Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Light in the Darkness

JJ Heller sings, "Don't let your eyes get used to darkness. The Light is coming soon. Don't let your heart get used to sadness. Put your hope in what is true"

Advent calls mind the unreality of our current reality and the danger of getting used to our existential perspective.

As Wesleyans we believe in restoration theology. The work of Christ begins the recreation of the world, the reversal of the curse brought to all creation by Humanity's rebellion. He rose on the first day of the week to be the first of a new order. God is even now restoring things to His original design. The Garden of Eden was not a parenthetical picture, it is how God made things to be. And at Christ's return in power, the Kingdom will again come in its fulness.

Hunger will be swallowed up by fulness. Peace will destroy war. Wholeness will heal all sickness. Plenty will rob poverty of its depravation. Freedom will bind addiction.

The King of Kings will return to the earth He created and unseat the Prince and Power of the air.

The Babe in the manger was the Light. And those of us sitting in darkness have seen a great light. Hope dawned that first Christmas morning. And our Hope DOES NOT DISAPPOINT!!!

So live in the Light. Walk in the Light. Dance in the Light.

Don't let your eyes get used to darkness...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Voice in the Desert

Today is the first Sunday in Advent 2009. Today we begin the four-week journey to the stable to experience the Newborn King. We lit the first candle of the wreath to give light to Prepare by.

Malachi, Isaiah and Mark tell of the Voice in the Desert. We looked at this during worship at Faith today.

A voice...

Just one voice. One odd man with strange clothes and wild hair. Yet he cried out to any and all who came within ear shot. He was sent by God to use his one voice to serve the coming King. The time had come.

We, too, must raise our voice. We must give voice to the silent cries of the unborn, the moans of the uninsured, the exploited worker, the widow, orphan, imprisoned. We must call out for justice and equity. We may have only one voice, but it must be raised. John, the Voice, cried out against personal and social evil. He cried out against even the king when his lifestyle violated God's word.

People need to know the King approaches and we will all stand before Him. How can they call on one of whom they have never heard? Who have you told lately?

...in the desert...

Why a desert? Why the wild? Why not Rome or at least Jerusalem? What was God thinking?

Perhaps God sent the Voice to the desert to announce the coming of His Son because most of the time, most of us live in dry barrenness. It is in the dry weary landscape that we sense our need of a Savior. At the end of the advertisements and entisements there is a desert of disappointment. Are you dry? Are you parched? Are you cracked from overexposure to the bright light of the "Good Life?" The Voice calls out in the desert.


Get ready. Get ready. Get ready. In the movie The Untouchables, Sean Connery's character constantly asks, "What are you prepared to do?" We would like to be ready when company comes to visit. We would like to be ready for financial emergencies? We would like to be ready for the test. But what are we preparing for? Wishing is not the same as preparing.

How do you prepare for the coming of the King? John, the Voice, was asked this. He replied, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay." (Luke 3.11-14) Repent of wrong behaviors. Start new pattern of relating to others.

Smooth out roughed up relationships. Straighten out crooked dealings. Raise the level of thanks and contentment. Lower self-interest. Live a life that welcomes the King.

...the way for the Lord...

Does this passage really imply that my life makes a way for the Lord to come to others? In several places the NT expressly tells us our living either makes the claims of Christ more credible or discredits them. Stepping stones or stumbling blocks. Our life lived in readiness for the Coming One, invites others to join in the preparation.

What a shame that we all too often have so much Christmas we don't have any Christ. We are preparing this Advent for the LORD!

Ready or not, here He comes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Me, Vern...

I haven't posted since AUGUST!!!!!

I began a new year of teaching. After 7 years in the classroom, this is my first official year. I have been enrolled in the state-mandated Beginnning Teachers' Academy. Translation: I have a boat -load of meetings I am required to attend. My job with students in self-contained behavior disorders has transformed into work with students in a self-contained mild-to-moderate mentally impaired classroom. Needless to say my days have filled.

However several very significant things have happened.

Come to the waters tells the incredible experience of baptizing two teens a few weeks ago. Friend Day was a big success. We have had a team of Partners come share in our breakfast service. We are pushing the 35 barrier hard now!

I had a hard fight against a nasty sinus infection last week that knowked me down for 5 days and nights. But thank the Lord, I'm up again.

I will certainly post more often now that I am finding my rhythm. The unexamined life is not worth living said Socrates. I feel the absence of this reflecting place.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Come to the Waters!!!

I recently had the honor of conducting the sacrament of baptism. It is the initiation rite into the Christian community. It is always joyous and exciting. Faith Community Church always makes it an event to remember for the participants and their guests.

This one was special, though.

The candidates were a brother and sister.

They are teens.

They recently declared their interest in faith and the act of baptism.

But what made it a truly transcendent moment was the sacred moment in which we co-mingled water from a gallon jug into the baptistry.

That water had been fetched from the Cranberry River by a team of blessed conspiriators to supply the dying request of the mother of these precious teens. D.H. had made plans with me to conduct her baptism in the Cranberry after her cancer had returned. But her health declined rapidly. So in her hospital bed, she consented to be baptised by sprinkling. My dear brother Terry coordinated the conspiracy and supplied our bed-side baptism with Cranberry River water.

Lisa stood at my side, her husband held her hand and I baptized D.H. in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with cool, clear water from the Cranberry. D.H. passed away a short time later. Her husband saved the jug of sacred water.

He brought that same water to the ceremony for his children. I poured it in the sign of the cross. And before the teens stepped in, as I read their personal statements of faith, I told everyone about the water. And as I baptized each one in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I felt the cloud of witnesses settle in on our act. I understood in vivid clarity the line from the Apostles' Creed "...the communion of saints..." Time and eternity blended, the church victorious touched the church vigilent.

Every baptism calls the baptized back to their initial commitment to the Lord, His church and the Faith. But this one mystically affirmed it all to me in such clarity I will always think of it when I come to the waters...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Who Is Our God?

Today we finished our Summer Series. "Who Is Like Our God?" We celebrated the wonderful truths about His character and the wonderful reality of being renewed in His image -- changed from glory to glory in the image of His Son!

When the LORD finished His proclamation of the name YHWH, Moses responded to the
amazing, dazzling vision of God. First he worshipped. Moses bowed down to the ground. Worship is the reasonable response of those who glimpse the Glory of God. We stand amazed, we sing for joy, we thank and praise. The Glory of God inspires His people to worship Him.

When the LORD finished His proclamation of the name YHWH, Moses trusted God. He said, "If I have found favor...then go with us..." He put his hope in the character of the LORD just revealed to him. God's presence would bring safety and success. Without God's Presence, Moses would not move. His future depended on the LORD. The Glory of God invites His people to trust Him.

When the LORD finished His proclamation of the name YHWH, Moses confessed. "...we are a stiff-necked people, forgive our...sin" Isaiah, when caught up in the wonderful vision of God, high and lifted up, cried out, "Woe is me! I am undone." Seeing God's glory also brings into focus our vainglory -- our shabbiness and our sin. We then must choose to admit what we see in the light of Glory or deny it. Confession simply agrees with our condition in terms of God's glory. The Glory of God challenges His people to confess to Him.

When the LORD finished His proclamation of the name YHWH, Moses surrendered. "Take us as your people..."More than worship, which acknowledges God's glory, and trust, which relies on God's character or even confession, which agrees with our condition-in-light-of-the-glory, surrender opens the way for a life of blessing. When we gife ourselves to God, He begins the transformation. He renews the image of Himself in us! The Glory of God demands His people surrender to Him.

Then something happens that is even more thrilling, mind-blowing and life-changing than even proclaming His name and character. The LORD God invites humanity to enter into a close personal relationship (covenant) with Him. He offers Himself, in all His resplendant Glory, to be our God. He chooses us to be His holy people. He commissions us to reflect His Glory in the Glow of our life and character.

He has not introduced Himself as simple the Master of the Universe. He introduces Himself as our Covenant-Keeping Lord. All His promises will be carefully kept. All His duties will be faithfully performed. He is our God!

On the night before He was betrayed, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and said, "This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me." Later He took the cup and said, "This is the new covenant in my blood. Drink this, as often as you do it, in remembrace of me." This covenant -- this personal relationship with the Glorious God -- was made possible by the substitutional death of God the Son. It was ratified by the powerful resurrection of God the Son. It is available to us today.

This God offers Himself to be our God and invites us to be His people. Have you accepted His offer?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Is FORGIVING Like Our God?

This week we celebrated the baptism of baby Christian Gall at Faith Community Church. This sacrament marks initiation into the Church and fits well with the Summer Series in which we find ourselves. Our God declares that He is a Forgiving God.

The GLORY of the Forgiving God.

The LORD says He bears our sins. The word used here means He carries off the shame, takes away the punishment and lifts the burden of guilt that resulted from our sins. These consequences of sin are done away with in His forgiveness.

He carries off the shame of our sins. With the first covenant people of God, He instructed them to present two goats to make atonement for their sins. The priest cast lots and one goat was sacrified to pay the death-penalty for sin (...when you do, you will surely die [Genesis 2.17, etc].) The priest laid his hand on the goats head, confessed the sins of the people and then slit its throat. The priest then placed his hand on the head of the second goat -- the scape-goat -- confessed the sins of the people and then that goat was removed from the community and set loose to wander in the wilderness. It carried away the shame of the sinful acts. This ritual was carried out year after year.

Jesus offered Himself as our scape-goat to carry our shame away from us. He was crucified "outside the gates." He died a shameful death to carry away our shame, to remove it from us. this He did once for all time!

