Tag Archive: Grace Coastal Church


It has been about 10 days since Hurricane Dorian visited the Lowcountry.  Here in Bluffton, God shined upon us as the rain did not come, and the winds remained below destruction levels.  As chaplain for the Bluffton Police Department, I found it relieving to venture out on Thursday morning and to find very minimal damage and no loss of life.  

While the hurricane itself did not pack a big punch for us, the waiting process was unnerving.  Somebody joked that it was like being stalked by a turtle.  For others it was pure misery.

The Bahamas took the full force.  As well as remembering them in prayer, consider how you or your church may assist in any way possible to meet  needs of the battered population.  They will need assistance for a long time to come.  

While we did not suffer greatly from the winds, rains, and tides, we suffered from anxiety and worry.  The many spaghetti models will drive a sane person completely crazy.  One thing for sure about Dorian…it was unpredictable.  Only the living God knew where it was going and how fast it would get there.  As we waited we worried.

The general population surprised me with their response.  Of the last 4 hurricane scares, I believe on this one we had the least amount of people evacuate.  Even when the predictions called for a worsening situation, possibly on the level of Hurricane Matthew, there seemed to be a bit of malaise with this one.  

I went to Old Town Bluffton to take some pictures and became amazed that none of the businesses on Calhoun Street or the Promenade were boarded up.  On the other hand, half of my neighborhood shuttered, and some even put sandbags around their doors.  We are a community that has never seen high water, even during Hurricane Matthew.  Some left as soon as the evacuation orders were given, and some won’t leave no matter what happens.  It would be an interesting social behavior study.  

Stress causes all sorts of issues.  Jesus said that worry does not add a day to our lives.  We now know it not only doesn’t add a single day to our lives, but, it probably takes a few off.  Without question, the name “Dorian” will cause anxiety for some time.  On top of it all, we still have at least 6 more weeks of hurricane season.  

Our hurricane scare resembles life.  We can’t avoid the storms of life.  They are going to come.  There is no evacuating life.  Storms come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Sometimes they get us all worked up.  The big storms like Dorian might not cause much change in our life. Other times a small storm can pop up and cause tremendous damage to our soul.  It’s life.  

How anyone reacts to a life storm is unpredictable.   We like to think we have life all planned out like our evacuation plans.  However, we don’t really know what might go on inside of us when the pink slip comes,  when our closest relationships fail, when the doctor gives horrid news, when the stock market plummets and recession sets in big time,  and when we face the forces of death.  Will we respond with a sense of “who cares” or will we be sandbagging our hearts and egos?  

Jesus and the disciples were in a storm while traveling by boat to the next town.  It was pretty bad.  The disciples were anticipating death.  Jesus was asleep.  When they woke him up, Jesus called out, “Peace (Shalom), Be Still,” and the waves and wind went calm.   Everybody focuses on Jesus calming the storm.    His response was classic.  He asked them, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  Believing and following Jesus is much more than buying hell insurance.  It’s about losing our lives and literally putting them in the hands of Jesus, even when we feel we are going to die.

We all have our favorite news station.  We all have our trusted weather man or service (mine is Ventusky).  We do the same with our health.  We actually do the same with the critical issues of life.  Instead of putting our lives in the hands of people, Jesus wants us to put our lives first in his hands.  That does not mean we don’t board up our windows.  It doesn’t mean we never go to the doctor.  It doesn’t mean we don’t seek a new job.  What it means is to call upon Him when the storm clouds begin to appear instead of waiting till we are on the roof, waiting for the helicopter to pull us off the roof. 

Jesus calmed the storm ,but who he really calmed were the excited disciples.  They went from screaming for Jesus to wake up to whispering to one another about Jesus’ ability to make good out of bad.  As a believer, shalom.  The good news is like the disciples, we are in the boat of life with Jesus.  He didn’t promise no storms.  But, he does promise to be with us through the storms.  With him ,we can claim the same as King David in the Psalms.  “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  Why?  Jesus is walking right ahead of me.  That’s the place of the Good Shepherd. 

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Recently we had two foxes patrolling our yards.  One was a beautiful gray fox with an all black face.  My neighbors thought I was nuts.  It’s amazing what you can see on long dog walks when the sun is not up.  He would sit on the fringe and observe.  He never made a sound.  My son-in-law finally saw him as well.  I was not smoking the crazy weed after all.

I tried to get a picture of him but he never showed up when I carried the camera.  It’s like he knew.  He was stunning actually.  I miss seeing him or her.  

The other fox was a small red fox.  That one was a pain.  He like to bolt out of the wooded areas and bark continuously at the people who walked dogs.  Have you ever heard a fox bark?  It is horrid.  It’s a mix between a dog’s bark and a crying woman.  He never attacked anyone.  He seemingly was protecting his territory to the dogs.  He too is gone.  Probably moved on looking for food.  

