Monday, December 24, 2012

Music fills the air!

Music is the universal language.  Music is prevalent during this festive time of year.  Music is imperative for a soul to really “sing.”

Music is very much a part of my family.  Melodies and harmonies abound around a family who all love to sing and whose Matriarch (my lovely wife) is a Minister of Music.
We are in the midst of providing music for our church and community and this year we are experiencing everything from Lessons and Carols to the John Rutter Gloria.  We have observed the music which lovely little ladies of our community have danced and have sung along with the local community orchestra.

Christmas is less festive, I believe, without music.  In fact, I love it when the radio stations begin their round-the-clock playing of Christmas “tunes.”  I sit in my office with one station playing them now.
What I am drawn to this year, however, is not the “Fa-la-la-la-las” but the intricacies of the crafted joining together of notes and rhythms and words to convey a message.  I have attended the concert of our local community’s orchestra, L’abri twice—once for their annual Christmas concert and then for a special venue with our church’s senior adults.  It was this second one that drew me in more than any other.  I sat at one of the closest tables to the orchestra.  In fact, it was pretty close to the conductor’s sweat produced by his wonderful leadership.
For the very first time ever my point of view allowed me to see up close and personal the violins, violas and cellos.  I saw the expressions on the faces of the instrumentalists as they purposely and perfectly produced the notes in sync; I saw their fingers and hands meticulously touch the strings to produce the differing notes; I saw the bows eloquently glide across the strings creating the sounds that, when placed all together, captured my ear, my mind and my soul.

Music is more than notes or rhythms. It is the carefully crafted, beautifully placed mixture of each individual’s unique touch and perspective marrying their desires for the same beautiful outcome.  Music of this season sings on in our hearts because we all know the tunes so well.
Music is a beautiful analogy for living in community with others.  As co-inhabitants of this wonderful planet we should applaud each other’s’ contributions and listen for the harmonies they bring.  Too many times, however, we tend to only hear the discord of those who may be different than us, go about life in a “peculiar way,” or tend to listen to the beat of a different drummer.

Maybe during this Holy Season we should just stop and listen.

This post originally ran on the ABPnews Blog (link to &

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Praying behind his back

Recently my family was honored to participate in my son’s ordination to the Gospel ministry.  After heeding a call from God, enduring seven years of higher education and gaining quality experiences, his church in Topeka, Kansas felt it was time to “set him apart” in the Baptist tradition.

His friend and colleague brought the “Charge to the Congregation.”  Traditionally, these are words aptly spoken to remind the church what they were doing and what they should consider by this special recognition.  While typical admonitions to encourage and support this newly ordained minister were given, what rang out loud and clear to me was “pray for him behind his back.”

In all too many human interactions we are all too fast to talk, act and do things about another without including them, i.e., “behind their back.”  His encouragement was before your speak to him face to face, be sure you have prayed for him behind his back, or without his knowledge.  His counsel was that if we were prone to do this, we would more likely have less to “attack” another from the front side.

This is good advice for all congregants and their ministers.  Heck, it is good advice for every family member towards others in the family!  I sense that if we did more “praying for others behind their backs” we wouldn’t so willingly sling fiery darts their way attempting to burn down their good works or character.

Perhaps this is good advice for us and our newly elected and incumbent officials.  If all of us spent at least half the time we criticized in prayer for the person, I believe God would hear our prayers. When we actually approach the Throne of the Most High God on behalf of someone else, we just might begin to see her as a child of God just like ourselves.  We may even see that he, although frail like me, is attempting to hear God as best he knows how.

A little novel I read once had a statement that I have adapted as my personal mission statement:  Help people get to know Jesus better and let Him change them from the inside out.

Perhaps I should stop now and pray for you.  Will you also pray for me?

This post originally ran on the ABPnews Blog (link to &

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Long, long ago and far, far away...

I remember a day when one would get in trouble for passing handwritten notes in class!  I also remember the first time a girl passed me one—be still my heart!  Yes, I also remember black and white TV with a dial for 13 VHF and UHF channels if you were lucky enough to “receive” any with aluminum foil-enhanced rabbit ears.

I remember cars with no air conditioning or cruise control and only AM radios.  I remember being sent to my room when “Laugh-in” and “Love American Style” was on.  I also remember our first color TV, an RCA, and when it “gave up the ghost” one summer—what’s a guy to do!!!  Well, my parents had bought a full set of World Book Encyclopedias, so I started in “A”.  I didn’t read every word and it certainly did not help me on my SAT score later on!  But my eyes were open to a whole wide world (the first www) that had before been so far away.  For a fifth grader those transparency drawings in “H” for human body began to really educate me.

I remember Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus fondly.  I was quite good with math and formulas were solved “long-hand” and on paper.  As a senior in high school I was introduced to the marvel now vaguely remembered as a slide rule.  I am still amazed how that thing actually worked.  Who figured that thing out?

I remember college chemistry class and having to formulate and calculate before I had a calculator.  In fact, it was Christmas of my freshman year of college asking for a pocket calculator with scientific notation.  You would think I had asked for a Corvette Stingray.  Those little gems, manufactured by Texas Instruments, cost a fortune.  Luckily Santa Claus found a Montgomery Ward model of the TI calculator for about half the price and I passed the last half of Chemistry.

I typed many of my college papers on a portable manual typewriter.  In seminary I was allowed to use the church’s IBM Selectric typewriter with backspace correction.  And, let’s not forget Kate Turabian?
I remember meeting my future father-in-law who had his very own Apple MacIntosh computer in their home.  I remember the first PC I had in my office in a church—it had the most impressive dark green screen on which bright light green letters would flash up when I typed!

Fast forward now into the twenty-first century.  (I remember when I thought it was so far, far away, too!)  I have a PC and a laptop computer in my home, my wife has an iPad, and we both carry on our hips “smart phones”—all of this keeps us instantly connected to our world.  If we have a question about a topic or wonder where an expression comes from, we “Google” it and obtain the knowledge desired.  We post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media our updates and we send and receive our emails—instantly.

