Thursday, December 31, 2015

Remembering 2015

Just thinking back on the year, I first remember it being the year of my first granddaughter – and my second granddaughter - definitely the highlights of my year.  I remember my church launching a new campus and getting to be a part of the serve team there.  I remember helping Dan lead our small group studying the Divine Conspiracy.  I remember playing in the Georgia Wind Symphony under the direction of my good friend, David Gregory.  I remember three fun trips to the beach – one with Caroline’s family, one with my family and one with good friends.   I remember fun with family and friends at the lake.   I remember having the privilege of working with Janet and Michael helping others find their own spot on the lake.  I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Innocence of a baby

The Christmas season comes to me burdened with the pressures of finishing the year strong, shopping, Christmas cards and entertaining.  My church has helped me to remember that this season is about the innocence of a baby – a baby born to a scared mom who felt the weight of the world on her shoulders.  The innocence of that baby has been made real to me this year by the recent births of Caroline and Nora to my children.  To hold those babies close and look into their eyes, I am amazed at the miracle of their creation and reminded of the miracle of their Creator.   I hope that your experience more of the joy of Jesus this week.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Perfect innocence

This season is all about celebrating the birth of the baby, Jesus.  Our family has been blessed with another reason to celebrate.  Nora Catherine was born to my son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Emily last week.   This is their third child and their first girl.  There is nothing like holding a newborn baby and being totally overwhelmed by the wonder of the event.  At the same time, I am convicted of the responsibility we all have to make sure that she has everything she needs to grow into the person that God has intended her to be.   I will be praying that we make Jesus known to her so that one day she will trust Him as her Savior.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Connecting the dots

I try to be true to not repeating myself in this blog, but I felt the need to connect the dots today.    Last year, before Christmas, I posted this entry with a link to one of my favorite pieces of music, O Magnum Mysterium, sung by the Kings College Choir in Cambridge, England.     “O Magnun Mysterium”  is Latin for “the great mystery” written about the birth of Jesus.    In February, I wrote about my dear friend, David Gregory.  David was my high school band director and predicted that one day, Caroline and I would be married.   On this coming Saturday, under the direction of David Gregory, Caroline and I, now married, will perform O Magnum Mysterium under the direction of David Gregory at Cambridge High School,  all connected by the black dots on a piece of paper - and everything in between.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Kind of Coach

I don’t have much to add to everything that has been written about Mark Richt leaving UGA.  There are people who know a lot more about football than me, and there are people who know him much more than I do.  So I won’t repeat everything that has been said, but I do have two personal memories that I want to share.  The first time I met Mark in person was when he came to our church to speak.  I can’t remember the year, but it must have been very early in his  tenure at UGA.  He spoke on a Sunday evening and the sanctuary was full.  He shared his stories of football and his faith – very well done as you might expect.  Afterwards, our minister mentioned that Mark was going to need to leave quickly after the service to be with his family.   I’m sure that some who had hoped to shake his hand were disappointed.   On Monday morning, the church office got a call from Mark’s office saying that he had felt bad that he had left quickly the night before and wanted to know if he could come back to meet people and sign autographs.  He stayed true to his commitment and came back on a Wednesday evening to the delight of many members.  The other story I have is through my daughter-in-law.  She worked as a trainer with the UGA football team while Mark was coaching there.   In a regular review meeting with him, Mark’s question to her was “are they guys treating you with respect?”   I appreciate Mark for looking out for my daughter-in-law.  I am a fan for life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

More Family

With the birth of baby Caroline two months ago, we don’t have a photo of the whole family together yet.  It would be out of date in two weeks anyway with the birth of our fourth grandchild coming in December.  This is one of my favorites, though.  Baby Caroline meeting her cousins for the first time with the moms looking on with delight.  I thank God every day for my family.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I watched with horror with the rest of you the terror unfold in Paris this week.   I am embarrassed to say that I understand very little about ISIS, what they are trying to accomplish, and why they would do the things they do.  One of my pastors posted this link to an article.  Unlike the usual 50-word rant that we usually see on Facebook, this was an in depth article on the subject.  Most of it was new to me, and I ended up spending most of the morning trying to understand.  What I took from the article is that ISIS is not a fragmented group of lunatics being recruited on the internet to kill people.  While this may happen, this is not what ISIS is.  ISIS is a group of people led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who intend to follow the literal instructions laid out in the Koran that will culminate in the apocalypse.   ISIS follows the takfiri doctrine which is determined to purify the world by removing any person that does not believe as they do.  Sound familiar?  I believe we are all fully aware of the parallel evil experienced by those who were living 75 years ago.   And while the crusades of the middle ages have been characterized as religious zealots seeking to build their political kingdom, the leaders of that time were actually battling the same forces that we are now battling 1000 years later.   I believe that the collective “we” need to do whatever is necessary to thwart the people who believe their god is requiring them to rape, enslave and murder innocent people, and I rejoice in the fact that their god is not my God.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Who is the enemy?

I don’t have a lot of enemies that I know about. There may be some out there I don’t know about, but any offenses against me would obviously be minor if I don’t even know who they are.  Sure, I get upset with others plenty, but it is usually with people cutting me off in traffic. Some of my good friends just endured a year of living hell. He was accused of an offense that never happened.  A year later, he was acquitted of all charges. During the year, he and his wife had to deal with the uncertainty of when the trial  would be and whether or not a jury would hear the truth. If there was ever someone who deserved to hate, it would be them. But instead, what I saw in them was a total reliance on God for peace and a desire for the broken accuser to get the help she needs. Thanks for modeling God’s love for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

How bad can it be?

