Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Emeril would be proud. None of this South Beach, Atkins diet stuff here. This is the Guacamole diet: lots of avocados, tomatoes, serrano peppers, and onions. Plus chips, of course. It's what Jesus ate. Or would have eaten had he come to Guadalajara rather than Capernaum. By popular demand, today let's do salsa recipes. Even the anti-guac crowd can participate.

Monday, August 30, 2004

All right. It's time to put my blog space where my mouth is. Favorite guacamole recipes. That's right: submit them here through comments. (I've allowed anonymous comments today for those who are ashamed of their avocado addictions or who are afraid that people will think guacamole can't be eaten without a margarita on the side.) Bring 'em on. I'll drop mine in later. Too much to do this morning (speak to MOPS, Spanish, worship planning, and hospital--all before noon). I think some doubters out there have just been turned off by that goop that some quickie restaurants pass off as guacamole. Today, let's focus on God's gift of the avocado.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I'm not a reviewer. But take this tip (those of you in Abilene): go see "Barefoot in the Park" at ACU. It's on this weekend and the next two weekends. Kate Eason and Eric Harrell were incredible. (Kate reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie.) Both were perfect as the newlyweds trying to deal with the early days of marriage. But it was Adam and Donna Hester, my dear friends, who sent me over the edge laughing so hard Diane had to find the spare inhaler for me. Go see it and you'll understand. Something about Adam flirting with his (real) wife in that schmoozy French accent--well, just the memory of it makes me have to stop typing this morning to laugh hard again. - - - - For those who don't get the whole Parrothead thing, check out this article from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I can't believe it, but Megan would have been 20 today. She was born August 26, 1984 in Wilmington, NC, and died on November 21, 1994. These words are taken from a piece written by our friend Thom Lemmons called "Limping Along in the Lord's Army": "One of our friends once characterized Megan as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, the more I reflect on that description, the more apt it becomes. Megan was a living proclamation; not, like her father, by means of artful words and powerful phrases nor, like her mother, in visions and a spirit of discernment and prayer. Rather, Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a walking icon of Christ's admonition to take no thought for tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range plans or to fear what the next five minutes might bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents, to supply whatever requirements she might have. She knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive and perfect trust. Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsy-turvey economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care, absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able to absorb still more. Without any 'thank you,' without any false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense that it was not enough. And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing treatment, or marched with her through the church parking lot, singing 'I'm in the Lord's Ar-my, Yes, Sir!', or changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath--to anyone who ever poured a minute's worth of love down the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing which followed beggared any other reward. Megan taught us all the difference in value between receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done more: there was no question of doing less. And all the while, we were the ones being made over by her innocent carelessness and her shattering need into a closer imitation of the one who poured out his life as a ransom for many." Happy birthday, Meg. You are deeply, deeply missed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CEO/PRESIDENT/BOSS/HEAD HONCHO OF BARNES AND NOBLE: Dear Mr. Barnes or Mrs. Noble or To Whom It May Concern: I'm groveling. Do hear me? Groveling. Begging you to come to Abilene, TX. Please don't judge us based on your first trip to town. As you drive in, look past the abandoned ranch and oil equipment, the adult bookstores, and all the billboards saying, "I'm more conservative than he is, so vote for me" or "huh-uh, I'm WAY more conservative than he is, so vote for me." You need to be in Abilene. There are 10,000 university students in this town. Plus their faculties. Plus lots of other people who read. And at the moment we are at the mercy of Hastings. God love 'em, they provide a good service to the community. You want a CD? Hastings. DVD? Ditto. Spiderman posters? Yep. But books? Please, please don't make me go back to the young woman who helped me last time. I asked if they had any books on Uganda. She replied, "Is that like a country or something?" I restrained myself from responding, "It's not just LIKE a country, it actually is one!" It was like a scene from that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movie (not "Sleepless in Seattle" -- the other one). They have 2000 copies of several books that don't interest me. There are also the local Christian bookstores that have a billion copies of the latest "Left Behind" books or some theological tome on the faith of Oliver North, but no one has heard of William Willimon. We're talking about the guy who has the whole Methodist Church (and a bunch of the rest of us) ready to cry, "uncle!" and no one has heard of him. I don't want to be snooty here. I've been known to read my share of Grisham novels. All right, frankly, I read them all a month after they come out. If you come, I'll do what I can to make it work. I'll pay the extra couple bucks and buy my Grisham books from you. And would it help if I put a free promo line on the front page of the bulletin at our church? Maybe I could sneak it into my sermons. Product placement, you know. Please, please . . . come to Abilene. And by the way, in Ft. Worth, there is a Pappasito's restaurant just half a mile from you. Would it be too much to request that you bring them with you? Mike Cope

