Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

I'm back from vacation and tending to the little details that I didn't tend before I left for vacation. The sermon is . . . well . . . it's okay and all, but it feels a little forced at this point. We'll see what happens between now and tomorrow morning.

I'm discovering that it's hard to jump from a 12 hour car ride back into sermon prep. The trip home was uneventful for us, but events were happening all around us. One car was flipped upside down (on the other side of the road), we later passed a small accident in which gas was still leaking from the tank--you could see the gas because it was on fire. Also, about nine hours into the trip I was numb and passing a semi when out of nowhere (was I just not paying attention?) a state trooper was wailing away at my bumper. I floored the mini-van (it responded like a teenager who has just been told to clean his room) and got around the semi, but the car the trooper was wanting to pull over had slowed down in front of the semi so I slid in behind THAT car while the trooper pulled up next to him, causing him to slow further ... you get the idea.

Tomorrow we have the Galilee Ringers with us in both worship services and at 2pm in a concert. I hope you can make it. Happy June!

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
1 June 2008

God of everything that is, seen or unseen, far beyond knowing all things, you assembled miniscule details into beautiful, life-giving, realities. Who among us can follow the path of a single drop of rain? Does this drop sink into the ground beneath us? Does it return almost immediately to the sky above us? Does it become a part of a plant that will nourish us within from within? The elaborate paths of each drop are more than we can know, and yet you still give us the simple pleasure of receiving and offering a cold cup of water in your name.

You, O God, are absolutely brilliant, yet even as we say that we know that the words are too limited to convey what we wish to convey. And so we gather before you and praise you with full hearts, with delight on our lips, with our eyes open to you. Look favorably upon this gathering of people who are the work of your hands.

Thank you for breath and being, for people who love us and for people to love. Thank you for those who make music and for those who love to hear it. Thank you for the simple pleasures of cooking and for the ability to share that meal with others.

Thank you for the calling you have place upon people of different gifts, for giving some the intelligence required to build or fix things, for giving others the intelligence required to teach, or parent, or heal, or nurture, or organize, or grow food, and all of the various vocations that help to give us life as a community.

Forgive us, O God, when we fail to consider how the gifts you have given us are meant to serve the greater good. Forgive us when our gifts become nothing more than a way to get by. Forgive us when decide that our choices—moral, ethical, financial—are also nothing more than a way to get by in this life. Forgive us that short-sighted view of reality. Open our eyes this morning to the big picture of grace, love, justice, and abundant life; not just for each of us, but for those around us.

If it pleases you, show us in the silence where we have focused on ourselves instead of on your kingdom:


We break the silence with petition for those on our prayer list. Some of them have been there for a very long time. In your mercy, O God, grant healing, protection, safe homecoming, joy, strength, and wholeness to those who remain in need. Be with those of us who are not on the list that we will be a source of support to those who need support. We also ask that we would all have a relationship with you that is so deep, so strong, that it will sustain us in our darkest hours.

Give us a strong enough relationship with you that we might know how to offer peace to our enemies, to forgive those who wrong us, to love our neighbor, our enemies, and even our selves for your sake.

We pray as your Son has taught us:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Inconsequential Thoughts

While Meghan pilots us toward home I will share minutiae I learned while enjoying our family vacation at the beach.

1. There are a lot of World Famos places at the beach. Why had I not heard of a single one?

2. This morning I saw a picture of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon Forest. I only saw a small picture of the tribe, but I'm almost positive there was a Sleastack in the middle of the picture.

3. I'm a terrible eaves dropper. Being at the beach gave me a chance to eaves drop on a type of person I rarely encounter. I discovered there are people who peg their memories to the kind of alcohol they were drinking and to how "wasted" they were. "You remember, Bob, it was when you were drinking that brown drink." That's when the light came on for Bob. "Oh, yeah. The BROWN drink."

4. This was the first time I have been to the beach since I started shaving my head. I just slathered my head with lotion. It is easier than having hair.

5. Three people were killed in the rip tide while we were there. I read an interview with a life guard who said that from the air the rip tides are easy to spot. They frequently ask swimmers to move up or down the beach. When a swimmer refuses they simply ask for the name of whom to contact once they get dragged out to sea. Failure to hear warnings is a huge issue in our culture.

6. I saw McDonald's television commercials that were attempting to capitalize on changing & alternative lifestyles (along with non-conformity) in order to sell CHICKEN BISCUITS for breakfast. Sometimes I envy non-contact tribes in the Amazon...sleastacks and no McDonald's commercials. Must be heaven.

7. Our family had a great vacation. It as a true blessing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nathan's Story

Yesterday a 16-year-old boy from Indiana, Nathan Furlong, was walking home from school on the railroad tracks and was hit by a train, according to the Indianapolis Star. The CSX train engineer said that the train hit him squarely while traveling 37 mph. Furlong was thrown 70 feet (a furlong, by the way, is 220 feet).