I have caught on to the craze.  I’m hooked.  I have expanded my sphere of influence, or those who know what I’m up to, a hundred-fold with my posts and updates.

This morning I found it interesting that Twitter CEO announced enhancements to come as a result of users wanting their profiles to be more personal.  I say, “Duh! Read my update.”

I have to remind myself constantly that even though this world is flying by, God still whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”

This post originally ran on the ABPnews Blog (link to &

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tweet this, Facebook that

What is my life worth?  Is it all based on the perception of “friends” who read my posts on Facebook?  Do I need to be sure they know how I really feel about my LORD or politics?  And, what if I don’t “copy and paste” into my status to prove my love and submission to God?

I find it interesting to read posts on Facebook these days.  Yes, there are friends who I envy because of the life of leisure they are now able to live (or that’s all they choose to post about.)  There are those who pass along helpful posts and links from renowned authors.  Friends let me know about the significant life milestones going on.  I read and cherish each one; really I do.

There are also a myriad of political and pseudo-spiritual diatribes being espoused as well.  While I support the right of everyone to have feelings, thoughts and opinions about the happenings of our world, I am growing weary of posts which fane the sickness of one political party or philosophy over another; the “we are better than you are” mentality of one thought-process over another; the “world is going to hell in a hand basket” if you support the other candidate opinions.

Some of this is to be expected during an election year.  I joined “Facebook” four years ago and wondered about this then.  In fact, reading some of the posts then influenced my stating my political views in status as the Nike brand’s “Just Do It.”  Yes, I am concerned about our nation and who is leading it; but short of a new revolution, I’m not sure much will change.  I am more convinced that expressing my opinions on Facebook will not actually influence a change.

I suspect, too, that whatever I choose to express will put me in the “de-friend” category from some of my closest Facebook friends.  So, why risk it?  I’ve just found a bunch of them after many years of separation and I rather enjoy catching up.

On the other hand, Twitter keeps life simpler—or shorter as the case may be.  If I “tweet” I am limited to 140 characters.  I couldn’t even finish this blog with that limitation.

I would rather live my life attempting to please the LORD; and to do that I don’t need Facebook, Twitter, or email (although many times I wish He would send my answer this way.)  I don’t need current technology to report to Him my downfalls—He sees all and knows all.  I don’t need to report to Him that I agree with or disagree with the current popular “right” way of thinking.  What I suspect I DO need to do is treat every person I meet with respect, dignity and love.  They need to see and hear Christ living through me.  “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” 

“No, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our LORD.”  (Romans 8:38-39)

I’m going to eat my tuna fish salad sandwich on my back porch now.

This post originally ran on the ABPnews Blog (link to &

Friday, July 13, 2012

Time Keeps on Slippin' Into the Future

24 hours = 1 day
168 hours = 1 week
627 hours, 720 hours, 744 hours = 1 month depending on calendar (except leap year)
8,760 hours = 1 year (note above)
495,670 hours (approx.) = my life thus far

Time Management.  What did I do today?  Did I earn my pay?  Have I wasted time?  How has my productivity been?  Did I give ample, adequate and quality time to my wife?  My children?  Prayer?  Bible study?  Service to others?  Recreation?

I do not punch a clock—for that I am grateful.  I admire those who do; they know that to do their “job” they must log certain amount of time.  It may be 9 – 5.  It may be split shifts.  It may be rotating shifts (oh the sleep deprivation!) 

Others’ “job” is to accomplish certain tasks and they may or may not use a calendar or time piece to gauge their work.  Farmers, for example, know that the ground must be tilled and prepared at a certain time, perhaps with a certain amount of moisture or temperature.  Seed should be planted at the “appropriate time” to better the chances of a successful crop.  During the growing “time” or season care must be given to the crop by weeding, pest control, and irrigation.  And then at the most very-right time, harvest!

My “work” is a mixture of things nowadays.  I affectionately call it “spinning plates in the air.”  Much of what I “do” relates to each other; so I struggle over assuring I give each one all the appropriate time and attention they deserve.  It is not much different than being fully engaged in local congregation employment (those of us who do or have done know that to be true!)  But one of the struggles I have been dealing with has been managing my time.

The song that is on “repeat” in my mind is the Steve Miller Band’s Time Keeps on Slippin’ Into the Future.  With every beat of my heart, the clock ticks and this second is no longer the last second, and so forth.  Jim Croce recorded another song Time in a Bottle in which he sings, “But there never seems to be enough time, To do the things you want to do, Once you find them.”

So, I am working hard to relax in the day, do what I can, consider the things I missed and re-evaluate how much stress I place on myself to get it all done.  I am reading back over this now and just got tired.  I think I’ll take a break now!

Monday, June 18, 2012

ABBA, Father, Dad, Daddy

Having just participated in yet another “Hallmark-inspired holiday” I am reminded how fortunate I am that God gave to me the parents that He did.  In all of the male and female homo sapien combinations that have come together, I was blessed beyond measure to receive the best parents ever.  (You can’t argue with me; this is My Blog and my opinion!)

Like millions of others, I phoned my Dad and wished him a “Happy Father’s Day!”  I told him that I love him and am thankful for all he has done for me.  I, too, was the recipient of such affection from my two sons.  A Dad couldn’t be prouder of his offspring than I am of mine!  (Again, My Blog, my opinion!)

