Thursday, December 27, 2012

Atheists Don't Have No Songs by Dale Robinson

Atheists Don’t Have No Songs

Dale Robinson

Christmas in Lexington. It’s only the third time in thirty-three years that we haven’t spent the holidays in Albuquerque.  We didn’t romance Sadie’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant. Nor did we spend a day skiing just outside Santa Fe. But we did spend quality time with our sons Keith (and girlfriend, Jasmine) and Bryce (and wife, Christina), Mike (my brother), and Dana’s dad, two brothers and their families. Eighteen adults, one child and three dogs in one house—let’s just say there was never a dull moment.


Besides lots of eating (and all the tasks that requires), we enjoyed a myriad of activities, most of which revolved around stories.  Our meals were spent sharing stories (usually humorous).   We attended a Christmas Eve service, which told the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of the shepherds and how God sought those who were not seeking him. On Christmas Day, we went to see Les Misérables.  Victor Hugo’s tale is a personal favorite, and despite the context of misery and pain, it tells a remarkable message of love and redemption.


Later that evening, many of us played Phase Ten while Dana’s brother entertained us with some tunes he has recently purchased. He had a particular song that he wanted to play for me, Atheists Don’t Have No Songs, from Steve Martin’s “Rare Bird Alert” album. Martin is an accomplished banjo player, but on this song, he reverts to his comedic nature. The first two stanzas go like this: 


Christians have their hymns and pages.
Hava Nagila's for the Jews.
Baptists have the rock of ages.
Atheists just sing the blues.

Romantics play Claire de Lune.
Born agains sing He is risen.
But no one ever wrote a tune.
For godless existentialism.

As I reflect on the past few days, I am thankful for the stories of family, faith and unconditional love that give us a reason to sing, despite life’s difficulties. Christmas in Lexington was our first Christmas without either of our mothers, and the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. We’re continuing to write our story, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Story of Sacrifice by Frank Black

Story of Sacrifice


You often hear perhaps too much about giving – your money, that is.  You might be thinking, “Enough already”; I’ve heard enough about giving my money.  Ok, ok.  But please don’t stop reading this now.  Let me just share with you what I recently heard from  missionaries that Southeastern helps to support.  What I received was NOT a request for more money from us; it was just a true report of the condition of their finances.


·                          While their financial support has decreased over the last couple years, the cost of living index in their African country has increased by about 50% !  


[To continue their missionary service they have had to adapt.  And I’m talking about adapting ‘big time’. The following are just some of the ways they have cut back in order to live on the funds they receive.]


·                          Vacation:  Everyone needs to get away from their place of living at least once per year – even missionaries.  And speaking as a former full-time missionary, you are on- call all the time unless you are physically away from your home and compound. Due to money and other factors they have not been able to get away recently. 


·                          Furlough:  [Visiting the USA]  With two young daughters it is especially important for them to visit their home country at least every couple years.  [You parents and grandparents; think about how important this is to you.]   Initially they tried to put aside money for a yearly trip.  Due to the lack of funds this changed to every eighteen months, then to every two years; and now there are no funds for visiting the USA!  [I can assure you this is indeed quite a sacrifice in today’s world.]


·                          Retirement Funds and savings:  They have not been able to contribute any funds for the last two years.  I should remind you that in the Churches of Christ there are usually no funds put aside for our missionaries’ retirement. 

·                          Household workers:  When serving in Africa and with both spouses working full-time, it is usual to hire local people to cook, clean, wash clothes, etc.  I should remind you that these tasks are much more difficult in such a culture.  [Lou Ann and I had three Tanzanian workers when we served there - Zebron was our cook; Rehema cleaned and washed clothes; John took care of the yard and various other outside jobs in addition to helping Lou Ann on her market and other trips.].  This couple started with some workers but now have to do without additional help. 


·                          Health Insurance:  I don’t have to tell you how important this is.  They have had to get the “bare bones” minimum insurance, which is still quite expensive because of where they live.  One family member has had to go uninsured because of some health problems.


·                          “Smaller Items”:  They have had to decrease ‘eating out’; spending on gifts, birthdays, etc.; and other “smaller items.”  These items are sometimes the hardest things to give up.  Children especially have difficulty in understanding this. 


I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel terrible and sad. I feel badly that such dedicated, hard working missionaries have to make such sacrifices.  Yet they remain so dedicated that they have imposed all these restrictions on themselves.  Now I’m not just trying to raise money for these missionaries; I want you to think bigger than that.

I would really appreciate it if you would sincerely think about this one question:


 What changes and financial sacrifices have you made to continue your financial support of Southeastern Church and other charitable causes?                          - F. Black

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Happy Birthday" to Me! by Chris Kirby

“Happy Birthday” to Me!

