Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One of the talented women of our church has been asked several times to write for a magazine owned by the Gospel Advocate. She was invited to write again for a spring issue, which she did. But then word came back that her articles were no longer welcome because she's a member of Highland. The Gospel Advocate has the right to do that, of course. They can decide which churches meet their standards and which don't. But honestly, Highland isn't exactly the whacky church they might think. (Besides, what happened to congregational autonomy?) The funny thing is that the Gospel Advocate was my original publisher. An editor from there heard some of my sermons at the College Church in 1985 and asked if they could put them in a book. So a couple books came out that sold quite well. My thinking has changed a lot through the years, and I hope it continues to as God keeps shaping me, but the things that might offend the Advocate are things I thought the whole time I preached in Searcy: that there is a much wider communion of saints than Churches of Christ, that women have been called to share fully in their talents and gifts, that a cappella music is an amazing gift but not necessarily "God's way." - - - - We had a great planning session in Nashville Sunday evening and yesterday morning to get started for next fall's Zoe conference. What a creative bunch I get to hang around!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Here are five words I like: ambiguity, mystery, complexity, paradox, and nuance. Am I totally goofed up? How about you? What words speak from your soul?

Friday, January 27, 2006

My Five Suits I don't usually preach with a coat and tie now. Coats make me hot, and I've never liked ties. I still wear them at times, but not often. Not trying to be cool, just prefer that, and it seems to fit our changing church. But there was a time when I preached in suits: the College Church in the 1980s. When I went to try out there in March of 1984, I didn't own a suit. One reason is that I was fashion-challenged. But another reason is that we were budget-challenged. I was being paid $18K at our congregation, Diane didn't work outside the home, and we had two kids. I don't resent that a bit; I would guess that probably fit right into the church's membership. But my dad pointed out that I should probably preach in a suit at the College Church. I was just 27, and he knew I shouldn't dress like a university student. So he bought me two suits. I wore one in the morning and one in the evening the Sunday I tried out. When I arrived in Searcy, I needed another suit or two. So Dirk Smith, a Harding student and the son of our campus ministers, drove me to Horn's in Little Rock. Anyone ever heard of Horn's (or remember those frightening commercials)? I paid either fifty bucks each, or maybe it was fifty for both. (Dirk, are you out there? Do you remember?) So now I had four suits. All right, two of them may not have been exactly Hickey Freeman quality. But they worked. My fifth suit came from an older man whom I've always admired named Virgil Lawyer. Virgil spent his life preaching and teaching history at Harding. His students felt like they were there for the actual battles when they heard Virgil talk about the Civil War. He and Lou are one of my favorite couples ever. He called me one day and said he'd like to take me shopping. I didn't know what that meant, but I loved the idea of a day with Virgil. We drove over to North Little Rock, and he picked out a nice suit that he bought me. He told me that when he was a young minister an older man bought him a suit when he couldn't afford one, simply asking him to do the same for another young minister later in life. Of those five suits I had in the mid-eighties, four are long gone. But the one Virgil bought me still hangs in my closet. I just can't turn loose of it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Update (added at 9:00 a.m.): Jim Morrison is out of Zambia, thanks to the American embassy. He's very thankful for all your prayers. Hopefully he'll be back by Sunday. Of course, as you can imagine, there is much difficult emotional work ahead. Thanks for your concern for this good family. - - - - I've pointed you a couple times to the stuff Steve Holt, Jr., is writing here. Check out yesterday's great post on friendship houses. - - - - Also, cruise over to this thought-provoking piece that my buddy Jeff Childers told me about. - - - - As we seek to turn the ship from the direction of consumer-marketing to missional living, we must somehow not make this another "we're-doing-it-righter-than-you" endeavor. We must try to continue to move the church into the world that God loves without a game of "I'm-more-missional-than-you." This won't be sudden. It's engrained in who we are. But it's an essential move to recapture the identity of the people of God. Still, pride has no place. We must call one another into the mission of Christ, commission each other to be ministers in our spheres of influence (and even outside those spheres), and re-imagine how church might look if it sought to live as a blessing for the world. - - - - (I understand that some are having a hard time accessing the comments section today. Not sure why. I just tried republishing.