Monday, February 28, 2011

Jules Verne

I'd never read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. It seems like I should have read it somewhere along the way, but I simply never got around to is. Last of the Mohicans is on that list as well... I'll get to it someday.

I read Jules Verne's classic story this weekend. I went to the depths with Captain Nemo and his three prisoners, captured and held against their will in the Nautilus, desperate for a way home and yet fascinated by what they see on Nemo's submarine. Nemo is defined by some tragedy in the past--he is desperate to escape humanity, unwilling to interact with the world, which has harmed him in some way, and so he builds a master submarine, never to be heard from again.

This book captured my imagination for many reasons, and yet it led me into reflections on my faith as well. Nemo had let some event define his life--and I began to wonder how I have done the same. What are the things in my past that define my priorities, my life, my choices? Do I allow my gratitude to Christ to be the one event that defines where I go and how I serve? Or am I more tempted by the things of the world, allowing a desire to be rich or well-known drive me?

Nemo had built a submarine well-defended, safe from all intruders. How do I construct defenses to keep the world out, to keep myself 'safe'? Who am I keeping out, and at what cost to myself?

Am I willing to allow my life to become an adventure based on faith in Christ, or am I too focused on the material comforts of life to be guided by Christ and led by the Word? What is my focus, and how will I share the gifts I have with the world?

Thursday, February 24, 2011


  It has occurred to me in the last few days that we may not actually have to time raise a child.  How do people do this, anyway?  Life is busy, hectic and stressful enough--now I'm suddenly supposed to have the time and energy to devote to another human life, this being one that is completely and totally dependent upon me?  How? Or, more importantly, when?

  I wonder if my life is packed full of stimuli because I don't know what to do with empty time frames or because I truly need all these stimulating things in my life.  What might happen if I simplified, if I had time to simply be still and acknowledge that God is in control?  Are these outlets signs that I am trying to control everything?  Or am I simply unfocused?

  I wonder how an infant picks up on the stress of the family.  I have no doubt that they do, and yet I fear that our own stress will lurk in the corners of our lives, illuminating the cracks in our well-being that busy-ness and demands create in our foundation.  So much to do, so little time--how do we lead a life pleasing to God while pursuing our vocations while raising a family while making/creating time for Sabbath?  How do we demonstrate healthy priorities while chasing our tails in the world?

  Where does the time come from?

  How do I make the time by setting priorities, by focusing and pursuing with passion, rather than filling the time?

2/24 E-News


All you runnersInterfaith Hospitality is doing a 5k run (along with a 1 mile run/walk) on March 26. I’m thinking about doing the 5k run. Let me know if you’re interested!

Kids Nite Out—This Friday

Living Waters—We’re hoping to focus our efforts on Appalachia in the coming years. If you’re interested in being a part of this, we need a few people to go and be trained March 11-13 at Camp John Knox. Cost is $75, but scholarships may be available if you’re interested.

Community Kitchen--Below is a list of our immediate needs. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. Hope you all have a blessed weekend. Grits / Oatmeal--Instant Mashed Potatoes--Instant Dry Milk--Brown Paper Lunch Bags--Ziplock Sandwich Bags--Napkins

Pray for…

Peggy & John L.


There’s some great stuff in this article about Bono and faith

Another great interview with Scot McKnight about living the One.Life (My reading list never gets any shorter)

A local article about the work of Interfaith Hospitality

For fathers: It’s ok to ‘bleed in training’

Anybody want to go see Jars of Clay?

Living Waters for the World Newsletter

Congratulations, Chattanooga. You’re smart.

Text for this Week

Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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Rev. Keith W. Jones
New Hope Presbyterian Church
7301 Shallowford Rd
Chattanooga, TN 37421
Phone: (423) 892.0853
Fax: (423) 892.0368


Good morning, God

What a day yesterday was. I know that it was covered in your grace, that I was surrounded by your love throughout the day, and yet that doesn't mean my eyes were open to see you moving in and around me.

On this day, remind me of your holiness. You are righteous and almighty, loving and faithful. You create worlds when you speak, and you love more deeply than I can imagine. You are an awesome God, perfect in every way, complete and loving, and yet you made a choice to love humanity.

Sometimes I wonder why you made that choice, why you chose to create, but you did, and my heart beats in gratitude for what you have done.

May my heart and mind be focused on you and your love, that this life might be offered back to you, that you may take and fill it for your glory.

I love you, Lord.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In Defense of Food

After the Omnivore's Dilemma, one of the questions that sits with the reader is, 'Ok, so now what do I eat?' Enter book two.

I just finished In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan's follow-up to The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's a much shorter book, 200 pages as opposed to 400. It's a faster read (I sat down and read it in an evening) because much of the basis of the book has already been discussed in the first book. It is, however, very helpful in considering how to change one's diet in consideration of everything that has been learned over the course of these books.

