Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

I hope you had a great Christmas. I've had a relaxing week, overall, because of a gift given to me by Luke Erickson. He will be preaching tomorrow on the Holy Family and their Flight to Egypt. I've read his sermon and it's very good--especially considering that he wrote it while experiencing his first taste of fatherhood (his daughter is now about two weeks old). Luke is student at Emmanuel and is part of the Minnesota pipeline to the area. Some of you have heard him give communion meditations and know that he is a gifted speaker.

His sermon title is excellent: Keeping the Christ after Christmas.

Despite my week away from the pulpit I will be in the worship service (Lord willing) and leading the prayers of the church. So, here it is:

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
December 30, 2007

God of power and might, when you unveiled your face we were surprised to be looking into the eyes of a baby boy, nestled to the heart of a young woman, surrounded by the protection provided by her faithful husband, armed only with messengers from your throne. We were surprised that you would provide that family with gold, frankincense and myrrh instead of guns, firepower, and munitions.

God of persistence and grace, we were surprised when your son left the land of his birth, under cover of darkness. We were surprised Mary and Joseph nurtured royalty in an unfamiliar land, surrounded by a cacophony of foreign words and foreign songs.

God of creation and joy, we were surprised when, at last, you pealed away the sacramental veils and we were staring into the patient and pained eyes of a man on a cross. Could this really be the exact representation of your character and core?

God of life and more life, you surprised us even more when the grave proved too feeble a foe and your Son’s human feet stood again on clod and clay.

Moved by the life of your Son, sanctioned and entitled by your Spirit, blessed by the Father, may we become ambassadors worthy of our commission.

In the silence, Lord, we confess our disobedience to you; we confess our attempts to advance our own stories without concern for the one great story that defines and saves us:


Lord, please continue to bless the organizations that further the work of your gospel here and to the corners of the earth. Bless Agape Women’s Services, Appalachian Christian Camp, Appalachian Christian Village, the Christian Student Fellowship at ETSU, Emmanuel School of Religion, the European Evangelistic Society, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Milligan College, and the Salvation Army—and all who provide labor and support for them.

We pray together according to the example of your Son:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Miscellaneous

When I went to Asbury last week I made sure to stop at The Dutch Treat Country Store. I must have passed this place 20 times before ever thinking to to stop.It's the tiniest bakery I've ever seen ... but the food is really good. If you're ever passing through little Rose Hill, Virginia on 58 (and I know you will be soon!) I recommend you stop and leave a little of your money in an area of the country that could use an outside infusion of cash. You'll be fatter and happier when you leave.
While in Wilmore I got to see this one-horse-power Dodge Caravan. This picture is worth a caption contest. If you have any clever tags feel free to leave them in the comments section. Seems like a strange place to walk a horse.
Christmas in Johnson City was good. I'm afraid I don't have many pictures because our camera is dying, slowly, and sadly. It has become like it's owner (unreliable and unfocused).

Regardless, here's Anna with the must have music of her generation.

Aaahhhhh ... Christmas morning breakfast.
Cora got something for playing the must-have music of her generation.
Cindy's mom came to visit (all of my pictures of her were blurry, sorry Barbara!). We all had a good time. Owen came to visit us with Randy and Heather for Christmas supper. Polite and funny, he supplied us with our entertainment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

From Wilmore I'm trying to tie the loose ends of sermon prep and get my normal things finished, even as I lace working on my dissertation into the process. I like where tomorrow's sermon starts, and I like where it goes in the middle ... but the ending still needs work. Perhaps I can contemplate it during the four and a half hour ride back to Johnson City.

Here's the prayer. Have a great weekend.

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
December 23, 2007

Lord, forgive us when we think we have too little to offer you. For you have heaped gifts upon us and made us rich. You have poured life into us, and when we were full you kept pouring so that we would become overflowing with life. We praise you for the gifts of touch and taste, sight and sound, friend and foe. We praise you for beauty in the faces around us this morning, for the fizzy vigor of youth and for the unruffled wisdom of old age. We praise you for luxury of being able to pause this week and celebrate with others that scandalous baby you became in the womb of Mary—foolish to those who didn’t know you, a stumbling block to those who thought they did.

