Out Here Hope Remains

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

Saturday, May 28, 2005

OH, and one more thing....

I've added a link to "John's Pictures" in the column on the left. I add to my webshots page often. Tonight's new additions are HERE. More information about "Praising in the Park" (CLICK ON LINK!).

Friday, May 27, 2005

And Now For A Break...

***Into The Silence is my new post at the new blog: WEEKENDERS - a blog for those who need a little blogation on the weekends! The blog is found HERE.

***Having Trouble Keeping Up With The Blogs? I've Assembled Some Of The Best HERE.

***Did you know that I have a great "Start Page" for your use? It's Located HERE.

***I'll be gone all next week...so no new blogs here until after that! Pray for me as I try to minister at Gulf Coast Bible Camp!

Every Little Prayer Helps

On my list of names I use to visit the hospital patients is a name, sex, and age. Typically when someone is very old, I expect to find them asleep or non-responsive. The lady I was about to see was 95. I figured I would slip in, leave her a 'daily thought' card, and exit quietly. I know this sounds like a joke, but she didn't look a day over 70, even in a hospital bed! She had bright eyes and a big smile. And she also had something else - a blessing for me. For forty-one years she has lived alone, after the passing of her husband. She hates being in the hospital because it means she will miss church - and she loves her church and her pastor. She has a neighbor lady who is 25 years younger, but just seems to have given up on life. She says, "I tell her not to give up. There are so many blessings to count, and so many ways that God is with us. I tell her that if she feels low, just to offer a small prayer and God will hear her. Every little prayer helps, that's what I believe." While she was beautifully chattering away I was saying a little prayer of thanks. The one who came to bless has been blessed. I told her so. And now as I've entered the exhausting few days before Bible camp begins and I have a thousand things to do, I remember that visit. And I think it is a grand theology ... a statement of awesome faith ... to say that "every little prayer helps". It says that the power is not in us, and our faith is not in us, and our strength is not in us. Like a woman who crawled through the streets just to touch the hem of His garment, so we in our weakness can offer a small prayer ... a little prayer ... and know that it helps. He is our help and strength.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Dark Side

Image hosted by Photobucket.com If you do not have a television or you have been hiding under a rock, then you might not know that Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is making movie history. In 1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope broke all box office records. For you Star Wars novices, Episodes IV, V, and VI detail the exploits of Luke Skywalker as he flies through the galaxy to defeat the Evil Empire and the one who embodies that empire, Darth Vader. Episodes I, II, and III explain Anakin Skywalker’s descent into evil. He would become Darth Vader once his allegiance to the “dark side” was complete. It was a surprise to most viewers to learn that the evil Darth Vader was the father of the virtuous twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. This is a story that has unfolded before rapt movie audiences over a span of nearly 30 years! The applications that can be made of this epic story are endless. Anakin Skywalker was drawn to the ‘dark side’ by his anger, greed, and selfishness. It was his own pride and high estimation of himself that the dark emperor, Palpatine, used against him. He convinced Anakin that his true destiny would be found once he left behind the goodness that his mentor taught him. When we are moved by anger, greed, and selfishness, we allow evil to shape our lives. Families are destroyed. Friendships will fail us. Churches can be disassembled. Our careers can careen off course. Our reputations can become ruined. Our Christian witness will be withered. Our faith will falter. Christians are people who know the truth about the lies of the Evil One. He tells us that the ways of Christ are for the weak and foolish. He tells us that if we will follow the desires of our heart, we will find true happiness. The truth is that Christians follow the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Rather than accept the lies of evil, we allow Jesus Christ to form the values by which we will live. As we grow to be more like him, the promises of darkness hold less appeal. The allure to come to the “dark side” of life and follow evil is strong. Many people give up on the journey and fall into sin. But I believe that Christ is stronger than evil. 1 John 4:4 says in part, “...the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” It is in His greatness that we rest our case. We surrender to His will, and in so doing destroy the work of evil that began in the Garden. You are in an epic struggle. Trust Christ for the victory.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Image hosted by Photobucket.com After seeing Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, my mind was soaring through space with thoughts about the implications of the movie. I thought it was very rich and deep. Consider some with me, then add your own! Why does evil look so cool? Anakin's transformation to Darth Vader is stunning to me. He believes a lie and as he gives his allegiance to evil, he gets to turn from a whiney brat into a cool ... what... super villian? To accomplish his transformation to the dark side he has to prove his worthiness by committing some horrific acts. Yet in spite of what he has done, in spite of the personal horror he has to live through, he walks out of it with the coolest body armor ever conceived (and James Earl Jones' voice!). Does might really make right? Is tyranny the same as peace? Are people blind to evil in such depth that they refuse to see it before their very eyes? Why do great men of virtue sometimes fail? Why were the Jedi so rigid in their 'faith' that they could not embrace the 'promised one'? Even with all information / mentoring / care / experience some people will fail to follow the light. Evil is pervasive, while good seems to be vanishing. If we make an evil decision in order to save someone we love, is it justified? Does love for others weaken our resolve? Does it blind us to truth? Must it? When we doubt our faith, should we turn to an enemy for answers? When we act out of anger, do we give up control to evil? I may never stop if I do not call a halt here ... but I think there are big themes here ... worth exploring. Gimme yours!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Oh...That's Where We Are?

