Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Uncommon Quotes

One of the bonuses found in Tony Dungy's book Uncommon is the quotes found at the beginning of every chapter. Here are some of my favorites.

Mark Twain: When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

Old English Proverb: One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.

Helen Keller: Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Men are respectable only as they respect. (As a side note, Emerson is my great-great-great-great-great uncle. Too bad, I didn't inherit his literary skill.)

Doug Larson: If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage f fishing poles.

Robert Fulghum: Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

Will Rogers: We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

Francois Mauriac: No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.

Booker T. Washington: Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.

Monday, March 30, 2009

March 30

March 30, 1981. I remember the day. I was a 5th grader, sitting in Mrs. Logan's classroom at Lubbock Christian School. The announcement came over the loud speaker, "The President has been shot."

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan was a shocking moment for a 10-year-old kid. It was one of those moments that has stood out in my life as particularly noteworthy--one of those moments where I can say, 28 years later, "I remember where I was when . . . ." Other events that have a place on that list of noteworthy moments include June 1, 1983, the day I was told Coach Dean had died in a motorcycle accident (I was at the LC.U. baseball field, watching the Chaps play in the World Series); Jan. 28, 1986, the day of the Shuttle Challenger explosion (I was in the L.C.H.S. band hall); Oct. 11, 2003, the night I was told that my grandfather had suufered a major stroke (I was hanging pictures at my house in Idalou); and Aug. 1, 2007, the day I heard the awful words, "I'm not coming home, I want a divorce" (I was in a hotel room in Albuquerque).

I'm just wondering: why is it that these memorable occasions seem to always include circumstances of great tragedy and hardship?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Be a Giver, Not Just a Taker

I have enjoyed reading Tony Dungy's new book, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance. It is a great book. In it Dungy comments on a variety of topics related to life and offers some tips on how to excel by not necessarily following the crowd, but by being a man of character. I especially liked his chapter entitled, Platforms, where he discusses how each of us has unique opportunities to make a difference in the world about us.

Dungy offers this statement: We all have opportunities to be either "takers" or "givers." Takers receive value from the lives of others around them. We all do that, and we should, to some extent. It helps us to become all we can be. Thank God for the people I've been around who have added value to my life. But we can't just take! We also must give or add value to the lives of those around us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ballplayers I Miss

As Opening Day 2009 quickly approaches, I find myself waxing nostalgic about ballplayers I loved to watch play way back when. Here's a list of the Big Leaguers I wish were still playing. Who makes your list?

  1. Nolan Ryan
  2. Dave Winfield
  3. Tony Gwinn
  4. Ozzy Smith (just think, #'s 2-3-4 were once Padres; two escaped!)
  5. Greg Maddux
  6. Mark McGwire (yes, I'm serious)
  7. Bernie Williams
  8. Cal Ripken, Jr. (even as an Oriole)
  9. Willie McGee
  10. Jim Abbott
  11. Fernando Valenzuela
  12. Andre Dawson (even as a Cub)
  13. Roger Clemens (pre-1998, pre-steroid insanity)

And, there are players who took to the diamond before my lifetime (at least in their primes) that I would have loved to see play. They are:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Dizzy Dean
  3. Stan Musial
  4. Hank Aaron
  5. Lou Gehrig
  6. Satchel Paige
  7. Sandy Koufax
  8. Ted Williams
  9. Roberte Clemente
  10. Jackie Robinson
  11. Walter Johnson
  12. Ducky Medwick
  13. Ty Cobb

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Dozen Oddities About Me

1. I actually like these Facebook character profiles. Perhaps that says something about my exciting life!

2. I spend 2-3 full days each week in my car (usually alone) travelling to various places around the country, and I actually usually enjoy that time. Except, of course, that stretch of highway from Santa Rosa to Clovis, New Mexico. But, Leal's makes that jaunt worthwhile!

3. I've purchased over a 100 books in the past 6 months, but I've read 4. I suppose this suggests a lack of self-discipline in two respects.

4. I drink iced tea, and usually only iced tea during the course of each day. Never sweetened. Never through a straw (unless I'm in my car driving 70mph).

5. I don't like to swim, never have, but I love being by the water, whether it be ocean, lake, river, or creek.

6. I remain a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I guess I am a glutton for punishment.

7. I can get past the steroids, the thing that upsets me most about Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod, et.al. is the pathetic attitude and condescension shown by the guilty.

8. I'm a person of strong beliefs and preferences, but I believe compromise is often a wise course of action and a key to success.

9. I think faithfulness is much more about sincerity and attitude and compassion than it is about crossing off a checklist. And, I am beyond tired of the sectarian, bunker-mentality so many in my tradition of faith have espoused. I'm not sure that makes me odd (at least, I hope it doesn't), but I've born my share of criticism for believing it.

10. In the same vein . . . I spent over 15 years pursuing degrees in theology (at great personal debt), but have learned more about theology working with those in the cotton fields of SW Oklahoma and bean fields of SW Colorado than I ever did in a stuffy classroom or library. Again, not necessarily odd, but I am bewildered why so many churches are more interested in the degrees than they are in genuineness and character (and the same with preachers!).