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Underprotection and overprotection. Children fall victim to both. There are so many children around us -- so many in the school where Diane teaches -- who have little shelter (I mean this figuratively, but last year she had two children who were at various times homeless), little protection. No one there to assure them that they'll be taken care of. No one making sure homework gets done, making sure meals are balanced (as balanced as kids will eat!), making sure that they're safe. But there is also that other challenge that parents have: not to be overprotective. I see it all the time. Families where the children are filled with a sense of entitlement and infallibility. If they aren't selected for the all-star team, then ALL THE COACHES HAD IT OUT FOR THEM. Unfair! If they didn't receive the best grade in the class, THEN THE TEACHER IS INEPT. These are the families where decisions are always made by the children. A good prayer for parents would be: Lord, help us to be protective, but not overprotective, just as we have learned from you, our Father.

Monday, August 23, 2004

My second year of Spanish at ACU begins this morning; my freshman Bible class begins this afternoon. I'm looking forward to both. The Olympics need to end so I can get a life back. Chris and I have found ourselves watching swimming, gymnastics, trampoline, beach volleyball, and almost anything else on. Why do we watch things we wouldn't watch at any other time for four years? Because it's the Olympics!! And now the GOOD STUFF (for me) begins. Did you see the women's marathon? Nothing quite like going 26.2 miles in 100 degrees! Matt's former teammate at Abilene High, Jonathon Johnson, runs the 800 this week.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

We're in one of those years where it matters whether the kids' discount is "12-and-under" or "under-12." Today after church we ate at a buffet that is "12-and-under" for $2.95. As I watched my new middle-schooler go back . . . and back . . . and back, I thought, "Today I've made money."

Friday, August 20, 2004

I wonder: how many people feel secretly inadequate? Inside they are afraid that others will find out that they don't know nearly as much as people think. Happens to me all the time. I mentioned yesterday all those wonderful teachers. Well, most of them go here! They listen to me preach. I always feel like I don't know enough about the New Homiletic, about advances in exegesis, about ministry skills, etc. Despite all I read, I feel like I'm a decade behind in my reading. And my audience includes lots of M. Div. students who are getting training I'd kill to receive. An inner voice whispers: they know more than you!! (And it's true. All of my old school colleagues will tell you: we learned almost NOTHING about ministry in seven years--4 undergrad and 3 grad. I learned almost nothing useful or insightful about evangelism, discipling, mentoring, leading, resolving conflicts, working with elders, or counseling. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. I did have wonderful teaching in basic homiletics, Greek, Hebrew, Restoration history, and exegesis. What does that tell you?) Preaching in Abilene may be like being a 48-year-old family doctor in Houston. You have two med schools around you, a world-class medical complex, some of the brightest minds in the medical field. And you're saying, "Stick out your tongue and cough." Hey, someone has to do it. Dr. DeBakey doesn't do sore throats. I think I'm the guy that says, "Stick out your tongue and cough." One blessing I have (that others in similar situations haven't enjoyed) is that most of these "experts" are very encouraging. Many of them have been there in local ministry. They know what it's like to plug along year-after-year. (My 14th year just began.) My guess is that this inner voice isn't very healthy or helpful. Maybe at times it's good for humility. But too often it comes from a desire to impress and wow. It worries too much about comparisons. I like the idea of playing to an audience of one (God). But that's easier to say than do . . . don't you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Today was my car pool day. The line-up is Chris, Zach, Zach, Kirk, and Dylan. All kids I've coached. There's nothing quite like the lively chatter ("hey" . . . "hey" . . . "hey, dude" . . . "hey") of five sixth grade boys early in the morning! (I'm wondering: how different would a car pool be with five sixth grade girls?) Yesterday I was at a luncheon at ACU, eating with nine incoming freshmen. Four of them were ministry majors whom I'll have next semester when I co-teach with Randy Harris. But I found myself a bit envious of them. What a great time to be a Bible/ministry major at ACU! The college that Jack Reese, the dean, has put together is incredible. They can study preaching from Mark Love, Jack Reese, Tim Sensing, Stephen Johnson, and James Thompson. They can take John Willis and Mark Hamilton for OT. They'll wind up with several classes by Randy Harris and Fred Aquino. And I'd like to take a whole year off just to take every Jeff Childers class that is offered. Plus, people who take David Wray's classes (especially on spiritual formation) describe them as life-changing. And I hate to even begin a list like this, because it could keep going on: Jeanene, Ken, Doug, Marsha, Rodney, Tony, Jerry . . . . I did a bit of reminiscing recently about the Harding years. So . . . here is a glimpse from the 70s (fall of '77, I think) of me with my beloved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

