Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resolve

Another year under the belt - literally.  With my weight being at a life-time high, I am resolved to make changes to fix that.  My son and daughter-in-law gave my a fitness tracker watch for Christmas, and the novelty of the gift has helped me with some early wins - my first run in six months, more walking breaks during the day and a realization that the staircase in my house provides 90% of the exercise I need to lose weight - if I use it.  My other resolution this year is to attempt to enjoy the moment I am in as opposed to anticipating (or worrying about) what will come next.  I don't have any electronics to help me with that one, but I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Something From Nothing


I saw this video on facebook.  You may have also.  I thought it was well done, and it reinforced for me how small and insignificant we are relative to the vastness of all creation.  The complexity of space is matched by the intricacy of the human body.  My tag for the post was: "must have been a pretty big bang."  One of my friends had this reply: "Indeed. And Nothing caused it. That Nothing is some powerful stuff. Well, it's not stuff exactly, because it's Nothing. But how Nothing can make something is one of the great mysteries of science. The phenomenon of Nothing making something has never been repeated (as far as we know), but I've got an experiment going with my wallet."  It reminded me of the words of the great Billy Preston - "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing...".  Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nothing More

Our small group wrapped up our study of Colossians last night.  I was encouraged by the author, Paul, who despite being in prison, wrote a letter to a church that he had never visited to instruct them and encourage them.  Apparently, some of the people in Colosse were confusing ideas from other philosophies and religions with the deity of Christ.  Paul reminded them (and us) that Christ is fully God and fully man, and that his grace is sufficient to cover us.  Nothing more is needed. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reward Levels

Last night our small group from church got off on a spirited tangent talking about different "levels" of heaven.  All of us had heard in the past about the idea that the more obedient we are on Earth, the higher the level we would be assigned in heaven.  All of us also agreed that this seems counter to the idea that all that is necessary for entrance to heaven is belief in Jesus as God's son and our personal savior.  We did a little digging to find this reference in 2 Corinthian 12:2 where Paul says:  “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.”   Our study sources revealed that the word translated as heaven, could also be translated as "realm".    If Paul was describing the "third realm", he was likely just been describing the one and only heaven.   Revelation 22:12 states: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” .  This could also be interpreted as higher rewards for cleaner living on earth.  I prefer to think of it this way.   I love music.  Another person may love visual art.  I believe that in God's infinite generosity, he could reward us with those things that mean the most to us.  One gift isn't better than another, it is just "according to what we have done."  This may or may not be the way it will be.   But I feel strongly about two things.  1) God loves that we are curious about him and desire to know him more.  2) Anything great or beautiful that we could imagine about heaven while on earth will be dwarfed by the surprises God has in store for us when we meet him face to face. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

82 Years of Faith

Billy Graham celebrated his 98th birthday last month.  After declaring Jesus as his Lord and Savior at the age of 16, his unwavering faith has impacted more people than any other mere human.  Over 215 million people have seen and heard his message in person and 100's of millions more through books, television and other media.  Over 3 million people have documented that he was responsible for their new life in Jesus.  I never had the chance to hear him speak in person, but YouTube gives us glimpses of his brilliance.  Happy belated birthday Billy.  Your message will be with us forever.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Music of the season

I have to admit that I don't love that XM radio is playing Christmas music already.  Luckily for me, there are 100's of other options to choose from.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas music.  I am just not ready to enjoy it before Thanksgiving.  I can't wait to pop in the Amy Grant Christmas cd that I first enjoyed on vinyl, but there is nothing like a little live music.  From carolers stopping by the house to singing worship hymns in church, live music is special in that it only happens just that way once.  And once the note is sounded, it is gone.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Caroline and I play in the Georgia Wind Symphony.  On December 10th at 7:30pm, we will be performing our Christmas concert at the Cambridge High School Performing Arts Center in Milton.  The concert is our gift to the community, so there is no admission charge.  If you can free up an evening during the busy holiday season, I promise that you will not be disappointed.  Let me know if you can make it, so we can make sure to thank you for attending afterwards.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Welcome Respite


