Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Silver Lining

I would think that death always brings grief to someone. At least I would hope it does. It's hard to imagine anyone dying and no one caring.

Grief in the case of an elderly person who has lived a long and full life is somehow eased with all those memories and the realization that it was their "time".

But death of a young person, especially a child, is a horrible experience for the surviving family and loved ones. I witness the initial shock of hearing the news that a child is dead often as a public safety chaplain.

And I see the worst - the cases when there is no "forewarning" like a known illness or risky surgery. There's no preparation. Most that I am involved with are sudden and totally unexpected. One minute the child is enjoying life as chldren do. The next they are lifeless.

Sunday I was involved with one of those heart-wrenching cases as a just-turned 13 year old girl suffered an apparent cardiac arrest while sleeping. While on vacation and away from home, friends, family, church.

I met with the parents at the emergency room to offer support and prayers. They actually quoted Romans 8:28 to me. This young girl has a vibrant relationship with Christ. Spiritually we're told that knowing there is eternal life ahead because of the work of Christ and our belief in Him takes the sting of death away. I saw that.

That trust in God's sovereignty doesn't, however, answer the inevitable "Why?" questions. Those may never be answered in part much less fully here.

As I do regularly in these situations, I asked the parents if they would consider organ donation. What parent considers this in advance and already has an answer ready? Precious few, I'm afraid. But without hesitation they looked at each other and said, "Yes. If her organs can allow another child to live, yes."

I informed the nurse and the papers were signed. And I hope that somewhere someones' sons or daughters are being given a chance at a longer life because of such an unselfish act.

It doesn't erase the pain, but it does help.

If you would like to know more about organ donation, please click the link to the right of this page.

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Have Met the Enemy - And He Is Us

Guest Blogger: David Wilson.

David is a pastor friend in Florida. He's somewhat of a maverick (a popular term these days) who says what he thinks.

This post on apathy is worth the read.

Walking the Balance Beam

You've seen the gymnasts do their routines on a 4 inch wide beam, leaping and tumbling and flipping. How in the world do they do it? How do they keep themselves on those four inches without falling?

Right now I find myself on a balance beam. It's in my role as a pastor, which, btw, is not the only role I have in life. (I say that because I forget and often times so do others.)

As a pastor I am a shepherd - technically an "undershepherd" to the Chief Shepherd of the flock. My job, along with the other shepherds in our congregation is to lead God's sheep to the green pastures and still waters of His choosing. His will is not difficult to discern, since He has given us a book full of directions that are pretty specific.

Where I want to fall off the beam is in supplanting God's wisdom with my own in pointing others to the food and water. I want to take detours around obstacles facing the sheep to avoid hurting feelings - sometimes when God is lead them over the rocks and through the dark valleys. I want to make life easier for them when God is trying to mature them through the pains and difficulties that come with life.

For example, the Word is crystal when Jesus addresses how we're to deal with offenses. It's not rocket science. If someone offends you, Jesus said, go to that person and clear it up. Yet how many times am I brought into a riff because a third party, who should never have been involved *yet comes to me with "Pastor, you've got to do something!".

No, I don't. They do.

I want to. I like thinking I can fix and mediate. But Jesus said that until the parties involved have come together and made the attempt I'm to butt out. I shouldn't even know what's going on. And as a shepherd I shouldn't allow other sheep to get involved either. Because when they do, thinking they're helping, they are in reality falling off the beam as well. It's not about motive or sincerity or even compassion. It's about obedience.

The beam is narrow. Staying on it leads to life. All other paths are wide - even if I think they're helping - lead to destruction. Keeping the balance to stay where God has placed me isn't easy. But it's right. Not just for pastors, but for all believers in community.

*Matthew 18:15-17

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman - An American Icon died yesterday

I just heard the news this morning. He was 83.

Thinking about it, he did play some great parts in the movies. Cool Hand Luke ("What we have here is a failure to communicate"). As "Fast Eddie" Felson in The Hustler (with Jackie Gleason as "Minnesota Fats") and reprised in The Color of Money. With Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ("Who are those guys?"). Those are some that stand out to me.

He was a good box office draw. The women loved his blue eyes and his good looks. The men saw him as a man's man. So his flicks were the perfect date night.

Later in life he became involved in Indy race car driving and team ownership, and then showed his diversity by coming out with his own line of popcorn and salad dressings.

