While I come to each New Year with some amount of disbelief and unpreparedness, there are some years when my shock level is simply beyond measurement. For example, I think back to the year 2000, when everyone was warning of cataclysmic computer crashes and the subsequent turmoil that would inevitably ensue. None of that came to be, of course, and life pretty much went on as it always had. But there was still this palpable trepidation prior to January 1 that some unforeseen reality would dawn that none of us would be quite ready to receive.
We’ve all felt the itch at some point to shake a gift under the Christmas tree that has our name on it to see if we can guess what’s inside. Or even more to the point, consider those times you’ve been involved in one of those “Santa Exchange” games where you draw a number and pick a present. Isn’t it the case that, more times than not, when your number comes up, you go for the gift that is larger than the rest? Packaging exerts a pull on our heartstrings that is hard to ignore.
I can remember the days when decorating for Christmas was a relatively simple affair – a lighted tree, a wreath on the front door, candles in the windows. That was pretty much it. Nowadays, it has become quite the affair with the aforementioned decorations accompanied by a host of other seasonal props. There are now companies you can call who will do your decorating for you, from stringing lights on your rooftop to arranging illumined reindeer on your lawn.
I don’t like darkness. I know some people do, but I prefer things to be bright and clear. The darkness scares me. It scares me because of those unknown threats that I can’t make out; and it scares me more because of the darkness that lurks in my soul. I don’t think I’m alone with this dislike. There are a host of others who join me in ruing this time of the year when the days are shorter and the shadows lengthen.
I dare say that there aren’t many of us who enjoy having to wait. Who among us has the patience to while away the hours when we have so many other important matters to address? And yet waiting is a part of life that we cannot seem to avoid. Whether it’s a checkout line or a traffic jam or a cue to enter an event, a good part of our emotional maturity involves learning how to handle those moments when everything seems to have come to a screeching halt.
When it comes to our thanksgiving, most of us do so retrospectively. We look back at what has taken place and we feel a rush of gratitude not only for what came our way, but also for what we were able to avoid. As the saying goes, “Some of the prayers that are answered best are those that are never answered.” At the time we may have thought we knew what was in our best interest, but in reality we had no idea what we were asking and we are blessed that what we hoped for never materialized. It might be a good source of spiritual discipline for you to make that kind of list as you “count your many blessings!”
What do you think of when you hear the word “average?” I think of a conversation I had years ago with a seminary friend and classmate. It was a stressful semester for me at that time. I was taking a heavy load and trying to balance my studies with my responsibilities at the small church I was serving. Like most of my friends, I was struggling, as were they, with the high expectations each of us had placed upon ourselves, but this one friend seemed to be remarkably at ease. Nothing seemed to bother him one bit, at least not anything related to our studies. When I asked him how he balanced everything that was going on in his life, his answer took me aback. He told me, “While the rest of you are grinding to get an ‘A’ in everything, I’m content with making a ‘C.’ I don’t expect to be anything other than an average student, and I’m OK with that.” Would you be OK with that? Would you be OK with being “average?”
I was never much of a fan of animated movies until my wife and I took our children to see Pixar/Disney’s Toy Story. Part of the film’s attraction was its touching chords from yesteryear of favorite toys and imaginative playtimes, but part of it was how the writers found ways to appeal to our quintessential hopes and dreams.
Prayer, as you know, is a powerful practice. When we go before God with the desires of our heart, we put ourselves in a place where God draws near to connect us to resources that are always sufficient for our need. You’ve surely experienced this divine help in your own life. Now it is time for us to call upon God in similar fashion on behalf of our church.
Most of us struggle with picturing what our life will look like in the days ahead, do we not? That’s the conclusion of a Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, and two of his colleagues, who recently did a study that involved more than 19,000 people on this very common trait among us humans. Their research revealed that in fact people of all ages grossly underestimate the extent to which they will change in the future. They instead end up believing that who they are today is pretty much who they will be tomorrow, despite the fact that who they are today isn’t who they were yesterday (Science, January 2013). In other words, even though we know we have changed a lot over the years that have passed, we struggle to wrap our minds around how much change is to be expected when it comes to our future.