One of the great things about being in a small group at church is that I have a group of people looking out for opportunities to inspire me.  One of our members shared this video of one young man's response to the massacre at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC last year.  In the wake of all of the rioting going on in our nation over the past week, this is a welcome respite. The video is 17 minutes in length, so make sure you have time to see this one through to the end.  You won't regret it.  Thanks Katie.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

This is Us

In researching speakers that will be leading sessions at Pine Cove Chimney Point, I came across the bio for Barrett and Jenifer Johnson.  They will be  hosting week 2 at the family camp in summer of 2017.  Their website is INFOforFamilies.com and includes great resources for families seeking to cope in a world that is constantly pulling us away from God.  Barrett posted this glowing recommendation for the new NBC series, This is Us.  If you haven't seen it yet, This is Us is about the struggles and triumphs of a family, but what makes it unique is the way it integrates the current day with flashbacks to when the adults were young revealing the effects their parents had on them.  This was done so seamlessly that my wife, Caroline, had to explain to me what was going on in the first episode.  Patrick continues in his post to talk about things we can do to help ensure that our legacy to our kids and our grandkids is something to be proud of - and not something to be ashamed of.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Something in the water

Today, I feel like I need some distraction from the unrelenting election coverage.  Next week, Carrie Underwood is co-hosting the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley, and I will watch.  I became a country music fan late in life, and I credit much of my interest to Carrie Underwood winning American Idol.  Carrie is an amazing example of a celebrity that can remain popular while holding on to a strong Christian witness.  I posted this fantastic version of "Amazing Grace" previously, and for something a little more current, "There Must be Something in the Water" is on her 2016 tour.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Debate Winner

After enduring the third presidential debate last night, I feel a since of sadness over our political system.   I am not excited about voting for either major party candidate and am uneasy about how things will proceed for our country over the next four years.  I was introduced to a third alternative this week in Evan McMullin.   I know very little about him except for the media coverage since he joined the race in August as an independent.  All I can say is he seems intelligent, well-spoken and rational.  I have not seen him under pressure, so I don't know how he might respond in a debate situation, but my instincts say he would do very well.  My son, Michael, had to explain to me how it would be possible for him to actually win the election.  He wins his home state of Utah, the other two candidates split the remaining electoral votes evenly, neither has a majority, and the house of representatives appoints McMullin as president.   That would be a God-size miracle that only He could perform.  That may or may not be His will for now.  However, I know that no matter what happens, He is in charge and His agenda is the one that will become front and center one day.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Antiphonal trumpets

Church looks different for a lot of us these days.  I grew up in a traditional Presbyterian church complete with 6-figure pipe organ.  Now my church has a 6 figure A/V booth with two cameras with operators and three remote cameras - one with joy stick.  I'm not making fun.  I love my church.  But I remember the day at 1st Pres when they added the antiphonal trumpets in the rear of the sanctuary.  The "trumpets" were driven by the pipe organ and were debuted with "God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand".  But every service included The Doxology (Old 100).  I have been thinking of the Doxology recently as The Georgia Wind Symphony, which Caroline and I play in, is preparing a composition based on that hymn.  The Doxology begins with "Praise God from who all blessings flow."   As my current church is in the midst of a month of prayer, I want to recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.  That doesn't change, no matter how we worship.  And God hasn't changed either.
 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tall Order

We just started a new sermon series at The Vine titled "Kingdom Come". We are looking at how Jesus taught us to pray using The Lord's Prayer as a model.  This week we are focused on praise, adoration and God's love.  John reports Jesus' words to us in John 17:23.  "I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." God loves us like he loves his own son - and that's how we are to love others.  Tall order.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Love To Learn

I ran across this short article by Scott Bessenecker relaying an encounter he had with a Jehovah's Witness that had stopped by his home to invite him to join a bible study.  Scott is in full time Christian ministry, and while the idea of starting a study with a stranger wasn't an opportunity he was ready to jump at, his response to her was insightful.  He briefly told the visitor what he believed, but then said that if those things weren't true, he did not want to believe them.  If she would take the same position, he would agree to meet with her.  She turned and left.  His conclusion was that all believers need to constantly think about and challenge what they believe - and be willing to question thoughtfully what others believe.  Being inquisitive and discerning is Godly.  I think this is why I am drawn to authors like CS Lewis and Dallas Willard and have gone back to their writing over and over again.  It's not just the words they write and the thoughts they express, but a genuine love for truth and knowledge that is undeniable.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Making Clemson great

