Monday, March 31, 2008

(Bump) How do you pray for a transplant donor?

I'm bringing this one back to the top because Tricia's transplant could be at any time. Last night was a "dry run", but there was a donor and a family who is grieving.

[On my son's blog this was recently posted. He asked me if I could respond here.]

Just out of interest, how do you pray for the donor? Do you pray that there be a donor soon? Or do you pray for peace for the donor's family? Even though I know it's absolutely necessary for transplant patients, like your wife, to live it's hard for me to think about praying for a donor to come soon. Or it's hard for me to think about not being on the donor list for very long because in essence, that means we are praying for someone else to die. I guess with my finite mind and my new faith, I just don't know how to pray for something like this. It seems both right and wrong. Maybe you can share your thoughts on how you pray for the donor? I am honestly at a loss.

Good, honest questions. Who among us who know someone in need of a life-saving transplant hasn't wondered the same things? In my role as a public safety chaplain I frequently speak with surviving family members about the subject of organ donation. It's surprising to me how many have never considered it.

The obvious fact is that for one person to receive donated organs someone else has to die. A second inescapable fact is that everyone dies sometime. Some sooner, others later. A third fact is that many people think beyond themselves and so desire to help someone else live that they make a conscious decision to give what they no longer have use for so that someone else might live, see or have a better quality of life because of their unselfishness.

Jesus said that there is no greater love than to give your life for a friend. While organ donation isn't quite "giving your life" in the sense of dying for the purpose of saving another, it isn't far removed from that. So when a person decides to be an organ donor they choose a very noble thing.

The key is that God chooses when death occurs, not us. Surely we don't pray for someone to die, and even if we did, I don't believe it's a prayer God would answer. The shortage in organs for transplant isn't that there aren't enough people dying. It's that there aren't enough people who have chosen to donate upon death.

But we certainly can thank God for the donor God has chosen who has unselfishly made a life giving provision. Thanks God for that person's family, who will endure the grief of loss, and that they will see the blessing of their loved one's "life" continuing through their donation.

The questioner is right. Our minds are finite and our understanding limited. So like everything else in life, we simply trust God for His will, both in the donor and the recipient. Life is sacred. It's a beautiful thing when one family's darkness from loss can be brightened and tempered by the generosity of such a wonderful gift, transforming another family's darkness into a new day.

What you might not know about your pastor...

What does it take to knock you to the floor? In boxing terminology, do you have a "glass jaw" - easily knocked out? What weakens your knees?

For me, as a pastor, NOTHING packs a harder punch to my gut than to see sheep in the flock making decisions and choices that destroy their lives. It gives me that "sick in the stomach" feeling, and also tempts me to doubt my role in their lives. Is it my fault? Have I failed to teach and guide them along God's path?

Today I'm reeling. I feel like I've been through 3 rounds with Clubber Lang. I'm looking for the bell to ring. Three times in the past few days I've received news of more casualties in the making. I know, it "goes with the territory", and "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen".

If your pastor(s) is truly a shepherd please encourage and pray for him. Not only does he have his own life to live with its challenges [What? A pastor's life has challenges?], but he also is there to carry broken sheep and goes after the straying. And regardless of what he or you might think, he's not superman.

I've also been greatly encouraged at the same time. In the last 24 hours I've received two messages via the internet that God used to pick me up off the mat. One was from a guy I discipled and taught 30 years ago when he was in high school. He's still going strong for the Lord. The other was from total strangers who attended our church yesterday with their adult daughter. They said the sermon was as though I had sat in on their conversation with her on Friday night. She's got some life-altering choices to make in the next couple of days, and what I said yesterday apparently was like it was crafted for her.

And yesterday a young couple who have been attending our church for a while came up and shared how God is directing their lives to change some things and make some right choices!

I'm not asking for any sympathy. But what I would hope is that the many who read this blog and are involved in churches would realize that their pastors are called to trudge through a lot of heartache and tragedy, and most of the time have to keep it to themselves. Thank God for him/them. Let your pastor(s) know you pray often for him/them and are appreciative of their work on your behalf. Do something unexpected to bless him.

I'm blessed to be a leader in an incredible, healthy church. And I know I've got it better than most. So it's those "most" I'm writing for today.

Just don't take them for granted. Sometimes the kitchen just gets too hot and the burdens seem too great. Don't let him throw in the towel because the punches hurt too much.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleepless in Kitty Hawk?

Earlier this evening we received a call from our son Nathan that a pair of lungs that might be suitable for his wife Tricia were available and being evaluated. Because the lungs are in another state the Duke Transplant team has flown there to determine their potential for Tricia.

If they are a match they'll fly the lungs back to Duke and sometime in the AM hours the transplant will take place.

So, in the meantime, we're waiting for a phone call. If the transplant is "on" we'll leave immediately for Durham. We've already packed our bags. It's a 3.5 hour drive to Duke.

It will be an interesting night, for sure. Thanks for your prayers for Tricia, the transplant team and please pray for the family of the donor. They just lost someone they loved. For suggestions about how to pray, read this earlier post.

Sunday Flashback

Let's hope April brings some Spring weather! Today is gray, drizzly, with a northeast wind typical of the Outer Banks in winter, although not a bitter wind, still chilly!