In a Halloween week it came to my attention that a false email account with my name attached made it into many church members’ inboxes. The FALSE account asked for a hefty sum of gift cards to be sent to me so that I could in turn pass them on to people in need.
There is a quaint expression that I grew up with in rural Alabama. It was something I remember hearing people say when someone else did something nice for them. Instead of saying, “Thank you,” I remember hearing them say, “Much obliged.” When you think about it, that expression is more than a polite expression; it is also a deeply spiritual one. It means that I understand my obligation to the person that’s done something nice for me. I don’t take the act for granted. I don’t presume upon that person’s grace. I am “much obliged.”
It’s been a long time since we had young children in our house at Halloween. But I can still remember how ours always looked forward to Halloween and the chance to don a costume that represented what they might like to be if they could choose such a path. It’s been a lot longer since I was a child at Halloween. But as best I can remember, I was more concerned about the candy. I really didn’t care too much about the costume. The costume was for me simply a ticket to the treats.
In order for a person to live with any measure of purpose and significance, he has to be guided by a defined set of values that order and direct everything he says or does. These guiding values constitute core principles, bedrock beliefs that become something of a “North Star” – a fixed point of reference – that gives constancy to a person’s life even when everything all around him seems to be in a constant state of flux.
What makes the Bible so fascinating to me is the way it invites us to ponder courses of action that run contrary to those of the prevailing culture and how, by so doing, we come to manifest the deeper dimensions of faith.
In mathematics, as in other disciplines, there is something known as the “eureka experience.” You eyeball a problem and though at first its answer escapes you, if you stay with it long enough, the solution eventually comes. The word “eureka” has Greek origins, and literally means, “I found it!” But most of us know it from the gold rush days in the American West, when miners seeking their fortune would, upon striking the mother lode, shout for joy, exclaiming, “Eureka! Eureka! I found it! I found it!”
Just for fun this morning, let’s spend a moment thinking of all those things we do in life that we’d prefer not to be doing, but we do them anyway, simply because they’re in our best interest to do so. For example, many of you got up this morning and, even though it’s a Sunday, you spent 20 to 30 minutes in some form of vibrant exercise because you know that doing so is in your best interest. Others of you went to the medicine cabinet at dawn’s early light and started pulling out the pills and popping them into your mouth because you knew if you didn’t, it would come back to haunt you. Still others of you came to church this morning strapped into your car with that most uncomfortable thing ever invented, the seat belt or, better yet, you strapped your little ones in to a car seat that requires an engineering degree to master, because, well, you never know when someone might run a stop sign. I think you get the picture. Every single day we go through all manner of less than desirable activities simply because we’re better off doing them in the long run.
Preaching is my passion in ministry. While I acknowledge the other legs of the pastoral stool (administration and pastoral care), preaching is the part of ministry that gets my heart racing. The privilege of proclaiming sacred texts in ways that relate ancient wisdom to contemporary settings is what I find most invigorating about ministry.
When I was a young pastor, and did not know how much I did not know at that time, I often failed to appreciate the importance of signal anniversaries in the lives of church members. While there would usually be major league flower arrangements on the altar table commemorating those important times in a couple’s life, I was oblivious to the most significant marker that particular season was for the two persons being recognized. It was only when I noticed how on most of those Sundays the couple would be joined by other family members, usually children and grandchildren, who had often traveled long distances to be with their loved ones on this most high occasion that I began to see how a celebration of this sort was a truly big deal!
My sister used to have a sign in her room about making new friends, while keeping old ones. The tag line was that some of them were silver and the others gold. I often wondered if one group was supposed to be more cherished than the rest, but I think the point of the poster was that all friends should be valued. Some just come into our lives sooner than others.
