Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Foretaste of the Kingdom?

It was a good day in our little neck of the Kingdom. People gathered to study the Bible, fellowship, and share life. Worship attendance was down some (I've been reading recently of a debate over which is worse for church attendance- good weather or bad?) but the Spirit was present as we offered our voices, hearts, offerings, and lives to the Living God.

As I looked over the gathered crowd I was impressed- not in the sense of pride*- but had an impression made on me by the make-up of our congregation. In our little baptist church in Cobb County, state of Georgia, in the good old "US of A" we had worshipers from Korea, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Romania, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Ghana... and Brooklyn! Yes, there is something special about this place!

Week by week a variety of voices- male and female- lead us in worship. A variety of music enhances our worship. The reading of the Bible is a priority in our worship. Our worship is aided by ancient traditions and modern accents. It is easy to take all this for granted but these are gifts to be treasured and nurtured.  

We don't make a big deal out of our diversity- it's just who we are and how we do church. Thanks be to God!

*well, maybe a little pride!

Sunday, August 30, 2015


As soon as the words came out of my mouth... something just didn't feel right.  It was the way I'd always heard it, the source to which the immortal words had always been referenced.  Still...

So this afternoon I powered-up the laptop and went to that all-knowing source of knowledge- Google-... about five hours too late!  "How do I love thee, let me count the ways..." No, not Shakespeare, but Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Ouch!

The last time I made a mistake of this magnitude was when I credited Kenny Rodgers with "O Lord It's Hard to Be Humble."  "It was Mac Davis, not Kenny Rodgers" I was told after the service-  by a friend of mine and a fan of Mac's.

I try to get things "right" when I'm preaching. I don't want my mistakes to become distractions that keep someone's attention away from the message.

But, to counter Mac Davis, "I'm most definitely not perfect in every way." From time to time I'm going to make factual mistakes, every now and again I'll do harm to the Queen's English, and sometimes I may not find the best interpretation.

Remember, preaching is a two-way street.  Let me know what you hear, when I mess-it-up, or when I get it wrong.  Just be gentle...please.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Unspeakaboutable Prayer

Our little high school prayer group was wrapping-up the evening when my friend Clyde raised his hand. "I have an unspeakaboutable." The others of us cocked our heads with expressions ranging from "huh?" to "really, Clyde" to "what did he just say?" Catching our confusion he fumbled for a moment before saying, "you know, it's one of things I want you to pray for but I don't want to talk about."  Like maybe an "unspoken" prayer request?

I always think of Clyde when I have trouble putting words to a prayer request.  I may be excited but can't tell anyone else, yet.  My request may actually be for the need of someone else- it's just not my place to share with others.  Sometimes, it's been because my pain was to raw, my shame too deep, or my faith to small to say out loud.

If it's awkward to not be able to put words to a need and share with others, it can be distressing to not be able to put words to the request I make to God. Sometimes I'm confused, sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm hurting too bad, sometimes I just don't have enough faith. The fog in my head, the knot in my stomach, the fear in my heart just can't express themselves.  In those "unspeakaboutable" moments of prayer I am grateful for the promise that "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness," that when we are at a loss for words and "do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit himself intercedes for us..." (Romans 8:26)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Leaving a Mark

As our vans pulled-out from the Wherry Housing Community last Saturday morning I glanced around at the sleepy neighborhood and looked back through the mirror at a bus-load of tired teenagers.  It had been- by any standard of measure- a good week.

The mission trip was over- but its impact remained.  Marks were left all over the place.  There had been buildings painted, floors tiled, and undergrowth removed.  We had left our "ebenezer," a remembrance, on the wall of the assembly area.  More importantly, marks had been left on the lives of children who gave and received love in equal amounts.  They tell us they look forward to the annual visit by their friends from Towne View- I hope they remember the Jesus we shared.

As I looked back into the van, I thought about some other, longer lasting marks.  Mission is a two-way street. Wherry had left its mark on our lives- youth and adults- in indelible ways.  Youth discovered a taste for the joy of giving themselves for others- and they liked it! They experienced the gift of unconditional love. Through the week they encountered God in quiet places and joyful worship. They shared life in a community faith and found strength for the journey.  After all the paint is scrubbed-off and the splinters healed, even after walls and buildings inevitably collapse, the Wherry mission experience will have left its mark on these lives.  Self-giving, sacrificial, welcoming,  joyful... all good adjectives for the body of Christ!

**This type of experience isn't possible without the investment of time, energy, and resources from a missional church family.  We appreciate the financial support and food donations from the church family.  I'm grateful for the love of youth shared by Tony and Clemmie Paez, Caroline Jansen, and Faith and Jerry Jansen.  As always, the skills and heart of Chris and Katie inspire us, young and old.

To find out more about the work of Community Servants in Smyrna TN you can visit their website communityservants.org.  I encourage your prayers for John Key, Ashley Fricks, and the interns that are investing their lives in this exciting ministry.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Psalm of Lament

How long must hatred be the legacy passed from generation to generation?

How long must innocents suffer at the hands of the wicked?

How long must a nation be wounded by the abuse of its freedoms?

How long must young people feel that violence is the only way to express their frustrations?

How long must "the other" be perceived as enemy rather than received as friend?

How long must a bright future be clouded by the shadows of the past?

How long must mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors... and churches grieve the senseless deaths of loved ones?

How long must people of good will, people of faith, avoid the awkward conversations and difficult decisions that shine the light of love and advance the causes of justice and righteousness?

How long, O Lord, how long?