Friday, October 30, 2009

Class Reunions

Class Reunions
“Are you going to your class reunion?” I am amazed how many times I ask that question and the response is, “No.”

I love my class reunions. Last Saturday morning and afternoon, the 1979 class of good ’ol Winnsboro High School celebrated at the Oaklea Mansion, across the street from the, now restored, Rock Gym.

A number of fellow classmates have spent the past few months tracking down folks, taking care of logistics, and putting in the time necessary to make an event like this happen. (Michael Murley and Lesa Monday, I’ve got to give you a big shout-out for all of your hard work especially.)

I had a great time. It was a perfect day, so we spent all our time outside under the tall, old trees. I arrived about 10:45 A. M., later than I had intended, but it was for a good cause. (My son had lost his glasses, a rare occurrence—usually only twice a week.)

We have had a reunion, I think, every five years. I made all of them but the 1989 reunion, which was held a couple of months after Judy and I moved to Argentina. If there was a reunion in1994 reunion, I missed it too. (We were still living in Argentina.)

The only thing I do not like about our class reunions is, even though we never have a 100 % turnout, there are always enough people present to create an obstacle for me. I want to visit, at least a little bit, with each person there. In fulfilling this desire, I always find myself, as I drive away from my reunion, feeling wistful. There was not enough time to sit down and visit with each person to make me feel satisfied.

Just one year, I would love to leave my reunion feeling like I caught up with every last person. Were I able to say to each classmate:

* Tell me about your dreams—did you realize them?
* Tell me about your disappointments.
* Tell me about your victories.
* Tell me about your failures.
* Tell me what you would tell your 18 year old self if you could go back in time.
* Tell me how you have changed after all of these years.
* Tell me what you have learned in life.
* Tell me, do you still have dreams?

I know, though, what you probably know as well. I instinctively feel, as I drive away, that which takes me days to process and identify. Reunions are not constructed to withstand the weight of our desires. Reunions are brief events designed to offer opportunities for brief exchanges to renew acquaintances.

What I would love to experience at a reunion cannot be experienced at a reunion. It can only be experienced in relationships, and relationships take time. What I want is to take the emotional byproduct of what was typically a twelve year relationship, and compress it into a reunion lasting but a few hours.

Alas, there is not enough time; there never is.

I think these realities lay at the root of my emotions as I nostalgically drove away Saturday afternoon. Somewhere along the drive, I became emotionally grounded once more. I celebrated these all-too-brief encounters with my classmates. I treasured what I was able to experience:

* a leisurely late morning and early afternoon visit with old friends
* hearing words of affirmation
* seeing a classmate for the first time since graduation night
* catching up with the reunion regulars, which never gets old
* hearing for the first time in thirty years a reading of our life plans after graduation (as published in our hometown newspaper the week of our graduation)
* receiving important news about the lives of classmates
* hearing words of encouragement
* observing the spiritual growth of classmates

For the privilege of that experience, how can I but leave content?
Mr. Talbert and Coach Campbell
As I wrote, I had a marvelous time Saturday. In the afternoon, some of us walked across the street to the Rock Gym (built in 1939) and enjoyed some moments with other WHS graduates at the all school reunion. At 2:30, a few of us traveled to Winnsboro’s old baseball field, Walker Park, for a marker dedication and to honor Winnsboro’s old semi-pro baseball team—the Oilers. Our high school principal, Carl Talbert, was a star centerfielder on that team.
I can’t believe he never told us about that! It's always funny how easy it is to forget that these people who helped form and shape you were young once and had a life without you.

Late Saturday afternoon, after our reunion, I had a chance to visit my old eighth grade history and reading teacher, as well as high school tennis coach, Tom Campbell. Coach Campbell made a big impact on my teaching and preaching. (Evidently, he didn’t make a big enough impact on my tennis—I lost at regionals.) He is in poor health and in a rehab center, so I definitely wanted to stop by and see him.

I intended only a brief visit, but ended up staying an hour or two. It was one of those things where we picked up where we left off thirty years ago. Every time I tried to leave, we would start talking about some other subject and get going again. It was really neat to see Coach Campbell and communicate to him what a difference he had made in my life.
Some Thoughts on Happiness
Last summer, I preached on the book of Jeremiah. This fall, on Sunday nights, I’ve been preaching on the Beatitudes. Both have me thinking a lot about happiness.

