Out Here Hope Remains

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interrupted by A Mocha

Yesterday I spent most of the morning at the church building at the front desk with Karen Potter. Karen is just a delightful young woman who has thrown herself into the hurricane relief work in a big way. We are so happy she will be with us all summer. Late in the morning Shane and Jody Ellett from Springfield, Ohio came into town. They are on an exploratory mission, taking a look around. He will be bringing a group of teens in July via Teen Missions. In our interesting conversation I learned that Shane had family at Johnson Grove Church of Christ near Brookhaven, MS. This church used to be a "non-class" Church of Christ, meaning that they did not believe it was Scriptural to divide the church into classes on Sunday morning. They do have classes these days and my friend Otis Bowman is their preacher. Shane's journey, however, led him to the other side of the keyboard as he now serves a Christian Church, the Springfield Church of Christ. He remains committed to the Gospel, and is doing a great job with the youth group there. We look forward to their July trip. Shane bought our lunch at Monica's Restaurant. As always, it was a buffet full of great Southern fare. The fried green tomatoes are always a favorite. Just a few tables away Senator Trent Lott enjoyed a meal with his wife. Shane wanted us to go up and talk to him, but I thought that he probably seldom gets to enjoy a quiet meal with his wife, so I wanted to leave him alone. By the time we got back and I ran an errand, I could feel my leg starting to tell me to rest. My ankle was a bit swollen when I got home, so I spent most of the rest of the day in my chair. Things are better each day, for which I am thankful. Last night David Kilbern and David Baker and I spent some time talking about our organizations and the things we are doing. Operation Love Thy Neighbor is David Baker's organization. He is mostly focused on housing and development of resources. He is actively recruiting and scouting locations to do some work farther to the West, while maintaining his work here in Pascagoula. Of course Central Church of Christ is focused on the Pascagoula effort. Both "Davids" have done a great amount of good, and cooperated quite a bit. Still, it is important to note that these are two distinct operations. It is good to work together and cooperate in reaching the helpless in hurricane relief. Robbie Woods is one of the special people I have met since the hurricane. He is an overcomer and a survivor. Having left drugs and alcohol behind, he has now been sober for six months. Robbie is a carpenter by trade. He is going to be working with Operation Love Thy Neighbor for a while and is in need of some support. If you are interested in helping support Robbie to do mission work in hurricane relief across the Coast, let me know and I'll put you in touch. Daved Baker just brought me a 20 oz White Chocolate Mocha from Dough Joe's Coffee House...so I'm going to go for now.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Heat Is On

As I write this, just after noon on Monday, we are sitting on 92 degrees in Pascagoula. The workers who are here from Elkton, Kentucky and Rolla, Missouri are feeling the heat as they work in homes with the outdoor temperature reaching into the 90s. The summertime is here. And it will get warmer with the coming days. It is interesting to me that it is so warm so early. The water temperature in the Gulf is always of concern, as the warm water is a big contributor to the tropical systems. We had a good number at worship yesterday at Central, though I do not know the number. The singing was great and we enjoyed worshiping with friends from Nashville and Memphis. Lynn Griffith led our opening prayer. He is a coach at Lipscomb and a member at Hillsoboro church of Christ. I hope everyone had a safe journey back to Tennessee. Today started off with an orientation meeting at Central with David Kilbern informing the groups of the kind of work they will be doing. I hope all the workers drink plenty of water in this heat. It's probably a good idea for all of the workcrews to start bringing bottled water with them on these trips ... staying hydrated in this kind of weather is a challenge. Today is Memorial Day and we remember those who have fought in wars to give us the freedoms we take for granted in the United States. Yes, even the right to dissent and to be critical of the wars being fought. A discussion of justifiable war verses pacificism is touched upon in Danny Dodd's latest blog and comments located HERE. Mike Cope shares some good thoughts as well, though they are brief. I want to say to our veterans, "THANK YOU"! I am thankful for the great freedoms and blessings of our country. We will never know the sacrifices that were made - and are being made on our behalf. What will all of you 24 fans do tonight? And the American Idol fans will be bored tomorrow night. Maybe we should fill that time with something really excellent. Ideas?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Night on the Coast

It's hard for me to believe that I haven't posted a blog in a while. Wednesday night Ross Jordan from Dalton, GA spoke at Central. I hear he did a great job. I was sitting in a chair (blah blah same old story about me). My leg is somewhat better each day, but still not fully healed. How can it take this long? Everyone seems to be very understanding that I cannot do a lot of the things I'd like to do. I'll have some catching up to do. Thursday evening Carla Calhoun arrived and we had some great conversation about disaster relief. She spent the night at our home. Margaret made a great breakfast for us this morning and we all spent the day together. Carla is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to information dealing with FEMA and disaster relief. Of course disaster visited her backyard ten years ago when the Alfred P. Murrah building was blown up by a domestic terrorist. We skipped lunch today, so we went to Seaman's Cove for supper tonight. I was out and about for an hour or so, then back to the chair. We enjoyed a long visit with David and Elaine Kilbern tonight as well. Of course the ministry to the community continues ... *Brooke and Twila visited with an elderly lady and her grown son who are living in a house with mold from floor to ceiling. They are still wearing the shoes they were wearing when the flood came on August 29. They only had a few sets of clothes. They were embarassed to ask for help. *FEMA helped us acquire some couches and chairs from a hotel chain in Florida. David Jordan and others have been a part of a massive effort to get the furniture into the homes of those who an use them. *We have four loads of sheetrock on the way, which will go a long way in enabling people to make progress in their home. *Tonight there were about a dozen who arrived from Nashville (Hillsboro church of Christ) and two from Memphis (Highland Church of Christ). Lynn Griffith (Nashville) and his wife and others associated with them have been here several times. Andy and Kelly (Memphis) have been here twice. It's great to have friends come back again to help us. We have enjoyed establishing some ties with these special people. June will be busy with speaking engagements, Bible Camp, family reunion and other stuff. If you are in the area when we speak at places, please come and visit! *June 4 - Pleasure Island Church of Christ in Gulf Shores, AL *June 21 - Airline Drive Church of Christ in Bosier City, LA *June 25 - Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville (early service) and Hillsboro Church of Christ (evening service). *June 28 - Available in Tennessee - give me a call! Of course all of this will be pre-empted in the case of a ... umm... intense tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Take Time for Now