I love my Dad.  He was a good provider and mostly a good example of life, love and consistency.  My relationship with him is such that I call him the affectionate “Daddy” and “Dad” with enthusiasm.  No formal “Father” for me.  In fact, he would probably stumble wondering who it was calling him that!  Daddy taught me a lot.  He probably won’t admit it, but he did!  To borrow inspiration from an article I read in Sunday’s paper, here are a few things my Dad taught me:
  • Dad taught me how to tie a tie—a full Windsor knot.  A classy dresser, he always knew how to dress up.
  • Speaking of dressing up, he taught me how to shine my shoes.  (Which I don’t do quite as often as I should!)  Saturday night I pulled out the shoeshine kit and did a number on several pairs of shoes and strolled down memory lane of many Saturday nights on Shell Road shining shoes and watching “Lawrence Welk.”
  • He taught me that a well-manicured yard communicated that you cared—for your surroundings, your neighbors and the world.
  • Dad took care of his cars so that they would take care of him.  A well-maintained auto drives many more miles than one not so well-maintained.
  • A clean car even rides better.
  • It is better to give than to receive.  Dad was invested in his community.  The fire department and rescue services in my hometown are a result of his, and others like him, desire to help his neighbors in time of crisis.
  • Church attendance, active participation and mostly being a follower of Christ is paramount to getting through this life and ready for the next.
  • Consistent, persistent unwavering love for wife and family is important enough that nothing should stand in its way.  Thank you, Daddy, for loving Momma, Cheryl, me, your grandkids, brother, sister, parents, in-laws, cousins, etc., etc. in such a wonderful way!

I don’t feel pressure by the greeting card industry to share my affection for my father.  Although we live miles apart, we speak regularly on the phone “just to hear” each other’s voices.  We don’t wait until the annual opportunity to send a card to say “I love you.”  We say it often each time we talk.  He always insists that I share “his love with the family.”  To which they know Papaw means what he says!

I love you, Dad!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Feasting on Elephants

Having started out on many journeys I have learned that if I kept thinking about how long it will be, it will not be fun at all.  Whether it is a long drive across many states, or a hike up the nearest mountain trail, to begin is an arduous task unto itself. 

Yes, before the ignition is started or the first step taken one must know what the final destination is.  This is paramount to set the course.  My mantra on a “journey” is becoming “one step at a time.”  Or as one wise sage once queried, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

I went for a walk the other day around our neighborhood.  The path I chose was one I had done several times before.  I began down a slight decline of the street we live on, then a slight incline followed by another longer decline.  Oh, this is easy, I thought.  Then, I reached the bottom and remembered, I live at the pinnacle of this “mountain” and I will have to get back up there!

Like I said, I’ve done this path before and the climb was not a memorable one.  I recalled the strenuous steps it required and the conscientious sucking for oxygen.  I looked up and thought I would never make it back to the top.

This time instead of looking ahead at the “out of reach” goal, I began to look to my right and to my left observing the woods and the creek below.  As I took the steps up the path, I watched birds, squirrels and rabbits going about their routines.  A neighbor drove by and we both raised a hand in greeting.  Before I knew it I had once again returned to the pinnacle.  Oh, I was still sucking for air, but the journey became more than getting from point “a” to point “B.” (Capitalization intended for emphasis of the climb!)

Too many times in my going about “living” I have missed “life” as it has gone by.  Is it my age?  Is it my new surroundings?  Or the paradigm shift I am experiencing?  Regardless, I am living into the “stopping and smelling the roses” right now.  This is hard, very hard, for a task-oriented person.  It is hard to justify checking off the to-do list “enjoying life.”  It may not generate income or impact my little world, but it is helping me to experience God’s creation in a new and refreshing way.

The elephant will still be eaten, and since I can’t swallow it whole, I might as well savor each morsel of the feast…one bite at a time.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blue Bloods

There are TV shows that I have come to enjoy some for their content, some for their humor, and mostly all for their entertainment.  Those which are my “favorites” I set up the DVR to assure I don’t miss them.

One of my favorites now is “Blue Bloods” starring Tom Seleck.  It is a typical Cop show which I have always been a fan of.  It is in New York City which I enjoy seeing the scenes after spending some time there.  It is about somewhat real stories of real people in the profession of law enforcement in a big city.
In fact, its stories are centered on a whole family who are involved in all levels of crime fighting.  One son is just beginning as a rookie cop.  Another is a tenured detective.  A daughter is a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office.  The father, played by Seleck, is the Police Commissioner.  Oh, and if that isn’t enough, his father is a retired police commissioner.

What I have come to look forward to in each episode is the last few minutes.  At the end of every show the entire family has gathered together around the dinner table at the father’s (Seleck’s) home.  There is normal sibling banter going on; inquisitive young children trying to figure out some of the “code talk” the adults are doing; and grandpa usually has a calming word to offer.  What impresses me is they are being “family.”

Some of my best family memories revolve around the family dinner table.  Whether it was at Grandmamma and Granddaddy Daniel’s on Sunday afternoon, the Deal clan coming from all over to the Deep Creek Community Hall, or at Mom and Dad’s, eating a meal together brought us together.  There we would joke, share stories, learn about our family history.  There I learned table manners (after many, many failures, I am sure!)  There I learned I was accepted and loved, and that everyone around the table was part of my family.

The “Blue Bloods” family argues how to uphold the laws and sometimes differ greatly.  But, one thing is sure, differences do not divide them.  No one is divorced from the family, or sent to their rooms until they repent, because of their opinions expressed or views on how the world revolves or who is in an elected office.

I wish I could say that is true for my family.  Not my family of blood and marriage; my faith family.  I have witnessed too many times brothers and sisters who feast at the same table of our LORD Jesus Christ differ on issues of politics or interpretation of Scripture.  Sometimes we grow from these dialogues; most of the time we get up from the table still “family.”

However, there are times that sadden our LORD as He watches His family differ on issues yet cannot continue to love one another, cannot accept someone who is different than themselves, who cannot fathom that someone who believes that way can really be a Christ-follower.  In essence they subscribe to the “divorce-is-the-only-solution” philosophy and our collaborative witness to a world needing Grace is too often lost.

