Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Looking back for a moment at the end of the year is something most all of us do. Being no exception, I found myself thinking about those moments, those events which God used to touch my heart and take me to a new place in my journey with Him. In retrospect I suppose this blog would be one of those things. Blogging has been for me a new way to share my experience of God. Some of those experiences have been foundational in that they came long ago; yet, still have great impact on how I live in faith today. Others have been more contemporary causing me to see that God is still being patient, pushing and dragging me to some place He wants me to be.
Two events stand out in this year's trip. For the past several years I have been privileged to offer sessions on preaching and worship at our Conference's School for those needing certification as local pastors. Having 9 hours to talk about two of my passions and having an audience that seems like a sponge has been a great blessing. As I left these men and women who are at the entry point of ministry this past February, I knew that God had renewed this old preacher once again. Already I am looking forward to my 2009 trip to Epworth for this great time.
The second thing remembered is the way the fall season became a time for me of being encouraged and renewed in my prayer life. The Terry Teykl Prayer Conference certainly had an impact on my personal life, bringing renewal in prayer and worship. And it was also during this time that I found myself devouring what John Eldredge had written about prayer being a moment for dialogue. Both of these spiritual leaders have caused me to want to pray more which has at least kept me pointed in the direction my heart truly wants to go.
And, finally, I am thankful for you, for those who have shared this year's journey with me. Some have been kind enough to give affirmation to my desire to be useful to God and some have shared faith, blessing me beyond measure.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Significant Personal Change

Long ago I gave up the resolutions of the New Year. I never seemed to do very well with them. Maybe it has to do with motive. Maybe it is too much about what I am able to do. The resolutions of year's past speak volumes about my inability to make significant change in my life when I have the wrong motive, or when I depend upon the wrong source for the strength to change. Doing something because it is January 1 is not much motivation and sometimes I prove to be my own worst enemy when it comes to making significant personal change.
To reflect upon the significant changes in my lif it to realize that they are more likely to happen when God is the Grand Director. When we ask, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" and then actually listen, we are more likely to see some different things happening in our lives. So, I have been consciously trying to put myself more in a listening mode in these recent days. It is has been a different kind of prayer experience for me as I have a history of talking too much and not listening enough in my prayer relationship. I have not had the success I had hoped in the beginning, but I do have a sense that it is movement in the right direction.
And the truth is that hearing does not always translate into significant change or movement forward in a different way. Sometimes what I hear or sense in my spirit is not what I want to know, so I do like Gideon, I ask in a different way. Sometimes, too, I hear so clearly that there is no need to ask again. All that remains is to act on what I know. Somehow I think here instead of New Year's Resolutions is the beginning point of real significant personal change in my life--maybe yours as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of my Father's death. The evening of that day remains crystal clear. Even now I can remember being upstairs looking out the window seeing the uniformed men getting out of a car coming to our front door. Something inside of me caused me to know it was not good news being brought into my life. For me there is a barely remembered life before that day. Since then, every day of my life has been impacted and shaped by what happened that December afternoon.
One thing for which I have always been grateful is the knowledge that my Father came to a place of accepting Jesus before he died. I can never remember him as a church going person, but I do remember him going some before that December day. I was told it was his intention to be baptized there in the base chapel in January and years later, going through some old stuff, I found a chaplain's notes in a memorial book speaking of my Father's faith and his intention to be baptized. For those who say such does not matter, I would beg to differ. It has mattered immensely to me. Whether we will actually be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven is really something hoped for, but mostly a mystery. Knowing that he is there and a part of that great cloud of witnesses in the heavenly place is enough.
Over the years of ministry, I have learned that there is one thing the grieving really want to know. They want to be assured that the one who has died was a person of faith and is with the Lord. I am no different than are they. The one important thing we can give to those who are important to us is a life that would never give them any reason to doubt that our faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing to us. It is never something which they should wonder about when we are gone. By God's mercy, we have the time to make sure they know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It is a known fact that I am not so gifted when it comes to music. The youth around here were amazed the other day when a guitar was needed and I could loan them one from my closet! I am not sure what was more amazing--that I had one which means I must be able to play, or that a guitar could be over 40 years old and still sound good! The bottom line is that I know I am no musician, but it does not keep me from appreciating and enjoying it. Perhaps, it started as a boy when I got introduced to some long playing records which had the music of folks like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. It was somewhat mesmerizing for me even as a child.
Over the years I have come to appreciate the place good music has in worship and in my spiritual journey. I have been blessed with some great Ministers of Music over several appointments. They enabled me to see that there was more out there in church music than what I knew from The Cokesbury Hymnal. When I was in my early 30's at Talbotton, I even tried my hand at conducting the choir. I knew music would make a difference in worship and I let my desperation take me somewhere I would now never go!
All this came to me again with such clarity the other night during the Service of Lessons and Carols. Choirs of all ages, handbells groups, a brass ensemble, and a chime group offering ministry and music made me once again so very thankful for the way that music has been used by God to touch my soul time and time again. How impoverished the journey would have been without music to sing along the way!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I just finished reading a biography about George Muller (should be 2 little dots over the "u" but making it happen is beyond me). Muller was born in Prussia in 1805 and died in Bristol, England in 1895. Between those years he lived out an amazing legacy of faith. He is best known for his orphanage work in Bristol and his praying. Muller did not believe in asking any other person for financial help. He believed only in praying and asking God. His journal is a record of how he prayed and how God responded. All six of the orphanage houses built were built on prayer. The 2,500 children they housed were sustained by prayer. Whenever anyone writes a serious book about the great men of prayer, George Muller is going to be high on the list.
To say the least, the book was inspiring and encouraging. However, it also made me wonder about something. Muller lived in another century and here we are still reading what he wrote and marvelling at his ministry. We do the same with folks like John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, E. Stanley Jones, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All of these men are spiritual giants of other eras whose work for God somehow transcended the time in which they lived. I find myself wondering. Who are the spiritual giants of our day who will be read and read about a hundred or two hundred years from now? Are there any out there? Surely, there are. Who in 19th century Bristol, England would have thought that Muller's life would still be impacting the world in the 21st century?
I wonder who those folks are today. Some are no doubt serving God in what might be obscure places. Perhaps, some are current well-read writers of our day. I think that surely Henri Nouwen will be remembered and read, but then who is to say. I wonder, too, what you would say.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Signs of Abundance

