Saturday, March 29, 2008

HBA Student Conference Night #1

Greetings from Ridgecrest, NC. I am here with 40 youth and adults from ISBC. We had a really good night tonight. God is speaking to hearts.

Well, it is way too late to be blogging, but I just discovered that our lodge has wireless internet.

Tonight, our session dealt with the question of whether or not we, as Christ-followers, are truly reflecting Christ in our lives or if we are reflecting something- or someone- else. Think about this question: How many not-yet-churched people do you come into regular contact with on daily basis? Do you have any non-Christian friends? How do we plan to influence people for Him if we only hang around other church folk?

Jesus hung out with the unchurched. In fact, He had some pretty choice things to say to the church people.

This conference theme is "Influence." I am interested to see how the kids deal with this.

More later.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ben Stein's "Expelled"

There is some buzz coming out about Ben Stein's documentary film, "Expelled" which addresses the Darwinism vs. intelligent design debate that is raging around the country. I am beginning some research into the whole thing, but what I have seen so far merited my trying to get the word out about this as well. Here is one of the trailers:

There is also a website from which you can download all kinds of resource materials. Click here to access them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter: Jesus Is Risen!

Last night, my family enjoyed our first communion with our new church. It was a Good Friday Lord's Supper service and it was quite meaningful.

The tradition at Easter for most American, Christ-following, church-goers is to breakout the Springtime wear or pick-up a new dress/suit/sport coat, depending upon your gender, or maybe a new tie or shoes. I can't remember the last time I bought something special for Easter. I always just go with my regular rotation of "Sunday Attire." But this year is different. I have been wanting a seersucker suit for years. It should be a staple for any self-respecting southern gentleman, who finds himself having to wear suits for a living. Well it just so happens that my mother decided that I should have one for my birthday this year.

Since you have to kill a lot of seers to get enough suckers to make me a suit, I had to go to Men Of Measure to track one down. Remarkably, they could order one for me at a very reasonable price. So tomorrow morning I will be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior in a new suit for the first time in years.

Now, if I only knew what color shoes and belt to wear...

Celebratory Cheat Day
Despite the fact that my family is on NutriSystem (Yes, Paige is on it now too!) we will be celebrating Easter with a trip to Meadowview's Sunday Buffet.

I have lost 10 lbs. since last Saturday and Paige has lost 3 lbs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Politically Correct Kids

Sometimes I blog in order to journal my life. Sometimes I blog to bring a smile to your face. Sometimes I blog because something just gets under my skin and ticks me off. Today's blog falls into the later category. In truth, I learned about what I am about to tell you sometime last fall. I have just hesitated to share it until a good friend and regular blog reader asked me why I never talked about it. So here it comes.

We have new schools popping up all over the place. Now when I say new schools I do not mean the ones that were just built yesterday. I am talking about schools who are teaching utilizing different methodology than was utilized when you or I were in school. One such school is Washington Elementary in the Kingsport City School system. I went to the original Washington Elementary school. The new Washington is one of those cutting edge schools. They have won numerous awards. Many of the teachers have been recognized for their superior performance in a variety of different categories. But I heard something about one of the policies in place there that really caused me to wonder.

The daughter of some of my good friends was playing with another little girl in her neighborhood one day. As they played, the remark was made that they were "best friends." The neighbor little girl quickly made it clear that they were "really good friends" only because at her school they were not allowed to have "best friends" for fear that someone could get their feelings hurt. She went on to say that they could not use the term "best" to describe anyone.

Are you kidding me? Think back to when you were in elementary school. Some of us had a half dozen or more best friends over the course of those 5 to 6 years depending upon if you were in kindergarten or not. Some of us had best friends who have remained as such to this very day. Your best friend helped you cope with life. Your best friend helped you to learn societal dos and don'ts. Sometimes you got mad at your best friend. You then learned forgiveness and how to get along with others. What would you have done without your best friends?

I can also remember the best kickball player, the best basketball player, the best dodgeball player and the best looking students in my school. Why do we feel the need to deny the obvious? Is their something wrong with excelling at something? If we stop striving to be the best at whatever we endeavor, where does that leave us? Striving for mediocrity?

Where would David have been without Jonathan? What if Paul had simply cast lots and chosen Timothy from among a bevy of so so, would-be disciples rather than enumerate his many qualifications and declare him as the singular obvious choice to accompany him?

Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 says, "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to pick him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Three strands= you, your friend and God. Do you know what you call a cord of 522 strands (i.e. all your "good friends")? A pile of cotton. At some point it stops becoming a cord and therefore loses its usefulness and identity as a cord.

Maybe you could argue that it is just semantics and we just want to try to teach our children to love all mankind equally. Spiritually speaking, I would agree with you. We are to love and value all of God's creatures, but the bottom line is that you are not going to like them all. There are some folks you hit it off with and there are others that you do not. This continual emasculation of society by making sure that no one ever gets their feelings hurt is doing nothing to prepare them for the real world. I remember working on being a like-able person so that others would want to be my best friend. I guess that was a waste of my time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And So It Begins...

Regular readers to this blog may remember that on January 1 I blogged about some goals I had set for myself for this year. If you would like a refresher you can click here. Now is the time to update and initiate a new blog feature. Here are a few highlights concerning the goals which have quantitative results:
  • I am a little behind on my book reading. As of today. I have only read 3 of the 20.
  • We are going pretty well in the baptism department. After a month and a half on the new job, Easter Sunday we will baptize students numbers 2 and 3 with whom I have had the blessed opportunity of sharing Christ and seeing them follow Him in believers baptism.
  • "Confessionally"-speaking, I have fallen into the minister's Bible trap. That is reading the Bible "informationally" rather than "transformationally." This is not an excuse, but my schedule has been a bit unwieldy. I have been working 50+ hour weeks trying to get everything in my new ministry lined up and attending all the meetings and services I have needed to attend. My devotional walk through the Bible is behind schedule.
That brings us to the last quantitative goal: Losing 50 lbs. Over the past 20 months or so life has been pretty stressful, personally and professionally. With that has come an additional 25 lbs or so. But now that I am getting everything dialed back in, it is time to attack my waistline. The great news is that I am going to have a lot of support from my other church staff. Pastor Roc (our senior pastor), his wife Mrs. Jeralyn (our children's minister), my Uncle Fred and I have officially begun the NutriSystem Advanced Plan. I figure if it is good enough for Dan Marino and Mike Golic, it is good enough for me.

