Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm Retiring

My first blog was on Monday, September 13, 2004. Seven years of blogging! But like anything else in this life, times change. Blogs were really "in" seven years ago. Now people want shorter snippets of information. So Twitter and Facebook have moved blogs to the shelf.

Having said that, I am gratified to have people tell me that they follow my blog. At times, the ideas have flowed consistently. However, it seems that lately the ideas have come with much less frequency.

So after 7 years, I am closing up shop. I leave open the possibility of someday returning. After all, Brett Favre has done it several times.

Grace and peace to all. Keep your eyes fixed on THE Hope.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tough Love vs. Spanking

I saw this on a friend's Facebook entry and thought it was worth sharing:

Tough Love vs. Spanking

Most of America ‘s populace think it improper
to spank children, so I have tried other methods
to control my kids when they have one of ‘those moments.’

One that I found effective is for me to just take
the child for a car ride and talk.

Some say it’s the vibration from the car, others
say it’s the time away from any distractions such as TV, Video Games, Computer, IPod, etc.

Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together.

I’ve included a photo below of one of my sessions with
my son, in case you would like to use the technique.

Your Friend

Be sure to notice the speed on the radar in the background.

What were Pat Robertson and CC's Carpet Thinking?

Pat Robertson has determined that it is ok to divorce your spouse if he or she has Alzheimer's disease. He gave consent to the idea of a man beginning to date because his wife suffered from this illness. When questioned about the vows a couple makes, like "In sickness and in health" and "Til death do us part," he said that Alzheimer's IS a kind of death.

It seems to me that in a culture that is already looking for a loophole to commitments, Pat has just opened a huge one. Couldn't a person apply this same reasoning to many debilitating illnesses? The list could be unending.

Jesus said, "The two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one separate." One flesh! Does "one flesh" become "two flesh" because your spouse has Alzheimer's? Robertson's advice sounds very clinical. But it surely doesn't sound like love.

I have been seeing the ads for a few weeks as I watch the Rangers' games. CC's Carpet has been promoting that anyone who buys carpet or countertops in September will receive them free if Josh Hamilton hits a grand slam.

Guess what happened in last night's game. Yep.

The owner of CC's Carpet said the promotion has brought in $500,000 of business.

Yes, he had an insurance policy to cover this. So he made a handsome profit. Josh Hamilton probably isn't the insurance company's favorite Ranger.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9-11, Birthday Wishes, Wife's Wisdom

I was moved by the remembrances of 9-11 yesterday. Thinking back on that day still seems so surreal. That morning, a friend of mine had picked me up to go near Tyler for a golf outing with a dozen or so guys. As I got in his pickup, he told me that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. Immediately, I thought of pictures I have seen from back in the 30s when a plane flew into the Empire State Building. I just assumed it was a freak air accident.

By the time we arrived at the golf course, the 2nd plane had struck, and the 1st tower was collapsing. Everyone was watching the TV in the clubhouse -- eyes bugged out and mouths hanging open.

Little did we comprehend at that moment that life would never be the same for us.

I continue to pray that God will cover the victims' families with His peace. And I pray for the hearts of those who promote terror, that they might be drawn to the love of the Father.

Today is my oldest son's 31st birthday. I don't know how a father could be any more proud of his children than I am. I continue to be a student of his Christlike heart for the poor and the disenfranchised.

I also CAN'T WAIT to spend time with him and his family in a couple of weeks!

Happy Birthday, Josh!

My wife never ceases to amaze me. She is so immersed in the presence of God that she speaks with great words of wisdom and power. Last night she was working on a talk and she shared a thought with me. She said, "Death creates a spiritual earthquake. It leaves you sifting through the rubble to find faith." Wow! That certainly describes my grief journey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My New Toys

I did something last week that I wish I had done a long time ago.

Many of you know that I was once a drummer. While in college, I played in a band with Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks and Dunn). He was a really fun guy to hang out with, and we had a lot of good times. But it was during that time that I met Beverly, and we got married a year later. After our marriage, I was working 33 hours a week and taking a full load at school, so I sold my drums. That was 35 years ago.

I haven't really thought much through the years about returning to playing the drums. After all, they were SO loud -- not real complimentary to raising a family.

But recently, I have found myself thinking about how much I used to enjoy playing. And I figured, I am 32 -- and I'm not getting any younger (OK, so I lied a little about my age). I don't know why I haven't thought before about getting electric drums. You can play them with headphones on, and it isn't any louder than drumming on a book with pencils. But the sound on the headphones! WOW!

So I bought a set of electric drums last week. Lots of rust to be knocked off after 35 years (me, not the drums). But even in four days of playing, I can see improvement. I am loving it! It is very therapeutic. And guess what I have played to the most? Brooks and Dunn's best hits. Also enjoying the Eagles. And I had never been able to drum to any contemporary Christian music -- because it was just appearing 35 years ago with Amy Grant. So I have played some Steven Curtis Chapman. Will try Chris Tomlin and Michael W. Smith soon.

Who knows? In a few months, I may even try to find some hacks like me and put together a band.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confusing Song Lyrics

Sometimes I am struck by how many songs I used to sing as a teenager -- with lyrics that weren't even close to what was actually written. I occasionally look them up now on Google, and want to laugh. This was especially true of many Rolling Stones songs, as well as Elton John.

Well, I received a text from my son Jonathan the other day regarding a conversation he had with my grandson Jed. He asked him what his favorite song was, and Jed said, "The one that says, 'I got two eyes.'"

Jonathan was no doubt confused by that answer. So he asked some follow-up questions. Finally he figured it out. Jed was referring to the Chris Tomlin song, "Let God Arise."


Monday, August 22, 2011

Anniversary Celebration

I spent precious time over the last few days with my wife of 35 years. 35 years! She has put up with me that long! We went to some fun restaurants. On Friday, we went to a movie together -- The Help. It was an inspiring movie set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. I lived there then, and although my life was pretty much lived in a different culture -- so much came back to me. It is still hard for me to understand how cultures can become so brainwashed to issues like segregation -- even though I myself could have easily been caught up in it.

Last night after dining at Texas de Brazil (1st time, it was a blast!), we drove around and ended up at an old cemetery in Wise County. There is a grave there for a 16 year old girl who was killed by the Comanches in 1868 while going to check on her father's horses.

We found another family plot, and I just stood at it wanting to know the story. My mind could only imagine it. Two graves were for children who were born and died the same day. A third grave was for a 5 year old from the same family. And next to the 5-year old was his mother, who had died 6 days later. So I got caught up in imagining the story of this frontier family. A woman who loses two children on the same day they were born, and then loses her 5-year old. Did she and the 5-year old die of typhoid fever or something similar? Or did her child die, and then 6 days later she too died of a broken heart?

I think I will look into this.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gear Up III

Yesterday was our third year for "Gear Up." We had over 220 volunteers on our church campus meeting the needs of people of Wise County. From immunizations to hair cuts to free books to clothes to food (hot dogs here, and canned goods to take home) to school supplies to Bible stories, puppets and crafts -- we met the needs of about 450 children and their parents. God is so good to have blessed us with this opportunity.

No event in my experience demonstrates on such a large scale how it is truly a blessing to serve. Although our intention is to serve in the name of Jesus, from the feedback I receive our volunteers come away feeling most blessed.