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My last e-mail yesterday from Jim indicated that he thinks he's going to be allowed to leave Zambia. Thanks for your prayers. Please let them continue for Dr. Jim, his family, and the Zambian family. (I'll update as soon as I hear something.) - - - - I just finished oiling Chris's glove. It's the one that's been in our family since Matt was 10. I still love the smell of a freshly oiled baseball glove. - - - - "I want worship to be directed to God and to express the thoughts of the whole community of faith. BUT, if I got to pick my favorite three worship songs to sing this Sunday morning, they would be . . . ." Finish the sentence. I'll give you mine later.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Many of you have read a few things I've written about Dr. Jim (Morrison) before. He's a good friend of mine, a man who's always thinking and praying about missional living -- and then acting on those thoughts and prayers. (The same could be said for his wife, Tracy.) He's the ER physician who camped out in the ICU unit at Cook's right after the wreck so he could be with the families of the three boys. In the past, Jim has made several medical mission trips to Haiti. Right now he's in Zambia. Unfortunately, yesterday he accidentally hit a child while driving, and the boy--about four or five years old--died in his arms. This is a man who gladly give his life for such a child. He's heart-broken. (By the way, stories like this are not uncommon in Africa. I've heard many stories of missionaries who had the same kind of tragic experience.) Everyone around the site of the accident agrees that it was absolutely not his fault. The child darted out suddenly without looking. Still, he's in the middle of Africa waiting to see if the case will be dropped as it should be. Jim tells me that the American embassy in Lusaka has been very helpful. He said he's so thankful for their assistance. But he would certainly love to have the prayers of everyone in the blog world. There is a hearing tomorrow. Please join me in prayer that the authorities will dismiss the case, recognizing that it was an accident that didn't stem from wreckless driving, that Jim will feel the love and support of his family and friends in the midst of his grief, and that the Zambian family will be comforted.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thanks, thanks to our gracious hosts, the College Church in Fresno. Lee and Bill, the world's greatest chefs, you and your gang outdid yourselves! As Leonard Sweet said after Friday evening's meal, "If steak were a religion, this place would be a cathedral!" - - - - It's not necessarily wrong to switch churches. There are several good reasons someone might decide they need to do so. But I'm through catering to church-hoppers. These are the religious consumers who hop from place-to-place, seeking the congregation that best serves THEM. Worship like they like it. Change only when they approve. Children's ministry the way they think it should be done. Ditto with youth ministry. A class or small group where they are the center of attention. God bless the Church-hoppers, for theirs is the eternal quest of self-fulfillment. Here's my growing conviction: let's live missional lives--lives poured out for the world. Let's seep and leak into the crevices of society; let's offer our lives for God's purposes of mercy and justice; let's be poured out like wine upon the altar. If people aren't happy with that, let's love them and bless them as they leapfrog to another place. But let's not get off task in order to keep them. It isn't the way of Christ. All things in love. But the mission of Christ must guide us.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What a treat to be at the Fresno Zoe Conference -- especially since I had to cancel at the last minute last year because we were at Cook's Children's hospital following the wreck. These are incredible folks here at College Church who host the conference each January. When I agreed to come, I didn't know this would be the weekend of the 7th grade "A" team tournament. Apparently last night I missed seeing Chris, our point guard, make a 3-point shot just before the buzzer to send us into OT against Clack. We won in double OT and play at noon today (presumably against Mann Middle School) for the championship. I can't believe I wasn't there for that moment. I haven't missed many big sports moments with the boys, but this was one. Nevertheless, no one in my family resents my being here. We love the Zoe ministry, and I'm glad to be in Fresno. Just wish ESPN 2 would carry that 7th grade championship game at noon!