He takes away the punishment of our sins. There were many sacrifices prescribed by the LORD for His first covenant people. Each dealt with the cold reality that sins separate people from this Compassionate, Gracious, Slow-to-Anger, Love-and-Faithfulness-Maintaining God. The penalty or punishment for sins is death -- spiritual and physical. So the Gracious God allowed for substitutions to bear the death-penalty. Yearly or even more frequently, sinners placed their hands on the heads of sacrificial animals, confessed their personal sins and watched them die -- in their place. There was a continual death-march leading up to the altar of sacrifice.

Jesus died IN OUR PLACE. He suffered terrible torture and died because He was carrying our sins in His body on the tree. "By oppression and judgment He was taken away...for the transgression of my people was He stricken" (Isaiah 53.8, etc.) Because He died we can go on living in forgiveness!

He lifts the burden of guilt from our sins. When God forgives, He cleans our conscience. We can rest at night knowing our darkest deeds have been brought to light as we confessed them to God (1 John 1.8.) There is now no fear of exposure or condemnation of mind (Romans 8.1.) He sprinkles our conscience clean with the sacrificial blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10.22.)

Rather than oppressed and obsessed about our wrongdoing, we are now free, through God's forgiving work, to live life to the fullest.

What He forgives... a little theological sidenote is in order here. This caviat merits its own sermon someday... In declaring Himself the Forgiving God, the LORD details what it is that He forgives. He forgives wickedness, transgressions and sins.

Sins...are those acts or thoughts that "miss the goal"or "miss the mark." Unintentionally, we do things that fall short of the glory of God. The best we will ever do will not measure up to the standard. We wander from the narrow way. We literally get lost in the wilderness of options placed before us. But God promises and has provided forgiveness for these "misses."
Transgressions...are acts of willful rebellion. While any parent might be quick to forgive the misses of their child[ren], willful disobedience is hard to forgive. We trespass. We see the line, then we choose to step over the line, anyway. Yet our Merciful LORD wants and waits to forgive the times we flip Him off and go it our own way. How forgiving!!
Wickedness...is the twisted depravity that is the root cause of our sins and transgressions. Just as a duck quacks and waddles because it is a duck and these things are in its nature, we sin because we are sinners. Since our first parents rebelled, every human is borne with a nature twisted away from God and in-grown with self-love. The LORD has promised and provided for a cleansing even of this sin-nature. What a radical claim God makes!

The Glow of a Forgiving People

Colossians 3 says we are to "...forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (verse 13) Jesus in the Our Father teaches we should expect God will "...forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin agains us..." His later commentary on the prayer is very clear: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6.14-15) If we are the people of the Forgiving God, we must be forgiving people. We cut ourselves off from God's forgiveness when we refuse forgiveness to others. But with the forgiveness of our God flowing through us, we can find ourselves forgiving as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Again Sunday we look at the Glory of YHWH, the LORD. Like Moses we want God to "teach [us] Your ways so [we] may know You and continue to find favor with You." We long to better understand Who the "I AM" is.

This week we see the Glory of the LORD "...maintaining love to thousands..."


God guards His love for us. He shields His heart from the disappointment, deminishment and even betrayal of our relationship to Him. He wants always to respond to us in love. His loving heart sends rain on the just and the unjust, sunshine on the righteous and unrighteous. Even when we, like the Golden Calf crowd, reject His love and rebel against His leadership, His guarded love reaches out to us.

The LORD keeps carefully His love for us. He tends to the relationship with tenderness and concern. Like a gardener (John 15) He looks over our relationship and tends it. He weeds out what would sap His love, He fertilizes what is weakened in our relationship. Men generally do not give such carefulness to relationships. Women do. Like His compassion, coming from the Hebrew word for womb, God fusses over our relationship carefully. He wants it to work.

God keeps continually His love for us. God is love and always loves. Even on our worst day, God loves us. From before there was a molecule of matter that makes up our selves, God loved us completely, without condition. And in eternity future, His love will continue. Even for those who choose to be eternally separated from Him!

The LORD preserves His love for us. Like jelly or jam, the love of the LORD is stored up for us. It will not run out or even low. His passion for us does not fluctuate nor is He fickle in His feelings for us. In our moment of greatest need, His love is strong.


The LORD maintains love to thousands. This can either mean "thousands of persons" or "thousands of generations." Perhaps it implies both.

The Scriptures clearly declare that the LORD loves every person. "God loved the whole world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, so that all those believing on Him would not die but have eternal life" (John 3.16.) Here, when speaking to the chosen leader of the Chosen People, the LORD hints at His universal love of all people. James clearly forbids partiality based on economic circumstances. Jesus declares we are to be "perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect" chiefly in this matter of loving all people, not just the lovable.

Later in this Proclamation of the Name, the LORD will promise to "punish the sin of the father...to the second and third generation." Here YHWH says He maintains His love to thousands of generations in a family. We will look into this issue of family crime and punishment in a few weeks. The amazing thing is not His judgment on 3 generations, it is His love for thousands of generations. Grace that is greater than all our sins! PTL!


We are to glow with the glory of our God. If He is unique in His dealings with humanity, we are to be unique, as well. He is renewing us in the image of our Creator. We glow with His "maintained" love to thousands when we interact with all persons treating them with equal dignity and kindness. We must allow the Holy Spirit to continually guard our hearts from preconceived notions about people based on economics, race, or religion. We all have such notions instilled in us through upbringing and environmental factors. BUT, the people of a God who loves thousands must reflect that love as He enables.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Let's review our pericope: Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34.5-7, NIV)

This week we, along with Moses, hear the LORD declaring the glory of His Name. He is the God abounding in love and faithfulness.

The Glory of the God: Abounding in Love and Faithfulness

To say that God abounds in love says first that God deals with us with loving-kindness. His love moves Him to deal with us carefully and tenderly. We experience His kindness and often take it for granted. We are more amazed by His occasioinal acts of judgment than we are in perpetual acts of loving-kindness. Paul chides the Roman Christ-followers, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2.4, NIV.) His kindness is designed to draw us to Him.

The LORD also abounds in faithfulness. He remains true to His commitments. He keeps His promises. He always speaks the truth. Relationships rest on the central issue of trust. Our LORD has proven His trustworthiness over the entire scope of history. Like Hosea of old, God remains faithful to our relationship even when we commit the spiritual equivalent of adultery. 2 Timothy 2.13 declares if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (NIV) We find security in His faithful commitment to us.

The LORD God is abounding in these qualities. Not just barely enough, His love and faithfulness know no limits. He overflows with love and faithfulness. When Jesus came into the world, John described Him as "full of grace and truth" The psalmist repeats the refrain, "His love endures forever."

The Glow of His People
As the people of this Love-and-Faithfulness-Abounding God, we reflect that glory in a world darkened by infidelity, lies, hate and indifference. Colossians says we are to put away lying. Ephesians says we are to speak the truth in love. Jesus says we are to let our "Yes, be 'yes' and our 'no' be 'no...'" What a challenge this week. LORD, help your people to be overflowing with love and faithfulness, to your Glory and Praise. AMEN

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Is GRACIOUS Like Our God?

We spent our Teaching Time unpacking the tremendous declaration of God's glory and the proclamation of the name HWHY. This week we looked at God as gracious. Let's review our Scripture: Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Exodus 34.5-7 (NIV)

Now let's remember the scaffolding we are using in this proclamation of His Name: Moses saw God's glory (heard the proclamation and saw God's real Presence) then he returned down the mountain. The people below saw a glow on his face -- a sort of residual Glory. So each week we will look at the Glory contained in the declaration and then look for ways we might Glow with a reflection of God's character in our daily lives in the following week (and beyond.)

The Glory of "the...gracious God..."

The fact that God is gracious means at least three things. He shows favor, grants blessings with no cost and gives gifts. He shows favor. Who do you call when you need a favor? Only someone with whom you have a vital relationship will "do you a favor." The favor of God is similar. Because of His tremendous love for you and me, God sits on the edge of His throne waiting for our request. He longs to bless us with the things that will make our lives holy and whole. But some things will never be ours experiencially until we ask. The gracious God shows favor.

Our gracious God also grants blessing. While I was in college I became very aware of the difference between a grant and a loan. Both may have conditions (ranking in graduating class, certain score on a test, GPA and so on.) But loans must be repaid to the one lending the money (plus interest for the privilege of using the lender's money a while.) Grants, however, did not have to be repaid. Our gracious God stand ready to supply our needs. He blesses us without any expectation we will repay Him. He knows we never could. Part of His grace is pouring into our lives these things we could never have on our own or repay once we are granted them.

We might have to meet conditional criteria, though. He blesses us with many things but allows us to enter into partnership with Him in these blessings. We might disqualify ourselves from the grant of a beautiful day in which to enjoy the outdoors by sitting in our rooms, blogging or surfing the internet. We might disqualify ourselves from the long life God grants to those who honor their parents by disrespect, disobedience and literally cut our life short. The gracious God grants blessings.

Not only does the gracious God show favor and grant blessing, He also gives gifts. Gifts are undeserved and unearned. Even when it's a holiday or special occasion, gifts are not required. They are free expressions of the giver's love, appreciate or affection. Our gracious God gives things undeserved and often un-asked-for. These gifts form the most precious facet of His gracious nature. Just think, "God loved the world of people so much that He GAVE His One and Only Son..." John 3.16 Our very relationship to God through Jesus is a gift. Can't be earned or worked for, just received with gratitude. God sends sunny days on the "good, the bad and the ugly." It rains on my garden if I'm a good boy or bad boy. The gracious God gives gifts.

The Glow of "the...gracious God's" People

Now that we, like Moses, have seen some of the glory of the Gracious God, others should be able to see the glow of Him in us and our living. Colossians 3.5-14 forms the basis for the Wesleyan-Arminian view that salvation is more than just fire insurance for eternity, but that it is the grace of God changing us in the present world. We ...have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

We are to ...put on...compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Last week we were to imulate the compassion of our God. This week we are to clothe ourselves with kindness which is a practical expression of being gracious.

