Directions… Hints

Often when I meet people, I’ll ask, “Where are you from?”  When people tell me they are from places like Idaho, Utah, or Montana, my response is “Welcome to the land of heat and humidity.”

I grew up in Florida, so I am no stranger to heat and humidity.  But Sumter has a unique combination.  There is no 4 PM thunderstorm like there was in Florida to cool things down.  Our days start “tolerable,” as the old timers say, but the temperature climbs like an oven switched on broil.  On our hot days, you can step outside at 8:30 – in the morning or evening – and the heat will take your breath.

When I work out in the yard on these broiler days, I sweat clean through my shirt – Smith family trait.  I honor the folks who have to work outside in the heat.  I see them at the corner store loading up on Gatorade and water and I think “Bless you brother, bless you.”  And like the Pharisee of old, I pray a selfish prayer: “Thank you Father that I have an inside job.”

That’s why these past couple of days have been amazing gifts.  The high temperature has been in the mid-80’s.  The morning air carries just a touch of fall.  Evenings are cool gifts, calling you to sit outside away from talking electronic boxes.  The heat of day has a gentle warmth, not the intensity of a blast furnace.  I’ve heard over and over, “I love this weather.”

A quick check of the forecast says we are headed back to the 90’s by the weekend.  We’ll back to our regular daily scorching.  We’ve had a hint of fall, but it’s not here yet.

Heaven is going to be an amazing place.  Everything will center on Jesus.  We will be amazed at who He is, and He will be at the center of our thoughts and feelings.  That’s why there will be no more pain, no more crying, no more mourning – this blast furnace of daily life will be gone.

God’s people gathered – the church – is Heaven’s preview.  Now we don’t always get it right.  In fact, a lot of times we don’t get it right.  But when we do – when we focus on Jesus; when we are selfless; when we serve the poor; when we lift up people who carry heavy loads – we catch the hints of heaven.

My prayer for our church is when people come to us, they catch the hint of heaven.  We won’t always get it right, but when we do – we are like a cool breeze for troubled souls.

 

 

Grace

Clay

Tuesday Celebrations 8/26/14

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

Great start to “Family Influence” Series.  Big thought:  Mutual submission means I put you first, you put me first, because Jesus is first.

Again, congratulations to Jock for 10 great years at Alice Drive!

Don’t miss the Back to Routine Bash this Wednesday night at 6 PM!  Great food, celebration, and fellowship.

Really looking forward to Gary Thomas being with us September 14/15!

Smile:

College Football resumes this week!

An Alabama fan and a Tennessee fan were fighting side-by-side in World War II, and both were captured and sentenced to die by firing squad. The Tennessee man was stood up before the firing squad and the guard asked him if he had any last request. He thought for a second, then asked them to play Rocky Top one last time. From the side, the Alabama fan shouted out “Then please shoot me first!!”

Directions 8/21/14 – Crickets …

we are back where we started.

Right after we married, we lived in a parsonage (a church owned house) in rural Kentucky.  I pastored a church in rural Kentucky while I went to school.  Gina was a waitress, and was finishing one Master’s degree before she started another.  In those days before the internet it was quiet in rural Shelby County.  Cable hadn’t made it out that far, and we couldn’t afford a satellite dish.  When we went to bed, it was so quiet, you could hear the crickets.  After one week with the crickets, we bought a dog.  It was Gina and me and Gabriel.  And the crickets.

We moved to Louisville to serve another church while I finished my Ph.D.  After two months in the new house, Gina was pregnant.  We found out every pastor who lived in that house had a baby (File under: Things the Pastor Search Committee doesn’t tell you).  Abram came into our lives.  The dog moved outside.

Hannah came the same month I graduated with my Ph.D. and Gina finished her second Master’s degree.  We were ready to leave Louisville.  God wasn’t ready for us to leave Louisville.  We stayed two more years.  Then Alice Drive said they would like me to serve as their pastor, and twenty years ago, we loaded two kids and two dogs into the mini-van and followed the moving van to South Carolina.

Alice Drive quickly became a challenging place to pastor.  God blest us beyond imagination.  But no worries; no pastor at Alice Drive ever added a child to their family once they came to Sumter.  No one told us this rule.  Eighteen months after we arrived, Sarah was born. 

We did what all young families do: drove the kids to school, to ball, to dance, to tennis, to band, to cheerleading, to church, to parties, and to play with friends.  The original dogs died and we had pet funerals.  New dogs were added, puppies were born.  We photographed the kids going to their first day of classes every year and stored all those pictures under the bed to be sorted sometime in the future. 

All three children accepted Jesus and were baptized.  They learned the Bible stories; they went to VBS; they went to camp. Mission trips got further away.  Chaperoning became our new summer vacation.

First one, then the next got a driver’s license.  Having three drivers made life easier.  And scarier.  And more expensive. College began to be discussed.  SATs were taken, retaken, and retaken.  Abram left for Duke.  Before I knew it, Hannah left for UNC-Chapel Hill.  Sarah had the luxury of being an only child for 9 months each year.

