Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Brave, The Committed, The Christmoustachees

This December I was, shall I say, inspired...inspired to let the space between my nose and upper lip sprout in a tangible and visible way the Christmas joy I felt in my heart. I invited friends and family to join me in the Christmoustache project. If you are wondering, "Why a Christmoustache?" read here. Here are the pics of the brave, the committed, the 2012 Christmoustachees:








And just as Christmas has come and gone, so has the Chrismoustache. Do your moustache a favor and give it a proper execution.


Rest in Peace, Christmoustache!
Peacestache!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

NO!


Like all of you, I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around Friday's events. In fact, I try to stay away from the news, because part of me is not tough enough to hear the details. I'm not naive. I am well aware of brokenness. I have seen it! I have caused it! But, when helpless children become the victims of a fallen world, it is almost too much to bear. I don't really know what to say or do.

But, I believe God says, "NO!"

"NO! This is not what I designed!"
"NO! This is not what I want!"
"NO! This is not acceptable!"
"NO! I will not let Creation do this to itself!"
"NO! This is not "How it is!'"
"NO! I did not make children to be shot!"

Today, God says "NO!" to the events in Connecticut just like he said NO to the Fall in the garden, just like he said NO to a world gone mad in Noah's day, just like he said NO by raising up a light through Abraham, just like he said NO to slavery in Egypt...

Just like God said NO in the resurrection of Jesus!

The empty tomb says "NO!" to death! The resurrection doesn't repair the shattered souls of parents, spouses and friends grieving today. It doesn't make the horrifying reality any less real; it doesn't explain how God works exactly; it doesn't erase the difficult questions. But it does say that God will not stop until all children are safe, violence a forgotten memory, and shocking headlines simply myths.

So I pray Christ-followers in Connecticut will join God is saying NO, not by offering solutions or suggesting simple theological fixes, but by surrounding the families and community of Newtown in love. I pray Jesus people will say, "We will not leave you alone. We will love you as long as you need us too. We will struggle with you. We will scream with you. We will question with you. We will rebuild with you. We will not leave you. In Jesus' name we will not accept the current state of things."

God says NO.

This gives me hope in what appears to be hopeless times.

I want to say NO too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesus Ad


The Followers
Sometimes we force discipleship into an unfair dichotomy between the the prosperity gospel and a suffering gospel, but could it not be both/and? Jesus offers his followers full life (John 10:10) and he also demands sacrifice (Luke 14:27). The problem often comes in our understanding of "full life" as the "easy life" - life without hardship. In reality, the "easy life" is a half-full life at best. Jesus invites you to follow him into a life of adventure: a life where you will experience things you never would without him, a life of wonder, of risk, of uncertainty...and yes, there will be suffering, pain, and struggle. But in the end, you will look back on your existence with Jesus and know you drank deeply from Life. Perhaps, the Christ-following Life parallels Sir Ernest Shackleton's invitation to join him on the 1914 Endurance expedition:

Sir Ernest Shackleton
The early 1900's had its own moon - Antarctica, and many countries and explorers sought to make a name for themselves by reaching the South Pole first. Sir Ernest Shackleton, an Irish-born polar explorer, obsessed over conquering the South Pole. In 1901, as a member of the Discovery Expedition, he, along with two other team members, came within 745 miles of the pole but had to turn back due to deteriorating health and dwindling supplies. Shackleton narrowly escaped death. In 1908, Shackleton returned for another attempt, this time turning back only 97 miles from the coveted destination.

Despite all his effort, Shackleton would not be the first to stand at the southern most part of the planet. The Norwegian explorer, Ronald Amundsen, claimed the title in 1912. After the South Pole defeat, Shackleton knew of only one other glorious Antarctic adventure left: a transcontinental expedition. In 1914, Shackleton assembled a crew of 28 explorers, sailors, and adventurers with plans to trek across the frozen continent, a continent with a record low of 129 degrees below zero.

The Endurance
On August 1, 1914 The Endurance set sail from London with Sir Ernest Shackleton in charge and a crew of hopeful adventurers. Little did they know their polar expedition would become one of the greatest survival stories of all times. The Endurance would never reach Antarctica.

Before reaching Antarctica, vessels must navigate through the ice pack, the frozen ocean surrounding the continent. On January 18, 1915 The Endurance unintentionally wedged herself in the ice pack just in time for the antarctic winter. The 28-member crew waited through three months of Winter darkness on a floating sheet of ice. They hoped with Winter's death the Spring sun would melt the ice enough to set The Endurance free. After drifting over 150 miles that winter the pressure of the ice crushed The Endurance.  The crew abandoned their sinking ship and set up camp on another floating piece of ice. Three row boats served as their only means of transportation.

Hiking Through the Ice Floe
At Mother Nature's mercy and by God's grace, Shackleton and his men braved the elements for months, hoping and praying the ice floe would drift close enough to an island for them to row ashore. On April 16, 1916 Shackleton's team made it safely to the uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton knew their only hope was to reach Georgia, the closest inhabited Island.  Shackleton set sail from Elephant Island in a 22-foot row boat along with 5 of his crew to make the 800 mile journey to their last hope. Four months later Shackleton returned with a Chilean rescue crew. The expedition came to a close after 633 grueling days!

A mind-blowing story, but one of my favorite pieces in the this tale is Shackleton's recruitment method. He found his crew of 28 by posting the following ad in a London newspaper:

"MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON"

Sir Ernest received over 100 applicants. Why would anyone take such risks and endure such suffering? Because, there was a group of men who knew there was more to life than sitting on the couch with a bag of Doritos, yelling at teenage boys fighting over an egg-shaped piece of leather. They knew a full life did not necessarily mean an easy life!