Being gracious means putting others at ease. Treating them like guests. Seeing to their needs first. Smoothing over the awkward or even embarassing moments between us. Gracious people help others feel as if they are welcome, that they belong, that they have something to contribute.

Some examples of being gracious might be yielding right-of-way to someone in traffic jams, waiting quietly as someone violates the 20 items or less lane at the store or sitting with a guest at Worship.

One of the most convicting phrases in the entire Bible comes from Colossians 1.10 live a life worthy of the Lord... If our God is the Gracious God, we must be a gracious people. It must be one of the characteristics that sets us apart from the herd. We must glow with the glory of our Gracious God in our kind interactions with all we meet in the course of our day.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Who Is Like Our God? Summer Series

We began a new Summer Teaching Series. It attempts to unfold the declaration of God about Himself in Exodus 34.5-7. We are trying to spend a week with each concept. While we talk about God in general terms, I have never preached a series on His character specifically. We are looking to take "Eight-weeks to proclaim the Name of God, to expand our understanding of Him,
to be shaped into His Image."

In order to scaffold this exposition, we will use the narrative surrounding the proclamation of the name, HWHY (LORD). First Moses was exposed to the Glory of God and heard the proclamation. Then he returned from the mountain to the people gathered below. His face glowed from the exposure to God's Glory and he put on a veil. So we will spend our time looking first at THE GLORY and the specific characteristic for the week. Then we will look at how that characteristic of our God might GLOW or reflect in our living for the week. We need to "be holy, for God is holy." "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away...And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3.12 & 18 (NIV)

Judaism calls this proclamation of the name, HWHY, the "Thirteen Attributes of Mercy." It is to the character of God found in this declaration they appeal for forgiveness. We have reduced the discussion to 9 weeks, not 13.

More posts will follow...

Burn, Baby, Burn

We are campers. Even in the pre-kid days, Lisa and I would spend as much time tent camping as we could. We have been known to spend a week or two in May camping by night and going to work straight from the tent!

Lisa's family camped practically every state park in WV. Lisa's dad has all types of Coleman cook gear.

I spent a lot of time in a tent as a kid. We boys lived in the woods and thrived on building fires there.

We recently bought a fire "pit" and put it in our back yard. There we burn a little fire just for the atmosphere of camping. The past few evenings we have gathered wood, carefully started and tended our fire.

Simple pleasures are the best!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How Does Your OBAMA Garden Grow?

We planted an Obama garden to help us during these economic hard times. There is a recession on and I've got to do for me and mine...

Well, the 8 cabbages are heading in the right direction. 2 of 6 peppers have pooped out. 2.267 rows of carrots are doing fine, the rest never even started. Tiny tomatoes are trepadaciously trying out on our four plants. The green beans are running up their strings. The onions (that's pronounced on-yons) are green and growing. Four rows of corn are popping up nicely. The strawberry and cantelope are living but not budding, yet.

The grape is even leafing out better than it has since I transferred it from Grandpa Andy's.

We water them, train or tie them to supports, weed them and hoe around them frequently. Whenever I do I think of my Papa (pronounced on Blue Creek "Pop-All") and pray that somehow his work ethic, humility, patience and gentleness that must reside in my DNA would rise up. I am all too aware of my impatience, self-importance, sterness and idleness these days.

Like my little garden, my heart and mind seem more suited for wild, uninvited growth. Without daily tending, my life is reclaimed by wilderness from which God has cleared me. In this fallen place, brush and bad grow with less effort than vineyards and virtue. Both my heart and the very ground I walk on cry out for the deliverance to come at His Appearing.

The ground or the gardener are not as good as Grandpa's, but all in all, things are looking up in our little, square-foot Obama garden...

Might as Well Be Walkin' on the Sun...

I am a fair-skinned fella. I have always wished for a bronze tone (and muscular build, too, now that I think about it.) I just burn and peel back to the pale me. I guess the freckles multiply but that doesn't really count.

I went to a tanning bed ONCE because my DW said a few minutes in there would build up a base and I wouldn't burn so easy. I lay in this coffin of a thing for the minumum time possible. Next morning -- BURNED.

One family vacation to the Pocano Mountain (not exactly the tropical destination) I burned the tops of my feet so badly I could not walk for three days. When I could, piercing pain shot up and down my legs. At Gettysburg, I literally crawled along Little Round Top to get to the position from which Chamberlain launched his famous fixed-bayonett charge that drove the Alabama boys back and saved the Union line from being flanked.

So every time I go into the light I must wear heavy sun-screen or layers of clothing.

Yesterday our little fam took a trip to the local public pool. I applied number 50 sunblock a full twenty minutes before exposure. Then reapplied 20 minutes BEFORE the bottle said it was necessary. I stayed in the shade when I could sneak away from my tots who wanted Poppa to play with them in the BIG pool. We were there only a few hours.

But even on the ride home I could feel the burn.

My shoulders are deep pink with a motling of yellowish splotches. The strap for the acoustic and the bass hurt this morning in Worship. I am burned!!!!

I might as well be walking on the sun...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daddy Daycare

This summer I am watching our kids.

First, it's because I don't have school obligations. I finally got my certification classes! Yeh!

Second, along with starting an Obama garden, we are trying to deal with the financial situation by reducing all our debts and obligations. We will save a lot by not sending them to daycare for June, July and most of August, A LOT!

Third, I love my kids and spending time with them.

So last week we began our adventures in babysitting. Let me say at the onset that I do not multi-task. Like most men, I pigeon hole life. One thing at a time is my modus operandi.

We will work out our rhythm and things will be great. Just whisper a prayer for my patience and theirs, too.

Whoa Momma! It's Father's Day

What an unbelievable day!

First, I got a super T-shirt, two books, 2 packs of IBC Root Beer, 3 pair of Scooby Doo boxers from my amazing E and G (with the help of Momma.) E couldn't stop telling me the secret Momma had in the van so I actually got these gifts a few days early.

Then, Momma made sure I got to sleep in til 7:30 Saturday morning!

Then Sunday afternoon Momma made the best meal I have ever eaten--in my life! She grilled a summer medley of veggies and a special salmon. She grilled it on a cedar plant, with lemon and dill. It was tender, moist and smoked! Then to top it off, she grilled some thick slices of sesame-seeded bread! The meal could not have been better at the Tide-Water!

I am definitely blessed beyond measure! I thank E and G for making me a Dad and Lisa for making me a whole man!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Trinity Sunday

Worship at Faith on Trinity Sunday 2009

Worship Is Preparing:

Worship Is Praise/Song:
Isaiah 6.1-3
"Open the Eyes of My Heart"
"Our God Saves"
"We Give You Glory"

Worship Is Giving:
Giving our Substance: "How Great Is Our God"
This Week's Opportunities to Give Service (Announcements)

Worship Is Prayer:
Isaiah 6.4-8
"Take Me In (Holy of Holies)"
C.A.S.T. Our Cares on Him

Worship Is Hearing the Word:
Genesis 1.1-2, 26-27
Romans 8.12-27
Matthew 3.13-17
"Holy Trinity" Teaching Time

Worship Is Lifestyle:
"He Knows My Name"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Still the One!

May 25, 1994...

...FIFTEEN years ago today...

I became the husband of Lisa Renee. It seems like just yesterday I was standing on a folding chair hanging strands of white lights in a tent and eating a JR's cream-filled powered donut.

I really didn't comprehend what was about to happen to me. The shared joy and sorrow, the shared comfort and pain, the shared life. It is definitely the best part of my life having shared it with Lisa. We have wept at the gravesides of a niece and dear friends, wept with frustration and resignation during the infertility years (especially Mother's and Father's days), wept with fear and pride 9-11-01, wept with joy at the miracle birth of Eli and Jillian, wept at the bottom of emotional talks in the van in a parking lot.

We have held each other in passion's fire, the cold of disappointment and when we didn't know what else to do.

She is my joy, my love, my soul-mate, my life partner. Her beauty, wisdom and imagination endear her to me. I cherish our talks, walking and holding her hand and her smile.

She asked me recently, "Where will we be in 15 years?" I don't know what the world will be like, but if I'm alive I will be with her.

She's still the one!

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Biblical Worldview

Wow! What an awesome Day of Learning at Vinton Wesleyan Church!

We feasted on the simple, yet profound, truth that a Biblical worldview gives the only satisfactory answer to the question of meaning: who am I ? why am I here? It all centered around the imago dei. Being human only has meaning in the context of this image.

Dr. Ury beautifully and passionately declared needed holiness/Wesleyan message of restoring the imago dei through the life and work of Jesus Christ. He rightly pointed to the beginning of theology as Genesis 1 & 2 , not Genesis 3. To start at 3 is to only offer forgiveness and covering for sin, whereas a Gospel that begins in 1 & 2 offers restoration of the imago dei as discussed in Colossians and others.

He skillfully delt with the practical issues of human sexuality and the redefinition of marriage by stating it is the essence of human existance to be male and female. Even homosexual relationships fall into the male/female roles. Reality cannot be denied. Genesis 1 & 2 are reality.

It was a wonderfully challenging day! I'm certain more blogging and preaching will follow.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Derby

It was a Kentucky Derby weekend. I was driving toward the center of the state where the bluegrass grows. I was driving a borrowed, two-tone Ford station wagon. I was thrilled!

It was the first time I went to date my Lisa. I showed up in a shirt and tie for the Friday Formal dinner at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. Looking at the pictures now, I looked like such a geeky little boy. She looked as beautiful as anyone ever could.

So every Derby weekend I get a little spark of romance warming my heart. And I look at my Lisa, who still eats Friday dinner with me and smile with contentment. Life is full and so is my heart.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mission Completion

I have posted at least once for every day of this month. I did it!!!

I am supprised at the various depth of insight, lengths and topics of this month. It was a good discipline to exercise.