I've never bumped into a family member who is coming to see her. Her hospital room reveals very little about anyone who cares, except for a white teddy bear and a small vase with some silk roses in it. I suspect they were sent by a church Sunday School class or some such group. Once, in a moment of clarity (I think), she told that she didn't know why her children never called or came to see her any more. That may not be true. But it could be. "Come into this house!" she exclaimed brightly as I knocked on the door to her room. She smiled and wanted to know where I had been for so long. I sheepishly told her that I had visited with her yesterday. Then I saw it. A shadow of confusion, but with a valiant attempt to cover. "Well," she said, "I've got a whippin' saved up for my preacher. He hasn't been here in weeks." I decided to try to prompt her memory by informing her that he had, in fact, been to see her a few days ago. The shadow passed over her face once more. "Well, my kids will be coming soon," she expressed with relief. "Oh," I said, "and where does your son live?" She had already been talking about her son. No shadow this time. She was sure as daylight that I had lost my marbles to ask such a question. He's 18, and he still lives at home, she informed me. I love this sweet lady, but I'm sure it's been a long time since she had an 18 year old living at home. Further, her daughter lives nearby. She impressed upon me that all of her family lived up here around Starkville. I should have known that we were not in the here and now. But her sincerity convinced me while I wasn't paying attention. So I tried to visit her past with her, even as she believed it to be. I wouldn't suggest that there is anything benign about altzheimers. In this merciful moment, however, she was living in a time when her children were near and they were coming to care for her. Maybe for her heart, this is a safer journey. In the Kingdom we are called to live in the here and now, and also in the shadow of what will be. If I understand my New Testament, there is an expectant reverie that we are to experience as we consider tomorrow. Not worrie nor dread. Expectation. Hope. The brilliance of His presence. A new heavens, new earth, new robe, new body, new existence kind of thinking. While many are forced down the dark hallways of the past because of disease, Christians are shuffled toward the bright rejoicing of the promise of God. I think it would be good to daydream about that every once in a while. If someone interrupts you, tell them about your dream.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Unexpected Tears

Today I saw some unexpected tears. I picked up my seven year old granddaughter from school. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen crocodile tears on a frowned face as she headed off to school. So you would expect today to have lots of smiles ... she doesn't have to go back for an entire summer. To her the summer will span out weeks and weeks ... seemingly sooo long until the Fall semester brings her to the second grade. To me the summer will be a blink. I'm afraid it's halfway over now and I don't even know it! Those unexpected tears were not shed for math or science or even recess. One reason for the tears was that she would probably not see most of her classmates until that loooooong summer was over with. And another was that her teacher was retiring and would not be at the school next year. I find it easier to cry than I used to. Maybe I'm getting sentimental in my old age (is that like some kind of cliche or what?). A dear older sister apologized to me the other day for being so teary on Mother's Day. I told her that I think tears are a gift from God ... a sign of a tender childlike heart. One of our elders seldom prays without his voice cracking ... and occasionally weeping. I would not change him for anything. A song. A thought. A compassionate feeling. A sense of loneliness. An awareness of Abba who is so near. A place. A smell. A memory. A story. A grave marker. A friend. All are sources of unexpected tears. Let them fall. Don't wipe them away. Feel them course down your cheek and drip onto your shirt. Close your eyes and let the tears build. Why do you think God gave you this unrespected ability? The heart is so important to Him that he gave us this powerful form of expression. Do not be afraid of unexpected tears. Go ahead and cry (for a season ... don't get carried away and just cry all the time! God gave us laughter as well!). And when you cry, do not think that God hasn't noticed. He's so captive to your broken heart that he promised that in the new heavens and new earth he would wipe those tears from your face himself. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there." [Genesis 21:17-18]

