The Clock Is My Dictator

The clock is my dictator
I shall not rest.

It makes me lie down
only when exhausted.

It leads me to deep depression.
It hounds my soul.

It leads me in circles of frenzy
for activity’s sake.

Even though I run
frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done.

For my “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval,
they drive me.

They demand performance from me
beyond the limits of my schedule.

They anoint my head with migraines.
My in-basket overflows.

Surely fatigue and time pressure
shall follow me all the day of my life.

– In Discipleship Journal
by Marcia Hornok

Artificial Time

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about my thinking on this topic. I’m not sure where I will land. I’m not even sure what to call these wandering thoughts. But I have given a lot of thinking to the subject, so consider this a draft.

It’s not really about artificial light or manufactured energy or propped up activity, although these are certainly on the same team. I guess I might call it “Artificial Time.” This thought comes to me whenever I leave my own culture of extended hours. When I visit my friends in West Africa I quickly notice that our day is more likely to slow down and come to an end when the sun goes down. The time of activity is not artificially extended. We shift into a lower, slower gear. Physical activity gives way to quiet conversations, and eventually to silence and sleep. Yes, there is electricity in the remote area where I visit. And, of course, there is a lot of artificial light in the large city two hours away. But even there, in the capital of that country, I notice that the city lights are dim, as our jumbo jet lands in the evening hours. Not so, in Dallas. When my West African friend, Isaac visited me two years ago, his plane landed at night. His first question had to do with the bright lights he saw from his window as he descended. We discovered that he was referring to the many car dealerships that brightly light up the night sky, not to mention the businesses that proudly advertise “we never close.”

If time were not artificially manipulated, when would we begin our sleep, and how long would it last? When would noise subside and silence carve out an end of the day time of reflection and evaluation? As it is, there is no time to think or reflect. Not only is the time awake artificially extended (which means that the time  of sleep is artificially shortened), but it’s not given to thought or creativity. We are not actually thinking our own thoughts. No, we have asked the networks to decide what we should think about, and they, in turn, have been told by the advertisers what messages, themes, values and questions we should ponder.

Last week the power went out at my house. I walked outside and confirmed that the whole neighborhood was dark. There was nothing else to do, so we began to prepare for bed. Then, just few minutes before turning in, the power suddenly came back on. I honestly wish that we had correctly guessed and successfully turned off all the lights in our house, because when they came back on, I gave in to artificial time.  I got back up. And I stayed up longer than natural time would have allowed.

I don’t know if artificial time has helped us. Not if we sleep less, reflect and meditate less, and operate on less real energy. Not if we walk and talk less. Not if we sit the same room with those we love having no heartfelt conversations. Maybe its time to have less artificial time.

An Honest Cry

An Honest Cry: Sermons from the Psalms in Honor of Prentice A. Meador Jr., will be available January 31 from Leafwood publishers. http://tinyurl.com/yjs7a8h

I envisioned this collection more than a year ago when I repeatedly heard from ministers who had been so powerfully impacted by Prentice. Model, friend, mentor, teacher and more, Prentice touched, and helped to shape, the ministries of so many. The preachers who have contributed to this volume represent a far greater number of partners in ministry who would have gladly accepted the opportunity to honor Prentice.

An Honest Cry is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend, who has reached the goal of his life. The title captures both the heart of his preaching style and the emotion of the book of Psalms.

Prentice had a broad range of interests. But his love for preaching was always at the top. This is why a book of sermons is such a fitting tribute. The idea became clear to me on the day that hundreds of his family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. So many ministers were sharing how Prentice had impacted their preaching that a collection of sermons from some of them seemed to be an appropriate way to honor his life. Psalms was always close to the heart of this man of God. In fact, it was one of the last classes he taught in his role as professor at Lipscomb University.

Providentially, Prentice joins the list of contributors with a sermon he wrote on Psalm 150 that I discovered while this volume was being produced.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Foreword: Randy Lowry
Introduction: Bob Chisholm
Preaching from the Psalms: Dave Bland

A Man of God
God’s Change Agent – Mark Meador
Hallelujah – Word of Praise (Psalm 150) – Prentice A. Meador Jr.
From One Generation to Another (Psalm 71) – Royce Money

Psalms in Context
Living at the Seams (Psalm 89) – Jack Reese
Singing About the Lord’s Ways (Psalm 138) – Gary Holloway

Psalms of God’s Presence
Who Is My God? (Psalm 27) – Landon Saunders
Full of God or Running on Empty? (Psalm 115) – Bob Chisholm