I enjoyed the morning with Chris Lockhart, Trent Bryant, and Steve Martin as we planned out the week of Bible Camp that is coming up. We are a bit short on some kitchen help, and would love to have an older lady or two on board. I'm not sure we have a nurse secured at this point (we will have a nurse on staff - but in a cabin). I would like to have a couple of older men to attend. I think older people are great at camp, and add a mix that is often missed when we fill up with younger counselors. We ate lunch together and then I took Chris to the Tat-O-Nut Shop for potato flour donuts. I have a picture with him in front of the shop, if we need evidence. This afternoon I helped make some phone calls to give couches and chairs away - the ones that are coming in tomorrow. We need some muscle badly tomorrow ... and I sent out a big e-mail request. I haven't heard much in reply as of yet, though. We only have one youth group here now. I think over the next several days we have some trucks to unload and not as much manpower as we would like. This happens, though. I like to let it be known - there might be someone waiting for a good time to show up to help. Now is good. I had a delightful visit with Brooke and Twila Michael tonight. They came over to the house to talk about some things on their hearts. What a wonderful couple. They love the Lord and want to help people know how to put their trust in Him so that they can experience freedom from addictions, failures, regrets, and traumatic events. I think they are going to bless a lot of people here on the Coast over the next several months. The following comes from a Doctor - a friend of a friend of a friend. Really. I think he captures the mental state of people on the Coast, and our need to seek out ways to help and bless those closest to us. There is much wisdom in this. Thanks for forwarding it to me, Fred. Well I don't write many emails, but I decided to pen this note to several of you guys in my address book and hope you forward it to any one you like. It seems those of us here on the Gulf Coast are entering a critical period of time in our lives. As some of us fold up our blue roof tarps, drag our last piece of storm debris to the curb, or remove the last piece of plywood from the windows, others of us are watching the last remnants of our homes bulldozed into a pile of rubble, even the foundations are being crushed and removed. Some of us are playing phone tag with FEMA, SBA, MEMA, Allstate, State Farm, Nationwide, Farm Bureau, and all the other letters of the alphabet. Still others are living with relatives, living in trailers, living out of town, even living in tents. Some lucky ones are dealing with contractors with new construction, sheetrock, electrical, carpet, cabinets, furniture deliveries, either one at a time or all at once. All this is taking place while life goes on all around us. Football season came and went. Basketball season came and is going. Baseball season is in full swing. Hockey came and is dwindling. School happened for our kids. Graduation happened for some. Births and deaths continued. But in the background one looming thought occupied our minds no matter what else was going on---June 1--the beginning of another Hurricane Season. I have written more prescriptions for anti-depressants, anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics in the last several weeks than at any other time in my career. I have hugged more, cried more, laughed more, and I am sorry to say LISTENED more, than at any other time in my career. All this is reaching a fever pitch now that we are approaching another season that promises to be as active as the previous.one. This brings me to the point of why I am writing this letter. I have used more cliches in the last several days also but none more than "take one day at a time". If possible take one minute at a time. Before anyone makes a decision that will affect your life and the lives of your family Stop. Breathe. Pray. Ask a friend for help. There is nothing too small to ask for. There is nothing too trivial to ask for. No Real Friend is too busy to help. Take a day off to spend with your family. Go somewhere that is Normal. Take your kids to a park, a movie. Don't discuss the past or even the future, but discuss the PRESENT. The past is gone and to continue to dwell in it the way some people are doing is not healthy. The future is going to happen. Preparation is appropriate,but not everyday. Today is a gift from God and that is why it is called the PRESENT. Talk to your spouse, find out if he/she needs to talk. Then talk. Talk to your pastor/priest. Talk to your doctor. Talk to anybody that will listen and you have confidence in--but talk. Please don't seek solice or respite in a harmful chemical substance that only wears off and has to be replenished regularly. There are obviously some who will need meds and this can be arranged also. Volunteer to help your neighbors, learn who your neighbors are. Get back to your normal activities, hobbies, recreational/exercise routines. Learn new habits or routines. Read a book, maybe even the Bible. Don't forget your health. Get back into your regular checkups. Don't be neglectful of even small things or they will get bigger. Look around and appreciate the beauty of spring and notice all the new things that are appearing. Please don't forget to thank all the volunteers in the area. I know I have rambled. I realize I have spoken in short and broken sentences. But let's face it doctors can't write anyway. If I can be of help to any of you let me know. Love you all. (signature omitted for confidentiality)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday on the Coast

