Posts Tagged ‘Highland Park Church’

Nothing Lasts Forever

Monday, December 12th, 2016


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As I prepare for the final service, December 18th, of my twenty-seven  year ministry spanning three churches, two of which we helped plant, I find myself surprisingly “un-sad”. Looking back, I have few regrets. From the day in the fall of 1989 when Pastor David Graves offered me my first church job, it has been the journey of a lifetime. Even today, I have a difficult time wrapping my brain around why God chose me. My faith has grown exponentially to the point that most days I am at least in the ballpark of being a fully devoted follower of Christ. I think back on my time at Grace Church and the issue with the hymnal. I was raised Catholic and until a year or so before I went on staff I had never seen a hymnal, much less tried to sing from one. So, for the first six months I was about a half-second behind everybody else. That was a bit awkward since each service I was sitting on the platform without any place to hide. But even that bit of embarrassment makes a cool little story to share.

In 1993 Cathy and I, along with four friends, started Highland Park Church. I have believed in God at least since I was five, but during my twelve years at HPC I was witness to what I believe were several miracles that are unexplainable if I take God out of the equation. The first was the perfect assurance we had that the church would be a huge success even though you could put what we knew about church planting on the head of a pin. From the get-go that was a given and it happened above and beyond our dreams. There was a miracle regarding a horse trailer. The most obvious one was that God pulled some strings allowing us to purchase 66 acres, five miles from downtown for $725,000. A Bank president remarked that was the best property buy in Nashville’s history.

Eleven years ago, I left my position as founding pastor in what was the most painful season of my life.  That period was permeated with a deep sense of sadness that settled into the pores of my soul like a thick August  fog. At first I thought it was about brick and mortar. We had just moved into our brand-new state of the art building, after spending nearly twelve-years as a portable church, meeting in a community center and a high school. I finally realized that my pain had little to do with losing a building. The epicenter of my pain was the loss of treasured relationships. Buildings are replaceable; treasures are not.  After a personal grief that lasted for months, I concluded that nothing lasts forever.  And as painful as that might be, night is always followed by a new day.

I figured that Crossroad Community Church would be HPC 2.2. It was never close as far as size. At first I had a problem accepting that fact, mostly because of my pride. Then one Thanksgiving morning God told me to take care of the folks He had given me and do it as well as I could. I’ve tried to do that. The final miracle is the “Crossroad Miracles Still Happen Grant Program” in which our church will distribute over $600,000 that would have gone into a building. Now, it will go to multiple ministries so that our legacy will live on in the lives of people whom we will never know. We are discovering anew that it is greater to give than receive. God Bless!

My  journey to wholeness in my free online book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Better Things are Coming

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

hope-quotes-14They were talking in hushed tones but I was able to hear enough to become very sad once again. Another young person had ended his life. The second leading cause of death in the 10-34 age group is suicide, right behind accidents. Why does that happen and why does it happen so often?   The answer is really pretty simple.  It’s the same thing that causes the young suicide bombers in the Middle East to strap a bomb to their backs and walk into a crowded restaurant and blow themselves up. Whether you are a suicide bomber or a young professional the reason you take your own life is because you lose something that is a necessity for life …… hope.  You lose hope.

Hope is the essential ingredient to withstanding the difficulties of life.  The author of the book of Hebrews refers to hope as “an anchor for the soul” 6:19 (NLT).   Without hope, there is no quality of life. Without hope sometimes there is no life itself. Many years ago I went into a spiral deep down into the pit of hopelessness that became more intense each day. I went to a place I’ve never been and I pray I’ll never return.  A guy who for over 15 years had taught others to have faith, to believe and trust God, and here I was just barely hanging on by my finger nails.  I expect that many, if not all of you, know what that’s like, don’t you?

One of the most inspiring writings of all time on the subject of hope comes from the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament.  Here, set against a backdrop of facing disaster and ruin, a man whose eyes are saturated with tears discovers that his hope that has been depleted and even obliterated, is rekindled and focused on God.

Lamentations 3:17-19 (NLT) summarizes what many hopeless people feel in the pit of their souls,    “Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘”My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.”

