Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New possibilities . . .

I don't know about you . . . (But then, how could I???)

Does the coming of the new year make anyone else feel like there are just a bunch of new possibilities that begin tomorrow, January 1, 2009, that were not possible yesterday, December 30, 2008??

You may have to read that 3-4 times for it to make sense. It didn't make much sense when I first wrote it . . . but you can probably get the drift of my meaning.

I have made a large number of pastoral-care phone calls today. And as I spoke and listened, I began to understand that most all of the people I spoke to, especially those who have experienced illness or a death in their family, responded how they feel that the new year will be different, more positive, with new possibilities, especially for healing and for personal peace.

I guess I agree.

And . . . where did this sudden rush or "new" burst of energy and suddenly clearer focus come from? I sure could have used it during Advent!

I had planned to use the week after Christmas to relax, rest up, maybe do some reading.

Instead . . .

-I have already pulled a new devotional book from the book shelf, and placed it in my shoulder bag, and will begin reading it tomorrow morning during my daily devotions.

-I have my study Bible already bookmarked to begin reading Genesis tomorrow.

-I am getting ready to call some friends with some new ideas for our joint activity in the coming year.

-I have cleaned out my files (throwing away most of what I filed in the first place) and have my year somewhat planned out for the things I know I will be doing here at the church.

-I have a new notebook ready for the writing of 12 new childrens worship songs.

-I called another nursing home to volunteer to sing on a regular basis.

Is it that the new year brings the hint of new possibilities . . . maybe to have one or more "do-overs" . . .

Or . . . does the arrival of a new year bring us a new, fresher sense of hope . . . that something in our lives, family, work, etc., in 2009 will be a little bit better than it was in 2008?

Hope is a good thing . . . for without it . . . we are lost. Better to have hope for a new year, than to have no hope, and be lost before the new year even begins.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Is December 31st really just another "Fat Tuesday"?

"Fat Tuesday" is the day before the season of Lent, just before Easter.

On Fat Tuesday, participants sometimes "indulge" in a habit or activity, which they plan to give up beginning the following day, when the season of Lent begins.

Lent is a period, where one often "does without" something, such as a food or drink they really shouldn't eat, or perhaps a destructive habit they would be better off not having.

Today is December 31, and here I am in my office, finishing off all the chocolate candy I was given by the sweet church members here . . . so I can start my New Years resolutions for 2009, especially the one about seriously reducing the amount of sweets I eat.

In fact . . I just now . . . (smack, smack) . . . finished off the last piece . . . (smack, smack).

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, December 29, 2008

One of our church families sent me this picture. Instead of setting up a Christmas Tree, this family built a very lovely Nativity scene.

Wow! This is what I call "Christmas Spirit!"

Ever forward . . . ><>

Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Year a coming . . .

Funny thing . . .

Huh?  Has anyone ever noticed how often I start my writing efforts with "Funny thing . . ."

Usually things that make me laugh . . . they don't make other people laugh.   My wife has lovingly suggested many times that I have a perverse sense of humor.

I need to look that up.

Anyway . . . funny thing . . .

After years of sharing, relating, and too often griping about how I usually am quite glad, even relieved, when Advent / Christmas is over . . . . when . . . "darn it" . . . I have a wonderful Christmas experience.

Our theme at the church this year for Advent was "A Simple Christmas."   We got our idea from the folks at the Advent Conspiracy website.  

For Advent this year . . . we encouraged everyone to:

-Worship more
-Spend less
-Give more of ourselves
-Love all 

And . . . wouldn't you know it . . . this year I had a very wonderful, and very spiritual Christmas.   
My wife and I chose to not share purchased gifts this year with each other . . . instead giving to each other the gift of our individual time and attention.   We gave small, but very personable gifts to our family members and a few friends  . . . and then sought out others who truly needed a special gift.   

This year . . . we quietly "gifted" several of the waiters and waitresses who serve us when we frequent certain area eating establishments.  

In particular . . . IHOP and Sonic.

Seeing someone's eyes light up when someone gives them a gift, when they would have never expected to get a gift . . .

"No thank you  . . . we don't want to order anything today . . . we just came by to give this to you . . ." (a nice card in an envelope with a monetary gift.)

Now I know how Santa Claus feels. 

Now the really funny thing .  . . after having had a pretty decent Christmas . . . I am actually getting excited about 2009!

Here we are, just days away  from a new year . . . and I find myself "creatively" contemplating some much needed "to-do's", prioritizing some personal goals, starting the planning for our spring "String Band" concert, daring to dream some interesting "what if's"  . . . and I am excited about it!

Hallelujah!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Funny thing . . . 

Every forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Do you hear what I hear this Advent / Christmas season?

During the Advent / Christmas season, discussions often take place about the best Christmas gift one has ever received, or the best Christmas gift one has ever given.

Why do I believe that Jesus Christ is the best gift ever given?

As I understand scripture . . . Christ was sent to all of us . . . through the actions of a loving and compassionate God who placed His hand into the very fabric of human existence . . . and in doing so . . . gave each of us the "gift of acceptance."

At Christmas . . . it is NOT the loud, flashy commercials and Christmas advertisements I hear anymore . . . I can actually "tune those out" very easily it seems . . .

Rather, during Advent and Christmas, I hear the voice of God saying: through the hearing and singing of music, through the reading of scriptures, and when witnessing the charitable and compassionate actions of others . . .

-YOU are valued . . .

-YOU are included . . .

-YOU are wanted . . .

-YOU are precious to me . . .

-The gift of the Christ-child . . . is for YOU!

My most-most-most favorite Christmas song ever . . . sung by my favorite singer of all time, Bing Crosby, shares my feelings in words and music better than I can share through a blog entry.

The song is: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eric Folkerth's Christmas meditation . . .

My friend Eric Folkerth is the pastor at Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas. His annual Christmas meditaion can be found here.

Eric makes me think . . . and sometimes causes me to think far outside the box my "reality" fits in.

I appreciate friends like that.

Every forward . . . ><>

On Christmas . . .

Perhaps, it is the combination of our current national financial situation . . .

Perhaps, it is the crushing cultural consumerism which weighs so heavily upon us before Christmas earlier and earlier and earlier each year . . .

Perhaps, it is because of the amount of money spent on Christmas each year . . . supposedly close to 480 billion dollars world-wide . . .

Perhaps, it is the knowledge, in comparision, that it would only take 10 billion dollars to allow everyone in the world to have clean water.

Perhaps, for many, Christmas is not "peace on earth, good will toward all men!"

My good friend, Floyd, and I have been having an on-going several month discussion on the topic of "what is worship?"

Today, in an email, I asked him, "what is Christmas to you?" Floyd responded back with a copy of this essay, which he wrote several years ago.

Let me tell you about my friend, Floyd. He is a good man, husband and father. He and I have been friends for longer than I can remember.

Floyd is also a deeply spiritual man . . . he is one of the smartest guys I know. What he shares below comes from a long and thorough throught process. Floyd thinks deeply about things before he speaks or writes. He is not trying to force his way on anyone. Neither am I (at least I hope not)!

Some may read Floyd's essay, and pass judgement that people "are not allowed to think this way at Christmas!"

My response, "and just how are we supposed to think at Christmas?

Are we instead to get ourselves in debt buying presents . . . and in doing so, have no resources to give to those who could really, really use the help?

Are we instead to decorate and store decorations that we will usually replace yearly because we see something new at the lawn and garden store?

Are we to expect gifts from everyone . . . thus cluttering our lives with more and more and more things we have to manage and take care of?

And, in the process . . . cover up the birth of Christ in the process?????

I find that more and more and more people are thinking this way about Christmas. And I think that is good.

I don't want to rebel . . . I am not trying to be a Grinch . . . I just want to find more and deeper meaning . . . in the knowledge that in Christmas, God places his holy hand into the very fabric of humanity . . . as an act of His compassionate grace . . . and gave us through the birth of Christ . . . the greatest gift ever . . . the gift of acceptance!

