Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Be Good For Goodness Sake." Really?

In mid November, I, along with the other members of our church staff, went to the Tennessee Baptist Convention to serve as messengers on behalf of our church. Among the many individuals who gave presentations was Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University, who reported on the status of his fine institution. In the midst of his presentation he eluded to a campaign that was getting ready to be launched-- just in time for the Christm...er uh... holiday season. The campaign has one, basic message: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake." He did not elaborate, but my interest was peaked. Today, I found out what it was all about.

On November 19, the American Humanists Association launched that campaign with an investment of some $40,000 in billboards and poster size ads in transportation terminals and other high traffic areas in and around the Washington D.C. area. "We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group.

"Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of nontheists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

I would be lying if I said that I was not angered and offended by this campaign. But before you jump to conclusions, let me share with you the source of my anger.

First, let me say that I defend any man's right to believe whatever he wants to believe. We live in the United States of America, the home of the free. God grants us free will. Even though God created us, He gave His creation the freedom to love Him or not love Him; to believe in Him or not believe in Him. Who are we to force our beliefs on anyone when our Creator does not even do that?

Secondly, my anger is not aimed at lost people who are only guilty of acting like lost people. My heart aches for all who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord.

No, my anger is grounded in the fact that the church tolerates this kind of activity. The church has been emasculated. Society decides that killing babies is okay- the church must be tolerant. Society decides that homosexuality is an approved alternative to God's plan and that marriage may be defined as something other than a union between one man and one woman- the church must be tolerant. Society decides that the "nontraditional religions" such as atheism or agnosticism are okay, but "traditional religion" like Christianity is not okay- the church must be tolerant. I am sickened by this.

This is the first ad campaign of its kind for a reason. This would not have seen the light of day fifty years ago. Some would call that progress. I call it a downward spiral that shows no signs of slowing down. While the A.H.A. has a right to believe what they want, I have the right to not like it. It cannot be legislated away, but we, the church, can speak loudly and clearly in other ways. If I was a businessman in D.C., the company who owns the ad space that was sold for this campaign would never see another dime from me-- and they would know about it.

Just as quickly as my anger is kindled, it gives way to a stark realization. We have a command and a commission to attend to. We have to start loving people to Jesus. While every fiber of your being may want to slap somebody upside the head with your "Merry Christmas!" instead of "Happy Holidays" this season, remember Whose you are and what He may want you to do instead. The church must, individually and corporately, plant its feet in the Truth and stand up. What are you doing? Do your coworkers know where you stand? Do your classmates? Does your neighbor? What about the waitress at you favorite restaurant? How about the Wal-mart clerk?
I am staring at an art piece that my momma gave me a few years ago. It says, "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." There is a lot of truth in that, however, even Jesus had to explain some things while performing His numerous miracles. If He couldn't get by without verbalizing a few things, who do we think we are?
More to come on this. There is quite a lot still rattling around up there.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tennessee Coaching Alert!

Just heard Andy Katz quote a report by ESPN college football correspondent, Chris Low, who is confirming that Lane Kiffin will, indeed, be hired on Sunday as the Tennessee football coach. The contract will pay him somewhere north of $2 million per year.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened While "Treat or Treating."


This afternoon, Paige, Ellie and I drove to Knoxville to visit some family and friends who had invited us down. Ellie is about a year older than one of the daughters and they wanted to go out "trick or treating" together. For those playing along at home, I now call this activity "treat or treating" because I don't see the point in offering a choice.

In order to join in on the fun, Paige reprised her monk outfit and I transformed into my alter ego, Pastor Percy Love. All of the children and the women folk walked through the neighborhood and I divided time between riding in the chase vehicle and working on my John Travolta walk. When we would happen upon a group of people, Pastor Percy didn't miss a chance to share the love.

At one point we walked past a group of ladies and one, who I later assumed drew the short straw, approached Pastor Percy. "Didn't we used to date back in the '70's?" she asked with a smile.

Pastor Percy didn't skip a beat and replied, "Baby, if we had dated, there would have never been a 'used to.'" She shrieked with laughter and ran back to her posse.

Good times.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Time Is Now...

It has been one month to the day since my last blog post. I am not very proud of that fact. There are a variety of reasons, none of which are all that good, but suffice it to say when I am motivated to make a post, I make a post- and today I am motivated.

I voted today. It is the last day of early voting in the county in which I reside. Paige and I stood in line for about 35 minutes to do our duty. I am relieved that I have that behind me. I have been looking forward to this election day finally getting here ever since the first campaign talk started up MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO! Frankly, I have been sick of the whole mess for quite sometime. No matter where you go or what you watch, read or listen to, you have not escaped the palaver regarding this election. "This is the most important election in our lifetime." I have heard that thrown around so flippantly. The last election was the most important one in our lifetime... the next one will be the new, most important election in our lifetime. The important thing here is that every election is important. Every election affects everyone in some way or another for good or for worse.

I am making this post because I have got to get some things off my chest. The first thing that you need to know about me is that I am a white, male, middle-class, conservative, registered Republican, Christian. In two of those six characteristics I had no choice in the matter. I make no apologies for being who I am. But our media-driven culture would have you believe that I owe somebody something because I am who I am. There are a number of influences in my life that have shaped my opinions: my East Tennessee home, my family, my biology, my life-experiences, and, most importantly, my faith in Jesus Christ. I registered as a Republican during the 1988 election in which George H. W. Bush was the GOP candidate running against the Democratic candidate, Governor Michael Dukakis. I did so because I had a basic understanding of some of the major cornerstones of the Republican Party: (1) smaller, less intrusive government (2) less taxes (3) states rights (4) pro-life (5) stronger national defense to name a few. Since that time, while my education and knowledge of the issues have changed, my opinion has not.

Meanderings On Things That Are Bothering Me:

Environment
Why do Democrats and other liberal thinkers claim that they have cornered the market on being concerned with the environment? I believe that God created the heavens and the earth, life and everything else that is. It was God who gave man the power and inspiration to "create" the things that we claim to have created. The other side of this belief is that God gave man dominion over His creation and the responsibility to care for it in a manner befitting Him. I am absolutely in favor of conservation, preservation, reasonable restrictions on pollution and searching for cleaner, cheaper energy alternatives. Democrats, the Green Party, et al, do not have a monopoly on these things. At the same time, I am NOT for returning to the stone age and trying to reverse the advance of civilization. We can ALL be smart, work together and find ways of taking care of this world while living in it. This is not an issue that only one party has figured out.

Economy and Entitlement
Why do people think that socialist agendas like "spreading the wealth around" and increasing taxes on the rich are new and novel answers to our economic plight. For nearly 50 years, the welfare and social security systems, which sought to answer these same problems, have been in place. Have they helped people? Yes, by all means. Have they also contributed to the problems that we have today? Yes, by all means. The creation of these programs also added to the entitlement mentality that is so prevalent today. Some people think that the government exists to make sure that they have food to eat, money to live on and medical care at their disposal. Government was not formed to take care of any of those issues and if you believe otherwise you are sorely mistaken. People have that understanding precisely because government continued to increase in size and took on those responsibilities when they never should have. Food, clothing, shelter, money, medicine and the like should be offered to those who cannot obtain them on their own- but they should be offered by their families, their neighbors and most importantly, the church. By the "church" I mean the church of Jesus Christ, in general.

Concern For The Poor/Role Of The Church
We are living in trying times. There have been trying times in the past and there will be trying times in the future. The economy is sluggish. Gas prices are high. Energy concerns are of great import. For all of these reasons and many more, I think we are at a crossroads as a people of faith. The time is now! This could be our finest hour! When money is tight, things look bleak and hope seems lost, Christ-followers need to be all the more Christ-like. I am tired of people assuming that because I am a Republican, I am unconcerned with those who are (and I hate this term) less fortunate. My concern for others has absolutely nothing to do with my party affiliation and everything to do with the calling God has placed on my life. I am not speaking of my vocation as a minister of the Gospel. I speak of the calling God has placed on my life and the lives of ALL Christ-followers. We need to rise up at times like this and reach people with the love, grace and mercy of Christ. If that love needs to take the form of money, material needs, medicine or morsels of food, so be it.

Political Process
I am tired of people of faith thinking that because our allegiance is to Christ, we are somehow above needing to be concerned with government and, by extension, the political process. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" thereby giving credence to that which was already accepted and established. God ordained that governments be formed to take care of the things that only government could take care of. Among them: national defense, roads (interstates), law and order, communications and the like. Government, when limited to the roles that it should have, is a beautiful thing. In order for government to run, a fair tax system is an absolute necessity. In order for governments to exist in a free society, they must be freely elected. These elected officials are to represent the people who elect them and they should have the people's interest at heart. Because of all this, Christ-followers have no choice but to fully participate in the system. Since man is involved in the system, the system is flawed and prone to failure. However, our flawed system of government is the best and most successful system in the world.

