Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mr. Rogers & You

Take a few minutes, watch that speech, read this article, and say a prayer--how can you engage with the world around you, being a part of God's restorative and redemptive love?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  I feel as though I should admit, up front, that I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan.  Perhaps that impairs my ability to see and criticize clearly, or perhaps that should make me criticize more boldly, but it strongly colors how I see his works.  Last night, Rachel and I watched the latest Chronicles of Narnia installation, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  And we both loved it.

  Now, this movie came out some time ago.  I seem to remember, back in the cobwebs of my mind, that it was not entirely well-received.  Correct me if I am wrong here, but I don't believe the reaction to this movie was a great one.  I also believe this is the last one they planned to make, which I now find to be terribly disappointing.  It's only the third in the series, and since it's not my money, I'm all in favor of them making them all!  (Seeing as how the Dawn Treader apparently has brought in over $450 million, I'm not sure these guys are hurting for money.)

  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is, at the heart, a story of transformation.  Eustace, Lucy & Edmond's terribly annoying cousin, is brought along to Narnia for the voyage to search for the lost seven elders in a lonely and magical group of islands.

  The voyage is filled with adventure, intrigue and danger, all the things that make movies great.  There is plenty of suspense, and the film is beautifully done.  Even without Lewis' Christian message that is at the heart of the story, this is a great movie.

  But the Narnia stories aren't meant just to be exciting stories.  They're meant to tell a greater story, The story, of God's great love and how he is at work in us.  We see Aslan, we hear his voice and his message, and we are meant to examine our own lives, to see the places we have fallen short of how we are called to live.  We draw courage from God the same way the children in the story draw courage from Aslan--though we may not be sailing the seas, we, too, live an adventure for God.

  The transformation of Eustace is complete.  C.S. Lewis uses this great story to invite us into transformation.  Will we follow, or will we sit safely on the couch?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


  Does this post exist for the sole purpose of bragging about the fact that I got third place in my age group (and there were more than 3 people in it!) in the Sevierville Triathlon?


  I just have to admit that it was amazing the emotions that went through my head when Rachel called me after the race.  She told me she had finally felt what she was certain was the baby's first kick.  (warming up for soccer season, no doubt.  Perhaps we'll name him Pele!)

  Suddenly, the feat I had just accomplished paled in comparison to this small child's blind kick.  All that I have done is suddenly placed in contrast to the life that exists in the womb.

  And I couldn't be more excited about it.

  Rachel and I have talked for a long time about this child.  I am so thrilled to share this adventure with a wide-eyed young man, a boy for whom I have the honor of living.  I get to pass along all the things I've learned, the wisdom from the mistakes and the lessons from the triumphs.  He may well ignore the good parts, but I have the opportunity to dedicate my life to the raising of this child, to do all that I can to help this young boy become a man of God.

  What a privilege.  What an honor.

  It puts my own life in perspective--I can live my life to the fullest, but I now have the great joy of a young man to live for.  May I do so in such a way as to teach him well how to seek God with all his heart, to hate sin and love neighbor.

  (and perhaps I'll place in a few more triathlons, too!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eugene Peterson

  I feel as though God is doing something mighty in this world.  For years, I've been trying to figure out what I have/need to do in order to take part in this.
  Of late, I'm beginning to recognize that it isn't about what I need to do--it's about who I need to be.  I need to be a disciple, and only then will my eyes begin to open to what God is doing in the world, and after this experience I will be ready to go out into the world and do.  I have spent years setting the cart before the horse and wondering why I do not progress down the narrow way; it is because my own efforts can never get me there--only by dwelling in the work and love of Christ can I ever become the person, the disciple, my soul longs to be.

  Eugene Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places is the latest signpost I have on this journey of recognition.  It's not the book to read if you want easy answers on how to grow a church in two months.  But it's a fabulous book to read about what it means to be a disciple during this lifelong journey with Christ.  Peterson focuses on how Christ plays in creation, history and relationships, and I could expound for pages on each section, but the heart of Peterson's work on spiritual theology is the importance of discipleship, of a deep and abiding relationship with God.
  We can't solve our problems with enough thinking or neat solutions or packaged programs--only Christ centered discipleship that originates in the heart will help us see the way Christ is at work in the world, in our lives, and in our relationships.  Peterson drags us away from our idolatrous images of Christ in the heavens and points us to the dirt under the fingernails of Christ, God turned man who walked, lived and loved among us.