The three main points in this book are: 1) Eat Food. 2) Less of it. 3) Mostly Plants.

Taken at face value, these seem so simple as to be a waste of one's time. However, he actually spells them out in very helpful ways. (I also purchased Food Rules, where there is even more detail)

Eat Food, for example, seems basic until Pollan explains that much of what is on the shelves in the grocery store isn't actually food, but rather carefully manufactured products that are engineered as to seem to meet our requirements, but fail due to our lack of understanding as to how many foods actually benefit us. We simply don't understand how a lot of food works, and Pollan spends much of the book exploring our knowledge (and lack thereof) and how that has led us to the trouble we are in.

He blames much of this on nutrionism, the idea that the food we eat is basically a vehicle for transporting certain nutrients, like protein or fat, into the body. He discusses, at length, how the Western Diet has been so focused on the transfer of nutrients as to miss out on many of the negative effects of foods we eat. (He points to the fact that Cocoa Puffs can be labeled as heart healthy as a pretty good sign that we're headed in the wrong direction.)

So when Pollan tells us to eat food, he's discussing things that actually look like what they started out as, foods that resemble what they are in nature, foods that have ingredients we can pronounce and that our great-grandmothers would recognize. (I still don't know what Cool Whip is. Yes, it's cool, and yes, it's whipped, but just what is it that has been whipped?)

Eat less of it. Well, we could all stand to eat a little less food. Especially the sugars and refined carbs that we ingest in large quantities. He compares the Americans to the French--Americans eat until all the food in front of them is gone, while the French eat until they are full. Guess which mode of thinking is healthier?

Mostly plants. We don't understand exactly how the nutrients and micronutrients and antioxidants in plants and fruits work together, but they make us healthier in ways that multi-vitamins and engineered food cannot. Meat is not bad, although Pollan will question how authentic meat is that has been through massive processing plants and fed diets of corn and soybeans. The more plants we eat, the healthier we will be.

Pollan's book asks us to make sacrifices for our diets. Are we willing to spend more money and more time, invest more thought and energy into preparing our food? It takes an American an average of four minutes to clean up dinner--a meal prepared by Pollan's guidelines will take far more. He recognizes that not everyone can afford to eat this way, but for those who can, what is stopping them? It will make us healthier. Probably happier. And we'll save money in the long run because we won't have as many problems with diabetes and heart problems. So they cost may be negated. It's a fascinating read, but it may change the way you see your food!

NY Times review of In Defense of Food

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive


Good morning, God.

This is the day that you have made. It's a day filled with hope for what might be, filled with wonder at all that you are, filled with questions as to where you are in our midst.

I know that you have promised to be with us always, but what do I do about these situations in the Middle East, about the chaos and anger that lurks in our own country, about the earthquake in New Zealand? How do I pray for these things, for these people, about whom I know so little? Where are you, Lord, as protesters are gunned down, as dictators cling to power? Speak another Word, Lord, a word of order and truth, that we might hear and obey. Help me to see your will, Lord, for I see chaos and turmoil as they clutch at our souls, as they drag us into their shadowy world. I long for your peace to descend, for your presence to reign. Use me, Lord, in whatever way you can, that I might be a small part of the proclamation of your kingdom on this day.

I love you, Lord, and I desperately want this life to be one continuous offering to you.


Monday, February 21, 2011

What a great story

A few books

Ever find one of those books that you've had and have no idea how you got them? On Saturday morning I discovered one of those--The Justice Game by Randy Singer. I was looking for a fictional book to read, and after about two chapters of this, I was hooked. I finished it up by Saturday night! I couldn't set it down--I was cooking lunch with one hand cooking and the other holding the book.

The book dives into the justice system, focusing on two young lawyers in a huge case. The case is whether a gun manufacturer is liable for the crimes committed by the guns it sells. What I enjoyed most about the book was that it forces the reader to think about issues of liability and justice--who is liable, and what punishment should they deal with? It forces the reader to wrestle with both sides of the issue, while maintaining a very interesting storyline. Was the ending a little too neat and tidy? Perhaps--but every once in a while it's nice to get away from the real world, especially after reading a book about the horrors of gun crimes!

Another book I finished this weekend was Mentor Like Jesus, a guide to mentoring by Regi Campbell. It's a book about being a mentor, which Regi Campbell does every year for 8 young men in Atlanta. He talks about the importance of mentoring, the multiplying effect it has, and the eleven important aspects involved. The thing I took away from this short book was the focus on spiritual growth--there are things I can do now to put myself in a position to be a mentor later, and I need to be focused on those things. I'm not in much of a place to mentor now, but if and when that time comes, I hope that I am willing to lead with the vulnerability and courage that Campbell does. I wouldn't rush out and buy this book unless there were individuals you knew you wanted to mentor, but it's worth considering how you are growing spiritually and what aspects of growth you need to focus upon so that when the time arises, you will be mature enough to lead someone else into a deeper relationship with Christ.