May God be praised! And may we continue to be involved in the in-breaking of His Kingdom in Wise County!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tweeting with Celebs

OK, so last night my son Josh and his family sit down at the dinner table to pork chops. Truitt, my 4-year old grandson, said he didn't want to eat. Josh, who has just taught Truitt what an RBI is in baseball, said, 'Truitt, Josh Hamilton eats pork chops, and they help him get RBIs." With that, Truitt proceeded to eat heartily.

So, Josh tweeted about his mealtime victory. Here is what he said. "I hope Josh Hamilton likes pork chops. Truitt (4 yrs old) didn't want to eat. Told him JH likes them. He devoured them."

Now, catch this (especially if your name is Jeff Jones): Josh had a response to his tweet -- FROM MRS. JOSH HAMILTON! She wrote, "Actually he LOVES them! I make them for him ALL the time!!"

How cool is that?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Busyness -- a Virtue?

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Somewhere back, we Christians bought into the cultural lie that busyness is a godly virtue. We have been driven by sayings like, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" -- convincing us that we need to be busy all the time. It even seems that there is an informal competitiveness that exists to prove to others that "I am busier than you are."

I have come to view the recitations of the "busyholic" as boring. Do you know what I'm talking about? People who, whenever you are around them, have to give you a recitation of their dayplanners to prove how busy they are? It's as if they find validation as a human being in their busyness.

Now, I am well aware that Scripture warns against idleness and laziness. But I don't see where it exalts busyness. I actually believe Scripture would say that busyness is a sign of imbalance and lack of discipline. Martha was chided by Jesus for missing what Mary gained because Martha thought busyness was more important than sitting with Him.

As Christians, we would do well to reclaim the spiritual discipline of meditation. It is not some mystical practice owned only by Eastern religions. It is spoken of regularly in Scripture. I am amazed at how much better my perspective is when I face a day after sitting in silence in the morning and emptying my mind so that the Lord can fill it (I know, it doesn't take long for me to empty my mind). 5 minutes of this discipline has amazing benefits!

"Be still, and know that I am God." "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." "I will meditate on your wonders"

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Princess

Thirty-three years ago today, Beverly and I became mom and dad. "It's a girl" was music to my ears!

Today we will visit Baylor-Grapevine Hospital and leave gifts in memory of Jenny.

Following are the words to a Mercy Me song that SO expresses my heart today:

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times.
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you.

But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry

Is how long must I wait to be with you.

I close my eyes and I see your face
. If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place. 
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. 
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways. 
The reason why, I wonder if I'll ever know.
 But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same, 
Cause I'm still here so far away from home.

I close my eyes and I see your face. 
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place. 
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. 
I've never been more homesick than now.

In Christ, there are no goodbyes. 
And in Christ, there is no end. 
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have. 
To see you again
. To see you again.

And I close my eyes and I see your face
. If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place. 
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. 
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. 
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow.

I've never been more homesick than now.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hot Tamale!

The hottest summer on record was 1980. I remember it well, but not as well as Beverly. She was pregnant that summer with our 2nd child, Josh. We lived in a small, two-bedroom house in Abilene that had an evaporative cooler (swamp cooler). During the midst of the heatwave, it broke. Our car air conditioner broke, too. We were able to get the evaporative fixed pretty quickly, but could not afford to get the car air conditioner fixed.

This summer is on the way to breaking the records of 1980. But Beverly and I are in such a different place in life! We sleep in a comfortable 70 degrees every night -- and have TWO cars with working air conditioners.

I wonder if Al Gore is smugly smiling when he sees our weather forecasts?

I did go play golf yesterday in the 107 degree heat. I saw one other group at the course -- about 7 holes behind me. Loved it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Conscientious Objector?

I've been reading the second in a series of stories written by Elmer Kelton. It is about a young white man in post-Civil War Texas. As a child, he had been kidnapped by the Comanche Indians. During a hunting party mix-up he was left behind injured, and ended up being taken in by some white settlers. He was raised by them as their own.

Later, he joined the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team). In the story, his struggle with deciding what to do during fighting with renegade Comanches is described. Should he be a loyal Ranger? or a loyal Comanche? He concluded that since he had made the decision to become a Ranger, his loyalty was to his fellow Rangers.

Why do I say all of this? Because for the second time in the last couple years, we have the story of a Moslem American service man who CHOSE to join the Armed Forces. No one twisted his arm. He was not drafted. Then, after joining, he decided he is a conscientious objector. But his objection to fighting does not stop him from wanting to kill AMERICAN troops.

I am thankful that he was caught before he could fulfill his evil desires.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Oh, my ______!"

This morning I was thinking, "How would I feel if, when my kids faced a surprise or a frustration in their daily routines -- they said, "Oh, my Rick!" Would I feel honored? Or would I feel put-down?

What got me to thinking about this is that the expression, "Oh, my God!" has become totally acceptable in our culture. This morning, ABC was running a commercial about an upcoming reality show. You know, the kind where they show 2-second soundbytes. It seemed that in each soundbyte, the contestant would say, "Oh, my God!"

I challenge you to watch a sitcom and count how many times this expression is used.

Right after Jenny died, there were days in which it seemed that is all I could pray: "Oh, my God!" But it was not a phrase used as an expression instead of, "Wow!" or "Good grief!" It was all my pained heart could utter. I was SO seeking Him -- but had no words.

But to use that expression so cheaply in the course of everyday communication seems to me to violate the very heart of the 3rd commandment -- to NOT take the name of the Lord in vain.
To me, that means to hold God's name in reverence.

The Jews took the command so seriously that they would not even utter the name YHWH, and as a result we don't even know for sure to this day how to properly say the name God gave to Moses in Exodus 3.

That may have been an extreme approach, but at least it came out of reverence for God. Our culture has swung to another extreme -- an extreme with NO redeeming value. That is, that God's name has become a common oath. It suggests NO reverence for God.

I pray that light might break through powerfully into the darkness!

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143: 8)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Extend Some Grace

I know I am writing a lot lately about the Rangers, but I am enjoying this team. They have a great chemistry, and a lot of likable players.

So I write today about yesterday's game. C. J. Wilson pitched a complete game 2-hitter -- AND LOST! The only run was unearned, coming off of an error by Endy Chavez.

The media is pinning this loss on Chavez, and I am thinking how unfair that is. If he hadn't made the error, what would the score have been? 0-0. That is not a win. Who is to say that the Rangers would have won in extra innings?

No, when a team like the Rangers get a complete game 1-run outing, they ought to win every time. The blame for this game goes to the offense. In a 162-game season, you will have games like this, but any time THIS offense fails to score AT LEAST three runs -- they have had an off-night.

This is my humble, but expert, opinion. I am really sorry for C. J. But let Chavez off the hook here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Time for a New Streak

The longest winning streak in Major League Baseball came to an end last night when the Rangers lost to the Angels 9-8. This afternoon is time to begin another streak.

Verse of the day: "In quietness and trust is your strength" (Isaiah 30: 15)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Serving in the Heat

I spent some time this morning visiting with many of the young people from our church. This week they are involved in projects within our community: working with some of our non-profits, painting houses for elderly residents of Wise County -- as well as other projects. Being the hands and feet of Jesus. I am so proud of them!

Whew! It was already hot just walking from the office down to the church building this morning! We complain a lot about the heat and lack of rain -- and, yes, this year is above normal. But hey: Heat and lack of rain should be no surprise to anyone who chooses to live in this part of Texas. That is called late June, July, August to mid-September.