No matter where I have lived, people have always complained about the weather. It’s too rainy or too dry, too hot or too cold. No one seems to be content with their climate. I always say, “Wait six months and we’ll be wishing for what we have now.” But I know even as I say our fickle ways with the weather only bring a modicum of relief.
Daniel Hernandez was a recent college grad when he moved to New York. By his own admission he was not ready for a city that was so large and so impersonal. He had landed a job for a company that distributed press releases that were disguised as news – a form of work he described as “soul-numbing.” The only good part of the job was that it allowed their employees one day a week of paid leave to do some form of charity work, so Daniel volunteered for a suicide prevention hotline service, where he saw first-hand the number of lonely people in a place like New York who had reached the end of their rope, feeling as if they had no place to turn and, more importantly, no one to whom they could turn. What Daniel realized in the process that the real reason he had volunteered for this charity work was that he was experiencing pangs of loneliness himself, pangs that perhaps might be eased by speaking with strangers on a hotline. What Daniel discovered from his time with the hotline is that virtually every person struggles with some kind of burden and that we all need someone in life from whom we can seek help for that burden, even if the only help they can give is a simple acknowledgement that “life must be hard” (“Call If You’re Feeling Lonely,” The New York Times, 2/12/14).
“Have you ever had an opportunity to share your faith but didn’t?” That’s the haunting question posed by a discipleship study on outreach titled Share Jesus without Fear by William Fay and Ralph Hodge. The study’s premise is that all Christians have countless opportunities to name Jesus in their daily conversations but often don’t. The reasons are many, primarily: fear, a lack of knowledge about how to initiate such conversations, and (sadly) no real experience to share. Each of these reasons can be addressed, though it takes a believer’s willingness to make the first step to do so.
When I was a young pastor, and did not know how much I did not know at that time, I too often failed to appreciate the importance of signal anniversaries in the lives of church members. While there would usually be major league flower arrangements on the altar table commemorating those important times in a couple’s life, I was oblivious to the most significant marker that particular season was for the two persons being recognized. It was only when I noticed how on most of those Sundays the couple would be joined by other family members, usually children and grandchildren, who had often traveled long distances to be with their loved ones on this most high occasion. It was only then that I began to see how a celebration of this sort was a truly big deal!
One of my favorite sitcoms was the long-running series on CBS Everybody Loves Raymond. It was a delightful comedy of a successful sportswriter and family man, Ray Barone, who has to manage both with his dysfunctional parents who live across the street. The family dynamics were entertaining to say the least, which is why the series was so well-received over the course of its nine season run.
It’s hard to believe, but football season is right around the corner. Those of us who are fans of the game have been looking forward to this time for many months. Soon enough, our favorite teams will be lining up to kick off what will surely be another exciting year.
Our Baptist polity tells us that each of us has responsibility in the work of God’s kingdom. We best know this principle by the phrase “the priesthood of the believer.” It is a powerful reminder that we can never be content to rely on another group of believers to shoulder exclusively the work that the Holy Spirit gives all of us to do.
You’ve probably heard the story of the man who was sitting in a window seat on an airplane flying across the desert in Arizona. The desert sun was shining white-hot on the parched earth below and the man was the only passenger on that side of the plan who had not pulled down his window shade to keep out the glare. In contrast to the other passengers who were sitting in window seats, this man kept looking out the window and actually seemed to be enjoying the scene down below.
If you’ve been in worship at MBBC over the last month or so, you’ve surely noticed the number of new faces that have come our way. That’s actually something of a trend that happens in most churches each summer. People make transition to a new area and among other things they start to look for a church.
Ernest Campbell was the pastor of the great Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan back in the 1970’s. In one of his sermons he offered what I think is a most memorable line. “It has been said that the two most important days in every person’s life are the day on which that person was born and the day on which he discovers why he was born.” The reason that line is so memorable is not so much because of one’s birthdate. The fact of the matter is that we rarely miss celebrating our birth date. The more memorable part is the second part – the part that has to do with understanding the purpose for which we were born. Sadly, there are too many people walking around today who have no clue as to “why” they were born. They have no clue as to what their purpose in life really is.
