The challenge is on...

My friend Alex and I are challenging each other to memorize this very powerful passage from Sermon on the Mount:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Nine Years Ago today...August 27, 2000

I moved from the safe environs of rural Cleveland, Tennessee, and moved to the windy city of Chicago, Illinois. I knew that God was in the move...even though there were many, many uncertainties that I would face.

These last nine years have been FULL of adventure. Finding jobs, changing jobs...finding a local church where I would be a parishioner, and even changing local churches at one in FOUR different places...having a roommate on two different occasions. Writing a manuscript that I haven't published (which now needs some major revisions), getting involved with several worthy and worthwhile organizations that assist this nation's military veterans. Meeting great people all over the city...and from all over the world.

Living through the tragedy of September 11, 2001--I was working in an Emergency Call Center that day--and fearing that Chicago would be next. Thanking God for protecting this city on that fateful, awful day. Asking God to be with this nation, and particularly with the people of New York City as they sought to "recover" from the horrible pain inflicted upon them...and the nation.

Eating all the great "Chicago" food: Pizzas, Italian Beef Sandwiches, buffets, etc.

And becoming part of The Moody Church family ( which is one of the very greatest joys in my entire life. Having listened to the "Moody Church Hour" for many years before moving here, I am still in awe and amazement every time I walk in the front door of my local church facilities. I feel so undeserving, and most definitely unworthy, of being part of such a historic, and wonderful place. This is God's plan in my life for this part of my life.

Yep, after nine years, I can say that I agree with these guys. Take a listen:

They've got it just right. Come find out for yourself.

Happy Birthday, Chris...

I know that I treasured your friendship, and our fellowship dearly. Something happened more than five years ago to our friendship...and we've not spoken since. I also know that today is your thirty-ninth birthday! I want to wish you a "Happy Birthday."

More than anything else, I'd like to see us make "right" what ever went 'wrong." As brothers in Christ, that is what we are called to be doing.

I pray for you often, and I think of you almost every Sunday evening...remembering how we once used that time to share our "hearts"--even though we were separated by many miles. Now I just talk to the Lord every Sunday evening at 9 p.m.

You are deeply and profoundly loved. Happy Birthday.

Happy Anniversary, TRAVIS and KELLY JOHNSON

Two of my great friends, Pastor Travis Johnson, and his INCOMPARABLE wife, Kelly Webb Johnson, are celebrating their TENTH Anniversary today.

These two are tremendous servants of God, and wonderful, wonderful people. There is SO much that could be said about both of them...but I'll leave that for my appearance on OPRAH someday...or at the very least, my interview with Barbara Walters...LOL

Thirteen Years ago today...

I said "goodbye" to the United States Air Force. After TEN good years, it was time to hang up the uniform--and to face what the future would hold.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had spent the night with my great friends, John and Laverne Dutkowsky (Laverne was active duty at the time) in Lubbock, Texas. Reese Air Force Base was my "last permanent duty" station...and four years in West Texas was MORE than enough for me.

I had a final breakfast with my great friend, Pastor David McQueen, from Trinity Church in Lubbock. David was (and continues to be) one of my very favorite people.

I flew from Lubbock, Texas to Chattanooga, Tennessee on that fateful day: August 20, 1996. I was headed back to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains so I could embark on the next "phase" of my life: Seminary.

Now, some 20 pounds heavier, and a lot less hair, I can look back and see the faithfulness of God in it all. I'm excited to see what the next 13 years (and hopefully more) will hold.

Of this I am sure...

"I know that my Redeemer lives:
What joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my Everliving Head!

He lives to bless me with His love!
He lives to plead for me above!
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives and grants me daily breath,
He lives and I shall conquer death!
He lives my mansion to prepare,
He lives to bring me safely there!

He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Saviour, still the same!
What joy the blest assurance gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!

Smartest thing I've read yet...

Brian McLaren writes a powerful, thoughtful, and considerable essay/open letter regarding the health care debate/war/challenge that is currently sweeping this nation. This is, by far, one of the best things I've ever read....

What happened?

It seems like SO many in "my generation" (the crowd in their 40s now) have just 'done their own thing.' And I'm tremendously saddened and perplexed.

I was talking with a really close friend the other day about this. It seems that this crowd--raised in godly homes, good Pentecostal churches, and with good educations--has found no need for God or the family of God.

Especially the family of God.

A good friend of mine, whom I've not seen for more than 20 years...(but we've found each other on FaceBook recently)..raised in a pastor's home...great, godly people....has decided that the whole "organized religion" is not for him. He and his wife were raised in the church...and they know better. They suffered a couple of disappointments and just "left the whole thing."

Another friend of mine--from college days--has decided that GOD IS SILENT in his life...mainly because he has had some difficulties jobwise. At one point this man was a licensed minister...powerful, POWERFUL Pentecostal preacher...walked closely with Jesus...but has decided that since God won't "give him everything" he wants, that he will just leave God alone. He and his wife were raised in wonderful, godly homes, and in strong local churches. They have two teenagers....

Yet another friend, from youth camp days (back in the 1970s) has decided, in recent years---after a divorce for which he was mainly responsible---that he can "go it alone." In a recent conversation, he as much as told me, "I'm sick of the church folks...I'll stay at home, read my bible, and listen to the radio. I'm done with those people."


