Monday, June 30, 2008

Living Between the Steps

Last week I came across a story that I used yesterday in my sermon.  I have not been able to get it off my mind since I read it.   

   A college professor told of being invited to speak at a military base one December. On arriving, he met an unforgettable soldier named Ralph. Ralph had been sent to meet him at the airport. After they introduced themselves, they headed toward baggage claim.
   As they walked the concourse, Ralph kept momentarily disappearing. Once it was to help an older woman whose suitcase had opened up. Once it was to lift two toddlers up to where they could see Santa. Another time it was to give directions to someone who was lost.
Each time, he would return with a big smile on his face. “Where did you learn to live like that?” the professor asked.
   “During the war, I guess.” Then Ralph told the professor about his tour of duty in Vietnam. He described his job – clearing minefields. He said he had watched friends be blown up before his eyes – one after another.
   “I learned to live between the steps,” he said. “I never knew whether the next one would be my last, so I learned to get everything I could out of the moment between when I picked up my foot and when I put it down again. Every step I took was a whole new world. And I guess I’ve just been that way ever since.”

I want to be a person who lives between the steps.  I am adding this to my list I made earlier in the year that included "taking every thought captive."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Crunch Day

Friday is the day of the week that I have a love-hate relationship with.  Early in my preaching career, I would do my prep work for my Sunday morning sermon on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Now I do most of my study on Thursday and then organize my thoughts and notes on Friday.  I have just found that it is fresher for me on Sunday by doing it this way.

There are weeks that I can't wait to come to the office because my mind is full of things I want to say.  Those weeks, the text seems to just jump off the page shouting its message.  But there are other weeks in which I have read the text, chewed on it, read what others have said, heard what others have preached, read the text again.  And I come in Friday morning going, "What am I going to say to the church Sunday?"

But here is the love part.  God is always faithful.  And it amazes me that often times those weeks in which I struggle with what to say are the very weeks that, after I preach, people will say, "That is exactly what I needed to hear today.  You spoke right to me."

So here I am this morning.  It's one of those weeks.

I LOVE this job (if it is right to call what I do a job).  Thank You, Father.        

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Yesterday, Jonathan

Last night Jonathan spoke here at the Decatur church, and did an incredible job.  I am so proud of him and his family.  We have had Jennifer, Jed and Jocelyn with us since Saturday.  And it has been a treat.

Yesterday was my youngest child's (see Jonathan, above) 25th birthday!  I know, it seems cliche-ish -- but my, how time has flown!  He was the only one of our three that I actually got to be in the delivery room (actually, the operating room) during the birth.  (My, have things changed in that regard.)  I was the 1st to hold him after he was delivered.  I will never forget that moment. 
I came across this quote and can't get it off my mind.  It really changes my perspective.
"Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory."  

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reframing My Blog Mission Statement

I decided last week to stop blogging because I had concluded that somehow I was not being effective, since blogging is intended to solicit responses.  That may be so.  I have been writing a blog for nearly four years, and have been ineffective in getting a dialog going.  So I felt like I must be doing something wrong.

But I have discovered that I miss it.  I miss putting down thoughts each day that mean something to me at that time.  I guess more like a personal diary that people are able to peek in on.  So I am going to try to redefine what I am doing and not be concerned about if I get any responses or not.  This is my online diary -- it's therapeutic for me.   

I quote from A. W. Tozer a lot.  He was a basically uneducated preacher (in the sense of formal education) from the mid to 3rd quarter of the 20th century.  Sometimes he comes across as a bit grumpy, but his insights into many things are as fresh today as they were when he wrote them.  Here is one for today:  

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.
--Psalm 96:8-9

We of the nonliturgical churches tend to look with some disdain upon those churches that follow a carefully prescribed form of service, and certainly there must be a good deal in such services that has little or no meaning for the average participant--this not because it is carefully prescribed but because the average participant is what he is. But I have observed that our familiar impromptu service, planned by the leader twenty minutes before, often tends to follow a ragged and tired order almost as standardized as the Mass. The liturgical service is at least beautiful; ours is often ugly. Theirs has been carefully worked out through the centuries to capture as much of beauty as possible and to preserve a spirit of reverence among the worshipers. Ours is often an off-the-cuff makeshift with nothing to recommend it. Its so-called liberty is often not liberty at all but sheer slovenliness...mostly there is neither order nor Spirit, just a routine prayer that is, except for minor variations, the same week after week, and a few songs that were never much to start with and have long ago lost all significance by meaningless repetition.

