Thursday, February 28, 2008

Two4Two: Session 4

On a snowy evening at the base of the Appalachians we enjoyed ourselves at last night's Two4Two. I was tempted to cancel; not because of current conditions, but out of fear that some horrible storm would hit during the evening. No storm came.
Table Dad Dave and the very cool Logan.

The very cool Dave and Table Son Logan.

Cora and Paige (I think it's Paige ... she's a twin and I'm on the path to telling them apart ... the name tag helps! But I promise that I knew it was her BEFORE I noticed the tag. Molly wears the darker-rimmed glasses).

Meghan and Kylie (Kylie and her sibling, Colby, are EASY to tell from one another).

Meghan's friend, Rebecca enjoys a cookie with Anna.

It was a good crew despite the absence of the folks who live on the more treacherous roads (outside of Johnson City the roads were a bit more "iffy" last night).
Here is this week's video ... viva la White Rat!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Last Week's Two 4 Two videos

As this Wednesday approaches I'm reminded that I failed to post these two productions from last week's edition of Two 4 Two. So ... here's the slide show:

"Dreaming with Dr. Joe" just gets dreamier. For this video I want to thank Andy for being the guy out in the rain. He took a good chunk out of his day in order to help us. Thanks, Andy!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

After a two week hiatus the posting of the pastoral prayer is back. I'm not sure why ... nobody mentioned the hiatus to me. But I bring it back anyway.

Tomorrow's sermon is on the Bad Samaritans. These are the ones who lived in Sychar; the town of the famous Woman at the Well who had such an interesting interaction with Jesus. I like the sermon, but it still needs some tweaking. This week was just filled with other necessary tasks like elders meetings, newsletter articles, Wednesday night preparations, etc... . I'm also trying to rework the syllabus for my Christ and Culture class that I will begin teaching on March 11.

Here's the prayer:

Prayer of the Church for Grandview
February 24, 2008

God, we call upon you because you are the one who made us and who keeps us alive. We call upon you because you have showered us with the blessing of being, of existing. You, O God, exist from forever, but we are aware that we have a starting point. We are aware that we also live in danger of an eminent ending point. Thank you for coming to us with an offer of eternity, and that with you, our Maker. Thank you for, while we were yet sinners and scoffers, coming to earth in the flesh to make the path to you real, tangible, and apparent.

All glory and honor and praise belong to you. In this gathering we raise our voices and our hearts to you because you are worthy. In this gathering we lift our thoughts to the cross, we bury our thoughts in the grave, and we see them rise with your son.

Forgive us for avoiding people who are in desperate need of relationships that are centered on your servanthood, love, and kingdom. Forgive us for keeping to ourselves what you intended we share with your world.

Thank you for the hunger of your Son; his hunger to see us with you; his hunger to express your nature and character in a human body; his hunger to reconcile our lives with eternity through his death, burial and resurrection. Allow us to share in that hunger.

Heal our sickness. Strengthen us in our weakness. Comfort our grieving. Protect our disadvantaged. Free us from our oppression, from addictions to material things, to food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, and to the praise of others. Give a peaceful death to those whose time to die has come.

In the silence, Lord, we offer you our unspoken prayer requests. We also invite you to speak to us.


Bless world leaders, O Lord, and guide their footsteps into the paths of peace. Bring an end to war and conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and everywhere around the world. This is too big a task for us. We need your help. Bless our families and our enemies with peace. Bring our soldiers home to their families with great joy and peace.

We pray as you have taught us:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thoughts on a Trail

I used to run from the Hampton trail head to the Appalachian Trail and to Laurel Falls as often I could. I need to do it again but time and the price of gas and laziness conspire against me. Thanks to Mark Peacock's blog for the pictures that are imbedded in this post.

While running, I used to contemplate the beauty of this 2.5 mile trail, the dangers of speeding along the more difficult sections, and the payoff at the end (if it was warm enough outside, the payoff included a swim at the bottom of the falls).

When I crossed the bridge in this picture, I knew I was about 1/3 of the way to the falls.Some of the insights I remember from the trail:

The smoothest place to land is usually the slipperiest:
When running on rocks you have to think two steps ahead. You need to know where the next step will land because it's too late to decide where this step will land. When looking for that next spot it is tempting, at first, to look for the smoothest stone. Don't do it! That one doesn't provide very solid footing, especially if the trail is wet. If you want good traction, you look for a well placed crag.

