Sunday, December 28, 2008

Silent Night

This year, for our 11:00p.m. Christmas Eve Service, I chose for us to sing Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and not, as is tradition, Silent Night. Just at the thought of it people questioned, pondered, and even rebuked the change.

My thoughts on this change are two-fold.

1. We were using the service of Nine Lessons and Carols as developed and presented by King's College. If you look on the King's College website,, you will find they traditionally end with O Come, All Ye Faithful followed by Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. I figure if it is good enough for King's College Cambridge, it is probably good enough for us.

2. There is a theological bend to this question as well. If we listen to the Christmas story as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find that the angels tell the shepherds the shepherds tell someone for "all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them." The star tells the Gentiles, who in turn tell King Herod (ok, so that wasn't the best person to tell).

So what do we do when we hear this story again? That's right, light a little candle, sing a song about being silent, and warm up in our own personal glow space. We are not called to be silent with the news that a child has been born. We are to be heralds, bearers of the news. We have a gift to share and it did not come from Jared's.

We need the good news of a savior, who brings peace, to cover the face of the earth. And we, the people who worship this child born in Bethlehem, are the ones who need to share the message with the world in turmoil.

Monday, December 22, 2008

22nd of December

Ok, so I am in the office three days before Christmas (the ONLY religious holiday that is also a full Federal Holiday). I was thinking about the covenant that is to come when the Kingdom of God is fully established on earth. That is what we are hoping for on the 25th of December, right? The Kingdom of God on Earth?

Are we looking for the time when our kingdoms, our positions of power, our goals are worthless? Are we hoping for the day when the only one who leaders is Christ? Many of us are looking forward to Christmas. We cannot wait until we sing Silent Night with candles all aglow. (Look for something on Silent Night tomorrow.) Are we as anxiously awaiting the coming of Christ who will separate the wheat from the chaff? Are we living out our salvation is such a way that the world sees in us an indwelling of the kingdom of God?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This is something that has been percolating in my mind for a while now and I am just beginning to be able to formulate it into sentences. This is not a final thought by any means, rather this is a getting it out to be seen and tested. Please throw darts at it. Poke holes in it. Help me see what I am blind to see.

It seems to me that many good and faithful Christians spend a great amont of time trying to find a good set of ethics, a set of rules by which to live their lives.

Once upon a time the rules were pretty simple, "Don't drink. Don't smoke. (Don't dance.) And don't go with girls who do." If you did or did not do these things as the case may be, you were in pretty good standing with the Big Guy.

Wesley gave the people called Methodists three rules. 1. Do no harm. 2. Do good. 3. Tend to the ordiances of God. In other words, avoid evil and sin, love your neighbor in every form possible, and maintain the spiritual disciples of prayer, the reading of scripture, and community worship. He said that living out these rules was evidence of a persons desire to recieve salvation that comes in grace through Christ.

Moses gave us the BIG TEN (no this is not a NCAA football conference). This is the Law literally written in stone and given to the people Israel. You know it says stuff like, have no other gods before the LORD God, keep the sabbath, honor your parents, do not want for your neighbors things.

Jesus narrowed it down to two. Love the LORD your God and love your neighbor.

Mother Teresa gave the sisters two keys, which having learned directly from a sister who worked with the Blessed Mother and not finding them elsewhere I feel I should not share in a blog but am more than willing to share with anyone in the personally sharing of faith.

The Gospel according to Matthew in the the Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7 for those of you who want to read along at home) gives us a synopsis of Jesus' ethic and teaching. Instructions on being salt and light. Teachings on those who are called blessed. Reminders to turn the other cheek. Commands to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

The prophet Micah tells us do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

Then you can pull rules, ethics, and guidelines on life from any of the epistles, from the teachings of Luther, the instructions of St. Francis, the works of St. Augustine of Hippo, the rules of St. Benedict.

And still, good and faithful Christians spend hours trying to find an ethic, a rule, a way to live their life. Do we really believe we need a new teaching on these things? Or are we searching for an ethic that is less intrussive? Here is my proposal in short form. Follow any ONE of these ethics in the name of Christ and you will find yourself working as a servant in the kingdom of God. Live out any of these simple instructions and you will be light and salt. Stop searching for the right answer and say to Christ, "Today. Today, I am yours. And I will do my best to faithful walk in your ways." Then follow to the best of your ability one of these rules of grace and submission.

If even half of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ would find our simple rule and live under the rule the One who is light and life the power of the gospel and good news of Christ would quickly cover the face of the earth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Forgive Me, Father

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been almost two months since my last blog.
I almost thought I had given it up. Do I need to blog? Does anyone care if I blog? Really? Then, almost out of the blue at a Christmas party, a friend of mine said, "Hey, do you blog?"