You changed the world without heavy handed threats, without weapons of mass destruction, and without political maneuvering. You changed the world through the innocent cry of a baby in a manger and the innocent cry of a man on a cross. Glory and honor and praise belong to you! How wise you are! How patient you are! How loving you are!

Forgive us when we grow too comfortable to notice what you have done for us; when we become complacent and lazy about the ultimate sacrifices and the loving gestures you have made. Forgive us when we complain about the gift of life, and resent that there are better ways to use that gift than to be selfish with it.

Move us from penitence to praise, from groveling to glory, from collapse to chorus.

As we sing, join our voices to the missionaries’ voices as they serve and praise you. Join us to the Coleys, Freelands, Headens, McDades, Nyadors, Veals, Orths and to the Jacksons and Colemans as they prepare to serve you in places foreign to us, but known to you.

As we sing, join our hearts to those who are in need. Bless those who have little or no access to education, support, and wealth. Bless those who wake up each morning under a government that does not fear you or the people they serve. Bless those who struggle with sins that cause them to withdraw from community. Give healing to the sick; comfort to the grieving; protection for those who stand between us and our enemies. Bless our friends and our enemies with your peace. Give to the dying a peaceful death. Give to the living hope, joy, and heartiness.

Lord, we bring out unspoken concerns and praises to you in the silence …

The Lord’s Prayer

Friday, December 21, 2007

Back at Asbury and Happy Birthday, Anna!

Asbury Theological Seminary during the week before Christmas ... is ... well ... pretty dead. If you need peace and quiet, this is the place. Even the formerly loud section of the library is empty, except for one bald guy in the corner typing an entry for his blog before getting back to work on his dissertation.

Today is Anna's birthday. Happy Birthday, Anna! I love you and I'm sorry I'm not home for your big day. To make up for my absence, dear, you won't get in trouble for this picture that I found on the camera. If you are going to do things I have told you not to do, it will be best not to photograph the activity. The irony? You got a bed for your birthday because you ruined the last one by jumping on it. Hmmmmm. I think not getting in trouble for this is a huge gift. Enjoy it.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This Week in JC

On Monday night we had the Grandview staff and their families over for the staff Christmas party. Fortunately, I got the Christmas lights up before things turned cold.For the party we had to turn the dining room into the living room ....

... and the living room into the dining room.

We all had a good game of Apples to Apples.
And we chatted.

And we played Apples to Apples.
Tonight (Wednesday night), Cindy's mom, Barbara, arrived for the Christmas season. We all went to Cootie Browns ...
...then I was off to Kingsport to watch Marshall and the Dobyns-Bennett Indians put the beat-down on Sullivan South High School.
Marshall had an excellent game.
He did more than shoot free throws, but my camera can only catch slow action shots.Anna was there.

As were Donna, Beth, and Ryan.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Miscellaneous

Okay ... I'm running behind so I'll just throw some pictures from last week onto the blog.

Here is the view of Grandview's sanctuary from the street when the lights are on. Seeing this picture reminds me that when we were building the new sanctuary the supervisor made a Styrofoam cross and hoisted it into place while I went down to the street level to determine where it would be most visible to passersby. I think it looks warm. Here are the Millers and Ryan Bader at Meghan's band concert.The Mikki and Meredith were there as well. We have our share of Grandview kids in the band.
The band sets up for the concert.

Cindy, Anna, and Cora await the big performance.
Earlier in the week we went to Anna's first band concert at Indian Trail Middle School.
Anna was in the front roooooowwwww....Cindy and Meg await her performance.Dad and Cora wait as well.
Also, I found this trash can at Science Hill. Can you keep a city clean with a dumpy trash can like this? The trash can is PART OF THE PROBLEM!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

It's been a good week and I need to post pictures of band concerts and other things that are happening as Christmas approaches. The thing about blogging is that it's hard to make time to blog when the interesting things are happening. When things get a little slow I have more time for blogging, but less about which to blog.

