Out Here Hope Remains

There is hope for the helpless ... Cry Out To Jesus. -- Third Day

Monday, February 28, 2005

Come As You Are

We all remember when Jesus gathered the disciples upon the hillside and said to them, "Little children, I tell you the truth. Unless a man wears a coat and tie, he shall not serve the Lord's Supper. I know, I haven't told you about the Lord's Supper yet, but believe me ... when I do, you will understand that one must wear his very best clothes when passing the trays. Otherwise, that will be the way I will know that you you do not think very respectfully of me." Maybe I'm not the only one who wants to scream when I see "dress codes" published in bulletins. And the reasons for them ... they make me want to pull my hair out - and that would be a short job! Supposedly... *We show the Lord respect when we wear coats and ties (for the men), or dresses (for the women only please). *We wear our best to funerals, so why wouldn't we wear our best to honor the death of Christ (newsbulletin: He is no longer dead!). *We wear our best - no matter what our best is - even if it is our 'good' pair of overalls (I have yet to see sequined formals or tuxedos at church). This really does put a burr in my saddle because it demands of someone what God does not demand. It puts people who do not wear suits and expensive dresses in the position of being rebels for just coming to worship God without dressing to the nines. The idea bypasses the heart of the individual and emphasizes the physical appearance (something James writes against in his book). It tends to honor the wealthy, and ignore the poor. It shuts the impoverished out of our assemblies in their shame and inability to mix with the rich. Some of the preachers in large evangelical churches have now bypassed the coat and tie look for more casual attire. I give them a standing ovation. I wear a coat and tie on Sunday because of the expectations of others. It surely isn't comfort. It also isn't finances. Have you priced quality neckties these days? For a while I didn't wear a coat. That bothered a few of our members. But thankfully we have never issued a dress code for the worship service. I like one church's advertisement that said "come as you are". I wish we wore blue jeans to worship. Then we could stop thinking about how good we look and start thinking about how awesome God is. I hope I never receive another church bulletin with an article or announcement from the elders demanding that people dress to their approval, with the threat of being banned from leading worship. I hope that anyone could arrive at our church in blue jeans and be treated as if they were wearing the crown jewels.

Friday, February 25, 2005

An Invitation To Refresh Your Soul

I will be out of town for a few days...but I thought I'd present this to see if any of my blog friends would like to participate in a great event with me! See you soon. jd ************************************************************ REFRESH with Ben Overby is coming to Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula, Mississippi on March 10-12! Everyone is invited to enjoy four rich presentations on spiritual growth and formation. Thursday night at 7:00 - Refreshing Your Spiritual Life Friday morning at 10:30 - Refresh Your Mind in The Word Friday night at 7:00 - Refreshing Our Relationship - Prayer Saturday morning at 10:30 - Power to Stay Refreshed These sessions will be interactive and time for Questions and Answers will be available. You might have asked yourself...who is Ben Overby? So I thought I'd share some information with you about this brother I have come to respect and admire. ***************************** Ben Overby is blessed to be married to Kim. They are the adoring parents of JT and Alex. The Overby's live in Hamilton, Georgia. Ben's a native of Greenbrier, Tennessee. Kim's a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland. By the grace of God, Ben is privileged to tell the story of God's love to trainees at Ft. Benning each Sunday. Throughout the week he spends his time connecting to new converts via mail, developing materials to help Christians find the grace to grow in Christ, communicating with parents of soldiers, supporters, and others regarding the ministry. Most of his energy, however, is spent prayerfully peering into the true window of reality--God's Holy Word. He believes that the gospel is the power, the incredible dynamic, whereby God is able to penetrate the human soul in order that it might be saved; saved not just from the guilt of sin but also from the dominion of sin. What follows, as imperfect as it all is, is Ben's effort to say something about the paradoxes of the simple yet profound, the ancient yet forever new, the anguish and the ecstasy, the folly and the wisdom, all contained in rich layers throughout the story of a God who shocks the world, a God who looks nothing like we expected, a God who hangs on a cross teaching us the way to true humanness. God's grace filters into Ben's life through family and friends, especially Kim, JT, and Alex; a small group of men (Benny, Landon, and Fred) who meet weekly, challenging each other to take a fresh, close look at Christ; a small study group he meets with twice a week; the Chattahoochee Valley Church; and those spiritually tenacious, answer-demanding, wonderful, brave young men at Ft. Benning's Infantry Training Brigade. May grace and peace be multiplied to us all through the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord! **** Ben's Ministry at Fort Benning **** Over a year ago Colonel Mike Hartsell invited me to join him in preaching the gospel to trainees stationed at the Infantry Training Brigade in Ft.Benning, GA. At that time Mike was the Post Chaplain. Mike established this unique ministry less than two years ago—a ministry that has since touched countless lives and by God’s grace resulted in many baptisms into Christ. My relationship with Mike grew from the fact that we were both part of the Chattahoochee Valley church of Christ in Columbus, GA (I began serving CVC in July 2002 as Family Minister). Having prior military experience, including a short stay at Ft. Benning while attending Jump School, and given that I’d enjoyed about ten years pulpit work, the work at Ft. Benning seemed a natural fit. Before long I was certified to conduct Church of Christ services on post. Last year Mike was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston to serve as Post Chaplain. After his departure I was made the Faith Group Leader and the Chattahoochee Valley church agreed to provide oversight for the ministry. A Church of Christ service is offered each Sunday at 1:30 at the Soldiers Chapel. Early this year I made a request to the chaplain staff for an additional hour of bible study—as of March 2004 that request was granted. Also, we were granted an additional 30 minutes after the worship service in order to conduct baptisms. The ministry has reached a point at which it needs much more attention. As a result I’ve resigned my position as Family Minister at CVCC (effective August 2004) in order to focus my efforts at Ft. Benning. At www.spiritualreformation.org I’ll develop resources for Christians to focus on becoming more like Christ through faith, by God’s grace, and personal discipline. The site will link to a message board, blog site, and other tools ********************* I am very excited that Ben is coming to Central. I heard from friends in Texas and Alabama and Louisiana that are driving in for this weekend! Let's bring friends and have a great time together. Maybe I'll get us a cook-out going Friday afternoon and we can sit in the shade outside and chat and play guitars and eat or something. Who knows what the Lord has in mind for us? By the way, Ben's Blog is linked in the column on he left. Blessings, John