The yearning for happiness goes back to the Garden. We instinctively understand we lost something there, and we did. We instinctively know there was something better, and there will be something better. Presently, we don't fully possess it.

Yet, even in the Garden, even when Adam and Eve had everything they needed to be happy, more than they needed to be happy, they wanted more. So they ate the fruit.

Intellectually, we know it is impossible to be happy all of the time. You get the perfect wife—she dies. You lose a child. A best friend moves away. However, we so often live driven by the thought that happiness lies around the corner. And if we squeeze a little tighter, if we lift a little more weight, if we run a little faster, if we try a little harder, we will capture it. The truth is, as has been written, happiness in this life evades us like a butterfly escaping the grasp of chasing child.

Our realistic aim should not be happiness in this life. Our aim should be the joy of Jesus, the contentment of Christ.
Will Current Kids be the Death of Civilization?
“These kids will be the death of civilization.”

A lot of folks are scared of kids. They are scared of technology. As newspapers and magazines die, a major fear is that kids are becoming so stimulated by TV and computers, they will lose the desire to read. Hence we will revert back to an illiterate culture.

Our youth minister, Tim Henderson, and I were visiting about this the other day. We considered some of the following possibilities.

Perhaps kids are reading more today than ever before. With internet access to news sites such as those of TIME and MICROSOFT, not to mention the access to news concerning science, politics, art, and global affairs via the GOOGLE reader and other internet resources, kids are reading more widely than we did. Moreover, we have found young people to be aware of breaking news faster than we were.

Kids are writing more than we did. Between journals and blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and text messaging, kids today are literally writing more words in their spare time than my generation did.

I crack up thinking about this: approximately 150 years ago, the telegraph was invented. This was followed by the telephone, radio and television.

Now, kids can use Skype and literally talk face-to-face, all over the world, for pennies. With cell phones, they can have unlimited phone conversations with friends in their network. And what do they do? They write text messages to each other. They are reverting back to the days of the telegraph!

150 years ago, one friend excitedly telegraphed another, “ARRIVE TOMORROW”, and he did, by train. Today, with all of our technology available, one kid excitedly telegraphs (texts) another, “ARRIVE TOMORROW.” And he does. (Oh, well, at least our phone lines remain open.) Even though texting is concise and colloquial, it is still writing.

Here’s a mind-bender. What if the kids of today are becoming literate? What if, because of technology, they become more adapt at reading, contemplating ideas, and expressing their thoughts through writing? We could be headed that way.
Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. I thought Red Dreher’s column in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, “When Science Meets Pop Culture”, to be one of the more even-handed treatments of science and religion. Here is the link if you are interested.

2. Phillies vs. Yankees. I pick the Phillies.

3. I have noticed God has pulled out his paintbrush again. The leaves on the trees are beautiful.

4. Finished showing my high school Bible class the THE TRUMAN SHOW this week. No movie in my memory demonstrates the “winsome” work of Satan, and the destructive work of Satan, than this one. I’m sure that was not Peter Weir’s conscience intention, but the subconscious and spiritual aspects of his being reflected this reality in his creative work. An amazing effort—probably in my Top 10 movie list for impact.

5. Randy and Alex York, I am really looking forward to you using your artistic gifts this Sunday morning during our sermon time. God bless you.
Have a Great Weekend!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Than a Game

More Than a Game
“Sometimes there are things more important than a game.” That was the first sentence from the TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH’S account from Tuesday night’s ETCA volleyball game. Some of you have been keeping up with the team and asking me about how they are doing. For those of you who have not, full disclosure: my oldest daughter, Haleigh, is a high school junior and plays on the team. They have had a great season going 10-0 in district and 23-2 in the regular season. Those 23 wins included wins over public schools; the two losses were to larger public school programs.

Entering the playoffs this week we had high expectations. Tuesday night we were all brought back to reality in our match with Cedar Park Summit Christian Academy out of Austin.

The night began on an exciting note. The game was at ETCA’s new gym and it was packed. Fans have driven in from Austin, and many supporters came from Tyler, including friends from outside ETCA.