The table was full at our place this past Thanksgiving. Family sat around it and an abundance of food was before us. On the table was turkey and ham, cranberry sauce, butter beans, sweet potatoes, fruit salad, green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese brought by one daughter, rice and broccoli brought by my Mother, cranberry bread baked by one of my grandsons, lemon squares and my favorite, Italian Creme Cake. It was a feast. I did my best to eat as much as I could and still there was so much left for other meals. When I think about that table gathering, I realize how abundantly I am blessed.
A few days later I encountered another moment when I had the same realization. Instead of being at the table, I was at the garbage can. It is always full by the time the man makes his weekly pickup, but this week it was so full the lid would not shut and there were still two days to make additional trips. As I stood there by the can trying to pack it down to put in more, I was in a different way reminded of my abundance. Most of the world’s people would have no need for a trash can the size of mine. Most of the people of the world would not be throwing away so much stuff. Most of the world’s people would not throw away leftover food because it had gotten too old to eat.
I left the trash can aware of how blessed I am. But, this moment of blessing was a different one, a strange one. I would have been embarrassed and ashamed even more if some of those who have nothing were watching me throwing old food away. Actually, I think the real problem had to do with the awareness that Jesus was watching and speaking words in my heart that were then and are now painful to hear.

The Interview

He came into the office a few days ago for the interview. It was a part of the requirements for a Boy Scout Merit Badge. He needed to interview his Pastor and since the Associate Pastor was the one mentoring him through the process, I got the nod. It was interesting to sit down with a young person and respond to the questions he asked. Frankly, I was impressed by the ones he asked and was impressed even more that he was taking some notes! The questions became more than just ordinary in a hurry. Some of them were: "How did God call you? What doubts did you have? What help did God provide for the calling? How do you continue to know God's will? What special challenges do you face?" I was more than a little surprised at the way this young person's question challenged me to be real and honest instead of taking the easy way out which would have been offering stereotypical answers.
It set me to thinking. How would it be for us if we were questioned every six months about our faith walk with Jesus? What would it be like if we were actually accountable to someone else who was given the freedom to ask us the hard questions about our faith journey? Most of us would probably want to shy away from such an experience. But, imagine for a moment what it could mean for us if we gave someone permission to ask us things like the early Methodists were asked in their society meetings: "Have you committed any known sins?" What have you done to stand against temptation?" What would it be like if we had to report with honesty to someone else about the way we read the Bible or the time we spend in prayer?
Some of the questions in my interview made me uncomfortable. Some made me stop and think. The deeper I got into the interview with him, the more real I wanted to be in my responses. It was as if Someone else was listening as well, Someone who already knew the answers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This past Tuesday Marvin Leggett died. Like me, he was known mostly by his family and the people who were members of the churches he served. As boys Marvin and I attended the same church. It was much later in our adult years that we ran into each other again, but this time as pastors of the United Methodist Church. Marvin was always the kind of guy who made you glad you ran into him. He had a quick smile and made us feel like we had value and worth. His was a special gift given not just to me, but to the many whom God put in his path.
I remember the last time I saw Marvin. We were both at a preacher function. I saw him across the room, thought about going over to speak, but did not. At the time it seemed important to leave as quickly as I could and get somewhere. I wish I had not been in such a hurry. I wish I had taken the moment to walk over and speak to someone who has been a friend all these years. At the time I had no idea it would be the last time. I wish I had used it differently. I hope this trip to the learning tree is not a wasted one.
Marvin will no doubt bring light and a smile to heaven. He surely brought it to some of the dark places on his journey here. I mourn his death. I grieve for my loss. I rejoice in his gain. I am grateful our paths ran close together and sometimes touched.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The 1-20 Fast Check Out Lane

There I was at the grocery store with my 18 items in the 1-20 Fast Check Out Lane. I know because the folks ahead of me had a buggy full of stuff. As they were unloading I counted mine. By the time I finished the counting an elderly woman (well, she looked older than me!) pulled in behind me, got my attention, and muttered, "Don't they know this is supposed to be a fast lane!" My stuff was already on the counter so the lady behind pushed it up a bit, placed a rubber divider down, and started unloading her 6 items. Maybe she thought getting her stuff on the counter would hurry up the folks who were ahead of me.
But, they were really in no hurry. They had they look of being beaten down a bit by life. Some of the heavier stuff required some help to get in and out of the shopping cart. Their clothing was not as nice as the lady behind. Most of the food put on the counter was the cheaper store brand. Even the cokes bore some generic name. As I watched them I became aware that two of them couldn't read which explained the presence of the third person who took over the check writing duties. I was observing and being pulled into what was happening in front of me while the lady behind continued her fidgeting and deep sighing which was a clear annoucement that those folks in front of me were really making life difficult for her.
I can't really be too judgmental of the lady behind me. It was the impatient and judgmental part of me which made me count the number of items in my shopping cart. Fortunately, my wife was able to see things more clearly and more quickly and enabled me to be a helper instead of becoming like the lady behind me. I wonder why we are made the way we are. I had no emergency ahead of me. The lady behind me probably was just being delayed five minutes from whatever important thing was waiting on her. Someone ahead of us simply needed a little more time and maybe it took a little bit of mine and hers. But, none of the time belonged to us anyway. It all belonged to God. He put us all together for a moment. I wonder what He thought about the way we each used it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Better Thing

He met me as I was going into worship. He looked the part of one who was on the road. Beard stubble was on his face and a backpack was hanging from his shoulder. His demeanor was screaming, "I want something from you." Instead he asked if he could speak to a pastor. Since worship was only a moment away from beginning I replied, "Yes, but you will need to wait an hour until worship is over. You are welcome to come in and worship with us. Then, I will have time to talk." His response was a frown. "Well," he said, "could you just give me a few dollars?" "I can't give you cash , but if you want to stay and worship, I will be glad to see if there is any way I can help you." He turned, opened the door, and left. I could not help but think, "The best thing I had to offer, you would not take. The best thing you would trade for a few dollars."
It made me sad to see him go. I went on to worship wishing he could have seen his way to stay. "Lord, I don't know who this man was, but you do. I pray for him. I ask you to keep him away from harm. I ask you to bring him to that moment in his life when he will choose the better thing. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ash Branch Church Cemetery

Upon leaving Pembroke, I saw it. Over on the right was the Ash Branch Primitive Baptist Church. But, what really got my attention and caused me to stop was the cemetery. I knew from some genealogical research done years ago that a great-great-grandmother was buried in the Ash Branch Church Cemetery in an unmarked grave. I had to stop and stand for a few minutes on that ground. Of course, I had no idea where she was buried, but I knew that long ago some of my family came to that very spot, dug a grave, and left a loved one. How different it was then! Such moments are moments that bring strange feelings to the the surface. Questions get raised that have no possible answers. There is just that sense of suddenly being connected to something or someone. I walked around for a time knowing that others before me who bore my name and whose DNA I carry walked here long before me.