There are people it seems, who want to know what happened to the "child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

There are people it seems, who want to know why we have replaced "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays."

There are people it seems, myself included, who are asking . . . "Where is the peace!"

So, read on . . . and if you wish to respond in a thoughtful manner by leaving a comment, then do so.

Ever forward . . . ><>

On Christmas

I hardly want to think about it yet. But the time is very close when we all must. Christmas. The time of year when pastors work the hardest. When there's the most depression, the most family conflict, the highest number of suicides. Joy to the world.

I found a great arrangement of the song, "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear," which I wanted the band I’m in to perform. Not only is it beautiful musically, setting the song in a minor key, but it includes a verse you hardly ever hear. For most Christmas songs, you know, we only have one verse memorized. But I find this verse very moving:

And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow:
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing!
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

It moves me because it speaks to what I wish Christmas could be for me, and never will be. It never will be, because all of my immediate and extended family, and in fact everyone else I know, are caught up in the traditional American Christmas. I don't like it, and haven't for a long time, but I also don't want to be the bad guy and spoil everyone's fun. So I go along.

But if I could do Christmas my way, there would be no decorations or colored lights. No frenzied season of party after party, with vast amounts of food and meaningless presents nobody really wants or needs. No shopping season in the crowded stores, the consumerism that is pretty near the opposite of what Jesus stood for, culminating in an orgy of stuff and boxes and wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

Christmas for me would begin with a season of prayer and study, to learn all over again why God would do such a thing as become a man. The day itself would also be a day of quiet contemplation and prayer, mixed with wonder at the glorious smallness of what happened. The smallness of a baby's cry in a lowly stable in a tiny town in an occupied country, and yet the sky above filled with angels. The Lord of the universe born to a dirt-poor teenage girl, attended by shepherds, and yet the news of his birth shook the houses of kings.

Christmas my way would be a time to stop all the activity, and think and wonder about these things. A time to be at peace. A time to rest beside the weary road, and listen for the angels.

May we all find some peace.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't postpone joy . . .

John Mason's "Nugget of the Week" which I received by email today . . .

Ever forward . . . ><>

My wife and I decided to have a cup of coffee at the local IHOP. Inside, we were greeted by a very friendly, happy, smiling waitress. It didn't take us long to notice that she only had one tooth. On the top and in the middle.

I thought, isn't that interesting? Here's a woman with one tooth, yet she works in a job that requires a lot of up-close people contact. She's smiling, doing a good job. Then, I noticed a button she was wearing: "A smile is a gift you can give every day."

What a profound scene this was. So much so that I complemented her on her button and sincerely told her she had a nice smile. I wondered if anyone had ever told her that.

When she returned to our table she told me that her father had done the calligraphy on the button. She said, "He had his fingers cut off in an industrial accident, and then decided to pick up calligraphy after that!" In fact, his writing was now better than before the tragedy.

Perhaps only a woman raised by a fingerless dad who does calligraphy can choose to smile even though she has only one tooth...

Enthusiasm makes everything different. You can't control the length of each day, but you can control its impact by adding fun and enthusiasm. When you have enthusiasm for life, life has enthusiasm for you. William Ward said, "Enthusiasm and persistence can make an average person superior; indifference and lethargy can make a superior person average."

Don't postpone joy. Instead, be like the Mona Lisa- she keeps smiling even when her back's to the wall. If you find yourself dog-tired at night, it may be because you growled all day. Learn to laugh at yourself. A person with a great sense of humor may bore others, but he rarely has a dull moment himself.

One of the single most powerful things you can do to have influence over others is to smile at them.

You are never fully dressed until you wear a smile. It's the best face-lift!

A smile is an asset; a frown is a liability.

Some people grin and bear it; others smile and change it.

Smiling-being happy and enthusiastic-is always a choice, not a result. It improves your personality and others' opinion of you. Both enthusiasm and pessimism are contagious. How much of each do you spread? Our attitudes tell others what we expect in return. A laugh a day keeps the negative away. You can succeed at almost anything for which you have unlimited enthusiasm.

-John Mason, from the book Imitation is Limitation

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fabulous 50's Christmas Songs

This list is from our band brother, Russ Logan, brother of noted bluegrass fiddler Tex Logan, who wrote Christmas Times A Coming with Bill Monroe.

Russ' late brother, Homer, was a great Country Western and Bluegrass fiddler in his own right.

Of course, we think that Russ is a more than a mighty fine mandolin and guitar player.

Ever forward . . . ><>

A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
Away In A Manger - Loretta Lynn
Christmas Alphabet - The McGuire Sisters
Christmas Country Christmas - The Statler Brothers
Christmas In My Hometown - Sonny James
Christmas Song - Alvin & The Chipmunks
Christmas Times A Coming - Bill MonroeAnd The Bluegrass Boys
Christmas Waltz - Frank Sinatra
Christmas Without You - Kenny RogersDolly Parton
Frosty The Snowman - Gene Autry
Grandma Got Run OverBy A Reindeer - Elmo & Patsy
Hard Rock Candy Christmas - Dolly Parton
Hark The Herald Angels Sing - Nat King Cole
Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas - Rosemary Clooney
Home For The Holidays - Perry Como
Its Beginning To LookA Lot Like Christmas - Bing Crosby &The Andrew Sisters
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - Jimmy Boyd
Its a Most WonderfulTime Of The Year - Johnny Mathis
Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms
Jingle Bells - Roy RogersMost Interesting Middle!
Jingle Bells - - Jingle Bell Piggie
Joy To The World - Nat King Cole
Leroy, the Redneck Reindeer - Joe Diffie
Let It Snow - Andy Williams
Lets Put Christ Back Into Christmas - Tammy Wynette
Little Drummer Boy - eil Diamond
O Christmas Tree - Nat King Cole
Please Come Home - The Platters
Pretty Paper - Roy Orbison
Rocking Around The Christmas - Autry
Rudolph The RedNose Reindeer - Unknown Group
Santa Baby - Cynthia Basinet
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Bing Crosby
Santa Claus Is Watching You - Ray Stevens
Silver Bells - Bing Crosby/Peggy Lee
Silent Night - Dean Martin
Sleigh Ride - Johnny Mathis
The First Noel - Andy Williams
Up On The Housetop - Gene Autry
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
White Christmas - The Drifters (1954)
Winter Wonderland - Brenda Lee
Christmas With Elvis

Whie Christmas . . . as sung by The Drifters

This song came out in 1954.

I was born in 1957.

I was robbed!

Click here for very enjoyable version of White Christmas as only The Platters could perform it.

White Christmas . . . as only Bing Crosby can sing it . . .

Listen to White Christmas here.

I personally do not like snow all that much. No doubt Doodlebugmom will have a comment or two about that!

Anyway, we don't usually have anything close to a White Christmas down here in the Great State of Texas.

But, I have always loved the song . . .

Lake Charles Adult Mission Trip in Feb. 2009 . . .

You are invited to join a conference-wide United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team to Lake Charles, LA, February 9-13, 2009.

Southwest Louisiana, still recovering from Hurricane Rita in 2005, needs our help more than ever as they deal with the effects of recent hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The cost for the trip is $200, plus meals on the road. The registration deadline is January 5, 2009; please see the attached registration form for more information.

Jennifer Bellamy
Director of Humanitarian Services
Central Texas Conference UMC
464 Bailey Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76107
817-877-5222 ext. 37, 800-460-8622, 817-338-4541 (fax)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour

I am watching less and less and less and less and less and less and less and less television these days.

Did I tell you that I was watching less television these days?

I am listening to a lot of radio . . . in my car . . . and on   Music mostly, and the occasional NPR show or two.   Seems I have been drifting back to folk music, and happily so.   The problem is what I call folk music, and what you would call folk music, may not be the same.  But not to worry, folk musicians have been arguing that point among themselves for years.