There are days I want to put Shackleton's ad in the Trenton paper, or on the slide presentation at Church with a few modifications:

"FOLLOWERS WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. -JESUS CHRIST"


 



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmoustache


Why Christmoustache?
  • The same reason little boys throw rocks
  • The same reason you put chili on a hotdog
  • The same reason you Super Size
  • The same reason you use the tree rather than the port-a-potty 
  • The same reason you lick your plate when no one is looking
  • The same reason you laugh when people fall down
  • The same reason you flex in the bathroom mirror before your shower
  • The same reason you shadow box when you are alone
  • The same reason you give it the "3-2-1" before you shoot the final driveway shot
  • The same reason you are secretly proud of your son's gift in controlling bodily noises
  • The same reason you think you can "take" guys who are clearly bigger and stronger than you ("Yeah, but I'm scrappy!")
  • The same reason you order "Medium Rare"
  • The same reason you wash quiche down with a cheeseburger 
What are the benefits of Christmoustache?
  • Your wife will fall in love with you all over again
  • You will connect with a decade when men not only refused to shave their upper lip but their chest hair as well (Reference Magnum P.I.)
  • Even your lip deserves a snuggie
  • You'll walk taller
  • Storage for a quick snack
  • Everywhere you go your face says "I Can!"
  • Your dog will be proud of you
  • It draws your wife's attention to your lips
  • Like cat whiskers, your tactile perception increases exponentially
What is the Christmoustache?
Put simply, it is a moustache for Christmas. Let me give you a simple equation:

CHRISTmas + MOUSTACHE = CHRISTMOUSTACHE

 I'm inviting you to celebrate the season of Christmas and facial hair by growing a moustache during the month of December. On Christmas Day, take a picture of you with your moustache  and post it on Facebook or Twitter. Tag me in your post so I can put your Christmoustache on my special Christmoustache blog post. There are several who have taken the challenge, who have dared to ask more of life. You were born for such a time as this.

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time Crash


I see time like Tetris (play HERE) where if arranged just right I can fill every slot of the hour and day. I find it thrilling. This mini-bit of personal information tells you a lot about me: I'm primarily task oriented; I'm impatient; I move fast; and I tend to get a lot done. And while my hard-wiring has a few benefits and many annoying side effects it ultimately fails because I spend life "doing" rather than "being." While in "doing" mode I often miss key relational opportunities, fail at the discipline of stillness, and overvalue productivity.

But ever since my personal resurrection, I have developed a glitch in my hard-wiring. I have moments when time crashes. Time crashed last night. As I drove home from work I passed a church marquee sign. I hate church marquee signs. Too often their messages lend credence to the argument that Christianity is irrelevant. I saw one recently, "God, make me the person my dog thinks I am." But, the sign I passed last night was different. It simply read, "Thanks be to God!" 

Crash! Tetris froze. All the cars continued to move at their regular 4 mile over-the-speed-limit pace, but I moved at the speed of slow motion.

"Thanks be to God" took me to Romans 7: "What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord." I cried. I typically cry when time crashes because it brings me back to reality, to what matters. Don't get me wrong, the stark reality is a beautiful reality: I am a wretched man but God delivers me (yes ongoing) through Jesus Christ. And in that moment I get it...the big IT. I recognize again all the life many of my choices have killed while simultaneously praising God for his deliverance and heavy grace.

As a result, my relational sensors go into overdrive. I feel others. It is as if can empathize with the struggling single mother, understand the shame of an addict, hurt with the lonely, mourn with the one who just lost a loved one, scream the pain of someone experiencing a divorce, cry with the parent losing their child to poor choices...Although in reality I have no idea how they feel, in my "time still moments" I'm bonded to them because I'm centered on what is common to every human heart.

Every rational human being understands the statement, "What a wretched man I am!" We know pain, our pain, results from a combination of being a wretched person and from the wretched people around us. Despite all our efforts to appear otherwise we know, "I'm not okay," and I'm convinced every human being wants to be loved in spite of being "not okay!" We all want to declare to the world, "I'm not okay," and for the world to respond, "We love you!"

Unfortunately, experience tells us the world often does not respond to our vulnerable transparency with love and so we spend our lives trying to prove to the world, "I am okay!" But...you are not okay. I'm not okay either, and therein lies the power of the good news of Jesus.  Jesus knows you are not okay. Jesus knows you are not okay better than anyone, and knowing you are not okay he always responds , "I love you!" Freedom!

When time crashes those two truths take over. One: I'm not okay. Two: Jesus loves me. When time crashes I feel bonded to you (yes any of you) because I know the same is true about you. One: you are not okay. Two: Jesus loves you. And finally, when time crashes I know I love you!

Freedom...breathe...rest...live...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's Eat Turkey Everyday

This year my family is mixing it up. We will load the Traverse and take a 3.5 hour trip away from the city to a cabin with no electricity, no modern toilets, and a single outside water spicket: no football, no video games, no double ovens, and no couch for the ensuing tryptophan coma. In spite of the "rustic" environment, we will prepare a Thanksgiving banquet: Cornish Game Hens roasted on an open fire, Stove Top Stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and a few pies! The feast offers some challenges but feast we will. Hopefully we come away thankful for each other, for God's amazing creation, for simplicity, and for long hot showers.

Thanksgiving is a moment when you pause and get intentional about gratitude. Your Facebook friends provide a month's worth of "Thankful for..." status updates, your family circles up before the meal to name their object of gratitude, you serve at a homeless shelter to make sure your kids understand, "You better be thankful!" I love Thanksgiving. I love the family, the food, the football. I love when we focus on what we have rather than pouting about what we lack, but I'm convinced that as Christians gratitude is in our DNA. We live grateful LIVES. Gratitude expresses appreciation for what you have received in word and action. When you really come to grips with the love of God, the New Creation in Christ, and the resurrection of Christ in your life you might as well eat turkey everyday.  Grateful people have joy, are free to fully enjoy others, and live more satisfied lives.  Here are a few things gratitude provides:
  • Contentment. Our over-advertised, consumer focused culture is in the business of creating dissatisfaction. Television, the Internet, radio, newspapers...on and on whisper, actually shout at you, "You are not content!" But, a grateful life makes a content life. It focuses on what you have rather than what you lack, and acknowledges, "It is enough!" Contentment keeps you centered. It leads to peace. It slows down the relentless desire to prove yourself. It helps you appreciate the greenness of your own yard.
  • Optimism.  Debbie Downer is an old Saturday Night Live character. She rained on any parade. In one sketch, taking place at a Disney World Breakfast, her companion says, "I love steak and eggs!" To which Debbie replies, "Ever since they found Mad Cow disease in the U.S. I'm not taking any chances. It can live in your body for years before it ravages your brain." (Waaah-Waaah!). By the end of every bit she has dampened the mood of everyone present. Negativity is a virus. It is contagious. It seriously threatens any organization, especially churches. Everyone has seasons of negativity, but a spirit of gratitude makes it hard to remain negative. Gratitude does not minimize the toil of life but it chooses to focus and dwell on the full side of life. It is fertile ground for optimism.
  • Celebrating Others. Once gratitude fosters contentment, it frees you to celebrate the joys of others. Does this scenario hit home: One of your co-workers, your friend, gets the promotion you wanted. You kindly pat her on the back and say congratulations but inside you tell yourself, "That should have been me! I work a lot harder than she does!" And despite your words you really are not happy for her. OR You find yourself resenting some of your best couple friends and their "little brats" because their children are making the grades you want your kid to make, playing first chair while your kid struggles to hit a note, getting player of the week when the coach cut your kid from the team. Without gratitude you won't find contentment, and without contentment you tend to resent rather than celebrate others.
  • Generosity. If dissatisfaction and competition define your life then you will find generosity an obstacle. You may give, but such a "generosity" is simply "goodness competition" - doing your acts of righteousness before others to be seen by them. But gratitude that leads to contentment breeds a generous spirit.  Take God as the ultimate example.  He competes against no one. He does not seek "More," and he is radically generous! For God so loved the world that he GAVE!
So circle up this Thursday and offer thanks, but remember every day should be a Turkey Day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So You Voted...Now What?

