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!

Banana Faith

Bananas might qualify as the perfect fruit. They come prepackaged in yellow wrappers. The firm pulp contains delicious nutrients, including B2, B6, C, magnesium and potassium. Just peel, eat, enjoy, and dispose of the convenient, biodegradable container.

The banana plant thrives in tropical or subtropical regions. Bananas grow on large plants ten to twenty-five feet high. Clusters hold up to 150 bananas and smaller bunches called “hands” contain ten to twenty-five bananas.

Bananas typically grow on large plantations operated by multinational corporations. The yellow fruit has shaped the history of Central America. Corporations with household names have deposed rulers, instigated revolts, and opposed land reform. The subject remains a political hot banana in Latin America.

Most banana imports in the United States come from Central and South America along with the Caribbean. Workers cut green bananas with machetes, and trucks transport them to processing centers. Once the bananas dry, workers pack them into boxes holding forty pounds of fruit.

The laden boxes travel to distribution centers for shipment to the United States. Transfer trucks carry the green fruit across the nation. Then grocers ship the boxes to individual stores.

The economics of bananas fascinate me. I recently bought a bunch of bananas from Ecuador. The fruit was grown, picked, processed, shipped, distributed, redistributed, and sold. Everyone handling the product made a profit along the way; but I bought the bananas for FIFTY CENTS PER POUND! Is this a great country or what?!?

One can do all sorts of things with a dollar’s worth of bananas. There’s banana pudding, banana cake, banana splits, banana milkshakes, banana fritters, banana bread, banana muffins, banana tarts, Bananas Foster, banana fingers, banana pancakes, and banana sandwiches.

Despite the banana’s long list of beneficial virtues, I must confess that I am not a big fan of the yellow, slipper-shaped fruit. I find the pulp tasteless and the texture mushy. I DO like banana bread in case anyone has a loaf to share.

It’s funny how we can become knowledgeable about a product and admire its properties without personally enjoying the benefits. I suppose it’s a lot like professing the Christian faith without being involved in a local church.

Low Sunday

Last Sunday we celebrated the Easter news that “Christ is risen, indeed!” Sanctuaries overflowed as churches experienced high attendance Sundays.

The liturgical calendar calls the week after Easter Low Sunday. Historians believe the name originated in contrast to the great festival of Easter. Following the celebration of the Resurrection, churches returned to the “low” or ordinary routine of worship.

Church pastors know better! Low attendance puts the LOW in Low Sunday. Easter marks the high-water mark for worship. The Sunday after Easter ebbs at low tide. Some congregations may even experience negative numbers!

This week we continue to celebrate the Season of Easter. The risen Lord appeared to his disciples for forty days. Mary encountered Jesus in the garden. Two disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Paul reported that Christ appeared to Simon Peter, the Twelve, and more than 500 followers at one time.

According to John’s Gospel, one man missed Jesus’ appearance to the other apostles on Easter night. Unconvinced by second-hand reports, “Doubting” Thomas announced he would only be convinced by touching Jesus’ wounds.

On the Sunday after Easter, Jesus once again appeared in the Upper Room. He confronted Thomas’ doubts and displayed his wounded hands, feet, and side. The disciple knelt and professed, “My Lord and my God!

Christ responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It’s a good thing that Thomas decided to attend church the Sunday after Easter. Otherwise, he might have missed the Risen Lord.

On Low Sunday, we continue to celebrate the Easter good news that “Christ is risen, indeed!”

Easter at Northside Church

Join us this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the good news of the Resurrection! Northside Church is offering five opportunities for worship, including:

  • 8:30                 Traditional Worship               Sanctuary
  • 9:00                 Contemporary Worship          Faith & Arts Center
  • 9:45                 Traditional Worship               Sanctuary
  • 10:30               Contemporary Worship          Faith & Arts Center
  • 11:15               Traditional Worship               Sanctuary

The 8:30, 9:00, and 11:15 services will be live-streamed on the church’s website. Easter animals will be present before and after the services.

This Easter Northside is returning to full seating capacity with 600 in the Sanctuary and 600 in the Faith & Arts Center for a total of 3,000 seats. Our reservation system will ensure there’s a place for everyone on Easter Sunday. Make reservations at Seats remain available for most services.

I look forward to worshipping together on Easter as we hear the ancient words that are forever new, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!”