So check in in May and let's ee if I'm as prolific.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Momma is Coming! Momma is Coming!

Tonight my love will return to me. She has been gone on a business trip to CA. We have made it, but missed her terribly. I am so glad she will be home tonight.

More details to come...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On My Own

Today Lois had to return to OH and I was left with the kiddos alone.

The pickup from school was smooth. We played and watched Scooby Doo and Wikitiki (a parting gift from Mommaw.) Then we ate her delicious baked spagetti and bathed.

Bedtime was ok.

E woke first and moved into bed with me. Then sister did, too.

We woke, enjoyed another treat from Momma and got off to school well. It was raining lightly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just 'Cause I Promised...

I am posting right now just cause I promised to blog every day this month.

But just now a thought has come to me. Why is it that we capitalize I? Why not capitalize You and leave i miniscule? Do we really need to do so?

We no longer capitalize divine pronounds. So why do we still capitalize the self?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

She's Leavin' on a Jetplane...

Lis leaves today for a FOUR-DAY trip to CA! Ugh!

I tried to put a few little notes in her stuff -- in her purse, carryon bag and etc. She caught me once. Then she emptied her purse to clean it out!!!!! Then at 4am her suitcase broke and she had to empty it out too!!!!!! She is impossible to suprise!

I REALLY miss my girl when she has to be away. I honestly mark my days by the time I get to go home and see her (and the kiddos, too.) I don't function well when she's gone. I don't sleep.

I love my wife totally!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

That's Ridiculous!

Mommaw is coming to our house! We are very excited! It will be great fun!

When E woke up he started asking, "When's Mommaw coming?" All day at sporatic intervals he asked, "When's Mommaw getting here."

Finally, around bathtime we got a call from Mommaw that she was leaving OH. E reacted to the news by saying, "That's just E-diculous!" and frowning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ah, ---day!

Thank You God that it is Friday! Well, I'm not so sure about the Friday part (see below) but thank you God it is the last day of the school week.

I am seriously grateful for the end of this week. I have had ALC duty from Gehenna (reference to the smoldering/burning trash heap outside Jerusalem in the Henna Valley) this week. I have put down two minor revolts in class and just today I confiscated 3 phones in various stages of texting and other use. Ugh! How I miss teaching when I'm at school...

On the daily work board in my room, I post the day of the week, the date, the Related Arts (RA) schedule and the start-up work (called for some unknown reason The Sponge) for my classes. In April I started posting the day information in English and Spanish because I have several students who are studying Spanish. This week I added a German rendering of the information. One of my students, of Middle Eastern descent, adds the Arabic some days.

I am becoming morally outraged that our days are named after pagan gods. Even Sun-day and Mo[o]nday pay homage to the two main lights in the day and night sky that were once worshipped in idolatry but are just the creations of the One-True God. I do not like taking the name of false gods on my lips to distinguish one day from another. Tew's-day is Old English (OE) for Mar's-day [god-of-war-day], Woden's-day (OE) for Jupiter's-day [king-of-gods-day,] Thors-day [lightning/thunder-god's-day,] Frigg's-day (OE) for Venus-day [goddess-of-love-beauty-sex-day] and Saturn-day [father-of-king-of-gods-day.] Pt-u-ee!

Yes, I know another theory holds they were named after certain celestial bodies. But the names have idolatrous origins even when attached to planets. But these orbiting objects were said to rule those days! And the practice of using celestial bodies to plan and schedule is divination, another abominable act according to faith and Scripture.

I do like Sabbado [Sabbath] for the last day of the week (Genesis 1) and Domingo [Lord's Day] for the first day of the week (Revelation 1.10.) They obviously express a Christian world-view. I can even tolerate the German numeric Mittwoch (mid-week) for Wednesday. The Hebrew for the other days of the week simply counts them. I think this is a good alternative.

Lord's Day/First-day, Second-day, Third-day, Mid-week/Fourth-day, Fifth-day, Sixth-day and, finally, Sabbath/Seventh-day.

It REALLY is a small thing, but it REALLY does vex my soul and chap my hide...

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Lisa and I are huge fans of LOST. We especially like the mental puzzle it presents with its treatment of the time-space continuum. This season has been very enjoyable. It continues to deal with the themes of determinism/free-will and parent/child relationships.

The key development of this season seems to be the idea that within determined history (what pagans call Fate, neo-pagans call evolutionary randomness and Christians call Providence) humans have a choice (what we all call "Free Will") about who they will be in that determined history. This is a significant idea worthy of some reflection.

Determinism and free will are polar-opposite philosophies of history. Determinists believe that everything is "determined" by an outside force. That's-just-the-way-it[humanity]-is explains why events happen and people act the way they do. The individual can do NOTHING to alter their determined actions or their determined destinies.

Religious determinists attribute the role of determiner to the Fates (pagan goddesses who wove human history) or to God's Sovereignty (Christianity.) Reformed [Calvinist] theology rests on a foundation of a determinist regard of history as the sole choice of God's Absolute --Unconditional, Irresistable, Irrevocable -- Sovereign-Self.

Secular determinists attribute the controling force of history to genetics and evolutionary factors. People act only as their DNA predetermines they will. Human choice is an illusion in the midst of evolutionary selection.

Free-will proponents believe everything is the result of individual choices. American civic religion preaches this dogma -- "You can be anything you want to be." "Your only limited by your imagination." Everything is up for grabs.

Free-will thinking is obviously humanistic. No outside force can thwart the will of the individual. Human beings have all the answers, we just need time to work them out. We may have flawed characters, but in time we will self-actualize.

I belong to a unique branch of the Christian Vine, a singular part of the Body of Christ. We Wesleyans hold a view of human existence and history that believes strongly in the Providence of a Sovereign God. He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live [Acts 17.26 NIV] Even when evil is prominant and His law is being violated, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8.28]

Yet we also hear the witness of Scripture telling us that we have a choice in our actions and our destinies. We are challenged to choose. To return to Acts 17, he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. God allows us to choose to look for him and the outcome of our search is left in doubt.

So I am facinated by the current suggestion of the events of LOST that the events of our lives might be firmly pre-determined, "Whatever will happen, will happen" but we must choose who we will be in those pre-determined events...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Gift

Lis is under a lot of pressure right now with work and other responsibilities and her impending trip to CA. So much so that I think she really just wanted to come home from work and crash in the bed to recharge her batteries. Then Eli had a plan.

Let's go to Bob Evan's. So we did.

When we arrived we were seated near two very young parents and a VERY young baby. Lisa engaged them in conversation to learn the baby was only a week old and they were just venturing out for the first time as a family.

While we were entertaining our kids waiting on our meals, she slips me a note written on the back of a paper placemat: Let's pay for their dinner.

So at an appropriate moment, I excused myself from our table and went to find their waitress. She gave me their ticket. I payed for it and returned to our table.

Later when the lady asked for her ticket the waitress informed her that an anonymous person had paid for their meal. She seemed shocked.

I know Lisa is stressed right now. I know she has a lot on her mind. But I wish you could have seen the sparkle in her eyes as she hatched up this plan and saw it executed. She was beautiful and peaceful and happy.

Seconds later the moment passed as the realities of life with us and the responsibilities crept back into her consciousness.

She is a wonderful woman and I know this season of pressure will pass. Even in it, she has such a beautiful spirit and generous heart. It is that inner glow that makes me fall in love with her over and over and over and over...

Linkie Logs

For the past two nights E and I have been creating our own little world out of Linkie Logs (Lincoln logs.) Last night E took the role of lead architech in our latest creation. It was a two-story ranch with a wonderful surrounding fence.

We worked together about 20 minutes on the project. It was great fun. We talked, laughed and just enjoyed being guys together. We often had to rethink some part of the construction or rebuild it when either he or I bumped into the structures. It actually looked very nice once completed.

As we fitted the Linkie logs together I silently prayed that God would fit our hearts together to build a strong and lasting relationship as Dad and Son. {Draw your own analogies...}

Those are the moments that make a day worth living...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Binkys and Tennis Shoes

Being a parent is a tightrope walk of balancing rules and relationships. There has to be norms for any society to function. A family must have such structure. And children need to learn some of life's basic principles so they can function effectively as adults, some day.

Yet mercy overrules law. Just a look or and indication that the heart was in the right place though the actions violated a norm at times vetos rule-breaking/consequence thinking. Take Monkey see, Monkey do for example. Clearly the boy's heart was in the right place although the Windex wasn't!

Well, this morning we were having a DEF-COM LEVEL 5 situation. Eli was crying, refusing to wear his tennis shoes. He wanted Daddy shoes. Sister was crying. She needed a binky. I wanted to cry. I think even Momma wanted to cry, too. The departure for schools was being delayed.

We usually don't send Jilli out the door with a binky. I usually wear brown dress shoes with professional pants and shirt. But when we left the house, Sis had a binky firmly escounced in her now quiet mouth and Eli was happily skipping along in his tennis shoes. I was hansomely attired in a pair of tan pants, blue striped button-down, blue and tan striped tie and WHITE tennis shoes!

Boy...the delicate balance is hard to find!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Purity and Power

Following last Sunday's Whose Image? teaching I feel lead to continue the holiness theme again. This week we will look at Purity and Power.

When we are called to live pure lives, we often think of stand-offish, finicky prudes who disdain to dirty themselves with the grimey grind of life. White robes and white towers come to mind. The expression "holier-than-thou" does have an origin in the attitudes of the would-be-pure.

However, it has occurred to me that purity is really about power. Electricity travels faster along highly-conductive material than along poorly-conductive material. Perfume smells stronger and lasts longer as the purity level increases. Ivory soap leaves your face cleaner with 99.44% purity. Mixed drinks are more potent the higher its proof or percentage of pure alcohol.

