Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Iconoclastic Mystery

Here's the weirdness that I mentioned last week. For years I have had a picture of Jesus that I purchased at St. Catherines Monastary in Sinai, Egypt (it's known as the Pantocrator). The original is in Egypt; the $10 poster is in my office.

When I returned from Egypt with the poster rolled up in a tube, Cindy very thoughtfully had the poster mounted on foam board and then framed, complete with glass protection. I sometimes use it when I pray as a reminder that God came to earth in the flesh.

The picture has been perched on a stand in the corner of my office for years. It was perched on that stand for the entire year I was away in Wilmore. To my knowledge it has never shifted, fallen, or been nudged.One week ago I came into my locked office and found the picture in this position:
I was surprised to see that it fallen on its face. I was even more surprised to see that the glass had shattered. Oh well, I thought, such things happen. Somehow a door got slammed and the thing fell and--unfortunately--it broke.
When I picked it up, though, I noticed a gash in the picture. The gash is at the base of the neck. Upon closer inspection I saw that a shard of glass had pierced not just the poster, but the foam board on which its mounted. Worse yet, the shard was shoved all the way through--flush on the front and sticking up out of the back.
I have no theories about what happened. It obviously was not an accident. The thing couldn't fall on it's face and be pierced through all at once. But who and why? Keys to my office aren't impossible to come by, but it's fairly secure. Would the person be mad at me or at Jesus--or both?

Again. I have no theories. It's an iconoclastic mystery.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Today's Offering

Running behind, but wanted to get this morning's pastoral prayer up while I was thinking about it. Will blog more once I get through the crush. Peace!

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
October 28, 2007

God you are magnificent and reliable. Like the persistence of sunrise and seasons, like the determination of a spinning planet and an expanding universe, like the tiptoe familiarity of aging—you are present with us.

Thank you for looking after our interests. Thank you for sending your Son, who is one with you, who is equal with you, and yet came to serve us while we rotted in our sin. We submit ourselves to you because we know that we are safe to give you our schedules, our thoughts, our hopes, and our agendas. These things are all safe in your care.

Forgive us for being so committed to our own interests, our own agendas, our own safety, and our own toys that we can’t be trusted by others to what is best for them. Forgive us when we fail to challenge falsehood and sin out of laziness and complacency.

Lord, in the silence we pray for our brothers and sisters who are sick. Lord, hear our prayers:

We pray for soldiers and civil servants who risk their lives for our sakes. Lord, hear our prayers:

We pray for those who are grieving the loss of marriages, friendships, and loved ones. We especially remember the Taber family before you. Lord, hear our prayers:

We pray for those whose lives have become so hard that they don’t know where to turn. Lord, hear our prayers.

We pray for our enemies. Lord, hear our prayers.

Bless our missionaries that we support. Bless the organizations that send them. We pray especially this morning for Emmanuel, Milligan, and the European Evangelistic Society and for those who serve you through them.

We pray together, as you have taught us:

Friday, October 26, 2007

We're Supposed to Celebrate ...

Yesterday we said goodbye to our friend, Charles. I can't begin to pay adequate tribute to this man who was one of my professors at Emmanuel. I got to know him better, though, when I became preaching minister at Grandview. What I discovered as his minister surprised me. He understood church at a practical, as well as theological, level. As a located pastor/minister it can become easy to see only your corner of the church, like a man stuck at the bottom of a refreshing well. Charles' life and service to the church (here and overseas) allowed him to view the church like a man standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Broad. Deep. Colorful. In Awe.

Yesterday, after lunch with the European Evangelistic Society board, I dismissed myself from the meeting in order to check on Charles and his wife. I arrived at their house about 10 minutes after he died. The timing was a blessing, I think. I'll share more about him in a later blog, after I've put together the service.

