Sunday, January 21, 2007

Simon Says

One of my favorite faith-filled movies is Simon Birch...the story of a young boy with a heart of God and the faith of a man several decades older than he is. Simon has a heart problem that hinders his growth and threatens his life. This movie takes a deeper look at faith and challenges some of the things that tend to get in the way of our faith. Among the thought provoking ideas this movie raises are the following:

--God has a plan for your life.

Now, when I was in seminary this statement caused problems. One of my professors said that this is a very risky statement because what if your life takes a terrible turn for the worse? Did God will that to happen? But, the way I view this statement is that ultimately God wants the best for each of us in our lives. Just like a parent, God wishes nothing but the best for us. Now, just like children, it doesn't mean that we'll always fulfill what God desires but still the same God wishes us the best.

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Another issue that Simon raises in this movie is a question of priorities. One day in church the pastor is inviting everyone to join him and his family for donuts and coffee after the service.

--And Simon asks, "What do coffee and donuts have to do with God?"

Sometimes we get so tied up in what we think is important I wonder if those same things are important to God. Are we more concerned about preparing the donuts and coffee than we are about preparing our hearts to worship God? Are we more interested in getting together and visiting with each other after the service than we are to talk to God in prayer? Where are our priorities centered? On ourselves or on God?

--As Simon continues, "I don't think God is concerned whether or not we have a continental breakfast at church. We're in trouble if God has made the church bake sale a priority."

Another idea this movie raises is the fact that we all worship differently...Simon gets in trouble for disrupting the service with his continetial breakfast statement. During Sunday school he is stuck in the corner while his teacher reprimands him in front of the class. She asks what he's doing and he says something like I'm praying. When she asked how he could do that in a chair in the corner, Simon says,

--Faith is not in a floor plan.

One thing that I think all of us forget from time to time is that we worship God in different ways. Some need to be in a sanctuary surrounded by pews, stained glass windows and the sound of a pipe organ. Some people love to worship to the sounds of a rock band with images displayed on the screen in the worship space. Some worship God in the quiet of the outdoors where God's creation surrounds them on all sides. Some like to worship God by serving others and sitting with those in need as they together hear God's word for them that day.

Simon Birch, it's a GREAT movie that raises many different faith issues. If you've not seen it, I encourage you to check it out's a moving, funny and at times sad movie that gets two thumbs up from me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thanks Linda!

Our family went down to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area after Christmas this year. While we were down there our oldest came down with the stomach virus junk that's going around. Between his bouts with the flu and sleep we looked around Pigeon Forge.

He was feeling better and was hungry so before starting home we stopped at Pop's on the River in Sevierville for dinner. Growing up I loved going to Pop's Catfish Shack...great fish by the way. We had a GREAT dinner...catfish, frog legs, steak fries and even some dessert.

It seemed our little trooper was on the backside of the flu, or so we thought. He ate pretty well...then as we were getting ready to leave, got sick. With a little bit of chaos, I forgot that I had stuck the diaper bag under the table. (Complete with a bottle of expressed milk, our little one's teething toys, diapers, wipes, extra binkies and spare outfit AND the thermometer to check our oldest's temperature.

Off we went to the border of Kentucky...we decided to spend the night...when we unloaded the car I suddenly realized we'd left the bag. Jim graciously went out and got the things we needed (I had spare diapers and wipes in the suitcase) and we made it through until we got home.

From the hotel I called Pop's the next day. A kind lady named Linda answered the phone. She said she would send it back to us at no charge. What a lady! It took a little while to get the bag because New Year's was in there and Linda forgot it at the restaurant but we got the bag about a week ago...everything still in there.

Thank you Linda!! We really appreciate it!!

Anyone who's looking for a good order of catfish or frog legs...visit Pop's!! Pop's on the River is a neat location with WONDERFUL food.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I have been lucky over the past several months. I have been allowed a very special privilege that few people are afforded...I have been allowed to bring our baby to work with me. He has been with me most all day every day since he was born...I guess even since before he was born. We have been waiting for the dayare where our oldest went to call and say they have room.

