Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Life has shown me how we're wounded and how we're torn and that it's ok to be lonely as long as you're free." -Rich Mullins

Friday, January 29, 2010

Review of "The Voice"

I admit I was a little suspect of this "translation" before receiving it. While the approach of having various authors/translators/critics contribute is usually a sound one when they all bring a unhidden agenda to the text it is hard to take the translation seriously as a "real" Bible. Passages in The Voice were extremely well-written and added a lot of detail to the Word of God. The only problem I see is that the authors added details based on conjecture and not on the actual words of inspiration. In fairness, the additions were in italics as they are in many versions, but these authors went too far I believe. They constantly put forward the idea of Christ being a "celestial voice" and "liberating King." While both concepts may be true they give the novice reader a different view of Jesus than most mainstream versions. I liked how the Gospels were done in dialouge form making it easy to see who was addressing who.
The book is very hip, modern and well-designed, but I would not use it without consulting other translations to help insure accuracy. Overall, 2 out of 5. I wanted to like it more, but it just went too far.
"I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me." -Hudson Taylor

Snowy Day

I ventured out into the snow today to mail some valuable documents concerning my volunteer work. I am trying to find new ways to benefit other people with my life choices. I believe this is going to involve letting go of some things that I have been a part of for a long time and adopting new projects that are more uplifting for me personally and more beneficial for others. I was recently approached about teaching a BAE (GED) class in Jackson. I feel that my skills as a teacher could help the students of such a class who are trying to improve their prospects in life.

I have felt overwhelmed lately by things that are supposed to make life less overwhelming. I need to consider what is best for all people concerned, but I also need to realize I can only take on so much at once.

A snow day is a good time to consider life...eat cookies and warm one's toes by the fire...

-Will

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Christianity doesn't answer all my questions or make me comfortable and happy. It gives me a context for living." -Rich Mullins

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home again

It is so good to be home this afternoon! After a long trip to the doctor's in Nashville, we are going to try the less is more approach to my medicines. I figure it could not hurt too much and it might help a great deal. I appreciate your prayers for my welfare.

My friend Peggy (http://peaceisachoice.tumblr.com/) and I were talking last night at Erin's (http://americaninterior.blogspot.com) about past trips we have taken to New York City. As much as I love going places, often I find the best part is coming home. There is nothing in the world like your own bed after nights in hotels or at summer camp, your own familiar kitchen and bathroom, the comfort of your favorite chair. We never seem to notice these things daily, but when we are separated from them we notice them a great deal upon our return. I think Heaven will feel like that: a great renewal and a feeling of never wanting to be anywhere else.

It's good to be home.

Please pray

Dear friends,

God has truly blessed me in the past year with some amazing blessings. I am awed at the financial and physical blessings that God has provided. My own home. A new automobile. Two great jobs that are flexible for me.

But a dark shadow has been forming the last few weeks over my mental status. It is difficult to explain to those who have not experienced the pain and mind-numbing torture of mental illness. I live with bipolar disorder and have successfully managed my symptoms for many years. Occasionally these issues force me to be confined to a mental health facility for my own safety and well-being.

This afternoon I will be meeting with my faithful psychiatrist to see if I will be hospitalized for the next few days while medicines are adjusted and the racing mind allowed to slow.

Thanks for all your prayers for me in all the aspects of my life,
-Will

Saturday, January 23, 2010

my rarely seen friend...

Peggy Smith is a friend of mine that lives in Henderson. She and her husband, Bill, are two of the most interesting people I know.

What brings Peggy to mind this evening is her blog, http://peaceisachoice.tumblr.com. Peggy and I haven't talked about her blog specifically, but she, Bill and I (along with dozens of others) worked in a Darfur benefit concert a couple of years ago. I agree with Peggy that peace is a choice, but I find the person I have the hardest time being at peace with is myself.

Check out Peggy's blog for a daily dose of peacefulness!

-Will

Friday, January 22, 2010

Never Grow Old

The old gospel hymn, "Never Grow Old," is one of my favorites. I was so glad to see it included on Patty Griffin's new gospel album, Downtown Church.