There's nothing like the first day of fall to confirm that football season is well under way.   And there is nothing like seeing someone overcome hardship and thrive to make for a great story (and some wet eyes). You may remember this story from year's past, but either way it is worth a watch.  Bob and Diane Saville are neighbors and clients at Lake Hartwell, and their son, David, thrived with the football program at Norcross High School and then at Clemson University.  This 10 minute video tells the story.  Please take time to watch. You won't regret it  - or forget it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Scaring the children



I am super-saturated with the media coverage of the election.  I am very tired of mountains being made out of mole-hills.  I take the election very seriously, but I am amazed at how the smallest incidents can become the subject of news for multiple nights (or weeks) of news coverage.  I want to vote, but I don't know what to do.  Andy Stanley did a great job of calming my fears with this clip from one of his sermons.  You may have seen this on social media.  Either way take a look, and let me know what you think.  Click here for video.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ball of yarn

We had dinner with our friends, Mark and Suzanne, this week.  Suzanne told us about one of her friends whose small child has been diagnosed with brain cancer.  The cancer was very aggressive and had intertwined itself within a region of the brain like spaghetti.  The surgeon told the parents that he would need to do surgery to biopsy the tumor so that he could determine a plan for treatment, but the outlook was not good.   The mom told one of her friends to pray for the safety of her child during the procedure.  The friend told her that she had prayed that the tumor would "miraculously unwind like a ball of yarn".  After completing the surgery, and with no knowledge of the prayer, the surgeon came in to update the parents on the biopsy.  The surgeon said he had never seen anything like what had happened.  As he was securing the section of the tumor for the biopsy, it seemed loose. He continued to pull on it, and the "tumor unwound like a ball of yarn."  He was able to remove all or most of the tumor during what was supposed to be only a biopsy procedure.  Praise God for making himself known through miracles only He can make happen.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Labor of Love

I remember going to a career counseling weekend with my church when I was in high school.  They said I was pretty good with numbers, and that I might like to do something with computers.  I learned about computers at UGA (with punched cards), and then went to work for IBM right out of school.  I spent 8 years there and then left the hardware world to sell software.  i did that for another 10 years.  I was changing companies about every 2 years, but one year I had four W-2's due to two corporate acquisitions.  I was making a living, but I wasn't living.  My work consumed the majority of my time, but I wasn't doing anything or building anything that was very satisfying to me.  In 2003, I literally had a come to Jesus meeting after another software job change.  I thought and prayed about what I loved, and I kept coming back to my family and the lake.  It was then that I decided to get my real estate license and at age 42, make a complete career change to sell real estate at Lake Hartwell.  I work hard, a lot of the time too hard.  But now, with my son, Michael, working with me full time, I can say that what I am doing is very satisfying.  Please tune in next week to see a little project that I have been working on for two years that tells the story of my labor of love.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Getting Connected

Last semester, I co-led our small group from church with Dan Kniffen, and we finished up our study of The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.   Dan has now moved out of the area, and I will be helping Kyle Grant, one of our past members, lead a group discussing Workplace Grace.  I look forward to sharing any revelations from the study with you.  If any of you in the Braselton area want to join us Wednesday evenings, here is the link.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Running With A Purpose

I won't be competing in the Tugaloo Triathlon next month.  I am too old.  I did complete a sprint level triathlon at age 50 with the encouragement of close friends, but I haven't completed another one since.  I'm just too old (55) - or maybe not.  Sister Madonna Buder began running for sport at age 48 and then completed her first Ironman triathlon at age 55.  She now holds the world record for the oldest person, man or woman, to complete an Ironman triathlon - at age 82.  She runs to encourage people to pursue their passions, develop their gifts and acknowledge that everything we have comes as a gift from our creator.  Click here to meet Madonna.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gymnastics Fail