Charles' death comes at the end of a busy and strange week. Tuesday morning marked the unsettledness of this week. The story is too long for this entry, but I arrived in my office to discover that one of my pictures of Jesus had been vandalized. I took some pictures and will share them sometime next week (if I get the chance).

Two4Two went well. Here three pictures from Wednesday:

Isaac and Matt preparing to lead worship.

Carter and Nolan hamming it up.

And I love this picture of Jacob. It captures his verve.
Wednesday and Thursday found me at the board meetings for Emmanuel School of Religion. The meetings themselves can be slow, but it's good to reconnect with some of the people I have known over the years. This year Brian was there. Brian is on the preaching staff at Savannah Christian Church.
On Thursday the school dedicated the new student housing and the Thompson Community Center. We had a good turnout for the service.
As you can see, the weather was nice, too. The housing is the nicest student housing I have ever seen (and there are no trains anywhere near it).
Once the ESR board meetings ended, the European Evangelistic Society meetings began (after supper on Thursday night). We gathered for a common meal at Daisy Mae's on Milligan Highway before getting down to business.
We met at Hopwood Christian Church to discuss by-laws, budgets, and the great new joint effort with Globalscope to bring a campus ministry to Tubingen, Germany.
Wye Huxford, who heads the operations stateside, gave us his report and update. As I said earlier, though, I didn't make it to the end of the meeting because of pastoral issues.

Now I'm going to quit stalling and get back to work on the sermon...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Miscellaneous

Wow. I'm not sure we could have packed more into the past three days. There were many highs and one low. The low is the eminent death of one our own here at Grandview. My former professor of World Missions and one of the keenest church minds I've known has embraced comfort care at home. Please pray for his family and for a peaceful death for him.

Now to happier matters. After attending a video conference on leadership at Grace Fellowship on Friday (I was the guest of one of their pastors, Tim Bowers--thanks, Tim and Grace Fellowship), I scurried home, said hello to the girls, then scurried off to a wedding rehearsal.

The wedding rehearsal was a joy (that's not ALWAYS the case). Below is a picture of Kelly and her brother, Scott. I found it a touching scene when Scott walked her up the aisle to practice being the one who blessed the marriage for the family. This was the tallest wedding I've ever officiated. I think Scott is about 6'5".Best man, and brother of the groom, Paul , had a great sense of humor. Groom, Jimmy, was reported to be shy in front of crowds --but he seemed completely at ease to me. It was a good rehearsal on Friday and a good wedding on Saturday.The wedding was well-attended, though our own Meghan couldn't be there because she was at a band competition in Virginia at James Madison University (this pic is from an old band competition--I couldn't make it to James Madison U). The Science Hill Band did great, winning the whole kit and caboodle--best of show and best of everything. They were very excited, though the return trip meant that Meghan got back home at 5am on Sunday morning. Thanks to Jim for picking the girls up. That's the worst possible morning for me to have to get up at 4am.Sunday morning services went well. It was stewardship commitment Sunday. Then, on Sunday night, the Junior High Girls Small Group came to our house for S'Mores and a chat with their old man/minister. It was great to have them in our home.

In the middle is Wendy Williams, an amazing youth sponsor who has had an impact on almost a whole generation of girls from Grandview.
Two of the girls who have benefited from Wendy's dedication? Robin and Meredith who are now giving just like she taught them. They are great sponsors (and fun to be around).
Here they are, listening to me drone. I showed them pictures of me with hair (when I was their age).
Of course, the fire pit and the S'Mores made the evening complete.
Now I'm ready for another big week ... lots of meetings coming up for Emmanuel School of Religion and for the European Evangelistic Society. Have a good week!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Grandview Mile

I'm well aware that I'm in huge danger of boring you ... but then ... you came here of your own accord. This is a little slide show of pictures taken from car while driving the mile from Grandview to my house. Appalachian Autumns are wonderful.