Although I haven't heard it on the radio yet, I have have gone to the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour web site and listened to past shows from their archives section.

Folk singer and tree-hugger Michael Johnathon developed and hosts this weekly broadcast from the Kentucky Theater.  Their 500th broadcast was back in September.

Check it out.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monte Montgomery - Wishing Well

My other favorite guitarist . . . Austin, Texas' own Monte Montgomery.

I think "Wishing Well" is his best song . . . 

Ever forward . . . ><>

Living life one day at a time . . .

I just guess I have a thing about believing in people.   Especially those who make major mistakes in their lives, or choose self-destructive paths, who then go on to learn deep and profound lessons from the consequences of their choices, and who then move on to help others in the same predicament they once were in.

Joe Walsh is one of my favorite guitarists (the other is Monte Montgomery).  The Eagles are also one of my favorite bands.   Joe's song, One Day at a  Time, has a very good message, especially in admitting when we need to, that we just might be the cause of the problem we find ourselves dealing with.  And after doing so, admitting that we need help from something bigger than we are.

AA calls it "acknowledging a higher power."

I call it . . . God.

Enjoy . . . and then ponder for a while the really important things.

Every forward . . . ><>

Saturday, December 13, 2008

With all my thanks . . .

Just wanted to take a moment to thank Charles, Frank, Gary, Russ, Sean and Stu for doing double duty this week, as members of our 1st Church String Band had a busy week.

Russ and Stu were able to make it to the Mimosa Manor Nursing Home in Keller with me this past Wednesday.  We gave the folks there a good Christmas music show which included lots of opportunity for singing along.

This past Friday . . . Charles, Gary and Stu joined me at the Botanical Gardens in Grapevine for a Christmas concert for the Grapevine Housing Authority tenants Christmas party.   This was by far one of our best audiences ever . . . lots of people singing with us.

Tonight, at our Las Posadas service . . . Frank and Sean joined me as we provided music as Wren lead congregational singing.  A unique worship experience held in both English and Spanish.

The entire 1st Church String Band will provide music before and after worship services tomorrow, December 14.  

Thanks guys . . . I appreciate you all.  

Ever forwards . . . ><> 

I Can't Help Falling In Love With You . . .

One of my favorite songs . . . one that Arlo does well, especially when he adds his unique storytelling.

Great tune . . . great words . . . a great song.
I guess, as I get older . . . that folk music is my first love, especially for playing on the guitar. Bluegrass (Houston style) is a close 2nd, as is 50's, 60's and 70's rock and roll.
We all have what we like best.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is "character" the real foundation of all worthwhile success? . . .

On Thursday mornings at 6:30 AM, I met with a group of men who gather at a local restaurant for breakfast, fellowship and Bible study. We are currently working together through the book of Acts.

I find real value in meeting with these guys each week. My week doesn't feel right when I am unable to attend. I am honored to meet with them. I am blessed to call them my friends.

When I arrived at my office . . . I opened my email and saw that my weekly "Nugget fo the Week" from author John Mason had arrived. I believe I see in each of the guys who participates in our breakfast / Bible study the type of character which John Mason speaks of below.

I am indeed blessed by each of them.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Living a double life will get you nowhere twice as fast. Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success. A good question to ask yourself is, "What kind of world would this be if everybody were just like me?" You are simply an open book telling the world about its author. John Morely remarked, "No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character."

Would your reputation recognize your character if they met in the dark? Desire what Psalms declared, "Create in me a pure heart, Oh Lord, and renew in me a right spirit."

To change your character, you must begin at the control center-the heart. A bankruptcy of character is inevitable when you are no longer able to keep the interest paid on your moral obligations.

Never be ashamed of doing right. Phillip Brooks said, "A man who lives right and is right has more power in his silence than another has by his words."

Live so that your friends can defend you, but never have to do so. Consider what Woodrow Wilson said: "If you think about what you ought to do for people, your character will take care of itself." You're called to grow like a tree, not like a mushroom. It's hard to climb high when your character is low.

The world's best sermon is preached by the traffic sign: Keep Right.

-John Mason, from the book Know Your Limits Then Ignore Them

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Built an "altar" lately . . . ???

Editorial Note: Funny thing . . . what follows comes out of my current email discussion with my friend, Floyd, about worship . . . and out of an email I am currently composing about pastors writing blogs. I share this so you can sense, in part, the context of my thinking.

I have just finished my second reading of the Gospels for this year . . . this time using the ESV translation (English Standard Version) which my dear friend, Floyd, introduced me to a year or so ago.

For those who would be curious to know . . . I am going to use the ESV as my first Bible of choice through the end of 2009. I am praying/waiting for an ESV New Testament and Psalms to be printed, that I can carry in my shoulder bag, that usually goes with me about everywhere I go these days.

Next . . . I plan to read Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, a prominent theme is the building of altars.

Mark Batterson in his blog recently wrote the following about altars. . .

One of the greatest dangers we face spiritually is learning how and forgetting why. That is why God is always telling us to build altars. Altars help us remember what God doesn't want us to forget.

Hmmmm . . . what altars have I built over the course of my life?

Are any of them still reminding me of something God doesn't want me to forget?

Are any of these altars still standing? Or has culture knocked them down?

This is good food for thought . . . and a helpful lense through which to begin my reading of the first three books of the Old Testament.

What exactly is it . . . that God doesn not want me to forget?

I would be curious to know what you think about this.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, December 1, 2008

My introduction to Gadow Guitars . . .

Took a short break this past Thanksgiving weekend to travel to Marshall and Jefferson, Texas with my wife and two of our dear friends. Stopped in the Band Stand Music store in downtown Marshall, and was introduced by the staff there to Gadow Guitars.

My good friend Sean introduced me to P-90 pick-ups a while back, and we built my Hotrod #2 with them. This particular Gadow felt like several PRS I have had the chance to play at a couple DFW area Guitar Center stores. However, the neck on the one I am playing in the picture felt a little different . . . a bit fuller from front-to-back is the best way to describe it. Didn't cause the ol' thumb on the left hand any problems. The P-90's on this guitar had a "crunch" that I liked very much, sort of a late 60's early 70's sound. The same guitar comes in a semi-hollow, but I didn't see it in stock.

I liked the guitar very much. Less than $1,000 from a company based out of North Carolina with excellent customer service, or so I was told.

By the way . . . who combed my hair that morning??? Who dressed me for that matter???

What was I thinking???

Apparantly I dress down for vacation (or days off as well). For those who want to know. . . that is my favorite shirt in the whole world that I am wearing in the picture. A denim shirt on a cold day . . . ahhhhhhh!

Guitars and denim shirts . . . I think I feel a song coming on. Wonder if Willie Nelson, George Strait, Monte Montgomery or John Mayer have already beat me to it?

Ever forward . . . ><>

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nobel Peace Prize for Pete Seeger . . .

Editorial addition . . . 12/1/08) . . . I have a great respect for the musical efforts of Pete Seeger since I first became aware of him in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I do not agree with all the causes and stands Pete has taken over the years. I have, however, been drawn to his music, simple as it is, and his style of performing which invites the audience to participate in the concert. Other favorite artists of mine, Harry Chapin, John Denver; Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie . . . did the same thing. All shared in many different ways how Pete Seeger was an influence to them.

I guess I am drawn to stuff like that.  Seems a lot of folk singers in the past not only sang for people, but also sang with people.

Singing, for me, is a way of getting different people who believe different things to all come to the same table . . . for while singing around that table, different people (in my humble experience) become family together. Becoming family (again, in my humble experience) is the first step in getting people, who support conflicting causes, talking about peace with one another. If that's the case, then I believe Pete's name is worthy of submission for the Nobel Prize, for he has done just that for many, many years.  

Yes, I know and am well aware about what many say about Pete's past. But I believe in grace and a 2nd chance. I believe his music, his work toward world peace, and support of environmental causes over the past 30 years are, in my opinion, worthy of my personal respect. 