Week 8

A big week, apparently. Eyelids begin to form.

The baby is supposed to be about 1/2 long by the end of the week, and yet such intricate things as eyelids begin to form. Can the baby see? (I guess there probably aren't many lights in the womb, and there wouldn't be much to see even if it could see, but it must develop the ability to see at some point.)

As the baby's eyelids form, and I ponder it's ability to see, I must also recognize that how I see is changing, too. I had LASIK not that long ago, and that changed the mechanical way my eyes see, this changes something spiritual.

I now see the world through a lens of responsibility. It's no longer enough to simply life for myself--there is now another life, a completely dependent one, that will be filled with neediness and love. How can I be sure that the environment surrounding this baby is filled with love? How might it understand the world as a place in which it can love and be loved? How do I help it see life as a chance to worship God?

How I see changed as eyelids form...

and life begins anew once more.


Good morning, God.

Thank you for another day. What a blessing it is to wander this way for a little while, to ponder your grace and your love. You are so high, so holy, so majestic and awesome, and yet you have created humans and called us to live as your children. What an awesome mystery--if I were to try and understand it all, surely my brain would be swallowed up in confusion and turmoil, but because of your Son, Jesus Christ, I simply have to believe.

What glorious gifts you have given us--we once wallowed in the depths of sin, and now we are freed by the grace of Christ Jesus. We once had nothing but despair, and now hope shines brightly for all to see. You are so good to us, Lord.

I pray that this day is an offering to you, that you will bless me, that I might be a blessing to others. May I be a conduit of grace on this and every day.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Most likely, the migrant workers who pick my organic lettuce wear blue band-aids.

This is only one of the many unexpected facts I learned while reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan's exploration into the world of food, where it comes from and how it gets to our table. Most of it is eye-opening, some of it heart-breaking, and the end isn't nearly as neat as you'd hope it would be. I'd recommend reading this book only if you're willing to have your mind expanded, because it will most likely change the way you see your food, and, in my case, it may just change the way you eat.

So why do they wear blue band-aids? Because it's not a charming little farm where a family goes out to pick the lettuce that finds its way to my supermarket of choice, Publix. It's because the lettuce is grown in a massive field, and since weeds are likely to end up in my mixed green tub, migrant workers roam the rows, where they inevitably gets cuts and scrapes. Blue band-aids are issued because they're easy to see among the greens and reds, and also because they have magnetic strips, and the lettuce passes through a machine with a magnet that will (hopefully) get the last of the band-aids before the lettuce is boxed and shipped across the country.

This is one of the many practices the organic food industry has picked up from the normal food industry. It had to, in order to scale to the demand. Is it different than I imagine it? You bet. Same for the free range chickens that, most likely, never see the light of day in the seven weeks they are alive. Is there free range available? Absolutely. Do they set foot on it? Probably not.

The first third of Pollan's expose is focused on the corn industry, how it has driven much of our food policy, how it's prevalence has made its way into almost every food we consume to the cars we drive. Pollan explores why this is, the effect it has on the country, on almost every part of the food chain, from our beef to our soil.

The next third follows the organic industry, and while he focuses on a local farm, Polyface Farm in Virginia, he also discusses the greater industry, from the mass organic farms in California to the 'free range' chickens that are grown across the country. It's frustrating, disheartening, and very eye-opening.

The last third describes a meal Pollan gathered himself, from the mushrooms to the pig he hunted. It's almost all local food from Northern California, and while it turns out very well, even Pollan admits that it's unrealistic for everyone to eat this way.

Part of me didn't want to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's easier not to read it. It's the same reason I haven't watched Food, Inc. When I'm confronted with the truth behind my food, I either have to change, or I am complicit with the production of it. And it's hard for me to be complicit with pesticides that contribute to the stripping of the soil and industrial food organizations where cows are grown with little regard to their nature, where chickens grow in cages where they can't turn around, where they eat what is unnatural and live filthy, short, pathetic lives.

Now that I have the knowledge of the truth behind my hamburgers, I have to do something with this knowledge. What is it? I'm not sure, exactly. I'm still working it all out--but it's hard for me to see much of the food in the grocery store the same way. I'm not going to grow and cook all my own meals, but I'm certainly going to pay attention to the food that is going in them, and do the best I can to understand the ethical ramifications of some of the choices I make.

This book opened my eyes and my mind, and what has been seen cannot be unseen. The challenge is this: what now? How shall it continue to change me?