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Everybody Loves Raymond?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com I was a "Raymond" late bloomer. I have never watched an episod in it's normal timeslot. I caught them all on syndication. My parents love "Raymond". They kept telling me about this funny show, but I'm a TV snob and adding another program to my 'must see' list was not on the agenda. Other than American Idol there isn't a television show on my 'must see' list. That doesn't mean I do not watch an odd episode of House (aren't they all odd?) or get interested in a re-run of Judging Amy. I just don't have the habit. Thanks to awful writing and a terrible story line I was able to overcome my Days of Our Lives addiction without much pain. That addiction goes back to college days. But back to Raymond ... I watched an episode with my parents. I was unimpressed. I think I was just naturally cynical and didn't want to like it, so it was easy to dismiss it. My brother doesn't like the show ... he thinks they are too mean to each other. I forgot to mention that I did see every episode of The Nanny - also in syndication, not in prime time. (I hate her new show!) I was up for months watching back-to-back episodes of Fran Drescher from 11-12 each night. But after seeing all of them, some of them multiple times, I stopped doing that. Raymond comes on from 10-11, back-to-back. Some months ago I watched a few episodes and found myself laughing out loud. So I watched a few more... and now I think it is safe to say that I have seen most of them. According to comments left on the last post, most of my readers do not love Raymond. I liked this writeup about Everybody Loves Raymond. Anyhow, I'm not out to convert you who do not love Raymond. You be as snobby as you like when it comes to Television, just come back and read my blog every day. I'm not asking much! After 210 episodes, Everybody says goodbye to Raymond. They are leaving while at the top of their game. Better to do that than to fade into irrelevance, I guess. I'll leave it to the sociologists, pundits, and reviewers to discuss why Raymond connected with America in such a big way. I liked it because Raymond does dumb things. I do dumb things. Raymond messes up things while trying to fix them. Ditto. Raymond wants to make people happy and not be confrontational. Yeah. Raymond never tucks his shirt in. My hero. That I remember, Raymond never preached at me, he never tried to decide important social issues for me, he never wagged his finger at me for being a conservative or a liberal, and he never tried to make up the minds of his viewers for them. My big problem with shows like ER, Law and Order, and Judging Amy and most other dramatic shows is that their major theme of the day is to prove that moral relativism is alive and well, and that any way that seems to be right or wrong is actually both right and wrong. We wonder where postmodernism came from? We were taught it by boxes that project images in several rooms in our homes 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So, I liked Raymond because I didn't have to readjust my world view just to have a simple laugh. Raymond is already flying high in syndication heaven ... along with Lucy, Beaver, Gilligan, Sanford, and Archie. It is his rightful place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What's Going On In Your World?

I've been talking about what's been going on in my world ... but what's going on in your world? Tell us anything you would like to ... but if you can't think of anything ... here's some starters: *What would you like for the rest of us to pray about? *Did you watch the last episode of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND Monday night? *What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? *What New Year's resolution did you drop that you really needed to keep?

