Memorial Day

During my childhood, Memorial Day signaled the unofficial start of summer. I never thought much about the holiday’s deeper meaning. Enjoying a day off from school seemed significant enough.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Major General John A. Logan issued General Order 11. It designated May 30 as Decoration Day to honor fallen soldiers. Arlington Cemetery hosted the first major observance in 1868. The annual event grew into a national holiday.

Today our nation observes Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. The holiday honors military personnel who have died during wartime. Parades, speeches, flags, and cemetery floral arrangements mark the occasion.

We remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. We also honor armed forces’ personnel who presently serve at home or abroad. Our liberties come at a high cost, and we recognize those who lay aside self-interest for their country’s sake.

We recognize military families who make their own sacrifices. Each member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard leaves behind a family at home. Our service personnel wear a uniform; but parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends support them on the home front.

This weekend fly the flag. Take your hat off when the National Anthem plays. Recite the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in a strong voice. Express your appreciation to a veteran. Visit a cemetery. Place a flower arrangement. Say a prayer.

Remember, and give thanks.


I’m preparing a summer worship series on the Beatitudes at Northside Church entitled “Blessed to Be a Blessing” The first Beatitude declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Several authors noted that the poor in spirit possess humility. The humble person depends entirely upon God, focusing on others rather than self. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

How does one cultivate the spiritual attribute? An old joke asks, “If you’re humble, do you know it?” When people realize they’re practicing humility, the ephemeral quality sublimates into thin air.   

Father Jacques Philippe, a Roman Catholic priest, authored a book on the Beatitudes entitled “The Eight Doors to the Kingdom.” He noted, “Nothing makes us grow more in humility than gratitude.”

The statement resonated with my soul. Gratitude recognizes that every good gift comes from above. We focus on God, not self. We embrace humility by seeing the gifts, recognizing the Giver, and giving thanks.

“Nothing makes us grow more in humility than gratitude.”

Mother’s Day Memories

Grief possesses a timing and logic all its own. It lurks in shadows and skulks around corners, appearing at the most unexpected of times.

Mother’s Day reminds me of this phenomenon anew.

My mother died nine years ago in the midst of my family moving to a new church. A massive stroke eventually led to her death. I spent a frantic week rushing from Cartersville to Kennestone Hospital to Lawrenceville and back and back and back again.

I preached my first Sunday at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville on Sunday morning. She died 36 hours later on Monday night.

People grieve in different ways. In some ways, the busyness of serving a new congregation eased the pain. In other ways, I put grief on a layaway plan, paying installments with interest over time.

Nine years later I still find myself surprised by grief. During December, I saw a gift and thought, “Mom would like that for Christmas.” This March I almost called to wish my parents a Happy Anniversary. Perusing Mother’s Day cards, I saw one she would have loved.

Grief possesses a timing and logic all its own. It lurks in shadows and skulks around corners, appearing at the most unexpected times

I recognize that sorrow is a long shadow cast by love. If we did not love, then we would not grieve. If we did not possess, then we could not lose.

In a poem entitled In Memoriam A. H. H., Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

In times of grief, Christians claim what we proclaim: believers who have loved and lost never really lose their loved ones at all. Grief lasts a moment, but joy endures forever.

Advice to Graduates

Last Sunday Northside Church honored our high school graduates. I dressed like the Mayhem character in the Allstate Insurance commercials. We also produced a series of videos featuring the youth staff. Here’s some of the advice I shared with the seniors.

NO PRESSURE, but the decisions you make in the next few years will determine the entire direction of your life. So, choose wisely. But again, no pressure!

In the coming years, you will make important choices about school, friends, alcohol, drugs, dating, sex, marriage, vocation, faith, and more. While your parents, family, church,

At the risk of sounding like a preacher, I would like to offer you some advice today. This is not the type of advice you will find in the gold covered book with tassels that your great-aunt thought would be a perfect graduation gift for a teenager living in the 1950s!

I warn you that experience is a tough teacher. She gives the test first, and then teaches the lesson! Wisdom learns from others poor choices so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself. These lessons are hard won, practical, and down to earth wisdom.

  • Study, then play.
  • The 1st semester is critical to your college success.
  • Separate your laundry into whites, lights, and darks.
  • Choose your friends wisely.
  • If you don’t get into a particular fraternity or sorority, it is not the end of the world.
  • People are unimpressed with much you can drink. If they are, you need a better set of friends. Alcoholism and drug abuse begin in high school and college.  
  • If you are sexually active, then you are sleeping with every person that person has ever slept with, and medicine cannot always treat the body or the soul.
  • Learn to be comfortable alone—everyone is occasionally.
  • The most interesting people are not like anyone else—resist peer pressure.
  • Tear up credit card applications—it is NOT free money.
  • Expect potholes and detours—they are NOT the end of the road.
  • Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident—and on general principle.
  • If you have siblings, your brothers and sisters are the only ones who know what it was like to grow up in your home. Be kind to them—you may need a kidney donor someday!
  • Call your mama. And your daddy, and not just when you need money!