On a lighter note, Rupert Murdock and his empire is making National Enquirer look more legitimate!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hope and Peace

I love this from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling: "Do not worry about tomorrow! This is not a suggestion, but a command."

The last year and a half has moved me deeper spiritually in a number of ways. I will mention two of them.

The first is that I want to live each day -- trusting in the Lord for that day. Too much of my life has been lived with worried eyes toward the future. I now rebuke that kind of life.

The second is that I want to live a "no regret" life. I want there to be no loose ends in any of my relationships. If I need to forgive someone, I want to do that. If I have wronged someone, I want to make it right. No regrets. It is amazing how the result of that is peace.

Those are my two big words right now: Hope and peace. My ONLY hope is in Jesus. And HE is my peace.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jenny's Anniversary

Thirteen years ago yesterday, I gave my precious daughter away to a young man from Spring, Texas. He had impressed us with his love for her. And our family had already embraced him as our own. The wedding was lovely.

Last night, we gathered at our house to celebrate Jenny and David's anniversary. David requested that I fix hamburgers (one of my claims to fame and one of Jenny's favorites). We shared good memories, and celebrated David's coming into our family. David, we love you!

Jenny would have been proud.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chan Nails It!

I received a link to a portion of a sermon by Francis Chan that he delivered at Catalyst 2010 in Atlanta. Out of all of the well-known preachers and writers of our day, this guy speaks most to me. I tried to download the video to my blog but couldn't. So PLEASE: paste this link into your url.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Tragedy at the Ballpark

What a sad story coming out of Arlington last night. Josh Hamilton tossed a foul ball into the stands, and a fan reached out to grab it -- falling 20 feet. He ended up dying on the way to the hospital. His 8-year old son was standing right beside him.

I can't get his son off my mind. How does a person EVER get over such a traumatic thing? I pray that God will hold that boy in His arms and give him peace, as well as the man's wife and family.

Another man fell at the Ballpark nearly exactly a year ago. He survived. The irony is that both men were firefighters.

Knowing how fragile Josh Hamilton already is, I am also praying that he is able to work through this. The paper this morning said that he was devastated -- as I can only imagine. But it wasn't his fault that the accident happened. I know he has an incredible support group around him.

This is yet another reminder of how fragile life is. A healthy man is happily enjoying an evening with his son one minute. The next minute he is gone. No doubt, it never entered his mind as he headed into the Ballpark that he would never leave it.

Hug your kids and tell them you love them. Make relationships right. Live a "no regret" lifestyle.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

New Friends

As I continue to think back about our trip, one of the great serendipities (aside from the gelato) was that on the 2nd evening we sat next to a couple from California. After only a few minutes, we hit it off with them. From there on, every evening (except when they were on extended excursions) we looked forward to our time with them. We talked about EVERYTHING (from family to faith to politics to movies, etc) -- and on occasion even left dinner after over 2 hours to go somewhere else and visit more.

We toured Rhodes together -- and all fell in love with it. We even teased about how we could all move there. We figured it this way: She is a nurse, so she could work in the local hospital. He works from home anyway, so he could continue to do that and take care of the wash. Beverly could have a full case load in a matter of days. All I would need to do is find someone to support a mission work in Rhodes.

We walked Crete together -- eating gelato and gyros and checking out the local shops. It was marvelous and SO relaxing.

God really gave us an unanticipated blessing in Chip and Mitzi. Now I just wish that they lived closer!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What a Trip!

Beverly and I returned home late Tuesday night from our incredible trip. We are still feeling jet-lagged, and I am dealing with another issue as well. I was on some medication that has caused me to have the hiccups. I'm talking for up to 4-1/2 hours at a time! Whew! Hopefully it will be out of my system by Sunday, because once they start I can't carry on a conversation.

We were able to visit the cities of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. We saw the ruins of the great cities of Ephesus, Corinth and Pompeii. We toured the islands of Crete and Rhodes, and the beautiful coastline of Italy. We enjoyed quaint villages that I thought only existed in movies. It would be hard to pick out only the highlights of our trip. Probably gelato -- both Italian and Greek (they each claim to have invented it). It is awesome! Unlike any American ice cream.

Can't wait to share more about our trip in coming days. It will forever shape the way I see the Biblical text.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mavs in 6?

Can the Mavs do it? If they do, I am really hoping it is in Game 6 on Sunday night. If not, Game 7 will be played while we sleep in Rome.

Can we please lay aside these comparisons of Lebron James being as good as Michael Jordan? What an insult to Jordan!

And Dwyane Wade is a guy that, if he was on my team, I would like. But he has been known for his theatrics through the years. So I found it ironic that after Game 4, he said something to the affect of Dirk is a great player without the dramatics. Really? Playing with 102 temperature is hardly being dramatic. And Dirk NEVER used it as an excuse, nor did he draw any attention to it.

But last night, there's Wade acting like his leg is broken. The courtside announcer (do those people ever tell you anything insightful?) said Wade was questionable for the remainder of the game. That lasted for a couple of minutes.

Come on, Mavs! Let's do it in 6. PLEASE!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Catching Up on the News

I am trying real hard to live in the moment right now. Beverly and I are preparing for a trip that I am SO excited about. We will fly to Rome and spend a day or so. Then, we will board a cruise ship that will take us to Naples, Athens (and Corinth), Ephesus, Rhodes, Crete, Jaffa and Ashdod (both in Israel). It's going to be great!

What a cool gesture by the Rangers in drafting a guy who was paralyzed when he and a teammate collided in a game a couple of months ago. I am not going to say more because a friend of mine (Jeff) is going to be blogging about it. But what a classy move by the Rangers. And the Astros did something similar, I think.

Anyone who ever accuses Dirk of being soft again needs to be flogged. Torn ligament in his finger? 102 degree fever? No biggie. Climb on my back, boys.

Have you ever tried to function AT ALL with 102 temperature? I can't get out of my bed -- unless it's to move to my recliner.

Any discussions of greatest players in NBA history that does not include Dirk Nowitzki are craziness. Note: I didn't say "the greatest" -- but he has to be in the mix of top players.

Colin Cowherd, are you listening?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Hollywood's New Low

There is a new show ABC is promoting that they have entitled, "Good Christian B*tches." What in the world is happening?

Can you even in your wildest dreams imagine Hollywood naming a show, "Good Moslem B*tches"? Or "Good Jewish B*tches"? I know Christians are often viewed as hypocrites in our culture. This is probably because we are the majority faith -- and thus more visible. But I am a little tired of the bashing of Christians -- even by our own! Take Christians out of this world, and what would it be like? Who on this planet are most concerned about taking care of the hungry? providing pure water for third-world countries? building hospitals for the sick? And by the way, this is not something that originated with the "emergent" Christians movement.

Can we do a better job? Absolutely! But the constant bashing and condescension toward our own is self-defeating.

But I digress.

What should our response be to ABC's plans? Well, I imagine what they WANT to happen is a loud public outcry. Why? Because, as Jerry Jones has said, even bad publicity is good. It will stir interest and get people to watch.

So here is my proposal. Let's ask ourselves what Jesus would do. And Scripture even provides us an answer in 1 Peter 2: 21-23. I am summarizing: ". . . follow in his steps . . . When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

You might think, "But that won't work!" Really? Ask Gandhi. Or Martin Luther King, Jr. Or Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps the best way to handle this is for every Christian to simply not watch it. That alone would be enough for the show to bomb.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fun with the Grandkids

The last few days have been filled with activity, much like most of you have experienced in the month of May. We were blessed to have our Memphis family (Josh and his family) here for several days, and that was such a treat. Truitt and Noah are so much fun!

