Monday, December 19, 2011

“What is Christmas? Really”

Merry Christmas for the Henegars

While preparing for Christmas going through stuff, I paused out of my task as my ADD kicked in. As I totally got off task, I began to look through a box of old pictures taken during Christmas time. As I flipped through each one, it occurred to me that each Christmas season is occasion for marking. Each Christmas season for all of us is a point in our lives for marking time. We remember Christmas’ past as a child. Our memories are flood with recollections of our first Christmas as a married couple, our first Christmas as parent, buying our first Christmas tree, and each house and location we spent our memorable Christmases. Marking time can be a joyful, awesome, warm feeling of celebrating of traditions but it can also be a time for sorrow. We mark time by remembering those loved ones that have passed away in between this Christmas and last year. We can feel sadness and remembering the first Christmas spent without that person who has died, left, or is no longer in our life. Then there is the feelings that arise as we compare the details, events, and changes that have occurred between this Christmas and last. We compare and contrast our life, our relationships, and our careers. Maybe because Christmas is conveniently located next to New Years that it provides a time for making mental notes and marking our life for the year to come.

Christmas is also a time of remembering Christ’s story. We go back to the original story of Christmas. A baby born in a small village named Bethlehem, by a young engaged couple, who was traveling to be counted by the government. Like most all young engaged couple they had no money for their journey, either they couldn’t afford a hotel, were not responsible enough and didn’t make advance reservations, or because Mary was pregnant traveled slower than the rest they arrived late. Whatever the reason, Mary & Joseph had no where to stay but a barn. It was here in this barn, on the road traveling, in a very unassuming way; Mary gave birth to a baby. Quietly in the middle of now where, no one around, Jesus was born and time for all humanity was marked. It was here the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Savior; the One whom everyone had waited for thousand of years to arrive was born. The One, everyone has been waiting for, dreaming of, and had been anticipating to come save them had finally arrived. For all who believe, it was this first Christmas that time was marked as Christ stepped out of heaven and marked the single greatest event of all humankind. Christmas is not holiday and the reason we celebrate. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus Christ’s, God’s son, stepped out of heaven into earth’s scene to bring us hope and the ability to dream. That is only reason why we gather for worship, light candles, sing familiar songs, and invite others to join us. That is why Christmas we mark time. That is why we say, “Merry Christmas!”
May God bless you and yours this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas,
Tommy, Kellie, Abby, and Will Henegar




Monday, December 12, 2011

Perceptions: What’s Missing In Life

Ted and his wife Helen could not have any children. If they had they would have been great parents, they were a couple full of excitement, adventure, and dreams. Their life would have been full of love and joy. Ted started as a cartoonist but soon began to write. As a writer and he would even dedicate his books to three factious children he and Helen made up.

Ted wrote a story about a fictional, bitter, cave-dwelling creature with a heart "two sizes too small” which lives on snowy Mount Crumpit, a steep high mountain just north of Whoville, home of the merry and warm-hearted Whos. His only companion is his faithful dog, Max. From his lonely perch high atop Mount Crumpit, the Grinch can hear the noisy Christmas festivities that take place in Whoville. Annoyed and unable to understand the Whos' love and joy, he makes plans to descend on the town and deprive them of their Christmas presents, Who-ham and decorations and thus "prevent Christmas from coming."
If he can take away their gifts, he can take away their love and joy, and Christmas will never come to Whoville? However, he learns in the end that despite his success in taking away all the Christmas presents and decorations from the Whos, Christmas comes just the same. He then realizes that Christmas is more than just gifts and presents, its love and joy. Touched by this, his heart grows three sizes larger; he returns all the presents and trimmings and is warmly welcomed into the community of the Whos.
Ted, known to all as Dr. Seuss, after becoming the first children’s book author to win a Pulitzer Prize, revealed near the end of his life that the Grinch was really him, as the love and joy of parenthood escaped him. To all parents and grandparent go and reread “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss again or watch the cartoon movie version with your children or grandchildren by your side. Now knowing about Dr. Seuss’s lifelong search for love and joy, I promise you will have a different perspective. Maybe we have to view the world for a moment through the eyes of someone searching for love and joy to appreciate the gifts in our own life.
Love & Joy,
Tommy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God’s Christmas Wish…

I remember the most exciting day of the Christmas season was the day the Sear’s catalog arrived at our house. I would anxiously turn past the clothes, appliances and cooking wear. As I came to a sudden stop on the toys, my joy began. I spent hours looking, dreaming; circling everything I wanted for Christmas. A drum set, Evel Knievel bike, Atari it had it all. That is why it was titled The Wish Book. While I never got everything I circled or turned down the page, I did wish and dream. And as blessed as I was, you could bet every Christmas I received at least one gift from the Sear’s catalog. I just could never figure out how Santa always knew exactly what I wished for and it coincidental was sold at Sear’s.
Now that I’m older, I now spend time trying to figure out what others want for Christmas. This is hard to do. Christmas is a time of giving. It’s a season of gifts, companionship, and times spent with family and love ones. Christmas is about traditions, decorations, and food. Christmas opens us up to those who are less fortunate as we give to those in need. There is an instinctive part about our humanity that ignites our generosity during this season like no other time during the year.

If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, I wonder what Christ wishes for Christmas? What does the Creator of our universe and our existence wish for? Have you ever stopped to wonder what is on God’s Christmas list? I know we have the gold, frankincense and myrrh stuff but that has already been done. What is a gift to someone that already has everything? You can't really re gift something you don't want to God. How do you wrap up something meaningful to the one who saved you, loves you unconditionally, desires an intimate personal relationship with you, and desires the best for your life? How do you return the love? What does God want for you this Christmas? Join us during our Advent Sermon Series: God’s Christmas Wish: What God Wants for Christmas? As we look at what we can give to God that will enrich our life and relationships. As we search together, you might just find that it is everything you dreamed for that can't be found at Sears.

See ya in church but until then take care of yourself, dream, and wish.
Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy
Tommy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

“ I Am THANKFUL…”

As we approach this Thanksgiving and in reflection after our Thanks Living sermon series, I have discovered so many things to be thankful for. Like many of you, I am in awe sometimes of all the blessings God has placed in my life. Yes, my life has its challenges, difficulties, and painful moments, but I marvel at the joy I have when I view the totality of my life. So I would like to take this opportunity to share a few, praying that it may help you find that same joy in your life. I am grateful God called me to serve an awesome congregation that works diligently to connect others to the love of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for everyone who accepts me as I am and shares in my passion to exhibit Christ’s love to those around us. I am so thankful for an understanding wife and children when ministry calls me away. I am grateful to watch my children grow in their faith and develop a burning desire to show Christ love by helping others. I am thankful for a wife who loves me, even when I stink and is my best friend. I am thankful God has placed so many cool friends and family members in my life.  I am thankful for the compassionate way those in all communities who  respond every time someone is hurting, sick, or in need. I am grateful for ever person who helps others over come addictions, protects children, and helps others heal from the pains in life. I thank God for everyone who chooses to worship with us and the abundance of children who have descended upon us lately. I am grateful for a patient and kind congregation who has endured as after ten years of ministry I have began to learn a new preaching style. I thank God for I get to be apart of Centralia Group Workcamp. I praise God for diligent dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to teach the faith to the next generation. I thank God for those who go the extra mile to visit, call, and stay connected with our home bound members. I am thankful for the Soldiers. I am thankful for the outrageous generosity of the people in our faith family. With giving of their money, time, and resources, in an era of decline we have managed unprecedented growth. For that I am thankful. I am thankful for all the people who work so hard behind the scenes to do the ministry. I am thankful God placed great examples in my life of Christian service and taught me what true faith really is.I am appreciative for all the individuals that I get to lead worship with each week. I am grateful something greater than myself is active in growing in my life. I am grateful for my health. I am thankful that I still have a lot of room for growth in my life. I am grateful I still have a lot to learn about being a good husband, father, and minister. I am thankful I don’t have it all figured out and that God is still active in my life. I am grateful for the forgiveness of others when I mess up. Last but not least, I am eternally grateful and find joy in the fact that I am loved, accepted, and validated by my Savior Jesus Christ and by so many wonderful people. I feel blessed and thankful that each day I get to do what I am called to do.  I also thank God for you, that our paths in life have crossed, as you are a blessing to me.
With all our love from our family to yours.
Happy Thanks LIVING….
Tommy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perceptions: Back to the Church for Meat Loaf

Tony Campolo tells about the African American church he attends in Philadelphia that celebrates student recognition Sunday once a year. After a few students had spoken, the pastor stood and said, “Young people, you may not think you’re going to die, but you are. One of these days, they’ll take you to the cemetery, drop you in a whole, throw some dirt on your face and go back to the church and eat meat leaf.”