  This book isn't easy, and it may frustrate the reader if one enters the book expecting easy answers and to-do lists.  Just as with Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, this book is about recognizing that all of life must be centered on Christ, and a discipleship focused life can only begin after this first step is taken.  It will take many months, many years on this journey--but it is worth a lifetime's effort of loving Christ above all and seeing Christ in others and the world, because that is who we are called to be, and all the easy answers we long for will never help us develop into the people we long to be, into the people God has created us to be.

  Read it and be challenged, that Christ may continue to work in you, forming you as a disciple.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Ministry

  Over the past 3.5 years I've been trying to find the words to describe what it means for me to be a pastor in the church.  At times, I've found different language that suits this task.  My most current language...

As a pastor, I believe I am called--

To awaken minds
  Ravaged by the storms
  Broken by the world
  Weary of the work

To impassion hearts
  For Christ alone, and all that He has created

To empower lives
  To be lived within God's mission field

To make disciples
  Formed by God's Holy Spirit
  Alert to the cries of the needy
  Alive to the community of faith
  In love with God, self and neighbor.


  The baby this week is over 6 inches long!  It's roughly the size of a cantaloupe.  Perhaps it's a small cantaloupe.  I don't know.

  We're over halfway there!  It's hard to believe some days that there will be a baby in our lives in a few short months.  We still have much to do to get the house ready, but I think that our minds are starting to be prepared for it.  Seeing the ultrasound last week made a huge difference, I think.  Being able to see him move his arms and feet, watching him wriggle around, brought home the reality of this baby.  Rachel's starting to get bigger and bigger, so that, too, helps prepare us for the baby. Perhaps it is fitting that as his skeleton hardens, as the bone hardens from their previous, more rubbery state, the reality of the baby hardens in our lives.

  What will change?

  Just everything.

  And we're thrilled about it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5/19 E-News


UTC Fundraiser—June 11 will be UTC’s next pancake breakfast fundraiser!  It’ll be at the O’Charley’s on Gunbarrel—please see me, Beth M, or Lizz for tickets!  ($5)

Outreach Committee Meeting—Tonight @ 5:30 in the McMillan Building.  Be there if you’re interested in helping the church reach out.

Interested in helping out?—Several of us are going over to the McCuiston’s tomorrow to help move some tree limbs that came down in the storm.  Call/Email Keith tonight if you’d like to help.

Bike Rides—if you’re interested in going out for a bike ride, talk with Roger, he’s got some different options for you.

New Hope News
Avery is at home, doing well in rehab. 


Pray for…
Those who cry out in need to the Lord, that they may know the infinite love of God.

Are you worried about what will happen to your pets after the rapture?  Worry no more!

If you want to see pictures of our son (!!!!!), click here.

Quote of the day.
“I went in with the youthful vigor that I could single-handedly change the world. But you fast come to the realization that you’re 1/435th of one-half of one-third of the government.” - Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) on first-year Republican members of Congress finding out how difficult it is to get things done in Washington. (From Sojourners)

Text for this Week

Luke 15:11-32
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”


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Don Miller

The world's success is not equivalent to faithfulness to God.

Can You Imagine?

  Can you imagine God's joy?

  Just think--God is infinite and infinitely complete.  God lacks nothing, has a perfect relationship in the Trinity, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, forever loving, forever complete.

  And yet, at one point, with utter joy and total generous freedom, God decided to create the earth, and to fill it with wondrous creations.

  Can you imagine God's joy at seeing the earth take shape?

  Can you hear God's voice--Let's put blue feathers on that parrot!  Let's create a mighty oak from that tiny seed!  Let's cap that mountain with clouds, and dust the landscape with flowers of every shade!!  We can place white sand on this beach, and pink sand over here!  What fun! 

From Job 39-40:
  "Do you give the horse its might?  Do you clothe its neck with mane?"
  "Is it by your wisdom the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south."
  "Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox.  Its strength is in its loins, and its power in the muscles of its belly."

  And then God creates human, male and female, not because God has to, but because God wants to.  And despite all the sins we have, do and will commit, God continues to love us, to love us, out of infinite grace and love.

  Do you see yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made?  Do you imagine the joy God has in creating and loving you?

  Or have we lost our sense of wonder?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daily Stuff

The link between drinking coffee and preventing prostate cancer seems to be growing stronger.