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Grinding Scent of Reality

*Warning* This is not for the faint of heart nor weak of stomach. la la la... sure you want to read this? okie dokie...here goes! ************************** First it started as a dull ache that wasn't too bad, but as the evening progressed so did the pain. I thought to myself that perhaps I needed to floss. So I flossed ... with vigor. And brushed my teeth with more vitality than usual. An hour or two later, the dull ache had become a sharper pain. I flossed more ... and with even more vigor. Washed my mouth out with warm salt water. Brushed again. My gums started to swell I kept telling myself that perhaps there was something lodged in there ... a popcorn husk or a piece of meat that was irritating my gums and causing the pain. As I attempted to sleep last night the pain became a deep throbbing ache. I flossed and brushed two or three times during the night ... advil...tylenol...aspirin. This morning I called my dentist and they pulled up my records. "We're showing that you had problems with that tooth in 2003. We recommended you see the endodotist in Mobile. Did you do that?" Hmm... I could lie ... but they'd know. "No." Then the cheeriest voice said, "Well...that's what it is!" The dentist wouldn't see me, but they did get me an appointment in Mobile. Off I go ... I know how this goes. They'll make me fill out a hundred papers, take x-rays, scrape around on my teeth, then make a second appointment so they could drain my wallet for even more than this specialist was going to do anyway. Bah! I finally got in the chair, but I wasn't complaining. This is one place that I don't mind them taking their time before they get to me. They did take the x-ray. The endodontist came in, took a look at the image. He looked at my swollen gums and the swollen roof of my mouth and said, "oh boy!". He then explained that I could have it pulled (he doesn't do that) or get the root canal. He also informed that there is a big cyst on my tooth that may have to be surgically removed at some point. With my permission, he went to work. Nearly upside down, mouth wide open, and the needle full of novacaine piercing my cheek, I began to remember with fondness ... of all things ... my regular dentist. He is very sensitive. He gives me the 'gas' so that I can relax. He provides a CD player with headphones so I can listen to something calm and distracting while he does his work. The needle poked me again, but I will have to say that this doctor is good. It didn't hurt much. Still, after the amenities of my regular dentist I felt like I was in a M*A*S*H unit. One thing I was grateful for is this tent they use now that covers your mouth and as particles fly from the grinding drill, they do not land on your tongue. He began to drill, and I began to feel nauseated. The tooth in question has a porcelain cap. As the drill made its way through the cap, there was a sickening burning smell that was unavoidable to me ... I couldn't exactly turn away. I thought to myself that all of that flossing I did the other night was useless...this is the grinding scent of reality. He also cut a slit in the roof of my mouth and inserted a rolled up piece of gauze to serve as a wick ... to allow drainage. Draining where??? It does not taste good. And it has to be in there for two days. After that, I get to pull it out. Now why am I telling you all of this in such detail? First, because I suffered, and I do not want to suffer alone. Second, because the novacaine is finally wearing off and I haven't had anything to eat today and I'm grouchy. Third, because it was a vivid reminder to me of how we avoid and push away reality in favor of our own twist of imaginary living. We do this when we believe that we are basically good, and have no impure motives. We do this when we talk to others about their sin without admitting that we are also sinners. We do this when we flash our credit cards and are unsure of how we are going to pay the bill. We do this when we eat a box of cookies and then act amazed that we gained weight at the scale. We do this when we have been offended and hurt, but we act like everything is just fine. We do it when we keep running on empty, letting our spiritual life wither, and then believe that we are on good terms with the Father. Sooner or later though, life turns us upside down and the grinding scent of reality hits us. There is no getting away from it. But welcome it, friends. For from the reality comes healing, and where there is healing there is hope.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Two Videos