Bottom Line In This Election
The great theologian, Popeye, said, "I am what I am." Because I am what I am and I believe what I believe and I serve WHOM I serve, I voted for John McCain/Sarah Palin. Here is a comparison of the two candidates and why I voted the way I voted:
  1. I watched Obama take ten minutes to try to explain his views on abortion and his belief of when life begins. McCain answered the same question in fifteen seconds. Life begins at conception. Life is precious. Life is given by God. The unborn have no voice to make a choice of their own. Obama can't even back a ban on barbaric partial-birth abortion. Advantage: McCain.
  2. Giving a "tax cut" to those who make less than $250,000, er uh, $200, 000... or was it $150,000- half of whom don't even pay taxes to begin with- and "spreading the wealth around" does not an economic plan make. Giving small business a $5000 bonus to hire someone is totally ludicrous when you consider that hiring someone and paying them a $35,000/year salary will cost that small business person about $50,000/year. What kind of incentive is $5000? McCain wants to spark the economy by giving tax breaks to those who are actually paying taxes, as well as, cutting other taxes like the death tax and capital gains taxes. These make sense. These things have in the past and will continue to be genuine economic stimuli. Advantage:McCain.
  3. Obama's experience in government consists largely of a few months actually involved in the senate and many months on the campaign trail. McCain has a long, proven, tested career of public service. Advantage: McCain.
  4. While I am not capable of judging a man's heart, I have the ability to see the fruit of his labors. Obama's Christian faith claims are not quite as loud as those with whom he surrounds himself. My momma always said be careful who you hang out with. I don't trust Obama as far as I could throw him, though I think I could get him to the other side of the room. Advantage: McCain.
  5. I would prefer substance with style. That is not available in either candidate. I will settle for substance over style. Advantage: McCain.
  6. Biden is an arrogant, erudite, Yankee with some bad plastic surgery. Palin is hot. I can't be all serious. Advantage: McCain.
  7. McCain sacrificed much for a country that I think he genuinely loves. I have a hard time gleaning any love of country from Obama's hate speech. Instead, I think he thinks we are evil. Advantage: McCain.
I don't ask that you agree with me. I ask only that you think about what you believe and why you believe it.

On Tuesday, November 4, go vote!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Interesting Addition To The Bail-out Conversation

Most everything you will ever read on my blog will have come out of my own head. Today, however, I post something that came out of the head of Dave Ramsey, Christian financial advisor. This is a very compelling addition to the bail-out conversation. Let me know what you think.

Dave Ramsey's Common Sense Fix


Years of bad decisions and stupid mistakes have created an economic nightmare in this country but $700 billion in new debt is not the answer. As a tax-paying American citizen, I will not support any congressperson who votes to implement such a policy. Instead, I submit the following three-step Common Sense Plan.

I. INSURANCE

a. Insure the subprime bonds/mortgages with an underlying FHA-type insurance.
Government-insured and backed loans would have an instant market all over the
world, creating immediate and needed liquidity.
b. In order for a company to accept the government-backed insurance, they must do two
things:
1. Rewrite any mortgage that is more than three months delinquent to a
6% fixed-rate mortgage.
a. Roll all back payments with no late fees or legal costs into the
balance. This brings homeowners current and allows them a
chance to keep their homes.
b. Cancel all prepayment penalties to encourage refinancing or
the sale of the property to pay off the bad loan. In the event of
foreclosure or short sale, the borrower will not be held liable
for any deficit balance. FHA does this now, and that
encourages mortgage companies to go the extra mile while
working with the borrower—again limiting foreclosures and
ruined lives.
2. Cancel ALL golden parachutes of EXISTING and FUTURE CEOs and

executive team members as long as the company holds these
government-insured bonds/mortgages. This keeps underperforming
executives from being paid when they don’t do their jobs.

c. This backstop will cost less than $50 billion—a small fraction of the current proposal.


II. MARK TO MARKET

a. Remove mark to market accounting rules for two years on only subprime Tier III
bonds/mortgages. This keeps companies from being forced to artificially mark down
bonds/mortgages below the value of the underlying mortgages and real estate.
b. This move creates patience in the market and has an immediate stabilizing effect on
failing and ailing banks—and it costs the taxpayer nothing.

III. CAPITAL GAINS TAX

a. Remove the capital gains tax completely. Investors will flood the real estate and stock
market in search of tax-free profits, creating tremendous—and immediate—liquidity in
the markets. Again, this costs the taxpayer nothing.
b. This move will be seen as a lightning rod politically because many will say it is helping
the rich. The truth is the rich will benefit, but it will be their money that stimulates the
economy. This will enable all Americans to have more stable jobs and retirement
investments that go up instead of down.

This is not a time for envy, and it’s not a time for politics. It’s time for all of us, as Americans, to

stand up, speak out, and fix this mess.

Friday, September 26, 2008

PETA, Are You Kidding Me?

I was just forwarded an article that was posted on a news website that details another stunt by People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). According to the article, representatives from PETA made a pitch to the owners of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream to replace the cow's milk in their ice cream with human breast milk. The statement said, "If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers — and cows — would reap the benefits."

Naturally, they go on to admit that it is basically a preposterous notion, yet it is a very telling minority position held by a few wacko extremists. First, one needs to realize that the name of their organization belies their true intent. What sane, thinking person would not want to treat animals in a fair and ethical manner? The problem is PEATTT comes closer to describing the true intention of PETA. That would stand for "People Elevating Animals To The Throne."

The same people opining the plight of the bovine community in supplying our lactose libations, could care less about the plight of unborn babies around the world who are not treated in a very ethical manner. It sickens me when people have a greater concern for animals over which God granted us dominion, than they do for their fellow human beings.

The next time I grab a pint of Chunky Monkey out of Food City's freezer, I will be sure to enjoy it just a little bit more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Frivolous Post Regarding The New TV Lineup

Well, it is that time of year again. Cooler temperatures (Praise Jesus), turning leaves, football and, of course, television. I need to say right here how much I appreciate whoever it was that invented the digital video recorder (DVR). Not since the TV remote and sliced bread have we seen one singular invention transform the cultural landscape. Long live the DVR! Now those of us who have lives and are quite busy can still watch quality programming at a time convenient for us.

Here, in no particular order, is a rundown of my favorites with a few editorial comments:

Heroes- Wow! What a season premiere. Paige and I were quite taken with this show until things started getting a little weird last year. I think the writers strike gave them a chance to get back on the straight and narrow. Good stuff!

Smallville- I posted this and then came back to include this one. Paige and I have seen every episode of Smallville that has existed. We bought a couple of the season DVD sets. I have been a sucker for the Superman franshise ever since I was a little kid watching the black and white Superman series starring the late George Reeves. I have seen all the movies and series since then. Smallville's spin on the whole Superman storyline is original and though some of the episodes have been "throw aways" with very little to do with the main plot lines, on the whole, this has been a winning series. We don't miss an episode.

DWTS- Dancing With The Stars once again does not look like it will disappoint. Cloris Leachman, while funny and entertaining, does not deserve to be moving forward as it is a dance competition and not a comedy competition, but we need to remember that some of the voters are people who are living to advanced ages now and their judgment is somewhat impaired (HAHAHA, I'll hear about that one). Misty May-Treanor is my dark horse favorite.

Criminal Minds- Sometimes I get tired of Thomas Gibson's (Hotch) dark and brooding ways. He was much more likable on "Dharma and Greg." I love this show, however. It is CSI meets Law and Order. Smart AND action-packed. It is must-see-Wednesday-night-after-church TV. Yesterday's season premiere was choice.

Football Night In America- The show that precedes NBC's Sunday night football game. For those of us who get home from church/lunch at 2:00 and are back at church at 4:00 and miss all the Sunday afternoon games, this is a great opportunity to see all the highlights and hear the story lines from the day. You can't beat studio hosts Bob Costas and Chris Collinsworth for the right combination of intelligence and humor. Then you have Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick together again running the highlights. Two thumbs way up!

The Mentalist- Simon Baker, who previously starred in a lawyer series that I liked but can't recall the name right now, is back as a former "psychic" con artist whose powers of observation make him a huge help to police in solving crimes. Wacky as that may sound, the pilot episode was interesting and holds much promise. This may be a "wait and see" if it lasts, but I thought it was entertaining.

The Unit- Bravado, intelligence, war AND romance- nuff said! Love it!

NCIS- I love Mark Harmon's character, Jethro Gibbs. I am a sucker for the crime genre and I have a great respect for all things military so I have to watch this show.