I'm looking for a "name" to call the time I meet with guests after each gathering. It's just a 5-10 minute chat where I thank them for attending and ask for feedback. If you've got an idea, let me know.

Today I returned to the series "Gear Up" and we looked at the protection truth and righteousness provide us. Truth is our preparation. Righteousness covers our minds and emotions. Andy should have it up on our podcast later this week. I didn't feel like it flowed well, but then several approached me telling me that it rang their bell loud and clear. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians about "the foolishness of preaching" is right on.

I showed the 14th round from the original Rocky film as reminder that we're to stand if we're going to fight. That's where he gets knocked down and Mickey urges him to "Stay down, Rock". Yet he finds the will and strength to pull himself back up and continue the round, pummeling Creed. It gets me pumped! How about you?

The MP 13 Band led us in these songs. (Perhaps Nate can check in and comment on the composers if you want to find them). They all worked well with the theme of the messages.

Love The Lord - Good start up song! Right from Jesus' words.
May The Words Of My Mouth - A prayer to be a real Christ-follower.
Lifesong - makes you really think about what you're doing with your life.
All To You - Buddy's guitar solo with Andy's percussion had a Santanaesque flavor to it. (Can a pastor say that?) Good job!
Hosanna - One of our newer songs. I love it.

We missed Thanisha today, but she's busy being mommy to her spankin' new baby boy, born Thursday night.

I missed seeing Don and Frank Kirschner today. But Don's at Duke for a long awaited visit to see our grandaughter and Tricia, Agnes and Nate.

It's always a fun day when folks who have been attending come up and ask what they have to do to become partners in the fellowship!

Lunch after church today in the lobby! Our 20somethings met for fellowship and we also had a couple of new partner applicants to interview. Good food!! (Special thanks to Cindy and Barbara.) That stuff Dave made - some spinach deal - was killer.

Andy was right. Those who slept the extra couple hours and came to worship at 11 sure had more energy!

Saw a young lady who used to come regularly when she was a girl. She was back today after some hard years later. It was good to see her. I know Marilyn D. was ecstatic.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dual citizenship

Did you see the movie "Witness" with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGinnis? He was a Philadelphia cop who went into hiding among the Amish community of PA. He tried to fit in and be incognito, but he had a real hard time. There was too much from "his world" that clashed with the simple life of the Amish. The tension of the plot involved his falling in love with an Amish woman who would not consider leaving her world for his. And in the end, he could not stay in her world.

Peter, in the Bible writes that Christ followers have a citizenship in heaven, even though we're living here and now as pilgrims and sojourners - aliens and temporary residents.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense and explains why Christians struggle. We're being pulled by the gravity of this "world", while at the same time knowing our allegiance is to the King of another "world". And we find that the two worlds clash constantly, requiring us to make choices that are often disappointing and difficult to others - depending on where their hearts reside.

It raises lots of questions about personal rights and freedoms. And we have to ultimately make a choice as to which residence is going to be our primary home. Do I live for now with what the world's values tell me are acceptable and wait for later to adjust my values and consequently my behaviors when there will really be no choice, or do I live today as though the Kingdom is here and now, realizing that I may often be swimming against the current?

Here's a hint: our calling as Jesus' subjects (it is a kingdom, remember) is to "be Holy as He is Holy". "Be" implies what I am now, not later. Is that easy? Not for me, how about you? Is it obtainable? Must be, or God wouldn't have said it so often. Does it make a difference? What do you think?

It should.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Woman who would be President and Sniper Fire

Just wondering what it means to "misspeak"? If it's not a lie, what is it? And is that a trait we want in the most powerful person in the world? I mean, imagine the ramifications of misspeaking while on that hotline phone on the Oval Office desk.

But then, she's learned her political saavy from "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" husband Bill. (Or did he learn from her...Hillary, that is.)

We're quite the forgiving nation, though. Heck, we'll elect a president who can't define "is" or one who doesn't have a clue that I'm soon going to be pumping $4 a gallon gas into my truck.

Let's see. Now it's McCain's turn to say something then deny it. But then, he's been in politics long enough that I'm sure he's already done that.

I wish baseball would hurry up and get started.

So what's got you down?

Life doesn’t come with any guarantees about how long we’ll have it, or the quality of it. But hopefully, with the time we are given by God we can make the most of them. Earlier this week, while visiting with my daughter-in-law and granddaughter and son at Duke Hospital I was able to visit with a young lady named Christy. She’s in her mid 30’s and is in the hospital because she got the flu. Now, most people her age would deal with it and recover. But Christy’s not most people.

At age 4 she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, which is a terminal disease. Just a few years ago she received a lung transplant that extended her life for a few more years. And now she’s looking at having to undergo additional surgery this year and a kidney transplant next year. So she’s known since she was a girl that without a cure for her disease – and there still is no cure – she wouldn’t live to much past middle age if she made it that far. For most of her life she’s been hooked up to oxygen and has had to take medications, lots of them. She’s spent Christmas and now an Easter in the hospital.