In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear. God Tells the Man Who Cares, 4-5.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tiger and I are Taking Leave

The heroics of Tiger Woods' U. S. Open victory continue to grow.  Anyone who thinks he was grimacing for the theatrics of it (I must admit, early on I was wondering myself) should apologize for thinking that now.  I mean really!  He played 91 holes with a double stress fracture in his left tibia?  AND WON!

So Tiger is gone for 8 months to a year.  My guess is that Tim Finchen (commissioner of the PGA) is pretty depressed today.  Take Tiger Woods away from golf and what do you have?  Can Phil Mickelson carry it?

I want to thank those who have read my blog for several years.  However, I have decided to take a leave from it for a while and consider if it is something that is worth taking time every day to do.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Battle

The media was falling all over itself yesterday as it reported on California's 1st day of homosexual "marriage."  Every news source I turned to was all over the story.

Calling this "marriage" does not make it marriage any more than calling me Tiger Woods makes me so.  Words have meanings, and the meaning of marriage goes back to Genesis 2: 24:  "For this reason a MAN shall leave his father and mother and be united to his WIFE, and the two will become one flesh."  

However, there is good that comes out of anything -- if we just look for it.  I hate the sin of homosexuality.  I also hate the sin of marital unfaithfulness, and the sin of cohabitation.  I hate the sin of greed.  I hate the sin of materialism (ouch.  Now it's getting personal).  I confess:  I used to have trouble separating hatred for sin from hatred for the person.  I am not saying I am over that now.  But I did find myself praying this morning for God to allow homosexuals to see past the hatred of "Christians" -- and find healing for their wounds in Jesus.  So one positive is that God is breaking down my hard heart.

I see a paradox at work here.  We Christians believe homosexuality to be an abomination.  After all, that is what God called it.  Yet because of our poor history in being so slow to fight against racism, we have supplied homosexuals with their greatest political tool.  They are claiming to be fighting for their "civil rights."  And they are saying that the church opposes them today just as it opposed Blacks -- denying them their rights years ago.  So here we sit with egg on our faces.  

Sure, it isn't the same argument.  Scripture would be adamantly opposed to racism -- even though many adherents were not.  The same argument cannot be made about homosexuality.  In fact, Scripture uses some of its strongest language in opposition of this sin.

Let us pray that God can break through to the heart of the homosexual.  And I want to pray that I will be Jesus to him or her -- the Jesus of John 4 and John 8.  Boy, do I have to battle my flesh on this one.       

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Get Well Soon, Tiger

Somehow Tiger managed to pull it out again.  I think half the trophy should be given to Rocco.  What a bulldog!  And what a nice guy.

Tiger has said he will be away from golf indefinitely because of his knee.  What in the world does that mean?  I would hate to see him not play in the British Open next month, or the PGA in August.  And certainly, he has to play in the Ryder Cup in September.

Yesterday my son, Josh, left a reply saying "Props to Romo."  I am assuming either he meant "Rocco" or he is referring to the challenge that Tiger issued last year after the U. S. Open at Oakmont.  He said that a 10 handicapper could not break 100 on a U. S. Open course.  So, Golf Digest got together a foursome -- Tony Romo (scratch golfer -- 10 better than Tiger's comment), Matt Lauer (8 handicapper), Justin Timberlake (6 handicapper) and one guy who was chosen from thousands across the country (12 handicapper).

The media has acted like Tiger was proven wrong.  Romo shot 84 -- 13 stroked higher than his average score.  Lauer -- remember, an 8 handicap -- shot 100.  Timberlake, a 6 handicap, shot 98.  The other guy shot over 110.  Sounds to me like Tiger's assessment was right on.  It also reminds me of just how much better those pros are than I -- a 5 handicapper.