(To my non-christian friends, this is a word of encouragement to my Christian friends. I pray you find it a hopeful word.)

So you voted...GOOD! You vote because it is your civic duty. You vote out of respect for the thousands who died to give you the right to vote. You vote because you care about America and her future. You vote because you don't like a certain candidate. You vote because you like a certain candidate. You vote because you want to make a difference. All of these are commendable reasons to vote, but now what?

I don't know if your candidate won or lost...but now what?

Answer: be the Church.

The influential tentacles of the U.S. government reach far and wide. Its decisions affect the lives of millions of people, but in the end the government regulates behavior. It cannot transform hearts. Jesus Christ transforms hearts, and God has entrusted the Church as the community to embody his presence. Thankfully, he has empowered the Church for the task with his Spirit. Yes, governments legislate, dictate, protect, and shape but Jesus is the only one who redeems and resurrects. Real and lasting change comes not with a change in government but in the number of "Jesus clones" released in the world. Some of you are saying, "Charlton, you are so naive to think that all the world could be a disciple of Christ?" But this is not my idea; it is God's idea (Matthew 28:18-20).

So now what? Be the Church.
  • We believe God has a tender spot for the poor and oppressed. Don't rely on legislation. Let's support non-profits who have the structure to make a lasting impact in the lives of the poor. Let's make a presence in the poverty stricken regions of their community: a presence of food, health, shelter, hope.
  • We believe God values the sanctity of life. Don't wait on the law. Let's find unwed, pregnant teenagers and women in our communities, bring them in, throw them baby showers, teach them about motherhood, help them raise their children, adopt their children, and journey through the pregnancy alongside them.
  • We believe God desires peace. Don't wait on gun control and stronger drug policies. Let's plant Jesus followers as residents in the "darker" barrios of our cities as a redeeming presence.
  • We believe God designed marriage for heterosexual relationships. Don't wait on the Senate. Let's build bridges with the homosexual community in our area, build relationships, establish trust, show genuine love and concern for the individual, and be willing to understand the struggle and journey of those who battle same-sex attraction.
  • We believe (fill in the ______), so let's be the Church.
 I'm not trying to minimize the role of government and civic duty in your life; I AM trying to emphasize the POWER of God in the Church. Jesus did not change the world by becoming the Roman emperor. He did not make Peter Caesar. Jesus changed the world by grabbing a handful of average Joe's and saying, "Come, follow me!" So...let's be the Church and follow Jesus!

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably GREAT POWER for us who believe. That POWER is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he RAISED CHRIST from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed ALL things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,  which is his body, the FULLNESS of him who fills everything in every way. 
 - Paul, on the Church

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Grinning God


This week my wife captured a beautiful moment. It describes what my words cannot. The body language and the smiles tell of more than a moment of play; these two live wires commune with Creation. They, without realizing, celebrate God's gift and in so doing experience joy. God intends as much.

God did not explode his creative brilliance on a galactic canvass so we could escape it. He breathed life into existence for us to enjoy. When God birthed humanity onto the created scene, his first act toward us was a blessing (Gen. 1:28-30). He says, "Run through the grass; splash in the streams; feel the wind in your face; hold each other and laugh; drink deep the nectar of life." God did not create an amazing world so he could command you to spend the rest of your life trying to free yourself from it. Communion with life, creation, and existence is spiritual...deeply spiritual. Sometimes we think sin is: 'the full engagement with this life," when, in reality, sin destroys our ability to fully engage this life as God always intended.

The psalmist senses the joyful design of Creation (Psalm 104:24-28):

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
    You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
    made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
    brimming with fish past counting,
    sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
    and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
    to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
    you open your hand and they eat from it.
 
God does not want you to spend your entire life wishing you were elsewhere, wishing Jesus would come and bring an end to this horrible place. (Jesus will actually come to complete this place.) He wants you to ENJOY life. Here are a few things I enjoy. Perhaps it will jog your memory to the joy of this life.
  1. FOOD. I usually maintain a strict diet but every week I have a Fat Day. On this day I celebrate food. There are no rules, no calorie reading, and no fat grams counted. On Fat Days I pursue carbs and butter. I celebrate and enjoy flavors and spices. I look forward to Fat Day.
  2. RELATIONSHIPS. I'm not the most relational person in the world. I don't have the gift some have of making everyone they meet feel like their best friend. I'm a true introvert...my motivation comes from within. But, I love people and I crave two kinds of relationships: deep transparent relationships where I feel a soul-connection and silly, goofy relationships. My best friends are those who love me in spite of knowing the blackness of my soul, but who I also spend hours with laughing and talking about nothing of importance or value. I enjoy Mary Beth because she is more familiar with my soul than any other person alive. One reason I enjoy my boys is because they make me laugh.
  3. NATURE. I feel most alive when I'm on a trail, camped on the bank of a lake, or kayaking through a river. I see God clearly in the intricacies and details of his natural world. One of my dreams is to hike the Continental Divide Trail.
  4. SEX (with my wife). Sex is destructive outside God's design, but God designed sex for far more than procreation. God wants us to enjoy sex with our spouse. I do. 
  5. RUNNING. I run a lot. Some days I don't feel like it, but I still do it. Running is a celebration of human freedom. There are no courts, no out-of-bounds, no rules. You just go...and I enjoy it. Often I find God in the run.
These are a few of the things I enjoy. I believe God wants me to enjoy them. What about you? Are you taking time to enjoy the gift of LIFE God so graciously provides?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blind Legends and Dreamers


The screen biography of Ray Charles staring Jamie Foxx provides many heart-wrenching moments. In one particular scene, lost and held captive by his blindness, the seven-year-old Ray falls in the center of his shack. Completely disoriented, he screams for his mother to rescue him. He quickly comes to the conclusion she is absent, and so he fights and crawls his way back to reorientation.

