Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's early on Christmas Eve morning. The house is quiet, except for the sound of the coffee pot and our local meteorologist friend telling us about the rain, sleet, and snow on the way. The only illumination in the room is from the beautifully decorated tree, filled with lights and with ornaments from years past, each with a history, a story of its own.

In a few hours, we'll rip through the presents under the tree (we're supposed to travel to visit family tomorrow) and the quiet will give way to the happy celebration of a family blessed beyond measure.

But now, for a precious few minutes, I have time to think about the blessings of this day and this celebration- a happy, healthy family; a warm and safe home to protect us from the elements; good friends with whom we journey together through this life.

I am especially thankful for a Savior, born as a baby, who changed the world. My world. Your world, too, if you let Him. I am thankful for grace, forgiveness, and second chances; for hope and a future.

For coffee and a warm bed. I've decided to pile back in. The day will start soon enough.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On the Necessity of Alarm Clocks

As a young teenager, getting permission to hunt by myself was always a big deal. One fall morning, I persuaded my parents to let me hunt with my best hunting buddy growing up. We'll call him Roger (I could say that I changed his name to protect his identity, but then, really, how would you know?). Better than that, I was privileged to take my dad's prize Belgian-made Browning A-5 12 gauge shotgun, famous for recoil that could pummel the unsuspecting shoulder and knock slobber from your sinuses. It was a beast, but it was mine for a day!

We set a time and place to meet in the squirrel woods across the road from my house, and up the road from his. We wanted to hunt early, while the squirrels were most active, so we decided to meet at first light at the big oak that stood at the center of that part of the woods. We knew it to be a den tree, and to contain more than one family of squirrels.

Active imagination and youthful anticipation kept sleep at bay, so I got up early and dressed. I packed a lunch and my hunting vest and took out, still too dark to see anything but the stars still twinkling overhead. The walk to the big oak was less than a half mile from the house, but I just couldn't wait at home, so I decided to walk on over, and just wait for Roger at the tree.

Down the drive, maybe 100 yards east down the gravel road, then north in the neighbor's drive. I would follow that drive up to the creek, then head west to the wood line. I followed the wood line north through a pasture, then a grassy opening, until I arrived at the small opening that led to the big oak.

It was still dark when I arrived at the opening, and even darker inside the wood beneath the fall canopy that had not yet fallen. I decided to sit at the base of a small cottonwood and wait for dawn. I sat on my vest, and cradled the Browning between my knees, barrel straight up.

When I awoke, the sun was up and Roger was yelling for me. He hadn't seen me, nor I him. As sleep faded and the haziness turned to sharp focus, I saw them. Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands...

In the wee hours of that morning, some kind of spider invasion had happened while I slept. Garden spiders were everywhere, as far as I could see. They were on my boots; my pants; a web was under construction between the cottonwood and my gun barrel. Above my head.

I jumped up, dropped the Browning, and brushed my clothes. No, I beat my clothes as if I were on fire while screaming like a schoolgirl.

When I was sure that I was not about to die from spider poison, and that arachnids had not taken residence in my hair or laid eggs in my inner ears, I stopped to evaluate.

Vest, gone. Stripped when I realized I was not on fire and that it had lots of pockets.

Jacket, gone. Again, pockets.

Hat, gone. I used it for a while to beat the spiders to death. Lost it while running and screaming like a schoolgirl.


Dang... it was still in the twilight zone.... on the ground.... Dad would not be pleased.

It took a few minutes to gather my wits and return to the meadow and retrieve my hunting clothes and gun. Carefully, I picked up a dead tree limb to use in defense against the marauding spiders. A very long tree limb.

Eventually I gathered my clothes and my gun, and met Roger under the tree. He had heard me screaming, but did not see the garden of spiders. I don't think he believed me, either.
We hunted the rest of the morning, but I never saw a squirrel.

I was too busy looking toward the ground.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You and Me

"Cold" just wasn't a strong enough word.

I had been in the stand since well before first light; first, stumbling through thick briers and underbrush before walking in circles looking for the blaze orange strip of plastic that led to my stand.

Ten degrees was the readout on the thermometer when Dad and I left camp, but another front was crawling through, dropping the temp toward zero along with a heavy, wet snow.

My stand was high in a dead oak tree, still strong, despite years of decay and rot. The wind rocked the stand a little, but that was not so bad. I couldn't help, though, but wonder about the weight of the snow now piling up on my stand, the limb on which my stand sat, my gear, and on me.

By eight-fifteen, there was about two inches of snow on the limb where my rifle rested; the overcast skies above heavy with snow yet to fall. The ends of my soda can were bulging with the expanding pressure of frozen Diet Coke trapped inside. I had tried to take a drink earlier, but I couldn't pull the tab because I could not feel my finger tips. So it was sitting on the stand, the lone item that was not hidden in camouflage or blaze orange.

By nine o'clock, I mostly held my head down so the snow would not fall behind my glasses and get into my eyes. My runny nose would run down the tip, but would not drop; it froze in the hairs on my upper lip. From time to time, I had to wipe it off. I never understood why it would freeze, when I was breathing out warm air through my nose. I guess some things aren't meant to be understood.

I was careful to look around, always watching for the deer that we had come to find. While some hunt for sport, some for trophies or recognition, we hunted for food. Not that any other reason is bad, the reasons are just different. When you hunt for food for the table, you go out earlier, stay out longer, and come back later than most.

But on days like today, the deer tend to find a dry spot in coverage and bed down, wait it out. The hairs on the outer coats are hollow, and hold warm air as insulation from harsh winter weather. They can be found covered in snow, bedded down, quite comfortable.

I voted to bed down myself. I had lost the feeling in my feet hours ago, and I could feel my sinuses about to drain down the back of my throat, causing a coughing fit that would render my wait in the stand worthless.

With great effort, I stood as quietly as possible. Dad was still in the woods somewhere, and I didn't want to ruin his hunt with my noise. Just as I stood, I heard a crash at the base of the oak. I looked over carefully, hoping to see the buck I have worked so hard to harvest, but instead saw the Diet Coke can on its side, spewing its contents all over the underbrush. I knocked it off when I stood.

I carefully lowered my rifle and my backpack by rope; then climbed painfully down the seventeen ladder steps to the snow-covered ground.

When it is cold like that, and still, and overcast, the sound of the snow falling is fascinating. Nowhere else in nature is found that muffled sound of a heavy snowfall in the hardwoods. Occasionally, you hear the limbs shift under the weight, and some old dried leaves will rattle, but mostly you hear.... you hear.... the sound of nothing.

I walked out of the woods to the ancient logging road that wound through the hardwoods, up to the pine thicket, then to the edge of the bean field where we were camped. The remains of the morning fire were still smoldering; probably the only thing that could survive the cold snow was fire.

As I approached, I saw my Dad's Remington 742 leaning against the camper, and I was glad to see it. It was never a good thing to be the first one back to camp on a tough day, so at least I wouldn't have to live with that. Not today, anyway.

As I opened the door, I saw my Dad standing there, making sandwiches.

"You a quitter?", joked my Dad, knowing that he had quit first.

"Yep, I'm a quitter... just like you", I replied, knowing we would be back in the woods in just a little while.