Yesterday Jonathan and his family were with us. Beverly and Jennifer were looking through a lot of Jonathan's stuff from when he was a kid, when they came across his pocket New Testament.

Later while Jonathan and I were playing golf, Beverly and Jennifer were in the back yard playing baseball with the kids. When it was Jocelyn's turn to bat, Jed told Beverly he was going to read his Bible (Jonathan's NT). Now, Jed is 4 years old -- nearly 5. He opened the Bible and acted as if he were reading it.

After a few moments, he put it down. He told Beverly that he had found the passage about baseball. She asked him what it said. He said, "It says, 'Be kind when you are playing baseball.'"

It must be buried somewhere in Revelation. It's been a while since I have read that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So Proud of My Granddaughter

Last night my precious granddaughter sang at a "Kids' Stand" event in Grapevine. This is a non-profit ministry that goes into schools to teach the kids moral lessons, and then invites them to an off-site event where they share Jesus with them. Jenny was very involved in the ministry.

The weather did not cooperate at all. We had to evacuate the auditorium twice. But when Malaya sang, it made EVERYTHING worth it. Jenny had a voice that would always give me goosebumps and would make me cry. Well, her daughter inherited her gift. When she finished, she got a standing ovation.

The song she sang is a popular song by Sidewalk Prophets. Malaya sang it as if it were advice her mom would have given her. Here are the words, with one word changed -- which I have highlighted:

Three in the morning and I'm still awake
So I picked up a pen and a page
And I started writing just what I'd say
If we were face to face
I'd tell you just what you mean to me
Tell you these simple truths

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You're gonna do great things
I already know
God's got His hand on you
So don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don't forget why you're here
Take your time and pray
These are the words SHE would say.

Last time we spoke you said you were hurting
And I felt your pain in my heart
I want to tell you that I keep on praying
That love will find you where you are
I know cause I've already been there
So please hear these simple truths.

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You're gonna do great things
I already know
God's got His hand on you
So don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don't forget why you're here
Take your time and pray
These are the words SHE would say.

Say . . . from one simple life to another
I will say . . . come find peace in the Father

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You're gonna do great things
I already know
God's got His hand on you
So don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don't forget why you're here
Take your time and pray
These are the words SHE would say.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thunder Collapses, Rangers Thunder, and Other Weather News

OK, so I'm not a rabid Mavs fan. I do like this team a lot, and I watch the games, but usually while I am reading a Western. I'm just in general not a huge team sports guy anymore.

So last night, with 5 minutes left in the game and the Mavs down by 15, my eyes were getting heavy. So I turned off the TV and went to sleep.

Imagine my surprise when I went out and got the paper this morning! Mavs win in overtime! Wow! Dirk is playing like he is on a mission.

My youngest son and I have a little humorous thing going. He keeps trying to get me to say I like Shaun Marion. Sorry. And while he is getting kudos for the block of Durant's desperation shot at the end of regulation, I think it was a poor choice in seeing the replay. Even in the replay, I could see that he could have easily been called for a foul. It wasn't, but I have seen lesser defense called a foul. The chances of Durant making that shot were very slim. But a foul would have meant a certain OKC victory.

Will the Mavs wrap it up tomorrow night in big D?

And how about the Rangers? Two straight complete games from their starters. And Hamilton and Cruz came back in style -- both hitting homeruns. It reminds us of what we have been missing. Hopefully, they can get on a winning trend now.

Another tragedy -- this time in Joplin, Missouri. I never cease to be amazed at the devastation left in the wake of a tornado -- taking only seconds to destroy a lifetime.

Here in Decatur, we are under a severe storm warning today. Let's pray that nothing serious develops.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Does Anyone Get Drug Ads?

I cannot ever remember purchasing anything because of a TV ad. I admit that there may be something at work subliminally. But I raise this issue because I watch with amusement the drug ads. It seems to me that in a 30-second ad, they spend 25 seconds warning of the side effects and dangers of taking this particular drug. I cannot see how this could lead anyone to want to use it.

I mean, really, if you go to the doctor and need a medication, don't you pretty much depend on him / her to tell you what to take? I don't think it would even enter my mind to say, "Wait a minute, Doc. Instead of what you are prescribing, how about let me try ___________. I saw this TV ad about it, and think it's the drug for me."

Maybe someone can explain the marketing strategy. I would much rather see these companies save those millions they spend on TV ads -- and lower their prices!

From Rabbi Abraham Heschel, as quoted in Philip Yancey's book, Disappointment with God: "Faith like Job's cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts on Prayer

The events of last year, with over 12,000 people praying for my daughter's healing, really shook up my "theology of prayer." I feel like I am trying to walk across an iced-over lake right now. My footing is very unsure. I am continuing to explore and journey through this, and hopefully will come to a God-centered conclusion.

One thing has really struck me. It is something that will make the "health-and-wealth" crowd uneasy. Scripture doesn't have a lot to say about praying for physical stuff -- even health. Maybe the most-used passage for that is in James 5, where James says (v. 13) "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Yet even here, MANY scholars believe James is referring contextually to spiritual sickness.

Now please don't roast me here. If you want to pray for cataract surgeries and things like that, I don't think it is wrong. It's just NOT where I am right now. I do find it sad that when we take prayer requests at church, nearly 100% of them will have to do with physical stuff. This just does not seem to align itself with Scripture.

So I've been thinking about "the Lord's prayer." Remember, the disciples asked of Jesus: "Teach us to pray." And so He did. Hear what He said (Luke 11: 2-4).

"Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us,
And lead us not into temptation."

In this prayer, Jesus urges His disciples to:
1. Honor God
2. Pray for the inbreaking of the kingdom here on earth.
4. Pray for forgiveness of one's sins, as well as for a forgiving attitude toward others.
5. Pray for SPIRITUAL strength to overcome temptation.

Five things He urged them to pray for. Four are spiritual, and one you could say is physical. But listen to what even the physical one implies: "Give us this day our daily bread." Hardly the prayer of Jabez! To me, it implies something spiritual. "Let me be satisfied with Your daily care." If anything, it diminishes / discounts concerns about the physical.

So for me in my journey right now, prayer is about SPIRITUAL things: strength to overcome temptation, being made more into the likeness of Jesus, dependence upon the Holy Spirit, etc.

Again, I am not writing this as the final authority on the subject. Nor am I telling anyone not to pray for "stuff." I am just giving an honest assessment of where I am.

Monday, May 09, 2011

It's a Sweep!

If I had not been watching it, I never would have believed it. The Mavericks put an old-fashioned whipping on the Lakers yesterday to sweep them. 20 3-point shots made!

Would anyone have believed it last summer if I had predicted that 1. the Rangers would beat the Yankees to get into the World Series and, 2. the Mavericks would SWEEP the Lakers in the playoffs, and 3. Bin Laden would be caught? I'm curious: Which of the three would you have considered most unlikely? least likely?

The Lakers are often lauded for their "class." Really? Two completely indefensible cheap shots in the 4th quarter. Give Kobe Bryant credit for calling them both inexcusable. The Zen master was not as direct. He said it shouldn't have happened, but his team was frustrated. Oh? So can every team that is frustrated start throwing elbows intentionally meant to hurt another player? Come on! Be big boys.

