies. Neither of them were above cheating at any number of youth group games. Both are fanatical college sports fans, Farlow with NC State and Willis with Georgia. Both love baseball. Both come from amazing families and are now married with amazing families of their own. I just can't help but think that if life were ever to make these guys neighbors, they would be the very best of friends. And that's what this prompt was all about.

One final note. Just before I turned in last night I saw on Twitter where Ashley Goad (Springfield) and Teresa had been chatting about the wonders of prayer. They have never met either, but I love them both. There are moments that make me smile in wonder at the blessings in my life. That was one of them. How ironic that it came as I was working on this post. I'm telling you, if I had one wish and lots of money, there would be a reunion of everyone who was ever in one of my youth groups so they could all meet each other. Because I know all the best people. Love you guys!

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Unexpected Results

Today's Throwback Thursday takes me back almost exactly 15 years, to 1999 and a crazy time in my life. I was struggling with my work at the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee, having been working with The Pastor Who Shall Not Be Named for a couple of months. I was adrift and searching for a new job. Months earlier I had agreed to a speaking engagement that now seemed a bit daunting. Having been away from the Society of Friends and North Carolina for 5 years, I was asked to return to NC to speak at Young Friends Yearly Meeting, a statewide gathering of middle and high school aged Quakers. Going home is always a little scary, but I would be riding back into town like a returning hero. What could go wrong? It turned out to be an amazing weekend- but in ways that were totally unexpected!

I planned to take a group of students from FUMC-K with me to Guilford College for the 5-day event, but God had other plans. The weekend before we were to leave on a Wednesday, my leg was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, and it turned purple and blew up like zeppelin. I was able to make the trip, but unable to drive, so I went by plane and had to leave the youth at home. My spirits were dampened yet again, as I had hoped to share this event with these people who had been so important in my life. In truth, I should not have gone either. My leg was a mess, my head was a mess, and just walking was difficult. But there was a place to catch...

The first few days are just a blur in my memory. I remember getting to play guitar with Martha Ratledge Farlow for the adult Yearly Meeting session honoring Quaker Lake. I remember speaking and leading music for the Young Friends, and feeling terribly uninspired about my performance. Nothing felt right or seemed right, and it felt like I was disappointing those who were counting on me. On the final night of the event, I had been asked to speak at a gathering of Friends at a meetinghouse in western NC. All of the youth and adults from the Yearly Meeting sessions had been bused in, plus there were numerous other adults joining us as well. It would be a chance to say important things, to inspire a gathering of people that I cared about very deeply. I had prayed and struggled over what to say to this gathering for weeks in advance, and now it was show time.

Quakers are a remarkable group, full of tremendous spiritual depth and historical significance. They are also a fiercely independent group, and it is often difficult to get two Quakers to agree on anything. Tradition is not only an important part of who Friends are, it is often the battlefield on which heated discussions take place. I had decided to try and nudge this group towards the 21st century. I spoke of being Roaring Lambs, of allowing our lives to speak to others in the name of Jesus at work, on the ballfields and in our communities. I spoke of being willing to take risks and to quit being a denomination that insisted of protecting the past when it might be limiting the future. I told the story of the confident Polish generals in World War II who sent their strongest battalions to the border to face down the invading Germans, fully expecting that they would win the day. The Polish soldiers- on horseback- met their enemy head on. The Germans- in tanks- rolled past them and conquered Poland. I wanted these friends to realize that regardless of history and tradition, Quakers could not ride into the new millenia on horses while the world ploughed ahead with tanks. The message of Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever. How we communicate and deliver that message has to evolve, morph and change so that it reaches the ears of those who need to hear it. Many Friends, young and old, stood in the open worship that followed to speak to the truth of what I had said, and the worship was quite deep and emotional that night. God was present, and the Holy Spirit was speaking to us all.