Two Online Videos That I Watched Today. A Funny One With a Point http://www.skitguys.com/videovault/index.cfm and A Pointed One That Made Me Cry: http://www.club180milpitas.org/aboutme.html

Monday, February 21, 2005

Endings Are Beginnings

Tomorrow I will go to WOSM and record five last radio programs. I have been doing "Afternoon Break", a five-minute weekday radio program, for about two years. When I first asked to do it, the elders gave an open-ended approval. This meant that if the time came that we could not pay for it, then we would end the outreach. That time has come. I'm feeling a bit melancholy about it. I don't know why, really. I have had almost no response to the program (which is to be expected ... how many people that you listen to on the radio do you actually contact?). I never listen to myself on the radio. The times I have done so have given me the shivers. It takes up a good part of a day to go over and record the programs at the station, a couple of days a month. So, I should be relieved, right? But I'm not. I am a firm believer in God's mysterious will. He is working in ways I will never know. I pray before each recording session that God will use His message to bless and uplift those who hear - even if I never know it. I believe it was good for our church - a positive message each day on the only Southern Gospel station on the Mississippi Coast. I was able to associate with some of the finest people I have met, including the owners of the station. I believe it was good for me because it gave me vision for the potential harvest. And in all, it was pretty cheap compared to other media. Still, I also believe that endings are beginnings. Perhaps there is an unknown new beginning for outreach that will become known soon. Or just maybe I need to accept that I have asked God to help me with my time management and the hectic life I have been living (often mentioned on this blog), and He has provided now some free time that can be used in prayer. To me, this is an uncomfortable transition ... a bittersweet milestone in my work for the Lord on the Coast. I will add one more thing ... and that is that if this radio program is a part of His ministry in ways I do not know, and His will reigns, this may not be the end at all. But that is all in the Hands of my Abba. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Forgotten Sabbath

Maybe I didn't get the word! None of the blogs I regularly read have anything new on them today. Perhaps Sunday is blog sabbath? Today we talked about tithing at church. Growing up in the church of Christ, the only thing I heard about tithing was that it was part of the Old Law and we do not have to do that. I'm sure the messages were presented better than that, but that's all I remember. It felt funny to talk about tithing, and even suggest it as a spiritual part of our kingdom walk. I've noticed more talk about the sabbath as well. You church of Christers know that we do not practice the sabbath (for the same reason we do not tithe). The forgotten sabbath is a matter of attention in the publishing world. I have a few books now that are suggesting we go back and practice some of the sabbath principles in our lives. Maybe they've been there all along and I was ignorant of them. But I really think our culture has pushed us to the max and we can either live at some incredible pace, or we can slow down and have a real life. What's our hurry? Maybe taking a sabbath from the blog is a good thing to do on Sundays. But I'll just have to think about that. I do think we need to re-think "sabbath" principles and understand the value of solitude and silence. Cultural values are all upside down. Stop listening to "successful" people telling you how to be "successful". None of them are as successful as Jesus Christ, and some of them twist his message into a kind of workaholic mutation of the gospel. It is in the simple ways that we do not want to follow Jesus. He went up on a mountainside to pray. But did he carry a laptop? A journal? Did he make productive lists of things to do while he was there? Did he delegate responsibility to someone else so that the 'down' time was not overburdened by a lack of progress? Quiet your soul! Turn away from stress-inducing guilt-motivated living, and just BE a disciple of the Master. Not the world's greatest disciple ... just a disciple. Leave the fame, fortune, success, and ladder-climbing to some other soul. Maybe the brightest light we can be in our culture is to be satisfied, settled, collected, and trusting in His grace. Now that you've read my sermon to myself, you can go about blogging as usual. Class dismissed.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Solitude In Shepherd State Park