The Healthcare "Debate"...some considerations

It seems like all the "blowhards" and "talking heads" just don't want to stop and think about what "health care reform" COULD and SHOULD look like in these United States. The President, on more than one occasion, has tried to state what requirements any meaningful legislation must contain. While I didn't vote for Barack Obama to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he is now our leader, and I have tremendous respect for his willingness to tackle this (and other) issue(s) head on. Here's what I see as the major "adjustments" and "considerations" for meaningful health care reform:

1) Preventive Maintenance. We Americans, for the most part, are just not "maintenance-minded." We far prefer to "repair" a health situation than we are disposed towards preventing the crises in the first place. A nurse practitioner recently told me that it is much easier (in the long run) for me to avoid diabetes and obesity than it is to "repair" myself if I come dangerously close to said conditions. But, in contemporary American thinking, "why should I avoid something that the doctors can fix anyway?" And thus, most of us are not disposed towards healthy preventive maintenance. It's far simpler to take a pill, or an injection, or an IV than it is to exercise more vigorously than we do (and for some of us, ANY exercise would be more vigorous than what we currently do--which is NONE.). Healthier lifestyles is the FIRST STEP to meaningful health care reform.

2. Importance of Primary Care. Far too many people still use the EMERGENCY ROOM as their "primary care facility." Many people (my observation from working in two hospitals in two different parts of the country) will go to the Emergency Room for things that are not even close being an "emergency." Many--both the privately insured, and the publicly insured--don't want the responsibility of seeing a regular they just show up at the Emergency Room whenever they jolly well feel like going. And current FEDERAL LAW states the ER personnel must give them medical attention. The Emergency Room is the MOST expensive and least effective means of continual medical care. The consuming public MUST stop abusing the Emergency Room facilities. These facilities are meant for EMERGENCIES only.

3. Insurance Reform. I am sick and tired of some non-medical professional at the insurance company telling MY primary care physician what treatments he can render on my behalf. While I understand the insurance companies must remain financially solvent....their SOLVENCY is not the first health is! I fully understand where the "concern" is about abusing the system...and that's where 'self-policing' and putting "restraints" on the medical facilities will come into play. We must curtail the abuse--HOWEVER, the insurance company CANNOT be allowed to dictate the level and quality of treatment my MEDICALLY TRAINED physicians can render on my behalf. Let the physicians do their jobs....

4. Tort Reform. Over the last 30+ years, the United States of America has become a LITIGATION-addicted nation. Doctors, nurses, and the rest of the medical professionals are HUMAN...just like the remainder of humanity. Mistakes will happen. Let me say that again: MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN. Having said that, every effort...ABSOLUTELY EVERY EFFORT must be made to minimize medical errors....and we must RESIST our urge to just "sue the daylights" out of everyone who unwittingly makes a mistake. These people (who make mistakes) should be held accountable...but running to the nearest ATTORNEY to file a lawsuit should be the ABSOLUTE last thing a Christian should be doing....We must have meaningful, workable tort reform where medical issues are concerned.

5. Lower the temperature. I remember someone saying (maybe it was from seminary days) that we need to have more "light than heat" in these debates. TOO MUCH HEAT from people who are swallowing all the misinformation that they can find. Too many people upset about things that have never been proposed, and will never be proposed. Too many people RUNNING OFF at the mouth instead of using their brain to think/process...or using their keyboards to send thoughtful/reasonable emails to their elected officials. A dear lady at my local church was all up in arms about "Obamacare"--and then when I asked her exactly what "Obamacare" would include, she had NO IDEA...but she was upset! She was downright frothing at the mouth...almost delirious...but had no idea what she was supposedly upset about....Needless to say, her credibility sunk like the Titanic...and much more quickly, I might add.

Like the rest of the nation, I am waiting to see what the proposals are for health care reform. I am convinced the BEST, most effective way to get good legislation and meaningful health care reform is to be involved in the process.

NOT frothing at the mouth, acting like an idiot, and behaving childishly. Every congressional representative (House and Senate) has an office with staff who answer their telephones. They all have email addresses. And if you are really old-fashioned, sit down and write them a reasonable, well-nuanced letter.

And turn LIMBAUGH/PALIN and Company off for a change. The silence will do you good.

Shame on you, Sarah Palin!

I was thrilled when Senator John McCain snatched you out of the anals of obscurity last year, and gave you a platform.

I even voted for you. I deeply and sincerely hoped the McCain-Palin ticket would be in Washington, DC in January 2009. Even after you were such a hypocrite concerning "Oh no, Joe say it ain't so." I still believed you had good leadership abilities from which this nation could benefit. How wrong I was!

But your actions as of late have been disgraceful! Your lies and innuendoes concerning the healthcare debate are "beyond the pale." You insinuations about the "death panel" were so far beneath the dignity of thinking Americans, that I am completely embarrassed for you.

The entire nation applauded your decision to keep your precious little boy, even though he was diagnosed with Downs' Syndrome. You practiced what you preached concerning the "value of life." You endeared yourself to many people--even those who had no intention of voting for you.

But since the election, you have shown yourself to be less than professional. You quit a job that the people of Alaska hired to you do. You have added NOT ONE THING constructive to the healthcare debate that is currently going on (long overdue, I might add) in this country. Your vitriol is down right embarrassing to those of us who voted for you.

Sarah, OH NO, say it ain't so! But sadly, it is.