More Questions for the Presidential Candidates from the Rural Route!

1. Do you believe that “gun control” involves legislation, or simply using two hands?

2. Bagels or biscuits?

3. Jam or jelly?

4. Time out or paddle?

5. Vegetarian or carnivore?

6 . What is the key distinctive characteristic of the 1979 Ford F 150?

7. Who sang He Stopped Loving Her Today?

8. Do you look forward to that glorious day when the first tomato comes off the vine?

9. Do you crumble your cornbread into your pinto beans, or do you just use it to soak up the bean juice and then eat it?       Both are acceptable. . . I just need to know.

10. Do you believe that monogamy is a type of wood?

Published in: on March 29, 2008 at 12:02 am  Comments (2)  

In Charge Part Deux!

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    Don’t be fooled. Underneath those puffy cheeks, pouting lips, button nose, and dreamy eyes lies a dictator. She is in charge. She determines how much sleep all of us get at night. She also dictates how fast I drive to get home based on the volume coming from her throne (car seat) located directly behind me. At church, I could be preaching from the saddest portion of Lamentations only to look up and see her making the entire right side of the church chuckle while she entertains them with her sly grin and her sinister giggle. When she needs a new diaper we must move quickly and change her highness or suffer further hearing loss. SHE IS IN CHARGE! It is her way or the highway! She is a baby with an attitude who wants her way right now!
    I have noticed that there are pastors who are subscribing to a certain “my way or the high way approach” to church leadership. I use the word “leader” very loosely because these guys don’t lead they demand and dictate. From day one they move in with one plan . . . their’s. They usually use the phrase “my vision” a lot and hold the church’s traditions in contempt. When challenged they retreat to the moral high ground and claim pastoral authority, usually forgetting where their authority comes from and how it should be used. They come into churches like a bull in a china shop and knock everything over. After the bull (pastor) has knocked everything down and gored a few “necessary casualties”, he then explains to the flock that the mess is their fault.
    These guys have forgotten how to lead and to guide people to new ideas and new methodology. They use a cattle prod instead of a shepherd’s crook. Churches are not made up of cattle, and they don’t respond well to the prod. They are made up of sheep. Being a shepherd is hard work that demands great patience and endurance. A shepherd has a genuine relationship with the flock because he leads from within. A shepherd loves the people. He is the kind of person described in II Timothy 2:14-26. He is the kind of pastor our rural churches so desperately need. Oh yeah, he bears no likeness to the baby dictator pictured above.
Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 1:39 am  Comments (2)  

Who Is In Charge?

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He looks like a leader.  He is dressed for success.  He looks like he could whip all of those other soldier boys into shape.  He looks like he is completely in charge doesn’t he?  My wife took this picture at Fort Donelson a few weeks ago when these guys were doing a camp reenactment.  No one questions this man’s leadership.  The other men are taking orders and are, at this point, about to aim and fire.  Who is in charge of the church?  Is it the pastor?  Is it the deacons?  Are the Elders in charge?  How about the congregation?  Who is giving the orders?  What do you think? 

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 1:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Blank Mind = Blank Blog!

1. Stare at the screen. . . that idea for a story is somewhere in the monitor.
2. Stare a little longer at the screen.

3. Go get your first cup of coffee.

4. Stare at the screen and take your first sip of coffee.

5. Go put a little more sugar in the coffee.

6. Nothing! Not even a fleeting thought.

7. Stare a little more.

8. Time for cup # 2.

9. Stare at screen and finish cups 3 – 6.

10. Admit defeat and go do something productive!

Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm  Comments (6)  

Danny’s Story Part II

Danny is one of those people that you meet along life’s highway that makes you pull over and evaluate yourself and your motives.  Do you follow Jesus when no one else but Jesus is looking?  Even when there is nothing but the approval of God to be gained do you act according to the Bible?  Rarely do I get to see that kind of devotion in action, but Danny gave me that privilege about two years ago. 

Danny showed up at my door one afternoon upset.  It seems that someone had pulled off the road at his house claiming to be out of gas.  While Danny was filling their tank they were stealing his tools.  Soon after they left he realized that his tools were missing.  The vehicle the thieves were driving matched closely with another vehicle on the street that I live on.  Danny asked me if the people across the street had just gotten home.  Oddly enough, I had just seen them pull into their drive way.  I couldn’t fathom them stealing anything, but Danny seemed certain that we had the right car.  I thought we had our thief, and so did Danny.  I was ready to call the police but Danny said something that startled me.  He said, “I’m going home to pray about what to do.”  Funny thing, a preacher thinking Danny was wasting time praying, but that is exactly what I thought.

A few hours later Danny came by my house again.  He was upset again.  Danny indicated that he had found his thief and his tools.  He had driven around the neighboorhood praying and found that their was another vehicle that looked just like the one on my street.  Same color.  Same make and model.  Danny had confronted the thief and told him that if they would simply return his tools he wouldn’t press charges.  The thief took Danny’s option. 

