Monday, December 28, 2009

Burn Out

Coach Meyer announced he was leaving his $4 million a year job as the first man of the Gator Nation because the stress was, literally, killing him. The national media under reported, for my taste, the role faith played in his stunning decision. I wasn't shocked (that word is over used) that he stepped away, but I didn't see it coming--at all. Urban doesn't call me to talk about how he is feeling. Weird.

In the press he cited the need to be with his kids. He said he knew there was a problem when he was texting recruits during church. He said his doctor told him the stress would kill him before he turned 50. I was impressed that he was willing to place faith and family over a brilliant career.

Then he waffled.

I don't know if he woke up the next day and said, "Wow. $4 Million? Did I really just quit a $4 Million a year job?!!!" Or, perhaps, someone told him he could go back to work and be healthy if he just didn't try so hard to win games. Maybe, just maybe, he decided that health or no health, faith or no faith, family or no family, coaching football at the highest level possible is the only life he could imagine for himself.

Why is Coach Meyer going through this personal crisis? He has worked hard for years. What's new about his situation? Nick Saban at Alabama works, I suspect, just as hard. Why isn't he having chest pains? Does he just have a stronger constitution than Meyer?

If I could ask Coach just one question it would be this: "Did Tebow's faith get to you?" I've watched quotes from Meyer migrate from being focused on football and integrity (two themes he hit hard when he became coach) to faith, football and integrity. He indicated that it was Tebow's example that convinced him to go with his church (he is Roman Catholic) on a short term mission trip. I have read that he is a major donor to the building of a Catholic high school in Gainesville (along with basketball coach, Billy Donovan). And I've just gotten the sense, from following the program, that he has had an awakening.

And so, from the outside of the situation, I can only wonder if Tim Tebow hasn't ruined our ball coach by giving him a vision of something that's more important than football (a blasphemous thing to say about a football coach, no matter how many Christian platitudes he might regurgitate). I wonder if this crisis is new to him because faith has given him a glimpse of the need to bring his life into balance and shown him that can no longer turn a blind eye to faith and family in order to bolster his career while making fans like me happy.

I've been a fortunate fan during the past decade. My favorite NFL team, the Colts, were led by a man who took faith so seriously that he decided to quit coaching. My favorite college coach did the same thing ... almost.

Our culture of success demands a lot of our achievers, be they entertainers, athletes, politicos, or business owners. Not a minute is left fallow for fear that some young, energetic, focused upstart will begin to undermine their success. And so they will.

Ministry isn't immune from this either. Ministers who work super hard, ignoring Sabbaths, are usually driven by the fear that the cool church across town, or across the street, will steal away the low hanging fruit--those folks who fill pews, give money, and bring with them the popular belief that the Spirit is present in a place. And so they will.

That's why the idea of Sabbath is more anchored in faith in God than we usually realize. The faith of Sabbath is the faith that your energetic competitors, though they may win the day and the bigger prize, will not undermine your life. God upholds you, not the seventh day of the week. Our decision to rest (or not to rest) will be determined by whether or not we really believe it is God who is the true giver of the biggest prize.

If Coach Meyer called me, I would tell him that I want him to remain as coach of the Gators, but only if he can keep a Sabbath.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

We've had our nice Christmas-style snow (this picture is from a tree in my yard), we've completed our morning prayer for Advent (we had a nice turnout this year), the services are all planned (we have a service I call "Christmas GriEve" at noon, then our Candlelight Christmas Eve services at 5 and 7), and soon I will be able to take a deep breath and enjoy Christmas day.

Thank you to all of you who visit this blog. Blogs, as you may know, are dying. Facebook garners the fleeting attention spans of the internet masses. Thanks for "old-schooling" with me here on this corner of the internet.

May God bless you all as you contemplate the great gift of grace that is the incarnation.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Quick Saturday Post

These snowy Saturdays are the kinds of days in which you finish preparing your sermon ... but you know that tomorrow's turnout may not be all that great. Fear not! I'm committed to doing my best regardless of the weather.

I'm prepared to get the "are we canceling services" question a lot over the next few hours. I have no plans to cancel, however. A snow plow will hit the parking lot this afternoon and I live close enough to walk (if that becomes necessary).