It did make me think that there tends to be two types of people in our various walks of life.  Take Facebook for an example.  Half of the people on Facebook don’t post very much if anything at all.  They might not have the time.  They might not want anyone to nose into their life.  My wife is one of those persons.  She is on Facebook but Facebook doesn’t have her.  

On the other hand there are those who post and post a lot.  They post what they have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  If a baby is born get ready for a deluge of pictures.  I’m not sure the theory behind the massive posters but, one thing is for sure, they have to be heard.  Maybe that is just it.  It’s a group of people that need interaction of some sort.  

I used to think there were three types of people.  We in America love the third group.  It’s the middle grounders.  They aren’t too low and they aren’t too high.  They are not too far right and not too far left.  They live life in the safe zone.  Can’t blame them.  Life is hard enough without living in the extremes.

However, if the middle walkers were to be pressed we would find they tend to lean one way or the other.  

Name it!  We really do tend to fall into two groups of people.  Answering, “I don’t really care,” puts one in the negative category.  In the end of the game we are just like we are made, right or left.

Football season is heating up.  I have to admit I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan.  It’s a long story how I became a Cowboys fan without ever stepping foot in Texas.  It doesn’t matter, I’m a diehard blue and white fan.  Now if you want to see something that makes my point ask about the Cowboys.  People will either give you a high five, “How bout dem Cowboys!”  or they will walk away mumbling  as fast as possible. 

So, maybe you are one of the supposed middle group that doesn’t care for football and maybe you don’t even know what a Dallas Cowboy is.  That puts you in the “I don’t like the Cowboys” column even if you don’t care.  How one cannot be a Cowboy fan is beyond me.  Somebody told me they don’t mind the Cowboys, they can’t stand their fans.  I’m one of those fans.  We think we can win the Super Bowl every year.  Sorry.    

It’s the same in our relationships.  Just this week I was in a conversation about a person both of us knew.  My friend said, “One thing is for sure, you either like him or you don’t.”  Yes, that is a pretty strong statement.  It’s true.  Let’s be honest.  It’s that way with all our relationships.  There are people we will let in our inner circle.  The rest may be acquaintances and we may actually act like we are friends but we will not let them get too close.  

Jesus spoke often of only two options.  He said we can’t have two masters.  In very clear and strong terms he said, “You will love the one and hate the other.”  That kind of talk makes us cringe.  We, who have been baptized with Western culture, mindsets and philosophies want to avoid the extremes.  

Jesus in many places only spoke of two positions.  When telling three parables in a row in Luke 11 it was clear.  One was either lost or one was found.  It’s life.  We are either alive or we are dead.  It’s pretty clear.  Our hearts are either beating or they are not.  There is always a line that separates the two.  

It gets a little personal when we see the 10 lepers healed by the Lord Jesus.  They ended up in two classifications.  Nine were not very thankful and took off as soon as they were clean.  Only one was a thankful post-leper.  

It’s not that I’m trying to be judgmental or contentious.  When we create classifications especially in relation to people we confuse the response.  The more we get confused the more we become stuck in life.  Confusion creates apathy.  Maybe that’s a bit harsh.  Confusion keeps one from moving right or left, forward or backwards, and up and down.  It is then that we are at our weakest.  

There is one position that is the most important.  Is Jesus, Lord?  Yes or No?  There is no middle ground.  

As I walked the dog this morning, I realized it was trash day.  Even if I were blind, I would know it was trash day.  The smell was obvious.  Did you know there is a local company that will contract with you to clean your trashcan?  You heard it here first.  If you keep your trashcan in the garage, you might want to give them a call.  

As we walked, it was interesting to observe the trash.  Before you laugh too hard, remember my brain is not wired in the normal way.  Usually I talk with Jesus as I walk the dog at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.  Today, trash had my attention.  You can learn a lot about people by looking at their trash.  It makes sense that law enforcement looks into the trash.  It’s loaded.  Literally.  Is this making you paranoid?  I hope not.

As I observed the rubbish in my neighborhood, I can tell you who has a healthy, or should I say unhealthy, intake of alcohol.  I can find the smokers.  If we pause long enough, we can tell diets and other habits as well.  It is getting easier to tell the choice of soap or shampoo as well.  It’s not buried in the bags.  The plastic bottles are sitting on top in the recycle bin.  

If the average home has 1.5 bags of trash per person per week (I read that somewhere; just don’t ask where), it would be easy to figure out how many people are living in each house.  Some of the cans are so full each week, forget getting the lid down.  

One thing for sure is we create a lot of garbage.  It is hard to fathom the amount of garbage the entire town of Bluffton creates in one week.  I’m just talking normal bags of trash. Oh, by the way, if I was a thief, I would be able to pinpoint the homes that have new televisions, computers, and sound systems.  Add the “extra” garbage, and our little town creates mountains of trash.  

The Bible talks trash.  It really does.  I feel bad for most of the Bible heroes.  Their trash is out there for generations to observe.  It smells bad too.  Adam and Eve get slammed for being the founding couple for the ultimate trash.  They had to feel horrible as they were escorted out of the garden into a world defined by its smelly refuse.  

