Thursday, January 31, 2008

Southeast Conclave 2008

Paige and I just returned from the first Main Session of this year's Conclave in Chattanooga, TN.  It rocked!  For those of you that do not know, Conclave is an event for youth pastors and any and all youth workers to receive wonderfully challenging messages and ministry, be exposed to what is new in terms of resources and to have a time of rejuvenation and reenergizing.  We have been to about six of them and have found it to be worth every penny and every moment spent.

Tonight, we heard Mark Matlock speak a word from Matthew 2:13-21 where Joseph leads Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod.  Have you ever pondered the notion that our Heavenly Father, Creator of the Universe and Almighty God depended upon the obedience of one common man to protect Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  The angel told Joseph to "Get up and go" and Joseph got up and went.  One lowly family struck fear in the hearts of those who sought to do evil and injustice and because of that they had to take action. Do you strike fear into the heart of the enemy?  Do I?  It is time we all "Get up!" and obey the wishes of our Father and "Go!"  Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's All Good

The first Wednesday is in the bag. It was a wonderful experience for me. The kids were attentive and engaged while I was having a blast teaching. I can't begin to describe to you the feeling experienced when you walk through a door opened by God, but what kind of a blog would this be if I did not try.

For the singer, it is the feeling of singing a song that is perfectly within your range and nicely matches the color of your voice. For the football player, it is the feeling of making a hard tackle so perfectly that there is no pain, just pure force. For the sailor, it is akin to coming about hard to starboard and having the wind completely fill the sails propelling the vessel effortlessly across the water. Maybe one of these resonates with you.

For many years I made a habit of suppressing the Holy Spirit's gentle whispers and nudgings. I missed out on countless opportunities and went through some pretty lean times. God was calling me into the ministry and I kept making excuses so I could maintain the status quo. Part of my calling includes encouraging others not to make the same mistakes I did.

In the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi, "You gotta keep the faith."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

Well, the time has arrived. I have been on the new job for two days. It has been quite a ride getting to this point. The people of Indian Springs could not possibly have been more gracious to me and my family in the weeks leading up to my joining the staff. Tomorrow night I have my first official Bible study with my new students. This is where the rubber meets the road. Don't take this the wrong way- but charm and charisma will only take you so far. Eventually, as a student pastor, you have to be highly relational and exhibit the ability to exegete scripture and speak a word from God into the lives of those you serve. Right now all Indian Springs has to go on is a firm handshake, winning smile, quick wit and a few choice words from individuals known as references who were all compensated handsomely (not really.)

This reality hit me over the weekend. Before now it was all, well, kind of "out there." Now it is all right here. Kind of scary. This must feel a little like Benaiah felt.

Ever heard of Benaiah? Unless you have made a point to read your Bible through in its entirety, you may not have had the pleasure of reading or hearing about him. You can read about his exploits in 2Samuel 23 beginning in verse 20. He is the principal character in a book entitled, "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson. Why? Because this dude chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day...and came out victorious.

When I think about the challenge of leaving my comfort zone to go and begin living life with people whom I have never met, engaging them on a Kingdom level and cheering them on as we all move Christward together... it feels a little like jumping in a hole with a 500 lb. lion. The common denominator in both of these circumstances, however, is a God who is bigger than everything we face and who empowers us to be victorious.

Pray for me. More later. I have to go sharpen my spear.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Now THAT Is Cute!

This is Baby Katherine or, as I like to call her, Sweet Baby Kate.  She belongs to one of my best friends in the world.  This look is in response to the question, "Katherine, what do you think of your Daddy Keith?"  Nah, just kidding ol' buddy.  Thanks to Keith and Stacie for sending this one on down the line.  Isn't this picture a hoot?  It is just the kind of thing one needs to get through a Friday. Enjoy.

I've been extremely busy moving offices and making some preparations at both churches for my going and coming in a few days.  Thanks to my loyal readers for your patience.  I'll get back on this horse in a few days.  But I do have just few random observations to share:
  • The Quik Stop in Weber City, VA makes a killer cheeseburger.
  • The Purple Cow on Stone Drive in Kingsport makes a 1 lb. cheeseburger called "The Intimidator." Well deserved nickname. I was slightly. It completely fills the entire inside of a standard styrofoam flip-top food carrier. I feel so dirty. Now I have to get on with that 50 lb. weight loss (See post from Jan. 1)
  • When we moved into our house in May, we got rid of a WHOLE BUNCH O' JUNK. Now I have to do the same after accumulating so much in my office. It won't fit in my new one.
  • American Idol is slipping just a bit, but I am hanging in there!  "I am your brother, best friends forever..."
  • I am typing this on my new MacBook and I love it!  Sorry PC Paul, you know who you are :)
  • As my transition draweth nigh, my excitement is building.
  • I was hopeful when Fred Thompson tossed his hat in the ring.  I got excited.  Now he is gone.  Just never got any traction. Sorry Fred.  Huckabee is looking better all the time. Would somebody buy McCain some spray-on tanner?
  • If you ever think about going out at 11:00p.m. in a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts to push the trash bin up to the road because you forgot it earlier AND it is 13 degrees outside... I would advise against it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What Is God Up To?