A Two 4 Two Digital

If you were at Grandview Wednesday night you might just be in this video!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

Tomorrow is Stewardship Commitment Sunday. This prayer doesn't reflect that theme. But time is growing short and when I sat down to write the prayer this just seemed the direction to go. There is so much to be done before tomorrow. Some of our children will be collecting the commitment cards--that is, if I get the calls made and hammer out the little details for making that happen (it's the little details that can unravel a nice idea).

At 4pm I'll be marrying Kelly and Jimmy. I'm pleased to be officiating at this wedding, and I know that folks at Grandview who watched Kelly grow into such fine young woman will enjoy the wedding as well. The timing of the wedding is problematic, though. They are asking people to leave their televisions during the fourth quarter of the Tennessee/Bama football game. That's a good way to see who REALLY loves you in these parts.

The prayer reflects the approaching death of one of the great men of Grandview. Charles, one of my professors at Emmanuel, has been a gracious and gentle teacher and church member. His knowledge of world missions may place him among the top four or five missiologists in the world. It is an honor to be the preaching minister in the church he where he serves. Please pray for him and for his family.

On to the prayer:

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
October 21, 2007

O God, encircled by the glory of the seasons, we see your glory. We marvel at the ways orange and yellow and red break out of their leafy green prisons before flaming out and falling from foliage to compost. Glorious and inglorious all at once!

Magnificent are your reminders of the beauty of life—and even of death. Magnificent are the reminders of your faithfulness—in a world that is familiar and yet never twice the same. Like the foliage that dies and becomes fertilizer. Like the seed that dies and becomes a Sycamore. Like your Son who dies and becomes the Savior.

May we embrace our baptisms and abandon ourselves to your ways. Forgive us when we live as people who have rejected you by deciding to allow ourselves to slither into greed, impurity, ethical and moral recklessness, and corruption.

Help us to put on truthfulness, righteousness, hard work, kind words for building others, and honesty.

You have said, O God, that the death of your saints is precious in your sight. Be that as it may, it is painful in ours. We are mindful this morning of our dear brother, Charles, and the transformation that is before him. Grant him a peaceful death. Glorify yourself in his death as he glorifies you in life. Give Betty the comfort of your blessing and presence.

Give a peaceful death to all who are dying. Heal the sick so their lives may blossom before you. Protect our soldiers who are in harm’s way. Return them to us safely. Bless our soldiers with the greatest blessing—an end to war. Guide world leaders onto the paths of peace. Give your bold Spirit to those who are weak or depressed. Give your discerning Spirit to those facing hard choices in their lives.

Bless people in Burma, Darfur, the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and in every oppressed or war torn place (more than we can name) who need peace to plant crops, nurture their families, and flourish as a people.

O God, in a prayer that we can only pray with the help of your Spirit, bless our enemies.

In the silence we have much to say to you. Hear our prayers:


The Lord’s Prayer

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Great Lyric

Good songwriters amaze me. I don't know how hard or easy it is for them. I suppose the muse may arrive and sweep them through the writing of great songs. My suspicions (as a writer of sermons) is that they labor over it.

I'm not a huge fan of Counting Crows, though I like them. I've only recently come across their song "Hard Candy." The song is good. It's a typical boy-angst-girl song and mostly it doesn't connect with me. However, there is a small chorus in this song that is so beautifully written that I wanted to blog it.

When you sleep
You find your mother in the night
But she stays just out of sight
So there isn't any sweetness in the dreaming
And when you wake the morning covers you with light
And it makes you feel alright

Wonderfully done, Adam Duritz. In the space of a few lines you captured the experience.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tomorrow's Offering

Fall is really settling over East Tennessee. I had to take some pictures. This is from our back deck where a pumpkin awaits carving.
Robbie and I made a run to Asheville today to see have lunch with our friend, Tom.

The drive from Johnson City to Asheville is one of the best there is--especially in Autumn.

And now for tomorrow's sermon and prayer. We're in the middle of stewardship emphasis time at Grandview. The theme is "Making a Difference," so I have chosen stories from the Scripture in which God used the sacrifice of his people to accomplish far more than they imagined. The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz fits the bill perfectly.

