Saturday, June 22, 2019

Annabelle's 20th Birthday Poem

Annabelle, you are our little Otter
Fun and Funny and you love the Water

But now you are growing up and we couldn't be prouder
So, with our poem we will shout our kudos louder…

The Summer of your 20th year,
You’ve done great work with your career.

A rare internship, A U.S. Presidential award,
Exceptional Volunteering as you go toward...
Your goal as a Childlife Specialist.
They’ve discovered what we already know…
As You drive to and fro...
that your work with kids is the specialest.

You are helping cancer kids and all their healthy siblin’s
While you’re guarding safe and teaching little Snublins

You are adulting well
But you don’t let your head swell

You’re Great with Kids,
And now no skids...
As you are learning to drive a stick
You are not making the wheels slick!

You are out of the Beemer and into the Dink
They both look okay from far away,
but at the end of the day,
up close they can kinda stink.

The best part is… You are driving aware
and learning to stay calm and share…
the road!!!

Inside and out you are so pretty
And you are learning to stay that way when life gets gritty
You are learning to be in charge of your own emotion
Whereas before you did whatever you got the notion.

You are still learning to get your clothes off the floor and your cups to the sink…
We know an otter can clean the clothes they wear and the bottles they drink.

You have learned to breathe in and out calmly when you want to freak
And you’re learning to tame your tongue when you really want to speak.
We’re still trying to figure what’s happening in your head,
Especially when your sister’s trying you make you give up meat and bread...

A little overscheduled, so cut yourself some slack
Love yourself more and don’t over stack
You need some margin, so schedule it in
Take care of yourself, it's not a sin.

Keep on loving Jesus, He’s taking you to some great places
He loves you well so you can smile to little troubled faces!

Annabelle we are so proud of you,
We love you so much... even the times when your life is like a zoo
“We love you no matter what!” is what we do
We know God is accomplishing His great plans for you…

So, love yourself well
Stay away from Taco Bell
Just because it has part of your name
It will kill you just the same.

Enjoy the kids and love them well
Let them keep breathing when jokes you tell
Don’t let them pull out their picc line
When you bring them sunshine…

We think its cool
That God lets you sit at a pool
When you are not coming alongside
The hurting kids at Nationwide.

Our poem is over, but we’re not kidding
We are proud of you for all of your work and not skidding…
Jesus loves you and so do we
Let His love shine for all to see...

Monday, June 10, 2019

What does Zebu Dung have to do with The Gospel?

A Zebu is a small South Asian cow. They are less than half the size of regular cows and they have a distinctive hump on their back near the shoulders. They look like a miniature Brahman cow.
We have a very creative and energetic children’s minister, Jackie Frazier. She has a great ministry with lots of volunteers, kids, and their parents.  Vacation Bible School is one of her specialties. She hosts statewide VBS clinics and her preparations and decorations are among the best I’ve ever seen.  This year’s theme was “In The Wild” from LifeWay. Her decorations were exceptional with every hallway decorated with a different habitat: Arctic, Antarctic, African jungle, African plains, and Asian animal habitats. She had live animals each night: from sloths, to bunnies, to llamas and alpacas; she also had kangaroos, goats and sheep… and this year she had a Zebu! The kids loved them all. They added to the enhancement of the theme and excitement of the whole VBS experience.
On the third night of VBS, the Zebu was the featured animal. This Zebu was small even for a miniature cow, had large charming cow eyes and a calm disposition in spite of the wild surroundings, loud music, and kids singing.  The Zebu had just completed its session of petting and parading, when, as all animals do… it did another p word… it pooped! Fortunately, it was not around the children but it was near one of the entrances to the building where children and their parents would soon be exiting. Several people quickly got to work doing Zebu dung remediation.  Mind you this is a cow, they don’t drop biscuits, they leave piles of manure. At first, I was a little taken aback… as if I expected the poor Zebu to have better manners than to relieve itself at the entrance of the church building. But then, I had to laugh. I began to think how many people in United States churches can say, “yeah, I cleaned up Zebu dung at VBS last night.”  Then I started thinking, “Wow, I’m a part of a church that will go to any length to reach kids with the Gospel, ‘that by ALL means we may save some.(1 Cor. 9:22)’”
This was a messy ministry night, but Rick Warren reminded me years ago at a conference that ministry is messy (and not just when we have animals at church).  Warren points to the principal behind Proverbs 14:4 that says, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” Warren says, we want to love people, disciple them for Jesus and bring them into the church, but humans have messy lives and when we love them well, we eventually find their mess.  When we follow Jesus, we become people who love each other especially well through our messes. We could have squeaky clean churches, but they would all be empty. When we do real life ministry, there is always some dung to deal with.
Those who love me well, deal with the not so pleasant stuff in my life.  They help me clean it up and I’m grateful. I hope you soon get to enjoy the great privilege of loving or being loved so well that life's mess gets cleaned up. If we love each other well, I believe we will get to see the increase.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How All Believers Go PRO With Emotional Pain: Two Ways are Really Bad, One is Really Good

