But I don’t want to dress like a girl.

Heaven help me, I need some new blue jeans so I went shopping this afternoon.  It was awful.  I came away with the faint hope I could offer the blue jeans I now own to Jesus and if I was lucky He’d just do to them what he did to the loaves and fishes.  You know- just multiply them.  It’s not because I’m cheap.  I just don’t like the current fashion for men’s jeans.

For starters they don’t look like men’s jeans.  What have they done to the hips?  I’m not a big guy, but I found nothing on the racks that appeared adequate to cover what I have.  They just flat out looked girly.  Low and tight.  My dad’s generation likes to wear their pants up to their belly buttons, but I fear this generation has gone too far the other way.  What happened to the middle ground?

And another thing- I’ll be darned if I’m going to pay for someone else’s dirt.  The stone washed look is one thing, but when it looks like the jeans were stone washed in the Arkansas River it’s time to rethink the matter.  I kid you not- every single pair of jeans I saw today looked like the jeans I wore in college.  Mine looked that way because I wore them day after day until people started to wrinkle their noses when I walked in the room.  That greasy, dirty brown sheen mine developed was free.  Now it cost money.  Heck, it’s hard to even find “blue” jeans today.

I’m going to keep looking, but in the event I can’t find what I’m looking for I’m prepared to look to my grandfather’s generation as my fashion template.  I will go to Wal Mart and buy the one-piece jumpsuits they seem to prefer.  They come in lots of colors and conveniently have those little half-belts already attached.  No matter what my clothes will always match.  And, above all, it will not look like I’m wearing dirty, girly jeans.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pictures of a happy church.

camera-photos-048This is Terry on his way to the office.

camera-photos-054

A Terry wannabe.  Just not happening.  It’s a Ford and the wannabe ain’t as pretty as Terry.  Keep trying.

camera-photos-053One of the boys in our youth group with his nurse.

camera-photos-052Y.A.M.ers (Young Adult Ministry)  Lord help me!

camera-photos-060And I guess you better help them too.

camera-photos-058Our very first YAM activity.

camera-photos-068Terry practicing what he preaches.  This lady literally wandered into our building looking for someone to baptize her.  Terry studied with her and you can see how it ended.  I believe the Holy Spirit led her to Terry because after years of experience He trusts Terry to make the most of every opportunity.   It’s just one of the things I hope to grow in during my year of ministry renewal at Memorial Drive.

A happy church.

Memorial Drive is a happy place to be.  You can feel the joy when you enter the building.  Lots of laughter.  Lots of energy.  Lots of hugs.  Lately I’ve been wondering why this is true.  What is it exactly that makes Memorial Drive such a happy church?  Did we get lucky?  Was it an accident?  Or…?

I can’t speak for the Memorial Drive that existed before 1997.  However, I can point out what I’ve observed about us over the last eleven years.  Here, in no particular order, are a few of the essential ingredients that make Memorial Drive such a delicious place to be.  In my opinion.

–  We have no agenda.  No one is grinding an ax.  No one is trying to re-invent the wheel.  No one is trying to shove change down our throats.  We’re just not very trendy.  No one is telling us we must be a community church, a missional church or whatever the latest new word is to describe where exactly we are in the narrative of how God works in our lives today blah, blah, blah.  We do spend a lot of time talking about Jesus.  We do talk about being a place where people can start over.  Somehow it works for us.

–  Our preacher.  Our preacher is a happy man.  Our preacher likes to laugh.  Our preacher acts like a kid in the candy store.  Our preacher loves people.  Our preacher preaches with exclamation points and not question marks.  Our preacher tells us what we can believe- with great passion, humor, love and conviction.  Our preacher practices what he preaches.  Our preacher is sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and not afraid to say so.  If your church is looking for a minister here’s some advice.    If your candidate says visiting the sick, shut-in’s or just hanging with members all play second fiddle to the huge amount of time he needs to prepare a thirty minute sermon then keep looking.  It’s not rocket science nor does that attitude have the faintest resemblance to the ministry of Jesus Christ.  If your candidate admits he’s not a people person don’t hire him.  If you want a happy church then hire a happy man.  If you want an outgoing church then hire an outgoing man.  If you want an evangelistic church then hire a man who is actually teaching lost people one-on-one how to know Jesus.  At Memorial we’re so very blessed to have a preacher who is all of these things and much, much more.