"You know," my Dad said "there are only two kinds of people who would hunt in weather like this."
"Really?", I said, knowing I was about to gain some of my Dad's quirky wisdom.

"Yup. You and me."

I was a sophomore in high school that winter we camped along the edge of the state park in West Tennessee. It had been a difficult time; my older sister in college, Dad's work not going well; me growing too big for my britches as sophomore boys will do. But how I cherished those words "You and me". How I cherish them even more now that Dad is gone.

I wanted something hot for lunch, to warm me on the inside. I looked through the groceries we had brought, but didn't see anything that we could whip up in a hurry. So, Dad walked out into the snow with a cast-iron skillet, set it on the fire, and dropped a hunk of butter in to grease the pan. When the butter was sizzling, he dropped two peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the skillet. The bread soaked up the butter and quickly began to sear the bread. He flipped them over, repeating the process for the second side.

I cannot tell you how tantalizingly wonderful that sandwich smelled! The warmth of the fire, the toasty bread and melting peanut butter... oh, I cannot tell you the wonderful flavors we enjoyed! They were so good, Dad made us two more, and cooked them on the fire, just to make sure the first was not a mistake.

And as good as the sandwiches were, they could not compare to the warmth of the camaraderie we shared around the fire. Even at night, sleeping inside the frosty camper, we talked well past talking time. We talked about work; about school; about life. Something special was happening to us at camp, and it started with the fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And it never really ended until my Dad went to his eternal home last Easter.

You and me. These are powerful words.

And I have tried to fry those peanut butter and banana sandwiches a few times since then.

They are awful.

Some things aren't meant to be understood.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Speaking in Tongues

I have always known my father to be a caring, loving father. But I forgotten how "holy" he was until recently when I was walking through some old memories of my dad when I was a young pup of 9 or 10.

One specific remembrance comes to mind of a sweltering southern summer morning when we wanted to go to the River. Now, the River is not necessarily a holy place, but we spent a lot of time there, and when we weren't there, we were thinking about being there.

On this particular day, we needed bait so we could bait our lines stretched across the muddy unknown bottom of the River. We stopped at a deep drainage ditch, full of the previous night's rainfall. The ditch was about three and a half feet wide, and the spot we were working was about six feet long. The water was probably only two feet deep, but at that time, that was deep water to me.

We were seining that little stretch of water for crawdads. Catfish love crawdads, and plus, they were free, if we could catch 'em in our seine. Those little devils are fast.

Dad stood on one end, his work pants rolled up to his knees revealing pasty white legs and bare feet. I stood opposite my dad, wearing denim shorts and a shirt my mom had warned me to not get dirty. The Tennessee clay oozed between my toes, triggering all kinds of fight or flight responses in my kiddish mind.

The job was simple, really. Hold the net to the bottom of the ditch, and across to both sides, creating a trap from which the crawdads could not escape. And while holding the net tight in those three dimensions, I would walk the net- and the bait- towards my dad. I had to keep the net on the bottom, and against both sides of the ditch. In my good shirt. Barefoot. And those little suckers are fast.

Dad was in a bit of a hurry, because it took some time to bait all the lines, wait for the fish, and then run the lines to gather the fish. Back then, he could get impatient really quickly.

I was not in much of a hurry, due to the shirt and bare feet mentioned above. And again, those little suckers are fast.

I think I had fallen two or three times and wasted ten minutes, with nothing to show for my effort (not even a clean shirt) when I heard my dad really get in the spirit- he raised is hands to the air, looked into the heavens, and let fly with a long string of words unknown to my ears that signified one thing- daddy was speaking in tongues!

My dad put on a verbal display of spirituality that would make a charismatic blush with envy. His voice was as strong as any preacher, unknown words flowing like milk and honey. And while I didn't understand the words, I wondered if the expression on his face was what Moses looked like when he came down from the mountain to find all the golden idols his people had made in his absence.

Suddenly fearing that my dad was about to call down fire from heaven, I made well sure I got my sticks in the muddy bottom, my net across both sides, and with a mighty rush we must have wiped out two full generations of crawdads in one fell swoop.

We hurriedly got our gear back in the truck, and with our hard-earned bait, we fished until well after dark.

We never spoke of that day again, but one question has always lingered.....

Who was the interpreter?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joy in the Morning

The following tale is one that may lead many to exorcise the mental images to follow. Be warned; be ware.

This morning found me running a little late; therefore I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard the rap on the restroom door.

"Who is it?", I asked...

"It's me, Madilyn" came the cheerful, almost giddy response. "Oh, great", I thought, as I stood there wearing only a towel and a mouthful of toothbrush.

"Just a minute", I yelled, as I quickly toweled off so I could slip into the clothes that nobody but me sees; the clothes I wear under the clothes that I wear that everybody sees.

"Whaddya need, Sweet Pea?" I asked through the final rinse of Colgate toothpaste. "I just need a hug, Daddy", she sang. "I need a Daddy hug before I go to school".

While my heart melted and I slipped on my clothes, I heard her say "I'll just give you a hug through the door", and she proceeded to hug me in her mind, complete with the soothing sweet sounds of a 10-year-old's gi-normous hug.

Now that just would not do. Still a little damp and barely clothed, I opened the door to see her standing there, with her arms crossed and eyes closed, hugging me in her mind. She wore a smile that could outshine the Milky Way galaxy on a sunny day.

Now with my heart full, I gave her the biggest hug I could, and sent her off, smiling the joyful smile of a contented little girl.

Have you ever seen another person's expression when they hug you and they don't know you can see their face? Their expression tells the true story. In my sweet girl's opinion, it was better for her to hug me in her mind than to go without. Now it wasn't a fake or pretend hug, either. It was all or nothing, open for all the world to see. And I was privileged to get a rare glimpse of the joy my little one gets from loving, and being loved, by me.

The way I was dressed, it's good that her eyes were closed. My eyes, however, have been opened.

Love you, Mads.

Life is Good!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Birthdays, Memories, and Hope

I am sitting at the kitchen counter while two tattooed and frizzled gentlemen deodorize, sanitize, sporicide, and otherwise clean my carpets. The chemical smell has done wonders for my sinuses, and the noise is frightening. Their constant coughing leads me to believe that I may be better off with all the scary microbes living in my carpets.

I have a while before I can go into the living room (or the bedroom or the bathroom), and my mind wanders to the calendar for the weekend. I see it again, and it only amazes, excites, and depresses me all at the same time- our son's birthday is in two days. Nineteen? Who'd ever believe that a kid who played with a tazer in his college dorm or who built a potato gun that runs on hair spray or who wears a rainbow clown wig on his FaceBook status photo is that old.

Our son is a freshman in college, and for the first time in his life, will celebrate without his family. We are involved in a new church start in our community, and are deeply committed to its development. The drive time to his campus is over 10 hours one way; not bad, but requires three days for a visit. There are many more excuses, but they really sound weak when I think of them. Of course, he could come home, but then again- the trip requires three days, and he only has two days between classes on the weekend.

Of this I am sure- he will fare far better than his parents and his little sister. He is active on his campus, in the local church, and every now and then takes a little time to study. He has made new friends, and will find plenty to help him celebrate.