Tomorrow's sermon will focalize on a man named Simeon (from Luke 2:21ff). Simeon was "waiting on the consolation of Israel" when he got to see the Christ child. His contribution will make an appropriate pre-Christmas sermon.

Tomorrow night we have our annual Christmas Jazz party. I don't want to cancel that, either. It has become my favorite Christmas tradition.

Last week the choir brought us an excellent night of music. I took this picture with my iPhone. They sounded fantastic.

Meanwhile ... we had a nice family night last night when all of the snow was caving-in on Johnson City.
This is my artsy shot from this morning, just before I shoveled the driveway.

The rest are just snow pics. Hope to see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Communication Fails

The modern cliche' is that people need to communicate better if they are to forge better relationships. There is plenty of truth to that, but I offer two interesting failures in communication:

1. The Christian Church Today website, a nice looking website that seeks to connect the Christian churches, has decided to shut down their forum/discussion pages. The reason? Too cantankerous! The website reports they are ending the forum because of "ongoing negative nature of some posts and the administrative work required to maintain them."

Sigh. I completely understand why they would rather shut them down then try to reform them. For all of the strengths of the church, the ongoing weakness is that when we believe something with intensity we have trouble disagreeing amicably. I'm not pointing fingers. I have the same struggles as anybody else on this topic. High standards don't usually mix well with high levels of offered grace ... and it's what makes Jesus all the more worthy of our devotion.

2. I had lunch last week with Bob H. at Cootie Brown's (if you're a Grandview reader of the blog then you know that Bob H. could one of three people ... I'll let you decide who this is). He had a coupon for a $5 steak. You might want to steer clear of that special (get it! steer!).

Bob worked hard to enjoy the steak but it was a losing battle. He told me that he wouldn't mention it to the waitress unless she asked how the food was. She didn't ask.

On the way out, though, the chirpy sorority girl behind the cash register asked the question that Bob was dying to answer. In an Appalachian sing song voice she asked, "How waaaas everything?" I immediately smiled deep within my soul.

"My steak," Bob proclaimed, "was inedible."

"GOooood," she said, not grasping a thing he said. My soul-smile simply widened as I walked past to go get the car.

"GoooOOOD?!" I heard Bob say, "I don't think you know what 'inedible' means!"

That was the last I heard. Aaahhhh ... communication.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Quick Assortment of News

I haven't written about my sermons in months, but we're in an Advent series that is working on the concept of waiting on God; starting with the second coming and then coming backward toward the manger.

I was under time pressure when I made the logo and I like it less and less as we go. But I still prefer this picture and vibe to the one beneath (that I almost used).

I like that the people are happy AND waiting in this picture, but they're all so, sooooo plastic fantastic. I couldn't go with it.This Sunday night is the Grandview Choir special. Next week Sunday night program is our annual Christmas Jazz party. Please plan to attend. That's always a fun night.

Our Tennessee weather has been mild compared to the Midwest this week, but that relative comparison doesn't help our own Sylvia Wise who wound up with an oak tree through the roof of her house and another oak tree down in her yard. By the time I made it by, the cleanup had already begun. Apparently Sylvia was in her van when it happened and in real danger. Praise to God that she is unhurt.

That weather came on the heels of last weekends snow. This is my backyard from last week. Very nice looking snow ... but ... I'm still not too high on cold weather.Morning prayer at Grandview during advent has been a grace to me this year. This was the scene one morning as we were done praying.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hanging of the Greens and a Rainbow

Hanging of the Greens was a nice event on Sunday night, special thanks to Kylie and Lisa. They worked really hard to make it happen. If you see them, thank them profusely.
The Bader family (a Lorna pic, thanks Lorna).

The Garbe family (thanks, Lorna)

A dapper young Charles.

Anna and Aubry ... cute as can be.

Meghan and Meredith.

The carrying of the poinsettias

This rainbow was much nicer than my iPhone could capture.

It started small

Vesper light on the Bradly Pear tree

And a sunset at Grandview.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I apologize for the fits and starts that mark my blogging over the past couple of months. Sometimes the avalanche of ministry precludes writing as much as I would like. I presume busyness is why Paul only has two letters to the Corinthian church (I know, Good Scholar, many believe the Bible preserves three letters ... and that he references other letters within those letters ... save your critical skills for later please). I think the reason so many of Paul's letters were written from prison was because that's when he slowed down enough to write.