I'll just get the personal stuff out of the way. Yes, I sat in my chair all day today. The leg seems a bit better, but it still has a ways to go. Just when you think you're invincible.... I've been answering e-mails and working on things I can do from my computer. In some of my time off I've been watching DVDs of the first season of The X Files. What a cool show. I remember not liking it when it was on the air. I like the slogan that appears on the screen during the opening music: The Truth Is Out There. Yes it is! You 24 addicts now have to wait for another season to find out what someone is going to do with Jack Baur, kidnapped again. (oops... you haven't seen it yet? Sorry!) This guy should have a built-in homing device or something. No, I didn't watch it ... but the family does. Tomorrow night we will know who the next American Idol is... but if you're like me, it's kind of a snore at this point. Not what they intended, I'm sure. Enough TV talk. I don't even have a TV in the room where I'm in my chair! Today David says it was a hectic day at the church building with a lot of people coming in for help. He tries to meet with each one and have a talk with them about their life and letting God be a part of it. I think the youth group that's here from Cordelle, OK did some lawn mowing today. Tomorrow I have a meeting with some friends to get our camp week together. We are way behind on this, so I cannot put it off any longer. We go to camp on June 11 for the week. I also promised David I would make some calls from our work orders to see who can receive some couches and chairs that are coming in Wednesday. We want to get them placed so that we do not have to store them. These are slightly used, but we are told they are in great shape. This will be a great addition to the flood victim's homes. Just a few notes on iPod and Podcasting that relate to the comments left yesterday and today. Tommy, I think you can right click and save the file as an mp3 on the podcast pages...but I'm not sure. Steve, my recorder is an Olympus 240pc and it fits right in my pocket while I'm preaching. I just have to tether it to the computer, download it there, upload it to pod-o-matic and there ya go. Patrick, I will be downloading your sermons. Thanks for the information. Tonight I sent out a hundred or so e-mails detailing some of our needs here (these can be found at www.123Jesus.com). I always feel like a reminder is a healthy thing. I'll end up tonight telling you about my friend Norman Bales' new blog. I Love his introduction: My name is Norman Bales. I'm an old guy. I remember houses without electricity, gasoline that sold for less than 3o cents a gallon, and hot weather without airconditioning. I'm trying to keep up with the changing world of the third millennium. This blog is my latest attempt to adjust to change. His blog is located HERE. I recommend you bookmark it!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday on the Coast

We had a good attendance this morning with members and visitors present. I wasn't thrilled with my sermon, but maybe it helped someone! We had a very positive church meeting following the worship our. We are working on our organization, having lost our eldership and we were down to one trustee. So, little by little we are regaining some of our pre-storm stability. After worship our family went to La Fiesta Brava for lunch. I have been craving some mexican cuisine all week long in my chair. It was very good. Then we needed a few things from Wal-Mart and went there. By the time I got back in my chair it was 3:00 and my foot was starting to swell up. Guess I'm not ready for this running around yet. I'm getting too impatient I suppose. I rested the rest of the day. I called my parents. My dad is home and feeling some better. He has doctors appointments tomorrow. Tonight a youth group from Cordelle, Oklahoma arrived. They, and two brothers from Dalton, GA, will be the only folks in this week. The group from Wichita Falls, Texas is headed to Pensacola tomorrow for a fun day before heading back home Tuesday. I was able to visit with this group a little today for the first time. They had scheduled a Senior trip to Cancun, Mexico, but decided to come to the Coast and work instead. Isn't that inspirational! This afternoon David Kilbern took them out into the Gulf for some fishing, which I know they enjoyed. I know he enjoyed it, also. He doesn't get to do nearly as much of that as he would have liked. His charter boat business is basically stagnant as he devotes his time to hurricane relief. David and Elaine have made many sacrifices for this work, but they do not talk about that much. I haven't read The Da Vinci Code, and probably won't. But I know a lot of people have read it an are interested in the ongoing discussion. A great page full of links with information about this can be found HERE. I'll probably get interested in this about the time everyone else is getting bored with it. And now for a survey. I've become very interested in the PODCAST world ... how many of you listen to podcasts, and which ones do you like to listen to? Maybe I'll make a podcast page similar to my blog page. Do you have a podcast? I have one, linked in the column to the right. Today there is no new sermon to upload, because I forgot my recorder - and I also forgot my camera, and even my cell phone. I was a bit late and a bit frantic this morning before worship. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Around the World in Eighty Blogs

Here's some things that are going on in the Blog World, and a few extra things as well. Check them out as you have opportunity! Of course if any of these guys decide to post a blog, you might have to look at the previous one to see the one referenced! Memorial Day is coming up soon. Remember the purpose of Memorial Day with this awesome video presentation found HERE. Patrick Mead gets to the root of how to deal with church members who simply quit because they are not getting enough attention HERE, in his post called "Leave a Hole." Steve Puckett gives a little encouragement to those having a rough day HERE. Bobby Valentine challenges our thoughts on what "salvation" means HERE. Danny Dodd asks an important question HERE. Buddy Gray helps me spread the word about the need for spiritual workers here in Pascagoula when he wrote THIS. Dee Andrews wants to know what kind of tree you are, find out HERE. Donna helps our hearts to identify The Greatest Love HERE. What should be the Christian response to The DaVinci Code movie? John Alan Turner knows, look HERE! Gary Kirkendall reflects on graduation and the challenges that lie ahead for young people HERE. Mike Cope offers a short reflection on turning 50 HERE. Mike Kjergaard reflects on a significant event at Dodger Stadium HERE. Welcome Wade Tannehill to bloggerworld with his new blog located HERE. There are lots of great blogs out there....more than are listed here ... and I'm SURE you read each and every one, right? Riiigghhhhht! I keep a list of blogs HERE. If you'd like your blog listed there, let me know! Have a great weekend!