With most of the world's eyes focused on the 2016 Olympics,  and more specifically the women's gymnastics earlier this week,  I came across this story of one of our favorite gymnasts from 2008.  Shawn Johnson won a gold medal there, but it was not the four gold medals that everyone had predicted.  Although she was one of the top athletes in the world, she felt as though she had failed herself, her team, her family and her country.  In preparation for the 2012 Olympics, she recognized that her identity was not determined by the gold medals that she won or lost.  Listen to the rest of her moving story here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spreading The Word

One of the most important things that believers are asked to do is share what the know with others.  I was encouraged this week reading through the book of Acts.  In the 16th chapter, Paula and Silas were out talking about Jesus, and a slave girl possessed by a demon was following them.  Paul commanded the demon to leave the girl, and it left her immediately.  The owners of the slave girl were mad that the girl had been freed from the demon, and put Paul and Silas in jail.  Paul and Silas had been beaten, but continued to sing songs of praise while in jail.  An earthquake shook the prison and the doors were thrown open.  The jailer knowing, that the prisoners must have escaped, drew his sword to kill himself, but Paul yelled out, "stop, we are still here."  The jailer immediately  asked what he needed to do to be saved, and they told him all he needed to do was believe in Jesus and ask for his forgiveness - and he did.
 
If Paul and Silas can spread the word after being beaten and jailed, it seems like it should be a little easier for me.  I pray it will.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Beauty from pain


Music has been a big part of Lauren Daigle's life since birth.  She grew up in Louisiana, and you can still hear shades of blues, country and cajun in her songs.  As a young teenager, she almost pushed music to the back burner.   But at 15, she was struck with a debilitating virus that kept her our of school for two years.  It was during this time, that her faith in God and love for music merged to produce some of her best work.  And now, any who care to listen can be blessed by her words and music.  One of my favorites here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The blame game


As the stories of tragedy after tragedy fill our televisions and computers, most of us are compelled to ask "why?".  Why does this continue to happen and how long is this going to go on?  Almost immediately, the blame game ensues.  It seems everyone who is speaking out wants to blame guns or police or politicians or religions or bigots. The blame game seems so senseless to me.  In fact, it is worse than senseless, in that it deepens the vast gaps that already separate us.  Almost everyone agrees that killing innocent people isn't right.  The only people who truly believe that are either mentally ill or pure evil.  The rest of us need to be protected from those people.  What I need to do is think about what I can do.  I can pray for the families that have been busted apart by the violence.  I can examine myself to try to root out any trace of hate, prejudice or bigotry, and I can try to do something today for someone else instead of only focusing on myself.  Please pray for me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pirate Adventure



This week, Caroline and her friend Linda, are executing the first ever Lake Camp for the grandkids (no diapers allowed).  Evan, Kate and Emma are in the midst of a pirate adventure.  Captain Hook stole their treasure chest on the first day, and they have been using maps and their pirate ship decorated with hand-made flags to find the treasure.  They came up empty yesterday on Serpent Island, but today will be traveling to Skull Island to try to catch up with the captain and their loot.  I am so blessed to have a wife and friends that put so much importance on making memories with our grandkids.  Oh yeah, they even let the granddads participate.  I made the maps, and Ed is the captain of the ship!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Moms


 
1996
2016
 
I know we just celebrated Independence Day, but I have to recognize some very special mom’s today.  My wife, Caroline, and my brother’s wife, Carolyn, planned and executed a family reunion in Big Stone Gap, VA last weekend.  Craig and Carolyn have six kids of their own and three grandkids.  We have two plus four grandkids.  Needless to say, chaos was one of the major themes of the weekend.  It was a tremendous amount of effort managing transportation, activities, meals and sleeping arrangements, but CiCi and CiCi did it with unbelievable grace.  We visited state parks, swam, watched fireworks and participated in the small town parade on the fourth.  We were actually celebrating the 20th reunion of when we took our kids to Big Stone Gap in 1996, dressed as Olympians and participated in the parade that year.  You see, CiCi and CiCi had a great model to follow, because my mom, Pat, always hosted summer camp for my kids when they were old enough to be out of diapers.  Cheers to moms who value family, and invest the time, energy and love to make lasting memories for all of us.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Freedom