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Her brain surgery had left most of her head shaved, a long scar made its way across the top of her bald head, staples kept everything in place. The swelling made it impossible for me to guess her age or even if she was aware that I was there. But the man in the room with her appreciated a few words and a prayer. I saw him later in the cafeteria. He was eating alone and I stopped and asked if the patient was his wife. He told me that the woman was his daughter. In her early 40s, she went into the hospital on a day in December. The doctors discovered a brain aneurysm. Surgery, followed by physical therapy, insurance troubles, finally home for a few days in January. Unfortunately she had another brain aneurysm and more surgery. I'm telling you generally what happened. Her father knew dates, places, times, locations of therapy, costs per day ... the small details. It was their story, and they were living it moment by moment. Because life had fallen apart, nothing else mattered very much. What's your story? Can you tell it with precision? Yes, the dates are ingrained on your heart ... at least the important ones. You remember the details, even the ones you wish you could forget. The first time you heard, "I want a divorce". The blaring siren as the ambulance pulled into the driveway. The smell of the smoke arising from what used to be your home. The notice from the insurance company saying that you were not covered for that medical condition. Pushing the brake pedal all the way to the floor, the inability to stop, and the split second sound of metal crashing into metal. The call from the police station that your daughter has been arrested. These are so stamped into your memory that they bring up vivid memories just to read about them. They are part of your story. They make your story significant. The unseen element in the memory of our stories is the divine presence. We make reference from time to time, just to assure ourselves (and Him) that we haven't forgotten. But who can tell where God is while we're living each moment? It is usually only by looking back that we can see how God has provided. But we shouldn't think that we are smart enough to see it all. Perhaps God is still answering the prayers of your grandparents ... and who would know it beside Him. Even when we can detail everything that has happened there is more. So when life seems to fall apart on us ... let's remember that there is much going on that we are unable to detect on our own. God is not far away nor is He uninvolved. He's been moving in your life today. He doesn't create your story, but He is the main character.

I Mean Now

In visiting patients at the hospital I make it a major goal to stay out of the way of the nurses. They have plenty to do without bumping into me. I do speak to them, but I know their mind is on all of the care they are giving to the patients. I do stop by the nurses station and leave a few 'thought for the day' cards for those times when they can take a break. Yesterday I was in an unfamiliar wing of the hospital where none of the nurses know me, and I do not know them. I was doing my usual banter, "how are you, here are some thoughts for you." She looked up at me and said, "Oh thank you, I need that today. I am under so much stress." I am sure she is under much more stress than the obvious, and I said a few encouraging words. She said, "I need you to pray for me." I told her I would. Then she gave me that look. It was the look that said, 'I mean now'! She told me her name was Linda. So I reached across the counter and took Linda by the hand and we prayed right there in the chaos that God would bring peace to her heart. My main goal is to visit patients, but there are over 700 employees at any given time at the hospital. That's a ministry in itself. Most of the doctors and nurses hurry by, intent on their purposes. But Linda needed some help ... now. Every day we are passing people just like Linda, and we do not even know it. They are struggling to just make it through the day. They need some divine help, they need your Abba. And He longs to comfort them. We are his priests, bringing His presence into the broken and wounded lives of His creatures. Somewhere in your neighborhood, at your grocery store, on your pew at church, or even in your home there is someone who needs a touch from God ... now. I am finding that the things I intend to do, or plan to accomplish, aren't nearly so interesting as the things that God has placed in my day to take me by surprise ... things that open up the Kingdom of God right before my eyes. Where will he direct our steps? Not just for your whole life ... I mean now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wash It Off!

One of the things I've become more cautious about in my Chaplain work at the hospital is the need to sterilize my hands if I touch anything in a room. For the past few years I've become more and more aware of the reality that many of us get sick because of the things we touch and then do not wash it off. A trip to the grocery store has us touching the buggy handle, with no idea at all what kind of germs are just waiting there for us to jump onto us and get into our system! It can be endless and rediculous if we take it to extremes. Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets" comes to mind. Today was a touching day. It seems like many of the patients wanted to shake hands today. They do not usually do this. But that means that I must pass by the little tube of foam sterilization on my way out the door, get a dollop of it, and rub it into my hands. The patient looks at me as if to say, "what...you think I got cooties?" But it doesn't matter how much you sterilize your hands ... the next doorknob or stair rail you touch has your hand dirty again. And what about things you touched BEFORE you sterilized? The pen in your pocket? What about your keys ... did you touch the keys in your pocket...or your money? And so it seems to be with sin. The more I try to get rid of the germ, the more I realize it is impossible. I can try some temporary fixes, but still it is just too pervasive. And when I have done all that I can do, I become aware that I touched a doorknob or a grocery cart and without thinking I have accumulated the germ again. You know, what I really need is not a dollop of antibacterial foam. I need some kind of otherworldly teflon that just doesn't let sin cling to me any more. I need a substance that would at once cleanse me and make me aware of the need to grow in my ability to avoid the germ. Yeah... it has to be more than forgiveness (as important as that is) ... it has to give me an edge in the pursuit. It will have to be a powerful substance, more powerful than anything known to man. It will have to be a plentiful substance, because I need a lot of it. It will have to be an available substance, because if it is rare and expensive I will not be able to afford it. What do you call that substance?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

See My Pain?

