Thursday, December 26, 2019

2020 investments

Caroline and I had a full Christmas holiday with work, church, symphony, and family commitments.   We still have some more fun in store with Caroline's sister visiting and a trip to NC to see Caroline's family.  The approach of the new year causes many of us to think of resolutions that might make 2020 better than 2019.  I have my normal goal to drop the holiday 5 pounds - along with about 20 more that crept in somehow.  Last night, Caroline and I had an unusual (and treasured) moment alone to talk about next year.  We want to work harder at relationships and started naming people that we would like to know more.  We came up with a pretty fun list.  I don't want to set an unrealistic goal, but I think if we could schedule time with at least one of those couples each month, it could be very rewarding for us.  I hope I can do better at that resolution than my history with the weight loss one.  I hope you had a great 2019 and have an even better 2020 teed up.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Better than Santa?


My apologies to you if "Santa Got Run Over By a Reindeer" is your go-to Christmas song.   I think this one may top it.  Lauren Daigle's performance of "Noel" is hauntingly beautiful, and the words remind us of why the Christmas holiday is even on our calendar.  Watch and listen.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Making sense

Last night, our ConnnectGroup finished up Timothy Keller's Making Sense of God.   The book was written for believers and non-believers, but most of it is focused on why believer's believe.  At times, the group was frustrated spending time discussing why we believe what we already believe, but I think most felt it was beneficial to have a better understanding of why others who don't believe in God, don't believe.  Last week, when one of our members was asked why she believed, she said (paraphrased),  "I know what my life was like before I knew God, and I know how much better it is now that I know Him.  That is all the proof I need."  God wants us to know Him so badly that He came to Earth to show us how to do that.  He then died a gruesome death as payment for our sins, and rose from the dead as proof that He is God.  I believe.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A new kind of baller

There is quite a bit of hype around the upcoming College Football Playoff.   I, for one, am excited that UGA has a shot at the SEC championship and the national title, but I continue to be impressed by the guys from Clemson.  I posted about Deshaun Watson a while back.  In case you don't follow football, Deshaun led Clemson to a national championship and now plays for the Houston Texans.  He had a hard start to his life, but there were people around him that picked him up and pointed him in the right direction, including Clemson's head coach, Dabo Swinney.  Dabo is a class guy, and he is helping groom top-tier athletes that are also men full of integrity.  Deshaun continues to demonstrate he is a man of character and authored this new article recently.  There are a lot of celebrity athletes that let the notoriety and money go to their head in a bad way.   I don't know everything about Deshaun, but I love the parts of him I see.   I pray for more men like Dabo and Deshaun who have the opportunity for enormous positive influence.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sing A Little Louder

I have so much to be thankful for this week; work, family, friends, no major health issues, church.   I know that's not the same for everyone, and that struggles are ahead for all of us.  I imagine one of the toughest battles to fight would be the serious illness or death of a child.  That's what Joel and Janie Taylor faced when their son, Jaxon, was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening infection.   Their church rallied around them in prayer, and thankfully, this time, Jaxon made a full recovery.  This song was born during the ordeal.  I know that every situation doesn't have this happy ending, but I am quite sure that the only thing that could get me through would be the power of God and his family watching over me.  I am thankful for that.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Absolutely Wrong

Last week, I wrote about moral relativism - the idea that each person decides what is right and wrong for themselves.  Christians believe that there are moral absolutes that have been established and rooted in us by our Creator.  Regrettably, some Christians have taken it upon themselves to attempt to force what they believe on others.  I can't help but think of the guy with the megaphone outside Sanford Stadium, shouting at people in the crowd he doesn't know, and telling them that they are going to Hell.  While his intentions could be good, I don't think that the approach is what Jesus had in mind.  Of course, we can all name historical examples of Christians oppressing others, some more subversive, and some much more heinous, than the guy on the bridge. I believe our obligation is to discover and live the Truth to the best of our ability, and if that creates an opportunity for me to tell someone else, I should do that with confidence and passion.  That's how God decided to do it.  He could have easily created a world where everything in it was forced to bow before him, but instead, He sent his own Son to show us the Way, allowed Him to die a gruesome death, and gave us the chance to either follow him, or not.  (I credit Tim Keller's "Making Sense of God" for helping me frame my thoughts this week and last week.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Relatively speaking


