Thursday, August 11, 2022

Worth Developing

 


What would a developer do with 10.5 acres in Brooklyn, NY?  I guess that depends on what they are developing.  If they are developing wealth, it would likely be luxury apartments or a commercial office building.  If they are developing God's kingdom on earth, it might be something different.  A.R. Bernard is the pastor of the largest church in New York City.  He started the church in a grocery store, and the church has acquired some of the property around it.  For the past 10 years, Bernard has been planning a $1.2 billion urban center that includes affordable housing, a trade school, a performing arts center, a supermarket, and of course, a place for his 32,000 members to worship.  Bernard is hoping to have final approval this year with the ground breaking in 2023.  Praise God for a leader with the vision to build God's kingdom on Earth.  To learn more about this inspirational project, click here.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Pop Pronouns

I have done everything in my power to avoid this one, but I just can't anymore.  I like Demi Lovato.  I think she is a good singer, and I liked her as a judge on X-factor.   But she has been front and center this week because of her decision to use new pronouns which are now "they" and "she".  Last year, she identified as non-binary, which I assumes means that she can be both male and female, not one or the other.  But now, she is feminine, so she likes "she", but I have no idea how she gets to "they".  "They" is plural, and she is one person.  That is followed by her statement that her sexuality is fluid.   I recently heard that at an annual conference for a Fortune 500 company, attendees were required to list their pronouns on  their name badge.  I wish I could change the conversation from "this is what I want you to call me" to "this is how I am feeling today".  I feel more masculine when I am barefooting behind a ski boat, and I feel more feminine when I bust out crying when I hear a beautiful piece of music.  I don't need to dictate how you address me each time I feel different.  Besides, it is all too confusing.  Just call me Tom.  Which sex organs I have, and which sex I am attracted to doesn't need to be broadcast to anyone, but I am happy to tell a friend if they want to know.  I get that I may be adding fuel to the fire by posting this, but I am admittedly dazed and confused.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Navigating

Last month, Caroline and I had the opportunity to visit Montana for the wedding of Stevie and Abby Crawford.  Stevie is the son of one of my close friends, and he met Abby while in school at Montana State. They met while both attending an event sponsored by Navigators. Navigators has been around since 1933, and their mission is to spread the good news of Jesus through life-to-life discipleship.  Navigators has had a huge impact on Abby's life, and she has decided to dedicate the next year of her life to the organization. Caroline and I were impressed with her and her story and have decided to help sponsor her first year.  If you would like to know more about Navigators, click here or feel free to contact me.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Breakthrough


So many people are struggling. Whether it is poor health, financial instability, wayward kids or death of friends or family members., it seems like pain is almost everywhere.  I sometimes feel guilty for the blessings God has poured out on me and my family.  I recognize hard times will come for me too.    Praying doesn't guarantee fast fixes to our problems, but just the process of presenting our requests to God can be healing. For those struggling right now, I pray for peace.  And I pray for a breakthrough - in Jesus' name.   I listened closely to this song by Katy Nichole for the first time today.  I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

men in black

 

For all those born after 1990, men in black, probably conjures up images of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from the 1997 hit movie of the same name.  Those born even later may think of Ed Harris's character in Westworld. Whatever the case, "men in black" does usually seem to be an expression of masculinity.  But what society deems masculine seems to be morphing over time.  The media  seems to paint masculinity with a "I'm so great.  You can't touch me."  air about it.  I don't hold anything against the celebrities mentioned above, but the original man in black, was Johnny Cash.  He almost always wore black and wrote the song by the same name.  Johnny was a star, but there was plenty about him that wasn't perfect.  He had a tough life in many ways.  The difference with him was his humility.  He knew he wasn't perfect.  He didn't see himself as God's gift to the world, but he saw God's grace as the greatest gift he had ever been given.  I'd like to know a few more men in black like Johnny.  

(These are my words, but they were inspired by this article if you want to read more.)

