Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Don't Blink! It'll Fly By!


This will be hard to believe, but here is a picture of me and my friend Randy Trail from our seminary days a mere twenty-SIX and a half years ago. I'm the one on the left! Yes, the skinny one! (Well, I guess we were both skinny!...NOT ANY MORE!)Randy, wife, Kittie, and their three sons, Ben, Patrick and Thomas stopped by to see "Uncle Andy" this past Monday for a day. As expected, it was great to see them. I drug out these same jackets (neither of which I can squeeze into!) for the fun of it. I'm envious that Thomas (L) and Patrick (R) could button them!

What else did I think? You probably know already...MAN, I'M GETTING OLD, AND FAST!!! Where did all the time go? I knew these boys' parents before they were parents, before they were married! I've kept in contact with this family as they have ministered as missionaries to Rwanda, Mauritius and Botswana. I've spent vacations with them when they were on furlough (including Disney World), and traveled to the other side of the planet to Mauritius. And now, suddenly, Ben, their oldest, is ready to graduate from college, Patrick is a freshman at Virginia Tech, and Thomas graduates high school ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM...another year, another decade flies by!

The moral? Life comes at your fast, PAY ATTENTION!!! As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 39:4,5: "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah"

Don't overlook that SELAH...many commentators think the Hebrew word (which appears over 70 times in the psalms) means to weigh heavily that which has been said...in other words, to pay careful attention to God's truth....so that is my wish for you all...that 2009 will a year in which you pay careful, consistent attention to God and what He says. No matter what circumstances we might face in the year ahead, we can count on God to be faithful and true, and worth paying attention to above all!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pray for These Kids!

Okay, I've had a pretty significant Christmas in a number of ways, so allow me a semi-Scrooge moment. I came across this video of kids' reactions to receiving a Ninetendo Wii for Christmas. We need to pray for them in that certain depression and despair await them all when their Wii's die, get out-of-date, suffer lightning strikes, etc. Then what will they do? Have any of you EVER been this excited about anything? WARNING: the first scream may catch you off guard. Also, if you watch the whole thing, you have way too much time on your hands!

A Special Baptism

I just talked with my friends in Zambia (Their website is linked in my links section), the Cooks and the Abstances (Jan and Wyman are visiting for Christmas.). They had a memorable holiday, and this video has to be the highlight! Their daughter Kelsey recently accepted Christ, and here is her baptism!

For The Cat Who Has Everything!

I've read mediocre reviews of the Roomba robot vacuum, but, then again, that with reference to its cleaning ability. As a "cat-mover" it seems to excel. If you have a lazy cat, this might be the perfect gift! I'm impressed that he turned it on himself! I'm impressed also in his sticking with his ride even when it bumps into something.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The FBC Staff Celebrating Christmas at the Disco!

If only we were young enough to move like this! Isn't Christmas a great time to celebrate?
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The Staff Does Christmas - Country Style

Another Christmas wish from those dancing elves at First Baptist Church!
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Staff Christmas Wish - Charleston Style!

Okay, I admit it. This Elf Yourself business is addictive! Here is my staff's attempt at the Charleston! Merry Christmas!

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Christmas in Zambia

HAPPY CHRIST'S BIRTHDAY EVERYONE. My friends, Jan and Wyman Abstance are having what will surely be one of their most unforgettable Christmases ever as they are in Lusaka, Zambia visiting their daughter, Niki, son-in-law Ricky, and three kids, Austin, Coby, and Kelsey. I had asked them to do a short video for our Christmas Eve service (Ricky and Niki grew up in our church) reading the Luke Christmas story. It surprised my folks at the service (which went very well), and I thought I'd share it with you! So here are the Cooks and Abstances in Zambia!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Glory to God, Peace on Earth, and Good Will on Display NOW in You and in Me!

This lady's name is Ora Lee. She passed away this past Wednesday (12/10). She has been a member of my church since way before I came here over two decades ago. This is not a good picture of her... it was difficult to get a decent picture as she was camera shy. She was quiet, humble, and an amazing servant of our Lord.

The past week and a half has been filled with an unusually challenging number of situations, including some very serious medical situations among my members. I found it strange that one of the most joyful conversations I had last week was with someone who would pass away just two days later.

As I thought about Ora Lee's funeral service, I couldn't help but be drawn to the classic Biblical passage in Luke 2 where the angels confront a group of extraordinarily surprised shepherds with the great news that a Savior had been born to them (and us) in the town of Bethlehem.

I decided to use this experience in my church newsletter article last week. As you read it, it might be worthwhile to ponder the thought, "could my pastor use my life as an illustration of glory to God, peace on Earth, and good will toward man?" I hope so. If not, there's still time! Here is the article!

Reading About It Is One Thing, Seeing It Happen Is Even Better. You’ve read it again and again, in Luke 2 how the angels sang to the shepherds,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14) God made this wonderful truth so vivid to me this past Monday as I visited with Ora Lee Davis in the hospital. It was the first time since she had been sick that I got to visit her alone, so we could really “talk.” My conversation with her that afternoon will always be a treasure to me. When I asked her, how she felt when the doctors told her how “bad” her cancer was, she replied, “You know, I didn’t mind too much.” That is so typical of Ora Lee’s faith. Who else could face cancer squarely in the face and say that? I’ll tell you who…someone who truly takes Christ at His word.