Don't read this book if you're not ready to think about the food that's on your plate. It's tough. But Pollan has done a great job making the case for more thoughtful eating.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2/17 E-News


Outreach Committee—Meets tonight @ 5:30 in the McMillan Building if you’re interested.

All you runnersInterfaith Hospitality is doing a 5k run (along with a 1 mile run/walk) on March 26. I’m thinking about doing the 5k run. Let me know if you’re interested!

Game Night—Join us for game night this coming Sunday @ 6:00.

East Brainerd Elementary—Read Across America—if you’re interested in reading at East Brainerd on March 2, let me know. Time slots are available between 9 & 2.

Community Kitchen--Below is a list of our immediate needs. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. Hope you all have a blessed weekend. Grits / Oatmeal--Instant Mashed Potatoes--Instant Dry Milk--Brown Paper Lunch Bags--Ziplock Sandwich Bags--Napkins

Pray for…

A request I received: We need to be praying for all those suffering in Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and Eastern Asia, where there is poverty, terrorists' attacks, political turmoil, oppression and threats of war. While the Western Hemisphere has problems in Haiti, Venezuela and Mexico, this side of the world is doing relatively well compared with the Eastern Hemisphere.

New Hope News

Evelyn continues to recover in LifeCare of East Ridge. She appreciates your cards & visits!


I was at a conference last year and heart an amazing talk about how Christians need to engage with culture. I found it online and watched it yesterday, and it was just as amazing the second time. It’s 24 minutes long, but I’d highly recommend it—it’s worth making the time to watch.

EPB is hiring

Save Public Broadcasting

Vulnerability vs. Fear

Pedestrian Safety Workshop: A Focus on Older Adults

Wednesday, Feb. 23rd, 11:00am – 2:30pm

Development Resource Center (DRC), Room 1A, 1250 Market St.

Registration is required by calling 423-643-7880 or emailing

Text for this Week

Luke 12:49-59

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

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143 times every minute, my world changes a little. 

143 times every minute, a baby's heart beats, and I continue to be in awe of what God is doing.  I can't possibly imagine how small this heart is, but I have heard it beating, and it is a beautiful sound, a constant rhythm of life.

143 times every minute, my capacity to love a person I haven't met increases a little. 

143 times every minute, I fear that I will be unworthy to raise this child, that I will fail in steering this child toward a life of integrity and compassion, of awe and wonder, of worship and adoration of Christ the King.

143 times every minute, I am so grateful to God for this gift of a child.  I pray for it, for my own strength, for Rachel, and for the world, that it may grow and thrive in a world that knows peace and civility.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gabe Lyons

Is this video pretty long? Yup. Is it absolutely worth it as we look forward into the future of the church? Yup. I watched this speech live last October, and it is a great investment of time as we wrestle with how the church will grow into the future God is preparing for it.

Catalyst Atlanta 2010: Gabe Lyons from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Missional Renaissance

And I thought having a kid would throw my world into disarray...

I just finished reading Reggie McNeal's Missional Renaissance, and I don't think I've been more excited and scared at the same time since a few weeks ago, when I discovered that we would be having a child in eight short months.

This is one of those books that forces me to look at the church in a whole new light--McNeal asks the church and its leaders to choose between church-ianity and Christianity. One of these is focused on sustaining the church, while the other is reaching out to proclaim the Word of God in exciting and life-changing ways. McNeal is hopeful that the church can be transformed from an institution that looks inward to one that looks out into the world and searches for the places that God is at work. The role of leaders is to set aside all the old assumptions and take up a radical call to a new way of being church--one focused on the development of people into disciples rather than developing programs.

It scares me, because I feel radically unequipped to take up such a task. It scares me because it is new, because it is different, because it requires change, and everyone knows that change is automatically bad, right?

And yet it is so very hopeful, because it recognizes that God is at work in so many places in so many ways, and Christ is inviting us to open our eyes and see what God is doing in the world. McNeal challenges us to set some old ways aside and take up the task of being the church in the world. Missional communities are not concerned with the church as an institution--they are focused on how they can proclaim the living and active Word of God to a world hungry to hear this truth. They are focused on being the church in their homes, in the neighborhoods, in schools and workplaces, etc. A missional communities' heart is wherever the people are, and it is reaching out, eager to spread the Word of God.

It will take work, and it will take prayer and change and hearts willing to be led by the Spirit.

I pray that I am willing to be led.

Are you?


Good morning, God.

Another day you have created and blessed. What wonders await in the coming hours? What grace shall be revealed as the sun tracks its way across the sky? What acts of love and mercy shall unfold as the light bathes us in your love?