They long ago walked on those grounds made sacred by the prayers of so many as I walked on them only days ago. Long ago on a journey such as theirs, I learned about the hope which enables us to leave such places with a confidence that the last word has not been spoken. Anyone who has been to the cemetery and left without the one carried there knows about the hope that is in my heart. Standing there I was caused to catch a little glimpse of heaven as Hebrews 12:1 came to mind with its powerful image: "...since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." Like you, I know some of those who dwell in the heavenly place. Ash Branch Church Cemetery reminded me of one as my heart raced to remember others. You might say that All Saints Sunday Worship came early this year. When I join with others this Sunday to remember those who have gone before us in the past year, I will be remembering that Tuesday afternoon moment when I became aware of the fellowship and communion of the saints at the Ash Branch Church Cemetery. It was a moment of blessing. I left with my heart stirred and encouraged by the overwhelming awareness of unleashed resurrection power. Thanks be to God!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rainbows and Promises

It was one of the darkest clouds I had seen in a long time. I had been watching it for awhile as it built up in the eastern sky. Darker and more turbulent it became as it drew closer. I remember thinking, "Someone is really getting some bad weather this afternoon." As I watched I came to a moment when I realized that this really dark and threatening storm was on a track to move around the place from which I watched. It was almost in the moment of the greatest darkness when I saw it. A rainbow formed that was as splendid in color as the cloud was black in its darkness. There was nothing subdued about the display of color in front that black cloud. It was brilliant.
It was the kind of moment which made you stop what you were doing. I found myself having one of those "Wow!" experiences. I stood there transfixed by what I was seeing and then realized that my thinking had gone to old Noah. From Noah it was a quick step to gratitude for the promises of God. The promise of the rainbow was a promise that caused Noah to know that what had just happened was not only a once-in-a lifetime experience, but a once-in-all-of-time experience as well.
It set me to thinking about the promises of God. The promise of the rainbow is just one of them. And unlike us, God is not a fickle promise maker. He does not say one thing one day and change His mind the next. He promised us a Savior and Deliver. He promised that grace will be sufficient. He promised that we would not be forsaken or left alone. He promised to be with us. He promised that evil and suffering will not have the last word. He promised an eternal home with Him. The rainbow is a reminder of one promise, but it is also a reminder of the One who will not let anything keep Him from keeping His Word.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gray Matter

My first recollection of memorizing scripture takes me back to a small country church outside of Waycross, Ga. Pierce Chapel Methodist was the name of this church so small the scriptural word about "two or three gathered in my name" would be descriptive of a crowd. Actually, it seated a few more, but not too many. Back then only dirt roads took you there and even then there were more headstones in the surrounding cemetery than there were people in the pews.
On Sunday night a part of the worship service involved the children quoting Bible verses in exchange for a star by your name on the chart which hung alongside the record of attendance. It was because of this holy competition that I learned the shortest verse in the Bible at age 8. It is as you know John 11:35. The NRSV which I now use makes it a bit wordy as it says, "Jesus began to weep." While four words may not seem verbose, please remember the KJV of the Bible simply reads, "Jesus wept." You cannot get any shorter than a verse with two words! Of course, these were also the days for learning things like the 23rd Psalm and John 3:16.
Memorizing scripture is not something I have been as disciplined about as I should have been. The verses I have learned over the years have usually had more to do with frequent usage than being intentional about memorization. For some reason I have recently found myself back at it again. And, yes, I have been working on some verses longer than two words. I have been surprised at the way repeating something for the purpose of memorization causes me to experience the text in a new and different way. Hearing myself say the text over and over brings to light some things I had missed only by silent reading. Interesting. But, then I am likely miles behind you on this one. I imagine some of you remember longer verses than two words when you think of your first Bible memorization efforts. Can you recall the first verse you memorized?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ephesians 6:19

Some may have noted the "Prayer Note" on the right hand column of the blog. We often talk about the fact that God gives us a verse of scripture. While some people seem to be getting a verse a week, my experience has been a bit different. I do feel that God has led me to certain verses of scripture for particular moments in my life, but maybe not with the frequency experienced by some. I have always felt that way about Psalm 118:14 which I found the night I accepted Jesus and heard a call to preach. It says, The Lord is my strength and my song; and is become my salvation. (KJV) Over the years there have been others, but usually they seemed more for the moment than a life time.
The verse written in the "Prayer Note" section of the blog is one of those verses which has the feel of being given to me out of my walk with God. Again, it says, Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel." I have been carrying this Word with me now for the past several years. I usually go to it sometime during the week and read it and pray it. It is, of course, the Apostle Paul's request to the church. It has become my prayer for my preaching each week as well as a Word which is often used to pray for others who share the calling of preaching.
The thing I have realized about myself ( and some other preachers) is that we are too slow to ask for others to pray for us. Yet, there is no ingredient more important in the recipe for good preaching. I know I do need your prayers if I am to preach as God wants me to preach. It is easy for things to distract me from the task and I am always in need of the steadying and empowering influence of your prayers. I do ask you to pray for me as a preacher of the Word. And I do thank you as you do it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


