Archive for July, 2010


Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I recently overheard one end of a phone conversation at Sears while waiting on my car. The woman was talking to somebody about somebody else and she referred to the “somebody else” as “common trash”.  She then said, “He is such a Judas”. Whatever was going on, the woman was fired up and quite emotional. Hearing that term brought me back to my childhood.

Growing up, my momma frequently bounced around the term “Common Trash” as a putdown of folks whom she didn’t like or approve.  At first, I didn’t have a clue what it meant and didn’t care; although, from momma’s tone I knew it wasn’t a compliment. For some reason, it seems like I had a vague feeling that to be called common trash had something to do with being poor and being a bad person. At some point, perhaps around age eleven or twelve, I began to sense a link between trash and hairstyle  — particularly my brother Bill’s ducktails. Momma was always hassling him over them. His Elvis style hair made her skin crawl and the more she bitched the bigger and greaser the tails grew.  During one of her frequent ducktail assults, she said he “looked like common trash”. I recall as she said that, she had an emotional quiver in her voice.  I have never forgotten than night because it was about a 9.5 on the Richter scale.  When Bill was  later expelled from Father Ryan High, momma was afraid the people at church would think we were all common trash.  

As our neighborhood began to change due to the “white flight” of the fifties, momma tagged several of our new neighbors with the common trash moniker. I could never figure out how she knew such a thing and here I was not at all even sure what common trash really was. Finally, with all the dysfunction and shame in our family, there came a point when I thought perhaps I was common trash too. That bothered me greatly.  Somehow as I grew older, I figured out that I wasn’t; but for the life of me, I still didn’t have a clear understanding of the term until the day at Sears.

When I heard the woman talking on the phone it was like clicking the mouse in my brain.  For the first time, I was able to get a handle on “common trash”. It has nothing to do with standard of living, where somone lives, how much money they make, or education or the car they drive.  It absolutely, for sure hasn’t anything to do whatsoever with hair!   “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.”  Matthew 26:14-15 (NLT)

We can choose to do trashy things, just as  Judas Iscariot surely did when he betrayed the  best friend he would ever have. But the truth is, momma was wrong; there is no such thing as common trash. The Bible says that God made humans in His image. There is nothing common about God.

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Monday, July 26th, 2010

“Unscrewed” is a book about nine bad choices, spanning 45 years that I freely made that, in the fall of 2005, culminated in the loss of what I’m embarrassed to admit was the most important thing in my life at the time— my church. Looking back on my life during that period, I clearly recognize that Highland Park Church had become more important than my wife, my family and my God. HPC defined me. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end with the loss of bricks and mortar; it ends with my new found wholeness. For the first time in my life, suddenly I was enough for me! For it was only by walking through that self-imposed hammering that God allowed me to find not only what I had always been searching, but something beyond my wildest dreams. The truth is, early in that journey I was so numb and shell shocked I wasn’t walking or even crawling, but being carried by so many who loved me and stood with me. Without them this story would have certainly had a bad ending! This is a narrative about shame and guilt, success and failure, love and betrayal, friendship and envy, pride and humility, but mostly about a group of imperfect people doing what imperfect people always do.
Towering over all the pain in “Unscrewed” is a Big G God whose goodness, mercy, love and grace makes this story possible.

To Him be all the glory!
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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

A few weeks ago I did something I had been thinking about for well over a year. I bought myself a present – a new carbon fiber bicycle (Specialized Roubaix Expert). It is amazing especially when I’m going up a hill. Carbon fiber is very lightweight; it is essentially the same material that the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is made. That coupled with the fact that the gearing is advantageous for climbing means that the old fellow doesn’t have to strain quite so hard in a climb. The other day I did a solo contemplative ride through scenic rural countryside with virtually no traffic – perfect for thinking! A little over a mile from the end, I had to go up a steep hill. All the while I was pumping to get to the top, I was thinking about how great it was going to be to crest the peak and coast effortlessly down the backside with the wind to my face. And it was great! From the time I topped the hill until I got  back to my car, a distance of slightly over a mile, I didn’t have to pedal at all. However, about half way down I became aware of something strange. While coasting is great on the thighs it is not nearly as fulfilling as pumping those pedals to determine my own fate. Perhaps that is what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah has in mind when he wrote, “Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned!” Isaiah 3:10 (NLT)

