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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ 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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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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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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If you come by the church on any Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning, chances are you’ll run into Parkway Heights best unpaid employee. He’ll be scrubbing the walls in the children’s area, dusting the stairwells, watering plants, or cleaning fingerprints off the windows.

His name is Junior Freeman, known to most of Hattiesburg simply as “Junior.” Hopefully you know him, but if you don’t, stop by and introduce yourself sometime.

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We’re taking a break today from our Pivot series so I can fulfill a promise I made in a moment of weakness. I promised Blair Wesley, our youth director at Parkway Heights and constant thorn in my flesh, that I would dedicate a blog post to her for her birthday. On Friday, September 7, Blair will turn 23. So, here’s her post.

I’ve known Blair Wesley since she was 7 years old.

That statement makes me feel very old. Because now, Blair is on staff with me at Parkway Heights.

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Seven years ago tomorrow (August 29), we spent my daughter’s second birthday cowering in the laundry room as Hurricane Katrina blew through and uprooted trees, destroyed homes, and flooded the coast.

This year, we’ll spend my daughter’s 9th birthday riding out Hurricane Isaac—hopefully not in the laundry room.

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Well, here we are. The final day of the journal from the final day of the sabbatical. Over the course of sharing these journal entries, I’ve edited most posts for length and content (some content was extremely personal; some would’ve been utterly boring to you; some was redundant). But today’s post you get in its entirety, only edited for egregious grammatical errors and clarity.

Thank you for sticking with me in this journey. I’ve appreciated your comments and encouragement along the way. But the truth is I did this for my own soul. I needed to relive and revisit what God did to me and for me in these weeks. 

This isn’t the end of the blog (more on that tomorrow). But for now, here’s the final entry. Enjoy.

July 3 – Day 42
10:05 p.m.
Home

A leader can’t lead until he knows where he’s going.
~ John Locke (to Jack Shepherd)
Lost, Season 1, Ep. 5

Forty-two days ago I was on a plane heading to New York. The adventure was beginning. The walk-about commenced with a hug and kiss from Audra at the Gulfport Airport. I knew these weeks were going to be important. I just didn’t know how important.

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We’re approaching the end of the journey. In just a few days, I’ll offer the final post from my sabbatical journal. The end of the journal won’t be the end of the blog! I’ve got some great things planned for the weeks ahead. For those of you just stumbling into this, a reminder of what I’m doing right now:

Over the course of my 6-week sabbatical, I kept a journal of my travels and experiences. I’m sharing some of those to give you a flavor of how God spoke over the course of my time away. Sometimes I’ll share an entire day’s entry. At other times, just a partial/edited post. After the journal entry, I’ll share some of my post-sabbatical reflections on that entry. Each day I started with a quote followed by my reflections on the events of the day.

If you “follow” the blog (upper right on the home page), you’ll get automatic email updates when I post the next entry. You can find previous posts in the links to the right. At the bottom of each post, you’ll notice some “share” buttons. Feel free to share this with others if you think it would be interesting to them or help them.

July 1 – Day 40
9:15 p.m.
Home

To imagine things other than they are is the essence of hope.
It is also the stuff of revolution.
~Len Sweet

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We’re approaching the end of the journey. In just a few days, I’ll offer the final post from my sabbatical journal. The end of the journal won’t be the end of the blog! I’ve got some great things planned for the weeks ahead. For those of you just stumbling into this, a reminder of what I’m doing right now:

Over the course of my 6-week sabbatical, I kept a journal of my travels and experiences. I’m sharing some of those to give you a flavor of how God spoke over the course of my time away. Sometimes I’ll share an entire day’s entry. At other times, just a partial/edited post. After the journal entry, I’ll share some of my post-sabbatical reflections on that entry. Each day I started with a quote followed by my reflections on the events of the day.

If you “follow” the blog (upper right on the home page), you’ll get automatic email updates when I post the next entry. You can find previous posts in the links to the right. At the bottom of each post, you’ll notice some “share” buttons. Feel free to share this with others if you think it would be interesting to them or help them.

June 29 – Day 38
9:10 p.m.
Home

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~ William James

Home. For good. My lunch date in Water Valley bailed on me today so I decided it was a sign to come home early. If my calculations are somewhat accurate, I travelled over 6,600 miles in 6 weeks. And every step of the way God was lighting the path, teaching me, holding me, and even fighting with me and for me. Never once did He leave me on my own (BTW, Never Once by Matt Redman is the theme song of the summer).

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Disclaimer: If the thought of a pastor (or particularly your pastor) entering a tavern/bar/pub is damaging to your soul, then you should probably skip this post. Maybe check out this or this. Or even this. Come back and visit tomorrow.

Background: My wife’s family owns a home in Water Valley, MS, just outside of Oxford, MS. We use it several times a year when visiting The School Up North. The entire time that I’ve known Water Valley, from college days to the present, it has been a dry town (for non-Mississippians: think prohibition. No alcohol sales). That changed a few years ago. And when I visited this summer I noticed that attached to one of the better restaurants in town (Doc’s Table–if you go, try the Chicken Bacon Cheddar Sandwich) was a tavern (Doc’s Tavern). Doc’s Tavern has the distinction of being the first and only bar in Water Valley. After eating at Doc’s Table one evening, curiosity got the better of me: Who goes to Water Valley’s only bar? So, I walked down the alley to the door of the tavern and had what I can only describe as the defining moment of my sabbatical. I met Elvis. This is the story of one unforgettable night in Water Valley.

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