This is what it looked like last night. When I stand before them and speak each year, I can't but think how much their parents would like to be peeking around the corner to watch! (Thanks to Matt Maxwell for the picture.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tonight is the candlelight devotional at ACU. As you begin to doze off after watching the last badminton match tonight--or whatever happens to be on at the Olympics--offer a quick prayer for me. I'll be speaking well past my bedtime! (Why can't we do the candlelight devotional at 5:00 a.m.?) When I began this blog last August, I thought I'd give it a try for a year. The year is up. So now what? I launched it thinking that at least my mom would read it. Now a sort of blog community has popped up. A couple days ago I dropped a little counter on the site to see if anyone besides mom is really reading. (Again, thanks to Matt Elliott for holding my hand and walking me through the technology even though it wasn't much more complicated than "take two aspirin and call me in the morning"). And, apparently there are a few out there (675 yesterday) dropping by to see where my insanities are centered today. So, I'll plug along for awhile. This is the busy time of the year, though, so be patient with me. My Bible class at ACU begins Monday, as does my second year of Spanish. In the past year I've written about grief, baseball (another sort of grief for Rangers fans), love, guacamole, love of guacamole, parenting, faith, church, coaching little league, obsessions, holy ground, marriage, and doubt. I managed to predict none of the winners in the NCAA tournament. (Which reminds me . . . this year's World Series? Angels v. Cardinals. You read it here first.) As readers of the blog, you're welcome to have some input. What do you want to read about? Some would probably prefer that I stay on more serious topics, but I think I have more insight about topics that aren't very serious. We'll see . . . . Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Any other summer Olympics addicts out there? When it's all over, I shouldn't have to watch any more television for the rest of the year (except for the playoffs . . . and the Series . . . and the Cowboys games). Well, I thought I could hold it together yesterday as I pulled out Megan's old adult jogging stroller as a sermon illustration. It was the Sunday so many parents are dropping off kids for school, and I was using the stroller as a symbol of how we've tried lovingly to guide our children and of how difficult it is each time we let go of the handles. But . . . there was something about touching that thing that just overwhelmed me. Megan and I covered thousands of miles together. After her death, we gave away so many things to help other families in similar situations. But I couldn't give the stroller away. It has just hung in the garage for years. This was my first time to have it down in a long time. I probably should have taken it out for a run this week! It's embarrassing to fall apart in front of people. And yet, God tends to use moments like that to allow others to bring their own emotions before him and one another.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Many of you have come to appreciate the (half) wit and (semi) wisdom of Grant Boone through his participation on this blog. He really is a funny guy. And because of his love for people who are outside the faith, he makes me a better preacher. If you're an AOL user, be sure to listen to Grant's broadcast of the PGA. Just click on the "PGA live video" link or use keyword "PGA." You can send him questions through instant messaging. We just got back from a very quick trip to Houston to visit Matt and Jenna. Last night was the "White Coat Ceremony" at Baylor for the first year medical students. It was an incredibly moving ceremony. One of the deans spoke, followed by one of the profs, and then by seven of the upperclassmen. All the new med students were challenged to enter the study of medicine with humility, a sense of wonder, and deep commitment to the patients they will soon meet. Christopher believes that Matt and Jenna live in the coolest place possible. They're within two minutes of Reliant Stadium (with the Cowboys playing there tonight), AstroWorld, Pappasito's, and Pappadeaux. What more could you want? Matt was born in March of 1982, and I began my first fulltime ministry two months later. Until now, I've never preached for a church where he wasn't a member. But we're so proud of him and Jenna (who has now had her second grade class two whole days!).