11. On a lighter note . . . I'll spend a week at a Christian camp instead of a week on some beach in Hawaii any day.

12. I have over 440 friends in Facebook, and thousands more who are FB-uninitiates, many of whom I have known for 20 years, 30 years, and even close to 40 years! . . . and I still genuinely like most of you :-). Seriously, I love each of you; God has blessed me richly with countless friends . . . no, brothers and sisters. The real oddity, it seems . . . I don't understand why so many shun the richness of fellowship that comes from a church family. I just hope that is NOT because of the ugly way we treat each other sometimes.

Sports Thoughts

Curt Schilling has been a favorite player of mine since his days with the Philadelphia Phillies. I wish him the best in his retirement and fully expect him to be a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer in 5 years. There's only a handful of pitchers from the past generation that were as good as Schilling. My list of best pitchers in the past 20 years is:

Greg Maddux
Roger Clemens (yes, he remains on my list, despite his recent pathetic behavior)
Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez
Tom Glavine
Curt Schilling
Mike Mussina
John Smoltz


The Denver Broncos are out of their minds to be contemplating trading Jay Cutler. The new coach needs to eat some humble pie and make up with his star quarterback.


I've tried, but I just can't get MAD about March Madness. I'll watch the Final Four (just as I'll watch the NBA Finals), but basketball has never lit my fire. Bring on the St. Louis Cardinals opener and the NFL Draft.


This will be my third season in a row without Fantasy Baseball . . . I miss it! Anybody need another team in their league?


So, T. O. isn't showing up for the Buffalo Bills voluntary workout this week. And people are surprised? But he's always been a team player ;-).


Roger Bannister celebrates his 80th Birthday today. He is one of history's greatest athletes. Congratulations!


Anybody for a round of golf? I'm worse than the Round Man of Rebound, but love to play. Its been over a year-and-a-half since I've hit the links.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thinking About Churches

I spent time with three churches today. The visits were very enjoyable and a great blessing. Two were to smaller, rural churchs (or, rather churches in small towns), and the other was a large, urban church. One was somewhat progressive, the other two quite conservative (and which was which might surprise you). One sermon was given somewhat unorthodoxically by a youth minister (who did a spectacular job), another was given by a seasoned preacher (who delivered a rather traditional, by the book, but effective sermon), and the third was a rather routine mission report given by someone named Jeff Foster. All three churches, however, were vibrant, friendly, and certainly settings where God was proclaimed and praised and the worshippers encouraged.

I've said it before, but among the great blessings I have in life are the opportunities to visit so many congregations. On most Sundays (those on which I am away from Gallup), I worship with at least two churches, and occasionally, with three! The churches I have visited cover the spectrum (at least, the spectrum within the fellowship of Churches of Christ) of size, theology, vibrancy, etc. My visits in the past 18 months total over 100 during times of general assembly (worship), and I've been blessed to personally speak to approximately 70 churches (in 14 different states) during this time. During these visits, I've made some observations.

Chiefly, the key to church growth is NOT found in mechanics (or, how we "do" or "don't do" worship). Growth, in my humble opinion, is MUCH more about attitude and passion.
  • Cheerfulness means so much more than whether or not a church sings contemporary or traditional, and supercedes any of the other debatable issues of our time. (And, by the way, a soulful "Amazing Grace" is just as stirring as a soul-pounding "Days of Elijah," and vice-versa.) Cheerfulness is communicated in the smiles that fill an auditorium, and in the eagerness to welcome visitors, and in the full-throated singing of those gathered (among other ways).
  • Genuineness can be communicated as effervescently by a "stuffed vest" church as it can be a shorts and t-shirt clad group of worshippers. Genuineness is not rooted in arrogant condescension, but in a humble faith that yearns for the well-being of others and the earnest desire to share God's great love with all. Genuineness is seen clearly in the fruit produced in the lives of believers and NOT in methodology.

Oh, and one more observation . . . about church architecture. I am tired of performance halls (where the attendees look straight forward toward the stage). I long for a "theater in the round" setting, where worshipper and leader alike are together and the eyes of all are on all and the voices of all blend as offering raised to God.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Favorite Major Leaguers

Are you ready for some baseball? Not WBC, but the Major leagues? I am. I'm anticipating another phenomenal managerial job by Tony LaRussa and a better-than-expected season by the St. Louis Cardinals. But, at the end of the season, it will be the L. A. Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in the Word Series.

Here's a list of my favorite current big-leaguers. Who makes your list?
  1. Ken Griffey, Jr. (a class act, just sad he'll never make a World Series)
  2. Albert Pujols (simply, the best!)
  3. Rick Ankiel (I've rooted for him since he was a pitcher)
  4. Ryan Howard (great attitude and personality)
  5. Josh Hamilton (great story . . . wishing he'll inspire the Rangers to great things)
  6. Lance Berkman (fun to watch)
  7. John Smoltz (it took me almost 20 years to appreciate him)
  8. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez (makes every team he plays with better)
  9. Trevor Hoffman (one cool dude)
  10. Randy Johnson (one tall dude!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Resurrection Power

Three years of hope lay shattered. In its place gloom and despair had crept in, rather stormed in. The exaltation of the promised king entering the capital was now a distant memory, even thought the crowds were shouting, "Hosanna! Hosanna!," just a few days before. The future looked to be so bright, but now confusion reigned. What would happen now? Would the authorities come in search of the followers of this so-called pariah? Would they come to erase every hint of the euphoria that had been on display for the past three years?

