Saturday

My Post Secret



Allow me to write as the bastard child of '69. My parents spent a few weeks at the beach in March of that year; smoking dope, drinking beer, and sleeping in the car. My mother came home carrying the newest member of the family; although that would be news to her and her parents soon enough.

In those years in small town south Alabama unmarried mothers dared not to show their faces at church. Not even my grandparents went to church after the news became public. The shame for people like me starts before we take our first free breath. By the time the cord is cut we are forever tied to the sins of our parents.

I was born on a cold, cloudless day in December. My parents didn't have the money for the hospital bill, so my grandfather paid the $100 for my ransom so I could be taken to my new home, which just happened to be my grandparent's house. Not even a week old and already my life was a story of poverty and handouts.

I don't know how old I was when I realized my parents were never married. No one ever told me that, as far as I can remember, but very early I knew there were no wedding bands, no wedding pictures, no certificate, no stories for which I could be proud.

But I do remember the violence. I remember the drunkenness, the smell of beer and urine and vomit. To this day I can vividly recall watching people get high, the way smoke hangs in the air, and how you cannot wake people who have passed out.

I remember screams in the car, fights in the yard, yelling, and more screaming. Few of my preschool memories do not include some act of abuse or violence or abandonment. I was once a little boy sitting on the back steps listening to the battle going on in the house in the middle of the night. The violence eventually stopped. A door was torn off the hinges. My dad was gone forever. My mother was broken on the floor. I stayed on the steps out back. It was the safest place I knew in the world.

God looks out for fools and little children. I've heard that many times, and in my case some part of it is true. I was not alone that night on the back steps. I know now there is a God who sees children who are just trying to stay out of the way.

Fast forward a few years. Someone noticed the single mom and her two children. Someone cared enough to invite them to church. My mother still couldn't bring herself to attend, but she did allow me and my sister to go. One Sunday morning the God who had been watching over me from the beginning took my hand and heart in a way that I still cannot put into words. From that moment until now I've had a Father.

Fast forward a few more years. My Father called, it was more like a whisper, but he made it clear. He spoke of what matters most in life. He spoke to me of direction and a purpose to pursue for the rest of my days. I just remember being thankful, being overjoyed, being safe.

Time fails me to fill in the gaps; to write of the change and the growth and the healing that occurred through the years. My life is a story of redemption, a story that is still being written. What began in shame, sin, and struggle was transformed by the love of God who is greater than all three.

Today I pastor a church in small town south Alabama. In fact, each Sunday I preach not five miles from the old farm house where my mother once told her parents about me for the first time. Sometimes I drive through the little town my mother felt she had to escape. I usually take a moment to notice the church my family felt they could not face.

And when I park beside the church where I pastor I often say a prayer; a prayer of thankfulness to the God who changed my life. Then I look out over the town around me and wonder how many others out there are like I once was. Such thoughts motivate me to look a little closer, to notice a little more, and to take the extra time to make sure people know I care. The Father is always watching.

Favorite Resources

Two of my favorite online resources are Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Precept Austin. These two alone can provide more good reading than most of us will ever do. I also enjoy Bible Gateway for easy access to various translations.

Gone are the days when a pastor needed a vast personal library. Today all a pastor needs is a good internet connection. Although gathering good books is still a good idea, the present and the future are about navigation more than information, knowing how to find what you need more than possessing it on an office book shelf.

The screen has replaced the page. I can't say I'm thrilled with it, but there is no going back. I've always been an early adopter when it comes to technology, so let us go, taking our learning and our message to the digital world.

Monday

Dibs on the Gibbs: Walking in Obedience

Julia and I worked together for a couple of years. I still keep up with her and her family through the magic of social media. Everyone has a story to tell and Julia is living out a good one. For example, take this:

Dibs on the Gibbs: Walking in Obedience: On October 1 st 2010, after months of discussion and prayers spoken over the word, we said Yes to the Lord. Yes, to His calling for...

John 3:16

In case you missed it, here is the video that ran during the NFL playoff game last Saturday. Denver lost but I have a feeling that a few million people were captivated by this message.


Friday

Sunday

Morning View


A nice, crisp southern morning; makes my heart thankful. This is my morning coffee/prayer time view.

Thursday

PLEASE

I've never been a people-pleaser. I came wired that way from the factory (sorry mom). All my life I've tried to do what I thought was best with very little consideration for the approval of others. As a teen, peer pressure was a concept to me, not a reality. So what if everyone else was doing it? It wasn't important to me. Such perception is a strength as well as a weakness.

The weakness springs to life when other people need me. As a husband, father, friend, and pastor my life is filled with people who from time to time need something from me. I've had to learn to PLEASE them appropriately.