Isn’t the Christian faith one that is built around blood?  Isn’t it said, “blood is thicker than water?”  How is it that these “blue bloods” exhibit how to live with differences better than those of us who are washed in the red blood of Jesus Christ?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nuts Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

Early in the ‘90’s we lived in the parsonage of Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia.  The front yard was full of tall, mature pecan trees.  Many times now my family of four will recall the fall days when we would go out and pick up all the pecans we wanted.  However, we wanted more than those on the ground.  We wanted the ones that were still hanging on by a thin fiber inside the wide-opened black outer shell.

So, we got creative.  We would jump up and catch a limb and shake, shake, shake.  The boys were little and we made a game of running and picking up as many as we could.  Later we would desire ones that were even higher.  One of the boys went inside and got a football.  They would throw it up and hit one or two.  Then, Dad got rambunctious and began punting the ball up high into the tree.  Soon we were pummeled by dozens of hard shelled pecans.  Keeping the football theme the boys ran inside and got their football helmets to protect their heads from the hail-storm of nuts coming out of the tree.

Several things are for sure.  We had lots of nuts to eat, cook with and share.  And, without a strong wind all the nuts fell fairly close to the tree.

This week my family will celebrate the graduation from seminary of our second son William.  In a couple of weeks I will help him move to Boone, North Carolina where he will begin his first full-time position at First Baptist Church.  It will be like déjà vu all over again!  His older brother Ragan graduated just last year and I helped him move to Topeka, Kansas where he is now Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church.

To say that Susan and I are proud of our sons is an under-statement.  How can we cease to praise God for His blessings?  Some have quipped that they are just staying in the family business.  When they individually talked with us about their feeling “called to ministry” we did our best to talk them out of it.  Why wouldn’t we?  They had grown up in two ministers’ home; they had experienced the good, the bad and the ugly.  We encouraged them to do whatever they wanted to do and God would be pleased.

But, they each insisted that they knew God wanted them to go into full-time vocational ministry.  It just goes to show that no matter how much wind we, the parents, tried to blow the nuts away from the tree, God’s will and desire for them was much stronger.  And, without a doubt, we are so glad these nuts haven’t fallen far from the tree of their parents’ vocational journey.


Monday, April 23, 2012

YOUTH – They will surprise you!

Last Sunday my home church (First Baptist Church Dalton, Georgia) had “Youth Sunday.”  Many churches do something similar in which the youth are in charge for a day.  (With proper supervision and ONLY for a day, mind you!  We wouldn’t want them to really be in charge!)

Sitting there in my pew I reflected back to when I was a youth and we had Youth Sunday.  Keep in mind that those memories are now only vague, and definitely in black and white, not color.  I remember teaching Sunday School.  “Teach” was not so much the operative word, now that I have a better understanding of the cognitive approaches to imparting knowledge and understanding.  I had “the” Men’s class that day.  What could I tell them that they did not already know?  How would they be moved to a deeper Christian faith by my feeble attempt to pontificate the Word?  It didn’t matter in the long run; they were very supportive and appreciative of my attempts and the encouragement I received may have benefited my openness to hear God’s call into ministry.

Like many adolescents there was apprehension abundant.  However, each participant “performed” wonderfully and we “had church!”  Some read Scripture, many sang in the youth choir, some played percussion instruments; one very talented young lad played the organ (how does one do that anyway?  It takes hands AND feet!)  A couple even prayed – out loud!

Until I became comfortable speaking in public, I was very timid about praying in public.  After all, I’m talking to the Almighty on behalf of all of us in the room.  These pray-ers gave thoughtful consideration to the words they were to utter.  Perhaps they were coached by the youth minister or other leaders.  Regardless, they were well done.

Not many pray-ers, myself included, impress me in the hearing of the audible prayer like one this Sunday.  The young man spoke clearly and eloquently.  He demonstrated for many how to pray an “opening prayer” or “invocation.”  He articulated that we were all entering into the opportunity to worship God.  He asked God to “aide us to hear your Word this morning.”

WOW!  That’s it, I thought!  In all we do in our designed one hour of “worship” on Sunday morning – singing, praying, reading litanies, hearing a sermon – we are there to hear a word from God.  It cannot be done unless God Himself aides us so that we actually “hear” it.  This aide could take many forms.  The aide I normally need is to clear my mind of distractions and focus on the moment.

God wants us to hear His Word through many means each and every day of the week.  It may be in the reading of Holy Scripture; it may be in silent (operative word!) meditation; it may be in singing hymns and spiritual songs; it may be in caring for another person who has a need.

Oh God!  Forgive me for not hearing you like I should. Aide my hearing today so that I do not miss what You have for me today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Ducks on the Pond"

Sitting in a rocking chair at the Terrace Hotel at Lake Junaluska Retreat and Conference Center one morning I was overlooking the lake.  Behind the shimmering luster of the water were mountains, small and grand peaking out through the early morning fog.  A few early risers were exercising along the path around the lake, workers were beginning their tasks of maintenance, housekeeping and the like.

I observed one lonely duck floating across the lake.  That in itself was not that inspirational.  What drew my attention was the ripple effect out behind it.  This small little creature wasn’t creating a large wake as it glided across the water.  But what it did still ventured out long and far behind.

The LORD reminded me in that moment that my actions and thoughts are like those ripples of water.  Whether good or bad, those actions, thoughts and words extend out and affect long and far after I have spoken them or acted in such a way.

The obvious was to turn inward and reflect on the negative ones, yes, sin.  Forgive me LORD, purify me, and cleanse me.  Reveal to me those un-confessed.  Restore to me the joy of my salvation by your love mercy and grace.

Without pride, however, I realized that there have been “good ones,” too.  LORD, may they be only reflective of you.  Let me have no selfish pride.  Help me to have more good ones than bad ones today, rippling out positively touch my world today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

“The moon and stars suspended in space.”

