Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday I heard a knock at the church office door. Tony had come by to give $20 "for the lights." He had a big smile on his face and said "tell the pastor that it's from a friend who lives near by." I only knew his name because Kathy heard me talking to him. From appearances it doesn't look like Tony has much money or could a job. But apparently he'll knock on our doors from time to time and give $20 because we open our building to the Neighborhood Watch group that means each quarter in our annex.

When I returned to my desk the words of the song below came to mind as well as the blog of a friend, Jim Clark, director of Christian Service Center in Abilene. It seems to me that the more we realize what the Lord has done for us, the more we want to live our lives for him. The greater the sense of grace, the greater our sense of gratitude. I guess it's a lot like the movie Pay it Forward. Maybe that describes Tony. I sometimes wonder if it describes me.

Let the weak say I am strong.
Let the poor say I am rich.
Let the blind say I can see.
It's what the Lord has done for me.

Into the river I will wade
Where my sins are washed away
From the heaven's mercy seat
Of the savior's love for me.

I will rise from waters deep.
Into the saving arms of Christ
I will sing salvation songs.
Jesus Christ has died for me.

Hosanna, hosanna to the lamb that was slain
Hosanna, hosanna Jesus died and rose again
Last night when I walked into the living room Jenna was sitting on our couch looking at my Bible. She looked up and said "Daddy's Bible." So I just had to take a picture and put it on here. She spent 10 minutes turning its pages saying "Bible." We'll start working on her Koine Greek next week. Here are just a couple of other interesting words Jenna has picked up -- "sausages" (it sounds so cute coming from such a little girl's voice) and "oh Baby."

And of course I'd be remiss not to include pictures of my amazing Julia who is hard at work on her homework unlike her daddy who should have been grading papers.

I'll leave you with a profound thought I was reminded of by Beverly the other day. Whenever you find yourself in a mess that seems impossible just let these words be your inspiration. "What am I doing in Mexico?"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's amazing what's not on TV at 4:00 AM. I don't get cable so that doesn't help any. Out of the 10 or so stations my rabbit ears pick up, 6 are doing infomercials for Ginsu Knives or the Body by Jake Ab Rocker. I guess they figure you'll be so out of t you might actually think it's a good idea to buy one of these products.

Since I'm bored and can't sleep I thought I'd list some of my favorite (worst) infomercial products I've seen on TV.
Miracle Anti-Fungal treatment. I don't really want to know the marketing research that went into the development of the infomercial for this product, but it does stop the spread of fungal growth.

Waistband Pant Skirt E-Z Stretcher. I guess this might come in handy after a big meal such as at Thanksgiving.

Laser Light Hair Brush. Just think guys, you can have this for only $189.99. Look closely at the before/after. What a difference! I've got to have this one.

Body Thigh Reduction Cream. The testimonies are riveting. The message is powerful. But do they have to keep on insisting that this product "really works?"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely surrender our will and do God’s will in us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Having chosen our course, and without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.” – Abraham Lincoln

A man plans his direction, but God orders his steps.”

Sometimes what’s next isn’t always as clear as I want it to be. I just want to do exactly what God would have me do, but I can’t always figure out what that might be. Sometimes I’m trying what I think God wants me to do, but it just doesn’t work. It’s as if I’m in a room in which absolutely no light penetrates and I’m looking for the light switch. I take baby steps waving my arms in front of me feeling my way to the light switch only to stub my toe on a chair.

In these moments I think I can relate to Paul. He wanted to go to Bithynia. He wanted to preach in Asia. He had plans. He wanted to do good things, but it just didn’t work out for him. Maybe he got sick. Maybe there was too much road construction. I’m not sure how he responded to these moments, but I like to imagine Paul growing frustrated. I like to envision him with restless thoughts. I see him spending much time in prayer and maybe even talking with those he trusted. Maybe he questioned himself. Maybe he wondered what to do.

I like to picture him this way because I tend to get frustrated, almost angry when I can’t seem to figure out what’s next. I tend to wrestle with my thoughts when things don’t work or go as I had hoped. In all this, I do know that God did show Paul what to do next for any time Paul does something we are told that the Spirit compelled him or led him into all he did. So, the question is how do I learn to be receptive to the Spirit’s leading in my own life, and only do those things God is leading me to do? I wish it were easier than it is.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Saturday I came home from a CPR/First-Aid class to a house filled with five 4-7 year-old girls. Julia had decided she wanted to throw a party in honor of the bald eagle being removed from the endangered species list. This happened several years ago, but I didn't have the heart to tell her. (Deana refers to this event in her blog as well.) While having her party, the girls decided to begin a recycling program so they began looking for things to recycle. This included digging through the trash. I'm not sure you could ever convince Julia she could not make a difference.