David had plenty of family filth.  How would you like to be known as the man after God’s own heart, who first pursued another man’s wife and had him killed?  We will give him credit for killing Goliath, but, then again, as a father, his family comes completely apart.  David is just one of the many men and women whose rubbish defined them.  

I don’t need to go through the list.  It’s pretty ugly.  I realized the other day as I was preparing the topic for our new Saturday night “Come As You Are” service that every person in the Bible that Jesus engages is a representation of me (all of us actually) at many levels.  I’m a leper.  I’m the adulterous woman.  I’m a Pharisee.  I’m the blind guy.  I’m the paralyzed man who needed friends in order to be touched by Jesus.  Every person is a representation of humanity.  The worst one to be is the rich man who wouldn’t sell his possessions to follow Jesus.  I’m him at times.  What makes that one so hard is Jesus said that we can’t serve two masters.  His word use hits this world hard, when he says we love the one and hate the other.  The other night as I conversed with some faithful friends, one of the guys said he hates it when he is hostile towards Jesus.  My first response was “I’m not hostile towards God.  How can he say that?”  But I am hostile at God when I choose to serve this world.  My trash is stinking bad.  

I had to sort out my hostility for a few days.  Makes trash day look good ,doesn’t it?  Just like our physical life, we all have trash.  It’s funny, actually, that we show up on Sunday acting like we don’t have any.  I don’t know about you, but my trash-can tends to be full and overflowing, and boy does it smell.  That company would have to come to my life every day to clean my can it’s so stinky.  

I am reminded that my cleaner does come every day.  In fact, he never leaves me.  Jesus doesn’t look at my trash.  He’s already taken care of it.  I used to wonder why he asked us to confess our sins when he already knows.  It’s not for him.  It’s for us.  It reminds us how amazing his grace really is.  That’s my hope.  That’s my faith that gives me great confidence that no matter how full and stinky my trash can, my Lord Jesus has it covered.  I love the old hymn when it says, “What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  He doesn’t clean my outward container.  He covers my wicked heart.  No need to recycle.  It’s been taken care of.

I love the “Secret Lives of Pets” movies. Illumination Entertainment produced this animated speciality.  They must have put a lot of effort into learning the movements of different pets.  I often wondered what my dog was doing when I was away.  So, I got one of those spy cams.  He does not have a secret life.  He sleeps.  

Our world is getting more and more revealed.  There are driving cams everywhere.  I would tell you some secrets about the cams and what they can do but, I am sworn to secrecy.  I can tell you that they are everywhere.

Any wise businessman will have a video security system.  Just this week, a local business was robbed and then broken into a few days later.  It’s all on video.  Many owners have installed video cams to catch their own employees in the act.  Whenever you go shopping, smile.  You are on candid camera.  

I’ve actually heard of people who video their journeys in the car.  I recently saw a bicyclist with a video recorder on the top of his helmet.  I had the opportunity to ask him about it.  He replied, “I was run over once.  I will not be run over again without video evidence.”  I thought he might have it to record the beauty around him.  Who ever would have thought such?

It doesn’t stop there.  Our cell phones may be one of the best recording devices we will ever own.  Not much goes on that is not recorded by someone, somewhere.  We no longer have to carry heavy equipment.  It’s now in the palm of our hands.  My grandkids use it a lot.  I would, only it does not cross my mind to video things like most do today.  

Our church staff has been talking about live streaming the sermon.  It is not uncommon for a church to do so.  In a sense, you can see the church before you have to be the church.  I probably got that one turned around.  One can be the church before they have to see the church is probably more of a Biblical truth.  It’s no different than keeping an eye on the traffic cams, the baby cam, the doggie cam, and any other cam you can come up with other than Cam Newton.  

One would think with all the video feeds, security cameras, and cell phones our crime rate would drop.  It doesn’t.  It’s like we are not paying any attention that someone is watching.  Red light tickets from traffic cams keep coming.  Recently, a local restaurant was held up and broken into a few days later.  It’s clear the individual knew there was a camera.  He hid his face.  Cameras seem to be for the good people.  

I was reading in Revelation the other day.  It’s like we are on a life cam.  It says in chapter 20 that everyone is going to be judged according to what they had done.  Everybody!  If everything is a heart issue it is probably going to be more than a video cam.  It’s going to display our thoughts and motives as well.  I hope everybody is taking a nap when it’s my turn.  I wonder if the volume can be turned down.  On the other hand, it might be some good entertainment.  Here’s John trying to be a good boy.  Everybody will be laughing for sure.  It will be ugly.  

I think it’s amazing how many people think they will get into heaven because they are good enough.  When those videos are shown, I don’t think anyone will be thinking they are good enough.  Since the Bible says perfection is the only standard, I’ll bet every penny I have that those videos will show how woefully short we all fall.  

