Thursday, December 28, 2017
It's that time of the year again to think about New Year's resolutions. In trying to create opportunities for a little more follow through this year, I came across a good article. It talks about the four things I can do to position myself for success. 1) Be sensible and be sure to consider all of the ramifications of the new resolution including impacts on your family and friends. 2) While I may state what "I am going to do", I must realize that anything accomplished is only with God's help. I am in complete dependence on him. 3) I must make my resolutions humbly and not expect that since "I" have accomplished something, that God will reign down connected or disconnected blessings on me, and 4) any praise received from success achieved must be redirected completely to God, as He is the author and facilitator of all good things. In checking the source for the article, it gave me hope that the author of these thoughts was Jonathon Edwards, who lived from 1703 to 1758. That's what I call staying power, and I would love to have a stiff dose of that.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
My wife, Caroline, did a great job this year planning and executing our family Christmas card. We had some great photos of the whole family from our trip to Disney World this year which she was able to use. I have sent business Christmas cards in the past, but didn't get one out this year. In thinking of a greeting that expresses my joy at this time of the year, I thought of the song "Mary did you know?" and this arrangement by Pentatonix. I hope you can make time to watch and listen.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
This week, I had a little excitement of the wrong kind. I was walking a lake lot with a contractor . You may remember that it was quite windy in our area - windy enough to blow a large limb out of a tree that happened to land directly on my head. It rung my bell, and my head was bleeding. I couldn't tell how bad it was, but I felt ok to drive myself to the hospital. I left the hospital the proud owner of 9 new staples in my head. night, I was watching the local news, and there was a story of a mother who had been hit by a limb that had fallen due to the weight of the snow. She is alive but paralyzed. Fear, relief and sadness all hit me simultaneously. "Why did that limb hit me?" "Why was the limb that hit her bigger than the one that hit me?" "How is her family going to cope with her new condition?" "What if I had been paralyzed?" I don't have the answers. I just pray that she knows the same God that I do - the One that is powerful and loving, and that the people around her are able to show her their love and His.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Mklola Leontovych was a Ukrainian composer born in 1877. His was descended from a line of village priests and studied at a theological seminary that both his father and grandfather attended. His first position was as a music and math teacher and shortly thereafter began arranging simple a cappella arrangements for his choirs. With a life long commitment to music and composing, his most famous work, "Shchedryk" was written at the age of 39. Mklola may have been shocked to know that his simple composition would be arranged 1000's of times and performed millions of times in the century to follow. If fact, this recent arrangement has been viewed over 100,000,000 times already at youtube.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
We are just coming out of the Thanksgiving week, and if you are like me, I ate way too much. I also twisted my ankle last week, which give me the perfect excuse to not exercise. So my struggle this week is what to do about all the food that I shouldn't have eaten last week. My church reminds me regularly, that there a lot of people near us that have a much greater struggle, and that is that they do not have enough food to eat Thanksgiving week, or any other week of the year. The Vine Church regularly supports iServe Ministries. iServe is a ministry that makes food available to people who can't afford it through its Bags of Love and Mobile Food Bank programs. I finished reading through the gospel of John this morning and some of Jesus' last recorded words are his instructions to his disciples, "Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs." Let's do that.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
In my SpotOnTheLake post this week, I mentioned how thankful I am for the real estate team that I get to work with every day. I also want to express thanks to the team that supports me outside of work. David Gregory leads the Georgia Wind Symphony which Caroline and I play in, and Anna Ragan works tirelessly in the background holding things together. The pastors and leaders at my church, The Vine, do everything with a purpose and a desire for excellence. Special thanks to to David Walters, Andrew Erwin, Jared Strong and Robbie Pancake for all you do there. I am thankful for my close friends that help to hold me accountable to the things that are important and to my family that continues to love me through all of my faults. Most importantly, I am thankful to God for sending his son to die for me and all of my mess. Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have much to be thankful for.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
It's hard to avoid the daily news reporting people that are acknowledging that they have been sexually abused by people they know in power, especially in the entertainment industry. Each story is gut-wrenching, but it is hard for me not to feel numbed by the sheer volume of stories. Sometimes it feels like every girl or woman has been assaulted at one time or another, and it is only a matter of time before each decides to announce it. This breaks my heart. Each story represents a life-changing event, that many may never recover from. But this really hits home for me when I think of the women and girls in my family - my wife, my daughters and my granddaughters. I cannot imagine the pain of finding out that they had been abused or harassed. I have looked for help in how to best deal with the epidemic, and this article seems to do as good a job as any of helping with a Christian response. The first thing I have to do is guard my own actions, making sure that my thought-life and interactions with others are pure. Secondly, I need to make sure that nothing I do or say would encourage or condone another to think it was ok to treat people this way. And third, I need to speak up to let people know that this kind of behavior is not what God intended for us. For people who haven't really cared what God intends for us in the past, perhaps this epidemic exposed will be a wake-up call.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
I know a lot of you are familiar with Zac Brown and his excellent work with the Zac Brown Band. He is one of my favorite country artists. Last month, at the Dove Awards, Zach Williams was recognized as the best new Christian artist of the year. I love seeing people using their talents to help build God's kingdom here on earth. Zach's song and video, Chain Breaker, paints a beautiful picture of God's power of addiction. Take 4 minutes to be blessed.