Friday, January 20, 2006

The idea behind merit pay scales for teachers is that we want the very best teaching possible for our students. We've all known teachers (though, truthfully, I haven't known many) who were failing their children. However, when the pay increases are tied to students' performance on standardized tests, there is a huge problem. It encourages teachers to gravitate toward classrooms with fewer kids who are challenged--challenged socially, culturally, emotionally, and intellectually. In other words, if you can find a classroom full of kids from gated communities, your chances for increased pay skyrocket. I like what Denver is doing: tying pay scales to teachers' willingness to teach in classrooms with students who from the poorest families and those who are English-language learners. Another possibility is to base the performance NOT on standardized tests but on the attainment of goals that have been agreed upon by teachers, parents, and school district representatives. Having said that, I'm so thankful today for the (mostly) wonderful teachers my three children have had here in Abilene. It was very important to us that our kids go to school with students from other races and other economic situations. - - - - From Ben Witherington III, one of my favorite NT scholars: We are not owners of this world; we are only stewards and caretakers of it, for God's sake. The Bible does not support either a godless communistic philosophy of property and use of the world's resources, nor does it support a godless capitalistic vision of the same. The Bible suggests there is neither private nor public property, only God's property, of which we are all stewards. The whole modern theory of ownership is faulty, for we brought nothing with us into this world, and we will take none of it with us. It also follows from this theology of stewardship that since it belongs to God, we have an obligation to use and dispose of it all in a way that glorifies God and helps humankind. The theory of charity too often has as its essential premise "what's mine is mine, but I may choose to share it with you." The problem with this thesis is that the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein. We have simply been entrusted with a small portion of it to tend and use for the good of God's dominion while we are here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The mayor of New Orleans said that God sent the hurricane because he's mad about the war in Iraq and racism. Pat Robertson said that God struck Prime Minister Sharon to punish him for his policies with Israel. I'm continually hearing from people who know what God wants. How do people know? Wouldn't it be better to admit that we don't have a direct line to the mind of the Almighty (other than through scripture--which still must be interpreted)? We need to practice the disciplines of spiritual discernment: reading scripture, praying, listening, living in community, seeking wisdom, etc. But like a wise, loving parent, God wants us to actually make choices. He isn't just waiting to be joyful or disappointed, depending on whether or not we figured out what he wanted. He has invited us into the journey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I've been to holiday grief seminars that were helpful. Any time you get people together to admit grief and to process, it's helpful. But what happened Sunday evening wasn't just intellectually helpful. It was healing. When people come together to lament, to remember, to cry out, to pray, to claim hope, to hug, to weep, to laugh, to light candles, to sing, and to listen to Christian music--it goes way beyond helpful. It's an experience. No wonder the psalms of Israel aren't tame. Maybe you've heard that there are psalms of lament, of thanksgiving, of praise, etc. That's right. Sort of. But the truth is that many of them include more than one response. You can move, for example, from thanksgiving to lament to anger to praise. In other words, they are real. At least I know for me, my emotions don't come neatly packaged, one at a time. It's not just head info about the grief process that brings healing. It is community . . . and worship . . . and emotion . . . and trust . . . and symbol . . . and hope . . . and lament . . . and memory . . . and prayer. - - - - Tonight in "Oasis" I begin a two-week series I'm calling "Tiptoeing through the TULIP: Five Small Problems With Calvinism."