Thursday, July 7, 2022

No More Running

 


We were all sickened by the massacre in Highland Park,  IL at a July 4th parade killing 7 people.   One two year old toddler arrived at the parade with two parents and left with none.  They were both killed.   I watched this interview of a mom who was also at the parade with her husband and 2 year old son.  They escaped physically unharmed, but mentally changed for life.  Her plea is impassioned but controlled, calling for us all to do something.  I have struggled with what to do.  I have friends that are gun advocates, but it is more than obvious that assault weapons in the wrong hands lead to innocent people being killed senselessly. As the mom in the video was laying her 2 year old down for his nap on the afternoon of the 4th, he looked up at her and said "no more running".   I can't imagine how I would feel if this were one of my grandchildren. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Destination-Wedding

 


I missed posting last week for the first time in quite a while, but I had a good reason.  Caroline and I were celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary in Boseman, MT.   The son of some of our good friends was getting married there, and we took the opportunity to spend a week exploring the area.  We got to see Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and some of the parks around Boseman.  If you haven't been to the area, we highly recommend it.  The mountains seem to spring up out of the plains.  I have never seen anything like it.  The week was capped by one of the most Christ-centered weddings I have ever attended.  (Photo: wedding venue)  It warmed my heart to see the young couple loving each other almost as much as they love Jesus.    It gives me more hope for our next generation and inspires me to continue trying to love Caroline more.  Happy Anniversary, Caroline.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Pirates Sighted

 


Every summer, Caroline and I and another couple host Pirate Camp for our grandkids at Lake Hartwell.  The campers need to be 4 years old, so this year we had 10.  On the first day, Captain Hook steals our treasure chest.  That starts three days of fun where the kids are navigating the lake on a pirate ship trying to find the treasure.  This year, we actually spotted Captain Hook from a distance on the last day before finding the treasure.  There is quite a bit of work preparing for and executing the camp, but the quality time with the kids is invaluable.  I count it as one of the most important things I do every year.  I hope you can find quality time with the people that are most important to you.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Making Room


I was introduced to Niclole Serrano this morning - not personally - just in the media.  I was interested in her story.  She is from New York, has served as a worship leader and moved to Nashville to explore her music career.  She is currently attending Spero Dei church in Nashville and recorded a couple of her music videos there.  She tried out for The Voice, but didn't get selected to be on the show.  I listened to Make Room for the first time this morning.   I'm not sure what was wrong with those judges.  I can't find much wrong with her voice, and the message is spot on.  I want to find ways to make more room for Him.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

M.I.A.


Those of you who know me well are probably aware that I am not a huge fan of rap music.  So when I saw an article about M.I.A., I fully assumed that it was about a service person that was missing in action.  I quickly learned that M.I.A. is also the stage name for Maya Arulpragasam.  Maya was raised in Sri Lanka but moved with her mother to London when she was 11.  While attending art school in London, her cousin was reported to be missing in action in Sri Lanka, and she felt guilty that he was fighting for something important while she was enjoying an easy life with her friends.   After Maya began performing music publicly, she later elected to use the stage name M.I.A. in honor of her cousin.  The "A" also stood for Acton, which is the area of London that she lived in.  In 2017, Maya saw a vision of Jesus that changed her life, turning it upside down.  She saw Him and wanted Him at the center of her life.  She recently revealed this in a podcast and recognized that it could have a huge impact on her acceptance by her fans, many of which were not Christians and some of which don't like Christians at all.  I thought it was interesting in the interview when she said, "Christianity just seems so basic."  Some might see that as a slight, but I see it as her recognition that Christianity is the foundation, or basis, for our purpose on this Earth.  Praise God for a celebrity that has the conviction to get people who might not know Jesus, talking about Jesus.  For an excerpt from the interview, click here.


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Where's the humor in that?


 

For those of us that have trouble memorizing scripture, we can take comfort in finding the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus Wept".  Even I can remember that one.   There is certainly much of the Bible that deals with the solemn, serious nature of Jesus, punctuated by his death on the cross.  But it raises the question, did Jesus laugh?  I don't believe there are any direct references to Jesus laughing in the Bible, but there were definitely times when Jesus experienced joy. He found joy in performing miracles, including bringing people from death to life.  And he also found great joy in bringing people to know God through himself.  While it is hard to know how cultural norms might influence humor over the centuries, some might say that "having a plank in your eye" or "a camel walking through the eye of a needle" are humorous in some contexts.  If the rest of us experience joy, then Jesus, being fully God and fully human, surely experienced joy, and also probably laughed.   I believe most of the people who know me well would put me more on the serious side of the serious-fun scale, and that is something I would like to change.   Knowing God should bring me immense joy and that great joy should frequently bring great laughter.  To get us started, how about having some fun poking fun at ourselves?  I love this one.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Good Doctor