There will be an editor for the believers.  According to the next few verses, there is only one thing that edits the ending.  Is your name written in the Book of Life?  The only way it gets there is to follow Jesus.  Our editor will have scars in his hands, feet, and probably on his brow from the crown of thorns.  His back will show the marks of the vile whipping.  However, his embrace will be all that is needed to set the record straight.  

I don’t know about you, but I do know my life video showing all my public and private life will show a need for a Redeemer.  The good news, the gospel, is that Redeemer lives.  I put my hope in Jesus, the Redeemer and editor of my life video.  According to the Scripture, all other ground is sinking sand.  

We sat in the upper level section 3 every game that we attended.  The Baltimore Clippers (American Hockey League) were competitive and a constant force striving for the Calder Cup.  This particular year they had a shot at the cup.  I remember a stifling defense, a goalie who did not wear a mask (not mandatory at that time), and just enough offense to win close games.  For a ten-year-old boy it was hockey heaven.  

This particular game was right before the playoffs.  The place was sold out.  We had to sit in section 11 instead of 3.  It didn’t matter.  We were at the game.  Only things didn’t quite go as planned.  Here we were down by 3 with six minutes to go.  The defense was weak that night.  The offense was nonexistent.  

In order to beat the rush we headed for the exit.  This one was over.  Since we sat in different seats, the exit was much farther away.  As we headed for the lower level, the crowd broke into a sustained cheer.  A goal had been scored.  It was now 5 minutes to go and down by 2.  Had the tide turned?

There was a buzz in the crowd.  It could be felt in the hallways.  We decided to cross the stage to catch the #3 bus home.  As we hit the stage, the crowd burst into maddening exuberance.  With 2 minutes and 30 seconds left, we scored to only be down by 1.  Nobody sat in silence.  Everyone who was headed for the exits, including us stopped dead in our tracks.  Not only had the tide turned, the tsunami was overtaking the entire coliseum.  The Clippers were alive and so were their fans.  Enthusiasm reigned.  

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  The entire place was electric.  The Clippers skated circles around the Hershey Bears.  The crowd was plain nuts.  They tied the score within seconds of the faceoff.  Maybe we could win in overtime.  We contemplated returning to our seats.  

No need.  With 35 seconds left on the clock, the Clippers had succeeded in tallying the winning goal.  That’s right! four goals in less than six minutes.  I have never experienced such a scene.  Electric enthusiasm was contagious.  Everybody yelled and screamed and jumped for joy.  The players were grinning from ear to ear.  Once the final horn sounded, the place almost collapsed due to the noise.  At least it seemed like it.  I can verify because I was standing on the stage.  The bad boy was vibrating.  

The electric wave proceeded out onto the streets and onto the waiting buses.  I don’t remember all the details, but as for me, I was a-buzz as I laid my head on the pillow that night.  Something had happened that few will ever see.  What was lost, was won!  

I’ve met a few people over the years who live in constant ecstasy.  There is something about life that they are tuned into that few find.  It doesn’t matter what’s going on; they seem to have that winning grin the Clippers had that night.  My father-in-law was one of those persons.  As my mother would say, “Come hell or high water he would still be dancing all night long.”  Trouble wasn’t a downer.  It was an opportunity.  

Now, 50 years later since I witnessed one of the most amazing comebacks in sports history (at least I think so), I sit in many religious meetings wondering what happened to the enthusiasm.  Stages are not vibrating.  We seem to have to purposely generate any excitement to make it look like we are happy.  Strike up the band.  Shout from the pulpit.  Do something to awaken the masses.  

We have come to believe that Jesus came to this earth.  As the Son of God, he walked with us and didn’t catch the next plane back.  He sacrificially bought us with his own blood as he was beaten and nailed to the cross of shame.  The only righteous one we murdered.  Instead of remaining in the grave, he conquered that as well, rising from the dead the third day and showing himself to a large amount of people.  He ascended into heaven, preparing to return for us, and, in the meantime sent his Holy Spirit to be with us at all times.  

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot more exciting than a come from behind victory by a minor league hockey team that is now defunct and has been for a long, long time.  So we come on Sunday with drudgery and solemness.  Not only was He who was dead alive, but by his sacrifice we as believers were once lost but now are found!  

Let the stage vibrate from our enthusiastic reply.  In Luke 15 Jesus talks about the celebrations in heaven when we who are lost are found.  So, where is the celebration?  Where is the enthusiasm?  Let’s not make for the exits.  That’s for those who think all is lost.  Our hope is not in our ability to score one for Jesus.  Our hope is in the one who beat death.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  It’s time to celebrate!  Party on! 

I turn 60 this week.  I have been told it’s all downhill from here.  I like downhill.  It’s those long walks up the hill to sled back down that are tiring.  It’s the slow climb to the top, the clickity-clacking sound the rollercoaster makes that drives me nuts.  That downhill ride is a blast.  I’m looking forward to the next 20 years if God is so willing to give me that many.  The ride should be a blast, and I don’t even plan on retiring anytime soon.  I can’t.  