We will celebrate here, without him. We are planning to barbecue a pork shoulder; my beautiful wife is baking, and we have tickets to Mamma Mia (final night!). It should be a whale of a wing-ding....

But still, I miss that little boy who used to ride on my foot; who threw up in my shirt pocket on my way to the pulpit to start the church service; who wrecked his bike and spent time in the ER to sew up his beautiful face. I even miss the kid who always needed money, who bought weird stuff with it, and then stuck it in his closet never to be seen again.

Those memories and thousands more are locked safely away safely in my heart where my memory cannot lose them. There, they are safe; they are mine.

I have so much confidence in him! Our son is a people person; an influencer of people with a beautiful personality and a crooked smile (see bike wreck above). He offers so much- and with that, he gives me hope. Hope for a successful college career; hope for beautiful daughter-in-law and grandkids; hope that I won't have to repay his college loans.

And while we might miss a birthday or two while he is in college, we look forward to the man he will become; no, the man he is becoming.......

If he stays away from college geeks with tazers.

Love you, son.

These chemicals are sure hard on my tear ducts......

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Power of A Worshipper

I am a huge fan of believers acting like believers. We don't always.... I admit it. I am especially jazzed when believers act like believers in times designated for believers to express their beliefs. I have always believed, and am more convinced now, that times of private worship often inspire God to do some, uh, well, "supernatural" things.

Now, I am a huge fan of corporate worship, so don't misunderstand.... but I am sure that our private worship sets the foundation for our corporate worship, as a family of believers, at whatever House of God we choose to worship. And the power of a worshipper is... well, ... powerful.

This article is, to me, evidence that supports my theory of the power of a worshipper.... enjoy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For Better or Worse

During the final months of my Dad's battle with cancer, I tried to visit as often as possible. It was on one of those visits where I witnessed one of the most moving acts of selflessness and love I have ever seen.

I am proud to have an Uncle (who shall remain nameless; even though all my family will immediately know to whom I refer, I did not ask his permission to share this tale, and so anonymity will be enforced).

Growing up in West Tennessee in the '70's, my family didn't take many trips, but we did visit family. There was lots of family to visit, and we had such great fun! We often visited an aunt and uncle and cousins in the next town North of ours, where we shared watermelon, cantaloupe, and heated games of Rook and Dominos.

My uncle and aunt, as many spouses do, had some difficult years early on, including a time of separation. But once reconciliation was reached, they were reunited and our frequent visits continued.

As time passed, and we grew up and moved away, my aunt began to lose the strength of her health, and has now required the constant care of a caregiver for quite some time. My uncle and hischildren (my cousins), all take turns with compassion and great patience to care for her many needs. Feeding, bathing, cleaning, this once vibrant lady has become a choice, not a chore. Loving hands care for her needs; a gentle voice maintains a single-sided conversation when she is not able to speak. Great pains and an even greater amount of time and compassion are required to meet her needs.

And my uncle is no spring chicken, himself. We had become concerned with his own health while lovingly caring for his bride. My dad had even spoken with him about placing her in a home where she could receive round-the-clock care. It seemed evident that it was time to relinquish that amount of care to the professionals at the nursing home, and to give my uncle some rest.

So, eventually, the decision was made to place my aunt in a nursing facility nearby. A visit was made, paperwork completed, and a room secured.

Yet the compassionate heart of my uncle for his bride made him reluctant to complete the deal. His head told him it was best; his heart said no.

While I was "working the road" with my dad one hot summer afternoon, my uncle drove up. He bounded out of his car, and with a grin as wide as the Tennessee border, told us he had made a decision about his wife.

Dad was glad that she was going where she could receive care she needed, and his brother could rest from all that work.

I will forever remember the words my uncle spoke that afternoon: "I have decided that she will stay at home. I called the nursing home and put the whole deal on hold. She doesn't want to go, and realized that I don't mind the time and work it takes to take care of her.

She is staying with me, and I can't be more proud of my decision".

Still today, my uncle cares for his bride. Daily, often hourly changes of clothing and bedding; one-sided conversations about this and that; and a stubborn commitment to "for better or worse".

That situation still may, in the future, necessitate a move to the nursing home. But my uncle can always say that he has done all he could to care for his wife. He took no short cuts, no conveniences on his behalf.

And while my aunt may not know of his commitment on this side of eternity, I see it.

I see it.

Thanks, Uncle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Not Your Fault!

While watching a late-night movie version of a Tom Clancy novel, I happened to notice that TMC runs commercials every 7 minutes. Being a late-night movie, rates are lower, and you can see a lot of interesting things advertised that can't afford prime-time rates, every seven minutes. One particular ad caught my eye- and my ire.

A young lady was advertising her credit counseling business, and her tag line, spouted 6 times in her 29 second epic, is "It's Not Your Fault!". Over and again, she tried to sell us poor insomniacs on the idea that our financial situation is not our fault- the blame lies somewhere else- the economy; our bosses; the government.

While I will agree that the downturn in our current economy has wreaked all kinds of wickedness on all kinds of good people, the honest truth is, we are responsible for our own financial, social, economic, physical, and spiritual situation. That's right- as Jimmy Buffet sings, "it might be my fault..".

Let's be frank. We must train our children, our neighbor's children and our community's children to prepare for their own futures. We have lost the importance of spending less than we make; of saving for a rainy day; and planning for our lives and our children's lives. As a matter of fact, I am really weary of our government telling us that we deserve all that... and the government will provide it for us! Have we forgotten where the government gets its money? Have we become that lazy and arrogant? Say it ain't so!

No matter how success is defined, there are no entitlements to it. Some good folks work really hard to scratch out a meager living; others use gifts and talents and skills to earn more than they can realistically use. Either way, they have earned it. It is theirs.

The rub comes in planning for the proverbial rainy day; and it will come. And rainy days are not the fault of the previous administration in the White House; neither are they the result of poor planning in the fiscal meteorology department at the pentagon. And neither are we entitled to having someone reimburse us for the rain.

Sometimes, it just rains. Things break. Prices go up. People get sick. Businesses scale down. It happens; and it is our responsibility to plan ahead for those unthinkable events. If we do not plan for those times-

It is our fault.

Hard decisions are required to plan for those times we hope never come. And we are not entitled to never needing to make a hard decision.

So lady, while your ad costs less than most, in at least one instance, your message did not pass the truth test. I know because I am certified in the scraping by, making hard decision departments. And that is my own fault.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

I think that is a great song title, from a great songwriter. Jimmy Buffet has always been a favorite, although I couldn't admit it until later in life. What a shame...

The title is quite descriptive of my life at the moment. I am faced with opportunities to make some changes in my ministry assignment here in Tulsa. Changes in attitude and latitude are certainly required.

For several months, we have been discussing and planning beginning a satellite campus in the community in which my family and I live. The campus, called, The Springs, will meet in a school that my kids have attended. The prospects for a new church work in our community is almost endless- 18,000 people have no connection with a church of any kind. There has not been a new church in Sand Springs for almost 20 years. And it is obvious to us that God is leading us to do this. I have been, and still am, very excited about it! I have been allowed to help plan staffing, technology, administration, all the way from top to bottom. Only a few variables remain, one of them being....