I know not how you shall reveal yourself to this world today, but I trust that you love and grace, your mercy and peace, shall guide me in all that I do, as long as I am willing to listen to your voice and be transformed once more by the gift of your son, my Lord, Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139:14--"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well."

As I was talking to Adam tonight, we were both amazed at this whole thing, and I was talking about how small the baby way...

And ever since, I can't stop thinking about this--the baby is the size of a pencil eraser, and yet it has fingers!  And knees!  Think about how small those fingers must be...  How delicate and fragile everything is...  how fearfully and wonderfully made we are!

As labeled...

That's our baby. All .92 cm of it. (That's roughly the size of a pencil eraser) Crazy.

The machine says Rachel is about 7 weeks along.  Due date is 10/3.


In a little over an hour, we'll go for an ultrasound. Well, Rachel will go for an ultrasound, while I sit there and try to look useful. Pregnancy is kind of an odd practice in teamwork--there isn't a whole lot I can do until October, the doctor's aren't particularly interested in my body, Rachel's the one who undergoes all the changes and does all the work, yet it's 'our baby'. I feel a little bit guilty about taking some of the credit while she does all the work and has to deal with all the physical repercussions. Not that I can do anything about it...

I digress a bit. We'll go an ultrasound, a machine I know next to nothing about that magically (as far as I'm concerned it may as well be magic) grants images of Rachel's womb and the child growing inside. I keep trying to wrap my mind around the entire process, and maybe the image of a child will help inform how real it is, but it still feels like a bit of dream we're wandering around in. I'm not even sure it's my dream, and I don't know at what point it becomes real (maybe when the kid is a month old and I haven't slept 4 hours in a week, perhaps?), but it's as though I've intruded into some alternate reality where everything has changed despite the fact that nothing has changed. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

And yet, I have no problem forming dreams and hopes for this child. I have no problems praying for this child, that it may grow as a disciple. It's unreal, and yet so very real.

This week the child is apparently forming knees, and it's fingers are still webbed but growing longer. (Some day, if it's like my dad, the child will go and buy gloves with webbing in order to help it swim faster. I'm guessing it would prefer this rather than keeping the webbing that is currently there. But who am I to presume?) Miracles keep happening, moment by moment, cell by cell, and what was once the union of two cells is now an immensely complicated individual, with neural pathways and flexed wrists. The debate about when life begins seems so absurd to be laughable, if it were not so tragic, when things like knees and fingers are considered.

I am terrible at waiting. And yet, in the midst of God's miracle that is being performed inside my wife's womb, I wait in awe and wonder at what God is doing. I am humbled, excited, thrilled and terrified. And there are still many months to go!


Good morning, God.

Thank you for another day. Your grace extends from one horizon to the next, and it roams about the world, covering us in your love. In the dark of night I often rise and take comfort in the knowledge that you are present, that your love abides, that I am not alone.

Throughout the history of the world you have challenged your people, stretched their imaginations as they wondered about you. You called Joshua and Jacob, Adam and Abraham to be your children, and yet faith is never easy. You pointed their minds to a distant shore, and though they often grew weary and turned away, they always came back to a life of faith.

Lord, may I life with the same focus on you. May I accept the challenges you have set before me with a grateful heart filled with a passion for you. May the words I speak and the actions I take translate into something for the glory of the kingdom. May I not shrink, but rather open my eyes and search for signs of your kingdom at work.

All for your glory, Lord, all for you.


Monday, February 14, 2011


Good morning, God.

Thank you for another day. What a blessing this day it--it sits before me, waiting with wonder and anticipation what might fill it. I pray that you will show me how to fill it with love, with joy, with peace and with grace.

On this Valentine's Day, may I remember that it is your love that stands before all things, that sustains all things, that promises a future to all things. In your love is where I long to dwell, and I pray that your light may lead me to a place where I can turn from sin and from idols and worship you.

May this day be filled with joy for all the love that is rooted in your love.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

What faith might be

When Jesus Christ is Lord, I am possibility. 

When my idols and other temporary, inferior substitutes are granted lordship in my life, chaos ensues, it reigns, it flaunts its power from every corner of the psyche.  I shudder in fear of the choices I have made when I have handed over my allegiances and my love.

But when I hand Christ free reign over my heart and soul, suddenly I am freed from the shackles that bind me close to this earth, and I am free to soar on the winds of the Spirit's leading.  When I acknowledge that Christ is Lord over all of creation, suddenly there is a rush of wind and I recognize God's hand that is at work, that has always been at work, in my heart and in the hearts of those around me.  When I hand over my heart to my Lord and my Savior, I am suddenly no longer bound to worship at the false thresholds of those idols whose haunts I have too often frequented.  Suddenly I recognize the inferior quality of the food that I have been eating, and I recognize the spiritual feast to which I am called.  When Jesus Christ is Lord, I am awash in the beauty of a dance between Creator and Created, between blessed and blessing, between love and beloved.  When Jesus Christ is Lord, a voice booms over the chaos and calls order into being, and my life suddenly begins to take on meaning of a higher magnitude than I could previously imagine.

