thankful to serve

Like most American families, ours gathered around the matriarch/patriarch house to share a Thanksgiving meal that gave us plenty to be grateful for this year. Like most of those same families, pretty much the only time every member of the clan is in the same room is when the prayer is offered and the digging in begins. After each Bishop has taken their portion out of the bowl or off of the bird, everyone scatters around the house to find a place to settle and eat.

The football fans find the tube with the games, the kids park in front of the cartoons. Some grown ups sit in the kitchen, others in the dining room. Clusters of family are scattered here and there - everyone sorted by their interests and entertainment. Not really the Norman Rockwell scene we'd all like to emulate, but the family is together, and that is good.

This year was even a little more scattered than usual. My daughter Casie, my youngest brother Chris and I decided to try and give this year by feeding others before stuffing ourselves. The Salvation Army typically feeds a hearty Thanksgiving meal to over 500 family members and loners in the Lexington area at their Main Street shelter downtown. So, the three of us volunteered to help. We signed up to serve tables, greet the guests and honor them like the precious jewels they are. I ended up singing eight or ten songs to one of the most beautiful bouquets of people I've ever had the opportunity to share a room with.

As I stood on that little platform and made my music, I watched Casie and several other teenage volunteers learn the value of life at every level and background. Casie told me later that even the migrant workers whom she couldn't understand were able to communicate their appreciation to her and the others who treated them with unbiased dignity, compassion and respect. Several widows and widowers who'd lost their companions since the last holiday season didn't want to eat alone, so they volunteered to serve others this year. Whole families who appreciate their own fortunate circumstances decided this year to bless others who've not known like comforts. Even Governor Ernie Fletcher and his wife Glenna left the Governor's Mansion, donned red aprons and became servants to a room full of people who most likely don't even vote.

The Salvation Army truly lives compassion and servant-hood. I have such enormous admiration and respect for anyone and any organization that acts and gives as Christ-like as it preaches. Every year they plan, organize and implement a simple idea that is a very complex task. And they trust that God will provide all of the parts to make a bounty like this available to those who would consider a KFC snack feast enough.

The three of us eventually made it back to the family table. But we were certainly able to enjoy our own heaping plates more fully because of our own experience as servants to others. I hope your Thanksgiving was just as blessed.


praying for the judge (me)

A friend sent this prayer to me today. I wanted to share it with you.

Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours yesterday and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that this could be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts You give us, the greatest gift is love.

It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity.

Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Help us show patience, empathy and love.



really good gossip

If gossip were a fuel there'd be no energy shortage at all. What is it that makes a person so ready to share someone else's embarrassment, misfortune, grief and issues? Does it give them a sense of value to feel they own a bit of information that comes across as entertaining at best and destructive at worst?

I don't expect to open a newspaper and read that an elected official has done a good job at governing. It's not because that public servant isn't getting good things done. That sort of news just doesn't sell papers. (And certain newspapers have vendettas against certain elected officials.) It's not routine for the television news to report a great act of charity. Good news doesn't get ratings that translate into revenue. Gossip magazines and television shows that circle celebrities like vultures twenty four hours a day are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for that one photo of an A level star in a moment of apparent (or not) compromise. And the courts have basically freed them all from any standard of truth telling. But regardless, it is the hope of dollars that motivates the professional gossips. But what motivates a gossiping person who has nothing apparent to gain?

There was a time when I was a willing participant when it came to sharing the failures and faux pas of others with a group of willing and curious ears. The satisfaction and even the delight of having a bit of information on a so-and-so that others didn't have gave me a sense of esteem. Then knowing that the juicy little bit of tale toting that I'd just shared might be retold (with me getting the credit of course) made me feel even more important. It should've made me ashamed.

The destructive force of gossip had to be reason enough for Paul to list it as a top level offense. And even if such a man of God didn't mention it, knowing the harm and hurt that it causes is reason enough for a person with compassion or a desire to be like Christ to never let it be their practice.