I have started to do a daily volunteer chaplain duty at the local hospital. I go right after I drop my son off at High School. The Chaplain has me assigned to one particular wing of the hospital, and I make sure that those patients and the nurses station is visited. I've learned a lot about myself and about hurting people in the past few weeks. I'd like to tell you about some of the people I've met as I have opportunity. I will, of course, hide their identity. One thing about visiting in the hospital is that everyone looks their worst. They haven't been preening in the mirror. There are no snazzy clothes or excessive jewelry. No high-heels or sneakers. Just someone who is hurting, looks their worst, is at their most vulnerable, and is often lonely. In this way, hospital patients are equalized in ways they are not so equal in the public. Today I met a man who looked really low. The expression on his face let me know that he was very discouraged. I prayed with him and gave him the pamphlet of the day we were passing out. (It is a good one today - it has some passages to consider about prayer - and no commentary ... Just Scripture.) I told him that I hoped he would be gone tomorrow when I came by. He was moving very oddly and telling me that he would be here for a few days. What I didn't realize was that he wanted me to see his pain. He finally maneuvered his leg out from under the tray that was over his bed. There he showed me his leg, which had been amputated below the knee. It was gruesome. I'm glad I didn't faint. What is it about some people that they want to show you their scar? You've met them. "Hey, I just had bypass surgery, look here..." and before you know it the shirt is open and you are face to incision in a way that you didn't ask or want to be. My theory is that people want you to see their pain. Maybe not all people. But that is how some people will survive the ordeal. The fact that someone knows their pain somehow helps ease the burden. I think I have had in my mind that when Jesus touched the leper, he may have used an extended pinky and touched him on some place that didn't seem to be affected. But I think now that Jesus saw the pain, and he wanted the leper to know he saw it. He took his wounded partial hand in his own, placed his other hand over it. Perhaps he placed his palm on a face that was pock marked with open wounds and a cavern where a nose had been. All I had to do was look. I will remember that. I suppose it is just the beginning if I continue in this volunteer ministry. In a place like the hospital it is easy to see the pain. I cannot heal the pain, but perhaps I can help bear it. Who is in your life ... right now ... who just wants you to see their pain?

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Recommended Read

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Greetings! I want to recommend a new book that has just been published called "Pardon the Inspiration". This excellent book is by my friend Al Sturgeon. It is a book of devotionals that carry a common theme of sports. If you love sports, you will enjoy this book. (I am not a sports fan, but I still love the book!) The book carries endorsements by such sports figures as... Baily Howell, former NBA star and now elder in the Starkville, MS church. Gary Gaines, Head Football Coach of Abilene Christian University (made famous by the movie Friday Night Lights) Steve Freeman, NFL Defensive back and NFL Official Rod Barnes, Men's Basketball Coach at Ole Miss. Plus a really special testimony by Baseball Hall of Famer, George Kell. The book is 181 pages. The author is the Preaching Minister of the Ocean Springs Church of Christ on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. More than any of the 100 great things I could tell you about Al, I would just liket to tell you that he is my friend - and a great writer. The book is available on his website: http://www.centerfieldpublishing.com I encourage you to buy one for yourself, one for the church library, one for a sports fan you would like to reach for Jesus, one for your brother, your husband, your son, your buddys, and one for your dad for Father's Day! That's my glowing endorsement of a worthwile book!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Those Disconnected Assemblies