After spending all day Saturday listening to Terry Tekyl talk about prayer ministry, I was well primed to go to Springfield UMC on Sunday afternoon and offer some teaching and a sermon on prayer. Ben Martin, a pastor and friend, had invited me up some months ago to share in this event at his church. It was interesting what happened. I have seen it happen before. You go somewhere to offer ministry and find yourself being the one receiving ministry. It seems almost inevitable.
The truth is it is hard for a pastor/worship leader to worship. At least, it has always been that way for me. Throughout the service, my mind is always moving a little ahead of where we are, almost like there is some check list I am monitoring to make sure the worship is on track. I know it sounds like the confession of a control freak. I like to think it is more the confession of someone who wants worship to be everything God wants it to be. Anyway, it is not always easy to worship when you are in charge. So, at Springfield all I had to do was preach. I could sit and experience the service as it started and unfolded. I could just be there and allow what was happening to wash over me. I could just sit and have more than just a moment to receive. Those moments are such blessings. I left there Sunday night renewed in my spirit. I hope those Springfield folks just felt a measure of the blessings that I received. If they did, it was a great moment of being in the presence of the Lord for them as well.
I guess that is not exactly the way it is supposed to work. The one coming should be providing a blessing for those who are already there. It usually works the other way around for me. While I am never sure what is experienced by the home folks, this preacher on the occasions of being a guest preacher, usually ends up being blessed in surprising and unexpected ways. But, then, God is a God who is full of surprises!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The bottom book shelf was long overdue for some attention. It had no books, just stuff which needed a place to be piled. Chaos ruled on that shelf and since it was long overdue for straightening up, it became a Saturday morning project. I found some great stuff, some forgotten about stuff. I found old report cards from grammar school, a class picture taken in the first grade, and some old family pictures given to me by mother when she was, no doubt, doing some cleaning of her own. There were two real surprises. My first Bible was on that shelf. It was one of those zipper Bibles with pictures of important Biblical moments. When I unzipped it, I found the second surprise. Folded up inside was my baptismal certificate dated April 21, 1957 and signed by the man who would later become my step-father.
It made me think about people who have to produce a birth certificate to prove they are alive. In some places it is not enough to simply stand in front of someone who wants an official document. So, now I have proof of my baptism. It is nice to have it, but I wonder if I need it as proof that my heart has been changed since I gave it to Jesus. What if someone looked at my life, heard me say, "Yes, I am a believer in Jesus," yet, needed the official document as proof that what I was saying was actually true?
What we know is that the proof is not the paper, but the heart. Surely, there have been those moments when my life was more than proof for anyone who wondered, but what I must also confess is that there have been moments when my life was reason enough for those looking to wonder if Jesus really did make life different. As I remember those moments when heart and actions seem to be in conflict, I am made aware again of how grateful I am for this grace God so freely offers to us. I am sure you are as well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Lighter Side

People respond to blogs in numerous ways. Some on the blog, some in conversation, some through email and then there was this one from MQ who gets the prize for the most unusual response!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Every job has its perks. The Game Warden gets to stay in the woods a lot. The Teachers get off all summer. The President gets to live in the White House. Recently as I was sitting in the Sanctuary during the middle of the afternoon, I realized that being able to be there is one of the perks of this job. When the phone is ringing or the stress level seems to be rising, I can get up and go into the Sanctuary for a moment of quietness. Many have been the times when I have found the solitude of the Sanctuary to be just the right place for a devotional time or prayer. Few are the weeks which go by that I do not avail myself of this wonderful perk of working out of a church office.
Quiet places are hard to come by. Jesus seemed to find them, but we struggle to find them and if we find them, we struggle to get there. A quiet place is an important place for all of us. Our lives are bombarded with so much noise, it is a wonder that we do not suffer from hearing loss. Certainly, being bombarded with so much noise and motion all around causes us to suffer an inability to hear the still small voice of God as He seeks to speak to us and make Himself known. While I am grateful for the more than occasional use of the Sanctuary, I also have places in my home which are associated with quiet spaces. The computer desk (computer off) and a chair in the living room are a couple of those places. I wonder where you have found quiet places to nurture you in your walk with God.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Recently I read an article by John Eldredge (author of Wild at Heart, Walking with God). It had to do with prayer being dialogue instead of monologue. In the article he kept defining prayer as conversation with God. Most of the time our prayers are more about us doing the talking and God doing the listening. I have never really enjoyed being around people who dominate the talking part of the conversation to the point that there is nothing for me to do but listen. While I may not be a great conversationalist, I do like for my participation to not just be the listening part.
Since I grow weary of one-sided conversations, it should be no surprise to think that God might become weary with them, too. The scripture contains Words like Psalm 143:7 which says, "Answer me, quickly, O Lord," but seldom do we hang around to listen for any divine speaking. We limit God's speaking to speaking through other people, circumstances, or the scripture. That we might actually hear Him speaking in our inner being is not really the expected thing.
Yet, Eldredge kept saying, "Learn to listen." He kept saying we might be surprised if we did. He even gave a few pointers about how we can learn to hear this voice of God. Writing out his conversations with God is the primary way this happens for the author. He says, "The process of writing things down requires focused attention." He really got my attention. Maybe I have been talking too much in my praying. Maybe there really is something to this idea that God intends for for two-way conversation to be normal. After Eldredge's article, I am ready for a little experimenting in prayer. Maybe you are. If you would like a copy of the article, send an email request to bstrickland@coastalnow.net and I will send it to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Lord of the Storm

Hurricane Hanna is out there, lurking around. Speculation abounds about the time and place of landfall. For the first time in many years, evacuation looks like a real possiblity for this area. At this point, all we can do is wait and see. As I was talking to one of my daughters, she said, "You need to think about what you would take with you." Somehow the word "evacuate" had not really become real until that was said. I guess I was figuring we would get in the car, go spend the night somewhere, and come back the next day. It may not be quite that simple.
So, "What would I take with me?" What is so important that I would want to make sure it was not lost forever. At this point, I don't know the answer except to realize that most of the stuff accumlated in life is not really all that important. Sure, there are things I would hate to lose, but there is not much without which I could not live. Maybe, I should rephrase what was just written. Re-reading does that sometimes. The real truth is there is nothing accumualted without which I could not live.
Suddenly, I am aware that Hanna has become more personal than Gustav. This storm could impact life here in a way I would rather not think about. While we wait and see, it is important to make some decisions concerning leaving just in case. But, it is also a time to be praying to the Lord of the Storm. He has a record of stilling storms and delivering people who are caught up in them. Now there is something without which I could not live! Maybe you can join me in praying to the Lord of the Storm.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Songbook in my Heart