Thursday, November 2, 2017
In my weekly Lake Hartwell blog, I wrote about a 5k/10k run to benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and mentioned my friend, Linda, who has volunteered with that organization. I knew nothing about CASA before Linda told me about her involvement there. CASA volunteers are advocates for children who do not have family to take care of them or who have been abused or taken advantage of by their family. In many cases, the CASA volunteer is the first person that a child has met that has taken a personal interest in him or her, and that interest can be life-changing. As you might expect, most of the stories that a CASA volunteer hears are confidential to protect the child's interests, but I found Nina's story which is both heart-breaking and inspirational at the same time. I can envision my friend Linda taking this role with the children she is protecting. To learn more or to become involved, click here.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
I have been reading through the Gospel according to John for the past couple of weeks, just taking one chapter at a time. This morning I came to Chapter 12 which contains one of my favorite stories. Jesus was dining with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha was busy serving while Mary took a pint of expensive perfume, poured in on Jesus' feet and then wiped his feet with her hair. Judas, the betrayer, objects and explains that the money spent on the perfume could have been given to the poor. His words are full of hypocrisy, as he was not only a betrayer, but a thief, stealing from the disciple's money bag. Jesus rebuked Judas and saw Mary's actions as an act of love, preceding his death and resurrection.
I am a creature of habit. I get caught up in checking off a list of items that I think will please God. God endures my frail efforts, but what He really wants is my unrelenting, extravagant love. I want to figure out how to give that to Him.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Here we are again dealing with the deaths of innocent people at the hands of a sick person. I have written in the past about how I feel about sick people killing innocent people. I continue to struggle with that. This article by Ed Stetzer helped me some. People struggling with mental illness are often either embarrassed to ask for help or don't know how to ask for help. Churches do not do enough to let those who are struggling know how to get help. I think a big part of the problem is that mental illness can sometimes start with minor depression. At what point does minor depression escalate to mental illness that needs to be treated medically? When I was 35, things weren't going great at work. I didn't feel good physically, and I didn't want to get out of bed to go to work. I went to a doc-in-the-box, described my symptoms, took a 3 minute survey and left with Prozac. I never took it at the recommendation of my sister-in-law who is a nurse. Things eventually got better for me (weeks), and I don't feel like I struggle with depression now. What are the things that could have happened that would have caused that depression to worsen? I can imagine some things, but I don't know. I think one of the best things that can happen is that family and friends can notice small changes in people, and take those changes seriously. I would guess that many times, a person struggling may just need some encouragement, but there could be other times that the situation is more serious requiring medical treatment. Being observant, attentive and proactive might keep someone from making a huge mistake down the road, and if not, maybe we will just know them a little better after taking some time to listen.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
No, I wasn't trying to spell the color Azure. Azur is a name in the Bible which means helper. Our connect group from church is studying how to make our marriages better. This week we are looking at the roles of the wife. Our video leader explained that God made woman as a helper (azur) for man. While some could read that as the wife being subservient to her husband, it is actually the same role that the Holy Spirit is to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is also called Azur. The roles that wives play in their marriage include: companion, comforter, counselor, convictor and connector. The wife is not subservient as helper, but complimentary, in that her strengths are essential for the health of the marriage.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
It is been many years since we took our school age kids to Disney. Michael and Lizzy are married now and have blessed us with 4 grandchildren. Caroline planned a trip for us to all to go to Disney this week. We have visited Epcot and Disney Studios so far with Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom still to come. Getting everyone from place to place is not always easy, but I have to say the smiles on the kids faces are worth every minute. I am so thankful to have Caroline to take the lead on getting this trip planned and so thankful to have kids and grandkids that I love spending time with.