What stands out to me probably more than anything else was the fact that a Hollywood star who probably could have had any number of women remained faithful and married to his wife (actress Joanne Woodward) for 50 years. When asked about infidelity, he quipped, "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?"

I'm sure one of the movie channels on cable will do a Paul Newman marathon in short order. I'll try to catch it. Hollywood doesn't make 'em like him anymore. Too bad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Rachel!

I was expecting a boy. Your mom was putting out hints that made me think that way, even though she knew you were a girl. I didn't want to know in advance. It ain't natural.

About 2 weeks late and with a shock of black hair you emerged on the night of a hurricane. G-L-O-R-I-A. (Ask an old person.) And you were easily the biggest baby in the Portsmouth General nursery. 9lb. 14.5 oz. Almost a toddler.

And now you're going to be a mom yourself.

Happy Birthday baby girl. Feliz cumpleanos a ti. (Sorry, I don't have Spanish keys on my lap top.)

Life in the Fast Lane...only slower

It's been a strange day...

Very early I made a gaff with my email and lost all my files. So I emailed technical support and within minutes (at 4:30AM!) the phone rang. It was the support guy from the other side of the world. "Is this a bad time?"

He got my email back up, but because I didn't know key info (like password and server info) it wasn't yet functioning. That I would take care of later in the day with the help of genius friends. Thanks for the bowl of chili while we tried to get it straight.

Back to bed at 5:15 and up again at 7:00 I got ready to drive to VA Beach (100 minutes each way) to see my dermatologist. The last visit's biopsies revealed a couple of non-melanoma cancers, and he got to pull out his scalpel and scissors again. He even decided to biopsy one more suspicious spot. Have you ever heard someone cutting your skin with scissors? Trust me, I don't look.

So I'm stitched and bandaged in three places. And I get to go back again in two weeks!! Playing out in the sun as a kid is way overrated. Burn baby burn.

And the weather...The wind and rain made it extra miserable. The only thing that could have made the storm more miserable would have been temps in the 30's. At least it's still warm.

It's after 6PM now. I've been getting some work done, but the eyes are telling me I'm soon down for the count.

The only thing that could complete this day would be for my pager to go off. At 11 tonight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comment from a new attender

"I never walk out of Nags Head Church feeling lonely. I like that."

That's awesome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Crib

We used this video Sunday to illustrate a point in my current sermon series called "Radical Generosity". The point was that we Americans have lots of "stuff", but how generous are we with it?

It got a lot of laughs Sunday.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today was the third in a series about the grace of generosity. Feedback I'm getting is telling me that what the Bible has to say on this subject is really connecting. And that's great to know. God wants us to grow and abound in this grace. Next Sunday we'll take on a challenge or two to be generous.

A fun part of today's message was my version of "MTV Cribs". We used it to show how much "stuff" we really have. We'll get it up on YouTube soon if you missed it.
The Lobby continues to be (IMO) the best part of our campus at NHC. It's where relationships are begun and nurtured in a way I've never experienced in a church. The folks who arrive early and/or stay late are getting it. Fellowship is one of the best parts of being connected with a church family.

And what other church in the world gets sweet potato biscuits from Kelly's every Sunday???

Our band really needs to get crankin' on a CD project.

After church our family trekked up the beach to Carova to visit with family down on vacation. To get to Carova you have to drive on the beach, which is always a treat. And we got to eat Venezuelan arepas for the first time. Muy bueno!

Today is day 21 of our 40 Days of Prayer! Good stuff is happening as God's people make prayer a greater focus and priority. Keep it up.

And I apologize to any Red Hat ladies who might have been present in the 9AM gathering. My hunch is that even though I don't get it, you're probably a fun group of girls!

And finally the weather has cooled off!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Yesterday and today our church hosted a regional prayer conference sponsored by our state convention. About 100 people from the eastern part of NC and at least one from VA attended the conference.

The conference went really well. Several times I was told NHC was a great host. The reason why those comments were made is because of the volunteers from our church who made it happen. There was an advance housekeeping team who came in and cleaned the building prior to the conference and a follow up housekeeping team who got it clean again for Sunday. There was a team who came in Thursday night and set up the tables and chairs in the auditorium and a team who came in after the conference and reset the auditorium for worship tomorrow. There was a hospitality team who made sure the food and beverages were always on hand. And there were volunteers who helped with the conference registration. Our band was there Friday night and Saturday morning to lead worship. One of our youth ran the video tech table.