What an awesome sermon opener but also what a underscoring of the fact of death.
After I had preached at the funeral of an inspired and inspiring person, a guy approached me and said, “The problem is when you have to do my funeral, you won’t have all those wonderful things to say.” My response was, “Well, thank God you still have time to change that. Begin to live now in such a way that I won’t be on the spot and have to dig deep when I preach your funeral.”

Maybe that is something we all really need to think about.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“Resisting the Urge”



Mathematically and statically for all intended purposes the season for both the Cardinals and Cubs are over. Neither will make the play offs so the excitement, enthusiasm, and fanfare has quickly faded. Already real sports fans are talking about the Rams and the Bears as football commences, it is tempting to move on with another year’s disappointment, under achieved expectations, and frustration. In baseball, whenever the pitcher has two strikes on the batter, he will intentionally throw one low or in the dirt. The pitcher is relying on the desperation of the batter to swing at the next pitch. Professional players, great hitters will swing at a pitch in the dirty. They will lung their bodies, adjust there swig just to make contact with the ball. Most batters just want to make contact with the ball and hope it goes foul. When a batter is struck out by a pitch in the dirt, they immediately know they “fell” for it. They walk back to the dug out, knowing full well they have been had. All their experience, practice, and patience were thrown out the window by their desire to swing.

In life we have all swung at bad pitches. We have all swung and missed at a pitch in the dirt. We have all chased after something we thought was success and realized we had been duped. Sometimes our desires can overcome our common sense and the results are we fall into temptation and strike out. Like in baseball and in life, the great hitters are the ones who fight the temptation to swing and hold off; allowing the pitch to hit the dirt and be called a ball. Mediocre batters swing and hope to make contact, good hitters swing and foul it off, but great hitters control their impulses and watch the pitch hit the dirt.

I am not sure about you, but I know I desire a great life. Mediocre is fine for some people, good is fine for others but I want a great life. I want to be the greatest husband, father, and minster I can be. I don’t want to look back at life and tell people, “You know I could have been great but….” I want to look back on ever season of my life and say, “At the time, under the circumstances, I was greatest _____.” I am not saying I want perfection, just to live up to the potential God has placed in my soul.

In reality we are surrounded by temptation that nudges us to take the easy way out, to take a short cut, to justify our actions. Like the batter, just swing, get out, and take your chances next time you face that pitcher. The only way one can defeat temptation is by discipline. The discipline batter stands firm and strong and resists the urge to swing at any bad pitch. Many people lives are uprooted because they lack the discipline to resist urges. We are reminded that Christ, himself was tempted to take a short cut. Join us Sunday as we look at Jesus’ temptation and learn from him; the discipline we need in our own life to resist the urge to swing, when we know we should hold back.

Peace & Love,
Tommy

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Regrets I've Had a Few"

In honor of death week, a tradition of most Memphians who remember the week Elvis Pressley died, I immersed myself in Elvis music. One of my favorites is when the king sings, “Regrets I’ve had a few, then again to few to mention.” (For the purest out there, I know Frank Sinatra recorded it first.) Irony seems to dance through these words when we consider the circumstances surround Elvis’ death. It did however spark my conscious to think about the regrets I have in my own life. Regrets are weird crazy things. They are situations in our life that if we could magically do over again, we would do differently. Regrets are different than failures. Regrets are not situations that we do not go into without much thought, we think them through, we pray about them, we move forward but in retrospect looking back we would have chosen something different. Regrets are not all bad, wrong, immoral, illegal, or unchristian. I regret I ate the whole pizza; I should have stopped at three pieces. Regrets are just situations in life, if we had to do all over again, we would try something different. I regret not spending more time with my loved one before they died. We have all had moments when we have said something to someone and we regretted it the moment it came out of our mouths. We all have regrets in our life. Some of us have a few, to few to mention, and some of us have too many to list. The thing about regrets is that in the precise moment, the decision, the action seems like the right action to take, but looking back we are not so sure.


As we continue our Batter Up! Sermon series while preparing the message of  looking at the Home Run Swing, I discovered how regrets keep us from hitting the homerun. We all love the home run ball. Hitting a homerun is hard to do but some players seem to do it with ease and make it look easy. In life we look at other people’s life and it seems they have the homerun swing. Everything seems to go their way; their job, marriages, house, kids, relationships, and other things we sort of envy. We begin to compare thier life to ours and more regrets begin to mount up. We look at them and say, “Man I wish I was that lucky.” Like homerun hitting and life; luck might not play any part in their success. When you watch a homerun hitter, they seem to do it with ease. What we don’t see is the preparation, experience, confidence, and wisdom the homerun hitters have. We see the ball go over the fences, the crowd cheer, and the fireworks explode and we forget the hours in the batting cage, watching video, weight training, and what the hitter has learned from the million of times at bat. If our life is full or regrets, to stop repeating them, we may have to explore new questions we need to ask ourselves. We need to learn, practice, and dedicate ourelves to when we are in similuar situations we make more wise desicisons. We might need to ask ourselves: What did we learn from our past? What is the most wise thing to do for our present circumstances? What is the best decision for our hope and dreams for the future? Answering theses questions before we act, may help us all reduce the regrets in our life..
Take care of yourself and one another,
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“Handling the Strike Out"

Every one of us has moments in our life when we strike out. These are the moments in our life when we simply fail. We loose confidence, we mess up, we swing for something and miss, or we just stand there and watch the perfect pitch or opportunity pass us by. These moments in our life seem to stick with us forever. We can all remember freshly, no matter how much time has passed, those moments in our life when we have simple struck out. We have faced the humiliation and walked defeated back to the dug out. Each of us can recall when someone has hurt us or we have hurt someone else. We have all had situations in life when we have botched something up, messed up, made bad financial or business decision, trusted the wrong person, or someone we love has died. We automatically hold on to these moments and wonder why some people adjust better than we do.


Those that follow baseball will argue who is the best hitter of all time. If we look at statics only, (not getting into the steroid era debate) we look at three of the all time homerun leaders. George Herman (Babe) Ruth in 22 seasons hit 714 homeruns but also had 1330 strike outs. Hank Aaron in 23 seasons hit 755 homeruns with 1383 strike outs, and Barry Bonds 762 homeruns with 1539 strike outs. If you notice these hitters struck out about twice a many times than hit homeruns. What made them great was not their homeruns but how they overcame striking out. These great hitters did not allow the strike out to define who they were as a batter; if they did they would have never made it out of the minor leagues. When they stuck out, they adjusted their swing, reinstalled their confidence, and with great anticipation of success and enthusiasm stepped back into the batters box. They not once asked to be taken out of the game because of a strike out. They understand that slumps are just part of the game. When we look at baseball any great player will have a .300 battering average. A .300 batting average will get you into the Hall of Fame. Baseball is a game where greatness is defined by someone failing only 7 out of 10 times. In baseball like in life, you may fail more times than you succeed.