The atmosphere was electric and the match reflected it. ETCA won the first 25-20. Summit, behind their outstanding six-foot-one junior, Nells Meighan, came back and won the second game 25-22. The third game was tied 18-18. Both teams were playing well and with great intensity, but the intensity betrayed all on the fight for the nineteenth point.

Morgan Ashbreck, ETCA’s outstanding setter, dove for a ball headed out of bounds and hit her head on the court. What followed appeared to be the worst injury that I have ever seen in sports, either live or on TV. Although I did look at my watch, I did not officially keep track of time. I’m guessing that over thirty minutes before Morgan was finally transported into the ambulance.

As you might imagine, our volleyball team was emotionally devastated by what happened to their friend and teammate. The crowd was stunned and quiet. I found out later that while was outside the building at the ambulance, the crowd was led in public prayer by ETCA administrator, Mike Gravois.

Somewhere during this time, the ETCA girls decided they must go to the hospital and support Morgan. They understood it would mean a forfeit, but with the threat that Morgan’s injury could be critical or even life-threatening, she became their priority.

During this time, the administration and fans of Summit made a decision reflecting incredible grace. Having driven four or five hours to Tyler, and having fought so hard for victory, they were certainly entitled to victory by forfeit. However, they chose postponement. If the ETCA girls chose to resume play, the match would pick up at 19-18 in the third game.

Amazingly, at approximately 12:30 AM on Wednesday morning, Morgan Ashbreck walked out of ETMC under her own power. She had suffered a concussion. She needed a couple of staples on a nasty cut, and she would need a lot of sleep and rest, but a CAT Scan revealed that she was ultimately going to be okay.

Two days ago, our girls voted to travel to Summit’s school gym and play. They knew that the odds were stacked against them. Losing Morgan was like a basketball team losing an outstanding point guard. She was an excellent leader and she was amazing at setting up her teammates for “kill” shots.

I’m still learning when it comes to volleyball. I had no idea how disorienting it is for a team to change setters in the playoffs. They had learned to know, with precision, where each individual would be in any given moment. When there was an exception, they had learned how to communicate with each other under duress in order to execute the save or organize for a counter-attack. Because of these challenges, the girls could have conceded the loss and save themselves a long trip.

However, they chose a different course. They chose to offer God their very best. They chose to honor Morgan, their coach, Summit, and each other by competing. Yesterday (Thursday), at 5:30, the ETCA girls lost the third game, and then they lost the fourth. But they played their best. They played with effort; they played with joy. They competed. They left everything on the court.

Cedar Park Summit Christian Academy won a well-deserved victory. They could have taken the easy way out, but they chose otherwise. They honored God by their effort and by their spirit.

During the season, I began to feel that ETCA had a very special volleyball team and would travel deep into the TAPPS playoffs. I still think they have a special team; it’s just that outcome I was not expecting demonstrated this fact to me. I believe TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH’s reporter, Travis Yoesting was right, “Sometimes there are things more important than a game.”
Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. Speaking of events you do not expect, what a terrible year for OU quarterback Sam Bradford. I am so sorry he had to get hurt. Still, I think his testimony (see last week’s blog) is even stronger today that it was one week ago.

2. BALLOON BOY—a hoax? I am stunned. Surely not in today’s world!

3. My middle daughter, Abby, did me a favor last Saturday night. She asked me to take her and a friend to BARNES AND NOBLE for a couple of hours of coffee drinking (decaf for her and her friend) and browsing. Immediately, she and her friend abandoned me to do their own thing, and I had a great time checking out the new books. Next time Judy and the kids abandon me for a few hours, I think I’m heading over B & N.

4. Saw TENDER MERCIES last week for the first time in a quarter century. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did in college. And I was reminded, yet, again of what an exceptional actor Robert Duvall is. He did his own singing in TENDER MERCIES—no wonder he won the Oscar. After seeing him play a consigliore in the GODFATHER, a cowboy in LONESOME DOVE, a Pentecostal preacher in THE APOSTLE, and a washed-up country singer in TENDER MERCIES, and, yes, Will Ferrell’s father in KICKING AND SCREAMING, has there ever been a better actor in America than Robert Duvall?