Then Abram came home for a year after graduation.  The house felt full for the first time since Hannah left.  There were great times of joy when everyone was home.  Abram got a dog.  Then he got accepted to Columbia University in New York.  Hannah graduated and got a job in Durham, NC.  Sarah decided on Clemson instead of Florida (and my will is being re-written).  Abram realized his dog couldn’t go to New York, so Moo would have to stay with us.

We helped Hannah move into her new apartment in July (remember the column about Hannah’s couch?).  Last Friday, we put Abram on a plane for New York.  The next day, we moved Sarah into the dorm at Clemson.

When we came home the dogs greeted us, but looked puzzled.  “Where was everyone?” their eyes asked.  How do you explain children leaving to a dog?

As I lay in bed Saturday night, I heard crickets outside my window, singing their song into the night.  That’s when it hit me – we are back where we started:  Me, Gina, Socks the beagle, and the Moo the Swissie.

And the crickets.

When we first came to Alice Drive, older people told me to enjoy the years when my children were small.  They told me, “It will all go by too fast.” 

They were right. 

Grace

Clay

Tuesday Celebrations

Tuesday Celebrations

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

New Series starts this Sunday/Monday:  Family Influence.  Who influences your family?  This is a great time for you to invite friends to come with you.  You will find out something the Bible says that might surprise you!

Really looking forward to Gary Thomas being with us September 14/15!

Hope you were blest by Jock’s message this past Sunday/Monday.  I am excited about him taking his next step into his new role as Outreach Pastor.  This Sunday, we will celebrate Jock’s 10th anniversary at Alice Drive!

Smile:

Morning of the first day of school:  “I don’t want to go to school.  Nobody likes me there.  I don’t have any friends.

Afternoon of the first day of school: “Can my new friend come over and play?”

This is why parenting requires flexibility!

Directions – Robin Williams and the Care of Your Soul…

Robin Williams died this week.   According to news reports, he hung himself in a bedroom in his California home.  His publicist said he was suffering from severe depression.

Already blogs and Facebook are clogged with tributes and commentaries.  All of them attempt to answer the question that cannot be answered:  Why?

In one form or another, depression has been a companion in my life through my adulthood.  On a much smaller scale than Robin Williams, I know what it is like to walk on a stage and give yourself away.  He made people laugh.  I’ve tried to help people find Jesus.  Comedians and preachers want to bring people hope.  You open your soul and give. 

There is a danger point no one tells you about in seminary – or, I assume, comedy school.  The danger is you give not the excess, but the essential.  You move from giving from your soul, to giving your soul.  The line between the two is thin and faint.  The crowd always cheers for you to give more, because they are not the guardian of their souls.

Jesus knew this too.  That’s why he so often went away from the crowd.  His friend John wrote that “Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all people … (John 2:24).”  Whether the crowd cheered or jeered, Jesus kept possession of His soul.

The best way of being like Jesus is to care for our souls like He cared for His.  We give ourselves not to the crowd, or to the family, or to the boyfriend, but to the Father who offers perfect love and grace.  We release ourselves from the need to perform and be acclaimed.  We trust the Spirit even in the darkness.

Our Father in Heaven understands depression.  It was not part of His design for the world, but it, like so many other forms of darkness, comes because this world is a broken, fallen, messed up place.  The Bible speaks plainly of depression in Job, Psalms, Lamentations, and the Prophets.  One of the prophets, Jeremiah, seemed to struggle with it.

Being depressed doesn’t mean you are far from God.  It means a form of darkness has enveloped your soul.  In that darkness, you need light and hope.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you are light.  You may need to talk with someone – a therapist or a pastor – to find the light you already are.  Like a Christian diabetic, you may need the help of medication to control chemicals in your body that keep you from being the person God made you to be.  Lewis Smedes said he found God’s daily grace in a pill of Prozac.  This doesn’t mean your faith is weak.  It means you aren’t perfect and you need grace.

In your struggle, and in mine, there is great grace.  Caring for your soul means coming to the fountain of grace that is Jesus, and bathing there.  And this is what church is to be:  a place of grace, a place for you to care for your soul.

The approval of others – the cheers, the compliments, the acceptance – never provides the grace we need.   Only Jesus.

 