So we will examine the need for purity from the standpoint of its correlation to the spiritual power in the life of a believer. When our lives are diluted with sins of omission, clogged by sins of commission and constricted by false beliefs and negative attitudes, the power of God does not flow as readily into and through us.

I am thinking of using clear plastic tubing and food-colored water to demonstrate these truths. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tim Is Back!

Tim Allen is a blessing. He has a true worshipper's heart. He is a student of the Word. He is passionate about his relationship with Jesus. He is an amazing talent.

Recently, he underwent open-heart surgery and spent a while recovering. This week he was back in force. He played through Simple Prayer a song by Scott Underwood which I personally love. The week and weekend had been stressful. But when I walked into the Worship Center of Faith and heard the guitar line for it, my heart melted.

He then asked that I sing it for church. Of course this put me on the spot. But I did first, because he had worked it out and second because it went with the "Give to Caesar what is his. Give to God what is His" sermon.

I thank God for our musicians and their heart to worship and lead!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


We do not have a very full social calendar. But we do love to get with our family and friends. So we are really looking forward to today. We are packing up our little van-full-of-family and heading to Elkview. Today is baby Addison's birthday party!

We will enjoy visiting, eating, playing with Addison and watching her open presents. We have already spent a week discussing whose party it is and who will be opening presents -- unaided by E & J!

Happy b-day and thanks for this an all the joy you bring to your family!

Friday, April 17, 2009

In the Palm of Your Hand

I am really drained today. Teaching, parenting, pastoring and homeowning duties have totally sapped my strength, my emotions and my will. Yet like the hamster on the wheel I keep running so I don't fall over onto myself.

On the way to school today I listened to "In The Palm of Your Hand" by Alison Krauss. The chorus declares, "I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand, though rich or poor I may be. Faith can see right through the circumstance, sees the forest in spite of the trees. Your grace provides for me."

May it be...today especially.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Vine

In the Roots Run Deep, I shared the back story for the post Lisa inspired the other day.

Over the past 4 years the grapes I transplanted from Grandma and Grandpa Andy's have done very well every spring. Then as they fill with lush, green leaves, something comes along and devours the greens. I have yet to see, let alone taste, a single grape from those vines that once provided the base for mouth-watering jelly.

Last fall I thought my vine experiment had come to an end. They were eaten bare to the spindly vine and no new growth came out. Life had been snuffed out though the vine couldn't stop putting on the appearance.

This evening I spotted some pinkish-purply color at the base of two of the three vines! Life had returned with the spring! I spent the evening inspecting and nurturing them. I took Eli up the hill to tell him these plants were once Grandpa Andy's and they were VERY special plants. I even had hopes that together E and I will taste the thick, sweet fruit of the vine together someday.

Tonight I had a flash of a portion of Scripture about vines. God says he planted a hedge around a transplanted vine in His vineyard. Later He says he will remove the hedge and allow wild animals to run through the tender vines.

I think I will put a fence around the vines this year and see if that helps them to flourish and be fruitful. More to come...
I'm sure there will be more to post about the Vines...

The Roots Run Deep

Lisa had a great, honest post recently about being in the pruning season of life. Well this little tale dovetails with that idea.

My Grandpa Andy did a lot of things that left impressions on me. He was quiet, strong, generous and ingenious. One thing he loved to do was grow things. In part out of necesity and in part out of genuine enjoyment, he always provided food for his family from his land.

One especially tasty treat was grape jelly from his own arbors. He and I shared many a morning started with grape jelly and butter on biscuits at the bar in the tiny Anderson kitchen. There we would, as Grandma Andy says, "hatch up" plans for a day full of adventure.

A few years ago, after Grandma had to move from the much-too-distant and delapodated home-place, I made a pilgrimage there. I drove up Blue Creek Road, past the homes of cousins, the Anderson family cemetary and finally to Shrader. You can only travel by car just a few more miles before the hard-road empties into Blue Creek at a place called Coco.

I got out of my car and walked up the railroad tracks to the "swingin' bridge" and over the blue-green waters churning with spring thaw and a recent rain. Then I walked back along a narrow path along the far side of the creek. Then I turned left and into the holler known as Billy's Fork. Stepping on rocks I forded the little stream and up on the bank in front of what remains of my family's once vast ancestral property.

The old home-place sighed to the right as if bored now that few if any still travellers make the trek along the branch anymore. For generations Billy's Fork of Blue Creek bustled with dirt farmers, mountain folk and coalminers and their families. The gate had long collapsed onto itself and the fence fallen. The entire lot teamed with wild, thorny undergrowth. Moving through the lower garden that once was carpeted with sweet potatoe vines took 20 prickly, painful minutes. The upper garden still had a few strawberry plants struggling to hold the tender soil Grandpa had babied into black velvet over decades.

After 45 minutes, I had moved from the front gate to my goal -- the grape arbor. The sight was far from encouraging. After years of abandonment, the grapes had turned to the nearby trees to trellis. I carefully pruned one Concord grapevine back to about 3 feet and then gingerly dug it up out of that sacred soil.

I brought three root stocks to my home in Poca in a 5 gallon bucket wrapped in wet cloths. I planted them in three different location to maximize the chance of survival. I fertilized and watered and watched over them that entire first year.

I love looking out my back door and seeing those vines. Even though I have moved far [physically and metaphorically] from Billy's Fork, I still have a connection to my family's place. My roots run deep...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day 2009


...even Tax Day can be a gateway to spiritual formation. Consider the following...

PALABRA (The Word)

Matthew 22.15-22
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

PONDER (The Point)

A Taxing Question

Is it right to pay taxes to a secular government? Can we participate in a society that uses these funds for things contrary to the precepts and principles of Scripture and the teaching of the Church? Where do we draw the lines?

These are all intriguing questions whose answers are very significant to our life of Christ-following. However, they must be addressed in another post. For the impact of this teaching of our Jesus was that "when they heard this, they were amazed." The wow factor is how Jesus, the master teacher, turns this would-be trap into a deeply penitrating look at spiritual formation.

Whose image?

Every governing body that mints coin or prints paper money authorizes that currency with easy to identify symbols. Every currency of the United States, for instance, bears the name "United States of America" and the phrase "THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE."

In Jesus' day the Caesar of the Roman Empire stamped his picture (image) onto the coinage used as legal tender. The printing was in Latin, the official language of the conquerors. So the coin brought to Jesus literally bore the Emperor's image and inscription.

So, Jesus says, give it back to Caesar. Yes we should pay taxes, in part because what we are spending is depending on that government to be judged legal tender or the currency of exchange. It is produced by and endorsed with that government's authority.

But the wow comes from the implication to everyone knowledgable of the Scriptures. This was especially true of Jesus' original listeners -- first century Jews. But it is also true of the Biblically-literate of all times and places.

We are all "stamped" with the imago dei, the image of God who created us originally and individually [Genesis 1.26-28.] A lot of speculation and debate has gone into the idea of the imago dei. Even after the Rebellion in Paradise, we retained a marred and mishapened version of the imago [Genesis 5.3, Genesis 9.6.] At the least we can say from the actual texts using the phrase imago dei, that it includes the human moral capacity [of that tree you must not eat,] human sexuality/procreativity [male and female created He them, be fruitful and multiply...fill the earth] and human stewardship of the rest of creation [subdue it. Rule over...] Essential human-ness bears clear markings of the One who made us--all.

While answering the political question of taxation, Jesus points to a deeper duty every human has. We should give to God what is God's -- our very self marked with His imago dei.

PRACTICE (The Principle)

So on this Tax day 2009, I hope you have filed your paperwork and written that check. Jesus says it is right to share in the cost, as well as the benefits, of a society.

But I really hope and pray that you take a moment and give God His due, too. Not something or some percentage but give your very self. From your DNA to your human spirit, you are marked with His image. All He wants is all you are, surrendered to His power, love and leadership -- for His renown and glory.

Whose image? Whose inscription?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Picture

Easter Sunday morning, after we were dressed up for church, I took a few pictures of the kiddos. Lisa uploaded them to facebook last night. She claims one of Little Sister is the best she has ever taken. The truth is that Jillie Bean usually is tearful or fitful when professional pictures are made. So perhaps it is her best ever picture.

I got to thinking about how it was that her Papa, in very poor lighting, was the one to capture her best-ever picture. I took a lotof snapshoots that morning and some were horrible. I am not a professional photographer. I had no props or special filters. But there is the pictoral evidence. She is delightfully playful with a hint of mischief in her eyes -- in other words, the real Gracie-Girl!

A lot of life is like that. It's not about being good. It's about being persistent. A persistant prayer life is one into which transcendent moments come. A faithful commitment to marriage allows a couple to experience the rapturous passion that sweeps them off their feet to fall in love all over again. Consistently being there for others means you'll be there when they really need you. Daily debriefs around the dinner table opens the channel for the kids to share when things aren't going well.

So last night, as I slipped into bed too late to pray with Lisa, I gently layed my hand on her shoulder and spent awhile lifting her to Our Father. I prayed for my children. I prayed that I might be faithful and persistance in the things that matter so I can be there for the next Picture-Perfect moment.

Get the picture?

A Bandage for Woody

We enjoyed a little trip out as a family last night. On our way out of one of our stops, Eli ran ahead of us a few feet and fell down. He scraped his little hand on the concrete sidewalk. He cried and then...


Eli never, never, never wants a bandage, even if it would stop him from bleeding out. He hates to take them off. That, to him, adds insult and pain to his injury.

But last night he wanted one. So I stuck on a day-glow-green one after bathtime. He then got his Woody out of the toy box and said he would sleep with him. Suddenly he sheepishly asked me to put a bandage on Woody's hand, too. So I stuck one on Woody as well.

He then curled down in bed and held Woody ever-so-gently and told him, "You'll be O.K." as he drifted quickly off to sleep.