Monday, January 16, 2006

I got caught Saturday. During the previews before "Glory Road," Chris glanced over at me and saw big, fat tears falling off my face. He asked, "Hey, Dad, why are you crying?" To Chris, no preview could justify those tears -- unless they were tears of joy for the release of the next Bourne movie or perhaps a discovery that King Kong II was being filmed. I gave him a short, brush-off answer. It wasn't the time or place. But what I wanted to say was: Because we're here. In the dark. In this theater. And you're sitting next to me. All week it's been coming, and now that we've slowed down and you're sitting next to me, the dam burst. Because you could have died a year ago. Because I can still hear your mom sobbing, "O God, please not again." Because you were beaten beyond recognition. Because we heard the Bourlands crying out in the hospital when they were told that Brody had died. Because I can still remember those nights in ICU at Cook's with the Bennetts and the Lemmonses. Because I held my breath for 48 hours, waiting to see if you'd breathe on your own. Because Jon Westin's still on crutches. But also because you're all right. Because you didn't have to stay in that wheelchair or that back brace. Because I saw you play football this fall, and because you're playing point guard now. Because you're an incredible young man who is loved by your peers and by all younger kids. Because we're back to wrestling. Because the five of us got to hike all over the mountains of Colorado this summer. And because I can lose to you every day in P-I-G. Because of how close we feel to the other families impacted by the wreck. Because of our love for Sarah, our beloved youth minister, who on the sixteenth day of her first fulltime ministry had to break the news to me and who has been an amazing help to people--with maturity way beyond her years--the past twelve months. Because of the Highland church (like the hundreds who came to cry, hug, pray, light candles, and remember last night). Because of Scott B.'s pastoral care, as we met with the six of you (Beth, Amara, Chris P., Austin, Jon Westin, and you) on Wednesday nights for several weeks after we were all home from the hospital to help you process the tragedy. Because of our spiritual family all around the world who prayed for you and the others (as still partially recorded on my 1-16-05 blog). Because I can still feel your brother's hug when we met at Cook's after he flew from Houston and I drove from Abilene (since only one parent could fly with you and it would have gotten ugly fast if I'd suggested to your mom that she not get in that plane!). Because I still remember Jenna's tears as she cared tenderly for you--her brother-in-law for only seven months at the time. Because Dr. Jim loaded up and drove to Ft. Worth to watch over the three of you and your families himself (while letting those ER docs do their jobs). Because one of our elders, a physical therapist, came over to hold you steady while you showered and carefully bound back up your wounds. Because another of our elders, a teacher at Lincoln at the time, met you to help you up and down the stairs. Because there's no better sight for me than seeing you and your brother playing together--catch or basketball or Play Station--when he's home. Plus, sometimes grief gets confused. And I still cry about Megan. That would have been the long answer. But no seventh grader wants to hear that with a bag of popcorn and a great sports movie coming on. Thanks so much for your prayers for our church this past year.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The weekend before the Martin Luther King holiday was a fitting time to watch "Glory Road." It is, of course, a great sports movie. Josh, Chris, and I did all we could not to stand and yell for the guys from El Paso--even though we knew the outcome. Chris said he wanted to scream "he stepped out!" when Jo Jo White's heel went out of bounds. There is also the humor that we locals can appreciate when these young men are traveling through West Texas for the first time. One of them wants to borrow a quarter to call his mom so he can tell her he's the first black man on the moon. But the hard part is watching the horrible racism the team faced at home and as they traveled. There is a powerful scene where the black players are huddled together in a room trying to figure out whether Dr. King's way (of nonviolence) is the right way. I'm sure the vicious racism they received all over the country is accurate. Whether Coach Rupp's racism (as depicted in the movie) is accurate or not, I just don't know. I've read that in his forty years of coaching, he only recruited one African-American player to play at Kentucky and that was at the very end. But maybe all that means is that he missed an opportunity to be remembered as the guy who helped break the barrier. It's a good weekend to read again this essential speech from American history.