This morning as we were singing Blessed Assurance in worship, I remembered why I did not need to know the page number. I remembered why the words to this song are unnecessary. It is simple. I carry in my heart the words to this song as well as so many others. I surely learned a lot of them by going to church every Sunday (morning and evening) almost all of my life. Even the slowest of learners begins to remember after singing some song a hundred or so times. I guess I cannot remember when I did not know Blessed Assurance, or The Old Rugged Cross, or Amazing Grace, or Love Lifted Me, or The Unclouded Day, or more than just a few of the songs in the old Methodist standby, The Cokesbury Hymnal.
However, the truth is that no matter how many I learned because I sang them at church, a goodly portion of the songbook I carry around in my heart has to do with my Mother. Although she did sing in a church choir some, she did not really think of herself as a singer. But, whenever we started on a trip to visit relatives in another town, or to visit the cemetery, or to buy groceries, my sister and I would invariably be joining her in singing some gospel song as we went. From her I learned a multitude of songs. Whenever I find myself singing a hymn without any need to open the book, it is because of the way she made sure we were in worship and the way she sang with us as we traveled. No need for a radio. We had our own music and even now I carry it with me.
Even when our children may seem to us to be too young to know what is going on, it is likely they are getting something by what I call spiritual osmosis. Even when I was not paying attention, stuff was settling in my heart. I did not know as a child that this songbook was being saved in my heart, but it was. And today, I am deeply grateful that wherever I go, I can launch into one of those old songs of faith and worship God.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Narthex Man

The Narthex Man showed up this past Wednesday night while the "Jews for Jesus" group was singing and testifying in the Sanctuary. When I got up from my seat to give the ushers some instructions about the offering, I saw him seated on one of the short benches in the Narthex. His backpack was on the floor. His dress seemed to announce him as one in need of some help. I invited him to join us in the Sanctuary, but he declined. He just wanted to rest a minute, was not dressed well enough, and could hear fine with the speakers in the Narthex. Such is what he said.
After the service was over, I went back to see the Narthex Man and found one of our youth engaged in conversation with him. As I joined them, I found out he was riding a bike from Florida to his home in New York. However, the bike was about done. The afternoon repair job was not going to take him far. I offered him a meal and a place to stay which he declined by asking for the money I was going to spend on the motel. He could use it and some money which friends would wire from New York to buy a bus ticket. As I was unable to respond as he wanted, he put on his backpack, got on his bike and headed out with intentions of getting into Savannah before calling it a day.
I have learned over the years that sometimes you can help, but not all the time. Narthex Man seemingly received nothing from our church. But, he did receive one thing. He heard the music of "Jews for Jesus" and he heard from one of them a very clear message about Jesus. He also heard an invitation to walk with Him. Before Narthex Man left, John and I prayed with him. I would have been glad to have given him a place to rest and shower, but it was not possible. What he did receive may have far more benefits than anything I could have offered. Jesus was being offered in the next room and through the speakers in the narthex. I can only pray that Narthex Man heard the message and will remember until he says, "Yes!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The "Whats"

Some years ago I received a gift subscription for the magazine, Pray! Prior to that moment, I had never seen a whole magazine devoted to prayer. As my year was running out, I decided to renew and have been reading it now for a few years. A recent article read during a devotional moment really grabbed my attention. I think in some ways it brought to mind an earlier post entitled, Impossible Prayers. The author of the article was writing about using prayer retreats to discern God's leading for the church. (Now there is a new idea!) United Methodists have always figured such discernment was supposed to be done by committee and common consensus. Who would have ever thought to ask God? The article described how the retreat participants took turns sharing what each had been hearing from the Lord. He spoke of that experience as the "whats." As an example he wrote, "...when God called Abram (Gen. 12:1-5)), He only revealed the 'what'--'I will make you into a great nation.' The 'how' it would all come about , was left for later.'"
It made me think about other Biblical stories. The "what" of the Moses' story was going to Egypt. The "what" of Samuel's story was to go to the house of Jesse. The "what" of Mary's story was the birth of Jesus. As I reflected on the writing and the stories, I realized that I like for my "what" to be accompanied by a "how." Perhaps, putting the two together is just human nature. But, my reflection points to some other issues as well. Maybe one of the issues is the issue of control. It is not enough to know what God wants. I also want to know how it is going to happen. Of course, this takes out the faith dimension. It also short-circuits my ability to catch the bigger visions of God. In the end my faith walk is diminished by unwillingness to walk where I cannot see.
I suspect many a grand vision has been cast aside as impossible, or impractical, or not likely to happen because of the demand that the "how" be seen alongside the initial revelation of God. I fear it has been too much that way for me, but hopefully, not for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Other Book

While the one book which has influenced me more than any others is the Bible, the other book in my life is one written in the late 1920s. I was pointed to it by a young woman at Asbury College who would later become my wife. I have gone through more than one copy of it over the years, and like the Scripture, it has never been far from my side. It has been my mainstay for daily devotions for the past 40 years. I have used other things, but those things have always been used in addition to My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Actually, the book was written by his widow who went through her husband's talks and writings and compiled this daily devotional reading some ten years after his death. Known as "Biddy" this woman worked to see 50 books published bearing her husband's name. In none of them does she give herself any credit for anything written.
I could not possibly count the folks I have pointed to Oswald Chambers. Like the scritpure, My Utmost for His Highest, has undergirded and nurtured my spiritual journey. It has shaped my theology, my preaching, and my heart. While there are many more contemporary devotional volumes out there on the market, Chamber's writing continues to enjoy popularity and wide readership. For me the value of books has always been connected to the way they stand the test of time. Will it have fleeting popularity, or will it still be read long after all the news releases have disappeared? With this in view, it would probably surprise no one to know that books like The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Practicing the Presence by Brother Andrew, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and anything written by C.S. Lewis or Henri Nouwen, two more recent writers, are high on my list of "must reads for every believer."
Of course, having something that will be used for devotional readings is far more important than having something because someone else does and then never reading it. We all find different writings helpful in our spiritual journey. I have many different devotional guides on the shelf, some have been used and some have hardly been opened. The last one I would let go would be My Utmost for His Highest. What would you hang on to the longest?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Stuff