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
October 14, 2007

God, how would you use us? We present ourselves to you without knowing the future; without knowing the details, even, of our own lives. How would you use our gifts? What sacrifices are you calling us to make?

We know the name “Christian” because of the sacrifice of your Son. We know the name “Christian” because of the sacrifices made by Peter, James, John, Paul, Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, and Mary. We know the name “Christian” because for thousands of years your faithful followers have risked as little as embarrassment and as much as their lives for your sake. Bless each person who has pulled the filament of faith through history and into this room. Those saints, flawed yet great, did not know how their gifts would impact us. May we have the grace to be like them in faithfulness and effect.

Forgive us when we do what is right in our eyes but not in yours. Forgive us when we don’t really trust what you have taught us through the example of scripture, the life of Jesus, the struggles of the early church, and the breaking of bread. Many of us, Lord, are simply afraid that you won’t come through for us like you did for Ruth and Naomi when they were alone in scary world, like you did for your Son when he was alone in the grave.

Give us the confidence of Naomi when she stood at the crossroads and kissed her daughters-in-law goodbye, grieving as she was for her husband and her sons. Give us the tireless dedication of Ruth who refused to leave Naomi’s side. Give us the keen eye of Boaz who spotted Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and loved her for it.

Lord you know our prayer list better than we do. We often feel helpless even to pray for all of those who are on it. Before we ask you to do all the work for those on this list, we sit in silence and ask that you would remind us of the sacrifices you would have us make on behalf of others:


Give your courage to the weak, your healing to the sick, your soundness of mind to those whose minds are faltering, your protection to those in harm’s way, your joy to those who are just sad, your comfort to those who grieve, and your peace to those who are dying.

And now, O Lord, reign in our lives. Let your kingdom be visible all around us as we pray the prayer you have taught us:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

UPS Whiteboard Rip-off

I made four videos for Rendezvous (our short Wednesday night service at Grandview). I'm actually proud of these ... after all, I made them in a couple of hours all by myself.

Video One sets up the Reaching Out in Relationships concept:

If you don't get video one, it may be because you aren't familiar with the Grandview logo:

Video Two calls people to participate in our work with IHN (interfaith hospitality network). It's a joint-ministry with approximately 25 area churches to give homeless families help. They stay in our building four weeks out of the year.

Video Three invites people to participate in the GED/tutoring opportunities at Science Hill's adult education program:

Video Four invites people to participate in regular scrapbooking with the residents of Pine Oaks Assisted Living Facility. This video is the weakest of the four ... but deadlines were CLOSING IN!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday Miscellaneous

1. Of the making of marketing ploys there is no end. Halo, a popular video game, released it's third version recently. Mountain Dew joined the marketing of the game by releasing a Mountain Dew "Game Fuel" edition. Apparently Halo is so tough to play that unless a player consumes Tahitian Treat levels of sugar and Red Bull levels of caffeine he won't have a puncher's chance.

Products to follow:
Halo UnderWar: Fruit of the Loom underwear with extra padding in the seat for hours of comfy sitting.
The Halo LaZerBoy: By La-Z Boy, a lounge chair with a built in "toilet tube" attachment that reduces the need to leave the action after drinking too much Mountain Dew Game Fuel.
Halo ProZakAttak: An antidepressant to be marketed by Lilly Drug to help gamers deal with how much of their lives they missed while staring at pretend warriors and shooting pretend weapons, in a pretend world.

2. Speaking of Halo, Carol Norris sent me a link to this NYTimes article on churches that are using Halo to attract youth. The game has a mature rating, but some churches are using it to attract early teens to their church. Hmmm.

I have to admit that Grandview has had, at times, a Gaming Group. The Group has done a good job of connecting some of the men of the church to each other. There is some truth to the need to attract people where they are. But that truth can be a slippery one. Without the right leaders, a group like that turns inward and accomplishes nothing of value.