At a young age, John watched his dad carefully as he practiced medicine in a small town in Texas.  John frequently heard stories of how his dad had taken special care with a patient causing the patient to reach out to him personally after the treatment to thank him for his care.   John went to school to study sports medicine and joined a practice in California.  He was married and raised two children.  He modeled his parenting and his work after his father.  On Sunday he was attending a reception at church for one of the pastors that had just returned from a mission trip.   In the midst of the celebration, a lone gunman entered the reception hall with the intent of killing as many people as he could.  John rushed the gunman and tackled him, allowing other parishioners to restrain the shooter until authorities arrived.  John was shot multiple times and died shortly thereafter.  Praise God for a man that was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others.  Click here to see a short professional video introducing John Cheng.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Same God

 


It's uncanny how fast our world is changing.  When I see memories pop up on social media, I am constantly amazed.  12 years ago, I had no grandchildren, and now I have 7.  If we go back 20 years, we didn't even have social media to send us memories. And go back 40 years, and we didn't have a cell phone to check memories or even to make a call.  Outside my lifetime, we could spend years analyzing all of the changes to our world over the previous centuries.  But in the midst of pervasive change, it is almost inconceivable that our God has not changed.  Our God is the God of Jacob, the God of Moses, the God of David.  He is Creator.  He is Judge.  He is Healer.  He is Savior.  I found this song by Elevation Worship that does a great job of putting these ideas to music.  Take a few minutes to praise the unchanging God of the ages.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Mom's The Word


This weekend we get to celebrate moms.  Sometimes, it's a little difficult finding a way to honor all the mom's in our family that need to be honored.  First of all, the moms are the ones that make everything happen the other 364 days of the year, so trying to get a guy, or a group of guys, to plan and execute a meal is nearly impossible.  Secondly, we have three generations of moms in our family, and we also have the moms in our inlaw's families, so just finding a time that works for everyone is hard, too.   I am thrilled that this year all are invited to my daughter's home in Smyrna to celebrate.  The guys will do our best to keep it simple and try not to burn the house down as we are cooking.  Most importantly, we want the mom's to know how much they mean to us.   For a little extra mom-inspiration, I found this short video.  It was put together by the Mormons.  I don't agree with everything they believe, but I can't find fault with this one.  I hope you have a chance to honor one or more mom's in your life this weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Celebration of Life

I attended the celebration of life service for Tom Larrison on Saturday.  Tom and his wife Ann go to our church, and they have participated in our small group from church.  Tom was way too young to die, but he had been struggling with multiple chronic issues for some time.  At the service, four of Tom's high school buddies from Florida spoke.  It was fun to hear their stories from 40 years ago, but it was amazing to see how those relationships had been nurtured over four decades.  Two of Tom's recent business partners also spoke.  Their perspective was shorter and more current, but the common theme from all of the speakers was that Tom always wanted to know how they were doing.  Tom never wanted to talk about himself.  I was convicted that I want to be more like Tom, my brother in Christ.  How are you doing today?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Wonder

I like the word wonder.  It has at least two meanings depending on the context.  You can wonder what you are having for dinner.  In that sense, it just means to question or to be curious about.  But the other wonder is the wonder you feel when you see the northern lights for the first time or hear an orchestra perform a beautiful composition.  That wonder can make you lose your breath or bring you to tears.  There is nothing that brings more of the second type of wonder than the wonder that God came to Earth as a man, died on a cross to save me from my sin and then rose from the grave.  I believe that wonder will continue until I meet Him face to face, and hope that if it changes, it only becomes more intense.  That feeling of wonder reminded me of this song from Lauren Daigle - How Can It Be.  Take a moment to get lost in the wonder of God.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

His Vessel

 

In my quiet time this morning, I was thinking of this upcoming weekend and the importance of Easter.  My nature is to try to uncover some new and unique way to share that with you.   And in trying to find that, I came across this: a man, standing in the center of a stadium, in Baton Rouge, in the rain, with thousands of people listening, sitting in the rain, in 1970.  I would have been 9 years old that year, going to church, with my pastel shorts and shirt and Easter basket in tow.  I'm sure I would have heard the Easter story, but not understood it like I understand it today.  My complete reason for being on this Earth, is to know God, believe in Him, and follow Him through the example of his Son, Jesus.  None of that would be possible without Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection three days later.  52 years later, I may want to find some new and exciting way to celebrate Easter, but God's message is unchangeable, and I believe one of God's greatest vessels of all time is Billy Graham.   I hope you will find 27 minutes between now and Easter Sunday to be inspired.



Thursday, March 31, 2022

Where is your lion?