This morning he even took the bandage OFF himself! My boy is growing up too quickly. He has such a caring way and a gentle spirit. I am so proud to be his Papa!

Monday, April 13, 2009

On Second Thought

Have you ever had a really good thought, after it would could have made a difference?

Well I sure did, Friday evening on the way home from the Unity Service. I had been asked to deal with the physical suffering of Jesus. I researched the observations of the Mayo Clinic and others to formulate a graphic description of death-by-crucifixion. I had organized my thoughts into an outline with flow and even a relief-valve personal reference in the middle. You can't assault the human mind with gore without overstressing it to the point of shut-down.

So in the middle of discussing the tortuous cycle of avoiding the pain and giving in to it so you could catch a breathe, I told how I used to scare my mom by holding my breath when I was mad. My Grandma had counselled her mom to let me go ahead and hold my breathe, because I would start breathing if I passed out.

The too-late thought was that I should have began my portion of the evening by having everyone stand and hold their breath for as long as they could. When they took a breath, they would sit down. That simple, tangable act would have instantly personalized the details I later shared. Every mention of suffocation would have brought a flashback to the opening exercise -- to the burning need to breath, to the way the body cries out for the next breath.

This will be part of any future sharing on death-by-crucifixion.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He IS Risen, Indeed!

Resurrection Sunday was a good day for me.

Faith Community celebrated with sincere and ardent joy. We greeted antiphonally with "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" The congregation sange with ferver and enthusiasm. The sermon, "Easter Changes Everything!" was uplifting. 55 gathered including several first-time guests.
Tim and Terry were both there so the music was excellent. And a good day was had by all.

Later, after kiddo knaps, we went to Grandma Andy's for lunch. The kids hunted more eggs and we went for a little hike down Three Mile Road.

We returned to our home happy and ready for sleep.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cave

Silent Saturday was spent at Lisa's folks in OH. We got up early, drove to Luke and Regina's and then took part in a community Easter egg hunt. Then we went to the farm to share the day with family. The kids helped Momaw make a Bunny cake, colored eggs with Regina and otherwise enjoyed cousiness.

In the afternoon the menfolk took the older kids on a nature hike to "the Cave." It was straight uphill and quite a walk. Along the trail we found a set of discarded deer antlers. It was a nice set of 8 points. He should be a bigger buck next season! The kids were facinated.

We left the antlers where we found them. The thinking was to avoid accidental impalement as we hiked the challenging turrain. We would pick them up on the return trip.

At this point I picked up something -- Eli. He had made the first of the hike holding to Pop-Pops hand. Now he was too tired to continue. I hoisted him onto my back and we finished the first half of the trip that-a-way.

When we arrived at "the Cave" I found it was a head of a hollow (pronounced "holler") that had been eroded by the flow of water. It was a very deep undercut. The side walls extended down at at least a 120 degree slope. The hike team stayed at the top en masse. I found a trail leading into the actual cave. Being only 12 to 18 inches wide I slowly made my way around the wall and into the cave.

It was very long, maybe 100 feet. It extended into the mountain 20 or 25 feet. The center was completely dry while the majority was moistened from the falls.

I paused. Silent Saturday is all about such a cool cavernous place. The Garden Tomb was also cut out of rock. I spent 5 minutes or so reflecting on that Sepulcher.

I returned to the group and we trailed back to the antlers. Then we followed an old county dirt road back to the farm. Along the way, as I carried Eli on my back, I tried to pass on some outdoorsmanship. "Don't step over big rocks or fallen logs unless you can see the other side. Snakes." "Sit and slide downhill. Keep your feet ahead of your head." "Don't eat yellow snow..."

I thought of my Grandfathers and my parents sharing the secrets of safely enjoying nature with me. All those boyhood days spent roaming the hills overshadowing Blue Creek. Those fall days hunting squire with my dad. Hiking with mom along old right-o-way roads. Exploring similar outcroppings and caves with Mike, Tim and Terry. It was re-energizing and centering to be on that hill with my people--past and present.

E and I both thoroughly enjoyed the hike to the Cave.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Unity Service

Last night we enjoyed sharing in a five-church "cluster" observance of the events transpiring the first Good Friday. Lisa and the kids, Gail Smith, Elaine and Mom attended from Faith. There were folks from Huntington First Wesleyan, Williamson Wesleyan, Fayette County Community and Grace Wesleyan (host.)

It was interesting to interact with four other ministers, to blend styles and personalities as we each shared a portion of the evenings review of Thursday night through Friday. Some spoke from manuscripts, some with outline only; some prayed with the elegance of years of experience, others with youthful zeal; some were miked, some weren't.

But as the Body came together in Jesus' name, we entered into the solemn day Jesus died. B.R. Kincaid ushered us into the presence of the Lamb with a wonderful prayer. We sang, "Lead Me to Calvary" with the aide of Grace's musicians. Jason acted as celebrant during the Lord's Supper. Rich took us from the Upper Room through John 15's "I am the vine, you are the branches." I was assigned the solemn task of rehearsing the Lord's physical suffering from Gethsemane through scourging to Golgotha (see Excruciating.)

Glen's presentation on "Let this CUP pass from me. Never the less, not my will but yours be done" punctuated the spiritual realities of Calvary. Jesus died for us, in our place, bearing our wrong and paying it's aweful price.

The evening ended as Jason shared a video "It's Friday, but Sunday's a-Comin'!"

I hope in the days to come, we pastors will debrief about our impressions of the evening and plan other unity events. I know my folks need a stronger connection to our church family and I enjoyed the interaction immensely.



...extremely painful
...causing intense suffering
...unbearably distressing

Excruciating...the word comes from Latin meaning, "out of the CROSS." Death on a cross was so painful and torturous, it warranted a pain word of its own. Good Friday may be good for us, but it was excruciating for Him.

0900 Jesus' wrists and feet were impaled. The cross beam was affixed to the upright. As the tenen settled into the mortice and those around settled down to watch, Jesus dying began.

Each breathe was purchased at the price of extreme, excruciating pain. Without the pain, Jesus could not exhale and was sufficating. To force air out and gasp fresh air, He had to pull His weight up by the nails in His wrists and feet. Searing, electric pain shot up and down the nerves from the wrist to the shoulder. His carpel bones ground around the square spike. Breathes were short and shallow.

1200 Three excruciating hours have passed. Jesus weakens from the lack of respiration, dehydration, exposure and shock. Darkness envelopes the land. It seems as if nature trys to shield the embarrassing shame of its Creator. To conceal the horror.

1500 Three more excruciating hours later, Jesus cries out in a loud voice and then exhales for the last time. Remember crucifixion restricts exhalations. It was an act of will to breath His last.

Proticol dictates the Roman execution squad verify death. This was accomplished by smashing the leg bones of the crucified with a malet. Without leg support the victim could not push up and breathe. They also would issue a death thrust with a sword or spear. Jesus they "verified" using the latter method.

When Joseph petitions Pilate for permission to remove and bury the body, an official inquest is ordered to certify His death. Crucifixion has been engineered to kill its victim, but not quickly. Some crucified persons lasted days before expiring. The Death Squad reports the death is "verified."

The Light of the World is extinguished...
The Maker of All is destroyed by His creation...
The Lord of Life is dead...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus mandated a new Sacrament. Tonight is the anniversary of the institution of Communion, the Lord's Supper, Eucharist.

The words always haunt me, "On the night he was betrayed..."

This is the first Maundy Thursday since 2001 that I have not served the Meal of Grace on the anniversary of its inception. Tonight is also Passover. It was the Passover Seder that Jesus modified to be the sign of the New Covenant.

We are meeting with other Wesleyan believers tomorrow for a Good Friday service.

Whenever I think of the Meal of Grace I recall our wedding. As Lisa walked down the aisle in stunning beauty, I heard, "How beautiful, the Radiant Bride...how beautiful is the Body of Christ. How beautiful the hands that serve the bread and the wine...how beautiful..." We actually had the song sung to highlight the nature of the Covenant as mystery -- like the uniting of Christ and His Body, the church.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Holy Week as Pattern

Holy Week refers to the period of time from Palm Sunday through Good Friday to Silent Saturday. It memorializes the last few days of Jesus life and his death. It is sacred time.

During the Lenten Luncheon in Williamson, WV, I heard two ladies share a reflection on the events of Holy Week as a model for spirituality. Later, Lisa and I adapted it for a few Maundy Thursday services. We used the same structure to lead people through prayer stations focused on the various days activities.

Today, I'm using them to scaffold my personal TAWG.

Sunday. The first day of Holy week welcomed Jesus with waving palm-fronds and shouts of "God save!" We come into an understanding of His presence among us with praise, worship and thanksgiving. "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise," said the Psalmist. I pause to praise Him for His character and to thank Him for His previous action on my behalf.

Monday. Monday found Jesus clearing out the Temple (Mark 11.15-19.) People had cluttered the courtyard with commerce, commotion and a cacophony of noise. They were taking advantage of travelling worshippers through the sale of sacrificial animals and exchanging "unclean" currency for temple shekels. Jesus redeclares the true purpose of the place is prayer and physically removes those things that detract from prayer. We need to clear the decks of all distractions from our communion with God, too.

Tuesday. Tuesday the disciples notice that a fig tree Jesus had cursed on Monday was now withered from its roots (Mark 11.20-25.) Trees naturally wither from the branch back to the root as the moisture withdraws. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach about the importance of forgiveness. I need to weed out any bitterness or anything that hinders the productive life of the Spirit.

Wednesday. Mark reports that on this day a lady annoints Jesus with expensive oil while he attends a dinner. In order to pour the precious ointment on Jesus, the jar had to be broken. So, too, my life. If I am to honor Jesus, I must allow the precious, reserved parts of me be broken open. I cannot keep things back for myself and honor Him as He deserves. Broken and spilled out for the love of You, Jesus...