I said, "Well, I have posted a few times, but not really."

He said, "If you start blogging, let me know. I like your take on things."

Someone wants to know my opinion? About things? Why? I am not all that smart. In fact, I think the more I study and listen and prayer, the more I realize I know very little at all.
So, forgive me, father for not having blogged in almost two months. Forgive me, again, for thinking I know something when in reality I know very litte. Forgive me for sometimes sharing more than is necessary when what you are wanting me to do is listen and be present. Forgive me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

T.V. News

I know this is a bit out dated, but it came up while watching Boston Legal on TIVO last night.

A couple of weeks ago, a Dallas Police Officer struck and killed a 10-year old boy. The boy was riding his bike in the evening on a poorly lit street. The Police Officer was driving his patrol car over the speed limit in a residential area with no lights and no siren.

I am not here to talk about the boy or the officer. I grieve for them both. My wife and said again last night, "We cannot image how desperately lost the parents must feel at this time." I also cannot begin to imagine how horrified the officer must feel knowing he accidentally killed an innocent child.

I am here to talk about the TV news coverage in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. More than once, they showed some or all of the video from the perspective of the dash board cam in the patrol car. I know they said, "The images you are about to see are disturbing." I know they said, "Parents, you might want to remove your children from the room." I know they stopped the video before the car actually struck the boy. I also know my wife and I both cringed at the thought and grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. It was unnecessary. It was vile. It was tasteless. It was senseless.

Yes, that video needs to be used in police training sessions. Yes, use it in court. Yes, keep it as public record. But the freedom of the press does not mean the press needs to be Faces of Death V. Remember you are here to serve the public as the fourth estate. And yes, as a member of the first estate (look at your French History for this one), I am calling you to a higher standard for the common good.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Third Day

Last week I went to see one of my favorite bands in the whole world. I even got to meet the band after the show, thanks to a gift from a good friend. It was awesome. Yes, I love Third Day. I have been a fan for almost 10 years. I have them live five times. And then to meet them was amazingly awesome. Yes, that is my loving wife, Tammy, Mac, and I in the picture.

It was in the meeting that I realized why it is that I enjoy the band and especially Mac Powell so much. They are not my idols. They are more like my pastor. Through their music, they minister to me. Their music has so many highs and lows, so many praises and laments, so much joy of salvation and awe/fear of the divine. Not to mention they are a great band in that southern rock, guitar driven sound.

This morning, as I was running, their song King of Glory came across my i-pod. I have covered this tune for years with 21st RUNG at my church. It is a great tune. But this morning, with darkness still covering the face of the earth, my feet pounding the pavement, tears rolled down my face. Once again, in a surprising way, Mac's gift was given, God's grace was shared, and I was small before God as the choir sang, "Jesus. Precious Jesus. Lord Almighty. King of my heart. King of Glory."

Thank you Third Day for sharing your worship with us. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you ministering to so many so often. Thank you for being a musical pastor.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Running II

Ok, so this weekend I turned 37 years old. That is not a big deal really. Beyond turning the dial on my years, I also did something I have never done before on that same day. I ran eleven miles. I know it is crazy, and I have been trying to keep quiet about it most the summer. Somehow, slowly, people have heard that I am training to run a half marathon, (13.1 miles for those of you playing along at home) on November 16 in San Antonio, Texas.

I will give some answers the frequently asked questions.
+ No, I am not fast. I average around a 12 minute mile.
+ No, I have not lost any weight. Well, I guess since May I have lost about two and a half pounds.
+ No, I was not a runner in school. Previous to this summer, the farthest I had even run without walking was no more than a mile. I had run/walked several 5k’s with Tammy and Austin.
+ I have not yet enjoyed the “runner’s high.”
+ No, I don’t feel better. I feel tired, sore, grumpy, and emotional most of the time.

I am doing it because one person brought up a training program to me several times and invited me to an informational meeting. Vance Bates simply invited me to try it. Me, a guy who doesn’t run, doesn’t believe in running, doesn’t particularly like running, and by no means has any natural ability in running long distances, was invited to be a part of a running club. I still blame him when I crawl out of bed at 5:00 in the morning to go on a run in the neighborhood, or when I am grinding out mile nine of eleven with the group.

There is a moral to this story. Vance invited me to be a part of something important in his life. He invited me three or four times and said, “Come just see what it is about with no obligation or pressure.” You too can invite others to be a part of something important in your lives. You might have to make that invitation more than once to be heard. What you share might change someone’s life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Time is an interesting thing. We all have 24 hours in a day. None of us can live one minute in the past, nor can we put all that much stake into the future. All we have is the right now.