I had a birthday this week.  But, it’s not overly exciting.  You know what I mean right?  When you’re a little kid it is a real toss-up between birthday and Christmas as to which is more exciting.  Birthday cake is fantastic and at 6 years old it burns off in 15 seconds of playing.  Even when you get a little older certain birthdays are exciting.  At 16 you get your license.  18 is when you can start voting, go to war, and smoke legally (I’ve only done one of those things).  At 21 you are officially into adulthood.  Even at 25 you get the amazing experience of renting vehicles without paying the extra “young dumb driver” insurance.  But, this year I get to turn the exciting age of 35.  Whew-who! 

So, what does 35 bring with it?  A higher number of “when I was a boy” stories for Jack, the recognition that fewer and fewer of the teens in our youth group were even alive when I graduated high school, and this year, something that’s even worse- a trip to the ophthalmologist!  When I was younger I had GREAT vision.  I could spot things from further away than any of my friends.  I always found my exit or store in plenty of time when I was driving.  If there was something tiny to read across the room, I was the man for the job.  I never had to squint, guess what time it was in the middle of the night while looking at the red blur of letters on the clock, worry about glasses in sports, or fiddle with contacts.  But, over the last year or so I’ve noticed that words on the TV are harder to read, road signs have to get closer to follow, and so on.  So, literally the first thing on my “to do list” for my actual birthday morning is the first visit to the eye doctor in over six years!   

Now, here’s the thing; as much as I hate the thought of wearing glasses, I hate the thought of squinting and getting headaches worse.  As much as I don’t want to have put on the specs first thing the morning to see the clock (which I still won’t for a while hopefully), I would rather do that than be late for an appointment because I don’t know what time it is.  As much as I’d rather be able to wear the sunglasses of my choice when I’ve driving down the road, I think it would be much more frustrating to miss a turn because I couldn’t read a sign or run into something.  In the end, as much as I don’t like the thought of having something else set my focus, the end result of clear vision will be a huge benefit to my everyday life. 

When I think about this new addition to my life (by the way, I’ve finished my appointment and will be sporting glasses soon….), it gives me a thought about faith.  It’s a thought that is shared in Hebrews 12:1-3.  Here, you have the author of Hebrews laying out a challenge for faithful living to Jewish Christians after reminding them of their forefather’s commitment to faith in chapter 11. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart..”

You notice how the author calls his audience to faithful living?  The heart of the message of faithfulness is right in the middle of this call to action.   There is a calling to focus on what really matters to our faith- Jesus Christ.  There are so many things that vie for our attention and cause a lack of focus.  But, at the end of the day, the point of our faith is to look like Jesus.  Whether it is the destructiveness of sin in our life or even some things that can seem godly in nature, such as religious traditions and preferences, we need to start living life that has the clear lens of Jesus to give us focus and clarity.  In other words, we are called to approach this world with sacrificial love and mercy for the hurting, justice for those without a voice, and humility to live in such a way that honors God by putting him above everything else.  We are called to strive for holiness and live on mission to the world around us as we worship God with our lives.

Sometime toward the end of next week I will see this computer screen a lot clearer because I’ll have my new specs.  I’m not looking forward to wearing them.  I wish I could go back to the good ole’ days of 20/10 vision.  But, that’s not happening.  However, at least my glasses will help me regain some focus to see things more clearly.  The same is true for us in our spiritual journey.  Don’t miss out on seeing all that God has for you in life because you refuse to look through the lens of Christ! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home by Terry Gardner


By Terry Gardner


“There’s no place like home,”  Home is where the heart is,”  “Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.”  The dictionary defines home as, “the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.”  Synonyms include: abode, dwelling, habitation, domicile, residence.


We sing many songs about home.  We sing, “This world is not my home,”  “Anywhere is home,”  “There is a Habitation, built by the living God,”  Home of the Soul.”  Consider with me what the word home means, the fact that we often spend our entire life looking for home and what God teaches us about the concept of home.


What does the word “home” mean to each of us?  When we think of home do we think of peace, protection, warmth, love, parents?


We often spend our entire life searching for home.  Many Jews have moved back to Israel so that they would have a home.  My grandfather’s family began life in Stratford, Oklahoma and he ultimately returned there to live out his last days.  Jesus had no home and said, “Foxes have holes, birds of the heaven have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  When I was child we moved frequently.  I attended six different elementary schools and I hated moving in part because I longed for a place I could call home.


Paul helps us understand God’s view of home.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  2 Cor. 5:6.  Paul also wrote, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Cor. 5:1


Our heavenly home is with God.  Therefore it is a mistake to invest ourselves in this world, which we know is passing away.  Our affections are to be centered on that home of the soul where is the lamp and Lamb of God.  Abraham understood that real home is not a physical place and by faith Abraham left his physical home with no idea where he was being called by God.  “By faith” Abraham “lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  Heb. 11:9-10.


This subject makes me reflect on my own life and my priorities.  Do I spend more time worried about job, retirement, house payments, cars and the things of this world or am I looking for the same city Abraham sought?  Abraham was looking for a home where God is and where “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.”  Am I looking for the same home Abraham sought or am I invested in this world which is passing away?  The choice belongs to each of us.