Friday, August 24, 2007

Where Is The Love?

I want this forum to represent what I truly feel...about a lot of different subjects. I am passionate about what I believe, and I just wanted to get something off my chest. I am going to let my thoughts flow freely, so I expect some of you may greatly disagree, but that's OK. In fact, I may even "self-edit" some of this after I have "written" it out.

I love Christ. I am passionate about Him and about serving Him. I love being a Christ follower. However, I am getting pretty fed up with some things going on "in the name of Christ". I know we all have opinions, and I celebrate the fact that God gave us brains and made us each different.

I have just experienced a lot lately that makes me sad and a little mad. When did we as Christ followers become so "ANTI"? Christains are so often portrayed as judgmental and spiteful in the news media, because you know what...sometimes we really are just that! We love to go on record about what (and whom) we are against. Yes, we should have a voice and we should stand up for what we believe. I question why any ONE Christian should be speaking for all of us.

President Jimmy Carter was interviewed at this year's Leadership Summit, and you know that raised the ire of a good many people. If you know me, you know where I stand politically, and you know I love and respect President Carter. My reasons for being a Democrat are just as biblically based as many of my friends say their reasons are for being a Republican. (That will have to be a topic for another day)

I just could not believe some of the hurtful things written and said about President Carter's appearance! I don't have to agree with somebody to be able to learn from them. I hear people chide him and other Democrats all the time. Funny...I never hear these same folks observing any room for improvement with the likes of President Bush or Jerry Falwell.

I mention Jerry Falwell becuase he was featured on CNN's "Christiane Amanpour Reports: God's Warriors". This was a three-part series with one night devoted to "Jewish Warriors", another to "Muslim Warriors", and another to "Christian Warriors". She interviewed several people including Falwell, Ron Luce (of Teen Mania/Battlecry), and President Carter. Very interesting.

I really don't know for sure if the portrayal of all of these folks was accurate, but it sure made me a little restless. Falwell's interview was done just a week before he died. I never really understood his appeal and his "rise to power", but I also know he has done a lot for the Kingdom of God. However, in this interview, he was just so passionate about all the things he was AGAINST.

What happened to us being about loving Christ and loving others? What happened to serving God and serving each other? Why are we not finding common ground instead of alienating the very world that we are trying to reach out to?

I don't have the answers, because obviously, I fall short all of the time. I am definitely not trying to be critical of anyone...just critical of this "habit". It is a lesson I constantly am learning myself. If I am called to be the salt and the light, how can I be that if I spew such venom. How can we as Christ followers be known for what we are FOR, instead of always what we are AGAINST?

I don't know. I just keep praying and examining my own heart and motives.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hail! Hail!

Well, it wasn't supposed to turn out like that! I had been looking forward to last night for a long time...the Def Leppard/Styx/Foreigner concert here in Raleigh. We were there at the Walnut Creek Ampitheatre as doors opened and we commissioned Mary Ann (our fastest and most determined walker) to stake out a large piece of parcel on the lawn for our big group.

The forecast, which I checked just before we headed out, called for a chance of "isolated thunderstorms but mostly to the north". As I was returning with my $8 plate of chicken tenders/fries and a Heineken, it started to drizzle a bit. No big deal.

Well, within minutes the mother of all storms unleashed some "Old Testament judgment" on all of us! Wind, torrential rain, hail, lightning, and flying chicken tenders became the new order at Walnut Creek. As I was hanging on to a Moraski child for dear life (really more of hoping he would hold on and save me), I watched as people screamed and ducked under soaked blankets for protection. "Building Memories", as Pastor Mike said.


A friend of ours was in the men's bathroom (a guy named Josh...not one of the gals as you may expect) when the power went out and someone wisely shouted, "All Hands Up". The roof over the stage was partially blown away, and there were actually several minor injuries from the debris. Crazy! The rain finally ceased, but the concert was a wash (pardon the feeble attempt at a pun). POSTPONED! ARGGGH!

It was an experience I will not soon forget, and on this side of's getting increasingly more hilarious. So...with is the top 5 things overheard last night that you would never hear at a NC Symphony concert.

5) "I'm gonna die!!!!!"

4) "Is there grass on my face?"

3) "Hey! Are those my chicken tenders up on stage?"

2) "I wonder who wins the wet t-shirt contest between Mike, Dean, and Karl?"

1) "Do you think they sell Def Leppard underwear at the merchandise tent?"

ROCK ON!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


These are some awesome guys in this picture above! This picture was taken on my friend, Dwayne Klein's wedding day. Dwayne is standing with his stepsons...strike that...his sons, Austin and Evan. It just so happens that Dwayne's bride is Nina Stone Klein, also my friend, and Mary Ann's sister.

I am sending out today a request for you all to pray for Dwayne, Nina, Austin, Evan, and Samantha. Dwayne has been staging a great fight against bone cancer. He has been so amazing through this and he has taught me a lot. He is currently at Duke Hospital receiveing stem cell transplant. He will remain at Duke for at least 2 weeks, and I am asking that you pray for his treatment, for his rest, for his doctors and nurses, for Nina and the kids, and for his HEALING!

Mary Ann and I had the remarkable opportunity of being with Dwayne and Nina last week at Duke as they were harvesting his stem cells. Dwayne is awesome! Here he is going through such a battle, and his sense of humor is as sharp as ever! He was a gracious host to us, and he was more concerned about us than what was happening to him.

Duke is such a crazy place to navigate, and Mary Ann and I were lost for quite a while trying to find Nina. But God knows just where Dwayne is and I am so thankful that Dwayne is at Duke receiving some excellent care. Our Lord has some amazing things in store for Dwayne, and I encourage you to lift him and his family up to our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Lord, I thank you for Dwayne and Nina!"

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I have not written in almost a week, and I have missed it. I was on vacation this week to volunteer at Hope as we hosted the satellite broadcast of Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. Everything was great...we worked hard and enjoyed every minute of it. We were blessed to be able to serve some amazing churches, leaders, and servants.

The Summit marks my "anniversary" of serving at Hope. My first foray into volunteering was at the first Summit we did at Hope (2005). However, because the Summit is usually held during the second week of August, it also marks my wedding August 11.

I love Summit time, but it is also always a reminder of the fact that Beth and I cannot celebrate the greatest day in our lives. I was fine until about 1PM today. We were so busy, and things slowed a bit, and I decided to slip into the balcony to catch a little of Bill Hybels in the last session. Bill was great in his talk, "Whatever you do, inspire me". When you are exhausted, your emotions can just carry you away, and mine did. I spent about 30 minutes alone in the chapel praying and crying...feeling like I did right after Beth died.

Pastor Joe asked if there was anything he could do, but I told him that it was "just part of it". It truly is just part of it." This anniversary was more difficult than 2005 and 2006. People always think that funerals are tough for me to attend, but weddings are always harder for me. Weddings remind me of my wedding and my beautiful bride, and the life we should have been living today.

I received a couple of cards. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot. I thought about Beth all day. I thought about Beth and Russ all day. I miss her terribly but I know we will be re-united one day. God sustained me today in the midst of my storm.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Matthew 11:28 Afternoon

OK. I just spent a wonderful three hours here at home. I got home from church, plugged my cell phone into the charger to get re-juiced, and then I plugged myself into THE CHARGER to get re-juiced. Matthew 11:28 : Jesus says "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Most of the time for me, that takes the form of a spiritual rest, but today that included a deep need for physical rest.

Finishing a long week at work and a long (but super-fulfilling) week-end at church, and getting ready to head into a week of serving at the Leadership Summit...Russ needed to receive that rest! I played with and loved on Colby, Marley, and Cosmo; and then I climbed into my big over-sized chair. Flipped between the Food Network, the NASCAR race, and one of my favorite episodes of Andy Griffith. Asleep before Barney could get his bullet out of his shirt pocket.

I am up (obviously) and filling renewed. Thank you God for providing the rest! Cosmo and Colby are still asleep, though, and Marley is looking to me to be entertained.

Awesome week-end at church. Pastor Mike was on target as always...even with a raspy voice. Karl still leaves me speechless just about every Sunday. What a gift. We sang one of his songs , "I Am Hungry" today. He also sang "Welcome Home", another of his songs, after Mike's message. If those songs don't move you, you don't have any movement left in you. I heard "Welcome Home" all three services this week-end, and I cried through it each time. I am proud to say that, too.

Other highlights this week-end:

Great "going away" party for Jackson Boone and Jordan Dodson who are heading off to ECU in a couple of weeks. 2 awesome young men. They filled our College Room with so much food you would have thought we were Baptist. Everything I had was incredible. In fact, I am going to pause for a minute and re-live some of those tasty eats.

I'm back. Also, I was blessed by an anonymous gift today. Someone gave me two wonderful books and a sweet card. I have no idea who left this for me, but I am bringing in handwriting experts first thing tomorrow morning! What a blessing today.

Melissa played violin with the band this week-end. She adds so much to my worship experience. I asked her father, Steve, if she got that talent from him. He said, "Yes...I paid for every bit of it!" Awesome! Melissa really tore it up this week-end.

Great group of always. There was an easy flow to it and we had a blast serving together. cell phone says that the "charging is complete". I'd say mine is, as least for now. Pray for Summit this week and all of the wonderful leaders who are committing themselves to "re-charging" their lives and ministries for Christ.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I have been concerned recently that I would somehow "lose" my memories of Beth. I cannot stand the thought of forgetting the features of her beautiful face....or the sound of her voice...or the smell of her hair...or the typical "Beth sayings" that made her unique. I fight to hang on to every little thing about her, and I want it to be burned into my permanent memory.

God showed me in an awesome way today that He cherishes those memories for me, as well.

I worked today in Fayetteville, and I had an opportunity to visit the gravesites of three of my grandparents. My dad's father, Russell Jefferson Williams, died in 1976 when I was only 7 years old. My mom's father, Wade Knox McDonald, died in 1989. Mom's mother, Craty Watson McDonald, died on July 31, 1991...16 years ago yesterday. All three are buried in the same cemetery. My dad's mother, Tennie Wood Williams, is still feisty and living in a care facility near my parents in Southport.

As I stood there at each grave today, I had almost total recall of the wonderful memories I so want to always hold onto about each grandparent. As I wrote, I was only 7 years old when Grandpa Williams died, but I remember a good bit about him. I remember he was always "larger than life" to me. He was a proud farmer, and took my sister and me around on the tractor. He loved his church, Mt. Pisgah. He would sneak us away just before dinner to give us vanilla ice cream and a Coke (in the glass bottle...I still love Coke in a glass bottle today). I remember the day he died, but Praise God, I am so glad that I still (31 years later) remember HIM.

I remember Grandpa McDonald. He was the true "Southern Gentleman". He had this awesome "whistle" as he drove. He would pay us an extravagant amount to go to work with him when we visited. I would just stamp forms like crazy at his insurance office, and he rewarded me handsomely. He loved me so much. I remember the day he died, but Praise God, I still remember HIM.

Grandma McDonald could tear up a piano. She played "by ear", meaning she did not need any musical notes or a score. Just hum a little, and she could play it in any key you needed. I believe she did take lessons, but the actual music could not keep up with her! I have her piano in my home today. She cooked the most amazing vegetable soup/stew. She liked big Buicks! I remember the day she died of a sudden heart attack (a broken heart after losing Grandpa), but Praise God, I still remember HER.

I love Grandma Williams so much. She is the only one of my grandparents that Beth knew, and the two of them were great friends. They were always looking for trouble, and they were always looking out for each other. Grandma Williams is still here, and I am so thankful that I remember HER.

God showed me today at Lafayette Memorial Park in Fayetteville that He is so abundantly capable of keeping my memories of my beautiful wife alive! I remember February 9, 2005...finding Beth unable to breathe. I remember each grueling day in the hospital as the chances for survival grew so dim. I remember February 22, 2005...the morning she drew her last peaceful breath. PRAISE GOD! I remember HER!