In the hours, weeks and months that followed I was told over and over again how God had used me that night. The audio tapes of my message became popular items, and old friends I had not seen in years contacted me to let me know how much they appreciated the things that message. So much of my time that week was spent trying to figure out why God would allow that spider to bite me. There was much wasted time feeling sorry for myself that things were not going as planned. But in the end, God used the one thing I turned completely over to Him to His glory and helped me understand why I had been called back to NC in the first place. We should never forget this basic truth- God is good all the time...

So the event that almost didn't happen became one of the signature events of my entire ministry. Who knew? Besides God, I mean...

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Will Jones!

I normally seek to be humble and restrained in my interactions with the online world, but today I am going to brag. If fact, I am going to be totally insufferable. You see, today is my son's 19th birthday. And regardless of who you are or who your son is, today I celebrate the fact that my son is better than yours. There- I said it. My son is the best!

Why would I be so obnoxious about Will Jones? As we used to say in my neighborhood growing up, "It's no brag- just fact." Will is an honor student entering his sophomore year of college. This summer he has taken two classes while working jobs at both Chick-fil-A and Olive Garden- and maintaining a great relationship with his girlfriend. Today, as we celebrate his birthday, he wanted to include my mother in the festivities so we are all (including Michelle) going up to have lunch with her. That's how thoughtful he is. No one could ask for a better son.

That quasi-beard he's sporting in the picture at the top? That's just two days without shaving. He ate that Fudge Mudslide all by himself. The boy has skills! He can also cook. He makes great chili and slaw for hot dogs and has been known to throw down a mean meatloaf as well. Will is a gifted writer and musician. He has been a brave child out of necessity- he has me for a father! He not only puts up with my old friends and old stories, he actually seems to enjoy them on occasion. He understands things about me that make many people scratch their heads in confusion. He treats people with dignity and respect, but stands up for himself as well. I could not be more proud of the man he has become.

But that's not even the best part of being Will's dad. The best part is how much of life we get to share. Our love of music, movies and a shared sense of humor give us much to talk about. We both enjoy making fun of the idiocies of politics and politicians, and going all Mystery Science Theater 3000 on bad movies and TV shows. We both were/are obsessed with How I Met Your Mother. He loves going to church with us. In short, I'd love hanging out with Will even if I wasn't his father. He's just that cool. I'm so glad I get to spend this day celebrating with him, Marilyn and Michelle!

So be sure and leave Will a comment and wish him HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And if you feel really depressed because you now know you don't have the best son in the world, let us know. I'm sure Will can offer words of comfort. Yeah...he's that good...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Step You Can't Take Back

Last week I wrote about the movie Begin Again and talked about the concept of being Lost Stars, which was a song from the film. This past Saturday I saw it again with my son Will (it was even better the 2nd time!) and was struck with a different song- and more specifically, its' title. Keira Knightly sings A Step You Can't Take Back in the opening scene and I simply have not been able to get those words out of my head. A step you can't take back...

It seems to me there are two kinds of steps you can't take back. The first are the kind that propel us forward into the unknown and the uncertain. Often, we are so tentative and passive in our approach to life that we only take steps from which we know there is a means of retreat. If things don't work out, we just back up. The steps that propel us into passion, adventure and quite often the will of God are usually the ones from which we cannot give up on. One step leads to another in such situations, and all steps lead us forward. As an example from my own life, I recently began writing a novel. That was a step, but one that I could give up on at a moment's notice with no repercussions. Announcing that I was writing that novel and asking for your support and encouragement was a step I can't take back. It's out there now, and I am being held accountable for my words. The only way to go is forward. Sometimes in our lives it is only through those types of steps that we grow, change and discover what life has to offer us. Those are very good, very healthy and very important steps.