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Right now, in this very moment, I am choosing to kneel. I am kneeling in prayer to the God that offers the only hope for the broken me and for the broken world. I am praying that any person who feels that they have been treated unfairly and taken advantage of can find the support they need from the people around them so that they can be strengthened and encouraged. I am praying that those people can be healed quickly. I am praying for the people who feel pressured into taking a stand for something that they may not agree with in order to protect their job or their position. I give thanks for the men and women who designed and formed our country giving me the ability to make this prayer today without fear of being imprisoned or worse. I am praying for the service men and women who have offered their lives to protect those rights which were made available to me over 200 years ago. I am praying that our president becomes more able to lead, encourage and solidify our people, and that people around him will help and encourage him. Please kneel with me, and when you are done kneeling, let's walk into the world being lights that will reveal the full glory of our God.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Our Connect Group from church met last night for our first session focused on improving our marriage. Last night we focused on the husbands. Many men like to skip directly to the last half of Ephesians 5:24 where it says: "wives should submit to their husbands in everything", conveniently skipping the surrounding verses. It turns out that we are responsible for giving our wives something worthy of submitting to, and that is no small order. Paul directs us to love our wives like Christ loved the church, and it just so happened that Christ was nailed to the cross for the the church, and for each one of us. Now, I believe that many men would say that if they had to die to save their wife's life, they would do it, and I believe many would. But the death that each of us must face is a daily death - a death to our own wants and desires with intense focus on what it is that our wives need. I am sad to say that I fall short of this every day. I know I have some serious work to do before I could ever expect to be worthy of my wife's submission.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
We had the first meeting of our Fall Connect Group season last night. Seven couples from The Vine Churchare meeting to learn about how to make our marriages stronger. The group is being led by one of the members, and we have some literature to help lead us through. I look forward to learning and to getting to know the other couples better. I would encourage you to have a group of people that you can meet with regularly and be encouraged. Let me know if I can help you get connected.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
For my first 20 years out of college, I worked in information technology sales. I achieved success in the eyes of my employer, but there were many times when I didn't fully believe in the products I was bringing to my clients. My jobs provided a salary, but not much more. When I started selling real estate at Lake Hartwell, I believed from day one in what I was bringing to my clients. I trust that my enthusiasm for and commitment to the lake is one of the primary reasons that my clients have trusted us to help them. I love Paul's encouragement to the Thessalonians, and to all of us: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. " I hope and pray that you have work that satisfies your soul.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Mr. Osteen caught some serious flack this week for not opening his church to flood victims. He had some very public responses after being in the hotseat. Mattress Mack didn't need to be ridiculed by the press to move to action. Mattress Mack has multiple furniture stores in the Houston area which he immediately opened to the victims. According to this story, giving and serving is not a new thing for Mattress Mack. I hope his business flourishes over the coming months, because Mack obviously has a pretty good feel for what is important and what is not. Here's to real heros!
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Today, when we talk about sun worshipers, we think of teenagers soaking up the rays at Daytona Beach during spring break. But thousands of years ago, worshiping the sun took on a little different meaning. Ancient inscriptions have shown that people all over the world worshiped the sun as their god with full control of the universe. The warmth and light that all life requires radiated from their god. I can only imagine the horror that they felt on those rare times when the sun lost its brilliance in the middle of the day due to the moon passing in front of it. At some point, there were scholars who could explain the phenomena, but there must have been millions of people who thought their god was dying, if only for a few minutes. As the nation watched the eclipse this week with iPhones, eclipse glasses, shoe boxes and telescopes, it would be impossible to imagine that there was even one person who didn't know exactly why the sky was darkening. I watched with utter amazement at the beauty of the phenomena, and I praise the creator that made it all possible. My sin is the only thing that separates me from His brilliance.
Monday, August 14, 2017
I learned about the tragedy in Charlottesville late in the day . I watched with sadness the hatred of the "nationalists", and then with horror the senseless death of one woman and the injuries to many others.
I was reminded of one of my favorite John Grisham stories, "The Chamber". Sam Cayhall is on death row for the bombing of a Jewish lawyer's family, which killed his two young sons. Ironically, Cahall's son, Adam Hall, ends up representing Cahall in trying to prevent his execution. Adam is full of the hatred for his grandfather that you might expect anyone to have for a murderer, until Cahall's alcoholic daughter reveals his tragic upbringing. The story is capped when she produces a photo of the 10-year old Cahall surrounded by a group of Klansman as a black man is hung from a tree.