Growing up in the South at the time I did gave me first hand experiences with the list of things you could and could not do on Sunday. It was the Blue Law era. My first remembered instructions came from my father who told me, "You don't fish on Sunday." At the time he was not a Christian and his reason for this Sunday law was more practical than religious. "You need to give the fish a rest," he would say. This was a word from an avid fisherman! As a child I learned you didn't go to the movies on Sunday and you didn't shop on Sunday (mainly because the stores were not open). As a teenager I discovered it was ok to have a date after Sunday night church if you went to church on Sunday morning and evening. By the time I was a teenager, the times were obviously beginning to change. The only thing really allowable on Sunday was going to church and visiting aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and cemeteries which was a part of our Sunday afternoon ritual. Sunday was thought of as a day of rest even though it it might have seemed to some that it was a day of imposed rest.
Sunday was a day for not doing some things, but it was also a day for worship. Around my house it was never an option. There was no question of choice. It was simply something you did. I remember returning home from college for my first weekend visit and telling my mother on Sunday morning that I wouldn't be going that Sunday since I wanted to sleep. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I do know that when the worship hour began I was present. I think it was something about "as long as you put your feet under my table," or something which carried a similar tone.
Things are certainly different now than in those days. As far as society goes, it is "anything goes!" It is different for me personally as well. No longer is it a day determined by what cannot be done. Instead, it has become a day that determines how I will live the rest of the week. It provides an important center for my life always speaking about two important issues. It speaks to me about the need for balance between what is physical and spiritual. I am not an either-or creature. Sunday also speaks to me about my place in this relationship between God and humanity. I am not in control. God is.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Collection

Long years ago when I was at the Talbotton Church, a member who lived out in what was called the Redbone Community gave me a book. It was, however, no ordinary book. Entitled, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, it was some 500 pages in length. I never have gotten around to reading it, but I valued it then and continue to do so now. Written in 1836, it became the first book in my collection of pre-1900 religious books. Like any collector, I have enjoyed the search. When traveling I always look for the old book collections full of dust and mold. Over the years the collection has grown to almost 75 volumes. I did not really start out to collect these old musty books, but somewhere along the way, it started happening.
Most of these old books are rather ordinary, costing a dollar or two and the breathing of some very old dust. A few have become more like treasures. The old saying about "one man's junk, another man's treasure" is certainly applicable when it comes to this collection of old religious books. But, it has been fun. I still remember the day I opened a package and received the gift of an 1818 edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs by Isaac Watts. It felt like treasure in my hands! It still does! While I have several old Disciplines of the Methodist Church, my oldest edition is dated 1896. Another prize is The Epworth Hymnal put together for the church in 1886. One of them, an 1884 devotional book entitled, Daily Strength for Daily Needs, I actually used one year as a part of my devotional reading. Occasionally, I will pull one out and read something written and used in another era which I also find interesting.
This treasure of mine would be regarded as trash by most folks. When I am dead, my wife and children will have a hard time selling them at the final yard sale. Who knows? Maybe there will be another crazy collector out there? I have often asked myself , "Why?" It really makes no sense. I have finally decided it has something to do with being connected to a faith that is not transient and disposable. Nowadays, nothing seems to be something which cannot be thrown away or replaced. Oh, I know the story of faith is an old, old story. I have its record in scripture. These old books also speak to me about the fact that the story of faith and the writing about it has been around a long time and is not going away. Maybe holding a 150 year old book in my hands serves as an additional testimony of a faith that is timeless and of which I am by the grace of God a part.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Impossible Prayers

A few nights ago during a devotional time, I found myself thinking about Luke 1:37. It is a verse which says, "For nothing will be impossible with God." Obviously, it is a Word given to Mary as she hears the angelic news that she is going to bear a son, whom she will name Jesus. Mary is perplexed and confused by the news. For her what the angel is saying is an impossible thing. Though engaged to be married to Joseph, she knew there was nothing about their relationship which would make her being pregnant a possibility. She declares this to the angel and hears, "For nothing will be impossible with God."
In the context of my devotional time, it was a Word which spoke to me about prayer. It called me to pray for impossible things. I did not take it to mean I should pray for a mountain to suddenly appear between our house and the river. Neither, did I think about praying for the sun to shine in the middle of the night. Instead, I was caused to think about those things which I have put in the impossible box. I was caused to think of the things I have ceased praying about because I have given up on God to respond. In my spirit I think, "Some things God is simply not going to do anything about, so I might as well cease in my praying." However, on this evening I sensed that I should return to my prayers about things which seem impossible. I immediately began my list.
We all probably have something we would put on our list of impossible prayers. It could be a prayer about a family member who insists on remaining outside of a relationship with Jesus, or someone who is seriously ill, or relief from overwhelming financial difficulties. Whatever it is that we have given up on, or about to give up on, surely speaks of the impossible prayers in our life. The Word I heard the other night was, For nothing will be impossible with God." It was a word that put me back to praying about some things. I pray it works that way for you as well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Wrestling Match

Some sermons seem to literally fly off the keyboard and onto the computer monitor. The words come more quickly than the fingers are able to type them. The room seems filled with inspiration. Thoughts flow logically and persuasively. Taking such sermons to the pulpit is exciting. There is a special sense of anticipation that is a part of the worship service and the act of preaching. With such a sermon ready to preach, I find myself thinking, "I can't wait to see what God is going to do with this one."
But, there are other times when preparing to preach is more like a wrestling match. No matter how many times I try to get it up off the floor, it keeps getting slammed back at me. The keyboard keys are like strangers. I have no idea which ones to touch. The thoughts not only fail to come with any logic; they fail to come at all. I find myself just sitting there and when I finally do get started, it is a struggle from beginning to end. Some would say I have not prayed enough. Sometimes this is true. Some might say I have not thought through the goal and purpose of the sermon. This, too, has happened. Sometimes I start out not sure where I am going which is not a good way to write a sermon. Some would say the struggle speaks of Satan trying to hinder the proclamation of a Word he does not want preached. Sometimes such does need to be considered. The scripture makes it clear he desires to undermine what God is about in our lives. Some might say the struggle is about physical laziness or mental weariness. Knowing me as I do, both are always possibilities.
Regardless of the reason, getting ready to preach this past week has been like a wrestling match. When I finished, there was more relief than anticipation. For the preacher Sunday morning's appointment is not an option to meet if you feel like it, but one that must be met whether or not you feel like you are ready to go. Fortunately, the delivery or the preaching of the sermon was not as bad as the writing it. There have been times when the act of preaching only seemed like Round 2. I am thankful today's preaching was different. I am thankful that when it was done there was a sense that God had brought blessing despite or through my struggling effort.
(A printed copy of this sermon and the one preceding it in the series can be read at http://www.rhumc.com/. Click on "About Us" and go to sermons.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Water Stop

