Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday flashback

I know it's a holiday weekend and all, but I really didn't expect to be surprised again by the attendance. Extra chairs had to be set up. Thanks to Mike and his team for their quick thinking. We ran out of outlines. Printed more. Still not enough!

There was a lady back again from last Sunday. I called her the other day to thank her for coming. It happens that I had ministered to her 4 years ago when her husband was brought to the ER with a heart attack. (They zapped him 11 times, she said.) She's been "looking for a church" and decided to give us a try last week. In her words, "I wanted to come back the next day and can't wait for Sunday." Today she brought 3 friends with her.

We also had a 35 member youth group from Mill Swamp Baptist Church in Ivor, VA. They came yesterday and worked with our nursing home team to host a New Years party at Britthaven. Obviously our style of worship was new to them. It was strange seeing teenagers looking amazed at our band. One kid came up afterward and shook my hand, thanking me for having a band "that rocked". Even their church music director came up and told me how much he enjoyed the music. Uh oh.

Great job again by the band. Chad's getting more comfortable leading, and they sounded great.

Today I spoke briefly, then we had a conversation with one of our missionary families, the Bensons. It's a great way to explain foreign missions. Our folks really seem to enjoy it when we do this. And the love offering we received for them was over the top! What a generous church.

Thanks to our support teams in housekeeping, the nursery and our hospitality team. What you folks do is so important to the big picture. While what you do is often unsung, it's not without notice.

Now I'm watching the Skins and Cowboys [pardon my french]. 3rd quarter and things are looking good for the burgundy and gold. You're in! Amazing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Misdirected worship

I just read this news piece: Priests brawl at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus.

Yesterday I met another local pastor who complimented our church on our new building, and he followed the compliment up with "But I heard you had a lot of opposition".

"Really? Actually we had no opposition within the church. Everyone was excited to build a new facility, even if it meant the old building had to go". And that's true. There was sadness at having to demolish the old place, but we don't worship buildings, and it was seen as a necessary step for accomplishing our mission.

I continued with "Any criticisms about our building didn't come from our members, but from people who worship buildings that house the church rather than the Lord of the church." Sadly, I'll bet those comments came from the mouths of professing Christians who just don't get it.

Sure, we get emotionally attached to church buildings. But the only thing that makes a building a "holy place" is when people who house the Holy Spirit are its occupants. Otherwise it's just a building.

What do you think those priests in Bethlehem worship? What's with jealousies over cleaning up after Christmas? How very non-Christian.

And I thought it was only Baptists who got into fights like that!

Even at Christmas life goes on

My other "job" too often reminds me of that fact.

After eating a great meal with family and friends we gathered around to read the Christmas story (the real one). I opened up the Bible and found the passage in Luke I wanted to read when my cell phone rang. "Chaplain, this is Dare Central. Can you respond to a call in East Lake?"

I had been listening on my pager to the search for a missing boater. Apparently he had been found and the news wasn't good for his family. Their chaplain was out of town for Christmas. So I handed Andy the Bible and excused myself and drove 35 minutes out to a grieving wife of 46 years, kids and multiple grandkids; all gathered for a fun family Christmas. Their uneaten Christmas dinner was still on the kitchen counter. They were waiting for him to come home. I don't know if they ever ate any of it. Today they're preparing for a funeral.

While I was enroute to East Lake my phone rang. It was one of our fire captains. But this news was good. One of our firefighters became a new daddy on Christmas. Life is indeed a mixed bag.

Then yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready to head home for a bite, then to join our youth at the bowling center for some fun an alarm was sounded for a house on fire in Mann's Harbor. By the time the second alarm was sent I was already on my way to the fire station. When we arrived the house was obviously going to be a total loss, so I sought out the homeowners and assisted them and contacted the Red Cross. Their 3 year old soundside home burned to the ground; everything lost.

Everything but their lives and the clothes on their backs. Had the fire erupted just a few hours later when they were asleep it would have likely been a tragedy with more than "stuff" being lost.

What's valuable to you? Family? Possessions? The cold hard facts of life are that nothing we have here lasts forever. And life goes on, even at Christmas. So we have to be prepared.

I hope you are.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Communion

Since 1992 we've had a communion gathering on Christmas Eve. It's become one of our favorite traditions.

Tonight we were somewhat overwhelmed by the turnout. Our guys were scrambling, both to set up an additional 50 chairs and get another tray of communion cups filled. A good third of the crowd were guests and probably half of them from out of town. We did very little advertising, so I really was surprised. There were so many people I had never seen before.