The reason I like the story is not because it might seem to give the murderer an "out" because of his upbringing. He is fully responsible for his actions. But it does make me thankful that I had parents that took me to church and taught me the difference between right and wrong. My nature is to hate the "nationalists" in Charlottesville, and I do hate everything they stand for. But my heart also bleeds knowing that the hatred they feel may have been taught to them, just as I was being taught right from wrong. I don't know if they will ever be healed, but I believe their best chance for healing would come if someone could show them the Jesus I know. I pray I have a chance to do that.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
I read with sadness this story about Christians fleeing from the city of Raqqa in Syria. At one time Christians made up about 1% of the population of that city. With the advance of ISIS, Christians were given the option of converting to Islam or fleeing the city under threat of death. All places for Christian worship have been destroyed. The remaining Christians are now being driven out by the US led coalition forces that are bombing the city. I am amazed at the strength of the Christians who are managing to keep their faith under the most dangerous circumstances and know that nothing but the power of our God could get them through. I pray today for their safety and continued faith.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
You may remember that Ralph Drollinger was the first collegiate basketball player to go to four consecutive NCAA Final Four tournaments. He was playing for UCLA at the time. You may not know that Drollinger is now leading a bible study for about a dozen of Trump's cabinet members at the Capital. Attendees include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mike Pence sponsors the meeting and attends when he is in town. Drollinger has lead studies in 40 state capitals, but this is the first one he has lead in the nation's capital. I can't keep up with everything that is going on in Washington, and I don't really want to. But I was surprised and delighted to hear about this regular meeting. More here.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
In my SpotOnTheLake update today, the tag line was: How do I love thee? ...let me count the wakes. That idea was courtesy of one of my best friends, David Slagle. I have known David for 20 years, first as my pastor from the pulpit, and now as a pastor to my soul. David started Veritas Church in Atlanta, and if you are ever in the area, you should stop by and be blessed. Veritas is latin for truth, and that is exactly what you get at Veritas. David is an amazing pastor, but he is even more amazing at being a husband, father and friend. David, thanks for your uncompromising friendship.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
The proliferation of GoFundMe and other similar sites sometimes overwhelms me to the extent of feeling sick to my stomach. There are so many hurting people in the world and about that many more that think they are hurting, but aren't. For the ones that are really hurting, I often feel drawn to help, but seldom do. The "I can't help everyone" reasoning is forefront in my mind. This thoughtful article by Richard Stearns helps to address my problem and encourages us to focus on the causes where we have a real intent to help and make an impact. I hope it helps you, too.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
This week, a lot of very talented athletes were recognized for their dedication to their sports, but the most memorable award of the night was the Jimmy V award which was given to Jarrius Robertson. In case you aren't familiar with Jarrius from the gridiron, the hoops or any of the other sports that were covered, that's because Jarrius is 15 years old and under 4' tall. He has struggled with a life-threatening disease and two liver transplants in his short life, but continues to exude optimism in his support for organ donation and living life a day at a time. If you missed the tribute, take 9 minutes to be inspired here.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
My 4th of July weekend was filled with family, boating, swimming and eating. I don't believe I was alone. I spent some time this morning reflecting about what the holiday is really about, and no surprise, Independence was the word that keep coming to mind. Our independence today is due to the ultimate price men and women paid over 200 years ago to form the greatest country in the world, and the continued sacrifices from our armed forces today. I was looking for a musical tribute and found this one from 10 years ago. I love the faces of the military personnel being honored here.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
I mentioned Bill McKenzie in my SpotOnTheLake entry this week. Bill is responsible for starting Pine Cove Camps in Texas, and Pine Cove has just opened a camp on Lake Hartwell. Since inception, Pine Cove has served over one million campers of all ages, and their number one goal is to show people the love of Jesus. It is an integral part of their programming and is ingrained in all of their staff. I am very happy that I had the chance to meet Bill and serve a small role in getting them to Lake Hartwell. If you are looking for a camp experience that will light a fire in your soul, please consider one of Pine Cove's camps. More here.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
This Sunday 6/25, Caroline and I will be celebrating our 34th anniversary. I have known Caroline since kindergarten. We dated in high school and in college, got married right out of school, got pregnant on our honeymoon, had Michael 9 months later and Lizzy three years after that. Now, 3 decades later, we get to celebrate our four grandchildren (the two most recent additions, Nora and Caroline in this photo) I can't imagine my life without Caroline. She has been the ultimate mom to our kids, CiCi to our grandkids and somehow manages to love me despite all of my faults. I thank God for putting her in my life.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