We have a satellite dedicated to observing the levels of salt on the ocean surface.

The Henri Nouwen society.

Dragonboats are this weekend!

National Geographic says this photo is real.  I find that hard to believe.

Yes, there is sex trafficking here in Hamilton County.  No, I don't like to think about it, either.  These guys are working to stop it.

May 21 @ 6 PM

  Harold Camping is clearly not a horse racing fan

  Camping has announced that the world is ending this Saturday, May 21, at 6 PM.  (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he thinks Jesus is not a horse-racing fan.  Post time for the Preakness is 6:05.  It would be interesting to see what would happen if a jockey was raptured during the race.  What would the horse do?  Or what if the horse was raptured, and the jockey wasn't?  [Can horses be raptured?  God can do anything, right?]  I suppose the impending drama isn't worth missing the rapture for, but would be interesting nonetheless)

  There are plenty of other big questions, including whether or not I should bother to write a sermon this week.  Perhaps the biggest is why anyone believes this guy, seeing as how he pulled the same stunt in 1994.  In case you're curious, no, the world didn't end then.  Somehow, though, he has corrected his math, and is certain this time.  So all sorts of people have quit their jobs and are racing around the country to advertise the end of the world.  I imagine that God encourages conversion based on a little more than fear of the end of the world (love for Christ would be good), but what do I know?

  By now, (if you're still reading this) you're undoubtedly curious as to how Mr. Camping arrived at May 21.  He did so by the delightfully advanced technique of multiplying 5, 10 and 17 together twice.  This comes out to 722,500.  He then added these days to April 1, 33 AD, the supposed date of the crucifixion.  That gets us to this coming Saturday.  He says 5,10 and 17 are holy numbers.  That's all well and good, but I'd say 3, 7 and 12 are more common in the Bible, meaning that the rapture happened a while ago.  But let's not ask too many questions here.

  Obviously, Mr. Camping is not big on Jesus telling us Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man comes. (Matt. 25:13).   I guess Jesus taught some math lessons somewhere else in the Gospels.

  Will the world end sometime?  Yep.

  Will it be a date and time that is announced by a publicity-seeking Christian?  I doubt it.

  I imagine Christ will descend from the heavens when Christ is ready to do so, not a minute before, and while we may know about it beforehand, I don't think we should need advance warning to be ready.  Let us live such holy lives with such love for God, self and neighbors that we will regret nothing when Christ descends as a bride adorned for the church.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daily Stuff

I do not possess words to describe how crazy this is.

25,000 Big Macs.  I don't even want to eat one.

Does God exist?  One person's attempt to prove the answer is yes.

God's essential role in the universe.

Happiness on two wheels.

I received this in the mail the other day.  It's too awesome for words.


Good morning, God.

  You have created a world filled with beauty and splendor.  You have called forth light into a dark world, and as the sun rises each morning it reveals a new day, a new world.  You are magnificent, wondrous, and I praise you for all that you have done.  Thank you, Lord, for today.  You didn't have to sustain creation today.  You didn't have to hold me in your arms all night and give me the gift of one more day.  But you did--and I thank you.

  As I go into the world, may my eyes stay wide in wonder, and may my heart search for the places where you are at work.  May my hands and feet be ready to follow, and may my heart be ready to love.  Teach me, Lord, to follow you today, and teach me how to be led.  You are good, and I aspire to be--may what I offer today be acceptable to you.


Monday, May 16, 2011


I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my squishy.

  Everyone quotes Shakespeare when they're talking about names.  I'm more of a Finding Nemo kind of guy.

  Rachel and I had a name all picked out for a girl.  We were 95% certain what we would name her, and while we thought about boys' names, nothing sounded quite right.  We figured we had a 50% chance this wouldn't be a problem.  It now is.  Maybe not a problem, so much, as it is a dilemma.  What shall we name this beautiful baby boy?

  We have a few general guidelines that we've discussed.  (Well, I've discussed them with myself.  Some of them I've talked about with Rachel.  I'm pretty sure she'd agree on all of them.  Guess I'll find out when she reads this.  That makes it sound like we have bigger communication problems in our marriage, but we don't.  Not that I know of, or not that she's told me about.  But I digress...)

  1)  It has to be a name easy to pronounce.  Since Rachel's mom is a teacher, we understand the difficulty of having a kid correct the teacher (and many others) on how to say his name.