Nathan is in the hospital this morning, breathing but unconscious. His parents must be horrified and afraid. I suspect the train engineer is horrified as well. The engineer said he blew his whistle 50 times, but that Nathan was wearing earphones and didn't respond.

Can you imagine how awful it would be to know what's going to happen, to warn as loudly as you can, to pray that somehow the boy will move away from danger, to be trying to stop the overwhelming momentum of the train, only to see the boy flung like a rag doll in that last split-second?

There may be much more to this story than the newspaper reported. Maybe he wanted to get hit. Maybe somebody gave him drugs without his knowing. Who knows? I just couldn't help but feel horrible for everybody involved. Today I'm praying for Nathan, for his family, and for the guy who watched helplessly as he piloted the train into tragedy.

At times I have had a recurring dream in which I am in a very high place with no railings (a mountain, a building, an airplane) and I am surrounded by kids. Inevitably one of the kids, in these dreams, gets too close to the edge despite all of my efforts to shepherd. When the child falls I have such an awful feeling. I know what's going to happen to the child. I consider diving after him but I quickly realize that my falling over the edge won't help him. All I can do is watch.

I remember a friend telling me about a dream in which he is on top of a building (I think ... I may have forgotten the details) and the city around him is burning. He can hear the cries of the people but there is nothing he can do.

I can't help but think of Jesus surveying Jerusalem and weeping over the need, over the refusal to hear the train whistle, over the decision faithfully to walk into the burning city, to drop over the edge of the cliff in order to save.

Using Nathan's tragic story: The train isn't sin. The engineer isn't angry and wrathful. Walking on the tracks isn't sin, even if it isn't smart. It's the earplugs. Sin is like ear plugs (I'm wearing them as I type, by the way). Sin makes us deaf to danger. I suspect Nathan was happily walking those tracks and enjoying his favorite song; and that he still doesn't know what happened, even as he clings to life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pics are in ...

It's been over a week since we celebrated the high school graduations. I had hoped to post these pictures earlier, but the one hour photo developer took a week (or I couldn't find my camera). The event went off without a hitch--we even had use of the fellowship hall for the first time in months.

With adult sponsors praying for them, the graduating girls were (left to right) Hanna, Cara Beth, Danielle, and Kylie.
Marshall graduates this year and we got to meet his girlfriend. You already know (from a previous post) that Marshall will be attending Milligan and will be on the basketball team.
Hey, what is AJ doing in this picture? Danielle will be attending Milligan College.

Meg, Kylie, and Cara Beth. Cara Beth will be joining Kylie at Milligan College.

Zach is pretty new to Grandview. You may not know him yet. He's graduating and will be attending ETSU. Zach is a gifted musician.
Another "new" guy to Grandview is Jerry. Jerry is undecided (I think) about his next step.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Coming Soon: The Table

The final installment of the Table Spots is the funniest. You'll laugh. I promise.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

You may have noticed that I didn't blog this week. That's mainly because things seem to be cruising along so nicely that I haven't bothered myself with blogging. I think the topic of Sunday's sermon challenged me to slow down a little this week.

Pray more. Blog less.

Tomorrow I begin a new sermon series that I'm calling "Better than Jesus." The first installment is called "Busier than Jesus." I will get help from two people throughout this series. Next week I'll be out of town so youth minister extraordinare', Ryan Bader, will deliver the sermon "Nicer than Jesus." The others are "Cooler than Jesus," "Smarter than Jesus," and "Happier than Jesus." The series will end on June 29th with Jeff Miller preaching the second of a two-part sermon called "Better than Jesus."

I hope today is as beautiful where you are as it is here in Johnson City. Tomorrow should be a good day as my youngest, Cora, turns 10-years-old. Happy Birthday, Cora!!!


Prayers of the Church for Grandview

18 May 2008

God who made the earth all that is in it in six days, this morning we take the tools of our trade and we set them aside. We walk away from our lists of things that need to be done. We turn our backs on our worries and anxieties; preferring to turn our faces squarely and fully in the direction of the one who made us.

We have been distracted by many things, when only one thing is necessary. You created a universe so large that we can’t wrap our little intellects around it. You formed a solid place for us to stand and then you set it spinning. We didn’t even notice. We thought we were standing still and that everything was revolving around us. How like you to make the impossible a reality; to make reality so amazing that we fail to see it!

As we stop this morning to acknowledge you remind us who is responsible for our lives, for our loved ones, and for eternity. Give us the grace to enjoy the roles you have called us to fulfill, to be anxious about nothing, to live with the joy that can only come from knowing that this universe is ultimately in your hands.

Forgive us for trying to manage and control everything in, and just beyond, our grasp. Forgive us for squandering your gift of life in fear and uneasiness.