With whom do we seek a connection when we gather as God's people? The evangelical praise and worship movement has given us a consistent chorus that we are gathered to praise God together. The last ten years have provided to us an exciting array of music directed to the Father, Son, and Spirit. I do love it. Like others, I notice that many of our older church songs are directed to the church. And I have read much criticism of that. We want to feel connected to God. We should not put our FAITH in the FEELING that we are connected to God. The connection to God is a matter of trust in the revelation of His will ... and our feelings will come and go. Are we addicted to feeling God's presence? I hear worship leaders say things like, "God really moved here tonight" or "God is in the house" ... as if He wasn't there before. I know what they mean. They mean that there is a feeling that has been achieved. Truly, though, God is there when the feelings are all gone. But I'd like to challenge the "we're here for God" notion for a minute. We have scant information about the NT assemblies ... so ... why are we so rigid and rule-bent on them? I think the 'we're here for God' has the potential to diffuse some discussions, but I am looking for a verse that tells us to get together and worship God. Really. The primary passage of which I am aware says for us to get together and provoke each other to love and good works. Don't get me wrong...you can't be in the wrong when praising God ... but why are we together anyway? We are together to make a connection to one another ... and thereby receive strength. We are often surrounded by virtual strangers in the assembly. Disconnected from one another, and yet blending our voices to a common Father. Sounds surreal to me. It is the reason I can be upset with my clapping hand raising brother ... I don't NEED my connection with him. It is the reason the clapping hand raising brother can disregard his sister who is disturbed by his actions.... He doesn't NEED her. It's all about our focus on God. And that is where we are totally in the wrong. Jason's comments on community were right on the money. Can you imagine that we would become so enamored with speaking / singing / lifting praises to the Father that we would mistreat / ignore / be disconnected from each other? Amazing! And this has nothing to do with contemporary / traditional. In fact, we're not ready to talk about contemporary / traditional until we are ready to talk about the connections we need with one another. I might be wrong, but it is when those connections with each other are strong that we will have clarity as to the direction our local congregation needs to go for now. Being connected takes a lot of effort. And frankly, many churches are full of people who don't really care to know anyone there ... it's just a place to go 'worship'. The verses are plenteous that this is just not enough. How's the community there where you are? To quote an old Barry Manilow song, many Christians seem to me to be on a journey with no satisfaction in sight. Maybe what we're looking for should disappear for a while ... so we can see the person in the pew across the aisle who's heart is breaking ... while we're ignoring them so we can sing praise to God. I've been up, down, tryin' to get the feeling again All around, tryin' to get the feeling again The one that made me shiver Made my knees start to quiver Every time she walked in And I've looked high, low Everywhere I possibly can But there's no tryin' to get the feelin' again It seemed to disappear as fast as it came --Trying To Get The Feeling Again, Barry Manilow

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Those Inexpressive Assemblies

One of the saddest things I ever saw in a worship service was an elder's wife with her hands raised in praise during a song. Only her hands weren't raised, they were held closely to her body in front of her so that no one could see her expression. We might say, "Wasn't that humble and unintrusive of her." Or we might say, "What has gone so wrong that raising our hands to the Lord has become outlawed?" In the previous post (see the comments as well...excellent comments!) there was a recognition that at times we have boring assemblies. One of the things that several readers pointed to was the prohibition on physical expressions of praise. Mentioned specifically were the raising of hands, and saying 'Praise the Lord' out loud. I would add kneeling in prayer, crying, laughing, hand clapping, and laying on of hands. I can hear some of my beloved now saying, "I'm not bored. I don't need any of those things. That's just immaturity to feel like you have to do all that to have a good assembly." To which our answer is .... ? My only answer is, "good for you. But what about the rest of us? Does it matter to you that we feel inhibited, stiff, disengaged, and discouraged?" A friend told me today he has a preacher calling him wanting to debate handclapping. He asked me, "How would you defend handclapping?" I think that's like trying to defend breathing or the desire to take daily baths. It seems natural to me ... it is an ancient practice (read the Bible) ... and it is not destructive to any command of God. The case against clapping is just one of our human laws made and enforced upon people from the standpoint of legalism. No one likes to be called a legalist ... so let me say something about that. CL pointed out that, "somehow we have decided that God is a rigid taskmaster who will come down here and kick us in the pants if we smile during worship." Lifers in the COC have been taught that there is a divine pattern for worship, that there are only five specific items that are allowed during that one-hour-a-week-worship-service, and that if we do worship wrong, our souls are condemned to eternal hell. I'd like to know who has EVER done worship 'right'? Considering how holy and righteous God is, which of us claims to have worshiped him according to his worth? Donna said, "When someone does decide during the assembly to put on Christ in Baptism shouldn't the crowd go wild?" Donna, the fact that we do not give each other high-fives, roar with a shout of victory, jump and hug and celebrate is clear evidence that we do not have a Kingdom View of life. A mannequin could very nearly be declared a faithful member of some congregations. The message has not been communicated and recieved that we are now living the Kingdom life. The 'legalist' is the one who believes that he has done everything God has asked of him, and done it right. I think this is a denial of the cross. I do not believe our assemblies have to have the atmosphere of the Superbowl game in order to be enthusiastic and non-boring. I believe that when we have the Kingdom in view, we are serving under the umbrella of grace that is accessed by faith. Those who are thusly engaged in the will of God are naturally enthused. They react in natural and enthusiastic ways. For some people that is in a very stoic fashion. For some it is in a rowdy and loud fashion. I suggest that our focus should mostly be on the other six days of the week and the Kingdom Walk in which we are to be engaged. We should allow freedom of expression in our assemblies so that people are not bored stiff by a dry service with no sounds of rejoicing over the good news. In other words, we ought to be ourselves. Reuel Lemmons said that we are not golf balls with the dimples all in the same places. How long shall we diffuse the enthusiasm of the enthusiastic? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Those Boring Assemblies