Thursday, August 12, 2004

No one should have to read this unedited gush of nostalgic memories. Hang in there and I'll get back to guacamole recipes soon. Besides, I've heard from my mother and she's enjoying it. (I'm building bridges here after blaming her for the whole embarrassing Nicholas Sparks incident.) There was that day on the Harding campus my junior year when I first saw Diane in Patty Cobb cafeteria. (Yes, I was a Cobb-er all four years. Only ate in Heritage to help friends--usually female--polish off unused parts of their ticket.) And this is where Harding comes so fully alive in my memory. We first actually met in my dorm room--when she (based on info that I would ask her out if I wasn't such a shy idiot) came during open house to ask me out for Sadie Hawkins week. I stuttered out an "I-just-hit-the-jackpot" yes. After that first date, when we went to the Rialto down on the square to see the full, unedited version of "Wilderness Family," our love kept building during walks. We walked at B-rock, through Harding's beautiful campus, around Harding park, to the College Church. I can still see her singing at the lilypool devotional; I can remember holding her hand while listening to Jim Woodroof preach. (All right, I probably wasn't listening at that point. Jim would understand.) I can see her playing volleyball for her club. (While I DID notice that she looked really good in tight jeans, it should be pointed out that I was not yet a preacher.) We got married May 11, 1978, and after a few days away came back for my graduation. When we left on May 14, we had little idea that six years later we'd be returning, two small kids in tow. As I reflect on this tonight, I think of all we've been through. And it makes me glad that I've had so long to love this incredible woman. That's one thing I'd like to excel in during my lifetime: I'd like to love one woman well. Honestly, I've failed too many times. My biggest regrets center on too much travel, especially during the Searcy years and the early Abilene years while Megan was still alive. Life with Megan was so difficult, and I think I didn't know (or chose not to know) just how hard it was when I was gone. I felt like I was turning people down all the time -- but there were all those trips to Jubilee, to Tulsa, to college retreats, to youth rallys, to university lectureships. Each one seemed important, but now I wonder how often I may have gone out of selfish motives. I don't think Matt felt cheated--he and I did LOTS of reading, wrestling, shooting hoops, playing ping-pong, etc. And Megan probably didn't feel left out, though because she couldn't speak (much), it was always hard to know. But I left too much to Diane. I wish I could have a do-over. Ah, regrets.

Yesterday I wrote about my trip to Searcy 30 years ago to begin my freshman year. But later, there was another trip to Searcy. This was the summer of 1984. I was still 27, and I was "trying out" for the preaching job at the College Church. As I heard the story later, the tape I'd sent to the search committee (now I almost can't believe I had the courage -- or audacity -- to send one) got put in a junk pile when they saw my age. But later, after several didn't seem to fit and after a couple sniffed at the salary, they had to return to the pile. So the call came, inviting me to come speak on a Sunday morning and evening. At the time, I didn't even own a suit. So my dad bought me one so I could try out in appropriate attire. (I know, I know . . . some of you at Highland are wanting to ask, "So whatever happened to those suits and ties you used to wear while preaching?" Hey, they were never "me"!) Shortly after that, Neale Pryor called me at home in Wilmington, NC, to say the elders would like to invite me to become their minister. It was a bittersweet evening, as we rejoiced over the new ministry but grieved over having to tell the people in Wilmington we were leaving. In the following couple months I turned 28, Megan was born, and we endured the 110 mph winds of Hurricane Diana (for seven hours). Then, in October 1984, Diane and I returned to Searcy with our two year old and our newborn. Now I was back with all of those people I mentioned yesterday whom I revered (along with many others). Only now, I wasn't their student; I was their preacher. What was I--what were we--thinking? But people were gracious. The seven years were, for the most part, wonderful. The four services every Sunday wore me out, but, hey, I was young! (Besides, Diane had the really hard job, as those of you who were around Megan in her healthy years know.) My life was blessed by older mentors, by deep friendships, and by lots of students to teach and train. The memories wash over me now: Jimmy Allen's and Neale Pryor's gospel meetings, laughing until I fell on the floor at Christmas parties at Dwight and Barby's house (I'm especially thinking of those moments today, because Barby's battle with cancer ended yesterday, and this wonderful woman went to be with the Lord), running every day with Leon, watching out the windows of my office as hundreds of students crossed Race Street, listening to J. D. Bales as he tried to talk some sense into me (he was always very gracious with me, though I frustrated him at times), sitting in on Ray Muncy's upper level history classes, going to Hunan's (the only Chinese cafeteria I've ever been to that included a taco bar in the buffet line) with the Coxes and Cochrans, playing ball on Monday mornings in the old gym with Matt before he started kindergarten, taking Megan to her special speech classes on campus, crying as we learned more about her challenges, holding each other as we wondered how we could survive without sleep, wrestling matches on the floor with Matt and Megan, "the house" (was it on Center or Market? Anyway, it's where a bunch of college guys lived whom I had mentored and who, in turn, took Matt into their inner circle . . . it was a house of laughs and love . . . but should probably have been condemned for health reasons.), calling James to ask exegetical questions, crawling into Tom's office in the Bible department when I was upset, speaking in chapel and at club devotionals and at the lily pool devotionals, "Peak of the Week" in the Administration Auditorium and then in the Benson Auditorium (it was a bigger crowd, but never felt quite the same as our first few years crammed into the admin), being asked by David Burks to speak at the first graduation ceremony of his presidency, playing pick-up basketball games with Avon Malone and Jimmy Allen, and having an asthma attack from laughing so hard at Craig's imitations of Harding and College Church people. I remember Diane and me dressing in leather and chains, dying our hair purple and pink, and going onto campus to trick-or-treat on Halloween. (I was 29, and she was 28! Students who figured out who it was nearly passed out. I think they were thinking that a preacher's wife should not be THAT HOT.) We left Searcy in the summer of 1991. It was the last year I spoke at Harding or the College Church (other than three funerals). Eleven years of my life--four as a student and seven as a minister--have been spent there. What a blessing! I wish I could go back in time and do some things more maturely, but unfortunately maturity usually only comes after failures, forgiveness, and the passing of a few years. We've returned to Searcy a few times since then. Maybe the most memorable was in May, 1992, when we went back for Diane's graduation. She attended from 1976-78, then took a class or two a semester from 1987-1991. After doing her student teaching in Abilene in the fall of 1991, she was ready for graduation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