Will Pete ever be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize? In truth, I honestly doubt it. 
But, stranger things in this world have happened.

RM ><>

My grandmother's death got me thinking about a few things. My first 12-string guitar was a gift from my grandmother. She knew that I enjoyed singing several songs that Pete Seeger was singing at the time, and he often used a 12-string guitar.

Later, she helped me get my "old" 4-string tenor banjo. Funny thing. Pete Seeger plays a 5-string banjo.

I just found out today that there is an effort underway to have Pete Seeger nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Info can be found here.

I have never been one for petitions. I have always preferred individual action over just signing my name to something. Seems to me that signing petitions is to simply and never costs me much.

I did sign this petition.

Please read more about this petition effort if interested, and if after reading and further reflection you feel motivated to do so, then please add your name to it. If not, then know that I respect your opinion and decision.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Memory - Jewel Brown-Sharpe . . .

Yesterday, Tuesday, November 25, 2008, around noon-time, my dear maternal grandmother, Mrs. Jewel Brown-Sharp, passed away at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas. She was 93 years old.

For a few moments yesterday . . . the music that is always in my heart and life . . . stopped.

My mother, my uncle, along with my eldest daughter and her husband, and I were having lunch down the street from the hospital. My daughter and I sensed that my mom, an only child, was a little "tired" and we had driven down to be with her, and to visit "Granny", who had been mercifully sedated by her doctors following two heart attacks over a 3 day period. When we arrived at the hospital, my grandmother, as we were told, had just died only a few minutes before. The hospital staff so tenderly prepared her for viewing by the family, and my mom received many hugs and condolescenses from hospital staff.

We are all so grateful that her recent physical and mental sufferings are now over. Granny was a deeply devoted Christian, whose devotion to family and friends was the stuff of legend, and an inspiration to many.

Granny was like me . . . an aspiring singer and musician who probably never got all the support she needed to pursue her inner passion. She always had a flair for the "theatric" at home, school and at the church . . . in the way she sang, in the way she played the piano or organ, and in the way she dressed.

I think her "flair for the dramatic" got passed from my grandmother, to my mother, to me. Except the dressing part. Blue jeans are always my first choise of "manly outer-wear!"

Many times on Father's Day, Granny had all the kids present sing before dinner. Usually, that was my brother and I, and my brother was terrified to sing. So I sand louder for both of us.

It was Granny who called and said, "Get on the bus and come to our house this weekend." Upon arrival, she took me to the piano to rehearse the "solo you are going to sing in church this Sunday."

My opinion or permission was never sought on these many occassions. She knew I was always willing to sing.

At the Broadway family Thanksgiving dinners, back when they were held at the Highland Lakes, Granny would encourage me to recruit cousin my Mike, my brother Mark, who had by then come to believe that singing was a good way to get the interest of girls (something that Mike and I had already come to understand), and other cousins to sing before Thanksgiving dinner. This of course was done only with and through Uncle W.D.'s permission. Granny later told me that if we sang, that W.D. or my grandfather's Thanksgiving Prayer would be shorter and we could eat sooner. She wanted some of Mary's dressing before it was all gone.

When I began fiddling around with the guitar (her words - pardon the pun), Granny gave me my first 12-string guitar, which I used when I sang with the group God-Unlimited down in South Texas in the 1974-75. My love and appreciation for the 12-string guitar has only grown these 33 years later. She attended several of our concert-church services, even scheduling us to sing for the youth at the Methodist Church in La Feria where she and Grandpa lived for over 30 years.

She was the one who would call when I served at FUMC-Waco, and later at FUMC-Hewitt, to tell me that she had "booked" me to sing at the Wesleyan Home or Wesleyan Nursing Home in Georgetown. Didn't matter if I had a local church or district event already on my calendar.

I joyfully showed up . . . and we always enjoyed the music.

She was the one who first introduced me to my favorite scripture in the Bible, Psalm 100:1-2 . . .

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

That Bible verse would later become my life mission to this day, and how I serve God best.

It was Granny, who not only surprised me with a guitar or two over the years, but also with a banjo.  She said that banjo's made such a "happy" sound.  Actually, she knew that I was very fond of Pete Seeger's music.

It was Granny, who on several occassions knowing that Liz and my Christmas budgets were very tight, sent us an early monetary Christmas gift, that always arrived in time for us to make Christmas a little more special for our two daughters, or for the foster girls we cared for at times in the past.

It was Granny, when finding out that our car had "finally died on the side-of-the-road" called me with instructions to call a car dealer she had already called and made arrangements with.

It was Granny, who sent me Grandpa Cokesbury bookstore card after I received my first appointment as pastor at Palo Pinto and Graford near Mineral Wells, with the note that read, "Go buy yourself a nice preaching robe . . . and forge your Grandpa's name on the receipt."

It was Granny, who believed so strongly in education, that she helped numerous members of m family many, many times so they might enjoy attending a good school and working toward their degrees.  She gave a lot of many over the years to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas as well.

It was Granny, who, upon my ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church, who after hugging me with tears in her eyes only said . . . "Hello Brother Elder . . . finally!"

Granny had this one particular trait known to many in the family. She would not tolerate, from her grandchildren or from her students, a mediocre effort of any kind. She demanded our full concentration to the task at hand. And we knew best from experience, that she was in charge . . . she had a way to remind all of us, unique to who we were, that she was not pleased. In my case, it was my absentmindedness about sending thank-you cards. Several times she wrote me notes, "Thank you for the sweet thank-you card which I am sure you intended to send!"

My mother is in her early 70's . . . to have been blessed with a mother for all her life until yesterday is a blessing. She will tell you the same.

I am 51, and to have had a Granny for all my life until yesterday. . . a Granny who loved me, who helped raise me, who encouraged me, who often held me accountable to the family at only the appropriate times, who was generous to me and to so many others, who unknowingly helped shape me largely in part to be who I am today by giving me permission to be who I am . . . 

A blessing! A blessing indeed!

So, I only pause to stop singing for a moment of recognition, in dear memory of my dearly loved Granny.

After which, the song will come again, and will most assuradely continue . . . in her honor . . . and enpowered in her memory.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I give thanks for my family and friends . . .

As I approach the Thanksgiving holidays, I am reminded about a quote from Erwin T. Randall . . .

"True friends are those who, when you make a fool of yourself, don't believe that this condition is permanent."

Amen and Amen!

Ever forward . . . ><>

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sniff, sniff . . . ah chooooooo!

For the record . . . I do not like or enjoy allergies.  

The same time every year, right before Thanksgiving . . . my allergies blow up like a Oklahoma farm house hit by a tornado.

I don't like the way I feel with the allergies.

I don't like the way I feel taking medication for the allergies.

What I "most" do not like . . . is how it affects my voice.  Singing for the children's time tomorrow will be difficult.

If I am not singing or whistling . . . I am sick.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I can't help falling in love with you . . .

One of the highlights of my year is to present my pastor's report at our annual Charge Conference.


The reason I enjoy it is that I usually sing a song as part of, or as all of my report, inviting those in attendance to sing with me.

Truly, more so than any other activity, when we sing together we are family . . . one big happy family.

At least, that is my experience and perception of what happens when we sing together.

Guess Pete Seeger had more influence on my life than I thought.

I shared that I wanted to sing a song that put into perspective what I hope people of our community hear when we live with, witness, share and help on a daily basis.

The song I chose to sing . . . I Can"t Help Falling in Love With You!

Wise men say, only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you

Shall I stay, would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you

Like a river flows, surely to the
Darling so it goes, some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you.

For the record . . . I do not like Elvis' version of this song all that much.  Arlo Guthrie's version is my favorite.

Connally Dugger, our Mid-Cities District Superintendent, joined me in singing the 2nd time through, and those in attendance joined us as well. It was awesome.

