Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Change of View

I've always liked the worship space in our church. I like it's openness and especially the windows. I enjoy the light the windows welcome and the views that they provide.

While nursing a cup of coffee this morning I looked towards the windows and was confronted with the change in decor we incorporate during Advent. Instead of the sights of green shrubs, blue skies(okay, they're gray today!, and passing cars I was greeted by the rich purple, gold, and blue images of shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and, of course, Jesus. Two years ago Trey took an idea, improved on it, and Chuck Smith's production team transformed that idea into our beautiful window inserts.

The window inserts shield our view of the outside while forcing us to focus our attention on the nativity. Not a bad idea for this time of year!

Our inserts remind us that Advent is a time to change what we see... how we see... and ultimately, Who we see.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I've never been big on poetry- except when my English teacher in ninth grade had us study the music of Simon and Garfunkel! I am however, big on hope- and the poem below pictures it as thoughfully and beautifully as possible.

Hope is the thing with feathers- that perches on the soul-
And sings the tune without the words- and never stops- at all.

And sweetest- in the gale- is heard- and sore must be the storm-
That could abash the little Bird that kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land- and on the strangest Sea-
Yet, never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me.

by Emily Dickinson
(found in Keeping Hope Alive by Lewis Smedes

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October has been quite a month for our part of the family of God.

The month began with ten of our folks traveling to New Orleans to support the work of Global Maritime Ministries. We assisted GMM with their annual fundraising banquet/silent auction and fed and built friendships with seafarers at the center. We also managed to find time for lots of laughter, plenty of good seafood, and a visit to the National Worl War II Museum.

Later in the month two of our older adult Sunday School classes combined forces to prepare a meal and serve about 75 guests at MUST Ministries.

Last Thursday 28 of us traveled to Blue Ridge to enjoy the fall scenery, grab some apples, and enjoy food and fellowship. This was our largest group ever for this outing!

Saturday night 45... or was it 48? youth and friends enjoyed a night at
Cagle's Dairy Farm as we wandered in the corn maze and enjoyed the hayride and bonfire.

Last night's Fall Family Fun Fair was a huge success. Around 200-225 children and families enjoyed a great night of activities and food.

Now, none of these "successes" change the facts that our giving is substantially below budget needs, attendance has been so-so in October, and we have critical leadership needs to be filled. But they do remind me that-
*real fellowship occurs as we share life in service
*others may do things "bigger" but not necessarily "better" and "glitz" can't hold a candle to "genuine"
*we have a tremdous collection of talented and energetic people who love serving
*I love being called "pastor" by this family of faith!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reformation Day Prayer

This Sunday, October 30, is Reformation Day. We baptists are ultimately products (our roots can be traced to England where baptists moved away from the Anglican Church- which was a product of the English reformation- which wouldn't have happened without the protestant reformation) of the faith and tenacity of men like German monk Martin Luther.

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you.
In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore, I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.

"The Empty Vessel", a prayer by Martin Luther (Eerdman's Book of Famous Prayers)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Glad to be Home!

Even though I was in the office last week I have felt a little out of touch and disconnected by being away the last two Sundays. I was "in church," just not in "my church."

On the first Sunday we were in New Orleans with our adult mission trip. We had to change Sunday plans when the cruise ship was dry-docked and the center closed for the day. We were blessed to share baptism, the Lord's Supper, and a wonderful worship service with First Baptist Church. I confess (and Priscilla will attest) that it isn't easy for me not to squirm when I am in a pew!

Yesterday I was "in the pulpit" as I preached for the 130th anniversary service of Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Rome GA. I served this church as Associate Pastor/Minister of Youth & Children for two years before going to seminary. FABC is the church that ordained me thirty years ago and is also the church where Priscilla and I were married. It was a bittersweet trip down memory lane as we visited with friends from days past and missed those who had died, moved, or for various reasons moved to other churches in the community.

It was good to be away but is good to be back and will be even better when I can worship with "my church" this Sunday. We don't have the size, facilities, or other resources of First Baptist Church of New Orleans. We don't have the history and heritage of Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Rome. What we do have is an incredibly gifted and loving collection of families in our family, motivated with a desire to serve, and blessed by a faithful God.

I can't wait for Sunday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembrance

It is the images of 9/11 that we remember:
Jets crashing into towers of steel and glass
Flames flashing from the angry wounds
Bodies falling helplessly through the air
Dust and debris and smoke billowing down New York streets
The dazed and wounded seeking safety
Office workers who became heroes and first responders- policemen, firemen, medical personnel, chaplains- bravely doing what seemed only natural to them
The Pentagon- headquarters of our national defense under attack
The capitol quiet and vulnerable
A smoking crater in the field in Pennsyvania where those who responded to the call "let's roll" gave their lives to prevent greater harm.

Yes, Lord, we remember. And we remember that you are the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our afflictions.
We remember shock and horror and give thanks for peace.
We remember sorrow and sadness and give thanks for hope.
We remember anger and bitterness and give thanks for forgiveness.
We remember sacrifice and generosity and give thanks for selflessness.
We remember fear and despair and give thanks for peace.
We remember hatred and give thanks for love.

As part of our worship on 9/11 we read together Psalm 23 at the beginning of this section and read the Lord's prayer at the end.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Praying for Patience

O God, my Father, give me patience all through today.

Give me patience with my work,
so that I may work at a job until I finish it or get it right,
no matter how difficult or boring it may be.

Give me patience with people,
so that I will not become irritated or annoyed,
and so that I never lose my temper with them.

Give me patience with life,
so that I may not give up hope
when hopes are long in coming true;
so that I may accept disappointment without bitterness
and delay without complaint.

