Slow Going

I’m trying not to make too big of a deal about this surgery… but still I think I have told everyone I know. This cast has certainly slowed me down. I’ve had several admonitions from the well-intentioned not to hurt my left hand by typing too much. I reckon that the news of carpal tunnel syndrome already existing in my left hand hasn’t made the rounds yet! Yes, I will need to do the other hand next! But I expect that to be easier.

 I should be able to unveil a neat new outreach here in Pascagoula on this blog soon. I have alerted a few of you already. I’m awaiting a confirmation before moving ahead.

 Here’s a discussion question for you:  If our “church buildings” reflected the heart and mission of Christ, what would they look like? (And we know that the term ‘church building’ is an oxymoron.)

Tomorrow night (Thursday) we have a camp board meeting. I believe Maggy will chauffer me there…early enough to eat at Chevron truck stop I’m sure. Come join us! Friday I have two doctor’s appointments. One, a vascular specialist to look at my leg. Then to the surgeon for a post-op visit.

I was going to read some of my favorite blogs tonight, but blogger was down. Lesson learned, folks! It’s hard to leave links right now, so those will return along with the use of my right hand. I will leave you, though, with a traditional but powerful song by the Gaither Vocal Band. Guy Penrod is an awesome vocalist…and, yes, I’m jealous of his hair. 


Done Deal…Mostly

This is John’s son John Robert typing for daddy-o while his hand is in disarray. He wishes for me to inform you all that the surgery is over and everything went as well as it could. I suppose he will use me for his typing now so that one day I can suffer the same illness as he. Dad will now be off to take pain medication and sleep as much as possible while milking his situation.

The Cut & Chris Tomlin

This coming Monday I will have a carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand. That means that it will not be very easy to compose on a keyboard. That is, after all, what brought me to this situation in the first place. It’s your fault. If you wouldn’t read, I wouldn’t write, and I wouldn’t be going numb every time I sit down! Nah, I know where the fault lies. I would ask you to keep me in your prayers, and also my family – who will no doubt be taking care of me for the next week or so while I have the loss of that hand. This is the first year I have ever met my health insurance deductable. Between my leg and my hands I managed to get beyond the deductable and into the area where the insurance company actually has to pay something. I’m sure they’ll get it back. Now I could wax elephant about losing the use of this important limb and all of the spiritual allegories that could be explored in that. Actually, all I am really thinking about is losing the use of my hand. I’ll think about some lessons learned after I learn them! Most of today I have been conscious of the things I’m doing that I will not be able to do for some days next week. David Kilbern worked me hard this afternoon, trying to eek out the last bit of help he could get from me for the week.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m a huge Chris Tomlin fan. Chris has a special gift with both lyrics and music that lift up God’s glory and move one to bring out expressions of praise and worship. Chris Tomlin’s blog is located HERE and his website is located HERE. One thing I appreciate about Chris is that his music is filled with catchy melodies that capture your spirit and make you want to sing along. At the same time he has some awesome rock riffs that give him a gritty sound that has me reaching for the volume button. The Christian music industry certainly takes notice of Chris Tomlin’s work. Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year (for “How Great Is Our God“) and that’s not the complete list. A read through his song list is a roll-call of contemporary praise and worship’s greatest hits.

Chris Tomlin’s latest release is See The Morning, debuts at number 15 on the Billboard charts and it is not disappointing in the least. Appropriately the first song is titled How Can I Keep From Singing? The first chorus on the new CD reaches down into the Christian’s heart and moves us to sing out loud with him:

How can I keep from singing your praise? How can I ever say enough? How amazing is your love? How can I keep from shouting your name? I know I am loved by the King and it makes my heart want to sing.

I can hear this being led at every youth event and many contemporary churches as soon as they can learn it! Made to Worship, the next song, keeps the uptempo beat going all the while affirming that “He has filled our hearts with wonder so that we always remember … You and I were made to worship.” A rocking guitar accompanies the listener through the no-fear-anthem Let God Arise, encouraging us that “His enemies will run for sure, And the church will Stand, she will endure.”

