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Thursday, February 16, 2006


Life at a Snail’s Pace

I share my office with two others, and I envy them.  They never lose their temper, never get in a hurry, never worry.  They lead stress free lives. These and many other qualities they have and I lack.  But their presence does seem to help remind me that I need to reevaluate the pace of my life and to see life from another perspective.  On my desk is microarium, a miniature aquarium by another name. It is a small glass orb which contains a cup full of water, some gravel a small aquatic plant and two rams horn snails.  Day after the day the two little snails glide around on the glass and gravel in search of food and adventure.  They exist in their little ecosystem and seem oblivious to mine.  They really don’t get bent out of shape when I can’t seem to meet the next deadline.  They never get out of sorts even when I am running a deficit on sleep. They just keep doing what God intended for mollusks to do. 

My usual office guests (call it strange if you will) have had a positive influence in a few ways.  There are times when conversation between me and others who drop by my office is spiked with tension and even in the pressure of the moment I sometimes steal a glace at the little glass bowl on my desk and remind myself that what ever the issue of the moment those two little guys really don’t care.  It some how makes my issue a little smaller.  They also remind me that there is a whole universe of creation beyond the little slice I see and this puts my stuff in perspective.   In the grand scheme of things my big stuff is really small stuff, and I should not sweat the small stuff.

I also am reminded that when my life seems to be spinning out of control the snails have it under control because they are doing what God made them to do.  The painful thing is they never seem to deviate from doing what God made them to do and I often do.  It is part of our falleness, but that is no excuse, I need to ever refocus on His will and with His help do it.

My life is seldom at a snail’s pace but I have ready reminder that I do need to slow down, take a deep breath refocus and know that God is near and in control.  Maybe it is time for you to do the same.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10


December 16, 2005

Hanging out with the famous

I am not above name dropping as witnessed by some of my preceding entries. But this week I met a very famous person. I guess we should define "met" I was in his presence, I saw him with my own eyes, I spoke to him and he to me, I shook his white-gloved hand. We didn’t have a deep conversation and I didn’t get his autograph but I did meet him. He even gave me a Christmas ornament for my tree, with some coupons on the back so I could save money the next time I was in one of his places of business. I met a person that has appeared on Television countless times, is a house-hold name around the world, I have seen pictures of this man on display in my travels to Europe and Asia as well as all over North America. He is a spokesperson for a gigantic international corporation and here he was coming to address the students at Bible Center School. Oh, and you know him too, he is easily recognizable – yellow one-piece jump suit, large red shoes, bright red curly hair, flour-white face, red nose – you know your typical celebrity type. And just so you won’t jump to this line and figure it out without reading all the gifted prose above I will give you his name spelled backward: dlanoDcM dlanoR 

Yes it was he of hamburger fame, he of Saturday morning cartoon commercial break fame. It was he and I met him. OK, OK, lest you think I am crazier than I really am, I do know that RM is a fictional character and there are likely several RMs running around the country on a company expense account. I did find it somewhat humorous that RM was giving the third-graders a little talk about a healthy life-style, this was from the same character that has pumped more cholesterol into American’s arteries than all the other fast-food joints combined! Yes, this was just a pseudo-celebrity.

But, what is a real celebrity. What is so special about someone who can sing well, or write a book, or act in a drama or tell a joke, or throw a football or who has won an election, or made a lot of money, or done some heroic deed. When it comes right down to it a celebrity is just an ordinary part of the human race that is known by more than an average amount of other humans.

I assume that if you are reading this you are a non-celebrity. And all of us need to remember that God is not impressed with fame. The Bible states that He is not a respecter of persons. He treats us all fairly. And for those of us who are His children. He delights in us, He writes us fan mail, He is our biggest cheer-leader. To most we are not famous, influential or important. To God we are. Thank Him for it.