Check. Call. Care. Three words I heard at least a dozen times during my training Saturday. What a great concept for spiritual care. Last night there were 19 people in my home. We simply shared songs that had significant meaning to us. But as we did, I believe some spiritual care took place because some songs had meaning for people right now. As they shared, we were able to offer words and prayers for them and sing together. We took time to check on each other. Others were already there ready to be called upon to help provide care for one another.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I guess Jenna was hungry last night and got tired of waiting on us to feed her. We found her in the kitchen with this box of Scooters eating them right out of the box. You could say she takes after her daddy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A few days ago I was asked to describe a time when something didn't go as I had planned. I shared a few non-specific things. After the conversation I realized I had failed to share one of the more memorable times that things didn't go as well as planned. Some of you reading this will remember this all too well.

The spring of 2002 I worked with a group of people to plan a family retreat. I had secured the location 5 months before the retreat. In May I pulled up to the camp facilitity and was horrified. Cabins were locked up and about a 1/2 inch of tree pollen blanketed everything. Apparently, the one who books groups had forgotten to tel l the camp manager who maintained the facilities that we were coming. They hadn't had a group at the facility in nearly two months at that point. Instead of unpacking, we had to hose down, sweep, wipe, mop, and clean all the cabins and restrooms we were going to use.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I grew up spending a lot of time climbing mountains. Jerry and I always wanted to know what was on the other side of the next peak. We'd hike to got to the grandest vista we could find. I never was disappointed.

I tend to view my walk with God similarly. It's as if I'm on this hike. Sometimes the climb is smooth and flat. The progress is obvious as I gently make my way to the summit. The slope is gradual, the view open. I see God's hand in so many things in these moments. I see my own spiritual growth.

Other times it's as if I'm struggling up rocky slopes. Using my hands and feet I climb straight up. Though difficult, I see the progress. These are the times I'm in deep study over those things that I have serious questions. These are the times I seem to be climbing my way through theological questions. These are the times coaches such as professors, friends and other ministers have truly helped me.

Still other times the journey is as if I'm winding through thick brush back and forth. It's as if I'm hacking away at alders. Unable to see more than just a few feet in front of me. These moments are intense struggles on the hike. Like thistles and alders scratching and tearing my clothes my struggles with sin and other difficulties make the journey difficult. Yet, just like reaching the alpin requires going through the forest, making my spiritual journey thus far has required moments in my life that seemed dark and hard. Dealing with sin, a divorce, loss of a sister and other events have had a profound impact on my journey.

Finally, there are those moments on the climb where you pause to catch a glimpse of the view. Like a flat rock overlooking a lake or the ocean these moments are times when I can pause and see the bigger picture. They also make me long for a grander view. While climbing a mountain these moments are just a small taste of what lies ahead. The same is true of my spiritual journey. From the godliness of brothers and sisters in Christ, to the gratitude of helping someone in poverty I have caught glimpses of the bigger picture. From personal, intense moments of prayer to worship with other believers I've come to long for more than what I've experienced even to this point.

I'm not there yet. I've got so much to learn. So much further to go. I doubt I'll ever make the summit, for I see that as the glorious day of the return. But I journey onward and upward. Enjoying the vistas from time to time, recognizing the struggles are part of it and growing in my thankfulness for my fellow hikers.

May the Lord bless us as we strive to continue the climb.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What a difference 24 hours makes! Monday at 4:30 PM I'm on a snow machine travelling across a frozen lake at 80 mph. Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 I'm standing next to a fountain at Kemah Boardwalk watching my daughters play in the water.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

When I leave Houston this afternoon the temperature will be somewhere around 80 degrees. When I step outside of the Anchorage airport around midnight, it will be closer to 10 degrees. What a change!!!

Just some random thoughts about the next few days:
Sharon's memorial service is Saturday at 11:00 AM.
I haven't decided what I might say.
It'll be a different feeling to be in her home for the fist time and she not be there.
I look forward to spending some time with Tod and others.
I wish Deana could be with me. I hate being away from my family.
I'll miss the teens on Sunday.
God is most definitely good all the time.

Enjoy any time off you may have for those who actually get a spring break.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


You ever have one of those "aha" moments? These are those moments in which a light bulb was turned on. It's as if you had been in the dark all along and suddenly see the light. Here are just a few of those moments in my life.

1) I actually like broccoli.
2) I'd rather read a good book than watch TV
3) I prefer the calm silence in my car over a blaring stereo
4) I understand chemistry. I remember the day this happened. I was sitting in Dr. Reeves' chemistry class and suddenly a light went on. It's been pretty easy for me ever since.
5) I miss my best friend from Alaska. It wasn't until I spent some days with him for the first time in 11 years that I realized what kind of friendship we have had over the years.
6) My wife is absolutely amazing. The first time I truly realized this it made my legs weak. She doesn't even know. I took her for granted for too many years until we moved to Baytown and I watched as she knew exactly what to say and what to do in so many moments with so many different girls in our ministry over the years.

I guess the point is that things change in our lives. We get older, our bodies change, our minds mature, we grow spiritually, relationships evolve. Much of the time we seem to be unaware of those changes until it becomes apparent in a specific moment. It's as if the cumulation of all those small changes becomes evident in one moment.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Fake

“I just don’t get it. One minute we’re best friends, the next I’m being told I’m fake!” – a student

Students will tell you that being “a fake” is saying one thing but acting another. Though this may be true, a student is often labeled a fake for the slightest of mistakes. Maybe out of anger, words were said that shouldn’t have been. Maybe on a weekend another student gave in to a temptation she swore she never would. Instantly, the person is labeled “a fake.”

Someone trying to make changes in his/her life is seen as fake when that person messes up. Why is that? We are an impatient people, I think. Maybe it’s our pride. Maybe it’s what we do to make ourselves feel better about our own shortcomings. Maybe, it's a defense mechanism. When someone hurts us our immediate response is to hurt that person back and it's an easy target to point out the inconsistencies in that person.

What if, rather than rushing to judge the actions of another, we give the benefit of the doubt that someone is doing the best he/she can and realize that all of us make mistakes? What if, rather than call each other “a fake” we encourage each other to do the best we can?

Consider these words:
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.” – Colossians 3:13

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-3

May the Lord bless us as we strive to love others just as our Lord loves us.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It sounds crazy I know. I already have a busy summer schedule with student trips virtually every other week during the months of June and July, but I can't shake it. Maybe it's from God, maybe it's just me... I don't know, but I can't get out of my heart the devastation so many people still face from Hurricanes katrina and Rita. Much is still needed. Louisiana, Mississippi and other states effected by these hurricanes still need the help of the country. They can't rebuild on their own. It's too much, too overwhelming.

So, I would like to challenge our church family to be a part of a 4 day weekend June 29-July 2 to help the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ in Mandeville, LA. I have provided more information on our parents blog page.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I was just told by a student today that I scare them. To me, that's funny because this is a senior I have had in class for 3 years now at BCA. He said it's because I don't seem to get angry or have outbursts of anger. I started to think about it. I don't think I do have outbusrts of anger. I don't think it's that I keep it bottled up, I just don't get angry very often. Deana could probably correct me on this, but I don't remember really ever just losing it. The last time I remember really losing it was when we were engaged. She made me angry in my car right outside my apartment. As we were going in, I stormed passed her, nudged her not so nicely out oy way and went in. I was so overwhelmed with grief for my actions I swore I would never do anything like that again. Funny thing about that is I think it was a really dumb thing to be angry about. In fact, it all likelihood it was my fault.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


"Why is light given to one in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death but it does not come, and dig for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to one who cannot see the way, whom God has fenced in? For my sighing comes like my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. Truly the one thing I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no peace, but trouble comes."

His plight is one of the most tragic in all of history. Not only does he lose property and possessions, but all his children. All that remains are him and his wife. There is nothing. We're not told how much later. It could have been just a few days, maybe even years. I like to imagine Job just beginning to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. Maybe he had just laid the last stone of the burial plot of his chilren. Maybe he just hoisted the last beam for his new home. We don't know. But what we know is that days later, he is inflicted with terrible sores throughout his body.

At this even his wife utters words of despair. Words sent straight from the enemy. "Curse God and die." Even Job's wife now begins to see him as a cursed man. She seems to think that God almighty has something against him. His body writhes in pain. Unable to sleep, unable to find physical comfort he now can't find emotional or spiritual comfort. In his pain he utters some of the most honest words expressed in all of Scripture. "I have no peace."

I remember when my sister died, people with very good intentions would say things without thinking them through. "Don't be sad, she's in heaven" they would say. "This is a day to celebrate because your sister received her reward." How do we find the peace characterized by a life filled with the Holy Spirit in the midst of such pain?

First, I think it begins with the recognition of the pain in our lives and its impact on our lives. I think it's tempting to hide, ignore or bury the pain. Yet, this is to deny ourselves of a God-given emotion -- sorrow. Consider our Savior. Standing outside his friend's tomb, knowing he was about to resurrect him, he still sobbed. He saw the hurt expressions of those around him. He had heard the bitterness of the sisters' words. He had seen the disappointment in their faces. It grieved him to the point that it broke him. He cried.

Second, I think peace comes when we accept the promises of God. We take the words of Scripture and own them and believe them. They become part of who we are.

Third, we fix our eyes on what is unseen. We realize the hope we have, the anticipation of that day when there will be no more tears. We look toward that day when he calls his own. I think as we do this it begins to put things in perspective. We consider that our momentary struggles are nothing compared to what lies ahead. We believe that one day as a doorkeeper in God's throne room is better than 1000 days at Disney World or any other place we could dream of being.

Anyways, this is what I was considering today. It comes from a couple of things. First, in class tonight we are talking about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our lives -- one of which is peace. Second, in 8 days I leave for Alaska to be a part of a memorial service for my best friend's mom. I will also see a road marker recently erected in honor of my sister, Gina, who died in a car accident on Aug. 11, 1992. She was 19 at the time.