Today I spent a few hours in Shepherd State Park. Even though this beautiful park is only 30 mintues from my house, I've never been there in the 12 years I've lived here. I'm such a desk-jockey that this was very unlike me to go out to this park by myself. Even more so, to walk the nature trails through the woods. I have to admit I was a bit unnerved a few times. It was a beautiful walk, and it took me about an hour and a half to walk the big trail. Evidence of the swift winds of Hurricane Ivan remain. For most of the time I walked in silence, purposefully. Since the park is surrounded by residential areas, there were a few times I could visibly see neighborhoods as the trail led along the edges of the park. I must have been near a neighborhood at one point, beause I heard a woman scream, and a man screaming "Oh My God! Help!" I started to reach for my cell phone, but I had no idea what I would tell the police. "I'm in Shepherd State Park ... somewhere ... and I heard screams from somewhere...I have no idea where." Also, where I was located at the time left no clue where the sounds were coming from. So I stopped, listened, and prayed. In just a few minutes I could hear sirens. This was one of the times I was unnerved. It was then that I wished someone was with me. Of course someone was, Jesus. After that I walked swiftly for a while ... nervous energy I guess. I finally found a place to sit down for a bit and think and pray. It was then that I was unnerved for the second time. I heard a very loud yell. And the only way I can describe it is as a 'redneck yahoo'...followed by a girl screaming ... then an evil kind of laugh ... kind of like somone hid, scared someone else, and then laughed about it. Still, I had no idea where I was on the trails (no map, no sense of direction, no experience on this trail!). As I was walking I found a deck overlooking the marsh, a nice restful place. But I didn't stay long. I was ready to get to my van and drink some water. It was a strange visit to a new place. I hope to go back in the Spring when some flowers will be in bloom and it will look much different. I have some pictures of my visit posted HERE.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NDV

To keep me from becoming conceited because of this surpassingly great appetite, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my granddaughter's large stack of girlscout cookies that were delivered yesterday. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Adapted by John Dobbs

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Proverbs 1:8-19, NDV

Warning Against Enticement 8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 9 They will be a sweatband to grace your head and a towel to adorn your neck. 10 My son, if food entices you, do not give in to the desire to eat. 11 If a fat man says, "Come to the table and join us; let's lie in wait for someone to serve us, let's make sure that we get seconds; 12 let's swallow the food down, like the grapes, and whole, like those who go down to the pit bar-b-que; 13 we will get all sorts of delectable tastes and fill our stomaches with plunder; 14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common dessert cart"- 15 my son, do not go along with them, do not eat food on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into indigestion, they are swift to eat in abundance. 17 How useless to spread a feast in full view of all the gluttons! 18 These men lie in wait for their own heart attacks; they destroy only themselves! 19 Such is the end of all who go after fattening pies and cakes; it takes away the lives of those who get it. Proverbs 1:8-19, adapted by John Dobbs (I don't know how you'll take this. I'm not out to offend anyone. It is written by one who struggles with an out of control appetite. I'm in week 4 of Weight Watchers. Like those addicted to ciggarrettes, drugs, alcohol ... I have a compulsive behavior that is of my own making. I don't write this with self-pity, nor to gain anything from readers ... just a recognition that every sin is dealt with in the same way - by the wisdom of God. Blessings, John)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The End of the Line