In the silence please give us peace, helping us to give to you our fear, pride, and power.


From the perspective of eternity and the cross we can ask you to bless our enemies; both the kind who are literally dying to kill us and the kind who just don’t like us and seek to undermine your call in our lives. Bless those on our prayer list. Give healing to the sick, peace to those who are hurt, protection to those who are in dangerous places, encouragement to those who are buckling under the weight of life’s pain, and a peaceful death to those whose time to die has come.

Bless the institutions that exist for kingdom purposes, especially Agape Women’s Services, Appalachian Christian Camp, Appalachian Christian Village, Christian Student Fellowship at ETSU, Emmanuel School of Religion, European Evangelistic Society, Higher Ministries, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Milligan College, and the Salvation Army.

With one voice we pray according to the example of your Son,

Monday, May 12, 2008

Coming Soon: The Table

This coming Sunday will be our first sign-up day for Backbone Groups. That means there is only one more Table Spot after this one.

I was pleased to announce yesterday that Jeff Miller will be coordinating that service. We're moving forward on the details and I'm hopeful that it will the kind of service that discourages anonymous church attendance...we'll see!

Special thanks continue to Bob Hall for begin a great straight man, Frank Davis for being a smooth voice-over, John Marr for taking the time out of his schedule to hold cue cards, and (of course) Matt Buckner for doing the work. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

With beautiful Spring weather, no recent deaths from within our congregation, and no hospitalizations this past week, we are in a pretty peaceful place to celebrate Pentecost and Mother's Day tomorrow. I continue to prefer preaching out of scripture to preaching out of Hallmark Greeting Cards. I feel like a dinosaur for only tipping my hat to Mother's Day. So be it. I guess I will not qualify as a "relevant" preacher anytime soon. I'm fortunate to be in a congregation that understands why I don't preach Father's Day/Mother's Day sermons (even if some think I'm being overly theoretical and underly practical, they are gracious about their disagreement). I know these holidays are supposed to be great occasions to reach out to potential visitors ... but... Thanks, Grandview, for being nice to me even when I exasperate some of you!

Tomorrow will also be a day of mass exodus from Grandview. It is the last Sunday for a bunch of our students who will be graduating and moving on. This year that number will include the loss of some of our young married couples with babies. We will miss the joy of seeing them with their beautiful children. Blessings to all as you scatter, and thank you for blessing us with your presence while you called East Tennessee home.

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
11 May 2008

Invisible God, we see you when we stare long and hard at history. We see your work in sunrise and smiles, in the miracle of birth and in the distressing finger of death. We see you in the faith of Jesus who rose from the dead, the sure sign of the resurrection that is to come.

Silent God, we hear you in your word spoken. We hear your praises on the beaks of sparrows, in the muffled wind rushing past our ears, in the cry from the crib and in the cry from the cross; lifting the groans and the laughter of creation to your ears.

God, who is Spirit, we see, hear, taste, touch and smell the sacrifice you made in the flesh when we gather in this room, around this table, and break this bread, pour this cup, and proclaim your resurrection until you come again.

Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, poured out on Greek and Jew, male and female, slave and free—on us. Thank you for spiritual things that form and reform the church, the body of Christ, your pride and your bride.

Today we praise you especially for the gift of motherhood and the unique bonds between mother and child. We rejoice with mothers who have faithfully embraced your call to rear children. Thank you for their sacrifice and sympathy, their nourishment and nurture, discipline and direction.

Even as we praise you, O God, we mourn with those whose experience with motherhood was not what you intended. We mourn with those whose mothers were too damaged to fulfill that role faithfully. We mourn with those who would be mothers but are not.

Please bless those on our prayer list this morning. Bring them your unique gift of healing, of joy, of wholeness, freedom, protection, abundant life, bold participation in your kingdom, and the ability to use the gifts you have given them for the sake of the church and the world. Also, Lord, for those whose time to die is near, grant a peaceful and timely death.

Bless those who go out from this place today. Give them fidelity and joy in their journeys and thank you for calling us together for worship and ministry during these few, short years.

We offer to you this time of silence, Lord. In the silence we confess to you our sins, we petition you; we listen.


Together we pray as your Son has taught us:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fire On the Mountain, Run Boys Run ...


It's not news to you if you're in Johnson City, but Buffalo Mountain is burning. I first saw the smoke on the mountain when I was on my way home from work. I figured it was no big deal, but as the sun began to set the smell of forest fire began to engulf us.

I stole this picture from Mark Peacock's blog. Here is a picture I took with my iPhone when I went for a walk last night. Even from a distance I could see flames higher than the trees on the mountain. This morning the city is smells like a wilderness camp.

