Cross Country & Soccer

pivot soccer

Soccer is a great sport. See this guy having fun?

While some sleep off Friday Night Football, the soccer and cross country kids and parents awake and head out for matches and meets. That’s what we’re doing this morning. My sister, TT, is here with us and will go with us to Jacob’s cross country meet then to Anna’s soccer game.

How to be good at preaching

Cover of "Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Gu...

Chris Erdman's Countdown to Sunday is not a book that is incredibly attractive by looking at the cover, looks gimmicky, and the excellent content does not match the airport time-management self-help looking cover. So if you are a preacher or aspiring to be one and you've seen Erdman's book, and written it off, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

I like Chris Erdman’s surprisingly good book, Countdown to Sunday. The chapters are short, reflective, punchy, practical, and sock you in the gut when you are not least expecting it.

Today this encourages me:

Here’s why trying to be good or thinking you are good is no good for the preacher. When you’re trying to be good, you spin off mental and spiritual energy that you need to rightly handle the Word. You split your energies between preaching the Word and evaluating how you’re doing at preaching. When you’re preaching you must inhabit the moment as fully as possible. You cannot afford to split yourself. When you do, something becomes false, rings hollow . . . When you try to be good, you are not good. You may be good in that veneer sense of being good that tricks only the undiscerning, but your drive to be good means that your gifts and personhood (which are part and parcel of the way God wills to reveal the Word in our world) get all gummed up–they can’t work well at all because you are constantly worrying and evaluating and fretting, instead of living free, released to live in this moment, just this moment, asking only, “Lord, what’

Reading: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis with Beth Clark

CIA World Factbook map of the country of Uganda.

Image via Wikipedia

Katie Davis was 18 when she first made a mission trip to Jinja, Uganda–a place I called home for seven years with my family–and decided to return for a year that has now stretched into three years. She went to Uganda with no college degree or nursing certificate but with a heart of Christ.

What would cause an 18-year-old homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee to forgo college, lose her friends, and break up with the love of her life–all to move thousands of miles away from her family?

Her trip to Uganda turned her life inside out. She was so moved by the Ugandan people, particularly the children–that she gave up a comfortable life to fulfill her calling to care for the poor who cannot afford basic necessities and school fees for their children.

Katie is now 22 and has published a book that will be available in October 2011.

The following are some excerpts and observations about her book and her work.

My heart was on fire with a passion to say yes to God’s every request–to do more to help the people around me. Starting a ministry in Uganda wasn’t something I had in mind when I came here, but it seemed the only logical next step as people approached me needing help and I said yes to meeting their needs. As I prayed about what to do next and sought counsel from friends and family, I realized the only way to really be able to meet all the needs I wanted to meet in this community–to pay for children’s school, keep their bellies full, offer medical assistance, and most important teach them about Christ’s love for them–would be to start some kind of nonprofit organization.

This would be the first of many, many times we would invite disease-ridden people into our home (p 97)

People from my first home say I’m brave . . . They pat me on the back and say, “Way to go. Good job.” But the truth is, I am not really very brave; I am not really very strong; and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am simply doing what God has called me to do as a person who follows Him. He said to feed His sheep and He said to care for the “least of these,” so that’s what I’m doing, with the help of a lot of people who make it possible and in the company of those who make my life worth living.

Fellow Tulsans: Visit the Wall

Vietnam War Memorial Traveling Wall

Fellow Tulsans, you have till Sunday to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall located now behind the Union 6th grade center near 61st and Mingo. Please go and honor these men and women who gave their lives in service of our nation, to a cause not everyone was convinced was just, in a world that had believed wars had been fought to end all wars. And now we’re ten years into wars after 9/11, one in Afghanistan that had everything to do with 9/11 and one in Iraq that was based on mistaken intelligence and really had nothing to do with 9/11. Regardless of what you think about war or peace, what your philosophy is, the very least you and I can do is somehow honor those who fought, served, died, survived wars they did not cause or choose but simply did what they were trained to do.