The power of the scene lies not is Ray's individual perseverance but in what the movie-goer sees that Ray cannot. While he crawls petrified across the floor desperately looking for an object to give him his bearings, the viewer can see Ray's mother present the entire time, tears streaming down her face. She knows his current struggle will save him in the future. Ray was confident his mother was absent in the moment of desperation, but in spite of his feelings, his reason, and his experience, she was present. Her presence was not limited by his awareness!

That's what I love about the Joseph story. Unlike Moses, Joseph had no burning bush coffee-talk experience with God. Unlike Abraham, three angelic visitors did not show up for pancakes and eggs. Unlike Isaiah, Joseph did not see God in the temple. Beyond a god-given gift to interpret dreams, Joseph did not have a "spiritual experience." He spent the majority of his life believing God was with him, but uncertain. He lacked the hard evidence other biblical characters accumulated.

Finding himself in the belly of a well alone and afraid, I'm sure God seemed aloof. When his brothers sold him to a camel caravan as if he were a goat or donkey, he might of thought God was out to lunch. Standing trial for false accusations of rape..."Uh, God? Where are you?" And finally, in the cold Egyptian dungeon, no one knowing he is there, not one to hear him scream, to cry, no one to answer his loneliness...I'm sure God was gone, at least in his mind.

Sometimes we develop a superhuman perception of Joseph, as if he were bullet proof, able to deflect the ammo of life without so much as a flesh wound. But Genesis tells a different story. His brothers, reflecting back on their choice to sell Joseph, remember how he screamed and begged for his life (Gen.  42:21). After Pharaoh releases his cup bearer from prison, Joseph pleads with the cup bearer to fight for his freedom from a false imprisonment (Gen. 40:14-15). Joseph cries. He cries a lot, disturbingly so. He cries from fear, from loneliness, from unresolved pain and hurt. He cries. He cries because he has had a difficult life. Yes, Joseph was faithful but it was not easy. He did not show up in the dungeon announcing to the prisoners, "Guys! Attention! You look around and see a dungeon, prison bars, cold floors and no food, but I see a house of God, a church waiting to be built. Will you sing with me, 'Our God is mighty to save...'" He begged to get out of prison. Not until his 56th year of life does Joseph have the capacity and the hindsight to look back and recognize that God was with him all along (Gen. 50:19-21)

Joseph had moments, I would assume many, where he doubted God's presence and rightly so. There in lies the power of the Joseph story, because despite Joseph's awareness of God, the narrator is clear, "The Lord was with Joseph..." Perhaps while traveling through the desert as an Ismaelite slave, or facing false accusations of rape, or suffering alone in the dark cells of Egypt Joseph struggled to find evidence of God. But God WAS there. He was there working. He was there whether Joseph knew it or not.

God's presence was not limited by Joseph's awareness, and the same is true for you. God's presence is not limited by your awareness! You may be in a season of your life when God seems absent. You may look around at the chaos and dysfunction and find no evidence, no data, no proof of God. Your feelings are legit. Your emotions are warranted, but you are wrong. God is with you. Don't rely on your senses; rely on Joseph's testimony. God IS with you!


[If you would like to hear TCOC messages on the story of Joseph. Listen to our Messy God series HERE.]

Monday, October 8, 2012

Messy God: The Story of Joseph

Life gets messy. Sometimes life gets messy because you choose sin. Sin always makes a mess of things. Other times, life gets messy because the consequences of other people's sin snuggle up next to your comfortable life. Either way...life gets messy. The good news? God is a messy God. He dives headfirst into our mess and stays there until he leverages it for something beautiful. 

Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph, paints a vivid picture of a messy God. Over the next two months I will be teaching through the story of Joseph (October 14 - November 18). I pray Joseph will help you see God in the midst of your own mess.



Monday, September 17, 2012

INSANITY: Finding Peace in a 'Gone Nuts' World


One, two, three, four...keep counting at a one number/second pace. Keep counting and 31 years later you will reach one billion.

Take a one dollar bill, .0043 inches thick, and stack them a billion high and you will blow your way 67 miles into the atmosphere.

One billion is a massive number, and Americans pop over 1,000,000 Paxil and Zoloft pills a year, pills which help manage anxiety and depression. I'm not making a medication judgement call, I'm simply pointing out the reality, "One billion is a lot of pills!" In other words, America has an anxiety problem.
  • Forty Million People in the U.S. will experience an impairment because of an anxiety condition this year.
  • Of the 40 million, only 4 million will receive some kind of treatment
  • Forty-three percent of North Americans take mood altering prescriptions daily.
We are overworked, over-scheduled, over-extended, overwhelmed, and over budget. As a result, we have a lot of anxiety to manage, so we run. We eat. We don't eat. We do yoga. We watch TV. We play video games. We creep on Facebook. We sleep...we do anything to harness our anxiety in order to push through another day.

Jesus does not want you to "make it through," to fall in bed exhausted yet unable to sleep because of the 1001 loose ends floating through your cranium. As THE life teacher, Jesus offers words that reach deep into the roots of anxiety. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, God's son takes on anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34) and offers insight on eradicating anxiety from your life.

Jesus' preaches a simple message about anxiety: "Stop!" Luckily, he does not end his teaching there. If he did, many of you would worry because you worry.  I sum Jesus' teaching about anxiety with this phrase: anxiety is regulated by your beliefs and your ambition. 