If you have a few favorites to which I need to pay attention, please leave me a comment to that affect and when I might see your little jewel of a show.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Change Is Gonna Come

"I was born by the river...," Sam Cooke's haunting, soulful classic spoke to a generation of African-Americans who had been mired in racial inequality promising a change, long overdue, was gonna come. It reminds us of an undeniable truth of life: Change is inevitable. In every facet of life change must take place. For organisms to grow change and adaptation must be in effect. What is true for organisms is also true of organizations. Business, industry, government and, yes, even churches must change in order to grow. I am biased toward that last type of organization and will spend the rest of this post talking about church change.

When someone starts talking about change in church that someone must be prepared for confrontation. For some reason, people have the misconception that churches are immune to change. The mantra that my Southern Baptists are known for is: "We've always done it that way!" On the contrary, I could make a strong argument for the fact that the church of Jesus Christ, to which all Christ-followers belong, has the sole purpose of seeking change. We want to see lost people changed into children of God and we want to see children of God change every day to be more and more like Christ. In order to be effective at those tasks the church must individually and corporately change to meet the needs of her people.

At Indian Springs, where I serve, we are on the verge of some very important changes. At the present, we offer two worship services and one Bible study hour on Sunday mornings. The church has seen continued growth over the past several years and this Fall we have seen our Bible study numbers exceed 500 on successive Sundays. Classrooms that were made to hold 30-35 people are running over 40 consistently. The bottom line is that we have run out of Bible study space. So on Sunday, September 21 we will go from one Bible study hour to three Bible Study hours at 8:45, 10:00 and 11:10AM.

Along with the change in Bible study hours, we are adjusting the times and meeting places of our two worship services. At 10:00AM, our Worship Celebration with full choir and orchestra will convene in our sanctuary. Those choosing to attend this service can choose either the 8:45 or 11:10 Bible study hours. At 11:10AM, "The Spring" with the praise band will convene in the Student Assembly Center (our old sanctuary). Those attending this service can choose either the 8:45 or 10:00 Bible study hours.

The Spring service is probably the most radical change as it will be meeting in a much more intimate and less formal setting in our newly renovated Student Assembly area. This service has been meeting at 8:30 on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary- not exactly a time that most not-yet-Christ-followers find appealing.

Rest assured many have questioned these changes. Some people have commented, albeit in love, that these changes are forcing church families to make certain choices. Much of it is simply the fear of the unknown. That is understandable. But these changes are not being made to accommodate our church family as harsh as that might sound. These changes are being made so that we may accommodate those individuals who are searching for the answer that is only found in Christ. We must make room for others. Our new administrative/education minister, Joel Brister, aptly pointed out that we must be willing to move over and let someone else have a seat, both literally and figuratively. If we allow personal concern over how change might affect us and our family to outweigh our desire to reach people for Christ, we have grossly misunderstood the command, commission and call of God.

A change is gonna come... and it is going to be amazing to experience. I can't wait. Can you?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chris Sligh Concert Reflections

Wow. There are so many thoughts and emotions running through my mind right now on top of being worn out. I am feeling more random thoughts than straight prose.
  • Chris Sligh is a talented young man. He has assembled a very talented band, as well. They were a breeze to work with.
  • Chris has a soaring voice, humble spirit and quick wit-- a nice combination.
  • This testimonial was heard straight from Chris' mouth, as well as, his tour manager, Clint, "Stan Bowman is the best sound man I have ever worked with." Amen and amen.
  • Andy Leonard did a great job helping to pull this concert together, thanks man.
  • Thanks to my WCQR family for working with ISBC on this-- a win, win, win.
  • Name the last Christian concert in which you heard covers of Beatles, N'Sync, and Bon Jovi.
  • I won't start naming names, but thanks to my catering crew, sound and light crew, ticket sales and taking crew, merchandise sales crew, parking lot greeting crew, safety and security crew and everyone else who gave so much of themselves to pull off a tremendous evening without so much as a hiccup. I thank God for placing me among such a great group of folks, so generous with their time and talents.
  • Thanks to the pastoral staff and administrative staff at ISBC for supporting the effort so strongly.
  • Chris made no pretense about setting a large fan front and center stage directly in front of him. It kept him cool while gently blowing through his fro. As fellow chubby boys, Pastor Roc and I are on the lookout for a similar set up when we preach or teach.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Being As Objective As I Can Be...

I must reflect on the Democratic National Convention.

About two years ago, I called a plumber for the first time in my life since becoming a home owner. My kitchen sink was draining extremely slowly and my efforts to clear the blockage were to no avail. The process of selecting the plumber went something like this. First, I considered the plumbers I was familiar with. All those that had traded with us when I worked at my father's service station began to come back to my mind. Of those, I thought about the ones who had the most experience. Then I thought of the ones people I love and respect have used before. I came up with one who matched the aforementioned criteria. That plumber came and did a magnificent job. I will call that company again in the future.

What does that have to do with the DNC? Well, if I can suspend reality long enough to pretend that I am a democrat, I will explain.

I have known many democrats with whom I have had great rapport. Although we disagreed on things like big government, taxes, abortion, gay marriage, and the like, we did so in a civil manner. Many democrats I have known were stand-up individuals, whose word was their bond. But now in a very critical moment in time when the economy is at a crossroads, the foreign policy issues are ever-increasing, and something desperately has to be done about our dependence on foreign oil (i.e.-the sink is clogged)--- the best democrat we can roll out is a guy whose only political experience is 8 years in the Illinois state senate and 3 years in the US Senate with the last year of that being spent campaigning for President (i.e.- a plumber without much gravitas). Metaphorically speaking, Obama is the plumber who is showing way too much rear end. What is up with that? How does that happen? Are we, as a nation, that swayed by someone who simply made a good speech a few years ago and who seems to carry himself well?

I need more than that and I think our country needs and deserves more than that. As Forrest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lelo's Sandwich Shop: A Hidden Gem

I don't make a habit of doing this- making my blog a forum to plug businesses. But I am today. One of my duties at WCQR is to handle all the Mission 25:40 Community Focus interviews. They air every Saturday morning at 7AM. These interviews highlight different non-profit ministries and organizations in the region. Back in March, I had the privilege of interviewing Ramiro Perez, the pastor of Iglesia Cristiana East River Park in Elizabethton (the Hispanic congregation that meets at East River Park Christian Church). Ramiro and his daughter were a delight to interview and they are doing good work with the Hispanic community in that area. Following the interview, we wished each other well and went on our way.

Today, I went to The Stock Pot on Hanover Road in Johnson City to shop for some things I need for the Student Assembly Center at church. As I walked around, I heard a voice call my name and Ramiro walked up to me. In order to make ends meet, Ramiro and his wife have opened up a sandwich shop inside The Stock Pot called Lelo's. He specializes in authentic sandwiches from his native Cuba. He makes several kinds of grilled (pressed) sandwiches featuring pork, roasted and pulled on site, Cuban bread, and sides of black bean soup, and black beans and rice.

Ramiro was gracious enough (or smart enough) to whip up a few sample sandwiches for me - Best Cuban sandwich I have ever tried! Now, the place is not very large and I probably wouldn't want to entertain swanky customers there, but if you would like something different and REALLY good for lunch, give Lelo's a try. I am all about helping a fellow laborer when at all possible, and when there is food involved in the process, well, that doesn't hurt the cause either.

They are open for lunch 10:30AM-3:30PM, inside the Stock Pot on Hanover Road in Johnson City. You can call ahead if you like, 423-854-9200. Tell 'em Tiger sent you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chris Sligh Concert Tickets


The Chris Sligh Back-To-School Tour rolls into Indian Springs Baptist Church on Thursday, August 28 at 7 PM.

Tickets are $10 and are on sale at LifeWay Christian Bookstores in Johnson City and Kingsport, Christian Book Warehouse in Bristol, WCQR studios and Indian Springs Baptist Church. All are reporting good sales.

There seems to be a good build-up to this concert. I have answered lots of questions and I would NOT put off buying tickets if you were inclined to do so. We are only selling 600 tickets and some of my student ministry buddies are snatching them up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Protecting Our Kids AND Our Churches... A Good Thing To Do

Last Sunday night my church convened for a quarterly business meeting. Among the many things that were voted on and discussed was a proposed policy that addressed the security and protection of children and students through age 18. One key element of the multi-faceted proposal was the requirement to perform a background check on any and all church staff or volunteers who work with our children. If a person is enlisted to assist with a single event, they will have a background check. After some discussion and a question and answer session, a vote was taken and it was unanimously adopted.

As a person who is paid to minister to students, I was ecstatic that my church voted to put things into place that would help protect not only our students, but ME as well. You see, as someone who has only been in this particular church for 6 months and is still learning names and faces, I do not have to be concerned when a church member (but still a stranger to me) comes up to ask if they can assist me with the student ministry. Rather than be suspicious and always questioning, I just have to have them fill out a form and know whether that person is fit or unfit, from a legal standpoint, to be working with kids. The pressure is off. Our church decided to make the good faith effort to do what was reasonably expected of an institution that claims to love its members.