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Oklahoma Christian University has been in the headlines, having just announced a policy where campus workers going through a divorce could be fired. After sharp criticism, the policy has already been rescinded. - - - - Pat Robertson is becoming bizarre. Even for Pat Robertson. - - - - I just read a chapter on the spiritual discipline of singing in a soon-to-be-released book by Darryl Tippens, the provost of Pepperdine. It is phenomenal. I'll let you know when the book is out. - - - - Winner of the Super Bowl? The Colts.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Let me encourage you to check in at harvestboston.net. Steve has been writing about his experience at CSC in Abilene, working with one of my elders, Jim Clark, whom Steve calls "perhaps the most prayerful person I know." This is rich stuff Steve's writing. It's Kingdom Lit 101. - - - - I sense that dark clouds are forming over my head as the one-year anniversary of the wreck approaches. I'll reflect on that Monday. This Sunday evening we'll have a service of memory and lament as we remember our losses (not just the losses from the wreck) from this past year. Because I anticipate it being a very emotional time for my family, I've asked two of our elders, Rob Cunningham and David Lang, and one of our ministers, Sarah Campbell, to lead the service.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My name is Mike, and I'm a Parrothead. All right, maybe not a fullblown Parrothead. But I do like Buffett's music. (I have one of my elders to blame.) You've heard "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise," of course--along with "Come Monday." Yeah, yeah. Probably even "Fins" and "Volcano." But how about "Tin Cup Chalice," "One Particular Harbor," "Migration," "School Boy Heart" and "I Love the Now"? Maybe "Meet Me in Memphis" or Jimmy's version of "Brown-Eyed Girl," "Mexico," or "Southern Cross"? - - - - One of my best reads last year was Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The novel is a long letter from a 76-year-old minister to his 6-year-old son. John Ames married when he was young, but his wife died in childbirth (along with the daughter she was giving birth to). He remained single--and at the same church--for four decades, when he married a woman thirty years younger. Near the end of his life, he writes to his son to tell him who he is (was) and to let the boy know about his grandfather and great grandfather, also pastors--one a big war-promoter and the other a pacifist. There are so many things I love about this novel, but one of the most significant things to me was her insight about sermon preparation, about preaching, and about ministry. How could someone write this who hasn't been a minister herself? Here's a sample: "Your mother is respectful of my hours up here in the study. She's proud of my books. She was the one who actually called my attentionn to the number of boxes I have filled with my sermons and my prayers. Say, fifty sermons a year for forty-five years, not counting funerals and so on, of which there have been a great many. Two thousand two hundred and fifty. If they average thirty pages, that's sixty-seven thousand five hundred pages. Can that be right? I guess it is. I write in a small hand, too, as you know by now. Say three hundred pages make a volume. Then I've written two hundred twenty-five books, which puts me up there with Augustine and Calvin for quantity. That's amazing. I wrote almost all of it in the deepest hope and conviction. Sifting my thoughts and choosing my words. Trying to say what was true. And I'll tell you frankly, that was wonderful." And then this: "I suppose it's natural to think about those old boxes of sermons upstairs. They are a record of my life, after all, a sort of foretaste of the Last Judgment, really, so how can I not be curious? Here I was a pastor of souls, hundreds and hundreds of them over all those years, and I hope I was speaking to them, not only to myself, as it seems to me sometimes when I look back. I still wake up at night, thinking, That's what I should have said! or That's what he meant! remembering conversations I had with people years ago, some of them long gone from the world, past any thought of my putting things right with them. And then I do wonder where my attention was. If that is even the question." One more: "A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. It has to be heard in that way. There are three parties to it, of course, but so are there even to the most private thought--the self that yields the thought, the self that acknowledges and in some way responds to the thought, and the Lord. That is a remarkable thing to consider." - - - - And speaking of sermons, just a moment for preacher geek. I just finished Paul Scott Wilson's Preaching and Homiletical Theory. I had already worked through his books God Sense: Reading the Bible for Preaching and The Four Pages of the Sermon, but I enjoyed this one much more. If you haven't had a chance to catch up on works on homiletics for a while, this will provide a lot of help. The opening section on the Bible (with chapters entitled "Biblical Preaching," "Exegesis for Preaching," and "Homileticians and the Bible") is excellent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

