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Archive for the ‘From Eddie’ Category

I drove home from Memphis in silence today.

This was a long day that began with news of the death of a church member and then ended with the experience of being with another family while they said good-bye to a 15-day old child (the father has written a stunningly beautiful reflection on his son’s brief life here).

So, at the end of this painfully long day I made the 90 minute trip home in silence. My soul could not bear one more word, note, voice, or sound. Even the rhythmic bumping of tires against the pavement on I-55 seemed to blur into the grief that encapsulated the drive home.

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Yes, I’m well aware that I haven’t posted anything here in a long time. The guilt eats at my soul every day of my life (OK, that’s probably a bit of an overstatement, but occasionally I’ve thought, “I could blog about that .  . .”).

But this is an anniversary and I have something to say.

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I Was WonderingFor three weeks in worship at Parkway Heights, we’re answering questions submitted by the congregation in early January. We grouped lots of the questions into three major topics that will serve as a launch point for the preaching on three Sundays:

  • What Methodists Believe about Salvation (preached on January 27; you can listen here)
  • Why Suffering Exists (February 3)
  • Why Church Matters (February 10)

But, there were lots of amazing questions submitted that didn’t fit into our three-week series. So, each week, I’ll tackle a few of those questions that didn’t make it into the Sunday morning rotation here on the blog.

Today, I’ll tackle a few of the questions that will require shorter answers, and later in the week, I’ll tackle a big question (scroll to the bottom to see what it will be). Please feel free to disagree with me, ask additional questions, or start a conversation in the comments section. I’ll try to chime in as time allows this week.

So, here we go . . .

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Rearview Mirror Moments

Rearview MirrorBack in December I talked in a sermon about the importance of remembering the ratio of the windshield to rearview mirror in your car (you can listen to the entire sermon on Simeon here). The windshield is exponentially larger than a rearview mirror because you don’t drive a car in reverse. You drive forward and the car is created for you to do that. In the same way, we live our lives forward. We don’t move forward in life by constantly looking back. I passionately believe that.

But (and I said this, too) the rearview mirror serves the important purpose of giving us perspective on what is behind us. Sometimes we need to look back and remember the difficult times in life and the significant places and people who made us. We need to look back at the events that helped move us forward in life. We need rearview mirror moments.

This weekend will be a rearview mirror kind of weekend for me. A pastor friend is taking a sabbatical so I offered to preach for him one Sunday while he’s away. It just so happens that he’s at Clarksdale First United Methodist. That’s the church that hired me as a 19-year-old freshman at Ole Miss to be their summer youth director. I went on to work there for three years before heading off to seminary.

These past few weeks have been full of messages, phone calls, and emails from people I haven’t heard from in 20 years. And, it’s been amazing to remember all that God did in those three years. At Clarksdale FUMC, God confirmed my calling into full-time ministry. I experienced the grace of Jesus Christ through a Walk to Emmaus Weekend because some of the men from the church sponsored me. The youth group was full of kids that were eager and excited to grow in Christ. I took my first mission trip with those kids. And, when the car I drove became a victim of my parents divorce, the church at Clarksdale raised the money to buy me a Mercury Tracer.

The pastor I worked under at Clarksdale First was a man named Richard Hunter who taught me more about pastoring than I learned in three years at seminary.

And I still remember the occasional lunch with a 90+ year old lady named Polly Ligon who hand stitched me a picture that still has a place of honor in myLigon Cross Stitch office.

I’m looking forward to this weekend because it’s giving me abundant reason to look back–to take a glance at the rear view mirror.

We all need rearview mirror moments. They don’t need to dominate our lives. But they continue to give us perspective on life, on faith, on the goodness and faithfulness of God over time.

This week, spend some time looking in your rearview mirror. Say a prayer of thanks for the good and the bad you’ve experienced. Maybe make a call, write a letter (on paper), send an email, or just bask in the memory of where you’ve been.

And then, with joy and comfort and peace, look forward again and move into the future God has for you.

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ImageAs the years go, 2012 has been a good one personally and professionally. This year was a marked difference from 2011, which at times I would like to forget, but believe will ultimately go down as one of the more important years of my life.

On December 31, 2011 the new year was not looking so bright. Just 10 days before I had spent the night in the hospital because of chest pains related to a season of unrelenting stress. I limped through Christmas Eve—typically my favorite service of the year—and struggled to prepare for worship on January 1 (which was the first Sunday of 2012).

I went to bed on New Year’s Eve early (because that’s how I roll now that I’m past 40). And then a strange thing happened. I dreamed. And I learned an important principle: God will always conspire to remind you of the truth that He is not done with you. That the past does not determine your future.