“Time’s Up!” This Sunday marks the end of my sabbatical leave. It’s been everything I had hoped it might be – a time out, a time off, and a time away. But as the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and now the time is up. Truth be told, I’m ready to get back. The rest and renewal have most definitely been a gift and I am thankful to the church for the opportunity and to our staff for the outstanding work they did in the interim. As I had hoped at the outset, I have come away with some lessons that I hope to implement at MBBC, lessons I don’t know I would have learned if it had not been for this summer leave.
Our Baptist polity tells us that each of us has responsibility in the work of God’s kingdom. We best know this principle by the phrase “the priesthood of the believer.” It is a powerful reminder that we can never be content to rely on another group of believers to shoulder exclusively the work that the Holy Spirit gives all of us to do.
Regardless of how confident any of us would like to represent ourselves to others, we’re all prone to wrestle with some level of insecurity. That’s because we are finite people who at some point inevitably bump up against our limitations – an experience that is rarely pleasant because of how it exposes our weak spots, both to ourselves as well as to others.
As I mentioned in my blog for last week, my “call story” to ministry was published in a collection of other such stories designed to encourage churches and individuals in hearing and responding to God’s call. Edited by Barry Howard, former pastor of Brookwood Baptist and First Baptist, Pensacola, Florida, the book is available on Amazon, either in paperback or Kindle.
One of the more imperceptible changes in personal communications that have come about in recent years is the shift from voice calls to text messages. Some of us will still remember the mad dash that ensued whenever the telephone rang in your home. Nowadays, not many of us have “landlines” and most of us leave our cellphones on “silent mode.” Consequently, we rarely acknowledge voice calls so that if someone really wants to catch up with us, text messages are the contact of choice.
One of today’s great puzzles is how many of the people who live “in the land of the free and the home of the brave” can feel so repressed and constrained. How can that be? How can so many Americans feel so restrained, especially in light of how unless one is literally in prison or on probation, he or she is able to go and do pretty much whatever he or she wants? And yet, there are many today who feel anything but free.
If you were a child during the last part of the 20th century or you had children, then you are more than familiar with the name Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, the star of the PBS television show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” With his cardigan sweater and his comfortable sneakers, Mr. Rogers regaled us children and adults with his puppets and music and excursions into the Land of Make Believe. But most of all, Mr. Rogers drew us into his neighborhood by receiving us “just the way we are.”
In the concluding verses of each New Testament epistle penned by the Apostle Paul he states his desire to revisit the churches he helped establish so that they might be inspired by his presence and encouraged by his teaching. Some churches Paul was able to get back to; others he did not. But the letters remind us of how much those churches meant to Paul, especially during his latter years when he found himself imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel.
Part of the heritage of Mountain Brook Baptist Church is the privilege God has given us to have been a training ground for some of the finest young ministers in Baptist life. Because our church is an example of strong faithfulness and spiritual health we have groomed many a young minister for effective ministry in congregations near and far. Without a doubt, creating a “culture of call” not only refers to those young persons who have grown up in MBBC; it also encompasses those whom we have invited to join us for a season, who having fulfilled God’s call to our church have moved on to other places to advance God’s Kingdom purposes in our world.
One of the best indications of emotional and spiritual health is our desire to make a difference in life. Regardless of one’s state or occupation, a life of significance is a most worthy ambition. Unfortunately, living in such fashion requires a person to take some risks. No one can achieve anything without moving out of his comfort zone or stretching herself in uncomfortable ways.
I wore flip flops and shorts to church last Sunday, something I haven’t done since leading youth retreats back in college. Judy and I attended church at the beach, a small, enthusiastic congregation formed some 20 years ago to offer a witness to the beach crowd that descends on Navarre every vacation season.
My sabbatical leave begins this coming Sunday. As I’ve written earlier, I see this opportunity as a “time out, time off, and time away.” My hope is that I’ll return more revigorated for the work that we have before us at MBBC. But while I’m away there are some things I’d ask you to do.