Here is my prayer for your love's sake. Amen.

by Scottish New Testament scholar Wiiliam Barclay (d. 1978)
from The Doubleday Prayer Collection

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feeling a Bit Older

I am feeling a bit older this morning.No, I didn't overdo in the yard or stay-up too late watching the Braves. It's all those college students!

Last night our church hosted the "Kick-off Cook-out" for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic. There were a hundred or so college students who consumed large quantities of hot dogs & hamburgers, played mixer games, and were exposed to the programs and ministries of BCM. They look younger every year and their energy and enthusiasm is amazing.

I felt a bit older because seeing these students took me on a trip down memory lane to my college days. I was active in the Baptist Stduent Union (as it was known back in the day) during my time at Shorter and was campus president my senior year. I didn't know it then but BSU provided a leadership development process that would shape the rest of my ministry. Our advisor, Dr. Joe Baskin, was a patient mentor and guide who remains a friend to this day. Priscilla also served as Shorter's BSU president her senior year.

I am grateful that Dave Stewart faithfully shares his gifts with KSU and SPSU students as Baptist Campus Minister. I encourage you to pray for Dave and Judy as they serve in our church and minister to the college community.

We had a nice contingent of Towne View folk here to prepare, cook, serve, and welcome. I appreciate our Missions Committee for their leadership and other members who pitched-in.

Come to think of it- maybe I'm not feeling so much older after all. The zeal of college students is contagious, the example of faithful servants is encouraging, and the generous spirit of our church is a blessing. Let's go- just maybe not quite so hard, quite so fast, or quite so late!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Frustrated Citizen

I am a frustrated citizen of this great nation. Not mad yet, just frustrated!

I am frustrated because leaders aren't leading.

I am frustrated with decisions that are made- or, sometimes not made- that impact my family, my future, my community, and even my church.

I am frustrated that leaders aren't listening- to one another or our citizenry. There seems to be too much talking "at" one another rather than talking "to" one another.

I am frustrated that too many of us are content to simply complain... or do nothing.

I am frustrated that our leaders, and even us "regular folk," seem to have lost the ability to "disagree agreeably." Taking differing positions or desiring differing solutions to common problems does not make us enemies.

So what can I do? As a citizen, I am empowered to be informed, involved, and ultimately to express myself with a ballot. As a Christian, I am encouraged to pray for those in leadership.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weddings as Family Events

I know it seems obvious to say that weddings are family events. Saturday's wedding of John Todd and Kristina McDougall reminded me of just how big families can be!

It was great to meet members of John's family- Connecticut Yankees who wouldn't miss the opportunity to show John their love and support.

Over the years we have had opportunity to meet several members of Kristina's family- her parents, Ken and Carleen, worship with us while not in Brazil and her sisters have joined us for special events along the way. Most of Kristina's extended family are involved in missions and ministry and many partners in those ministries shared in the celebration.

The "family" grew, though, as I watched our church family in action. John, Kristina, and Alexa are part of us and the Towne View family shared generously in helping make the day special. We could all leave with the sense of love, excitement, and pride for this new family- part of our family!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Camp Wherry by the Numbers

There are a number of ways to "measure" an event- here's Camp Wherry "by the numbers:

48 participants
18 children in Vacation Bible School each afternoon
562 man-hours of work (including painting, cleaning, mowing, weed eating, sidewalk installation,and speed bump removal)
75 guests from the community at the Block Party
1 trip to urgent care
72 craft activities completed
?? hours of sleep (not nearly enough!)
45 children at water day
1-5 degree high temperature (with three days over 100 degrees)

To "fuel this effort" we consumed:
30 pounds of sugar
75 gallons of tea, lemon aid, and kool-aid
14 gallons of milk
10 gallons of orange juice
18 dozen eggs
240 sausage balls
28 pounds of ground beef, chicken, and sausage
18 dozen servings of home-made cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and brownies

Seeds have been planted in the residents of this community and in the lives of our youth... pray as the Spirit brings this work to fruition!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Part In God's Plans

In 1Corinthians 3:5-9 Paul writes about how each of us has a part to play in God's work in our world. I am seeing that concept lived-out this week at Camp Wherry- our annual youth mission trip to the Wherry Housing Cooperative outside Smyrna TN.

As John Key, director of Community Servants, told our folks about how one of the units we are working on would most likely house a refugee family and another would provide affordable housing for a widow I could see eyes opening and wheels turning in the minds of our youth. They would most likely never see the end result of their labor or meet the families that would call these places home. Another group will pick-up next week where we leave the project until someone is handed a set of keys. We are a part of something far bigger than "us" this week. That's kingdom-building!

I am reminded that our work would not be possible without the labor provided by many of you before we even left home. You might not see the red-brick units or receive the gift of a smile from the child but you have played a part by praying for us, baking desserts, browning meats, rolling sausage balls, writing Bible stories, donating materials, supplying scholarships, and giving to our church budget.

There is no difference between the one who plants and the one who waters; God will reward each one according to the work they have done. For we are partners together with God. 1Corinthians 3:8-9a

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lessons to be (re)learned

"Sometimes I sits and thinks... sometimes I just sits."

I'm not certain who to credit for the quote but it is certainly worth sitting and thinking on for a time.

I'm in a somewhat reflective state of mind today because it was on June 28 last year that we caught the plane for our study leave in London. I spent almost a year getting me (and the church) getting ready for what turned-out to be an unforgettable month of rest, reflection, and renewal.

It has been exciting to have those "hey, we were there" moments while watching a television show, movie... or royal wedding. I have maintained my interest in Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church through their website and e-mail correspondence with their minister. Priscilla, Elizabeth, and I find ourselves regularly sharing "London memories." I remain incredibly grateful for the opportunity that our church family provided us.