Our connect group from church is reading about anger this week.   My conclusion so far is that while anger is something to be avoided, sometimes that is impossible. Even Jesus himself was angry multiple times in the bible.  Anger is our natural reaction and defense to someone or something that is against our will, and if our will is good, that defense can also be good.  Unresolved anger can lead to contempt.  Contempt can be much worse that anger, because in contempt, there is an utter lack of concern for the other person.   Contempt can sometimes lead to malice.  In malice,  we are actually wishing evil or harm on another person.   The best way I can express it is like this:

Contempt: “Do whatever you want.  I couldn’t care less”
Malice:  “I hope you rot in Hell”

I believe contempt and malice are never good.  I want to be like that less.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

God bless who?

Chapter 4 of The Divine Conspiracy talks about the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).   Willard has his own interpretation of what Jesus was trying to get across which has generated some controversy both in my little circle and outside it.   After reading the chapter again, I wrote this prayer that expresses how I feel. 

Blessed are those who do not yet know God, for the joy of knowing Him is close at hand.
Blessed are the poor, for they have full access to the riches of the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who mourn, for God can comfort them.
Blessed are the meek, for God can give them courage.
Blessed are those who know God and are trying to follow Him, for He can show them the way.
Blessed are those who are mocked because of their faith, for God will ensure they can endure the ridicule.
Blessed are the oppressed, for they can find hope in God.
Blessed are the incarcerated, for their sins have been measured and can be forgiven.
Blessed are the thieves, the child molesters and the murderers for their salvation can bring great glory to God.
Blessed are those who would seem to have everything, but don’t, for God can show me that He is all I need.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Smartest man ever

Chapter 3 of The Divine Conspiracy wraps up the first section of the book dealing with WHY we should want to be disciples of Christ. Many Christians and non-Christians agree that Jesus must have been a great guy – really nice.  But Willard drives home the point that Jesus wasn’t just a nice guy, He was also the smartest person that ever lived. His ability to teach and lead so effectively is only made possible because He is God.  He joined us on Earth for a short time to show us and tell us how to live in His world.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that 2000 years later, a lot of people are still trying.  Now the rubber is going to hit the road in the next section of the book as Willard helps us understand HOW we might be able to try a little harder.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sleeping beauty

Last weekend I had the chance to spend some time with my new granddaughter, Caroline. Her mom and grandmother had been up with her quite a bit through the night.  I was up early, so I got to be in charge for a couple of hours that morning.   At first, I found myself being frustrated trying to be productive while I was holding her.  I was fixing coffee, messing with my phone, etc. Thankfully, I finally recognized that the chance for the two of us to be alone together was a special opportunity.   I sat on the sofa and just stared at her sleeping in my arms.  I listened to every small breath and took in every feature of her face.  I felt the warmth of her small body. I couldn’t imagine loving anything more.  And then it hit me. My love for my granddaughter pales in comparison with God’s love for me and the rest of his children. I think He deserves a little more of my  love.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Just Forgiven?

Our connect group made it through chapter 2 of the Divine Conspiracy this week.  This chapter started with a look at the familiar bumper sticker: : “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”  While both parts of that statement may be true, the overall message is “don’t expect Christians to act any differently than anyone else”.  Willard then takes some time talking about the religious right and the religious left.  The  extreme right with the mantra of  a saving grace that will get us into heaven no matter what we do, and the extreme left taking a position that religion is all about what we can do to improve society and remove social ills.   Again, while neither of these approaches are inherently bad, Willard claims that neither reflect the centrality of the message that Jesus proclaimed while He was here.   And that was that Jesus came to us as a teacher to show us how to get closer to a heaven on earth.  This is what Willard will be focusing on for the remainder of the book.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kingdom Thinking

Dallas Willard closes out chapter 1 of Divine Conspiracy talking about kingdoms.   We each have rule over our own kingdom, which Willard defines as “the range of our effective will.”   Many people feel as if they have control over nothing and others think they are in charge of a lot more than they actually are.  For believers, God gave all the people control over  the living things on earth in Genesis 1, and He has prepared an individualized kingdom for each one of us.  As He sees that we can be trusted with small things, He has promised to give us more things to be responsible for.  He wants us to be stewards of all the riches that are available in the kingdom where He has invited us to live with him – both now and after we leave our earthly kingdoms.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Our Connect Group from church met on Tuesday to discuss Chapter 1 of the Divine Conspiracy.  Willard opens the book by talking about some of the reasons for the  moral depravity that is rampant in our world today.  While public schools are all about following rules, they are forbidden to give credit to where those rules originated.  Even private universities that were started by religious organizations may  have some of the brightest minds as it comes to ethics, but would never actually  expect students to adhere to the ethics they are learning about.  Our social culture is governed by cute slogans and bumper stickers like “just do it”  and even for Christians “I’m not perfect, just forgiven”.    The movies and television we watch, the music we listen to, and the fb posts we write all seem to control or mirror the world we live in.  But every person has inside of himself some drive for significance -  a desire to leave a positive mark with our life footprint.  By seeking to understand that drive, we can get a clearer picture of God and his plan for us while we are here.  But this isn’t the whole story.  We are just half way through the first chapter.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Many of you have met my wife of 32 years, Caroline, or at least heard me talk about her in previous posts.  My son, Michael, works with me, and he and his wife, Emily, have blessed us with two grandsons, Evan and Levi.   Lizzy is my daughter, who is married to Trey, and we were all excited to welcome our first granddaughter to the world yesterday.  She is 6 pounds 15 ounces and 19” long - and perfect, as you can imagine.  I am so excited to have her here and know that she is in for the time of her life with Lizzy and Trey as parents.   I am sure that they will do an amazing job giving her every opportunity to discover God in everything she experiences.  She is getting a great jump-start with the name Caroline Ann, named after her two grandmothers who are both fantastic examples of the kind of woman we hope she will be.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Divine Conspiracy

