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A Eulogy

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Today I'll be attending the funeral of my wife Merideth's uncle, Senator Richard Langley.  

Senator Langley was a larger than life figure, in his beloved Lake County, Florida, but he made an indelible imprint on the entire state of Florida during his years of service in the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate. 

He lived his entire life to the fullest---wringing the most out of every single day, and leaving an incredible legacy to his children and grandchildren. 

He was also a man of faith, who spent a lifetime wrestling with Scripture, examining his beliefs and fully and completely placing his trust in God as he did his best to follow Jesus. 

Although he and I approached our faith from different perspectives, I know for a fact that he prayed for me and my ministry, and I will always be grateful for the gift of his prayers. 

The role that Senator Langley played in my wife Merideth's life, however, is the one that was most dear to me.  To her he was "Uncle Dick,&…

Reminder

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I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a story about an Uber driver in St. Petersburg, FL who saved a suicidal man's life.  

Chad Farley, an Uber driver from Gulfport, FL was about to call it a night when he felt a strong urge to accept one more fare.  He became alarmed when he realized the passenger had asked to be driven to the highest point of the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which is one of the top spots in Florida where people commit suicide.  

According to the Tampa Bay Times, "Farley chatted up the passenger, learned he had brain cancer, prayed with the man, held his hand — even snapped a photo of them smiling together before dropping him off at the rest stop to the north of the bridge." 

Farley immediately called 911.  Florida Highway Patrol officers responded, and ended up rescuing the man from drowning himself in the Gulf.  

When asked about the incident, Farley reported that it was by "divine appointment" that he encountered the young man that night.  …

A Radical And Transforming Gospel

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Today is one of those days when I am having trouble writing what I am feeling and thinking.  I've been listening to news reports, and reading through my Facebook feed most of the morning, and my heart is heavy.  

In the aftermath of the horrific events that have happened this past week in Charlottesville, you would think the overwhelming Christian response would be one of unequivocal condemnation of violence and hatred.  

You would think that because that's the only response that would be in keeping with the teachings of Jesus, right? 

Yet, I've had to come to grips with the realization that many of us who call ourselves Christians are struggling to unequivocally name the sin of racism and bigotry as sin. We would much rather shift the blame, find a new scapegoat perhaps.  Or find some other sin to name. 

And this why so many statements of condemnation by Christians over the events at Charlottesville have come across as defensive, and full of blame-shifting.  

This is the kind …

A Letter To My Congregation

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To the Members and Friends of Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church, 


I know this past week felt as though we were reliving some of the worst moments of our nation's history.  

The harsh rhetoric and tensions surrounding the conflict with North Korea are eerily familiar, reminding us of some of the tensest moments of the Cold War.  Likewise, the news from Charlottesville is a harsh reminder of the violence surrounding the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s. 

I know I am not alone in feeling a deep sense of sorrow and hopelessness as we experience these same tensions decades after those conflicts supposedly ended.  


It would be all too easy to give in to fear and even despair as we listen to world leaders taunt and goad each other to war, and to succumb to the tyranny of helplessness and resignation when it comes to the tragic and violent ends of racism and bigotry.  


However, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are as relevant today as they were when he penned them over f…

Overcome

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I have been on vacation for the past week and a half celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary with perhaps the best family vacation we have ever taken. Merideth and I had the chance to be with our boys, doing things that we all loved to do together.  Every moment was a blessing.  

We were all too aware, however, that the world was continuing to turn while we were celebrating.  The news of growing tensions and violence around the world continued to trickle in, despite our efforts to hold it all at bay for a while. 

And then we heard the sad news that Merideth's uncle (her law partner and lifelong mentor) passed away after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer.  Our plans to return home had to change, phone calls and video chats had to happen.  Merideth spent one whole morning prayerfully and tearfully writing her uncle's obituary. 

Then we embraced one another, took our kids on adventures, laughed, ate and played together.  We reminded ourselves that life is short, and every day i…

Counting it all Joy: Pt. 3

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People often ask me why I sign all of my emails, and other correspondence with the words, "Counting it all Joy."  Today is Part 3 of that explanation which comes from the book of James 1:2: "...count it all joy when you fall into various trials."   

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet dissident during the Cold War era. He was thrown into a concentration camp by the communist government, which was for many a death sentence.  

At one point he was breaking rocks and digging--hard labor that he knew would never end. All seemed lost, and hopeless.  He laid his shovel aside and sat down on a bench, knowing that at any moment a guard would most likely come up to him and beat him to death with the butt of a gun. 

He felt a presence next to him on the bench and looked over to see another prisoner, a thin, drawn man who had been in the gulag longer than Alexander.  The man took a stick and drew on the ground in front of Alexander and then quietly got up and walked away. 

When he…

Counting it all Joy: Pt. 2

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People often ask me why I sign all of my emails, and other correspondence with the words, "Counting it all Joy."  Today is Part 2 of that explanation which comes from the book of James.  

James (who was the brother of Jesus) exhorted Christians to consider it all joy when they encountered trials and tribulations.  Most of us struggle with this, and here's a compelling reason why.

LOTS of Christians believe that God causes trials and tribulations.  That God is the author and finisher, not merely of our faith, but also of our pain.  And then the really church-y people in our lives will try to tell us that "God has a plan," and somehow that we won't be worthy of God's love unless we just accept this and soldier on... 

So, does God really cause all trials and tribulations? 

James, the brother of Jesus, didn't seem to think so. 

Compare these two statements:

"If God brought you to it...He'll get you through it." 
"God doesn't cause all th…