The other style of a step you can't take back is not quite so positive. They are the words you say or the actions you take without considering their impact on the people around you. We've all done it- trying to pull the words back into our mouths even as we are speaking them, or trying to undo an action that we realize immediately (or much later) has been harmful of hurtful to someone we care about. In this age of social media, it is easy to type out our fears and frustrations in a moment of anger or panic without remembering that once they are out there, they are OUT there! God forgives and forgets our transgressions. People may forgive us, but they seldom forget. These sorts of steps we can't take back often impact our relationships in very negative ways for a very long time.

My problem is I so seldom take either kind of step. I am cautious to a fault when it comes to jumping into things or to expressing my feelings. I despise hurting people I care about, which is good- unless it keeps me from being honest with them. I fear failure, which often keeps me from taking any giant steps from which I cannot retreat. There is nothing wrong with living a safe, controlled life- unless it means you are missing the life God is calling you to live. 

I know I have rambled today, but that's because I am feeling led to take some steps that I KNOW I cannot take back. I want to express some feelings about life to people who may not want to hear what I have to say. I want to pursue some things God is putting on my heart that will be scary and bold adventures. So pray for me, please. There is one thing for certain about taking a step you can't take back. You'd better be ready to live with the outcome...

Because of Jesus,

Monday, July 14, 2014

My World Cup Recap

The FIFA World Cup 2014 ended yesterday, and for many soccer fans it was the end of a glorious month. Most of my readers are aware that I am NOT a fan of the sport. In fact, I have been known to make fun of it at every opportunity. But I promised a few friends who are huge fans of futball that during the 2014 World Cup I would give soccer one more try. They promised me that if I would watch the sport played at its highest level over an extended period of time that I would be won over by the beauty and excitement of the world's most popular sport. So I watched. I watched parts of the opening games before settling in to watch all of the what ESPN promised me was a win-or-go-home match for the USA with Germany. We lost. We did not go home. So I watched several of the round of 16 games including all of our match with Belgium. I watched three of the four quarterfinals and both semifinals. And then yesterday I took in the World Cup Championship. I feel that I more than held up my end of the deal, and have earned the right to rant a bit. This will be snarky. It may get ugly. You have been warned. Here are a few of my thoughts on what I witnessed...