Presence. Sometimes the best way to demonstrate love and concern is by simply being there. When someone dies there is nothing you can do or say to change things. Just being there is enough. I remember well when Gerald passed out while driving highway 231. He hit a pine tree in front of a motel near Montgomery. He was not wearing a seat belt. His home and our church were two hours away, and I got to the hospital not long after Gerald's wife and before any other members of the family. We stood together at Gerald's side and prayed, not knowing if he would live another hour. He did. But for a while all I could do was wait with his wife. Presense was enough.

Listening. One of the most practical demonstrations of love is listening. When we take the time to hear and understand what others are saying they believe we care. I've probably done more to help the local church by sitting in rocking chairs on front porches listening to people than all the methods or strategies suggested to me through seminary or pastoral conferences combined. I think it is a trap to believe that we should talk and others should respond. People respond when we listen.

Empathy. Empathy occurs when you put yourself in someone else's place. Maybe you've never been where they are or experienced what they have, but you use that imagination God gave and try to understand what they might be going through. You feel it. You empathize. And when you do people know they matter to you.

Attention. Every Sunday at church I hear people saying, "Hey. How are you?" The answer is almost always, "Fine. You?" even when things are not fine. Some people see through our facades. Maybe this is a spiritual gift, maybe a specialized skill, but some people are good at it. No matter what you say they can see something in your eyes or hear something in your voice. They notice. They know. They pay attention. If you are serious about loving others in practical ways this is a skill you want to develop. 

Service. Sometimes there are actions you can take. Driving your elderly neighbor to a doctor's appointment, mowing her yard, or changing her tire are concrete examples of service. You love people when you do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

Example. Of all the ways to demonstrate love that I have mentioned so far, this is the one most overlooked. Setting a good example can be a strong demonstration of love. Right now in the church I serve there is a lady who has struggled with liver cancer for eight years. She has made countless trips to doctors two states away. She spends thousands of dollars on medicines each year. Yet, on Sunday she not only attends worship, she serves in the church in multiple roles. I've seen her processing Sunday School records and helping in the nursery. Her example  is powerful. She inspires everyone who cares to notice. She teaches us that loving God and serving God matters. She loves us by her example.

People pleasing is frowned upon, but aiming to PLEASE people honors God and is true to the Spirit of Christ.

Friday

Remembering Rocky Block

Cody Block

Three seconds after this my daughter became a life long Crimson Tide fan.

Tuesday

Bruton Parish Church


I believe in Jefus Chrift.

Inside the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, VA. The church was founded in 1674, some 39 years after my family arrived in Virginia. Did they ever attend this church? I have no proof, but at the time there was only one church to attend if someone was so inclined, so it's quiet possible.

Michelle and I walked the grounds of this church as if they were holy. We paused at graves, some of which were inside the building. We stared at simple things, like the door knob, the same one turned by Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. I held the rope and asked to ring the church bell, the same one used to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766 and call worshipers today. At the front of the sanctuary I paused for a prayer beside a 400 year old baptismal font sent over from England. I thought about how simple faith and secret prayers inspired boldness to believe this world could be better; about the promises of eternity strengthening the decisions of today; and about English gentlemen bowing to the Jewish carpenter and trusting their future, and their children's, to Him.




Saturday

Southern Baptist Want to UnSouthern

My denomination is considering a name change. We have been the Southern Baptist Convention since 1845. But rumblings of discontent over the name have been felt for years. As of today I am not in favor of changing the name. Maybe someone can give me a good reason to in the future? But for now I offer these thoughts:

1. When did "southern" become so important? The word "southern" is the least of our concerns. Most any city of marginal size has a "southside" or a southside grocery or southside high school or southside bank. You can go to South Dakota just like you can go to south Florida. The word is not the problem. Perception of our denomination is the problem. Changing the name appears to be a way of hiding the truth. Calling a truck a Mazda B-Series doesn't mean it's not a Ford Ranger. You can change the label and make a few stylistic alterations but it's still what it is. People love southern cooking and southern accents. You don't have to live in Alabama to stir up some southern cooking, and I doubt your neighbors will turn away from your table if you offer up some fried okra and corn bread.

2. Where do we stop? If the name Southern is offensive what about the gospel? Or the cross? Are we really so seeker sensitive that we want to avoid anything that someone might find offensive? Do we want to give people in the community that much power? Will we stop reading words like sin and repentance out loud in our churches, like they are not in the Bible? Have we completely succumbed to the customer service model?

3. What about boasting? Consider the near miraculous change in Southern Baptist life. Yes our denomination started because we were on the wrong side of the slavery issue. But that failure has not defined us. We teach repentance and change through faith in Jesus Christ. The Southern Baptist Convention is an example of a large group of people who have experience just that. We continue to overcome the failings of our past. At our next Annual Convention we will most likely see the first African American elected president of the SBC. These are days to boast about the good that God had done. If we hide our name we hide part of our story. I hope we don't.