Our elders.  Oddly enough our elders are happy men too.  Hmmm, I’m detecting a trend here.  Our elders and church staff meet every Monday morning at 6:30.  This morning was no exception.  The meeting opened with genuine belly laughs (thanks Shane) and was filled with laughter throughout.  This is one of the primary benefits of being agenda-free.  They have time to laugh because no time is lost sharpening their axes.  They don’t have to devise clever ways to force open the clenched jaws of their lambs for the purpose of force-feeding them their latest positions on this or that.  Nor do they busy themselves memorizing the newest definitions of church growth terminology.  It’s very freeing actually.  What they do talk about are the needs and hurts of the individual lambs charged to their care by the Holy Spirit.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  And comforting too.

–  Our buck stops in the right place.  Lest what I just said about elders lead you to believe ours are mindless fops with nary a care let me be clear in saying they are the bishops who have been granted divine authority by the Holy Spirit to rule the flock of God.  And ours do rule-wisely.  On this point I am revealing a pet-peeve of mine.  Oftentimes we are hell-bent on mimicry.  Whatever seems to be working someplace else we seem keen to import into our fellowship.  Some of it is good.  And some of it isn’t.  In my opinion an example of the latter is the trend wherein our lead ministers are being accorded the powers of something akin to being a De facto CEO.  Danger!  For him.  For everybody.  Preachers bring glad tidings.  Bishops rule.  Preachers seek employment.  Bishops employ.  Some preachers don’t like to hear this because they think the divine call of ministry separates them from the mundane matters every other person in their congregation endures in the workplace.  It doesn’t.  For their own well being they shouldn’t be allowed to fall into this trap.  If they do it will destroy them in the end.  And some churches too.  At Memorial Drive our Bishops rule the flock.  I know- they fired me once.  As I’ve said elsewhere it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I can tell you that when I was fired there were a few people who weren’t to thrilled with the elder’s decision.  They were very angry in fact.  However, in the end they surrendered their anger, their opinions and their doubts to the God ordained authority of our Shepherds.  No one left.  No one continued to bad mouth them.  No one bucked their authority in this matter.  As a result- we were all blessed in the end.  One of the things that makes Memorial Drive such a happy church is the ministers, the staff and the sheep have been trained by the Holy Spirit to live in submission to their divinely appointed shepherds.

–  Our lack of reaction.  Memorial Drive doesn’t define herself today by being negative about who we were yesterday.  We do not exist as a reaction to what was.  We do not speak in negative terms about our heritage.  We do not make fun of God’s people of yesteryear.  We do not dis-like the church of Christ.  We extend to those in our past the same grace we hope will be extended to us by those who follow when they consider the silly things we do or say.  I’ll be honest-  over the years I’ve heard a church of Christ preacher or two preach with such sarcasm or biting humor or scalding contempt in regards to the church of Christ that I’ve wondered why they’re still with us.  I also wonder why they wonder why their congregation’s are shrinking. Sometimes they come across to me as being so mad or so superior that I believe we’d all be happier if they simply left.  At Memorial Drive our ministers hold us accountable for who we are today irregardless of yesterday.  Not talking so much about the past gives us more time to focus on who we need to be today.  And more time to talk about Jesus.  Our preacher is brilliant at striking a graceful balance in describing who we were and who we are and who we need to be.

–  Finally, I think Memorial Drive is a happy place because we’ve decided it’s better to make mistakes of mercy rather than judgment.  When in doubt- we accept-  we love-  we extend the hand of fellowhip.  If we are wrong in any particular case I think we agree that we’d rather stand before the Throne of God with the accusation of being too merciful ringing in the air.  The same thing was said of Jesus.

I hope you are in a happy church too.

Jesus will never let go.

On Sunday I was blessed to be a part of the worship service at Memorial Drive.  Shane asked me to tell the story of Horatio Spafford.   The following is what I shared Sunday.  In order for this to make sense you need to know I prefaced my remarks by telling the church a little bit about a seminar the church staff recently attended.  The seminar was on coping with stress.  One of the techniques they recommend is to use a scale of comparison.  Sort of like- Yikes!  I sprained my ankle.  That’s stressful.  However, it is not as stressful as breaking my ankle.  See how it works?  The scale they used at the seminar involved the body.  I don’t know why, but there you go.  On the low end of the scale you had a minor bump and on the high end it was the amputation of both arms and legs.  Since the seminar ended I’ve been thinking about the fact their scale ends at the loss of arms and legs.  You can’t go any higher which is a bummer if you are trying to deal with the stress of actually having lost your arms and legs.  There is nothing to compare it to.  Where do you go then?  Which leads to the thoughts I expressed on Sunday…

There are some events for which a person might gladly surrender their limbs to undo…like the loss of a child.  However, we know better- the exchange of limbs for life is an impossibility.