We all have failures in life, it is just apart of living. What is important is how we handle those strikeout moments. We have all made bad decisions, said the wrong thing, believed the wrong person, must trust in those who are not trust worthy, and let both ourselves and others down. Jesus’ own disciples struck out on him when he needed them most. Sometime in our prayers to God during our strike out moments we may be just asking the wrong question. We pray for God to deliver us, restore us, help us, and save us. These are great prayers however instead of simply asking God to rescue us; we may need to ask God what WE can do the next time we are in the batters box. We need to explore and be open to new ways God can help us adjust our swing, reinstall our confidence, and encourage us to get back in the game. Staying on the bench is not really an option. Just something to think about next time we strike out..
Peace & Love,
Tommy

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Sacrifce Bunt


In the current sermon series I’m preaching, we learned that the sole goal and responsibility of the leadoff man in baseball is to get on first base. After getting on base, the next batter must strive to get the leadoff man into scoring position. With no outs, the best way to get the runner into scoring position, getting them to statically the desirable position to score is the sacrifice bunt.  For those who know nothing of baseball, the sacrifice bunt is where the batter takes a different stance and lightly hits the ball, so the infielder can get it and throw him out a first which advances the leadoff man to second.  When the batter bunts, he is trying to get out advancing his teammate into scoring position. If you have never played baseball, bunting is hard to do. You must expose yourself to the pitcher, when one squares away, you expose your intentions, and it ruins your own personal statics. A well timed, well placed bunt is not flashy. People in the stands don’t tend to get excited or cheer for a well-placed bunt.  ESPN doesn’t show highlights of greatest bunts. We want to see the home run hit. In a game where success, fame, and money are stressed on individual statics and achievements, a sacrifice bunt is not helpful to one’s contract negotiations.  I have yet to hear of a manager sign a contract for a player that is just a good bunter. I cannot name on person that became famous because of their bunting abilities. Yes, there are good hitters that can bunt well, but no one wants to be the guy who has to sacrifice bunt. If you ask most baseball players they would rather try to get a hit than bunt.

Our culture that we live in celebrates, rewards, and glorifies personal statics and achievements. We reward those who do what they do and do it well. In our personal careers we are evaluated, valued, and accepted by our personal statics and achievements. It begins to define who we are. We all want bigger and greater. This works for preachers too, I have yet to hear a minister of a large church not tell me within two minutes of any conversation how many members they have in their church. Listen carefully next time you hear a pastor of a mega church and you’ll hear the number, I’ll guarantee it. I’ll admit it most preachers don’t like to sacrifice bunt either. We begin to value our self-worth by such goals. As a society we cheer the runner as he crosses the plate but rarely acknowledge the guy who laid down the sacrifice bunt. 

There are crossroad moments in our lives that we must choose to do something for ourselves or sacrifice for others. I have found that these moments define who we are. I can recall these crossroads moments in my life where my life could go one way or the other. The problem is I struggled just like everyone else, I don’t want to sacrifice bunt. I want or need to swing for the fences; I want the attention of hitting the home run. I want people to acknowledge and celebrate my accomplishments, I want to improve my individual statics and Christ keeps asking me to lay down the bunt. When we sacrifice for others, it pleases Christ, but not necessarily brings about fame and fortune. When we sacrifice bunt for others, we find something more valuable. There is something intrinsic about sacrificing for others. The ability to give up a little of our self to influence someone else’s life is the greatest feeling in the world. It is a blessing upon all blessings. Even if we feel we have nothing to give, we can all lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance others. In the processes we may find we all win in this game of life. I have come to give thanks to God for these reoccurring crossroad moments, where I am reminded of the bigger game. The bunt may not be glorious but necessary to win the game.

Peace & Grace,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Watering Plants

An elderly man in his nineties has the most beautiful garden in Centralia. He planted it for his wife who passed away some twenty years ago and has kept it going in her memory. Among the beautiful flowers are budding green asparagus plants. While admiring his stunning garden, in the brutal summer heat, an innocent observation was made. “I bet you have to water these all the time in this heat.”


“No” the gentleman replied. “I don’t water them at all. If you water them the roots will not grow deep. They will stay shallow and expect to get watered all the time. If you water them once, you will have to continue to water them daily. The plants become dependant on the water and will not grow deep roots. Deep roots strengthen the plant. It makes it stronger in times of excessive heat, drought, and frost in the winter. It is a lot like our relationship with God. In times of plenty we are not strong. Our roots don’t grow in faith to sustain us for the hard times ahead.”

When our life is sweltering away under the heat, when we are in a drought, when we thirst for more, maybe it is during these times we are establishing longer stronger roots for our Savior. These deep roots that will sustain us for the real tough times ahead as it is then our faith is strengthen so we may flourish while others expire to the heat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

“Are you Don or Sancho?”

(Note: this is a message sent to my congregation but after second thought I strongly believe that it is applicable to others life as well. Especially what we teach our children.)
I am more of a professional wrestling type of guy and don't necessarily like going to musicals, but I found myself captivated by Man of La Macha, especially its two characters. One (yes I had to Google it as I could not remember) is Don Quixote. He is the dreamer of impossible dreams, lover to those who won’t love him back, and tilter at windmills. The other character is Sancho Panza, the faithful follower who never dreamed of something better or dared to color outside the lines. Sancho Panza reminds me of so many great people who are content with muddling along merely surviving. I don’t know about you but I do not want to live my life or pastor a church full of Sancho Panzas. I don’t want to be apart of a faith that is content to merely surviving. And I hope you don’t either.
I want to be a part of a group of friends or a church full of Don Quixotes who dream the impossible dream; who dare to take on the world and shake it till it rattles; who help people reach their God given potential; who thrive on the inherent risks of the Great commission and Great Commandment. And I trust that you also want to be part of that kind of church.

Pentecost Sunday, I revealed just one of God’s visions for us for the upcoming year. We are to double our worship attendance in one year as well as transform our city like never before. I asked each one of you to join me in what would appear to the normal eye to be an impossible task. If you were not there I am asking you now to join me in this mission to grow our church, expand God’s kingdom, and transform Centralia like never before. You heard me correctly. We are going to turn this small group of faithful people into hundreds that will transform our city. Yes we have had great success over the past four years, yes we have a healthier, striving, Christ centered church, but God wants more. He wants our best.

We can do this. You know how I know? Because God tells us in scriptures we can. And the Apostle Paul tells us why. He reminds us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”. (Phil 4:13) Do we really believe these words? More importantly, how many of us live as if we believe it? All things possible if we believe. Now, I know that is a big IF. But I also know our God is a big God. The only thing that keeps God from achieving his dream for our church is us.

The first time I read Philippians 4:13, I stopped and asked myself if I really believed it. Do I truly believe I can do all things through Jesus who gives me the strength to do it? It I believe it, and then what do I have to change in my life to reflect my belief? I can not be Sancho Panza. My life must reflect that of Don Quixotes. We as Christ community can not act like Sancho Panza and just strive to survive. We can not be sacred at life and not dream. We can not stand in Gods way of accomplishing so much for His people. Invite, dream, and be strengthen and join me one this awesome journey.

Until we are together again take care of yourself and one another.
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

STRESS & Life

Life and stress… they go hand in hand. We will experience lots and lots of stress in our life. There is no getting around it. I believe that the degree to which we effectively manage and cope with the stress in our lives will determine the degree to which we are healthy. If we turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stress, our physical and emotional health will suffer. Many people turn to food as a way to cope with stress. Others turn to the use of drugs. Some turn to alcohol. Still others light up a cigarette. Some burn the midnight oil surfing the internet and pay for it the next day because they have had inadequate sleep.


Long ago Jesus told his followers: “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find much rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. I don’t know of any more effective technique to get a handle on the stress in my life than to turn to Jesus. God designed you and me in a way that our spirit, mind and body would react together in a marvelous way when we feel tense and anxious and “heavy” and set our heart and mind on Jesus. God knew that Jesus was our anecdote for stress … not drugs, food, alcohol and the internet. That’s why he inspired Matthew to capture and write about Jesus’ short teaching on this topic.

How do we “Come to Jesus?” We pray. We listen to inspirational music. We sit or walk quietly and listen for His voice. We cry out to Him in desperation. We read His Word, the Bible. We get on our knees and pour out our heart to Him. When we do this, He promises that He will give us rest. Is your life heavy and full of stress? To what or whom do you turn to when you are weary? Do you know someone that needs so rest?
See you in church, but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

People ask me to pray for them on a regular basis. It comes along with my job and I have come to not only embrace it but at times endure it. I get it, I mean I work for Jesus and part of that job description is to lift up prayers from those who ask. It’s hard at times. I’m not one of those ministers that just say, “I’ll be praying for you” and walk away like it is just a parting comment and pleasant way to move on about my day. Jesus will know when I’m slacking. There are days I don’t feel very much like praying. Not even for myself much less a list of others. It can wear a guy out, praying and all. Then there are times like yesterday.