Little did I know that just a few hours later that same day, I would get a call that she was not doing well, and might not make it through the night. Ora Lee was healed Wednesday morning as her Savior, the Great Physician came and took her home to be with Him. In the days leading up to her passing, I had no doubts that she was a woman at complete peace. She had expressed to me and the family several times lately how grateful she has been for her life, and that she was ready to leave whenever the Lord decided it was time.

Tuesday as I pondered Christmas, it hit me that Ora Lee’s simple devotion to Christ reflects the wonder of the angels’ song to the shepherds. Here is a lady whose life has been at peace with God (and others) through Christ. Her life also radiated good will toward anyone in her presence, and brought glory to God. Her life reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!

Ora Lee’s life is an example of how God wants to bless people with our lives! How would people describe your life behind your back? Do you display to others (especially at Christmas) a life at peace, filled with good will, intent on bringing glory to God? A life that reflects these central truths is the best life there is, and I praise God it’s available to me and to you every day because a Baby grew to become our Savior on a cross, and rose from the dead to be our Lord! I know this kind of life works, because I’ve read about it in God’s word, and I’ve seen it in the lives of special people like Ora Lee Davis.

Maybe the best thing you can give Jesus this year for His birthday, is your surrender and willingness to truly follow Him as Lord into a life of peace, good will and glory to God! It can happen! Right now! Maybe then someone will be using you as illustration to others about how great life can be! my wish for each of us is that we can sing this and mean it…Let there be peace on earth and let it start with me! So celebrate Jesus’ birth as you go and give gifts of peace, good will and glory to the Him!<

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dealing With Anger - Constructively


PLEASE NOTE I AM NOT TARGETING ANYONE SPECIFICALLY IN THIS POST. Lots of people struggle with anger! Problems with anger continue to be a recurring struggle for many people whom I have met throughout my ministry. The Bible is clear and simple with regards to anger: "In your anger do not sin..." (Ephesians 4:26a) In a nutshell, Scripture teaches that anger is inevitable in our lives (and sometimes it can even be employed for good: i.e. getting "angry" at injustice, poverty, etc.), but it is no excuse to sin.

One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Frederick Buechner: Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back -- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

I stumbled on this article that offered some great counsel on dealing with your anger (not that I agree with everything in the article)...especially with regards to "cognitive restructuring." If you have a problem with anger or know someone who does, check it out at: http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html



Repost From Last Year

This video from "Go Fish" about Christmas is still worth watching every Christmas. It's entitled "It's About the Cross." If the Baby hadn't grown up to become our Savior, what would the Christmas story ultimate mean? Just another "holiday" tradition...for Christ-followers, it's the "whole" story of redemption that we celebrate! Speaking of celebrating...can people tell by looking at you, listening to you, and seeing what you do that you are celebrating your redemption? Hope so... it's still the #1 gift people need!

2008 - Andy's Year in Review


If you'd like to see some highlights of 2008 in the life of a country parson, click this link (once you are "transferred" wait a second and arrows will appear on either side of the picture and you can click to go forward or backward, OR click on "Slide Show" in the upper right corner for an automatic slide show):

http://s245.photobucket.com/albums/gg65/andytheparson/2008%20Year%20in%20Review/?albumview=grid&fullsize=Slide1.jpg

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Clemson's New Coach - Strange Name - Great Story

My alma mater, Clemson University, hired a former assistant coach, Dabo Swinney, this week at the head coach, replacing Tommy Bowden who left mid-season. When he took over, it looked like a long-shot, but he led the Tigers to a 7-5 season and an invite to the Gator Bowl, not to mention a "very" satisfying 31-14 victory over the Gamecocks this past weekend. What I'm "thankful" for is the type of person Coach Swinney is.

A church member sent me this link (http://clemson.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=882281) which gives a lot of detail about his journey, and the struggles he overcame as a young person. It also shows how much he has helped his family overcome their own struggles in ways that display enourmous grace, love and forgiveness. He is a man of faith, and his faith appears to be something that he doesn't just talk about, but lives by. I get the feeling that he cares about a lot more than just winning ball games (though all Clemson alums are for that), and that's the kind of coach I like....one who has something to teach people who aren't even on his football team. Check out the link above to see what I mean. You can also click here to see a video of Dabo's accepting of the head coach position this past Monday (Dec. 1st). GO TIGERS!

Video Link: http://videos.thestate.com/vmix_hosted_apps/p/media?id=2457476&item_index=&genre_id=00001457

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Cautionary Tale About Greed

A friend sent me this clip which brilliantly illustrates the truth of 1 Timothy 6:9-10:People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. It's called, "The Black Hole."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MERRY...uh, MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS!!!