  2)  It has to be fairly easy to spell.  It's frustrating to always be correcting people whenever they write your name.  People spell my name wrong about 30% of the time, and it gets old correcting them.  We don't want to give them a name that requires correcting 90% of the time.

  3)  It doesn't have to be Biblical.  I have gone back and forth on this one, and I felt pretty guilty about it for a while.  (Ah, guilt, you old friend.  What would I do without you?)  Then I realized that none of the names in the Bible were Biblical until the people lived in such a way as to get them included in the Bible.  On the 8th day, God did not create a list of approved names.  That said, we're probably not going to name the kid Judas.

  4)  It can't be easily made fun of by a middle schooler.  Middle school is difficult enough.

  5)  It can't remind me of a truly awful movie.  (So we probably have to leave off Indiana.  Thanks, George Lucas, for ruining that one.)

  6)  It shouldn't rhyme with something offensive.  See rule #4.

  7)  The secretary at church said it should flow well, so when you shout at the child for playing in traffic or trying to tie the cats' tails together it won't be awkward.

  That's about it.  There are a lot of names that fit within these guidelines, so we have a number of names to choose from.  For a while, I thought that Santa fit all these guidelines.  It's easy to spell, and everyone has heard of it.  Then I realized how tough it would be for the kid when everyone was running around in 5th grade saying they don't believe in Santa.  (If you still believe in Santa, pretend you never read this paragraph.  And you should probably stop using the internet--it's only going to get worse.)

  We've got some time to work on it and choose something, but I'd like to at least have some options that sound good.  I don't think we'll be keeping it a secret, but I'll have to ask Rachel about that.  Perhaps we will be...

Daily Stuff

Protecting Your Kids

What evangelism looks like in some places

What's a public library for?

Sex has consequences

A pretty awesome picture of the space shuttle from a plane window

Should you take the Bible literally?  (as is often the case, the answer is more complicated than we like to imagine)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/14 E-News

Wednesday Night Canceled—We’re going to go ahead and cancel the final Wednesday Night Supper of the year.  This is so that construction on the McMillan Building can begin as soon as a contractor is selected.  I look forward to picking up in the fall.  Perhaps we’ll do Romans again?  (Seriously, though, if you have something that you’d love to study, let me know)

Service—If you are interested in doing some cleanup from the tornadoes in Cleveland, please let me know.  I can connect you with teams that are going to serve there. 
UTC Fundraiser—June 11 will be UTC’s next pancake breakfast fundraiser!  It’ll be at the O’Charley’s on Gunbarrel—please see me, Beth M, or Lizz for tickets!  ($5)

New Hope News
Avery McCuiston is in Siskin, healing from his surgery. He’ll be home Sunday morning.

As announced at the Presbytery meeting yesterday, May 3, 2011, the Presbytery's Disaster Response Committee is requesting volunteers to go to Bradley County immediately to assist with clean-up after last week's tornadoes. We would like to have "Teams" to go. If you volunteer as an individual, we may consolidate you into a team once your name is submitted. Teams will be working together.
Besides volunteering to do general clean-up, we would also like individuals who have experience in handling chain saws and can bring one with them. We know of a crew in Center Church and there is a crew already developing in Greenback.
Please call the Presbytery Office if you can be a part of a clean-up team - 865-688-5581 or 800-542-4246.

Text for this Week

Luke 15:1-10
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
 So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

The Parable of the Lost Coin
 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’


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Friday, May 13, 2011


  I find myself staring at that ultrasound image, amazed at what I see.  I knew the ultrasound would be an incredible moment that would impact me in ways unknown, but sitting in that darkened room, watching as life unfolded before me, the wriggling, 11 oz. baby boy that is my son, I was in awe of what God has done.  Like a tidal wave washing over me, immersing me in ineffable emotions, the glory of the unborn babe was displayed on a television screen, and as I watched arms and legs glide and stretch, I wondered how on earth I could ever put into words the emotions I was feeling.  Awe.  Pure awe.

  As I sit, now, several days later, I am still gazing at the images, frozen in time, of the baby boy who will, God willing, grow into a man someday.  He is my son, and yet I owe everything to God, for the 9 months of pregnancy are nothing less than a miracle.  I have seen into the chambers of his heart, into his brain, and there is nothing there but miracle, cell by precious cell, building blocks of what I pray will turn into a man of God.