5. I am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at our reunion fellow classmates of WHS 1979.
Have a Great Weekend!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Anniversary Timothy and Annie

Happy Anniversary Timothy and Annie

Wednesday our family observed a very important anniversary. This weekend, we will celebrate with stories and fun.

Long ago Judy and I desired to adopt. In preparation for our marriage, we discussed our mutual desire to make adoption happen.

We had both remembered hearing criticism from those who were pro-choice and did not respect the pro-life position. Their criticism was, "Where are all of the pro-life people when it comes to adopting the babies of those that they wanted to live?" We thought they had a valid criticism.

During our years in Argentina, we thought we would have our chance. I was studying the Bible with a young man who was a pre-med student at the national university located in our city of Cordoba. We forged a friendship, enough of one to where he felt free to share his sister’s dilemma. She was in high school and was pregnant. She was seriously contemplating having an abortion.

Although Judy and I were not as close to this young lady, her mother, or her grandmother, (the father was long gone), we did have a good relationship with them. As a matter of fact, our relationship was good enough that we began a discussion laying the groundwork for Judy and me to adopt the child upon birth. As things worked out, doctors determined that the young woman was not pregnant.

Later, Judy and I had our two natural-born children, Haleigh and Abby. They, of course, brought us great joy, but we still waited on God to see if he would bring opportunity for us to adopt.

A few years ago, we moved to West Texas near Abilene Christian University where I was preaching, working on a doctorate, and serving as an adjunct professor of Bible at ACU. One day, Judy was in Sears with our two girls. Out of the blue, a man came up to Judy and said, "Have you thought about adopting?" Judy considered that rather strange because, indeed, she had recently begun thinking again about adoption. However, no doors were opening for adoption.

At that time, Judy was working as a housewife and homeschooling our girls. Since the adoption angle was not working out, Judy began to feel called to become a foster parent. We prayed about this decision and discussed it a lot. We finally decided to began training with Child Protective Services to become certified to serve as foster parents and to see where God would lead us.

We spent several Saturdays in the summer of 2003 in training to receive a certification. It was hard work. I remember one Friday night we had one of those all-night cancer-walk fund raisers to participate in, followed by CPS classes the next day. That was a tough day. We completed our training and, finally, in February of 2004, we had the opportunity to receive a three-year-old girl as our foster child.

Foster care proved challenging. Intellectually, we knew how hard it would be. Emotionally, we were nowhere near prepared.

This little girl came out of a small town in central Texas. She had been taken by CPS out of a tough environment.

We had a dog, and this foster child told us that she had had a dog where she had lived. We asked her what happened to her dog. She said that he had run away with the pig.

We thought that was strange. I had images in my mind of a dog and a pig walking down the middle of the street together off into the sunset. And then later this little girl saw a police officer in our town, and she pointed at him and called him a pig. And we realized—her mother called policemen pigs. It was not an animal who had come to take her dog the way, it was a police officer.

When I remember those times, I recall I was discovering things about myself that I did not like. I thought I was an “outstanding” Christian man by this time, but I clearly was not.

Our foster child carried with her a lot of anger. Looking back, I understand why. At that time, though, this anger was taking a toll on all of us.
One time, our foster child got mad at our oldest daughter, Haleigh, and spit in her face. This for me was the crowning blow. I felt so angry. I'm afraid my demeanor and my tone of voice betrayed me. I looked at her and I said with great intensity, "Do you think I am as stupid as I look?" And she looked up at me with her big brown eyes, so desperate to give the right answer. She humbly said, "Yes."

Our family cared for this girl for several months. Her story actually had a happy ending. Her mother matured somewhat and was able to take this girl back into her custody. My understanding is today they're doing quite well living in another state near family.

Following this experience, Judy and I and our two daughters were just exhausted. However, after two or three months, Judy and I both felt that we were ready again to care for a child from CPS. Shortly after deciding we were emotionally ready to begin again in foster care, CPS called us.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2004, Judy answered the phone in our home. CPS was calling to say they had two small children they needed to place in a home. One was a two-year-old girl; the other was a one-year-old boy.
The CPS case worker was frank; she stated they wanted to place these children in a home where the family was committed to adopting them. These children had come out of a very difficult situation in central Texas. They had the same mother, but different fathers. The fathers were unknown.
CPS had taken custody of the children and placed them with a foster family that ultimately could not handle the stress of foster care. CPS wanted to place these children for the last time—any more moves could be detrimental to the children’s emotional health.