I was going through my photos from this past year, and came across this one of Max who was adopted by some great friends of mine. I went to meet the family's newest addition, and, as expected, took a lot of pictures. Max didn't seem to mind. I thought this one was the best. So this is what I do instead of doodling...just a friendly canine reminder to have a meaningful Christmas filled with joy (much more foundational than merriment!) at the good news of a Baby born in a manger, destined to be a Savior! I hope Jesus doesn't mind my using a very photogenic rat terrier named Max to remind people of how important Christmas is!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Rare Story of Love Worth Watching

Friends recently recommended the movie "Lars and the Real Girl," and I watched it tonight and was pretty impressed. It's basically the story of a guy with a delusion that a sex doll he orders over the internet (no, not for sex)...anyway, he believes the doll is real, and the town doctor advises his brother and sister-in-law to go along with the delusion as Lars isn't violent, actually, a very likeable, kind guy who is just "off." The great part is that the community loves this guy so much, that they go along, too, and Bianco (the doll) ends up touching everyone in way they hadn't expected. There are several themes, but two that came to my mind were: how far would you go to truly, unselfishly love someone even when it was difficult, and then, when do you give up what is not real, for something that is. Anyway, here's the trailer....



And here is one of my favorite scenes where the brother and sister-in-law have gathered some of the senior members of their church to warn them about Lars' delusion, and that he might want to bring Bianca to church. To me the theme is clear... we are all fallen, we all fall short of the glory of God, so be kind and compassionate and patient and loving because we need each other...it's how God designed us! So click on this scene and then ask yourself how far would you be willing to go to love someone unconditionally. You never know when YOU'RE the one that needs for someone else to be patient and kind and compassionate and understandind! Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL, and don't forget to thank God for those who have loved (and are loving) you unconditionally!!!!! Oh, here's the scene...and thanks to Jeff and Miriam for the recommendation!

How Much Faith Do You "REALLY" Have?

I often define faith as "trust in someone or some thing that alters your behavior." Just saying you have in a surgeon isn't really faith until you let the surgeon actually slice into you. James in his little epistle is very, very clear when he writes: 14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (2:14-18)

I love that last phrase..."I will show you my faith by what I do." Want to see an unnerving illustration of this. Click this, but be forewarned, it may make you a bit nervous!"







Ouch! This guy was willing to put his finger where his faith was! Can people tell we REALLY have faith in Christ by what we DO with our time, energies, money, etc. Can people tell we're Christians by how we love and encourage each other and everyone else? This Thanksgiving (and every day) let your gratitude show, too, by ongoing acts of kindness, compassion, and love so that people will know that we are truly trusting Christ, not just for heaven, but for today, and then maybe, just maybe, they'll want to believe in Him, too. Oh, one more thing:
DO NOT ATTEMPT THE FINGER EXERCISE
ON ANY SAW EVER, EVER, EVER!!!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Get Lost This Christmas

This commercial from Garmin reminds me that we need to make sure we don't lose our way through the Advent season! In all the rushing around, don't forget that God became a baby who grew up to be our Savior! A GPS is pretty cool, but there's not substitute for God's word as the ultimate guide through the upcoming holiday season. Another guide is still:
http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
If you haven't seen the video there...go now! (AFTER you click on this video that is!)


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are You Hot, Cold or Lukewarm?

Okay, I'm feeling a little guilty as I sit here in the cafeteria of the University Hospital in Augusta, having finished a "substantial" breakfast compared to what my mother is eating. She was to be given one egg (I wonder if they will bill Medicare for the egg?) which they will track to see how quickly her stomach empties. She's been having recurring nausea and has been scoped, prodded, scanned, and had a couple of gallstones removed over the past year or so, and they haven't found the cause, so we're not expecting big surprises. Still, I decided while they were testing how well her stomach emptied, I'd fill mine.

Breaskfast was good, but might not have been so as the food was on the cool to lukewarm side. Grits and scrambled eggs are not to be eaten in a cooled state. Thank goodness someone had the foresight to put a microwave in the dining room. What a difference 30 seconds of molecular agitation can make. That's how microwaves work, they agitate the molecules in food (esp. water) causing friction which causes heat. Sort of like life...God uses all kinds of circumstances to, as I once shared in a children's sermon, to "giggle our innards" to produce growth.

Peter was a great deal more articulate when he wrote (from experience mind you!) in 1 Peter 1:6,7: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Life is full of challenging circumstances...they ARE going to happen, so why not trust God to do His work in the midst of all your agitation. Maybe He can generate some heat that can warm someone else's life as your faith in Him grows and becomes more visible to others!

Many people maybe facing a "cool" Christmas this year will our economic down turn. They may need someone to bring them some hope, some love, some peace and some warmth! I pray for all of you Christ followers out there that the Holy Spirit will renew your wonder and gratitude for the amazing gift of Christ's incarnation we are about to celebrate, so much so that others will notice!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday - My Unofficial Honda Day

Sorry gang, but I stumbled across a Honda website (see next post) and kept finding these video clips with great life lessons in them. So forgive me for going "Honda-Overboard!" Enjoy...

It's "Learn a Lesson From Honda" Day!

I know I border on being "Honda-obnoxious," but I applaud this company's approach to excellence and to creativity. On their "Hondamentalism" website (www.honda.co.uk/hondamentalism), they have several videos that remind us of several life lessons that can be applied to our walk with Christ. This one is about transforming something "ordinary" into something thrilling!