Where is your lion?
Our ConnectGroup from church just finished up Mark Batterson's "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day".  The book helped generate a lot of good discussion, and I have to say, we all didn't agree with the author all the time.  He closed out the book with this line of  thinking.  God has something big in store for all of us.  We may know exactly what that is, and just be scared to pursue it, because it seems too big.  It will be too big for us, but it won't be too big for God.  Chase that lion into the pit and slay it.   God doesn't guarantee that everything will work out every time just like we think it will, but it does work out according to His plan.  A failure could teach us what God wanted us to learn.  

But what if we just don't have any idea what lion we are supposed to be chasing?  If you don't know what it is, it probably isn't because you need more knowledge or more training, it's probably because you need to know Him more.  I challenge you to pray three times per day that God will reveal His plans for you.  Use your watch or your phone to set a reminder if you need to.  You might be surprised by what you hear when you take a minute to listen.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Neoteny

 


I learned a new word this week: neoteny.  Neoteny is the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal.  While the word is typically usually used to describe characteristics of non-human animals, it applies to us as well. Gaining maturity is typically viewed as a positive, natural part of getting older, and in a lot of ways, it is.  But then there is that verse in the Bible: "Unless we change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  Last night, our group talked about how to do that.  Here are some of our ideas:  Play more.  Laugh more.  Learn more.  Trust more.  Love more.   I think most of us could use a little more neoteny in our lives, and I know God will smile down on us if we do.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Pat's Legacy

At the age of 16, Pat was abducted from his family and taken to another country where he was held captive and enslaved.   After six years, he escaped, traveling 200 miles by foot to a port city where he made passage back to his home country by boat.  Pat had been introduced to Christianity early in his life and while he was enslaved, he used the time to deepen his relationship with Jesus.  After returning home, he continued his religious studies and felt a call back to the country where he had been a slave to tell others about Jesus.   He became widely known as the most effective evangelist of his time in that country.   Upon his death, a celebration of his accomplishments was initiated which ended up being an annual event celebrated around the world.   Occurring during the Christian observance of Lent, the day became known as a day when any abstentions from food or drink were paused so that full celebrations could take place.  That day has been known ever since as St. Patrick's Day.  I hope you celebrate well!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Invasion of Ukraine

6 year old, Pavel Averbukh, was fortunate to escape the port city of Odessa, Ukraine before 5000 civilians, including most of his family and friends, were slaughtered by the ruthless militia invading from the north.  The year was 1941, and the invading soldiers were German, not Russian.  Pavel is now 86 and lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as Little Odessa.   Little Odessa has the highest concentration of Russian immigrants in the western hemisphere.   I have been reading a WW II book entitled, "A Higher Call", which was recommended to me by a close friend.  The book has made it painfully obvious how little I know, or how much I have forgotten, about World War II.   I found a docu-series on Netflix that helped me quickly fill in some of the empty spaces.   It has been fascinating (and terrifying) to see the similarities between what was happening in the 1940's and what is happening now in the exact same area of the world.   I know that all of us are being inconvenienced right now by the increased fuel prices resulting from what is happening overseas.   I don't like it either.   But I think it would do us all some good to think about those who have been forced from their homes into shelters and the streets, separated from family, and even killed over the past several weeks.  Their inconvenience seems somewhat higher.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Guaranteed uncertainty

Chapter 5 in "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" is about guaranteed uncertainty.   Some people think faith in God is about knowing exactly what He is going to do.  Last night our group talked about things that we never expected to happen which turned into some of the most vivid memories from our lifetime.  We talked about sad surprises like the death of a loved one or the sudden termination from a job.  And then there are happy surprises like the conception of a child when the doctors said it wouldn't be possible.  The thing that we should have faith in is not faith that we know exactly what God is going to do, but having faith in the fact that His plan is perfect.  We may not understand that perfect plan, but God's desire is that we seek to know Him more.  As we do that, His plan will be revealed to us, but not completely.  He is way too big.  But if we trust in Him, and in his Son, we will meet Him one day, and the full plan that He has for us will be revealed.  That is His promise.  I am certain of that.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Rusty

We got some sad news last week.  My wife's brother, Rusty, passed away due to multiple chronic conditions that he had been struggling with for many years.   Some of those conditions were the result of years of alcohol abuse at an early age.   Rusty had been sober for many years thanks to organizations like AA and strong support from friends and family, but the health issues were a lasting reminder of the disease that haunted him.   We were lucky to see friends and family at the funeral that we had not seen for decades.  Everyone remembers Rusty's sense of humor and his infectious laugh.  I remember the day that Rusty visited us and grinned from ear to ear as he water-skied with us.  One of his close friends spoke to Rusty about his faith consistently and assured us that we would see him again one day.  I'm pretty sure I have posted this song in the past, but this is the one that the family elected to play during the memorial service.  Take a few minutes to listen if you can.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Overwhelming Odds