Setting the Trivia Straight

In my humorous post about my plane ride home, I mentioned the movie "Airport" and Karen Black. I turned this over in my mind and I decided that maybe Karen Black wasn't in Airport. Then Bobby Valentine said he had never heard of Airport - which was really the first 'diaster movie'. So I did a little research ... and it turns out ... Karen Black was not in Airport. Airport was a 1970 release of a movie based upon a novel by Authur Hailey in which there's a bunch of personal drama, and toward the end of the movie some nut blows up a bomb in the plane. The movie was full of stars, including Burt Lancaster, Dean martin, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Maureen Stapleton, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins and others. BUT ... Karen Black was in Airport '75, one of the sequals to this movie. In this disaster something hits the plane and kills the crew. She teamed up with Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Gloria Swanson, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Helen reddy, Linda Blair, Sid Caesar, Myrna loy, Nancy Olson, and Larry Storch. What a cast! This was probably the pinnacle of her career, although she still has roles in movies (even in 2006) and television (from The Big Valley and Adam-12, to Law and Order). And while we're at it, Airport '77 has the plane landing under water in the bermuda triangle. Jack Lemmon, Brenda Vacarro, Lee Grant, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart, George Kennedy (who is in all of them), Darren McGavin (Nightstalker!), Christopher Lee, Kathleen Quinlan, and Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers!). The last movie in the series was The Concorde: Airport '79 in which George Kennedy (again) has to contend with nuclear missiles, the French Air Force and the threat of the plane splitting in two over the Alps! Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristel, Eddie Albert, Charo, John Davidson, Martha Raye, and Jimmie Walker (JJ, Good Times) join the cast. The cast this time around is straight off of a Love Boat episode. Thankfully this series was over and George Kennedy would not have to solve another air disaster. A year later the Airplane! movie franchise would begin, making fun of the whole Airport series - which is justified in my opinion! I feel like going to Blockbuster, don't you? Anyway...this mindless and useless trivia brought to you free of charge ... a diversion from the task at hand ... and without apology!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What Sort of Man is This?

How well do you know Jesus? That really is a question that ought to stay close to our hearts. I don't know about you, but even reading the familiar stories about Jesus I am sometimes surprised at things I notice about Him. After Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples asked, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" At this point the disciples had not spent a great deal of time with Jesus, but it is still a great question. What sort of man is this? We must answer that question so that we can ask, "What sort of man am I to be?" or "What sort of woman am I to be?" All of our actions ought to pass through this filter. We usually act too quickly to consider this important question ... but I would encourage us all to ask it often. Well, that's what's been on my mind in the chair today. The leg is a little better each day I suppose, but it's not setting any records. My stepdad remains in the hospital. That's the sickness update. I did receive a call today from Cheryl. I have written about her before. She lives in a FEMA camper. We first met her through her mother in Arizona, who called to ask us to go and see about her. The first week some wonderful ladies from Missouri visited her every day. They still keep in touch with her. Cheryl has emphysema, pneumonia, and cancer. She just got out of the hospital. The chemotherapy she endured a few months ago robbed her body of any strength she has left. With a few months to live, hospice is coming in to assist. She called today to say that she really needs a friend right now. She really just wants to talk to someone. I told her I couldn't come now, but I would try to get someone over there. She had moved from one camper to another and we didn't know where she was. Now we do. Cheryl is one of many Katrina victims who will never know what it's like to live inside a real house again. Her father in Arizona is dying of cancer at the same time. Both are unable to travel to see the other. This breaks Cheryl's heart...and mine. Today I did have a visitor ... Diane Carroll, Secretary for the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. I had talked with Diane on the phone, and it was just delightful to meet her in person, along with one of the students. This is their second trip down to the Coast. Diane's parents live in the St. Andrews area. An article about their first visit here can be found HERE. There are 9 or 10 in the group and they will be headed back to Oklahoma overnight tonight. We appreciate the work they did so much. Also the college group that Seth Simmons is leading will head back home tomorrow. I have talked with Seth on the phone but haven't had a chance to get to see him this trip. He's been busy with all of the work to be done here on the Coast. They will head back tomorrow. Kirt Hunt was able to come by to see me for a while today. I enjoyed seeing him so much. I have known Kirt for most of his life and I am so impressed with the spiritual focus for his life. He is the Youth Minister for the Lee Acres Church of Christ in Tupelo, Mississippi. Well, you American Idol fans, we've been shocked the past two weeks (or I was anyway) by who was voted off. So who are you hoping will win the contest? The brassy sounding Katherine McPhee or the spasmodic Taylor Hicks? With over 5 million votes this week, there are lots of people watching for sure.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Bible Disclaimer

Ian McKellen recently stated on NBC's Today Show that the Bible ought to have "a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction." This famous British actor stars in the movie based upon Dan Brown's best seller, "The DaVinci Code", a fictional work that casts doubt upon the account of the life of Christ as presented in Scripture. I can understand why some view the Bible in skeptical ways. After all, the magnificent accounts of the workings of God in miraculous ways do sometimes leave us scratching our heads. Burning bushes, giant fish swallowing and spewing men, walking on water, resurrections, and weather-controlling prayers all exist apart from our experience. In today's culture, experience and feelings determine truth. Long treated as a constitution or law manual, the Bible is no longer regarded by many as a standard of authority. Fanciful fictional tales carry as much weight as the accounts of God's work in Scripture. Fables and stories are replacing long lists of what we can do and cannot do and still have God smiling upon us. It would be easy to simply dismiss this and stick to our guns, professing that this generation just doesn't get it - and too bad. Or we can try to engage them on their playing field, which can be threatening to all of us. It is hard to talk in the postmodern vernacular. It is hard to attempt to understand the view that there is no absolute truth, and there is nothing in the Bible that our culture will accept at face value. The approach to win the new generation to Christ must be philosophical in nature. One first step is to acknowledge that the Bible is a mysterious book that contains wisdom embodied in stories. Yes, I believe these are much more than stories - they are as true as anything can be true. But my friends at the coffee shop do not recognize such truth. So, we present them with a truth they can warm up to. This book is an ancient document, filled with the wisdom of the ages. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." This passage is about revealed truth. We regard that as the Bible. Our culturally driven friends may see God’s revelation in several different venues. But there is a chance for a discussion on how the Bible is more than just an old dusty book. Here is a book that penetrates the soul, judges the heart, and professes to uncover before us the God who knows all. But we do not know all, and we ought to brag about it. In fact, part of the angst of our age is the desire to know coupled with the acknowledgement that we cannot know. Even the Bible writers did not know everything. 1 John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Still, we search for God in both common and unfamiliar territories. I have a theory that 'postmodernism' is not all that new. I think we talk about it a lot, but ultimately man seeks to be self-directed, is often in angst about his purpose and identity, and is moved by his own perceptions and feelings even when they move him away from obvious truth. But whatever you want to call it, we cannot just toss aside cultural icons such as "The DaVinci Code". The buzz over the code may be a passing fad. If the first movie reviews are accurate, the film may be a failure, disappointing those who were unwilling to take the time to read the book. Or maybe we'll be talking about it in ten years. Either way, the cultural rejection of the Bible as the inspired Word of God is complete and the embracing of fables as new and exciting truth is our cultural reality. Our job as Christians is to find ways to turn people's minds to Jesus Christ, and ultimately to the Scriptures to find out all we can about this paradoxical Savior. We cannot do this by simply pointing out how wrong everyone is. Instead, the light of real Christianity must shine brighter than ever before. Service, love, sacrifice, and compassion must characterize the Christian community. Perhaps while we were busy fighting one another the world grew tired of us, and looked for something else. Have you ever thought that maybe WE are the reason The DaVinci Code is so intriguing to our culture? That may be true in some cases. Overall, we must live in our culture, share the gospel within the context of our culture, and use every tool at our disposal to bring the life giving message to the lost.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