Our Connect Groups at The Vine Church are starting up again for the fall season.   My friend, Dan, and myself will be leading a group at our house on Tuesday evenings.  We will be reading and studying “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard.  I reported on this book in the past and received some enthusiastic responses which I very much enjoyed.  If anyone would like to join us in person, I believe there are still a few slots remaining.  If you are not able to join us, I would also invite you to read along with us.  You can reply or private message me.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

In His Wakes

When I was growing up, Kristi Overton was a world record holding water skier.  You may recognize her last name from one of the world’s largest watersports companies, Overton’s.  That company was started by her parents.  Back in the day, I received a catalog every month tempting me with the latest water toys.   Not surprisingly, over 95% of their business is now online at Kristi has passed her prime as a world record water skier, but she is making her mark by putting a twist on the sport that she still loves. She has started a ministry called InHisWakes. The organization exists to give kids a chance to experience water sports who might not have a chance to otherwise. I love that Kristi found a way to combine her love for skiing with her love for Jesus.  Check out her site for more information on how to support or be involved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Clemson Gets It Right

Bob and Diane Saville are my neighbors at Lake Hartwell.   We see them frequently boating on the lake with their family enjoying water sports.   Their son David is one of the happiest people I know.  He is always the first to wave from the boat, the first one to greet me when I pull up beside them and the first one to tell me about what he is most excited about that day.  David has just graduated from Clemson University and held an important position on the Clemson Tigers football team.  This highlight video is all about David.  It is about 10 minutes long, but if you  have the time,  I will guarantee you this will be the most inspiring 10 minutes of your day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Abby Normal

Please excuse the vague reference to this classic moment from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”.  Igor mistakenly picks out the wrong brain for Dr. Frankenstein’s life-generating experiment.  The brain was labeled ABNormal – pronounced Abby Normal by Igor.    I couldn’t help but remember that movie as I started to read this book from John Ortberg – Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.   I have just started it, but his premise is that while people may seem normal on the outside, we are all ABNormal when you really get to know us.   We are all broken creatures in need of our Savior.  And our biggest need after knowing our Savior, is knowing each other.   Ortberg spends the first couple of chapters talking about community and how we can find it.  Let me hear from you if you  have read this one or if  you would like to read along with me.


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Vine II

I mentioned in an earlier post that my church, The Vine, would be opening a second location in Flowery Branch.  We had our “soft” opening last Sunday.  Our leadership; had hoped for around 50 people at our first service.  270 showed up.  And that was with no promotion outside of our church family.  I was excited to be a part of the first service there and can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.  If you are in the area come see us!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cecil and Simba

I watched with disgust the story about the rich dentist luring Cecil out of his protected habitat so that he could kill, skin and behead the beloved lion.  I am not a hunter, but it’s not because I have any moral objection to killing animals.   But this one did kind of hit a nerve with me.   Is it because Disney did such an amazing  job of capturing our hearts as the young Simba grew into the proud warrior in The Lion King?  Perhaps.  
I found this post by Caryn Rivadeneira which did a good job exploring why the uproar over Cecil’s death was so loud.  If you don’t have time to read the whole article, I will sum it  up here.   There were two main reactions to the lion’s death in social media: 1) the dentist is a villain and 2) why is everyone so worked up about a lion dying when people are dying senselessly around the world every day?   The uproar is not over a dead lion.    The uproar is over the man that killed the lion and the method he used.  If the dentist had killed Cecil attempting to save the life of a small child, he would be a hero, not a villain, but Cecil would still be dead.  The dentist is a coward, and cowardice is a trait that people universally agree is deplorable.  So why do we choose to talk about a lion’s death instead of people’s death?  Why do we have to choose?   Why not use the momentum created by this story to try to learn more about ourselves and how we should treat others?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Watch Out for Big Brother

My Big Brother
In case you didn’t see it on Facebook, I wanted to make sure that you knew that my older brother, Craig, was appointed by Nathan Deal to be the director of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Advisory Commission this week.  Craig has been working in film and video production for his whole career.  He graduated from UGA’s Journalism School and began working for AFLAC in Columbus in their media department.  He started his own company, Craig Miller Productions, shortly thereafter, and moved his family and his business to metro-Atlanta.  Craig focuses on corporate and public film/video production and has developed and maintained several large clients.  Due to my band background, this short video is one of my favorites.  So needless to say, I am very proud of my big brother for what he is accomplished in his business.  But while doing all of this, he managed to take care of his wife, Carolyn, and raise six fantastic kids – four through college and two still finishing up – and four weddings, growing the Miller clan even further.  I love you, Craig.  Thanks for being a great big brother.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Great minds think a life

