The Son Came Out

We have made it to Athens, Tennessee. It is a chilly 30 degrees outside as I type this. The low tomorrow night is 27 degrees. That’s a bit cooler than it is on the Coast, but we are enjoying the climate change. I talked with Tim Gunnels on the phone tonight and we look forward to a supper with his family on Saturday night. Tomorrow we will likely rest a bit, look around town some, and who knows … maybe drive over to Pigeon Forge to eat apple fritters at the Apple Valley Restaurant! (I’m still awaiting the arrival of my South Beach book…don’t worry…that day is coming soon!)

I’d like to take you back to last night at Central for this post, though. I decided that since we had these wonderful tables in our auditorium (donated by Healing Hands International), we could have each table do their own Bible study for the night. As I explained what we were doing, I looked around and to my right was a table with three folks that might be classified as ‘visitors’ or ‘newcomers’ …. many of the classifications of people have been blurred over time. God knows who His people are … and we are to love all people anyway. But these three were at a table by themselves. I do not want to sound mean spirited about these three, but they are probably the most unlikely to be gathered together for a Bible study. I determined that I would sit with them, since it just so happened that none of our ‘members’ did. (Note to self: Self, Let’s do a blog on ‘membership’ sometime.) I do not think this was intentional … but it happened just the same. The only way to perceive the irony is to tell you a bit about each one of them.

One was an elderly gentleman that I have known for years. His recent strokes, however, have left him very quiet … but he never misses coming to any assembly. Next to him was a lady who claims to be the last living wife of Elvis Presley, who lived in Pascagoula under another name, but passed away last year. She’s a brassy, talkative lady who sometimes lives in our world … and sometimes not. She told me she had spent the last few days in jail, but she didn’t tell me why. And last but not least, next to her, was a lady that I first met when she asked me to exorcise a demon from her through prayer. I did pray for her … although from what she describes I know that her “demon” is really a medical condition. However, she is so convinced that it is a demon she will not seek out medical help. At one point she thought that an alien inhabited her apartment and wanted me to call the Department of Defense. Her chain smoking and bladder problems have left her with a strong odor. Yes, these are three ‘characters’ and then there was me (and anytime I’m the most normal person at the table, we are in trouble!). I want to be clear that I’m not making fun of these folks … there’s much more to tell about each of them … only God knows what they have been through in their lives to bring them to this point. And Katrina brought them to us. The story I’m about to tell is dependent upon you realizing what kind of folks are sitting around this table.

We worked our way through the Bible study, and the great serendipity of these studies is that subjects you couldn’t have planned come up in conversation. Somehow in studying about Zacchaeus, discussion turned to the days following Katrina. The elderly gentleman was asleep – and I feel very gracious about his sleep – not offended at all. It was all he could do to be there. But the two ladies… as they talked about the days following the storm, a very perceptable change overtook their features. The lady with a demon had the most precious smile on her face as she related that each morning she would get up early and go outside just to watch people help each other. Elvis’ widow was also smiling as she talked about how everyone treated one another with dignity and an attitude of acceptance – something even I noticed. It was such a magic moment….a God-thing … and the SON came out after the storm …. and here He was shining at this table where no one wanted to sit.

The last activity was a group prayer. The older gentleman declined to word a prayer, but the one lady said she would. And the lady with a demon / alien / acid reflux looked at me with such an expression on her face and said, “I am trying to learn how to pray.” She was so humble about it, really childlike. Then she said, “I’ve been learning the Lord’s prayer.” So I asked her if she would say that for her prayer, and she said she would. We held hands at that table while these two ladies prayed … ladies that really do not always have a grip on reality … who live in made up worlds sometimes … but who want and seek a REAL relationship with a living God. Their prayers were precious to me, and I closed us out with a prayer as well.

I don’t know how things went at the other tables. Perhaps some really special things were shared there. But at our table, I felt that God sat down with us as well and touched each of our hearts in ways we may not yet even know.

And if I may pontificate a bit at the end of this post, I think we all need to think about the widows of Elvis and the demon possessed ladies in our community. These are the people that no church wants. People like James that I wrote about a few weeks ago who knew he wasn’t welcome in the church he had stumbled into, so he offered someone his last $4 to drive him to Central. A couple of years ago it was Keith, who said he was JFK…and his mother was named Rose. A year or two before Keith it was Charles who shook everyone’s hand, said he was a pastor, and unashamedly smiled and clapped during the songs – unaware that he was the only one. Charles was unaware of a lot of things, but he loved Jesus and talked about him all the time.

Maybe all churches have their people like this. I think they have their special angels that watch over them. How do they even make it in this world? I do not know. They may frighten us at times, get involved with drugs or crime or other things at times, and we already know that they will not be the pillars of our congregation. I really believe Jesus has a special place in his heart for the helpless and unprotected. He loves these precious ones with a pure love. We have a lot to learn, but he’s teaching us. For years he has been sending them our way. May our hearts be open to those who can offer us nothing … but the opportunity to minister to Jesus in a special way.

We’re Not The Jet Set

I was remembering a funny old song by George Jones and Tammy Wynette called “We’re Not The Jet Set”. It went something like…

By a fountain back in Rome, I fell in love with you
In a small cafe in Athens, You said you loved me too
And it was April in Paris, When I first held you close to me
Rome, Georgia
Athens, Texas
And Paris, Tennessee

I guess I was thinking about that because we’re all set to head out to Athens … but not Athens, Texas. Athens, Tennessee, where my friend Tim Gunnels is the minister for the church of Christ. Tim was an amazing friend during the days just beyond the storm. I was looking through my picture archive trying to find a picture of him, but I couldn’t see one. I think he was around in those first few weeks, when I wasn’t taking pictures yet….still walking around in a daze. It was during that time that Tim gave me cash to get necessities when they were available. He also set out to raise $10,000 on his own for our church. In addition, he went to an area church and secured a major donation for the congregation. All of this while his lovely wife was near to giving birth to their second child. Of course, as that happened, so his personal involvement in being in Pascagoula was curtailed. He continued, however, to organize groups from his church at the time – the Elba church of Christ. Since then he has moved to Athens and has now invited me up there to give a presentation about our work and to preach this coming Sunday. Margaret and I are going a few days early to enjoy the scenery. I’m looking forward to seeing my friend Tim. If you’re in that area Sunday, come on out and see us!

There’s a lot of great blogging going on out there, if you haven’t noticed.

Dusty Rush is talking about how husbands and wives can be involved in the spiritual journey with each other.

Gary Kirkendall wonders if we haven’t taken the concept of autonomy too far.

Charlie Whitfield ponders the WHY of blogging.

Dee Andrews has the ‘Blahs’. Yes….OUR Dee….we gotta do something.

Larry James Still Needs Our Help.

John Alan Turner reflects on his experience at the funeral of a family friend, Alton Howard.

Jim Martin joins a little girl on the pulpit steps.

Wade Tannehill gets real about life in the ministry.

Tim Archer contemplates what the Bible says.

National Blog Posting Month?

Holy or Unholy Ground … Ben Overby Writes.

Patrick Mead gives a shameless plug.

If that’s not enough, just browse through my list of blogs and find more! If your blog isn’t listed, send me an e-mail and I’ll get it posted as soon as I can.

Now we’re off to beautiful Tennessee … I hear it’s a bit chilly up that way. I like it.

Mr. Kerry, Stop Digging!

This photo from DRUDGE REPORT.

 Have you ever said something and wished immediately that you could take it back? I think Senator Kerry understands that difficult situation. Really, though, when you’re digging a hole what should you do? Stop digging! I understand it was a “botched joke”….I’ve botched a few jokes in my time as well. Wouldn’t it be easy to admit that you goofed and say “I’m sorry folks” and let your humanity show? I guess it’s hard to be humble in the presence of your arch enemy! It is ironic to me, though, that Kerry wanted to try to dredge up the old “Bush is dumb” rhetoric and in doing so made himself look like an idiot. Both men are highly educated and neither should stoop so low as to indicate that the other one lacks intelligence.

Chrisitans have to be careful about doing this with other Believers. I’ve heard people use expressions like, “anyone who can see through a ladder can see that!” What are they saying? Those who see things differently are stupid. I don’t know about you, but most of the people that I perceive to be more conservative than me are sincere, devout, are involved in conscientous studies of the Bible. Those that I perceive to be more liberal than me are the same. There are always exceptions, but I think most people of conviction arrived to their conclusions through study. The ones I admire most are those who can communicate their positions without rancor and the intimation that if I were as smart as they that I would come up with the same conclusions.

That’s one reason why I like blogs and e-mail discussion groups. It’s never wrong to ask a question and to toss the implications around as we consider the Scriptures. We should not be ashamed to come up with a conclusion that varies from the majority. Sometimes we may be right … other times we may be wrong. But in either case we have given our minds and hearts to the study of God’s word and have been strengthened.

Looking at some brotherhood publications … we can be as guilty as politicians when it comes to making mistakes and being crucified in the press. A humble answer is best. Often pride pushes us into war. We need to stop digging!

That’s a rare political commentary on Out Here Hope Remains! I just couldn’t resist. Tune in late tonight for a regular post submission!

 

And Now For November…

The end of October brings colorful leaves to the trees, and after the cool windy days says goodbye to them. The children have a hauntingly fun time collecting candy from neighbors. It also ushers in the month of November. The temperatures continue to slink downward here on the Coast, although never to the frosty lows described by Bobby Valentine in Milwaukee or Charlie Whitfield in Sault St. Marie. Family plans are made for gathering together to give thanks. The end of November marks another anniversary of my earthly trek, and such a decline in the potential for tropical storms that we signal the end of hurricane season.

Fall leads us into the introspective winter, when cold days are spent indoors… thinking … contemplating the Summer past and the winding down of another year. The naked branches of the trees reaching up into the sky remind us of the losses we have suffered, and the hope of renewal that will come in time. Soon we will rush through the lights and gifts of Christmas and find ourselves staring into the eyes of 2007. We will ask questions of ourselves. We will reflect on the noble goals from only a year ago that long since have been pushed into dark corners and gathered cobwebs.

And along with Jack, we search our hearts and come to the realization that “there’s an empty place in my bones, that calls out for something unknown.” It is in these hours of reflection that the flicker of hope illuminates our souls as we recognize the presence of our only Hope. What will become of those who do not have this hope? It is our privilege to bring this light into their lives.

Jack’s Lament From The Nightmare Before Christmas

There are few who’d deny, at what I do I am the best
For my talents are renowned far and wide
When it comes to surprises in the moonlit night
I excel without ever even trying
With the slightest little effort of my ghostlike charms
I have seen grown men give out a shriek
With the wave of my hand, and a well-placed moan
I have swept the very bravest off their feet

Yet year after year, it’s the same routine
And I grow so weary of the sound of screams
And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King
Have grown so tired of the same old thing

Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones
An emptiness began to grow
There’s something out there, far from my home
A longing that I’ve never known

I’m a master of fright, and a demon of light
And I’ll scare you right out of your pants
To a guy in Kentucky, I’m Mister Unlucky
And I’m known throughout England and France

And since I am dead, I can take off my head
To recite Shakespearean quotations
No animal nor man can scream like I can
With the fury of my recitations

But who here would ever understand
That the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin
Would tire of his crown, if they only understood
He’d give it all up if he only could

Oh, there’s an empty place in my bones
That calls out for something unknown
The fame and praise come year after year
Does nothing for these empty tears 

Creating Confusion?

TRIP.  This morning I got up and went with Chris to enjoy breakfast at a restaurant in downtown McDonough called GRITZ. They have good grits! Then Maggy and I took off for LaGrange, Georgia where we had lunch with Gary Kirkendall. After lunch we went to The Mill Store and had some talk-time with Wade, who is helping us with carpet for our church building. I also met another man who said, “I know you, you’re a blogger!” Now I’m embarrassed that I do not remember his name, but perhaps he will leave a note or Gary will. Sorry for the bad memory! I also met someone who reads my blog last night at the small group meeting hosted by John Alan Turner. I neglected to mention that that group surrounded Maggy and me and prayed over us. It was wonderful to be loved that way. After some time at the carpet place, we stopped by a nearby ‘junktique’ place to look around. We kind of hurried our way through there, because we wanted to get home! I enjoyed a call from Anna while we were on the drive. She called to check on my hand and the recovery from surgery. We met John Robert back in Moss Point for supper before going home. It’s good to be home safe and sound.

HEALTH. I’ve had some inquiries about my health. With this cool weather my hands are dry, and the skin is pulling against the stitches. Uncomfortable, but not painful. As for my leg, last Friday I saw a vascular specialist. He informed me that I did not have a vascular problem, so no surgery is called for. I do have a circulation problem, and as a result my legs swell. As they swell, little valleys I cannot see or feel form in my skin and germs can get in there! These can cause an infection signaled by redness, nausea, fever, etc. Cellulitis is the diagnosis. Antibiotics are a band-aid. The suggested “cure” is to lose a lot of weight. He suggested The South Beach Diet, so I have ordered the book and Maggy and I will begin it soon. I’ll keep you posted! Any other South Beachers out there?

CONFUSION. I think one reason we get our feathers all ruffled about insignificant things is because we speak of them in such unbiblical ways. I’m guilty as anyone. We talk about ‘going to church’ … and we know what we mean by that … but are we educating our sub-conscience in such a statement? In a recent gospel paper there was a picture of a “church building” with this caption: “A church wth a new name“. Really, we must be more careful about these kinds of expressions! First, it is the sign in front of the building that is sporting the new name! The church, as we read about it in the Bible, doesn’t even have a name! They certainly cannot have a new name! And the members of the congregation do not sport new names either. They acquired a new sign. On the same page is this snippet: “Antioch Church Building Destroyed by Fire!” Aside from the common misnomer, “Church Building”, we are thankful that it was the building that caught on fire and not the church!  Now I’m not picking on my friends’ paper. I eagerly read through each issue …finding both things I like and things I do not like … but always loving the editor….a longtime friend. However, I do think we create confusion when we continue to allow ourselves the luxury of referring to a building as the “church”. So long as that building is the “church”, we can now create rules about what can happen in that building, who can say something in that building, what kinds of activities can happen in that building, what furniture has to be in that building and where it has to be, etc. I remember one preacher friend who was accused of valuing his preaching of greater worth than the Lord’s Supper. Why? The communion table was moved to a different location than it had been before. We need to repeat that old saying I heard when I was growing up among Christians … and that is “even if the building burns down, the church will still exist.” We’re too connected to a place … and as a result we do not feel very connected to a person.

Then again, maybe this doesn’t seem important to you. We do tend to prioritize things that bother us and things that do not. I want to do a post soon on really big important biblical issues we neglect in order to continually chat about things not even mentioned in the Bible. E-mail me with some of the big issues you feel that we often overlook.

Hey check out my friend DUSTY RUSH’s new blog!

One of my favorite groups that sing contemporary Christian music is Building 429. Here’s a great one from them called “Glory Defined”. See you next time!

Glory Defined

There’s always a better way
there’s always a bridge that needs crossings
there’s always the straight and the narrow
the wide and the shallow
But I know that you’re guiding me
and the best is yet to come
You’ve given me hope for tomorrow
and I know some day

Chorus
I’ll wake up to find
Your glory defined
and I will finally bow at your feet
I will lift up your name in honor and praise
when I cross over Jordan
I know that I’ll be running home to you

It’s always the simple things
it’s always the obvious that crashes over me
It’s always in front of me
it helps me to remember
this is what I live for
and I can’t wait

Chorus

there’s never a question in your message
never a moment without your presence
there’s never a doubt in my mind
that I’ll

Chorus

Anticipation and Appreciation

When Chris & Susan Lockhart  (podcast HERE) moved near Atlanta to be the minister of the Calvary Christian Church, this signaled a big change in his life. Moving from an acappella church of Christ to the instrumental Christian Church was a significant decision and one he made with much prayer. Chris was significantly involved in the relief effort at Pascagoula, coming over every Friday for months on end. It was with joy that I accepted his invitation to come and speak at Calvary about what has been happening on the Coast … and what current needs exist. Calvary begins every Sunday with a full breakfast, and that’s an enjoyable way to begin the fellowship of the morning! We had an excellent class taught by one of the deacons from Titus 1. Following that we enjoyed a heart-felt worship time that honored the name of Jesus Christ. I anticipated an inspirational time at this church and was not disappointed. This is a friendly church that has a vibrant future. We enjoyed a lunch at a local Mexican restaurant with Chris, Susan and Hayden.

After an afternoon nap, Maggy, Susan, Hayden and I traveled to North Atlanta to meet with a small group led by my friend John Alan Turner. They invited me to come and talk about the relief effort as well. It was a joy to see John Alan, and meet his wife Jill and their three beautiful daughters. The group was very interested in the relief effort and perhaps will find some ways to become involved. I was also blessed to pick up a few copies of John Alan’s new book, Hearts and Minds: Raising Your Child With A Christian World View. I recommend you get a copy to keep and a copy to give away.

Back home at Central tonight they watched THE SECOND CHANCE. This movie should be watched by all Christian people, and they should let it challenge them.

Tomorrow on the trip home, I hope to have a cup of coffee with Gary Kirkendall  (podcast HERE) in LaGrange….but we’ll see.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. We do not talk much about this in churches of Christ because of our attempt to escape a clergy/laity system … believing instead in the priesthood of all believers. Still, I think it is a good thing to express appreciation for your minister, and encourage him in a special way. Of course ministers feel self-serving to even mention such a thing. I only mention it because I want to thank Bud and Kathy for a wonderful spaghetti pie that was brought to our house for supper last Friday night. It was delicious, but the greater joy came from their love for our family. We feel very blessed in many ways, but this expression was a special one! Thanks, Bud and Kathy!

I have received a number of encouraging replies privately to the last three posts where I questioned our willingness to follow the Christ wherever He leads. Thanks for your kindness….and let’s keep this issue before us.

I’ll leave you with a smile in the following video. Watch it all!