View from the Chair

Well, the view from my chair hasn't changed much. Work continues on at Central...without my help! I did have a delightful visit today from Chris Lockhart, who was in town to speak to the college students tonight. I think things are going well with the group headed up by Seth Simmons from University Church of Christ in Conway, AR. Randy and crew headed back this morning for North Carolina. I enjoyed meeting him. I talked on the phone today with my friend Tex Nolan from Monroe. He called to ask about my leg. It is always a joy to talk to Tex, and I look forward to seeing him next week. We have some new work going on around the church building. These are some first stages to getting the building back in shape. I'm thankful to everyone who is helping with this effort. International Disaster Emergency Services told us several months ago that they would make a significant gift toward refurbishing the church building. They have done what they said they would do, and we are thankful. I may give more details on that later. I feel that I ought to share that news with the church first, but just rejoice with us. The needs are not over, but a big step has been taken toward renewing our building. I hope the church offices will be operational again very soon, which will be a huge help. David Kilbern said from the beginning that we were facing two-three years to rebuild Pascagoula. From all indications, he is right. There is a lot of progress here, but there is still much to do. It is great to have the work crews come down. Often they will leave a donation to help cover the cost of food or supplies. I think most of the workers in the past few days have been delivering beds to those who are moving back into their homes. I know they've been toting sheetrock some as well. Mrs. Redding is in her 80s and has come here from Vermont to volunteer. She works at a school for disadvantaged and troubled children. She is here as an emissary to witness first hand the work going on. She will report back to the students and school when she gets home. She is an awesome lady. You don't see too many elderly ladies helping to tote sheetrock! And now we have a giant pile of papers. Each paper represents a home that received sheetrock, or an appliance, or a bed, or some other help. These people need someone to knock on their door with the good news of Jesus Christ. I have appealed often on this blog for ministers to come down and help to reach these people. Early on some came, and we ended up doing other kinds of work. I think the timing was off. Now I think we could easily start touching these families with the Gospel. They need to hear the good news of Jesus. Will anyone come to help with this kind of 'relief' - relief from guilt and sin? Maybe you're not a preacher, just a soul winner! Come on over! These are some of the best potentials for teaching you will ever have. Call me or e-me about it if you are interested. I'd love to have a team of 10 or even 20 ministers working in this community. Why not band together with the other ministers in your community and come down? I will have a plan in place when you get here. That is, when I get out of this chair. Prayers for my step dad are solicited. He is in the hospital with a collapsed lung, ephesema, and maybe some other problems. Pray for my mother, also. First, because she is my mother. Second, because this puts a lot of stress on her. Third, because she reads this blog! (Love you, Mom!) I hope you're having a good week and thank you for reading.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sunday Afternoon Blogation

I hope your Sunday has been a good one for you. We had a good number of people present today for worship. I didn't do a typical Mother's Day sermon, but instead opted to talk about something that has really been a big burden for all of us since the storm: Guilt. You can hear it on my podcast, HERE. After services, I headed back home and elevated my leg and placed a heating pad on it. Things have not seemed to progress over the past few days. I'm ready for that leg to heal up! Of course, we don't have a choice in these matters. It's great to have workers from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee here. The crew from Kentucky/Tennessee are on their third trip down. This time they have done some work around the building. They placed a wood floor in the church offices and covered the outside steps with an indoor/outdoor carpet. I'm not sure what they'll be doing next. Late late tonight Seth Simmons and crew will arrive for a week of work. They will also have a devotional every night at the church for themselves and any who would like to attend. I think after the devotional they want to hang out at the dining hall and play guitars and drink coffee. Sounds like a bunch of college students, doesn't it! I hope I'll get to join them some of the time. Yesterday Allen came by to cut my grass. I didn't ask him to, but I was thankful for his service. I took a picture from inside. It's not all that great, but I'll share it with you anyway. I'm really proud of the progress Allen is making and I hope you'll join me in praying for this young man who has so much to offer. Brooke and Twila Michael are here to help us for several months. They have already proven themselves to be outstanding servants of God. They have been involved in a special ministry for a long time. They work with churches in need, and they do all they can to lift people up and bring them closer to God. I know that over the months we are going to enjoy getting to know Brooke and Twila more and more. Another visitor we had this morning was Veto Roley from Birmingham, Alabama. I only know Veto via some e-mail lists such as the Berean Spirit yahoo group, and I think he is also on the Spiritual Formation yahoo group. For the uninitiated, Yahoo Groups are e-mail lists where people can communicate on specific matters. Over time, the people who are sharing e-mails back and forth get to know one another. Veto is relatively new to me, but I appreciate much of what he writes. I was glad to put a face with the name. His brother from Austin, Texas, was also with him this morning. Veto is the one in the white shirt! I have been on the phone the past few days with Esther. You might remember the lady from Israel that I talked about a while back. She is near Cherokee, SC and has been ill with a big virus over the past week. I'm trying to locate some help in Raleigh so that she can spend a few nights there. If you can help me, call me ASAP. She is pretty much over the virus, but left weak and trying to get to a friend's house. I appreciated the preacher at Cherokee who helped her a little today. There is also a lady who runs the hotel where she is staying, who has helped her some. But Esther is in bad shape and in need of our prayers and help. I hope you have a good Mother's Day. My mother has a sore throat, and my stepdad is recovering from a lung biopsy. My brother and his family are there visiting, so I know they are taking care of them for the weekend. Wish I could have been there, but just couldn't be. As Jerry Cook says in his new book, The Monday Morning Church, the church is more about Monday Morning than it is about Sunday. As we enter the world tomorrow, let's bring Christ with us!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Night on the Coast