As I talked with her yesterday afternoon I was reminded that not only is life insecure, but it can be really unfair. Here’s a vibrant, attractive young woman, in what should be the prime of her life, dealing with a disease that could render her hopeless and angry. But that wasn’t the case. I could certainly use a dose of her upbeat attitude and positive outlook on life. And she'll be quick to tell you the source of her joy is her relationship with Jesus Christ.

I’m at the point in life, I’m 52, when I spend more time thinking about the rest of my life, and how I hope to live it. And one thing I’ve found is that the older I get, the faster the years go by. And as I listened to Christy talk about her life, the life she has been given, I realized that what counts is not how long we get, but what we do with the time we have.

And whenever that day comes that life here ends, whether it’s somewhat expected or a true surprise, it’s what we did before that moment that really matters.

If you want to know more about either Cystic Fibrosis or Organ Transplants, please follow the links to the left. And you can meet Christy via her blog. She'll pick you up!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's new with you? A post-Easter reflection

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” - Paul the Apostle to the Romans (6:1-4 NLT)

I’ll have to admit that I find it perplexing to discover that the reason many celebrate Easter is because it finishes a period of 40 days of self-styled holiness, only so that they can now go back to what they were doing before. Is that really why Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead – so that we could live the same ol’ same ol’?

In the passage above Paul was addressing a spin that some were putting on the idea that because God had forgiven their sins, and it was their sins that initiated God’s grace, that it made perfect sense to sin even more so that they could experience even more of God’s grace. So he addresses that twisted logic with “Of course not!” My personal paraphrase would be “No way, Jose!”

Here’s why. When you or I trust in Christ’s death as payment for our failures (aka “sins”) to live a good life that meets God’s standards He in turn gives us freely His forgiveness. That means our slate is wiped clean. It means that by trusting in His power to erase our wrongs, we are accepting His death for sin as our death to sin. That’s why he writes, “We died with Him”. Not in a historical sense, obviously. But in a spiritual sense.

In the same way Easter, the remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection follows Good Friday, the remembrance of His death, our relationship with Him doesn’t end with the cross, either. That act of faith in Christ’s provision and death to sin was also a new birth. Paul compares it to a personal spiritual resurrection and the opportunity given to us by God to live new lives, not to go back to what we were doing before.

And if you were to continue to read what Paul had to say (and I encourage you to do so) you’ll find that your new life means you now have the power to walk away from old habits, practices and attitudes that you know weren’t right or healthy. You’ve been given a new nature.

But here’s the catch. We can always return to those old ways; to those chains that had us bound and imprisoned. And I love Paul’s transparency. Continuing this same thought the great Apostle admits that he had his own struggles with doing the things he knew were wrong, while at the same time not doing the things that he knew were right. He even called himself “wretched”.

Real Christianity is a new life, not a temporary 40 day abstinence from some fleshly desire. (I still laugh at the idea that God is impressed if I give up chocolate for a few weeks, like chocolate is a wedge between Him and me.) But neither does genuine Christianity allow me to say, “I have no struggles with wrong thoughts or behaviors”.

Instead, it appears that the real evidence of a new life is the desire to live with a newness while possessing the humility to realize that at any moment I could stumble and fall back into something from which Jesus freed me.

Easter is over. But what real difference did it make in your life this year? Paul wrote to the Philippian church that he longed to know the “power of the resurrection” – that new life and freedom it provides. So, what’s new with you?

© 2008 Rick Lawrenson

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

News story on ABC 11 in Raleigh

Here's the link to the video of the news story that ran last night in Raleigh.
They did a great job. Thanks to Barbara Gibbs and WTVD for getting the word out.

What a surprise!

While at Duke Hospital today, I went with Nathan to visit Gwyneth. I had been in to see her Sunday evening and this morning, too. But this time I got to hold her for the first time! I wasn't expecting it. She knew exactly who I was.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Grin and bear it!

You gotta just shake your head and wonder about people who consistently show up at church a minute or two before a service begins and have this puzzled look as to why all the seats in the back are taken! Especially on a day like Easter!!

Hey, if you want to sit in the back in a Baptist church, you better get there early!
Hey, get out of bed ten minutes earlier! (We open the doors to our auditorium ten minutes before the gathering begins and at that time all the seats are available.)
Hey, by showing up when the gathering begins and by leaving out the door with the last "Amen" you're missing the point. (Here's a clue: It's not about YOU!)
Hey, if you want to sit together as a family, see the above points! But in a growing church, we're not going to apologize for being full! (If you want a church where there are plenty of empty seats I'm sure they can be found.)

Seriously, though, being consistently "late" is a matter of personal discipline and priority. Too many people in our church show up on Sunday morning an hour, even an hour and a half early to serve others, and that tells me that they "get it". Heck, we have families driving an hour or more one way to be in church on Sunday and somehow they get there in time to grab a cup of coffee, say "Hi" to friends and find seats.

Hey, get a clue!

(I'm laughing as I write this. If I can't find humor in such things I'll go insane!!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday Flashback

Our church is no different that all the rest in this regard - Easter is the biggest crowd of the year.