I get my car back today!  It has been in the body shop after a fender bender a month ago.  I have been driving a loaner pickup.  Whew!  You can watch the gas gauge move just by starting it.    

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tiger vs. Rocco

WOW!  What a U.S. Open!  Tiger has hit enough incredible shots to fill a career highlight reel.  But he has also looked like me at moments.  And who could root against Rocco?  What a delightful guy!

Today I will be glued to my TV for the playoff.  I want to see Tiger win because I am caught up in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' majors record.  But I won't be disappointed if Rocco wins, either.  In the famous words of Bill Murray, "It's a Cinderella story."

More from Yancey's Disappointment with God:  

Faith, the forgiveness of sins, the power of the Evil One -- these were the concerns that drove Jesus to his Father in prayer each day.  Such an emphasis confused the crowds, who primarily sought solutions to their problems in the physical world:  poverty, illness, political oppression.  In the end, Jesus failed to measure up to their expectations of a king.  (Has anything changed?  I know of many ministries that emphasize physical healing and prosperity, but few that direct their focus to such persistent human problems as pride, hypocrisy, and legalism --the problems that so troubled Jesus.)      

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lessons from a Doe, a Deer

Yesterday morning, Jonathan and I played golf in Houston.  We had a great time together. When we reached the 18th tee, we looked up to see a deer running across the fairway.  Mind you, this is not out in the country!  It's in Spring, Texas -- pretty much surrounded by houses!  I felt sorry for the deer.  She crossed the fairway, looked around, and ran back.  You could sense the panic in her.  Then she repeated the process again.  Finally, she found a little bit of undergrowth and disappeared.

I have thought about that several times since.  The feeling of helplessness -- being in a place you don't belong and looking for a place of safety.  I feel like that at times, too.  But I realize that while I long to be home with the Father, I have been placed here not to run around in fear and confusion -- but to bring the Kingdom of God into a fearful and confused world.

Tiger survived yesterday.  Only 4 back.  Phil's only three back.  Just about where they want to be.  I am still wondering if Tiger's knee is going to hold up.

How about the Celtics last night?  I know that many of you are not for that Eastern division team.  But as I said in an earlier blog, I can't stand the Lakers:  Guru Phil Jackson, Kobe (keep the women inside) Bryant, Jack Nicholson and the whole Hollywood ("We are actors, so that makes us experts on every subject") scene.  So I would consider being for the Iranian team if they were playing the Lakers.

Here's hoping the Celtics wrap it up in 5.  What a turnaround! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer Plans

Today Beverly and I are headed to Houston where I will speak tonight at the Bammel Road Church of Christ.  My son Jonathan is one of the ministers there.  Tomorrow he and I plan to play golf before we return home tomorrow night.  It's a tough assignment -- having to go get some sugars from two of my grandkids, so pray for me:) 

Right now my mind is thinking ahead to upcoming events.  As I get older, I try not to do that as much as I used to -- wishing away time because of something I would be looking forward to.  But Beverly and I are going to a marriage conference in three weeks -- in San Francisco.  I will attend a few sessions, but she will be in sessions all day.  I am really going on a week's vacation / sabbatical.  I plan to do a lot of reading, sightseeing and refocusing.

Then a few weeks later, we are headed to Alaska for a cruise.  I have been getting packets from the cruise line, and it makes me all the more excited.  Many of the excursions look so interesting -- but I would need to get a 2nd mortgage to do them.  But I would really love to go on an Orca watch.  I may splurge for that one.

Lord, help me not to waste one day, but stay in the present -- even as I get excited about the future.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Playing God

The Cowboys have been a little unsure of themselves at running back.  So, I bet Jerry Jones is licking his chops this morning with the news that Cedric ("I know some people think drinking and driving is wrong; but I haven't broken any laws") Benson has been cut by the Bears.  He would fit in perfectly with Jones' collection of characters.

