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Take Comfort in Rituals!

This week a scary thing happened in our home-- just in time for Halloween-- Christy ran out of her coffee.  Let's just say she doesn't drink Sanka or whatever is on clearance at the grocery store.  So I ordered the coffee, which would take a few days to arrive.  The last two mornings I found myself playing the good husband, driving to Starbucks, hoping desperately that the coffee I should have ordered "rush" but mistakenly ordered on free shipping arrive soon.  Thankfully it made it here yesterday.

I am not a coffee person, so I don't get much of the comfort and rush feelings many people get from the stuff.  But Starbucks gets it-- and well.  They've built an empire not on the product itself, but the experience.  So as I drove through to order the grande vanilla latte extra hot, I noticed Starbucks' slogan for their special coffee for Fall-- you know, pumpkin spice, etc.-- "Take comfort in rituals."  And I blinked.  Comfort with co…

I am the Church. You are the Church. We are the Church Together!

Wow, it's been a full, emotional, wonderful week for me.  It began Monday with a call that Gene Fasnacht, a beloved member of PUMC who was fighting cancer, returned to the hospital.  I visited Gene that afternoon.  He knew his prospects for recovery were bleak.  But he was fine with that.  His faith gave him strength.  He was confident that this was not an ending, but a beginning.  Two days later I returned to the hospital.  Family and friends had been called in to spend time with Gene.  Believing his life was nearing its end, I asked him: "Are you afraid?"  He said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  I believe the Lord will reward me for what I have done in this life."  I told him he was an inspiration to so many, how he faced his illness with grace and hope.  Gene died early yesterday morning.  There will be a viewing Sunday night and the funeral Monday afternoon, both at Turrentine/Jackson/Morrow Funeral Home in Frisco.
When I walked into Gene's hospi…

Greed is Good?

When I was sixteen I saw a movie that had a profound impact on my life: Oliver Stone's Wall Street.  Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gecko, a billionaire Wall Street tycoon whose life had everything.  When I left the cinema, I wanted to be Gordon Gecko.  It was only later, after watching the film again from a more worldly perspective did I understand the movie's point.  Despite what Gordon Gecko famously said, greed is not good.  Greed makes people into small, shallow individuals who do not understand how money can be used to bless others.  Tomorrow night I'll see the Wall Street sequel, again starring Michael Douglas as Gecko.  I wonder how it will impact me at age 39?

My life turned out to be so radically different that I imagined it would be after seeing Wall Street.  I did not earn an MBA, did not become a millionaire by age 22.  I became a youth director, a teacher, and a pastor-- not exactly careers with huge earning potential!  Yet my life has more depth and meaning th…

Obey Your Thirst!

It is a well-known fact that I do not care for the month of August-- too hot.  But at least we expect that.  My least favorite month of the year is September, even though it marks the beginning of football season and the opening of the State Fair of Texas.  Every day in September, and sometimes several times each day, I look up the 10-day forecast, expecting to see that first cold front on the horizon.  And every day I am disappointed.  I am in need of refreshment from hot weather!

You know what it feels like to need refreshment-- that cold drink after yard work; that well-deserved vacation; the laughter of children after a stressful day.  We have that sense of being parched-- needing something that is not quite there-- and when the need is fulfilled all we can express is, "Aaaaaagh!"  Do you remember the old iced tea commercials of people falling backward into a pool?  That's what I mean.  Refreshment.

Thirst comes in physical, spiritual, and emotional forms.  The physi…

Remembering September 11

Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Most of us will never forget where we were at the moment we learned our nation was under attack. Like many of you, I was watching the Today Show with Christy in our apartment in Dallas when the second plane hit World Trade Center. As I drove to the church where I served as Associate Pastor, Oak Lawn UMC, I listened on the radio intently for more news. The shock and horror of that day was compounded for me especially. We had just discovered the day before, September 10, 2001, that Christy was pregnant with James. In the midst of such fear and suffering, I felt more than a little guilty that our family was celebrating. It didn't seem fair.