I'm an American Idol fan (isn't everyone?). Tonight was painful to see so many young people lose the 'stars in their eyes' and come back down to earth. Many were in tears. Some thought it incredible that they would be sent home. Some blamed others. A good many half-way expected it. I suspect many of them were used to rejection. If you want to be a star, you have to pay your dues. Used to rejection? Now that is a sad predicament. Rejection is painful, sometimes devastating. To be used to it means that we've experienced many times the sharp stabs of unworthiness. I don't think I would be far off of the mark to say that most people are used to rejection. For every divorce there is at least one rejected person. In every children's home there are young faces, once tender but now toughened by the fires of rejection. At the unemployment office there is a line of people who were rejected. And down the pew from you at church, there's someone who has been rejected. Maybe that's why we're scared of the judgment day. We're so used to rejection that we figure the One who knows us best is bound to reject us in the end. I guess even in the highest of human love there is still room for error. Our challenge is to embrace the divine ... perfection that has no room for error, no mistake to be made, no malicious desire to hurt. Read the words of a Samuel Francis hymn from 1875. Let the words comfort our rejected hearts and bring us deep into the acceptance of the One who loves us so dearly. Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18). O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above! O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore! How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore! How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own; How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne! O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best! ’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest! O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me; And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Off The Map

Emerging from the new birth, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place. The first moments are spent in the arms of those who have led us here. They embrace us, pray for us, hold our hands, and tell us we have been blessed beyond imagination. Then they go home. And so do we. The old saying says that, "Home is where the heart is." It is a simple truism, proven over and over in our experiences. We never know the real impact of our decision to follow Christ until we go home. Maybe you went home to a family who did not know Jesus. Perhaps you went home with fellow disciples who just happened to be parents and siblings. But wherever home was, it was not the same. Those first blessed moments in the arms of those who were present to witness our birth becomes a shrinking memory all too soon. Those first few weeks will slap us in the face as we realize the crucial decision that has been made. Our unhappy habits are still our habits. Our ungodly friends are still our friends. Our unhealthy tastes are still our tastes. We have simply stepped into a dimension that shows us what these things really are - tools of our Enemy. Every once in a while, stop ... understand what has happened to you ... let it steal your breath ... realize that there is no where else to go. You have stepped off the map into a kingdom the unregenerate cannot see. Do not do this in order to revisit your decision. Instead, let it fill your heart with trust in the One who takes you by the hand and promises to bring you where He is. To you, the next steps are very unclear. To Him? Well, they were actually created by Him who leads you. Believe. Now the smoke fills the air Of this honky tonk bar And I'm thinkin' bout where I'd rather be But I burned all my bridges And I sunk all my ships And I'm standing at the edge of the sea --Bartender's Blues, George Jones

Sunday, February 13, 2005

When Things Come Back to Haunt You

While at my in-laws last week, we made a poor choice. My teenage son wanted to watch "Pet Sematary" ... a spooky Steven King outing wherein family pet kitty gets run over by a truck. Spooky neighbor (nice to see the late Fred Gwynne - of Herman Munster fame) shows daddy and dead kitty to an old Indian grave site. Amazingly kitty comes back but is a bit twisted ... scary. Predictably toddler son is killed, daddy takes him to the Indian grave site (even though a ghost tells him the ground is 'sour'). Toddler son comes back from the dead, kills spooky neighbor, kills mommy. Daddy kills toddler, takes mommy to the graveyard, mommy comes back and kills daddy. It's a bloody movie. My 15 year old loved it, unfortunately it scared the socks off of my 6 year old granddaughter (who had her eyes closed through half of it before we vacated her from the room). Today after we got home from services, we were milling around volunteering each other to cook lunch. Outside we heard some screaming and sounds that didn't sound too happy. Going outside, we noticed our neighbor on the curb weeping and screaming. Her mother was with her. We rushed out to see if there was anything we could do. I saw the reason when I got about ten feet from the corpse of her cat. It had been in the engine of her car. Not a pretty site. I don't know how old she is, maybe 17 or 18, but she was just beside herself. We got a towel and covered up the cat until a friend picked it up and carried it to their house. They put it in a bag, tried to console the girl, and prepared to bury it. And that's when I realized we had made a bad choice. My granddaughter thinks that the cat will be reborn tonight and come to kill us. It all seems too much like bad karma. Well, if I do not post for the next few days you may know what happened. No one will believe you, though. The resurrection scene of Matthew 25 is scary to me. It seems to be a time when things come back to haunt you. There are those who ignored the opportunities presented to them ... and those who ignorantly did what they were supposed to do. Overall, I think it serves as a warning to those who made an initial choice to be saved, but ignored the holy life to which they were called. It's hard for me to mesh judgment and grace. I so much believe in the security of the believer that I think it's actually hard for a child of God to be lost. But it can happen. For Christians, though, I think the resurrection is one day when things do not come back to haunt you. Not even resurrected killer kittys.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Measure of Willingness