Regarding BELIEFS...what you believe about God and what you believe about yourself dictates the level of your anxiety. The more you trust God's faithfulness, the less anxiety will enter the door of your life (Matthew 6:30). If God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, then do you not trust him to provide for you? Your anxiety depends on how emphatic your "YES!" Second, what you believe about yourself also determines your level of anxiety (Matthew 6:26). If you base your worth off productivity, people's opinion, or past sins then likely you believe the lie, "God would not provide for someone like you." And, perhaps you might take it further believing God punishes by refusing to provide for your needs. But, when you learn to see yourself through God's eyes you develop a healthy sense of worth.

Regarding AMBITION...the aim of your passionate pursuits has a direct impact on the amount of anxiety consuming your life. If you pursue the things of the world: wealth, power, notoriety, beauty, comfort, you will also find yourself chasing a life of anxiety. But, if you seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness anxiety has no place. Pursuing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will not lead to anxiousness (Matthew 6:33).  It breeds peace.

I'm unpacking this teaching on Sundays (September 9 - October 7) at TCOC.  If you are in the Downriver area, come join us. If not, and insanity knocks at your door, you can catch these teachings by subscribing to the TCOC podcast.





Thursday, September 6, 2012

Memory Tattoo

Over the last year God has made it his business to show me his power. "Taylor," he says, "I realize you have enjoyed this resurrection story, the empty tomb, the no longer dead...but it's time for the story to rock your world. It's time for you and the Risen Jesus to dance." Dance we have and each one leaves a permanent mark on my brain, a memory tattoo!

One of those eternal moments came when my oldest son stepped in and said, "Dad, it's my turn to dance!" This is the celebration of his new life and his commitment to be a Jesus-follower.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Fast, Pray, Camp!


I lay sprawled out on my office floor fighting a fever, my head foggy as if someone had injected jello into my nasal cavity and my throat burning as if someone tried to scrape wallpaper from its lining. I never get sick, but this cold placed my solo decent to the floor of the Grand Canyon in jeopardy. No it didn't. I knew I would go, fever or not, and I did.

I spent the first cool night on the canyon rim curled-up in the fetal position in the only free lodging around, the back of my Nissan Sentra. It had plenty of room to spread out if you reside in Munchkin Land, but for an average 5'10" American, it simply provided a long night of waiting for the sun to rise. It did. It always does and when it did I began my 11 mile decent. I would describe the beauty of the journey, but I lack the writing skills to do it justice. Let's just say, even though I arrived with dried snot smeared across my face, exhausted from the ill-timed fever it was well-worth the discomfort.

As night covered the canyon, I sat alone outside my tent, swallowed by its grandiosity and God made me cry. He wasn't bullying me or making fun of my name. He simply whispered, "HERE I AM!" I felt him. I felt small. I felt peace.

Not everyone drools over the outdoors adventure like I do. Many people's idea of roughing it consists of a willingness to settle for a 4-star hotel, and while I do not want to rewire anyone's circuitry I do suggest camping as a spiritual discipline - yes, a spiritual discipline like scripture meditation, fasting, prayer, and anything else Richard Foster would suggest. Here are three ways I think camping forms our souls...

[Note: There are 1001 ways to camp, but I prefer, first, backpack camping where everything you need you carry on your person. Second, tent camping (usually done with my family)].

  1. SIMPLICITY. Camping strips you of all life's bells and whistles and all its hustle and bustle leaving the basics exposed.  You have two concerns when you camp: food and shelter. Once you pitch your tent, your next major decision, "When do I cook lunch?" You do not need a day-planner. Automobile traffic is not welcome. If you are remote enough, nature renders your phone useless- no emails, checking the score, or crafting the next clever tweet. No drive-through exists to encourage you to hurry your lunch. Camping is simple and when your life slows down you become aware of the nuggets of life you normally speed past.
  2. MEDITATION/CONTEMPLATION. When you camp alone, The Great Outdoors demands a vow of silence. You can talk to the squirrels, but it is always a one-sided conversation. The moment the squirrel talks back, it's time to return to the city. The vow of silence has a way of cleansing your system. After a few hours of worrying about all you are not doing back home, nature forces you to be honest with yourself, "How am I doing? Why am I afraid? Why do I behave as I do? Why am I so hurt?" When the squirrels refuse to engage in dialogue, you find yourself talking to God.
  3. COMMUNITY. Solo-camping is not the only way to camp. I love pitching the 6-man tent, blowing up the air-mattresses (look out Hilton) and spending a couple of nights in the wilderness with my family or friends. With no TV to numb your mind and dull your conversation, with no rooms to compartmentalize your family, with no work or school to consume your thoughts, camping guides you back to relationship. When you camp with someone, you set up shelter, you cook together...and then you...uhhh...you just ARE together. Every night you gather around a camp fire and you do three things: you stare at the fire, "Fi-re!" You throw stuff in the fire. You talk. When you return to the basics, you often find yourself returning to what is most important: relationship.
Okay, so you're not Bear Grylls but camping can be food for the soul. Time in a tent could just make you more like Jesus.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ending of a Beginning

Sunday I begin the last message of my first series at TCOC and I have loved every minute of it. The faith community at TCOC has welcome me and my preaching with open arms. Mark Frost, the former preacher, did everything within his power to set me up for success. I'm so honored to count him as a friend and mentor.  The community has freed and empowered me to preach honestly and authentically. I look forward to the thrill and joy of exploding the Word of God with my faith family each week.

So...as I wrap up my first message series in the north country it marks the end of beginning. Over the summer I took us to Luke and John's writings. I investigated the aftershock of a Jesus encounter by centering on different individuals who collided with Jesus throughout his ministry. All of them walked away with a limp, because when you encounter Jesus - not meet him, not follow his blog, not seek to understand him as a theological idea, not learn from him as teacher - but when you encounter him...he leaves a mark. Throughout this series, I prayed the TCOC community would not only have front row seats to these Jesus encounters but they we would walk away with "Jesus whiplash" of our own.  Below are the ONE THINGS I prayed we would take home from each message:
  1.  MESSAGE 1: When you encounter Jesus you lose your religion and join a Kingdom. (Nicodemus - John 3:1-8)
  2. MESSAGE 2: When you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. (Samaritan Woman - John 4:4-42)
  3. MESSAGE 3: When you encounter Jesus you develop a life of gratitude. (Sinful Woman - Luke 7:36-50)
  4. MESSAGE 4: When you encounter Jesus you must make a choice. (Rich Ruler - Luke 18:18-30)
  5. MESSAGE 5: When you encounter Jesus you change your heart and your behavior. (Zachaeus - Luke 19:1-10)
  6. MESSAGE 6: When you encounter Jesus you find hope. (Criminal on the Cross - Luke 23:39-43)
  7. MESSAGE 7: When you encounter Jesus you recognize it's not about you. (Centurion at the Cross - Luke 23:47)
  8. MESSAGE 8: When you encounter Jesus he calls you to mission. (Saul - Acts 9:1-31)
As I studied and crafted these messages, Jesus continued to amaze me. I have met him over the last year in way I never have before. There is not sweeter name than the name of JESUS.