At the church a TV was on in Wyndal's office, our Business Manager. We searched the internet for faster news. We sent emails out to the congregation, urging them wherever they were to pray for victims, their families, and for the nation. We organized a …

Pride-- In the Name of Love

I am one of those rare people who is impacted by time differently than just about everyone else.  As school came closer and closer to starting, just about every parent I know posted the same thing, more or less, on Facebook: "I can't believe my kid is going to be a ninth grader [insert your kid's class here].  Where has the time gone?"  Time just does not work on me that way.

So when Christy and I took James (3rd) and Miles (K) to Rucker on Monday I didn't think to myself: "It seems like only a week ago that these guys were born at Baylor Dallas."  I did worry if Miles would be able to navigate the halls of Rucker (if I ever get caught trapped by myself there I'll be in big trouble), but I knew he'd figure it out just like James did three years ago.  I had a few tears well up for each kid as I left their classroom, but not for their growing-- for pride in the boys they are.  I had the same feeling the day before when James was part of a dozen 3…

Lost?

Last night Christy and I engaged in an adventure.  Not the kind of adventure anyone would be excited about.  For several hours, we searched the house for a missing remote control for a toy.  We followed each other, looking in every room of the house, every closet, every cabinet.  We determined when the thing was last sen.  We interviewed witnesses (James, Miles, and Linus), none of whom were helpful.  Like Columbo or the cops on Law and Order, we had a mystery to solve.  When we were just about ready to file for divorce, Linus came to me, holding the thing in his hand.  Excited and joyful, I asked him to show me where he found the blasted thing.  He pointed to a spot right in the middle of Miles' bedroom floor.  Case closed. 

Each of us is on a journey of exploration.  We are all searching for something-- really, the same thing.  A few of us think we're fairly close to figuring out the mystery; others are too self conscious to take the first steps in working the case.  The gr…

Go Deep!

Everyone knows I am a big movie fan.  This summer has been a pretty good year, with fun movies like Toy Story 3 and Iron Man 2.  But by far the best movie of the summer, and the year, isInceptionInception is one of those movies that force you to think and discuss afterward.  You can't forget it.  I have had many conversations over the last month with people who both loved and hated it-- that's the whole point.

If you allow yourself to go deep (one of themes of the movie), you will not be able to dismiss it easily.  I saw Inception the first time with Christy in a crowded, warm theatre in a lousy seat.  A fellow movie going friend emailed me to say he didn't like it but I would probably love it.  Honestly, leaving the cinema the first time I appreciated it but I wasn't in awe of it.  The second time I saw it was different.  Every moment of the film was a new discovery, a connecting of the dots, a new mystery.  I had a great seat, the auditorium was comfortable, every…
I've always loved the Fourth of July.  From the parties my parents hosted when I was a kid, to fireworks, to Boston Pops concerts, the whole thing is thrilling and makes me very proud.  In fact, when Christy and I returned from England ten years ago-- guess which date we chose for our triumphant return?  Yep-- the Fourth of July.  And we celebrated with a little Fourth of July Rangers baseball.  I was so exhausted and tired I watched the fireworks with sunglasses on!  I think I'll try to squeeze in an Arlington trip this Sunday night with James and Miles!

Thinking about the Fourth of July, I always consider some of the Americans who lived out the greatness our country aspires to.  Obviously Lincoln, King, Douglass, Washington, Jefferson, and others come to mind, but this year I wanted to consider the life of someone not so easily recognized, and I settled on Arthur Ashe.  I was a child when Ashe won his grand slam victories, and too young to understand the struggles he represe…

Joy in the Midst of Life

Yesterday I was out running errands with Miles.  "Jeez, it's hot today," I said, expecting the normal, exasperated  Texas response.  No such luck with Miles: "Of course it's hot, Dad.  It's summer."  I wanted to ground him immediately for his lack of compassion, but decided not to.  We all know it's hot, sooner than it should be, and there's little we can do about it.  Overly optimistic weather folk on TV try to make us feel better by throwing in a 10-20% chance of rain, but we know the sad truth: it will be hot nearly every day until around Lord's Acre, mid-October. 