“When I gaze into the night skies and see the work of Your fingers; The moon and stars suspended in space Oh, what is man that You are mindful of him? You have given man a crown of glory and honor and have made him a little lower than the angels You have put him in charge of all creation The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea But what is man, oh what is man that You are mindful of him? O Lord our God, the majesty and glory of Your name transcends the earth and fills the heavens O Lord our God, little children praise you perfectly and so would we - and so would we. Alleluia, alleluia, the majesty and glory of your name Alleluia, alleluia, the majesty and glory of your name Alleluia, alleluia!” “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name,” Linda Lee Johnson and Tom Fetke, © 1979.

Did you gaze up into the night skies during March?  Have you ever seen such a sky? Not unless you are umpteen hundred years old.  Apparently we experienced a phenomenon called a “conjecture.”  I’m no astronomer, but I am impressed.

Humankind has been amazed at the heavens from the beginning of time. From the first chapter of Genesis we read how God put each one in place (Genesis 1:14).  Intelligent man quickly learned how these “things” could be used to guide them.  Very wise men used an exceptionally bright one to find the Christ Child.

The phenomenon of the March sky was amazing!  Venus and Jupiter and the Moon were all right up there together bright as can be (Is this the “Age of Aquarius”?  Look out Fifth Dimension!)  These planets, along with little Mercury, and the Moon all became very apparent in our night sky.  They were so bright.  It made me think “what is really out there?”  For those of us who are followers of the One true God, we know Who is out there?

But, He is not just “out there.”  He is here, right now, with you and me.  But why don’t we recognize Him?  Perhaps it is because we aren’t reflecting His Light correctly.  Isn’t it written, “You will know them by their love for one another”? And, I might add, their love for others.

If we do not have love for one another (and others not like us), then we are nothing more than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Or worse, we are non-reflectors of His light.  Wouldn’t our world be better served if we were “moons” reflecting His love and light?  What if people gazed into our lives and it guided them to the One whose Light we reflect?

Father, forgive me for dulling the reflection of Your light.  Help me to love others so that they begin to see You and yearn for You.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is “Springing”

Here I sit in my home office with the windows up enjoying the beauty of the introduction of Spring and music begins to play.  No, not on the radio, nor my iPod.  But the birds outside the window.

Having lived out of “four season country” for ten years, this is music to my ears.  I begin to realize what I had missed living where it was always spring or summer.  (Of course, there are great advantages to that. But I won’t bore anyone with that in this blog!)  The birds are singing and communicating to one another.  What are they saying?  To whom are they calling?  I really do not care.  Sing on creature!

The grass is greening; even the weedy-type which is prominent in the yard of our rental house.  It beckons the roar of the lawn mower.  Irises are popping up through the ground, stretching their fresh leaves out toward the sun preparing to bloom.  The rose bushes are greening and reviving from the trim given to them in the fall.  Gosh!  Even the dandelions are pretty this year!

The trees are budding – Achoo!  We are having difficulty trying to identify the various varieties of which we are not familiar with.  This is a task that is almost outside the realm of a Google search!  The beloved dogwood trees’ buds are bursting.  Soon, as in this week, their beauty of white and pink will permeate the horizon and even the dense woods.

We have placed our hummingbird feeder out waiting for these creatures to come and quench their thirst.  The bumblebees by the thousands are gathering pollen from the wisteria and flowering trees around.

Like us, the neighbors have begun to venture outside their houses, crank up the mowers, raking out the flowerbeds, preparing garden beds, and generally sprucing up.  Spring is springing all around!

The beauty of spring is a reminder of life’s resurrection.  What appeared to be dead is coming back to life!  What was dormant was actually still alive.  Life is springing all around.  This inspires me to refresh and rejuvenate my own living of this life.  (Somebody say “exercise.” Doesn’t pushing the lawnmower count?)

I am also reminded of my spiritual journey.  What has been dormant that I need to restart?  What can I do to rejuvenate my walk with Christ?  Even the Psalmist King David prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God. . .Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

During this season of Lent we journey toward a time of celebrating the One who overcame death, was rejuvenated for our sake, in order that we might live again and again.

What a beautiful reminder of spring!  Hallelujah what a Savior!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


This week is like weeks many of us have from time to time:  one in which several funerals are on my calendar.  One is for a saint from the church I served many years ago.  She was the organist and I imagine she is now part of the heavenly orchestra.

Attending funerals is one exercise I tend to do when I move to a new place (I’ve only moved four times in 30 years!)  It gives to me a perspective of the varying nuances of each region of the country.  Even each church in a region may have acceptable (and not acceptable) practices for funerals.  As a minister these are good things to know before leading one.
On an episode of the TV comedy Will and Grace, Grace goes running to Will with the dilemma of facing death.  She tells him that she’s been thinking a lot about dying because she’s afraid “that one day it may happen to her.”

Well, Grace, I’ve got good news and bad news.  The bad news is you’re right, it will happen to you one day.  The good news is you’re not alone!  One hundred percent of us are guaranteed only one thing in life: death.  Life is full of choices and most eventually have an effect on how we die, and perhaps when we die.  One important choice or lack thereof, however, determines where we end up after we “walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.”

John Kramp, in his book Out of Their Faces and Into Their Shoes, reminds the reader that most of the evangelism methods we have learned are “based on the premise that people believed in God, worried about eternity, and lived lives filled with felt-needs.”  He goes on to say that there is a “futility of offering the answer to people who are not asking the question.”

I have been with people as one whom they loved passed on into eternity.  Many times I possessed a sense of assurance that where they now were was where all Christians aspire to be when it happens to them.  Sadly, though, I’ve been there with those who have had little to no faith journey, or I did not know them prior to the event to have foreknowledge.
In that episode of Will and Grace, Grace was concerned that Will, a well-to-do lawyer, had only left her a measly $1,400 in his will.  She was working on her will and wanted to leave him something, but didn’t want to do too much.  She was upset that Will was only going to leave her a small amount.  The argument waned when Will told her that was all he had fifteen years ago when he wrote the will; he had not thought about it since then.

