January, 2024

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A Country Music Star’s Review

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

REVIEW OF LIKE A RIVER

By Granger Smith

First, you need to know I am not a County Music (CM) fan. A few years ago (like 20-30+ when I did listen to CM), I was very picky whom I listened to. I even wore a cowboy hat! But after about 4 years I went back to my roots of rock ‘n roll and metal. So you might be wondering why in the world I would read a book by a CM star? To be honest, it sat in my Amazon cart for several months because I couldn’t bite the bullet. But I finally did and I’m here to tell you I’m glad I did.

Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, had three children:  London (7), Lincoln (5) and River (3). Lincoln and River were best buds so they were off playing together and Granger was helping London with a new gymnastics routine. His career was a shining star getting brighter by the day. This particular day, one day before the CMA awards, he was with London, when he suddenly noticed the boys were quiet. River had wandered off from his brother and Granger found him face down in the family pool. Despite efforts by him doing CPR and the EMS there was no hope. They rushed him to the hospital but his long time without oxygen gave them no hope. They donated his organs and allowed him to pass naturally.

This book is Granger’s efforts to process his grief and to share the lessons he learned with us. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like for him, or for any other parent in a similar situation, or for any parent having to say “Goodbye” to a child. As you can imagine Granger’s life from that point on was a roller coaster. He admits faking it and lying on stage and telling people he was okay (typical for most of us). He also found himself going down the rabbit hole of marijuana usage to help him deal with the nightmares (PTSD). Then the dark night of the soul where he had a loaded gun ready to end it all. Shortly after that dark night and his decision to follow Jesus, he approached Amber about having another baby. But she had had her tubes tied and so the chances of that happening were slim. Oh, the miracles of modern medicine. They implanted an egg but Amber had a miscarriage. With one frozen embryo left they tried one last time. This time God blessed them with little Maverick.

The book ends with Granger telling us that he has given up the road traveling and singing CM to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master’s Degree and preaching. I like what he says: “Other than that, my future is none of my business. What a freeing feeling that is.” (p.184)

I did enjoy this book. It wasn’t a sordid “tell all” like many of them could do. Instead, it was a “God came through and I want to share my testimony with you” book. His story of losing River is heart-breaking, but to see what God has brought out of this is truly inspiring.  He was honest; he was real; and it was well worth the time reading. (He still didn’t convert me to CM).  🙂

Starting and stopping

Monday, January 29th, 2024

From an ancient scribe and wise man:

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.

Just sayin’. Something to think about.

The quote is from King Solomon in Proverbs 28:2.

Grace is Offered

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

The mindset of our world can be illustrated by the events surrounding the sinking of Titanic. Not what caused it…that is very much documented. What happened afterwards. Over 1600 people lost their lives and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. When Third Officer Pitman in Boat #5 wanted to return to pick up survivors, those on board overruled him in protest. 40 people in a boat with the capacity of 65 gently rocked on the calm Atlantic. In Boat #2, Fourth Officer Boxhall asked the ladies about going back and they said, “No.” So 60% full, it gently rocked on the Atlantic. On Boat #6, the ladies wanted to go back but Quartermaster Hitchens refused to go back. Of the 18 lifeboats, only one returned. The callous disregard for others gets us to the core.

And yet, is our world much different? I think not. People are in desperate need for grace these days. We are haunted by things we have done-big or small and we long for relief. God offers grace to all, His unmerited favor. Sometimes it is accepted and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is clamored for and sometimes it is turned away.

My sermon this week is Part 3 of the WELCOME HOME…where… series.  WELCOME HOME…where…Grace is Offered. Colossians 1:20-25 will be my Scripture this week. Please join us at 9:00 and 10:45 in person or via the live stream. As a church we can talk about grace; we can teach about grace; we can even go overboard on grace, but what exactly does it mean to be a church that offers GRACE? Come see with us.

Jesus Is Honored

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Over 100 years ago the famous World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago. D.L. Moody saw it as a great chance for evangelism. He used churches and rented theaters, even a circus tent for various “preaching posts.” His friends wanted him to attack the “Parliament of Religions,” but he refused, saying, “I am going to make Jesus Christ so attractive that men will turn to Him.” He knew that preaching Christ preeminent would do the job. It did. The “Chicago Campaign” is considered to be the greatest evangelistic work of his life, and thousands came to Christ.

How different 100+ years makes! Other than someone like Billy Graham or Greg Laurie, if it doesn’t have a dog and pony show with it, people think it is not successful or won’t draw people. Sadly, churches can get into that same mindset. Instead of solid preaching and lifting up Christ, too many have settled for hype, light shows, and “sermon lite” preaching.

This Sunday’s message-as you can see by the title-is all about Jesus. Colossians 1:15-20 is all about lifting up Jesus and honoring Him.  I’ve got three main thoughts:

Jesus is the Lord of Creation

Jesus is the Head of the Church

Jesus is the Savior of the Cross

Please join us in person or online at 9:00 and 10:45. I pray you have a blessed weekend and find yourself worshiping the King of kings this weekend.