Life is weird right now. I am in my last week serving at Calvary Baptist Church. Yesterday, I spent the day "processing" my office. I have to sort through all the stuff that needs to be thrown out (and should have been tossed a long time ago,) while also culling out that which belongs to me from what belongs to the church. As you can imagine, that is not an easy process, physically or emotionally. I was confronted with hundreds of great memories. I came across great cards, letters and small notes of thanks from people and situations about which I had long forgotten. Taking my coveted Velvet Elvis off my wall carried with it a somber note of finality, as well.

On top of this, last Sunday my pastor at Calvary, Dr. Frank Crawford, announced his resignation effective at the end of February. He has accepted the call to serve as pastor at First Baptist, Somerville, TN, which is in Fayette County, the county next door to his hometown of Memphis. I am very happy that he has the opportunity to serve a community so near to his family, especially his aging parents.

Don't get me wrong- I feel like a kid who just got the last Nintendo Wii off the shelf. I am excited about getting ready to take over as Minister of Students at Indian Springs Baptist, but still- I can't help but think about what Calvary is experiencing. Why has God worked in such a way? What is He wanting to do and what is He wanting to show them? These are big questions. The kind of questions that require "God-Big" faith.

Yes, life is weird, but I feel like God is preparing to move in a way that I have never seen nor experienced before and it is a great feeling.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Rare Blog Brag

I not only have gotten into blogging myself, but I always carve out time to read the blogs of people I know, love, respect and from whom I can learn a few things or obtain ideas. Sometimes people fall into more than one of those categories.

Dr. Wayne Stacy served as Dean of the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University. He resigned and went back into a full-time pastorate about a year before I graduated. He is hands down one of the most gifted preachers I have ever heard and, as you will be able to tell, equally adept at writing.

I highly recommend that you CLICK HERE and read his latest post regarding whether our churches are producing Christians or converts.

You will also find him listed in my Blog Roll on a regular basis.

Ahh...The Wonders of a Snow Day

As far as students are concerned, last night we had the "perfect storm." It began snowing late last night and snowed about 3 inches (as it measures on my deck). It snowed long enough for all of the schools in the region to be cancelled and then, about 8am, it quit. By about 9am the roads were already slushy and by midday all the main roads were clear. That means school is out but everyone can still get out and play or travel to friend's houses.

Ellie is still at that age where she gets mad when she doesn't get to go to preschool. However, once she saw the snow, she got over it. It has snowed so seldom in her brief life, we have never had a real reason to buy her full-fledged snow playing attire. Daddy had to scramble to put together an ensemble that would provide maximum warmth while at the same time providing moisture resistance. I ended up layering some pajamas underneath a nylon warm-up suit, slapped on a warm hat, mittens and scarf, and out she went.

I have a container in the freezer with 3 snowballs. Good times! Should I tell her they will slowly disappear? Nah.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Then And Now: Service Stations and Churches

In a former life, I worked for my father at an Exxon service station. My father started the business in 1964. Service stations once dominated the American landscape. You could find one on every corner in town. My father's was very successful. He built a strong reputation for dealing fairly with his customers and 44 years later that has not changed. What has changed is the nature of the service station business.

Cars have changed. They are building far superior cars compared to what we used to have. Now they can go 100,000 miles without anything done to them except basic maintenance, and they have made it more and more difficult for anyone other than their own dealerships to maintain them. Because of this trend, all the other stations in town have either closed or converted to c-stores (c for convenience.) At age 80, my dad is running the last service station in Kingsport. Dad caved somewhat some years ago and put in a few coolers in order to sell more soft drinks, bottled water and sports drinks, but he is the only place in town that can change your oil, fix a flat, sell tires, replace belts, hoses, do tune-ups and other basic repairs, as well as, fill your car with gasoline all at one location.