The mood shifts a bit at the next entry, Everlasting God, but the theme remains the same: trust in God who never grows weary of defending and lifting us the weak. A simple but poignant piano begins Glory in the Highest before it ascends into a hand-lifting crescendo of praise. As if this affirmation of God’s power and sovereignty gave him a new sense of confidence, Chris rocks into Awesome Is The Lord Most High, shouting “Raise your hands, all you nations. Shout to God all creation. How Awesome is the Lord Most High.”

Glorious, over us, You shall regin glorious” continues the praises of God’s place in our lives. A simple but beautiful acoustic guitar introduces the song of thanks, Uncreated One. Chris’ voice betrays his genuine love for Christ as he sings, “From heaven to earth come down, you laid aside your royalty, to wear the sinner’s crown.”

After a few contemplative songs, the next song moves us to Rejoice as we “see the mercy in the mighy hand of God“, joining even the angel voices that rejoice before God’s throne. Gratitude for God’s mercy drives Let Your Mercy Rain, because “You reached down and lifted us up, You came running, looking for us, and now there’s nothing and no one beyond your love.”

How does one end a CD that overflows with both big rock rythems and gentle introspective ballads? Amazing Grace seems appropriate. Tomlin, however, carries the message of the song further by adding his own composition onto the song when he sings, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace.”

After spending time with Chris Tomlin’s See The Morning CD, I was strengthend in faith as I contemplated the rule of God in my life, my need to trust Him more, and the wonderful mercy of God.  Head on over to his website and if you like that style of music, I recommend that you purchase his CD and spend some time letting those themes wash over your heart.

So what does Chris Tomlin have to do with my surgery? Nothing, really. But if I were being clever I would say that the themes of this CD will give me comfort as I go under the knife. No matter what happens, God is reigning, and I pray that his mercy will rain in all of our lives.

Have a great Sunday.

Seen A Scary Movie Lately?

 From the beginning of tinseltown history, one of the goals of one particular genre of movie was to scare viewers enough to make them jump out of their seats! There have been more attempts than can be counted, and most of them failed. It is the ones that succeeded that we remember. And since we are close to Halloween, I thought I would ask you …. what in your opinion are the top five scary movies of all time?

There are many elements that go into a scary movie. The dark theater. The expectation that something scary is going to happen…we just do not know when. People who do dumb things when confronted with dangerous situations. (“Hey, let’s lock ourselves in the closet until help comes!” or “I know what to do … let’s stop and ask that man with a giant hook for directions.”) Of supreme importance is the soundtrack. Scary movie music makes so many scenes memorable. The Ja-Ja-Ja-Son-Son-Son whispered in Friday the 13th, the relenteless nerve-jangling piano riff of Halloween, or the horrifying terse chords of the shower scene in Psycho. More than all of that, though, is the sense of impending danger for the people in the movie, and by extension, for you.

The older I get, the less I can watch anything with much gore in it. I don’t know if that’s just me or what. These days I’d rather see a good comedy or a mystery. I see so many terrible things in the news that these things seem more real to me than they did when I was a teenager. Of course the special effects have increased the realism of these movies quite a bit since I was a teenager. A really bad disease among scary movies is the endless remaking of the same story in part 1, part 2, part 3, and so on! Never as good as the originals, the sequals are almost always a let down. But there are different kinds of scary movies. I prefer the gothic otherworld type of scary movie to the hack-em-up-hang-em-up kinds. Some movies do a good job of combining the two. I guess different things give people goosebumps, so my list might not be like yours, but I’m interested in reading yours. Here are the top five movies that were scary enough to remember. There are many others, but I think these deserve the nod for Big Poppa’s top scary movie picks, in no particular order.

Halloween. The original (and what should have been the only one!) had me sitting on my feet and yelling for Jamie Lee Curtis to run a little faster please! Halloween II was almost as good, but the formula was wearing thin. I think I stopped watching after #III, which was awful. Donald Pleasance was awesome as the unstoppable Dr. Loomis, the psychaitrist who had been Michael Myers’ doctor before he escaped. Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis sets the tone for the movie by being vulnerable, pretty, scared, alone, and a target.

The Others. It’s got everything … a big practically empty mansion, fog, unusual events that go unexplained, ghosts, creepy people in trusted positions, a romance…. just a great classic gothic tale that surprises you at the end with something you had considered, but dismissed. Nicole Kidman’s performance is flawless. This is a good one for young people who like spooky tales … no cursing, no nudity, no gore … all the things that film producers today think we have to endure to have a good movie. Not so!

