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..

Thursday, May 19, 2011


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,

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,

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,