  • Let's start with a few positives. The athletes themselves are somewhat amazing. Their endurance, ball skills and toughness are unquestioned by this viewer. For the most part, the games were very close, often settled in extra time. Extra time is not be confused with stoppage time, which actually is extra time added on to a period. There is no overtime, there is only extra time, even though many games went into overtime. Anyway, I digress. The athletes are indeed world class and deserve all the respect in the world. The game USA goalkeeper Tim Howard played against Belgium was one of the great individual efforts I have ever watched in any sport. Without his Herculean effort the stars & stripes would have lost by 5 or 6 goals. He was simply brilliant.
  • Which brings me to my first problem. I understand that USA soccer fans truly desire for the sport to become as popular here as it is in the rest of world. I understand that USAmericans get very patriotic about sports when it comes to these international events. I read article after article and tweet after tweet about how proud we should be of the USMNT (the fact that this had nothing to do with Mutant Ninja Turtles was a bit of a bummer) and just how CLOSE we are to becoming an elite soccer nation. Close? We won one match. We tied one match. We lost to eventual champion Germany in a game we really needed but that meant almost nothing to them. We lost to Belgium in a match that would have been a total embarrassment if not for Tim Howard. Seeing the USA as a rising soccer power requires some seriously patriotic rose colored glasses. I'm sorry, but we are not playing the same sport as the powerhouse nations yet. And for all but the most fervent of USAmerican soccer fans, the sport will not matter for another 4 years. 
  • I loved the pageantry of the event, the wonderful diversity of the crowds and the passion of the fans. The traditions of the event make it one of the world's great spectacles. The sport itself is, however, a little lacking. The flopping and diving is actually worse than in the NBA, which I didn't think was possible. Every slight bump requires a player to fall and grab his shin hoping for a call from the referee. I actually saw two player slam shoulders into one another while jumping for a header and fall to the ground grabbing their shins! Usually the actors are healed by that miracle cold spray the trainers bring out, but on occasion they have to be carted off the field on a stretcher- usually to instantly recover and come back into the game. They cry wolf over and over and over and no one seems to care. It's so bad that when the great Brazilian player Neymar was seriously injured and carried off on a stretcher the people (including myself) in the restaurant I was in all laughed at what seemed like a terrible acting job. It's simply ridiculous. And the referees far too often buy the act- hook, line and sinker!
  • The refs also have way too much control of the matches. Actions that warrant a yellow card one minute are not even a foul 5 minutes later. They can remove players from the game or cause them miss the next one all with random discretion. I hate when any competition is settled more by the officials than by the players. That happens in soccer far too often.
  • Why are you allowed to have a dozen or so extra players but only 3 substitutes in a game? I assume there is a logical reason. Well...maybe...after all, this is the same sport that makes substituting for a player as complicated as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
  • I know hardcore futball fans will thumb their noses at me and call me ugly names, but the games would be 1000% more interesting if the offside rule did not exit. It seems in many of the matches every exciting play was called back for offsides. Removing the rule would open up the field and allow for teams to actually score goals on occasion. Soccer fans seem to think it is suspenseful and exciting to enter the 88th or the 118th minute of play with a scoreless tie. On the many occasions when we reached those points because nothing of interest had happened, the lead up was not suspenseful. It was hard to stay awake. As one of the announcers in the unbelievably boring Holland/Argentina match said as the end of regular time approached, "Eventually something has to happen." He didn't mean it in the way I took it, but it simply cracked me up. After watching this World Cup, that is my new definition of the sport. Eventually something has to happen
  • Another positive: One of the announcers sounded a lot like Ringo Starr. And I love their references to leagues and teams that make the average viewer in this country say HUH? The English use of the plural form of "to be" with teams is also very enjoyable. Imagine Jon Gruden saying "New England are giving it a good go today." It's very quaint. And you have to love how excited the broadcasters get any time there is even a hint of offense. because they know it only happens a few times in most games. "Oh my...the Dutch may have something going now!" And that was just when the ball would pass midfield...
  • Jimmy Fallon told a joke that sums up my deepest feelings about watching the World Cup. He pointed out that at Universal Studios in Orlando last week people stood in line for 7 hours to ride the new Happy Potter ride. Jimmy said. "those people were waiting 7 hours for 2 minutes of action. Other people call that watching soccer." I love the athletes, the event and the passion. I just cannot tolerate the sport. Howard Wolowitz (on The Big Bang Theory) once said to Sheldon Cooper that he felt like Sheldon thought he was bad at his job. Sheldon said that was not true, that Howard was quite good at what he did. It's just that what he did was not worth doing. And that, my dear soccer loving friends, is my conclusion. The game is just not for me. Any sport where half the game is spent passing backwards makes no sense to me. Any sport where you can be forced to play a man short for the rest of the game because of a judgement call is not for me. And any sport where never scoring is the norm is not for me. You are well within your rights to say. "But just don't get it!" You are absolutely right. I don't. And I never will.
Will I give the World Cup another try in 4 years? Who knows? I suppose anything is possible. And there's a MUCH better chance of that than of me watching Faux News anytime in the next four years. So hope springs eternal. Congratulations Germany! You are champions of a sport that the entire world plays and loves. Despite my reservations, that is a grand accomplishment that should be celebrated! 

Have a happy Monday!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

God Is No Fool

(Inspired by Lois Cheney's great little book God Is No Fool)

Psalm 19:14 (New Living Translation)
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

If it was just my words that I need to worry about, I wouldn't have much of a problem. But it's not- and I do. There have been times when I thought my words could fool God. But they can't. God knows what is hidden is our hearts, and what consumes our souls. He sees our sin and the false idols that pop up in our lives. We cannot fool God- because God is no fool... He knew we needed a Savior. Thank you, God, for your grace and mercy.

Because of Jesus,