Over 200 years ago, our forefathers fought to break the bonds of tyranny imposed by a distant government only concerned with their own selfish gain.  The strength of those men, many whom gave their lives for us, provides us with the right to live in a country where we have the freedom to live, work and worship as we please.  Over 2000 years ago, my heavenly father sent his son to break the bonds of sin that would otherwise consume me.   His sacrifice gives me the freedom to live.   
Jesus said: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’? Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.   So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”   John 8: 31-36

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tell The Story

Being a crippled follower of Jesus frequently leaves me in the uncomfortable condition of letting Him down.  No place is that more prevalent than in my failing to follow the command of telling everybody about Him in hopes that they will follow Him, too.  I sometimes try to let myself off by saying, “If I can just act like a Christian (without talking about it), maybe other people will want to do that too.”  While acting like a Christian is certainly important, it is not enough.  I know that, but I rarely do anything about it.  I came across this article by Nicole Cliffe.  Nicole was an atheist until she came to know Jesus.  She writes beautifully (here) about how that happened, and I hope that somebody reading it might make their own discovery.  Maybe they will write about it one day, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

No Good Words

I watched with horror this week as the story of the killings in Orlando unfolded.  I watched the responses of people on the news and in social media to the victims and would characterize almost all of what I saw as deep sorrow and immense love.  I also watched what people were saying about the shooter and saw a much broader range of responses.  I saw people trying to make the event about politics, religion and sexuality.  After watching everyone else, I felt compelled to write about what I thought, and I found no good words.  The whole thing is so senseless to me, and my nature is to try to make sense of things.  The two words I kept coming back to for the killer were evil and sickness, and I am not sure that those two words are completely different.  In general, I think of evil as a choice and sickness as uncontrollable.  To me, evil does not exist by itself, but is merely the absence of goodness.  Did the shooter have a mental illness that could have been treated that made him evil or was he pure evil?  I guess we may never know.   And none of this helps the fact that 49 people have been brutally taken from their family and friends.  I am not currently aware of any personal connections that I have to the victims, but my heart breaks for those that do.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bread and Wine II


I have written about Ben Smith in past posts.  Ben went to high school with my son, Michael, and started a band called Unhindered.  He is now the worship pastor at Bethel Atlanta and has just released his second album singing with his wife, Kelly, under the name Bread and Wine.  The album is appropriately named “Two”.  Caroline and I had the pleasure of hearing them live at Serenbe, where they lead worship gatherings regularly.  Here is one of their songs from “Two” performed recently at Serenbe.   The lyrics are powerful, “Let your love come in like a rushing wind.  Saturate my heart and soul again.”   Take a few minutes to turn everything else off, sit still and be led into His presence.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shameless Exploitation II

In doing research for this week’s SpotOnTheLake note, I found this book by Paul Newman entitled “Shameless Exploitation – In Pursuit of the Common Good”.   I have not read the book yet, but I would like to.  The story is about how Paul Newman’s failed attempt to open a restaurant near his  home turned into a salad dressing enterprise that has raised over $150 million dollars for Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.  Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, named for the outlaw band in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was founded by Newman and serves children with serious diseases.  Newman talks about how he broke every business rule when starting Newman’s Own salad dressings, and turned it into a multi-million dollar business.  It just goes to show how having a cause can fuel tremendous success.  Of course, the book is just another opportunity for shameless exploitation.  Kudos to Paul.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beautiful

Caroline and I had plans to go to the Fox Theatre tonight for “Beautiful” with our good friends, John and Annie Crawford.  We have had this on the calendar for months, and have been looking forward to the show and to seeing them.  One of their close friends died from cancer, and the funeral is today.  John  has been asked to speak at the funeral.  While I will miss seeing them, I know that John will make an impact for the kingdom today.   I first met John in the UGA Redcoat Band.  He then became my life insurance agent, then Caroline’s boss and then my real estate client.   While each of these relationships is significant on their own, I count John as one of my  closest friends and more importantly, my mentor, when it comes to matters of God.   We are the same age, but his spiritual maturity dwarfs mine.  I know that if I ever have a moral dilemma, I can count on him for Godly advice.   I hope all of you have a John in your life.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Food For The Soul