Although most of my friends are old people, I wish I could have known them when they were young. Before cancer. Before Parkinson's. Before just general wear and tear on the body made them ache in bad weather. Before assisted livings and nursing homes. I wish I could have known my great-grandparents better; longer. I want to know my grandparents well and am trying to. Sometimes, when I dream, I see myself as a child or a teenager and I want to warn myself of what is coming. With age comes choice, and often, regret. I can't speak to myself back then in any real way, but I hope that child and teen has been molded for the better by the experiences I have had reaching adulthood.

If you could be one age forever, what age would you choose?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. -Hudson Taylor

Haiti work update

I am so glad that many of you that read this blog have contributed to the Haiti relief effort taking place at the Son Light Orphanage in Haiti overseen by the Estes church of Christ in Henderson, TN. Both congregations that I work with are assisting in this work along with dozens of other churches and individuals For more information about this good work, click the photo of the children at the top of this page.
Thanks and God bless you and yours,
-Will

struggles

Most of you that read this blog know me fairly well. You are friends, family and the occasional church/support group member who finds my through on of my other blogging sites. Many of you have told me how the words printed here have helped you get to know me better and for that I am thankful. I am a person who is just trying to live for God one day at the time and, like all people who make that commitment, I struggle.

I struggle with pride and arrogance more often than I would like to admit. I like hearing that I have given a good lesson, raised an important question or written a great article. Those of you who pay me these compliments occasionally appreciate my work and, I hope, instead of pride I can cultivate a humble spirit and strive to continue to use the gifts God has blessed me with.

I struggle with motivation. Because of the medications I take for my living with bipolar disorder, each morning is a struggle just to get out of bed. If I stay in my house for long after rising, the pressure to get back in bed overcomes me more often than not. I drove an hour today to my favorite local library type my last few posts and articles just so I wouldn't get back in bed. In my world, I consider this a small victory. Staying vertical and accomplishing small goals each day is helping my to survive my moods.

I struggle with other things of course. Desire, confusion, my temper: all of these things have held me captive at one time or another. I live each day attempting to live in the moment, live for the present and the future and not be held back by my past successes or failures.

Still, the struggle continues...

just because...

I was recently in a local store when a farmer walked in with his two small children, one girl and one boy. The two children carefully examined the wares of the shop and their eyes finally settled on a pair of earrings. After the practical father made sure the gift was in their price range, the lady at the counter asked what the occasion was to be buying something special for their mom. “It’s a just because present,” the little girl answered.

I am glad God loves me “just because.” God loves me because His nature is to love and although I am always unworthy, He keeps on giving me gifts and loving me in spite of myself. Just because I am made in His image doesn’t mean I am perfect; far from it. But God loves me still. In the ultimate expression of His love God sent Jesus to the cross just because I needed saving from my sin. God didn’t need to show off or prove anything to any man, He sacrificed Himself just because of His love. Just because God cared as far back as eternity reaches, He planned and purposed good gifts for me and you. Just because He cares about how we treat one another, He gives us principles and commandments to help us to love and respect one another. Just because He never gives up on anyone, He stands ready to receive us just as we are and take us to where we ultimately were made to be.

Some people like to think God loves them because they are good. Others believe God only loves them if they say the right words and pray the right prayers. I believe the truth is God loves us all just because love is who He is.

So the next time you meet an angry person, do something some kindness to them just because. The next time you meet a person who is down on his luck, be a hand to lift him up just because you recognize the awesome love of God and how it is a blessing to share it.
Just because.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sometimes in the depth of winter...


...we get a glimpse of spring.

I have an orchid that Erin gave me in my living room. I was gone from home for a couple of days to attend to church matters in Dresden, and I mistakenly left my heat on high while I was away. I returned to a very warm house, but a surprise as well. The orchid, which had apparently been dormant for several months in the cold of winter and presumed dead by me had, in my greenhouse-like warm house, bloomed again.

Sometimes life is like that. When everything is "normal" or in its appropriate season we become dormant and cold to the surroundings we face each day. When we face a struggle or a challenge and the "heat" is turned up, God sometimes gives us great opportunities to show His beauty to others.
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

-Will

Sweetheart story: The Hughes


I was encouraged to find and write about a couple for the February addition of The Crockett Rocket (the monthly paper I freelance for). I know I may seem a little partial, but I looked no further than two of the greatest people I know: my maternal grandparents.