In the meantime how does a person cope with that kind of loss?

*What do you tell yourself when the heart demands to make sense of the insensible?

*What will comfort you when the plainly uncomfortable has befallen you?

*What will support you when the unbearable must be borne?

On October 8, 1871 fire ravaged the city of Chicago.  Lost  to the flames were much of the real estate holdings of a man named Horatio Spafford.  He lost a fortune.  Yet, if Horatio were allowed to deal away his arms and legs for the restoration of his riches I somehow doubt that’s a bargain he would have been willing to strike.  After all, it was only money.  And he still had his family.

In any event, just two years after the fire, Horatio had the means to treat his family to a vacation in Europe.  I imagine they were as excited to go as we would be.  Unfortunately, at the last minute unfinished business prevented Horatio from leaving as planned.  Not wanting to dampen his family’s enthusiasim he insisted they sail ahead of him.   He would simply join them later.

So, while he remained, his wife and four daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta set sail for a joyous family vacation.  Instead, on November 21, 1873 their steamship was struck by another vessel and sank.  226 souls perished at sea.

As soon as Horatio’s wife was able to send him a telegram it contained two words:  Saved… Alone.

Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta were dead.

Horatio, what would you give in exchange for the lives of your four daughters?

Really, it’s a cruel question, isn’t it?  Such an exchange is impossible.

So, what are we to do when our capacity to deal with tragedy has been maxed out?

What are we to say when the scale of comparisons has been dwarfed and rendered obsolete by overwhelming sorrow?

I’ll tell you what Horatio said…

My little girls are dead, but I still have Jesus.  And He will never let go.

Of course what he actually said was more eloquent.

When he received his wife’s telegram Horatio left for England.  According to a daughter, born after the accident, when her father’s ship reached the place where his children died Horatio stared into the gaping chasm of incomparable grief and wrote…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come- let this blest assurance control- that Christ has regarded my helpless estate… and shed His own blood for my soul.

Those words may not be familiar to you, but the sentence Horatio wrote before this one is probably something you’ve heard before…

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea bellows roll- whatever my lot- Thou hast taught me to say…

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

Computer on life support.

Just an FYI- I believe my computer is in the process of giving up the ghost.  An evil virus has abandoned the nether regions of the internet to roost in my system or it’s simply wearing out.  Either way it’s lights out for me till I get this figured out.  It’s a downright tragedy- for me.  On the bright side- my arms and legs are still attached and working.

So, if my posting becomes more spotty than usual you’ll know why.

By the way Sunday was another blessed day at Memorial.  It’s a joyous place to be.

craig

Can I have my gills back?

One of our college students at Memorial Drive told me they were recently required to attend a lecture with the topic Finding Your Inner Fish. Or something like that.  Seriously.

According to the lecturer, oops! humans aren’t evolved from apes after all.  The truth of the matter is we are ascended from fish.   Or descended.  Depending on your point of view.  I’m sure Aquaman (see? proof!)  has a few fish friends who are always telling him that humans are bringing down the entire neighborhood.

I’ve always thought it would be cool to have the ability to breathe underwater.  Before if you asked me why I felt that way I would probably have said because it’s a cool thing to do merely for cool’s sake .  That’s all.  Now, however,  I’m wondering if I felt that way because my human brain isn’t fully evolved yet (Amy’s conviction) and the fish part of my brain wants to go home. While I figure it out I’m staying away from large bodies of water lest the fish part of my brain stage a coup then forces me to throw myself in the water.  I’ll drown.  Unless I get my gills back.

It shouldn’t surprise me if Finding Nemo becomes required viewing in science classrooms across the country.  And in many a therapist’s office too.  When it happens I’m going to blame the “educated” know-it-alls in charge of school curriculum’s and psycho-therapist’s everywhere.  Not to mention President Obama.  For good measure.

They say eating lots of fish is a good thing.  The everlasting damnation I’m going to suffer for cannibalism will be nothing like the hell health experts will have to endure for advocating the societal benefits of genocide.  Poor things.

Meanwhile, I’m glad we can’t understand what our fishy cousins are trying to say.  At least I can’t.  Hearing them beg for mercy when they are yanked out of the water with a sharp hook would probably be enough to send me scrambling for some Prozac.  I don’t know how Aquaman does it.