I've found that the same is true in life. We often look for the smoothest path. We soon learn that smooth isn't as good for us as we had hoped. The crags in life's path can become part of our salvation. We need a something to grab. We need traction.

The Psalms come to mind.

"I love you, God— you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout." Psalm 18:1

The harder you push yourself, the more likely you are to twist your ankle:

When I used a stopwatch to time my runs I would push myself to improve my quickest time. The challenge was nice, but it's harder to feel the trail beneath your feet when you're running hard. I regularly twisted my ankle (usually when leaves covered the path). Sometimes, when I was trying to pick up speed on a downhill portion of the trail, my ankle twist threatened to send me into a little spike from a downed tree, or over the edge of a pretty steep precipice.

The falls usually resulted in scraped hands and knees as well as twisted ankles. For some reason it felt good, like it was all part of the challenge. I made sure to get up immediately and run (or hop) it off. I wish I was more like that in everyday life.

Snakes always surprise me--in a bad way:
Once I was running along the narrow passage between a small cliff and Laurel Creek (river?). It's a pretty easy place to go fast because there is a patch of concrete that serves as the path (I know ... concrete on the Appalachian Trail?). On one occasion I jumped over a rock and, while I was in the air, I realized there was snake coiled directly beneath me on the path. I thought I was running as fast as I could. I was wrong. I felt like a cartoon character in the air. You know the scene ... it's the one in where the character's legs spin faster in the air and motion lines develop behind them and the cartoon springy-zoomy sound appears.

Because of my religious upbringing, the snakes I came across always reminded me that you never really know when temptation will lie in your path.

Always Stop and Admire the Beauty:

I used to make it a point (even when I was timing myself) to stop and to breathe in the experience. It would be a shame to spend an hour on the trail and not notice the river, the various water falls, the beaver dams, the rhododendrons, the smell of decaying leaves, the trees bending in the wind, and the feel of fresh, forest air.

The corollary with life is obvious. I get so busy that I forget to admire all that God has given me, to take a deep breath and appreciate the gift of being.

You Can't Stay at the Falls:
I loved turning the corner on the path and hearing the waterfall, then glimpsing it through the tree trunks, and then (at long last) staring it full in the face and feeling the mists that celebrate the continual event. At this point my run came to a full stop. I couldn't help but pray every time arrived. I couldn't help but thank God for such a beautiful place and for the opportunity to enjoy it.

Too soon, however, I would turn and make my way back up the path and start running back to the trailhead. It's hard to turn your back on something that leaves you in awe. It's harder still to run away.

Just writing this post reminds me that I need to go back and visit. Anyone want to run to the falls with me?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pancakes, anyone?

Don't worry ... Jason didn't eat all of these pancakes. I just couldn't resist the shot at the end of the pancake breakfast/youth fundraiser at Applebee's. The youth raised about $400 . Many thanks to all who participated.Ryan and Donna were part of the team making the fundraiser happen. Everything seemed to go well.
Cora and cousin Olivia enjoyed the breakfast.

Craig and Pam were gathered around the hot stove.

As a midweek bonus I'm throwing in pictures of the youth band practicing on Sunday night. Our new drummer is Katy's friend, Hanna.
Here the whole group searches for the groove.

All the while, Meghan and Angelia work on their "frontin'" skills.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Two 4 Two Slides

I'm finally getting around to posting this past week's slide show. This is a joint effort. The photos were snapped by me, Danielle, and Sam. Sam put the finishing touch on everything.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two 4 Two: Spring Session 2

With our ace Children's Minister, Dana, hanging out in Israel, ace intern, Maggie, stepped in to lead Two 4 Two last night. Things went smoothly, though the cold/flu season's carnage was apparent.

Here is last night's installment of "Dreaming with Dr. Joe." It's longer than last week's (almost five minutes total).

While the kids were coming into the sanctuary I put this up on the screen. The artist, Joe Castillo, is the father of a man I know here in town. Visual arts have a power to communicate that amazes me. This medium is called Sand Art. It constantly evolves as you watch.

