What I’ve Learned about Empty Nest as a Military Parent

Empty nest is the challenging season of life that parents go through when their children leave home. While it’s a mixed bag of emotions under any circumstances, many military parents have an especially hard time of it because the distance between them and their adult children isn’t measured so much by miles as it is by experience.   My wife and I are part of that group. Since our son recently deployed for the second time, after moving with his family to the west coast, we’ve been thrown into the empty nest years with a vengeance and are learning first-hand how great the distance can be between parents and their […]

Read More

Time Out: When Pastors Take a Break

I return to my church this morning after a month-long break, so it’s a good time to do what the Army calls an after action review. That’s when you debrief what happened, why it happened and how to improve next time.   It’s cheaper for a church to give its pastor a few weeks off every five years than to bring on a new one every seven What my church and I agreed to was a sabbatical—time off for personal renewal—something many churches are adopting as a way of keeping their pastoral leadership fresh and on point. I blogged about two previous sabbaticals here and here. The expectations of pastors are so […]

Read More

Reset–When Pastors Go on Sabbatical

The last Sunday of June my church told me to go away and not come back until August.   Before you think this was just another congregation running their preacher off or one of those dysfunctional relationships where two conflicted parties needed a break from each other, let me assure you it was just the opposite.   My church–a gracious and generous congregation–gave me the month of July away from my pastoral duties as a sabbatical, a planned time away from my pastoral responsibilities. They do this every five years for our ministerial staff and speaking for all of us on the ministry team, it’s an incredible gift.   “Sabbatical” […]

Read More

Vice President Pence Speaks to the Southern Baptist Convention

I’ve tried all week to describe the two story lines of this week’s convention. The first was the celebration of worldwide missions that’s our reason for existence. We’re passionate about taking the message of Jesus to the world.   The second story line was the hand off of leadership to a new, younger generation, something that didn’t go as smooth as it could have but at the end of the day had to take place.   But Vice President Mike Pence introduced an altogether different narrative when he spoke Wednesday morning: our denomination’s connection with a single political party and its agenda. Even though I had voted for him to […]

Read More

Southern Baptists Are Changing

Southern Baptists aren’t what they used to be–and Tuesday’s developments at the convention are proof.   Right out of the gate at 8:30AM a challenge was made to the order of business. Vice President Mike Pence had been invited to address the meeting today, but Garrett Kell, a young Virginia pastor, brought a motion to not allow Pence to speak and instead spend the time in corporate prayer.   I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but Kell’s reasoning is an object lesson in the age dynamics within Southern Baptist life. First, he said, many minorities feel alienated by the present administration and hosting the Vice President […]

Read More

End of an Era–Paige Patterson Rides into the Sunset

The Paige Patterson era finally came to a conclusion–not in the President’s office of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he served for the last twelve years, not in the pulpit of one of the thousands of Southern Baptist churches where he preached through his storied career, and not in one of the untold committee meetings he chaired through the decades as he directed the denomination he loved so much.   It ended instead at today’s last session of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual convention.   I won’t go into all the events, rumors and decisions that led to Paige’s firing last month. You can find that complicated story reported in […]

Read More

The Southern Baptist Convention at the Crossroads

Pam and I are sitting in the Charlotte airport on our way to Dallas, TX and the SBC convention where we’ll join up with 25,000 or other folks ready to preach, pray, fight, do business, make pronouncements, raise money, organize, posture, evangelize and in general do what we do more of than anyone else. My dad got it right when he pointed out to me once that Baptists are like cats. When you think they’re fighting they’re actually multiplying.   Southern Bapitists are the largest and best-known branch of the larger Baptist tree. Beginning with English non-conformists in the 17th century, the Baptist movement through the centuries has produced luminaries […]

Read More

What Baby Birds Teach Us

Sometimes God comes at us from unexpected directions and shows up in the smallest of ways–even through baby birds.   House finches are a feature of life here in the midlands. Small, energetic birds with a reddish tint, their distinctive chirping can be heard everywhere this time of year.   They’re also determined nest-builders. Decorative ferns, corners of porch roofs, door wreaths—no part of a house is safe from their drive to build nests and raise babies. A worker once left his trailer doors open while he fixed something in our home. When he came out a couple of hours later, finches had almost finished a nest inside the trailer. He might have been greeted by […]

Read More

What Happens to Troubled Teens

I always wondered what happened to troubled teens when they can no longer live at home. Monday I found out.   One of our church’s many local missions helps with a homeless ministry in downtown Columbia. Several local congregations go in together to provide meals once a week for the many women and men who live on the streets. Last Monday night was our congregation’s turn so my wife and I went to see things firsthand.   Homelessness doesn’t discriminate   Church of the Apostles is in a prime location for this ministry. The bus station is a few blocks away and several shelters are nearby. A group from our church had brought baked […]

Read More

What Military Families Can Teach the Rest of Us

All families today are under stress but none as much as military families. They live with the constant pressure of deployments around the world, not knowing from one month to the next if their husband or wife will be sent off to some dangerous part of the world for weeks or even months. It’s not a normal way to live.   Many military families prosper But somehow—against all odds—many military families find a way not just to get through the pressure but also to prosper in the middle of it. None of them would say they’re perfect or that they always handle their situation as well as they should. What […]

Read More