I couldn’t understand why Danny was upset though.  In my mind the case was closed.  “Preacher, I’m sorry I made you think your neighbors were thieves.”  Danny was genuinely upset that he had planted a seed of doubt in my mind about anyone.  He felt that he had falsely accused them.  “Ah, Danny, there is no need to feel bad about that.  Anybody could have made the same mistake.”  If coming back and apologizing to me in utter humility wasn’t surprising behavior, then what he did next was absolutely shocking.  He asked me to pray for him because he had to go apologize to the person he had falsely accused.  Danny then proceeded to walk to the house of the person he had falsely accused and ask for forgiveness.  They would have never known anything if Danny hadn’t gone there.   They of course forgave Danny and he went home with his mind and heart at ease.  My mind and heart were not at ease though, because Danny’s actions made me take inventory of my own motives.  Would I have gone to the trouble Danny had gone to?  What about you?   

   

        

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Which Route is Your Child Taking?

Published in: on March 4, 2008 at 7:14 pm  Comments Off on Which Route is Your Child Taking?  

Danny: A Rural Route Church Story

Have you ever had one of those awkward moments when you didn’t know what to say or do because of who was standing in front of you?  Maybe the awkwardness was brought on because your mind, like mine, has been programmed to categorize people into tightly defined stereotypes.  There is that instant of judgment where you make up your mind about the stranger who is now greeting you and engaging you in conversation.  I am ashamed to s,ay that this is where my mind was the first time I met Danny. 

There he was at my door.  I had heard the sound of his mo-ped as it pulled into my front yard.  His hair was long, grey, wet, and combed back.  His beard was equally as grey and long.  He was not wearing shoes and his jeans were torn so that his knees shone through.  He had a very worn t-shirt that was just about threadbare, and I noticed a few scary looking tattoos that were beginning to fade.  His face was wrinkled and he looked very tired.  All I could think was that this man had come to beg the new pastor for something.  Maybe it would be food or maybe he needed his light bill paid.   

“Hey there, preacher!”  His voice was gruff and sounded like he had been chewing on sandpaper for the last 40 years.  Almost before I could say, “Hello,” Danny hugged me and launched into the reason he was in my front yard.   The more he talked the more ashamed I became of my preconceived notion about who this man was.  It turns out that Danny had, indeed, come to beg me for something. . . my prayers.  Danny was leaving to go on a journey and wanted me to pray for him.  Before we go any further you need a little background (which would have been helpful for me that morning). 

Danny was saved and had joined Cottage Grove Baptist Church under the ministry of my predecessor.  Before Danny became a Christian he was known far and wide as the biggest druggie and alcoholic in the county.  I have been told that the police were frequent visitors to his home and that his salvation has saved our county thousands of dollars in law enforcement.  During the long interim period between the last pastor and myself Danny had joined a church in another town where he had been nurtured in his faith to the point that he was ready to minister to other people.

“Preacher, I have made a cross and I plan on walking with it wherever the Lord leads me”.  I was confused and must have looked it because he repeated himself.  “Preacher, I made a cross and I am going to take it down the road with me so that people will ask me what I’m doing”.  Danny’s plan was to walk across the counties of west TN carrying a big red cross.  He was going to take it into neighborhoods where he had once gotten drunk and bought dope.  Danny’s only request to me that day was that I pray for him.  I, of course, agreed to pray for Danny. 

Danny did take his cross into many towns and across many miles.  He garnered headlines wherever he went.  He held out the hope found in Jesus to people I would never come into contact with.  I prayed for him but I also prayed for me.  I prayed that God would tear down those places in my mind where I had a tendency to place myself above others.  I wish that was the only time that I had to learn a hard lesson about judging people from Danny, but he would teach me again a couple years later.  Lessons from Danny are never with words, but are taught by the way he acts.  I will tell you about my next humbling experience with Danny in the next few days.  Danny’s story is real and raw.  It is the story of faith and salvation.  It is the story of the rural church.                   

Published in: on March 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm  Comments (2)  

Danny: Jesus Freak and a Rural Church Story

His house and workshop stand out among the Fields and farms that make up Lampkins road.  His truck contrasts the blacktop road with light at night and color by day.   His name is Danny and he looks the part of a modern day John the Baptist.  The first time I met him he was barefoot with torn jeans and a t-shirt that proclaimed his devotion to Jesus.  His workshop is painted brightly with “I love Jesus” signs all over it.  His truck, which he named My Testimony, is painted brightly with crosses and verses of scripture.  You can see that truck coming a mile away because there is a big red cross fixed in the bed of the truck.  Everything about this man seems to point to the Christ.  There is no shame in Danny where the Gospel of Christ is concerned.  He gives new meaning to “carrying your cross”.  It is an extraordinary story.  His story is also the story of the rural church.  It is the story I will tell you tomorrow. 

   

Published in: on March 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm  Comments (3)