In looking back, I am reminded what a slow learner I am. It is at this point that I ask you to pray for me and possibly even join me in the journey:

I stay too busy. Time away from our routines and responsibilities is important- even God took a day-off! Busy-ness does not always equal productivity. We are in the midst of a complex and busy season in our church (and in my family as well) but I still need to discipline myself to "be still and know (maybe remember) that He is God."

I don't read enough. When we went through orientation at seminary Dr. Ronald Deering, the director of the library, told us "in the class rooms you will learn from some of the brightest scholars of this generation, when you come to this library you will learn from the best minds of the ages." I haven't read as many books in the eleven months since we returned as I did in the month of my study leave. I need to engage with others to reinforce what I know and to challenge what I thought I knew- books are a great way to accomplish this.

I need to take better advantage of what's around me.
I don't need to go overseas to find a beautiful park, lovely lake, interesting museum, or experience God in new patterns of worship. Now- all of these were wonderful gifts that I experienced in London- but they are available to me here in north Georgia. Maybe I need to make a new list of "sights to see and places to be."

As I said... I'm a slow learner...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Prayer for Attentive Prayer

Our God and Father, draw us to Thyself by Thy Spirit, and may the few minutes that we spend in prayer be full of the true spirit of supplication. Grant that none of us with closed eyes may yet be looking abroad over the fields of vanity, but may our eyes be really shut to everything else now but that which is spiritual and Divine. May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us as a little sanctuary.

O, Lord, we do not find it easy to get rid of distracting thoughts, but we pray Thee to help us draw the sword against them and drive them away, and as when the birds cam down upon his sacrifice Abraham drove them away, so may we chase away all cares, all thoughts of pleasure, everything else, whether it be pleasing or painful, that would keep us away from real fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

from C. H. Spurgeon's Prayers

Now, let's pray!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Changing the Landscape

Work has begun in earnest on the the University Club on Frey student housing development. With plans to open in August 2012 the developers anticipate about 450 students will occupy the townhouse-style facility.

Right now, things are a mess- a noisy, dusty, active mess. Heavy equipment is in and out, trees are down and gone, and they haven't even started moving dirt, yet... other than the swirling red-clay dust. It takes a lot of work to build something new and the landscape has to change for us to see beyond familiar surroundings to a new view of the future.

With all of this going on around us there is much work going on in our church as well. This work is just as active, almost as noisy, and also involves kicking-up some dust.

Our mission team to Bulgaria is back and our Builders for Christ will soon be on their way to Utah. Ben Gribble is already in Cambodia. Plans are well underway for our youth mission trip to Camp Wherry in Smyrna TN and for our children's camp at Centri-kid in Norman Park GA.

Daniel Rice is on-the-go as our summer youth ministry assistant. He's off to a great start working on plans for Camp Wherry, supervising Vacation Bible School recreation, Sunday/Tuesday/Wednesday youth events, and other opportunities for our youth. I am grateful the Lord led Daniel our way and invite you to pray for him and support him in whatever ways possible.

Oh yes- it's the week before Vacation Bible School- need I say more? Enrollment is approaching 140 children- which means we'll probably have at least 150 participants. I encourage your prayers for these children, their families, and for our witness to the community. Pray also for our VBS director, Melanie Connell, and for all of our volunteers.

Pray for me- I am trying something new in my approach to preaching for the summer. This summer I will be preaching through the book of 1Peter. I haven't done this type of exposition in a while so I would appreciate your prayers. You can help me by reading through 1Peter regularly- you could read one chapter a day each week through the summer to "prime your pump" as we explore God's word together.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Grateful Good-bye

This week find ourselves saying good-bye to Trey and Jen Lyon after nine years of service on our ministry staff. I approach this task with a range of emotions: sadness to see a friend and partner-in-ministry depart; excitement over their new ministry opportunity; a bit of pride over Trey's development and growth; but mostly, a sense of gratitude.

I am grateful for the gifts and abilities that Trey shared so generously with our church and community. He is a great teacher and faithful guide for our youth. His technology skills have enhanced our worship, outreach, communication abilities, and general operations as a church.

I am grateful for his passion and commitment to mission and missions. Trey made a decision that even "fun" activities should have a mission component. Our youth have grown to understand that service is a significant component of faith. Our annual mission trip to work with Community Servants- at what we now call "Camp Wherry"- is a week that our youth look forward to, that the leaders of the mission look forward to our coming, and even better- the folks of that housing community eagerly anticipate! From orphans in Bulgaria to the homeless in Atlanta to the needy in our own community- Trey has helped us see and minister to the needs of others. We have a generation of youth and young adults who see life, faith, and service differently because of Trey's influence.

I am grateful for a fellow minister from a different generation, who "thinks younger" than me. For nine years Trey has been a valued sounding board, engaging conversationalist- about current events and church history, and creative worship planner. Because of Trey I am much less insecure about right-clicking on my mouse!

I am grateful for Jen and Gabe. Too often we overlook a minister's spouse. Gifted in her own right, Jen has shared generously with our children's choirs, as a Sunday School teacher, Vacation Bible School volunteer, worship leader, counselor and friend to youth and adults.

I am grateful that Trey and Jen have remained open to God's leadership in their future ministry. They are following what they sense to be God's direction to leave a "safe" place of ministry to take the risk of stepping into a much-less secure future. They have found their security not in established buildings, budgets, or bureaucracy but in the assurance of God's calling and provision.