While in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, yesterday I began a conversation with Jim. (Jim is not his real name, as there is anonymity in my prayer list) Jim asked me to pray for him. Jim explained how he and his wife after having raised a son and daughter of their own decided under God’s calling to adopt two girls from China. I expressed how awesome that was. Jim asked me to pray for the girls. No biggie I thought. He proceeded to tell me about eighteen months ago, his wife passed away after a horrible brief battle with cancer. Then just three months after his wife passed away, his adult son was arrested and sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in prison. His daughter in her twenties stepped in to help raise the girls. Up until this January, when she died suddenly of an undiagnosed brain tumor. He was all the girls had left. They had planned a trip back to China leaving today so the girls now 16 and 13 could visit their home land. Jim had to back out of the trip because he had just been diagnosed with advanced stage four lymphoma and was advised not to take the trip. They were to travel with a group of ten other parents who all adopted girls at the same time. This group agreed to surround the girls and take them on the trip anyway. Jim’s prayer request was to pray for their safe travel and that God cold allow him to live at least five more years as then both girls would be over 18 and or legal age.

At that moment I felt unworthy as Jim asked me to pray for him and the girls. At that moment my heart broke for Jim. There in the waiting room, my life problems seemed so insignificant. I felt like a wimp. God opened me up when I met Jim. I realized what an honor and privilege it is to add Jim and the girls to my list. God used this stranger to reaffirm what we do as ministers are important in the lives of those who suffer. Thanks Jim for the lesson on life and yes I did pray for you and the girls today.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Old Watch

Sometime last Christmas, I received a box and a note from my Aunt. In the box was a very old pocket watch. The note explained that the watch once belonged to my grandfather, which upon his death he had given to my uncle Walter because Walter was the youngest Henegar. The note read since my uncle and father have long since died and because I was the youngest Henegar, she wanted to be sure I got it. It was very touching to me as I never got to know my grandfather. I have no conscious memory of grandfather as he passed away two days before I was born. I now have possession of something tangible to hold on to the stories I have heard about my grandfather. I have something real to represent the legacy of my family. While I was over whelmed with the gift my hearts beats with anticipation for the future. I have a vision of the day when I hand it over to Will and he hands it down to his children. The joy I felt when I received the watch will not compare to the joy I am confident I will feel when I give it away.


When the resurrected Christ ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit as His legacy to us. Christ left the world his body known as the church. Sunday we will kick off a 12-18 month campaign of “I love my church.” We will reveal the vision God has laid for us specifically for the year ahead. We will begin Acts 29. (Many have asked what exactly Acts 29 is, sorry you’ll have to come Sunday to find out). Acts 29 will be the legacy of the church we leave to our children and grandchildren. When Christ left this world to ascend into heaven, he left his body, the church to continue his teachings, his ministry of healing, and his instructions on how to live. The church, our church, is the extension of the gospel stories. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us, guides us, and strengths us to do what Christ has called us to do. We could never accomplish anything without God’s spirit upon us. When we read the second chapter of Act, we get a glimpse of the power of the Holy Spirit. It empowered ordinary people to do extra ordinary things. It broke down language and cultural barriers so the good news could break through. It was the beginning of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Centralia. Yes, you read that right. The moment the Holy Spirit busted into the room that day that was also our beginning. The Holy Spirit was the family watch handed down to many generations.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we as Christ body, we as FCC will transform our community like never before. We will pass along a healthier, stronger, growing, and stable church to our children and grandchildren. We will no longer be restricted by the mistakes of the past, but by the power of the Spirit for tomorrow. We will extend our faith family beyond our own imagination because we are the Pentecost story. Where do we start? We begin Sunday by sharing our most valuable gift and asset we have in our possession: LOVE…
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thoughts of My Hero on Memorial Day

Today I had the honor and privilege to participate in the community wide Memorial Service at the Elmwood Cemetery. I sat with the distinguished leaders of our community, surrounded by veterans of several wars, wondering why I was there. As one lady sang which touched my soul, surrounded by tombstones, I realized why God had placed me in the place. It was because of my hero reserved my seat for me.


My hero like all children is my father. It was because at the age of seventeen, my father went to his high school counselor, asked to take his GED early, and convinced his parents to sign, so he could join the Navy. He joined the Navy during the height of WWII. He was quickly taken from a small town in Tennessee to an aircraft carrier. My hero served aboard the USS Franklin. On a mission just thirty miles off the coast of Japan, my father/hero’s ship loaded with planes and bombs was attached by Japan’s bomber planes. Franklin lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew was blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but the hundreds of officers and enlisted that voluntarily remained saved their ship. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number, but for the work of many survivors. My father , my hero was one of them.

My father never talked about his time during the war, he just did it. It would not be until after his death as I discovered his military metals stashed away in his drawer, would I truly know what a hero he was. Not just to me but too many others. He suffered the rest of his life with the emotional and psychological scars all kept hidden. There were brief moments, if you looked closely, those scars were revealed. He did it not for glory, recognition, or praise. He just showed up and did it. He did it for the love of his country and for the freedom of his many generations to come.

So my place this Memorial Day is from one who never had to go to war, but whose seat was reserved by his hero/ father. My place was to speak loudly a word of thanks, to express my gratitude for all who have served their country, who have fought for freedom, who have sacrificed for peace. I, like many, get frustrated and agitated at the decisions, polices, and laws our country leaders impose on us. I live daily with the reality of all the wrongs, problems, and ills that face our nation. I pray daily for the time when there is peace and our world is more like it will be in heaven but until then I must say, “Thank You.” Thank you for those who gave their life so I can have the freedom to complain, grip, and whine.

Memorial Day is the time I remember and say thank you to my hero for his service. Thank you for my father in law who was in Vietnam serving and missed the birth of my wife, his daughter. I say thank you for my brother in law who put his self in arms ways to serve also. I say thank you to my fellow classmate, youth from our youth group, and all others who have sacrificed for the benefits I enjoy today. While there will always be war, we should always give our warriors our respect, honor, and gratitude. Because on Memorial Day, we should all just do it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Place to Call Home...

Last week we made a quick dash back to Memphis. It was a rushed trip but one I needed to make. We traveled to participate in a fundraiser in memory of my best friend David Tucker who died suddenly back in January. The trip was covered in pain, sadness, love, and healing. It was something I needed to do. The moment we walked into my mothers home, that strange feeling came over us. It’s hard to explain, others have felt it also, but it’s a strange comfortable relaxing feeling that reeks you are home. When you enter that door quickly you are surrounded by love. It is no strange phenomenon; it is what Sociologists agree we all long for. It is in parent/child relationship that describes the feeling of security that children long for when they're left alone. They want to be reassured that someone greater, stronger, smarter is not only present but in charge. And they want to be reassured that this someone loves them.


In Jesus’ Last Lecture to his disciples he reiterates the message of love. Jesus says the same thing over and over again but the central theme is love.
"If you love me you will keep my commandments.
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.
"Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
"I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The disciples must have wondered how they could do that. Knowing they had a hard time loving each even while Jesus was with them, how could believers love like that? They overlook the obvious fact: when you love someone, really, really love someone, doing what is good and right comes so much more naturally and easily. Perhaps parents are a good illustration of this: it may be a challenge at times to be a parent, but the love one feels for one's children makes it a "no-brainer" to do what's good for them; it's obvious that if you love your children, you're going to take good care of them.