To start this new year, the one in which I will turn 50, I read Dr. Andrew Weil's Healthy Aging. My favorite chapter is called "The Value of Aging." Weil points out that there are, for sure, problems with aging. But if we can resist the youth obsession of our culture, we can see what scripture recognized: that there are some advantages to aging. So here are some of the things that age well and that serve as metaphors for him: Whiskey and wine Cheese Beef Trees Violins Antiques Then he points out (working from these illustrations) that aging can: "-add richness to life -replace the shallowness and greeness of youth with depth and maturity -develop and enhance desirable qualities of personality while lessening undesirable ones -smooth out roughness of character -enhance the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life by the same processes that cause decline of the physical body -confer the advantages and power of survivorship -develop one's voice and authority as a living link to the past." Anyone out there who's a little further down the aging path who can testify to his claim that aging has its advantages (besides coffee for $.35 at McDonald's)?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Love this church website that my buddy Mark Moore put up. Check it out. You might also want to look at kibogroup.org, which Mark, a former missionary in Uganda, also designed. (By the way, the name "kibo group" goes back to the time he and I and a dozen other friends climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro together. Kibo is the highest point.) - - - - I read these TOP TEN WAYS TO IMPROVE CHURCH ATTENDANCE IN 2006 (by Dave Tippett) 10. Watch Aslan the Lion take down a gazelle, live on the platform 9. More "open mic" opportunities during worship service 8. One of those fake shark fins in baptismal 7. Floating sermon points dance in front of your eyes via cool 3-D PowerPoint slides 6. Spiritual tech support guys will tell you not to just "re-boot your soul" every time you call 5. Sermon series: "Thomas Kincaid; the soft lighting Disciple" 4. Wi-Fi access for wireless hearing aides 3. Tazer the Sleeping Sound Booth Guy Day 2. Will start accepting coupons from non-tithing churches 1. Ability to TiVo the sermon Anyone have any other suggests we should add to the list for 2006?

Monday, January 09, 2006

I've had several older men in my life through the years who have helped shape me into the way of Jesus. (To be honest, I still do: Clois, Wally, Grady, Landon, etc.) But there is one I'll never forget. There's just something about those college years that are so important. Jerry Jones was the chairman of the Bible Department when I was a student at Harding. He was also my homiletics instructor. I learned a lot of head stuff from him. But his place in my life went way beyond the classroom. We became friends. We ran together in the evening--five miles of sweat talking about dating, scripture, marriage, preaching, sports. We played ping-pong together. I was better. Way better. But for some reason, he won. A lot. He had no offense. He just stood ten feet behind the table calmly returning slam after slam until I was worn out. A couple times he took me with him as he drove out to preach in revivals at small churches. Actually, I owe him even more. He preached in a gospel meeting in NE Ohio and there met Diane when she'd been out of high school a year or two. He convinced her that she should attend Harding, promising her that they'd find a way to make it work financially. My life is richer, deeper, and more gospel-formed because this older man shared his life with me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A reminder to Highland members: today we're at one service at 9:00 with the ministry fair to follow. There will be no adult classes; there is one combined class for high school and middle school students to welcome our new co-youth minister; and there will be shortened children's classes (so the children and teachers can attend the ministry fair). This is a bit confusing, perhaps, since the last two weeks (Christmas and New Year's Day) we had one service at 10:00 with no classes. Next Sunday (January 15): one service at 9:00 with Bible classes at 10:30. Then on January 22 when university students are back we return to our normal schedule: assemblies from 8:15-9:35 and 11:00-12:20, with Bible classes 9:45-10:45.