This is a special Sunday at Highland as we welcome all the new students to ACU (as well as a few coming to Hardin-Simmons and McMurry). A whole sea of 18- and 19-year-old students and their families. Blog reader and long-time buddy David Underwood was kind enough to e-mail me a reminder that it was 30 years ago this month that we were freshmen at Harding. I responded that he surely meant 20. Maybe even 15. But not 30. The calendar, however, indicates that he is correct. It was August 1974 that I drove away from Estella Drive in Neosho, MO (where I was born and graduated) to head to Searcy in my little Ford Maverick. Much of the direction of my life flows from that moment. It was just a week or two after Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States (and just before President Ford turned around a gave him a full pardon). Hank Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth's record, hitting his 715th home run after enduring death threats from people who didn't want a black player to break the hallowed record. Televisions were turned to M.A.S.H., Sanford and Sons, The Jeffersons, and All in the Family -- and that wasn't on late-night reruns! Those shows were actually playing. And you didn't need an "oldies station" to listen to Elton John singing "B-B-B-Benny and the Jets," Grand Funk's "The Loco-Motion," Three Dog Night's "The Show Must Go On," BTO's "Taking Care of Business," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday," Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle," John Denver's "Annie's Song," Ray Stevens' "The Streak," or the Rolling Stones' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." I'm sure I listened to my Stones' 8-track on my way there, only to be told quickly by an upperclassman that it was evil and I ought to burn it. It was the year of Godfather II (still one of my all-time favs) and Chinatown--to say nothing of those campy Mel Brooks' films, "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles." A few memories of my first moments on Harding's campus: 1. It didn't seem as liberal as I'd been warned by my preacher back home. But what did I know? 2. I loved the preaching--Jim Woodroof, Jimmy Allen, Jerry Jones, and Neale Pryor. They inspired me from the first moment. 3. I really admired Cliff Ganus, Jr., the president of the school. It was quickly obvious that this was a gigantic man with a gigantic heart. 4. There were incredible girls everywhere. It was amazing. The jackpot. Mostly, I guess, I remember all the girls. Hey, I'd just turned 18 a couple weeks before. Not to get preachy or maudlin, but it is amazing how quickly life passes. Thirty years. "All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. . . . The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." I'm not a big reunion guy. But I do wonder where all those people who sat around me in chapel in the Administration auditorium are . . . how their lives have turned out . . . how they've offered and received love from spouses, children, and friends . . . how their faith has deepened (or vanished?) through the years.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I'm going to make this confession here in this private place (limited to the viewing of only those who have internet access.) Then I'm going to move on. And frankly, I blame my mom. The last couple weeks we've been at the beach. I'm not a beach person. My beloved is a beach person. I'm a Type A person who tends to go NUTS at the beach. I'm not into the whole suntan lotion, sand between the toes, and skin cancer thing. (This despite the fact that this little spot in Pensacola Beach is like holy ground to us.) I get by during our beach stays by activity. I'm up early for a bike ride--often down Ft. Pickens Road to the end of the peninsula. Then there's the trip to get two papers (USA Today and the Pensacola News-Journal) which I read over my sticks-and-twigs cereal. Then my brief appearance at the beach, followed by lots of tennis and the daily mecca to Joe Patti's seafood to pick out the amberjack, shrimp, or grouper. Then I cook what I "caught." But amid all that, there's plenty of time to read. This year I took a book on the Congo (King Leopold's Ghost) and another on Paraguay (At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig), along with a book my mom gave me. It was Nicholas Sparks's book that I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Three Weeks With My Brother. He interweaves a travelogue of his trip around the world with his older brother, Micah, with the amazing story of their lives (stark poverty, loss of parents and sister, etc.). And it made me want to read one of his novels. Now, I don't know many guys who read Sparks's novels, even though they're regularly right at the top of the bestseller list. So, I snuck into Barnes and Noble and bought Nights at Rodanthe . . . then went back for The Wedding and The Guardian . . . and then once more for The Notebook. So here is the confession: I read five books by Nicholas Sparks. In the absence of a new Grisham novel and after a summer of coaching eleven- and twelve-year-old boys, it was a nice escape. I liked that Sparks's faith is interwoven in the stories without overwhelming them. Plus, I liked that all the stories were set in coastal North Carolina, where we lived 2 1/2 years. But how in the world does a guy (former track star, no less) write so well about romance and women's intuition? I'm thinking of Jack Nicholson's explanation from "As Good As It Gets," but let's not go there. The man's just creative and gifted. Well, I'm back home. Thanks for the reading detour, mom. I walked in the door to our house Sunday night, and there were two Sports Illustrateds waiting for me. Ah, Rick Reilly . . . .