It begins with love. When our actions begin with love, everything else seems to fall in place. When there are days and situations when it is hard to love, Jesus tells us he will not leave us as orphans. Unlike those who have no parent, he promises to send the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. When our faith community clearly and intentionally focuses on love we become a home. It is love that prepares a home for those searching. We become a home; not a place to visit, not a place to pass through from time to time, and not a place to send a postcard. Is it any wonder that our church home has a table at its center, not just architecturally but at the heart of our worship life together? The Lord’s Table is where all are welcome; a table where all can gather, and table where all feel loved. A place where everyone is reassured that someone greater, stronger, smarter is not only present but in charge and reassured that this someone loves them.
Who have you invited to the table? Who have you invited home?
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another..
Shalom,
Tommy

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Expectations

A pastor friend of mine tells me of a man in his church he calls Hank. Hank had attended church since he was a young boy, and now was in his sixties. He was known by everyone- but no one really liked him. He had difficulty loving his wife. His children could not speak freely with him and felt no affection from him. He was not concerned about the poor, had no tolerance for those outside the church, and tended to judge harshly those who were inside.


One day one of the Elders asked him, “Hank, are you happy?” Without smiling or showing any emotions, he responded, “Yes.”
“Well then,” the person replied, “tell your face.”
Hank’s outward demeanor mirrored a deeper and much more tragic reality: Hank was not changing. He was not being transformed. He was not growing in his faith, his relationships or his Christlikeness. But here’s is what is most remarkable: nobody in the church was surprised by this. No one called an emergency meeting of the church board to consider this person who wasn’t changing. No one really expected Hank to change, so no one was surprised when he didn’t. There were no expectations in the church. People did expect Hank to attend services, give money, and do the work of the church. But no one expected that day to day, month to month, decade to decade, Hank would be transformed and grow more and more in the likeness of Christ. People did not expect that he would become progressively more loving, joyful, and winsome person. So they were not shocked when it did not happen. Maybe it’s now time to raise our own expectations of what we want out of our life, the life of others, and our church.
Peace & Joy,
Tommy

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Happened to People of Vision

Many of us in today's modern world are uncomfortable with the idea of visions. When someone claims to have a vision, we more often than not quickly believe that person is nuttier than a fruitcake or on some type of hallucinogenic drugs. In our conscious we have stereotyped anyone who claims to have a vision. We quickly forget that industry, invention, creativity, and success all begin as a vision. A vision is the destination to shot for. It is the Promise Land, Fantasy Island, and Survivor all rolled into one great adventure. However in the church today, we just don’t know what to do when someone claims to have a vision.


When we look at early church days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit was so active; we are told that many signs and wonders were produces by the disciples. God’s activity was running rapid even though the church was persecuted by outside authorities. Steven was one such believer who’s strong beliefs and vision resulted in his death. His love for Christ, his passion for the church, and his determination to tell his story caused the people to cover their ears, drag him out of town, and stone him to death. The leader of this death party was none other than Saul.

Today our passionate beliefs seem to be tempered by the time in which we live. Most people in our community feel as if they can manage quite nicely with or without God. They claim those who don’t practice worship are apparently no worse off than those who do participate in worship, and sometime seems just at content and happy. All of this may have the effect of diminishing the burning passion we might feel for Jesus. Those who come fresh to the church are more fervent in their passion for Christ, but those who have been worshippers since the cradle may be more laid back about their passion for Jesus. They often have a quiet worship style and can be quite disturbed by the sort of excitement, fervor, and passion shown by those like Steven, by new Christians, and by visions. Those with this quiet sort of deep, inner passion are often mature in their faith. They have a depth of faith and understanding which only comes with increasing years and living out their faith. But the downside is that they miss out on some of the excitement of the signs, wonders, and visions that accompany passionate following Jesus. Sadly, most of the time, their inner spirituality may not be immediately apparent to those with whom they come into contact, so will not necessarily enable the church to grow.

These days there is no need for martyrdom. People can worship freely wherever and whenever they choose, but it seems that paradoxically, fewer bother to worship when worship is freely available. Even today, in those countries where Christianity is suppressed, the Church is full to bursting because people need God and God's support and the freedom God promises. How can we once again fill our churches with a real, deep Christian longing? Perhaps we need more visions. Perhaps we should dare to dream dreams and to follow visions, even when those dreams and visions threaten our comfortable way of life. Stephen followed Christ by giving up his life for the Gospel. Can we do any less?

See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another,
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Being In Love....

In a very brief but intense moment of self discovery, I have found that I love God but am not “in love” with God anymore. I have somehow allowed the slow deterioration of my profession rob me of that love. Trying to minister and please many different people daily, I have lost a love I desperately need and want that formulated who I am. I preach, talk, and study Jesus everyday. I assist others with their questions, insights, and the relevance Christ has in their daily life. I am deeply grateful of the blessing God has bestowed on me and my family. But a huge part is still missing.


I want to be “in love” with Christ again. I want to feel His presence like that day I did as a teenager when I felt all alone. I want to get nervous, scared, and anxious when I prepare for worship like I did when I was at the Lake Side Chapel at Bethany Hills in front of all my friends only worrying about touching someone, and not being cool. I want to once again experience that unconditional love, energy, and acceptance I felt as Kellie and I fellowshipped with hundreds teenagers at Kingsway. I desperately need to feel the hands of the Elders once again who laid their hands on me as I was ordained into ministry. I want to pray with confidence and boldness not just with hope. If Christ is my bride, I need a couples retreat. I want to feel the spiritual awakening as I take out my guitar and write of how Christ loves me without restrictions of wondering what others will think. I want romance to be apart of my worship. I want to laugh, dance, and have fun in the experience of time spent together. I want to live each day glowing, radiating with the love of Jesus Christ that everyone will inquire about that love too. I want to live my life where the only thing people can say at my eulogy is: “Man that dude was crazy, but he sure taught us how to love God, love our wives our children, and our family, and love our friends.” I must search for that spark, that fire, that deep mojo that once drew me so close to my relationship with Christ. I must revisit those old places we use to hang out at. I no longer want that happens in our world to deter me from the love I urgently desire. I must be intentional on finding that time and place to be “in love” once again. There I will find my truest potential.
Live, Love, Laugh,
Tommy

Monday, April 18, 2011

“The Need for Easter”

This week without much notice two more soap operas bit the dust; “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” will leave the air waves after more than forty years on the air. When daytime drama hit there prime in 1969 -1970 there were more than 19 daytime shows, now there are only 4. So what contributed to this almost sdistinction og daytime dramas? To answer we must look at the beginning, their origin. Day time dramas began on radio programs that were transferred into another media at the invention of television. They were written and produce by companies that sold household goods. The name "Soap Opera" got their name from the sponsors like soap manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers. Their main target audience was mothers. Each show catered to the stay at home woman who fantasized about wearing expensive clothing, looking great all the time, socializing with rich people, or having a glamorized career such as a doctor, lawyer, or clothes designer. For an hour each day, instead of taking care of the children, doing house keeping, etc, woman could mentally escape to the lives and characters of those on the T.V. When woman began to leave the home and enter the workforce, soap operas took a little decline but bounced back during prime time. Recall Dallas, Dynasty, and who shot J.R.? Soap’s again made a slight rebound with the development of recording devices and satellite television. But neither could sustain their longevity.


But why have they disappeared? Soap opera’s have vanished because a change of several different social norms. First woman stopped staying at home and entered the workforce. They began to pursue the careers and lifestyle they watched on television. They were also not available to tune it. Ratings began to fall. Second, company sponsors no longer had the need to write and produce these shows to push their products if the woman were not watching. Third, soap operas were very expensive to produce, they employ many individuals, so sitcoms became more cost efficient. Sitcoms focused not on fantasy but on the struggles of everyday working folk. Sitcoms were eventually replaced with “reality shows” which are really cheep to produce as society desire is now to be entertained by real folks, not paid actors. Simple put people today have enough drama in thier own lives so they no longer view it as entertainment.