The Springs needs a Campus Pastor.

As I said, I have been very excited about this work for a long time. If our plans continue to track the way they are now, in a few weeks, I will be named one of the Campus Pastors for The Springs. I will begin as Worship Leader, working to assure excellence in music, technology, video, and volunteer training. For the first three months, one of my favorite fellow staff members will serve as Launch Pastor, freeing me to handle the physical and practical aspects of a new church start. This will bring about quite significant change for me- not only in "attitude" but "lattitude" as well. I will keep many of my current responsibilities, and give up some of my current responsibilities (some I absolutely LOVE!), to be replaced with things I am called to do, and am excited about doing.

Some think I am crazy; some think I have lost my mind. Quite the contrary, I believe this is part of God's plan for me, and I have lost nothing. In fact, I am finding the whole prospect terrifyingly comforting. I encourage you to pray for me as I pull a Jimmy Buffet; keep the whole project on your hearts and on your list.

Life is indeed Good!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rhythm of the Night

It's late.

A bit past midnight in the middle of the workweek, and my mind cannot find that place of calm and quiet that allows my brain to signal my eyes that they are sleepy. I have worked in the kitchen, folded towels, contemplated changing my status in FaceBook a hundred times. I would vacuum, but that comes with its own set of family relationship issues...... since they are asleep....

The television is on, yet nothing of value is on the television. So I powered down the TV as well as the 921 channels designed for never-ending education and entertainment. What a waste...

That's when I really notice it.

A slight, gentle breeze is blowing through the windchimes on the back deck; very slight, but audible when I am quiet. The cicadas have a rhythm all their own; that odd clicking sound that was the basis of the alien communication in Signs is captivating, and more than slightly distracting.

I notice the crickets that make their homes beneath the redwood deck on our back patio as they call to one another. They have a very steady, irritating pattern of vibrations that make me want to rip my ears off; instead, I choose to remain silent and enjoy the concert.

The dogs in the neighborhood have a standing meeting every night about this time. A few neighborhood puppies gather at the house across the side street to convene a high-level political meeting with two neighbor dogs, held captive behind a beautiful fence. The dogs are either hard of hearing, or passionate about their politics; they are very loud. However, they have no stamina, and disband after just a few minutes.

Suddenly, the crickets stop singing. Just for a moment, the silence of the dark is a welcome change. Soon enough, however, they take up the unconscious and persistent chirping; designed into their DNA from the beginning of creation. Crickets doing what crickets do.

I hear my daughter as she breathes a gentle sigh in her sleep; the sigh of a little girl, content, deep in slumber.

In the quiet of this night, I can also clearly see and review conversations, meetings, email, tweets, and FaceBook postings of this day. Why did I say that? What does she mean when she said my FaceBook photo is not flattering? Why didn't I say that? Why do you think I owe you an explanation for our parking plan at our satellite church? On and on, I recall the people of the day; the joy of being with our fantastic praise team; profound sadness at the unexpected and unexplained loss of a friend.

Rather than asking again for the hundredth time, "Why?", I think I will invest in the quiet by "thanking God upon every remembrance of you"; by seeing your face in my mind and cherishing our relationship; by interrupting the quiet with whispered words of praise and thanksgiving to a Mighty God for blessings beyond imagination; words that confess my ineptitude and selfishness; quiet songs of worship.

I will join the rhythm of the night, adding my own sounds, as I think about you. About me. About God.

Just me doing what I do; worshipping the Beautiful Father. And soon enough, I'm sure my eyes will fall heavy with the need for sleep, and I will rest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good Stuff from my friend Marty Stubblefield

Today's Great Day Addendum

80/20 Rule

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no

deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is

without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish

you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical

needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not

accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17 NIV

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve Tweeted on Twitter about it. Shared my frustration about it, even heard it

mentioned in a Sunday Morning Small Group.

It started one day at lunch when I stood in line at the local McFast Food restaurant and noticed that though my line was

6 or 7 people deep there was only one lady working the front counter. She feverishly worked the line as folks hemmed

and hawed about what they wanted to order while other McDoodle employees were off to the side laughing and joking

almost to the point of obnoxious.

Now, I’m all abut having fun at work… but I’m even more about getting the job done… taking care of the customer…

and meeting and exceeding the expectations of that customer. I guess it comes from my 22 years in the service industry.

Now, as the 7th person back in the fast food line, I found myself getting more and more frustrated as I watched the one

counter worker doing her best… saw the drive-thru girl hustling to get food out the window… and counted 8 in the

laughing and joking not doing nothing… I even made eye contact with a number of the loafers, but still nothing.

Finally, I ordered… got my drink cup… and waited on my food… and thanked the young lady for hustling like she was

and wondered aloud about her lack of help (loud enough for someone to hear me I’m sure)…Her eyes rolled and a smile

came upon her face when finally one of the 8 broke away from the pack to ask, “May I help the next guest”

And the party on the food line slowly broke up… Some going back to the grill area… some to the lobby area… and I shook

my head in disbelief as some went outside for a smoke break.

The 80/20 Rule: Where 20% of the people do 80% of the work… and vice versa.

We can see this played out live in my McFly experience… but we can also see it live and in person in most any local church

where 80% of what needs to be done is done by 20% of the church…

Over the past week I’ve tweeted and wondered aloud… where are the 80%? Not just at the fast food restaurant… but at the

church as well.

Now, let’s make one thing clear. Whether we choose to get involved or not… work in the church or not… volunteer for a

project or not… play in the band or sing with the Praise Team or not…come to the service, sit on your hands and leave or

not… in no way affects our salvation. Salvation is a free gift of grace from God. We can’t earn it… we can’t work to get it or

more of it. It is what it is: God’s gift of His Son for us.

That being said… Where are the 80%?

Where are the others who can make the line go faster?

Where are the Sunday School workers?

Where are the Infant sitters?

Where are the visitors of the sick?

Where is the set up and tear down crew?

Where is the car parking crew?

Where are the prayer warriors?

Where are the volunteers?

It always seems to be the same 20 doing what would be so much easier, better, stronger, more effective, more efficient, more

purposeful, more people reached for Christ if the other 80 volunteered their gifts and talents as well.

Our expectation seems to be that we give the pastor our thoughts and ideas and expect him (or he and his team) to go do it.

We expect to be entertained. We go to worship on Sunday and leave it behind until next Sunday.

“But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” – James 2:18-20 NIV

All I’m saying is this… It’s time to get out of the pew and do something… Do anything… Do something… Put your faith to

work. See what needs to be done… and go do it.

Keep the Faith… Carpe Diem

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Sunday, July 19, 2009


I met John this evening.

John was sitting on a bench, just outside the entrance to our church. He was crying; head held in both hands, shoulders slumped beneath the weight of the burdens he carried. John wore a long ponytail, solid black and flowing down his back. His high cheekbones, strong nose and dark red skin revealed his Native-American heritage. Full-blooded Kiowa, John's life was headed down a path familiar to those with money and too much time on their hands.

John is an addict.