It is estimated that 30% of young adults would describe themselves as moral relativists.  Moral relativism is the idea that each person decides for themselves what is right or wrong.  That decision is based on the current circumstances and is often influenced by the culture that the person is a part of.  It is certainly true that some practices are accepted in one culture and forbidden another.  Women going topless is accepted in some African cultures, but wouldn't be accepted in our western culture.  In fact, it would be illegal in ours (public indecency).  Laws help define right and wrong as defined by each individual culture.  But there are some things that all people of sound mind would agree to be true.  Things like cheating, lying, murder, rape and child abuse are never ok.  That makes them absolutes in my mind.   So if there are things inside of us that are the same for everyone, and weren't determined by our culture, where did those things come from?  My best explanation is that it came from my Creator, and while I fall short every day, I want to do my best to discover and follow what He has designed me to be.   For more thoughts on moral relativism, see what Noam Chomsky has to say here.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Crowds gather in JAX

67,000 people gathered in Jacksonville, FL last Saturday for the border battle between the Universities of Georgia and Florida, but on Sunday morning there was another large gathering at Bethel Church in that same city.  Bethel is one of the largest churches in FL with over 12,000 attendees each Sunday morning.  I was interested in getting some history on the church and found this background information on its founder, James McDonald:

James McDonald is the founder of Bethel Church in Jacksonville, FL.  James was born in Ireland and was trained to be a Catholic Priest, but moved to the United States when he was 31 years old and enlisted in the Armed Services.  At the age of 38, he saw an article in the Christian Index reporting a low number of new church starts in the central FL area and answered the call to move to that area to plant a church.  At the first church service, there were 6 attendees, 4 white and 2 black.  The 2 black attendees were owned by one of the white attendees.  James had some experience with injustice.  Before fleeing Ireland, James witnessed the lynching of his father along with 14 of his relatives for their participation in the Irish Rebellion.  The year was 1805.
James is obviously no longer with us, but I am delighted to see that something he started almost 200 years ago is still thriving.   Maybe one day, there will be 67,000 people in attendance there.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Greatest Love for all

Our ConnectGroup is about halfway through Tim Keller's book, "Making Sense of God".  The last couple of chapters have been about how people get their sense of identity.  Those considering themselves secular get their sense of identity from one of two places.   They either let other people around them define it, or they look inside themselves for it.  Last week, we listened to one of Whitney Houston's smash hits from the '80s, "The Greatest Love of All".   She tells us that "learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all".  I loved that song when she released it.  I think loving yourself is important, and that we shouldn't let others control or define how we feel about ourselves.  But 33 years later, I don't hear that song the same way.  I am a broken sinner, and if some of my actions and thoughts define me, then I should probably go crawl in a cave.  I believe that God created me in His image, but He didn't stop there.  He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died the most excruciating (no pun required) death known to man, as a payment for my sin and the sins of mankind.  Trying to find my identity in Him is what I want to live for.  20 years after Whitney released "The Greatest Love of All" she released this song with a different message.  We know that Whitney battled demons until the day she died, but I hope that the words she proclaimed here were true for her.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Flee for all?

Fadi is a husband and father to two children.  His family was sleeping soundly when a missile hit their home and destroyed his shop.  Fadi's wife was critically injured.  In an attempt to find a safe place for his children, he located the Alliance Church which opened its doors to his family and others whose homes had been destroyed by the bombings.   Days earlier, the Alliance Church had a meeting of its leadership to decide if the church would remain open or if the church would close so its members could flee to another area.   The leadership elected to stay in harm's way so they could be the hands and feet of Jesus to those that needed them.  I don't often visualize churches in Syria, but today I am praying for this one.  