I really don’t have a problem with age.  Some people freak out at certain birthdays that end in zero.  I have not had that problem at all.  My father retired around the age of sixty.  I watched him go from being a vibrant member of society to having the weather and history channel be the highlight of his day.  On the other hand, my father-in-law could not retire and worked a profitable life into his 80’s.  That’s how I desire to go out.  With my boots still on.  Let’s face it, there is only so much golf one can play to maintain happiness.  

I look at life as being in four twenty-year segments.  The first 20 years are the learning years.  Pretty much based on the path of the first 20 your life is set in a certain direction.  It might deviate to the left or right a little, but the die is cast.  

The second 20 years are the “years of change.”  We go from single to married.  We become parents.  Often in our world, many will change careers.  Usually this will occur in the “years of change.”  It’s during this time our income changes, and probably our housing will change a few times as well.  Few live in the same house anymore.  The change is so fast, it tends to eat us for lunch.  In today’s world, it’s worse than ever.  For those who can adjust, it works well.  For those who struggle with change, they will tend to be in the counselors office a lot or should be.  Those 20 years fly by.

The third set of 20’s tend to be the settling years.  It’s these years that empty nest sets in, and we get to have some of the life we thought it would be without kids.  Grandkids make life grand  if you get them in your 50’s.  I always say, “If I knew grandkids were this good, I would have skipped kids.”  In many respects I think I did skip kids.  Life was going so fast, I struggle to remember.  

From 40 to 60 we tend to settle into set patterns, set lifestyles, and set habits.  The only time it changes is if something goes really wrong.  We tend to stay in our jobs at this point even if we are not too fond of them.  Life can get quite boring in the settling years.  We go from chasing kids and playing softball to reading books and watching television.  I guess now we don’t so much watch television.  Instead we surf the Internet.  We end up with dogs and cats who take the place of our kids.  

So here I am entering the last 20 years.  Yes, I realize many are living beyond the age of eighty.  It’s not that I’m forgetting that fact.  I simply see the last twenty as twenty plus.  The only difference is it gets slower.  I am entering the wisdom years.

For many, it’s the age the torch is passed from our parents to us.  We lose them and wake up to find we are the ones the kids and others come to for advice.  Not only that, but, by this time, we are what-ever we are.  Few pick up new practices or habits at this point.  You can tell when you enter the wisdom years.  Conversations begin with “I remember when…”

The real difference in the wisdom years is we now know what works and doesn’t work.  We have tried different things, traveled many different paths, listened to just about everybody and deep down we now know.  Our words “I think” become “I know.”  The only problem we face is will anybody listen.  

In Biblical days, the wisdom years were respected.  There was value in experiences and life journeys.  In the church, we might call them “elders.”  It is not a position in my opinion of anyone below the wisdom years.  There was a reason God wanted older people in a place of spiritual care.  We should be not so much mellower but rather understand by now that the only thing that does work in our life’s relationships is God’s love and grace.  God only knows how many disappointments it takes one to learn this lesson.  

One reason I believe the older generation stopped being respected is we stopped learning.  The wisdom years don’t end learning.  We are always to be learning.  Why?  So our wisdom can be applied to the day at hand.  We should learn the new fangled technology.  We should read relevant material and listen to today’s music.  Why? You ask again.  It shows we care for the next generation more than than our own.  

There is a job to be done according to Psalm 78:4 – 6 that reads, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done…so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born.”  Forget retirement.  We need to not just tell them.  We need to show them.  

I can tell it’s time for a vacation.  The articles of the  last few weeks have been hard to write.  Usually, when the mind is not putting things together, it’s time to take a break.  I tell people all the time when I sense they are running on empty, “Even Jesus took a break, and you ain’t Jesus.”  My time away is still ,as of today, 16 days away.  I see light at the end of the tunnel.  In the mean time readers, you may have to put up with my ramblings that may seem to run all over the place.  It’s how my tired mind works.  Or doesn’t.  

I like to listen to Johnny Cash’s music.  His songs are so full of life.  People who have had struggles and I mean serious struggles seem to relate to his songs.  My personal favorite is “A Boy Named Sue.”  I remember the first time I heard that one.  I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  Johnny came out with that one in 1969.  I was 10 years old.  I thought it was so funny that someone would name his boy, Sue.  

Just the other day my iPod shuffled the classic hit into play mode.  Again, a smile crossed my face as I ventured back to 1969.  Only this time, not only did I enjoy Johnny’s live rendition, I focused on the words of his dad.  He named him Sue because he knew he was not going to be along, and he wanted his boy to grow up tough.  A bit over the top, but the message comes through.  He loved his son enough to give him a girl’s name.  Let’s just say it was a different world in 1969.  

We could argue all day long that if that dad really loved his boy he would hot have wandered away.  I use the word “wander” on purpose.  Jesus describes us as wandering sheep in Luke 15.  Do you know why sheep wander? It’s easy.  They are natural wanderers!  Sometimes I think we forget the basics of Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus had no real issues with our nature.  Our fallen nature should not surprise anyone.  In that amazing chapter written by Dr. Luke, Jesus is addressing the group who thought they had their act together.  He describes us as lost sheep, lost coins, and rebellious kids.  In all of this, Jesus does not issue one single negative comment.  Instead, he talks about his love and grace.  His love to find us and welcome us home.  HIs grace to restore us in relationship with Him.  