If you are a pacifist you will find more “ammo” for your cause in the horrific stories the wall tells. I read a story written by a army officer who retrieved bodies of fellow soldiers in a downed helicopter in a Michelin rubber plantation in Vietnam after a week of being shot at trying to get to the wreckage. When they finally formed a perimeter and were able to reach the bodies, they were so decomposed the hands fell off when they were pulling them out. He searched the ground to recover all the bones to put in the body bags. Even the death registration troops with them were sickened and had to keep distance from the charred and decomposed bodies. War is horrific, and no one knows this more than those who have been through it.

In front of one of the panels is a photo of the brother of one of my friends and co-workers, Bill Campbell. Bill’s brother, Jimmy Lee Campbell, died in Vietnam in 1970. The photo has the caption, “Thank you Jimmy Lee Campbell . . . we love you and we miss you–Bill and Sue Campbell and Family.” When you see all the flowers and messages like this, it hits home how many people locally are affected by wars our nation fights.

Prayer: Dear God of All Power . . . teach us, teach all nations, that you alone are Lord and sovereign over the whole universe. According to Psalm 46, You make wars cease to the ends of the earth. Make these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cease. Bring peace on the earth and give food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, land to the desolate, jobs to the jobless, health to little children who suffer, and your love to those who know only hatred and conflict and despair.

Bible verses that call for peace from Mennonite resources

Reading: Forbidden

Just finished new book by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee.

From Publishers Weekly

Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. Center Street/Hachette Book Group, $24.99 Hardcover (384p) ISBN 978-1-59995-354-0

A new trilogy and a new partnership begins with Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee in the first of The Books of Mortals series. Set in the distant future, the dystopian world is ruled by The Order that controls humanity by genetically removing all emotions but fear. Fear is needed for survival, but without all the other emotions, humanity is lifeless. When young Rom Elias receives a cryptic message written on animal skin and vial of blood from a man who seems to know a lot about his father’s death, he risks everything to escape the Order and find out what the vellum and vial mean. He must convince a cast of friends and family to drink a portion of the vial in order to feel all human emotion again. This sets off a chain of events that will pit love and self-sacrifice against the dark emotions of hatred and greed. Once again Dekker and a writing ally break forbidden ground in Christian fantasy yet it’s still true blue Dekker with mammoth twists and head-pounding turns that will have readers and book clubs debating the mega role of human emotion and logic that drives our existence. (Sep.)

Tulsa World: Son, brother lost in war

Joran Holliday was stationed in Iraq in 2007 and wrote a letter to his brother. A few days later Joran was killed by a roadside bomb. Then the letter arrived. “You have six siblings looking up to you,” Joran told John, “They do what you do. Be a good role model for them. Follow Jesus.”

Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

Continue reading

A Little Something About My Dad On His Birthday

My father was born September 6, 1935 in Bluejacket, Oklahoma. Well, at least I think that’s where he was born. Guess I should ask to be sure. Was he born in the hospital or at home? I don’t really know. The things you think you know you probably don’t know. I do know that’s where dad grew up and went to school and I think that’s where he graduated from, or was it Vinita? Well, I guess I should ask him. I remember he said his basketball team lost thirty games in a row, or was it 24? And he broke the streak by coming off the bench and hitting two free throws to win the game that broke the longest losing streak in school history. Or was it a three-pointer. No, they didn’t have that stripe then. Wonder what the uniforms looked like? Guess I should ask him. Dad loved cars from an early age and there’s a picture of him as a little guy sitting on top of a pile of license plates he’d collected. He enjoyed cars before he could drive. I can tell it bothers him when the family doesn’t want him to drive as much cause his eye sight and reflexes are getting a bit worn down. I know he loves freedom of checking progress on his home building jobs and he’s always loved driving the country. No telling how many cars he’s bought and sold, but he’s never been overly impressed with the new ones. He finds value in the old ones that have the expensive first 20-40K miles worn off them. I agree and that’s what I enjoy getting, the great deal on a used car. Dad’s a builder, a generous Christian who has often combined his love for God and fellow man with his enjoyment of cars, and I’ve seen him more than once give a car to a traveling-through missionary so they can drive and meet with supporters. He’s been doing that for four decades and still does. I think Larry Conway was one of the last I saw driving one of dad’s finds. You are a great man who I’ve tried to imitate in all your good qualities. Probably picked up a few of the bad qualities, but let’s call those hereditary or common to humanity and those are my responsibility now. Happy Birthday, Dad.