Judy told the case worker she needed to talk it over with me, but we would certainly consider it. The case worker said that would be fine. She also said we should not get our hopes up; there were five couples in line ahead of us to receive the children.

Judy and I discussed the challenge. We talked it over with our two girls. We prayed. Ultimately, we all agreed that this was something we wanted to do.

That was Wednesday. The next morning, Thursday, I called CPS and told them that we were certainly committed to doing so and, unless it was destructive to our family structure, we would be more than happy to adopt both children. The lady I spoke with said fine and that she would get back with me.

In life, things often move slowly. Judy and I both figured that a few days would pass before we would receive the children. That is why I was shocked an hour or two later when CPS called me back and said that that be bringing the children by that afternoon.

Thursday, Judy and the girls spent all day in Abilene for a homeschooling co-op in which they participated. I was to be the welcoming committee for the new kids.

I have got to tell you, Timothy and Annie love for me to tell the story of their arrival. Timothy arrived wearing shorts, a shirt, shoes, and a diaper. And that one diaper was the last diaper. That was it. CPS had no diapers. CPS had no car seats for us. I was marooned on a desert island with a one-year-old boy and one diaper. To get relief and go to the store, I would have to break the law.

Fortunately, about an hour later, Judy called from Abilene. She told me she was going to Walmart. I replied, "The kids are here."

Judy said, "The kids are here. What kids?" It had never occurred to her CPS would work so quickly. She thought I meant some kids from the youth group at church.

Instead, I said, "Judy, the kids are here—the kids from CPS!"

“Oh! Oh, my. What are their names?”

“Alvin and Juanita.”

(Timothy’s name is Alvin Timothy. Annie’s name is Juanita Leeanne. When we received them, they were being called Alvin and Nita. Last year, Christian Homes of Tyler asked us to tell our story. Judy included a portion that Timothy and Annie loved—Judy’s confusion over their names. When Judy heard me tell her that the children were named “Alvin” and “Juanita,” she assumed the kids were Hispanic, perhaps children of illegal aliens. We had seen some families that had been broken up because of immigration laws. We lived in an area where approximately 45 % of the population was Hispanic. After living in Latin America and Brownsville so many years, Judy and I were perfectly happy to adopt Hispanic children. When she arrived at the house later that afternoon, she saw two children who looked liked the children of immigrants—immigrants from Sweden. A reporter from the Tyler Morning Telegraph was at the banquet. The next day in the paper, he wrote that Mark and Judy Edge shared their inspirational testimony of how they adopted two children of Swedish immigrants!)

Meanwhile, back to that long afternoon. I managed to entertain the children and miraculously Timothy did not have an accident. Judy finally arrived home with diapers and car seats and other things that we would need.

We cared for Annie and Timothy for almost two years in foster care. Finally, in May of 2006, our adoption was finalized. That was also the month that we move to Tyler.

Along the way we have had many trials. However, today, I could not even imagine our lives without those two little ones. Yes, there are challenges, with all four of our children, but we have been so blessed.

Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford

I think we think we are living through the glory years when it comes to athletes proclaiming their faith—and then living it. The latest example are the videos from the organization I AM SECOND of Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford expressing their faith.
You have probably seen on FACEBOOK the composite video of the two that many have posted. I have linked you here

with the longer, individual versions of each. Like the Tim Tebow example, these videos offer honest and inspirational testimony.

In the future, I hope we do not look upon these years as the golden age of athletic examples. Instead, I hope we view these athletes as links in the chain to a future of ever-growing Christian influence.

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

I love history. I am fascinated by politics. I believe today’s politics is tomorrow’s history.
That is why I am fascinated by what I have been observing lately. Several of President Obama’s comedian friends are starting to make fun of his accomplishments in his first year in office. Some are even using his Nobel Peace Prize win as fodder for jokes.