I have way too many discussions with fellow “Christians” who want to talk about the reasons we are losing the next generation.  We want to blame technology.  We want to blame the education system.  We want to blame the youth group leaders.  We want to blame just about anything we can get our hands on.  That is, as long as you don’t blame me.  You can blame me, though.  I will admit I’m a natural wanderer.  I get lost at times and, yes, I too can shake my fist at my God and take off on my own path.  Any one of those three will impact my church, my family, and my community.  That is, if I don’t have a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of God and how they engage one another.

It is at this point we need to stop our debating and useless blame shifting.  The struggle to give the gospel to the next generation has been an issue since man sinned.  After Adam and Eve came Cain, and he killed his brother.   Noah had an issue with Ham.  David, yes, the great King David, a man after God’s own heart, had serious next generation problems.  In case you don’t know, his one son sexually abused his sister. David’s son Absalom killed the abuser-brother.  Eventually, Absalom rebelled against dad, but, was killed fighting against him.  Don’t forget Solomon, the one son left.  He had serious women issues.  What did David do in all this?  From what we see, not much at all.  

There are plenty of other next generation problems in Scripture as well as the entire history of the church.  It is a common problem.  We waste too much time trying to fix blame.  Fixing blame takes the heat off of those trying to find a solution.  

In the end of the day, each one of us needs to take personal responsibility as we address the next generations.  Instead of judgment, we need to express grace.  Instead of fixing blame on everyone and everything else, we extend mercy by taking responsibility for our failures and sin.  Instead of building walls expecting the next generation to leap tall buildings in a single bound, we express our love by walking with them as the Prodigal Father did in Luke 15 with our arms wide open looking to embrace our natural wanderers.

We as adult individuals either live our lives thinking we are the potter, or we live our lives understanding we are the clay, being honest with our human nature and responding with great love, grace, and mercy.  It’s truly the Jesus way.  

I can hear Johnny Cash now…”I hear the train a coming…”. I hear the vacation train coming around the bend.  

I do love golf.  There is only one problem.  Golf does not love me.  

As a young adult, I could pull out the clubs and shoot in the 80’s and not blink twice.  I never took the game super seriously, so getting down to par (around 72) was probably not going to happen.  Shooting in the 80’s would work for me.  Most of the guys I played with struggled to break 100.  They would get very irritated when winter ended and the golf courses opened.  Here I show up and shoot an 84 while they tried their hardest to not take an “8” and break the hundred barrier.  In those days I loved the game and the game loved me.

That all changed in an instant.  I was playing flag football.  I was the quarterback and driving for a score.  Instead of pulling my flags, the big guy on the opposing team two-handed touched me right in the middle of my chest summersaulting me backwards.  Did you know that when a quarterback throws the ball ,his opposite arm and hand flies behind him?  Yeah, I didn’t either.  It does.  I figured it out when I got up from the hard hit and grabbed my wrist.  My arm was in the right place only my palm was up when it should have been down.  The wrist was a mess. Little did I know at that point but my arm had a splinter break of the bone.  It was going to be a long recovery.

The doctor wanted to operate.  He said the bones would not line up, and I would lose power in my left wrist.  I have a personal philosophy.  If you don’t have to cut open the body…don’t.  I told him to set it and let it go.  He warned me I would not be hitting homeruns as a softball player and ,if I played golf, there was going to be a slice.  He wasn’t kidding.  Instantly ,I had a banana slice.  

About the only fun I had with it was setting up for the slice with someone I never golfed with.  They would interrupt me when they noticed I lined up far left.  I told them to take a video.  They were about to see some amazing golf.  I figure I can hit the ball 300 yards.  The only problem is it travels 150 yards straight and 150 yards to the right.  

No use losing any sleep over it all.  I will never win the Master’s tournament.  Golf doesn’t put food on my table.  I’ll live.  Lately, with the help of my friend Bob Jarrell, I’ve been able to get the boomerang under control.  At least I can enjoy the game some.  

Today, I got in nine holes over at Okatie Creek.  I didn’t hit the ball all that bad.  I didn’t hit it all that good either.  I was disappointed.  Last week I shot a 44 on the back nine and was hoping good things were ahead.  

My friend noticed I was peeking.  In case you don’t know the game of golf, that’s when you lift your head and don’t keep it down with your eyes focused on the ball.  It’s hard to hit a good shot when you are not looking at the ball.  It’s a common golfers error.  An old friend said to “spit” where the ball once sat after you hit the ball.  He laughed, “That will keep your head down.”  Well, I wasn’t spitting today, and my head was all over the place.  