I have a cynical outlook on making changes. It seems to me that very few people make significant and lasting changes in their lives. As I look back over the past few years, I can pinpoint some areas of growth, but it's mostly plodding along in my spiritual life. I read great books about making big changes, but after a brief interlude of enthusiasm, the big changes turn into little adjustments. Most of the little adjustments turn into forgotten resolutions. By and by things stay the same. Now I know that sounds like I'm thinking that Christianity is very "so what" and there's not much use in it. After all, we're the ones pointing to the walking tall - devil beating - disease healing - truth teaching - dead raising Messiah. If he can't help us be any different, is there any reason to claim Jesus as a part of our lives? Is Christianity just hype and talk? No way! On the contrary, when we dig down deep, the grace of Christ offers the only answer that I think we can live with. I am reluctant to make significant changes in my life ... and make them last. I'm still going to make all the efforts I can to live the holy life ... but I understand at the same time that God has embraced and saved me. He's not waiting for me to get it right before he rewards me with a heavenly doggie biscuit for good behavior. He has adopted me fully into His grand family, and is patient with me as I trust / try / fail / trust / try / fail... I think churches mostly stay just like they are...and people stay mostly just like they are. Why? Because we ignore the kingdom while we focus on the comfort and pleasure of the world around us. In reality, Christ came to rescue us from our amazingly stupid attempts to make this life something worth living without Him. (Shouldn't most of those things have a 'dont try this at home' warning attached?) He enters into our boring mediocrity and with simplicity reveals the truth of life to our hearts. Maybe we shouldn't measure our journey by the changes we make along the way, but by the willingness we have to allow the Spirit of God to have free course in our hearts. Let Him make the changes in you ... you just open the door. That is something few of us are willing to do. Thus it is that people stay mostly just as they are. I Know You Understand It All So Why Don't I Get Back On My feet Again -- Understand, Jeremy Camp

Friday, February 11, 2005


So my friend Steve says, "have you seen Travis Smiley's blog?" I said, "No, I haven't." He said, "You ought to." I asked, "Where is it?" Thus begins blogation. I've had these conversations more than once, and I perceive them as a new evolution of social communications. Steve: Go to Mike Cope's blog, and click on Jon Owen's blog. Me: Jon Owen isn't linked on Mike Cope's blog, but he is linked on John Alan Turner's blog. Steve: Ok, go there. Me: Ok, got John Alan, now... Jon Owen ... what next? Steve: Look for Adam Ellis, click there. He's the guy we got the 'Baby Got Book' link from. Me: Oh yeah...that was so funny...where to now? Steve: Click on Jan Ellis, Adam's sister's blog. Me: Got it ... hey...there it is... Jan has a link to Travis Stanley....hmm... he closed his blog for lent? Steve: There's lots of links to some cool blogs. on Travis Stanley's blog. Me: Cool, I'll bookmark it. That, my friends, is blogation. I believe we'll have to get used to it. Right now it's fun. One day we will whine about it because of the annoying bouncing from blog to blog, but at this point it's an adventure. Thanks, Steve!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ethereal Friendship