I got Fadi's story from this article.  It includes more information about what Christians are doing in Syria.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Freedom Seekers


Last night our ConnectGroup discussion centered on freedom.  If you ask most people what freedom is, they will say, "the ability to think, do or say whatever you want".  But while we all love our freedom, almost everyone will admit that freedom has limits.  Nature, the government, our employer, and our friends all impose limits on our freedom.  So who decides which limits are right and which ones are wrong?  As Christians, we believe that God made us, and that He made us to be in community with others and with Him.  He told us how best to do that by inspiring humans to write down those instructions, and those words have been curated for us over the centuries.  We have the freedom to abide in them or to ignore them.  My true freedom comes in knowing that I can please my Creator by doing my best to know Him more, and that when I mess up, He is waiting for me with open arms.   

One of the most egregious offenses against human freedom was the white man's treatment of Africans as they were bought and sold as slaves for the "owner's" personal gain.  We are still working to try to overcome all the wrong that was done, and that is likely never possible, but I was reminded of one amazing piece of work that gives me hope.   I hope you have 8 minutes to be inspired.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Creating Meaning?



We are discussing Tim Keller's book, Making Sense of God, in our ConnectGroup.  This week's discussion centered on the differences between "creating meaning in life" and "discovering meaning in life".   Many of us spend a lot of energy trying to create meaning either through pursuing our work, our possessions, our leisure, etc. There is nothing inherently bad about pursuing any of those things, but when we think those things are going to create meaning or true joy, we are almost always disappointed with the outcome.  Keller referenced a song by Peggy Lee from the late 60's called "Is that all there is?"  I was curious to see if I could find it, and sure enough, here it is.   This has to be one of the saddest, most depressing songs, I have ever heard.  Ecclesiastes 1-2 describe this as "chasing after the wind".   Keller encourages us that instead of trying to create meaning in life, we focus on discovering the meaning which our Creator has already set in place.  "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Today's antiphonal trumpets


I grew up going to First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, GA, complete with six-figure pipe organ and even some antiphonal trumpets in the balcony.  The trumpets didn't get exercised that much, but when they did, you knew it.  I sang in the choir and even played my trumpet a few times in worship.  I have fond memories of those times and still very much enjoy traditional church music.  I have been attending contemporary worship services for the past 20 years, and the music we sing has been shaped by musicians from a handful of churches scattered around the world.  One such church is Hillsong.  Hillsong was formed in 1983 in Sydney Australia, and now has churches in 23 countries, hosting over 130,000 people weekly.  A couple of weeks ago, they hosted a conference in Sydney, recorded this video, and almost a million people have viewed it already.  I am thankful for the people that have dedicated their lives to letting others know how they feel about Jesus through writing, performing and sharing their music.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Puzzled

Several years ago, I read a book by Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz.   Donald grew up in Texas and moved to Portland, Oregon where he owned a small publishing company.   Donald is a christian, and chose to audit some classes at Reed College, which is known to be one of the most liberal colleges in the country.   Donald wanted the opportunity to learn from people that were different from him.  His presence there allowed him to form relationships where he was able to introduce them to Jesus.  Many heard.  Some listened. A few believed.   Our pastor at The Vine mentioned this past week that he likes to listen to podcasts by people who believe differently from him.   This week, I took the opportunity to do the same.  At times, I was frustrated trying to understand how people living on the same planet could think and feel so differently from me.  But there was also an overwhelming feeling of wonder that God created the world like a puzzle, where every person is a piece that is created in his image.  I want to find my place in that world.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ripple Effect


Twelve years ago, Deann Watson lived in a cramped apartment in Gainesville, Georgia with her four children.  One day, her son brought home a note from school which talked about home ownership through Habitat for Humanity.  Deann was encouraged by the opportunity and donated more than 300 hours of her time to Habitat before being approved for her own home.   Atlanta Falcons running back, Warrick Dunn, was responsible for the primary funding for their new home.  After moving into their home, Deann's son said: "Just having my own bed, not really being squished, not really worrying about someone sneaking up on me, it was a great moment, a special moment."   Deann's son was Deshaun - Deshaun Watson.  Deshaun went on to be the starting quarterback at his high school as a freshman, the starting quarterback at Clemson leading them to a national championship in 2016 and was a top draft pick by the Houston Texans.   Deshaun donated the paycheck from his first pro football game to hurricane relief in Houston and was in Israel this past summer to be baptized in the Jordan River.  I don't think Warrick Dunn could have imagined the ripple effect that was set in motion by his Habitat donation over a decade earlier.  I can't wait to see where those ripples go next.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Color Bound