It has indeed been a long time since the Water Stop. I was not quite ten years of age when I was baptized in the Hebardville Methodist Church on the northern edge of Waycross, Georgia. The pastor who would later become my step-father was the one who put the water on my head and said the baptismal words. I have some recollections of that Sunday. I can place myself at a particular place at the altar rail in that small sanctuary. What I do not have is a recollection of some Damascus Road experience with Jesus. All I can honestly confess is an awareness that I needed to respond to God in some way and baptism was for me at that particular moment the right thing to do.
When I was not quite ten, I did not have much of a grasp of baptismal theology. Yet, even without the understanding, it was for me the nailing down of an important marker in my spiritual life. In one sense it marked the beginning of my journey with God and in another sense it spoke of my need as a child to acknowledge my own consciousness of God and my need to be related to Him. Looking back it probably did not exactly fit the mold of a believer's baptism. It would be some years later when I was finishing up high school that I would come to a moment which was for me the beginning of an adult understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
Since those childhood days, I have learned something about the theology of baptism. Seminary and years of going to the Water Stop with others has certainly shaped what I have come to understand and believe about baptism. Still, no amount of training or experience has diminished the sense of being in the presence of divine mystery each time I go to this place of grace. Whenever the baptismal waters are stirred, it seems that someone leaves marked for life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The water may dry and become unseen by others, but somehow it must surely remain as a visible marking always seen by God.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Still a Bishop

While I think about Gary more than once every four years, I always remember him with a smile when the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference meets at Lake Junaluska, NC to elect new bishops to lead our church. This is the year and the month for this Conference. Gary was a member of the Talbotton Church, my third appointment. Even though a member of the corporate world, Gary was every bit a southern gentleman. He lived in an old historic home with his lovely wife and a house full of lively daughters. He knew how to stroke a young preacher. He was always telling me I was going to be a Bishop one day. If I were to see him tomorrow, he would probably still be saying the same thing. He is just that kind of guy. He remains one of those who has offered faithful encouragement to me over the years. The only time he ever expressed any doubts about his prophecy was the first time he saw me with a beard. It was few years after I had left Talbotton and he said something like, "Bill, I don't know of any Bishops with beards!"
Actually, being elected a Bishop at Jurisdictional Conference was never anything I ever really entertained. What most folks don't know is that I had already been elected a Bishop by the time I was assigned to Talbotton. Why, I was elected a Bishop before I was even ordained! It did not happen in North Carolina, but at Young Harris College in the North Georgia mountains. When I went there in 1966, there was a campus ministerial group. Unlike most campus organizations, it did not have a president. Instead, its elected leader was called Bishop. It was in my second year at YHC that I was elected Bishop. So, there is no need for the delegates at Junaluska to consider me as a candidate for Bishop this year. I was elected long years ago and as they say, "Once a Bishop, always a Bishop!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My First Hero

Whenever I think about those who have influenced my spiritual journey, I always remember my first spiritual hero. I met him at the library in Waycross, Georgia when I was eight or nine years old. My mother enrolled me in the summer reading club. I not only read my required twenty-five books which gave me my star filled certificate, but also discovered what would be a life long passion for reading. One of those books I read was about Albert Schweitzer. Even as a child I was fascinated and amazed with his life. Born in 1875, he lived until 1965. He was an accomplished organist, noted music scholar, theologian, and medical doctor. What fascinated me about him was the fact that such a gifted man went to Africa as a missionary doctor. At the age of 30, he resigned his post as a theology teacher and re-entered the university to complete a seven year Doctorate in Medicine degree. He did it because of of God's call on his life to go to Africa as a missionary doctor. In 1913 he and his wife established the Lambarene Hospital in western Africa. It was there that this man who could have been on the center of many stages in Europe spent his life serving God and humanity. A primitive hospital in a forgotten corner of Africa became his passion for the rest of his life!
As a young boy I was enthralled by his story. I fantasized about going one day to Lambarene Hospital to serve. I read everything I could find about Albert Schweitzer. In a very real way he became my first spiritual hero! His story was my earliest lesson about what it meant to serve God. To be honest is to admit that I did not understand at the time of the summer reading program the way his life was impacting my own. It would be much later in one of those middle adult years filled with reflection about the past that I would suddenly come to a moment of knowing that this man whom I never met, surely influenced my journey of faith even though our paths never crossed. So, when I think of how I got to this point in the journey, I know that this missionary doctor's life inspired a boy whose faith was still somewhat smaller than a mustard seed.
It is interesting to remember those who have influenced our journey of faith. When we start thinking back, we may be surprised at who they are. And what will be even more surprising is that one day someone in the future may remember us in such a way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Surf Running