Emotional pain is inevitable… We have all been hurt at some point in our lives and we will all likely be hurt again. Jesus told us, “in this world you will have trouble…” So, how do we deal with this pain?

In 5th grade I changed schools, it was a traumatic experience. I had moved from a small setting designed for kids who had learning differences... mine happened to be dyslexia and the ADHD that sometimes goes with it. The new school had large classes that rotated... one of my teachers didn't even know my name. There happened to be an extra-large, almost full grown young man who was a student in my fifth grade class. I had never heard the kind of language that came out of his mouth and I had never experienced a "swirly" or been stuffed into a locker, or had a super-sonic wedgie until I met extra large, redheaded Raymond. I was undersized for 5th grade, so as I saw it, my options were few... As I look back on the experience, I can see where some good coaching on processing emotional pain could have been beneficial for both of us. I recognized that the world he grew up in probably had few tools to cope with life other than physical strength, harsh language, and whatever strong arm tactics would ensure survival of the fittest. I also recognized that my life coping tool box had little more than silent, numbing and hiding behaviors that included eating a half a loaf of cinnamon toast and going to bed all afternoon everyday, so I could dull the pain. If my grown self could have gone back to that towheaded, wobbly kneed, inwardly angered boy, I would have tried to give him some skills in handling the pain inflicted by my red-headed Goliath from elementary school. I would probably go back and try to give Raymond some coping skills for his tool box that would be more beneficial for him in the long run too. I would tell boy-me to pray for Raymond, talk about my emotional pain with a friend or my parents instead of eating my pain with lots of butter, cinnamon sugar and white flour bread and sleeping through my pre-teen life. I would have engaged boy-me in sports or karate or a hobby that would develop my own discipline. I would also tell Raymond it's not okay to put my head in the toilet. And as an adult, I would tell boy-Raymond that God really loves him and there are people who really care about him and there are ways to process the pain from his home and surroundings with words and prayer. I would ask him to express his frustrations and anger in more verbally productive ways rather than spewing expletives at anyone around him. I would involve him in a sport that would allow him to use his physical prowess in more rewarding, less destructive ways.

Using this and other personal life experiences and doing some research and bible study there seem to be three basic ways we deal with our pain. We can remember them with the word PRO. We all go PRO with pain, because sometimes life just hurts and sometimes people hurt each other … intentionally or not. There are two ways we handle our pain and they are bad for us because they are bad for our relationships and we are designed as relational beings. When we PROject our pain on others (like boy-Raymond) and/or we attempt to PROtect ourselves from ever being hurt again (like boy-me) we harm our relationships. There is however a relationally healthy way of handling our pain… we can PROcess it. Jerrod Justice tells us, “Our pain is either transmitted or transformed.”