The needle marks in his arms, the raw membranes inside his nostrils, and stubby, rotten teeth betrayed his years of drug use and abuse. John was running for his life. Actually, John was running toward life, and away from the life that had stolen his lucrative construction company, his friends, and his family.

John has had enough of that life. He boarded a bus in another city, and rode to Tulsa, where he has only 1 friend, and his friend is not a drug user. His friend is an alcoholic, and he offered John a case of beer and a place to stay.

After consuming 9 beers, John realized that this was not the path to the life he had envisioned for himself. He walked away from the home of his alcoholic friend, and walked back to the bus station, then across to our church.

John was sitting there for me to find. Tired from a long day, I thought I just could not deal with another drifter looking for cash for a bus ticket that would instead be used for his next fix. But John was different. John didn't want money; he wanted help.

John had lots of cash on him, so he didn't need money. John was one of the few who was genuine in his desire for rehabilitation. He seemed so, anyway; but then again, after 9 beers, who can really tell....

I called a friend who was still at church who leads our community ministries. And together, we spoke little, listened a lot, and helped John get to a place where he could find the healing and help he needs.

Tonight, John has a warm bed in a safe place, far removed from the drugs his body craves. Tomorrow morning, John will be introduced to a drug counselor, and to the first steps of the battle to reclaim the life he once knew. He will also be introduced to our Heavenly Father. And I pray that the Great Physician will heal John's body, his mind, and his spirit so that when John has completed rehab, not only will he be free of his personal demons, but spiritual demons as well.

John, I'm with ya, man.....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The President's Teleprompter

A lot has been said about the failure of President Obama's TelePrompTer at a recent event where he was speaking. Too much, in fact. However, I think this image says it all....



Sorry, friends....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sea of Galilee

While I am editing video in my office, I often turn to other tasks to while away the time. Today I read an article in World Magazine that brought to mind beautiful memories of a recent trip to Armenia and Israel; specifically the Sea of Galilee. (

I was taken back by the simple beauty of the region; being there helped make the the stories of scripture seem real, seem possible. Standing on the shore; by the home of Peter's mother-in-law (Why did Peter deny Jesus? Because Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law... as told by our guide); at the foot of the hillside where Jesus taught so many.

It is a place of peace. Don't misunderstand- areas nearby are overtly commercialized- but the beauty of the gardens and the sea is unforgettable.

I wish I could remember the scriptures He taught as clearly as I remember the breeze off the sea. I wish I could see my sin as easily as I see in my mind's eye the figure of Jesus, at the bottom of the same hill where I am standing, teaching hundreds and hundreds about love and forgiveness.

My video is complete- back to work. But I retain vivid memories of the beauty of the Sea of Galilee, as well as what I have learned from Jesus who taught there two thousand years ago.

Life is Good!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Death and Celebrity

Scott McClellan posted an interesting blog entry regarding the current social-celebrity worship taking place across the country.....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lock Your Doors, but Open Your Hearts

It appears that our government is poised to introduce the largest tax increase in history, while in the midst of the most tumultuous economic times since the Great Depression. Energy costs will skyrocket, jobs will be lost, and the economy will stagger under the weight of it all. Change you can believe in....?

Now I don't blame our government for all social and financial problems; just for recklessly making these difficult times much more difficult. However, in our culture, severe economic times may very well result in an increase in petty crimes- theft, burglary, and the like. Struggling families, desperate to provide for their children, may take terrible risks in order to continue to meet their families' needs. And some, who are already prone to those illegal and dangerous activities, will be more bold in their arrogance and lack of respect for others.

We would be prudent to take extra precaution to protect our families and possessions. Be aware of those around you, both at work and at home. Lock your doors, develop an awareness of those around you, and be ready at all times to defend and protect your families.

While doing that, we must also prioritize the biblical mandate to share what we have with those who have less. Find a food bank, a shelter, or some other ministry, and get involved. When you shop for your family, buy an extra can of veggies, some soap, toothpaste, or other item to donate. While shopping for school clothes, by extra socks or jeans to donate to agencies that provide for families who are struggling.

These times will be difficult for all of us. But we can still share. If we all join in God's plan for providing for those without, we are, in effect, protecting what we still value: our families, our possessions, and our heritage.

Just my opinion....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Our Own Image

In a Bible study tonight, my mind and heart were slammed into reality as we considered the historical Jesus. We spoke about His genealogy, his lineage, and his backstory. And we were challenged with this thought....

Based on historical research and study, Jesus was probably short in height, with thick, dark hair and a ruddy middle-eastern complexion.

For generations, we (in the West) have imagined Jesus as a tall Caucasian, with a strong Roman nose, high forehead, and flowing auburn locks.

Based on our lack of understanding of Jewish culture and history, it almost seems we have, in actuality, created a god in our own image.....

Just a thought...

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Not Who You Know....

As a 45-year-old white male, yesterday was just a tough day for the part of me that still relishes my '70's childhood.  For me, growing up in the '70's was not like That '70's Show, all trash and no substance, but safe, wholesome accountability and responsibility.  Even as a child.  

I knew Michael Jackson was older than me by a few years.  Growing up, I watched him sing with his brothers on variety shows.  I sang along with the small 45 rpm records (you remember those... don't you?).  I just knew the Jackson 5 would rule the music world together.

While listening to the Jackson 5 on my turntable, I could gaze longingly at the poster tacked to the back of the door in my room.  Farrah was there when I went to sleep, and when I awoke each day.  Charlie's Angels was a weekly staple at our house that we would not miss.  The engaging smile, the hair... 

ahem, back on topic...

I was really sad when Farrah left the show after only 1 year.  I was really sad when the Jackson 5 turned into the Jacksons; then Michael started on his own.  I will never forget Michael Jackson's appearance on the skyrocketing Oprah show, where she showed clip after clip after weeping clip of adoring fans crying just to see the King of Pop on stage.  I will never forget how my spirit nudged my heart to reveal that that behavior is a lot like worship.  

Over time the two careers took similar paths to wackiness.  Nonetheless, over the last several years, Farrah worked really hard to evolve into the life of a passionate, fiercely loyal and hard-working survivor of a devastating form of cancer.  Farrah documented her life in recent years, revealing to the world the stress of her struggle.  

Michael could not stop himself from falling headlong into the weirdest forms of controversy; the dangling baby, the child abuse cases, his Neverland bankruptcy.  He was just weird.  

Deep in tax and financial trouble, Michael mounted a feeble effort at a comeback career; most would give him a pass on sub-par material just to see him work again.  But he'll never have that opportunity.

Yesterday, both Farrah and Michael died.  Their brains, hearts, all internal and external organs ceased to function.  They are no longer a reality of this life.  Their reality is now with the Creator, the Eternal Heavenly Father.  

As a 45-year-old white male, I am forced to re-examine my faith, its foundations, and its future. Someday, it will be my turn to have a write-up in the newspaper about my death.  My eternal destination is set because of Who I know.  

Now that I think about it, that is not quite right;  my eternal destination is set because of Who knows me.

I am working on the headlines right now, every day, as I live a life worthy of my calling in Christ Jesus..

Life is Good!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What a Great Day!

I am so blessed!

I have written about my family in previous posts, and many of you must be weary of the bragging contained in those posts. This is another one.