Today I was able to meet Karen Potter for the first time. Karen has come to the Coast for the summer to volunteer her time and to help all she can. I can tell by her happy spirit that she is going to be a great addition to the team here at Central. Somehow I didn't take a picture of her, but that'll come in another post. Karen will be here until August. Allen came by with her when she visited. Allen is talking more and more, and I think one morning he'll wake up and just talk like he used to - before Katrina hit the Coast. He brings so much happiness wherever he goes, I can't imagine what a great influence for the Kingdom he will be when he starts talking again. Randy Gore is here from North Carolina with some college students. I was glad he came by yesterday for a visit. Also visiting today was Julia Wetherington. Julia has a ready smile and is always on the go. She and Jim are both very hard working people with two beautiful daughters. Jim has served as one of our deacons for a long time. Margaret really enjoyed Julia's visit. They talked out in the yard for a long time ... hope they weren't talking about me! David Hazelwood came to visit this afternoon. David and crew put in most of the floors in our home. David is here with his father, his brother, and three other Christians. They live in either Fulton, Kentucky or South Fulton, TN - which is essentially the same place. They just drove in today and will be here for several days working on floors - their specialty. I enjoyed speaking at David's congregation - and that of his brother - a few months ago. The last time David visited he brought a big bag of Valentine gifts from several in their church to Claire, which made her so happy! The Hazelwoods are among the people that have come to have a special place in our hearts. The update on my leg is that there is no update. It's about the same today. Which is a lot better than it was five days ago! My stepdad had a biopsy on a lung this morning. After the procedure part of his lung collapsed, but all is well now. They are waiting on the results and any prayers are appreciated. My brother and his family are at my parent's, but because of my leg I can't travel over there. I hope to go to Bay City, Texas this summer sometime and thank them for the help received after the storm. There are so many people to thank... which is an awesome testimony to the Family of God! WLOX, a local television station in Gulfport, produced an excellent video called Katrina: South Mississippi's Story. I've had it for about a month, but I hadn't taken time to watch it. Since I'm sitting in this chair I thought it was a great opportunity. I cried all the way through it. It is very well done, and very thorough. It was very interesting to watch the news crew carry on even as the studio ceiling gave way under the pressure of the storm. The catastrophic damage, the stories, and re-living the event really made it an emotional video to watch. But it was worth it. If you order one, you won't be sorry. We are nineteen days from Hurricane Season 2006. All work crews that are planning to make trips this summer must make it a part of their preparation to keep an eye on the tropics. There are several other things on my mind tonight, but I'll let that be the post. Thanks for reading. It is good therapy for me to be able to express these things and to know that they are read by others.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Hidden Kingdom?

Eddie and Judy Lewis should be home in Germantown by now after spending several days spreading encouragement and joy around Central. I believe Judy spent about 16 hours in counseling with various individuals. Eddie preached some sermons from Nehemiah that (I hear) really spoke to the issues that we are dealing with here. I am so grateful for their willingness to jump right in and be a blessing here. This Sunday we will have a large number of college students descend upon us for a Kickoff To Summer Workcamp that is being planned by Seth Simmons of Conway, AR. Seth has done a great job of lining up several campus ministries to pariticipate together in relieving the hurts and needs of the people of Pascagoula. They will have a service each night at Central that anyone can attend. I'm so thankful for this effort and look forward to the week. My leg is somewhat better, but only slowly healing. Margaret is doing a great job taking care of me! I have reflected a good bit on my trip to California. At first I regarded it as a total waste, but I did make a few connections that I feel good about. To the right is Buddy Gray, Disaster Coordinator Minister for the Davis Park Church of Christ. This church has been doing disaster response for many years. Next is Carla Calhoun, who has a degree in Missions from Oklahoma Christian University, worked for FEMA, and Red Cross. She worked tirelessly before Katrina came ashore helping churches get coordinated for the needed response. She is helping network Christians who need help with volunteers at Christian Crisis Resources. Keith Brenton (red shirt) is at the Pleasant Valley church of Christ in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is the home of the Luke 10:37 ministry that responded so quickly to the tornadoes in Marmaduke, AR. Keith is also a fellow blogger, with his blog located HERE. This is just the short list of disaster-relief-minded Christians that met together at Pepperdine. I also ran into a few old friends. Danny Dodd was there along with two of his elders Bud Meyers and Jim Caples. I saw Bobby Valentine and John Mark Hicks who have a new book out called Kingdom Come.: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding. I neglected to get my copy, but I will certainly pick one up. Dan Smith from Nevada is an old e-pal from the Berean Spirit e-mail list. I've been reading Dan's posts for years and am so happy that I got to meet this dear brother. I was able to meet Robert Machen, President of Hilltop Rescue and Relief, that has a massive effort going in Chalmette, LA. I was able to meet briefly with Dr. Stan Granberg, the President of Kairos church planting effort. It was a joy to meet Dr. Jerry Rushford, Director of Church Relations at Pepperdine. There were many others, but I was thankful for these encounters. The two worship times that I attended were very uplifting, even in my sickness. So, in reflection, there were some high points to the trip that I hold very dear. It is my hope to speak at Central Sunday. It is Mother's Day, which is a special day. There's nobody just like your own mother! I'm not sure we will have a 'mothers day' sermon, though. All Christians everywhere must guard their longings. What is it that your heart truly longs for? I've always been amazed that the children of Israel even considered for a moment going back to the torture and hopelessness of Egypt. Yet, when faced with hardship they did want to retreat back into slavery. We must replace our own longings with the longings of God. The kingdom pushes us outward, not inward. Where are the lost? Where are the opportunities? Where are the thirsty souls that we have always invited to drink at the Fountain Free? Yet at the same time we have Scriptures that teach us to nurture, help, love, reprove, and serve one another. The Kingdom is a one-another / bring-along-others place. Perhaps the kingdom is hidden? Jesus said that unless we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of God. Can we return to a state where the kingdom is hidden from our own eyes? To see the kingdom, we only need to see Jesus. I think most of any troubles in the Christian community has to do with replacing Jesus with another god, i.e. tradition, doctrine, my way, philosophy, culture, etc. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What Ever Happened to Karen Black?