A Nightmare on Elm Street. Go ahead, rent it. Turn the lights out. Get under a blanket and watch this creepfest which introduces Freddie Krugger to the horror movie world. Like many franchises, this one has been overused, overworked, and overthrown into the garbage bin. However, the first one was quite scary. We’ve all had nightmares. What if they started coming true? That was the basis of Wes Craven’s films that would invite the audience into that world where things happen that make us scream.

Poltergiest. Hey, ghosts are scary, and this movie is packed with them. Mean ones, too. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are perfect as the parents left with no idea how to retrieve their daughter from the television set….or from the other world that’s being picked up by the television set. Steven Spielberg’s story has you on the edge of your seat for most of the ride. Line from the movie that sometimes makes it into my everyday conversation: “Go to the light, Carol Anne“.

The Sixth Sense. I’ll never forget that feeling when the ring hit the floor. We already knew about Bruce Willis, but two big introductions were made with this movie. M. Night Shyamalan has now floored us with several outstanding movies that each had their surprising moments (The Village, Signs, Unbreakable, etc.), but he never pulled back the curtain quite like he did in The Sixth Sense. The other introduction was Haley Joel Osment, who was outstanding in the movie but never has really found a niche since. New sentence introduced into the American vocabulary: “I see dead people.” I saw a shirt even today that said, “I see dumb people”.

It was hard to pick. There are so many others like Psycho, The Ring, and even an oldie that creeped me out called “The House That Wouldn’t Die” with Barbara Stanwyck. Well, anyway, let’s hear yours! And remember… scary moments are all a matter of perspective.  



Before we go, let me update you on how things went at Central today. Groups from North Carolina and Oklahoma worked around the church building painting and putting up sheetrock on the ceiling in the foyer and hallways. Pictures are up on my picture page. Both of those groups will leave Sunday. They are doing an outstanding job!  

Thanks for all the comments on the last post. Hope you have a great weekend!

Before You Criticize…

Great Smokey Mountains, October 2006. Picture by Cecil May, 3.

We have two groups of college students here at the moment. On a second visit is Randy Gore and five energetic students from North Carolina State. They arrived this afternoon. Last time he was here was back in May, so things have changed quite a bit. Also here is Charles Schaffer and a good group of students from Tallequah, Oklahoma. They drove all night last night to be here first thing in the morning. Today the students worked in the yard of an elderly woman in very poor health, helping put up a chain link fence around her yard. This is important for her because of her dog that she has a hard time managing without a fence. There is no way this lady could chase her dog if it escaped. Pet owners will testify that these little creatures become important family members….especially for the elderly who live alone and depend on their company. Another part of the crew worked at the church building, tearing down ceiling tiles down both halls and in the foyer. Tomorrow we hope to begin placing sheetrock in their place. Painting continues as we await carpet samples and chair fabric samples.

Among the blessings I enjoyed today was a lunch with Al Sturgeon and Roy Stephenson. Roy is an old friend that I first met when I was a student at Magnolia Bible College. He was preaching in Eupora, Mississippi. His father in law, Wyatt Kirk, was a tract writer and preacher. Roy loaded up a couple of us students with lots of tracts and materials to use. We spent time together at Sardis Lake Christian Camp where I remember once that Roy wrote something like 15 verses to the tune of “Seek Ye First”. He and his wife DJ are both good singers. I was reacquainted with Roy as he was the minister for both the Orange Grove and Ocean Springs churches of Christ on the Coast during the time I have been at Central. Roy is compassionate, kind, and a genuine Christian who does not put on airs. And he is over 7 feet tall! It was a good visit. I neglected to get a picture, if you can believe it! Oh, and it was good to see Al as well….but that is always the case.

Loving the critical and hurtful brother or sister in your church is one of your biggest challenges. An equal challenge is not becoming one of them in response. In fact, a handful of critics (and there are usually only a few) can occupy your mind. Answering them indirectly can consume your time and turn your spirit bitter. Critics want something. However, they do not accomplish what they really want because they make some big mistakes. So, they keep on croaking out their criticisms, see nothing happen because of it, feel overlooked, and then croak some more. So, I have some suggestions for critics that will help them with some skills they missed in the school of life along the way somewhere. Before you criticize

*Remember That Your Point of View Is Not The Only One. You may be right in your perceptions, but maybe not. Spend some time thinking about the point of view of the person you are criticizing. They are likely not evil people, but they have taken a viewpoint that is different than yours for a reason. That doesn’t automatically mean that they are wrong. If we can at least admit this possibility, then we are curbing our critical spirit already! You do not have to agree with them, but understanding the other person is a real asset toward resolution.