Monday, August 09, 2004

When I'm on vacation, I get a better picture of church from a visitor's perspective. The Sunday we were at Pensacola Beach, we had two wonderful churches to choose from--both of which we've visited before. So, when it came down to the final decision, what was the biggest factor? One church's assembly was at 9:00; the other was at 10:00. (I, of course, was up before light. But there were two high school and one middle school students on the trip. Their favorite church service is the one that begins later.) It's a great church to visit. One thing different this year is that there was an American flag at the front. One thing I've always appreciated about Churches of Christ is that there is almost never that kind of nationalistic display at the front. Our symbols are about the in-breaking kingdom of God which knows no political boundaries. Countries come and go, but the rule of God will be forever. That wasn't the full experience, though. The church has a genuine sense of community. As visitors, we didn't "get" all of the references, but that's as it should be. They are a family of faith--with their own stories, their own concerns, their own inside jokes. Just to be with them was a blessing.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

We're back! What a great trip back to Pensacola Beach. Our last night we went to a free Chuck Negron (former lead singer of Three Dog Night) concert on the beach at the Bushwacker Festival. It was our third time to hear him at the annual festival, and once again he sang all the favs, saving "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" for a prolonged encore. Too tired to write much tonight. My blog began a year ago with this post. So, out of laziness here's a "blog classic": We just returned from Pensacola Beach--our 15th straight year in the same condo (since 1989). It is now like holy ground. We can look out at the sand on the gulf on one side and the sand on the Santa Rosa Sound on the other side and picture our children. We remember taking a little boy and his younger sister. We remember taking the brand new baby in 1992. We can still see Megan there during her very ill days. We recall clearly the first summer of grief following her death. And now this year, we got to return with our boys and a girl (who next year will be our daughter-in-law). It has been a sanctuary, an oasis, a respite, an emergency care center through this decade and a half. We have swam, played tennis, bought fresh fish at Joe Patti's, eaten the best grouper sandwich in the world from Peg Leg Pete's, jumped in the waves, collected shells, biked, thrown baseballs, played Uno and Hearts, read, listened to Jimmy Buffett and Michael W. Smith (not together usually), watched movies, prayed, and grown deeply in our love.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Back online in 5 days . . . .