NOTE: If you would like to listen to any of the above messages you can find them at the TCOC Podcast.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Words!

I'm Charlton Taylor and I'm an Olympic junkie. Unfortunately my wife is an enabler because she is equally addicted.  Luckily, the summer Olympics only come every four years, giving Mary Beth and me four years to detox. Here are some things I learned from the London 2012 Olympics:


 
DETERMINATION 
 Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, runs with able-bodied athletes.  Years of striving, pushing, and training coming to fruition. He ran the 400 without legs!! 

COURAGE
 Caster Semenya claims silver in the 800 meters. After years of humiliation and investigations questioning her gender she bravely stepped onto the track to compete.

DEDICATION 
Gabby Douglas wins Gold in all-around competition. Whether you agree with Gabby's willingness to leave her family for training at a young age or not you must agree she is dedicated.

TALENT
Usain Bolt winning...just winning. I know he said, "I'm working on my legend status," and although obnoxious, what can you say when the guy is telling the truth.

TALENT with HUMILITY
Michael Phelps receiving his 22nd Olympic Medal. 

JOY
Although she made a statement in the pool, Allison Schmitt's perennial smile was golden!

FRIENDSHIP
Farah (United Kingdom) and Rupp (USA) taking gold and silver in the 10K - authentic celebration for each others' success!

CHEMISTRY
Misty May and Kerri Walsh win 3rd Olympic gold. Twenty-one consecutive Olympic match wins and 42-1 in Olympic sets.

PERSEVERANCE
Allyson Felix wins gold in the 200 meters. After coming up short, winning silver in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Felix finally reached her 2004 goal in 2012.

HUH?
Rhythmic Gymnastics.

In conclusion, Morgan Freeman is the present of awesome!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Starbucks Gravy for My Chicken Sandwich


I like to dip my friend chicken in gravy. I figure if I'm going to treat my body with tasty fat I might as well coat it in tasty fat because:

Tasty fat + Tasty fat = "Ahhh!"

But that's not my point. There has been a lot of talk, tweets, and posts about Chick-fil-A's president's opposition to same-sex marriage and some public officials' push to ban and boycott the fried chicken Juggernaut. I think boycotts are LAME. It's lame when Christians boycott Disney and it's lame when public officials boycott Chick-fil-A. I love Chick-fil-A not because of their stance on same-sex marriage but because they make a killer chicken sandwich (excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth). I drink Starbucks Chai, a company that supports same-sex-marriage, because it blows my taste buds up! (So...why not create a Starbucks gravy for my chicken sandwich!) Boycotts are a reactionary response which fail to seek understanding, fail to promote conversation, create gaps rather than bridges and breed animosity and stereotyping.  Therefore:

Boycott + Boycott = Lame

Yesterday I preached from Luke 19 on Zacchaeus and in this passage Jesus has a much better strategy for change than bands or boycotts. Zacchaeus was a jerk, the CEO of "Jerks-R-Us." He was a traitor to Israel nationalism and religious worldview. He cheated his fellow Jews out of money to fund the Evil Empire, Rome. Needless to say, the Jewish crowd who had gathered to see Jesus that day hated Zacchaeus. They wished he would change. Zacchaeus would change and not because someone yelled from the crowd, "You suck," or because the business owners formed a federation to ban Zac from their stores, or because a Pharisee handed him a note listing The Ten Commandments with every "Thou" replaced with a "Zacchaeus."

Zacchaeus radically changed that day because he met Jesus. Jesus could have gone to anyone in the crowd. He could have picked a likable guy, a hero to the people, a widow in need but he picked the "Punk Numero Uno."  Sure, flexing your political and social muscles can force some behavior modification but only a transformed heart produces lasting change. Jesus knew Zacchaeus did not need another scolding finger. He needed someone to take a genuine interest in his person. Zacchaeus needed what we all need, to feel loved and valued. Jesus engaged Zac on the deepest level and his genuine compassion altered Zac's life.


Brokenness and sin are all around us and INSIDE of us. As the church prays for transformation and change may we embrace Christ's approach: engagement over condemnation, genuine concern over dogmatism, love over law. Now, for a chicken sandwich and an iced chai!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shame LESS: Part II


In my last post, I began a piece based off my sermon "Shame Less," centering on the Samaritan Woman in John 4. I drive home one key point, when you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. When the Samaritan woman first meets Jesus shame is bullying this woman's life around, but by the end of the conversation Jesus frees her from shame. In the last post I unpacked one way her encounter with Jesus freed her. In this post I offer two more observations.

 Jesus offers "Living Water" regardless of performance

The text says, "He [Jesus] had to go through Samaria." John is not saying Jesus had no alternate route to bypass Samaria because Jews made it a point to avoid Samaria. The path around Samaria was a well worn path.  Jesus had to go through Samaria because he had to see her. He had to see her because he needed to give her something: “living water.”  He wanted to give her the gift of himself, a path to true fulfillment, a life free of shame, hurt, brokenness and fear. 

He came to offer her water as she was. He did not say, “First, you need to marry this guy you are living with and then we’ll talk about the water. Oh, before that, I’ll need to see the divorce documents from the other five guys you married and divorced. If you divorced these guys for any other reason than adultery I will not recognize and accept the divorce. If that is the case, you will have to go back to the first guy…” Neither does he say, “Get your life together and then you will be worthy to drink," but says instead, “I came here! I came here where no Jew wants to come to find you, to give you this living water. I came here so you can drink now; you need it now. My gift for you is not based on how well you perform; it’s based on my love."