*Have A Friendly Chat With The Person. Perhaps you need to walk a mile in their shoes. You won’t be able to do that until you spend some time with them and get to know them better. Be nice, but feel free to be bold and ask. Open up the discussion at a time when you can both have time to express yourselves and be able to talk things through. There is nothing wrong with DISCUSSION. Talk things out! Be passionate about it, but not mean-spirited. Too often critics just assume they know what the person would say, and thus rob the person of a chance to give an explanation.

*Decide How Important This Issue Really Is. Sometimes people get all in a tear about something ‘down at church’ when the things that they are upset about are things not even found in the Bible. Traditions are not bad in themselves, but they become bad when they divide people from one another. Is this just a preference? Then express it and let it go. We all have preferences, and yours is no more important than anyone else’s. I’ve seen sad cases when people have taken traditions and preferences and attached Bible verses to them in a weak attempt to try to make everyone else conform to their wishes. Let’s hope everyone reading this blog has grown up beyond that kind of childish behavior.

*Ask Yourself If You Have Paid Attention To The Problems In Your Own Life. So many critics I have met seem to be oblivious to the gigantic problems in their own life. Especially those critics who focus on doctrine / theology. Not always, but usually the big struggles in their own life suggest that maybe they need to put the teachings of Jesus into PRACTICE before trying to TELL someone else what they ought to do. Why don’t you become a friend to the person you criticize so harshly, and ask them to pray with you about your own dilemmas. Grace is a great leveler of the playing field of life. In other words, are things so righteous in your own life that you have time to tend to someone else’s problems? Have you been busy winning someone to the Lord? Why not?

*Do You Love The Person You Are Criticizing? Be careful! If this were your son or daughter, would you be a bit more lenient with them? Would you give them a little more time to come around if they were your mother or father? If they were your wife or husband, would you take a long-term view of resolving the conflict and work toward small positive steps? It’s easy to pounce upon a stranger. Who cares if it makes them angry? But someone you love…well…that’s a different story. Love does not mean we withhold a bold conversation if one is needed. But it does change how we speak to someone else, and it does change our willingness to be apart from them.

*Explore What Others Are Saying. We may not realize that we’re the ones operating in the dark. Do some reading. Talk to some other people about subjects that trouble you. Realize that you are not the only one who thinks as you do, and neither is the person you are criticizing. That does not determine right and wrong, it only lets you know that there must be something to discuss on the matter and find out what those things are.

*Pursue Bible Study, Not Just Bible Re-reading. Ask questions as you read through the Scriptures about the subject that’s bothering you. Look at the ‘proof texts’ you would normally use to address this subject. Do they really say what you think they are saying? Are you reading ideas / thoughts / words into the text? Let the Scriptures lead you, not the other way around. And always let the Spirit lead you, which will be evident by His fruit on display in your heart and life.

*Pray Often. Pray for those whom you criticize. Pray for mercy. Pray to use ‘righteous judgment’ – there is such a thing. However we usually misuse that Bible thought and exchange it for something that is often a long way from ‘righteous’. We have the ‘judgment’ part down right! Pray for wisdom. Pray for opportunities to do something better than dissect someone else’s actions or thoughts.

*Love Always. I mentioned it a few times, but love always. Love is not easy. It is not a baby word or a namby pamby cotton candy fluff ball. It is a true reflection of discipleship. It will move you to treat those with whom you disagree with respect and dignity.

*Be Prepared To Experience Something Different. I believe that if you will approach things with these things in mind, you will find a different reception. Complainers will always complain. Everyone learns to ignore them. Step out of the crowd by becoming a loving brother or sister who is an active part of the church, who demonstrates genuine care. Your experience will be much different. Someone will actually listen. And you might get what you want for a change. But if not, you will have been heard, acknowledged, and respected.

 If I speak in the tonguesof men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.