Georgia Wind Symphony
This past Sunday, Caroline and I performed in our last concert of the season with the Georgia Wind Symphony.  GWS is made up of music educators from around the state with some regular old people like us thrown in to keep the group humble.  I have talked about our relationship to the conductor in past posts.  David Gregory was our high school band director in Columbus.  We have remained friends and are now playing under his direction again.  The whole idea of a bunch of  people getting together to make music is very special.  First of all, each member has a skill.  Some more than others, but we wouldn’t be there if we couldn’t make a sound with our instruments.  Second there is desire.  People have to want to volunteer their time to get to rehearsal and prepare their parts.  And then you need a leader – someone to instruct, create and inspire.  Next, there is the audience.  In this case mostly family and friends who have some stake in the people on stage, but their attendance and reaction is immediate feedback to the work of the members.  While you can always go back and listen to a recording of the concert, there is nothing like being there during the creation.   For after the note is sounded, it is then gone.  But the anticipation of what might come next is the magic of music – and music is a good mirror of other good things worth working for.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Buried: a life

I read with horror the story about Ding Cuimei, a pastor’s wife, who was buried alive by a bulldozer that was demolishing their church in Beijing.  She and her husband had been attempting to prevent the demolition by staying on the property.  Her husband managed to crawl away, but she was killed.  While about 5% of China’s population are Christian, the government continues to do everything it can to slow the growth and ensure that people’s religious beliefs are subservient to the political system.  I am thankful that my family and I live in a place that allows us to worship freely, and I pray that other countries will somehow come to know and love the one true God.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Guns and Roses


I have a close friend whose son is a gun advocate.  He has been vocal in trying to get guns to be allowed on college campus’s with the appropriate license.   He is 21 years old, licensed and can carry his almost anywhere except for at school.  He maintains that good people with guns can help stop bad people with guns or other weapons.   Others say that more guns on campus’s will just result in more violence.  What do you think?  Feel free to email me at tommiller@kw.com if you prefer not to post publically.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Promises kept


There are few things in live more powerful than a promise kept.  A groom’s promise to his bride.  A parent’s promise to their child.  A child’s promise to their parent.  A friend’s promise to another friend.  Few things hurt more than a broken promise.  In Genesis, the God of our universe and beyond promised Abram: “Do not be afraid; I am your shield,  your very great reward.”   God then performed miracles in Abram’s life allowing him to be the father of the Jewish people which led to the birth of Jesus.    God has made the same promise to me and continues to show me that He is my shield and my very great reward.  I hope you know His promise, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Color Yellow



We finished up chapter 9 of The Divine Conspiracy this week in our Connect Group.  Dallas Willard tells us that the two most important parts of becoming a disciple are enthralling the mind with Jesus and removing any of the barriers (bad habits) that are keeping us from him.  He hit me right in the gut when he said that the most important way that we will enthrall our minds with Jesus is through silence and solitude.  This is something most people are not too good at these days, and I am one of the worst offenders.  I feel like my life is full of a lot of good things:  family, church, friends, work and leisure – but it is not full of the best thing, Him.  Dallas encourages us to look for God in His creation.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of this as I was driving through Hart County today (63 MPH in a 55).  These fields of flowers go on for miles.  I am assuming someone planted them, but these seeds and the dirt that nourished them are purely God’s doing.  I love that the God I want to know more is so full of beauty, and was happy to take a couple of minutes to soak it in.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stairway to Heaven


I am reading through the gospel of John this week.  While I am sure I have read it and heard excerpts dozens of  times, I could not have recounted the first interaction between Jesus and Nathanael before this week.   After Jesus calls out to Nathanael before being introduced to him, Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus as the Son of God.  Jesus then makes a promise to Nathanael, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  Some say that Jesus is referencing Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:12 when he sees “a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”  This is a beautiful picture to me of God opening the heavens, sending angels down to earth – only made possible by Jesus – the stairway connecting the heavens with the earth.  And He also represents the only access that we have to heaven as our time on earth ends.  (After some minor research to satisfy my curiosity, I don’t believe this stairway to heaven is connected in any way to Led Zeppelin’s.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