This morning I awoke and headed off to church before the family was awake. Early church does have its drawbacks....

Following two fantastic services, I received a phone call from my beautiful wife. I missed the call, but returned it on the drive home. My 18-year-old son answered in the voice of a waiter at a Mexican restaurant.... but that's another story....

I arrived at the Barron family compound to find a hot meal almost ready to eat, complete with our celebratory plate, from which the honoree is required to eat. Burgers, Nathan's franks, corn on the cob, baked beans, home-made sweet potato fries- all hot and almost ready to eat.

In our family, we open cards just before the meal. And in our family, cards are both art and science, researched, studied, and prayed over. Time is spent to find the perfect cards, and this holiday was no different. I just wish I could share them with you- but you wouldn't understand the humor of my family. After a the cards and a few minutes of final preparation, the meal was served- and it was fantastic!

I helped clear the table, which is a no-no on Father's Day, but I wanted to help. Then we napped- almost all afternoon!

Wonderful leftovers served as our supper, then- off to the lake for some late-evening fishing. Today was a little better than yesterday- we landed four nice bass, while enjoying our family outing together.

Now it is late, and everyone is in bed. I just had to share my thankfulness for my family. So many are not blessed in the ways my family is blessed- others have money, possessions, power and status; I have my wife and kids. And I wouldn't trade for anything.

I am so blessed!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Father's Day

Father's Day is this weekend.

This is my second Father's Day without my own father.  Dad died from complications from brain cancer last year.  The heavy pain from our loss lingers; the sting now is not so deep.

With a year to think about fathers, children, life, and legacy, all I can come up with is this... that our role as parents is really to model to our children, how to live.  Yes, we work, we provide, we navigate... but we should do it all for the benefit of our children.  

Those of us who are followers of Christ will tend to submerge our children in the culture of the Church.  But there is more to it than just that.  There is that part of scripture that teaches us to take our love for Christ and spread it around outside the four walls of the church, into our communities, our workplaces, our ball fields, everywhere.  To submerge our kids in the culture of Christ- and Dad was good at that.  Loving, serving, working; in plain view of and for the benefit of the Kingdom, and for his children.

Thanks, Dad, for the example.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shrinking the City?

The idea of shrinkage is a popular one in my house.  Shrinking our expenses, shrinking my waistline, shrinking the size of the yard we have to maintain.  However, this idea of shrinking major metropolitan cities is interesting and concerning....

I need to learn more about this- but what do you say?  Click the link below or copy the link into your web browser and review an interesting Cal Thomas article found in World Magazine Online and respond with your thoughts!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Technology can be a good thing, when it serves our needs.  Technology often decides to serve its own, and then frustrate the heck out of its human masters.

This morning, technology worked well as we spoke- live, via internet- with some friends working in Southeast Asia.  They have a travel agency there, and are recruiting Americans to go to his country for a visit.  They have been somewhat successful, in that his location is beautiful, the people friendly.  Another family from Tulsa has moved there to work for him in his business.  It is a beautiful place!

They are fun people, beautiful inside and out.  They love the native people of the island on which they live, and have been immersing themselves in the local culture.  The food, the dialects of the language, the social life- all strange to westerners, but our friends have sacrificed lives of ease and luxury here in order to work there.  And to bring a little Love to the people of the islands. 

What have I sacrificed today?

Friday, June 12, 2009


I recently participated in a concert tour of the middle east.  In a major newspaper in the capital city of Yerevan, Armenia, our group was called, "dangerous".  

At the time, we had a good laugh about that.  We knew that a group of country boys from Oklahoma held no threat of danger at all to the Armenian people.  We were simply singing songs, enjoying the atmosphere, and enjoying the people.  We had great fun!  And the food- oh, my.... being dangerous to the people of Armenia was never a thought in our minds.

After having some time to reflect on that trip, I no longer think that being called dangerous is humorous.  Actually, I am a little embarrassed now.  Think about it-  in that remote country, western culture is still strong, along with a prevailing European influence.  There, I am dangerous- dangerous as in representing a spiritual authority that challenges the local high priests and religious traditions.  Here, I am successful.  I am comfortable.  I am one of the priests and part of the religious tradition.  But I am not dangerous.

What's wrong with this picture?  Yes, our religious liberties are much more open and free in our American culture than Armenia.  Our traditions of religious freedom and the core beliefs of those freedoms go back to the founding of this nation.  It is easy to serve a church in our culture.  I get all that.  But I am no longer comfortable with the idea that our American culture has all the practical and spiritual answers for existing in and influencing a spiritual culture.  In fact, we are becoming more like Eastern European cultures that give influence to the "c"hurch, without giving enough concern to the "C"hurch.

My concern is this- what am I doing to make me spiritually dangerous in this religious culture?I don't think anyone would consider me to have any impact at all on the spiritual culture in America, Oklahoma, Tulsa, or even this church.  The bother of that leads me to some questions:

1) Should the religious culture be challenged to the point that I become known as dangerous?
2) To whom should I be a danger?
3) To whom should I not be a danger?
4) What amount of risk am I willing to take in becoming dangerous?
5) What are the consequences of becoming spiritually dangerous?
6) What are the benefits of becoming spiritually dangerous?
7) What does a spiritually dangerous person look like?

All questions to ponder and pray over while seeking guidance from the scriptures.  I don't want to be an "also-ran" Christian.... I want to be dangerous!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Question for Today...

You.  One word.  Today I'm.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kyle Busch is a Jerk

OK.  This is not the most Christ-like attitude, considering Jesus loves Kyle and died to cover his sin penalty.  As a person of faith, I must try to see Kyle the way Jesus sees Kyle.

So, let's say, Kyle acted like a jerk when he smashed a priceless, hand-crafted one-of-a-kind Gibson Les Paul guitar he received as a trophy for winning last weekend's Nationwide race in the great city of Nashville.  Yup, smashed it into, well, a few large pieces.  Mahogany doesn't smash like, say, fir or ash or maple.  Kyle grabbed the priceless trophy by the neck and slammed it down on the concrete at Victory Lane 3 or 4 times, right in front of car and race sponsors- the folks who paid for the guitar.  They turned and left in disgust.  I would have, too.

That behavior makes me want to, to... 

I don't want to say.  Jesus said to love all people.  

But they ought to ban his sorry tail from racing in Nashville in any vehicle- NASCAR, Nationwide, Craftsman,  ARCO, even souped-up lawnmowers.  The insult and immaturity and disrespect he demonstrated is unforgivable.  I had to tell my children that his behavior was unnecessary and unacceptable.  That sorry dog.

When Jeremy Mayfield was suspended indefinitely for testing positive for methamphetamine, he shamed and disrespected himself.  That is his to bear.  But Kyle Busch disrespected all the craftsmen who designed the treasured guitar, as well as disrespecting the city of Nashville, all of the race sponsors, all of NASCAR Nation and the best of its time-honored traditions.  

The next race Kyle should run should be the Gerber's 100, with the trophy of a big fat passifier for Busch and his crew.

