Monday, August 31, 2009


Today I was in attendance at the retirement party of a true gentleman and a tribute to his profession. The venue (his church's gymnasium) was crowded as many of his oldest and closest friends and fellow police officers stood and gave tribute to Nags Head Police Chief Wayne Byrum.

As the chaplain for the Nags Head Fire Department most incidents requesting my response will include police response as well. And on many occasions, more often than not it seemed, Chief Byrum was there, not because he had to be, but because it was important to him to do whatever he could to lend a hand, even if it was just his presence. On more than one accident scene, while junior officers were conducting the investigation I've seen Chief Byrum quietly directing traffic, allowing his troops to do their jobs.

Of course, I often found ways to raise the chief's blood pressure. He is not fond of donut jokes (I discovered), and when I posted a Krispy Kreme logo over the coffee pot in the mobile incident command center he didn't find the humor. He told me that one day he was going to "take me for a ride...". Something about the Oregon Inlet Bridge. He was a cop through and through!

Earlier this year Wayne and I worked together on the most difficult of duties for a chief or a chaplain. As we walked up the driveway at 0430 to inform a wife and children that their husband and father died in the line of duty I asked him, "Wayne, have you ever had to do this before?" He was a 30 year veteran. Surely, I thought, he's been through this before. His presence was giving me strength. But he replied, "No. Never." I could feel from the way he said it that this was the hardest moment of his long career.

I also knew that Wayne is a committed believer in Jesus Christ. So I said, "Let's stop and pray." And right there in the driveway we bowed our heads and asked God to help us, but more importantly to wrap His arms around the four people we were about to wake up and give the most devastaing news of their lives.

Then I asked him, "Wayne, do you want to talk, or do you want me to do it?" And here's where I truly saw his leadership as the chief. He quietly said, "I'll start, but you might have to finish." And there on the porch he both started and finished. I'll be honest. I'm was grateful he did.

Today at 1700 he began his well-deserved retirement. He served and protected us well. May he enjoy farming and have the best times with family. And the deer and trout of southwest Virginia need to be put on notice.

Today as I approached to shake his hand he reminded me, "I never did take you on that ride."

(*10-42 is "ten code" for "ending tour of duty")

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Flashback

The last Sunday of August! Summers for us is our busiest time of year. Being in a resort area means our population explodes June through August, and that also means that attendance at church swells from the vacationers seeking to worship with us.

After a four week series on holiness with the help of Matt Glock we jumped back to our series on the life of Moses today, talking about how easy it is to go from proclaiming our devotion to God in one breath to finding God substitutes in our lives with the next. Israel did it. Their leadership failed them. And they likely had unresolved issues with God after leaving Egypt. All of it came to a head when they crafted a golden calf and proclaimed it to be the LORD.

The MP 13 Band intro'd two new songs for us today. The first, "In Christ" gave Larry C. and opportunity to add his saxaphone to the mix. Great job! The second, "You Alone are God" was a great song to give us time to do some introspection about the possibility of idols in our lives.

A couple of encouraging comments today. First came from one of our partners who along with her husband is seeking God's will in a difficult situation. She said that it was just like God was speaking directly to her this morning. (My guess is she was right!) The second one came from an elderly couple who were guests from out of town and who are members of a very different church. She actually attended NHC as a girl back in the 1940's when on vacation! But she said she looked around at all the young people in church and was so excited!

Following the worship our leadership team, about 15 of us today, had lunch together and shared what God is doing in our ministry teams and talked about how we deal with conflict as leaders. Good stuff. We have the best volunteer leadership ever.

I got to run upstairs after the meeting and take a look at the progress in the Kids Zone. The painting is almost done and the tile floor in the bathroom is coming along great. Can't wait until we have kids up there learning and worship and growing in Christ!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Virginia Tech Students Brutal Slaying

Perhaps you've heard/read this terrible story. Reading it here I just realized that not only were these two young people committed Christians, but were part of the church Gail and I belonged to back in my seminary days. We do not know them, but know many in the church.

It's a solid church with a strong faith family, but I hope you'll pray for them, especially Pastor Kroll. Their funerals are back to back on Monday afternoon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Show some respect, please.

In the past couple of days I've been dismayed by the less than compassionate way many bloggers, Facebookers and especially conservative talk radio hosts have attacked Sen. Ted Kennedy.

For Pete's sake (not sure who Pete was) the man gave his life to serving our country. He cared for the poor, and as one born to wealth saw it as his calling in life to defend the helpless.

Just because you didn't agree with his politics or some of his personal choices in life doesn't mean you should hit the man below his belt as he lies in state.

Show some restraint, please. And lower our flag to half mast. It is our flag, not yours.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Check your back pocket - part 2

I'm still mulling over the "Cash for Clunkers" deal. You know, the government gave away $4500 to people who traded in their cars in the way of credit for purchasing a new car.

So now after all those trade-ins those driving around in their still new car smelling rides are getting a taste of government freebies. Your $4500 we "gave" you toward your new car purchase is taxable income. What? The dealer didn't disclose that information?

Gotta read that fine print, especially when it's printed on government stationery.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Flashback

After three Sundays of doing tag-team messages with him, Matt Glock flew solo for us today and talked from Isaiah 58 about our holy mission in this world and how we must be proactive in confronting injustice, protecting the abused, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. It's when we live the Gospel that we're able to gain a hearing from those who haven't heard.

Matt and Sylvie and family fly back to France tomorrow after almost 2 months here with us. It's always great to have our missionaries be able to stay for extended visits. When they come back in two years the kids will all be grown up!

Kudos to the MP13 Band for doing a superb job leading our worship today sans Nathan. He was off to Chapel Hill for a wedding, but they didn't miss a beat, although Chad missed a guitar string for a song or two.

During the 2nd gathering I was able to slip in and visit our Lil' K class. It was amazing to see a dozen or so pre-schoolers totally captivated by the lesson on having an ear to hear Jesus' words. I can't wait for them to get upstairs in their new digs soon.

Nate has produced a series of videos that use the Geico caveman theme to promote our September launch of our Connection Groups. Great job on the videos! They've been brief but a lot of fun. Speaking of Connection Groups, I was part of this afternoon's group leader training. Twenty one of us spent 3 hours getting ready, including 2 guests from another church getting ready to launch small groups. Great stuff, Burnie!

When we left the lobby was jammed with youth. The threatening weather chased them indoors tonight, but they were having a blast. Thanks for the hot dog!

The Glocks are stopping by to say goodbye in a few minutes. And Nate and Tricia are coming by to pick up Gwyneth and Meka, who have been here since Friday. After they're gone I'm headed to the fire station to spend the night protecting the town of Nags Head!

Can you believe there's only one Sunday left in August? Mike tells me that our attendance this July was 200 per week more than last year. Amazing. We really do need that additional space upstairs for our kids! Go God!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dancing Around the Constitution?

Thousands of religious leaders got a call from on high Wednesday as President Obama reached out to Jewish and Christian clergy, asking some to sermonize in favor of health care reform.

The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads in part:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

It does say "Congress". So I guess the President is exempt and can suggest what could be this Sunday's sermon.

I didn't get the invitation to the meeting or pay attention to the call. I'll stick to preaching the Bible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adios Mr. Z.

Twice now this week I've received news of the death of someone who was special in my life. I really hope bad news doesn't come in threes.

My earliest recollections of Mr. Z are of him sitting in his living room showing off his dancing poodle Holly. He would sing this little ditty and get the dog to get up on her hind legs and "dance". It brought him great joy. And he did this every time I came over to their house. So, as best I could as a fifteen year old, I would watch in "amazement" and humor him.

Back in those days he was always a pretty serious guy. So my mission was always to say or do something to make him think I was totally insane.

I remember that same year when he and Mrs. Z, then in their forties put their faith in Christ as Savior. An emotional guy, I've often seen tears in his eyes. He was a proud man in a good sense: proud of his family; proud of his church and pastor; proud of his immaculate back yard with fruit trees and chilis; proud of his Mexican heritage; proud of his ability in his 70's to climb a wall when pursued by vicious dogs!

He worked hard his whole life in construction. In his "retirement" he worked just as hard doing concrete and block work in and around his Orange, CA home. His handywork was everywhere. But even more importantly he used his knowledge and experience in building churches in Mexico with missions teams from his church. That brought him the greatest satisfaction.

In my adult years he and Mary often opened up their home to Gail and I when we would go out to California for a visit. It was understood that "Mi casa es su casa" at the Z's home. And the few times I came out and didn't bring her I was chastized by him. "Next time you come you bring your wife!"

When his beloved Mary died a year and a half ago after being married forever it took the wind out of his sails. Yesterday evening she no doubt was escorted to Heaven's gates to welcome him home. I'm sure today she is taking him on a tour of his forever home.

My hope is that he was told on arrival to take off his shoes and go barefooted on the golden streets because it is holy ground. (Those who know him best will understand and smile in agreement with me.) I would love to see the expression on his face.

Hasta luego, amigo viejo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leaving a vapor trail

For about a year now I’ve been a Facebooker. (I know…spell-check says that’s not a word, but I say it is.) Via this internet social networking phenomenon I have re-connected with friends I haven’t seen or heard from for decades. Mostly it has been a fun experience.

A lot of my FB friends are men and women from my college days. In fact, Facebook has been a primary tool in organizing a reunion coming up next month. Over 200 of us who were linked together because of our passion for working with youth are getting together to reminisce and compare wrinkles, bald heads and other signs of aging. It will be fun!

One guy who will not be there is Doug Turner. He died Saturday.

Doug and I would often hit McDonalds for breakfast after attending an early morning class together. It gave us time to talk about our lives and school and stuff. Already married to Cindy, Doug was more mature than his age, and I looked up to him for whatever wisdom 21 year olds can possibly have.

When a one-time opportunity for service came up in the ministry Doug led came up he asked me to fill in. That one-time became my regular responsibility (I guess I did OK) and helped me grow, gaining valuable experience for the future.

In 1979 I was living in Oklahoma and Doug had just moved to Texas. We met again with someother friends at a national convention for youth ministers in Minneapolis. Doug and I slipped away during down time on Sunday afternoon, walked across a huge parking lot and went to a Twins ball game in their old stadium. We both were surprised at how cool an August afternoon was up there, shivering in our shirt sleeves. That was the last time I saw Doug.

Until last December. We had once again made contact through Facebook. Doug had settled with Cindy and raised a family and built a successful business in Melbourne, Florida. Gail and I were just 45 minutes away from there, visiting our daughter and son-in-law for a week. So I thought I’d give Doug a call and arrange a visit. I wanted to get by to see him because I knew Doug had been sick.

Scleroderma can manifest itself in a number of ways, and its effects on the body can range from mild, attacking the skin, to life-threatening, attacking vital organs. Doug’s disease was the latter, and rapidly sapped him of his physical health, forcing him to retire and spend countless days either hospitalized or confined to home care. When I saw him at home in December his over 6 foot frame supported just over 150 pounds and his voice was weak, like that of an octogenarian. I was frankly shocked when he came to the door and hoped my expression didn’t convey what I felt.

We sat and talked about old times. But mostly we talked about his career, his family and his faith. Here was a man in what should be the prime of his life and has had his ability to work and be active taken away by an obscure disease, yet there was not an ounce of bitterness or regret. Everything out of his mouth was positive, even though he knew there would be no cure. When so many would turn such a fate into anger against God Doug had nothing but praise and thanksgiving for His Lord and was humbled that God would use his weakness to give him opportunity to share his faith with others. I was humbled even more by Doug.

He’ll be buried on Wednesday. Looking this morning at his obituary I realized he was one day older than me. One day. Fifty four years and one week was all he had. But he lived it to the max, even on the days when the max was barely minimal by anyone's standards.

Life is indeed brief. A vapor that appears then disappears. Someone said that all men die, but not all men really live. Thanks, Doug for showing me that each day is precious and that there’s no time to let anger or bitterness keep me from living it with all the abundance God can give.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Flashback

My day started off with having to turn off the water to the house because of a broken water line in the front yard. It would have to wait. Glad I showered Saturday night!

Among other things we celebrated giving school supplies last week to 163 elementary children. Operation Back Pack is a tangible way of demonstrating to the community that the church cares in these tough economic times. Thanks to all who gave and served!

For the third consecutive Sunday Matt Glock and I tag-teamed to bring the message from God's Word. Today was about holiness as a church. We read lots of Scripture, mostly from Ephesians 4 and 5 that pretty much lays out holy and unholy attitudes and actions. I'm enjoying the team approach we've been able to do, but Matt's going to fly solo next Sunday!

Sylvie Glock sang a song in French today about our lives being jars of clay yet carrying the treasure of Christ. Matt had translated the words which were up on the screen for the english speakers in the church. Great job Sylvie! And even though the band usually plays in english, they were able to stay right with you, as was Nick on the computer.

I'm always humbled and surprised when one of our guests says, "Coming to church here is the highlight of our vacation every year!" I heard it again today. Thanks!

After lunch at the remodeled Dunes Burnie and I worked on next Sunday afternoon's training for our small group leaders. We relaunch our groups in September. Nate has put together a promo video series that has been simple but a lot of fun. Something about being easy and a cave man.

After several trips to Ace and Home Depot I finally got the water line repaired. I'm so glad God called me to do something other than plumbing.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Flashback

I'll never get tired of saying how beautiful it is to watch Nags Head Church in ministry and mission every Sunday. Today was one of those "Do we have too much going on for it to be a genuine worship experience?" kind of days. But God pulled it all together so well, from the first song to the expressions of love and thanks shared with our intern Matt French. It was really a God day.

Matt Glock and I again did a "tag team" message - this time on personal holiness. It's about being in agreement with God and living it out. It seemed to flow well as we passed the baton back and forth leading us to the personal checkpoint of communion.

Again serving communion for two big crowds was handled flawlessly by our guys. Mike does a super job getting all the logistics worked out.

Back Pack Sunday was a lot of fun and seeing all the donated school supplies coming in is exciting. Jenny stayed late after church sorting it all out. We're hoping and praying that this outreach will again say loud and clear to our community that Christ is loving them through us. There is still time to bring in supplies before Wednesday night!

This week the band did a scaled down acousitc version of "What Do I Know of Holy" with Nate on the guitar and George on the harmonica. Real quiet and reflective! Well done.

I had time after church to go out and grab some lunch before the start of my Discovering Nags Head Church class at 3:00. Ten men and women took the class that introduces our church to those wanting to know more about who we are. All ten finished by saying, "We want to partner with this fellowship". This has been our greatest year of growth. Special props to Bethany and Melissa who came in and did some child care for the class. Thanks for your servants' hearts.

And what amazes me about this is that of the ten, five are from live in surrounding counties, some driving an hour or more each way to get to church. How is it that we're bcoming a "regional" church? God's doing something very cool.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Check your back pocket

The "Cash for Clunkers" program - giving car owners up to $4,500 to trade in and destroy the engines of their gas guzzlers as a credit toward a new car has been amazingly successful. Sort of.

Car dealers are smiling. They haven't seen sales numbers this high in years. Some have depleted their inventory. New cars are moving off the lots as fast as they're trucked in (by fuel guzzling tractor trailers...). You have to be happy for the car dealers. They haven't exactly had the best year up to this point.

And thousands of people who wanted a new car but couldn't come up with a down payment are driving away with their American dream. They're loving that new car smell. For now.

But that billion bucks that as of this morning went through Uncle's fingers like water, and the 2 billion in additional funds to keep the sales going being requested by the Prez - where is it coming from?

Do you feel your wallet shrinking? Welcome to the world of "government" financed incentive programs.

So if you are a recipient of some of this cash for your clunker, please at least wave at me and smile as a gesture of thanks for your new ride. I'll keep driving my 8 year old gas sucking truck until with my money - not yours - I can afford something newer.

Just this anything like a Ponzi scheme?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Silver Lining

Last night I sat in the familiar (to me) little room just outside of the ER with a wife who just lost her husband in an unexpected death.

As she was asked about organ donation, she admitted he had not signed anything, but yes, she wanted anything to help others by agreeing to it for him.

I thanked her.

He was only 48. How old are you? Have you considered becoming an organ donor? I hope so. Every day people in this country die because there is a shortage of available life-saving organs only because so many never sign up to be donors.

Info on organ donation is on the right of this page. Why put it off? And why make your loved one make that call? Just do it.

Sunday Flashback

It started out as a hot, humid summer day. By early afternoon the temp had dropped 15 degrees, but the bottom dropped out of the clouds! A month's worth of rain today for sure!

Matt Glock and I started a 4 weeker today on the topic of holiness. Lots of positive feedback about the team teaching today. Today was "Our Holy God", talking about the foundation of holiness and trying to give it a definition we can all wrap our minds and bodies around. Next week we'll move to talking about personal holiness.

The band followed the teaching with an awesome first time song - "What Do I Know of Holy?", and followed that with "The Revelation Song". Great songs to help us focus on what we just heard.

Our summer time guests are so awesome. Not only do they fill the house, but they bring an objectivity to what we do, and are so encouraging to us. It was good today to see Beth and her little girl for the first time. She started coming on vacation back when she was a little girl. And Erin L. was with us today, too. She came down to help out with yesterday's surf camp. Lots of others, too.

I took Gwyneth upstairs to see the progress on the Kids Zone. The drywall is 90% hung. What a great addition this is going to be to our children's ministries!! Thanks to all the volunteers who are pitching in.

If you've been following the blog or the podcasts during the Moses series, you know that we've featured original art from Amber Elwood to illustrate. An 11x14 print is now available showcasing all of the art she's done. I got one today that will hang in my office. When we figure out how to make them available online, we'll do so. It really is well done. Otherwise, stop by NHC and for a donation to Amber you can get it.

Every Sunday I revel in the contributions of service our church partners make. They selflessly volunteer their time to make church possible on a weekly basis to over 600 attenders. Now, that's not a huge number compared to a lot of churches, but then they typically aren't serving more than three times their membership every week either. NHC is a wonderful family, indeed.

We're gearing up for Operation Back Pack! In less than two weeks we'll turn our building into a distribution center to give away school supplies to needy families. It's all donated, either by our church partners or by friends. And it's a wonderful way to give back to the community and share and show Christ's love.