Oh and by the way, Julie and I were at the mall last night and saw Santa Claus, in person, with my own eyes…

December 6, 2005

cedarville campus 360º picture


Last month Julie, Brian and I traveled to Cedarville Ohio to surprise Jessica on her birthday.  We pulled off the surprise with the help of Jessica's fellow mansion-mates. The pictures above were taken during our time in Cedarville,  The left one of Brian and Jessica is at her birthday party, and the right one is a campus shot (be sure to look at the whole thing using the link above).  There has been a cost for Jessica to get a BS in Nursing and it may seem like a large amount, but there is a difference between cost and value.  The cost would be something like 5 years and $80,000.  The value - beyond calculation.  How can you really put a value on learning, development, maturity, knowledge, skills, the relationships made, the life lessons learned etc.  Everything we have ever spent on our children has returned a greater value than cost.  The scriptures say the children are a "heritage from the Lord," that said-- the best we can build, the best we can invest in, the best we can hope for, for generations to come, is entrusted to our children. So - Jessica we are proud of you and as your graduation is within sight in a few months rejoice in the value of your Cedarville experience,

November 21, 2005

video clip of Jim Irwin erecting the American Flag
video clip of Dave Scott taking this picture


I grew up in the space age.  Men going into space and going to the moon was big stuff back in the day.  Above is one of my favorite pictures, it shows Jim Irwin standing on the moon in August of 1971.  Even though He was a long way from home he was in some ways more connected to the his fellow earthmen than most of us will ever be.  I tell this to illustrate a particular truth…

A couple of the first verses I learned as a junior higher was Proverbs 3:5-6, the reason I learned them was Mr. Lester Arnold my Sunday School teacher would often (like every Sunday) do Sword Drills and these two verse were always going to show up.  Looking back he was teaching us more than we and perhaps even he thought.  These verses warn against self-reliance (“lean not to your own understanding”).  If I would have followed that part faithful since the age of 13 I would be better off.  It seems as if the default setting on most of is trust in our own ingenuity, our plans, or own schemes.  This has led to many a disaster!  The verses also recommend trust in the Lord with ones whole heart.  This is always good advice.  Verse six promises that if we are obedience if we live up to our responsibilities God will direct our paths – I like that – no more head scratching, hand wringing, squirming about what to next in life.  There is one last element in this text that for the last 30 something years that has remained elusive.  What exactly does it mean when it says “In all your ways acknowledge Him.”  Whatever it means it is the key ingredient to gaining God’s direction in our lives.  Here are few stray thoughts I have had on the subject of acknowledging God in life. 

1.      First of all the basic meaning of acknowledge is to recognize, to give recognition of something or someone.  If see someone I know, I acknowledge them with eye contact, a nod, a wave, a word or a touch. I am letting them know that I know that they are there. I need to need to maintain the discipline of recognizing God’s presence with me and within me.
2.      Second acknowledge is a two way street. It speaks of relationship.  There needs to be an ongoing dialog between us.
3.      I need to do this “in all my ways.”  This means God is not to be a super 911 service to call when I am in trouble.  His is not to be only on my mind when I am in a setting that reminds me of Him, I am to include Him in my thinking and life at all times.

… back to Jim Irwin on the Moon.  While he was walking around on the moon he could speak via radio with mission control in Houston, Texas.  His every move was followed on TV by rooms full of experts, and multitudes.  If he made a comment about a particular kind of rock a whole team of geologist were listening to offer advice and guidance.  If some piece of equipment broke the engineers that designed it were available, and the technicians that built is were on hand.  He could easily acknowledge the "presence" of other to help in any situation.  I think acknowledging God in everything is similar, I need to remain aware of the presence of God in everything I do, I need to keep the communication lines open and the conversation in motion, I need to evaluate my actions against the grid of my Bible knowledge. I trust I can make progress in my earthwalk.

Ordinary People

The pictures above are from the 9:30 service at Bible Center Church last Sunday. It is one of several times each year that I get to preach during the morning worship services. As I was thinking back on the experience I looked at some statistics and began figuring, adding, cyphering, estimating and educated guessing. Some numbers break down easily; such as, the three pictures above are frames from our Webvideo recording, the video records 30 frames per second the message was 34 minutes 15 seconds long (intense math work goes here) so the video is composed of 61,650 frames. I was even more startled to learn how many people would have heard this message on Proverbs 1:10-33, entitled "Securing Security."  There were 1581 in attendance Sunday, and our Radio Station estimates that there are about 1200 listeners to our broadcast, if you add in those listening live on the Internet, and those who will watch the video on the Internet, and those who purchase or receive CDs and tapes the number that would hear this message from Sunday would be 2821!  I am amazed at that.  I am especially amazed considering where I come from.  The town I grew up in only had 800 people living there, and when I was a child, a large church was one with over a hundred people.  I would never in my wildest imaginations ever conceive of a church being the size of ours.