First, a huge "you guys rock" to all of our volunteers today. You were stretched in many ways and you served with a great collective heart. I haven't heard many reports, but with a NHC record one service attendance (at 11) I know the nursery and kids churches had to be jammed, too. And our hospitality team kept the coffee and donuts/pastries comin'. Thanks, too, to the band, the housekeeping team and Jake for running our ministry team shuttle back and forth to our satellite parking. The extra spaces we freed up made a huge difference.

And our First Impressions team moved quickly into action when it became obvious at 11 that there were more people than seats. For our first time we used the lobby (another reason to thank God for that awesome space) for overflow seating. I was told there were another 45 out there. Thanks also for the guys on the team out in the parking lot directing traffic. I heard some "thanks for doing that" comments.

Looks like a third Easter gathering will be in the plans for 09!

Best of all, from what I could tell there were about a dozen who indicated that today they trusted Jesus Christ as Savior this morning. And that's what it's all about. New life!

In case you haven't read Nate's blog today, here's the link to the Raleigh News and Observer. Their Sunday edition (today) has their story on the front page of the paper above the fold. It's a great witness to God's faith and provision in their lives.

Actually, I'm writing this from Tricia's room at Duke Hospital, where Gail and I arrived late this afternoon.

This evening NHC had two communion services at remote locations. One was at the home of Tommy and Claire, with Claire's Connection Group and Pastor Steve. Claire is recovering from major surgery and hasn't been able to get out for a month now. The other was right here, with NHCers Nate, Tricia, Agnes, Gail and me. Wish you could have been here!

Hope your Easter was as great as ours. Because He is risen everything changes!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.

But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, Adam, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man, Christ. Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, the first man. But all who are related to Christ, the other man, will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised.

- The Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (New Living Translation)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blogger Friend Quote of the Day

"I’ve been in tons of places where if the 60’s ever come back, they’re all ready for them - we call them churches but they’re really museums."
- Roger Blackmore

Good Friday

Let me get this straight...

The day that the Christian world stops to remember the crucifixion of our Savior is called "good". What's good about it?

First, Jesus’ death was a planned event. On the surface it would appear that the crucifixion of Jesus was precipitated by a sudden turn of events that took Him from being a conquering hero on Sunday to a shameful death on Friday. Not so! From the earliest chapters of Genesis through the ancient writings of the Hebrew prophets it was made clear that mankind could and would be reconciled to God by the sacrificial death of a lamb. One notable illustration (found in Exodus 12) of this was the Passover in Egypt. There each Hebrew household was told to kill their best lamb and put its blood over the doorposts of their homes. As the plague of death to the first-born came over the country, those within the homes with blood on the doors would be spared God’s judgment.

It was no coincidence that Jesus’ crucifixion took place on Passover. He was the Lamb spoken of in Isaiah 53:7. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” He knew His destiny was to die in Jerusalem. In the latter days of His ministry He began to prepare His disciples for His inevitable death. They didn’t understand, and even tried to prevent Him from going to Jerusalem. But less than two months later Peter would preach that Jesus’ death was a part of God’s predetermined plan to bring salvation to lost humanity.

A second reason is that Jesus’ death was an act of love. A sign of genuine love is a willingness to sacrifice or give up time or possessions for the one who is loved. Loving parents understand what it means to sacrifice for their children. Because of our love for them, we don’t mind. Jesus said it this way; “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” He called His disciples His “friends” because they obeyed His commands. To die for your friends would take incredible love. But, what about dying for your enemies? Paul writes that Jesus did exactly that. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” And in verse 10 he equates being a sinner with being the enemy of God.

I have heard some say, “If God loves me, why doesn’t He ever show it?”. My response is simply, “He has!”. I like the poster that depicts Christ’s arms stretched out, hands nailed to the cross with the caption “I love you this much”. If you are “looking for love” but “in all the wrong places”, you can find the real thing in the love of Jesus who died for you.

Third, Jesus’ death brought closure. While on the cross Jesus said a number of things that are recorded for us in the Bible. “Father, forgive them…” “Woman, behold your son…” “I thirst.” “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” “Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” All are words full of power and depth. One of His sayings, “It is finished” is perhaps the most significant phrase He uttered.

Both Matthew and Luke record that from noon until 3:00PM the sky was darkened. It was during this time that our sin was transferred to Him and His Father judged the Son in our place. Then, after the sun again illuminated the sky, He spoke again. He didn’t say, “I am finished”, but “It is finished.” The Greek word written in Scripture literally means, “mission accomplished”. “It” meant the work He came to do, which was to die in our place and trade His everlasting life for our condemnation. In other words, nothing more can be done for us to receive that life. Christ has done it all.

Perhaps you have never been told that “it is finished”. You may be trying to finish it on your own by your religion and good deeds. They can’t add to what He has finished. You see, Good Friday is “good” because the work of Jesus on the cross paid for our sin. The tragedy of His death resulted in our potential benefit. All we must do is receive that payment by faith in Him.

© 2008 Rick Lawrenson

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Great Strides Walk Outer Banks

Today some of the members of last year's Great Strides Walk team here on the Outer Banks of NC met for a debriefing and to start the ball rolling for this year's walk.

Last year was our very first OBX effort and $30K was raised for research to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. This year's walk will be on Saturday, September 13 at the Dare Co. Rec Park in KDH.