There aren't very many days that go by that I don't hear some sort of unnecessary chatter about someone I know. Honestly, most of the time much of the information I hear is about me. Which is fine. I'd much rather they bring their blather about me to me than to continue the tale-chain. Maybe it's because I've been the subject of so much unforgiving and painful talk that I've decided not to participate in the easy evil any longer. It serves only the purposes of the person whose lips are moving. It says a lot about their heart too.

Gossip has destroyed a lot of reputations. Mostly the ones of those doing the talking.


read john fischer

I've just finished reading John Fischer's book 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me) for the third time. I can't seem to put it down. I expect I'll read it again just as soon as I finish reading another of his books Love Him in the Morning.

I knew who John Fischer was before reading these books, but I didn't really know who he WAS until I started looking for his materials and keeping up with his writings. I'd read a couple of his pieces in CCM magazine and other publications, but this 12 Steps... book has really turned me on to his way of thinking and responding to grace. You've gotta get it and maybe even be like me and read it more than once. Every time I reread a chapter (he calls them steps) I get the wow! of a first time read.

From Step 7: (Bible reference 1 Corinthians 15:9-10)
More of God, more awareness of sin. The more I see of God, the more I am aware of that in me that is not of God. That's why Paul's statement here is in the present tense: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." Paul experiences a continual awareness of his sin nature. I would want to say I was the worst of sinners... but not Paul. The reality of his sin was as current and fresh as the reality of God's grace. Paul knew that he couldn't really know God's grace without knowing his sin and how little he deserved what he was receiving. Deserve it, and it is no longer grace.

Is that powerful or what!

John has several other books that I am anxious to get hold of. His newest is called Confessions of a Caffeinated Christian. That's the next book on my list. When you get a chance, take the time to visit the Fischtank at
www.fischtank.com. You'll be able to spend hours reading John's previous periodical writings, going through the lyrics of his many songs, and get an idea of why God is using him to open lots of eyes and expose us to our own sense of religious pride - the kind that has kept many good hearted believers safe in their pews and out of the dangerous places.


my girl is growing up

The most lovely and gorgeous girl in all the world turned seventeen today. My baby doll daughter Casie is a beautiful young lady now. Her attitude, spirit and demeanor are just as beautiful as her pretty face. I couldn't be more proud of her. Happy birthday CayRay!! You'll always be Daddy's girl forever and ever.


recording grace

The excitement is building on this end as we begin the actual recording process for my first solo recording in nearly ten years. I was in the studio earlier this week beginning the tracking process. In case you aren't really sure what tracking is, the first step of actually recording only comes after weeks and sometimes months of preplanning that includes negotiating contracts; praying for creative and message direction; putting out feelers to song writers; selecting a producer; writing, gathering and choosing song material; creative meetings; booking musicians, studios and engineers; and arranging music. Now we are ready to make some noise.

This week I was at Masterfonics Studio Six in Nashville with my producer Woody Wright, engineer Pete Green and his assistant Chris Carroll and musicians Gary Prim on the piano and keys, Paul Leim on the drums and percussion, Mark Hill on the bass guitars and Biff Watson with Jeff King on the guitars. There are several more instruments to add before the music is finished. We had a blast!

I am really so anxious to let you hear the music we made. But there is still a lot more that has to be done. We have the basic rhythm tracks and a few lead instruments down now. But the additional instruments, along with some great background vocals and guest voice appearances to record will make it a super project. The record won't be ready for consumption until late spring next year, and waiting is gonna be a booger. As a matter of fact, Woody and I were talking yesterday about our excitement to finish the recording. I think we're both feeling really inspired right now.

This record is all about grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and acceptance. I think at first there were some who were a little concerned that I wanted to keep the message so singularly focused. They were worried that people would get bored with ten songs that basically say the same thing. However, I think those folks are going to be really happy with our decision to make this project so message driven. Grace covers a lot of ground, and there is a lot to be said about it. I think you'll be thrilled with what you hear too. How can anyone ever get too much grace?