You may be asking why am I wasting time talking and describing the fall of soap operas. Who really cares? We as the church should because it could happen to us. The needs of the people have not changed, only their viewing choices. People need the church now more than ever. People need to hear the Good News that Christ has risen from the tomb. Yes, the tomb was empty. To some of us this may should like a soap opera is it truth. It is a truth that people everywhere desperately need to hear. Our method for connecting to Christ may be different and every changing but the message is still the same. No matter how much we have evolved as a society, the need to hear that the tomb was empty, to hear the gospel story, to understand how much Christ loves us is the same. We all need to hear that God is still relevant in our daily lives. No matter where we are in our life journey the need for God’s love is same. Unconditional love, salvation, forgiveness, mercy and grace are not commodities that diminish in time. We need to hear that death is not the end. Basically we might not need soap operas but we desperately need Easter.
May God bless you and open you up to a deeper understanding of unconditional love.
Peace and Grace,
Tommy

Monday, April 11, 2011

Can Prayer Come Alive? No Really...

Sometimes prayer is cool other times we have feel prayer is something we do or don't do but are somehow ashamed of. Prayer is a vital part of the way we live out our faith. Prayer is a very intimate talk with our creator. It is like those deep conversations we hold with the person who knows us the best. Those long talks we have with that person in our life from who knows the real us and from whom we cannot hide anything. Prayer can be a helpful tool to help us navigate through whatever life throws at us. But does prayer come alive? As one young man put it, “I believe in it and all that, but for some reason prayer has never really made any sense for me.” Indeed for all of us there have probably been times when prayer has dried up like a desert. There have been times of pain and trial when we wanted to reach out and touch the hand of God and could not feel His presence at all.


Prayer can come alive if we are willing to make a honest commitment. Prayer comes alive as we share our deepest needs and burdens with brothers and sisters in the faith. Can you imagine how it must have been for Peter, James and John when Jesus took them with Him into the deepest recesses of His pain? “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…stay here and watch with me.”

Somehow, that strikes me to the core. If God’s own Son could acknowledge His own deep and troubled sorrow - His need for someone close to “watch” with Him - then how much more so do we need that kind of spiritual bonding with others? In those kinds of experiences, a bonding of the spirit takes place that happens in no other way. A fellowship of faith is built that is beyond anything the natural mind can conceive! Prayer comes alive when we are able to accept that which we cannot understand and trust God for that which we cannot know!

The final key to the whole understanding of living prayer is this one word of Jesus: “NEVERTHELESS”. In the garden Jesus prayed “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me…NEVERTHELESS…not my will but Thine be done.” The heart of our relationship with God is born of our surrender to Him of every claim…we finally acknowledge that we are not in control…it is His wisdom that we will lean on and not our own…His strength…His grace and love. “Oh, my Lord I do not understand this pain…but I will trust You for the fact that You can care for me…” Now Jesus could face Calvary. Calvary’s battle was won at Gethsemane. The burden He carried was settled there before He ever picked up the cross. He could face Calvary only in light of His total surrender to God in Gethsemane. Now we too can face life as we surrender the heart of whom and what we are to the One who won the battle for us in Gethsemane! It may not be natural at first but with a littel commitment prayer can come alive. We can come alive.  Nevertheless may prayer come alive for you!

See you in church, but until then may your prayer come alive, and take care of yourself and one another,
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blind Spots

God has blessed me with two wonderful children which I love unconditionally and bring so much pride but I am convinced they are going blind. They have developed blind spots, where they can not see. In my panic, I have done researched and discovered I am not alone. It is a common occurrence in young people. Have you every noticed how teenagers can walk past an overflowing garbage can and never notice it? Have you witnessed how a teenager can look into a refrigerator full of food, and say, “We have nothing to eat?” Or how can a teens say, “Mom, I don’t have any clean socks!” minutes after Kellie has placed a stack of them on their dresser. Blind spots, I call them, not being able to see what is right in front of them.


One day Jesus was passing a man whom had been blind since birth. Completely blind the man sat in the exact same place begging. No one really noticed him. They knew he was there but he had been such a fixture that he drifted slowly into everyone’s blind spot. When Jesus stopped and acknowledged the man, the church leaders, questioned the reason behind his blindness. They wanted to know, who sinned to cause the man to be blind. Jesus just healed the man. The church leaders questioned both the blind man’s true identity. They called in his parents to verify he actually was blind. They questioned the man on Jesus’ true identity. The man whom Jesus restored his sight said the proof was in his eyes. He was blind but now he can see. The Pharisees and church leaders questioned Jesus’ authority because if Jesus was who he said he was, he wouldn’t have healed on the Sabbath. Yes blind spots even affect church leaders.

It is easy to place blame, feel guilt, or get frustrated with those who experience blind spots. But when people don’t know what to do, they do what they know. This is a universal truth. It happens to the Pharisees and to us. When people grow up in a house with an alcoholic, when stress, pain, intimacy, or a crisis hit that they can not deal with, they do what they know, turn to substance abuse. When people grow up in an environment of violence, when conflict arises, they react out of violence because they do what they know. The church leaders reverted to the strict church rules (what they knew) because they did not know what to do with Jesus’ healings and teachings.

When Jesus restored the blind man’s sight he gave us insight as well. We can check our blind spots and learn something knew. We can expand our knowledge which will transform our actions. When stress, pain, and situations we feel are overwhelming, we can turn to something else like prayer, counseling, or reaching out to someone who has learned new ways of coping. When conflict arises, we know more than just violence. Jesus can open up our eyes to all the blind spots that exist in our lives. We can notice things we have never seen before; things that can both enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others around us. When we are open to learn new things about ourselves and others, the blind spots begin to vanish. In the process we learn what to do because when people do not know what to do, they do what they know. As the previously blind man said, “All I know is I was blind and now I can see.” One day may we all declare the same.

See ya in church, but until then, take care of yourself and one another.
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jimmy Valiant music video

So everyone will know where I came from.. One of my childhood heroes.. God Bless you Handsome Jimmy were ever you are...

Monday, March 21, 2011

“Three Wars, Charlie Sheen and Lent”

Lent is a time of self reflection and self evaluation. It is quiet time, when we stop the hectic pace of our lives, we take notice of life regenerating in the beginning of spring time, and we discern the next paths our lives will take. We dust off the coldness and gray of winter and look forward to new life. Lent is a joyous time of renewal but it can also be a time to face reality.

During this time of self reflection it is not always fun. Some discoveries are freeing, others are a reminder God is still adjusting and creating the person He wants me to be. I believe we all crave some token of God’s presence in what often seems a very messed up world. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya it is easy to loss focus on God. With economic struggles, earthquakes in Japan, and Charlie Sheen, we all may question our sanity when we try to look only on God’s will for our life. The world in which we live, navigate, and trek through can steal the joy and peace we so desperately desire. If you are like me, when I lay down at night, my deepest desire is peace. A sense that I know I had done my best, that my life has meaning, and that I am loved by many. My reality reminds me that I have made many mistakes, hurt the ones I love, and not have always chosen Gods’ will over mine. It is in those dark times, the seed of darkness, guilt, and doubt creep in. I begin to feel I am not loveable, not good enough, not worthy of all the blessings God has placed in my life. It is here I realize a hunger.

There is a hunger deep within every heart, a deep craving for forgiveness and hope, a sense that our best days are not all behind us, and that God has not given up on us even if we have in some way given up on ourselves. Christ passion displayed in his life and ministry as a teacher, his horrendous horrifying death on the cross, and then the promise found in his resurrection, reminds me it is not over. If we can focus more on satisfying our hunger for forgiveness and hope than on the world around us, we begin to find clarity. How Jesus loves us, not how much he loves us, helps us feed our hunger. I am not suggesting we forget about the world around us. No just the opposite. We look at our reality with forgiveness and hope. In war, we search and locate those stories of sacrifice, heroism, and peace. In times of uncertainty, we listen not to gossip but to words of comfort, hope, and forgiveness. In times of doubt, we speak words of love, peace, and self worth. And together, we can change our life and the lives of those around us. ( Maybe even Tiger Blood Sheen) It allows us all to sleep well at night with our hunger satisfied.

Continue your journey through Lent, see ya in church, but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Shalom,
Tommy

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why so much talk about Lent? Isn’t that just for the Catholics?