My buddy asked me if I knew why we pull our heads.  I answered, “We want to see where the shot went.”  He laughed once again.  “Nope,” he said with a smile.  He continued to educate me, “It’s our pride.”  It didn’t take long to admit he was right.  We want to admire our own shot instead of letting our playing partner follow the trajectory.  

We talked some more.  It’s like life actually.  Our pride takes our focus off the important things of life.  Those being God and our loved ones.  We don’t let things pan out as they should.  Each of us wants control.  So instead of spending some time in the Word of God ,I’d rather pull my head out of it and plan my day without being reminded God is in control.  Instead of focusing on my family, I’ll just hope they can catch up with me.  When they don’t, tempers flair.  Meanwhile, I miss connecting with them on an intimate, caring level.  

Just like golf, we blame everything else.  Let’s see, I’ve blamed the clubs, the turf, the ball, the lie, the weather, the grip, and the golf course.  There is a common denominator.  ME!  

When we focus on everything other than the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we are bound to get in some sort of trouble.  The sand traps of life are hard to miss when our heads are looking all around.  

We all have  some form of Attention Deficit Disorder.  Thank you Jesus our faith is not dependent upon us.  Instead, our faith is made whole by the one who kept his focus as he journeyed to the cross.  Our hope is indeed Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  I just wonder one thing.  Can Jesus hit a one iron?  I can’t, even with my head down.

It’s fun to get email from readers.  It lets me know somebody actually reads this column.  This week, a reader asked me, based on the June 23rd article that I titled “Searching,” what was I searching for.  Once again my sarcastic button wanted to be pressed with “I’m supposed to ask those questions, not you.”  I’m getting better.  I did not even type such a rude response.  Jesus, keep whispering in my ear please.  

I did sit back and think about his question a bit.  I thought about all the things I have chased in the past.  The list is too long to put in this article.  I don’t think the Bluffton Today has enough room for all my wanderings.  

Probably the top three quests I have engaged on would be respect, wealth, and an acknowledgment from my dad that I was valued.  There are long stories behind all three.  I will be brief.  I think I heard the editor’s sigh of relief.  

Last week I wrote about being a different thinker than the rest of my family.  When one feels like the odd-ball we tend to be the odd-ball.  I was raised in a family that did not demand success but it was quietly expected.  Being the youngest and the odd-ball I tended to thirst for respect.  I was my own worse enemy.  I had a chance to go to be in University of Maryland’s doctorate program.  I turned the offer down.  I don’t know why I did that.  To this day it might be the only thing I have done that I truly regret.  I do know one thing.  It would not have satisfied my desire to be respected.  I know it was only a temporary solution.  

For some time I like most Americans who bought the American dream chased up the ladder searching for financial security and a sense of wealth.  Let me just say this, it only takes one major error or event to take all the mullah away.  Wealth does feel good at the time but it is very fleeting.  The biggest problem is once you get “there” (wherever that is) it has to sustained.  Even at that we tend to want more.  It doesn’t matter how much money one makes.  We will spend it or never think we have enough.  Jesus said you can’t serve two masters.  He was right.  

The one that has probably caused me the most problems is the seeking acknowledgement from my dad that I was valued.  It wasn’t my fathers problem.  It was my interpretation of life.  Honestly, dad didn’t necessarily go out of his way to express value to anyone.  He was somewhat a quiet man.  He was obsessed with his business.  He worked hard and his parents didn’t pat him on the back either.  He didn’t degrade any of us either.  Somehow, I wanted Dad to express my value and I never really got it.  I then tried to get it from others.  Thankfully, my friend Bob about 15 years ago picked up on it and he worked with me on it.  I don’t need Dad’s pat on the back.  All I need is my Heavenly Father’s love.  That’s all anyone needs.  Human moms and dads will let us down.  I know.  I’m a dad.

That’s the short versions.  I have also done other ventures seeking God only knows what.  In a few days I will turn 60 years old.  I ‘m still not sure how that happened.  Just yesterday I was 40.  The old body doesn’t do what it used to.  The brain thinks it can but everything seems to move in slow motion.  Here I am entering the last phase of my life and I was asked, “What are you searching for?”  I can answer clearly. 
I’m searching for peace.  I’m tired of the fight.  Some of it is my life has to become simpler.  Less grass to cut.  Less junk in the garage.  Don’t look now, my garage is jammed.  I can’t wait till the next yard sale.  My motto used to be ‘If we haven’t touched it in three years, it’s time to go.”  Now it’s, “If we haven’t looked or touched it in one year it’s way over due to go.”  The biggest thing is I want peace in my relationships.  In the book of James (Jesus’ half brother) he asks a good question.  “Why are there fights and arguments among you?”  I can answer that one.  My wife wants to go to the Okatie Ale House for dinner and I want to go to New York City Pizza.  She wants chicken fajitas and I want pizza.  Better yet, she wants to go to Disney World for vacation and I want to go to the mountains.  Get the picture.

James answered the question as I did.  He wrote, “You want something and you don’t get it.”  He even says, “You ask of God but it is too late.”  You know it’s too late when you are praying to change someone else and not you.  