However, the c-stores are the ones turning the profit. Why? They sell beer and cigarettes. In other words, they stopped offering the services that you and your car need and made it convenient to buy the things you want. I have been collaborating with dad on a new commercial that will run on our local cable that will drive home the idea that service still exists in our fair city. Hopefully it will help drive more business to him.

The reason I am blogging about this, in case you are wondering, is the correlation between the shift from service stations to c-stores and our churches, old and new. Nowadays people want their favorite style of preaching, their favorite style of music and their favorite style of children's programs all packaged together and offered at one convenient location AND at a convenient time. Sound familiar? Even in our churches, service seems to be a thing of the past. It has become about us rather than the coming together for the service of worship and service to others.

The key here is attitude. Is it all bout my being fed- or is it about a meaningful expression of worship and service to God and others? It is a question we all must ask ourselves so that we can keep from becoming something as a church we were never meant to be.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On The Triune Godhead...

Last night during The Refinery, we had a study on the Trinity. I think we take for granted many times that our trinitarian concept is something that can be easily grasped. Many of us have grown up hearing about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so often we simply have filed that in our faith files and don't stop to consider how difficult the concept may be for the not-yet-Christ-follower to understand.

No other religion in the world makes the claims about its god that we Christ-followers make about ours. One God existing in three, coequal, coexisting persons represented as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nothing else in nature is like Him. Some may think water would be a good metaphor for God because it has three distinct states- solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (water vapor.) However, water cannot exist in more than one state at a time. God exists in three inseparable persons at all times.

I once heard the trinity described as an iron rod that has been placed in the fire. It has mass, shape, and density that can be seen and touched. Then when heated in the fire it glows and gives off light. Finally, not only does it have material existence and luminescence, it also radiates heat- three distinct characteristics, three different functions all in one object at the same time. But as enticing as that analogy may be, it still does not come close to encapsulating who God is.

God's word clearly describes and offers many pieces of internal evidence as to the purposes served by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Frankly, I am okay with serving a God that cannot fully be explained in human terms. After all, would a god that we could easily explain really be a God to be served and revered? God transcends our ability to fully comprehend Him, yet He is a God who, because of His love for us, makes Himself immanent and intimate.

You can know Him and love Him. I pray that you do.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Daddy, come dance! The song is almost over."

So I got up this morning after sleeping in as as long as Ellie would allow me to sleep in. Paige had to get up and go to work for a few hours, so it was just Ellie and me (Mama 'Rie is downstairs in her house.) Ellie rushed up to me and handed me her brand new Hannah Montana FM-transmitting microphone so I could put some batteries in it. Then I had to go dial in a station on her clock radio that would allow her to get her sing on. Then, like all good daddies, I went to make some coffee.

After a few minutes Ellie tired of that and she just wanted to listen to the radio. She was having trouble and needed me to find a station "she could dance to." Since you can do anything you want to 88.3 WCQR, I tuned in and ripped the knob off (not really, but that saying never gets old.) Minutes later, I had just finished emptying the trash and was getting ready to settle in the Big Daddy chair with my coffee and remote when in runs Ellie frantically imploring, "Daddy, come dance the song is almost over!"

In those first few milliseconds, I admit, I was annoyed- my Saturday morning routine was being altered. Then a deeper meaning of those words began to wash over me. Ellie just turned 5-years-old and in her eyes, I am still Mr. Wonderful. The other night, I was late getting home because of youth stuff and Ellie had to go to bed without loving on her daddy. She fell asleep hugging a picture of me. But I have worked with young people long enough to know that the day is coming when the thought of dancing with her daddy might not sit as well with her. Milliseconds later I sprinted down the hall with Ellie in tow, swept her up in my arms and waltzed away the rest of the song. One of these days, the song will really be over and I will not have that opportunity again.

It reminded me of a song by Steven Curtis Chapman. He performed it in concert last year and I found it on You Tube. It is called "Cinderella." Although the quality of this homemade video is not the best, you will get the point. Get a box of tissue and enjoy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Winter Jam Jammed

Tonight, I took some of the youth to Winter Jam 2008 at Freedom Hall in Johnson City. It was the kickoff of the tour. I must say this one was pretty good. I have been to about 7 or 8 Jams in my time. Sometimes I have gone on "official radio business," but I usually go with my kids. If you are over the age of 25, just being honest here, the Jam Tour can be a pain. There are a few things you need to know about the tour to understand.