I consider myself a consumer of social media. I am expected to use it for my real estate business, but it is a push for me. I look at facebook every day, but I don't post or comment every day. Some of what I see posted by others is fun, some is disgusting but most of it is just not interesting to me. Most of the time when I comment on other posts, it is an attempt to "be clever", and that often includes sarcasm. The people that know me well recognize that, but "one-off" friends are sometimes confused or even offended. I came across this article from a Christian author who has adopted three rules that help govern his social media use. He only posts if 1) he can add to the conversation (not repeat something someone else has always said, like "amen") 2) he can find a way to say it constructively and 3) it is likely to be received respectfully. I think I could benefit from paying closer attention to those rules.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
I am nearing the end of C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. The concise chapters are packed with ideas that make me think. The book serves as a great devotional. One of the great influencers of Lewis was George McDonald, and Lewis refers to him frequently in his writings. McDonald tells a parable that mirrors something like an episode of Fixer Upper. Imagine yourself as a living house that is a huge mess. At first God comes in to try to straighten things up. He plugs the leaks in the roof, gets the systems working and makes the foundation sturdy. You know those things need to be taken care of, so you are not surprised. Right about the time that you start feeling like you are all cleaned up, He walks in with a sledge hammer. He starts knocking down walls and punching out ceilings, and you start wondering what He is up to. And then you realize, the house He is building is quite different from the one you imagined. You expected a cottage, but He is building a palace - because He fully intends to come and live in it Himself.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
I celebrated Memorial Day by water skiing with my son and my daughter. I admit the reason for Memorial Day was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, the closest I ever came to serving our country was registering for the draft when I was in college in 1981. I feel fortunate that I was never called to serve. I am amazed by the men and women who feel just the opposite. They feel fortunate to be called to serve, and many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice of their life. General James Mattis delivered a moving tribute to them at Arlington Cemetery this week. I encourage you to take three minutes to honor those who gave it all.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
I watched with sadness the devastation of the Manchester bombing. I can't imagine the pain the families are experiencing who had children who were killed or hurt. I hope to never understand fully the mind of a person who is filled with so much evil that he could commit such an act. In the aftermath of the horror, there are stories of the human spirit that emerge. I read about a homeless man, Stephen Jones, who was nearby when the bomb exploded. He ran to the aid of the wounded and poured out his soul onto them. Meet him here.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
I was so fortunate to be able to celebrate Mother's Day with my Mom (mother of 3), my wife (mother of 2), my daughter (mother of 1), and my daughter-in-law (mother of 3). None of the boys made it into this photo, but Mother's Day is all about the girls. I cannot imagine a more encouraging, loving, fun group of girls to spend the day with. Thanks for all you do every day to make my life rich.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
I posted a link to this video last year, but I thought of it again today as I was writing the blog for my lakefront real estate business, SpotOnTheLake.com. I never paid much attention to country music until I was introduced to Carrie Underwood on American Idol. I know country music die hards will sneer at that, but it is a fact for me. I now listen to country music in the car second only to worship music. I love that Carrie's spirit seems to be as immense as her talent. She is not ashamed to release songs like the hit "something in the water", which talks about the change in her that happened after accepting Jesus and being baptized. I wish more celebrities would be this bold about their faith. (Note: A good friend let me know that the music video was choreographed by Travis Wall, of "So you think you can dance" fame.)
Thursday, May 4, 2017
I am reading CS Lewis's Mere Christianity again. Lewis is my favorite Christian author. He has an unbelievable ability to take a complex idea and paint a picture of the idea with words. One section of the book is on Christian behavior. He talks about categories of behaviors and describes the categories this way. Imagine a fleet of ships on a mission. In order for the mission to be successful, the ships must travel in formation so as not to run into each other. Also, each ship needs to be in proper running order so as not to break down. Some behaviors have to do with not harming someone else. Other behaviors have to do with taking care of yourself. You must have both for a successful mission. But there is a third thing over and above these two. The ships must be headed for the correct destination. The ships can operate perfectly, and in perfect formation, but if their destination is New York and they end up in Miami, their mission is a failure. What is your destination?
Thursday, April 27, 2017
My mom and dad grew up in southwest Virginia in the towns of Wytheville and Big Stone Gap. The major industry in this area is/was coal mining and while neither of them was directly employed by the coal industry, they had many friends and family that were. Coal mining jobs have continued to fall away as industry and government continue to look for cleaner sources of energy. That has left the area with a high rate of joblessness. I saw this inspiring article about Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic organization which gave $3m to organizations that will help with job training in the area. Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated $5b (yes, with a b) to other causes in these areas: public health, arts and culture, the environment, education and government innovation. I don't know much about Mike Bloomberg, but I sure like what I discovered this morning. It is inspiring to see someone using their success to help others.