Busch explained his tirade as an attempt to break the trophy into small pieces to share with his crew.  Phhhtt.  Have you ever seen an Oscar winner smash his award on the red carpet?  Have you ever seen an Emmy or a Tony award in pieces, shared across the mantles of a dozen fireplaces of staff members who helped a young starlet to fame?  Absurd.  More so the behavior of Kyle Busch.

Grow up, Kyle.  Grow up or get out.  You represent the worst in this or any sport.

All that said, Jesus still loves us despite our behavior.  Smashing guitars and all.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Children's Day Camp

I volunteered to work with children.

Without tainting my reputation as anti-children,  you need to know that I don't work with them very long.  About thirty minutes once a week.  I volunteered to lead our Day Camp Chapel services on Wednesdays.

Yup.  9:05ish to 9:35ish.  Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.  It depends on how the kids behave, on how prepared I am, and how long-winded I get.

Kindergartners through sixth-graders are in Chapel, and keeping everyone engaged is quite difficult.  But I am organized, prepared, and ready to go.

Why, you ask, would I volunteer for this ministry?

I volunteered because I knew there was a need for good worship and devotion time with these children.  A big percentage of these children do not attend church at all, anywhere.  This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to love on them and care for them, not to try to persuade them to believe what I believe, or to attend this church, or not even to get them to decide to believe in and follow Jesus.

This is an opportunity for me to love on some kids.  To give them a taste of what fun church can be. To practice letting God stretch me an areas where I need stretching.

Yes, I do hope they will come to our church.  I do pray that they will understand the love God has for all of us and give their little hearts to Jesus.  But I also hope they will know they are loved.

Let's face it-  I love Jesus.  I love kids.  I love to sing and talk about Jesus.

Day Camp- bring it on!

Monday, June 8, 2009

You Never Know

This morning I had the privilege of visiting some members of our church community who are in some of Tulsa's hospitals.  Our church is large (for a boy who grew up in the cotton fields an river bottoms of West Tennessee), and my ministry is rather specialized (media and music), so if you don't serve with me, I probably haven't met you yet.  Kinda sad....

Any way...

While walking through the maze of elevators and hallways that is St. Francis Hospital, I spotted one of our deacons, wearing shorts and a bermuda shirt, on his way to visit a friend and a co-worker.  We'll call him Jethro (not his real name).  Jethro, who I barely know, stopped me in the hallway to compliment my music leadership yesterday.  I used what grace I was taught in accepting compliments, and was very happy that the music meant something special to him.  

I went on my way, searching for obscure signs that lead visitors through the hallways, and ran into a couple from our church that I didn't know at all.  We'll call them Tony and Siva.  Tony and Siva were there to deliver flowers to church members, and to offer some fellowship and prayer for them.  They stopped me, even though they had never officially met me, to offer the same compliments as Jethro.  Again, I was as gracious as I could be in accepting their compliments.  

After thinking through those events, I have reached some conclusions that may help others in their own journeys....

1)  You never know how God can use a simple visit, gift, or prayer....

2)  You never know how your behavior and attitude can affect people in a positive way; it is not about me, anyway....

3)  You never know what impressions stay with people; never wear black socks with sandals, shorts, and a bermuda shirt.  It makes people wonder...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


From the time I was a young, optimistic teen, I have desperately tried to live my life so that as I faced the end of my earthly journey, I would have no regrets. Many times, that kind of determined, optimism is nearly impossible, resulting in just the opposite. Not accomplishing the goal of regretlessness may, indeed, lead to the biggest regrets of all.

Now that I am middle-aged, I have a much better perspective on my life, and I have more wisdom in planning and envisioning my life yet lived. And I begin to see regrets where I have never seen them before. I am experiencing that even today.

As a second-grade tow-head, I began to receive piano lessons. It was already obvious at that young age, that I would become neither scholar nor athlete. My determined mom wanted me to learn music. As a matter of fact, she was desperate for her children to learn to play piano.  No matter what happened in life, music could be a constant, permanent companion. That, and the fact that she never had piano lessons fueled her desire for her kids to learn to play. And so we did, even against our wishes. I spent many hours on the piano bench with my mom. Not with mom in the next room, nor even in the same room but another chair, but on the bench with me; a timer in one hand, a ruler in the other. The timer was so I would know when I had served my daily 30-minute sentence; you know what the ruler was for.  I often saw lessons as punishment;  in my mom's perspective, they were an investment.

Actually, I never really liked playing the piano. It was ok, but I could take it or leave it. Played some in high school in a rock band, but soon discovered there aren't many rock-and-roll pianists out there. I played some in college, even making piano performance my major for a semester. But I soon discovered how much easier it was to control one voice than eight fingers, two thumbs, two feet, and still turn the pages of my music. So I switched to vocal performance, and pretty much forgot about it.

About 6 or 7 years ago, it hit me.

I really fell in love with playing again. Serving as a Minister of Music in churches all my life, I have been around pianos, and worked with them every week. But again, my enthusiasm was underwhelming. And I can't really say what lit my fire for playing again; maybe I just woke up, or something inside my heart finally communicated with my head that playing was important to me. And I have enjoyed- no, been overjoyed- to have been able to play every week for the church I now serve. I love it!

I was fortunate here to meet and get to know a gentleman named Larry Dalton.  A concert pianist, a Steinway Artist, and a generally all-around, down-home good guy. Larry had a fantastic personality, and talent measuring off the charts.  A dedicated servant of Christ, Larry dedicated his life and his talents and skills to excellently performing his literature, all the while, recognizing the needs of those around him.  He toured more than 40 countries, and wrote and arranged for some of the biggest artists in music.  Yet he played our church a couple of times a year.  He travelled on mission trips, playing on everything from the greatest Steinway to junked-out pianos in storage basements. Larry was here just a few weekends ago, listening to our early band, and we had spoken about me taking lessons from him later in the summer.  He was scheduled to play here again in a few weeks for a fundraiser for a local women's shelter.

He was;  Larry died last weekend.

At a youthful 63, Larry's heart stopped beating while he was asleep.  As I write, I am editing video clips for use at his funeral and memorial services.  I see him from years ago, playing with the London Symphony.  In a church basement in Japan.  In our own worship center at a retirement celebration.  On television, offering worship music between interviews.  Larry developed his significant talent into skills beyond measure, and shared them with the world, while remembering the Savior whom he served.  

Um, yeah, back to the regrets.

Three regrets have been realized in the last few days:

  One, that as a college-aged adult, I did not take advantage of the gift my mom worked so hard to give me as a child.
  Two, that I did not know Larry Dalton better than I do.
  Three, that I do not have the resume of social and spiritual concern for the world as Larry did.

Each of those, I can change.  I am middle aged, and have learned to see a little better now.

Thank you, my friend.  For helping me avoid some regrets.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mission Trip to Armenia and Israel

Last month, 270 Oklahomans travelled to Northern Europe for a music missions trip. I sing in a group known as the Singing Men of Oklahoma. Through almost three years of planning, praying, and preparation, we had developed an itinerary that included singing for over a million people in one day, and celebrating Armenia's most sacred national holiday.

Our director, Dr. Bill Green, has led concert tours all over the world, including Russia, Australia, and China. He is no stranger to international travel and works extensively with a fantastic travel company that makes our travel easy.