Here's more from "Disappointment with God":  

From Time, July 23, 1984:  "It was an unholy coincidence that many took to be divine retribution.  Two weeks ago, canon David Jenkins, 59, who had publicly asserted that neither the Virgin birth nor the Resurrection need be taken too literally, was formally consecrated as Bishop of Durham . . . Less than three days later, in the early hours of the morning, lightning forked down on the wooden roof of the minster's 13th century south transept . . . Jenkins' detractors lost no time in claiming that their views had been vindicated . . ."

Yancey then observes:  "The problem with the York Minster lightning bolt, of course, is that it stands as such an exception.  So fire from the heavens hits a famous church -- what about all the Unitarian churches that brashly deny orthodox Christian doctrines, not to mention the Muslim mosques and Hindu temples?  Why should David Jenkins provoke divine wrath when the outright blasphemer Bertrand Russell lived unpunished into cranky old age?  If God consistently sent lightning bolts in response to bad doctrine, our planet would sparkle nightly like a Christmas tree." 

I have thought the same thing when people want to say that God punished New Orleans with Katrina and Muslims with the tsunami.  So what was the punishment against the Decatur Church of Christ building for when it was destroyed by a tornado in October 2001?  We sure need to be careful when we start pretending to play God. 

Monday, June 09, 2008

Finding God

It's US Open week!  Yeah, buddy.  I wonder if Tiger will be ready?  I would love to see it come down to him and Phil on Sunday afternoon.

I heard something interesting on GMA this morning.  Did you know that since Gerald Ford, every president except one has been left handed?  That's right.  Carter, Reagan, Bush, Sr., Clinton.  And the two candidates for this year?  Both left handed.  What's with that?

I am trying to become more of a reader.  My son Josh reads a book a week it seems.  I absolutely love to read, so this should come easily.

I have begun a book that I have wanted to read for years.  I love Philip Yancey.  He just seems to put on paper the thoughts that I am struggling with.  I've read nearly everything of his except perhaps his best-seller, Disappointment with God.  So far, it is one of the best books I have ever read.  I will keep it close for re-reading.

In the 1st chapter, "God Within the Shadows," he begins with this quote from Annie Dillard.  I have been chewing on it since I read it Friday night:

"You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required.  The stars neither require it nor demand it."

Wow!  That is SO true of God.  Think about it.   

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Introducing Jocelyn Brooke Ross

Here I am holding Jocelyn only hours after she was born. She just looked perfect!
I don't know if you can see it or not, but Jonathan and Jed both have toothpicks in their mouths. Jed likes to do whatever his daddy does. Jonathan, you better watch out!

Isn't she precious?! I love holding my babies.

Jocelyn Makes Four (Grandkids)

We got home last night. What a few days it has been! On Monday, Jennifer went into labor at about 6 AM. By 11:30, she went to a Birthing Clinic. At about 1 PM, Jocelyn Brooke was born -- 7lb14oz and 20 3/4 inches. She was born in water! It is a new technique for the US, but I can't argue with the results. She did not look like a normal newborn. Rather, she looked more like how a baby looks after several days.

Anyway, by 4 PM -- Jennifer and Jocelyn were home! You read it right. They were home with a 3 hour old baby. We got there about 6, and what a joyous time it was! Everyone is doing great. Jed isn't quite sure about the new person who is receiving so much of HIS attention. But he will do fine.

What is with the wind this year? I do not remember a year that it has been this windy. Today it's supposed to be blowing 35-40. I'm thinking about getting a windmill generator.

Monday, June 02, 2008


This morning we saw our son Josh and his wife Kayci and our grandson Truitt off to their new home in Memphis, Tennessee. Josh will be the preaching minister for the Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis. I know they have a long day ahead of them, and pray that everything goes well. Truitt isn't crazy about his car seat. I can only imagine! Being strapped in like that could be claustrophobic!

As we were helping them pack and get off, we received a call from my other son Jonathan. His wife Jennifer has gone into labor. So we will probably be leaving early afternoon to go meet our granddaughter Jocelyn.

Lots of changes going on in our family these days!