Tomorrow's prayer opens with Psalm 8 (I reworked it a bit). When I incorporate a Psalm into the prayer I feel a little like I'm plagiarizing. So I'm glad to have a blog where I can publicly proclaim things like "Hey, this prayer makes use of Psalm 8."

I was reminded again last Sunday by someone that he just isn't sure how appropriate it is to write our prayers in advance. He doesn't believe it's wrong, but it obviously makes him uncomfortable. If I use a prayer that was written down thousands of years ago (i.e. Psalm 8), maybe he will find it more satisfying.

Blessings to you.

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
December 16, 2008

O LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When we consider your heavens, your finger at work, the planets, the moons and the stars, which you have set in place, who are we that you are mindful of us, the sons and daughters of humans, infinitely tinier than the universe that you care for us?

You made us a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned us with glory and honor.

You made us rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under our feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. You made us rulers over technology, putting atoms and electricity, and circuits under our feet.

O LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

By your grace may we be wise in our use of your gifts, not abusing these gifts, but glorifying you by the manner in which we husband the land, the sea, the air, and life. Show us what you wanted us to see when you came to this earth, in the same sort of flesh we inhabit; when you breathed the air we breathe, sank under the waters of the Jordan, walked on the dirt that wash from beneath our fingernails.

You know what it means to pray for the sick, as we do now. As we do every week, we ask for healing for the sick, strength for the weak, hope for those in despair, and protection for those who stand between us and our enemies. At the same time, O Lord, we pray that you would bless our enemies. Also, please give those who are dying a peaceful and timely death.

Lord, as Mary pondered the events surrounding the birth of your Son. We stop to ponder what your coming to earth in the flesh means:


Together we pray as your Son has taught us:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Strip Clubs, Churches, and the NBA

I grew up on the west side of Indianapolis in an old farm house--minus the farm. The mall was a few blocks away. Low income housing projects were just around the corner. The street in front of our house was very busy. We lost one person and a many pets to accidents in front of our house (poor Hico the Dog ... I hope he never saw it coming). Despite all of that I experienced the area as safe. My siblings and I were free to ride our bikes all over the place, busy roads and all. My parents were amazingly trusting of us and of the area; even after a car hit me while I was riding my brother's bike to a 4-H bicycle safety class (strange but true).

Twenty-five years ago our area of town wasn't at all posh, but it was safe. Then the strip clubs moved-in. Man. If you think places like that don't send urban areas into decline, I invite you to survey the damage yourself sometime. I know the decline of the area can't be totally linked to a single factor, but it can't be separated from it either. The more reliable folks began drifting away from the area when it came time to shop and to buy a house. The mall fell into ruin. The housing grew increasingly rough.

Why do I bring it up? Because my old neighborhood made national news this past week when NBA Pacer, Jamal Tinsley, attended an after hours party not far from my childhood home. The bombastic and irresponsible Pacer attracted the wrong kind of attention and an old-fashioned, Rockford Files-style car chase and gun fight ensued as Tinsley's Rolls-Royce and the rest of his "posse" sped away from rival thugs. Link.

I sometimes hear that strip clubs are harmless places where consenting adults come together for harmless fun. What I never hear is: "Hey, I think I'll build a house near a strip club and raise my children around that harmless fun."

I sometimes hear that church people fight too much with each other. That much is true. I've even seen it turn ugly enough for the police to be called. What I've never seen, though, is the decline of an entire section of town after the addition of new church buildings.

I can be accused of oversimplifying things. The accusation would be fair enough. But my suspicion is that nobody who makes that accusation will proceed to the nearest strip club in order to buy a house and begin raising their family.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Breaking the Mold

Tim Tebow became the third son of a preacher man to win the Heisman Trophy for the University of Florida. Fascinating, really. Spurrier, Wuerffel, and Tebow were all the children of ministers. Tebow is also the first sophomore, the first #15, and the first home schooled kid to win the trophy. It's fitting because he was also the first player ever to throw for over 20 touchdowns and run for over 20 touchdowns (51 total).