Oh, and the culprits themselves actually tried to defend their cowardice. No words of regret.

Please be praying for the people of Memphis, Tennessee -- as well as other areas along the Mississippi River that face flooding over the next couple of weeks. My oldest son and his family have a passion for Memphis, and so that city is on my mind and in my heart today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Better Than a Hallelujah

I know that most of you have heard the song, "Better Than a Hallalujah" by Amy Grant. Beverly said she thinks it might have been released last February as Jenny was in the hospital. I confess: If this song had come out 2 or 3 years ago, I would not have been able to relate very well to its words. Now it makes all the sense in the world. Here are the lyrics:

God loves a lullaby in a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkard's cry, the soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah.

The woman holding on for life, the dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a hallelujah sometimes.
The tears of shame for what's been done, the silence when the words won't come
Are better than a hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah.

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out, singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah.

Monday, May 02, 2011

May 1: Anniversary Day

Yesterday was my anniversary here at the church. Six years! It hardly seems possible that I have been here that long. I love this church with all my heart. To me, this is what church was intended to be: a place of encouragement and mutual support as we journey together arm-in-arm.

This is truly my family. I love our ministry team! And I actually look forward to elders' meetings! Man, do I love these guys!

As I said yesterday, I hope I am about 1/4th through my time here as preaching minister.

On another note, I found out yesterday that May 1 is also our secretary's anniversary date. She has been serving this church for 14 years. Congratulations, Joy!

I watched with rapt attention last night as the news about Osama Bin Laden was coming down. I have read stories about Navy SEALS, and am amazed at the effectiveness of these guys. They must be the equivalent of David's "mighty men."

I do have mixed feelings about the celebration of this event. As I watched this morning, drunk college students slurred the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" on national TV (I had to listen closely to figure out that is what they were singing). Others shouted, "Nah-nah, hey, hey, goodbye." I can only imagine the reception as these videos are shown in Arabic countries throughout the world.

It seems that our interests would be better served by being matter-of-fact about this incident, as we express a confident resolve in letting terrorists know that they can expect the same. But it is not something to be celebrated like VJ Day in 1945. That is just my opinion.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Fumblings

So how many of you are spending the day watching the royal wedding? I can truly say that I have no interest in it at all. I saw the results of a poll that asked if you will be watching the wedding, and only 23% said yes. So apparently, a whole lot of people are not buying into the media overkill.

The couple of shots I have seen from the festivities do bring back memories of when Beverly and I were in London last year. This morning I heard the bells chiming at Westminster Abbey, and remember how that sound carried across London.

The Mavs won their 1st-round playoff series! They will now be taking on the Lakers. One can only wish that they somehow knock them out the way the Rangers knocked out the Yankees last year.

My heart so goes out to the hundreds of families that have lost lives, homes and so much in the tornadoes that ravaged the South this week. We have a couple of men from our church that have gone to assist in whatever way they can. I am praying that God will reveal Himself in the midst of this tragedy.

I never cease to be amazed at conspiracy theorists, and how easily people fall under their thinking. Do you realize that there are still people who think that the earth is flat and that the 1st moonwalk was staged in the desert?

Regardless of one's opinion of President Obama, the birth certificate issue makes the accusers look worse than silly. Do they really think that nearly 50 years ago, someone was already plotting to cover up Obama's "foreign birth" by placing a birth announcement in the paper? And even with the President having produced his birth certificate, now they are alleging that it is a forgery because it "doesn't look old enough."

Politics in America has reached a low point. Where is it going to stop? "Well, they did it to Bush!" "Well, they did it to Clinton!" It is SO childish. At some point, someone has to say, "ENOUGH!"

And we patronizingly look at the Middle East and wonder why they can't get along.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Last Two Days

Sunday was a wonderful day. Emotionally exhausting, but wonderful. Our worship was powerful, and then our time together with some family and friends at the graveside was moving. All my hope is resting on Easter.

Yesterday I played golf in the Gregg Pearson Benefit Golf Tournament. Storms were all around us, but other than a brief sprinkle we played dry. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially getting to spend time with Art, my ol' golfing buddy from Mesquite.

I love what this foundation is doing. They provide assistance to families who are battling health crises -- mostly cancer. I was encouraging to see survivors there last night -- individuals and families whose lives have been changed as a result. The foundation was so helpful to us through Jenny's battle. I will forever be indebted to them. I am humbled to see how a family that suffered the pain of losing a child has channeled their energies into making life better for others.

If you think you might be interested in supporting such a foundation, visit at

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Easter Story

Today is a day commemorated with sadness. For me and my family, 14 months ago today we let our daughter go to be with Jesus. I have never experienced as heart-wrenching a day as that. The feelings of despair and hopelessness were overwhelming.

Approximately 1,980 years ago today, sadness overwhelmed the followers of the one called Jesus. (As a sidenote, there is reason to believe that Jesus was actually crucified on Thursday rather than Friday. But I will follow tradition here). No doubt, they too were overcome with feelings of hopelessness and despair.

But praise God that because of the events of Sunday, a Christ-follower never has to remain in hopelessness and despair. In fact, Sunday IS hope. And so I will camp on Sunday. The tomb is empty. He is risen! He is risen indeed! And because He is risen, I can rest on God's promise that my daughter is risen too.

I live in the Easter story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reviewing My Grief Readings

I have read a number of books over the last year on grief. Some I could never really get engaged with and deserted them halfway through. But a few I have found very helpful. Here is my review. If you find yourself on the grief journey, I hope you find it helpful.

First, the ones I could not fully get engaged in. This does not mean that they are not helpful. In fact, they could be exactly what you need:

I had trouble with C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. I love reading quotes from Lewis, but I find his writings difficult as a whole. This was written after his wife died from cancer. He is honest as he deals with his struggles and doubts and victories.

Randy Alcorn's If God is Good. This book is exhaustive in dealing with the subject of good and evil. I began it when things were really raw for me, and so maybe I should go back and give it another shot. I don't always agree with his Calvinistic views on things, but there are still things to gain from it.

John Mark Hicks' Yet I Will Trust Him. Written in response to the death of his wife. Again, no doubt a good book that I just had trouble engaging with. I will give it another shot at some point.

Now, for books that have been more beneficial for me:

Philip Yancey's Disappointment With God. I am a Yancey fan, and this book is one of the best I have ever read. I intend to read it again soon.

Terry Rush's God Will Make a Way. Simple, practical advice from someone I know personally as "the real deal."

Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised. Excellent book written by a man who experienced the loss of his wife, mother and daughter in a car wreck. A MUST-read for anyone in the grief journey.

I just finished a book that a friend of mine who is acquainted with grief mentioned to me a couple of times. Along with A Grace Disguised, it will be at the top of my "recommended list." Written by John Claypool back in the early 1970s, it is entitled Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. It is a short book, actually four sermons he preached during his 10-year old daughter's battle with, and subsequent death from, leukemia. In this book, Claypool speaks into my heart things that I probably would not receive very well from someone saying them to me (ESPECIALLY someone who hasn't "been there"). I have to sit with the book and chew on them. His last chapter about viewing life as a gift was challenging -- yet rewarding.

So there it is, for what it is worth. I would be interested in your feedback.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This is THE Week!