Shame has so many of us locked in an arm-bar because we find it nearly impossible to believe the life Jesus offer us, the “living water,” derives solely from his character and love and has nothing to do with our performance. It is hard to believe because most of your life you are judged and accepted based on your performance. It starts as early with potty training.  If you make the right deposits in the right little buckets you get “Yay! Did him do a poopie! Great job!” You get Skittles and gummy bears.  Some parents even throw “Potty Parties" with banners, cakes, and "Pin the Toilet seat on the John."  Society evaluates your ability to gather, store, and regurgitate information on a percentage system. Score less than 70% you received a performance score of FAILURE! Colleges accept you based on how well you perform. You accumulate medals and trophies by performing physical feats better than those around you.  Companies promote and offer raises based on your performance. No wonder when you have an EPIC FAIL the door is left wide open for shame to come in and tell you how useless, worthless, and unlovable you are.  And yet Jesus comes along and says, “70% or 110%, I love you. What I have to offer is not for people who have it together. It is for everyone.”

Many people refuse to become a Christian until they "get it together." They are missing the point.  You need to become a Christian because you don’t have it together.  Jesus silences her shame by offering her "living water" while she is at her worst. He offers you the same, water just as you are.

 Jesus levels the playing field

After engaging Jesus for awhile in conversation, the woman realizes Jesus is more than a guy looking for a Gatorade. She acknowledges that he is a prophet which leads her to ask him a question regarding "true" worship. She wants to know who is right: Jews or Samaritans.  Are the Jews right in naming the Temple in Jerusalem as the center of Yahwheh worship, or are the Samaritans right by naming Mount Gerizim as the true center of worship. 

Jesus responds, “A time is coming when location, ethnicity, color, age, or gender won’t matter and neither will past mistakes, sins, and failures. Everyone who has the Spirit, who accepts my living water, will bear the title of a legit worshiper."

The ”People of God” is not determined by a certain group of people: it’s not American people, middle class people, not republican people or democrat people, not "people who have grown up in church" people, not "people who look like they have it together" people.  It’s simply "Spirit People," people who accept the gift of Jesus, the living water.  He told her, "YOU, yes you, with 5 ex-husbands and your boyfriend, you are no lesser than the Pharisees in Jerusalem or the Priests at the temple."  He tells this woman - a woman judged daily by her community to the point of fetching water alone in the noonday sun, a woman whose train-wrecked life has pushed her to the margins…he tells her, “If you have my Spirit there is no pecking order. You are all the same!”

It doesn’t matter what kind of baggage you have in tote. It does not matter if you carry a small day-pack burdened with a couple of cliff bars and Vitamin Water or if you push a cart piled high with half-a-dozen 50 pound suitcases – when you drink the living water, when you become a Christian, when you receive the Spirit - Jesus shows up at the baggage claim and takes it all!  He takes it, leaving you free.

If you are in Christ you share the same Spirit as all who are in Christ. God does not  hand out blue ribbons in heaven. Heaven does not have a gold medal stand. There is only ONE people, and no matter your past if you are in Christ you are part of the ONE people!! You, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the ex-guitarist ex-druggie from Korn, and the murderer turned Christian all get the same seat at the table.  When you come to grips with this truth, it will disarm your shame. It did with the Samaritan woman.

Shame will paralyze you. It will make you ineffective. It will destroy you. It will lead to self-hate. Turn to Jesus and be free!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shame LESS



That annoying sound at 6:00 AM...yes, your alarm! You are up now...sorta. Your first stop, most likely, will be the bathroom (unless you are like me and Old Age foreshadows your future by waking you up at 5:30 AM for a pre-alarm tinkle); then shower, then coffee, and then teeth (I hope). You depend heavily on WATER for your morning routine . Water belongs at the top of life's priority list. If you don't believe me, go a day without any water and then post your comments below. So, in the NT times, when you could not simply turn a handle for your own personal river, you started your day fetching water. I picture the NT wells as ancient Starbucks: a hum of activity and conversation as people start their day, Baristas greeting you with a smile and asking if you would like the Venti bucket or simply a Tall

If you wanted to engage society, early mornings at the well might be your "Happy Hour," but Jesus shows up at noon! No one comes to draw water at noon, no one unless the someone trying to hide from everyone. Jesus camped out at Jacob's well at noon, not because he was hiding, but to meet the woman who was. John 4 tells the amazing story of Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan Woman, a woman who disengaged from her community because of her shame. She would soon discover that when you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. He frees her from her shame in three ways.  In this post, I describe the first way Jesus disarms the Samaritan Woman's shame.  I will address the other two in subsequent posts. (You can hear the sermon "Shame Less" here).

Aware of her worst, Jesus loves her the same.  

At one point in their conversation, Jesus offers the woman perennial water - "living water." She is no fool and takes him up on his offer, to which Jesus responds, "Go, call your husband and come back." Woops! How was she going to get out of this one? She was not married; she was just shacking up with some guy in his pad.  And, the only husbands she had were EX-husbands, five of them.

The live-in boyfriend, the multiple failed marriages, and her embarrassing and broken past explain her peculiar time for fetching water. She did not want anything to do with anybody because she believed no one wanted anything to do with her. She was ashamed, humiliated, and likely felt like an unlovable failure. 

How would she explain this to the prophet? She did not need another disapproving head shake, a pointing of the finger, or a glance of disgust. How could she avoid another person knowing all her baggage? Quite cleverly, "I have no husband," she said. She did not lie; she simply concealed, and you would too if your life had her storyline.

She was unaware everything she was trying to hide, everything she was running from, everything saying, “You are a horrible person,” Jesus already knew (John 4:17-18). He knew her at her worst and yet he is not shocked, disgusted, hateful, or even disappointed. He loves her the same! He loves her no differently than he would if her life had no cracks and dents.

Shame keeps so many people locked in an arm-bar because shame whispers in your ear,  "If people knew what you were really like, if they knew what you have done, if they knew how bad you really are they would hate you, disown you, turn their backs on you." But Jesus already knows. The one thing you can’t tell anyone because it will destroy the person and you, the one thing you are afraid will end the relationship, cost you the job, destroy your marriage, break your mom’s heart…the one thing… Jesus already knows. And, he loves you the same. It has no impact on his love. It does not sway his feelings or opinion of you at all.

When you come to grips with a Messiah who knows all your junk as well as you do and loves you the same...you begin to feel Shame's grip loosen a bit. It did on the Samaritan woman.