Born in the Philippines (he's also the first Philippine born winner of the trophy), his mother was quite sick when she was about to give birth. The doctors told her that he would probably not live and that if he did live, he would be the runt of the family (my words, not the doctors'). Some runt!

If you're reading this and you're in high school, and you're a good quarterback, and your father is a preacher, please contact Urban Meyer IMMEDIATELY.

Now, Timmy, Go Beat Michigan.

For more on Tim Tebow, follow this link to the Gainesville Sun.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

The week is winding down and Sunday lurks. As you read this, I invite you to offer up a prayer for Jalal. Jalal is 30-years-old and in a coma at the JCMC. His mother needs your prayers as well. Some of you Grandview folks may remember Jalal. He was baptized just before I arrived at as minister. His mother used to own the only Middle Eastern restaurant I've ever seen in Johnson City.

Tomorrow's sermon continues the Advent theme of waiting. This one is less about waiting in time and space and more about waiting upon God's agenda. I'll be talking a good bit about the new movie The Golden Compass, which is not something I normally do. Most of my knowledge of this movie comes from reading articles (Christian and non-Christian) about it, but I did go to see it yesterday in order to confirm what I have read. Not being a big "fantasy" movie guy--or atheist--I wasn't terribly moved by it (big surprise, eh?).

Here is tomorrow's prayer:

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
December 9, 2007

God, gather us into your presence this morning and teach us. Teach us the enduring truths that swirl at the heart of our existence. Teach us what it means to live beyond the walls of our own skin, of our own villages, and of our own time. Teach us, through the example of your beloved Son, what it means to trade our tiny hopes and dreams for your timeless and universal dreams of justice, hope, and love for humanity.

You are great beyond description. Your humility makes you so. Your willingness to serve those whom you have made is an example that challenges us to rethink human purpose.

Forgive us when we clutch our pride, our desires, and our self-centered hopes in our hearts—attacking and dismissing those who threaten our tiny gods.

Forgive us when we use other people for our own purposes.

Forgive us when we imagine that what we do doesn’t really affect others.

Thank you for the example of faithful people, especially of Joseph—earthly father of our Lord and Savior—who, though not being the giver of life, was the protector of life and a steady rock and example. Thank you for his willingness to trust his life to you and to your purposes. His willingness to do so has changed our lives. Help us to stand in that same line of fidelity to you and your passion for people.

Lord, we have living examples of those who continue to pursue your dreams. Thank you for the missionaries we are blessed to support. Give the power of your Spirit to the Coleys, Freelands, Headens, McDades, Nyadors, Veals, Orths and to the Jacksons and Colemans as they prepare to go.

Thank you for the people on our prayer list and for the opportunity to serve them. Bless us as we minister to them. Bless the sick with healing, the weak with strength, those in harm’s way with protection, the grief-stricken with comfort and joy and a new vision of tomorrow, and give a peaceful death to those who are dying.

And because we are many gathered together, we bring our individual pains, joys, and challenges before you in the silence:


The Lord’s Prayer

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Heisman Hopeful

Very few of you will watch this video, but I include it in my blog with pride. This kid is the kind you want representing your school.
Go Tebow!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More On Mascots

Last night I was Rich's guest at the Marshall vs. ETSU basketball game. I had a great time. With college basketball so close to my house it's too bad I don't go more often. Thanks, Rich, for the invite. Here we are as we cheese for the camera.He has nice court side season tickets. Sitting up close is a reminder of how good some of these guys are.I was, yet again, fascinated by the local mascots. Here I pose with Pepe the Pepper who is, I believe, the mascot for Barberito's Restaurant.And then there is the Buccaneer mascot. How do I describe this one? He looks like a muppet who frequents bars. I think it's the combination of the eyes and the mouth. He just looks like the least ambitious pirate I've ever seen.
I didn't used to be so intrigued by mascots. I'm not sure what my interest in mascots says about me. Just in case you didn't catch it, here's the previously posted video I made about the Science Hill "Hilltopper" Mascot:

A Quick Post

My girls are the subjects in today's post on Appalachian Treks. Mark put our three favorite pics up. Feel free to travel over to Mark's blog by clicking HERE.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Snippets

Today Grandview says good-bye to Art and Christina Cena (and Cheyenne). Art has turned in the first draft of his thesis and is heading out west to Reno, Nevada where he will join the staff of the church Christina's dad serves. I will miss them. Art has helped me in sermon preparation over the past few months. After meeting with Bob Hall on Mondays to discuss the text, I would sometimes meet with Art on Tuesdays just to brainstorm and discuss. I will miss his input.