I want to use something CL said as a launchpad to further a thought I have embedded in the comments of the last post. I said... "but I think a church that has a fairly boring assembly can grow like crazy if the people are living out the kingdom of God in their communities" CL asked good questions: "If people are truly living out Christ in every part of their life would our assemblies be boring? Or does tradition and fear just rule that strongly? Ultimately saying the grace is no more than a word in Romans and the Spirit is a third of the third of the trinity? Does that make sense?" Oh yes, it makes perfect sense. It's just that tossing around these terms leaves one to their own devices. After all, what is a "Boring Assembly"? Is it an assembly that is not planned with me in mind? Or is it an assembly in which I cannot connect because I have my focus somewhere besides Christ? What, after all, are our expectations for that one hour per week that has become the pinnacle of our Christian experience? Now CL has asked the right question. 'If people are truly living out Christ in every part of their life would our assemblies be boring?' The answer, as far as I can see, is "NO". The Christian's identification with Christ calls him to focus on the needs of others, not self. The Christ-identity moves us toward service, not 'the services'. The food upon which the Christian lives is not a great assembly, but daily Christ-likeness lived out in the marketplace and gutter. If we were 'truly living out Christ' could we possibly be bored by spending time together, joining our voices in praise (old new slow fast ), communing together, sharing a message from the Word? These mundane items take on new life because of the new life that is within us. I have seen the saints weeping as they communed ... and not because of a special song, dimmed lights, or a touching devotional ... just hearts inhabited by the Christ. Now in regard to my response...Is that a simplistic answer that buries it head in theological sand to escape a dilemma? CL's second question is 'the rub': Or does tradition and fear just rule that strongly? Does this question assume that if there were no traditional barriers and no fear about 'what might happen' or fear of 'abandoning the doctrine of Christ' or some such thinking ... that the assemblies would suddenly take on a new life and no longer be boring? We've all read an endless array of articles and books on the worship wars and I think there are only three potential conclusions (feel free to let me know if that is short-sighted): *We must serve our current brothers and sisters, showing them love by maintaining a consistent pratice of faith ... practices that are dear to their heart ... and have been for generations ... and that if we abandon some of these saints may feel forced out of the family. (Is that loaded enough for you?) In this case, the call to Christlikeness teaches us to put their needs above mine...after all... this does not keep me from serving Christ passionately in my daily life. *We must serve our community and culture by reaching out to them in an assembly that incorporates practices that might even make us uncomfortable. We may have to challenge our own concepts of what is acceptable, laying down our past traditions in order to accomodate those who are currently outside of Christ (and may not ever be interested no matter how much we try to wear the sweater of their values over the body of our values). In this case, the call to Christlikeness teaches us to pay any price to win those for whom Christ died (but yet remain unredeemed). Even in my discomfort (if I am uncomfortable) I am not stopped from serving Christ passionately in my daily life. *We must try to bless our current members ... and at the same time adjust acceptable items (?) in order to attempt to reach our culture. In this case the call teh Christlikeness teaches us to reach out as we have opporutnity, and also minister to those who have been called together in the Family. Churches are struggling with how to do this. Some are offering two services (contemporary / traditional) ... some are just going one way or the other and telling everyone who doesn't like it to get with it or take a hike. What does Christlikeness call us to do about those boring assemblies? Why are we bored? Why is this the biggest object in our Christian experience? With more questions than answers, (and a really really long post) john