This reminds me of when President Clinton was embroiled in his Monica Lewinsky scandal. Hollywood, which had been very pro-Clinton, skewered Clinton with at least two movies—PRIMARY COLORS and WAG THE DOG.

I believe that every person, consciously or unconsciously, decides who he wants for friends, and who is willing to concede to becoming enemies. A life in politics takes this reality to a new level. There is no way you can accomplish much in politics unless you are willing to surrender all desires to be loved or liked—by anyone. I think that is why Harry Truman famously said, “In Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog.”

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. I hope the “balloon boy” gets well. What a crazy case.

2. If you have a hole in your schedule Tuesday afternoon, feel free to come root for the ETCA Panthers at the new ETCA gym. The girls play their round one playoff game at home at 5:30. A loud gym would be nice.

3. Great job, Sunday morning, Travis Gilbreath. I have heard much positive feedback on your cantilever/cross and the way it illustrated the point of I Corinthians 5-6. Thanks for taking the time to build it.

4. Happy 99th Birthday this week to the greatest coach of all time—John Wooden.

5. October is Cancer Awareness Month, so I want to offer a special shout out to two men battling cancer. I’m praying for you, Lynn Anderson and Charles Siburt. I want you well.

Have a Great Weekend!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life with a Son

Life with a Son
Ah, life with a son. Last Friday I took the family in our pickup to see ETCA and Haleigh play their volleyball game in Longview. As soon as I got in, I knew something was wrong. It smelled like an animal had died in there. I started imagining some possum two weeks before, climbing in when the kids left the window down, getting stuck behind the back seat, and choking to death. Now his carcass was about to prove my undoing.

No matter how hard we tried, we could never find the dead possum. Saturday, the smell was worse. Finally, Saturday afternoon, I was taking Annie to a birthday party. I took her out to the pick up, and remembered that I had left something inside. When I returned, Annie told me she had discovered the source of our misery.

“What was it?” I asked. She pointed to the driveway. On the pavement was an article of clothing, opaque in color.

“What is that?” I asked.

“That’s Timothy’s underwear. I found it under the seat.”

Although I don’t even want to know how it got there, I suspect that one day he was changing clothes and, well, stuck it under the seat for safe keeping. Have you ever seen one those hooks that animal control personnel use to do their job? That is what I wanted to pickupTimothy’s discard. I did grab some paper towels—I avoid touching radioactive material—and drop the drawers in the laundry room. I probably should have just buried them.

Sure enough, inside the pick up, life became livable again. In summary, that was the most foul smell I remember since, well, since I was in college. I left a duck I had killed inside my hunting vest, which I hung in my mother’s hall closet. But that was different. Besides, if mom didn’t like it, she can write that story in her own blog.
Upwards Football
Of the three of you who read this, I want to ask a favor. Don’t mention this football story to Timothy. I don’t want him to get a complex. The underwear story is fine, not the Upwards Flag Football story.

(You might be wondering what I plan on doing when Timothy is in high school, since this blog could very well still be out there in Cyberspace. I have a plan. I will give my then teen-aged son my blogs and tell him I really want him to read them so we can discuss them. That will kill any chance of him reading this.)

Saturday morning was Timothy’s first Upwards Flag Football game. Upwards, if you don’t know, is an outstanding program where children are coached in sports from a Christian perspective. It is a nice way to introduce kids to the game in an encouraging environment.

Timothy’s team is the Badgers. They are 6-8 years old, Timothy being one of the younger boys at age 6. Last Saturday morning, they played at 9:00 A. M. The boys played different positions, both on offense and defense, and each received about the same amount of playing time.

When it was Timothy’s turn to play running back, he got the ball on a hand-off and headed to the right sideline. Now, Timothy, unlike me, is pretty fast. He is outrunning the defense and now he is heading down the right sideline. All of us who are spectators are thinking he is going to score. Then, from the opponents’ point of view, I’m sure miraculously, Timothy suddenly turns at a right angle to his right and heads out of bounds—and keeps on running! The ref blew the whistle—and Timothy kept on running. The closest defender was taking an angle across the field—and he was twenty yards away.

