Monday, January 29, 2007

Life Can Be Dark and Lonely. Let's Shine - Not Glare!

Core Thought: Our words are powerful. They can either help or hinder another. Let's think before sending them into the world!

This is another photo from my days at dear old Clemson. Over 2,000 guys lived in this dorm, Johnstone Hall. Doesn't it look "cozy?" Okay, maybe it looks more "penitentiary, -ish." I miss those old days of hearing drunks smash beer bottles down the halls (only on weekends mind you!), and hearing phone conversations three doors down.

When I came across this photo, it reminded me of how life can be for some...dark and lonely. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out] the word of life.

“Shining” does not mean to be a GLARING light in someone’s life. It is so easy to see our mission as convincing others to agree with us on a checklist of beliefs so they can “see the light,” be saved, and eventually get into heaven.

Christ, however, seemed to spend quite a bit of time teaching (and showing by example) his followers to love people, even our enemies, by “doing good” to them. Even in this passage in Philippians, Paul prefaces his remarks on “shining” with a warning not to be argumentative.

I think what Christ wants us to do is to love people. Actually, if we do “everything else” and forget to love people, we’ve missed the boat completely, and our light might not be bright enough to be seen by anyone.

Wounded a Friend Lately? Maybe They Needed It!

Core Thought: Are you a real friend to someone?

This is one of my all-time favorite photographs, taken a long time ago (Summer of '75). Yep, that's me in front with the hair, not so much fat, and shorts that wouldn't even be "regulation" on the World Changers' mission trips our youth go on (Too short....and pretty tacky, too!).

Anyway, this picture was taken during our youth choir tour (Yes, I sang in those days!). It reminds me of how incredibly blessed I was then with great friends, and how God has continued to sustain me since then with friends...real ones.

What is a real friend? Why would I entitle this post with the word "wounded," like that is something you should consider in your friendship. Sometimes it is "wise" to wound a friend, as Proverbs 27:6 remind us: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

A true friend has your best interests at heart, and if he or she really, really loves you and wants the best for you, they will risk "hurting your feelings," so that you won't get hurt yourself in the future. If you truly are on a path to destruction, or, let's say, not taking a very healthy path, wouldn't you want someone you trust to say something? A true friend will say something, and it won't just be a criticism and leave you with it. A true friend says, "Hey, I'm really concerned about your path. Tell me what's happening. I'm here to help, and I plan on staying 'here'."

Christians are supposed to support and encourage each other....not by ignoring problems, but by being honest in love. No, you can't fix people; that is their responsibility, but you can give them someone in their life who is not play acting, who is not content to talk only about the weather and other surface stuff.

Do you know why professional counselors still have jobs? It's because we need someone in our lives who cares more about our mental health over the long term, instead of our feelings in the short term. God calls us to truly love and care for each other. He never said, "Make sure you never hurt anyone's feelings." Sometimes not hurting someone's feelings is selfish. We don't want to experience the awkwardness of hurt feelings, or a confrontation, or the possible loss of a friend.

Our concern for the comfort of our relationship can overshadow our duty to love our friend for THEIR best interest. What if what they are doing is harming them and/or others? What if it is something that is correctable? Sure, sometimes we need to be silent, but then again, sometimes we need to speak God speaks up!

We as believers are called to reflect God's character to the world (and to our friends), so look at His character. Does He ever dance around issues? Throughout Scripture He confronts His people, sometimes with very painful, and ugly realities, but He does not leave them wounded. He is a compassionate God, and the word "compassion," simply means "willing to suffer along with someone."

And that is what He does...he confronts us when we need it, and in the same breath He reminds us, "I'm going to be here for you. I'm going to show you how to grow in your struggles, and, yes, even in your failures." Jesus is the ultimate example of how far God is willing to "suffer with" us, and for us. We can always count on Him to tell us the truth. We can always count on Him to love us. Yes, we who believe in Christ can declare, "What a friend we have in Jesus!"...but the question is, "What kind of friends do your friends have in you?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My First Picture

Core: Nothing deep here, just an old picture of a young man who will be eligible for AARP membership in a little over a month!

January 1976. My first year at Clemson...and yes, that is a poster of Spock in the background...once a geek, always a geek I guess. Anyway, this was my first "real" camera, a Canon AE-1. How narcissistic can someone be to have the first picture they take be one of themselves!

I used that camera to take A LOT of pictures. I have about 3000 slides of my college years alone.
I always joke that it will give me something to look at in my nursing was funny in 1976, it's not so funny now as I approach the 50 mark! Serves me right! The Bible lesson for today...hmmm...sounds like a good time for: Psalm 144:3-4: O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

For anyone who hasn't learned it yet (i.e. the young) is too short to waste 10 hours a day (the latest poll results) listening to or watching some form of media! Don't be a spectator wasting life by being programmed by advertisers to buy stuff to make you feel better. Help somebody....anybody! Those who love and serve their fellow man are happier in the long run than consumers!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Have You Been "Plutoed" Yet?

Core Thought: Getting in the Right Orbit! If you're too far out, you won't feel the warmth!

Ah, what a beautiful sunset! Here is an artist idea of what a sunset might look like from Pluto, which "used to be" the most distant planet in the solar system, until it was demoted to "dwarf" planet status when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

Because of this "demotion," a new word was coined and chosen as 2006's Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society at its annual meeting this January. The word: PLUTOED!.

To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," sort of like what happened to Pluto....sort of like what happens to a lot of things, like the church. Some people, even people who "go to" church (vs. "being" the church), don't understand what's so important about this group of people, called "the church."

What I have witnessed in some folks' lives is that they are like Pluto with regards to the church, orbiting somewhere far, far away, seeing the church like a resident of Pluto would see the sun. They notice it, maybe as a bright spot against the dark backdrop of the world, but that's about all...they receive no warmth, see no excitement, and they don't buy into the excitement others are showing.

Okay, so sometimes a church is so messed up, it could be labeled "toxic." Sometimes, however, the problem is not so much the church as it is the view! Get far enough away from anything, and it becomes tiny, or maybe even invisible without a huge telescope! So those orbiting "out there," are going around and around in a dark orbit with no joy, no light, and little purpose.

Sure these people, be they sporadic attenders, or lost people who wouldn't even know where to find a church door, much less "darken" it, need to come in for a closer view of what the church is. It is not, however, only their responsibility, it's the responsibility of those of us who are warm and cozy in the womb of church involvement, to go into the outer dark edges of life to love people, to reflect the light of the sun so far away, so that those spiritual Plutonians might have a reason to leave their far, far away orbits to consider the possibility of a brighter, warmer, more joyous "son-centered life!"

Ephesians 2: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gettin’ Old!

Core Thought: Humbling can come upon you when you least expect it!

One of the things I did on vacation was to walk around Clemson taking night pictures. The campus was pretty much abandoned since the new semester hadn’t started. When I say “abandoned,” I mean I didn’t see anyone for 15 to 20 minute stretches; and when I did, it was usually a campus police car…I’m surprised they didn’t stop me since I might have looked suspicious moving around the campus with my tripod and all.

As to the “humbling” experience. When I was at Clemson way back in the dark ages (i.e. the late 70’s), I worked in the campus photo lab, and one of my more enjoyable tasks was taking photos for freshman orientation. I remembered one shot from the top of an exterior staircase...this one:

I went to recreate the shot, only to find the clear vista of the 70’s to be completely obscured by a tree! See...

Trees don’t grow over night, so it reminded me immediately of my own aging process! It hit me that I stand at the verge of the half century mark!

All this from a tree!!! And the tree reminded me of grass, which reminded me of Psalm 102:11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Your life here will zoom by much quicker than you know! You can live That tree reminded me that time is passing, and once it has passed by you, you don’t get it back, so pay attention today! And live well today, because it is the only “today” like today that you get!!!

I’m Back!

Core Thought: Excuses! Excuses!

Sorry I’ve been gone so long…took a week of vacation staying at a church member’s lake house on Lake Keowee near my alma mater, Clemson. I went without the internet for almost a whole week…imagine that! It was a good change though…just relaxing…which I’m not good at. So what did I experience that was “blog-worthy?” Let’s see…

I did manage to squeeze in a little bit of bargain hunting…once again using the kids in my church as an excuse, I bought a RC Helicopter on clearance at Wally-Mart. (If you want to see it fly, go to: and be patient as it takes a little bit of time to download the video.

Anyway…as usual, the packaging did not reveal EVERYTHING I needed to know about the helicopter. You know, things like: average flight time is 7 minutes (in perfect conditions!) and then you require a 45 minute charge. On the bright side, that might teach me patience!) Oh, and then the little fact that you cannot hover as the helicopter was designed to…”always fly forward.”

The instructions also said to fly it in a room “without obstacles.” How many of you have a room “without obstacles?” My whole house is an obstacle! Once again I was reminded that the world promises us a lot, and often hides its own inability to bring us any kind of lasting contentment!

Jesus knew this long before the advent of toy RC helicopters! He reminded His disciples in Matthew 6:19, 20: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Remember, whatever label the world slaps on something, it’s probably not telling you the complete story!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Be Nice to the Nerds (Geeks, Etc.), We Owe Them More Than You Think!

Core Thought: In a society that over inflates the value/importance of entertainment celebrities, we might want to thank the often overlooked geeks of the world for saving us!

Who watches the History Channel at 6:30 am? Maybe a pastor on vacation, who is too lazy to change the channel? At any rate, I caught this documentary on the "Einstein" letters (here's a link:, written immediately prior to and during World War II to President Roosevelt urging him to support the development of an atomic bomb, as he (Einstein) and other physicists felt that Hitler's Germany was already engaged in developing their own bomb.

Einstein was a pacifist, but feared what it would mean to the world if the Nazis developed an A-Bomb would mean, Germany/Japan would have won the war! Everyone knows how appreciative I am of our military, but in WWII, it was the civilian physicists of the Manhattan Project that delivered the final victory...all of which can be traced to a series of letters authored by Hungarian-American physicist Leó Szilárd signed by Albert Einstein.

Hmmm...seems that once again, the ancient wisdom of the Bible still holds true (imagine that!) when it says in James 3:3-5: " When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark."

The words of these scientists changed the course of our nation; had the President not heeded their warnings of the horror of a Nazi-controlled atomic bomb, our lives now would be drastically altered! So remember to be thankful for people you might be tempted to overlook, and consider the power of your words to alter the future destinies of others!!! A final scripture to really hold onto in 2007: Ephesians 4: 29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

I know it's hard in a world that thrives on sarcasm and putting others down, but take a moment today to actually encourage someone else. We've all got lots of power sitting in our mouths, so let's use that power to actually make things!

No Internet for a Week? Can I do it?

Sorry to have been out of the blogging loop for so long. December was crazy...lots of get-togethers, special services, and numerous trips to the hospitals to check on church folks. I'm beat (another side-effect of the approaching half-century mark!)...and am taking a week off to go and be by myself for several days at a church member's lake house.

I have several know...the old fashioned paper kind...I hope to sleep late and read and not travel too much. I am taking my computer, but there will be no internet...hopefully, however, I can catch up on some blogging! It should be interesting to be so "disconnected," but I think it will be good for me.

I'll try to be more regular with my postings...b ut you know how those new year resolutions go! So here I go...back in time for a week! I let you know how it goes! I have a feeling... it will be a positive experience.

Thanks again for your patience! Andy the Country Parson