My hope is that whenever the people of our church are living out their faith in the community, what other people hear, see, feel, and learn about us is this . . . because of Christ, we just can't help falling in love with you!

I think we are proving this more and more,  as we intentionally minister to those who live within one mile of the church.

Ever forward . . . ><>

The Red Marble . . .

One of my fishing buddies, Ned Conner, sent me this story. I do not know the author's name. If you know who wrote the following, then please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.

Yeah, yeah, I know . . . I am a sucker for a good story or song that tugs on my heart.

After reading this story, I thought how true last line of the chorus is a from the Randy Travis song, 3 Wooden Crosses. "It's not what you take, when you leave this world behind you . . . It's what you leave behind you when you go."

I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean,hungrily apprizing a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes, but was also drawn to the display of fresh greenpeas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the storeowner) and the ragged boy next to me.

'Hello Barry, how are you today?'

'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They surelook good.'

'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?'

'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'

'Good. Anything I can help you with?'

'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'

'Would you like take some home?' asked Mr. Miller.

'No, Sir . Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'

'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'

'All I got's my prize marble here.'

'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller.

'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'

'I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of gofor red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store ownerasked.

'Not zackley but almost.'

'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble', Mr. Miller told the boy.

'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community,all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain withthem for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bagof produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on theirnext trip to the store.'

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story ofthis man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friendswanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives ofthe deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, darksuits and white shirts...all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke brieflywith her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young manstopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand inthe casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me abouther husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size.....they came to pay their debt.' 'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man inIdaho'.

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is the "Religious Right" dead? . . .

My friend, Floyd, sent me the link to a recent article by columnist Cal Thomas.

Floyd is a good friend.

In the past few years . . . I have moved away from the conservative side of faith and politics. I have not gone to the left, but rather find myself in the gray area between the left and the right.

I guess by some people's definition, that makes me a moderate, or "centrist."  I like that term better than moderate. Call me whatever . . . just listen to what I have to say first.

I have used a joke a time or two about religion and politics . . . it goes something like this:

I want to start a new political party . . . the "something has to change" party.
I want to start a new church . . . the "something has to change" church.

Funny thing . . . the other day at IHOP in Euless (my favorite IHOP in the whole entire world), I was sharing the joke with the waitress (my wife and I know all of them by name . . . we go to tthe Euless IHOP a lot) about starting the "something has to change" party. The guy in the booth behind me leaned over and touched me on the shoulder. He then proceeded to ask, with all earnestness . . .

"Who is your party's candidate for president? I want to vote for them."

I wonder, as Adam Hamilton has preached at COR these past few weeks, that what we need is a reset . . .

I would suggest that our reset might be to focus on the words and actions of Jesus Christ as never before. I believe it is time to re-read carefully all the "red letters" (words of Christ) in the Bible.

Every time I do, I am always reminded that Jesus offers us some great advice about the human heart . . . that before you can affect another's heart, your own heart has to be in the right place first.

The effort, it seems, of the Religious Right and other groups has been to force, through legislation, the changing of people's hearts. Seems to me to have been a lot of wasted effort . . . and not the Biblical way to approach a situation.

For me personally, it is time to diligently examine the words and actions of Christ, and to take them completely to heart, and let them change me again from the inside out. . . . so that I might be a better disciple of Jesus, and perhaps try more earnestly to live life as he suggests it is to be lived:

-Loving God
-Loving others
-Serving others
-Working for/ through a lifestyle of peace
-Helping the sick, poor, disadvantaged and oppressed
-Approaching life in a servant spirit
-Lifting up others first

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adam Hamilton - "Now I Know Why I'm Here" sermon . . .

I enjoyed Adam's message from last Sunday. Click here to watch and listen.

"Why am I here?" is a good question to ask ourselves all the time. I think he use of the "reset" illustration . . . going back to the factory setting . . . was a good use of the metaphor.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, November 10, 2008

More thoughts on the ESV Study Bible . . .

Well, I have had my ESV Study Bible for almost a month. Except for the words of Christ being in black (and yes, I know that most all scholarly study bibles do not put the words of Christ in red) . . . I find that I am becoming more and more pleased.

The ESV translation . . . if I can put this is a politically correct way . . . and can borrow the words of my friend, Floyd . . . is what I would have hope the NRSV could have been. It reads very well . . . actually, it flows so well that I enjoy reading it out loud. I have decided to make this the translation I use for personal reading and teaching through the end of 2009.

The ESVSB is set in a single column format . . . something I appreciate. I still have my old Harper's Study Bible (RSV) from my college years . . . it was a single column format . . . with headings and good notes. I have used the Life Application Bibles for some time because they also were single column formats. It is just easier on my eyes.

As for the ESVSB notes . . . so far so good. Somewhat more scholarly, with less application than the LAB. However, the notes have been a help in preparing for the weekly bible study I lead on Tuesdays at noon, and for studying for our Iron Men Bible Study on Thursday mornings.

So far . . . so good.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Check out

For those of you who have not yet purchased an iPod type music player . . .

And, that may just be me for all I know . . .

Check out Pandora Internet Radio. No commercials, and just the artists you want.

I have set up about 25 stations . . . from southern rock-n-roll to the cool Joan Baez tunes I am listening to as I type this.

I am a happy man.

Yes, I will own an iPod sometime in the near future . . . because I can no longer stand AM / FM stations on the radio . . . and I am too cheap (or a good steward of my resources) to purchase a satelilite radio.

But until then, Pandora is the music source for me.

Check it out!

Ever forward . . . ><>

An after-election reflection . . .

Some good words from author John Mason concerning the recent election, and the future that each of us chooses daily to live out.

I offer for your consideration . . .

Ever forward . . . ><>

America has selected its next President. And whether or not you may agree or disagree with this selection, we definitely should note the significance of an African-American elected to the highest office in the world. We have come far as a nation.

Many people on election night, as all election nights in the past, felt overwhelming joy or sadness in the result. But to those of you who voted, I commend you for taking action.

In this time of economic uncertainty and with election results that may not be what you desired, it is easy to feel powerless. And what I have found in most situations is that people tend to quit at two significant times in their lives. After a victory and after a defeat. But now is not a time to shrink away and let outside influences take over. It's a time to, now more than ever, pray for our leaders, trust God, and act for the good of the people around us.

Do more than ever before...
Do more than exist, live.
Do more than hear, listen.
Do more than agree, cooperate.
Do more than talk, communicate.
Do more than grow, bloom.
Do more than spend, invest.
Do more than think, create.
Do more than work, excel.
Do more than share, give.
Do more than decide, discern.
Do more than consider, commit.
Do more than forgive, forget.
Do more than help, serve.
Do more than coexist, reconcile.
Do more than sing, worship.
Do more than think, plan.
Do more than dream, do.
Do more than see, perceive.
Do more than read, apply.
Do more than receive, reciprocate.
Do more than choose, focus.
Do more than wish, believe.
Do more than advise, help.
Do more than speak, impart.
Do more than encourage, inspire.
Do more than add, multiply.
Do more than change, improve.
Do more than reach, stretch.
Do more than ponder, pray.
And do more than just live, live for Jesus.

Remember, God is in control and will use you right where you are today.

-John Mason, from the book
An Enemy Called Average

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thank you Tim Martin at Backwoods in Ft. Worth . . .

On my way back from the Cokesbury Bookstore in Ft. Worth this morning, I stopped for "a few minutes" at the Backwoods store at their new location on W. 7th Street.

I stayed for over an hour.

Tim Martin is the General Manager of the store. He is without a doubt the nicest and most professional manager / salesman I have ever met. He actually help size me into a daypack that "fit."

What a sensational feeling . . . a back pack that fits!

We talked for quite a while about hiking and fly fishing . . . and I think I may have started a new friendship.

Tim is very good at what he does . . . and very smart about what he knows . . . and is very supportive of his customers.