You may have seen the news this past week regarding the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that a lawsuit filed against Apple can proceed in which IPhone users may seek remedy for what they consider to be inflated prices charged them for apps they download. I haven’t followed the arguments that carefully, because I can’t think of any apps I have downloaded on my smartphone that have cost me anything. All of the apps on my phone are free ones. Call me a cheapskate, but I think it would be silly for me to purchase anything that I can get for free.
My sabbatical begins in a couple of weeks and I make no apologies for looking forward to the “time out, time off, and time away.” It’s almost as if my soul senses the approaching leave and I realize how I am more spiritually spent than I ever knew.
Back in the 1980’s Larry Walters was a security guard for a Hollywood animation studio that produced children’s television series. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but had been turned down because of poor eyesight. His dream, however, would not go away. So, one day in the summer of 1982, Larry decided to take matters into his own hands. He went down to a military surplus store and bought 45 eight-foot weather balloons, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and had friends strap him and the balloons to a lawn chair in his backyard in Southern California. His intent was to float over the Mojave Desert at a relatively safe altitude, using a pellet gun he would take along with him to burst some of the balloons in order to land.
Have you ever set your hopes on something only to see them crumble into a bazillion pieces? Of course, you have. There’s not a soul among us who hasn’t found himself or herself in such a pitiable condition at one time or another.
For more than a century, the majestic statue, “Liberty Enlightening the World,” better known as the Statue of Liberty has towered over Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island) in New York Harbor as a symbol of the many freedoms we enjoy in the United States. Many of you have been to the island and have toured the national park associated with it. As you are aware, the famous statue was a gift from the people of France in appreciation for America’s contributions to the spirit of independence that lies deep in every human heart,
One of my favorite games as a child was “May I?” You probably remember the game. You would position yourself in one place and at a distance would be another person, whose role in the game was to give you commands as to the steps you would need to take to close the gap between the two of you. The person would invite you to take either a “giant step” or a “baby step.” Obviously, everyone on the receiving end relished the giant steps. The “catch” of the game was that before you took the assigned step, you had to respond, “May I?” If you gave the right response, you were allowed to take the step assigned. If you didn’t, you had to go all the way back to the starting point. Needless to say, only the patient souls made it to the other side. The impatient ones inevitably found themselves in an embarrassingly constant cycle of retreat.
After the culmination of a season of preparation and celebration such as the one we recently shared from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, our tendency is to pause and catch our breaths for a moment before pressing on. I would be the first to say that we all deserve such a rest. So many in our church were so heavily invested in the multitude of ministry going on during this time, and our church was most definitely better for it. Consider the choirs and the cooks, the servers and the singers. Thanks to all who had a part in making these last days so productive.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about how a preacher should go about dealing with the message of resurrection. You’d think that after having preached 40 years, I’d have the Easter message down. But the challenge for me in this season of the year has always been not so much what to say but how to say it. In other words, the Easter message is so familiar and the Easter crowd is always so large (swelled by the numbers of people who tend to come only that one Sunday in the year) that a preacher feels compelled to “prove” to everyone that the Resurrection of Jesus actually occurred! But somehow, “proving Easter” always seems to leave everyone a bit unsatisfied, both preacher and congregant, much like tasting an Easter dessert that everyone has been bragging about but that doesn’t quite seem to live up to its billing.
Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion who taught for a number of years at the University of Chicago. Eliade’s most famous theological work, titled The Sacred and the Profane, is a treatment of that unique perspective enjoyed by people of faith, which enables them to tell the difference between ordinary experiences (profane) and supernatural ones (sacred). Sometimes in life, he contends, we believers simply find ourselves captivated by a “wholly other” phenomenon that represents an almost indescribable encounter with the divine.