Description: This image shows a Carpenter ant ...

Carpenter Ant

When the wife sees bugs, it’s over. You might as well just call the bug people and get it over with. Bugs don’t bug me as much as they do Jill, so I wasn’t so quick to act. I should have called sooner but it took some non-home-on-the-range words from Jill to finally get me to see that not only the bugs were buggin’ Jill but my lack of action needed exterminated.

Well, Okie Bug came the same day I called. A friendly guy named Randall Adams, and I want to recommend this friend and bug man to you.

Randall has a great vision to help people do vocational mission work. His vision is to help people here and in other countries set up bug businesses that help them do vocational missions. He works with us both at Garnett Church of Christ with monthly service and a quarterly residential service in my home. Thanks, Randall! Connect to Randall and Okie Bugs.

You’re buggin’ me

Ron and Gidget built a house of prayer in their trailer park

I have two friends named Ron and Gidget Marcinko. They lost everything in a flood in Nashville, Tennessee in 2010.

Ron and Gidget became homeless after losing their trailer in flooding of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.

Not only did their trailer flood and everything in it, including wooden carvings and crafts they lovingly made for friends and family, photos, videos, but they also lost their pride and joy that they’d put blood sweat and tears into for the past several years.

Ron Marcinko in front of the House of Prayer that was destroyed in the Nashville floods in May 2010. Photo by Greg Taylor in January 2010.

Together Ron and Gidget had build a House of Prayer in their trailer park. They are the first people I’ve ever known who built a prayer center inside a trailer park property or any neighborhood for that matter.

Due to some illness, Ron had temporarily lost his eyesight and at one point was literally blind. He talked Gidget through how to use a nail gun and Gidget did much of the actual construction of this house of prayer. When it was completed, they invited pastors to come and preach each Sunday for the trailer park residents. I visited the House of Prayer one time in January 2010. They were very excited for the dream of having a peaceful place to meet God in the trailer park to become a reality.

Ron and Gidget were even planning a wedding for a young woman who had grown up in the trailer park. Gidget and Ron had taken her under their wing when she would wander the park alone and neglected by her parents. They were excited about this wedding and were even getting requests for others. People would ask if they could just sit in the house of prayer and pray. Well, that’s why they built it, so of course they accepted and opened it frequently for residents of the trailer park to find God in the quiet moments there.

But then tragedy struck.

This small house of prayer was swallowed up in the flood so high that it was literally up in a tree when the flood waters receded.

Ron and Gidget were devastated, their trailer was full of sludge and ruined with water damage. Ron had been the caretaker of the trailer park and now the deluge had washed away his own trailer, the House of Prayer, and his livelihood of woodworking–many of the beautifully carved wooden pieces and baby cradles he made were destroyed in the flood.

Ron is Russian-Czech and Gidget is a Tennessean, but they met in Yukon, Oklahoma at a skating rink after both had been through some awful family situations. Gidget needed someone who would be faithful to her and Ron needed a woman who would help him through the sickening flashbacks from Vietnam combat.

They got together but never married until they moved to Tennessee and eventually had a traditional Czech wedding, complete with intricately stitched dresses and ceremonies such as the cutting of the feathers, which I can explain another time.

For a long time Ron was suicidal but the thought of Gidget coming home from Shoneys or Cracker Barrel where she waitressed to find Ron dead with a hole in his head prevented him from pulling the trigger of the Smith and Wesson .38 police service revolver in his dark moments.

I’ve stayed several nights in Ron’s and Gidget’s trailer and spent lots of time with them, and I have learned that they are two of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met.

I’ve been writing a book about them, a love story and tragedy of sorts with a redemptive ending about how Ron and Gidget make it through adversity and come out on the other side together. Last I talked to them, they were homeless and living with friends. I don’t know if they got another trailer yet until I make another visit, which I may be doing very soon.

I can’t seem to write the story good enough to do them justice, so it’s taken me six years so far and counting. There is much to tell and many parts of the story, so I’ll put out some chapters to see what you think.