If you are looking for outdoor stuff, and perhaps want to look at some quality stuff at someplace other than Academy or R.E.I., then give Tim a call.

I did purchase a Kleen Kanteen . . . and will be putting back money for the backpack.

Better yet . . . I am planning to go walking!

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maybe I am starting to see things . . .

Interesting . . . the things I sometimes get pre-occupied with . . . which not doubt gives my friends like Floyd and Joe many opportunities to laugh-out-loud, or cause them to worry about me greatly.

My pre-occupations lately have been about;

1) (Appropriate) Silence
2) and, Service.

Scary . . . both these words start with the letter "S."

Sort of like my short-list of my core values:

1) Faith
2) Family
3) Friends

They all start with the letter "F."

Either this is all very spiritual . . . or I am entering another "puzzle" period in my life.

Hey, where is my crossword puzzle book . . . it was around here someplace.

Ever forward . . . ><>

An interesting start to the day . . .

This morning, the pastoral staff of our church met together at 5:30 AM, and began cooking breakfast for more than a dozen of our church members who work in financial planning, or as stock brokers, insurance, investments, etc. We wanted to do this as a way of sharing our concern and support for them during these up and down financially stressed times.

As a pastoral staff, we really do not get to do many things together, except on Sunday morning in worship. Although the day started very early . . . it was fun as we cooked together, making fun of each others "kitchen techniques" . . . discussing what to cook first, etc.

For the record . . . we ain't half bad cooks . . . as long as Nathan and Wren are in charge . . . and I keep to washing dishes!!

What made it both fun and reflective for me . . . is that we were starting our day serving others. Now, as I prepare to finish reading this morning the book of Matthew in the New Testament, I find that my service this morning will no doubt be the filter through which I read about Jesus and the Passion Week. "I came not to be served . . . but to serve!"

Whether it be an "ordinance" or "devotional" practice . . . occasions like this when I have the privilege of serving others early in the day seems to alter how I focus on the rest of the days activities . . . moving from thinking "What can I get out of this?" to "What can I do to help?"

That is a good thing!

Too often, ministry in a local congregational setting is more about management and supervising others, than it is acts of service.

I think this is a good time to re-read "The Servant Leader" by Blanchard and Hodges. As we begin to draw even closer focusing on Christmas and the Advent season . . . in these stressful times, whether we are leaders or not . . . our focus ought to be on serving others.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Note: Of course, I would start my reading today in Matthew 20. OK Lord, point taken!

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 19th concert nets $1500+ for Kenya well project

Stu, Russ, Gary and Jeff playing there instrumental version of "Yonder and Back".

I am glad to report, that as of this morning, moneys donated at the "1st Church String Band and Friends Concert" last night now total more than $1,500, with more donations expected this week.

All of us in the band are proud of the concert we gave yesterday evening . . . it took a lot of work, but it all seemed to come together both vocally and instrumentally.
We will have more info available on our next set of projects, and our next concert, once we get through Advent / Christmas.
Thanks to everyone who joined us . . . most let us know how much they enjoyed the evening.
We appreciate you all!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Just felt like a little color today. This is one of the pictures I took in the gardens of the Crescent Motel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in late September.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More from "Planet Walker" . . .

I am about 1/3 of the way through reading "Planet Walker."   From a hiking / pro-environment / life journey perspective . . . it is a good book.   

The author, John Francis . . . went 17 years without speaking.  John's journey to self-discovery of his life purpose and passion is fascinating.

I asked earlier . . . what would I be willing to hike across Texas in order to raise awareness of?

I may be closer to an answer than I thought.   Not that I am planning such a hike.  My goal is to do a 4 day Grand Canyon hike first.   But  . . . it is a notion in the back of my mind.

But . . . it is worth asking an even more pointed question . . . what cause would I, an ordained United Methodist preacher (professional speaker-type-person) be willing to support / raise awareness of by not talking for a week?

Could I even begin to understand how to do my job / ministry if I was unable or couldn't speak?  I wonder what would really change . . . if anything.   Communication is much more than spoken word, right.

The thought of not speaking . . . is frightening to me.

I bet I get some suggestions about this one . . . some in my family would probably pay me to not talk for a week.  Some of my friends would not doubt more than welcome the chance to speak to me without my interrupting them with comments and questions.

But seriously . . . I think I would mourn the loss of speech more than the loss of sight or hearing.

Interesting . . . and very challenging to consider stuff like this.   God "fearfully and wonderfully" created me with the capacity of speech.  I wonder . . . no, I know . . . that I sometimes abuse that gift.   No . . . that is not true . . . I often abuse this gift.   

Knowing that people listen to me . . . is validation for me . . . 

Forcing people to listen to me . . . because of my "office" or "position" . . . not a good thing.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, October 13, 2008

First Church String Band in action . . .

Yesterday, we sang to a good crowd attending our Ministry Fair. I really believe that we are sounding better and better . . . if the smiles and applause we received is any indication.

This Sunday, October 19th, is our first fund raising concert . . . at 6 PM in the Founder's Chapel. An offering will be taken for the Kenyan village well project we are supporting.

There will be an all-church Ice Cream Social beginning at 5 PM on the 19th, on the playground outside the Family Life Center. Come, bring some ice cream to share, have a good time, and then come take part in our "interactive" concert at 6 PM.

I think we are going to surprise some people. You will be glad that you came.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

First Church String Band and Friends Fall Concert . . .

Sunday, October 19th is the day . . . our first fund-raising concert, which will start at 6 PM in Founder's Chapel at FUMC-Grapevine.   

All the guys you see in the picture at the top of this blog will be present, and we have been rehearsing and rehearsing . . . 

Some of our singing friends will be there to sing with us as well.

A special offering to go toward providing a new well for a village in Kenya will be taken.

And . . . there will be an all-church Ice Cream Social in the Family Life Center before our concert. Check the church webpage for more info.

First Church String Band to play at Mission Fair . . .

This Sunday, October 12,  the First Church String Band will be playing after the 11:15 AM service during our Mission Fair.  We will be somewhere outside near the tents.  

Just listen . . . you will find us!

Kid's Beach Club at Grapevine Elementary . . .

I will be helping provide music at the Wednesday afternoon Kid's Beach Club afterschool meeting at Grapevine Elementary starting tomorrow, October 8th. This is a one hour Christian based program for kids who choose to stay after school to participate.

This progarm will run for 6 weeks on Wednesdays, and then again sometime later in the spring.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, October 6, 2008

A great question . . .

While on vacation . . . I was visiting an little bookstore in Eureka Springs, located in old downtown on Spring Street, a block or so up from the Flat Iron Building.   In the window of the store, I saw a book with the title, "Planet Walker" by Dr. John Francis.

Back in the 1970's, John was a hippie in San Francisco.  In part because of his involvement in rescuing wildlife affected by a major oil spill, John chose to stop using automobiles, and has since walked / hiked several times across the United States.   He even stopped talking for 17 years as part of his journey.   In the course of his walking, he earned a bachelors, masters and PhD degrees.

Being a long time Colin Fletcher fan (he is my favorite author), and a lover of books about hiking adventures, I had to order this book when I got back home.  

In the course of talking about the book, my wife asked me a question . . .

What cause are you so passionate about, that you would hike or bike across Texas in order to raise awareness or support?

Great question . . . and now over 2 weeks later . . . I am still no closer to an answer than I was before.   But I am spending some quality time thinking about it still.

I am open to suggestions!

Time to venture deeper into who I am, and who I am called to be.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Is my Jesus too small . . .

After several years of trying to take a good shot, I finally took a decent picture of the Christ of the Ozarks statue, shooting east from the gardens at the St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Eureka Springs, just below the Crescent Motel.

This statue, located on the grounds of the Great Passion Play, is close to 6 stories tall. The arm span is around 60 feet.

Awesome! Simply awesome!