My 28-week (plus one free week) supply of food arrived yesterday. Help me Lord Jesus! They are serious about portion control! I have little doubt that I could wade through about 3 weeks of this stuff at one sitting. Having that support system around me will really help. I officially started today. My starting weight: 299 lbs. I would not be surprised if I am really a few pounds heavier, but I will weigh consistently on my scales so it should be okay. I am adding a Weight Loss Tracker to the left margin and I will update it each week. My hope is that my blog will help me be accountable.

Perhaps you would like to join me in this effort. I would love to hear from you if you do. We can all do it together.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Clear Communication... Always A Good Idea

Today I was reminded of one of my favorite stories from my days working at my father's service station.

Among the many duties I had was the making of work orders for the cars we were servicing. The computer was located in the same vicinity as the cash register/fuel pump control station. This was sort of the nerve center of the operation. As I was busily entering the data into the computer from a stack of work orders, fuel customers would come in and out paying the cashier for the fuel they had pumped into their vehicles or availing themselves of the cleanest public restrooms in the Tri-Cities (one of my other duties).

One of the main resources provided by a service station is handing out directions to lost travellers in search of various locales. Because of my familiarity with the area and the ability to speak in complete sentences, the direction-seeking customers would often be directed to me.

Now the scene is set- I am standing in the nerve center making work orders and cashier, Mike, is taking money, ringing up sales, etc. A man walks in and tells Mike that he needs directions. Out of habit I stop and listen to see if this is something that I will need to be in on. The man is looking for The Mountaineer. For those of you in Timbuktu or California, The Mountaineer is a long-time East Tennessee family restaurant featuring fantastic home style, country cooking.

At this point, I zoned out of the conversation and went back to focusing on my work orders. Why? Because the directions could not be easier. The Mountaineer is on the same road as the service station- 12 miles due west on the right. I knew that Mike would have no problem with those directions so I started clicking away on the computer once again. After what seemed like two minutes or so, I noticed that Mike was still talking to the gentleman. I love Mike, but he could easily talk a statue into submission. I could not figure out what in the world could be taking so long to tell a man to drive 12 miles and look for the restaurant on the right. At that point I reengaged into the direction-giving just in time to hear Mike say, "Go south on Hwy 36 about 10 miles and look for the sign on your right." With that the man was out the door.

I inquired, "Mike, where did you send that guy? He just wanted to go to The Mountaineer."

"The Mountaineer!" Mike exclaimed. "I thought he said The Mouse's Ear."

I bolted out the door just in time to see the gentleman pull out of the parking lot. You see, again for those of you who are not from around these parts, The Mouse's Ear is a strip joint (i.e. "nude bar") about 12 miles in the other direction. Suffice it to say I was embarrassed that someone was given those directions at my establishment, but I couldn't help but chuckle wondering what the driver must have thought when he roared into the parking lot expecting some tasty pork chops.

The moral of the story is: Paying attention and clearly communicating with one another is always a good idea.

Have a great day.
By the way, if you ever have a chance to go to The Mountaineer, order one of their giant banana splits. They are big enough for a family to share and really good.
Don't ask me what The Mouse's Ear has on special.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Great Aunt Beulah's Quilts

She would kill me for identifying her as my "great aunt" even though she is the sister of my grandfather, but Aunt Beulah (Aunt B. to some) is a real pistol. Last Thursday night, she called and left a message stating she had made a quilt and pillow for my daughter, Ellie. This was quite out of the blue. I had not talked with Aunt B. since before Christmas and there was no occasion, birthday or otherwise, that merited such a gift. Later I found out that she had made my cousin's kids quilts and pillows and could not stand the thought of one of her great nieces not getting one. Friday afternoon, Ellie and I went to visit my Uncle Conley and Aunt B. Each night since, Ellie has wrapped herself up in her new quilt and drifted off to slumberland.

Before Christmas, I had posted about a church party I had attended at which everyone received a handmade gift from my good friends, C.B. and Ina Shanks. I want to revisit that theme once again.

The aforementioned cousin, Jeff, received his Aunt B. quilt for his high school graduation 25 years ago. It survived college and law school weathering those two tours of duty adorning his bed. As I type this, I am looking at my quilt which I received for my high school graduation 20 years ago. Paige has it prominently displayed along with a few other special quilts next to our fireplace.

What is it about handmade gifts? They are so special and meaningful. What other items stand the test of time like those lovingly crafted just for you by someone dearly loved? I think the bottom line is this: The sacrificial investment of one's self into the gift is the thing that sets it apart from the Target gift card, the tie and the toaster. It translates into other aspects of life, as well.

A marriage in which both partners invest themselves sacrificially will be the marriage that endures. The business in which both management and the general labor force invest themselves sacrificially is the one that realizes success. The church in which both the leadership and the laity...well... I think you get the picture.

Now consider the greatest gift ever given. It was in direct proportion to the greatest sacrifice ever made. Jesus Christ went to the cross for you and me, purchasing and delivering the single greatest gift that never stops giving.

Are you sacrificing and investing in others? Now is the time to start giving the good gifts.