Jesus came not just to get us into Heaven, but to transform our lives FULLY so that others might be drawn to Him, in part, by how we live our lives before them! After all, He once said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:9,10) If racing lawnmowers can draw a crowd, shouldn't a life lived for Christ make people take notice, too!?

Hondamentalism - Embrace Failure

If you check out anyone who is truly successful, you'll find that they embrace failure as one of life's best teachers. It's been said that Thomas Edison knew over 1,500 ways how NOT to invent an electric light bulb! Honda's philosophy seems to be the same...





Paul continued to learn (and teach) how to deal with difficulties in life. I his second letter to the Corinthians (12:7-10), he writes: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Living in fear of why might happen results in paralysis. Faith in the God Who promises not to waste anything that ever happens to you (see Romans 8:28) is the way to be truly successful! And to be truly successful, you have to embrace and learn from your failures!

I Guess I'm a Hondamentalist

Anyone who knows me knows I only drive American made cars...Hondas to be exact! I like this company because I like their products and their commercials. The have a website that focuses on "Hondamentalism"...referencing the company's continuing pursuit of engineering excellence. I found some of the videos to be good illustrations of the Christian experience.


This one reminds me of how difficult it can be for pastors (or any Christian leader for that matter) to go up against the force of the status quo as God calls us to continue to learn and grow and experience more and more of the truly "abundant" life as opposed to settling for routines, ruts, and stagnation.



The writer of Hebrews would agree when he writes in 6:1-3: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so."

We should keep on growing and maturing in our walk with Christ, and in our "growing" ability to love God and others! Don't give up just because you're facing a strong headwind! God who called you to live and grow and mature will provide everything you need to do so! So get up and GROW!

Did Honda Steal My Idea? DOUBTFUL!

Here is a Honda commercial that illustrates the truth of my video sermonette about the music box...that we can accomplish more when we are connected to something bigger than ourselves. I guess this is a corollary of that truth in that we can accomplish more together than we can alone. Solomon put it this way: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work..." Ecclesiastes 4:9

Click on the video to play...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Truth and Nothing But the Truth..."Mostly!"

I am SO glad the presidential election is over. If you are interested in the final "distortion count" (That sounds so much better than "lies!") go to:
http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/the_whoppers_of_2008_--_the_sequel.html

And if you want this thorough (and non-partisan) description of just whose fault our current economic crisis is, go to:
http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/who_caused_the_economic_crisis.html

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Little Video Sermon

I hope my BIG head doesn't frighten you. I just thought this illustrate how much better it is to be connected to something bigger than we are! Just click on it!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dare You Join the Advent Conspiracy?

WARNING!!!
THIS VIDEO COULD CHANGE
YOUR CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS FOREVER!

This video could be a first step toward the most meaningful Christmas of your life OR ruin it forever if you want to keep on doing Christmas the American way. I realize the timing isn't that great considering our retail economy depends so much on "Holiday shopping," but it's difficult to ignore it's message if we truly pause to ask, "how does Jesus want us to celebrate His birthday?" You've been warned!




For more information go to: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

Friday, October 31, 2008

What Should I Do? Stay in the Ministry or HEAD FOR HOLLYWOOD?

I have been contacted by Disney for a new movie. To convince me to leave the ministry and head to Hollywood, they sent me a computer-generated "concept" video of the film they want me to star in. With the success of High School Musical 3 they are expanding the franchise to a new film due out in 2010 for an older demographic. It wil be Nursing Home Musical starring me and Dancing with the Stars sensation, Cloris Leachman! I'll let you know when the film's release date is. Let me know what you think my next move should be! Click below...but it might not be pretty!


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How I've Felt Lately!

One day I'll write a book about excuses for why I don't blog more often. For now, this video will have to do. My unofficial title is, "how I sometimes feel when I have too many things to do, and too little time to do them!" WARNING: Tell small children that this is not real and that "Mr. Andy" was NOT harmed in the filming of this video!!!!!

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One last thing...scroll down!













Guess what the monster said at the end? "Hmmm....that sure tasted FUNNY!"

A Break From the "Normal" Negative Political Ads!

Need a different kind of candidate? Check this out....

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DON'T FORGET TO VOTE THIS COMING TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH.
A lot of people throughout our history died to protect our freedom, including our freedom to vote!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Catalyst Round-Up

For the second year in a row, I snuck in to the Catalyst leadership conference last week. It's a leadership conference for those in their 20's and 30's, but they let some "gray hairs" from time to time. I go because of the wide variety of speakers they have, their innovative "extra" things they do, and because I enjoy it. To show you how strange this conference is, let's start with a mystery. What is this? The answer will be at the end of the post!





The theme was simple: TOGETHER. It focused on how we can do more together than separately. Over 50 denominations were present. The unofficial theme I saw was: generosity is powerful!