So much of life is commercialized, and I believe much of this exists to tame the passions, to dim the flame that burns within, to dampen the light of the Spirit that burns for Christ.  We buy in, accepting the leadership of so many willing leaders, and in doing so we hand over something.  We accept the view of the world that we receive, and our imaginations are somewhat shackled, preventing us from imagining what God might do, instead wondering how the past might repeat itself.

When we realize how tame we can be, and we hand the reins over to our beloved Savior, we suddenly realize that there is no ceiling, there is no depth, no limit to the love of God.  When we accept this Truth, our imaginations can run wild as we wonder what God might do next, what new wonder might be cast upon the seas of the world for us to marvel upon; how might God liberate us once more from our oceans of bad choices and false gods?  What mighty work is God preparing to unleash upon us, how might God speak in and through us, from unknown corners of the globe, calling to slumbering portions of the heart.

Rise, Christian, and follow the Spirit's call to a new way of life, one lived with passion and fire, with energy and love, where the goal is no longer to accumulate but to give, to spread, to be caught up in the dynamic and selfless love of Christ.

How might life be altered if we no longer accepted the church as a tame institution but recognized Christ's leadership of the church into every corner of life, from the boardroom to the playground to the sanctuary to the subdivision?  What if we recognized that Christ's Lordship cannot be confined to a certain hour of a certain day, but rather takes root at the Throne of God and pours forth in a torrent that cannot be contained?  How might we recognize the challenge that awaits us as one of a different magnitude, one that didn't consist of finding people for our pews, but rather one that was defined by the number of eyes that witnessed acts of love and grace, by the number of ears that heard the glorious name of Christ, by the number of hearts touched by selfless actions modeled after the imitation of Christ?  How might the world be forever changed if we recognized that Christ was already at work in the hearts and minds of those who pass by our often lifeless churches?  How might our prayers be altered if we no longer saw our responsibility as taking Christ to the world but showing up and acknowledging that Christ is already Lord of all there is?

Passion is a flame that can be dimmed by tedium, but it can also explode into every avenue of the world if we expand our hearts and minds and let the Spirit lead us to places where we would never go otherwise.  When we cower in fear, we let Satan savor his small victory in the heart--but when we fall on our knees before Christ and acknowledge him as Lord and Savior of all, Satan is the one who cowers, because he knows the full power of God can shake the foundations and shatter the idols to which we cling.  Satan knows that God tore the temple veil in two, he knows that death and sin have lost their sting, he knows that his grip upon us is a feeble and failing one, and yet he depends on our fear of a life lived with wild abundance to Christ our Lord.  We fear what this life might look like, so we shrink back, preferring the tame and the tangible to the unknown and unbounded.  The Spirit calls the soul to soar at heights unknown, and so often we choose to stay rooted in comfort to the reality we know, not recognizing that it is Christ that is true reality, Christ that is true life, true wonder, true joy and peace and grace and mercy, and that without Christ we cannot stand for a moment.  Even with Christ, perhaps we cannot stand, but only because we should instead fall prostrate before the throne of the Lamb that we might worship him forever and ever.

I know not the direction the church will take; I dare not presume that I understand where and how Christ is leading.  I only pray that I will be bold enough to follow the one who was willing to die upon the tree that we may have life.  I only pray that I will be willing to let the Spirit ignite the passion that waits within, that it may burst into a conflagration that gives glory to God, that my life might be a window to his saving grace, to his glorious love, to his awesome wonder and power and might, that my voice might be lifted up around the throne of God for his eternal praise and glory.  I pray that this might be true, that the entire church might sing the glorious praise songs of God, and that our voices might unite to create a thunderous rally cry that makes Satan quake in fear of what might be, that makes the angels dance with joy, that makes God glad, that leads other hearts to fall before him and confess him as Lord.  May the church look outward, at what might be, rather than backward at what has been, and may we do so with complete confidence in our Lord and Savior to lead us forward as the passionate people of God.

Friday, February 11, 2011



All you runnersInterfaith Hospitality is doing a 5k run (along with a 1 mile run/walk) on March 26. I’m thinking about doing the 5k run. Let me know if you’re interested!

Movie Night—Join us for movie night this coming Sunday @ 6:00.

East Brainerd Elementary—Thank you for your generosity! We collected almost 1,000 crayons, over 750 pencils, 150+ glue sticks and many other items to help the teachers!

Pray for…

Evelyn, as she recovers


What’s the economic value of a church?

Clean Chattanooga

It’s simply—you only have to identify a billion people, first.