If you're in NE North Carolina and want to know more, or even better, join the organizing team, you can call me at Nags Head Church. If you're elsewhere in the world, go to Nathan's blog. He has posted today about organizing or joining a Great Strides Walk in your area.

For the locals, our first meeting today was at Basnight's. On ribs day. 'Nuff said.
[in the pic clockwise from top right: Gail, Andy, Barbara, George, Brenda]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Scientific study shows abortions can lead to mental illness

Women may be at risk of mental health breakdowns if they have abortions, a medical royal college has warned. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they are counselled on the possible risk to their mental health.
This overturns the consensus that has stood for decades that the risk to mental health of continuing with an unwanted pregnancy outweighs the risks of living with the possible regrets of having an abortion.

Read more about the report here.

Gee. Do ya think?

The Reverend and the man who would be President

  • Choose your church affiliation carefully. What your church believes says a lot about you, whether you accept it all or not. And if you can't accept what your church believes why are you there?

  • A church's pulpit is the rudder of the ship. Especially if the occupant is charismatic and/or eloquent. What's proclaimed there has more effect on the direction the church takes than any other single factor. Which means...

  • Listen carefully to what a pastor says and doesn't say. Out of the heart, Jesus said, our mouths speak. Maybe more importantly, observe closely how he lives. And do all this BEFORE making the choice to align with a church.

  • Do your homework before you sign on the dotted line. Ask to see the church's beliefs spelled out. Find out what the church's purpose and vision are. You can't ask too many questions up front, because if you don't, you could be shocked later.

  • What is the "social gospel"? (I've heard Rev. Wright say several times he preaches a "social gospel"). I don't know it all, but my research in the Bible (the guideline for Christian churches) shows that there is only one Gospel. And it's not about race or politics or economics. It is centered on the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Check out Galatians 1:8-9.

  • Hate preached from a church's pulpit has no place, whether it be from a red, yellow, black, white or brown perspective. It doesn't matter if it's coming from the right or the left. Sure, there is a time for anger, but not hatred toward any man or group of men.

  • In this country, no one is forced to join a religious group or to stay in one they've joined. But joining and staying is tantamount to agreement.

  • The saying, "Put your money where your mouth is" is true. If I give financially to support any charity, church, organization, I'm putting my stamp of approval on it. Conversely, if I can't in good conscience give to the church I attend, I need to move on.

  • As Americans we have the right of free speech. As a Christian I surrender my "rights" as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. So my speech should be always tempered with grace. Mix that with our natural human weaknesses and emotions and it's easier said than done.
I'm sorry, Mr. Obama, that I didn't post this 20 years ago. Perhaps it could have spared you a lot of your present pain.
[Links added for those of you who commented you either 'lived under a rock' or 'in a hospital',]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Got a button to push?

Do you every really lose your temper?

I'm not one to blow my top very often. Not that I don't get angry, but I usually have the wherewithall to hold it in or walk away. But not today.

My buttons got pushed. I was accused of something I didn't do. I should have bitten my tongue until it bled, but I didn't. I let my emotions get the best of me. I was wronged and I responded wrongly.

The Bible talks about us being angry - we're emotional creatures. And there are times when anger is appropriate. Jesus got really ticked when He saw God's temple being abused, and He responded in anger. So sometimes it's right to be angry.

But for me, I'm sure I was right to be angry, I'm just think if I had been under God's control at the moment rather than feeling the necessity to defend myself I would have been more like Jesus.

And that's the goal, right?

Desecrating St. Patrick

Ireland Urges St. Patrick's Restraint
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — Irish politicians and police urged the nation Monday to have fun during St. Patrick's Day festivities — but not too much fun.

In our own little town I'm told 3 arrests were made due to mayhem (public urination and such) at the St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday. So much for a family event. "Mommy, what's that man doing?" What adds double insult is that our parade was on Palm Sunday, the anniversary of another kind of parade 2,000 years ago.

Me thinks that Patrick would likely be filled with righteous indignation over what transpires in his name. How is it that a day supposedly commemorating a missionary evangelist, who's life was about spreading the Gospel of Jesus in pagan Ireland is now more known for being another good excuse to get drunk?

But we shouldn't be surprised, I guess. Christmas and Easter bear increasingly little resemblance to Christian celebratations. Why should Patrick's day be any different?

What might Paddy be chasing out of Ireland today?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Flashback

A chilly, blustery day on the OBX of NC! Not the best weather for this afternoon's St. Patrick's Day parade, but I'm sure many of the parade viewers and participants are finding ways to stay warm.

It's always fun to watch people come early and stay late just to spend time with one another! A lot of our folks do just that. I really feel sorry for those who come in just as the gathering begins and are out the door as quickly as possible. It's not just about worship.

Tried something new today and it went well. I invited our guests to pick up their kids, grab a cup of coffee and then chat with me after the gatherings for about ten minutes. I found out a bit about them and asked for some feedback. It's always good to hear from those who may not be used to what we do.

Nate and Tricia, via the internet, got to "sit in" on the second gathering. That was fun.

The band rocked and sounded great. Their hard work really makes a difference on Sundays.