First I want to thank God to be home! My flights were uneventful. There was a delay and two gate changes at Houston airport that caused me to walk a lot more than I would have had to ... but no matter now. I'm just glad to be home. I'm in my recliner, with my leg elevated, and trying to stay off of it as much as possible so that the healing can begin. I just had a long visit with old friends Eddie and Judy Lewis. Such encouragers! I love them so much. I had a lot of thoughts while I was flying on the planes back and forth from Mobile to Houston to Los Angeles, but I didn't write them down. I remember a few key words, though. Flimsy. Really, airplanes are pretty flimsy. I mean the seats in these planes are not much more than well padded lawn chairs bolted into a floor covered with a cheap carpet that I'm sure is easily replaced. There is plastic everywhere ... bins ... ceiling ... panels. Plastic and aluminum ... bolts and glue... and heavy motors held up by who knows what. And the thing flies thousands of feet into the air several times a day without much an effort, it seems. Useless. The fact that my seat cushion is also a flotation device is not going to be much help to me when the greatest body of water I flew over was the Mississippi River. Speaking of bodies, I'm wondering how a seat cushion is supposed to keep ME afloat! The instructions about oxygen masks might be useful if we suffer some kind of cabin pressure failure, but if we are freefalling in the air toward the ground, I may not remember that if the bag doesn't inflate oxygen is still available. Will there really be time for me to adjust my own mask first, and then help others? In a panic, will I forget how to unhook my seatbelt? If we are falling through the air, do I want to unhook my seat belt? I heard four of these presentations on my trip, and I think I could repeat them with detail ... but I doubt they are very helpful. What we really need in times of emergency on a flight are (a) a hatchet to hack a hole through the crashing vessel, (b) a parachute so we can jump out and (c) a cyanide tablet in case we can't get out so we can give ourselves to the Lord before having to feel the impact. At least these are the things I thought about on the plane. I did pray that if we crashed that God would take me in some way before we actually hit the ground. Playground. Flying over the tops of the clouds gives one a vista of the playground of God. You think watching the clouds from beneath is fascinating? On top of those beauties are castles, dragons, replicas of the Grand Canyon, giant icy mountains with calm still oceans of water before them. There are strata of colors that playfully interact with your vision as you fly by, becoming different objects as you watch them change shape. The clouds appear to be so solid as to block the way of the aircraft, but turn to mist as the plane easily glides through them. Scientifically we are looking at water vapor, but to the eye it appears that we are entering Shang-ri-la, an ether plain of paradise just outside a window. Close enough to entice, yet untouchable. Food. Do I really need to say anything about the food? No, I don't. Stewards. Our family never flew anywhere when I was growing up. I was in college before I ever took my first flight. But in the movies, there were stewardesses.... beautiful, perfectly attired, unflappable, eager to help, and did I mention beautiful? Remember Karen Black in Airport? (What ever happened to her anyway?) So where did these stewards come from? Is this what the sexual revolution was for? So that we could have these guys in uniforms running up and down the aisle serving us and taking care of business? None of them on my flights failed to do a good job - they all did swell. But... they were more brusque than necessary ... and their beauty was to be found in the eyes of some other beholder. There are just some things a woman does better than a man. Well, you've wasted a perfectly good ten minutes reading my post today ... I hope it had a few smiles for you and that you'll be happily on your way. Me? I'm not going anywhere on this leg - and certainly not on a plane for a while. I wonder if Blockbuster has a copy of Airport ... I haven't seen that in a long time. As I recall it was pretty boring until ... something happened. A bomb on the plane? There were a lot of stars in that movie. Who else? Those questions and more answered in the comments below (he said by faith).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blue in Malibu

Just a quick post from Malibu. From where I'm sitting in the Sandbar internet cafe on the campus of Pepperdine University I can see the Pacific Ocean. This is one beautiful place! I'm afraid it's been a disappointing visit for me, though. I must have picked up a virus on the plane ride or somewhere. It hit me Friday morning just before the class I was supposed to speak in. So, while I was supposed to be speaking, I was enduring nausea, fever, lightheadedness ... awful. I spent all day in bed. I feel some better this morning, although phlebitis has developed in my left leg ... this happens every 15 months or so. I am SO ready to go home. I was able to get dressed and hear Don McLaughlin last night, along with worship led by Hallel and Ken Young. It was a wonderful service. I'm sure this was a great lectureship...I just spent my time here in bed sick. My flight home is Monday. I hope to worship Sunday morning with the Hilltop Community Church of Christ in El Segundo. They have a massive relief effort in New Orleans and are concerned about the amount of work to be done throughout the Coast. I did see several friends here, and I'm thankful for that. I'll post some pictures later. Just wanted to give you an update on my visit to California. Sorry it's not a brighter one!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thursday from the Other Coast