  Is it fair for me to dream about a childhood that has barely begun?  Dare I wonder what his laugh will sound like, what it will look like when he smiles, or what it will feel like when he takes me in his tender arms and embraces me with love enough to drown out the chaos of a thousand centuries?  Am I so bold as to dream of the love I can have for a child not yet born, a love that already bursts forth like water breaching a dam, flooding every corner of my life with wonder?

  I have been spending the last twenty nine years preparing for this moment, for the birth of this miracle.  I can scarcely imagine what it will feel like to see him in the flesh, wriggling and gasping for air like the wonder of God that he is, filled with life and desperate to announce his presence.  I may not weep, but every ounce of my soul will sing with joy as I watch him proclaim the mystery of life with arms and legs that do not yet know their strength to capture my heart, but reach for the life beyond, trying to grasp everything that awaits.

  Life draws near, as I transition from husband to father, from son to parent, and I begin anew, with fear and trepidation, with hope and joy lingering in all that I do, as I await the coming of my son, my joy.

Details, Details

It has been brought to my attention that I may have omitted a detail in the last post on this blog.

It's a boy!

I don't think anyone had told me they suspected it was a boy. Plenty of people thought it would be a girl. One person had a dream, and I had a strong feeling that it would be a girl. I don't know why, but we were all wrong.

It's a boy!

I have a son...

And now, so many questions arise--

Will he like baseball? (Yes)

Will his ACL be stronger than mine? (We can only hope)

Will he be tall? (Probably)

Will he play soccer? (Of course)

Will he be able to sing? (He can't sing worse than I do!)

Will he appreciate Mel Brooks' movies? (I hope so)

Will I, like Jor-El, have to launch him to another planet someday in the only hope for providing for his future? (I hope not--I don't have a space ship)

I think those are all of them.  Glad we have that cleared up.

  I still am trying to grasp everything I saw in that ultrasound yesterday.  It was amazing to view the baby in such detail, so see the chambers of the heart that God has created, to watch tiny hands open and close, squirm and wriggle, to see a nose and eyes and the lens of the eyeball--each tiny, significant detail brought wonder so close to the surface that I could sense it in every fiber of my being.  That small, dark room was transformed into a sanctuary where I was able to worship the Lord of all creation, who crafts each child and calls them by name.

  Speaking of names, we have no idea.  We had a girls' name picked out and ready to go--we had discussed it before we got pregnant, but had never stumbled upon a name for a boy.  It looks like we'll have to do that.

  I find myself looking forward with joy to so many father-son experiences--what an incredible privilege, a gift from God.  I have a son, and joy washes over me once more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Amendment #10A

Amendment 10A

  The newly approved language of the PC(USA)'s constitution has changed the language for what is required to be ordained in the denomination. The language of fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness has been dropped in favor of joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of life. Of course, now the burden is on the ordaining bodies to determine what joyful submission to the Lordship of Christ looks like.

  In my own life, my attitude toward sin is, more often, described by the phrase:  "You can have my sin when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."  I usually don't say that to the Lord directly, but in the choices I make and the self-serving habits that I continue to dwell within, I am often muttering those words to God, over and over.

  In God's infinite grace, I imagine him saying, "I will do so.  And once more I will cast it into the depths of the sea, and my love will transform you, as it has done in your creation, as it has done in your baptism, and as it will do for all of eternity.  My love, my grace, my mercy is sufficient."

  Were I to be ordained today, and if I was asked if I was joyfully submitting, I would be forced to hold up the Gospels and reply that since the Lord set the bar for submission so high, including such absurdities as 'love your enemies' and 'pray for those who persecute you', I typically am dragged into submission, often kicking and screaming, if I'm not actively fleeing from it.

  Now that doesn't mean that I don't long for joyful submission.  I would love to joyfully submit.  It's just that my sin gets in the way, and after all these years together, we're old friends, sin and I, and I so often hesitate before turning from sin.  My very soul longs for joyful submission, and I recognize it as a marker of the abundant life to which Christ calls me--yet I'm not there.  Only upon the completion of my baptism will I really and truly be there--it is my solemn prayer that I at least make some progress while I wander this way here on earth.