Thursday. Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus gave us a new mandate -- partake in the Meal of Grace. Here we see Jesus institute the means of grace and command us to "Do this in rememberance of me." I must attend to the means of grace: solitude, fellowship, prayer, meditation, Scripture, fasting, giving, worship, etc. These have no power in themselves, they are just the usual channels through which God transfuses new grace into my life.

Friday. The Day of Death has come. But Jesus has been predicting this day, calling his followers to imitate Him in this cross-bearing. Paul says it best, "I am crucified with Christ, I no longer live. But the life I live, I live through Him..."

Saturday. Silence. Waiting. I continue in the Presence as I wait upon the Lord. Not bargaining or pleading or working or doing. I need to be still and experiencially know that He is God...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Holy Weak

Today is Tuesday of Holy Week. Lenten fasting and reflection winds down this week. The focus on the cross climaxes this Friday with the anniversary of the crucifixion. Then Sunday marks the RESURRECTION. These comprise the Highest Holy Days for Christianity.

Yet I feel weaker, less spiritual and further from Calvary than I did Ash Wednesday.

I lay awake at 4 am this morning struggling in prayer. The words got no higher than the ceiling, it seemed. I tossed and turned and wrestled with myself, with doubt, with frustration. My spirit groaned. My flesh cried out for the living God. Around 5:20, Sister woke and I brought her to bed with me.

The journey of faith is mysterious. Intimacy with the Almighty is sometimes followed with silence -- deafening silence. Highs sweep to lows. Clarity muddies into uncertainty.

Yet, Christ calls me to pick up my cross and follow him. Even if I am weak, he calls me His. His strength is pefected in my weakness. The power obviously is His not mine. He is my all in all, even when I'm not all that...

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Blessings Continue

I found out this morning that my Bachelor +15 classification should result in a pay raise! AND, it should also mean a back-pay check to the effective date of my new WVDE credential! Wow! that is good news.

I still have a ways to go on my Multi-Categorical Certification and Masters Degree, but the long journey is progressing!

God is good to me in ways I could not begin to deserve. Chief among them is my wonderful wife who poured so much of herself into making my 40th birthday unforgettable. She is the joy in and love of my life!!! She has been so patient while I have been away in night courses or summer school and I want this new chapter of my life to bring her joy and return on her investment and sacrifice.

Lisa is the best and deserves the best in return!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday

On the way to church this morning, I opened the mail from the previous two days. I was away and could not do so Friday or Saturday.

The WV Department of Education has issued me a teaching credential for LD Special Education and Bachelor + 15 pay classification!!

I was ready to really wave those palm fronds as I thought of how God had just helped me find favor with the WVDE.

Our crowd was small, but my heart was full!!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fishing and Partying

Day two of the Boy's-Day-Out.

We tried to fish in the cold and wind, but were not successful at catching any. It was good to stand on the bank with my three brothers and share the morning together.

As boys, we always went fishing in the rain and cold during Easter Break along the banks of Blue Creek.

Kudos to Terry for loaning me a reel that actually worked and for going out of his way to drive me back to Poca!

Once back in Poca, I was suprised by a party in my honor. Many family, church-family and friends were there. It was great.

Lisa has outdone herself in planning and social networking with this weekend for me.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my 40th birthday.

For a suprise, Lisa rented a cabin at North Bend State Park for me to get away. She also invited my three brothers, my father-in-law and my sister-in-law's husband. This is my circle of male identity. They each drove a considerable distance and took valuable time from their schedules to spend it with me.

First, I enjoyed a tremendous visit with Mike as we drove from my house to North Bend. It was 2 hours of iron sharpening iron spiritual feasting.

Then, we joined Roger at the cabin and the spiritual recharge continued. We shared shop talk about the pastorate (both Mike and Roger serve as shepherds in their congregations.)

Along comes Luke, my brother-in-law. The male bonding and energizing continued.

Finally, Tim and Terry arrived and the political reparte that began in Mike's truck assumed a full-bore conservatism-fest. Tim lead the charge with much about stimulous and socialism.

We feasted on steak, potatoes, salad and toast from Roger's hand. We enjoyed laughs and conversation until about 2am.

It was a wonderful day.

Thanks to all who made it so!!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My Boy is SO Smart!!

This morning, while driving to schools, E looks out the window and says, "Daddy, those clouds are purple. What does that mean? Pink ones mean rain." A little further down the road, he muses, "Daddy, those are aligator clouds." [a sign that the weather is changing]

I have been pointing out certain cloud formations and their prediction power for the day's weather. But having only mentioned them twice at most, I am truly impressed with his memory capacity and his ability to draw inferences and apply them to new cloud formations.

He delights me with his talkative, pokey reflections on life. I get to see the world again through his truly fresh eyes. I see with wonder what I have come to take for granted through constant exposure.

My boy is SO smart!!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Blog Challenge

Today is the first day of April -- April Fool's Day.

In times past, Lis and I have used this day to announce the secret name of our children and other nifty pranks.

But my announcement today is no joke, no prank.

I am challenging myself to post every day of this 30-day month. I have never been consistent with the postings here, let alone made it for a solid period of time longer than a week. But I want to make better use of my time and spend more reflecting.

It is the time for reflections. Friday I cross a threshold into mid-life. I will mark my FORTIETH birthday -- the big 4-0! I have not accomplished all I had dreamed in boyhood but I have experienced more than boys can dream. I have spent much too long on life's treadmill of mediocracy and I have made marked progress as well. I have rested too long on potential and gifts.

I want the next phase of life to be full and productive. So I am challenging myself to live up to potential, to exercise the gifts God has granted and see what might come of it. I feel a pull toward intentionality.

So tune in dear reader and see if I can, with God's grace, the love of my good woman and kids, meet this first challenge and follow through.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love this Boy and Love this Song!

Check this out, I guarantee it will make you smile. Thanks E. for the song and Momma for posting it for all to enjoy. You are my son, Shinn.

Come, Ye Weary, Heavy-Laden

Lent has been draining on my DW and I.

Two weeks ago, I left the pulpit feeling like a total failure. The guitar had picked up a local radio station and relayed it through the sound system. I had to disconnect. It was only me playing and singing so it was not up to par. The sermon focused on Jesus' fifth and sixth saying from the cross, "I am thirsty. It is finished." These are powerful sayings yet I felt the whole thing went flat. I literally had to fight back tears as I felt I failed in conveying the deep meaning of these words to our folks. I had failed...

This week L. left totally drained by the struggle with the nursery and the strain of constant service. She tried to share that with me, but I did not hear her clearly. I did not want to hear that she, too, was drained and discouraged.

We love our folks and each other. Sometimes the load gets heavy and the yoke gales a bit. While sitting here in writer's block, I heard Jesus singing to me, "Come ye weary, heavy-laden...if you tarry 'til you're better, you will never come at all." So, "I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in his arms. And in the arms of my dear Savior, there are 10,000 charms."

Come, SLIDE with me...

My DW is so creative. She amazes me with the things she imagines into reality. My life is definitely more interesting and wonderful because of her.

She had this idea. Let's put a slide off our back deck onto the patio for the kids. You just need to move a few runners and nail it down and it will work safely.

So we went to Lowe's and bought an 8-foot sliding board. I removed three runners and lag-bolted the slide into place. Then I moved our grill to the other end of the patio so they would not fall into searing hot metal at the end of their rides.

The kids almost exploded with excitement and anticipation as I went through the assembly.

Finally, E. was commissioned as the test pilot. He barely moved. The excitement meter went from explosive to fizzled in an instant.

So what's a Papa to do but go to the garage and retrieve the car wax to help things along. Yes, I waxed the board and buffed it to a high-gloss finish.

E.'s next test flight was literally a flight. One nanosecond he was sitting at the top of the slide, the next he was at the bottom. It was as if the car wax had transformed the slide into a Star Trek-like transporter, capable of moving matter through space instantly.

The excitement meter rebounded to near-explosive as E & J streaked down the lighting slide of speed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oh Daddy, Jesus Has Boo-Boo's!!!!

Shortly after Lent began God brought the reality of it all home to me through the voice of my son, E.

We read often to and with our kids. Sometimes at bedtime. Sometimes in the evening. Sometimes just to fill in time. One evening, right after supper we were reading a few books. Mommy brought in a little book about the Easter story. As she read through them, E. looked at the pictures and made comments or asked questions. At the turn of a page, Lisa began reading about the crucifixion. E yelled out, "Oh Daddy! Jesus has BOO-BOO's!!!" He was very upset.

The tears just streaked down my face and I struggled to say clearly, "Yes, E. Jesus got those boo-boos because He loves us."

There's Lent and Holy Week in a nutshell: Jesus has BOO-BOOs!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Seven Last Words from the Cross

We begin our Lenten series of teachings sitting at the foot of the cross. Being this close, we can hear the Last Seven Words of Jesus. This closeness is important, for the dying Jesus does not have the breathe to declare loud or long statements.

He undulates between cruel, painful torture and life-ending suffication. He purchases each next breathe with extreme torment. Yet He wishes to speak meaning into His execution so that we will not be blinded by the pain and shame. What happens here for the next 6 hours far exceeds the wooden beams, the thorny crown, the torn flesh, the slow, agonizing death.

Jesus speaks 7 times. We need the combined witness of all four Gospels to hear him for no one contains them all. Luke and John each give us 3 for a total of 6 while Matthew and Mark share the middle saying that makes up the seven.

In the course of our 2009 Lent/Spring Teaching we, at times, will combine sayings to keep the contextual cohesiveness. Each could be parsed and disected, but their power rests in the fact that our Savior spoke them while dying -- for the sins of the whole world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

Growing up in the conservative Holiness movement, I did not know what Ash Wednesday was. Except...something Catholic and meaningless.

