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

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.