  Many governing bodies will decide that homosexuality falls outside of joyful submission--they believe that the Scriptural record is clear and the statement that it is sin is consistent to today, rather than confined to that context.  I understand this argument.  I don't necessarily agree with it--I believe we understand and view homosexuality different than we did 2,000 years ago.  If it is true that homosexuality is not a choice, that those individuals were born that way, (and I believe them when they say that this wasn't a choice, that it is who they are in the core of their being) than I have a hard time seeing that as sinful.  And, if that isn't sinful, and they are seeking to live a life of faithfulness just as I am, trying to form covenanted and committed relationships and wrestle with what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Christ here, in 21st century America, then why am I more qualified to be a leader in Christ's church than they?  Many of these same governing bodies would ordain me, a selfish and often unrepentant sinner, who forgets to pray and sometimes neglects to love my friends, let along my enemies.

  I know this issue deeply divides us as Christians, as Presbyterians.  We have invested untold hours, money and energy into the issue, and we are not now finished.  It shall continue to divide us, and many will grieve over it.  Some will leave the church over it, while perhaps others will join the church because of it.  Old friends may cease to speak with one another, and new friendships will be made.  The denomination will rock, some churches may roll on out, and much will be lost, while still much will be gained.

  I know that Christ will continue to lead the church.  We will follow more faithfully in some ways than others. We will probably continue to neglect the poor and powerless and listen attentively to those with money and cultural sway.  We will fail to look outward, and the inward battle will rage.

  It is my hope that I, that our church, will prayerfully follow Christ, with an open Bible before us, seeking God's will.  It is my solemn prayer that we will look beyond what divides us, recognize our disagreements, and live with them, focusing our efforts, our energies, on proclaiming Christ's love to a world in desperate need of it.  Some will feel they cannot live with those who view this issue differently, that they cannot work with them, that they are too far gone--I hope that we have grace enough within us all to work together, and to look at the bigger issues that face the church and focus on those.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Those are the bottoms of the feet.

Easily the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

Daily Stuff

How's your silence coming along?

What does the Qur'an really say about Jihad?

Are humans born to lie?

New Hope Update:
Avery is in Siskin & says he is doing well, with no pain in his knees!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Week 19

  It's a mango!  Hooray for mangoes!

  The baby is about 6.0 inches this week, officially over 8 ounces!  Hair is supposedly sprouting this week, and it's a crucial time for developing sensory areas, such as taste and smell.

  Tomorrow is, of course, the big day--ultrasound day.  We're both pretty excited about it, wondering what sex the baby might be.  Someone in church seems to think it's a girl, and for some reason, I think it is, too, but that's not based on much fact...just a guess.  We're not leaning one way or the other, just excited to know, thrilled at the chance to see the baby again.

  In the meantime, while you wait anxiously, enjoy the first thing mangoes made me think of....


  I'd had Restrepo in the Netflix queue for a long time.  It's not one of those movies you sit down and watch on a casual Tuesday evening when you're hoping to relax.  On Wednesday night, Rachel and I watched Shaun of the Sheep.  Restrepo is a big step away from claymation.  But with all the recent news of war echoing across the world, between Tim Hetherington's death in Libya, one of the two men who filmed Restrepo, and with Osama Bin Laden having been killed last Monday, I thought it was due time I watched Restrepo.

  Restrepo is a documentary about an outpost in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan, named after one of the men who was killed early in the tour.  The outpost they establish in the valley is named after Doc Restrepo, and the film is about the lives of the men who fight their way around the valley, under constant attack in a foreign land, far from home.

  It's a movie that's hard to describe.  It's well done, in that it captures the men at rest and in war.  It highlights the tedium of waiting and the fear and terror of the attack.  I think, more than anything, it captures the challenge of this war.  I can't imagine what those soldiers go through, how they stay motivated to fight these battles so far from home, how they deal with the immense complexities and manage to stay focused to stay sane.

  And then the country expects them to come home and simply resume where they left off, pretending that this was just another episode in their normal lives, like they're supposed to forget everything they've seen and just fit right back into society.

  This documentary is hard to watch.  There are some funny moments, but I constantly worried for their lives.  I can't imagine being out on patrol, filled with the knowledge that the enemy may attack at any time.  I don't know how they do it.

  Restrepo renews my appreciation for the sacrifices the Armed Forces make.  I am grateful that they do what they do in the hopes of making this world a safer place.  They are sent around the globe, to places I've never heard of and can't pronounce, and they're expected to do everything right, every day, with people they can't see shooting at them.  I am grateful for their sacrifice & for the sacrifice of their families.