This is only about the 3oth time in my life I have seen the statue. It is an "automatic" every time we go to Eureka Springs, to go see the statue from the church gardens, and then drive across town and up the hill to the Great Passion Play site, and walk down to the statue.

Not far from the statue, across from the Great Passion Play entrance, there is a gift shop. Inside the gift shop, you can purchase a little 6-inch miniature of the 6-story tall statue.

I wonder . . . is the Jesus I first asked to live in my heart when I was 15 or 16 years old, and the Jesus I have in my heart today . . . are they the same?

Is he the 6-inch tall Jesus, or the 6-story tall Jesus?

Just how big, in my life, was the Jesus I first asked into my life? And just how big is the Jesus who lives in my 51 year old heart today?

The Jesus I first asked into my heart was probably the 6-inch version. Today, some 38 years later, I think the Jesus who lives in my heart is even bigger than the 6-story Jesus statue I try to visit every year.

I think, for me, that's the way it should be.

It is good that Jesus lives in our hearts. It is good to know that Jesus is growing in our hearts as well . . . as we come to know him better.

I have learned so much more about Jesus over the years of my life, and in the course of my ministry, than I first knew when I was a teenager. My relationship with Jesus is something I have worked at for a long time, and one that I will continue, by my choice, to work at.

I talk and write a lot about paths, spiritual journeys and adventures . . . those terms perhaps best describe my understanding of spirituality. Lately, in my prayers, journaling, and study . . . I feel that Jesus is asking me not to "settle" on what I know . . . but to continue to discover him.

I get the impression that what I know and believe about Jesus is just a "scratching of the surface" of what I have still yet to discover.

I think Jesus wants to grow even bigger in my heart . . . and he wants me to help.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New ESV Study Bible coming out October 15th . . .

My friend Floyd first shared with me his appreciation for the English Standard Version of the Bible, which has been out now for about 10 years.   I have the translation on my computer Bible program . . . and have a hard copy that Floyd gave me some time back.

Info coming out about the new ESV Study Bible really has my interest.  I pre-ordered my copy months ago . . . and hope it comes in soon.

The link to the ESV Study Bible page is in my links section.  Scroll down until you see it.   The info videos are very good.   

Ever forward . . . ><>

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ponderings from the Gospel of Matthew . . .

Well darn!

I havent even gotten through the first 2-3 chapters of my semi-annual reading of the Gospels and Acts, when something just knocks me right in the face.

Who were the first people, in the Gospel of Matthew, to come and both respond to, and to recognize the birth of Christ? Who were the first, who by their coming, validate this wonderous event on a much wider scope than most of us consider?

Wise men / Astrologers from another land, no doubt worshippers who practiced in another faith, who probably called God by another name, who travelled a great distance based on a scientific hunch based on the positioning of the stars to welcome the new King of the world.

Why, why, why, why . . . do I so often forget . . . that Christ came for the entire world? Why, why, why, oh why do I keep the theological lense I look through so narrowly focused?

For God so loved the world . . . . how appropriate that at the birth of Christ, it was people "of the world" who come first to acknowledge his arrival by God's compassionate and grace filled act of love.

What love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul? What wonderous love is this, oh my soul?

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Re-Reading the Gospels . . .

I have talked about this some with my friend, Floyd. It is time for my semi-annual reading of the Gospels and Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Johh and Acts are my Bible bread-and-butter as far as my personal spiritual growth is concerned.

In light of the current situations in Washington and Wall Street, I have decided to read the Gospels and Acts through the lens of identifying the difference real leadership makes, and . . . the abuses of government controls.

I think Jesus has something to say about all of this . . . and I want to put together in context in my mind.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm back home . . .

And will be back in the office on Wednesday, October 1st.   

A good trip which included my daughter's wedding, fishing twice on the King's River northeast of Eureka Springs, spending a day driving and exploring the War Eagle area southwest of Eureka Springs, and taking time just to rest and relax.   The weather was simply wonderful, and the leaves were just starting to turn.

And . . . we discovered a new winery and vineyard of special interest to us because of their very good "fruit" wines.

Eureka Spings . . . 
Mountain mama . . .
Take me home . . . 
Country roads . . .

Once again . . . ever forward . . . ><>

Monday, September 15, 2008

Intentional Christian . . .

We start our Intentional Christian sermon and study series this coming Sunday, September 21, when Ken will preach on Prayer.

More info and a schedule of sermons and study groups can be found by clicking here.   This is going to be a great series, leading up to our Fall Ministry Fair on Sunday, October 12, and Commitment Sunday on October 26.

Daily devotional readings, which began today, September 15, can be found online here.

Ever forward . . . ><>

The Watering Hole . . .

I've been enjoying listing to Adam Hamilton's latest sermon series, The Wild Kingdom on the Church of the Resurrection web site.

I strongly recommend your listening to The Water Hole sermon which is also posted on Adam's blog, Seeing Gray.   

Three questions make up his three sermon points . . .

1) Where is your watering hole?
2) What are you feeding your soul?
3) Who is in your herd?

Give it a listen . . . and let me know what you think.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A mellow rainy day of reflection . . .

I am in a rare "mellow" state of mind and heart today . . .

Usually this only happens to me when I am singing or playing guitar . . .

Or while fishing or hiking . . .

Just sort of mellow . . . thinking of some stuff . . .

-My eldest daughter is getting married in a few days. I am proud of both my girls, and in a week or so, both will be "married" to good men. My present and future son-in-laws are more different than night and day. But both have their own unique skills and strengths, and whether I like them or not (and I do!) . . . they were the one's my two babies chose to live life with.

Both my daughters have a track record of making good decisions . . . like their mother!!!

-Serving on the pastoral staff of this church . . . what a blessing! Missions, both locally and oversees, has become such a part of our church DNA. It is amazing all the things I see people doing in answer to the call they feel God has given them.

A lot of people here, serving in such humble manner, with such servant spirits . . . acting out their faith every day.

-Relationships . . . they truly are what make my life rich. My wife, daughters, mom, neighbors and friends . . . I am glad I finally "got it" a year before turning 50 that relationships are what bring true joy and happiness to life. My life has been so much more enjoyable since that time.

-I am grateful for the ever growing relationship I have with God. God's grace . . . such a wonderful and free gift to all . . . who would just close their hands and hearts around it.

A mellow rainy day . . . feet up on my desk . . . Bible open in my lap . . . my mind is pondering deep reflective thoughts . . . and my heart is glad.

Ever forward . . . ><>


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hurricanes and heavy hearts . . .

Labor Day went well for us. I put up a new garage door opener, and built a stepping stone path between our back yard deck and flower bed, a particular spot that is pretty damp and muddy at times.

Otherwise, I checked in on the Weather Channel for updates on Hurricane Gustav.

As a child and teenager who grew up down in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, I went through 2 hurricanes and several tropical storms. I remember Hurricane Beulah when I was in 5th grade. Not really that much wind . . . but oh, it rained and rained and rained and rained. We had standing water for over a month.

So, I think I truly feel for the people of the Gulf Coast. I used to live there, and except for hurricanes and tropical storms, I miss it still to this day. I love the Texas Gulf Coast, and do not get to visit there as much as I would like.

Our good friends, the Laughlin's, have lived in the Houston area for over 3o years, and have only had to leave once . . . and that was the storm that came through before Katrina hit New Orleans. They were able to get back home about a week later. No real bad damage, but they have since moved from the northeast side of Houston, down to Pearland on the southwest side of Houston.

Amazing . . . only having to leave the Houston area once in 30+ years because of a hurricane.

I think of the people of Louisiana, many who have left their homes, communities and state for the 2nd time in 3 years . . . and, according to the Weather Channel, people in the Gulf Coast may have to leave again in the weeks to come as several tropical weather events are lining up in the Atlantic.

I can't imagine, going to a shelter in another state, or staying with family or friends . . . and wanting to go back home, but being told to stay away . . . I can imagine the heavy hearts.