I just got back from Milwaukee today.  Caroline and I were attending the annual meeting for her company, Northwestern Mutual.  I have been several times, and always leave entertained, well fed and glad that I am a client.  There are also multiple opportunities to be inspired, and one of the speakers this year was Ben Carson.  Dr. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon with some great stories.  He was raised by his mom, who only made it through third grade, but she insisted that all of her kids get an education.  Ben was a below average student with an above average temper. His temper got him into trouble frequently, including a stabbing incident that could have turned out a lot worse than it did. After that incident, he prayed for three hours acknowledging that he could not change himself and could only change through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That started a series of events that were almost inconceivable.  His grades and his temper improved enough to earn him admission to Yale, where he excelled   He took a position at Johns Hopkins and became the youngest major division director at the age of 33.  He was most well-known for performing the first successful separation of twins that were conjoined at the head.  This has to be one of the most moving stories of redemption that I have ever heard.  We were presented with a copy of his book, Think Big, which I cannot wait to read. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Singing In A Truck

Several weeks ago, I ran into Ben Smith at a downtown church.  We were both there for the baptism of children recently born to our family members.  My first memory of Ben was when he and some other friends were singing in the back of a pickup truck at a Friday afternoon pep rally. The pep rally was for a Shiloh High School game where he and my son both attended.  Singing in the back of a pick-up truck wouldn’t be that unusual, except that Ben was singing worship songs to Jesus – and students were singing along with him.   The pick-up truck band developed into a real band called Unhindered and that group made a name for itself by singing at local churches and youth revivals.  The band then gained popularity outside of Atlanta and toured regularly.  Ben is now a worship leader at Bethel Atlanta Church in Tyrone and continues to tour with Unhindered.   I found this video from 2007.  Ben plays the keyboard and leads this song vocally.  He has an immense amount of musical talent, but his real gift is leading people to a God that he loves very much.  I am glad I know him.  If you have a connection to Ben, Unhindered or Bethel, let me know.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Absolutely Nothing

Caroline and I attended a marriage class at Veritas Church when we  were members there.  One of the take-aways from that class was to commit to a date night once a week.  Our date nights aren’t usually very glamorous, but making the commitment for just the two of  us to be together at least once a week has proved to be very important to us.  This week we went to one of our favorite dinner locations, Bonefish Grill – nice meal , but nothing out of the ordinary until the waitress brought our check.  The hostess accompanied her and announced that another couple had paid our bill.  She pointed in the direction that they had been sitting, which was only a couple of tables away.  Part of me was embarrassed for not noticing who was there, but another part of me was glad that my attention had been on Caroline.  The hostess said that they had called me by name, but had instructed her not to tell me who they were.   And they were gone.  So this act of generosity generated much conversation and speculation with the first big question being, “who would have done this?” and the next being “what had I had done to deserve this?”.  The only answer I could come up with was “absolutely nothing.”   The next question was, “who would do this without wanting to be acknowledged or thanked for what they had done?”   Paul said:  “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.”  I  expect whoever paid our check had read that before once or twice.  Praise God for treating me like that every day.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Standing Up

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed even more than usual how the media loves to portray a laissez-faire attitude towards faith and spirituality.  “If it feels good, do it” seems to be  the mantra.  And anyone who wants to take a stand on anything remotely resembling God is not only ignored but sometimes vilified.  Celebrities that are acknowledged followers of Jesus are often quiet, and when they speak out, are relegated to the back of the bus.  In searching for an exception, I remembered this moment when two of my favorite country artists got together for this performance.  The response from those in attendance was amazing to me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The change we need

Last week, I posted that I was with Caroline’s family at Myrtle Beach.  The post went up on Thursday, and at that time, we hadn’t had the TV on for at least 24 hours.  It was late in the day on Thursday when I heard the horrific news of the murders in Charleston.   I probably wouldn’t have been ready to write about that last week anyway.  Since then, I have watched with sadness the news and social media coverage.  I see the overall message as “something has to change”.  There has been much chatter about the confederate flag flying in SC and streets that are named for people that oppressed black people.  I believe that if there are public symbols that offend a lot of people, public officials should seek to change that, but I can’t agree that I think that is the “change” that we need.   My parents taught me that the change we are most capable of is the change in ourselves.    Prayer is an important part of that process for me.   By slowing down and turning off the world for a few minutes, it allows me to listen for what is important.    And while this process can be relaxing, it also frequently leads to a call to action for me.  I don’t know for sure that the call is always God inspired during those times, but I choose to believe it is.  So in my prayer time over the Charleston murders, the question that confronted me was “what I am going to do? “  Not “what are the police going to do?” or “what are the lawmakers going to do?” or “what is the governor of SC going to do?”, but “what I am going to do?”   When I think about the killer’s motive, I think of two things – hate and illness.   I am not sure both were there for the murderer, but I believe it must be so.   I don’t know if it was the hate that brought on the illness, or the illness that allowed the hate.  If he was taught to hate by people close to him, then those people need as much (or more) help that he does, and they should be our focus.  If he learned to hate on his own, I want to understand what would cause someone to do that.  If he is sick, and I believe he is, then I want to understand what we can do to help people recognize the sickness earlier, and get them the help they need.  I have spent some time this week trying to find out what other people know about  the relationship between mental illness and violence.  Most of the articles I found deal with debunking the myth that the mentally ill are more violent than the rest of us.    I believe that, but that is not really what I was Iooking for.  I found this heartfelt video from Kevin Breel.  Kevin is a comedian that struggles with depression, and he offers his thoughts on what living with the disease is like.   He talks about what he is doing to overcome the problem.  I found Kevin’s video in this article, which also has a good discussion of how to help people that you think may be depressed.    I don’t know about all of the different kinds of mental illness, but I suspect that a lot of them start with or include some form of depression.   In summary, the article recommends that if you feel like someone you know is depressed, ask them “how are you doing”, with the goal being to truly understand that, as opposed to figuring out how you can fix them.  I like that advice, and I want to do that more.  I might not prevent a mass murder, but it is something I can do