Last week my friend, Tom Swift, spoke in Emmanuel's chapel service. Just over a year ago Tom was diagnosed with ALS. Part of his story is that, as a hospice chaplain, he was finishing up his DMin project by working on a devotional for the dying.

Tom helped Cindy and me move some of our belongings to storage back before we moved to Wilmore. Even then something was wrong but he thought it was just a bad back. We weren't' worried.

Tom delivered his message to us from his wheel chair, sharing with us the loss of his freedom to hike and kayak and to do simple things. His message was, essentially, that even in his condition he can choose to focus on the blessings instead of on the things he has lost.

He can still laugh. Pray for him.


I haven't taken the time to stop and share my experience as a speaker on career day at a local school.

I have to tell you; I think I've had nightmares about being in this position. There is NO profession less interesting to a middle schooler than the ministry. These kids were polite (at least the ones whose teachers threatened them before I started speaking), but there was no fascination in the room.

We speakers rotated from class to class. One guy brought a rescue dog. One guy (Jeremy) wrote a song in each class room in conjunction with the kids and then played it on his electric guitar. One speaker was the woman who runs the Johnson City Mall. All of these things are far more interesting to 7th grade boys than a minister.

One of the speakers was a soldier/mechanic. He said that every class had the same question: "How many people have you killed?" I, on the other hand, had one kid ask me "How many people have you saved." I should have said, "If that soldier killed you right now, would you go to heaven?"

At least I have lots of experience being uncool in middle's just that I was hoping to let that sleeping dog lie.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Coming Soon: The Table

This is spot number two, starring Dr. Robert Hull, Frank Davis (voice-over), and produced, directed, and edited by Matt Buckner.

Hope you enjoy:

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tomorrow's Offering

Tomorrow's sermon is the last in the little series on the First Responders to the Resurrection. It has been enjoyable for me to take another look at the early church and the challenges they faced, and (in many cases) overcame.

The journey from Jerusalem to Antioch to Athens and to Corinth ends for us tomorrow. I kind of wish I had kept it going through Rome. Maybe we'll do the same thing next year, with whistle stops in different towns (like Galatia and Ephesus and the town of Timothia ... oops, that letter was to a person). We can finish next year's trip in Rome.

Tomorrow is also the day we remember the Ascension of our Lord. The candle on the communion table, representing the physical presence of Jesus, will be removed during both services (he makes a cameo appearance again in the second service)to return on Christmas eve. Also, because next Sunday is Pentecost, marking the end of the Easter season, the silence will return to the pastoral prayers. Some of you may have missed the silence; if so, take heart, it's coming soon!

It's been a good week around here, for the most part. Maybe later today I'll post some pictures of things like Tom Swift's chapel service at Emmanuel.

Here's the prayer. As usual, I haven't proofed it for any and all mistakes, but that's the joy of push-button publishing. Peace.

Prayers of the Church for Grandview
4 May 2008

O God, as the delicate dogwood blossoms fall from the tress, becoming the carpet of a fading Spring, we continue to enjoy the blessings of your seasons. Thank you for the beauty of the earth. Thank you for creation; for a place to set our feet and fix our eyes; for fresh fragrances and gentle textures; and for the sacrament of loved ones. Our blessings engulf our complaints. Our joys outweigh our sorrows. Abundant life overwhelms death.

All of these things come to us in season, suffering and rejoicing alike. Just as we had your Son with us on this earth for a season, we now enjoy the time of your kingdom. During this kingdom season, help us to be people of justice and joy, of strong stances in defense of your sacrifice; and of even greater grace. By the power of your Spirit may we be your people, recognizable by our love for you, our love for each other, and our love and sacrifice for those who don’t wish to be part of your family.

We lift our souls to you. May they rise like your Son to meet you! By the grace and sacrifice of your Son, may we be acceptable to you, restored, forgiven, and alive!

Forgive us our immoralities, be they financial, sexual, or relational. Let us not be like the church at Corinth that frustrated Paul less by their immorality and more by their refusal to repent of these things. Forgive us our infidelities to the gospel, for celebrating resurrection while whistling past our crosses, for celebrating community while ignoring the stranger among us, and receiving grace without being willing to suffer the pain that giving grace sometimes causes us.

Help us to participate in the healing you offer to those on our prayer list, in the comfort you offer those who are grieving, in the protection you give to those in harm’s way, in the justice you give to those who suffer under corrupt systems of government, and in the joy you can still give to those who have found life too hard. We also ask that you would give strong and peaceful resources to those whose time to die has come. Cut short their time of testing.

Give great joy in service to those who have left home and family for the sake of the gospel, we remember before you the Coleys, Freelands, Headens, Hillmans, McDades, Nyadors, Veals, and Seth Williams. We also remember the Jacksons and the Colemans as they ready themselves to leave us as they follow your call.

We pray together as your Son has taught us: