Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just A Swingin'

One of the best wedding gifts Beth and I received was a Pawley's Island of those rope hammocks. We didn't actually receive the hammock from anybody. We "traded" a few gifts in to get the hammock. Nonetheless, I used to love being in that hammock.

So today, I pulled it out of my garage...that warehouse of forgotten things. I hook it up between 2 trees (I guess I could assume you know it takes "2 trees"). I grab the book I'm reading ("Simple Church"), a pillow, a bottled water, and out I go.

Colby and Marley come outside with me...for a while. Colby couldn't decide whether he wanted to be inside or outside. He really wanted us all to be inside, but he wasn't willing to be separated from me. Marley, having never seen the hammock, was extremely curious.

Colby is the cautious, sensitive one. (me) Marley is the bold, adventurous one (Beth). It wasn't three minutes before Marley was climbing up , through the holes in the rope, to get in the hammock with me. He was unsure, but he wasn't scared at all. He was just focused on being where I was.

Everything was fine, until Colby decided he didn't want Marley in the hammock. He barked. He whined. He came over and bit Marley on the butt. Now Marley is losing his confidence and his resolve to be with me, doing what I was doing. Why? Because of Colby and Colby's jealousy and desire that Marley stay on the ground where he was.

I totally got the connection to my spiritual life. Are there times when I follow God boldly even though I am unsure what may happen? I so desperately want to be as close as possible to my Lord. I may step through some holes and my footing may seem unstable, but I'm doing it.


Until someone says that I can't do that. I shouldn't be doing that. "That's enough. Now come back down here with me. We don't belong there."

Marley crawled down from the hammock, and took a spot on the patio. He kept looking at me as if he wished he had never let Colby "convince" him to get down.

Monday, May 26, 2008

WiBo Part Two

OK. Here is what really stood out to me from the afternoon at The Whiteboard Sessions. Check my previous post to see Part One.


"Have we forgotten?...THE CHURCH WILL WIN. The Kingdom of God is victorious!"

"Through the local church, God has put Himself on display for the world to see." (Ephesians 3)

On the importance of church community: "There is something about our congregations that compounds our witness and confuses the world."

"Your church will show the world what you are preaching."

"God is God. Our methods are not god. What do you really think that God is thinking when we think we have found something that works?"

***I just got a hold of Dever's book, "12 Challenges Churches Face"...looking forward to digging in.


"We have made Christianity confusing and complex to people."

"There must be a moment to moment dying to self."

"There must be a moment to moment connection to God."

"If we stay connected, fruit happens." (John 15:5)


"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him." (Mark 3:13)

"We need to understand our calling."

"We need to understand our priorities. We are called to be with Jesus. We are called to preach. We are called to have authority."

"There is way too much imitation and not enough revelation in the church. We will get revelation when we spend time with Him."

"I am crazy enough to really think that God has at least one more big move in Him."

To pastors: "You and I will experience temptation and spiritual warfare on a level that others will never really understand."


"Going through doubt to faith"

"Thomas...Doubting Thomas...went the farthest to proclaim the Gospel. Thomas had great faith."

On comparing yourself/your ministry to others: "Let's quit submitting to ministry pornography ... an unreliable picture of an experience you are never going to have"

"God is not afraid of your questions."

"The world is tired of trite. It wants something more."

"God promises us only His presence...not our happiness."

"Jesus doesn't always speak happiness, but he does speak peace." (John 20:19)

"I've learned that Jesus has not always taken away my pain, but he is enough for me in the midst of it."

There you go. WiBo 2008. It is so important in my life to learn from those who are out there...with all their chips pushed in...100% sold out and out...focused...passionate...broken-hearted...and lovin' Jesus. Thank you, God, for putting it on my heart to be there and making it possible.

Friday, May 23, 2008

WiBo Part One

The Whiteboard Sessions...1 day...8 speakers...30 minutes each to discuss 1 idea...over 600 miles driven. Whew!

Still downloading the conference, but here are some things that hit me from the speakers:


"When we think we have God figured out, we lose our spiritual thirst/quest to seek Him, and we develop a theological pride. Our best theories will soon become obsolete."

"When is the last time that you confessed to God that your dreams are too small?"

"We get to a dangerous point when we do ministry out of memory instead of imagination. At some point, memory will overtake imagination."


"How is it possible that I lived for 20 years right here in America and NOBODY ever told me about Jesus or invited me to church?"

"The church is reaching people, but not lost people. We are reaching "saved" people. 2.2% of churches are experiencing conversion growth."

"In Matthew 9:36...Jesus looked upon the crowds and saw they were like sheep without a shepeherd. It broke the heart of Jesus. What breaks your heart?"

"If you are not close to people who are far from God, then you are not as close to God as you think you are."


"Most churches are not impacting their communities. They are actually getting in the way of the Gospel."

"Leverage the culture or risk losing your impact."


"Sin = exchanging our object of worship. You are ruled by what you worship."

"Worship is the natural response of being captivated."

"An idol is the sin beneath the sin...anything in my life that occupies a place in my life that should be held by God alone."

"Most of the time, we are clueless about our own idols (pretty good at knowing the idols of OTHERS). When our idols are threatened or disturbed, we become aware."

"The more you mature as a Christian, the more you realize that you are a bigger sinner than you thought!"

Wow! Or as Perry Noble would say, "DANG!" Or as Matt Fry would say, (well, he said it once) "Boy Howdy!" Or as Mary Ann would say, "OH! OH! OH!"

Anyway, just some things that I wrote down in my Moleskine journal at Wibo. Those are just the first 4 speakers, so my next post will have some of the "gotchas" from the second half of the day...Mark Dever, John Burke, Perry Noble, and Ed Stetzer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not My Most Uplifting Post, But...What Can Ya Do?

I really miss Beth. Tonight has been rough. It hit me that in just a few months, she will have been dead longer than we were actually married. I do not much care for that perspective.

I get so fed up with cliches. "Oh, time heals everything." That's crap! Time does not heal anything. God heals...through time...but time in and of itself does not heal. In reality, I would not be able to put into words the anguish I often feel. I have wonderful friends who listen and care...but I just could not describe the void.

I keep marching...forward, I hope. It seems that whenever God is doing something cool, new, and exciting in my life; well, that's when I miss Beth the most.

Beth's very best friend, Tara, is getting married this fall. I hate it that Beth cannot be there. I hate it for Tara. She lost her dad and Beth in just a short time.

I hurt for Beth's parents. I hurt for Beth's aunt.

I look at Colby, Marley, and Cosmo...the three "babies" we rescued that became part of our family. I love them, and it makes me miss her all the more.

God offers so many wonderful promises in His Word, and I cling to them, and I believe them.

It just hurts, and I want this blog to be an outlet for my honest thoughts and feelings. I get jealous of a husband who still has his wife. I get ticked off when I hear couples argue or dis-respect each other. I don't like being odd-man out, so to speak. I don't like re-living those awful weeks in February 2005; and I think about it all far more than I would even admit to myself.

God's mercies are new each morning. Thank you, Father! The most comforting thing is the assurance that Beth is in heaven today.

Thanks for listening to my heart...through the good and the through the pain.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that's the Book for Me

"The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that's the Book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God. The B-I-B-L-E!" Remember that song? should be here at my computer hearing me SING it! Count your blessings.

This week-end during our First Impressions "huddles" at Hope, I shared with the teams something that God really put on my heart. I was a bit anxious about it, but God assured me that I was to do it. I spoke with Mary Ann beforehand, and she agreed 100%. Well, if you have God AND Mary Ann saying to go forward, well....

I have been burdened as of late because I just never saw many people actually bringing their Bibles with them to church. We see thousands each week-end at Hope, and I rarely see more than maybe 25-30 people with a Bible. Now, let me stop here before you start getting all worked up. I am not trying to enforce some legalistic standard of following empty rules. If you bring your Bible to church and never open it, then yes; it is the same as leaving it at home covered in dust on the shelf.

During services, we do put the Scripture on large screens so everyone can see. We do offer sermon outlines in the worship guides so our attendees can take notes. We want to be an inviting, "non-threatening" place for people who are far from Christ to come and learn and to be loved.

This is not about those folks. Why do the folks who have been at Hope for a while not bring a Bible with them(and a journal...and a pen)?

My main point is that God's church is not just a place for us to go once a week to feel good about ourselves and get fed. Mark something off of our list. We are called to serve. SERVE!

In First Impressions, what we do goes far beyond...FAR BEYOND passing out worship guides, making a great latte, or helping people find a parking space or a seat in the auditorium. This is ministry and it is what God has called us to do. God blessed me with the opportunity this past Sunday to minister to a family I had met while I was serving as an usher. They had a need and asked me to keep them in my prayers. I said, "Let's pray now."

I prayed for healing. I prayed for God's glory to shine through. I prayed the Word of God.

I also used my Bible to offer God's comfort and encouragement.

I am not writing this to say, "Hey! Look at me! I got it figured out." God's Word is mighty. God's Word is vital to our lives as followers of the Living God. God's Word is vital as we minister to others. Why would we not be equipped with the tools God has given to us?

I am reading "Praying Hyde" by Basil Miller. John Hyde was a visionary and dedicated missionary to India in the early 1900's. I read this in the book yesterday at lunch:

"Praying Hyde during those days of retreat loved the Book, and but few times was he far away from it. His Bible was always in his hand, and even over the morning cup of tea, he fed the souls of his friends with the Bread of heaven. When he knelt to pray, the Bible was opened before him, and his hands rested on it, as though he gained strength therefrom to believe that he received the petition desired of the Lord. He lived thus face to face with Christ and daily rested on God's promises. He always had a spiritual morsel to give those who were with him, and by his own closeness to God he was able to lead others into the divine presence."

Enough said.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How's Your Vision?

If you can overdose on sermons and biblical teachings...I may have done it. God has exposed me to some amazing, annointed preachers and teachers as of late; and it has blown me away. Live preaching, cd's, podcasts, printed texts, name it.

The great thing about God-annointed preaching is how if 1000 people listen to the same message, God may very well speak to those 1000 people in 1000 different ways.

I heard a pastor say recently, "If your vision does not scare you and keep you up at night, then your vision AND your God are too small."

Dang! That really spoke to me and continues to speak to me about things God is working in and through my life. God will really show us more and more as we continue to seek after Him more and more. (Matthew 6:33) But I have to do my part...I have to seek Him.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mrs. Little and Mrs. Snipes

So, yes, I did get to see President Carter yesterday in Clayton, Wal-Mart. The newspaper feature reported that President Carter and Sam Walton were good friends, so President Carter always tries to fit in a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club during a book signing tour. I'd have to say that is one of the few times in my life I have been in a Wal-Mart. More of a Target man myself, but President Carter wasn't at Target. He was at Wal-Mart. So...Russ was at Wal-Mart.

I have to say that the experience was not as great as meeting President Clinton Wednesday. (I still cannot believe I have seen 2 former U.S. presidents in just three days!) There were a lot of people there, and I arrived fairly early to get a good place in line. I didn't mind waiting at all, but when President Carter started signing, we were just kind of moved through really fast. (kind of like "The Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld"...very methodical) You could not try to shake his hand. You could only take one picture off to the side after he had signed your book...and you had 10 seconds to do it. I understood why, but it was a disappointment after meeting President Clinton in Apex.

The greatest part of the experience turned out to be hanging out in line with two awesome ladies from Buies Creek. Mrs. Little(who reminded me a lot of my Grandma McDonald) and Mrs. Snipes. We immediately started talking and sharing and laughing. Time zipped by. Turns out Mrs. Little attended Gardner-Webb when it was a 2-year college. Both ladies were Baptists and grew up loving Jesus. Politics, farming, plastic bottles, organic carrots, church...we talked about it all. Big hugs at the end of our time together.

Big week. It was great meeting President Clinton and catching a glimpse of President Carter, but it was just as awesome for me to meet Mrs. Little and Mrs. Snipes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Defining Moment

HUGE! Yesterday was a big day in my life. I am a political junkie and I had the privilege of seeing one of my political heroes yesterday. In person. I am a Democrat through and through, and I know a lot of folks don't agree with me on that. OK. As I have mentioned before on this blog, my reasons for being a Democrat are just as biblically based as my Republican friends say theirs are for being a Republican. Enough said. That is not what this is about.

President Bill Clinton spoke at the Apex Community Center early yesterday morning for one of 6 campaign stops of the day for his wife, Hillary. I debated whether or not to go, but I did roll out of bed very early....very get there. I was able to get up close and shake his hand. WOW! That may not be your thing, and I would have to admit that I would probably not have been as thrilled to shake the hand of President George W. Bush.

Nonetheless, I shook the hand of a president. Are you kidding me? (Plus, I have the opportunity to possibly meet President Carter tomorrow! It does not get any better for me!) How could I not go see President Clinton when he was just a few miles from my house?

Here's the point. I almost missed out on the whole thing. Did I really want to have to get out of my comfortable bed that early? Did I want to stand outside in the cold morning air?

I think that is something that can easily happen in our walk(s) with Christ. How many wonderful experiences does He have just around the corner for us, but we talk ourselves out of it? Is Christ saying, "Hey. Just take that step. You'll see." Something to think about for sure.

I'm glad I rolled my lazy butt out of bed yesterday to meet a president. I'll never forget it. Never. Way beyond that...I don't want to miss out on what my Lord has just around the corner for me...if...