Will is no different than any of us.  We try not to think of our own death—a very distant, future event.  Yet, like this friend of mine from long ago, death could come to any of us today.  More important than preparing for the disbursement of one’s estate (as important as that is!), is one’s preparation for life after death.  It is appointed unto everyone once to die, and then the judgment.  But, all who have placed their faith, trust and hope in Jesus Christ shall receive their heavenly reward, because He took upon Himself the judgment for our sins.

For the most part we cannot determine when or how we shall die.  But we each must decide where we will go when that moment comes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

People Watching

I have heard people say many times, “I love to go to the Mall just to watch people.”  Of course, this is a fun activity just about anywhere you go.  Since I have been in a lot of airports recently, I tend to do my observing there.

Recently I had a rather lengthy layover in the airport in Nassau, The Bahamas.  NO, I was not there on vacation!  My first flight from Treasure Key, Abaco had gotten me up very early—before sunrise.  In this little airport on this somewhat remote island in the northeastern part of The Bahamas, I literally helped open up the airport.  Soon a few more passengers-to-be arrived as did a few of the employees.  Eventually the plane arrived and a well-dressed Bahamian National Police officer went to greet the plane.  Off stepped one casually dressed Bahamian man wearing a ball cap, smiling and speaking to everyone as he walked by them.  Except for me of course.  I figured it was obvious I was not a registered voter and he passed me by.  But, I didn’t jump up to shake his hand either.

As I was exiting to board the plane I asked the gate attendant who the gentleman was.  Well, she looked at me disgustedly and said, “That is the Prime Minister.”  Holy cow!  I had ignored a world leader!

After arriving in Nassau I quickly sought after my morning dose of caffeine and a breakfast sandwich.  I watched as others passed through the shops and food court.  Some were also looking for their morning meal.  Soon I spotted one young couple which appeared to be ending their tropical vacation.  What caught my eye was the amount of flesh that he had not tattooed.  Well, I sized them up immediately and began to conjure up my humble analysis of them.

Then, the strangest thing happened.  He brought their food back to where she had sat; he sat across from her, they clasped hands and prayed!  They said grace; they had the blessing; they thanked God for the provisions they were to partake.  Great!  All of the negative thoughts I had assigned to them due to his appearance fooled me.  These two were sincere followers of God and were acknowledging His provision for their sustenance.

I was thankful that they could not hear my internal thoughts judging them by their outward appearance.  I had to seek forgiveness from the same One to whom they prayed. 

Wasn’t this pretty typical, though?  We tend to “judge a book by its cover,” not really caring about the true content of one’s worth in the sight of God.  For me, this was just another time in which God reminded me that beyond my short, chubby appearance, it is who I am in Him that matters.  My prayer needs to be over and over again, “LORD, give my eyes to see others as You see them.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"...But the Greatest of these is Love."

On this day set aside each year to pad the coffers of greeting card companies, chocolate manufacturers and Jewelry stores, I can’t help but follow the trend to express to my Valentine my love and affection for her.  For almost thirty years now she has been my constant companion, true friend, and mate.

I recall the first time my eyes saw her.  I believe the words which went through my mind were the same which Adam first uttered when God presented Eve to him: “Hubba Hubba!”  (Seriously, it’s that way in the original manuscripts!) I know, not very romantic, but truly sincere.  Long before Cupid drew back his bow, God had planned for her and me to meet then and there.

Let me give to you a little background information.  Susie was born to Bill and Ora Parr in Fort Worth, Texas in 19__ (what?  You think I’m stupid!).  These two Alabamans were living there because Bill had taken a job after graduating from Devry Institute in Chicago.  They were very faithful and active members of Rosen Heights Baptist Church where Dr. R. Earl Allen was pastor.  After Susie’s birth in September her parents dedicated her to the LORD in a special Parent/Child dedication service at church.  Dr. Allen held this little precious newborn girl in his arms and prayed for her and her parents.  Soon after that Bill and Ora moved back to their home state of Alabama to raise their family in Huntsville.

Fast-forward to 1980 when Susie graduated from college and headed to Fort Worth to continue her education and follow her Calling to ministry.  Her parents and friends at Rosen Heights Baptist Church had remained close over the years and when they heard Susie was coming their way, they let it be known that they needed a pianist.  Dr. Allen was still pastor and was delighted that this now young woman would serve the Lord in the church in which her calling had begun.

In 1981 as a struggling seminary student myself, I needed additional income in order to buy groceries.  I learned of a “job made for a seminary student” at a church on the north side of Cowtown.  I got the job as night custodian at Rosen Heights Baptist Church and began on June 3, 1981, the night referenced above (“Hubba! Hubba!”).

Little did Susie Parr or I know that the Lord had a plan for each of us—together.  From Alabama and Virginia God brought our very different paths together at the same church under the same pastor that held her many years earlier and with her parents dedicated her to the Lord.  Thus began a journey of love that has taken us from Texas to Georgia, Virginia, Florida and back to Georgia again; has blessed us with two sons who love and serve the Lord; countless friends and colleagues in churches and ministry settings we would have never dreamed of; and a wonderful extended family that has blessed us all these years.

There is no doubt in my mind that when Holy Scripture was penned, canonized and provided for all to read, that love was and is its ultimate theme.  Yes, love for God; love instead of hate for one another; and His unfailing love for us.  The model of love that should dictate all of our thoughts and actions.  Yes, there is faith and hope; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

Happy Valentine’s Day, my Love!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Arrived Safely

“Arrived Safely…”  This was the message that I was able to send to my wife and family that I had arrived at my destination safely.  My destination?  Mount Hope in Abaco, The Bahamas.  I am here for the week to teach “Leadership” in the Bahamas Bible Institute, a seven years partnership between CBF of Florida and CBF of The Bahamas. (Yea, I know, “tough assignment.”  But, somebody’s gotta do it!)