I’m tired of wanting.  In church work our wants just take on a “righteous” aura.  In reality it’s the same thing as when I was making big bucks fixing cars.  I want things my way.  Do you think my desires bring peace to anyone much less myself.  No way possible.  

I can get rid of the stuff that clutters my life.  I can slow down a bit and get some things off my plate.  That is all good.  But to gain peace in my life especially in regards to my family and friends as well as my neighbors (that’s what Jesus called them) I need to practice a simple Jesus equation.  He said, “In order to find your life you must lose your life.”  Help Me Jesus.  Please.  

Sometimes I think I’m demented.  Something is wrong between the ears.  Those who know me are laughing right now, I’m sure of it.  Because I was born the last of four, my uncles used to joke that I was dropped at birth.  It’s safe to say my brain does not work the same as others.  My family was full of analytical brainiacs with accounting or mathematical analysis dominating our lineage.  Then along comes John.  

I could do the accounting.  I aced Accounting I and II as an Education major.  It didn’t make the business majors happy.  The only problem…I couldn’t stand it.  I don’t see the world in those terms.  I see colors.  I see so much more than two numbers added together.  Without question, I always felt like something was wrong, and maybe, just maybe, I was switched at birth.

That can’t be the answer.  I look like my father’s mini me.  At the end of the day, I’m more of a circular reasoner than a logical thinker.  It’s sort of like my kayaking treks.  Some people paddle down the river.  Not me.  I try every crossbow, inlet and swamp entrance I can find.  It takes the boring out of the paddle.  

I don’t know what anyone calls my condition.  I’m not sure anyone cares.  However, I love the context of the Bible, not just the words we read.  I want to know what Jesus laughed at.  We don’t find him laughing in the Scriptures.  He was a man, and he cried.  He had to laugh.  

I want to know what Jesus did for fun.  Did he play any of the popular games of the day?  Did they play “I Spy with My Little Eyes?”  How about “Would You Rather?”  I chuckle when I imagine Jesus playing “Would You Rather.”  I can see it now.  Jesus would be wrapping up the game with, “Now for the last one.  Would you rather spend eternity in hell or in heaven?”  See, I told you in the very first line.  I have a demented mind.

I would love to know what made Jesus cry when he came upon Lazarus’ family after he died.  I would love to know what Jesus talked about after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus.  I want to get an idea of the tone of his voice, especially when he puts the low down in a sense, on the Pharisees with the 7 Woes.  Sometimes I think we make Jesus like a robot.  No way!  Doesn’t a part of you want to know what kind of personality he had?  

I’ve been around some who make Jesus out to be passive-aggressive. Jesus to them is a cool, calm cookie looking to strike at the optimum moment.  Then there are those who make him out to be a Type A get-it-done type. Nobody wants to cast him as a Type D, but, then again, we sure don’t have him happy.  Maybe he was all three personality types. Actually, they now say there are 16 different types.  Really, my mind is swimming now.  My sarcastic side wonders if Jesus had a God-complex.  Yup, I’m close to losing it.  

I read recently where the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible is actually more than likely the CliffsNotes edition.  Do they still have CliffsNotes? They were the boiled down edition of the novel we were supposed to read and then write a book report about.  Those bad boys saved my grade point average without question.  Back to the main point.  The Sermon on the Mount is the edited version.  I want the unedited version.  Maybe then we can stop taking guesses about what “pure in spirit” really means.  

The older I get and the more I look into the Bible, I see colors.  I see so much more than the Bible teachers told me.  It’s a story.  It’s an incredible story.  In many respects, it’s an unbelievable story.  But that is just it.  It’s so incredible, but it fits together.  See, incredible stories don’t hold water.  This one does.  Unbelievable stories don’t have connection.  This one does.  

It really is a simple story.  We are the ones who make it an incredible story.  It’s God and a special creation called man.  Man has a problem.  He thinks he knows better than the One who set him up in an incredible situation.  Let’s face it.  None of us used to walk naked with God.  So man decided he knew better.  Then it all went south.  Most of the Bible is about how man tries to make it right.  He only has one problem.  He can’t.  God keeps trying to show him and grace keeps flowing, but man is so warped with the god complex that, no matter how hard he tries, he fails.  God gives man an out.  His name is Jesus.  He is the Son of God who came to set the captives free, bind the broken-hearted and give sight to the blind.  Man now has hope.  It rests in the sacrifice of Jesus.  All a man or woman has to do is believe and follow Jesus.  That’s it.  The early believers called it “The Way.”  I love it.  So beautiful.  They didn’t call it the First Church of whatever.  No sir.  It was “The Way.”  That’s about it.  

The gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us what Jesus said about “The Way.” It’s pretty simple.  It boils down to…”Man’s way or God’s way?”  Man’s way has its problems.  God’s way is full of incredible love, indescribable grace and unbelievable mercy.  Now you choose.  Only, choose wisely.  

 I warned you I don’t think or process like the average joe.