We also got some volunteer help from Ocean View and Kitty Hawk Baptist churches! Thanks for wanting to be a part.

My hat's off to those who serve the body because they know the Christian value of service. I never heard a complaint. Smiles were abundant. And it made a difference for our guests. The body of Christ was well served by you all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eastern NC Prayer Conference

If you haven't yet registered don't panic. You can register at the door Friday evening. Registration will be open from 5-6:30. The conference begins at 6:30. Please don't bring children. There is no child-care provided.

For you pastor types who plan to attend the luncheon, you need to register in advance today by going to the website. If you prefer, there is a phone number posted on the website you can call.

Over 100 are expected for the conference. In addition to some excellent speakers, the MP13 Band will be leading worship throughout the conference.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

God often tests our hearts by asking us to serve in ways we’re not shaped.

Rick Warren

Monday, September 15, 2008

Evcer have a Murphy day?

I had great plans for getting some things done today by noon. There was a lawn that needed mowing and a sliding glass door that needed a part replaced. If all went well I should have been done around lunch time.

But my nemesis Murphy showed up. You know Murph. He somehow set a law in motion that seems to work regularly in my life.

First, upon examination of the part received from Andersen revealed it was not the same part I needed. In fact, this was the second time it wasn't the part. Or so I thought. A phone call from Andersen late this afternoon told me this was the replacement part. It screws in to the frame. The old one snapped in. "Do you have any instructions?" "No." A snap on stop would have been a much quicker fix than this one now that I'll have to drill holes into the frame.

After spending too much time on hold with Andersen and then searching the web site for the right part and emailing them with my find I finally got away to do the mowing around noon. After digging up a ton of sand spurs first I couldn't get my mower to start. It would crank up for a few seconds then die.

Now, I'm not the most mechanical mind in the world. I played with the throttle a bit, but couldn't see anything obvious. Maybe it was flooded? Then a phone call required my assistance in another location for about 30 minutes. I hadn't eaten since a bowl of raising bran in the morning, and it was not approaching 2:00. So I pulled into Burger King.

My guess is that I haven't eaten a burger at the King for over 4 years. I had no idea a Whopper with cheese and a medium diet coke would be over 5 bucks. I seem to be able to recall a Whopper with cheese for just under a dollar at one time. But it hit the spot. Back to the lawn mower.

Giving it a crank, it ran for 5 seconds then died. Maybe it's the spark plug? So I pull out the plug and sure enough, there's enough carbon there to create a 2 carat diamond. No big deal. KMart is just around the corner. But guess what? Nobody told me KMart no longer sells lawn mower parts. Not a spark plug to be found in the store. I seem to recall a day when you could buy everything you needed to tune up a car at KMart. So it's off to my Kitty Hawk Ace Hardware. I know I can count on them.

Ace didn't let me down. A quick installation of the plug and the mower was running like new. By now it's 3:00 and the hottest September 15 on record. It's 91 degrees. By 4 o'clock I've mowed, weed-eated (is that a word?) and even did some mowing on my neighbor's lawn and used the electric blower to clean it up. Tomorrow, btw, the high is supposed to be 76. Can I pick 'em or what?

I do have a couple of things I'd like to accomplish this evening. I just don't know if Murphy is still hanging around or not.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Today I watched God work in lives and was humbled by how He is captivating hearts and lives.

One of our new guys at church (who was just baptized a few weeks ago) came to see me this morning between gatherings with tears in his eyes. He had signed up to take my Discovering Nags Head Church class. Then he found out he has to attend another function that conflicts with the class. Tears because he had made a commitment he couldn't keep. Give me some more of that.

In each of our gatherings there were men who received Christ as their Savior. Both guys have been attending for a while, but today was the day when, as Phil Keaggy wrote, God's "love broke through". Just a couple days ago the wife of one of the guys had emailed me this:"The fact that he is interested is an answer to one of my prayers. Slowly he is getting there." Today he got there.

The response to my current series, "Radical Generosity" has been quite positive. Today's big thought was that for the believer God owns everything I possess. And He is the original generous radical. With all the opportunities confronting us to be generous right now, I'm watching for some God-sized things to break loose.

The MP 13 band was most excellent today in leading our worship. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be on a Sunday morning. It's just way cool to be in a church and watch people come in the door excited to be there and anticipating the worship.

After lunch Steve and taught our NHCU classes from 3-7PM. Both classes went well, and we'll have some new partners in the fellowship as a result.

Tina Hodgson gets it. She's our children's ministries director and is busy on Sunday morning making sure our kids worship gatherings are running smoothly. Then she was at the church from 3-7 providing child-care so that parents could attend NHCU. She knows what "it" is. I hope "it" is contagious.

Oh yeah. The Pinkertons from Lancaster Co., PA brought me a shoo fly pie. Oh my. Have you ever had an Amish baked shoo fly pie?

Next Sunday morning is less than 7 days away. I can't wait!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Guest Blogger: Megan Scotti

Megan is Tricia's sister. Most of the time her blog consists of pictures of her kids and "mommy" stories. But she's got great wit and ability to make her point, too. This particular post has Megan responding to someone's criticism of the establishment of a trust fund for a family member dealing with cancer. It's a rather long post, but worth the read.

I'm Not Good At It

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Before we start complaining about the jump in gas prices or even that gas may be rationed, and the inconvenience that will cause us, let's turn our thoughts to the potential devastation to the Texas coast this storm will bring.

And let's pray for all those who live in this hurricane's path. Those of us living on the coast would do well to remember Jesus' words to "Do unto others...". Ike could have easily been our nightmare.

Let's also not forget to pray for those already crushed by recent storms, especially in Haiti. The story there is particularly grim. Over 1000 have died in that country from hurricanes this month.

So please today and tomorrow be sure to use your prayer time to remember those affected by these storms.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Patriot Day Appreciation Lunch

Nags Head Church collaborated with several local restaurants to put on a lunch spread for our public safety community today on September 11. It was our first attempt at this event and it blew me away. I'm usually pretty good at estimating response, and had guessed about 30 would attend. Wrong. Double that amount.

Represented were:

Dare Co. Communications (the 911 people)
Dare Co. Emergency Management
Dare Co. Fire Marshal's office
Dare Co. EMS
Kitty Hawk Fire Dept.
Kill Devil Hills Fire Dept.
NC Highway Patrol
Nags Head Ocean Rescue
Nags Head Fire Dept.
Nags Head Police

Restaurants participating (they all rock!) were:

Tropical Smoothie
NY Pizza Pub
The Butcher Block
Pier House Restaurant
Sooey's Barbecue
Maximus Pizza
The Dunes

Volunteers from NHC who made it happen were George and Paula Farah, Tina Hughes, Jan Martz. Barbara Kay and Andy also worked hard setting up and cleaning up.

So thanks again to our public safety men and women who serve us all so well. And thanks for a church that reached out to them in appreciation and service. God will bless it, I know.

Plan on it being an annual event. I'm going to encourage other churches in our neighboring communities to do the same next year.

We will not forget

You're invited to join me at 8:46 this morning for a moment of silence at the flag pole in front of the Nags Head Town Hall. If you can't, I hope you'll stop wherever you are and remember.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm going to be sore before I'm better

The past several years I've been adamant about getting to the Y two or three times a week to play racquetball. It's been great exercise, and for someone with a "sedentary" kind of job, and who is past 50, it has been great. I always felt better, was in relatively good shape and kept the pounds off.

Then in January our family turned it's attention to more pressing matters, and because I couldn't commit to regular times at the Y, I canceled my membership and stopped playing. Actually I stopped exercising altogether.

This morning I renewed my membership. Soon I'll be back on the court and for a while suffering due to using dormant muscles. But I look forward to feeling better and my pants not fitting so tight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Appreciating those who serve on Patriot Day

We're partnering with a number of local restaurants to host this lunch. I hope you'll say a special "Thanks" to a police officer, firefighter or EMT/Paramedic on Thursday.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Places I'd rather not go

On my way to an engagement in Burlington, NC today I drove by the exits on I-40 that I have taken too many times earlier this year.

One was the Durham Fwy exit that leads to Duke Medical Center. The other was the exit to the motel where we stayed when at Duke.

It was a strange feeling to look up and see those signs again. Not a good feeling, either. Too many times I took those exits with fear about what was about to happen down the road. I actually wasn't expecting to see them because my starting point this morning was on the other side of Raleigh, so they kinda caught me by surprise.

Next time I travel that direction I'll probably find an alternate route. I don't want to go back there anymore. If you know what I mean.

Sharing our church's story with others

A while back I was invited to come to meet with a group of pastors who get together once a month to learn from one another and to sharpen their pastoring and leadership skills. It's a great concept, and if they weren't so far away, I'd be there on a regular basis. But it was a 500 mile round trip.

They wanted to hear how God has worked over the years in Nags Head Church. And I love telling that story! Having been a pastor at our church for over 17 years now, I've seen up front and personal what God has done to do a total makeover and take us through several transitions to get us to where we are today.

They asked lots of questions, too. Good questions. Some that I wasn't really prepared for and had to think about. But I hope that something from our story was an encouragement to each of them.

This was the second time in the past few months that I've addressed a group of pastors like this, and I've got another one scheduled next month. If you've read this blog very long, you know that I have a heart for pastors. I see way too many discouraged to the point of questioning their call and quitting the ministry.

So thanks, God and Nags Head Church for giving others hope. And thanks for letting me be a part of it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Storm watching

Hannah is due to arrive either tonight or Saturday morning. But Ike is the one that has us a bit concerned.

How coach Lew Johnston got his groove back

In yesterday's Virginina Pilot this story was on the cover of the Hampton Roads section. It's about a very close friend.

Lew shared this story with me over lunch in July while he was down on vacation. We've been friends since the football season of 1985 - his first season as head coach - when he asked a young youth pastor to serve as the team's chaplain. It was an experience that shaped not only Lew and I, but a number of young men.

After a year of retirement, Lew's back at it. He knows why God has him on this earth. And knowing that brings him great fulfillment and purpose.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dr. Slice/Dice and Freeze

Today I have a long overdue visit with my dermatologist.

I'll come home with incisions, stitches and scabs, I'm sure and the fun of waiting to hear from more biopsies.

Wear your sun screen!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A life worth keeping?

I'm sitting here watching this week's political convention. I watched last week's too, and some of the debates before. I also listened to each candidate express his view on when a human's civil rights begin as asked by a preacher in California.

Two very different answers. Two very different positions.

Tonight I held my grandaughter on my lap as she peacefully fell asleep. One year ago tonight her mother discovered she was pregnant. It was not news we wanted to hear. Not because she would be unloved or unwanted. But because of the enormous jeaopardy the pregnancy placed on the life of the mother. If you're unfamiliar with the story, you can read it here.

The medical opinion was to abort to save the life of the mother. Roe v. Wade gave them that constitutional right. But the parents' decision was to keep the child and place their lives in hands of the Giver of life.

I was a firm believer prior to this pregnancy in the right of the unborn to life, but I won't lie. The news of this pregnancy caused me to question that firmly held belief. Earthquakes shake the foundation before the roof. But witnessing the faith of two young parents-to-be and then seeing God work miracles encased that belief in concrete.

So if you want to know why I vote the way I do, just come over and hold Gwyneth. Look into her eyes. See her smile. Better yet, watch her mother do those things. You'll never convince me that any other position is acceptable or even tolerable in the eyes of God.
(The picture was of Gwyneth and me in the NICU.)

Digging Up Dirt

On this past Friday a presidential candidate announced his choice for his running mate. Immediately the press demonstrated its character by going on a search for skeletons in her closet.

Rumors began to circulate via blogs that Gov. Palin's 4 month old son was actually the son of her 17 year old daughter. False.

To quell that maliciousness the Palins put out a statement that their daughter was actually 5 months along in a pregnancy with plans to marry her child's father. In a statement demonstrating his own character, the opposition candidate, Sen. Obama, threatened to fire any of his staff found guilty of spreading rumors about candidates' families. Well done.

Next, it's been discovered that Palin's husband Todd was arrested for a DUI 22 years ago when he was 22.

I once owned a black lab who would dig up the carcasses of dead chickens she had killed and I had buried. Days later the rotting corpse would reappear. I guess it was in her nature.

It's a political year. Unfortunately the vultures will continue to circle, searching for carrion to feed a populace that seems to hunger for such things.

God, on the other hand has a different nature. When one of His children sins He provides forgiveness through the death of His Son and "buries that sin in the depths of the sea", remembering it "no more". His concern is not what we did, but who we are. We are to learn from our past blunders, understand grace, be changed by it and move on.

Likewise, we who are His children are to adorn His nature and follow suit. Holding grudges, searching closets for skeletons, digging up dirt on someone else misrepresents the new nature we've been graciously given. And what we sow we will reap.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cow Pasture Pool

Today being a holiday, I got the rare chance to play golf with some buds.
Thanks to the use of a Big Bertha driver I was able to hit some crushing drives off the tee. If only I could consistently direct where the ball goes...

That's all I'm going to say about that.