Due to a couple of ministry circumstances I found myself in last week, I feel like I was in faith-crisis mode. But a reorientation over the last couple of days is helping me. I must remember that faith and trust is a daily decision. My devotional reading this morning reminded me that, like the manna in the wilderness, we must seek peace with God every day. It can't be gathered up for tomorrow. He supplies us what we need each day. This is so that we will remember that it comes from Him.

This week is the week in which Christians place ALL their hope. I can't remember Easter ever falling this late in the spring. I NEED it. I am so ready.

I can't tell you how much Paul's words from 1 Corinthians 15: 12-19 mean to me today. So I want to end this blog sharing them with you:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From Banquet to Buffet

Monday night was the 6th annual Wise County Christian Counseling dinner. YHWH-Jireh (The Lord Who Provides) continues to bless this ministry beyond anything I had ever dreamed. I am so proud of my wife and the way in which she spends herself for others. And she has so many loyal friends and coworkers who the Lord uses to make this happen.

I pray that the Lord will continue to provide this place where people can find healing and wholeness.

Last night was our 2nd "Meat Night." There were 16 men who gathered to put down some ribs. Unfortunately, the restaurant ran out of ribs long before everyone got to order. But I think all the guys still enjoyed our time together. I don't know if there is any place we get to know people better than when we sit down at table. Maybe that is why we find Jesus eating so often with folks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Prayer Requests and Masters Recap

I would like to place a couple of prayer requests before you:

Donna Moon, a member of our church, has been in the hospital for several days with an infection in her brain. Although she seems to be doing better, I know she and her family would appreciate your praying for her complete recovery.

A friend, John Scott, longtime preacher for the Saturn Road Church of Christ in Garland has a son named Shane. Shane went on a mission trip to Ghana recently, and upon returning discovered last week he has malaria. He is in very serious condition at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Please be praying for Shane and his family, John and his wife Teresa.

The Masters was great this year. Only one shot separated as many as 10 people as they reached the back nine yesterday. Tiger Woods looked like he was going to pull off one for the ages halfway through the final round, only to go cold. I was pulling for Adam Scott down the stretch. But it was a South African, Charl Schwartzel, who ended up winning.

The tragic figure in the story was Rory McElroy, the 21-year old phenom from Ireland. Going into the final round with a 4-shot lead, he hung in for 9 holes yesterday. Then disaster struck, and he ended up falling way down the leader board with a final round 80. However, what I will go away from this with is not so much remembering his collapse, but the grace he exhibited when interviewed after his round. He is a very impressive young man.

Friday, April 08, 2011

"For What It's Worth" Friday

So the government may shut down this morning. Think of all that productivity coming to a halt! (That comment was intended as sarcasm, in case you didn't notice).

The fight is over $40 billion dollars in tax cuts. Now here is a Congress that is really serious about dealing with the national debt. Right now it is running in excess of $1 TRILLION a year. If my math is right, $40 billion in cuts would reduce the deficit by .4%. That's right -- not even one half of one percent. And these guys can't even agree to that? What hope do we EVER have of dealing with the deficit issue?

And the scare tactics are incredible. Of course, the one issue that is being paraded is that our troops would not receive their checks. Is today payday? Or do they get paid every day? If the government shuts down today, it will not last long. All of this is political posturing. It would be political suicide to actually allow our troops to miss a paycheck.

The state of Texas is considering raising the posted speed limit on some roads to 85. I have never been one who has a "need for speed", so this has no appeal to me. But 85? Doesn't that seem awfully fast?

If you want to see what the "new earth" will look like, tune into the Masters this weekend. God is allowing us to get a peek at heaven there (this conclusion comes with a lot of scholarly research). By the way, my sermon Sunday comes from the last half of Romans 6 where Paul discusses our choice: slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. We choose our master. So my title? "The Masters."

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sensational Media Stories

So Terry Jones and his church of 30 burned a copy of the Koran after putting it on trial. And the response of some in Afghanistan? The killing of a dozen people or more -- at least one by beheading.

Several observations: First, I wonder how a preacher of a church of 30 people can receive so much media attention? I mean, this guy has had top administration officials get involved in his antics. Isn't this a nothing story? How much responsibility does the media bear for making such a sensational story out of it?

Second, why do representatives of Islam overreact so much to things? If someone in Afghanistan burned a Bible (which I am sure they do), would we have a riot in one of our cities and kill dozens?

Third, am I also guilty of a similar prejudice to what those Moslems displayed? They think 30 fanatical "Christians" (I am being generous here in the definition. What they did does not resemble Christlikeness) represent the whole. But do I do that when I lump in all Moslems with the fringe terrorists? Now, I realize that burning a Koran does not rank up there with 9-11 and other atrocities. Yet I still need to wrestle with that question.

And what about the 8-year old 2nd grader who was sprayed with mace by the police? When I first heard the lead-in to the story, I was thinking this seemed extreme.

Apparently, he had gone into a rage because of something to do with his bicycle, I think. He threatened to kill his teachers, who barricaded themselves in a closet. He threw desks and other objects, and pulled off a piece of the wall that he threatened them with. He yelled obscenities at the teachers and police officers.

And get this: This is the THIRD time the police have been called to that school because of his rages.

As I watched the interview, it seemed to be clear that his mother is enabling him. She was very defensive of him, and seemed to only want to highlight the excessive police actions.

After first thinking the police action was extreme, by the end of the interview I was left wondering what other action they could have taken.

Any thoughts?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Not Much Monday

If you are thinking about flying a kite here in Decatur today, be sure to wear lead boots.

Well, it's Masters week. From the par 3 competition on Wednesday through the finish on Sunday, I plan to be watching.

Rangers 162-0? It's still a possibility.

The Mavs aren't exactly hitting their stride as the playoffs approach.

I am adding this a little bit after the original blog. I have been keeping it a secret, so forgot that yesterday it became public knowledge. My youngest son, Jonathan, has accepted a job with the DFW fire department. He has long wanted to be a fireman. That means he and his precious family will be moving closer (YEAH!). In fact, they will be moving in with us until they can sell their house and find another.

I am excited!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My "Jenny Song"

Let me clear something up here. I was not arrested for possession yesterday. That is another Rick Ross. People often get us mixed up (even more so since I have grown a beard).

Yesterday afternoon I went to play golf in Muenster -- nearly an hour away. As I drove, I decided to listen to Stephen Curtis Chapman. I haven't listened to him in a long time, although he is my favorite Contemporary Christian artist. I put his "Speechless" CD in (which in my own limited and humble opinion is the best CD ever). I thoroughly enjoyed hearing "Dive" and "Speechless" again. But as the CD got toward the end, a song came on that I had forgotten about. It overwhelmed me! The words are PERFECT in describing Jenny and our grief journey. So I have now adopted it as my "Jenny song."

Here are the words to "With Hope" -- but you might want to google it and actually listen to it:

This is not at all how we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...

So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hang in There with Me

I want you to know that I have not quit blogging. I am just going through a season in which the idea well is kind of dry. I feel like constantly talking about my grief journey probably gets old to many readers -- but that IS where I am. Sports (other than golf) bore me right now. And I know that I am pretty much alone on the golf thing.

Speaking of golf, the Masters is right around the corner. Week after next. I think at the top of my bucket list would probably be to make a trip to the Masters some day. Hotter ticket than the Super Bowl or the Final 4, though.

And as much as public sentiment has turned against Tiger Woods, I would like to see him recover and regain his form again. Tournaments are just more exciting when he is in the thick of things.