I own three watches: one black, one silver and gold colored, and one brown.  The two latter watches are older than the black one.  A few years ago Christy bought a lifetime battery renewal plan for those two watches, and I guess the watch batteries we get are really, really cheap, because they seem to go out every two months or so.  I was on my way in to the jewelry store rece…
I've been excited all week-- and not just because of VBS!  Today is the day Toy Story 3 will be released.  I have been a HUGE fan of the Toy Story franchise since the first movie was released in 1995.  I still remember the absolute sense of awe at watching a feature-length movie animated on computers.  It did not look animated-- in fact, compared to many other movies released since 1995, Toy Story was, in many ways, the most real.  I'll make it plain for you: for me, Toy Story is right up there with the original Star Wars movies of my childhood.

If you have not seen Toy Story, I have to ask: why not?  It has great characters, inspires laughter and tears, and has a great message about friendship and relationships.  In 1999, Toy Story 2 was released.  As much as I loved Toy Story, I was worried about a sequel; more often than not they are simply made to generate cash, and are void of any of the creativity and spirit of the original.  To my astonishment, Toy Story 2 was not only …
this article appeared in the june 15 edition of the north texas reporter.

I have attended the Festival of Homiletics several times, but circumstances made this year’s conference different.

The event May 17-21 met this year in Nashville, Tenn., still recovering from recent devastating floods. Yet in the midst of challenges and difficult news, the Rev. Frank Lewis, host pastor of First Baptist Church, offered signs of hope: Conference attendees and their churches donated more than $10,000 and 10,000 bottles of water to the Nashville recovery effort.

Our spirits were resoundingly lifted by the opening worship service. Local songwriter and performer Ashley Cleveland passionately sang out to thunderous applause the words of the spiritual: “I was born to preach the gospel—and I sure do love my job!”

Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the AME church inspired us in her sermon, reminding us of Moses’ call of God to speak truth to power—calling on us to remember our own calling to go to the places no on…
A brief conversation that just happened at the parsonage:
James (8): "Hey Mom, are we having a babysitter tonight?"
Mom: "No, why?"
James: "Because you and Dad are cleaning."

Haha!  Funny kid!  Chip off the ol' block!

No, we're not going out tonight, just getting ready to head out of town for a week following worship Sunday.  Yes, following worship.  I know someone will still say to me Sunday, "I thought you weren't going to be here today."  After worship we'll travel to Wichita Falls for the North Texas Annual Conference, returning Tuesday evening.  Wednesday morning we'll take off to Bay City-- the boys going with Mom and my sister, and her three boys, to the beach for four days; Christy and I spending three days and two nights in Houston; and Dad at home alone, not counting two dogs.  I'll leave it to you to guess who will have the best time!
Every year I enjoy Conference more.  In years past, it seemed like all busine…

the only thing we have to fear is...

yesterday was memorial day, a day of remembrance for those killed while serving their country in the military (veterans day is a different holiday).  we often talk about our military preserving our freedoms-- what is the best way to observe memorial day with the solemnity and respect it deserves?  i read lots of "hug a veteran" posts on facebook.  parades and flag waiving are great traditions.  major league baseball games observed a moment of silence.  our sanctuary has a window where a WWI era soldier is greeted by Jesus, coming on a cloud.  how can we best participate in this holiday?

(i don't know the answer to that question, but i would certainly love to hear your thoughts.)

i would think the worst way to remember the sacrifice of others for their country is to persist in living in fear about the present or the future.  we are a fearful people.  deep down, and often not so far down, we are afraid of all kinds of things: terrorism, war, the economy, our job, our mortg…
I spent last week in Nashville for the Festival ofHomiletics, a preaching conference I try to attend every year.  Roughly 1300 preachers from acrossNorth America come together for four days of lectures, workshops, and worshipservices.  I had never been to Nashvillebefore, so I was more excited for the Festival than usual.  The one place I had to visit was the Parthenon-the only exact size duplication ofthe Athens Parthenon in the world.  Ihope to go to Greece someday; Nashville will have to do for now.