Today I was blessed to visit with two friends. We have lunch every Thursday and the hours fly by as quickly as our conversation. Another friend I had opportunity to visit with today is a friend I have known since I was 17 years old. We usually talk daily on the phone. In fact I have several friends with whom I keep in touch. My favorite Valentine, Maggy, is my dearest friend ... but a spouse is a different kind of friend. There's a greater degree of nurturing and care that should be involved in that relationship. There are continual adjustments that come with living together for a lifetime, a beautiful commitment that grows, shifts, changes, but stays everpresent. Jesus ... my friend? When I'm angry with my friends I tell them to get lost (and other stuff I need to avoid writing here!). I sometimes tell jokes with off-color puns to my friends. I tell my friends that sometimes I don't know what God is doing in my life. I laugh at my friends when they make fools of themselves. Jesus ... my friend? I kiss Maggy and hold her close. I tell her that she doesn't put the toilet paper on the holder correctly (after 17 years she has still not learned to do this). I often look innocently at her and say "what?" with a shrug of my shoulders (usually when I know she is close to throwing something). I have selective hearing loss that mysteriously disappears when she mutters something about me under her breath. Jesus ... my friend? I cannot hold him. I would not yell at him to leave me alone. It is fruitless to pretend to be innocent or act like I can't hear him. There's nothing to laugh at him about. I cannot punch him in the arm or forward e-mail jokes to him. What good is a friend like that? Is he just like the imaginary friends we invent as children? As important / essential as our earthly friendships are, the ethereal friendship we share with Jesus is moreso. Jesus is "friend of sinners" they said, with derision in their voices. Sinners enjoy being friends with sinners. There's something natural, earthy, and gritty about that kind of relationship. But when the Divine transcends our terrain and takes us by the hand ... there is something astounding about that. It is the presence of the Divine Friend in our lives that sees us through the dark valleys. It is His healing touch for which we long when our other friends are near but unable to touch the deeply hurt places in our soul. It is my friend Jesus that offers a love that never wavers. His love is strong when I say what I should not, laugh when I ought not, and turn a deaf ear when I am needed. His counsel directs my heart in the path of righteousness. In his presence my unworthiness is magnified; in his acceptance my soul glows with his grace. Yes, Jesus is my friend. I think he and I should spend more time together ... just the two of us. I've noticed that he always has time for me. Our love was like a burning ember It warmed us as a golden glow We had sunshine in December And threw our roses in the snow -- Emmylou Harris

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A Few Days Away...

I will be away from the blog for a few days. Check back Thursday or so for anything that might be new. Have a great week and watch for God's working ... He's already arranging our appointments.

Friday, February 04, 2005

My Appointment With God

Today was not the day that I envisioned. I spent part of it on the phone working my way through automated answerers trying to get to a real live human being. I especially found it offensive that the automated voice answered with this: "Hello, my name is Chad." No, you are a tape. You are no longer Chad. Chad could help me. You can only tell me what buttons to push. Sigh. After a nice lunch with Maggy and a trip to Wal-Mart for a few supplies, I took off for some time of solitude and prayer. I found an out-of-the-way corner at Beach Park and sat down at a picnic table. Getting out my journal I began conversing with my Father while enjoying the sunny day, the beautiful sky, and the sights and sounds of the water. There were very few people in the park. After writing down several things that were on my mind and praying some, and letting my mind wander some, I decided to head down to the end of the pier. I enjoyed a long talk with my Abba. In fact, I was very surprised that for nearly and hour and a half no one disturbed me at the end of this public pier. What a blessing to be able to have that time to ourselves. My devotional reading was from the fifty-year-old "My Heart, Christ's Home" by Robert Boyd Munger. I read half of it, but that was all of the conviction I could take. As I read Munger's account of taking Christ from room to room in his heart, I could identify with the things written. I prayed through those chapters. I would often glance up, expecting to see someone coming to enjoy the pier, but no one ever did until close to the end of my time there. They stayed only a minute or two. I watched the pelicans diving beneath the water's surface, only to reappear in a few seconds. There were the ever present seagulls. I saw some ducks and what I thought was a loon. Of course I know as much about wildlife as I do about space exporation. It could have been a chicken. One of the most pleasant surprises of the afternoon was the sailboat that made it's way past me to the West, and then at some point out of my range of vision, it turned around and sailed by very close. I enjoyed taking pictures of these things while I thanked God for them. I have the pictures posted HERE if you are interested. Overall, as I look back, I felt that I had an appointment with God. I wonder how often He has waited for me when I never bothered to stop long enough to talk with Him? I also wonder if all appointments look the same? I certainly found some peace of heart and mind today with my Father.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