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Bobby Johnson

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Today at 10:16 AM word leaked out that Vanderbilt Football Coach Bobby Johnson was resigning. Immediately, the bloggers, talking heads and self-proclaimed experts had their way. Of course all of it was non-factual speculation and babbling. On the message boards, one post read, “Only a coward would leave his team this close to the season starting.” That seemed to be the initial theme of the speculators. A few other folks were sure the coach was terminally ill or that he was forced out.  On and on it mindlessly went until 1:00 PM when Bobby spoke to the media. He was neither a coward, ill or fired. In an age when public figures seem to spin every word to make themselves look good, Bobby simply spoke from his heart. “I am not resigning; I’m retiring from coaching. It is a tough decision with which my wife Catherine and I struggled. It is about what we want to do with our lives. This is a personal decision. Football is not life, but a way of life. You only have so many years to live. We want to know what else life is about.”

Thanks coach for reminding us that, in the grand scheme of things, football is still just a game.

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The Spotlight

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I’m doing a message next Sunday about how God talks to us. Several years ago during a nasty church split my best “friend” and co-pastor of our church circulated a bizarre document claiming among other things that I had physically abused my son, that my marriage was on the rocks, that I claimed that a high government official named Jim Fyke was one of my very good friends when he wasn’t and finally that I had to be the center of attention.

It was all a pack of lies and most everybody that could put two and two together saw it for the hatchet job that it was. Relax; this isn’t going to be as serious as its sounding! But there was one assertion that I wasn’t sure about. I have never abused my son, my marriage was not on the rocks, Jim Fyke is one of my best friends, and in fact we had dinner with Jim and Becky last night. But that business about the center of attention, I didn’t think that was true either, but to tell the truth I wondered if perhaps there could be some truth there.

Today, I got my answer. I met some friends at Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch. When I walked in three folks were already seated at the table. I told them that there had been a change in plans and that my wife would be joining us shortly. I then pulled the one empty chair from beside the table to the end so there would be a seat for Cathy. Next, I attempted to take my seat next to Jim Harris. For reasons that I’m clueless to explain, when I sat down my brain was thinking I was going to sit into a booth. Unfortunately, when you sat down on a booth seat and it isn’t a booth and you yourself just moved the chair, something very bad happens. You fall on your butt, bang up you back, jamb you finger, bump your head, bruise your shoulder and feel like a fool. It was just like in the movies except it was not make believe. When I hit the floor with a loud thud, Ruby Tuesday’s went silent. I mean people stopped chewing in mid bite and all eyes were focused in horror on me! I now know it was all lies. I do not like being the center of attention! However, I did get a great illustration for my message about how God communicates.



Tuesday, July 6th, 2010



                                                  Saturday biking on Old Hillsboro Road we passed a tranquil valley farm framed by golden pastures containing perhaps several hundred rolls of freshly cut hay scattered about like cloned works of art along a half mile of road frontage and four-rail Lexington fence. It was an incredible sight and it put a top hat on an early morning bicycle ride. From my vantage point atop a bicycle moving at 20 MPH I thought, “Gee, I’ve never noticed the bravura beauty in a roll of hay before”. Perhaps that was the key, I was moving at 20 MPH, much too slow when I’m driving, but perfect when in the saddle of my bike.

The next day I drove back to the farm to take this picture. After asking a farmhand if I could get closer, I noticed that the rolls that had looked so uniformly identical from the highway actually had their own individual characteristics. One had remains of a tree branch, another a paper sack. On one the roll itself did not form correctly and it was a bit loose. I was reminded of the unshakeable uniqueness in all of God’s creation. From a distance we all look basically the same. Oh, our skin might be lighter or darker, but until you get up close we are all seemingly more or less homogeneous. It is when we dare to venture near that we see each other for what we really are —- works in varying degrees of progress. God is never early or late. His timing is perfect, as is His inimitable plan for you.