I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I am facing a situation where it seems the odds of succeeding are impossible.  I think, "There is no way that this can work out even if everything proceeds perfectly."  My perspective is largely shaped by my view of the size of my God.  In other words, "My God is not great enough to get me through this."    In my fleeting moments of strength, I remind myself that God is not only almighty, but He is also my Father.   He watches me always.  He watches my struggles.   He watches my sins.  He watches my triumphs.  He watches me always.  He not only watches, but He corrects me when I am wrong, and He cheers me on when I am succeeding.  He yearns for me to call out to Him for help so that he can demonstrate His love for me.  He wants me to pray God-sized prayers, so that when they are answered, I and anyone else who is watching will know that there is no way that could have been accomplished without God in the middle of it.  I pray for the courage to pray those prayers more.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Hear the roar

 

Last night, we had our first ConnectGroup meeting at our house.  We are reading "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day."  The book is inspired by an Old Testament warrior named Benaiah. Benaiah stared down a lion, chased him into a pit, and killed him. In the first chapter, Batterson spent some time talking about two different types of sin - sins of commission and sins of omission.  The church has long focused on sins of commission - the bad things we do that we need to stop doing. The church doesn't talk that much about sins of omission. These are the opportunities that God presents to us that we think we don't have the time or ability to pursue - opportunities missed.  In the next 7 chapters, Batterson is going to talk about 7 of the main obstacles to taking those opportunities and running with them. Let me know if you would like to join in the discussion.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

In A Pit With A Lion

 

Our Winter/Spring semester of our church ConnectGroup is starting up next week.  We will be reading and discussing "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson.  Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC and is a best-selling author of 12 books.  When Mark was 19, he heard a sermon about Benaiah from the Old Testament who chased down a lion and killed it.  He decided at that point, that if he ever wrote a book, it would be about that passage.  The first chapter introduces the idea that some of our greatest opportunities for growth can come from facing fear in the face.  I look forward to reading and discussing his ideas on this with our group.  Let me know if you would like to read along with us.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The carpenters

Some of you may already know that my wife and I are building a new home on Lake Hartwell.  We have been planning for a while and finally got started last month.  Things are proceeding slowly due to "the weather" and "the COVID", but some progress is being made.  We are thankful that we don't have any real deadline to move, so we are working hard to enjoy the process.   I came across this article written by a woman who is also building a home, and her experience has been positive so far.  She states that the workers are delightful and seem to take pride in their work and actually enjoy their work.  It made her start thinking about how our current society dictates that young adults need to have a college education (or 2 or 3) to make a difference in our world.   It seems that we have boxed out the possibilities of people being successful building, farming or fixing toilets.   Jesus was a carpenter and his disciples were fishermen.  I think her ideas are interesting and true.  I would love to know what you think.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Cheer-full


College football is a crazy thing.  When I was enrolled in a SEC university in 1980, I decided to participate in the marching band.  That was the only year I marched.  I would have never imagined that at the end of that season, UGA would be celebrating its first National Championship in 38 years.   It would have been even more surprising if you would have told me it would be 41 more years until UGA would win their next title.  During those 41 years, I married my wife who attended UGA, sent my two kids to UGA, watched my daughter-in-law work the sidelines at UGA as an athletic trainer and fed hundreds of hungry students at our pregame tailgates.  College football is big business.  But it has also served as a rallying point for our family and friends to gather and cheer.  This year, Caroline and I joined our kids and one of their spouses (sorry Emily) in Indianapolis for the biggest game we have had in a while.  Cheers to UGA.  Cheers to family.  I hope your family has something fun to cheer for.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Sad But True

I have mixed emotions today as I look forward to all the good that 2022 has in store for us and am also reminded of the 2021 insurrection that occurred at our nation's capital one year ago today.   I thank God for the freedoms that we have living in this country, but feel sick that some of our own chose to exercise their freedoms by attacking innocent people that were doing their best to protect those very freedoms.  My prayer today is for the families of the people that were injured or killed and that our legal system would do everything in its power to bring justice to the offenders.  I also pray that we are protected from further attacks from those inside our borders and outside of our borders.  This year I want to have open ears and an open heart to those that think differently than I do.