Roe Nell and Gretta Hughes have been married for over 53 years and still hold hands when they walk together. They have been blessed to travel all over the United States (driving) and sharing those hours in conversations about life, God, children and grandchildren. When I was a sophomore in high school, my grandparents invited me on a trip out West. Now every high school student would not have enjoyed a LONG car trip with two savvy senior citizens, but I did. It was one of the greatest trips of my life. I know the location of every McDonald's restaurant between here and Montana and I saw more elk than I ever want to see again. While most of my friends' grandparents were deceased or confined to nursing homes, my grandparents were lively, fun people. They never complained about growing up with so little and they never brag about how much they now have. Solid people, good people, salt of the earth kind of people.

My grandparents raised two children, my mom, Vickie, and my uncle, Roe, Jr. They encouraged them to dream big and to follow their hearts. While I am sure they didn't always agree with the choices their children made, Roe Nell and Gretta are the kind of people you can come to when you have made the wrong choice and be forgiven instantly. I have never once heard either of them bring up an old argument when tackling a new challenge.

Four grandchildren have come onto the scene in the last 25 years. Paige, Sarah Beth, Roe III and myself have never wanted for anything due largely to the work ethic of our parents and the generosity of our grandparents. When we were kids, our grandparents took the whole family to Disney World. Roe Nell would have us up at the break of day to be first in line for the newest roller coasters. I didn't like getting up so early while on vacation, but I will never forget the gleam in my grandfather's eye as we raced the crowds to ride Splash Mountain or Rock'n'Rollercoaster. Roe Nell Hughes is a generous, caring man, but he is still as competitive as when he was a three-sport star at Alamo High School in the 1950s. Gretta may have a few more smile lines and her hair is gray, but she is still as beautiful as the girl that was crowned Miss Bells all those years ago.

For their 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago, I scraped together some money and took Roe Nell and Gretta to New York City. I had been through a rough time that year, and I wanted to do something I had never done. I couldn't think of anyone I would rather have shared the trip with than my grandparents. We saw the original Yankee Stadium, Broadway shows and rode to the top of the Empire State Building. I drug my grandparents from museum to museum and they had a great time. They have twice been on the TODAY show and Al Roker asked them the secret of a long, healthy marriage. "A lot of love," Gretta said. I think she is right. Two people, one from Bells, the other Alamo, that are so close they even share the same birthday. While their dating and courtship was short, their marriage has lasted through six different decades. While they would be the first to tell you it hasn't been perfect or even always easy, they would also say they are blessed beyond measure. Roe Nell and Gretta Hughes, true Crockett County sweethearts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Patty Griffin new album, "Downtown Church," out next week

If you haven't yet discovered Patty Griffin, perhaps her new album Downtown Church would be a great starting place. It's been streaming for free on National Public Radio's (NPR) website for the last week or so and I can't wait to buy a copy when it comes out next week (January 26, 2010).

Here is a video of Patty singing one of her most famous songs, "Mary," with a little help from Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks fame.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Sing about Martin"

When I was a child in elementary school, the music teacher had songs for every holiday. These same songs were song in our weekly music class every week from kindergarten to sixth grade. One of the songs I particularly liked was called, "Sing about Martin." The words were very simple and the message plain: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man to be admired and imitated.
Since I have grown older, I have read Dr. King's books and listened to his speeches, and I have come to believe that the message is far greater than one man. The hope of equality, the struggle for justice, the love of freedom: all a greater than Dr. King himself or the American Civil Rights Movement. These goals and aims are the principles of Christianity put into practice.

When I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis this past year, I was fascinated by the sheer numbers of students and young adults who were around me saying things like, "I had no idea this happened," when looking at the graphic scenes of the Civil Rights Movement portrayed in the museum. I had been raised in a home to revere Dr. King and his work. Relating the experience to other people later, some were shocked that I would even go to the National Civil Rights Museum at all. They had a misunderstanding that it was a place only for people of color. I believe we can all celebrate and benefit from the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in America. It is a movement that should never stop as the members of our society strive to stand united and equal.