I can imagine that some of the people of the Gulf Coast are feeling a bit "picked on" these days.

Funny thing though . . . where ever you live . . . there are going to be weather related events unique to your situation and location.

If you live on the Gulf Coast . . . then you will probably experience a hurricane at some point.

If you live where I do in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas . . . they you know that in the spring and early summer . . . we get really bad thunderstorms with heavy hail and a tornado or two. I had to have a new roof put on my home this past year from storms last summer.

The same if you live in Oklahoma or Kansas . . . except you have more tornadoes.

If you live in California . . . the dry Santa Anna winds make conditions right for fires.

If you live in Washington State . . . you are going to have more days of rain than days when it doesn't rain.
If you live around the Great Lakes . . . you are going to have a blizzard or two.

You get the point . . .

Yet, we all choose to live in particular areas . . . because of family . . . or for a good job . . . or maybe because where we live is just "where we want to live!" For some it is more personal, we live where do we as part of a calling, as part of our being part of something bigger than ourselves. And weather, as always, is just something that goes along with the plan.

No doubt relief efforts for the Gulf Coast are beginning. My wife and I will donate what we can financially . . . and I am always open to going to do mission work if our church organizes a team. The 1st Church String Band is doing a fundraising concert on Oct. 19th. We initially planned to raise money for a water well in Kenya, but perhaps part of the money we raise may go to hurricane relief efforts. As other individual storm tracks unfold in these next few weeks, we will now more.

Please consider donating/helping if you are moved to do so.

Ever forward . . . ><>

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Strange doors that I just feel led to go through . . .

Some of you are aware that I created a little "company" recently.

I have loved fishing all my life. In the past several years, I began "fly fishing" with the support of guys around here . . . Thomas Milyo, Jim Peterson and Kevin Mitchell.

A couple of years ago, I started making homemade fly fishing lanyards. Go here to see pictures of what I am talking about. Recently, some of the laynards I have given away; well, people who got them told me they were not half bad. Someone suggested I try to sell some.

So I said to myself, "Self . . . maybe we could sell some!" So, with counsel from Jim Peterson, Sean Simon, my wife and oldest daughter, all good business people . . . I started my little company. One employee, yours truly . . . and one little 2 x 4 foot table in my study at home.

My goal . . . is not to make a million dollars. Although that would be nice, I guess.

My goal . . . is to see if my hobby can help me make enough money to purchase a Cobra Fish-n-Dive kayak.

I want a boat. I've even preached about it. However, I I do not want the hassle of owning a boat. Just too darn expensive.

When I go fishing, it is usually only for a few hours at a time. A kayak is inexpensive, relatively safe (I ain't going anywhere near white water!!! My mom did not raise a fool!!!) and very easy to store and transport. It doesn't need a motor, so no state registration fees or licenses.

And, I think they are cool!

So, I initially shared my dream with Sean Simon, a member of our church and a good friend. He encouraged me to establish a business plan . . . to help keep my efforts focused and on track. So, with his advice, I set up a simple, basic plan.

First, I would order and purchase enough parts to make 200 lanyards. The first 100 lanyards, I would end up giving away or donating. That would leave 100 lanyards which I would need to sell in a year. That would leave me, hopefully, with enough profit at the end of the year to purchase the kayak.

Second, since I am not web site savvy, and the money I had needed to go for parts and supplies, I would market my "products" through personal contacts with:

-Fisherman, especially in Texas, who had fly fishing blogs on the WWW.
-Clergy of all faiths and denominations who liked to fish, and
-Local "Mom and Pop" fly fishing shops in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Third, I would send samples of my lanyards to area Fly Fishing clubs, donating them as door prizes for their meetings.

In the process of seeing who in Texas has a blog about fishing, I met Luciano Chavez, whose "Tales from a Texas Fly Fisher Blog" I discovered about a month ago. I sent Luciano and his son a couple of lanyards, and he sent me a couple dozen great flies that work well in Texas waters . . . which he tied himself.

Well, in truth, they are not really fishing flies . . . to me they are works of art!

Through Luciano, I discovered Rabbi Eric Eisenkammer, the Fly Fishing Rabbi. I sent Eric a lanyard, and he sent me one of his official Fly Fishing Rabbi buttons.

A rabbi who fly fishes? Who would have thought? A Methodist preacher who likes to play with beads? Who would have thought?

Today, I mailed a lanyard to a Baptist pastor in Lousiana, who was my first "official" paying customer. (Ha cha! Money in the bank!) He is sending info about my lanyards to pastoral friends of his who minister at a Baptist church in Abilene.

And, Luciano is taking some of my donated lanyards to a fly fishing club meeting in Austin in September.

Amazing, simply amazing!

I set out to raise funds to purchase a kayak. But, in a moment or two of pure serendipity, I am discovering like minded individuals who hold fishing as serious a spiritual activity as I do. And, I am discovering how important "likemindedness" / shared interests are when networking.

All, because I like to play with beads . . . and because I thought it would be nice to have kayak.

Thank you Sean, for encouraging me to make a business plan.

God works in mysterious ways . . . leading me down mysterious paths . . . and through mysterious doors. I am glad when the Spirit leads me this way . . . and when I am faithful enough to trust the Spirit to say, "Here I go!"

What happens as a result is always a trip I am glad I started.

Every forward . . . ><>

Friday, August 22, 2008

An early Friday morning meditation . . .


I'm looking out my dining area window this morning.   A little after 8 AM.  The sun is up and the angle of the sun's rays are coming across my back yard.  My neighbors very tall pink flowered crepe myrtle tree is in full summer bloom, thanks is part to the 4-5 days of rains showers we have had here.  All my potted plants seem to be thriving.  And, wouldn't you know it . . . I notice several new blossoms on my tomato plants!!!  And I have a least 3 green bell peppers to pick, along with a nice looking eggplant!

Man, if I had planted some okra this year . . . we would be eating really good this weekend.

The leaves on my large oak tree, located next to my back yard deck, are filtering the light of the sun.  Leaves on the outside of the tree canopy are almost a greenish silver, while the leaves inside the canopy are a deep dark green, with just a hint of silver on their edges.

There are humming birds working around the blossoms on my two very large Turks Cap, oh how they dart around here and there, probing flowers for the sweetness they contain.  My cat, Corky, is laying in the yard, right in the middle of a sunbeam.   He has his head up, and his eyes are closed.  I do believe he is smiling as a slight breeze ruffles his fur.

The empty bird feeders remind me that it has been too wet to walk to the back of the yard to fill them.   I know the birds around here don't really need the seeds from my feeders.  But I do like them to think of me as a good neighbor.

Birds, cats, a slight breeze . . . tomato blossoms, red Turks Cap blossoms, yellow Esparanza blossoms, and purple silver sage blossoms . .  . all on August 22nd!

I don't know what you would think if you were here in my place.   I know what I think.  I am thinking that I am glad that I look for God in so many places.  I sure see God in my backyard today.
My backyard was a wreck when we first moved in.  No flowers, and our Oak tree was in very, very bad shape.   In three years we have planted different native Texas plants, which all feature summer blossoms.   We have trimmed and pruned, watered and added fertilizer, and we have offered lots of verbal encouragement.  

Yeah, I talk to my plants.  My neighbor on more than one occassion has called from his yard, "Rick, who are you talking to?"

I think my back yard is about redemption . . . having another chance to be what you can truly be.   

I guess I see God everywhere I see redemption being lived out.   I guess I see God everytime I see someone or something getting a 2nd chance.

I guess, if you really look hard enough . . . you can see God most everywhere.    I believe God is alive . . . and I believe God is creative . . . and I believe that God is redeeming . . . and I believe that God is very, very, very, very, very active.

This morning . . . I see God.   I truly do not want to leave this moment.  

But then, there will be other mornings to look out my back window, and watch how God says "Good morning!" to me.

Ever forward . . . ><>