Cracking the lottery

I do believe that Haiti may be the most heartbreaking place in the world

Text for this Week

Luke 12:35-48

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?”And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.

But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating.But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

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Keith’s blog

Top Gun

Maybe the Chinese should have played 'Danger Zone' as well

Thursday, February 10, 2011


God morning, God.

Snow can do amazing things. Snow covers everything beneath it, offering only subtle hints at the wonders that no longer taste the frigid air. When it falls in the night, I wake to see a new world, transformed by snow, clean and white.

May I remember that your grace does the same. It falls like the snow, blanketing my life in Christ's love and mercy. So often I forget, not trusting your grace. I think my sins are too much for you, but just as the tallest trees are not immune to the snow, so, too, my sins are each forgiven, as I cry out for mercy.

Renew my life as you have renewed the world, that as I go out I might remember my true identity and share that with everyone I meet. May I be a conduit of grace to the world on this day.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kidneys, Apps and Jesus

The baseball coach donates a kidney to one of his players.

The Catholic Church is endorsing an app to help make confession easier.

Amazing to compare these two stories--one seemingly has nothing to do with the church, while the other is all about the church.

Yet one teaches me far more about what it means to be a Christian. How am I willing to let every part of my life speak to my love of Christ? How am I willing to seek out opportunities to love selflessly? Am I going to love my neighbor without counting the cost, without putting qualifications on who my neighbor is?

Christ continues to challenge me, pushing on every understanding I have of what it means to follow. Eventually I'm going to come to the realization that every single second of life is an opportunity to worship my Almighty Creator, but I continue to find new ways to resist that call to discipleship.


Good morning, God.

I pray for the Bryants this morning. I don't understand death, but I believe that you have defeated it. I believe that you have placed it squarely beneath your foot and crushed its power in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it tries its best to exert control over us, and it still has the power to break hearts, to cause tears, to elicit pain. It may be only a shadow, but the darkness of death seems to loom strongly whenever it draws near. Be with the Bryants, Lord, and grant them the strength, peace and assurance that only your presence can give. Cover them in grace, that they may know you are near, and that Bill has passed through the shadow and into the fullness of life in Christ. May their pain and sorrow be matched by your great love, and may you strengthen the church to surround them with strength when they need it.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So it begins...

And so the journey begins... On or around October 3, life will change forever, for the better, and yet here I stand, humbly aware of the responsibility that awaits.

It seems like they should have a test for parenthood, as though being put in charge of a human life is a big enough responsibility that you shouldn't simply qualify because can be a parent. I went through more to get a driver's license. I've can't buy a beer without the proper identification--and yet in eight months, Rachel & I will suddenly have the largest responsibility in our lives--the task of safeguarding and guiding a small child into adulthood.

I am in awe of everything that happens. The mere biology of it is amazing enough, but to think that God can create a human being out of one cell boggles the mind.

I have never been more excited in my life about the years that await. I have no idea what I'm getting into, except for the fact that I will go into it without much sleep, and yet the sheer thought of being a father means more to me than words can express. It is a day, a moment I have looked forward to for years, and now that it draws near, has a date, I simply grin at the ineffable experience of watching a child grow.

I find myself praying in the dark of night, while Rachel sleeps, hoping that this child will grow safely into a Godly child. I pray for the child, and I pray for us, that we will shine with the light of Christ, with the light of His love, and that He will know God through our love. I pray that we will continue to grow, that God will guide us, and that the church will be blessed by this child. I pray that I will mature, that I will look past my selfishness and pour out love upon this child, whatever that may take.

Late at night, I stare at the ceiling, wondering about the days to come. I am told that the heart formed last week, and that eyelids now cover its eyes. Eyelids! Who gets excited about eyelids? I do now. I imagine fingers forming, curling and uncurling, as life courses through this child. I don't know how, but I trust in God, that all will work out well. We walk blindly into an unknown future, but always in the palm of God's hand, and trust that the light of Christ will lead us onward.

The Black Eyed Peas

  Who says Americans can't unite around a common cause?  Put of over 60,000 votes, a vast majority of the country, from red and blue states, and unanimously declared that the Black Eyed Peas gave an abysmal halftime show at the Super Bowl.  Even the 3500 votes that came in from outside of the country agree with the results.

  But then I started to wonder how I would feel if such a poll had similar results on the quality of my preaching.  What horrors would cross my mind if I knew someone took pleasure in my public humiliation?

  After all, it wasn't like the Black Eyed Peas tried to be terrible.  They didn't even do anything outlandish (Wardrobe malfunction, anyone?) or forget the words to their songs (I'm looking at you, Christina).  Sure, there were some terrible decisions made, like having Fergie sing with Slash, but they tried their best, didn't they?  Shouldn't I at least feel sorry for them, rather than delight in the backlash at their performance?  Does their downfall somehow elevate me?