Monday, May 02, 2005


Today I want to do what I have seen no other blogger do ... I want to shout loudly and strongly that I LOVE THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. I know you theological types will think that I'm going to talk about the universal body of saved believers ... and yes I love the church of Christ. But I am going to go on record to say that I love the Churches of Christ ... the sect that wears that name ... the tribe to which I belong. True love isn't blind, and I'm not blind to her faults, but I love her anyway. I can get downright defensive when people criticize some of the nuts growing in her garden and then attribute the nuttiness to her. I know that not everyone in the Church of Christ loves me ... but I love the Church of Christ. I love the Church of Christ because she has provided my faith heritage. It is within the Church of Christ that I came to faith. I heard about Jesus Christ in a Church of Christ. I learned about the Bible in the Church of Christ. In the past I have been guilty of saying, "I don't remember ever being taught about grace in the Church of Christ". To be fair, I wasn't paying that much attention as a child and teenager. I learned in snippets. And like all communication processes, I likely heard things in a certain way that was different than the speaker intended. I want to practice grace with my past in the Church of Christ, because now I'm preaching to some young people and teenagers and others ... and I want them to practice grace with me! I love the Church of Christ because she has provided my faith family. My parents were not big on church attendance, but they did make sure that I attended. I'm glad. I left home at age 17 and never lived with my parents again. Across the years I have been blessed with many many wonderful mothers and fathers in the faith. These people were deeply committed to Christ and the Church of Christ. They fed me (too much), nurtured me, corrected me, kicked me in the seat of the pants when needed, and blessed me. They taught me and hugged me, cried and laughed with me. I love the Church of Christ because I was taught to be hungry and thirsty for God's Word. I was taught that it was not enough to just make an assertion, but that there was a need to seek God's Word for a clear word from the Lord. In my journey I have reached some different conclusions than some of my brothers and sisters in the Church of Christ. I do not, however, make those conclusions based upon my feelings or my experiences. No, I have been trained to search the Word! I watch other people blowing around in the wind of their own imaginations and perceptions and I am grateful to the Church of Christ for teaching me to keep my feet planted in the Word. I love the Church of Christ because her history resonates with me. The Stone-Campbell movement is fascinating. The concepts of reformation and restoration are enthralling. The exaltation of human tradition over the truths of Scripture is disturbing. Perhaps some in our fellowship have forgotten our roots. The call to escape sectarianism is as challenging today as it has ever been. I love the Church of Christ in spite of problems and troubles I see within her walls. I am not a member of the Church of Christ because it makes me happiest. I am here to serve within the greater scope of the kingdom of God. I believe we have a message, and I believe we have a purpose in the scheme of things. I know some of us (myself included) have missed the boat at times, and have been dogmatic when we shouldn't have been. I know that some in our family are quick to draw lines and climb up into God's throne of judgment rather quickly. But I will not join those who fling their curses on the Family that gave me so much. Everywhere I look I see beautiful and bright people of faith who are living out their journey with hope. By saying that I love the Church of Christ, I am not comparing our Faith family to any other. I do not play the "my church is better than your church" game. But I am saying that we do not take a back seat when it comes to faith, love for God, commitment to Jesus, guidance of the Spirit, and love for all that is good. I am not ashamed to be a member of the Church of Christ. I am glad.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

New Trivia Contest Begins Today

Here's the top players in the OUT HERE TRIVIA REMAINS game for April! Apr 0534 players played during the month. 1. x91mccauley (257 points, 12 wins) - way to go Uncle Melvin! 2. johndobbs (237 points, 4 wins) - I do not pick the questions! 3. C3 (219 points, 1 wins) 4. pmay (209 points, 0 wins) 5. tmdub (196 points, 0 wins) 6. queen (187 points, 5 wins) 7. clairzilla (165 points, 1 wins) (Go Daughter!) 8. JP (162 points, 1 wins) 9. Mac (116 points, 0 wins) 10. rita (115 points, 0 wins) (Go Wife!) I'm not sure who all of these people are ... but congratulations! We have a tough start this week with Movie Trivia...we'll do that for a week before moving to a different subject. I did terrible the first day! Join in the fun now ... it's free... it only takes a minute or two each day ... and did I say it's fun? Go HERE to partipciate! Bookmark it and try every day! john