Not long ago, NBC News teamed up with Esquire magazine on a study of the rage that characterizes American society today. They surveyed 3,000 Americans to determine who in our day is the angriest, what’s making them so angry, and, perhaps most importantly, who’s to blame. One of the more interesting statistics in the study revealed that half of all Americans are angrier today than they were a year ago. In large measure this anger stems from the perception that life is not working out for those persons as they always assumed it would. They see others as standing in the way of their progress, and they don’t see things improving any time soon (“American Rage,” Esquire, 1/3/16).
When we look at the Gospels, we see Jesus always calling people to join him in a work that is beyond their comprehension. After all, nothing less really befits service on behalf of a God for whom all things are possible.
It wasn’t too long ago that Home and Garden Television attracted a good number of viewers with their popular series on “Tiny Houses.” Many of you probably are familiar with what I’m talking about. “Tiny Houses” involves a concept in home construction that saw people moving from large-scale home construction to minimalist footprints of something less than 600 square feet, which gives an entirely new spin to the old term “humble abode.”
In one of my previous churches we had a significant internationals ministry. Because the community was the site of a major university, people came there from all over the world. Our church, consequently, was one of the first churches in Baptist life to establish a conversational English ministry, which enabled us to minister to individuals from virtually every religious background on the planet.
Spring Break is a welcome time for many families. The demands of everyday life, whether they arise from work or studies, take their toll and the mid-semester break brings a measure of relief that always seems to come at precisely the right time. Well, perhaps the “rightness” of the time is something sometimes up for debate.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a Robert Frost poem in this column. Today, I’ll share the one other poem I remember having to memorize back in high school, a poem by Joyce Kilmer, titled “Trees” You probably remember how the poem begins as well. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” That vivid line has been coopted in countless ways by numerous groups. But perhaps the best job of revising Kilmer’s poem for other purposes I’ve seen was what one church published in its weekly bulletin, which they titled, “The Perfect Church.”
One thing you see virtually everywhere you go in the Holy Land are the ruins of an old church. The vast majority of these churches date back to the Byzantine period in the fifth and sixth centuries when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and Christian churches, no longer scorned and persecuted, began to be constructed everywhere. In virtually all of these churches there is some type of mosaic design on the church floor that displayed the Gospel in some artistic way. Archeologists have uncovered portions of many of these mosaics and they reveal an era when Christianity ruled the world. The most impressive mosaic piece in this region is the famous Mosaic Map in the St. George Church in Madaba, which contains the oldest surviving cartological description of the Holy Land.
Water is a luxury in the Middle East. So precious is this essential commodity that experts here say that the next wars will be fought over water, not oil. Today in our journey through Jordan we have visited two places that have water in common, though the quality of the two sources are light years apart.
I don’t know of another story in the Bible, save the crucifixion, that reads as painfully to me as does the story of Moses and Nebo. His story is recounted in Deuteronomy 34, where Moses climbs to the top of Mount Pisgah to the peak of Nebo, where God reveals to him the entirety of the Promised Land, a land that unfortunately Moses will see, but never enter.
Theological education is near and dear to me. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel a debt of gratitude for the training I received at the “old” Southern Seminary. I use that terminology because of how my studies at Southern reflected a time in Baptist life when prospective ministers were formed to think critically about matters of faith and practice as opposed to the present-day model in SBC life that presumes theological education to be more about right content than right process. In other words, it’s not enough for students to think rightly; they must also know how to think about the right view of things. While I’m certainly understanding of the need to be orthodox in belief, an excessive orthodoxy can totally ignore the realities of one’s context and devolve into dead dogma. Perhaps that’s why when I have the opportunity to cross paths with people who get the value of connecting belief with background, my heart skips a beat or two.
One of Jesus’ clearest teachings was on the importance of ministering to the marginalized and dispossessed. Yet most of his followers tend to gravitate toward those who are just as they are. That’s just human nature. However, when we read the book of Genesis, we see that human nature is what caused Adam and Eve to move contrary to God’s perfect will, which resulted in their banishment from Eden and a lifetime of toil and struggle.
