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Working Off The Big Meal

November 26, 2009

Today’s agenda:

– Consume mass quantities of turkey, oyster stuffing, and all the usual trimmings.
– Nap.
– Play. Work in the yard.

Oh yeah…and give thanks for all our many blessings.

Awesome day. Awesome life. Thank you, God.



November 8, 2009
Creepy Dean

Dean awaits trick-or-treaters to menace

Jack o' lanternGeorge & Anna

George’s Spiderman mask lasted about two houses. It was hot this Halloween. Dean did a masterful job on the pumpkin, as usual. I’m a little concerned about how much he enjoys frightening trick-or-treaters.

U2 Redux

October 28, 2009
In September, I saw U2 live in Raleigh. Last weekend, I was among millions who saw their live webcast from the Rose Bowl.

It was an amazing experience. Picture and sound quality were impeccable.

It also made history. Instead of going on about that myself, why don’t you check out this great blog post about the event’s historic significance? It sums it up way better than I could.

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How to Get Your Joy Back

October 25, 2009
Caught two sermons today…one from the second-to-last pew at Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, the other from via my PC.

Very different services. Same message from the Book of Philippians. Upshot: Our joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances.

The Rev. David Goehring said our contentment depends on how close we are to God. When we let broken relationships, materialism, habits – really anything – increase the distance between us and God, then discontentment sets in.

He challenged us to simplify, have gratitude and do whatever it takes to draw closer to God. He quoted Paul, the author of Philippians:  “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Elevation’s Pastor Steven Furtick described Philippians as the happiest book in the bible – and noted that it had been written by a man in a prison cell.If anybody deserved to be depressed, it was Paul. There he was, behind bars. Hated by many, including some of his own followers. Disfigured by torture. A death sentence almost certain. 

But in Philippians, Paul writes to his followers of his deep joy. “What has happened to me,”  he said, “has really served to advance the gospel.”

It’s counter-intuitive to think of circumstances being independent of your ability to feel joy. But my own experiences bear it out. I have never been more content than when I have aligned my priorities with God’s.

A decade ago, ravaged by a self-destructive habit, I was about as far from God as you can get. Getting out of that pit required nothing less than complete surrender to God and accepting that fixing this problem was beyond my human capabilities.

Joy was an unexpected result of this painful process. Who knew?

“My joy,” Pastor Steven said, “is not determined by what happens to me, but by what Christ is doing in me and through me.”

Well said.

Gray Day II

October 13, 2009

I’m starting to see a pattern. Our final beach trip of 2009 was rainy. So was the mountain venture last weekend. Instead of breathtaking fall vistas atop Mount Jefferson, we saw fog.

Oh, well. A foggy day on vacation is better than…you know.

This is the view from my sister's backyard.

This is the view from my sister's backyard.

U2 Comes to Town

October 5, 2009
It’s weird to go to a rock show and have a spiritual experience. But that’s what the U2 show in Raleigh was like last weekend.
Photo by Roger Winstead

Photo by Roger Winstead

I’ve loved them since college in the early ’80s. During a semester in London, I sat in wine bars and fed coins into music video machines to see “Pride,” “Bloody Sunday,” “Unforgettable Fire.” The city’s double-decker buses all had U2 ads. I was an eye witness to their ascent and a participant, plunking down my hard-earned cash for their albums. I wore my pant legs tucked into boots. I even copied Bono’s mullet.

I never knew most of the band’s members were Christians. If someone had told me, I’m not sure I would have believed it, though messages of forgiveness, justice and peace were common in their music.

In more recent years, as my own faith has grown, I’ve become more attuned to those themes in their work. There’s such a sense of yearning in their songs for life as it’s meant to be. Free of suffering and temptation. Or, as their biography describes it, the struggle of living “between the now and the not yet.”

At Raleigh’s Carter-Finley Stadium, under a glorious waxing moon, I got to hear Bono sing “Amazing Grace.” He has said it used to bother him that the Bible is full of adulterers, murderers, thieves, and cowards. Now it brings him great comfort.

Photo by Roger Winstead

Photo by Roger Winstead

 Saturday night, he was all showman. “We’ve got old songs, we’ve got new songs, we’ve got songs we can barely play,” he intoned. 

Referring to their massive stage, he added:   “And we’ve got a spaceship.”

Gray Day

September 27, 2009

It rained so hard and for so long yesterday, we never got on the beach.

Books, TV, an indoor pool, dinner out and wireless internet pretty much sum up the day.

Before the rain got heavy, I got in a 90-minute run on the beach, somewhat reducing the consequences of a huge shrimp platter. Somewhat.


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