Love can be defined as actively doing all one can to offer protection and provision to another. As the church of Jesus Christ, we owe it to our children and to the adults that work with them to create an environment in which all parties can be comfortable and confident. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. The society in which we live today is not the same as that of decades ago. Some of it is for the better- race relations, health care, etc. Much of it is worse-- sanctity of life, crime, moral decline, permissiveness, etc. There are factions and elements of darkness in our society that would like nothing better than to prey upon our kids and to bring reproach upon the church. In Matthew 10, Jesus was dispatching His disciples among people who sought to do the same things and He warned them saying, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Some things never change. To mix a metaphor, the wolves are still skulking around the gate, waiting and watching.

Shrewd As Snakes
It is incumbent upon the church to be smart and not stick our heads in the sand laying claim to the adage, "That kind of stuff can't happen here." Unfortunately, things HAVE happened, ARE happening, and WILL continue to happen in places where people have uttered those same words. I think shrewdness in this context is putting policies and procedures in place so that prospective church members can be comforted, current church members can be confident, and the courts can be content that all reasonable efforts have been made to protect and provide for the children.

Innocent As Doves
While no policy or procedure will prevent sin or evil from rearing its ugly head, they can certainly mitigate bad circumstances and at least make it so that the church can continue to function after something bad has happened. We have to be above reproach in all we do as a church. In the fourth chapter of his epistle, James says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." That's all I need to hear.

Thanks, ISBC, for doing the good you ought to do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bigfoot Body Found... Stay Tuned

Fox News online is reporting that some Bigfoot trackers have a body, photo and DNA which will be seen in a press conference on Friday. Here is a link to the story: Bigfoot

I have been intrigued by Bigfoot legends since I was a kid. Cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Random Thoughts and Stories On Life and the Olympics

Interesting Trip To Targe'

Last Friday, Paige and I went to Targe' (that is Target for those of you playing along at home.) We had dropped Ellie off at school (that feels weird to type) and were trying to make the most of our time. While there I had an encounter with The Oracle.

I was wearing a Tennessee t-shirt and was walking along minding my own business when a man drove his little Targe' Hoveround Scooter up to me and began to prophesy-- I am not kidding! He said, "I like your shirt. What do you think the Vols chances are?"

I answered the way any orange-blooded fan answers in the second week of August, "I think this may be the year, " I said with a smile.

Then it came.

"They will go undefeated the next two years and win back-to-back national championships," said the Oracle rather matter of factly. He went on to say that some fortune teller had let him in on that little nugget. Then, just as quickly as he rode up on me, he throttled away toward housewares.

Other than feeling as though I was ceremonially unclean and in need of repentance for having had an audience with the Targe' Oracle, my football spirits were bolstered. I found the whole encounter to be kind of surreal. "Have I just entered the Matrix?" I wondered.

Ellie
Ellie is loving school. She is going all day now and having a ball. That is a great relief.
  • I went into the office at Ellie's school and on the wall were two, large posters each containing what it claimed to be a "Chinese proverb." Do you think they would allow me to gift them two posters that contained Hebrew proverbs? How long would they be able to stay? I really get tired of the double standard.

  • Tonight, we went to Discovery Ice Cream and it was getting late so we got it to go. On the way home, Ellie was sitting in the back of my truck eating her cotton candy flavored ice cream when we passed a police officer in his cruiser. All the sudden Ellie yells, "The Police! Act naturally!" She thought we shouldn't be eating ice cream while riding in the truck. I thought I was going to swerve into him I was laughing so hard. That Disney Channel has got to go.

The Olympics

  • The opening ceremony was truly astounding. Words can't describe it. I just wonder what the outcry would be like if there were a ceremony that had as much Christian overtones as that one had Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

  • Now we begin to hear the stories of how the cute little 9-year-old girl who "sang" really lip-synced to the voice of another little girl who was deemed unworthy due to her "buck teeth." Can we expect anything different from the Chinese?

  • I am enjoying watching the games. May I just say that the DVR is the greatest thing since the invention of the remote control. I don't have to watch synchronized diving. Who decided that was worthy to be called a sport? I don't have a problem with regular diving. I just don't see the allure of two people jumping in the pool together at exactly the same time and exactly the same way. We are losing baseball as an Olympic game, but we are keeping synchronized diving. Go figure.

  • Michael Phelps is simply amazing. He just broke another world-record while winning his 4th gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly-- with goggles that were completely filled with water! He can do this with his eyes closed.

  • Just as I was thinking that NBC's coverage was pretty stellar up to this point, they air a production piece in which Mary Carillo details the mating habits of the Panda. Huh? Too weird.




Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chris Sligh: The Back To School Tour

WCQR and Indian Springs Baptist Church are partnering to bring in former American Idol finalist and current rising Christian music artist, Chris Sligh, in concert at ISBC on Thursday, Aug. 28. Today, I dropped tickets to the Johnson City and Kingsport Lifeway's, as well as, Bristol's Christian Book Warehouse. They can also be purchased at ISBC and WCQR.

This is the first time that my two world's have collided (radio and church jobs) and I hope that it will be the first of many.

If you have not heard Chris' music, you need to. His first single, Empty Me, is currently #7 on the Christian AC charts and he has a few more on his critically-acclaimed album, Running Back To You. You can find out more by checking out his website and his blog. The later is hilarious. Chris is a very humorous guy.

Anyway, tickets are only $10 and would be a great night for the whole family... but then again... I am supposed to say that as a promoter, aren't I?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Have We Done Enough?

Today was officially the first day of school for Ellie. Although it was only a one hour orientation for students and parents, it counted as her first day. Tomorrow comes the real test... for mommie and daddy. It is the first drop off day. She will be there from 8:30 until Noon. Naturally, Paige is feeling quite a bit of anxiety about the whole situation. I, too, am feeling it. My mind, however, continuously recirculates the question, "Have we done enough?"

Starting out, the questions were rather mundane. Can Ellie recognize and write both upper and lower case letters? Can she count high enough and identify numbers? These were rather selfish questions. They speak directly to how much we, as parents, did encouraging her and working with her in her first 5 years.

Then the questions started getting a little more serious. Will this most important teacher, her kindergarten teacher, treat her the way she should be treated? Will she love Ellie and truly do her level best to instill a positive school experience? Will her classmates be kind to her? Have we taught her to share and play well with others?

Then came the big ones. Have we raised Ellie to at least have a basic understanding of who Jesus is and who He wants to be in her life? Have we told her enough times just how much Jesus loves her? Have we instilled in her the need to "love her neighbors as herself?" How much retraining will I have to do when her faith is challenged by "academia?"

I know, I know, I could go crazy hypothesizing, questioning and bouncing all this around in my head, but that is just me. When I step back and take a broader view, I realize I am at the place where faith converges with life. I can stand on the word of God and quote all the "train up a child" verses, but it is at times like this that one really comes to grips with giving up that which one cherishes most into the Hands of the One who cherishes her the most. I can live with that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reflections on Summer Vacation '08

The Brooks family had a wonderful time on vacation. It was great to unwind from what has been a very hectic transitional time of moving into a new work environment and all that entails. As great as it was to steal away and just focus on my family, it was also exciting for me to make it from the coast, through the piedmont and catch that first glimpse of Saluda Mountain, the first major mountain coming up I-26. It was nice to get back into the mountains of East Tennessee tonight and back to the life to which God has led me. If you did not know this, allow me let you in on something--- I have a great life! I praise my Lord everyday for a wonderful family, great friends, great coworkers, a great church family and all the unbelievable opportunities God has given me.

But I digress.