In showing my age, I can recall when I was in college before the internet, realizing I sound really old; the popular thing was “cliff note.” Cliff Notes were small yellow books that could be purchased that would summarize a classic piece of literature in about a hundred pages or so. In one night, a student, like me could read a classic, get the synopsis of the book, the main plot, brief character details, and the conclusion of the story. This was very convenient for the student. The night before read the cliff notes, take the test, and pass it. Now the cliff notes did not give all the information, which usually resulted in a low B or high C on the test, but for an unmotivated student with so many college social events and responsibilities, it worked out well. Cliff Notes were not necessarily cheating. It was just a short cut, which resulted in an average grade. I even shameless took a classic American literature class in which I received an A and did not read one of the books assigned; only the Cliff Notes. While I confess my sins now, it seemed to help me at the time.


Years later in my life, out of guilt, maturity, or curiosity, I went back and began to read the exact readings that were assigned in that class. I was amazed at what I missed. Rereading Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I missed Tom Sawyer is a saucy boy, a natural show-off, who likes to show his authority over the other boys. I missed the complexity of the relationships of his best friends include Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn. I was robbed the connection of my boyhood and his with Tom's infatuation with classmate Rebecca "Becky" Thatcher is apparent. As I reread it opened up the door for the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Tom is only a minor character, and is used as a foil for Huck, particularly in the later chapters of the novel after Huck makes his way to the Phelps plantation. Tom's immaturity, imagination, and obsession with stories put Huck's planned rescue of the runaway slave Jim in great jeopardy - and ultimately make it totally unnecessary, since he knows that Jim's owner has died and freed him in her will. Throughout that novel, Huck's intellectual and emotional development is a central theme, and by re-introducing a character from the beginning (Tom Sawyer), Twain is able to highlight this evolution in Huck's character. My life and soul was touched by Mark Twain words as I too grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River; no adventures, just concerts, walks, and hundreds of sunsets down on the bluff. All this was NOT reflected in the Cliff Notes.

The season of Lent can be like that for us too. Because of time, schedules, routine, commitments, and experiences we experience the Cliff Notes of lent. We know Christ’s passion story. The ashes of Ash Wednesday Service have along been washed off. We await the children walking down the isle with waving branches on Palm Sunday, regroup for Maundy Thursday service, then hope the church is full of Easter Sunday, and then off, hunt some eggs with the little ones, and finish it off with the family ham and potato salad. We’ve done this before, remember the Cliff Notes.

When we do the Cliff Notes of Lent, we miss more than we gain. Yet there is something significant missing if we only concentrate on celebration for these two Sundays. It is too easy and promotes much too cheap a grace to focus only on the high points of Palm Sunday and Easter without walking with Jesus through the gathering shadows of Maundy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday. Lent is a way to recall a larger story than just celebration. It is a way to face the reality of the consequences of sin and the terrible toll it takes on the world. Lent calls us to examine our own lives with the prayer. The journey through Lent is a way to places ourselves before God humbled, bringing in our hands no price whereby we can ourselves purchase our salvation. It is a way to confess our total inadequacy before God, to strip ourselves bare of all pretenses to righteousness, to come before God in dust and ashes. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creatures, of our external piety that blinds us to the beam in our own eyes. Lent’s soul purpose is to strengthen the relationship with our self, God, and one another or we can just read the Cliff Notes.
Hope to see you soon, but until then take care of yourself and one another..
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where is YOUR passion?

As Christians we are beginning the season of Lent. Lent is the time in our liturgical calendar when we focus on the stories of Jesus that illustrated his passion for us. Lent is supposed to be time of reflection, discernment, and a renewal of our commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. We begin the forty days with Ash Wednesday and everything builds until we mourn the brutal death of our Savior and then rejoices that the tomb is empty. It is filled with passion. Lent is designed to be a rollercoaster of emotions from pain, sorrow, and defeat to elation, joy, hope and promise. The danger or trap we fall into is that over time Christ’s passion is dulled down because we have been through this season before.


What is passion really? Passion (from the Ancient Greek verb πάσχω (paskho) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love - to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject, idea, person, or object Jesus Christ holds a very strong feeling about you. The four gospels are full of examples of Christ’s intense emotion compelling feeling to have a relationship with you. The stories of Christ’s life here on earth are overflowing with His enthusiasm to love you, and desire to do something for your everlasting benefit. Christ displayed his passion for you on the scars on his hands, the blood that hits the ground as it flows down his back, in his tears and public display of humiliation, public ridicule, and shame.

When I reflect on Christ’s passion for us, I quickly realize that passion is NOT a synonym for joy. With passion can come pain: when the one you love dies; struggle: when you strive to balance your passion with your daily life, and disappointment: when you miss that easy putt, if your passion is golf.

I witnessed an old man playing his guitar on Beale Street. I was mesmerized by his talent and skill and musicianship. He was oblivious to the actions of those gathered around him. As he played and sang, tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn’t just play his music but he felt his music. Every single note hit something deep within him. He played not for the audience but for himself. His music was a part of him and he was apart of the music. He had a deep intense passion for his music. His raw emotions was not entertaining but revealing who he really was.

So what is your passion? During this season of Lent, my prayer is that you discover what in life you are truly passionate about. Join us in this Lent season as we discover how we can connect our passion into ways to honor and serve Christ, who taught us the true meaning of the word “passion”. Together let us discern, define, and exhibit our passion so we may find that inner peace we have been struggling to find.
Join in on Lent, hope to see you soon, but until then take care of your self and one another,
Peace & Grace,
Tommy

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fat Daddy Ministries: “Go to the Light.”

Fat Daddy Ministries: “Go to the Light.”: "The last five weeks I have not been able to shake the pains of death. First, my dear friend, partner in ministry, the person who convinced m..."

“Go to the Light.”

The last five weeks I have not been able to shake the pains of death. First, my dear friend, partner in ministry, the person who convinced me to attend seminary, Tom Smith, died without warning at age 43. Ten days later, David Tucker, my closest and best friend from second grade, the best man at wedding, whom I loved deeply, passed away at 42. A week later, John Moore, the brother of Kellie best friend Amy died of a heart attack at age 46. Just as we were recovering, just getting by, Alicia White, the wife of another dear friend, died suddenly at the age of 31. It is times like this we begin to plead to God why? Make it stop? We can not take anymore. We lament to God to show us some type of light, some sign that the pain will stop. We have witnessed what death can leave in its wake and now we are getting ready for Lent. At time we focus on the death of Christ, it may just be too dark to handle. If you are like me, I need some light to shine in my life for a while to pierce the darkness of death.


The story of the transfiguration is found in three of the four gospels. We read it every year, and every year the three disciples who witness the moment tremble and stare. Each year Peter volunteers to make the glory permanent, to keep it high up on the mountain, as it were, by building three booths or tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, even though he is so overcome with fear, he doesn't know what he is saying. Where is our mountain top? Were do we see the transfiguration of Christ light in our darkness of pain, suffering, confusion, and despair?

Sometime ago I heard an interview with an amazing man-a man who makes me believe that what this text says about what is real and what is not is true and that what is real is the power we have for love and reconciliation and healing. His name is Father Greg Boyle, and he works with gangs in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He has worked there for well over twenty years. In his work he has seen things that might make anyone give up hope. He has buried many teenagers who were victims of gang warfare. He has watched mothers bury not one but all their sons. He has sat by beds of shooting victims and beating victims in hospitals, some of whom never recover. He says mass in 25 jails, but he has also started a business that employs ex-gang members, since kids coming out of prison who are tattooed from head-to-toe are not exactly what employers have in mind when looking for people to man their counter or their cash register. So he started a silk-screen t-shirt factory, and he employs kids there. In the factory, kids from rival gangs work side-by-side. "Usually," says Father Boyle, "when a kid begins and is told there will be former members of rival gangs at work beside him, the kid will say, 'Well, I just won't talk to them.' But after a time and a short time at that, they do begin to talk, and they get to know each other. And the old label of enemy or rival gives way to the name co-worker and sometimes friend." The interviewer asked Boyle if he had met kids who he knew would be hopeless to try and help, and he said every time he thought he'd met a kid he could never reach, they, too, turned out to be people who wanted regular lives and homes and families and freedom from what they had known in gangs. She asked him if he talked about the gospel with these kids. "Not really," he answered. "It's more important," he said, "to live as if the truth were true, to go where love has not yet arrived, choose to stand with the folks that God chooses to stand with." Then he told the story of the desert monks centuries ago who, whenever they were greatly distressed or despondent, would repeat just one word over and over and over. "A mantra," he said, "that keeps you facing the person who's facing you; it keeps you present to God revealed magnificently in front of you. The word wasn't Jesus," said Boyle. “It wasn't love. The word was today." No matter how dark it gets, God can transform us if we live as if the truth were true, go where love has not yet arrived, and stand with folks that God chooses to stand with today.
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Dance in the light,
Tommy

Monday, February 21, 2011

" Can You See the Kingdom of God?"