My first year in college preparing for ministry in the same church I encountered Ash Wednesday in Allentown, PA where A LOT of people walked around all day with charcoal-grey crosses smudged on their foreheads.

Then I became aware of my spiritual heritage in the Holiness / Methodist / Episcopal / Catholic branch of the Christian family. The subjective, emotional understanding of the Faith I had experienced as a child left me longing for a firmer foundation on which to build my life. I found it in this historic connection to the Church at large.

I need a day like Ash Wednesday. If there wasn't such a day, someone would soon start it. I need a time to be reminded of my mortality and immorality. I need to pause and realize that I and everything I know will someday all be dust in the wind.

I still don't wear the ashen cross upon my forehead and I think it is my own need to keep my faith below the surface.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My Mountain Momma!

I have tried to relay some of the mixed blessing it is to be Appalachian in geography and culture. Today's entry is in that vein of posts.

Saturday was spent sawing, splitting, shuttling and stacking wood for my in-laws wood-burning furnace. It is their only source of heat and it has been VERY cold of late. So cold, in fact, that they ran dangerously low on fuel.

Lisa and I took the family to OH and while the kiddos enjoyed Momaw, Aunts and cousins, I went to work on the task at hand. Everything was layered in ice and snow. Hands soon became wet, cold and burning.

After a short start, I looked up to see my Mountain Momma walking through the garden. She was dressed to work. Soon she was operating the splitter while I shuffled the wood to it and then into the trailer. Before I knew it, she was hurling split wood into the trailer, too.

My wife is a good woman. Even in our younger years, when I foolishly teased her at summer camps, I took note that she was always working and helping her Dad. She could always be counted on to lend a hand. It is one of the things I love most about her. She is a doer of good deeds.

My wife is a great wife. Not only can she run a woodsplitter, carry and THROW wood, she supported my efforts with warm thanks and at-a-boys to keep me going. She thanked me for helping her Daddy. She is gracious.

Finally, my wife is HOT! After all that work, she went inside, showered and changed into a party outfit. On her way to the van to go to her BFF's Tastefully Simple party, she looked AMAZINGLY YUMMY! It stirred a flashback to the first time I saw her as an adult at the St. John the 23rd Retreat Center on Hodges Road, Charleston. She took my breath away as she walked past that series of windows. Wow! She did the same thing 15 years later this Saturday when she walked from the house to the van! She still turns my head.

So I did what any Appalachian boy would do. I hollered, whooped and whistled at my wonderful wife. She's my Mountain Momma. Eat your hearts out guys. Looks like she's sticking with me!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Give Me a Brake

I have mentioned previously (Appalachian Boy) that I am proud to belong to a resourceful people. I want to pass on my heritage to my son. So...

...last night E and I went to the local Advanced Auto to get a new headlight and some brake pads for the Cavalier. We came home bearing Captain D's supper and TimBits. After a hearty family supper, blessed by E's rendition of "God is Great...", he and I retired to the garage to replace the light bulb.

Now Chevy seems to be having financial problems due to a slacking in sales. Perhaps it has something to do with the HORRID engineering utilized in the construction of the Cavalier! The oil filter is approachable only by great patience and dexterity. Now I learn that changing a headlight bulb requires an advanced degree in engineering as well! You cannot access it without removing the entire headlight / turn light assembly. But something was holding it to the front quarter panel.

After an hour of thought, discussed, grunting, huffing and dismantling of rubberized covering pieces, I discovered the secret. A latch had to be deactivated with a screwdriver to release the assembly fom the frame!

All the while E. was with me. He refused offers to watch movies, get a bath or anything else until he had helped me fix it. Finally we were able to remove the blown bulb and install the new one. I let him test it by turning on the lights and running around the car to see it was actually on.

After he went to bed, I removed the old brake shoes and replaced them. They were GREATLY worn out and now things are good again.

We are going back to the Advanced Auto this evening to get wires and plugs. He (and I) can hardly wait to work together again on the challenges of the enigmatic Cavalier.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Puttin' on My Preachin' Jacket

The other night E walked into the living room and saw my sport coat hanging on the stair rail. He declared, "Daddy, I'm gonna wear your preachin' jacket." "Okay..." I muttered absent-mindedly while trying to unravel one of the universe's most complex mysteries -- how to upload iTunes tracks onto a non-iPod player. [But that's another post for another day.]

"You're going to do what?" I asked, shaking myself from my self-absorbed trance.

"I'm gonna put on your preachin' jacket and preach."

"Okay. Sister and I will come to church with you."

He then put my sport coat on (with a little help from me) and instructed us to go to the nursery where the kids go for church. We sat where he indicated. He then said that he was going to the platform to preach as he ascended the couch at the opposite end of the room. First he played a mean air-guitar and sang a really upbeat tune to lead our worship. Once that was over he said we needed to pray. So he folded his hands and whispered a few words "...in Jesus Christ's name. Amen." Then there was a slow tune played on the air-guitar.

Finally he muttered a few words of exortation and the service ended.

He did it again the following night and this time I had the video camera rolling.

This was a touching first because he was imitating me and that is indeed flattering and challenging. Second, he was reinacting something that at times we are not sure he is benefiting from -- being at church. Lastly, when I was just a little guy like him, I used to conduct church at my Grandma Andy's coffee table and preach, too.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

3000 Americans...

September 11, 2001...

...3000 Americans lost their lives...

...not from terrorism but from abortion.

That is the average number of "procedures" carried out every day since the landmark Roe -v- Wade decision was handed down from the United States Supreme Court on January 21, 1972. The average number of Americans whose lives were ended by the actions of others.

3000 lives end every day for 36 years!

Where is the outrage?
Where are the voices pleading, "Have you seen my loved one?"
Where are the tears?

3000 a day...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Prophesy: Exposing the Deeds of Darkness

Today we look at a third mission of the Church brought to mind by the season of Epiphany--Prophetic Outcry. While Epiphany does teach the church has a mission to reach the whole world and to tell our story in the place God, in His sovereignty, has placed us in the world, we also must embrace the mission of being salt and light in the world. The church has from its inception, and the Wesleyan Church in particular, had a ministry of prophetic outcry.

Ephesians 3.8-20
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 3.16-20
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Matthew 5.38-42
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

This weekend memorializes the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the cause of Civil Rights in the U. S. Many gatherings and memorials have been planned in coordination with the historic Inauguration Ceremonies of Tuesday. While many have championed his contributions, others memorized at least parts of his famous speech in Washington, D.C, few speak of his emphasis on non-violent resistance. This was the "Soul-force" of the movement that overcame brutal physical force. It is an idea deeply rooted in the Christian message.

Paul encouraged the Ephesians to live as children of light. The Epiphany experience had so transformed them and their living that they stopped being darkness (not just being in darkness) and were now light. Remember now that they were living in the pagan Roman Empire where sexual promiscuity, brutality and slavery were the rule. Yet, Paul insists that the now-enlightened must expose the deeds of darkness.

Jesus Himself calls us to such exposure. But first He addresses our need of continued light. We stay in the light first as an admission of our humble need of Him. No one who seeks to live as a child of light begins with exposing darkness in others. We first come into the light to have our own actions and attitudes exposed. We only shine the light on others with a humble sense of obedience not joyful, Pharisaic self-agrandizement.

Next Jesus teaches that the best way to expose the deeds of darkness is to suffer openly. If someone slaps us, we take it. We even open ourselves to additional abuse. One who would strike twice when there is no resistance shows the evil of the act. As my Grandpa would say, "Two wrongs don't make one right."

Further Jesus says we are to offer our coat to the one who wins our shirt in a lawsuit. We are to volunteer to carry the load a second mile if compelled to carry it the first. Again, our suffering patiently and non-violently the injuries of an unjust law (there really was a law forcing people to carry the load of a Roman for one mile) exposes its injustice.

This is not a call to be the doormat for bullies and tyrants. It is active, courageous life as light exposing the evil and injustice in society. It is always chosen not imposed. The freedom to act even in slave-like conditions is true liberty. The goal is always the abolition of the injustice as it collapses upon itself.

This is true soul-force. It is natural and base to ball up our fists when struck. It is natural to hurl insults when insulted. It seems logical to meet force with force.

The Church rejoices in the memory of Dr. King for he brought the power of Epiphany to our troubled society in his day. But moreso the Church rejoices in the example of our Lord, who, when reviled did not open his mouth. His willing death on the cross exposed the jealousy and injustice of those who executed The Innocent Man. And He points the way for His church to continue the Prophetic tradition He began. We must decry the wrongs in our society and be willing to suffer their injuries to bring to light the true nature of injustice and evil amongst us.

Remember Telamachus

The story is told of Telamachus, a monk in the Roman Empire after Christianity became legal and recongnized. One day he felt God calling him to go from his monestary to Rome. There he was caught up in a crowd flowing into the Arena.

Once inside Telamachus watched in horror as gladiators fought to the death. He stood to his feet and cried, "In the name of Christ, stop!" The blood-thirsty spectators shouted for him to sit down and be quiet. He continued to protest, "In the name of Christ, stop!"

Eventually, he made his way to the front row and leaped over the retaining wall and into the fighting area. He ran to the nearest two combatants and begged, "In the name of Christ, stop!" As he pleaded with them, he was struck in the side with a gladias or short sword. He fell to the sandy floor and continued to plead, in ever weakening voice, "In the name of Christ, stop." Then he was silent.

The combatants stopped. Then all in the field of conflict stopped. There, in a pool of his own blood, lay the simple monk--dead. Slowly the stands emptied of spectators as the shock of this death settled in. Then the arena was silent and empty.

They say that Honorius, the Christian emperor, was so moved by the martyrdoom of one willing to expose the evil of mortal combat for entertainment by his own death, that he soon declared them illegal. No one fought to the death to entertain the crowds in the Arena again.