Thank-you God for Trey and Jen: for who they are, for what they've done, and for the exciting future you have in store for them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Kingdom Beyond Our Corner

We are privileged to be a part of a local community of faith that gathers for worship, discipleship, and fellowship at a strategic intersection in Kennesaw, Georgia. From this location we regularly scatter to share the Good News in word and action-- mission and ministry, if you will.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a good reminder that we are a part of Kingdom-work far beyond our little corner in Kennesaw:

During the day we hosted a regional training event for Stonecroft Ministries. Delores Burkett has been a local leader in Stonecroft for a number of years. Perhaps best know for its Christian Women's Clubs, Stonecroft is focused on ministry and evangelism with women. website:

Over supper our Bulgaria Mission team members met to review plans for their upcoming trip. Hyacinth Crooks, Teresa Denmark and Lorraine Roote (joined by Tom & Lorraine's daughter, Patti) will be serving with missionaries Paul & Judy Ridgway as they prepare for the opening of the Training and Transition Center in Borovtsi. website:

Our prayer service time was blessed by a presentation about opportunities for service in Rwanda. Linda Cox (Mark Trimble's cousin)and her family shared of work among children and refugees that was both heart-wrenching and encouraging. You can find out more about the work and ways to support through the following websites:

Most Sundays at least one of our scripture readings is a text from the common lectionary- which means that it is being read in worship services around the world. Yesterday's events remind us of opportunities to partner with others for service and evangelism. Let's be faithful... on our corner... and across His kingdom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Martyr's Prayer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who was executed by the Nazi regime. The prayer below was written for Christmas 1943 for his fellow prisoners:

O God,
Early in the morning I cry unto you.
Help me to pray and to think only of you.
I cannot pray alone.
In me there is darkness but with you there is light.
I am lonely but you leave me not.
I am feeble in heart but you leave me not.
I am restless but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience.
Your ways are past understanding,
but you know the way for me.
O heavenly Father,
I praise and thank you for the peace of the night.
I praise and thank you for this new day.
I praise and thank you for all your goodness and faithfulness throughout my life.
You have granted me many blessings:
Now let me accept tribulations from your hand.
You will not lay on me more than I can bear.
You make all things work together for good
For your children.

(The Doubleday Prayer Collection, p.287)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Little Things

My Dad always said it was "the little things" that made a business successful. It's "the little things" that make a big difference at church as well.

Week by week I am blessed... and many others are as well- by folks who:

-help guests find a seat
-bring in extra seats when needed
-seek out guests to greet and make welcome
-clean-out the coffee pots
-cross the generational divide to speak to a fellow worshiper
-take out the trash
-jump in to help when an activity is short-handed
-put a little extra in the offering- just because
-offer a smile to a squirmy child
-clean a counter-top or wash a coffee cup (even if the mess wasn't theirs!)
-ask "how are you, today?" and really mean it

Most of the time these "little things" are done without asking!

Help me out- what "little things" done by big-hearted people have I missed?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Sears Catalog

Priscilla's father loved to tell the stories of growing-up in rural northeast Georgia. He remembered vividly ordering items from the Sears Roebuck catalog- he still laughed about ordering batteries that cost less than the postage! There was something special about being able to look through that wish book and choose an item, color, style, size and make it "just right" for you. Somehow going on-line doesn't seem quite as magical!

Easter Sunday was that sort of "mail order" day. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful spring-time morning in north Georgia. We were blessed with a packed-house of joyful worshipers, wonderful music, the celebration of baptism, and, of course, an abundance of children (I think we blew the "cute factor" off the scale!).

Our Easter "pumps" had been primed through-out the week. Opportunities for service like the Bulgaria mission fund-raiser and Easter Eggstravaganza were outstanding successes. Our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service offered meaningful opportunities for reflection and worship. All this was made possible by a "cast of thousands" (at least it seemed like that many) who gladly shared the gifts of their time, energy, and skills.

I can't wait for next year's catalog to arrive!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Lagniappe is a wonderful word. Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi says it is "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get." It's hard for a dictionary to define most anything cajun but the book definition is "something given gratuitously or by way of good measure." Basically lagniappe is more of an experience than a word, it is something added, that unexpected extra. In the vocabulary of faith we call these blessings.

I am reveling in a lagniappe moment now-- and it hasn't even happened yet! You see, Saturday afternoon we'll have our Bluegrass and Burgers for Bulgaria event. The purpose of the event is to raise funds to support our team that will be in Bulgaria May 28-June 5 to assist in the opening of the Borovtsi Training and Transition Center. This team, members include Lorraine Roote, Hyacinth Crooks, and Teresa Denmark (joined by Tom and Lorraine's daughter, Patti Lowe)will be our fifth to assist missionaries Paul and Judy Ridgway. The money we raise will help off-set costs and provide supplies for the trip.

The lagniappe, the blessing if you will, is in all that is going on to make the event possible. Our Missions Committee (Hyacinth Crooks, Charles Dixon, Alison Nokes, Shirley Morris, John Trimble) has given generously of their time and skills. Other members of our fellowship have jumped-in, friends, neighbors, and local businesses have joined in making, donating, and volunteering.

Food, music, games, silent auction... all these will help meet our goal of raising money. The development of fellowship, leadership, service, friendships, generous spirits, a sense of mission... now that's lagniappe from God!

**all that stuff in the first paragraph came from Wikipedia
**for more information about the Transition Center, Bulgarian Child, Inc., and missionaries Paul and Judy Ridgway go to

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Future Starts Now

As a congregation we are in the process of discerning God's direction in two key areas of our church life: the master planning of our land and facilities; and the shaping of ministry staff. The decisions we ultimately make in these two areas will shape the ministry of Towne View Baptist Church long into the future. In that sense, the future starts now!

Our Site Planning Committee and Personnel Committee are seeking the input of our membership as they fulfill their responsibilities. You may participate by completing the survey prepared by each committee. Go to our church website and click the "church survey" button. Each survey takes about five minutes to complete... even I could do it! Paper copies are available at church if you aren't internet active or encounter difficulties on-line.