God’s Not Dead II


God’s Not Dead, the 2014 movie, grossed over $60 million dollars  in the US.  The movie was about a college professor who wouldn’t allow students to move forward in his class until they announced that “God is dead”.   God’s Not Dead II opened last week, and the strong following from the first movie should give it a good jumpstart.  This story is centered on the court trial of a teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) who is accused of talking about Jesus  in her history class.  The producer, David A. R. White founded Pure Flix Entertainment which focuses on faith based movies.   Kudo’s to David, Melissa and the rest of the team for having the guts to speak out for what they believe in and have the creativity to get others interested as well.  Click here for a preview.  Let me know if you have seen it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Be Like Him


Two weeks ago, I mentioned the practices that Dallas Willard claims to be ok, but not primary to the objective of turning yourself into a disciple of Jesus. The last half of Chapter 9 in the Divine Conspiracy dives into what the two primary objectives are. The first is to bring apprentices to the point where they dearly love and constantly delight in the “heavenly father” made real to us on earth in Jesus. There is no “catch” and no limit to the goodness of his intentions or his power to carry them out. The second objective is to remove our automatic responses against the kingdom of God – to free us from our old habitual patterns of thought, feeling and action. Our body has been trained outside the kingdom to respond in certain ways, and it will continue to do so until we purposefully disrupt them. Dallas adds that the two objectives cannot be separated.  They must be pursued in parallel as they feed off of each other. I am expecting Dallas to continue to provide guidance on these two objectives as we read on.   

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Disciples in training

 
Our small group from church is now in Chapter 9 The Divine Conspiracy.  Dallas Willard will be giving sound wisdom on what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  But before diving in, he warns us of four objectives which are NOT primary in becoming disciples.  He lists 1) external conformity to the wording of Jesus’ teachings about how to respond in certain situations, 2) profession of perfectly correct doctrine, 3) faithfulness to activities of the church and 4) seeking special states of mind or ecstatic experiences all as non-primary.   While none are bad in and of themselves, they just do not create the kind of transformation that God wants for us.  Stay tuned for what does.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Author's Perspective


The Young Messiah is opening in theaters tomorrow around the country.  I am always interested to see the origins of religious themed movies and how they are received by the public.  Anne Rice wrote the book which the movie is based on.  Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt tells the story of the 7 year old Jesus through his own eyes.   The premise sounds interesting to me.   I was surprised to find that while Ms. Rice was raised Catholic, she later became agnostic as a young adult, and then returned to Catholicism during the period that she wrote the book.   She has now distanced herself from the church again over her positions on social issues, but claims that God is still a big part of her life.  It will be interesting to see how all of the searching might play out in her depiction of Jesus in this movie.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Running for Him

In my SpotOnTheLake post this week, I featured 16 year old, Grace Cromer, who started Pennies for Preemies, a non-profit organization helping families of babies born prematurely.   There is another family I know who had two precious daughters born prematurely.  Caroline and Abby were born to Catherine and Michael Goforth.  Catherine was our go-to babysitter on our  street when my kids were young.   We knew from an early age that Catherine was special, and she has grown into an amazing wife, mom and lover of Jesus.  The twins are thriving and they now have two additional sisters.  Catherine and her husband have been closely involved in Young Life for many years.  Young Life is an organization that promotes adults forming bonds with kids to help shape them into the people that God intended.  Catherine is running a half-marathon in Asheville in support of her association with Young Life.  Run, Catherine, Run!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Papal prophecy


I’m not Catholic, but I have enjoyed watching the wide reception of Pope Francis since his appointment.  He seems like a real “down to earth” guy that is particularly concerned with the well-being of all people and not so much with the pomp and circumstance surrounding his position.  Francis made the news this week for stating:  “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”  Most assume he was referring to Donald Trump’s desire to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.  I don’t know if a wall would help or hurt our situation, but I was a little surprised that Francis made such a strong statement.  I know Donald Trump thinks he is a Christian, even if he is flawed just like me.  I wouldn’t think his position on building a wall would make that determination, even if it is the wrong thing to do.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our Father

Our winter semester of church connect groups started up last week.   We are reading through the second half of Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy.   Chapter 7 is titled “The Community of Prayerful Love”, and the second half of the chapter is taking apart the Lord’s Prayer.  The prayer begins with “Our Father”, and Willard describes how important these first two words are.  In addressing God as Our Father, we are recognizing him as our creator and acknowledging our place below him.  We are also imagining the love of God to be more like the love of a perfect parent for his or her child than any other type of love.   Willard’s description makes me feel like I could meditate on those two words for my morning quiet time without having to move on to the rest of the prayer.  I think I will.