#GospelPreached

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

I start a new series this week that will go to the end of February. I’ve called it WELCOME HOME…where…

Each sermon is part of a reworking of a our Mission and Vision Statement. You can find our Mission and Vision Statements on the church’s website here and here.  This past October, during our 19th Anniversary celebration I shared a story with the people about what had happened during the previous week. I was unable to sleep so I got up and went into my ManCave and picked up my journal on the way there. While there I sensed God “telling” me to write down some stuff. What I wrote down was a reworking of the Mission and Vision statement in a “softer” version.  Here it is for you to see:

WELCOME HOME…where…

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Honored

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

I am going to take each one of these over the next two months and spend a week simply explaining what they mean. I’m “cheating” though; I’m adding two to round it out all the way to the end of February. The series will come from Colossians 1-3 so I will include each week’s Scripture here if you would like to read ahead of time. This week’s Scripture is Colossians 1:3-14. I will also be including I Cor. 1:18-31 and Romans 1:16-17.

I’ll leave you with a quote I will be using:

God is not going to rewrite the Bible for your generation. Stop trying to change Scripture when it’s written to change you.

See you Sunday in person or via live stream at 9:00 and 10:45!

#DarkHorse

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

I’m not a runner. Never have been; never will be.  The only running I have done is while playing baseball or basketball; running to the bathroom; or running after my girls when they wanted to play. I tried running once. ONCE. I didn’t have the right shoes to start with. I didn’t have the right technique.  I didn’t have the right clothes. And I had balky calf muscles that didn’t like running outside on uneven surfaces or on hard surfaces. So that lasted all of about one week. 🙂 But call me for supper, pizza, or ice cream and I was all there! In fact, I was there as quick as you can say, “Roadrunner.”

My theme for 2024, as you can see, is Run with the Horses. I “borrowed” it from a book by that title authored by Eugene Peterson. A book I have not read to be honest. It is a play on Jeremiah 12:5. The whole idea was that if Jeremiah was tired from daily life, how can he expect to run with the horses when the going gets tough?  Truthfully, I believe life in 2024 is only going to get tougher for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ. My desire this year is to prepare us as well as I can to life with all its muck and mire, so that we won’t get bogged down and be unable to run with the horses.

Please join me/us each week as we pursue this goal.  We have two services every Sunday (unless it is changed for a reason). One at 9:00 and the other at 10:45. Both are live streamed. If you desire to and are able to join us in person, we would love to have you visit.

Talking Animals-Glade Review

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

My blogging friend, Martha Orlando, has written a wonderful series of books called The Glade Series. It morphed into two trilogies. The other is Adventures in the Glade. I recently reread the first trilogy and decided to do a review of them. Following is my review:

How do you feel about talking animals? Not the Dr. Doolittle kind but the Narnia kind? I fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia when I was about 27 years old. That was the first time I ever read them. I had heard of them when I was in college and saw a fellow student reading them, but when he said they were children’s books, I just sloughed it off. “I have better things to do than to read children’s books about talking animals.” Or so I thought. One read of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe changed all that.

I was unsure what to expect when I started reading Martha Orlando’s Glade Series (and the Adventures in the Glade series which follows). Talking animals with human interaction was a tough act to follow. This is my second read of The Glade Series. My first one was several years ago (circa 2015) so reading this again was like reading it for the first time. I’m glad since I didn’t come into it with any preconceived ideas of what I did or did not like. I have to be honest: except for not liking Davy’s disposition in the first book (before his encounter with Grey, the squirrel), there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this series. Martha’s story telling abilities improved with each book and pulled me in. I wanted to keep reading long past when I needed to stop. 🙂

The story starts with Davy’s mom taking Davy and his sister Anna to a place off the “grid.” No internet. No TV. No PSP. It has electricity and one bathroom (oh the inconvenience of that!). And only one neighbor, the Fairchild’s, who took care of Jim’s (Davy’s stepfather after the death of his father in the military) grandpa. Grandpa had stories to tell…did he ever! They were stories of talking animals which delighted children. It was during a story telling episode at his mother’s wedding to Jim that Davy was told he was the “Chosen One,” but had no clue what that was all about.  He was to find out when he meets Grey in person. After his night sleeping when Grey and the Wise one visit him unawares, Davy’s whole demeanor changes. Personally, he is much more pleasant to read about. 🙂  Davy is eventually introduced to The Glade and meets the animals he will soon rename as the “Chosen One.”

There are several specific things which are out-of-the ordinary. Davy is the only one who can see Grey (whom he renames as Racer). He misspeaks a few times and others hear him talking to Grey, but he covers it well.  Jim (the stepfather) has a cousin (Ronnie) who wants the land for building and reverts to underhanded means to get control of the land. That whole scene leads to some creative means (with the help of the animals from The Glade) to stop the building project. The final book of this first trilogy gives Davy a chance to introduce his whole family to the animals in The Glade.

When I first read this a number of years ago, I found it enjoyable but I had a tad bit of trouble “getting into it.” That was simply because of time lapse between reading each volume. This time was different since I was able to go from one right to the next. I saw so much more this time and enjoyed it so much more as well. If you have young children, I would suggest you read this to them. If they like to read, encourage them to read on their own. They will come to love and enjoy the characters as much as I did. And don’t make the same mistake I did when I first heard about Narnia. Stories like this are good for adults also! Martha has done all readers of fantasy a great service by writing The Glade series. Now on to the next trilogy which continues the antics of Davy, Racer, and the animals of The Glade as they protect what is theirs.