Further opportunities for involvement will come as the committees schedule "listening groups" for informal conversations and more formal discussions during congregational business sessions. Any final decisions will be made by the congregation.

As a church we seek to hear and follow God's direction in a variety of ways. We begin with individual prayer, continue with the enlistment of gifted members to study and pray through their committee processes, and as baptists, we trust God to speak through the decisions of the church body. Your participation in the process isn't just about expressing your personal preferences, it is a part of the larger task of discovering God's direction for our church and its ministry. The future starts now!

Friday, April 8, 2011

A walk on the beach

Yesterday I had the best therapy session psychotherapy can provide... a long walk on the beach!

There is something uniquely refreshing about sand between your toes, the warmth of the south Florida sun, and the gentle breeze. Where else can you watch sand pipers chasing the waves, pelicans bobbing for fish, and sea gulls squabbling over leftovers?

I stopped to gaze past the whitecaps and the scattered watercraft to the expanse of the horizon. It's interesting how in one moment you can feel so... small. I remembered a prayer by a Brighton (England) fisherman... "Lord, the sea is so big and my boat is so small."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Preachable Moment

As a parent, grandparent, teacher, or church volunteer, you from time to time experience "teachable moments" with young children. These are those special, unplanned, serendipitous situations that provide an opportunity to reinforce a concept or to help a child see or experience something in a new way.

Sunday morning I experienced a "preachable moment." It wasn't one of those "Oh, there's a good sermon illustration" experiences- though you might be surprised when those can come! Instead, my preachable moment was a new experience for me, the preacher, right in the middle of the sermon!

The message came from John's account of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. I was attempting to make the point that we need to be careful about how we interpret the stories of others' lives- most of us have heard that this woman was a prostitute, but there is no such indication in the text. I cautioned that we should be careful not to jump to conclusions about another's life story- like the woman, he/she could have simply had a "hard life," not necessarily a "bad life."

I sensed immediately that something happened. And then it dawned on me- we were in a room full of people whose story had been misunderstood, or even misrepresented. Jesus' refusal to condemn the woman was not just a model for our compassionate response to others- it was an offer of grace to us!

Thanks for teaching the preacher something last week!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Project: BOOKS

I am trying to bring some degree of order to my books this week. I'm not sure why--- maybe it looked easier than cleaning my desk!

In doing so I am reminded of the cartoon on an old calendar where a little boy is sitting in the pastor's study and the minister says, "No Jimmy, books do not count as things of this world."

The task is probably taking longer than it should. It seems like many of the books have their own story to tell. I am reminded that Charlie Saylors from our church in Louisville was generous to give me a portion of his library when he retired from active ministry. I will always be grateful to Bill and Jennifer Green of Louisville for giving me a treasure in The Interpreter's Bible commentary set and to my parents for a Christmas present of The Broadman Bible Commentary, even though they had no idea what a commentary was. I find myself thinking about our seminary years as I wander through old text books. Priscilla and I both received a Master of Divinity degree but knew better than to take classes together- except for the Marriage Enrichment class that almost did us in! Lots of church history... especially baptist history.

I am trying to organize to keep the books I use most regularly closest at hand. Bibles (how have a collected a whole shelf of Bibles?), hymnals, and worship resources are within easy reach. Commentaries are just a step away. Philosophy and languages... top shelf, get the ladder!

I find myself easily distracted by files and photos stuffed between, behind, and on top of books. Some "stuff" seemed important to me at the time. Some items were important to other people for me to have at the time. Do I really need to hold onto calendars and directories from over thirty years of ministry in four different churches?

I hope to finish this project by the weekend... after all I still have taxes to do. Then, maybe, I can turn my attention to my desk...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My benediction (the blessing/prayer at the end of worship) is a slight modification of Ephesians 3:20-21. I have used this benediction at the conclusion of Sunday morning worship for over 24 years... and yet stumbled over it Sunday morning! Thanks- church family- for taking it by heart and carrying us through!

Dr. James Speed was long-time pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Marietta and led his congregation in the following benediction:

Go forth into the world in peace,
be of good courage;
hold fast to that which is true;
render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak, help the afflicted;
honor all;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God the Father,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.


(Thanks to Faith Jansen for sharing this prayer, which was given to Taylor as he was awarded his Eagle Scout.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Towne View Then... Beth Trimble

I don’t move well. When I have to leave my home and start over somewhere new I do not see this event as an adventure, but as a leap into an abyss. I feel completely un-tethered and disoriented. I am unprepared to go to church, the grocery store, and the mall and see only a blur of strangers. When Mark, Adam, John and I moved to Georgia in 1990 it was no different.
To add insult to injury, I made a very significant error in my search for my new church home. We loved Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. I mean I loved everything about this powerful church. I began to look for a Georgia version of Crescent Hill. Mark was working every weekend at Six Flags Over GA and placed his trust in me to search for a church home. I began this task with the overwhelming feelings of being bereft of friends, home and security.
Adam shared my trepidation in the quest. He had been given a photo album by his Sunday school friends as a going away present. He took it with him every Sunday morning and walked into every strange church with it held close to his chest like a shield. He told me, “I need to hold the faces of my friends close to my heart”, it broke my heart, because I knew exactly how he felt. We seemed to find one colorful adventure after another on our search.
One Sunday after visiting Johnson’s Ferry Baptist Church I got onto I 285 in my 65 Mustang with my boys in the back and started driving. Apparently I missed my exit and made a very large circle around Atlanta. My tired and hungry boys quietly asked, “Are we ever going to get home?” at one church Adam whispered nervously, “I think that guy is going to yell at us”, that guy was the pastor and Adam was right, he did yell at us. We didn’t go back. I began to feel like Goldilocks, this one was too big, that one was too hard, nothing was the right fit.
Eventually we joined North Side Drive Baptist church. It is a wonderful church and was my replacement church. It gave me time to heal and adjust to Atlanta, but in time I began to realize that God’s plan was not for me to replace Crescent Hill, but to be open to a new home and a new place for God to have me serve and grow. In the summer of 1992 I wanted to find a Vacation Bible School close to home for Adam and John to attend. A friend, Jeff Siebert, found “Big Star Baptist”, AKA Towne View and it was quickly obvious that this was our home.
When we became members of Towne View Jim and Priscilla Conrad were not yet at Towne View. My sons grew up here and were a part of the growth of the church. John and Lindy met and married here at Towne View. Although both the church and my family have been through times of celebration and times of grief throughout the years God has been faithful. I have had the privilege of witnessing God’s faithfulness. I have had the opportunity to minister to others and I have been minister to by my church family. God has blessed me here and that blessing is available to you too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Towne View...Now- Julie Whitfield