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Family Ties

I got to spend this week with some of Caroline’s family at Myrtle Beach.  Aunt Delma and Uncle Dickie rented 4 condominiums so everyone that wanted a bed would have a bed to sleep in.  Family birth dates spanned 7 decades, with Uncle Dickie and my grandson, Evan, serving as the “book ends”.   I know how hard it is for Caroline and I to decide where to go out to eat when it is just the 2 of us, so it is amazing that 17 of us ended up at the same table at two different restaurants two nights in a row.    We don’t get to see Caroline’s family a lot, and it is extremely rare that this many of us would be together at one time.  I love being with her family and love seeing how everyone takes care of each other.  I am thankful to be a part of it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Who's accountable?

Caroline and I have been participating in small group meetings in our home that are sponsored by our church.    These group meetings give members a chance to get to know each other better, learn more about Jesus and pray for each other.  Our last group was made up of about 12 men and women.  Our church is starting a new program that will encourage men to meet with other men, and women with other women in group of only two or three.  These groups are designed to promote more sharing and higher intimacy and accountability.  I am excited that I will be meeting with two other men next Tuesday morning.  If you have experience with a similar group that you would like to share, please feel free to post or send me a private message.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Who’s the hero?

With all the chatter this week about heroes, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to post my own entry.  I love music, and these two superstars singing about a hero make me happy.  Some of the lyrics hit home with me.  “I don’t want to be your hero.  I want to fight like everyone else.”  “Your masquerade - I don’t wanna be a part of your parade.”  Very timely.  Very true.  Please excuse the advertising up front.  When 11 million people want to see you, somebody needs to make a buck.  Nathan and Eva, thanks for being my kind of heroes.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cultivating the vine

I have been attending The Vine Church in Braselton for the past 7 years.  I have loved worshiping under the leadership of David Walters, our teaching pastor, and Jared Strong, our worship pastor.  They are young, full of energy and full of the holy spirit.  I have watched the church grow under their care.   David announced last week that we would be adding a second campus to our church.  The building is located immediately adjacent to Flowery Branch High School on Spout Springs Road.  The two campuses will have similar services, but we will be adding a second teaching pastor that will share responsibilities with David at both locations.  David has encouraged us to pray for the people that will serve at the church in preparation for those that will meet Jesus there for the first time and to pray for those that already know him and will learn to love him more.  I am asking for your prayers for all that God has planned to do there.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A soldier’s prayer

I feel fortunate that I have not been directly impacted by the heartbreak of losing a loved one who is serving in the armed forces.  I  cannot imagine the pain that would bring.  If that were to happen, I hope that I could have some since that that person died doing what they loved and what they felt called to do.  But, I can only imagine that.  For those of you that have suffered that loss, I pray today that your heart would be healed from the sorrow of your loss and that your memories of him/her would be full of joy.  I found this soldier’s prayer online and it gave me a glimpse of something to hope for in each one that is currently in service.  Click here for the prayer.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


In case you were hoping for another James Bond movie review, sorry for the fake-out.    Pew Research Center makes a living doing surveys of what is going on in churches.  They released some findings this week that the sky is falling for Christianity and reported an 8% decline over the last 7 years in people claiming to be Christians.  That certainly sounds like something for all of our churches to be worried about.  Seeing the growth at my church in Braselton and the growth of other churches around the country, the statistic surprised and concerned me.  I was happy to find this counter point by Ed Stetzer which was published in USA Today and sure hope that he knows what he is talking about.  In case you don’t have time to read the full article, his theory is that people who were raised in a Christian home that used to check the “Christian” box on surveys, are now checking the “None” box, indicating that they are not really practicing any religion.    The percentage of people going to church has actually remained fairly stable with the number of people identifying themselves as evangelicals increasing by 2.4 million people.  All of the survey questions pale in importance to the one question that matters the most: “What am I doing to become more like Jesus today?”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gathering The Troops

For those of you that follow my blog at SpotOnTheLake, you know that our team loves the lake and loves our work.  With my son, Michael, working with me, it makes it that much harder to get our whole family together for some down time.  Last week, all of us made it down to Daytona for some time together without work (mostly).   Janet did an amazing job keeping the business thriving while we were gone.  The Atlantic offered us the opportunity to try surfing on real waves (very limited success) instead of on a wake behind a boat.    Of course there was plenty of fried seafood, books and some board games.  Most of all, it was just fun having everybody together with time to relax and no schedules.  Caroline didn’t make the photo shown.  She was probably up in the condo making sure that everything was perfect for us before making her way down to the beach.  I love that we have kids and grandkids that love being together.  I understand that is not a given these days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Toy Stories