The focus of the tour is purely and simply evangelistic- which is awesome. That is why one can see the likes of MercyMe, NewSong, Skillet- or in past years- TobyMac, Steven Curtis Chapman, et al- for the low, low price of $10. Of course that means every red-blooded student minister worth his or her salt rallies the troops, loads the vans and descends upon the arenas by the thousands. It is a logistical nightmare regardless of whether you are putting on the show or merely attending. Bathrooms and concession stands have lines 30 and 40 people deep. It is shoulder to shoulder traffic everywhere one turns. If there are 5000 people at Freedom Hall for this concert, 4000 of them are 17 or younger.

Parking is crazy and unless you go 3 hours early, you end up parking several hundred of yards away- which, by the way, is wonderful when it is raining buckets like it did tonight. On top of all that, it is usually extremely loud, too loud for the quality to be any good- usually. Tonight, however, it was tolerable.

As we were walking from from the van, one of my youth asked, in reference to my ties with the radio station, "Can't you get in and go backstage and stuff to meet the artists."

I responded, "Yes, and I have done that many times, but I would rather watch and enjoy it with you guys." I said it without giving it a second thought- and it was absolutely the truth! I could have chosen to say, "Well, its a school night and we can't stay out all night, so we may catch the next one." I almost did that. I had several students who were working or who had some major school stuff coming due so they had to back out. I ended up with only 11 students. I was kind of bummed out as it was one of the final opportunities I was going to have to hang out with my Calvary kids and I wanted all the gang together.

Two of the eleven students happened to be guests of one of my students. I had never met the two before. Praise God I did not listen to my selfish flesh and just go schmooze backstage by myself because I would have missed seeing those two precious guests make the decision to ask Jesus Christ into their heart!

God is good- all the time.

Click here if you would like to see the Winter Jam 2008 schedule. If it comes near you, go. I give it two Tiger Paws straight up! Take some special guests with you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

HELP: I Have To Buy A Computer

As I approach the transition to a new place of service, there are a number of things I need to get done before I can hit the ground running. One of the main issues will be deciding upon a new computer that my new church will be purchasing for me to use there. I pretty much have decided to go with a laptop so that I can have the freedom to use it when I preach / teach and not have to go between computers.

Now the decision comes down to this: PC vs. Mac

I do a lot of audio and video stuff (more audio than video right now). I will be using more multimedia stuff when I get where I am going (good song by Geoff Moore...). I have had a few gentlemen, for whom I have the utmost respect, tell me the MacBook is the way to go. However, I have used a PC almost exclusively over the years.

I NEED to see some comments from those of you on both sides of this. I am betting that some of you use Mac and can give me some good reasons.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A New Year... A New Direction

Forgive me for taking some time since my last blog entry. Hopefully, you will understand after you read this.

On this the first Monday of the new year, I want to let you know that yesterday I resigned from my position as Minister of Youth and Children at Calvary Baptist and accepted the position of Minister of Students at Indian Springs Baptist, also here in Kingsport. My last Sunday at Calvary will be January 27. It is most definitely a bittersweet feeling that I have as I ponder all the ramifications of that decision, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is God's will as I endeavor to follow Him and the call He placed on my life many years ago.

I have been a part of the Calvary family for over 30 years. It is literally the only church I have ever known. I grew up coming here sporadically, was saved here at the age of 17 and it is here that they gave me an opportunity to serve all these years after responding to His call to step into vocational ministry. To say my roots run deep here is an extreme understatement. Now they have the privilege of sending me out to offer the gifts they helped me cultivate to others. That is what church is all about.

I have shared life with well over one hundred youth and children as a result of my ministry here. I love every one as if they are my own. I have lasting relationships that neither time nor distance can ever take away. Last night, as I shared this news with my kids and the church at large, much emotion was expressed and felt. I appreciate the well wishes and I can also appreciate the sentiments of those who need some additional time to process the news. It is a hard pill to swallow.

On the other hand, God has blessed me and my family with a fantastic opportunity to live and minister in a new field, while still being in the same town. It is important that Paige and I stay close to our parents as they age and deal with individual health concerns. God has provided for that in a big way. In my limited contact with Indian Springs, they have gone out of their way to be as friendly, inviting and welcoming as possible. It will be a great joy to serve alongside them.