Practical Advice, Part 4: Miscellaneous

  • Use sunscreen liberally, and make sure your children do the same.
  • Computer passwords should contain numbers, letters, and symbols. Remember there are only 10 numbers but 26 letters in the English language.
  • Use an address book to keep up with passwords and PINs.
  • Salt on a restaurant coaster prevents the bottom of a glass from sticking.
  • advice4In public restrooms, use elbows or feet rather than hands for opening doors and flushing commodes.
  • Carry hand sanitizer in your car or purse.
  • Walk a minimum of 7,000 steps a day. If in doubt, wear a pedometer.
  • Learn to touch type—regardless of age. Keyboards provide a portal into the electronic world. However, never forget that virtual reality is a poor excuse for reality.
  • Add a working day to your week by eliminating an hour of television or the Internet each day.
  • Use words liberally like “Please,” “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.”
  • Say “I love you” to family and friends daily. Say it especially when you don’t feel like it.
  • Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident. Actually, wear clean underwear on general principles.
  • Practice moderation in all things—including moderation.
  • Only one person in the history of the world was perfect, and neither of us is him. Be eager to forgive and seek forgiveness.
  • Listen to other people’s advice, but make up your own mind.

Practical Advice, Part 3: Home

  • Run hot water in the kitchen sink before turning on the dish washer.
  •  “Burp” Tupperware for a better seal.
  • Clothes pins make great “chip clips” along with sealing cereal, flour, and more.
  • Preheat a mug with hot water to keep coffee warm longer.
  • advice3Baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water will dissolve most plumbing clogs.
  • Fitted sheets can be folded by tucking the elastic corners under one another.
  • Put pillows in a freezer for twenty-four hours to kill microscopic mites and other critters. (And, yes, your pillow has them).
  • Rubbing your hands on stainless steel (a sink works) removes an onion’s odor.
  • Clean the lint trap in a dryer often. Built up lint is a fire hazard.
  • Kitty litter soaks up oil spills in garages.
  • Replace fire detector batteries when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.
  • Plug the two ends of an electrical cord together before looping the doubled line.
  • Rub a stubborn key with pencil lead. The graphite serves as a dry lubricant.
  • NEVER mix bleach and ammonia. The resulting fumes are toxic.
  • Never mess with electricity, natural gas, strange dogs, or snakes.
  • Don’t take a shower during a thunder storm. Lighting and water don’t mix.
  • Replace a toothbrush after recovering from a cold or the flu.
  • Dry a razor thoroughly between uses—it will stay sharp longer.
  • Make baked goods for the pastor.

Practical Advice, Part 2: Cars

  • Check your cars oil and air pressure regularly.
  • Don’t let the fuel gauge go below a quarter of a tank.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Don’t eat and drive.
  • advice2Just drive!
  • Touch the car before handling a gas pump. Static electricity can ignite petroleum fumes.
  • Lock the doors while pumping gas.
  • NEVER leave a child or pet in the car alone—even if it’s “just for a minute.”
  • Look both ways after the light turns green for someone running a “yellow” light. Sooner or later this simple habit will save your life.
  • Where there’s a ball, there’s a boy. Hit the brakes immediately.
  • Don’t swerve off the road to avoid an animal. Brake quickly but safely.
  • Over 80 mph, you are aiming rather than steering a car.
  • When backing a trailer, put one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Whichever way your hand goes, the trailer will follow.
  • Have car keys in hand when approaching your vehicle in a parking lot. If accosted by a stranger, toss the keys under a car.
  • When possible, keep one car length distance from the vehicle in front of you for every 10 mph of speed
  • When road rage threatens, BREATHE. Deep breath in. Hold. Deep breath out. Hold. Let it go.
  • Let Jesus take the wheel.


Practical Advice, Part 1: Money

  • advice1Spend less that you make.
  • Give 10%. Save 10%. Live on 80%.
  • “Finances are a crock pot reality in a microwave world.” (Dave Ramsey)
  • If you can live without it today, then you can live without it.
  • Even the baby Jesus only received three Christmas gifts. Sometimes we give our children too much.
  • Shred loan and credit applications.
  • Use cash whenever possible. A study by discovered that consumers spend 30% MORE at restaurants when using credit rather than cash.
  • Credit cards should be a convenience and not a necessity. Don’t charge more than can be paid off at month’s end.
  • The power of compounding interest works for us with savings and against us with loans.
  • Insurance is a balancing act between benefit and cost. Insure the things you cannot afford to lose.
  • Consider higher deductibles on insurance policies for premium savings.
  • Make a current will—especially if you have children. Do NOT put it in a safety deposit box.
  • Tithe, if you love Jesus. Anyone can HONK.
  •  “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” (John Wesley)