Who knows how many heard a clear explanation of the Gospel for the first time tonight? I don't. But I suspect many did. It's a great way to introduce both the Gospel and the church to the twice a year crowd.

Next year we'll hopefully be better prepared!

Sunday flashback

The Sunday before Christmas is my excuse to wear my red shirt. Since I'm now sporting a beard (that is mostly white) I've been encouraged to let it grow for next year. I don't think so.

Lots of "Merry Christmas"es, hugs, exchanges of hugs and cards and a celebratory spirit. Again, our 11:00 crowd was a little bigger (and livlier) than at 9. And we had lots of guests, both family in for the holiday and those who love to be here for Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was teaching about the necessity of God's Word in our growth as disciples, I offered to anyone who didn't have a Bible that if they would ask, I'd get them one. Yesterday I had the joy of giving a Bible to a new attender who didn't own one. This is a fun job I have.

The music was great - again mixing new arrangements of old carols, with a new Christmas song and "Glory in the Highest", which is an awesome song. This Sunday was likely Nathan's last leading us for a while until after Tricia's medical needs (including giving birth to my granddaughter and receiving a double lung transplant) are resolved, which could be several months.

I took the last two Sundays to look at "Jesus Other Name: How God Can Be With Us". The first Sunday was about Immanuel, and why God had to become a man to redeem us. Then yesterday I focused on how God is with us today in the person of the Holy Spirit and how we as Christ's body are His visible presence in the world until He returns. Here's a comment I got this AM about the messages:

"I am especially blessed to have heard your last two messages. You really 'came down' to our level. I guess that could be called, the level of 'non-seminary scholars',to share the Christmas story."

For me, as a pastor and communicator, that's what it's all about.

And congrats to both the Redskins for a great game and to the ECU Pirates for their bowl victory in Hawaii. Let's hope the Skins are ready as the Evil Empire comes to DC Sunday.

Christmas Eve on the road

With our son and daughter in law temporarily living in Durham due to her medical needs (see Nate's blog) we all (Gail and I, Andy, Misha and Ty, Terry and Sarah and Ramon and Rachel)loaded up Sunday after church and made the drive to spend Sunday evening and Monday morning with them and have an early Christmas celebration.

After dinner at O'Charley's in Durham we returned to their apartment and opened gifts. It was a lot of fun. The picture is our three kids and their spouses.

About noon we're heading back to the OBX to get ready for tonight's Christmas Eve Communion gathering - always a highlight of our Christmas celebration, and our first one in the new building. Tonight we're giving our band the night off and will sing traditional carols.

I'm looking forward to another viewing of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Gen. George Patton, followed by "A Christmas Story" before retiring. Then I'm up at 4AM to get the turkey on the smoker and have it ready for dinner.

We'll have our family (minus Nate and Tricia) and some special friends joining us tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


(I confess stealing this from a blogging friend. But it was too good to pass up. My guess is that he stole it, too!)

To All My Liberal Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To All My Other Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

If you thought Spock had it wrong..

Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears' mom, Lynn has a contract with Christian publisher Thomas Nelson to write a book on parenting.

The next best seller.

Oh wait, it's been put on hold for some reason.

In the mean time maybe we can see what the Bible might say about raising kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Subliminal "Cross"

Let's see.
He's plaing "Silent Night" (not "Jingle Bells" or "Frosty the Snowman") in the background.
He says "what really matters is the celebration of the the birth of Christ".
He uses "Christmas", more than once instead of the generic and pc "holidays".
He ends with "God bless and Merry Christmas".

And the dufuss critics in the MSM want to say that a bookshelf behind him is really a covert cross and that Huck's trying to get his religion into our minds subliminally.

Sometimes you just gotta shake your head in disbelief at what the geniuses who roam our country under the guise of reporters and political strategists come up with.

I wonder if the Christmas tree beside the "cross" is live or artificial. Either way, he loses that one, too. Either he's cutting down an oxygen producing plant and contributing to global warming, or he's going to create more waste for our ever increasing landfills. All because he just wanted to wish us a Merry Christmas.

Oh yeah. Paul is dead.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I ran the race

Saturday morning with cold temps in the 40's and a stiff breeze, I ran my first ever distance run. It was the Jingle Bell 5K in Nags Head. Why I did this, I'm not really certain, other than the fact that I got a bit inspired watching the marathon back in November.

My training regimen included 5 runs over two weeks, most of them on the treadmill at the Y. I set a goal of a finish time between 30 and 33 minutes. With my Santa cap on my head, I started at the rear of the pack. It was comforting to see the ambulance standing by at the finish line.