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?" That's the question that Books and Culture, Christianity Today, and Leadership Journal are joining together to ask this year. They're inviting six creative Christian thinkers to answer the question. The first is Lauren Winner, the 29-year-old author of Girl Meets God and Real Sex. Her answer to this significant question is about sleep. That's right. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, can take sleep more seriously. You can find her essay here. - - - - Check out this review of King Kong by Deana Nall.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm so thankful for the amazing things I know are going on at several Christian colleges. Pepperdine continues to reclaim its Christian heritage. Rochester College is on its way to becoming a top-flight school in the north. Harding continues to train and equip students for vocational missions. And with the hiring of Randy Lowry, this may well be the Year of Lipscomb. But today I want to say a word about Abilene Christian University. ACU was founded 100 years ago, and there will be centennial celebrations all year long. I'm so thankful to be involved with ACU as a teacher and also as the preacher for a church that is intimately connected with it. (More students attend ACU from Highland than any other church. Plus lots of administrators, faculty, staff, and students find their church home here.) I can't believe the strength of the department Jack Reese, Dean of the College of Biblical Studies, has put together. I would love to be a student going to ACU now to prepare for ministry. Take, for example, this one area: homiletics. You can study preaching with Randy Harris, Stephen Johnson, James Thompson, Jack Reese, Mark Love, and Tim Sensing. That's called hoarding the wealth! In a couple weeks, Randy and I will get to teach about 80 freshmen Bible majors Acts through Revelation. And I envy what they're going to be getting in the coming years. I'd like to sit in those classes they're going to have with Jeff Childers and Mark Hamilton and Larry Henderson and David Wray and Jerry Taylor and . . . Well, I shouldn't start. (Check out the undergrad faculty and the grad faculty online.) I didn't attend ACU as a student. But I am very thankful for all the women and men who have made it what it is. The university has been a blessing in my life and to churches all over the world. Happy 100th!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I was a campus baby while my parents attended the University of Texas. Whoever didn't have a class was my babysitter. And apparently one of my first phrases to speak was HOOK EM HORNS. I was introduced to the biblical concept of "alien and stranger" by being a UT fan while growing up just an hour from the University of Arkansas campus. Every fourth year when the UT/UA game was played in Fayetteville (the Arkansas home games alternated between Fayetteville and Little Rock), our family dressed up in orange and attended, finding our place in the sea of red. We were there for the game of the century in 1969--despite the fact that President Nixon took our tickets. (The full story is that when the President decided to attend, they had to take some tickets from around the stadium for security and ours were chosen. Hmmmm. Did they know we'd be wearing orange? But my dad snagged some last-minute tickets from another source.) So . . . this was a big night. The first national title for the Longhorns since 1970. And does anyone doubt what I've been writing about Vince Young? He was 30-for-40 in passing for over 250 yards. That's a good night for a QB. But what sets him apart is that he rushed for 200 yards. That was the difference. Hook em horns!!

Did someone move Abilene to the Southern Hemisphere while we were gone to Missouri? Yesterday, January 3, it was 87 degrees! I don't like hot in the summer--much less in the winter. I live for winter--when it's supposed to be cold, snowy, and depressive. When I came home from work, three middle school boys were playing hoops in our driveway. Guess what? I got invited to join! They were that desperate for a game of two-on-two. We had a blast, I didn't embarrass my son too badly, and today I only have one sprained wrist as a result. - - - - Tonight, Texas gets to claim their first national title since 1970. There is that small problem of USC, but hope springs eternal. Hook-em-horns! - - - - For a better 2006 . . . STOP SPENDING MONEY YOU DON'T HAVE The gap between what you really need and what our consumer society shouts out that you really need is growing rapidly. But that gap wouldn't matter if people couldn't pay to stretch themselves too far. And that's where credit cards come in. Enjoy now. Pay later. Slide the card. Take out the loan. Borrow just a bit more. And we ministers see the broken results all around us. People are in debt up to their eyeballs. They aren't free to do the things they want to do like respond generously when they see others in need because they have no financial