That is exactly how I was feeling back in 2005. That is how the young man whom the guys were talking about was feeling. The victim of hopelessness loses peace, focus, and strength.  He gains misery, bitterness and pain.  That is what happens where hope has been exhausted. But after painting a bleak picture of his life, Jeremiah then takes a look at the other side of the coin by giving us  a truth literally crammed full of hope.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT) “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.”

My  journey to wholeness in my free book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

The River of Evil

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

huang-he-jin-xia-da-xia-gu-1In 1968, shortly before I voted for the first time, my dad gave me some unsolicited advice that went like this: “Son never vote for a Republican! I voted for that SOB Eisenhower in 52 and that was the biggest mistake of my life”. In that instant of time somehow I was able to keep my mouth shut. But to let you know how that story ended, I voted for Hubert Humphery; not because dad told me to but because, back then, I was very liberal. Please don’t stop reading; I did not stay in that place.  Dad would not be happy; I have been disobedient. My voting has been all over the map and today I think I’m a moderate. As a “boomer” I was taught by my parents, the nuns in Catholic school and society that I had some kind of almost mystic-like, sacred duty to vote every time the polls were open.  I guess that is the reason I felt a slight tinge of guilt when I bailed in 2004 (Bush / Kerry, ugh). This year, however, I am not going to feel any remorse when I do not vote for only the second time.

They say that the way you can tell if a politician is lying is that his/her mouth is moving. I know that this year that is obviously true. What I have come to realize, in my late years, is that most people are not bothered by outright lies or the obscene amounts of money that is poured into the campaigns by folks buying influence. The whole political system has become polluted by a systemic river of evilness which is ripping our country apart. We now live in an “us against them culture” where “US” is good and “THEM” is bad. Instead of loving “THEM” as God’s Word demands, we pretty much hate “THEM”.  Our whole political system is designed in such a way that many good folks go to Washington, but few if any return.

I can’t count the number of folks I hear saying “the less of two evils”, when it comes to voting. That con worked on me several times.  Recently I realized that by voting for the less of two evils is evil in itself. Evil is always evil. Sin is sin. By definition it is always bad. That law flows out of God’s will which penetrates every fiber of society.  The way I understand how God set things up was that His will trumped all.   Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:33 (NLT). This year I am going to trust God to do that very thing and I’m going to stay home and  love “THEM” and pray for God to save us from ourselves.

Something to Think About

More about my dad and I in my  journey to wholeness in my free book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

A Couple of Old Ladies

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

old-woman-imagesBoth elderly widows lived at the same assisted living facility so obviously they had much in common. Each appeared to be about the same age and seemed to me to have more or less equal health and mobility.   Both sat in their favorite chairs with a blanket covering their legs watching TV.  Even though it was in the seventies outside, both rooms felt like the sauna at the “Y”. Not a hair was out of place on either head. Obviously they had recently returned from their weekly hair appointments. The décors of their rooms were essentially the same. Pictures of loved ones, past and present, adorned the walls; both had land-line telephones, chairs for visitors, goodies for snacking and a box of Kleenex within easy reach.

But the inhabitants of those two rooms could not have been greater contrasts. One was all smiles and answered my knock on the door with a cheerful, “Hello, please come in”. The entire time of our visit there was an aura of a positive and contagious force field around the sweet lady with a huge smile. Her demeanor testified to the delight my visit had brought her. As we talked, I recalled thinking, “Hope I can be this content when I move in this place”.  I came away uplifted and thankful for such pleasant experience with a truly amiable lady.

When I knocked on the other door, I heard a moan-like “It’s open”. When I cracked the door, the woman looked like she had just returned from a funeral. Alas, nothing had changed since my last visit! As we talked, I wondered how long it had been since she had actually smiled. The lady never said one positive thing during our thirty minute “ain’t it bad” conversation. It was all about her pains, her lack of bowel movements, how bad the food is and the lackluster staff.  I came away from her room wanting to shoot myself!

Walking to my car, I tried to analyze the contrast between those two women. I came to the conclusion that the quality of our lives is pretty much an internal thing. Simply put, it is dependent on the daily choice we make before our feet hit the floor.

The story of my  journey to wholeness in my free book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again