I made the half-way point at 11:19 which amazed me. But it went much slower after that. The hardness of the pavement wasn't something I was used to and my shins tightened up, making me stop and walk three times for a minute or two each time. Everything else, including my lungs felt great. But below the knees I was hurting.

They've got a run planned for New Year's Eve at 10PM. Maybe.

Oh yeah, I barely met my goal with a time of 32:31. Next time will be better.
Gotta go. I've got a racquetball appointment.

Sunday flashback

It was pouring rain with a howling wind Sunday morning. And it was a good test for our roof...which failed the test in a few spots. We even had someone get up and run for a bucket to catch the water dripping from the ridge over the auditorium.

But the rain didn't dampen either the attendance or the spirit. Great energy and enthusiasm! To change the seating a bit I added an extra table (now there are six tables set up) on either side and moved them up as well. Our First Impressions guys worked well at finding seating for everyone.

Good mixture of Christmas and non-Christmas songs. The band was excellent in both their sound and their leadership. And "O Holy Night" at the end gave me goose bumps.

After last year's bumper crop of babies at NHC I thought next year would give us a break. But no way. We got the news that another couple is expecting. Let's hope for a boy for Wade! He's got three girls already. At my count we have 4 expectant couples right now. And it's not even winter yet!

Our Honduras Mission trip team lingered after to do some strategizing for their upcoming trip. And the Bensons, our missionaries there in Honduras were all with us Sunday. We're taking up a special offering to buy Larry some socks.

And what do you know? The Skins have some new life breathed into them. Two wins in a row. What a wild game with all that wind. I just hope they save some of their winning ways for the next two weeks, and especially for the evil Cowboys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Purpose of a Street

I guess I take this "purpose driven" stuff seriously.

Last week our town brought in the heavy equipment to begin resurfacing the street on which our church is located. The last time this street was paved was in 1962. I was 7 years old. It's an aggregate surface with exposed rock. The only one like it left in Nags Head. But a street's pavement isn't intended to last forever, and the years and wear are quite visible. Now it's full of patches and potholes. It's also too narrow for current safety codes. If two vehicles are approaching from opposite directions on of them has to pull onto the shoulder for them to pass.

I attended a meeting last night at the town's board room where residents along this historic street (and it is) could voice their opinion. There's a lot of attachment to this old road, warts and all. And I understand that. But what's the purpose of a street?

I'm no civil engineer, but I would guess that a street/road's primary function is to provide access to the neighborhood. Safe access. Everything else, including asthetics are secondary, aren't they? Is a road that's crumbling and eroding, that's too narrow still accomplishing it's purpose? And if it's not, what's the solution?

Having been a pastor for most of my adult life I know full well the fear and anxiety that comes with change. And like the street outside my window, I've seen churches that at one time were relevant in their methods for reaching and teaching their communities. But with the changing of times and cultures those old methods (I'm not talking about message) have eroded and are no longer allowing the church to accomplish it's purpose.

Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and repave.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday flashback

I'm curious as to why it takes us ten minutes into a worship gathering for people to come in and get a seat? Are they just unable to get there on time, or what? Just wondering. The second gathering probably increased 20% after we began.

The best news yesterday was that two attenders indicated they were trusting Jesus as Savior. One of them was a first timeer who wrote on his card, "I'm new and need a church. You guys are very kind and I'll be back soon." The other was someone who has been attending regularly now for a couple of months. She commented, "I am not sure how to do this right...I have so much to be thankful to God and I want to make sure he knows how much I believe in Him and love Him." I think He knows!

Our band gave us a mixture of Christmas songs, including "Christmas Time is Here" (think Charlie Brown), and some non-seasonal worship songs that all worked great together. We don't think Nate will be able to be with us on Sundays much longer (read his blog for more info there), and he'll be greatly missed. But I'ma also very confident the band will do an excellent job w/o him for a while in leading us. Can't wait for them to get to work on a CD!

With all the Christmas decorations up the place looks great! And Sunday the kids decorated a tree just outside my office door. I'm looking for the plug to energize the lights.

Our first gathering had zero babies in the nursery! A first. I didn't hear a report on the second gathering, but suspect they had their hands/arms full.

I'm really appreciative of the dedication and work our other pastors do. Yesterday was an example of their commitment to shepherd the flock. No one other than a few knew what they were up to, but it sure is a blessing to me to know they're watching over us like they do. Thanks guys.