Highlights included:
Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru, who told us not to panic in the economy. He said that if we live by God's financial practices (i.e. avoid debt, don't love money, don't be afraid, and be wise AND generous), we may seem "weird" during times of prosperity, but now we seem very wise during times when the bottom falls out! He also spoke on the five enemies of unity in a church or organization:
  1. Poor communication
  2. Gossip
  3. Unresolved disagreements
  4. Lack of shared purpose
  5. Sanctioned incompetence
You can read more about it at this blog: http://www.chrismartin.tv/catalyst-2008-together-day-2-dave-ramsey/

Most churches are plagued by these "enemies." My ears perked up, though, when he talked about how intolerant he is about gossip. In his company, an employee is told upon hiring, "You'll be warned once if you are caught gossiping (i.e. talking about a negative situation to someone who can do nothing about their problem), and then you will be fired." Pretty clear-cut isn't it? The other thing was how churches handicap themselves when someone is not doing well in a position and we ignore it out of fear of hurting feelings. It always amazes me how people will opt for decades of talking badly about people behind their backs about their performance but will avoid helping them to grow out of this fear of hurting feelings.

Other highlights included Jeff Foxworthy and the Daraja Children's Choir of Africa (http://www.410bridge.org/daraja/). Jeff shared his testimony about how his involvement with the 410 Bridge organization and his experience in Kenya has broadened his view of God's work on the planet. It was excellent and to hear those children sing with such passion was great, too. Here's a video clip from the choir's website:



There was a tribute to Billy Graham, and Franklin spoke. Our church does Christmas shoeboxes through Samaritan's Purse, so it was good to hear a young lady's testimony who grew up in Bosnia, and was saved through receiving a shoebox and hearing the gospel.

Samaritan's Purse had a tent out front where we put together shoeboxes, and I also toured their disaster relief trailer since so many folks in my church are involved in it.

On the fun side, one of the object lessons had to do with the mystery picture above. That's a close up of FLOAM. They gave each of us (12,000) a piece of floam at registration and we were told to pass it down from the back attaching our piece to the growing wad...here is the final result....the lesson...we can do more together than by ourselves! Go have a great day!




I Like Living in a Small Town

Denmark has about 3,000 people....hmmmm, I wonder what it would be like if everyone in Denmark went to a wave pool. Maybe something like this...


Seems a little "too close for comfort" if you ask me!

Can Anyone Explain This

This illusion was part of America's Got Talent competition! Can you figure it out?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How Do They Do This?

This video seemed innocent enough, but the ending surprised me. How did they do that? Go ahead, it takes 58 seconds...and my score was in the 2% abnormal range! Big surprise!


Test Your Mind..what Kind Of Person Are You? - Celebrity bloopers here

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thanks for Your Patience

Once again I've been negligent in my blogging. I've been busy as usual (who isn't these days?), but that's not a really great excuse. The last two weeks have, as usual, been filled with significance... there have been the struggles of individual church members that are too private to blog about, and my our "Come Thirsty" series on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings, which have yielded some great sharing times about God's provisions for our living a truly "significant" and "spiritual" and "abundant" life.

In a time of economic upheaval in our nation (and the world), it's been good to be reminded that there really is a well that never runs dry! This week I'll be attending a conference that promises to be a well of encouragement. It's called the "Catalyst Conference," and focuses on equipping and encouraging church leaders. I attended last year and was very "refreshed" by the end of it, and am looking forward to this year's conference. I'm sure I'll have some blogworthy news soon!

Until then....here's a new "demotivator" poster that I thought a bit "too" insightful!

Monday, September 29, 2008

About Our Country's FInancial Crisis

The following link is to ABC This Week With George Stephanopoulos from this past Sunday (9/28). The round table discussion is on the financial crisis that is looming. If you stick to the end of the conversation, you'll hear George Will give his opinion on one of the root causes of the crisis, which is not merely the greed on Wall Street, or the lack of or overabundance of government influence and/or regulation (depending on which party is speaking at the time!)....but a basic inability or unwillingness of Americans...yep...plain old Americans like you and me, to delay gratification.

This has led to a nation living on debt and saving nothing. I know that is oversimplistic, but I also know that amazingly few Americans have substantial savings, and that amazingly many are drowning in their own personal debt either because of fear, greed, or ignorance or a combination of the three! These same three oh-too-rampant human qualities are what drive much of our economy, whether on Wall Street, or as the politicians keep reminding us...Main Street.

Paul reminded Timothy about the dangers of the love of money when he wrote, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Hmmm...some things never change. This was true then, and is true now. So pray for our country, and then do everything you can to pay off your credit cards, live within your means, and save!

Here's the link: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=5903025

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Quote - Don't Bypass Any of These Three Truths!

I caught an interview with Robert Wagner on Good Morning America this week, and he gave a quote by U.S. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill that bears repeating again and again:

We are born broken.
We live by mending.
God's grace is the glue.


I have witnessed so much unnecessary suffering that people either bring on themselves by ignoring one or all three of these truths. For a person to live abundantly he or she must:

Realize his or her own brokenness. (Blaming others just doesn't help!) Remember, there are only two kinds of people in the world: messed up ones who know it, and messed up ones who don't!