When we PROject our pain, we hurt other people. We have become quite adept at the ways we can do it. We can gossip, berate, or belittle others.  It can be someone who hurt us, as we exact revenge, or it could just be someone around us, unrelated to the hurt, who happens to be convenient. We can intentionally ignore, exclude or abandon people.  We can physically harm them (like stuffing them in a locker).  We humans can be quite evil and creative when we project our pain on others.  Somehow we think it will make us feel better about ourselves, but that is never the case for long. We often get caught in a vicious cycle of harm when we project our pain on others. Projecting our pain, makes us the worst version of ourselves.

When we PROtect ourselves from pain, we hide from other people. We try any way we can to just escape the pain. We just want it to stop. We do need to protect ourselves from further harm, but there are some really unhealthy ways to do it which diminish who we are. We can numb ourselves with food (like loaves of cinnamon toast and butter), drugs, other chemicals, alcohol and unhealthy relationships...   We can even convince ourselves that excessive exercise, religion, work, or sleep is good for us ... you can fill in the blank here with something else that is otherwise considered healthy or beneficial, but is destructive in excess.  Or we can hide behind a persona never showing who we really are for fear we will be hurt again.  When we hide our true self, we have cheated the world out of experiencing the very relationships to which we are meant to bring life. We bring much less of who we are to our relationships when we are numbing, masking, or hiding from others so we won’t hurt anymore.

PROcessing our pain is the best option. It allows us to help other people instead of hiding from them or hurting them. Processing preserves relationships and helps us move forward after painful encounters. We need to first process our pain with the God who sees us and cares about us by praying and seeking some comfort from His Word and the Holy Spirit. But we also need to process our pain with other people we trust.  If the pain is inflicted by people rather than something else, we may need to talk through the issue with them. According to Brene’ Brown in Rising Strong, we should generously assume the other person was doing the best they could at the time of the hurtful encounter. We will also need to set clear boundaries with these people and let them know what is "not okay." (Raymond was probably doing the best he could to survive in his 5th grade world with the tools he had been given by those in his local setting.)

We don’t choose to process our pain just because it is the best of our choices, we do it because it is who we are becoming as we follow Christ. Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder tell us in RARE Leadership, just because we have been given good rational choices, doesn’t mean we will choose to do them. Our actions are based on our identity ... who we really are, not on whether we think something is a good idea or not.(My boy-self identified as the undersized wimp who had no one to help and no choices but to self-medicate. Boy Raymond identified as the bully, who hurt others before they could hurt him.) As we identify with Jesus we connect with Him and act like Him and we learn how to do it from those who follow Him well. We can respond to pain in a healthy way and process it like Jesus did. He was hurt but it was His identity to love people no matter what. Jesus followers do this too. The apostle Paul reminded the early church who they were in Christ and he told them how those who belong to Him act and live. We help others, we do good and not evil and we don’t numb ourselves… (even when we are hurting.)

1 Thessalonians 5:5-11 (CEV)
5  You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark. 6  Others may sleep, but we should stay awake and be alert. 7  People sleep during the night, and some even get drunk. 8  But we belong to the day. So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet. 9  God doesn't intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. 10  Christ died for us, so that we could live with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes. 11  That's why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.

Don’t PROject your emotional pain and hurt others or PROtect only yourself and hide from others, but PROcess your pain, stay relational and help others... because it's who were are... people who love others well!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Blog Recommendation

My youngest introduced her blog to us last week.  Her first post describes our whirlwind move from Chattanooga to Columbus from her point of view and she does it in her own playfully amusing way. She is like her dad with grammar and editing... maybe there's a comma, maybe not... maybe its spelled right, but maybe not... But the content is definitely fun and expresses her youngest of four, family mascot personality well.

Here's the URL. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Farewell My Friend

While many men collect many different things. Jim had a different passion.