Well, not yet ... but tomorrow, Lord willing, I will fly out to Los Angeles, drive up to Malibu, and join the fun at Pepperdine University. I will be helping out at the disaster relief booth. I hope to make some new friends and share our need for help down here with those on the left Coast. If you're around those parts, I hope to meet you! Of course, I hope to take lots of pictures. I am uncertain if I will be able to post anything while I'm out in California. We'll see! Sunday in my place will be Eddie Lewis, Minister of Involvement with the Germantown (TN) Church of Christ near Memphis. Eddie and Judy are old friends of mine. Back in the 'old days' I was a youth minister in Cleveland, Mississippi where he was the preaching minister. I thought I knew everything and he gently tried to lead me to a more realistic view. I will have to give him and Judy an A+ for patience, and for believing in me. Eddie performed our marriage ceremony. Eddie will speak twice Sunday morning, and then Monday - Wednesday nights at 7:00. Judy will host a ladie's gathering Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Everyone's invited to attend, as always! I have updated my podcast page with tonight's devotional. You do not have to have an IPOD to listen, you can listen right from the site. Of course if you have an IPOD, you can do the very cool free subscription thing where John will be downloaded automatically. That's scary. Well, I have to get up in four hours, so I think I'll go. Have a great weekend ... and perhaps I'll check in on you sooner than Monday ... who knows? Stay close to God.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tuesday On The Coast

This morning I caught up on some e-mails that I had let pile up. We have a good number of people coming to help us in the coming months, which provides a great expectation for the service we can offer to our community. My friend Chris Lockhart invited me to Mobile to eat lunch with him, so I took him up on that today. We ate at Sonny's Bar-B-Q for three reasons. (1) We love the food there. (2) Chris' wife Susan doesn't like it, so I needed to give him a chance to eat there. (3) Corn nuggets. Where else can you get corn nuggets these days? After lunch we went to the Cornerstone book store and then to Chris' house for a little while before I returned home. At the bookstore I picked up MONDAY MORNING CHURCH by Jerry Cook. Of course Chris, the bookhound, had to get one also! It was a relaxing day, and I was thankful. I want to mention two things briefly: 1. A Prayer Request for a friend who is going through a very difficult experience ... that's all I can really say ... but God knows. And another friend who is going through a recovery from surgery that is particularly difficult. 2. Elsie England is asking all of those who came to help (local and long distance) with the hurricane relief effort send a recipe and a paragraph or two about your recovery experience. How about it, ladies? (and men?) ... Let's help Elsie out! A short blog tonight ... but that's all there is, folks! Thanks for checking in.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Low Income Housing Shortage

Today was our first day 'off', and as far as I know most everyone in town who usually does something with hurricane relief still did something for hurricane relief. David Kilbern met with some ladies from an organization that is interested in our method of helping others. Daved Baker had a board meeting and worked on a housing issue. (Board Meeting = met with me at Dough Joes). I helped David K. clear off the reception desk and helped a few of our 'tenants' (i.e. people - friends - who live at the church building) with some things they needed. By the way, a friend told me that the things I'm typing in between parentheses are not showing up on the blog. They show up on my viewing ... how about yours? Oh, then he told me he uses Netscape. I think I just heard a collective groan. Something happened today that has not happened since August 29th. A FEMA representative came to my home. That's right. It took eight months and one day for them to come by. He asked me when I signed up, and I told him September 2. But I'm not alone ... there are still people who have not been seen by FEMA. Thanks, David Kilbern, for making several calls to try to get this accomplished. Now I have to wait a month to see what arrives in the mail. One sister at church supposed this past Sunday that I had gotten more FEMA money than she. I do not know why she supposed this! She was shocked to know that I had not received any FEMA funding other than the initial living expenses everyone else received. But, I'm happy to have the ball rolling. So today's topic of discussion is housing, and more specifically, low-income housing. Once upon a time on the Coast there was a fairly large population of indigent, almost homeless people. As far as I know, they lived in run-down apartments with other people pooling resources. They scraped by in trailers that had seen their better days decades ago. I remember one night David Kilbern (is this David Kilbern night on the blog, or what?) and I went to see a young couple that we had met earlier. They lived in a trailer - but it was one unlike any I had seen before. It was rounded on the ends, and it sat on the ground, and it looked like it would fall down if you leaned against it. They paid 100 dollars a week to live in that leaky tin can. Basically, these places do not exist any more. If they do, there aren't many of them. They were demolished by Katrina. Good riddance in some ways. The city will look better without them. The landlords who didn't take care of them no longer have the opportunity to basically steal from these people. And they were a health hazard, I'm sure. But they also provided a roof over the heads of people who can't get into any other kind of housing. That world of people have lost their homes, and they have no where to go. Tonight FEMA called us asking us to house a young family with two children, ages 1 and 2. This is not new for us, unfortunately ... but I can't get used to the Federal Government of the United States of America calling the Central Church of Christ to house a family. We really are not set up to do this ... so it tugs at your heart. Daved Baker agreed to house them at one of the warehouses for a few days. But what chances do they have of finding a place to live? A new job? Reliable transportation? In my opinion, FEMA should handle this problem. But they are unable to bend their own rules ... so if Christians do not catch these people, who will? But our resources are not such as to be able to handle these kinds of situations either. We just make do. And a family has a roof over their heads tonight. Daved and Greg will see that their basic needs are met - even though it is outside of their duty. This is a family we knew about. In America there are families we never hear about who didn't find some Christian people to take them in. I've typed a bunch tonight...if you're still reading...thanks for hanging in there with me!