Right now, God is asking for my very best. Oh, I might have given my best yesterday, but that is over and gone. I cannot promise to give my best tomorrow, for I do not know what tomorrow may bring. All I can hope to do is give my best to God in this moment.

Monday, September 8, 2008


OK, this spring I began something relatively insane. I began running. I started for several reasons. First, I knew I needed to loose some weight (don't we all). Second, I member of the church is the manager at a local running store and mentioned this 1/2 marathon in San Antonio and the running group at the store.
After almost four months of running, I am two months out from this 1/2 marathon. Running is still hard. Running still wears me out (I am tired all the time). Running has become something more than feet and pavement.
I wonder now, "To what am I running?" and "From what am I running?" We run from many things: problems, relationships, work, stress, the past. I don't feel that I am running from any of those things. But minus this 13.1 mile run in November, I am also not sure if there is a goal out there that I am running towards.
Right now, I am running in circles. I have not lost any weight (but I don't feel as guilty about a good hamburger, fries, and a coke). I don't have a goal in mind usually, minus finishing.
How much of life is just running circles with no goal, no accomplishment, just waiting for the next hill to climb or turn in the road?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Working Together

A while back a member of the congregation brought me a ceramic cross hand made in Peru. The cross is being carried by a plethora of persons dressed in native Peruvian garb. The note she attached says, "We are working together to serve the Lord."

Sometimes it is hard to remember we are supposed to be working together in service to the Lord. We get side tracked with little issues. We let silly things get in the way of working as one body. Simply disagreements fester. We let hurt feelings become hard feelings and animosity grows within us. Then we are almost surprised when Christ is not at the center of the Church, when God is not glorified in all we do, or when the Spirit is not allowed to lead the Church.

Each of us needs to remember that not only are we, the followers of Jesus, working together to serve the Lord, each of us is in service with Christ. Our service to Christ, our being a disciple, begins with simple acts of piety. . . prayer, searching the scriptures, worship, listening for God's voice to speak.

We serve Christ and we are in service with Christ. We are working together and living together under the reign of God.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"Why?" This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Think about talking to a two-year old who has just discovered this time-perplexing and mind-numbing question. They ask, "Why do I have a belly button?"
You say something cute like, "Because it is where God kissed you."
"Why?" comes back again.
"Because God loves you."
"Because God loves everybody."
"Why?" "Because God is love."
Well you get the picture.
Giving a close to scientifically correct answer, "You have a belly button because when you were growing in mommy's tummy before you were born, that is where you and mommy were connected." Well, you know the "Why?" is coming and there are details here that you are not really sure you want to explain to a two-year old.

Today, I am struggling with "Why?" I am not two-years old, but the question is haunting me. A 21-year old man died this weekend in a local swimming hole. He is a friend of a member of the congregation where I serve. They met working together for a company that hires adults with learning problems.

As a parent of a child with learning issues (my younger son has Down-Syndrome), I know the family has asked "Why?" many times over the course of 21 years. "Why is our child not like all the rest?" "Why does it have to be so hard?" And now the question for this family has changed to something even more profound, "Why is he gone?" "Why did he have to die?" "Why has God done this to us?"

To try and explain, "Why?" is useless. There is no good answer to this question. If we knew why, it might be more painful than we could endure. And knowing why does not take away the loss. But this does not remove the reality of God's all encompassing GRACE and LOVE. Yes, it still hurts, and yes the questions will still come in the night, "why . . . why . . . why . . . why?" And still God is there with us, holding us, keeping us, weeping with us and for us.

I have no answer to the "Why?" this morning. I can only look to my faith and to the mercy of Christ, who loves us in all things. Being a Christian, a follower of Christ, does not insulate us from the many hard things in life. It does remind us that the hard things are not the final answer. The story does not end with a child being born with learning disabilities. The story is not finished at the bottom of swimming hole. The final word is not death. As a follower of Christ, I know the final word is hope for all God's children, life abundant, resurrection is the face of death, future with no limitations.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In a day and time where many young persons in the church are talking about change, I am astounded at how few are talking about and engaging in prayer. My challenge to all the postmoderns out there who are looking to change the church, the world, the way things work, I encourage you to begin to pray.

We do not have to do great things. We are called to do faithful, holy things. I am not saying that we have to spend all of our time praying. I am saying that we must take prayer much more seriously.

If you read these words, take a few moments to stop and pray. Pray for the church to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. Pray for peace and joy to enter your heart and your day. Be the change for which you are hoping. Be the one who is taking the time to pray.