  And I hope and pray they can all come home safely.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sweet Potato

  I know many of you are chomping at the bit to know what fruit best compares to our child this week.  The answer to the question that is keeping you up late at night:  the sweet potato.  (What's the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  I have no idea.)

  The baby is about 5.5 inches long this week, if you can believe it.  It weighs a little under 7 oz, so we're getting close to 1/2 lb.  It's growing and growing, just like Rachel is!  (Only don't tell her she's getting fat.  I don't think I'd like that any more than she does.  Let's use the word pregnant, folks, because she's got a great reason to grow.  To help support that growth, I did make a rhubarb cheesecake this week, and in my very humble opinion, it was darn good.  For the recipe, go here.  But I digress...)

  Tuesday is the big day--that's when we go to the ultrasound.  (How long ago does this last ultrasound seem?  ) I'm getting more excited about this every day.  Just the chance to see the baby and how much it's grown is exciting, and the chance to know the sex of the baby will be great.  Neither of us are leaning one way or another, but we're both looking forward to knowing.

  We'll be at 19 weeks next Monday--halfway there!  Hard to believe some days, but we're both so excited about the baby and all that it brings.  Except for that not sleeping part.  I'm so not excited for that... but it's well worth it.  (Remind me of this statement in December, please.)

  And just so you know how awesome Rachel is... sweet potatoes remind me of the time we went over to this wonderful old couple's house for dinner during my internship.  They made a sweet potato pie for dessert, and it was fourteen different kids of amazing.  I think I may have been licking the plate when I realized how slowly Rachel was eating it, not a particularly big fan of this particular pie--but she ate it, all of it if I remember correctly, and you never would have know that it wasn't her choice for dessert.

  This was before we went to Canterbury and I introduced Rachel to the world's greatest apple pie a la mode.  I love pie, especially with ice cream.  But I suppose that's another story for another day.

5/5 E-News


Living Waters—Next Wednesday, they will be out guests on Wednesday night as we discuss the Living Waters program in Appalachia.

Hubfest—This Saturday, from 11-5 @ Heritage Park. 

Youth Worship—This Sunday. 

New Hope News
Avery McCuiston’s knee surgery this morning went well.  (His birthday is on Saturday.  Let’s not forget to celebrate it!)

As announced at the Presbytery meeting yesterday, May 3, 2011, the Presbytery's Disaster Response Committee is requesting volunteers to go to Bradley County immediately to assist with clean-up after last week's tornadoes. We would like to have "Teams" to go. If you volunteer as an individual, we may consolidate you into a team once your name is submitted. Teams will be working together.
Besides volunteering to do general clean-up, we would also like individuals who have experience in handling chain saws and can bring one with them. We know of a crew in Center Church and there is a crew already developing in Greenback.
Please call the Presbytery Office if you can be a part of a clean-up team - 865-688-5581 or 800-542-4246.


Pray for…


Text for this Week

The kids will be leading us in worship this coming Mothers’ Day!

New Hope on Facebook
New Hope on iTunes

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daily Stuff

The most quoted verses on Twitter/Facebook after Osama's death was announced.

'Amazing' volunteer efforts in Chattanooga

You can raft the Middle Ocoee this weekend for $15 that goes to benefit a staff member at Outdoor Adventure Rafting who lost everything

Baseball in Alabama post tornado.

An announcement from the Presbytery of East Tennessee:  
As announced at the Presbytery meeting yesterday, May 3, 2011, the Presbytery's Disaster Response Committee is requesting volunteers to go to Bradley County immediately to assist with clean-up after last week's tornadoes. We would like to have "Teams" to go. If you volunteer as an individual, we may consolidate you into a team once your name is submitted. Teams will be working together.
Besides volunteering to do general clean-up, we would also like individuals who have experience in handling chain saws and can bring one with them. We know of a crew in Center Church and there is a crew already developing in Greenback.
Please call the Presbytery Office if you can be a part of a clean-up team - 865-688-5581 or 800-542-4246.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sit still!

  How often have you heard a parent say to a child:  Sit still! 

  We reprimand children for fidgeting, for constantly being in motion, for running around the room rather than sitting quietly.  We wonder why they can't act like grown ups, forgetting that they have a way to go before they actually grow up.

  And yet, Rachel wonders with awe at every new sensation in her stomach--is that the baby?  is that a kick? 

