Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Jessie

This week Jessie Carter died. She was 80 years old and a very sweet lady. She used to watch children at Grandview. She also watched children in her home. Her love for people was apparent at the funeral last night and at the graveside today.

During last night's funeral at the church building a storm rolled in. The clouds, visable through the large windows at the front of the sanctuary, were beautiful. The rain came during the funeral and stayed throughout this morning's graveside service.

The rain on my "good shoes" took me back to thoughts from when I was in high school. One of the things that bothered me when I was young and working for my dad in construction was the combination of a hard rain and the work site. I didn't much like the mud that would collect on my boots throughout the day. My boots would get messy and heavy. The mud on the bottom of my boots didn't get good traction on the mud that was under my boots. And it wasn't just a question of footwear. My clothes would get wet and heavy as well. By the end of the day I used to be a mixture of sweat, mud, rain, and dreams for an easier way of life. I remember yearning for a time when I would be able to work and not get messy. I wanted life to be neat and clean.

Now that I'm older I realize that life is rarely a tidy affair and that my wishes were unrealistic. Life comes with messiness. And so, today I got my good shoes wet in the cemetary. It didn't hurt my shoes at all. And even if it had, so what? I was half-glad for the mess because it brought back thoughts that hadn't surfaced in years. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had gotten that in my head earlier in life? Life is easier once we quit hoping that nothing messy will happen to us.

We'll miss you, Jessie. May God receive you and bless you.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Church 2020 Conference

Yesterday was the day of the Church 2020 Conference at Emmanuel School of Religion. I forgot to take a picture, but I've uploaded this old picture from late-Winter of this year when Dr. Stanley Hauerwas came to Emmanuel to speak on the occasion of Dr. Fred Norris' retirement.

I spoke yesterday on "Intellectual Formation." It's interesting that leading a seminar is so different from preaching (for me, at least). I asked myself what the difference is and the answer turns out to be this: When I'm preaching I feel like I have the authority of scripture undergirding the things I say. When I'm leading a seminar I may use some scripture, but it feels like most of what I say is based upon personal study and experience. My experience and study just don't carry the weight of scripture.

Yesterday was fun, though. I had the chance to hear Dr. Paul Blowers speak on Doctrinal Formation. It brought back good memories of being a student at Emmanuel . . . back in the same old room with the same teacher. It was comforting.

I also got the chance to spend a little time with Ben Cachairas, minister at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland and my predessor at Grandview. We were able to grab lunch together at Russo's and I got to pick his brain a little bit on how he structures his week. He's a busy guy, the chance to have lunch with him was a rare treat.

Now that the seminar is out of the way I just need to grade the papers from the Christ and Culture class I teach at Milligan College and then I'll be ready to prepare to transition from East Tennessee for Kentucky. These next two months promise to go quickly, leaving very little time to read, prepare to leave, and see as many folks as we can before moving.

Pray for us!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

And the books begin arriving!

When I got home from work today there was a box waiting on the counter. At first I assumed it was a box of hand-me-downs for my children. Packages received in the mail are rarely for me. Then I saw the Asbury sticker and I knew the books for my first class had arrived. There are 10 books in all, and I need to get busy reading them before the first class begins in July. I'm a slow reader . . . and even slower at comprehension. The great thing is that it's on a topic that interests me greatly.

The excitement I feel at receiving the books is tempered by the realization that I'm going to have to be disciplined enough to read them (just under 2000 pages before the class begins). I'll have to learn to sit still again. That's become a problem over the past couple of years. I get anxious to move on to the next thing; so anxious that I don't always finish what I'm doing. This will take some re-learning on my part and it's part of the reason I wanted to undertake another degree. I need the discipline and structure it provides.

With a naive smile I pulled all of the books out of the box, laid them side by side, and asked Cindy which one I should read first. She tapped the cover of "Leadership and Self-Deception." Hmmmm. Methinks she's telling me something. Naawwwww.

So, the reading for my DMin has begun.

The Easter Party

Easter was great at Grandview this past week. The congregational singing, the choir (in both services), the massive (for us) choir at the end of the 11am service singing Handle's Messiah, the record numbers . . . some Sundays just make my spirit soar.

We broke 400 this week for the first time. The official "in sanctuary" number was 431. This number, however, was skewed by the fact that some people came to two services. This number doesn't include the number of children we had on Easter. I haven't received those numbers yet.

This break-through was made possible by adding a Sunrise Service. This reminds me that we need to think seriously about adding a third service. The tricky part is adding a third service without wearing out our musical talent--the other tricky part is my Sabbatical. But how impressive would it be for Grandview to add a third service while their minister is gone for a year? That would be an amazing statment of commitment to moving the church forward.

My Dad and his wife were at the service this Sunday and told me several times that they could see that the Spirit of God was present. This isn't something my Dad says lightly. In fact, it's the first time in my now 14 years of ministry that he has visited my church and gone away saying that. It really was a special day, a day that reminded us all of how gracious God has been to us at Grandview.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Some of the highlights from the past couple of years

As you Grandviewians know, we've had a busy couple of years. Besides doubling the size of our building, we've continued to increase missions giving and to bring on new staff. We have an excellent team in place right now. In order of seniority, our ministerial staff consists of Denny (choir director), Dana (minister to children), John (minister of administration), Theresa (worship service coordinator), Isaac (worship leader for first service), and Ryan (youth minister).

Another big event, for me, was to have Dr. Fred Craddock grace our pulpit back in the summer of 2004. He's an amazing preacher and an inspiration. We were very fortunate that one of our elders (Ron) grew up in Dr. Craddock's home church in Humboldt, Tennessee.

I'm looking forward to going to Asbury . . . but I'll also be missing Grandview.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

This is my first attempt at blogging. Forgive the crude nature of the attempt.

I'm preparing to take a year-long sabbatical from my position as minister of Grandview Christian Church in Johnson City, Tennesee in order to pursue my Doctor of Ministry degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. I want my family at Grandview to be able to peak-in on the experience and share it with me, so I'm beginning this blog.

My family and I will be moving to Asbury at the end of June 2006. We have already had the pleasure of meeting the McIntosh and Layer families . . . they are two other families who recieved 2006-7 Beeson Fellowships. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.

Above is a picture of me and my family. They are looking forward to the move, mostly. Cindy is looking forward to it. It's hard for M to leave the comfort of friends, but A and C are a little younger. Maybe that makes it easier. They've all been good sports. I won't be talking much about them. The purpose of this blog isn't to open our private world to any and every onlooker. I'll spend more time on the learning experience that we've been given the opportunity to have over the coming year.


More as I learn how to do this.