To what would you compare the kingdom of God like? It is like finding the technology stock you bought in the 1980s for $50 and suddenly realizing you are a millionaire. It is like the owner of DeBeers finally finding the perfect diamond and selling a billion dollar empire to have it. It is like the harassed physician tired of the HMOs, selling home and BMW and finding bliss in a mission in Congo. It is like the crack addict waking up with a clear head and is free to choose a new life.


Is it something that can only be had in the next life, so we must patiently suffer in this life to earn it? It is our reward that we receive after what we suffer in our lives here on earth. Is the Kingdom of God any better than the latest gadget advertised on an infomercial? Do we feel we are any closer to God’s kingdom whenever the Supreme Court decides that the Ten Commandments can be displayed in marble on the side of the court building, when kids can pray in school, or if we observe the separation of church and state? Are we closer to God’s kingdom if we double our weekly worship attendance? Of courses these are rhetorical questions.

We have spent the last few weeks listen to the stories or riddles Jesus told about the Kingdom of God. When I listen to the words of Jesus, I must admit my perception of God’s Kingdom is far from Jesus’ description. I daily fall into the bad habit of measuring my vision of God’s Kingdom as only a correlation of how things are going on in the world around me. When I loose someone I love to death, in the pain of the separation, I feel God’s Kingdom is a thousand miles away. When money is tight and bills are due, God’s Kingdom doesn’t seem like a valuable procession. When my body is weak, hurting, and tired, I don’t necessarily feel God’s presences in near. When only a few people show up for worship on Sunday mornings, yes, I too feel like God’s Kingdom is located somewhere in a foreign universe. What is wrong is my perception.

The last few weeks as we listened to Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of God, it is clear that every story illustrated it is more than we ever could imagine. Our life with God is better than anything we could ever imagine. The Kingdom of God is not a far off reward but something that is happening now, around me, if I dare to notice. I must first move my attention off the things of this world and notice God’s Kingdom breaking in around me. Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom comes in, in inches not grand leaps and bounds. I can begin to find the Kingdom in every unemployed person that found a job, every addict who got sober, and every poor child who stayed in school and got an education. I can see the Kingdom braking around me when I see a prayer shawl draped around a grieving woman at her brother’s funeral, a teenage daughter crying as she feels God calling her back to Honduras, and a faith community lifting up their pastor in his time of pain. These are the mustard seeds of hope that surround us. The Kingdom is here, God’s Kingdom is now, if we dare to notice.
Still looking for God's Kingdom,
Tommy

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Have Failed Miserably at Love If?

Today is Valentines Day, the day for lovers. Many guys will be rushing to Walgreen's on their lunch hour to grab a card, some chocolates, and a stuff bear. This day, as we as a society focus on love I have realized that love should not be celebrated one day a year but a way of life. Love is more than a romantic emotion, it is something deeper. It affects not only my soul but who I am as a person. It shapes my behavior, it controls my vocabulary, and it allows me to experience the highest essence of life. I love not because I have to but because I have the ability too.

I have failed miserably at love if I have waited for today to tell Kellie how much I love her, to hold her hand, to wipe away her tears, to hold her tight at night, or to pray with her. I have failed at love if I have waited for today to laugh with her, feel the pure joy when I see her when she walks through the door, or experience that tingling feeling in my stomach when she looks deep into my eyes. I have failed miserably if I have waited for today to plan a romantic experience to show her how much I still desire her.

 I am a total failure if I need someone else to find the words on a $5 card to tell her “I love you” or share my inner more self with her. I can not imagine my day without her in it so how sad it would be if I only express my love for her on one day. One day is just not enough to encompass the love I have for her because she was there for me when I needed her the most. When I was sick, down, depressed and hurting, she was there by my side. Love for my wife comes with years of memories, too many memories that can be compressed into a card, one day, or a box of chocolates. Love comes with gifts; gift of forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.

If I waited for this day to exhibit my love for Kellie, I have diminished my parental love for my children.  How will Abby know how she should expect to be loved by a man if I am not her example? How will Will know how to express his love for a woman if I am not his role model. Those lessons, those values, those daily expressions of love, shape their lives as well. My love for Kellie does actually transcend on to further generations. As much as I try, as great as I am, as big the task, it cannot be accomplished in one day.

Love is not a holiday but a way of life everyday. Like all days, I have good days and bad days, but perfection is not my end destination. Love is something that I must nurture, care for, work on, and never take for granted. It is my expedition to grow deeper in my relationship with the one person who brings me so much joy. Love is a long journey to death separates us in this life, so not knowing when that will be; I must not wait for one day a year.
Happy Valentines Day
I love you Kellie E. Henegar
 and NO this blog is NOT your gift.

Monday, February 7, 2011

“Shall We All Strive To Be Like Geese?”

Each morning when I drive our son Will to school, I pass a small pond that is loaded with geese. Many times I see them high in the air flying around in a perfect V shaped pattern. I am sure you have seen them too. My mind went to a meeting I was in with Rev Teresa Dulyea-Parker, our Regional Minister & President. During the discussion, she mentioned that our churches should strive to function like a flock of geese. To avoid embarrassment, I agreed although I had no idea what she was taking about as my life experience has not led me to study the flight patterns of birds. As you may recall I have been very public about my phobia of birds. But seeing the flock of geese, recalling the meeting, I was drawn to examine the analogy further.


Now I get it and I would like to share with you what I discovered. Flying in the shape of a "v" allows geese to have an equal field of vision while conserving energy, using wingtip vortices to decrease any drag in flight. The bird in the front is working the hardest, but when the leader grows weary it rotates to a position farther back and allows another feathered pilot to take its place. This formation is so successful in conserving energy that birds who fly in "v" formations have been recorded to have lower heart rates than those who do not. If one of the birds flies out of formation, they will feel the increase in drag nudging them back into position. Perhaps most impressive, if a bird in the formation falls ill or is shot, two other birds will accompany it on the descent, aiding and protecting the injured bird until it either recovers or dies. The two helpful geese will then rejoin the formation. Another benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation may assist with the communication and coordination within the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.

Now reread the results of my deep investigation on geese and instead of a flock of geese replace it in your mind with people and a church. It is a beautiful analogy of how we should function together as Christ body. We are stronger, healthier, and more productive as a solid cohesive group than we are as individuals. We take turn leading God’s people to Jesus Christ, we descend with those who are in distress and need, we all hold an equal field of vision, take turns pulling the heavy load, keep track of everyone, and have better communication. Together we can travel farther, accomplish more, and stay healthier if we are conscious of our formation. Next time you look up high in the sky and see a flock of geese flying overhead, remember we as the church can learn something from God’s creation.

Maybe we shouldn’t restrict the geese to only the church. What if we all sought out groups of people who will support us in our time of need? The storms of life that have hit me over the past few weeks have reiterated my need for others. While out in front, I have exhausted all my resources. Others have held me, prayed for me, cried with me, and surrounded me with comfort, care, understanding, and forgiveness. While I grieve and deal with my pain, God has placed me in a wonderful flock of family and friends. Maybe I can learn something both about myself and about the strength that comes in unity. I pray you too may never have to fly solo.

Hope to see you soon but until then take care of yourself and one another,
Shalom,
Tommy