Psalms of Distress and Hardship
Entrusting God With Our Hatreds (Psalm 137) – Mike Cope
The ‘Piñata’ Syndrome (Psalm 17) – Chris Seidman
How Long, O Lord? (Psalm 13) – David Rubio
When All You Can Say Is “Why?” (Psalm 22) – Scott Sager

Psalms of Sorrow and Change
Create in Me a Pure Heart (Psalm 51) – Tom A. Jones
A Song for Sinners (Psalm 32) – Collin Packer

Psalms of Human Frailty
Lord, Give My Life Meaning (Psalm 90) – Harold Hazelip
What’s the Use? (Psalm 73) – Jim Martin

Psalms of Trust and Unity
The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) – Lynn Anderson
Worth the Trip (Psalm 133) – Rick Atchley
How to Handle Bad News (Psalm 112) – Jennings Davis

Psalms of Joy and Peace
Coming Home, Laughing (Psalm 126) – Ken Durham
God’s Divine Care (Psalm 34) – John York
All Is Calm (Psalm 122) – Tim Spivey

Never Beyond Hope

Each week I teach a Searchers Class for people who are exploring faith. Last week I began a discussion that touches all of us … and every relationship we have …

What is the distance
between Hope and Hopelessness?

Never Beyond Hope Handout

Everyone wonders what’s on the other side of the door. It’s barely cracked open, just enough to see the brightness. Hope is looking forward, wanting the good to continue, dreaming of happy things to come, expecting the best. Some might say, “It sounds naive.” Before you give it up, consider a few great minds, like C.S. Lewis …

Those who have done the most for the present world are those who have thought the most about the next world.

Or, Norvell Young …

No one knows enough to a cynic

Or, Aristotle …

Hope is a waking dream.

Or, Albert Camus …

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

Or, Emily Dickenson …

“Hope” is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.

Or, Vaclav Havel …

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

Besides, what’s our alternative? Hopelessness.

Hopelessness is giving up, expecting the worst, becoming cynical and pessimistic. It grows when optimism is broken by personal failure, damaging relationships, or even our constant diet of bad news. It can be our own bad news or that of people and lands 10,000 miles away.

I remember a time when my son was young and sitting on my lap while I watched the evening news. During the broadcast, it became very clear to me that the news was scaring David. After discussing it with my wife Pam, she observed that if we applied the same principles to the news that we used for the rest of David’s television viewing, he wouldn’t watch the news!  His hope was new and fresh. The nightly news was hopeless and never ending.

But while our problems seem to grow, and our awareness of them is instant,  the battle between hope and hopelessness is not new.

At the close of 7th century BC, the prophet Habakkuk asked about hope and hopelessness. We know very little about Habakkuk except that he asked questions and got answers.

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
— Habakkuk 2:1 —

1st, the prophet looked at his circumstances

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (1:2-4)

2nd, he waited on God

How I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:18-19)

G. Campbell Morgan wrote, that when Habakkuk looked at his circumstances, he was confused, but when he learned to wait and listen for God, he sang.

God is in control. He is working out his own purpose, in his own time. And Habakkuk learned that he is Never Beyond Hope.

What’s in Your Small Group Toolbox?

Sg Seminar logo 2009I am excited that Buddy Bell from Montgomery, Alabama will be in Dallas for a tightly packed few hours of small group learning and discovery. He comes specially equipped to help anyone wanting to grow and improve their small group skills. Whether you’re new to small-groups, a committed group member, or a seasoned group leader, you’ll leave this seminar with new inspiration and tools.

In 2001 Buddy founded Share Him Ministries which has helped literally hundred’s of churches around the country set up successful small group programs.  Playing the dual role of preaching and small group minister at his own church has given him a unique viewpoint to see how small groups can be tightly integrated into the ministry of a local church.

After the seminar your small group toolbox will be filled with:

  • Leadership Tools: What is the best preparation for leading a group? How can a leader find and train new leaders?
  • Curriculum Tools: How can we build the discussion on God’s Word?  What are some good curriculum ideas?
  • Relationship Tools: How can we make the atmosphere open, honest, encouraging and non-judgmental?
  • Involvement Tools: How can group members can find their place and purpose in the group? What are some positive options for children?
  • Discussion Tools: How can the leader create great questions, anticipate answers and affirm participation?
  • Expansion Tools: How can the group evaluate its size and plan for the future?

The seminar is free.  There will be free childcare. We are guarding your valuable weekend time with a 3-hour morning session on Saturday, November 14.

I hope anyone in the Dallas area with join us from 9:00 to Noon (Registration is at 8:30 unless you register online) http://tinyurl.com/yfb6heo

Prestoncrest Church of Christ
6022 Prestoncrest Lane
Dallas TX 75230
972-233-2392