Judy, the girls, and I burst out laughing. We could not resist. Being the father, I did feel some responsibility to the coach, though. To save face, I hollered, “Timothy, the million dollar contract is years away. You don’t have to worry about saving your body yet.” He got a couple of more carries in the game. The last one, he headed right and everything looked promising. Then, he did an about-face, retraced his route backwards, and outran the defense headed down the left sideline, before he was finally forced out of bounds.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we are not making progress. A year and a half ago, Timothy celebrated his birthday (January 8) in the spring because he wanted to have a football party when his friends could come. We live about a couple of blocks from the football field, so after cake and presents, I and some adult friends and parents took the boys down there for an organized game. At least, we thought it would be organized.

Timothy’s team had the ball first. On the first snap, one of his teammates took the ball and started running. Timothy tackled him! His own man. That set the tone for the day. I think the boys just wanted to wrestle.

Anyway, the season has started. Stay tuned!
Dialogue versus Discussion
THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE is probably the best business book I have ever read. Written by Peter Senge, he addresses business challenges in unique, fresh ways. Although a few years old, the book is not outdated; it also speaks to a broader audience, including churches.

I believe Senge’s approach to organizational communication is innovative and spiritually healthy. Senge’s methodology draws from, believe it or not, physics. For example, in his 1965 book, THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY, David Bohm writes that there are two main ways of discourse: dialogue and discussion.

Discussion has the same root word as percussion and concussion. The idea in discussion is sending information back and forth, like hitting a ball in a game of tennis. The object is to win—to have the other person or group accept your beliefs.

Dialogue is different. Dialogue comes from the ancient Greek concepts of dia meaning “through” and logos meaning “word;” the gist of ideas are transmitted between two people or two groups, etc. In dialogue, the goal is not to win; the goal is to gain insight.

Dialogue is more dispassionate. All participants become observers, including observers to their own thinking. Hence, each person truly gains insight.

I have found when these principles are practiced, everyone wins. I have approached moments of communication, and left on a negative note, as typically did the other participants. I have partaken in dialogues, even dialogues where disagreements were freely expressed, and, along with all others involved, departed with positive and good feelings that lay the groundwork for effective action.

I hope in the future, we, church members, will have fewer discussions and more dialogue.
Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. Congratulations to coach Dana Wade and the ETCA junior high girls’ volleyball team. They won district this week in the tournament, in what I would consider to be, a stunning upset.

2. Excuse me as a proud dad offers a shout-out to his middle daughter, Abby, who was a member of the ETCA championship team. Abby had to overcome a number of challenges, but she endured and played extremely well in the tourney.

3. I am ready to rank the seasons: 1. Summer (more rest) 2. Winter (cold weather, Christmas and the New Year) 3. Autumn (Thanksgiving and football) 4. Spring. Having said that, I do really enjoy fall leaves and football.

4. I can’t wait to see the cantilever Travis Gilbreath is making for my Sunday sermon.

5. I arose at 5:00 A. M. five of the six days this week. Admittedly, this is because I set my alarm. I went to bed by at least 11:00 every night this week—sometimes, by 10:00. This may be a new personal record.

Friday, October 2, 2009



LES MISĖRABLES. What a movie! I'm showing it to my seniors at ETCA this week. From the opening scene your attention is riveted. Set in the 1800s, Liam Neeson plays, Jean Valjean, who stands at the door of the bishop and says: “I am a convict. My name is Jean Valjean. I spent 19 years at hard labor. On my passport I am identified as a thief.”

The bishop offers him hospitality. Valjean responds by stealing the silverware from the bishop's residence and fleeing during the night.

Ah, but justice prevails. Policemen capture Valjean and bring him to the bishop. The bishop shocks the policemen, Valjean, and the audience by announcing he had given Valjean the silver, and that he was somewhat irritated that Valjean did not take with him the silver candlesticks. Valjean is set free.

Before departing, Valjean in a private moment, looks at the bishop with wonder. The bishop tells him, "Jean Valjean, you no longer belong to evil....I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred and now I’ve given you back to God.... Don’t forget, you’ve promised to become a new man.”

Valjean becomes a new man. He gets a job in the factory of a small town. When the factory falls into a state of crises, he uses his money to buy the factory. Years later, we find him the Mayor of the town, where he is loved by the people. He uses his energy and resources to help people.