margin. So here's the difficult truth: your children don't need cell phones; you probably don't need a cell phone; you don't need a health club membership; you don't need an expensive vacation; you don't need an SUV; your kids don't need the latest fashions; your family can survive without high-speed internet and cable. I'm not saying these are wrong. If you can afford them while living with generous hearts, then great. But they are not worth living without financial margin. STOP DIETING Whacky diets continue to come and go. Stop the starve-and-balloon diet process. Eat right. Don't overeat. Cut back -- WAY back -- on fast food. (If this is hard for you, check out "Supersize Me" and watch it every couple months. That should help.) Vegies. No secret there. Vegies, fruit, beans, nuts, lean meat (most of the time). But enjoy a steak. Slap on the butter when you want it. Just eat reasonably most of the time. Party on Friday. STOP OBSESSING ON THE LAST TEN POUNDS When anorexic models are plastered all over the covers of magazines, it's easy to obsess on getting rid of those last ten pounds. To be honest, that isn't very reasonable for people who are over 30 and can't hire a personal chef and don't have four hours a day to work out with a personal trainer. For health reasons, keeping weight down is usually good. But it's a huge leap from that to our obsession with being perfectly fit and trim. Part of what happens in a health club is, well, healthy; but much of it isn't. Find a work-out routine that works for you. Something to get the heart rate up a bit: jogging, climbing stairs, biking, walking, etc. Get into a regular routine. The goal here isn't to ditch those last few pounds (though if it happens, you won't be offended!) but to get your heart pumping a little harder. That releases energy that tends to spill over into other areas of your life.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I hope many of you have been able to follow the photojournalism career of former Highland member Chris Anderson (Carolyn and Lynn's youngest child). He has become a "voice" for the poor and oppressed of the world through his camera lens. Recently Chris has been in Bolivia. Check out some of his work here. (Go down to "Bolivian Elections" by Christopher Anderson. It is a series of short essays on Venezuela and Bolivia. Amazing photos and commentary.) - - - - I continue to be moved by the words of faith, hope, and love (along with anxiety and concern) coming from Joe and Laura as little Ira continues battling for his life. - - - - Sure enough, Casen's picture was in yesterday's Abilene Reporter-News as the first baby of year -- after he decided he did NOT want to be a sermon illustration while in his mother's womb.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My preaching year hasn't begun very well. This morning we're having everyone come to the front for communion. We do this about four times a year, and most people love the experience. So often when we take communion, we never interact with one another. It's as if we were in cubicles. It's more of an altar rather than a table (to borrow from the wonderful insights of John Mark Hicks in Come to the Table). On these Sundays, we're able to sing more, we actually see each other, pray for each other, greet each other, and bless each other. That's hard to pull off in such a large church, but I think most are deeply blessed. Anyway, to bring us to the table, I'm speaking on the image of pregnancy and childbirth. To get a glimpse of where this might go, read John 16:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, and Romans 8:22. A couple weeks ago I asked my assistant to find me a "really pregnant woman." "How pregnant?" Gina wanted to know. "REAL pregnant." So Gina talked to WK, who is due the second week of January with her first child. Then I crafted a sermon around an interaction on Sunday morning with WK. She came in Friday and we went through the Q & A part. As she left, I jokingly said, "You'll still be around Sunday, won't you?" She laughed and said, "Oh, yes. I just saw the doctor and he said there's no way I'll go into labor for another week." Then I went back to preparing my sermon on the suddenness and unpredictability of childbirth. You're way ahead of me, aren't you? Last night, just before a houseful of people came over, I got a call to tell me that WK was in labor and that she and her husband had gone to the hospital. So this morning I get to encourage people to receive the body and blood of Jesus in a spirit of watchful anticipation, knowing that the Lord could appear at any time. My sermon is in a bit of disarray, however, since I didn't pay enough attention to what the text had been saying all along! You don't know! I hope my attentiveness to scripture improves this year. Blessings on you in 2006. And for now, we welcome Highland's newest member: Casen Matthew K., who was born at 12:25 this morning.