Hmmm. I think I am feeling a 4-day virus coming on around April 7th.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Home from Memphis

Beverly, Malaya and I spent most of last week in Memphis with my son and his family. It was great to have that much time together. I haven't laughed that much in a long time. We also enjoyed great food together (some fixed by my daughter-in-law and some eaten out).

Last Monday, Malaya, Josh and I went to the National Civil Rights Museum. It is within the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I have been there once before, and it is a convicting experience. I lived through much of the civil rights movement, and can vividly remember much of what was on display. I am struck by how easily we humans can fall into behaviors that are so ungodly -- and convince ourselves that they ARE godly. How the "Bible belt" South could have ever been so supportive of segregation still boggles me. But I can remember as a child not really thinking twice about it because it WAS the culture. I have come to see how Nazi Germany could have been so brainwashed by Hitler, because I have seen something nearly as inhuman and evil played out in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, as well as throughout our country.

On Wednesday, I was invited to speak to a class at my son's church. They offer a class at 1 PM on Wednesday for those who don't want to be driving after dark in the evening. I enjoyed my time with those folks.

While we were doing that, Beverly and the rest of the crew went to the Memphis zoo. I wish I had been able to go with them, because this is a GREAT zoo! I have been to some of the best (including the San Diego and Fort Worth zoos, which are very nice), but this one holds its own.

Josh and I played golf on Thursday at Mirimichi, a golf course owned by Justin Timberlake. It is the 1st eco-friendly golf course in the US. I had played there once before, and really both of my visits there.

As always, though, it is good to be back home. Being a routine-type person, I always enjoy getting back into my "rhythm."

Friday, March 11, 2011

More Tragedy of the Fall

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I turned on the news this morning and didn't see or hear Charlie Sheen. It took an 8.9 earthquake, the 5th largest ever recorded, to shake him from the media's infatuation.

What a tragedy! And it continues to play out before our eyes. The resulting tsunami is expected to sweep across the Pacific in the next few hours -- striking our own U.S. west coast and Hawaii. I pray that God will protect those in its path.

This is yet another reminder of the consequences of living in a fallen world. And yet another reminder of how I long for the coming day when all is made right again. Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sickness in Two Kingdoms

What's up with the Charlie Sheen obsession? This guy has obvious mental issues and is in desperate need of help, and the media have made him like an animal in the zoo that we gawk at and listen to every noise he makes -- laughing and being amused. Something is wrong with this. It speaks to the depravity of humanity.

I wish I could say that the Christian community is above such behavior. However, in the last couple of weeks, we have seen ugliness there as well. Rob Bell has written a book that has yet to be released. A couple of promotional blurbs is all that has been made available to the public. Yet, there are prominent Christian leaders who have already labeled Bell a "universalist."

The few people who have received advanced copies of the book, including someone from Christianity Today magazine, have said that they do not see how the accusation that Bell is a universalist can be reached from what he has written. How can you go public with an accusation of a fellow believer when you haven't even yet read what he said?

It appears to me that the accusers tend to be strong Calvinists. Perhaps they are attacking Bell because he doesn't fit their mold. I don't know for sure if that is the reason why, but it is ugly. It surely doesn't seem to be Christlike. But I have seen a lot of ugliness through the years that is masqueraded as "defending the faith."

All of this makes my heart ache for the day when God again makes everything right.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Fellowship of Suffering

Today is Beverly's birthday. I love her birthday, because from now until October she can't say that I am older than she is. On this day a few years ago (I can't say her age, because I didn't ask for permission), God blessed the world with the birth of this little girl who has become a giant of the faith. What an honor that God allows me to journey beside her through life. What a blessing!

So happy birthday, my love!

Saturday morning, Wise County Christian Counseling (Beverly's agency) hosted a Grief Seminar in the family room at the Decatur Church of Christ. Danny Mack, a friend who specializes in grief counseling, was the speaker. No one knew what to expect. Beverly had done a little advertising. She and Danny figured 20 people would be a good turn-out. Around 54 had rsvp'd by Friday.

On Saturday, over 70 people filled the room! We had people from Oklahoma -- and as far away as Tyler come.

More than anything, what this showed me is that there is a tremendous need to reach people who are grieving. Our culture does not do grieving well -- in large part because people don't allow others to grieve. As Danny pointed out, someone loses a spouse, child, etc. -- and they are given 3 days off to mourn. Three days?

Now, I understand the economics of this, and don't have any real answers for employers. But what do you think the productivity level of that grieving employee is? And according to statistics, such a person will miss 50 days of work over the next year (if I remember Danny's info right).

My point is that in our fast-paced culture, there is no time for grief. And so, rather than healthily dealing with it, we stuff it, mask it, put ourselves together with tape and glue -- and try to function. For the most part, we simply go through the motions. This cannot possibly be healthy.

I think that God is leading Beverly and me to a ministry that we never would have chosen. I have no doubt that for the rest of our lives, we will be reaching out to grieving people and journeying with them. We are still in the midst of our own journey. So this is where children of God link arms and travel together -- holding each other up. "The fellowship of suffering."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Go, Malaya!

Last night was Malaya's last basketball game for a while. They were playing the best team in the league. It was a close game, and our team was showing more grit than I had seen in previous games. Malaya got the ball down low and had a girl towering over her between her and the basket. She started a move up as if she was going to shoot, and came back down. She has not normally been very aggressive in her play. Then suddenly, she just took it up and over the girl guarding her -- and made it!

Tears came to my eyes as I watched her run down the court, with people in the stands cheering her name. She had the biggest "I want to smile, but don't want to act like it was a big deal" look on her face. I wish I had a picture of her pure joy.

By the way, we won!

I wish I knew what things are like on the other side of the thin veil. I would love to think that Jenny was watching. I can just see her cheering this daughter she loved so incredibly. And I can still hear her voice.

Now to what is really important. Crisis in the Middle East. Economy still struggling. Budget deficits. And all the news wants to cover, it seems, is Charlie Sheen. Why, please tell me, is this so newsworthy? Why not cover the stories of people whose lives were messed up, but who have found redemption and hope and turned them around?

I'll never get it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Letter to Our "Church"

My precious wife wrote a beautiful letter that she had one of our shepherds read yesterday morning in our assembly. This letter represents how we feel about our extended "church" as well. So I wanted to share our thanks with so many of you:

Dear Church Family,

In February 2010, our family was dealt a blow that we never saw coming! We were devastated and absolutely broken. You were so faithful in standing with us in prayer over Jenny for healing and deliverance. You met every need we had before we even knew we needed it. Thank you.

On February 22 of last year, the darkness engulfed us as we said good-bye to our precious daughter and knew that part of us was dying as well.

While these events shocked us beyond what our minds could fathom or imagine, the Lord, in all His tenderness, had prepared us for it. He knew from the time He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs that we would bury our first-born. Although we do not believe that God “took” our daughter, we do believe He knew what the evil one would do and, in His lovingkindness, prepared us for it by placing us in this community of faith for ‘such a time as this’.

How we love Him for His provision! How we love you! And thank you for your love and support.

The Lord has used you repeatedly over the last year to pour His love, grace, and mercy into us with rich compassion. We braced for the one-year marker of this tragedy, and the Lord used you to pour into us. Your prayers over us have become treasures to our hearts.

Thank you protecting us and letting us catch our breath a bit. Please continue to pray.