Be intentional about getting better at living and at responding to adversity. (Too many people let their feelings and emotions "dictate" reactions to circumstances that can add unnecessary damage to an already negative situation.) James reminds us, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (1:19,20)for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

And finally, realize that in your brokenness and in the process of mending, God provides His unmerited, unearned favor (love, healing, salvation, power, truth, wisdom, etc.) daily into the process of growth and transformation. Paul knew the power of God's grace, even in the midst of dealing with his painful "thorn in the flesh." In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 he writes, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So remember: We are born broken. We live by mending. God's grace is the glue.

Surviving a Shipwreck/Snake-Bite Kind of Day

I'm having a bad day. No, not because of an impending financial crisis that we're all waiting on. I'll wait and feel bad about that when it happens! Truth be told, my bad day is one of my own making. I'm in one of those Jeremiah kind of moods when I'm tempted to whine to the Lord about a great many things, but I don't want to get started on that list, because it wouldn't do any good...who's going to waste time reading someone else's complaints.

In the midst of my funk, however, God managed to encourage me in a reading from Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. In a chapter entitled Sometimes It Takes A Shipwreck, Batterson recounts one of the Apostle Paul's bad days as recorded in Acts 27 and 28....actually, it was a bad two weeks...at sea...in hurricane force winds!

To make a long story short, Paul is one his way to face Caesar in Rome and possibly his own death; the ship runs aground off the shore of Malta after being tossed around for TWO WEEKS, and when Paul and 275 other passengers finally make it to shore, they are greeted by "unusually kind" islanders by bring them food.

So Paul's bad day is over? Nope...Paul, as a helpful guest, brings some wood to put on the fire, then a snake crawls out from the bundle to bite him...a poisonous one! Hmmm...now we're talking bad day...shipwrecked AND snake bitten! But God miraculously spares his life (this in NO way endorses the handling of poisonous snakes as a worship practice!), and the people think he is a god.

Paul is taken to see Publius, the chief official of the Island, whose father is gravely ill. Paul pray for him, and heals him. Others come from all over the island and are healed. In the process, you can be sure Paul shared the gospel with everyone he could. He had to wait three months to continue his journey, but what a great three months that must have been.

Still, the impact of the Gospel was dependent on the shipwreck and the snake bite Paul endured. The lesson: God doesn't back off on our bad days. He's ready and willing and able to take what happens to us, to make something happen IN us and AROUND us for His glory and for the benefit of those we meet.

My bad day will pass, probably a lot more quickly when I realize that God is here ready to use me to bless someone with some good news...unless I just sit and whine and complain about what's out there, instead of asking God what He wants to do "in here...in me" in the midst of storms, shipwrecks and snakebites. Remember that Paul, who was shipwrecked and snake-bitten, also wrote these words: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

God does not promise that this process will be easy or pain-free, but only that He won't waste anything that happens to us! So if you're having a bad day, don't forget God is the expert in dealing with bad days, and in redeeming them for purposes we can't even imagine. But you have to trust Him like Paul did, even when you're wet, exhausted, and snake-bitten. The only way to short-circuit the miracle is to opt out of the process and to settle for whining! So if you're having a bad day, you can keep complaining or you can be transformed for a higher purpose! It's your choice!

By the way, if you want to see a clip of Anthony Hopkins as Paul on Malta after the snake bite, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB689AYzPTI

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pay Attention to LIFE!

I just read a couple of articles concerning Friday's (9/12) head-on collision between a freight train and a commuter train north of Los Angeles resulting in (as of Sunday, 9/14) 25 deaths, and 135 injuries (45 of which were critical). What is shocking and adds to the sadness is a preliminary finding by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board that this horrible accident (the worst in 15 years), may have been caused by the commuter train's engineer missing a stop signal because he was texting a friend on his cell phone just one minute before the crash. (For more info go here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2008/09/13/2008-09-13_california_train_wreck_caused_when_engin.html)

If this turns out to be true, how sad that this incident could have and should have been avoided.

Once again, life teaches tough lessons. Just a moment's inattention can cause unbelieveable pain and heartache and even death. Studies are showing that cell phone use in the car can so slow a driver's response time that it is like driving legally intoxicated. I hope NO ONE reading this EVER texts while driving...EVER. By the way, did you know that when you are driving 60 MPH you travel 88 feet A SECOND??? So if you are looking at your phone for a second, it's like driving 88 feet blindfolded! So take this as your public service announcement of the day.

The same can be said of life in general. I'm amazed at how often we don't pay attention to the really, REALLY important things like our relationships with God, our families, and each other... while being obsessed and hyper-focused on things that don't ultimately matter. What do you find yourself focused on during the day? Are you paying attention to the important things?

Peter had trouble "paying attention" to the Lord before Christ's crucifixion, often acting on impulse, but Peter finally learned to listen before he spoke or acted, and in his second epistle would write: And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 2:19) So let us pray for those involved in this horrible train accident, including the families of the dead, the injuried, and those who were involved in rescue efforts, and let us pay attention to our driving, and to everything that really, REALLY matters!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On Being Busy, Questioning Jesus, and Telling Him What to Do!

I'm too busy! A lot of people are TOO busy! It causes us stress, worry, frustration, high blood pressure, and generally robs us of joy. It is not a new problem, however. Look at this Jell-O commercial from the 50's! Notice the advanced graphics!