If you read this blog regularly and you are a person of faith, I covet your prayers during this time of transition. Pray for me and my family as we say goodbye over the next few weeks and anticipate joining our new church. Pray for my Calvary family. I know that God has something tremendous in store for them going forward from here. He is preparing all of us for a special movement of His Spirit. Finally, pray for Indian Springs to be preparing for what He has in store for them.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Strain A Gnat And Swallow A Camel

I went to get a haircut today at my favorite hair cuttin' haunt. When I arrived at my appointed time, Crystal, was busily cutting a young lady's hair. A few moments later, in walked another young lady (#2) and someone who appeared to be her mother. After Young Lady #1's haircut she indicated that she would like an eyebrow wax. I quickly surmised that the young ladies were sisters and further figured out that my haircut was going to take much longer than I had first anticipated.

When the waxing started I was immediately interested as I had never seen anyone perform this procedure except for Paige, and she did it on herself. Crystal sat Young Lady #1 down at the hair washing sink and rocked her back for ease of access to the eyebrows. At this, mother and Young Lady #2 gathered around for moral support. Crystal smeared on the wax, applied the material and --Rip!-- off came the extraneous eyebrow hair. Young Lady #1 was a real trooper! There were no screams of pain nor tears shed throughout four applications on various places on and around her face. After witnessing such raw courage, Young Lady #2 apparently got up enough gumption and requested to also have her eyebrow's waxed. Crystal cast a glance my way as if to see if I was alright and I nodded back that I was okay on time. I was getting into this now.

Young Lady #2 was obviously the younger sister. She wore her bleach blond hair in a crop cut- had dark mascara, baggy black cargo pants replete with zippers, chains and dangling suspenders. She had on a pair of black Converse All-Stars and the whole ensemble was accentuated with a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. As she swapped places with Young Lady #1, #2 was visibly uneasy about the prospects of pain she was on the verge of experiencing. That is when the irony of the whole scenario dawned on me.

You see, there were a couple of additional adornments I failed to mention with regard to Young Lady #2's chosen couture. She had a nose piercing and a lip piercing with large studs protruding from each one. Now you understand why it was difficult for me to keep my head buried in my year-old salon magazine while trying to stifle my laughter. Nothing against her style- to each his own- but how could she let someone stab her face, twice, and then wince in great pain and agony as a stylist waxes her eyebrows?

It reminded me of the passages in Matthew 23 in which Jesus is raking the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (representatives of the religious establishment in that day) over the coals. He wonders aloud how they could "strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." The point that Jesus was making was that the religious leaders would nit pick and hold feet to the fire on minor points of the law, and, yet, be totally oblivious to major points- things like, I don't know, maybe L-O-V-E!
I have done that so many times in my life. Have you? As a teenager, I remember deciding to stop swearing and using bad language- only to go days without praying, as well. Maybe we would all do well to not sweat the small stuff while neglecting God's larger precepts.

P.S.- I did NOT go for the eyebrow wax following my haircut.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, after writing 2007 on about 9 checks, it will finally kick in that we have officially arrived at a new year- 2008. It is hard to believe that we are embarking on a new year. As I write these words, my family is asleep. We rang in the new year about an hour ago with our friends, Keith and Stacie and their adorable, new baby girl, Katherine. We are staying at their house so we can get up and watch the Vols bring the pain upon the Badgers in the morning.

All day, I fought the urge to post a year-end-wrap-up. Ultimately, I decided that I didn't want to look back. There is nothing wrong with looking back. In fact, it is usually a good practice. I am sure that after a few years of doing this blogging thing, I will appreciate the ability to log on and reminisce with some of my older posts, reliving forgotten moments and other special things. But today, it just did not feel like the right thing to do. I am looking forward.

I use this blog for lots of things. I use it to share my position on key topics. I use it to process my thoughts. I use it to just have fun and be entertaining sometimes. Right now, however, I feel like using it- and you- as an accountability partner. I want 2008 to be a high watermark year and I want this first post to stand as a harbinger of great things to come.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of things I would like to see happen in 2008:
  • I want to read a minimum of 20 books of substance this year
  • I want to discipline myself to get the sleep that I need - i.e. no late night blogs after this one
  • I want to do what I can to demonstrate strong servant leadership to my church
  • I want to teach my daughter to ride a bicycle this year
  • I want to blow Paige's mind with all the help that I give her around the house
  • I want to read through the Bible again
  • I want to lose 50 pounds
  • I want to baptize a minimum of 10 students
  • I want to live a life worthy of the blessings that my God is pouring out on me
These are not resolutions- they are goals. If you would like to live up to your end of this bargain as my accountability partner, keep yourself tuned in over the coming weeks and months, and you will see some things happening.

I pray that this year will prove to be amazing for you. With God, all things are possible. Never forget that. If you are not with Him, I pray that is at the top of your list of goals.

Peace out- I'm going to bed.