  I can't figure out why I take pleasure in their failing.  It's not only the Black Eyed Peas--whenever public figures are falling, the American public seems to find ways to delight in their disgrace.  Sympathy and empathy often rarely show up in the conversation.  Do we take seriously the fact that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, crafted as his handiwork and beloved by him?  Do we hope and pray that each individual find the true and abundant life in Jesus Christ, and support them however possible when they fall, pointing to the cross and the resurrection, our hope in chaotic times?  Do we always point to Christ, to the love and compassion he showed to all people?

  I hope we do.  I hope I do.  I hope I view the difficult times of others (and myself) as opportunities to pray and to love, to witness to the endless love of Christ.

An email from Bert

What is Celibacy????

Celibacy can be a choice in life, or a condition imposed by circumstances.

While attending a Marriage Weekend, Frank and his wife Ann listened to the instructor declare,

“It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”

He then addressed the men.

“Can you name and describe your wife's favorite flower?”

Frank leaned over, touched Ann’s arm gently, and whispered,

“Gold Medal-All-Purpose, isn’t it?”
And thus began Frank's life of celibacy...


Good morning, God.

Here I am.  Sometimes I'm not sure what else to say, Lord.  I am grateful for the love you have poured into my life.  I'm grateful for the blessings that surround me, and the gifts you have given me.  I know and trust that the Holy Spirit is supposed to be my guide, to help me find the best ways to serve you in the world, but I sometimes struggle to see the light, and then I will admit I hesitate to follow.  I trust you, Lord, but I give in to the temptations of the world.  So I pray that this day might be lived with you, for you.

And Lord, I pray for the Bryants.  I pray for Bill as he struggles, as he wrestles, as he dwells in one of the thin places of life.  I pray for your peace for him.  Be with Sybil, too, as her heart breaks once more.  I don't understand how you are at work, Lord, but I trust that you are.  May they know your abiding and loving presence.

Be our Light for the darkness, Lord, and give us the courage and the boldness, the imagination and the love, to be your witnesses in the world.


Monday, February 7, 2011


Super bowl Sunday

<a href="" target="_new" title="">Bridgestone: Karma</a>

This was by far my favorite commercial in a Super Bowl filled with so-so commercials. I thought the game was great, which made up for the terrible music. Slash and Fergie will probably not be going on tour anytime soon.

It's amazing to think about how the Super Bowl has become such an event, where people are willing to pay $1000 just to park near the Stadium, where over 100k fans gathered inside the stadium, with plenty more paying $200 to watch the game on a big screen TV outside the stadium. So much of life grinds to a halt on Super Bowl Sunday.

At yet, at one point near the end of the game, one of the announcers said, 'the world is watching', and I thought, 'we are completely out of touch with the world if we believe that.' The world wasn't watching--the game starts at 11:30 at night in England, later in most of Europe, where football means something totally different. Protests in Egypt have not ground to a halt so that others can clearly see what the outcome of a challenge flag thrown by the Packers coach will be.

Is the Super Bowl a heck of a lot of fun to watch, a great event to celebrate with friends? Sure.

Should we keep it in perspective and be willing to pour the same amount of energy and resources into the global problems of poverty and violence? I hope so.

Imagine what might happen if the companies who were willing to pay $100k per second of advertising poured the same resources into the battle against hunger. Imagine what would happen if life in this country ground to a halt for an evening so we could do our best to ensure that no one had to sleep in the streets. Imagine what might happen if 100k people came together to worship Christ with the same energy they cheered on two football teams...

How can we make these dreams reality? How can we keep Christ above all?

Day by day--may we begin in prayer, and go forth from there, with eyes searching for opportunities to show God's love, with hands willing to serve and hearts ready to love.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday E-News

All you runnersInterfaith Hospitality is doing a 5k run (along with a 1 mile run/walk) on March 26.  I’m thinking about doing the 5k run.  Let me know if you’re interested! 

School Supplies—This Sunday will conclude our school supplies drive for East Brainerd Elementary.  Look for the insert in the bulletin--#2 pencils, glue sticks and crayons are the most requested items.  

Potluck this Sunday—Bring a dish to share! 

UTC Breakfast—If you want to attend but have not bought a ticket, you can pay $5 at the door.  It’s at Applebee’s on Brainerd Road, 8-9:45, this Saturday.

Pray for…
Ashley and Max, as they prepare for their wedding day!
Evelyn, as she recovers

New Hope News
Movie night is next Sunday, 2/13, at 6!


Spiritual in a CrazyBusy World retreat at Montreat in May/June

Text for this Week

Luke 12:22-34

He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


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