No need to rehash my vacation since the details are here for you. What I will do is hit the highlights of the trip for me in no particular order:
  • My New Garmin 360 GPS- I saved some nickels, did a little research, and purchased my Garmin (we call her Marjorie) off of eBay a few weeks back. It worked like a charm. It really helped on all the excursions to parts unknown. If you travel and you can find a good deal on one, go ahead and bite the bullet. It's worth every penny.
  • Downtown Greenville, SC- A great surprise. Falls Park is spectacular. We will go back there when we visit James The Intern and Kami @ the University of North Greenville.
  • The Sea Shack- By Hilton Head Island standards, it is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Just my kind of place. Best value on the island. Unbelievable food at half the price of the muckety-muck places on the island. If you are at HHI, GO!
  • Fannie's On The Beach- Despite the fact that we shared the night with "Heather and her Two Mommies," it really was a great setting and really good food. The experience led to a renewed appreciation for God's plan for the family and will, no doubt, lead to some near future blog fodder.
  • Kenny B's- A close second to the Shack for me simply because when in HHI, seafood is king. However, if you like Cajun food too, which I do, you cannot pass up Kenny B's. It is also a nondescript, strip mall restaurant with a ton of character and great food. They have all of the Cajun musts: crawfish, jambalaya, etouffee, po' boys-- even boudin sausage and fried beignets. Every bit of it is really good.
  • Parris Island- "Marine Corps. Hooah!" Enough said.
  • Ellie- As I said, this was in no particular order. Next week my little girl starts kindergarten and life kicks into 5th gear. Before long, she will be coming through my youth group and then off to college. This was the last preschool vacation. Seeing her splash around in the surf and in the pool, sleeping in the backseat, and listening to her sing to the top of her lungs while wearing headphones, oblivious to how loud she was singing--- these are things that render everything else on this list irrelevant.
Sunday starts early this week and it is time to hit the hay. It is nice to be home. Wow. I am getting old.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 7

The day began with superb beach weather. We loaded up all the beach equipment and hit it this morning. Thanks to a keen mind and complete mastery of the moon phases, gravitational physics and fluid dynamics, I was able to set up in the perfect location. At high tide, the water was just lapping at our toes. We were close enough to sit and feel comfortable as Ellie made her 97 trips to the ocean to either fill her sand castle bucket or wash the sand off of her only to plop right back down in it again. Although Paige doubted, fearing being inundated with the rolling waves, and had designs on pulling up the umbrella and changing locations, I stood my ground. It was a great final day on the beach. It was plenty warm, but with a nice breeze. As was the case all week, the beach and pool were very congested.

We made the decision that we would come in mid afternoon and get ready to go to Tybee Island. We have good friends who go there nearly every year to vacate and it was another one of those places that we needed to check out. So that we did.

We made it to Tybee about 6:15 and, on recommendation of the aforementioned friends, decided that we would dine at "Fannies On The Beach." It was a very interesting looking establishment right across the street from the beach and had two very large decks with outstanding views of the ocean. I let Paige and Ellie out while I went and found a place to park. When I arrived back at the restaurant I found that Paige and Ellie had already staked out a nice table on the deck, but Paige had a strange look on her face. "What's wrong?" I inquired.

"Just look around and let me know what you think," she replied.

Upon further investigation it did look like their were quite a few same sex couples sitting around with lots of children running amok... quite loudly I might add. There were also a few "traditional-looking" families, but we were a very small minority. Finally, our suspicions were validated when our waitress, somewhat apologetically, let us know that there was, in fact, a "gay men and women with children convention" going on and, furthermore, the owner of Fannies, who counted herself in that lot, was hosting this event.

The phrase "Well, isn't that special!" floated across my mind, but thankfully not across my tongue as the news hit my ear. How was I going to explain this to Ellie on the ride back home? Praise the Lord, Ellie cannot yet read because a little girl, who appeared to be about 3-years-old, went running by wearing a shirt which exclaimed, "My Mommies Rock!" It was fun trying to keep Ellie concentrating on the ships at sea and what we were going to do next so she wouldn't start trying to figure things out.

I could go on and on here as you can well imagine, but this is neither the time and I am not in the place to do so. I will save the further expansion on this theme for when I get back to the grindstone and want to get serious. I will, however, leave you with a few observations. As I sat and ate, I found myself wishing that certain family and friends had been there with me so we could share in the experience together. Then I began to thank Jesus that others were NOT there because I would probably end up having to fight my way out. I would have had no problem with the men, but a few of the "women" might have taken me in a fair fight. One might have thought that some of the German power lifters had made a stop over en route to Beijing for the Olympics.

Anyway, after dinner, we proceeded to go to the Tybee Island pier for a nice stroll out to see the fishermen. That was a nice cap off to a strange evening and then we headed back to HHI to start packing up. I greet you from a McDonald's where, once again, I have come to utilize their wifi. This time I came in and bought a shake rather than sit in my vehicle in the parking lot. When we get home tomorrow, I think I will post a week in review. Pray for us as we travel.

More later...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 6

We slept in the latest today of any day this week. Once we got up and saw that it was really overcast, we decided to go and visit some of the places along the coast we have not been to before. First stop... Parris Island. Although I never served in the military, I have always had the utmost respect and admiration for our armed forces and those who have and are presently serving. I have heard of Parris Island all my life and all the stories and legend that go along with the Marine Corps. So we went.

I was not even sure if we could get on base, but I was going to try. Upon arrival to the front gate, we were instructed to get in line behind another vehicle that was getting a pass. You would have thought that whoever was in that vehicle was getting clearance for the White House. It took about 6 or 7 minutes and the marine conducting the questioning was looking at license, tag numbers, etc. I thought there would be no way this was going to happen for us. Finally, he came back to our van and asked what our business was. I told him we were simply a family on vacation interested in seeing the base. He then asked if there were any specific places or destinations. That is when I said we would be interested in seeing the museum. That was the magic word. He said that was what he was waiting to hear and shooed us in without so much as asking my name.

We drove all over the place, visited the MX, which I think used to be called the PX, bought some T-shirts, checked out the museum and had a great time. They were preparing for graduation ceremonies which are slated for tomorrow. They were marching on the parade grounds getting ready. Training was going on in various corners of the island and I thought Paige was about ready to enlist when she saw how many of the women were holding their own. The entire thing was simply fascinating. While there, I texted a young man from my youth group who is enlisting and sent him some pictures. I thought he may try to crawl through the phone.

Afterward, we drove to Beaufort, another city I had never visited. It had a really neat downtown area with lots of historic buildings and monuments. There were some quaint shops and a great waterfront park. We asked a couple of people where they would eat and both answered the same thing- 11th St Dockside Restaurant in Port Royal. That is precisely where we went. It was the quintessential seafood restaurant setting, located right on the docks where the shrimp boats are docked. The food was great although a little pricey-- but for the atmosphere it is a good enough trade off.

Looks like tomorrow, our last day, will begin on the beach.

More later...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 5

The day began with tennis at our complex. Paige and I have not had our rackets out in many a year so while I was packing, I decided to throw them in. For Ellie, we picked up a Prince Sharapova racquet at Walmart that had all the requirements: right size, pink, cute girl endorsement, etc. The weather was great for it. It was an arctic 85 degrees and overcast today. We had a good time teaching Ellie a little and knocking it around a bit.

It was pool and beach time for a while in the afternoon.

Tonight we went to a place that had been suggested to us by some HHI regulars, Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe. As the name would suggest, it was all about the Cajun fare and it was really good and reasonably priced.

Afterward we had intended to go play some miniature golf , however, the one we really wanted to go to was packed. We decided to drown our sorrows in some fudge from a shop at Coligny.

Today's reflection comes from the observation that there are many, MANY people who have no idea how high to set the seat on their bicycle. Everyone rides bikes around here and 85% of them are working way too hard at it because their seat is set too low. I have passed I don't know how many men who are working up quite a froth because their knees are nearly hitting them in the chin. Wake up, America! Raise up your bicycle seats! Enjoy your ride.

More later...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 4

We decided last night that we needed a break from the sun today so we did just that. It worked out well because today was a little overcast and slightly cooler. We slept in and then went to Hilton Head's famous Sea Shack for lunch. OH MY! That was a home run! It was fantastic food at a reasonable price.

Paige had a hankering to go to Bluffton and look around so we wound up at a little coffee shop and made a plan of places we wanted to explore.  Bluffton seemed to be on the rise, but not quite there yet.  There were a few quaint places.

Tonight, we went to Shelter Cove and had some Mexican food at San Miguel's, enjoyed the Shannon Tanner show and visited a few shops. Paige and Ellie went swimming back at the carp pond.. er uh... pool at the condo while I went and stole wifi.  

I have Paige so hyped up about seeing The Dark Knight when we get back home, we went and rented Batman Begins today so we can watch it at the condo.  We might have to make the trip to Knoxville and watch it in IMAX.  I have it on good authority that it is well worth the trip.  

Still having a blast.  Ellie is as brown as a biscuit.  I don't know where she gets her awesome skin because her mom and dad are about as white as one gets.  No one is burned too badly... yet.

More later...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 3

Today was another day spent on the beach and the pool. This whole pool thing is becoming a bit much for me. Now I know when I pass by the Legion pool and I see it virtually teeming with kids, adults, and adults who are kids, I will know exactly what that is like. It never looked very inviting when I passed by on Ft. Henry Drive and now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt to avoid it like the plague. Evidently my personal space is larger than I thought, as well as, my fear of hepatitis. It was hotter than 2 tickets to "The Dark Night" today. I was sweatin' like a fat lady at a tent meeting. Whew! The ocean felt sublime. However, there was quite a jelly-fish scare. People were bailing out of the ocean left and right with stings. Word is ... vinegar mixed with saltwater is good to take care of a jelly fish sting. Ellie and I braved the waters in order for her to practice her "boogie-boarding". We simply trusted God to protect us, and now believe we know how snake-handling must feel. We exited the waters unscathed.