Grace

Clay

Robin Williams and the Care of Your Soul

Robin Williams and the Care of Your Soul…
Robin Williams died this week. According to news reports, he hung himself in a bedroom in his California home. His publicist said he was suffering from severe depression.
Already blogs and Facebook are clogged with tributes and commentaries. All of them attempt to answer the question that cannot be answered: Why?
In one form or another, depression has been a companion in my life through my adulthood. On a much smaller scale than Robin Williams, I know what it is like to walk on a stage and give yourself away. He made people laugh. I’ve tried to help people find Jesus. Comedians and preachers want to bring people hope. You open your soul and give.
There is a danger point no one tells you about in seminary – or, I assume, comedy school. The danger is you give not the excess, but the essential. You move from giving from your soul, to giving your soul. The line between the two is thin and faint. The crowd always cheers for you to give more, because they are not the guardian of their souls.
Jesus knew this too. That’s why he so often went away from the crowd. His friend John wrote that “Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all people … (John 2:24).” Whether the crowd cheered or jeered, Jesus kept possession of His soul.
The best way of being like Jesus is to care for our souls like He cared for His. We give ourselves not to the crowd, or to the family, or to the boyfriend, but to the Father who offers perfect love and grace. We release ourselves from the need to perform and be acclaimed. We trust the Spirit even in the darkness.
Our Father in Heaven understands depression. It was not part of His design for the world, but it, like so many other forms of darkness, comes because this world is a broken, fallen, messed up place. The Bible speaks plainly of depression in Job, Psalms, Lamentations, and the Prophets. One of the prophets, Jeremiah, seemed to struggle with it.
Being depressed doesn’t mean you are far from God. It means a form of darkness has enveloped your soul. In that darkness, you need light and hope. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are light. You may need to talk with someone – a therapist or a pastor – to find the light you already are. Like a Christian diabetic, you may need the help of medication to control chemicals in your body that keep you from being the person God made you to be. Lewis Smedes said he found God’s daily grace in a pill of Prozac. This doesn’t mean your faith is weak. It means you aren’t perfect and you need grace.
In your struggle, and in mine, there is great grace. Caring for your soul means coming to the fountain of grace that is Jesus, and bathing there. And this is what church is to be: a place of grace, a place for you to care for your soul.
The approval of others – the cheers, the compliments, the acceptance – never provides the grace we need. Only Jesus.

Tuesday Celebrations

 

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

Big Thoughts from Sunday/Monday:  If you follow Jesus, you have been transformed at the deepest level of your soul – you once were dark, now you are light.

Let’s Celebrate 219 Backpacks donated to United Ministries by ADBC!  And 37 people who participated in the School Prayer Walk yesterday.

This Sunday/Monday – we wrap up the @myself series.  Jock will be preaching in his new role as Outreach Pastor!

Smile:

My advice to all the students heading off to college:

  • Learn to do laundry this week.  Your mother will not be coming to your dorm room to do it for you.
  • Washing your sheets exponentially increases your chances of the opposite sex speaking to you.
  • Food that turns green must be thrown out.  Contrary to what you think, it does not march off to the trash by itself.
  • You can adjust your sleep cycle from 2 AM to 12 noon.  Enjoy it for four years.  Then you will be back to the real world schedule (Citadel students, ignore this).
  • Trying to prove your professor is ignorant will equal an “F.”
  • Call your parents.  This will results in continued funding.
  • In two weeks, you will want to come home.  In two months, you will want to skip Thanksgiving holidays so you can stay on campus for the big game.
  • Anything posted on the internet, stays forever.
  • Pray every day – not just before the final exam.  That’s good advice for life!

 

Directions

Colin Finds a Family…

Our students went to Carowinds a few weeks ago.  My son Abram was selected as a chaperone, another sign that he is considered a responsible adult.

He returned home late, looking exhausted from a hard day of corralling students through the dips and dives of Carowinds.  We asked him about his trip, the kids that went, and the rides they rode.  Abram has a gift for story.   He can spin the details of the day so you almost wish you made the trip.  Almost.

The last story he told was about Colin.  Colin was an awkward boy, about 12.  He was in line for a ride and our students started talking to him.  They quickly got the essential facts.  His parents were in the water park, and he had been turned loose in the park to fend for himself.  Carowinds can be a lonely place for a 12 year old. 

The group rode the ride, then clustered up to plan their next move.  Colin was on the fringe, listening.  When the group went off to ride the “Hurler (don’t ask),” Colin tagged along.  Once the “Hurler” was conquered, they went to the “Vortex.”  Colin moved from the fringe of the group to the middle.

That was the way it was for the rest of the day.  Where our kids went, Colin went.  Before long, it felt like Colin belonged. 

It was time for our group to leave the park and for Colin to go back to his family.  I’m not sure if goodbyes were shared, but for a few hours, Colin found a family.

I don’t know anything about Colin.  I don’t know anything about his parents, his home life, his grades in school, his athletic ability, or his faith.  I simply know he wanted a family to share Carowinds with him. 

The soul searches for a family.  We want to belong.  We want to laugh with someone, and hold onto someone when we make the first big run down the hill.  We want a group to know our name. 

That’s why Jesus gave us church.  When church is doing what it is designed to do, it lets souls who are searching for connection, for significance, and for understanding  join them on the journey. 

Our students got this, on a hot day at Carowinds.  They let Colin join in.  They let Colin be family.  They let Colin join the church on its day riding rides.

Keep an eye for the Colins of this world.  They are everywhere.  They want to belong.  Their souls need a family.  That’s why God made us church.

Grace

Clay

Tuesday Celebrations

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

Big Idea from Sunday/Monday:  You can’t fix the divisions sin causes in your soul until you face them.  Only then can Jesus bring the healing your soul desires.

If at all possible, join us for the School Prayer walk next Monday at 9.  Let’s cover every classroom in Sumter County with prayer.  If you can’t come, remember to pray for our teachers, parents, and students as they start back to school.

Save the Date:  Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, will be with us September 14/15th.  He will encourage you!

Smile:

“What is the plural of man, Willie?” asked the teacher. “Men,” he answered. “And, what is the plural of child?” “Twins,” replied Willie