Every now and then it’s a good thing to look back and take a second look at past practices that served us well, particularly those practices that helped form us into the people we are. That’s also a good practice for a church to pursue from time to time. Indeed, in this 75th Anniversary year we have done so in various ways in order both to celebrate our heritage and to use it as a springboard for the good future we believe God has for us to know. I’m especially excited about our church’s Stewardship Team’s decision to take this approach with our annual Generosity Sunday, which this year will be on April 7.
Our annual Ash Wednesday service will take place in the Sanctuary on March 6 at 6 p.m. This service marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time in which Christians prepare their hearts to celebrate the hope that is ours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While we do not impose ashes as a part of our service, we do join with the larger Christian Church in considering our own mortality and our need to repent of our sins, while looking to the salvation that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. To learn more about Ash Wednesday, read Dr. Kely Hatley's post about Ash Wednesday and the Baptist tradition.
How did the poet Robert Frost phrase it in his most famous poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?” “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Frost’s line reminds us of the importance of showing how seriously we take our relationships by following through with the commitments we make to others.
DNA is a term that in recent years has moved from the lab or biology classroom to the marketplace as scores of people long to know the secrets locked in their genetic makeup that cause them to act as they do. If you want to know why certain situations set you off or why you gravitate toward particular stimuli, what the experts tell us is that it’s all because of our biological hard-wiring. That’s not to say that we can’t change course and rise above our innate urges from time to time; it’s only to say that we have these “default settings” that we do well to acknowledge, even leveraging them to our advantage when possible.
I don’t know of anything worse than to be on the “missing end” of some experience that left everyone on the “receiving end” talking non-stop about its significance. It doesn’t matter whether it was something on the news or something in the skies, the failure to experience its impact leaves you feeling small in soul, much smaller in fact.
If there’s anything that we Americans like, it’s the ability to have a plethora of choices at our disposal in any given situation. None of us wants to be in a position where we find ourselves limited in terms of options. When it comes time for us to make a decision about anything in life, our mantra is: “The more choices we have, the merrier we will be.”
I received an email recently, inviting me to endorse Dr. Paul Baxley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Athens, Georgia, as the next Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I was more than happy to do so, having worked with Paul so very closely as a member of the Governing Board in general and the Board’s Illumination Project committee in particular.
This past Wednesday our church came together at our Semi-Annual Church Conference to receive the final report and recommendation of our Vision 2020 Building Committee. The recommendation also came to the congregation with the unanimous support of the Deacons and Trustees. After hearing the presentation and following a time of discussion, the members in attendance voted overwhelmingly to approve the recommendation to proceed with the proposal as presented and to prepare for a Capital Campaign, which will help us to gauge how much of the proposal we feel God leading us to undertake.
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker who burst on the public scene some twenty years ago with his astute observations of how so much of the social sciences – in particular, psychology, sociology, and economic theory – play out in everyday life. All of his books manage to make their way to the top of the best seller lists and for good reason. Gladwell simply has this knack for holding up a mirror to our souls so that we can see aspects of our lives that we knew about in our hearts by never bothered to bring to the surface for further examination.
The first of our semi-annual Church Conferences will be held this Wednesday, January 30, at 6:00 PM in Heritage Hall. Along with key committee and ministry team reports, the church will receive two important recommendations for congregational action.
Back in “the day,” a good part of my recreation involved doing something with sending some kind of ball across some kind of net, as in tennis or volleyball. What I quickly learned from those activities was that the person in charge of the serve most definitely had the advantage. It would be a lesson that I would come to see as having remarkable significance for Christian practice as well.
Everywhere I have gone in recent days it seems that all around me everything has been under some form of construction. Some of it has been new construction, others more a renovation. But regardless, the work being done has complicated my life by requiring detours, new routes, and in some cases a reversal of course. Needless to say, my level of exasperation has at times threatened to register off the charts.
Under the category of “New Year/New You,” I’d like to recommend a simple discipline that can hold remarkable promise for you in the coming days. I developed this discipline some years ago, and it has blessed me immensely. So, I offer it to you so that you too might know the benefits of practicing it in the New Year.