Tag Archives: friends

the cloud

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As we have for a few years now, my family and I spent the better part of the month of June with family in Northwest GA and Southeast TN. This is always an amazing time filled with cousins, swimming, day camps and food…we always seem to be eating. And I love this area of the country because it’s so familiar. I love the views of the mountains and the valleys and even the way the clouds roll in quickly before a thunderstorm; which seems to happen almost every summer afternoon. The crazy thing is that this familiar view also greeted us as we rolled back into Odessa a week ago. As we came in on the highway from Midland we could see lightning in the distance and the familiar cloud formations rolling in as Odessa was blessed with much needed rain. And luckily for us, we were able to get our car unloaded before the deluge hit.

There’s a verse in scripture that alludes to what the presence of a cloud might be in our own lives. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us , fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 I love the imagery played out in the the text. I recently was flying from Odessa back to Atlanta before our trek back into town and our entire flight was dictated by the presence of clouds (albeit storm clouds) in Atlanta. After we boarded, an hour later than scheduled, we then had to sit on the tarmac for an extra hour. Once we did get clearance to take off, most of the flight was smooth…until we began to descend into Atlanta. I guess the only way I can describe it is by the rides I seek to avoid at the amusement park i.e. it was a roller coaster of a landing. It was crazy how these clouds effected everything we were a part of even from a distance.

 

This Sunday I will begin delivering my last series of sermons for the people of Odessa First Church of the Nazarene. This has been a roller coaster of an adventure and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t terrified and excited all at the same time. But I do know one thing. When I step onto the stage on Sunday it is only through the power of God and the presence of the overwhelming cloud of witnesses that go with me that I am able to do so. This cloud has gone with me from Rossville, GA to Nashville, TN, by way of Yulee, FL while building up strength in Flint, MI in order to serve for over three years in Odessa, TX.  And this cloud continues to grow as we prepare to serve alongside the families of Nashville First Church of the Nazarene in a few short weeks. This cloud is filled with families and loved ones who have cared for my family, invested in my ministry, prayed for me daily and loved me beyond words. Even as I type this your faces flash before me as my eyes fill with tears and I thank God for him bringing us together. It is only by the grace of God and your presence in my life that I can even call myself pastor. And I am both humbled and challenged by your cloud-like presence in my life. So I will continue to run with perseverance the race marked out for me.  And I will boldly proclaim the love of Christ to a world that so desperately needs it. All the while knowing  that I am surrounded by a cloud that is a testament to the love and faithfulness of the God we all serve.

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another trip around the sun

Today, instead of boring you with my words, I think I will let others share their words. This video was a surprise that my wife made for me for my 40th birthday. I am both humbled and blessed by the words of my friends…who just happened to be former youth group students. I think 40 is going to be pretty great.


the laughter of angels

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I am a morning person…there, confession is good for the soul I hear. I am one of those few folks who actually likes the early morning hours around 5 AM or so and I honestly haven’t used an alarm clock to wake up in probably 5 years. That being said, I am not a night person. Around about 9 or 10 in the evening I start to putter out and I rarely see 11 PM. But last night I saw a number on the clock I hadn’t seen in quite some time…1 AM. You see, yesterday evening we received a call from our foster boy’s biological brother’s step-mom (I promise you can keep up). She and her family (including our foster boy’s older brother) needed a place to crash as her husband had to be in town for some job training and their place to stay for the night had fallen through. So my wife and I got home from church, put our kids to bed and began to inflate air mattresses and make up the couch. Then came the waiting as they were having to travel a bit rather late. My wife puttered out around midnight, but I guess you could say I was burning the midnight oil, literally. So our guests rolled in around 1 AM and yours truly actually stayed up to greet them and play host…although this morning I wasn’t up at my usual time.

But in the midst of all the preparations, my wife and I were just smiling and laughing together. Evidently we love practicing hospitality. Even if it is to the step-family of your foster boy’s half brother who lives in a different state. And this morning I was reminded of why. A few hours ago, as our foster boys began to wake and discover the surprise waiting on them, our home began to ring with laughter. And I’m not talking about little stifled giggling, but full raucous belly laughing as they began to play and reconnect and celebrate with their family. I remember my 10-yr-old even asking last night, “So how are we related to them? Are we their brothers or cousins or something?” Nope…not even a little bit. But they are family to our boys, so yeah…it’s something.

As I listened to the house fill with laughter and the playing ensue I was reminded of a verse from the last chapter of the book of Hebrews, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2 To our boys, the guests we gave shelter to last night were angels. They became messengers of light reminding them that their story is being redeemed. That their lives are not defined by the brokenness of what was, but by the promise of what could be. A little back story might be necessary here. You see, as a fifteen-year-old teen he was having to care for his infant and toddler brother and he knew something wasn’t right. His love for them has led to their story being made whole. And now to see him being able to celebrate their healing and restoration, and to see them get to play and laugh together truly is to see the laughter and presence of angels in our lives.

So maybe it is worth staying up till 1 AM sometimes…if it means you get to be in the presence of something angelic.


misplaced curiosity

I love the curiosity that comes with childhood. You see it evidenced all the time if you are ever around small kids. If they have a question; they ask it. It doesn’t matter if it makes the situation socially awkward. Their immediate need to satisfy said curiosity is going to be made plain. I’m sure like me, those parents of small children always cringe at those social encounters when you notice your child catch something strange or different and you see the wheels inside their little heads begin to turn. It’s only a mater of time before, “How…” or “Why…” turns into a, “I’m so sorry…” from you. But we have all been there before. I remember being a very inquisitive child. So much so that often my parents would just turn me loose on our set of encyclopedias for answers (yes, I was that kid). But it seems sometimes that as we get older, our curiosity seems to wane or become misplaced and we just become indifferent to the lives of those around us.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we still like to know things about people…but rarely directly. We love to find out about people from the safety of our own homes and read about their stories from our digital screens and not have to worry about potential socially awkward moments. Think about it for a minute. One of the fastest growing industries over the last couple of decades is celebrity gossip. I can know all about their story, feel like I even know them, and yet I have never had one conversation with this person. Or even the advent of social media. Here we can look at people’s likes, dislikes, kid photos, workout plans, dinner plates, etc. and never even have to talk to them in real life and feel like we are the best of friends. But what is really occurring is that our natural curiosity that creates true and lasting relationships with others has been replaced with something inauthentic, ineffective and indifferent.

I think we are made to get to know one another. I think we are made to be neighbors who love each other like God has called us to. I think that natural inborn curiosity is a way for us to engage one another so that we begin to understand one another and ultimately so that we might be able to share Christ with the world. But when that curiosity is displaced, or stifled, or lost…then what? We keep to ourselves, we engage only those like us and we leave this world looking much the same as it did before we got here. In his epistle to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul says this about engaging others, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 In order for Paul to share the gospel he became like those to whom he was called. In order to become like those to whom he was called he probably had to get to know them. In order to get to know them he had to be curious about their story and who they were. Are we curious about the stories and circumstances of those we encounter everyday…or have we become indifferent?

My prayer is that God renews in you and I a sense of curiosity that defies difference and social limitations or awkwardness so that by all possible means Christ may save some.


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