As a part of our 22nd anniversary service I asked Julie Whitfield to share about her family's experience in our church as "newer" members:

Pastor Conrad asked me to stand this morning and talk a little about Towne View now. The best way I know to do that to tell you a few of the reasons why jimmy and I joined this church.

We were looking for a “together” church. I was a member at Pickett’s Mill and Jimmy was a member at Acworth First Baptist before we were married. And I think we passed by this church or we saw an advertisement for it somewhere and decided to try it out. We had been to several churches at this point and none seemed to “fit”.

One of the first things that stuck out to us about the church happened early on during one of our first visits. Lily was still an infant and it was raining. Jimmy had stopped to let us out closer to the door of the church and as I looked down to unbuckle my seat belt and glanced back up a man appeared outside the car door with a large umbrella. He was waiting to help usher Lily and I into the church. I have come to know that man as Clint Nokes but we have had several of those experiences with each of our deacons. Quietly doing a little something extra to help out. At the time I thought it was a nice gesture… I have since come to recognize this as a personality trait of Towne View. A Kindness. A genuine “welcome”ness from the members that, yes, we want you here.

Another thing Jimmy and I noticed was how every time we left church and settled back into our car to start our drive home, we would compare notes. Our thoughts on the message, what spoke to us… We continually came to the same conclusion… Pastor Jim was stalking us! He had to be! I know it seems unlikely but he was consistently preaching a message that just “happened” to be the exact message that Jimmy and I each needed to hear that very week… every week. To this day we still feel that way. How the word of God is spoken each week just for us. Spoken in a way that it applies so perfectly to our lives that we couldn’t possibly fit this well anywhere else.

But what finally sealed the deal for our little family was the children’s message. Seeing the sweet parade of faces march to the front each week, soaking up every word Mr. Mark has to say. Learning and listening to him break down Gods complex message in a simple yet beautiful way… We were so excited for Lily to finally be old enough to join. This January was her first message. She talked about it for days. We, only now of course, realize that we should be worried about what comes out of her mouth while she is up there… but that’s another story. Seeing her grab her friends hands and run to hear God’s word with such excitement. Hearing it from the members of this church. That tells me every Sunday that we are right where we are supposed to be.

Since joining 3 years ago, we have realized even more that we love about this church. We love the genuine excitement about mission work. We love the amazing family events, Easter Extravaganza, Fall Family Fun Fair. But most of all, we love the friends we have found in all of you. You are Towne View and you, my church family, are an amazing group. We count ourselves lucky to have found you and to be able to worship alongside of you.

Here is to another 22 years. Happy Anniversary!

Anniversary Message- Where Do We Go from Here?


TVBC Characteristics/Priorities

In “12 Keys to an Effective Church,” Kennon Callahan says every church should have 2/3 things that it is known for on the “community grapevine.” This reputation should represent the strengths of the congregation and be the foundation for ministries/programs. Callahan advocates that churches build on their strengths and cautions that “no church can be good at everything.”

These are the strengths I identify in our congregation. You may have a different list. Some may be more aspirational than actual. But it is important that we know who we are in order to know where we are going. The world in which we live challenges us to pack light- to pack strategically- for the journey into service.

• By building and maintaining facilities that are attractive, accessible, and available.
• By creating an atmosphere that is comfortable and inviting regardless of age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.
• By crafting worship services that honor God and inspire attenders in active participation and blend a variety of elements and musical styles.

Connected to the Community:
• By providing quality programs geared to families with children. (i.e. Vacation Bible School, Fall Family Fun Fair, & Community Easter Eggstravaganza)
• By actively developing relationships with community partners. (i.e. Chalker Elementary School, Highland Court Senior Residences, Laurel’s Edge Senior Apartments, and Baptist Collegiate Ministries @ Kennesaw State University, starting tonight, Campus Church)
• By intentionally sharing facilities with the community. (i.e. Cobb County Board of Elections, neighborhood groups, weddings, school & scout groups, interest groups like dulcimer and crochet groups, and other not-for-profit/service agencies)

Missional Mindset:
• By encouraging lay involvement/leadership in all areas of church life.
• By challenging persons to service through personal mission action.
• By building on-going ministry partnerships through prayer, participation, promotion, and the provision of resources that enable the church to minister locally, nationally, and globally.

Let’s never forget:
• Who we belong to!
• What God has done for us!
• What God has for us to do!

We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1Peter 2:9 (adapted)

Anniversary Message- How Did We Get Here?