I wish I could find an application here! Or could it be this? Like true grace radically transformed the life of Jean Valjean, so does God's grace radically transform us. Becoming one with Christ, we are made new, and we live lives that reflect this radical transformation.

If you are interested, LES MISĖRABLES is based upon the novel by Victor Hugo.


Last Sunday night, I shared with some about a book that someone gave me a couple of years ago. The book is called EAT THIS BOOK. It is by Eugene Peterson, who translated THE MESSAGE. The title comes from the story of John in the book of Revelation. An angel of God offers John a scroll with the word of God upon it. And in Revelation 10:10, the apostle John tells us, "I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth."

That's where we like to end the verse. The word of God tastes like honey. Isn't it fun to study the word of God? And if it is not fun to study this part of the Word of God, let's find another part of the Word of God that is fun to study. Right?

Don't we have our favorite sections of Scripture? I love the narrative sections of Scripture, but I'm not so big on the poetry. Some of you may be big on the poetry, but you do not like the stories.

However, check out the last part of Revelation 10:10. "I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter."

Did you catch that? His stomach was made bitter. Talking about the Bible, Peterson writes, "But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book. It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn't sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomachs. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God's reality, that doesn't cater to our fantasies of ourselves."

"There are things in this book, hard things to hear, hard things to obey. There are words in this book that are difficult to digest. John got a severe case of indigestion….

"[The Bible is] a most comforting book; it is also a most discomforting book. Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can't reduce this book to what you can handle; you can't domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can't make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.

"This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don't participate on our own terms…. Eat this book, but also have a well-stocked cupboard with Alka-Seltzer and Pepto Bismol at hand.”

Truer words have never been written.

It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming

I am convicted by the pain that Paul felt when fruit was not being born for the Kingdom. I am convicted by the pain that Paul felt when young Christians were not growing in the faith. I am convicted by the pain that Paul felt when needless barriers were put up to keep young Christians from growing in the faith. I want to have the same low tolerance for these conditions that Paul had, and I recognize the high price that Paul payed for those beliefs. Likewise, Jesus.

In First Corinthians chapter 3, as Paul deals with the divisions of this young church at Corinth, I noticed that he does not tell them to focus on unity. He tells them to focus on Christ. This is one of the goals that transcends unity. By focusing on this goal and others, these Christians can achieve unity.

Often, it is difficult for a couple to stay married when their highest goal is to stay married. When the highest goal is unity, there is too much that can divide. When you have two people sold out for Jesus, and their highest goal is to serve Jesus, it is much easier to be unified in marriage.

It is the same in a church. When the highest goal is serving Christ, and in doing so making disciples, helping them grow in the image of Christ, then it is much easier to be unified. The hardest way to be unified is to say, "We want be a church that is united."

As part of that focus on Christ, he tells the Corinthians to focus on building the Kingdom. He says that God is in the business of kingdom building. Christians should be part of that work.

It bothers me how often I, and others, can fall into the trap of seeking routine in the life of the church. Maintenance is the victory. According to Paul, maintenance is not the victory. Just as we have an intolerance for impurity within the church, poor preaching, and a deviance from sound doctrine; likewise, we should have a low tolerance for not joining God to bring more people into the kingdom and helping him mature in Christ.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. Laresa Hayes posts a beautiful letter to her daughter, Carli, who turned one yesterday (Thursday.) See it here:
If you are planning a baby in the future, read Laresa's blog. It will give you some good ideas about commemorating and remembering your child's growing years.

2. God bless Elizabeth Smart and her family. To skeptics of God, addressing suffering such as theirs is the toughest.

3. It was neat to hear noted author and preacher, John Ortberg quote ACU professor Everett Ferguson. I sometimes take for granted the access to giants, I have been privileged to have.

4. I’m sorry that Chicago did not receive the bid to the 2016 Olympics. However, I must confess that I am pleased that South America will finally get a chance to host the games.

5. Go ETCA Panthers girls’ volleyball team. Tonight they play Christian Heritage School of Longview, who has lost only once in district play—to ETCA. ETCA also defeated CHS in an August tournament. Nice of the TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH to send a reporter to Tuesday’s game. He wrote a good article. Since I know there are millions of volleyball fans reading this blog, here’s a link to the article: