Company

We have company for the weekend. Maggy’s sister Kathy and cousin Brenda are here for a few days. Already they have brought a lot of joy and smiles to our home. I’m thankful that they can be here. Tomorrow is a bridal shower for our daughter who was married a few months ago. Saturday night a new crew of workers arrives for the week. It’s Day 4 of South Beach Diet and all is going well. And that’s what’s going on in my world.

Here are some blogs that caught my attention today.

The Volunteer Villages of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are proving very popular, a fact which is evident in just how many work teams traveled to the Gulf Coast last month.  While many people think that things are winding down, the work continues all along the Coast.

Here are some online Bible study resources presented by Matt Dabbs.

Dusty Rush Identifies Some True Heroes, and Makes An Appeal.

Mike Cope speaks of the challenges of ministering to different kinds of people.

Terry Rush weighs in on Ted Haggard.

Thanks for reading!

A Little Lighter

I’ve been pretty serious on the blog lately and I’ve been very grumpy today. I just want to lighten things up a bit tonight. I’ve spent today with this grim look on my face feeling all serious and sullen. What’s up with that! My wife suggested that I might need some medication. I think it’s because I’m on day three of South Beach Diet and I am no longer cruising through my day on a sugar high. I have said goodbye to sugar before, and I know that this too will pass. But until then I reserve my right to growl like a bear now and again. grrrrr. All of this in the pursuit of being a little lighter. OK, a lot lighter, as the Doctor ordered. I’m going to fix some decaf and be back in a minute.

 There. That’s better. The local news is on. There was a report of some thievery at some Mobile churches. They had photos of the vehicles the perpetrators were driving. One was a dark Honda. The other… a Ford Exhibition. It was not just an audio gaff, it was actually worded under the picture of the Expedition. Try to find that one on your local Ford car lot. A nice laugh at just the right time.

 It’s a sad time to be on a diet. I just discovered Paula Deen. Maggy has the Food Network on at various times when I come home. I thought Rachel Ray was the bomb. And while Rachel is younger, and some might say prettier, looks just do not count in the kitchen folks. Although let me hasten to say that Paula is a true Southern Belle and doesn’t fall short in her appearance! Paula cooks food like every man wants to eat. I think every recipe starts with two sticks of butter. I know that makes all nutritionally-aware-people cringe, but the way Paula says it you can just see the calories and fat running away. I really want to order Maggy some of Paula’s cookbooks, but I think this will work against us. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a South Beach friendly cookbook. But she does have a restaurant in Savannah, and I’m thinking I may have to go for a visit sometime. Yes, some people plan vacations by the ski trails, or by the scenery, or by the rides, or by the friends and family they can see. I plan a vacation to Paula Deen’s restaurant. I like that about me. Anyway, enough of that torture. I think I still have a piece of string cheese I can eat tonight. But if anyone will take down this recipe and make it for me, just give me a holler:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2CoxTLtJRk]

Now I guess I’m just rambling. It’s a little early to post the blog for tonight, but who knows…I may come back and add something to it. Yes, I know it’s a lot to ask if you read all of this AND watch up to ten minutes of video (thanks, You Tube!). But I figure you’d only do it if you had the time. I’m not sure I know why everyone reads my blog … they certainly do not all leave comment. Over a hundred people looked at yesterday’s post. I know some people are just friends who want to know what’s up with John. Some are looking for something about Central that they can gossip to their church buddies about. Some come here accidentally and promise to never land on this page again. Some are just addicted to Dobbs.  I’m feeling better. I think I’ll get another cup of decaf and see if that helps me feel even better.

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Blogger Lindsey’s husband will be on the Oprah Winfrey show FRIDAY.

Carrie Dublin reflects on what life could have been like if her mother had lived longer.

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So I’m going to leave you with a smile. Here’s something from Weird Al Yankovic just for fun. I don’t know if fat people or Michael Jackson should be more offended. I’m not offended. I just needed to lighten up.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvHnmo499_Y]

Next Steps

The countryside of Athens, Tennessee.

I left yesterday’s post with a cliffhanger:  I’ll speak for myself, and what I see Central doing ‘from here’. Tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve all lost sleep over what Dobbs was going to post next. Actually this may not have been a cliffhanger for you, but it certainly is one for me. It’s one I’ve been anxious about for well over a year now. I wish I could just be the medium and channel a Word from the Lord here on the blog and wake up to find the trek given by divine guidance. But since that’s evidently not going to happen (I’ve been waiting here for a few minutes), then I’ll share a few thoughts. These are not going to startle you with originality, but I think they are self-evident in importance.