Happy MLK, Jr. Day and may you give your life to the service of others,
-Will

Thanks

I appreciate the overflow of giving to the Son Light Orphanage in Haiti that took place this morning at Lebanon church. We will take these donations and unite them with the ministry of the Estes church in Henderson to make the best possible use of all funds received. Thanks again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Can you "overdonate" in times like these?

I was recently struck by several comments I read on a friend's blog who had posted information about helping the people of Haiti after this terrible disaster that has destroyed much of their country. Comments ranged from the outrageous (think Pat Robertson) to the generous to the... well, dumb (i.e. "We were going to send some funding, but we didn't have a quorum to vote on it so we left it on the table...").

I would suggest we cannot over respond when dealing with events like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti. I am not suggesting that there are not right and wrong ways to respond, but rather that no response is still a response. And the wrong one.

The church is rich in resources (financial and human and Divine) and we ought not hoard up our treasures to the detriment of our fellows. If we know of ways to help, help. If we don't know of ways, ask. If we are concerned about making the right decisions, pray. We should be calm and patient in our decision making, but guard against the reality that patience is an excuse for inaction.

God bless,
-Will

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister


In The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister, I found myself wondering (at times it seemed aimlessly) down the map and up the calendar of the Christian year. Having grown up in a non-liturgical setting, I was unprepared for some of the terminology in the book and had to do a little outside reading to fully understand the book's context.

Despite my initial confusion, I found myself coming to appreciate the beauty of the passing of time in regards to the building of a Christian life and witness. The liturgy cycle, as Chittister sees it "is one of the teaching dimensions of the church." "The liturgical year, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent and carrying through the following November, is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ."

I like the way that the liturgy (and this book about it) builds each day upon the next. More than just the passage of feasts and fasts, Chittister invites the reader to look deeper toward the meaning behind each event of the liturgical year. I enjoyed learning about the holy days, and although not observed by my particular branch of Christianity, the holidays, festivals and traditions that surround them. Some of the prose of the book was quite moving and inviting one to deeper fellowship with God.

The downside of the book was its length without going into much detail about the Scriptures that founded the calendar and days. Perhaps this is not a downside, but rather an area where further research should be done by the reader.

Overall, not a bad read (3 of 5), but not something I would recommend to others as I have the other volumes of The Ancient Practices series.

I talk about serious matters a lot...

...but this is too funny not to pass on to you. Thanks, Muffin Man for posting!

God bless,
-Will
http://bit.ly/7XBaAm

Gratefulness

I appreciate all the kindness I have received over the past few years in dealing with illnesses, the loss of relationships, my growth and development as a Christian and in my ministry. Sometimes we never know how the subtle influence of a kind note, an e-mail or a phone call can make all the difference in the life of another person.

Today I am saying I am grateful...

...to Rachel and Olivia for all their encouraging notes in my worst times.
...to Mrs. Betty, Mrs. Alpha, Mrs. Annette and Mrs. Louise and others for their constant encouragement.
...to my church family at Lebanon who always compliments and rarely criticizes.
...to my best friend, Erin, who never gives up on me.
...to my family who are constantly pulling me up and pressing me forward.
...to all those who have prayed for me in their closets, their churches and around their tables.
...to my teachers and mentors who have shown me that Christ is able, even when we are not.
...to Seth, Adam, Jerry, Daniel, Joseph, Justin, Allison, Jennifer and others who, through we rarely see each other or talk, are great encouragements from afar.

Thanks to all and each,
-Will

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Compassion "Help Haiti" banner & Estes CoC work

If you look at the top right hand corner of this page, you will see a banner linking you to ways to help the children of Haiti through Compassion International. I personally sponsor a child in Ecuador through this organization and I would encourage you to consider child sponsorship or a one-time gift to help the children affected by this disaster.

If you would like to know a bit more personally how your funds are used, the Estes church of Christ in Henderson, TN sponsors a mission feeding and child development center in Haiti. One of the young people from the center was killed in the earthquake and the others will need much help in the days ahead. For more information on how you can help this mission effort, contact the Estes church http://www.estes.tn.org/. If you would like to make a monetary donation, you may send it to Estes Church of Christ, P. O. Box 191, Henderson, TN 38340. Please mark “Haiti Relief Effort” in the memo field.

Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti,
Unity is strength,
-Will

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

God bless Haiti

A few years ago, I was actively involved in a church's mission program which included a substantial work in Haiti. I prepared to travel there to aid in local mission efforts, but our team was prevented due to civil unrest in the country. Now, even the earth upon which they walk seems to have betrayed the people of Haiti.

Today I pray God's blessings on R.E. and her children and pray that Haiti will find herself in the words of her national motto: "Unity is strength."

Your Kingdom Coming

"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." -Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:10


My obedience to God is often a question of will. If I will within myself to obey Christ's commands and set myself to that purpose, I many times can avoid the dangers missteps that I sometimes make along life's pathway. That does not, of course, mean that the adversary leaves me alone simply because I purpose to serve the Master. In fact, Satan will increase his attacks in an effort to override my will. "Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" is often my cry as a Christian, but if I never purpose in my spirit then my flesh is not only weak; it is dead to sin.

It is up to me (and you if you are a believer) to bring the force of your soul to bear upon the charge to bring God's kingdom into the world. Not just the establishment of the church, but bringing a taste of heaven and it's will to earth. Christ prayed for it, the Father sent it, the Holy Spirit empowered it. Now, we must have the strength of will and the power of God funneled through us to take it to the world.





(I had the opportunity to participate in a service with "the Jesus Painter" several years ago. When coupled with Shaun's amazing voice, it is even more powerful.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Potential

"When the Spirit of God has shed abroad the love of God in our hearts, we begin deliberately to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ's interests in other people, and Jesus Christ is interested in every kind of man there is." -Oswald Chambers


I was recently asked why I spend time with some people who are hostile toward my religious beliefs. Not only are we not of the same "stripe" of Christian background, these individuals are atheists and agnostics and have little to no respect for the Word of God, the sacrifice of Christ or absolute truth. So, why do I hang out with them? Why do I take their reviling of the very things I hold most sacred? Because I want to attempt to influence them to see that, though they may mock and ridicule Scripture, Christ and the Christ in me, I will still believe in Jesus and that Jesus still believes in them.


Christ has an interest in every human being. Whether the person knows it our not, Christ died so that he or she might be set free. How will people ever come to know the love, mercy and compassion of God if they do not see it in the lives of those who claim to be His followers? These people are not my "natural" friends; in fact, we may not be friends at all, but I thank God that I see potential in each one of them. I pray that God still sees potential in me after all my sins and shortcomings. If God can see a minister, missionary and Christian example in me, surely I can return that grace and see the potential for good in others.

be blessed,
-Will

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Betwixt two worlds...

...and he pitched his tent: Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built and altar and he called on the name of the LORD. Story of Abram recorded in Genesis 12:8

Sometimes in life, most of the time in fact, we are called by God into something before we fully or even partially understand it. In Genesis 12 with the call of Abram, God scoops up a man in the middle of life and makes promises to him that seem too big for even God to dream up. To Abram's credit, he doesn't murmur or complain, he simple "goes out not knowing where he went" (Hebrews 11:8). When God says go, you don't have to know the plan, the route, and especially not the destination. You simply must know that you have heard the word of God and must adhere to what He has said. So many times in life we want to see the big picture and yet we want to know the details. The word of God will never send us into a place too big or minuet for the grace of God to not sustain us. God provided a high place (the mountain east of Bethel) for Abram to look around and see what was going on. Abram has the proper response: to offer sacrifice and worship God. He could have looked down upon the past or the future, but instead he chose to honor God with his present. Bethel will become a place of worship for generations to come and Ai will become the home of Abram's descendents worst defeat.
Did doubt slip into his mind as he stood offering the sacrifices? Perhaps the longing for Haran (Ur of Chaldees) and all that he had left behind in Mesopotamia? A wondering as to how God would accomplish His purpose in his future? No doubt it did. Abram was just a man after all. The key to his story and and history is that he did not allow the lack of evidence, the lack of witness, the lack of creeds or conventions to govern his response. He merely longed to go into the presence of God.
I hope we spend our new year entering God's presence even when we don't have all the answers. I hope we will go there when we don't fully understand or fully want to be understood. I hope that God will invade our lives and we will evade the desire to run from His advance.
God bless us as we stand between two worlds,
-Will