Caroline and I were in New York this past weekend and took time to go see "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Broadway.  The theater, the sets, the performances, and of course the story, were all amazing.  I hadn't been exposed to the story in some time, but the play brought it back to life for me in a whole new way.  Atticus Finch, played by Jeff Daniels, is the defense attorney appointed to represent a black man, Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a white girl.  While it becomes clear that Robinson was not guilty of the crime, he was convicted by an all white jury and then brutally murdered shortly thereafter.  The horror portrayed in the play is something that I never experienced personally growing up, but seeing it unfold on stage caused me to grieve for all who were, and still are, affected by such hatred.  I happened upon this article describing how the Virginia Theological Seminary recently set aside $1.7M to establish a fund to help families who were affected by the institution's role in slavery.  I hope more organizations and institutions choose to follow their lead.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Navigating the Storm

Seeing the aftermath of Dorian hitting the Bahamas, and thinking about how many lives will be affected by the storm in the US, puts a knot in my stomach.  When these disasters hit, I find myself thinking, "I wish there was something I could do."  Visiting the area to help directly is almost always out of the question, but giving some money to assist is a definite possibility.  That thought is quickly followed by, "Navigating through all the relief organizations is so complicated.  How can I make sure I am not getting scammed?"  So I do nothing.  Writing this post today made me want to do something besides nothing.  With the best of my ability, I researched the organizations participating in Dorian relief efforts.  I elected to donate to All Hands and Hearts.  I found them highly rated at multiple sites, and they have laid out their financials for everyone to see here.  They report that 96% of all donations go directly to the relief effort with only 4% in overhead and administration.  Is there a chance I am getting scammed?  Yep.  Can I say I at least tried to do something?  Yep.  I hope you will do something, or even more.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The best defense


I posted a few weeks ago about the author, Tim Keller.   One of his books caught my attention, and I decided to use it as the subject matter for the Fall season of our ConnectGroup from church.  The book is called Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World.   There is so much skepticism in the world about religion, Tim addresses how Christians can overcome their own doubt and better share with others the basis for our beliefs.   If you would like to read along with us, I would love to hear your thoughts.  You can order the book here, or if you prefer to watch and listen, Tim gives an overview of the subject matter and takes questions in an open form at Google corporate. Video link.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bragging Rights

I wanted you guys to know how proud I am of this one.  This is Evan, Michael and Emily's son, and my oldest grandchild.   He is 8 this year.  His parents are pretty smart, so Evan has never had much trouble with learning.  Evan loves the lake, as you can see here, and is an absolute animal when extreme tubing with the adults.  He has tried t-ball and soccer, but the t-ball only lasted one season.  We were all somewhat thankful for that.   He has excelled at soccer and has moved from a rec team to a club team this year.  We all know the time commitments will be significant, but love that he is enjoying it.  My favorite story from Evan came after a soccer game.  He was telling my wife, Caroline, about the game.  Their team had been behind, and then tied, but scored late to win the game.   Evan's words were, "we scored at the end of the game for the win".  It wasn't until later that we found out from his parents that it was Evan that had scored the winning goal.  Apparently he has learned a little something beyond his years.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for him.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fighting the Fight


I am not a boxing fan.  In fact, the only boxing match I have ever been to was during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when a friend had been given some tickets and invited me to join him.   I remember enjoying the experience, but couldn't tell you who fought or won that night.  I saw this recent article where Sugar Ray Leonard was chiming in about a rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.  Mayweather, I have heard of.  Pacquiao, not so much.  It turns out Pacquiao is the only boxer to be world champion in 8 different divisions. Mayweather beat him by unanimous decision in their first fight on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas.   After digging a little deeper, I found out that Pacquiao is fighting for something bigger outside of the ring.  He has been elected to public office in the Philippines and is a frequent spokesperson for how Jesus has changed his life.  Check out this short video with Pacquiao's testimony and praise God for what He is doing through him.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Another Keller