I had been waiting but not very anxious for the call to come. It came anyway on Wednesday. We went to check it out and see what had changed since we were there about 5 years ago. Some of the same teachers are there.

I know he will be we safe and well taken care of. I know that this daycare is well certified. BUT I am having severe separation issues. This is one milestone I was hoping to put off for a while.

I think I just don't like the idea of him getting bigger. Both boys were with me today and there's no school on maybe we can ease into this.

I definitely need prayers.


Over these past few months but especially over this past week our community has had to face and seek to work in and through loss. Our congregation over these past couple of weeks has lost five members or former members. Most of these came as a surprise, but a few were unexpected.

Some in this community are still working through their loss with the release and publicity of We Are Marshall.

But this week loss was experienced in a different Wednesday night, a friend and I were heading to church for worship team rehearsal. I had to make a quick stop along the way and am so glad we did because I think we could've been parked right in the way.

As we drove toward the church, something looked really really bad...there was smoke billowing into the air and you could see a yellow glow. I nervously said, "Well maybe we won't rehearse tonight," thinking, " looks like it's coming from the church...but I'm sure it's not."

As we got closer and closer it became clear that it was in the very direction fo the church. I started to get more and more nervous...

As we got close to the church we saw that it was the building across the street. Talk about scarey. I couldn't believe the fire, the smoke, and all of he onlookers who had gathered. So many people were around...crowding around...and many of them were taking pictures...something that I think is kind of morbid. The fire kept flaming up then dying then flaming up again. Finally the firefighters got it out.

The good news is no one was hurt...the building is at least half way destroyed but no one was hurt.

Saturday there was another fire at an apartment building where a lot of Marshall students reside. The building from where we could see it on Sunday looks kinda normal, but this fire was extremely devistating. Nine people have been found dead so far and they are hoping that is all, but they can't be sure. One family lost 3 children...I can't imagine that. How sad.

Our prayers go out to those who have lost their loved ones, their place of employment, their belongings and their home.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

How Did They Know?

I had a funeral today and while we were riding out to the cemetery I had a very interesting and God filled conversation with one of our senior funeral directors. The gentleman has been in Huntington for quite some time...and was very instrumental when the Marshall plane crash occurred.

We were talking about the new movie and he, as so many others who lived through that time here in town, began to tell me stories about that fateful time. He talked about being called upon to coordinate the funeral directors especially for those persons who were from out of town. He told me how he was one of the main resource people for the movie to make sure they got the funeral scenes correct...they even provided the caskets. And he told me he was instrumental in the placement of the memorial site for those 6 individuals who could not be identified. He talked of a former pastor of our church who recently passed away who was instrumental in coordinating pastoral care for those in grief. And then he told me the following story...

Apparently, the six individuals who could not be identified were brought to his funeral home. The pastor from the church where I now serve was the dedicated pastor to meet with the families of these unidentifiable victims. There is a large room in the back of the funeral home...a viewing room...where they covered the three walls with two caskets each. The families came in one by one. Rev. Wallace took each family around the room...and they were allowed to view each casket for as long as they wanted. Then they would have prayer.

Each of the six families came in. Each of the six families were allowed to walk around the room. Each family was given a chance to say goodbye to their loved one as best as they could. Each family came in one by themselves to say goodbye.

After the families had gone through and traveled back home or wherever they were staying, Al and Bob began to talk. Al asked Bob if he had noticed anything unusual about the viewing that the families had done. Bob said he had noticed something, but wasn't sure if he had really noticed it or if it was in his head.

Both had noticed that as the families came into the room, each family went from casket to casket...and each family, as they did this, paused at one casket longer than at the other five...AND each family paused at a different casket longer than the other five. Six families came to say goodbye to someone they loved...each family stopped at a different casket.

Did they somehow know which one held the one they loved? Did they know something that modern medicine could not figure out? How did they know?

When Bob finished his story all I could say as goosebumps filled my arms was, "Wow...that is amazing...that is so God."

Monday, January 01, 2007


Well, the Rose Bowl is about to begin. I'm hoping the only thing that the only thing the Wolverines lose today is the toss. Better luck next time George Lucas. Go Big Blue!!! Beat USC.