Almost everyone has seen or heard of the Disney series of movies featuring a young boy, Andy, and his assortment of toys which come to life to help protect Andy and themselves from a world full of danger.  I was reminded of the movies this week as our small group continues with CS Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity. Towards the end of the book, CS Lewis tells a similar story. The boy, who I will call Andy, has a collection of tin soldiers that one day come to life, but their life is conflicted because they cannot understand the new world into which they have been born. They reject the feel of their soft flesh and yearn for the strength of their armor.  Andy sees their struggle. His love for the new creatures is unimaginable.  He wants them to know all that the new world has to offer them, and he wants them to love him in return. But the only way for him to do that is for him to become one of them. The gut-wrenching part is that Andy knows that some of the tin soldiers will reject him and likely kill him. But out of his love for them, he goes anyway. The toy story plays out as expected.  Many of the tin soldiers reject all that Andy has to tell them about the new world, and they conspire to kill him, and succeed. But a small group of soldiers believe, understand and love Andy. And from that moment on, they become a sort of secret society, infected by the knowledge of what Andy has explained to them, with their only mission being to tell everyone they know about the new world that they were meant for.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Age of Ultron and the unlikely heroes

There has been a lot of hype about the upcoming release of the new superhero movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron.  I am not a huge fan of these movies, but I will probably see it when it comes out on Blu-ray.  My son-in-law keeps me in the know.  I AM a big fan of Donald Miller.  Donald wrote a book called Blue Like Jazz that I read several years ago, and I had a chance to meet him when he spoke at our church before he got all big and famous.  I also have a loose connection to him through some common friends.  Donald continues to write books and shorter essays on his blog.  After doing some analysis of heroes in movies, he came up with a list of six characteristics that most heroes have.  You may be surprised to find out who the unlikely hero is.  Click here to find out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Whose Voice

I have to admit that I am a fan of the live music reality shows.  I started watching the third season of American Idol when Diana Degarmo made it to the finals.  Diana went to school in Snellville with my daughter and the personal connection got me hooked.  I believe the level of talent continues to improve as more good singers decide to compete.  This season on The Voice, another small-town-Georgia-girl is trying to make her mark.  Deanna Johnson is from Hazelhurst, GA.  I don’t think I have ever been to Hazelhurst.  Or maybe I have, and didn’t know it.  You might pass through it if you take the backroads from Atlanta down towards Brunswick.  This week, Deanna performed Oceans, a Christian song made popular by Hillsong United.  It was satisfying to see a young singer have the strength to pick a song with a Christian message.  I was underwhelmed by her performance, but the fans voted to save her using the new “instant save”.   I usually like what coach, Adam Levine, has to say.   He has proven that he knows what a lot of people want to hear.  This week, however, I got really annoyed with him.  A common theme for coach’s comments in general goes something like this:  “Technically, that was a great performance, but I didn’t feel like you really connected to the lyrics. I want to feel something.”  In trying to defend Deanna’s selection of a Christian song,  Adam’s comments went something like this:  “Even though this was originally a Christian song, I think all people should be able to relate to this in their own way.”  What I heard was, “Don’t hold it against Deanna for picking a Christian song.”  It was sad to me that he felt it necessary to practically apologize for the song selection, and dilute whatever statement Deanna might have been hoping to make.   Would it have been so hard to say, “Deanna has picked a song with a message that reflects something that is very important to her”?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bunnies and Eggs

For those of you that celebrate Easter, I am sure you have had your fill of bunnies and eggs.  I know I have.  I had an exchange with one of my pastors about Easter and Good Friday and learned a few things.  Easter began as a pagan celebration of Spring.  The word Easter is believed to be derived from the goddess Eostre, which means spring, and she was worshiped in Northern Europe as the goddess of fertility.  The same virtue was worshipped in the goddess, Ishtar, in Babylonia.  No surprise, her symbols were rabbits and eggs.   Apparently, there are some Christians who are offended by this and are very defensive.  I don’t think there is any need to be offended.  I believe that once Jesus came and was resurrected, believers thought they would rather worship Him than a sex goddess.  There was already a celebration going on in the Spring, so they just decided to make it about Jesus.  Jesus taught a lot of great lessons while He was here.  On the Thursday before his crucifixion, he taught his disciples that no matter who you are, you were put on this earth to serve, not to be served - and then He washed their feet.  Here is how one artist depicted that scene (graphic violence).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

I know I’m is a little premature, but I couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to talk about Moms.   We love having my mom living next door to us.  We get to see her or talk to her almost every day, and she continues to take good care of us.   Caroline’s mom passed away when we were seniors in high school.  She died suddenly of a brain aneurism.  We miss her a lot, especially around this time of the year.  I get to learn a lot about her from knowing Caroline.  I am sure that some of Caroline’s best qualities came directly from her.  I also get to know a lot about her from our kids that Caroline has poured all of her love into for 31 years.  We now have another generation to watch and learn from.  Michael and Emily have two boys of their own, and I am excited to announce that Lizzy and Trey are pregnant with their first.  No doubt, that baby will be one of the luckiest on earth with Lizzy as her mom, Caroline as her grandmother and my mom as her great grandmother.  Happy First Mother’s Day Lizzy and Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing Mom’s in my life.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Deadliest Sin