Some men collect golf trophies, hunting trophies and tennis trophies. Some even collect trophy wives. But Jim collected trophies of grace. He loved the Lord and thrilled to see people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then he loved to see them grow up in faith. He loved to tell people that my wife was one of those trophies of grace.

Here is one story that could be repeated over and over by people all over the country. My wife Anita was new to Brentwood as a high schooler.  Jim was the minister of youth at Brentwood Baptist. Jim visited Anita's house and personally invited Anita and her brother to church and youth activities. At the same time Jim was discipling Allyson, who would soon disciple Anita and several others in Christ.  Allyson ended up at Seminary and is now serving the New England Baptist Convention as a Student Ministry specialist. She has now discipled many generations of students. Anita ended up at seminary with yours truly and she has discipled scores of people too. Jim loved Jesus Christ and the fruit of his ministry is being passed down from generation to generation.

I remember the first time I met Jim, it was before I went to seminary and Anita and I drove from Knoxville to Chattanooga. He had brought his youth group from L.A., i.e. Lower Alabama, to Covenant College to student camp. He was so encouraging to me and told me to definitely move forward to seminary.

The second time I met Jim was when Anita and I had gone to Southwestern Seminary, he happened to be in Fort Worth on business and took us to dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s. He loved his Mexican food. We had enjoyed the meal and he was about to pick up the check and I jokingly told him that God had told me to buy his lunch and I pulled out a credit card. He laughed and called me a liar and said God knows everything and knows that Joe T. Garcia’s doesn’t take credit cards.

I loved how Jim didn’t pull any punches, he always told it like it was. Even when it got him into trouble he was going to tell the truth about a situation. You always knew where you stood with Jim. He would call out your sin and laugh, but you also knew he loved you no matter what.

When he moved back to Nashville. He was looking for another ministry opportunity. I had just taken a senior pastor position and knew that I would love to have him help with the students even if we could only afford part time, while he continued his job search.The church voted on him and we got to watch as he loved those kids just like he had all the others before.

Jim  mentored me well for almost 30 years. Jim has spiritual children and grandchildren around the world who are pastors, denominational leaders, teachers, deacons, and strong Jesus followers in the secular world. 

Jim was not perfect,  he never claimed to be but he always pointed to the grace of Jesus. Jim's road was not easy, yet he always persevered. Cancer took him too soon, but we have to trust that God’s timing is always right. 

Jim loved students and loved to see them grow toward Christ. He especially liked the hard cases... those who were too cool, too shy, too messed up or too angry. Which is probably why he agreed to mentor me! He never gave up on anyone. He always had hope and gave that hope to those around him. He loved his Mexican food, his ministry and his Jesus. 

Jim,  We will miss you, but we are confident that the One who saved you has saved us too and we will spend all eternity with Him. Farewell my friend!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Parenting Safari

As our family grew I lost any of the coolness that I ever thought I had.  As more bundles of joy began blessing our home, the first thing to go was the sporty SUV.  We needed something much more practical, a Minivan.  We started with two old Chrysler Town and Countrys with wood panel decals, then finally a GMC Safari. That van had three rows of “don’t make me come back there” seating for 8. It was “so not cool”, but we discovered that the minivan was a great place to disciple our kids. They were captive in car seats, they had no control over the audio, and it was the first place Mom could help them process what happened at school, sports practice, or a friend’s house.

With four kids, we were always going somewhere… school, soccer, dance, swim, church and long trips to see the relatives. The minivan became a little chapel on wheels for our kids and their friends. We began with an opening prayer for a “hedge of protection” around our vehicle. As you can imagine, these preacher’s kids also had to listen to Bible Songs, Kids’ Praise music, and every episode of Veggietales. (And if you turned it up loud enough it would drown out even the most obnoxious whining.) When it was a bad day, conversations were steered toward God’s amazing love and forgiveness. When there were challenges to be faced the next day with a tough assignment or a difficult classmate, the discussion turned toward a Biblical life lesson. And when an ambulance came by we prayed for anyone who was hurt. The kids soon learned scripture and godly values as they rode around.

