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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

more than cookies!

Last weekend was a highlight in ministry and personal experience of worship. There were two reasons for this, though either one alone would have been a "highlight."

Sunday, March 15

The first was last Sunday morning. It was "Girl Scout Sunday." This simply meant that the Girl Scouts who use our church were invited to come participate in worship: ushering, reading scripture, and sharing briefly during the announcements about who they are and what they do (besides cookies!).

"Simply" misses what happened altogether. There are two troops that meet in our church. One is a brownie troop (6 yr. olds) that we started. It's about half church kids and half from our nearby neighborhoods. The other is an older troop (11 yr. olds) who are all from the nearby neighborhood. They were meeting in the neighborhood clubhouse, but when it burned down about a year ago we offered them space to meet.

I remember some of the discussion when we started offering space to neighborhood groups free of charge. How is it explicitly evangelistic? How does it advance the Kingdom? We concluded that it was an expression of being a good neighbor and even if there was no direct evangelistic application, it was still a good witness and worth doing.

I had chosen the scripture text some two months ago, not knowing at that point about "Girl Scout Sunday." We had also unwittingly scheduled the children's choir to sing. In fact, until close to the last minute, the Girl Scouts were coming the previous Sunday, but when they found out I would be out of town we moved it to the 15th. So, the way the Sunday fell, I was preaching on James 2, on favoritism in the church. Here's the manuscript and the full sermon. Funny how that worked - the sermon was on Christians not making church all about their favorite things and favorite people, but learning to follow the heart of God for the people of the world - our neighbors living right around us.

The 11:00 service was rather circus-like in that there was so much unusual stuff going on. Kids singing, moving, a long (but awesome) children's sermon, girl scouts doing stuff in an unfamiliar context. Anyway, at about 11:45 I got up to preach and gave a shortened version of the same sermon. You can listen with the audio link below or follow this link to hear it.


The long and the short of it - through a simple act of opening up a room in our church a couple of nights a month, we had the opportunity to meet, worship with, and hear God's Word on a very relevant topic with 23 young girls and their family and friends. And the scouts asked us if they could come to worship!

Monday, March 16

The next day we had a memorial service for Larry Wilson, the husband and father of some long-term church members. Though I had Larry a few times over the years, I really "met" him for the first time last October when I went to the hospital to pray with him. He was dying of liver failure related to alcoholism. In order to get a liver transplant, he was required to be clean and sober for six months, and attend regular AA meetings the whole time. Larry's story is a long and amazing one - too long for this space. But the short of it is that he turned to God in the process, asked me to baptize him, and started coming to church (when he could get up). His health continued to vary wildly, but spiritually he grew steadily and strongly. As part of AA and in conjunction with his new faith, he began making amends to family and friends he had wronged. I shared in the memorial service that after seeing God deliver him from near death several times during the six months, I was sure that he was going to make it and have an amazing story to tell. He did all that was required, but in the end was denied a transplant.

I talked about the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, when he said, "Which is easier - to forgive sin or to tell him to be healed, rise, and walk?" In the end I recognized that while healing Larry would have made a spectacular testimony, God had already done the real and harder miracle - transforming this man into a faith-filled child of God. His family said that the last six months (much of which was in and out of ICU) was the best six months of their relationship with him. He became a new husband and father, and their testifying to that was amazing.

The memorial service was not unlike the previous day - it was packed with people who weren't church "regulars." There was a big group from church - because they knew the family so well. There was a big group from Larry's golf club, where he spend so much time. And there was a group from his AA meetings. Those who spoke represented all these groups. And their testimony of what God did in Larry was amazing. The service music was unorthodox... Larry's son's best friend - a 13 yr. old singer/songwriter (see previous post!) sang two original songs to start and end the service. She also covered a Lynyrd Skynyrd song called "Simple Man" that fit well into the story from Luke 12:16ff that Larry had marked in his Bible. And we had a trio from church do a bluegrass arrangement of "I'll Fly Away" as the congregational hymn.

Kind of like the Girl Scout Sunday service, it was a wild and out-of-the-ordinary service... and it was GLORIOUS. Jesus and joy was all over it, in stories and language that made sense to everyone present.


God is alive and well and moving in the world. If we churched folks can get up and get out and follow God's searchlight mission in the world, we may just get to see some amazing things and be a part of what God is doing. Last Sunday and Monday, I got a peek!

Monday, March 23, 2009

amazon appearance

I just got word that my book is on Amazon, and sure enough... there it is, cover picture and all! Whee - that's fun!

Mind you, it's still better off for me (and faster turnaround) if people order from Lulu, but it's sure exciting to see it up on Amazon.

Interestingly, in the brief period between it hitting "Books in Print" and being up on Amazon, it was showing on Amazon under the "new and used - other resellers" section for $30. It seems those folks buy one copy of everything and slightly undersell Amazon. When there is no posted price on Amazon, they set the price as high as they want. Now, they are back down with the posted Amazon price at $16 and change. Curious.

Supposedly, while it won't be on shelves in Barnes and Noble, one should be able to go into B&N, and ask for it by name or author and they can order it for you.

Next up: a short devotional on worship, a sermon series plus study questions from the series this Winter... and "The Gift" - a novel I may complete on sabbatical. :)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

searchlight songwriting

One of the things I continue to challenge our congregation to do is "get outside the walls." Maddie Shuler has taken that challenge seriously, sharing her songwriting in secular (femme fest, playing for others) and other church settings. On March 5-8, Maddie and I were part of a team that went to Spartanburg, SC, to participate in a congregational renewal event at Second Presbyterian Church. Here is a video clip of Maddie speaking and sharing her song called "Life." See more of Maddie on youtube.



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