Sunday evening we hosted "Defy Conformity", with Keith Deltano. It was a pro-abstinence rally for the youth and parents in our community. Our band provided the music and rocked the house. We know of 6 churches who participated. Our local crisis pregnancy center sponsored the rally and it was well done. I hope will make a huge difference. A good group of parents also attended and heard some eye opening things. We're blessed now to be able to host events like this, and look forward to more of the same kinds of things in the future.

Only 3 Sundays left in '07! What a year it's been for NHC. Kinda like traveling on a jet. There's been some turbulence, but we're getting there quickly!

Friday, December 7, 2007

When history is forgotten

December 7, 1941 was truly a world changing day. But I think few Americans, especially Gen Xers and Millenials are even aware that today is a monumental anniversary.

The rapidly vanishing "Greatest Generation" who fought in WWII haven't forgotten (unless due to dementia or Alzheimers). My generation of boomers seems to remember, but chooses for the most part to ignore.

But isn't it true that if we forget history's lessons we're doomed to repeat them?

But, hey. We're the USA. No one will ever get close enough to invade us again.

Oh, I almost forgot a Tuesday in September six years ago.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The lion roars

Peter wrote, "Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering." (1 Peter 5:8-9 ISV)

This week, actually it became ominous a week or two earlier, the lion has been roaring in our ears. Our elders have sensed an increase, a "surge" if you will, in the attack against our church and those we know and love in the last few days . This isn't some heeby-jeeby feeling. It comes from real battles people we care for are in. And some of them are losing.

It takes more than a three-legged stool, a whip and a gun firing blanks to protect yourself, too. Unfortunately some are willing to surrender to the roaring lion and be devoured, rather than to be firm in the faith of another, greater Lion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm in training

Watching the OBX Marathon a few weeks ago as it ran past us on Sunday morning gave me some inspiration. I mean, I know I'm in better shape than some of those guys! So why can't I participate?

I may never run a marathon (pain isn't my friend), but there's a little 5K run coming up on the 15th that I want to try. So Monday I went to the Y and ran 5Ks. First I walked for 5 minutes to warm up. Then I reset the machine for 5K and ran for 40 minutes and a few seconds. The last mile I was clocking 1 mile in 12 minutes. (I learned that 5K = 3.1 miles).

I'm going back today and do it again. This time I'll increase my speed a little.

But there's a price to be paid. Yesterday I was walking around like I needed hip and knee replacements! The soreness isn't so bad today, however.

Anyway, it's fun to be able to look at your son and sons in law and say, "I can run faster and farther than you, big boy". And they know it, too.

Oh yeah. Thank God for hot tubs and advil.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How you can pray for Tricia

At our communion Sunday night Nathan announced that Tricia is expecting a child. For her that brings a whole different scenario to her need for new lungs, due to her Cystic Fibrosis. He has written the following and asked me to send it to you so you can know specifically how to be praying for them. Please feel free to share this with others who will also pray. You can stay abreast of what’s happening with Tricia by going to Nate’s blog.


The doctors have taken Tricia off of several of her normal CF meds to protect the baby. They have replaced some of them with safe meds, but she is definitely missing out on the benefits of her usual meds. So far, everything about the baby is healthy, but Tricia is suffering because of it.

> Tricia now has Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes are common both in CF patients and in pregnancy, so she was almost guaranteed to deal with it at some point. She is currently taking three different kinds of Insulin (all shots) to counter her need for a high carb, high calorie diet. Counting carbs, pricking her finger every few hours to test her blood sugar level, thinking more about what and when she eats (and doesn't eat), etc. has added to the stress of her daily life.

> As the baby grows, the room for her lungs to expand shrinks. Tricia is now on oxygen almost 24/7. She carries an Oximeter with her everywhere so that she can always be sure her heart rate and oxygen intake are at a healthy level for both she and the baby. She also carries portable oxygen tanks everywhere. Even with the extra oxygen, her levels are constantly on the brink of being dangerous, especially for the baby.

> Because of her oxygen level, Tricia is very limited in what she is able to do, where she is able to go, etc. Things as common as folding laundry, fixing lunch and walking to the car have become very laborious for her. Her daily PT at the Center for Living is becoming more and more difficult, and more and more important. She is not able to travel much any more, and she may not be going home again until after the baby is here, which is not fun to think about, especially for her. More than likely, she will be on bed-rest in the hospital in the near future.

> Because of the new diet, diabetes, oxygen issues, etc., we have to get up several times in the middle of the night to tend to things, which makes our daily routines a little more difficult. I suppose that it's god preparation for the baby, but not really healthy, especially for Tricia. Needless to say, we've both been sleeping later and Tricia has been getting as many naps as she can.

