Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Staggering to the finish...

Maybe it is true everywhere and for everyone, but I know it is true in Abilene and for the Ridgells and many of my preacher and elder buddies. It is an endurance contest to get to the end of May and the summer. I am about done by the time the Spring speaking schedule, HIP, and my Bible class wind down. I have shepherded, counseled, and prayed for about all the people I can handle. I know for me, summer is a time I need to take a break, get refreshed, and get refocused. I appreciate those of you who say nice things about HIP and my Sunday class, but one reason I take the summer off from both of these is so I can do them next fall. I am even speaking and traveling less this summer. I am preaching once in Tennessee, going to the Lipscomb lectures, an HoT trip to Zambia, and preaching once in Sweetwater. At this point, that is it for the summer. Going to take a trip to Sea World with the whole family and Marsha is going to Lipscomb with me and then we are taking a few days off in Smokey mountains. I am going to read, write, work on an evangelism seminar I am developing. I might wet a hook, hook a little white ball, and chase a grandkid or two.

So why tell you all this? To remind us all that God calls us to rest, Sabbaticals, and renewal. We need to stop the busy stress of life. Empty gas tanks don't run long. Phil Ware, our preacher, is always challenging the elders to have one night where we do not return calls, check on the flock, or visit the hospital. I try to take a few minutes each day, take one night each week, and take a couple of months in the summer when I change the rhythm of my life. Besides, Marsha and my Doctor yell at me if I don't.

So how about you? How do you reconnect, refocus, renew, or refresh yourself for ministry?

Friday, May 22, 2009


Health update...

For those who have not heard...

About a month ago I had some routine medical screenings done. Two weeks ago I get off the plane in LA for the Pepperdine lectures and find I have a voice mail from the lab telling me to call them because they would like to get my results to me quicker than normal. That's not what you want to hear. So I call and they tell me the Sonogram shows an obstruction on my kidney so I need to see my Dr. as soon as possible. I ask if it's an emergency since I am not near my Dr. They say "no, but I would get in to see him ASAP." Well, OK.

So... long story short. More extensive ultrasound. Appears to be blockage but maybe not on kidneys, so CT scan next. Meanwhile, we are praying that it goes away. I am having no symptoms. No pain, no "old man" issues. Nothing. Dr., who I go to church with and grew up with my kids, is calm and reassuring. I am thinking optimistically: if it is a kidney and it's bad... well, I only need one.

CT scan results: I have a cyst on each of my kidneys. But they are simple cysts so rarely malignant. Still no symptoms. Final decision: unless symptoms manifest, we will do CT scan periodically and see if cysts change. All in all, since God has not yet taken them away... it is about as good as I could hope for.

What did I learn? Don't take health for granted. Keep preaching, teaching, writing, shepherding, and talking about Jesus. Never know how much time is left and I will do that till life ends here. God is in control. Be thankful. Nice to know that the worst that can happen still ends up with me in heaven. Also good to periodically have to see if your life matches your preaching. Glad it does.

For those who knew about this... thanks for praying. For those who didn't... I know you would have.

God is good. Now and forever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Buying Whiskey...

I went thru the liquor store drive by window and bought whiskey the other day. Here is what I said: "I need the smallest, cheapest, bottle of whiskey you have. I am making homemade cough syrup. It is the only thing that works." The clerk was nice, sold me what I asked for, and off I went. I did this a few years ago when my son Joe Don was with me and he was tickled at my compulsion to explain myself. As if the clerk really cared why I was buying whiskey. So I began to think about why I explain my order.

I don't think it is some kind of repressed legalism expressing itself as if there is something inherently evil about buying one bottle of whiskey. I don't think it is some kind of driving need to appear righteous -- after all, as far as the clerk is concerned I could be lying. And I doubt I am the first Christian to buy something from that store.

But in some way, it does relate to my image. As an elder at Southern Hills, I am acutely aware of the damage drunkenness and alcoholism do in my flock. Marsha and I had spent a lot of time helping Christians in this particular battle. So if any of my flock happened to be in there when I went by, I don't want to "trip them up" by having them think drinking is OK. For many Christians, it is not OK. They cannot even socially drink.

Maybe it was also because so many of the university students hear me preach and the "get drunk and hook up" culture is so powerful among them. And my preaching is blunt enough that we talk about it. So I didn't want to send a mixed message.

I do know it is not necessarily a sin to drink alcohol. But drunkenness is a sin. And that is a battle in our churches. So I am very careful about alcohol and my image as a Christ follower. So why even buy whiskey to begin with? Because of three weeks coughing. And knowing a great home remedy.

So just my random thoughts about living out our call in our culture. Not sure I always do it well, but I do think it is worth thinking and talking about.

By the way: 1/3 whiskey, 1/3 lemon, 1/3 honey. Best cough syrup there is. It worked.

So... what do you think?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


On wrecks and new trucks...

It happened about a month ago. Teenage girl rear-ended me on N. 1st. She never hit her brakes, just slammed into me. Hard enough to knock the spare tire off under the truck. Hard enough to bend the frame. And I did not even suffer a bruise. I was not hurt, never was sore, and had no complications at all. Some would call it luck. I call it God. I believe He is active in our lives. Maybe it was my angel.

So Marsha and I started praying harder about a new truck. We had been debating whether my '99 Chevy Truck with 140,000 miles was ready to be recycled. So after the wreck we really started praying. Called Hunter Hanner and he said he had an '09 demo very similar to my old one. With all of the discounts, etc. we arrived at the bottom line price. Wanting to be a good steward, I figured out what I thought would be a reasonable monthly payment and for how long. I was then able to know how much I needed the insurance settlement to be. Hunter wasn't sure it would be enough to cover what I needed. But it was.

So I have a new truck. And what part did God play in this? I am going to credit him with protecting me (and the other driver by the way), and with getting me the new truck. So how? I am not sure I can explain it to you, nor do I need to know how He did it. He is God, and I am not. It just makes more sense to me to give Him the credit instead of calling it luck. He used Hanner Chevrolet, he used an insurance company, and he used our faith.

The older my faith gets -- and hopefully the more mature -- the more Marsha and I pray about everything. And I mean everything: travel protection and vehicle purchases included.

So share some of your God stories.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Pepperdine and Southern Hills...

One of the best things about Lectureships is the time of reconnecting with friends. I love catching up and hearing about the great things God is doing in this world thru people I know and love. This year I was particularly struck by the Southern Hills connections at Pepperdine.

Rick Atchley, former preacher at SH, was one of the keynote speakers.

Matt Wallace (and Nikki)and Angie (Baker) Lemley taught classes. Matt and Angie grew up at Southern Hills.

Rick amd Jamie Atchley both taught classes.

Chris Seidman and Collin Packer, both former SH interns, taught classes.

Tony Grisham sang with Hallal.

Saw the Barry Packers and Johnathon Ross.

And those are just the ones I got to visit with... and am able to remember.

Southern Hills has had tremendous impact on our fellowship. I pray we always remember the incredible opportunity God has blessed us with to mold and shape ministry throughout this world because of where we are located.

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