I think the biggest problem with video games is the same problem we have with other things in our lives that serve to distract us from our lives. Excessive book reading, video gaming, tv watching, crossword puzzle doing--whatever--these things simply take us out of our lives and our relationships. We don't have that much time on earth. We should try to be present in our few years (by the way, the same goes for blogging). The economic term is, I think, the "opportunity cost." I'm afraid that at the end of my life I will wish I had spent my time in more productive ways than I do.

The best quote in the article?

"If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”

3. The Gators lost again Saturday night. I'm disappointed, of course, but not upset. They played above their heads for 3 quarters. They moved the ball against a good defense. They're just missing that extra oomph you need from defensive lineman. Sadly, though, with the loss the Gators' streak of basketball/football championship ends. I would be ungrateful to complain. Hopefully we can get another shot at LSU in the SEC championship ... just need to win out and hope that Tennessee stumbles.

4. The "Welcome to Grandview" class seemed to go well yesterday. We had 5 people during the first worship service and 17 during the second. I hear that Mike Sweeney did an excellent job in the pulpit. What I'm discovering about these "Welcome to Grandview" Sundays when I step out of the worship services is that I really, really miss worship. I think I'm going to have to find an early service somewhere for the Sundays when I teach during both services.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Groove

This past summer I complained that there was no groove in "off-season" ministry. I'm happy to report that the groove has returned; and though things are busy, they are also quite good.

Wednesday nights are full of life and smiles (as the pictures help to prove). Sunday morning worship services have been well-attended (we enjoyed our highest single month attendance record in September). Also, the Reaching Out in Relationships focus is beginning to gain a foothold (though there is still much to be done).

I say, "Viva la Groove!"

Bethany and the Bear.Karl and Shelley carefully avoiding ANY copyright infringement.Carter is either playing duck, duck, goose ... or he's lifting a college student by her hair.
Life is filled with sermon prep, lesson prep, detail avoidance, and hospital visits.

Some things that should be in the groove, however, are not. Prayer? Not as groovy as it should be. Exercise? Not very groovy either. Visits to shut-ins? Same. Rewriting and refining my dissertation? Hah!

It seems I have to choose what I'm going to do well. Some areas get neglected until I make a "left turn at Albuquerque" and change my routine. Changing my routine requires abandoning something that has been going well and letting it run on autopilot for awhile.

So it is.

I'm not preaching this week. Instead I will be teaching the "Welcome to Grandview" class during both hours. The last one was, I think, helpful. We'll see if this class has enough juice to become a part of the fabric of our church. I'm confident it will.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pictures of My Daughters

I'm still amazed at how well this website puts these pics together with music. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Brief Highlight of Two 4 Two

Monday Miscellaneous

Welcome to Monday Miscellaneous. On Friday night I found myself at Dobyns-Bennett High School for the band competition. Science Hill unveiled their show, which is based on the Wizard of Oz. A big crowd was on hand for the competition.
Science Hill came in second place to a band from Atlanta. The band's hard work really shows. If you would like to see the opening of the show, here it is. This video is about a minute and a half long.

Afterward, I ran home to watch the Gators lose to Auburn. There was much joy among Gator Haters--and there are many Gator Haters in my life. They never call to share in my joy. They only contact me in my pain. Such is life when your alma mater has enjoyed over a year of unprecedented success.

Auburn played great (as they always seem to do against the Gators) and should be congratulated for the win. I think the Gator's youth caught up with them, and will do so again next week in Death Valley vs. LSU. This picture is from the Gainesville Sun web site.

It was a good weekend. I especially enjoyed Sunday's 9:30 service. I mentioned the old, cheesy, Christian classic "He's Everything to Me" during the sermon. Jeff Miller decided to play the song during the offertory. Very funny for those of us who are old enough to remember that song.