These thoughts must have entered the minds of those huddled in the small room. These men and women who had left homes and businesses to follow Jesus of Nazareth were dismayed, frightened, and confused. Had their hopes been misplaced? Was this all a frightening nightmare? How could things go so wrong, when so much had been promised?

Then it happened! Jesus, the one they thought to be lost, appeared, standing in their midst! "Peace be with you," he says. "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24). Seeing the doubt that lingers in the hearts of those present, Jesus takes a piece of fish and eats, showing them he is truly alive.

Doubts and fears give way to joy and exaltation. The hope, once shattered, is renewed. Jesus is alive!

A remarkable transformation took place within that group of disciples on that day. What had hours earlier been a group of frightened and distraught men and women, was now a gathering of excited and joyous people. Their Lord, the one they thought to be dead, was alive--Jesus had arisen! All of the energy and resource that they had devoted to this man had not been in vain--Jesus was alive! Their hope in him as the Messiah, thought to be destroyed by the Cross, was renewed--Jesus was alive!

The power of the Resurrection transformed fearful and dejected disciples into joyous men and women who went on to change their world for Christ. Has the power of the Resurrection affected you? Has the reality of Jesus' life changed your life?

Monday, March 9, 2009


Some photos I have taken during my stay in Nashville, an exceptionally beautiful city. I'm quite impressed! The first photo is of the downtown skyline looking west across the Cumberland River (the Titans stadium is just behind me). The second photo is of the Tennessee State Capitol. Beautiful building . . . from the outside (the doors were closed on Saturday!). The final three photos are of Andrew Jackson's Hermitage (the first two of the mansion, and the last of Jackson's first residence on the acreage). I spent several hours touring the Hermitage. I enjoyed my time there immensely.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Where Will I Have My Funeral?

Several years ago, I served a church that was dying. It was a slow death and had been in process for 20 years before I came as preacher. Several factors contributed to the dying, most notably: (1) the town was losing its population, particularly its younger people; (2) a large city was nearby, and the bigger churches there had much more to offer, and so many younger families were attending there; and (3) the building where the church met was, for all practical purposes, hidden from the community and much too large for the small congregation using it (it is hard to attract new members when their first sight of a church is of 40 members spread out in an auditorium that seats 300!).

I offered a suggestion: build a new building on the main highway through town, preferably on the end of town closest to the large city, and in the direct path of the many families who were now going there to worship; and to build a new building that was small enough to comfortably accommodate the existing membership, but inviting to newcomers and with room to grow.

Now, I am not usually a proponent of church building projects. Churches tend to spend too much money on facilities, sacrificing funds that should be spent on reaching the lost and serving the needy. But, when a church gets to the point where its facility hampers growth, something needs to be done. Whether we like or not, a building is often the first impression people from the outside have of the church. And, in the case of the church of which I speak, the utility payments to keep the large and outmoded facility running ate up half of the monthly budget. A building project, it seemed to me, would give this church a new lease on life. A new building would not be an end-all-be-all to the church's problems, but it would be a great asset and something to build upon.

I still remember the response from one man in particular. He was a good and faithful man; one of my favorite brothers that I have had the privilege of knowing. But, his statement caught me off guard. He asked simply, "But where will I have my funeral?"

Perhaps I read too much into his words, but it seemed to me this brother was much more interested in the legacy of the church building and in his own self-interest than he was in the need for the church to grow. And, sadly, I don't think he is alone.

Where will I have my funeral? Didn't Jesus once say, "Let the dead bury their own dead"? He spoke in response to the man who answered Jesus' invitation to follow by saying, "But, I must first go bury my father" (Luke 9). Jesus' response to the man could be taken as cold-hearted, but our Lord was simply saying that there are matters of more importance than our self-interests and the mundane things of life. Jesus' response was a call to action, to figuratively put down the plow and get about the serious tasks of advancing the Kingdom in this world.

Now, I am not suggesting my request for a new church building was the wisest course of action. Maybe there was another solution. But, let's not paralyze ourselves into non-action because of our self-interests and refusals to step beyond what is known and comfortable. Let us be bold. A world filled with the lost is before us. And, our Lord has called us to action.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Saturn V

I visited the U. S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama today on my trip from Montgomery to Nashville. Impressive! If you're ever in the area stop by; you will not be disappointed.

Montgomery, Alabama

I'm standing on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. This is a grand old building with a significant history. It was in this building that the Confederacy was formed and Jefferson Davis appointed its first president. Montgomery served as the first capital of the Confederacy, before giving way to Richmond, Virginia. The second photo below is of the first White House of the Confederacy, serving as the Montgomery home for Jefferson Davis and his family.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Montgomery. It is a beautiful city.