I am even more amazed at me.  I am just a regular guy, I know who I am, I know what I can and can't do and I am aware that at heart I am just a small-town guy who lives a simple life. As Alan Jackson sang the night we were at the Grand Ol' Opery (see 9-28-05 below) "Where I come from its cornbread and chicken, where I come from a lot of front porch sittin, Where I come from its tryn to make a living, and working hard to get to heaven, where I come from." ( Listen to sound clip here) if you ignore the theology of the chorus, it does poetically capture my upbringing.

So what is someone like me doing preaching to 2800 people? All I can say is God can use ordinary people, for I am the ordinariest! In act 4 the Jewish authorities were amazed at Peter and the rest of the disciples for they knew they were ordinary men, uneducated and unrefined. But the scripture states that they took note that they had been with Jesus.  Here is the secret.  Spend time with Jesus and you will be amazed at what He can do with ordinary people.


Tonight for supper, Julie - Brian and I had a fast-food meal from LJS. Why did we, and why do we do so every Halloween?  As the main character in "Fidder on the Roof" would say - "It is Tradition!"   It is a yearly October 31st  tradition for us and unless you are on the inside of our family it may seem strange that every Halloween we have fish, hushpuppies and fries!  The secret to why we do this - drum roll please-- we did it once and have just kept doing it.  As I recall about a dozen years ago someone gave us trick-or-treat bags that were supplied by Long John Silvers that had coupons printed on them. After our -then quite young children -- had finished shaking down the neighbors for candy we went to LJS for a meal out.  Little did the Ol' Long John know he was not just increasing the sale of fish for one night he would continue to reap benefits for many years to come.  After we had done it once we just kept doing it.  This seems to be a norm for the human kind.  Why do people sit in the same place in church?  Why do they repeat the same phrase over in multiple conversations, why do we have ritual -it is in our nature.  

This leads me to a warning to myself, what am I doing now that may become a tradition or a habit in the days to come?  I should choose wisely for as I once heard someone say "one can sow a thought and reap an attitude, one can sow an attitude and reap an action, one can sow an action and reap a habit, one can sow a habit and reap a life, one can sow a life and reap a destiny."  What I choose to do today, or refuse to do today can have long-lasting consequences.  I had best choose wisely (Prov. 3:5-6).

The Prayer Path

My Thanks to Joe Martin and several other volunteers for creating the Prayer Path on our church property at Southridge.  Last Saturday, my wife Julie, son Brian, Brian's friend Nathan and this writer spent a delightful couple of hours strolling, and stopping a praying along this path. The temperature was cool but the sky was blue and the leaves on the tree had some wonderful color mixed among the green.  We enjoyed quiet conversation, some exploring, lots of reflection, and even found an unexpected of Hickory Nuts.  I had written and earlier article about our family tradition of making Hickory Nut Cake (http://www.biblecenterchurch.com/articles/nov00.html) So we collected enough Hickory Nuts for a cake or two while leaving plenty for the squirrels.  We now face several hours of work to crack and shell them so if you some extra time and have strong hands let me know.  In addition to our party of four we did encounter a few others along the path as it winds through woods, and fields, and up and over hills. 

The real significance of the prayer path is not just its beauty and uniqueness it is the concept that Joe built into the design.  Five spots along the way one encounters a beautiful stone bench with inlaid glass designs and a small sign that invites the traveler to stop and pray.  It give suggestions for prayer that are built around the theme of our purpose and strategy statements.  Our group stopped and in the stillness of our seclusion we took to God our praise and our requests.  As I thought about these stops I came to the conclusion if I had not been invited to, and reminded to pray I may not have taken as much time as did to pray.  I have tried to make it a habit to pray each time I am on the land but to have my progress interrupted by the need to pray was good for me. 

We are commanded in 1Thessalonians 5:17 to "Pray without ceasing."  Too often I get too busy doing what I believe are good things and do not stop and pray.  The prayer path has been a good reminder to me that as I journal through life we all need to find some prayer stops.  God is waiting to hear from us

10/14/2005 9:57 PM

The Governor Didn’t Show!

Occasionally we preachers get invited to be the appointed prayers at certain events, I have prayed for banquets, picnics, reunions, political events, sporting events, etc. etc. etc. Well yesterday I was the appointed prayer at an event the WV Rehabilitation hospital.

It is customary that the governor attends. I had seen Joe Manchin on a couple of occasions but to share the stage and shake the hand well that was a semi-significant event. Anyway when I showed up to get my flower pinned on my suit I was handed a program and found that the main speaker was the governors wife and not he. She made a good speech (I think she is a better speaker than he) but it didn’t make for something you can talk about… "yes the governor was there…yes Joe and I had some quality time…" it just doesn’t have the same ring when you say "governor’s wife." My only thought in this little story is the person others really need to see is Christ in me, no me. My life is about displaying His glory and proclaiming His message. I need to make sure that the one seen is the one others should see.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The engines have to keep running!