des·per·ate - Having lost all hope One man was so full of Satan that he had super human strength. He was subject to the demons living within him. He cut himself. He threw himself into fire. Physically bruised, cut, and battered, he was a gruesome sight to see. He was a terror to the citizens around him, and himself. One man was heartbroken because the most precious thing in the world was being taken from him - his beautiful daughter. He would give his life for hers, but this was not possible. He and his wife held each other weeping, breathless, hopeless. She was dying right before their eyes. One woman had been so sick for so long, there was nothing else to do. She had spent all of her money on doctors, witch-doctors, psychics, creams, pills, patches and ointments. Still she bled. Nothing would stop it. She was ashamed of her bleeding, and weak with anemia. No one could do anything to stop the flow. Desperate people. No where else to turn. No man could offer them anything that they hadn't already tried. They were not just out of ideas, they had eliminated all possibilities. They suffered much, prayed until they were dry of prayers, and found trust dwindling as hope vanished. And then He walked into the scene. Not a super hero with a red cape or spider-web-slinging abilities. Not a muscled-up bruiser. Not a genius detective. Not a master surgeon. Not a quick-drawing cowboy with a six shooter. The Carpenter walked into their lives, able to rebuild their brokenness. Mark chapter 5 is the chapter of the desperate. The desperate were drawn to Him. Only the desperate were truly drawn to Him. He was the last resort. He remains the last resort. When you have come to the crushing realization of the inadequacy of your own goodness, watch for Him to come near. When your sin has bruised your heart and beaten your soul, listen for the fall of his footsteps in the Galilean sand. When you've been rejected and betrayed, smell the flora of the Garden as His knees meet the earth that would swallow his body in a matter of hours. When your words are met with derision and scoffing, taste the vinegar and wine that he rejected on the cross. When death seems near, touch the wounds of the risen Christ and trust Him to walk with you. Father, help us to never be far away from our desperation, for it drives us to your blessed Son. Remind us of our weakness when we become self-sufficient. Give us humility when our pride lifts us above the others. Rid us of fear, when we know we are at the end of all that we can do, and we must truly depend on You. Desperado, You ain't getting no younger Your pain and your hunger Are driving you home --Eagles, Desperado

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What's Wrong With Church Hopping?

Church hopping is the practice of moving from church to church in search of "the one" that fits our idea of the perfect (or almost) church. This could be doctrinally based (the mythological 'sound' church), or it could be program based (are you going to babysit my kids endlessly?). It could be based on the median age of the congregation. Or perhaps it is even based on location or beauty of the grounds. Church hopping is mostly done in the cover of night ... people just disappear. There are no attempts at reaching an agreement. No opportunity to practice the golden rule. No approaching a brother or sister to discuss the issues calmly. Just a spiritual U-Haul as they take their stuff and go to the church down the road without comment. Church hoppers are often recruiters. Many are busy communicating with their old friends back at the old church about how they ought to come with them. It is not enough that in their misery and personal unhappiness they have to go to another church (which, by the way, is often a short-term relationship ... a rebound church that will also say goodbye to them in the night at some point down the road!). They also want to bring a crowd with them. Now let me ask this: Where is the logic in leaving behind a group of people, and then calling that group of people to come where you are? Ahhh... they are only going to call SOME of the people to come where they now worship. Actually, they do not want to practice agape with the unlovely, the wrong, the under committed, the unqualified, and those they envy .... they want a following! That's it. It's almost a call for their adoring fans to follow them wherever they go! Church hopping has turned the Christian community into the image of Goldilocks, who can't seem to find a chair, a bowl of porridge, or a bed to her liking without trying every one of them. Without loyalty, and without concern for the souls left behind, they seek comfort and ease. Although we might want to couch this church hopping in some softer imagery (trying to find a church like we had growing up, wanting to be more comfortable, looking for some group that has a stronger Biblical commitment, my conscience won't let me stay), it all comes out sounding like a personals ad. Wanted: one church just like me. The truth is that the Kingdom confronts our comfort at every level. The "love chapter" is not all puff and fluff ... love believes all things, endures all things .. love never fails. Loving people is tough work ... it demands patience, tolerance, and it even demands accepting things that we do not normally feel comfortable accepting. What's wrong with church hopping? *It works against everything for which the Kingdom stands. *It exchanges agape love for personal preference. *It turns down the 'one another' passages, in favor of a search for self satisfaction. *It decides that some other Christians are just not worth our time and fellowship. *It wounds the very people who ought to get the best of our love and support. *It insults the people left behind - they are evidently too ignorant to leave! *It continues to wound the church through ongoing recruiting. *It makes another church feel that they are growing, and leaves them with emptiness when the hoppers move on. One church I know built a new auditorium to accommodate a flock of hoppers who came their way. When the hoppers moved on, they did not offer to pay for the building. Such is the the nature of church hoppers. *It is a denial of grace both in their own lives, and in the way they treat others. The only good thing about church hopping is that occasionally, someone who has made life miserable for everyone in the church decides to move on to another victim..er...church. That is acceptable to me. Now there are surely exceptions to these ideas ... and I think I know some exceptions. But to me - church hopping is a very anti-church thing to do. In both of his long explicit letters to the Corinthians, Paul never once told a Corinthian to go start another congregation nor to find another congregation. That just about sews it up.