The rest of my message, however, expressed some “trying times” ahead: “…luggage has not.”  Only one other time in my seven years of extensive travel around the Caribbean for Fellowship Baptists has my luggage taken a different trip than me.  The last time I went to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and three days later my suitcase caught up with me after going to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO).  Unfortunately, I was not awarded its frequent flier miles nor reimbursed for expenses I incurred to have clothes presentable for the Baptist meetings I attended.

I take for granted the pleasures of daily rituals that were going to be a challenge without certain items not in my possession.  Toothbrush? No. Medicines? No. Clean clothes? Uh-uh.  I wasn’t too stressed at the moment.  I was (almost) confident that I would once again be reunited with my things.  I did have with me my notes and items for the four nights of teaching.  I had spent the better part of two weeks reading, studying and preparing and I was not going to part with them.  However I wasn’t encouraged by the airline agent who looked at my claim check and declared it was not theirs.  What?  Wait!  It was YOUR airline agent in Orlando who put the matching tag on my bag!

My host, Rev. John McIntosh, is well-known throughout the Abaco Island.  He made a quick call to Marsh Harbor, the next stop for the island-hopper which left me at Treasure Key, and the search began.  It wasn’t there or on my plane.  It had been left in Nassau and would be on the next plane over…tomorrow!  The good news arrived the following day and my body was soon refreshed with its contents.

Isn’t this typical of how we go about life?  We entrust our worldly possessions to complete strangers in hopes that promises will be fulfilled.  And most of the time we are not disappointed.  However, we tend to do similar with our spiritual lives—entrust it to others to get ‘r done for us: preachers, teachers, deacons, leaders in the church.  But if I am to be a follower of Christ, I need to keep those precious items close and in my own possession, opening up only to the One who gave all and desires my daily contact.  My growth in spiritual matters is no one’s responsibility or fault but my own.

Prayer: Loving and gracious God, thank you for loving me, in spite of me and for bringing me back to You, when I entrust my relationship with You to someone else.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

(Almost) Daily Trek

For the past seven years I have been “traveling” somewhere.  Many days, one would find me on Interstate 4 between Orlando (where I lived) and Lakeland, Florida (where my office was) a distance of 58.3 miles one-way, but who’s counting?  Many friends and family often asked me about my “commute.”  The answer I usually gave was “it was my spiritual journey!”

Most of the time, I found it was a good time to “listen.”  I usually listened to “talk radio” getting caught up on the news of the day and the hundreds, yea even thousands of opinions that went along with it.  Easy listening and Christian music radio was another standard.  All of these, of course, gave regular traffic reports which aided me in decisions of the route to take.

When radio didn’t suffice, or I couldn’t find what I liked, I popped in a CD (yes, I had not commandeered the iPod shuffle!)  Sometimes a book on CD was a great way to brag that I’d “read” a good book recently.  Whatever the medium, I listened.

Some of what I “heard” went in one ear and out the other.  Every once in a while, something goes in and camps out on a brain cell and I have one of those “a-ha moments.”

One morning I found myself maneuvering the “Nascar” style traffic heading west on I-4.  You know the type I’m referring to:  65+ mph, lots of cars and trucks bunched together, and everyone “jockeying” for position.  Right around Walt Disney World you lose one west-bound lane.  I know it is there; I’ve handled it hundreds of times; I’m preparing for it.  Then all of a sudden a Dodge Ram green pickup truck flashed up from the rear at a speed which made me appear to be sitting still.  He swerved around me and glares at me like it was my fault that he did not have clearance for take-off!

Well, I did what many do—I gave him a “holy honk” of the car horn.  Racing through my mind were thoughts of anger, disgust, ridicule and judgment.  Just prior to this I had popped a CD into the player by a male trio of Southern Gospel music that I was introduced to some years earlier.  I love their music, style and presentation.  It is classy Southern Gospel.  Usually one would pass me and observe me singing at the top of my lungs with them as their “fourth” singer to make it a “real quartet.”

Wouldn’t you know that God sent a message to me to “hear” in that particular moment?  The group and I were singing “I’m happy with you Lord; I hope you’re happy with me.”  Oh, boy!  I got the message!  In that moment, I did not portray one with whom the Lord of Heaven and Earth could be happy with.  I had not given a “good witness” to that other driver.  Rather than voice a prayer of thanksgiving for His protection upon me and the Dodge Ram driver, I had feelings of anger that the other driver felt entitled to the piece of asphalt that I was occupying.

Oh, Lord. Forgive me for not listening as intently as I should during my Daily Treks.  Thank you for protecting idiot drivers like me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Thank God you're an American!"

Last week I went to Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Orlando with my son Ragan.  (He was in early for a conference and I was finishing up a week of my work there.)  We purchased our (entirely too-expensive!) admission tickets and proceeded to the entrance.  Not really cognizant of the folks ahead of us, it did seem it was taking a while for them to maneuver through the turnstiles. 

As it became our turn to scan our ticket and our finger-print (where does that information go?!), the gate attendant exclaimed “Oh, thank God you’re an American.  I can understand you.”  Ragan and I both chuckled at this as we passed through, not because of any ill feelings toward the world’s visitors ahead of us, but because of the one who had made the statement.  She was a very pleasant southern-Asian woman with a definitive accent!

She, too, at one time had ventured from her homeland to “the land of promise” and found a home here.  At some point, I assume, she too had difficulty with the language.  But, here she was now recognizing that verbal communication is limited when one doesn’t know the language.

This moment in my journey last week allowed me to pause and reflect on how I am no different than she or the park attendees entering ahead of us that day.  We all are strangers in a distant land at times.  Orlando is a city in which the whole world converges.  Anywhere you walk you will hear languages other than English being spoken.  Yet, there we were all together to enjoy the same things: fantasy, thrills, Harry Potter World, roller coasters!  With just a quick observation of those around, one notices that folks were from all walks of life.  No one’s status, language or religious affiliation awarded them special privileges.  We ALL had to walk through the maze of queue lines to “enjoy” those 47.6 seconds of “thrill.”