This past Tuesday, though, we did no sermon prep. Instead I introduced him to Sonny, my '52 Chevy Truck. He had never driven something this old, so we put him in the driver seat.Art did a good job learning to drive without the modern conveniences of power steering, power brakes, and cup holders. See ya', Art. We'll miss you and your family.Keeping to the theme of having my truck back ... yesterday the family and I went to get our Christmas Tree. It's much easier with a truck, especially since we decided to get a live one. I've tried that before and it didn't work. I was younger then and didn't understand just how much clay was beneath the surface of Tennessee. I'll keep you posted on this one...
Anna took this photo, so we're missing somebody.
Okay ... one last photo of my truck. It's great to have it back. And despite all of the ribbing I took in high school for driving it (I still can't get the Sanford and Son song out of my head), it's a lot of fun.
And now for one more truck picture. I saw this while driving around town this week. I was glad my camera was in the car. If you look closely you will see that Merita bakes bread and rolls while I SEEP! Nasty. I'm just not sure I want bread made while I seep.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

Advent begins tomorrow. Advent stress the times in life when we are waiting upon the Lord. How appropriate it is that I am still waiting on the sermon. O sure, it's all here in my computer, but its missing something. I will try to be unanxious as I wait for the missing pieces to unfold.

Tomorrow's sermon is on the beautiful messianic passage from Isaiah 9. The title is "Wait and See." I hate it when my sermon preparation undermines the sermon itself. I've had to be patient with this one. Sigh. Someday I will learn to trust God enough to be at ease about preaching.

Here's tomorrow's prayer (at least it is ready!):

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
December 2, 2007

What a beautiful picture you paint, O God. The colors on your canvas are ablaze with light. The gift of life that you have given us radiates from you and it delights us. Thank you for creating us with the ability think thoughts of love for one another and for you. Thank you for creating us with ability to enjoy the bounty of the harvest. Thank you for taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. When this world is aflame with your presence and perfection, O God, we cannot contain our admiration, it simply spills forth in worship and praise and honor and glory.

Even as we praise you, Lord, we are aware that you paint with dark colors, too; with deep patches of gloom and impenetrable mystery. They leave us dumbfounded and distraught. Sometimes they are the only pieces of the painting we can see. Sometimes they overwhelm us. When we find ourselves thus, send your Spirit to lift us out of the pit, to place our feed on solid rock, to give our eyes perfect perspective. Give us the grace to gaze upon the fullness of your accomplishments through history and hope, through suffering and joy, through the movement of your Spirit who is working to bring all of creation back into the age of Eden.

Until then, Lord, we need your forgiveness for our sins. Forgive us when all we see is our sin, crowding out any vision of your grace. Forgive us when we get stuck in our moments of pain, refusing to see how you might redeem our suffering. Forgive us when we lose hope in the one who moves history. Forgive us when we refuse to see Jesus standing triumphantly outside his own grave.

Lord, we need your help with our suffering. We need healing for the sick; hope for those who are lost beneath an avalanche of heartache; comfort for those who are grieving, protection for those exposed to violent evil, and strength for those weakened by the dark patches of life.

You told us to pray for our enemies, and so we pray—recognizing that we can only do so by the power of your grace. It’s awfully hard to mean it when we ask you to bless those who persecute and hate. Lord, Bless our enemies.

In this season of waiting, we pray that you would not hide your face from us as we gather before you and offer ourselves to you in the stillness:


We pray as you have taught us: