Thursday, May 29, 2008
I lasted only a semester here as a student. There are several reasons for my shortened stay. I enrolled here on a whim. I wanted out of Lubbock, but had some misgivings about my first choice: York College. That was when York was experiencing some real challenges, and there was even some talk about the school going under and not surviving. So, I came to O.C.C. (it had yet to become a university). When I arrived on campus, I only knew one person really well, a girl that had come from Lubbock and with whom I had attended our senior year of high school. I knew three or four others through Camp Blue Haven and Black Mesa Bible Camp, but none of them well. I am shy, naturally, and, so, needless to say, I got homesick and missed my family and friends in Lubbock. Also, I was disappointed that I was not allowed to take Greek as a freshmen (it was a department policy, then, that you had to be a sophomore). Lubbock Christian University did not have that policy. Also, the Bible Department at O.C. did not have a structured Youth Ministry degree when I came here as a student, and a career in youth ministry was my ambition; I would had to have attended summer school to take any courses in youth and family work. But, summers were for summer camps (and other productive ventures), not school! So, at semester break, I packed up my things and transferred home to Lubbock Christian College (it would become a university the next September).
With that story shared, let me say that in many ways I enjoyed my time at Oklahoma Christian. It was a fine school, then, and it is a very god school, today. Of the three Church of Christ colleges and universities I have attended (Harding University Graduate School of Religion is the third), O.C. is perhaps the most "family oriented"; in other words, there is a certain intimacy the students and faculty/staff that I have not found in other places. I think that, in part comes from the small town Oklahoma mentality that I have come to value very greatly. Oklahoma City is a large city and metropolitan area, but it has not lost its small town charm, and the same is true with Oklahoma Christian. I have rediscovered that charm since being on campus today. And, it was at O.C. and the Memorial Road Church of Christ college ministry that I picked up on some important resources and programming ideas that I employed in later years when I served as a campus minister in Lubbock. So, I consider my time here very formative and profitable.
I have always thought that the O.C. campus was beautiful, and that impression was confirmed today. There has been a lot of new construction since my days here as a freshmen, but the recent building activity has enhanced the looks of the campus without diminishing its beauty. You can't beat central Oklahoma in the Spring! Expect, of course the heat and humidity, which after living in the Rocky Mountains for the past several years is getting to me!
I have literally spent my life in a "Christian college atmosphere." The first 25, or so, years of my life were spent living within a block of the Lubbock Christian University campus, and much of my waking moments were spent on that campus, first as a child who saw the campus as my personal playground (and I have the stories of mischief I got into to prove it!), and as a student who spent nearly 30 years of schooling on that campus. Yes, that's right, 30 years! I began Kindergarten in a classroom on the second floor of the L.C.C. Administration Building; attended 2nd thru 4th grades in classrooms in the Green Lawn Church of Christ building (on the campus of L.C.U.); the 5th thru 12th grades on the campus of Lubbock Christian Schools, which at the time was a component part of L.C.U.; then 6 years of undergraduate study (I was a slow learner!); and, finally, 13 years, off and on, of graduate study (again, I' a slow learner, or at least, at that time, a student encumbered with a full-time job in ministry and a growing family). With the exception of the semester I spent at O.C., another two semesters spent at Harding Grad. in Memphis, Tennessee, and my 1st grade year spent in a public school in New Orleans, Louisiana, my educational home has been L.C.U. And, now, of course, my parents still work and live at L.C.U. (they are dorm parents among other responsibilities), so, the "Christian school atmosphere" still remains a large part of my life (in fact, I've spent many more nights in a L.C.U. dormitory as an adult than I ever did as a student!). And, last but certainly not least, my grandfather, George Saunders, spent 40 years as a Trustee of Lubbock Christian University, with is father, Guy Saunders, my great-grandfather, serving as a Trustee before him.
You could say, then, that I am a big believer in our Christian schools, our universities, colleges, and secondary, elementary, and pre-schools. They have blessed so many over the years and continue to do so today. They are not perfect, no human institution is, but they are effective tools in service to our Lord Jesus Christ.
I cannot wait for my three beautiful daughters to arrive at that moment in their lives where they will choose where to attend college. I will be rooting for L.C.U., or O.C., or A.C.U., or York, or Pepperdine, or Harding, or any one of our other fine schools. Just don't tell me what the tuition will be, by then!!!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
- To build a church building on the same block as another church building seems wrong to me. You've seen such places, where two or more churches are located on the same intersection. I've seen more than one intersection that has a church facility built on each corner! Does this sight not send a negative message to the community at large? It is certainly not a picture of unity. It is too much like the sight of competing filling stations or fast food restaurants and presents an image of the church that is not consistent with the Gospel.
- A church building without windows is one of the most unattractive sights I see. Maybe I'm being too particular, but a church without windows suggests one thing to me . . . a group that is closed off from the world about it. Or, put another way, a group that is closed-minded and unwilling to look beyond itself. Now, I know, that architecture is not necessary a reflection on theology, but perception . . . the analysis of those looking at us . . . is important. A church without windows (and a hard to find, or unwelcoming entryway, by the way) is uninviting to outsiders.
- A church facility that is left to deteriorate and is unkempt suggests a lot to people passing by. A dead lawn, as superficial a thing as that is, communicates . . . and not positively. A few flowers and a kept lawn can brighten up a place as much as, and perhaps more than, a multi-million dollar face lift!
- When the church building supplants the home as a center of activity, then I think something is wrong. I know many churches where the vast majority of fellowship activities are held at the church campus, so much so that families are no longer entertaining others in their houses. I grew up in a large congregation with a large building, including a youth center that would accommodate a hundred people. And, we had many activities there, BUT the activities I looked forward to were the ones held in someones home. Those Sunday night devotionals hosted by various families were some of my favorite youth group activities. Sadly, it seems that in many places such activities are a thing of the past. There's a point where our buildings become too practical.
- It is sad, and I believe sinful, when a congregation mortgages their mission obligations to build a new meeting place. I know of so many evangelistic and benevolent works that have lost much needed support because some church wanted to build a gymnasium. I believe God mourns over these frivolous choices.
I have been in many multi-million dollar places of worship, BUT my favorite places to worship include a rustic log chapel at Pine Springs Youth Camp and a lakeside amphitheater at Camp Blue Haven. I love the words of Jesus, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18.20). (Yes, I acknowledge that the immediate context of this statement is not worship, but there certainly is a principle implied that guides our worship.)
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Well, after a brief stop in Gallup (all of 38 hours), its back to the road. East, again. To Lubbock and the Oklahoma. I will be attending Quest at Oklahoma Christian University.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I have a large collection of Bibles . . . probably a hundred or so, but that NRSV has always been my favorite. At times over the years I have laid it aside and used other Bibles for my study, preaching, and touching, but within a few weeks, I've always come back to that Bible. I love its feel in my hands. I've memorized all the creases, all the cracks in the leather. You can see from the smudges and crinkles on some pages, where some of my most visited passages are located. I love the typesetting and font the publishers employed. I love the NRSV for its clarity, superb translation, and ease of reading. I can purchase another one; in fact, I visited Mardel's today to look for another one. But, that Bible can never be replaced. I preached my first sermon as an employed preacher out of that Bible, and I had always fancied the idea of preaching my last sermon out of it.
Maybe some kindhearted person will find my Bible and try to contact me. Unfortunately, I believe only my name appears in it and not my address or phone number. Although, it does have a copy of the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home bulletin inserted inside the front cover and my contact information is printed on that.
Do you have a favorite Bible? What has made it special to you, other the obvious answer of it being the living and active word of God?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
On a frustrating note . . . Congress has called up Big Oil execs to grill them on high fuel prices. In as low class a move as I've seen in awhile, Senator "Leaky" Leahy interrogated these gentlemen, demanding to know their personal salaries, trying to make the accusation that their salaries have, in part, caused the prices we're paying at the pump. Of course, the senator from Vermont conveniently overlooks the facts that that Congress has stood in the way of building new refineries for the past 30 years and has forbidden the extraction of oil from ANWR and off our coasts, and stands in the way of exploration in the Dakotas and Rocky Mountains and other places, where potential finds in excess of 15 trillion barrels of oil awaits!!! Tell me, what affects fuel prices more: an executive's salary, or the restrictions placed on the industry by the Federal government?
By the way, perhaps Leahy (and his Dem. colleagues) can explain who is more productive to society: the chairman of Exxon/Mobil who makes about $12 million a year and heads the largest corporation in the world (whose stock, by the way, under girds the investments and retirement funds of thousands upon thousands of people), or Madonna, who made in excess of $30 million last year by wiggling her body in front of thousands of delirious (and perhaps stoned out) concert goers? One is demagogued, while the other is made into an "idol" of entertainment. Where's the logic?
That's enough of my pontificating! Except for this thought . . . what will Leahy and his cronies pull in this year (beyond their "salary" from the Fed. government)?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Looking back, the highlights of my life include two that particularly stand out:
1. Welcoming three precious daughters into this world and into my life. Elizabeth Michele, Hannah Danielle, and Autumn Grace are the jewels of my life. They have been through a very difficult year, but they continue to shine with all the splendor bestowed on them by their Creator. And, the best birthday present of all: they will be with me for much of the next two months!
2. Today, is also an anniversary of sorts. By reaching my 38th birthday, I can now say that I have spent half of my life in active ministry. My first ministry "employment" came when I was 19 years old and spent the summer serving the University Church of Christ in Denver, Colorado first as a youth ministry intern and then, for two months, as its interim youth minister. I've been serving churches in one official capacity or another ever since.
O course, there also have been some disappointments and regrets during the past 38 years. Two stand out.
1. Without a doubt, no other event in my life is as saddening and distressing as the failure of my marriage. The sinful choices of others brought it to an end, but I will share in the shame for the rest of my life.
2. I chose Oklahoma Christian College over York College. I have often wondered how different my life would have been had I gone to York. Of course, after a semester at O.C., I transferred home to Lubbock Christian University.
Even with the disappointments, I have lived a blessed life, and I look forward to the road ahead. I have tried to live my life with optimism--not always successfully, mind you, but the effort to remain upbeat has been my daily goal. Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned during the past 38 years it is that living is a whole lot easier when you keep looking for that silver lining that is certainly behind every cloud.
I was reminded of this lesson today. I arrived in Liberal, Kansas last night to spend today visiting churches in the area. I have been to Liberal many, many times in my life. My grandfather preached for the Forgan, Oklahoma Church of Christ for over 30 years, and Liberal (32 miles from Forgan) was the closest place with restaurants and shopping. Liberal is (or, rather was) the home of Kings BBQ, a place that became a personal favorite. I came to Liberal this week looking forward to eating at Kings on my birthday. But, lo, Kings is closed. There's a "For Sale" sign on the door! To say that I was disappointed is an understatement . . . that is, until I found Braum's!
Monday, May 19, 2008
We live in a society that is always on the run. It is seen in the way we fill our every waking moment with activity. It is seen in the general sensory overload that is descriptive of our contemporary world. You could say that society at large suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. There is a general inability to take things slow, to stop and smell the roses, if you will. We must always be on to the next thing, the next thrill, the next item to occupy our attention . . . for a few moments, until something else catches our eye., less boredom and inactivity set in.
Take my experience today as an example. I drove from Durango, Colorado to Liberal, Kansas. The first half of my drive took me over the southern Colorado Rockies, in particular the San Juan Mountains and famed Wolf Creek Pass, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and lesser known, but no less spectacular, La Veta Pass. When I drive such roads, I slow down, partly out of a sense of safety, but mostly out of a desire to take in the view. That's hard to do when you are rounding a Wolf Creek S-turn at 50 mph! But, by driving slowly, I sometimes draw the ire of of other motorists, drivers who treat the highway as some Autobahn road course, drivers who are obviously not captivated by the spectacular world of mountains snow, forests and rivers around them and more consumed by the clock and schedules to keep.
But, I'm guilty of the same thing, of living life in the fast lane. I am a workaholic. I always have been. Working hard and being devoted to one's employment are admirable qualities, but a person needs balance in life. A life does need to be defined by busyness, yet for so many of us it is. And, such busyness often wreaks havoc on our health, on our mental sanity, on our relationships . . . on our spiritual health. A personal confession: I'm sadly fully aware that my busyness had a negative impact on my marriage. (Unfortunately, preachers have a tendency of majoring in busyness and rationalize it by saying that it necessary service to the church and the Lord.)
One of the first lessons taught in Scripture is the need for rest, and it us learned from God Himself. "And on the seventh day, God rested from his labors." Its no incidental comment. It says something about life, about a necessity for living good and productive and worthwhile lives. We need time away from our work, we need to slow down once in a while and enjoy life, to be consumed by those special people around us and not by the tasks that we allow to build us, to be satisfied with what we've accomplished and not be consumed by the drive for more, and to stop and reflect on the reality that all that we have and enjoy is not merely the product of our labors but blessings from the One who has created all.
"Longish." I'm not sure that is a real word, but it certainly illustrates the hurried world in which we live. As for me, I'm very much looking forward to a "longish" Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I can already commend to you the "longish" Iron Man and Prince Caspian.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The rest of my Sunday was spent shuffling between Durango and Pagosa Springs. I worshiped with the Durango Church of Christ this morning and preached the morning sermon. I have known many of the members of the Durango church for many years. They are a special group of people. Tonight, I was with the Pagosa Springs Church of Christ and spoke to them about Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I'm spending the night in Durango before heading to Kansas tomorrow morning.
This was the saddest sight of the day. A grove of dead Aspen trees. Many of the Aspen stands are dying in the Colorado Rockies. A definitive cause is uncertain--perhaps a virus, perhaps insects. Hopefully, it is a plague that will be stopped before too much more damage is done. Can you imagine Colorado without Aspen trees?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The photo below was taken in La Plata Canyon in June 2006. That's Grace and Hannah in the tree!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Since the beginning of the year I have been to Cracker Barrel restaurants in Gallup, N.Mex.; Lubbock, Tex.; Albuquerque, N.Mex.; Amarillo, Tex.; Lewisville, Tex.; Arkadelphia, Ark.; Jackson, Ten.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Wichita, Kan. Several of them, multiple times. One thing that continues to impress me about Cracker Barrel is the friendliness of the employees, and the service is almost always far above par. The food is usually consistently good, as well.
I'm a simple man with simple pleasures. On my visits to Cracker Barrel, I usually order the same thing: Old Timer's Breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, hash brown casserole, and wheat toast. And, don't forget the iced tea! If I feel particularly adventuresome, I visit on a Saturday night and have the chicken and rice special. Now, that's living life on the edge!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
As I write this, I am sitting in a McDonald's in Albuquerque (the hotel Wi-Fi is on the fritz). Across the dining room are two teenage boys with holes the size of quarters in their earlobes. Now, I've seen their sort before. I know that such a look is fashionable. BUT, just one thought, have these two young men considered what their earlobes are gonna look like in 20 years? . . . in 40 years? . . . in 60?
I doubt it. They are simply trying to make a statement . . . today! They want to be cool (or whatever word for "hip" is in these days) . . . today! Very little thought, actually probably no consideration was given to down the road. Past tomorrow is a life time away in the perspective of some.
I am mindful of the story Jesus told at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7.24-27; cf. Luke 6.46-49). He spoke of two men, builders, each constructing a house.
The one man was meticulous in his work. Choosing the best ground. Digging down deep to lay a foundation. Undoubtedly using the best materials and employing the best workmanship. His final product was a home worthy of pride. It stood firm. It held up even in the fiercest of storms. Jesus commends this man for his wisdom.
The other man was haphazard in his work. I get the sense he wanted to get done as quickly as he could. He chose his site rather quickly. Was it an easy patch of ground to acquire? . . . easy to get to? . . . was it for the view? . . . accessibility to all the excitement? . . . after all, a house on the beach is a hit with the social scene. He did not adequately prepare the ground on which the house would stand. He probably built with the cheapest of materials. And, once his project was completed, it was only a matter of time before the winds and water came and knocked it down. Jesus condemns this man for his foolishness.
This second man was concerned about the moment . . . about today! He was not looking forward. Tomorrow was a lifetime away for him.
You get the point. Many of the foolish things we do are rooted in our desire for instant gratification. The ramifications and consequences of our actions are an afterthought, or no-thought at all. But, when we arrive at tomorrow, aren't we in for an eyeful?
These two young men I encountered tonight seem pleasant enough. They may be very personable. Bright. Full of promise. But, I can't help but think forward to that first job interview. What will their potential employer think? And what about their grandkids?
Monday, May 12, 2008
In episodes such as these I find it fascinating how people cope and how many times we use these moments as learning experiences. One tragedy produces in us a resolve to be better prepared in the future. We will never completely master the forces of nature, but reflect on how far humanity has come in dealing with these disasters. The credit for this resiliency, of course, goes to the One who created us and gave us dominion over this world as stewards of what he had made.
So, let us be awed by the fury and power of nature, but let us realize that it is within our potential to be strong in the face of nature's fury.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Churches of Christ began efforts to share the Gospel with the Navajo over 50 years ago. Manuelito Navajo Children's Home developed out of the first organized effort to evangelize the Navajo. In the half century since, nine congregations of Churches of Christ have been established on the Reservation (a list that should include a tenth church, the Gallup Church of Christ).
Presently, there are Churches of Christ meeting at these places on or near the lands of the Navajo Nation:
- Crownpoint, New Mexico (with Edison Gruber serving as missionary)
- Hogback/Waterflow, New Mexico (with Philip James serving as missionary)
- Shiprock, New Mexico (with Wayne serving serving as missionary)
- Montezuma Creek, Utah (with Ray Whaley serving as missionary)
- Kayenta, Arizona (with Josh Austin serving as missionary)
- Tuba City, Arizona (with Paul Ghee serving as missionary)
- Many Farms, Arizona (with Ben Begay servings as missionary)
- Kinlichee, Arizona (with Bud Payne serving as missionary)
- Ft. Defiance, Arizona (with Joe Rivera serving as missionary)
- Gallup, New Mexico (we are looking for a preacher)
These churches are small, but they are doing what they can to reach their communities with the love of Jesus. The missionaries who serve and lead these congregations are good and dedicated men, who with their wives and families, are tireless in their efforts to preach the Gospel and serve those in need. A few of the men are Navajo, themselves. Edison Gruber, Philip James, and Ben Begay are working among their own people, and what a blessing this is. Other Navajo men are preparing to become preachers and missionaries and further the cause of Christ among their people (men like Andrew Nathaniel at Shiprock, and Terry Laurence of Kayenta who is currently studying at Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver).
Pray for the work of Christ that is being done on the Navajo Reservation. It is a good work. It is a work worth supporting, and if you have an interest in doing so in an active way, let me know, and I will get you in contact with one of the missionaries.
Friday, May 9, 2008
You remember the words of the Apostle Paul: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'--this is the first commandment with a promise: 'so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6.1-3).
What does it mean to honor one's parents?
- To honor means to obey. We honor our parents by respecting their position of authority, a position given to them by God.
- To honor means to respect the wisdom they have acquired in life. In other words, we must listen to our parents and heed the advice they give and the wisdom they impart.
- To honor means to be grateful. We must let our parents know that their hard work and sacrifice is deeply appreciated.
- To honor means that we would never want to bring shame on our family. We should have as a motivation an ever-present consideration of how our actions and attitudes will reflect on our parents. To honor one's parents means to have a desire to live a life of which a parent could be proud.
- To honor means to care. We must be ready and willing to care for our parents in their times of need. It is sad to walk into a nursing home and see an elderly person alone, without involvement or visits from his or her children. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes can certainly help in times of need, but they shouldn't be used as an excuse for us not to provide care to our elderly parents.
- To honor means to treasure their memory and uphold their name. The command to honor one's parents does not end as they pass from this life, but the imperative continues to guide us as we live lives directed by their guidance and example.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
For instance, a couple faces the challenge of a teenage son who has fallen into hardcore alcohol use. Today, it is hard for the dad and mom to see past the next few hours and days. Every time their son leaves the house, the questions start: "Who is my boy going to be with?" "What trouble will he get himself into?" And, at every sound of a siren, how can they not think about their boy.
Consider the family facing foreclosure on their home. Where will they go? Will they have a roof over their heads? Will they be able to dig themselves out of this pit?
Often times, we allow the anxieties of today to weigh us down to the point of despair. But, isn't there always a peak, that moment when we conquer today's difficulty and look out on a better tomorrow? And, don't we usually look back at what we have overcome and fell blessed at the strength we displayed in overcoming and the strength that will prepare us for future difficulties. What we have overcome cannot help but make us stronger, if our eyes are always looking ahead.
Consider the photo posted above. I took the picture on Monday. It is of a hill (or, mountain for you in Texas!) that stands a few miles south of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. If we allowed the image of that hill to fill our sight, to dominate our perspective, we might worry about how we can climb it and move past it. But, look to the right of the hill. What do you see. Isn't there another peak in view? Indeed what is seen in the distance is a mountain, the tallest peak in all of Arizona. From the perspective of the photo, the mountain and the hill are of approximate size and height. But, in reality Humphreys Peak stands several thousand feet taller than the hill.
There is a lesson in the photo. Again, our perspective is often dominated by the present, and problems that we experience today are allowed to weigh us down. What we forget, is that the troubles we face today may be overshadowed by what is to come. Perhaps a wiser way of living is to allow the difficulties of today to prepare us for what is to come, to live life with the perspective of learning and growing, becoming ever more ready to face the trials that will come our way. Isn't that the life of optimism? In a sense, that is what I hear James saying as he wrote, "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1.2-4 NRSV).
There is another observation about the photo, however. There are many who rush headlong into life, fearing nothing, hesitating over nothing, having no restraint. Some of this mindset is admirable, and even healthy and productive, but too much of it can lead a person into much trouble. Take for instance the man who would see the hill and dismiss it as nothing, charging toward it to get to the mountain behind it. But, what this man often forgets is the deep chasm that lies in front of the hill. What appears from the outset as a simple trek to the top of the hill and beyond becomes rather quickly and surprisingly an arduous trek into the depths of a canyon before an assault on the hill can be undertaken.
So, could we say the optimistic mindset is also one of thoughtful resolve?