Nate found a great music video to use at the conclusion of my message today by a band called "Down Here". My message was about seeking the real Jesus, and the song was spot on. Thanks for the suggestion, Nathan. And good job selecting today's songs. One of those guests who commented mentioned how the songs fit the theme of the message.

Let's see how many of us "got it" this morning. Next Sunday will tell.

Get ready ministry teams for a crowd!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My 7 Things

On his blog, Nathan listed 7 things his readers probably didn't know about him. And then he suggested other bloggers do the same on their blogs. So here goes. I'll try to match his format as closely as I can.

1. When I was born I had 7 living grandmothers. My parents' mothers; my mom's step-mother; 3 great-grandmothers and a step-great-grandmother. Plus I had 5 grandfathers: my parents' dads and 3 great-grandfathers. That's a total of 12.

2. As a child in a military family I went to 8 public schools in 3 states in 12 years, including 3 high schools. And my best count has me living in 13 different residences in 4 states plus the District of Columbia my first 17 years. (All that moving around and having to make new friends and readjust really warped me...oh, wait, that's my last post. Sorry.)

3. The last time I was in the hospital as a patient was when I was six. And that was my second surgery. Well, except for the time I was stepping off the ladder on to the roof and the ladder kicked out from under me. An ambulance ride later and after some x-rays (a couple of broken ribs and a bruised kidney) I was back home. I had also broken a finger and a collar bone by the time I was 5.

3. I got a dog when I was 4 and she lived until my senior year of college. Had she made it a few more months she would have watched me go out the door my first day of kindergarten and come home from receiving my college degree.

4. Most of my adult life I've served in vocational ministry, the last 17 years as a pastor of the same church. My dad recently retired from pastoring. But I preached my first sermon before he preached his. I was 16. He was still in the USMC. Before becoming a pastor again in 1991 I worked on such great construction projects as the Nags Head Inn, Tanger Outlet Mall, the Washington Baum Bridge, the Comfort Inn in Kill Devil Hills, First Flight Elementary School and the Regional Medical Center in Kitty Hawk, among others. Ask me sometime about how that roof drain on the north side of the Nags Head Inn got there. (Just don't tell Gail about it.)

5. I'm the oldest of 5 siblings. Four brothers and a sister. All four brothers are musically talented, (OK, three of us pretend to be and Scott really is). My sister can play the radio (if there's a country station) and she lost the bucket for carrying the tune. I once played guitar and sang to thousands (that's right) on the beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL on Memorial Day. A long time ago in a galaxy far away.

6. Nathan's hair is a carbon copy of mine when I was his age. (Enjoy it, Nate. It starts turning gray and turning loose at 30.)

7. If I'm buying, I won't eat at Applebees in Nags Head. I like their food, but I prefer to eat it the same day I ordered it. And I don't see why Californians are so crazy about In and Out Burgers. IMHO Carl's Jr. is way better.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Thank God for doctors. The work and good they do can't be over-appreciated. And thankfully, most of the time they get it right when making diagnoses. (Ever watch "House"?)

This morning I met a beautiful young woman who at age 32 found out she has cystic fibrosis - a genetic and fatal disease. She's had it her whole life. She's had the symptoms her whole life - coughing, struggle breathing, eating like a linebacker but never gaining weight. And her whole life she was misdiagnosed.

Now, after finding out just two years ago that she has this disease, she's begun the process at Duke University Hospital to be placed on the list for a double lung transplant. It's not a cure, but it's the only option left for her to sustain life.

Can you imagine always knowing "something's wrong" and it's more than a cold or bronchitis. None of the meds, whether over the counter or prescription do any good. And the people you count on to tell you what's wrong can't figure it out. Can you imagine?

We live in a culture/society where "misdiagnosis" is now more common than the plain truth. Now, every behavioral problem is either the result of some "disorder" or "disease", even though the problems are the result of choices, not a bacteria or mutated gene. We live in a day when it's more acceptable to put the blame on someone else than accept responsibility for our own lives. We've taught ourselves to look for someone to say to us, "It's not your fault. You can't help it".

But your whole life, even though you've been fed the lines, deep within you know the diagnoses have been off the mark. Won't someone just tell the truth?

Yet, when someone does speak the truth it's a difficult pill to swallow, but it can be life changing.

More to come.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Easier to navigate the blog

Now if it's past midnight and you can't get to sleep, you can find all of my posts labeled in the sidebar to the right. It's kind of like a file cabinet. So if you want to know what else I've written on a particular topic, click on that label and it will bring up those posts.

Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If you're praying for Gwyneth...

Last night she was placed back on the ventilator and on IV antibiotics because she has developed pneumonia.

We were told that life in the NICU would be two steps forward and one step back, and frankly, Gwyneth has experienced little in the realm of setbacks. So please lift her and her parents up today in prayer. She's a fighter!

I'm sure Nathan will update on his blog soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Plummet of a Governor

I watched NY's governor make his statement last night with his wife by his side. Many comments went through my mind.

How frail are we? Or maybe how stupid can we be? What would cause a man to cause such pain to a beautiful, intelligent wife and three teenage daughters, not to mention the shame of losing his job, his reputation, his future...? Notice I used the pronoun "we".

I'm not asking you to bash the man or his politics. But why would he jeopardize everything by doing the very things he formerly prosecuted? What's in a man's heart (or maybe what's missing from a man's heart) that would cause him to take such a risk?

What do you think?

If it's a journey, where are you headed?

Sunday we had the joy of celebrating with 32 of our partners their completion of a series of classes we call NHCU.

Part of our church's vision is to equip believers and provide the stepping stones to help them grow to maturity as Christians. I have to tell you, I chuckle when I hear others being critical of churches like ours because we preach "gospel lite" or are "shallow"!

We expect all who commit to being in fellowship with us at Nags Head Church to go through these 5 classes. They are an integral part of our strategy for helping believers to become fully devoted Christ followers. The five classes (about 20 hours of instruction) cover the subjects of connecting with the church, developing good spiritual habits, sharing your faith with your world, worshiping God and serving others in the family of God.

Not that taking 5 classes qualifies anyone as a true disciple, but it's a start on a life-long journey. Congrats to those who completed the course. Keep taking those intentional steps in following the Lord. And encourage others to do the same.
The goal is to get around the bases!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Flashback

When we have a visiting missionary at NHC it's always an exceptional day. It's our belief that missionaries are God's choice servants - the cream of His crop. We're careful to invite the very best to be a part of our global team.

Today, Stacey Smith was with us for the first time in 6 years. (Read about her ministry to abandoned children in Quito, Ecuador in the post below this one.) What I've done over the last few years is to bring the missionary up on the platform with me and do an "interview", highlighting his/her/their work. Stacey did a great job.

But the icing on the cake is when we brought up Joseph and his new "forever family", Chris and Suzie from VA Beach. Joseph is one of Stacey's "Precious Miracles". He even sang "Jesus Loves Me" for us. (Pepe, you rocked the house in the 2nd gathering!) And to top it off, the church responded with an incredibly generous love offering for PM.

The MP 13 Band introduce a new song (to us), "I Am Free". It's been around a little while, but what a fun song to sing about the power of Christ to deliver us from bondage.

Lots of guests today, too. I watched a couple of young moms with kids in tow come into the lobby and commented, "Who are these guys?" It's become one of my favorite phrases every week as more and more people are coming to check out what God is doing at NHC.

Easter is just 2 weeks away. Our 3/23 wall of people we're praying for and plan to invite is filling up! Resurrection Day is going to blow out the walls.

And 32 of our partners (ie. "members") were officially graduated this morning from NHCU after "going around the bases" and taking 20 hours (5 classes) designed to help them on their journey of becoming fully-devoted Christ followers. Congrats and celebrate!

Then, after lunch with the family at The Lone Cedar (after sharing appetizers of crab dip and onion straws I had the small cobb salad), it was time for a great Sunday afternoon nap in the recliner!

Throw Away Children

This morning Stacey visited us at church. She's one of the missionaries we support, and has been a part of our global team for over 6 years. (No, that's not her in the picture!)

In Quito, Ecuador Stacey directs Precious Miracles, a home for children betweeen birth and age 2, who have been either abandoned or brought there by parents unwilling or unable to provide a life for them. Most of these little ones have special needs, and in their culture, some are seen as disposable or even a "curse" from the gods. They are seen as "throw away children".

Stacey gives them much more than an "orphanage". They're given a home filled with joy and infused with the love Christ brings into every home where He is Lord. And her goal is to find them all adoptive parents...what she calls "a forever family".

If you'd like to know more about Stacey and Precious Miracles, please visit her web site linked here. At Nags Head Church we give them two thumbs up.

Throw away children? Aren't we glad that "one man's junk is another Man's treasure"?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Happy 2 month Birthday Gwyneth!

OK. I'm a grandfather. And like most new grandpas I'm a little goofy about my grandaughter. Today is her 2 month birthday.

Normally I couldn't imagine being super-stoked about 2 months. But nothing's "normal" about her birth and life up 'til now. She's never been out of the NICU. For the first time, at 8 weeks, her mother was able to hold her. I've touched her head, her back, her tiny hands, usually wearing gloves, but I haven't held her yet.

Heck, she's not quite 2 pounds. But she's a fighter. And although I think she looks a lot like her dad, she gets her spirit from her mom.

And even though she's yet to venture out of the hospital, she's garnered the attention and adoration of a host of fans. She's already the second most well-known Gwyneth in the world, and I'm certain she'll surpass the other before long.

Mostly she's a miracle. A true God-thing.

Check out this video celebrating her second month. I bet you'll fall in love with her, too.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spring Forward!

I don't know what happens in the rest of the world, but Saturday night (actually at 2AM Sunday morning) we lose an hour here. So it will again be dark when I wake up on Sunday morning. But the plus is that it will be light outside longer now.

Set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday night. Otherwise, on Sunday morning you'll wonder why every one is leaving as you're arriving at church.

Oh yeah. It wouldn't hurt to hit the sack an our early, too. If you don't, you'll be tempted to make up for that lost sleep while we pastor-types are trying to say something we hope is worthwhile and life changing to you.

When to pray for your pastor

The link below will take you to another pastor's blog. He wrote a great post about praying for your pastor. Since it's likely that a lot of you go to church, this post is directed toward you so that you can get an insider's view into the very real needs of pastors.