  The baby is in full motion, swinging arms and feet wildly, as though it were a baby bird trying to claw its way out of the egg.  (thankfully, the womb is a bit sturdier than an egg.)  She waits, eagerly, for the first definite sensation of movement.

  I have no doubt that we will, at some point, urge this child to sit still.  But for now, we wait eagerly for the first movements, filled with awe at the process of growth.

Daily Stuff

Quite possibly the best article I've read about Bin Laden's death

I think Maurice Sendak needs a hug.

"But television is more important than food!"

Are countries poor because they are violent or violent because they are poor?

National Day of Prayer:
  This Thursday is National Day of Prayer.  (As Christians, we should be praying every day.  I guess we are supposed to pray even more on Thursday?)  If you're interested, you can gather at the Samaritan Center at Noon for community prayer.


This whole pregnancy process is a bit new to me.  It's a bit strange, for when you step back and take a look at it, you're basically stepping into a completely new phase without much control.  You can't control when the baby cries, when the baby sleeps, when it decides that it's going to scream for an hour straight.  (I know, there are things you can do...but at the end of the day, you only have so much control)  You can't exactly put in requests for a certain type of baby--you just get whatever pops out, and you deal with it.

They do all sorts of screenings for all sorts of diseases, and while these tests, from what little I know, aren't 100% accurate, they do produce all sorts of anxiety and stress while you're waiting for them to come back.  Unfortunately, you can't request that a baby not have some sort of disorder or disease...you just have to hope.  And wait.

All of our screenings came back normal.  <Whew>  I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear that message on the answering machine.  All is well, for now.  Thanks be to God.

The Divine Conspiracy

  "God is up to something really big in this world and in your heart."

  That's a quote from John Ortberg in the short video below, describing Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, which I just finished.  I had been reading a lot of different authors who quoted Willard, and it occurred to me that perhaps actually reading something by Dallas Willard might be the next, logical step.

  And what a step it is.

  This book is well worth your time, and it takes considerable time to read it.  It clocks in at 400 pages on the nose, and each of them is filled with thought-provoking ideas, each one orbiting God's Kingdom and instructing the reader on a life that does the same.

  Willard begins with a discussion on God's Kingdom, and it is eye opening to have someone else describe how different God's Kingdom is than the one in which we currently live.  God values different things than American society does, and we have become numb to the differences--we don't think about the idea that to truly follow Jesus, to be a disciple, we have to live differently, with the same values that Christ has, rather than our own.

  He continues from this discussion to focus on how we get there.  Willard wants the reader to shape his life around Christ, to begin to live in the Kingdom now.  I could write for days, but I couldn't do Willard justice--read it for yourself, chew on it, and let it make you uncomfortable.  We have to change to follow Christ, and as hard as the change may be, it is absolutely necessary if we want to be disciples.  It isn't enough to simply say yes with our mouths--our hearts and our lives must follow Christ if we truly want to be his disciples.  Willard harps on discipleship quite a bit, and rightly so--we aren't doing the work to grow into disciples, he believes, work that is absolutely necessary.

  This is a deep, thick book, but each page is worth your time.  Read it, and let it change you, leading you deeper into study and service, but most importantly, love of our awesome God!


Good morning, God.

  Thank you for another day.  There are so many that have not received one more day--I am grateful for your grace that sustains me for this day.  May I live it with purpose.

  I pray, Lord, for those whose lives have been devastated by these storms.  I pray for their wounded hearts, for their shattered lives.  You have promised to speak words of order into our chaos--I pray for those words now, that you might speak through the churches, that we might show Christ's love to those in need, to those who need stability.  I pray that the citizens of this region will reach out to one another in love and mercy, helping them rebuild, helping them grieve.  Show us how to serve, Lord, and give us hearts to see the needs.  Your mercy extends from generation to generation.

  I pray for peace, too.  This world is a violent place, filled with some people who seem to love violence.  Give us peaceful hearts, that we might focus on loving one another, on loving our enemies, that we might love the violence right out of this world.  May we pray for peace and work for justice, lending our voices to those of the oppressed.  Grant us the words, Lord, to speak.

  May this day glorify you.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Daily Stuff

Don't forget to wish happy birthday to the King James Bible!  (And here's a great article about why it endures)

Want to help disaster victims in the Southeast?  PDA is a good place to start.  Giving blood is another.

An interesting perspective on the royal wedding.  (An event that I did not have to watch one minute of, thanks be to God!)

Mothers' Day ideas