We resolve to never serve another – no matter what! He is the Lord God Almighty. We are begging you to join us in that decision – that together (shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm) we will walk into the arms of Jesus. We will continue to remind each other that resurrection is real – it is what we live for! May His presence be thick around us as we wait for that day.

We absolutely love you!

Rick and Beverly Ross

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead…ON HIM WE HAVE SET OUR HOPE THAT HE WILL CONTINUE TO DELIVER US, AS YOU HELP US BY YOUR PRAYERS.”

2 Corinthians 1: 8-11

Friday, February 25, 2011

THE Man of Faith?

This week I am preaching from Romans 4. There Paul, in his desire to convince Jewish Christians that we are saved by grace through faith (trust) and not works, turns to their hero, Abraham. So I have been thinking a lot about Abraham this week. Actually, the last part of chapter 4 (next week's sermon) deals more directly with him.

Why is Abraham considered to be THE example of a man of faith in Scripture? Sure, he leaves his homeland when called by God. But there is good reason to believe that at that point he sees YHWH as simply another of his ancestral gods. And the story of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22 is a powerful story of faith (trust). I still can't get my head around why God would have made such a seemingly barbaric request of him. Perhaps it represents a clear break from the pagan practices of his past?

But then you have TWO episodes in which, in order to save his own skin, Abraham allows his wife to be used as a concubine. I don't understand such cowardice from THE man of faith.

On another note, I have done extensive studies of David, and I always come away from them wondering, "How could this guy be called 'a man after God's own heart'?" He was brutal. He was a sexual predator at times. And while the psalms certainly reveal a heart that could be SO in tune with God, they also reveal a man who longed for revenge.

Maybe all of this is intended to show us that the focus should not be on these men, with their spiritual titles. When we hold them up to their titles, they leave us disappointed. So it seems to me that we would be better served to be directed to the God of love and mercy and grace, who chose to embrace these sinful men and use them for His purposes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Heartfelt Thank-You and A Rant All in One

I want to personally thank so many of you for praying for us this month. While it has been difficult, the peace we have felt is due in large part to so many prayers being offered up for us. Tuesday had its tough moments. Yet perfectly spaced throughout the day were texts from friends reminding us that we were being carried. We went to the cemetery and had an emotional time there. Tuesday evening we went to The Cheesecake Factory because it was Jenny's favorite restaurant.

We are indebted as a family to you.

OK, time for a Rick Ross "Big Oil" rant. I am NOT a fan of big oil companies. How many wars have we fought to "defend our freedoms" that actually had at their heart protecting the interests of big oil? And yet, I do not know how a corporation could be less patriotic than the Big Oil companies are. Their power is scary. We have enough natural gas reserves in the USA to meet our energy needs for hundreds of years. Why aren't we developing that? Why isn't there a greater push to develop other alternative fuels? Because our politicians hands are dripping with oil. Instead of having their palms "greased," they have been "oiled."

I know of their tactics 1st-hand -- having worked for an oil company for several years. I have seen the way that they create "shortages" -- while full oil tankers sit in a row out in the Gulf looking like a downtown freeway at 5:30 in the afternoon.

So here is Libya, a country that produces about 2% of the world's crude. Saudi Arabia, one of the more stable Arabic nations, has said that they can easily meet any shortfall in Libyan oil production. So why is there a "crisis"? Well, I'll let you guess.

Now get this: While we as a nation are being told that we will need to sacrifice in order to pull out of this recession, and just as recovery was picking up momentum -- who stands to make outlandish profits while perhaps throwing us back into another recession or stagnant growth? Exxon-Mobil. BP. Shell. They are shameless.

We have watched the Middle East, as nation after nation falls into revolt against oppressive and ruthless leaders. Maybe it's time that Americans revolt against the tyranny of Big Oil.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wowed By My Granddaughter Again

I usually don't post on the weekends, but I didn't want to forget something that happened today:

I went to Malaya's basketball game this morning. After the game, she came home to Decatur with me to spend the rest of the weekend. As we were driving along and talking about different things, I asked her, "What do you miss most about your mommy?"

As soon as I asked it, I wished I hadn't. But she thought for only a moment, and then she said, "It's really hard to say just one thing. It would be like taking a 600 page dictionary and trying to pick only one word that means the most. All of them have so much meaning."


Friday, February 18, 2011

Another "Year Ago Today" Memory

One year ago today I stood at my daughter's bedside, holding her hand as she slept. She opened her eyes and attempted to speak to me. I am still not sure what she said. I smiled and told her Malaya was doing fine.

She smiled at me, shut her eyes and went back to sleep.

It was the last conversation we had.

"In mourning will I go down to the grave . . ."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Baby Girl is Dancing on New Legs!

I did not think things could get any worse for us than one year ago today. It was the day Jenny's legs were amputated. We held to the hope at that time that it would save her life. But it was still devastating.

The timing of my sister-in-law's family's daily notes was interesting today. I think this one was written by my oldest niece:

Dancing in the kitchen. On one of the many nights that Jenny babysat us kids, we decided to listen to Mariah Carey's Christmas album . . . it was winter . . . and Mariah, well she can jam and Jenny could sound just like her. Jenny's dancing on the other hand wasn't exactly on Mariah's level! So she decided to grab Tabi's hands (my younger niece) and head bang to "All I Want for Christmas is You!" It was hilarious! I still look back and laugh at those pictures. We had soooo much fun when she babysat!

I wasn't even there with them, but I can so picture that! I hang onto the hope that Jenny is today dancing in heaven with her perfect new body.

I am currently reading through Genesis in the morning, and today I came across a verse that captures the heart of a parent who has lost a child. When Jacob was told by his sons that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal, Jacob said (Gen. 37: 35) "In mourning will I go down to the grave . . ."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peace in Chaos

These are difficult times in which we live. Our government is past broke. Inflation seems to be rearing its ugly head. Moslems are keeping the world on edge.

Current problems always appear to be bigger than problems that have been worked through -- or problems that past generations faced. Maybe that is inherent in us to keep us from becoming complacent.

But THIS I do know. After telling His disciples that He is about to leave them, and then promising the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus said (John 16: 33, emphasis mine) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have PEACE. In this world you WILL HAVE trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I am resting in that peace with everything I have.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Precious Memory

My sister-in-law (Beverly's sister) and her family presented Beverly and me with a precious gift a couple of weeks ago. For each day in our February ordeal (Feb.4-22), they gave us sealed notes sharing special memories of Jenny. Each morning I get up with anticipation to read my daily devotional and Bible reading -- and the note of the day.

While each day's has been a treasure,today's was extra-special to me. I want to share it on this blog:

One of my most powerful memories of Jenny is from a high school retreat at Camp Deer Run called "Lay Your Burdens Down" where she was a counselor. The highlight of the retreat was after an exercise of carrying burdens through a field and learning how great it is to truly give them to the Lord. After that, the campers came into the pavilion that we had decorated in white and gold and set up as a banquet. As each one came into the room, the "angels" greeted each one and gave them a white robe and a golden crown. Jenny was an "angel." She was absolutely precious in that role! She looked each one of them in the eye as she crowned them and told them how great heaven is and that she was so glad that they were there! Then, Jenny, Cecil and Mike Montana sang, "How Beautiful" and it was truly life-changing!

I picture my daughter filling that role in heaven right now. In fact, Beverly recently had a dream about a friend who was sick being greeted in heaven by Jenny. Later, she found out that friend had passed away a couple of hours before her dream.