An a more serious note, neglecting my own Sabbath is one of my worst sins, and I pay for it. We all pay for our lifestyles that are crammed with too much stuff. Again, it is not a new problem, and neither is the solution. When Jesus came to visit his friends, Mary and Martha in Bethany (Luke 10:38-41), Martha was busy doing good things in the kitchen. She was a good person, who loved her Savior, and wanted to do good things for Him.

Her busyness gave her a platform from which she judged her sister Mary, who was not helping in the kitchen, but was at the feet of Jesus listening to Him; learning from Him. How do you know when you're too busy? Maybe one telling warning sign is when you tell Jesus what to do like Martha did! She was so frustrated she said to the Savior in v. 40, ""Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

Ouch! Not only did Martha tell Jesus to tell Mary to get moving, she also questioned whether or not He cared about her! There in one verse, someone is so busy, so distracted that she questioned Jesus' love for her, and gave Him an order!

Maybe you are doing a lot of good things! Maybe you are using "instant" things as your busy-day desserts or meals or whatever. But when you start questioning God's care for you and start issuing orders to Him, it might be time to pull out that box of instant pudding so you can have more time to...sit and listen and learn and love our Savior. The last time I looked, there wasn't an instant version of that.

Don't Let This Tradition Take Hold Here!

On the BBC News website, the headline reads: Easter Rocker War Hits Greek Isle.

The article opens with this: Every Easter Sunday on the small Greek island of Chios a fireworks war breaks out between two rival parishes. In a bizarre but long-cherished local tradition, two Orthodox churches in the town of Vrodandos fire rockets at each other's churches - while services are held. The objective is to hit the other church's bell, but many rockets go astray, causing locals to rush frantically for cover. And some say they are sick of having to repair their damaged homes.

Read the complete story here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3619425.stm

Better yet, click here:



The news story states that "Amid the melee, priests in both churches attempt to continue with mass, although the deafening sounds of fireworks and cheers as the rockets hit their targets often drown out the proceedings entirely." Imagine that...the noise of thousands of rockets drowns out what the priests are saying! Hmmm....ever heard of a church where there are "fireworks" over some issue; where the noise of disagreeable members drowns out the message that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life?

This doesn't mean we can't have different opinions, but it does mean Christ-followers cannot express their opinions in any manner that contradicts the truth of Galatians 5:13-15: You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

As a member of the Body of Christ, you have a right to express your opinion on church matters, but be careful you don't ever use your opinion, preferences, or desires to bite or devour anyone! So the next time you're tempted to light the fuse on your own personal rocket, take a moment to pray about it and think about Galatians 5:13-15!



When Sharing Good News, Watch Your "Ticker!"

A news ticker is that little band that runs during a TV broadcast telling of breaking news, weather warnings, etc. Well, I saw one Friday morning that irritated me a little. It was on Good Morning America when they were doing a great piece on the NC Teacher of the Year, Cindi Rigsbee, who credited much of her success to a Mrs. Warnicke, her first grade teacher.

To make a long story short....wait... you can read the long story here - and it's a great story about gratitude for those important mentors in your life: http://thedreamteacher.blogspot.com/2008/09/finding-mrs-warnecke.html or see the actual video here (without the ticker!): http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=5734025.

During the interview, the news ticker continued to run with all kinds of news items, most of which were not in keeping with the upbeat, affirming tone of the interview...things about politics, war, etc. It was like, "yeah, good news is great, but don't forget how awful, and stressful, and negative things really are!" It reminded me of some people who seem to have a negative news ticker running in their lives all the time. No matter what good news they communicate, there is this underlying negative, pessimistic, worrisome world view that comes through.

Christ followers are given the great privilege of sharing good news, and this sharing can be compromised if it is given from a perspective or fear or negativism or worry. May we each make sure that when we're televising our own good news, that we don't have anything running in our lives that distracts people from the BIG story of how great our Savior is!

I like what Paul says in Colossians 4:5,6: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

So go out there in converse with the world about the ultimate good news, filled with grace, seasoned with salt, and without the distraction of worry or fear!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Here's Your Answer to the High Gas Prices

Tired of paying so much at the pump for gas? For just over $1,000 you can get one of these for around town!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Pretty Impressive and Needed Daily Prayer!

A good friend recently sent me this prayer which he received at a training seminar at his work. Might not be a bad idea to pray it (and mean it!) every day!

A Prayer for the Day…Everyday!

Dear Lord,

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but You know Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Taken From A 17th Century Nun's Prayer

My Quick Visit to the Doctor

This video has nothing to do with my post except to emphasize my point that amazing things can happen in a relatively short time!



Okay, so for the point! I went to my dermatologist yesterday for my annual checkup to see what new things my aging body has decided to decorate itself with. (By the way, if you haven't been checked by a dermatologist ever, it's time! I was talking to a church member's daughter yesterday who kept nagging her husband to go and get a spot checked and finally he did, and it was melanoma which is a skin cancer that can kill you, so this is not a joke! He found his in time, but it is a reminder that a little mole can be big trouble, so don't play around....GO!)