The Parthenon was originally built for Nashville'scentennial celebration in 1897.  It was atemporary, plaster structure, meant to inspire the public to appreciateart.  The Parthenon was so popular that apermanent one was dedicated in 1931.  Asa history guy, I loved walking through the exhibit of the pictures of theoriginal exhibition.  Hundreds of people,all well dressed, were packed around the Parthenon, taking in all the differentexhibitions.  The pictures of thatturn-of-the-centu…

Endings/Beginnings

I love endings.  I usually get very excited as the end of a big project, or class, or... fill in the blank.  I guess the reason for this is the opportunity to celebrate some achievement.  For example, last Sunday was Confirmation Sunday.  We confirmed ten youth-- three by baptism-- as official members of PUMC.  It was the fulfillment of more than six months of classes, field trips, prayers, and holy conversations. 

Two nights ago we celebrated the end of Disciple Bible Study.  The class began meeting weekly in mid-August, and me for 34 weeks together.  At the end of the class we shared the gifts we perceive in ourselves and heard from others their thoughts.  Then we shared goals for continuing in ministry at PUMC over the next year.

Last summer Christy and I traveled to Washington, D.C. for my graduation for my doctorate.  As wonderful as the three years together with my classmates were I could not wait to get to the commencement ceremony-- at the National Cathedral, no less-- and wh…

Iron Us!

The summer movie season gets in to high gear today with the release of Iron Man 2.  As a kid, I was much more interested in Star Wars than just about everything else, so I never got involved with comics of any kind, least of all Iron Man.  So I was as surprised as anyone at the phenomenal success of the movie Iron Man, which was released two years ago to tremendous reviews-- from comic geeks, general moviegoers, and critics.  It's nearly impossible to bring all those opinions together.  But Iron Man did it. 

I saw Iron Man in a wonderful cinema in Washington, D.C., a one-screen movie house from the 1940s.  I sat in the balcony and was just blown away.  A year or so later, Christy and I watched in on DVD-- her first time.  We both loved it.  She then issued an edict: you may not see the sequel without me.  Now, it's out.  And as millions go to see it today and over the weekend, we'll have to wait until both of our calendars match with an open date.  Who knows when that wil…

Let's See What's Out There!

Everyone knows that yesterday was Tax Day, a day that just about everyone dreads. Ditto for me. I hand-delivered my return to the good folks at the Frisco post office at 5:37 p.m. Contrary to what I say around the house in the days leading up to April 15, I really don't mind paying taxes so much. Sure, there is much waste in government, and I know lots of folk spent yesterday protesting that. Fair enough. But if I ever have to pick up the phone to dial 911, I know that folk will be there to help me, and it'll be because of tax dollars. The same goes for public parks and schools, a military that protects us, and so many other things. Like the space program.

President Obama spent part of yesterday not running to the post office at the last minute, but at Cape Canaveral in Florida, sharing his vision for the future of the space program. Originally there was much concern over the proposed 2011 budget, which called for the elimination of certain manned space programs, includ…

Easter Made Easy? I Don't Think So!

I've been using the word "spectacular" over and over again recently, and it's the best word I can think of when I remember our Easter services last weekend. Saturday night was a joyous hour of worship, with great music provided by Hannah, Mike, Craig, Austin, and Daniel. Sunday morning was very special. In my mind the highlight of the day was the mini-cantata for Easter performed by our Choir. Brian, Melinda and everyone else offered inspiring voices in praise of the Risen Christ. Thank you!

We also had great attendance-- 325 people over three services, including many new faces. I have heard many positive comments from members and friends about Easter worship. Thanks to everyone for doing their part to make it happen-- whether that was welcoming new people, working at KidsZone or in the nursery, reading a call to worship or serving Communion-- it was a team effort in every way!

Yesterday I went to the store to pick up some things, and as I walked in the door I n…

message from holy thursday, april 1, 2010

(CNN) -- An anti-abortion activist convicted of killing a Kansas doctor faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced today.
Scott Roeder, 51, was convicted of murdering Dr. George Tiller in January after jurors deliberated only 37 minutes.
Tiller was shot to death in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, as Sunday services began. He operated a clinic in Wichita where late-term abortions were performed.
The hearing is expected to include victim statements from Tiller's relatives, as well as character witnesses for Roeder, who also may also offer his own statement to the judge.
During his trial, Roeder testified he believed he had to kill Tiller to save lives, and said he had no regrets.
"There was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day," he said. "I felt that if someone did not do something, he was going to continue."
Eventually, the abortion issue took center stage as…