In the third section of CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, he explores Christian behavior.  And just to clarify, he is not talking about how all Christians behave, but how we should behave if we are following Jesus.  He spends time on several of the things that many of us struggle with, but then he lands on what he calls “The Great Sin”, and I have called “The Deadliest Sin”.  That sin is pride or self-conceit.  He talks about pride as being the only sin that is competitive.  It’s not “look at how much I have” or “look how good looking I am”, it is “look how much more I have than Joe” or “look how much better looking I am than Betty.”  Regrettably, this competitive nature applies to how we view our religiosity as well.  “I go to church every Sunday and go on a mission trip every summer.  I wish all Christians were as committed as I am.  Bless their heart.”  Looking down on other people has the terrible result of making it harder to look up to God.  And Lewis leaves us with an ominous warning:  as soon as you start feeling like you have conquered pride, achieved humility and begun to think good of yourself, you better take a closer look at what just happened.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Celebrating March 17th

On March 17th, there was a lot of green beer consumed in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but my brother, Craig, and his wife, Carolyn, were celebrating something different  - their 36th wedding anniversary.  Just staying married for 36 years is cause for celebration, but  Craig and Carolyn have a lot more to celebrate after successfully raising 6 children and getting them all to or through college.   Their home is not what you would call a quiet place.  And that is because it is almost always filled with family and friends who laugh a lot.  I am envious at how much laughter is in their house and know that it is primarily due to the spirit that Craig and Carolyn have nurtured in their home.  I am also very proud of their Christian witness within their family and their community.  Both of them have led/are leading groups in their home that gather to learn more about Jesus and give thanks for what He has done and continues to do.  I am proud of the example that Craig and Carolyn have set for their family, for others and for me and know that there will be many more anniversary celebrations to follow.  I love you both.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

An Investment That Pays Off

My workload was doubled up this week due to Michael being on vacation.  Instead of taking his family to the beach or  Disney World, he is in Nicaragua leading a group of college students on a mission trip. This is his third time to take the trip and the first time that his wife, Emily, has been able to go with him.  That means that Caroline and I, in addition to Emily's parents, are able to spend some quality time with the grandkids while they are gone.  I am so proud of both of Emily and Michael for their passion for service.  I know that the investment they make there  will pay off for everyone: those they are serving, those they are leading, themselves, and most important, the Kingdom.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What a great guy

I saw this article about a new painting by Sam Spratt that was just revealed in conjunction with the book, Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly and the National Geographic movie of the same name.  I am no art critic, but I do think the painting is beautiful. More interesting to me however, were the artist’s notes about the painting:

 “While I’m not religious or Christian, there are just some pretty universal truths out there, regardless of belief system, one of which being that he’s easily one of the most — if not the most — influential figure of all time.”

 This struck a chord with me as I had just finished reading the chapter in Mere Christianity with our Connect Group which addresses this position that many people seem to hold:  “Jesus was a great moral teacher, but I just don’t believe he was God or God’s son.  What a great guy, though.  Really influential.” 

There is no sense in me trying to rephrase what CS Lewis said so perfectly:

 “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said, would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg -  or else he would be the Devil of  Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.   You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.   But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great moral teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

Clear enough?

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I believe I have mentioned in the past that Caroline and I are blessed to have my Mom living right next door to us.  We get to see her or talk to her almost every day.  She has been next door for several years now, and it is easy for me to take that for granted.  At the age of 83, she is active in her church, volunteers at the library, participates in neighborhood groups and still has time to take care of me and Caroline.  We love having her near us.  If your mom and dad are still around, but maybe not as close, give them a call or drop a note in the mail today for no reason at all except to tell them that you are thinking of them.  I love you, Mom.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Human Nature

I mentioned a few weeks back that our Connect Group from church will be reading and discussing Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.  This is one of my all-time favorite books.  In case you are not familiar, CS Lewis was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 to 1954.  He was an atheist, but due to the influence of a fellow professor, JRR Tolkien, and other friends, he became a Christian and wrote several books dealing with the subject.  Mere Christianity is actually a collection of BBC radio addresses that he made during World War II.  The first group of messages is dealing with the fundamental idea that all cultures seem to have an idea of right and wrong – or the law of human nature.   But this law is very different from the natural laws.  The natural laws describe what actually happens.  We throw a ball into the air and because of the law of gravity, it falls back down.  But while we all have a good idea of what is right and wrong, our daily actions show that we don’t follow the law, and when we don’t, we usually feel bad about it.   So if there is this law, which does not reflect how we actually are, where could such a law have come from?  CS Lewis warns that he is nowhere close to talking about Jesus yet – just the idea that this law of human nature had to come from someone or something that created us and made it an integral part of who we are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Music Man – Part II

Last week I recognized David Gregory, my high school band director, and shared a song that he directed when Caroline and I were in band under his direction 35 years ago.   Before Christmas,  I shared a link to the Kings College performance of O Magnum Mysterium, one of my favorite pieces of art.  That wasn’t a song that I happened upon while surfing youtube for “great music”.   That song is one that I performed with Caroline under the direction of the same David Gregory when we were a part of the community orchestra, Tara Winds.  Here is a link to that recording.  I hope that you are able to feel a small degree of the joy that we felt performing it under David’s direction.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Music Man

I posted this to facebook but I wanted to make sure all of  you had a chance to  see it as well. 