The Best News You Don't Care About

PS (Pre-Script): I will insert a religious thought at the end of this post--lest you think I would dare forget to view EVERYTHING in my life through the lens of a minister.The almost two decades of a split in the world of open wheel racing is coming to a close. The story is long and complicated, but it amounts to the owner of the Indianapolis 500 (and the IndyCar Series--and a member of Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis ... er ... Zionsville) getting to declare victory. The Champ Car Series is running on fumes--and somebody left the gas cap off.

If rumors are true, Champ Car will declare bankruptcy soon and the teams that have the financial backing necessary will switch to the IndyCar Series. I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled because the split has been horrible for open wheel racing. I'm thrilled because I prefer this kind of racing to NASCAR. I'm thrilled because I grew up near the Indy 500 and have a soft spot for it.

Now for the religious thought: The unification of the two series and the ending of the rift have nothing to do with one side giving, being humble, or doing what's best for the sport. The unification is going to happen because there just isn't enough money to support two series.

Have you ever wondered what it will take for churches to unite? My former boss, Wiley "Pete" Harris used to tell me that churches will merge only when they have to, because finances are running too short. He told me this when were serving a church that had talked about merging with a local UCC church and a Presbyterian church. Why? These churches were built during the NASA boom that hit Florida's Space Coast--then, all at once, they all felt the financial crisis.

Once the area recovered, unification became a non-issue.

There you go ... I "shoe-horned" a religious thought into my happiness at the prospect of a unified open wheel circuit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Midweek Miscellaneous

Carol Norris sent me a link to Mark Gungor, who is a marriage motivational speaker of some type. I found this video interesting (a bit too schticky, but that's how you get lots and lots of bookings, I'm sure.

All Church Event:
Last Sunday night we had a time at the church for the elders to communicate the church's needs to the congregation. It went well ... and was well attended. Folks asked good questions and I plan on making it a twice-a-year kind of thing.

Johnson City Literacy Council:

I have to cut this blog short because I don't want to be late to my first meeting with the Johnson City Literacy Council. I'll report more on it later, but the church's involvement in tutoring with the adult education program in Johnson City (as minimal as that has been) has been enough to get the attention of the council.

Heather Mills:

I heard on the news this morning that Paul McCartney's ex-wife isn't satisfied with the financial terms offered to her by the ex-Beatle. They were married for only four years, but she wants more than the 50,0000 pound offer. That's some greed there! Personally, I don't think she has a leg to stand on ... well ... maybe one.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Two 4 Two: Week 1

Scenes from Two 4 Two (don't miss the very cool video at the end of this blog!): If you don't know Chris and Stephanie, here they are. They are the Dinner Deans for this Spring. We won't have them with us for long. They will be moving to Germany to plant a campus ministry in conjunction with Globalscope and the European Evangelistic Society.Crazy kids awaiting their chili suppers!

Dave and Ellen are back at Grandview after ministering to other churches in the area.
It's great to have them with us.

Mothers unite! The adult involvement in Two 4 Two is the key to its success.

Ryan is whipping the band into shape.

They played in Rendezvous (the worship time after supper) despite the abuse.
Oh, It's Smooth! here is a sneak peak at the new kitchen. Workers are smoothing the floor to make it ready for tile (the grinding, though, makes it hard to concentrate in my office ... I know, (waaaahhhhhhhh waaaaahhhhhhhh")
Week one of Two 4 Two is under our belts. Things went well in this, our latest attempt. We look forward to having the Grandview room completed so the youth don't have to eat in the downstairs lobby.

Now for the Week 1 Dream Theme video. Special thanks to Matt Buckner for making it (what a resource he is!) and to my co-star, Brandon Stanbrough (be sure to notice that Matt put a snippet of a sermon from First Christian Church on the television ... that cracks me up).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Morning Prayer During Lent

Nasty weather may be speeding toward Johnson City, but this morning was beautiful. I don't know how to capture it with a camera, but here is what the sky looked like after morning prayer.Speaking of morning prayer ... the beauty of the morning elevated our Lenten Season of Prayer time. Grandview's sanctuary is a real treat on mornings like this.Again, I can't capture with my photographic skills. But praying together as the brightly colored clouds present themselves above the mountains is a joy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Man, Oh, Manic ...

Manic-Depressive Ministry

Today I have been contemplating the fits and starts, the hard lefts followed by hard rights, that are a part of ministry. Scripture calls us to celebrate and to mourn with each other. That is wonderful in theory. Where it gets difficult is when you have to jump from the manic cliff to the valley of mourning below and then, after you've adjusted to the fall, begin climbing back out of the pit to the mountain top. Sometimes it's really hard to do.