Tim Keller is the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, one of the largest churches in Manhattan.   The church has over 5000 members is attendance.  Keller's success with that church inspired Christian leaders from around the world to contact him to find out how to successfully start churches in the world's largest cities.  Keller used his experiences with those leaders to launch Redeemer City to City, where he now works full time.  Redeemer City to City inspires and trains leaders from around the world to start and grow churches in the world's largest cities.    Keller's books and videos have been translated into many languages to help his world-wide vision become a reality.  Click here for a quick introduction to Tim.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Running for Home



Fenway Park has to be one of the most recognizable sports venues in the country.  The Red Sox have no doubt provided great baseball memories for the fans that have visited there over the years.  This past week, more memories were made as the organization celebrated its 10th year of support for the Run to Homebase Program.  Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, is dedicated to healing the invisible wounds for Veterans, Service Members and their families through world-class clinical care, wellness, education and research.  The foundation has raised more than $20 million and helped over 21,000 veterans and their families.  Our nation's celebrities are frequently criticized for their "all about me" attitudes, and I am certain that this is often justified.  But it is fantastic to see some use their celebrity for the benefit of others.  Click here to see a short video describing the event and "Go Sox!"

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Absolutely positive

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned starting a book by Norman Geisler (recently deceased) called Christian Ethics.  I am a few chapters into it now, and while it is very heavy, I find it interesting.  He begins by describing, in general, six ethical systems.  These systems are divided into two groups - nonabsolutisms and absolutisms.  Since, Christian Ethics are based on the unchanging moral character of God, the systems based on nonabsolutism are not options for Christians.   However, since those systems challenge the absolute Christian options, it is important for us to understand them.  The next few chapters will focus on the nonabsolutism systems - antinomianism, situationism and generalism.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Star of the Show

I saw this recent article which focuses on how some of our evangelical preachers are focusing on style over substance, making them "the star of the show" on Sunday morning.  I certainly prefer a sermon that is presented well, but I agree that content should trump style.  It makes me realize how fortunate Caroline and I are to worship at The Vine Church.  Our church's founding pastor and our current pastor work months in advance on planning the sermon series and individual messages, and it shows.  The content is the focus, but I have to acknowledge that their delivery is spot-on as well.   If you go to church, I hope the same for you.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Apologies necessary


Norman Geisler passed from this world last week, leaving behind his wife Barbara Jean and six children.   He lived a full life of 86 years.   Norman was a Christian apologist and has been described as a cross between Billy Graham and Thomas Aquinas.   I think of myself as a casual student of apologetics and am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of Norman before his death.  I guess my studies are a little too casual.  I just ordered his book, Christian Ethics.  If anyone wants to read along with me, let me know. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

News knows?

I am not a news junky.  I usually get the headlines on Good Morning America, but I don't spend a lot of additional time reading or studying the details. I am no expert.  But when I see all of the conflicting positions on issues, it does make me ask myself, "what do I think?".  Take the border war with Mexico for instance.   Some say "all we need to do is build a wall".  Others say "families are being busted apart, and we need to take care of them better".  I think I see a tremendously complex problem that no silver bullet will correct.  I think people deserve a safe place to live.  I think we need to know about people that are coming into our country.  I think people attempting to enter the country should be treated humanely.  I think the people who live in our country need to share the tax burden.  I think people who break the law should be prosecuted.   I think bad laws should be changed.  I care about the solution, but I am not qualified to dictate the solution.  It would seem to me that the ones who are charged with determining the solution would make progress more quickly if they could just agree that any solution will be tremendously complex and that our best chance at that solution would be to listen and attempt to understand others, as opposed to tearing them down.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pirates Sighted



