Sunday, March 25, 2007

I May Be Gone For A While - Wandering in the Great Box Wilderness!

Core Thought: Being a Pack Rat Can Be A Real Pain! Pray for my SIMPLIFICATION!

It may be a while before I post again...I may be wandering in the great box wilderness which is my home! The church is having a new AC/Heating unit put in the parsonage which means I had to clean out a lot of my attic (where the new unit is going), which would be no problem except that I have developed a weird, paranoid habit of saving boxes "just in case" whatever came in the box needed to be shipped for repairs, or transported in styrofoam safety whenever I move.

Well, here's the picture of my chairman of deacons' truck as we headed for the dump! It was least it didn't make the headlines...can't you see it? SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED: PASTOR IS A PACK RAT!

Well I am, and turning 50 has moved me to start the "simplification" process of getting rid of my clutter before it overtakes I estimate I'll be free to blog again in...oh...five or six years! Okay, maybe a little sooner if I consent to a church-wide bonfire! The boxes were only Phase I of a multi phase project.

Pray nothing falls on me during this process!

Friday, March 09, 2007

My Tribute to a Great Dog!


This morning my family said good-bye to our beloved Tom. We found out yesterday what we feared, that Tom was not going to make it. His cancer was too advanced to make other options viable, so we decided to love him enough to let him go. The gifts this 100 lbs. of canine joy has lavished on this family are too numerous to name, but I do thank God for the many ways in which Tom was probably responsible for more smiles on my father's face than anything else. I also thank God for how much comfort and companionship he brought my mother since my father's passing, and how he taught me and my brother (his official owner) new and improved lessons on the meaning of unconditional and unwavering love. I will miss the connection Tom gave me to my Dave, his brother and litter mate, who died over four years ago. I am still amazed at how powerful and painful the love between a person and a dog can be. Those who have never (or ever will) loved a dog can never understand it, and to those who do, I don't need to explain it. All I know is that God put a lot of joy in this four-legged, fur-covered canine messenger of grace!

In I Corinthians 13:7,8 Paul writes in reference to love, "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." One of my favorite definitions is "unconquerable" good will. Love did persevere today, even though it hurt. This is why my brother agreed, in spite of the heartache and pain and grief it would cause him (and us), to let Tom go peacefully to sleep. Cancer did not have the last word, love did. And it was love that still wagged that old, tired dog's tail as I said "good-bye" and stroked his head for the last time as if he knew that what was happening to him was, in fact, the best thing, the most loving thing we could do. Nobody deserves a good dog, each one is a gift from a God who obvious loves to lavish unexpected sources of love, laughter and joy upon His children, and my family and I are grateful to have been recipients of two such gifts in Tom and Dave. They were extraordinary.

Will dogs go to heaven? I don't know. I do know, however, that it is unwise to put limits on God's love, grace and generosity both here and in the hereafter. All I know is that as I write this, I can picture Tom sitting in one of heaven's unbelievably beautiful fields beside his brother Dave as they quiver in anticipation patiently waiting their turn for the next tennis ball tossed their way by my father.

Please be in prayer for all of us, but especially for my mom and brother as they adjust to a big hole left by the departure of a big dog with a big heart!

Note: Anne Lamott understands the power of dogs in an article she wrote for Here is the link:

It's entitle Dog Day: The death of a beloved friend makes plain the beauty of this Anne Lamott.

He Was Just a Potato Chip Salesman

Core: Your legacy will be around for a while, make sure it's a good one!

This past week, a friend of mine, Gene Jennings (his blog: told me that I was mentioned in his pastor's sermon at True North Church in North Augusta, where Gene is on staff as an associate pastor. Actually, the illustration was not so much about me, as it was about Ranny Moorhead. Ranny worked for Lays Potato Chips, but Lays was not his primary employer or his passion. Ranny's passion was to share the love of Jesus Christ, and he did it with power and passion and a love for young people...young people like me.

Ranny took his vacations to take our youth group to youth camps (where he directed), and on mission trips to West Virginia (for five years in a row where we had the joy of seeing a new church planted.). During my college years, I served on about three or four lay renewal teams a year with Ranny as our leader. These teams of lay people would go to a church for a weekend to help encourage lay people to use their God-given spiritual gifts as ministers of the Gospel. I usually was the youth leader.

Ranny also, with his wife Peggy, encouraged me in my ministry, and eventually was the one who recommended me for a summer position at a little church in Denmark, SC over 26 years ago. I have no doubts that my life (and the lives of so many others) would not have been significantly different (in a lesser way), had I not known this man.

