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Showing posts from August, 2017

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

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Each day, my wife Merideth and I plot out our day, planning how we are going to be devoting our time and energy.  It never ceases to amaze us how few hours there are in a day as we plan how we will spend them.   

One of the things that we work hard to do each and every day is to ensure that we are spending time doing the most important things like spending time with family, eating together, doing life with friends, pouring ourselves into the good work that God has given us to do. 

Are we awesome at this?  Nope.  We trip and fall on a regular basis, and there are plenty of days when we get hijacked by the "tyranny of the urgent," and we find ourselves struggling to be at peace.  But what we've discovered is that when our intentions are to focus on the things that matter, more often than not we do.  

Several years ago, therapist Richard Carlson wrote the bestselling book, Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. In the book Carlson essentially argues that most of us spend almost all …

Village

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This morning Merideth and I got our two youngest boys out the door for the first day of school.  Our first-grader rode his bike to school this morning with two of his buddies (and a couple of dads, including Yours Truly).  Our eighth-grader (all dressed up) walked to school with two of his friends, who live on our street.

At our littlest boy's school, we ran into church members, preschool staff, friends from our neighborhood, and teachers we have come to love.  I'm sitting in a Starbucks now while Merideth visits with moms from our church--a drop-in event organized by one of our awesome church staffers.  

Later this morning we are driving to San Antonio to attend the swearing-in ceremony of one of our church members who is becoming a U.S. citizen.  I'm excited to see this ceremony, and I am super excited for our friend, and to be able to share this incredible milestone with her and her family. 

This is what it means for me to be a part of a church.  To do life with other peop…

The Creed - Week One: "I Believe..."

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A couple of years ago I had to take my middle son Jackson with me when I attended a presbytery meeting.  He was on summer break from school, and there was no one to watch him that day, so he had to tag along. 

I should explain what a presbytery meeting is to those who are uninitiated in the ways of Presbyterianism.  A presbytery is a gathering of representatives from a group of Presbyterian churches which are typically organized geographically.  These representatives usually gather on a quarterly basis to debate and vote on denominational issues and such...  

I literally almost fell asleep explaining that.  

So Jackson went with me to this meeting, and it was preceded by a worship service. 

To say that this worship was dry, lifeless and boring is an understatement.  The prepared prayers were too long.  The music was listless and dull.  There were readings, statements of things and more assorted stand up/sit down kind of stuff than was necessary.  

It was like the people organizing it gathe…

Dentist

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I am sitting in a pediatric dentist's office in Florida this morning.  My littlest boy had a dental emergency and they were able to squeeze him in for an appointment.  

I actually wish I could go to this dentist.  The waiting room is decorated like a theme park and the waiting room is loaded with video games.  There's also a Disney movie playing on a big screen TV in front of all these comfy seats.  

The group who works here knows what they are doing with kids.  They use the most state-of-the-art equipment, and have obviously studied how to minimize the negative feelings children have with going to the dentist's office.  

When I was a kid, my dentist was a no-nonsense guy with a sterile office and a waiting room stocked with decades old National Geographic and Reader's Digest magazines.  

Once the guy went against what nurse was telling him and brusquely injected the wrong side of my mouth with Novocain.  He eventually admitted his mistake, thankfully, but I walked out of …

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…

Counting it all Joy: Pt. 1

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If you've ever wondered why I sign all of my emails, church newsletter articles and letters with the words, "Counting it all Joy," I'll give you an explanation... in three parts over the next three days!  

This little tagline comes from the book of James.  Here it is in context: 

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing  (James 1:2-4)

I use those four words every day to remind myself that I am speaking my way into believing them.  Because to rejoice when you are going through tough moments is not intuitive to most of us, and here's why:  

In ancient Judaism the rabbis struggled to explain why human beings could contain both the capacity for great evil in addition to great good.  They developed the idea of the Yetser Hatob and the Yetser Hara.  

Basically it goes like this, God created evil…

Fooling Yourself

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Last night my middle son and I went to the classic rock band Styx in concert.  There were a couple of other acts on the bill, but it was Styx we truly came to see.  
When I was thirteen years old, Styx was my favorite rock band in the world. 
Styx albums were often the soundtrack of my angry struggle through adolescence. There was one song in particular off of their The Grand Illusion album that spoke to me probably more than any other:  "Fooling Yourself."  
These were the lyrics that were grace and peace to me when I struggled to find them: 
You see the world through your cynical eyes You're a troubled young man I can tell You've got it all in the palm of your hand But your hand's wet with sweat and your head needs a rest
And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it Why must you be such an angry young man When your future looks quite bright to me How can there be such a sinister plan That could hide such…