His comments about Sunday nights and Mondays particularly ring true to me. (And I thought I was the only one who struggles this way.)

So, please take a couple minutes and follow the link. I hope it makes a difference in how and when you pray for your pastor! God knows, we need all the help we can get!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

And More Larry Norman...

"That's what I try to encourage people to do, to become the complete person that Christ has made them. Not to attempt to be 'strong' Christians, but to be weak in Christ, so that He can be strong in us. In Christ, our strengths become weaknesses, but our weaknesses become strengths. We should try to die daily unto self and live unto God, rather than try to be 'victorious' in every situation, claiming victory, prosperity and success for our endeavours. I think we should be busy dying and not so busy claiming."

Getting back to the basics.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Peanut Brittle and A Clean Shave

While in CA two weeks ago I was given a box of See's Sugar Free Peanut Brittle. I've been trying to make it last, but (with dad visiting) it's almost gone.

I love peanut brittle. It ranks right up there with chocolate covered bananas.

A couple of nights ago I shaved off my beard. I guess it's been about ten years since I was clean shaven, without even a mustache. Mom says I look ten years younger. Most politely smile when they see me for the first time. Some laugh.

Gail likes it (for now). The last time I shaved it all off (at her request) she waited two days to tell me, "Grow it back". We'll wait and see how long this lasts.

My face is cold. But the dimple in my chin is visable again.

That First Embrace

Last night my 8 week old grandaughter was held in her mother's arms for the very first time, not by choice, but for a myriad of medical reasons. But can you imagine the longing that must have been in Tricia's (mom's) heart for that first chance to hold her tiny baby and not look at her from a sterile distance? I can't.

I know how much Tricia loves Gwyneth. I know she prayed, first for her miraculous birth and then for her survival, being born at 24 weeks. I know she was willing to give up her life so her daughter could have life. What could be a greater love than that? None that I know of here.

But there is Another who also longs to embrace His children. He prays for them. He even gave His life so that they might have His life.

So I'm wondering what it must be like when one of His children has that first "face to face" encounter? I have to believe that it's not Peter who greets His children as they come home, but this One who loves them with the greatest love of all.

And I'll bet with each "first embrace" all of Heaven erupts in tears and joyous laughter.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

High Wire Act

[Most of the following was taken from a comment I made on another blog.]

Jesus commissioned His followers to "make disciples". Many evangelical churches emphasize the evangelism side of discipleship, but neglect the maturity side. Others "go deep" to the delight of supposed mature Christians (even though they're typically the ones who can't/won't feed themselves) but to the detriment of babes who need to be given milk. ["Evangelical" and "evangelism" have different meanings. The former refers to a view of Scripture and a conservative orthodox doctrine. The latter refers to a passion for sharing the Christian faith and winning converts to Christ.]

It's the church's responsibility to teach newbies how to read, study and apply the Word. The essential that evades most churches is balance. And here's what makes that so hard to achieve: Selfishness. Christians can be so selfish! The "super-spirituals" lobby for "in-depth" stuff on Sundays. And since they're typically the ones funding the church (new Christians aren't usually great givers yet), their squeaky wheel gets greased.

Balance means there's enough depth to challenge the maturing (note I didn't say "mature" - it's an ongoing process)yet enough basics to challenge the young to want more. Few churches/pastors are very good at achieving balance. Some of us are better at being evangelists than we are at being teachers and vice versa. But shouldn't we see ourselves as both?

I'll be honest. It's easier for me to be one or the other. But then, church isn't about me. And when I stand before a congregation expecting to hear from God through my words, I think I should have something to say that targets everyone. I want everyone to walk out saying, "I learned/grew/changed/was challenged today."

I'm continuing to try to figure it out. It's certainly my goal.

Listen for yourself

For those who read our stuff and may wonder about our teaching ministry....

After a long down period our church's podcast of recent Sunday messages is back up and running.

I'm currently doing a series called "Gear Up!" taken mostly from the description of spiritual warfare and the armor of God given to us in Ephesians 6.

Andy also taught recently, and his message on faith and feelings ("More than a feeling") is there as well.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Larry Norman

I've been browsing some sites about Larry. Here's something he said:
We need worship for our spirit, fellowship for our soul and committed subservience for our body.

Keeping it simple.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday flashback

We had a long day today but a great one!

Today it was good to see some prayers being answered in the lives of some folks who have been struggling. God is good.

Plenty of doughnuts and coffee. A special thanks to David who was serving alone for a while this morning with a smile on his face. You rock, dude!

Great and sincere comments this morning on the teaching. And I don't say that to boast. It's just that God's Word connects with peoples' needs.

Our children's ministries teams are my heroes. They serve, teach and love our kids so faithfully each week. I don't have any small children anymore, but if I did, I'd be even more grateful to what they do week in and week out.

Great job MP 13 band. I really missed your ministry last week while I was gone.

Tonight we had communion along with a great meal. Big turnout and plenty of awesome food. Thanks Tom for leading us to the cross and teaching us about the hope it brings to our lives. And to whoever set the place up with tables and chairs, a big thanks!

Don't forget our 3/23 prayer wall! It's starting to fill up with names.