Tonight, we went into Sea Pines to try to eat at Salty Dog Cafe'. After waiting nearly an hour we ended up just sitting on the pier at the marina eating a pizza and listening to the live music. My man played "Smoke On The Water" on an acoustic and it was good. He played many more favorites and then we headed over to Harbour Town to catch a little of the Greg Russell show and some ice cream. Now I am sitting and stealing wifi from an unsuspecting Sea Pines resident--- thank you whoever you are.

We have a path forward in the camera incident. We are using a disposable camera and will have Walgreens put them on CD. Good idea, Keith.

More later...

p.s.- Watch my Twitter for more frequent updates-- if you just have to have more Brooks family adventure and you are borderline stalker.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 2


Today it was all about the beach. I first looked at the clock at 8:56 am, which, on a Sunday, does not happen a lot for me. We got up and had some breakfast and hit the beach. After lunch we went back out and spent some time around the pool with a few hundred of our closest friends. At times it felt like I was one of the carp swimming over and across the other carp trying to get to the food someone just threw into the pond. Ellie was having a ball though.

Tonight we went to Hudson's Seafood. The atmosphere was great and the food was good too, but they are pretty proud of their grub. I would just as soon eat at Riverfront Seafood overlooking the beautiful Holston River, but then again, it is vacation and the bay view was great.

The lesson for the day was the reminder of why Yankees earned the adjectival moniker made famous by the Broadway musical of the same name. Everywhere I went I was flanked by Yankees. They were on the beach, in the pool and sitting around me at dinner. Loud, boisterous, often profane and somewhat tipsy %@!* Yankees. It made me much more appreciative of the more laid back, soft spoken, kinder cultural ethos in which I grew up. Don't get me wrong, I love all people, but some require more grace than others. Some northern-born folk have even grown to overcome the handicaps they were dealt by birth. Oh, come on-- I'm just having a little fun. After all, I'm on vacation and loving it.

More later...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 1





Falls Park in downtown Greenville is one of the nicest municipal parks I have ever seen. The mixed use development is outstanding and is something that Kingsport should look at for the Holston River/Riverfront development. We had a really nice time walking around there. After a stop for a refreshing Starbucks we hit the road for HHI.

We arrived a little after 5pm and quickly unloaded and headed for the beach. Paige lasted about 5 minutes in waist deep ocean before apparently taking a little jellyfish sting on her right knee. Woohoo! It is not too bad. After being out long enough to say we went we made a brief stop by the pool. Then we went out for dinner and groceries.

Barnes and Noble is on my bad list now. I joined their club one year ago because they said I could get free wireless access. Apparently that is no good anymore because ATT wanted about $5 for me to use their service. So of course I am sitting in the parking lot of McDonald's blogging and checking email while my Blue Bell ice cream melts in the back. Such is the life of a techno junkie minister.

We are having a great time already. I have some great girls. By the way, the above pictures were taken on my phone, emailed to my Mac and posted. Paige is not too mad about the whole camera thing now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vacation Report: Day 0


Greetings from the friendly confines of the Hilton Greenville (South Carolina). I am calling this day 0 because we decided at the last minute to drive down here today and on to the beach tomorrow (Saturday). If it is not a day at the beach, then it does not count!

I thought I was doing great packing. As I made my mental list and went over it both before and after leaving K-town, I was pretty proud of myself. That is until I remembered that I left my digital camera on a shelf in my office. When you are headed on a vacation to the beach with your 5-year-old, a camera is not optional---it is a must. Just ask Paige. WHEW! Does anybody know if they make disposable digital cameras?

Anyway, we made it down here this evening and drove around a bit after dinner to see what needs to be explored further tomorrow. Greenville is a happening place! There was all manner of activity downtown tonight-- cool shops, coffeehouses, restaurants, etc. There appears to be quite an arts following here as well.

We can't check into the condo at HHI until 4pm tomorrow so we might do some more 'splorin around here.

p.s.- Not only did we lose our softball games last night, but I got tattooed by a softball in my left deltoids muscle and you can almost make out the seams of the softball in the behemoth bruise that remains. I may have to get one of those temporary henna tattoos to mask this thing while on the beach. On second thought, the glare coming from my lily white, 27-acre body should be enough to divert one's attention.

More later...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Burning Question: Zorbees or Shamwow?

I need to hear from you. Ellie is on me to get a set of these and I don't know who to trust. Zorbees pitchman, Billy Mays, has the OxiClean track record and one of most well-maintained beards in all of TV land, but this Vince guy with Shamwow (despite the cheesy headset) sounds pretty compelling- and that piece of carpet sure looked dry to me.

Have you used either of these? Give me some comments. I have a fever for some German microfiber super absorbent cloths and a five-year-old with a hankering to help me clean up spills.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sweet Victory: Rolling Back The Clock

This past weekend I happened to catch the Olympic swimming trials on TV. I tuned in just in time to watch 41-year-old Dara Torres qualify for her fifth Olympics. I was in awe as she finished ahead of other swimmers literally half her age. How sweet victory must taste to an athlete who spent years away from the sport she loved in order to raise a family and "take care of business" only to return and swim faster than ever-- AT AGE 41!

I was thrilled this year to finally get back to playing competitive softball. I played intramural, city and church league softball for about 10 years through high school, college and early adulthood. I was pretty decent and had a chance to play on some really good teams with some really outstanding players. We won a few championships. But life situations change, players "retire" and priorities take over. All the sudden, nine years slip by without me touching my bat bag. This past April I knocked the dust off of it, bought a new pair of cleats and hit the diamond once again.

It was a fun ride. The mighty men of ISBC wound up going 14-2 and finishing second in our church league regular season. We also won the sportsmanship award as voted on by the league umpires, which I think was even a greater feat. One of the teams that beat us went undefeated for the second year in a row. They pretty much hammered us in our regular season game, but we did not hit the ball very well.

Tonight, we met that team in the post-season tournament... and beat them! It was a game for the ages. Although I was only 1 for 3 with the one hit being a double that I turned into a single by slipping on the wet dirt rounding first base and putting a big strawberry on my knee and my ego... I did knock in a run and played okay in the field (first base.) The win made me feel like I was in high school again. We were all as giddy as a bunch of kids. Even though I sit here now feeling very much like the 38-year-old I am-- with a big bandage on my knee-- for a few moments tonight I think I got a glimpse of what Dara must have felt last Saturday. Age is irrelevant when you get a chance to excel at something you love one more time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Family Of God: Multi-colored Tapestry or White Linen Sheet?

(This post sat in my draft folder and I debated on it for the past 3 days- but ultimately decided if I don't share my heart on this blog it is not worth your time or mine.)

Churches are interesting places. Regardless of where you pull up a pew, or chair, or bench, or floor, your church is made up of some weird, unique and lovable creations of God. As a staff member, God has placed me in a position to have an audience with all parts of the body. I have friends who are young and friends who are older. I have friends with a number of degrees on the wall and I have friends who work in places where degrees are measured on the thermostat on the wall. I used to think that I had wasted a big part of my life running from God's plan for me. I am now beginning to see and understand that God uses those times in our lives to prepare us for the work ahead. Allow me to explain.

I grew up working in that place where degrees where measured in Fahrenheit rather than letters after your name. It would take the weekend to clean the grease out from under my fingernails and the cracks in my hands-- only to get them dirty again come Monday. At my daddy's service station, sometimes the language was as "flowery" as the seat covers on some of the cars we serviced. But now, being able to talk about four-barrel carburetors and dual exhaust comes in as handy as being able to discuss soteriology, ecclesiology or pre-millennialism- it helps to build bridges between people rather than walls. That experience prepared me to minister to people in unique ways, as well as, to minister to unique people.

Then there is music. I grew up in a family of singers. Both of my parents were raised singing in churches and in the community. The old songs and hymns were regularly echoing through our halls and when we would all get together-- forget about it-- it was a songfest. I have sung in a southern gospel quartet for over 16 years. I love and have a deep appreciation for the old songs. BUT there are other sides of me too. My wife is a classically trained operatic soprano. I went to more opera and classical music recitals than I can count. At the same time, I am very much at home at the Carter Family Fold. I can still get my hip hop groove on with my students and, of course, I get paid to play contemporary Christian music on the radio. Whether it is Bach, Beatles, Bocephus, Bluegrass, Boston, Beyonce' or Bebo-- I like it or I can at least find value in it and appreciate it.

I recognize that not all people have had these experiences. I don't share this in order to put myself on some pedestal. I share all of this to help you understand that these experiences leave me in a very peculiar place. I try my best to build bridges between the factions of folks in my sphere of influence who can't stand the other's choices in music or worship styles or who may look down on others based on socio-economic differences. I know that this doesn't happen in your church, but it comes up from time to time in the places where I have worshipped. It is for this reason I say that the family of God more closely resembles a multi-colored tapestry rather than a white linen sheet. How boring would it be if we never shook things up a bit? There are some basic things that cannot be compromised with regard to music and worship practices. However, within that framework, there is a lot of room for variety.