 

 
 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pine Cove – The Back Story


My business post this week at SpotOnTheLake.com was about a camp that will be opening on Lake Hartwell in 2017.  I wanted to add a little more background.  It was in January of 2012 when I received a call from a gentleman from Texas.  I had posted a photo on Google Earth, and he found it as he was looking for property around Lake Hartwell.   He was looking for 100+ acres with good lake views that would be easy to build on.  He told me he wanted to build a camp at Lake Hartwell to tell people about Jesus.  I get a lot of calls from “dreamers”.  Most of them follow their dream with “and we would like to get someone to donate the land to us.”   Well, this dreamer was Bill McKenzie, and he didn’t need anyone to give him anything.  He founded Pine Cove Camps in Texas and was looking to expand by opening a camp in the southeast.  The picture in this post shows Bill in the center with two of  his associates on their first trip to Lake Hartwell to scout properties.  Little did we know at the time that the property they ended up purchasing in 2015 was literally a stone’s throw from the Google Earth photo that Bill had clicked on three years earlier.  Praise God for soldiers like Bill, and praise God for His provision.  I can’t wait to see what He will do at Pine Cove Chimney Point.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Take a stand


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy2Fjk00tTA
I hesitated to make this post because I am no political expert, and I did not want anyone to think I was pretending to be one.  The whole political process frustrates me because it is so difficult for me to understand where candidates really stand.  It often feels like they are telling each “group” exactly what they want to hear.  There is a spin for everything.  I appreciated this response by Marco Rubio to a question at a rally about where he stands on his faith.  I am not sure that this is a reason to make him president, but it sure does make me respect him as a man.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A whisper


I was reminded this week that God doesn’t always show up accompanied by fanfare and flashing lights.  God can show up in the smallest things that are right in front of me.   If I will just open my eyes to look and open my ears to hear, He will be there.   I have written in the past about Ben Smith.  Ben is a worship leader at his church and has now released his first album.   In one of his songs, he cries out to God, “Whisper, whisper, whisper in my ear.  Tell me words I thought I’d never hear.  Illuminate what’s right in front of me.”  If you have a few extra minutes, listen to him perform the song with his wife, Kelly, here.  If you have more time, you can join him for a night of worship at Serenbe on Saturday evening.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Safe saves


In this week’s post at SpotOnTheLake.com, I talked about Project Safe.  Project Safe is an Athens, GA organization whose mission is to end domestic violence and support those who have been affected by it.  So many times I wonder, “what on earth could I do to help?”  Volunteering time or donating money is always an option, but Project Safe recognizes that we may know people who have been affected by domestic violence.  If so, we may be able to help directly just by noticing and intervening when appropriate.  The Project Safe website lists these other ways to help.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Composer

If you know me or have been following this blog at all, you will know that I love music.   My wife, Caroline, and I played in high school band together, got married right out of college, and are now playing in an adult band together, The Georgia Wind Symphony.  We get to play some great music.  One of my favorite composers is Alfred Reed.  We played one of his works, Russian Christmas Music, at your December concert.  I have to work hard to prepare my one little part on the stand in front of me, playing one note at a time.  I marvel at the ability composers have to first “visualize” (audialize?) the work in their head and then begin to flesh out the entire piece – with all of the variations and the scoring of the individual parts - the weeks, months and sometimes years of work to get it just how they want it. I can imagine it would be tough to ever be finished.   When I think of my God, the Creator, I like to think of him in these terms.  First visualizing the finished product and then building it carefully step by step.   And knowing from the beginning that He would need to come to Earth as a man to complete the work, so that He could one day proclaim, “It is finished.”  The Great Composer, indeed.