I will confess that I had many conflicting emotions prior to this trip; my family had several important events ahead, including an outpatient surgery for Jane, several college visits and forms for Andrew, all to be done while I was away. And you know, 6000 miles is a long, long way from home. Jane's parents are older, and anything could happen to them.... and on and on. I thought of hundreds of reasons why I should not go; however, in the end, my commitment to the group and commitment to taking advantage of every opportunity for ministry the Lord provided outweighed my fear, and I signed on.

We worked for a year, learning songs in Armenian for use at their largest national celebration. We saved our pennies and asked our churches for funding for the trip. $4400 was the cost, not including extra spending money for snacks and souvenirs. We worked with a local pastor (we'll call him Moe) and a local humanitarian aid worker (we'll call her June) to assist us in language interpretation, concert opportunities, and general history and geography. We really became close to these two servants, and would come to respect their work even more as our time there progressed.

Our goals were simple; to share Christ through music; to show our support of the Armenian people in their memorial day celebration; and to support the evangelical churches in Armenia in their ministries. We could not have been prepared for the joys nor the challenges and frustrations of this project. We have all been welcomed everywhere in the world we have performed. We were not prepared for the rejection and the negative press we would receive. But more on that soon.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Back on Board

Following a short hiatus that includes two weeks out of the country, I have some new fodder for blogging. It will take a few days to digest my experiences, edit for family viewing, and write in a hopefully interesting and captivating fashion. This could take a while.

I have just returned from a two-week concert tour of Armenia and Israel. Stay tuned, fans, for a day-by-day description of my activities, feelings, and thoughts are soon to be posted.

I'm glad I remembered my login...

Blessings, friends, for


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Crisis of Credit

This is an interesting explanation of the current Credit Crisis.... It is long, but it is worth the time for those who want to understand the history of how we got where we are...

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Passed!

Every father knows that in the eyes of his children, he is different things at different times. Sometimes cool, sometimes ignorable, sometimes intolerable. And often, the father is tested by the behavior of kis kids. Sometimes the test is intentional, others, a surprise. Take last night, for instance....

On our way home from yet another fabulous basketball practice for my daughter's team, my sweet wife asked me if "Andrew has told me his news...".

(At that very moment, my panic response kicked in. It is a predictable response in me. It is that natural assumption, that conclusion jump that tells me my kids have done something horrible, or that they have done something not-so-horrible, but enough of something to embarass me.)

"What kind of news?" I asked. My sweet wife responded by saying that he would have to tell me on his own.

OK, so for the next hour, the back of my mind was filled with the most awful and terrible things that my son could have been involved with.... so fragile was my emotional state that I never noticed the calm and stable behaviour of my sweet wife.

Clue overlooked.

Finally at home, during a commercial in Wreckreation Nation, the Sweet One asked the Number One Son if he had told me his news....

He stood up and while he mumbled something about losing a bet, he brushed his beautiful long brown locks from around his red right ear to reveal...

Yep. An ear stud in the top of his ear.

Like taking a punch in the gut, I inhaled a quick breath, and while the blood drained from my head and my vision faded, I had to think quickly. How would I respond in such a way that would let him know of my eternal love for him, despite the unnatural piece of shiny shrapnel intentionally lodged in his ear that surely indicates that somewhere along the parenting line, something went horribly wrong?

In my eloquence, all I could say was. "boy, cover it back up."

That's it. I couldn't get angry, 'cause I love him too much. I couldn't scream, because Madilyn was sitting in my lap. And I didn't notice the Sweet One, again, cracking a huge grin over to my left....

Clue overlooked.

When I could breathe again, I said, "Andrew, you're 18 years old; you can do whatever you want with your ears, but I wouldn't hire you with that in there." (I thought that was notably eloquent, and particularly, wise.)

Andrew walked over to me, then said "Then I guess I should take it out." And he removed that silly plastic fake earstud and tossed in on the table. And he laughed a huge, beautiful, laugh, accompanied by the sweet, musical laughter of my wife and daughter. As the blood rushed back into my head, I realized I had been tested- even as a joke- and had passed. I found a way to squelch my usual judgmental and angry response, and, for the most part, remained calm. I passed!

My beautiful family laughed a lot about that ear stud.

I, too, will laugh someday, I'm sure...

Life is good!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Making an "all" of myself

The older I get, the more I realize I'm not all that. I am losing qualities and skills I once possessed in abundance- humility, grace, penmanship. And spelling.

In some on-line correspondences, I am forced to admit that my readers need translators to decipher what I write. Of course, I know what I intended to write; it should be obvious to everyone else what I wanted to say. Not so.

A perfect example occurred this morning. Stressful as Mondays go, with a meeting, a funeral, reports due, and two chapters of a book report due.... before 11:00 am. I found myself hurrying through the details of it all, not really excelling at anything.

Especially writing my reports.

Now, you have to understand that as I get older, and type faster, sometimes my brain outruns my fingers, sometimes resulting in some, well, odd words. I also get dyslexia digitalis, a condition in which the correct finger but on the wrong hand will push the keys to spell words. Usually this is quickly caught, either by my powerful skills of perception and observation, or by my spellchecker.

However, when you type the word "all" and encounter a sudden onset of dyslexia digitalis, it comes out as "ass".

Now this is where all my churchy friends get embarassed and aghast that I would reprint such a word here. Two things:
1) Balaam (in the Bible) had one, and
2) I tried 6 times to tell this story without using it, but it didn't make sense. Get over it.

Anyhow, when you spellcheck that, it obviously sails through without a problem. The problem arises when I submitted that mistake on a report- to my pastor- well, let's just say that I won't hear the end of that one for a long, long time.

It was even funny when pointed out to me in private- Pastor and I had a good laugh! When addressed before the entire ministerial staff- not so much. To the lady in my article, of whom I attempted to describe "her desire to give it her all", it was not funny. Not at all....

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Welcome Friend

I am sitting at my desk this morning, a fast computer and hot java at my side. In a few minutes, I will pick up a book and begin to read where I left off the other day... And while I have read parts of this book many times, it has been a while since I have spent any real time in it, listening to the words; thinking through the phrases. I am finding new refreshment in letting my imagination create the scenes in my mind- the backstory before the action makes the vivid images even better! What was once only "familiar acquaintence" is becoming a welcome friend.

I read this book in order to learn more about its author. I have been told about Him all my life- good things, difficult things. I know the author, and He knows me.....

But I really, really want to get to know Him and His Son a lot better. I am learning that the things I have been taught about them- while important and meaningful- are much more endearing, more intersting, and more incredible as I get to know them on my own. I am less afraid; more accepted. Less rhetoric, more compassion. Less dogma, more action. Less "build it and they will come", more "live it and stop worrying about what they think".

I want my wife and children to know where I stand. I want them to see the persistence, consistency and stamina of a Godly man. I want my family to know that the perception of Godliness is like a sheer vapor- almost everyone sees through it. The only people who don't are other religious people who can't see through their own veil of religiousity. I want to be real; I want to try and fail; and try again. I want them to know they can try, and if they fail I want them to know they can get up again, and go on.

That's what I have learned so far.... only 46 pages in.

What have you learned recently? What jazzes you about new discoveries in the word?