*Central Must Love the Hurting. On his first trip to Pascagoula (or ‘Pasky’ as he likes to call it), Marvin Phillips suggested a slogan: This church wants to be the best friend this community ever had. It really did fit, and it really is right.  The post-Katrina needs will be here for at least a decade. But many of these same needs existed before the hurricane. They are just the needs of humanity…needs Jesus did not overlook in his ministry. This attention to the community not only touches those who live here, but also the hearts of those who come to volunteer. Often they tell us that they have decided to go home and serve there in some capacity.  It would be easier to ignore the needs around us and exist to simply repeat our beliefs to ourselves, but we would not be Christ’s church.

*Central Must Love The Lost. The mission of the cross must always cast a shadow over everything that we do. Humanitarian efforts are wonderful, but when a lost person finds Jesus Christ in their lives, it is a glorious moment! This is not always comfortable. It demands that we spend time with lost people. It calls us to be more concerned about others than we are about ourselves. Our hearts should be driven to reach those who do not know Jesus. We must always reach out, even when it is a struggle, to show our neighbors the love of Christ that would not let us go.

*Central Must Love Without Bias. Love must be genuine. We can love people because they are created by God! I’ve met a lot of different kind of people since Katrina destroyed the Coast. I have met homeless people – and actually gotten to know them – for the first time in my life. I have now made friends with drug addicts. I know people who function somehow in society with barely a mental connection to real life. I have met people of every color, various languages, and different nationalities. I have spent time with people who do not know where they will sleep tonight. I know people who have been in jail a few times since the storm. I have talked with people who, from all evidence, do not know what deodorant is and do not regularly bathe. Some can’t. I have met some really old grouchy ungrateful people, and I have met some really old  sweet, delightful, beautiful people. I’ve met some young bucks who thought they shouldn’t have to work in order to live, and I’ve met some hard working young people who work too hard, make too little, and need some help. Reaching out to all of these kinds of people is not easy. I’m not saying that I’m good at it. This requires a demonstration of divine love. Many may disappoint us, and many may never consider being a part of us … but we love them without bias … we choose to love them all.

*Central Must Die and Christ Must Live.  Our aim cannot be to restore the Central Church of Christ. Whatever glory or good that was done in the past is now in the past. God is here and now. Our job is here and now. It is God who is recreating Central into something new, yet ancient. The message is the same. The Gospel is still being rehearsed, lived, and shared. The population of the church has changed. It changed before the storm. It has changed since the storm. People searching for only God knows what come and go. There will be those, though, that are reached who become a permanent part of our lives. These precious ones are God’s gifts to our church. Being a church of Christ is much more than what is printed on the sign out front. A submissive spirit and willingness to yeild to God’s will is what makes a church ‘of Christ’.

As I said, these are not startling in their originality, but I think these are some areas that we could overlook by placing our focus elsewhere. A Long post, I know. Thanks for hanging in there!

Many Many Thanks

Maggy and I spent most of today printing, folding, and addressing thank you letters. She has done a great job of keeping up with every contribution that was made to our Hurricane Relief work, accumulating names, amounts, special requests, etc. It seems that there has been very little time since August 29, 2005 to compose and send ‘thank you’ letters. But that’s what we did today. I think we prepared about 70 of them. There are still about 7 pages of addresses yet to go. This is actually the second wave of thank you letters. I don’t know how many were in the first run, some months ago. Sending all those letters out, though, reminds us of how many people have given of themselves to help the hurting along the Coast.  Only God knows. Most of the funds have now been used in the homes of our community. It both astounds me, and humbles me. It is hard to express how generous God’s big family really has been. I was talking with my neighbor tonight. He does not attend a church, but he says he has learned to appreciate church people more than he did before the storm. I appreciate his honesty.

I regret that at some point in the beginning of our recovery that it did not dawn on me that we should try to keep a record of the groups that came in to help us. There is no record, other than that which Our Father has recorded. All I know is that thousands of people have come our way. And they are still coming, though not as steadily. We currently have groups scheduled through next July. At this point, though, we are waiting for the Governor’s Fund to deliver the checks so that people will have the money to buy their own building supplies. We no longer can provide these supplies as we have been doing for the past year. There is plenty of work to do, though. Skilled workers are needed more than anything else.

The blog community has been a big part of the volunteer force. So many of you have sent contributions, visited the Coast to help work, brought other people with you, communicated with your leaders what needs we have down this way and offered many prayers. I’m indebted to you.

Where do we go from here? That’s a question that we have asked ourselves a thousand times over the past 14 months. The situation here is so fluid and it evolves so rapidly that we may be looking at an entirely new set of circumstances each day. I’ll speak for myself, and what I see Central doing ‘from here’. Tomorrow.

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Tim Spivey’s Letter To Ted Haggard.

Phil Sanders is thinking maybe he’s been a bit too stiff on his blog. Maybe he reconsidered. This post has disappeared from his blog. C’mon Phil!

Norman Bales contemplates years of sharing communion.

Bobby Cohoon reflects on the voting booth. And so does Al Sturgeon.

Ray Fleming shares Grace in the Streets of the City.

Bobby Valentine gives a suggested Christmas list of Christian reading.

 

 Gary Kirkendall reflects on the election results.

John Alan Turner’s take on Ted Haggard.

Jeff Jenkins Indicts American Evangelical Spirituality! (Why was Ted Haggard so exalted to begin with?)

Ryan Porche is Gettin’ Hitched! Congratulations! Although we’ve never met… 

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Congratulations to CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Carrie Underwood, who often has spiritual themes in her music.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6Ks6D3gQw8]

Prayer

Print Available HERE.

I was thinking about some of the prayers from the past year that remain strong in my memory.

I remember the first Sunday after the storm at the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola. All those who were refugees from the hurricane were asked to come to the front and the elders gathered around us and prayed for us.

I remember Tim Gunnells calling me on the phone to encourage me. He shared with me the efforts he was making to get funding, volunteers, and supplies to Pascagoula.  And he prayed for me.

I remember Roger Mills calling me from Biloxi to talk about the aftermath of the hurricane. He shared with me some of his experience with Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida. We both cried together over the phone as he confessed that he could not go through this again … he was moving to North Alabama. In our tears, he prayed with me over the phone.

I remember sometime late last year sitting in the church office completely exhausted and not even knowing what to do with myself. A spiritual life minister from Otter Creek Church of Christ came in and spoke to me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed a prayer of strength and encouragement.

I remember standing at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma last March. Marvin Phillips on one side, Terry Rush on the other, as these brothers I have held in such high esteem for so many years prayed for me.

I remember several of us standing as a group in front of the Whites Ferry Road Church of Christ during a weekend retreat provided by that church for hurricane relief workers. The elders surrounded us with their prayers, laying hands on us as they offered up their petitions on our behalf.

I remember getting an e-mail from my friend Bobby, who told me that every morning at 9:00 he prayed for John Dobbs.

I remember an elder from Conway, Arkansas wanting to meet with me before they headed back home from a work trip. Bob said some very kind things to me, and then he spoke a sincere and powerful prayer.

I remember last Sunday night at a small group study in Georgia, with brothers and sisters gathered around Maggy and I … hands on our shoulders and backs as we sat in the circle, while they prayed over us.

I remember this morning in Tennessee as an elder I have never met before placed his arm around me and prayed for the Christians in Pascagoula as they worked hard to help people recover…and prayed for my family.

That’s not all. There are others. Over the course of these past several months people have prayed for me, for my family, for the ministry here, for those who were trying to survive the challenges before us, for our health, for our spirits, for the gospel to reach many, for … so many things. So many prayers … so many people … so many memories. I have prayed with people over the phone, most often with strangers. I have prayed with people in our foyer … once even for a lady who asked me to command a demon to leave her in the name of Jesus. Our elders have prayed together, as well as many in our church. Untold prayers have gone up for those suffering along the Gulf Coast. And God has heard every one of them.

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Jim Martin Reflects On The Consequences of Sexual Sin.

More Ted Haggard Discussion on Mike’s Blog.

Pete Grant Opens Sacred Ink … A Christian Tattoo Parlor Outreach.

Bob contemplates the virtue of pumpkin pie. Whenever I think about pumpkin pie I think about the three years I spent in braces. I loved pecan pie more, but was unable to eat it. So, my mother made pumpkin pie also … and I loved it. It is a symbol of grace to me.