I  played the trumpet in high school band.   I will never forget the day that my band director told us that our lives would be changed because of our experiences in the band, and that someday, some of us would even be married to each other.  There was this flute player that had caught my eye.  She finally agreed to go out with me, and we dated for two years in high school.   In the spring of our senior year, her mom died suddenly of a brain aneurism.   Her mom and dad had been active in the band program, and her dad asked that one of the songs that the band had performed be played at her funeral.  Shortly after her mom’s death, her dad moved to North Carolina, and there was a family that agreed to let her stay with them as she transitioned to the local college.   Twenty years later, I was at a church and felt called to start an instrumental ensemble there.  I had no experience doing anything like that, but with the encouragement of a local school administrator, was able to pull a group of 30 players, mostly high school students, including my son and daughter, together.  The highlight of my time with the ensemble was a patriotic program that we put together shortly after 9/11.   We invited a guest conductor in for a Saturday clinic to prepare the program and then performed on Sunday evening.  I think back on that event as one of the most important things that I have ever done.   Through our involvement in the church ensemble, I began playing the trumpet again after 20 years.   I learned of a local community band that was made up of mostly school band directors and applied for membership.   I was given the opportunity to play and participated in that group for five years.  We had many great concerts and trips together, culminating in a 10 day trip to Italy where we were invited to play with the Italian National Band.   My love for instrumental music has remained strong and for the past several years we have been watching with interest the music program at a small university in North Georgia.   We have been supporting the program and have joined a new community band which was started there.
There is a common thread to my story.  That thread is my close friend, David Gregory.  David was my high school band director.  He is the one who predicted I would marry my wife Caroline.  David’s family is the one that allowed Caroline to stay with them after her mom’s death.    David is the school administrator who encouraged me to start an instrumental ensemble at my church.  David is the clinician that led the patriotic program at our church.   David founded the community band that I went to Italy with.  David is the man that built the instrumental program at the university in north Georgia from nothing to their performance this week at the Georgia Music Educator’s Convention.  David is the founder of Georgia Winds, where my wife and I will continue to make music together as long as we are able.  
Thank you, David, for your uncompromising dedication to your craft, your students and for your love and support of me and my family.  I wanted to share this recording of the song that was played at Caroline’s mom’s funeral.     Caroline and I were in the band together for this recording, and it is the only time that I can remember the band also performing vocally.

Who puts his trust in God most just
Hath built his house securely;
He who relies on Jesus Christ,
Shall reach his heaven most surely,
Then fixed on Thee my trust shall be,
For thy truth cannot alter;
While mine Thou art, not death's worst smart
Shall make my courage falter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I have mentioned in the past an organization I am connected to called Café 1040.  Café 1040 is dedicated to taking the story of Jesus to people groups that have never heard it before.  My good friend, Stephen Byerly, is a leader there, and he sent me a book called The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.  The forward to the book lets us know that Nik Ripken is not the author’s real name, as the places he has been and the stories he reports could place him, his family or his subjects in danger.  Nik reports story after story of people making supreme sacrifices to spread the story of  Jesus.  In fact, Nik lost his own son while serving overseas.  If you are passionate about spreading the Word of Jesus, please check out this book or visit Café 1040 for more information.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Truth

Veritas is Latin for “truth”.   Veritas Church is in Decatur.  We had the privilege of being some of the first members of that church, and while we don’t still attend there, Veritas is celebrating its 10th birthday this week.  If you have been around church plants, you  probably know that very few new churches are still around after 10 years.  I believe that Veritas Church is still around because, the pastor, David Slagle, listened to God before starting it, listened to God while he was leading and is still listening for God’s direction for the church.   After listening to God, David delivers the truth, and delivers it beautifully.  While David is not my current church pastor, I do consider him my life pastor and also consider him to be one of my closest friends.  May God bless Veritas Church and all that have been and will be connected with it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Moving Day

I am so excited for my son Michael and his wife Emily this week.  They have just purchased a home in Jefferson and are moving  there from Athens this week.  The move gives them more space for their family and puts them 30 minutes closer to us in Braselton and 30 minutes closer to Michael’s work at Lake  Hartwell.  They still have easy access to Athens for Emily’s work and church.  I am very  proud that they have done an amazing job managing their spending over the last few  years allowing them to make this move without financial trauma.    I am also proud of all that they are doing to raise their two boys in a Godly home, ensuring that they have the best chance possible of loving Jesus as they are old enough to make that decision.  Praise God.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Connect To The Vine

I am looking forward to a new season with my Connect Group through The Vine Church  in Braselton.   My friend, Dan Kniffen, will be leading our group that will be reading and discussing Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  The book and author are probably my favorites of all time.  For anyone that is close, I would love for you to join us on Tuesday evenings at our home.  For those where that is not convenient, I would love for you to read along with us.   If this topic is not up your alley, you are welcome to join one of our other groups here.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Last September, Caroline and I went on a bike trip to France.  One of the things that made the trip so great were the two guides that took care of us while we were biking.  One of the guides was Suzanne.  She had an amazing way of handling the most awkward situations (old people complaining) perfectly.  She also was great at making you feel like you were the only one on the planet when you were talking with her.    I found out that she is a student of “mindfulness”.    I am  not ready to give mindfulness full credit for how amazing she was, but it no doubt at least plays a part.   Mindfulness got some national attention last December when Anderson Cooper made this report on 60 Minutes.  I think this practice is an important part of prayer that I am not very good at.  I would like to change that this year.