My God doesn’t look upon my or anyone else’s status, color of skin, nationality, political affiliation or language spoken to determine whether we can enter His Kingdom.  We all enter the same way:  trusting and believing. And I would add what the entirety of Scripture says, live like you do.  So, isn’t it great that God will not say, “Thank Me, you’re an American; come on in”?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Heights I'm Gaining Everyday

Did I tell you that I am extremely afraid of heights?  I don’t mind flying at all.  But, get me out on a ledge and my knees get weak and I slump down into a safe grab of anything solid.

Seriously, this is not very manly.  Particularly for one who used to be a firefighter!  Climb ladders? Check.  Roof-top Chimney fires?  Check.  One hundred foot tower platform?  Check.  But, all of this was as a “volunteer” so I normally volunteered to stay on the ground!

As a family we have vacationed in many high places.  Once we were in Toronto, Canada and ascended the gigantic CN Tower.  I was okay as long as I was inside.  Then we found, inside, the glass floor!  Yikes.  All of a sudden tomorrow’s headlines were streaming through my head, “Glass Floor Breaks.”  Susan and the boys were enjoying their “walk on the clouds” looking down.  I tried to insist they get off and back on solid flooring.

Last year we went west to Las Vegas.  Outside of the gambler and entertainment Mecca are some captivating and beautiful mountains.  Every inviting rock formation my family would climb.  And all I could envision was one slip and their off.  We went on a tour of the Grand Canyon.  Yes the “big ditch.”  Holy Toledo!  What are you thinking?  Get away from that edge!  No, I won’t come over there to look over!

This little runoff at the keyboard seems contrary to my last blog entry, doesn’t it?  I wrote of “reaching the top” and seeing from high atop Georgia’s mountains God’s beautiful world.  But remember, I was on solid ground safely away from any ledges or seemingly slippery slopes.  I was safe.  I placed myself comfortably away from any possibility of danger.

As I go through life, I attempt to position myself safely in God’s protection.  I am successful sometimes.  Sometimes circumstance or my own stupidity pushes me toward a ledge.  When I do, I prayerfully slump down and reach out to grab hold of something solid.  Without any judgment or accusations I find the waiting arms of the Solid Rock of my salvation.
I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan's tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
  Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Harry, I've reached the top!"

This quote is from one of my family’s Christmas-tradition movie series, “Home Alone.”  Real aficionados will know which of the movies it is from and what comes next!

This past week I took advantage of the landscape within which I have now found myself—the north Georgia mountains.  After a great conversation and lunch with a friend, I took a serendipitous stop to explore the invitation of a sign pointing to “recreational areas.”  What I found was breathtaking!  A mountain trail near a man-made lake.

Unfortunately, I had not dressed for a good, brisk mountain hike.  But that didn’t stop me.  With my dress trousers and shoes I trudged on.  It was a beautiful, sunny cool day.  I found myself on a path to which I really had no idea where it would lead.  So, after about fifteen minutes, I decided to reverse my direction.  While doing so, I listened to the sounds and observed my surroundings.  All of this I had not been privileged to experience in a very, very long time.  I soaked it all in.

What I began to realize is that this reminded me of paths we take in life.  While I could only see a short distance in any direction, I journeyed on.  I trusted those who had gone before and planned the route; I anticipated what was ahead.  I continued on despite all of the uncertainties.  In my life I forge ahead along life’s path, knowing perhaps only what is ahead for only a short distance.  I prayerfully trust the One who has guided me to this path.  And, I eagerly keep forging ahead anticipating the next view or even the next “fork in the road.”

After safely returning to my car (and being assured I was not in a recreation of Deliverance!), another path invited me to enter.  This one looked promising; it appeared to be going somewhere.  It was headed upward.  I thought how the view must be wonderful from up there. 

It did not disappoint!  Midway up I reached a plateau of sorts with a green lush grassy area…in the mid of winter!  What was this?  Why was it here?  How was this happening?  I didn’t get the answers to those questions, but the spiritual analyses are plentiful!

I walked on, and then I finally reached the pinnacle, wow!  WOW!  Breath-taking…literally!  I had reached the top!  I could see for miles!  The song “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” was playing in my mind!  (I would have sung it but I was literally breath-less; attempting to let my lungs and heart catch up!)

While I know that I haven’t arrived (or reached the top) yet.  One thing I do know, is that I am going to keep on walking, keep on climbing, keep on reaching for all that God wants and has for me! (Philippians 3:12, paraphrased)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Where to begin?  Usually "the beginning" is a good place.  But, where is THE beginning?  For me and this attempt to share on my "blog" I will begin now, "not way back when."

As a church person I have many times said, "the only people in church who like a change are the babies in diapers."  Whether it is in church or in life, change doesn't come easily to any of us if we are honest.

My world "changed" recently.  For the good, I might add.  Not that what I left was bad by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I look at this new time in my life as good.  Why?  Because my wife and I sincerely believe God  is in control and His plans for us are best (Jeremiah 29:11-12).  We have moved to a wonderful community in the northwest Georgia mountains which we just adore.  We have been welcomed warmly and graciously by a wonderful congregation with which Susan will work by calling and vocation, and I will find my place by choice.

A change for me will be the uncertainty of "gainful employment" at this time.  I have been privileged to serve as a minister, an administrator, a chaplain, a community leader.  Now I wait (and work diligently to find!) to see how the LORD will take all of who I am, all of what He has done in and through me, and all of what He wants to accomplish and allow me to be a part of it.

So, as I "DEAL" with my world, I will share thoughts, anecdotes, opinions and perhaps other useless nonsense!