Monday, June 25, 2012

God Doesn't Work for Burger King

A couple of weeks ago as we prepped to launch "Promise Island" VBS, I helped prep our church by taking on the text for the for the first day's theme: "I Am With You."  I preached the famous Shadrach, Meshach, and A Billy Goat (at least that is what I thought as a kid) story from Daniel 3.

The story continues to build the author's case for God (Yahweh) as the cosmic sovereign. In my message I built upon the books' theme by stressing: Your level of obedience and boldness is directly tied to the depth of your trust in God's sovereignty. You can hear the message here, but as with all sermons I had to nip and tuck as I pursued a fluid and cohesive piece, which means I was forced to leave out thoughts, ideas, and ramblings. This post is a rambling that failed to make the team.

Before Burger King hired the creepy big-headed King who kept popping up in people's beds, backyards, and children's bikes (Isn't that illegal?), the chain sold their product with the motto: "Have it Your Way!" I like that. Days would be sheer bliss if everyone's motto for me was, "Have it Your Way!" If my kids woke up and said, "Have it your way, Dad!" Or if my boss said, "Charlton, have it your way!" If the cop who pulled me over, "Sir, you were going 95 in a 45, but have it your way." If all church members said, "A 45-minute sermon? Have it your way!" If the U.S. Olympic committee said, "Although you have never run fast enough to compete in the mile at the high school level, we would like for you to represent the U.S. in London for the 1500 meters. Have it your way!"

We like it our way, and our consumeristic culture and natural inclination toward self-centeredness blend into a deadly concoction of self-absorption and entitlement. We begin to function as if God stands behind the BK counter sporting his hat, taking our prayers, and responding with a "Have it your way!" The entitlement mentality limits God's sovereignty. It makes God's sovereignty dependent upon his answering my prayers according to my specific requirements. The moment he doesn't, "I guess God isn't that powerful after all. I guess he doesn't care about my family or me. Maybe he doesn't exist."

I'm not minimizing the problem of evil. It's clear things are not right in the world. Brokenness screams from all corners of the globe. Scripture gives us room to question God, to be angry, to shout and yell, and even throw a temper tantrum. There is dissonance between a sovereign and good God and the state of the world. But too often, we doubt God's sovereignty not because we are wrestling the larger questions of evil, but simply because he did not look smilingly across the counter and say, "Have it your way!"

Apparently Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego never ate at BK.  When Nebuchadnezzar (I bet he got picked on as kid. That's probably what fueled his aspirations to become a ruthless dictator) threatens them with death by fire for refusing to bow to his golden idol they respond,

"Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up." 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no doubt that God is sovereign, that he rules over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and even Nebuchadnezzar and his magnificent kingdom. But they also believed that God's sovereignty was not contingent upon him saving them. His sovereignty did not rest on whether their prayers were answered according to their requirements.

God does not lose control because I don't get what I want and God does not lose control because I do not understand what he is doing. Yes, I have permission to question, to shout, and to be frustrated. God welcomes such honest banter but perhaps before I call God's goodness and sovereignty into question I should assess my motives. Is my desire really for God to reign over HIS kingdom or do I simply want a God who says, "Have it your way"?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

TransAmerica: Thoughts, Ramblings, a Lame Joke, and Learnings as We Penske Wagon Across America


It's nearly 11 PM and I'm in Effingham, IL (every Illinoisians' favorite city name to shout when angry). As I recline in a hotel bed, my family asleep all around me, and NBA analysts breaking down Miami's win, I decided to scribble down random thoughts and learnings from the Taylor's travels across the United States. Here it goes...
  • Contrary to popular belief, people do live in Oklahoma. I was able to understand their language and they are friendly to foreigners.
  • Texas seems to be the only state with state-shaped waffles.
  • While Democrats and Republicans vie for power, it's clear that Ronald McDonald is the boni fide Commander and Chief.
  • Penske trucks drink diesel like a sumo downs Chankonabe: quickly and in large quantities.
  • Dogs are high maintenance. 
  • Appreciation for long-winded preachers grows in direct proportion to the number of hours you are scheduled to drive (I've been hosting a three-day Penske Revival Conference and I managed to bring in some stellar keynotes and dynamic worship bands.)
  • While driving and worshiping it is safest to be a one arm hand-raiser (preferably your non-dominant hand).
  • Want Angolina Joliesque lips? Don't waste time and money with expensive cosmetic procedures. Have your brother throw a rock at your lip...poof! Puffy lips!! Repeat after two days (Pierson can testify to its effectiveness.  His words, "If feels like my lip wants to pop off!").
  • If you have poor night vision and are an inexperienced 26-foot-truck-with-a-car-dolly-and-Kia-in-tow driver don't get stuck having to back out of a hotel parking lot, surrounded by unattended semi's, in a severe thunder storm, with a multi-block electrical outage. 
  • If you gas-up at the big rig diesel pumps it is assumed that you swear like a drunken sailor who stubbed his toe after bumping his head... never mind the 8 year old boy standing next to me.
  • What revenue Oklahoma fails to collect in its absence of professional sports teams it makes up for with highway tolls. 
  • The iPhone never ceases to amaze me.
  • Ice cream always sounds good.
  • Every vehicle should be equipped with semi-grade side mirrors (scooters and segways included).
  • The company that promotes the most on the Lamar billboards is Lamar.
  • There are A LOT of people and each one has a story.
  • The laws of physics don't lie.
  • [Random lame joke] What's the the laziest town in Missouri? Doolittle, MO.
  • Doggie toots smell distinctly different than human ones (I purposefully used the terms "doggie" and "toots" so as to make a crude subject sound cute.  You're welcome, Mom. I also replaced "toots' with "ones" in the second half of the sentence so as not to overuse the word "toot..." Oh, wait... I just used "toots" four times...wait, five - never mind).
  • Panera Bread puts little effort in accommodating big rig parking, and I would be uncomfortable if they did. 
  • With a family of five and a dog chances are that at any point in time someone has to go to the bathroom.
  • In the Penske... uphills, "Sorry!" Downhills, "Weeeeeeee!"
  • All bugs look the same splattered on your windshield (You are supposed take this comment and make a theological point, "In the same way, all people, if they were splattered on a windshield would look the same too. We are all made in the image of God).
  • Just because you see a Highway Patrol doesn't mean you have to slow down, especially if he has already pulled someone over.
  •  God is a magnificent sculpture and painter.