There is a classic video of former president Clinton turning his tears on and off:

As eye-rolling as that clip is, I am afraid that it seeps into the lives of ministers as they move from hopeful folks to grieving folks; from a happy young couple who just had a baby on the first floor of the hospital to the elderly person on the sixth floor, whose IV drip machine keeps beeping so much that the nurse quits bothering fixing it. I hate to say it, by I can identify with the clip above (except for the fact that he appears to be doing it for image's sake).

In an age of technology the problem becomes worse. I can log onto my email and get great news and then, after one more click, get horrible news. I will need to respond to both of those in that same sitting.

I felt it this dichotomy this past Sunday. On one hand it was so nice to see how full the first service was. Wooohooo! On the other hand, some people left because they couldn't find two seats together (it really was crowded). Oh noooooo!

I felt it this past Sunday as Jonah was baptized by his father ... meanwhile another member of the church is in ICU, non-responsive.

This is why the church requires the whole body of Christ to be ministers, a nation of priests to serve our God. The range of life is too much for one, or two, or three people. Most days it's not too big a deal. Some days it drains you.

Two 4 Two is Back!

Wednesday is coming and the first slideshow is ready. Also, thanks to Matt Buckner, the video for Rendezvous is ready as well. I won't post that video, though, until after Wednesday night. It should be a good Spring for Two 4 Two. The biggest challenge will be that our children's minister extraordinaire, Dana, is about to jet to Israel for a couple of weeks. We will miss her, but we're thrilled she gets to go.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

Goodness ... between this post and the previous two posts it seems I'm uploading the entire worship service. Don't let all of these previews keep you from gathering for worship.

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany. The Transfiguration of Jesus is the segue from Epiphany to Lent every year, and so we will look at some of the implications of the Transfiguration tomorrow. In my sermons I continue to focus on the effect a relationship with Jesus has on people. Tomorrow's focus is a bit different from that, but I won't tell you how different because I don't want you to know everything that is going to happen tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also Superbowl Sunday, of course. I have full faith that you'll be able to tear yourself away from the early morning coverage of the big game. Maybe I would be more interested in the game if my team were playing. Or, maybe I would be more interested in the game if the team I least want to win weren't almost a lock to win. Enough football.

I invite you to pray for a member of our church whose pain is too deep for publication on this blog. He is in the ICU clinging to a life that he appears not to want. Terrible. God will know who it is.

Here's the pastoral prayer:

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
February 3, 2008

To say, “O God,” is to utter something too great for us. To say, “Father in heaven,” is to speak more than we understand. We come to you this morning because you have assured us, through the loving example of your Son, that you have invited us into your presence. You are magnificent beyond the ability of our feeble words to describe you. The fullness of your glory is too much for us.

Thank you for the glimpse of your glory that you gave to Peter, James, and John on the mountain where your Son’s nature bent the borders of heaven and caused your celestial light to gush. Thank you for Peter, James, and John’s faithfulness to preserve that private moment for us, for allowing us to see it through their weary eyes.

Surrounded, O God, by worlds we don’t know; surrounded by a cloud of witnesses; surrounded by the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Kingdom of God we call upon you to be the force of healing for those of us who are sick, the gift of comfort for those of us who grieve, the gift of protection for those of us who are facing evil, the gift of joy for those of us who are worn thin by our responsibilities.

Fill us, we pray, with confidence in your ability to deliver as we bring to you our deepest concerns and fears in the silence:


Forgive us when our doubt becomes so strong that it tramples our faith. Forgive us when our attempts at knowledge become so certain to us that they trample all our doubts. Forgive us for, secretly or openly, loving impurity. Forgive us for become comfortable with anger and hate. Forgive us for ignoring people you have called us to serve, content in our selfish sloth.

Thank you, O God, for the gifts that you have given us that allow us to serve. Thank you for the warmth and protection this building provides. Help us to be inviting and welcoming in this place. Give the stranger among us a vision of community. Give the community among us a vision of the stranger. Call us together for the sake of your kingdom, for the sake of serving those in need as we proclaim the beautiful news of Jesus Christ and your love to all people.

We pray as your Son has taught us …

Friday, February 01, 2008

Another Set of Slides

We will show this set of slides during the offering time.