Paul reminded the Corinthians (and us) that the body is made up of many parts. The parts have different functions, but the parts make up one body and that body is to be united.

I have watched as people who claim to be Christ-followers treat others with utter disdain based on some of the most flimsy of reasons. Then we wonder why the unchurched, not-yet-Christ-follower scoffs at the notion of darkening our door. We must find ways of embracing and appreciating those things that bind us together as a family of faith and let go of the criticism and the carrying on about the things that divide us- OR - we can resign ourselves to the fact that we prefer to live in open disobedience and rebellion against God. The choice is pretty simple.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Twitter- The next step in communication

I am now a "twitter-er." For those not in the know, Twitter is the new blogging evolution. It is kind of like having a Facebook status that can be updated from anywhere, anytime by mobile text messages. My Twitter can be found in the left column. I can now update it more easily than having to sit down and make a blog post. This is pretty cool.

I will have to think about all the theological ramifications for this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back In The Saddle: Post Mission Tour


Well, it has been far too long since I last posted, but I have a good reason. The last two weeks were totally consumed with Mission Tour 2008. Mission Tour is the traditional mission trip that ISBC students have undertaken for the last quarter century. This year we went to Pennsylvania and helped raise barns and churn butter. Nah, just kidding! We went to assist a church with vacation bible school and we did some backyard bible clubs and block parties, as well.

We took 65 students and adults- had a huge charter bus, a 26-foot Ryder truck and various and sundry vans and passenger vehicles. It is a fairly complicated planning process, but things went pretty smooth. You can check out pictures at www.isbcstudents.org

When we were not in VBS, BBC's or at a block party, we had a chance to hang out at our camp and take part in our favorite past time: 4 Square. I had never played 4-Square in my life until last week. Now I am a big fan. We would have a line or 20-25 people playing together at one time. It was some pretty strong competition. I have a number of highly competitive students in the group. I was able to observe a few things that deserve some blog time.

1) Everyone had an opportunity
Anyone who wanted to play need only to get in line. There was no preferential treatment or prejudice involved in the game.

2) All skill levels were welcome
There were individuals who were clearly more athletic than others who were involved in the game, but even they would get "put out" from time to time by an inferior player. It mattered not how good you could play, you were still welcome on the 4-square grid.

3) Everyone had fun
You could make it to king and stay for awhile, or you could get put out on the first serve of your first square. Everyone still had fun. There was good-natured ribbing going on, but it was given as easily as taken.

4) Student ministries and churches, for that matter, could learn a thing or two from 4-square.
The game served as an excellent metaphor for what we want to be about as a student ministry. There should be opportunity for all. Everyone should be made to feel welcome. You can serve equally regardless of skill level. Everyone should have fun in God's family.

There were many things I learned and experienced last week, but none more important than the "4-Square Ecclessiology."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 3, 1995: A Day Which Will Live In Infamy

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary. As has been done several times before, we celebrated by working day three of VBS. My first anniversary was spent at a deacon's meeting. Some things never change. More later about how and what we celebrated tonight, but first I would like to reminisce about some zany things that happened on our wedding day.

Our flower girl was a young girl who was in our previous church. Haley was cute-as-a-button little red-headed young lady with whom we had built quite a rapport. As she started down the aisle, rather than gingerly dropping the flower petals on the aisle runner, for some reason, Haley began tossing the petals in the air like confetti. The more the crowd snickered and laughed, the more energy she put into the tosses. Halfway down, she was literally launching flower petals about five people deep into the pews. All I could do was stand down front and laugh heartily.

After the wedding and reception, Paige and I went to change into our "departure attire" and await the limousine that would take us to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, the driver showed up about 45 minutes to an hour late. The faithful few that waited long enough to see us off pelted us with birdseed as we made our way into the limo. Five minutes later we were stopped at a Roadrunner Market filling the limo up with gas. You can imagine my demeanor at this moment. Wouldn't you think that would be on the standard list of things to do BEFORE you pick up your customers? Then to add insult to injury, this long time Exxon man had to watch as Texaco trickled into the tank of a car I had rented. That ain't right!

On the trip over the mountain, Paige falls asleep in the limo. I sit and sarcastically think to myself, "Well this is shaping up to be a hot night in Asheville!" Thirteen years later... some things never change. But I digress.

Bubba the chauffeur wasn't done. As we approached Asheville, down comes the window that separates the driver's compartment from the back and he asks, "Can you give me directions to Grove Park Inn?" -- yet another item I would have thought would have been on the standard check list of things to do BEFORE you pick up your customers.

Finally, after arriving and cleaning up, we go to the beautiful restaurant in Grove Park which has fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. After being seated and ordering, we spend 15 minutes in total silence, staring out the window. At about the same time we look at each other, realizing that this is our honeymoon and we are so totally worn out and in such deep thought as we recount the events of the day, we are not having any conversation. At this point we start laughing hysterically.

And that is all the details you get about that day. Back to tonight.

Tonight, Paige had the opportunity of helping lead one of the little girls in her VBS class to Christ. We both agreed that was worth far more than stealing away for a quiet dinner for two. After coming home, Ellie decided to draw a picture of mommy and daddy on their wedding day and presented it to us. Quite cute. It was a great anniversary.

Paige, you are the most beautiful and talented person I have ever known. You have been an unbelievable support to me and you are a mommy par excellence. I am so blessed to share life with you and look forward to our next 100 years. May God continue to draw us closer together as we are drawn closer to Him. I love you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Clay Dyer, Fisherman: An Extraordinary Fisher Of Men

While I was busy trying to look busy and handle a little crowd control tonight at VBS, my friend, Ralph, told me the story of Clay Dyer. Maybe you have heard of him, most likely you have not. Clay is a professional fisherman. Perhaps fishing is not your cup of tea-- just don't allow that to keep you from watching one truly amazing story.

I have seen many stories that fall along these lines and I have cherished each and every one. It is like seeing a soul come to know Christ... it never gets old and each one gives us a glimpse into the mysterious awesomeness of God's grace.

You won't soon forget Clay Dyer and your burden will seem a little lighter in about 10 minutes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's Floating Through My Mind?

Highs are expected to be in the 80's all next week here in K-town.

Indian Springs VBS kicks off this Sunday night. Although I have very little involvement this year for the first time in many a moon, I am looking forward to seeing how VBS works in my new environment.

For years, Chick-fil-a has ruled the chicken sandwich roost (read that again-- that was a funny play on words that I did not plan for but it worked out rather well). Now, however, both McDonald's and Arby's have entered the fray with a "southern-style" chicken sandwich complete with pickle. I have tried them both and I can safely say while they are better than their fried chicken breast cousins at their respective restaurants, they still do not hold a candle to Chick-fil-a. Besides Chick-fil-a closes on Sunday because they love Jesus- got to give them props.

The ISBC softball team lost a nail-biter in the last inning tonight. We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I retired from the game after going 2 for 2 with an RBI.

I did not have a chance to eat dinner before the game so afterwards Paige, Ellie and I hit the Blountville Burger King at about 9:54 PM. That is a very interesting place with a rather unique clientele late on a Thursday evening. However, what I wanted to share is in regard to the move by the fast food giants to see how fast they can kill you with fat. Burger King has a new Steakhouse burger. I had eaten pretty light today so I decided I would drown my losing sorrows in it. They up-sold me to the "loaded" Steakhouse burger. This bad boy has a rather large (although paper thin) beef patty with cheese, fried onion rings, bacon and, last but not least, potato spread. That would be smashed potatoes with butter and chives mixed in-- and that goes on the burger instead of mayo, lettuce and tomato. I felt like I was sinning.

Summer Interns are a wonderful thing. James Eaton is his name and he is doing a great job. He reads this so at the risk of giving him the big head, I will tell you that he is demonstrating a passion for ministry. If you don't have a passion for it, ministry is certainly NOT the place for you. James, play time is over now that you are back from HHI. We have a big few weeks in front of us.

We broke out the Indiana Jones trilogy the other night to study up before we head out to the theater to take in number four. I did not remember The Temple of Doom being that full of gory stuff and, well, doom. It pales in comparison to the first. I am The Last Crusade away from going to the movies.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How A Casual Canoe Trip Turns Into A Parable Of God's Providence

Note: This is the longest blog I have written to date. Read it when you have a few minutes.

Friday afternoon, Paige and I decided to take a little canoe trip down the Holston River. It was our first time on any body of water besides Fort Patrick Henry Lake. The plan was to put in at Laurel Run Park and float down to the Surgoinsville bridge boat ramp. By car, that is about a 5-mile trip. By boat... well, let's just say that was a miscalculation that will come into play later.

As we waited for Paige to get off from work, Ellie and I worked to pull together all the things we would need for the trip. I ran through the house with my manly fanny pack obtaining items I thought might benefit us. Flashlight, pack of matches, billfold, Leatherman, .40 caliber Glock--check. The flashlight was a complete and total God-thing-- again, more later.

We had hoped to get on the water by 4PM or so. But after a few delays, we wound up pushing off from Laurel Run at straight up 6PM with a few bottles of water, a sack full of snacks and the cutest little sea-faring, pink-clad, five-year-old you ever saw.

6:05- Feelings of bliss and satisfaction were abounding. Each of us seemed to have that feeling of having never experienced something, yet, we were immensely enjoying the great weather, wildlife and weird looking fishermen.

6:18- Ellie saw her first "gooses" of the day and promptly had her grammar corrected by her father.

6:20- We passed under the Goshen Valley Rd. bridge.

6:38- Observed how shallow the river was in most places.

7:00- Paddled around the second island we had encountered. Once again we opted to paddle around the right side.

7:15- Ellie finally asked about the "wavy water." After explaining that they were called rapids, however shallow and "unrapid-like" they may be, Ellie promptly began referring to them as "rabbits."

7:16- Ellie decides she does not like going through the rabbits and demands that they be avoided at all costs.

7:30- Ellie is hungry and has had enough of the trip. Mom and Dad decide they have had enough of her and plot to bring along a smaller rubber raft which can be pulled behind our canoe at a distance of our choosing.

7:56- I start thinking we should be seeing something that looks like Surgoinsville by now.

8:03- We enter a narrow corridor on the right side of another island that is slightly dark due to the now-setting sun and the proximity of the trees. Abandoned boats and flood debris litter the banks causing Paige to comment that it feels like we just entered a scene from "Apocalypse Now." Unbeknownst to me, Paige begins a personal prayer vigil while she paddles.

8:04- I strap the fanny pack around my thigh and unzip it to allow for quicker access to its contents.

8:27-The sun continues to plummet on the horizon and uneasiness begins to rise in our hearts. I begin to run through scenarios in my mind. Example: If I call my brother-in-law ( a Major with the Johnson City Police Department) perhaps he could get a GPS track on our cell phones without me having to create too much of a public ruckus.

8:39- Ellie awakens from her 3rd nap and wonders aloud for what seemed like the 178th time, "When are we going to be at the car?" I spot a flock of geese and in an attempt to distract her (and ease the mounting tension) I proclaim that I can speak goose. After exchanging a few honks with them, they fly off together as if on cue. I tell Ellie I told them to go find our car. Ellie doesn't seem to believe me.

8: 43- Ellie asks, "Daddy, did you really tell them to go find the car?"

8:48- Darkness is fast approaching and we are nowhere close to where we need to be. I make the decision for us to paddle across the river to the opposite side where I had spotted car lights passing by on a road. Finally, my spirit of frivolity gives way to survival mode. Paige is visibly nervous and Ellie is becoming more frightened as she senses that all is not well. I pray.

9:02- We reach the bank and make our way to a spot that we can more easily get out. My arms ache because I had been paddling with great purpose for a solid hour and, bless her heart, so it was for Paige.

After we all got out of the canoe I grabbed the front of it and hoisted it out of the river as far as I could and scotched it up behind a tree. Reaching into my fanny pack I was thankful that somehow I thought to grab that flashlight because now we faced about a 30 foot climb straight up a steep embankment, through some thick underbrush to reach the road. We could not make out foot placements because it was so dark under the trees now and even with dim light from the flashlight it was slow going. At one point Ellie became entangled in some thorns and cried out. The only thing I could do was to grab her up and carry her the rest of the way.

When we reached the road, Paige finally returned a phone call to Aunt Sue who had been one of the multiple phone calls we had received. Our cell phones had been ringing off and on for well over an hour, but we were too determined in our paddling to mess with them. MamaRie had gotten worried when she had not heard from us and rightfully so. Now Sue was in on the act.

As we walked down the road, I see that just ahead is a house with someone walking across the road in front of it. "Excuse me, where are we, sir," I ask.

"You are on Miller's Bluff Road," replied the gentleman, though I could still not make out any facial features.

"How close are we to the Surgoinsville bridge," I inquired.

"You are about four miles away," He responded.

My heart sank, but I asked, "If we continue to walk down this road will it lead us there?"

Before he could answer, he turned and began to walk toward his house and as he did so the light from his porch illuminated his face just enough for me to make out his features. I KNEW HIM!

"Stan!?" I said.

"Tiger?" he responded.

I had known this man for years. He is a licensed Christian counselor and minister who had preached at my former church once and whom I had also had the pleasure of interviewing at WCQR. He never hesitated to offer to take me in his truck to get our vehicle while Paige and Ellie stayed and warmed up in his cabin.

As we drove and talked about our misadventures, it hit me. The feeling was so overwhelming, I almost got misty eyed in his truck. My God had impressed upon me to get off the river precisely at the home of a friend who could meet our needs. A friend who just happened to be out and about at the time when we were walking by. That's my God!

In retrospect, I get angry with myself for not taking enough time to make sure I know exactly how long a trip like that should take on the water instead of the road. However, it just so happens that I have done a lot of study in recent months about living the kind of life God created us to live (Wild At Heart by John Eldridge) and taking risks and making the most of our opportunities (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.)

It is possible to totally minimize risk in our lives. We can map our lives out so that we can totally control nearly every aspect of it. And where does God fit into that? There have been times in my life in which God probably could have rightfully asked me, "What do you need me for?" I did not have big enough plans, nor were my goals lofty enough to merit God's interceding in them.

My family now has a story to tell of God's amazing providence in our lives all because we chose to break the mold that has dominated our lives as of late. No one can convince me that my throwing in my flashlight at the last minute or our departing the river at just the right place to find much needed assistance was anything but God's provision.

Seek Him. Be adventurous. Watch our Lord and Savior work in your midst. Tell the Good News.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tacos and Toaster Ovens

Most people know by now that I am utilizing NutriSystem in order to lose a little weight. While trying to make tacos last night, I had a little mishap.

NutriSystem tacos come with three small corn tortilla shells and a little packet of topping to which you add water and nuke it in the microwave. While my taco topping was reconstituting, I decided to pop my shells in the toaster oven to heat them up. I had just turned around to stir my topping when my shells burst into flame. Yes, I am dead serious... I had a big, hairy fire going under my kitchen cabinet. So what do I do? I size up the situation and quickly decide I need to open the door in order to get the shells out and throw them in the sink. Bad idea. I forgot that opening the door would oxygenate the fire. I barely got out of the way before the fireball could singe my eyebrows.

I have to give props where props are due. Paige, reached under the sink and handed me the fire extinguisher. It only took a quick blast for me to have everything under complete control.

The moral of this story is two-fold:
  1. Don't nuke your NutriSystem taco shells.
  2. A fire extinguisher in the kitchen is a must.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Latest Narnia Installment... "Off The Hook!"


I'm not going to lie to you. Sometimes the radio gig has its privileges. I got an email a few days ago that said a deal had been made that would allow the WCQR staff and families to catch a special viewing of Prince Caspian this morning at 10 AM. The kicker was that Paige was scheduled to work today. However, yesterday she informed me that she was taking Friday off in order to "get some stuff done." So we were able to go. Don't be hatin' on me-- but we got free popcorn and drinks too! Heck, that's about a $35 value for a family of three.

Anyway, the movie rocked. I regret that I never read the books growing up- and still may. I would not want to ruin anything for you so I will refrain from elaborating, but, like the books and the first film, this film is replete with theological metaphor.

In one scene the Pevensie kids have returned to Narnia and are in the process of trying to find a certain place when Lucy, the youngest sister, catches a glimpse of Aslan. Now Aslan has not been seen in over 1300 years (Narnia years), so that was a big deal. No one else sees him and finds it hard to believe that Lucy actually did. At one point, Susan, the elder sister, says to Lucy, "I wonder why I can't see him (Aslan)?" Lucy replies, "Maybe because you aren't looking for him."

And so it is with Jesus Christ. The not-yet Christ-follower wonders why he sees no evidence of Christ in and around him. The Christ-follower experiences periods of time when Christ seems nowhere to be found or distant. Both situations occur as a result of not making the effort to look for Him. It is so easy to become distracted and lose focus on Christ's working in your life. If you are not centered on Him, you will begin to attribute the things that happen around you to your own ability, or science, or medicine, or luck or... whatever.

Each day we must decide to pursue Christ with the expectation that we will find Him and the understanding that He never lost us.

p.s.- Thanks to Marquee Cinema in the Fort Henry Mall for hooking us up. GO SEE THE MOVIE!