Having just returned from the annual summer beach trip, I find myself walking around with very sore calf muscles. One of the things I look forward to on beach trips is running along the shoreline where the surf runs up on the sand. I run barefoot. I play. It is great fun to run along in the edge of the water, sometimes inches deep, and sometimes deep enough to splash all over me as I move along. If it is raining, it is even better. There is something about these annual runs that let me know I am still alive and well enough to feel like I could run forever on that ribbon of water as it touches the beach. Trust me. It works on leg muscles which have spent too much time on the couch. The wet sand tries to grab and hold your foot and the surface is uneven putting quite a strain on ankles that are not used to being free of shoes. Running barefoot along the beach splashing water as you go is a far different experience than lacing up the shoes and hitting the ashphalt! Every year as I return from the beach I think it is going to be the first mile of a renewed commitment to a running program, but somehow it doesn't seem to happen. I get home, the muscles cease crying out when I move, and I get caught up in that "best of intentions" syndrome.
I have wondered why I am disciplined enough to run at the beach but not at home. Maybe it is the different setting. Maybe it is that I go with such expectations. Maybe I am not letting the structure of my life tell me what to do or not to do. Maybe it is the absence of structure. It makes me think, too, about the spiritual disciplines in my life. I wonder if part of the difficulty in staying with some program of spiritual disicpline has to do with the way that the structure of my life dictates what I shall or shall not do. And so, I ask myself in such moments of reflection if the structure of my life has become my god? Or, I wonder if I do not approach the moment which provides for exercising spiritual disicpline with an intentionality that speaks of priority. At the beach, surf running is a priority. Rain or I shine I do it. Regardless of what is going on around me, I make time. Often, not once, but twice a day! Ah, if I could just have the surf runner's mentality when it comes to those early morning hours God calls me to pray, or to those evenings when the Word sits beside my chair unopened. Maybe this time...

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Continent of Orphans

Every journey is filled with interruptions, unexpected twists, and surprises. Such happened this past Tuesday night at Annual Conference when the "Hope for Africa Children's Choir" sang for our evening worship service. These 23 Ugandan children provided lively singing and dancing. The congregation was responsive even to the point of clapping along with the drumbeats underneath the singing. Everybody seemed to be enjoying it, but I just never could get with it. As I sat there all I could see were 23 lovely children who were orphans. Not a single one of them had a living mother or father. And they were 23 of several hundred who were enrolled in the same Ugandan school.
My problem was two books recently read. One was entitled Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza and told the story of the mid'90's Rwandan genocide. The author survived by hiding for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom. Immaculee Ilibagiza's story was both inspiring and terrifying. Almost everyone in her family was killed during this tribal bloodbath which took the lives of over a million Rwandans. The second book was entitled There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. This Atlanta woman woman went to Ethiopia as a journalist and returned as an adoptive parent. In her book she speaks of Africa as a "continent of orphans." When she wrote her book in 2006 there were an estimated twelve million HIV orphans in sub-Sahara Africa. A United Nations report she read predicted there would be twenty-five to fifty million orphans by 2010. She was overwhelmed by what she read. This mother of five children wrote about this moment of being overcome by the unthinkable number of orphans by writing, "Who was going to raise twelve million children? That's suddenly what I wanted to know. There were days that Donny and I thought we'd be driven insane by five children. Who was teaching twelve million children how to swim? Who was signing twelve million permission slips for school field trips? Who packed twelve million school lunches? Who cheered at twelve million soccer games?...Who will wake in the middle of the night in response to eighteen million nightmares?...Who will help them grow up, choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?" She responded to her own inner struggle by going on to answer her own questions. "Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few. There aren't enough adults to go around."
With all this in my head, I simply could not hear those children singing. All I could see was a vast host of children like them, some, victims of HIV and malaria, some, victims of tribal genocide, and all of them without a father or a mother to help them grow up. The books were given to me and I read them with some reluctance because they were not stuff I normally would choose to read. All I wanted from the children was an evening of music. Suddenly, it was about more than I expected. Suddenly I was forced to see with great clarity something I did not want to see and did not want to think about. For me it was one of those God moments that provides not answers about what I should do, but instead provides a call to struggle. So, I will continue the journey, but for awhile at least, carrying with me the unresolved issues of this moment of revelation.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Strange Place

Life is full of journeys taken. Some are full of anticipation and excitement. Some are full of dread and fear. A journey to Disneyworld is never like the journey which begins with someone saying, "I have some bad news." We have all had both kinds of journeys. We have been to the beach or to Disneyworld with the kids. We have also been the recipient of an unwanted late night phone call, or the one listening to a doctor speak words we did not want to hear. I remember the first journey I did not want to take. It was the journey which began with an Air Force chaplain and others arriving at our home telling my mother that her husband had been killed in a mid-air collision. At age seven it was not a journey I wanted to start, but starting was not an option.
The journey that started that December evening was also the first part of my journey toward God. It seems like a strange place to start the journey of faith, but hindsight tells me the faith I now have was in some way conceived in that moment. It was a moment I could not handle. I could not understand it. Why my Father would be killed was not something which made any sense at all. It became that moment which I not only remember as being filled with unspeakable tragedy, but also a moment in which I experienced my first real awareness that there had to be a God. Such an awareness, born out of that awful moment, set me forth on my journey of faith.
Oh, I know of what Wesley meant when he talked about prevenient grace. I know we are known by God before we know Him and that in that time of our not knowing Him, He is still offering grace and love to us. In a real sense our journey toward Him starts before we have any consciousness that it is happening. However, there is also the sense in which it started on that awful day of having to deal with what made no sense at all. There have been many moments of experiencing God's presence since those beginning struggling boyhood moments, but not for a long time have I doubted that God somehow used what I never would have chosen for good. Over the years I have learned that my experience is nothing unique. It is like yours. God truly does keep His Word to us. "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Some weeks ago I read a book entitled The Blogging Church. I knew very little about it then and know only slightly more now. However, the book answered some of my questions about blogging and told me more than I needed to know. It seems to me that blogging is about two things: communication and connection. Both have always been important to me. Over the years I have written countless numbers of bulletin covers, newsletter covers, and for any newspaper that would give me space. So, finding ways to communicate has been one of the mainstays of my ministry. It has also seemed important to be connected to people. What I have discovered is the that the larger the church the harder it is to stay connected to folks. There are so many things that get in the ordained minister's job description other than what might be a considered inside a definition of preacher and pastor. There are enough meetings to sink a large ship, always another fire to put out, and still too much paper work. All these necessary things seem to empty the room of people and dialogue. Sometimes, people make comments about sermons or, ocassionally there will be a response to an article written, but such are more rare than some would think. Blogging seems to be a new way to create a place for being connected, a place for some sharing, and a place for some dialogue. For me the success of the blog will be the measure it enables the dialogue. While writing is something I always have enjoyed doing, I have other places to meet this need. What I really hope this blogging venture will do is to provide a place for writing and reading, for speaking and listening, for conversation instead of monologue. Blogging will be a new journey for me. I invite you to join me.