• We’re here because over 50 years ago Bob Franklin and Floyd Roebuck were classmates at Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham; in the 1980’s Dr. Franklin would lead Noonday Baptist Association to start a new church in the Kennesaw area and Dr. Roebuck would lead First Baptist Church of Rome to share generously of people and money to sponsor the new church
• We’re here because in their retirement Wayne Olsen came to Marietta to volunteer his time as a church start strategist; businessman Bob Eubanks shared generously of his financial resources; and Monroe Swilley served as interim pastor in those first critical months
• We’re here because folks like the Burketts and Tollisons and Laniers and Joneses left established churches to help start a new one; we’re here because friends and neighbors invited each other; we’re here because Gene Lanier drove down from Calhoun each Sunday to help care for babies in the nursery; we’re here because Joe and Elaine Stukes took the risk of bringing their three preschoolers and becoming the first black members of our congregation; we’re here because in time of controversy and discouragement there were those who held strong to the vision of Towne View Baptist Church; we’re here because in time a young congregation opened its arms to older adults; we’re here because God brought Locksana Karanja to Kennesaw from Kenya and opened doors to internationals; we’re here because God has brought people from all walks of life, indeed from all over the world, to this community, to this church. We’re here because folks looked beyond a motel conference room, looked beyond a shopping center, looked beyond a school cafeteria, looked beyond trailers to see a church!

Anniversary Message- Where Are We?

We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1Peter 2:9 (adapted)

Happy Anniversary!!

• We gather to worship in a building worth over $1 million sitting on just over six acres of land worth over $1 million- DEBT FREE!
• We finished the 2010 fiscal year with the second highest budget income in church history; and due to your generosity and God’s provision we were able to keep expenses below budget levels; exceed our goal for budget income; repay ourselves monies borrowed from designated accounts; and finish the year with a little money in the bank!
• On the down-side our attendance figures for Sunday School and worship have remained basically on a plateau for about the last ten years
• On the up-side our involvement with missions and ministry is at an all-time high: our deacons administer a benevolence ministry that touches dozens of families in the community and in our fellowship; our partnership with Baptist Collegiate Ministries facilitates 100-120 KSU and Southern Polytechnic students worshiping here each Tuesday night; our members- adults and teens- have shared their faith and their hard work from Smyrna TN to New Orleans LA to Manteno IL to Grant park in Atlanta to Honduras and locally with Storehouse Ministries and Chalker Elementary School; later in 2011 Ben Gribble will be on mission in Cambodia and our members will return to help Paul and Judy Ridgway open the Transition Center in Bulgaria; travel to Ogden UT with Builders for Christ; and return to serve with Community Servants at the Wherry Housing Cooperative in Smyrna TN and to reach seafarers by assisting Global Maritime Ministries at the Port of New Orleans.
• We are in a time of uncertainty as our Site Planning Committee helps envision future ministries, facilities, and land use and as our Personnel Committee evaluates ministry and staffing needs in light of Keith’s resignation as Minister of Music and Trey and Jen’s move to their new mission work later in May.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Remembering the Future

Anniversaries are generally exciting times of celebration. An anniversary inevitably leads one to look back to "how things started" and to look ahead to what the future might hold.

This Sunday we will celebrate the twenty-second anniversary of the first public worship service of what we know today as Towne View Baptist Church.We have folks working on meal preparations, planning music and worship, enlisting testimonies, and making preparation for baptism. It should be a wonderful day of worship and celebration, a time for looking back with gratitude and looking ahead with anticipation.

A few are still with us who were a part of the preparations for that first service. I am sure that week was filled with procurement of equipment and supplies, preparation for worship, and follow-up with invitees from surrounding neighborhoods. It had to be an exciting, frightening, faith-stretching venture!

We are the inheritors of the faith and sacrifice of those who came before us. An anniversary is a good time to remember and give thanks for those who came before us, and the God who guided them along the way.An anniversary is also a good time to think about the future and the gifts we will leave to those who come after us... and to commit ourselves and our church once again to the God who guides us along the way.

O may all who come behind us find us faithful;
May the light of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave lead the to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us find us faithful.

text by Jon Mohr

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little Things

Around Christmas time each year my Mom liked to remind my brothers and me that "good things come in small packages." This was her not-so-subtle interjection into our debates over would have have the biggest (and obviously best) gift on Christmas morning. Over time I came to realize that "bigger (wasn't) always better-" that sometimes the gifts most treasured did indeed come in the smallest package.

That said, good things don't always come in small packages and conversely, not everything that comes in a small package is good.

Take this kidney stone that has had me in turmoil this week- please, take it! The stone is so small that is barely visable on a CT scan, yet has turned my world upside down- I've lost sleep, lost weight, lost time at work, and feel like I am about to lose my mind!

While this kidney stone takes its time deciding what to do (it has until tomorrow when I return to the doctor!) I have made a decision: I have decided that today I will be grateful for little things: like the crocus that is tentatively peeking its head up in our backyard, the finches darting about among the bird feeders and trees outside my office window, the gift of a smile and gentle hug, a word of encouragement from someone I was trying to help, God's still, small voice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feeling Old(er)

I felt old(er) when I went to bed last night. The birthday was a couple of weeks ago. Yes, Elizabeth just turned fifteen. It was a television show that made me feel old. Not just any show, but the fifty-third presentation of the Grammy Awards.

How could a music awards show have such an impact on my psyche? I didn't know anybody! Well, almost anybody. I recognized a couple of country music performers, several of the life-time achievement award winners (that's like hearing the bands/musicians of your youth on the oldies stations), and, of course, Justin Bieber (I haven't been living on Mars for the last year!). Oh, and there were those acts known more for their outrageous behavior than their "music."

After seeing and hearing some of these performers I was grateful for what I had missed! Then I remembered my Dad's evaluation of the music I listened to as a teen... and felt old! Maybe every generation has to find a musical style that offends its parents!

Earlier Sunday evening I had visited Campus Church. The music was louder than I might normally choose and the style different than what I might normally prefer. But the message was clear... and the music and the message led that group of college students- and one Old(er) Baptist Preacher- into an experience of worship with the Living God.