I’ve never been a big proponent of “dream interpretation.” I had a friend in seminary who kept dream journals of every dream he ever had. He had rows and rows of journals and had trained himself to wake up to write down his dreams. He was a good friend, but I always felt like this was an odd quirk that he shouldn’t share with anyone.

Dreams are just dreams, right? They don’t mean anything. They’re just random images produced by neurological stimuli.

That’s been my take on dreams, at least. Until December 31, 2011. That night my dreams were vivid and clear. I’ve never had anything like them before and haven’t since. And I’m convinced that they were God’s desperate attempt to reach me at one of the darkest moments of my life. God conspired to reach me through a way that I could see and understand. And because of these two dreams when dawn broke on a new year, I truly believed I had begun a new year.

Dream One.

In the first dream I was back in my home church in Ackerman. The pews were out of order and the lights were off. And people kept telling me that I was supposed to preach. Which was terrifying to me because I wasn’t prepared to preach. I wasn’t even sure why I was there. Then behind me a voice came whispering to me, “Christ is alive.”

And the dream was over.

Dream Two.

I was wandering through a dark parking garage. I think there were others with me but never saw anyone. As I exited the dark parking garage, a strong voice told me, “No more fear.”

And the second dream was over.

When I woke the next morning, the dreams did not fade. They stayed with me. As I rose to preach that morning, I preached with the confidence that Christ was alive and that I no longer had to fear. In fact, I distinctly remember the joy of that morning. Probably the first joy I had felt in some time.

And here’s what I took away from that: Our God will go to great lengths to remind you of the truth of his love and grace. Maybe God won’t use dreams to speak to you (or maybe God will). Maybe it will be a great sunset, an unexpected conversation with a friend, that random quote you see at 2 a.m. on Facebook, a Bible Study, a sermon, an encounter with scripture. Who knows. But here’s the thing: I am convinced that our God will conspire to bring light to your darkness. And will use any means necessary.

That unexpected scheming of God gave me dreams that allowed me to begin again this year. My prayer is that you will have the eyes to see and the ears to hear as you enter this new year and new season of your life.

Happy New Year.

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The news came via text message in the middle of staff meeting on Monday: AUNT JOAN DIED. My father likes to text in all caps so when the message flashed on my phone I immediately knew who sent it.

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For the past few days, I’ve been following the news out of Israel closely. Rockets from Gaza (a Palestinian controlled area) striking Israeli areas have garnered a brutal response from Israel that has necessitated more rockets from Gaza and more bombs from Israel. Innocent civilians on both sides have been injured. Children have been killed.

When people wring their hands about the middle east and ask “When will they ever learn?” I quietly wonder, “When will we ever learn?” You see, what the nations do is only reflective of what we do individually. They do on a grand scale what we do to one another.

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Preaching a sermon is an exercise of choice. After studying and preparing to share thoughts on a particular scripture passage, some things make the cut and are included. Other stories, thoughts, ideas, points, and quotes end up on the cutting room floor. For years, I’ve thought, “I should do something with all those leftovers.” Usually, they just get put in the recycle bin. But today (and maybe occasionally in the months ahead), I’m going to share a few of the leftovers for you to chew on today.

This week’s sermon, “As Long as I Live,” is based on Psalm 146–an amazing Psalm of praise. Instead of closing with a story or a set of “to-do’s” I closed with an interview of Che Helfrich who has lived this Psalm over the last 6 weeks. You can find the sermon here (or go to iTunes and search for “Parkway Heights”). Che’s interview is about 13 minutes in.

So, what go left out? You’ll find it below. Dig through. Take what you want. Leave the rest. Here we go:

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A few days ago, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I asked her how she was doing. She responded, “Busy. And you?” My immediate, response was, “We’ve been busy, too.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wanted to take it back. Though I have been busy, busy doesn’t really describe how I’ve been. Lately, I’ve felt blessed, happy, content, and joyful. Busy describes my level of activity, yes. But not how I am.

Yet, for all of us our conditioned response when asked how we’re doing is usually, “busy.” That’s become the cultural expectation for us. We prove our value through an expression of over-commitment and non-stop action.

And then we wonder why we burn out, freak out, or wear out. Now, I’m not an advocate of lazy or sloth. Being busy (as long as it’s productive busy) is very good. But maybe we need to define our lives in a way beyond “busy.”

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Yesterday, I posted the first five rules for “fighting fair.” Every relationship has moments of tension and disagreement. How we manage those moments will determine if the relationship grows or disintegrates.

You can find the first five rules here.

Here are the next five:

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