I liken it to one of my favorite kids in the youth group when I was a minister in Florida. He wanted to become a comedian so one day he decided to practice his jokes on me. He had only two categories of jokes: toilet and doctors office waiting room. When he finished I asked him if he noticed that the only the only time he came up with jokes was when he was forced to sit quietly by himself.

So ... I'm stopping for just a moment to post some pictures and make some comments. I'll try to do better in the coming months.

Loved this photo posted by a friend of facebook:

Two 4 Two is over for this season. Worship on Wednesday night was good. I'll miss it.

I'll also miss getting time to interact with fine young'ns like Jude here.

We've got more than our share of great kids at Grandview.

This past fall we've had a preaching intern, Sung Bauta. He's been wonderful to have around I value the perspective of a someone from Nigeria who grew up in a predominately Muslim area. Sung and I will be preaching together this weekend and then we'll say goodbye.

Sung: it's been great having you around.

I like this picture of Patrick and Cora as we were off to Kingsport for their chorus concert. It was the first time I met Patrick and I thought he was funny and smart.

My motorcycle continues to be a great way to relax. I've gotten to ride a little bit in the past couple of months. Ross Russell introduced me to the ride to Hot Springs, NC. It's a beautiful trip and a lot of fun. It will become a regular on my rotation.

That's it for now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back to Blogging

Sorry I was gone for so long. The week before my vacation I was consumed with making sure things were covered while I was gone. Then there was the week of the vacation (which was wonderful). Then the week after my vacation was filled with meetings, preaching, weddings and such. All good stuff.

You can look at some of the pictures ... if you want.

Three of the last four ministers of Grandview: me, Frank, and Ben.

Me and the new groom, Sanjay.

The installation of Mke Sweeney as president of Emmanuel.

Mike Sweeney speaking in chapel.

European Evangelistic Society meetings on Monday.

Now to the vacation ...
Cindy and the girls in Key West.

My lucky shot with my iPhone: seagull at sunrise.

The ocean at sunrise.

Okay ... another sunrise picture (I get up early).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Hoodu U and Professor Huso

I haven't been able to post our Rendezvous videos until now. Special thanks to Deke Bowman (video guy) and Adam Bean (Professor Huso Eber).

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Around the Post

If you're the kind of person who runs in church-discussion circles then you're familiar with the much heralded arrival of the Post-Modern, Post-Scientific, Post-Christian world. When I was a kid "Post" was just a secondary brand of cereal (I always coveted the characters on the General Mills cereals. Post cereal cartoon characters were poorly developed.).

I need to become more conversant on the topic because I will be leading two seminars at Emmanuel on knowing the mind of your congregation and then on the topic of reaching Post Moderns. It's the second topic that concerns me the most because "Post Modern" hasn't quite arrived in East Tennessee.

Oh ... there are free spirits and ill-logical thinkers around, but I'm not sure how many true Post Moderns there are. East Tennessee is still overwhelmingly (and yet thinly) Christian.

My daughter, Anna, told me that on her bus there was a boy (let us call him "Darwin") who proclaimed that evolution could be proved and that the idea of a creator God (my description, not his) was laughable.

"Don't you believe in God?" A fellow rider asked.

"No." Darwin said.

At that point, according to Anna, the bus population descended on him in an angry rage, demeaning him, grilling him, and dismissing his beliefs as ridiculous. In other words, the bus riders who nightly play music so offensive that I can't print the lyrics here, riders who consistently speak to each other in words angry and vulgar in nature, treated the non-Christian boy in a most unChristian fashion. To which, I suppose, he should have no moral objection because on the bus (as everybody knows) survival of the fittest is the only rule.

We Christians, however, should have moral objections to the kind of behavior the bullies and berates those who disagree with us. We worship someone whose very life demands we love (not just tolerate) those who disagree with us.

Anna said that while the melee was going on she looked at Jim (who is in the Grandview youth group with her) and said, "Do you get to facebook this or do I?"

Sigh. How do we teach our children to do more than believe in Jesus? How do we teach them to love like he loved?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Last week's Two 4 Two

Two 4 Two had another fine night last week. Here are some pictures from the night.

Frank and Dee ... the happy couple.

Patience in the light.

Colton takes a break from supper.

Abby is growing up quickly these days.

If you haven't heard Thomas pray, then you've really missed out.