I was privileged to be a part of his funeral service over 13 years ago. The sanctuary at North Augusta First Baptist was filled with people touched by God's love through this man. One of my lines was something like..."look what God has accomplished through this one life....and he was just a potato chip salesman!" Gene shared this story with his pastor who referenced Ranny in his message. You can see it here: ( Go to the home page, and click on "video" for March 4.

Thirteen years, and people are still sharing stories about this man who gave his life to Christ and to others. Am glad I knew him, and I hope when we go, people will say the same about us, even thirteen years later!

Three Funerals - Three Lessons in Love

Core Thought: What will your legacy be?

I did a funeral on my birthday two weeks ago. That was on a Saturday. Then on the next Friday I did another funeral, and the next day, funeral number three. I believe that was a personal record, having three service so close together. That next Sunday I shared with my church a brief (yes, me, brief!) message on my previous eight days.

I told them that the common thread that ran through each life was love lavished on others. Each life reflected the person's desire to impact their families with love in tangible, practical ways.

First, there was Rahn, who loved his country enough to serve in World War II in the 1st Special Services Force (see: This elite force, made up of American and Canadian soldiers, was the foundation for the Green Berets, and other special military forces. Rahn was a hero sitting under my nose, and I didn't even know it. To me, he was a retired power company employee who loved his wife Donita, even after she contracted Alzheimers, and who cooked a full breakfast every day for his kids since his wife had to leave for her job as a phone operator. He also made sure everyone in the extended family knew how to swim as the official family swim instructor. One niece told me that when she was dating a young man who would become her husband, she warned him, "If you don't become like Uncle Rahn, then I'm not interested in continuing our relationship!!" The meal after the service was very upbeat, with photo albums of the family. Oh, and one more thing. Rahn and his wife, Donita, were so successful at passing on love to this family that the family sang "Happy Birthday" to me! Now that's love in the valley of the shadow of death!

Second, there was Clarice, a homebound member who loved her only child, Skipper, her church, her pastor, and her little dog "precious." She also loved her Lord, whom she trusted completely to take her home when the time came. On the day of her death, in ICU, when I came into the room, she said in a labored tone, "Why are you late?" I said, "Clarice, you know I had church this morning." I had only received the news of her transfer to ICU that morning. She responded with a smile, "Oh, you know I was just joking with you." I did. She was very uncomfortable, and that night she passed away. She was one of a few homebound members who would pray verbally for me during one of my visits. I never forgot that.

Finally, there was Betty Ruth. Her funeral was the largest I have officiated over at Denmark. The sanctuary and Fellowship Halls were full. Why? Partly, perhaps, because of her husband's position in local law enforcement, but I suspect a more powerful force was the love she lavished on her family and friends. She has four boys, all married, all with grand-kids (and a couple of great-grands). Betty Ruth, as her obituary said, "Claimed victory over cancer" in her death. She talked to me in detail about her service, and about the peace she had anticipating her death. She told her children individually, "I am at peace, and I want you to be at peace, too." She always sent lots of cards to the grand-kids...with dollars for birthdays, holidays (even smaller holidays), and good grades. She sent siblings in a family a smaller gift on their brother or sister's birthday because she didn't want anyone to be unhappy on someone else's birthday. She played with her grand-kids, too, and she and her husband, hardly ever missed a sporting or school event. Each of her boys married women who looked to her not as mother-in-law, but as another "mama." Seldom have I seen a family so devoted to each other as this one. Even when she was sick from chemo, Betty would routinely write cards to encourage others. The final music selection was an instrumental piece played by Betty Ruth's sister, and selected by Betty Ruth. We put the words in the bulletin. The message was clear in the lyrics of Andrae Crouch's My Tribute: How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me. Things so undeserved, yet you did to prove your love for me? A life ending with peace, gratitude, and a love that goes on in the lives of her family and friends. What a great legacy!

Though people have expressed concern for me with a sudden rash of funerals, I feel grateful that God has allowed me to witness these and other wonderful and powerful portraits of the power of love. Jesus really knew what He was talking about when he said the most important things to do on any given day are to love God and love others! What kind of legacy will you leave this place?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from my Dog

Saw this on the net the other day and thought it worth posting...

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Take naps and stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
  • Thrive on affection and let people touch you - enjoy back rubs and pats on your neck.
  • When you leave your yard, make it an adventure.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout - run right back and make friends.
  • Bond with your pack.
  • On cold nights, curl up in front of a crackling fire.
  • When you're excited, speak up.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

PS. Yes, these pictures are of Dave and Tom in younger days!