That's all for now. We appreciate your prayers and sincere words of encouragement. We are relying on God more than ever for our strength and joy, and we are seeing Him provide all that we need. We're always open to phone calls and emails and even visits (for anyone who wants to make a trip to Durham). Thanks!


Monday, December 3, 2007

Every church needs a cheering squad

Last Sunday night at our annual budget conference when the church gives approval of our vision for the next year we had a smidgen representation of members present. In fact, had we a requirement for a percentage for a quorum, we likely would not have been able to make a decision.

And to some, that was not a positive sign. "Where are all the members?" Yet the following Sunday evening at our communion gathering and dinner we had an all time high attendance.

What does that say about us?
First, our church has learned that our leadership can be trusted to be seekers of God in making decisions and finding His vision.

Second, those who came out to the budget meeting are the core. And the core of any ministry are also the cheerleaders. They see better than most what God is doing and how He's doing it. They have truly bought into the vision of the church with their lives and their support. (The approval btw, was unanimous.)

Third, that so many come out to a communion worship/fellowship gathering shows where our priorities lie, and that's in drawing close to what really matters: the cross and one another.

I love our church!

Removing God from Christmas?

Here's the intro statement on a thread in a forum I frequent:
We have a family in our school that will not let their children sing "The first Noel" because, "El is the Hebrew word for God. No, mean no. So Noel is really saying there is no God."

How stupid is that?

Yes, "El" is a Hebrew name for God (ie. El Shaddai, Elohim...). That's Hebrew. And "No" is a word in some languages for negatory, but not in Hebrew. The fact is "Noel" comes from the French word for Christmas.

What was it Jesus said about straining at gnats? Spirituality doesn't equate being dumb.

Merry Xmas. Uh oh. I've done it now...

But the Greek symbol for Christ is...

Sleeping with someone's grandma

Now that Nathan and Tricia have gone public with their announcement that she is expecting, I can talk about it, too.

I have to confess, my initial reaction when they gave us the news (back in September) was not joy-filled. Humanly speaking her pregnancy came at the very worst possible time for her. She was literally to begin PT the next day in preparation for her double lung transplant that is necessary for her life. A pregnancy eliminated her from being put on the transplant list at the time when she needs it most. So my mixed emotions stemmed from the very real possibility that the odds were against them big time.

At the same time, how can you not be elated with the news that your first grandchild is on the way? I know I have had the grandfatherly look now for several years. It's a genetic thing. But Gail (to me) will never look like a grandma. But trust me, she's ready to be one! And I'm getting more used to the idea myself, and it's not bad! - I mean of me being a grandfather, not her being granny.

A comment was made on Nathan's blog that I want to echo. "Tricia - you are the bravest, strongest woman i know! Nathan, keep holding strong!" These two young people are my heroes. I can't imagine being in their situation and being as strong and courageous. I'm humbled by their faith and their love. In fact, all my kids amaze me.

So I request your prayers for them.

In the meantime I'll get ready for the reality that my bride is a grandmother. My guess is she'll shine like never before.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Coaching 101: Learn the rules of the game

How many ways can the Redskins come up with to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If you've read previous blogs, you know I'm not enamored with the coaching. And it hurts to say that, because like all real Skins fans, I'm a Joe Gibbs guy. But this year I'm thinking Joe needs to go back to NASCAR. Today was the worst.

The look on his face when he realized he made a bonehead timeout call that sealed their defeat was sad to see.

And if you can't play with more heart than that this Sunday in particular, something's bad wrong. I'm guessing the Dolphins could use a new fan.

Sunday flashback

It's great to hear Christmas music again in our worship gatherings! And our band does such a great job in making the old songs new.

The message today was about being prepared to follow Jesus into the darkness of the world. I really believe He's using this series to wake us up to the need to be a community of missionaries. And that's very exciting.

What do you say to people who consistently drive for an hour or more to come to your church? We have folks who drive from as far away as Elizabeth City (60 miles) and Columbia (45 miles) every week. That's encouraging. Maybe we should give them a gas card!

This afternoon our kids planned a movie lunch at home. We watched the movie "Hairspray" - yeah, the one where John Travolta is in drag. I confess, I slept through much of it, and what I was awake for...well, let's just say it wasn't my cup of tea.

But the day went out with a bang, for sure. The house was overflowing for our annual church Christmas dinner. We really were overwhelmed with the turnout. And my son, Nathan revealed to the church that he and Tricia are expectant parents. You can read more about that in his blog. I'd encourage you to do so.

It was in many ways a tough week last week. I'm hoping this one is a bit cheerier!