This little picture was snapped out the window of Independence Air Fight 1577 between Charleston WV and Dulles International Airport. I don’t fully understand all the principles of physics that make an aircraft fly but I do know this, it has to have forward momentum. When a plane is going down the runway and reaches the proper speed it goes up. There is also that moment in airflight when the engines are throttled back and if feels as if your stomach is sinking faster than the rest of your body. In essence to go down you have decrease your forward speed. There is no staying put or even a moment of non-motion. (It is true that helicopters can hover –but there must be a constant and massive movement of air downward to stay in flight – or as my son Brandon –the fixed wing pilot—would say "helicopters don’t fly, they are so ugly the ground repels them.")

This is true of ones spiritual life. There is no standstill. It is either forward and upward or backward or downward. It is true there is a thing called coasting or gliding – but this is quite misleading. While one can have a controlled decent with the engines off it is inalterable a decent. It may be best described as a line from Woody of Toy Story fame – "That’s not flying – Its falling, with style." I am afraid that I spent time coasting and for those on the outside looking in – it may look good but I am still descending. The only thing that can keep me going up or staying up is to keep going forward. This leads to a sometimes-uncomfortable question. Am I leaning forward in my life with God? Are the engines of my passion for Christ at full throttle?

There is in every flight the moment of truth. The thing that flies through the air must come down. Again quoting from a clipping from Brandon, "Every takeoff is optional, every landing is mandatory." To make it to the destination the engines have to keep running, and a successful landing will verify a successful flight. I have been tying to make progress in my spiritual life for 34 years, sometime flying, sometimes coasting. I don’t know how many more miles until I land this thing called life but I do pray that I will accomplish all that God has for me.

Devotions 9-28-05


Yesterday was a special day at the Grand Ole Opry – a Nashville tradition for 75+ years. It was the "Tuesday Night" edition and since this was Julie and my first and perhaps last trip to Nashville we decided to experience this bit of Americana. After showing up early at the ticket office we and our traveling companions (Bill and Dukey Tanzey) were told there were no tickets left as all 4400 tickets were in the hands of those who came prepared. Here we were – only chance to go to the Opry and we were on the outside looking in. It was to be a special benefit show for Hurricane relief. It was to be carried live on radio and television across the country with a lineup of bigger than normal stars. The only thing that separated us from Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes, T. Boone Graham, Terri Clark, Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart, Porter Wagoner, Craig Morgan, Julie Roberts, Riders In The Sky, Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman and Billy Currington was a ticket. Then Bill and I had a stroke of genius – we could wait around and someone would have some extra tickets. Then after joining forces with a man recently arrived from Detroit we made sorry looking paper signs with the hand written scrawl proclaiming loudly "NEED TICKETS" - it wasn’t long until the silliness of our situation hit – our signs were really proclaiming "WE ARE LOOSERS WHO DON’T KNOW ENOUGH TO BUY A TICKET IN ADVANCED EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE BEEN PLANNING A TRIP TO NASHVILLE FOR SIX MONTHS!" Here the professional counselor on our church staff and me the Associate Pastor were publicly and embarrassingly caught unprepared.

There is a verse in Titus 3:1 that states that we as followers of Christ should be ready for every good work. But too often I am caught maintaining a testimony that blares "DISCIPLE NOT READY FOR PRESENT OPPORTUNITY" Every day presents opportunities to do good work, for both those who are brothers and sisters in the faith and those who need become so. Let I sound like as big an opportunity looser as I was a getting tickets in advance looser, there are moments when I am prepared. This can happen when there are no outstanding issues since I have confessed my known and willful sins (1 John 1:9). This happens when I am yielded and aware of the Spirit’s work in my life (Gal. 5:16). And when I am conscience of my primary mission in life – to glorify God rather than making Jess look good.

There are opportunities this day – there are opportunities every day. It is my desire to be prepared – to be ready to do good.

Oh – we did find a ticket for the Man from Detroit – and two tickets that the Waggoners got to enjoy – and we also received the sacrifice of two friends who could only watch the show on TV. We not being huge country music fans, still enjoyed what for us was a unique experience and reminder of a valuable lesson in life.

Brandon's Mail

Jessica's Mail