I am a routine person.  If I can get something good in my daily routine, I am pretty good about keeping it there.  Regrettably, the same thing holds true for bad things in my routine.  It's hard to get rid of them.   There is nothing routine about having 5 kids for 3 days at our annual Pirate Camp at Lake Hartwell.  This is our fourth year, and the number of kids grows as the grandkids age in (4 years old).  For these three days, I am almost completely out of my routine, which is hard for me in a way.   But yesterday, while on the pirate ship, on our way to locate the hidden treasure that Captain Hook stole, Levi looked at me and said, "today is the best day of my life".  Routine smashed.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Search Results

I have known about Francis Chan for some time.  Francis is an author and speaker who loves to write and talk about Jesus.  I find myself searching for people like him who know more about Jesus than me, so I can learn from them.  Nothing wrong with that - but it is Francis himself who implores us in this short video not to search for someone who can help, but spend more time seeking Him.  I want to do that more.Francis Chan Meets Some Jehovah's Witnesses

Monday, June 3, 2019

How He loves


I was looking for some inspiration for today's post and came across this recent video of a song that has been around for a while.  The first time I heard it, I was attending Veritas Church.  My good friend, David Slagle, faithfully started that church over a decade ago and still serves there today.  I met David at the church he served at prior to starting Veritas and went with him to start Veritas.   I believed in his calling, and David believed in me as a child of God.  I love how David loves me, and I love how He loves.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Girl Power


Last week in this blog, I honored a family in our church where the husband/father was currently serving our country overseas.  I have never served in the military, but admire with deep respect those that do.  For our family, Memorial Day is the kick-off to summer and both of my children and our six grandchildren were at Lake Hartwell together.  The weekend is filled with time on the dock, fun on the boat and too much food.  As you can imagine, we are running wide open keeping up with the six.  Some of my favorite moments, however, are the quiet times with these girls.  The older girls are known for their magic hugs and the younger ones still love to snuggle.  Caroline and I are so fortunate to have them close enough to us that we can see them regularly.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for them in the years to come.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Single Moms

One of the most important things our ConnectGroup at church does is pray.  While our group is not meeting over the summer, the habit of prayer will hopefully continue for us until we reassemble in the fall.  We have been praying for a mom in our church who is raising her small kids on her own.  Her husband left suddenly several months ago.  Her needs are pretty basic - food, sleep, time and good health allowing her the strength to manage a family on her own.  I really can't imagine the stress and fatigue she must be experiencing.  Our group has provided some meals for them hoping the small gesture will make that day a little easier.  As for the dad, there are a lot of things that I would like to say to him if I have the chance, but I will probably just leave it at "thank you for your service."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Spoken like a champ


Our spoken words can be powerful, inspiring, informative, boring or cutting.  We use our voices every day to communicate something.  I came across this short video which has contains some solid advice on what we can do to make the world a better place by what we say and how we say it.   I didn't find anything revolutionary here, but I think if I were able to follow these guidelines more closely, it would be revolutionary for me and the people I am speaking with.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Moms


This photo is from several years ago.  As our family continues to grow, it seems to get harder and harder to get everyone together at one time and sit still for a minute for a photo.    I love this shot because it includes four of my favorite Moms:  my mom on the lower right, my wife Caroline third from the left on the top row, my daughter Lizzy next to Caroline, and my daughter-in-law, Emily next to my mom.   I feel so fortunate that my mom lives next door to us, and we get to see her several times a week.  She and my dad are responsible for all of this craziness, in addition to both of my brother's families.  I love that she cares deeply for each one of us, and I want to honor her especially on this Mother's Day week.  I love you, Mom.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

So Will I


Last week at The Vine, our associate pastor, Andrew Erwin, reminded us of how confident we can feel in our creator because of His creation.  The care that He took to make the world and everything in it work together with precision accuracy is no accident.  He took the same care with each of us and knew that the richest gift He could give us was the choice to love Him and love others.  I have heard this song by Hillsong Worship several times in church but had never watched the video until this morning.  The words are so rich.  "If creations sings your praises, so will I"  If you have 7 minutes turn everything else off and give it a listen.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Some Things Never Change


We received word last week that our pastor and the "founder" of our church, David Walters, is moving to another church.  This is part of the Methodist way, where pastors are reassigned to churches every once in a while.  We got to keep him longer than usual, but we were kind of hoping the muckety mucks had forgotten about him.  Not likely, since he started one of the most successful methodist churches in north Georgia with two campuses and about 1000 attendees on Sunday mornings (The Vine).  Lots of members are upset about the loss, but we know the best way for us to honor David is to show him that he helped build a church that will thrive without him.  He has ensured that we are worshiping our God and not him, and God will never change.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Out Of The Ashes

Many of us were glued to our screens this week as the spire atop Notre Dame cathedral burned and fell to the ground.  I had the same feeling as when I watched the first tower at the World Trade Center collapse in 2001 - something like being kicked in the gut.  Thankfully, this time there was no loss of life.  It was more about the loss of something precious and something holy.  Caroline and I were fortunate to be in Paris several years ago, and we visited Notre Dame Cathedral.  I remember we were filled with awe over the scale, the beauty, the history, and the majesty.  I saw in the news that some of the relics in the cathedral were saved, including the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus on the cross.  Over the coming months, I will watch with anticipation as the cathedral rises up out of the ashes and is restored to its full glory.  This Easter week, I also hope that I am able to see more clearly the risen Jesus.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Another Elisabeth

Most of you know about my daughter, Elizabeth (with a z).  I was looking for any new Christian books that I might want to read and came across "Point of View" by Elisabeth (with an s) Hasselbeck.  If you don't know about her, she was the conservative voice on "The View" for 10 years until she was let go because the show was "going in a different direction".  I was not a fan of The View because of the endless bickering, but it was on my TV some as it followed GMA, which I use mostly for background noise.  I don't know that much about Elisabeth, but she does claim to be a Christian, and I believe that she was one of the few on that show (host or guest) that would make that claim.   I don't know that Elisabeth is a good author or even a good talk-show host, but I do admire that she stands up for what she believes in the face of considerable attacks from the rest of her professional community.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Perfect submission

Last night in our small group meeting, we talked about one of the toughest verses in the Bible, Colossians 3:18, where Paul instructs wives to submit to their husbands.  This verse has been used by men to take advantage of their wives, and it has been used by women as a reason to preclude Jesus and the Bible altogether, feeling that they should be treated as equals.  Our group members had spirited discussion about how this is working in their marriage, but I think our best conclusion was that verse 18 can't be fully considered without verse 19, where husbands are instructed to love their wives.  The Greek word used for love in this verse is agape, and agape is the self-sacrificing love that represents the love God has for man and man has for God.  If us guys did a perfect job of displaying that type of love for our wives, I think they would gladly submit.  Until then, each of us should take on an attitude of expecting nothing, and giving everything.  That's what Jesus did for us.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Early Admission

The recent college admissions scandal has grabbed headlines for the last couple of weeks. Apparently, wealthy parents (some celebrities) have paid large sums of money and falsified test scores and athletic accomplishments in order to get their kids into top schools. I read an article that explains that this highly visible scandal is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parents overparenting their kids. Caroline and I were blessed with two phenomenal children.  I'm sure we messed a bunch of stuff up along the way, but I remember getting a call from my high school age daughter when she had blown out a tire on our car after she hit a curb. "Dad, I don't know what to do."  I gave her the name of the tire shop that we used regularly and asked her to get the tire replaced.  I remember vividly saying, "You can't just show up and tell them to put on a new tire.  You need to call them before you go and get a price.  They have a different price for walk-ins." She has told me since then that she was horrified to make that call, but we look back on it now and laugh. I hope that story is one of many where we gave our kids the responsibility they deserved to handle things on their own when it was very tempting to drop everything and bail them out.  In thinking back to the current college admissions scandal, I wonder if the kids knew what the parents were doing for them while it was going on and what a terrible scar this will leave on them.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Morgan and Akeptous

Morgan Freeman will be filming the third season of National Geographic's "The Story of God" in Israel.  The show has spotlighted several world religions, but an archeological discovery at a prison in 2005 will be highlighted in this documentary on Christianity.  A mosaic dating back to 230 AD which ascribes divinity to Jesus was uncovered in what is thought to be one of the many "house churches" that served as the seeds for the growth of Christianity.  The mosaic references a woman, Akeptous, which confirms the importance of women  in the early churches.  We had our weekly ConnectGroup meeting in our home last night.  It is comforting for me to be a part of a tradition that has endured and flourished for 2000 years.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Rules and Regs

Last night in our ConnectGroup meeting, we focused on the closing verses of Colossians 2.  In Paul's letter to the church in Colossae, he is warning the members not to be distracted by the people who are adding rules of conduct that would serve to elevate some believers above others.  That sparked a lively discussion in our group about which current day rules are "good" rules and which ones aren't, and more importantly, who gets to decide.  How does this look to people outside the Christian faith who see us picking and choosing which ones to follow and which ones not to?  Well, regrettably, we weren't able to come up with all the answers, but we were are able to lean on verse 17, "These (rules) are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to  Christ."  We believe that He was pleased with our struggle to find the answers last night - and always.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The White Stuff

I got the opportunity for a boys-only road trip with my son, Michael, and my grandson, Levi.   We will be skiing for two days in NC.   It’s a little hard to break away from work, especially when Michael is my real estate partner, but it is so worth it.  I have had two trips with Michael’s older son, Evan, but this is a first for Levi.  I hope Levi is able to manage the white stuff on the slopes as well as he is managing the white stuff at Chick-fil-A on the way up!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Life force


Dante Sipp is a gymnastics coach south of Atlanta.  Dante is on the organ donation list for a new kidney.   A healthy kidney will practically ensure another 30 years of productive life.   A stranger named Lauren heard his story and was moved to remarkable action.  She was tested to see if she might be a possible donor for Dante.  It was determined that she was a perfect match, and the organ donation is scheduled for March 15th.  It just so happens that Lauren is the daughter-in-law of one of the members of our ConnectGroup from church.  Please pray for the donation to proceed perfectly and praise God for Lauren and her unselfish willingness to give the gift of life.  Meet Dante and Lauren here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Making new wine


Several weeks ago, I wrote about the struggle of a vine to grow and bear fruit.   I love the parallel to our life in Jesus.  I heard this familiar song again this morning which feels like chapter 2 of the story, with the fruit being made into wine.  Jesus is crushing and pressing the world out of us to make room for Him.   The wine that is created is unique to the fruit and the methods and circumstances used to produce it.   Take a few minutes to meditate on this with Hillsong.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Be A Pleaser

Last night, we had the first meeting of our ConnectGroup to begin our discussion of Colossians.  We have 16 members in our group and 13 were able to attend last night.  We talked about the first 14 verses of Chapter 1 and focused how we can do to please God.  As Paul is praying for the church in Colossae, he is praying for us as well.  "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you."  As only Paul can do, he has packed a year's worth of study into 4 verses (9-12).  This week, we will be focusing on doing good works, knowing God more, enduring with patience and being thankful.  That should cover it.  I wonder what next week will bring.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Listening For The Knock


I have been to a couple of art museums in the US and got to go to several when in Italy, but I am no art aficionado.  I enjoy looking at art, but don't understand what makes some classics and others just a side-note.   I saw this article about a painting by English artist William Holman Hunt of Jesus that captures the verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,  I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”  It shows Jesus holding a lantern and standing at a door with no handle, indicating that it is only the person on the other side that can open the door.    This painting went on tour from 1905 to 1907 across several continents.  In Australia, it is estimated that 80% of the residents viewed the painting, and it is thought to be the world's most well-traveled painting.  I can only imagine the number of people that have been moved closer to Jesus through this great work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cheering for a Patriot

There is quite a bit of excitement around the upcoming Super Bowl.  I know I plan to be watching.   Patriot's wide receiver, Matthew Slater, is not only a leader on the field, but off the field as well.  He is outspoken about his dependence on Jesus for everything important in his life, and was bold enough to be featured in this video supporting his position.  While it is hard for me to cheer for the Patriots due to their ridiculous dominance of the game, there is one Patriot that I can't help but cheer for.   Thanks for being a stand-up guy, Matthew.