Besides, if you use my doctor, such an exam doesn't take long at all! I like my doctor, friendly, competent, and fast! I arrived a minute late to my appointment (no one fussed), got my insurance form to update. Before I could fill out my address, they called me back, before I could start again in the exam room (on the form), in comes Dr. Jordan....boom, it's over, and I'm paying my co-pay and I'm still filling out the form! A new record! Oh, I got a clean report!

On top of that, I had a credit on my account so it cost me seven bucks, and I got a chance to talk with two of the ladies working in the office. I told them how impressed I was with their precision and speed and that I was going to blog the experience, which led to several minutes of discussion with my going on and on like I do. They were very patient, and very kind, and acted like I had blessed them.

It really doesn't take that much time (or even preparation) to bless people, and it's fun. The world stinks in so many ways, why not take a moment to engage people more on a positive note. Paul knew the power of the spoken word when He wrote: "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." Eph 4:29

Husbands and wives, parents to children, friend to friend....how long has it been since you've said some "helpful, building-up, need-meeting, or beneficial" words? Maybe it's time!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Spooky Technology - Amazing Virtual Pet from Sony

This is a little hard to believe, but then again, Sony comes up with some pretty amazing stuff. This "EyePet" will be available in 2009 for PlayStation 3.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Cool Perspective on the Olympics - Literally

I found an amazing picture of the inside of the Olympic stadium in Beijing. Now the picture here is NOT the amazing part, just a screen shot of the actual picture. Click on the link below, and then wait until the picture loads. It may load twice so wait until the little pinwheel counter stops and you have a color picture. Then you can click on the picture and then click and hold (or use the arrow keys) to move around the stadium, including up and down. You can also zoom in and out using your mouse scroll wheel or the SHIFT (IN) and the CTRL (OUT). Enjoy....The Link: http://www.karikuukka.com/peking2008/100m/

The photography company is Finnish, and they have another VR picture similar to this one at the top of one of their high (very high....make that insanely high) ski jump. Here is that link:
http://www.karikuukka.com/

Then go to: Interactive virtual tour of the Lahti HS130 hill and click on the top most box with two Finnish words on it! Clicking on the boxes show other areas of the jump area. It really is cool.

An Apology to a Faithful Reader

Once upon a time (like today), a blogger attempted to moderate comments before he had consumed enough Diet Mountain Dew to clear his morning mental fog. He had talked with a faithful blog reader the night before who had made a pertinent comment on his blog (below) about living water. In his pre-Dew fog, the inattentive blogger accidentally clicked on "reject" instead of "publish." To his horror, he could not find an undo option, and he was sad.

Then, he remembered the email reminder he had received containing the inadvertently deleted comment. So, thanks to my email is the comment!

A wonderful illustration, Andy....it reminded me of what I had just read in Zechariah (which to me brings up images of Rivendell, the mythical Elfen city in 'Lord of the Rings'....the city built around a magnificent waterfall...) I was particularly struck by the phrase 'living waters'...which your illustration dramatized as well. Zechariah 14:8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

Thank you Jeff for your patience, friendship and forgiveness in what could have been a devastating event of unintended deletion! And for everyone else, here is a pic I found of Rivendell from the first LOTR movie:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stagnant Decoration or Living Water for a Thirsty World?

Click on the video frame and see my amazing tabletop fountain!





Ok, ok, so it’s not that amazing…maybe this will be a little “more” amazing…”





This controlled water release into the Grand Canyon this past March released 300,000 gallons of water A SECOND into the canyon, not just for fun, but as an attempt to restore the needed sediment levels that had been disrupted by the Glen Canyon Dam. In short, they needed to stir up dirt in the river to help the fish. They were “stimulating” the ecosystem to sustain and multiply life.

The lesson? Well, some churches (and Christians) can easily become like my little fountain. There is music, and some movement, but newcomers can quickly tell that there is a lot of recirculation going on. The water may be “pretty” to look at, but they wouldn’t drink it! (Have you ever looked in the “tank” of one of these fountains after a couple of weeks? Nasty!)

Also, if you don’t add water to those things, they dry up as the water evaporates, and the pump gets ruined and you have a useless piece of nothing. Again, it is possible for a church to not depend on or expect God’s living water (i.e. the Holy Spirit) to do much of anything new, and people are content to come and watch a show, hear some music, and leave unchanged. If there is no awakening to the presence and purpose of God’s Spirit, things can quickly dry up!

In John 7:37-39, we read, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” It is obvious that Christ-followers are supposed to live in a “stream” of “living water, not in a stagnant pool. This stream does not have its end in us, but is meant to flow to others in love, kindness, compassion, service, humility, joy, peace, etc., that they may be stirred up to see their need for Christ.

God meant for the church (insert your name here if you are a Christ follower) to be like the canyon water, being released into to the world to stir things up for life! Paul says plainly that we are reconciled to God through Christ NOT just for heaven, but so that we can go into the world as Christ’s ambassadors (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ).

So don’t settle to be a re-circulating table decoration, be a Spirit-controlled, flood of living water! Read the next post below for a new way to let the flood flow!