But don't get the wrong impression, just like most "churches," we also had our share of dysfunctional behavior in that van. Short tempered parents spewing angry outbursts at kids who were doing the best they could at the moment. Selfish choices to not share the snack or whatever. Sippy-cups thrown at siblings. Stopping at every other exit on a 2 hour trip, because, despite the warnings, at least one of them didn't use the restroom at the last stop. We definitely weren't the most emotionally or spiritually healthy van on the road, however, by God's grace He used it to help disciple all of us.

We were learning to share cheetos in that van, and to respect each other, and wait our turn to talk. We had a lot of joy in that van too... Singing together (we are definitely not the Von Trapp family) and we often got to hear the latest joke or funny incident at school.

Perhaps some of the most important discipling came during middle school carpools. My wife would sit, listen and gently steer the conversation back to something more healthy when the language took a turn for the worse.Once, my wife had a daily 45 minute commute each way to the gym with 7 middle school cheerleaders. She was not sure what kind of impact her driver’s seat discipling had made on these girls from various family backgrounds. But when one of them broke her elbow trying to do a handspring, they all ran straight to my wife asking for prayer and looking to her for support.  

Maybe that rolling Bible-to-life-lesson classroom in the uncool van did make a difference… our adult children still want to follow Jesus...

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you go along the road... 

This article appeared in GoodNews Christian Magazine March 2018, Page 22.

Sometimes God Has To Write It In The Sky

Our first (and only) time to go to Disney as a family, we had talked to all of our friends who were Disney fanatics. They told us how to make reservations to the resort and to the best dinner places around the parks, about the Disney dining plan, about how to ride all the best rides, how to make your dollar go further, what days to do the park hopper, where to see the fireworks and parades, transportation to the park, how to stay late, how to see the characters. These people knew everything. So, with much fear and trepidation I said, “okay Anita make the reservation.”

My wife did all her homework and made reservations for us. Of course, for the McGinnis clan we have to have enough room to sleep 6. So, Anita gets a really great Disney representative on the phone who set us up with adjoining rooms, a reasonable meal plan and park passes for 4 days for a reasonable price.

We always try to stay positive for our kids. When they are anxious we try to remind them of Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV), which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” However, God usually has to remind me too.

 On the long drive to Orlando, I start getting anxious. I’m thinking, “We are going to get there and the plans are going to fall apart.” I was thinking “Wow, I am so Disney ignorant. What happens if we have a terrible time? I will have wasted all this money and all this time and we didn’t get any closer as a family.”

 We get to “the happiest place on earth” the night before our first park day. I get a few hours of restless sleep at the All-star Value Resort and the next morning I get up and go poolside to do my regular quiet time. So, in my journal I talk to God about my worries and anxieties about us going to the Disney parks for 4 days with 4 kids. Finally, in desperation I write, “Okay God, if this is all going to work out, You are just going to have to write it in the sky.”

 So, we get in the Safari van and head to the park. As we are driving into the parking lot, the kids say, “Hey dad, that airplane is writing letters in the sky.” It says, T.R.U.S.T and under it is says, J.E.S.U.S.” So, the rest of the week, I did. I had that peace that guards your hearts and minds. I didn’t need secret insider knowledge of Disney. All I needed was Jesus. Now, whenever I get anxious about anything, my wife and kids say, “hey dad, that airplane is writing words in the sky.”

This article appeared on page 24 of the GoodNews Chattanooga Magazine in May 2018, click here to see it.

PS.  My oldest daughter later returned to Disney for the Disney College Program.  She loved it and she was "friends with" Pluto, Cinderella, the Easter Bunny, and Rafiki.  She too had many opportunities to TRUST JESUS while she lived and worked at the Happiest Place on Earth.