Maybe every generation has to find a musical style that leads it to worship...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Difficulties of Praying

Henri Nouwen was a popular preacher/teacher back during my seminary days. I found this prayer today and invite you to join me and Nouwen in this conversation with God.

Why, O Lord, is it so hard to keep my heart directed toward you? Why do the many little things I want to do, and the many people I know, keep crowding into my mind, even during the hours I am totally free to be with you and you alone? Why does my mind wander off in so many directions, and why does my heart desire the things that lead me astray? Are you not enough for me? Do I keep doubting your love and care, your mercy and grace? Do I keep wondering, in the center of my being, whether you will give me all I need if I just keep my eyes on you?

Please accept my distractions, my fatigue, my iritations, and my faithless wanderings. You know me more deeply and fully than I know myself. You love me with a greater love than I can love myself. You even offer more than I can desire. Look at me, see me in all my misery and inner confusion, and let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil. All I can do is show myself to you. Yet, I am afraid to do so. I am afraid that you will reject me. But I know-- with the knowledge of faith-- that you desire to give me your love. The only thing you ask of me is not to hide from you, not to run away in despair, not to act as if you were a relentless despot.

Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest, simple quiet rest. Do I ask too much too soon? I should not worry about that. You will let me know.

Come, Lord Jesus. come. Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

God With Skin-on

There's a much-used sermon illustration about a little boy who was frightened by a storm one night. Several times he cried out in fear and his mother would come to his room for comfort and to remind him that God was always with him. As she prepared to leave the third time her son grabbed her arm, held tight, and said, "I know Mommy, but I want God with skin-on!"

I have been blessed this week by appearance after appearance of "God with skin-on."

I have seen "God with skin-on" in hospital rooms as friends gathered for prayer and support.

"God with skin-on" has been in doctors offices for pre-op visits and provided transportation for follow-up care.

"God with skin-on" has been present in hugs and handshakes, laughter and tears, conversation and quiet.

Sometimes "God with skin-on" has delivered a meal and provided companionship for an afternoon.

The late Wayne Oates, a marvellous professor and practitioner of pastoral care for generations of students at Southern Seminary, called this idea of "God with skin-on" the ministry of presence. Dr. Oates reminded us that whenever we visit we share our lives with someone and when we go in the name of Christ and his church we become the powerful presence of God, as well.

We are all glad for "God with skin-on" in the dark, stormy, scarey times of life.

Monday, January 31, 2011

An Investment in the Future

There was a sense of symmetry in Sunday's service. Like most times we gather for worship we enjoyed a variety of more contemporary and traditional musical styles, heard the reading of scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments, and were led in worship by both men and women, younger and older. But there was something more than that this week.

Early in the service we shared in a time of dedication for Jimmy and Julie Whitfield and their infant daughter, Emma (with big sister Lily along for support). We made promises as church and parents to love and encourage this new life towards God's future for her.

Later in the service we heard a powerful word of testimony from Collin Ross about his winter break mission experience in Haiti. I was touched by both what Collin had to say and how he said it. Now a college junior, Collin was a toddler when he and his family became a part of the Towne View family.

Between preschool and UGA there have been extended session volunteers, Sunday School teachers, Mission Friends leaders, choir workers, youth ministers, retreat chaperons, Vacation Bible School workers, and parents and grandparents who have encouraged him in his faith journey. Along the way he was given opportunities to discover his gifts and develop his skills in becoming a servant-leader.

Collin concluded his remarks with an expression of gratitude for a church family that encouraged his desire to want to do something like this mission trip. I am already looking forward to the story that one day Emma might have to share!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

deacons to Deacons

Sunday was a good day for our church as we ordained three new deacons. We don't do many hour and a half long services here so things may have felt a bit rushed towards the end. I hope you will indulge me the opportunity to reflect on some things I said during the service.

The act of ordination says something about those being ordained to the ministry of deacon. The act of ordination says that we see in them a depth of faith, sincerity of spirit, giftedness for service, and desire to minister that sets them apart as deacons.

The ordination of Matt, Hyacinth, and John also says something about our church. These three and their families came to us through neighborhood contact, the invitation/insistence of a friend, and the recommendation of a friend-of-a-friend. They represent the diversity of our church: black and white, male and female, new members and long-term investors in our ministry. As I watched the long line of folks pass by to bless them through the laying-on-of-hands I saw men and women, mothers, children, wives, brothers,friends,folks from the four corners of the globe called to this place to be church for one another.

Ultimately the service said something about God. We serve a God who gifts His children for service and the empowers us to use those gifts in service to the church and community. These gifts, and the responsibilities that accompany them, aren't just for the elite or extraordinary but for folks like Matt and Hyacinth and John and you and me.

My closing thoughts for the service came from 1Corinthians 1:1-9
** God has given us grace
**God has enriched us, gifted us, for service
**God will strengthen us as we serve
**God is faithful!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let it snow!

Reactions to our wintry weather have been varied... and interesting:

Sunday afternoon on my way home from church I snatched the last gallon of milk off the shelf.. not feeling guilty at all!

One of Thomas' room mates, a Chicago native, snarled "what are all these people so hyped about- it's just a little snow!"

Monday morning a neighbor walked about a mile to get a newspaper- only to find the convenience store closed!

By Tuesday afternoon another neighbor walked even further to get to out of her house (I mean to get to a coffee shop).

Wednesday night I realized that being at church on Wednesdays does not cause me to miss-out on any good television shows.

On the way into the office Thursday morning the radio news guy informed us that orthopedic surgeons are busy this week and obstetricians expect to be booming in early October!

The cardinals outside my window are beautiful but I wonder--- when are the robins coming?